Who’s Being Divisive?

Over on Wes White’s blog, Tim LeCroy is arguing that the PCA ought to be broad and inclusive when it comes to the Lord’s Supper. Paedo-Communion (as a belief) ought to be allowed, as well as intinction. He says that “we must realize that setting it (paedo-communion as an allowable exception, LK) as not allowable will be a major blow to the unity and peace of the PCA and may even lead to its rupture.” The full post of LeCroy is here.

I confess myself a bit puzzled by LeCroy’s assertions. Which is more divisive: holding to the Westminster Standards, or jettisoning them seemingly at will (especially by practice and then screaming foul when someone blows the whistle)? Which is more divisive: staying in the same place doctrinally speaking, or continually pushing the boundaries? One of the biggest rhetorical points scored in the progressive versus confessional debate is the idea that the confessionalists are the ones being divisive, especially because of blogs. I might remind the progressives at this point that the confessionalists have not moved on their positions. We’ve always believed that the Westminster Standards are THE system of doctrine contained in the Holy Scriptures. Unity is no unity at all unless it is a unity around the truth. Progressives are all about love and unity, but they completely divorce love and unity from truth. How can two walk together unless they are agreed?

Pushing the boundaries is often portrayed as the hip and cool thing to do nowadays. It is seen as progressive and inclusive. I would dispute both points. The most original thinkers in theology have ALWAYS been the most confessional thinkers. Calvin, Turretin, Bavinck, Berkhof, and Hodge are names I would say have all the creativity in the world compared to thinkers like John Armstrong, Peter Leithart, Ron Choong, and Brian McLaren. Moving sideways in one’s theology does not make for creativity. Heresy and heterodoxy are always reruns of past errors, and are therefore NOT creative. However, orthodox thinkers, because they are rooted to the faith once for all delivered to the saints, can explore deeper aspects of the same truths. In other words, creativity can only be deeper, not moving sideways.

Progressives are not inclusive when it comes to confessionalists. I have experienced this animosity first-hand on innumerable occasions, and from the very people who scream at the top of their completely non-self-aware lungs about how loving we need to be. How intolerant is “tolerance!” The idea of tolerance today is tolerant of everything except exclusivity. Exclusivity is seen as harsh, unloving, and (of course!) breaking the ninth commandment every single time it turns its head around. If I had a single penny every time I saw a confessionalist being accused of breaking the ninth commandment simply for blowing the whistle on a non-confessional teaching, I would be filthy rich. It might have been a bit more convincing, if it hadn’t been used 6 trillion times. Apparently, confessionalists are also incapable of understanding the English language, according to the progressives. “Can’t you understand that we are working from a different paradigm here?” they ask. To which I respond, “That’s precisely the point! It’s a different paradigm from the Westminster Standards.”

Confessionalists will only take so much boundary-pushing before it is enough. To all those who want to include everything under the sun within the progressively stretching “boundaries” (or what’s left of those almost infinitely elastic statements) of the Westminster Standards, know this: we are tired of being pushed, and pushed, and pushed, and pushed, and being simultaneously blamed for all the bickering. “Accept this, accept that, accept this, accept that, and if you don’t, you’re being unloving. Oh, and you need to put yourselves in our shoes, because you need to understand us.” I wonder if any progressive whatsoever has ever thought about what it is like to be a confessionalist. Of course, those who once were confessionalists and have now gone progressive are most likely disdainful of confessionalists. But the most common caricature of confessionalists is that they are curmudgeonly, and are only concerned about truth, and they don’t like getting along with anyone else. No doubt there are some of those kind out there. I plead not guilty, however. I can get along with general evangelical types fairly well (except when it comes to how to defend the boundaries). I cannot get along with progressives, because they are actively seeking to destroy confessional boundaries.

Paedo-communion is divisive: we heard at General Assembly that there were 2-year-olds being allowed at the table in some church(es), and then not being transferred to another church. That’s divisive. We heard that PC is not being practiced, but then heard from others that it is being practiced. I don’t care if a session has agreed to let a 2-year old to the table: that’s PC, in my book. Can you imagine the interview a session might have of a 2-year old? Session:”Do you believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior?” Kid: “Yes, yes.” Session: “Do you believe that the pastor is the devil incarnate?” Kid: “Yes, yes.”

Theistic evolution is divisive. Just look at the recent posts on this blog.

Intinction is divisive. The debate on it in the Overtures Committee was spirited, to say the least (although, thankfully, it never got to the level of personal accusations). Some believe that our Standards are sufficiently clear on the subject. Others believe that the practice is perfectly allowable under the current BCO.

Federal Vision is unbelievably divisive. It not only divides adherents from critics in the sharpest possible ways, it also divides those who are opposed to the doctrines of the FV, since they often disagree on how to deal with it. This aspect of its divisiveness has been enormously painful to me personally.

Looking at these examples, isn’t it crystal clear who is being divisive, and who is not? Confessionalists are seeking unity, but it is a unity around the truth of the Scriptures, the system of doctrine of which is codified in the Westminster Standards. The progressives, by pushing the boundaries, are the ones causing confusion, and then yelling out “Divisive!” at those who believe that boundaries are good things, and who are calling the whistle at the progressives. It’s called a smoke-screen, my readers.

137 Comments

  1. July 2, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    “The most original thinkers in theology have ALWAYS been the most confessional thinkers. Calvin …”

    Was Calvin really best understood as a “confessionalist”? Did he treat the Genevan Confession like the Westminster Standards are treated today? Did he not have a hand in writing the confession?

    Furthermore, Edwards was pretty original, and he was not “confessional’ as we see it today.

  2. JSM said,

    July 2, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    “We’ve always believed that the Westminster Standards are THE system of doctrine contained in the Holy Scriptures.”

    Several questions come to mind. Is there no room for confessional advance? Meaning if PC is found to be a better understanding of scripture cannot the confession be updated? Who’s understanding of the Westminster is “THE system of doctrine contained in the Holy Scriptures”? There are two denominations that claim adherence to the Westminister and within those denominations countless points of view on correct understanding of the standards. Your statement also gives the indication that the Westminster Standards are a perfect summary of doctrine taught in Scripture. Are the standards inerrant? If they are inerrant why not just teach from the standards? Since Scripture says things like, “you are justified by works and not faith alone”. James 2:24

    “I don’t care if a session has agreed to let a 2-year old to the table: that’s PC, in my book”

    It certainly isn’t the classical definition of PC and the standards do not provide an age for when someone can be worthy partaker. This statement raises another question. Should your understanding of PC and the standards be the final arbiter of faith and worship in the PCA?

  3. justsinner99 said,

    July 2, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    One of the primary purposes of having a “Confession of Faith” is to foster unity in the faith (i.e. we confess the same thing). The other is to protect the church from error & heresy. I for one think that we should all be *very* wary of tinkering with those boundary markers.

    The fact that the PCA practices good faith subscription to the Westminster Standards leaves some wiggle room on the non-essentials (and so allows us to be charitable in the non-essentials), but was *never* intended to be a side entrance for divergent views on justification, the Sacraments or Creation. Those things are not adiaphora – they are the vitals.

    If someone does not in good conscience & sincerity hold to the Westminster Standards, he simply should not be an office-bearer in the PCA. There are plenty of other Presbyterian denominations where these things may be tolerated (with the exception of FV). I don’t understand why they must be in the PCA to begin with.

    If someone can’t even acknowledge the plain teaching of the Standards (instead of arguing over semantical nonsense to support the supposed Confessionality of their views), I have to wonder how they handle the Scriptures in the pulpit as well. That’s my two cents.

  4. justsinner99 said,

    July 2, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    And I would add this – is there the slightest bit of doubt what Calvin, or Hodge, Berkhof, Bavinck, etc. would have to say about ANY of these issues? No.

  5. Jack Bradley said,

    July 2, 2012 at 6:36 pm

    Lane,
    I know you won’t be surprised that I found LeCroy’s observations very well-reasoned. As for those PCA churches allowing two-year-olds at the table, I’ll again appeal to one of those authorities:

    Poythress:
    We must avoid rigorism at this point if we are to practice genuine love toward children. . . . . . We need to listen accurately to young children. Listen to the young children within your church, the children who are being raised in solid Christian homes. Talk with the 5-year-olds. Talk with the 3-year-olds. Talk with the 2-year-olds. Ask them about what Jesus has done for them. Ask whether they love Jesus. Ask whether Jesus loves them. I think that you will hear a lot of credible professions of faith.

    http://www.frame-poythress.org/poythress_articles/1997Indifferentism.htm

    For a very young child, trust in God is very much fused with trust in parents. Trust in parents is largely inchoate and inarticulate. But it is nonetheless real.

    http://www.frame-poythress.org/poythress_articles/1997Linking.htm

    As for the overall merits of paedocommunion, our friend Peter Leithart is again helpful:

    http://credenda.org/archive/issues/18-1liturgia.php

    Does the covenant have an inherently historical/institutional character (paedocommunion), or is it an invisible reality (antipaedocommunion)?

    . . . I am guided by an underlying assumption that the sacraments manifest the nature of the church. . . According to Paul’s teaching, the Lord’s Supper embodies the nature of the church as a unified community. . . What kind of community are we claiming to be if we invite children to the Lord’s table, or, as is more commonly the case, what are we saying about the church when we exclude them?

    . . . Israelite children shared in every meal in which their parents participated. Because the church is the new Israel, the entry requirements to the church’s Passover are the same as they were for Israel. Discontinuity with regard to admission to the table, like discontinuity between the subjects of circumcision and baptism, undermines the identification of the church and Israel. What are we saying about the church when we exclude children from the table? We are saying that we are not Israel.

    . . . paedobaptist opponents of paedocommunion are inconsistent on this point, and it is an inconsistency that has damaged the witness of paedobaptist churches more deeply than we can fathom. . . On the one hand, they claim that children are initiated into the covenant community, but on the other hand they say that “knowledge” and “spiritual maturity” are required for participation in the meal of the community, the meal that expresses the unity of the community. On the one hand, they say that children of Israel were admitted to Israel by circumcision, but on the other hand, many claim that they were denied the Passover, which was “the sacrament of communion, life and growth.” A moment’s reflection will reveal the incoherence here: Children are inducted into the church, but denied one means for growth; they are expected to become mature, but denied one of the key means for attaining maturity.

    . . . Participation in the covenant necessarily means participation in the practices of the covenant, for there is no other kind of participation in the covenant, because there is no other kind of covenant. Denying that participation in covenant rites is essential to covenant membership is inherently Baptistic. Opponents of paedocommunion argue that children receive the blessings of the covenant without the sign. Baptists say the very same thing about baptism. Here is the dilemma: Why does covenant membership without the sign suffice for the Supper but not for baptism? Why must admission to the covenant community take ritual form, but not the continuing membership in the covenant community?

    . . . If the covenant is the form of communal life, if membership in the covenant involves participation in the external practices and rites of the covenant, if worship is the central practice of the new covenant people, and if worship centers on a meal with God, then it follows that participation in the covenant meal is a necessary privilege of being in covenant. If baptized infants really are in covenant with God, they should participate in the meal of that covenant. If they are in the body symbolized by the loaf, can we withhold the loaf from them? And if they are not really in covenant with God, then why in God’s name do we continue to baptize them?

  6. JSM said,

    July 2, 2012 at 6:37 pm

    @justsinner99
    “One of the primary purposes of having a “Confession of Faith” is to foster unity in the faith (i.e. we confess the same thing). ”

    It is interesting that both the OPC and the PCA supposedly adhere to the same confession yet they remain divided. It doesn’t appear the confession is accomplishing the stated goal.

    Lutherans, Anglicans, and Baptists also have divergent views on your stated subjects that are the vitals. Since they have divergent views than your understanding of the standards does that mean they are not true or faithful churches? It s my understanding that when a presbyterian court makes a ruling they are seeking God’s will in a particular matter. If a presbyterian court defrocks a minister for teaching a lutheran view of the sacrements then said minister becomes ordained in the Lutheran church what part of God’s will was accomplished?

    ” The other is to protect the church from error & heresy. I for one think that we should all be *very* wary of tinkering with those boundary markers.”

    This does not really answer the question I raised about the possibility of error in the confessions. All your response does is make confessional advance hypothetically possible but functionally immovable. This also in function communicates the confession is inerrant. Which is ironically anti-confessional WLC CH1 Section 9and10

  7. Reed Here said,

    July 2, 2012 at 6:42 pm

    JSM: as per Lane’s blog rules, please let us know who you are. If you’ve done so in the past, thanks for reminding me. If for some reason you feel the need to be pseudonymous, please let us know who you are via email. You can reach me at reedhere [at} gmail (dot> com. Thanks.

  8. justsinner99 said,

    July 2, 2012 at 7:01 pm

    There have been in the past discussions/attempts at merging the two denominations. Judging by the issues that we have been talking about in the PCA lately (i.e. the things mentioned in this thread), I would not hold my breath waiting for another attempt at merging them.

    We practice good faith subscription in the PCA. I believe that the OPC holds to strict subscription (i.e. no exemptions to the Standards allowed). If I am incorrect on that, someone please feel free to chime in & correct me.

    But that also makes my point. You know what you are getting into when you choose either denomination. To choose one of them & then balk and chafe at the standards required just makes no sense. Like I said, if someone wants a much more open or broad Presbyterian denomination, they exist elsewhere. All one has to do is seek ordination there instead. Why is that so hard to accept?

  9. JSM said,

    July 2, 2012 at 7:04 pm

    My name is John McNeely. I am a member of an orthodox presbyterian church. I have also very recently posted on Wes White’s blog. JSM is my initials. I have been following the FV issue and the Leithart trial for a couple of years. If you want to know anything else feel free to ask.

  10. andrew said,

    July 2, 2012 at 7:05 pm

    Justsinner99,

    Just wondering if you agree with good-faith subscription? I agree that it maintains orthodoxy, but allows some room on smaller matters.

    How would you respond to someone like Lane who would bar from ordination over any deviation from the confession, no matter how minor that might seem?

    On the one hand he achieves consistency – otherwise how does one distinguish between essentials and otherwise?

    On the other hand he ends up treating paedocommunnion as some major issue, and barring men from ordination because they suspect Luke authored Hebrews, or because the prospective minister enjoys a Sunday dinner (both anti-confessional positions), etc.

  11. andrew said,

    July 2, 2012 at 7:13 pm

    Lane,

    In your example, giving a two year old is not strictly PC, and is certainly not against the Confession in letter or Spirit.

    I know 2 year olds (almost 3, I suppose) who profess love in Jesus and can explain what the elements symbolise. They also show awareness and repentance of sin.

