Many young people are deciding, about this time of year, where to go to college. In the process of making this decision of where to go, many of you are going to have to face squarely the question of what type of institution you will attend: will it be a Christian college or a secular one. My preference is for the former, the Christian college, and the purpose of this article will be to demonstrate why.
To write an article addressing this question and have it apply to different groups of people in different places is a difficult charge, for several reasons. First, our churches are located in diverse settings—both rural and metropolitan—which means that access to college may be near, within commuting distance, or far, which may necessitate living on campus or in housing nearby. Second, our young people have diverse interests which means that depending on one’s vocational and/or educational goals, choices of colleges may be limited to those who offer a specific program. Third, our parents have diverse expectations and requirements of higher education which means that some may take the attitude that the college down the road is good enough or it may mean that some will want “the best” for their sons or daughters.
Fact is, our young people have pursued higher education both at secular colleges and universities and Christian colleges. No one has insisted that one ought to have priority over the other. As noted above, many considerations come into play here, and they should. And parents and their sons and daughters will need to discuss these matters together and come to their individual conclusions. What I write here is based upon my own experience and is my own opinion. All I can hope for is that you consider what I have to say in making your decisions.
Parenthetically, may I say that I am somewhat perplexed by the lack of interest of our young people in higher education. My concern is for our young people as they pursue their life’s work. Given the costs of raising a family and the costs of educating our children in Christian schools, our young people ought to aspire to good jobs so that they will be able to afford these costs. Society is such today that the need for some advanced training of some sort, whether that be technical or liberal arts or some sort of apprentice position, is almost mandatory if one is to get some job other than what are called “junk jobs.” That concern is deepened when I think that there is sometimes a downright disdain for education. What one gets in education, you see, is about God and His revelation, and when I see and hear attitudes expressed that disdain that, I get concerned. The Reformed person has always valued education. That was the theme of the great Reformers—Luther and Calvin to be sure—and that ought to characterize us as well. Perhaps we need some attitude adjustment here. We need people of discernment, people who can lead, people who can analyze, criticize, and deal with the issues of contemporary society. That has little to do, you see, with one’s vocation (we get hung up many times, don’t we, on going or not going to college because we think we need to know what we’re going to be or do before we go.)
That we are supporters of Christian education there is no doubt. Our entire educational system is testimony of that. That commitment, however, has never been extended to higher education. There has been much talk about establishing a Protestant Reformed college, and that fact would help, no doubt, in one’s decision about where to go to college. But that idea is not very practical today. To establish a teacher training program, for example, as some have suggested, is practically impossible to do. The State of Michigan, for example, has not approved any new teacher training programs in the last 15 years. And the one proposal it did have from an already established institution was rejected. So what’s left to consider are public institutions, private institutions which have become secular, or private institutions which still actively proclaim a Christian perspective. So, given the options, how’s a person to decide?
In order to answer the question for myself, I was forced to go back to my own upbringing in an area of the country (yes, contrary to the thinking of many Michiganders, there are other legitimate states in the union) where my parents had to decide already at the elementary level where we were to go to school. There were two options: the local Christian school or the local public school. There was never any doubt (and that was confirmed again by my father in recent discussions) where we were to go. Public education was not an option as long as there was an existing Christian school. Why was this so? The most obvious reason was that one was Christian and the other was not. But even more, given the fact that this school was parental, my parents had the opportunity to say something about what went on in that school. And they exercised that option. Not always with good results, I might add, but voice their views they did anyway. I am convinced that, in my case, that voice did make a difference. The school administration and the faculty were aware of the fact that we were there and some things were different because we were. I can recall vividly, for example, the removal of a history teacher because he taught evolution. I can recall also that some of us were recruitment targets for dramatic productions, only to have the faculty back off when they knew our position.
I see no reason now, why that same thinking ought not be applied to the selection of a college.
But it seems that many of us lose our conviction here and turn to preference. The line of reasoning we use to send our children to local Christian schools seems to end at the conclusion of high school education. It seems then, that any college or university is fair game for our children to attend.
I know that there are reasons given for that approach to choosing a college: finances, closer to home, program of study, etc. And I will admit that oftentimes these considerations are real and need to dictate how our decisions are made. The question I want to raise, however, is whether the question of Christian vs. secular college or university is drawn in here. Do we, as parents, and do we, as students, make that a primary consideration in our college choice? My hope is that we will and that we do.
Why so? The answer follows directly from what has gone before: the choice is between an institution that is Christian—Christian in its mission, Christian in its perspective—or an institution committed to a secular perspective and a secular mission. What you can expect from a secular college is a secular perspective on history, on man, on the world. What you can expect from a Christian college is a Christian perspective on history, on man, and on the world.
This is not to say, however, that you will be able to agree with everything that is taught. But at least the people with whom you deal will approach problems and solutions differently and you can expect your professors to understand what you are trying to say.
If the decision then, is to choose a Christian college because it is that—Christian—there are going to be certain things that are necessary for you as a young person to understand. First, you will have to be a person of discernment. You are going to encounter new ideas and perspectives, beliefs and philosophies with which you don’t wholly agree and you will have to be able to sort what you can embrace and what you cannot. Second, you will have to be a person with courage. Courage to speak your mind and courage to hold on to your beliefs whether that be in classroom discussions or in “bull sessions” with your peers.
The results can be very positive. If you come to college with convictions and with the ability to articulate, tactfully, those convictions, the result can be that you will be strengthened in those convictions. Just the fact that probably for the first time in your life you will not be able to reply upon the old phrase, “I don’t believe that, because my church doesn’t believe that,” and will have to defend yourself can be a refining, sharpening experience.
So I come back to the beginning. We have never insisted that a Christian college be a requirement. In some cases, that would not even be possible to require. Some programs just are not available at a Christian college; many technical and vocational programs are offered only at the local community college. But where there’s a choice, I would urge our young people to attend a Christian college. There is much to be gained, I believe, if they do. What, for example, would one who is going to be a medical doctor or a nurse prefer in his training, a Christian perspective on health care or a secular one? Or, if one is going to be a teacher, what would be preferable, a Christian perspective on education and on the child, or a secular one? The list could go on.
Some final words for anyone who is going to college. Keep in touch with your parents, your minister, and anyone else who can help you through the difficulties of college life. We often think that once you become a college freshman, you automatically become an adult. My experience has shown that much maturing goes on during college years, and the more help and guidance you have, the better off you’ll be.
As for me, I’ve talked with many young people and am willing to help, even if you are going to some other school “down the road.” My view of where to go may be somewhat biased after spending nearly twenty years at Hope College, but I believe that I am open enough to help you wherever you choose to go.
While the Congress cheered, President Nixon made it known that his legacy to the United States and the world would be a structure for a lifetime and our children’s lifetime of world peace. This, said the President, has been his primary goal and will continue to be the primary goal of his administration. Such was the President’s announcement in his state of the union address on January 30. This primary objective coupled with nine other subordinate objectives will constitute ten great steps forward to utopia. The energy crisis, inflation, Watergate are only minor obstacles in the way of sure progress. The nation’s economy, citizen health, jobs, etc., etc., will all be accomplished without doubt because of the great strength of the American people. There may be hindrances here and there but we are moving steadily toward an inevitable utopia. We, as Americans, will live in security and prosperity.
