Presbyterianism In Secret or in Private?

1“Beware of practicing your righteousness Presbyterianism before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

2“Thus, when you give to the needy commission deaconesses, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

So what does it mean when a pastor is Presbyterian in name but known nationally and interdenominationally by his own evangelical brand? You could say, he is practicing his Presbyterianism in secret and God, who sees in secret, will reward such Protestantism. He keeps his Presbyterianism to himself. Likewise, it could be that the critics of parachurch evangelicalism on Presbyterian grounds are the hypocrites who practice their Presbyterianism in public by identifying with a particular denomination or communion and letting that shape their reputation. This is a form of practicing Presbyterianism for others to see.

But what if practicing Presbyterianism in secret also cuts you off from practicing evangelicalism in public? Isn’t the point of the Sermon on the Mount partly to avoid hypocrisy? In which case, ministering in a Presbyterian church is inconsistent with ministering in an interdenominational setting. And avoiding an evangelical ministry because of Presbyterian convictions is a version of practicing Presbyterianism in secret since the confessional Presbyterian’s absence from the Gospel-Industrial-Complex conference is invisible — no one knows the Presbyterian isn’t there or why he or she is not.

So isn’t an application of Christ’s warnings about practicing piety in public that you better mean what you believe (and oh, by the way, vow)? And if you mean what you confess as a Presbyterian, why and how can you minister with non-Presbyterians?

52 thoughts on “Presbyterianism In Secret or in Private?

  1. There are two ways of being in the one covenant of grace– external and internal and only God knows who’s who and so there is no point to asking anybody for a profession of faith. Only God knows for certain who is elect, so there is no point of talking about election. Why narrow or exclude anybody from being in the covenant?

    How is wanting a public profession of being Presbyterian different from asking for a public profession of some subjective revival-style “conversion” from a parent before the administration of the sacrament threat/promise to their children? If the clergyman has signed the Confession (and not renounced his signature), how much more endeavor and emotion must he display to satisfy you about his being truly Presbyterian? As long as the parent has not rejected the covenant in public, what more “certainty” or “sincerity” do you ask before rejecting his children for water baptism?

    Robert Godfrey—-“The early Reformers such as John Calvin did not identify discipline as a mark of the church. Calvin certainly recognized the vital importance of discipline and even called it “the sinew of the church.” Perhaps he felt that discipline was too subjective to function well as a mark. How faithful must a church be in discipline to qualify as a true church? But later Reformers saw the mark of discipline as one way of testing Calvin’s concern that the Word not only be preached but be truly received. ”

    Godfrey—“If we focus on the mark of the sacraments, history shows us that the confessionally Reformed did not believe that the Lutheran doctrine of the Lord’s Supper was perfect, but they did believe that the Lutheran churches were true churches. Indeed, the Zwinglian doctrine of the eucharist is not perfect (and probably cannot be conformed to the high Calvinist eucharistic theology in the Belgic Confession), but the Reformed always acknowledged that the Reformed church in Zurich was a true church. The Dutch Reformed invited that true Reformed church to the Synod of Dort in 1618.”

    Click to access BCC_Godfrey.pdf


  2. I’ve always wondered. Why is Keller allowed to plant non-Presbyterian churches when Machen was kicked out of PCUSA for starting an independent missions agency?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. @dgh, just curious, thanks to your erudite posts, how many pro-TKNY people do you think you’ve been able to persuade to become anti-TKNY people?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Crossed Fingers: How the Liberals Captured the Presbyterian Church, by Gary North, 1134 pages (A 50% discount is offered to all church officers if the order is submitted on your church’s letterhead stationery.) Reviewed by the Editor, Ordained Servant

    I first became interested in what I will call the Machen era while I was a student at Pittsburgh-Xenia Seminary. Edwin Rian’s book had whetted a strong desire to know more about this incredible history, but such information was not easy to find. It was for this reason that I asked for—and was granted—a personal interview with Clarence E. Macartney to get his slant on these events. But even this did not fill the void. Now, however, this vacuum has at least begun to be filled with the publication of such books as Longfield’s The Presbyterian Controversy, and Hart and Muether’s Fighting the Good Fight. I have found all of these to be helpful, but in many ways this contribution from Gary North tops them all.

    (1) North clearly and convincingly traces the roots of the failure of the conservative effort in the PCUSA back to the Old School/New School divisions, and to the doctrinal compromises that came with the restored “unity.” (2) He also shows more effectively than anything I’ve seen the strategy and monetary sources of the liberal onslaught. It was never so clear to me before how much the Rockefeller millions affected the whole process of change in both the church and the nation. (3) And most important of all I think he really does prove the validity of the book’s title. the basic problem really was the problem of “crossed fingers.”

