Purpose of This Blog

The Final Goal of this Blog is to work towards the unification of the seceding denominations (and the one true original denomination) into a unified and public body of believers so as to properly fight the False Presbyterian Church (better known as the PC (USA)) and to subdue it from preaching a false gospel.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Purpose of This Blog

The Final Goal of this Blog is to work towards the unification of the seceding denominations (and the one true original denomination) into a unified and public body of believers so as to properly fight the False Presbyterian Church (better known as the PC (USA)) and to subdue it from preaching a false gospel.

However the first goal is to bring members of the PCA, OPC, RPCNA, ARP, and other members of NAPARC into a place where dialogue can take place so as to move towards the final goal stated above and this is the place I hope where it can begin.

58 comments:

Gary said...

I do not think this is possible. Because the differences while minor are still differences. The Reformed Presbyterians believe that it is sinful to have musical instruments or to sing non-Psalms during worship. How do you combine that with the PCA and I believe the OPC and possibly the Associate RP Church as well that has instruments and hymns during worship?Those of us who like instruments and hymns are not going to be interested in giving them up.

Ebenezer Erskine said...

Well that is the point of this blog Gary, to give a place for the RP's and OPC's and PCA's to discuss these things. It would be interesting if you know any RP's to send them here so that we can rationally discuss such a thing.

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

"Those of us who like instruments and hymns are not going to be interested in giving them up..."

Gary,

I believe that represents one of the many problems confronting and confounding reunion. The question is not, "Do I like instruments and hymns?" Nor is it, "Am I interested in giving them up?"

The question is, rather, "Are instruments and hymns permissible in worship, or is the acapella singing of the psalter the only true way to worship?"

Now, I happen to believe (after some study) that instruments and hymns are permissible. Thus, for me, this is a second order issue. But if you believe that they are not permissible, then for you it is a first order issue. For what could be more important than the true worship of the triune God?

If we came to serious reunion talks and that difference of interpretation of the Word of God was made clear, then my duty is also clear. Since it is a "thing indifferent" in my understanding, but a primary issue in the understanding of others, then Christian charity would dictate that I submit to my brethren in the name of unity and chuck out the hymnbook and the musical instruments.

Until we are willing to do that, and place all other considerations aside (i.e. "I hate the metrical psalms, people will quit coming to my church, Mrs. Sneeddoggle just donated a bunch of money for the new piano and she'll be offended if we stop using it, etc etc") then we will be in no serious danger of union.

Machaira said...

Ebenezer,

You have a wonderful vision. I'm not so sure it can be realized. But then again, I never say never. :) With God, all things are possible.

www.jude3.wordpress.com

Gary said...

Brian,

I was attempting to demonstrate an issue that divides.

As for you're willingness to chuck the hymns, might I suggest doing a search in the new testament for the prase psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs and ask yourself if its a suggestion that we sing them, or a command. As for instruments, read through the psalms and ask yourself the same question.

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

Gary,

As I said, I do not hold or defend that view of worship. I only say that in my understanding of things, instruments are a "thing indifferent" as are songs of human origin. Things indifferent are permissible, but not required, can be dispensed with without violating my concience.

Have you ever asked yourself how intelligent, godly men in the Free Church and the RP ever came to the conclusions that they came to, given those passages and issues you have cited? Are they just bullheaded, hidebound ostriches, sticking their heads in the sand?

Gary said...

Considering I spent ten years as a member of the RP church and I spent those years trying to get a satisfactory answer and I never got one...

Turretinfan said...

You may want to add a few other groups to your list, such as the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing) (in America, Isbell's group) the Protestant Reformed Church (Hoeksama's group), and the Presbyterian Reformed Church (John Murray's group).

Ebenezer Erskine said...

All three are much too small and disorganized to have much of an effect on what this blog is trying to accomplish. Though they are more than welcome to join in the discussion.

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

Gary,

So from the stony silence of your RP brethren, you concluded that no answer actually exists?

