Skip to comments.WHY THE PCA IS NOT A DULY CONSTITUTED CHURCH Why Faithful Christians Should Separate From This
Posted on 12/23/2010 7:44:00 AM PST by Cronos
Response to the Elders' Letter of January 20, 1996
PCA are the true separatists and schismatics..
I and my family were formerly members of a small, conservative congregation in the denomination known as the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). The following letters, sent in February and September of 1996, were part of my explanation and justification of our separation from them and from the PCA. The earlier letter (about two-thirds of which is reproduced here) marked the climax of my attempts to convince the session  of that church of their departure, both congregationally and denominationally, from the biblical presbyterianism of the Protestant reformation, especially that most consistently practiced and creedally expressed by the Church of Scotland (in her purest times) and by the Westminster Standards , respectively. The later letter was a concise recapitulation of our position and a final testimony against the session's wicked, (then) impending excommunication of us for refusing to return and submit to their alleged ecclesiastical authority .
We became members of this local body (and of the PCA-- we formerly had been members of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church) in September, 1994. Although we did reap some benefit during our time there, it became apparent fairly early on that whatever salutary things might be said, we were not of the same mind and the same judgment (I Cor. 1:10). In the ensuing months I was increasingly aggravated by this disjunction, and in the Fall of 1995 I began to have grave concerns about our participation in her corrupted worship (as well about the spiritual safety of submitting my household to the leadership of this congregation, and of the denomination). Accordingly, we abstained from attending worship services there due to their acts of public idolatry-- viz., the use of uninspired hymns (though they also sang Psalms and Psalm paraphrases) and the employment of instrumental accompaniment . This separation was spurred in part by an awakening to the issue of "Nicodemism" (dissembling), as addressed by John Calvin in his tract, On Shunning the Unlawful Rites of the Ungodly, and discussed in Carlos Eire's, War Against the Idols.
Majoring on minors, uncharitable fault-finding. Dabney on the universal position of the church concerning musical accompaniment. Calvin -- musical accompaniment equals burying the light of the gospel.
My initial notification of the pastor regarding our abstention and its justification met with incredulous disdain. Our decision (according to him ) entailed "a course of action so patently in violation of the clear and extensive teaching of Scripture with respect to the nature of the church," and was "based upon an obsessive determination to dogmatize and elevate to an echelon of supreme importance certain unclear minutiae of Scripture." This notwithstanding the following quotes from R. L. Dabney and John Calvin concerning the Scripture's clarity on the issue of instrumental accompaniment, and the supremely important biblical principles and ramifications entailed:
The author [John L. Girardeau, in his work, Instrumental Music in the Public Worship of the Church] in his eloquent conclusion anticipates that some will meet his arguments with sneers rather than serious discussion, which he proposes to endure with Christian composure. It is a reproach to our church, which fills us with grief, to find this prediction fulfilled in some quarters. Surely persons calling themselves Presbyterians should remember that the truths they profess to hold sacred have usually been in small minorities sneered at by the arrogant majorities. So it was in the days of the Reformers, of Athanasius, of the Apostles, and of Jesus Himself.
The resort to this species of reply appears the more ill-considered, when we remember that Dr. Girardeau is supporting the identical position held by all the early reformers, by a Chalmers, a Mason, a Breckenridge, a Thornwell, and by a Spurgeon. Why is not the position as respectable in our author as in all this galaxy of true Presbyterians? Will the innovators claim that all these great men are so inferior to themselves? The idea seems to be that the opposition of all these great men to organs as simply out of their ignorant old-fogyism and lack of culture; while our advocacy of the change is the result of our superior intelligence, learning and refinement. The ignorance of this overweening conceit makes it simply vulgar. These great men surpassed all who have succeeded them in elegant classical scholarship, in logical ability, and in theological learning. Their depreciators should know that they surpassed them just as far in all elegant culture. The era of the Reformation was the Augustan age of church art in architecture, painting and music. These reformed divines were graduates of the first Universities, most of them gentlemen by birth, many of them noblemen, denizens of courts, of elegant accomplishments and manners, not a few of them exquisite poets and musicians. But they unanimously rejected the Popish Church music; not because they were fusty old pedants without taste, but because a refined taste concurred with their learning and logic to condemn it. . . . Every act of public cultus not positively enjoined by [God] is thereby forbidden. Christ and His apostles ordained the musical worship of the New Dispensation without any sort of musical instrument, enjoining only the singing with the voice of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Hence such instruments are excluded from Christian worship. Such has been the creed of all churches, and in all ages, except for the Popish communion after it had reached the nadir of its corruption at the end of the thirteenth century, and of its prelatic imitators .
