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Why we are here.
This has phases in terms of a particular denomination, its activities and variations, the Lord's interventions in times of unruliness and apostasy in various countries, and of biblical Christian Apologetics, needed in every denomination, and indeed in the entire field of Christianity. Thus this report has both a large scope, coverage and historical interest, including a NZ church document that accompanied the fall of that body.
We start with perspective, including a way of facing what Spurgeon called downgrade, that falling faithfulness of many formerly sound Christian bodies. We ourselves are historic Presbyterians, agreeing with the thrust of the 1901 Union which created the Presbyterian Church of Australia, and its excellent scope and sensitivity, but not with contradictions or culling, both of which have effectually occurred since that day, in ways not at all biblically acceptable or true to its foundation. As the Presbyterians were a continuing Church after the Uniting Church left, so we continue now that the Presbyterian Church since 1991, has changed its commitment, without the normatively required licence from the Presbyteries, and with profound loss (Cf. The Biblical Workman, Ch.8, and The Kingdom of Heaven, Ch.9, pp. 74-175-176.)
Past all Confessions however we are bound to Jesus Christ, the author of salvation, Redeemer and marshal, mentor and masterpiece of divine mercy, precisely as the Bible depicts Him (Galatians 6:14, Philippians 2), and to His word as He depicts it (Matthew 5:17-20, John 14:26).
WHAT DO YOU STAND FOR ?
TYPES OF FALSE ALLEGIANCE
and THE TESTIMONY OF TRUTH
There are six kinds of centring that may readily be distinguished amid those who name the name of Jesus Christ, the Messiah.
1) the self-centred
2) the sensation-centred
3) the society-centred
4) the nation-centred
5) the centrifuge-centred and
|6) the Jesus Christ-as-Lord centred.|
The topic is given a larger treatment at , but here in composition with other concerns, we point to but a few considerations and varieties in spiritual pathology, and contrast this with biblical Christianity.
The self-centred have a religion, yes, and it has a name, Christian, but the self is its raison-d'Ítre. The religion serves it, even services it, and it is that which is its focus, to aggrandise, or sustain, or make it nice, or better: but it revolves around this insatiable self.
Secondly, the sensation-centred is after more blessings from this source, situation or group or that, as a hungry man is after food. This can readily lead to confusion. It is GOOD to seek the Lord, to be hungry and thirsty for grace, but when this degenerates into feeling-states, excitation-parameters, induced social customs entering into worship, like 'slaying in the Spirit', a term taken from a military passage in Isaiah, so that people expect to fall into waiting arms and to have this and that experience, there is something like the excitement of attending a Play at some famous theatre. You go there for the occasion, and expect some action that tittilates or pleases or excites. It is sensation-centred, whether it be physical or psychical or social.
The same thing occurs when the forbidden act of having many speaking in tongues jointly is used, like a dagger to pare your nails. Interpretation is required, and maximal occurrence being two or three, the case remains that Paul would rather speak 5 words with his mind in public, than 10,000 without it ( I Corinthians 14:19,29-30).
Then there is the society-centred Christianity. In this case, culture may become king. Society (that is, in the grouping of those with influence through affluence or achievements of various sorts, or elections of some kind) thus determines that there is great NEED to do this or that. It may be, for example, to apologise to all the aborigines who were taken from their homes, whatever the reason, whether it was at the instance of their parent or parents, or to deliver from gross immorality, ruinously forced on them, or other. This inept generalisation was to act as a demoralising of what in MANY cases had been not only moral, but merciful and loving. In this way, culture become a judge of the work of many Christians, demoting and disparaging this with the other cases of misled social missions. This was moving towards a society centred, unjust, disparagement of Christianity. In this country, John Howard PM avoided this catastrophe, and Kevin Rudd did not do so.
Again, society in its humanistic passion, may decide that sight and function is irrelevant, that women are as much men as men are, and men are as much women as women are (and even in more advanced cases, that children are as much adults as adults are), and so seek to legislate blindly for what is not so, to be treated as if it were. In this delusion with illusion, it then acts to slap the face of the God of creation, not only by sanctioning perversion, but sanctioning criminal charges against those who neither practise it nor approve of it. Romans 1:17,28-32 presents such a situation as part of the end of the road of departure from the only God there is, where pretending to be wise, people succeed in becoming foolish, aborting reality, not in fact, but in their own lives with painful consequences.
