1ST – Morning Melody – Jim Jonker
2nd – Autumn Anthem – Jim Jonker
3rd – Tree – Jim Jonker
1st – Charity Suffered – David Engelsma
2nd – The Letter – Jim Jonker
3rd – The Vase – Lois Kregel
1ST – How Firm a Foundation – Wayne Lanning
2nd – In the Still of the Night – Charles Westra
3rd – Today’s Tragedy – Ed Langerak
To some, the results of the Literary Contest will be disappointing, to others, disheartening. The fondest wishes of the Staff of Beacon Lights have been exceeded. Sixteen contributors submitted twenty four entries, contestants ranged in age from fourteen to forty (give or take a few years), and, wondrously, enthusiasm was wide-spread. Beacon Lights intends to make the Contest a yearly thing. As it was a pioneering venture, several flaws have been noted and are being corrected. The next Contest will contain a special category for grade school children. One expects too much, if he pits youths of that age against persons far older.
The Contest Committee obtained the final ratings by a cold compilation of total points from the score sheets of the three judges. Each judge made his own decision in ignorance of the authors’ identities. The truism holds that not everyone can win. But the competition was keen, and, in some cases, the margins of victory were extremely thin. This is said to encourage future participation but it is also said honestly. To quote Prof. H.C. Hoeksema on the category of poetry: “. . . it was a bit difficult to pick the first five. In rating the first five, I do not mean to discourage some of those who also made worthwhile efforts. I feel that some of the next best efforts were indeed worthwhile, but in some cases lacked a polished poetic form and expression . . . “
With thanks to the judges, Miss Hulda Kuiper, Dr. John Timmerman, and Prof. H.C. Hoeksema, and to all who contributed, Beacon Lights presents the three winners of the Literary Contest 1961.
Poetry: Morning Melody
Here in the solemn solitude,
The glistening lake reflects the glory of the morning sun.
The moveless mountains’ mighty majesty
Is breathed abroad; each strand of breeze is spun
With magic mist that swells across the plain.
All nature seems to stand serenely awed,
As with must tongue she shouts the strain divine:
Here is peace and power; here is God.
Among the problems which face our churches at the present, one of the greatest undoubtedly is the shortage of minister of the Word. And, the problem seems to be growing worse instead of becoming less serious. The need seems more acute, for the supply is declining in proportion to the increase of the demand. Many words are expended in prayers and sermons in the hope of alleviating the lack. Yet very little action is ever taken. We can, and I am sure we do, trust the Lord completely to supply shepherds for His sheep. But this cannot give us the obligation or the right to simply sit and wait for this to happen.
I would like to offer some criticism of our attitude and actions and, I hope, give some suggestions to give us an improved, positive approach. There are two basic reasons, I feel, why we have this problem.
First, there is a widespread and almost complete apathy on the part of almost all of our people, even those who should be directly concerned. This is not revealed by words, for we constantly hear talk urging our young men to seek this calling. But we have reached the point where talk is cheap. No one seems at all interested in helping and advising and encouraging individuals. No one contacts young men who seem qualified; no one investigates possible or probable candidates. While it is true that he who is called must receive the call from the Lord, this is no mystic voice from heaven or the letters “P.C” emblazed on the skies. It is a call that is revealed very practically and through means, talents, and circumstances which the Lord uses. To answer this call involves a decision on the part of the individual, a decision which is by no means an easy one to make. Yet, the person who faces the call has to go it entirely alone, seldom receiving the help he so often craves. And even after he has made his decision, he is almost completely a forgotten man until he shows his face in a seminary classroom or on a pulpit.
Secondly, the lack of interest and moral support is also revealed in a lack of financial support. The one who feels called to the ministry is certainly not looking at financial gain or abundance of earthly reward. The student, however, often has a real problem and struggle to make ends meet. Many churches, e.g., the Christian Reformed, are quite ready to give students considerable financial help. Yet we do not seem to consider this aspect as part of our calling as churches. Article 19 of the Church Order states, “The churches shall exert themselves as far as necessary, that there may be students supported by them to be trained for the Ministry of the Word.” We apparently feel that very little exertion is necessary.
