The Grown-up Solution

Yesterday, I posted an article by Pastor Matthew Kingsbury about the PCA’s vote not to make a new statement on the origins of Adam and Eve. Pastor Kingsbury wrote that the “grown-ups” in the PCA had prevailed.

Tim Phillips, pastor of an ARP church in Louisville, KY, has written a response to Pastor Kingsbury’s article. The week before the PCA’s General Assembly, the ARP had their annual meeting. At this meeting, they overwhelmingly passed an overture affirming the non-evolutionary origins of Adam and Eve. Pastor Phillips’ church was the one to submit the overture.

In his article in response to Pastor Kingsbury, Pastor Phillips takes issue with the “somewhat offensive” title of “Grown-ups Prevail at the PCA General Assembly. While he agrees with the basic premise that the Westminster Standards “are comprehensive and clear and have full authority,” he believes that the Standards could not anticipate all potential heresies:

However, there is one major deficiency in the Standards: they do not have the ability to travel through time into the future. Thus, various movements and challenges and heresies will arise over time that will seek to undermine what the Standards teach — things the Standards might teach about, but don’t directly address.

He also points out that even with the clarity of the Standards, heresies, such as the Federal Vision, have arisen and have needed to be dealt with:

Yet, as clear as this statement [on justification] is, the errors of Federal Visionism have arisen within the very churches which claim to hold to the Westminster Standards. Therefore, in order to address such concerns, sometimes church courts will make official statements. Sometimes these come through committees, sometimes they are made on the floor of the assembly, sometimes they come through memorials/overtures sent up by the presbyteries. There is nothing unusual about this.

And,

Once again, the Westminster Standards are not a time machine. They were written two centuries before Darwinism and natural selection and 19th century attacks on Scripture. Should they be sufficient to address these issues? Yes, but we all know perfectly well that the history of Presbyterianism is littered with ministers and elders who took took vows to affirm the Standards and yet openly taught against them. To say, “we don’t need statements, we already have the Confession” is almost along the lines of “We don’t need creeds, we have the Bible!” It fails to realize that there are those who might interpret statements differently from others, even if they claim to be biblical and/or confessional. There might be a “baptistic” sentiment here, but I think the pastor is mistaken where it is coming from.

Pastor Phillips also believes that while we should use the judicial processes available to us, pastors need to be careful to protect the sheep:

Sometimes issues arise that require strong statements from Presbyterian bodies. There is nothing childish or baptistic in that approach. God’s people should be guarded by their leaders. If a product is potentially harmful to my child, I expect to see a warning label. It is not exactly comforting for someone to tell me that I first need to wait on a lawsuit to settle the matter.

He gives, as an example, two potential pastoral scenarios that I thought really helped illustrate the issue:

First Scenario

Visitor: Pastor, I’m interested in church membership, but I first want to know where the denomination stands on the issue of creation.

Pastor: Well, we have the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms, even though they predate theistic evolution. We tried to have a statement declaring the special creation of Adam passed at the national level of the denomination, but that failed. Now we’ll have to wait to see if anyone teaches theistic evolution and then wait for a judicial case to be decided for there to be anything definitive.

Second Scenario

Visitor: Pastor, I’m interested in church membership, but I first want to know where the denomination stands on the issue of creation.

Pastor: I’m glad you asked. Our General Synod recently passed a memorial that affirms the special creation of Adam. As a matter of fact, it was our church that wrote the memorial and our presbytery that sent it along to the General Synod, where it was passed overwhelmingly.

I highly recommend that you read the full article.

One thought on “The Grown-up Solution

  1. Tempe says:

    Thanks for posting this, Rachel. May I add that when I used the “major deficiency” terminology, I was being a bit hyperbolic. I do not really believe the Standards are deficient in what they teach, and I actually winced a bit when I read it in your quote above. I was simply pointing out that new problems arise in the modern world that sometimes need to be specifically addressed. The problem is with the creative sins and false teachings of which man conceives, not with our confessional documents.

    Again, thanks for linking.

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