This is very close to happening in this country: feelings thus strut over facts, and truth is to be made subject to social preference. They want fairness to enable them to be unfair, and power to assist them to be impractical; and law to disenable the dissection of the matter. When, as has happened, some bodies called churches for reasons of their own, who dismiss numerous commands in the Bible in order to become cultural exhibits of another kind, then appear on the national tarmac, then you have the society-centred, culture-driven body.
Further, there is the nation-centred Church. You may be made a knight, or given some other token from a Christian national Church, or its head-on-earth, or commended for your Christian service to society, as if the nation and the Church were more or less all one. It is not so. The nation CANNOT be a Christian one, since you CANNOT make democracy a way of having all made-into-Christians. The will of the people can meet the will of the individual at any point, and efforts to make the national will the tutor of each will can be more hopeful than realistic. It is GOOD for a nation to disseminate Christian things, and to seek Christian standards, but the nation can never act as an ex officio Church, without involving itself in parlour games, pretence. The current moral situation in the Anglican Church illustrates the point.
Fifthly, there is the centrifuge-centred Church. Admittedly, this is near to a contradiction in terms; but called an oxymoron, this figure of speech is well-known and often used like a cup of tea in the morning, to wake one up! In other words, bits and pieces of Christian norms, morals or law, are stripped off, like bits of grass when a tennis-ball with these impressed into it, has them thrust off when the ball spins. The core remains where it was, but pieces move out, detached. In the religious case, such bits become law by detachment, or atmosphere by drift.
Thus you can have compassion featured and focussed, and as such, it is good. However when it is detached from its notable and historical base in the GOD WHO SHOWED IT IN CRUCIFIXION past mere prose, then it can become a sword. Thus because of compassion, you are to forward various perversions, aversions, desires, that people may have or prefer, and it becomes, voided of its base, a mere and wanton means of achieving evil in the name of good, it is as if in compassion you taught someone to have a lesser drug in order to escape a worse one, when the lesser one merely arouses the passion for more.
Finally, we come to the biblical norm and reality. This is the Jesus Christ-as-Lord centred Church or life; and this provides the contrast. It is rather like normal health differentiated from that excited by drugs, or animated by beer, or seduced by barbituates. There is this contrast. When the Lord Jesus Christ, who is given a name above every name from on high, where His eternity has lived before incarnation (as in Philippians 2) is in view as centre, this Word from the Almighty, this member of the trinity who brings one back to the God of creation, then a Church abiding in Him shows a spirit and a heart, though its members be small, like daphne, insignificant to see, but hard to resist in its fragrance.
Attesting the biblical revelation from God, lifting up Christ as Lord and Saviour (John 12:32), it may act as a draw-card through proclamation of truth and exhibition of love. It shows the way to God, Christ the focus of the saving work and glorious grace of God. In this case, it is neither mauled nor marred from within (Matthew 7:15fff); for it is He, Jesus the Christ, who having been mauled and marred, has suffered quite enough of this, and provides His own peace.
Instead, it focusses His face, smitten as it was, His race, regenerated as it is (as in I Peter 2), and His grace, totally embracive as it is in the Christian fold of which HE ONLY is Master. It seeks to obey Him, knowing this, that "God gives the Holy Spirit to those who obey Him," as in Acts 5:32. While ALL Christians have the Holy Spirit, an indisputable associate in regeneration who remains (Romans 8:9, Titus 3:3-7), there is an enabling for what is following Him, a grace, shield and power for what is obeying His living Lordship, following His invariant principles as written.
As in context, this enables people like the apostles, to testify and if necessary testify in the midst of persecution, indeed to challenge in direct and fearless faith, the follies of those who seek to suppress the testimony of Jesus. How glorious in the case of Acts 5, that being imprisoned, they were released by angelic action; and told to continue testifying, which at once they publicly did. Caught and dragged to further censure, commanded to be silent, the reply was this: "We ought to obey God rather than man," as in Acts 5:29, just as in the record of Acts 4:19-20, we find this:
"Whether it be right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard."
Christ without compromise and the Bible without Qualification, this is required now as at the first. Christ not Culture is the criterion, and one Him as Lord, not source of irreverent levitation of spirit, as distinct from spiritual abiding. One must abide in the Truth (John 15), and when a soul is His, this is the mode sustained by His grace (I John 3:9, 5:11-12, Ephesians 1:11). One must not be intractable in wilfulness, but intransigent in trust, committed in trust.
POINTERS ON THE WAY
Some pointers to procedure in this Age, would include the four T's:
!) Truth (do not vary from it by one iota), and its name is Jesus Christ (John 14:6) and His designation for its teaching, is the Bible to the last degree! (Matthew 5:17-20, John 14:26).