I know, we have the student aid fund. But that is turning out to be a misnomer. In the first place, the student is not asked if he has a need nor is he offered assistance, but he has to take the initiative himself, which he is often loath to do. Secondly, while we do not intend to support those who do not become ordained in our churches, we simply refuse aid to students who would like to go to a graduate school. Thirdly, the students who probably have the greatest need of finances, the married students, cannot receive help.
It seems to me that it is time this situation be remedied. I would suggest a program along the following lines,. First, consistories and members of congregations should constantly be on the lookout for potential ministers. They should find out what vocations the young men are seeking and their reasons. They should personally urge and advise qualified youths to prayerfully and carefully consider the highest calling. And they should not wait with this until the person is almost through high school or in college. Nor should they fail to continue their interest, advice, and encouragement to those who prepare for this task.
Secondly, these potential students should be brought immediately to the attention of the theological school committee. The committee should make it their business to be personally and vitally concerned with each prospective student. They should offer the guidance they are qualified to give. Perhaps one of the ministers should be named as a personal advisor to the young man, to be available for consultation regarding his problems and doubts and certainly to help him plan his high school and/or college schedule of subjects relative to the requirements of the seminary.
Thirdly, financial support should be offered willingly. The students should be consulted in regard to their financial situation and the churches should be eager to fulfill their obligation to aid the cause of the Kingdom in this way. Secondly, while the advisability of a student going on to graduate school may perhaps be questioned, to refuse him aid on this ground seems to reflect more selfishness than concern for the preaching of the Word in our churches. Thirdly, if the churches feel that supporting a man’s family is too much exertion, let them give him at least as much aid as they would give to an unmarried man. We seem concerned that a minister get a good wife; yet, at the same time, we tell him that if he should dare to marry, he can count on no help from us. We have at the present a prospective student who is married; we also have older married men who are interested in going to the seminary. We will undoubtedly have young men who will want to marry and who should not be placed under undue stress to wait until graduation. (Note – the young people did not make this mistake in adopting the constitution of their scholarship fund.)
If we follow a program similar to this, I feel that we will be rewarded not only with more young men, but also with the joy of giving and helping, with an increased awareness of the importance of this office, with a greater appreciation for it, and with a more blessed fellowship within the communion of saints.
Instead of simply looking to heaven for ministers, let’s also look around us for men. Instead of praying prayers which almost seem unheard and then relaxing in our apathetic chairs, let’s reflect a living faith by our action.
There is a question that has often arisen in Protestant Reformed groups. Attempts to settle the question by discussion have met with little success. The statement that the question ought to be a settled one has proved even less successful as a solution to the problem. The question has not been asked openly for quite some time; however, it is still being asked, and with increased regularity.
Many will be perturbed that we ask the question again. Some will wonder why we cannot simply accept the arguments which have been advanced so often before and agree that the question is closed and settled. The reason should be obvious. Merely stating that a question should no longer be discussed is no sure way to end a discussion; it usually has the opposite effect. Merely stating that a question is settled does not settle it. Advancing reasons for one’s opinion is not a guarantee that one’s opinion will be adopted. Those who are not convinced will continue to raise the question, if not openly, then in secret. But this has no merit. We must have the freedom to openly discuss the things which concern us. When silence becomes interpreted as agreement, we are guilty of hypocrisy.
The question is the question of drama. And the question does not concern any particular type of drama or any abuse of drama, but drama per se. We are told that it is wrong in itself and consequently can have no place in our lives. Yet we are not convinced. We face the problem constantly and are not too ready to say that the solution to the problem lies in avoiding the problem entirely.
When we face the problem in the light of the negative injunction we have received, we raise these questions. If it is wrong to partake in dramatization, is it also wrong to watch such? If it is wrong to watch it, is it wrong to read it? If it is wrong to read it, is it wrong to write it? If one of the elders of our church tells us that “Scripture teaches that all drama is an abomination to the Lord” and that we may not attend plays, why does he sit home and watch drama on television?
