Followed by the Historic Bulletin in the NZ Affair of 1966-1967
in two parts
The case of Wairau Parish, New Zealand, where the Session in 1966 made an Overture to the apostasising Assembly in Wellington, presented by Rev. Robert E. Donaldson as Assembly representative, is here given in terms of the Bulletin as sent to the congregation in 1967.
The public denial of the bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ by the Principal of the NZ seminary, while one was a New Zealand Presbyterian Minister (ordained as such in 1966), meant that this intolerable situation had to be addressed. Having secured from the Session as assurance before accepting the call to this congregation, that they were convinced of the infallibility of the Bible, one called on them to challenge the evil words against the resurrection, in Assembly. This was done by means of what is called in Presbyterian circles, an Overture, or formal statement to the Assembly by this Church body. This was duly sent, and the matter duly presented in 1966 at Assembly.
Perhaps some slept so long that they did not hear it; or found the SEVEN MINUTES which alone were given for the presentation, to pass while they had other business, but nothing will ever alter this most costly fact!
Many things following, the Lord did not allow that denomination, the PC of NZ, to be without a witness, or without a speaker or one to denounce its God-forsaking ways at that very self-same Assembly.
In due course, as this reproduction of the St Ninian's Church Bulletin of 1967 makes evident, one put forth by the Church Session, in June 1967, there was a total confrontation in the Church, just as there had been in the Assembly. While the devil loves to cover up this indisputable fact, the Bulletin itself having been circulated to the entire congregation at the time, and the Overture presented in to the preceding national Presbyterian Assembly in 1966, one using TRAFFIC LIGHTS on its floor, with red for stop, orange for caution and green for go, its robust challenge set forth by this Minister in the service of the Session and of Jesus Christ: only slander can seek to distort the fact, or by its blaspheming utterance seek to delete it.
You might as well seek to eliminate Auschwitz. As to the devil, he was, on the highest authority (John 8:44), a liar, for "there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own; for he is liar, and the father of it".
This testimony and official, formal Assembly confrontation, authorised by Session, and presented to the PCNZ Assembly, by this, its Minister in the service of the grossly and outrageously assaulted Jesus Christ, in 1966, yes even in those more modern times, assuredly occurred; for it was a work of the Lord which was done to and for His necessary and great honour and glory. It stood, as it will stand for all time as a condemnation of that folly when a formerly great Church in NZ denied the faith, making what is crucial, to become optional, and hence not a part of the faith. So did it fail on that day, refusing the declaration requested in the overture, but not escaping the denunciation, given as 'dissent', which followed, before one left the land and the Church. From there, one proceeded in 1967 to join, as noted, the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod in the USA, in fact in St Louis, Mo..
In New Zealand, however, the faith, thus denuded, is at that level no faith at all; and the approximately 17,000 word document which was lodged with the 1966 Assembly in NZ, BECAUSE this same Minister, Robert Donaldson, had FORMALLY DISSENTED from the Resurrection Statement as such in that Assembly, and on that ground, is the result of that action.
It is to the greater glory of God first of all to speak the truth, and secondly, not to act as in some alien countries, where the work of Christians is distorted or denied by those who may seek to deface and defame the glory of the Lord. The Lord in His glory first appeared to this same Minister, and then sent Him into many a fray for the faith, as here, of which this is a testimony even to the alien or to the defiled; and of course this has meant the loss of congregations as they strayed, or as here, a national church where we had two delightful buildings, one in town and one in the country.
The cost is great; the Lord is infinitely greater. Glory be to the Lord, who both gives and takes away; but NOTHING will ever take away from HIS glory or HIS name or HIS power by which He sends and sustains His servants, as this same Minister, to the Lord's glory, solemnly attests.
For more on these NZ events, see
Joy Comes in the Morning Ch. 9, and
The World Belongs to Me, and I am His.
WAIRAU PARISH BULLETIN - JUNE '67
20th CENTURY CHALLENGE TO THE CHURCHES
20TH CENTURY CHALLENGE IN THE CHURCHES
Internationally, 1967 is a fateful year for the Presbyterian Churches.
In Canada, new doctrinal approach is being brought forward; in U.S.A. the so-called Confession of '67 is likely to be accepted, radically departing from the standards of absolute truth to which that Church has been committed for a vast period; in Australia, Church Union is to he reviewed further in the General Assembly meeting once again this year for the nation, while active provision is already far advanced for that part of the Church which is not expected to join when eventually Union comes. In Australia, the Church of England is not included as yet, so that the breadth to be covered is less.
