It has now been several months since the Study Committee appointed by the Federation Board has made their report. This report of possible convention improvements was sent to each society with the request that it be discussed and that reactions to it be sent to the Board. It was also published in Beacon Lights (February, 1965) with the request that it be commented upon in Open Forum. Editor Decker also included a set of questions which should have been answered while analyzing the report. The response in Open Forum has been excellent and very gratifying to the Board. As the report stated, any ameliorative measures must come from the societies themselves and the response given indicates that the societies themselves are very interested in the matters brought up by it. All thirteen member societies sent in their reactions; some of them were brief, others were more detailed, all of them were candid and expressed an earnest desire to make the convention as worthwhile as possible.
It is my intention in this article to give you an idea of how the societies felt about the report, to briefly comment upon several points, and to conclude with the resulting decision of the Board. In order to have some kind of format, I will try to present the implicit and explicit answers of the societies to the five questions suggested by Editor Decker in his preface to the report. In general, I will not give the names of the societies when referring to their letters, since it is what was said that we are interested in, not who said it.
The first question, then, was: “Do you agree that there is a problem? Is the problem correctly stated by the committee?”
You will remember that the committee felt that the quality of our conventions was waning. It stated the problem as one of too much emphasis on the purely social aspect of the conventions and a decreasing interest in the more edifying aspect. Almost all the societies agreed that some kind of problem existed and most of them felt that it could be stated as a lop-sided interest, if not emphasis, on what should be only a part of the convention. Beliefs as to the seriousness of the problem varied among the societies, but most recognized one, and were ready to discuss it. The significance of this recognition should not be lost. It means that the young people feel that the quality of the conventions can and should be improved. It means that, for the most part, they will support reasonable efforts to improve them. It means that a host society need not have an excessive apprehension of modifying traditional convention procedures in an effort to improve them. In short, it means that the young people will probably be receptive to attempts to increase the quality of the conventions.
The second question that our editor posed had to do with the objectives stated by the committee—are they proper and sufficient? Most of the letters from the societies fitted themselves into the threefold distinction given by the committee. This indicates a lack of disagreement, if not positive agreement, with the distinction proposed by the committee. However, several societies offered trenchant criticism. It was pointed out that there is really only one objective at our conventions, and that is the glorification of our covenant God. The three objectives stated by the committee, they said, were only means to the main one. Now, this is true and the committee should have made it clearer that they were stating objectives for the carrying out of the purpose of the convention, which, in turn, is a means for the carrying out of the purpose of young people’s lives, which purpose, of course, is the glorification of our God.
It was further maintained that the committee’s objectives were all objective and that there should also be a subjective objective pertaining to the aim of the conventioneer himself. Our Oaklawn Society offered such an objective:
All participants in the convention, delegates and visitors, should seek through active participation in all the functions of the convention, to promote the conventions’ objective and thus bring out its greatest potential.
The spirit in which this criticism is given must be appreciated. It is concerned with the observation that finally only what the individual conventioneers do will determine the nature and quality of the convention. It is they who must support whatever objectives are finally decided upon, and only their support and participation will produce a successful convention. The committee stressed this point and Oaklawn Society also put it very well:
…We believe that not set of objectives, no stating and restating of rules will result in the desired improvements for the simple reason that spiritual activities cannot be legislated. Basically any improvement will have to come from the member societies and will have to begin in the societies themselves. And this again reflects back to the home. As children we must be taught the significance of the spiritual in our lives; and as young people we must evidence an interest in the spiritual and without this there will not be an improvement but deterioration.
Before I leave this matter of the three objectives stated by the committee, I must confess my fear upon rereading our report that certain confusion might arise from our distinctions. When the committee distinguished three objectives for the conventions, we did not intend to separate the conventions into three parts; rather we intended to distinguish three aspects. These three aspects are mixed together throughout the entire convention—the panned activities can all be both social and edifying, and the business meeting especially so. It is true, however, that certain activities put more emphasis on the social aspect and other activities emphasize the edification aspect. The business meetings have important aspects of their own. It was the contention of the committee that a developing emphasis on certain aspects of the convention along with a de-emphasis of other aspects was impairing their quality. And the three objectives, which, as some societies reminded us, are traditionally accepted by the young people, were intended as a reaffirmation of the relative importance of the social, edifying, and business aspects of the conventions. This was done in the hope that resultant discussion and decisions would lead host societies to try and all young people to support new and old way s of achieving these objectives. And the wide-spread agreement as to both the presence of a problem and to the general intent of the objectives indicates that such a hope could be realized. Let us proceed to the next three questions which deal with how the societies feel the objectives should be implemented.
The committee stated that all conventioneers should engage seriously and meaningfully in the business activities. General agreement to this objective did not prevent a few problems from being aired.
Several societies remarked that sometimes the business meetings become long and drawn-out. The voting procedure was cited as being inefficient. Moreover, it was observed that if more discussion was to take place, a certain amount of rescheduling would be needed to allow for it. A second difficulty was mentioned in regard to nominations. Since all the delegates are not always acquainted with the nominees, intelligent voting is sometimes difficult.
