Saturday, May 21, 2005

New "Denomination"

This Tuesday, May 17, witnessed the birth of a new denomination, the Evangelical Reformed Presbyterian Church. While the growth of Christ’s kingdom should be an occasion of joy, in this instance it is one of sorrow. According to its statement, “The new denomination is being established in response to conservative Presbyterians’ increasing concern over the acceptance of the teaching of justification by faith plus works, and water baptism as an instrument of salvation, in denominations such as the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) and the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).” What is implicit in this statement is made unmistakably clear in the following statement from founding member Jeffery A. Sheely:

"Because these elements hold sway in the OPC, our congregation voted unanimously to separate from that denomination last year. The present situation is very similar to what happened in the Presbyterian Church in the USA (PCUSA) three generations ago. In 1936, conservatives left the PCUSA to form the OPC. One of the founders of the OPC, Dr. J. Gresham Machen, said that when the liberalizing elements hold sway in a denomination, and the Gospel is at stake, conservatives have no choice but to separate and begin again. That is what we are doing. History is being repeated."

While these individuals portray themselves as courageous reformers, they are in reality cowardly schismatics. Comparing the formation of their denomination with the formation of the OPC is ludicrous. Machen and the other men of conviction who founded the OPC did so only after they had exhausted every possible measure to restore the purity of the church and to maintain the unity of the church; these men have barely made an effort. Those churches that initially formed the OPC did so at the great cost, forfeiting their property and their pastor’s pension; the formation of this assembly is costing these men nothing. The very basis upon which they claim to found their denomination is patently false. Neither the OPC not the PCA accept justification by faith plus works, of baptism as an instrument of salvation. The doctrinal standards of both denominations are clear in denying these teachings, the very same standards that are ostensibly the foundation of this group. Further, to accuse the OPC of aberration on the doctrine of justification before the Committee erected to study this issue reports is massively premature. No one doubts that the conclusion reached by the Committee will be a strong reaffirmation of a traditional Reformed understanding of justification. Perhaps these men have an issue with this traditional understanding. John Robbins of the Trinity Foundation writes in his email announcing the formation of this denomination the following statement:

"The ERPC is spearheaded by former members of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church who believe that the testimony of that denomination has been compromised for the past 30 years by its toleration of the teaching of two different gospels, the Biblical Gospel of justification by faith alone, and the false gospel of justification by faith and works/faithfulness/obedience."

One of Robbins’ consistent targets is Norman Shepherd, and any theology which attempts to bind justification and sanctification he labels as “Shepherdism.” To equate those equate the necessity of both faith and repentance as evidence of regeneration with Catholicism is slanderous. At the end of the day, this fatal misunderstanding of theology condemns John Calvin, the Westminster Confession, and most importantly, Scripture itself. Endless examples could be offered from both testaments on this point, but one example from Jesus will suffice, “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear bad fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” What fruit is this group displaying?

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Chevelle Concert

This past Thursday, I saw Chevelle live for the first time. To say that the concert was awesome would be an understatement. I went into the show hoping they would put on a good show, but apprehensive of a three-piece band’s ability to play well and work the crowd. While Joe (Bassist) seemed to move only from the back to his mic when he needed to sing, Pete managed to sing, skillfully play guitar, and move around the stage constantly. Aside from the band’s not coming out after the show, the only disappointment of the night was their not playing a single song from their first album. The format for the playlist was rather interesting, first playing songs from their latest CD, and then songs from Wonder What’s Next.

What makes a concert such a unique experience? In my experience, it is not solely about the music. It is good to hear a band outside of the sterility of a studio and see how well they really play their instruments and sing (OK, this doesn’t work for pop). A concert also gives on insight into the musician’s personality. Watching Pete’s facial expressions and the look in his eyes while he sang made the effort to be front and center well worth it. However, one of the best things about a concert is the setting aside inhibitions for a couple hours. As much fun as a concert is, I tend to like a nice calm, quiet environment. Ordinarily I would fiercely defend my personal space, and would never be caught singing at the top of my lungs for over an hour. For the short three hours of a concert, the ordinary laws are suspended; it is that suspension which makes a concert such an enjoyable recreation.