    Think of names such as Woodrow Wilson, Harry E. Fosdick, Margaret Sanger or Pearl S. Buck (and a host of other players in the drama of this era). North gives his opinion of many of these together with at least some of the evidence that brought him to form his opinion. And—for what it is worth—in nearly every case I found myself somewhat surprised at the extent in which our opinions are in agreement. But then there was J. Gresham Machen. And even though North finds it necessary to quite candidly point out some very serious weaknesses in Machen’s position, the man’s character—and worth—shine forth in this fascinating book with greater lustre than ever before.


  5. Sincere Petros, a better question is how many benighted baptists and amorphous evangelicals has Keller persuaded to transition to biblical Christianity (presbyterianism)? If the answer is “not many” we should ask why that is.


  6. John, the allowance of Keller’s, er…adventures is the primary thing that separates the PCA from the Ugly Little Sisters of NAPARC. Among them, all huddled together curling each others’ hair on Friday night (and Saturday night, too) we may find cooperation between denoms but no planting of baptist, charismatic, Anglican, Lutheran, generic, etc. churches.


  7. @cw, your question is a good one too! My take is that TKNY has made the PCA, at least, a somewhat attractive church option for those benighted Baptists and other amorphous evangelicals. But, I suppose that begs the further question of whether the PCA is an acceptable incarnation of Biblical Christianity, or not. What do you think?


  8. John,

    I’ve always wondered. Why is Keller allowed to plant non-Presbyterian churches when Machen was kicked out of PCUSA for starting an independent missions agency?

    Lots of reasons. I can think of at least four:

    1. PCA has a terminal niceness problem that the PCUSA never did.
    2. Machen preached a different gospel than the PCUSA did. Whatever problems Keller and the PCA have, both are preaching an essentially biblical gospel, I would say.
    3. PCA seems to be more lax at following its BCO in certain ways than the PCUSA was, probably because the PCA remembers the BCO being used against them before they left the mainline.
    4. Keller is on the surface more attractive to the general culture than Machen was. It’s harder to discipline the guy who seems to be having a cultural impact when, as the one Covenant College professor said regarding the difference between the PCA and the OPC (can’t remember his name, but I think it was an interview on Presbycast where I heard it), “The PCA has cultural aspirations but the OPC does not.”


  9. The warnings about practicing piety in public contain more specifics than that. The warnings include the motive of practicing piety in public in order to get personal praise and the approval of people.


  10. VV, been there, done that.

    “Brethren,’ says the Apostle, ‘I beseech you by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.’ In the presence of that Redeemer by whom Paul adjures us, we avow our fixed adherence to those standards of doctrine and order in their obvious and intended sense, which we have heretofore subscribed under circumstances the most impressive. In the same spirit we do therefore solemnly acquit ourselves in the sight of God, of all responsibility arising from the existence of those divisions and disorders in our Church, which spring from a disregard of assumed obligations, a departure from doctrines deliberately professed, and a subversion of forms publicly and repeatedly approved. By the same high authority, and under the same weighty sanctions, we do avow our fixed purpose to strive for the restoration of purity, peace, and scriptural order to our Church; and to endeavour to exclude from her communion those who disturb her peace, corrupt her testimony, and subvert her established forms. And to the end that the octrinal errors of which we complain may be fully known, and the practical evils under which the body suffers be clearly set forth, and our purposes in regard to both be distinctly understood, we adopt this Act and Testimony.


    “l. We do bear our solemn testimony against the right claimed by many of interpreting the doctrines of our standards in a sense different from the general sense of the Church for years past, whilst they still continue in our communion: on the contrary, we aver, that they who adopt our standards, are bound by candour and the simplest integrity, to hold them in their obvious, accepted sense.

    “2. We testify against the unchristian subterfuge to which some have recourse, when they avow a general adherence to our standards as a system, while they deny doctrines essential to the system, or hold doctrines at complete variance with the system.

    “3. We testify against the reprehensible conduct of those in our communion, who hold, and preach, and publish Arminian and Pelagian heresies, professing at the same time to embrace our creed, and pretending that these errors do consist therewith.

    “4. We testify against the conduct of those, who, while they profess to approve and adopt our doctrine and order, do, nevertheless, speak and publish, in terms, or by necessary implication, that which is derogatory to both, and which tends to bring both into disrepute

    “5. We testify against the following as a part of the errors, which are held and taught by many persons in our Church:


    “l. OUR RELATION TO ADAM.–That we have no more to do with the first sin of Adam than with the sins of any other parent.

    “2. NATIVE DEPRAVITY.–That there is no such thing as original sin; that infants come into the world as perfectly free from corruption of nature as Adam was when he was created; that by original sin nothing more is meant than the fact that all the posterity of Adam, though born entirely free from moral defilement, will always begin to sin when they begin to exercise moral agency, and that this fact is somehow connected with the fall of Adam.

    “3. IMPUTATION.–That the doctrine of imputed sin and imputed righteousness is a novelty, and is nonsense.

    “4. ABILITY.–That the impenitent sinner is by nature, and independently of the aid of the Holy Spirit, in full possession of all the powers necessary to a compliance with the commands of God: and that if he laboured under any kind of inability, natural or moral, which he could not remove himself, he would be excusable for not complying with God’s will.