These difficulties are always possible and efforts must continually be made to have well-run, meaningful business meetings. But a third matter in connection with the business meetings gives evidence of confusion and possible division. This is the matter of attendance. Most of the societies felt that all conventioneers, delegates and visitors, should attend and participate in the business meetings. One society recommended that roll call of all conventioneers be taken at the meetings; but other societies felt that this should not be a compulsory thing or the very purpose of the meeting will be lost. However, a more serious difference of opinion arose when two societies claimed that visitors not only need not come, they really had no right to participate anyhow. The argument, as given by one of the societies, is that since we have a representative democracy in which the delegates are given a mandate by the rest of the society, they are the only ones who have the duty and the privilege of active participation in the business procedures. This feeling, I fear can be found in a significant number of people and probably contributes greatly to the generally poor attendance at the Thursday morning and afternoon activities. But this feeling is historically unfounded; it harms the conventions, and, from a practical point of view, is less than adequate. It is historically unfounded because the delegate system was set up simply to give fair voting power to each society; it had no intention of limiting participation in the business meeting to the delegates. The business meetings of the earlier conventions were considered to be extremely important parts of the convention and everyone attended and actively participated in them. In fact, business and social and edifying activities were closely intertwined since everyone engaged in all of them. So historically, the visitor has played an important part in the business meetings. But this attitude is also harmful to the conventions. If the visitors do not attend the business meetings, then during the business meetings they will probably drift around on their own. This would violate the social and spiritual goals of the convention. The only alternative would be for the host society to set up some separate worthwhile activity for them. But it is hard to imagine a more worthwhile activity than engaging in discussion of the issues which face the Federation, in other words, participating in the business meetings. Finally, this attitude would use a method which is less than adequate for carrying on the activities of the Federation fairly. Let us use one example. This year each society is requested to come with a nomination for a Bible book to study during the coming years. So, hopefully, each society will have their delegates nominate a book. Thus, the delegates will directly represent the will of their societies. But it is surely evidence that more than one book will be nominated and that is the meeting is ever going to close, some delegates will have to change their minds. Here they no longer directly represent the will of the societies and if any member of their societies has strong ideas as to how the delegates should vote, his ideas will not be articulated unless he can enter the discussion. But he may, and, in fact, is encouraged to participate and thus, with discussion as free as possible, a more intelligent decision can be reached. For these three reasons I feel that it would be best for the minority to agree with the majority on this point and encourage all conventioneers to attend and participate in the business meetings.
The committee, in their second objective, suggested that more edifying activities such as debates, discussions, reports, etc., entailing the active involvement of the conventioneers, should be an important part of the convention. Only one society directly disagreed with this intent, reminding us that “After all, it isn’t a Bible School for three days.” Another six societies gave their complete approval to the objective and the remaining six wholeheartedly agreed with the intent of the objective but expressed certain problems that they felt should be considered. First of all, there was some fear that too much activity might be crammed into the convention period, making it a frustrating experience instead of an edifying one. A number of societies suggested that the convention should be lengthened to make room for such activities. One suggested that the convention be held over a long weekend enabling us to use Sunday as an appropriate day for discussions and readings. It was also thought that some of these activities, if they were well supervised, could replace one of the speeches. Although agreeing in general with the objective, one society mentioned that these activities should not be too long, should not “extol the theological wisdom of one member over another,” and should not cause the convention to be compared to a seminary or catechism class, or even a young people’s society.” Finally, it was feared by one society that an over-emphasis of these activities could frighten away those who do not feel qualified.
These suggestions and cautions must be considered by the host societies. Especially the suggestions as to changing the length and time of the convention might be carefully considered. And the possible apprehensions of the young people must always be reckoned with when planning a convention. But the main point to reflect upon is that almost all of the societies did feel that changes toward more edifying activities such as were mentioned should be started. Many gave topics which they felt should be discussed. A partial list includes: 1) What is the difference between reading a book, and attending a movie of the same title? 2) Should Christian young men enlist in the army? 3) A Protestant Reformed High School 4) Dating problems 5) Should we have confession classes? 6) How to improve future conventions 7) A Christian attitude toward the Negroes 8) To what extent should Christians participate in politics? 9) Our mission labors—the participation of young people in them.
In his final questions, Editor Decker asked, “What part does the ‘social objective’ play in our conventions?” There was not an overabundance of discussion on this point; evidently, most societies felt that this aspect of the convention was coming off quite well. A western society observed that “it is very important that we make friends and acquaintances with those of our own denomination. The East has this advantage most of the time; however, many of us in the West seldom receive this opportunity.” In general, the societies felt the host should plan activities so “as to cause us to seek the friendship and welfare of one another.” As was earlier mentioned, the social aspect of the convention should be promoted in all its activities, especially in those which we discussed in the second objective. In addition, the societies showed a desire for such activities as the outing, ballgames, pancake breakfast, etc.
