Presented as a speech on November 15, 1964 at the First Protestant Reformed Church
“Praised be the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation!” The heart and soul of thanksgiving lies in these words, for when we give thanks, we are rendering homage to the true King of Creation. This is thanksgiving.
This is also one of the prime occasions for thanksgiving. How little we actually realize of God’s true greatness, yet it is all around us. Each morning we awake to a world created by God with a breath of eternity; each night we fall asleep without fear, safe in the knowledge that God controls life in its cycle until the end of time. How great is our God!
Yet, His greatness extends still further. Look in the pew in front of you. There lies the Bible like the Sword of Truth. On the outside it appears to be a simple book, like the sword is a simple piece of metal; but put it to its proper use, and it will destroy evil in its preservation of good. God’s special revelation is the masterpiece which transcends eternity to touch time. Its riches are so understandable, yet so deep, that we can comprehend but a little through the eyes of the Holy Spirit. Surely, God’s greatness is an occasion for our thanksgiving. God’s love is another occasion for our thanksgiving. How miserably proud we are in our sins. We are striving toward the moon, the stars, and beyond; we are able to sing, speak, think, and do a thousand other things. And we dare to kneel down and pray as if we really believed that we merit God’s listening ear. We are born in sin, we live in sin, and we die in sin. Every act, even our very being is intrinsically the picture of sin itself. Compare then what God is. He is totally without sin. By the essence of His very being, He is good—all good. We, who are evil, are by nature centered on this evil, for we are self-centered; while God, who is all Goodness, is centered on this goodness, for He is God-centered. How great then, was His love when He sent His Son to lift us up from the mire of our own sin. Most certainly, God’s love is reason for our thanksgiving.
As if His greatness and love were not ample occasion for our thanksgiving, God has showered us with unbelievable physical blessings. In this land of plenty we are neither cold nor starving. We have a roof over our heads, a fine building in which to worship—actually, we have more than we need and can ever fully use. The Lord has truly given us the fruit of the earth in abundance. For this we must render our thanks.
And, were it humanly possible, this thanks ought to be rendered continuously. Obviously, the prime object of this thanksgiving will be God, in His greatness, love, and blessings; but the secondary object will be man.
In himself, man is not meritorious of even our meager thanksgiving; but insofar as he is one of God’s children, and insofar as he is created in the image of Almighty God, we will give him our thanksgiving. This, by its very condition of election to the household of God, excludes the reprobate from being the object of our thanksgiving.
However, the thanksgiving which one Christian renders to another is basically different from the thanksgiving which the Christian must render toward God. When we render God thanks, we, as lesser beings, are paying homage to the Great Being; while when we give thanks to our fellow man, we are thanking each other as peers, equals in the sight of God.
But how then, do we render thanks to God?
In the first place, this thanksgiving must be spontaneous. Thanksgiving which is a product of custom, or which is rendered out of a sense of duty or pride, is not real thanksgiving. The Lord does not delight in an empty formalism, but rather condemns it. If we must force ourselves to give thanks, we are not being Christians, but hypocrites, for all we are giving ourselves is an outward gratitude which has no inward existence. This does not mean that our emotions must be churned to a state of near hysteria before we are prepared to render thanks, but rather that our praise be an expression of the true gratitude that fills our hearts. While it is essential that our thanksgiving be spontaneous, it must also be sincere. This sincerity must be based on understanding. Our hearts cannot be filled with a nameless gratitude only when we offer thanks, for, in spite of its spontaneity, this thanksgiving does not have the gratitude based on knowledge of what is true, and it is therefore not sincere. Here, too, thanksgiving is an empty form, for it is based on emotionalism, not on truth. Thus, when we render thanks to God, it must be done sincerely, with the knowledge of the occasion for our thanksgiving.
But what is perhaps the most important element of our thanksgiving is still missing. This is humility. Without humility we cannot realize our many blessings and therefore can neither be sincere nor spontaneous in thanksgiving. While we render thanks to our fellow Christian as equal to equal, we cannot thank God in this way. He is the Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent Lord of the Universe; while we are but His footstool. We were created to honor and glorify Him, to serve Him, and render homage to Him. He is the Great Being, we are lesser beings. We were created in His image, not He in ours. And therefore, we must render thanks to Him in humility, as servant to Master. We thank God in humility because of all His many blessings toward us, and because we can never give Him anything that He does not already have. Thus, to be truly thankful, we must be truly humble.
