Y B O P C

I have already raised the question about whether belonging to a denomination like the OPC is a good thing. Now as I sit through a prolonged and valuable procedural debate at General Assembly, I wonder again why pastors who want big, contemporary congregations that appeal to Protestants without great biblical or theological discernment and who prefer up-tempo Christian songs led by praise bands (without brass instruments, mind you) — why do these officers endure the deliberations that consume sessions’, presbyteries’, and assemblies’ time and talents. What do you gain by being a minister in a Presbyterian communion like the OPC? It is not as if the OPC is a brand that attracts visitors and new members. You don’t put the OPC logo on your church signs to watch the parking lot fill. So why put up with the often baroque dealings of church courts and committee reports when you are not so particular about worship, the fine points of the confession, and the rigor of Reformed piety (e.g. Sabbath observance)?

I have come up with three reasons for people who come into the OPC and stay there.

1) Tribalism: Someone whose father or grandfather left the PCUSA in 1936 with Machen. The notion would be something like, “this is the church where my family has worshiped for three generations and so out of loyalty to my kin and I remain a true blue Orthodox Presbyterian.” Other Reformed communions, those with ethnic identities, like the CRC (Dutch-American) or RPCNA (Scots-American) have ethnic attachments that generally elude the OPC. But in some cases, you do see how family keeps some Orthodox Presbyterians Orthodox Presbyterian. (Of course, the nature of covenant nurture itself is a form of tribalism since a child baptized and nurtured in an OP family and congregation, who remains OP, does so in part as part of generational succession.)

2) The Cause: People who identify with Machen and the battle against liberalism in the church and who defend the authority of Scripture come to the OPC and stay there because the denomination is the embodiment of that cause that J. Gresham Machen led throughout the 1920s and 1930s. This was a big factor in my own joining the OPC and continuing to serve. This understanding of OPC identity has sometimes run up against a view of the OPC as a church committed to the Great Commission in which polemics and debate distract from evangelism and edification. The problem with this view is that you wouldn’t have the OPC without polemics and debate. So seeing the very pieces of the church’s DNA as antithetical to evangelism and mission is to be in denial about the denomination’s origins. For these OP’s, evangelism and edification occur in the context of polemics and debate.

3) The Reformed Faith is Pretty Good Great: Another way to identify with the OPC is to look at the central dynamics of the Reformed branch of Protestantism and try to find them in existing communions where you live. Then find and join the one that is most interested in a ministry reformed according to the word of God. Any number of communions could qualify as following in the larger footprints of the Reformation, but judging which one is most reformed according to the word determines which one you join. (Since having to think about the global history of Reformed Protestantism, I have come to regard and identify with the OPC on these grounds.)

I’m willing to lengthen my list.

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60 thoughts on “Y B O P C

  1. Dr. Hart says: “evangelism and edification occur in the context of polemics and debate.”
    While not exclusively this, this certainly is true.

    Dr. Hart says: ” Any number of communions could qualify as following in the larger footprints of the Reformation, but judging which one is most reformed according to the word determines which one you join.”
    I do wholeheartedly endorse this thought. A lot does however ride on how one defines “reformed.”

    This is a good piece Darryl, though reason #1 is a terrible reason by itself. I know you’re just reporting. 2 and 3 have righteous force.

    For the record, the reason I am not OPC, is not because I couldn’t be in good conscience.

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  2. Seattle being the least churched state there are precious few options for solid Reformed churches even in a big city like this. Leaving Lutheranism I didn’t know exactly where to go. The local OPC sings hymns but at least a cappella and solid preaching. No CRCs or URCNAs but an RPCNA was found and that’s where I landed and I’m very happy.

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  3. My first thought when I saw ‘Y B O P C’ was that the OPC is now imitating the LGBTQ… community with the adding of letters.

