The Unchanging Character

of God's Word

By Steve Schlissel

 

 

I am here because you are heirs of the covenant that God made

with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Someday the natural heirs, the

Jewish people, my kinsmen according to the flesh, will have the

veil removed from their eyes. Until then, the whole Word of God,

which brings salvation, must be preserved. I am here to tell you

that we have a fight on our hands to preserve the Word of God,

and I charge you in the name of Christ to fight.

 

Make no mistake. We are engaged in a solemn and a holy war

for the truth, the honor, and glory of God. This war is between

those for the Word and those against the Word, and it has been

raging since the beginning of time.

 

The Word of God is unchanging in its divisive character. As

Calvin noted, "It is the native property of the divine Word never

to make its appearance without disturbing Satan and rousing his

opposition." We see the divisive nature of the Word in the cross

of Christ: on the one hand, there is the Word of salvation, and on

the other hand, the Word of condemnation. Everywhere the

Word is, there is division. God's Word is a separating word, and

as a separating word, those who believe it are duty bound to

protect it and defend it against all attacks. We must also

recognize the simple historical fact that the church's greatest

attacks have always arisen from within the church itself. We are

not the first, nor are we alone in the fight.

 

I have a very simple message from Hebrews 12:1:

 

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great

cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that

hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let

us run with perseverance the race marked out for

us."

 

This passage from Hebrews 12, as P.E. Hughes notes,

 

uses the dramatic imagery of an athletic contest in

which the competitors in the arena are surrounded

by the crowded tiers of an amphitheater....[O]ur

author pictures himself and his readers as

competitors, who, as they contend for the faith in the

arena of life, are surrounded by a great cloud of

witnesses, namely, those champions of the faith of

earlier generations....They have triumphantly

completed their course, and we, who are now

contestants in the arena, should be inspired by their

example to give of our utmost in the struggle. I am

inspired by their example to give of their utmost in

the struggle.

 

In contemplating those who have gone before us, I am inspired

by Phineas. When the Midianites threatened to compromise the

covenant people, Moses said to Israel's judges, "Each of you

must put to death those of your men who have joined in

worshipping the Baal of Peor" (Num. 25:4,5).

 

Then an Israelite man brought to his family a Midianite woman,

right before the eyes of Moses and the whole assembly while they

were weeping at the entrance to the tent of the meeting. [1] When

Phineas, son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, saw this, he left

the assembly, took a spear in his hand, followed the Israelite into

the tent and drove the spear through both of them. Then the

plague against the Israelites was stopped. But twenty-four

thousand people died in the plague.

 

The Lord said to Moses, "Phineas son of Eleazar, son of Aaron

the priest, has turned my anger away from the Israelites, for he

was as zealous as I am for my honor among them, so that in my

zeal, I did not put an end to them. Therefore, tell him I am making

my covenant of peace with him. He and his descendants will have

a covenant of a lasting priesthood because he was zealous for the

honor of his God and made atonement for the Israelites" (Num.

25:11-13).

 

If we do not stand up today and do more than wring our hands,

our grandchildren will have no sure Word of God.

 

I am inspired by the Levites. Moses saw that the people were

running wild and that Aaron had let them get out of control and

become a laughing stock to their enemies. So he stood at the

entrance to the camp and said, "Whoever is for the Lord, come

to me." All the Levites rallied to him (Ex. 32:26).

 

The camp was divided because the enemies of God had arisen

within the camp and had given themselves over to the lie.

 

Then [Moses] said to them, "This is what Jehovah,

the God of Israel says, `Each man strap a sword to

his side, go back and forth through the camp from

one end to the other, each killing his brother and

friend and neighbor.'" And the Levites did as Moses

commanded, and that day about 3,000 of the

people died. Then Moses said, "You have been set

apart to the Lord today, for you were against your

own sons and brothers and He has blessed you this

day" (Exod. 32:27-29).

 

I am inspired by these men who counted their personal relations

with men as of no value compared to the glory of God and His

commandments. I am even more inspired by the commendation

given to these heroes in Deuteronomy 33:8-9:

 

Your Thummim and your Urim belong to the man

you favor. You have tested him at Massah, you

contended with him at the waters of Meribah. He

said of his father and mother, `I have no regard for

them.' He did not recognize his brothers or

acknowledge his own children, but he watched

over your Word and guarded your covenant. He

teaches your precepts to Jacob and your law to

Israel."

 

Our battle is a covenant issue! This is the Word of God we are

fighting for. This is not Dutch names. This is not friends and

buddies. This is not status in the community. This is not political

advantage. This is the Word of God!

 

I am inspired by Micaiah: In II Chronicles 18, Micaiah

appeared before Jehoshaphat and Ahab when Jehoshaphat

unwisely sought political alliance with Ahab, the king of the

northern tribe. In that time Ahab asked, "Will you go to war with

me, Jehoshaphat?" And Jehoshaphat told Ahab to consult some

prophets who would tell them what they wanted to hear. The

false prophets declared, "Go, for God will give it into the king's

hand." Ahab's itching ears were satisfied. Jehoshaphat was a little

too godly for this and said, "Don't you have a prophet of Jehovah

nearby?" Ahab responded, "I have one but he never tells me what

I like." Nevertheless, the messenger called for Micaiah and said,

"If you want to make it in the Christian Reformed Church, you

had better tow the line. Everybody is telling them what they want

to hear, and if you are smart, you'll tell the two kings what they

want to hear or else the boards and agencies will come down on

you."

 

We read Micaiah's response: "As surely as Jehovah lives, I can

tell only what my God says." In verse 22, Micaiah declares: "So

now the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouths of these prophets

of yours. The Lord has decreed disaster for you." Similarly, for

some reason, God has put a lying spirit on the campus of Calvin

College, a lying spirit in many of the faculty of the seminary. There

is a lying spirit that teaches untruths, that perverts the Word of

God, distorts it, twists it, and takes it away from our covenant

youth.

