It's Not Exactly Growing the OPC

Jeff Gissing worries about the decline of doctrine and graying of hairs in the PCUSA. He also wonders if the loss of theology is connected to the loss of members:

Theologically, the PC(USA) made the calamitous choice of choosing to abandon consistent doctrinal standards—of even the most elemental type—in favor of an ad hoc, case-by-case approach, in which no belief is out-of-bounds as long as you can get a majority to vote for it. In a denomination that has come to value niceness as the zenith of the Christian virtues, simply appealing to one’s private, subjective interpretations or experience is generally sufficient to pass muster.

The PC(USA) is a denomination full of well-educated people, but at times it evinces a peculiarly petulant stupidity. Take, for example, a recent conversation in which it was claimed that should Presbyterian pastors be required to believe and follow our confession’s he would immediately be fired since he does not observe the Lord’s Day in the fashion envisioned by the Westminster Confession of Faith.

The trouble is, requiring pastors and congregations to adhere to the Westminster Confession, as the OPC does generally, isn’t exactly a “winning” formula as Charlie Sheen used to count victory. The small conservative denomination grows at a very modest rate, maybe 2 percent annually, and hovers just above 30,000 members. Some might say that taking theology too seriously is the problem. If people go to a church where they have to parse the active and passive obedience of Christ, instead of receiving tips on living a well-adjusted, Spirit-filled life, then why bother with all the theology?

The silver lining is that the greatest nation on God’s green earth affords freedoms of association that allow pastors, elders, and church members to commune with a measure of the seriousness of purpose that used to characterize Reformed Protestants. Would it help to have the magistrates requiring Americans to go to our churches? Yes, if you are interested in numbers and statistics and fancy buildings. But no, if you look at the established Protestant church of Europe.

For Roman Catholics who can’t help relishing the divisions and pint-sized denominations that Protestantism yields, please do keep an eye on the ball of “doctrine will never change.” The PCUSA hasn’t changed doctrine. Keeping the Sabbath holy is still on the books. The books require someone to enforce what’s on them. I thought that was what made the hierarchy special. What exactly does it take to disqualify as a Roman Catholic? Garry Wills may still be wondering.

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145 thoughts on “It's Not Exactly Growing the OPC

  1. But the go-go, for-the-city, cooler-than-thou PCA showed no official growth last year. If more churches had cared enough to report numbers “modest growth” was postulated, but there was general unease at the GA when these numbers were announced. I doubt that the PCA worthies will suggest serious Sabbath keeping as a renewal/growth strategy.

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  2. DG: If people go to a church where they have to parse the active and passive obedience of Christ, instead of receiving tips on living a well-adjusted, Spirit-filled life, then why bother with all the theology?

    though the active and passive obedience of Christ =living a Spirit-filled life

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  3. I just parsed the active and passive obedience of Christ two Sundays ago and yesterday we had two visiting families. Coincidence? I’m staying with my church growth strategy!

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  4. Contrary to the belief of many in the PCA, winsomeness and hipness won’t soften the hard edges of Jesus’ teachings so long as you’re committed to the latter.

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  5. But are mainliners committed to any particular tradition anyway, or is it simply a commitment to mainlinery? My own PCUSA mother just yesterday was describing a female pastor’s filling in as a Methodist, a Wesleyan, and a Presbyterian. How does that happen unless doctrinal standards have become utterly meaningless?

    Still, add to Sabbath observance a requirement to baptize children and watch the numbers stagnate even more.

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  6. Wishful thinking here for a “winning formula”: an orthodox church that avoided weirdo skinny-jean-hipness and its attendant superficial theology, but also didn’t layer on extra-biblical edicts on Sabbath-keeping and paedo-baptism as the price of entry.

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  7. ,i>What exactly does it take to disqualify as a Roman Catholic? Garry Wills may still be wondering.

    Heh heh, he couldn’t resist. All roads lead to Rome.

    However Dr. Hart starts speaking of the theological laxity of PC[USA] clergy and ends up attacking the Catholic Church about one of its liberal lay people.

    Category error.

    #ecclesiology

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  8. Tom,

    Until the Vatican disciplines a well-known writer/politician/speaker, the inevitable conclusion is whatever they say is fully orthodox Romanism.

    Meanwhile, the conservatives in the RC are worried that the wheels are coming off the synod’s bus:

    http://news.yahoo.com/rebel-cardinals-accuse-pope-stacking-synod-cards-171817270.html

    Gotta love this quote from Ross Douthat’s Twitter feed:

    There is no civil war in Rome. Doctrine isn’t being debated, only its pastoral applications. American troops will never reach Baghdad.

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  9. DGH – well, by your presumptive logic, reading your Sabbath writings would lead one to believe that you think someone playing football on a Sunday is akin to burning incense to idols. No thanks.

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  10. Robert
    Posted October 12, 2015 at 3:13 pm | Permalink
    Tom,

    Until the Vatican disciplines a well-known writer/politician/speaker, the inevitable conclusion is whatever they say is fully orthodox Romanism.

    That’s complete and utter bullshit. You people will say anything.

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  11. Tom, how was mass yesterday?. Did you feed on the Lord’s body and blood as reckoned from the guy in the gown with the charism?

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  12. Cdubs, those nuns will do that and then ask you to pay for their repair as part of your religious obligation. Them nuns ‘ll squeeze the copper out a penny.

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  13. sean
    Posted October 12, 2015 at 4:15 pm | Permalink
    Tom, how was mass yesterday?. Did you feed on the Lord’s body and blood as reckoned from the guy in the gown with the charism?

    When you left the Catholic Church for Presbyterianism, the IQ of both churches went up.

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  14. Paul and the other apostles didn’t garner huge followings with their elevation of Biblical doctrine. It wasn’t until the first cultural transformationalist, Constantine, that Christianity became popular…

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  15. So, that’s a no on the whole observant bit, but a big fat sloppy kiss on your roughly year and half long virtual RC renaissance. Tom, wha happen’ ? Did the nuns pull too hard on your ear or was the priest just a bit too interested in your teenage sexual activiites? I know my story, just a bit sordid at times, even criminal. Sleep lightly while the Fat Man is in the loft and listen for the whirring of the fat chair bringing him to the ground floor. And make sure you punch Bro. Frank in the mouth.

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  16. Tom,

    That’s complete and utter bullshit. You people will say anything.

    No, it’s demanding that Rome own her claims. A Magisterium that cannot infallibly discipline cannot infallibly define dogma. The two are inseparable. There are many places where the doctrine remains on the books but nobody believes it.

    I have no good reason to believe that Cardinal Kasper or Nancy Pelosi or less representative of true Roman Catholicism than Mother Teresa.

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  17. sean
    Posted October 12, 2015 at 4:35 pm | Permalink
    So, that’s a no on the whole observant bit, but a big fat sloppy kiss on your roughly year and half long virtual RC renaissance. Tom, wha happen’ ? Did the nuns pull too hard on your ear or was the priest just a bit too interested in your teenage sexual activiites? I know my story, just a bit sordid at times, even criminal. Sleep lightly while the Fat Man is in the loft and listen for the whirring of the fat chair bringing him to the ground floor. And make sure you punch Bro. Frank in the mouth.

    I choose not to roll in the mud with you.

    Robert
    Posted October 12, 2015 at 4:37 pm | Permalink
    Tom,

    That’s complete and utter bullshit. You people will say anything.

    No, it’s demanding that Rome own her claims. A Magisterium that cannot infallibly discipline cannot infallibly define dogma.

    Who are you to demand anything? Besides, “cannot” or prudently “chooses not to” are two entirely different things.

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  18. @ussy. Plus, I didn’t choose it either, your religious tried to choose for me. However, I’m me and they aren’t, but it doesn’t mean I don’t know where they live. But, you stay busy not rolling around in the mud in the film business in Sherman Oaks and EWTN’ your way to the observant life.

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  19. Petros, “extra-biblical edicts”? How is the fourth commandment “extra-biblical”? But funda-eeeevangelicals are pretty good at extra-biblical edicts, e.g. substance use and worldly amusements being more or less verboten. How you guys pack in those megas with all that “Jesus is my boyfriend and better than beer” stuff is a mystery, but no thanks.

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  20. sean
    Posted October 12, 2015 at 4:56 pm | Permalink
    @ussy. Plus, I didn’t choose it either, your religious tried to choose for me. However, I’m me and they aren’t, but it doesn’t mean I don’t know where they live. But, you stay busy not rolling around in the mud in the film business in Sherman Oaks and EWTN’ your way to the observant life.

    “…and besides, the pig likes it.”–GBS

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  21. Tom,

    Who are you to demand anything?

    This separated brother wants to know why Rome is da bomb if she can’t maintain orthodoxy among her adherents. If Rome wants to go big, she should go big. Otherwise, admitting abortionists to the Eucharist just shows that Rome either doesn’t think its a mortal sin or could give a rip pastorally. It’s all about the rote performance of rituals that so many of the partakers don’t understand and aren’t ever encouraged to understand. Still trying to find out where the Apostles encourage implicit faith.

    Besides, “cannot” or prudently “chooses not to” are two entirely different things.

    So Rome can discipline infallibly now? Any other RC want to defend this, along with the claim that the Assumption and papal infallibility are options. The crickets are deafening.

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  22. Robert
    Posted October 12, 2015 at 5:09 pm | Permalink
    Tom,

    Who are you to demand anything?

    This separated brother wants to know why Rome is da bomb if she can’t maintain orthodoxy among her adherents.

    Been there, done that. Prots didn’t dig that either. You get ’em coming or going.

    The relevant question should be whether a church should spend its energies evangelizing or enforcing theological discipline. As we saw with J. Gresham Machen, efforts to enforce discipline often result in schism, so for the Catholic Church that’s not really a prudent option. Back when there were no real alternatives to the Catholic Church and very few “Nones,” I suppose discipline was the only real outlet for the Church’s efforts, but now it seems an unnecessary expense of energy. Garry Wills is well aware of the Church’s orthodoxies–as are his readers.

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  23. “the greatest nation on God’s green earth” Michael Medved’s favorite line. Far from it. Most pluralist nation….

    PCUSA – leave it and join the RPCNA

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  24. Peter, zrim –

    Peter is like Steve Martin. He believe in 8 of the 10 commandments and going to church every Sunday, unless there’s a game on.

    Watch the whole thing.

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  25. As my kids are rapidly approaching their teens, I’ve been thinking about this a lot and eyeing Dreher’s BenOp with great interest. While evangelicalism is more or less holding steady (and for purposes of polling that includes PCA and OPC), the mainline and RCC is in freefall.

