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.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Is It Right To Stay?

Rev. Carpenter brought up in the purpose post (which may now be off the main page) a question on whether or not it was right to stay in a denomination that continues to move farther and farther away from Biblical Christianity. He quoted two sections, one from the Scots Confession and one from the WCF that I would like to re-post here in full. I would like to focus the discussion on this particular post if possible strictly to this question of connectional church membership.

Scots Confession 18.7-9

The notes of the true Kirk, therefore, we believe, confess, and avow to be: first, the true preaching of the Word of God, in which God has revealed himself to us, as the writings of the prophets and apostles declare; secondly, the right administration of the sacraments of Christ Jesus, with which must be associated the Word and promise of God to seal and confirm them in our hearts; and lastly, ecclesiastical discipline uprightly ministered, as God's Word prescribes, whereby vice is repressed and virtue nourished.

Westminster Confession of Faith Ch. 25

CHAPTER XXV.

Of the Church.

I. The catholic or universal Church, which is invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ the head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all.

II. The visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the Gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children: and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.

III. Unto this catholic and visible Church, Christ hath given the ministry, oracles, and ordinances of God, for the gathering and perfecting of the saints, in this life, to the end of the world; and doth by his own presence and Spirit, according to his promise, make them effectual thereunto.

IV. This catholic Church hath been sometimes more, sometimes less, visible. And particular Churches, which are members thereof, are more or less pure, according as the doctrine of the gospel is taught and embraced, ordinances administered, and public worship performed more or less purely in them.

V. The purest Churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error: and some have so degenerated as to become apparently no Churches of Christ. Nevertheless, there shall be always a Church on earth, to worship God according to his will.

VI. There is no other head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ: nor can the Pope of Rome in any sense be head thereof; but is that Antichrist, that man of sin and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the Church against Christ, and all that is called God.

64 comments:

Rhea said...

I would tend to think that it would be best to leave a denomination that continues to move farther and farther away from the truth of the Bible....but then I wonder if it's not better to stay and try to enact change withing that denomiation and bring them back to the truth. Or what if that was the only church in the city in which you lived? Or maybe, even though the denomination is moving away from biblical truth, it's still the most "accurate" denomiation within your city (meaning that all the other denominations are even FARTHER from the truth of the Bible). Would it be better for the individual to leave and start up a new congregation on his own?

I feel as if there are all these questions, and really not clear-cut answers to any of them. I'm starting to think that the answer would depend a lot on the individual situation that a person finds himself in.

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

An important phrase in the Westminster quote got left out.

WCF 25.5:

5. The purest churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error; and some have so degenerated, as to become no churches of Christ, but SYNAGOGUES OF SATAN. Nevertheless, there shall be always a church on earth, to worship God according to his will.

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

"I would like to focus the discussion on this particular post if possible strictly to this question of connectional church membership."

Yeah, good luck with that, Dub.

Do you have the phrase, "It's like herding cats" on your side of the pond?

Rhea said...

How can you know though when a church/denomination has gotten so far away from the truth as to become a synagogue of Satan? I ask this as an honest question. Do you see there as being one key issue that determines whether it's a church or has become a synagogue of Satan?

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

Rhea,

That was a very live question for the Reformers, because they were accused of abandoning the One True Church (i.e. Rome.)and being schismatics. And there were lots of people within Rome who would freely admit that there were grave imperfections and sought to reform the Roman church from within. Erasmus was one of these.

The answer that the Reformers came up with was that there are either two (Westminster) or three (Scots' Confession) marks of a true visible church.

1. Is the Word of God rightly preached? Or is it twisted, ignored, or are other things substituted for it.

2. Are the sacraments (i.e. baptism and the Lord's Supper) rightly administered? Have other sacraments been added to these? Are things being claimed for the sacraments that the Bible doesn't support? Are the people administering them not lawfully allowed to do so?

3. (This one belongs to Scot's only, but I think that Westminster erred in omitting it) Is ecclesiastical discipline rightly upheld? Are heretical ministers and elders removed before they can do damage? Are errant members corrected? Are "open and notorious livers" barred from the communion table until they repent, so that they can't harm themselves? Are the out and out rebellious disfellowshipped from the church after all reasonable attempts to recover them have been made?

The Reformers would say, if you see a church that does those things, whatever its other defects may be, it's a true church. If you don't see those things, leave and find a place where you do.

Rhea said...

Thanks so much for that information! It was very helpful. I have another question though relating to #2--how are baptism and the Lord's Supper "rightly administered"? I guess that I'm asking for an example of what is a way to rightly adminster it, and I guess what is a way to "wrongly" administer it. Also, who would you say is "lawfully allowed" to administer the sacraments? Thanks for all your help! I've been learning a lot :-)

Ebenezer Erskine said...