    My actual thought about the reformed faith is that with its emphasis on its confessions and standards, it doesn’t realize how it begins to approach how Pharisees of Jesus’s time emphsaized their ttraditions. And with that comes insularity, pride, and a diminished ability to share God’s Word with the world because there are fewer people in the world with whom we can relate and talk to.

    I would also add that sometimes those in the Reformed Faith are the inverses of rabbits. Whereas rabbits know how to multiply,those of us in the Reformed Faith know how to divide.

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  4. For me joining the OPC was the result of finding each PCA we visited in a 30 minute driving radius was pretty much a concert venue each Sunday. So we drive thirty minutes one way each Sunday, as do other members of our OPC church.

    DJR, I lived in Seattle for 12 years, understood. Very few options for a Reformed believer.

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  5. Curt, if there weren’t other options available I would attend a performance church. But there are, so I don’t.

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  6. Curt, when you become Jesus, I’ll take your point about Pharisaical traditions. Until then, we’re stuck with trying to minster (reformed according to) the word.

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  7. Could the outrage over sex and marriage among Christians be our version of tribalism?

    The problem, for Jesus, was not sex. The problem was that marriage, like other familial bonds, places on human beings a host of demands that can easily distract us from the things of God. It calls us to serve one another with absolute fidelity. It tempts us to pursue a life oriented to pleasure, property, and the pursuit of happiness. It makes us, like the rich young ruler, unlikely to be willing to take up our cross and follow Jesus once we have considered what the cost of such discipleship might be.

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  8. D.G.,
    You are proving yourself to be an authoritarian. After all, truth, for authoritarians, is determined by credentials. Truth for people who think but also submit to God’ts authority would examine my statement using the Scfptures, facts, and logic. Do you see why we have different views of the OPC?

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  9. CW,
    did you note how I compared us with the Pharisees of Jesus’s time? It wasn’t with regard to their judgmentalism. And if what I wrote is true, even if it is judgmentaltism, how is it wrong?

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  10. No Church or denomination is free from the overt/covert/accidental results of the Judaizing impulse of the flesh.. This always boils down to a host of crap required to be fully franchised within the body, (fully franchised is more than membership, it’s being fully approved of and marked acceptable by the gate keepers) . Whether it’s the party spirit of Machen/Murray/kline, the/a cause, some excruciatingly fine distinction of doctrine or misguided and zealously enforced regulative principle, the good can be twisted into a boasting self-congratulation of the flesh. Us against the maddening hoard has real appeal/ It gets the juices going. It feels good but it is just the door to another sort of bondage. The only reason to be in the OPC is it’s faithful, robust and perspicuous Gospel and the liberty of Calvinism.

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  11. Gil, yes, Hillsdale OPC. Not sure I know all other OPCs. But I participate in assemblies that assure me those churches are sound. The best I can do.

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  12. 4. My fringe issue cannot be denied. The theonomic, anti-antinomian, non-republicationist, pro-homeschool (for my brood AND yours), can’t be run out out a rail, cuz their within the pale. And we are a very tiny denomination….

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  13. Y b at some “religious” assembly when the next four “emergency” months give us an urgent choice between Hitler and Trump? Because we never have to choose between being Christians and being Americans, since we have one master for things religious and private, and another master for the common things of creation. Jesus is our Redeemer not our Creator Example or Lawgiver….

    Philippians 3:19 Their end is destruction. Their god is their belly. Their glory is in their shame. They are focused on earthly things.

