By Their Public Policy You Shall Know Them

Mainline Presbyterians are engaged in debates about church identity thanks to the Donald. The Stated Clerk of the PCUSA has written a letter instructing Donald Trump that his views on immigration are antithetical to the communion of his baptism:

Presbyterians profess a faith in Christ, whose parents were forced to flee with him to Egypt when he was an infant to save him from King Herod. Knowing our Lord was once a refugee, faithful Presbyterians have been writing church policy urging the welcome of refugees and demanding higher annual admissions into the United States since the refugee crisis of World War II. Presbyterians have a mission presence in many refugee-sending countries, including Syria and Lebanon, where we have been present since 1823. Our relationship with people of faith and communities in these countries gives us knowledge of the root causes of the flight of refugees and further cements a commitment to welcome.

Presbyterians through decades of policy have demanded humane treatment of people of all nationalities and faiths who find themselves within our borders. We have challenged our government when it neglects to acknowledge the refugee status of those fleeing persecution. We have pushed for due process at the border and we continue to petition for immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for undocumented persons.

As a Presbyterian I acknowledge my immigrant ancestors and my new immigrant sisters and brothers. I also respect that we came uninvited to a land already occupied by people. This creates a sense of humility about my citizenship that shapes my views on those who seek a place here. I hope you will find this helpful. I especially hope it will inform you on your policies going forward.

Meanwhile, Carmen Fowler LaBerge of the Presbyterian Lay Committee, also wonders if Trump knows how far he is from his fellow PCUSA Presbyterians:

Part of Trump’s challenge on this issue is that the PCUSA itself is in the midst of an identity crisis. The Moderator of the denomination has called for a national conversation to gather public opinion around the question of the PCUSA’s identity and mission. One can only hope that Trump will participate in the cattle call for what the Presbyterian Church (USA) is and is called to be.

Maybe Trump can help the denomination find its way out of its liberal political rut that has led it into an ever deepening financial and membership ditch. Maybe Trump can help make the Presbyterian Church (USA) great again. But to do so he’s going to have to begin seeing it for what it is: a denomination that has been driven off the left shoulder on every social and political issue.

People don’t believe Trump is Presbyterian because they know where the Presbyterian Church (USA) stands on issues that differ significantly from Trump’s positions.

I understand a biblical precedent exists for not praying like the Pharisee who thanked the Lord for what he was not. That kind of prayer invites a sense of superiority.

But in this case, that God that Orthodox Presbyterians became a separate Presbyterian communion almost 80 years ago. Trump’s views would be as odd in the OPC as Kevin Swanson’s.


8 thoughts on “By Their Public Policy You Shall Know Them

  1. And besides, there are so many of the rest of us who thank God we are not loyal to two kingdoms at once, one with grace (perhaps ineffectual) for the infants of first generation parents who make a subjective profession of faith, and the second kingdom with “public grace”

    Mike Horton–As Packer explains it, “love is not the whole story” . We are faced with mystery — and the two guardrails that keep us from careening off the cliff in speculation. God loves the world and calls everyone in the world to Christ outwardly through the Gospel… Both Arminians and hyper-Calvinists ignore crucial passages of Scripture, resolving the mystery in favor of the either-or. Either election or the free offer of the Gospel, conditioned on God giving faith to the sinner.

    Mike Horton–While it is among the sweetest consolations for believers, election is not the whole story of God’s dealing with this world. Does God love everybody, or is His kindness simply a cloak for His wrath — fattening the wicked for the slaughter, as some hyper-Calvinists have argued? Scripture is full of examples of God’s providential goodness, particularly in the Psalms: “The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made …. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing” (Psalm. 145:9, 16)

    Mike Horton—The doctrine we are talking about has come to be called “common grace,” in distinction from “saving grace.” Some have objected to this term (some even to the concept), insisting that there is nothing common about grace: there is only one kind of grace, which is sovereign, electing grace. However, it MUST be said that whatever kindness God shows to anyone for any reason after the fall, can ONLY be regarded as gracious. Once again, we face two guardrails that we DARE NOT transgress: God acts graciously to save the elect and also to sustain the non-elect and cause them to FLOURISH in this mortal life. .

