It can hardly be denied, I think, that our subject tonight is a subject of current issue. The Association for the Advancement of Christian Scholarship, better known as the AACS, has had, with its headquarters in Toronto, a great deal of influence especially in this country and in Canada, although its influence is also now being extended into lands across the sea. Its influence has grown particularly through its efforts to establish a university in Toronto and through the flood of literature which flows forth from its presses in the form of books and pamphlets and speeches, and in the men who become imbued with AACS principles and who, with vigor and assertiveness, go forth to spread propaganda for this organization. It has, in the course of its advance in the last decade or so, taken over several colleges and Christian schools. It has been influential in the formation of a Christian political action society. And its views have been adopted in the main by a Christian Labor Association of Canada.
In conjunction with this, the movement claims to be reformational. However, we must be sure that we understand what the movement means by the term “reformational,” for it is used by them ambiguously. When most people hear that the movement is reformational, their thoughts almost automatically go back to the great Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, and they form the idea in their minds that the AACS claims for itself a position according to which it defends the great principles of the Protestant Reformation. Such, however, is not the case. When the AACS speaks of being reformational, it does not have, at least in the first place, reference to the Protestant Reformation. But it rather has reference to the fact that through its labors it intends and hopes to reform all the present structures of society so that this present life and its present society may be brought under the rule of Christ. Nevertheless their use of the word “reformational” has attracted many.
And it has attracted many because of the fact that, with the lack of sound Biblical and Reformed preaching in so many of the pulpits in our land, there has been left a void, a spiritual void, in the lives of many of God’s people. And the AACS has rushed in to fill this void. The AACS in doing this, claims, therefore, to be the answer to the humanism and modernism and liberalism which afflicts our age, and which has been the downfall of so many American and Canadian denominations. The AACS sets itself up therefore, as being the guiding star in the firmament of the ecclesiastical skies; and it tells us that, following that star, we will be led through the barren wastelands of present-day ecclesiastical life in America and in Canada, and we will be led through the swirling storms of doctrinal and ecclesiastical controversy which plague our present age.
It is impossible for me tonight to go into a thorough and complete analysis of the entire system of AACS thinking. The movement is founded on a philosophy: a philosophy which originated in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, in the Free University in particular, and which is a product of the thinking of Profs. Vollenhoven and Dooyeweerd. To analyze the philosophy which underlies this movement would require a man with more expertise in philosophy than I have, and would consume in itself more than one lecture of an hour’s length. Besides that, the AACS is also an entire world and life view which claims to encompass in its thinking all that the child of God needs to know to live in the whole of his life according to the principles which God sets forth. That, too, would require a separate lecture to discuss in all its details.
I have chosen, therefore, to concentrate tonight on one aspect of the AACS thinking, and that is their views of the kingdom. It seems to me that this lies at the very heart of their thinking. I do not want to leave the impression with you tonight, however, that when the AACS speaks of the kingdom that they have produced in their writings or in their speeches a clear definition of what the kingdom is. They have not done this. Others have criticized them for this. I concur in that criticism. They have been negligent in the extreme when they speak almost continuously of the kingdom, but when they fail in all they produce to give a clear and decisive definition of what they mean by the kingdom of which they speak so much. There is, however, a certain view of the kingdom implicit in their thinking, and a certain view of the kingdom which is implied in all the causes which they promote. It is my intention to examine particularly that aspect of the question tonight, and that will give me an opportunity, at least in part, also to be somewhat positive and to make a few comments about the Scriptural conception of the kingdom.
In order to understand what view the AACS holds concerning the kingdom, it is necessary to have some brief conception of the ideas which underlie their thinking in this respect. I have reference particularly to the views which the AACS promotes concerning the idea of the Word of God; and in connection with that, concerning the idea of the Word of God as it stands in relationship to the various spheres of sovereignty in life. This is, I think, an integral part of their whole conception of their calling and task in today’s world.