2) Tenderheartedness: pity the misled, like those with smoker's cough or lung cancer, or spiritual emphysema, but do not share their disease, and help recovery when you can snatch anything from the flames as Jude has it. Consider the realm of scurry and flurry, and without making haste! (Isaiah 28:16), help to bare one another's burdens, to discern the difficult and service the lacking.
3) Trustworthiness: I had one Minister who left me when in the very midst of a confrontation with the Government about the shameless abuse of scientific method in the Schools in a particular State, in the field of creation, and the sham of liberty which is accorded, along with the violation of the UN Declaration on Discrimination in religion or belief. Our point is that what is happening is discriminatory, unscientific and a breach of law, since that UN Declaration has been adopted, and those of the biblical Christian faith, for no sustainable scientific reason, are being subjected to duress, intentionally or not, both emotionally and professionally. Failure DURING battle has a very special tang. Yet the exposure continues, confirming on the Web what was sustained before various governments or oppositions ministers, over decades. To be trustworthy in battle, it is a glorious thing. Practise it with passion!
4) Translation. Learn to translate the WORD of God into your life, into your relationships, into your kindness, courage and initiative, as you wait upon the Lord, who strengthens the heart and assures in good hope (cf. Romans 8:9). Seek through His word and Spirit (as in Ephesians 3:16, II Corinthians 3:17-18, John 14:12), to find and be spiritually funded for what HE would have you do, which is your reasonable service (Romans 12:1-2).
Finally, in terms of the word of God, IF your Church fails to follow the Bible, excludes parts, changes them, disbelieves them, changes any doctrine in the Bible, then you have to test all things, and if possible, challenge it through its courts or procedures with care, prayer and if so be, support from others with you. Should this test fail, and the body be obdurate in error, it is necessary to leave it s Romans 16:17 makes so very clear and numerous similar scriptures (cf. Separation 1997).
If you do not do this, after due test, then not only are you disobeying God, but hindering if not harassing the regrouping of the children of God, who when gathered in faithfulness, need to continue just as they did in an earlier Reformation from Rome. It is not glorious or likely to receive congratulation from this world, but as we find in Luke, from the mouth of Christ, that which is highly esteemed among men, is abomination before God. It is God with whom you have to do, and if a Christian, this in obedience with faithfulness.
Nehemiah was engaged in rebuilding the temple, and it was not easy, for propagandising antagonists tried to deceive the protagonists of truth, to disturb them, even physically. Yet it went on. The temple of spiritual stones (I Peter 2:9) does not need to have sand or lime where mortar should be; nor to have dying bones where bricks.
Some may now wish to know of the particular background of this work, and of the Church which helps to sustain it. There is a particular history here, and it is part of the history of the Christian Church, very possible informative or edifying to some in various challenges and straits. It follows.
THE CHANGING SITUATION
This is a Presbyterian Church in terms of the Australian Presbyterian Church Union of 1901. We have no doctrinal change or innovation, and believe that our forefathers did well in their evangelical Presbyterian presentation of the faith.
Contrary to this, there have been extreme movements over time, in the PC of Australia. These were first to Liberalism, with its invention of a new religion while using the name of Christ Jesus the Lord. Its work was radical and ruthless, demeaning to the Jesus of the Bible, of record and of the divine testimony which God has assured concerning salvation. This liberalism our Pastor fought personally as a student, and his parents were with him in this, resulting in his eviction from seminary and re-instatement on review, 10 years later by the General Assembly of Australia.
Now Confessionalism has twisted this once sound Church the other way, to another extreme, again leaving its biblical standards by devious Assembly decisions (1991 cf. Biblical Blessings Ch. 11 as marked, and further in The Biblical Workman, Ch.8, and The Kingdom of Heaven, Ch.9, pp. 74-175-176) .
We cannot participate in this, this second ruin, any more than in the Liberalism which, staggeringly, our Pastor was the only student known to have confronted when at seminary in Melbourne (it was allied with neo-orthodoxy).
Simply continuing with the thrust of the Westminster Constitution of old, a basically sound and careful formulation, with the Bible itself given by that very Confession absolute priority, while for its own part, by its own word it refuses to be used as a standard, but provides itself as a help, we keep the Bible as total, incomparable and constrictive source of doctrine. It is taken as the only divinely authorised written word of God to mankind, as specified correctly in the Westminster Confession. It is the first over all and any teaching, so that without its statement or necessary inference from it, nothing is to be authorised as doctrine by the Church.
