Should the Underground Church Be Brought Up?

The following was delivered for a class at Calvin College by Laurie Vanden Heuvel, wife of Rev. Thomas C. Vanden Heuvel, pastor of the Central Avenue Christian Reformed Church in Holland, Michigan.

The Calvin class was taking a course in “Radical Religion,” a course for the consideration of various “radical” movements such as: speaking in tongues, Black Power, tile Underground Church, and other movements. The book by Malcolm Boyd from which Mrs. Vanden Heuvel quotes a number of times is THE UNDERGROUND CHURCH (Sheed and Ward, New York, N.Y., 1968).

The decade of the “seventies” has been predicted by many to be a decade of revolution. New terms and idioms are being created constantly to describe some new aspect in the relentless urge for change. One such term is “turned off.” Young people tell us they are “turned off by their parents, their teachers, their government, their church. By this they mean they no longer share the convictions or goals of the established authority in the home or elsewhere.

Common Confession – Jesus Christ Is Lord Bringing the problem closer to home, we observe that some young people in our denomination tell us they are “turned off to the Christian Reformed Church. The question many are asking is: Why is there so much controversy in the church? Why cannot we all unite around Jesus Christ as our common commitment and let everything else up to each individual conscience? There is no one in our fellowship who would not be willing to say “Amen” to the expressed desire that everyone unite around the common confession that Jesus Christ is Lord. The rub comes in defining what this means. For too many this means to confess Christ and then “do their own thing.” But those who would be true to their Savior seek to respond to Him in obedience to the mandates that He Himself has laid down for all who would follow Him. These demands can be summarized as follows:

1. Confessing Jesus as Lord involves a commitment of all our political, economic, educational, social, scientific and cultural life to His claims so that no area of our lives is left uncontrolled or unregulated by Him.

2. Confessing Jesus as Lord means loving Him with all that we have and all that we are. This involves complete compliance with Christ’s definition of love when He says: “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). And here is where many are “turned off’ by this confession that Jesus Christ is Lord. They say, “Jesus is Lord” but “I will not have Him rule over me.” And Christ says, “Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).

3. Confessing Jesus as Lord means that we follow His example. Because Jesus showed compassion for the weak, the sick, the maltreated, we must do the same. Because Christ had a view of the inerrancy of Scripture that extended to the “jot and tittle,” we must have the same view. Because Jesus exercised a vital life of prayer and communion with His Father, we must do the same.

4. Confessing Jesus as Lord means that we embrace His Word as God-breathed and “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for instruction in righteousness” that we may be thoroughly equipped for all good works.

Creeds and Confessions

It is because many people confessed Christ as Lord but were unwilling to accept all the responsibilities involved in that confession, that throughout the history of Christendom from time to time, groups gathered together usually due to some outside pressures, to formulate truths of Scripture which they considered to be binding and undebatable. These bodies of truth became known as Creeds and Confessions. They have served a very important function throughout the history of the Church in this way that they: 1) provided a clearer understanding of Scripture; 2) promoted true unity in the Church; 3) aided in the task of witnessing; 4) defined for the members and others, essential truths of the Bible.

The tensions which exist today in every denomination find their roots in a rising disagreement among the membership concerning the binding quality of Scriptural truths as confessed in the Confessions of their Church. Now we find people within the fold of the Church who want to confess Jesus as Lord but no longer consider Christ virgin-born or divine, who consider the Bible to be a fallible human witness to divine truth but not the truth itself, who identify social action as faith itself instead of a fruit of faith, who consider the marks of the true church (preaching, discipline, and a pure administration of the sacraments) as unnecessary restrictions. When a wedge is driven between Christ and Christ’s call to obedience, tension and eventual chaos is the result.

Solution to Controversy

What is a church to do when this kind of wedge-driving becomes apparent in its membership? It has no choice but to insist that those within its membership who cannot agree with the confessional stand of the Church: 1) prove that such stand is unscriptural, or 2) leave the Church. To militate against that confession within the confines of Church membership is to be schismatic.

This brings us to the consideration of a group within the Christian Reformed Church which has expressed dissatisfaction with the worship and witness of the CRC as it has been traditionally held among us. This group seemingly desires to be free from the strictures of preaching, discipline, control of sacraments, office-bearers and a prescribed hymnody. So it has taken the liberty of organizing experimental worship services. It is not our intention at this time to condemn this group as schismatic (although they definitely run this risk) or to fail to appreciate whatever legitimate criticisms they may have of our Church as institution. It rather our purpose here to: 1) examine and give a critique of the brief history of development which the Underground Church movement has had in the United States. and 2) to assess where the Underground Church movement in the CRC fits into this picture and where. according to Biblical principles. they err.

