There is much talk today about the new morality, often referred to as just the “old immorality.” It seems as if the human race is suffering a complete breakdown in morals. Sex is not the only frontier where morality seems to be making its last stand. The name of God is literally trampled to death, and His Word is labeled as outdated and irrelevant. Young people freely engage in the use of L.S.D. and marijuana, often acting upon the examples of their parents and other adults who just as freely are addicted to alcohol. A major campaign issue in the 1968 elections was not taxes or foreign policy, but “crime in the streets.”
With this picture in the background of your minds, I would like to take a look at one aspect of the new morality known as situation ethics. In 1966 Joseph Fletcher startled everyone with his book entitled Situation Ethics, in which he spells out his “revolutionary approach to morals.” He is against anything identified with legalism, or recognizing a preset collection or rules and laws, such as the Ten Commandments, as authoritative for making decisions between right and wrong. The only binding, authoritative law in his system is what he calls the “law of love.” What matters the most is “What is the loving thing to do?” and not “What is legal?”
Fletcher looks upon the Bible as merely a collection of the moral traditions of mankind. It is a kind of code written by men of another day who were far more qualified to talk about right and wrong in their own situation than in ours. The laws found in the Bible, namely, the Ten Commandments, are only “rules of thumb” that can be tossed out, stretched, bent, or broken if necessary in order to fill what he feels is the one basic, unbreakable law, the law of love. Thus, for Fletcher, Ex. 20:14, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” is not binding or final, but Romans 13:8, “Owe no man anything but to love one another,” is.
Fletcher loves to prove his point by emphasizing not only sticky situations, but exceptional ones, in which it seems that you’re wrong if you do, and you’re wrong if you don’t. He likes to city examples such as the following one, and then asks, “What would you do?”
“You are the father of a girl who is confined to a state mental hospital, a victim of radical schizophrenia. She has been raped by a fellow patient and has become pregnant. You are incensed and have demanded that an abortion be performed at once to end this unwanted pregnancy. The hospital refuses because criminal law forbids any abortion except a therapeutic one in which the mother’s life is at stake. In the hospital’s eyes, any interference with an embryo is taking the life of an innocent being. Who is right? Who is wrong?” An initial reaction of many people is, “These kinds of things never happen to me.” This may be very true, but Fletcher’s question is: What would you do if they did? And what would you do if similar things happen but not on such an extreme scale?
In this sticky situation, Fletcher condemns the solution that a Christian, or legalist, would offer. He says that the Christian would put the letter of the law ahead of love, mercy, and justice. But according to Fletcher, the proper approach would be to examine the conditions and consequences that would result, and then ask, “What is the loving thing to do?”
Here is where Fletcher’s big mistake lies. He obviously proceeds from the assumption that what is legal and right is in conflict with what is loving. Nothing could be farther from the truth! If a parent loves his child, he does not let the child do as he pleases. He gives him guidance as well as love as the child grows up, because he knows that a happy and obedient child is one that abides by certain rules and restrictions. “My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of His correction: for whom the Lord loveth He correcteth, even as a father the son in whom he delighteth” (Prov. 3:11, 12).
At first glance, Joseph Fletcher’s situation ethics may seem to be practical and attractive. His “sticky cases” seem to make the Ten Commandments look almost obsolete. But these cases also clearly point out that for any human being, it is not always easy to do the loving thing. The Bible recognizes the basic flaw in man which Fletcher seems to forget all about – sin. Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”
There are other problems connected with this situational type of reasoning. One obvious one is that what is loving according to one person may certainly not seem loving to another. One person’s opinion is often precisely the opposite of another’s. Where, then, is right, and who knows if he is really doing the loving thing?
Fletcher claims that Jesus stated his m oral ethics in the “summary commandment” that he gave in Matthew 22:37-40. When the lawyer asked Christ what the great commandment of the law was, Christ told him, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” This is his proof text for reducing the Ten Commandments to mere rules of thumb and making the only “absolute” in his system the law of love. But is this the complete picture of what Christ taught, or of what the Bible teaches? Christ also plainly stated that he had not come to do away with the law, but to fulfill it. In Matthew 5:18, he goes on to say that until heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or tittle would pass from the law until all had been fulfilled. And then Jesus capped His statement by saying that whosoever would break the least of the commandments and teach others to break them would be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whosoever would do the commandments and teach them would be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Love is not all we need. When Jesus says we must love God with all our heart, mind, and soul, and our neighbor as ourselves, He does not throw out all other laws, and leave love standing alone – unsupported. He also says that if we love Him, we will keep His commandments.
We do not love God in and trough our neighbor, as Fletcher puts it. God bestows His all-powerful love on His people, and in turn this gives us strength to love Him and our neighbors. As God showed us His love by sending His only begotten Son to die for us on the cross, we express our love for Him by obeying His commandments and by loving our neighbors in and through God. Without the love of God in our hearts we are powerless to love our neighbor, or to do the loving thing.