The Declaratory Statement, part of the Union of 1901, justly lays stress on the supernatural doctrines as basic, and hence has vast scope for the love of God, as does the Bible, toward the lost indeed, so that as it notes, He is unwilling that any perish; and we have no fellowship with what authorises the word of man, where it is not certainly stated or implied in the Bible. In this also, we are in agreement with the Westminster Confession and the word of God itself (Proverbs 30:6, Matthew 5:17-20, 7:24-27, John 14:26, II Timothy 3:16, Deuteronomy 4 and 12, Revelation 22:18-19, Jeremiah 23, esp. 28-30, Mark 7:7ff., Psalm 119, and see SMR Appendix C and D).
Hence we are strictly a continuing Presbyterian Church, and one with a special emphasis in the field of Biblical Christian Apologetics, as a service to the Church at large, and to those who seek a reason for the faith (cf. I Peter 3:15ff., Romans 1:17ff.). This Apologetics is a field demanding continual work in the modern setting; but in it, the defence and confirmation of the faith, of the word of God (Philippians 1:7) and of the Gospel (Galatians 1-3) continues. While this work is NOT in itself doctrine, yet in its thoughtful confirmation from reason, it is a help in a special field of thought. You sow the word, you plough the soil, you wait on the Lord for the increase. In our Web work, it is linked with evangelism, preaching, teaching of the Bible, translation and exegesis, and consideration of those fields and disciplines where the Bible impact is in view.
It is a wonderful fact, abundantly attested in such works as
Deity or Design, Designation or Destiny,
Light Dwells with the Lord's Christ,
Who Answers Riddles, and Where He Is, Darkness Departs,
that there is no philosophic way that can match the Bible's wisdom; for by its perspective and propositions, the way is found to resolve all major philosophic problems, and more, to show something so far better than those confusions, that it has the impress of majesty and the lustre of light, gaining from examination and attesting the more as it is investigated.
This also, therefore, it magnifies God. We find moreover that in principle, on inspection, there is nothing without these biblical parameters, which COULD solve these philosophic turmoils, age-old so unnecessarily. Casting down imaginations therefore as in II Corinthians 10:5 is in some ways like using a fly-swat. Bringing as there, every thought into captivity to Christ does not bring the thinkers there, since as Christ declared of many, closing the eyes is a sound way of not seeing, nor being converted so that He should save the soul and enlighten the mind. Still, it is good to have the testimony there to the glory of God, in any given generation, and God uses what He will how He will, and needs to be honoured since it is His due (I Peter 3:15). Types of philosophy without God all fall on examination, and more, attest in the realm of truth, that there is only one as the Bible answers every attack, alternative and muddle with clarity, certainty and the approach of God, from whose wisdom the Bible has come, in all its integral lustre, and ramifying truth.
As Romans 1 indicates, the divine nature and power of God is obvious, and it is important to show this in any generation which seeks; and the confirmation is important. Moreover, it is God who enables it, through a power to be used; and indeed, God gives the Holy Spirit for any task which He requires, to those who obey Him (Acts 5:32). The Christ as depicted in the Bible is not a suggestion box, but a divine revelation preserved in form just as His body was, being resurrected as express confirmation of the divine power and His own authenticity, and that of His Gospel (Romans 1:4).
We therefore are among the biblically Reformed and evangelical, who refuse to move with the times in doctrine, or for that matter, to make the formulations of any Age a basis for Christ, helpful though they often are, and excellent as the early ones always tended to be, as the Church in its prime time, broached and covered issues as they arose. To be biblically Reformed means of course to continue always to follow the Bible, having disjoined from any obeisance to Romanism, and to be limited by nothing BUT the Bible in doctrine, all Confessions as the Westminster Confession so admirably indicates of itself, being helps and not standards (XXXI,4). In any Age and any Church, separation from spiritual heresies is a wise move, since it warns the flock; and deficiency here can lead to fox-driven falls.
As to the Apologetics, the systematic and demonstrative presentation for reason for the faith, it here has a presentation contained in 243 volumes which have been published over some 26 years, and kept as they came, on the Web from 1996. Commenced in 1988, this set of volumes has an index covering all volumes as one, in topic and biblical references to a large extent. Questions are welcomed, and the work is done in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, our ultimate source, comfort, strength and sponsor, defence and Rock! (Isaiah 44:8). There is no other (cf. The Great Divide Ch. 5).