In N.Z_ the Chairman of the Association of Presbyterian Laymen, Mr Robert Wardlaw has indicated his resolve to leave the Church if a satisfactory settlement is not this year obtained in regard to unscriptural statements attributed to Principal Geering; while the numerous Ministers in the Westminster Fellowship (about 92) within the Presbyterian Church of N.Z. , are speaking of the possibility of departure - or rather their Chairman is voicing this - if cardinal matters continue to lapse at Assembly. Many may not follow. But some almost certainly will act unless radical action is taken...Meanwhile, 7 accepted students fox the Ministry in Auckland are now refusing to train at Knox Presbyterian College in Dunedin, and a distinguished Minister is preparing to return to Great Britain.
Thus two thirds way through the century, it seems many Presbyterian Churches are more than two thirds way through their spiritual inheritance. Popular opinion cannot forever pretend that THE OLD INSTITUTION is still the same. It may become more popular with the world... but if so, that would be a deadly condemnation : "Friendship with the world is enmity with God," says James. But evangelical opinion will be more resistant; while those among evangelicals who believe that faith without works is dead, will be faced either with major Church reform now, or events no less sacrificial perhaps than was the disruption within the Church of Scotland in 1843. At that time some 400 members of Assembly WALKED OUT AND FOUNDED A NEW CHURCH. They left Manse and salary. There is still salt which has not lost its savour. To God be the glory for that.
The rot, however, has set in throughout many Churches throughout the world. But what of our own "house"? By way of analogy, let us remark that adultery is common ... but this does not excuse it in any home.
In the past year, you in particular may feel that you have been subjected to pressures outside the ordinary. In one way, you may be right.
After all. it is scarcely ordinary for clergymen inside and outside our Church to be belittling truths so basic as to amount to a denial of the Christian religion ... In the Press. It is indeed true that often before, many in the Ministry have done this - but far less openly. It is also true that Ministers-in-training have been subjected to expressly anti-Biblical teachings for decades now, in many institutions throughout the world, run by the Churches.' Indeed, your Pastor, when a teenager or thereabouts, heard a former Knox College Professor unwisely teaching the ani-Christian philosophy that the changeless and ever blessed God EVOLVES !! This - at a Youth Camp!
We must be prepared to be challenged now if never before if we are Christians. The Bible indicates that the world lies in the wicked one, that we are to be in it, not of it, friends with God and enemies of the world. If you were of the world, said Jesus, the world would love you. But now you are not of the world. Therefore, the world hates you.
Currently worldliness is entering the Church and many people in the pews seem uncertain as to their response. Others seem almost to sympathise. All this is woeful. But it happened even In the first century (see Colossians and II Corinthians). However, the early Church generally and the apostles in particular reacted sharply, suddenly and successfully against it, trusting in the Lord (...just read through Jude).
Yet when the world enters the Church (through Its pagan philosophies such as some in the Church now recommend shamelessly); and the Church then goes into the world, being with and of the world, we must ask one thing. WHERE IN THE WORLD IS THE CHURCH!
Other people have had to ask this question before now, and we do not always condemn them for that ... Rather are we astonished in our readings of history at many who apparently lived contentedly through wicked days in earlier Church times! And will we astonish our children, and appal our descendants through our own sheer relaxed religious conventionality, as we follow whatever mob happens to he talking THE OFFICIAL WORDS ... ? Or were you ever an admirer of the Sadducees or a supporter of the Pharisees in the New Testament? Despising healing truth if it meant Christ's criticism of the corruption in the Church, they shamelessly attacked Christ Jesus Himself, stung past endurance by His fearless and final application of THE WORD OF GOD.
The servant is not greater than his Master. We in our own day must resist the unconverted efforts of "the twentieth century man" to capture the Church for his convenience.
We must be prepared to be different for Christ; to conform to Him only.
So LOCALLY in particular, events have placed pressures upon you. You see however that you are not the first Christians in history to experience this. Yet if you succumb to these present evils, in the long run that will prove that you do not believe. The born again man "does not make a practice of sin."
These pressures, then, are your Christian "birthright". They are strong now. You can react by taking an "easy" and popular way of one kind or another; or respond by seeking in mutual love the will of God with courage and conviction, abiding in the changeless Christ who still commands the Churches, and keeps His words.