    Psalm 73: For they have no pangs until death;
    their bodies are fat and sleek.
    5 They are not in trouble as others are…
    18 Truly you set them in slippery places.
    you make them fall to RUIN

    Mark 4: 11 And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, 12 so that
    “they will indeed see but not perceive,
    and hear but not understand,
    lest they should turn and be forgiven.” Isaiah 6:9

    mcmark—and hopefully a majority of us who don’t vote at all, not for nobody . Thank you god that i am not like those foolish voters…


  2. Trump’s views would be as odd in the OPC as Kevin Swanson’s.

    Did the OPC call for open borders and flouting of the law and I missed it?


  3. David –
    If a church won’t define its borders in terms of doctrine perhaps defining the communion by political affiliation is all that is left.

    The PCUSA isn’t into borders of any kind. I’m sensing a theme.


  4. First, the weaknesses and failings of the PCUSA, which are many, should not take away from the legitimate contributions such as the letter quoted above.

    As for the contribution from the Presbyterian Lay Committee, the writer might want to consider whether he and those like him have become a reverse mirror image of the PCUSA rather than a representative of the Gospel.


  5. Excerpts from the essay Make War No More? by D.G. Hart (Always Reformed: Essays in Honor of W. Robert Godfrey)-

    When Machen wrote that liberalism was un-Christian he did so within the context of a church, the PCUSA, which functioned very much like a old boys’ club where accusations of infidelity were not only in bad taste but also constituted a breach of the ninth commandment…

    Machen’s defense of militancy went in two directions. The first was to argue for the civil necessity of intolerance. The state, he wrote, was an involuntary organization and so citizens, by virtue of being born into it were forced to be members of it whether they wanted to or not. For the state, therefore, “to prescribed any one type of opinion or any one type of opinion or education for its citizens” was the crassest form of intolerance. In other words, the modern state was ideally a tolerant society. But churches were different. By nature churches and other kinds of voluntary organizations were inherently intolerant or else they would “cease to exist…”

    The second argument for combativeness was to go to Scripture itself… he defended intolerance again but this time linked it directly to the gospel. He declared, To pray for tolerance without careful definition of that of which you are to be tolerant, is just to pray for the breakdown of the Christian religion; for the Christian religion is intolerant to the core. There lies the whole offense of the Cross–and also the whole power of it. Always the gospel would have been received with favor by the world if it had been presented merely as one way of salvation; the offense came because it was presented as the only way, and because it made relentless war upon all other ways.

    … The offense of the cross and the claims of Christ upon the believer made it impossible for the church and the Christian individual to avoid controversy, “Show me a professing Christian of whom all men speak well, and I will show you a man who is probably unfaithful to His Lord”… A Christian who avoids argument,” he argued, “is not the Christianity of the New Testament…”

    “Controversy,” Stonehouse wrote, “lays bare sins and weaknesses which must be deplored and overcome. But controversy is also a necessary feature of the life of the Church of Christ as it wages its battle for the truth.” In fact, “only a dead church” would be without controversy in “days of unbelief and ungodliness, of doctrinal indifferentism and lukewarmness and compromise.” Consequently, disputes within the church, according to Stonehouse, would actually be the basis for encouragement. Folks who do not see the error of their position would, of course, think that controversy with them, at least, was wrong and unnecessary.

    But Machen knew that militancy was not simply part of his heritage at Old Princeton. It was part and parcel of being a follower of Jesus Christ. As he told Westimentster students in 1931,
    I we face the real situation in the church and in the world, and decide, despite that situation, to stand firmly for the gospel of Christ, we shall be very likely indeed to find ourselves engaged in controversy. But if we are going to avoid controversy, we might as well close our Bibles, for the New Testament is a controversial book practically from beginning to end. The New Testament writers and our Lord himself presented truth in sharp contrast with error, and indeed that is the only way in which truth can be presented in any clear and ringing way.


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