Written and Oral sermons are provided in considerable numbers on this Web site, for edification and the strengthening of the things that remain (Revelation 3:2). For this, see the main Home Page. In all this, our reliance is only on the Lord, the name that matters, as defined and declared through the Lord Jesus Christ, who has been given a name above every other name (Philippians 2:9), the Trinitarian Expositor, the eternal Word of God, incarnate on earth, welcomed back in triumph into heaven (Acts 3:19ff.), coming at the regeneration of all things, Saviour by personal redemption; and to Him we belong by irrefragable regeneration, unbreakable promise and incomparable grace (cf. I John 3:9, Ephesians 1:11, II Timothy 1:8ff., John 10:9,27-28).
We are here with all His Church, to glorify His name until He comes, that His saints be encouraged, strengthened, refreshed, edified, that His adversaries be exposed, His people found and founded, His lambs delivered from enticements, that the word of God be honoured, His commandments realised, His mercy found and His might used for the purposes of His Great Commission and the everlasting mission of His ministry, as the day approaches. Thus this work is that of electronic missioning, teaching, preaching, translation, exposition of the Bible, its application to times old and new, and the defence and confirmation of the Gospel (Philippians 1:7).
Our Pastor, Rev. Dr. Robert E. Donaldson, for the preaching of the Gospel and the Christian Ministry was licensed by the Presbytery of Tasmania at the determination of the General Assembly of Australia. This followed his dismissal from seminary where he had stood for the changeless Lord and for the infallible Bible as required by the substance of the Westminster Confession and faith. In particular, the integrity of the book of Daniel was attacked by the teaching Professor, over quite some time. While reasoning for its truth and integrity, against assault on it, where indeed challenge had been issued to believe this same assault on it or to lack intellectual integrity, our Pastor as a student was falsely accused and removed from his office of testimony in that place, subverted and subverting as that seminary then was, from the infallible word of God, the Bible.
Such a diversion is often used. The propositional defence of the Bible becomes the personal assault on the defender. It can help when there is no other help in subversion. That subversion led on to the Uniting Church, which in due course severed from its Presbyterian base, along with some other churches.
This occurrence in 1954, was one of many preludes to that coming event in the 1970s, and even at that earlier date, the assault on the Bible had long been in force at that Presbyterian seminary, and even then was spreading with a seemingly riotous indifference, into the New Testament field, where the same student challenged this also on logical grounds, which received as little answer as in the former case. The dismissive drama however occurred in the Old Testament field.
Expulsion of the student appeared, after all, the only easy way out for the one whose challenge had been turned on its head, so that its logical inadequacy having been demonstrated in the confrontation of the Class with this challenge, the removal of the student by unacademic violence and unethical distortion was accomplished by explosive temper. The actual answer to the challenge made by the Professor, as given by the Pastor as a student, has never been answered. Intellectual integrity and faith in the word of God have stood, and have been vindicated, even when the student was outlawed from the seminary. If there was cost, there was the Lord, and He is worthy of any cost. Great was His joy.
In this site, not only on account of that episode (cf. A Time to Praise God, Ch. 3), but because of thousands of false teachings in scores of seminaries for many decades, the book of Daniel is presented in biblical perspective in such sites as Ancient Words: Modern Deeds, Ch. 10 and Highway of Holiness Chs. 3-8. After many years of teaching and study, while awaiting the final hearing of the case by the General Assembly of Australia, Robert went to Canada and pastored there during 1963, and then turned to do his Honours M.A. at the University of Melbourne in 1964.
It was during this year that the banished student gained his re-instatement after review was accomplished by the General Assembly of Australia in 1964, in answer to prayer, and the claims on his behalf made by two Presbyteries in two different countries; for the issue was far beyond the personal, being the integrity of this Church, both in doctrine and in practice, and the wholly reliable truth of the Bible!
Later, while preaching in New Zealand, he was ordained in the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand in 1966, to become the only member of the National Assembly of its Presbyterian Church in that land, to register IN Assembly his cry against the manhandling of the bodily resurrection of Christ, a wild folly then voted in against the word of God, and to have this dissent registered in a formal manner BY that Assembly. Even a schoolboy, the point was, could understand the meaning of the statement that Christ's body did "not rot", affirmed by a central apostle on a central occasion (Acts 2) in the midst of the foundation of the Church.