When those who promote AACS thoughts speak of the Word of God, they speak of the Word of God in a three-fold and sometimes a four-fold sense. They speak of the Word of God in the first place as being Christ. They call that particular aspect of the Word of God the Incarnate Word. In the second place, they speak also of the Word of God in the Scriptures. That Word of God they call the Inscripturated Word. In the third place, they speak of the Word of God in the creation. And this is usually called the Cosmonomic law idea because it is the Word of God in creation as it is revealed in law spheres. That, in AACS thinking, is the most important Word of God of all. Some thinkers add yet a fourth Word of God which they call the kerygmatic Word, by which they simply mean the Word of God as it is preached. The difficulty with this conception of the Word of God is that, as far as I know from my reading of their literature, there is very little, if any, effort put forth to define with precision and clarity the relationships in which these very aspects of the Word of God stand to one another. And one gets the impression from reading their literature that in their discussion of the Word of God, they compartmentalize that Word. They compartmentalize that Word to such an extent that, although they speak of the Word in these different senses, they maintain that each word of God in its own sense stands independent from and unrelated to the other Words of God.
That becomes especially evident when they apply their conception of the Word of God to what they call the spheres of sovereignty in life. The life of man is divided into various spheres: spheres of authority. One of these spheres is the church. Another sphere is the home. Yet another sphere is the school. Another sphere is economic relationships. Another sphere is political relationships. And yet another sphere is societal relationships. However, when they discuss the relationship of the Word of God to these various spheres of sovereignty or spheres of authority in life they apply a particular Word of God to a particular sphere. For example, the Word of God in the Scriptures, the Inscripturated Word of God as it is called, applies especially and primarily, and indeed, almost exclusively to the sphere of the church. We must be sure that we understand this. It is true that some of their writings seem to suggest here and there that the Word of God as it is given to us in the Scriptures is also applicable to other spheres of life, as for example, Christian labor relations and Christian schools, etc. But if the Word of God as it is in the Scriptures is at all applicable to other spheres of life, that is, spheres other than the church, it is applicable to these spheres only in an indirect fashion. It is not immediately relevant for the life of the child of God as he lives in the spheres of life other than that of the church. And so they take the position that the Word of God as it is contained in the Scriptures is given creedal form in the historic creeds of the Protestant Reformation. But these creeds, which express in a systematic fashion the Word of God which is in the Scriptures, are creeds which are solely the possession of the church. They are relevant for the church only. They have significance for the church only. They have no relevance and no significance for the life of the child of God in other spheres in which he walks. If you ask what Word of God is particularly applicable to these other spheres of life, the answer which is given is this: the Word of God which is applicable in these other spheres is the creational Word, that is, the Word of God which is in the creation about us, which is the Cosmonomic law idea. That Word of God must be discovered independently from the Scriptures by means of philosophy, by means of the development of a scientific and Christian philosophy. Only that Word is applicable and relevant and significant for the other spheres of authority in which the Christian walks. And as that Word of God is discovered through the efforts of Christian philosophers and Christian thinkers, that Word of God must also be given creedal form; and in giving to that Word of God creedal form, there must be drawn up separate creeds: a creed for the school, a creed for labor relationships and the sphere of economics, a creed for politics, and perhaps even a creed for the home; which creed will in every case express not the Word of God as it appears in the Scriptures, but will express the Word of God as it is discovered by cosmonomic philosophers and as it is developed by Christian philosophy.
From that basic position there follow several important corollaries. In the first place, it stands to reason, of course, that a view such as this is going to imply of necessity a particular view of Holy Scripture. And it is characteristic, therefore, of AACS thinkers that the view which they take of Scripture is less than that view of Scripture which has traditionally been held in the Reformed Churches from the time of the Reformation. Basic to that view of Scripture is the notion that the Scriptures contain not, what they call, propositional revelation. They mean by that that the Scriptures contain no objective statements of truth with respect to doctrine and with respect to morals. I have before me a quotation which is taken from the book “Understanding the Scriptures,” which was co-authored by Drs. De Graaf and Sierveld. That quotation reads as follows:
“What we have to avoid at all costs if Biblical living is to be meaningful living is, on the one hand, to underline the full authority of the Bible, and, on the other hand, to reduce the Word of God to a set of truths, a collection of infallible propositions. The Bible is not to be read as a collection of propositional statements about God and man that we can memorize and master. Neither does it contain general truths that we could possibly consider apart from their meaning for our lives.”
