Two Centuries of Struggle and Division

by Adam Grey  |   Faith and Heritage

In the past two centuries the Church in America has undergone several cycles of terrible decline, followed by division and revival. In the mid-1800s the mainline Protestant denominations split along regional lines due to the ascendancy of abolitionist, often unitarian, egalitarians in both Church and State. The Presbyterians, Methodists, and Baptists all divided because of these theological heresies with profound legal, moral, political, and cultural consequences. These heretics posited (a) that all Christians were forbidden to participate in slavery, despite the clear teaching of the Bible to the contrary; and (b) that all American Christians were obligated to support the U.S. federal government in an unconstitutional, illegal, and bloody invasion of its member States, and in the rapine, plunder, and conquest of their people. Behind these heresies, which most abolitionists and Unionists agreed with, was the more radical belief (c) that though white civilization was far advanced of black society, blacks nonetheless should exercise the same civil and political rights of free white men — and anything short of this was a sin! Unfortunately, the heretics had the upper hand thanks in no small part to their close association with the open enemies of Christ and His Church. Anti-Christian and anti-trinitarian thinkers flocked to the abolitionist, Unionist cause. In the South, not so much.

In the South, white Christians had advocates of biblical natural order in both Church and State even after abolitionist heretics conquered and militarily occupied the Southern States. Decades later in the early twentieth century, the remaining godly white Christians in the North were forced to separate from their parent denominations thanks to the continued advance of the same egalitarian heretics who had led the invasion of the South. For example, liberals in the Presbyterian Church in the North — and overseas in places like the Presbyterian Church in Ulster — had kept pushing their humanist, egalitarian, statist doctrines to the point where simply defending the virgin birth of Christ and the physical resurrection of Christ was seen as cause for church discipline. The cases of J. Gresham Machen and Carl McIntire are perhaps the best-known examples in the U.S. Ian Paisley went through a similar ordeal against heresy in Ulster. In both cases those who adhered to the ancient faith founded new denominations to carry on that tradition. Eventually the Southern denominations underwent similar splits, albeit at later dates.

The same dynamic we are accustomed to today was at work then. In the mid-1800s, the Bible regulated but did not forbid slavery. God even commanded it in some cases, and Christ and the apostles included slaveowners as members of the early Church. The Bible declared the equal access that men of all races had to the spiritual rights and duties of the redeemed, but said nothing in support of political or social equality among the races. The Bible taught obedience and support of governments as they performed their God-given functions, but put limits on their powers and on our duty to obey their dictates. The heresies of the mid-1800s depended on a bad hermeneutic that twisted the Scriptures out of their grammatical and historical context in order to baptize statist, egalitarian humanism.

The same was true when the descendants of those abolitionist invaders attacked the central tenets of the Christian faith openly. They attacked the virgin birth, the resurrection of Christ, the reality of Satan and of the final judgment and of hell, all to appease their sense of pseudo-Christian morality and their man-made image of what God should be. Rather than take God for who He declares Himself to be in the Scriptures, they created a conceptual idol and utilized social institutions such as the State, and the Church itself, to serve that god.

Today we are still facing the same enemy and the same tactics. They have continued to redefine basic concepts such as man, gender, race, and more. They continue to depend on a terrible twisting of plain language to defend their ideas. Their ideas have terrible consequences on society at large, on the welfare of the Church as a whole, on individual souls, and on the members of their families and communities. They are no less a grave threat to the salvation of souls or the liberty and prosperity of our nations than was the threat posed by the abolitionists in the early 1800s or the baptized communists of the early 1900s.

How should we best contend with them? Specifically, is it right to depart from their fellowship — or expel them from ours — in the creation or restoration of purer Christian bodies? If we say separation is always and everywhere the wrong thing to do, we must say the same about the Southern churches that departed in the mid-1800s, about Machen, McIntire, and Paisley who departed in the early 1900s, and about others who have departed in the past decade rather than ordain and wed unrepentant sodomites. If government-sanctioned domestic invasion, church excommunications in defense of heresy, and mandatory submission to redefinitions of sexuality are reasons to depart, then so may be the mandatory redefinition of man, ethnicity, community, and nation.

The question of whether or not we must separate is itself a separate question. At issue before us is whether or not we are forbidden to separate. For Protestants, who would have a hard time arguing that separation is always and everywhere wrong given our roots in both the early Church and our renewal in the Reformation era, the only way of arguing that we must not separate is to narrow down that prohibition to certain conditions. We must not separate unless A, B, C, and D, for example. That is a fine argument and one we should consider.

But in perusing the past two centuries of struggle in Protestantism between orthodoxy and heresy, we see that what each of these attacks on the faith share in common is an undoing of an old, orthodox truth. Though some seem obviously more central to the faith than others, in the cases above even the less obvious ones were deemed sufficient cause to separate. If that was the case then, there may be good reason for contemporary pro-white Christians to do the same now. It could be that our denominations today have already met the conditions necessary for separation.

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