One important thing that I learned in school this year is how the church should be separate from unbelievers.
During World War II, the U.S. government put out a series of propaganda films called “Why We fight.” Perhaps this article is a bit of propaganda for our Christian schools. And the “propaganda” is very effective as it comes from the pens of the students themselves (the junior high of South Holland P.R.C.S.).
We must always have the watchmen of truth, love, wisdom, and necessity at the door of our mouth (from a chapel speech by one of our pastors, KH)
You can’t judge people by how they look or how popular they are. You should look at what people are like on the inside, because that’s what God looks at.
But these students have also learned the driving force behind all our actions, as this student points out.
We must treat fellow Christians with love and only with love. Everything we say and do must be in total love, as Christ loves us. We must follow his example.
The following students have learned some important classroom lessons about authority, attitudes, participation, responsibility and self-discipline. All of these are important for the whole of the Christian life. I quote:
It’s important to have a good attitude in class, otherwise nobody’s going to like you, or you could get kicked out of class.
One of the most important things that I learned this year was how to be a good participant in class.
The teacher is supreme. I am under the teacher.
I used to be one of the most irresponsible people I could think of. I’m not anymore.
One of the most important lessons I learned this year is how to discipline myself in my school work.
Striking, is it not, that most of these students remember underlying principles of Christian scholarship, rather than specific academic concepts? Nevertheless, the mundane lessons are important too.
I think when we took photography, I learned a lot. I would like to be an underwater photographer.
One of the most important things I learned this year was how to figure out bills on a credit card. I learned this in math and I enjoyed it.
I learned more about nouns, pronouns, verbs, and verbals. I really am starting to understand it. It’s helping me in my speech today, and it will help my speech in the future.
Whether the lessons learned are mundane or sublime, the Lord graciously uses them to make stewards from sluggards, and saints from sinners. Perhaps, then, the most important principle we can teach our scholars is gratitude to God. Is that not the essence of the Christian life? To hear students express this gratitude makes all the headaches of teaching worth while.
The most important thing I have learned this year is to appreciate the Christian education that we receive here.
Karen is a teacher in the South Holland Protestant Reformed Christian School.
Go back in time approximately two millennia, and in doing so, erase from your mind all the knowledge the church has gained as she has developed the faith once given by her Lord. Wipe from your memory all you know about eschatology (doctrine of last times), ecclesiology (doctrine of the church), soteriology (doctrine of salvation), and finally Christology. Then you will stand in the shoes of the early church and understand her consternation as she struggled to comprehend and express the great richness and complexity of Christianity.
The church of the 4th century embraced her risen and ascended Christ, and even bore His name, but as yet had not fully developed what she believed concerning her Savior, and thus had very little vocabulary to express her faith.
One of the first questions that faced the early church concerned the essence of Christ. To some of these early Christians, it seemed to be a reversion to the polytheism of paganism to call Christ God. And while Scripture clearly states that Jesus is God, it does not supply the specific terminology to express how Jesus is God and the Father is God, and yet these are only one God.
In the uncertainty of these times, a man named Arius began to teach that while Christ is divine, He is not eternal, and while He is the highest of all creatures, He nevertheless had been created. Thus, Christ is of a different substance and essence from God the Father. He supported his position by appealing to passages that emphasize the humanity of Christ such as Mark 13:32, “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.”
The more perceptive in the church recognized Arius’ denial of Christ’s godhead as a denial of Christ’s work of salvation. For how can a mere creature save the rest of creation from the curse of sin? To deny Christ’s godhead was to destroy the heart of Christianity itself. Thus, these defenders of orthodoxy insisted that Christ is God, eternal not created, of the same substance and essence as the Father. The gospel of John, with such passages as “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” provided the basis for their defense of Christ’s godhead.
Now the emperor Constantine, who had embraced Christianity as an alternative way to unify the rambling Roman Empire, was dismayed by this dispute over “technicalities.” In 325, therefore, he called delegates from all over the empire to Nicea, where he would preside over a discussion on the matter.
As in most disputes, there were three viewpoints: the liberal one of Arius and his followers, the orthodox one as presented by Bishop Alexander, and the position of compromise as supported by one Eusebius. Though there was a very bitter dispute that lasted many days, orthodoxy prevailed and provided some of the first vocabulary in explanation of the person of Christ:
I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all the worlds, God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten, not made, being of one essence with the Father.
The church continued to wrestle with the issue of Christ’s person and nature. It was not until the 5th century when the Athanasian Creed was written, that the profound truth of the trinity was expressed in its entirety—that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and yet not three gods, but one God.