Rev. Carpenter,

Yeah I have heard that expression before and you are probably right. As far as Westminster I just copied and pasted from Reformed.com. Was that added later?

Ebenezer Erskine said...

Sorry www.reformed.org

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

No, I think it was removed from your version. Probably somebody didn't know the origin of the term and didn't want to be charged with "anti semitism."

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

Rhea,

There are lots of things that could make the sacraments not "rightly administered."

One of the specific targets of the Reformers at the time these confessions were formulated was obviously Rome.

For instance, Rome claims that the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ, and thus the consecrated elements are worthy of worship was specifically in view:

"Worship of the Eucharist: In the liturgy of the Mass we express our faith in the real presence of Christ under the species of bread and wine by, among other ways, genuflecting or bowing deeply as a sign of adoration of the Lord. "The Catholic Church has always offered and still offers to the sacrament of the Eucharist the cult of adoration, not only during Mass, but also outside of it, reserving the consecrated hosts with the utmost care, exposing them to the solemn veneration of the faithful, and carrying them in procession." -The Catechism of the Catholic Church #1378

That's why the Reformers (and esp. Knox) referred to the Mass as "the idolatry of the Mass."

To claim that baptism regenerates, or causes the recipient to be saved is to claim things for baptism that are without scriptural warrant. Thus, those churches who preach baptismal regeneration are not administering the sacrament properly.

Also, the PCUSA & other liberal denominations allow heretics and those ordained contrary to the scriptures to administer the sacraments. Since they are not authorized by God to administer these sacred mysteries, they should not be doing so.

To give any Tom, Dick, or Harriet the sacrament of communion, quite possibly to the harm of both body and soul is to wrongly administer it:

"Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died." 1 Cor 11:27-28

To unlawfully withhold it from those whom Christ did truly die is to administer it improperly. To only give the bread, but not the wine is to administer it improperly. To add sacraments to the two authorized in scripture (Rome has 7) is to administer it improperly.

Things along those lines. Does that help?

Brian

Benjamin P. Glaser said...

"..to the harm of both body and soul..."

This is where many stumble Brian. It amazes me how open we are with the elements. We could blame Zwingli, but that would be unfair. Truly the problem lies at the feet of those who refuse to properly teach their people the truths of Scripture. It really saddens me that people are allowed to be so ignorant of damnifying things like this. This is the real danger of paedocommunion and why it is such an egregious thing.

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

Agreed Ben.

Rhea said...

Rev. Carpenter:

What you said makes TOTAL sense. Thanks for taking the time to explain it to me. I do have one more question though...just something that I was wondering if you (or someone else) could explain in more detail.

You said, "Also, the PCUSA & other liberal denominations allow heretics and those ordained contrary to the scriptures to administer the sacraments. Since they are not authorized by God to administer these sacred mysteries, they should not be doing so." Could you explain what you mean by someone who is "ordained contrary to the scriptures"? Also, do you believe that someone must be ordained to baptize someone else? And if so, may I ask what scriptures you use to support that idea.

Thanks again!!

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

Persons not lawfully ordained by definition:

1. Not born again

"they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit." Matt 15:14

2. women

"I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor." 1 Tim 2:12

3. People who might be born again, but whom God has not called to the task of ministry. It was their own idea.

"Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the prophets who prophesy in my name although I did not send them, and who say, ‘Sword and famine shall not come upon this land’: By sword and famine those prophets shall be consumed." Jer 14:15.

The other argument (who may baptize) is a constructive argument and thus a little more involved. It's late on a Saturday night here, and I've got duties to do tomorrow. So I'll leave it for another time.

Anyone else can take up the argument, if they wish. I nominate Ben Glaser as an exercise in trying out his wings.

Blessings Rhea,

Caught a whiff of springlike weather here today and it reminded me of your neck of the woods. We don't have magnolias and dogwoods in western South Dakota, and it makes me very long for home sometimes.

Have a good Sabbath Day.

Brian

will said...

Looking at the original question: how important is the concept of connectionalism as affirmed by these denominations.

What I mean is less the history of the concept - but the fact that a variety of denominations affirm it today - in the case of the PC(USA), for example, the action of one congregation or of one presbytery - is officially held to be the action of the entire denomination.

For me this creates a large problem because even where the 'official' actions of the organization (or 'official' beliefs as expressed in the confessions) are acceptable (which opens a whole separate issue) - the actions of individual churches, presbyteries, or even national agencies of the church that occur without supposed concurrence of the whole - still include the member.

If a presbytery approves the ministry of a pastor who departs from the Gospel wholesale - and fails to correct this, then, if I am affiliated with the organization - according to its own principals, I partake in (or am connected to) that ministry.