We are to remember that the worship of God was never understood to consist in such outward services, which were only necessary to help forward a people as yet weak and rude in knowledge in the spiritual worship of God. A difference is to be observed in this respect between his people under the Old and under the New Testament; for now that Christ has appeared, and the church has reached full age, it were only to bury the light of the gospel should we introduce the shadows of a departed dispensation. From this it appears that the Papists, as I shall have occasion to show elsewhere, in employing instrumental music cannot be said so much to imitate the practice of God's ancient people as to ape it in a senseless and absurd manner, exhibiting a silly delight in that worship of the Old Testament which was figurative and terminated with the gospel .Biblically required functions of the church in her organizational capacity. Living up to prior sanctification of the church. Unity in the Truth, not in organization. As important as these issues are, however, my initial sense-- confirmed and cemented by further study-- was that membership in this congregation, and in the PCA at all, was spiritually dangerous and sinful. Notable scriptural teachings which led to this conclusion are: the nature and function of the church (John 4:23-24; 21:15-17; Matt. 5:13-16; 18-15-20; 28:19; Acts 1:8, 2:32; I Cor. 11:23-34; Is. 44:6-8); the need for the church (like individual believers ) to live up to that light which God has graciously granted her thus far in her corporate sanctification (Eph. 4:13-15; Phil. 3:16; Rev. 2:25); the paramount importance of unity in the truth (and not simply in name or organizational ties; Amos 3:3; Eph. 4:3-5) ; and the jealous indignation of God promised upon those who "again break [His] commandments, and join in affinity with the people of the these abominations [from which God had granted marvelous deliverance]" (Ezra 9:13-14; that is, those who join in unlawful confederations). Additionally, there is the requirement of Christ's sheep to hear His voice, and follow Him only, walking in the footsteps of the flock (Song of Solomon 1:7-8; John 10:3-5). These are each worthy of extended treatment, and have been considered and expounded ably elsewhere . Correspondingly, my communications with our former session moved beyond the two worship issues, as will be evident below. Sadly, none of these issues was addressed materially, but aspersions were cast upon our characters, the quality of my scholarship, and our motivations and sincerity, and many misconstruals of our position and past actions were presented to our former congregation . Finally, as indicated, on September 14 we were "deliver[ed]. . . over to Satan", in hopes that the "use [of] this most severe form of discipline [would] teach them [i.e. us], and [would] teach us all, not to sin (I Cor. 5:5)."
This brief history, then, explains the stiff tone in the first correspondence below. It had not always been so: my earlier communications were quite mild in tone (as is, I believe, my final letter to them, included below), but the arguments and scriptural and historical evidences presented therein were ignored (and the responses given were quite uncharitable), calling for a more stern address. My aims in presenting these extracts and biographical information are to introduce the reader to classic Protestant (biblical) teachings, to steer him away from sinful and spiritually dangerous associations with denominations like the PCA, and to provoke him to further, fruitful study. I would also forewarn him of what may lie ahead (though I hope not) should he begin to challenge his leadership with their ignorance and violations of these biblical principles .
Constitutional issues reasons for separating. Separation necessary in order truly to uphold our membership vows.