    Pastorally, you may adopt a sceptical posistion of suspicion to the little ones – but that is not a confessional requirement. So even if the PCA were to adopt an ultra-strict subscription, I am afraid these terrible errors would still beset us.

  12. JSM said,

    July 2, 2012 at 7:14 pm

    @justsinner99

    The OPC allows exceptions to the WCF. For instance my pastor is a framework hypothesis proponent. The majority report on Paedocommunion was in favor in 1985. None of the men who wrote the majority report were brought up on charges.

    Your comment does not address my questions about the purpose of the presbyterian courts in enforcing the will of the Lord. It also does not address the failure of the confession to bring unity between two denominations that adhere to said confession.

  13. justsinner99 said,

    July 2, 2012 at 7:32 pm

    Andrew – I think you may be mis-reading Lane.

    I don’t think he is anti-good faith subscription. I think he is anti not-in-good faith subscription, if you know what I mean. (I obviously don’t speak for him, though.)

  14. BillH said,

    July 2, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    I don’t believe there is a person here claiming infallibility for the WCF. Confessional does not imply infallible, much as some may try to frame the debate that way; the confession itself says that men and courts will err. Confessional simply says “this we believe”.

    How broad are you willing to go with allowable exceptions? I appreciate the logic that Covenant children ought to share the Covenant meal, but is that truly what the Scripture teaches about the Supper? Or is the Supper given to nourish and build up the elect? They are not the same thing, and I don’t see the confession saying “both”. Is Adam a uniquely created being in the image of his Creator? Or is he simply the end product of a gazillion years of naturalistic evolution, adopted by God? They are not the same thing. The confession doesn’t allow both. Is justification one of the benefits conferred by baptism, which can be lost with all the other benefits later on by lack of faith or faithfulness? Or is justification the gift of God conferred by the Holy Spirit only to the elect, which they can never lose because of their own weakness? Those are not the same thing, and again, I don’t see the confession allowing both. Not if we are honest.

    How can a man insist that such unlike things are both contained within the bounds of the WCF? Why not simply be honest and proclaim that he believes the WCF does NOT reflect the system of doctrine contained in Scripture and the PCA should dump it and use something else? Or that perhaps he made a mistake and no longer holds to the confessional documents of the PCA, and in the interest of peace will move on?

    I have to agree with Lane, standards should promote peace and purity, if for no other reason that you know what they say before you are required to say “yes, that is what I believe”.

  15. David Gilleran said,

    July 2, 2012 at 7:36 pm

    JSM #2-The PCA BCO gives the way to amend the Standards. An overture is approve by 3/4 of a GA. Then it is approved by 3/4 of the presbyteries. Then it is approved by another 3/4 of the next GA.

    In regards to PC; none of the leading PC advocates in the PCA have come forward with an overture to amend the Standards in regard to PC. In my opinion, it is time for them to do so. The burden is upon them to show from the Scriptures that their position is Biblical and our Standards in their current form are wrong. So far they have been unwilling to do so. It appears, and this seemed to be the frustration with some at the last PCA GA, is amending the Standards by exception rather than the process laid out in our BCO

  16. JSM said,

    July 2, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    @ BillH

    I never claimed anyone actually comes out and says the confessions are inerrant. I suggested the confession is functionally treated as if it was inerrant. If you do not claim it is inerrant does that mean it does err? If so, should we be looking at it to see where it can better reflect the teaching of scripture?

  17. andrew said,

    July 2, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    Just sinner – Re 13

    Look at Lane’s post ‘Doctrinal failings are moral failings’, posted 27th May.

    There he argues that exceptions to the confession are not only serious errors but moral failings requiring discipline.

    You are probably right though, that in practice, even for the confessionalist, good-faith exceptions will be allowed. Lane only seems to bring this topic up when wanting to bash PC. If you look in the comments of the ‘DFAMF’ post you will see his refusal to confirm other parts of the WCOF which he or good friends may be uncomfortable with.

  18. andrew said,

    July 2, 2012 at 7:59 pm

    Bill H,

    Lots of sympathy with your post.

    But turn the question around – how narrow will you be in your exceptions? Would you discipline a minister who permitted children to read secular books Sunday, contrary to the Confession?

    But if you would allow an exception like this, how would you distinctish between that an PC exception? See, I would agree that evolution ofodenying JBFA are ‘big’ exceptions, whereas I would put PC in the smaller camp. You might disagree, but how would we sort it out? Mere appeal to something’s presence in the WCOF doesn’t help.

  19. JSM said,

    July 2, 2012 at 8:12 pm

    How can the standards ever be amended if everyone who may agree with the overall majority of the standards but finds they disagree in the area of PC leaves? You would never get a 2/3rds majority to change anything if everyone left. These things should be discussed and worked out in the presbyteries. If everyone leaves who disagrees with the standards on any point functionally makes the standards inerrant and above the possibility of amendment.

  20. greenbaggins said,

    July 2, 2012 at 8:25 pm

    Andrew, I am not a strict subscriptionist. I don’t bring this up only to bash PC, and you are not understanding the nature of good-faith subscription. So, aside from that, you’re batting 1000. Good faith subscription works like this: a candidate states his differences with his Presbytery, the Presbytery rules on those differences (they are one of three categories: merely semantic, or more than semantic but not out of accord with the fundamentals, or out of accord with the fundamentals, thereby making the candidate non-ordainable), and then the Presbytery accepts on good faith that the candidate agrees with everything else in the standards. Your understanding (like many of the progressives) is more like a system subscription. That would seem to be the direction you are pointing in your erroneous concept of “good-faith exceptions,” which is not a category the PCA acknowledges.

  21. David Gilleran said,

    July 2, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    JSM, it s 3/4 in the PCA not 2/3. You can seek to amend the Standards and if you fail, you can still remain the body.

  22. July 2, 2012 at 8:37 pm

    Lane,

    Excellent essay. You are right on target. As Dr. R. C. Sproul, Sr., says, doctrine unites and doctrine divides. The problem with big tents is that they collapse quickly in a storm. Their flimsy supports quickly buckle when tested. So it is with denominations that allow so much latitude that they stand for little other than the nebulous “tolerance.” The question that few ask is “who decides what is tolerated?”

    The issue here isn’t strict vs. good-faith subscription. That’s another red herring. The big tenters want to hide behind “good-faith” subscription. The current issues, as you enumerate well, involve serious deviations from Scripture as well as the core of Reformed doctrine as documented in our Standards.

    Paedocommunion violates Paul’s (with the Holy Spirit’s inspiration) direct commands in 1 Cor 11, as well as a host of statements in the WCF and WLC. Attempts to twist 1 Cor 11 like a wax nose would be laughable if not so tragic. PC confounds the core difference between the sacraments, thereby cutting at the heart of one of the marks of a true church. PC was rightly rejected by the PCA 16th GA, but clearly some presbyteries and officers continue to defy their oath to submit to their brothers.

    Likewise, theistic evolution ignores the clear, direct creation of Adam recorded in Genesis 1 and 2 in infallible Scripture, instead siding with a failed theory of demonstrably fallible “science.” I put science in quotes because evolution isn’t science. Our Standards follow Scripture in teaching the direct creation of Adam and Eve. On what does our hope rest, fallible science or infallible Scripture?

    Intinction also violates the clear commands of our Lord to eat and drink in instituting his ordinance. It contravenes our Standards which correctly follow Scripture. The pragmatic reasons given for it hardly trump Scripture.

    Should we accept these things for the sake of a false unity? Should we become like the denomination our fathers left in 1973? How is that other denomination doing now? Honoring God, is it?

    As you point out, “cutting edge” theology should concern the depth of our faith, not extend our theology into unbiblical territory. Theological anarchy serves no one well and certainly doesn’t glorify God. The honest thing to do if folks have courage to go with their convictions is to put forth overtures to the GA to change the Standards more to their liking. Although I haven’t noticed a line at the Stated Clerk’s office.

    Kevin DeYoung made a great observation in this month’s Tabletalk: “The point in drawing lines is not to be right or even courageous. The goals are to love God by proclaiming and protecting His Word, and to love others by putting up fences.” Amen.

  23. BillH said,

    July 2, 2012 at 9:13 pm

    I’m glad I refreshed the page before I posted. Thanks RM. You have made the points much more ably than I would have.

  24. Jared Nelson said,

    July 2, 2012 at 9:26 pm

    Lane: all I have to say is Amen.

  25. JSM said,

    July 2, 2012 at 9:34 pm

    Using 1st Corinthians 11 to argue against paedocommunion is like using Acts 2:38 to argue against paedobaptism. “You must repent before you can be baptized. Since infants cannot repent they must not be baptized” Of course the argument completely ignores the context and audience.

  26. JSM said,

    July 2, 2012 at 9:40 pm

    Several men were commissioned by the OPC to study paedocommunion and the majority report came out in favor. None of the arguments I have seen against paedocommunion adequately address the points made by the majority report. Similarly, no one here has addressed my concerns with how many within the PCA and OPC functionally treat the confessions as inerrant and above amendment.

  27. July 2, 2012 at 9:41 pm

    Bill,

    Thank you for your kind words.

    I forgot to include Federal Vision on the list. FV cuts to the very heart of Scripture, Reformed Theology, and our Standards by compromising the sacraments, salvation by grace alone through faith alone, the nature of the covenants, and the church just off the top of my head. Rejected by the 35th GA, its adherents also continue to defy their oath to submit to their brothers.

    Here’s a great quote on submission from our forefathers:

    “That when any Matter is determined by a Major Vote, every Mem[ber] Shall either actively concur with, or passively Submit to Such Deter[min]ation; or, if his Conscience permit him to do neither, he Shall, [after] Sufficient Liberty modestly to reason and remonstrate, peaceab[ly with]draw from our Communion, without attempting to make any Sc[hism:] provided always, that this Shall be understood to extend only to [Such] Determinations, as the Body Shall Judge indispensable in Doct[rine] or Presbyterian Gover[n]ment.

    Minutes of the Synod of New York and Philadelphia, 1758, p. 3. [Klett, ed., 1976, p. 341].

    Oh, that it were so today.

  28. greenbaggins said,

    July 2, 2012 at 9:45 pm

    JSM, read Venema’s book. He more than answers your arguments, as well as all the other arguments that have been advanced in favor of PC. But I will say here and now that PC is not the point of the post. Boundaries is the point of the post. Please stick to the topic, folks.

  29. July 2, 2012 at 9:47 pm

    JSM,

    That’s not how it works. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t the OPC reject the majority report? As for the PCA, when the brothers reject a view as erroneous, as the 16th GA did with PC, you don’t get to say “nanny nanny boo boo” and press on. Those that didn’t prevail either submit or move on. Undermining the denomination in protest isn’t a Biblical option.

  30. Towne said,

    July 2, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    Mr. McNeely (JSM):

    You indicated that you are a member of an OPC church. Have you tried floating these ideas past your pastor or your presbytery? I dare say they would not be well received in my presbytery. In addition, you are speaking to a largely PCA audience, regarding an issue that is presently front and center before the PCA. In that regard, we should always take care lest we appear to be meddling in the affairs of others.

  31. JSM said,

    July 2, 2012 at 9:58 pm

    Lane,
    Didn’t you make PC at least part of the discussion by mentioning it in you original post? Your statement that we quoted from your original post and position on PC is outside the “boundaries” of Scripture and the Standards. You nor anyone else has adequately addressed our objections to your position on boundaries and who is divisive. You want to draw a line in the sand that scripture and the standards do not draw.

  32. July 2, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    JSM,

    Lane already answered your question. Time to move back to the topic as defined by Lane.

  33. JSM said,

    July 2, 2012 at 10:11 pm

    Towne,
    I was a member of a PCA in Florida before I moved out west. There is no PCA church within several hundred miles. The OPC I am a member of is 66 miles away and is the only reformed church within 100 miles. Which denomination I am a member of is irrelevant because we are all members of one body. I would hope someone in another denomination would attempt to shed light on any areas where people within the OPC are inconsistent.
    I have brought these ideas to the attention of my elders and pastor. I am still waiting for a response from my pastor on these questions. I have read Samual Miller’s “Adherence to our Doctrinal Standards” and found his arguments to not address the issues I have raised.

  34. JSM said,

    July 2, 2012 at 10:29 pm

    reformedmusings

    I explained how our bringing up Lane’s PC statement is on his stated topic of boundaries. You claim he has addressed my question. If you read my original post you would have seen I asked several questions. I must not be very good at reading comprehension because I missed him answering any of them. I will state them again here and maybe you can direct me to where he answered each one.

    Is there no room for confessional advance?
    Meaning if PC is found to be a better understanding of scripture cannot the confession be updated?
    Who’s understanding of the Westminster is “THE system of doctrine contained in the Holy Scriptures”?
    Are the standards inerrant?
    If they are inerrant why not just teach from the standards?
    Since they (lutherans, baptist, anglicans) have divergent views than your understanding of the standards does that mean they are not true or faithful churches?
    If a presbyterian court defrocks a minister for teaching a lutheran view of the sacrements then said minister becomes ordained in the Lutheran church what part of God’s will was accomplished?
    Should your understanding of PC and the standards be the final arbiter of faith and worship in the PCA?

    I am not trying to be antagonistic I am sincerely asking these questions.
    Thanks

  35. greenbaggins said,

    July 2, 2012 at 10:44 pm

    JSM, others have already answered your questions. I did not feel the need to answer them, as none of them addressed anything in my original post. But if you need more, I’ll answer them again.

    There is room for confessional advance. So go out and do it.

    It can be updated. Go and propose it

    Animus imponentis is the key here (the intention of the imposing body). That has been answered by way of good faith subscription (which is NOT system subscription).

    No, the standards are not inerrant. Which is a complete red herring, by the way.

    Some churches are more, and some less pure, as our standards teach (and which can also be gleaned from the letters to the churches in Revelation).

    If a minister becomes part of the Lutheran denomination because he’s teaching Lutheran doctrine, I would think that’s where he belongs, wouldn’t you? He doesn’t belong in a PCA church, while he’s teaching Lutheran doctrines.

    My understanding of the Westminster Standards is nothing I have even remotely tried setting up as a rule for the PCA to follow. That question is a bit offensive, if truth be told. Where did you get even a sliver of intention on my part that I was attempting to do this?

  36. BillH said,

    July 2, 2012 at 11:23 pm

    Andrew,

    You asked ” But turn the question around – how narrow will you be in your exceptions? Would you discipline a minister who permitted children to read secular books Sunday, contrary to the Confession?”