History and Critique

It was the growth of the Ecumenical movement and the conclusions of Vatican II that gave birth to the national movement which we have come to know as the “Underground Church.” Because of the nature of this group, very little has come to light as to it,; criticisms of the institutional church, its goals, its underlying philosophy, its worship and its life-style. But in 1968 author Malcolm Boyd edited an excellent book entitled The Underground Church. Here we find answers to the queries which have plagued our minds. Here we sec the pattern for much of the “push” for liturgical and ecclesiastical renewal (so-called) in the CRC.

The underground church has become impatient with the non-involvement of the institutional church in social injustices. They have concluded that the institutional church is here to serve itself and not others.

Although they do hit a legitimate sore spot in the Church’s record, the motivation for and the philosophy underlying their social activism is strictly and unashamedly humanitarian and not at all spiritual. They consider claims of “divine guidance” in human affairs as “unbelievably naive in the modern world.” Their battle cry is freedom, freedom from all authority. “The more vaunting of authority, the more the Underground Church grows” (p. 124). The Bible only serves the purpose of outlining humanitarian goals exemplified in the lives of its notable people, especially Jesus. But they steadfastly maintain that the “Jesus of [Billy] Graham” as divine Son of God, Savior from sin, is not “apparent to us in the canon of the New Testament,” Their basic stance is illustrated significantly by the fact that Bible is consistently spelled with a small “b,” bible, throughout the book.

The two basic drives of the underground church are church unity and radical involvement in the social concerns of contemporary life.

First Basic Drive

The drive for church unity is expressed continually throughout the book in its description of those who comprise this group. One person described it this way: “Worship in the context of the lives we live: candid conversation; compassionate relationships; strength, guidance, and encouragement for commitment. . these are the things the Underground Church means to me. . . . The Church, to me, is small groups of intimate friends getting together, having supper, and just being there a while with each other. At least this is real and it helps us all. Sunday mornings don’t, very often, really help anybody, do they?” (p. 24).

The drive for unity is expressed in the “exciting fellowship and closeness” which they achieve in their “love feasts,” the Eucharist celebrations. For the underground church, the Eucharist (communion-love feasts) is the central activity and the most unifying factor in their religious lives. Far from being a commemoration of the atoning death of Christ for sin, it is rather a thoroughly human experience which contains these themes:

“1. You listen to one another, to the Other, with your whole self.

“2. You respond with commitment to what is heard and to him who speaks the truth.

“3. You give yourself to one another in love and then give yourselves, united, to the highest, the deepest, reality you know. You include in this giving, by thought—some call it prayer—the rest of humanity.

“4. Despite the imperfections of this process, the Spirit of Christ becomes present and somehow joins with himself all who participate through the bread and wine on the table.

“5. The bread is broken—death, the different kinds of death, is faced—suffering, fear, death of self.

“6. The meal is taken—we break bread together, we break bodies together, we sweat together, we receive from each other, from the bread and wine, from Christ, the joy of the kingdom” (pp. 226 and 227).

Another example of such humanistic eucharistic action is found on p. 228 ff. where the Eucharist (communion) consisted upon a certain occasion, in role-playing friendship and love between two boys and one girl. The purpose was to investigate beliefs about honesty and love. They listened to music the Beatles—danced, took long walks, had long talks. The entire experience culminated in a worship service which is thus described:

“It began in quietness. A raucous recording burst in: ‘Bang Bang Oooh She Freaks: Silence again. Reading from Robert Frost’s Fire and Ice. Silence. Passage from St. Paul . . . ‘Now we see through a glass darkly, then face to face: Silence. Passage from A Separate Peace by John Knowles . . . ‘All of us, at infinite cost to ourselves, construct these Maginot Lines against the enemy we think we see across the frontier. The enemy who never attacks that way . . . if he attacks at all . . . if he is indeed the enemy . . .’

