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Church history, People we should know

Rahab the whore...mother of Christ

"...the LORD your God is He who is God in heaven above and on earth beneath..." - Joshua 2:11 ***** In the house where one pays for love there arrived two young customers who had a different kind of business on their minds. They were engaged in espionage, nothing less: covert activities which required circumspect movements; activities that disguised their real intent, that even lead to the pretense of tourism, accentuated by a trip to the establishment of the local prostitute. They had been sent out by the master of strategy, Joshua the son of Nun, one of the two survivors of an earlier spy mission some forty years ago. At that time the economic intelligence gathering yielded interesting results, but the military intelligence had been devastating for an unbelieving generation. It took forty years to purge the nation of that element of destructive disbelief: they were all buried in the sands of the desert. Forty years of grave digging, forty years of sighing about "the wind passing over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more," (Ps. 103:16) as one of their offspring, David, would later sing. Then, at last, even Moses died; the LORD Himself took care of the funeral arrangements. Some safe house! Rahab hiding the spies in the flax. But now a next generation had come forth, the covenant had been renewed, and with it came a new willingness to serve, as these young men demonstrated, arrayed in their disguises. They were in the business of gathering information, and for information, they searched. This woman they met was ready to give answers to questions that had not even been raised. And so, notwithstanding the surroundings of ill repute, they had come to the right address; this too was of the Lord. Maybe they did not realize it, but they ended up in what the spy industry calls a "safe house." "Some safe house," one might mutter; hardly had they bedded down then that the local constabulary arrived for their arrest! Had the woman ratted on them? They were instructed, "to view the land, especially Jericho" (Josh. 2:1). Had they been too obvious in their observations of the land, even in their disguises? Were their questions reported? Thinking fast What do you do when soldiers come with their raucous order: "Open up in the name of the law!"? How do you respond to the gruff demand: "Hand them over, those enemy agents that we know came to your house!"? What do you do? Do you panic? Do you deny the obvious? In times of war and threats of war, house searches are not always conducted under the sanction of a warrant, the validity of which one could politely argue so as to gain some time to contemplate one's next move. But here was a woman who did not panic, who did not need to stall for time. Had her trade made her skillful in leading men astray? She surely knew how to forestall a house search! She was, likely, more than a little coy when she assured them that, indeed, these men had come to her, you know these things happen in an establishment like mine, and they left not so long after they arrived, and that is not unusual in my profession either. And you tell me they were spies? Wow!  Then, in a conspiring manner, she might have whispered, "They can't have gone far; they went that-a-way. Run after them and you'll be sure to catch up with them." The path she pointed out to the soldiers seemed to be clear route towards promotion in rank, and maybe even a decoration. The gates were opened for them and the gates were shut again after them, and the pursuers of Israel's heroes chased after wind. The “white lie” Through the years much has been theorized and debated about the possibility of "white lies." It seems that up until World War II most commentators agreed that a deception like the one performed by Rahab was still, in itself, a sinful act. But during the war many persons of great integrity suddenly faced Nazi soldiers and their loud demand: Aufmachen, Polizei!! "Open up, it's the police!" Since then the condemnation has not been so outspoken any more. Those who managed to lead the authorities down the garden path showed no remorse when later they admitted to have given their deceptive testimony. In fact, they were rather gleeful to report how several Jews were saved, the consequence of a gullible interrogator. There are some amusing anecdotes about those days. The scene in the book of Joshua is not without humor either, enhanced by this preposterous elaboration: "so the men pursued after them on the way to the Jordan, as far as the crossing points..." (Josh 2:7). You could almost hear the eager conversations between then: how pleased the captain would be when they brought the spies in, and how proud their wives would be when their men would have their medals pinned on them. And then, gradually, the conversation slowed until finally they muttered: Where on earth are those fellows? But the readers of Joshua know where those fellows were all along: right there, hidden under the flax on the roof! Yet, "the men pursued them," Joshua said seriously. What a joke! Prostitute and now traitor? All this may seem somewhat goofy, worthy of an occasional chuck, but yet... couldn't we say that Rahab the whore had now added to the abominable character of her profession the sordid crime of high treason? She had joined in with the enemy camp! If we think back to World War II again, who would have anything to do with someone who stooped that low? However, is that verdict fair? Should she be displayed in the marketplace, shaven, shorn, and tarred, to have all the passersby spit on her? "The love of country is inborn in every citizen," it is said. We know all about that. During wars opposing armies claim: "We have God on our side." How convincing are the speeches of the leaders! How strong the conviction of their followers! "With honor and valor we fight for our cause, with God on our side." It has been repeated over and over at wreath-laying ceremonies. But inside this woman something had changed. Was she aware of Noah's curse over Canaan? Who were those gods that were supposedly on their side? Wasn’t it to demons that they offered their sons and daughters? The cruelty of those evil forces! Then, in total contrast, there were the stories of this large nation trekking through the desert, the children of Abraham. There was a cloud to guide them by day and a fire by night, she was told. Those were the manifestations of an entirely different God – One who loved His people, who was like fire around them to protect them, who rained bread from heaven to feed them, and who let them drink from the rock. True, He punished them for their evil doings, but He still upheld them and destroyed their enemies before them. Who knows, but that some wandering minstrel might have come by with fragments of the song of Moses "...the Lord will vindicate His people and have compassion on His servants..." (Deut. 32:36). This God was not like the demons who belong to the netherworld. He was the God in heaven above and on the earth beneath. But in His holy nation, would there be a place for her, daughter of the accursed Canaan, a woman who had availed herself of the profits of fornication? From rebel to child of God Rahab helps the spies climb out over Jericho's wall. But then this wonder took place, as miraculous as creation itself: according to His decree, God softened her heart and inclined her to believe. At the same time the crisis of possible detection having been forestalled, she ran up the stairs and blurted out her confession: "I know that the LORD your God is He who is God in heaven and on earth beneath." Would a critical onlooker find that confession a bit meager? It is probably fair to say that she wouldn’t have passed an exam in systematic theology. All we know is that in that confessed faith she bargained with the two representatives of God's holy nation: their safety for her and her family. They made a deal and it was confirmed by oath. The last words reportedly from her mouth were: "Amen, so be it" (Josh 2:21). Of these actions, undoubtedly recited through the ages, James, the leader of the church at Jerusalem, would later make honorable mention, listing them in one breath with the great works of faith by father Abraham (James 2:23-25). So it was that the first major strategic undertaking of Joshua, the son of Nun, seemed to have been upset by the tardiness of the spies. What kind of secret agent accomplishment was that, to bed down in a house of ill repute, to sneak through a window, to hide three days in the caves? Not a very good start, was it? Yes, true, it did not seem like much, but out ways are not God's ways. Just look at the valuable intelligence they received out of the hands of a woman chosen by God: "Truly the Lord has given all the land into our hands; and moreover, all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of us" (Josh 2:24). God’s ways are not man’s ways ...and the walls came tumbling down. The preparations for the battle of Jericho, seen from a military point of view, seemed to be directed towards a total disaster. When the first encounter with a fortified city is to take place, what military exercises come up front? Stamina-building drills? A mock attack? Special wall-climbing exercises? None of that happened. Instead, the sign of the covenant was administered (Josh. 5:2-9). All the army was circumcised. The effect of adult circumcision was that the army was sapped of its military strength for days. If the enemies were to find out... But thus it pleased the LORD to fulfill all righteousness. And stranger yet, a patch of ground within view of Jericho was declared holy territory, where the military leader of Israel met the commander of the mighty host of the LORD (Josh. 5:13-15). Joshua, the son of Nun, was in this very peculiar way made ready for battle: he had to take off his shoes. Now Jericho, known for its mighty men of valor, was sealed up tight ready to defend itself behind its fortified walls with whatever strength still remained within its armed forces. So, we would say: "Time for action. Get on with it! Let the battle start...” But then again the events took a weird turn. Instead of an attack, there was a solemn procession around the city: seven priests blowing horns, followed by the Ark of the Covenant, and after that, the army detachments. No shouting, no banging of drums, no belligerent songs. Only the mournful sound of the seven rams’horns. The army followed silently; it was an uncanny show. Once this was accomplished, everybody headed back to their own camp and the deathly silence returned. The following days it happened again, and the next day again, and again. And every time the procession came by the house of Rahab the whore the people saw the scarlet cord hanging out of the window. And every time Rahab the whore looked out of the window and saw this strange procession going by, her heart beat wildly in anticipation. The battle of the Lord was taking shape and she had taken His side, or rather, He had taken her on His side. Now it was going to happen: the Hour Zero approached rapidly. The tension was building to an unbearable level. Finally, on the last day the procession around the city was repeated several times over, till the final trip was made and the horn blowing ended. There was a short moment of utter silence. Then the trumpets sounded their dramatic long blast, and the whole scene erupted into turmoil. The entire army gave off a loud shout, a howl of derision for the enemies of God. After that a rumbling came up, as bricks and mortar split apart, as boulders cracked and rolled away, and in their course felling and crushing the hapless defenders. Then the walls of the city fell upon them, and the ruins of the structures covered them. And through the clouds of dust, over the rubble, clambered the victorious armies of God, in endless waves, to fulfill the command of total destruction. Total destruction? Yes, the city was devoted to the LORD for destruction. Nothing was to be spared. Nothing except... The war correspondent in Joshua 6 first passes on the direct order as it was given: destroy everything. Everything, except the house of Rahab the whore. Reason for the exception? She hid the spies. Then follows the narrative: as instructed by General Joshua, the young spies went into the one remaining structure of the ring-wall. It was marked with the crimson cord. Spitting out the gritty dust of the ground granite that made film on their lips, they egged on the occupants: "hurry, hurry, quick this way to safety!" Finally comes the recap, the summing up of the total victory: the city was burned with fire. The vessels of bronze and iron were put into the treasury of the house of the LORD. End of report? No! Again it is stated, and now with greater emphasis yet, that Rahab the whore and her father's household, and all who belong to her were saved alive. "And," concludes the report, "she dwelt in Israel to this day." Why? "Because she hid the messengers, whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho," that's why. In the Hall of Fame In the hall of fame of the heroes of faith, there is a long wall lined with portraits. Hebrews 11 leads us through it. There is Abel, all scarred up, but still speaking through his faith. And look, there is Noah, that ridiculous shipbuilder on dry ground, but therefore heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. See Sarah there, laughing, because at age ninety she still conceived, and God had made laughter for her... And then...yes, indeed there she is. Rahab the whore. Even now the title of her terrible profession is still etched on the copper plate that carries her name. But her features seem familiar. Haven't we seen her somewhere before? Yes, of course, the evangelist Matthew listed her in the genealogy as a not-so-immaculate mother of Christ! The company some people keep! Look at the strange smile on her face. After all those centuries, does she still think that sending those poor soldiers on a wild good chase was rather funny? Frankly speaking, it really was funny, but it seems that the smile is not about that. No, this is a fond smile, a smile caused by amazement and expressing great love. How could she, daughter of the cursed Canaan, and practicing prostitute, how could she possibly have ended up here, among these great ones in the kingdom of Christ? Indeed, there is every reason for amazement. Here was one woman who came in last, totally unworthy, not even qualifying for the crumbs of the dogs, and yet she was given a seat of honor up front by her Great Son, the Christ, through the eternal love with which He loved her before the foundation of the world. If that does not make you smile, what else would? In this reflection the author wants to direct us back to the text to look at it with new eyes – an oh-so-familiar story startles us once again when viewed under this different light. But like any commentary on Scripture, it shouldn’t be read instead of the text itself. Read on its own, it could become confusing as to what are the author’s thoughts, and what the text actually says. So an important follow-up then is to read Joshua 2-6. This is a slightly edited version of an article that first appeared in the December 1993 issue. John de Vos was the very first editor of Reformed Perspective....

History

Charles Darwin's grave mistake

One hundred and thirty-seven years ago, on April 19, 1882, a seventy-three-year-old man died at home in his bed. He was surrounded by his wife and two of his children, all three of whom wept inconsolably. His wife, who had held him against herself the last moments of his earthly strife, gently lowered him onto the bed. She stroked the white beard and closed the glazed eyes. Even though the family sorrowed, there was also a sense of relief that the patient had finally succumbed to death. The last few weeks had been difficult. Angina attacks precipitated fear. He had refused to eat with his family, preferring to eat in his bedroom alone. He had observed his body with morbid interest, taking notes on what he saw. “Much pain,” he would jot down, or scratch out “dropped down,” after he succumbed to faints. Tuesday, April 18, 1882, was his penultimate day and the pain began just before midnight. He woke his wife, to tell her that he was dying and she ran for his pills. Together with a servant she also administered brandy. But he was unable to keep it down, and retched miserably. He slept a little but vomited throughout most of the next morning, his body heaving and shuddering in agony. “If I could but die,” he said repeatedly, intent on present escape and not focused on the fact that he would shortly face the Creator of his heart, the Judge of his soul. He vomited again and blood spewed out, spilling red onto his white and venerable looking beard. “Oh, God,” he cried, and again, “Oh, Lord God.” His pain appeared to be excruciating and lasted until he lost consciousness about a half-hour before he died. And Charles Darwin was no more on the earth he had with human textbook clarity consigned to evolutionary origins. ***** Charles Darwin, (1809-1882), was the youngest son of an English doctor – one who did not believe in God. His paternal grandfather, an Erasmus Darwin, was also a doctor and an atheist – one who believed in the natural ascent of life and in the kinship of all creatures. Young Charles liked the outdoors. He reveled in collecting shells and bird eggs. Although his father wanted him to become a doctor, like himself and his father before him, Charles had no interest in following their footsteps. He dropped out of medical school, studied theology for a while, and then went on to become a naturalist. In 1831, when Charles was 22, he was hired as a naturalist aboard a ship called the Beagle and left England for a five-year excursion around the world. During this trip, Darwin was particularly intrigued by the plants and animals on the Galapagos Islands, several hundred miles off the west coast of South America. Darwin’s conclusions at the end of this trip are well known and have had repercussions around the world. He inferred that all species – the entire plant and animal kingdom – resulted from environmental adaptations over millions of years. In other words, God did not create the world in six days, but the world was the product of millions of years of evolution. In 1859, Darwin published these conclusions in a book entitled, The Origin of Species. The fact that Darwin stated God did not create things but that they arose through natural processes, and the fact that he promoted the existence of the universe as an accident with no purpose, were both in direct conflict with the Word of God. ***** Darwin had expressed the wish to be buried in the churchyard in the village of Downe, some sixteen miles south of London, where he had lived and worked most of his married life. He wanted his grave to be next to the graves of three of his children under a great yew tree. But such was the mood of the day – that a fool without clothes could be held up as a king – that one who openly flouted God could be hailed as a saint. Freethinking friends, wanting to honor the dead atheist, presented the Dean of Westminster with the request that Charles Darwin be buried within that church. Petitions went around and many influential government people signed, indicating that they thought Darwin’s last resting place should be one of glory among other English patriots. The Standard, a newspaper, urging the family to comply with popular feeling, wrote: “Darwin died as he had lived, in the quiet retirement of the country home which he loved; and the sylvan scenes amidst which he found the simple plants and animals that enabled him to solve the great enigma of the Origin of Species may seem, perhaps to many of his friends, the fittest surroundings for his last resting place. "But one who has brought such honor to the English name, and whose death is lamented throughout the civilized world, to the temporary neglect of the many burning political and social questions of the day, should not be laid in a comparatively obscure grave. His proper place is amongst those other worthies whose reputations are landmarks in the people’s history, and if it should not clash with his own expressed wishes, or the pious feelings of the family, we owe it to posterity to place his remains in Westminster Abbey, among the illustrious dead who make that noble fame unrivaled in the world.” Darwin was compared with Newton, foreign tributes to him poured in and in the end the Dean of Westminster acquiesced to the request that the body be laid to rest in the Abbey. Undertakers dispensed tickets of admission to the widely advertised funeral and an expensive coffin was sent to Downe for the body’s repose. No newspaper paused to consider the fact that burial at Westminster might present a religious obstacle. The Standard said: “True Christians can accept the main scientific facts of Evolution just as they do of Astronomy and Geology, without any prejudice to more ancient and cherished beliefs.” The Daily News stated: “.... Darwin’s doctrine was quite consistent with strong religious faith and hope.” It wasn’t just the newspapers which blew Darwin’s trumpet. Ministers praised the dead man as well. Canon Prothero, Queen Victoria’s chaplain, said on the pulpit, that Darwin had pursued the truth and in him had lived “... that charity which is the essence of the true spirit of Christ.” The canon at Westminster Abbey, an Alfred Barry, echoed the queen’s chaplain’s sentiment by saying that Darwin’s theory of natural selection was “by no means alien to the Christian religion.” At St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, another minister lauded Darwin for the patience and care in which he had recorded minute facts. In this way he had brought about a revolution in modern thought and shed high distinction on English science. The funeral was not attended by either Queen Victoria or Gladstone, her Prime Minister. Neither had expressed an appreciation for Origin of Species. But thousands of others did attend. Judges, Parliament members, the Lord Mayor of London, ambassadors, scientists and a great many people from the ordinary homes and hearths of London. Multitudes entered the Abbey, all handing in their funeral tickets at the door. After these had all settled in their pews, the doors opened to those who had no tickets. These people filled the less desirable seats in the northwest side of the Abbey. At noon Canon Prothero entered with the choir as they jubilantly sang “I am the resurrection.” The family, flanking the coffin, which was draped in black velvet and covered with white blossoms, followed. A specially composed hymn was sung after a Bible lesson. The words of the hymn came from Proverbs: “Blessed is the man that findeth wisdom, and getteth understanding.” Darwin's funeral service It is not entirely strange to suppose that the devil occupied one of the pews of Westminster that day. He for one was well aware that Darwin had said, “If God had planted the knowledge of His existence in humans, all would possess it.” He also knew Darwin had said that “the plain language of the New Testament seems to show that the men who do not believe, and this would include my father, brother and almost all my best friends, will be everlastingly punished. And this is a damnable doctrine.” And the devil must have slapped his knees in mirth thinking about Darwin’s public confession: “I am sorry to have to inform you that I do not believe in the Bible as a divine revelation, and therefore not in Jesus Christ as the Son of God.” In the end, Darwin’s coffin was lowered underneath Newton’s monument as the choir rendered another selection, “His body is buried in peace, but his name liveth evermore.” People were awed at the solemnity of the moment. The mourners filed out. Darwin had been interred as a symbol of English success in the field of science – that is to say, he had put forward the thought that man was just an animal – an accident of cosmic evolution with no ultimate purpose. ***** Society would never be the same. Although Darwin only put a framework to what many people were already thinking, and to what itching ears were desirous of hearing, the consequences of what he contributed were severe. Racism was rampant in the thinking among early evolutionists. Ernst Haeckel, (1834-1919), the great proponent of Darwin’s theory in Germany, wrote: “The mental life of savages rises little above that of the higher mammals, especially the apes, with which they are genealogically connected... Their intelligence moves within the narrowest bounds, and one can no more (or no less) speak of their reason than of that of the more intelligent animals... These lower races (such as the Veddahs or Australian negroes) are psychologically nearer to the mammals (apes or dogs) than to civilized Europeans; we must, therefore, assign a totally different value to their lives.” The idea that white people were superior led to the practice of eugenics – a campaign to improve humankind through selective breeding. James Perloff, in his book Tornado in a Junkyard, writes: “...In Britain, Charles Darwin’s son Leonard became president of the Eugenics Education Society. In the U.S., the movement caught fire in the early twentieth century. By 1935, 35 states had enacted laws requiring the sexual isolation and sterilization of ‘unfit’ people – including the retarded, the ‘feeble-minded’, chronic criminals, and even epileptics. Proposed legislation targeted tuberculosis sufferers, alcoholics, the blind and homeless. About 70,000 Americans were involuntarily sterilized before the practice was stopped.” Nietzsche, (1844-1900), was influenced by Darwin’s theory. He denounced Christianity and declared: “God is dead.” He then advanced the idea of the "superman" and a "master race." This idea was taken over by Hitler, (1889-1945), who consequently killed his millions insanely believing that Darwin’s theory of evolution justified and sanctified his cruel actions. Hitler was not the only madman Darwin influenced. Karl Marx, (1818-1883), viewed Darwin’s work as a basis in natural science for the class struggle throughout history. He actually wanted to dedicate his Communist book, Das Kapital, to Darwin, but Darwin refused the "honor." Stalin, (1879-1953), as well, who began his studies as a theology student, changed his thinking after he was exposed to the theory of evolution. In a book, published in 1940, Landmarks in the Life of Stalin, this change is recorded by the author Yaroslavsky in these words: ‘“At a very early age, while still a pupil in the ecclesiastical school, Comrade Stalin developed a critical mind and revolutionary sentiments. He began to read Darwin and became an atheist. G. Glurdjidze, a boyhood friend of Stalin’s relates: “I began to speak of God. Joseph heard me out, and after a moment’s silence said: ‘You know they are fooling us, there is no God...’ "I was astonished at these words. I had never heard anything like it before. ‘How can you say so, SoSo?’ I exclaimed. "‘I’ll lend you a book to read; it will show you that the world and all living things are quite different from what you imagine, and all this talk about God is sheer nonsense,’ Joseph said. "‘What book is that?’ I enquired. "‘Darwin, You must read it,’ Joseph impressed on me.’” Joseph Stalin also killed his millions. The Chinese leader, Mao Tse-tung, (1893-1976), regarded Darwin as a teaching influence in his life. Calling Darwin the founder of Chinese scientific socialism, Mao was responsible for the death of millions of people. Andrew Carnegie, (1835-1919), and John D. Rockefeller, (1839-1937), were also Darwinists. They were both ruthless businessmen who practiced "survival of the fittest" in their business dealings. Carnegie said: “When I, along with three or four of my boon companions, was in this stage of doubt about theology, including the supernatural element, and indeed the whole scheme of salvation through vicarious atonement and all the fabric built upon it, I came fortunately upon Darwin’s and Spencer’s works... I remember that light came as a flood and all was clear. Not only had I got rid of theology and the supernatural, but I had found the truth of evolution. ‘All is well since all grows better’ became my motto, my true source of comfort.” Rockefeller financed the preaching of Harry Emerson Fosdick’s radio ministry. He brazenly accepted evolution and downgraded the Bible into mythology. ***** So Charles Darwin rests beneath the cold cement of Westminster Abbey. Or does he? Is his eternal soul at peace? Well aware of the tenets of Christianity, he knew that his ideas would destroy the faith of millions. He referred to Origin of Species as "my accursed book." There was considerable trauma associated with his writing of the final draft. In the year leading up to publication he was rarely able to write for more than 20 minutes at a time without stomach pains, and he finished the proof on October 1, 1859, in between fits of vomiting. Ten days before the proofs were bound he wrote to his friend J.D. Hooker, “I have been very bad lately; having had an awful ‘crisis’ one leg swelled like elephantiasis – eyes almost closed up – covered with a rash and fiery boils: but they tell me it will surely do me much good. – it was like living in Hell!” His modern biographers talk of Darwin’s self-doubt, his nagging, gnawing fear that “I ... have devoted my life to a phantasy.” It is not surprising that Darwin was subject to a "gnawing" fear nor the fact that he admitted that, in the dead of night, terror would strike him with painful force when he thought of the possibility of an afterlife. And so his body lies in Westminster Abbey – a grave mistake – an unwise decision. And what, after all, is true wisdom? Is it not the fear of the Lord? May God grant that the eyes of many hearts may be enlightened. Let voices not be afraid to cry out loudly without fear that evolution is a hoax and that it literally hasn’t got a leg to stand on. Edmund Clowney’s hymn, "Vast the Immensity" is a witness to God’s wisdom and creation. Vast the immensity, mirror of majesty, Galaxies spread in a curtain of light: Lord, Your eternity rises in mystery There where no eye can see, infinite height! Sounds Your creative word, forming both star and bird, Shaping the cosmos to win Your delight; Order from chaos springs, form that your wisdom brings, Guiding created things, infinite might! Who can Your wisdom scan? Who comprehend Your plan? How can the mind of man Your truth embrace? Here does Your Word disclose more than Your power shows, Love that to Calv’ry goes, infinite grace! Triune Your majesty, triune Your love to me, Fixed from eternity in heav’n above. Father, what mystery, in Your infinity You gave Your Son for me, infinite love! END NOTES 1 Desmond and Moore, The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist, Warner Books,1991, page 668. 2 Ibid, page 670 3 Ibid, page 671 4 Ibid. 5 Ibid. 6 Ibid, page 251. 7 Ibid, page 623. 8 Ibid, page 634-5. 9 Perloff, Tornado in a Junkyard, Refuge Books, 1999, page 220. 10 Ibid, page 221. 11 bid, page 225. 12 Ibid. 13 Ibid, page 226. 14 Ibid. 15 Creation, Ex Nihilo, Vol. 17 No 4. September-November 1995, ‘Darwin’s Mystery Illness, by Russell Grigg, page 29. 16 Ibid....

People we should know, Theology

Jonathan Edwards: The pastor who packed them in the pews while preaching the wrath of God

Much like today, during the early colonial years in America, preachers rarely spoke about the wrath of God – this did not seem the type of topic to draw in the masses. One man, however, thought very differently. He brought the message of God’s wrath and, in doing so, ignited a revival which spread throughout the colonies. Jonathan Edwards was born on October 5, 1703, in East Windsor, Connecticut and began preaching in 1722. Although hell and God’s wrath are unpleasant topics, Edwards became one of America’s best-known evangelists by preaching on just these topics. We can get an understanding of how God used him to spark a revival across the colonies by looking at three specific sermons Edwards delivered at different points throughout his ministry. Through these sermons he taught the reality of God’s wrath by: showing how it will destroy unrepentant sinners explaining that it is the power of God which can save them from this wrath warning that those who do not glorify God are deserving of destruction Edwards knew that the themes of wrath and hell needed to be taught to cause the hearts of those listening to be convicted about their sins and to realize the reality of eternal punishment. #1: When the wicked have filled up the measure of their sin… He began preaching on the subject in May 1735 when he delivered his sermons “When the wicked shall have filled up the measure of their sin, wrath will come upon them to the uttermost.” Edwards’ text was 1 Thessalonians 2:16, which reads, “To fill up their sins always; for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.” He immediately presented a picture of hell and never let go of that illustration throughout the sermon. He clarified that God enacts His wrath “very dreadfully in this world; but in hell wrath comes on them to the uttermost.” God executes his wrath on the sinners in this world to a smaller extent, either outwardly on the body or inwardly on a mental or emotional scale. However, “these things are only forerunners of their punishment, only slight foretastes of wrath.” When God’s full wrath comes upon them, it will come with no restraint and no moderation of degree, for “His heavy wrath will lie on them, without any thing to lighten the burden or to keep off, in any measure, the full weight of it from pressing the soul.” Perhaps the most powerful point Edwards made in this sermon is that once the day of judgment comes, the wicked are sealed in their punishment eternally. There is no longer any chance for repentance or forgiveness once death has come. This is a message that the content Christians in the pews needed to hear. Without knowing the reality and severity of hell, the sinner did not feel a need to repent. Edwards concluded by noting how dreadful the wrath will be, for it is given by the One who created the universe, shakes the earth, rebukes the sea, and shines His majesty over wicked men. The judgement of God is certainly coming, but it will not be known until it comes. Therefore, Edwards begged everyone listening to “haste and flee for their lives, to get into a safe condition, to get into Christ.” This sermon carefully presents the danger of those who are content with living in sin, and it presses the message of hell to convict them of their rebellion. The reaction to this sermon inspired many in New England to change their lives. However, much more was to come when, six years later, Edwards preached his most famous sermon. #2: Sinners in the hands of an angry God On July 8, 1741 Edwards delivered “Sinners in the hands of an angry God” in Enfield, Connecticut. He was not supposed to preach that night, and he had preached that same sermon before at his home church. He happened to have his manuscript with him, and after receiving the last-minute request to fill in for the pastor, he preached a message that had an amazing effect on many of the hearers, spurring on a revival. Jonathan Edwards was born on October 5, 1703, in East Windsor, Connecticut to his father Reverend Timothy Edwards and his mother Esther, the daughter of Reverend Solomon Stoddard. Stoddard would become a mentor to Jonathan. Edwards attended Collegiate School, later called Yale College, graduating in 1720. In 1722, he accepted a call to a Scotch Presbyterian church in New York. He then went to Bolton, Connecticut in 1723. In 1724, he became a teacher at Yale College, and finally succeeded his grandfather Reverend Stoddard at Northampton, Massachusetts in 1727. The text of this sermon was Deuteronomy 32:35, which says, “Their foot shall slide in due time.” Edwards opened his sermon by saying: “In this verse is threatened the vengeance of God on the wicked unbelieving Israelites, who lived under the means of grace…yet remained void of counsel.” He began by stating that all sinners are exposed to destruction, a destruction that is unexpected and brought about by the sinner himself. The only reason why this destruction has not yet come is because of the mere mercy of God, which He gives under no obligation but by grace. Edwards was keen on portraying the power of God by reminding his listeners that even the strongest man has no power over God, and not even the mightiest fortress can defend against Him. He emphasized the fact that sinners deserve to be cast into hell, saying that they are the objects of the anger and wrath of God. He painted a vivid picture by declaring: “the wrath of God burns against them, their damnation does not slumber; the pit is prepared, the fire is made ready, the furnace is now hot, ready to receive them.” Edwards revealed the reality of death and claimed that God is under “no obligation by any promise” to keep sinners out of hell. God is provoked by sin, and nothing can be done by sinners to appease that anger. Edwards was trying to “awake unconverted persons in the congregation… who find are kept out of hell, but do not see the hand of God in it.” Edwards ended his message by urging the congregation to consider the danger that they were in, that if they did not change their lives for Christ they were in danger of suffering an everlasting wrath, where “it would be dreadful to suffer…one moment; but you must suffer it to all eternity.” The Christians of the early British colonies had forgotten that if God withdrew His hand from them, they would fall into the depths of hell. This is what it means to be in the hands of an angry God, that sinners are born again and made new creatures because the God of wrath and justice found pleasure in making the damned soul worthy of salvation. Edwards pushes the reality of God’s wrath and hell, a topic which was rarely preached. It is this topic which ignited a revival. The effect of this sermon was immediate and powerful. According to one listener, even before the sermon was done “there was great moaning and crying out – ‘What shall I do to be saved?’… amazing and astonishing power of God was seen.” Another eyewitness, Stephen Williams, wrote: “Mr. Edwards of Northampton…preached a most awakening sermon…‘Oh, I am going to Hell,’ ‘Oh, what shall I do for Christ,’ and so forth…went out through whole .” Edwards was able to vividly portray the wrath of God on sinners, causing those who heard him to know the true condition of their hearts. A revival swept through the towns. Hymns were sung, taverns were closed, and young people poured into churches. Congregants arrived at church hours before the service in order to get a seat in the sanctuary. It is estimated that 10 percent of New England was converted during this time. That is equal to 28 million people today. Clearly, Jonathan Edwards sparked a revival in Enfield. #3: Wicked men useful in their destruction only While that might have been Edwards’ most famous and impactful sermon, he continued to tell the people of New England about the reality of God’s wrath. In July 1744, he preached a sermon called “Wicked men useful in their destruction only,” and as the title suggests, his main point was that “if men bring forth no fruit to God, they are wholly useless, unless in their destruction.” His message was from Ezekiel 15:2-4, which asks what the worth of a dead vine is. The answer is that “it is cast into the fire for fuel; the fire devoureth both the ends of it, and the midst of it is burned” (Ezek. 15:4). Edwards expanded on this passage by comparing sinners to the vine, saying that the dead vine which is good for nothing deserves the same fate as a dead sinner: utter destruction. Edwards claimed that the only two ways in which a person is useful is either in acting or in being acted upon. A person is useful in acting when they display the “fruits of the Spirit” and use them for the love of God and neighbour. If, however, a man does not do this, then there is no purpose for him to exist. Yes, there are other uses for mankind, as man was made for one another to be friends and neighbours. However, these are inferior ends and are subordinate to the main purpose, which is to serve and glorify the Creator. Therefore, since a wicked man cannot glorify God, he is only useful passively by being destroyed. Edwards claimed that it goes against God’s justice to let wicked men “live always in a world which is so full of divine goodness…that this goodness should be spent upon them forever.” Even though the world is full of sin, so much of God’s undeserved blessings can be seen and enjoyed. The rest of creation is made subservient to mankind, which is wasted on men who bear no fruit for God. The only use that wicked men can be is in their destruction for God’s glory, by both having God’s majesty and justice acted upon them and by being an example to the righteous, giving them “a greater sense of their happiness and of God’s grace to them.” Edwards applied his point so that all may learn the justice and righteousness of God. God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but no one blames a farmer who cuts off a tree which no longer bears fruit. Edwards is calling his congregation to consider all the good things God has bestowed on them, including having a soul which houses the Holy Spirit and by having hosts of angels working for them. All of creation works for man’s pleasure, so “how lamentable it is, then, after all these things he should be a useless creature.” The one who is useful will experience pleasure in this world, and the pleasures will be even more wondrous in the world to come. However, those who do not continue “to bring forth any fruit to the divine glory, hell will be the only place fit for … nature ceases to labour any more for sinners.” Again, Edwards is stressing the point that God’s wrath is real, and unrepentant sinners will suffer it. Conclusion Jonathan Edwards inspired many revivals through his preaching by talking about God’s wrath and hell, topics that were unpopular to the crowd and avoided by other preachers. Through this unpleasant topic, Edwards ignited a fire of repentance in the hearts of the people of New England. His sermons presented God’s wrath by showing how He will destroy unrepentant sinners utterly, how it is the power of God which can save them from His wrath, and how those who do not glorify God are only useful to be destroyed. Texts are quoted as Edwards translated them in his sermon manuscripts....

