Monday, August 26, 2013

The Old Life Controversialist...

Over at Old Life, run by a reportably blustering-bigoted-blogger (comment @ August 22, 2013 at 10:47 am), Darryl Hart has another post where he shows no sign of backing away from the issues at hand. He thus remains a target for those who wish to write him off as no more than a contentious rabble-rouser. Oh well.

I just don't think Jason and the Callers get Darryl (understatement alert). They're a bit flummuxed concerning his contentious assaults on their Roman Catholic one-true-church paradise paradigm, which assault is really a defense of Reformed Protestantism against the Callers' claims. Well if I can, I'd like to add my two cents as to the apparent necessity of Hart's controversial bent.  DGH is someone writing these blog posts purposefully for the good (faithful are the wounds of a friend, Prov. 26:7) of brothers that have gone astray and for those who might be tempted to do so. A commitment to the truth of Scripture necessitates a certain militancy, a posture out of step in our can't-we-all-just-get-along modern age. And rather than supply my own deep thoughts in support of that contention, I think it best to let DGH (this post is all about him), who apparently has become known in some circles as one who can’t string together a cogent argument if his life depended on it (Stellman comment), provide a cogent argument in his own words (with a little help from his friends...).

Excerpts from the essay Make War No More? by D.G. Hart (Always Reformed: Essays in Honor of W. Robert Godfrey)-
When Machen wrote that liberalism was un-Christian he did so within the context of a church, the PCUSA, which functioned very much like a old boys' club where accusations of infidelity were not only in bad taste but also constituted a breach of the ninth commandment...
 Machen's defense of militancy went in two directions.  The first was to argue for the civil necessity of intolerance. The state, he wrote, was an involuntary organization and so citizens, by virtue of being born into it were forced to be members of it whether they wanted to or not.  For the state, therefore, "to prescribed any one type of opinion or any one type of  opinion or education for its citizens" was the crassest form of intolerance. In other words, the modern state was ideally a tolerant society. But churches were different. By nature churches and other kinds of voluntary organizations were inherently intolerant or else they would "cease to exist..."
The second argument for combativeness was to go to Scripture itself... he defended intolerance again but this time linked it directly to the gospel. He declared,
  • To pray for tolerance without careful definition of that of which you are to be tolerant, is just to pray for the breakdown of the Christian religion; for the Christian religion is intolerant to the core. There lies the whole offense of the Cross--and also the whole power of it. Always the gospel would have been received with favor by the world if it had been presented merely as one way of salvation; the offense came because it was presented as the only way, and because it made relentless war upon all other ways.
... The offense of the cross and the claims of Christ upon the believer made it impossible for the church and the Christian individual to avoid controversy, "Show me a professing Christian of whom all men speak well, and I will show you a man who is probably unfaithful to His Lord"... A Christian who avoids argument," he argued, "is not the Christianity of the New Testament..."
 Of course, for many conservative Protestants outside the Reformed world, the OPC's militancy was peculiar, idiosyncratic, and uncharitable. But as Ned B. Stonehouse explained, the OPC's point in fighting was, much like Machen's, to defend the truth against error. "Controversy," Stonehouse wrote, "lays bare sins and weaknesses which must be deplored and overcome. But controversy is also a necessary feature of the life of the Church of Christ as it wages its battle for the truth." In fact, "only a dead or moribund church" would be without controversy in "days of unbelief and ungodliness, of doctrinal indifferentism and lukewarmness and compromise." Consequently, disputes within the church, according to Stonehouse, would actually be the basis for encouragement.  Folks who do not see the error of their position would, of course, think that controversy with them, at least, was wrong and unnecessary. But if the foundation of Christianity could be found in the "proclamation and defence of the truth of God regardless of consequences," then to the degree that the OPC shared this conviction it would always be engaged in on controversy or another...
But Machen knew that militancy was not simply part of his heritage at Old Princeton. It was part and parcel of being a follower of Jesus Christ.  As he told Westimentster students in 1931, 
  • I we face the real situation in the church and in the world, and decide, despite that situation, to stand firmly for the gospel of Christ, we shall be very likely indeed to find ourselves engaged in controversy. But if we are going to avoid controversy, we might as well close our Bibles, for the New Testament is a controversial book practically from beginning to end. The New Testament writers and our Lord himself presented truth in sharp contrast with error, and indeed that is the only way in which truth can be presented in any clear and ringing way.
In other words, to engage in controversy is not merely to be one of Machen's warrior children. It is to belong to the church militant.

1 comment:

  1. Even tough the wages of sin is death, there is also a death which is good, and into which it's a good thing to be imputed. I speak of the death of Christ to the guilt of the law, as referenced in Romans 6.

    As a pacifist, I must say that there is also a good and necessary war, and it's the one which leans on the everlasting arms. To not fight the war in which Hart is engaged would be nothing but indifference, even fatalism.