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What May We Believe to be True

Now that war has been declared by our government we are again faced with the difficult problem of finding out just what we may be­lieve of all the reports that circu­late amongst us. Certain we are that much of that which appears in print and is heard by way of the radio as “war-news” is often the victim of propagandizing in­fluences.

A very good paragraph on this subject appears in the January, 1942, issue of the Young Calvinist, which, as you undoubtedly know, is the official organ of the Ameri­can Federation of Reformed Young Men’s Societies and the American Federation of Reformed Young- Women’s Societies. Under the heading “We Face ’42”, Mr. Earl Strikwerda, a teacher of history in the Grand Rapids Christian High School, looks at this problem from the point of view of “Censorship”. He writes:

“As we go into ’42 we should learn to refrain from snap judg­ments. and to aid ourselves in that discipline let’s accept as truth very few of the items that are passed off as such, in print or via the radio. One day we are informed that Midway and Wake have been taken from us. A day or two later we are told that those islands are still ours. Because censorship is in force, it behooves civilians to accept with reservation. Even democracies must institute censorship, because civilian reaction to untoward events can seriously compromise govern­ments or administrations in their conduct of the war effort and for­eign policy. Such departments as State, War, Navy necessarily be­come vastly more managerial. They cannot afford to lay the facts on the table. Moreover, outright cen­sorship has a helpmate in distor­tion. An example of this is easy to find: Recently one of our Michi­gan papers gave headline promin­ence to the fact that a German con- verted-merchantman had been sunk by the British, but the far more significant fact that German “sea-wolves” had stripped a British con­voy of five vessels was recorded in fine print. Such things are done for obvious reasons, and hence such pawns as we stand to benefit more by sober reflection on the larger outlines of events than by cock­sure judgments based on a kaleido­scopic array of necessarily “doc­tored” and confused facts. Were it not for the fact that the Com­munists tore open the Russian archives in 1917. we would know very little of the background of that struggle. Great Britain, we are told, opens her foreign office records on a given event only after fifty years has elapsed. So how can we presume to know anything really significant on the back­ground and struggles of our pre­sent-day catastrophe?”

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Rev. Harry Dykstra interprets. . . .

In the November issue of the Young Calvinist we notice that the department entitled: “After-recess Program Topics” has been assign­ed to a former missionary to China, the Reverend Harry A. Dykstra. Missionary Dykstra has been labor­ing under the auspices of the Chris­tian Reformed Denomination, but due to the extenuating circum­stances existing in the Orient, has returned to this country.

Under the general heading “Christian (Reformed) Missions” Reverend Dykstra has been asked to consider the case for Christian missionary activity. And the very first article, more or less intro­ductory, bears out the fact that this is a most interesting subject. If some of our own young people’s organizations are looking for a good topic for a lively after-recess discussion, try this one.

The question asked in this first article is: “Are Christian Missions Presumptuous?” The writer para­phrases this question in the very first sentence by saying that “stated in plain words, we should face the question whether it is not “nervy” on our part to carry on missionary work in the world”.

Then, on the basis of a few inci­dents drawn from the writer’s per­sonal experience and an analysis of conditions within our “so-called Christian countries”, the author seeks to establish the propriety of this question.

One of the evidences cited to warrant the asking of the question concerning the presumptuousness of Christian missions comes very close to all of us as members of Protestant Reformed Churches. For, after a consideration of the fact of war and its development as it reveals itself among the “Chris­tian” nations as well as the pagan nations today, and noting the “materialistic conceptions and striv­ings” permeating our institutions, Reverend Dykstra turns his gaze inward to a scene close to his own place of abode. In my imagination, I can see him looking out of the window of his Redlands, California home. Then, taking his pen in hand again, these words appear:

“Lastly, note the confusion in the religious world of our own land. Here in Redlands the dis­tance between the Christian Re­formed Church and the Protestant Reformed Church is but a few blocks but how vast is the separa­tion which un-Christlike controver­sy motivated by selfish pride and pettiness has brought about.”

That this statement is not in­consequential is evident from the statement immediately following: “In view of the above does not Christian missions to pagan lands appear somewhat presumptuous?” Together with the other facts that picture the sad situation in so-called “Christian” lands, this is brought to us a true interpretation of the cause for the existence of a Protestant and a Christian Re­formed Church in Redlands, Cali­fornia, and as such good reason to ask the above question as to the presumptuousness of Christian missions.

Two issues of the Young Calvin­ist have appeared since these words were published. In neither of them has this interpretation been brand­ed as false, nor upheld as true.

This column at this time makes no deductions, nor draws any con­clusions.

It only extends an invitation. It is directed to the young people of the Redlands Protestant Re­formed Church. The invitation requests that they take cognizance of this interpretation of their fel­low-citizen, and then appoint one or more than one to favor “Beacon Lights” with an article containing their reactions. Please. . . .

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“Will Our Schools Also Be Liquidated?”. . . .