When I investigated the issue for myself, their case was surprisingly strong.

Dub's new article on it does a pretty fair job of laying out the case, IMHO

Gary said...

They weren't silent. I'm not going to give the reasons they gave because they were ridiculous and cannot be the official teachings of that denomination.

I find the argument that Paul was using the Septuagint in his phrase with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to be completely unconvincing. As the second article says, he would have wrote Book of Psalms. Much more clear. And if its important, its going to be clear.

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

Was the Trinity clear?

Pilgrimsarbour said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Pilgrimsarbour said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ebenezer Erskine said...

Not a problem Pilgrim's Arbor I took care of it for you ;)

Welcome to my blog, your input is always appreciated and you are welcome about the pic. I thought it was great.

Gary said...

No. I'm completely wrong on everything.

I'm wrong about this topic being a tough one for unification because everyone else should just throw it away and join with the RPs.

Ebenezer Erskine said...

Gary what was that?

We cannot discuss if we take offense at every blog post. This is the problem I wish to first get rid of on this blog at least. We cannot discuss things rationally if we come with our emotions exposed. Reason calls not for emotion but dialogue.

Gary said...

It was an unconditional surrender. Logic says I can't win the argument and I'm not going to drag it on. An emotional response would have been to continue it.

Ebenezer Erskine said...

My Logic says you seemed to give up without a fight. I am sure Rev. Carpenter would discuss this with you with charity. Why don't you take a look at the arguments in the top two posts that are both pro and con. I'll think you'll find plenty of backing for your position.

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

Gary,

I mean no offense, Brother. I love the give and take of a good intellectual sparring session, and I'll try to take as good as I give. Sorry if I offended you. We've blogged together and at each other before. You know some of my heart, I think.

If I may read between the lines (always a dangerous thing to do on a computer from 2,000 miles away) it seems like you've got some sort of residual ill feelings towards the RP's, specifically over the EP issue. Am I correct in my assessment?

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

I honestly don't view the EP issue as a theological one as much as a sanctification one... esteeming others as better than ourselves, and submitting to one another in love.

It seems to me that if EP is all that separates me from formal union with Dub, then I ought to be willing to lay my need to have my own way at the church door and join him in a rousing celebration of the Old Hundredth.

Now, to zoom off on a different tangent, are we placing too much emphasis on formal union of governing structures? This blog proves that we already have an organic union. Is that not enough?

Benjamin P. Glaser said...

I like what you say Brian. You ask a provocative question about Organic vs. Structural unity. Sounds like something you could blog upon ;)

Now I do not wish to steal any of Dub's thunder here but while I recognize the need for a stronger Reformed voice in the U.S. (especially one that could lead
others like myself out of the PC (USA)) I do think there is a foundation for this in NAPARC.

Gary said...

I was not offended. I see this as a debate that could go back and forth for years which is why I said I do not think this is possible in the first post. And... in the past when I got into back and forth debates I became obsessed and put off all other things and watched the thread 24/7. I've found that tendency returning ie watching this thread and I decided to snap it in the bud. Plus I can't argue the point any better then the second article. If that's not convincing, I'll never be.

And no really ill feelings for the RP. Just complete dislike of acapella singing. I think it sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard. If the pastor wasn't the best sermon writer... but then he left.

Alan said...

Guys,
If I could jump in here I would like to agree with Rev. Carpenter again. This issue is one that we who do not hold to EP should be willing to give in on in the name of unity. It is just like when I cut my hair. I did not do it because of any direct commandment in scripture I did it to not cause others to sin. If this is an issue some hold to dearly and is non-negotiable, then by all means, lets sing us some Psalms A Capella, together.

Pilgrimsarbour said...

It seems to me that if EP is all that separates me from formal union with Dub, then I ought to be willing to lay my need to have my own way at the church door and join him in a rousing celebration of the Old Hundredth.

