Moderate Presbyterians, Irish or American

Seeing the looks on Ben Preston and Craig Lynn’s faces last week while recording a session on J. Gresham Machen, I worried not only that American indelicacy had run up against Irish sensitivities, but also that the Orthodox Presbyterian habit of being opinionated had offended the moderate sense of the Presbyterian Church of Ireland ministers.

As it happens, while waiting for a meeting with staff at Union College (Ireland’s equivalent of Princeton Theological Seminary), I found a copy of the Presbyterian Herald, the Irish equivalent of New Horizons. I read an article about church attendance that I am not sure could have been published in the OPC’s magazine. The author wrote this:

Christian ought to be encouraging of and encouraged by para-church organisations which seek to spread the gospel. Being committed to such enterprises, however, before the local church is idolatry, for God will not share the glory of his church with another (Isaiah 42:8).


Membership of and support for para-church organisations, whether mission agencies, evangelicist bands or cultural/religious institutions must all come after commitment to the local church and never before.

Imagine what American Protestantism would look like if The Gospel Coalition adopted that set of priorities.

9 thoughts on “Moderate Presbyterians, Irish or American

  1. How about educational/business/science institutions?

    Beats me why it TGC is more “terrible” than those other “para-” institutions. The idolatry is real. It doesn’t discriminate between “sacred” and “secular”.

    And Scott R. Scott is soooo boring.


  2. Growing up, becoming “of age” and leaving childish ways behind, means, serving BOTH the visible (local, piety, and word/sacrament/discipline) and the invisible (the global, the enterprising, and the law/society/city).

    Keller is actually correct; by and large; choosing between the two options is a false dichotomy.

    The only alternative is laziness.


  3. “How about educational/business/science institutions?”
    Putting education before church is idolatry.

    Parachurch organizations are different from church in that the parachurch organizations attempt to fulfill a facsimile of the mission of the church. This creates a temptation for believers to substitute the role of the parachurch organization for the church itself. Secular organizations do not carry the same kind of temptation.

    Your visible/invisible distinction is curious. Generally when people talk about the visible church, they have in mind the things you mention. The invisible church is all of the elect, not secular society (which is comprised of wheat and tares much like the visible church).


  4. Sdb, your brain is so small as to think replacing the word “para-” with “secular” makes you think you have avoided the idolatry or the false dichotomy… (as if the priority of feeding oneself or family, tithing, “driving” to the church -haha to receive the sacrament, comes “secondary” to “the gospel”, so dumb!!!)

    There is no Gospel (visible Church), without the Law (invisible Church living, has lived, and going to live -our children!!!- among the pagans); it is buffoonish to think that is even remotely feasible or realistic.


  5. Since I am annoyed, appalled and disgusted…

    May I just add that all these attempts to make us all “worship” the local church are just Satanic.

    God is not dumb. Even good, superior and excellent gifts he provides are “nice” but not our masters. Our Confessional churches are so teeny, tiny, so few and too financially starved for us to be going round, and round in the great bath of insipidity; failure to get our act right means we opt for liberalism, “big pseudo-confessional churches” or even Rome for some; OR, we always have to option of worshiping only one God, in the local “three marks” church, and out in the “wider” world of other believers, families (good luck finding a wife/husband in the OPC!), and pagans.


  6. You have made a big fan of the “Presbyterian Herald”. And why did the OPC switch our magazine name from the Presbyterian Guardian to New Horizons? That was terrible idea.


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