    Onething we see from twin studies is that the principal influence parents have on outcomes for kids is environment in which they raise them (and peer group kids develop as a result ). As important as sound teaching is and so forth, if church is 2hrs away and none of jr’s friends are from that church, odds are very low that he will be part of that tradition in adulthood.

    It seems to me that there is a lesson in their for NAPARCs…if we want to hold on to our covenant children, we increase our chance of success by providing peer community for them.

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  26. sdb
    Posted October 12, 2015 at 6:45 pm | Permalink
    As my kids are rapidly approaching their teens, I’ve been thinking about this a lot and eyeing Dreher’s BenOp with great interest.

    Thing is, there aren’t even any catacombs to hide in anymore. The state is all, and the left controls all that your children see and hear.

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  27. SDB, sure it’s great to have a community of Christian peers for the kids. But if the closer church with more kids isn’t really doing what a church is supposed to do, all you’ve done is given the kids buddies that probably aren’t that much different than today’s norm. While getting accustomed to a bleh church.

    But if it’s 2 hours away, yeah, I’m going to make do with something closer or move.

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  28. The PC(USA) is losing numbers for a host of reasons.

    The main reason is that the majority of its membership adheres to a fairly nominal form of Christianity. Now that church-going is no longer the cultural norm among upper-middle-class Americans, attendance has fallen off.

    Also, there are an emerging number of middle-ground options between mainlinery and evangelicalism. Many mainline Christians take the Bible seriously, but would not view it as inerrant. Their views of Scripture are probably closer to those set forth by Pete Enns. And they generally believed in ordaining women to leadership positions, etc. For decades, such folks simply stayed in their mainline churches. Now, they have reasonable options available to them. I’d put myself into this category. I left the PC(USA) about a year ago, and spent some months shopping around. I settled on an EPC church that is theologically orthodox, but which doesn’t embrace typical evangelical doctrines like inerrancy, gender-role hierarchy, etc.

    That being said, the PCA isn’t doing much better. Membership numbers are basically flat, despite the denomination’s intake of a number of RCA and some EPC churches. One of my neighbors is an associate pastor at a PCA church. He mentioned that, in this local presbytery, every single particularized church has experienced declines in attendance over the past 5 years. The largest church in the presbytery has experienced losses approaching 30%, many of whom decamped for the EPC church I now attend.

    I suspect that EPC and ECO churches will continue to grow. A former colleague attends an ECO church in the South that experienced significant growth after leaving the PC(USA), much of it at the expense of a couple of PCA churches. There are plenty of us who are looking for more of a “mere Christianity” sort of Calvinism–one that affirms the historic creeds, but that isn’t beholden to evangelical particularities like inerrancy and gender-role hierarchy.

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  29. “There are plenty of us who are looking for more of a “mere Christianity” sort of Calvinism–one that affirms the historic creeds, but that isn’t beholden to evangelical particularities like inerrancy and gender-role hierarchy.”

    huh? Inerrancy and gender-role hierarchy are like Christianity 101. I pray you don’t find any ‘mere Christianity’ type of churches but sadly you easily will.

    People that believe in God but don’t believe God.

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  30. Robert, Pelosi isn’t an abortionist.

    Tom, have you considered that it’s not a choice between either/or but that evangelizing and enforcing theological discipline are co-terminus?

    Publius, at least Martin is funny though. “He’s a honkey!”

    SDB, I know we’ve been here before, but what MG said. Isn’t that how we get youth group sub-culture? And if you’re right then why is the Bible replete with instructions about parents sowing into their kids, i.e. nothing about making sure covenant children have the right peer groups? Did God not read enough twin studies?

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  31. @tvd no catacombs in BenOp. Left certainly does not control all my kids see and hear, but then we don’t do much pop culture.

    @mg hopefully the choice isn’t MTD or sound worship. On the other hand is a serious MSLC in your community really worse than OPC or PCA plant with no other peers for your kids. I guess I would prefer Lutheran to none. In the end its a judgment call on balance between community for family and doctrinal purity I suppose. But given the way faith among children of believers is in freefall, it seems some rethinking is in order. Not sure what answer is, but I worry.

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  32. I have to say the whole “what about our youth?” is very-evangelical boomers with children, narcissism. What about them? Raise them. Send them to school. Have them pursue extra-curricular activities. Teach them to work. Bring them to church with you. Wash, rinse, repeat. It’s called ordinary. Get ’em used to it now. Teach them how to value the ordinary.

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  33. Zrim,
    Good question. Certainly not advocating youth group culture. Israel was a community that was closed off from surrounding culture and NT group was called out too into a community. Seems to me there is a lesson in there, but like I said I’m not sure what that means about what to do different.

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  34. SDB, I think Lutherans should go to a Lutheran church and the Reformed should go to Reformed churches. The speculation that my children might be more likely to become Lutheran adults than Reformed adults would not be enough for me to compromise my distinctly Reformed convictions. But we all need to make decisions and live with them. Hopefully we will not regret too many of them.

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  35. Zrim –

    Robert, Pelosi isn’t an abortionist. Cheerleader?

    And yes, at least Steve Martin is funny. And these days, 8 out of 10 isn’t bad.

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  36. Zrim
    Posted October 12, 2015 at 10:48 pm | Permalink
    Robert, Pelosi isn’t an abortionist.

    Tom, have you considered that it’s not a choice between either/or but that evangelizing and enforcing theological discipline are co-terminus?

    If you’ve been reading the comments here [I do] whatever growth sub-sects like the Orthodox Presbyterian Church is enjoying is solely attributable to people fleeing other Presbyterian denominations.

    IOW, cannibalism. [Not to be quarrelsome, Mr. Z–the same charge was raised at Billy Graham in his heyday 50 years ago, that his was a quantifiably zero-sum game. You could look it up.]

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  37. Sean –

    I have to say the whole “what about our youth?” is very-evangelical boomers with children, narcissism. What about them? Raise them. Send them to school. Have them pursue extra-curricular activities. Teach them to work. Bring them to church with you. Wash, rinse, repeat. It’s called ordinary. Get ’em used to it now. Teach them how to value the ordinary.

    I generally agree with this approach. I’d add that family worship including catechizing the children at home (we do WLC, WSC, WCF, & Heidelberg – though not all of them everyday) is critical. We teach the kids that being a Christian, particularly a Reformed Christian, means being different than others but that we have an obligation to our Lord. We come back to WLC Question 1 often.

    All that said, I’d also add that kids should be taught the value of the fellowship of the saints – not to the exclusion of others – and encouraged to build friendships at church. It takes extra effort but is worth it. Our OPC church draws people from up to an hour or more away so if spending time with the other families requires planning. Again, the kids spend most of their week at school, at sports, etc. so we try and put in some effort to make sure we spend time with our church family.

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  38. TVD –

    …whatever growth sub-sects like the Orthodox Presbyterian Church is enjoying is solely attributable to people fleeing other Presbyterian denominations.

    Our OPC congregation is seeing growth from a few different sources:

    1. Evangelicals who become Reformed
    2. Reformed families without other options in the area.
    3. Breeding! We specialize in large families.

    That said, the OPC as a denomination is very active with mission works throughout our presbytery which seem to be taking root and look forward to particularization.

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  39. sdb
    Posted October 12, 2015 at 10:56 pm | Permalink
    @tvd no catacombs in BenOp. Left certainly does not control all my kids see and hear, but then we don’t do much pop culture.

    Dunno. My blogbrothers at newreformclub.com [and their friends with children] think a dam has broken in the past half-dozen years. Not so much the routine normalization of the abnormal [say the innocuous Sunday paper Parade magazine speaking of Ellen De Generes’ “wife” as though that’s, um sure, normal].

    So even leaving out the public schools [Mark’s friends in Washington state tell him that even outside of Seattle, “health” class isn’t about brushing your teeth or wiping your ass but steeped in this sex, that sex, and everything except why the whosis fits perfectly into the whatsis, babies are made, and everything else is just a counterfeit of that.]

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  40. If inerrancy and gender-role hierarchy are Christianity 101, can you explain why neither is mentioned in the ecumenical creeds…or any historic Protestant creed, for that matter? Biblical inerrancy (as opposed to infallibility) first emerged in the 1940s and wasn’t set forth in any formal way until 1978. And “gender complementarity” in its current form didn’t take shape until the 1980s.

    Your response illustrates perfectly why many conservative mainliners don’t bother with PCA and OPC churches. In fact, nothing in the historic Reformed confessions (Westminster Confessions and Catechisms & Three Forms of Unity) suggest that assent to the “doctrines” of inerrancy and gender complementarity are requisite for faith.

    And who are the revisionists?

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  41. Do you people ever read this thing?

    12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

    In context, as in read the whole chapter, por favor:

    1 Timothy 2 King James Version (KJV)

    2 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;

    2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

    3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;

    4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

    5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;

    6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.

    7 Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity.

    8 I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.

    9 In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;

    10 But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.

    11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.

    12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

    13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve.

    14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.

    15 Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.

    As inerrancy goes, Paul’s either in oder aus.

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  42. Tom,

    The relevant question should be whether a church should spend its energies evangelizing or enforcing theological discipline.

    It’s not an either/or but a both/and. Without theological discipline, you don’t create well-grounded converts. Combine that with ritualism and you get the reality of more than half of the professing RCs in this country disagreeing with what is supposed to be the official RC position on a host of issues. And that problem continues worldwide.

    whatever growth sub-sects like the Orthodox Presbyterian Church is enjoying is solely attributable to people fleeing other Presbyterian denominations.

    Um, do you have statistics on this, especially given that fully 10 percent of Americans are former Roman Catholics.

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  43. Bobby, the WCF says the Bible is inspired, the Word of God, infallible, authoritative, kept pure, and the supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined. The Belgic Confession professes that “we believe without a doubt all things contained in them.” My impression is that the word “inerrancy” itself became a term of debate in the latter half of the 1800’s but that isn’t the same as saying the substance of the belief was absent.

    BB Warfield and AA Hodge wrote on inspiration and inerrancy in 1881, somewhat before your 1940 date.

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  44. What Mud said. Something like inerrancy/infallibility had been assumed by all Xians up to the mid-late 1800’s. You don’t debate (or need terms for and defense of) things that aren’t questioned. Now, if you associate inerrancy with the tackiest and stupidest elements of revivalism and fundamentalism, fine — we all get that. But don’t throw the authoritative scriptures out with the idiots.

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  45. Sean, ding.

    SDB, the lesson may be that being called out into the world doesn’t really align well with a theory that ends up fostering Christian bubble. And the NT continues the OT ethic of parents being the prime sowers. I get the appeal of the BenOp, but biblical picture seems much simpler when it comes to passing down the faith (see Sean). The BenOp has struck me as trying to improve upon it.