You would think that the matter would rest there, but it arose again during the days of John Calvin with a certain Servetus who claimed Jesus was a son of God, but not the Son of God, thus putting Christ on a par with the rest of God’s elect children. And there are those today yet, who fall into the same error as Arius, explicitly, by denying Christ’s deity, or implicitly, by denying the virgin birth.
While all around us we see the creeds reworded or discarded, they continue to provide us with a hard-won vocabulary that expresses the heart of the Christian faith. And yet with all our creeds and doctrines we still say with the old church father, “Man can perceive only the hem of the garment of the triune God: the cherubim cover the rest with their wings.”
Imagine that you are sitting in school, not just in any school, but in the school of God Himself. Imagine your teacher is the Holy Spirit, and that in front of you on the desk is your textbook, the Bible. The classes are truly inspiring as your teacher leads you from page to page, and reveals to you God’s plan for His creation and His creatures. As you leave class, you look eagerly at the events and people around you to see how God’s great, all- encompassing plan is being carried out. The execution of this plan, God’s plan, is history – no, HIS-story.
What is this plan that is revealed in the Bible and executed in history? It begins and ends with Christ, so that all people, from Adam to Bill Clinton, and all events, from the Great Flood to Desert Storm, are used to bring about the coming of Christ and His kingdom.
Now Jesus Himself told us that His kingdom is not of this world. So when you study the rise and fall of the kingdoms of this world, whether it be Rome or the United States, remember their story is not the real story. In fact, their only significance is that they hasten and serve the realization of Christ’s heavenly kingdom.
When you study the movers and shakers, whether it be Hitler, or Betsy Ross, remember that their hearts are in the Lord’s hands and He turns them where He wills. He puts them to work as servants of the KING OF KINGS.
When you memorize important dates, whether it be 1492, or 1924, remember that God is also measuring time, and that His clock is quickly winding down.
So you see, when you study history, you aren’t studying man’s story, or the story of this earth, but you are studying His-story – the story of His comings to establish and realize His kingdom. Aren’t you fascinated? For the story of His first coming can be seen in “ancient history”, the story of His second is unfolding before our very eyes! It is “current events”!
But before Christ can come again and fully realize His kingdom, the citizens of that kingdom must be gathered. Thus, while all events and people work for Christ’s kingdom, at the same time they serve the gathering of the kingdom’s citizens.
Can you find the church’s story amid the confusing mass of dates, events, and people? Do you know where she was when Hammurabi was putting together his great code of laws? Was she there when Khufu was building his great pyramid? Can you find her at Mohammed’s birth, or during the turmoil of the French Revolution? Do you see her grieve over her dead as brothers slaughtered each other in the American Civil War? Can you find her among the corpses at Auschwitz? Rejoice in her victories, be comforted as she is ministered to by angels and prophets, grieve over her narrowness and cowardice, suffer with her when she is persecuted, listen for her still, small voice during godless rebellion, for she can be seen and heard throughout all of time.
So you see, when you study His-story you are studying the story of Christ’s catholic church as all events and people revolve around her and her Christ.
Next time you sit in a history class, whether formal or informal, remember you are students of God’s plan as executed in time, you are students of Christ’s comings, you are students of the story of His church. Make His-story yours.
*Karen Hanko is a Junior High teacher in the Prot. Ref. School of South Holland.
Letter to Editor by Crystal Kooienga
I am writing to express my disappointment in the article “Is Right to Life Right?” in the December 1990 issue of the Beacon Lights.
I think the most glaring mistake that the writer makes is her belief that Right to Life condones violence and disrespect for those placed in authority over us by God. On page 21 of the 1989 Right to Life of Michigan’s Conference Book there is a section concerning Civil Disobedience. I quote:
“Right to Life of Michigan, a non-profit corporation and its affiliates have decided through the years of consensus planning to focus their energies and resources on education, legislative lobbying activities and political action to achieve our goals. We have always opposed, and continue to oppose actions that are contrary to the law.” And later on: “Right to Life of Michigan and its affiliates reaffirm their dedication to lawful efforts to protect the unborn and have rejected any Right to Life participation in civil disobedience.”
