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Evangelism and the Church

Charles G. Dennison

In 1979-1980, the Presbytery of Ohio of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church discussed the issue of evangelism. The Rev. Charles G. Dennison (1945-1999), who was pastoring Grace OPC in Sewickley, Pennsylvania at the time, was a formative participant in the discussion. At this time, questions about evangelism revolved around the method and substance of the popular volume entitled Evangelism Explosion by D. James Kennedy.[1] Many Orthodox Presbyterians had found the prescription for evangelism in that work attractive. Mr. Dennison did not and, thus, he decided to present his concerns before his fellow presbyters. The issue became so serious that some of the presbyters were of the mindset that Mr. Dennison's position may need to be subject to ecclesiastical discipline. In order to counter that attitude the following paper was a further expansion of his presentation before the Presbytery of Ohio.

Mr. Dennison's paper appears in the Ordained Servant by permission of Mrs. Virginia Graham Dennison and the Rev. Dr. William D. Dennison. Two points should be kept in mind. First, Mr. Dennison was meticulous about editing material that went into print from his pen. Of course, his final editing was not possible for this printing; hence, we have decided to preserve the paper in its final form with minor editorial work. Second, it is imperative to read and analyze the paper fairly. Although Rev. Dennison was emphatic that he did not oppose evangelism, his critics accused him of such opposition for years after his paper was presented. Since, evangelism has had a distinct understanding in the Reformed tradition, it is hopeful that Rev. Dennison's paper will provide assistance to the present generation in the OPC about the biblical and Confessional truths of that tradition.

—The Rev. Dr. William D. Dennison

The substance of this study was presented to the Presbytery of Ohio of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in May of 1980. The present expanded form of this study includes a discussion of the Westminster Standards and evangelism, a revision of the section on Calvin and evangelism, and an extensively revised introduction and conclusion.

Introduction

Without a doubt, great differences exist within the church concerning evangelism. I have endeavored to approach the subject with reverence knowing that many recent voices of the Reformed tradition disagree with me. Therefore, my desire is to treat this subject with charity.

Important, at the outset, is an affirmation of my commitment to the evangelistic ministry of the church. On two occasions I have presented my position (once in Sewickley and once in Pittsburgh); each time people have left to bear tales about what they thought I said. To their way of thinking, I oppose evangelism. This is untrue. The question is not whether evangelism should be done, but how and by whom. Invariably, many who disagree with me conclude I do not believe in evangelism simply because I do not accept their personal view of it.

In order to focus the discussion, let me enumerate my chief concerns. First is that of the church (people of God) and the Word. The people of God have been made to suffer guilt and frustration because they have been placed beneath a burden the Word never intended them to bear. Evangelicals of our day have been convinced that the individual members have an obligatory and definite evangelistic calling which involves them directly in presenting the gospel to the unregenerate. I believe this position to be unscriptural and that it has not only injured the evangelistic ministry of the church but confused the body of Christ with regard to its proper obligations.

The second chief concern is that of church and office. Major tragedies have been created for the church because of a blurring of biblical office. In jeopardy is the biblical position on calling. The Reformation tenet, "the priesthood of all believers," has been mishandled so as to teach that the laity is welcomed to all the responsibilities of the ordained. Such a position results in disintegration not because of a simple violation of order but because of disobedience.

Before I conclude this introduction, a word must be addressed to the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Some Orthodox Presbyterian pastors, although quite uneasy with and even hostile to my position, have operated in a practical fashion according to it. It may be that they even chide church members for lack of evangelistic zeal and enterprise, but all in all, the evangelistic ministry in their churches is carried on by them alone. These men, in all fairness, should not judge me. Others have accepted the every-member mobilization model, yet feel an uneasiness about it. Convinced that their uneasiness is due to personal sloth or disobedience, they have forced themselves to continue with their program unaware that there may be adequate reasons for their qualms rooted in their confessional heritage. Finally, many pursue the modern evangelistic model from conviction only to discover the fruits of such an approach are meager to non-existent within the OPC. As one minister told me, "We've seen no one come to Christ, but the good it has done our people is immeasurable." Admittedly, good to the converted was not the objective of the program. Too often, the frustration which develops is handled by laying still another reason for self-immolation upon Orthodox Presbyterians. There are reasons, very complex reasons, why programs which flourish elsewhere do not succeed when dressed up in OP attire. Possibly, a better use of one's time would be to understand these dynamics rather than perpetuate the multiplication of futility and flaying.