People we should know

Pieter Jongeling (1909-1985): husband, father, Nazi-fighter, prisoner, Member of Parliament, children’s author…and Reformed journalist

When one writes about Reformed journalism one inevitably thinks about the sort of journalism that for so many years published newspapers and weekly papers in the Netherlands. In our English-speaking world there are also magazines of Reformed persuasion that do a good job of informing believers. However, most of these magazines (Reformed Perspective excepted) are by and large magazines with a religious focus – magazines aimed at informing people in the pew about what is happening in other pews around the country. On the shoulders of giants Reformed journalism in the Netherlands was different in that it addressed the day to day events going on outside the Church. This type of Reformed journalism has a long history in the Netherlands – we can go back to G. Groen van Prinsterer, the Dutch statesman and Reformed historian (1801-1876) whose aim, in his writings, was to return the Dutch nation to its Reformed roots. While influential, van Prinsterer was often only read by those well off enough to be able to buy a newspaper. Ordinary people back then (such as the members of the Reformed churches) were not able to afford a newspaper – a Dutch tax on newspapers made them hard to afford. Still, Groen started us down the road of Reformed journalism, and later his successor, Abraham Kuyper, broadened the effort, in large part due to the abolishment of the newspaper tax. And, of course, it helped that while Kuyper's journalistic efforts had a particular appeal to those of a Reformed persuasion, they were appealing to the nation as a whole too. Following in the tradition of Groen and Kuyper, there was an important Reformed journalist much closer to our time. I refer to Pieter Jongeling. He was for many years the editor of a Reformed Dutch newspaper, Nederlands Dagblad, member of the Dutch Parliament and author of many children’s books which he published under the pseudonym Piet Prins. Without the example of van Prinsterer, Kuyper and Jongeling (and there are others as well) I would suggest it is highly doubtful that Reformed Perspective would have seen the light of day. His early years Jongeling was born in Winschoten, a town in the northern part of the Netherlands close to the German border.1 The year was 1909. Less than 5 years later his father died and his mother was left alone to care for her family. She did this by running a grocer’s shop – I guess today we would say a corner store. Those were difficult years in which to grow up. Money was scarce, economic conditions far from rosy. Yet despite this, through ardent self-study, Jongeling was able to get a senior teacher’s diploma but with little hope of getting a job. He was active in the young men’s bible study group and also began publishing stories and poems in the Christian papers of those days. As a result he was employed by one of these papers as a foreign editor. It’s said of Jongeling: ”he was a man who lived with the Bible.” This was quite evident in his work as a journalist. World War II All too soon this work came to an end when the German hordes overran the Netherlands and soon the paper was closed down. But that didn't mean Jongeling stopped writing. Due to his ongoing journalism efforts in the following year – efforts aimed at informing his readers about the activities of the German occupiers – he was arrested in the Spring of 1942. The Germans did not believe in proper legal procedures at that time, with the result that Jongeling was asked to sign a paper admitting his guilt. The paper claimed that he was: “a fanatical opponent of National Socialism” – i.e. Nazism. This was something Jongeling agreed with wholeheartedly so he signed the paper with pride. Together with many Reformed people, he regarded National Socialism as totally contrary to what the Bible teaches. The outcome was that he was sent to Sachsenhausen, Oranienburg, 30 kilometers northwest of Berlin, where he spent the next three years. Who can possibly understand the privations suffered by these people, not knowing what was happening at home, and the trauma involved in being held by people who were utterly ruthless? Jongeling relates that he and 40 other men were sent to Sachsenhausen but as far as he was aware only 5 returned after the war. Many were executed without charge or based only on an accusation! Jongeling’s wife undertook a number of schemes to get messages to her husband. For example, a Christmas card featured the photo of their daughter to give him some idea of what she looked like. All in all, the following years were quite harrowing when considered from my comfortable armchair in Australia. As the Russians advanced on Germany from the east, Jongeling and his fellow prisoners were marched out of Sachsenhausen. The fanatical, ruthless S.S., the Nazi police force, were put in control of the group that left Sachsenhausen. These Nazi butchers still insisted that their prisoners keep order as they marched on. Many were unable to do that following the brutal privations in the camps and as they collapsed from exhaustion by the side of the road there was no hesitation by the S.S. to put a bullet in the head of a fallen man. Even after reading what Jongeling and his compatriots suffered, I find it is still hard to imagine. But as he confessed on arriving back in the Netherlands, it was God who saved him and restored him to his wife, family and church. Back to work However, changes had taken place during the years Jongeling had spent in Germany. There had been synodical proceedings that resulted in many faithful members of the Reformed churches finding themselves outside the church denomination that they had belonged to since birth. Jongeling and his wife were now members of the new Reformed churches (Liberated). When he went back to his job as a journalist Jongeling described journalism as follows: “A journalist must above all be able to tell a story. He must make the matter clear to the people. If he wants to do that well, then he must, according to me, start from the law of God. That must be the norm. Else the danger exists that evil is called good and good evil and then he misses his target.” He needed two or three months to recuperate, to bring his body back to something like a normal weight. On his return he had weighed 45 kg (99 pounds) and so time to get back to some normality was not out of place. He returned to work on May 20, 1945 and on July 1st that year he resumed work as Editor-in-Chief of the daily paper he had worked for before the war. Editor extraordinaire One would think that upon returning to his post he would be able to do his work with joy, and with the full support of his superiors. But that was not to be. The paper, formerly a Reformed publication, had under the direction of its previous temporary Editor-in-Chief been turned into a newspaper with only a general Christian character. In other words, it was now a paper that did not comment on the struggles within the Reformed churches of the Netherlands. Nevertheless, Jongeling fully understanding where the direction was coming from, approached his work as a Reformed believer. If they wanted him to write from a general Christian basis, well, as he said, “I took general Christian basis as one based on Scripture and the confession. What is contrary to that, I regard as unchristian and revolutionary …” The next three years were often difficult because of the basic disagreement between the editor and directors about the church question. When in 1948 he realized the end of his editorship was nearing, and he was offered the job of editor of a magazine called De Vrije Kerk (the Free Church), he accepted that offer. As he relates, it meant that he had a task and some income, although considerably less than in his previous position. The magazine received a name change to Gereformeerd Gezinsblad – Reformed Family paper. It sought to inform and encourage people throughout the Netherlands to follow the Reformed course. At first, the paper was issued only a couple of times per week. It had very little news but consisted of an editorial, a review of what was happening nationally and internationally, together with opinion and comment rather than news. I remember those days, and do recall it was indeed very small and basic but still the readers were being informed about what it meant to be Reformed in the state and the world around us. For many years after we migrated to Australia, this paper, which later received a new name Nederlands Dagblad (Dutch Daily Paper), was read in our home even after I married an Australian who spoke not a word of Dutch. It never failed to teach me much about politics from a Reformed perspective. For this work we have to be truly thankful to Piet Jongeling. Always teaching He also taught and gave direction to Reformed Christians when he was persuaded to stand for election to the Dutch Parliament, and in 1959 received enough votes for the G.P.V (the Reformed Political Union) to enter parliament as its lone representative. They were difficult times, editor, parliamentarian, husband, and father to three sons and six daughters. Adding to his load, one of his sons died not long after the child was born. And yet Jongeling was highly regarded for his principled approach to his various tasks. He saw it as his task to inform and instruct his fellow believers in the world in which they were placed. I read somewhere the following: “Jongeling wanted in the first place to contribute to the molding and strengthening of his fellow believers. He was somewhat worried about the future. The Christian Dutch nation had become neutral in the 19th century and seemed to be degenerating into one that was antichristian. There would come a time when there would be no place for truly Christian life in it. On the other hand, he did not doubt that God would fulfill his promises to His people. In his childlike faith he remained in all circumstances certain of God’s faithfulness.“ Well done, good and faithful servant Here, then, was a man used indeed by God to build and strengthen the faith of many. In addition to all his other work he also wrote many novels for youth, some 60 or more of them, and wrote poetry, and was indeed an all-rounder in the journalistic sphere. And as some old-time Reformed Perspective readers may remember, he even contributed articles to this magazine. Our brother died in August 1985. Endnote 1 For most of this information, I am indebted to Rik Valkenburg, a Dutch author, and journalist, who interviewed Jongeling and published the result in the book, Jongeling, Ten voeten ui A version of this article was first published in the July/August 2004 issue. Rene Vermeulen published more than 150 articles in the pages of Reformed Perspective from 1984-2010....

Assorted

Eve: the mother of all living

“…she said: ‘God has appointed for me another child…’” - Genesis 4:25 How sad the reflections. Hunched down in front of her tent, she stared into the fire that had to be kept alight to keep at bay the hostile animals which at one time had been friendly. Her heart melted inside her as she remembered how once she would shiver with delight when the rustling in the treetops announced the presence of God the Creator. Now noises in the treetops or in the undergrowth spelled only danger. Among the trees all around, like heavy drapes, hung the somber forebodings of new unknown perils that could afflict their scarred family on this now-cursed earth. Terrible had been that day, when God angrily asked them to give account. The man who had once jubilantly embraced her, bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh, had pointed his finger: "that woman You gave me made me do it." There was no solidarity in guilt, no comfort in huddling together. Huddling? How solitary began the life after the fall! It still thundered in her ears: "That woman." Coming from her husband, her glory, her king! That woman. She was indeed the one who had taken the first evil step. They had been warned: the day you eat of that tree you shall die. They had eaten, and now the lifeline, through which the energy of love flowed between man and his Maker, was cut off – cut off by themselves through their willful disobedience. They moved about like before, but they were dead. Everything was lost through guilt. Her guilt. His guilt. Their guilt. But was there not the promise of the renewal of life, through the seed of the woman, that would eventually crush the head of the serpent? Yes, they had heard and believed the promise. And they looked forward to its fulfillment. They were not unlike the flowers and the trees early in the year: buds begin to swell, and there is the stirring of new life, a looking forward to friendly sunshine, mild summer showers and buzzing insects. And expectations began to grow, but as yet undefined and without specific contents. Then came the day when she began to feel the stirring of new life inside her own body. It was something totally new. Animals gave birth to their young, and buds burst open on the twigs to allow the tiniest little leaves to unfurl and show their brand-new foliage to the sun. But to man, no children have been born as yet. And therefore, what longing, what looking forward! Will this be the seed that was to crush the head of the serpent? **** The woman, who was called Eve by her husband because she was to be the mother of all living, carried her first child. And she talked to him, and she prayed for him, and she sang for him the lullaby for the unborn (as women would do for centuries after her), and she felt him thrashing around inside. Her husband would put his ear against the taut skin of her belly, which was round and hard as the bellies are of women who are great with child, and in his ear sounded the thud, thud, thud, of a forceful heartbeat, and he laughed, because the LORD had given cause for laughter. Advent had come; the firstborn who was to open the womb was about to be delivered. Yes, and the day came that those mysterious feminine powers of her body took over because the child that had been so intricately wrought in the depth of the earth was now full-grown, and wanted to see the light. Her husband had to act as instant midwife, because there was no one else about. How strong the power of her contractions, wave after wave! The world was startled with an entirely new sound, the crying of the firstborn child. And above the chortling baby noises, there sounded the victorious song of an exhausted mother: "A man! With the help of the LORD I have gotten a man!" The mother promise have been fulfilled. **** And another son was born, and daughters; a family was being formed on the face of the earth beyond the gate of Eden, but yet before the LORD. Their children, conceived and born in sin, were nevertheless children of the promise and they brought them up in the knowledge and the fear of the LORD of the covenant. They were actively expecting the day of the fulfillment of the promise... But when the lads attained manhood, the robust tiller of the soil stood up against his brother and killed him. He killed him, because his works were evil and those of his brother were righteous. The motivation for his deed came from the depths of depravity. Their mother still remembered how they had found Abel's dead body and seen what bodily death looks like. They discovered how rigor mortis sets in after a certain length of time. Dust they were, and here was the first one to return to dust. How they had wailed and lamented! Even years later, she could not hold back her tears as she remembered all that had passed. The man that she had gotten with the help of the LORD: a murderer, a marked man, who had chosen the camp of the evil one, East of Eden. Her second son: a martyr, dead and buried, the first soul under the altar to call for justice. Is that then the way in which God fulfills his covenant promises? Instead of the presence of God rustling in the treetops, there seemed everywhere the triumphant snickering of Satan, with his mock salutation: Ave Eva, are you the mother of all life? The LORD has left you; Cursed are you among women, And doomed is the fruit of your womb! **** It was the year one hundred and thirty, from the start of the world. The years that had passed had taught them to walk in faith, not by what meets the eye. What they observed was a broken line. The sum total of their experiences looked very much like a dead end road. But they had in their way, through suffering, learned obedience. Their tribulation had worked endurance, and endurance had produced character, and character did produce hope. And in hope they were not disappointed, because again God granted life. Her arms, which had been empty, were again graced with the moist warmth of a new son. He drank from her, and as he smiled, as children do, nestling against their mothers’ bosom, his mother repeated over and over: "Seth, Seth, for God has appointed me another child instead of Abel, for Cain slew him…” It was the profession of her faith in Him who after much distress because of sin still provided friendly sunshine, and a new hope. "Seth, Seth,” she hummed as gently she rocked him to sleep. Sleep, Seth, sleep; The ways of God are deep. Gone are your brothers two. The promise now must come through you; Sleep, Seth, sleep. **** In her confession she praised God who in his elective love had opened the door, there where human flesh could only perceive a blind wall. Through this door could prosper and continue the flow of the generations – the seed of the woman – until the Servant of the LORD, the Righteous One, would come. There was happy laughter again in Eva's tent, as the suckling grew to manhood, ready to carry on the torch, as his name implied. And the Genesis account hardly gives us a chance to catch our breath as it hurries on: to Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. No time for stalling now; things are happening; history is on the move! Then, with the growth of the different family units among God's people came the time to turn the house congregation into an instituted church and to praise God's holy name in public worship. **** Is not remarkable that the historical account of those early days, brief as it is, contains two narratives about the birth of Seth? The beginning of Chapter 5 looks like a fresh new start: Adam was created in the image of God, and Adam fathered Seth in his image and he gave him his name. It is introduced as the account of the generation of Adam, in the same manner as later there would be a book of the generation of Jacob. God created a new thing, a turning point in history. But praised be his name, He did not cut off the continuity from the beginning. The promise had been given to the woman. Adam fathered Seth, true. But it was also in the continuity of the paradise-given mandate that Eve mothered him. Eve mothered again. She brought forth a replacement. A sword had gone through her heart, but this replacement brought healing; she accepted it in faith. Therefore let all generations honor her name: Ave, Eva, mother of all the living; The LORD is with you. Blessed are you among women, And blessed is the fruit of your womb, Whose name is Seth, replacement. **** Abel's blood was shed, and although dead, through his blood, he still speaks today. From Seth would come forth the final Replacement, not of Abel whose blood was shed, but of Adam. That second Adam, the Christ, has shed his blood for Adam, for Eve, for Abel, and for all of us. And we are called to attend to that sprinkling of blood, which spoke more graciously than the blood of Abel. Yes, blessed are you, Eve, because blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. In this reflection the author wants to direct us back to the text to look at it with new eyes – an oh-so-familiar story startles us once again when viewed under this different light. But like any commentary on Scripture, it shouldn’t be read instead of the text itself. Read on its own, it could become confusing as to what are the author’s thoughts, and what the text actually says. So an important follow-up then is to look up Genesis 3-5. John de Vos was Reformed Perspective’s very first editor and this article was first published in the October 1993 issue as part of a series of articles (and later a book) on "women in the history of salvation."...