Now we grant that people’s inconsistencies (which in this case are as multitudinous as the sands of the seashore) can be no ground for argumentation of principle. But the fact is clearly shown that most who seem to want the principle refuse to accept its application. And we wonder whether these people are so enslaved to sin or whether they do not agree with the principle as much as they indicate.
We raise this issue again not for the sake of defending drama but for the purpose of pointing out that it is still a problem. And, as we see it, it will continue to be a problem until all agree with the principle and follow it. This, apparently, will not happen immediately.
We are faced with two alternatives. We can bring the question out into the open once again and enjoy a healthy discussion or we can close the festering wound and wish that it would heal. The first alternative has been tried, and, while it has not solved the problem, it has taught us that the issue requires critical examination. The second alternative has been tried and has had a decidedly adverse effect. A man who is told exactly how he should make up his mind cannot reach a meaningful decision. And a man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.
Education is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond; cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education. Mark Twain
The title of this article should immediately bring into mind three questions. What is education: What are the arts? How are the two related? The first question we will not answer, for it undoubtedly is being defined and discussed elsewhere in this issue. To the second question we offer a simple answer. We will consider only the more common and easily understood arts, namely, painting, sculpture, music, and literature. The answer to the third question will comprise the body of this article, but we can summarize it briefly in two statements. Education, ideally, plays two roles in its relation to the arts. First, it develops a sense of appreciation; secondly, it produces the artist.
Appreciation is a misunderstood term, due largely to common usage of the root word. When we hear someone say, “I appreciate it,” we assume he means that he likes something or is grateful for it. Applied to the arts, however, its meaning is deeper. It really means to understand something, to judge it correctly, to be fully sensible of it. Therefore, someone who appreciates a poem is one who understands it more or less fully. A course in music appreciation is not designed to make the student like music, but to make him understand it, to see its structure, its coherence, its beauty.
Some understanding is basic to enjoyment. While a person who knows relatively nothing about a symphony may enjoy listening to it, his enjoyment will not be as great as that of one who understands it analytically and synthetically. The same thing applies to the other forms of art. Some simple poetry is almost universally liked, but one who understands poetry can get much more enjoyment from the more complex, because, analyzing, judging, and evaluating it, he can see that its beauty is greater.
This appreciation of art seldom, perhaps never, comes naturally. It must be developed slowly and gradually. This can be done only by education. The process often seems wearisome and tiring; often it is hard work. But the results pay for the toil. In this aspect the role of education can be clearly seen. By critically analyzing works of art, by explaining their strengths and weaknesses, by seeing their structure, by noting the skillful hand of the craftsman, the teacher may not make his students like these works, but he inevitably increases their appreciation. The task is not one-sided, however. The student who is or makes himself interested, the student who studies and strives is the student who will understand the most and later find the greatest enjoyment.
But education should do more than develop appreciation. It should begin to produce the artist. Not all can be artists, for not all have the necessary God-given talents. Yet, with very rare exception, the talented artist can do little unless he learns how to express himself. His talents cannot be buried and then earn more talents. They can be developed only through knowledge and practice. Education will give him this knowledge and the opportunity for expression.
One phenomenon of American education, true to a greater degree in our schools, is the emphasis of the literary arts. Most of us, even those who have gone through college, have a much greater knowledge of literature than of sculpture, painting, or music. Most of us undoubtedly know next to nothing of these three.
The reason is not hard to understand. Perhaps one picture can say as much as a thousand words, but most of us could manipulate the thousand words better than a paint brush. Secondly, words are usually easier to understand than other symbols; we derive more meaning from a story, essay, or poem than from a concerto or a statue. Thirdly, because this is the case, words are a more powerful weapon in the arsenal of the defense of Truth and more effective in the preaching and spread of the Gospel.
