A TESTIMONY FOR CHRIST AND HIS INFALLIBLE WORD

By Dr. Robert S. Rapp to the Hungarian Reformed Church.

On March 13, 1997 the Consultative Synod of the Hungarian Reformed Churches (CSHRC) met and declared the Károlyi Gáspár Institute of Theology and Missions (KGITM) to be “off limits” to the church. The reason for this was given: “In the last six years KGITM did not arrange its relations with the Hungarian Reformed Church…. They were asked several times to clarify their theological position, their school organization and to gain our church approval – but until now they failed to do this…. We were ready for negotiations, but they refused to do this…. The CSHRC asks all who plan… to study theology by all means not to apply at this institute.” It is the purpose of this piece, written by me as the Director of KGITM, to point out that we did in fact, make known to the church our theological position and school organization. It is for a different reason our school has been declared off limits by the CSHRC. In giving this reason, I need to say something about the theological views of some in the church and their activities. In saying these things, it is my prayer that my remarks will not be understood as an attack on anyone, but necessary in the service of truth and so serve the spiritual kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I am painfully aware that, in spite of my best efforts, I may not succeed in this with some. Nevertheless, I offer up this piece to God with the prayer it will serve the truth and glory of Jesus Christ and not the narrow interests of our own organization.

Before doing this, let me give this personal testimony. When the 1989 revolution unfolded in Central/Eastern Europe it caught the world’s attention and mine in particular. As a veteran missionary educator, I saw the possibility of a new school of theology and missions in this area of the world. It came, in fact, with the force of a divine call. The Lord Jesus Christ and His command to “disciple the nation” compelled me and my mission to look into this. We sensed: 1) Hungary would be the place to begin to look 2) the seminaries of the Hungarian Reformed Church which had collaborated with the old regime would have difficulty in returning to the old path of Sola Scriptura 3) yet some in the church would want such a school – one absolutely committed to the Bible, to the great truths of the Reformation, and to the vigorous propagation of the Gospel.

As a result, I made exploratory trips to Hungary and Romania 1990-92. On these trips, I was careful to give the doctrinal position of our mission. I emphasized three points. They were: 1) Our absolute commitment to the Bible as the Word of God 2) Our absolute commitment to Calvinist, Reformed theology and, with it, a rejection of charismatic error 3) Our absolute rejection of the liberal theology and syncretistic activities of the World Council of Churches (our mission published a booklet on this in 1993 and sent it to every Reformed Church in Hungary and Romania). I mentioned three other points: 4) Scripture teaches that the office of bishop in the same as the office of pastor/teacher, i.e., there is no separate office of bishop in the Bible 5) Scripture does not permit women to be ordained as ministers to preach the Word and administer the sacraments and 6) Scripture requires local congregations to be under the government of God’s Word and its standards, apart from which no one ought to be treated as a member in good standing.

So, then, it was our policy to make our theological position clear wherever we went. In 1992 the Lord enabled us to begin in Budapest. Then in 1994 we moved to Miskolc. During these years, we taught these things openly, understanding them to be what the Hungarian Reformed Church always believed and especially in its finest years of testimony. We also wanted to be a part of the church. We were very much aware of the strong ecumenical tendencies of the upper echelons of the church and sensed it might be difficult, if not impossible to be integrated. Nevertheless, encouraged by some in the church, we tried our best to do this. Contrary to the recent statement of the CSHRC we were never seriously approached by any bishop to clarify our theological position. If we had been, we would have responded quickly and in writing. In addition, we often discussed these matters with persons close to the bishops, if not the bishops themselves.

Our effort reached a climax in April, 1996 when we formally requested the Tiszaninnen Church District to integrate us into the church. This request included a handbook on the history of the school, its purpose, a statement of faith, our educational philosophy, our organization, rules for teachers and students, the curriculum and other matters. (It was intended to be a starting point. The only thing we could not change was our statement of faith.) This request was then forwarded to the National Synod for consideration. There, however, Bishop Hegedüs and others of his party worked to keep it from being presented to the National Synod for an open discussion and a vote. That was all we asked for – an open discussion by the National Synod, the highest court of the church, and a vote one way or the other. Instead, a small group of men exerted their will against the church in its right to openly discuss the matter end bring it to a vote.