History, Politics

The rise and fall of Canada's most effective opposition MP

It’s hard to conceive of any way that a Christian politician could, in today’s Canada, win a mandate to turn the country in a Christian direction. So if seizing power seems an unreachable goal, is there any other means by which Christians could prove influential in the political sphere? Yes. As Svend Robinson proved, you don’t need to be in government to have enormous influence – you just need to be fearless, dedicated, hardworking, and outspoken. And did we mention fearless? Svend Robinson was by far the most influential opposition Member of Parliament in Canadian history. He was not a force for good, however; Robinson used his influence to push Canada to the Left, especially on social issues. He was the first openly homosexual elected politician in Canada, and also worked to expand abortion rights, and legalize assisted suicide. Robinson’s life and influence are chronicled in Graeme Truelove’s 2013 book Svend Robinson: A Life in Politics. Truelove is an adoring fan including only the occasional bits of criticism, and that from other left-wing critics, like some of Robinson’s NDP colleagues who did not appreciate his brash and publicity-hungry style. Still, Truelove’s book gives us a look at how much can be accomplished by a politician unconcerned with playing it safe. Early life Svend Robinson was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota on March 4, 1952. His parents were both left-wing activists and his father was an English professor. However, according to Truelove, Robinson’s father was also an alcoholic with an anger problem, and had a hard time holding onto a job. As a result, the family moved frequently, mostly within the United States. Then in 1966, in conscientious objection to the Vietnam War, Robinson’s family moved to Burnaby, BC where his father got a position at Simon Fraser University. From an early age Svend Robinson demonstrated that he was intelligent, driven and as Truelove puts it, he had a “monumental capacity for hard work.” In 1972 he won the University of British Columbia’s (UBC) most prestigious award. He was appointed to a BC government commission on post-secondary education in 1974 and subsequently to the UBC Board of Governors in 1975. He was still in his early twenties. For most of his student years at UBC Svend was married to a women, Patricia Fraser. Eventually, however, he gave in to his homosexual urges and his marriage ended. He graduated from UBC with a law degree in 1976 and then spent a year at the prestigious London School of Economics in England. All through this time Svend had been active in numerous left-wing causes and organizations including the New Democratic Party (NDP), as both the president of BC Young New Democrats, and as a member of the Provincial Executive and Federal Council of the NDP. NDP candidate Returning from England, Robinson became the NDP candidate for Burnaby’s federal riding in 1977. Working as a lawyer during the day, he spent much of his free time campaigning for a federal election that wasn’t held until 1979. As a young, first-time candidate, Robinson tried to get support wherever he could. Truelove notes that Robinson: "used his socialist background to personally convince the Burnaby Club of the Communist Party not to run a candidate against him, assuring him a handful of votes that could make the difference in a close race." On May 22, 1979, he won his seat in the federal election and became an NDP MP. His first private member’s bill proposed the complete decriminalization of abortion, which was still partially restricted at that time. Prime Minister Joe Clark’s minority government fell a few months later and a new election was held in 1980. Robinson was re-elected. Pierre Trudeau became Prime Minister again and renewed his drive to change Canada’s constitution. Robinson’s Charter influence One of Trudeau’s main goals was to have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms added to Canada’s constitution. A special parliamentary committee was formed to carefully review the proposed Charter and to reshape it as necessary. Robinson was one of two NDP MPs on this committee. In this role, he had a crucial impact on the shaping of the Charter. Robinson proposed numerous changes, some of which were adopted and some of which weren’t. His influence, however, was substantial. Truelove quotes journalist Michael Valpy as writing that Robinson, “perhaps more than any other opposition MP, has been the architect of the Charter of Rights.” Robinson proposed adding “sexual orientation” to the list of protected categories in the Charter. That was rejected by Justice Minister Jean Chrétien. However, Chrétien said that future courts were free to interpret the Charter as if sexual orientation was protected. That would be up to the courts to decide. Chrétien’s caveat ensured that “future courts would be empowered to take evolving social mores into account and expand the list themselves.” Today, few people remember the central role played by Robinson in the framing of the Charter. However, Truelove correctly notes that: "an examination of Robinson’s contributions to the debate at the time, and of the ways in which the courts have embraced his point of view in the years since repatriation, suggests that his name deserves mention among the movers and shakers who crafted this defining feature of the Canadian legal landscape." Stacking the witness list In 1985 the government of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney established a parliamentary subcommittee to seek public input on the Charter’s equality rights provisions. The committee would travel across the country holding hearings for this purpose. Svend Robinson was appointed to this subcommittee. He immediately began to contact homosexual activists across the country to get them onto the list of presenters to the committee. Truelove writes that this tactic of “stacking the witness list” is common across the political spectrum. Whatever the case, Robinson successfully stacked the list with activists who would argue that homosexual rights should be protected by the Charter. In this way, politically-active homosexuals had a disproportionate influence on the subcommittee. His tactic was very successful and the subcommittee’s report was overwhelmingly favorable to the homosexual rights cause. The Justice Department’s 1986 official response to the subcommittee’s report echoed its commitment to homosexual rights. This was a major success for the gay rights movement in Canada. Friend of Morgentaler Brian Mulroney and the Progressive Conservative Party had come to power in the federal election of 1984. Robinson had been re-elected at that time. Besides his efforts on behalf of homosexual rights, he also pushed hard for the liberalization of Canada’s abortion law, proposing bills to that effect. Furthermore, Truelove writes that Robinson: "worked closely with pro-choice advocate Dr. Henry Morgentaler (one pamphlet circulated by opponents in Burnaby called him Morgentaler’s 'best friend' in Parliament) and accompanied him to the Supreme Court in 1988 as Morgentaler appealed his conviction for performing illegal abortions." The 1988 Morgentaler decision struck down any legal restrictions on abortion in Canada. It came out in January, and the following month Robinson, for the first time, came out publicly as a homosexual. He was the first elected official in Canada to do so. Many people believed that his public “outing” would hurt his political career, but they were wrong. The culture had changed enough that a significant body of opinion supported him. In fact, donations to his NDP riding association poured in from all over Canada, and it raised more money for the 1988 federal election than any other NDP riding association. That would also be the case in subsequent elections. Assisting suicide Besides abortion and homosexuality, Robinson worked hard on behalf of assisted suicide. He supported a woman named Sue Rodriguez who had a debilitating disease and challenged the criminal prohibition on assisted suicide in court. She argued that the prohibition violated her Section 7 Charter right to security of the person. Rodriguez lost in a 5-4 Supreme Court decision in September 1993. The prohibition on assisted suicide was ruled to be constitutional. In spite of the decision, Rodriguez wanted to proceed with an assisted suicide anyway. As Truelove relates, she: "needed someone else to help her end her life when the time came, so she asked Robinson. He felt privileged to be asked, and despite the serious legal risk, he agreed to help." He was the only person with her when she died in 1994 but he was not charged with any crime due to a lack of evidence. He continued to push unsuccessfully for the legalization of assisted suicide. His 1997 parliamentary motion to create a committee to write legislation legalizing physician-assisted suicide was overwhelmingly defeated in the House of Commons. Leadership campaign In 1989 Robinson supported Yukon MP Audrey McLaughlin in her campaign to be the federal NDP leader. She won the leadership but the party lost most of its seats in the 1993 election. She resigned in 1994 and the following year Robinson launched a campaign to become NDP leader. He represented the most extreme left-wing faction of the NDP. Among his early supporters was future NDP leader Jack Layton. A Toronto city councilor at the time, “Layton was put in charge of fundraising, and the Ontario campaign was launched in the living room of the home he and Chow shared.” The leadership convention was held in October 1995. With three candidates for the leadership, Robinson finished first on the initial ballot ahead of second-place Alexa McDonough and third-place Lorne Nystrom. Nystrom intended to have his delegates support McDonough to block Robinson’s path to the leadership. Sensing defeat, Robinson decided to concede to McDonough before the second ballot was held as a way to unite the party. It didn’t work. McDonough and her people thought that Robinson was trying to upstage them by throwing the convention to her. This led to continuing rifts within the party between McDonough and Robinson. And many of Robinson’s supporters were outraged that he conceded defeat after winning the first round of balloting. Spinning a hiking accident On December 31, 1997, Robinson was hiking alone on Galiano Island in BC and fell off an 18-metre cliff. He was severely injured. Concerned he might die alone in the wilderness, thoughts of his Cuban lover, Max Riveron, inspired him to muster all of his strength to try to find help. He was successful and subsequently recuperated in hospital. This was a terrible experience, of course. But Truelove writes that Robinson saw a potential political benefit: "He hoped that he could use the story of his fall to demonstrate that the love between homosexual partners was as real and as powerful as the love between heterosexual partners." Homosexual rights achievements In the early part of the 2000s, same-sex marriage became a major issue in Canada. Unsurprisingly, “Robinson was acknowledged as one of the leaders of the same-sex marriage movement.” However, he was actually more concerned about adding “sexual orientation” to the law against hate propaganda. He introduced his own bill, C-250, in 2002 to accomplish this goal. Despite the fact that it was a private member’s bill, it was passed by the House of Commons in September 2003 and by the Senate in April 2004. According to Truelove, “Today he keeps a framed copy of the bill hanging over his desk at home.” Becoming a thief After years of highly effective political work, Robinson’s career came crashing down when he stole an expensive piece of jewelry. The spring of 2004 was a very significant time for Robinson. On March 20 a special event was held in Vancouver to celebrate his 25 years in Parliament. The speaker for the occasion was the world-famous left-wing American intellectual Noam Chomsky. The 2,500 attendees gave Robinson a standing ovation. This was the height of his career. However, three weeks later, on April 9, Robinson stole a ring valued at $21,500 from a jewelry auction in Vancouver. He just took the ring, put it in his pocket and went home. Subsequently, he was overcome with guilt and turned himself in, apologizing profusely for his crime. The fallout ended his political career. As Truelove relates: "If the Office of the Attorney-General had announced it was satisfied with Svend’s apology, and that he wouldn’t be charged, he might have run again. But no such announcement came, and he was left in limbo" A federal election was imminent and Robinson had to let someone else run in his place. Eventually he was charged. Interestingly, Truelove implies that the government was pushed into charging Robinson by a conservative organization: In mid-June an Alberta-based lobby group, run by publisher and former Reform Party activist Link Byfield, ran an ad in The Province which read, ‘Two months ago MP Svend Robinson was caught stealing. Will he be charged with theft?’ With one week to go in the election campaign, Svend was charged. Why did he do it? In the wake of this scandal Robinson was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. His supporters explained the theft as being a result of his anguished mental state, or the stress he experienced from encountering virulent homophobia. Strangely, despite being an ardent atheist, Robinson himself explained his criminal behavior in a rather Christian way. When asked about the theft by Truelove, Robinson replied: "In all of us there’s, you know, there’s bad and good. Maybe this was bad. Maybe I just, you know – temptation overcame me. I don’t know." Robinson tried to make a political comeback by running for the NDP in Vancouver Centre in the 2006 federal election. He was soundly defeated by the sitting Liberal MP. Subsequently, Robinson and Max (who got “married” in 2007) moved to Switzerland where Robinson works as the senior advisor for parliamentary relations at the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Conclusion Truelove is correct in writing that Robinson was “more effective than perhaps any other opposition MP of his generation.” His hard work and determination led to numerous accomplishments in pushing Canada to the Left. Robinson was a “superhero for left-wing activists.” Robinson’s success and influence in Canada are unmistakable. However, it’s interesting to note how Robinson’s career crashed and burned immediately after he reached the pinnacle of success. His 25-year parliamentary anniversary, with adoring crowds and celebrity endorsements, was soon followed by a criminal act that ruined his career and severely tarnished his legacy. Perhaps the end of his career can be compared to that of a political leader mentioned in the Bible who was also at the height of power when “he was brought down from his kingly throne, and his glory was taken from him” (Daniel 5:20, ESV). But there is a more important point to consider. What made Robinson so effective? And what can we learn from his approach? He succeeded because of his commitment to his principles. Make no mistake - Robinson is a godless man, but most certainly a principled one. And what his career demonstrates is that a clear commitment to principles, and a determination to advance those principles, can be an effective political strategy. He would not stop talking about the issues that mattered to him. His outspokenness meant he could never have become prime minister but it also meant that while others politicians were too careful, too tactical, or simply too cowardly too speak out, Robinson was being heard. A principled politician may not be able to rise to the highest positions of power, but what Robinson shows us is that such a politician can still be an influential player who makes a distinctive contribution to the direction of the country. We would do well to imitate his fearless, principled, outspoken approach....

Church history

Kuyper's legacy: for better and for worse

Abraham Kuyper left behind a lasting legacy. There is, most notably, his indispensable role in the Doleantie of 1886, in which he led an exodus of conservative churches from the official, very liberal, Dutch state church. However, there is more church historical significance to Kuyper, especially for later church history. Moreover, unfortunately, not everything in his legacy is endearing. Kuyper was an influential man. He was a prolific writer and people looked to him for leadership. Oftentimes, if Kuyper wrote or said something, many Reformed people took that as being the final word on the subject. There was some critical analysis of his thinking during his lifetime, but what little there was went mostly unheeded. “Father Abraham” was for many people the epitome of what it means to be Reformed. For better There was much that was solidly Reformed about him. He had some good emphases. For instance, he emphasized the autonomy of the local church. Kuyper was opposed to ecclesiastical hierarchy. Another good emphasis was his eye for church history. He had a solid appreciation for Calvin, Laski, and other great Reformed theologians of the past. He taught the churches to value their history. God's sovereignty and the antithesis Another emphasis worth mentioning is the sovereignty of God over all of life. One of Kuyper most famous sayings was: “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: 'Mine!'” Closely related to that was his emphasis on the antithesis. Human beings are either for or against Christ. No one is neutral. The antithesis is the great divide between belief and unbelief. In his politics, Kuyper was sometimes accused of creating the antithesis, of dividing the Netherlands into two hostile camps. In response to that, Kuyper claimed that he simply recognized the antithesis. The recovery of this emphasis is one of his great contributions to our Reformed church history. Worldview Another one is his conception of the Reformed worldview. In 1898, Kuyper travelled to the United States and gave a series of six lectures – the "Stone Lectures" – at Princeton Seminary. In these lectures he laid out how Christianity is not simply theology or religion. It is a conception of the world, a philosophy of life. The Christian faith is something that has a bearing on the way we look at everything, and the way we think about everything. Our contemporary concept of a Christian worldview comes to us directly from Abraham Kuyper. Before Kuyper, no one really thought or spoke in those terms. One could say that it was implied or assumed, but it wasn’t explicit. "Train up your child..." (Prov. 22:6) Kuyper’s impact on Reformed education is especially worth noting. Kuyper had a passion for distinctively Reformed education at every level, from elementary to university. He was also a key figure in getting the Netherlands to financially support independent Christian education. In the Netherlands, Christian elementary and high school education is fully funded by the state. This is directly because of Kuyper. Kuyper argued that Christian education should be on the same footing as public education and, as a politician, he made it happen. Now we can debate the rightness or wrongness of Christian education receiving public funds, but there is no getting away from the fact that Christian education mattered to him and he wanted to make it available for everyone who wanted it. This has a bearing on North America as well. Calvin College was established in Grand Rapids in 1876. It was initially meant just to be a preparatory school and seminary for the Christian Reformed Church. But later, as Kuyper’s views took hold in the CRC, it became a liberal arts college along the same lines as the Free University. Kuyper’s emphasis on Christian education would also have an impact on Canadian Reformed people. Because of him and others, we also value the idea of a Christian school that imparts a distinctively Christian worldview to its students. We recognize that public schools follow a secular worldview and therefore our covenant children don’t belong there. Humanly speaking, at least some of the credit for this way of thinking has to be given to Kuyper. For worse However, Kuyper also had some controversial views. Let me just briefly mention them. Many Reformed people appreciated Kuyper’s emphasis on the antithesis. However, Kuyper had another idea related to culture that some Reformed people appreciated and others didn’t: common grace. Common grace He believed that God had a special grace for the elect. This was the saving grace that he has in Jesus Christ. But there is also a common grace, a grace that God shows to all human beings. With this grace, he gives good things, he restrains wickedness, and he allows unbelievers to make true scientific discoveries, produce beautiful art, compose compelling music, and many other things. This became controversial because some thought that the word “grace” in Scripture always refers to what God does for his people because of Christ. It is true that the word “grace” is not the best word to describe what Kuyper had in mind. Moreover, things became even more complicated when people focussed on the concept of common grace without limiting it by the antithesis. Common grace became so emphasized that believers started becoming more and more worldly and forgetting about the differences that they have with unbelievers. This became a problem in the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands and this also became a problem in the Christian Reformed Church in North America. This doctrine bore the fruit of worldliness and this led many to react against it. As an example of how this works out in practice, a CRC pastor in Calgary named John van Sloten has used episodes of The Simpsons as the text for his sermons. With a doctrine of common grace in the background, he argued that God can reveal himself just as well through cultural phenomena as through his written Word. Therefore, pastors can use music, movies, and TV shows as the “texts” for their sermons. This is what happens when the antithesis is no longer recognized. Another controversial view of Kuyper had to do with the church. He distinguished between the church as institute and the church as organism. The church as institute is the local congregation and the church as organism includes all believers everywhere, or the church in its broadest sense. Some objected to the terminology – “institute” and “organism” are not words found in Scripture or in our Reformed confessions. In fact, the word “organism” was seen by many to have more of a connection to German philosophy than to the Bible. Again, there was also the fruit of this distinction: some placed all the emphasis on the church as organism, seeing that as the “real” church, and then used that to justify cooperation with non-Reformed people in many different endeavours, including Christian education. After all, if the church as organism is the “real” church, and all believers are in this church together, then shouldn’t we work together for God’s kingdom? One could also argue that this view was behind the reluctance of the concerned in the Hervormde Kerk to leave, even when things were so obviously off the rails. Why were they staying in a church where ministers were denying the resurrection of Christ when Paul so clearly says in 1 Corinthians 15 that to deny this is to deny the gospel itself? Kuyper’s weak view of the church probably allowed this to be rationalized. Baptism and the Liberation of 1944 There were other issues, but let me finish with baptism. This is important because of the role it plays in the Liberation of 1944. Kuyper maintained that baptism is administered on the presumption that the child receiving baptism is regenerated - we presume he is saved. The presumption of regeneration then becomes the ground or the basis for administering baptism. That presumption can later turn out to have been wrong. It may become evident that a child has not been regenerated. In that case, Kuyper taught, the baptism was not a real baptism. Against that, Kuyper’s critics argued that baptism is administered on the basis of God’s command and his promises. The starting point is God’s covenant, not what might be presumed about what has happened with regard to regeneration in the one being baptized. Now Kuyper had the freedom to hold these views. While we may not agree with them, these views do fall under the umbrella of confessional orthodoxy. While he taught these views with conviction, with most of these positions he did not himself insist that one had to hold them in order to be Reformed. Problems arose when the next generation made that insistence. They made Kuyper’s theology the exclusive touchstone of Reformed orthodoxy. One could no longer disagree with Kuyper without being accused of being unReformed. That’s where problems began. Klaas Schilder and other theologians took issue with Kuyper’s theology of baptism, his doctrine of the church, his view of the covenant, and other points. When they did this, the followers of Kuyper insisted that such critiques were a breach of orthodoxy. This led to the Liberation of 1944, a foundational event in the history the Canadian Reformed Churches.  Conclusion Today Kuyper has been largely forgotten by many. This is unfortunate. He was a giant in our history. God worked in powerful ways in his life to bring him to true faith. Then he was used by God in a powerful way to point a straying church in the right direction. Whether we realize it or not, a lot of the ethos in our Reformed churches has been shaped by Abraham Kuyper or by reactions against Abraham Kuyper. We can’t ignore him. Endnotes Louis Praamsma's Let Christ Be King: Reflections on the Life and Times of Abraham Kuyper See Hendrik Bouma's Secession, Doleantie, and Union: 1834-1892. He did make that insistence with regard to presumptive regeneration. Dr. Bredenhof has also written a companion piece called "Abraham Kuyper: larger than life."...

