Thursday, 28 August 2014

50 years ago: Canadian religious leaders weigh in on topless bathing suits

In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; I Timothy 2:9

Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;
But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.
I Peter 3:3-4

The topless bathing suit was a fashion fad in 1964. I don't think it ever caught on in Canada (I'm too young to remember), but several clergymen from the Toronto area were asked their opinions of the matter. It comes as no surprise to this blogger that the stupidest comments are from the Unitarian-Universalist. As reported by Allen Spraggett in the Toronto Daily Star, July 4, 1964, p. 50 (bold and capitals in original):

'Symbol of Decay?'

Debate morals of topless fad

S THE topless bathing suit a moral issue?

Some Russian newspapers have called it a symbol of Western moral decay--is it?

Is a woman who wears a topless bathing suit or evening dress showing moral laxity?

Or, is this ultimate in plunging necklines merely a fashion fad of no greater significance than any other?

Metro clergymen commented.

Dr. W.G. Berry, St. Paul's-Avenue Road United Church:

"I think this new style sells sex. In our society sex has become the easiest way of selling any commodity on the market, the best gimmick for promoting anything.

"Women who go for this new trend are just being taken for a ride. For the fashion designers, morality is not an issue. They are interested only in making money. Business is business.

"I think this new style is being foisted on the public by publicity. It's an example of what I call superimposition--a style or fad is superimposed on people and they feel they've got to accept it.

"The real moral issue here involves the ethics of commercialism, of businessmen who will do anything for a buck.

"My own feeling is that women will not adopt this new style, with the exception of foolish people or sensation seekers. A woman who would wear a topless bathing suit is probably sexually immature rather than morally lax.

Rev. J. Harry Faught, chairman pro tem, Canadian Evangelical Fellowship:

"The topless bathing suit is symptomatic of a general lowering of what is morally acceptable in our society. If the style were widely adopted it would lower the moral tone of society.

"However, I feel certain that this kind of familiarity, this kind of blatant vulgarity, would become contemptible in the eyes of the majority. People's innate moral principles would rebel against it.

"At the present time, I would say that a woman who wore this new style would be showing more a desire to appear way off-centre, avant-garde, than any moral looseness. But the appearance of such a style definitely would be a change for the moral worse."

Rev. Alfred Fowlie, Willowdale Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship:

"I think the new topless style has a lot to do with the idea of equality of women with men. They feel that their bodies are their bodies--not public property--and they can do with them as they please. What is beautiful about their bodies should be exposed.

"If a beautiful young girl wants to expose her breasts, or if she feels more comfortable in a topless bathing suit, let her do as she pleases, and then let society decide whether it likes it or not.

"This kind of morality is very relative. In some Asiatic countries the custom is for women to be bare-breasted. In the high culture of ancient Crete the women were bare-breasted. And, of course, in primitive societies this is the style. Perhaps this new look is a return to a primitive but honest morality. Personally, I certainly would not regard a woman's wearing a topless bathing suit as a sign of any kind of moral laxity.

"Most Unitarians agree that the real moral issues do not concern modes of dress or customs of sex but poverty, war, racial discrimination and other social evils which cause the misery of millions.

Rev. Pius J. Riffel, SJ, instructor in pastoral psychology, Regis College, Willowdale:

"This new style reflects changing cultural patterns in our society. We are experiencing many changes in customs and attitudes--some good, some bad. This topless bathing suit is one of the bad.

"There is a close relationship between a healthy, normal sense of modesty and morality. A sense of appropriateness in dress is good psychology and good morality. Immodesty is therefore bad psychologically and morally.

"I can't believe that many women would wear this new style. To do so could be a sign of neurotic exhibitionism, a psychological instability.

"Frankly, I am not unduly exercised about this matter at the moment. I do not see society crumbling because of it or anything ominous like that. However, this new fad doubtless is another sign of the general loosening of morals which has been going on for some time."
With the way the fashions of the world have influenced Christianity in the last 50 years, if the topless bathing suit were to make a comeback, it would be only a matter of time until "Christian" topless bathing suits were marketed.

Those astute American cultural observers Jan & Dean offered perhaps the best secular commentary on the phenomenon of the topless bathing suit (Bruce and Terry's version was released as a single, but is no longer available on YouTube, as of the date of this post):

50 years ago: A Jewish scholar accuses the United Church of Canada of being out of date

Just as the United Church of Canada was boasting about putting Christianity "squarely in the context of the twentieth century" with its modernistic Sunday School curriculum, it was being criticized by a Jewish scholar for not being current enough. As reported by Allen Spraggett of the Toronto Daily Star, July 4, 1964, p. 50 (bold and capitals in original):

Dr. Thomson out of date--rabbi

A LEADING RABBI says that a United Church textbook is behind the times in its description of Judaism as it was in the time of Christ.