Now, you might say that that’s good news. We like security and we like prosperity, don’t we? Who in his right mind would call for calamity and affliction and poverty. But, is that the question of the Christian, whether we will or desire to have security and prosperity’? Is world peace, is security, is prosperity, is utopia the constant prayer of the Christian? Can we agree with the President and say, “Yes, Mr. President you are right. America is great, America will persevere because the American people, by their own ingenuity and strength will meet the crises head on and will once again persevere. And, we support you wholeheartedly in your efforts toward establishing a structure of world peace.”
We know better, don’t we than to answer this way. World peace, physical security, and material prosperity have never been objectives of the Christian because the Bible tells him differently. He knows and believes that there shall be wars and rumors of wars. He knows the running of the horses in Revelation 6. But, it will appear for a time that Mr. Nixon is right — we are heading for a seeming utopia. The reign of the beast, the antichrist, is sure to come. And, the rise of the beast to full power will bring with it a peace to the world. For a time it will appear that swords will be turned into plowshares and the much-longed-for universal brotherhood of man will be accomplished. What President Nixon has promised in reality, however, is ten steps forward for the beast.
You understand, however, that I am not saying that it will be America who will give birth to the beast nor dare I say who it will be who will give birth to the antichrist, which nationality he will be. We do not know; we can only speculate. But, one thing is sure: history is moving toward the reign of the antichrist and it ought to be clear to us that we are dealing presently not only with the talk, the dream, of world peace but with its imminent realization. The foundations are being laid for its accomplishment.
It makes one a bit uneasy, a bit fearful, does it not, when we begin to see more and more clearly the signs of the return of Jesus Christ. The Christian, contrary to any millennium theory, will not be removed from this earth but will be required to live through the history of the realization of antichrist. And, that scares us a bit. We do not like to face affliction and persecution; our earthly natures yearn for security and prosperity. But, pilgrims and strangers we are and as such we must live, not in fear but by grace with confidence that “all things work together for the good of them who love God.” God, you see, in his infinite wisdom has given us Revelation chapters 4 and 5 before he gave us the rest of the book of Revelation. The vision of John in Revelation 4-5 is the vision of the victorious Lamb of God. The church, led by its head Jesus Christ, is given the blessed assurance of sure victory. The antichrist will come. Each year presidents will prophesy peace and prosperity. Each year we move closer to the reign of the antichrist. But the
Christian as pilgrim and stranger with his pilgrim’s view of history will live in his life not in seclusion, not with his head in the sand, but he will live life with the knowledge of the assurance of victors. He knows and understands what is going on; his teleology is spiritually guided and by faith he will press on as Paul exhorts us to do in Philippians 3:14, “toward the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
What a different purpose in life, then, and what a different view of history, then, and what a different view of things contemporary, then, has the Christian. He does not set his hopes upon utopia, upon material prosperity and physical security. He knows that these things have no intrinsic value; he knows that all the things of the world are subject to moths, and rust and rot. His hope, rather, is the same as the “cloud of witnesses” in Hebrews 11, his hope is for a city whose builder and maker is God, and his assurance is that everything, including President Nixon and congressional colleagues with their grandiose utopian schemes, are in God’s hands. All things will indeed work toward the deliverance of God’s people.
As one views history, then, and as one listens to pronouncements such as President Nixon’s state of the union address, one must keep his historical perspective. The Christian must not despair and wring his hands. God will realize his counsel. Rev. H. Hoeksema in his commentary on Revelation 4 and 5 in Behold He Cometh gives us that perspective. It bears repetition and emphasis:
Men have repeatedly exerted themselves to work out their own salvation and the salvation of the world. Systems of thought, world-systems of philosophy, have been built up by human minds one after another, to show the true way to peace and righteousness and to establish an imitation of the kingdom of bliss. But they have all met with utter failure and disaster. No human wisdom has been able to call back the paradise lost. The might of the world, kings and rulers, have throughout history attempted to realize the world-kingdom, embracing all the earth. If only they could attain their end, if only such a universal kingdom could be realized, they would surely bring peace to the world. Nebuchadnezzar, Alexander the Great. Caesar, Charlemagne, Napoleon, William of Hohenzollern, and Hitler are their names. But they have failed. Their glory is faded. Their power is broken. Their name is trampled underfoot. Today we are told that the glorious dawn of a new day is faintly seen at the horizon of history. Democracy will perform what autocracy failed to bring. Crowns must be removed. Thrones must tumble in the dust. We must have the rule of the people. Besides, all the nations of the world must combine in this great movement for universal peace and righteousness. A league of nations is what we need and what has already been established. In this way righteousness shall come to dwell on earth, and peace shall reign undisturbedly. But already it may safely be predicted that also this ideal shall never be realized. Never shall it bring the much longed for kingdom of peace. Also in our day men of social service assure us that society must undergo a radical transformation. It must itself be regenerated. It must have new laws, new institutions, new customs, new relationships between capital and labor, shorter working days and better living conditions for the working man, the abolishment of liquor and other evils of society. If thus we labor, so they say, for the regeneration of society, we shall bring in the kingdom of God. All these human efforts, put forth by mere human strength and ingenuity, present the historical realization of the challenge of the angel: “Who is worthy to open the book and to loose the seals thereof?” And the ultimate failure of all these attempts constitutes the historical realization of the statement: “And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon.” History must reveal the failure of all attempts to bring the kingdom of God without the Lamb, and that simply because of the great fundamental truth entirely ignored by the men of the world that at the basis of all trouble and confusion and war and destruction lies the guilt of sin and the corruption of the nature of man.
When John heard the response to the question that no one was worthy to open the book, he wept bitterly. He wept, that is, until he saw the “Lamb as if it were slain” and then realized that the Lamb was worthy. The Lamb of God, Jesus Christ has earned the right to open the book. He had ascended to the right hand of God and was given “all power in heaven and earth.” He it is that now rules and lie it is that will control and direct all things for the good of His people. Glory to the Lamb who now lives and reigns forever.
Editor Note: The following is the text of an address given at the 1973 Protestant Reformed Young People’s Convention held in Hope, Grand Rapids. It was given as an introduction to one of the discussion sessions.
A proper beginning for any topic of discussion would be, I think, a definition of the topic at hand. The topic under discussion this morning is tolerance. What, then, is tolerance? What does it mean to be tolerant? Rev. Kuiper in his article in the Standard Bearer gives us a very simple but correct definition: “Tolerance is allowance for error or deviation.” This concept, as Rev. Kuiper points out, is used in various ways by various kinds of people. To a doctor it usually means how much the human body can bear of a particular kind of medication or treatment, to an engineer it has to do with gears and stress and strain. But we are not concerned with either of those: right now. Tolerance is also a concept used in the whole area of social interaction. It is this latter usage which we, of course, have in mind.