Church history

Abraham Kuyper: larger than life

After John Calvin, Abraham Kuyper is probably the figure who looms largest in our Reformed church history. In some ways, in his lifetime he was even more significant and powerful than Calvin was in his. He was a pastor, professor, prolific writer, and politician. He even served as the Prime Minister of the Netherlands. He established a university. He was an important leader of the 1886 Doleantie and an architect of the Union of 1892. For good reason people referred to him as "Abraham the Mighty," or as "Father Abraham." Because of the role of his views in later church controversies, his name would become rather black amongst many in the Canadian Reformed Churches.  But you do not have to appreciate or endorse the idiosyncrasies of Kuyper’s theology to understand that he has a played a huge role in shaping who we are as Reformed people today. Here we will explore his life's story and elsewhere, in this same issue, dip into his theology. Early life Let’s start at the beginning. Abraham Kuyper’s father was Jan Frederik Kuyper. He was a minister in the Netherlands Hervormde Kerk (NHK), the official Dutch state church. Jan Kuyper had already been a minister for six years when 120 conservative congregations left the NHK in the "Secession of 1834." However, he did not join them. He wasn’t a liberal, but he wasn’t completely confessionally Reformed either. He was just happy to stick with the status quo. Abraham was born October 29, 1837 in Maasluis, just outside of Rotterdam. For what we would call elementary school he was homeschooled by his parents. When he was 12 years old, his family moved to Leiden and there he went to school for the first time. This would be similar to our high school except that it was oriented to academics – it was preparation for university studies. He studied there for six years and then, in 1855, when he was 18, he began studies at the University of Leiden. There he pursued what for us would be the equivalent of a Bachelor of Arts degree. He graduated with the highest honors – obviously a bright and gifted student. Kuyper as a young student But we should take note of what all this did to his faith. He would later write, I entered the university a young man of orthodox faith, but I had not been in the school more than a year and a half before my thought processes had been transformed into the starkest intellectual rationalism. He even stopped praying altogether. He remained a member of the Hervormde Kerk, the NHK, at least on paper. But his faith shriveled, to be replaced by the modernism and liberalism then in vogue. Related to this point, Kuyper didn’t make public profession of his faith. In fact, it would not be until some years later, after he graduated from seminary and was a candidate for the ministry, that he would finally take that step. Even then, there wasn’t much faith to confess. After graduating with his bachelor’s degree, Kuyper stayed on at Leiden University to study theology. Leiden’s theology department was a center for liberal theology. Some of the most notorious liberal theologians taught at Leiden. One of them was Prof. J. H. Scholten. He was a persuasive teacher of systematic theology. But he didn’t believe the Bible was the Word of God. When it came to formulating his system of theology, he relied more on reason than on revelation. Then there was Prof. L. W. E. Rauwenhoff. I once mentioned him in the introduction to a sermon I preached on Lord’s Day 17. Let me briefly tell the story: The young man and his friends were excited. There was a new teacher at the school. The new professor was not much older than them, only thirty-two years old. Finally there was some fresh, young blood at the school, some fresh thinking. His name was Professor Rauwenhoff, a professor of church history. One of his first lectures dealt with the resurrection of Christ. The young man listened intently. Professor Rauwenhoff pointed out that the Bible spoke very clearly about the resurrection. However, he said, we have to be careful because the Bible often uses symbolic language that is not meant to be taken literally. After all, the Bible is not a textbook for science or history. Moreover, no rational modern man could actually believe that Christ’s body was raised from the dead at certain place at a certain point in real history. That would be against all the laws of nature and everybody knows that those laws simply can’t be broken. Jesus rose from the dead, yes, but not in history. He rose in the hearts of his disciples. His body remained in the tomb. As the professor reached his conclusion, the young man and his friends leapt from their seats and started clapping. They were applauding a professor who finally understood. Finally they had a teacher who was with the times. The young man, twenty-three years old, was thrilled with a prof who had the courage to say what everybody else was thinking. That’s a true story and it took place in 1860 in the Netherlands at the University of Leiden. The students were all men studying to become Reformed ministers. The young man was Abraham Kuyper. Now eventually, God would grab hold of Kuyper and convert him and he would become a mighty tool in God’s hands to bring Reformation to the Netherlands. He had his weaknesses and shortcomings – no man is perfect – but many of our families trace their roots back to the Reformation led by Kuyper, the Doleantie. Later in life, Kuyper confessed that he was still haunted by what happened in that classroom in 1860. He had applauded the denial of Christ’s resurrection. With his denial, he had grieved his Lord and Saviour and this bothered him immensely. Rauwenhoff was known as “the Defender of Modernism.” His teaching continued to send Abraham Kuyper down the path of unbelief. Yet God did not stop chasing him. A series of providential events led Kuyper back to faith. It began with learning how to pray again. The University of Groningen organized an essay competition. One of Kuyper’s seminary professors encouraged him to enter and write a research paper comparing the views of John Calvin with a Polish Reformer named Jan Laski. Kuyper was reluctant because there wasn’t much out there still available from Laski. Still Prof. DeVries encouraged him to persevere and sent him to his father in the city of Haarlem who had a large collection of books. The elder DeVries wasn’t sure where the books of Laski were in his library, but he told Kuyper to come back the next day. In the meantime he would check. When Kuyper returned, he encountered the very writings of Laski that he had been missing. Kuyper thought it was something like a miracle and from this point on he began praying again. This event also encouraged him to engage in some serious scholarship. He not only wrote a prize-winning paper on Laski, but also went on to write his doctoral dissertation on him, and later published a complete critical edition of Laski’s writings. But as far as his spiritual development was concerned this was only the small first step. He received his bachelor of divinity degree in 1861 and his doctorate in theology in 1862. Around the same time another piece fell into place. He read a novel. It is unusual in church history for a novel to play a role. More unusually, the novel was not in Dutch, but in English. It was a Victorian novel entitled The Heir of Redclyffe. It was written by Charlotte Yonge. There were two things that Kuyper took away from this novel. First was a reorientation of his priorities. He came to realize that God values a broken and contrite heart and he began to feel that heart within himself. The second thing was a sense of the place of the church. At the end of the book, one of the characters dies and Yonge writes about how he had been prepared for that moment by “his mother church,” a church which had guided him all his life. When Kuyper read those words, he became jealous. He had never known such a church, but he wanted her. Called to the ministry After receiving his doctorate, Kuyper was examined to be eligible for call in the Hervormde Kerk. He sustained his examination. However, there was a glut of candidates. Vacant churches could afford to be fussy and they were. It took ten months before Kuyper finally received a call. It was to the Hervormde Kerk in the village of Beesd, to the south of Utrecht. He was ordained as their pastor on August 9, 1863. He was married a month before this to Johanna Hendrika Schaay. His first congregation didn’t exactly welcome him with open arms. Kuyper had a reputation as a fence sitter. He was sort of liberal and sort of orthodox, but not really one way or the other. The more liberal minded in the congregation could live with a compromiser more readily than the orthodox. Pietje Baltus (1830-1914) Amongst the orthodox was a single woman in her mid-thirties, Pietje (Pietronella) Baltus. Despite still being in the liberal-dominated Hervormde Kerk, she was a devout Christian. Rev. Kuyper did not impress Pietje Baltus. She wanted nothing to do with him. Nevertheless, Kuyper made his visits and soon was in her neighborhood. A neighbor told her that before long the new minister would be at her door too. She scoffed, “I have nothing to do with that man.” But then the neighbor said, “But don’t forget, Pietje, that our minister too has an immortal soul, and that he too is travelling towards eternity.” Those words changed her mind and the door swung open when the minister came to visit. Pietje Baltus became another instrument in God’s hand in the spiritual development of Abraham Kuyper. As he visited with her, she witnessed to him of her hope in Jesus Christ. She told him that he must have the same hope or he would perish eternally. This made an impact. Kuyper often came back to visit with her. She influenced him positively in a Reformed direction. He wasn’t yet totally orthodox in a confessional sense. But by this point God was breaking him away from liberalism and turning him back to true faith in Christ. As can be expected, these developments in his personal life had a bearing on his preaching and ministry in Beesd. This was partly because of a peasant woman who would otherwise receive no notice. Pietje Baltus is another example of how God used the weak and lowly in the eyes of the world to advance the Reformation of his church. Largely because of her, Kuyper would always have a special place for those he called the “kleine luyden,” the little folks. Controversy in Utrecht Kuyper spent four years in Beesd, and then, in 1867, he was called to Utrecht, a city slightly to the north. The consistory there was orthodox, though again, still part of the Hervormde Kerk. Yet controversy was brewing. There were two issues in Utrecht. One had to do with the formula for baptism. There were various words being used to baptize in the Hervormde Kerk. Some ministers baptized “unto faith, hope and love.” Others, “unto initiation into Christianity,” and there were other “creative” formulas besides. Under the leadership of Kuyper, the Utrecht consistory decided that they would not recognize any baptisms not administered in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They decided that guest ministers would not be allowed to administer baptism unless they promised to use the words of Christ from Matthew 28. Then the Utrecht Hervormde Kerk sought out other churches that were opposed to laxity on this issue. They formed an association of 143 churches that were dedicated to the Trinitarian baptismal formula. The other issue had to do with church visitation. In Reformed church government every year a pair of ministers are supposed to visit each church on behalf of the churches in a classis region. They look at whether everything is being done properly and then report to the next classis. In the Hervormde Kerk of this time, this was done in a different way. There would be two years where the “visit” was done in writing, and then the third year it would be done in person. Some of the questions asked by the church visitors had to do with doctrine, the doctrine confessed by the Hervormde Kerk. Kuyper and the Utrecht consistory recognized this for the farce that it was. There was no doctrine held in common by the Hervormde Kerk. So when the bureaucratic visitation letters came in 1867 and 1868, the Utrecht church just responded in a bureaucratic fashion by sending back some statistics about the church. They refused to answer the questions about doctrine. They said that the questions are “asked on behalf of a synod with whose dignitaries the consistory has no communion of faith or confession.” The classical board sent another set of questions with a demand that Utrecht comply, but they received the same response. Then the classical board said they would send a committee of two people to ask the questions in person. Utrecht said that they would not receive the committee and the committee didn’t come. Eventually the bureaucracy accepted the position of Utrecht. The ultimate conflict was delayed. Reformation in Amsterdam As for Abraham Kuyper, his stay in Utrecht wasn’t very long. In 1870 he took a call to the enormous Hervormde Kerk in Amsterdam. There was one church for the whole city, but it had several worship services, dozens of elders, and numerous ministers. Of course, there were thousands of members. This was one of the most influential churches in the whole Hervormde Kerk. Now Kuyper was there as one of the ministers. This church was largely heading in an orthodox direction. His inaugural sermon dealt with the doctrine of the church. Kuyper gave a clear indication of where he was going with his principles. He emphasized the autonomy of the local church and criticized the idea of synodical hierarchy. The inevitable conflict with the bureaucracy was looming. Things were pushed further along in 1871. It was Easter and a Rev. P. H. Hugenholtz was on the pulpit for one of the services in Amsterdam. He denied the bodily resurrection of Christ. A member of the church objected to this sermon. He wrote a letter to the consistory and he asked that Hugenholtz be deposed along with any other liberal ministers like him. The consistory couldn’t make a decision like that – the discipline of office bearers was something that the classical board had to deal with. So they forwarded the request to the classical board. And what did they do? They said that the historicity of the resurrection of Christ was not something that ministers were required to believe. There was freedom in the Hervormde Kerk to believe that Christ did not really rise from the dead with a physical body on the third day. Hugenholtz got a pass. However, seventeen elders from the Amsterdam church were fed up. They made a public statement to the church in March of 1872, almost a year after the original sermon. They declared that they were no longer going to attend church when liberal ministers were preaching or administering the sacraments. They encouraged the rest of the congregation to do likewise. By sitting and listening to these heresies, the elders and members were saying that these things weren’t really so concerning. They needed to take a stand. Not everybody in the church saw it the same way. About 1,200 members signed a protest against the seventeen elders. The consistory appointed Abraham Kuyper to write the reply to these members. It turned out to be a 144-page brochure. As a result of the leadership of Kuyper and others, the consistory stood behind the seventeen elders. Writing and politics I just mentioned Kuyper’s brochure. He was a prolific writer. In 1871, he started a weekly newspaper, The Herald (De Heraut). This newspaper was an important means through which Kuyper spread Reformational thinking, and it was popular. In 1872, he established another newspaper, this one a daily entitled The Standard (De Standaard). This periodical was used mainly to spread his political ideals. On top of that, he cranked out many books dealing with a variety of topics. Some of them have been translated into English, for instance his book on worship (Our Worship) and a thick book on the Holy Spirit (The Work of the Holy Spirit). In 1874 there was another major change in Kuyper’s life. He officially became involved in politics and was elected as a member of Parliament for the Anti-Revolutionary Party (ARP). For some time already he had been involved with Groen van Prinsterer, one of the leading figures of the ARP. Van Prinsterer urged Kuyper to stop merely talking and writing about politics and actually take action. So he did, and now he was faced with a dilemma. According to Dutch law, he could not be both a minister of a church and a member of Parliament. He would have to choose. He chose to resign as a minister of the Hervormde Kerk in Amsterdam to enter the political realm. For a few months he stayed on as an elder of the church, but this proved too much. Until 1882 (when he again became an elder), his official ecclesiastical status was just that of a retired minister. Yet that doesn’t mean that he stopped thinking or writing about theology. It also didn’t mean that he stopped showing leadership with regard to concerns about the Hervormde Kerk. It also didn’t mean the end to his own spiritual development. His Methodist moment Up to this point, Kuyper was still not completely confessionally orthodox. This is reflected in some strange events in 1875. Kuyper became entangled with the Methodists. Methodism was a religious movement originating in England with John Wesley. Most Methodists in history have been Arminians – which means that they deny the doctrines of grace found in the Canons of Dort. They also put a lot of emphasis on revival meetings and having spiritual experiences, especially a conversion experience. In April of 1875, Kuyper wrote an article in The Standard in which he was appreciative of some Methodist evangelists. Shortly afterwards, Kuyper went to England and attended a revival campaign. At one of these gatherings, he even administered the Lord’s Supper. When he came back, he continued to gush about the Methodists and appeared to be leaning in their direction. Then quite abruptly, there was nothing more from Kuyper on this. What happened? First, one of the Methodist evangelists (Robert Pearsall Smith) that Kuyper had been so appreciative of came under suspicion of sexual immorality. Second, and probably more importantly, Kuyper suffered a breakdown. He was overworked. He spent some months recovering in the south of France. It was there that God brought him on the last steps of his journey to confessionally Reformed orthodoxy. Having flirted with Arminianism, he finally fully embraced the doctrines of grace. Kuyper wrote: In the quiet solitude of suffering that I experienced in Nice, my soul was transplanted to the firmness of the firm and energetic religion of our fathers. My heart had indeed yearned for it before, but it was only in Nice that I took a resolute decision. He was about 38 years old. The Free University In the summer of 1877 he resigned his seat in Parliament and took on a new challenge: the development of Reformed higher education. At the end of 1878, Kuyper had mobilized enough people to form a society that would endeavor to set up a university. Finally, in 1880, the university opened. Abraham Kuyper was at the helm of the Free University of Amsterdam and he was also one of the theology professors. The Free University becomes important in church history because it offered an alternative to the liberal seminary training in the state universities. But at the same time, it was an independent institution (a Free University), not under the oversight of any church. The first point became a factor in the Doleantie. The second point became a factor in the discussions regarding unity between the Secession churches and the Doleantie churches. The Doleantie and sunset years In the 1880s, Kuyper also resumed his work as an office bearer in the Hervormde Kerk in Amsterdam. He became an elder again in 1882. He was enmeshed in the struggles of the Amsterdam church with the synodical hierarchy of the Hervormde Kerk. Kuyper showed leadership both inside the consistory room and outside. In 1886, when the Doleantie happened, he was part of the consistory that was suspended and then deposed by the bureaucracy because of their refusal to issue attestations to liberal members. He then led the deposed office bearers and concerned members to form what they called the Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerken (“Low German Reformed Churches”). Together with the consistory, he organized an ecclesiastical congress of concerned members in early 1887 in Amsterdam. They decided to throw off the yoke of synodical hierarchy and form a new federation where the autonomy of the local church was honored and where confessional orthodoxy was taken seriously. There was another meeting in 1887 and there it was decided already to pursue unity with the Secession churches, the churches that had already left the liberal Hervormde Kerk back in 1834. That decision would lead up to the Union of 1892 and Abraham Kuyper would be extensively involved with those discussions as well. 1896 Kuyper portrait by Hendrik J. Haverman Through the 1880s and early 1890s, Kuyper continued to teach theology at the Free University. But in 1894, he was called back to state politics. He was elected again as a member of Parliament. He continued to serve in that capacity until 1901. That year he became the Prime Minister of the Netherlands. His time as PM was beleaguered by various controversies. He only served about four years. By this time, Kuyper was 68 and he “retired.” He took a year off and did some travelling. In his “retirement” years he again served as a member of Parliament on several occasions, and then his last political appointment came in 1913. He was elected to be a Dutch Senator. However, he was getting older and was starting to slow down. He reached the age of eighty-three and then God called him home. That was on November 8, 1920. Conclusion Figures like Abraham Kuyper simply do not exist anymore. You will look in vain for someone who effectively combines being a Reformed pastor, professor, politician, journalist and even prime minister. His accomplishments are all the more remarkable when we remember how muddled his theology was in his early life. God made use of such a mixed-up man to make such an enormous impact. Glory be to God! End notes Frank Vandenberg's Abraham Kuyper. See James D. Bratt's Abraham Kuyper: Modern Calvinist, Christian Democrat. The story was embellished later by Kuyper. There is some question about his public profession of faith. Praamsma (41) says that he did it right before being declared eligible for call. Bratt (23) says that it took place earlier, in 1857. Kuyper would later say, “At the beginning of my service as a minister, I was, sad to say, not acquainted with the way of truth, and I stood in opposition to the holy things of God.” Quoted in H. Bouma's Secession, Doleantie, and Union: 1834-1892 Apparently De Heraut became a weekly religious supplement to De Standaard. As quoted in Louis Praamsma's Let Christ Be King: Reflections on the Life and Times of Abraham Kuyper Dr. Bredenhof has also written a companion piece called "Kuyper's legacy: for better and for worse."...

