The institution of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in its present state has forfeited any rightful claim to belong to the true Church of Jesus Christ. In spite of its de jure claims to
orthodoxy and orthopraxy as seen primarily in our Book of Confessions, its de facto reality as an institution promotes increasingly unbiblical beliefs and practices as normative for Christian life. When councils pretend to forge new articles of faith contrary to the plain Word of God, “…we must utterly deny them as the doctrine of devils…” (Scots 3.20). Those who approve such untruths may simulate allegiance to Christ, but though they are in the church for a time, they are not of the church (as tares among wheat, traitors among citizens, cancers among healthy tissues (Second Helvetic 5.139).
While we recognize that no church or covenant community of churches is entirely pure (tares will always remain among the wheat until Judgment day), and that at times churches can reflect more worldliness than holiness and still remain part of the true
Church, yet we believe that when churches publicly endorse or willfully turn a blind eye toward evil and refuse to repent of such travesties, but instead cite them as examples of reformation, conversion and advancement, they cease to be part of the body of Christ (Westminster 6:144 [1647 ed.] reads: “some [churches] have so degenerated as to become no Churches of Christ but Synagogues of Satan” ).
Reformed theology has long taught that the distinctive marks of the true church are: faithful proclamation of the Word of God; proper administration of the sacraments; and upright execution of ecclesial discipline to repress vice and nourish virtue (see Scots 3.18). Second Helvetic 5.140 speaks a stark warning: “…we must be vigilant lest while the pious snore the wicked gain ground and do harm to the Church.” We confess our complicity in culpable negligence of ecclesial discipline at all levels in our denomination, which has in turn led to the proliferation of false gospels being proclaimed from our pulpits and the confusion of vice and virtue among our congregations. False teachers are never at all to be tolerated among God’s people, but rather driven away (5.167). Yet we have welcomed them warmly in the name of diversity. The PC(USA) has forsaken the marks of a true church of Jesus Christ.
The true church is rightly described as one, holy, catholic and apostolic. These terms no longer apply well to the institutional PC(USA). By its scandalous and draconian application of the “property trust clause” against congregations wishing to align with
other Reformed bodies, and the entertainment of scurrilous charges against other Reformed denominations, the PC(USA) has shown complete disregard for the truth that we and the properties of which we are stewards exist not for ourselves but for Jesus Christ and his Kingdom. We have publicly maligned the oneness of the church.
By its recent decision to provide a way for unrepentant, practicing LGBTQ persons to serve as ordained leadership in our midst, the PC(USA) has declared holy what the Scriptures unequivocally call sin, denying divine revelation in favor of cultural captivity. In the face of nearly universal disapprobation from the church catholic (and particularly our sister Reformed bodies around the world), the PC(USA) has chosen to follow this unholy course, disdaining not only Scripture and reason but also the collective voice of the church from all times and places. With breathtaking hubris we have celebrated our false wisdom and in the process undermined centuries of work in ecumenism.
The apostolic church is branded by the commission to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to the whole world. This gospel, as passed on by Jesus’ first apostles, is good news to a human race whose fallen nature deserves God’s eternal judgment. Salvation is proclaimed for all who will recognize their sinfulness and embrace the cross of Jesus, where alone atonement for sin and reconciliation can be found. The PC(USA), in allowing for a false anthropology which declares that in spite of the Fall we are created good (and thus homosexual inclinations are blessed by God as are heterosexual ones), thereby eradicates the reality of sin and undermines the apostolic message.
If the church may rightly be defined as “an assembly of the faithful, called and gathered…by the Word and the Spirit” (see Second Helvetic 5.125), which as one people bound throughout time recognizes only one way of salvation, one God and Father, one Lord, one Spirit, one faith, one baptism, one Head over all whose truth and authority is to be our way, then the church is called to a spiritual unity characterized by shared submission to and engrafting into Jesus Christ through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Such unity is reflected by “being of the same mind” (Phil 3:15f.), the mind of Christ, as seen in the truth and unity of the catholic faith (5.141). Christian unity “…comes only from the Word of God in faith through the Holy Spirit” (Barmen 8.01). The PC(USA) today, chanting the mantra of theological diversity, has cast off any hope of such unity, and thus of renewal as well. The manifold errors of heterodox Presbyterianism are devastating the church and fracturing our communion.