I also disagree with the writer’s argument that by supporting Right to Life, we are unequally yoking ourselves together with unbelievers. God uses so many means for His good. The world is here to serve the church. If by supporting Right to Life, or giving money to cancer research or donating to the Salvation Army we can help others, Jesus tells us that “inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Matt. 25:40. I know that all the people who support Right to Life are not children of God, I don’t feel I’m yoking myself with them, but if they can be used to fight this sinful practice – fine; the Lord uses sinful means for His purpose. There are some who break the law in their misguided zeal against what they see as only a civil or moral wrong – not as a sin against God. This behavior is not what supporters of Right to Life are contributing to. When I donate to Right to Life, I see it as a means to fight an evil which each of us individually must face. The author of the article felt that we should fight the evil of abortion through “uniting as the church of Christ to preach the Word…from the pulpit, in the printed page, and over the radio.” That is the church’s responsibility, but I don’t think that is enough for us as individuals (it’s too easy for us to leave it up to our ministers!). I don’t think that reaches the young pregnant girl considering aborting her baby. Right to Life emphasizes educating people against abortion. They inform the public concerning those in political power who are against abortion. When election time comes, I am happy to have information they give me on where the candidates stand on the issue of abortion (usually the anti-abortion candidates are the most conservative overall).
In closing, I would like to caution those, such as the writer of this article, who would leave the taking of action on important issues such as abortion only to those who preach and teach in our churches. Each of us is responsible for the means God has blessed us with. We will be asked by God to account for how we used what He gave us. It makes me tremble to think of standing before His throne and seeing all the times I failed to do what I could have or should have done. Matt. 25:45, 46 “Then shall he answer them saying, Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.”
Letter to Editor by Dale and Laura Miedema
We would like to respond to the article which the Beacon Lights printed in the December 1990 issue titled “Is Right to Life Right?” We wish to address not only the author, but this general attitude toward pro-life movements, in particular RTL. The uninformed opinion expressed in this article seems to prevail among many.
There is no disagreement in regard to the evil of abortion so we will go on from this common ground. It is the opinion of the author of the aforementioned article and of others that “joining the RTL is not the Christian’s calling in his obligation to condemn the evils of abortion.” We believe God calls us beyond simply “condemning the evils’ of abortion.” We read in Proverbs 24:11, 12, “If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain: If thou sayest, Behold we knew it not, doth not He that pondereth the heart consider it? and He that keepeth thy soul, doth not He know it? and shall not He render to every man according to his works?” God calls us to action not only in words, but deeds also. RTL is one of several local agencies which we as active Christians can choose to use as a tool in our attempt to make an impact against the evils of abortion.
Many people are very uninformed concerning RTL policies in regard to violence and force. We quote directly from RTL of Michigan policy statements. “It is essential that RTL of Michigan, Its affiliates and members, avoid any involvement whatsoever of the organization in any of the following activities: 1. Use of RTL name or designation of individual participants in civil disobedience activities as members or leaders of RTL. 2. Participation in or support for civil disobedience or other unlawful activities as RTL affiliates or representatives. 3. Raising money as RTL affiliates or representatives or providing RTL funds or assistance to any group involved in civil disobedience. 4. Use of RTL membership or mailing lists for any activity involving groups involved in civil disobedience or other unlawful activities. Recent bombing and arson in other parts of the nation against abortion facilities concern RTL of Michigan. To counter violence with violence is against our principles. Pro-lifers have consistently worked peacefully through the democratic process in order to reach our goal – the end of violence within clinic walls. We are a peaceful movement.” The fact that incidences of violence or unlawfulness do occur cannot be attributed to RTL and we must keep in mind the media’s eagerness to expose these incidences and create a bigger scene than it warrants.
The Goal and Purpose of RTL of Michigan is: “We strive to achieve the passage and ratification of a Human Life Amendment, to educate the people on identified RTL issues, to motivate them to action, to encourage community support for and participation in programs that foster respect for human life and to promote and support pro-life candidates and legislation. We work on behalf of the defenseless human beings, born and unborn.”
The article in question also stated concern that “RTL is becoming increasingly Humanistic.” We are of the opinion that because RTL does not affiliate with any particular religious group, this is to our benefit and one more reason this organization can be of use to us. As we are called to exercise our rights as citizens of the U.S. government; so, we can use organizations such as RTL to assist us in our calling before God to assist the unborn & women in crisis and now increasingly Euthanasia.
Finally, in response to the question “How then should we as Christians fight the evils of abortion?” we can fully agree with the author’s response that the preaching of God’s word is a powerful weapon. However, by no means should we stop at preaching alone. Prayer is an extremely powerful gift to us from our heavenly Father and should not be underestimated or forgotten. As we see in I John 3:16-18 “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.” Our actions are equally as important. Our lack of action speaks louder than words. Our circumstances today have been compared to, and rightfully so, living near Dachau during World War II and doing nothing. It is very easy to be complacent and find excuse for inaction, but God’s word calls us to definite action. In closing we once again turn to God’s Holy word in Matthew 25:34-40 “Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in; Naked and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer Him saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, Ye have done it unto me.
