A Christian political party in Canada
Prof. J. Geertsema from
Clarion Aug 8 1986
In this issue Br. E. Vanwoudenberg answers a few ques tions about the new Christian Heritage Party. Much preparatory work has been done and official acceptance as a federal political party has been obtained from Ottawa. Others who want to use this name or part of it cannot do so anymore. This is the result of hard work and as such it is worth our congratulations.
It is also clear that membership in this Christian political party is not bound to one particular church and that it also does not bind itself to a particular confession. Every Christian who is in agreement with the Constitution can become a member.
What does the Draft Constitution say? I shall give here the whole draft as I received it.
"Art. 1 The name of the party is Christian Heritage Party of Canada.
"Art. 2 The party principles are based on Judeo-Christian Ethics and are unalterable.
"Art. 3 The Principles and Objectives of the party are:
a. We believe in God as Creator and the Bible as the inspired Word of God.
b. We believe that the major functions of government are to uphold the law and order and to maintain justice in the land and to ensure for each individual:
i) the sanctity of life (from conception to natural death)
ii) the privilege to own property
iii) freedom of religion, speech and assembly
iv) freedom to live his/her lives according to Biblical principles.
c. We believe that any plebiscite to be held shall not contravene any Biblical principles.
"Art. 4 The aim of the party is the establishment of:
a. Biblical morality to the government
b. Biblical laws to the country
c. a free enterprise economy
d. the family as the most important unit of society."
When you read the answers of Br. Vanwoudenberg to the question about the aim of the party, you discover that this aim has been reworded and improved. I am sure that more changes will be made in the future, although, I suppose, the basic ideas will remain the same.
The name is "Christian Heritage Party." In the draft as I received it, the name of Christ does not come back at all. God the Creator is mentioned, but Christ Jesus, the Redeemer and Lord of what God has created, is missing. I hope I understand correctly that also this has been changed and that the "Lordship of Jesus Christ" is now confessed in the constitution as well. Perhaps, that also means that Art. 2 does not speak anymore of "Judeo-Christian ethics." Perhaps, it is now stated that the party principles are based on the Bible as God's infallible, inerrant and authoritative Word. That Word proclaims that Jesus of Nazareth is the eternal Son of God, the Christ, the only Saviour and Lord of all. This, of course, is not a "Judeo" principle or belief at all.
We deal here with an important matter. When we speak of "Judeo-Christian ethics," we speak of human ideas and views. Many Jews and many Christians have held and are holding quite a variety of ethical ideas, while the one does not agree with the other. The question, then, comes up: the ethics of which Jews and which Christians are you basing your principles on? This speaking about Judeo-Christian ethics would fit exactly into the frame of thinking of modern liberal theology which sees in the Old Testament Israel's religious thinking, while the New Testament, according to them, shows us the theology, the religious views, of the early church. The Scriptures are then not anymore in the first place revelation of God; they are basically seen as human theology.
I am sure that this is not what the leaders of the new party intend to say. They also speak about the Bible as God's inspired Word and about "Biblical morality" and "Biblical laws." But liberal theology does the same. If the intention is to have the Word of God as basis, then also this must be clearly and unambiguously expressed, while maintaining that the Scriptures proclaim Christ as the wisdom of God, and that true, Scriptural morality can only truly flourish through faith that lives out of Christ Jesus as Saviour and Lord.
Another question is that about free enterprise, The aim of the party is the establishing of free enterprise. The question must be asked: what does the party mean with that? In our modern world thinking free enterprise is strongly identified with capitalism. One can read articles and buy books in which faith in God and success in life, faith in Christ as Redeemer and financial gain, Christianity and capitalism with free enterprise, are connected. It should be made clear that free enterprise as the party means it is not the capitalistic, humanistic free enterprise idea. God's Word opposes both humanistic socialism and humanistic capitalism. Man, according to the Scriptures, either collectively or individually, is not absolute owner on this earth, but steward before God on God's earth, called to live in love for God and the neighbour.
The same things can be said regarding the privilege of the individual to own property. This, of course, is stated in opposition to the socialistic view that the people as a collective whole, with other words, that the state is the owner of everything. But again, as an opposition this can be easily undestood as a capitalistic principle. And that means a humanistic principle that is based on the classical Roman views that man has absolute ownership with regard to his own possession. He can do with it whatever he wants: guard and keep it, but also destroy it. Scripture teaches that God is the owner of all what He created, of the earth and its fulness. If this is meant, this must come out clearly. People must not get the impression that they have to do with a Christian, reactionary, movement that basically is capitalistic.