It is plain from that quotation that the thinkers of this movement do not want the Scriptures as objective revelation: objective revelation concerning the truth as it is in God and objective revelation concerning the law of God which He gives as the rule for the conduct of man. This position is substantiated by other of their writings. It means that the thinkers of the AACS reject the authority of Scripture, at least in the sense in which the truth concerning the authority of Scripture has been held by the Church beginning with the great reformers, Martin Luther and John Calvin. And it stands to reason that, with the rejection of the authority of the Scriptures in the sense in which the Reformers spoke of it and in the sense in which our creeds speak of it, they reject also the doctrine of Scripture’s infallible inspiration. That is why Sierveld and De Graaf can write, “we may not reduce the Word of God to a collection of infallible propositions.” They repudiate the notion of an infallible Scripture.
The second corollary which follows from their view of the Word of God has to do with their conception of the church. In their thinking they distinguish between Church, with a capital “C”, and church with a small “c”. Church with a capital “C” is the word which they use to denote the Church as the Body of Christ; or, as some of them put it, the Church as the Body of Christ which engages in social action. Church with a small “c”, on the other hand, refers particularly to the institute of the church; that is, the church as she is called upon to preach the gospel, to administer the sacraments, and to exercise the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Concerning the church with the small “c” they have very little to say. As a matter of fact, the church with a small “c”, the church as institute, does not play a major role at all in their thinking or in their world and life view. As a matter of fact, they tend to de-emphasize the church as institute to such an extent that many of their followers come to the point where they openly despise the church institute and show nothing for it but contempt. That follows from the fact that the church institute is, in their thinking, of one importance only. The church institute is, in their way of thinking, merely the organization which is given the task to inspire certain individuals which come under its influence to engage in Christian communal social action. That is all the purpose the church as institute has. In the book,The Challenge Of The Age, written by Dr. Hendrik Hart, who teaches philosophy at Toronto, we read as follows:
“Learning to live Biblically in a secular world means learning to give full and accurate support to Christian education, Christian political action, Christian labor activity, Christian everything, and learning to understand the church institute as the organization which is called upon to promote such support concretely and authoritatively in the name of Christ.”
That is the sole calling of the institute: to promote such support, that is, support for Christian communal social action, concretely and authoratively in the name of Christ.
It is no wonder then that some men who follow this philosophy go so far as to say that the church has really fulfilled her calling in life; she has outgrown her task. The church has reached the point in the history of the world and in the development of Christian thought where she has really served her purpose; and it would not at all be a scandal or a disaster of any kind if the church as institute would simply quietly pull up its stakes and fold its tent and steal away. It would not be missed very much. Hendrik Hart writes in this same book, The Challenge Of The Age: “The exercise of the faith in the home is of extreme importance and perhaps the only means of recovering a life close to the Scriptures.” He specifically repudiates the position that it is in the church as institute, in the preaching of the Word of God and in the administration of the sacraments, that a life can be recovered which is close to the Scriptures. The home, he says, can very well serve that purpose, and perhaps even better than the church is doing it today.
In the third place, the idea of the AACS has important implications and ramifications for Christian covenantal instruction. It is here particularly that the thinking of the AACS takes an ominous turn. There are two ideas especially which are promoted emphatically by AACS thinkers. The first idea is that the Scriptures are irrelevant, or at best, indirectly relevant for the Christian school. The Christian school must not be based upon the Scriptures. The Christian school must not be based on the historical Christian creeds. The creeds are of no value, of no worth, of no significance for the school. The school must be based on the Word of God in the creation as it is discovered by philosophers. And an entirely new creed must be written for the school, a creed which does not include the teachings of the Scriptures, but a creed which spells out in detail the discovery of philosophers who have studied the creation ordinances and who have discovered the Word of God in creation as it applies particularly to the sphere of education.
