Monday, January 31, 2011

PCA BCO 14 Amendments Map Update

Over the weekend, three four more PCA Presbyteries voted on to reject the proposed amendments to their Book of Church Order. I've updated the map to reflect these votes. Click on the thumbnail below to see the latest version of the map:

Saturday, January 29, 2011

WCF Sunday School Week 2: Of The Holy Scriptures, Part 1

Last Sunday, in the adult Sunday School class at Communion Presbyterian, we went over the first part of Chapter 1 of the Westminster Confession of Faith: "Of The Holy Scriptures." I've posted below the handout (which was the text of the Confession), as well as my notes which is a series of Scripture proofs for the different topics we covered (General Revelation, Special Revelation, and the Authority of God's Word). In addition to those, a couple of people had asked me to record the class so they could listen to it later in the week. To that end, I've posted an MP3 of the class. After all the links, I've listed a few resources for "Further Reading" if you are interested in a bit more in depth study. Remember, this Sunday we don't meet, so the following Sunday is when we will pick up with the second half of Chapter 1 and cover the topics of Preservation and Interpretation.

Week 2 Resources:

Week 2 Handout: Text of WCF, Chapter 1

Lecture Notes

Audio of Class (53MB MP3)

Further Reading:

Westminster Larger Catechism 1-6

Westminster Shorter Catechism 1-3

Belgic Confession, 2-7

Heidelberg Catechism 19

Canons of Dordt I:3, I:5, III, IV:6-8, 17; V:14

Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 1, Chapters 1-10.

Dickson, David. Truth's Victory Over Error, Questions 1-10.

Hodge, Charles. Systematic Theology, Volume 1, Introduction, Chapter 4 (“The Protestant Rule of Faith.”).

Shedd, W. G. T. Dogmatic Theology. “Part 2: Bibliology.”

Week 1 Resources

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Two More PCA Presbyteries Reject Funding Plan

Two more presbyteries in the PCA have voted to reject the proposed amendments to the Book of Church Order of the PCA that would have changed how the Administrative Committee was funded. You can read all about it at The Aquila Report. I've posted the updated map below.

Understanding the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church & Its Relation to Erskine Seminary

Last week, there were two news items released regarding The Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARP) and Erskine College and Seminary (hereafter "Erskine") (see the first and second articles). As a Ruling Elder in the ARP, but also a relative newcomer to the denomination, I know it can be difficult to follow all the names, institutions, and organizations involved in the ARP and our internal workings. If it is difficult for me, a member of the ARP, to keep track of these things, I can only imagine how much more difficult it must be for my brothers and sisters in other denominations. With that in mind, I write today to give a brief history of the main issues involving Erskine and the ARP to date, then give a summary of where we stand today, and finally, offer some possibilities of what may happen in the future.

A BRIEF HISTORY (1770-2010)
The ARP, as it exists today, is the remnant of the old Associate Reformed Church that had its beginnings in the mid-seventeen hundreds. (For more on the history of our beginnings, read up on Ebenezer Erskine and the Marrow Controversy). In the 1820s, our old denomination broke into four synods, three of which were eventually absorbed into other Presbyterian bodies (eventually, these three, through a series of mergers, became part of the modern PC(USA)). The one remaining synod, the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Synod of the South, remained out of these mergers, and has, over the last 190 years, slowly grown. We’ve been known by a couple of different names over the years, but today we are known by the name, The Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church.

In 1839, the ARP started a college and then a seminary in Due West, South Carolina. The name Erskine was given to the school, to honor Ralph and Ebenezer Erskine, who had "seceded" from the Church of Scotland several years earlier.

Over the course of the history of the ARP, various parties have influenced the denomination. Beginning in the 1960s, a conservative resurgence began, which called the ARP back to its Reformed roots. In 1979, a statement on Biblical authority and integrity was adopted by the Synod. However, because the word "inerrant" was not explicitly used, those within the ARP who were opposed to the doctrine of inerrancy wrote a dissenting document titled "A Covenant of Integrity." It was not until 2008 that the Synod adopted a clearer statement on inerrancy. That statement read "that the Bible alone, being God-breathed, is the Word of God written, infallible in all that it teaches, and inerrant in the original manuscripts."