    That may indeed be part of the discussion, and not just a diversion from the main topic, eh? Did the minister declare this scruple to his session and presbytery? Did they allow it? Is he allowed to practice it or teach it? What kind of secular book, HP Lovecraft? Little House on the Prairie? Has the child made a credible profession of faith? Is it a communicant or non-communicant child? How large is the congregation? (ok, maybe that isn’t fair… sorry, it’s getting late)

    As an aside, at church one of the young boys this past Sunday was carrying around a copy of HP and the Goblet of Fire… sorry, but your question got me chuckling. And no, he did not receive communion, nor did the pastor give the book to him. But this isn’t really a chuckling matter, is it?

    Part of the answer to this is going to come in the answer to the question “how is this hostile to the system of doctrine taught in the confession we profess to believe?” In the examples I gave and that ReformedMusings gave, it is clear to many of us where these things diverge or disagree. That is why I emphasized “not the same thing”. Many of us vowed that we accepted the Standards because we actually believe what they say. As a confessional body we all take vows not only what we believe, we also vow to be submitted to the brethern. FV, intinction, PC, evolution, women officers… all have been brought before the brethern and found to be out of accord and/or hostile. At that point, it isn’t really an option to just carry on as if nothing happened, yet we can find all of these beliefs and practices in the PCA right now, and not just isolated cases.

    Let me turn the question back to you. Are you willing to allow FV teachings as an exception? Evolution? Women officers? Or even that Sunday is not the Christian Sabbath? And the accusation is made that the confessional guys are divisive?

    I have heard more men I respect lately suggest that the PCA is so un-unified right now they predict a split in the next (5, 10, 15) years. That tears my heart brothers.

  37. JSM said,

    July 3, 2012 at 12:07 am

    Lane,
    You said ” I did not feel the need to answer them, as none of them addressed anything in my original post”

    My original comment quoted your original post twice. Did you read it?

    You also said “My understanding of the Westminster Standards is nothing I have even remotely tried setting up as a rule for the PCA to follow. Where did you get even a sliver of intention on my part that I was attempting to do this?”

    I think the quote I originally reference in my first comment qualifies, It is below in quotes

    “I don’t care if a session has agreed to let a 2-year old to the table: that’s PC, in my book”

    You would throw the PC label on someone who admits a 2 year old to the table and then declare them outside the bounds of the confession. This is not even the classical view of PC. Scriptures and the standards do not give an age. You would impose your understanding of the confession in this area on men who may not even consider themselves PC in the classical sense but rather young child communion.

    On my questions about inerrancy and the standards just because you make the assertion that it is a red herring does not mean they are. When you make the assertion that someone who disagrees with your understanding of the “vitals” of the standards should leave functionally makes the standards inerrant. How else is anything going to be amended in the standards if there is not a process of debate. Those men who hold to PC still have the option of submitting to the standards as they are currently formed and remaining in the denomination. G.I. Williamson is a good example. There are several men I know who are TEs and REs in the OPC who hold to PC. They do not want to create division by practicing something out of accord with the standards. They would rather see if in time an amendment to the standards can be made. I know a TE in the OPC who disagrees with PC and still gives room for the option of the standards being amended to allow its practice. If these men just leave and go to the CREC it does not show a high regard for unity in the body or for submission to the church. If they just leave and do not pray and work for change from within it would render an amendment to the standards impossible. This would functionally make the standards inerrant. There would be no possibility of change.

    I do agree with your comment about the hypothetical Lutheran situation. However you did not address my question about how this situation corresponds to the presbyterian idea of God speaking through the courts of the church. The PCA or OPC would be saying this man is unfit to serve as an elder of the church but is welcome to go serve as an elder of the Lutheran denomination.

  38. July 3, 2012 at 6:59 am

    JSM

    I think everyone here would allow for Confessional advance (though not regress) in the Confession being changed. Putting into practice those changes before the courts of the church have ruled on them however, is dishonest and deceitful. That is where those who have sworn a vow before God and man to uphold the doctrines of the confession, and then knowingly practice otherwise have ended up.

    Also your argument concerning the validity of using 1 Cor 11 against PC being the same as Acts 2:38 against paedobaptism is misconceived. Your assumption in that argument is that the two sacraments mean and function the same – they don’t. You appear to have conflated the two sacraments without having given due consideration to the differences between the two. If one properly examines the differences between the two sacraments, then one can see the requirements for each are different (Lane’s previous work on PC will be worth looking back upon for such differences), hence the Corinthians passage is relevant to the discussion.

    You raise a number of helpful issues though brother.

    On LeCroy’s article – why would the PCA want to become any broader than it already is? Has history not shown that the broader a denomination becomes, the less faithful and thus less effective it becomes (ref PCUSA etc).

    Blessings
    Matt

  39. July 3, 2012 at 7:15 am

    JSM,

    What we have here is a failure to communicate. A 2-year-old is incapable of discerning the body of Christ, period. The mere gamesaying of “Jesus loves me, this I know, because the Bible tells me so” is not a credible profession of faith. I teach the communicants’ class here and I can readily see the difference. This is not “forcing my view” of Standards but a matter of conscience for the faithful elder to be true to Scripture and not to have a child eat and drink judgment to themselves. I’m sorry if you can’t see the difference, but that’s not my problem.

    Lutheran ministers belong in the Lutheran church, period, not in the PCA. Read PCA BCO Preliminary Principle 2. Again, if you think that Lutherans or Baptists belong in the PCA, then put forth a change to our BCO. That’s a pretty peculiar view IMO.

    Here’s the bottom line, which I clearly stated in previous comments. The church is not about individual preferences. The PCA has a confession that it rightly expects its officers to hold with possible minor exceptions. When the larger body of officers rules something out of bounds, then suck it up. Either submit as required by your vow of office or leave. Don’t bleed the denomination dry trying to foist your individualistic will on the body outside of the normal BCO processes to change the Standards. In the military, we call that integrity.

    This isn’t a game or a casual Internet pastime. Serious issues of Scriptural and Confessional integrity underlie all this. Submission does not involve word games or “flying under the radar” while thumbing your nose at the larger body. I frankly don’t care how long someone was clerk of their presbytery while holding an aberrant view rejected by the GA. Church officership requires integrity before God and before the church.

  40. greenbaggins said,

    July 3, 2012 at 7:48 am

    JSM, quoting my post and addressing the actual points of concern raised in the post are not the same thing. My point was the stretching of the boundaries that is happening while simultaneously accusing the confessionalists of being unloving and divisive. My point is that the ones stretching the boundary are being divisive. You have not stuck to that topic.

  41. JSM said,

    July 3, 2012 at 9:25 am

    Lane,
    You are saying I have to agree with your premise to stay on topic?

  42. JSM said,

    July 3, 2012 at 10:03 am

    Reformed musing et all
    I will not address all your points on PC since I have been told it is off topic. I did not realize I have to agree with the authors point of the post to stay on topic. I will keep that in mind for the future. I will only say that I am a father of three children and your opinion of a two year old’s capacity of discerning the body of Christ is subjective and is not found in the standards or Scripture. I have studied this topic for some time and have spoken to many members and elders of congregations that practice very young child communion and there is no noticeable difference in child sickness or deaths among those congregations from ones that wait until children are 12.

    On your insinuation of this being a”casual Internet pastime”, it is by no means that for me. I take very seriously where and with whom my family worships. What goes on in the body of Christ as a whole and the reformed community in particular has direct impact on my family. You have probably noticed I have not posted on this site before and have not posted on any site before last week. However I have been reading very closely the assertions made on this site and others by men who profess Christ and are ordained shepherds in the body. These questions that I have raised were directly related to the points Lane tried to make in this post but were also a synthesis of my exposure to his blog. A group of elders functionally treating the Standards as inerrant does effect my family and the Church as a whole. The men that I know of who believe young child communion but not the classical view of PC are not violating the courts of the church by allowing young children to the Table. I will stand corrected if I am wrong but as far as I know no presbytery of the OPC or PCA has set an age where you may not bring a child to the table.

  43. Jack Bradley said,

    July 3, 2012 at 10:47 am

    Doug Wilson does a good job of turning the tables on the standard ‘discern the body of Christ’ anti-PC objection:

    The apostle requires us to discern the body. But by this he does not mean that we are to be looking at the communion table, trying to analyze and figure out the theology or metaphysics of the thing. A requirement to be able to do this would exclude just about everybody.

    The Corinthians by their squabbling and jealousies were not discerning that they were one body. The fact that they were bringing their selfish interests into the practice of communion meant that their observance of the Supper was doing more harm than good. But the problem was not that some of the Corinthians believed in consubstantiation while others held to the memorialist position. The problem was that they were divided from one another, whatever the cause.

    Now, suppose we have a young child who sees the communion tray going past, and that child wants to partake. This is his church, he grew up here, he worships the same God everyone else is worshipping, and he feels himself to be, in every way, a part of the congregation, a partaker in the body. In this frame of mind, why does he want to partake of the bread and wine? He does so because he discerns the body.

    Let us also suppose that he is prevented from coming to the Table because the elders do not believe in paedocommunion. They don’t think the boy understands enough yet. They believe he is in the covenant—the minister baptized him himself. They believe that he is a good boy, and that he does love the Lord. The hang-up is that he seems a little young. And so they deny him. And why do they do this? Because they are not discerning the body.

    http://credenda.org/archive/issues/18-1presbyterion.php

  44. Todd said,

    July 3, 2012 at 11:22 am

    Lane –

    Thank you for this. Again, as you can see, the divisive nature of PC is ably demonstrated in the thread of comments here. Just as lawmakers are unwilling to go through the effort necessary to amend the Constitution that they are sworn to uphold in order to make the policy changes they want to see enacted – and therefore they simply reject the Constitution’s authority, so to divisive elements within the confessional churches decide rather than propose confessional standard amendments, they will simply do what is right in their own eyes.

    Both those who argue for the abiding authority of the Constitution, and who argue for the authority of the confessions of the church argue for the possibility of amending them – while at the same time arguing strenuously that all must uphold the documents as authoritative for the time being… yet they are called divisive.

    Todd

  45. Towne said,

    July 3, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    A clever shift indeed. But rather, the point of the passage is self-examination, as made particularly clear in verses 30 and 31 of the text. To wit, if I judge myself a sinner desparately in need of Christ Jesus as my only Saviour, then and only then can I partake in a worthy manner. An infant cannot so judge herself or himself, nor can most small children. There are exceptions, and praise God for those truly and clearly called to the Lord at a young age. Yet still, the Apostle’s rule remains and is not to be dismissed–worthy partaking requires an accurate assessment of one’s own sin and thus one’s own need of the Saviour. Whomsoever cannot meet this test cannot partake in a worthy manner.

  46. BillH said,

    July 3, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    WCF 29:1

    1. Our Lord Jesus, in the night wherein he was betrayed, instituted
    the sacrament of his body and blood, called the Lord’s Supper,
    to be observed in his church, unto the end of the world, for the perpetual
    remembrance of the sacrifice of himself in his death; the sealing
    all benefits thereof unto true believers, their spiritual nourishment
    and growth in him, their further engagement in and to all duties
    which they owe unto him; and, to be a bond and pledge of their
    communion with him, and with each other, as members of his mystical
    body.

    Is the Supper given to the elect, “true believers”, or to everyone under the Covenant, including baptised children of believers? At the risk of again being accused of elevating the Standards to inerrant status, I believe the Scripture teaches, and the WCF confirms, that while baptism is rightly applied to believers and their children as a sign and seal of God’s covenant promise, the Supper memorializes and seals the benefits of Christ’s death for His elect, to His elect.

    The two positions are enough different in substance that I’m not convinced that taking exceptions or practicing it “stealthily” is good for the peace and purity of the PCA. If the WCF is in err on this point, make the case. As a father, I understand completely how we see our children. But we are constrained by Scripture, and to the degree that it conforms to Scripture, by the Standards.

    And truly, anecdotal evidence that no children are dying in our churches is no more valid as an argument against the WCF position than is anecdotal evidence of how many fathers will say “my children were baptised but right now as young adults they aren’t really walking with the Lord” is an argument for it.

    We have a year for the discussion before this comes to GA again. If WCF 29 errs and does not teach what Scripture teaches, bring your best exposition and convince the majority of your brothers.

  47. Reed Here said,

    July 3, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    Jack: thanks! An excellent comment demonstrating how to misinterpret the point of a passage.

  48. greenbaggins said,

    July 3, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    JSM, where do you get off? I never said you have to agree with my position. I said you need to stick to the point of the post. You can disagree with the point of the post. But rabbit trails we try to discourage (and almost never succeed in preventing, incidentally). So I would advise you to take back your extremely inaccurate assessment of what I require. I have allowed atheists, Romanists, evolutionists, Federal Visionists, paedo-communionists, feminists, post-modernists and others to comment on my blog.

    My point has been in my comments and in the post that paedo-communion per se is not the point of the post: boundaries are. So far, people (including you) have shown a remarkable ability to miss the point.

    And we are not using the Standards as functionally inerrant. That is simply false. We are using the Standards as the definition of what we believe Scripture to be saying. This is how our church agrees to read Scripture. When the church no longer agrees to read Scripture in that way, then changes need to be made: either change the standards, or some churches leave. Or, in the case of the PCUSA, the conservatives leave and form a new denomination, since the old one kept on pushing and pushing and pushing and pushing the boundaries. Sounds familiar. And don’t even begin to tell me that these particular pushes that I have listed won’t take us in the same direction as the PCUSA. They will, because the point is NOT which particular boundary is being eliminated, but the very fact that the boundaries are being attacked and effectively nullified by practice.

  49. greenbaggins said,

    July 3, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    And if you reply that my position leaves the standards unchangeable, I will simply reply go and change it then! Make the effort. So far, the boundary pushers have not made ONE SINGLE EFFORT to do so. Instead, they try to introduce a non-confessional belief or practice as an exception, and then when it is commonly accepted, voila, the standards have been changed de facto, but not de jure. It’s cowardly.

  50. JSM said,

    July 3, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    I only brought up the anecdotal evidence because it is common for those against young child communion to bring it up. It was already brought up by reformed musings. The point still rings true. If part of an elders concern is to protect children from drinking judgment upon themselves then we could expect to see a greater occurrence of judgment on congregations who practice young child communion. Since judgment is not being poured out on our orthodox brothers or the CEC perhaps those against young child communion should stop appealing to 1 Corinthians ch 11.

  51. Towne said,

    July 3, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    Many would conclude that judgment is indeed there already–consider the judgment bound up with doctrinal error.

  52. JSM said,

    July 3, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    Lane,
    I got the point of the article fine. I disagree with the points you used to substantiate your claims and therefore disagree with your point. I drew out those points in my original comment and attempted through honest questions to show the inconsistencies of the subservient points you used to advance your main point. You accusing me of missing the point is, in a bit of irony, your failure to understand my attempt to show the inconsistencies in your reasoning.