There is a basic error involved here. I said a few moments ago that the AACS has never been noted for defining with clarity and precision the relation that exists between, for example, the Word of God in the Scriptures and the Word of God in the creation ordinance. That becomes especially apparent here. The Word of God is compartmentalized. And the Scriptures are handed to the church. And those who engage in Christian education are told: never mind the Scriptures. They don’t pertain to this area of life. What pertains to this area of life is an entirely different Word of God: the Word of God which is in creation, the Word of God which can be discovered only by trained scientific philosophers. That Word of God must be explicated. That Word of God must be put in creedal form. That will then become the basis for the Christian School.
They forget, or conveniently ignore, or deny the fact that while it is indeed true that the Scriptures do speak of the fact that the creation was formed by the Word of God, and that indeed the creation continues to exist by the Word of God, that nevertheless sin came into the world. And the effects of sin were, in the first place, that the Word of God in creation was muffled as it were, by the terrible word of the curse as it was pronounced upon the creation by God in Paradise. And, in the second place, the entrance of sin into the world had the effect of blinding man so completely with spiritual blindness, that he is totally incapable of seeing the Word of God in the creation any longer. It is for that reason that the Lord God gave to His church and to His people the Scriptures. And He gave to His people the operation of His Spirit in their hearts whereby their eyes are opened, and whereby they are given the spiritual powers to see and understand and believe the Scriptures. And then, only through the Word of God in Scripture, is it possible even to see the Word of God in creation. Calvin, already, as many of you know, in his “Institutes of the Christian Religion,” talked about the fact, in a well-known expression, that the Scriptures are the spectacles which must be worn if one is to see in any respect the Word of God in the creation. For then, with the spectacles of the Scriptures, one does not see in the creation the Word of God which is independent of the Scriptures. Oh, no! But he sees through the spectacles of the Scriptures a Word of God that is related to the Scriptures, and dependent upon the Scriptures, and substantiated by the Scriptures, so that the two together, with the Scriptures as our spectacles, give us the revelation of God in the face of our Lord Jesus Christ as the God of our salvation. That is why believing parents have always insisted that the Scriptures and the historic reformed creeds must be the basis of all Christian instruction.
In the second place, the following from what I have just said, the AACS denies that Christian covenantal schools are parental schools. There has been an attempt to draw up a creed which can serve as the basis for Christian education which is an explication of the creational Word. This is entitled “Schools in the Christian Community”. It is authored by James H. Olthuis and Bernard Zylstra. In it you will find the following:
“It is our conviction that the school as we envisage it today lies outside the parent’s authority in the home. Parents execute that responsibility by sending the children to a school, in which educational authority is exercised by the team of teachers. From this vantage point the authority of the parents does not reach into the educational process of the schools.”
What must parents do? Well, it is left to them to decide, according to this paper, when the child is too sick to attend school, what clothes it should wear, whether corporal punishment is to be allowed, in what context homework is to be done, etc. That is all. They envisage schools which are not parental, but which are under the authority of teachers who are experts in their field; and who are, of course, fully embued with cosmonomic philosophy, and who teach children in their fields as experts, as trained pedagogues, as an elite, in the Word of God as we find it in the creation, not the Word of God as it is in the Scriptures. That is devastating. If it ever happens to a Christian school system that that philosophy is adopted, that is the end of Christian covenantal education. We believe that the Scriptures enjoin us in many different ways and in many different passages that parents, and parents alone, are responsible before God for the education and instruction of their children as based upon the covenant of grace; and that that instruction which parents are enjoined to give to their children is instruction which is always the fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom. That fear of the Lord is in the infallibly inspired and authoritative Scripture.