“Comment from one who had said very little: ‘I couldn’t role-play. I tried but I just couldn’t. This meant to me we can’t live in false roles and have life mean anything … we must be honest. Maybe it’s up to us, now that we know what we have learned, ‘how the world ends . . . fire or ice (a quote from Robert Frost):

“Silence followed by another comment:

“‘It’s the loneliness.

We don’t want to be lonely alone.

That’s why we talk about it so much:

“Silence . . .” (p. 229)

An intense prayer followed, then a ballet, music by the Beatles, finally a gathering in a circle to break bread against the background music of “Lord of the Dance.” Some elements of this service remind one strangely of the reports of Saturday evening meeting of our own youth convention this summer.

The bishop who tells of this eucharist (communion) experience made the following comment: “It is hard to convey the immense feeling of excitement which exploded there and to comprehend the spirit which continued for many months among us.”

He goes on further to define the underground church’s use of terms such as Incarnation and Resurrection:

“Incarnation is enfleshment, the presence of God in the flesh, the blood, the sweat, and the love of humanity. When the Freedom movement was at its height and strangers were caught up together in its power, many sensed another presence in the hot church basements of Mississippi and on the long, dusty road in Alabama. The presence of danger, the presence of blood, the presence of deep affection among strangers, which touched the innermost responses of love, each was the presence of Christ, incognito. These persons, like the men on the road to Emmaus, felt his presence in the flesh of their brother, without knowing who he was, without recognizing him whom we call Christ” (p. 232).

And further:

“The Resurrection describes the new birth and joy which comes forth after a period of pain. God knows, the younger generation experiences the pain of separation, of what is called ‘alienation.’ Some of them know as well, the intensity of joy which breaks into their lives when this pain is relieved by love, whether it be the love of another person or the love of a new community, like the best of the Hippie community. They also know that the joy is not stable, that it ebbs and flows, that its ebbing is a new suffering and its flooding again a higher joy. They have participated in the pulsating rhythm of Christian life . . . This too is symbolized by the Eucharist. For in it we die to each other, and in it, somehow, we join ourselves to the mighty primeval wresting from night of the dead body of Jesus Christ” (p. 232).

Although some of such experiences find their legitimate place in human experience, one fails to see any connection whatever between these emotional human reactions and Holy Communion. One looks in vain for any recognition of the rupture which sin caused between God and man. One looks in vain for any trace of recognition of the fact that Christ came, and died to atone for sin. Such a miracle of grace is completely foreign to the communion of the eucharist of the underground church. The Word of God has very strong things to say about those who abuse the Lord’s Supper. I Corinthians 11:29 says: “For any one who cats and drinks without discerning the body cats and drinks judgment upon himself.”

By means of the kind of celebration described in the lines above, the underground church hopes to achieve church unity, true ecumenism between Quakers, Baptists, Unitarians, Methodists, Black Power advocates, SDS members, Communists (and Calvinists?).

Second Basic Drive

The second drive of the underground church is radical involvement of the Church in the social concerns of contemporary life. It is best stated by John Pairman Brown when he says: “the functions of the underground church is to define the Peace and Freedom movements as the the church. . . . There must be a convergence among the denominations in the permanent unchanging concerns of the Church—of humanity: family life, the preservation of the natural environment, the truth about the cosmos, art and music, the conduct of the common meal, the search of every individual for himself (p. 39).

It is the implementation of this theme, this goal, this drive, that absorbs the bulk of energies of the underground church and the majority of the pages of Boyd’s book. This drive expresses itself in their baptism form (p. 117), in their Litany of which the following is a sample:

“O God, who is a civilian blown to bits by the bombs which someone said were only meant to destroy military targets, Help us to stop the war. O God, who is sold for a lousy buck as a sweet whore in Saigon, and dies every night and hates her murderers, Help us to stop the war.

“O God, you’re crying, O God, you’re bleeding, O God, you’re dying, o God, you’re dead. Long live God!” (p. 152, 158).

Mutual Confession

At this point it is absolutely essential that Christians confess guilt and admit that the advocates of the underground church have a pointed and valid criticism. It is important to keep in mind that the primary task of the church is to preach the gospel of salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ. But it is the duty and privilege of redeemed Christians to show fruits of faith in their acts of mercy and correction of social injustices. The blame lies, however, not so much at the door of the institutional church, but at the feet of the Christians that make up that Church, in their failure to organize for causes of mercy, for the correction of social injustices.