    I will concede that there are men in both the OPC and PCA who are attempting to be subversive and not truly submit to the authority of the church and are by extension divisive. I would agree they should leave. That does not change the fact that your understanding of young child communion being out of bounds is not the reality of the situation. There are men who practice young child communion and are still in heart and practice in full submission to their authorities. They do hope in time the standards will be amended. Obviously changes to the standards do not happen overnight and it would take years of study and reflection to see a change if one ever comes.

  53. Jack Bradley said,

    July 3, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    Reed & Towne,

    I’m sure you’ll appreciate this one as well. (No need to remind me that Horton is not PC.)

    Michael Horton, God of Promise, pp. 157-158:

    Many in the Corinthian church were flaunting their Christian liberty in the matter of eating food that had been sacrificed to idols in pagan worship (chap. 8). In addition to the theological divisions, the church was embroiled in social divisions as well. In ancient Roman society, when civic meals were held in homes of the wealthy, the seating arrangement was a grand visual testimony to the caste system. . .
    Evidently, the “love feasts” in the church had become mirror images of their secular counterparts. . . It is here that Paul says the cup of blessing and the bread are a participation in the body of Christ (10: 16). While this tells us a great deal about the nature of the Lord’s Supper, the main point is that this sacred meal unites the participants into one body (v. 17). They are no longer individuals in an important sense, nor members of a particular social class. They cannot destroy each other over idol meat and social divisions and then pretend to be sharing in the covenant meal. . . One cannot worthily receive the body and blood of Christ in the supper while destroying the body of Christ that is the church.

  54. JSM said,

    July 3, 2012 at 12:41 pm

    Towne
    The judgment of doctrinal error is not the kind of judgment mention by the text used by those against young child communion to advance their point. That is reading into the text. Also it is circular when debating doctrine to point to the judgment of doctrinal error. When there is no difference in the kinds of judgment explicitly mentioned in the verse between both sides of the issue it does nothing for either side to claim they are in danger of judgment or drinking judgment on themselves.

  55. Jack Bradley said,

    July 3, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    The OPC Majority Report is very helpful re: self-examination

    Some specific objections:
    a. Children cannot “examine/prove themselves.”

    Paul says that before one participates in the Lord’s Supper (v. 27), he ought to “examine himself” (dokimazeto, v. 28). Many have taken this to refer to an introspective self-evaluation to determine several things about one’s subjective condition in coming to the Table. Paul’s term, however, refers to a very different kind of “examination.” It is a “demonstrative” examination whereby, in the face of testing circumstances, one demonstrates the nature of his godly character by words and deeds that bring approval from God. The cognate adjective is used in v. 19 to refer to those in the Corinthian church who will be “shown to have the divine approval.”

    Fee points out that this self-examination “stands in contrast to the ‘divine examination’ to which unworthy participation will lead” (p. 561), and which is already circumstantially evident in the illness and deaths of some of the Corinthian members (v. 30). Paul is therefore calling the Corinthians to realize the immanent danger of divine “examination” and “discipline” (v. 32) that is coming upon them because of their abuse of the Supper.

    Specifically, that abuse involved a lack of consideration by the wealthier Corinthian saints for those of poor and humble means. At their “gatherings” for the Lord’s Supper, some of the Corinthians were using the occasion to glut themselves on their own private provisions. In so doing they were “despising” (kataphroneite, a strong word for “showing contempt”) the church of God by “humiliating” (kataischunete, cf. 11:4, 5) those among the brothers who have nothing. This was the cause of the “divisions” among them which led Paul to address this problem in the first place (vv. 17f.).

    When Paul calls the Corinthians (especially the well-to-do among them) to “examine themselves,” he is commanding them to cease from their contemptuous behavior of humiliating the poor among them. They are to demonstrate by their behavior – behavior that will follow the specific directives of the apostle outlined in vv. 33, 34 – that they have “passed the test,” and have the approval of God (cf. v. 19). If they do not, then, in their continued sin, they are liable to the providential “examination” of God, to which some have already fallen victim, which will demonstrate that they do not have His approval, but rather have been “disciplined so that they will not be condemned with the world” (v. 32).

    Can a covenant child “examine himself” as commanded here in the sense in which Paul uses it? Leaving aside the question of the relevance of this command to the Corinthian children or to our contemporary covenant children (see below), we can answer the question with a qualified “Yes.” It is possible for a covenant child, when tested (cf. I Cor. 10:13), to demonstrate by his words and behavior that he is living a godly life which seeks the approval of God. Such faithfulness can be observed even in a young child by both parents, elders, and other members of the church.

    While it is unlikely that a young child would be confronted with a situation precisely like that which Paul addresses in I Corinthians 11:17-34, he may well experience similar occasions where considerate behavior towards others is required, and may well “pass the examination.” Such demonstrable godliness should be part of his growing experience of living in covenant with God, and should receive the approval of God and His people. It is striking that it is just this sort of “examination” which Luke says the young Jesus “passed” over and over.

    Casting the question and answer in this light clearly illustrates how inadequate the traditional view of “self-examination” is in light of Paul’s teaching in the context of I Corinthians 11. While the periods of pietistic introspection which have become a customary part of our celebrations of the Lord’s Supper may have value to some, they are certainly not what Paul is commanding in this passage. Therefore to keep young covenant children back from the Table because they cannot engage in such “soul-searching,” is simply unbiblical. They are not required by this Scripture to do so, nor is anyone else. What everyone is required to do – demonstrate by godly living that we have God’s approval – can be done by young children as well as adults, and is regularly done by many of our covenant children today.

    http://www.hornes.org/theologia/1988-opc-study-committee/majority-report-in-favor-of-paedocommunion

  56. July 3, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    […] those of you who are fellow Presbyterians, you need to read this article by Lane Keister over at Green […]

  57. greenbaggins said,

    July 3, 2012 at 2:26 pm

    JSM, are you seriously suggesting that the four issues I pointed out do not push the boundaries in any way, shape, or form??? In other words, the issues mentioned are ones that the Westminster divines would have had no problems with whatsoever?

  58. andrew said,

    July 3, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    I am puzzled as to how anyone could repsond to this post with mentioning one of the specific examples.

    In comment 20, Lane recognises that the church allows (and should allow?) some differences of opinion within the confession. The question is which of the three leveslof seriousness they fall into. So the mere fact that someone disagrees at some point with the Confession is not divisive.

    So the discussion will enevitably be on the level of seriousness of the point of difference – that the point is taught in the WCOF does not by itself rule out the difference being allowed by Presbytery.

    So some think PC a serious error that can’t be allowed, others a minor diagreement with little to no ramifications on the rest of WCOF teaching.

    How could one respond other than by discussing the issue itself, and trying to show that the alleged consequences of PC do not follow?

    I suspect people are too involved to step back, but try a thought experiment. In my circles, Lane and the other ‘confessionalists’ here would be viewed as giddy liberals blithly disregarding the Confession.

    For example, it would be comparatively simple to show that the WCOF teaches exclusive psalmody. One could then go on and show how hymn singing strikes at the regulative principle, the second commandment and ultimately sola Scriptura. One could even cite the punishments visited on Uzziah, etc, and argue that hymn-singers are visiting judgement on their children.

    How would a ‘confessionalist’ respond?

  59. Jack Bradley said,

    July 3, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    Lane,

    The question I’m asking myself: is Lane seriously suggesting that all PCA ordained officers convinced of (but of course not practicing) PC should leave the denomination?

    That does seem to be what you are in fact seriously suggesting. Can you help me understand your thoughts on this?

  60. Reed Here said,

    July 3, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    Jack: respecting Lane’s direction that this not become a thread about PC, I removed your and my comments that were off-topic. Thanks for understanding.

  61. JSM said,

    July 3, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    Lane said, “JSM, are you seriously suggesting that the four issues I pointed out do not push the boundaries in any way, shape, or form??? In other words, the issues mentioned are ones that the Westminster divines would have had no problems with whatsoever?”

    No, I am not saying that at all. I am beginning to believe you do not carefully read those with whom you disagree. I have some serious disagreements with Leithart but this point was obvious in your testimony at his trial. My last comment conceded the point that there are certainly some men who are being subversive and divisive in the OPC and PCA and not submitting to the authority of the church. They should either genuinely submit or leave. There are also men who are equally as divisive by demanding their understanding of the confession is the rule of law that everyone must submit. For example, your stance on the issue of young child communion which was a point in your original post. I have demonstrated that your position on this matter is not found in the standards or scripture. I have also demonstrated how there are men who hold to the young child communion view and yet still submit in heart and practice to the standards. Your position is divisive because by your standards these men should leave. Just because you can make a case for your understanding of the standards does not mean it is the clearest or authoritative understanding. Honest men who seek to honor the authority of the church have a different understanding of how old a child can be before they grant access to the table. Your position also leaves no room for an honest man to submit to the courts of the church while hoping and praying that the Lord brings change. These are all equally as divisive.

    Your statement, “the issues mentioned are ones that the Westminster divines would have had no problems with whatsoever” betrays a view of the confession that is immovable and inerrant. No doubt the divines would have problems with several beliefs and practices nearly anyone embraces.

  62. Jack Bradley said,

    July 3, 2012 at 3:23 pm

    Okay, even though I think it’s a bit late to prevent that :) I do hope it was helpful in answering your question.

  63. Jack Bradley said,

    July 3, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    I would add that if anyone would like a very helpful (OPC peer-reviewed) paper on the meaning of “discern the body” they can write me:

    jackbradley5@hotmail.com

  64. Jack Bradley said,

    July 3, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    Better yet, just go here (p. 21): http://opc.org/OS/pdf/OSV14N1.pdf

  65. JSM said,

    July 3, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    I have spent more time than I should discussing this. I believe I have sufficiently made made my point. Thanks to everyone who responded to my comments. I look forward to reading further responses.

  66. July 3, 2012 at 6:39 pm

    Jack,

    Why would we consult a paper rejected by the commissioning denomination, one that supports a position rejected by the OPC 55th GA, and is hosted on a federal vision website, a position rejected by the PCA’s 35th GA? The OPC’s 55th GA, like the PCA’s16th GA, rejected PC. The losing positions doesn’t get to come back years later and try to redefine the debate. Give it up, man.

    To balance the links that urge officers to defy their respective denominations, here is the PCA’s PC report with recommendations adopted by the 16th GA at the end.. Note that the minority report was rejected.

    Here’s a summary of the OPC’s official position on PC along with the recommendations adopted by its 55th GA.

    Probably the definitive work on the topic by Venema.

  67. July 3, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    Jack, RE #43,

    Yep, Wilson is a master at warping Scripture like a wax nose. His reasoning on PC pretty closely parallels the liberal arguments claiming that homosexuality is OK because Genesis 19 is really about lack of hospitality, not homosexuality. Live by the wax nose, die by the wax nose.

  68. Jack Bradley said,

    July 3, 2012 at 7:44 pm

    RM,

    The point is to demonstrate that paedocommunion is not going away. The OPC Majority report demonstrates that. The 2012 PCA GA clearly demonstrates that.

    Your assertion of Wilson’s “warping” is hardly persuasive to any unbiased reader.

  69. July 3, 2012 at 9:18 pm

    Jack,

    I don’t get to decide if the error of paedocommunion disappears from the earth or not any more than I get to decide if the blasphemy of the Roman mass disappears from the earth, or what happens with Wilson or his minuscule, mislead following. That’s up to God, not me or any of us.

    I do care what happens in the PCA, the flock which God has delegated shepherding responsibility to my fellow officers and I. You hang your hat on reports and analyses that have been rejected by their denominations. That’s your choice, but I counsel that it’s a poor one. Backing losers rarely turns out to be a wining strategy.

    The net result of Lane’s point remains that denominations which believe everything in the end believe in nothing. History shows that boundaries stretched eventually break, just as a big tent collapses in a storm. All the example errors cited by Lane cut to the heart of Scriptural integrity. Once the Scriptures officially become a lump of malleable clay and/or a cafeteria where we pick and choose the parts we take seriously, the game is over.

    One job of the faithful officers in the PCA is to try to keep that from happening. We do what our oath requires of us, but ultimately God will call the outcome in his providence – whether deliverance or judgment. Soli Deo gloria!

  70. Jack Bradley said,

    July 3, 2012 at 9:24 pm

    RM,

    So maybe you’ll answer the question Lane hasn’t yet answered:
    are you seriously suggesting that all PCA ordained officers (who’ve also taken oaths) convinced of (but of course not practicing) PC should leave the denomination?

  71. andrew said,

    July 4, 2012 at 3:05 am

    BTW,

    Does any CCer have a view on the best CC book? I see Venama mentioned. Is that better than the more recent one edited by Waters? Was there disquiet over Venema’s book, or why another book so soon?

  72. BillH said,

    July 4, 2012 at 8:58 am

    Jack, I am not a TE or RE, but I would answer your question yes, if a man believes an infant or toddler should come to the Supper he understands Scripture differently than the confession and the main body of the PCA through the years understands it. Why should he stay? Why would he want to?

    If we are to be a truly confessional body, and if, as many of us on both sides believe that many of these positions are opposites (“not the same thing”), does it not make sense to say yes? We do not have a problem telling a credobaptist no. And an honest man doesn’t take offense. There are other branches of the church beside the PCA where other beliefs and understandings of Scripture are welcomed, where they can be fully explored and experimented with. Rather than ask “would you ask them to leave?”, many men would ask (and have asked) “Why are you demanding to join or stay in the PCA?”. So far I haven’t heard a good answer to that.

    Frank suggested elsewhere “How The Gold Is Become Dim!” I second that motion.

  73. greenbaggins said,

    July 4, 2012 at 9:16 am

    I do not believe that PC advocates should stay. They should either change their views or leave. Ironically, I believe also that such would actually INCREASE fellowship and unity. Instead of bickering over PC, we could then rejoice in the things we have in common. It is a lot like the credo-Baptists: we worship apart from them, lest we quarrel, and yet we have a lot in common with them. Because we worship separately for now, we can have greater unity with them, instead of bickering over the age of proper baptismal recipients.

  74. greenbaggins said,

    July 4, 2012 at 9:17 am

    Andrew, Venema’s book is the best I’ve read. The book edited by Waters and Duncan is not intended as a replacement (and Venema, incidentally, contributed to the book!). There was felt a strong need of further work in this area. The two books complement each other rather well.

  75. Jack Bradley said,

    July 4, 2012 at 11:52 am

    Bill & Lane,

    I still think you’re wrong, but I appreciate your conviction and candor.