    Publius, perhaps, but more like someone with a political opinion that does little to nothing to impact legal reality, i.e. if she changed her opinion would it really matter? Re breeding, are the Prots who become Cats when it comes to family planning the same 2kers who become neo-Cals when it comes to schooling?

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  46. sdb, I went to a PCA church plant when I was home over the summer and one of the elders was the parent of some kids I knew from youth group growing up at the UMC megachurch. Found out they attended UMC cause the kids liked the youth group, then after the kids graduated high school he’s an elder in the PCA. Something about that doesn’t sit right with me.

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  47. @Walton I agree. Just to clarify, I do not like the youth group culture at all. I think segregating youth from the larger body of believers is a big mistake (at a PCA church I attended in AZ, they had a separate youth service separate from Sunday morning worship – that struck me as a terrible idea). On the other hand, I also lived in a community where the only OPC/PCA church at the time was over an hour away. It isn’t surprising to me that the kids who do not develop a peer group among the body of believers with whom they worship are destined to drift from that tradition.

    Families in the OPC and PCA far out pace the replacement rate. At our current birthrate, even without any disaffected baptists or mainliners joining, we should be nearly doubling every 25yrs or so. We basically staying flat and a non-nelgible share of our membership is in fact accretion from ex-baptists and mainliners. This means a huge share of our kids aren’t staying in the church. While family is to be the principal source of training, in both the OT and NT we see community centered churches that were part of the life of the believers. Not sure how much of that was due to their culture and how much of that is prescriptive for us. Like I said before, I don’t have answers here, but I’m pretty sure telling folks to catechize better is not going to turn things around and this is something we should be thinking about how to turn around.

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  48. essdee, you could also blame the lack of worship uniformity and the general sparsity of NAPARC churches. With a highly mobile society and kids traveling far and wide to go to college or work there’s a less than 10% chance that they’ll be able to find a church that resembles the one they grew up in, especially if that church was a serious RPW church. In the PCA alone there are probably at least five highly different and (in my opinion) largely incompatible types of churches.

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  49. Bottom line: we’re just called to do the stuff we’e supposed to do. Go to a good church, catechize, live well, teach your kids stuff. We aren’t masters of the outcome.

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  50. Sdb, I’ve been in the PCA for over twenty years and ‘around’ the OPC for at least as long. The primary problem I’ve seen in the PCA is we fuss over them. We’re determined to make it real, special, life-changing for them. IOW, we’ve gone baptist/evangelical when it comes to our kids. They’re kids. They get to conform to their parents(as sheety as some of them are), You don’t cater to a child’s sensibilities when it comes to church, just like you don’t cater to your own. Plus, by the time they’re teenagers and they see their parents catering to them, respect goes right out the window and then you’re really up the creek and done your kids a great disservice. Nobody said it was easy.

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  51. muddy, that’s what the papists say. the gates of hell won’t prevail.

    Are you giving yourself an excuse for failure? (kidding mainly)

    At least you’re trying to discipline your kids. Can the bishops even find discipline in the dictionary?

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  52. Yes, I try to set up my excuses for failure well in advance. Like the Proverbs, where the ant is diligent to make excuses, unlike the grasshopper who stands on warm bike paths only to get smooshed, a type of poetic justice under my administration of wrath.

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  53. sdb, what Sean said again. I don’t think you’re point has to do with catering, but I do wonder if there is a problem in the premise, i.e. “gotta turn things around.” I sense a concern for numbers, growth, progress. But as with the mega-churchers and bigger-is-proof-of-superiority Cats (in whom one can hear more American virtue than Christian), isn’t it more about obedience than results?

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  54. “The primary problem I’ve seen in the PCA is we fuss over them. We’re determined to make it real, special, life-changing for them. IOW, we’ve gone baptist/evangelical when it comes to our kids. They’re kids.”

    sean, amen to that. I’m in the PCA, and there is this unhealthy obsession with catering to the yutes in our congregation. We’re just aping the megachurch down the street that have the flashy, high-budget kids programs, and doing a bad job of it. In fact, one of our pastors just recently made the plea that the biggest group in our midst that needs “evangelizing” is our kids. I try to be as charitable as I can with that statement, but that really cuts the legs out from under our covenantal theology and exposes functionally baptistic leanings. This is a huge problem, in my view. What ever happened to the Christian life as one of ordinary, routine obedience, including for children? I get worn out by the breathless way in which my PCA is constantly trying to generate enthusiasm and excitement every single week. Give it a rest. Sometimes worship is work and sometimes it’s “boring.” But guess what, God is in our midst and accomplishing his purposes. If we don’t prepare our kids for the long haul of Christian discipleship, they’ll be burned out before college.

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  55. Zrim –

    Publius, perhaps, but more like someone with a political opinion that does little to nothing to impact legal reality, i.e. if she changed her opinion would it really matter? Re breeding, are the Prots who become Cats when it comes to family planning the same 2kers who become neo-Cals when it comes to schooling?

    With regard to Cheerleader Pelosi, her actions as Speaker had a more than a little to do with legal reality. Funding Planned Parenthood for instance and being a part of Democrat Party leadership that sets party policy. She was 3rd in line for the Presidency so if she changed her opinion, I think it would have more impact than you think. Would it be dispositive, revolutionary, or norming? No. But could she have impacted policy? Yes.

    On your second point, I don’t think so. I think the home-schooling tide has receded. We don’t do it and never did. My thought was always, why not just start a school? Take the time to build something that does it right if you have a problem with the public schools. In my state we have charter schools and that has been a good alternative that has pulled a lot of home schoolers back into the public school system.

    With regard to family planning, well, some of us just like having larger families. I don’t think the folks I know hold RC views when it comes to family planning although there is general agreement that some forms are off limits – abortofacients in particular.

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  56. Publius, just being semi-facetious on the family planning/schooling remark. Still, on schools, is the test whether one could join school starting efforts with non-Christians? If not, does that mean worldview still clings? On family planning, it’s liberty obviously, but do the Protestant virtues of moderation and restraint figure in among those who go big?

    On Pelosi, (it’s a rabbit trail but one I always enjoy), the law of the land isn’t derived from party policy. Even if she set party policy, it’s still just a larger political opinion. Nothing substantive changed under the pro-life Bush Admin. Some may have more legal power, but how does that translate so easily into personal culpability? I want my Mormon neighbor free to practice what I believe is idolatry. Does that mean I’m personally guilty of idolatry?

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  57. So, what is the OPC’s position on motherhood? Are your ladies encouraged to fully embrace her child bearing role? Are you in agreement with this statement? I agree with it. What about you guys?

    Yeah, I know that all roads lead to Rome, but can you focus on what you believe?

    Conclusion

    In conclusion, the use of birth control to limit the number of children that God gives to a Christian family stands in opposition to the fundamental order and command of God, which remains binding so long as this age endures. While this does not deal with the most difficult cases (for example, your doctor warns that your wife will die if she bears another child), it does mean that human wisdom based on economics or ecology is irrelevant. Like the cross, the Christian couple�s duty to be fruitful may seem to be “foolishness” in the eyes of man, but it is God�s wisdom, and, like the cross itself, it will prevail and be vindicated in the end.

    “Those who have practiced birth control heretofore should stop; those who are older, and whose wives have passed menopause, should teach the younger families to reject the wisdom of this world in favor of the wisdom of God. May the Lord give each family in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church a full quiver, and may we reject the notion that the existence of technology gives us the prerogative to determine how many arrows constitute fruitfulness. And may we not fail to raise each child in the fear and admonition of the Lord!”

    http://www.opc.org/new_horizons/NH98/10c.html

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  58. @cw “you could also blame the lack of worship uniformity and the general sparsity of NAPARC churches”

    I agree that this plays a pretty big role in why we lose such a large share of our covenant children. The other is likely intermarriage – probably too much canoodling with the UMC youth group/campus ministry programs. Now that I think about it, I’m sure it is all the Methodists’ fault.

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  59. @MWF
    The letter to the editor that you linked includes this,

    “However, I believe that a firm argument is to be made for unbridled procreation by Christian families.”

    I disagree.

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  60. How about this. Are you doing all you can to increase the church with an holy seed?

    II. Marriage was ordained for the mutual help of husband and wife,[477] for the increase of mankind with legitimate issue, and of the church with an holy seed;[478] and for preventing of uncleanness.[479]

    That is from the website of the OPC

    How about this one? Again, all of this is taken from the OPC website.
    ————————————————————————
    You may not use birth control because…

    Reason One: The use of birth control is a denial of God’s sovereignty.
    Reason Two: The use of birth control is a denial of man’s responsibility.
    Reason Three: The use of birth control is a denial that children are a blessing from God.

    http://www.opc.org/nh.html?article_id=470

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  61. Mermaid, we allow opinions on lots of issues. You allow fewer opinions yet have about as many as we do – maybe more if you count all the stuff you see on toast. The Roman Catholic churches.

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  62. Zrim –

    Me too – partially – on family planning.

    Regarding schools, there are more than one good option. The example of charter schools here is a good one. They are thoroughly secular and state funded. They are considered public schools under the law but operated by private entities, usually non-profits. Some of them are quite good from a purely academic point of view. Many of them are what I would call, “Christian friendly” but they have no explicit or even implicit religious agenda or curriculum. Christians, Jews, and Mormons all work together on these schools. And they succeed.

    By the same token, the LCMS has spent generations building a network of schools around the country. Their elementary schools are generally quite good. They are explicitly Lutheran in their theology and practice but accept as students Lutherans and non-Lutherans alike – and non-Christians for that matter. Theology is typically 1 class per day and 1 chapel per week. The better ones have waiting lists to get in. They seem like a good model if Reformed people wanted to work together to build schools. I would support the Lutheran approach to school building and administration except with Reformed theology and practice. In short – build great schools and accept everyone. It’s a best of both worlds (kingdoms?) solution – you get the school you want but it is not as isolating as home schooling. But it takes a lot of work and a long-term commitment.

    Re family planning, liberty, restraint, moderation, etc. I’m happy to leave it as a Christian liberty issue though I have a slight personal bias to more rather than less.

    Re Pelosi, the law of the land is derived from party policy when that party is in power. At least in part. There is a practical difference between legalized abortion and legalized idolatry, in your example of religious freedom for Mormons. It is self-evident. That is why abortion is a major political issue and Mormonism is not.

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  63. Funny, Muddy! It kind of shows why at the end of the day all Presbyterianism has left is opinions. One idea is as good as another. Each one must decide for himself or herself based on whatever criteria they find to be helpful.