On the other hand, if I'm not convinced of E.P. from Scripture, my conscience cannot be held captive to the sentiments of others, weaker brethren or no. If that is the criteria, then separate we must remain.

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

Hmmm. Good point, Pilgrim. In the past I've been guilty of telling those who would deny me my pipe and my single malt whisky to take a long walk off a short pier.

How do you EP's react to the charge that you would be binding up on the conscience of another that which he does not believe that the scriptures teach?

In reality, it's pretty much a non-issue. There is only one EP denomination in America of any real size, and it's not very big. Psalmnody is not what's keeping the NAPARC denominations apart. I think the issues lie elsewhere.

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Psalmnody is not what's keeping the NAPARC denominations apart. I think the issues lie elsewhere.

Brethren and Friends,

Ah, I would love to get into the other issues, then, providing E.E. is willing, as it is his blog and the direction is his.

Pilgrimsarbour

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

I'm sure Dub won't mind, since EP was not the stated purpose of the blog.

Okay, here's one between the Presbyterians and the Contenental Reformed:

Heidelberg Catechism
Question 103. What does God require in the fourth commandment?

Answer: First, that the ministry of the gospel and the schools be maintained;

(a) and that I, especially on the sabbath, that is, on the day of rest, diligently frequent the church of God,

(b) to hear his word,

(c) to use the sacraments,

(d) publicly to call upon the Lord,

(e) and contribute to the relief of the poor.

(f) Secondly, that all the days of my life I cease from my evil works, and yield myself to the Lord, to work by his Holy Spirit in me: and thus begin in this life the eternal sabbath.

Westminster Shorter Catechism:

Q. 60. How is the sabbath to be sanctified?
A. The sabbath is to be sanctified by a holy resting all that day, even from such worldly employments and recreations as are lawful on other days; and spending the whole time in the public and private exercises of God's worship, except so much as is to be taken up in the works of necessity and mercy.

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

fyi I do know how to spell "Continental" and actually do understand the generally accepted usage of the question mark.

Too much whisky, I guess.

Ebenezer Erskine said...

Gentlemen,

I have taken your thought into consideration and have posted a section on Sabbath-keeping. However please feel free to continue discussing this matter.

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

What can we say? Even most of the Presbyterians are not good Sabbath keepers anymore. But it would be embarrassing to compromise Westminster for a Three Forms of Unity formulation of it.

polymathis said...

Greetings Ebenezer,

I thank you for your kind words about my latest posting at polymathis.

Your goal is honorable and worthy. Thus, I would like to link your site to mine.

Ebenezer Erskine said...

Rev. Carpenter,

I would like to ask if you would like to maybe write a little on the difference (and the weakness of) the Three Forms of Unity that I can post here or at least one on your blog that I could link here.

Polymathis,

You are welcome and please feel free to link my blog to yours.

Machaira said...

Ebenezer,

Not looking to steal Rev. Carpenter's thunder, but you might be interested in the following:

A Comparison of the Westminster and the Reformed Confessions by Herman Hanko

http://www.prca.org/articles/article_8.html

Ebenezer Erskine said...

Machaira,

Thanks. I have linked to it in the margin.

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

I'm glad to have my thunder stolen by superior minds who have already done the work.

Brian

Machaira said...

Me too. Fewer headaches :)

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

Here's two more citations, one optimistic about the minimum of differences

http://www.covenant-urc.org/literatr/dpcdrsrt.html

And one more pessimistic from a fellow pipe smoker in Texas

http://classicalpresbyterian.blogspot.com/2007/12/
sabbath-keeping-and-reform-old-school.html

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

Machaira,

I thought only losers like me were looking at the blogs of foreigners on New Year's Eve, instead of out painting the town.

Brian

Machaira said...

Painting the town is out of the question. I've had a house full of kids all day. I'm too tired. Phew!

polymathis said...

Ha! I'm painting the Internet red...with a new posting.

Yup, Presbyterians spell fun "t-h-e-o-l-o-g-y".