Rabbi Stuart Rosenberg, of Beth Tzedec congregation, was asked by the editor of the United Church Observer to comment on a book, God and His Purpose, written by former United Church moderator Dr. J.S. Thomson and intended as a study guide for laymen. Recently, a philosophy professor, Dr. Marcus Long, charged that Dr. Thomson's book contained "unintentional anti-Semitism."

"I have read Dr. Thomson's volume and have found it most engaging," Dr. Rosenberg writes in the Observer, "obviously the product of a pen that is wide and ranging, and of a theological mind that has been generously fed by modern psychological and sociological insights. Dr. Thomson may not be labelled 'anti-Semitic...'

"But after reading his book, I am afraid that I could not trust him to produce an authentic, accurate description of Judaism. My criticism here is surely not of his spirit but of his scholarship. His slips show. He writes of Judaism in the time of Jesus as one wrote 50 years ago, when it was popular to believe that every negative description of Judaism was a point scored in favor of Christianity. (See his book, pp. 190-191)"

(The passage Dr. Rosenberg referred to reads:

"Time and time again, we read that the religious leaders of the people hated Jesus for his words and even more for what he did. They decided that they must get rid of him and that it must be done by the awful and desperate way of death. They planned and plotted until he was caught at last in the trap they had set for him. But why should they want to accompllsh such a dastardly deed? They loved their own world and their place of power and position within it...And they hated the messenger who brought the good news of God...")

Dr. Rosenberg continues: "Dr. Thomson seems to be out of touch with some of the rules for religious dialogue which many of his fellow Protestants have long ago endorsed:

"'Each partner must strive for a clear understanding of the faith of the other. This implies--

(a) his willingness to interpret the faith of the other in its best light rather than its worst; and

(b) a continual willingness to revise his understanding of the faith of the other.'

"I do not say that Dr. Thomson slanders Judaism. I think rather that he has not tried hard enough to understand it, and as a result there is a tendency to be too glib, and to distort essential meanings.

"This is a very great pity. A modern textbook which purports to teach about Christianity in today's world should take into account the spirit of ecumenical theology...

"I wish that Dr. Thomson had incorporated the insights of some of his distinguished Protestant colleagues: historians, like George Foote Moore, James Parkes; theologians, like Paul Tillich, Reinhold Niebuhr; Bible scholas such as Bultmann. If he had, he would not have been satisfied to 'score points' against the Pharisees without really attempting to understand them.

"The newer mood in Christian-Jewish relations needs to be restated at every turn. Dr. Thomson, I believe, missed an opportunity to say things that desperately need to be said.

"May I say it for him in the words of Jewish philosopher Martin Buber: 'No man outside of Israel knows the mystery of Israel. And no man outside of Christianity knows the mystery of Christianity. But in their ignorance they can acknowledge each other in the mystery...The gates of God stand open to all. The Christian need not go through Judaism, the Jew need not go through Christianity in order to come to God.'"
This looks like one of those "What they say...and what they really mean" situations. When Dr. Rosenberg criticizes Dr. Thomson for violating the "rules of religious dialogue," the most important rule seems to be: Thou shalt not say anything negative about Jews, even if it's true. I hate to agree with a United Church of Canada leader, but if he was right, he was right. What does the Bible say about the attitude and behaviour of the Jewish religious leaders toward the Lord Jesus Christ?

Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?
Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.
And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.
And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them.
But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet.
Matthew 21:42-46 (citing Psalms 118:22-23)

Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas,
And consulted that they might take Jesus by subtlety, and kill him...
...Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death;
Matthew 26:3-4, 59

Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.
“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs.
If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”
Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all!
You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”
He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation,
and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one.
So from that day on they plotted to take his life.
John 11:47-53 (NIV)

Those who hold the views of Dr. Rosenberg can't prove that the above passages are inaccurate or don't belong in the Bible--they just don't like what those passages say. It therefore comes as no surprise to this blogger to see that the Protestant "scholars" recommended by Dr. Rosenberg were those who were the most liberal in their theology and couldn't accurately be described as Christian.

