Centennial. . . .
During the course of this year the communities of Holland, Michigan and Pella, Iowa, will celebrate the 100th anniversary of their founding. Here in Holland, the commemoration of this event has already begun. The opening event was a public meeting held in Hope College Memorial Chapel on Feb. 9. It was 100 years ago, on Feb. 9, 1847, that the Rev. A. C. Van Raalte, with a party of seven men and one woman reached the shores of Black Lake (now Lake Macatawa) to found the colony of (Holland. On Feb. 1, of the same year Van Raalte had visited and chosen this vicinity as the site for the home of his followers.
Following soon after this first small group many settlers came to the region. Holland was the center but other colonies sprang up in the surrounding territory. Each of these was given, and still bears, the name of the particular province or town in the Netherlands from which the various groups came. Their names are interesting and almost tell their history. A partial list includes: Zeeland, Graafschap, New Groningen, Overijsel, Drenthe and Vriesland.
Now 100 years later we are celebrating the founding of these communities. We feel, however, that much of the celebration of this event will reveal a history of apostasy from the Reformed traditions of Van Raalte and other leaders of his time. Hence, the remembrance of this event will be a cause for sorrow as well as rejoicing. It reminds us of what Ezra writes concerning the celebration that followed the completion of the foundation of the second Temple, after the return from the captivity. “But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice.”
This note of a “glory departed” was already struck at the 100th anniversary meeting referred to above. The speaker on this occasion was Dr. E. F. Romig, pastor of the West End Collegiate Church, New York City, (Eastern branch of the Reformed Church). Dr. Romig struck a note which was foreign to the heart and mind of these early pioneers and likewise far from the Reformed tradition. His closing appeal revealed this most clearly. After a rather rambling oration, of almost an hour, the speaker concluded with the question whether the heritage we have received from these founders has caused us to strive for, and “have all led to the establishment of a world in which the brotherhood of man” is evident, and universal peace a possibility. If this has been the result, it is good, he said, and upon it rests the benediction of God. Then the past 100 years have been valuable history. He closed with the well-known modern appeal that we must “forget our isolationism and build up a world in which God’s rule can prevail”. It should be evident to anyone who maintains the Reformed Truth that is certainly not our heritage, nor the striving of the Reformed tradition.
Such is also contrary, if not in flat contradiction, to what Van Raalte and his followers desired and maintained. This is most clearly evident from a bit of the history of the movement that has just recently come to light. In September of 1946, Dr. A. Hyma, professor of history at the University of Michigan, became the first person to receive full access to many valuable and hitherto unpublished Van Raalte documents. Dr. Hyma purchased these from the Van Raalte heirs, who had jealously guarded them against misuse and publication. According to Dr. Hyma, “A profound secret lay hidden in the Van Raalte documents, for which reason the founding of the Dutch settlements in the Middle West was shrouded in dense mystery until at last the key to the secret was found. Now we know that Van Raalte deliberately subordinated nearly all his activities from 1846 to 1876 to the one grand scheme, which was the establishment of a Christian society to be ruled by him personally. He and his friend, Judge Kellogg of Allegan, obtained possession of some 100,000 acres of land between the Kalamazoo and Grand Rivers. There they were going to found a kingdom of orthodox Christianity in which only true Christians could secure title to real estate property. They were planning to watch the sale of every lot, in order that no unbelievers could enter the sanctuary and poison the faith of their devoted followers. The sale of alcoholic drinks and the building of theatres were to be strictly forbidden. Dancing would also be prohibited, as well as gambling; yes, even the playing of cards was not to be allowed.” Quoted from the Banner, of Feb. 7, 1947.
It is evident, therefore, that the purpose of Van Raalte and his followers was not the establishment of a brotherhood of all men, nor to make “a world in which God’s rule can prevail” but to live in isolation and separation and segregation. He did not count all men as brethren nor conceive of a world kingdom for Christ but went to the opposite extreme. Though this plan was never realized, yet, we believe that Van Raalte and his group were closer, much closer, to the truth than that which we hear and see 100 years later. History reveals an apostatizing church and generation.
Russia. . . .
Soviet authorities have given permission for the creation of new Baptist seminaries in Russia and for the re-opening of a previously established theological school. Jacob Zhidkov, chairman of the Baptist and Evangelical Union of the U.S.S.R., made this announcement when asked whether Russian Baptists have any seminaries or Sunday Schools. ‘He added that Sunday Schools do not exist in the Soviet Union as the constitution does not permit religion instruction to children except in their homes.
He further reported that about 70% of Baptist and Evangelical pastors in Russia also work in other occupations; mainly in factories and offices, and on collective farms. This brief statement certainly gives a rather clear picture of the much vaunted “religious freedom.” in Russia.