We must not forget, however, that the other arts reveal other God-given talents and are to be used in His fear. Beyond any doubt, we are lax in not giving them a larger place, in our educational systems and in our personal lives.
To restate the parable of the talents is hardly necessary. But to examine our lives in the light of its truth is always imperative. The one who “humbly” claims that he has no talent may actually be too handy with the shovel.
“I will show thee my faith by my works.”
Almost everyone almost everywhere has a cause which he supports. Some give only financial support; some, only moral support. Some support because of pressure; some give themselves earnestly and energetically. Some support too few causes; some, too many. Few try to avoid what they believe to be a worthy cause; many look for new means or new causes.
That a man is willing to devote himself entirely to a cause and, if need be, to die for it remains somewhat an unexplainable phenomenon. We can understand that a man would die for what we believe to be right; we find it harder to realize how a man could gladly die for a cause which to us is obviously wrong. We seem relatively unable to comprehend that a man would die for what he believes to be right, if it seems wrong to us.
A man’s sincerity of belief seems to be the deciding factor. Newman quite correctly makes the observation that a man will not die for a conclusion, but he will die for a belief. But this sincerity is relative. The fact that a man is sincere in his belief does not make him right nor does it make his cause a worthy one. Richard Evans states, “It is not enough to be sincere, for one may be sincerely wrong, and therefore all the more wrong; we must not only be sincere, but sincerely right.”
The Christian’s obligation is to one cause, The Cause. But seeking the kingdom of heaven can and must be done in a myriad of ways. And this presents a problem, for the question immediately and constantly confront the Christian whether or not a certain cause that seems to make a demand on him is a cause which furthers The Cause. The problem is made more complex when he discovers that many worthy causes are sometimes mismanaged and that personal strifes or bitterness may hinder his willingness to give support.
Many causes that seek our help we know are causes which we may not support. Some causes we seem to be in doubt about. When the Red Cross, the Community Chest, the heart fund or the cancer fund ask for donations, we, rightly or wrongly, tend to conclude that these are worldly causes (“Let the dead bury their dead”) and that the kingdom causes of the church demand enough of our time and money and take care of enough of God’s people so that we can find a ready excuse to support only through the church.
Sometimes we mistake an evil cause for a good one or confuse and mix and evil cause with a good. Within the sphere of Reformed Churches, for example, someone has demanded that the Christian high schools and Calvin College introduce a required course explaining the evils of Communism so that the youth of the church may learn to “support the cause of Christ and capitalism.” Though this perhaps sounds as ridiculous as it is, such feeling seems to be growing in the church world. How Christ and capitalism ever joined forces is one of the greatest mysteries of our century. Yet, Americans who are properly enthusiastic in waging the battle against Communism, and even American Protestants who so recently have restated the principle of the separation of church and state, now make the horrible error of confusing Democracy with Christianity. One is tempted to remind them that they have a cause to support and that, if they are looking for the enemies of that cause, they might do well to turn more of their guns away from Communism and to begin to focus their sights more intently on such greater dangers as materialism (perhaps capitalism’s greatest product), labor unionism, the liberalism in the church, the growing movements of ecumenicity and church mergers, and those who “bring again out of hell” the teaching of Pelagius and Arminius.
We as Prot. Ref. Churches have many causes to support, many causes which we know are causes of the kingdom. Yet many of these causes, to our shame, seem almost to be dying a prolonged and agonizing death. Some demand our financial support; some demand our moral support; some demand our time and energy; all demand our prayers. Beacon Lights has a financial struggle for survival. Prot. Ref. education, both primary and secondary, will not be developed without your help. Our societies and organizations need active members; our schools and churches need teachers and ministers. Our office bearers need our prayers; our churches need our loyalty and interest. Our church publications need subscribers, and – readers. The Prot. Ref. Scholarship Fund will not refuse your donation, nor will the Foreign Mission Fund or the Reformed Witness Hour.
We confess that we are not our own, that what we possess is not our own. The faithful steward watches, prays, and WORKS.