Partly because the 1979 statement had not been explicit in its use of "inerrancy" (though that was clearly the intent of the statement) and partly because the denomination did not enforce the 1979 statement, those who did not hold to inerrancy were allowed to remain in the denomination, and some of them came on staff at Erskine. When the 2008 statement was adopted, this caused some backlash from professors at Erskine who do not hold to inerrancy, as well as ministers who had been allowed to resist the 1979 statement. One such minister was Dr. Randall Ruble, who also had become President of Erskine. The 1979 dissenters, who had become entrenched at Erskine, had also ignored the Synod's directives for approximately thirty years. Rev. Charles Wilson (who blogs at documented the long history of Synod directing Erskine to do something. Erskine would then ignore the Synod's directives. In the following years, someone at Synod would then complain that Erskine had not obeyed the directives of Synod. Synod would then form an investigatory committee, who would look into the allegations of Erskine not following the Synod's directives. The committee would report back to a subsequent Synod, who would then direct Erskine to follow the directives of Synod. Erskine would ignore the new directives, and the whole cycle would begin again. To see Rev. Wilson's chronology of the interaction of Erskine and the Synod, see "A CHRONICLE OF THE LONG FAILURE OF GENERAL SYNOD TO OVERSEE ERSKINE COLLEGE AND SEMINARY, (1976 – 2008)" in the PDF available here.

Though I have highlighted the issue of inerrancy, other issues have arisen at Erskine, including open hostility to the Christian worldview, admission of non-Christians to our DMin program, and neo-Barthian professors in our seminary.

Last year, a called meeting of our Synod met in March. This was unprecedented in ARP history. At this meeting, our Synod reorganized the Board of Erskine to bring it more into line with the doctrine and teachings of the ARP. Three members of the Board then sued the denomination (two elders in the ARP being a part of the suit). In June of 2010, at the regular meeting of Synod, a compromise was reached between the church and those who had brought the suit. The compromise was that the suit would be dropped if the ARP revoked the resolutions (we call them "Memorials" in the ARP) it had passed at the Called Synod that had resulted in the reorganization of the Board. Another important development last year was that Dr. Ruble retired from his position as President of Erskine, and Dr. David Norman was hired to serve as Erskine’s fifteenth President.

Currently the Board of Erskine is chosen by the Synod of the ARP. Every year, five new members are appointed for a term of six years. In this way, the entire board (not including the four ex-officio members) rotates out every six years. In addition to the reorganization of the Board and the lawsuit last year, the former President of Erskine, Dr. Randy Ruble, retired and a new President was appointed. Dr. David Norman received the unanimous approval of the Board of Trustees of Erskine, which is quite an accomplishment, since the Board has been split between pro-ARP and anti-ARP sides--a division that was rather pronounced last year. Dr. Norman briefly presented his vision for Erskine at last year's Synod, and he is also writing a three part series in our denominational magazine, ARP Magazine, beginning with the January issue in which he will expand on his goals as President. I was able to meet Dr. Norman at Synod last year, and I have confidence that he will carry out the directives of the ARP at Erskine, while continuing to uphold the tradition of academic excellence that he inherited.

It may seem from my presenting of this history that all our problems in the ARP are resolved. Erskine has a new President and the lawsuit has been dropped. Sadly, this is not the end of our fight. I do believe we are moving in the right direction, but we aren't out of the woods, yet. Both from without and from within, we face challenges. From without, there are still plenty of people who want to see Erskine become completely independent of the ARP. Some of the alumni and even some of the faculty at Erskine fall into this category. From within, the ARP faces the same challenge of lethargy that many other Reformed and Presbyterian denominations have faced in the past and still face today. Constant vigilance is the required duty of the Church, and if we in the ARP wish to see our denomination and our college and seminary further reformed, we must remain vigilant. Thankfully, God has blessed us with men such as Charles Wilson and Dr. John De Witt (along with many others) who had the courage to sound the alarm and wake enough of us up from our slumber to do something before it was too late. However, even at last year's Synod I already saw signs of the old, laissez-faire way of doing business in the ARP coming back.