    I’m just trying to picture the PCA (or OPC) showing the door to such as Rob Rayburn, G. I. Williamson, or Vern Poythress. (I include Poythress since you’ve said his view is functionally identical to PC.)

    I do hope your anti-PC tribe decreases. I think it has and will continue to, but I’m thankful for the continued dialogue. I don’t hope to persuade you, but I think many of your readers are realizing that the CC paradigm is, as Leithart aptly expressed it, inherently baptistic.

  76. July 4, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    One of these days someone will have to explain to me the purpose in Reformed circles of “famous men wrangling”.

  77. greenbaggins said,

    July 4, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    When in doubt, always bring up the good ‘ole boys club card and make it emotional. Jack, it doesn’t matter how many people believe in PC, that doesn’t make it right. You are using the fallacy of ad populam. Rob Rayburn did the same thing on the floor of GA. He asked whether the PCA was going to declare him unfit to be a minister. Well now, that is NOT the issue, is it? That doesn’t make PC any more biblical, does it? In fact, it is completely irrelevant.

  78. Jack Bradley said,

    July 4, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    Actually, it is very much the issue, Lane. The rubber-meets-the-road issue is: are you going to declare men convinced of PC unfit to be a minister in the PCA? You’ve essentially said exactly that. You’re the one who framed the issue with your charge of divisiveness.

    And since I’m at it, here’s another good ‘ole boy:

    (Responding to Baptist charge of sacramental inconsistency)
    John Murray, Christian Baptism, p. 77:

    “At the outset it should be admitted that if paedobaptists are inconsistent in this discrimination, then the relinquishment of infant baptism is not the only way of resolving the inconsistency. It could be resolved by going in the other direction, namely, of admitting infants to the Lord’s supper. And when all factors entering into this dispute are taken into account, particularly the principle involved in infant baptism, then far less would be at stake in admitting infants to the Lord’s supper than would be at stake in abandoning infant baptism.”

    By your criteria, Murray’s willingness to admit infants to the Lord’s supper would also make him unfit for ministry in the PCA.

  79. BillH said,

    July 4, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    Jack, I’m not sure Murray’s position is “willingness” on the level of agreement with the position. Sounds more like an assessment of practical solutions to resolving a theological difference. Maybe that’s just me? Maybe he is willing? I don’t have the text here so cannot say for sure. But I agree with Lane that being a good old boy isn’t the criteria for getting a pass on your doctrine.

    Here is a question that might shed some light (or generate more heat, who knows)… is the theology of the covenant and the sacraments’ purpose and relationship to it involved here? Seems to me it is, and that the answers there will determine how a man takes one side or the other. Are the two sides compatable? There are some rather large doctrinal divides in the PCA on justification, union with Christ, covenant, and sacraments. We tend to discuss and debate them as separate issues. I think that is part of our problem.

    (and now I’m going to spend the rest of the day with my wife and friends in the backyard. May the Lord bless all’y’all today, and keep you safe)

  80. Jack Bradley said,

    July 4, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    Bill wrote: I’m not sure Murray’s position is “willingness” on the level of agreement with the position.

    Murray wrote: . . . far less would be at stake in admitting infants to the Lord’s supper than would be at stake in abandoning infant baptism.

    Bill, any unbiased reader will see that this is “willingness” on wheels.

  81. Jack Bradley said,

    July 4, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    Bill, I’m not saying that Murray advocated PC. I am saying that he gives unqualified willingness to practice PCom rather than abandon PBap.

  82. Jack Bradley said,

    July 4, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    Bill,

    Another thought on Murray. You wrote: “Sounds more like an assessment of practical solutions to resolving a theological difference.”

    You may be right, but of course John Murray would never settle for a practical solution without a solid biblical principle behind it. Remember his principle: “when all factors entering into this dispute are taken into account, particularly the principle involved in infant baptism…”

    Then, the practical solution: “…far less would be at stake in admitting infants to the Lord’s supper than would be at stake in abandoning infant baptism.”

    So, even though Murray did not espouse PC, he gives unqualified support to PC as sharing “particularly the principle involved in infant baptism…”

    I think that is sufficient to show that I’m not pulling the “good ‘ole boy” card.

  83. Jack Bradley said,

    July 4, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    Lane,

    I hope you will allow this unrelated link on a holiday. It’s an amazing visual tour of Herod’s temple. It graphically demonstrates Norval Geldenhuys’ (commentary on Luke) observation: “At that time the Temple of Jerusalem, owing to its massive size and grandeur, was regarded as one of the wonders of the world.”

  84. andrew said,

    July 4, 2012 at 5:43 pm

    re 74

    Lane, thanks. I have Waters, and a fair idea of Venema from the posts you did with Doug, but I will have to get a copy. Know thy enemy, and whatnot!

    I tried to order the church fathers you had mentioned – I live in the Uk, and with the exchange rate it was a great deal. Alas, the postage was more than the books! I sent an email, but there was no cheaper way around it. Perhaps when I am rich!

  85. andrew said,

    July 4, 2012 at 5:52 pm

    On the leaving front –

    the only Reformed denomination that would allow PC is the CREC or CR. But what if you are concerned about FV, or are otherwise ‘sound’?

    Separating when we disagree is often the best practical option: it is also the Achilles heel of Protestantism, and I would do almost anything other than see another Presbyterian body started.

    I suppose one could ask PC leaning ministers simply to resign and become lay members. Can laymembers lean towards PC in your scheme, or should they leave the PCA as well?

    That would be a huge ask, of course, particularily since said minsiters would view themselves as the ‘sound’ element, and particularily if they have pastored quietly and submissively for some decades.

  86. Thomas Twitchell said,

    July 5, 2012 at 2:51 am

    Reblogged this on A Rose by Any Other Name and commented:
    This is why I am a Baptist in a confessionalist PCA. They might not be right, but at least their honest.

  87. July 5, 2012 at 3:48 am

    […] Who’s Being Divisive? […]

  88. S. Douglas said,

    July 5, 2012 at 7:44 pm

    All,
    I am new to this debate as I have been in the past a reformed baptist and now in a CREC church. I am considering joining the PCA hoping to be able to commune a 4 year old Christian. If he is denied I will submit myself to the session though I do believe biblically it is for him as I believe it has been for him since his baptism at age 3 (I converted to being a paedobaptist then). At the same time I am not communing my 1 year old and will not until approved by the session but in my belief I will believe that he has right to it much earlier and if asked would have to say I believe that this is what the bible teaches though I humbly submit to the elders and the PCA. Is this too divisive a stance and would you welcome me to the PCA or ask me to stay in the CREC. If I were a candidate for eldership (which I am not at this point) I would only disagree with the confession on this and certain aspects of its view of the sabbath. In your opinion does this make me too “progressive” or all other things being equal am I someone your slice of the PCA would want to be in your church worshipping with you? This is a genuine question and I would like to know your thoughts. Thanks.

  89. Jack Bradley said,

    July 5, 2012 at 9:28 pm

    S. D., I’m in the CREC, but having been in the PCA, I cannot imagine anyone in the PCA thinking such a posture would be in the least divisive.

    Just as I can’t imagine anyone in the PCA thinking an ordained elder with similar convictions, and posture, would be in the least divisive. All such PCA elders I know or have heard of are submissive to their brethren. The only divisive elders I’ve seen on this issue are those who can’t tolerate even that submissiveness.

  90. BillH said,

    July 5, 2012 at 10:57 pm

    Jack, you’re a hoot… are you here all week?

  91. Matt said,

    July 6, 2012 at 8:15 am

    I am a TE in the PCA and I believe PC is the best understanding of Scripture, and I have taken an exception stating such. Jack’s comment above perfectly reflects my position. I can’t see how anyone would construe me as being divisive. I don’t teach it or “advocate” it. I don’t practice it. I don’t complain that others don’t see things as I do. But I simply can’t admit with good conscience that I believe the confession has articulated the BEST understanding of Scripture’s teaching on this matter. However, I’m not so overly confident of this conclusion that I’m prepared to jump ship, so I happily submit to the larger wisdom of my brothers. I administer the sacraments without cognitive dissonance, and have never once received any kind of critique or condemnation from anyone about how I do it. If that’s “divisive,” then I suppose I’m guilty. However, if this issue hadn’t been made a big to-do at GA by the minority report (or here on this blog, for that matter), I wouldn’t even be discussing it.

    And furthermore, at GA there were only general accusations of PC practice made – no specifics were given. No specific pastor in any specific church was accused of breaking his vows. I think it is most unfair to try and leverage some vague notion of underground practice and then condemn a group of men who have been faithful to the vows of submission that we have taken. If someone is guilty, let them be accused and tried, but don’t attempt to use rumors to punish the rest of us.

    However, another rising concern that I have is the sloppiness with which credo-comm’s assert their case biblically. Lane, you endorse Venema’s work here, saying:

    “Venema’s book is the best I’ve read. The book edited by Waters and Duncan is not intended as a replacement (and Venema, incidentally, contributed to the book!). There was felt a strong need of further work in this area. The two books complement each other rather well.”

    I’ve read Venema’s book and the Waters/Duncan one, and found serious, objective errors in both. Venema qualifies his discussion throughout, noting the importance of the NT, and then we he gets to the NT, he further qualifies it by noting the central importance of 1 Cor 11, which I think is correct.

    However, when he actually gets to 1 Cor 11, he shows an extreme omission of exegetical precision and care. He pays no attention (ZERO!) to the conjunctions that guide the discourse (which any first-year exegetical course requires), which cannot be ignored in understanding the flow of argument. And worse (this is the objective error, no pun intended, as you’ll see), when he discusses the words of institution – specifically “do this in remembrance of me” – he spends an entire paragraph debating on whether this reflects a subjective or objective genitive. He notes that some PCers have suggested it could be rendered “do this unto my remembrance,” which would lessen or even remove the “subjective” element, but he concludes that since most translations don’t render it this way, it’s probably wrong, and therefore he concludes it’s likely a subjective genitive.

    The HUGE error in this is that in Greek this is not a genitive construction at all. It is a possessive adjectival construction in the ACCUSATIVE case, but it seems that Venema didn’t bother to glance at his Greek text long enough to notice this and adjust his discussion accordingly. And what’s worse is that most readers will not read critically enough to check his arguments against the biblical text. Is this really “the best” we can do?

    Similarly, in George Knight’s discussion in the Waters/Duncan volume, on page 88, concerning 1 Cor 11:28 he says this:

    “The examination is to be done with a view to taking the Supper. This is made evident in the text by the word ‘so’ [here he footnotes, claiming that this is the Greek word ‘hoste’] following the ‘and’ so that the two words taken together give us the usual, and meaningful, ‘and so,’ (or the ‘so’ may be rendered with ‘therefore,’ or ‘for this reason’). An examination is called for, but it is to be followed, as the hoped for result, by the partaking (‘and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup’). After examining oneself a person may ‘thus’ (or, ‘so’), that is, after having done so, one is for that reason encouraged to eat and drink.”

    The HUGE problem with this argument is that the Greek word ‘hoste’ does not appear at all in v. 28! The word that Knight claims is ‘hoste’ is actually the adverb ‘houtws,’ which means “so, thus, in this way” (cf. e.g., Louw & Nida). However, Knight’s entire argument here falsely presumes the grammar of this subordinating conjunction (hence his comment that it could be rendered by ‘therefore’ or ‘for this reason’) rather than the adverb.

    With a proper observation of the language Paul actually used, we cannot at all say with Knight, “After examining oneself a person may ‘thus’ (or, ‘so’), that is, after having done so, one is for that reason encouraged to eat and drink.” Rather, grammatically, the phrase “Let a person examine himself” is not a prerequisite action that occurs prior to partaking of the Supper, but it is the manner in which the Supper is partaken of (hence the Greek, ‘kai houtws’): “Let a person examine himself, AND IN THIS WAY let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (see NASB, to which Knight appeals, but actually supports this adverbial rendering!).

    Anyways, biblical arguments aside, the point is that both of these recent volumes have objective errors in their reading of the text. To be honest, I would gladly be convinced of the confessional position – such would remove me from the line of fire – but I do require exegetically rigorous argumentation that is textually accurate.

  92. July 6, 2012 at 8:42 am

    Jack,

    You apparently don’t get out much, or wear blinders if you do. From your posts, I could have guessed that your were CREC. You all seem dedicated to theological anarchy and the destruction or at least condemnation of orthodox denominations. Surely you have something better to do.

  93. July 6, 2012 at 8:53 am

    S. Douglas,

    You would of course be welcome in the PCA, but your 4-year-old would not be permitted to partake of the Lord’s Supper. We would be happy to disciple you on the difference between Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and on the nature of the covenants and what it means to be a covenant child. Every holder to PC with whom I’ve dealt confused the nature of the sacraments as well as the covenants, but our Westminster Standards clarify the differences in brief. The PCA’s standards for membership are much broader than for officers, as one would hopefully expect. All the discussions here tend to be about the standards for church officers.

    You would not be an acceptable candidate for elder in most presbyteries if you held to PC. We rejected a candidate for assistant pastor this year who wanted to claim a PC exception. However, Missouri and Pacific Northwest are two presbyteries where apparently anything goes in regards to the sacraments. Unfortunately, there are probably others.

  94. Jack Bradley said,

    July 6, 2012 at 10:27 am

    S. Douglas,

    The above is a good example of the divisiveness I referred to. Please do not believe RM’s slander of these presbyteries.

    I think you will find that there are an increasing number of PCA churches that would happily permit your four-year-old to partake.

  95. July 6, 2012 at 10:35 am

    It is the opposite of divisive for one to hold a private opinion out of a conviction in what one believes the Scriptures to teach while at the same time being willing to humbly submit to the brethren and not practice it.

    But it is the essence of divisiveness for one to brand one’s brother the enemy and resort to ad hominem remarks amidst theological argumentation.

  96. Jack Bradley said,

    July 6, 2012 at 10:42 am

    Well said, Jonathan.

  97. S. Douglas said,

    July 6, 2012 at 11:17 am

    @reformedmusings…..Thank you for your feedback and honest opinions. When might a baptized child be able to partake of communion in the PCA since age 4 is too young? Also who is the final authority on who gets ordained and what exeptions can be granted- the local presbytery or the GA? I apologize if these are elementary or annoying questions. As I mentioned I am new to these issues and want to understand them better.

  98. Andrew Duggan said,

    July 6, 2012 at 11:47 am

    Mr. Bonomo,

    You wrote:

    It is the opposite of divisive for one to hold a private opinion out of a conviction in what one believes the Scriptures to teach while at the same time being willing to humbly submit to the brethren and not practice it.

