I am writing to clarify views on creationism as they pertain to PCA ordination. There was a statement in your summer 1996 issue (p. 11) regarding the Committee on Review of Presbytery Records that read as follows: "Northern California's minutes were found acceptable despite the fact that, according to Chairman Walker, a man was received who did not hold to a literal six-day creation view." The chairman and a majority on the Committee did not want a repeat of the 1995 situation in which creationism came before the Assembly as part of the Committee's report. A large minority on the Committee felt very strongly that Northern California was wrong in approving someone who did not hold to literal six-day creationism, even though that Presbytery went so far as to treat the ordinand's view as an exception!
The OPC Stated Clerk, Donald Duff, wrote in the June 1996 issue of New Horizons that the OPC has shifted away from liberty in certain areas and even exhibits what he calls "Reformed fundamentalism." Here is an example Duff gives: "Many candidates for the ministry have in licensure and ordination exams
maintained that the six days of creation were twenty-four hours long and that the earth is young. In the past, both this view and other views were allowed in the church. But recently there seems to have developed a dangerous trend toward making the young-earth view an extraconfessional standard. There seems to be an
increasing. . . anti-intellectualism that is unwilling to ask the hard questions. . . ." I suspect the Institute for Creation Research is partly responsible for this among many evangelicals and in both the OPC and PCA. There is also the tendency for an issue like this to cluster with inerrancy and other vital positions we must cherish and safeguard.
I am not a "day-age" creationist, and I doubt anyone is who serves on the Committee on Review of Presbytery Records. If there are such, they did not speak up when the Committee met in June (although unfortunately only about half of the presbyteries were represented). I do believe the "day-age" view is an option, however, partly because Hebrews and other portions of Scripture indicate that the seventh day does not equal 24 hours! I was both startled and heartened to sense that the Committee seemed unaware of more than two options. I highly recommend the pertinent writings of those at "Old" Princeton and Westminster Seminaries who I dare say loved and studied the Scriptures and the Reformed
faith better than most of us, and who did not share the notion that literal six-day young-earth creationism is the only acceptable understanding. I also recommend the outstanding material from the Interdisciplinay Biblical Research Institute (c/o Robert C. Newman, 200 North Main St., Hatfield, PA 19440). Their material is by scientists devoted to Jesus Christ who also are first-order
exegetes. PCA pastors and others also should read the June and Sept. 1996 issues of Commentary (a first-rate magazine published by the American Jewish Committee and available in many libraries). The arguments of the biologists, chemists, rabbis, etc. in the Sept. issue (variously reacting to David Berlinski's "The Deniable Darwin" in the June issue) show current contours of the real debate over evolution and origins.
Jim Pakala, Librarian
Covenant Theological Seminary, St. Louis
[I'm sending a check] to renew my subcription to PCA News (I mean P&R News) for 1 year, plus a small gift. I enjoy the paper. Though I'm not in the PCA(R) (I'm CRC), I like to read the goings on in other Reformed bodies.
Regarding worship: may I suggest that the "regulative principle" [R. P.] is not the basic issue? The basic issue is, how do we respond to the Old Testament? The R. P. is derived from the OT. We who believe the R. P. tremble at the way God displayed his wrath upon Israel, as the covenant curse for adulterating worship with pagan elements. We see, in the OT, God's moral law (which is permanent) on display. Therefore we worship God by the guidance of the word alone. On the other hand, the Charles McGowans of the world, who worry that we won't capture the culture unless we innovate in worship, apparently see no permanent moral example in God's punishment of Israel for not removing high places and Asherah poles. Unless the two groups come to agreement on the OT, there will never, ever be agreement on the meaning of the term "regulative principle of worhip," and all attempts at debating the issue will be futile because you won't even be speaking the same language.
Best wishes in building a church that displays biblical doctrine, worship, and love.
Mike Rodgers, Sierra Madre, CA
Frank, just looked thru the latest News_almost better than being at GA! Accurate, balanced, comprehensive.