Thanksgiving, then, is spontaneously, sincerely, humbly rendering homage to God for what He is and for what He has given us.
However, even though we know what thanksgiving truly is, we do not render it right. The feeling of gratitude is not easily achieved, for we lack humility.
In the world today, man has replaced the Almighty Lord with “almighty” man. Huge bands of concrete tie ocean to ocean, tunnels and wires tie continent to continent; great rockets blast man away from earth’s surface while probes dig deep into its crust. Often the Christian finds himself enmeshed in “man’s” achievements, forgetting that these are all God’s handiwork. Science is queen and man is her lord, yet he cannot scratch the heavens and find God. Nevertheless, man’s achievements are a stumbling block to a Christian’s true humility.
But man’s achievements are not the only obstacle to true humility. Sometimes the very fact that we are the elect of God can be a block to our humility. Often we find ourselves looking down on the world around us as if we really were better than they. It is so easy to forget that we did not first choose God, but that He chose us. Were it not for this choice, we would be as the rest of the world: Locked in darkness without the Lord. Rather than give us a sense of pride, our election should give us humility in awe of God’s greatness.
Let us then strive continuously to humble ourselves before the throne of God, not man; and let us ever more realize that we were chosen of God, not His of us.
Therefore, this Thanksgiving Day, and each day of our lives; let us, in humility “Praise the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation”—and let us give thanks.
A “Christian” Author’s “Christian” World—Wm. B. Eerdmans, publ.
Book Review by Rosalyn Tryon
Today, our world is filled with the half-reformed. Professing to be of reformed persuasion, men take the truth of God and twist it into an evil abstraction. To truly reformed, Christian young people, this is often very confusing; for in all but our grade schools, these men are labeled “Christian authors”.
C. S. Lewis is one of these “Christian authors”. All over the world he is praised as the “voice of the reformed churches”. Yet, he, as he evidences himself in his works, is definitely not reformed. For example, C. S. Lewis believes in the Sehnsucht, or the longing which haunts every man and entices him toward God. Obviously, in the light of the reformed, Christian doctrine of election and reprobation, this is wrong.
But, let us take a more specific example. The Christian World of C. S. Lewis is divided, more or less, into the various books which Lewis wrote. In other words, it is a review on The Screwtape Letters. In this book Lewis uses a satire on Hell itself as a means of presenting his warped ideas. Lewis is subtle in his denial of election and reprobation. He has one of the head devils confess that he was “tempted” into entering Heaven—almost. Of course, when one is reading the book itself, this heresy goes almost unnoticed into the reader’s mind. Unfortunately for the unwary reader, this error is one of the most glaring in the book.
In the heresy of C. S. Lewis and in the subtle presentation of this heresy lies the merit of The Christian World of C. S. Lewis. The author, Clyde S. Kilby, in his overwrought fascination with Lewis, is actually pointing out the error of his ways by stating his heresy as “the moral lesson to be learned from the books”.
However, to know C. S. Lewis, one cannot simply sit and read Mr. Kilby’s book, at least not straight through! The value of the book lies in the instruction it can give before and after reading one of C. S. Lewis’ works. This is one of the most effective ways to see a half-reformed “Christian” author in his proper light.
In these modern times, placing women on an equal plane with men is the growing trend. This trend toward “equality” is also reaching into the churches in America. Many of the Christian Reformed Churches now allow women an equal voice and vote in matters of the individual church’s government and doctrine. As a natural result of this trend, questions have also been raised in our own Protestant Reformed Churches regarding the position of women. The young people have raised the question: “Should women be allowed to lead in prayer in public in the presence of a man?” To this question I feel I must reply, unequivocally, NO! The purpose of this essay is therefore to explain my negative answer to the above question.
The first step toward a complete analysis of this problem is an understanding of the problem’s scope and the terms used. When we use the term “women” we are not referring to the youngster just learning to pray in the home, but to a person who has previously developed the ability to pray. “Public,” of necessity, must now refer to something outside the home environment, and in this case, most specifically, the Young People’s Societies within our Church. In defining the scope of the problem, a man must, like the women, have previously developed the ability to pray while in the home. On these grounds the discussion of this problem will be based.