This article, of course, gives only a brief and incomplete survey of the societies’ reactions to the study committee report. The society letters themselves are a fruitful source for gaining a general impression of how the societies feel about the conventions. In addition to what has been written, the board could detect a general agreement with the position that, while stating objectives is a helpful means for discussion, the real push for improvements in the conventions must come from the individual young people and societies themselves, and must proceed by way of the planning for each convention by the host society in conjunction with the Board. There was great desire to make the conventions as edifying and enjoyable as possible, but there was little desire for an imposing of new rules and methods by the Board. The Board found itself in full agreement with this attitude that it must not dictate convention policy, but that conventions must be planned by the host societies who must plan according to the mature desires, judgments, and needs of the young people. In this operation, the Board serves as a guide and spokesman elected by the young people to serve their best interests.
Bearing in mind everything that has been touched upon in this article, the Board decided to propose that the following resolution be adopted at the convention:
We, the Delegate Board, hereby express our desire that the host societies of the conventions explore new means and elaborate on old ones to bring the conventions up to their full social and spiritual potential. We suggest such means as changes in traditional scheduling, debates, discussions, speeches by young people, and any other means the host society and the executive board deem advisable.
1. The tendency that traditional scheduling procedures become inflexible is present and should be avoided.
2. The tendency that conventions lose their high spiritual and social goals is present and should be avoided.
a. The amount of debates, discussions, and other direct involvement by young people has decreased in the past few years.
b. Since these are highly social in character, the social goals have also decreased.
3. The problem is one that can only be dealt with by the host society and especially by the conventioneers themselves.
a. This resolution might help free natural tendencies by host societies to be strictly traditional in scheduling.
b. This resolution might help focus the attention of conventioneers upon the problem and thus help facilitate improvements.
Of course, under certain unfortunate circumstances, this resolution might be absolutely worthless. On the other hand, as ground three indicates, it might help create an atmosphere in which the young people, future host societies, and Board will work together to carry on that continual improvement which every living tradition needs.
*It goes without saying that the motive for writing this article has nothing specifically to do with the planning of this year’s convention, much of which has already been done. The article intends to deal with future conventions in general.
How vast the benefits divine,
Which we in Christ possess!
We’re saved from guilt and every sin,
And called to holiness.
‘Tis not for works which we have done,
Or shall hereafter do;
But He, of His electing love,
Salvation doth bestow.
The glory, Lord, from first to last,
Is due to Thee alone;
Ought to ourselves we dare not take,
Or rob Thee of Thy crown.
Our glorious Surety undertook
Redemption’s wondrous plan;
And grace was given us in Him,
Before the world began.
Safe in the arms of sovereign love
We ever shall remain;
Nor shall the rage of earth or hell
Make Thy dear councils vain.
Not one of all the chosen race
But shall to heaven attain,
Partake on earth the purpose grace,
And then with Jesus reign.
With Heart and Mind
KENNETH L. PIKE William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids. 140 pages, $1.75.
One of the crucial problems which every serious student begins to face in high school and meets head on in college is that of faith and science. Sometimes, an apparent conflict will lead to a rejection of faith. This reaction is a tragedy. Other times, it will cause a complete rejection of science. This answer, being intellectually dishonest, also is one to be avoided. In both cases, an alleged solution is found by ignoring the facts of one side. Rather than resorting to this poor way out, the real answer lies in harmonizing whatever can be shown to be factual. Since the student who does this faces no easy task, it is with pleasure that he reads the books of men who have successfully done so. Such a man is Dr. Kenneth Pike of the University of Michigan and the Wycliffe Bible Translators. Dr. Pike calls his book a personal synthesis of scholarship and devotion. Claiming that evangelicals have “vigorously attempted to obey the command to serve God with heart and soul while, belligerently, they have sometimes ignored in the same command the order to love God with mind,” he says he has tried to obey both and “the present essays try to let the reader see just a bit of the religious and philosophical struggle that lies behind the growth of this personal synthesis.”
The book is divided into four parts—intellect, viewpoint, commitment and outreach. The first part is a discussion of the limits and responsibilities of academic ability. Dr. Pike contends that logic is basically a tool and “should not be made into a religion.” To use this tool correctly, premises, whether known or assumed, must be true. But arriving at truth is only half the task. Using the negative example of Pilate, Dr. Pike insists that a recognition of truth implies a responsibility to act on it. Pilate knew the truth of Christ’s innocence but he sought to dodge the obligation to act on it by asking “What is truth?” “This was a clever bypass and is, incidentally, the best bypass used today.” Quoting II Corinthians 6 (“Now is the day of salvation”), Dr. Pike further argues that each time one refuses to recognize truth, his heart becomes more hardened against it and in his intellectual idolatry he becomes the fool of Romans 1. To avoid becoming this intellectual fool, Dr. Pike gives a “prescription for intellectuals.” Intellectuals, he says, in contrast to the down-and-outers, always analyze help when it comes to them. They must know the whence, why and wherefore of it rather than just trust in it. They will never arrive at salvation this way. That is why Christ tells Nicodemus that he must be born again and just as he doesn’t see the wind, yet believes it is there, so must he trust the Promise. Intellectuals must forget their logical systems and receive faith as a little child.
The second part—“Viewpoint”—begins with the observation that the framework from which one views things determines his understanding of them. He points to Christianity as an all-inclusive framework for living. He effectively refutes liberal theologian William Hardern’s position that since truth cannot be communicated, the Bible does not give true information and Christianity is no more than subjective knowledge of God, by showing that truth is really in another dimension from Hardern’s idea of it. The rest of this section is a personal justification of God’s ways with men. It is interesting enough, although in some places his theology seems to be a bit weak. For example, his comparing sovereignty and responsibility to God’s putting the world on “automatic pilot” is both incongruous and wrong.