D. Clair Davis, Professor
Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia
Due to recent amendments to the Standing Rules, I regret that I am unable to send you minutes. Please find a copy enclosed regarding this information.
Dr. Philip G. Kayser, Pastor
Trinity Presbyterian Church, Omaha, NE
[The relevant portion of the amendment to which Dr. Kayser refers is the following: "2.8 Distribution of minutes. The official minutes of Heartland Presbytery are not published. Unofficial copies of the minutes are circulated to members of and delegates to presbytery for the convenience of presbytery under the terms of S.R. 4.3, F. Copies are sent to General Assembly for review in compliance with BCO 13-19 [sic] and 40-1, and RAO 14. This is not an act of publishing which makes them a public document. All rights are retained by presbytery. Further dissemination is not authorized, except for legitimate presbytery purposes such as providing each member of a session with a copy."]
Thank you very much for the summer edition of your newspaper. As usual, I found it to be very informative and interesting.
However, I do not share the optimism expressed in your editorial concerning the proposed amendments to the PCA Book of Church Order regarding church membership. A careful study of the proposed amendments reveals that they are not an improvement over our current BCO 46-5, nor are they a repudiation of the false teaching contained in the infamous Chen decision. At the very least, the proposed amendments greatly obscure the biblical teaching concerning church membership, thus needlessly confusing churches who seek guidance from the BCO on how to proceed in cases where members renounce their memberships, and abetting the sinful tendency every elder feels to avoid necessity of obeying God's command to discipline such persons. In addition, the proposed amendments can, and probably will, be interpreted as an affirmation by the PCA of certain unbiblical ideas concerning church membership that are current in our church, especially the ungodly notion that membership is somehow "voluntary", and that its renunciation is not a sin to be met with church discipline. The PCA seems to be in the process of adopting a new ecclesiology with very little debate or consideration. Moreover, the proposed amendments do not solve the problems inherent in the Chen case; instead, they set the stage for a more vociferous recurrence of them.
A comparison of the proposed amendments with, not only the current BCO, but with the inspired Scriptures, reveals the amendments to be unworthy of adoption. The PCA can, and must, adopt changes to the BCO that better reflect the plain and simple truth of God's word concerning church membership. After all, the word of God "is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him" and the supreme judge in religious controversies, including the present debate.
However, this principle was not followed by the most recent General Assembly. The proposed amendments are not supported by Scripture, and the proponents of these amendments made virtually no effort to defend them on that basis. Instead, we were told that these amendments are needful for the unity of the PCA. But, we must ask, What kind of unity will result from this manner of reasoning? A biblical unity? Craig Childs was right when he noted the presence of philosophically divergent views unlikely to be reconciled, at least in this way. True unity can only be founded on the basis of a common conviction as to the teaching of Scripture.
Thank you again for a great newspaper. Keep up the good work!
TE Jeffrey P. Yelton, Church Planter, Wytheville, VA
Someone gave me a copy of the Presbyterian and Reformed News. I want to subscribe because it is certainly news worthy. Your interview with the Moderator was particularly interesting. . . . He made several contradictory statements, but the one that stands out is when he said, "the church chooses with regard to worship [and] must be reflective of the heart of the pastor, the elders, et al." Later he said, "I think a Reformed pastor is a man who will carry out his ministry under the authority of Scripture and will not allow himself to be swayed by the popular mindset, whether it be influences from culture, or the world of religion."
His comments about the churches in Nashville amuse me. The Tennessee-Alabama Presbytery plans to start a Reformed and Presbyterian church in Nashville by the 1st of the year. We already have a good core group. This work started when a family moved from South Carolina to Nashville and could not find a
Reformed church in the city. They attended the PCA churches and said they resembled Baptist churches more than anything else.
Rev. Martin Murphy, Chairman
Home Missions Committee
Tennessee-Alabama Presbytery (ARP)