The frenzied mob, ferocious, fearing nought,
Pressed closer, shouting for the life they sought,
And raised their voices in a mighty flood:
“On us and on our children be His blood.”
The scarlet stains, on that spike-studded cross
Where hung the bleeding body, with each toss
Of pain re-echoed that rebellious cry
Until it reached beyond the vaulted sky.
Soon streets ran red; and women, children, men
Were slain with sword: and through all time since then
The rebel race has had its wish fulfilled.
His blood on them, they were despised and killed.
But another cry had reached the Father, too.
It was: “Forgive; they know not what they do.”
And those forgiven can pray amid sin’s flood,
“Lord, on us and our children be His blood.”
“Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.”
Undoubtedly, at the present time there seems to be no greater menace to the American way of life and hence to the American people than that of Communism. Though its tactics and methods may change, its ideology still re-echoes Krushchev’s bold words, “We will bury you.” Americans, fearful that the prophecy that their children or grandchildren will live under Communist rule may come true, are continuing more fervently than ever to battle this threat to their security. While few reach the fanatical fever of Joe McCarthy, most are still deeply concerned.
It is not difficult to see that this is the case. The tenor of editorial writing in this country, the thrust of our foreign policy, the tight secrecy and security checks maintained over those in prominent positions, the investigations of Congressional committees into un-American activities clearly show that our nation is stirred.
Recently this anti-Communist drive has gained new momentum and taken on new forms. JFK’s dream of a Peace Corps is one of these new manifestations. There are others, perhaps more effective, undoubtedly more reactionary, and perhaps rather distortative. Two films, “Operation Abolition” and “Communism on the Map,” graphically portray (exaggerate, say some) the dangers and devices of Communism. Despite many protests about their factual content, these films have been shown to millions of Americans to enlighten them and to rouse their anti-Communistic patriotism. Not to be overlooked is the John Birch Society, whose vigorous fanaticism almost exceeds anything seen before in the U.S. Few prominent men or organizations have not been the objects of their wild statements or bitter accusations. Even President Eisenhower has been charged with being a dupe of the Communists.
Whether such reactionary measures are justifiable or even necessary is definitely debatable. But that Americans should be concerned is unquestionable. Democracy is threatened: it must fight for its life. Communism is striving to engulf it and freedom loving men must come to the aid of their party.
There is, however, one aspect of the anti-Communist drive that is lamentable. That is the attitude of the church. That American, Christian Americans, should want to oppose Communism vigorously is commendable. But far too often they confuse the issue. Far too often they seem not to realize what is the real menace to the church. That they oppose Communism as a threat to Democracy is laudable. But that they oppose it as a threat to the church and God’s kingdom shows a lack of understanding. But how often is this not the case, even in our churches?
Communism per se is not evil, just as Democracy per se is not good. Khrushchev derives his power and authority from God just as surely as Kennedy does. That the church, at present has an easier life under Democratic rule than under Communist rule is entirely beside the point when it comes to passing judgment upon the system itself.
Yet, in its effort to avoid persecution, the church makes a mistake, a serious and dangerous mistake. The greatest threat to the kingdom of Christ, to the Church, is the kingdom of the anti-Christ. And from all that Scripture reveals, it can be seen that anti-Christ will arise from the nominal church and will have “a form of godliness.” And this nominal church that will produce anti-Christ and his religious political system will almost certainly be found in Democracy, not in Communism.
Be warned: Christians who make Communism their enemy and Democracy their friend may be surprised to discover that they are nursing a viper in their bosom.
(An excerpt from the newest, most revised translation of the Bible, as Moses should have written it.)
1. In the beginning, gas existed.
2. And the gas was a shapeless mass; and it was dark. And God’s spirit began to be operative.
3. And God said, “Let a shining sphere be formed.” And there was light.
4. And God saw the light, that it was good: And the rotation of the gas sphere caused light and darkness.
5. And the hours of light were called day and the time of darkness was called night. And each complete rotation, morning and evening, was a day.
