Archive for May 2013

Clark Quick Quote

May 19, 2013

“In describing the nature of faith, fundamentalists, evangelicals, and even modernists in a certain way, stress the element of trust … A preacher may draw a parallel between trusting in Christ and trusting in a chair. Belief that the chair is solid and comfortable, mere intellectual assent to such a proposition will not rest your weary bones. You must, the preacher insists, actually sit in the chair. Or, as another minister recently said, mere belief that a bank is safe and sound will not protect your cash or give you any interest.  You must actually put your money in the bank. Similarly, so goes the argument, you can believe all that the Bible says about Christ and it will do you no good.  Such illustrations as these are constantly used, in spite of the fact that the Bible itself says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”

There is here at least a lack of analysis, a confounding of something Scriptural and something that is not, a failure to equate two sides of an analogy. The weak point of such illustrations is that they compare faith with the physical act of sitting in a chair and distinguish it from belief. Belief in Christ does not rest your weary bones, for belief is mere assent. In addition you must actually sit down or deposit your money in the bank. But this analogy does not hold. The distinction between believing that a chair is comfortable and the act of sitting in it is perfectly obvious. But in the spiritual realm there is no physical action; there is mental action only: hence the act of sitting down, if it means anything at all, must refer to something completely internal, and yet different from belief. Belief that the chair has been made to stand for belief in Christ, and according to the illustration belief in Christ does not save. Something else is needed. But what is this something else that corresponds to the physical act of sitting down?  This is the question that is seldom if ever answered. The evangelists put all their stress on sitting down, but never identify its analogue.” Religion, Reason, and Revelation 95-96.

Coffin Nails

May 7, 2013

StellmanLeithartOne man’s coffin nail could be the hinge pin keeping the PCA from going over the abyss.

Jason Stellman’s flirtation with the Roman church-state right in the middle of his halfhearted prosecution of fellow closeted Roman Catholic, Peter Leithart, could be the means by which the PCA reverses its decision affirming Leithart’s gross heresy as being within the bounds of the Westminster Confession, even his rejection of justification by faith alone and imputation.

Three PCA presbyteries that still believe that the Gospel is worth fighting for have “approved an overture requesting the General Assembly to assume original jurisdiction over TE Peter Leithart, a teaching elder member of Pacific Northwest Presbytery.”  This means that the PCA’s GA could retry the Leitheart case on the basis that there was a “conflict of interest” given the fact that Jason Stellman was a virtual Romanist while he was prosecuting another virtual Romanist.  No kidding.

Now, I have little hope that the PCA will come to its senses, reverse itself, and turn things around.  After all, the OPC’s GA made a similar error declaring Shepherdite and Federal Vision heretic John Kinnaird to be within the bounds of Westminster orthodoxy and refused to reverse itself despite similar protests.  The funny thing is that those in the OPC view themselves, even to this day, as stalwarts of the Reformed faith.  The blemish of the Kinnaird decision is simply ignored as OPC TEs tell themselves, and anyone dumb enough to listen, that they did the right thing given the “circumstances.”   Hogwash.  That might be enough for a small, even micro, Presbyterian denomination like the OPC, but the PCA has a bigger tent to protect.

My guess it is that overtures such as these calling on the PCA’s GA  to reverse the miscarriage of justice when it exonerated Leithart are nothing more than spitting in the wind.   But, sometime what sounds like death rattles are actually gasps for breath.  Besides, I have to think that Peter Leithart, assuming he has even a remote sense of decency and is not as amoral as he is heretical, would simply leave the PCA for his current home in the proto-papist CREC where he labors.  I have to think being such a despised man by those he wants to pretend are his “brothers” has to be, at the very least, uncomfortable.  Let’s hope he comes to his senses first and leaves the PCA as the PCA GA has already proven itself incapable of correctly identifying a man that is not even a Christian.

You can read the complete overture here, but if you’re content just with the meaty stuff here it is:

Whereas, the chief prosecutor in the Pacific Northwest case, former TE Jason Stellman, has subsequently tendered his resignation from PCA ministry and has joined the communion of the Roman Catholic church;

Whereas, the chief prosecutor admits publically, that “in the midst of this process,” (referring to the prosecution of Mr. Leithart and the appeal to the SJC) he started considering the claims of “the gospel and justification and the covenant from the perspective of Catholics…and this was the nail in the coffin that slew me.”

Whereas, the charges brought against Mr. Leithart by the chief prosecutor specifically deal with gospel and justification from the perspective of the Westminster Standards (which teach that sola fide is the material principle of the Protestant Reformation);

Whereas, the chief prosecutor’s shift toward the very doctrines that he attempts to prosecute TE Leithart for holding creates an astounding conflict of interest, despite his best efforts at objectivity;

Therefore, be it resolved that Calvary, Gulf Coast and Mississippi Presbyteries overture the 41st General Assembly to:

Assume original jurisdiction and direct the Standing Judicial Commission to hear “Pacific Northwest Presbytery vs. Peter Leithart,” because PNWP has “refused to act,” per the provision found in BCO 34-1, by not declaring a mistrial in this case because of its chief prosecutor’s conflict of interest, stemming from his transition into membership of the Roman Catholic church.  SJC not fail to take into consideration the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms in hearing the case.

Building A Scripturalist Church

May 4, 2013

churchA reader of this blog, David Reece, has had it on his mind for a long time to start a church based on Scripturalist principles.  In fact, he has taken the first steps by calling believers in the Phoenix area to come join his efforts. To that end he provided his contact information in the combox of this blog.  So, if you are in the Phoenix area and this sounds like something you might want to be a part of you can contact David at dcreece (at) gmail (dot) com.  Besides, with the PCA imploding before our eyes the time might be ripe for such a project. 

Now, admittedly, when David contacted me in the past my own interest in the project has been quite low.  As I explained to David, I just don’t have the time or the resources to devote myself to being involved in the founding of a church, much less a new denomination. I don’t know all that it will take, but I think I would just be happy just with more Clark friendly churches.  Besides, I don’t see the need for a Scripturalist church any more than I would think there should be Van Tillian churches (which is something the OPC has sought to become even to this day where well placed and influential Van Tillians have even tried to block the admission of Dr. Robert Reymond into their clique).

Besides, the last attempt I saw at a supposedly “Scripturalist” church was Drake Shelton’s white supremacist anti-trinitarian church complete with a phony website with Clark’s picture prominently displayed.  Needless to say with friends like these….   Thankfully, the extent of this  “church” remains something that exists only in Drake’s racist Christ denying mind and he said he removed all references to Clark on his website.  Let’s hope he keeps it that way.

I think my concern is that Scripturalism is a philosophy, not an institution.  That’s not to say that Scripturalism shouldn’t inform all institutions and not just churches.  But, I think if Clark’s philosophy was simply understood as Clark understood it then its application to the founding of a church or an entire denomination would be immediately appealing to even those with little familiarity with Clark.  Every church should be based on Scripturalist principles as Scripture alone, which rightly understood includes every necessary inference we might draw from Scripture, should be the underlying principle that informs how every church is governed and structured.  That’s not Scriputralist per se but confessional and specifically the Westminster variety.  In fact, and as many here already know, it was John Robbins who coined the term “Scripturalism” to describe the presuppositional and uniquely biblical philosophy of Gordon Clark.  On the other hand, Clark was not so much interested in a descriptive name for his system and even referred to it as anything from the unflattering “Dogmatism” to the highly appealing description he gave it during his exchange with George Mavordes calling it “the Westminster principle.”

So what would a church founded on the Westminster principle look like? Interesting, David reminded me of a piece John Robbins wrote back in 1989 simply title, “The Church.” In the piece John fleshes out a number of underlying principles that are frankly arresting when you compare them to most current Protestant denominations.  I think the most revolutionary aspect of the biblical picture John paints, and where it is sure to receive the most resistance, is that it takes direct aim at the professional pastor class.  John writes:

The next observation that I wish to make is that all the teachers in the church are to be paid: Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treads out the corn. Paul did not ordinarily receive compensation from the churches he helped establish, but he was quite clear in asserting the propriety and the duty of paying teachers according to their competence and diligence. Today many churches pay only one teacher, the minister or priest or pastor, and if they are large enough his associate, his secretary, the janitor, the choir director, and maybe the organist. But that is not what Paul commands. All the oxen, all the teachers, especially those who do their job well and eagerly, are to be paid. That does not mean that they must live solely from the fruits of their labor in the church, but it does mean that their work is to be recognized as valuable by the congregation.

If men are to be elected from the congregation as teachers, chances are they will already have another job by which they can support themselves should the congregation fire them. This would have several beneficial side-effects. If teachers are not completely dependent upon the congregation for their livelihood, they might be less apt to suppress truths that the congregation does not want to hear. Second, if the teachers can partially support themselves, the congregation will be able to support all the teachers according to their competence and diligence. Rather than paying one large salary to one man, the congregation will be able to pay smaller salaries to several men.

This division of labor would have several additional benefits: First, it would tend to reduce burnout. No one man would be expected to carry the load for the church. Second, it would ensure that the church would continue its purpose uninterruptedly should one teacher resign, die, or become involved in a scandal. Third, it would reduce the personality cult and conflict that sometimes cause people to attend and to leave the church because they like or do not like the pastor or the way he preaches. There would be no central figure to like or dislike. There are many more additional benefits from having a plurality of teachers, some of which may not become obvious until it is tried. It is difficult to imagine all the ramifications of a system of church organization that has not been tried in modern times.

Of course, while the above is certainly attractive, what then of all those M.Div. degrees?  What then becomes of seminaries that feed the denominations with pastors trained in the philosophic leanings and theological tendencies, if not peculiarities, of a specific seminary?   John finds a solution for this too:

This plurality of teachers was the common practice of the apostolic church. Acts 14:23 says that Paul and Barnabas appointed elders in every church. Plural, not singular. One kind of leader, not two, three, four or five. There were no bishops, no right reverends, no cardinals, no archbishops-and certainly no popes. Elders, we are told in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus l, are to be teachers. There was no such thing as a ruling elder who did not teach in the apostolic church order. There is only one set of requirements for the office of elder, and an elder is to be able to teach. Paul did not require seminary training of some elders and not for others. Nor, and this is also very important, was there a teacher who was not ordained. This is because the only way of ruling in the church is by teaching.

Notice, there is no such thing as a “ruling elder” and the only way of “ruling in the church is by teaching.”  That’s not to say that a seminary education is of no value, it’s just not required.  Again, and for anyone familiar with modern ecclesiastic polity and church structure this is earth shattering. There is no need to call this model of church government and structure “Scripturalist,” because it must be so offensive to the pride of men who have worked so hard and have been called to pastor a church that it would be rejected outright no matter what you call it.  Calling it “Scripturalist” only makes it that much easier for the professional pastoring class to dismiss it.  Besides, if what John is describing is a picture of a biblical church the message to pastors reading it is to get a “real job.”  On the other hand, if John is correct, and I think for the most part he is, then the biblical model of the church is far more organic and “ground up” rather than “top down” than anyone could have imagined.

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