The beginning of the summer season is also the beginning of the Synodical season for most denominations. We thought it might be interesting to see some of the issues that will be up for consideration at some of the Synodical gatherings this year.
The Christian Reformed Church:
Besides those routine matters which always interest us more or less, the matter of Home Missions, also as it pertains to the work in Canada, will undoubtedly appear on the floor of this Synod. It will be interesting to see whether the organization of a Protestant Reformed Congregation in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada will also receive notice and whether it will incite any action.
Carried over from last year’s Synod by way of study committee reports will be the matter of the establishment of Junior Colleges. This matter, together with its closely related problems of control and support, is of interest to us also because it will have a bearing upon the Christian School teacher supply. Thus also the matter of the status of ministers serving in non-ecclesiastical institutions. Because this also has a bearing upon our Christian Schools and because it deals with the question of the interpretation of articles 6 and 12 of our Church Order, the report and decision on this matter will also be read with interest.
And then I imagine there will also be the annual question of membership in the National Association of Evangelicals. In this group, largely dominated by Arminians, the Christian Reformed Church also maintains a membership. Gradually the opposition to this membership has become more vocal and it will be interesting to see whether this opposition has increased in strength, sufficiently to break off this tie.
The Reformed Church in America:
In this group the forthcoming General Synod will undoubtedly be colored almost entirely by the proposal and the steps which have been taken toward organic union with the United Presbyterian Denomination.
The Orthodox Presbyterian Church:
Here, as also in the Christian Reformed Church, one of the issues to be faced is that of membership in a wider group, this time the American Council of Christian Churches. Rather interesting and we believe correct are the views on this matter expressed by A. W. Kuschke, Jr., in a recent issue of the Presbyterian Guardian. We quote from his article, “We give here some reasons why the next General Assembly should answer no. . . . Politics is the plainest reason …. But there are other reasons too which ought to be stated. For one thing, what right does the Church have to become a ‘constituent member’ of any organization? Does the Bible give such a right? We think not. The Church as the Church must be free before God. . . . When the Church becomes a constituent member of a permanent organization, it loses its identity to some degree in that organization, it is tied down to the level of that organization and compromised by its actions. It no longer stands alone before God.
“There is another reason, purely logical. If a ‘Council of Churches’ does only those things which the Church itself should properly do, then what right has the ‘Council’ to exist? It should let the Church do those things. But if the ‘Council’ does those things which the Church should not properly do, then the Church cannot become a constituent member of it.
“A third reason: what of the Reformed faith? The fifteen or so odd varieties of denominations in the American Council include Methodist groups, Baptist groups, and many others of doubtful relation of the Reformed Faith. . . . How can the pure gospel be maintained whole without loss, without being cut down to smaller size and value, when most of the members of the American Council are presumably not Calvinistic? It is important to notice that these spheres of activity—evangelism, missions, and Christian education—are expressly provided for in the by-laws of the American Council.
“Politics, however, belongs to the very life blood of the American Council. . . .
“A special danger to the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in joining the American Council would be that of turning from the Church’s true mission. Every time that the Church in the past has really interfered in politics it has lost sight of its own spiritual duty and has done great harm. This happened in 1861 when the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church was so far carried away by the national crisis as to support officially the cause of the Union. Sound Presbyterianism was broken in two and the South was forced to set up its own Church. When twenty and thirty years ago the Churches in America threw themselves into the Prohibition crusade they used up their energy in politics and so far lost sight of their spiritual needs that they were soon swept under in the victorious advance of Modernism. Today the Orthodox Presbyterian Church is small and weak. It should not encumber itself as a Church with political affairs. It has an enormous task just in making the gospel clear and plain to the modern man. It cannot afford to know anything else but Jesus Christ and Him crucified. And in knowing Jesus Christ it will seek to obey Him and stay in its own proper spiritual realm. In that realm lies its power and there the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
We sincerely hope that these churches listen to the sound advice of Mr. Kuschke and answer no.
Another matter of interest will be the doctrinal decisions three of which have been sent down to the Consistories (or Sessions as they are called) for study while the remaining two are to be presented to this Assembly. These decisions concern the matters treated some time ago also in this paper by Rev. Hoeksema in discussing the “Clark” case, and deal with the Incomprehensibility of God, the Effect of Regeneration on the Intellective Activities of the Soul, The Free Offer of the Gospel (these three have been sent down to the Sessions for study), the Primacy of the Intellect and The Relation of God’s Sovereignty to Human Responsibility.