But at the same time, it is equally essential that promoters of the underground church give proper credit to the many things the institutional church and its individual members have accomplished in these areas. There is always the danger on the part of both the institutional church and the underground church to “over-react” to the faults of the other. I am not trying here to effect any kind of compromise, but simply to give a fair hearing to both sides of the issue.

Underlying Philosophy of the Underground Church

It is the motivation, the underlying philosophy of the social activism of the underground church that spells its ultimate doom. By means of the alleviation of suffering and the correction of social injustices, the underground church seeks to achieve happiness and self-fulfillment. They identify true happiness with humanness.

To suffer poverty, sickness, and social injustice is to be sub-human and thus, unhappy. The new “style of living” which the underground church people seek is what they themselves describe as secular, postreligious. David Kirk says: “The present wor1d provides creative ground for man’s moral and cultural values. The call to secularity is a refusal to be dominated by religious practices which try to make God do our bidding (Matt. 23:1-2) and a refusal to live as slaves to custom and superstition when we have been freed to be sons of God (Gal. 4:1-7) . . . . Joining mankind in its life, freed from religious myth, the Christian may find genuine solidarity with non-Christians, such as the Hindu, the agnostic or the Communist, in striving together toward the common task of building up a genuinely human society” (p. 142-143).

Christ the Example

These people use Christ as their primary example. Now no one will deny that Christ did set an example for us in social action here. But what the underground church people fail to understand is that Christ’s purpose even in and through His miracles, acts of mercy, and acts of fellowship with sinners, was spiritual. Time and time again we read: “Go and sin no more,” “thy sins are forgiven,” “thy faith hath saved thee,” in connection with miracles. Through miracles, acts of healing, Christ wanted to make one point clear, that He is divine, the Son of God, all powerful. John 20:30 and 31 make this very clear: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that believing you may have life in His name.”

But Father Groppi says: “It was not the sins of the poor and the dispossessed and the unwanted that bothered him” (p. 77). But it was precisely the sins which bothered Christ, and this He made very clear in His ministry on earth. But this is what the underground church refuses to acknowledge and that fact will spell the death knell of all their good works. It is a horizontal ministry, totally unrelated to God and His command to give a “cup of cold water” in His name. Our ministry to the poor must be primarily spiritual through the vehicle of the physical and social.

The underground church completely bypasses the purpose for which Christ came which is beautifully expressed in I Peter 3:18, “He came, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” and II Corinthians 8:9, “He who was rich became poor that you through his poverty might become rich.” If we ever ignore or reject this foundation, all our efforts will be in vain.

Much more could be said about the national underground church movement but this is sufficient to trace its activities and expose its undergirding philosophy.

A Fundamental Difference

Before we seek to determine where the underground church movement in the CRC fits into this picture, it is necessary that we examine the moorings from which the people in the national movement have come and the moorings from which our CRC people have come. And here we find a fundamental difference.

Higher Biblical criticism and subsequent liberalism began invading the major denominations many years ago so that by now the state of apostasy is well-nigh complete and thousands of churches no longer maintain an infallible Bible and a divine Savior. These denials so deeply affect the witness and purpose for living among the members of the churches, that it is little wonder that the younger generation is desperately groping for fellowship and purpose for living. In many cases their reaction to a dead church is a very legitimate reaction because their church is actually dead—no gospel.

But the situation with CRC people is entirely different. Through the mercy of the Lord our young people have been exposed to Biblical ‘preaching and teaching at least up to this point in church history. (There are indications that if certain trends are not checked and reversed, this may not continue to be true.)

It is true that this preaching has come through earthen vessels and may have been weakly delivered, but the fact remains that CRC young people have been exposed to the truths of Scripture. This puts an underground church in our midst in an entirely different perspective. For our young people it is not only a step downward. but it could be a disastrous plunge into chaos. What our church needs is young people who will dedicate themselves to an all-out effort to appreciate the heritage with which God has so richly blessed them and an older generation who will make it a point to know their faith themselves (which cannot be assumed) and lend a listening ear to young people, giving guidance when necessary, admitting failure when it is pointed out. And if, in and through all of this, both generations will bow obediently before the Word of God, the “generation gap” will fade away.

Underground Church in the CRC

We come now to a consideration of the underground church movement in the CRC. This group has become known as the “Fellowship of the Acts.” From various sources we learn that this group is dissatisfied with the instituted church and wishes to be free from the strictures of preaching services, an ordained ministry, rule of elders, services of deacons, controlled sacraments, controlled worship services and an outdated hymnody. Freedom is their theme. The book of Acts is their pattern.

