Counsel of Chalcedon
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2009 Issue 1

I. Church fellowship is the exercise of the social principle in matters of religion and in obedience to the authority of Christ.

Many persons seem to imagine that the only end and object of church attendance is to hear the sermon and the only fellowship is that of participation of the Lord’s supper. Therefore, they attach no other idea to a church than a company of Christians going together to hear the preacher and attend the Lord’s supper; who have nothing to do with each other, till they arrive there, and whose mutual duties end where they begin. The observance of the Lord’s supper it is confessed is one design and exercise of fellowship, but it is not the only one. Man is a societal being, by which we mean that he instinctively seeks the company of his fellows; is capable of enjoying their company, and derives from their communion no small portion of his improvement and happiness. The maxim of Solomon is as just as it is beautiful,—”As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.”

Each day an encyclopedia of misery is written with the ink of human suffering, tears, and blood. Children starve, endure neglect, and are prostituted. Husbands beat their wives. Young men die in war. Hospital wards are full of the diseased and dying. Mothers pine away for children lost to the world. Nursing homes smell of death and disinfectant. A family’s lone breadwinner loses his job. Hungry men, women, and children scrounge dumps for any morsel of refuse to satisfy their gnawing, bloated stomachs. Crops fail. Currencies are debased. Homes burn, collapse, or flood. Six thousand years into man’s existence, with marvelous technology at his fingertips and the hubris to match, humanitarian agencies galore, an avalanche of pity-evoking media exposure, and a wealth of painful and pleasant experience upon which he might draw for warning, direction, and comfort, he still suffers, sometimes horribly.

“City upon a hill” is a phrase that is associated with John Winthrop’s sermon “A Model of Christian Charity,” given in 1630. The phrase is derived from the metaphor of Salt and Light in the Sermon on the Mount.. Matthew 5:14 states “you are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.” Winthrop warned the Puritan colonists of New England who were to found the Massachusetts Bay Colony that their new community would be a “city upon a hill,” watched by the world:

“For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken... we shall be made a story and a by-word throughout the world. We shall open the mouths of enemies to speak evil of the ways of God... We shall shame the faces of many of God’s worthy servants, and cause their prayers to be turned into curses upon us til we be consumed out of the good land whither we are a-going.”

One day, through the primeval wood, A calf walked home, as good calves should; But made a trail all bent askew, A crooked trail as all calves do.

Since then two hundred years have fled, And, I infer, the calf is dead. But still he left behind his trail, And thereby hangs my moral tale.

Dr. Van Til taught us that, “There is no alternative but that of theonomy and autonomy” (Christian Theistic Ethics, p. 134). Every ethical decision assumes some final authority or standard, and that will either be self law (“auto-nomy”) or God’s law (“theo-nomy”).

While unbelievers consider themselves the ultimate authority in determining moral right or wrong, believers acknowledge that God alone has that position and prerogative.

The position which has come to be labeled “theonomy” today thus holds that the word of the Lord is the sole, supreme, and unchallengable standard for the actions and attitudes of all men in all areas of life. Our obligation to keep God’s commands cannot be judged by any extrascriptural standard, such as whether its specific requirements (when properly interpreted) are congenial to past traditions or modern feelings and practices.

THERE is no need for me to say anything about the qualifications of Mr. Young. That the work is written in a scholarly and able manner must be apparent to any one who looks into it.

Any individual or any group of individuals studying the Bible with the help of Mr. Young’s work will naturally become convinced of the absolute truth of the Word of God. Underlying and permeating the book is the Reformed conception of Apologetics, which holds that we can without fear even in our day hold to an absolute God, an absolute Christ, and an absolute Bible. There is no compromise or crouching fear. With full acquaintance with the work of negative criticism and modern philosophy, Mr. Young holds that unless we may take the Bible as true, human life is meaningless. Surely young people of Christian homes need the help of such a study.

Our memory could have a past and lack only a future, but we don’t read what our forefathers wrote or read. We select some figures, and then we fit them to our culture—our fathers are what we make them once they’re dead. But we don’t read what our forefathers wrote or read, because we don’t want to know if we believe a lie.