In a similar vein, it's now fashionable in Christian circles to play down or virtually deny Jewish culpability in the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ. In rebuttal, I offer the following comments by three Jewish leaders of the early Christian church who were either on the scene or in the area at the time:

Peter: But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words:
Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.
Acts 2:14, 36

Stephen: Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.
Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers:
Acts 7:51-52

Paul: For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews:
Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men:
Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.
I Thessalonians 2:14-16

As for Martin Buber's comment that "the Jew need not go through Christianity in order to come to God": If by "Christianity" he means a religious system such as the Roman Catholic Church or any other church, he was correct. If by "Christianity" Mr. Buber meant the Lord Jesus Christ, he was dead wrong:

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. John 14:6

Friday, 1 August 2014

50 years ago: United Church of Canada unveils Sunday School curriculum denying the truth of the Bible

And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. Matthew 24:4

For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.
Acts 20:29-30

Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, Romans 1:22

And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. Ephesians 5:11

Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. Colossians 2:8

Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;
I Timothy 4:1-2

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
II Timothy 4:3-4

But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. II Peter 2:1

Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.
They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.
I John 2:18-19

Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.
For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Jude 3-4

In July 1964, the United Church of Canada unveiled a Sunday School curriculum that flagrantly denied factual, biblical truth. The event merited major newspaper coverage:

Toronto Daily Star, July 4, 1964, pp. 1-2


The Star's specialist in religion takes a look at an outspokenly liberal and bluntly critical view of the Bible adopted for the United Church Sunday schools

Virgin Birth, Goliath--are they just myths?

Star staff writer

Is the Bible full of myths?

Is the contest of David and Goliath a tall story?

Is the doctrine of the Virgin Birth of Christ the result of a biblical mistranslation?

Are the Christmas star and the angelic chorus which announced Jesus' birth merely legends?

The answer to all these questions is Yes--according to a new, official Sunday school curriculum adopted by the United Church of Canada after six years' preparation at a cost of $1,000,000.

Dr. Peter Gordon White, United Church editor-in-chief of Sunday school publications, calls the new curriculum (which will start in general use in September) "a major breakthrough."

It is the first time a Sunday school course of study has been so outspokenly liberal in its theology and has taken such a frankly critical view of the Bible.

Explaining this, Dr. White said: "Our church's general council, and the theologians we consulted, agreed with us that whether or not it raised a ruction we couldn't doubletalk in this curriculum. We decided to be absolutely honest and open."

Already, there have been warnings of the "ruction" Dr. White feared.

At the recent conference of the Baptist Convention of Ontario and Quebec (which published the new Sunday school material jointly with the United Church) the curriculum was denounced as "modernist," "insidious," even "atheistic!"

Who killed Goliath?

Mrs. W.H. Harmon, Baptist delegate from Smiths Falls (who said she spoke not just for herself but for her church), specifically protested:

. That the primary teacher's guide of the new course says that the first 11 chapters of the Bible are myth, not history.

. That the junior guide questions the Virgin Birth of Christ.

. That the intermediate guide denies that David killed Goliath and suggests that the Mosaic plague in Egypt was a "children's disease," not a supernatural curse of God.

Burn it, she says

"We implore you to have nothing to do with this literature," Mrs. Harmon besought the Baptists. "Throw it away! Burn it!"

However, by a close vote of 164-147, the Baptist convention decided not to repudiate its joint publication agreement with the United Church.

This vote does not signify that the new curriculum will be generally used in Baptist churches. Chances are it will not. Each congreation decides for itself. Already, three Toronto Baptist churches--Danforth, Temple and Bethel--have rejected the material.

"This curriculum is a big departure from traditional Baptist beliefs," said Rev. George Campbell of Danforth Baptist Church. "In places, it contradicts the Bible outright. Its influence can only be bad."

"I take my stand against this material, said Rev. Harold D. Telfer, Temple Baptist Church. "Young people should not be exposed to this curriculum.

"It would be bad for the spiritual growth of a child."

'Hot potato'

Rev. Roy Cook of Bethel Baptist Church, president of the Ontario and Quebec Baptist Convention, said that though his congregation had banned it he would express no personal opinion on the curriculum "because it's such a hot potato."

Some Baptists defend the new material.

Rev. Frederick Helps, editor of Baptist Sunday school publications, said that critics of the curriculum are "those who stand by the old style doctrine of the inerrancy of the Bible. If this material is accepted in our Baptist churches it will be a very great step forward. It will strengthen the faith of young people.

"Unfortunately, there are still church people who think that 'evolution' is a wicked word!"

'Ignoring facts'

The doctrine of evolution--that the world evolved into its present state, rather than being created as is--is explicitly taught in the new curriculum.

A text for young people 12 to 14, "God Speaks Through People," says bluntly that if a student put down a high school science exam what Genesis teaches about creation he would flunk.

The author of "The Mighty Acts of God," a text for 15 to 17-year-olds, concurs: Genesis certainly does not agree with the scientific facts we believe today...anyone who attempts to harmonize the two is simply ignoring plain facts."