    You guys are probably the last hold outs. I hope you can pull it off.

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  64. Ariel, all pious opinion; reproduction is liberty. But note how the full quiver crowd likes to pour on the piety to their opinion. But in case you take ill to that response, I say three cheers to the RCC catechism on education:

    2229 As those first responsible for the education of their children, parents have the right to choose a school for them which corresponds to their own convictions. This right is fundamental. As far as possible parents have the duty of choosing schools that will best help them in their task as Christian educators. Public authorities have the duty of guaranteeing this parental right and of ensuring the concrete conditions for its exercise.

    Boo, hiss on the URCNA CO Article 14 though:

    The duties belonging to the office of elder consist of continuing in prayer and ruling the church of
    Christ according to the principles taught in Scripture, in order that purity of doctrine and holiness
    of life may be practiced. They shall see to it that their fellow-elders, the minister(s) and the
    deacons faithfully discharge their offices. They are to maintain the purity of the Word and
    Sacraments, assist in catechizing the youth, *promote God-centered schooling*, visit the members
    of the congregation according to their needs, engage in family visiting, exercise discipline in the
    congregation, actively promote the work of evangelism and missions, and insure that everything
    is done decently and in good order.

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  65. Mermaid, we have a distinction between what is clear and essential on the one hand and what properly is a matter of liberty on the other. You bind consciences on raw authority. Or at least you pretend to. “Johnny, don’t do that. Don’t do it! Johnny…ok, whatever.”

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  66. Publius, agreed on schools. On Pelosi, so is she personally culpable for her political views? But perhaps you could elaborate on what the practical difference is between legalized abortion and legalized idolatry (since it’s not self-evident to some)?

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  67. I don’t think that doctrine is a reason why the OPC is so small. I do think that it largely because the OPC has decided to live in the past by only recognizing and addressing past issues. This adds an extra layer of authoritarianism to a growing in ability to make its doctrine relevant. And many in the OPC prefer it to be that way.

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  68. Muddy Gravel
    Posted October 13, 2015 at 3:51 pm | Permalink
    Mermaid, we have a distinction between what is clear and essential on the one hand and what properly is a matter of liberty on the other.

    Ah, but the trick is where to draw that line–which is a matter of opinion.

    You bind consciences on raw authority. Or at least you pretend to. “Johnny, don’t do that. Don’t do it! Johnny…ok, whatever.”

    That’s not so. The Bible, Tradition, and natural law–as well as the bishops and the sensus fidei, the general sense of received truth on the part of the faithful. Actually, the method used to promulgate then revise your various Confessions is no different.

    Catholicism just has a backstop, the tiebreaking word, is all, rather than schism after schism after schism, which is the rule and not the exception in Protestantism. There is authority [you have authority and discipline too] and if you actually look at the process, it’s no more “raw” than your church’s, just a question of whether the buck stops here, or there.

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  69. Zrim –

    On Pelosi, so is she personally culpable for her political views? But perhaps you could elaborate on what the practical difference is between legalized abortion and legalized idolatry (since it’s not self-evident to some)?

    I think I might be missing the point of your question re Pelosi. Seems like the obvious answer is that of course she is culpable for her own views. Who else would be? Am I missing you here?

    With regard to the practical difference between abortion and idolatry, in the first one someone is being killed, in the second one no one is being killed.

    BTW, does this mean we’re starting a school? We can put cw the unifier in charge of school spirit.

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  70. Tom,

    That’s not so. The Bible, Tradition, and natural law–as well as the bishops and the sensus fidei, the general sense of received truth on the part of the faithful. Actually, the method used to promulgate then revise your various Confessions is no different.

    Go tell Cletus. He hasn’t figured this out.

    Catholicism just has a backstop, the tiebreaking word, is all, rather than schism after schism after schism, which is the rule and not the exception in Protestantism. There is authority [you have authority and discipline too] and if you actually look at the process, it’s no more “raw” than your church’s, just a question of whether the buck stops here, or there.

    Well in the OPC, the general assembly has a final say on what is acceptable and what isn’t as far as the OPC. If people don’t like it, they can freely leave. Now that Rome no longer bears the sword, the same EXACT thing happens. Schism after schism after schism. Most just become nonreligious (if they ever were religious to begin with, most RCs are extremely nominal) or they join a Protestant church.

    True, Rome doesn’t exercise “raw” power anymore in the traditional sense. But Rome was once happy to do so and changed its dogma to accommodate religious liberty.

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  71. Publius, what I mean is this. Is someone like Pelosi who has church membership subject to moral and spiritual discipline for her political views?

    Re the practical difference, with abortion someone may be dying, but in idolatry God is being besmirched. That’s not chopped liver, is it? It’s the sin consistently throughout the OT for which God is punishing his people. It’s actually happening just as much as someone dying.

    I can think of no one better to set the tone of school spirit than him.

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  72. Zrim –

    I was waiting for someone to pull out the Monty Python.

    “..the domination of alien episcopal supremacy…”
    Funny stuff.

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  73. Zrim

    Publius, what I mean is this. Is someone like Pelosi who has church membership subject to moral and spiritual discipline for her political views?

    For some of them, surely. At least in the OPC. Membership vow 4 is:

    Do you agree to submit in the Lord to the government of this church and, in case you should be found delinquent in doctrine or life, to heed its discipline?

    Re the practical difference, with abortion someone may be dying, but in idolatry God is being besmirched. That’s not chopped liver, is it? It’s the sin consistently throughout the OT for which God is punishing his people. It’s actually happening just as much as someone dying.

    You are correct that idolatry is not chopped liver. Not hardly. But, I am making a practical distinction. It is easier and more prudent for civil society to tolerate a crucifix than it is to permit (and even pay for!) the taking of another human life.

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  74. Robert
    Posted October 13, 2015 at 4:56 pm | Permalink
    Tom,

    “That’s not so. The Bible, Tradition, and natural law–as well as the bishops and the sensus fidei, the general sense of received truth on the part of the faithful. Actually, the method used to promulgate then revise your various Confessions is no different.”

    Go tell Cletus. He hasn’t figured this out.

    Not my lookout.

    “Catholicism just has a backstop, the tiebreaking word, is all, rather than schism after schism after schism, which is the rule and not the exception in Protestantism. There is authority [you have authority and discipline too] and if you actually look at the process, it’s no more “raw” than your church’s, just a question of whether the buck stops here, or there.”

    Well in the OPC, the general assembly has a final say on what is acceptable and what isn’t as far as the OPC. If people don’t like it, they can freely leave. Now that Rome no longer bears the sword, the same EXACT thing happens. Schism after schism after schism.

    Not so fast there, slick. You tried to slip that one in, but it just ain’t so.

    Most just become nonreligious (if they ever were religious to begin with, most RCs are extremely nominal) or they join a Protestant church.

    This is no great revelation. Same is true of Protestants–they either go fallow or church-hop.

    True, Rome doesn’t exercise “raw” power anymore in the traditional sense.

    That was my point. Thank you.

    But Rome was once happy to do so and changed its dogma to accommodate religious liberty.

    You call it “dogma” but that’s perhaps not the right term and poisons any possibility of looking for the truth. I might go as far as “normative doctrine” but normative doctrine is not promulgated as infallible, nor is it unchangable or nonreformable. The problem with these attacks on Catholicism originates with the blog host, who tries to hammer every normative doctrine into a noose to hang the Catholic Church with. But again, he begins with a false premise; what follows is not truth.

    For instance, the current normative doctrine is against capital punishment. But the argument is not that capital punishment is immoral or unBiblical, only that it does more harm than good, and does not adduce to God’s glory.

    But were the state of the world such that capital punishment is the only way to maintain reasonable order, natural law would dictate that we have to do what we must to protect our families.

    So we have to be careful about calling every normative teaching “dogma.” This is an error.

    [The same dynamic applies to religious liberty, which is why I brought it up. The rise of Protestantism necessitated natural law theories of religious freedom–in fact the Calvinists, being in third place most places–were the ones who needed it the most and so pioneered it. But make no mistake: Calvin’s Geneva was no less oppressive than the Catholic Church had been–including mandatory church attendance!]

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  75. Tom,

    Not so fast there, slick. You tried to slip that one in, but it just ain’t so

    Old Catholics are but one example of schism. There are hundreds of churches worldwide that claim to be the true RC Church. And a schism of one is still a schism.

    For instance, the current normative doctrine is against capital punishment. But the argument is not that capital punishment is immoral or unBiblical, only that it does more harm than good, and does not adduce to God’s glory.

    But were the state of the world such that capital punishment is the only way to maintain reasonable order, natural law would dictate that we have to do what we must to protect our families.

    But that’s not right. Listen to the pope:

    “Capital punishment is cruel, inhuman and an offense to the dignity of human life. In today’s world, the death penalty is “inadmissible, however serious the crime” that has been committed. That was Pope Francis’ unequivocal message to members of the International Commission against the death penalty who met with him on Friday morning in the Vatican.”

    “But he makes quite clear that the use of capital punishment signifies “a failure” on the part of any State. However serious the crime, he says, an execution “does not bring justice to the victims, but rather encourages revenge” and denies any hope of repentence or reparation for the crime that has been committed.”

    http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2015/03/20/pope_francis_no_crime_ever_deserves_the_death_penalty/1130871

    That’s pretty unequivocal.

    You call it “dogma” but that’s perhaps not the right term and poisons any possibility of looking for the truth. I might go as far as “normative doctrine” but normative doctrine is not promulgated as infallible, nor is it unchangable or nonreformable. The problem with these attacks on Catholicism originates with the blog host, who tries to hammer every normative doctrine into a noose to hang the Catholic Church with. But again, he begins with a false premise; what follows is not truth.

    Your criticism is not tenable because you reject as dogma that is irreformable and binding transubstantiation, papal infallibility, and the Assumption. If anything, the dogmas that we can be most certain are infallible and binding are papal infallibility and the Assumption.

    Further, the distinction between normative doctrine and infallible dogma that must be obeyed is a farce. Someone living today, for example, has no idea whether being anti-capital punishment is normative or infallible. Nobody who lived during the times of the Crusades knew whether the pope was exercising infallibility to declare a Crusade. And there is every indication to think that the popes thought they were acting infallibly when they did that and many other things Rome now frowns on.

    I once had a conservative RC tell me that a pope can wrongly think he is infallible. If the pope and the Magisterium can’t figure it out, the doctrine is absolutely laughable on a practical level. Even you don’t like it.

    I’m left with no other conclusion other than that you are a cafeteria RC or that it is essentially impossible to know what has been defined as dogma.