Similarly, if bureaucratic elements take stands that are inconsistent with the confessions, but these are uncorrected, then these stands and actions are related to me. I don't see how one can avoid this.

It may be that certain things are non-essential - adiaphora, etc., but in the context of the denominations in question I don't think one could make anywhere near that case. The issues are hardly irrelevant.

What does it say about me, if I remain a member of an organization that regularly violates my conscience - especially when that organization expressly says the actions of its parts are actions of the whole?

I am not saying one must stay or leave - I'm asking the question - how does one deal with this?

Rhea said...

Rev. Carpenter:

Once again,thanks!

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

Will,

Your reasoning is precisely the same as mine was when I was a PCUSA minister. I knew it would ultimately mean I had to leave and go to the PCA or the OPC. I can't stand before God on judgment day and pretend that the ordination vow I took was not really binding or you really didn't mean all of it (wink, wink, nudge, nudge.)

As it turns out, providentially, I was, shall we say, "asked to leave" by the powers that be in my presbytery. It really ended up being better for me that it worked that way.

Jodie said...

Bad assumptions lead to silly arguments.

You assume: " a denomination that continues to move farther and farther away from Biblical Christianity"

Simply put the assumption has no merit.

a) You haven't shown knowledge of a Christianity that is "Biblical" or that you would recognize one if you saw it.

b) And even if you did, Christianity predates the Bible by several centuries so it is not obvious what such a distinction really means.

c) And even if it were relevant, you have no way of measuring whether a church is moving towards or away or at what rate it might be moving and whether it is merely sufficient to move towards something that it is not.

So the rest of the argument is a house built on sand.

One could ask however if a Christianity is centered on the Leadership of the living Christ and how so. An argument built on the living Jesus would be a house built on solid rock.

Start with the living present Jesus, make an argument that assumes Him and his Lordship (as opposed, say, to the lordship of your own conscience), and you might have something to talk about.

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

Do enlighten us, then Jodie. We're all ears.

Jodie said...

Aside from the sarcasm, is there a real question there?

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

Well, yes. I do want to know what you think, in spite of your bad manners and unprovoked attack on Rhea.

Jodie said...

Dear Rev Carpenter,

I didn't say anything to Rhea.

I've only responded to you and Ebenezer. Both of you are launching posts that are hostile and offensive and rude. All I've done is respond to them.

If you don't like the response, then take a look at your own rhetoric.

Try to assume the living Jesus is present, like a teacher in a class room. I can't imagine you would talk the way you do if you really believed that.

Rhea said...

I just wanted to say that I don't actually agree with everything that Rev. Carpenter and Ebenezer believe. Even so, I don't find ANYTHING that they've said so far (or anything that I've seen that they've written on their blogs) that is in anyway hostile, offensive, and rude. Just wanted to point that out.

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

Rhea said:

"I would tend to think that it would be best to leave a denomination that continues to move farther and farther away from the truth of the Bible."

You said:

"Bad assumptions lead to silly arguments.

You assume: " a denomination that continues to move farther and farther away from Biblical Christianity"

Simply put the assumption has no merit.

a) You haven't shown knowledge of a Christianity that is "Biblical" or that you would recognize one if you saw it."

'Nuff said.

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

Now, are you going to articulate what you believe for discussion and debate, or are you going to continue to be bombastic?

Alan said...

I would just like to join in here and say a few words. First I would like to thank Rhea, who is not reformed and not in agreement with everything we say, for being such a gracious person, even when at odds with something said.

Second, I would like to actually answer the question. No, it is not right to stay. I know Rev. left the PCUSA and have to admire him for that. I on the other hand left a Bible Church I had attended for 10 years for much lesser, though no less legitimate, reasons. In my opinion one must go where the word is preached and the sacraments are rightly administered.

There, that is my two cents. I now return you to the Jodie, Rev. C. fracas.

Jodie said...

Rev C,

This is silly. In case you haven't figured it out yet, rhea and I were quoting and responding to the same original post.

Not only is the original post preposterous but you added to it the implication that the PCUSA is a "synagogue of Satan"

Such language is offensive to Christians and Jews alike, and is entirely inappropriate and derogatory in the post Holocaust era.

Now rhea might not see how that is hostile, offensive and rude, but six million Jews say otherwise. It is not "the word rightly preached" in any shape or form, but is literally anti-Christ.

If I am being bombastic for pointing that out, I am not being bombastic enough. But I do agree with one thing. It is not right for you talk like that and stay in church.

will said...

I share the distaste for the phrase 'synagogue of Satan' though it is clearly biblical and confessional. It has also been (and is being) so dramatically misused as to warrant extreme caution on the part of Christians.

To label the Bible anti-Christ is insupportable.

But I must admit, I'm surprised at this comment - given the public support you have offered for anti-Semitic actions (even where there is no gray area), and the openly racist, anti-Judaic comments you have made on other blogs - including mine. I guess I should be pleased that your anti-Jewish biases do have a limit.

Benjamin P. Glaser said...

Not to even mention linking antui-semitism with the phrase "Synagogue of Satan" belies an ignorance as to what the word "synagogue" means in the original language.

Benjamin P. Glaser said...

Also as to what the Westminster Divines meant by using the phrase. Synagague just means a gathering of people.

Jodie said...

Will,

Why the defamatory tone and character assassination?

I have never supported anti-Semitic actions, nor have I made racist or anti-Judaic comments on your blog or anybody else’s for that matter. Nor do I harbor such feelings. I can’t imagine such a warped interpretation of anything I may have said even if taken completely out of context. You are either profoundly confused, or must have taken complete leave of your senses, or you have become an outright liar.

Either way, you are wrong. Knock it off.

As far as being anti-Christ, any use of the bible in a manner that negates the teachings of Christ is by definition anti-Christ. It is prima facie exactly what this blog is trying to do.

As far as the term “synagogue” is concerned, the Scriptures always use the term to refer to a Jewish house of worship. That is how Christians viewed the term then, and it is how we view the term now. In the scriptures the term “synagogue of Satan” is used only twice (in a chiastic structure, so it is really only once) to describe Jewish authorities that betrayed Christian Jews to the Roman authorities leading to their torture and execution. It was a strong term used only by Jesus. To use the term against followers of Jesus is an anti-Christ usage of the term.

And there is still the anti-Semitic overtone given to it by centuries of Christian and non-Christian abuse of Jews, culminating in the Holocaust, which makes the term unusable in 21st Century Christian vocabulary.

The authors of Westminster were aware of its anti-semitic overtone and had no love of Jews. They were insulting the Roman Catholics twice on purpose. Calling them ‘of Satan’ and ‘Jews’, was, in their minds, a double reinforced redundant derogatory term. It was wrong then and is even more wrong now.

Benjamin Glaser is the one demonstrating ignorance and profound cultural insensitivity in trying to support the unsupportable.

Rhea said...

Jodie:

My understanding is that the use of the term "synagogue of Satan" DOES NOT refer to followers of Jesus...it's b/c that they've strayed so far from the truth that they are NO LONGER (if they ever were) following Jesus.

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

May I suggest that we all just ignore Jodie and pretend like she's not there?

She's not trying to discuss the ideas presented or to systematically and respectfully present her own views.

She doesn't seem to have a blog of her own as a forum for her ideas. It appears that she only signed up on blogspot in order to be able to go from blog to blog engaging in this sort of odd, quasi pathological behavior against conservative presbyterians.

Alan said...

Rev.
I agree, this dialog is not relevant nor productive for the task at hand, namely discussing how we can unite the reformed of the world.

Alan said...

I do want to add that I do respect Rhea's honest inquiry and think I speak for all when I say she is welcome anytime.

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

Absolutely.

Ebenezer Erskine said...

My apologies for my absence this last week. Been crazy times... Anyway does anyone know if I can block a person to head this off at the pass?

Also any suggestions on where you would like to take this conversation next? I know Brian you had mentioned the TR/PR divide. Any thoughts on the best way to bridge that?

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

Dub,

I think the only way to block a person is to go to a two stage posting process, like I have on my blog. A post is submitted and an email is sent to you to see if you want to accept it or not. If you do, you publish it. If you don't, you do nothing.

That's pretty cumbersome for somebody who seems to be gone as much as you are. Perhaps if you publicly made it plain to a person that he/she was not welcome anymore, the hint would be taken.

Failing that, my strategy is simply to ignore said person, as I suggested before.

As to the PR/TR divide, I think I do have an angle that would open a sufficient can of worms... good faith subscription vs strict subscription to the Westminster Standards. And what would each poster consider acceptable exceptions to the standards for church officers.

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

BTW, still waiting on Gary to answer Rhea's question concerning who may lawfully administer baptism.

He said he would do so in private communication with me. He's a husband, father, and seminary student, so I'm sure he's not too busy right now.

Just wanted to let you know we hadn't forgotten you Rhea.

Also, rejoice with me. I got to lead a 13 year old girl to a profession of saving faith in Christ Jesus tonight at our family night at church.

B

Benjamin P. Glaser said...

You mean Ben B? ;)

I'm finishing a response as we speak (or type).

Benjamin P. Glaser said...

