It may be interesting to compare the conclusions adopted by the Synod of the Christian Reformed Churches in regard to the union question this year, with those that were adopted a few years ago. The comparison may show in what direction the Synod is moving, or whether it is merely marking time.

We quote these former conclusions, as they appeared in The Banner of April 7, 1938:

“Now it is perfectly clear that the Church can accomplish whatever it may be able to do in this sphere, only with the means entrusted to her, that is the faithful preaching of the Word and the judicious exercise of church discipline. But by these means she may accomplish a great deal. She can best promote the organization of Christian labor organizations and of other Christian organizations in the social sphere of life:

“1. By preaching unceasingly and uncompromisingly the biblical principle of the Christian’s separation from the world. The Bible clearly teaches that believers constitute a peculiar people, and that as a holy people they are in duty bound to separate themselves from all that is unholy, and should not be unequally yoked with unbelievers, but should avoid all social entanglements that might in any way compromise their Christian character and profession;

“2. By setting forth clearly and unequivocally the antichristian spirit of Marxian Socialism with its glorification of class hatred, class struggle, and class ethics, and its principle that might makes right; and by placing over against this the great fundamental biblical principles of justice as they apply in the industrial world and ought to be maintained by all those who profess to be followers of Jesus Christ;

“3. By calling particular attention to the principle of corporate responsibility, clearly taught in the Word of God (Acts 2:23, 36; 3:13-15; 2 Cor. 6:14-17; Eph. 5:11; 1 Tim. 5:22; 2 John 11; Rev. 18:4), affirmed by an enlightened Christian conscience, and recognized by sociologists; and by giving a discriminating answer to the question whether and in how far one can relieve himself of this responsibility by protesting;

“4. By exercising discipline in the spirit of love, but nevertheless with a firm hand whenever her members become guilty of propagating un-Christian principles in the world of labor, assume an unbrotherly attitude towards their fellow Christians, take part in acts of violence, trample upon the fundamental principles of justice, or refuse to break with organizations that are avowedly antichristian in character, or reveal throughout an antichristian spirit in their activities.

“By working along such lines as these with fidelity, the Church will naturally train the conscience of the laboring-men in her midst, and will make them feel more keenly than they do at present the need of distinctly Christian organizations in the industrial world. If the need is keenly felt and the necessity clearly seen, the laborers themselves will find ways and means for the establishment of such organizations. And when they do show that they feel within them the urge to organize on a strictly Christian basis, that they are willing to take up the struggle in separate organizations for the sake of their king, and that they are ready for the sacrifice which it may entail,—then the Church will undoubtedly find many ways in which it can encourage them in their laudable efforts.”

Comparing these earlier conclusions with those we published in our paper two weeks ago, we note that there are certain points of similarity between the two.

Both recognize the principle of corporate responsibility, the principle that one is held accountable for the principles and acts of a body of which one is a member.

Both carefully avoid saying anything at all about existing unions, i.e. whether or not they are antichristian in character, and whether it is proper for a Christian to belong to them. The earlier report condemns Marxian Socialism and its principles, but fails to state whether the existing unions are socialistic in principle. The later report at first blush appears to state something about the CIO and AFL, but the careful reader will soon discover that actually it is left an open question whether these unions are based on principles opposed to the Christian faith. In fact, the possibility is granted that it is quite compatible with the Christian faith to be member of them.

Both speak of Christian discipline in this connection; but both also carefully avoid stating that membership in a worldly union makes one worthy of censure.

But there are also points of difference. And a comparison of the two reports will show that the Christian Reformed Churches are moving in the wrong direction, i.e. in the direction of approving of union membership for their members.

The earlier report, though failing to apply the enunciated principles to concretely existing unions, is nevertheless rather emphatic in setting forth the principle of the antithetical position of the Christian in the world. The later report does not even mention this principle, still less proceeds from it, but is rather based on the utility principle that a Christian may to a certain extent compromise with the world.

The earlier report, though making no definite statement to this effect, nevertheless leaves the impression throughout that the worldly union is antichristian in character, and the membership in the union is incompatible with the Christian’s faith and calling. The later report concedes the possibility that Church membership and union membership are compatible. In fact, though the statement is qualified by an “if,” it definitely states that they are compatible.

Although neither of the two sets of conclusions definitely states that membership of a worldly union renders one censurable, the earlier report is much more positive in this respect than the later. The latter is extremely vague and ambiguous in this respect.

Some of these points deserve a more detailed consideration.