All Around Us

Rev. VanBaren is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Loveland, Colorado.

Further Developments in the CRC

From Darrell Todd Maurina, Press Officer of United Reformed News Service, we received some of the following information:

The Reformed Churches of New Zealand (RCNZ) voted to suspend ties with the CRC. The decision was taken at its triennial synod which met last October. 

The Rev. Bruce Hoyt, stated clerk of the denomination, stated: "When the 1995 CRC synod occurred and took such a dramatic action and reversed effectively the previous decision [against ordination of women] we had really very little hope, not only because of the strong action but also because the nature of the action indicated that the church order, Scripture, and confessions were not as strong as they had been in the CRC. We felt we had very little option. They really felt there wasn't too much chance of a conservative move having any chance in the CRC." Hoyt added: "Suspension means we won't interact like sister churches, yet we're giving a strong warning that our relationship will have to be terminated if there is no change. The reception of ministers wouldn't apply anymore and the reception of members automatically would now have to be received on a case by case basis; there wouldn't be an automatic transfer."

On another front, it was reported by Maurina that the CRC Classis Kalamazoo, by a two-to-one vote, declined to declare the word "male" in their Church Order to be inoperative in the classis. This means that, for the present, those churches in the Classis who have women as elders cannot send them to Classis as delegates — and the churches of the Classis cannot ordain women as ministers.

The strange part of the decision is that this same Classis overtured the Synod of 1995 to allow women in office. Why the "change"? It was evidently not so much a matter of change of heart as it was to accommodate those who oppose women in office. Minutes after taking this vote, the Classis voted (again by a two-to-one margin) to reject an overture from East Martin CRC to ask synod to prohibit women in office throughout the denomination.

Maurina also reports that one more CR church seceded and four new churches were formed from existing CR churches with a total of some 800 members. The Oak Glen CRC seceded with more than three-quarters majority of its members. Other independent churches were formed out of existing CR churches at De Motte IN, Highland IN, Westmoreland NH, and Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada. 

Meanwhile, one CRC has hit upon an "evangelistic" scheme designed to attract the sports' lover: Super Bowl Sunday (January 28). Rogers Heights CRC in Grand Rapids has scheduled their "worship and praise" service on January 28 from 6 to 7 p.m. in their auditorium. From 7 to 10 p.m. all are invited to the Fellowship Hall (right next to the auditorium) to see the Big Game on 60" TV. There will also be a "half-time talk" titled: "What's a Promise Keeper?" One wonders whether that "talk" will include a discussion of the fourth commandment and our "promise" to obey that and all of God's commandments in thankfulness.

That "Gut Feeling"

Scripture often speaks of "bowels," as, "his bowels did yearn upon his brother" (Gen. 43:30); " greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:8); "...if any bowels and mercies" (Phil. 2:1); "Put on ... bowels of mercies..." (Col. 3:12). One finds many other similar expressions. For some reason, I had always thought that was merely figurative language: emotions often seem to affect our "bowels." I found very interesting, therefore, a report in the Denver Post, January 23, 1996, which claims that the "bowel" or "gut" involves more than simply a part of the body which is affected by external things. The article states:

Ever wonder why people get "butterflies" in the stomach before going on stage? Or why an impending job interview can cause an attack of intestinal cramps?....

The reason for these common experiences, scientists say, is because each of us literally has two brains — the familiar one encased in our skulls and a lesser-known but vitally important one found in the human gut. Like Siamese twins, the two brains

are interconnected; when one gets upset, the other does, too.

The gut's brain, known as the enteric nervous system, is located in sheaths of tissue lining the esophagus, stomach, small intestine and colon. Considered a single entity, it is packed with neurons; neurotransmitters and proteins that zap messages between neurons; support cells like those found in the brain proper; and a complex circuitry that enables it to act independently, learn, remember and, as the saying goes, produce gut feelings.

The brain in the gut plays a major role in human happiness and misery. But few people know it exists....

