Is the church obsolete? The answer, clearly, is that many churches are. The basic definition of the word “obsolete” is “gone out of use.” Not too many years ago, a horse and buggy were necessary on most farms; today, they are obsolete, and, for much farming, even a barn is obsolete also. They have no real function or purpose in terms of the necessities of farm life today.
Is the same true of the church? The church is, by the definition of the Bible, the body of Christ, made up of His members, governed by His Word and ordained officers, and called together for worship by the preaching of the Word of God and the administration of the sacraments. According to the Bible, the church does not belong to man but to Jesus Christ: it is His possession, called to serve Him and fulfill His purposes.
The church is obsolete when it fails to do that. In fact, the church is not a church when it fails to fulfill Christ’s purpose. When the church becomes an agency for propagating unbelief, when it denies the basic doctrines of the faith, it is obsolete. When a church joins forces with social revolution, when it champions lawlessness, rioting, and the organized assault on the property rights of farmers and businessmen, the church is obsolete. Of every false church, Jesus Christ says, “I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth” (Rev. 2:16). His promise to false churches is one of sharp judgment (Rev. 2:23). In Christ’s eyes, false churches are obsolete, of no use to Him, and therefore to be destroyed.
If Christ, according to His Word, regards false churches as obsolete, as useless to Him, we have no right to treat them differently. We cannot stand with a church that has abandoned Jesus Christ and expect Him to bless and defend us.
Even a prominent leftist, Michael Harrington, recently protested against the church’s position today. While agreeing with their revolutionary political ideas, he declared that “they still have an obligation to talk about their old theological hero, God. If they are unwilling to do that, they should take off their robes and discard the ceremonial paraphernalia and come out into the secular cold with the rest of us. Otherwise, the crosses … are so much costume jewelry.” Harrington concluded, “And so, my radical advice to these radical religionists is: God should go to church. And maybe He shouldn’t hang around the bars so much.”
Not only the cross but the entire form of the church is simply “so much costume jewelry” for most clergymen today. They use the form of the church to promote the substance of a socialist revolution. They use the form of the preaching of God’s Word to issue propaganda for political and economic causes that are hostile to Biblical faith.
St. Paul describes these infiltrators into the church as “traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; [h]aving a form
of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away”
(2 Tim. 3:4–5).
As far as Christ is concerned, such a church, and such a clergy, is obsolete: it has lost its usefulness to Him. But a church that is useless, and yet is still thriving, must then have some great use for someone else. Although it is obsolete for Christ, the church is obviously useful to Christ’s enemies.
- R. J. Rushdoony
Rev. R.J. Rushdoony (1916–2001), was a leading theologian, church/state expert, and author of numerous works on the application of Biblical law to society. He started the Chalcedon Foundation in 1965. His Institutes of Biblical Law (1973) began the contemporary theonomy movement which posits the validity of Biblical law as God’s standard of obedience for all. He therefore saw God’s law as the basis of the modern Christian response to the cultural decline, one he attributed to the church’s false view of God’s law being opposed to His grace. This broad Christian response he described as “Christian Reconstruction.” He is credited with igniting the modern Christian school and homeschooling movements in the mid to late 20th century. He also traveled extensively lecturing and serving as an expert witness in numerous court cases regarding religious liberty. Many ministry and educational efforts that continue today, took their philosophical and Biblical roots from his lectures and books.