Pope John XXIII has issued another papal encyclical. These encyclicals are treatises in which the Pope discusses various types of problems facing his church or the world in general. He has thus far issued eight; the one prior to this was entitled Mater et Magistra (Mother and Teacher) and dealt with social problems. The latest is calledPacem in Terris (Peace on Earth) after its opening words in Latin. It is a long document, numbering some 15,000 words and dealing, as its title suggests, with creating here upon earth a lasting kingdom of peace.
Taken together, it is the most clear and remarkable blueprint for the kingdom of Antichrist that has recently appeared in print. There is hardly any reference to Scripture; there is little mention of God; there is no mention of Christ. Peace through the blood of the cross and for the people of God is totally ignored. Its main themes are the brotherhood of all men and the equal rights of all to happiness here on earth. It is addressed not only to Roman Catholics, but to “all men of good will.” If ever one wanted to know a concise and detailed plan of the best way to achieve the world-wide kingdom of Antichrist, this would be the document to read.
It is based on two fundamental concepts:
1) The first is the Roman Catholic idea of natural law. Every man has a God-given innate knowledge of what is right and what is wrong; every man has reason by which he can apply his knowledge of right and wrong to all the problems of life. To quote the document:
God also created man in his own image and likeness, endowed him with intelligence and freedom, and made him lord of creation . . . .
. . . the Creator of the world has imprinted in man’s heart an order which his conscience reveals to him and enjoins him to obey . . . .
By these (natural) laws men are most admirably taught, first of all how they should conduct their mutual dealings among themselves, then how the relationships between the citizens and the public authorities of each state should be regulated, then how states should deal with one another, and finally how, on the one hand, individual men and states, and on the other hand, the community of all peoples, should act towards each other, the establishment of such a world community of peoples being urgently demanded today by the requirements of universal common good.
2) Secondly the document is based upon the concept of the universal brotherhood of men. Writes the Pope:
First of all, it is necessary to speak of the order which should exist between men. Any human society, if it is to be well-ordered and productive, must lay down as a foundation this principle, namely, that every human being is a person, that is, his nature is endowed with intelligence and free will. By virtue of this, he has rights and duties of his own, flowing directly and simultaneously from his very nature, which are therefore universal, inviolable and inalienable.
If we look upon the dignity of the human person in the light of divinely revealed truth, we cannot help but esteem it far more highly. For men are redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, they are by grace the children and friends of God and heirs of eternal glory.
One must never confuse error and the person who errs, not even when there is a question of error or inadequate knowledge of truth in the moral or religious field. The person who errs is always and above all a human being, and he retains in every case his dignity as a human person. And he must always be regarded and treated in accordance with that lofty dignity.
Speaking of the order that should exist between man and his fellow man, the pope makes some interesting observations which have more to do with a social gospel than with Scripture. Every man, according to the pope, has the right to life, to a worthy standard of living (which includes food, clothing, shelter, rest; medical care and necessary social services), to security in sickness, inability to work, widowhood, old age, unemployment, or “in any other case in which he is deprived of the means of subsistence through no fault of his own.” He has a right to the benefits of culture and the advantages of scientific technology. In one of the strongest statements ever made by a Roman Catholic on the question of religious freedom, the pope claimed also for all men the right to worship God according to his own upright conscience. Each man not only has these rights; but must also respect them in others if mankind is “to create a well-ordered, beneficial political society.”
In discussing the relation between man and the state, the pope condemned all form of totalitarian regimes where a form of government is imposed upon the people against their will. Any form of government, no matter what it is, must be by the will of the subjects. Further, the state has the obligations to guard the rights of minorities and give equal protection of the law to all men. The state has the obligation to aid men in achieving a better life by making available to its subjects such services as the people cannot provide for themselves—e.g., education and health protection.
Turning next to the relation between one state and another, the pope made a strong plea for universal cooperation among the nations. He condemned the persecutions of certain races and admonished wealthy nations to aid poor and underdeveloped nations rather than exploit them. He pleaded for the settlement of disputes by negotiation rather than war. With respect to the current and rather universal practice of stockpiling arms, the pope wrote:
Justice, right reason and humanity, therefore, urgently demand that the armament race should cease, that the stockpiles which exist in various countries should be reduced equally and simultaneously by the parties concerned, that nuclear weapons should be banned.
Finally, in discussing the relation. between states and the world community, the pope fervently expressed his desire for one political world power united religiously on the principles of natural law. He observes that the extraordinary progress that has been made in science and technology during this century has made one family of the world so that the peace and security of one nation is intimately bound up in that of another. Therefore the human race must seek in unison the common good of all mankind. For this the pope looks to the United Nations Organization in the hope that one world government will spring from it.