 

Then Zedekiah, son of Kenaanah, went up and

slapped Micaiah in the face, "Which way did the

Spirit from the Lord go when He went from me to

speak to you?" he asked. "Who made you a

prophet?"

 

Micaiah replied, "You will find out on the day you

go to hide in an inner room." The king of Israel then

ordered, "Take Micaiah and send him back to

Amon, the ruler of the city, and to Joash, the king's

son, and say this is what the king says, `Put this

fellow in prison and give him nothing but bread and

water until I return safely.'" Micaiah declared, "If

you ever return safely, then Jehovah has not spoken

from me (II Chron. 18:23-27).

 

Micaiah knew a sure word of God.

 

I am inspired by Ezekiel, when God commissioned him:

 

"Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak

to you," and as He spoke, the spirit came into me

and raised me to my feet and I heard him speaking

to me. He said, "Son of man, I am sending you to

the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled

against me. They and their fathers have been in

revolt against me to this very day. The people to

whom I am sending you are obstinate and

stubborn."

 

Say to them, "This is what the sovereign Lord says," and whether

they listen or fail to listen for they are a rebellious house, they will

know that the prophet has been among them. And you, son of

man, do not be afraid of them or their words, don't be afraid

though briars and thorns are all around you, and you live among

scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or terrified by them

though they are a rebellious house.

 

You must speak my words to them whether they listen or fail to

listen for they are rebellious. But you, son of man, listen to what I

say to you, do not rebel like that rebellious house. Open your

mouth and eat what I give you (Ezek. 2: 1-8).

 

I am inspired by our Lord Jesus Christ, who, as it is recorded

in John 2:

 

went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found

men selling cattle, sheep and doves and others sitting

at the tables, exchanging money. So He made a

whip out of cords and drove all from the temple

area, both sheep and cattle. He scattered the coins

of the money-changers and overturned their tables.

To those who sold doves, he said, "Get these out of

here. How dare you turn My Father's house into a

market!" His disciples remembered that it is written:

"Zeal for your house will consume Me."

 

Where is the zeal for the Word of God as we have received it?

Not hand-wringing, not preaching to the choir, not patting each

other on the back for saying the right shibboleth for being

Reformed. Where is the zeal in your heart for the Word of God?

Does it burn within you? Is it life or death to you? Do you hate it

in your bones when you see it corrupted and distorted and spat

upon? Where is your zeal for God's honor?

 

I am inspired by the great apostle Paul, who did not seek to

please men but wrote in Galatians 1: "Even if we or an angel from

heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to

you, let him go to hell!" "Oh, brother," I can hear someone say to

Paul, "wouldn't you like to modify that statement? It seems

divisive." So Paul says it again: "If anybody's preaching a gospel

other than the one you accepted, let him be be condemned in hell

forever."

 

This is the unchanging character of the Word of God. It hasn't

changed just because the canon is closed. Everywhere Scripture

goes, there is a fight.

 

I am inspired by Jude, who says in his letter:

 

Dear friends, although I was very eager to write you

about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write

and urge you to contend for the faith that was once

for all entrusted to the saints.

 

I am inspired by the very last chapter of the Word of God:

 

I warn everyone who hears the words of the

prophecy of this book, if anyone adds anything to

them, God will add to him the plagues described in

this book. And if anyone takes words away from

this book of prophecy, God will take away from him

his share in the tree of life and in the city which is

described in this book.

 

I am inspired by Athanasius, who in his struggle against

Arianism, was willing to be banished and maligned in order to

defend the truth of God's Word.

 

I am inspired by Augustine, who fought against Pelagianism and

the error of free will and the doctrine that perverted the true

doctrine of sin.

 

I am inspired by Luther who fought against Romanism.

 

I am inspired by Calvin, who fought against syncretism.

 

I am inspired by the fathers of Dort who fought against

Arminianism, recognizing it as an enemy of the church.

 

These are the witnesses who are now surrounding us and looking

into the arena and saying, "What are you going to do today in

the face of the challenge that God has laid before you?" We

are once again engaged in battle. Know your enemies. Today the

church does battle against humanism, spearheaded by relativism,

with feminism (egalitarianism) in the lead. The only thing that can

vanquish these foes is an unchanging Word from God. A Word of

God that can change is no problem, as I will demonstrate, but a

Word of God that doesn't change, that will destroy them. Many

fail to see the critical nature of our struggle: a struggle which

Christ Himself calls us to.

 

In the 1920s and 1930s, J. Gresham Machen was involved in a

painfully similar struggle against modernism in the Presbyterian

Church in the USA. He wrote:

 

The plain man in the church has difficulty

understanding the nature of the struggle. He does

not yet appreciate the real gravity of the issue. He

does not see that it makes very little difference how

much or how little of the creeds of the church the

modernist preacher affirms, or how much or how

little of the This modernist preacher might affirm

every jot and tittle of the Westminster Confession,

for example, and yet be separated by a great gulf

from the Reformed faith. It is not that part is denied

and the rest is affirmed, but all is denied because all

is affirmed merely as useful or as symbolic, but not

as truth. A thing that is useful may be useful for

some and not for others, but a thing that is true

remains true for all people and beyond the end of

time.

 

We would do well to familiarize ourselves with the struggle that

occurred in that church that led to the formation of the Orthodox

Presbyterian Church. There are those who remain saying, "We're

going to just see what happens." But look at the PCUSA today

and see what has happened.

 

We, too, have become a church that seems to echo Pilate's pitiful

plaint, "What is truth?", when all the while, Truth was standing in

front of him. The truth is in our hands and it is, as our Belgic

Confession (Article 7) says,

 

unlawful for anyone, though an apostle, to teach

otherwise than we are now taught in the Holy

Scriptures. It is forbidden to add unto or take away

anything from the Word of God. It does evidently

appear that the doctrine thereof is most perfect and

complete in all respects. Neither may we consider

the writings of any men of equal value with divine

Scriptures. Nor are we to consider custom or the

great multitude or antiquity or succession of times

and persons or councils, decrees and statutes as of

equal value with the truth of God, since the truth is

above all. Therefore we reject, with all our hearts,

whatsoever does not agree with this infallible rule

[whether they be teachings that are current at Calvin

College or the philosophies that motivate some

boards and agencies].