Originally Published in:
Vol. 30 No. 4 June July 1970

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” The Deist says that there is a God, alright, but he is so far removed from this world that he only visits us once in a while. The Pantheist says that everything is God—I am God.
To all of these the child of God answers, “I know there is one true God because I walk with Him.” God’s holy Word, speaking through our consciences, convinces us that we need not try to prove that God is. God is not far removed, even though He is in heaven. He is not an abstraction, He is not somewhere in the distance, but God is near, for we walk with Him.
Walking with God does not mean merely living in God’s presence, for there is no creature that He does not constantly touch and uphold. God’s eyes are always upon His creatures and therefore they live and move continually in his presence. We often tend to practice Deism at one time or another, even though we may not realize it. Our life and conversations may suppose God to be far away. But the fact is that in Him we live and move and have our very being.
Nor does walking with God refer to just an awareness of living in God’s presence. It doesn’t mean that we know we have dealings with God. This everyone knows. “Because when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God.” Even the worst heathens were aware of God. All men are aware of God’s presence, even though “they do not like to retain God in their knowledge.”
Walking with God is an intimate relationship with Him. To realize that God is present is one thing: to have fellowship of love with that God is quite another. Walking with God is the privilege of His children only, whom He leads step by step along the paths of life. The child of God confesses that God surrounds him and has laid His hands upon him. He confesses that God is above him, below him, all around him, that we live and move in Him and are conscious of Him.
But walking with God is something more than this. We read that Enoch walked with God. This seems to imply some kind of unity or agreement between God and us. We and God, after all, are walking in the same direction. This harmony is based on the fact that God’s will is become our will; God’s purpose, our purpose; God’s Word, our Word. God walks in his perfection, in His law, and we must walk with Him there.
We not only know there is a God, but we actually speak to Him. Walking with God we bring Him our joys and sorrows, not as if He were afar off, but nearby. In this intimate relationship we confide our secrets to Him, tell Him things we would not tell others and bring Him matters probably none other would understand. And God answers us. Seeking advice and guidance from Him, He gives it and we receive it in submission.
Although the disciples literally walked with Jesus many times while He was on this earth, they continued to do so in a much more glorious sense when He was taken from them. For the Holy Spirit now brought them God’s presence. Walking with God, therefore, is walking in the Spirit, not in the flesh. The Spirit dwells in our hearts, makes us aware of God’s presence, and God becomes the center of our lives.
God alone makes walking with Him possible. He has chosen His people, and chooses them to walk with Him. It is evident, then, that God cannot have fellowship with darkness and cannot walk with those that are unclean. God’s delight is only with the perfect, with those that walk in harmony with His law.
To walk with God, we must also find God. We cannot accidentally come across Him here or there, for He is not at the disposal of anyone. God must make Himself able to be found by us. He does this through His holy revelation. There and there alone God wills that His people shall find Him. Yet even then we need God to illumine and enlighten our eyes and minds, so that we can consciously come in contact with Him. In this way we learn to know who and what our God is, and about His friendship and love toward us.
This walking with God is now carried on in the midst of this world. Our lives will clearly show that we walk with God. This is part of the putting on of our new man. We understand that walking with God forbids the friendship of the world. “If any man love the world, the love of God is not in him.” How popular it is today to try to be friends of both God and the world! God is jealous of His friendship, however, and does not allow us to walk with both Himself and the world. And we would not, either, for what more could we desire than the friendship of God? We cannot walk with God and also walk where God could not walk. We cannot walk with God and also sit in the scorner’s seat.
Today we can only walk with God in a very small way. While we are still on earth, we are imperfect, and we are often inclined to stumble along the way. Our gift from God of walking with Him now becomes more precious to us as judgment day comes nearer and nearer. We eagerly look forward to the time when we will one day walk with our Lord in complete and beautiful perfection.