“Commitment” opens with the most important chapter in the book—“Why I believe in God.” In a personal account, reminding this reviewer of C. S. Lewis’ Surprised By Joy (whom Dr. Pike admires), he gives the reader an inspiring story which alone would justify procuring the book. Continuing, Dr. Pike shows how we become strong only when we realize we are weak and how failure is sometimes success. He concludes this section with a good reason for reading the genealogies of the Bible—to realize that individuals are important in God’s plan.
The final part—“Outreach”—is well worth reading when he tells of his personal work with the Wycliffe Bible Translators. But sometimes, such as when he compares life to playing on a volleyball team with God as the Senior Player, it is not good reading.
The book is generally well written, is attractively printed and has handy summaries at the head of each chapter. Sometimes, due to its being a collection of essays, it suffers from a lack of unity; but the continual presentation of original and usually excellent ideas make this hardly noticeable. With the reservations I have stated I urge you to read it.
For the past quarter century conventions have been an annual expectation and, with few exceptions, realization. But the event has not always been an assumed part of our youths’ summer plans. For the first fifteen years of our Protestant Reformed Church history there was no convention, no federation board, no unifying event bringing all our young people into one place during one time. Each society, separated from each other society, carried on individual activities quite apart from the rest of the societies. Some of the Western societies formed a league, but its activities were confined to a limited area; no organized effort existed which sought to unite all the societies in any way.
Many young people felt a need and desire to have closer connections with their fellow societies, but it was not until 1939 that something was done about it. In that year the South Holland Young People’s Society decided to hold something entirely new to our churches—a convention of all the Protestant Reformed Young People’s Societies. Early in the year invitations were sent to all the societies asking them to send delegates and visitors to South Holland in August. A tradition was about to begin.
1st Convention—August 2 and 3, 1939
If you can make out the print on the badge of the first convention which is pictured on this cover, you will catch an idea of the enthusiastic optimism of that first convention. So sure of its success were they that the host society already planned it as an “annual” event. Eight societies were represented and “a motion from the Grand Rapids Young Men’s Society was passed unanimously to organize permanently into a national federation” (article eight of the minutes). According to article twenty-seven of those first minutes the purpose of this federation and of this convention would be “to unite all Protestant Reformed Young People’s Societies to work in close unity and in this matter secure a sense of solidarity and to seek the mutual edification and development of talents as becomes Christian young people and that we strive to maintain with united front our specific Protestant Reformed character.”
Lasting only two days, the convention had much to do in a short time and, said reporter Alice Reitsma, “it was spent in appointing committees, passing resolutions, electing officers and discussing pertinent matters: in fact, laying the foundation for a permanent organization and paving the way for future conventions.” The delegates put a committee to work drawing up a constitution for adoption at the next convention and the first convention closed with what soon became the traditional close of the conventions—the banquet.
2nd Convention—August 21 and 22, 1940
Fuller Avenue’s Young People’s Society was host of the second convention. Beginning the practice of having a definite theme each year, they chose for their theme “Attitudes”. Our attitudes toward the church, toward politics and toward missions were some of the speech subjects. Three more societies joined the federation, bringing it to a total of eleven. The important step of adopting a constitution was this convention’s main work. After a full day of discussion and debate, a constitution, which was suitable to all, was agreed upon. Nearly 300 young people attended the banquet that night where the first official Federation Board was introduced. The announcement that Oak Lawn would be the hosts for next year brought to a happy close the second convention.
3rd Convention—August 21 and 22, 1941
Those attending the third convention at Oak Lawn were surprised and pleased with the presentation of their first “souvenir booklet”. Consisting of 24 pages of messages and programs, it included the federation financial report which showed a balance of $22.65. The theme for that year was “Thoroughly Equipped” and no less than four speakers gave what must have been a thorough development of it. Two societies joined the federation as the delegates busied themselves with the matter of the federation magazine and of their relationship to the Western League. Friday morning was devoted to a tour of Chicago after which the young people heard and discussed two speeches. After the banquet, a debate was held on the intriguing topic: “Resolved, that Principle is the only possible reason for affiliating with any denomination”. With the introduction of the new president, the convention closed.
Closely connected with the history of the early conventions is that of Beacon Lights. Already at the first convention the South Holland Society was given the task of publishing a column in the Church News concerning society life. The second convention decided to find a more suitable means of expression than that column and again the task was given to the South Holland society. Five months later, in January of 1941, Beacon Lights for Young Protestants came off the press. Rev. C. Hanko was the editor of this new Federation venture. During the third convention, this paper was discussed and criticized. It was decided to make the magazine a permanent function of the Federation Board. Its size decreased and the number of pages increased. Since “Beacon Lights” was only a temporary name given by the South Holland committee, a name had to be chosen. A contest was held and the judges picked two names to be voted on—“The Witness for the Protestant Reformed Youth” and “Our Youth’s Guide”. By special motion the delegates added the name “Beacon Lights” to the list. After some discussion, the delegates voted and “Beacon Lights” was chosen with a seven vote majority. The Federation Board set up a permanent staff and since then Beacon Lights has been a continuous project of that staff…
Two Years without Conventions—1942 and 1943
The April, 1942, issue of Beacon Lights advertised the 4th Annual Convention to be held at Roosevelt Park Church. “We have selected our theme for this year and it has to do with youth. What is always characteristic of youth—Of what is youthful? And that’s the theme of the 1942 Convention.”