My Position

At this point, it would be well for me to state briefly my position. I believe evangelism to be the official proclamation of the eschatological Kingdom of God in Jesus Christ; this task is committed to the visible church (WCF 25.3) by the crucified and risen Lord and, until the end of the world, is to be carried out by those whom the church, in harmony with the dispensation of the Holy Spirit, has recognized within it to fulfill that ministry.

The Problem

Currently, we are far from such an understanding of evangelism in the Christian community. For various reasons, the role of the visible church has become an afterthought at best and an irrelevancy at worst. Also, the nature of biblical office and the distinctiveness of New Testament vocabulary have been eclipsed in the contemporary milieu.

How We Arrived Here

In my mind, there are presently few issues as important as that of the church. The question concerning evangelism is tied inseparably to it. For Calvin, the doctrine of the church was of greatest importance. In fact, Calvin studies, over the last 50 years, have recognized its centrality.[2] The Institutes, it has been observed, tend toward the final book on the church; this was Calvin's goal. Late in life, Calvin said his only prayer was that his work bear richer fruit for the church of God.[3] He also stated, "Since I undertook the office of teacher in the church, I have no other purpose than to benefit the church."[4] I might add that he had no other church in mind than the visible.[5]

At least Catholicism realized the significance of Calvin in terms of his position on the church. When compared to Luther, Calvin was considered the greater threat by a wide margin; it was he [Calvin] who signaled the radical shift in European religious culture. Says Catholic historian Hilaire Belloc:

[The] change was ... caused by the great effect of Calvin, who set out with great lucidity and unparalleled energy to form a counter-church for the destruction of the old church. He it was who really made the new religion wholly hostile to the old one.[6]

Commitment to the church has eroded since the days of Calvin. Of course, there are the effects of the splintering of Protestantism and the rise of denominationalism; there is as well the fruit of the secularization of our western civilization. Let me point out, however, two additional ways in which the demise of the church is evident.

First, there is the development of evangelicalism. It is not difficult collecting a bibliography debating the definition and value of modern evangelicalism.[7] Before this rising flood, commitment to covenant consciousness, confessional community, the corporate character of the people of God, and the visibility of the body of Christ has been engulfed. Modern usage of the word "evangelical" would be unintelligible to Calvin. For him, it had meaning within an ecclesiastical frame. To be evangelical was tantamount to belonging to the visible evangelical church. The word properly modified the position of the church. Individuals were welcomed to that description only as they took their place within the church of evangelical conviction.[8]

Present day evangelicals, citing the meaninglessness of the notion of the "unified, visible church," have redefined the word evangelical. It speaks about personal commitment and an individualism which, to my mind, has now overrun both doctrine and life. More than anything else, it reflects individual preferences; i.e., tastes in faith and life-style. Beneath the fundamental doctrinal commitments is an even more basic devotion to the autonomy of the individual conscience and to volunteerism. When this devotion is acted out, the visible church is obliged to take a back seat to organizations which best reflect the evangelical spirit. The visible church is even redefined in terms of the evangelical organizations; e.g., it sits at the level of other voluntary agencies. No longer an obligation, the church is forced to compete; it acts more or less like a corporation. The rules are established according to the evangelical spirit as the church steps into the market of attracting "consumers." Sadly, shopping for a church seems no different than shopping for cornflakes or a new car. In this context, evangelism too often is simply offering a sleeker and more dazzling model. The scenario is completed when seminaries slip into the role of employment agencies with various voluntary organizations (including the churches) vying for the "top prospects."

All of this was evident at the 1979 Inter-Varsity Conference at Urbana.[9] There, the visible church was clearly subordinate to the agency which best embodies the spirit of evangelicalism. More than on the level of the church, this agency supplanted it. In fact, it lays claim to the authority and ministry which are properly those of the visible church by enlisting and sending "missionaries" (i.e., doing evangelism) and serving the sacraments. Unfortunately, the visible church acquiesces by setting up booths as if it were at a trade fair seeking to lure prospective customers. Such a scene makes one wonder who the "arm of the church" truly is and who suckles whom at whose breast. Is it too far fetched to imagine our Lord visiting such a conference and spending an afternoon overturning tables loaded with brochures?