A TIME TO SPEAK
We of Session, rather slightly in our view, have been seeking to meet these current evils as we can. When not only Professor Geering, but a highly placed Anglican and an academic Baptist Minister can snigger, jeer or smile at the resurrection of our LORD'S body or the Creation (with equal irrationality and presumption, from a Biblical point of view) and be so reported in the Press: clearly we cannot as Christians sit down and hope "all will be well", and the smog will blow itself away. As in the days of Queen Esther, God will certainly deliver His people; but woe to those who sit on the side-lines and refuse to be courageous for the faith!
Last year we held, for example, a Public Meeting on the Resurrection. Unfortunately, the Report on this was subjected to misleading misprints (errata) in the Press. Thus the proof read: "Peter and Paul refused to allow the noted word "corruption" to describe what happened to Jesus' body, while affirming that it was precisely this that happened to David's body, which certainly did rot." But in the Press, that last word "rot" appeared as "not"! of course that made the whole paragraph unintelligible - except to someone quick enough to see that there had been a rather obvious misprint. Moreover, several other departures from the proof copy appeared ...
Thus someone of opposing views, Press Report in hand went enquiring if anyone could understand it. Mutilated as it was, it could readily provide some grounds for a little confusion. As COWPER puts it :
"A single erratum can knock out the brains of a whole passage."
But when in one passage you have a whole series of misprints.!
Had the persistent enquirer allocated time to the Minister of the relevant Church, then might he have seen the truth of the matter, and gained insight by studying the real text.
This confusion is too typical of what has been happening in and about Wairau Parish and we cite it as an illustration.
Personal remarks often arise following inadequate information, or the bias people sometimes succumb to when they wish just to be at ease and untroubled. But at these times, to "let things slide" is not so much cowardice as betrayal. The SLEEPING DISCIPLES were reproved by Jesus, although He loved them: we cannot afford to sleep. And in saying these things, we speak to ourselves no less than to you. We are all 'on trial'.
And we must act uncurbed by contentious personal criticism. If we do not always reply, we have an example in NEHEMIAH.
THE RUMBLINGS OF MASONRY
Masonry has been one particular issue creating tension. Frankly, we disapprove of some of-its leading principles; but let us be quite clear, we are talking of principles, not people.
In Christ, we look for a city having foundations, whose builder and maker is God. We must look for something better, then, than a club uniting believers and unbelievers in activities including the spiritual, thereby compromising the only LORD JESUS CHRIST. (II Corinthians 6:14-18). You who love Him, will you mix your worship of Him with the gods of those who call Him in question? CAN you treat HIM like that! Jesus said: "I am the way; no man comes to the father but by me." Would you insinuate that He is a liar? that there is another way? that GOD can he approached and found without Christ... without putting your-trust in Him... by agnostics and other unbelievers? The Scripture says: "Exhort one another". (Hebrews 10:25) Let us not live unto ourselves but really feel aware that Christians are members one of another and of Christ. The Christian is not free, except to conform to Christ.
Christian you are never free to go anywhere except in His name (Colossians 3:17): to 'respect' and let-be the 'religions' of others is INTOLERANCE OF THE TRUTH. Yes, God has a place, Christ has a place: it must be first and final! There is one faith (Acts 4:12, Ephesians 4:5); there is one bond of unity, this is in Christ. Christ excludes competition. You cannot patronise Him; with gratitude unspeakable you must surrender to His entire government. But truth weeps, while "freedom" bounds.
Thus while the Church grows cold, members link in spiritual exercises acceptable to confessed unbelievers in that only Lord Jesus Christ, and WITH THEM commit themselves by oath (!) in advance to 'secret' mysteries, forbidden in Scripture (John 3:20-21, Deuteronomy 6:4-5) necessarily not based on Christ as the only foundation (I Corinthians 3:11) and hence condemned. Again this commitment to the unknown is mode while they yet call on Christ's name and have professed a prior commitment to Him AS TRUE GOD, THE KNOWN LORD WITH A WRITTEN AND BINDING REVELATION.
Further, if it is Christianity, its testimonies are clear, it 'comes into the light', its nature is public. If however it is not so, then it lies exposed to a further fault. It is a libel on the Lord for this 'craft' to proceed in its own chosen way (Proverbs 30:6) in its own name (Colossians 3:17) at the hand of some who also name that ONLY commander Jesus Christ, who said: Call no man on earth Master, for one is your Master, even Christ. Do we want to invite the wrath of God?
