It is a profound privilege to be asked to speak today as this day we are one church.
It is a day of rejoicing. It must primarily be that. And yet it is also a sober day before the face of our dear Lorda sober day, for while this is now in one way an accomplished fact, in another way it is only a beginning. Like birth itselfbirth is something completedthe human being nine months old emerges into the external world. But then, though this is a completed thing, what then matters is what is done with life. There is a life to be lived.
For us, what matters now, with the rejoicing is the looking to our Lord for the common life which we now have together, to be lived and to be lived well in the light of the infinite-personal Gods existence, in the light of His revelation in the Scripture, in the light of the teaching and the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, and in the light of the coming complete restoration of all things.
We must realize that our being one will take looking to the
Lord for help. There will be problems of coordination which must
be worked out with patience, with being servants to each other.
This will not happen automatically. It will take conscious thought,
prayer, and a realistic love not to let our egotisms spoil that
which God has given us. I would just say to you there are going
to be months, there are going to be times, that you are consciously
going to have to realize that there are things that have be worked
We have much to help us: The Lord Himself, and our common heritage. There are differences in our heritage between the Northern and the Southern Presbyterian Churches. And there are divergencies in our histories since we have left those churches. But our common heritage is much greater than the differences.
Our common heritage is rooted in the eternal final objective
reality, the infinite-personal Creator, the triune God Himself.
Our common heritage is rooted in the unity of all those who have
believed God from the Fall onward. Our common heritage is rooted
in the New Testament Church from Pentecost onward. Our common heritage
is rooted in the Reformation when Gods people threw off the
encrustations of the medieval church and returned to authority resting
in Scripture only, and salvation resting only in Christs finished
Substitutionary work in history on the cross. All these things
are our common heritage which far outshadow the differences. But
more, our common heritage is rooted back to Geneva and to Scotland
We have no illusions that in this fallen world and with our own finiteness and our own individual sin that we will have a perfect church but we stepped out looking to our Lord to help us have a true church. It will not be perfect, but we believe indeed we have a call to a true churchwith a proper preaching of the Word, unmixed with liberalism; the proper sharing of the sacraments, being able to guard the table not having people sitting there who deny the great things of the living God, the Scriptures, and the living Christ; and also the proper administration to discipline in both doctrine and life.
Yes, we do have differences of background but the common heritage eminently overshadows the differences.
As we look ahead I would suggest certain things should be in our thoughts as individuals and as a particular church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Forgive me if I stress what I have stressed before in talks, articles and books. However, we will not know who we are or what lies ahead as a privilege and a duty unless we remember our Presbyterian recent past history. As we cannot understand our young people and the culture which surrounds us unless we understand the 60s, so we cannot understand the present religious climate in the United States unless we understand the 1930s. Prior to the 1930s the Bible believing Christians had stood together as liberalism came in to steal the churches. Then at different speeds the liberals achieved their theft of the various denominations with their power centers of the seminaries and their bureaucracies. At that point and onward the true Christians instead of standing together as had been the case previously divided into two groups: Those who held to a principle of the purity of the visible church; and those who accepted and acted upon the concept of a pluralistic church. Theres a line just like that. Its a line that began back there in the 30s, has continued and marks the religious life of the United States excruciatingly in our own daythose who hold to the principle of the purity of the visible church and those who accept the concept of the pluralistic church.
As you know, I have stressed over and over again the weakness
of what became known as the separated movement. It
is good to remind ourselves again what Gods calling to us
is once we have become Christians. Our calling once we have become
Christians is to exhibit the existence of God and to exhibit His
character, individually and collectively. God is holy and God is
love, and our calling is simultaneously to show forth holiness and
love in every aspect of lifeparent and child, husband and
wife, church, state, everything elsean exhibition of the character
of God showing forth his holiness and his love simultaneously.
In the flesh rather than the work of the Spirit, it is easy to say
we are showing holiness and it only be egotistic pride and hardness.
Equally in the flesh rather than the work of the Spirit it is easy
to say we are showing forth love and it only be egotistic compromise,
latitudinarianism and accommodation. Both are equally easy in the
flesh. Both are equally egotistic. To show forth both simultaneously,
in personal matters, church and public life can only be done in
any real degree by our consciously bowing, denying our egotistic
selves and letting Christ bring forth His fruit through usnot
merely as a religious statement, but
But equally, let us not allow any place for confusing Christian love with compromise, latitudinarianism and accommodation! The spirit of our age is syncretism in all the areas of life, in all the areas of thought. The spirit of our age is syncretism, and thus accommodation is the rule. The spirit of our age is the age of syncretism in contrast in truth versus error; and this being so, accommodation is the common mentality.
