1970 AACS Conference
Keynotes by Dr. James Olthuis
Dr. James Olthuis delivered three lectures to the Niagara Conference on the old and new moralities, and the approach of a Biblical life style. About the old morality, held by a Majority of conservative Evangelical Christians, he said, “The old morality fails the Christian community.”
- It reduces the all-upholding, all-encompassing Word of God to one (or possibly two) of its many sides. The Love-Command is called the moral command. This is moralism. No concern with sin as the rooted-in-heart rejection of the Word, but preoccupation with moral sins.
- It splinters the unity of the Word into a multitude of (moral) rules —legalism. Life becomes conformity to moral rules and Christianity comes across as being obsessed with keeping out of “trouble”.
- It splinters mankind into individual units and a man’s life into fragments of obedience and disobedience to isolated moral rules. Rules are seen as ‘hitching posts’, rather than ‘sign posts’. Legalism (the ‘old morality’) breeds license (the ‘new morality’).
Love is a ‘Greased Pig’
About the New Morality, the moral position of many liberal Christians, Olthuis gives an equally harsh critique: “Love is the only final norm. Love shoulders aside all codes—codeless love over against loveless code. Love is a ‘greased pig’ in the New Morality. It has no definition and little meaning; it keeps slipping away. The end result of the ‘New Morality’ is frustration.
- The New Morality leaves it to man alone (virtual anarchy); becomes frustrated.
- Frustration (anarchy) is the breeding ground for legalism (dictatorship) .
- Modern man, between license and legalism, the new and the old moralities, bounces back and forth like a perpetual moral ping-pong ball. Both moralities share a common unbiblical framework.
Love in Marriage is Fidelity
In his lecture, ‘Toward a New Biblical Life Style”, Dr. Olthuis contrasted the Biblical view, which is not new at all, he believes, but only new to Christians because they have not been living it very adequately. “The first thing that we must see is that the Word of God is one; it isn’t a bucket from out of which fall drops of a plan. It is more like one large question being placed before man: “Will you serve Me and My people?” To this man must answer, and each of God’s norms for every aspect of life are seen in the light of God’s love-command in His one Word. Man must respond to sign posts pointing towards the coming Kingdom of God. In Jesus Christ we are not authoritarian … Different parts of Christ’s Body will be developing a Christian life style as wide as creation. Marital love, for example, is not sex or sentiment, love in marriage is troth (fidelity). That is the Biblical concept. He developed the areas of marriage, family and friendship quite extensively.
Dr. Peter Steen, professor of philosophy at Geneva College, Beaver Falls, Penn., after hearing Olthuis’ third lecture, made this statement for the press: “This speech is epoch-making; it is historic-decisive. It is the first public statement on a popular level of what amounts to a complete break with the scholastic view of the Word of God. It Is no less epoch-making than Herman Dooyeweerd’s 1926 speech at the Free University of Amsterdam on the idea of law as a basis for unity underlying a Calvinistic life style, or of Runner’s 1960 lecture at Unionville, “The Relation of the Bible to Learning.” Dr. Olthuis’ inaugural address, “Let No Man Be Called Teacher”, these three lectures, and three more on marriage, family, and friendship are being readied for publication early next year.