In the fourth place, the Church with a capital “C” is the important thing. The Church as the body of Christ transcends denominational and congregational lines. But the Church as the body of Christ is the Church particularly which engages in Christian communal social action. I quote again from Hendrik Hart’s book:
“From that it follows that learning to live Biblically in our age is first of all, learning to live in terms of organized Christian action. Those who have been confronted with this and still keep stressing the principle of the primary need for individualistic witness within the secular structures, with reformational responsibility toward the latter, grieve the Holy Spirit and deny the power of the kingdom of this world.”
In another place:
“Now Calvinism has been the first movement of which we can say with some historical justification that it has seen the universal invitation from the gospel. We may say that in the so-called Kuyiperian tradition the recreative power of Christ has made a major breakthrough in western civilization with respect to understanding man’s cultural mandate. But that movement also failed. To gain a real foothold in western culture which is completely overpowered by the secular grip of humanism takes, I would think, more time than barely 100 years.”
Now the thrust of the quotation is this: that for all of the two thousand years of its history, the church of the New Dispensation has failed to understand her calling. Dr. Abraham Kuyper in the Netherlands at the turn of the century caught a glimpse of it. He was the first to make a major breakthrough in the understanding of man’s cultural mandate. But his movement also failed. It is left therefore, to reformational thinkers, to Dooyeweerdian philosophers, to men imbibed with the spirit of the teaching of the AACS, to define for the church at this late stage in the New Testament history of the church what the church’s calling really is. St. Augustine didn’t know; Martin Luther didn’t know; John Calvin didn’t know; nor did the church in any of the past centuries know. It is only today, just a few short years before the Lord comes back, that suddenly the church has discovered what her calling really is. There is a towering arrogance about that, that makes one gasp, a conceit underlying that type of thinking which is totally at odds with the Scripture’s injunction to defend the truth of the Scriptures with meekness and with fear. There is slander of the church of the past, of our fathers who sealed their testimony with their blood, which no conscientious and dedicated child of God would ever dare to take upon his lips.
CONCEPTION OF THE KINGDOM PS
All this forms the basis for their conception of the kingdom, although, I say again, in the thinking of the AACS there has never been, so far as I know, an attempt made to define clearly and with precision what the idea of the kingdom is. Nevertheless, it can be proved from their writings and it can be shown as being implicit in their teachings that their view of the kingdom is fundamentally post-millennial.
There have been in the church two branches of post-millenialism. The one branch is what we can probably call the liberal type of post-millennialism. This type of post-millennialism is found in practically all of the modern and liberal churches of America and of Europe today. It is a liberalism of post-millennialism which is based upon a confession of a universal fatherhood of God and a universal brotherhood of man. It is a post-millennialism which denies in effect all the fundamental doctrines of the Scriptures, including the infallibility of the Scriptures, the miracles, the virgin birth, the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. And in conjunction with the denial of these miracles, it denies also the second coming of Christ. It therefore envisions the realization of the kingdom of Christ as something which will take place in this present world. And it will take place in this present world by a means of a process of evolution; not by biological evolution necessarily, although biological evolution is often taught by these men; but by a process of economic and social and political and societal evolution, whereby society and its structures and its institutions, through a gradual process of evolving, become better and better, more and more Christian, until finally all the world becomes indeed a Christian world. It is that kind of a postmillennialism which forms the basis of the call today to get out of the pews in the church and to get into the market places and into the streets. Never mind the preaching, never mind the sacraments, never mind arguing and debating about abstruse theological points. Get with it in society; get with it in human race relationships; get with it in solving the problems of poverty; get with it in doing all in your power to bring peace upon this earth, in solving the political problems on the international frontier. That is the calling of the Christian, because only in that way will the kingdom be realized. You know how common that is in today’s thinking.