We are God-fearing men, and we receive clear cut Scriptures and a given Gospel (Galatians 1:10-12). While we do not presume to judge men - and therefore Masons - it is part of our Scriptural task to expose in principle what compromises in the Church the Christ of the Bible, the Lord's Christ (Titus 1:9).
In principle, then it must be Christ or the Craft. Let your eye be single. In practice, be strong (Matthew 5:29).
Small wonder such men as Oswald J. Sanders, some years ago General Director of the China Inland Mission; and world famous evangelists Charles Finney and Torrey former and evacuated members themselves have written so keenly against Masonry. But the ultimate test is the Bible. Colliding with Masonry, its testimonies themselves provide the indictment.
And Jesus calls.
BUTTED UNDER THE BELT
Again, however, we regret to report that widespread rumours have arisen on this point, and the ninth commandment - let us face it - has been freely broken. AT NO TIME, FOR EXAMPLE, HAVE WE OR ANY OF US ASKED ANY SESSION MEMBER TO LEAVE EITHER MASONRY OR THE SESSION. Yet this false report has evidently travelled town and brought a whole hos7of erroneous "judging" on the head of the Session or the Minister. While we seek strictly to judge issues not people, evidence shows that many in the town and almost certainly the Church have been seeking to judge us as people, while forgetting the issues which in fact have provoked them!! This is the blow "under the belt".
If a thing is right let it come into the light as Jesus showed: and let there be an end of all these lower body blows. Backbiting, by the way is vigorously condemned in Scripture. If you love life, in love we say it for your sake. avoid it (Psalm 15:3 : 1 Peter 3:10 : Leviticus 19:17; Matthew 18:15; Proverbs 24:28).
For our part, while we are here, through His grace we will apply the word of God; and we remain available ... as ever. Nor is this 'criticising parishioners'. Rather it is applying God's precepts. When a "Church" rejects the word in their midst, and wants an airy-fairy glamour religion which only praises, it has ceased to be a Church. SO this too we must surely avoid.
THE RESURRECTION IS AN AXE
A vastly greater issue is that of the Resurrection. In view of the many denials of the faith coming in Church publications and in the Press from Ministers, we last year overtured the Assembly seeking for a clear and Scriptural statement, to rebut these blows on the Church's escutcheon. We could do no less. We were nevertheless refused by the Assembly in Wellington.
However it undertook to review the Overtures and reconsider the matters this year.
It is only because of this review being undertaken by Assembly that we come to be still in this Presbyterian Church of N.Z. as it is at present constituted.
We are not free to fool with the facts of the faith. They must be stated clearly and kept clear. A declaration on this Overture is the responsibility of the '67 Assembly. No possibility exists for us to remain in this institution, if the Assembly statement is not brought up to the level of Scripture.
BAPTISM - OF FIRE OR WATER ?
Also, we have taken a strong line, advisedly, on the subject of Baptism. Almost incredible abuse has fallen on one of our number follow ing his adherence to the Church Rules, which in turn are well based on Scripture here. Shortly after his arrival on a visit to a member, his greeting was an angry and agitated confrontation... and THIS BASED ON UNCHECKED AND UNFACTUAL OBSERVATIONS ... Thus not help but hindrance arose!
A restlessness in resistance to right was already arising in the Parish ...
Now in all this we have sought simply to do the work committed to us. We do not mind the anger and the abuse; but we do mind that the flock should be confused by it. We do not want you to suffer through false understanding.
THE FUTURE ... ?
The future has an extremely interesting look, Some in our midst, a minority of the elders and some others - took the step of calling on the local Presbytery to "solve" our "problems". (A Presbytery is rather like an official regional council). Instead of solving them, this action has led to the almost certain loss of £5000 from the Church, the resignation of the Session Clerk and the departure of no small amount of mutual confidence.
The real problems honest in themselves and a good test and challenge for us all as a people seemed to be twisted into a nearly tragic shape for this little Charge. Our little 'Jerusalem' was engaging in jousts and jibes ... and even something which, though called 'criticism' looked more like accusation, began to appear in the brotherhood, and the sister- hood ...