Those in the churches who said they were practicing love
but who confused this with compromise and accommodation have not
been static in their error. Compromise is never static. It always
progresses. Thus what began as ecclesiastical compromise has become
the acceptance of a series of tragedies, a series of things which
deny truth as truth. A series of tragedies which rest in the loss
of the realization that truth as truth demands differen-tiation.
Accomodation progresses and it is increasingly forgotten that truth,
if it is really truth and not just subjective truth inside of our
own head, demands confrontation, loving confrontation, but confrontation.
If I lose the concept of confrontation it must be asked, do I believe
that truth is truth. We must remind each other that all must be
with true love and that the exhibition of Gods holiness must
never be confused with hardness. Yet equally we must realize the
responsibility to show forth and practice holiness as we go on together
filling a great need in the church of Christ today not just in Presbyterian
circles but in the church as a whole, and then in our society and
in our culture. We have a great responsibility in our Pres-byterian
circles, but it doesnt stop there. It goes on, our responsibility,
Those who took the path of accommodation have not stopped on the level of one ecclesiastical unit but have had much to do in shaping that which is known as evangelicalism today.
At this point I would like to repeat a part of the talk I gave earlier this year at the Congress on the Bible in San Diego:
This ends the segment that I have taken from the San Diego talk, and now to pick up and go on: That which has come out of the concept of accomodation has indeed grrown and spread. First ecclesiastical accommodation. Then when the Scriptures were with the existential methodology in the evangelical ranks this mentality meant that leadership was not provided in saying that here was a watershed issue which required a line to be drawn between those who held the historic view of Scripture and the new and weaker view. Now this is not to say that htose who hold and held this view are not often brothers and sisters in Christ nor that we should not have warm loving personal relationships with them, but when one is considering the issue of Scripture at this point we should realize that the name evangelical really must be considered here, and the name evangelical was continued to be accepted and used about seminaries and other institutions as though their unscriptural view of Scripture made no real difference. This is real accommodation.
And when the human life issue came upon us, this same mentality of accommodation meant that no leadership was provided in meeting the issue any more than it had been in the scriptural issue. There was a great silence on this issue until some of Gods people stirred themselveslargely and in many places in spite of the leadership that had the sense of accommodation. They had forgotten that the unique value of human life is unbreakably linked with the fact of the existence of the infinite-personal God.
But I would say, the accommodation does not stop; the whole culture has been squandered and largely lost. Eighty years ago there was a Christian consensus in this country; all the most devastating things that have come have come in the last 40 years. Anybody who here is 55 years of age, all the most devastating things in every area of our culture, whether it be art or music, whether it be law or government, whether its the schools, permissiveness and all the rest, all these things have come climactically in our adult lifehood if youre 55 years of age. But, the mentality of accommodation did not raise the voice, it did not raise the battle, it did not call Gods people to realize that this is a part of the task to speak out into the culture and society against that which was being squandered and lost and largely thrown away. An accommodation mentality ecclesiastically in the earlier years led to a lack of confrontation in our culture, society and in the country. As the great loss occurred in sliding from a Christian consensus to a humanistic one from the 40s onward more and more things were lost, more and more things were allowed to be robbed, more and more things slid away.
And, let us say with tears, if one has the mentality of accommodation we must realize that it will still continue. A mentality of accommodation provides no basis for confrontation with tears concerning the oppression of Christians by those countries that hold the final reality to be merely material or energy shaped by pure chance. This mentality of accommodation provides no basis for a clear and public stand for our brothers and sisters in Christ who know oppression in such a situation. The mentality of accommodation provides no basis for a cry against tyranny as tyrannynot only tyranny against Christians but tyranny against Man, spelled with a capital M, who is made in the image of God. The mentality of accom-modation provides no basis for fighting tyranny such as our forefathers fought tyranny, as we know the great and flaming names of the Scottish background and the Reformation who really stood not just against tyranny against Christians but understood that a Christian is called upon to stand against all tyranny. The mentality of accommodation provides no basis against not only internal tyranny in such countries as Ive described but an expanding tyranny to new parts of Europe and the globe. A mentality of accommodation provides no basis for a strong stand in this situation.
This is not our common heritage. As Presbyterians our heritage is with a Calvin who dared to stand against the Dukes of Savoy regardless of what it cost. Our heritage is with a John Knox who taught us, as Ive stressed in A Christian Manifesto, a great theology of standing against tyranny. Our heritage is with a Samuel Rutherford who wrote those flaming words, Lex Rexonly the law is king and king under any name must never be allowed to arbitrary law. Are you Presbyterians? Have we a Presbyterian body? These men are the men who give us our heritageCalvin and his position, John Knox and his, Samuel Rutherford his, and no less than these in our own country, a John Witherspoon who understood that tyranny must be met and must be met squarely because tyranny is wrong. These who understood that true love in this fallen world often meant the acceptance of the tears which go with confrontation. None of us like confrontation, or I hope none of us do. But in a fallen world there is confrontation, there is confron tation concerning truth, there must be confrontation against evil and that which is wrong. The love must be there but so must the hard thing of acting upon differentiation, the differentiation God gives between truth and falsehood, between what is just, based on Gods existence and His justice, and injustice.
