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
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
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.  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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
The sufficiency of Scripture is challenged on several fronts. 
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,  called me up and
"I never gave a sermon entitled, `God our Mother.'"
I said, "OK, I'll print a retraction. Do you believe `God our
He said, "Oh, yes."
"Do you have any theological problem praying to Our Mother,
who art in heaven?"
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
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 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
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
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
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
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.  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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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).
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
Copyright © by Covenant Community Church of Orange
(From Antithesis, Vol 2 No. 1): 1-17-96 tew