But first, before we get into the subject per se, let me stress to you the importance of the subject at hand. And, that for two reasons. In the first place this topic is extremely important because of its pertinence to our age. I think that it is a fair judgment if we characterize our age as the Age of Tolerance and the Age of Pluralism. That is generally the aim of our society today. We must strive to create a pluralistic atmosphere. What do I mean by that? This: every idea, every notion, every act must somehow be condoned. Each man must be left free to do his own thing, to believe his own thing without interference, without testimony of wrong-doing from another. This has been the age of situational ethics, situational morals, situational religion, situational everything. Key ’73 is as good an example of our age as any. The basic question which motivated the whole Key ’73 movement was not What is right? Or what is the Truth? But the question which Carl Henry asked was “How can we get together? How can we, in cold-war terminology, mutually coexist in peace and happiness and prosperity?” But Key ‘73 is an example among many. We hear the same message wherever we go — in the church world, in the secular world, in the press and every other conceivable medium. Let’s get together, let’s bury the hatchet and the theological hair-splitter, let’s just sit down together with an ice-cold bottle of Coke and love one another. The Christian of course, wants nothing to do with this kind of talk and thus it is that when tolerance is mentioned, he shies away a bit. Quite naturally so, He doesn’t like what he sees and hears done in the name of tolerance. Everybody’s right, nobody’s wrong. Isn’t it ironical that in such an age of tolerance that our nation can be so righteously appalled at Watergate? One’s own baby cannot be recognized by its father and mother. It is well, then, that you talk about tolerance. It’s pertinent to an understanding of our age.
Secondly, it is well that you talk about tolerance because of its peculiar pertinence to young people. If I may generalize for a moment, it would be my guess that young adults, more than any other age-group it seems, are constantly pestered by questions involving tolerance. What may we tolerate? That specific question is not often asked in that way, but it is essentially the same question as, “What may we do? Where may we go? How far may we go in this area or that?” These are questions not usually raised by older folks but by young people. So, you see, this question is especially pertinent because you are young.
In light of what we have just said then, what about the Christian? Given our definition of tolerance as the allowance for error or deviation, must the Christian be tolerant? May he be? Or must he be intolerant only? The answer which I will attempt to give is Yes to both questions. The Christian must be both tolerant and intolerant at the same time; and, if he must be tolerant, then he may be, too. But saying that means that we need to spell some things out.
Now I think that everyone can easily see that the Christian may not tolerate anything which is contrary to the Word of God and the confessions. The Christian certainly may not allow doctrinal heresy. He must constantly guard against any profanation of God’s Word. And, neither may the Christian tolerate any action which is sin. Those doctrines, then, which are clearly contrary to God’s Word and the confessions and those actions which are clearly contrary to the way of life prescribed in God’s Word may not be tolerated. The Christian’s witness here must he unequivocal: Put the heretic and his heresy out of the church and stop the sinful acts. Sin, all sin, whether of doctrinal heresy or practical walk may not and cannot be tolerated. The Bible is very clear on this point. Galatians 1:8 says: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” And John I chapters 1 and 2 clearly enjoin us to forsake the darkness and walk as children of the light.
But, there are areas in one’s life, and this is true primarily in one’s walk (although not exclusively — consider the infra and supra controversy, for example) where one must be tolerant. But, we must proceed carefully here. There are some important questions to consider: Does this mean that if we are at all tolerant, that we allow for error in doctrine and walk? Does this mean that we no longer insist that the Bible is an absolute standard, that tire Bible is our only rule for faith and life? Certainly not. But, in order to understand what I am trying to say, we must place ourselves in an entirely different context. One’s tolerance may be and must be exercised first of all in the area of the things indifferent, in the area what is called adiophora. These are the things about which the Scriptures do not specifically speak. We know for example, that adultery, and stealing and murder are wrong because the Scriptures explicitly instruct us that this is so: but, what about smoking, drinking of alcoholic beverages, the length of one’s hair, the length of one’s skirts or the tightness of one’s pants? The Bible does not say how long or how tight one’s clothes must be or whether or not we may drink whiskey or chew tobacco. These are areas in which one’s Christian liberty must be exercised and these are areas, consequently, in which one may expect to find some diversity. There must be room for some variation in the church on these matters. Romans 14 teaches us this. We must, therefore, exercise tolerance, in the area of adiophora.
There is still another area in which one’s tolerance must be exercised and that has to do with accepting our brother’s character and disposition. The problem here, of course, is in doing exactly that — the problem of accepting one’s fellow saints as they are and have been ordained and created by God. That’s not easily done. Proud man, you see, wants to remake everything according to his own image and notions: he wants every-one to be as he himself is. Do you ever catch yourself thinking that way: Oh, if only so and so would be as bright and smart and good-looking and pleasant and cheerful as I am, then everything would be all right. But what a disaster that would be if everyone would be the same. God, you see, is much wiser than we proud people. Diversity in character is fundamental to the unity of the church. One cannot build a building with just corner stones or just small pebbles. No, each child of God has been uniquely created with a unique character, with unique gifts, with a unique calling and with a unique place in God’s kingdom. And, we must accept that. Don’t try to change that. Diversity in character is a thing of divine beauty. It is striking, I think, that the Church Order in Article 85 recognizes that also: “Churches (could also read just as well “people of God”) whose usages differ from ours merely in non-essentials shall not be rejected.” The problem, in this respect, is very real — among yourselves and among our churches. The Jamaican Christians, for example, may not be excluded from our fellowship and communion. I urge you, therefore, also in this area of character differences to exercise tolerance. In your relationships in school and in church, in the formation of your in-groups and out-groups exercise tolerance for in so doing you are exercising the love of Jesus Christ. That is the key. Tolerance is based upon love, the love of Christ Jesus.
Tolerance, then, may be and must be exercised in the things indifferent and in our relationships with our fellow saints.
But I must finish. And, by way of conclusion, a few general remarks:
1) What I have been talking about so far — areas in which one must be intolerant and areas in which one must be tolerant — will make no sense whatsoever and will have no practical value whatsoever unless one is able to make sound judgments about what he must tolerate and of what he must needs be intolerant. You must be able to decide what is to be tolerated or not tolerated. And, I know that you clearly understand that these judgments must be based upon the Word of God and the confessions. The conclusion, then, is obvious: one cannot make sound judgments if he is ignorant of the basis upon which these judgments must be made. A thorough knowledge of both the Scriptures and the confessions is an absolute necessity if one is to exercise his tolerance or intolerance.
2) We talked about Christian liberty. I urge you to exercise some care here. Christian liberty is the freedom to serve God according to the law but without being under the bondage of the law. That liberty is never license; it must always be made to operate within the parameters of the law. Do not, therefore, abuse this precious doctrine by becoming licentious. But equally important, do not abuse this doctrine by becoming legalistic. Christian liberty requires responsible Christians, Christians who know the Scriptures and who act accordingly.