    Colossians 3 So if you have been raised with the Messiah, seek what is above, where the Messiah is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on what is above, not on what is on the earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with the Messiah in God. 4 When the Messiah, who is your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. 5 Therefore, put to death your members on earth—sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry

    I Corinthians 7: 16 For you, wife, how do you know whether you will save your husband? Or you, husband, how do you know whether you will save your wife? 17 However, each one must live his life in the situation the Lord assigned WHEN GOD CALLED HIM …. Were you called while a slave? It should not be a concern to you. But if you can become free, by all means take the opportunity For he who is called by the Lord as a slave is the Lord’s freedman. Likewise he who is called as a free man is Christ’s slave. 23 You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. 24 Brothers, each person should remain with God in whatever situation he was called…..because of the present distress: It is fine for a man to remain as he is. 27 Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be loosed. Are you loosed from a wife? Do not seek a wife. 28 However, if you do get married, you have not sinned, and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But such people will have trouble in this life, and I am trying to spare you. 29 And I say this, brothers: The time is limited, so from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none, 30 those who weep as though they did not weep, those who rejoice as though they did not rejoice, those who buy as though they did not possess, 31 and those who use the world as though they did not make full use of it. For this world in its current form is passing away.

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  14. 2 Corinthians 8: 8 I am not saying this as a command. Rather, by means of the diligence of others, I am testing the genuineness of your love. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ: Though He was rich, for your sake He became poor, so that by His poverty you would become rich. 10 Now I am giving an opinion on this because it is profitable for you, who a year ago began not only to do something but also to desire it. 11 But now finish the task as well, that just as there was eagerness to desire it, so there may also be a completion from what you have. 12 For if the eagerness is there, it is acceptable ACCORDING TO WHAT ONE HAS, not according to what he does not have. 13 It is not that there may be relief for others and hardship for you, but it is a question of equality— 14 at the present time your surplus is available for their need, so their abundance may also become available for our need, so there may be equality. 15 As it has been written:

    The person who gathered much
    did not have too much,
    and the person who gathered little
    did not have too little.

    http://universitypublishingonline.org/cambridge/aaa/chapter.jsf?bid=CCO9781107280823A025&cid=CCO9781107280823A026&pageTab=ce

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  15. D.G.,
    Again, you seem to be missing the mark here. The Traditions of the Pharisees were nothing more than their interpretations of the Scriptures. What are our confessions and standards? They are our interpretations of the Scriptures. Thus, I made no implications about those who follow our confessions standards. Rather, my focus was on the confessions and standards themselves. And I wrote that so that we put our confessions and standards in their proper place. It is when we don’t put them in their proper place and we elevate above the Scriptures, that we set ourselves up into running into a host of problems.

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  16. “Calvinism far transcends all national boundaries. It is supranational.”

    at least he didn’t say supernatural, leaving room to give credit where credit is really due…which he did at the end…
    “But may we never forget that we are what we are by the grace of God alone. All that we have, we have received. Let us then give all the glory to God and take none for ourselves. Soli Deo Gloria! May we also remember that we have our God-given treasures in earthen vessels. How earthen we are! Then we shall put our trust for the future solely in the almighty Head and King of the church at the right hand of God.”

    “In a word, our church is intolerant of error. Whether tolerance is good or evil depends on that which is tolerated. To tolerate sin is an evil. To tolerate error is sin.

    hmm.
    7 The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. 8 The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.9 The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether. 10 They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.11 Moreover, by them Your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.12 Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults. 13 Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins; let them not rule over me; then I will be blameless, and I shall be acquitted of great transgression.14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heartBe acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer. Ps 19

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  17. @Curt, as a P&R eeeee-outsider (yet still appreciative of some of the scholarship that emanates from those folks), I think your comments are apt. But, nice to see that DGH is self-aware when he says “It is not as if the OPC is a brand that attracts visitors and new members” or, “This understanding of OPC identity has sometimes run up against a view of the OPC as a church….in which polemics and debate distract from evangelism and edification.” Well said.

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  18. cw l’unificateur says: …worship…pretty important

    amen, and so for you, with love below, and unificate on, cw

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  19. ycw l’unificateur says:….ye will always have with ye…..

    amen, and forever, cw. See you there -maybe we’ll even be next door neighbors! Wouldn’t that be great!!
    Have a great day with that thought!!!