The Red Sea

The junior teacher's guide, for use of those instructing Sunday school children 9 to 11, suggests that even the Gospel accounts are often contradictory, and says flatly: "The wandering star (of Bethlehem) and the angelic chorus are probably legendary...and no one should be compelled to accept the idea of the Virgin Birth."

In "The Mystery of the Rock," a reading book for 9 to 12-year-olds, the crossing of the Red Sea by the children of Israel becomes a desupernaturalized passage across "the Reed Sea." The chariots of the pursuing Egyptians get mired in the muck and sink in the treacherous swamps.

Later, in the same book, the command of the Old Testament prophet Samuel that the Israelites should utterly slay their enemies because God willed it is "a frightful command, a terrible display of human hatred."

In other places, the new Sunday school material calls the story of Noah and the Ark a legend, says that the Old Testament book of Isaiah was written by not one but two men, implies that St. John did not actually write the fourth Gospel attributed to him, and, referring to the stories of Jesus' resurrection, allows that "some Christians take the stories literally...but others feel unable to do that."

Shocking? Heresy?

Not at all--to most United Church ministers (and some Baptists too).

Editor-in-chief White says that this liberal approach to the Bible, though revolutionary in a Sunday school curriculum, has been taught in most Protestant seminaries for 40 years.

"This view," he said, "is simply that a biblical account is not necessarily descriptive fact, but it does have the truth of God in it."

Ordered by 90 p.c.

In this approach, the book of Genesis, for example, does not state scientific fact but it does express profound religious truth, namely, that "in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth..."

Dr. White sees a virtually unanimous acceptance of the new curriculum in the United Church. A unique pre-testing program in which 48 congregations across Canada carefully examined the material revealed general enthusiasm.

Already, two months before it is to be used, the material has been ordered by nearly 90 per cent of United Church congregations.

"People are saying, 'Thankd God we have something positive now to teach, something which is honest and open and not doubletalk," Dr. White said.
Page 50

New child text at odds with Bible


Star staff writer

DON'T BE SURPRISED if Johnny comes home from Sunday school some day soon and tells you that the whale didn't swallow Jonah, that Moses didn't cross the Red Sea, and that what the Bible says about the creation of the world is way off base.

Chances are, he'll simply be repeating what his Sunday school teacher told him.

The United Church of Canada--the nation's largest Protestant denomination, with more than 1,000,000 members--has decided to update the Bible for its hundreds of thousands of Sunday school students.

The result is the new, startling, stimulating, and controversial Sunday school curriculum which goes into effect in September across the country.

Most ambitious in Canada

Dr. Peter Gordon White, United Church editor-in-chief of Sunday school publications, is rhapsodic about the new study program. He regards it as the most ambitious, the most comprehensive, and up-to-date curriculum of its kind yet launched in Canada.

More than 10 years of intensive planning went into formulation of the curriculum. To date, $500,000 has been invested, and that figure is expected to reach $1,000,000 in three years.

"This program has been the work of many minds," Dr. White said, "including pastors, theologians, writers and artists. It has involved the mind of the whole United Church. In fact, few if any projects since church union in 1925 have been so widely based in the life of the church as this one is."

Study geared to all age levels

The new curriculum aims to provide a balanced, understandable, rounded, outspokenly modern and liberal presentation of the Christian faith geared to different age levels from kindergarten to adulthood.

How did the new program develop?

It began, says an official statement, "in the need for a restating of the Christian message. The world is in convulsion, familiar patterns of living are breaking up, racial groups are jostling one another, people are anxious, lonely. And people are asking, 'What is our faith?'...'How does our faith speak to this world?'

"Many lay people, as well as ministers, dissatsified with the inadequacy of existing materials, demanded a curriculum which would give the church a working knowledge of the faith for today's world..."

Dare to do things not tried

"...A working knowledge of the faith for today's world"--this is the keynote of the new curriculum.

"In this program we decided to push out, to speculate, to dare to do things not done before," says editor White. "We wanted very clearly to break out and break through the old patterns of thinking and teaching...And the response from the church has been overwhelmingly favorable."

But not unanimously so. Those of conservative theology--"literalists," Dr. White calls them, and there are some in the United Church--are scandalized by the way in which the curriculum openly questions the Bible, not just in matters of history but, at times, in questions of Old Testament ethics.

Adults willing to teach it

Some cautious souls--not necessarily conservative theologically themselves--counselled against "rocking the boat" and "disturbing people's faith."

To this, Dr. White replies: "There has been more relief, excitement and willingness on the part of adults to teach this new material than anything else. Already, more than 500,000 pieces of literature have been ordered--and this is two months before use."