It never materialized. The October Beacon Lights of that same year tells why. “In one word, who could have imagined that it would be possible for the war to so soon make such inroads into our lives that the Federation Board would deem it advisable to call off the 1942 meeting, even while the plans were in the making?” The rubber shortage had reduced traveling to a minimum. Most societies had their ranks greatly depleted by the call to service. The war with all its horrors tended to depress spirits. All in all, the board felt that a convention was out of the question for some time. For two years federation activity was reduced to the production of Beacon Lights.
4th Convention—August 30 and 31, 1944
The first wartime convention was held as a result of the young people’s societies voting overwhelmingly in favor of it. The Young Men’s and Talitha Societies of Fuller Avenue chose “Christian Liberty” as their theme. The two meeting days were changed from Thursday and Friday to Wednesday and Thursday. Since the terms of all five officers had expired over the two year interval, the board proposed that all five offices be again filled. The 43 delegates also dealt with an invitation from the Western League to have the Federation dissolve into an Eastern League and have a Board elected from these two Leagues. Assuring the Western League that the Federation did not want to break it up, the delegates decided to remain as Federation and invite the Western societies to join it in addition to their League. The first pancake breakfast was held on Thursday morning and the banquet was held that night. As a fitting close, a denominational service flag, with a star for each boy in the service was displayed. With this reminder of both their spiritual unity and their physical separation, the young people ended the convention.
5th Convention—August 29 and 30, 1945
Had there been seven more delegates to the second South Holland convention, it would have been illegal. Government wartime regulations limited the amount of delegates to any type of convention to fifty. “Steadfastness” was the theme around which the convention centered. An innovation consisted of a girl’s glee club which sang at every meeting. Still operating a tight budget, the treasurer reported a balance of $87.92. One society joined the federation as the delegate board decided to initiate a major revision of the constitution. A full report of this convention can be found in the October, 1945, issue of Beacon Lights. Here also are registered the impressions of some of those who attended. One reported that he counted ten ministers present. With few exceptions, the impressions seemed to be very favorable. The excursion to the Aquarium and the Museum of Science and Industry was especially enjoyed.
6th Convention—August 21 and 22, 1946
“Well organized” was the almost unanimous opinion of those who attended the sixth convention at Hudsonville. The speakers talked on “The Strength and Beauty of Youth” and one of the orators called his listeners “the most beautiful audience in the world.” One more society joined, bringing the total to fifteen societies in the Federation. One example of the efficiency of the Hudsonville Society was the ability of one former navy cook to prepare 170 pancake breakfasts.
7th Convention—August 19-21, 1947
The Fuller Avenue societies sponsored the first three day convention. The business took almost that long as the delegates discussed and debated the revised constitution for two days. Between times, they found the opportunity to accept four new societies and to raise the price of Beacon Lights from $1.25 to $1.50. The treasury finally began pulling ahead with a $372 balance. The extra day gave time for a really long outing at Townsend Park, complete with a treasure hunt and ball game. The four speakers developed the theme “Fellowship in Christ”. Having decided to accept Holland’s invitation to meet there next year, the delegates adjourned and enjoyed the banquet. After the banquet, they watched and listened to a chalk talk which brought to a close the longest convention yet.
8th Convention—August 18 and 19, 1948
The delegates to the Holland convention had to seriously take stock of just what the Federation and the convention should be, since there were proposals which would greatly affect both. First of all, two more societies joined, leaving only five societies which were not Federation members. Round Robin society letters were adopted to be tried as another means to unite the societies. South Holland proposed that the western societies leave the Federation and join the Western League in order to cut down on costs. This was defeated. Oak Lawn’s society wanted to see a definite separation between the edification part and the fun part of the convention, e.g., have all the speeches one day and the outing the next. They felt that to mix the two took the spiritual matters from the center of attention. The delegates referred this suggestion to all future host societies. The theme of Holland’s convention was “Faith of our Fathers”. Going back to a two-day convention, the banquet seemed too soon over and the convention at an end.
9th Convention—August 22-25, 1949
Everyone expected that the ninth convention would be held in Manhattan, Montana. Plans were being made and everything was going fine. But in the February Beacon Lights this announcement appeared “But—this morning after checking and re-checking during the past weeks, with the C. & O. Railroad Co., and after being assured each time that the rates were as reported and that we could go ahead with plans—this morning, C. & O. called and stated that Detroit had quoted the rate as $86.35 instead of $42.64 as formerly reported.” So because the cost would be too high, Manhattan was lost as the host society. But, in this confusion, Pella and Oskaloosa came through. Choosing as theme “Redeeming the Time” they hosted a three day convention filled with essays, debates and round table discussions. Oak Lawn again proposed the same idea as the last year regarding convention activities and much the same action was taken on it. Many proposals by the Federation Board to improve the convention proceedings were debated and some adopted. The banquet was held in the Kletzing College Dormitory and after Second Church in Grand Rapids was announced as the host for the 1950 convention, the closing prayer brought to an end one decade of annual Protestant Reformed Young Peoples’ Conventions.