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

Wooo Hooo! Up at 5 AM with a totally sick essay on justification!

We are bad to the bone!

B

Alan said...

Sorry I missed all the fun, I however was out painting the town red, or at least the parts I delivered pizza's to.

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

As long as it was quality pizza our Lord could be proud of and you didn't violate the speed limit, then you are blessed in your labors.

B

will said...

ebenezer - I like your vision. I see many obstacles to it - as this comment thread in a very minor way suggests. But I don't regard that as prohibitive.

A couple of observations / questions.

1. It's been mentioned here, but I'm not sure of the need for organizational unity. I see a great need for open cooperation. I see a great need for common use of resources. I see a great need for a consistent witness to the tenets of Reformed Christianity - especially in the face of the PC(USA) (and those of similar ilk) which claim the title 'reformed' and deceive people into believing that their actions and teachings have any point of contact with Reformed (or biblical) Christianity. (I'm sure most here understand the issues in the PC(USA) without farther comment?)

1b. I see a historic example in the denomination I just mentioned - whose predecessors were indeed Reformed, and gradually, over many years ceased to be so. This happened in spite of institutional and organizational unity. In the US the PC(USA) *does* have a legitimate claim to being the organizational / institutional continuation of Presbyterianism - though it is not recognizable from a doctrinal viewpoint.

2. I fully recognize the wisdom of the role of charity in matters of secondary concern. For my part, I'm very willing to avoid things (like instrumental music / hymns) in which I find no biblical fault. However - what happens when it is an issue where my interpretation and that of someone else are equally issues of violating conscience. Suppose we both read and interpret Scripture on an issue and are persuaded differently - in an area in which Scripture is not immediately clear - but about which both of us would be violating our beliefs to defer to the other? Is it entirely wise to require of others what isn't clear in Scripture because it is clear in my conscience - are there not points when 'giving in' may be charitable to those who hold to one view, but entirely uncharitable to create an encumbrance for someone else?

In short, is it possible to find unity around the clearly biblical issues without requiring it around non-essential or unclear matters?

Jodie said...

I was just wondering if you were familiar with the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican, and whether you were intentionally trying to re-enact it, or if it just sort of works out that way.

Ebenezer Erskine said...

God Bless You Jodie. May the Lord look down upon you with with His Grace and Love.

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

Jodie,

Many of us may be convinced of "our own rightness" (and who isn't convinced of the rightness of their own carefully considered and firmly held viewpoints? Surely you are too? Surely your little barb is rooted in the fact that you are convinced you see a truth that we don't.) These debates are intended to be brotherly and constructive. Are we perfect in that respect? Absolutely not. You may noticed that I confessed a breach of charity on another post and asked forgiveness for doing so. I sinned against my brother Gary.

The problem with the pharisee in the parable is that he was "confident in his own righteousness" (Luke 18:9) not the fact that he had strong doctrinal opinions and convictions. No orthodox Christian, and especially no orthodox Reformed Christian could ever be convinced of "his own righteousness."

We all believe that we are only saved by the perfect righteousness of Christ, which is applied to our account on the condition of the exercise of saving faith and repentance... what the scriptures call being born again.

I am a graduate of a PCUSA seminary (Louisville) and was formerly a minister in the PCUSA. I can tell you with complete confidence that our biggest beef with most of the PCUSA is that, fundamentally, they choose to disbelieve the scriptures and instead teach that you are just fine in your own righteousness, so c'mon and let's do nice stuff for people. You do not need to appropriate Christ's righteousness and be born again.

Many of its ministers teach a soul damning doctrine and withhold the true gospel of Christ from their people. Not only that, the church says it believes one thing in its Book of Confessions (and most of us here would have no problem endorsing 99% of the confessions in that book) while its seminary professors and minsters teach something else. Fundamentally that's dishonest. It's a lie. Since the Devil is the Father of Lies (John 8:44) that ought to tell you where the PCUSA gets most of its inspiration.

