The Church, the Christian, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The purpose of this editorial is not to justify murder. The murder of Dr. Martin Luther King was just exactly that: murder. And murder is contrary to the law of God. But let it be added at once: what else do you expect of the world than murder? Can a depraved world walk in love toward the neighbor and seek his well-being? Let it be added, too, that a judgment of God was executed in this event, the judgment that is embodied in the words, “All they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” For do not forget: Dr. King took the sword, just as really as if he had gone up and down our country with a sword of steel in his hand. And he perished by the sword. All of which does not justify his assassin, who also took the sword and must needs perish by the sword. 

Nor is the purpose of this editorial to justify so-called racist tenets. For the purposes of this article it makes absolutely no difference whether Dr. King was black or white, red or yellow. It makes a world of difference, however, whether he and the things for which he stood were Christian or anti-Christian, of Christ or of Belial, according to Scripture or opposed to Scripture. 

Nor is the purpose of this editorial to plead either for segregation or desegregation. From a Christian viewpoint, one can only conclude that no real problems will be solved by either policy. From that same viewpoint, one can at best expect that any policy which is adopted and followed by this world in an attempt to solve its incalculably great problems can only be in the nature of an accommodation and a temporizing as the world rushes toward the ultimate manifestation of the Antichrist, and by the same token rushes madly and willfully toward its own destruction. 

This editorial is not concerned with the world and its problems. “Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.” Apart from that gospel of the kingdom, of the kingdom, mark you, which stands antithetically over against the kingdom of this world, there is no solution for any problem. And that gospel of the kingdom cuts across, cuts through, cuts to pieces any and every gospel and philosophy of man, whether that be a philosophy of racism or of desegregation, whether it be a philosophy of so-called nonviolent resistance or of violent resistance. What we should be concerned about, therefore, in this present situation is the church and her stance and the child of God and his attitude in the midst of and over against all the social upheaval and turmoil of our times, particularly as the latter were brought into sharp focus in the events surrounding the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. 

And this editorial is intended as a solemn warning and a protest and a call to reformation. 


It was neither surprising nor disturbing to see all kinds of churches and religious leaders of modernist ilk worship at the feet of one of their idols, extol the praises of one of their own kind, pay homage at the casket of one of their slain comrades, and memorialize one of their great leaders with numerous exhortations to be faithful to his philosophy and especially to his principle of non-violence. This sort of thing one has come to expect from those who have long ago forsaken the truth of God’s Word and who for many years already have co-labored with liberals of every brand in the cause of a social gospel and of social revolution. 

What is surprising and disturbing is to behold the spectacle of churches and leaders who are still supposed to represent: the church of Jesus Christ prostituting themselves in this cause of a God-defying, Christ-denying social gospel. What is surprising and disturbing is to behold the specter of such spiritual prostitution raising its ugly head among those who name themselves by the name of Reformed Christians, even as historically close to us as the Christian Reformed denomination. 

I do not know very much about reactions elsewhere among those of Reformed background. But here in “Jerusalem,” in the fair city of Grand Rapids, we have witnessed some strange, some sad, some hair-raising, some spine-chilling phenomena. 

We have witnessed the depressing spectacle of a college bearing John Calvin’s name holding memorial services on both campuses in memory of Martin Luther King, Jr. We have witnessed the spectacle of a very religious-sounding “Open Letter to the People of Grand Rapids” signed by the “Student Body of Calvin Theological Seminary” being published in theGrand Rapids Press, a letter in which there is not so much as a breath of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the gospel of sin and of grace, the gospel of the antithesis. Here is the text of that letter:

We have often heard the voice of Dr. Martin Luther King calling us to cut the cancer of prejudice from our souls and from our land. But we have never heard his voice so eloquently as in his death. We have never heard his voice so eloquently as in our grief at his assassination. 

We have witnessed oppression, exploitation, corruption and have not spoken or done God’s Word. Our hate, our prejudice, our indifference, our silence must bear the responsibility for this tragic event. Our prejudice and indifference demands shame, and shame demands action. The death of Dr. Martin Luther King cries for us to speak the word of justice, to speak the word of love, to speak the word of righteousness, and then to do that word. To do that word is to achieve the right of every man to be a man. Let us all, therefore, fight hate with love, prejudice with brotherhood, and indifference with concrete action. That concrete action must be expressed in low-cost housing, equality of job opportunities, equality of educational opportunities. “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-rolling stream.”

We have witnessed the spectacle of all the Christian Schools (that is, the Christian Reformed Christian schools) in this city closing in observance of the funeral of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

More tragic yet, we have witnessed the spectacle of a sabbath-desecrating memorial march from Franklin Park (just across the street from our First Protestant Reformed Church) to the Grand Rapids City Hall, reportedly participated in by some 4,000 people and climaxed by a memorial service, on the Sunday afternoon following King’s assassination. Who was it initiated by? By two Christian Reformed ministers and a Calvin College professor, among others. Who acted as parade marshals? Many (more than 50) Calvin seminary students. Who lent moral and material support? Calvin College, by furnishing transportation from City Hall for the marchers. Who were associated in this march? Liberal ministers of the area Council of Churches and various civil rights leaders of this city, Grace Christian Reformed Church (Rev. Peter Huiner) and First Christian Reformed Church (Rev. Marvin Beelen) and, “in effect, Calvin College and Seminary,” according to the Grand Rapids Press. What kind of things were done and said at the memorial service? They prayed together and together sang “We Shall Overcome.” The Rev. Peter Huiner drew the applause of the crowd for the following reported remarks in tribute to the slain civil rights leader:

This has been called a day of defeat. There are those who despair. But Martin Luther King did not despair. And it is us who must turn this day of defeat into a day of victory. Let this be the beginning of a resurrection movement in Grand Rapids.