    “5. REGENERATION.–That man’s regeneration is his own act; that it consists merely in the change of our governing purpose, which change we must ourselves produce.

    “6. DIVINE INFLUENCE.–That God cannot exert such an influence on the minds of men as shall make it certain that they will choose and act in a particular manner without destroying their moral agency; and that, in a moral system, God could not prevent the existence of sin, or the present amount of sin, however much he might desire it.

    “7. ATONEMENT.–That Christ’s sufferings were not truly and properly vicarious.

    “Which doctrines and statements are dangerous and heretical, contrary to the gospel of God, and inconsistent with our Confession of Faith. We are painfully alive also to the conviction that unless a speedy remedy be applied to the abuses which have called forth this Act and Testimony, our Theological Seminaries will soon be converted into nurseries to foster the noxious errors which are already so widely prevalent, and our Church funds will be perverted from the design for which they were originally contributed.


    “The necessary consequence of the propagation of these and similar errors amongst us has been the agitation and division of our Churches, and ecclesiastical bodies; the separation of our Ministers, Elders, and people into distinct parties; and the great increase of causes of mutual alienation.

    “Our people are no longer as one body of Christians; many of our Church Sessions are agitated by the tumultuous spirit of party; our Presbyteries are convulsed by collisions growing out of the heresies detailed above, and our Synods and our Assembly are made theatres for the open display of humiliating scenes of human passion and weakness. Mutual confidence is weakened; respect for the supreme judicatory of our Church is impaired; our hope that the dignified and impartial course of justice would flow steadily onward, has expired; and a large portion of the religious press is made subservient to error. The ordinary course of discipline, arrested by compromises, in which the truth is always loser, and perverted, by organized combinations, to personal, selfish, and party ends, ceases altogether, and leaves every one to do what seems good in his own eyes. The discipline of the Church rendered more needful than ever before, by the existence of numberless cases, in which Christian love to erring brethren, as well as a just regard to the interests of Zion, imperiously call for its prompt, firm, and temperate exercise, is absolutely prevented by the operation of the very causes which demand its employment. At the last meeting of the General Assembly, a respectful memorial presented in behalf of eleven Presbyteries, and many Sessions, and individual members of our Church, was treated without one indication of kindness, or manifestation of any disposition to concede a single request that wits made. It was sternly frowned upon, and the memorialists were left to mourn under their grievances, with no hope of alleviation from those who ought to have at least shown tenderness and sympathy, as the nursing fathers of the Church, even when that which was asked was refused to the petitioners. At the same time, they, who have first corrupted our doctrines, and then deprived us of the ordinary means of correcting the evils they have produced, seek to give permanent security to their errors and to themselves, by raising an outcry in the churches, against all who love the truth well enough to contend for it.

    “Against this unusual, unhappy, and ruinous condition we do bear our clear and decided testimony in the presence of the God of all living; we do declare our firm belief, that it springs primarily from the fatal heresies countenanced in our body; and we do avow our deliberate purpose, with the help of God, to give our best endeavours to correct it.


    “We believe that the form of government of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, is, in all essential features, in full accordance with the revealed will of God; and therefore whatever impairs its purity, or changes its essential character, is repugnant to the will of our Master. In what light then shall we be considered, if professing to revere this system, we calmly behold its destruction, or connive at the conduct of those engaged in tearing up its deep foundations?

    “Some of us have long dreaded the spirit of indifference to the peculiarities of our Church order, which we supposed was gradually spreading amongst us. And the developments of later years have rendered it most certain, that as the perversion of our doctrinal formularies, and the engrafting of new principles and practices upon our Church constitution, have gone hand in hand, so the original purity of the one cannot be restored without a strict and faithful adherence to the other. Not only then for its own sake, do we love the Constitution of our Church, as a model of all free institutions, and as a clear and noble exhibition of the soundest principles of civil and religious liberty; not only do we venerate its peculiarities, because they exhibit the rules by which God intends the affairs of his Church on earth to be conducted; but we cling to its venerable ramparts, because they afford a sure defence of those precious, though despised, doctrines of grace, the pure transmission of which has been entrusted as a sacred duty to the Church.

    “It is therefore with the deepest sorrow that we behold our Church tribunals, in various instances, imbued with a different spirit, and fleeing on every emergency to expedients unknown to the Christian simplicity and uprightness of our forms, and repugnant to all our previous habits. It is with pain and distrust that we see, sometimes, the helpless inefficiency of mere advisory bodies contended for and practised, when the occasion called for the free action of our laws; and sometimes the full and peremptory exercise of power, almost despotic, practised in cases where no authority existed to act at all. It is with increasing alarm that we behold a fixed design to organize new tribunals upon principles repugnant to our system, and directly subversive of it, for the obvious purpose of establishing and propagating the heresies already recounted, of shielding from just process the individuals who held them, and of arresting the wholesome discipline of the Church. We do therefore testify against all these departures from the true principles of our Constitution; against the formation of new Presbyteries and Synods, otherwise than upon the established rules of our Church; or for other purposes than the edification and enlargement of the Church of Christ; and we most particularly testify against the formation of any tribunal, in our Church, upon what some call principles of elective affinity; against the exercise by the General Assembly of any power not clearly delegated to it; and the exercise even of its delegated powers for purposes inconsistent with the design of its creation.