In Africa right now there are people teaching others that western medicines don't help AIDS, and all you need to do to cure it is sleep with a virgin. They teach lies that kill. They encourage ignorant people to spread a deadly virus even farther and wider. It is a horrid message which must be combated in every way possible, with strident tones. Lives are on the line.

That is analagous to what we are doing here. I don't apologize for our strident tones in that respect. God's glory and precious human lives are on the line, only these lives are eternal lives.

Jodie said...

Dear Rev Carpenter,

It is hard to reconcile your statement that these debates are intended to be constructive and brotherly with the stated purpose of the blog to "properly fight the False Presbyterian Church (better known as the PC (USA))"

That is the comment that reminded me of the parable of Pharisee and the Publican. "Thank you God that we are not like them".

But I think you might be the opposite side of the same coin. In pretty broad strokes you claim "our biggest beef with most of the PCUSA is that, fundamentally, they choose to disbelieve the scriptures".

What I see with the same broad strokes is that the folks who make this charge, fundamentally, choose to disobey the scriptures.

Now I don't really know whether it is better to say "I believe" but then to disobey, or to say "I don't believe" and then to obey as if you did. To me it seems that to choose to disobey is worse, because it shows your belief is a lie.

You seem to assume that what is taught in a seminary has much if anything to do with who the PCUSA really is. I can say with absolute confidence that more than 99% of the members of the PCUSA never went to seminary. And we get by just fine without it. So why should the entire denomination be maligned on the basis of the experience of less than 1% of its members. You don't like what they teach in seminary? Fine, take it up with the seminaries. Start your own if you like.

"God's glory and precious human lives are on the line, only these lives are eternal lives"?

Come now. You sell Jesus Christ much to short.

"Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us."

What this passage means is that you can take a deep breath and relax. Jesus has it all under control and you don't have to worry about those souls. The good news of the Gospel is that Jesus is doing just that.

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

That, I am sure, includes bad doctrine.

Finally I would just like to add that your analogy is in very poor taste. The raping of virgins to get rid of Aids is a derogatory and disgusting view of people whose only real sin is to have different opinion than yours.

What was it that Jesus said, something about what makes a person impure is what comes out of them, not what goes in? Something about the mouth repeating what fills the heart? Is this what fills your heart?

It's just gross, man.

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

Jodie,

Some questions and some comments:

"That is the comment that reminded me of the parable of Pharisee and the Publican. "Thank you God that we are not like them"

Yes, well, we never said that, did we? I've searched the whole post and I haven't seen anyone say that. As a matter of fact, other than the blog owner's statement at the top, one other brief post, and your post, the PCUSA hasn't been mentioned at all. We've been talking about exclusive psalmnody and sabbatarianism and the nature of the relationship between the church and the civil government.

I suppose it would be helpful to you if I added what we all are assuming, but not saying explicitly. There are true Christians in the PCUSA, and true, Bible-believing ministers. I have many friends who are still there, though most are leaving (and their churches are being sued by their presbyteries for trying to leave with them.)

But what most of us would probably also say here is that the PCUSA has failed AS A WHOLE on each of the three marks of the true visible church (Scots 18.7-9). It has thus degenerated into a "synagogue of Satan" and is now a false visible church. (Scots Confession Chpt 18, WCF 25.5) The teachings of many of its ministers and leaders and publications will lead people who listen to them straight to hell.

You don't have to believe that, but that's what I (and most here) believe. We believe it sincerely. We've thought about it. We have good arguments and evidence to present to those who want to listen.

Now, let's pretend for a minute. Suppose you found out that a specific dish in all the dinners on a cross country flight were infected with botulism and were likely to sicken and kill any who ate them. Wouldn't you warn people loudly and persistently not to eat that particular dish? And if one of the other passengers thought you were crazy and insisted on eating that dish, wouldn't you plead with them? Might you not even resort to impolite means of trying to restrain them? That's what we're trying to do.