Session, meanwhile, all committed to the infallible Scripture before our Pastor would consent to come, saw Scriptural commands violated as a Presbytery of alien views on vital doctrine was brought to our hearth.
To put trust in a Presbytery of this view - at such a time! - was like a mouse putting trust in a cat. Certainly to our understanding, it betrayed a joint commitment with our Pastor, to the Scripture. It did this, further, at the top level. Instead of "avoiding" this Court in its present doctrinally backslidden position, as far as we were free to do so, we were asking it in as a presence from God to settle the pressures.
But what had precipitated such a breach?
HIGH EXPLOSIVES AT EASTER
These pressures arise continually from reactions to the word of God. However, they actually `blew up' at the Easter Camp issue, which logically and Scripturally-was surely a very simple one.
Here Session resolved to hold a separate Camp for our own Church, because of the attitude of the other local Session, that of St. Andrew's.
The St. Andrew's Session statement, as it appeared in the Press, refused to take from the Scripture the physical fact of the bodily resurrection of Christ Jesus. The St. Ninian's Session therefore sought a separate Camp, breaking the tradition of combination with that of the other Church. This Scripture absolutely requires.
However, we are flesh and blood. Many changes occurred as different points came into view; but eventually the second Camp was established. Before this, however, owing to the lateness of the time and the extent of the initial confusion with emotional chain reactions an offer of compromise had been made. By this, each teacher in the combined Camp should simply subscribe to the full authority of Scripture and the physical fact of the resurrection of Christ's body; and for '67 the matter would be left at that.
This proposal however was turned down. If this had been accepted, a combined Camp would have been allowed as satisfactory for '67. But no - it was not accepted.
So the separate Camp was forced upon us. The Scriptural principle was, after all, transparently clear: and we are not masters but servants. God is our Master. His words are orders.
This separation did a lot of good. It made people realise that all this is not a matter of words. It is a matter of flesh and blood, of life. Doctrine gives God's directions concerning life. We can accept it or reject it; but it is no use saying we accept it, and yet not doing it. This is the sin which Jesus, and the prophets, expose to their strongest condemnation.
We are glad we eventually did establish that Second Camp, for we fear God, not men.
THAT MURDERER - THE TONGUE
There were other results.
It seems those unfortunate gossip makers blew dust. Was it not suggested that St. Andrew's were not Christian! It would appear so. And so the author of confusion, the devil, got into top gear.
However, we had made it most clear publicly that the separation hinged on TWO PUBLIC PRESS STATEMENTS OF THE TWO SESSIONS. In view of this, we would certainly violate Scripture, simply to hold a combined Camp. But in so doing we made it exceptionally clear from the outset that we passed no comment whatever on Bible Class Teachers or members of either Church... It was a matter of Session, the local governing body; and more particularly of a statement of doctrine to which they had committed themselves. Thus, in the name of St. Andrew's Session, there had appeared a public profession or STATEMENT so disastrous, from a Biblical point of view, that for us to ignore this at the practical level would be gross negligence. That Statement has never been denied ... it was reportedly unanimous.
Now all this upsets some people - including those who want Scripture and doctrine to be forgotten in the practical world of events, and to go on their same old ways regardless, treating the word of God as a doormat while they do as they please. It also troubles those people who fear the loss of friends more than the offence offered to God.
WHY NOT CONFORM TO CHRIST
Actually, as with Abraham, you may well find that a courageous stand here will bring new depth to what you had thought to lose : to some of your friendships, and to your own life (Luke 14:26). It is only indeed kind to warn people and to set an example. If you believe it, you must act on it. And unless you are WILLING to put all friendships and relationships on the altar, you compromise Christ.
None of this is personal. We do not judge men. we repeat.
We are dealing with statements, with doctrine - JOHN 7:17 is from Jesus' lips! We are making no comment on anyone as a person. We are dealing simply with a Statement; and we are applying the Scriptures locally.
ASSEMBLY REFUSES AND RESTS AWHILE
Had Assembly however kept its house in order, and made clear statements of these vital doc trines when we asked in '66, this upset COULD NOT have happened over Easter Camp. And if you are upset at there being an upset, come now, reflect that there was an 'upset' at the first great Easter, when the savage fury of a Church which had consolidated its refusal to Jesus Christ, broke out as it sought to break HIM!