3) Finally, I would urge that you never identify tolerance with compromise. Compromise means that you sacrifice a little of your principle for the sake of peace and an amicable relationship. Don’t ever do that. That kind of peace is without foundation. It seems to me that the theme of your convention fits here. The emphasis in Ephesians 6 is to put on the gospel of peace. That, in the final analysis, is the only thing that will prepare you to know when to tolerate and when to fight.
“What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculties! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world, the paragon of animals.”
Hamlet, Act II, Scene 2
“A self-balancing, 28-jointed adapter-base biped; an electro-chemical reduction-plant, integral with segregated stowages of special energy extracts in storage batteries, for subsequent actuation of thousands of hydraulic and pneumatic pumps, with motors attached; 62,000 miles of capillaries; millions of warning signals, railroad and conveyor systems; crushers and cranes (of which the arms are magnificent 23-jointed affairs with self-surfacing and lubricating systems, and a universally distributed telephone system needing no service for 70 years, if well managed); the whole, extraordinarily complex mechanism guided with exquisite precision from a turret in which are located telescopic and microscopic self-registering and recording range finders, a spectroscope, et cetera, the turret control being closely allied with an air conditioning intake and exhaust, and a main fuel intake.”
Nine Chaim- to the Moon
“Therefore all men are conceived in sin, and by nature children of wrath, incapable of saving good, prone to evil, dead in sin, and in bondage thereto, and without the regenerating grace of the Holy Spirit, they are neither able nor willing to return to God, to reform the depravity of their nature nor to dispose themselves to reformation.”
Canons of Dordt
3rd and 4th Heads, Art. 3
As is evident from the quotations above, the answer to the question in our title is not all that easily and quickly answered. Throughout the history of philosophical and theological ideas there have been many anthropologies proposed. But the question does have an answer and the Christian has always had one. The question, furthermore, is extremely important and it behooves you as Christian young people and us as Christian older people to know in detail what that answer is. For if you answer this question correctly, many of the other questions concerning who God is and what salvation is will also be correctly answered. That is not a guarantee, you understand, but as a general rule if one has his anthropology straight, if he knows who he really is, then the rest of his thinking will be straight as well. If one is to get to the heart of another man’s religion, then one of the most basic questions which he must ask is, “What is man?” to this particular individual. As you read your philosophy and your theology, ask that question and you will see how quickly many other ideas fall into place as well.
The asking and answering of this question has been going on for quite some time. Generally, however, there are four main notions of man that have come down to us through history. You must realize, of course, that I must needs oversimplify — I will leave the amplification to your own time and study. Most philosophical and theological systems can be, I think, grouped around these main ideas. There is first (not in time) the Greek idea that man is a rational animal, living by natural law, seeking happiness by knowledge (Plato, et al). Secondly there is what is known in the history of ideas as the Hebraic notion of man. Man was a free individual living by divine law seeking righteousness by obedience to the law (The Pharisees). Thirdly, there is what can be called the “modem,” post-Enlightenment view of man. Man is a sensitive animal living by social law seeking security by adjustment to his environment. Finally, there has been running throughout all of history the Christian view of man. To the Christian, man is a moral-rational creature who, by virtue of his creation, is adapted to the service of God; by nature he reveals the image of his father, the devil, and is restored to the image of God only by the power of God’s grace. All of these concepts could be treated in book-length form and many of them have, but the above must suffice for now.
To know one’s anthropology, then, is important, for there are different anthropologies extant. And, the point I wish to bring to you is that this is true even today. This point came home to me as I was reading the April 2nd, 1973 issue of Time. There we are given the earth-shattering news that a new breed of psychologists, sociologists, and anthropologists are in the process of rediscovering human nature. They have had enough of behavioral and Freudian psychology. Don’t begin to clap your hands too loudly, however, and shout from the rooftops, “Haven’t we all?” The fight is the behaviorists and Freudian psychologists versus the new breed called the humanistic psychologists. The behaviorist anthropology, propagandized most persuasively by B. F. Skinner, especially in his recent Beyond Freedom and Dignity, adopts the position of the “modem” above. Especially to be noted is the fact that man’s nature is changeable — there is nothing fixed or constant; he is completely fluid. This makes him subject to change and his environment is the agent that does exactly that. Man, then, is basically good; there is no evil inherent in him. The evil is due to environmental influences. The Freudian anthropology was somewhat different in emphasis. The Freudian placed a great deal of emphasis on the “inner man” (nonexistent to Skinner). But to the Freudian as well, man is basically good and the evil within him is due to past influences. And now, enter the humanistic psychologist. “There is,” says the Time article, “a sneaking reappearance of the old notion that certain fixed elements in man (once unscientifically known as “human nature’) are not susceptible to environmental changes.” The humanistic psychologists have challenged the behavioral belief that man is infinitely changeable and are now beginning to speak of man having “an irreducible core of evil (another unscientific term).”
Without further study, this appears to be an enlightening and proper move. What in reality is happening, however, is that the new humanists are working to reinstate man to his rightful place so that he can determine his own fate. The age of scientism with its emphasis upon technology and a technocratic man is facing its demise, man’s environment is no longer regarded to be the primary force in determining man’s nature but man must again assert himself as man and realize that he himself is the most active force in shaping his life and nature. Rollo May, the most noted of the new humanists, is optimistic about this new charge against the “academy.” Says May, “My faith is that the human being will be rediscovered.” But do not be fooled, we have merely moved from the “modem” to the “Greek.” Evil, though contended to be an “irreducible core,” will be controlled by man himself through the assertion of his will.
It is striking, is it not, that man is not progressing but constantly reverting? Solomon’s wisdom of “there is nothing new under the sun” is evident in all of this psychologizing and philosophizing.
Let me close with a bit of advice. Never make the mistake and conclude that somehow man, without the grace of God, and without acknowledgment of his sin and depravity with its resultant repentance, will ever pull himself up again by his bootstraps. Romans 1 cannot be quoted too often or studied too much these days. Arm yourselves with the Word for in the Word is revealed to us who we really are and what man really is. Read and study your confessions — they are too often neglected these days. Finally, by all means find out who you are. Stand before the mirror of God’s Word; align yourselves with the plumb line of God’s precepts. If this is done we will thank God that He does not deal with us according to our natures, but according to the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ.
That is a good thing — wanting to go to college. Education has always had a high place in the value system of the Christian and that high place ought to be maintained. The 16th century reformers — both Luther and Calvin — speak highly of education. (Cf. Rev. D. Engelsma’s excellent series of articles entitled “The Concern of the Reformation for Education,” beginning in the October 1, 1970 edition of the Standard Bearer.) Knowledge is not a thing to be despised but a thing to be diligently sought after. The Scriptures, as far as I know and I stand to be corrected, do not speak disparagingly of knowledge or wisdom properly conceived and defined but rather condemn the wisdom of the world.
This point, that knowledge is a thing to be desired, needs emphasis in our day. There is in educational circles a gradual move toward (in reality a return to) romanticism. The romantics, you know, loved to commune with nature, they sought to become one with her; but they communed with her at the gut level, the level of the emotions and the feelings. They were a sharp contrast to the classical and neoclassical personages who preceded them. The classical emphasis was upon the intellect and reason. The romantic emphasis was upon the emotions and the feelings. The romantics relied upon intuition and were fond of mysticism.