(I might say that the trivializing of the church is not corrected by promoting that Reformed heresy which reduces the church to the level of the family, school, and state.)

Against this background, meaningful use of biblical terminology has been largely short-circuited. We are being inundated with jargon-pious sounding "buzz words"; e.g., words like witness, testimony, ministry, fellowship, growth, discipling, sharing, as well as evangelizing. All of these words have been turned into "trigger words" which subtly mark the boundaries of a new orthodoxy. If someone questions the accepted usage, he is immediately suspect.

Second, the erosion of the church is evident in regard to the offices within it. For the Reformers, the distinction between clergy and laity was of greatest importance. This fact never led them, however, to minimize the laity's importance. Calvin, especially, did much for the laity due to his positive view of creation and his understanding of vocation. Each person's task is important before God; the Christian has responsibility to cultivate contentment and to pursue his calling honestly.[10] The true task of the saint is to pursue each particular task as part of the fabric of the whole Christian life. Witness is not isolated from life; nor is one's true calling "witnessing," while his occupation is made an avocation to afford him more opportunities to that end.

It is true that Calvin spoke often of what we might call "lay witnessing." Although there is no such notion in the Institutes, many references are found throughout his sermons and commentaries.[11] But to be fair to Calvin, his position, while including the act of speaking up for Christ, was the witness of the total life of the believer rather than that of a specialized program or isolated segment of one's schedule.

Proof that Calvin's emphasis is out of step with the contemporary evangelical understanding of evangelism is the general lack of patience among evangelicals for Calvin at this point. Evangelicals may find an occasional encouragement in Calvin's work but, admittedly, the emphasis lies elsewhere. As the Reformed position developed, the laity were seen under obligation to work hard, do good, attend the means of grace, give cheerfully, and pray incessantly. Such "reverent behavior," not excluding the good word for Jesus, would hopefully have effect upon one's neighbor (Heidelberg Catechism, Question 86); but the focus was upon righteous living, not aggressive evangelism. In this way, the people of God are salt, light, and a city set on a hill (Matt. 5:13-16). And what about evangelism and preaching of the gospel? In the mind of the Reformed church, that task belonged to the ordained (The Second Helvetic Confession, 18).

The Westminster Standards are consistent with this tradition. For the majority of the Westminster divines, evangelism was preaching, and preaching was done by the church through the ordained ministry. To the point is Question 158 of the Westminster Larger Catechism:

Q. By whom is the Word of God to be preached?
A. The Word of God is to be preached only by such as are sufficiently gifted, and also duly approved and called to that office.

It might be added that, due to historical circumstances, evangelism was done chiefly within the church. This was the case because, in the thinking of the Assembly, nothing less than a national church was in view; i.e., one to which all citizens of the realm belonged. Still, as Samuel Rutherford had said of Scotland, not one in forty was a true Christian. Therefore, the major evangelistic ministry was carried out within the walls of the church through the preaching of the Word.

But what was the laity's obligation to the unconverted? The exposition of the law of God and the Lord's Prayer in the catechisms provide the Assembly's answer. While dealing with the law of God, the Standards point out the believer's duty irrespective of the spiritual condition of those to whom the duty is due. Regarding prayer, note particularly the Westminster Larger Catechism, Question 191, and the Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 102. Christians are "to pray ... that ... the gospel [be] propagated throughout the world" and that "ourselves and others [be] brought into [the kingdom of grace]."

The Assembly had within it those who advocated a modern view of evangelism and it rejected their position.[12] It faced the question of the laity's relationship to the unconverted; its answer was to do good, live circumspectly, and offer prayer. To the ordained ministry belonged the preaching of the Word for the gathering of the saints. Admittedly, there have been great cultural and ecclesiastical changes since the 1640s. The transformation of culture, however, does not demand that the laity assume the role of the ordained. Instead, the ordained are compelled to take the gospel beyond the walls of the church building in the ministry of evangelism; i.e., church planting and strengthening missions to the ends of the earth. In recognizing the necessity of the extension of the church through the ministry of the Word and the prayers of the people (cf. WCF 25.3; WLC 191), the Standards present a positive position of evangelism. But it seems to me that modern programs which lay a direct responsibility on the laity to evangelize or create an every-member-mobilization-for-evangelism mentality cannot be defended out of the Standards.