In the first Newsletter Br. Vanwoudenberg writes that the Progressive Conservatives brought no real change in our Canadian Government, because also they have humanistic aims and aspirations and, in general, are not "standing up in defence of Biblical absolutes." But such real change is desparately needed. "We need upstanding Christians in Ottawa." Therefore, "we as citizens and voters must become uncompromising and firm in our resolve whom we want to represent us in government. We must seek our God in prayer, begging His forgiveness for our sins and the sins of this nation, 'so that He may heal our land' (II Chronicles 7:14). We must become Christians that have salt in themselves. We must transmit our love for God and our beloved Canada into action. Now is the time, before it is too late. This will demand dedication and sacrifices. We ask you to join us in our objective to return Canada to her Christian heritage. We are the party that is uncompromisingly committed to Biblical principles." In line with these words Br. Vanwoudenberg writes in the interview in our magazine, "This is why I call my political involvement political ministry."
In the second Newsletter the president, Bill Stilwell, writes, "With God's help, prayer, hard work and unswerving obedience to His Word, we can be like the Maccabees were to the Jewish people and return this country to its Christian heritage . . . . The fight of the Maccabees to restore God's laws lasted forty years. Our task will not be an easy one. You can be assured that it will be a fight. Satan and his allies will not take it lying down. We are now at a point in the history of our nation which is similar to the situation the Maccabees faced in about 175 B.C. We can say the same of Canada as the following quote from Maccabees 1: `Her babies have been slaughtered in her streets . . . . Her freedom has become slavery. See how our Holy place, our beauty, our glory is now laid waste, profaned by the pagans . . . . What have we left to live for?' "
Is this parallel between the situation of the Maccabees and ours correct? Can we apply Maccabees to our situation like it is done here? I think that we should not. The reason is not that the books of the Maccabees belong to the apocryphal books (Art. 6 of the Belgic Confession). The reader knows that these apocryphal books were added in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament) and taken over in the Vulgate, the Latin translation of the Scriptures. This Vulgate is still the official Roman Catholic Bible. This background explains the example. Luther and Calvin and other Reformers, going back to the Hebrew original, left the apocrypha out.
No, my reason for disagreeing with this example is that our situation differs completely from that of the Maccabees. It is wrong, for more than one reason, to say that there is a similarity in situation. In the days of the Maccabees pagan enemies under the tyrannical leadership of King Antiochus Epiphanes oppressed and persecuted the Israelite people. With other words, the world, the seed of the serpent, persecuted the church, the seed of the woman. Daniel prophesied about this struggle in the last chapters of his book. The Syrian enemies slaughtered little children of the Israelites, profaned the temple of the LORD and made the people of Israel into slaves.
In our time people make themselves slaves of sin and unbelief, slaves of their own sinful passions. In our time people themselves murder their babies through abortion by the hands of doctors and nurses. And if one wants to speak about a holy place, "our beauty, our glory," one should not point at Canada as a nation as a parallel, but at the most at apostate, deviating, liberal, Christian churches. Although even here we have to be careful.
The point is, Israel was a nation and church at the same time. However, after the first coming of Christ no specific nation can claim to be God's Church, God's people, as nation. Christ calls His Church out of all the nations and peoples and families of the earth. His kingdom is not of this world. The Christians' home-land is not this earth, but the heavenly Jerusalem.
The basic difficulty
Now the reader could say: It is easy for a Reformed theologian to criticize a Roman Catholic layman. (By the way, why do we often see the words "Roman Catholic" written with two capitals, but the word "reformed" with a small letter?) However, that difference is totally unimportant here. At stake is an incorrect interpretation of the Scriptures with serious consequences for the application. Hereby it does not matter whether an example is taken from the books of the Maccabees or from one of the canonical books.
What we have here is an exemplaric use of a specific situation in the history of Israel before the coming of God's Son in the flesh. This exemplaric use makes an easy parallel and similarity between the old time and our own time, without reckoning with the totally different situation in the history of redemption. The serious consequence is a Scripturally unwarranted identification between Israel as God's nation and Canada is a (once) Christian nation.
When we distinguish sharply and define our terminology precisely, is it then correct to speak of Canada, or whatever other nation, as a Christian nation, like we speak of a Christian church, a Christian life, meaning a church that is ruled by Christ or a life that is lived under the authority of Christ? Was there ever any nation, that could say as a nation, "We are God's people; we are the Church of Christ Jesus?" Was there, after the first coming of Christ, any nation that was ruled as a theocracy by Christ and that, again, as a nation, humbly submitted to Christ? The answer is a negative one. That should be clear to everyone. One can, at the most, speak of a nation of (at a certain time) predominantly Christian people. But that does not make the nation as such Christian.