All the more interesting this is because there seems to be a group in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church which is relating the doctrinal trend in these churches to the withdrawal of Dr. Clark who affiliated with the United Presbyterian Church, the missionary activity of Rev. Hamilton under sponsorship of an independent rather than under the Orthodox Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions, and the withdrawal of other ministers and congregations from the denomination. We will watch the outcome with interest and will keep our readers informed.
The Southern Presbyterian Church:
In this church, among other issues which are of lesser interest to us, is also that of church union. This is taking the form of working toward organic union with the Presbyterian Church North, as has also been pointed out from time to time in this column. As you will recall last year this church agreed to a five year postponement of all efforts toward union and all agitation opposed to it.
Since that time the conservative element is accusing the “Report of the Committee on Co-operation and Union” of being propaganda in favor of union, in fact, of suggesting avenues and procedures which must lead to union. Thus the whole matter which has caused much agitation in thy.se churches and which was one of the reasons for the publication of “The Southern Presbyterian Journal” may and probably will again appear before this General Assembly.
We shall attempt to keep our readers informed.
Evangelical and Reformed Church:
Here again the movement toward union attracts our attention. This group proposes to merge with the Congregational Christian Churches. In fact most of the preliminary work has already been done and both groups are on record as favoring union. Especially in the Congregational churches it is expected that much opposition and perhaps even division may result over this issue, as both from the liberal and the conservative branches of this church voices have arisen calling for separate existence in case of merger. Once again we watch with interest and hope to keep our readers informed.
Common Grace or Post-Millennialism?
“God of our fathers:
“We come to thank Thee for blessings which we enjoy in this land of the free. When we compare our lot with that of those who suffer under the oppressor’s heel in foreign lands we realize that we are unworthy recipients of undeserved blessings. Forgive us for taking our privileges for granted. Continue Thy mercies upon us even though we have in our number those who would undermine the structure of our freedom. Grant that the Gospel which makes men spiritually free may flourish, not only on our shores, but throughout the world, to oppose the powers of evil men who would enslave and rob their fellows in violation of Thy Law. May our world, in which there is so much oppression, be blessed with a new birth of freedom, and with a new birth of the Spirit in the hearts of men. We pray for the conquest of the Gospel in this world, that it may upset the tyrant, and even, if it be Thy will, convert him. For Jesus sake. Amen.” (I underscore—J.H).
When one reads this prayer he is inclined to say, “I thought this type of post-millennialism had received a tremendous set-back in World War I and had certainly received its death-blow in World War II.” Therefore also you will understand the title over this piece, when you discover that it is not some well-known modern, post-millennialist who uttered this prayer but that it came over the air under the title “The Back to God Hour”, sponsored by the Christian Reformed Church, and was uttered at the conclusion of a talk on “Private Property” in which Christianity and the capitalistic system were virtually identified.
Now I certainly fear Communism, but maintain that the Bible doesn’t care what kind of an economic system is present there where the church comes to manifestation, but rather insists that whatever the system may be, the church must let her light shine, be Christian, not rebel and always serve God rather than men in those cases where the government oversteps its bounds. In fact, just in passing, it may be remarked that certainly if one wishes to find a Scriptural system, it is that of monarchy rather than democracy. But this was really not the point of this quoted prayer. Rather I would call attention to the this-worldly, anti-Scriptural hope which sets forth, and with which it would call “America Back to God”.
And I would call attention to and suggest that the Christian Reformed Church heed the far more sound and Scriptural position as it was expressed in the March issue of the Calvin Forum by Rev. Henry Bajema in an article entitled “The Millennium Issue”.
“. . . . As Calvinists we are aware of our calling. We know that God is to be sovereign in every sphere of life. And we work in that direction, too, in the consciousness that we have far from attained. That is all very well. The question is: Have we been equally sensitive to the teaching of our Lord that He is coming again, and that right soon? He Himself was emphatic on that point; me should be so, too, and never more so than today. We complain about worldliness. The remedy of this deadly cancer is not merely a positive program of action. That is a half-remedy. The other half, if you will, the dynamic within it, must be the firm and prayerful expectation of our Lord’s return. Only in this lively hope will our faith in, and our love for, our Lord stand the tests of these times.” (I underscore—J.H.)