I anticipate that Erskine will still be a hot topic at this year’s Synod. Important things to watch for include who exactly gets put on Erskine’s Board. I am confident that the only way for Erskine to fulfill its purpose of being "the ARP in higher education" is to continually, year after year, ensure that godly, reformed men are placed on its Board. Another issue will most likely involve those who are elders in the church who brought the lawsuit against the ARP. Obviously, this cannot be tolerated and yet these men have been allowed to continue in their offices without consequence, and Scripture has been twisted to attempt to justify these actions by one of our very own seminary professors. So, as I have said, we certainly have our work cut out for us. I would ask those of you reading this who are not in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church to remember us in your prayers. And I would remind those of you reading this who are in the ARP to “Be strong and of good courage.” The road ahead is long and arduous, but, by God’s grace, our victory is assured in Christ our Lord.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

30th PCA Presbytery Votes to Reject Funding Plan

Although the proposed amendments to the PCA constitution are now defeated, there are still a lot of Presbyteries that need to vote on them. Yesterday, Southeast Alabama Presbytery did just that and rejected the already defeated amendments. This brings the vote total to: 30 Presbyteries rejecting both amendments, 27 approving, and 1 having split their vote. The updated map is linked below.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Congratulations to the PCA and Another Map Update

As of today, enough presbyteries in the PCA have voted to reject the proposed amendments to the Book of Church Order to defeat them. The two-thirds of the presbyteries which are necessary to pass amendments to the PCA constitution cannot be reached. You can read more about it at The Aquila Report or at Wes White's blog. Below is the updated map, showing the latest voting results.

Congratulations to those in the PCA that worked diligently to see these amendments defeated.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

ARP and Erskine News

Two stories today, related to the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARP), and, more directly, to Erskine College and Seminary.

The first is the news that Executive Vice President of Erskine Seminary, Dr. Neely Gaston, has resigned from his position at Erskine. Read the story here. (UPDATE: The Aquila Report also is covering this news, and has a bit more info here.)

The second is a new article at ARPTalk which details some of the conversations that have happened on Facebook about and involving Dr. David Norman, president of Erskine. You can read that here.

Also noteworthy is the series of articles Dr. Norman will be writing for ARP Magazine. The first in the 3-part series is in the January issue. Together, they will present his vision for Erskine College and Seminary. I may have to resubscribe just to read them!

PCA BCO 14 Amendments Map Update

On January 15, Northern New England Presbytery voted to approve the proposed amendments, bringing the vote tally to 23-23-1 (1 Presbytery voted to approve on amendment, but not the other). The updated map is linked below.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

PCA BCO 14 Amendments Map Update

Three more PCA presbyteries have voted on the proposed amendments to their Book of Church Order. You can read about it at The Aquila Report. Below is the updated map which reflects these latest presbytery votes.

Elders, Authority, and Love

Last night, at our midweek Bible study (can it really be called "midweek" if it meets on Monday night?), we studied the first half of Acts 6. Of course, this section of Scripture deals with the need, selection, and ordination of the first seven deacons. There is a lot of treasure to be gleaned from these few verses, but one thing which struck me was the manner in which the Apostles, the disciples, and the deacons interacted.

Here is the passage we covered:

1 Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. 2 Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. 3 Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; 4 but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, 6 whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them.
7 Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.
Matthew Henry correctly points out that the Apostles, by the nature of their office and the authority given to them by Christ Himself, could have simply ruled as to who would now handle the daily distributions. Henry cites Paul in Philemon 8: "Therefore, though I might be very bold in Christ to command you what is fitting..." Paul, as an Apostle, had the right to command Philemon to do what was right regarding Onesimus, his run away slave. So too, in the situation in Acts 6, the Apostles could have simply commanded that certain men fulfill the office of deacon, but that is not what we see happening here. Instead, the Apostles instruct the disciples to "seek men...whom we may appoint over this business." Just as Paul tells Philemon that "for love’s sake I rather appeal to you," instead of commanding him, so also the Apostles in Acts 6, for love's sake, appeal to all the Christians to choose the seven men.

How, then, are we as elders in Christ's church to rule over the flock? We are not to act as "the rulers of the Gentiles" who lord it over their subjects (Matt. 20:25), but rather, we are to "Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away." (1 Peter 5:2-4)

Monday, January 17, 2011

PCA BCO 14 Amendments Map Update

Over the weekend, six PCA Presbyteries voted on the proposed BCO Amendments. Of those 6, only 2 voted to approve the amendments, while 4 voted to reject. I've updated my map with the latest results. Click the thumbnail below to see the full-size version. Another batch of Presbyteries are set to vote tomorrow, so stay tuned for another map update!

