Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Foundations of Presbyterian Polity—Part 1

The Task Force that is re-writing the Form of Government of the Book of Order is creating a new section called “The Foundations of Presbyterian Polity” (“Foundations”). The Foundations section is divided into chapters on Theological Commitments, the Church and Its Confessions and Principles of Order and Government. Today we will begin looking at the theological commitments section.

The task force has kept quite a bit of tradition language. The section on Jesus Christ calls him the “Son” of God. The section on God refers to God as “Creator and Father.” At the same time the section does a good job of using gender appropriate and inclusive language.

Now onto content…

I am extremely disappointed if these are our theological commitments. On the surface things look just fine. Words have been chosen that are “correct,” yet, incomplete. This incompleteness opens the door to multiple theological interpretations—which may or may not be biblical!

What happened to the virgin birth? The scriptures and church confessions are absolutely clear that the church believe is the virgin birth. Yet, there are many in the Presbyterian Church who do not believe in the virgin birth—particularly among pastors, specialized clergy and seminary professors. They use all sorts of explanations on how Jesus can be “incarnate” and “God in our midst” that do not require a virgin birth. The current wording of the Foundation section could allow an open door to unbiblical beliefs on the conception of Jesus.

What happened to the bodily resurrection? The Foundations section says that Jesus was “raised from death to life.” Sounds good. But why did they not say that there was a bodily resurrection? I know pastos and denominational staff who believe that Jesus was raised from death to life—just not physically raised to life. They believe that it was a “spiritual” resurrection. One may ask, “What’s wrong with that belief?”

“But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.”

-1 Corinthians 15:12-22(NIV)

Most Presbyterians sitting in the pews (and standing behind pulpits) do not realize that in 1981 the GAPJC ruled that those who are ordained only have to agree to be “guided” and “instructed” by our confession—they do not have to “believe” them. Consequently, we have pastors who teach and preach that Jesus was not born of a virgin or bodily rise from the dead! Had I known of that GAPJC decision when I was seeking ordination I would not be a part of the PCUSA today (and believe me when I say that every year I consider leaving the PCUSA because of its unbiblical stances).

We now have the chance to change things in the PCUSA. When the Foundations section comes up for vote we amend it to include “virgin birth” and “bodily resurrection.” If the General Assembly won’t allow the Foundations to be modified then at the very next GA meeting let there be dozens of amendments to add “virgin birth” and “bodily resurrection.”


At 8:18 PM , Anonymous David said...

if we areso unbliblical, why are you still here?

At 7:49 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

The FOG descends...

And so obscures biblical faith, confessional fidelity and thus destroys yet another once strong denomination.

Just wait to see how the Louisville publicity machine will hype and sell this beast to us....


At 9:29 AM , Blogger Pastor Lance said...

You ask a great question! The parable of the wheat and the weeds in Matthew 13. In the parable there is much wheat and a few weeds. Pulling out the few weeds would damage a greater amount of good wheat.

There were still a faithful remnant when God allowed the northern and southern kingdoms to fall. The problem was that the amount of "weeds" was too great. I have been called to stay until the "weeds" become too great.

At 7:34 AM , Anonymous David said...

I'l the question diffeently, without going on siomelong rant about the PUP report of the Trinity Paper, tell howthe the PCUSA is "unBiblical" ?

At 1:16 PM , Blogger Pastor Lance said...

In today's (May 29th) "A Classical Presbyterian" Toby Brown answers why I am still here that says what I believe and feel.

Check it out at:

At 7:24 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...


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