As far as Baptism Rhea and who may lawfully baptize, the Book of Church Order of my soon-to-be denomination, the ARP, says that only a duly authorized ordained Teaching Elder (Minister) may, because of the Sacramental nature of Baptism and the Grace thereby laid upon (Baptism also must be normally done in a setting of Corporate Worship to show the covenantal nature of Baptism).

Of course though your question is more as to what makes a man "Duly Authorized" so as to be a Minister of the Word, I'll get to that in the morning.

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

OOPS! SORRY BEN!

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

BTW, new, improved snarky post available at The Happy TR. Come and be irritated.

Jodie said...

Rhea,

I guess you haven’t voiced a serious disagreement with the writers on this blog, so you get to be called “respectful”.

The writers of this blog are using the term to address members of the PCUSA. So either they are using it to address other Christians or they have taken upon themselves the role of God to determine that the members of the PCUSA are not Christians, in which case they bring judgment upon their own heads.

See the parable of the wheat and the tares in Mat 13:24-30, or what Jesus says about judging others in Luke 6:37-42, or what Paul says about standing in judgment of others in Romans 2:1 and the whole rest of chapter 2.

In either case my point is that such cussing is unacceptable and inexcusable from people who want to call themselves disciples of Jesus, or ministers of His Word. Just because Jesus may have used a particular term in a very hideous case does not give you or me or them the right to throw it around.

Jodie said...

Rev Carpenter,

The ideas I am discussing with you and Ebenezer are your impertinent and fallacious starting assumptions, your self-righteousness, and your cussing. I’ve been >very< systematic about it. Obviously you have no defense because you don’t address the issues I have spelled out, but only resort to yelling, more name-calling, and I suppose now shunning.

All a waste.

If you repent and approach the throne of mercy with humility I think you will find that the rest of the disciples of Jesus are in Him united already.

Rhea said...

Regarding who can lawfully baptize:

Ben, I guess that my question is primarily directed at you, though if other people can answer, please do.

In your denomination, only "duly authorized" ministers may baptize someone....here are my questions/concerns with that:
1)Where specifically in scripture are we taught that only "certain" Christians may baptize others, while other Christians cannot?
2)How does this line up with Jesus' command in Matthew 28:16-20 (especially verse 19)?

Personally, I view those verses in Matthew to be a command to ALL Christians...so if that is the case, then shouldn't ANY Christian be allowed to baptize someone in water? I guess that I'm curious on the reformed (or perhaps just your specific denominations) view of these verses, and also baptism.

On an unrelated note, thanks for sharing with us about the 13 year old girl that was saved.

will said...

Jodie, I have no doubt that you really do see your yourself as being victimized in some sense. You don't appear to see that your conduct on many blogs has been appallingly bad. No one has called you names; they have addressed your misconduct.

The reason I responded to you was that you were being publicly dishonest. You knew very well that no one who was speaking had any concept of anti-Semitism in their thought. Instead, you disliked what they were saying and looked for any hateful way you could find to attack them. This is not disagreement; this is bad conduct.

You are correct that the phrase you singled out has been grossly misused, but your estimation of Reformed history concerning it is extraordinarily off.

You have, in fact, made racist statements - take for example, your comments on 'the Jewish Lobby'. Yes, I have no doubt that your hatred for 'conservative' Christians is far more pronounced. It is probable that your other bigotries are side effects of this, but they have been consistently present.

You have defamed many who had done nothing to you. Yet you have not advanced any argument or provided any rationale - you have simply spewed hatred - admittedly in varied and creative ways. You take different tones in different blogs; you talk behind people's backs; and your consistent, 'anyone who disagrees with Jodie about the Bible, or more importantly, about politics, is the Antichrist' meme has grown old. You employ particular verses at your leisure, never seeking to understand them, while discounting any and all verses you do not happen to like.

You went so far as to actually indicate that a direct quote of Jesus is something you regard as anti-Christ. Only later did you attempt to say Jesus acted in specific circumstances. In any case, the circumstances you cite are incorrect for the quote.

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Benjamin P. Glaser said...

Rhea,

I hope this answers your questions

1) Specifically looking at Matt 28 if you read closely the command is given to the 11 disciples, not to all people. Jesus tells the disciples to go and baptize. One could look at Matt 28 like we do the commands to the disciples in Matt 10.

2) Also if you read through Acts there is no situation where anyone is commanded to Baptize other than those "authorized" by Paul or the Apostles. Moreover in Paul's letters when he speaks of Overseers it is inferred that they are in charge of the operation of the churches within their purview which would include both Baptizing, the preaching of the Word and the Lord's Supper.

S.R. said...