And as I pointed out, if you actually read the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican carefully, and discern what it means instead of deciding beforehand what you think it means, you would see it is about those who are "confident in their own righteousness." Both men are sinners. One acknowledges it and falls on his face asking for mercy and grace from God. The other doesn't know it and congratulates himself that he doesn't need any grace. I am a foul, vile sinner. The stuff you accused me of having in my heart is actually not what's in my heart. But fouler, filthier stuff than that has been there. Sometimes it pokes its head up and troubles me from time to time yet. I will not be free of that inward sickness until I am dead.

Therefore I am absolutely not confident in my own righteousness. We are not, as a group, confident in our own righteousness. We place all of our confidence in the righteousness of Christ, appropriated via saving faith. We now seek, in gratitude for that grace, to live lives in accordance with the Law of God.

"What I see with the same broad strokes is that the folks who make this charge, fundamentally, choose to disobey the scriptures."

How are "we" doing this? Give me a passage we have disobeyed.

"What this passage means is that you can take a deep breath and relax. Jesus has it all under control and you don't have to worry about those souls. The good news of the Gospel is that Jesus is doing just that."

So, is it your position that nobody will be lost?

Is it your position that because Jesus "has it all under control" that we don't need to worry about truth, clarity, understanding, fidelity to the gospel and the scriptures?

"You seem to assume that what is taught in a seminary has much if anything to do with who the PCUSA really is."

Yes, I absolutely do. It's a historical fact that the PCUSA used to be much more faithful to the scriptures than it is now. But heresy crept into the seminaries, and from there into the pulpits and from there into the pews. Even where there is no heresy, there is a vast fog of ignorance.

""For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

That, I am sure, includes bad doctrine."

Depends on the bad doctrine. If it's a doctrine that keeps you from being saved in the first place, then, no. That text applies to those who are regenerated, justified, being sanctified, and on their way to being glorified... i.e. to those who are born again. Not to everybody. Not even to everybody who is a member of a church. Not even to everybody who is a member of an Evangelical Reformed church like the PCA or the OPC or the Free Church of Scotland. It applies to God's elect and them only.

"Finally I would just like to add that your analogy is in very poor taste. The raping of virgins to get rid of Aids is a derogatory and disgusting view of people whose only real sin is to have different opinion than yours."

Sorry you didn't like my analogy. I think it's very apt and I stand by it. "Having a different opinion than mine" is not a sin. Having a different opinion than what God reveals in his Word is.

Willful heresy and soul murder are very disgusting things. Speaking lies and blasphemy in the Lord's name are disgusting things. Telling people "peace, peace" when there is no peace is a disgusting thing. Taking control of a church by lies and deception and then turning it into something else and using the money of faithful people to do it is a disgusting thing. Doing evil and calling it good is a disgusting thing. Using a position of influence and authority encourage others to do so is a disgusting thing. Changing what God has revealed about himself to suit your own whims, fancies, and desires is a disgusting thing.

The leadership of the PCUSA has willfully done each of these things. I know. I was there when they did many of them, crying out against it to no avail. They have induced many in the pews to join them.

"For they are a rebellious people,
lying children, children unwilling to hear the instruction of the Lord; who say to the seers, “Do not see,” and to the prophets, “Do not prophesy to us what is right; speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusions, leave the way, turn aside from the path, let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.” Is. 30:9-11

There is a hell. Misbelief and unbelief are sins that will send you there. Those who are teachers will incur a stricter judgment for leading others astray.

So what are you going to do with all of this? Will you continue to be a part of a false visible church whose connectional nature means that everything which is done by one court of the church is done by the whole church and thus in your name and with your approval? Will you really try to stand before God on judgment day and say, "I didn't mean it when I took my membership vows to You."???

You have the scriptures. You have the Confessions and Creeds. You have the internet where these things can be easily found. You have more resources at your disposal for discovering and embracing the truth than any woman in any other generation that has gone before. Use them and think.