We are Presbyterian; we
are Reformed. But our being together and our responsibility and
opportunity does not stop merely with being Presbyterian and Reformed.
As one as we now are, we can in some measure speak with the balance
of love and holiness to help to provide help for the poor church
of the Lord Jesus Christ as a whole in this country; and then beyond
into the world to provide help for the church of the Lord Jesus
Christ in helping stop this awful slide. This slide in regard to
the church, this slide in regard to Scripture, this slide in regard
to human life, this slide regarding the oppression of our brothers
and sisters in Christ, this slide in regard to tyranny toward others
in the world. It is forgotten that a part of the Good News is to
take a stand; that is a part of the Good News in a broken, as well
as lost, world. The very preaching of the Good News is taking a
stand, but its forgotten that just as we heard from the former
We are to be Presbyterian and Reformed, but that is not the limiting circle of our responsibility. I would say to you, I plead with you concerning this, we are to be Reformed and Presbyterian but that is not the limiting circle of our responsibility. Our distinctives are not to be the chasm. We hold our distinctives because we are convinced that they are biblical. But Gods call is to love and be one with all those who are in Christ Jesus and then to let Gods truth speak into the whole spectrum of life and the whole specrum of society. That is our calling. The limiting circle is not to be just that we are Presbyterian and Reformed. We hold these things because we believe indeed they are that which is taught in Scripture. But out beyond that there is the responsibility, there is the call, to be something to the whole church of the Lord Jesus Christ, and out beyond the church of the Lord Jesus Christ to the whole society and to the whole culture. If we dont understand this we dont understand either how rich Christianity is and Gods truth is, nor do we understand how wide is the call placed upon the Christian into the totality of life. Jesus could not be said to be Savior unless we also say He is Lord. And we cannot honestly and rightly say He is our Lord if He is only a Lord of part of the life and not of the totality of life including all the social and political and the cultural life.
Our limitation of responsibility is not to be merely, as we being together, within the circle of Presbyterian and Reformed though it is to be this
We begin together. May we ask Gods grace that we may do well in the whole extent of the possibility of our calling. I want to tell you I doubt if many of you realize how great the possibility of your calling is as you sit here today. It is tremendous. There is a tremendous need in our day. We have largely lost our culture. The poor church has not been give a clear direction. You have tremendous opportunity; you have a calling this day; I have a calling this day; we have a calling this day by Gods grace that we may do well in the whole extent of the possibility of our calling.
It is intriguing to me that in the last six months that some important voices in the media and some of those who are pushing for a pluralistic church have been using the designations: separatist and ecumenical, Im intrigued because I havent heard these terms used like this for a number of years. We do not wish to be separatist in any poor sense and we do not wish to be ecumenical in the bad sense. But whatever terms distinguish the difference, as we begin together because truth is truth, we must be willing ecclesiastically, concerning the Scripture, concerning human life, concerning oppression of our brothers and sisters in Christ, and concerning the spread of tyranny, we must be willing when it is necessary to accept the privilege and the duty of confrontation rather than accommodation. This is the command of Scripture, and it is the example of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let us be committed to each other, to the commands of the Scripture and to the example of the Lord Jesus Christ of understanding that truth is truth. We are not opposing these things for abstract doctrinal concepts, but what we are talking about is truth. We are talking about truth, and truth is not abstract. Truth is rooted in nothing less than the truth that God exists. This is the truth and that He has revealed Himself in the Scripture and He has sent His son to die for sinners like ourselves. If these things are really truth then it is not a place for synthesis, it is a place for antithesis. With love it is a place for confrontation and not just a mistaken accommodation which lacks a proper exhibition of Gods holiness.
Dr. Schaeffer's message was later reprinted in the first issue of Equip magazine, a publication of the Christian Education & Publications Committee of the PCA. The message was reproduced on pages 7 - 9 of the April 1995 issue (Vol. 1, No. 1). Reflecting on the article, the editor asked these questions in a sidebar:
1. What do we mean when we speak of our common heritage and why is it important?
2. What is the difference between uniformity and unity?
3. Schaeffer refers to Christian compromise demonstrated by accomodation and latitudinarianism. Give some examples.
4. What is a Christian consensus and has that ever prevailed in America?
5. Is our role more limited or more enhanced because of our common Reformed and Presbyterian heritage? In the church? In the world?
6. Schaeffer talks about our calling. What is our calling as individuals? As a denomination? As members of the universal church?
7. Discuss some specfic ways in which we can actually do "loving confrontation."