The second step in the analysis of this problem must be a comprehension of the Biblical position of women.
First, what does the Old Testament say about woman’s position? In Genesis chapter 2, the story of woman’s creation from the rib of Adam, the father of all men, is told. Eve was created to be a help-meet unto Adam Note: woman was created a help-meet, not a leader. The position of woman was accentuated in Genesis 3:16 when the woman was given the direct command to be subject to her husband: “. . . and thy desire shall be to thy husband and he shall rule over thee.” This command comes as a direct result of the fall and is explained by Paul in I Timothy 2:1-1: “And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.”
I Timothy 2 also is an evidence of the position of women in the New Testament. In the first section of this chapter, Paul deals with the objects of our prayers, i.e., for whom should we pray? The second section explains how Christian men should pray, and continues with an explanation of the position of women in public worship. (Here we should note the meaning of public worship: It not only includes the church service per se, but also any place where: Christians gather to offer praise and thanksgiving to God. This would therefore include prayer in our Young People’s Societies.) God through Paul states women’s position in public worship as this: “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” I Timothy 2:12, and continues by explaining that women, by virtue of their position and purpose in creation, ought to remain subject to the man also in the exercise of public worship. This of course does not imply that there should be no women’s societies, but simply that women should not assume leadership over men in public worship.
We can see that, although both the Old Testament and New Testament are explicit regarding the position of women in creation and the exercise of public worship in mixed society, there are a few seeming exceptions to the rule:
The first evident exception is the leadership of Miriam, Moses’ and Aaron’s sister, in songs of praise to God (a form of prayer). This is merely a paradox in Biblical interpretation however, for in this case Miriam led only the women of Israel in prayer. Thus, the position of the subjection of women in public worship established by the Bible holds true here also.
Acts 12:12 is often used to show that women led prayer in the Bible. This second exception is obviously fallacious as no reference is given to prayer leadership on the part of either men or women in this passage. “And when he (Peter) had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together praying.” Obviously, no reference is here given to women’s leadership in prayer.
Another passage which supposedly constitutes a third exception is 1 Cor. II. Again, in this passage no reference is given to women’s leadership in prayer and I do not feel we can infer woman’s leadership from this passage. Rather, here I feel we can infer woman’s subordination in prayer exercise for in verse three it is stated: “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ: and the head of the women is the man.” Can we infer that women should lead in prayer from a passage which does not even mention this leadership, but rather infers the opposite?
I therefore feel that since it is the obvious position of the Bible that women should not assume prayer leadership, and since no legitimate instance has been given where the Bible states otherwise, we should conclude that women should not be given prayer leadership in mixed society.
In the third step of our analysts of the question, we must ask ourselves: Would the leadership of a women in prayer in the presence of a qualified man be practical? I feel that no necessity has been expressed to warrant such a great change in our young people’s societies (this would not apply to those societies which allow women to lead in prayer at present).
As has already been mentioned, a woman as we are considering her, would have previously developed the ability to pray in the home. As a result, the theory that taking prayer leadership in mixed societies would train a woman to pray is obviously fallacious.
In connection with the basic training received in the home it has been stated that further training in public prayer is necessary, particularly for future use in women’s societies. Again, I fail to see why this would necessitate such a change in many of our Young People’s Societies. Could not this public prayer training be done where it is needed and used, that is. in the women’s societies? Is it so vital that this public “training” be done in our mixed societies that we break the bonds of Biblical tradition and the established position of women in our societies as well? To these questions, we answer NO. Obviously, if this prayer training could be done in another place, where difficulties of Biblical propriety and traditional bonds would not arise, it would be far better to do it at that place and not in a mixed society.
Because the ability to pray could be developed in the home and in our women’s societies, I therefore feel no necessity has been expressed which is great enough to warrant such a change in so many of our young people’s societies.
Since it is the obvious wish, yea command, of the Bible that women should not lead in public prayer and since no worthy practical necessity has been expressed to warrant a change in the accepted procedure in many of our young people’s societies, I therefore conclude that women should not be allowed to lead in public prayer in the presence of a man.