There is, I believe, a return to this romantic view of life today and I think that we can point to the rise of pentecostalism and to the rise of youth movements such as the Jesus People as evidence of this return. The emphasis is upon love, as an emotion. The emphasis is upon human relations and one determines what is right by whether the “vibes” are right. And, in religion, the pentecostals want to have an intuitional mystical relation with God. The result of all this is that there is an insidious anti-intellectualism creeping across our country today. The scientific age, the age of “The Analyzer” fostered by the Sputnik scare, is beginning to fade and the age of “The Feeler” is taking its place.
The Christian does right, I believe, when he fights against this move toward romanticism and expresses his view that the intellect ought not be neglected but should be actively built. This does not mean, however, that he suddenly becomes an advocate of the supremacy of reason and the intellect because then he falls into the error of rationalism. The Christian views man as an organic whole. Intellect and emotion must be harmonized rather than abstracted and elevated as is the case in both romanticism and rationalism. But the point must be made, nonetheless, that in view of the present emphasis upon emotion, the Christian must be doubly careful that he is not swept along with this move toward romanticism but rather insists that the intellect may not be neglected.
I might add that I feel that there is also some feeling on the part of many of our young people that education, especially post-secondary education, has little or no value. I am not concluding now that this feeling arises from the influence of the current “return to romanticism” but this may be for other reasons. We tend to associate education with earning power and this, too, is not a correct view. I say again that education should have high value for the Christian and one ought not put earning power as the first reason for desiring it.
The intellect, then, may not be neglected for any reason and I call attention to the “return to romanticism” because it is becoming a prevalent philosophy in our day. What I hope that you will do is that you give serious consideration to whether it is being neglected in your own individual case.
We have been talking until now of education as being a good thing, that knowledge is to be desired, that the intellect should be built — not at the expense of the emotions or vice versa — but it ought to be abundantly clear that I am speaking not of education for education’s sake nor knowledge for knowledge’s sake but that I am speaking of Christian education and knowledge that is ultimately defined to be the knowledge of God. So the question becomes, then, for those that desire to go to college, “Where to? Where should I go?” This is a question, a problem, that ought not be minimized. There is not as yet a Protestant Reformed college. So, what do I do? The principle that has been followed is that you must go to an institution that is the closest in its philosophy, in its world and life view, to yours. It grieves me that this principle is not always followed. Too many Protestant Reformed young people end up in the completely secular institutions of the world, the public college or university. But, you counter, what is the difference? Is not all rotten in Denmark? I do not believe so. This is not to say that I wholeheartedly support the educational philosophies of such institutions as Calvin, Hope, Trinity and Dordt but I do believe that they are to be preferred above the public university and the reason I give is the principle stated above. Rut, in light of what we do know about the present Christian colleges, it makes one think does it not, that maybe the time is right for us to begin to think very seriously about Protestant Reformed higher education.
We must however, deal with the reality of our situation. And then, the point must be made that it is crucial to those who are intending to go to college that you be prepared to attend. This puts great responsibility not only upon our existing elementary schools and high school but also puts great responsibility upon you and your parents. You know pretty much what to expect. You cannot expect, for example, Calvin College professors to teach Protestant Reformed theology. So, be prepared! Give close attention to what your teachers teach and what your preachers preach from the pulpit and teach in their catechism classes. Spend much time studying and reading. You must expect that you are going to be put to the test. It is completely foolhardy to enter your college career knowing what to expect but yet being unprepared.
There is one other thing that I might suggest. Our seminary with both its pre-seminary and seminary programs is a resource that is far too little considered by our young people as an educational institution. You need not, I am sure, intend to be a minister to take advantage of its distinctively Protestant Reformed education. Investigate its possibilities.
By all means, then, consider going to college. And, once you are there and problems arise, seek out those that can help you. Teachers, ministers, seminary professors, and elders are very willing and able to help.
The question raised in the title above is much on the minds of contemporary educators. The American system of education has come under attack from many quarters because it is claimed that what is taught — the knowledge dispensed — is not worth knowing. It is completely irrelevant. I called attention to such a critic, William Ewald, some lime ago. Ewald claimed that students in today’s educational institutions are being educated for the 1940’s and 50’s and not for the 1970’s. Education is about 25 years behind. Such is the claim, too, of Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner in their book Teaching as a Subversive Activity. It is to one chapter in particular in this book that I would like to make reference in this article. The fact that the title of this chapter and the title of this article are similar is not coincidental.
The problem, with today’s education, claim the authors, is one of relevance. The “communication revolution” and technological progress have left in their wake all kinds of problems. Then is air and water pollution, drugs, civil rights, noise, garbage and radiation. The trouble is, say the authors, our society has not kept pace with this “progress.” Our schools have failed to educate the next generation to cope with this mess. Change is upon us and our people have not been told how to cope with change. We have experienced more change in the last twenty years than other civilizations have experienced in centuries, but the schools have failed us. The purpose of the book, then, of course, is to propose change in our school system.
The essence of the problem according to Postman and Weingartner is that schools and teachers have made the mistake of distinguishing between method and content and have emphasized content. The result has been that students have been told things which are not true and have been forced to believe that what they have been taught is relevant. This approach, contend the authors, must be dumped. We must listen rather to Marshall McLuhan who tells us that “the medium is the message,” that is, the most important thing is not what a teacher says but what he does. What is important is not what a student learns but how he learned it. The schools must not equip the student with all kinds of facts and figures and opinions of so-called authorities but must go about the business of giving the student a method that will enable him to survive and adjust to change. The most important thing in a classroom is not what is being taught but the environment. We must create a new classroom environment.
The method to be used to do this is what Postman and Weingartner call the inquiry method. Teachers must teach the art of asking questions. Students must be taught to not rely on authorities and textbooks but must be taught how to think for themselves. The new environment would not stress that learning is being told what happened but that learning is a happening in itself. The push is for an environment that encourages students to imitate the behavior of good learners. Confidence in their ability to learn, enjoyment of problem solving, a sense of relevance, independence of judgment, and flexibility are some of the characteristics of such people.
In addition, this environment must have teachers with the right attitudes. This is most crucial. The ideal teacher for these men would have the following characteristics: 1) He never tells his students what they ought to know. 2) He uses almost exclusively the method of questioning. 3) He avoids the Right Answer approach since there are many right answers. 4) He encourages student – student interaction rather than student-teacher interaction. 5) He rarely summarizes and concludes but leaves things open-ended. 6) He develops his lessons from student responses and from student-expressed needs. 7) He poses problems rather than solutions. 8) He measures success not in quantative but in behavioral terms.
The design of the new environment, then, would be to have a student who is taught to ask questions, to make his own definitions, to make his own meanings and a teacher who encourages and facilitates such learning. The teacher is a facilitator and not an instructor and the student is an active searcher rather than a passive receiver. The student must be equipped with a method to find answers to questions and problems which bother him. The student decides what is to be learned since obviously that is the only way that relevance will ever be attained.