 

Do you reject them with all your heart? The dogmatic statements

of our confession are very disagreeable to the modern visionary.

He doesn't like them; he chokes on them, although he might

affirm them as useful.

 

Perhaps even more disagreeable are the unchanging

characteristics of the Word as is formulated in chapter one of the

Westminster Confession of Faith. I wish I could spend all day and

talk to you about chapter one, but alas. Ten sections are devoted

to the doctrine of Scripture and every one of these sections is

threatened by the relativists among us.

 

The Westminster Confession begins by declaring the necessity of

Scripture. This section concludes by saying, "Scriptures are most

necessary, those former ways of God's revealing His will unto His

people, being now ceased." The necessity of Scripture is

threatened by a universalism which suggests that people may be

saved without the Word of God coming to them; that people may

be saved, as we hear in the United States, without repentance

and faith in Jesus Christ. These preposterous and heretical notions

are entertained in the pages of the Banner (CRC's

denominational magazine) as being legitimate options to consider,

not necessarily confessional, but something that should be aired.

Nonsense! It is crucifying Christ all over again. The Scriptures are

most necessary and not in any way optional.

 

The Confession then discusses the Canon and the Apocrypha.

Commonly, the Scripture itself is being "apocryphalized" --

regarded as less reliable than reason and nature. The fourth

section declares that the authority of the Holy Scriptures,

"depends not upon the testimony of any man in our church, but

wholly upon God who is truth itself, the author thereof, and

therefore, it is to be received because it is the Word of God." I

recently read an article in a book called, Exploring the Heritage

of John Calvin. Over and again the author said, "Paul says, Paul

says, Paul says..." for ten, twenty pages. Not one time "The Holy

Spirit speaking in the Word of God says..." But the Bible and the

Confessions tell us that God is the author of Scripture, every part.

The unchanging character of Scripture as authoritative means that

we allow Scripture itself to tell us how to regard it.

 

Anyone who denies the authority of Scripture at one point, has

denied it at all points. If we assert that we can set aside the

six-day creation doctrine, we have asserted our supremacy over

Scripture. Our mind and our convenience now have a higher

authority. Clearly, therefore, the question of authority is at stake in

Genesis 1. Whose word is authoritative and final,God's or man's?

Who has the last, as well as the first, word?

 

The Confessional doctrine of Scripture's self-attestation is

threatened by those who subordinate God's testimony and

Scripture to a contrary, yet allegedly more reliable testimony in

nature. We can only believe Scripture, they say, when nature

agrees with what we read in Scripture. But they have it exactly

reversed. Any Reformed six-year-old should be able to tell you

that. You interpret nature in terms of the Word of God, not vice

versa. The Fall has had effects -- noetic effects -- effects on our

minds that need to be corrected before we can understand things

properly.

 

The sufficiency of Scripture is challenged on several fronts. [2]

And what has happened to the perspicuity of Scripture? We are

now told that we need a new elitist core of intermediaries, a new

priesthood to stand between the "ignoramuses" in the pew and

God. Have we even forgotten that there was a Reformation? I

may have been in this denomination a short time, but I have been

in this struggle long enough to have heard some of the attitudes

that are present.

 

For example, the regional home missionary that I mentioned in

Messiah's Mandate, Vol. I, No. 1, [3] called me up and

objected saying,

 

"I never gave a sermon entitled, `God our Mother.'"

 

I said, "OK, I'll print a retraction. Do you believe `God our

Mother'?"

 

He said, "Oh, yes."

 

"Do you have any theological problem praying to Our Mother,

who art in heaven?"

 

"Oh, no."

 

I said, "Have you changed the pronouns from the pulpit when you

read the Scripture -- 'he' to 'she'? (Always, of course, 'he' to

'she', never 'she' to 'he').

 

He said, "No, I don't."

 

"Do you have a problem doing that?"

 

"No, of course not."

 

I said, "Then why don't you do it?"

 

"People aren't ready for it yet!"

 

Such people despise you. I mean it. These arrogant people really

think that it's just a matter of time before they railroad you out of

your possession and your inheritance. For as far as they're

concerned, the battle is over and they have won. Now, only

money and institutions are at stake. Who gets to control them?

They have already made up their mind about the Scriptures. They

are just waiting to train a generation of harlots and have the

faithful die off, and it's all theirs. That is why we can thank Jesus

Christ that Howard Van Till wrote The Fourth Day because

now we have what we might call an accelerated epistemological

self-consciousness. Now we can see more clearly than when they

were playing the game under the covers. The covers are being

pulled off.

 

At the root of many of the attacks upon the Word of God, we

find research, writings, pronouncements, and policies founded on

the presupposition of epistemological neutrality and a

bastardization of the common grace doctrine that effectively

subordinates the Word of God to sinful, autonomous reason and

observation. Everything that you hear from Calvin College is

justified in the name of common grace.

 

The epistemological question is this: How do we know? Originally

or after God knows? The unbelieving doctrine of knowledge is:

Nothing is known unless man knows it. It is a mystery until man

knows it. The doctrine of our faith is that God knows everything,

and He shares knowledge with us. Therefore, He is the original

knower and we are analogical knowers -- we know after the

pattern of God. We are dependent knowers; He is the

independent knower. Much of our denomination's thinking is

committed to the epistemology of unbelief.

 

We have here a frightening parallel to what occurred in the

Machen case. The modernists in the Presbyterian church had

been drinking deeply from the fountain of the world. Their

grumblings originated not exegetically, but from extra-Scriptural

considerations which determined the way that they then handled

Scripture. They were latitudinarian and anti-antithetical. The

antithesis was obnoxious to them. I still meet Reformed people

who tell me they were raised on antithetical preaching. They were

taught there is an antithesis in this world. Now we are told that the

antithesis is of the devil. Church leaders now want to tear down

the antithesis so that they can have the respect and approval of

the world.