Science - General

Stephen Jay Gould: An evolutionist who helped creationists

Few American scientists achieved fame and fortune as quickly as Dr. Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002), and few scientists aroused such mixed emotions among their colleagues and the public. Many of his colleagues never forgave him for so spectacularly aiding the creationist cause. As an ardent evolutionist, he certainly had no intention of providing help of any sort to Christians. Dr. Gould complained that creationists exploited his views in an unethical way – that they latter gleefully reported Gould's critical views on the fossil record – that the supposed transitional fossils largely didn't exist – but ignored his support for evolution. He was annoyed that they thought it perfectly reasonable to agree with Gould about the nature of the evidence without subscribing to his assessment of the significance of the evidence. As far as Gould was concerned, his opinions were a package deal: accept all or none. Of course it wasn't just creationists who latched on to just a portion of Gould's opinions. Some of his fellow secular scientists would quote his remarks about the evolution being a fact, while rejecting Gould's conclusions about the fossil record. Suffice it to say then, that Gould was a controversial character in many circles. He was, however, certainly the best known paleontologist of his time, and probably the most popular scientist with the public. Um...you're wrong! In his youth, Gould found deep inspiration for his studies in the concept of evolution. He confided in 1980: "I well remember how the synthetic theory beguiled me with its unifying power when I was a graduate student in the mid-1960s." There was a difference, however, between Gould and other similarly-motivated students in American universities. He and fellow student Niles Eldredge were unafraid to speak their minds. If the emperor had no clothes, then they would say so. And they did! They published an article in 1972 which famously proclaimed that the fossil record did not say what evolutionists were claiming it indicated. The secular scientists of the day claimed that the fossil record demonstrated gradual change over long periods of time. Eldredge and Gould, the cocky young upstarts, said "not so." Born in New York city in 1941, Gould received his doctorate in paleontology from Columbia University in 1967. He then went on to teach at equally prestigious Harvard University. He became a full professor there at the tender age of 33 and remained on the staff for the rest of his life. Among his extracurricular activities which contributed to his fame, he wrote monthly vignettes on science for Natural History Magazine. He began this in 1974 and continued for 300 consecutive issues, ending in 2001. Among his early pieces in Natural History was "Evolution's Erratic Pace." In it he described for public consumption views which he previously communicated in the technical literature. Concerning these views, creationists were ecstatic. Here was an evolutionist drawing the same conclusions they were. The public might be suspicious of people with a vested interest – Christian creationists – but Gould had no particular reason to differ from the establishment view. But differ he did. Thus Gould wrote: "The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology. The evolutionary trees that adorn our textbooks have data only at the tips and nodes of their branches; the rest is inference, however reasonable, not the evidence of the fossils" (Natural History May 1977 p. 14). "Punk eek" Traditional evolutionists or "gradualists," claimed to find fossils in-between one group and another, or in other words, fossils of transitional stages, as one animal evolves into another. But that simply wasn't the way it really was, according to Gould. He said that to make their claims these people had to reject "literal appearance and common sense" in order to discover the supposed "underlying reality" of transitional fossils and evolution (Natural History p. 12) Gould did not go so far as to conclude that "sudden appearance" of creatures in the fossil record suggested the occurrence of a supernatural event such as a worldwide flood. Instead he and Eldredge proposed punctuated equilibria or "punk eek" for short - the idea that evolution proceeds in fits and starts and that the actual process of change is so fast that the transitional stages – the in-between organisms – will hardly ever be preserved as fossils. Many people wonder why, if Gould's interpretation of the fossil record is correct, did establishment scientists of the time represent it as otherwise. Gould himself commented on this in his 1995 book Dinosaur in a Haystack (consisting of articles reprinted from Natural History). On page 127 he noted: "Before Niles Eldredge and I proposed the theory of punctuated equilibrium in 1972, the stasis or nonchange of most fossil species during their lengthy geological spans had been tacitly acknowledged by all paleontologists, but almost never studied explicitly because prevailing theory treated stasis as uninteresting nonevidence for nonevolution." Creationists, for their part, reinterpreted such remarks to mean "interesting evidence for the creation model." Gould, indeed, reiterated his view that the fossil record was an embarrassing "manifestation of nothing (that is, nonevolution)" (p. 128). Supporters of the alternative model (creation) insisted that data suggesting an evolutionary "nothing" actually fit the creation model. As of 1985, Gould considered that his greatest professional achievement was documenting the frequency and importance of stasis (Paleobiology 11 # 1 p. 6). There is no doubt that this and other views of Stephen Gould had a marked effect on the public. This was particularly so because his writing style was witty, clear and full of unexpected cultural references. He was extremely well read, a fan of Gilbert and Sullivan's English nineteenth century satirical light opera (a particular favorite of mine too), and also an avid baseball fan. Naturally during all those years of writing, Gould communicated not only his views on nature, but his entire philosophy. Gould's philosophy Gould was a materialist. That means he believe that matter was all there is, and there is no spiritual realm. And he did not believe in God. This was the reason he was so taken with Darwinism. As Gould remarked in 1977 in another popular book, Ever since Darwin, Darwin argued that evolution exhibits "no purpose," "no direction" and it is "rigidly materialistic (and basically atheistic)." Since he was an atheist, one may well wonder whether Gould believed in an ultimate reality or in truth. The answer seems to be "perhaps." Indeed in Dinosaur in a Haystack he remarked "I do not think that 'right' and 'wrong' are good categories for assessing mental models of external reality - for models in science are judged as useful or detrimental, not true or false" (p. 96). Moreover he clearly recognized that data themselves do not force a given conclusion. Rather he said, we often have to adopt a new view or paradigm before we will see the significance of certain data. Thus it was only after the creation model was largely rejected and the evolution model adopted that scientists could see evolution in nature. He thus stated in Dinosaur in a Haystack: "Correction of error cannot always arise from new discovery within an accepted conceptual system. Sometimes the theory has to crumble first, and a new framework be adopted, before the crucial facts can be seen at all. We needed to suspect that evolution might be true in order to see variation among individuals in a population as the dynamic stuff of historical change, and not as trivial or accidental deviation from a created archetype" (p. 127). While Gould, time and time again, declared that it is possible to interpret the same data in different ways depending upon our preconceptions, nevertheless he insisted (e.g. Full House 1996 p. 19) that the creation account represents myth which is "not an option for thinking people, who must respect the basic factuality of both time's immensity and evolution's veracity." Since veracity means truthfulness, it appears that he equated evolution with truth. More tolerant than some Stephen Jay Gould died May 20, 2002 at age 60. He had been diagnosed with a rare and deadly cancer at age 40 in July 1982. Concerning that event, he wrote in Discover (June 1985) "death is the ultimate enemy - and I find nothing reproachable in those who rage mightily against the dying of the light." He had undergone an experimental treatment which prolonged his life a further 20 years. His hope however was only for this life. He believed only in chance or contingency as the agent at work in the universe. This view left him with nothing other than himself to believe in. He thus remarked in "Wonderful Life," an essay on British Columbia's Burgess Shale: "We are the offspring of history, and must establish our own paths in this most diverse and interesting of conceivable universes - one indifferent to our suffering, and therefore offering us maximal freedom to thrive, or fail, in our own chosen way" (p. 323). It is impossible not to contrast this view with the Apostle Paul who pointed out that people who have hope only for this life are certainly to be pitied (I Cor 15:19). During his life, Gould was showered with honors including a MacArthur "genius" Fellowship (1981), membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1983), member of the National Academy of Sciences (1989), president of the Palaeontological Society (1985-6), president of the Society for the Study of Evolution (1990-91) and president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1999-2000). He was married for thirty years to Deborah whom he met at university. After a divorce in 1995, he married Rhonda, a sculptor from New York. Some people have called Gould cocky and arrogant and perhaps he was. Nevertheless, although he strongly disliked creationists, he was always polite to them. Moreover he knowingly directed the research of a graduate student well known for his creation based views. That fact alone indicates that Dr. Gould was more tolerant of contrary views than were most of his colleagues. His Christian student, who successfully graduated some years ago, never ceased to pray for him. And so a remarkable man has died. But he contributed much to science and we are sad that he has gone.   An earlier version of this article described Gould as a "professed Marxist and atheist." Was he? Well, his wife said he wasn't, and Gould also denied he was a Marxist, but in doing so noted that Marx himself rejected the label because the term had become too broad of meaning to be all that desirable a descriptor. He also gave people reason to believe he was indeed Marxist. As Luther Sunderland notes in "Darwin's Enigma" while "Gould has occasionally tried to give the impression that he objected to being called Marxist....at least once under oath in a court deposition...he acknowledged he was a Marxist." Evolutionist Michael Ruse has written that ""Quite openly, one of the leading punctuated equilibrists, Stephen Jay Gould, admits to his Marxism, and lauds the way in which his science is informed by his beliefs..." He was also said to be on the advisory board of the journal "Rethinking Marxism." So was he Marxist? If one was intent on arguing it one way or the other, it seems evidence can be found. But as we are not intent on making either argument, and as such an argument is a distraction from the central point of this article - that an evolutionist found problems with evolution – the line has been dropped. Dr. Margaret Helder is the author of “No Christian Silence on Science” which you can buy here. The photo of Stephen Jay Gould is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license as found here. ...

Pro-life - Abortion

Margaret Sanger: Planned Parenthood's apostle of eugenics

EDITOR'S NOTE: The original title the editor gave this – "Margaret Sanger: Apostle of abortion and eugenics" – made it seem as if Sanger was a public advocate of both. While she was a public eugenicist, she publicly opposed abortion, even as (according to Ellen Chesler's biography "Woman of valor: Margaret Sanger and the Birth Control Movement in America") her clinics would sometimes, privately, refer women for abortions.  **** The largest abortion provider in the United States is an organization called Planned Parenthood. It receives money from the US federal government and various state governments. Planned Parenthood also has a presence in most other countries of the world including Canada. Like the US, the Canadian federal government financially supports this organization. In both countries such government funding is strongly opposed by pro-lifers. The founder of Planned Parenthood was a woman named Margaret Sanger (1879-1966). She is an icon of leftists throughout the English-speaking world, though she is probably most popularly known as a promoter of birth control. She was that, to be sure, but there is much more that should also be known about her. Sanger was a dedicated opponent of Christian principles and capitalism. Her legacy through Planned Parenthood continues to infect the world and influence countless people towards evil. American author George Grant wrote an insightful biography of Margaret Sanger a few years ago entitled Killer Angel: A Short Biography of Planned Parenthood's Founder Margaret Sanger. From this account it would appear that Margaret Sanger’s contribution to humanity has been extremely harmful. Convert to socialism Margaret Sanger was born as Margaret Higgins in Corning, New York in 1879, one of eleven children. Her home life was hard and unhappy, in large part because her father was a miserable person. He was a religious skeptic. Her mother was a Roman Catholic who had Margaret baptized and confirmed in the Roman Catholic Church in her early teens. In her mid-teens Margaret attended Claverack College. Here, Grant writes, she “plunged into radical politics, suffragette feminism, and unfettered sex.” Subsequently she worked briefly as a kindergarten teacher and then worked in a hospital, training to be a nurse. In 1900 Margaret met a promising young architect named William Sanger. They married and had three children. William was a leftwing social activist. Margaret would accompany him to various leftwing meetings, and she became very excited about far-left ideas. As a result, she joined the Socialist Party. Margaret then began writing for the Socialist Party newspaper and speaking on behalf of the Party to labor organization meetings. In the early 1900s the Socialist Party was a significant organization in American politics. Hundreds of locally-elected public officials were members of the Party, and it won 6 per cent of the national vote in the 1912 presidential election. As time went on, Margaret increasingly neglected her family because of her devotion to leftwing activism. William, who had introduced her to that activism, became concerned. But it was too late for him to do anything. Grant states that: Margaret told her bewildered husband that she needed emancipation from every taint of Christianized capitalism—including the strict bonds of the marriage bed. She even suggested to him that they seriously consider experimenting with various trysts, infidelities, fornications, and adulteries. Because of her careful tutoring in socialist dogma, she had undergone a sexual liberation – at least intellectually – and she was now ready to test its authenticity physically. Nevertheless, William tried desperately to save the marriage. At this time, fashionable leftwing intellectuals held meetings in the Greenwich Village district of New York City, and Margaret became a regular attendee. These intellectuals were noted for their practice of “free love”, but, Grant notes, “no one had championed sexual freedom as openly and ardently as Margaret.” In a last ditch effort to save his marriage, William took his family to Paris. However, Margaret got bored of Paris and moved back to New York along with her children. The marriage was over. In New York she founded a new periodical appropriately titled The Woman Rebel. Grant notes that its “first issue denounced marriage as ‘a degenerate institution,’ capitalism as ‘indecent exploitation,’ and sexual modesty as ‘obscene prudery.’” England and eugenics Due to the extreme content of her paper, Margaret was charged with the publication of lewd and indecent materials. Rather than face the charges she fled the US for England. While in England, Margaret became enmeshed in the ideas of Thomas Malthus and his followers. Malthus was an early nineteenth century philosopher who promoted the belief that the world was facing a crisis due to overpopulation. Human population was, in his view, increasing much more rapidly than the availability of resources, so humanity was facing disaster. His followers basically wanted to restrict the growth of human population in order to prevent such a disaster. In the early twentieth century, one of the major streams of Malthusian thinking was Eugenics, a view that the human race could be improved through selective breeding. That is, Eugenic supporters wanted to ensure that the supposedly best racial stocks reproduced while supposedly inferior racial stocks were inhibited from reproducing. Margaret became a strong promoter of Eugenics. She also met and became friends with many of the leading leftwing intellectuals of Britain. Some of them became her lovers. Grant writes: Free from what she considered “the smothering restrictions of marital fidelity,” she indulged in a nymphomaniacal passion for promiscuity and perversion. Promoting Malthus After a year in England, Margaret returned to the United States. She was able to generate enough public support that the charges against her were dropped. Then she embarked on a very successful cross-country tour promoting her ideas. However, her subsequent attempt to operate an illegal birth control clinic was shut down by the authorities. After spending a few days in jail due to operating the illegal clinic, Margaret founded the American Birth Control League and its magazine, The Birth Control Review. This new organization would eventually evolve into Planned Parenthood. Margaret and the American Birth Control League became very popular, receiving support and financial help from many prominent people. To further promote her beliefs, in 1922 she wrote an important book entitled The Pivot of Civilization that openly advocated Malthusian and Eugenic goals. In 1925 Margaret hosted a conference in New York to promote Malthusian ideals and birth control. One achievement of this conference was the formalization of a loose federation of organizations supporting birth control. During the 1940s this organization would become known as International Planned Parenthood. An unhappy life Despite her notable achievements, Margaret was not personally happy. Grant says that in a desperate attempt “to find meaning and happiness, she lost herself in a profusion of sexual liaisons. She went from one lover to another, sometimes several in a single day.” Although Margaret had publicly condemned marriage, in 1922 she married a wealthy oilman, J. Noah Slee. However, in order to marry Margaret, Slee had to agree to allow Margaret to sleep around. Through this marriage, Margaret got access to millions of dollars of funding for her cause. During the 1930s Margaret had friendly ties with fellow Eugenic supporters in Germany. Grant explains: Because of her Malthusian and Eugenic connections, she had willingly become closely associated with the scientists and theorists who put together Nazi Germany’s “race purification” program. She had openly endorsed the euthanasia, sterilization, abortion, and infanticide programs of the early Reich. She happily published a number of articles in The Birth Control Review that mirrored Hitler’s Aryan-White Supremacist rhetoric. She even commissioned her friend, Ernst Rudin, director of the Nazi Medical Experimentation program, to serve the organization as an advisor. Despite those unsavory associations, Margaret’s star continued to rise after the Second World War. By the 1960s she was exceptionally famous, and her efforts were publicly supported by such prestigious leaders as John D. Rockefeller, Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower. Personally, though, she continued to have problems. On top of her immoral lifestyle, she involved Planned Parenthood in financial scandals. Grant says that: She often spent Planned Parenthood money for her own extravagant pleasures. She invested organizational funds in the black market. She squandered hard-won bequests on frivolities. And she wasted the money she’d gotten “by hook or by crook” on her unrestrained vanities. Grant also points out one more notable aspect of Margaret’s personality: Throughout her life, Margaret Sanger developed a rakish and reckless pattern of dishonesty. She twisted the truth about her qualifications as a nurse, about the details of her work, and about the various sordid addictions that controlled her life. Her autobiographies were filled with exaggerations, distortions, and out-and-out lies. Needless to say, she was not a woman of good character. Margaret Sanger died on September 6, 1966. Conclusion Planned Parenthood is a large and powerful organization in both Canada and the United States. In the US that organization is commonly in the news due to its controversial activities and agenda. As such, Christians are often confronted with the legacy of Margaret Sanger even today. She is gone but her agenda is aggressively pursued by her disciples, and we see it today as a largely evil agenda of abortion and population control. Margaret Sanger made an unmistakable mark on the world that continues unabated in the contemporary abortion policies of many countries. Michael Wagner's latest book, Leaving God Behind, about Canada's Christian roots, can be purchased here....