    “Dear Christian Brethren, you who love Jesus Christ in sincerity and truth, and adhere to the plain doctrines of the cross as taught in the standards prepared by the Westminster Assembly, and constantly held by the true Presbyterian Church; to all of you who love your ancient and pure Constitution, and desire to restore our abused and corrupted Church to her simplicity, purity, and truth, we, a portion of yourselves, Ministers and Elders of your churches, and servants of one common Lord, would propose, most respectfully and kindly, and yet most earnestly,

    “l. That we refuse to give countenance to Ministers, Elders, agents, editors, teachers, or to those who are in any other capacity engaged in religious instruction and effort, who bid the preceding or similar heresies.

    “2. That we make every lawful effort to subject all such persons, especially if they be Ministers, to the just exercise of discipline by the proper tribunal.

    “3. That we use all proper means to restore the discipline of the Church, in all its courts, to a sound, just, Christian state.

    “4. That we use our endeavours to prevent the introduction of new principles into our system, and to restore our tribunals to their ancient purity.

    “5. That we consider the Presbyterial existence or acts of any Presbytery or Synod formed upon the principles of elective affinity, as unconstitutional, and all Ministers and Churches, voluntarily included in such bodies, as having virtually departed from the standards of our Church.

    “6. We recommend that all Ministers, Elders, Church Sessions, Presbyteries, and Synods, who approve of this Act and Testimony, give their public adherence thereto, in such manner as they shall prefer, and communicate their names, and when a Church court, a copy of their adhering act.

    “7. That inasmuch, as our only hope of improvement and reformation in the affairs of our Church depends on the interposition of Him, who is King in Zion, that we will unceasingly and importunately supplicate a Throne of Grace, for the return of that purity and peace, the absence of which we now sorrowfully deplore.

    “8. We do earnestly recommend that on the second Thursday of May, 1835, a Convention be held in the city of Pittsburgh, to be composed of two delegates, a Minister and Ruling Elder from each Presbytery, or from the minority of any Presbytery, who may concur in the sentiments of this Act and Testimony, to deliberate and consult on the present state of our Church, and to adopt such measures as may be best suited to restore her prostrated standards.

    “And now, brethren, our whole heart is laid open to you, and to the world. If the majority of our Church are against us, they will, we suppose, in the end, either see the infatuation of their course, and retrace their steps, or they will, at last, attempt to cut us off. If the former, we shall bless the God of Jacob; if the latter, we are ready for the sake of Christ, and in support of the Testimony now made, not only to be cut off, but if need be, to die also. If, on the other hand, the body be yet in the main, sound, as we would fondly hope, we have here, frankly, openly, and candidly, laid before our erring brethren the course we are, by the grace of God, irrevocably determined to pursue. It is our steadfast aim to reform the Church, or to testify against its errors and defections, until testimony will be no longer heard. And we commit the issue into the hands of Him who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.”

    “Ministers.–James Magraw, Robert J. Breckinridge, James Latta, Ashbel Green, Samuel D. Blythe, S. H. Crane, J. W. Scott, William Latta, Robert Steel, Alexander A. Campbell, John Gray, James Scott, Joshua L. Wilson, Alexander M’Farlane, Jacob Coon, Isaac N. Candee, Robert Love, James W. M’Kennan, David R. Preston, William Wylie, William M. Engles, Cornelius H. Mustard,* James C. Watson, William L. Breckinridge, John A. Symmes, J. V. Brown, David M’Kinney, George Marshall, Ebenezer H. Snowden, Oscar Harris, William J. Gibson, William Sickles, Benjamin F. Spillman, George D. McCuenn, George W. Janvier, Samuel G. Winchester, George Junkin.

    “Elders.–Samuel Boyd, Edward Vanhorn, Williamson Dunn, James Algeo, James Agnew, Henry McKeen, Charles Davis, William Wallace, A. D. Hepburn, Joseph P. Engles, James M’Farren, A. Symington, A. Bayless, Wm. Agnew, George Morris, Hugh Campbell, Thomas McKcen, James Wilson, Daniel B. Price, Carver Hotchkiss, Charles Woodward, W. A. G. Posey, James Carnahan, Moses Reed, James Steel, George Durfor, John Sharp.”

    But if you want to be a New School Presbyterian, fine. Just remember, it leads to Union Seminary (NYC), Fosdick, and William Sloane Coffin.

    Have a nice day.