There is also a more conservative branch of post-millennialism, a conservative post-millennialism which does not deny the fundamentals of the Reformed faith, and as a matter of fact, even sometimes is fundamentalistic in its belief. Those that teach this post-millennialism hold that, under the influence and by means of the impact of the Christian church, gradually this world will become Christianized to the extent that the Christians will be in the majority and to the extent that the Christians will have taken over society’s structures and institutions so that they are enabled by means of this to realize the kingdom of Christ here upon earth. And when that kingdom of Christ is realized here upon earth and after it endures for a bit, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself will come back from heaven to take the kingdom unto Himself. Whatever may be the doctrinal differences between liberal and conservative post-millennialism, they share this in common: that the kingdom of Christ is an earthly kingdom and that the kingdom of Christ will be realized here on this present earth. That they share.
That is also AACS thinking. I have before me, for example, a quotation which is taken from a speech given by Dr. McIntrye — not Dr. Carl McIntyre from Collinswood, N.J. — but Dr. McIntyre who was formerly of Trinity College in Palos Heights, Illinois, and who is now teaching in Toronto. The title of his speech is “The Forgotten Art of World Shaking”. He writes:
“Our association works for nothing less than the reformation of learning and in truth of North American culture. As the Lord grants, the ARSS [which is the former name of the AACS, HH] advanced education will send throughout all of North America the world-shakers and history-makers in every facet of life, Christian men and women who will turn the world upside down for the Lord God.”
That is post-millennialism. It is a very wrong conception of the kingdom of Christ. It is a wrong conception of the kingdom of Christ because it identifies the kingdom of Christ with this present world, with its institutions and its structures. It is an earthly conception of the kingdom. But it is contrary to the whole of the Scriptures. It is an evil conception of the kingdom because it falls into the very real danger of identifying the kingdom of Christ with the kingdom of Antichrist. We know from Scripture that the kingdom of Antichrist, from a worldly point of view, will be a very beautiful and delightful kingdom for those who worship the beast. It will be a kingdom in which Christianity is promulgated, for antichrist will set himself up, Paul tells us in Thessalonians, in the temple of God, claiming that heis God. It will be a very religious kingdom. When those who seek the kingdom of Christ in this world develop that notion they fall into the very serious danger of identifying the kingdom of Christ with the kingdom of the Antichrist. Further, it holds before the eyes of the people of the kingdom of God a false hope. It holds before the eyes of the people of God a very beautiful, and a very glorious, and a very happy future. It does not speak of persecution that is coming. It does not speak of the fact that those who will not bow before the image of the beast will be forced to lay down their lives. It does not speak of the fact that the church will be persecuted to such an extent that the saints of God will have to flee to the mountains for safety. Oh, no! It holds before the eyes of the people of God a bright future, a future of hope, a future filled with the optimism that Christianity will someday prevail. And if that sort of notion captures the hearts of God’s people, God’s people will forget to pray “Thy kingdom come”, “Come Lord Jesus, yea come quickly.” Post-millennialism is anti-Scripture and is spiritually dangerous. Nevertheless, that is the conception of the kingdom as promoted by AACS. And it follows from the whole conception of the AACS that the calling, the sole calling of the people of God is to engage in Christian communal social action, in order that the world with its institutions and structures may be won for Christ, and that Christ may, in this present world, be Lord of all.