History

Ulrich Zwingli: Reformer in the shadows?

In 1983 churches all over the world commemorated the 500th anniversary of the birth of Martin Luther. Ulrich Zwingli should have gotten the same sort of celebration a year later, when his own 500th birthday came and went on January 1, 1484. But Zwingli (1484-1531) has had to stand somewhat "in the shadows" of such giants as Luther and Calvin. But Zwingli's person, work, and life merit some more attention than he has received through the years. The call to "remember your leaders" (Hebrews 13:7) extends also to this man and the work he was enabled to do by the Lord. Early life Ulrich Zwingli was born into a relatively prosperous family living in the mountainous region of Wildhaus, Switzerland, as one of many children. Already at a very young age he left home, first to learn from an uncle, Bartholomew Zwingli, who was priest in the town of Wiesen. When he was ten years old, Zwingli proceeded to the grammar schools in Basel and Bern. Fearing that, because of his beautiful singing voice, Zwingli would be inducted into monastery life, his parents sent him on to Vienna, where he studied (natural) science and literature. Here in Vienna, Zwingli was drenched in the humanistic philosophy of his time. In 1506 Zwingli returned to Basel where he was promoted to magister artium (Master of Arts). After a brief training in (mostly scholastic) theology, Zwingli was ordained as priest in the village of Glarus. At this time Zwingli is a typical priest: well educated but humanistically oriented in his thinking. Taking a pacifistic turn Zwingli's period of service in Glarus is significant in many ways. It is here that he begins to study both Christian and secular classics, and becomes attracted to the works of Erasmus, the Dutch humanist. Here, also, Zwingli displays some of the patriotism for which he will become legendary. Although he twice accompanies Swiss infantry in battle for the Pope against the French, Zwingli begins to discourage young Swiss men from becoming mercenaries in foreign service. He expresses these sentiments strongly in an Aesop-like morality tale, The Fable of the Ox. Having experienced the ugly, mass slaughter of the battlefield, Zwingli turned to a more pacifistic philosophy. In 1516, Zwingli left Glarus and took up ministry in Einsiedeln. Here Zwingli further refined his emerging pacifistic views. During this time he considered all service in foreign armies a curse, although he maintained that it is one's patriotic duty to defend one's homeland. While in Einsiedeln, Zwingli met Erasmus and discovered Erasmus' edition of the Greek New Testament. As he proceeded to study this edition, Zwingli began to distance himself more and more from Erasmus' humanistic views and from the prevailing allegorical interpretation of Scripture. He began to study the Word of God in its own light and began to understand that Scripture require a literal interpretation. He realized that the scholastic and philosophical approach to the Bible and theology must be rejected. It is during this same time that Zwingli made a serious study of the works of Augustine and came to condemn the worship of relics and the adoration of saints. This growing resistance gradually deepened into a carefully-worded warning against the worship of Mary, and into a ridiculing of the indulgences. Ministry in Zurich In 1519 Zwingli was installed in Zurich, and it is in this city that he clearly made himself known as a prophetic reformer of great influence. It became evident that Zwingli wanted to let the Scriptures speak for themselves, and that he understood traditions and precepts of men that are made binding for the church are to be rejected. The sola Scriptura of the Reformation began to take powerful form in his ministry! Zwingli supported those who rejected the Romanist laws of fasting. He spoke out against celibacy and himself married a widow of class, Anna Reinhart, a marriage which became officially known two years later, in 1524. That same year Zwingli broke with the Church of Rome by declaring that he can no longer accept the Pope as the "head of the church," instead accusing the Pope of abusing worldly power. Christ is declared as the only Head of the church and His Word as its only guide. Spurred on by Zwingli's preaching, the city council of Zurich refused to give in to the objections of the Bishop of Constanz, but it did agree to conduct a public disputation. The first of these disputations — not unknown in the days of the Reformation — took place in January 1523 between Zwingli and the influential Romanist prelate, Johann Faber. The result was a smashing victory for the Reformation, for at its conclusion the city council of Zurich decrees that from then on nothing may be preached which is not in full accord with the gospel. Growing divisions Many Swiss cities, such as Basel and Bern, took the side of the Reformation in Zurich and, in 1528, formed a Christian federation. However, the Roman Catholic cantons were also organized against the influence of Zwingli and Zurich. This situation ultimately led to battle and bloodshed. On October 11, 1531, in a battle near Kappel, Zwingli was killed along with 400 other citizens of Zurich. After having declared him to be a heretic, a hastily formed court lets his body be quartered and burned. Zwingli paid the price in blood; at age 47, his earthly course suddenly came to an end. While the rift between the Romanist and Reformed factions in Switzerland was inevitable, there also emerged other, perhaps not so expected, divisions. In the years before Zwingli's death, there were radicals in Zurich who felt that Zwingli was not going far enough in his reforms. These radicals, such as Konrad Grebel and Felix Mantz, began to reject all civil authority. The Anabaptist movement was born and it causes so much dissension and confusion that the city council of Zurich arrested its leaders. One of these, Felix Mantz, is executed by drowning in 1527, and the Anabaptist movement then also had a martyr. All this was a source of great sorrow for Zwingli; many of the Anabaptist leaders were former associates and close friends. Of greater significance, perhaps, was the growing division between Zwingli and Luther. In 1529, in a meeting in Marburg, Luther and Zwingli discussed at length the matter of the Lord's Supper but could not come to agreement. Luther's theory of consubstantiation is too far from Zwingli's symbolic interpretation. Although both agree that Christ is present in bread and wine, they cannot agree as to the manner. Luther and Zwingli depart bitterly from each other and become estranged. This controversy, of course, greatly damaged the cause of the Reformation. Since it furthered Zwingli's isolation, it also contributed to his death. Conclusion It is not easy to estimate the significance of the work of a person such as Zwingli. Because of his own development and changing insights, Zwingli's significance cannot be caught in an easy formula. In liberal circles, Zwingli is hailed as the reformer who was a true humanist, a worthy forerunner of contemporary radical and political theologians. His humanistic background and patriotic zeal, perhaps, cause him to recede somewhat to the background in Reformed appreciation. We generally turn to Calvin for advice. Yet it cannot be denied that Zwingli's basic convictions and personal endeavors are true to the spirit of the Great Reformation. Zwingli wanted nothing else than to live by the Scriptures alone and to let the Scriptures explain themselves under the illumination of the Holy Spirit and not under the tradition of the church. For Zwingli it was without doubt that it is not the church with its sacramental administration that governs the flow of grace, but that men are reconciled to God only by the death of His Son. He clearly rejected the "cursed idolatry" of the mass and its excesses in the worship of saints and relics, proclaiming that our salvation lies only in the sacrifice of Christ, once offered on the cross. Zwingli did not tire in defending the just cause of the Reformation over against the Anabaptists, remaining firm with respect to the Scriptural doctrine of infant baptism. Although in many ways a disciple of Erasmus, he refuted the teaching of the master that the will of man is free. Man cannot save himself, Zwingli emphasized time and again, but must have true knowledge of God and sin, knowledge learned only from the Word of God. Man has no saving knowledge in himself! It is clear, then, that in these key issues there is a direct line from Ulrich Zwingli to John Calvin. In the turbulent era of the Reformation, Zwingli maintained the Scriptures over against the prevailing humanism and emerging radicalism of his time. In this respect he is still an example for the church, some five hundred years later. It would be good if in this commemorative year his works were rediscovered and studied anew. Since we are faced in our time with similar extremes, humanism and radicalism, we can learn from Zwingli's struggle. Zwingli definitely does not belong in the shadows between Luther and Calvin. Rev. Clarence Stam (1948-2016) was the editor of Reformed Perspective for eight years, from 1985-1993, and was a contributor for many more. This is an edited version of an article that first appeared in the June, 1984 edition....

History

Karl Marx: preaching a different gospel

To mark the 100th anniversary this month, of the Communist Revolution in Russia, we're sharing Piet Jongeling's brief biography of Karl Marx, first published 34 years ago.  **** Karl Marx was both an economist and a politician, but in fact he was much more than that. He was the founder of a new atheistic political religion, the prophet of a new world-to-come in which righteousness would dwell. Man in his own strength would bring this about. Marx proclaimed the coming of a new messiah, the proletariat, which through suffering and struggling would eventually bring salvation to the world. His message has had great influence, not only before his death, but especially after it. At present one third of the world's population lives under a political and economical system that can be called "Marxist" . This indication as "Marxist" is valid, even though there may be many differences between Marx's theoretical concepts and the practical application which the communist countries have made of them. Life story Karl Marx was born on May 2, 1818, at Trier, Germany. He descended from a long lineage of rabbis. His father was the first to break with that tradition. Instead of becoming a rabbi, he studied law and he broke with the Jewish religion. His mother was Dutch. When young Karl was six years old, he was baptized together with the other members of the family. That baptism, being a social affair, had little religious significance. It served only as evidence that the Marx family belonged to those modern Jews who favored assimilation and who desired to eradicate their cultural and religious heritage. Baptism functioned as a ticket of admission to European civilization. That could — as it did in this case — coexist with atheism in practical life. Marx Junior was uncommonly intelligent. He studied law and the history of philosophy in Bonn and in Berlin, and he received his Ph.D. degree in 1841 at Jena. After he was awarded his doctorate, Karl Marx became a journalist. Soon it became apparent that he espoused some very radical social and economic ideals. His paper, accused of inciting rebellion, was closed up. Karl Marx married a woman from an outstanding German family. Shortly after his wedding he fled to Paris. There he studied the history of the French Revolution. He got to know the French laborers in their often bitter poverty and in their just as bitter revolutionary zeal. Sometimes he lived in poverty himself, so as to gain deeper insight into, and firsthand experience in, the painful inequality and the depth of the social injustice of those days. When France also expelled him a few times, he fled back to one of the German states (the federal German state was not in existence yet). In 1849 he departed for London, where he remained living and working until his death in 1883. Turn socialism into a system Marx perceived very clearly that the society of his days was distinctively a class society, in which the working class was badly abused. He even invented a new name for this class: "the proletariat," people who have no possessions except their "proles" – that is, their children. It was Marx's intention to come to the aid of this oppressed bottom layer of society. He believed that socialism was the solution. But the socialism of his days was more of a golden pipe dream of the future than a usable doctrine and practice based on a principled structure. The road towards the ideal state had not been charted in a system that was methodically and logically acceptable. This bothered the intellectual in Marx. Rejecting this socialist romanticism as "Utopian Socialism," he developed a well-thought-out system himself in which he delivered the "proof" that the prevailing economic system, which he gave the name "Capitalism," was itself instrumental in unleashing the powers that would inevitably bring about the downfall of Capitalism and the victory of a new and superior system: Communism. The Communist Manifesto and Das Capital In 1847 Karl Marx and his German friend and spiritual brother, Friedrich Engels, drafted the Communist Manifesto. Published in 1848, it contained three main points: 1. Communism is a historically determined direction of society, a development which will unstoppably continue and whose eventual victory cannot be held back by anything. 2. The road toward that victory is marked by the class struggle, which, after an ocean of misery, shall lead to the great showdown. Capital and the means of production will accumulate in the hands of ever fewer owners. The proletariat shall encompass ever greater numbers, suffer more and more poverty, and so be better prepared and determined for the great battle. Eventually the proletariat will rob the last of the supercapitalists of their possessions. After the great expropriation for the benefit of all, the conflicts between the classes will disappear. 3. The proletariat must be well-organized in national and international societies, accept proper leadership, discipline, and order, and be able to act as one man. The Communist Manifesto thereby condemns the revolutionary movement of the anarchists which had a much greater individualistic character and would not accept a strict organization, a systematic approach to the problems, or subjection to a leadership. The Communist Manifesto was probably written mainly by Friedrich Engels, the son of a rich merchant and manufacturer. Marx and Engels were both gifted students of Hegel, the German philosopher. The two worked together for many years, and during this partnership, Karl Marx became more and more prominent. When the year 1848 did not bring the expected and hoped for breakthrough of Communism, Marx went back to elaborate on the thoughts developed in the Communist Manifesto. He attempted to place the Manifesto on a scientific footing in his trilogy Das Capital. The first volume came out in 1867. The second and third volumes were published after his death by Engels, in 1885 and 1894. Communism in theory and practice Now, this column is not the place for a detailed analysis of the Marxist political dogmas so a few broad outlines will have to suffice. Karl Marx has attempted to construct his study in a scientific manner and to base his conclusions on irrefutable evidence. This impressed a great number of people. The evidence that the communist victory was inevitable was backed up by a mathematical formula! Nothing and nobody could avert that triumph. Later thinkers have undermined this foundation of scientific irrefutability. They pointed at errors in the line of theoretic reasoning. But history has done greater damage to the system than the critics. Many of Karl Marx's predictions never came true. 1. The Soviet Union has had sixty-five years of experience with its "new" system. But although Karl Marx predicted that after a short transition period the state would wither away, the reality was that anywhere Communism took power, the state became stronger, harder, mightier, and more brutal: an all-oppressive dictatorship! Communism is nothing short of state Capitalism! 2. During this transition period, mentioned above, the dictatorship of the proletariat would have to be established to do its task of destroying the capitalist structures, until, after the last remnants of Capitalism had been eradicated, it itself would disappear. But in reality it was a dictatorship not of the proletariat but over the proletariat. And that dictatorship did not disappear. It is bent on self perpetuation. 3. Also in the countries where free enterprise prevailed (called Capitalism by Marx), things went clearly different from what Mr. Marx had predicted. In the previous century, during Marx's lifetime, there were admittedly very serious dark sides to the free enterprise system. However, social laws, social actions, and mutual consultation have brought about great improvements. That does not mean that the world has become a paradise. Sin keeps doing its work. There is much social injustice even now; violations are committed by employers and employees alike. But looking back at the past we must admit: the improvements are enormous. The material welfare of those whom Marx called "the laboring classes" is much greater than in the previous century. The "proletarians" are no longer the dispossessed. The wealth of the working people in the capitalistic West is considerably greater than is the case in the communistic East. And, more importantly, the Western people enjoy a relative freedom, while the Communist system of servitude takes away spiritual freedom, oppresses the church and church members, and places callous atheism high on the throne. A different gospel What the Red Revolution delivered was the opposite of what it promised. It is terror instead of freedom, serfdom under masters instead of equality, brutal force instead of brotherhood, and above all, the dread of the secret police. How could Karl Marx's doctrine then be so successful? It must be admitted that Marxism achieved great victories. One third of the world's population today lives under a political and social-economic system that is named after Marx. The reason is that Marx came to the world with a new gospel! It was the doctrine of self-redemption which he dressed in the shining apparel of scientific certainty. Marx, the man of Jewish descent, may have broken with the religion of Israel, but he was very well versed in it. His rich and impressive writing style betrayed the influence of the Old Testament. In his writings he has the grand manners of the prophet who proclaims to the people the glad tidings of forthcoming deliverance. The Jews had refused to apply Isaiah's prophecy of the suffering servant of God to Jesus Christ, the Savior. The rabbis applied this prophecy to the suffering people of Israel itself, so that its nation, through suffering, would gain deliverance for itself and so also for the world that surrounded its people. Israel was its own messiah! Marx adopted this model in a secularized format. For him the messiah is the proletariat. Through struggles and sufferings the proletariat shall redeem itself and the world and so bring into the world the eternal "peaceable kingdom." This alternate gospel with its false-religious message, with its inversion of Christendom, has cast its spell on many millions of people. It was not an unstoppable historic determinism that brought the victory to Communism. It was not an automatic, inevitable course of world events that led to the Red welfare state. Wherever Communism gained control it was always a power grab by a minority which used the confusion of wartime or national unrest to its own advantage. And once in power, it could only stay that way by keeping its weapons trained on the oppressed people. Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, East Germany — there are many examples to illustrate this fact. Marx's style of writing is eschatological. He prophecies of a new earth, created and cleansed by man. From that time on, the history of mankind will find rest, because the final destination, the eternal wellbeing of mankind, has been reached. It was that prophetic zeal that attracted so many. Conclusion But how different was the reality! Sixty-five years have passed since the Red Revolution, and still the shining final destiny is far out of reach. This image of the glorious future is a fata morgana – an illusory reflection that recedes as one approaches it and finally dissolves into thin air. According to eyewitnesses, one finds very few genuinely committed communists in the East Bloc countries — percentage-wise, certainly far less than in the Western nations. There is little more than an outward conformation to save one's hide. Open protests will only pave the way to concentration camps, prisons, or, more recently, psychiatric institutions. The Red Bloc, with the Soviet Union as its core, has grown into a superpower, which, armed to the teeth, has become a constant threat to world peace. It is to be hoped that those people who are still free may find the fortitude to oppose that threat. The continuing de-Christianization has robbed the Western nations of their spiritual strength in the face of Marxism, or, at least, has seriously impaired it. If Marx could witness the reality of today, he would very likely be appalled by the manner in which his prophecies of the glorious future have been fulfilled in the drab present. But the negative forces which he has helped to unleash are continuing to have their impact, even now, a hundred years after his death. Piet Jongeling (1909-1985)  was a politician, journalist, and children's fiction author, and it is in this latter role that he might be best known to our readership, though under his pen name, Piet Prins. This article first appeared in the May 1983 edition....