Some have charged that stress upon the laity as salt and light through vocation, good works and words, loving support of the ministry of the Word, and tireless prayer overturns the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. Those who suggest this do not understand the teaching of the Reformation. The Reformers never supported the notion that the universal priesthood of believers meant erasing the gap between minister and laity; rather, it meant the abolition of the special office of the priest. Each Christian could approach God through Christ in order to offer up spiritual sacrifices to God through the Savior (The Second Helvetic Confession, 18). The laity, therefore, were never invited to assume the duties of the ministry; i.e., preaching the gospel and administering the sacraments (The Second Helvetic Confession, "The Duties of Ministers").

Actually, the Anabaptists pushed the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers to the point of minimizing the difference between clergy and laity. They insisted that the special devotion of the medieval clergy and particularly the monks was expected of all. Vows of poverty and sexual abstinence became common in these groups. Furthermore, they saw every Christian as an official missionary, teacher, and preacher. The Great Commission, for example, was read as universally and individually applicable to all Christians, men and women alike. In time, individuals were differentiated more in terms of their charisma than their office. Everyone, it seems, had the office, few the electricity.

The spirit of Anabaptism underlies present-day evangelical thinking or evangelism. To be sure, it has been domesticated and refined with age. Nevertheless, what was once considered the lunatic fringe by the Reformers or found on the frontier in our own nation has become the position of the conservative establishment. The Anabaptist spirit, in matters of evangelism and increasingly in matters of office, has triumphed. My contention is that the Reformed church is capitulating. I am unaware of any Reformed seminary where the Anabaptist position is not the majority position of the Practical Theology Department. Some Reformed authors have continued to maintain that evangelism is the work of the visible church (John Murray, R. B. Kuiper); but none, to my knowledge, have rejected decidedly the emerging consensus that evangelism is a requirement for the laity. On the contrary, this consensus is promoted (e.g., R. B. Kuiper, J. I. Packer, Morton Smith, and D. James Kennedy).

What Do the Scriptures Say?

1) The General Scope

There was no missionary mandate laid upon Israel. To be sure, the Jews were the recipients of a promise that they would be a blessing to the nations. There are many pictures in the Old Testament of that coming great day; but still we are dealing with promise and even a foreshadowing but not a command. The Psalms and Prophets are full of the expectation of a new epoch when the nations will be drawn to, and flow up into, Zion. The coming age of universal blessing is prefigured as Israel, under judgment, takes the worship of the true God beyond the borders of Palestine and into the world. Here is a picture of the coming missionary epoch but absent is the evangelistic command.

Objections to this conclusion have been many. Some say the missionary mandate has been located in the command to treat the stranger well. But emphasis is upon kindness, not conversion. The law has been seen by some as the content of Israel's evangel. The Old Testament does not substantiate, however, the notion that Israel was under the command of the Lord to carry the law to the ends of the earth. That was part of the expectation of the prophets (cf. Isa. 42:4). Others suggest Israel's wisdom as the content of the evangel. Again we are faced with the absence of a command to carry it to the ends of the earth. The book of Jonah has been interpreted as God's case against Israel for its lack of missionary vision. Such an interpretation, in my estimation, is mistaken. In Jonah, God chides Israel for its anemic view of the Kingdom and its ultimate destiny. Condemned is Israel's self-righteousness and proclaimed is the character of God who shall bring about his purposes to the nations.

The public ministry of Jesus is wholly consistent with the Old Testament stance. It is directed to the house of Israel much in keeping with the ministry of the prophets. Jesus carries no mission to the Gentiles and strongly condemns the work of Jewish missions (Matt. 23:15). However, his ministry is ripe with premonitions of the coming missionary age. He evangelizes a Samaritan woman, addresses himself to the faith of a Syro-phoenician woman, heals a Gentile's servant, and speaks of judgment upon the initial servants in the vineyard while the vineyard is given to others.

With the crucifixion and resurrection, the missionary age dawns. Indeed as Jesus said, "If I be lifted up, I will draw all men to myself" (John 12:32). In this new day, the gospel of full salvation goes forth to the ends of the earth. The task of missions and evangelism is laid upon the church by the church's Lord until the close of the age.

The Acts of the Apostles charts the progress of the gospel from Jerusalem to Rome, from Jewish church to Gentile congregations, and from the Jewish capitol to the believing community of all the elect as the sacred center of God's great work. The gospel progresses by way of official witness and authoritative proclamation while believers in general are nowhere placed under direct command to evangelize.

