Chapter seven, “The Tie That Divides,” was informative and quite good. In it Darryl traces the rise of the Protestant ecumenical movement in the mainline denominations, along with the evangelical attempts to counter it, whether by competition or by withdrawal. There is not very much to differ with here, so I won’t try to gin something up. Just a couple observations about how this chapter fits into the framework of Darryl’s larger assumptions.
The first is that if Machen was right in his landmark book Christianity and Liberalism, and liberalism represents an alien faith, and not a denominational variation of the Christian faith, then this means that what the liberal mainline denominations did in order to relate Christ and culture was nothing more than a charade. And as a charade, it does nothing to help us — we who believe in the Deity of Christ and His death and resurrection — to understand the relationship of Christ and culture. In other words, a large part of the history of the ecumenical movement represented by the National Council of Churches simply records the capitulation of professing Christians to the demands of liberal secularism. Having lost Christ, they turned to Caesar — although some people were confused by their continued use of the Christ-words. The question before the house is what is the relationship of the Christian church to the civil order, with Christian church being defined as those who believe every word of the Apostles Creed. Liberals are just a distraction.
The second issue was not addressed directly in this chapter, but the chapter did make it obvious. Darryl points out clearly that in order to band together to function in the civil order, Christians had to compromise or put in the background their denominational or confessional distinctives. This means that they either had to stay out of the process, or adopt a lowest common denominator approach. As far as Darryl is concerned, this means that confessional integrity requires rejection of the lowest common denominator approach, and this therefore necessitates the “stay out” option. And, given these two choices, I agree with him. But there is a hidden amillennial premise here. Darryl also holds that this is the way things will always be.
But put postmillennial assumptions in there instead. What if there is continued reformation and revival? What if our churches are restored in the authority of Christ, and begin worshipping the way they ought to? Suppose there is a great turning back to the Lord, and the Word of God is again taught in its purity, and the Christian churches actually grow in confessional like-mindedness? Suppose further that the nation is largely evangelized, and there is a robust faith seen in every direction, and every third building is a faithful Christian church? Now what do we say to Caesar?
In short, if Darryl and I were to visit about what the faithful Christian churches of our nation today were supposed to do in the public sphere over the course of the next two weeks, I suspect we would have very little disagreement. We are in no shape to take the show on the road. But I believe that we should therefore pray, labor, preach, counsel, minister, publish, and teach, all with the eye of faith, knowing that someday as the result of our labors, our grandchildren will have something important to say to the magistrates. And that something will be gospel wisdom that will call them to serve Christ in their office. Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings.