Power and Absolute Power
Immediately upon reading the above-mentioned article ["Stated Clerk's Actions Questioned by NC Church and Presbytery"], the words of John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton, Lord Acton, which he wrote to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1881, came to my mind: "All power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
Sadly, this applies not only to those in power in secular governmental positions, but, alas, also to those in power in church government.
Keep up the good work keeping us advised as to what is going on.
In Christ's Service,
Tom and Ruth Rose
Thankful for the News
Please add me to the mailing list for the P&R News, for some reason it hasn't been coming to me. I don't always agree with you, but you are doing a good job of giving news of the presbyteries, and I appreciate your providing a place for some dicusssion of key issues.
Civil and Ecclesiastical Secession
After reading the report in the last issue of P & R News concerning the withdrawal of Grace Presbyterian Church of Alexandria, LA, I was truly reminded of how we fallen humans are filled with inconsistencies. It is one of the highest forms of hypocrisy for a man to state that he is so highly opposed to secession in the civil realm that he was led to the decision to secede from his denomination. His good conscience will allow him to practice in one realm of authority what it will not in the other. I find this quite distasteful, and am amazed that he was not questioned on this matter, nor did he seem to question his actions on this matter himself. This should remind us all of the man who James tells us "is unstable in all his ways."
One might also remind him that one need not be theonomic in order to have views of secession. For our secessionist Southern fathers would not have fallen into that category, as is definitely true of the New Englanders who sought to secede earlier in the century at the Hartford Convention, and over some of the statehood issues. I find many of the same differences with some of my Theonomic brethren as this brother finds, but I do not see this as a tyranny over the denomination. I would rather think the violation of the constitution of the PCA or of the US to be grounds for secession, and not one's view of civil government.
Let us labour to be consistent, and not to ease our consciences by only doing that which fits our personal situation.
The Heartland Matter
Thanks for the most recent issue of your quarterly newspaper. As always, I enjoyed it a great deal.
I thought the communication you received from the commission of Heartland Presbytery was ridiculous and in very poor taste. I was especially astonished at the way they compared your work to the "vigilantes and lynch mobs of old". Anyone who is a member of the Heartland Presbytery should be embarrassed and ashamed of such talk. Moreover, the Heartland Presbytery can surely find more productive uses for its time than this. Your response was quite correct.
Please send me, or publish, the address for the League of the South. . . .
Jeffrey P. Yelton
[Those interested in the League of the South may
wish to contact Pastor Steve Wilkins, one of the PCA's noted historians:
109 Auburn Avenue, Monroe, LA 71201-5201; (318)323-4910; firstname.lastname@example.org.-Ed.]
Telling It Like It Is . . .
Just want to congratulate you on the fine and thoroughly readable publication which is not afraid to tell the story as it is.
Rev. Strother S. Gross
Calvary Bible Church
A Note From Maryknoll
Dear Dr. Smith,
Thank you for your frank and positive review of Earthen Vessels and Transcendent Power in the Winter 1998 issue of Presbyterian and Reformed News.
I'm circulating it internally and a copy will be sent to the author as well. Again, many thanks for your interest and support.
Bernadette Price, Senior Marketing Manager
Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY
The League of the South
Great issue of P&R News (winter 1998), especially the story on the "motorcycle minister", Pastor Bob Vincent. Which of course would lead me to the Southern League's website, and subsequently to ordering [Walter] Kennedy's book, The South Was Right! I had a good visit with Walter Kennedy, who attends Steve Wilkins' church (PCA), who no doubt has had a major effect on Louisiana Presbytery. Well, all things work together for good-keep up the good work of informing the local churches of the ongoing apostasy in our denomination.
As a member of, but not speaking officially for, the League of the South, I read with great interest the comments of the Rev. Mr. Robert Vincent explaining why he left the Presbyterian Church in America. I especially appreciated his Christ-like spirit in his e-mail communication quoted on page 3 of your Winter, 1998 issue. Given the nature of the Presbyterian Church in America and the vindictiveness of the centralized bureaucracy which persecuted many of us in the Presbyterian Church in the United States (Southern) and the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (Northern), I believe that we in the PCA should with love, prayers, and best wishes willingly dismiss anyone and any church which desires to leave the Presbyterian Church in America. I certainly take no exception to the decisions of Mr. Vincent and the Grace Presbyterian Church to leave the PCA.
I do want to comment about the headline on page 3 which declares "Toleration of Theonomy and Views of Political Secession Given as Reasons for Departure." Surely there is no thought by anyone who understands Scripture and the history of Presbyterianism in the United States to make allegiance to the United States government or to any government a condition of membership in the church or a condition of fellowship with other believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. Your readers will be well aware that it was this very question which divided the Old School Presbyterian Church in the United States of America at the General Assembly in Philadelphia in May, 1861. The passage of the resolution by the Rev. Gardiner Spring of New York was, as Dr. Benjamin Palmer pointed out, a "writ of ejectment of all that portion of the Church within the bounds of the eleven states, which had already withdrawn from the Federal Union, and established a government of their own."