The Apostle Paul writes to the various congregations strung out through the Gentile world. He speaks to them as one commissioned by the risen Christ to spread the word. He calls his readers to imitation of Christ and himself but never does that imitation include assuming the functions of his office. He neither commends the churches to which he writes for their active evangelistic enterprise nor chastises them for failure to implement an evangelistic program. However, he repeatedly reminds them of his own calling and ministry, prods them to prayer and doing good; he asks for money and hospitality. He reminds others of their particular and special ministry (e.g., Timothy, 2 Tim. 4:5); but nowhere does he place upon the general membership of the church the obligation to evangelize. His interest was an integrated Christian life which he referred to as the Christian's "walk." One searches in vain the passages in which Paul deals with the Christian's "walk" for mention of, let alone endorsement of, the modern notion of aggressive lay evangelists.

2) Specific Passages

Matthew 28:16-20. This passage has been a hotbed of controversy. The medieval church saw in it a justification for "papal missions," i.e., evangelization by force. The Anabaptists read it as individually binding on each Christian. Against both interpretations the Reformers reacted. While Calvin was committed to the spread of the gospel throughout the world,[13] he did not use the Great Commission as the rally text for an evangelistic program.[14]

The Reformers may have over-reacted to Roman Catholic abuse of this passage but they certainly were on target as far as the Anabaptists were concerned. It is impossible, exegetically, to apply the Commission individually to each Christian since it explains discipling the nations in terms of baptizing and teaching. Both of these activities were the official duty of the ordained and could not be passed on to the Christian individual.

We cannot defend every-member-mobilization-for-evangelism from the Great Commission. Such exegesis, to be perfectly blunt, is preposterous.

Acts 8:4 (cf. 11:19, 20; 13:1). This passage has become the calling card of the lay evangelist position. James Kennedy of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church has suspended his method on this text.[15] He contends that "every Christian [is] a witness"[16] and that everyone is to evangelize.[17] Acts 1:8 is used to defend his conviction that every Christian is a witness. However, the Word "witness" in Acts is a technical term and is never used of anyone but an eyewitness of the risen Christ. Acts 8:4 presents its own difficulty. It seems that the word "evangelize" is applied to the church generally as it is driven from Jerusalem following the death of Stephen. Kennedy notes that the apostles stay behind.[18] Does this passage, however, support the practice of lay evangelism as the norm for the church? The following matters need consideration. First, we should compare this passage with Acts 11:19-20 and 13:1 which pick up on the theme of persecution following Stephen's martyrdom. These passages make clear that, while there may have been a general diaspora, many official church leaders were involved; e.g., prophets and teachers, even those ordained in Acts 6. In fact, Acts 11:19-20 progresses in such a way so as to emphasize the ministry of the men who took the gospel to the Gentiles in Antioch. This exact pattern is followed in Acts 8. The text focuses upon the official ministry of Philip to the Samaritans. Luke does not intend to underscore lay evangelism, if indeed that was even involved, but to call attention to the official ministry of those in the church as the gospel progressed. Second, we should be aware that the circumstance was anything but normal. The church was undergoing extreme persecution. Is it hermeneutically responsible to take this abnormal situation as the criterion for the norm of the church? I greatly doubt if lay evangelism is in view at all; rather the church is dispersed and from that church went the proclamation of the gospel as the road was cleared for the eyewitnesses of the risen Christ to touch the ends of the earth. The church, as it was dispersed, representatively preached the gospel. Third, even granting that lay evangelism is practiced in Acts 8:4, absent is any direct command. Fourth, there are certain complexities in Luke's accounts which need study in relation to this text. One complexity is his doubling of people and leader under a common description. A second complexity is his concern not only to chronicle the transition into the apostolic era but also out of it.

