Fighting the Good Fight: A Brief History of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, by D.G. Hart & John Muether. Philadelphia, PA: Committee for the Historian of the OPC, 1995. 217 pp. $11.95 (paper). [Reviewed by Prof. Herman Hanko.]
The authors have produced an excellent work in their description of their church: the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC). It is eminently readable; it is informative; it is a solid defense of the place in the ecclesiastical world which God has given the OPC; and it is even-handed in its evaluation of the OPC and her work.
The book is more than a history in the strictest sense; it includes a description of the mission work of the denomination, its development and struggles in fulfilling her ecumenical calling, and the “ministry of the church,” the latter including its education program, its worship, and its struggle with how to define and respond to social issues.
In the first section, which deals with the origin of the OPC, the authors point out how the OPC was born out of the modernist controversy of the early part of our century. They demonstrate the terrible hierarchy and boardism found in the apostate Presbyterian Church which led to Machen’s ouster. And they describe the struggles of the new denomination which began with 34 ministers and 17 elders and which was soon torn by the split with MacIntyre, Buswell, and MacRae over premillennialism; the authors characterize this split as being basically a split with Fundamentalism which threatened the church.
The book is not uncritical of the fact that the Independent Board of Foreign Missions and Westminster Seminary, both formed at the time of the struggle, were independent of the church and were, therefore, para-ecclesiastical organizations. But they justify the formation of such institutions on the grounds that “emergency situations require unusual tactics” (32).
In the chapter on Missions, the authors have included a fascinating discussion of the work and sufferings of Bruce Hunt, missionary to Korea prior to World War II. Also described are the many discussions held in the OPC over missionary methods.
The chapter on Ecumenicity was very interesting to me. This is partly due to the fact that the Clark case was discussed under the heading of Ecumenicity (something of an eye-opener in its own right and indicative of what the authors consider to be the essential character of that struggle). But the interest of the chapter is also due to a rather extensive treatment of the so-called Peniel Case, a struggle to repudiate charismatic thought and practices which appeared in the church.
Repeatedly the OPC was tempted to involve itself and become more active in the social issues of the day. These efforts, according to the authors, have been successfully resisted as the OPC defined her calling in the light of her character as the church of Christ.
The book is filled with information about the OPC for anyone who wants to learn more of this denomination, only a bit younger than our own. And learning about the OPC, one can learn about the struggle of one church in her efforts to remain faithful to her calling and to “fight the good fight.” The book can be ordered from the publisher as listed above, P.O. Box 48, Coraopolis, PA 15108.