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  76. <i.Robert
    Posted October 13, 2015 at 7:29 pm | Permalink
    Tom,

    Not so fast there, slick. You tried to slip that one in, but it just ain’t so

    Old Catholics are but one example of schism. There are hundreds of churches worldwide that claim to be the true RC Church. And a schism of one is still a schism.

    Nah, such lumping is lazy. Less than a tenth of 1% tearing off isn’t a schism.

    And you still don’t get the difference between doctrine and dogma and worse, you’re not trying to, so this is a waste of time.

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  77. Robert,

    I don’t know what you think I haven’t figured out. I’ve already corrected you on sola-M which is what you apparently still think I hold to based on your comment to Tom. ST are parallel authorities. The sensus fidelium can be a witness to T and reflection of truth – hence M’s appeal to it in defining the Assumption. Popes and bishops are not infallible in prudential or contingent application of principles – so your citation of Francis on capital punishment does no work. As Ratzinger noted: “Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia” Couple that with Evangelium Vitae where the phrasing related to the death penalty is clearly tentative and contingent on context, and it is obvious it is in the realm of prudential application, not infallible dogma. Francis’ words would be taken in the same light.

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  78. Publius, that’s what she said.

    But how has someone like Pelosi been delinquent in doctrine or life? To my knowledge, she has neither had nor performed an elective abortion. I ask as someone opposed to her particular political views.

    I oppose both idolatry and the taking of human life, but I can easily live with both being protected by law. Am I out of step with the rest of society, or at least that segment that can’t so easily live with the latter?

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  79. Zrim
    Posted October 13, 2015 at 6:17 pm | Permalink
    But, Ariel, can’t we all come in for a little mocking?

    But Brother Zrim, I love to point out your inconsistencies. See, you claim to base your faith and practice on things like the 5 solas.

    Actually, the statement at the OPC website about birth control is consistent with traditional Christianity and with Scripture.

    However, your real practice is based on things like birth control and how much money you make.

    Just pointing that out. No big deal. Not sayin’ you should change anything, ‘cuz you are free. However, the title of this post is “It’s Not Exactly Growing the OPC.” One good way to grow a religion is by procreation as well as by evangelization.

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  80. Cletus,

    I don’t know what you think I haven’t figured out. I’ve already corrected you on sola-M which is what you apparently still think I hold to based on your comment to Tom. ST are parallel authorities. The sensus fidelium can be a witness to T and reflection of truth – hence M’s appeal to it in defining the Assumption.

    I know that you don’t affirm sola-M explicitly, but that is the Roman system. Once M enshrines something as dogma, it can’t be corrected, even if the most conservative Roman Catholic biblical scholars demonstrate that the meaning found in the text is impossible. The Magisterium is not a servant of tradition or Scripture. It’s an overlord.

    Popes and bishops are not infallible in prudential or contingent application of principles – so your citation of Francis on capital punishment does no work. As Ratzinger noted: “Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia” Couple that with Evangelium Vitae where the phrasing related to the death penalty is clearly tentative and contingent on context, and it is obvious it is in the realm of prudential application, not infallible dogma. Francis’ words would be taken in the same light.

    But of course, there’s no contingency in Francis’ words. Capital Punishment always represents the failure of the state. It is always grossly immoral, etc.

    And the more important question is, did earlier popes think that when they conducted and approved of capital punishment, the faithful could legitimately disagree? The answer, of course, is no, which makes the papacy useless. If popes can think they are infallible even when they are not infallible, then the whole doctrine is pointless.

    And the whole discussion with Tom is demonstrating this. Apparently Tom doesn’t understand that the Assumption or papal infallibility are tenets of the faith that one cannot reject. But if anything can qualify as infallibly defined, it is those things. The definition is so subjective that you can’t get Rome to produce a canon of infallibly declared dogma or two RCs to agree on everything that Rome has declared as dogma.

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  81. Zrim – Were Mrs. Pelosi a member of the OPC (a possibility I don’t think anyone has every conceived in print before) then this would be a matter for her session. But since we are discussing the highly (HIGHLY!) unlikely… Mrs. Pelosi used her power and influence to encourage and fund abortion. She also used her position to help ensure that abortion would continue to be legal.

    In other words, she was not an innocent bystander, a mere citizen taxpayer, she was (and is) actively engaged in the promotion, protection, and funding of abortion at the highest level. And she is culpable for that. Does that bring honor to Christ and His Church?

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  82. @Muddy et al.

    I use the term inerrancy to refer to Lindsell and to the Chicago Statement. Lindsell and the Chicago Statement go far beyond anything that came out of Old Princeton. I also tend to associate it with the notion of “biblical worldview,” i.e., the notion that one can use the Bible alone to construct a world-and-life view of everything.

    Further, the Machen reference only demonstrates your misplaced priorities. Machen was dealing with those who denied the divinity of Christ, the Resurrection, etc., i.e., positions that are set forth in every Christian creed and confession. By contrast, you’re ready to excommunicate people because they don’t hold fast to biblicism and gender-role hierarchy, issues which, in the form that evangelicals hold to them, are set forth in no historic creed under the sun. For the record, I do not consider the Chicago Statement or the Danvers Statement to be historic creeds. Your response reminds me of a recent piece by Tim Bayly. Bayly admonished his readers against the dangers of confessionalism. For Bayly, that danger lay in the fact that the confessions tend to focus on issues like the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, and justification, and not on the really important issues like gender-role hierarchy.

    I have a hunch that Machen and I would get along just fine.

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  83. “And you still don’t get the difference between doctrine and dogma”

    Well let’s see if I have this. Feel free to correct me where I err. Doctrines are things taught by the church that one must believe. To knowingly reject a doctrine is a mortal sin – no purgatory for you. One must give doctrine the full assent of faith ( I believe all that the Church teaches). This would presumably include pronouncements from councils about topics such as the historicity of Adam. The church’s pronouncements of doxtrine are infallible though they may develop. However later developments may not contradict what the church previously taught.

    Dogma is to my mind anyway, subtly different. They are a subset of doctrines “solemnly” stated to be revealed by God (either by scripture or apostolic tradition). Sometimes referred to “divine doctrine”. Other doctrines are seen as perhaps more derivative (but no less binding or certain) and so might be called items of catholic doctrine. Of course as doctrine develops the church may come to realize the fundamental nature of a belief and define it dogmaticly. Whatever the case, these comprise the divine and catholic faith.

    Now perhaps I misunderstand (or my sources are wrong), so please correct me. Whatever the case, it seems to me the RCC reqires the full assent of faith on all her doctrines.

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  84. “For your theology of marriage and family to work, birth control is essential. It is what has given you freedom, not some Biblical standard of faith and practice.”

    1) Conservative prots out breed RCs.
    2) Your own pope tells us we don’t need to breed like rabits.
    3) Your church advocates and provides detailed family planning courses so that couples can space, time, and limit family size. I sat through the seminar by the nun (with nursing degree no less) telling us how nfp is *more* effective than the pill.
    4) the wcf tells us several reasons for marriage. The chapter on marriage does not require that a couple have as many kids as possible.
    5) As Augie said, ” In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity.” Perhaps the decision about how many kids to have is inessential?

    Bigger question might be how many retain the faith. Maybe instead of trolling us you should redirect your attention to your own communion who isn’t only less fertile, but do even worse than we do at holding on to her own.

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  85. Lindsell and the Chicago Statement? “The notion that one can use the Bible alone to construct a world-and-life view of everything”? Excommunicating? The Danvers statement?The Baylys?

    Your orientation is all wrong – you walked in the wrong bar. Or something. This blog is not about that stuff. Now for the re-orientation. Machen said
    ______
    “it is necessary to add to the Christian doctrine of revelation the Christian doctrine of inspiration. The latter doctrine means that the Bible not only is an account of important things, but that the account itself is true, the writers having been so preserved from error, despite a full maintenance of their habits of thought and expression, that the resulting Book is the “infallible rule of faith and practice.”
    _________________

    Are you and Machen still buds?

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  86. sdb:
    Bigger question might be how many retain the faith. Maybe instead of trolling us you should redirect your attention to your own communion who isn’t only less fertile, but do even worse than we do at holding on to her own.>>>>>

    I don’t care how many children you have or don’t have. Your arguments show that the concept of Scripture being the only rule of faith and practice is fiction.

    That is eye-opening for me.

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  87. Robert

    But of course, there’s no contingency in Francis’ words. Capital Punishment always represents the failure of the state. It is always grossly immoral, etc.

    You’ve got to educate yourself, Robert, or at least provide direct quotes supporting your assertions. Brother Cletus just provided an authoritative statement to the contrary by Cardinal/Pope Ratzinger himself, which either you didn’t read or willfully ignored.

    You’re a smart fellow, man. We can only believe that you’re not doing this on purpose, that passion is clouding your principled participation in what should be a search for truth.

    “Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”

    And the whole discussion with Tom is demonstrating this. Apparently Tom doesn’t understand that the Assumption or papal infallibility are tenets of the faith that one cannot reject.

    More on this, if you get straight on the above with Cletus and Ratzinger first. Otherwise, fog upon fog.

    Doctrine is not synonymous with dogma. This is one of the biggest lies that Old Life is built on.

    Like

  88. Muddy Gravel
    Posted October 13, 2015 at 10:28 pm | Permalink
    Lindsell and the Chicago Statement? “The notion that one can use the Bible alone to construct a world-and-life view of everything”? Excommunicating? The Danvers statement?The Baylys?

    Your orientation is all wrong – you walked in the wrong bar. Or something. This blog is not about that stuff. Now for the re-orientation. Machen said
    ______
    “it is necessary to add to the Christian doctrine of revelation the Christian doctrine of inspiration. The latter doctrine means that the Bible not only is an account of important things, but that the account itself is true, the writers having been so preserved from error, despite a full maintenance of their habits of thought and expression, that the resulting Book is the “infallible rule of faith and practice.”
    _________________

    Are you and Machen still buds?

    I dunno, Mr. Gravel, but on the other thread your buds are getting into some seriously high philological weeds about what what the Bible text even is. Perhaps you can help.

    Like

  89. You need to tighten up your host Daryl.

    https://oldlife.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/

    Create a new txt file with notepad, paste this simple code into it and give it the file extension .html
    You’re going the wrong way.
    stick a copy in all your directories (except the docroot) and any call not to a specific resource in that directory will be picked up by that file and give that message instead of displaying the directory contents.

    (no, that wasn’t what I wanted you to email me about tiribulus@yahoo.com )

    Oh yeah. The PCA has real trouble.

    Like

  90. If you ever doubted you could just make it up out of thin air on the interweb, may I introduce you to TVD. Totally making up his religious sincerity since roughly 2013 or whenever he decided that he could be a historian too. You just keep doing you, Tom. Tom do you have one screen on Catholic Answers skimming through the comments looking for answers and the other on OL? Don’t be upset, I’m good that way.