 

The spirit of the modern world which threatens us is far more

sophisticated and subtle than it was in the days of Dort and

Westminster, even than it was in the 20s. But if we stand back a

bit, we will hear the same question being asked now that was

asked in the Garden of Eden and ever since -- "Yea, hath God

said?" This doubt was followed by denial -- "You will not surely

die." This is a word of possibility, a word of flux, a word of

chance as over against God's certain word. This is the basic

issue. Who speaks the certain word? Is it God or man? The

modern compromisers still pay lip-service to the Bible. They say

that it is indeed God's Word, but it's not the last word. This is the

original temptation.

 

Sinners will always choose a word of possibility over against the

word of absolute authority, even if it means their death. Rather to

rule in hell than to serve in heaven. But God and man do not run

on a continuum. God is uncreated, man is created. God is infinite,

eternal, and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness,

justice, goodness, and truth. Man is finite, temporal, and

changeable. Therefore, we are utterly dependent on God for our

being, our ethics, and for our knowledge as well. That is why we

always say, "What do the Scriptures teach?" Adam and Eve were

tempted to determine knowledge and ethics for themselves, not

according to a Word of God. "Look at the possibilities. Look at

the world opened up before you. All you need to do is to forget

that other certain word about dying and just take and eat. All

kinds of things will open up." That is what is being offered to us

today. The effort amounts to the attempt to bring God down to

our level of being, even though He remains higher up the scale, so

they can pay lip-service to God.

 

Some assume the following: we are little fish, and God is a big,

big, big fish, so He has a lot to offer us. He can protect us, we

can talk to Him. He is very smart, but we are really floating

around in the same sea of possibility. That is how radical the

change is at the presuppositional level. A compromise here is the

end of the faith in seed form. In their efforts to make their own

rules, the visionaries must pay lip service to the confessions. They

talk about unity and peace, but they want it on their terms.

Recently, the Banner called for a truce about women in office,

the new Psalter hymnal, and evolution. Should Paul have called a

truce with the Galatian heretics? Should Jesus have made a truce

with those who were occupying the temple and corrupting it? A

truce in this battle is defeat.

 

Note the following:

 

If our contention that the evolution hypothesis is part

of an antitheistic theory of reality is correct, then we

must do away with every easy-going attitude. The

evolutionist is then a soldier in that great, seemingly

all-powerful army of anti-theists that has from time

immemorial sought to destroy the people of God.

We must then prepare for a life and death struggle, if

not in the courts of the land, then in the higher courts

of human thought.

 

Do you know where this was written? This call to action was

written in the Banner, 1931. The 1931 Banner says evolution is

an enemy to the people of God. The 1987 Banner has two

weeks of Van Leewen laying the groundwork of three weeks of

Van Till, without so much as a whisper that the man was under

investigation, without so much as a hint that his views are

considered heretical by everyone sitting here and by untold

numbers in the rest of the denomination. What has happened?

Has truth changed? If truth has changed, then I tell you, God

Himself has changed. But the Bible says, "I am the Lord, I change

not." The Bible says, "Every good and perfect gift comes down

from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like

shifting shadows."

 

Churches used to split about what was true,but now we're

arguing about "what is truth?" We are seeing two radically

different answers evident in this discussion. Some in the Christian

Reformed Church, say that the truth we desire to explicate,

preach, and live out is the truth that was once for all delivered to

the saints. But others believe that the truth is found in the search

itself. We may simplify this as a conflict between two factions:

those who believe that truth is in the content and those who

believe that truth is in the process. Therefore, you see there is

such a very great tendency tofocus on style and not content. Of

course, truth for the church involves process. There is history,

time, and providence under our sovereign God as the Scriptures

were compiled, distributed, studied, systematized and lived out.

But those who have succumbed to the lie of seeking truth in

process have elevated history, not as the realm of revelation and

redemption, but as prior to and determinative of both revelation

and redemption. Thus they tend to view all Scripture as an

accommodation. Therefore, it is relative. Truth is behind, above,

or outside of Scripture. We have people who view every portion

of Scripture subject to cultural scrutiny. A careful reading of

Bavinck would help these people learn that there is a difference

between condescension, which is involved in revelation, and

accommodation. God necessarily condescends to speak to us,

but He doesn't necessarily accommodate Himself to our

prejudices. For example, the accommodation view allows Jesus

to speak about Lot's wife turning into a pillar of salt, and since the

ignorant Jews of His day believed that and to make a spiritual

point, Jesus accommodated Himself to their ignorance. That's

accommodation. That's garbage! Because then you don't know

what to believe. But condescension is necessarily involved with a

God who is so transcendent as ours.

 

Viewing revelation as an accommodation puts it in our hands. It

becomes anthropocentric, not simply anthropomorphic. Both

God and man are seeking to find themselves in history. We and

God become co-strugglers to attain truth. Only He is much further

down the road. This is why we could read in a publication of the

Committee for Women:

 

Changing sexist language did not come easy for me.

Due to peer pressure I first began altering people

words, you know chairperson, mailcarrier, and no

more generic "he." These terms still provoke

laughter and they felt awkward to me as well, with

some more radical women addressing God as she. I

just laughed some more. But God finally caught up

with me. I had just heard that our pastor had once

again failed to recruit any women to preach at our

church during his vacation. Driving home that night I

was screaming and crying with the car windows up,

of course. It was unfair that God would never

understand what it meant to be a woman. How

could He help but be on the men's side? God broke

into my rage with the thought, "But I am not on their

side. I am not one of them. I'm at least as angry over

this situation as you are." What? God was not He?

 

Slowly I began to explore my previous perception

of God as male. It is hard to describe the depth of

freedom I felt as I experimentally called God "She."

Over time I gained a new vision of God and myself.

No doubt about it, changing the way we talk about

God and God's people will change us and change is

hard. The National Council of Churches Inclusive

Lectionary explored this issue where this is

excerpted from and has changed traditional Biblical

language. These changes are causing incredible

controversy as we ponder the pros and cons of

speaking inclusively. Let's be open to what the Spirit

may be saying to the church today.