This group of men did not want us. If our documents had not been in order, they could have pointed this out in open discussion and easily defeated us. Or if our statement of faith had been contrary to the historic teaching of the church and they had wanted to defend the faith, they could have done this in open discussion and, I presume, won. But they could not do this. For our documents were in order, and our statement of faith was Calvinist and Reformed. So they used other means to block our way into the church. In so doing, however, they exceeded their God-given authority and acted, not for the church, but for themselves and for the liberal party of the church. The matter was then sent back to the Tiszaninnen Church District, where they hoped it would be rejected. But the church district did not want to act on it, either. So they asked us to submit our request to Sárospatak. In doing this, they sent the matter outside the jurisdiction of the church, but we obeyed their instructions. There we were rejected, of course. Why would Sárospatak want to accept us and have us compete against them for students?

One year later this same group of men claims: “KGITM did not arrange its relations with the church…. They were requested…to clarify their theological position…but…they failed to do this…. We were ready for negotiation, but they refused to do this” Why doesn’t the liberal party simply admit that they don’t want us and that they hate our theological views? The answer is simple. We represent the Bible and the historic position of the Hungarian Reformed Church and they do not. Whatever their theology may be, it is not the theology of the Bible, of the reformation or of the historic creeds of the church. They know it is not, and they know that our theology is. Therefore, they try to stop us in whatever way they can. If we begin our work without their permission, they charge us with schism. But if we seek permission, doing this in the proper manner, they block our way into the church, not by an open discussion but by other means. The final step in their efforts to reduce us to nothing is to declare us off limits, assign false reasons, then publish it everywhere, even in secular newspapers. We are reminded how the Pharisees threw the man whom Jesus had healed of blindness out of the synagogue. But Jesus comforted him and said of the Pharisees: “If you were blind, you would have no sin: but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains.” (Jn. 9:41)

I remember the visit of Bishop Hegedüs to the United Stated several years ago and his message at Lancaster Theological Seminary. I remember how he spoke with admiration of all the liberal European theologians he had followed in writing his doctoral dissertation, none of whom had a Biblical or historically Reformed view of the Bible. I also remember how, when I greeted him afterward, he stormed at me and said: “There is no room for you or your fundamentalism in Hungary!” In saying this, he spoke his true mind. It is noteworthy that he and the rest of CSHRC now give a completely different reason, that we “did not clarify (our) theological position.” The real reason, however, is what he calls our fundamentalism. He hates our doctrine. It is not the doctrine of his liberal party. Nor does it approve of his broad ecumenical practices and those of his party who, contrary to the Word of God, worship with and recognize those whose doctrines were considered heresy by the Apostolic Church and by the Reformation Church.

So, then the real reason is that we are “fundamentalists”!! We do not, of course, apply that term to ourselves. It is, in fact, a term of derision by liberals for someone who ignorantly clings to the Bible as infallible, refuses the new “light” of science and evolutionary development, and is fanatical in his outlook. We prefer to be called Bible-believing Christians who have been saved by the mercy of Jesus Christ. We are Calvinists who accept the great truths of the Reformation. And being this, we reject all that is against the Word of God, the glorious person of our Lord Jesus, His Gospel and the lawful government of His church. Let me quote a section of our Statement of Faith in the handbook we submitted last year to the Tiszaninnen Church District and National Synod:

“Because the school is committed to the Bible as the very Word of God, it rejects all heretical theories which reject the deity of Christ, the miracles of the Bible, the divine inspiration of the Bible, and the full trustworthiness of the Bible in all its parts. It also rejects the teaching of the Roman Church and all other teachings which do not maintain that salvation is by grace alone (Sola Gratia) through faith alone (Sola fide) in Christ alone (Solus Christus). Nor will KGITM cooperate with or worship with those who represent another gospel which is not the Gospel of Christ. We must hold to the scandal of the cross. At the same time, KGITM earnestly seeks to work with those of like precious faith in the Reformed Church of Hungary because of our common confessional basis.”

This is what we are, just Bible-believing Christians. We ought not even have to add the part “Bible-believing,” for a Christian should believe the Bible from cover to cover. But to specify that we are not liberal and do not accept the unbelieving views of the German higher critics of the Bible, we say “Bible-believing.” We also want it known that we are not Arminian in theology, but Calvinist or Reformed. And we want it known that we are opposed to the ungodly religious syncretism of the World Council of Churches. Therefore we say: “We are Bible-believing Christians, Reformed in our theology, and Reformational in our church practice.” That is all. But if the term “fundamentalist” is put upon us as a term of derision, then we accept this much of it: We do hold to an infallible Bible. And we reject the unbelieving views of evolution, whether they be found in natural science (Darwin), philosophy (Hegel, etc.), economics (Marx), psychology (Freud), Biblical criticism (Wellhausen, etc.) or theology (Moltmann, Brunner – and even Barth – all of whom hold to the defective Bible of German higher criticism).