That brings us to the original question of what is worth knowing. Postman and Weingartner conclude that the content of knowledge is not to be found in textbooks and course syllabi or in the opinions of so-called authorities. Rather, the content of learning ought to be determined by the student, the learner. He alone knows what he needs to know. What is worth knowing, then, depends upon who you are and where you are. The teacher, then, too, if he is to be effective, will have to zero in on these needs if his course is to be at all relevant.
What, then, do we make of this position, and how does it relate to us for we, too, need to answer this question of what is worth knowing.
First, let me make a positive comment about the book itself. To me, the book raises a question which must ever be before us: we also must be relevant in our Protestant Reformed education. We must be very aware of the needs of our students. One of the things which the authors condemn is knowledge for the sake of knowledge and we, too, would say, “Amen.” But that is where the similarity ends.
What is worth knowing for us, you see, can never be determined by us. We will always select the wrong thing. We need guidance and direction from elsewhere. Man must never be set up as the measure of things. Neither, then, may man determine what is ultimately worth knowing. What we need to know comes as a command from God in his scriptures, namely, know ME! That is not an arbitrary thing but is an absolute command. Thus, when Postman and Weingartner tell us that we can decide what is good for us to know and what will allow us to survive, they are dead wrong.
And that really is what our Protestant Reformed education is all about. Protestant Reformed teachers are indeed concerned, and must be, about how you know and
they are concerned with why you must know (because God commands) but they are also very much concerned with what you know. They realize that what a student really needs to know and the only thing worth knowing at all is the knowledge of God and that is what their business is, too. They impart to you the knowledge of God. All the effort expended in our schools is for that purpose alone: to tell you who God is and what He has done.
You clearly understand, then, do you not, that of ourselves we would never place this value upon the knowledge of God if it were not for the regenerating work of God in us. By grace we say that the knowledge of God is alone worth knowing and even more, by grace we say that the ultimate worth of this knowledge is life eternal (John 17:3).
This truth ought to give us tremendous impetus in our pursuit of knowledge here on earth. It ought to give you as students (and not as young people alone — we all ought to be continuing learners) the motivation to work diligently for we know that we are not concerned simply with the survival of our physical bodies but that we are concerned with acquiring that which is the most precious thing to us. That, after all, will be the essence of heaven. We will know God in the highest sense possible.
Students, then, and, for that matter, teachers as well, do not determine what is worth knowing. All such attempts must end as the attempt of Postman and Weingartner, in subjectivism and relativism. Teachers must give and students must willingly receive the what of the knowledge of God. And that is to be found in the scriptures and in the creation, in Gods revelation to us.
To say that television programming has a negative effect on the people who view it is to say nothing new. You have probably heard your minister mention from the pulpit things about television and its evil influence many times. And I know from experience that your teachers have done the same. It appears, however, that these warnings have in many cases fallen on deaf ears. We say “Yea, yea” but do nothing about it. We think we have done enough if we recognize the problem.
The purpose of this article, you understand, is not to tell you or anyone else what to watch on television. I do not care to become involved in legislating that. What I wish to do, however, is to call attention to the nature of the problem and its seriousness and to suggest that this question has some urgency about it. Television has become worse, you see, not better. It is time, I think, that we see behind the apparent innocency of “Sesame Street” and “The Brady Bunch” and recognize that the majority of current television programming is unsuitable to the Christian.
It is interesting to note that we are not the only ones who are concerned about television programming. Television programming is presently getting quite a going over on the national scene by members of Congress and other concerned groups. Pressure is being applied to the networks to clean up their mess. And, I think that you will see that we do well to pay careful attention to what these groups and individuals have to say. While they do not correctly analyze the problem, there is research available that has been done as a result of the concern of these people.
One of the main concerns of these people is the violence — murders, beatings, rapes — which is so prevalent in current programming. That there are a tremendous number of acts of violence is difficult to deny. Recent research regarding the number of acts of violence on television makes one shudder. Here are some of the facts as quoted by Mr. Richard L. Tobin, “Communications” editor of Saturday Review, who has long been outspoken about this problem:
In a recent survey, Christian Science Monitor staff members recorded, in seventy-four hours of prime time viewing during one week, 217 incidents and threats of violence and 125 killings and murders in full view of the video audience. This is a slight increase over the number of violent incidents tabulated in a similar Monitor survey in 1968 despite the networks public promises without end that violence on television would be reduced.
Saturday Review, January 8, 1972
One could cite still more studies of this sort but all essentially say the same thing — the number of violent acts contained in current television programming is appalling. These facts in themselves are very disturbing but couple this with the fact that television viewing among children is increasing rather than decreasing and we have reason to be more disturbed still. According to Dr. Looney of the University of Arizona, the average prekindergarten child spends more than 60 per cent of his waking time before a television set. By the time he goes to kindergarten the child will have devoted more hours to watching television than a student spends in four years of college classes. As a matter of record, the Arizona TV studies have found that by the age of fourteen a child has seen 18,000 human beings killed on television.
Now all of this viewing of violence has an effect and that is why these people are upset. Senator John Pastore of Rhode Island published in 1969 a report intimating that there may be a relationship between viewing of violent acts and the rising crime rate and more recently the U.S. Surgeon General released the findings of a group of psychologists whose research led them to the conclusion that the viewing of violent acts does result in violent behavior in aggression-prone people. We have referred above to Dr. Looney who in a recent speech to the American Academy of Pediatrics urged the medical profession to wake up to the fact that research into the effect of television viewing is long overdue.
As I mentioned above, we do well if we seriously consider this research. We would be foolish to think that somehow we are immune to similar effects. But I say this with some qualification. I submit that we, too, ought to be alarmed about the facts cited above. But, the reason for the concern of people like Senator Pastore and Dr. Looney and Richard Tobin is based upon psychological and sociological concerns. Our concern must go much deeper than that. The question for us becomes a moral-ethical one. Is it right for us to unnecessarily view all of this violence? What does this do to your spiritual character?
Because I view the question to be of this nature, I am concerned about violence on television. I am even concerned about the psychological and sociological effects which result from viewing this violence. But that is not my main concern. Television viewing,
I believe, has made serious inroads into our spiritual lives — subtly, unconsciously almost, television has taken its toll. What then has really happened to us and continues to happen as long as we persist in viewing?
Certainly, one of the things that has happened is that we have become very insensitive to brutality and violence. They have become commonplace and the feelings of revulsion and shock are mostly gone. Richard Tobin in a March 14, 1970 editorial in Saturday Review draws a parallel to ancient Rome where little by little the most unspeakable torments that can be inflicted on the human body were gradually exposed to public view in the Coliseum and other public arenas to satisfy an ever increasing public appetite for sadistic spectacle. Television networks have simply taken the legwork out of it. We need only walk across the room to satisfy our appetite. One could argue very convincingly in this regard about professional athletics, particularly football and boxing.