As Convention time draws nearer, we as young people must ask ourselves several questions. The answers will determine whether or not the convention will be a success. For we must decide if we will attend. And certainly, a main factor in the success of the “convention of P.R.Y.P.” is the amount of “P.R.Y.P.” that are there.
There are three questions. We must decide if it is worth it, if we can possibly make it, and how we can get there. Let’s face it, in a majority of cases, the answer to the first question will determine the answers to the next two. The old adage, “where there is a will, there is a way” is not out of date, it is simply too often ignored. Now, nobody but you can tell yourself that something is worthwhile and make you believe it. Therefore, each of us must face this question and answer it for our self. I would only like to point out that the worth of the convention and the worth of your Protestant Reformed heritage are inseparably connected. If what we believe is worthwhile, then an expression of that belief such as the convention, where we can meet and talk with and have fun with young people of the same belief, is worthwhile. So, it might be well to consider the full implications of this question before we answer it.
Well, assuming that most of us have decided that it is worth it, we must see if we can possibly make it. Here again, only you can decide. Let’s just make sure we do not confuse this question with the former one. If we have decided that the convention is worthwhile, this question might be an easy one. Think about it.
Finally, we must find a way to Edgerton. Most of the western societies probably have one or two car pools in which a group of the delegates and visitors ride together. This means is both fun and not too expensive. In the Grand Rapids area, the Federation Board has chartered a bus to Edgerton. We urge as many as possible to ride the bus. You will discover (if you have not already) that it is a lot of fun to ride with forty other young people. The entire cost of transportation will be about thirty dollars plus the amount you will need for food (five or six dollars). Reservations must be in by August 1. Ten dollars is needed when you put in your reservation by calling David Ondersma (GL 1-2869) or Ed Langerak (GL 3-2504). The Edgerton society has been working hard on the convention and it appears that this could be one of the best we have ever had. Your answer to the above questions will help determine.
Of course we do. Who could forget Christmas. There is a very definite place in everyone’s life for this season. So much centers about it – vacations, gifts, cards, and parties. There even exists a universal feeling which we define as the happy “Christmas Spirit.” It also becomes very important to the economy; many businesses frankly declare their inevitable bankruptcy should the Christmas season be eliminated. Yes, all over the world, Christmas is impatiently anticipated and boisterously celebrated. We too, as Christians, place much emphasis on Christmas. It, of course, commemorates Christ’s incarnation. And this is important, this event of Christ coming in human flesh, and we do well to distinguish it.
What about Good Friday?
This seems to be somewhat different. In the first place, the world in general seems to take almost no notice of it. Secondly, we as Christians seem to do little more than give the occasion a polite nod.
Now, as far as the world is concerned, this attitude is understandable. Why should they celebrate a man’s death? It is so much more fitting to celebrate his birth. A birth is always joyous, while a death is always sad, even a death for high ideals. Yes, it is only reasonable that the world, while raising such a big hubbub about a man’s birth, should try to forget his death.
But what about us? What should be the relative importance of these occasions to Christians? Christmas, as we have noticed, is important in that it marks Christ’s incarnation. But for what reason did this occur? Was not Christ born to make the cross possible? Could Christ’s birth help his people in any way as far as their sins are concerned, except to pave the way for his death? In the Old Testament, why could the angels rebuke Satan and claim the body of Moses? Was it not because God promised that Christ would die for the sins of Moses and the rest of His children? For every Old Testament prophecy foretelling Christ’s birth, there are seven picturing His death. This includes the beautiful and oft-quoted Isaiah 53. And the sacrifices and many of the feasts that Israel had to keep pointed directly to the supreme sacrifice of the cross.
Also today, is it not true that what happened on Good Friday is the only hope we have for everlasting life. So our very life centers about the fact that Christ died for our sins.
Yet our remembrance of this occasion is almost engulfed by our celebration of something that led up to it. Now, my point is not so much that we should do less at Christmas time, but that we should begin to place more importance upon Good Friday and, along with it, Easter. And our remembrance of this should not be marked, as some might suppose, with grief for a man who died for his lofty convictions. We should rather glorify God with our expressing joy and thankfulness in that the only possibility of our salvation has been realized. We have an excellent opportunity to do this during our Lenten season with its special sermons and all. If we have not done so in the past, let us begin to use this occasion properly; we might find ourselves all the more spiritually blessed.
In the past, considerable interest and discussion have centered upon meaningful phrases. “I love you,” probably ranks as most popular, for obvious reasons. The poet Whittier says that the saddest words of tongue and pen are these: “It might have been.”
Today, another phrase must concern us. Although we all use it, it is not a pleasant one, in fact, it is most miserable and disgusting. It is not so repulsive in itself, but rather, it is the attitude that is repulsive. The phrase is “I don’t care.” The attitude portrayed is one of indifference. Because the attitude underlies the phrase, we will concern ourselves with the attitude.
