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?


JD said...

This is really really sad. Thanks for your post Keith.

Anonymous said...

Keith? Did you realize that other people can blog in your name and pretend to be you?

Keith said...

Hmm, I was not aware of that. Is this something I have done wrong in my set up or has my password got out somehow? Is there any way to fix this. I stand by my position that the internet is evil.

The real Keith

Anonymous said...

Nothing you can do. Just a gap in the system.

This is how you do it: goto comment, then click "other." Then type in a name, and a webpage. If you're impersonating a blogger, you type in the page of their profile, in your case Hence, when you click on the "keith" on this comment, it should look no different than your own comments. I screwed up on my first attempt on your blog.


Keith said...

Just an update from the recently ended OPC General Assembly:

"The order of the day having arrived, the Assembly took up consideration of Overture 3 at 2:47 p.m. The Overture sought to erect a committee to respond to a statement posted on a website that stated that the OPC and the PCA have permitted a gospel of justification by faith plus works to be preached. The Assembly did not sustain the Overture on grounds which included that the OPC standards regarding justification and our adherence to it have not been officially challenged by a recognized body, and that the OPC has not received any official communication from the group alleging doctrinal compromise, nor any documentation defending their charge."

Anonymous said...

Keith, when are you going to write something new?

Keith said...

Wow, the pressure to actually remember about this thing. I have an idea that might make it soon if I find that I have a bit of free time. Plus, I have something else to post, but will wait a week or two before that.

JD said...

Write about the Onessimussian authorship of the Pentateuch or the Mosaic authorship of Hebrews or something ;)