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

I suppose I should also add something else I'm assuming but not saying. The true Christians in the PCUSA should leave. Immediately. The scriptures command it.

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Greetings Jodie,

I hope you don't mind if I interject in your discussion with Rev. Carpenter. I was hoping you could go into some detail regarding a statement you made in a recent comment:

"In pretty broad strokes you claim 'our biggest beef with most of the PCUSA is that, fundamentally, they choose to disbelieve the scriptures'.

What I see with the same broad strokes is that the folks who make this charge, fundamentally, choose to disobey the scriptures."


Can you clarify in what ways you see non-PCUSAers choosing to disobey the Scriptures? I'm not at all saying it doesn't happen, but you seem to have something specific in mind. Do you mean that the very process of generalising groups is itself sinful? That is, is it wrong to challenge the beliefs of other denominations?

In either case, I would speculate that Rev. Carpenter has the PCUSA leadership in view, rather than the rank and file member.

What follows in the rest of your comment doesn't, to my way of thinking, modify the statements I highlighted above. I may be just misunderstanding what you're trying to say.

Regarding this comment:

"Now I don't really know whether it is better to say 'I believe' but then to disobey, or to say "I don't believe" and then to obey as if you did. To me it seems that to choose to disobey is worse, because it shows your belief is a lie."

You're right in saying that obeying in the end is the proper course, as the parable of the two sons in Matthew 21 indicates.

Thank you for your consideration.

Blessings,

Pilgrimsarbour

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Brethren,

Again, in taking some time to write and edit my comment on Wordpad before posting it here, by the time I posted it, Rev. Carpenter had already responded to Jodie's comments.

I regret if I am repeating something that has already been clarified. I'm just too durned slow sometimes.

Pilgrimsarbour

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Rev. Carpenter,

Among your other statements in your most recent comments, I found this one especially compelling:

"Will you continue to be a part of a false visible church whose connectional nature means that everything which is done by one court of the church is done by the whole church and thus in your name and with your approval?" (emphasis mine)

Although the context is quite different, I think Paul would approve of my using his statement in Romans 1:

32 Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1:32)

I will have to think more about this. Up until now I have been uncertain (or inconsistent) on the importance of finding the best possible congregation to join. I don't suggest that being in the wrong congregation is a death sentence, but I do believe this whole issue requires more thought on my part. I have been hesitant lately to place a great deal of emphasis on denominational affiliation only because of my strong, confirmed belief in God's sovereignty in election. Wherever we are, if we're among the elect, we'll be brought home to glory.

If you have more to add on this, I would appreciate it.

Best in Christ,

Pilgrimsarbour

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

Pilgrim,

I'm glad you've jumped in with Jodi. I welcome other voices and I certainly don't want things to degenerate into a squabble between her and I, which is the risk when two people are going at it hammer and tongs in front of an audience (invisible tho you all may be.)

As to the other thing, I can offer you some of my own story, told on my blog (look under July posts for a post called "Mortals' Greatest Enemy.") It's long. Sorry. You'll just have to slog through it.

But I think I can also give you some more specific advice.

1. You should make up your mind to join a church, first of all. The New Testament knows nothing of Lone Ranger Christianity, and takes for granted that you will have elders watching over your soul.

2. It matters where you are. Your options may be much more limited if you live in Toadsuck, Arkansas than they would be in Philly or Pittsburgh or Chicago. Therefore, what would be permissible for a Reformed Presbyterian to do as regards church membership in Toadsuck would be (should be) impermissible elsewhere. For some reason I seem to remember you as a Philly guy. If so, you have lots of very good options.

3. I honestly believe, when you study the scriptures, the presbyterian form of government approximates most closely to the scriptural pattern. Those who haven't done this study will perhaps guffaw at that statement (I would have ten years ago) but I think it is true, nonetheless. So you should join a church with that form of government, IMHO.