This Assembly slowness, we say led to these events here. For consider the case if they had acted on our OVERTURE IN '66 - acted either way, but acted clearly and finally ... EITHER we would have been out of a Church which had rejected the whole authority of Scripture, OR the Scriptural truth of the Resurrection would have been binding on ALL SESSIONS.
But Assembly rested awhile! Thus in the meantime, its refusal to affirm these vital Scriptures on the Resurrection has led to local results.
Whilst it must bear its own responsibility for this, we appeal to you to keep straight vision. We are free to follow Scripture; and while we are here or elsewhere, in the Lord we intend to do - JUST THAT!
If any of you do not like this. there is certainly a dividing of the ways between us ... After all, it is at the local level, is it not, that you are going to be tested - and we! \
THE FIERY FURNACE
So the 'powder' exploded after Easter. Some pursued the path of inviting in Presbytery, leaping over the wall of the Session's refusal to do this; and Presbytery agreed, in its haste summoning us by telegram!
We as a Session however have refused to acknowledge the ability of this uninvited Presbytery to 'judge'. In this Presbytery, we can place no trust because of its doctrinal condition as shown in its clear cut actions during the past year ... actions indeed involving this very matter, this very central matter of the Resurrection which is here in view. Perhaps you may be growing the least bit weary of hearing about this Resurrection; but just reflect that if a Church commences to throw out any Scripturally defined basic doctrine about the Saviour, there is sure to be talk about it ... at least, until reform or separation sets in.
The point therefore is simple. While the Presbytery has followed the admittedly disastrous temporary Assembly 'line' on this basic issue - basic locally and basic to Christianity - how can it 'judge' our actions based as they are on the opposing and Scriptural view of it? For this cause we have refused to present our cause, or case to the Presbytery to determine. On the contrary, we have in writing advised them from the outset that except they as a Presbytery could affirm sound Scriptural doctrine, and so change their earlier stand we should be compelled to go to Assembly. Accordingly, the 'judgments' of Presbytery we formally rejected in advance, quite irrespective of the libellous character to be assumed by so many of their remarks - remarks indeed presented without evidence, or even contrary to evidence ...
We as SESSION, and Session only, have appealed to Assembly - FIRST to settle IN TERMS OF SCRIPTURE the doctrines already brought to it in 1966 and so far so woefully rejected; and then, IF it first do this, to cover the issue referred from Presbytery IN TERMS OF these stable standards of Scripture. But the first MUST necessarily come first. Principles PRECEDE their application.
While we have applied Scripture, then, some seeming to put their trust in a Presbytery radically moving from Scripture, have thereby subjected us and our Pastor to a barrage of "hot" unreasoned adjectives, a modern "furnace". Sound together in this Ministry, we are unimpressed by this personal abuse, this virtual clanging brass following our careful avoidance of personal judgments on men's characters, and following of principles.
Interestingly enough, the comments of Presbytery followed almost exactly the sort of line which in view of Scriptural principles we imagined would be likely, as noted in our last Session letter (q.v.) ... It had seemed that their reactions to Scriptural conscience and authority could be virtually predictable' And so it has come to pass!
We, however, COMMIT OUR CAUSE TO CHRIST, whose apostles say : "Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? ... and "Grumble not against one another, that you yourselves be not judged. Behold, the Judge is standing right at the door."
The "slants" of subjectivism are unsightly. We desire not this, but to enlighten you with sufficient information to release you all from the bondage which confusion can bring and rumour can release.
Let those who will apply Scripture with its valid standards in these days, join now in a new Season of prayer and fellowship, avoiding all subjective judging of men, but following the true doctrine with meekness of heart and strength of conviction; and let us all criticise ourselves (justly) and not others (in ignorance); and let us keep to the narrow way which is advocated by and found in Jesus Christ.
In China under the Communists, in Europe where their regime holds, and indeed in the experience of Paul, a great example, we find all this sort of libellous labelling, dark dabbling in reputations, disreputably, this work of the tongue a great gambit in dealing with Christians who are inconvenient. Often indeed, while the true topic is disregarded, a~ trifling or untrue criticism is made: this prevents a dangerous 'martyrdom', but can still remove the nuisance! Thus Paul himself can say: "In everything commending ourselves as servants of God... in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left, by glory and dishonour, by evil report and good report, regarded as deceivers and yet true, as unknown and yet well known," and again: "When we are reviled we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; when we are slandered, we entreat; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now. I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as beloved children."