  11. Robert, but you forget that Machen also received praise from cultural elites like Walter Lippmann and H. L. Mencken. But those elites were not utilitarian about religion the way Keller’s praisers are. For Keller’s group, religion is a good thing and the more of it the better — Jewish, mainline, evangelical, even Presbyterian. Don’t get bogged down on details. We need faith to make people better.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Reading Hart’s work in grad school certainly shifted my opinion about the wisdom of parachurch organizations and made me skeptical of inter-ecclesiastical church planting movements. My friend who introduced me to Hart’s work made a similar shift from evangelicalism to confessional protestantism. I don’t know that either of us would say we are anti-TKNY, but we it is fair to say that we each of significant reservations. So that’s two any way…


  13. So Machen and C. S Lewis and Tim Keller teach the same “essentially biblical gospel” ?

    Tim Keller (in a sermon about crossing the Jordan at the Gospel Coalition) taught that Christ’s death makes salvation possible, and that the difference depends on how you respond to this possibility

    Tim Keller in a sermon to the “public” after 9/11 — “We are an interfaith gathering today, and I freely acknowledge that every faith has great resources for dealing with suffering and injustice in the world. …Christians believe that in Jesus, God’s Son, divinity became vulnerable to and involved in suffering and death. …..True, we don’t know the reason God ALLOWS evil and suffering to continue, but we know what the reason isn’t, what it can’t be. It can’t be that God doesn’t love us. God so loved us and hates suffering that God was willing to come down and get involved in suffering. And therefore the cross is an incredibly empowering hint….

    Robert Godfrey, Facing the Arminian Challenge

    Calvin—They refer to divine permission…But since the Holy Spirit clearly expresses the fact that blindness and insanity are inflicted by God’s just judgment [Romans 1.20-24], such a solution is absurd. It is said that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart [Ex.9.12], also that God made it heavy [ch.10.1] and stiffened it [chs. 10.20,27; 11.10; 14.8]…If “to harden” denoted bare permission, the prompting to obstinacy would not exist in Pharaoh. Indeed how weak and foolish it would be to interpret this as if Pharaoh only allowed himself to be hardened. … Divine providence is the determinative principle for all human plans and works, not only in order to display its force in the elect, who are ruled by the Holy Spirit, but also to compel the reprobate

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Petros, as an officer in the PCA I’m hoping for more than mere not-liberal-for-the-moment generic acceptability.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. b, sd, I do not think I am anti-Keller. I am anti-TKNY hype (and there is so so so much of it). Sorry to say, but Keller himself doesn’t discourage the hype.


  16. McGregor Wright, late author of No Place for Sovereignty—-When Francis Schaeffer’s writings were introduced to the well meaning, well doing, young, evangelical it went down the throat like mother’s milk. “Calvinist” was questionable and, at best, risky business. Nobody wanted to connect Schaeffer with “Calvinist”, and “Presbyterian” was a dangerous label as well. Just ask Bill Bright what is important to Chrstianity and that will be Schaeffer’s Evangelical Credential. All the things Schaeffer said were said out of the “Evangelical” megaphone. Everybody looked at Schaeffer and then looked at each other and said “A OK!

    McGregor Wright asked Schaeffer why, as a confessing Calvinist, he would teach “a version of ‘free will’ that looked much like Arminianism. Schaeffer said he wanted students to clearly see that Christianity is different from “the ‘determinism’ emphasized in the psychology and sociology courses of the secular campus.

    Bryan A. Follis in Truth with Love; The Apologetics of Francis Schaeffer notes in reference to Schaeffer’s 1948 article:
    “It is fascinating to note that by 1963 the reference to “predestination” and “the elect” had been dropped and that by 1968 the sentence referring to God’s mercy in saving men had been cut out. Was Schaeffer becoming more rationalist?”

    Douma—The question Follis should have asked is, “Was Schaeffer becoming more Arminian? Follis, writing favorably on Schaeffer, answers that Schaeffer was just tailoring his speech to his audience. That might be so. Schaeffer only stopped speaking “Calvinistic” because of his audience


  17. VV,
    I and no doubt a few others are curious to read any response you may give to DG’s quote given to your comments and question to DG. Are you working on one?
    I look at Redeemer church information and wonder with amazement how TK is still classed as a Presbyterian minister. The virtually complete absence of Presbyterian ecclesiology in both Redeeemer and the TK influenced City to City church planting scheme makes me wish Tim would graciously transition to a more honest position in an evangelical denomination.


  18. DGH, per John 11:45 I acccept that religious leaders (including maybe a Pharisee or more) were turned by this most miraculous sign, a failure to mention them later by name or action does not change my view.


  19. Gerson explains why it’s respectable to be Presbyterian (and not so bad to be caught in the net of Bush/ Graham political ideology), but how Donald Trump is not really one of them.