Assorted

Jacobus Arminius: professed the confessions even as he opposed them

The baby, baptized Jacob Harmenszoon, lay contentedly in his mother's arms. Warmth, food and love sheltered his small physical being. Even though his father was only a poor man who made knives for a living, the little one snuggled in his sleep. It was 1560 in the Dutch city of Oudewater and there was much trouble in the land – Spanish trouble, church trouble – and before long young Jacob would have and make his share of them. When Jacob was only a little boy his father died. He was taken from his mother's home to live with a former pastor of Oudewater in the city of Utrecht. The small boy mourned his father's death and he missed his mother, (and only brother), very much. But this is what had been deemed best for him. Times were not easy for a widow with two sons to provide for. The old pastor tried to raise the lad as his own. However, when Jacob was fourteen this foster-father also died. Fatherless a second time, he returned to his mother in Oudewater. The reunion was not to be for long. Shortly after arriving home he was taken to Marburg, Germany by a friend. From there he received the news that the Spaniards had attacked and murdered all the inhabitants of Oudewater. Jacob Harmenszoon, whose name had been Latinized to Jacobus Arminius, was an orphan at the tender age of fifteen. It is difficult to imagine exactly how young Jacobus felt. He was not a child anymore, and yet not a man either at this point. It is Biblical to suppose that suffering can produce a steadfastness in the sovereignty of God. For Jacobus this was not the case. He did develop an intense dislike of any fighting or quarreling – and yet, strangely enough, the false doctrines he later came to espouse have brought about fighting and quarreling to this day. Early schooling When the teenager Jacobus Arminius was orphaned, several pastors took pity on the young man and one sent him to the recently established University of Leyden. Jacobus was at an impressionable age – the age that most of today's students leave for college or university. This is why it is so crucial that teachers at this point in life are solid and impart true knowledge. Unfortunately, in Jacobus' case, this was not to be. One of his professors taught, with power and conviction, man's “free will,” as opposed to God's divine election and reprobation. He taught so ably that Jacobus became both convinced and adept at convincing others. He was a good student. His thirst for knowledge plus his excellent study habits earned him a bursary which enabled him to further his studies in Geneva. Here he heard Beza, friend and successor of Calvin, lecture on election and reprobation. But it was too late. His young mind and soul had already totally absorbed “free will” and found it to be an attractive doctrine. Jacobus also traveled to Italy where he met the famous Jesuit priest Bellarmino (1542-1621). Impressed by the man's great knowledge, Jacobus was subconsciously strengthened in his desire to stretch atonement to include more than just the chosen sheep specified by Christ Himself in John 10:25ff. After all, this man Bellarmino was kind, generous, extremely knowledgeable, active in good works, and surely God could not reject him? “Free will” consequently whispered in Jacobus' ear that atonement was not limited but universal. A teacher of men In 1587, at the age of 27, Arminius returned to Holland. One year later he was installed as minister in Amsterdam. In 1590 he married Elizabeth Reael, daughter of one of the rich regents of that city – a regent, one might add, who was quite liberal in thought – and whose daughter was likely of the same frame of mind as her father. This marriage seemed to encourage him in verbalizing the wayward thoughts he had already been harboring. A series of rather unreformed sermons on the book of Romans was begun. Although he was a popular man, soft-spoken, cultured, good-natured and of impeccable character, these sermons stirred up a great deal of unrest in his congregation. He surmised, among other things, that death had not come into the world through sin but through nature. In chapters 8-11 he concluded that the reason God elected some and not others was because God knew beforehand what they would choose. Although Arminius was accused many times of preaching heresy, he continually maintained that he agreed with the Church's forms of unity, (which at that time were the Heidelberg Catechism and the Belgic Confession). The years passed and the regents, (of which his father-in-law was one), protected Arminius. In 1603 Arminius was appointed as professor of theology in the University of Leyden. It had become the most important university in Holland – the university from which the state church called its ministers. The appointment gave Arminius the opportunity to sow seeds of heresy throughout the entire Reformed community. He won approval of the students easily enough, for he was a congenial fellow and an able teacher. Between classes he gave private lectures at his house and criticized Calvin, convincing a great number that there were errors in the confessions. A sad end Understandably, there was quite a bit of discord within the university halls and in the church pews. There was a civil court in 1608, and again in 1609, at which these problems were discussed. It was obvious from these sessions that Arminius led a minority and would certainly lose out at a proposed synod. This is why the government, which looked on Arminius as a protégé, refused to call one. By the time the Synod of Dordt finally did take place, (1618-19), Arminius had been dead for almost ten years. The final months of Arminius' life were marked with physical distress. Ill with tuberculosis, he also suffered a stroke, paralyzing one side and blinding him. Popularity had waned and was seen in the fact that people applied Zechariah 11:17 to him: “Woe to the worthless shepherd, who deserts the flock! May the sword strike his arm and his right eye! May his arm be completely withered, his right eye totally blinded!” Jacobus Harmenszoon, alias Jacob Arminius, died in 1609 before the age of fifty. When the Synod of Dordt finally did meet, the Arminian point of view was eloquently defended by Episcopius, student and very able successor of Arminius. For six months issues were debated. The doctrine of sovereign grace was at stake. Representatives from Reformed churches all over Europe were present. In the end, Synod roundly condemned the views of Arminius in five canons, (or statements). These statements can be shortened into the acronym TULIP: Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace and Perseverance of the saints. Christine Farenhorst is the author of the just published Katharina, Katharina, about the times of Martin Luther. This article first appeared in the January 2006 issue. ...

Assorted

Professor Peterson is not PC

Jordan Peterson’s rebellion against Political Correctness On September 27, 2016, a star was born. On that date, Jordan B. Peterson, a psychology professor at the University of Toronto, posted a video to his YouTube channel condemning political correctness. In particular, he criticized Bill C-16 which added gender expression and identity to federal human rights legislation as well as to hate propaganda provisions of the Criminal Code. The video soon received thousands of views and catapulted Peterson into the vanguard of opposition to political correctness in Canada. The political correct view he was opposing was that of calling people by made up pronouns like “ze” and “vis.” He refused, absolutely, even though, under Bill C-16, which passed in June, that may get him in real trouble. His stand was not popular among the fashionable left and many academics and political activists were and are demanding that Jordan Peterson be silenced and punished. Opposition to political correctness is very politically incorrect. A short book about Peterson and the controversy he has generated was published earlier this year. Written by Richard West, the book is entitled: An Unauthorized Biography of Jordan B. Peterson: How Toronto Psychology Professor Jordan Peterson Established Himself as an Opponent of Political Correctness. Personal background Jordan Peterson was born in Fairview, Alberta, and lived there until he went to college. As a teenager, Peterson became close friends with his local Member of the Legislative Assembly, Grant Notley. Notley was the leader of the provincial socialist party, the Alberta New Democratic Party (NDP). Peterson became an NDP activist and got to know Grant Notley’s daughter Rachel, who would later become Premier of Alberta. Peterson was brought up in a Protestant church-going home, but he abandoned Christianity because he could not reconcile the Bible’s account of Creation with Evolution. He subsequently developed a keen interest in books and politics. West writes: “At thirteen, he started reading serious political books. Authors of interest included Ayn Rand, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and George Orwell – three authors who warned against the evils of collectivism and totalitarianism.” Reading and studying politics eventually caused him to see through the false promises of socialism. As West puts it: “His faith in socialism specifically and ideology generally was finally undone by George Orwell’s book, Road to Wigan Pier. The book impressed upon him the possibility that socialists were those who hated the rich – not those who loved the poor.” After high school Peterson attended Grande Prairie College where he studied Political Science. However, he became increasingly interested in Psychology and headed ot the University of Alberta, graduating in 1984 with both a B.A. in Political Science and a B.A. in Psychology. Then it was off to McGill University, where he received his PhD in clinical psychology in 1991. Successful academic life Peterson was very successful in his academic career and became a visiting professor at Harvard University in 1993. He remained at Harvard for five years and then took up his current position at the University of Toronto where he became quite popular. West writes: “Over time, he became a student favorite. Before he had a cult following on the Internet, Peterson had a cult following on the University of Toronto campus.” Peterson’s success included publishing dozens of academic papers and appearing on TVO (originally known as TVOntario) numerous times. In 2013 he began posting videos of his lectures on YouTube. His videos received many views, likely mostly from students. In March 2016 he made a short video asking viewers to financially support his work through Patreon, a crowdfunding platform. Support began to trickle in, but it soared after he began attacking political correctness. By July 2017, the Toronto Star reported he was receiving over $45,000 per month from crowdfunding alone. The video As mentioned, at the end of September 2016, he released his now famous video criticizing Bill C-16. With this law, refusing to refer to people by their preferred pronoun (e.g. “ze,” “vis,” “hir”) could be considered a form of discrimination and harassment. West notes: “Peterson made it clear in his video that he would not comply with requests that he use the preferred pronouns of individuals including transgendered persons. He acknowledged that not only would not using someone’s preferred pronouns be considered discrimination under the new human rights legislation, but it would also be deemed a form of hate speech.” This video soon received tens of thousands of views and captured the media’s attention. Many people supported Peterson’s views but the academic establishment and the University of Toronto administration were outraged. Early in October, the chair of the university’s Department of Psychology wrote a letter to Peterson stating, “I wish to remind you that in your activities as a University of Toronto faculty member you are expected to comply with applicable human rights law.” Opposing the compulsory acceptance of transgender pronouns was seen as a potential violation of “human rights.” Later in October, the Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences and the Vice-Provost of Faculty and Academic Life sent him another letter to ask him to use “non-binary pronouns.” It also suggested – ominously – that failing to toe the party line could undermine his ability to fulfill his job. Debate Peterson suggested that a public debate over the issue be held. This suggestion was resisted by faculty members such as Physics professor A.W. Peet who said, “Gender identity of real life people is actually not up for debate.” Nevertheless, a public debate was held at the university on November 19. He faced two opponents: another professor from the University of Toronto and a professor from the University of British Columbia. As part of his final point Peterson stated: “I regard these made-up pronouns – all of them – as the neologisms of radical PC authoritarianism. I’m not going to be a mouthpiece for language that I detest.” Standard bearer Peterson’s public and uncompromising opposition to transgender pronoun police has garnered considerable public support. His willingness to continue his fight in the face of frequent accusations of “hate speech” and “intolerance” has made him a hero to many people. Clearly, he is a man to be admired. As West puts it: “Dr. Peterson’s refusal to use state-mandated pronouns is a form of civil disobedience, and his willingness to risk his career and reputation has made him a powerful advocate for free speech in Canada.” In fact, West sees Peterson’s widespread support as being situated within a larger cultural phenomenon: “Dr. Peterson’s work seems to be part of a broader trend in North America and Europe, whereby voters are reacting against excessive political correctness.” Peterson continues to appear in YouTube videos discussing a wide range of topics. His perspective is deeply informed and usually conservative. However, he is not a Bible-believing Christian and therefore gets some important things wrong. He doesn’t think, at least at this time, that abortion should be made illegal. But it’s also important to note that it is not his abortion position for which he is being attacked. It isn’t on what he is getting wrong, but on what he has gotten right that he is the target of so many. Conclusion Jordan Peterson represents an important form of resistance to the leftwing cultural and political juggernaut. His leadership inspires others to stand against the tide, and Peterson provides his supporters with well-thought-out reasons to oppose politically correct attitudes and beliefs. He has considerable credibility due to his academic stature and cannot be “brushed off” as a fringe figure. Although he is not a Christian, his perspective on transgender pronouns parallels the Christian perspective (sex is binary), as does his opposition to political correctness generally, and therefore his cause is worthy of support. Picture credit: modified from Adam Jacobs and used under CC license Attribution 2.0 Generic...

Church history

Marcion: a heretic we need to know

When one asks the most influential thinkers in the modern evangelical church are, one might find names such as Jim Packer, John Stott, and Don Carson. I would like to suggest, however, that there is one whose influence is perhaps much greater than we are aware of, yet whose thinking all but pervades the modern evangelical church: Marcion. He's the man who gets my vote for most profound influence on evangelicalism, from canon to theology to worship practices. You never see his books on the shelves in your high street Christian bookshop; you never see him advertised as preaching in your local church; but, rest assured, his spirit stalks those bookshops and pulpits. He's the man who gets my vote for most profound influence on evangelicalism, from canon to theology to worship practices. You never see his books on the shelves in your high street Christian bookshop; you never see him advertised as preaching in your local church; but, rest assured, his spirit stalks those bookshops and pulpits. Nothing new under the sun Marcion is – or, rather, was – a somewhat shadowy figure, with most of what we know about him coming from the hostile pen of Tertullian. Apparently, he was a native of Pontus (in modern times, the area by the Black Sea), who flourished in the middle of the second century, dying circa 160. His major distinctive was his insistence on the Christian gospel as exclusively one of love to the extent that he came to a complete rejection of the Old Testament and only a qualified acceptance of those parts of the New Testament which he considered to be consistent with his central thesis (i.e. ten letters of Paul and a recension of the Gospel of Luke). So how does Marcion influence modern evangelicalism? Well, I think evangelicalism has become practically Marcionite at a number of levels. 1. Out with wrath First, the emphasis upon God's love to the utter exclusion of everything else has become something of a commonplace. We see this in the collapse of the notion of penal substitution as an evangelical doctrine. Now, maybe I'm missing something, but of all the things taught in the Bible, the terrifying wrath of God would seem to be among the most self-evident of all. Thus, when I hear statements from evangelical theologians such as “God's wrath is always restorative,” my mind goes straight to countless OT passages, the Bible's teaching about Satan, and NT characters such as Ananias and Sapphira. There was not much restoration for any of these folk – or are being swallowed alive by the earth, consumed by holy fire and being struck dead for cheating the church actually therapeutic techniques intended to restore the individuals concerned? And when leading evangelicals tell me that penal substitution is tantamount to cosmic child abuse (don't laugh - this is seriously argued by some leading evangelical theologians), I'm left wondering whether I should sit down and explain the doctrine to them, or whether I should merely tell them to go away and grow up. Do they really expect the church to take such claims as serious theological reflection?  2. Out with the Old Then, there is the constant tendency to neglect the Old Testament, in particular in our theological reflections, and our devotional lives also need to take full account of the Old Testament. We need to read the Bible as a whole, to understand each passage, each verse, within the theological and narrative structure of the canon as a whole. As evangelicals we can often err by focusing purely on the straight doctrinal teaching of the letters in the NT and the great passages in John's Gospel. An NT scholar and friend once said to me that he thought the average evangelical's life would be pretty much unaffected if the whole Bible, except for the Gospel of John and the Letter to the Romans, simply disappeared. Hyperbole maybe, but probably not by much. We need a solid biblical theology – not one which downgrades everything to the level of economy at the expense of ontology but one which takes full account of the central narrative of the Bible and seeks to do justice even to those bits of the Bible we don't like.  3. Out with God's songs Then, in our church practice, we need to take the Old Testament more seriously. It astounds me, given the overwhelming use of psalms as central to gathered worship in the first four centuries, the absolute importance given to psalmody for the first two centuries of the post-Reformation Reformed churches, and the fact that the Book of Psalms is the only hymn book which can claim to be universal in its acceptance by the whole of Christendom and utterly inspired in all of its statements – it astounds me, I say, that so few psalms are sung in our worship services today. Moreover, often nothing seems to earn the scorn and derision of others more than the suggestion that more psalms should be sung in worship. Indeed, the last few years have seen a number of writers strike out against exclusive psalmody. Given that life is too short to engage in pointless polemics, I am left wondering which parallel universe these guys come from, where the most pressing and dangerous worship issue is clearly that people sing too much of the Bible in their services. How terrifying a prospect that would be. Imagine: people actually singing songs that express the full range of human emotion in their worship using words of which God has explicitly said, “These are mine.” Back here on Planet Earth, however, there is generally precious little chance of overloading on sound theology in song in most evangelical churches as the Marcion invasion is pretty much total and unopposed in the sphere of worship. Yet I for one prefer Athanasius to Marcion and, in his letter to Marcellinus, he gives one of the most beautiful and moving arguments for psalms in worship ever penned. It is a pity more have not taken his words to heart Making God unknowable So what will be the long-term consequences of this Marcionite approach to the Bible? Ultimately, I think it will push “the God who is there” back into the realm of the unknowable and make our god a mere projection of our own psychology, and make our worship simply into group therapy sessions where we all come together to pretend we are feeling great. God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – take that identity away and what do we have left? As the OT is the context for the NT, so the neglect of OT leaves the NT as more or less meaningless. As our reading, our sermons, and our times of corporate worship neglect and, sometimes, simply ignore the OT, we can expect a general impoverishment of church life and, finally, a total collapse of evangelical Christendom. Indeed, there are mornings when I wake up and think it's already all over, and that the church in the West survives more by sheer force of personality, by hype and by marketing ploys rather than by any higher power. We need to grasp once again who God is in his fullness; we need to grasp who we are in relation to him; and we need teaching and worship which gives full-orbed expression to these things – and this will only come when we in the West grow up, ditch the designer gods we build from our pick-n-mix Bible where consumer, not Creator, is king, and give the whole Bible its proper place in our lives, thinking and worship. Think truncated thoughts about God and you'll get a truncated God; read an expurgated Bible and you get an expurgated theology; sing mindless, superficial rubbish instead of deep, truly emotional praise and you will eventually become what you sing. Dr. Carl Trueman is Professor of Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary and blogs at FirstThings.com. This article first appeared in Themelios Vol. 28 No. 1 under the title “The Marcions have landed. A warning for evangelical” and is reprinted here with the author’s permission.  ...