Am I now over-critical? Am I looking for a stick to hit the dog with, because I do not like the dog? No, I am not. In this comparison as made between our situation and that of the Maccabees I see a mixing of two separate things: of church and state; of the calling of the church and the task of a government. I see the same mixture in the term "political ministry."
We were accustomed to the use of the word ministry in religious matters for the ministry of the Word of God, while in political vernacular the word has to do with the office of a minister of the crown. In our days the word is used for many different services in church related and religious matters. There is a ministry for this and a ministry for that. This brings about a levelling of the term.
In our situation in which so much emphasis is put on social activities in the church, there is the great danger that the ministry of the Word in and by the church is placed on one and the same level with all kinds of other activities. There is a ministry for this and a ministry for that. And the great significance of the preaching of the Word as the main task of the church is not seen anymore and downgraded. Speaking about a political calling is correct. Speaking about a political ministry lifts that political task up to the level of the preaching of the Word, to a certain extent anyway. This should be avoided.
This brings me back to the "basic difficulty," the mixing of church and state. The Christian Heritage party, like the Moral Majority movement of Rev. Jerry Falwell and others, has to be watchful not to mix the task of the church and the calling of the government. In 1525 the Anabaptists sought to establish the kingdom of God, a theocracy, on earth, in Muenster, Germany. A theocracy is a nation ruled by God and His Word. But God does not promise us anywhere in His Word that on this earth such a theocracy can or will be established.
These are some remarks and questions. More has to be said and asked yet.
Prof. J. Geertsema from
Clarion Aug 22. 1986
Shall we join
the Christian Heritage Party?
A preliminary question
In the previous issue we made a number of remarks and asked a few questions concerning the new Christian Heritage Party. You will realize that not everything was said. Therefore, we continue here with some more comment. In the first place I like to say again that I have admiration for the commitment with which this political calling is undertaken. There is great concern in the mind of the people who set up this Christian political party. It is concern for our nation which is bringing upon itself the anger of the holy and righteous sovereign Creator (see, for example, Col. 3:5fí.), destroying itself through its lawlessness. There is also a great zeal for the Lord and the recognition of His Lordship and kingdom. This must be appreciated.
Another point for appreciation is that we find here the strong awareness of two important matters. In the first place, we notice the awareness of the political responsibility which we, as Christians, have in our country. In the second place, the brothers who are involved know that the situation in Canada is different from the situation in the Netherlands. What is possible there, cannot reasonably be done here. In the old country there is a Reformed political party (literally: Reformed Political Covenant), the GPV (Gereformeerd Politiek Verbond) of which membership is basically restricted to members of our sister churches. Setting up a Christian political party in our country will need the cooperation of more Christians than there are members in our churches. Nevertheless, the origin of the GPV has important aspects, also for us in Canada. In this editorial we shall deal with these matters.
Reformed Political Association in the Netherlands
In 1948, at a congress held at Amersfoort, members of the Reformed Churches (Liberated) decided to establish a new Reformed, political party. They gave it the name that was mentioned above. They were convinced that they could no longer be members of the existing Christian political party, the AntiRevolutionary Party.
One of the reaons was the "ethical conflict." The question was asked: how can there be brotherly cooperation in one and the same Christian, anti-revolutionary, political party with those who, in the church, have placed us under discipline and thrown us out, because they see us, and treat us, as people who live, and harden themselves, in the sin of ecclesiastical revolution?
There were also objections (and those objections became stronger in the course of the years) against the direction in which the Anti-Revolutionary Party went. The remark was made and often repeated, "If things go wrong in the church, things will go wrong in other Christian organizations as well." The majority of the members of the Anti-Revolutionary Party belonged to the synodical Reformed Churches, although the party had no official ties with these churches.
Another reason that became more prominent had to do with the confessional basis. If a person could agree with the basis, he was accepted as member. The ARP worked with a "Program of Principles" (Beginsel Program). When the Reformed Political Association (GPV) was established, the Three Forms of Unity formed the basis. Our brothers in the Netherlands (and many of our older members were involved) were convinced that the confession of the church should also be basis for political and other organizational activities.