So — Scripture's terminology is accurate after all — far more accurate than most thought. One is amazed both at the complexity of the human body which God created and at the Word of God which so accurately described the working of the body. So, when your "bowels yearn" after another and when you reveal "bowels of mercies," it is very literal after all!

Vineyard Ousts "Toronto Blessing" Church

The Los Angeles Times, December 10, 1995, reports on the ousting of the Airport Vineyard Fellowship in Toronto (as quoted in Calvary Contender, Jan. 15, 1996).

"In a split certain to send tremors throughout Pentecostal Christianity, a controversial Canadian congregation known for its ecstatic worship style that became known worldwide as the 'Toronto Blessing' has been ousted by its parent denomination." Pastor John Arnott of the Airport Vineyard Fellowship in Toronto said he was told last month by the Association of Vineyard Fellowships that his 1,000-member congregation had gone over the edge by encouraging worshipers to be so filled with the Holy Spirit that they would bark like dogs, swoon to the floor and laugh uncontrollably during services. This is a major break by "signs and wonders" John Wimber's Vineyard Fellowships with a main "laughing revival" church. And where does that leave the NAE whose 1995 speaker David Bryant said the Holy Spirit is in charge of the Toronto movement? Hank Hanegraaff warned that ministries like Arnott's represent something "extremely dangerous that could be a road to the occult."

The "Vineyard Fellowships" are charismatic and closely tied to the "Promise-keepers" movement. It would appear from the above that even in these wildly "exuberant" groups, there can be "too much" of a "good thing." The Holy Spirit presumably leads in the performance of miracles, speaking with tongues, even in "holy laughter," but likely not in the animal sounds which have rocked some of the gatherings. Interesting, too, is the statement that this is "extremely dangerous" and could "be a road to the occult." Stronger language ought to be used: all of this can lead to full-blown demon possession (if it is not that already) — all in the name of the Holy Spirit. It is another of the signs of the end of time when many will claim that they have done "this" or "that" in Christ's Name — but Christ declares, "I never knew you...."


Infectious Diseases Up Sharply in U.S.

There was a time when most thought that infectious diseases would soon, and quickly, be wiped out. With immunizations and better drugs, it appeared only a matter of time and the world would be rid of some of the dreaded diseases of the past. It has not happened. Since 1980, according to a recent report, infectious diseases have increased by 58 percent!! The Denver Post, January 17, 1996, reports:

More than half of that (58%) increase can be attributed to AIDS. The aging of the population also explained some of the increase, with more people dying of deathbed infections such as pneumonia.

But even after accounting for those factors, rather than falling, the rate of infectious disease rose from 1980 to 1992, confounding "historical predictions that infectious diseases would wane in the United States," said Dr. Robert Pinner, whose report appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association this week.

Omitting AIDS, the rate of death from infectious diseases jumped by 22 percent from 1980 to 1992, the report said....

Elsewhere in the world, according to World Health Organization statistics, both new and re-emerging infectious diseases are raging....

He said despite the advances of the past century, "we have never been more vulnerable" as a species to infectious diseases, because "we have unprecedented mixing of people."

And many thought that the prophecies of Revelation were too pessimistic and probably impossible of realization. But we see literally fulfilled Revelation 6:8, "And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth." That is the way it is — and the increase of these things, also foretold in Revelation, is now recognized.

Rejection of Hell

And the Denver Post, January 18, 1996, also reports:

A Church of England commission has rejected the idea of hell as a place of fire, pitchforks and screams of unending agony, describing it instead as annihilation for all who reject the love of God.

"Whether there be any who do so choose, only God knows," said a report by the church's Doctrine Commission, titled "The Mystery of Salvation."

Rejecting the medieval vision of the underworld, the report said: "Christians have professed appalling theologies which made God into a sadistic monster and left searing psychological scars on many."

Let Scripture speak: "For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book" (Rev. 22:18-19).