 

What the Spirit is saying where? In the Bible? Then it is an

exegetical issue. The Spirit says nothing to the church that is not in

His Word. If it is true, it isn't new, and if it is new, it isn't true. Is it

in the Scripture?

 

The original temptation suggested that freedom was to be found in

liberating oneself from the awful determinative Word of God, but

such freedom always equals death. In the Arminian controversy,

proponents sought freedom from God's decrees. They said of the

God who decrees salvation and damnation, "I just can't live with

that." A refuge was imagined in having God somehow made

dependent on man's will. The argument was that freedom from

man required a measure of independence. But even just a little

"freedom" requires us to place ourselves outside a total

sovereignty of God. But the Synod of Dort said that God alone is

absolutely free. B.B. Warfield noted long ago that it is not

predestination as such that bothers man, but rather predestination

by someone other than himself, and particularly God. We don't

want God to do it.

 

The women's issue is part of a worldview which doesn't see

decrees and laws and God as ultimate, but potentiality itself. This

is why you'll always see this language of potentiality and

"becoming" and "struggling." These words are throughout their

literature. It's a different motif. Freedom is not found in Psalm 1

or Psalm 119, "I walk at liberty because I keep thy

commandments." Rather, these feminists view the law as a

springboard to freedom. You leap to freedom from the Word,

but you don't find it in the Word. Thus the character of the Word

of God that is propositional, eternal, unchanging and normative is

changed.

 

The God of Scripture did not speak to the feminist quoted above.

It was a demon. For her, the Bible has become a mystical tool

and a mere collection of principles. Her new view of reality is just

really the old Greek view of Heraclitean flux, revivified and

dressed up in Biblical language. For feminists, a final word is

anathema. They want a possible word, as do evolutionists.

 

Thus Howard Van Till finds it impossible to do what he considers

to be true science under a sound exegesis of Genesis 1-11. For

Howard Van Till true science requires an open universe. It must

be completely open so that any hypothesis he offers to fit

particular facts is to be regarded as possible. Openness.

 

At the same time, Van Till requires an absolutely closed universe

which operates according to rules knowable to man. If God were

allowed to unexpectedly come into Van Till's universe at any time,

say, by a miracle, then all the hypotheses would be thrown off.

They would become conditional upon God, who would retain the

final word. This is why unbelief is at the same time rationalistic

and irrationalistic. It requires perfect consistency and perfect

inconsistency. It requires perfect order and perfect chaos at the

same time.

 

The faculty at Calvin College are offended when people use the

Bible to "shackle academic freedom," because academic

freedom, they say, requires openness. We have to be open to

where we are going. The Banner chafes at an orthodoxy which

believes it has found the truth, for truth is in the search and

requires openness. Home Missions has visions that are aided by

continuing revelations. They have conferences that call for

"openness." They should read their own literature. In one issue,

there is a little cartoon of a guy opening his head with a zipper. It

says "Don't have such an open mind that your brains fall out."

 

All the struggles we face today can and must be seen in light of

this hatred of a final and unchangeable Word of God and

willingness, if not a lust, to cash it in for a few thrills and some

possibility. Everyone pays lip service to the Word in confessions.

Please, don't think that just because someone says "I believe the

confessions" that they, therefore, believe them. You have to

watch how they are put into practice. In Ezekiel it says:

 

Son of man, my people come to you as they usually

do and sit before you to listen to your words, but

they do not put them into practice. With their

mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are

greedy. Indeed to them, you are nothing more than

one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and

plays an instrument well, for they hear your words,

but they do not put them into practice.

 

Why do they call Christ, "Lord, Lord" yet they do not do what

He says? Not everyone who says "Lord, Lord" will enter the

kingdom. Merely listening causes no pain, but doing often does.

When I became a Christian in my mid-twenties, I realized I must

be baptized. When I first told my parents about my belief in

Christ, they did not mind it so much. They thought there was

room in the Jewish world for people who had high views of Jesus.

When I told them I was going to be baptized, my father said, "If

you do this, you are never welcome in my home again."

 

I found courage in Matthew 10 and Luke 6 where Christ tells me

what it costs to be a Christian. I don't think there is a trade

involved. You just do what God says. I told my father this, and he

came that night and gave me a few things that my wife had left at

his house. He hugged me, and he was prepared never to see me

again. [4] Doing something means you really believe it. Without

doing it, you don't believe it at all.

 

Belief that doesn't do isn't Biblical belief. We have teachers and

ministers who want the name but won't play the game according

to their rules. This is their version of I Timothy and Galatians:

"God says no women are allowed to rule, that is very clear. God

says women are utterly equal, therefore they are allowed to rule,

that is perfectly clear. They both can't be wrong because they are

the Word of God. That is perfectly clear. They can't be both

unchangeably correct because they contradict, so how do we

resolve these seemingly conflicting passages of I Timothy 2 and

Galatians 3? One will give way to the other in time. One will

become history and the other will bring us into the fullness of the

revelation." That is such cheap handling of the Word of God.

There is a better way, a faithful way that does not produce

contradiction.

 

I Timothy 2 says: "I do not permit a woman to teach or have

authority over a man. She must be silent, for Adam was formed

first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived, it was the

woman who was deceived and became a sinner."

 

Galatians 3:28: "If you belong to Christ, there is neither Jew nor

Greeks, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in

Christ Jesus."

 

In the book of Galatians, Paul was arguing that you are justified

by faith and not by works of the law. The Jews, in their daily

prayers, pray: "Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the

Universe, who has not made me a Gentile. Blessed are you, Lord

our God, King of the Universe, who has not made me a slave.

Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has

not made me a woman." I want to remind you that that is in

precisely the same order as you find in Galatians.