We may say that this was in line with the thinking of many in the churches of the Secession. In 1880, Dr. A. Kuyper and others established the Free University, because they were convinced that there had to be a truly Christian, a Reformed, university over against the liberal and secular state universities. This was still six years before the Doleantie. The people of the churches of the Secession fully agreed with Dr. Kuyper on this point. In so far that they were one with him in this endeavour and gave him their full support. Nevertheless, they had their difficulties with the Free University because of its basis. That basis was the Scriptures, as God's infallible Word and the Reformed principles. According to these brothers, the Reformed confession should be mentioned in the basis as well.
There is a second case. After the war and the Liberation, Dr. K. Schilder, B. Holwerda, and others withdrew from the organization for reformational philosophy, named Philosophy of the Law-Idea (Wijsbegeerte der Wets Idee) because of its broad direction, which had to do with the fact that the Reformed confession was not part of this organization's basis. And when a related organization here in North America - the Association for the Advancement of Christian Studies in Toronto (ARCS) - dropped the Reformed confession from its basis, this also caused grave concern. It showed the broad, liberal direction of this organization and opened the door wider for liberalism.
Thus becomes clear that having and maintaining the Reformed confession in the basis of our educational and political organizations, historically seen, is not a strange thing.
Why is the confession important?
It must be self-evident that the confession is not important as document in itself. We do not have, or want to have, the confession for the sake of the confession. The confession is important for what it confesses, its contents, because in it the churches, that means, their members, confess the truth of God's Word, revealed in the Scriptures. That truth is not only good for the church and church life, but also for, for example, educational and political activities and organizations.
Hereby it makes no difference that the confession is a summary of the truth of God's Word and does not say everything that can be said. What it says is confession of the truth. And that truth counts for our Christian life in all its aspects. The best way to see this is to go to the confession itself. We take as example a number of articles of the Belgic Confession (B.C.). It should be obvious immediately that Art. 1 B.C. is of the greatest significance, also for political activities. Here we confess our faith in the one, only true God who is "eternal, incomprehensible, invisible, immutable, infinite, almighty, perfectly wise, just, good, and the overflowing fountain of all good." Faith in this God means humble recognition of, and submission to Him and what He says in His never changing wisdom and goodness and justice, also for the governing of the nations.
Art. 2-7 are not less important. It contains the confession that we know God by two means. "God manifests Himself by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe, and . . . He makes Himself more clearly and fully known to us by His holy and divine Word as far as is necessary for us in this life, to His glory and our salvation." God's Word, contained in two books, the Old and the New Testament, is the only canonical source and rule for faith and life. Wisdom for all of life, including the social and political aspects, is stored in that Word and must be taken from it. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of all wisdom, also in politics.
That God is triune (Art. 7-11 B.C.) must be acknowledged, as well as the fact that Christ Jesus is God's Son and that this Son of God became man, suffered on the cross, rose from the dead, sits at God's right hand, and is King of kings and Lord of lords. Every government on earth is called to acknowledge Him as Lord and Saviour.
When we confess in Art. 13 B.C. that God has created all things and that He "continues to sustain and govern them according to His eternal providence and by His infinite power in order to serve man, to the end that man may serve his God," it should be clear that this confession is also of great significance as basis for Christian political and social thinking. Man is created in the image of God (Heidelberg Catechism, Q.A. 6) to rule, to till and guard the earth. He has to do this as servant of God, as steward, not as autonomous king or absolute owner. The earth has to serve man, but again, man as God's servant, as steward, who has the calling to take care of God's earth. Here we have the confession of our cultural mandate. This article of the Belgic Confession confesses what is basic for all of life, also in its political and social aspects. It shows as well the proper direction for our thinking in matters for example of environment and earthly resources.
It is obvious that I cannot mention all the articles. But I like to point at the importance of what the confession summarizes as truth of God's Word regarding the fall in sin and the total depravity of unregenerated man; regarding election and reprobation, which means that there will remain unregenerated people who harden themselves in their sin and unbelief. This is important in connection with keeping an army and a police force as well as a judicial system. Our world remains a world in which sin is such a mighty power.
When Art. 25 B.C. speaks about the difference between the Old and the New Testament, the ceremonial laws with their shadow character which found their fulfilment in Christ, then this confession is also of great significance. It can prevent us from placing any nation on this earth, now after the resurrection of Christ, on one and the same line with the nation of Israel during the Old Testament period. Israel was unique as a theocracy. No nation continued in that position. As people of God, the church, which is called out of all nations and families, is the New Testament continuation of Israel.
This means that the Articles 27-32, speaking about the church, are also very important for Christian politics. The government has to reckon with the Church of Christ, promoting her cause by ensuring freedom for the church and her calling in this world to confess Christ and to proclaim Him as Saviour and Lord, calling all to faith in Him and repentance from sin.