The Scriptures present quite a different view of the kingdom. The Scriptures emphasize throughout that the kingdom is spiritual and heavenly. God, the Author of that kingdom, conceived of it in His eternal and unchangeable counsel. He conceived of it as the heavenly and spiritual kingdom where Christ, His own Son, the First Begotten from the dead, the Prince of the Kings of the world, the One in Whom dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, will reign as King, as the full expression of the revelation of the glory of God. That kingdom is so heavenly that the citizens of that kingdom go to it only at the moment of death. They inherit that kingdom fully in all its perfection and glory only when Christ comes again upon the clouds of heaven to make a new heavens and a new earth and to establish His kingdom forever and ever. It is a kingdom therefore, which is established in the blood of the cross. It is not established by reformational thinking. It is not established by groups of elite pedagogues who understand the Cosmonomic law idea. It is not established by Christian communal social action. It is established in the blood of the cross. And it is established in the blood of the cross because in the first place, there Christ grappled with and fought all the powers of darkness who seek to establish the kingdom of darkness where God is deposed from His throne. Paul speaks of that in the chapter our chairman read. (Col. 2) There on the cross Christ crushed the head of the serpent, and defeated forever his efforts to establish his earthly kingdom. But at the same time on that cross Christ spilled His own precious blood as the foundation for the kingdom of heaven because that kingdom of heaven is a kingdom of the righteousness of God. And it is forever a kingdom of righteousness, the righteousness which is realized only through the blood of Calvary. Those who belong to that kingdom are the elect. And they are not those who enter the kingdom because they are convinced of the truth of some creational Word or Cosmonomic law idea. There are made citizens of the kingdom by a transforming wonder of grace; as Paul speaks of it in another part of Colossians: they are translated out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God’s dear Son. That takes place by a wonder of grace according to which the kingdom is established within their hearts. Jesus warns His disciples: the kingdom cometh not by observation; the kingdom is within you. It is the sovereign sway of the scepter of the Lord Christ in the hearts of His people whereby He rules sovereignly over them, and directs their lives as the citizens of His kingdom and subjects of Him who bow before Him and worship Him as Lord Christ. It is a kingdom, therefore, which is realized only in the new heavens and in the new earth. Only then, when Christ comes again to destroy forever the kingdoms of this world, only then when Christ, as the Rock cut without hands, destroys the image of the dream of Nebuchadnezzar and scatters it as the dust of the ground will the everlasting kingdom of righteousness in which Christ is King be established. Then the elect shall reign with Christ as princes, world without end. But do not look for that kingdom here in the world; it is not here.
It is precisely because that kingdom of heaven is spiritual that the calling of the child of God as a citizen of that kingdom is so clearly defined. It is not to engage in Christian communal social action.
I have repeatedly asked leaders of this movement in personal conversation to quote me one text in Scripture, just one, which enjoins the child of God to engage in Christian communal social action. To this date no one has ever quoted to me such a text. That is perhaps precisely the reason why the AACS bases its philosophy, not upon the Scriptures, but upon the creational Word.
I find something entirely different in the Scriptures. I find in the Scriptures the teaching that the structures and institutions of society are to be under the control of powers of sin almost always in the history of the world; that the comer of the world that the children of God historically occupy in the midst of this creation is a very small corner; that the church of God, in the words of Isaiah in Isaiah I, is never very much more than a hut in a garden of cucumbers, and besieged city, and a very small remnant; and that the creation, the powers of creation, the inventions of the creation, and the institutions and structures of society are in the hands of the powers of sin, in the hands of the powers of darkness. That does not mean that this creation is not God’s. Oh, it is. And indeed it is so much God’s that even while wicked men claim to themselves all this creation and its institutions and society structures to use them in the service of sin, Christ sits on His throne and rules over them, too, sovereignly, so that they cannot do a thing without His will. That is the force ofPsalm 2, is it not? The heathen raged and the people imagined a vain thing and the kings of the earth set themselves against the Lord and against His anointed. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh, the Lord shall have them in derision! I have set my king upon my holy hill of Zion! And so much it is true that the Lord Christ rules over all ungodly men and over all the forces of darkness that He rules in such a way that in their very opposition to Him and in their effort to establish the very kingdom of the antichrist they serve the purpose of Christ and of God, and serve the establishment of the everlasting kingdom of heaven.