4. However, if you reside in Toadsuck, the most important thing is that the church is truly and soundly evangelical. Better to join a church that preaches an Arminian point of view, or has charismatic theology, or denies infant baptism, than to join an apostate liberal church with the correct polity structures (and the PCUSA is actually very good at polity. Better than the PCA.)

5. Things get more complicated when you're talking about a PCUSA church with an evangelical pastor. Mostly that has to do with the connectional nature of the church, as expressly stated by the PCUSA's constitution (and I think rightly so.) Most evangelicals like to pretend that what goes on in Louisville or at the seminaries, or in the General Assembly or at the liberal churches in the presbytery has nothing to do with them. But that's not so. The PCUSA's constitution says that's not so. It says you are united together with them, and what is done by one is to be considered done by all. Now, if God takes lawful oaths and vows seriously (and he does) and you take a lawful vow to that effect when you become a member, then you are approving of those wicked things that are done simply by belonging.

I don't think that's a small thing. Not at all. That's the thing that convinced me I had to leave. If the congregation is making moves to withdraw from the denom, I'd say stick it out and see what happens. If they go to the EPC, you ought to evaluate that denom (I found it rather weak.) If it's not doing so, I think you ought to leave.

Find a solid, Reformed church whose doctrine you can agree with, and join it. Pour yourself wholeheartedly into membership there. Love her and serve her and God will bless you in it and through it.

Good night, Brother. Talk to you more tomorrow.

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Rev. Carpenter,

Thank you for responding to my comments. I have, indeed, been an active member of an OPC congregation since 1994. And I agree with your assessment of church membership. Where it gets sticky for me is knowing how hard to push someone who appears to be growing and receiving great blessing from their denomination, when I would not have recommended that group for them because of doctrinal, practice or other issues. As I said, if they're elect, they will be brought home.

It takes wisdom to know when to challenge someone on particular issues, and I'm not sure I have it quite figured out at this time. I would have said differently in 1994 when I joined my church. It was the right decision then, and remains so. But it may not be for everybody.

Our duty in general is clear, but holding one's tongue has to come into play from time to time, I think. I'm thinking of the struggle of the Puritans and the Great Ejection that accompanied the Act of Uniformity. Not all left their official Church of England charges, those who stayed sincerely believing that God wanted them there.

Blessings in Christ,

Pilgrimsarbour

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

Pilgrim,

Ah, I see now. Misunderstood the issue.

I think the same principles apply. Any true growth which occurs in a theologically compromised situation would occur in a theologically non-compromised situation. I think it would occur faster, stronger, better, and without the attendant spiritual dangers of the compromised situation.

Having said all of that, I think it does take patience, wisdom, and gentleness. For instance, I am the president of the CS Lewis Society of the Black Hills. We have several PCUSA evangelicals as members of the group. We have opportunities to talk about these things, but I don't do it publicly. If providence permits, I do it privately.

Usually folks who are content to stay haven't actually searched the scriptures to see what the Bible says about these things. Any discussion should include a healthy dose of the relevant scriptures.

Blessings,
B

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

I think also we need to admit that very few people know how to reason anymore. We are conditioned by our schooling and our television sets to react, emote, ventillate, respond to sound bites and buzz words. We don't listen to what people say. We observe their tone or their demeanor or whatever, and decide what they're saying irregardless of what is actually coming out of their mouths (or keyboards.) We actually have academic philosophies of epistemology that describe and recommend this mode of "communication", such as the Reader Response Theory. Fixed meaning is impossible and undesireable. All that matters is "what it means to me." Christian and pagan alike suffer from this malady.

I actually think the Devil wants us in exactly that place as a culture, and worked very hard to get us there. It makes his job much easier.

Therefore, the wise persuader will pay careful attention to these things. Tone, kindness, patience, gentleness, carefully chosen terms, and the well-chosen and well-measured application of logical force can (under God's providence) make all the difference.

B