So we see that there is much more in our confession than just Art. 36 (dealing directly with the calling of the government) that is of great importance for Christian political thinking and activity. The whole confession gives clear, Scriptural, direction. This is not to say that the confession is exhaustive, and that nothing more is needed. The Word of God is there in the first place. But I hope that I made clear that it is not strange or extreme to have the Reformed confession as basis not just as churches, but also for Reformed, Christian political activity and organization. The Reformed confession should not be confined as normative (norma normata; a norm that is itself normed by the Scriptures) only for church life. It pertains to all of life, life ín all its aspects. Therefore, when ARPA (Association for Reformed Political Action) maintains the Three Forms of Unity in its basis, it does a good thing. Let the Reformed confession, the Reformed understanding of the Scriptures, different from, for example, the Roman Catholic or Arminian understanding, give direction also to our political thinking and actions, for in it we have the summary of the catholic faith as revealed in God's Word.
What about others?
Now it can be evident that our Reformed understanding, and confessing, of the teachings of the Scriptures is not a privilege that is solely ours only in the world. If what we confess to be the true teaching of God's Word is what we claim it to be, then humble reading of the Scriptures, with an open mind, can and will lead others to the same understanding, even when they do not have the Three Forms of Unity or might never have heard about them. There is, then, oneness in faith.
This oneness in what we believe, as expressed in summary in our confessions, is there also with others who have, love, and want to adhere to, the same confession, as, for instance, in the Free Reformed Churches, and still many in the Christian Reformed Churches. One could say that this oneness in faith should have as consequence, and should be applied in such a way, that there comes also oneness in church membership, as the Articles 27-29 speak about it. We agree.
Now the question is, can there be cooperation in the same organization, for instance ín one and the same political party? Or does God's Word forbid such a cooperation? This matter of cooperation with others has been quite an issue in our sister churches in the Netherlands. As I understand it, it was a matter of cooperation with others who are confessionally close, and the issue was not the formation of one political party, but cooperation in the nomination and election of the same candidates.
The situation here in Canada is different. Here the question is, shall we join, and cooperate with Christians from all kinds of different church backgrounds in one Christian Political party on the basis of the Scriptures as the infallible Word of God? Before we can answer that question, something has to be said regarding the political calling and responsibility which we, Christians, have in the country in which we live. But that will be next time.
Prof. J. Geertsema from
Clarion Sept. 19 1986
Is it our political calling to join
the Christian Heritage Party?
The one side
The other side
We are still busy with trying to find an answer to that question. In our first discussion we made a number of critical remarks. In the second editorial we tried to show that our confessions are important as guide and basis not only for our church life, but also for our political thinking and activities, for these confessions say the same thing as (they confess) what God's Word says. Therefore we have accepted these confessions as the "normed" norm for our Christian, our Reformed life in all its aspects. (The confessions are a "normed," not a "norming," norm. They are themselves "normed" by the Word of God, which is the "norming" norm.)
Why did I emphasize the usefulness of our Reformed standards? The reason is that without them one can go in so many directions. It is too bad that it must be said, but it is a fact, that the Scriptures as God's infallible and inerrant Word is both an indispensable and a vague basis. It is indispensable as basis for a Christian. This statement does not need any further explanation or proof. Any believing, faithful, Christian wants to live by what God says in His Holy Word, because that very Word tells him that this is exactly what God wants him to do. Christ Himself lived by what "is written."
Before I continue with the vagueness of this basis, I should like to say also that we must keep things in the right proportions. When fellow-Christians say that they have the Bible, which means God's infallible Word, as basis for their life, and so for their political thinking and action, we can rejoice. We do the very same thing. This places us together overagainst Hindus, Buddhists, Mohammedans, and overagainst all secular humanists and evolutionistic liberals who do not have the Word of God as the norm for their thinking and life.
However, the sad reality is that when, within this circle of Biblebelieving Christians, people say that for them the inerrant Word of God is the basis of their life or organization, such a statement and, therewith their basis, is still vague and open to different directions. The cause of this vagueness lies not in the basis as such, in the Word of the Lord, for the Scriptures are clear. The cause of that vagueness lies in our human, also Christian, weakness and sinfulness. Almost every "conservative," Bible-believing" Christian will claim that he accepts the Scriptures as the authoritative Word of the Lord. And yet, an Arminian, a Mennonite, a Baptist, a Pentecostal and/or Charismatic, and a Roman Catholic all read and interpret the Scriptures in different ways on quite a number of points. It ís this reality that causes me to have some hesitation with regard to the Christian Heritage Party and its basis.