 

In the Jewish religion you are righteous if you keep the law. The

more law you keep the more righteous you are. Paul says that is

not why you are righteous. But the Jews thank God that He gave

them the law instead of the Gentiles so they can reckon

themselves as more righteous than other people. Because they are

not slaves, they can keep all the Sabbath commandments so they

can be more righteous. One Jewish tradition denies that all of the

commandments are obligatory for women. Men alone are

required to fulfill all the Mitsvah, and all the commandments, such

as traveling to Jerusalem three times a year. The men thank God

that they were made men so that they would have more

opportunity to be self- righteous. And that's all Paul is addressing.

 

Paul says that when it comes to our righteousness before God,

there is no advantage to being a Jew over a Gentile, or slave or

free, or male or female. That is the whole nine yards. Feminists

have so beaten this passage into delirium that the heads are

swimming in our denomination. You ask a feminist about I

Timothy 2, and they respond, "Galatians 3:28!" By all means

Galatians 3:28! Only, interpret it correctly. The devil also quoted

Scripture out of context to our Lord. Jesus' response was based

on his view that Scripture can neither be broken nor

self-contradictory.

 

If you can change the Word at one point, you can change it at all

points because God's Word is one. It has an unchanging

character. The Reformed faith is an organic system of truth. God's

Word is not unclear; it's too clear. But they don't like what they

hear. The people at Calvin College and elsewhere, their scattered

lackeys, are not as honest as a particular United Church of

Canada minister. He just comes right out and says, "The Bible's

view of women is invalid." Something honest -- a guy who says

what he thinks. He claims: "As churches struggle with this issue of

equality in the sexes, Christians have to look beyond the Bible to

reason and experience for guidance. The Bible is clear with

respect to the status of women. There is no possibility of

misunderstanding the Bible." He just doesn't like what it says, and

he's not going to follow what it says. He says that we have to

understand God's Word for our times. His authoritative base is

not Sola Scriptura but Scripture, church tradition, reason, and

personal experience. That is the standard he and others advocate.

But any change in our responsibility to obey one word from God

is contingent upon another Word of God that explains, modifies,

expands, or rescinds the first word.

 

If you give a command to your child: "Don't go outside." They

have to listen to you until you change the commandment. "You

can go outside now." Or if it's manifest that there was a condition

(four feet of snow), and when spring comes around and the snow

disappeared, and they still haven't gone outside; then when they

go outside, they are not disobeying your command because the

condition has been fulfilled that required the obedience. Scripture

has some commandments like that, when there is a change in

circumstances which form, at least in part, the reason for the

command. So, for example, Levitical sacrifices are no longer

obligatory, nor are the dietary commandments, but the important

part to note is that the New Testament explains this to us. We

have a complete book that tells us what we are to obey and what

we are not to obey. God can tell us to do something today, and

tomorrow He can tell us to do the opposite. He is God and can

do whatever He wants.

 

The point that we must maintain as Reformed Christians is that He

has already completed what He has to say. If God reveals a new

word, then we could go away from the Bible. That is why

feminists and evolutionists are listening to hear what "the Spirit"

may be saying to the churches. That is why, when push comes to

shove, we see an ever-widening embrace of other revelation,

whether it is from nature or private spirits or the charismatic

movement. They are trying to find another Word of God that will

free them from this Word of God which they believe shackles-in

their agenda. And it does shackle. Evolution fits their purposes so

nicely. The appeal that Paul makes in I Timothy 2 is that Adam

was formed first and then Eve. If evolution becomes accepted as

dogma, the foundation of the commandment in I Timothy 2 goes

with it. Everything is up for grabs. Each man does that which is

right in his own eyes.

 

We're not faced here with merely a different preference. Some try

to compare this to other historic struggles in the Christian

Reformed Church. But this issue is not whether you are going to

have a service in Dutch or English. This is a much bigger issue.

This is not "I'll have vanilla, you'll have chocolate." We are not

even looking at the same menu. We are not even in the same

restaurant, but they still expect us to pay the check!

 

There are two very different kingdoms being constructed by and

in the same denomination, and they are not compatible. Someone

has got to leave the Christian Reformed Church. Abraham

Kuyper rightly said,

 

Satan knows that he can undermine the structure of

the church by slyly removing just one fundamental

doctrine at a time. He frequently loosens a large

foundation gradually, chiseling it away bit by bit.

That is why tolerance for the sake of peace may be

dangerous. By giving in, one step will lead to a next

step; and will not God visit us with blindness if we

deliberately darken the truth He has graciously

entrusted to us? How shall we justify ourselves if we

permit even a little of the truth to be laid aside? Is

that ours to do? When peace is injurious to the truth,

peace must give way. Peace with God is of greater

value than peace with men.

 

We have a war on our hands, and it won't go away -- a cancer

that begs to be cut out. Popular author Tom Wolfe commented

on the criticism that he receives when, as a journalist, he writes

about other journalists. If they don't like it. Wolfe said, "You are

called a neo-conservative. If they really don't like it, they call you

a reactionary." But, he says, "I'd much rather be called that than

`liberal.' That just means you are orthodox, which means you

have nothing interesting to say." Well said, Mr. Wolfe, but one

man's boredom is another man's excitement. The Westminster

Shorter Catechism, to use the vernacular, turns me on. But one

man's heresy is another man's orthodoxy. Wolfe's point is that

when you just say what is already true and what has already been

believed, people don't want to listen to you. It is not interesting.

But God has solved that problem for us by giving us children.

They have never heard it before we tell them. So it is interesting

to them. That is the way we keep interest in the CRC: process

and content. Make no mistake, a new orthodoxy is emerging, and

if it's not cut to death now, it will emerge triumphant in our

denomination. The orthodoxy of egalitarianism, hermeneutical

elasticism, and humanism.

 

While the troublers among us are bored of being accepted by us

as orthodox, they do not therewith lose their desire to be

accepted. Not at all. They are lifting their skirts at the highway,

hoping to catch a ride with those moving away from Biblical

orthodoxy. Dr. John Whitcomb has described this attitude as the

New Evangelicalism:

 

A desperate desire to be accepted, not so much by

the Lord as by others prominent in the visible church

who deviate to some extent from the teaching of the

Word as we understand it. In the interest of being

accepted, the New Evangelical attitude is willing to

sacrifice truth on the altar of ecumenical expediency.