Finally, although clear in the following letters, it deserves emphasizing here that our reasons for leaving this congregation and the PCA were constitutional issues (cf. Calvin's Institutes, 4:2.12), not matters of the sins of individuals. We denounce (with Calvin, Knox, and the other reformers) mad Anabaptistic notions regarding the "perfection" required of the church, and deny these abominable ideas as any biblical basis for separation. We believe wholeheartedly in the unity of Christ's church, the vital importance of a sound ministry for her edification, and the unique blessing of fellowship with God and His people in corporate worship. Because we do believe these things, and because we have vowed to the Lord our God to promote the purity and peace of His church, we found it necessary to rebuke and plead with (and separate from, Rom. 16:17; II Thess. 3:6,14-15) those who made the same vows, but who, according to the light of Scripture and our reformed fathers, were working against them, and who were allied with a whole denomination bent on the destruction of biblical presbyterianism. For,
we therefore conclude that among the godly the communion of the church ought not to extend so far that, if it degenerates into profane and corrupted rites, they have to follow it headlong .And,
As long as church officers can neglect their duties with impunity; as long as men can violate their ordination vows without fear of rebuke or discipline; as long as elders and deacons are permitted to become outspoken critics of orthodoxy; then it would sin for us to submit to their leadership, or any government in the P.C.A. Instead, it is the obligation of the true sheep of Christ to follow the voice of the Chief Shepherd; for 'a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him.' . . . As long as the P.C.A. courts openly shelter such heresies; and as long as they fail to conduct the judicial business which is appropriate to ecclesiastical courts; we have a clear demonstration that the P.C.A. is Presbyterian neither in form, nor in substance; and we have no obligation to recognize the P.C.A. judicatories as legitimate courts of the Church of the Lord Jesus .This work is emitted by way of testimony against the defections from the reformation of the true religion granted by God in ages past, in hopes of playing some small part in the edification of God's people currently languishing under such defected and defecting denominations. Therefore, I have not received, nor will I receive, any royalties from it. All revenue obtained will go to the publishers, Still Waters Revival Books, as just recompense for their work (Deut. 25:4; I Cor. 9:7). All emphases were in the original letters. Personal references in the originals have been replaced by generic language. Editorial comments are enclosed in brackets.
For Christ's Crown and Covenant,
Larry Birger, Jr. November 4 , 1996
Steelites. Nuff said.
Merry Christmas!! I’m going to be celebrating Christmas, the Lord’s Birth! Let’s all pray for the USA on that special day. With the repeal of DADT, bad things are due to happen next year, I can just feel it — right up until the OhBummer gets tossed out on his hiney.
Cronos I think you are barking up the wrong tree here. PCA and OPC were formed as a reaction to the creeping (or in many cases not so creeping but speedy) advancement of heterodox modernism within the PCUSA. This is the true corruption that was besetting that church and led to such things as denial of the Virgin Birth, advocating for homosexual unions and abortion. The PCUSA as many other mainline Protestant denomination had seen the Zeitgeist and declared it good. Not only good but the new gospel.
That some members reflect very badly on these denominations should not be held against these bodies. We do not agree with their theology but they are truer in their faith statements and practice to historic Reformed teaching than the current leadership of PCUSA. That is the standard they should be judged upon.
For the writer of the article suggest they are corrupt because they allow the playing of musical instruments shows a degree of legalism that makes a mockery of Agape love. Indeed it raises my suspicions that there is more to the story. More as in “non flattering to the author”.
PCA are the true separatists and schismatics...Strange people, eh?
The elders' hypocrisy in their commanding us to address our grievances in their church courts, while themselves failing to proceed judicially against the numerous sins tolerated and practiced in the PCA
PCA are actually the schismatics and separatists. PCA "unchurched" because they fail to work for the truth, not against it.