So, then, we begin by confessing the Bible to be the inerrant, infallible Word of God. We hold, in accordance with Scripture itself, that the Bible, all 66 books, was given under the supernatural, sovereign direction of God the Holy Spirit. In doing this, the Holy Spirit did not generally go against, but used the personalities of the men who were chosen and enabled to write Scripture. Yet what was written was always superintended by the Holy Spirit in such a way that the result was without error in the autographs. The result is, therefore, the “holy Scriptures.” Paul also told Timothy that “all Scripture is God-breathed,” that is, originates in the mind and will of God. It is the very Word of God, without error in all it parts. It is true that men need the illuminating work of God the Holy Spirit to understand it. Yet, understood or not, believed or not, it is the Word of God as the first two chapters of the Second Helvetic Confession so clearly explain. The Psalmist says, “Forever, O Lord, Your Word is settled in heaven.” (Ps. 119:89). This is more than a general statement about God’s truth. It is a statement about the written laws, precepts, commandments and words of “holy” Scripture.

In a piece written for Református Egyház, Dr. Szathmáry Sándor writes: “Let’s be open to these new challenges and let them question our knowledge till now. Those who say their faith…doesn’t need an addition – that person is a fundamentalist and dogmatist… (Thus) we have to redefine the truths of faith in each age…. How (then) shall we understand Sola Scriptura? Is the Word infallible?… (No), we can’t say it is inerrant, infallible.” (October, 1995) The discerning reader can see that if we no longer have infallible Scriptures, we no longer have a basis for believing anything in the Bible. (And there can be no basis for faith outside the Bible.) The result is liberalism – every man can believe and do what is right in his own eyes. This is why the World Council of Churches, after its Faith and Order Commission concluded that the Bible was not the Word of God, only a witness to the Word, also concluded that God reveals Himself everywhere today – even in pagan religion. The homosexuals also have some light. So does the feminist movement. And, of course, the old differences between Rome and the Reformers must now be set aside in order to pursue “reconciliation.” When Scripture is abandoned as the very Word of God, truth itself has no foundation. Everything is opened up to change. As Dr. Szathmáry says, “We have to redefine the truths of faith in each age.” But this is heresy.

After Sola Scriptura, the Reformers taught that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. They insisted, with the Bible, that men by nature deserve the wrath of God and eternity in hell for their sins. They knew that the love of God did not come to man at the expense of God’s holiness and justice. It is rather that the eternal Son of God took to Himself sinless humanity and suffered the wrath of God in behalf of sinners. “He who knew no sin was made sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2Cor. 5:21) The Reformers understood there was a hell to shun and a heaven to gain, and the only way to heaven was through faith in the Christ who bore our sins. They also knew that the person and work of Christ could never be separated. So that to deny the eternal deity of Christ was to deny the way of salvation itself. To them the Unitarian error was heresy and “another gospel.”

This has not, however, prevented Bishops Tőkés and Csiha from recognizing the Unitarian Church in Transylvania. Earlier this year they participated in and gave their blessing at the installation of Dr. Szabó Árpád as the 15th Unitarian bishop of Transylvania. When David Ferenc brought in the heresy of Unitarianism, Reformers such as Méliusz (and Károlyi Gáspár) did not accept it, but opposed it so that the truth of the Gospel might remain. What the forefathers of Bishops Tőkés and Csiha fought, however, they now bless.

The Reformers also opposed the system of works, the blasphemous mass, the priesthood, the idolatry, the superstitions, and the usurped authority of the Pope of Rome. Anyone who doubts this should reread the Second Helvetic Confession. But most of the bishops today are giving their blessing to Rome’s false gospel of works. In 1991 Bishop Tőkés and Roman Catholic Bishop Tempfli “consecrated the first church building of its kind in Central Europe” (A Hegyaljai Ökumenikus Templom) where Reformed worship service’s and the Roman mass are now “celebrated alternately.” In 1996 Bishop Tőkés and Bishop Tempfli had joint services in Switzerland. Then in 1996 these two men went to Germany where Partiumi Közlöny reported: “This trip proved the usefulness of common appearance.” But how useful is spiritual darkness? When it damns the Soul?