Before we proceed, we should make two observations:

1. Freedom can easily be misconstrued and end up in chaos. A fish may be described as “free” to swim wherever he wishes. But notice that he is “free” only within a certain context water. As soon as that fish is taken out of his natural environment and placed on land. he will die. The same thing can be said about our relationship to government and to the law of God. As long as a society operates within the context of its limitations, it is free and happy. As soon as a society disregards law, chaos and violence are the results. The same principle applies to the church. As long as the church operates within the limitations fixed for it by God Himself, it is free. As soon as it throws aside these limitations, it will die. There is no alternative.

2. The underground church claims to use the book of Acts as its pattern. But it should be pointed out that it is very questionable indeed that they qualify for the title “Fellowship of the Acts.”

The True Church of the Acts

It is true that in a sense, the early church was more “unstructured” than it is today, hut only “in a sense.” This church was very strong and insistent on: 1) the rule of the elders, the role of the deacons, and the ordination of the pastors; 2) solid expository, applicatory preaching; 3) a faithful exercise of discipline; 4) a solid witness to the world of specific facts, the heinousness of sin, and redemption through the blood of Christ; 5) a “Spirit-approved” selection of church music; 6} control of the sacraments.


In Acts 1:2 we read that Jesus chose apostles and gave them the Holy Spirit. Their office as “apostles” was temporary but very important. Paul said in Ephesians 2:19-21 that our citizenship in the Kingdom of God is “built upon the foundation of the apostles, and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the chief cornerstone . . . .” The apostles were the duly-constituted, divinely-appointed authorities who governed the teaching and preaching of the Word, supervised the gatherings of believers, and established the pattern of the New Testament church.


One of the first things the apostles did when a new church came into being was to appoint elders. We read that elders were appointed in every church in Acts 14:23 and Titus 1:5. In Acts 15:24 we read that these elders had authority. They and the apostles found it necessary to rebuke certain people who were agitating with their words, “although we gave them no instructions.” In Acts 20:28 the elders receive their commission: “Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock in which the Holy Spirit has made you guardians, to feed the Church of the Lord which He obtained with His own blood. . .”

The qualifications for this important office are laid down in I Timothy 3:1. In I Timothy 5:17 we read: “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.” In I Timothy 5:22 Paul reflects the seriousness of ordination when he says: “Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands . . . .”

Throughout the entire book of I Timothy, Paul lays down rules which must govern the church. In I Timothy 3:14 he says: “I am writing these instructions to you so that if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God which is the true church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.” He concludes by saying: “I charge you to keep these rules”; and further: “Teach and urge these duties. If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching which accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit, he knows nothing, he has a morbid craving for controversy and for disputes about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, base suspicions and wrangling among men . . . .”


The office of deacon was established for the New Testament church in Acts 6, although it had its roots already in the Old Testament. Many Old Testament passages could be cited in which the people were commanded to provide for the widow, fatherless, the poor. People were to lend to the needy and charge no interest. Gleanings from the field were to be given to the poor. The New Testament office of deacon began to decline about 250 A.D. and fell into disuse until the Reformation when it was revived not by Luther, but by John Calvin.


We come now to the heartbeat of the propagation of the Christian faith which is the preaching of the Word. Here we find our supreme example in Jesus. “Jesus came . . . preaching the gospel of God” (Mark 1:14). He did many signs and wonders which illustrated and vindicated His teaching but He refused to be diverted from His main work—preaching. When the crowd clamored for signs He said to His disciples, “Let us go on to the next towns that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out” (Mark 1:35-39).

Christ’s last and great commission was to evangelize the world and His strategy was through preaching. This seems to be a difficult prescription for many in the church today to follow. They seem to think that substitutes such as dialog, film, drama or poetry will do as well. This is due in part perhaps to the fact that this is a TV generation “come of age.”

It is no secret that drama and dialog are not new to this century. They are older than St. Paul himself. The writings of Herodotus show the existence of the theater in ancient Egypt. The Greek theater began in the 500’s B.C. with Thespis as the first dramatist from which we get our word, “Thespians.” Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides were the dominant figures in Creek drama as any student of drama knows. As far as dialog is concerned, who has been more successful than Socrates in stinging people (the Athenians) out of their lethargy and ignorance by “getting under their skin” with his never-ending series of probing questions? And Socrates lived 450 years before Christ!