1 Thessalonians 1:8. This passage is even more difficult than Acts 8:4. Its difficulty is due to Paul's very complex manner of dealing with interpersonal relationships. He sees them against the paradigm of the action of God in Christ. The principle point is imitation. In a description reminiscent of the incarnation, Paul explains his own "coming" to the Thessalonians (1:5). He reminds them what kind of man he became among them for their sake. As the coming of Christ had the result of imitating Christ, so the coming of Paul has the result of imitating Paul (v. 6). As Paul had done himself, the Thessalonians have accepted the Word in much tribulation but with joy (v. 6). As the coming of Christ produced a word that goes forth to have its effect in the Thessalonians from Paul, so the coming of Paul produces a word which goes forth into all the church in Macedonia and Achaia from the Thessalonians concerning the reception Paul had among them. This word functions like the Word of God which "sounds forth" without Paul as much as opening his mouth (vs. 8; cf. Ps. 19:4). It concerns the quality of the Thessalonians' faith, love, and hope (v. 3), their example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia who now are called to imitate them. This word is directed to the church for edification and suggests nothing regarding an aggressive ministry of evangelism. While Paul is taken up in the parallel between Christ's coming to the world of sinful men and his own coming to the Thessalonians, he is also mindful of the difference between his word and that of the Thessalonians. Paul's word called these people to initial faith; their word was of the quality of faith and called other Christians to endure in keeping with their example (v. 10).

1 Peter 3:15. The circumstance, similar to that in Acts 8:4, is persecution. Peter's word is a call to readiness; i.e., to be prepared to respond to those who question the saints about their hope. He says nothing about Christians asking questions concerning an unbeliever's lack of hope. The call to readiness is indeed an imperative to understand the faith, but it is not a call to aggressive lay evangelism. The context demonstrates that Peter has in mind the peaceful, devout life which Christians are to live before the world. The aggressive parties in this passage are the non-Christians; they are the ones who are creating the situation and precipitating the conversation. The saints respond to the interrogations of those who oppress them or marvel at them.

Conclusion

I have not dealt with every passage which defenders of every-member-for-evangelism use. Nor have I presented a comprehensive analysis of the passages dealing with a believer's scriptural duty. These tasks are continuous and will occupy my time for years to come. Suffice it to say, I am convinced that the modern position on evangelism did not underlie the Reformed confession and that there is no compelling scriptural evidence which demands that we jettison our heritage. Many may disagree with me, but let them also agree that there is no ground upon which to censure me according to our standards.

While I am critical of the modern Reformed church at this point, I am also aware of the many pressures which have produced the present situation. During this century, a great deal of time has been spent by the Reformed church proving its evangelistic zeal. We have had to convince many that we were a mission-minded church, that we upheld the "free offer" of the gospel, and that our commitment to election was not antithetical to active pursuit of the lost. Reformed churches have also endured a century of containment, division, and decline. It has been thought that the answer to our confusion, immobility, ineffectiveness, and smallness is found in the berating of self, the resorting to technique and goal-setting, managerial efficiency and program-monitoring and fine-tuning; the answer has also been sought in activism both social and evangelistic.[19] Emphasis is upon attractiveness, relevance, survival, and success.

Pressured by such an agenda, the Reformed church has failed to account for the absence of a direct command in Scripture or its confessions, prescribing laity evangelism. Without warrant, it has proceeded to issue the order where our creeds were silent. Such silence, however, is due neither to error nor ignorance. It was because our fathers felt bound to say no more than Scripture, to place the people under no greater obligation than did the Scriptures. Following their wisdom and pursuing our obvious duties, we may again marvel at the tokens of God's delight in us. In any event, we will learn to cultivate the quiet, peace-filled spirit of humble and loving faithfulness.

Endnotes

[1] Thanks to Rev. Danny E. Olinger for providing this point about the occasion of Rev. Dennison's paper.

[2] Cf. the bibliography in John T. McNeill, ed., Ford Lewis Battles, transl. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960), 1011-1012.

[3] Ibid., 4.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Calvin saw the visible church as indispensable to any true understanding or experience of salvation and perseverance. Simply note the heading of Book IV of the Institutes ["The External Means or Aids by Which God Invites Us into the Society of Christ and Holds Us Therein"]. In the second section of that book's first chapter he declares himself unequivocally: "... no hope of future inheritance remains to us unless we have been united with all other members under Christ, our Head" (p. 1014). Later, he says those who neglect the spiritual food offered through the church "deserve to perish in famine and hunger" (p. 1017). He also said that "separation from the church is the denial of God and Christ" (p. 1024), those who desert the church are "without excuse" (p. 1033), and that forgiveness of sins cannot be enjoyed apart from "communion in the church" (p. 1036). The Westminster Confession of Faith is of the same spirit when it says, "... out of [the visible church] there is no ordinary possibility of salvation" (25.2).