Netherlands Reformed Church (Nederduitsch). . . .
Two congregations of the Netherlands Reformed group in Grand Rapids have received word of the acceptance of their call to a minister from the Netherlands. These congregations have been without a minister for a number of years and have turned to the Old Country for help; since they have no seminary to train their own men. The new pastor, the Rev. W. E. Lamain, recently accepted a joint call from the congregations of Division Ave., and Ottawa Ave., in Grand Rapids. He will bring his wife and seven children with him and is expected to arrive in the next month or two from Rijsen the Netherlands.
Novel Scheme. . . .
An ingenious and novel plan to raise money has been instituted by the First Presbyterian Church of Bluffton, Ohio, according to a U.P. dispatch, which appeared in the Holland Evening Sentinel. This congregation is attempting to increase the sum of $2000 to $10,000 by applying (?) the method of the parable of the talents. Each member of the congregation was given a $10 “talent” to use and return in five months with an accounting.
The story reads in part: “The church members could either return the $10 intact, any part of it, or whatever sum they had made it earn. Pastor E.N. Bigelow said the church placed no restrictions on how members should put their “talent” to work.
“Or if the member wanted to keep the money, he could, no questions asked. Furthermore, there would be no pressure applied to see that the money was ever returned. None, that is, but “moral compulsion”.
“The church borrowed $1,000 from a Bluffton bank to start the program. Parishioners took that up with alacrity. The church promptly put the touch on an influential member for another $1,000 and is distributing the tens from that now by mail”. The proceeds will be used to remodel the church building.
Apparently here is another church and congregation which has forgotten the Scriptural injunction to give as the Lord hath blessed. When this true idea of offering is lost it is inevitable that the church shall want. The result will be the introduction of all sorts of devices to obtain by “scheming” what does ndt come forth willingly.
French Calvinism. . . .
The present state of Calvinism in France was briefly touched upon in a letter which appeared in the Calvin Forum, of February, 1947. The writer, Rev. R. W. Teeuwissen, has been in France for almost two years. Concerning Calvinism in France, he writes as follows: “As you can already understand then I have discovered very little or practically no Calvinistic movement so far. Professor LeCerf, the great Calvinist. . . .is dead, and no one seems to have replaced him.
“Another Calvinist, the historian Pannier, also died some months ago. I believe he was the last active member of the Calvinistic study group.
“Let me, however, also add at once that I have been unable to get around as much as I had hoped and there may be certain things which have escaped me. . . .I intend to go down to Southern France into the old Huguenot country. I am looking forward to meeting with a number of Pastors belonging to the small group of churches who refused to enter the merger of several churches into the Eglise Reformee de France a few years before the war. I at one time met the professor of Doctrinal Theology of their very small seminary, Prof. Bruston. . . .
“The two French persons whom I have met after their return from visits to the States have been quite shocked by the liberalism and moralism they ran into over there.
“Two general remarks about the Church in France. On the whole the Gospel is being preached, but from the organizational viewpoint and as regards active church-life, such as giving, etc., there is much to be desired.”
China. . . .
Under the caption: What China Wants, we found the following: “Give us missionaries and more missionaries. Of course, it is easier to give money than men; but we in China challenge the Church in America, if you have to choose between men and money, send us men, send us missionaries who know Christ and can make Him known.”—Kung Sam Lee, Shanghai radio man, in Foreign Affairs Bulletin, quoted in the Moody Monthly of February, 1947.
From the same source we learn that the voice of the Christian broadcasting station, XMFID in Shanghai, is soon is go back on the air. This station is owned and operated by Christian Chinese and was begun in the year 1933. It was begun by a few Christian Chinese who felt that the only way to get beyond the forbidding walls and barred gates of every Chinese home was by the way of radio. K. S. Lee, the general secretary of the association, envisions a great future in this work. He looks forward to the time when China will have 100 radio stations in a Christian broadcasting chain. He maintains that only a few in China can read, but almost all can hear.
Speaking of Christian broadcasting services reminds us that also in the Netherlands there is an organized Christian Broadcasting Association. Every Church of soundly Reformed principles gets its fair share of the hours available.
We wish to add two remarks to the above. In the first place, we have often wondered if a Christian broadcasting chain will ever be a reality in our own country, or if such a vision is impossible. We understand that the size and distance increase the problems and cost but if a poverty stricken country like China can consider it a possibility we certainly can. It is also true that the potential audience and number of supporters is likewise greater in our country. In the second place, what was reported above concerning China, certainly supports and emphasizes what was stated in the report of the Mission Committee at last year’s Synod regarding a Foreign Mission work of our own. We still believe that it should be considered and is a possibility.