The Gardiner Spring resolution says in part that the General Assembly acknowledges and declares "our obligation to promote and perpetuate . . . the integrity of these United States and to strengthen, uphold, and encourage our federal government in the exercise of all its function under our noble constitution." The resolution went on to define the federal government as "that central administration which, being at any time appointed and inaugurated according to the forms prescribed in the Constitution of the United States" as being the visible representative of our national existence. Even a northerner such as the Princeton theologian Charles Hodge argued against this resolution saying that the resolution in effect makes allegiance to the government of the United States "a term of membership in our church" thus usurping the "prerogatives of the Divine Master."
Those in the South understood the error inherent in the Gardiner Spring Resolution. The Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America (PCCSA) was formed in Augusta in December, 1861. Though the Presbyterian Church in America today is a national and world-wide church, our immediate historical roots are in the PCCSA.
The statement of purpose of the League of the South is that "we seek to advance the cultural, social, economic, and political well-being and independence of the Southern people by all honourable means." Given the Reformed perspective of Scripture and history, it should not be surprising that many Calvinists are involved in the League of the South. We stand in the tradition of our Scotch-Irish ancestors who led the uprising in behalf of civil and religious liberty in the American Revolution. The historian Bancroft says, "The first voice publicly raised in America to dissolve all connection with Great Britain came not from the Puritans of New England, nor the Dutch of New York, nor the planters of Virginia, but from the Scotch-Irish Presbyterians." There is no denying the historical fact that Calvinists were instrumental in bringing about the colonial secession from Great Britain. Even George III called the war a "Presbyterian rebellion."
Calvinists have historically stood for civil and religious liberty, which is rooted in the Word of God. The Reformer himself wrote that "the Lord, therefore, is the King of Kings, who, when He has opened His sacred mouth, must alone be heard, before all and above all men". There is surely nothing in Scripture requiring allegiance to a government such as we have in the United States today which denies our God, contradicts His moral law, and persecutes His church. Nothing in Scripture makes allegiance to that government a condition of membership in the church or a condition of fellowship with other Christians.
The hatred of Southern culture which is so evident among the politically correct in the government, press and media today is another evidence of the truth that believers are warring against the powers of darkness. Because Southern culture is historically a Calvinist culture brought to this country by Scotch-Irish Presbyterians, Southern culture contains the last remaining large-scale vestige of biblical truths in this country. No one should be surprised that all things Southern are derided, ridiculed, and scorned by the unbelievers who control the government, courts, entertainment industry, and media today. The conflict in American culture today is between atheism and its countless forms and Calvinism, which while not limited to the South has its strongest base there.
The South should be an independent nation where a Calvinist world and life view permeates all of life. What Dr. R. L. Dabney wrote more than one hundred years ago about the War Between the States remains true today: that "people of the South went to war because they sincerely believed (what their political fathers had taught them, with one voice, for two generations) that the doctrine of State-sovereignty for which they fought, was absolutely essential as the bulwark of the liberties of the people." May there soon be a Southern nation founded on the biblical principles of civil and religious liberty with state sovereignty and limited federal government as our founding fathers envisioned. From such a nation, may the gospel fill the earth as the waters fill the seas.
Dr. Cecil Williamson, Pastor/Teacher
Crescent Hill Presbyterian Church
Dr. Brock's Speech at NAPARC
Someone apparently took careful notes of my talk at the NAPARC meeting. I was surprised to see such extensive coverage, but I appreciate your giving my talk the exposure that you did. Some people, however, interpreted the article to mean that I did not fully value the importance of sound exegetical preaching or even the importance worship service. That was certainly not my intention.
The thrust of my remarks was intended to emphasize the importance of laymen developeing a well-grounded biblical worldview. Emphasis on preaching and the worship service can imply that participation in worship is sufficient. The lay person's responsibility is to read, study, memorize, discuss and meditate on the Word of God. As elders, we must encourage strong Sunday schools, civil discourse, small group discussion, and personal study and meditation. Such tools have proven to be very helpful in increasing the lay person's apprehension of the Word of God in such a way that it affects our day-to-day work lives. Reformation occurs when the businessman changes the way he manages the business, the doctor changes the way he treats patients, the teacher changes the way he educates, the politician changes the way he votes. For laymen to have the confidence to make such changes will require serious interaction among peers who are seeking to apply the Word in their own setting.
Emphasis on preaching can result in laymen having a spectators' mentality. Members of the congregation may be impressed with the preacher's style or knowledge but this may not translate into assuming personal responsibility for knowing God's Word. This is why Sunday School and small groups are so important (and I want to emphasize the word school). Preaching empowered by the Holy Spirit should result in a hunger for the Word in the lay people that leads to an evident change in their day to day work.
Frank A. Brock, President