One can state that the confessions are for the church but that we have to forget about these confessions when it comes to a Christian political party in the Canadian situation. Aside from the fact that 1 do not want to do the latter, as can be clear from what I wrote, I am afraid that this simply does not work. Christians take their "theological views and opinions," or let me say, their own ways of understanding the Bible, along in life, also in the political arena. They do not leave them behind when they enter the world of politics. Anyway, they should not have such an attitude, although there must always be openness, in humbleness, for a better understanding of the Scriptures and for correction of one's views. If one is a Christian only when it is convenient, and forgets his Christian principles when it does not suit him, such principles are not worth much. Now I suppose that Reformed Christians do have strong Reformed convictions and Reformed principles. They have Scripture and confession.
What I mean is this: we, Reformed Christians, can be against abortion and euthanasia, against homosexuality and the breaking down of the family, and a number of other things, together with Roman Catholics and Baptists and Mennonites, and still others. Here we are one in the negative. But does that mean that we are also one together in the positive? That is not automatically so.
Let me give a few examples. We are in favour of capital punishment. We base this view on the Scriptures, e.g., Romans 13, where the Apostle Paul speaks about the task of the government. To the government is given a sword to exercise God's justice on earth in revenging evil. There are many Christians who strongly disagree with us. They say that the Bible teaches us that we are not allowed to kì11. Therefore there should be no capital punishment. When a person is dead, he cannot repent and be converted and saved anymore.
The basic thinking of Roman Catholicism is according to the nature-grace contrast. Nature, which means, this natural earthly life in so many aspects, is neutral. A Christian can fully take part in this neutral, natural life. Besides this natural life there is spiritual life, the grace of God for the soul, the church, and so on. In practice this view means that in the church, and in spiritual matters, one serves God, but in matters of this earthly life one can go along with the socalled neutral world. A Christian church is necessary, but at the same time nothing wrong is seen in membership in an un-Christian labour organization in which Christ is denied as Saviour, as if in these matters of our job and daily bread we can be "neutral." We disagree with this thinking because it is not "normed" by the Scriptures. "Neutral" actually comes down to denying Christ in that certain aspect of life.
Another example is politics. There is now the Christian Heritage Party. This party is born out of frustration. It is established because also the Conservative Party is so totally secularized, so god-less in its politics. However, should it not be so that a Christian political party and the development of Christian, Scriptural political thinking and party-forming should be a matter of principle rather than a matter of a lack of any good "neutral" party?
I can draw a parallel here with our Reformed schools. The reason why we have our Canadian Reformed schools is not (in the first place) that the public school system is so corrupt. It is rather a matter of principles. As Reformed parents, we seek for the children of the covenant, the children of the congregation(s), a Reformed school education that is based on, and in accordance with, our confession. Therefore, after we had instituted and built up our congregations, the next step was the building of our schools, "to the utmost of our power."
Now I admit that with respect to the political aspect of our life in Canada we have not acted according to this principle as strongly as in the case of our schools. Although in the past some efforts were made in some congregations, organizing ourselves politically hardly got off the ground. It is therefore such a good thing that in many congregations or areas local ARPA organizations are set up. And I hope that they will all maintain the Three Forms of Unity in their basis.
Assuming now that the basis of the Christian Heritage Party is not "principles based on Judeo-Christian ethics," but the infallible Word of God, a question is also: will it work? Or will the differences in view and in understanding the Scriptures between the one and the other, between Reformed and, e.g., Roman Catholic, be of such a nature that the ways will separate when it comes to positive building up?
The reader notices that I am just thinking and asking questions. Let us continue and ask a few more questions.
Must I now come to the conclusion, after all this negative speaking, that I have to be against the Christian Heritage Party? But when I say "no" to it, what should I then do instead? What is the alternative? Should I then do nothing and leave matters as they are, with the argumentation that we live here in Canada, where the situation is so completely different from the Netherlands, and that in this country we can never reach the goal of a Reformed Political Party? Is such an argument sufficient? Is that acting responsibly in the present political situation? Is that what my Lord Jesus Christ wants me to do? I have to ask that question. Our confession points at Christ as the Saviour and Lord of my whole life in all its aspects and duties and callings. That whole life is for Him and His service.