    To which I would reply that if one in any way makes known that he holds to such an opinion (even in private conversation) outside the scope of an official church enquiry into his is views, he is necessarily a) teaching it, b) not in submission and c) therefore being divisive. Even uncritically directing others to third parties (or their writings) favorable to the “view” is being divisive.

    Not practising it is not enough to avoid being divisive.

  99. July 6, 2012 at 11:49 am

    S. Douglas,

    Genuine inquiry is always welcome. The Scripture and hence our Standards require that one be able to discern the Lord’s body before participating in the Lord’s Supper. No age is given in the BCO, but the requirement is not a simple memorized statement that “Jesus loves me.” In our church, we use Steve Smallman’s Understanding the Faith workbook for the communicant’s class. The parents decide when a child has the level of discernment required to attend the class, but I’ll tell you that the material is not elementary. A rule of thumb would be around 10 years old or so, but again, that’s not cut in stone.

    Initially exceptions for ordination are granted by the Session in the case of ruling elders and the Presbytery for teaching elders. Any exceptions are to be recorded in the court’s minutes and are reviewed at the next level. In other words, the Session’s minutes are reviewed at Presbytery, and Presbytery’s at the General Assembly. The current PC issue in Pacific Northwest Presbytery arose in this way. The exception was approved by the Presbytery but called into question by the General Assembly based on the action of the 16th General Assembly in rejecting PC as an acceptable view, in turn based on Scripture and our Standards. The final court of challenge for all cases is the General Assembly as delegated to its Standing Judicial Commission.

    I hope that this helps.

  100. July 6, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    Andrew,

    It ought to be kept in mind that the authority structures of the church can be just as prone to divisiveness as private individuals. Are we to simply accept by implicit faith whatever is laid down in the confession and catechisms in order to avoid being divisive? Or is there room to question, discuss the Scriptures, and hold opinions as human beings with active brains? I would remind you that the Reformers were accused of divisiveness when they refused to accept by implicit faith whatever was laid down by previous conciliar and papal decrees. Their response to the charge, of course, was that it was the authorities of the Roman institution who were the true schismatics.

  101. July 6, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    Btw, I feel also constrained to add, as motiviations are usually misconstrued on blogs, that I do not hold to paedocommunion even as a private opinion.

  102. Zrim said,

    July 6, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    RM, I am in general agreement. But to perhaps raise the ante, when you say “the PCA’s standards for membership are much broader than for officers,” I wonder about American Presbyterianism’s distinction between officers and laity—why do the former have to confess and practice the Reformed faith but the latter get to be latitudinarian? Especially when it comes to PC, I don’t see how this works out very well, because if laity like S. Douglas isn’t convinced of CC then I don’t see what keeps him from being able to practice PC. And since PC is the mirror error of CB, I don’t see how rushing children to the table is any different from allowing laity to delay child baptism, something I understand happens with some frequency in PCAs.

    At the very least, the broad standards for lay membership posture sure seems to send pretty mixed signals. It also seems to open the door for the kinds of problems we want to avoid. Why not raise the bar up front and require everyone who wants membership in a P&R church to confess and practice the Reformed faith?

  103. July 6, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    Zrim,

    Good question that probably deserves a discussion of its own. Some 3FU churches do require acceptance of their standards to join, maybe others as well. But when I look to Scripture, I see that the Lord lays specific and challenging qualifications for elders and deacons, but none except a credible profession of faith for membership in his church. The Spirit’s work in Cornelius and the Ethiopian eunuch are great examples.

    Our church is in a very diverse area. We draw Christians from every corner of the globe. In some cases, the only local church in their country of origin was RCC, yet they identify themselves as Protestants and show up at our door. We welcome them and disciple them in the Lord, helping them to grow in grace and the Reformed faith. It is challenging, but also encouraging to see the Spirit work in their lives and our lives along with them. Even so, we know that some may become uncomfortable after attending for a while as non-members, and they will probably move on to someplace more closely aligned with their beliefs. It happens, but not often.

    It is true that PC, FV, etc., present real challenges, but by God’s grace, we can disciple these souls to the truths of Scripture. If members become disruptive, then discipline must be properly exercised to restore them. Even with that risk, I don’t think that we should turn away any who credibly call on the name of Jesus.

  104. BillH said,

    July 6, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    “At the very least, the broad standards for lay membership posture sure seems to send pretty mixed signals. It also seems to open the door for the kinds of problems we want to avoid. Why not raise the bar up front and require everyone who wants membership in a P&R church to confess and practice the Reformed faith?”

    Zrim, I would agree but I think that option, if it ever existed in the American church, disappeared many many years ago when growing congregations and the denomination took more importance than it ought. But catechising the congregation a little more regularly than most do it now might go a long way.

    But really, after going to loose subscription 10 years ago, is it any wonder we have such drift, and discussions like we see now? The diversity of belief and practice in the PCA now goes beyond what the original leadership ever imagined, and it is hard not to draw parallels to the situation that led up to the PCA in the first place. Yes, I do believe it is that serious.

    So is it any wonder that a man can ask a simple question about belief and practice, hear an answer based on what the standards and the BCO say, but discover that the answer is different depending on which church or which presbytery he queries? Or, as Wes White demonstrated, get opposite determinations even from the assembly about the same issue? That can’t be good.

  105. greenbaggins said,

    July 6, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    Matt (comment 91), I don’t think you’ve read Venema and the Water/Duncan book carefully enough. For one thing, you use two extremely minor issues to vitiate the entire argument, when that is manifestly not the case. Let me demonstrate.

    In the case of the Venema example you cite, while it is true that the Greek construction is accusative, nevertheless the relationship that the words “ten emen” have to “anamnesin” are equivalent to a genitival relationship. Whose remembrance? Mine. And since I don’t know that there is any kind of category for dealing with a genitival meaning that is accusative in form, I’m sure that Venema merely used the phrase “genitive” to describe the possessive pronoun’s relationship to the noun. Your sarcastic comments about first-year Greek students are rather gratuitous, given Venema’s international reputation. I’m quite sure he knows Greek much, much better than you do. At the very worst, it is a typo, and a very minor one at that. His argument runs just as well concerning the relationship of the possessive pronoun to the noun if you took the word “genitive” out.

    As to the second example, your lack of care in reading the article is evident, since the footnote referencing “hoste” evidently refers to verse 27 (he doesn’t say that hoste is in verse 28, but hoste in verse 27 is very obviously related to the specific context!). You are being quite nitpicky in seeking very small errors (which may not in fact be errors), and then using said errors to vitiate everything else that they say.

  106. Jim said,

    July 6, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    Lane (#49): It strikes me that changes to the confession in a way that can preserve the integrity of the confession, i.e., changes that are incremental as opposed to wholesale, are. in practice, impossible. For example, I am an evolutionist and adopt some critical approaches to Scripture. I don’t have answers to many questions. I’m not sure how to answer the Adam question. If I don’t have specific answers, it is difficult to amend the Confession. I know the sections that I disagree with, but I’m not to the point where I’m comfortable substituting other language.

    This is why there needs to be a bit of room for growth; for thinking through these major issues instead of just defaulting to the Confessional answer. Your view of subscription and boundaries doesn’t allow, in a practical way, freedom to grow. if I were an ordained officer in the PCA, I would be disciplined and removed. If those that have disagreements are rooted out, who is left to try and change the Confession? Will you suggest an amendment to the Confession of a position to which you disagree and believe to be unbiblical?

    Reed’s blog on theistic evolution is a case in point. Reed doesn’t seem to understand that to which he objects; he simply concludes that it’s of the devil because it contradicts the Confession and his reading of Genesis 1-3. Where does that leave those of us who are Reformed, want to be biblical, but also have weighed the evidence and found YEC answers silly at best? I will never be in a position to suggest a change to the Confession because Reed and his ilk won’t allow it.

  107. Zrim said,

    July 6, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    RM, thanks. Just to be clear, my point isn’t to “turn away” anybody who wants to be informally in our midst. My point is simply to raise the bar on the standard for formal membership.

    I don’t want to aid and abet Jack’s accusations of divisiveness, but I do think there is a problem with giving so much latitude at the lay level on vitals and then demanding precision at the officer level. I’m not saying laity needs to be erudite, but I really don’t see what is to be gained with two standards. Like Bill I suggesting, one wonders if the desire for growth helped create a problem that ends up making doctrinalists who esteem obedience seem divisive.

  108. July 6, 2012 at 2:55 pm

    Zrim,

    I agree. I didn’t think you meant to turn anyone away. As I said, I believe that the practice that you describe is used by some denominations. There’s no doubt that tightening up membership might make life easier in the church. Still, it seems to me that the PCA’s problems aren’t predominantly at the pews level, although some seem to be more attached to personalities than sound doctrine. Wilkins and his church provided a good example of that phenomenon.

    On growth, a chaplain with whom I once worked had a needlepoint on his wall that I try to keep in mind. It said, “Jesus said “Feed my sheep,” not “Count my sheep.”” That alone makes a pretty good argument against the big tent. The Spirit provides the increase, not our doctrinal compromises. The latter only leads to more division as we’ve seen time and again.

  109. Andrew Duggan said,

    July 6, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    Jonathan,

    Of course I am not arguing for an implicit faith. I said outside of a church enquiry. Many Teaching Elders think that by merely avoiding saying something from the pulpit, they are not teaching it. The church enquiry can be self-generated by the man holding to the “new views”.

    You asked:

    Are we to simply accept by implicit faith whatever is laid down in the confession and catechisms in order to avoid being divisive?

    Not by an implicit, but explicit faith, not the confession and/or catechisms themselves, but in Christ alone as He presents himself to us in Holy Scripture. However let’s not forget that we as Presbyterians have an agreement regarding the Confession and Catechisms as thesystem of doctrine taught in Holy Scripture.

    We’re not discussing doctrine which has not been well settled in the Reformed churches, and as Lane pointed out originally, it’s not like these are “new” doctrines anyway, they are a rehash of old and rejected errors of the past. With regard to the Reformers they were contending for the truth. Among the “doctrines” that are normally points of contention here (FV, PC, Theistic Evolution or Magisterial vs Scriptural authority, etc) it’s not quite the same thing as Calvin arguing for the doctrines of the Reformation.

    What is even more dangerous to the church than those who promote old errors under new names, is those who would give them the space to do that under the guise of academic freedom, or even just having an active brain. Would that the elders in the Presbyterian churches take Ezk 33 more seriously.

    Andrew

  110. July 6, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    Jim, RE #106,

    I’m not sure what your point is. As an evolutionist, you cannot be ordained in the PCA. That’s pretty straightforward. There’s no “exploration” or “growth” required. Evolution isn’t new. I doubt that you or anyone else has come up with some bright idea of which no one thought before. Science changes theories (as it should) about as often as most folks change their underwear. The Word of God stands forever. On which do you prefer to hang your eternal salvation? And please understand, I’m not saying any of this as a put down, just as statements of fact.

    As for proposing changes the Confession, that would definitely take courage and a really strong case. So far, I haven’t seen anyone step up.

  111. Reed Here said,

    July 6, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    Jim: you presume too much about what I understand or don’t understand. My “ilk” has sound biblical reasons for affirming that evolution in and of itself is contrary to Scripture. But, given the kind of comment you made here, I have to wonder whether you’d be interesting in “growth” in my direction.

    So be it. Simply write off someone you’ve never met with a dismissive wave of the hand. Such is the way of our Lord for sure. :-P

    This is exactly the kind of divisive behavior that we need to fight against Jim. I’ve not separated from you because I believe evolution contradicts Scripture. You’ve labeled me, judged me, and written me off.

    Who is being divisive?

  112. Andrew Duggan said,

    July 6, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    Jim,

    You asked:

    Where does that leave those of us who are Reformed, want to be biblical, but also have weighed the evidence and found YEC answers silly at best?

    The YEC position is that Gen 1-11 is a straightforward historical account. Is that what you find silly? Seems like it is.

    The question is what is the source of that evidence that you’ve weighed.

    The Scriptures are the only legitimate source of that evidence. If a straightforward reading of Gen 1-3 is silly then how do you counter those who say that a straightforward reading of Matt 26-28 is silly?

    If Jesus’ revelation of His creating the heavens and the earth reads as silly to you why not his revelation of His death and resurrection? Jesus in his office as prophet as the mediator of the Covenant of Grace is the source of both passages of Scripture.

  113. Andrew Duggan said,

    July 6, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    One thing additionally, my remark about what is even more dangerous to the church was not meant as an accusation against Mr. Bonomo. Jonathan, I hope you didn’t take it personally, I didn’t mean it that way.

    Andrew

  114. July 6, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    Andrew,

    No problem — it did seem personal at first, but thanks for clarifying.

    I don’t necessarily disagree with what you’ve said in principle. But I suppose the brunt of disagreement between us would be just how serious the issue of paedocommunion really is. For my part, I think it’s misguided. But I certainly do not believe it’s destructive to the Reformed doctrine of the church, covenants, etc., as many seem to be suggesting. Much less do I believe it comes anywhere near striking at the vitals of true religion.

    Regarding my comments on the Reformers: I agree of course that the context is different. But the matter of properly excercised ecclesiastical authority and the right place of creeds and confessions is quite similar. To be sure, our confession has authority, but that authority is (as you’ve rightly noted) only ministerial, and as such it is always in principle *reformable*. My concern is that accusing ministers who hold an opinion on any matter that is different from the confession of divisiveness *simply by virtue of their opinion* is to squelch discussion between brothers from the outset. Such a posture can, as I see it, tend to make the confession in principle *non-reformable*, if not de jure then certainly de facto.

  115. Matt said,

    July 6, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    Lane (comment 105),

    Forgive me, but I don’t agree that paying close attention to the actual Greek words used in the most central passage in this discussion is a “minor issue.” Nor do I use this to “vitiate the entire argument.” Venema himself explicitly bottlenecks his entire discussion toward 1 Cor 11. For him to do that, but then not exegete the passage according to its discourse structure, is certainly problematic. That doesn’t mean that the rest of his observations are meaningless, but by his own expressed rationale of bottlenecking toward 1 Cor 11, his less-than-exhaustive treatment of that passage has the effect of vitiating his own argument.

    You write:
    “And since I don’t know that there is any kind of category for dealing with a genitival meaning that is accusative in form, I’m sure that Venema merely used the phrase “genitive” to describe the possessive pronoun’s relationship to the noun.”

    The problem with this is that “possessive” is but one category of genitive, while “objective” and “subjective” are distinct, along with others like partitive, descriptive, epexegetical, et al. A possessive adjective is not going to be “objective” or “subjective” – it is possessive, that’s the point that Venema (and evidently you) don’t get.