MANHANDLING PROFESSOR MACHEN
It was some decades ago now, that Professor Machen in the U.S. spoke clearly, forcibly and arrestingly for truth. Indeed, in 1923 he published a book called "Christianity and Liberalism" in which the Scriptural position of Christianity was sharply separated from the 'new look' religion called Liberalism, which dabbled in the Bible here and there, but did not bother to follow it through.
Highly regarded at ultra-famous Princeton seminary for Ministry students, the Professor made it clear that these two "camps" arising within the Church, were in fact two different religions: Christianity and Liberalism... And so they are! To subject the Scriptural Ministry to this other "Camp" is an act at worst of betrayal; at best, of unbelief or confusion. If we do not take these things seriously, how can it be said that we believe them?
The Church, said Machen, had to be cleared of those in pulpits and professorial chairs, who spent Church brains, time and money in a training programme for a quite different religion. Was it not a takeover bid for the Christian Church which was going on, to use the power of Christians to propagate an opposite religion within their own Church! "If the liberal party," he said, "really obtains full control of the councils of the Church, then no evangelical Christian can continue to support the Church's work... If the liberal party, therefore, really obtains control of the Church, evangelical Christians must be prepared to withdraw no matter what it costs." If all is not peaceful in the heart of the Church, is not this because "nothing engenders strife so much as a forced unity, within the same organisation, of those who disagree fundamentally in aim."
Of course, this is increasingly our own position certainly with Presbytery; and, unless there be immediate reform and a blessed change right away from last year's Statement and action on the Resurrection, it applies also to Assembly.
Professor Machen, then was subjected to attack in various ways.
As is usual in such cases. the effort was made to make it appear personal. One attack was popular ... It is not a matter of doctrine, his enemies said. Of course we are all conservative, we are all Scriptural. No one is. questioning that. It is the man himself. He is 'loud'. too vocal. He is too vehement or withering in approach. He does not know the gentle method. He creates foes by his manner. He lacks the necessary gentility and sensibility of utterance and approach. It is all a matter of the man. they said.
And so they insulted this saint of God, this warm-hearted and exceedingly gentlemanly man who later founded a new Theological College (Westminster), and whose books are still world famous.
They ousted him from a great position at Princeton. They attacked him for founding a separate missionary organisation, by which he had sought to protect the interests of the Gospel and the field. They eventually removed him from the Ministry. At that time it was said: It would be a disgrace NOT to be thrown out of such a Church!
PLAYING THE MAN
Meanwhile, before this climax, his foes told the Assembly that Princeton Seminary would stay Biblical. It was just a matter of getting a man of a different kind! Assembly agreed. Shortly afterwards, representatives of the opposite 'camp' appeared on Princeton's governing body, and the whole bearing of the place was changed. Views not unlike those of our own Assembly of '66, the 'opposite camp', gained place. Princeton's doctrine ceased then to be what it was.
It had not been. you see "the man" at all. They had been "playing the man'*, instead of "playing the ball". When the man vent, so however did the ball.
In fact, Machen's rugged and practical insistence on living up to what we believe, when many in the Church are departing from It openly and notoriously: this WAS doctrine. You MUST if you mean business; and you MUST mean business if you take it seriously; and you MUST take it seriously; and you must believe it if you are to form a Church.
PLAYING THE GAME
Let us then who WILL follow the words of God written in Scripture, let us follow this narrow way at whatever cost, coolly and faithfully. Let "judging" cease, and fellowship IN CHRIST with warm mutual exhortations arise. Let us be getting on, and forget lesser things, lest some lose all by their fateful short-sightedness.
May God bless you!
THIS IS A PERSONAL COMMUNICATION PROM WAIRAU SESSION TO EACH AND EVERY MEMBER OF THE CHARGE, AND WE COMMEND AS REALLY HELPFUL THE REVIEW FOLLOWING.
(Signed) R. Upton Acting Clerk 6/6/67
TWENTIETH CENTURY PROPHET
- A Postscript -
In his noted book, "Christianity and Liberalism", Machen shows almost uncanny insight into the course of disease which was to spread like an epidemic throughout much of the Christian Church. Tuned by God to the times, Machen however did not capitulate to current crazes. Instead he reviewed them by Scripture. Speaking of Liberalism, that departure from Christian truth which denies the supernatural, which was so common forty five years ago in U.S., he made some points we do well to heed.