Response by Karen Hanko
I was very appreciative of the tone of deep concern that was evident in the replies to my article. I hear the arguments of the author with understanding and sympathy. I would like to stress that I, too, (as all of us should) have struggled with how I as a Christian can best condemn the evils of abortion. I, too, tremble to think of standing before our Lord at the end of time, knowing I stood by and watched the murder of innocent unborn and never said or did anything. However, I still remain convinced that joining RTL is not the way to combat this great evil.
Let me clarify a few things first. When I said RTL uses force (that was a bad choice of words), I did not mean violence as such. What I meant by force was “a show of human might,” i.e. picket lines, demonstrations, lobbying, etc. I fail to see how a pregnant girl about to abort her baby, or a congressman about to vote “yes” on a law allowing abortion can be truly changed by a mere show of human might. He or she can only be changed by the message of the gospel. RTL is ultimately doomed to failure because it fights abortion with a view to mere moral reform, and does so by a mere show of human might and strength. We as God’s people do not merely seek to make this world a better place in which to live, but seek the higher goal of the salvation of Christ’s church. And that is why we use different tactics, that is, the preaching of the Word. “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit saith the Lord of Hosts” Zech. 4:6.
This is the basic humanism of RTL – a goal of mere moral reform rather than true salvation, and methods that are based on mere human strength. I feel that becoming a member of RTL would be an affirmation of this humanistic creed. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if we as Christian members of RTL would be strongly opposed from within the organization if we attempted to push a Biblical basis rather than a civil, humanistic one for the fight against abortion. In reality, this has already been the experience of someone I know. Certainly, as one of the letters suggests, God uses wicked means to advance the cause of His kingdom, but God used even Dachau to advance the cause of His kingdom. Does that mean we should have supported and even joined in the horrible murder that went on there, hoping that God would use us to further His Kingdom!?! I reaffirm my claim that RTL is an unscriptural organization, though I do not deny the presence of God’s people in the organization. They alone can answer before God for their actions.
Finally, I can understand and appreciate the authors’ concern that the issues of abortion be left to our ministers, and that the rest of us stand by and do nothing. I firmly reject that idea. But I think we all need to be reminded that we must not minimize the power of God’s Word. We ourselves cannot comprehend its power as it reaches every corner of the world. We must also remember that though the official preaching of the Word may be limited to our ministers, there are countless other ways that each of us can and must bring the Word. I think of letters to congressmen, letters to the President, letters to the editor of the local press and various magazines, and then of course, the power of our own personal, Christian witness as we come into contact with others. May God give us grace in this daily battle against the powers of darkness, and may each of us stand before our Lord at the end of time with a clear conscience and hear the blessed words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant…Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”
Cal Thomas, moderator of the 1986 Americans United for Life conference in Chicago, summarized the rising confidence of the prolife movement stating that “the momentum is inexorably in the direction of the prolife side.” The success of the prolife movement has continued in spite of the failure of the Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs. Wade. In spite of the success of the prolife movement, joining Right to Life is not the answer to the problem of abortion.
It is not my purpose, however, to condone the evil of abortion. In Britain, the United States, and Australia, one child out of every three or four conceived is deliberately put to death in the womb. Between 1973 – when the Supreme Court ruled that abortion was legal – and 1983, as many as fifteen million unborn died in the United States. The number of babies killed through abortion in four months is approximately equal to the number of Americans killed in World War II. The book Open Your Mouth for the Dumb sums it up well, “The womb has become more deadly than the battlefield.”
The Right to Life members have been in the front lines of the battle against abortion. Their ultimate goal is to persuade the Supreme Court to rule that abortion is illegal so that the murder of innocent children may be stopped. This is a worthy and proper goal. However, it is my firm belief that joining the Right to Life organization is not the Christian’s calling in his obligation to condemn the evils of abortion.
Why is joining the Right to Life organization wrong?
The view of the Right to Life people is becoming increasingly humanistic. Randy Frame, writer for Christianity Today said, “Another reason for the prolife movement’s growing confidence is its broadening base of support. No longer can it be considered exclusively religious in motivation. In fact, two of the five major speakers at last month’s (October, 1986, KH) AUL conference, syndicated columnist Nat Henthoff, and physician Bernard Nathanson, are avowed atheists. However, they are among an increasing number who see abortion not as a strictly moral issue, but as an issue of civil rights for unborn humans.”