[6] Hilaire Belloc, Characters of the Reformation, (London: Sheed and Ward, 1905), 9; emphasis added.

[7] Here is a list of pertinent studies: William E. Ashbrook, Evangelicalism: The New Neutralism (Columbus, OH: Calvary Bible Church, 1966); James Barr, Fundamentalism (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1978); Donald W. Dayton, Discovering an Evangelical Heritage (New York: Harper and Row, 1976); Carl F. H. Henry, The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1947); idem. Evangelicals in Search of Identity (Waco, TX: Word, 1976); Robert K. Johnston, Evangelicals at an Impasse: Biblical Authority in Practice (Atlanta: John Knox, 1979); Richard F. Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life: An Evangelical Theology of Renewal (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1979); Cornelius Van Til, The New Evangelicalism (syllabus, n.d.); The Evangelicals, eds. David F. Wells and John D. Woodbridge (Nashville: Abingdon, rev. edition, 1977). Two important historical studies: John T. McNeill, Modern Christian Movements (New York: Harper, 1968); George M. Marsden, The Evangelical Mind and the New School Presbyterian Experience (New Haven: Yale, 1970).

[8] Note the comments in Calvin's letter to Francis I in 1536 in John T. McNeill, ed., Ford Lewis Battles, transl. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960), 11-14. Calvin's concern is the true church.

[9] New Horizons, 1:3 (March 1980), 3-4.

[10] cf. Institutes III.10.6.

[11] cf. Ronald S. Wallace, Calvin's Doctrine of the Christian Life (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959), 39, 237-243.

[12] This is evidenced by the debate over Acts 8:4; see John Lightfoot, The Whole Work of the Rev. John Lightfoot, D.D., John Rodgers Pitman, ed., vol. 13 (London: J. F. Dove, 1824).

[13] R. Pierce Beaver, "The Genevan Mission to Brazil," and Philip E. Hughes, "John Calvin, Director of Missions," in The Heritage of John Calvin: Heritage Hall lectures, 1960-70, ed. John H. Bratt (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1973), 40-73; cp. R. B. Kuiper, God-Centered Evangelism (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1961), 152-153.

[14] Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of the Expansion of Christianity, vol. III (New York: Harper, 1939), 25-28; William Richey Hogg, "The Rise of Protestant Missionary Concern, 1517-1914," The Theology of the Christian Mission, Gerald H. Anderson, ed. (New York: McGraw Hill, 1961), 99-100.

[15] D. James Kennedy, Evangelism Explosion (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1970), 2ff.

[16] Ibid., 2.

[17] Ibid., 4.

[18] Ibid.

[19] The question "Why doesn't the Orthodox Presbyterian Church grow (faster)?" is very important to the historical development of our church and supremely important in evaluating the present mood in leadership and people. Ordinarily, the answer to that question generates guilt and frustration since the OPC, we are told, is guilty of particular disobedience. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to find leaders of our church using this guilt and frustration to awaken the people to greater zeal and growth. This approach is a failure; it not only doesn't remedy the situation, it compounds the problem since, in light of the continued slow progress, goals remain unattained and the guilt and frustration increase. How depressing have been my discussions with pastors who, in a state of confusion, live beneath the weight of this burden! It is not uncommon to hear these able and devout ministers of the gospel seriously talking about demitting the ministry. Pitifully few Orthodox Presbyterians (in particular, our leaders) have adequately or honestly assessed the reasons for the modest progress of the OPC. A full analysis of those reasons is the subject of another paper. At this time, let me only say that they are rooted in the significance of Machen for American Christianity and the relationship of biblical Christianity to American culture. I believe these reasons will prove to be essentially positive, not negative; and that they also carry with them the potential to encourage us in our identity and calling as Orthodox Presbyterians. [Unknown at the time, Rev. Dennison would become the historian of OPC in 1981, a position he held until his death. As historian he developed and conveyed his thesis about the OPC and Machen which has been preserved in the volume, History for a Pilgrim People: The Historical Writings of Charles G. Dennison, ed. Danny E. Olinger and David K. Thompson (Willow Grove, PA: The Committee for the Historian of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, 2002).]

Charles G. Dennison was pastor of Grace Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Sewickley, Pennsylvania (1976-1999); and historian of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (1981-1999). Ordained Servant, June-July 2009.

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