    Like

  91. sean
    Posted October 13, 2015 at 11:09 pm | Permalink
    If you ever doubted you could just make it up out of thin air on the interweb, may I introduce you to TVD. Totally making up his religious sincerity since roughly 2013 or whenever he decided that he could be a historian too. You just keep doing you, Tom. Tom do you have one screen on Catholic Answers skimming through the comments looking for answers and the other on OL? Don’t be upset, I’m good that way.

    Mt 7:6, and besides, the pig likes it

    Like

  92. And Francis says he does. I’m betting the guy in the abbey would hedge his answer, however. Depends if I kissed the ring or not.

    Like

  93. Tom,

    You want quotes, here we go:

    From Francis: Today capital punishment is unacceptable, however serious the condemned’s crime may have been. It is an offence to the inviolability of life and to the dignity of the human person which contradicts God’s plan for man and for society and his merciful justice, and it fails to conform to any just purpose of punishment. It does not render justice to the victims, but rather foments revenge.
    . . .

    As I said in my address last 23 October, the death penalty directly concerns the denial of the love for enemies preached by the Gospel. “All Christians and men of good will are thus called today to fight not only for the abolition of the death penalty, whether legal or illegal, and in all its forms, but also in order to improve prison conditions, with respect for the human dignity of the people deprived of their freedom”.

    https://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/letters/2015/documents/papa-francesco_20150320_lettera-pena-morte.html

    That’s a far cry from “we can disagree about this.” All Christians must fight for the abolition of the death penalty. Francis says. Benedict doesn’t, and feel free to disagree with him on this but not on abortion and Euthanasia. Who is right? Who’s to say?

    Like

  94. Robert
    Posted October 13, 2015 at 11:50 pm | Permalink
    Tom,

    You want quotes, here we go:

    Please, my bro. You’re arguing, not making an argument. Faithful Catholics can dissent from the teaching on capital punishment and not go to hell.

    Like

  95. So when Cats disagree about capital punishment all is well, but when OPCers disagree about birth control it’s subjectivism and anarchy?

    Like

  96. Robert,

    Yes and Francis comments are very much aligned with JP2s in Evangelium Vitae (Ratzingers comments were post-EV in 2004). Nothing in Francis’ comments or in JP2s entails rejection of capital punishment is now an infallible dogma.

    Like

  97. Bobby, Machen wasn’t dealing with only people who denied the deity of Christ. He also opposed evangelicals like Charles Erdman who taught at Princeton Seminary and didn’t seem to care if people denied the deity of Christ. Doctrinal indifferentism was his bete noir.

    Funny, I see a lot of it in Roman Catholicism. David Daleiden? Yes. Richard McBrien? Whatever.

    Like

  98. Robert
    Posted October 14, 2015 at 5:19 am | Permalink
    Tom and Cletus,

    So must all Christians work against capital punishment or not?

    How thoroughly obtuse.

    Like

  99. James Young, so infallible dogma is the bottom line? Your faith all comes down to papal infallibility and the bodily assumption of Mary?

    Fundamentalists have more fundamentals than that.

    Like

  100. It’s Not Exactly Growing the OPC
    By D. G. HART | Published: OCTOBER 12, 2015
    Jeff Gissing worries about the decline of doctrine and graying of hairs in the PCUSA. He also wonders if the loss of theology is connected to the loss of members:

    Theologically, the PC(USA) made the calamitous choice of choosing to abandon consistent doctrinal standards—of even the most elemental type—in favor of an ad hoc, case-by-case approach, in which no belief is out-of-bounds as long as you can get a majority to vote for it. In a denomination that has come to value niceness as the zenith of the Christian virtues, simply appealing to one’s private, subjective interpretations or experience is generally sufficient to pass muster.

    The PC(USA) is a denomination full of well-educated people, but at times it evinces a peculiarly petulant stupidity. Take, for example, a recent conversation in which it was claimed that should Presbyterian pastors be required to believe and follow our confession’s he would immediately be fired since he does not observe the Lord’s Day in the fashion envisioned by the Westminster Confession of Faith.

    The trouble is, requiring pastors and congregations to adhere to the Westminster Confession, as the OPC does generally, isn’t exactly a “winning” formula as Charlie Sheen used to count victory. The small conservative denomination grows at a very modest rate, maybe 2 percent annually, and hovers just above 30,000 members. Some might say that taking theology too seriously is the problem. If people go to a church where they have to parse the active and passive obedience of Christ, instead of receiving tips on living a well-adjusted, Spirit-filled life, then why bother with all the theology?

    The silver lining is that the greatest nation on God’s green earth affords freedoms of association that allow pastors, elders, and church members to commune with a measure of the seriousness of purpose that used to characterize Reformed Protestants. Would it help to have the magistrates requiring Americans to go to our churches? Yes, if you are interested in numbers and statistics and fancy buildings. But no, if you look at the established Protestant church of Europe.

    For Roman Catholics who can’t help relishing the divisions and pint-sized denominations that Protestantism yields, please do keep an eye on the ball of “doctrine will never change.” The PCUSA hasn’t changed doctrine. Keeping the Sabbath holy is still on the books. The books require someone to enforce what’s on them. I thought that was what made the hierarchy special. What exactly does it take to disqualify as a Roman Catholic? Garry Wills may still be wondering.

    Share/Bookmark
    This entry was posted in Adventures in Church History, Modern Church, Reformed Protestantism, Roman Catholicism and tagged church discipline, demographics, doctrine, Garry Wills, Jeff Gissing, OPC, PCUSA. Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.
    « A Reason Not to ConvertTo Celebrate or Not »
    119 Comments
    sdb
    Posted October 13, 2015 at 9:47 pm | Permalink
    “For your theology of marriage and family to work, birth control is essential. It is what has given you freedom, not some Biblical standard of faith and practice.”

    1) Conservative prots out breed RCs.
    2) Your own pope tells us we don’t need to breed like rabits.
    3) Your church advocates and provides detailed family planning courses so that couples can space, time, and limit family size. I sat through the seminar by the nun (with nursing degree no less) telling us how nfp is *more* effective than the pill.
    4) the wcf tells us several reasons for marriage. The chapter on marriage does not require that a couple have as many kids as possible.
    5) As Augie said, ” In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity.” Perhaps the decision about how many kids to have is inessential?

    Bigger question might be how many retain the faith. Maybe instead of trolling us you should redirect your attention to your own communion who isn’t only less fertile, but do even worse than we do at holding on to her own.

    cw l’unificateur
    Posted October 13, 2015 at 9:58 pm | Permalink
    Bobby, I’m pretty sure Calvin would have hated me. But maybe you and Machen really would have hit it off. Sure, it could have happened.

    Muddy Gravel
    Posted October 13, 2015 at 10:28 pm | Permalink
    Lindsell and the Chicago Statement? “The notion that one can use the Bible alone to construct a world-and-life view of everything”? Excommunicating? The Danvers statement?The Baylys?

    Your orientation is all wrong – you walked in the wrong bar. Or something. This blog is not about that stuff. Now for the re-orientation. Machen said
    ______
    “it is necessary to add to the Christian doctrine of revelation the Christian doctrine of inspiration. The latter doctrine means that the Bible not only is an account of important things, but that the account itself is true, the writers having been so preserved from error, despite a full maintenance of their habits of thought and expression, that the resulting Book is the “infallible rule of faith and practice.”
    _________________

    Are you and Machen still buds?

    The Little Mermaid
    Posted October 13, 2015 at 10:49 pm | Permalink
    sdb:
    Bigger question might be how many retain the faith. Maybe instead of trolling us you should redirect your attention to your own communion who isn’t only less fertile, but do even worse than we do at holding on to her own.>>>>>

    I don’t care how many children you have or don’t have. Your arguments show that the concept of Scripture being the only rule of faith and practice is fiction.

    That is eye-opening for me.

    Tom Van Dyke
    Posted October 13, 2015 at 10:54 pm | Permalink
    Robert

    But of course, there’s no contingency in Francis’ words. Capital Punishment always represents the failure of the state. It is always grossly immoral, etc.

    You’ve got to educate yourself, Robert, or at least provide direct quotes supporting your assertions. Brother Cletus just provided an authoritative statement to the contrary by Cardinal/Pope Ratzinger himself, which either you didn’t read or willfully ignored.

    You’re a smart fellow, man. We can only believe that you’re not doing this on purpose, that passion is clouding your principled participation in what should be a search for truth.

    “Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”

    And the whole discussion with Tom is demonstrating this. Apparently Tom doesn’t understand that the Assumption or papal infallibility are tenets of the faith that one cannot reject.

    More on this, if you get straight on the above with Cletus and Ratzinger first. Otherwise, fog upon fog.

    Doctrine is not synonymous with dogma. This is one of the biggest lies that Old Life is built on.

    TVD
    Posted October 13, 2015 at 10:58 pm | Permalink
    Muddy Gravel
    Posted October 13, 2015 at 10:28 pm | Permalink
    Lindsell and the Chicago Statement? “The notion that one can use the Bible alone to construct a world-and-life view of everything”? Excommunicating? The Danvers statement?The Baylys?

    Your orientation is all wrong – you walked in the wrong bar. Or something. This blog is not about that stuff. Now for the re-orientation. Machen said
    ______
    “it is necessary to add to the Christian doctrine of revelation the Christian doctrine of inspiration. The latter doctrine means that the Bible not only is an account of important things, but that the account itself is true, the writers having been so preserved from error, despite a full maintenance of their habits of thought and expression, that the resulting Book is the “infallible rule of faith and practice.”
    _________________

    Are you and Machen still buds?

    I dunno, Mr. Gravel, but on the other thread your buds are getting into some seriously high philological weeds about what what the Bible text even is. Perhaps you can help.

    Greg The Terrible
    Posted October 13, 2015 at 11:00 pm | Permalink
    You need to tighten up your host Daryl.

    https://oldlife.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/

    Create a new txt file with notepad, paste this simple code into it and give it the file extension .html
    You’re going the wrong way.
    stick a copy in all your directories (except the docroot) and any call not to a specific resource in that directory will be picked up by that file and give that message instead of displaying the directory contents.

    (no, that wasn’t what I wanted you to email me about tiribulus@yahoo.com )

    Oh yeah. The PCA has real trouble.