Originally Published in:
Vol. 29 No. 10 February 1970

Prayer is one of the most wonderful gifts that we as Christians have. As we pray, we withdraw ourselves completely from the world around us and stand face to face before the Almighty God. To Him we pour out our every thought, our troubles and our anxieties, our thanksgivings of praise. In prayer we stand closer to God than at any other time. “Take time to be holy; speak oft with thy Lord. Spend much time in secret and think on His Word.” Our Confessions tell us that prayer is the chief part of thankfulness and when it proceeds from a true faith, it is one of the best of our good works.
But as in all parts of our life we are so imperfect, so also our prayers are often foolish and imperfect. I am thinking of one aspect of our prayers which is especially misused today. This is the prayer for peace. A common one goes something like this: “Lord, we pray that the war in Vietnam may stop, so that our soldiers may be spared; grant us a lasting peace between all nations.” This may sound like a perfectly natural and well-meaning request to you. But we must remember that all wars are in God’s Council and serve His purpose—which is the eternal peace of His chosen people. God builds His kingdom by war as well as peace and we must never go against His divine plan. We must expect wars and “rumors of wars” as signs of the end, and a lasting peace will never be fully realized until the saints are all gathered together in heaven.
By nature we all dislike wars, and also by nature we as sinful Christians only will and desire that which is evil. Even with God’s grace, we often choose very foolish things. We don’t stop to think that this is the way God wants it to be.
True prayer does not center around “things”, especially those things that we carnally desire. This is shown by the Lord’s Prayer. Its main subject is God, not us, and in it we are taught to pray for His kingdom, His will and His glory. Even when we pray for our personal needs, such as daily bread and forgiveness, we conclude our prayer with “For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory…”
During these troubled times, therefore, especially during the war that is going on, the Christian finds himself often confiding to God in prayer about his problems. He tells Him of the nephew who is far away, exposed to death many times a day, or of the son who needs a guiding hand in the midst of death and temptation far away from home. He tells God all his thoughts, his fears and his desires. This is the way it should be, for didn’t God command us to cast all our cares upon Him and to let our requests be known unto God? However, when we pray in faith, we are not telling God what to do. We may never tell Him to do what we think would be the most desirable for us. In prayer we learn to seek God’s will only. We unburden our hearts with one purpose—that God may teach us that His way is always the best way. If we have a heavy heart about the war and pray to God that we really wish it would stop, we must not forget to say, “But Lord, if you want the war to continue, then let it keep going; but give me a peaceful heart, knowing that Thou doest all things well.”
If we are looking for peace, therefore, we must learn first God’s will and submit ourselves to it in every way. He who prays “Not my will, but thine be done” has not only learned how to pray, but will also experience true peace with God daily in his life.