I haven't read all of the comments, mostly because there are nearly 50 and they don't ever stay on topic anyway.
One thing that comes to my mind when I hear, "Should we leave churches which are becoming more and more unbiblical" is this. A church which in the mind of many TRs may be unbiblical can still have many good Christian folk in them who need shepherding, help, and guidance. When you turn on the entire Church and leave doesn't that pose a problem to helping and instructing the members at large? Do many TR folk get so caught up in their theological practice (which I am quite Reformed) that they just decide to damn anyone who doesn't follow their practices? I have met so many "Reformed" people who want to curse Baptists, Evangelical Free, Missouri Synod, etc because they don't have the "right preaching of the Word" cause TULIP isn't one of their tenants.
Secondly, how many PCA Churches are consistent with their confessional standards? Sean Michael Lucas has done a lot lately to try and reclaim confessional presbyterianism, and from where I am sitting, as a member of the PCA, we have a lot of weaknesses. After all, though we confess the WS about the Lord's Supper, I have to say from the PCA churches I have been to they are far more Zwinglian than many Evangelical churches. Does the PCA truly discipline the way the Reformers did? I have talked to one elder in the PCA who believes discipline should only be ensued if it is a gross, mass, public sin. Private sins are not to be taken into discipline because it's no one else's business. Does this put the PCA outside of "true Church" bounds? Or the OPC. We all know they aren't always super good at the whole evangelism thing...after all that is their reputation. Does their failure to radically live out the Great Commission disqualify them from being within the bounds of a "true church."
I know if you claim to be TR you are probably crapping a brick right now. Don't think I'm just trying to instigate a fight. In fact, I'm being trained up for the ministry of Word and sacrament and this very question keeps plaguing my mind. So it's a serious question/thought that I have. Anyway, cheers to any who read this!
Grace and Peace.

Ebenezer Erskine said...

Welcome SR. Your thoughts and ideas are much appreciated. I am developing a post on the very subject you brought up, notably what Rev. Carpenter has named the "PR/TR" split. I'd love to hear your thoughts when I make that post.

Where are you attending Seminary?

Rhea said...

Ben:

Thanks for your answer to my question. I had never thought about it the way that you explained it in #2.

I do have a follow up question to #1: If you believe that the Great Commision was ONLY given to Jesus' disciples, then does that mean that Christians don't have to witness to others about Jesus?

My concern with your understanding of the passage in Matthew is that people will think "Well Jesus' was only talking to His 11 disciples, so I guess that means I don't have to share my faith."

Benjamin P. Glaser said...

You are welcome Rhea. As far as evangelizing and my reading of Matt 28 goes, yes many have misunderstood and have not evangelized because of this understanding I have presented concerning the Great Commission. However we also must be careful not to take on burdens that have not been given to us. There are plenty of places in Paul's letters and the rest of the OT that gives us the call to represent the gospel, to evangelize both in word and deed to all we encounter. As I read John Owen say once we have plenty of non-believers quite near to us that need to hear the gospel that going to the ends of the earth really is not necessary for all.

Benjamin P. Glaser said...

That should be rest of NT. ;)

Sorry...

Rhea said...

I thought that this might interest some of you:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080110/ap_on_re/religion_briefs;_ylt=ApdKOHIk8nVYjabHOneRrgk7Xs8F

It's the first article at the top.

Benjamin P. Glaser said...

Thanks for that Rhea. Quite interesting the spectacle this is causing in the Pittsburgh area.

Jodie said...

Will,

I’ve never said anything that I could not back up with facts and data.

I grew up under the oppressive fist of right wing totalitarianism. The last 25 years in America have seen a radical shift among Evangelicals to embrace right wing totalitarian values. I don’t hate you or them for it, but you will have to excuse me if I can’t go there with them.

I don’t hate conservative evangelicals, but their theology has become self-serving and their vocabulary socially unacceptable. A white person might claim they don’t mean anything by using the “N” word, but the word nevertheless means derogatory mountains.

So yes I do oppose it. Not to would be a sin.

I find it very curious that people who cuss find it rude to be called on it. Remember when smokers used to think it was rude to be asked not to smoke? But in a universe of smokers, the non-smoker is the rude one.

Jodie said...

Will,

PS.: I've gone through my notes on 'the Jewish Lobby' and cannot find anything that I think could be characterized as remotely racist.

Sorry, but I have no idea what you are referring to. Do you? Or is this just another example of not calling me names?

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

SR,

Thanks for the excellent post. I think you make good points, and take no offense at all. Here's how I approach things personally:

1) I've said on this blog that there are true Christians in the PCUSA, both clergy and laity. I also think that when you examine the scriptures, the precept clearly articulated is to separate from such as change or pervert the faith. Some do seem to have a hard time seeing that, or they think they're called to stay. I disagree strongly, but there you have it. Only the Holy Spirit can open the scriptures to somebody. I can be the occasion, but not the cause. I think we "T.R.'s" should issue a firm and resounding call for God's own to come out of Babylon, lest you share in her sins and judgments.