Together with such testimony to the Assembly in 1966, he exercised his prerogative as an Assembly member, of giving reasons for this dissent, thus giving grounds for his charge of apostasy concerning that Church, to which this gave rise and which was written. To make the bodily resurrection of Christ a matter indifferent in the Church was to make of this religious organisation one indifferent to any claim to be a Christian one: indeed from such one must separate (Romans 16:17). This written testimony being formally made to the Assembly, following the dissent, action was needed. Indeed, the Pastor was sent with an Overture*1 from his local Session TO the Assembly, to protest the vagrant new teaching, and this was the immediate cause of the opportunity to speak which he gained in that Assembly.
He continues the narrative.
Thus one shook the dust of one's feet off on this dislocated, disruptive, departing former Church in New Zealand, that could record only ONE vote of dissent, one's own, from its abhorrent Statement on the Resurrection, given by one whose very Session ceased in a little, to have the majority standing against this folly. So it was, despite the manifest light of the Bible and its clarity of heaven, on this crucial bodily verification, vindication and demonstration of the efficacy of the work on the cross (Romans 16:17, Romans 10:9, Luke 24, I Corinthians 15); and such were the events in New Zealand, just as the foundational events of the predicted Messiah, on whom any Christian Church must stand if at al, had wrought irreversible change in the history of the world. That foundation was laid in the midst of Jerusalem some two millenia before, more unalterable than the seasons, available for treason or for truth.
It is there; and each makes his or her own way to it (Isaiah 28:16), or from it (John 6:66-67, I Corinthians 15, Luke 24), and leaving it is merely the path to a permanent departure. In making the actual defiance of the acutely clearly testimony of the apostles an authorised option, this former New Zealand Church ceased to have Christ as Lord. WHY, He asked, do you CALL Me Lord, Lord, and not do the things that I say! (Luke 6:46).
This done, one left the PC of NZ, because of its denial of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ as essential to the Gospel and teaching doctrine. What then was the position ?
It was this.
Having made formal dissent from the Resurrection Statement
having noted the charge, challenge and conclusion,
having appealed in vain for the pastorate to forsake the folly of Assembly:
this dissenting Pastor was free, and indeed constrained, to act otherwise..
This however did not occur till after some months of appeal, in which one sought deliverance for one's congregation, which yet did not respond, the majority of elders formerly in favour of the rejection of the new Resurrection Statement, now ceasing to be a majority when one of them, disgusted with the word of man being elevated over the word of God, left the Church. So also did the Session Clerk (on whose distinctive actions, see A Time to Praise God 6 as marked).
It was Session support which had blunted the condemnation of Presbytery, itself unable even to voice the support of faith for the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ!
In this way, through loss of a majority in Session, Presbytery's attack was no longer blunted, their own infidelity to a clear and unequivocal affirmation of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ being exhibited narrowly, by just one vote! Hence immediate transfer to what was then still a sound Presbyterian Church was needed, and by the continual providence of the Lord, gained in three days, involving a flight to St Louis in the USA, to a coincident meeting of that Presbytery, going about its own various affairs!
This transfer, or acceptance of ordination so that I became one of them, was indeed miraculous in timing. How those three days of triumphant deliverance resounded in terms of the power of God, with the famous three days of the LORD, who showing His power, has used it ever since in the body of history (cf. Ephesians 1:19). His own body, crucified for corruption, raised in incorruption, was not only the attestation that He was (as He is) the Son of God (Romans 1:4, I Corinthians 15, Luke 24), but the exhibition of the power of God for His own purposes, here central, with many applications, whether through life or through death, for His people. The three days was a deep additive, a matter of refined detail, deep in the Old Testament (cf. SMR Ch. 6), and repeatedly predicted for the resurrection of His body, by Jesus Christ Himself (Matthew 16:21, 17:22-23, Luke 9:22).
History is not a wanderer, but a place for action; and God acts (cf. Isaiah 64:5). One can only praise Him whose depth is infinite, power undeterrable, grace indissoluble, steadfastness as rock.
Thus it was in 1967, that moving to what was then a sound church, from what had ceased to be such, one was at once received into the Ministry of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod in the USA. This Church was later simply absorbed into the Presbyterian Church in America. It was in this body, both the tributary and later the larger body, that he remained for over 30 years till 1998.
In that year, I transferred my ordination to an Independent Presbyterian Church in Adelaide, now the Australian Bible Church, in which I had been labouring since 1988, and this was done in a way similar to that from from the PC in NZ to the RPCES in 1967. The PC in America itself had reached the point of breaking the sound Westminster Confession covenant not to add to the written word of the Bible in authority. It had done this by permitting and then following as acceptable, creation doctrine which is in no way derivable from the Bible, by any "good and necessary consequence" (Confession Ch. 1, 6,9).
