The one event that revealed and provided the basis for the inclusivist church, which indeed expressed the principles that make possible the broad ecumenical church, came to the fore in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. in the Auburn Affirmation. Twelve hundred and ninetythree clergymen in 1924 signed “an Affirmation” drafted in Auburn, N. Y., which attacked a deliverance composed of five statements or points of doctrine of the General Assembly adopted in 1923, or rather reaffirmed in 1923, for it had been first adopted in 1910, and reaffirmed in 1916. These famous five points which became known as “The Five Points of Fundamentalism” were emphasized in the Assembly’s actions because of the attacks that were being made upon them by the liberals and those who had succumbed to the higher critical assault upon the Bible and the Christian faith. These five points were:

1. It is an essential doctrine of the Word of God and our standards that the Holy Spirit did so inspire, guide and move the writers of Holy Scripture as to keep them from error.

2. It is an essential doctrine of the Word of God and our standards that our Lord Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary.

3. It is an essential doctrine of the Word of God and our standards that Christ offered up Himself a sacrifice to satisfy Divine justice and to reconcile us to God.

4. It is an essential doctrine of the Word of God and of our standards concerning our Lord Jesus Christ, that on the third day He rose again from the dead with the same body with which He suffered, with which also He ascended into heaven, and there sitteth at the right hand of His Father, making intercession.

5. It is an essential doctrine of the Word of God as the supreme standard of our faith that our Lord Jesus Christ showed His power and love by working mighty miracles. This working was not contrary to nature, but superior to it.

The attack upon these was direct. The Affirmation called them “theories” and “not the only theories.” It said: “Some of us regard the particular theories contained in the deliverance of the General Assembly of 1923 as satisfactory explanations of these facts and doctrines. But we are united in believing that these are not the only theories allowed by the Scriptures and our standards as explanations of these facts and doctrines of our religion, and that all who hold to these facts and doctrines, whatever theories they may employ to explain them, are worthy of all confidence and fellowship.”

The virgin birth of Christ could not possibly be a theory. The death of Christ for our sins is no theory, and this is exactly what is behind the reference to the Cross as a thing of mystery, as we considered the Cross in Chapter 4. Neither could the resurrection of Christ from the dead on the third day be a theory.

These events either happened or they did not happen. The relegation, of these glorious truths of the Christian faith to the realm of theories, therefore, involved an expression of genuine unbelief.

The Auburn Affirmation rejected the doctrine of the inerrancy of the Scriptures. It said, “The doctrine of inerrancy, intended to enhance the authority of the Scriptures, in fact impairs their supreme authority for faith and life, and weakens the testimony of the church to the power of God unto salvation through Jesus Christ.”

It was just this that the Confession of 1967 specifically took from the church in its demoting of the Westminster Confession. The Christian Century, June 8, 1966, in discussing the adoption of the new confession, said, “To a great extent the confession constitutes a tidying up of the theological ground that has.been fought over in recent decades.”

Christianity and Crisis, May 17, 1965, edited by the leadership of Union Theological Seminary in New York City, which, as we pointed out earlier, withdrew from the Presbyterian Church in order that Professor Charles Briggs could continue on its faculty following his expulsion from the church, had this to say:

It will be observed at once that the new confession, which does aspire to constitutional status, does not specify any of the five fundamentals. It does not explicitly deny them, but the treatment of the Bible will not give comfort to those who hold for literal inerrancy. One might say in fact that the new confession goes down the line of the doctrinal paragraphs of the famous Auburn Affirmation of 1924, which opposed the exclusive assertion of fundamentalist tenets. What was a barely tolerated minority opinion 40 years ago is now being proposed as the official doctrine of the church.

Indeed this is exactly what has taken place.

As one reads this heretical Auburn Affirmation he finds three other emphases which were so strong in the Boston assembly.

The first emphasis was upon unity. “Finally,” the Affirmation says, “we deplore the evidences of division in our beloved church, in the face of a world so desperately in need of a united testimony . . .” Let it be said-Had the Bible believers in the church in 1924 employed the disciplines of the church for the purification of the church, there never would have been a Confession of 1967. Moreover, the liberal minority at that time used the emphasis upon unity and peace to shield themselves and secure their place within the fellowship of the church.

The second emphasis was upon liberty. The Affirmation said, “Furthermore, this opinion of the General Assembly attempts to commit our church to certain theories concerning the inspiration of the Bible, and the Incarnation, the Atonement, the Resurrection, and the Continuing Life and Supernatural Power of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

In this appeal for liberty within the church, the Affirmation used Scriptural terminology, phrases similar to what we find in the Confession of 1967—”that Jesus Christ was God manifest in the flesh; that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself.” In fact, the signers of the Auburn Affirmation even went further to suggest that in these broader limits they be permitted “to exercise liberty of thought and teaching, that we may more effectively preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of, the World.”

The third emphasis was upon “reconciling the world unto Himself,” and this, let it be emphasized, is the theme of the Confession of 1967. How closely it all fits together and how clearly may now be seen the basis for the whole ecumenical structure!

The Auburn Affirmation also had a point in it which brought considerable confusion. The signers maintained that the General Assembly by a deliverance had no authority to elevate as “essential” the famous five points. But these five points were not elevated by the Assembly; they are contained in the Confession of Faith and taught in the Holy Scriptures. It was their presence in the Holy Scriptures and their incisive statement in the Confession of Faith which made them “essential” and binding on the church, not the fact that a General Assembly in a particular deliverance singled them out. This particular emphasis, however, became of far greater significance in the conflict that developed over the Mandate of the General Assembly of 1934 directed toward the members of The Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, which resulted in their ecclesiastical trials, and which I shall discuss in Chapter 18.

The Auburn Affirmation has been a continuing issue in the church through the years, but now with the adoption of the Confession of 1967 this issue can never be raised again.

In the first place, no longer does the denomination profess that the Bible is inspired of God. No longer are there ordination vows binding men to the Holy Scriptures as being the only infallible rule of faith and practice. No longer is there any Westminster Confession of Faith with its clear statements concerning the death of Christ being a “sacrifice” to satisfy divine justice and to reconcile us to God. No longer is there a creed to bind the church to believe in the virgin birth of our Lord.

In regard to the question of the virgin birth of our Lord, the Affirmation, in calling it a theory and attacking it, said, “We all hold . . . that Jesus Christ was God manifest in the flesh . . . .” The Westminster standards, Chapter VIII, Section II, said, “The Son of God, the second person in the Trinity, being very and eternal God …. did . . . take upon him man’s nature . . . being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, of her substance. So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, . . . were inseparably joined together in one person . . .”

The Bible says, “A virgin shall conceive” (Isa. 7:14); “To a virgin…the angel…said…Fear not, Mary…behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS…The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:27-35) .

It may be said that the Auburn Affirmationists have now had a total victory, so complete that they have been successful in destroying the testimony of the church to the precious truths that Christianity has maintained through all the centuries, but which the Auburn Affirmationists considered to be theories.

The inclusivists, the modernists, have triumphed.