    In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. John 14 2-3

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  20. Curt, but you identified with Jesus. What if you weren’t so constituted? What if you were in this with fellow presbyterians and submitted to the people you think are Pharisaical?

    Cue John Lennon.

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  21. @DGH, perhaps TKNY is rightly self-aware, and Biblically aware, that it’s right to be more focused on evangelism and edification?

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  22. @CW, “LOTS of people come”??? If they come for worship/first-table-of-the-law stuff, that’s wonderful. But, if they stay away because you’ve got an insular debating society dedicated to tearing down the TKNY’s of the world, then…..

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  23. You’re not describing any church environment with which I’m familiar, Petros. You think we are on Sunday mornings what the guy next to us thinks about TKNY? Get earnestly real.

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  24. Petros why would I want to tolerate the trajectory of TKNY? We have Vat II RC and mainline Prots. We’ve all been to this show and have the t-shirts. It’s not any mystery what they’re doing and how this ends. And as a former RC, I did this much better than what these guys could ever muster. Why should I be enthralled or interested or tolerant? I have no interest in clergy binding my conscience in accord to their political or social sensibilities. Zero, zip, nada. Here come a shoe. Please, O please tear down the TKNY’s of the world and be quick about it.

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  25. The OL fixation on tearing down TKNY is fascinating, to be sure. I guess that’s an answer to the YBOPC question — the OPC is not TKNY. Surprised that didn’t explicitly make DGH’s top 3 reasons. But Sean, to answer your question “Why should I be enthralled or interested or tolerant?”, consider “Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice.” (Phil 1:18)

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  26. Petros, at least in part, you affirm what is in question. RC’s and prots and Mormon’s and Bahai faith members all proclaim to be doing what they’re doing in the name of Christ and the gospel. We all need to work on our discernment. I’m not judging motive(pretense or in truth), I’m listening to words and observing actions. The other side of this is, that their social justice outreach is really really unimpressive. It’s easy and self-serving and convenient. Finally, I know Jones has made an argument for not expecting precision from Dr’s in their discipline, never mind staying in their lane that horse is out of the barn, but I guess I’m just ornery in my continued expectations.

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  27. Sean, you must be broadminded. The CITY (the real one) requires a deft touch, latitude, leeway. You stick to the Speedy Mart and its owners in the wake of Orlando. They need you.

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  28. CW, my wife requires that I be uber-precise in my broad mindedness. And my Paki’s may be guilty by association for all I know, but I am certain that they’re clever merchants. And nothing good happens after ten o’clock at night, anywhere.

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  29. For what it’s worth, my church back home is a Redeemer plant and they are not very good at inculcating the Reformed faith into people because they want to be “Gospel centered”. The congregants tended to be immature in the faith and the pastor was more concerned (though he means well) about “the city” than his church.

    The church I attend now is OPC going to PCA because of Kline. However, I finally feel like I’m at a church where the pastor just cares about proclaiming the Word and being faithful about worship. I can finally sing and participate in a worship service without feeling that my conscience is bound in the name of reaching “the city”.

    In short, for those that praise TKNY: As somebody who has worked behind the scenes, TKNY has its problems. And if you really expect cultural transformation to occur because of TKNY, pfffft. Talk to me when they work with poor churches in the inner city not as messiahs, but as humble helpers.

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  30. @SJGIII, “TKNY has its problems”. No doubt. So does every church. So does every church leader. Re: “congregants tended to be immature in the faith”. That’s a function of new people coming to faith in Christ, and something to be celebrated, yes? Should Paul be critiqued because the Corinthians were immature? And re: “being more concerned…about the city”. Is that ‘bad’? See Luke 19:10, Matt 9:36.

    What’s interesting about the psyche at OL is that most socially liberal causes in the public square (eg, transgender or gay issues) are met with a “yawn, no big deal, just-live-and-let-live” mentality. Per se, I’ve no problem with not being a culture warrior. But curiously, the topic of TKNY’s ministry gets raised, and egads, the OL moral outrage overfloweth on the evils perpetrated by dear Dr. Keller and his adherents. No yawns or live-and-let-live mentality there.