 

The visionaries in Grand Rapids are like bored girls who can't

wait to get out of a small town for no other reason than because it

is small. They are trying every way to make an escape, trying to

do away with the wooden shoes. Only the escape has this twist:

they haven't the guts to really leave because Daddy still pays the

bills. So they stay at home, and they bring their lovers into our

town and into our home in the hope that we will get used to them

and that someday we will get tired of arguing. Finally, we will just

give in. "Alright, alright, alright -- Have your stinking heretics at

the college. Have your whores at the seminary. Have your

double-talkers and deceivers in boards and agencies." Eventually,

they expect to convince a generation to forsake the stuffy, limited

and boring village that we call Orthodox Junction. They really

believe that they have found the better way and they want us to

follow them with their lovers to Broadway.

 

We are at a crossroad. The Siren's Song calls us from the

narrow, the particular, the well-defined and the precise to the

broad, the general, the sweeping, "to go with the flow" -- to the

blurred from the distinct.

 

The drift toward indistinctiveness was seen in the recently

adopted Contemporary Testimony, a modern quasi-confessional

document adopted by the synod. It is not so much that it

contained anything particularly harmful, but it contains nothing

particularly helpful. A statement of the great theologian William

Shedd is most pertinent in helping us understand the trouble with

this approach: "When the popular feeling of a period is becoming

less correct and healthy, nothing in the way of means does so

much toward a change and restoration as strict accuracy, which is

the same as strict orthodoxy in the popular creed." This is true,

yet we find ourselves floating in the very opposite direction. Like

Jonah we have been called to preach against the specific sins of

our generation to our generation, but we have taken a ship called

Vague in the direction away from our calling. No one wants to

say anything specific. The last analysis is not just a matter of a

New Evangelicalism, a new reformation or a new hermeneutic; it

is the Word of God in the balance. It is the world in the grip of an

idea: time versus God's Word. The questions are: Who is God?

How do you know it? And where does it say so?

 

I want to suggest that we have answered these questions in our

confessions which serve the function of skin. Skin keeps in what

you want in and out what you want out. Our confessions should

form the basis of who is allowed to stay in and who must go out.

Scripture is unchanging in its character precisely because its

author is unchanging. Here we must stand. But I am afraid that the

Christian Reformed Church has contracted Ecclesiastical Aids.

We seem not to have the will to fight those microbes that are

invading the body. Be they ever so insidious, calculating,

dishonest, arrogant or destructive, above all, we want comfort.

We do not want the truth; we want to be polite. We are polite-ing

ourselves to death. Along with a loss of the will to fight, many

have lost the will to live. Where, my brothers and sisters, is your

heroic Dutch blood, and why is it not boiling? I do not know.

 

I would like to offer a twelve-point program-- one for each tribe!

We are not the ones who ought to leave, but we dare not

promote decay. We had best fight it as this cloud of witnesses

looks on.

 

1. Cancel subscriptions to the Banner. It doesn't measure up.

"Whatever is true, noble, pure, profitable...." The Banner fails.

We must recognize that the Banner is the mosquito which carries

the virus to the body. It gives us feminist poems ridiculing the

godly opposition to women's ordinations; calls those

"simple-minded" who believe that God regards homosexuality as

an unqualified abomination; promotes birth control, hinting at

more occasions for abortion than saving the life of the mother,

and on and on.

 

The latest abomination is a column on family affairs by an

associate pastor of the Crystal Cathedral, the biggest little

whorehouse in Southern California. The Crystal Cathedral is not

the Church of Christ because it preaches another gospel. Why is

a denominational magazine getting someone from that church to

write a weekly column in our newspaper? Why not Jay Adams?

Or someone whose credentials and fidelity to the Word of God

are unquestioned? The Banner: vague, open...cancelled!

 

2. Expand and improve the Christian Renewal and Outlook.

Get these journals into the hands of all consistory (session; board

of elders) members. I have heard of and from, consistory

members who hadn't heard of Howard Van Till until very

recently. One individual called me about something I had written

and told me that he had never heard of the man. This is

inexcusable. We have to get this information into the hands of

council members (elders and deacons). In articles in these

journals, let's aim at providing more names, dates, and witnesses

so that the factuality of our concerns will be self-evident and thus

accelerate the self- consciousness of our denomination. I still must

believe that the body at large is faithful and sound and we have to

inform them.

 

3. Provide solid and simple expositions of our confessions,

especially Belgic Confession articles 27-32 on the Church, to all

consistory members. We need to clarify holy obligations on

particular issues of moment. We need to provide guidance for

them.

 

4. Compel your consistories to take stands on issues in writing.

Don't accept double-talk and equivocation. Exercise your

confessional rights as a congregant. Require Biblical justification

from your council and consistory for important decisions and

policies. Watch the form of subscription (in which all

office-bearers swear to God to defend the truths of the Bible as

summarized in the confessions), and keep it fresh in everybody's

minds.

 

5. Plan and strategize like Joshua. Do it before and at classis

(presbytery meetings; regional meetings of elders) and synod. We

have been outmaneuvered so many times that it's nauseating. At

the synod of 1986, the Banner editor was approved on the floor

of synod for another four-year term without one single question

from the floor by any elder or minister. Not one comment.

Everything is done in committee, buried and rubber-stamped on

that floor. There is so much opportunity, but we get

outmaneuvered. Let's get smart. Let's learn how to play the game.

It's unfortunate that we have to do it, but it must be done. Use

church order. It's used against us, so let's use it against the forces

of compromise.

 

Provide a speakers' bureau like the Committee for Women has.

They send a list to every consistory in the denomination, saying

they have all these speakers who are willing to speak on these

subjects. Moreover, we too should have a lot of conferences

around the country and in Canada.

 

6. Watch boards and agencies and get written answers to specific

questions. Home Missions is especially manipulative and avoids

adequate accountability. I am not referring to missionaries, but to

the company boys. Calvin Seminary lies through its teeth, and it

has a feminist agenda that is so manifest that it is unbelievable to

me that they can deny it. We have to sit on these guys and let

them know that the denomination is watching. We are not going

to accept it.