PCA has remnants of the reformed faith taught and practiced in her, but she is nonetheless unduly constituted because she is flagrantly and habitually working to undermine the truth.
And then they ask thatThe rejecting of the celebration or recognition of any so-called holy-days, and the instruction and subsequent discipline of any members who refuse to cease recognizing them. This means, among other things, that your congregation's Christ-mass evening candlelight communion service would be abolished.
LC —> I just posted an article. this is the viewpoint of the author who has taken his anti-everything viewpoint from the PCA, OPC to it’s logical conclusion and is now anti-PCA.
First, I'm not sure where the author's words end and your words begin (metaphorically), so forgive me if I accidentally attribute an idea to the wrong place.
Second, while I cannot speak for the totality of churches under the PCA and OPC umbrella, I can say that in none of my dealings with ANY PCA or OPC church or presbytery, and in my dealings with the predecessor "reformed presbyterian" organization, did I ever perceive any of those groups to be "a deonomination that seeks only to spread hate". In fact, that seems almost opposite of how I would describe their work.
Third, I simply could not figure out whether the perceived problem was an overly strict interpretation of scripture, or a failure to adhere to someone else's overly strict interpretation.
I know for example that there were OPC churches who strictly adhered to the "no musical instruments" rule, but also that no PCA/reformed church I have attended ever did -- is that a problem, or not? Are we damned if we use instruments, or damned for not? I think the author damns us for using them -- but was that your point as well?
One of the great strengths of the PCA denomination is that it allows for significant differentiation in practice for the "lesser" scriptural admonitions. This allows an individual congregation in many instances, and individual presbyteries in others, to adopt a view of scripture that seems most accurate to them, without creating schisms in a body that has a large commonality of belief.
So for example my particular PCA church does not support images of Jesus. There are no images in any of our sunday school materials, and the elders discourage people from going to movies like "The Passion of the Christ", or supporting the Jesus Movement (I disagree with their opinion on this matter, and have told them so, but it does not rise to the level of issue for me or them; while I watch movies with Jesus, I don't feel like the bible compells us to, so I don't mind the church NOT doing so).
On the other hand, we use musical instruments, and in fact in a former incarnation of our church (which has gone through some changes as we were itinerant, our pastor left because he became charasmatic, and we have since merged with another church), we had a praise band which included guitars, base, keyboards, and the occasional drum set.
We also have christmas eve service -- for a while we didn't, and now we do, I don't think it was ever a theological issue, but I'm glad we do. And my father's PCA church has always, so long as I can remember, had one (they also don't have a problem with images of Jesus). (I will note my father is an elder there; also he joined the PCA separately after I did, I was raised Lutheran).
I will say that most of the PCA churches I am familiar with are strong on church discipline; and none would have tolerated members deciding on their own not to attend service. However, especially in matters such as raised in this posting, they would have encouraged the member to find another church, being as the dispute was over matters for which the PCA does not hold a single-minded view.
BTW, while our church uses musical instruments and singing, we do also sing a good number of psalms. And as we have changed over the years, we no longer sing praise songs, but sing out of a hymnal for our non-psalter praise music.
As to the rejection of any so-called holy-days -- obviously we don't, as we have a christmas eve service. We also celebrate reformation Sunday, and even have a reformation day festival where we invite the community for an outreach. We also celebrate advent, and easter. (However, we no longer have a christmas tree -- I don't know if that's because we can't afford one, or we made a decision, as we used to have one, and then the church we met at for a long time had one and we didn't hide it like we hid their pictures of Jesus).
Oh I understand that. I think though that the one’s who give those denominations a bad name would behave the same way even if they belonged to First Church of Apostolic Witness and Miracle Signs with Full Gospel Fellowship
Assembly of Believers in Christ, inc.
I did recognize a few of the names thrown about. I read some of Van Till and Rushdooney when I was younger, provided by my pastor, but I never figured out why I was reading it, and I'm not sure I ever really understood what they were getting at.
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