A second effect — harmful, too, just like the first — which concerns me is that
television has become a mental pacifier for us. One’s intellect certainly is not stimulated or nourished by the fare delivered on television. In addition, television viewing has taken the place of reading. Now you may argue that television is a very effective teaching device and I would agree but you must remember that neither the Bible nor the great Christian books stand much chance of being televised. It is that about which I am concerned. Television viewing has deprived us of the time that we ought to be spending in serious reading and serious study. This, too, will eventually take its toll if we do not act to change the situation.
In the final analysis, I think that what we are seeing is that we are very subtly developing an insensitivity to sin. Certainly we cannot agree with the morality and the values which television provides. What we have to see in this regard is that every program presents to us a message; it says something to us; it does not enter our homes as a neutral nothingness which we can treat as we see fit.
There is still more, however. We have become desensitized in other areas as well. Take, for example, the whole drama question. Drama has suddenly become very proper as long as it occurs in a half-hour family movie called “The Brady Bunch”. It is drama; is it not? It is acting, is it not? Have we been lulled to sleep by the seemingly innocent comedy of these productions? That makes us horribly inconsistent on the whole movie question, does it not? It ought not surprise us then that you as young people of the church wonder about the consistency of such a stand. Certainly the difference cannot be the place in which this drama occurs, whether at home or in the theatre.
Our homes, too, have felt the effect of television programming. Fathers and mothers have used the television set as a convenient babysitter. It keeps the kids quiet for a little while. We ought to consider, however, to whom we have entrusted their care and their attention. They are being instructed, they are being fed a message, while they quietly sit there.
You see, then, that I consider the problem to be serious because the nature of the problem is serious. I believe that it calls for some very serious soul-searching on our part. It is time to critically analyze what is being sent to us through television programming.
What do I propose to do about it? I suppose we could hold a Protestant Reformed garage sale advertising a couple hundred good used television sets. But you and I know that that is not the answer. Neither am I proposing that we create a Protestant Reformed “index” of television
programs. What I do suggest, however, is that you exercise the sanctifying grace which God has given you so that some control can be exercised over this machine and what it presents. I guess what I am suggesting is that in this “turned on” age we ourselves ought to be a whole lot more “turned off” by what we see coming at us in current television programming.
Man, in sinful pride, thought to elevate himself above God. He thought that by disobeying the Lord’s command he too could know good and evil. He fell and great was his fall. He became a lowly, despicable, sinful creature whose whole life was enmity against God. In his wretched state he foolishly imagines himself, even today, to be very important. He lifts himself up in haughty pride and defies the living God as Goliath of old. He shakes his fist in the face of Almighty God provoking Him with his rebelliousness. Jehovah sitting in the heavens laughs and holds him in derision. What an awful laughter that must be. How horrible to be the cause and object of that laughter. It means horrible blackness; unquenchable thirst: continuous, never ending burning; everlasting hell fire. In pride man, elevating himself above God, is cast into lowest perdition.
Man’s elevator “pride” fails miserably. In time he may appear successful in his attempts to elevate himself but eternally he is brought low. God’s elevator “humility” works in quite the opposite way.
Christ told his disciples in Matthew 23:72, “Whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased, and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.” In Isaiah 57:15 we read “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” “God,” according to Rev. G. Vos (see his meditation October 15, 1947: volume 34 of the Standard Bearer) “dwelleth in two places. First, he dwelleth in His Holy Place …. But there is another place where God loves to dwell, and that is His dwelling in a created place which He has reserved for Himself. It is with the contrite and humble spirit of man. . . . And a contrite spirit is a spirit that is broken, crushed, unspeakably sad and sorrowful as a consequence of his fall from God.” Such a person God will elevate to highest heaven to live everlastingly with Him.
Humility is a non-human virtue. Natural man is the very opposite. He is very proud. Humility is of such a nature that the minute you think you have attained it you have lost it. Wicked man even turns the virtue of humility into an object of pride. Napoleon once called it “the greatest ornament of an illustrious life which goes a great way in the character of die most exalted princes.” At the final judgment when every man will face the righteous judge of heaven and earth, each, the wicked and righteous alike, will be forced to confess that never in his whole life was he ever humble. It is impossible for man to attain the virtue of humility no matter how earnestly he strives for it. And yet God requires of us that we walk humbly.
True humility is God given. He is the one that brings low in order that he might also exalt. David suffered deep humiliation. He disobeyed God by going to live in the land of the Philistines. God found him out and brought him low by the arm of the Amalekite avengers. The purpose of this humiliation was to make David aware of his sin in leaving the inheritance of the Lord. The result was that David offered a broken and contrite spirit of repentance to God. God forgave him and exalted him as ruler of His people. God humbles His own because he loves them. Consider also that God suffered His own Son to be humiliated here on this earth so that we with Him might be elevated to sit at His right hand.
When the believing child of God walks through the Valley of Humiliation and faces the dreadful apollyons of this and the nether worlds he is being led unerringly by the Lord Himself. Only a regenerated child of God will be led through this Valley for he alone possesses humility. It is, however, a virtue that is as far away from his natural reach as is salvation itself. As only the Lord is able to work regeneration so only the Lord is able to produce true godly humility in one of His creatures. That humility which He originates is ultimately for His own pleasure and enjoyment.
Only the child of God is humble. He reveals his humility first of all and foremost to God. He submits himself willingly to the preaching of the Word and anxiously longs for that eternal day of glory with the Lord God. He detests his sins and abhors that which is evil. He is like the publican who prostrated himself before Almighty God and cried, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” He will not be anxious to display his humility before men because he will never be able in good conscience to consider himself humble. He will continuously petition the Most High for humility and bear adversity patiently knowing and believing that God is answering his prayer for humility. He will be content with that which the Lord has given him.
Humility is truly God s elevator. Through the deep way of humiliation he exalts His own.
He that is down needs fear no fall, lie that is low no pride,
He that is humble ever shall Have God to be his guide.
The Shepherd Boy’s Song Pilgrim’s Progress John Bunyan
If you are at all familiar with any or all of the above contemporaneous persons, you might wonder how they got thrown together to form the subject of this article. No, they did not serve together at a symposium nor do they function on some prominent national committee. They were thrown together at me in the course of a week. (That is one of the marvels of modern communication. It makes possible combinations heretofore unimaginable.) Billy Graham, the fundamentalistic Baptist preacher came to me from Oakland California; Oral Roberts, the faith healer and university president came to me from Honolulu; and sandwiched in between was William Ewald, an existentialistic city planner who came to me from the campus of a local college. At first sight, they appear to have very little in common, but it struck me as I listened to them that they were all talking about a common theme.
Let me review for a moment the things that I heard them say. Billy Graham made his familiar plea for the acceptance of Jesus Christ. He talked about sin; he talked about the moral degeneracy of our nation. And, he talked about the return of Jesus Christ to this earth. He did so, however, in typical premillenarian fashion. The church will be spared those awful days of tribulation and the upshot of the whole thing was that if you, too, wished to escape that awful torture, you had better accept Jesus today. Now this all sounds nice and is very appealing to human nature (who, after all, wants to be tormented) but there is no truth in it at all. You are familiar, no doubt, with that premillenarian position. If not, you can read all about it in Rev. H. Hoeskema’s book Behold, He Cometh!