Dr. White said [the] purpose of the new program is to answer the real questions people are asking, to make the Christian faith relevant in the jet age, to separate the essence of the faith from some of the accretions which have grown around it, and, above all else, to be open, frank and utterly honest.

How has the new curriculum succeeded?

Here are extensive quotes from the study material which reflect the tenor and theological orientation of the program.

11 chapters of 'myths'

. On myth in the Bible (from the primary teacher's guide, p. 9): "The first 11 chapters of the Bible are not history in the usual meaning of the term. Rather, the stories told there belong to the category of stories known as myths.

"This does not mean that they belong to the category of fairy tales or have no historical value. For they are of the utmost value in yielding us insight into the minds of Israel's religious leaders...In theological thinking, myth means profound spiritual truth conveyed in picturesque form."

. On the Virgin Birth (junior teacher's guide, p. 18): "Is it necessary to believe in the virgin conception of Mary? This may rest on a mistaken translation of Isaiah 7:14, where the 'young woman' of the original Hebrew became a 'virgin' in the Greek rendering...

Poetic language required

"Because of the difficulties, many nowadays would say that no one should be compelled to accept the ideas of the Virgin Birth. Neverhteless I want to add this. The coming of the Messiah is one of the most wonderful things that ever happened! We must not despise the lovely Gospel stories about the Son of God. So wonderful is this coming that we must have poetry and picture language to tell forth its meaning...

. On the resurrection of Christ (ibid., p. 40):

"Easter shows us that Jesus is alive, as conqueror...It is true that we do not understand the mystery of the resurrection. Some Christians take the stories literally, and may rightly do so. Others feel unable to do that: They prefer to think of Jesus as one who was transfigured with what Paul called a 'spiritual body'."

Would be marked incorrect

. On the Bible and science (God Speaks Through People, text for 12 to 14-year-olds, p. 24):

"We know that if we gave these answers (the facts in the book of Genesis) in a science examination at school, they would be marked wrong...If the creation stories had been written in scientific language they would now be out of date, for science, like every other field of knowledge, grows and changes...

"Some religious people feel that scientific discoveries may upset their faith. When Galileo said the earth was round and not flat, some folk felt he had destroyed the truth of the Bible....But we should never fear new discoveries..."

. On moral development in the Bible (The Mighty Acts of God, text for 15 to 17-year-olds, p. 64):

"No moral issues were involved for Israel in this act of attempted conquest (of Palestine), as far as the rightness or wrongness of taking a land by force is concerned. In the ancient world the power of conquest was reckoned to be the right of conquest....

'Might is right' principle invalid

"This of course, is not to say that the principle 'might is right' is backed by the scripture or is still valid. In the light of the Christian Gospel no one today can hold such an opinion. We have advanced beyond this principle....Now this is not to say that God changes His mind...but He fits His words to what men are ready to receive."

. On Moses crossing the Red Sea (The Mystery of the Rock, text for 9 to 12-year-olds, p. 60):

"Moses led his people towards the marshes and wet sand of the Sea of Reeds...The Hebrews had reached the reedland when they realized that the Egyptian troops were in pursuit. They seemed to be trapped. In terror they fled. The soggy marshes were nearly always covered with water. But the steady wind had made them passable for people on foot.

Water rises Egyptians doomed

"As they reached the eastern shore, the Egyptians arrived at the western bank. The high-spirited horses plunged forward with their rumbling chariots, crushing the reeds and digging their hooves into the slimy marsh....Soon the wheels were clogged with mud and sand....By early dawn the water had risen again and the doomed Egyptian charioteers, struggling with their panic-stricken horses, brought on themselves terrible confusion and destruction..."
The Vancouver newspaper The Province reported on the issue several days later. From The Province, July 9, 1964, pp. 1-2:

Bible stories myths, says new teaching

By Richard Simeon

Province Staff Reporter

A new Sunday School curriculum just unveiled by the United Church will be a shocker to those who accept the Bible as the Word of God.

It denies the literal interpretation placed on the Bible in the past, but church officials say it is just bringing Sunday School teaching up to date with what ministers have been saying from the pulpit for 25 years.

The new course, for adults down to three-year-olds, is the result of more than 10 years work by theologians, educators, ministers and laymen.

Among the ideas included in the various texts and teacher's guides are:

. The first 11 chapters of the Bible are myths.

. The idea of the Virgin birth may rest on a mistaken translation of Isaiah 7:14 where the Hebrew word "young woman" became translated as the Greek "virgin."

. The Red Sea did not part to let the Hebrews escape from Egypt.

. If the creation stories had been written in scientific language, they would now be out of date, for science, like every other field of knowledge grows and changes.