Further, I cannot deny that my Reformed upbringing, my Reformed confessional reading of the Scriptures, tells me that the LORD has given me a political calling and responsibility in this country, besides my other tasks, e.g., in the church and in the matter of school education. A Christian political responsibility is included in my cultural mandate. I must confess Christ as Lord and Saviour for all of life. Therefore I believe that it is possible to have Christian politics and a Christian manner of governing that takes God's Word as norm and is sanctified by the Spirit of God. As a Christian, I have the duty to stand on guard for the country and nation in which I have a place. I have to confess and witness that God wants to be acknowledged as Lord also by governments. Also governments are called to do His will, whether that is nationally, or provincially, or locally. Christian government and Christian politics is not only possible. It is also a calling. That in the first place.
In the second place, the political parties in our country are purely humanistic. The Word of God, His salvation in Christ, His commandments, have no authority whatsoever in political matters. We appear to be here on that so-called neutral ground in all three existing parties. Are not some of the leaders Roman Catholic?
For me it is not only so that I cannot be a member of any of these existing parties that have representatives in the governments, because such membership implies coresponsibility for what such a party does, and stands for, or does not want to stand for. I find it also very difficult, if not actually becoming impossible, to vote for any candidate belonging to either NDP, or the Liberals, or the Conservatives. Not one of these three has anything left of truly Christian, Biblical, thinking. The basic philosophy of all three is that man with his own humanistic reasoning rules. All three also follow the democratic line: what the majority of the people think is right, is right. Groen van Prinsterer showed that democracy is, and ends up in, revolution. And is it not so that in practice Christian members of parliament are bound in their speaking and especially in their voting by the politics and decisions of the party?
Therefore, it would be such a good thing if there was an alternative, a free Christian alternative, overagainst the modern, humanistic, parties. With such a "free Christian alternative"
I mean independent Christian parliamentarians, who are in no manner bound by the decisions of a party caucus of any of the existing humanistic parties, but can freely speak according to the Scriptures. This is also what the Christian Heritage Party wants.
Besides, humanistic philosophy, together with much unprincipled opportunism, causes our governments to give in so easily to loud-mouthed minorites that cry for equal human rights for their (from a Biblical point of view) lawless ideas and practices. Must what is unnatural and lawless have equal rights with what is natural and law-abiding? Should there not be discrimination against that which breaks the law? (A different question is in how far a Christian government should discriminate, e.g., against homosexualism. Is it the calling of a Christian government to sentence practicing homosexuals to death, as the Old Testament Law prescribes? Some say so. But that is another matter.) Such an abiding by, and maintaining of, the moral commandments of God, that is what the Christian Heritage Party seeks. And should we not try to turn the trend? Should not a Biblical witness be heard right there in Parliament, if at all possible?
The reader understands my difficulty. There are a number of positive things in the Christian Heritage Party. But there are also serious negative points. If membership in such a general Christian political party would mean that we have to give up our Reformed confessional thinking and acting, if it would mean that we have to adapt to general evangelical trends, if it would mean that in the Christian Heritage Party we have to stick to political matters and have to bury our theological differences, then my response is negative.
It is highly important that we acknowledge our political responsibility in our country (or let me say: countries, including the U.S.A.). There is no doubt about that. We are called to take up also our Christian "patriotic" duties in this respect. Again, it is this aspect of the establishing of the Christian Heritage Party that I completely agree with. Christ has told His church that it is His light-bearer. It has to let His light shine in the world. That light must not be placed under a bushel. It must be seen. It means that a truly Christian voice should be heard.
I can also appreciate the intent of the new party not to go the way of compromise. That is the way it should be. But just because of that intent, in my opinion, one has to speak about theological, or let us say: confessional, differences. If we are to do more than just fight against abortion and pornography; if we are to form a party with a program for governing the nation, we should know beforehand what that will entail. Does my Roman Catholic fellow-member (to restrict myself to him) agree with me, Reformed member, on the meaning and contents of the statement: we do not want to compromise? Compromise with respect to what: the principles of Judeo-Christian ethics? But we saw that this is a very vague term. Does the party not want to make any compromise with respect to what the Word of God says?
We have to ask such questions, because - let us be honest with that Roman Catholic fellow-member - we confess that the Roman Catholic Church has compromised and still is "compromising" the truth of the Word of God with the acceptance of, and adherence to, its un-Scriptural doctrines taken from its specific Roman Catholic tradition, which on so many points conflicts with God's Word. "No compromise" is a beautiful statement. But the Roman Catholic "reverence" for Mary and the mass are, when seen in the light of God's Word, "an accursed idolatry." Does that not have any bearing on political co-operation? At first sight it may seem not, but in the end the conclusion will be that truly Roman Catholic and truly Reformed are still two opposite ways that are worlds apart, just as in the sixteenth century. A true, lasting, solid Christian unity and cooperation in the church, but also in the political arena, is a unity in the truth of all that the Scriptures say.