    Then you write:
    “Your sarcastic comments about first-year Greek students are rather gratuitous, given Venema’s international reputation. I’m quite sure he knows Greek much, much better than you do.”

    Brother, you know nothing about me, so it doesn’t seem terribly wise to say such things. If you must know, I’m about to finish a PhD in OT – though I did my first year of doctoral work in NT – and I’ve taught both Greek and Hebrew at the undergrad and grad levels, both domestically and abroad. Venema’s field is systematics, and while I’ve said nothing about his facility in the language, his use of it reflects the problems that many biblical scholars see with some systematicians: their linguistic treatments are often imprecise. That said, I’m not concerned to establish a contest between Venema and myself. You can’t simply point to his “international reputation” as a “get out of jail free card” for imprecise exegesis.

    And a typo is an accidental mistake of hand – this is a paragraph discussion predicated upon a false grammatical identification.

    And regarding Knight’s article, I’d have to say that “your lack of care in reading the article is evident.” Read page 88, top paragraph. He’s been going on for two pages already about the idea of “examination,” which places him squarely in v. 28. But beyond that, in the paragraph in question he explicitly says that this “so” [‘hoste’ according to his footnote 27] that’s he’s talking about is “following the ‘and’ so that the two words taken together give us the usual and meaningful, ‘and so.’”

    I repeat: according to Knight, the “so” is followed by “and,” but this is NOT the case with the hoste in v. 27, yet it would be the case in v. 28 if houtws were this phantom hoste that Knight claims it is.

    Since this is arguably the most important verse in this entire discussion, I will certainly be nitpicky when exegeting it. At the very least, I don’t think it’s too much to ask for people to exegete the right word.

  116. Matt said,

    July 6, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    Oops! Second to last paragraph – it should read “according to Knight, the ‘so’ is FOLLOWING the ‘and'”

    And here I was making a case about precision…

  117. Jack Bradley said,

    July 6, 2012 at 8:09 pm

    I must confess that, even though I consider Dr. Venema a great scholar, and personal friend, I find his “Children at the Lord’s Table?” very disappointing. Matt is already interacting on the biggest disappointment, so I’ll mention another.

    Venema rightly understands that PC’s make much of Passover/Lord’s Supper link. But I am baffled by his own thoughts on it. I think I’ve captured the essence of his thoughts on this:

    “Since the Lord’s Supper was instituted in the context of the Passover celebrations, and since the essential elements of the Lord’s Supper were derived from the Passover (the bread and the cup), the Passover represents the most obvious and relevant OT antecedent or “type” for the NT sacrament.

    . . . Christ’s words of institution do not connect the Supper with the Passover, but with the covenant renewal meal that Moses and the elders of Israel celebrated on Mount Sinai. Unlike the Passover meal, which was originally a household observance in Israel, the meal that constitutes the most important OT antecedent for the Lord’s Super was shared only by Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel.

    . . . Whereas the Passover was an old covenant observance that commemorated the Exodus from Egypt, the Lord’s Supper is a new covenant observance that commemorates Christ’s sacrificial death, which is the fulfillment of all the types and ceremonies of the law, especially the sin and guilt offerings of the old covenant. It is certainly true that the Lord’s Supper fulfills the Passover. Christ is, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5:7, “our Passover.” This fulfillment of the Passover certainly belongs to the fullness of the meaning of Christ’s death which is commemorated and proclaimed in the Lord’s Supper.

    . . . In the NT’s understanding of Christ’s sacrificial death, it is not the Passover that is most pertinent but the sacrifices that typify atonement for the guilt of sin. . . the entire old covenant community did not share in the meals associated with the sacrifices that most typify the atoning death of Christ.”

    I’m baffled. Can some CC help me understand what Venema is saying? He gives preeminence to Passover as the OT type of the Lord’s Supper, but then takes it all way by saying that the really important, paradigmatic, “covenant renewal meal is that Moses and the elders of Israel celebrated on Mount Sinai.”

    Besides seeming to prove too much (only elders can partake?), do you agree with Venema that there is a more important/typical (“Christ, our Passover…”) covenant renewal meal than the OT Passover???

    BTW, I find it significant that both the PCA’s and OPC’s official anti-PC reports both say that covenant children ate the Passover meal.

  118. July 7, 2012 at 10:10 am

    […] Some of the strongest frustration with the intinction crowd have been voiced over at a blog called Green Baggins. Some of the best debate has taken place in the comments section of Vintage '73. I never […]

  119. Andrew Duggan said,

    July 7, 2012 at 11:00 am

    Jonathan,

    You wrote

    Such a posture can, as I see it, tend to make the confession in principle non-reformable, if not de jure then certainly de facto.

    That would carry some weight if the confession as adopted by the OPC/PCA has not basically been unchanged since 1789 de jure. Instead we have this de facto confessional revision.

    The situation is quite bad. Few take the constitution of the church seriously because the de facto confession is so seemly fluid enough for many to think that PC, Theistic Evolution etc, are within the pale.

    While you claim what I say “tend[s] to make the confession in principle non-reformable” what we have is actual confessional irrelevance. Sure everyone gives lip-service to the confession, but that dies with the cuts of exception after exception. Anytime any Presbytery grants a candidate an exception, it is a de facto excising of that contested language from the confession or catechism.

    Seems to me a potential problem is far less dangerous than the actual problem we face today.

    The advocates of these views knowing that confessional revision to allow them was not going to happen, took the low road and promoted their erroneous views anyway. How anyone can claim that is not being divisive is beyond me.

    Andrew

  120. July 7, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    Andrew,

    I’ll grant that some PC advocates may have taken “the low road”–but I won’t grant that that’s true of all or even most. And that’s because I have no way of knowing one way or another how many have acted in truly divisive ways and how many have not–I can only make judgments concerning what I’ve observed in those men I know personally, and they are men whom I do not believe have acted in a divisive manner. At any rate, there’s no way to tell whether people are truly commiting the sin of divisiveness (for it is indeed a sin, and a serious one) except on a case by case basis. And even there, I contend that we ought to proceed with much caution before imputing sin to our brother(s). Logs and specs, and all that…

    I was recently taken to task by some on this blog for taking seriously the doctrine of the hypostatic union and wanting to ensure that we speak carefully about such a central issue. A few folks accused me of making a mountain of a molehill because I insisted that we need to very clearly articulate that the person of Jesus Christ is none other than the second person of the Trinity, with a human nature. So, I assure you, it’s not that I’m some sort of doctrinal pluralist who wants to see anything go in the PCA. It’s just that I don’t think PC is nearly as destructive as are abberant views of the incarnation. It’s wrong (btw, just like using grape juice instead of wine in the supper is wrong–that’s neither a biblically defensible practice nor an extension of any Reformed principle). But it’s a second-tier issue. And because of that, I believe it truly is an in-house discussion that ought to be dealt with cautiously. That’s not to say we shouldn’t vigorously debate the matter. But we shouldn’t be seeking to push each other out, either. Men who hold to PC in our circles are not the enemy. They are our brothers, whatever faults they may have. Let us bear with one another in love, for we all have something in our eye, do we not?

  121. andrew said,

    July 7, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    Matt (or anyone else),

    Do you know of any reviews of the two books mentioned from a PC perspective, or indeed, any substantial review from a CC viewpoint?

    Andrew

  122. Jack Bradley said,

    July 7, 2012 at 5:24 pm

    Good question, Andrew. I’ll keep a lookout.

    Regarding Matt’s critique of Venema’s treatment of “do this unto my remembrance,” I just came across something that reinforces Matt’s (and the PC) view of this passage.

    Sinclair Ferguson, Westminster Confession, lecture 14:

    WCF: “. . . as a perpetual remembrance of the sacrifice of Himself in his death.”

    “Notice that the remembrance, then, is for the Divines, an objective idea. It is celebrated for the perpetual remembrance of the sacrifice in His death. We mustn’t reduce that to the notion simply of our remembering. Rather, it is the rite of the Lord’s Supper which itself is the remembrance. So, it’s instituted not so that we may go on and on remembering. It’s instituted to be a perpetual reminder to us, not just remembering by us.”

    I hope everyone knows about all the wonderful resources the reformed seminaries are putting on line for FREE:

    http://itunes.apple.com/us/institution/westminster-theological-seminary/id430331214

    Covenant Seminary: http://worldwide-classroom.com/courses/

    RTS: http://itunes.rts.edu/

  123. Alan D. Strange said,

    July 7, 2012 at 9:22 pm

    Matt:

    I am a church historian and not a NT scholar, but, in support of what Lane said, and my colleague, Dr. Venema, who is a quite competent Greek scholar, I recall (but don’t have such at hand, being at home) various grammars addressing this in terms of possessive pronouns (matching their modifiers, so accusative here) used in a genitive fashion. Venema was addressing that, doubtless, since this accusative is functioning as a genitive (though not bearing that form), raising the question as to whether it is objective or subjective in its force.

    And I do not have what Dr. Knight wrote before me, but Lane says that Knight refers it to v. 27 (where it does occur as the first word). That makes sense that he would. I know George quite well: he’s a first-rate Greek scholar (he does have the PhD in NT from TFU in Amsterdam).

    I think that before you start charging Cornel and George with Greek incompetence, you need to be more careful. I would, in fact, encourage you to retract your assertions. In the case of Cornel, he did not make an error: he was addressing function not form, perfectly legitimate and done in the intermediate and advanced grammars all the time. And George was surely referring “hoste,” as Lane said, to v. 27, being a competent student of the Greek as he is.

    While we need to be careful linguists and exegetes, no thorny theological issues are settled on the basis of such alone. I can testify to this as a church historian. It is not the case, for instance, that we differ with Rome because Rome has no competent linguists. Theological differences occur among scholars who are equally linguistically competent. We certainly have references to linguistic particulars in theological disputes, but should never imagine that our opponents’ differences stem merely from linguistic incompetence. Theological differences come from different frameworks of interpretation that are broader than simply semantic or grammatical errors. That’s what is at play here, I believe.

  124. Alan D. Strange said,

    July 7, 2012 at 9:42 pm

    Reading over what I just posted, #122 (above), I do not want to be misunderstood in the opening sentence of the last paragraph.

    I intended the clause, “no thorny theological issues are settled on the basis of such alone” to refer only to linguistics and not exegesis. We build all that we do on exegesis, I joyfully admit, but there’s more to exegesis than simply linguistic skill. If there were not, the best linguist would be the best exegete. There are some awfully good RCC and Arminian linguists. In fact, there are excellent liberal linguists. That does not mean, however, that they do faithful exegesis, working out of the frameworks that they do.

  125. Andrew Duggan said,

    July 8, 2012 at 12:02 am

    Jonathan,

    I can not agree that PC is a second tier issue. The matter is one of encourage children to eat and drink judgement to themselves.

    Further, the issue of who is to be admitted to the Lord’s table has been a settled issue in the Reformed churches for centuries, so I can’t really agree with how you paint the picture.

    Lastly you wrote:

    They are our brothers, whatever faults they may have. Let us bear with one another in love, for we all have something in our eye, do we not?

    Of course we all have something in our own eyes, but you are not correctly applying that principle since no one was advocating a PC witch hunt, looking for sin in other people. If the scrutiny is too much for them, why go public with the opinion?

    Next, I don’t care for how you seemingly wedge the idea of bearing with one another in love, as though calling the erring to repentance is not loving, as though protecting the sheep from those errors is not being loving.

    One does not need to start with a divisive spirit to be divisive. No one was suggesting they were simply trying to look for any and all wedge issues to make trouble. Rather, having come to an opinion which is out of accord with the confession of the church, they promoted their error rather engaging to revise the confession.

    Can you admit the possibility that being divisive could be at least an unintended consequence of their actions in promoting their non-confessional opinions?

    What was implicit in my previous comment is that this process of de facto confessional shrinkage has been going on for centuries in America. It is not only the PC and the Theistic Evolutionists that are guilty of this, confessional infidelity been common practice for centuries. Your example of grape-juice is a good example. Another is those who advocate the making and use of so called pictures of Christ. OEC is another. It seems as though you are saying that the church has forfeited the right to enforce its settled doctrinal boundaries you unilaterally label second-tier because it hasn’t enforced all of its doctrinal boundaries in the past.

    Andrew

  126. Matt said,

    July 8, 2012 at 6:54 am

    Alan,

    Thank you for your comments. I’m not really interested in having a back-and-forth about how competent someone is in Greek or not. That is not fruitful. It is not my goal simply to make allegations over their Greek competence. I am, however, engaging over what they have written. If that has implications for our view of their Greek competence, so be it. But I certainly will not refrain from engaging with what they have written. If I am mistaken, I’m glad to be corrected by actual evidence, but general assertions about someone’s ability are not helpful when critically considering the viability of what they have written.

    In the case of Venama’s discussion, I repeat – the issue is not whether or not the possessive adjective can have a certain “genitive function” – obviously it does, in the POSSESSIVE role. So the problem at hand here is that he was debating whether it was an OBJECTIVE or SUBJECTIVE genitive. If this is not clear, then I’m not sure what else to say.

    As far as Knight’s work, if you don’t have it in front of you, then you have nothing to discuss with me. Get it and read it, brother. Page 88, top paragraph. There is absolutely no question whatsoever that he is discussing v. 28. He cannot be discussing v. 27, since he asserts that the “hoste” is following the word “kai,” which does not occur in v. 27. It would be following “kai” if it was in v. 28 where he claims it is – but alas, it is not.

    And while I certainly value the benefit of church history for theological inquiry, let’s face it, without a rigorous (and textually accurate!) interaction with the biblical text itself, we are lost at sea.

    Acquire the Waters/Duncan book and read page 88 – Lane is wrong.

  127. July 8, 2012 at 9:27 am

    Andrew,

    No, I’m not saying the church has forfeited its right to enforce her doctrinal boundaries–and I’m certainly not saying all those doctrinal boundaries are second tier. But I am saying some of them are. And I am saying that there’s a way for the church to enforce her boundaries in a spirit that recognizes the fallible and reformable nature of her own doctrinal boundaries and the duty to excercise charity towards our brothers, while also not erring in the opposite direction of doctrinal pluralism or forfeiting the church’s real (ministerial) authority. That balance is indeed difficult to strike in the muck and grind of real human relationships. But it’s our duty to at least attempt to strike it.

    Further, I’m also not saying that padocommunion is something that should be allowed as a practice, nor have I implied such ever. I do believe our churches ought to have unified practice in this particular area. And I agree that paedocommunion is a misguided opinion, and I think it might be very possible to convince our brothers of this if our posture towards them is something other than a Lutheranesque, “You are of a different Spirit.” If our brothers agree to not practice it, then we can carry on a discussion in a spirit of charity striving toward truth in the mean time without jumping the gun and seaking their banishment from the start.