Another objection to joining this organization is the fact that the Right to Life people use force in their attempt to get legislation passed against abortion. We as citizens of the United States are not required to obey the government if it passes laws that conflict with the law of God, but we must always submit, even in our disobedience. Romans 13:1 says “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.”
Because the Right to Life organization is wrong in these ways, joining the Right to Life would be joining an unscriptural organization. We should remember the words of Paul to the Corinthians in his second epistle, chapter 6:14, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?”
How then should we as Christians fight the evils of abortion? Chiefly by uniting as the Church of Christ to preach the Word. And what a powerful Word it is, for the simple reason that it is the Word of God and not of man. May God use our witness as it goes out from the pulpit, in the printed page, and over the radio to be a light in the darkness of the present days.
The issue of sovereign and particular grace has been an issue since the time of Augustine. Though always present, this issue came to a head again during the time of the Reformation and was one of the main issues of the Reformation. The fact that this issue of sovereign and particular grace came to a head again during the time of the Synod of Dordt proves that Satan never gives up the battle to make the Church his ally.
God in His Word exhorts us to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints’’ (Jude 3). This exhortation is for the Church of all time. In 1924, when the issue of sovereign and particular grace again came to a head, there were saints who earnestly contended for that faith. This led to the break from the Christian Reformed Church and the founding of our own Protestant Reformed Churches. It is obvious, therefore, that our Churches stand in the line of the Reformation, of Calvin and of Dordt and are the true Church of the Reformation, even though we are only a small part of the Church universal.
The Synod of the Christian Reformed Church, which met every two years, met in June of 1924. On the 18th of June the Synod adopted the three points of common grace. These three points said that God has a favorable attitude toward all men, that there is a restraint of sin in the life of man and of society in general because of the work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts, and that the unregenerate, though incapable of spiritual good, are able to perform civic good. The Christian Reformed Church had departed from the truths of the Scriptures.
The Reverends Hoeksema, Danhof, and Ophoff and their consistories had been strongly opposed to these three points before the Synod met and had expressed their opposition by written pamphlets and by simply refusing to preach the three points of common grace. The Synod was aware of this opposition and a committee advised Synod to admonish Danhof and Hoeksema and demand from them that they promise to abide by the three points and refrain from making propaganda for their dissenting views regarding the three points. If they did not, they would be disciplined. Synod did not accept this advice.
In August of 1924, Classis Grand Rapids East informed the Consistory of Eastern Avenue that their minister, Rev. Hoeksema, had to sign the three points of common grace. This he refused to do. A special meeting was held by Classis from November 19 – December 12 to deal with the matter of the Eastern Avenue Church and Rev. Hoeksema.
On December 9, 1924, the Consistory of Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church was deposed and Rev. Hoeksema suspended because of their refusal to abide by the decision of Synod with respect to the three points.
On January 24, 1925, Classis Grand Rapids West deposed and suspended the Reverends Ophoff and Danhof and their consistories. The break was sealed. Even though these ministers had appealed their case to the Synod of 1926, this appeal was ignored by the Synod of 1926 and by that time the Protestant Reformed denomination was well established.
On January 29, 1925, Rev. Hoeksema and the Consistory of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church, Rev. Ophoff and the Consistory of the Hope Christian Reformed Church, and Rev. Danhof and the Consistory of First Kalamazoo Christian Reformed Church met in the basement of Eastern Avenue Church of Grand Rapids, Michigan. They appointed a committee to consider the matter of organization and outline a program for future action.
These three Consistories met again on March 6 and the committee reported. The decision was made to form a temporary organization on the basis of the Act of Agreement. This Act of Agreement stated the reason for the temporary organization, the adoption of the Three Forms of Unity as their Confessions, and the intention to address their appeal to the Synod of 1926. The temporary organization was given the name: “The Protesting Christian Reformed Churches.”
The men present at this meeting reached another very important decision. They agreed on a plan of action for circulating propaganda on their views regarding the three points.
Soon after this meeting, Rev. Hoeksema travelled over the country organizing and establishing other Churches. Ever since, even though our denomination is not large, we have enjoyed steady growth through God’s work.
God has preserved the cause of Christ and the truth through our Churches. The great responsibility of continuing to preserve the cause of Christ and the truth is in our hands. With God’s help, we will preserve it that we may always be the true Church of the Reformation.
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