The issue of a cultural bridge remains a critical feature for the OPC's identity. The absence of just such a bridge has proved to be the unexamined dimension to the ecumenical breakdown experienced by the OPC in its quest for union with other American Presbyterian bodies.
The 1975 attempt at union with the former Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod collapsed because the RPCES, a child of fundamentalism and the dissenting Reformed Presbyterian tradition, maintained a cultural vision that could not accept OP disenfranchisement. From the RPCES's point of view, OP disenfranchisement translated into the familiar criticisms that OPs were doctrinal nit-pickers and evangelistically dormant.
Along similar lines, the OP attempts at union with the Presbyterian Church in America collapsed in the 1980s. Behind the scenes, lay the PCA's cultural aspirations. These aspirations are very much at the center of the PCA's identity and rise out of an evangelical social vision of which a large, influential if not dominant national church is an indispensable part. Historically, the OPC has not shared this vision.
Dr. Mark Matthews of Seattle often expressed the wish that the modernist conspiracy could be identified as a single body so that it might be destroyed by a single blow. He was quick to point out that the tactics of the liberals were not even honest. Instead of accepting the fundamental doctrines of the church, the liberals sought to destroy those doctrines, and to replace them with liberal concepts. But the manner in which they sought to bring about change was dishonest, perhaps even diabolical. The liberals did not openly declare to the church, "Your confession is very bad, it is hopelessly outdated and unscientific. If you do not change that confession, then we cannot conscientiously be a part of such a church." Rather, the liberals assumed positions as ministers and leaders in the church and then sought to undermine the church from within. The liberals were so successful in this fifth-column activity that in a short time those who believed wholeheartedly in the Scriptures and the church's subordinate standards were either silenced or removed from the church.
How did the liberals accomplish their purpose? By appealing to the need for "tolerance" and by accusing those who opposed them of being "narrow-minded." By this strategy many of the conservatives were put on the defensive. They suddenly became timid when they were accused of intolerance or narrow-mindedness. All their resistance and discernment and even moral standards suddenly melted away. Their response to such accusations was often something like this: "Well, we don't agree with the liberals, but after all we are all Christians and we must be tolerant. Intolerance is a terrible sin. Let us never be guilty of it." In this manner those evils that would destroy the soul, the church and the nation were welcomed into the seminaries, pulpits and courts of the church. Never did the forces of error have an easier or more sweeping victory.
My church just replaced our copies of the Book of Psalms for Singing with the new Trinity Psalter Hymnal published by the OPC and URCNA. I was asked to present an introduction to this new song book in our Sunday school class. It turned into a brief history of hymnody and psalmody in American Presbyterians along with looking at some distinctives of this wonder new hymnal.
In 1957 Christianity Today editor Dr. J. Marcellus Kik sent R. J. Rushdoony, then known primarily as a promising young critic of modernism and secular education, a letter announcing the launch of a new venture. At the time, Rushdoony had not yet abandoned the mainline Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) for J. Gresham Machen’s separatist Orthodox Presbyterian Church. If Rushdoony had done so, Kik would likely have never reached out to him because, as [Carl] Henry later recalled of his editorial strategy, "We solicited articles from evangelicals in mainline denominations, not because we were precommihted to ecumenism but because writers in the independent church might give the magazine an anti-ecumenical cast that would hinder our outreach."
As stated clerk of the General Assembly of the Southern Presbyterian church, Woodrow Wilson’s father Joseph Wilson was responsible for editing the minutes of the Assembly. He often called on young Woodrow for assistance. Woodrow said:
I remember that the Stated Clerks of those Presbyteries gave me gave a great deal of trouble. Some of them, particularly of the country Presbyteries would not consult the almanac. They would saw that they Presbytery would convene on the second Monday after full moon, early at candlelight. My father exacted of me that I should find out which Monday that was and calculate the probable hour of early candlelight.
A man who loves the Reformed Faith with all his heart and believes that no matter what other churches or other individuals may think is true, will, I think, defend it whether it is popular or not and will carry his defence [sic] of it out into the public concils [sic] of the Church.
The recent solar eclipse reminded my dad that his grandfather had seen the 1919 eclipse in Congo. My great grandfather recounts the story in his memoir:
One day in mid-afternoon I was teaching a Bible class in the grass-roofed chapel. The roof was rather low at the edges, so most of our light was reflected from the ground. It grew darker and darker, until we could not see to read. I told the students we had better get home before the storm broke. We stepped outside, but to our great surprise there was no storm. But it continued to grow darker and darker. There was a total eclipse of the sun.
Mr. Stilz got a photograph showing a perfect corona. Some days later I started on my homeward journey, but I was to go out of my way to visit Bibanga station. I arrived there in four or five days. A few days out from Lusambo a village chief asked me in all seriousness whether it was true, as he had heard, that a white man reached up his hand, and covered the sun.
After his retirement (which was in 1986), my grandfather wrote this preface to the genealogical research he did on his own family.
While waiting for Sunday dinner in the home of the Hong family of Oo-nam Myun Imsil County, North Chulla Province, Republic of Korea, we saw a tall stack of books in the corner. The father of our host, an elderly gentleman, answered our question about them by showing us that they were the records of his family going back for over a thousand years. Mr. Hong said that every thirty years, those with his surname gathered and updated this registry. They planned at their next meeting to send a printed record with names and photographs of all the Hong clan members to the national libraries of every nation on earth, so that in future generations their descendants who migrated to those countries could trace their family ancestry.
Unfortunately no such system has been in existence for most Western families, including our own. I never knew my two grandfathers who died long before I was born, and my grandmothers died when I was very young so that I have only the dimmest memories of them. An attempt to trace our antecedents more than a couple of centuries would now be difficult, if not impossible. In our case, interest would center in the family tree of my father (the Hoppers of Kentucky) and my mother (the Barrons of South Carolina), and for Dot that of her father (the Longeneckers of Pennsylvania) and her mother (the Hauharts of Missouri). This would result in a blend for our own children of blood from England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, and Switzerland… so far as we know.
One common factor in all of these is that they were strong Christians (at least in recent generations and perhaps before that) and represent Presbyterian, Methodist, and Mennonite backgrounds. Another common feature is that all our ancestors of two generations ago (that of our grandparents) were farmers, living in rural areas, who during their lifetime moved to urban areas. All of them were hard-working, decent, respected members of their communities. There is no record of any “black sheep” nor of any who failed in their family, community, and church relationships.
An account of personal experiences may be interesting for one or two reasons: (1) because the writer is in some way remarkable; (2) because, not being at all remarkable, he may be able to set forth in a concrete way the experience of a considerable body of men. Read More