Let us first consider some of the gifts that our Creator gave us, which distinguish us, as human beings, from the rest of the animate creation. Do they not include the qualities of rationality and morality, the abilities to think about our thoughts and to choose between right and wrong? Included in these, would be the splendid gift of sensitivity, the ability to love and to feel compassion. And as gifts from God, should we not use them as much as possible, in the best ways possible? Carrying this thought to its logical conclusion, we come to the stark realization that failure to properly employ these God-given powers is not only a symptom of a lazy person harming himself, but also a real depreciation of the difference between man and beast. Of such a nature is indifference.
The poem, “The Man with the Hoe,” by Edwin Markham, depicts very vividly the sad state of a soul in slavery. Markham writes about the terrible tragedy of dictators blowing out the light of intelligence of their subjects and making them brothers to the stunned ox.
In this country today, there are no more dictators, but the tragedy is still with us. However, its cause is not forced slavery, but rather, the willing self-surrender of our sensitivity. How much worse, this is!
The tragedy is evident in many ways. What is the prime purpose in the lives of most Americans? Is it not to make more money, to “increase our forty acres to eighty?” Carl Sandburg sums up our attitude in these words; “I earn my living, I make enough to get by, and it takes all my time. If I had more time, I could do more for myself and maybe for others. I could read and study and talk things over and find out about things. If I only had the time.” But we do not care enough to give our time.
Today America is faced with the formidable communist challenge. By 1972, the communists expect to be in full control of America. We do not like this. Their gains even bother us somewhat. But it would be very troublesome to try to correct some of the blunders of our foreign policy as depicted in the Ugly American. It is much easier to take the line of least resistance and try to eliminate the problem by being indifferent to it. And we so often do that. When we come up against something which is difficult and frustrating, something that would require some real application, we get rid of the trouble by telling ourselves that we just don’t care. It is a lazy way out and can only result in our becoming social parasites.
In the classroom, the acute seriousness of this problem may be readily realized. Which student is it that the teacher finds most exasperating? Is it the one who disagrees with what is taught, or the one who does not care about that which is taught? True, it is not so pleasant to be met with resistance, but it is downright nauseating to be met with an apathetic listlessness.
Our churches also must guard against this dead life. It is historical fact that in times of persecution and opposition, the church is strongest spiritually. It is in a time like today, when no resistance must be overcome, that is most dangerous. We soon lose interest in what we believe, and often do not even know what that is, and we care less. We shy away from so-called “doctrine” sermons. We become, in effect, a group of non-believing believers.
This indifference to communism, this apathy in the schools, and this passivity in the churches, are all examples of today’s tragedy. And this tragedy of today must be eliminated. Our minds and souls must break out of this prison of indifference and with renewed purpose, strive for those truths that rest on universal bones. The emptiness can no longer linger, which threatens to throw us into spiritual limbo. We have had enough “dumb driven cattle.” We need “heroes in the strife.” We need people who do care, people who care enough to give themselves, give to be teachers give to be ambassadors, ministers, missionaries, and all fields of endeavor. The all-important thing is that we again learn to care enough to give ourselves. The great civilizations of the Greeks and the Romans died just because they had too many takers and not enough givers.
America is on the same road to ruin. Her every group is interested only in helping itself. The unions protect only the unions, the industries profit only the industries, and the War Veterans help only the War Veterans. Our selection of a political candidate is based largely on how much he will give us. We, as yet, cannot understand how it could be more “blessed to give than to receive.” But soon, one way or another, we will understand this. We are at the crossroad, and the way we choose will make all the difference. If we become people who care enough, our culture will reach new heights. But if today’s tragedy is tolerated, our whole civilization will become tomorrow’s bitter memory.
Book by Jean Cadier – Eerdmans Publishing Co. – 187 pp.
Several good biographies have been written about the life of John Calvin. Near the top of the list must be placed The Man God Mastered by Jean Cadier.
Jean Cadier is a Professor of Theology at Montpellier University and President of the Calvinist Society of France. He is thoroughly acquainted with the life of Calvin; his documented facts give the book a ring of authority and authenticity. His style, maintained through translation from the French by O. R. Johnson, proves to be readily readable.
The book itself provides a brief sketch of Calvin’s life. It deals more extensively with the more important periods of the life of the reformer. As all biographies, it tells the what and the when of the subject. But its greatest asset is that while doing this, it also attempts to explain the why. Cadier makes several brilliant apologies for Calvin’s sometimes questionable actions. It is shown that to judge the man, we must first judge the times.
The reviewer was very satisfied with the book and heartily recommends it as entirely worthwhile reading to all who bear the subject’s name.
Well, if the sun is shining Thursday, the second of February, we will have six more weeks of winter. The forecaster in this case is the common groundhog, who, when he awakes from his long winter sleep, will be frightened by his own shadow and crawl back into bed. However, if the day is cloudy, you can put away your red flannels because then this modest creature, not being able to see his reflection, will bravely venture forth and winter will immediately end.