    “My alma mater, Wheaton College, was founded by abolitionist evangelicals in 1860 under the leadership of Jonathan Blanchard, an emblematic figure in mid-19th-century Northern evangelicalism. Blanchard was part of a generation of radical malcontents produced by the Second Great Awakening, a religious revival that had touched millions of American lives in the first half of the 19th century. He was a Presbyterian minister… Tim Keller—who is not a Trump loyalist—recently wrote in The New Yorker, “ ‘Evangelical’ used to denote people who claimed the high moral ground; now, in popular usage, the word is nearly synonymous with ‘hypocrite.’ ” So it is little wonder that last year the Princeton Evangelical Fellowship, an 87-year-old ministry, dropped the “E word” from its name, becoming the Princeton Christian Fellowship: Too many students had identified the term with conservative political ideology…”

    Petr Chelčický —-The emperor and the pope are the two great whales that burst the net of faith.

    Matthew 4: 8 The devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And the devil said to him, “All these I will give you.”


  20. DGH – I asked you for a reference from Scripture, Confession, or BCO. You provided none of these. Instead you provide a document that is only tangentially related (and barely, at that) to the issue of cooperating in ministry with other select Protestant denominations. It is non-binding on all current NAPARC churches; it is of historical interest, and little else. The bottom line is you didn’t provide any actual binding, constitutional references from any NAPARC denominations because there are none. Not only that, but the issues in the Old School/New School debate are not the same issues we are addressing here. I know you are an historian, but it’s 2018, not 1834. Wake up.

    Paul – see above.

    cw – “Sincere Petros, a better question is how many benighted baptists and amorphous evangelicals has Keller persuaded to transition to biblical Christianity (presbyterianism)? If the answer is ‘not many’ we should ask why that is.”

    The answer to “why that is” probably has to do with the fact that such action is unprecedented in Scripture and Confession. Should we focus more on converting the reprobate to the Gospel or the non-Presbyterian believer to Presbyterianism? The larger issue here is the definition of a true church. If “baptist, charismatic, Anglican, Lutheran, generic, etc. churches” – to use your list – are true churches, then cooperating with and helping plant these churches is not prima facie objectionable, doctrinally flawed as those churches may be. If they are not true churches, then the burden of proof is on you to demonstrate why, and you will have a terrible time doing that based on the historic Reformed definition of a true church.


  21. @dgh and @cw,

    “I do not think I am anti-Keller. I am anti-TKNY hype….Keller himself doesn’t discourage the hype”.

    Most of the time you bemoan Keller’s non-presby church-planting activities, or allowing women in leadership, etc. Can you advise how those issues have anything to do with ‘hype’? They do not seem to have anything to do with hype, and only have to do with a diff of philosophy of ministry/ecclesiology.

    But, on the topic of ‘hype’, what exactly do you suggest Mr. Keller do to “discourage the hype”? Please include in your response why you believe your prescription for him will be effective against hype. Nice, too, if you could provide an example of a celebrity who discouraged hype and thus became a non-celebrity. Many thanks.


  22. The wonder working power of Gerson prose—“Rather than choosing their own agendas, evangelicals have been pulled into a series of social and political debates started by others. Why the asinine issue of spiritually barren prayer in public schools?”

    Denny Burke—For Gerson, Trump support is a test of orthodoxy. Anyone who voted for Trump has joined the heresy and has earned their condemnation

    Scott McNight—Gerson went to Wheaton, which meant that he read H. Richard Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture… every Wheaton student reads a book on theories of social engagement and, from what I am told, the professors are mostly “influentialists” or “transformationalists.” So, let’s not say evangelicals don’t have a theory. They do: they think they are called to exercise influence in the public sector by invading all areas of social life in order to make a difference toward the kingdom of God….. Abraham Kuyper was behind the resurgent political activism of the Reagan era. Maybe the most important intellectual behind that resurgence was Francis Schaeffer and he had a theory and it was Kuyperian at some level . Falwell and Dobson and Kennedy (who was Kuyperian and PRESBYTERIAN) were given more platform by Schaeffer’s accessible writings


  23. Schaeffer requested that the Wheaton lectures should not be promoted as evangelistic meetings in the common understanding of the word and suggested a title something like: “Christian Reality, Intellectually and In Practice in the Second Half of the Twentieth Century.”

    Since the clergy not the laity do the theology, if the clergy don’t do the theology, then nobody does the theology and what we have left is architecture, art, literature, and social science (politics and history). When a clergyman does apologetic “pre-evangelism” even in a private Presbyterian “church”, the integration of “elite culture” with the Arminian gospel of Billy Graham and C S Lewis cannot afford to waste time on Confessional details.

    Christ, in the work of mediation, acts according to both natures, by each nature doing that which is proper to itself; yet, by reason of the unity of the person, that which is proper to one nature is sometimes in Scripture attributed to the person denominated by the other nature. To all those for whom Christ has purchased redemption, He does certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same; making intercession for them, and revealing unto them, in and by the word, the mysteries of salvation; effectually persuading them by His Spirit to believe and obey, and governing their hearts by His word and Spirit; overcoming all their enemies by His almighty power and wisdom, in such manner, and ways, as are most consonant to His wonderful and unsearchable dispensation


  24. vv, well, if you think the Old School New School controversy is of little interest except for history, then Keller should never have studied or taught at Westminster (Old School) and he should be in a Presbyterian communion untouched by that controversy. The PCA started out heavily Old School.