    Greg The Terrible
    Posted October 13, 2015 at 11:02 pm | Permalink
    Sorry, you’ll have go into the editor for my comment to get that code. WordPress renders it out here and it doesn’t display it as code. Or you can just leave your directories open.

    sean
    Posted October 13, 2015 at 11:09 pm | Permalink
    If you ever doubted you could just make it up out of thin air on the interweb, may I introduce you to TVD. Totally making up his religious sincerity since roughly 2013 or whenever he decided that he could be a historian too. You just keep doing you, Tom. Tom do you have one screen on Catholic Answers skimming through the comments looking for answers and the other on OL? Don’t be upset, I’m good that way.

    TVD
    Posted October 13, 2015 at 11:15 pm | Permalink
    sean
    Posted October 13, 2015 at 11:09 pm | Permalink
    If you ever doubted you could just make it up out of thin air on the interweb, may I introduce you to TVD. Totally making up his religious sincerity since roughly 2013 or whenever he decided that he could be a historian too. You just keep doing you, Tom. Tom do you have one screen on Catholic Answers skimming through the comments looking for answers and the other on OL? Don’t be upset, I’m good that way.

    Mt 7:6, and besides, the pig likes it

    sean
    Posted October 13, 2015 at 11:33 pm | Permalink
    Come on Tom. Love me. Jesus does.

    sean
    Posted October 13, 2015 at 11:35 pm | Permalink
    And Francis says he does. I’m betting the guy in the abbey would hedge his answer, however. Depends if I kissed the ring or not.

    Robert
    Posted October 13, 2015 at 11:50 pm | Permalink
    Tom,

    You want quotes, here we go:

    From Francis: Today capital punishment is unacceptable, however serious the condemned’s crime may have been. It is an offence to the inviolability of life and to the dignity of the human person which contradicts God’s plan for man and for society and his merciful justice, and it fails to conform to any just purpose of punishment. It does not render justice to the victims, but rather foments revenge.
    . . .

    As I said in my address last 23 October, the death penalty directly concerns the denial of the love for enemies preached by the Gospel. “All Christians and men of good will are thus called today to fight not only for the abolition of the death penalty, whether legal or illegal, and in all its forms, but also in order to improve prison conditions, with respect for the human dignity of the people deprived of their freedom”.

    https://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/letters/2015/documents/papa-francesco_20150320_lettera-pena-morte.html

    That’s a far cry from “we can disagree about this.” All Christians must fight for the abolition of the death penalty. Francis says. Benedict doesn’t, and feel free to disagree with him on this but not on abortion and Euthanasia. Who is right? Who’s to say?

    TVD
    Posted October 14, 2015 at 12:14 am | Permalink
    Robert
    Posted October 13, 2015 at 11:50 pm | Permalink
    Tom,

    You want quotes, here we go:

    Please, my bro. You’re arguing, not making an argument. Faithful Catholics can dissent from the teaching on capital punishment and not go to hell.

    Walton
    Posted October 14, 2015 at 12:21 am | Permalink
    So when Cats disagree about capital punishment all is well, but when OPCers disagree about birth control it’s subjectivism and anarchy?

    Cletus van Damme
    Posted October 14, 2015 at 12:49 am | Permalink
    Robert,

    Yes and Francis comments are very much aligned with JP2s in Evangelium Vitae (Ratzingers comments were post-EV in 2004). Nothing in Francis’ comments or in JP2s entails rejection of capital punishment is now an infallible dogma.

    Robert
    Posted October 14, 2015 at 5:19 am | Permalink
    Tom and Cletus,

    So must all Christians work against capital punishment or not?

    D. G. Hart
    Posted October 14, 2015 at 6:18 am | Permalink
    Bobby, Machen wasn’t dealing with only people who denied the deity of Christ. He also opposed evangelicals like Charles Erdman who taught at Princeton Seminary and didn’t seem to care if people denied the deity of Christ. Doctrinal indifferentism was his bete noir.

    Funny, I see a lot of it in Roman Catholicism.David Daleiden? Yes. Richard McBrien? Whatever.

    Dr. Hart still trolls the bottom of the Catholic sea looking for a Christianity as misshapen as his own, as always arguing the exception against the rule.

    Not that what he finds looks the same, only equally misshapen.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_McBrien

    Like

  101. Tom,

    So you have no idea whether Rome believes that you should work against capital punishment or not. Got it. The ordinary teaching of the Magisterium, it turns out, can be rejected. Or at least the ordinary teaching of this pope.

    Like

  102. Ariel, the pious opinion from an OPCer you provide is consistent with a Roman view, and that’s why you relish it. Why can you have an oh-so-pious opinion but when we have one it’s the kind of opinion that brings down western civilization?

    Like

  103. Publius, which is why I’m saying “someone like Pelosi.” So if someone like Pelosi were a member of the OPC and you were on that particular session, it would be your contention that she should come in for admonishment and discipline concerning her political views. What other political views do you think political means are insufficient to push back on and should receive spiritual discipline? But my guess is that were the present political situation the other way around and views like Pelosi’s were not the ones embodied in national law, the use of spiritual tools to combat political views would be greatly diminished. IOW, if abortion were outlawed in every nook and cranny of the union nobody would care much if a church member who held high political office had choice views.

    Like

  104. Zrim,

    Is there not also a difference between someone who may think that outlawing abortion on demand would be ineffectual so they aren’t concerned to push it politically and someone who wants to bring the full force to bear in not only making abortion on demand permissible but also seeking to fund abortion providers from tax money; opposing any and all restrictions on abortion, even those that would save a baby if the baby somehow survives an abortion, and so on?

    Really, what is the modern 2K answer to something like this? We could multiply examples. Congressman X professes Christ and is personally opposed to pornography of the vilest kinds, even presently illegal forms, but He isn’t going to stand in its way and in fact will push for such things to become legal and even subsidized by the federal government because, you know, freedom and the Constitution and separation of church and state and two kingdoms. Congressman Y professes Christ and is personally happy for the age of consent to be 18 in regard to his own behavior, but in a free society he wants others to be as “free” as they want and so is willing to endorse dropping it to age 10. As long as the politician does not practice such things personally, does the church have no right to discipline him?

    Where does one draw the line? I’m not saying it’s easy to draw the line in all circumstances, but all too often I get the sense from at least some of you that instead of quickly drawing the line at social conservatism or theonomy, you’re willing to quickly draw the line at the opposite extreme and say that there are no political views or even actions that the church can discipline.

    Like

  105. Robert, right, those are the sorts of questions worth asking. And some could be asked in different ways, e.g. when are political views off limits and when are they not? Does it turn on what’s hot and what’s not? Can it be a matter of what’s hot gets a pass and doesn’t have to play by the rules? Are political mechanisms somehow insufficient to engage political questions and require spiritual mechanisms? Are distinctions between political views and personal behaviors ok sometimes but when it comes to political views that really bother me it’s all out the window? Is it possible to use spiritual tools to bludgeon my political opponent instead of using political tools and learning to live with whatever losses might come to me?

    Like

  106. Robert, don’t be too hard on Tom. He’s lapsed from way back, without the grace of sacraments and he can only be expected to glean so much from catholic answers. This google observance isn’t as easy as it seems

    Like

  107. Zrim

    IOW, if abortion were outlawed in every nook and cranny of the union nobody would care much if a church member who held high political office had choice views.

    I doubt it, but I would love to find out. Seriously, though, I concur with Robert’s thoughts/questions above. I want to respond to this but don’t have time right now. I’ll come back to it later.

    Like

  108. @Robert

    What’s the obsession with line-drawing, especially on issues that are fairly complex? The church doesn’t need clear lines to be able to discipline. These issues are probably better handled on a case-by-case basis.

    Besides, if the church started disciplining people for political activity, then the church would probably need to change its IRS filing status from 501(c)(3) to 501(c)(4). In doing so, any non-corporate donors would lose the ability to deduct their donations from their taxable income. That explains why most churches would be unwilling to discipline someone under almost any scenario you’ve contemplated.

    Like

  109. @DGH said, “[Machen] also opposed evangelicals like Charles Erdman who taught at Princeton Seminary and didn’t seem to care if people denied the deity of Christ.”

    I get that. But that’s not relevant to the point that I was making, i.e., that Machen could make a distinction between issues that were central to the Christian faith (e.g., the divinity of Christ) and those that are peripheral (e.g., biblicism and patriarchalism). The fact that Machen opposed Erdman says nothing about whether Machen would have opposed those who took exception with points in the Chicago Statement or the Danvers Statement. After all, the divinity of Christ is expressly affirmed in every major creed and confession of Christendom. The central assertions of the Chicago Statement and the Danvers Statement are affirmed in none. Machine understood that that makes a difference. The warrior children apparently can’t.

    Like

  110. Bobby, like Muddy said, did you think this is Gospel Coalition? Who’s defending the Chicago Statement here? Are you like the white man who can’t tell the difference among Asian men?

    Like

  111. Zrim –

    I want to try and address the questions you asked individually. This is one of the most interesting practical subjects for Christians – we might call it the nature and limits of 2K theology. So, here goes:

    And some could be asked in different ways, e.g. when are political views off limits and when are they not?
    I would suggest that in most cases a congregant’s political views would only come to the attention of the session if the congregant were in some way publicly advocating for a position. This is more likely an issue for a politician or activist than the average pew-sitter. If a member of Reformed Congregation X in downtown San Francisco (are there any?) votes for Mrs Pelosi or even donates to Planned Parenthood who would know if they didn’t advertise it? But if Mrs Pelosi were the congregant or if Dr. Y said he was leaving private practice to go work at Planned Parenthood as a lobbyist then it is public and known to all. And, I believe in this example, dishonors Christ and His Church and would be subject to discipline from the session as described in Scripture and the Book of Church Order. (speaking from an OPC perspective)

    Does it turn on what’s hot and what’s not? Can it be a matter of what’s hot gets a pass and doesn’t have to play by the rules?

    Possibly, elders are fallible, but as in any matter it is their responsibility to prudently and prayerfully consider the issues before them in light of Scripture, etc.

    Are political mechanisms somehow insufficient to engage political questions and require spiritual mechanisms?

    Political mechanisms may be sufficient for handling political issues, but a Christian can’t pretend that the 2 kingdoms don’t overlap each other. One cannot claim exemption from some aspect of the moral law on the basis that an action was purely political.

    Are distinctions between political views and personal behaviors ok sometimes but when it comes to political views that really bother me it’s all out the window?

    I think we are talking about church discipline here right? If so, then each session will have to use their own best judgement in light the Word, Book of Church Order, etc. Again, the session has solemn responsibilities to handle such issues with due respect and with prayerful reflection and deliberation.

    Is it possible to use spiritual tools to bludgeon my political opponent instead of using political tools and learning to live with whatever losses might come to me?