Liberalism he said, believes In applied Christianity. But first, he reminded us, let there be a Christianity to apply. "The liberal believes that applied Christianity is all there is of Christianity, Christianity being merely a way of life; the Christian man believes that applied Christianity is the result of an initial act of God." The liberal says: Enough of the supernatural, the bodily resurrection, the miracles, the inspiration by God's express authority of all Scripture, of individual souls being saved, and individual immortality and the double destinies of men... It is rather weary of all this. To action it says. Let us apply. Apply what? asks Machen. If you deny what you are to apply, how then can you apply it?
He makes a delightful and needful challenge : "We are not dealing here with delicate personal questions: we are not presuming to say whether such and such an individual man is a Christian or not. God only can decide such questions; no man can say with assurance whether the attitude of certain individual 'liberals' toward Christ is saving faith or not. But one thing to perfectly plain - whether or no liberals are Christians, it is at any rate perfectly clear that liberalism is not Christianity. And that being the case, it is highly undesirable that liberalism and Christianity should continue to be propagated within the bounds of the same organisation. A separation between the two parties in the Church is the crying need of the hour."
Again, he reminded us that the Church is voluntary, so that it must keep up what it is devoted to do: "Involuntary organisation ought to be tolerant , but voluntary organisations so far as the fundamental purpose of their existence is concerned, must be intolerant or else cease to exist!'
Financially: "The Christian man discovers to his consternation that the agencies of the Church are propagating not only the gospel as found in the Bible and in the historic creeds, but also a type of religious teaching which is at every conceivable point the diametrical opposite of the gospel. The question naturally arises whether there is any reason for contributing to such agencies at all... If part of our gifts is to be used to neutralise the other part, is not contribution to mission boards altogether absurd?"
What of those who complain about "the defence of the faith"? Quietly, quietly, they say, let everything be .... Let us have "smooth words" and "fair speeches". (Isaiah 30:10; Romans 16:18). Machen speaks of "those who call for less defence and more propagation of the gospel."
Usually, he says,
"What they really intend is the discouragement of the whole intellectual defence of the faith. And their words come as a blow in the face of those who are fighting the great battle. As a matter of fact. not less time but more time, should be devoted to the defence of the gospel ... Thus a large part of the New Testament is polemic; the enunciation of evangelical truth was occasioned by the errors which had arisen in the churches. So it will always be ... There may have been a time when there could be propagation of Christianity without defence. But such a day at any rate is past. At the present time. when the opponents of the gospel are almost in control of our Churches the slightest avoidance of the defence of the Gospel is just sheer unfaithfulness to the Lord. There have been previous great crises in the history of the Church, crises almost comparable to this. One appeared in the second century, when the very life of Christendom was threatened by the Gnostics. Another cam in the Middle Ages when the gospel of God's grace seemed forgotten. In such times of crisis, God has always saved the Church. But He has always saved it not by the theological pacifists. but by sturdy contenders for the truth."
Speaking of the change from quiet turning from the Scripture, as If it were all a matter of interpretation, to open rejection of Parts of it by Ministers, he says: "And now there are some indications that the fiction of conformity to the past is to be thrown off, and the real meaning of what has been taking place is to be allowed to appear."
ATTENTION NEW ZEALAND ...
He continues: "The Church. it is now apparently supposed. has almost been educated up to the point where the shackles of the Bible can openly be cast away."
Union... ? "One hears much, it is true, about Christian union and harmony and co-operation. But the union that is meant is often a union with the world against the Lord, or at best a forced union of machinery and tyrannical committees. How different is the true unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace!"
This is our own experience. And how blessed is union not in the "Flesh", but in the faith!
This book, Christianity and Liberalism, above slightly reviewed# well repays reading. The case is, as already indicated, that the Presbyterian Church of N.Z. 1967 has errors in its midst at least as gross as those in the U.S. in the twenties, errors which now seem to be settling down to undisturbed rest while so-called evangelicals quarrel about the best way to blast each other with verbal grape-shot, in some cases; or how best to avoid a j show-down" ust now, in doctrine in the Church.
To Truth, many would feed tranquillisers, it would almost seem; whilst giving pep pills to those who would attack with the missiles of pugnacity the preacher who seeks to present the issuea with the gravity they demand, or to apply the truth with the faithfulness which Christ demands ...
"When the Son of man returns, shall He find faith on earth?" - LUKE 18:8
But there will be exceptions.
Are you one?