6. And the gas began to cool and solidify, and steam and vapor arose.
7. And these separated slightly from the solidified earth so there was moisture in the clouds and water on the earth.
8. And the clouds and sky were called the heavens. And this billion-year process was complete.
9. And as the earth hardened and took definite shape, the waters flowed into the deeper places and dry land could be seen.
10. The dry land was called terra firm and the water was called aqua. And God noticed that things were going pretty good.
11. And so He planned to have the dry land become active and to produce plants. And it happened.
12. And the dry land did produce plants of all kinds: And God saw that things were developing quite well.
13. And this development took another long period of time.
14. Along with the sun, other lights had formed, not only to divide day from night, but to indicate seasons, days, and years.
15. And these lights also gave light to the earth.
16. These lights consisted of the sun, which shone during the day, and the nocturnal moon, not nearly as bright. There were also some stars.
17. These lights were in the sky so that they could shine upon the earth.
18. And so that they could regulate day and night, light and darkness. And God was pleased with the way this turned out also.
19. This, of course, took quite a while.
20. And God planned to have animal life come from the water, swimming fish in abundance and flying birds in the air. And it happened.
21. And with this planned fortuitous concourse, from the water came fish and fowl.
22. And God blessed these creatures and decided to let them continue to develop and reproduce.
23. And thus another era ended.
24. And God planned to have some of these creatures adapt themselves to land life. And some of them did.
25. Those who could adapt and survive stayed on the land and changed, in generations, to land creatures: beasts, cattle, and creeping things. And God saw that evolution was a wonderful process.
26. And God said, “One of these creatures ought to be turned into something special, into my image, and this creature, man, ought to have power over the lower forms of life and over brute creation.”
27. So, breathing into an ape, who had developed from the dust of the ground, God changed it into a man.
28. Man, like the rest of the animals, received a blessing and was told to reproduce and to rule creation as befitted a higher creature.
29. He was told that he might utilize all the plant life of earth for his advantage.
30. He was also informed that he might use and kill other animals as well as plants, and take them for food.
31. And God was satisfied when he saw how the whole evolutionary process had completed itself. And the last period of creation ended.
Evolution and Christian Thought Today
Russell L. Mixter (ed.) – Eerdmans – 222 pp. – $4.50
Ever since Copernicus demonstrated that the sun and not the earth was the center of our universe, the “Sea of Faith” has, for the educated, been at ebb tide. Most scientific men can only “hear its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar, Retreating.” The science that in its infancy destroyed theology’s unfortunate excrescences, in its lusty manhood seems intent upon demolishing theology. In Christian circles, the conflict has centered about the formation of the world. The Christian view has always been that the universe was created by God; science insists – most strongly since Darwin’s The Origin of the Species – upon evolution as the explanation.
Twelve auspiciously educated scientists fully “committed to the evangelical Christian doctrine that the world and its living members are the result of the activity of God as declared in the Holy Scriptures” maintain in this book that the basic maxims of science and the teachings of Christianity are not contradictories. The area examined are wide-ranging. Each of the twelve men probes into a specific field of science (e.g., origin of the universe, origin of life, and fossils), states the evolutionistic theories drawn from that field, and proffers a harmony between the scientific facts about the teachings of Scripture. The general consensus is that the creationist often “exhibits in . . . his anti-evolutionary literature an antiquated, ‘moth-ball’ conception of evolutionism.” The contributors to Evolution and Christian Thought Today agree that the proper correlation between Scripture and natural revelation is a belief that god (contra the evolutionists) created the world by progressive or developmental means (contra the “hyper orthodox” – as discussed on p. 168).
Dr. Carl F. H. Henry sums up the situation in the last chapter. The learned (B.A., M.A., B.D., Th. D., Ph.D.), prominent theologian points out the vagueness of many, often unquestioned, evolutionary axioms and concludes with the telling remark that “the rejection of the Logos in nature, history, and conscience is but the first step to the rejection of the Logos come in the flesh Jesus Christ.”