Originally Published in:
Vol. 29 No. 5 August 1969

Have you ever spoken to anyone about Christ, and told them how much He means to you? Have you ever let someone who doesn’t know Jesus see how wonderful it is to be a Christian? This witnessing to others and confessing Him to the world should be a vital part of our Christian life. But I’m afraid many of us would have to answer “no” to these questions.
What is Christian witnessing? It is showing to others the faith that you have in Jesus Christ and the joy that you possess because you believe in Him. This joy comes from knowing that your sins are forgiven in Christ and that you have the promise of eternal life. If you truly believe, God will fill your heart with this gladness, so that you will want to sing and shout and praise Him all the time and tell everyone about Him. Just as a witness in a trial must tell what he has seen and heard, so must we as witnesses for Christ tell what we have seen, heard and felt about Him. This is why witnessing is a very personal matter. You must confess Christ in your heart before you can confess Him on your lips to others.
Don’t get the idea that witnessing is just for “the other person,” because it’s not; nor is it just the work of ministers and missionaries, whom God calls to go into all nations, teaching and preaching the Gospel. Witnessing is the job of each and every Christian. We, too, are called by God in our own special way to tell others about Christ. It may be just a few words to a passer-by, or a friendly gesture to someone, but Christ does have a purpose for all of us. Remember—“Faith, if it hath not works, is dead”. James 2:17. You can have all the faith in the world in you, but if you don’t use this faith to the glory of God, you are a dead Christian.
You may ask, why should we witness? This is an important question, but for me an easy one to answer. It comes naturally to a sincere, regenerated believer. Because Christ fills us with the Holy Spirit when we are born again, we want everyone we meet to have this joy, also.
Christ tells us to be His witnesses in many instances in the Bible. “Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen.” Isa. 43:10. God is speaking to His elect Israel whom He used as His chosen people to let others see His power and might. In Rom. 10:8-9 we read, “The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart; that is, the word of faith, which we preach; that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved”. Obviously, it is the calling of each Christian to confess God before men.
Many of us now know what witnessing is and that we should do it, yet we really don’t know how to go about it. There is always the direct method of approaching a person on the street or someone you see at school. But often this does not work, for the simple reason that people, including you and me, do not like to be told how bad they are and that their beliefs are wrong. You must know just what to say, so as not to put the person immediately on the defensive. But if you ever get the chance, such as at your job or at school, you shouldn’t be afraid to speak out and say even just a few words to state your position.
You can also witness in many indirect ways. These ways are often more important than we think. By being a good example in your daily walk, you are witnessing your Christian life to those around you.
First, by going to church on Sunday and going to places like catechism and Young People’s Society, you are a witness to the ones there that you are interested in learning more about your religion. Second, you can make sure that the places you go are ones where you think God would want you to go, and that the friends you have are ones that walk in God’s light. You are known by the friends you keep. Being in bad company can be a great hindrance to you in your witnessing. Can you imagine trying to speak to an unbeliever about Christ and having this person say, “Why don’t you practice what you preach? I’ve seen the kind of kids you go around with.” How would you feel?
Another important aspect of personal witnessing is watching your language. People get a pretty good idea of what kind of person you are by the words you speak. A Christian does not take God’s name in vain! You may hear some of your friends using bad language and if you hear it long enough, you’ll be saying it, too.
Christ has told us that we are the light of the world, shining forth His glory in this dark earth. We can’t shine if we sit back and be lukewarm Christians. We’ve got to become alive in Christ, not just in our thoughts, but in our actions, too. “Let you light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Matt. 5:16. Just remember that these good works are not ours, but are Christ’s works in and through us.
Do we as Christian witnesses have a reward? We do, but not here on this earth. Our reward is eternal life with God in heaven—not because we were such good Christians, but because God saw fit to send His Spirit to work in us, that we might tell all we have seen and heard about Him. God is really rewarding His own work, because our witnessing is His grace in us. In Rev. 20:4 we read that those who were Christ’s workers on earth are now living and reigning with Him forever. And Matt. 10:32 says, “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.” What a wonderful reward!

Originally Published in:
Vol. 29 No. 1 March 1969

The book of Proverbs was written by King Solomon to his young adult son. Solomon’s purpose in writing Proverbs was “that the generation to come might know them [God’s wonderful works]…that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments” (Ps. 78:6–7). Throughout the book, Solomon […]

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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 […]

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Jael: An Example of Christian Warfare

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 […]

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Indiana Mini Convention Review 2021

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 […]

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Editorial, November 2021: Catechism Season

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 […]

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Tennessee Young People’s Retreat 2021

The 2021 Tennessee young people’s retreat was held August 9 to 13 by Providence, Hudsonville, Unity, and First (Holland) Protestant Reformed Churches. The retreat took place at Eagle Rock Retreat Center in the city of Tallassee. It was about an eleven-hour drive, give or take a bit due to stops for food and restrooms. Though […]

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Judah: A Story of Redemption

This article was originally presented as a speech at a Protestant Reformed mini convention held at Quaker Haven Camp in August 2021.   The story of Judah is one of the most beautiful in the Bible. We often overlook this history because it is nestled in the middle of the story of Joseph. All the […]

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Author Interview: “Through Many Dangers”

M. Kuiper, Through Many Dangers (Jenison: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2021)   Through Many Dangers is a work of Christian, historical fiction that has just been released this summer by the RFPA. The book is written especially for young people and details the story of a group of Dutch Reformed boys who serve in the […]

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