2. I'm not sure it's fair to call what we're doing "condemning the whole church." It may be. I'd have to think about that. In our own minds what we're doing is applying the test of a true visible church to the PCUSA, and taken as a whole, she flunks all three tests. By way of historical analogy, I think it would be a fair reading of Luther, Calvin, et al to say that they would not have argued that all who did not leave the Roman church were reprobate. That's the nice thing about believing in God's sovereignty in election. I can say that there are quite probably truly saved believers within Rome today. By God's grace they are saved in spite of their church, not because of it. As a matter of fact, I have one such fellow in a Thursday morning men's Bible study right now. He's a lifelong Roman Catholic. I am firmly convinced that he is regenerate. He is growing more and more to see the holes in Rome's doctrine. I am being patient with him, encouraging him to read the Catholic Catechism and compare these things with the Bible. I fully anticipate he will leave someday. I've counseled him to do so when his conscience dictates. I would say exactly the same thing to a PCUSA member.

3) About other non Reformed Evangelical denominations, perhaps I am far more tolerant than some of my TR brethren, for the simple reason that I make the distinction between the esse (being) of the true Christian faith and the bene esse (well being) of the true Christian faith. In these cases, I think it's true to say that these churches, on the whole, are marked by the "right preaching of the Word." But I'd also hasten to add that I truly believed that Reformed churches are characterized by the "right-er preaching of the Word." i.e. I believe our system of doctrine is most accurate. Martyn Lloyd-Jones' little book "What is An Evangelical?" is a most excellent resource on these things and I commend it highly.

4. I know Sean Lucas and count him as a friend. We used to be in the same presbytery. I was there when he jumped from the Southern Baptist Convention to the PCA. I agree with you about Sean's push to restore confessional Presbyterianism to the PCA. He and I went 'round and 'round a little bit about his latest work on the history of Southern Presbyterianism during the Westminster Conference at GA in Memphis last year.

5. I think you are 100% correct in your assessment of the current state of the PCA. I think a lot of what you describe is the heritage of Southern Presbyterianism, which is heavily informed by the Second Great Awakening. We are really much more like a bunch of Baptist congregationalists than we know. The BOCO is an extraordinarily weak and incomplete document when compared with other historic Presbyterian church orders, or even the PCUSA. I can say lots of bad things about the PCUSA, but I've gotta take my hat off to their adherence to historic principles of polity. I've got lots of opinions as to why they're so good at polity, but that's another post. I also want to hasten to add that there has been some strengthening in the PCA in the last 20 years or so. Apparently GA worship during the early '80's featured liturgical dance (shudder!)

6. Since you know Sean, I assume you're at Covenant. If you'll go down to Joel Hathaway's office, you'll see a posting concerning an internship in Western South Dakota. Myself and another TR pastor put that together to try and be a positive force for Happy TR-dom in the PCA. We intentionally went to Covenant (which most TR's sort of sniff at and are skeptical about) to find a man who wants to learn how to be a pastor in a small town setting. It will be a full orbed experience... regular preaching opportunities, regular study, regular evangelism, regular visitation, etc etc. We want to try and make a positive difference in the PCA. Our two churches are tiny, and we can't afford to pay much, but we're trying to give a gift. Wes and I are also working to improve our presbytery along the same lines. And we're committed to go to GA and do grunt work in committees for the same reason.

We TR's have a lot of sanctification work to do ourselves, IMHO. It's easy (and a lot more fun) to go 'round looking for logs in other people's eyes. Far harder to admit that your righteous zeal is a cover for your relational ineptitude and your lack of evangelistic concern.

Blessings,
Brian

Kyle Borg said...

Brian,
Thanks for weighing in, I really appreciate your thoughts, you have given me some stuff to mull over. I don't know Sean Michael Lucas personally, I have just seen his passion for reclaiming confessional Presbyterianism from both his blog, and books he has written. He is very appreciated in our home.
But I do know Wes. Through a funny circumstance I have been getting to know Wes via telephone conversations. I am not yet in seminary, I was going to start at Westminster West next fall, but some things have come up and I can't make it out there that soon.
Grace,
Kyle Borg (S.R.)

Kyle Borg said...

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I am under the care of the Wisconsin Presbytery and so far my training for "word and sacrament" extends only that far. I didn't mean to be misleading in any previous posts.