As for poetry, St. Paul was well-versed in the poetry of the Athenians. In Acts 17:28 he says: “In him we live and move and have our being; even as some of your poets have said.” Yet, one looks in vain in the entire New Testament for any trace of substituting drama, dialog, or poetry for the pure preaching of the Word.

If there is any message that comes through strong and clear in the book of Acts it is the centrality of preaching. A close examination of the powerful sermons of Peter, Paul, and Stephen demonstrates that the burden of their message was not first of all social action, but repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. That is, and ever shall be the primary message of the Church of Jesus Christ here on earth. No whims and caprices of men can change that demand. History teaches this very clearly.

The Dark Ages were dark because preaching had fallen away. When the Reformation restored the sermon to its proper position, darkness was dispelled and the Biblical message proclaimed through preaching became a powerful weapon in the restoration of godliness and a godly society. This may seem to be a simplistic analysis and solution to the problem of the Dark Ages, but it is true nonetheless.


Closely associated with the preaching of the Word is the administration of the Sacraments. Both means of grace derive their efficacy from the Word of God. Preaching has no spiritual value and becomes “mere talk” apart from the Word. Sacraments too have no spiritual value and become an empty show apart from that Word. Preaching is the Word of God made vocal; the sacraments are the same Word made visible. so that the minister calls his hearers to repent from their sins and believe in the crucified and risen Savior; and the sacrament of communion proclaims that Christ has indeed come and paid the price for man’s sin. “As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (I Cor. 11:26).

It goes without saying that anyone who has not repented and turned in faith to Jesus Christ as Savior has no right to partake in this Supper; and, according to Scripture, if he does he “eats and drinks judgment to himself.” For this reason elders have the responsibility of controlling those who partake so that only those who have publicly confessed their faith in Jesus Christ partake.

Someone will surely object by saying, “There arc plenty of hypocrites who partake,” and that may be true. But then at least the church has done its duty and the responsibility and the “judgment” of which I Corinthians 11 speaks, rests on the conscience of the hypocrite, not the church.

Further, since the sermon and the sacraments correspond to one another and fulfill the same general design, it is only right and proper that communion should be accompanied by a sermon. Early liturgies of the primitive church reveal that the sermon was a regular feature at the eucharistic meal. In the Middle Ages worship became distorted, the sacrament became central, and preaching all but disappeared. The sixteenth century Reformation brought about a balance between sermon and sacrament.


Intimately connected. with the sacrament is the matter of church discipline. When it becomes obvious that any member or leader in the church has become delinquent either in what he believes and propagates (doctrine) or in how he lives (life), he must be confronted. with his sin according to Matthew 18. If the process of private discussion does not achieve the repentance which is necessary, the church has the authority and command of Christ to remove such a member (Matthew 18:17-18).

The question is often asked: “How can the Church reject someone whom Christ has accepted?” That question is prompted by a loose or false view of the demands of Christ. When a true Church has proved that a certain person is continuing to live in sin, it is duty-bound to withhold the sacrament and recognized membership from him because his doctrine or life is a denial of his profession, and Christ rejects those who reject Him or His commands. “If you love me keep my commandments.”

Basic Attitude of Repentance and Faith

But basic to man’s relationship to preaching, to office-bearers, to church discipline, and to the sacraments is his own relationship to God. Does he stand in the relationship and attitude of repentance, faith, and a commitment to holiness? That question brings me to the concluding subject of this discussion, the attitude of the worshipper. That attitude is reflected in the way the worshipper dresses, the songs he sings, the prayers he prays, and the obedience he displays to the commands laid down by God Himself. Permit me to comment briefly on each one.