Although treating the first three chapters of Genesis more like poetry by Eliot Pound than infallible Scripture by God, authors have produced a work which is highly relevant to all Christians. Every student and inquiring layman should consider this book a “must” in his education.
The Way of Salvation
Gordon H. Girod – Baker Book House – 157 pp. – $2.95
The author of this book is a Reformed minister, pastor of the Seventh Reformed Church of Grand Rapids. His radio ministry, his talented pen, and his effective preaching have made him well known in Reformed church circles. His capabilities are evident in this book also.
His style of writing makes the book very pleasurable reading. His communicationis personal and direct. He writes rhetorically, just as if he is preaching to an audience, an audience whom he desperately wants to move and inspire. To a large measure he is successful. His writing is very clear and easy to understand, for he includes abundant, lucid, highly-illustrative examples and analogies.
The book contains ten chapters on topics such as election, regeneration, faith, conversion, sanctification, and glorification. It treats the order of salvation (Ordo Salutis) which is found in abbreviated form in Romans 8:30.
Girod’s treatment is very sound, with no doubt of proper emphasis. The conclusions of the book are firmly rooted in Scripture and the Reformed confessions, to which many references are made. Some confusion results, however, with Girod’s use of the word “invitation,” although he equates it with the external calling, the preaching of the word.
The book is highly recommended for all our people, particularly for our young people. It is fairly short, extremely interesting, and spiritually edifying.
God’s Son and God’s World
(79 pp) – A.A. Van Ruler – Eerdmans ($2.00) – translated by Lewis B. Smedes)
In brief, swiftly moving chapters, Dr. van Ruler expounds and relates the “I am” claims of Jesus (“I am the bread of life,” “I am the true vine”) and the poetical ecstasies of the Psalmist about nature. The language is simple and the insight penetrating. That Christ is the vine and we the branches finds its basic meaning in the keen extension of the metaphor, namely, the bringing forth of fruit. Upon that fruit of faith, hope, and love, the children of God thrive, in fact, they become intoxicated; “The holy intoxication is born out of the immeasurable and all-embracing love, the love that is in Christ, the love by which we learn to praise God Himself in all the works of his hands.”
Author van Ruler contends that the spiritual truths of John’s narrative result in an intensified joy, on the part of a Christian, in nature. One who has experienced and recognized the transformation worked by Christ, glories in the creation as does David in Psalm 104. Too much emphasis can be placed upon nature, however. And here van Ruler gives a sedate backhand to the Catholics’ Thomism. All attempts to logically prove God from a survey of the natural world are “academic” and “artificial”; “the living God is in the world of nature, to be sure, but He is there, not in nature’s way, but after His own manner.’ Creation is a work of art, not a logical syllogism.
Mass and Purpose
The meaning of the Son of God gives mass and purpose to life. A Christian’s life is joyous, humorous, livable because of – not in spite of – his Godliness. Despite its brevity, the book drills this theme home, opportunely and artistically.
Talks to Young People
C.B. Eavey – Baker Book House – 110 pp. – $1.95
. . . talks directed to young people for the development of their physical and spiritual life as well as their social life. It includes discussions on New Year’s Day, Good Friday, and Thanksgiving Day.
Successful youth Meetings
Grenville W. Phillips – Baker Book House – 76 pp. – $1.00
. . . semi-profitable material on programs for young meetings. Material includes Bible quizzes and drills, and a section on poetry.
30 Programs for Young People
Hoyt Evans – Baker Book House – 106 pp. – $1.50
. . . provides programs for youth organizations on such topics as singing in church, death, a Christian family life, and honoring God with money.
- B. Eavey – Baker Book House – 116 pp. – $1.95
. . . 50 short, widely-ranged topics pertinent to young people such as manners, obedience, selfishness, books and reading, friends, and gossip.