It is our earnest wish that the United Nations Organization may become ever more equal to the magnitude and nobility of its tasks, and that the day may come when every human being will find therein an effective safeguard for the rights which derive directly from his dignity as a person.
All this, if done, will surely lead to “peace on earth.”
As could be expected, the reaction was universally favorable. U.N. Secretary General U. Thant gave respectful homage to the pope for his “great wisdom, vision and courage.” The United States State Department never ordinarily comments on papal encyclicals, but now broke its traditional silence with the comment: “No country could be more responsive than the U.S. to its profound appeal to and reassertion, of, the dignity of the individual, and man’s right to peace, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Even the leaders of Communism joined in their praise of the document as an encyclical of “peaceful coexistence.”
This reaction on the part of Communist regimes is due in part to the fact that the Vatican has recently been flirting with the Kremlin by making various overtures of peace in attempts to establish more harmonious relationships. Pope John is of the opinion that a new era is dawning that requires bold new policies, and that therefore, we stand on the threshold of creating just such a universal kingdom of peace as he describes in his latest utterance.
He may be right. The time may be very near when the world will be united into one kingdom. And, no doubt, his description of such a kingdom is accurate enough. It is accurate however, not because Pope John says so, but because what he says is a most astonishing blueprint of what Scripture describes as the final world wide kingdom of Antichrist. The only difference is that this kingdom will not be the kingdom of heaven here on earth. It will be the kingdom of the devil here on earth. In that kingdom the pope and his church will have an important place. But there will be no room for the Church of Jesus Christ.
SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONTROVERSY GOES ON
At last year’s convention of this largest of all Protestant denominations in the United States, the question of the infallible inspiration of Scripture came up for consideration. The occasion was a book written by Dr. Ralph H. Elliott entitled “The Message of Genesis.” In this book this professor in a Southern Baptist Seminary in Kansas City maintained that the stories in the first eleven chapters of Genesis were not literally true, but were parables with only symbolic significance. Further, he maintained that Melchizedek was a worshiper of Baa1 in spite of what Hebrews writes of Melchizedek in Hebrews 5-7. At that convention the decision was made:
That we express our abiding and unchanging objection to the dissemination of theological views in any of our seminaries which would undermine such faith in the historic accuracy and doctrinal integrity of the Bible, and that we courteously request the trustees and administrative officers of our institutions and other agencies to take such steps as shall be necessary to remedy at once those situations where such views now threaten our historic position.
The result of this decision was that Dr. Elliott was dismissed from his post. But the controversy has waged ever since. Some maintain that there is more to the story than has been told. It seems as if his views were more generally taught in the denomination among his colleagues in the seminary in Kansas City and in seminaries throughout the South which are connected to the Southern Baptist Church. Not only have more radical views been taught elsewhere, but professors in Kansas City Seminary have sided openly with Dr. Elliott. Critics of the action want to know why he alone was dismissed.
There were other criticisms of the convention’s decision. Some liberals in the denomination struck back at the convention for going beyond its authority. Others accused the convention for smothering academic freedom and condemning honest research in the field of textual criticism.
They accuse the denomination of being willing to commit ecclesiastical suicide in order to preserve an infallible Bible. It seems as if this is always the method of attack by those who wish to smuggle heresy into the Church—they always strike at other issues. They refuse to face the real question and lay down a smoke screen over the central issue by their irrelevant accusations.
But the conservatives feel rather strongly about the whole matter also. One minister expressed his opinion that the dismissal of Dr. Elliott was only “the first step in a movement to slow the trend to liberalism in our denomination.” Another says, “We were asleep. This was just like Pearl Harbor. They almost got us. I understand 90 percent of the students who graduate accept this kind of teaching. Why, in three or four years they would have multiplied like rabbits.”
The matter is of special significance, not only for Southern Baptists, but also for other denominations, because 30 per cent of all seminary students in this country attend the six Southern Baptist Seminaries.
There is even some talk of the possibility, and perhaps, the need, of a split to preserve the orthodoxy of the Church. But those who are in positions of leadership do not think that a split will come. According to Christianity Today they point to several factors:
(1) Only 10 percent of the Convention, described as militant conservatives, favor a split now, taking “what few institutions” are still wholly conservative: “The longer we wait, the more we’ll lose.” (2) Some 10 per cent are estimated to be liberal and neo-orthodox, these favoring avoidance of a split as long as possible. Then if it must come, say in six or eight years, “we’ll carry the key institutions.” (3) About 80 per cent say, “Avoid a fight and keep the peace. Southern Baptists are generally conservative and moderate. We must keep our institutions, rather than leave the convention without them, and very few of them would now go out.”
The issue will be threshed out soon at the annual Convention in Kansas City. It appears as if the Southern Baptist Church will have to do some house cleaning if it intends to maintain this fundamental truth of Scripture’s authority. But it also appears as if they will not do this.