 

7. We ought to engage an investigative reporter to chronicle the

near demise of our denomination, to expose the politicking, to

expose the double-dealing, that has gone on in the last fifteen

years or so. Get a graduate student at a school of journalism

whose Reformed credentials are excellent. Let them do it as a

project for the salvation of our denomination. Let them bring the

truth to light so that what has gone on can be known.

 

8. Explore alternatives to Calvin College. Even better, let's clean

house there and at the seminary. Let me inform you, the Missouri

Synod Lutherans had trouble and exercised stringent discipline in

their main seminary, Concordia, in St. Louis. They dismissed

every unorthodox teacher and instructed all students who were

sympathetic to them to leave within one week. That was one of

the most dramatic, drastic, and successful examples of institutional

church discipline that this writer was aware of in the history of the

church. The theologically radical groups, students as well as

faculty, all left and started their own seminary, Seminex (Seminary

in Exile), in another part of the city. They actually marched out

under banners as if they were Moses and the children of Israel

leaving Egypt, and they gained great sympathy in the media.

Nevertheless, in twenty years, their school, having no solid

doctrinal position, finally collapsed. In the meantime, Concordia

Seminary, under the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church, quickly

regained its size. The rest of the evangelical world noted with

amazement how these Lutherans handled the New Evangelical

invasion of their main training center. Clean house. Let's get these

guys out, however we can do it. This is life and death we are

talking about.

 

9. Ordain qualified men from Westminster Seminary, Reformed

Seminary, and Mid-America Reformed Seminary without a fifth

year at Calvin. That requirement is unbiblical, and, therefore,

cannot be made a requirement for office. Ordain qualified, holy

men, even if we need to gather an ordination council from beyond

the boundaries of a single classis. Let's get people together while

we remain in the church and ordain men that are recognized as

preaching the Word of God. We ought not be dependent on

agencies that do not serve Christ.

 

10. Quota is acceptable only when there is heartfelt and justified

confidence in the integrity of an agency. It is foolish to pay for the

knife that would stab us. Forget about being good little quota

payers or forget the Christian Reformed Church. If we continue

to fund them, we could never defend the faith. It's defend and

defund. We don't realize that they are depending on us just to

continue to be good little boys and girls and to do what we're

told. If your consistory tries to whittle away around this by saying,

"You don't pay your quota, we're going to make it up with

somebody else," then don't give money to your church at all.

Send it to another Christian Reformed Church. You may not

subsidize wickedness and sin. God will hold you accountable for

that. We have a cloud of witnesses who are looking down to see

how we are doing in this struggle.

 

11. Repent, not of conservatism, but of an unwillingness to

examine yourselves and your practices in light of the Word alone.

Repent because there are valid points brought up, even by our

adversaries, concerning particular beliefs and practices that may

not stand the test of Scripture. We sin when we refuse to

recognize any of them, saying, "We don't want to go to the Word.

We just want to do what we've always done. But if you're going

to say, "Sola Scriptura," you had better practice it too. Repent

of the timidity and self-interest which permitted things to get this

bad, this gangrenous relativism which has spread so far. Repent

of a lack of zeal in sharing with others your confessional treasures

and thus giving opportunity to the enemy to get a foot in the door

and slander us with justification.

 

12. Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers

and requests. This is a battle but in I Chronicles 5:18-22 we read:

 

The Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half tribe of

Manasseh had forty-four thousand seven hundred

and sixty men ready for military service, able-bodied

men who could handle shield and sword, who could

use a bow and who were trained for battle. They

waged war and they were helped in fighting. God

handed over their enemies because they cried out to

Him during the battle. He answered their prayers

because they trusted in Him. They also took a

hundred thousand people captive and many others

fell slain because the battle was God's! They cried

out to God in the battle and He was with them.

 

We are in the arena. Many have gone before. The battle is tough,

and it will get tougher, but God is able. We are surrounded by a

great cloud of witnesses. Is the Spirit of Phineas among us today?

Has the zeal of the Levites been handed down to you as well as

the Word that they carried? Is Micaiah in the audience today?

Too many are telling us that the battle is over, but I want to call

two witnesses from the pages of Scripture: What say you, Joshua

and Caleb? Should we fight or should we run away? Hear their

testimony: The land we passed through and explored (even this

Christian Reformed Church), is exceedingly good. If the Lord is

pleased with us, He will lead us into that land, a land flowing with

the milk of the Word and the honey of the heritage of confessional

truth and many faithful sheep. Only do not rebel against the Lord.

Do not be afraid of the relativists because we will swallow them

up. Their protection is gone but the Lord is with us. Do not be

afraid of them. We should go and take possession, for we can

certainly do it. That is from the Word , which like our God,

changes not.

 

 

Steve Schlissel is pastor of Messiah's Christian Reformed

Church in Brooklyn, New York and co-contributor to the

recently released book Hal Lindsey and The Restoration of the

Jews (Still Waters Revival Books).

 

NOTES:

 

1. This is analogous to the decision of the CRC synod to

ordain women to the diaconate. While we were still reeling

from that, evolutionist professor, Howard Van Till,

introduced his new hermeneutic to be a norm for Calvin

College -- right in the face of the faithful of the

denomination. Those who have been entrusted with the

sacred charge of teaching covenant youth have spit in the

face of the Lord.

 

2. See Noel Weeks's excellent book, The Sufficiency of

Scripture, (Banner of Truth).

 

3. Subscriptions to Messiah's Mandate are available from

Messiah's Christian Reformed Church, 2662 East 24th St.,

Brooklyn, NY 11235-2610.

 

4. My father and I have since renewed communication.

Through Christ stands between us, our love for each other is

strong and expressed. You know my heart's desire and

prayer.

 

 

Copyright by Covenant Community Church of Orange

County 1991

(From Antithesis, Vol 2 No. 1): 1-17-96 tew