The curriculum has already been accepted by more than 80 per cent of United Church congregations in B.C.

"This course puts Christianity squarely in the context of the twentieth century," says Rev. Jack Ferry. "We are looking at the Bible for what it is, not for what some people would want it to be.

"We are taking full cognizance of modern scientific knowledge."

Rev. Clyde Woolard, chairman of the B.C. Conference Committee for Christian Education, says: "Now Sunday School material will catch up with what the pulpit has been saying for the last 25 years. It puts the Bible on a new meaningful basis."

"A literal interpretation of the Bible just cannot be held today."

The curriculum teaches that most of the Old Testament, including the story of Creation, are myths. "We try to point out that what the Bible says about creation is good poetry--it was never meant to be science," says Rev. Woolard.

He said it is not necessary to believe in the Virgin Birth to believe in Christ's divinity.

"We have not rejected the Bible--we have plunged waist deep into it, and have a new appreciation for its role and message," he said.

Rev. Ferry said: "Because much of the Bible is myth does not mean it is not true. Mythological material often conveys the truth more effectively than facts."

The curriculum consists of a series of text books and teaching aids for children of kindergarten age up to adulthood.

The teachers' guides consist of extensive background material in teaching methods and theology so the teacher can handle questions from students.

For each age group, there is a text-book geared for their own level. Each group also has a monthly or weekly magazine to supplement course work.

The course is planned for three-year cycles, with all groups studying the same general theme. In the first year it is "God and his Purpose," followed by "Jesus Christ and the Christian Life," and "The Church in the World."

"The whole family will be able to discuss the same thing," says Rev. Woolard.

The curriculum has been tested in 50 churches across Canada during the past two years.

One of the test churches was Shaughnessy Heights United Church. "The course is more demanding and has to be taken more seriously by both the student and the teacher," said Rev. T.M. Badger, minister of the church.

"It's the best program we have ever had. As the children get older, they will not unlearn all the things they have learned in high school.

"We may have fewer teachers and pupils becasuse of the heavier program, but at least they will be properly educated."

Teachers and pupils found the course challenging. "Our Easter sessions came as quite a surprise to our junior teachers, accustomed as they were to skirting the crucifixion and talking of spring time and new life. In the new curriculum the facts are taught, even at the kindergarten level.," said one teacher.

"If we don't have good theology we're going to lose these kids and we're going to lose them, perhaps, forever," said another. "You can't put anything over on them."

Teachers and supervisors are being trained at the United Church's summer camp at Naramata, and thousands more are receiving training at local churches.

About 68,000 students will receive the new program in September.

Rev. Badger said there was no opposition to the course content at his church.
There was opposition from other churches, as reported in The Province, July 10, 1964, pp. 1-2:

Score changes

Churches hit teaching

The new United Church Sunday school curriculum has provoked criticism from fundamental church leaders.

"If you chop up the Bible like this there's not going to be anything left but the covers," said Rev. D.G. Macdonald, pastor of the Church of the Nazarene.

"We take the Bible as the literal word of God. You cannot take some parts and leave others.

"We are very disturbed."

The new curriculum, the result of 10 years work, rejects many of the literal interpretations placed on the Bible in the past, and brings Sunday School teaching up to date with modern United Church doctrine.

Anglican Bishop Rt. Rev. Godfrey Gower said he has not seen the new program. "I cannot comment on the program, but the church does have a great capacity for moving forward with the times."

An Anglican priest said the program will come as a shock to many Anglicans. "We always thought the United Church was more fundamentalist than we were," he said.

"One has to be realistic today, but when you start to deny doctrines, you have to be very careful." He said the doctrine of the Virgin Birth is part of the Anglican Church's Thirty-Nine Articles of Faith.

Roman Catholic Father James Roberts, secretary of the Vancouver Council for Christian Unity, said his church agrees with most of the material in the program.

"No mainstream Christian religion accepts the Bible as the literal interpretation of the Word of God. Some of it is folk-lore, some legend, some triabal history," he said.

He said Catholics demand that only a few passages be interpreted literally, but he said he cannot agree that Christ did not have a virgin birth.

"But I think we can go along with the rest of the material."

Several ministers said they will preach against the new curriculum this Sunday.

Rev. W.H. Brooks of the Alliance Tabernacle recorded a two-minute message attacking the curriculum for persons phoning in to his Dial-a-Thought phone message.

"This so-called new teaching should surprise no one for this particular group has long since departed from those truths which brought it into being," he said.

He said the church is a traitor to its faith.

"I would withdraw my support from any church which denies these sacred truths."