A perennial problem in almost any organization is the conflict that often arises between what is held to be principally right and practically advisable. Churches, for example, face this issue when they deliberate about admitting into their fellowship members who had been divorced and remarried while still unchurched. Principally it would seem not only that confession should be made, but also that the guilty parties should leave their way of sin. On the practical level, however, it seems far-fetched to break up a happy marriage for this reason. Societies also meet this problem on a very small scale when they conveniently ignore some tight rule of their constitution when it apparently leads to a strange or absurd situation. Generally it seems that the practical side of the question holds the most weight when it appears very advantageous.
Democracy, the U.S. brand of it at any rate, also finds conflict between principle and practice. Democracy is based on certain principles held to be true and important and applicable to situations which present themselves. To some, democracy is just another way of government; to others, it is almost a religion. But between the extremes a good share of our citizens are found. Our office holders swear to uphold the Constitution and laws of our government. They claim to believe in the principles of democracy, such as the derivation of power from the governed to the governing and the unalienable right of every man to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” as at least partially expressed in the “Four Freedoms.” Consistency would demand, therefore, that these principles always be held to be important, that they be fought for, and not that they ever be conveniently ignored.
Yet, we do not have to scrutinize government affairs too critically to see that our policies are often very inconsistent with our principles. The same government that at home can sing with such fervor the song of the “Four Freedoms” and every man’s right to them, often changes its ditty to a wishy-washy “You’re a jolly good fellow, anyway” when it deals with foreigners. The country which prides itself on its hatred of dictatorship is often willing to lend support to a dictator, if he is friendly, pro-Western, non-communistic.
For example, before Castro clasped Cuba, that country was on exceedingly friendly terms with the United States. Yet, its dictator, who enjoyed the sanction of our government, ruled with an iron hand. We were enjoying Cuban trade, we were certain of some measure of suppression of Communists, and so we kept shaking Batista’s hand. We raised no cry then about democracy for Cuba. We were forced to play it very cautious, however, when revolution began. Officially we had to support Batista. But we stayed out of the quarrel as much as possible, lest we should happen to pick the losing side and lose a friendly country. Ironically, the side which stirred patriotic blood with its cries of democracy, turned out to be a thorn in the side. Unfortunately, Fidel, as far as democracy was concerned, turned out to be an infidel.
This situation has parallels. The cold Trujillo, dictator of the Dominican Republic, has been basking in the warmth of our smile while his people have been living in poverty and chains. Salazar of Portugal has been keeping the Communists out of his country so he has our support while we amusedly watch a few ardent rebels fight for principles. Our fear of Communist infiltration has been so great that we have courted Franco as well as many South American totalitarians.
In contrast, although Russia cannot be ignored, we have chosen to ignore Red China, advancing reasons of principle. Officially we do not recognize this regime and so far we have gotten along quite well with this policy. Yet it seems rather absurd to shut our eyes to the fact that, recognized or not, this country must be reckoned with, as its strength, military, economic, and political, is constantly increasing. Quite probably, it cannot be kept out of the U.N. forever. Japan is looking more favorably at its trade-seeking neighbor. And, strangely and shockingly, our northern neighbor, Canada, takes advantage of our situation as it prepares for trading on a large scale with Red China as well as with Cuba.
The U.S. has a difficult position to maintain. It is no longer self-sufficient. It needs its allies, democratic or dictatorial. Yet it cannot control even its closest friends on the international scene. It has principles vital to its life and it may not neglect. Yet it must live and with a different world.
It faces a dilemma. Must it always maintain principles, or must it work at a practical level? If it follows the former course, it suffers material disadvantage. If it pursues the latter, it loses prestige and finds itself on dangerous ground in sacrificing principle. Must it continue to talk out of both sides of its mouth? Must it be consistent, or will the end justify the means?
J.F.K. and Co. faces this dilemma. Will they swing the horns, or will the horns continue to swing them?
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
The month of November is a kind of turning point in the year. While the summer and early fall months are behind us and school is back in full swing along with its busy schedule of homework, catechism, and sports, there is much to look forward to in the coming holiday season. As we collectively […]
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 […]