The reader will, no doubt, recall that some time ago I reflected on a remark made, in Concordia, by Mr. Geo. Ten Elshof, and my request that he either explain himself or apologize.
The brother delayed answering a long time. At the time of this writing it is about the end of May, and I just received the reply. I am sorry that I could not publish it in the issue of June 15, but this time of the year I have to work ahead for our Standard Bearer because of the busy week of synod, and my vacation following that week. The result is that my copy of June 15 is finished. Nor, considering that Mr. Ten Elshof waited more than three months with his answer, would it seem necessary for me to change my schedule of work to accommodate him.
But seeing that so long a time intervenes between my request to him and his reply, it may be expedient to remind the reader of what I wrote. Here it is:
At the close of an article in Concordia Nov. 28, 1946, defending Ladies Aid Sales, Mr. G. Ten Elshof dropped a remark that should not pass unchallenged. I quote: “Perhaps if the brother would make an exhaustive study of the reasons why our various church expenses are continually rising and who are doing this and why, and that at ‘company expense’, we shall have something more concrete to discuss.”
This remark has nothing to do, of course, with the debate about the sales conducted by our Ladies Aid Societies. It is not my purpose to become a party in that debate. Nor is this necessary. The arguments raised against such sales in the debate will not prevent our ladies to continue, with a free conscience, to devote their time and efforts to the support of various causes such as the Standard Bearer, Christian Schools, our own School, and the like. Only, instead of being compared to the money changers in the temple, our ladies deserve a word of commendation and encouragement.
But the remark at the close of the article by Mr. Ten Elshof must not pass unnoticed. Perhaps, it will be challenged in Concordia, but up to the present I have not noticed any reflection on this remark.
In the brief paragraph we quoted above, the brother makes some very evil suggestions and insinuations, and, by implication, is flinging serious accusations against some parties in our churches, and against our churches in general as a denomination. Concerning these insinuations as such, I would say:
- If there is any truth in them at all, the brother should have brought his objections and indictments to the proper ecclesiastical gathering rather than shout them from the housetops in Concordia.
- If the brother, nevertheless, considered it more proper to publish his indictments to the world, he should have clearly stated them, rather than move about in the foul air of dark insinuations.
- If they are not true, and the brother cannot substantiate them, he should openly retract them, and confess his wrong.
Let him, therefore, answer his own questions:
- Are our church expenses continually rising at a rate disproportionate to the rise in the general cost of living, and of wages, and to the need of our churches?
- Who are doing this except the proper parties?
- Why are they doing this, if not for the well-being of our churches, and for the cause of God’s kingdom?
- Are they doing this “at company’s expense,” i.e., without proper authorization from the company itself? Is not the company itself doing this, quite according to the incorporation laws of this company to which also brother Ten Elshof subscribes, that is, the Church Order?
Indeed, we must have something more concrete to discuss!
Thus I wrote in the issue of our paper of Feb. 15.
Now, I hardly think that the reader can imagine my astonishment when I received the following reply:
The time has come to break the silence which shrouded the paragraph of mine which you reprinted in the Feb. 15th issue of The Standard Bearer. For the sake of your readers it is expedient to do so. I have delayed deliberately though not maliciously.
It should have been quite evident to our readers that you too are in full accord with the sentiments expressed in that paragraph. It is quite evident that you too were aware of the conditions which led to this remark of mine. And all I can say is that I am very grateful that you have seen fit to publicize this remark exactly in the manner which you have.
So cognizant were you of the need for calling this matter to the attention of our people that you even allowed yourself to become involved in a layman’s debate on an unmentionable and punctuated subject even to the extent that you admitted publicly that you did it foolishly. Such humility we had not expected.
And now, we shall proceed to prove that such must have been your intention and that any other conclusion would reflect unfavorably upon yourself and be very foul indeed.
In the first place, had your intention been any other than that which I have mentioned above, viz., to publicize this matter and shout it from more and other housetops, you undoubtedly would have directed a simple inquiry to me through the paper in which the paragraph appeared. No one would have felt under obligation to answer at all unless it were so directed. For example, should I write in the “Public Pulse” of “The Chicago Tribune”, I would not expect the editor of “The New York Times” to call me to account.
Secondly, proof that you wanted to call this matter to the attention of the public, is the forcefulness of your statements. You have risked much by the very manner in which you have commented. On the face of it, the careless reader might be led to conclude that you were very provoked with the author of that paragraph. And so, the very manner of your remarks leave room for no other conclusion. You have wagered both my name and the possibility that the reader might conclude that it was a very uncharitable and vicious attack and one which might cast an unfavorable light upon yourself, for the sake of arousing interest and possible correction of an undesirable condition. It was a courageous thing to do and I did not mind for I am, if need be, expendable.
In the third place, it is evident that you have chosen this means for publicizing my paragraph by the fact that you have singled it out; and although since that time others have written matter from which equally “foul” conclusions could have been drawn—you were silent. For instance, by inference and simple deduction, our young people were accused of attending motion picture theaters and again, the clergy was accused of bowling, and there was not a word of protest. Why? Because you did not deem it of sufficient importance to publicize. And again in your writings concerning our brethren in the Netherlands, one of whom even states that your covenant-view is unscriptural, there is no sharp outcry. And, that you have singled out my paragraph and directed the attention of the readers to it so forcefully, causes me to rejoice. You have done our denomination a favor and I thank you for it.
And, the happy result or fruit of my tick on the fingers which you have enlarged to a stab of the heart, has been a healthy speculation and consideration of this matter by others and at least an earnest attempt to correct if at all possible such matters as they may have found. And although your method of arousing such interest was unusual and risky, it was none-the-less effective.
George Ten Elshof
I asked myself the question: what is this, sarcasm, sophistry, evasion, or all of them?
It certainly is evasion, since the brother does not at all give account of his statement in Concordia, or try to answer my questions; nor does he apologize.
That it is meant as a bit of sarcasm is quite possible. Those that are somewhat acquainted with the brother’s writings in the past, cannot have failed to notice that his somewhat able pen is frequently spoiled by a sarcastic note, often very much misplaced and offensive.
The argument is certainly a striking bit of sophistry, like the well-known syllogism: “This is your dog; this dog is a mother; this dog is your mother.” I will not even make the attempt to show the folly of his arguments, which, I trust, is plain to every sound mind. Nor can I believe that the writer himself is of such a subverted mind that he takes his own arguments seriously.
Fact is, however, that he makes me a liar. He coldly tells our readers that I rebuked his statement, ascribed to him “some very evil suggestions and insinuations,” accused him of “flinging serious accusations against some parties in our churches, and against our churches in general as a denomination,” told him that he should not have shouted these remarks from the housetops but have taken them to the proper ecclesiastical assemblies; and all the while I agreed with him, was glad that he published them, and used the opportunity to give them still wider publication!
It is a long time ago that I read such a perversion of one’s statements, and of one’s motives.
But rather than enter into his arguments, let me assure the brother:
- That I do not at all agree with the statement he made in Concordia, and that I detest the sentiment expressed in it.
- That I do not believe that there is any truth in his insinuations whatsoever.
- That I deny that our church expenses have been raised at a rate that is disproportionate to the general rise in wages and cost of living.
- That I do not believe that our brother is groaning under a financial burden as far as the church budget is concerned.
- That the amounts necessary for the various causes in our churches are fixed by the proper bodies, and with the consent of “the company.”
- That it is high time that the brother offer a double apology, i.e., for having made his statement in Concordia, and for the evil motives he ascribes to me in the above reply.