"The majority of Christians will be offended by this material. The United Church has not preached the gospel for many, many years," said Rev. Brooks.

"Several people from the United Church called me today," said Rev. J.M. Watts of the Broadway Pentecostal Tabernacle. "They were deeply shocked. They wanted to know if we teach the same views.

"My topic on Sunday morning will be: The Bible: Myths or Miracles?"

"The United Church is just trying to get rid of the supernatural."

Rev. D.W. Reed of Dunbar Heights Baptist Church, said most Baptists would object to any changes in interpreting the Bible.

"The Bible is the word of God. All the accounts in it are factual and should be accepted literally," he said.

"With these differences, it is impossible to think of union or even co-operation with them for a long, long time."

Eastern Baptists have co-operated with the United Church on the new curriculum and used it in their own churches, but the Baptist Union of Western Canada cancelled agreements with the United Church last year.

"There is no lack of co-operation with the United Church in the west, but western Baptists are much more fundamental than those in the East," said a spokesman.
A few observations and comments:

In 1964 the United Church of Canada was important enough to merit front-page coverage in the country's largest-circulating daily newspaper, published in Canada's second-largest city at the time, as well as front-page coverage in the country's third-largest city.

When the United Church and liberal Baptists made their apostasy official, they didn't think they were committing suicide; rather, they thought this was the most progressive move they'd ever made, as they were now "squarely in the context of the twentieth century." However, the 20th and 21st centuries have left the United Church and other liberal churches behind. As the old saying goes, it's better to have a church that's 500 years behind the times and doesn't care than to have a church that's 5 minutes behind the times and is constantly scrambling to catch up. The United Church of Canada, which thought it was being so hip and with it when it officially abandoned belief in the Bible as the word of God in 1964, has become increasingly irrelevant in the 50 years since.

The decline weren't long in coming. The UCC's membership total peaked in 1965 at approximately 1,064,000 (see Wikipedia entry on the United Church of Canada, and go here and see the graph on the UCC's membership and attendance decline). By 1966, total membership was starting to decline, and Sunday school attendance had dropped by 100,000 (J. Berkley Reynolds, The United Church Observer, May 1, 1967, cited by Carl McIntire, Outside the Gate, 1967, p. 181). According to Statistics Canada estimates, the population of Canada has increased from about 19 million in 1964 to about 35 million in 2014--a gain of 84%. However, United Church of Canada membership during the same period has declined by more than 52%. According to the UCC's own figures, as of December 31, 2012, total membership in local congregations was 463,879. Identifiable givers to the "largest and richest Protestant denomination in Canada" numbered about half that: 239,877. Average weekly church attendance for the UCC was about one-third the number of members: 158,510. The low total for the latter may possibly be explained by the possibility that many of the UCC's members are now so old that they live in seniors' residences and may be unable to get to church. Sunday School membership in the UCC at the end of 2012 was 55,552. The United Church of Canada is an organization that is increasingly closing and selling its buildings because there aren't enough people there to keep them going. The anonymous Sunday School teacher quoted in the Province got at least this much right: "If we don't have good theology we're going to lose these kids and we're going to lose them, perhaps, forever." The United Church of Canada didn't have good theology in 1964, it doesn't have good theology in 2014, and it has lost those kids, forever.

The program was the "work of many minds," but those minds were unregenerate. When Dr. Peter Gordon White described the curriculum as "honest and open and not doubletalk," he was in fact engaging in doubletalk. It's true that the United Church was honest and open in laying out its apostasy for all to see, but the church was guilty of doubletalk in still claiming to be a Christian church. As the great scholar J. Gresham Machen argued in his book Christianity and Liberalism (1923), Christianity and liberalism are in fact different religions.

When the church says that many now say that no one should be compelled to accept the idea of the virgin birth of Christ, and that some "Christians" take the stories of the resurrection of Christ literally while others don't, the church is engaging in doubletalk by recognizing views on both sides of such doctrines as being Christian. This is, in fact, impossible. Either Jesus was born of a virgin or He wasn't; and the United Church uses the tired old liberal argument that the Hebrew word for "virgin" in Isaiah 7:14 means "young woman." When they used the term "young woman," they meant a virgin; a young woman who wasn't a virgin was referred to as a "harlot." Besides, Isaiah 7:14 is a prophecy of Israel's Messiah, where God is promising to show them a sign. What's supernatural or miraculous about a young woman who's not a virgin giving birth? To deny the virgin birth of Christ is to say that He had an ordinary human entrance into the world, and is really an attack on His deity. I find it interesting that liberals like to play down the significance of the virgin birth as an essential Christian doctrine, while always making sure it's one of the first Christian doctrines they attack. As for the resurrection of Christ, to reduce it to a spiritual resurrection is similar to the doctrine of Jehovah's Witnesses, who say that Jesus dematerialized and then rematerialized his body. The apostle Paul addressed the issue directly in I Corinthians 15:17: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. To deny the literal physical resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is also a direct denial of His own prophecy in John 2:19, 21: ...Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up...But he spake of the temple of his body.