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

Oh, yes, Kyle Borg. Lacrosse, WI, right? I know who you are. My brother used to live down the road a piece in Mauston, but FedEx has since moved him to Montgomery Co, New York. He's not really very happy about that.

Have you guys gotten a new pastor yet?

Well, Kyle, these discussions are very valuable for you right now. I think you ought to be considering very carefully at this point what sort of a pastor you want to be. IMHO, you need to be the appropriate mix of velvet and iron, which is very hard to do and you'll have precious few role models.

Eric Alexander is, to me, the man who exemplifies these things. Too bad he's retired and living in St. Andrews. We still get to hear from him from time to time on this side of the pond, though, and it's always a treat to talk to him.

Blessings,
Brian

ScottishCommissioner said...

I know this particular subject has cooled considerably--the last post was dated January 2008 (more than half a year ago), but I have some comments and questions, if anyone is still out there who would be willing to read and, perhaps, respond.

Is it right to leave? was the original the question.

Is it right to leave a church that has veered off the road of orthodoxy, crashed through the guard rails against heresy, and begun plunging into the canyon of outright apostasy. Er, did I embellish a bit, oops. But you get the drift.

I am an ordained minister of a denomination that fits the above description. For more than a generation, it has gone against biblical principles and actively, aggressively promoted another Christ, another gospel, and another way, truth, and life than the one revealed in Scripture.

Let me say that I was born into this denomination, my father was a (liberal) minister in it, and I learned its gospel as a wee child. I loved the denomination as a youngster, thought it wasn't radical enough as a teenager, abandoned it as irrelevant as a young adult, and returned to it a little later in life. In time, I was ordained as one of its ministers.

When I was converted, it was to the true Christ by the true gospel preached and explained as the truth of God revealed to man. I was convicted of sin by the Holy Spirit, repented of my innumerable sins, and cried to Christ for forgiveness, trusting in his finished work on the cross and the mercy that flows from him.

Yet I gradually came to see (was shown...) that the pollution of my denomination was far deeper and wider than I had first believed.

When I began to read reformed stuff it blew my mind. I couldn't get over how sharp it was or how sweeping the scope of its teaching. And genuine reformed thinking is always based on the Word of God. Unbelievable!

For a time now, I have operated under the conviction that my denomination is desperately in need of reformation (and it is). But I'm not so sure now that it will come from leaders leading it through positive action (papers, presentations, disputations, etc). But, rather, through negative actions--by leaving and going elsewhere.

But what about the faithful and obedient to Christ who remain? Shouldn't they have a pastor, too? Would I be abandoning my people if I leave the denomination?

In the past, I have considered the 'begotten anew' pastors of our denomination as a special forces unit deployed behind enemy lines. It's not exactly rooted in scripture, but it has kept me going. It also has made a whole lot of sense for guys like me (I borrowed it from another regenerated pastor of the denomination). Living in an apostate denomination or congregation is war; and war is like hell.

The disinformation and sniper action that goes on constantly is wearing. And this pincer-action comes from the top and the grassroots and inbetween. The top makes grand pronouncements that undermine biblical truths (Jesus was only human, not divine) and individuals in the grassroots pick it up and use it as a weapon against sound doctrinal teaching.

It would be different if it was only the top that was heretical or only the grassroots. But since it is both, they feed off each other and support each other. It's very hard to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints when the grassroots can quote many from the top who have defined 'the faith' in terms that contradict the Bible. Or the top can point to the grassroots and say, 'the voice of God speaks through the people.'

Doubt even among the most faithful can sometimes creep in and leave a layperson unsure and immobilized, if not defeated.

Sound bleak?

Well, there are good, faithful Christians here, too. Sadly, though, when it comes to biblical teaching they've been on a starvation diet for years. They get their Christian meals (mostly) from the table of pop-Christianity. So, they don't have the training or the stamina to stay in the fight long enough to win the field doctrine by doctrine.

Anonymous said...

Well, I wrote a comment four months ago regarding the question, 'Is it right to stay' in an apostate congregation or denomination. Since then I have tried very seriously to get myself out the the congregation I serve and was told by the interview board of a orthodox reformed denomination to stay. Why? Because there was some signs of response. Some individuals were responding to the gospel being preached. The signs are faint...so, its hard to say what will happen. Is this of God? Is this of man?

In the last four months I also learned a new word 'Nicodemite,' thanks to R. Scott Clark at The Heidelblog (an excellent site). A nicodemite is someone who has great sympathy for the Reformed faith, but who nonetheless remains in an apostate church. Early reformers coined the term to describe sympathizers who stayed in the Roman church, borrowing the root from Nicodemus who, they believed, remained under the protective care of a false religion. Calvin didn't approve of the term, believing that Nicodemus was a man of faith.