    But just stick your fingers in your ears. It must be hard drinking koolaid without hands.


  25. Peter, if those issues mattered at all to the hypers, then there wouldn’t be hype. So you have folks who are Keller and folks who are Presbyterian. You side with Keller and then mock Presbyterians for wondering about Keller’s Presbyterianism.

    Why don’t you write Keller and plead with him to be Baptist?


  26. @dgh
    “ The PCA started out heavily Old School.“
    That’s interesting. I always understood Kennedy to be at the center of the early PCA. I never thought of him as an old school type. Am I overestimating Kennedy’s centrality to the PCA or his place on the old/new spectrum?


  27. Mike Horton–The Belgic Confession treats the marks of the true Christian (faith in Christ, following after righteousness, love of God and neighbor, mortification of the flesh)as the marks of the true church (Art 29). Although assurance of God’s favor is founded solely on his promise of justification in Christ, “we do good so that we may be assured of our faith by its fruits, and so that by our godly living our neighbors may be won over to Christ” (Heidelberg Catechism, Q. 86). Personal faith, repentance, and growth in godliness are enjoined in the Westminster Confession (chapters 13-16). There is no hint of the public and corporate means of grace being opposed to one’s personal relationship to Christ. It would be ironic—and tragic—if “confessionalism” became identified with positions that are actually inimical to the confessions themselves. Jonathan Edwards and John Williamson Nevin have become flag-bearers for Calvinistic “pietism” and “confessionalism,” respectively. However, in my view, both are somewhat idiosyncratic representatives of the Reformed tradition.

    John Muether–The disappointing feature of Hankins’s book is that, despite its subtitle, the book offers no reference to Woodrow Wilson’s service as a Presbyterian ruling elder (the dustjacket notes his election to the office in 1897, at the age of 40). However his Presbyterian convictions evolved, Wilson maintained the regular practice of the Reformed piety of his youth. He was a faithful church-goer throughout his life, occupying the third pew at Central Presbyterian Church during his White House years. His daughters memorized the Westminster Shorter Catechism and he faithfully maintained family devotions.In Hankins’s narrative Wilson emerges as the prototype of the modernist that Machen describes in his manifesto, Christianity and Liberalism (1923), clinging to a Christian faith that was “gutted of its content.” Hankins elaborates: “Wilson’s optimism concerning the power of humankind to do good hailed not from his Reformed heritage but from liberal theology, the Social Gospel, progressivism, and, ultimately, the romantic spiritualization of religion to the point that it existed everywhere and therefore nowhere” (213).

    “Wilson loved the church, and he wanted to make it central to all of life, but he always fumbled around when trying to figure out what the church actually was” (137). The social gospel, in effect, rendered the church redundant. “Once everything is God’s work … Wilson … struggled to find something unique for the church to do” (138). What ultimately counted for Wilson, “whether in politics or religion, was doing good” (105). This is precisely the moralistic counterfeit of Christianity that Machen would go on to portray in his book. Wilson’s life is the odyssey of a southern old school Presbyterian into a northern Presbyterian modernist…We would do well to guard ourselves against the naiveté of his moralism. ”

    “This raises one more commonality between Wilson and Machen – both lives ended tragically. After the war, Wilson’s idealism took a new cause, the League of Nations, which he promoted with the zeal of a revivalist. In the end his “secularized eschatology” would not sell any more in Congress than among European allies. Wilson left the White House a broken and bitter man; “Defeated Prophet” is the apt title of the final chapter. Machen experienced a humiliating defeat at the end of his life as well, when he failed to drive modernism out of the northern Presbyterian church. But unlike Wilson, his hope was firmly fixed on the life to come.”


  28. The neo-orthodox have a distinction between fact and meaning of the fact, and they point to subjective illumination from an errant Bible. But the “old school” says that “natural law” teaches us that the facts speak for themselves of their meaning.

    Theodore D. Bozeman, “Inductive and Deductive Polities”—–“The General Assembly found it necessary to lament the practice of those who ‘question and unsettle practice which have received the enlightened sanction of centuries’… The desire was to make facts serve a normative purpose.”

    Does “old school” mean only males in leadership? Does “old school” mean conserving the status quo or does it mean returning to Constantinianism? Is it not “new school” to make coalitions with revivalist Arminians to get on TV? Just trying to find out what was “old school” about James Kennedy…

    Kennedy’s TV ministry, Coral Ridge Ministries Media, 1996 founded the Center for Reclaiming America. Its mission is to provide “non-partisan, inter-denominational information, training, and support to enable Christians to have a positive role in developing a biblical virtues-based culture in their communities and in our nation. Kennedy asserts that although the United States was once a “Christian nation,” that is no longer the case because today “the hostile barrage from atheists, agnostics, and other secular humanists has begun to take a serious toll on that heritage. In recent years, they have built up their forces and even increased their assault upon all our Christian institutions, and they have been enormously successful in taking over the ‘public square.’ Public education, the media, the government, the courts, and even the church in many places, now belong to them.”, “Our job is to reclaim America for Christ, whatever the cost.” “The fact is, the United States of America was conceived and brought forth by Christians, and history tells us that story in no uncertain terms….Anyone who reads about the values upon which this nation was founded understands perfectly well that this was, from the start, a Christian nation.”