Of course, very few, if any, believe this weather prediction. But it seems that other superstitions do affect people more than they realize. Although they do not believe them, they will sometimes conform with them because of a feeling that it might possibly be safer to do so. For this reason you will seldom locate a hotel with a thirteenth floor or room. And it is almost impossible to find a ship with cabin number thirteen. Few people think nothing of a black cat crossing their path and almost everybody takes exceptional notice of a four leaf clover. Most people hate to walk under a ladder. I heard of a television program where they once set up a ladder across the sidewalk and eight of every ten people took the difficult detour through the gutter rather than walk under the ladder. If you are sailing near Japan, a superstitious practice may affect you immensely – Japanese sailors feel much better as they set out on a voyage, if they cross bows with a foreign vessel. And if a collision does result, there are many interesting ways to find drowned bodies. For instance, from France comes the idea that a body can be located by a floating loaf of bread. The Javanese go one better than that and throw a live sheep in the water, believing that it will sink by the corpse. In Norway, they just keep a live cock in the boat with them, fully expecting it to crow as they pass over the body. If and when the remains are found, another irrational practice may take place – the Eskimos in the northern part of Greenland will usually bury a live dog with them, hoping that since a dog can find his way anywhere, it will help the deceased find his way to the happy hunting grounds.
It seems that the most prevalent superstitious practice in the United States is the business of fortunetelling. Practice in this goes way back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, who had their oracles and augurs. Nowadays, persons in all walks of life are relieved of hundreds of thousands of dollars each year by fortunetellers giving advice on business, love affairs, and every other type of problem.
But why this pathetic belief in superstitions? What would make a person in his right mind accept such foolishness? Ignorance? True. Fear? Right again. But it seems that the basic reason goes deeper than this. Perhaps this is the answer. Every man has a knowledge of God, and that God is to be served. This gives all men a religious nature. They all have a deep-seated belief in the supernatural. Superstitions are the result of the perversion of this belief by the blinding and distorting force of sin upon the heart, mind, and soul. Sinful man rejects the supernatural powers that are real and resorts to imaginary powers that are non-existent except in his sin-perverted mind. Thus superstitions are the devil’s pitiful substitutes for the light of the Scriptures.
Therefore we can see that the best way of eliminating superstitions in the world is the preaching of the Word of God. It is through this preaching that the Holy Spirit works in the hearts of the elect, regenerating them, and thereby casting out these figments of the imagination and establishing his chosen in the faith that the Lord God is the creator and sustainer of all. Once a person knows and understands this, there is no place for superstitions of any kind in his life. And this is what is happening. It is a positive fact that where there are more Christians, there are fewer superstitions. Christians are realistic people.
But we must constantly be on guard. The devil is smart. He will often try to weaken our faith by logically proving that it is nothing more than another ignorant superstition. And he is very successful. Communism, with its atheistic doctrine, is spreading rapidly. Satan is right now trying to shake the very foundation of this faith with a fallible Bible. We must be constantly fighting, fighting for our faith, our realism, yes, fighting for our very life.
As we worked our way through the middle chapters of Genesis in December, we saw the Lord establish a covenant relationship with Abraham and his descendants and give them prosperity in the land of Canaan. But in these final chapters of Genesis, God providentially uses the dramatic events of Joseph’s life to guide the family […]
Who am I? What is my purpose on this earth? Why is everything the way that it is? These are the kinds of questions that often trouble young people as they become more independent from their parents, enter the world of college or career, and make major life decisions such as choosing a spouse, a […]
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The Christian is placed in many different circumstances while on this earth. Some are characterized by hardships and trials, and others are full of joy and peace. How should the Christian respond? Throughout the Bible there are numerous times where God’s people sang in response to their various circumstances. Singing in response to God’s ordering […]
As we examined the first eleven chapters of Genesis last month, we took note of the fact that the book of Genesis is theological, meaning it helps us to grow in our knowledge of God. In addition, we noted that the book of Genesis is historical, meaning that the events chronicled in it are the […]
The group of churches that John writes to in this trio of epistles had recently experienced a split because of doctrinal controversy. We do not know the exact content of the error that these false teachers were spreading, but it is apparent from John’s writing that their teaching somehow denied the truth of the incarnation—that […]
This article was originally presented as a speech at a Protestant Reformed mini convention held at Quaker Haven Camp in August 2021. Jael lived during the era of the judges. Deborah the prophetess was the judge who served Israel at the time of Jael. During this time, the Canaanites under the rule of king Jabin […]
Although it’s been a couple of months since we’ve been immersed in news coming from Japan about the 2020/2021 Olympic games, it’s still worth considering how these events are understood in the modern worldview of our country. The “Top Story of the Day” on Monday, August 9 (at least according to my newsfeed), was how […]
One of this year’s “mini conventions” was hosted by Grace and Grandville Protestant Reformed Churches at Quaker Haven Camp. Located just over two hours away in northern Indiana, the camp was a perfect fit for the 120 kids and 15 chaperones who attended. A total of twelve different churches were represented: Byron Center, Faith, First […]
At the point that this edition of Beacon Lights arrives in the homes of our subscribers, most young people in the Protestant Reformed Churches will have been sitting under the catechism instruction of their pastor or elders for more than a month. If our readers are honest, that observation probably comes with a (quiet) sigh […]