Overtures 2 and 9 to the PCA GA

North Texas Presbytery and the Tennessee Valley Presbytery have both overtured the PCA GA to establish a study committee regarding the Sabbath. The issue is about the “no recreation” clause. In the minds of these presbyteries, so many men are coming who have a difference with the Westminster Standards on this issue, that the presbyteries think we should change our standards.

In one way, this is both understandable and laudable. I mean that both of these presbyteries are concerned with confessional fidelity, and feel uncomfortable in dealing with this issue so much today. Further, I don’t have any intrinsic problem with changing the standards, if we think there is a more biblical option on a particular issue (I agree with all three of the changes made in the American version of the WS, for instance).

On the other hand, I am wondering if there aren’t several misconceptions about the Puritan view of the Sabbath. It seems to me that our normal view of the Puritan Sabbath is that it is exactly like that of Almanzo Wilder’s father (in the Little House on the Prairie series), who wouldn’t let his sons do anything except sit quiet all afternoon and read the Bible. The example that most candidates use is “tossing around a football with my son in the backyard on Sunday afternoon.” Folks, anyone with small children will recognize that there are certain works of necessity (Ha!) that have to happen if the children are going to be able to pay attention to the evening service (actually, what’s that?). Ask yourself a simple question: will this activity be conducive to worship? This is the real question that needs to be answered.

In terms of granting the exception, it seems clear to me that different presbyteries have a widely differing spread on this issue. Some presbyteries have almost all of their guys taking this exception. Others have almost no one taking the exception. My question is a simple one: why do these presbyteries think that our current system is broken? That is what has not been made clear in my mind.

I have published an article on the “no recreation” clause in the Westminster Standards, defending it on biblical grounds. It was published in the Confessional Presbyterian Journal. The editor, Chris Coldwell, has graciously made this article available in the light of these two overtures in the PCA GA.