Commenting on ecumenical worship, Bishop Csiha says: “Our Reformation and Transylvanian heritage is tolerance toward each other. We must try to respect the people of other churches, their humanity and their nationality…. Christian churches can accomplish their tasks only if they are working together and appreciate and love each other.” (Reformátusok Lapja, March 16, 1997) We must, of course, tolerate one another in a civil and nationalistic sense, but it is unbiblical to say that a Christian church can not accomplish its task before God unless it recognizes the spiritual darkness of those who teach another gospel. The opposite is true. Embracing spiritual darkness displeases God, corrupts worship, and renders the church powerless to fulfill her ministry of proclaiming the Gospel to sinners. “If we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.” (Gal. 1:9)

This is why we are so strongly opposed to the World Council of Churches. All the money and material aid it gives and all the seeming political advantages which are gained by being a part of it  are nothing compared to the loss of faith which comes in with its spiritual darkness. “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?” From June 23 to 29 this summer there will be a large ecumenical gathering in Gratz, Austria. It is being organized jointly by the Roman Catholic Church and Europe‘s main Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox Churches. The theme is: “Reconciliation – Gift of God and Source of New Life.” Typical of ecumenical gatherings, the language is Biblical, but the substance is not. For “reconciliation” will be used in a social, economic, political and purely human sense. It will have nothing to do with the reconciliation of sinners to a holy God through the blood of Christ because the controlling faction in the WCC does not believe these things. Desmond Tutu, leading campaigner against South African apartheid, will preach his gospel of social/political liberation and be wildly cheered. The social gospel will be heard, yes. The Biblical gospel, no.

We also believe there is no Biblical warrant for making a special office for bishops in the church. It is true there have been some good bishops in the history of the church. Athanasius was a bishop and a good one. He stood against the world when the world denied the deity of His Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. Would that the bishops of Romania were like Athanasius! Instead we see them celebrating Martin Luther Day in Cluj by inviting Unitarians, Roman Catholics, Greek Orthodox and others to speak! (Üzenet, November, 1996) We see them awarding doctors’ degrees at Cluj to Roman Catholic teachers (Üzenet, July, 1995). Instead of using their office to defend the faith, then, they use it to lead a new generation of ministers down the path of spiritual darkness. And if any cry out against this as a betrayal of the faith, they will likely suffer for it.

And we believe it is wrong for the church to ignore the teaching of Scripture regarding the government of the church. Just as God has ordained men to lead the human family, so God has ordained men, godly men, to be his ministers in the church. It is a great insult to the King of the church to fill His church with those who are clearly prohibited from being its ministers. In the Old Testament, only the descendants of Aaron were to be in the priesthood. This was clear, and anything else brought God’s displeasure. In the New Testament, women are encouraged to serve the Lord in many ways in the church, but not as ministers. To practice otherwise is to ignore Scripture, dishonor the Lord of the church, and bring confusion and disorder into the house of God.

Finally, we believe every congregation should be under Biblical instruction and discipline. It is not Biblical or Reformed to give the sacraments to persons who, during the year, disregard the services of the church, then on Easter and Christmas make an appearance. It is one of those great truths of the Reformation that the Word of God must shape our lives or our lives are not being shaped at all in Christ. So that, without a right understanding of the Word, the administration of the sacraments is just another form of heathenism. Nor ought the honor of Christ be besmirched so that any carnal person, living a carnal life all year long, can walk into the church on Christmas and feed upon the symbols of the broken body and blood of Christ. Brethren, we ought to weep at this sinful, pagan misuse of holy communion. Instead, the practice is defended. Juhász Tamás, professor at Cluj, says: “The members of the church are (all) God’s people, so we can’t make a difference between ‘believers’ and ‘unbelievers’…in the church.” (Üzenet, Oct 96)

Here we see the ecumenical spirit. The Bible is not our infallible guide. Jesus Christ is whoever we want Him to be. Salvation is whatever we want to make of it. And the church can be run in whatever way we please. There are no standards except these: We must not say the Bible is infallible. We must not separate from those who deny Christ. We must not say there is only one Gospel. We must not insist the church belongs to Christ and be run His way. And we must not say anyone is an “unbeliever” if he is baptized and pays his church tax! If we say this, we are “fundamentalists”! God help us to repent and turn from the way of man and learn again the old paths of righteousness! For until we do, there can be no true blessing, no true revival, only deeper shame and darkness!

I realize these words are hard. I weep as I say them. Yet they are said with more true love for the Hungarian Reformed Church than those who use it to their own ends, who oppress true believers, and who lead the church away from the Word of God. I pray this piece will be seen as an act of love, therefore. But if it is not, I pray that men will at least know that a servant of Christ has spoken. As for the future of our school and our missionary work, it is in our Lord’s hands. And we rejoice in His words: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go an bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain.” (John 15:16) “I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” (Mt. 16:18) “Father, I pray for them. I pray not for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours.” (John 17:9) “Do not fear any of those things you are about to suffer…. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Rev. 2:10)

June 10, 1997

This entry was posted in Articles. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.