Drawing the Line in the Ministry
by F.W. Rochelle
[excerpted from THE PRESBYTERIAN 94.24 (12 June 1924): 7.]
CONSERVATIVE PRESBYTERIAN RESPONSE TO THE AUBURN AFFIRMATION
What follows may be one of the earliest responses to the Affirmation, published just five or six months after the publication of that declaration. The author in this case was F.W. Rochelle, a graduate of the Class of 1888 at Princeton Theological Seminary, but one who never entered the pulpit ministry and instead pursued a course of business, first in Princeton (1888-1896) and later in Chester, PA (from 1896 until his death).
If those who secured the signatures of the 150 ministers are now circularizing the whole church, to line up all of the ministers, as to whether they believe the whole Bible to be the Word of God, and inerrant, and everything that Jesus said to be literally true, or not, and if they succeed and the results are published, they will be doing just what the writer has thought for ten years ought to be done, and which I have often thought of trying to do alone.
When a church calls a minister, I believe it wants to know, and that it is right that it should know, whether he believes the whole Bible to be the Word of God, and inerrant, and every word that Jesus uttered to be true, or not, and thus to know what he will preach. There should be a list printed of those ministers who honestly believe everything that the Saviour said and did, just as he intended that it should be believed, the same as there are commercial lists of those business men who are financially responsible. Some churches, no doubt, call men, not knowing that they are doubters. If the membership of the churches know what candidates believe and what ones are doubters, most churches will call men of sound doctrine. Few Christians will pay to listen to doubts and few want their children to listen to them.
Doubt is self-destructive. If doubters, who think to win all the church to be doubters want to know what will ultimately happen to them, they would do well to read their church histories and see what always happens to doubters, or if they have no histories, to read the articles in any encyclopedia on Arius and Athanasius, and see what became of the doubters fifteen hundred years ago. Every age brings forth a new brand of doubters, but they all go the same way. If ministers or others want to get rid of their doubts, let them stop reading the speculations of men, and prayerfully read through the Bible itself. Read it through once, and if it does not rid them of doubts, read it ten times, if necessary. Ministers may know a lot of things listed under the head of “criticism,” but they do not know their Bibles if they are doubters. A judge does not instruct the jury to listen to the opposing counsel and decide the case on what they say. He instructs the jury to read the evidence that has been submitted and decide on that. The evidence is in the Bible, and not in books about the Bible. After reading the Bible long enough, the conviction will settle into their minds that man never wrote that Book, and that man never lived the life, uttered the words, and did the works that Jesus did. When Peter began to sink, Jesus said, “Why did you doubt?” That is what we all do when we doubt — sink.
The living church and salvation are founded upon absolute faith in Jesus and not on doubts, and the living church will not die out, and another founded upon negatives take its place.