  29. b, sd, I’m thinking Morton Smith more than Kennedy. I don’t think Kennedy was that influentially intellectually, but I’ll defer to PCA readers (except vv).


  30. @ DGH: Was thinking Morton Smith also (“How Is the Gold become Dim!”). But the thing is that Southern Presby PCA has always rubbed shoulders with the Southern Baptists, which is where Kennedy comes in. Coral Ridge was not a bit player!


  31. Jeff, I hear you. But since the PCA came out of PCUS which held on to Old School Presbyterianism much longer than the PCUSA, I maintain my point.


  32. DGH – I’m not devaluing the importance of history and what we learn from it. We can learn a lot from the Old/New School debate, but the document you cited is not particularly relevant to the discussion at hand. You say a Presbyterian pastor should practice what he confesses, and in your view that precludes cooperating with other denominations in evangelism and church planting. However, you have yet to provide any constitutional Presbyterian documents to support this notion. The problem is this: you want a confessing Presbyterian to work only within institutional presbyterianism, yet there is nothing in what Presbyterians confess that compels them to work exclusively with Presbyterians. The upshot is that you are effectively making presbyterianism in your own mold, rather than what it actually is. Your beef with Keller (and I suppose others) is that they are acting as Presbyterians in a way you personally dislike, not because they are acting contrary to actual Presbyterian doctrine.

    DGH, sdb, and Jeff – Kennedy was influential, but I never thought of him as influential intellectually. R.C. Sproul always seemed to be the major intellectual influence from a PCA background (Sproul’s church wasn’t PCA, but he was ordained in the PCA), as well as John Frame. From outside the PCA, Francis Schaeffer was a big intellectual influence, and van Til was prominent as well, at least in my corner of the PCA world.


  33. DGH, SDB, Jeff, VV,

    I think it is fairer to say that Kennedy exercised more of a cultural influence in the PCA. He was the main connection to the Religious Right.

    Intellectually, I think VV is right on the major influences.


  34. vv, not cooperating with non-Presbyterians is hardly my mold. It’s been practiced by lots of Presbyterian bodies and even informs the PCA’s ecumenical relations.

    But see no evil when it comes to Keller because he made Presbyterianism great.


  35. DGH – “informs the PCA’s ecumenical relations”


    All I can find is this from the BCO 2-2: “This visible unity of the body of Christ, though obscured, is not
    destroyed by its division into different denominations of professing Christians; but all of these which maintain the Word and Sacraments in their fundamental integrity are to be recognized as true branches of the Church of
    Jesus Christ.”

    Do you have an issue only with Keller, or the entire PCA?


  36. vv, the PCA is in ecumenical relations with NAPARC communions, not the Free Methodists or Southern Baptists.

    It’s not a reference. It’s reality. As in, Duh.


  37. DGH – there is nothing that prohibits PCA pastors and/or churches from ecumenical relations (within limits not imposed on other NAPARC churches) with Southern Baptists or Methodists or Anglicans. While flawed, they are all true churches.

    When you have to result “It’s reality…Duh” when asked for constitutional references to support your claims on Presbyterian polity, you lose the debate.


  38. vv, ecumenical relations? not really. A PCA pastor might like a Methodist pastor. But nothing approaching ecumenicity. It’s in your mind, addled by too much Keller.


  39. Maybe we should agree that a Reformed pastor at least shouldn’t be planting churches that his confessional vows should not allow him to recommend. How could City to City, for example, plant charismatic/Pentecostal churches in good conscience?


  40. vv, it’s not on solid ground if it is cooperating with churches known to be in error (non-Reformed). But with matters Keller, it’s always sunny.


  41. VV, well, you can’t cooperate on baptism or spirit baptism. A baptist or Pentecostal doesn’t confess a Reformed creed (but you have the New City Catechism). Their worship doesn’t follow the RPW (but that shouldn’t bother you).

    If you want to cooperate to build roads or grow flowers, fine. But why narrow your cooperation to Protestants, you sectarian, you.


  42. VV,

    I’m not against all forms of cooperation. I’d even be okay with TGC if they didn’t have such lame content and weren’t trying to be a quasi-church. It’s just odd that a PCA guy is planting churches that, according to his confessional vows, are in serious sin. You can’t get ordained in the PCA without affirming infant baptism but you can plant a Baptist church? It just doesn’t make a whole lot of logical sense. I don’t know that it is sin; more that it’s just kind of odd.


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