Architecture – Dress – Posture

There has been considerable criticism coming from the malcontents about elaborate church buildings, having to sit in pews, and wearing of one’s best clothes to church. It is not our purpose to defend any particular mode of architecture, fashion, or posture in worship. But what is important is to examine one’s motivation for change in these areas. Would the malcontents rather sit on the floor because they are able to praise God better that way? Do they feel that wearing old clothes is more honoring to God? What do they think of the Biblical principle which runs through all of Scripture, “Give of your best to the Master”? Does this include our dress in worship? Is there anything in Scripture which forbids attractive buildings for worship? How do they explain the specific instructions which God gave for the construction of the tabernacle and the temple? How do they justify people, themselves included, who either spend thousands of dollars on expensive homes, boats, snowmobiles, hot-rods, but have no money for erecting a suitable house for God, or for those who waste hours of precious God-given time watching TV or lying around complaining about their home, church, or society but doing nothing to improve anyone of them? Is there not also a danger when one criticizes the established church for its architecture, posture in worship, dress, doctrine etc., that he sets up his own anti-establishment which then becomes an establishment with its own psychedelic lighting, Boor-sitting posture, old clothes, lack of doctrinal sensitivity, etc.?

Songs and Prayers

The final area of concern deals with the songs and prayers which are coming forth from those who are “turned off” by what they call the “stuffiness” of the institutional church. My comments here are brief and dogmatic.

In an article several years ago entitled, “Sing to the Glory of God,” I attempted to lay down and illustrate some basic principles which should apply to music which is glorifying to God. I shall not repeat these principles; but permit me to say that what I have seen of the songs and prayers which have come from the “turned off” group, they are at best markedly inferior to what we now have, dealing only with general themes of brotherhood and freedom. Some are definitely blasphemous and this I say with no explanation and no apologies. Here I refer specifically to songs such as “Lord of the Dance,” “Noah’s Arkie,” and others which are as bad or worse. I refer specifically to prayers such as “Hi Cool How are you?” or “Lord, let me be a d___fool for your sake.”

Such songs and prayers reflect a basic attitude of contempt for the holiness of God and have absolutely no part in the worship of a true believer. God’s Word says “Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness”; and that holiness, and that alone must characterize our worship of our great Creator, Redeemer, Savior, Re-creator and Judge!

Underground Church – Function and Future

The time has come to answer the question which our title asks: Should the UNDERground Church Be Brought UP? That is, should the CR Fellowship of the Acts be given a legitimate place in the denomination? Can the institutional Christian Reformed Church with all that that means, and the CRC underground movement co-exist with equal status under the same denominational roof?

From the foregoing discussion it is obvious that the strictures which the Fellowship of the Acts seeks to throw off, are the very ones which the Bible in the book of Acts places upon Christ’s church. Thus the name Fellowship of the Acts is a contradiction of the early church which they seek to emulate.

What function then does this group serve in the CRC? It must be recognized that they do point out some legitimate sore spots, namely, a lack of true, loving, and living “closeness” in the Christian community, a failure to “encourage one another,” and also a lack in meaningful worship and powerful preaching. We must examine ourselves carefully and through prayer and diligent labor, seek to correct or enrich those aspects of worship or witness which are awry.

What future does this underground movement have in the established structure of the CRC? It is impossible to speak with any authority here, but it seems inconceivable that such a “church” as it presently operates, could co-exist with the established church under the same denominational roof unless the meaning of “Reformed” becomes hopelessly “deformed” and eventually obliterated.

The underground church has no rules, confessions, or creeds to help insure a proper “check and balance” system which is necessary for an ordered and meaningful church. The only avenues of change open to these people are the “legal channels” which the “conservatives” are being told often these days to use to register protests and stem the tide of events which they feel are a threat to the church.

Challenge to CRC Youth

But I would urge all young people who arc seriously interested in revitalizing the church to put their best talents to work. Certainly the last good hymn has Dot been written. Certainly good drama and poetry could be excellent auxiliary devices for propagating the Christian message -never replacing the sermon of course. Write new hymns with real spiritual depth and music which strengthens instead of weakens the text. Submit them to the proper authorities for inclusion in our hymnal. If they pass the test of sound Biblical scholarship and musical excellence, they will be accepted. Prepare your forms and litanies; and, if they are an improvement (not a dilution) of what we now have, they will be considered. Prepare “updated” but authentic revisions of Psalter verses and they will be considered. Compose new melodies for some of the Psalter tunes according to the standards found in the front of the hymnal and these too will be considered.

The institutional enc has no intention of squelching creative effort. It should do more to promote it. But neither has it any intention (or at least, so we hope) of diluting or prostrating the witness which it has heretofore given.

Indestructibility of the True Church

The Church of Christ, His “Bride” is here to stay until He comes on the clouds of heaven to claim her and take her to Himself. The Church may get smaller, very small in fact. It may be very persecuted, but the gates of hell itself will never be able to prevail against her!