Therefore, as evangelical, orthodox believers, we must speak with one voice today. Our biblical and confessional vows forbid our remaining silent any longer. Standing firmly in the center of our Reformed confessions, we emphatically reject the defamatory claim that by opposing the errant direction of the institutional PC(USA) we are somehow being schismatic, or motivated by fear or hatred of others. Indeed, we stand firmly on the historical, theological and spiritual foundation of our original forebears, and warmly
invite all others so inclined to join us. We have not broken away from the true church. The denominational apparatus has separated itself from its Reformation roots. We are not betraying the denomination; it has betrayed us by mutating into a post-Christian, political activism party. Our faithfulness to Jesus Christ leads us to these positions:
We reject the claim of the Presbyterian left that Truth is progressive, subjective and abrogative in such a way that central theological and moral truths revealed in the Scriptures can now be trumped by cultural imperatives, appeals to “social science”, new
so-called revelations of the Spirit, or the recasting of biblical words with alien meanings. The diversity to which the church is called should be seen sociologically and culturally, since God has created us with many ethnicities, stations and conditions of life. But the mind of Christ is one, and we are called to discover together the unchanging truth found in him, and so discover a like-mindedness grounded in the Word and Spirit.
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Luke 21:33)
“I am the way, the truth and the life.” (John 14:6)
We reject the heretical and unfounded claim that the Holy Spirit is speaking new truth that is no longer tethered to the Scripture, or that abrogates or redefines what is clear in Scripture, as if the Spirit had not fully inspired the teachings of Old and New Testaments in a coherent way, pointing clearly to Jesus Christ as the consummation of God’s revelation to the world.
Spiritual truth claims are not to be accepted on the basis of individual human will or desire, nor through the majority vote of interested parties, but must be tested as to their alignment with the Word of God which is the sword of the Spirit (Eph 6:17).
“If anyone is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be
eternally condemned!” (Gal 1:9)
“All Scripture is inspired and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness….” (2 Tim 3:16)
Jesus said, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you
have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (John 5:39-40)
Again he said, “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you in all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.” (John 16:13-14)
We reject the deceptive claim that “God is beyond names or definition,” which is intended to undo the particularity of biblical revelation and to allow liberal adherents to recast God in whatever image suits their cause. As a result of this falsehood, God’s self-descriptions in the Bible are ignored, and the declaration that “God is love” is perniciously distorted into “Love is God,” with “love” defined by whatever cause is in socio-political ascendancy. Likewise, as understanding of the true God is severed from Scripture, this deception results in a universalistic soteriology where all religious paths are equally acceptable ways to relationship with God.
We affirm instead that God has made himself known fully in and through Jesus Christ, and that what we know of God depends on his revelatory initiative. So Paul could say to the Athenians, “Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.” We abhor the idolatry that stems from ignorance or abandonment of God’s Word.
“No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in
closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” (John 1:18)
“This is my Son, whom I love; listen to him.” (Mark 9:7)
“For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form….” (Col 2:9)
“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being,
sustaining all things by his powerful word.” (Heb 1:3)
We reject the absurd claim that human beings are born with good natures, uncorrupted by the Fall, such that all innate human desires or dispositions are deemed “good” because they were “willed by God.” The Reformed doctrine of total depravity reflects the deep truth of Scripture that from the start all human life is corrupted by sin, that as Augustine understood we are awash with “inordinate desires.” Our innate rebellion against God’s Law at all points demonstrates this depravity. The present attempt to normalize aberrant sexual proclivities by appeal to God as their Creator either eradicates any objective standards for sin, or makes God the author of the evil he condemns in his Word.
We reject further the logical corollary that if human beings are born good there is no ontological reality to sin but only a functional one. There is no need for rebirth to a new quality of life but only rehabilitation so as to keep the right rules. As such, there is no need for a Savior for humanity, only messengers and teachers. But we acknowledge:
“Among these we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of body and mind, and so we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (Eph 2:3)
“The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
“Our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:29)
“We have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world.” (1John 4:14)
“He who has the Son has life; he who has not the Son has not life.” (1 John 5:12)
Finally, we reject the lie that the gospel of Jesus Christ is good news for those who will not repent of sin. God through the sacrifice of his Son will forgive every sin but those which we refuse to acknowledge and surrender. The radical inclusiveness of the gospel welcomes all sinners to the foot of the cross, but it does not permit us to overrule God’s judgment by arrogating to ourselves the definition of what is or is not sin. We are welcomed by God on his terms, not our own. As Heidelberg 4:098 reminds us, “…we must not try to be wiser than God….”
“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings….” (2 Tim 4:3)
“If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” (Matthew 15:14)
“If we say we have fellowship with God while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth….If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and
cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:6-9)
“Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord….” (Acts 3:19)
In light of these and similar false teachings which have been tolerated and even given safe harbor within the PC(USA), we hereby declare that we can no longer remain idle, but must decide together in one of two directions: either we move forward peacefully to reclaim this denomination and rebuild it on the Reformed foundations upon which it was originally established, cleansing it of the heresies and evils that have led to its downfall; or we withdraw peacefully, shaking the dust from our feet even as we grieve the decay and coming judgment of a once noble and faithful denomination. But one thing is sure: there is no longer any option of remaining under the authority of a structure that has cast revelation and obedience to the wind.
“For what partnership have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial?…Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, and make holiness perfect in the fear of God.” (2 Cor 6:14-7:1)
Soli Deo Gloria.
August 1, 2011