    I suppose so, but again are we talking about Church discipline or the wider culture? If Church discipline then my comments above apply. If we’re talking about the wider culture then the discussion is really about what is a just basis for a political order. Upon what do we rightly base our laws?

    We should reject the postivist notion that laws are just on the basis of a quantitative measure – 50.1% of people approved it. This can, too quickly, become an unjust exploitation by the many of the few. Examples of this are not hard to find in history. The other issue – and the one that makes so many of these issues so contentious (abortion and gay “marriage” being only examples) is that these decisions have been taken away from the people and their legislators and imposed by by fiat by an unaccountable judiciary.

    Were abortion a legislative issue left to the states it would not be as contentious as it is today and there would be better political solutions offered. And they would be solutions that most people could live with – because they’d be more tailored to the expressed will of the people and would be subject to change. This would not by itself ensure more just laws, but the method of arriving at those laws would be more just and would lend itself to a more stable political order. New York and California would have abortion on demand until the kid gets a driving license while Alabama and Indiana would not allow it at all.

    All that said, the only just basis for the political order is the moral law. And in a pluralist society we would do well to consider the 2 tables of the law separately. The political order should be most concerned with the second table – the duties man owes man. These are clearly within the necessary purview of the magistrate. And, in fact, that is where most of these controversies play out. I haven’t heard too much condemnation of politicians for allowing stores to open on the Sabbath. But basically all of the hot-button issues arise out of the real world upending of the second table of the law. I think this is also a useful way to think about where the 2 kingdoms intersect and overlap

    That’s all I’ve got for now…

    Like

  112. Publious, thanks.

    Political mechanisms may be sufficient for handling political issues, but a Christian can’t pretend that the 2 kingdoms don’t overlap each other. One cannot claim exemption from some aspect of the moral law on the basis that an action was purely political.

    Agreed. The point I’d want to push on a little harder, though, is at what point does a political view make its holder morally culpable. My own discomfort is how all too often it seems like the hotter the politics, the more inclined many seem to be moralize the politics, which seems inevitably to politicize faith. And isn’t that a problem? Maybe to some it isn’t. Abortion is our sustained example here. I seriously wonder if our conservative circles practice a kind of political correctness (or what the old timers called group think) on this one. Is it really so obvious that someone with both political power and choice views is in no different a situation as someone who either has or provides/assists an elective abortion in his/her own body? Again, as one with conservative political views on the question, it’s very difficult to answer in the affirmative without sensing I’m not only giving in to the PC but unduly wielding spiritual tools against my political opponent.

    Like

  113. Zrim –

    The point I’d want to push on a little harder, though, is at what point does a political view make its holder morally culpable.

    Good question. Hard question. To some extent the answer is always. But that doesn’t really help… The question seems to come up when a believer or nominal believer holds a political position that is apparently at odds with the clear teaching of the moral law. Abortion is morally reprehensible. Yet, what if a believer holds the position that abortion should be legal? The conflict is obvious.

    To address the issue, I would go back to the proper role of government. I think Christians including 2Kers can affirm the idea that government ought to uphold the moral law, especially and uncontroversially the second table of the law. On that basis, the Christian would need to be very cautious in advocating or supporting positions that undermine the moral law. I don’t know on what basis the Christian would take such a position. The public cases – the Pelosis, et al – are bad examples. I think we all get what they’re doing – they wrap themselves in some nominal faith to give a moralistic air to their flouting of the moral law. It’s so brazen it gives sophistry a bad name.

    But from reading your comments here, it is clear that your concern is decidedly different. If I read you right your main concern is the politicizing of the Church. That concern is wholly appropriate. One’s faith will necessarily inform one’s politics – but it should not be the other way around. And there has been a tendency over the past 20 or 30 years for the order of priority to get blurred.

    That Christians would take political action in opposition to abortion seems unremarkable – even axiomatic – but the actions of individual Christians or groups of Christians should be distinguished from what is the appropriate role of the institutional Church. And too often the Gospel and the ministry of Word and sacrament has taken a backseat to political priorities. I would say let the institutional Church fulfill its appointed mission and let Christians fulfill their roles as citizens – their political beliefs being informed by the Word.

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  114. Publius, if government is to uphold moral law then why should it allow the violations of the first four commandments? My own answer is that true piety ought not come by the point of the sword but by the power of the Spirit. But if government is to uphold the moral law, full stop, then bye bye religious freedom and the American project and hello theonomy.

    I would say let the institutional Church fulfill its appointed mission and let Christians fulfill their roles as citizens – their political beliefs being informed by the Word.

    Agreed, but if I am to let you fulfill your role as citizen, shouldn’t I let you have your political view without threatening you with spiritual sanction should you disagree with me? I know I want that from you. I also want it from my choice neighbor who is tempted to imply misogyny, i.e. hatred of my female neighbor, just because I oppose Jane’s legal freedom to terminate her pregnancy. And it seems tome that once we allow “political beliefs informed by the Word,” we end up claiming heaven for our respective political outlooks. Hello, square one. Shouldn’t political beliefs be informed more by political thought than religious conviction, just like medical opinions informed by medical knowledge, etc.?

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  115. Tom, no, that’s been pretty clearly implied so far in what I’ve said. If the test is moral in church membership, then having or providing/assisting an elective abortion in one’s own body is out. It’s one thing if Christian Jane wants to dispose of that lump in her belly (no liberty), another when she goes into the voting booth (liberty).

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  116. Zrim
    Posted October 15, 2015 at 9:28 pm | Permalink
    Tom, no, that’s been pretty clearly implied so far in what I’ve said. If the test is moral in church membership, then having or providing/assisting an elective abortion in one’s own body is out. It’s one thing if Christian Jane wants to dispose of that lump in her belly (no liberty), another when she goes into the voting booth (liberty).

    Thx for the reply. You can’t be a member in good standing if you perform abortions, but it’s OK to vote for abortion rights? Am I following correctly?

    If so, what is the Biblical warranty for this theology?

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  117. Tom, warranties are from the devil.

    But the sixth commandment should suffice for warrant. Voting isn’t murdering last I checked, unless you believe all the rhetorical hype.

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  118. Zrim
    Posted October 16, 2015 at 9:28 am | Permalink
    Tom, warranties are from the devil.

    But the sixth commandment should suffice for warrant. Voting isn’t murdering last I checked, unless you believe all the rhetorical hype.

    Give to Moloch what is Moloch’s, then. The devil indeed.

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  119. Zrim –

    …if government is to uphold moral law then why should it allow the violations of the first four commandments… But if government is to uphold the moral law, full stop, then bye bye religious freedom and the American project and hello theonomy.

    The distinction between the two tables of the law is important as it relates to understanding the requirements and limits of good government. The first table is what man owes to God. But the second table is what man owes to man as a co-equal image bearer. The purpose of good government is primarily to regulate the interaction between people and to protect the basic natural rights inherent to every person. It does not exist – at least as the Founders conceived it or as 2Kers would conceive it – to regulate the relationship between God and man. People form governments for protection – protection of life, liberty, and property. The desire to have government recognize and protect these natural rights is common to all men and is the only basis for good government. And people of different religious convictions can share this desire. That can’t be said for the first table of the law. While it is equally binding on all men it is not necessary for a just regime to enforce the first table. This is because these are largely private matters between man and God and while the first table is no less binding on all mankind and while mankind would benefit from observing it, it is not a basic requirement of government and it is not something non-Christians would agree with in any event. Not so with the second table. This where the natural law and common sense overlap the revealed moral law. And there is no reason to think that a government that upholds the 8th commandment is on a slippery slope to theonomy.

    And a note on the American project: the jury is very much out on how it will all work out. It’s been going along quite well and I am thankful for it, but times they are a changin’. The American project of the Founders was conceived by brilliant Enlightenment rationalists living in an almost exclusively Christian (nominal, cultural or otherwise) world. This meant that virtually the entire population shared certain fundamental assumptions that were formed by the morality of the Bible. But whether or not the regime they created to protect individual liberty can survive a population that does not agree on the basics is an open question. It is one thing for the Methodists and the Presbyterians to get along and agree on Constitutional government, individual liberty, freedom of religion, etc. and work out their differences through the political process. It may be quite another thing for the regime to continue on when a large part of the population rejects both the revealed moral law of the Bible and the natural law accessible through reason in favor of self-worship, cult worship, or paganism. I don’t know how that works out, but I know it represents a challenge to the foundations on which limited government constitutionalism rests.

    Shouldn’t political beliefs be informed more by political thought than religious conviction, just like medical opinions informed by medical knowledge, etc.?

    Where do those political convictions come from? If you’re talking about something like the speed limit or a flat tax versus a sales tax, you’re probably right. But the big questions are always overtly moral questions. And Christians must be guided by Scripture on those questions. Political convictions can only come from one of 3 places: revelation (Scripture), reason, the passions/emotions. Reason and revelation overlap when it comes to the second table of the law. They even overlap when it comes to the first commandments in that there is an innate sense in all mankind that God exists and should be honored. Christians can’t segregate the 2 – revelation on Sunday and pure reason the rest of week. They exist in us side by side all the time and should inform all of our decisions, not just those that are overtly political.

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  120. Publius
    Not so with the second table. This where the natural law and common sense overlap the revealed moral law. And there is no reason to think that a government that upholds the 8th commandment is on a slippery slope to theonomy.

    And a note on the American project: the jury is very much out on how it will all work out. It’s been going along quite well and I am thankful for it, but times they are a changin’. The American project of the Founders was conceived by brilliant Enlightenment rationalists living in an almost exclusively Christian (nominal, cultural or otherwise) world. This meant that virtually the entire population shared certain fundamental assumptions that were formed by the morality of the Bible. But whether or not the regime they created to protect individual liberty can survive a population that does not agree on the basics is an open question. It is one thing for the Methodists and the Presbyterians to get along and agree on Constitutional government, individual liberty, freedom of religion, etc. and work out their differences through the political process. It may be quite another thing for the regime to continue on when a large part of the population rejects both the revealed moral law of the Bible and the natural law accessible through reason in favor of self-worship, cult worship, or paganism. I don’t know how that works out, but I know it represents a challenge to the foundations on which limited government constitutionalism rests.

    …Reason and revelation overlap when it comes to the second table of the law. They even overlap when it comes to the first commandments in that there is an innate sense in all mankind that God exists and should be honored. Christians can’t segregate the 2 – revelation on Sunday and pure reason the rest of week. They exist in us side by side all the time and should inform all of our decisions, not just those that are overtly political.

    Ace stuff. And per the natural law, we are social animals, thus a radical individualism/libertarianism/r2k-ism is antithetical to both our natures and Jesus’s Second Great Commandment.

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