Then there was Oral Roberts. He did not practice any of his magical gifts of healing on the television special that I watched. As a matter of fact, I wondered whether I really had the right program. There was nothing religious or sacred about what I first saw: Hawaiian music, Don Ho and his gang, secular to the very core. The disturbing thing to me is that it was planned that way. He had me turned in, you see. He had caught my attention. Then came the Oral Roberts message. And, he talked about, of all things, the coming of the antichrist. Strange, too, he had it all right. I detected nothing of the premillenarian favor of Billy Graham. Had I heard only that part of his program I would have had to say: “That’s right, Pastor Roberts, you’ve got that part straight.” And he did. But, then, why criticize, you say? Do we always have to find something wrong with everybody. I can only reply: “No, but if he’s wrong, let’s not be afraid to call it wrong.” And, that is what I believe Oral Roberts to be: dead wrong. But why? He did not, you see, have the spiritual discernment to see that the two parts of his program did not fit together. On the one hand, he talked correctly about the antichrist; he correctly identified him. But on the other hand, he failed to see just exactly how this antichrist would come. The antichrist is going to do exactly what Oral Roberts did, he is going to thoroughly compromise the secular and the sacred. He is going to wed Athens and Jerusalem and the final result will be that one, unless he has the discernment given him by the Spirit, will not be able to discern between the two. Taken as a whole, then, Oral Roberts really did not understand the future.
Finally, there was William Ewald. Educated, author of five books, and currently a city planner, he, too, offered his insight into the future. He was very much concerned with the future of mankind, of man’s ability to survive, especially in the next fifty years. He came to us because he felt that, for a large part, educational institutions were not with it. They were not really in tune with the modern age. It was his belief that we were still educating people to live in the 1940’s and earlier. In effect, what he suggested was that if man is to endure the next fifty years, he is going to have to change a great deal. And, the conclusion to the whole matter was that he must become existential. In short, man must throw off all of the encumbrances of the absolute, everything must become relative. Morality, ethics, mores, you name it must not be guided and determined by any kind of absolute, inviolable code but must be subject to change and modification to fit the needs of modern society. His concern for the future was motivated by his desire to survive. He was interested in his own security. Man, after all, wants to live forever at any cost so this position ought not surprise us a great deal.
You see, then, that we have three viewpoints juxtaposed indiscriminately but all nevertheless with a common theme and concern: how are we going to make it in the future?
But you ask, what is the purpose of all this? Why bring it up? These ideas are, after all, very strange and remote. The Christian might often wish that such were the case. Many times, I think, the Christian would opt for the isolated don’t-bother-me-with-that-stuff position. We ought not be so naïve, however. The Bible clearly tells us that the life of the Christian is one of one continuous struggle and battle. My concern, then, is that we are adequately prepared to fight. And, this is especially true of younger people. You need not expect calm and serene days in the future. Maybe you are tired and weary of hearing such remarks. Maybe so, but do not discount them lightly. The things that you hear about your future life are not myth nor are they based on wild speculation. Scripture and the experience of older saints witness to these very things. So, the directive comes: prepare yourself. My real concern, then, is with our ability to refute these ideas. Are we going to take the attitude that if we wait long enough, most of these things will eventually slide by me, or, are we going to prepare ourselves to fight in the defense of our faith and our heritage? The only answer to the type of thinking illustrated above is the truth of scripture. Question is, then, are you prepared to give that answer?
Originally Published in:
Vol. 31 No. 7 November 1971
It has been said many times that in order to be a minister in the Protestant Reformed Churches, one must be willing into to do an immense amount of work. If possible, this could yet be considered an understatement. Consider for a moment what we expect this man to be and what we expect him to do. He must be “on call” 24 hours a day seven days a week (haven’t we all commiserated with the poor M.D. who has such rotten hours and such a horrible work schedule?). We expect him, furthermore, to be our psychologist, our confidant, and our friend. We expect him to be a junior accountant, a financier, at times a janitor, and at times an innkeeper. He must be a model in his walk, he must raise a model family. All eyes are upon him and his family and his decisions tend to have congregational impact. How many of us have not heard the familiar statement, “If the domine’s kids can do it, I guess you can, too.”
But, you say, this is the way it must be and maybe he himself wants it this way. Maybe, as a minister he does not want to give up any of the things that constitute his job. Perhaps.
I think that you will agree, however, that the life of a minister is most difficult. I am close enough to it to support that fact. What I wish to bring to you is that we, as his parishioners, had better not unnecessarily add to his difficult labor. We ought, rather, to seek to make him and his family just as comfortable and at ease as we possibly can.
A few suggestions as to how we might accomplish this might be in order.
We ought first to see that he does not have any financial worries. He and his family ought to be well-provided for. As someone once put it to me, “We ought not think that we can live in palaces and that the minister can live in a pig sty.” The minister should not have to sit in his study and worry about his family budget.
We ought to see further that he and his family are made to feel “at home” in our congregation. Socially at home. We ought to invite them to our homes and share our lives with them. We ought to take the initiative here. A minister’s life is lonely enough; he should not have to crack the social ice.
But, far more important that seeing that the minister is financially solvent and socially comfortable is our obligation to exhibit a genuine appreciation for the minister as a man, for his work, and for his office. He comes, after all, to serve us. He comes to us as a pastor, as a shepherd of us, the sheep. God has chosen him to feed us. He is it that brings us nourishment for our souls. We cannot do without him. Romans 10 testifies to that fact. His work is vital and necessary to our spiritual well-being. Appreciation and love ought to flow from us. We ought not let the fact that he is indeed a mere man detract from this appreciation. At times, we can be very critical of the man, of his personality and demeanor. You have probably heard of the cook book entitled 1001 Ways to Fix Hamburger; I get the feeling sometimes that we are trying to write one of our own which might bear the title of 1001 Ways to Serve the Preacher. This should not be our attitude. Rather, we should thank God for what he does for us through this man, the preacher.
Appreciation, however, of the minister’s office and his work is not enough. We must also respect him and his office. We ought not make light of him or of what he ways. Why is this so? He comes to us by divide appointment and with the authority of Jesus Christ. Now, I am not advocating that we must bow humbly before the human presence of a minister. What I am saying, however, is that we ought to treat him with honor and respect. He comes to us as an ambassador of Jesus Christ. To make fun of a minister, to speak to him in a way that is in any bit disrespectful is serious. Too often, I am afraid, the commentary reads the other way. How about it? How do you talk to him? How do you talk about him? How do you behave for him? Do you receive him as one who has been divinely appointed and divinely vested with the authority of Christ?
The sum of the matter is this: God has graciously provided us with the hard-working, dedicated ministers of the gospel. They have been divinely called, divinely equipped, and divinely sent. Receive them as such. And, by all means, thank God for them.
Originally Published in:
Vol. 31 No. 3 May 1971
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