It is of interest that the PC in America, after his transfer from it in 1998, later formulated its innovation in creation teaching, and this has been exposed on the Web at Let God be God Ch. 12.
Meanwhile, our Web production of 243 volumes on Biblical Christianity is our international teaching and missionary arm at http://webwitness.org.au and we rely on the grace, mercy and word of God, giver of eternal life, through our sovereign Saviour, Jesus Christ, whom in all things we seek to obey, and whom we worship. Since such falls of churches is predicted for the near end of the Age (as in II Timothy 3, 4, I Timothy 4, Jeremiah 23:16-20, II Thessalonians 2), this is like enduring a military campaign, with a known end; which of course does not reduce its severity! If it were not happening, the predictions of the word of God would have failed to cover the case! Christ had good reason to warn His disciples of coming times of this character! (John 16:2, Matthew 24:24), as did Peter (II Peter 2:1ff.). The marauders who would assault the Church would come from even WITHIN the Church (cf. Acts 20:29-30). Such was his admonition and declaration.
Alas, what is highly acceptable among men, bids to become abomination before God, as Christ declared (Luke 16:15), and any movement to muzzle, add to, place human authority as supplement to His word, in doctrine, is confusion to be confounded. One dare not stay where this is done, for the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Millions, however, who claim to be Christians and to honour the written word of God as His own inspired declaration, refuse to leave their denominations, now obviously ensconced in abandoned departure from the Bible, reminding one of the day of Jeremiah, when Jerusalem ALREADY being destroyed for such straying and its results, the residual people asked for help from Jeremiah, and then told him, on hearing what it was, that they would not DO it, but would do whatever came out of their own mouths (Jeremiah 42:2ff., 44:16-17). This is the Gentile world's polluted and predicted parallel! It has followed it precisely.
It is the Word of the living God, to the jot and tittle, which HE will honour, and he who adds is not wise; it is therefore an honour to have separated from the PC in America, though it is grievous to see one more large Church dabbling amiss, finding ostensible refuge where the Word does not extend.
The Bible in all these latter days of declensions, defilement and defaults continues unmoved, but all things are moved in due time at its word. Having devoted much of the past 30 years to the Web work concerning the testimony of Christ, with specialty in Biblical Christian Apologetics, as also to similar work prior or preparatory to the electronic outcome, in this field, one has a ground of testimony to show what one has found: precious beyond any prize. That is the word written, the Word smitten, the bodily resurrected Redeemer, the way, the wisdom and the grace of God, incorrosible in love, hospitable in mercy, shown in the face of Jesus Christ (II Cor. 4:6), everlasting in strength.
BIBLICAL CHRISTIAN APOLOGETICS
In terms of Christian Apologetics, there is a wonder to be found from the teaching, principles, perspectives and God of the Bible. It has been found in such works, individual or series, as for example in
Deity and Design, Designation and Destiny,
On Predestination and Foreknowledge,
Liberty and Necessity, Responsibility, Duty and Creativity, and
Light Dwells with the Lord's Christ, Who Answers Riddles and Where He is, Darkness Departs
some of these running into millions of words in content,
that there is something unique to be found from the Bible, just as God is.
Not only does it, as there seen, solve from its perspective and the action of the God of power and word- fulfilment, all philosophical problems in clear principle; but it shows why outside this, His revelation, there is and can be no solution whether in liberty, or predestination and freewill, in metaphysics, in logic; but that on the contrary, here where the solutions are found, there is also testable testimony in a way unique among all religions, potentially devastating if it failed, actually inordinately impressive as it prevails. Thus, to the singular rationality here found in the word of the living God, is added a validity*2 similarly unmatched elsewhere in all the thought of man.
Moreover, it provides, as God supplies in this testimony of the Bible, the only personal incarnate testimony of God, the only presentation of God, as God to man, or through any man. Indeed it is one given in His own personal name and power, by in Himself AS man, constituting the test, both practical and personal. This having come in the personal testimony of the Saviour, remains both challenge and invitation to all.
Jesus Christ came as God from God,
sent from the sender (Isaiah 48:15ff.),
open to test (John 14:10-11, 20:24-29, Luke 22:39-46),
by prophetic preliminaries stretching over millenia to a predicted death
as through a life before and after that:
this after Calvary on this earth, again including the physical,
this time through the resurrection of the body,
that of Him who went on to be glorified,
just as glory had been His from eternity (John 17:1-3, Philippians 2).