Yes, it was a sad time in Grand Rapids,—sad not because of King’s death, but sad because many who were supposed to represent the church, and, more specifically, the Reformed faith, made a public spectacle of themselves and of the church, a caricature of the church of Jesus Christ, seemingly taking complete leave of their senses in their haste to pay tribute to this false prophet, Martin Luther King, Jr.


For who was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? 

That he had become a great man in this world, no one will deny. The great and prominent of this world gave ample testimony of this by going to Atlanta to pay their respects at his funeral. 

That he had been catapulted into prominence and fame through his activities as head of an influential civil rights movement, everyone will have to acknowledge. Somehow he even seemed to have achieved greater fame than that other victim of an assassin’s bullet, President Kennedy. 

That he was an eloquent demagogue, who knew the power of rhetoric and who knew even how to employ Scriptural language and Scriptural references as his tools, to this the almost electric response to his speeches gave testimony. 

But who was he really? That is, what did he stand for? What were his principles? 

It is not my purpose to rehearse the personal history and philosophy of this man in detail. But permit me to mention a few telling facts. Some of these I learned from an NBC documentary on the radio; some of these I read in various publications. 

King was a man who once said: “I happen to believe that God reveals Himself in all the great religions of the world.” He was a man who claimed to have gained his inspiration for non-violent resistance from Jesus of Nazareth, and the technique from Mahatma Gandhi. I heard him say this in a tape-recorded interview broadcast after his death. In his last address he boldly said, in defiance of the God-ordained powers that be: “We aren’t going to let any injunction turn us around,”—referring to the proposed march in Memphis in which he never took part. 

He was a man who was captivated by Henry David Thoreau’s writings on “Civil Disobedience.” And who was Thoreau? An unbelieving, transcendentalist, individualist, early American philosopher-author, who in applying his philosophy to the concept of government wrote among other things, “There will never be a really free and enlightened State until the State comes to recognize the individual as a higher and independent power, from which all its own power and authority are derived, and treats him accordingly.” Or this: “The authority of government, even such as I am willing to submit to,—for I will cheerfully obey those who know and can do better than I, and in many things even those who neither know nor can do so well,—is still an impure one: to be strictly just, it must have the sanction and consent of the governed. It can have no pure right over my person and property but what I concede to it.” 

King was a man who rejected the truth of original sin. He taught that Jesus was divine in the sense that “he was one with God in purpose. He so submitted his will to God’s will that God revealed his divine plan to man through Jesus.” He rejected the virgin birth as a mythological story. 

King’s great tenet was so-called non-violent resistance and civil disobedience. I will pass by the practical fact that physical violence followed almost everywhere he went; and I will pass by the fact that by his constant reference to the possibility that violence might arise if his demands were not met he virtually fomented violence and rioting. I will pass these by in order to emphasize that this non-violent resistance is a contradiction in terms. There is other violence, you know, than physical violence. The latter King reputedly rejected, in order to resort to a coercion that frequently proved to be more effectual than the violence of the gun and the firebomb. The principle of that violence was that he exalted the individual above the law. The principle of it was lawlessness. The principle of it was that the individual has the moral right to flout the law if that law does not please him and coincide with his individual conscience. The principle of it was that Martin Luther King did not acknowledge the Word of God: “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God. . .” Romans 13:1, ff. Remember, please, that these words were penned in the days of the persecuting Roman emperors, when there were no “civil rights” except for Roman citizens and when the government used its vast powers to persecute the people of God. Even then the church was admonished, “Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.” 

What Martin Luther King refused to recognize was that there is no principal difference between the man who defies the powers that be in little things like parade permits and the man who defies the powers that be in big things like assassin’s bullets and looting and firebombing. Both, principally, are anarchists, rebels, revolutionaries. 

It is in this light that I can only conclude that those who paid homage to King paid homage to a false prophet, to a social gospeller of the most radical kind, to an enemy of the cause of Christ, to a man who in his basic philosophy stands condemned by the Word of God, to a man who neither knew nor preached the gospel of sin and of grace, to a man who in his own eyes and the eyes of the world posed as a Messiah, whose death even would have “redemptive value,” to a man to whom the “promised land” and “the coming of the Lord” were identical with the achievement of civil rights and economic equality. 

It is in this light that I can only characterize such homage on the part of those who call themselves Reformed Christians as spiritual prostitution, homage to the great whore! 

It is in this light that I must raise my voice in solemn warning and protest, and cry, “For shame! For shame that such things go on and are allowed to go on unrequited in the church of Christ!” 

It is in this light that I must needs call, “Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate!”