I wish I could give my full support to the Christian Heritage Party. However, yet I have so many questions. What are we getting into? Groen van Prinsterer said: In isolation lies our power. And he meant: abiding by what is Reformed and antirevolutionary.
And now the difficulty is, when I withhold my vote, my support, what is there for me as an alternative? Doing nothing? Sitting back? Letting things go in the political arena without a Christian witness as far as I am concerned? Here is an alternative to political, increasingly god-less and law-less humanism. If I react negatively to this alternative, I have no input in it. I cannot try to influence it. Yet, I have received so much for nothing; should I not give it to others for nothing? But then really give?
If I react by withholding my active support, do I leave the fulfilment of the Christian calling in this country, of which I am part, to others? And am I myself right in doing nothing, on the basis of the argumentation that I do not have the power, with a handful of other Reformed people, to form a political party and get an independent Christian man in parliament? Is saying "no" and doing nothing the answer? It certainly is not.
Now there is some ways an alternative. That is ARPA. ARPA has Scripture and confession in its basis. ARPA carries the name "Reformed": Association for Reformed Political Action. On this point I have no hesitation. Here, in the first place, I see a very important calling for a Reformed organization for people of Reformed persuasion.
But then it is so that ARPA must not just be an organization for action, which can lead to American-style activism. Sure, there has to be action, but ARPA must in the first place become a study society. What is needed in the very first place is study, study, study, Reformed study. The writings of Groen van Prinsterer, of Abraham Kuyper, of Albert Zijlstra, and Joh. Francke, and others must be studied. ARPA must study the publications of the GPV in the Netherlands. It must become clearer what truly Christian and Reformed, anti-revolutionary, political theory and practice is; what a truly Christian, antirevolutionary governing of a country means.
If there is not a thorough study in the above manner, a joining of a general Christian party could mean that we become overpowered by a broad-evangelical, American-style, Christian moral activism that thinks that it has to, and can, save America and Canada and the world by turning it into a theocracy, while there is a losing of the distinctively Reformed outlook and lifestyle, which is guided, not by a kind of Christian ideology, but by the sound teachings of the Scriptures as confessed in our standards.
It is true, as Reformed principled people who have the Reformed confessions as basis and guide for our whole life, we have a rich heritage; which, I am sometimes afraid, we are more and more losing through ignorance, through lack of study, which, in turn, makes us susceptible to the influence of a general Christian, social gospel activism, or a moral-issues activism. Therefore, once again, let us study in ARPA. That should be first and foremost.
At certain times and in certain situations, when there was not yet a Canadian Reformed school, there were Canadian Reformed people who sent their children to an existing Christian school instead of to a public school. Others were convinced (sincerely, and not with the hand on the purse) that this was not the right way. Now Canadian Reformed schools have been established. A strictly Canadian Reformed Political Party that can have political results in an election is hardly imaginable. Should we, therefore, join what is obtainable?
I realize that all that I have written regarding the new Christian party sounds rather negative. I wish that I could be much more positive, much more convinced that here is indeed the way to go. Yes, we should not want to be and remain inactive. We should be very active and involved. Indeed, the future of our country, the country in which we live, and in which our children live, and possibly our grandchildren will live,is at stake. We have to do here with very serious matter. There ís no doubt about it.
And it is Reformed to see and accept our political responsibility, to care for country and nation. Let us show that care. Let us not remain idle. But when it becomes clear that one cannot maintain a Reformed confessional stand in a political party, that should be a clear indication of the way one should not go. Our confession is not just a Reformed tradition, or a Reformed interpretation of the Scriptures, besides which we can readily accept other interpretations and other traditions. That confession remains for us the "normed" norm based on God's Word also for our political activities.
Therefore, what I should like to come back to, and emphasize once more, is the great need for Reformed political study on the basis of the Scriptures (the "norming" norm) and confession (the "normed" norm) in ARPA. Here I see our first calling. Are there not among us people who are thoroughly Reformed and have political talents? Who are interested in politics? Who sees a calling here? Who are willing to study in this field? We need Reformed leaders like Groen van Prinsterer and Jongeling, also here in Canada, not just for ourselves, but for our country, for our nation! Our country needs Reformed Christians in its political arena!
Let us pray to the LORD for them. And, let us, at the same time, under the blessing of the LORD, make the local ARPA societies Reformed political study and training centers for the fulfilment of our political calling and for the benefit of our country.