The grand God of creation thus became small to death, and vast in grandeur in irruption back into the life of the body, sustained, shown, effectual, and from this vastness has enclosed, as in an envelope, the particular individuality of eternal life, just as He is One, to those whom He died to save (John 14, 10:P9,27-28, Philippians 3:20-21, I Thessalonians 3:13).
Such is the revelation, personal, propositional, prophetic and practical. As His death was overcome in resurrecting the body, so His people are accorded this triumph of truth in love, through mercy, as in Isaiah 26:19, I Corinthians 15 and II Corinthians 5.
This Bible has backed notion with nation, as a site for revelation, and consummates in one consummate individual, since past God there is nothing, and under Him is all. He provided divine desire in love, with incarnation, restoration with personal payment, as human misfeasance met with mercy, through one man; but it was so by God Himself as incarnate, providing integrity past experience and intellection, even a meeting with God, not subject to dismissal except together with that of truth, in the stolen hearts misguided. Such is the presentation of Jesus Christ in the setting of prior revelation and history then to come, which has followed Him just as He followed the prophecies preceding.
As to the Bible, its powers of resolution being, and being shown to be unique, exclusive, systematically induplicable, securely confirmed, explicative of all, replicable by nothing, leave religion certainly a matter, ultimately, of a choice. It is one divinely secure and secured, but realisable relative to man for all that. This being so , the sent Messiah, the Word of God expressing Him perfectly, Jesus Christ, is the only available way for the restoration of man, and it is by redemption; and this settles the final and personal problem for any human person on this earth, except truth be wilfully negated. Responsibility for mankind is so great, that his looming doom as a seething race (cf. Matthew 24:22) is merely the other side of the blooming blessing which, on rejection, has such a consequence, as when an infant, being weak, refuses food. The doom is but one arm; the joy is the other. There is night (John 9:4, cf. Isaiah 21:11-12), and there is light (John 8:12); and it is as useless to generalise, as to mourn at lack of transport when in fact, there is one bus, and one only, as if one's eyes suffered intrinsic oversight of what is there! (Matthew 13:15ff.). They are shut tight, in their type of closure!
The case accordingly for man is reality or ruin, redemption or rebellion: for man is responsible for misuse of life as first given, for all the use of it; and secondly, for what becomes in many an implacability against pardon. While this is spiritual disease (Matthew 13:15ff.), yet the cure is available (John 10:10), ample, free. It is desired by God for all (I Timothy 2, Ezekiel 33:11 cf. Christ not Culture, the Lord not Man ... Ch. 9), though He forces none; and knowing all from the first, He knows how to maintain truth till the last, losing none who in love might be saved, finding none who is fraudulently approaching. Thus each will at length come to the place of truth, whether it be in pardon and peace justly granted by His liberality, or in disturbance and defilement, wryly insisted on in hearts astray, lest there be healing.
This being so, the delight which is like bloom on the peach, or the cascades of perfume from a thrust of wisteria, is able to linger: just as from the first in His foreknowledge, God has known who are His (Ephesians 1:4), He who would have all, whose love is not rash or brash, but brimming with desire for all (Colossians 1:19ff.), so that it is not of Him that any fails, but despite His limitless grace (John 3:19, Isaiah 57:15ff.).
NEW ZEALAND: FAITH DENIAL AND CONFRONTATION IN ASSEMBLY
Below is a presentation on this event, including the Church Bulletin from that period, reviewing the formal Overture with which the St Ninian's Presbyterian Church, of which Rev. R. Donaldson was then Minister, brought its confrontation to the 1966 General Assembly in that land. That Overture was presented, and its topic, to the national Assembly. It was covered in that Assembly by this Minister, as a sent Assembly representative; and it was forcibly rejected by that meeting. Moreover this Minister was threatened, after the negative vote of the Assembly, by its Clerk, with action by Presbytery against him: Presbytery will take care of you, was the challenge! That assault arrived in due course, in the most public of manners, which was described interestingly by the Session Clerk at that time, a medical specialist. One would have thought, he declared in writing in resigning from Session, following that the meeting, one which drew such a crowd to the Church: that it was a wedding or a crucifixion!
This is taken from an earlier volume in this set, In Praise of Christ Jesus, namely The Desire of the Nations and the Crystalline Fire of the Faith.
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 very substantial 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, being expressly sent and lodged by the same dissident following that disastrous Assembly.
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 for 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 host of 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 following 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?
On the unique verification and validation of the Bible, see Ch. 1, *1 above in this volume.