And so the Scriptures take quite a different view of the Christian and his calling. If you read the Scriptures and if the Scriptures penetrate into the depth of your soul there is one fact above all that cannot help but impress you and sear itself upon your conscience: the Word of God simply does not care about what type of structures and institutions that are current in society. The soldiers from the army of Imperial Rome came to John the Baptist: mind you, soldiers of Rome’s army; the legions that had engaged in world conquest; the legions that were responsible for the slaughter of untold thousands; the legions that had put the whole known world under the thumb of Imperial Rome. They came to John with questions. What must we do? As citizens of the kingdom of heaven? Did John tell them to become conscientious objectors? Get out of the army? Oh, no! Just stay in the army, but do violence to no man neither accuse any falsely and be content with your wages. They could be citizens of the kingdom of heaven even in the army of Imperial Rome. The Christians of Peter’s day lived in a time when the Emperor of Rome set himself up on the throne of God, mind you! He claimed divinity for himself. What was Peter’s advice to the Christians? Organize a separate, group of political parties? Engage in violent revolution to overthrow such a tyrannical dictator? Who even persecutes the church and makes the streets of Rome run red with the blood of martyrs? Oh, no! “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether it be to the king as supreme or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evil doers and for the praise of them that do well, for so is the will of God.” And it does not happen to make any difference, Scripture says, whether the current form of government is a monarchy, or a tyranny, or an oligarchy, or a democracy, of whatever sort. And it does not make any difference to you, because you are citizens of the kingdom of heaven. You must live in relationship to every form of government, whatever it may be, as a citizen of the kingdom of heaven.
Mind you, that is even true of the institution of slavery. The Scriptures are not even concerned about whether slavery happens to be the current societal institution. And Peter admonishes those who are citizens of the kingdom of heaven: “Slaves be subject to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle but also to the forward, for this is thankworthy if a man for conscience toward God endures grief, suffering wrongfully.” Do not organize a Christian Labor Association. Live as a citizen of the kingdom of heaven, because that is where your citizenship is.
The Sermon on the Mount has been called the constitution of the kingdom of heaven. Find for me, if you can, in the whole of the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5, 6, and 7, one smallest indication that it is the calling of the church to engage in Christian communal social action. There is none. At the very heart of the Christian’s calling, on the basis of all that we have said lies this truth: the Christian as a citizen of the kingdom of heaven is a pilgrim and a stranger in the earth. Thatthe Scriptures talk about again and again and again. He is a pilgrim in a foreign land; he is a stranger in a place that is not his home. His home is in heaven. And he is a stranger because the powers of darkness rule here in the world. All is under the sovereign control of Jesus Christ. But he does not set his heart on this world, and its institutions, and on this world’s betterment, and on making this world the kingdom of Christ. Oh, no! He knows that his Lord and his Christ so rules over ungodly men that their very efforts to establish the kingdom of darkness must serve the purpose of the realization of the kingdom of heaven. And so, he is a pilgrim; he carries his tent on his back; and each night he sets up that tent and he says: “I tarry but a night, for I’m a pilgrim here in my Father’s world.” And when the morning dawns, with a prayer on his lips, he pulls up his stakes, his spiritual stakes of his spiritual tent, and he packs it on his back and continues his pilgrimage, for he is going to the destination of his Father’s house and of the kingdom of his Lord Who rules over his life.
And out of the principle of that pilgrimage arises his calling in the midst of the world. That calling is this: in the first place to testify in all his life, over against the powers of darkness, of the truth of the Word of God. That calling is in the second place, to seek the kingdom of heaven and, concretely and specifically that means to seek the kingdom of heaven as it is manifested here on the earth in the church. There you have the manifestation of the kingdom of heaven, the church — where the gospel is preached. Because it is through the instrumentality of that church that the saints of the kingdom are called out of darkness into light. It is in the bosom of that church that the citizens of the kingdom are nourished and fed. It is by means of the preaching that emanates from that church that the people of God are encouraged to pursue their pilgrim’s pathway. And it is always in that church that is held before the eyes of the child of God, the vision of his eternal destination where someday he shall dwell in the house of his Father. That church is the center of it. That church is the heart. That church is the core of his life, as long as that church preaches faithfully the truth of the Scriptures.
The AACS wants to take from us the most precious things which we have: our Scriptures, our church, and our covenantal Christian schools; in the name of the kingdom here in the world. Do not let that happen.
May it be said of the people of God today too, as it was said of the patriarchs, and as that is recorded for us in Hebrews 11: “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were pilgrims and strangers on the earth. And they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly, wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God. For He hath prepared for them a city.”