    Remember, my initial foray into this thread was sparked only by a comment from an elder in the church responding to a man he has no reason to take to be anything but a brother in Christ with nothing but insult and condescension. That’s what I oppose. I’m all for calling error error when we believe we see it. I’m all for the church collectively trying to stop errant practice (I’ve already said that I’m not for the *practice* of paedocommunion in our denomination). I’m all for expressing our case for the church’s doctrine in measured and reasoned ways and the church excercising her authority against error. But I’m not for acting as though there’s no way the doctrines of the church could ever conceivably change given our collective reflection on the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scriptures. And I’m not for circumventing discussion in charity on matters concerning which some of our brothers hold private opinions that don’t affect the orthodox Christian doctrine of the creeds, the solas of the Reformation, or the Reformed faith generally. Now, of course, I know that the last (the Reformed faith) is the precise question, and what needs to be discussed–i.e., does it or does it not touch the *essence* of the Reformed faith? I say no. You say yes. So we have a disagreement that ought to continue to be discussed and argued. But the only way discussion and argument can take place in a productive Christian manner is if we engage it in patience and charity and an understanding that we’re brothers bound in Christ by the Spirit who are both striving toward truth in service to the same Lord.

    A blessed Lord’s day to you and yours.

  128. greenbaggins said,

    July 8, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    Matt, the other possibility that I have just seen is that Knight meant “houtos,” not “hoste,” since “houtos” does follow “kai” in verse 28 of the text. Yes, the reference in BDAG in the footnote is to “hoste,” but it seems he might have inadvertently gone from one verse to the other, when he saw “hoste” in verse 27, and meant “houtos” in verse 28. The irony here is that when one looks up “houtos” in BDAG, one of the meanings listed is “so.” If so, this is a scribal error, which, ironically, does not affect his argument at all!

  129. greenbaggins said,

    July 8, 2012 at 3:29 pm

    Also, I fail to see how a possessive accusative adjective cannot be discussed as being either objective or subjective, any less than a possessive genitive adjective can be discussed as objective or subjective. In what way is the remembrance “of me?” Is it me doing the remembering, or are others doing the remembering of me? It seems to me that’s the question Venema is asking, which is a legitimate grammatical question. According to BDF 284 (2) an objective genitive can also be expressed by a possessive adjective. BDF 285 states that “The possessive adjectives, which classical Greek employed for the emphatic possessive gen. of the person pronoun, have to a great extent disappeared in the Hellenistic period and so also in the NT…and were replaced by the personal pronoun.” Function is not the same thing as form. According to BDF, then, a possessive can have subjective or objective force. See especially the example he gives in (1) in 1 Corinthians 15:31. where “humeteros” as a possessive adjective=objective genitive. I would therefore suggest that your understanding of the categories of possessive genitive, objective genitive, and subjective genitive are a bit wooden. What exactly prevents a possessive adjective such as “emen” in 1 Cor. 11:25 from functioning as an objective or subjective genitive, even though in accusative case?

  130. Matt said,

    July 8, 2012 at 4:51 pm

    Lane,

    Thank you for this. Concerning Venema, you have convinced me that that particular argument I advanced was faulty. I have never come across that use before, so I’m glad to be corrected. Thank you. 1 Cor 15:31 is frustratingly convincing, much to my chagrin! That said, I will say that Venema’s argument in the section in question is still flawed in my mind, since he rejects the rendering “unto my remembrance” for no meaningful reason, nor does he exegete the passage as a whole according its discourse structure (paying attention to flow of thought based on conjunctions, etc.). But you have lightened my frustration in this other respect.

    Re: the Knight passage, there’s no budge room on this one, I’m afraid to say. It’s not simply a scribal error, since he specifically interprets the passage based on the sense of “therefore” or “for this reason,” which only works for hoste; houtos is adverbial and thus doesn’t work that way. In English, “so” can function like hoste (e.g., “I was hungry, so I got a sandwich” [i.e., I was hungry, therefore I got a sandwich]), and it can function like houtos (e.g., “For God so loved the world…” [i.e., God loved the world in this way]). That’s why both are given the rendering “so” – but they are actually two different parts of speech, and Knight definitely builds his argument on the false supposition that the former is in v. 28. Inasmuch as you’ve reasoned well on Venema’s behalf, I think this one is a lost cause.

    I’m going to be bowing out at this point, since I shouldn’t spend any more time on the blogosphere. But I appreciate you taking the time work through BDF on that first issue – I’ve learned and benefited.

    Blessings,
    Matt

  131. Andrew Duggan said,

    July 8, 2012 at 11:07 pm

    Jonathan,

    But it was precisely your definitions in 95 that are I believe are contrary to the original post, and contrary to the definition of divisive.

    To be divisive is to be the source of disagreement. The confession and catechisms stand as the text of what we have all said we agree is the system of doctrine taught in Holy Scripture. PC for example is contrary to that agreement. Therefore the source of disagreement is those who hold to or teach PC. WLC 173 says that the ignorant are to be kept from the Lord’s table. To express something contrary to that e.g. that the ignorant (e.g. small children) are to be received at the Lord’s table is necessarily to be the source of disagreement considering the role the WLC plays in our ecclesiology. The source of the divisiveness is clear.

    As you entered the thread in 95, you got it backwards.

    It is the opposite of divisive for one to hold a private opinion out of a conviction in what one believes the Scriptures to teach while at the same time being willing to humbly submit to the brethren and not practice it.

    But it is the essence of divisiveness for one to brand one’s brother the enemy and resort to ad hominem remarks amidst theological argumentation.

    You are simply mistaken with respect to what divisiveness is. The essence of divisiveness is causing disagreement or hostility. The source of that disagreement lies with those who hold even private opinions contrary to the agreement of the church on the system of doctrine taught in Holy Scriptures, which is the WCF LC and SC. The agreement is not imposed. Each man being ordained enters into that agreement freely. However, once entered into, he bears the responsibility that to breach that agreement is to be the source of divisiveness.

    Secondly the distinction you were trying to make by saying “while at the same time being willing to humbly submit to the brethren and not practice it”, is not a valid one. I know we disagree about this, but one is not in submission to the brethren, by merely refraining from practice. The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God and what duty God requires of man. Matt 28: 20 teaches us that the “what” we are to believe concerning God is all things whatsoever Christ has commanded us.

    The most you can claim is that person (whomever it was) reacted with less charity than you would have liked to the disagreement generated by those who hold to or teach (even if they don’t practice) the error in question. Reacting (even inappropriately) to divisiveness is not being divisive. It is something altogether different.

    I can certainly appreciate your desire to defend those you think have wrongly suffered ad hominems.

    Confessional revision is a high-stakes endeavor. The Remonstrants at Dort are a good example of that. Now while you don’t think that the essence of the Reformed faith is at stake with regard to the issues that Lane listed in the post, we’re not talking so much about the essence of the Reformed faith as about the boundaries of the Reformed faith. Matt 28:20 tells me that I am to teach men to observe all things whatsoever He has commanded. I don’t have any indication from Him that I am allowed to determine what I can let slide. The Scriptures frequently deal with God’s reaction to His church determining for itself what can slide. In every case He is displeased with it.

    In 127, you concluded with:

    But the only way discussion and argument can take place in a productive Christian manner is if we engage it in patience and charity and an understanding that we’re brothers bound in Christ by the Spirit who are both striving toward truth in service to the same Lord.

    Jonathan, that sounds good, but doesn’t really jive with the teaching of the Confession regarding Sanctification (WCF 13:2) and Perseverance of the Saints (WCF 17:3). We’re not talking about a mere difference of opinion. We are talking about holding to teachings contrary to Scripture. All doctrinal error is moral failing. It is sin. It is not a give and take. Whether done well or not, those engaging those who hold these errors are actually calling them to repentance. Men actively engaging in the sin of holding to or teaching contrary to Scripture are not at the moment “striving toward truth in service to the same Lord”. They are instead resisting the Holy Ghost. We are only striving toward the truth when we turn in faith and new obedience to what Christ has commanded we believe. Yes this also applies to me. Plus, it is not as though we are talking about men who are smoking flaxes or bruised reeds, with a weak faith. Real charity is bringing the discipline of the church to bear on them so that they may repent. That doesn’t mean I support ad hominem attacks, but neither do I support the idea that holding to or teaching doctrinal error can be categorized as “striving toward truth”.

    The bottom line is we have an agreement on what the Scriptures teach regarding each of the subjects that Lane listed in the original post. That agreement is the WCF, LC and SC. Some are expressing disagreement with that. That is the essence of being divisive.

    Andrew

  132. rfwhite said,

    July 8, 2012 at 11:28 pm

    130 Matt and 128 Greenbaggins:

    On 1 Cor 11.28 and the adverb vs. the conjunction, it seems wisest to admit the confusion of the two forms. That said, I wonder what to make of Thiselton’s remark about the adverb:

    Only in this way renders the simple οὕτως translated ambiguously as and so let a man … in AV/KJV, exchanged for the temporal construction before eating in REB (also before we eat in NIV) and a combination of temporal and perhaps also logical, and only then eat, in NJB and NRSV. Clearly the traditional so for οὕτως is acknowledged to be ambivalent. οὕτως as the adverbial form which corresponds to οὗτος, this, means “thusly” or in this way most characteristically with reference to what precedes it, often summarizing the thought just expressed (although it may also refer to what follows). Here Paul clearly means that participants are only to eat from the loaf (ἐκ τοῦ ἄρτου) and drink from the cup (ἐκ τοῦ ποτηρίου) in the way indicated, i.e., by examining themselves to confirm that their understanding, attitude, and conduct are genuine in sharing (cf. ἐκ) in all that the body and blood of Christ proclaims, both in redemptive and in social terms.

    [Anthony C. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians: A Commentary on the Greek Text (NIGTC; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2000), 891.]

  133. rfwhite said,

    July 8, 2012 at 11:31 pm

    By the way, the emphasized words in 132 are original (Thiselton’s).

  134. July 9, 2012 at 9:22 am

    Andrew,

    A few things, and then I’ll let you have the last word, for it seems we have likely reached an impasse:

    1. Regarding the issue in general: The 40th PCA GA was not discussing men who’ve begun to privately teach PC without the knowledge and against the wishes of their presbyteries, but rather men who’ve been granted exceptions by their presbyteries to teach their publicly declared differences with the confession and catechisms. That’s what I have in mind here, not men who’ve gone against the express wishes of their Presbyteries. Given that context, I do not believe what you’ve said here about being divisive applies.

    2. I cannot in any way agree that it is divisive per se to hold an opinion on any matter different than the standards of the denomination to which one belongs. Once again, *the Reformers were the cause of disagreement* in the church in the 16th century. The church of the high middle ages had a pretty trustworthy mechanism for agreement about what the Scriptures teach and maintaining “unity”. The Reformers believed, taught, and acted against all this. But I would never grant that they acted in a divisive way. Rather, it was their antagonists who were truly divisive.

    3. You assert that I’m mistaken about the meaning of divisiveness. But I can do the same. I do grant, of course, that the unity to which Christ calls us is precisely unity in the truth of the gospel, and so those who teach contrary to the apostolic gospel are, simply by virtue of their teaching, divisive. But I do not grant that PC is teaching contrary to the apsotolic gosel. And, further, it seems to me when reading the New Testament that divisiveness also includes things like anger, selfish ambition, jealousy, strife, hostility, and neglecting our brotherly duty to one another. It simply is the essence to divisiveness to insult a brother in a spirit of hostility, for such breeds quarrels and is a latant neglect of our brotherly duty toward one another. It is not the essence of divisiveness to believe that paedocommunion is the teaching of Scripture, *unless* one pursues the spread of that doctrine in the church in a spirit of hostility that breeds quarrels.

    4. You say: “We’re not talking about a mere difference of opinion. We are talking about holding to teachings contrary to Scripture.” But we cannot simply castigate men for holding teachings contrary to Scripture when it’s the meaning of Scripture on this particular topic that’s the issue. You may not grant it, but these men believe they’re following the teachings of Scripture just as much as you, and they believe they’re following the principles of Reformed doctrine just as much as you also, and, even though you and I may not agree, the fact remains that they do have plausible arguments for their position, which position, further, does have precedent in the history of the church. It really is not enough to say to these men–Your understanding of Scripture is wrong because the confession and catechisms say so. Once again, as I said above, that’s to squelch discussion of Scripture from the outset and make the confession and catechisms de facto *unreformable*.

    Blessings to you.

  135. S. Douglas said,

    July 9, 2012 at 11:03 am

    @Andrew…..you said, “WLC 173 says that the ignorant are to be kept from the Lord’s table. To express something contrary to that e.g. that the ignorant (e.g. small children)” You then go on to point out how it is the PC folks who bring division relating to this point but I would ask what makes you think that the ignorant referred to here are small children? The WLC does not say small children here and the context is clear that it is dealing with ignorant “who profess the faith and desire to come to the Lord’s supper”. The fact that they profess faith (which I think we both agree in the context of the WLC means more than a really small kid saying “I love Jesus”) I believe shows that this is ignorant or scandalous older professors who are capable of being found to be that way by the church. The remedy is instruction that will bring about reformation which is also something that would generally deal with older more mature persons than it would deal with very small children.

    Obviously these points do not prove PC nor am I attempting to do that here but I do question why when discussing the topic of division you bring up a passage from the WLC over which there is division but do not demonstrate this is an actual passage to have division over. You assert this refers to small children and then make that a basis for division but I can imagine many PC advocates who would not be divided with the WLC on that point. Rather they would be divided with you over the meaning of the WLC and I their point would be to say that you simply misread the WLC on that point. On this point I think that they would be correct and it would be you that would be causing division- at least on this point. To be sure there are other portions of the WLC that PC advocates do directly disagree with (or they at least disagree with the majority reading of these portions) and could understandably be considered the source of division but I wanted to bring up this point so you might see the division is not entirely from one side.

  136. Jack Bradley said,

    July 9, 2012 at 11:35 am

    “this is ignorant or scandalous older professors”. Yes, S. Douglas. This is exactly the meaning. I don’t know how so many CC’s want to make it (and I Cor. 11:29) apply to covenant children.

    While I don’t respect their exegesis, I do respect their (weaker brother) consciences.

  137. July 12, 2012 at 7:56 pm

    […] are some good comments over at Green Baggins. The post and entire thread are worth a read but comments #15, 20, and 21 have got me thinking. The […]


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