Monday, May 22, 2006

Presbyterians and Presbyterians Together

Presbyterians and Presbyterians Together is a document that gains signatures daily. Its main focus is to promote charity in theological discourse. The charity is not only in how we discourse with one another, but also in recognizing divergent views within the Presbyterian/Reformed tradition. The following list of doctrines where it is “acceptable” to deviate is taken from their website, but put in my own words for the sake of space.

- the chronology and timing of creation
- the characterization of the Adamic covenant and its relation to the covenant of grace
- the priority of biblical theology, historical-grammatical exegesis, apostolic typology, and ancient contexts
- the role of conversion experience
- the spiritual life of covenant children
- whether sacraments are instruments or occasions for imparting grace
- what the bible teaches concerning worthy participation in the Lord’s Supper (read paedocommunion).
- application of the Regulative Principle of worship
- application of the 4th Commandment in the new covenant
- church polity
- relation between the church and culture as well as the civil magistrate (read theonomy)
- the application of election to the visible church
- how we view the second coming of Christ and the millenium.

We can see that this list covers almost everything that has been debated in Presbyterianism over the past several decades. It goes from the things where the creeds allow wiggle room such as the millenium to places where the creeds are clear such as paedocommunion. It allows for divergent views on the sacraments and exegesis along with creation. One wonders after reading this what is left to discuss. One can have charitable discourse on these subjects, but if signing this document means allowing all views on these things to be acceptable, what is the point of discourse? The end conclusion is already granted by the mere act of signing. All of these differences are acceptable.

It was pointed out to me that this tactic was used once before. The idea of claiming many biblical doctrines non-essential, able to be disputed, and calling accepting that reality ‘charity’ was used in the Auburn Affirmation in 1924. That declaration said that many theories about one subject, such as the virgin birth, could be deduced from Scripture. Thus, all were acceptable, and the church should accept all the views. This was basically made the position of the church in 1926. The Presbyterian Church in the United States has really never been the same sense. Within a decade Princeton was dismantled and rebuilt in the image of the new PCUSA, and men like Machen were expelled from the ministry. While, I cannot speak to the outcome of Presbyterians and Presbyterians Together, I do believe that the two documents are similar in nature. Each declares the Scriptures are unclear and multiple legitimate theories can be deduced from them. The bible does not clearly state for us how God wants to be worshipped, what the sacraments do, who is to partake of the Lord’s Supper, how God created the world, nor how his church should relate to the culture or magistrate. These are just a few of the places where the Scriptures teach many different things, or at least unclear, according to the PPT document. I will not be signing, and I hope many others will consider exactly what they are doing when they put their name on a document. This is not a call to be nice in discussions, but a statement about the Bible itself.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info. Is this document open for any pastor to sign even if they are not a TE in the PCUSA.

I'm glad to know that you would not sign. God has been clear enough in His Word on all of those issues.