Under this question the Reverend Leonard Verduin, pastor of the church for students at the Uni­versity of Michigan at Ann Arbor, expresses his well-founded concern for the future of our private Chris­tian Schools. Certainly, the funda­mental reason adduced by the writ­er as basis for alarm is correct. He writes: “Let no one think that it speaks for itself that private, positively Christian schools will be welcome in society. Let no one suppose that it is self-evident that they will always be tolerated in our good United States. For the Chris­tian School is too intimately con­nected with a life and world view that the natural man detests; it is too closely tied to an offence-giving cross to be sure of a place for the hollow of its foot.”

Reverend Verduin then goes on to show that the decline of reli­gious liberty in Germany has taken place in a way that could be dupli­cated in these United States. Re­ligious freedom and Christian edu­cation may have the support of various laws and a few court de­cisions here at present, but such was also the case in Germany and the other similarly totalitarian countries. This type of legislation is very easily discarded if a certain issue must be faced, if “a real na­tional emergency should make the realization of the democratic ideal” attainable only at the sacri­fice of those bowing beneath the “offence-giving Cross” of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Reverend Verduin quotes from the writings of Dr. Wilhelm Hauer,(Christian Home and School Magazine, November, 1941, page 7),a spokesman for the Nazi party, to show that the fact that “ortho­dox Christianity and confessional schools are said to be derisive” has made them unwelcome. “Our child­ren are introduced to the conflict of faiths on the first day at school and a yawning chasm begins to divide German hearts in the earli­est days of youth. Therefore, the German nation feels the Protestant and Catholic schools to be an un­bearable yoke and the most deadly peril to the German will to unity. We want our children to experi­ence together first and foremost that they are Germans.” This quo­tation is taken from the book en­titled Germany’s New Religion, a translation by T.S.K. Scott-Craig and H. E. Davies, published by Abingdon Press. You know, per­haps. that the originator of the “prevailing philosophy of educa­tion” today is Dr. John Dewey of Columbia University. And, as the Reverend Verduin proves, “John Dewey is just as much out of sym­pathy with the ideology of historic Christianity as is the Nazi theo­logian”. For he writes: “Faith in God and in authority, ideas of soul and immortality, belief in divine grace. . . . have been made im­possible for the educated mind of today. (Woerful, Maiders of the American Mind, Columbia Uni­versity, p. 119). And in Dewey’s A Common Faith (New Haven, Yale University, p. 81) we read: ‘Historic Christianity has been committed to a separation of sheep and goats, the saved and the lost, the elect and the mass. . . . those outside of the fold of the church and those who do not rely upon belief in the supernatural have been regarded as only potential brothers, still requiring adoption into the family. And then follows immediately this awful sentence: “I cannot understand how any re­alization of the democratic ideal as a vital moral and spiritual ideal in human affairs is possible without surrender of the conception of the basic division to which supernatur­al Christianity is committed’.” The author of this article is correct when he concludes that “Dewey sounds too much like Hauer for comfort!”

Let us watch and pray. . . .

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Worthy of Imitation. . . .

Often the very idea of imitation is looked upon with scorn by hu­man beings. The fact that there is in reality “nothing new under the sun” seems to make no differ­ence. Disparaging criticisms are cast upon the one that has obvious­ly “copied” from someone else.

Nevertheless, this column is ad­vising the Board and Editorial Staff of Beacon Lights to deliber­ately copy something from another paper of a similar character. The other publication is the aforemen­tioned Young Calvinist. The thing to be copied, as we see it, is its new “soldiers and sailors depart­ment”.

The November, 1941 issue an­nounced this new feature as fol­lows:

“Beginning with the next issue, “The Young Calvinist” will publish four pages each month devoted to our soldiers and sailors. These pages will be filled with stories, pictures, articles, letters from and to our boys. In cooperation with the Board of Home Missions we hope to make these pages of great interest to the boys in the camps and to the folks at home. Your interest and assistance is request­ed.”

The two issues that have follow­ed this announcement have reveal­ed the truth of the fact that this material is interesting at least for those “folks at home”. Naturally, we are most interested in the af­fairs of our brothers in the ser­vice.

But this idea is worthy of imi­tation not so much from the point of view that it provides interest­ing reading material as that it is a way for us to assist our boys in their new surroundings. All of us agree that we should do all we can to maintain an effective and vital point of contact with those that have left us for the time be­ing.

To the extent Beacon Lights can copy this idea is a question. Our means are limited. To men­tion just a few examples, under the present set-up we are not in a fin­ancial position to have the neces­sary cuts made so that we can re­produce pictures of our boys in the military service. Nor would we be able to add any number of pages to our format.

But, be those limitations as they may, the idea itself can be imitated to a large extent, even if it would be necessary to do so unaided by any other agency of our own de­nomination. And if our own Home Mission Committee should see fit to offer Beacon Lights aid finan­cially and otherwise, who knows but that we could also create a department “of great interest to the boys in the camps” not only, but also one through which they may be encouraged and strengthen­ed to fight a double battle.

I am saying this strictly on my own responsibility, yet I feel quite secure when I say: Watch this paper for further developments!