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  31. Petros, not mine but still appropriate, tolerance outside the church, intolerance within the church. Just like Paul in 1 Corinthians 5. Interesting how the evanjellyfish struggle with this setup. Particularly cuz they like to quote the bible a lot.

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  32. Peter, “What’s interesting about the psyche at OL is that most socially liberal causes in the public square (eg, transgender or gay issues) are met with a “yawn, no big deal, just-live-and-let-live” mentality. Per se, I’ve no problem with not being a culture warrior. But curiously, the topic of TKNY’s ministry gets raised, and egads, the OL moral outrage overfloweth on the evils perpetrated by dear Dr. Keller and his adherents.”

    That’s called discernment. You get it for free, right here at OL. You’re welcome.

    BTW, if every church has problems, why isn’t every church as special as TKNY?

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  33. @Sean, Sorry, I’m not seeing the equivalence between Paul, with apostolic authority, and who actually planted the church himself, exhorting the Corinthians, and folks w/keyboards ranting about TKNY (over whom they have zero authority) and who likely have little personal experience/knowledge of TKNY’s ministry (not that if they did, it would necessarily qualify them to be critics).

    @DGH, why DON’T you think every church is as special as TKNY’s? But, I do appreciate all the free discernment available here.

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  34. Our church likes Kline. So, there we go.

    Petros, you’re assuming these people are new Christians. Most of them are Baptists who don’t even know the church is Presbyterian or how our polity works. Look, I have no problem having new Christians in a church. But if you don’t have elders teaching the catechism to these new Christians in the name of Gospel centered, you are not being a good Presbyterian, and well, we are committed to being good Presbyterians.

    If it makes you feel better, I was trying to avoid the PCA but the PCA found me.

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  35. And Petros, it’s not bad to be concerned about the city but when it’s at the expense of what the ordained ministry is for. If Christians care about the city, they can start a non profit. Even TKNY argues that in Center Church. >_>

    And I can’t take any initiative that talks about the city when it’s run by people who are committing the same error that the Moral Majority did, but to the Left. I.E. using cult for culture. Libertarians like me are looked at as oddballs in TGC circles.

    As for the bathroom thing, I think I have different opinions from Dr. Hart. But I mean, I come to this blog to read his posts and to look at the comments. Most of the time I’m thinking about video games or Vos.

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  36. For clarification:

    My current church is in KCMO and is the Klinean OPC to PCA church.

    My home church (Florida) is TKNY.

    I like the Old Life program but I came to the Reformation via TKNY and have become more “conservative” over time as I’ve see the TKNY program fail to bring about cultural transformation, let alone balance a budget. Thus why my home church is TKNY. Also I like my friends, irrational I know.

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  37. Re: “This understanding of OPC identity has sometimes run up against a view of the OPC as a church committed to the Great Commission in which polemics and debate distract from evangelism and edification.”
    Back in the ’90’s, a popular slogan in the PCUSA was, :Doctrine divides, mission unites.” After following that mantra, they now have neither doctrine nor mission.

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  38. D.G.,
    You identified me with Jesus, I didn’t. I think because of the number of disagreements we’ve had that you assumed that my statement on equating our confessions and standards with the Pharisees’ traditions as being more accusatory than it was. I only made the comparison to give us caution on how much we should rely on the confessions and standards. That you took it to be more than that is quite understandable considering how much we disagree on things.

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  39. Petros,
    I think you overstated D.G.’s reaction to my comments. We have many disagreements so his reaction to my comments comparing the confessions and standards to the traditions of the pharisees is understandable. Other than that, thank you for supporting my view there.

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  40. ……some attend for gaining advanced social standing in the community, to gather/garner political power/support, make new clients for business, kids gaining acceptance into Christian schools……………

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