I don't know what became of Rev. Roy Cook or Bethel Baptist Church, but when he refused to act on the biblical exhortation in Jude 3 to earnestly contend for the faith when the word of God was under attack, the congregation should have begun looking for a new pastor or a new church. It's also worth noting that just because a church or denomination has the word "Baptist" in its name--whether in 1964 or 2014--is no guarantee of doctrinal soundness.

The perceptive reader will notice that whenever there's an apparent conflict between the Bible and "science," the default position of the United Church is that it's the Bible that's in error. The issue with Galileo wasn't whether Earth was round or flat, but whether Nicolaus Copernicus was right in saying that Earth is not the centre of the universe and revolves around the sun and not vice versa. Galileo wasn't challenging the teaching of the Bible--which doesn't say that Earth is flat or is the centre of the universe--but was challenging Roman Catholic Church dogma, which was of pagan origin.

The United Church of Canada's account of the crossing of the Red Sea is as egregious an example of editing God out of the scriptures as you'll ever find; Thomas Jefferson couldn't have concocted a better hatchet job. Contrary to the UCC's account, Exodus 14 says that when Moses stretched his hand over the sea, God caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind that blew all night and divided the waters so that they were a wall to the Israelites on both sides, and the Israelites passed over, not on soggy marshes, but on dry land. The Egyptians didn't bring confusion upon themselves as their chariots and horses became stuck in the slimy marsh, but God troubled them and caused the chariot wheels to come off, and when Moses stretched his hand over the sea, God brought the waters to cover the Egyptians, their chariots, and horses, i.e., they were drowned. The United Church of Canada removed God from the event to the extent that He inspired no awe, which is why imbeciles such as liberal Baptist Rev. Frederick Helps were so wrong when they said that the new curriculum would strengthen the faith of young people. How does it strengthen anyone's faith in God when naturalistic explanations are invoked for every major event when He intervened in human affairs?

Since many people think of the Roman Catholic Church as holding to unchanging tradition for hundreds of years, readers who have the mistaken view that the Roman Catholic Church is actually Christian will probably be surprised to find that the Roman Catholic priest interviewed said that his church agreed with most of the material in the United Church curriculum. The reader will notice the attempt by Father James Roberts to marginalize those who disagree with him by saying that "no mainstream Christian religion accepts the Bible as the literal interpretation as the word of God"--which is a denial of the words of Jesus Christ Himself. I find it amusing that the part of the United Church curriculum that Fr. Roberts wasn't willing to go along with was the denial of the virgin birth of Christ. He was perfectly willing to go along with all the other heresies in the United Church curriculum, but to question the virgin birth is of Jesus Christ was to question that Mary was a virgin at the time of His birth--and that would require throwing out all the Roman Catholic teachings about the virginity of Mary. That was one heretical step too far for Fr. Roberts.

The aspect of the introduction of the United Church Sunday School curriculum that strikes me as most worth noting is the time lag--about 25 years from the time that heresy began emanating from United Church pulpits until it became official church doctrine. The UCC ordained its first female minister in the mid-1930s, just before or around the time that the denial of the Bible as literal and factual truth began being preached. This is worth keeping in mind when we see what's happening in what passes for evangelicalism today. I can think of evangelical churches and ministries whose doctrinal statements--devised years and perhaps decades ago--are sound, but are no longer being followed in actual practice. For example, the Bible lays out qualifications for positions of leadership in the church (I Timothy 3; Titus 1). A church that begins to depart from these standards by putting men in the pulpit who are divorced and remarried will then begin allowing women in the pulpit and ordaining them. When this is taking place, it isn't an indication that the church will be headed in a liberal direction, but is an indication of how far in the liberal direction the church has already gone. From there it will be only a matter of time until the church begins ordaining non-practicing homosexuals, and then ordaining practicing homosexuals.

Father James Roberts said of the Bible, "Some of it is folk-lore, some legend, some tribal history." Just one question, Chief: If Fr. Roberts was correct, how do you then account for the remarkable accuracy of the prophecies contained in the Bible, especially the dozens of Messianic prophecies that could have been fulfilled only during the time that Jesus Christ was on Earth, had to have all been fulfilled by one person, and were in fact fulfilled by Jesus Christ when He walked the Earth?