(NOTE: The first map I put up earlier today had a couple of errors. I've corrected those and the revised, corrected map can be seen by clicking on the thumbnail below)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

WCF Sunday School Week 1: Syllabus and Notes

As promised (to my class), I've posted links to the class syllabus and my lecture notes for my adult Sunday School class on the Westminster Confession of Faith, below. Since we were pressed for time, you will find more information in the notes than I was able to cover in class this morning. Also, note that all the posts on my blog that are related to this class will be tagged with the "Westminster Confession of Faith Sunday School Class" tag for easy tracking.

For all the rest of you reading, I hope you find the information below helpful.

Syllabus and Week 1 Notes:


Part 1: Why A Creed? Lecture Notes

Part 2: A Brief History of the Westminster Assembly Lecture Notes

Further Reading:

Why be Confessional?: A short video produced by Westminster Seminary California.

Lecture on the History of the Westminster Assembly (Click on the link at the bottom right of the page entitled “Watch Dr. Ferguson’s First Lecture”): A lecture given by Dr. Sinclair Ferguson at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary.

Hodge, A. A. The Confession of Faith, Introduction (Chapters 1 and 2). These two chapters deal with “A Short History of Creeds and Confessions” and “Some Account of the Origin of the Westminster Confession and Catechisms.”

Letham, Robert. The Westminster Assembly: Reading its theology in Historical Context. Especially chapters 1 and 2, which deal with the historical context of the Assembly.

Next Week:

Please read Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 1 "Of the Holy Scriptures". Be sure to read the Scripture proofs!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Missouri Presbytery Report on Jeffrey Meyers Released

Wes White has posted the entire report of the Missouri Presbytery (MOP) of the PCA regarding the Letter of Concern sent to them about TE Jeffrey Meyers. You can read the entire document here:

UPDATED UPDATE: MOP-Approved Meyers investigative committee report now available

Also, be sure to check out the comments on the various posts at They are usually very insightful.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Warfield not an Evolutionist After All!

In the latest issue of The Confessional Presbyterian, there is an article by Fred G. Zaspel entitled "B. B. Warfield on Creation and Evolution." Having read my share of theistic evolutionists, I was already aware that Warfield is used by them to justify their position. "I am a theistic evolutionist, just like Warfield was, so that makes it ok." That is how the reasoning usually runs. (NB: of course, to us confessional Presbyterians, it doesn't matter what any individual believes, we are held to the standard of our Confessional documents, and the Westminster Confession leaves no room for the possibility of evolution. But, I digress.)

Rev. Zaspel has done a good work by contributing fresh study to the position of Warfield in regard to evolution. He clearly demonstrates that, at best, Warfield was open to the possibility of evolution (though a highly modified version of evolution which could not be called "Darwinian"), and at times mockingly rejected the idea. It appears that Warfield in his undergraduate days probably held to evolution (Zaspel writes: "Warfield's own claim in 1916 is that he had rejected evolutionism by the early 1880s, and significantly, his remark seems to reflect his thinking still in 1916"), but at some point along the way abandoned the theory. "This is how Warfield argued consistently over the course of his career: he allowed the possibility of evolution, but he remained non-committal," writes Zaspel.

Zaspel concludes, "The prevailing understanding of Warfield as an evolutionist must be rejected."

You can order a copy of the latest Confessional Presbyterian Journal at if you are interested in reading the entire article, which I highly recommend.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Missouri Presbytery Exonerates Jeffrey Meyers

I know I mentioned this in my News Roundup earlier today, but this particular news item deserves its own entry. Jeffrey Meyers is a signatory on the Joint Federal Vision Statement (see the document here and note Jeffrey Meyers name at the bottom). The PCA has officially condemned the Federal Vision theology (see the documents under "Federal Vision" here). However, for some reason, the Missouri Presbytery of the PCA has decided there is "insufficient evidence" to raise a strong presumption of guilt that Meyers holds to Federal Vision theology! They have a signed confession, and yet they have insufficient evidence. I would say "unbelievable" but fewer and fewer things are truly unbelievable to me anymore.

Read more over at Wes White's blog: UPDATED: MO Presbytery’s specific exonerations of TE Meyers

PCA Vote now 18-18 on Proposed BCO Amendments

The Aquila Report has the latest vote tally for PCA BCO amendments at 18-18. Below is a link to my latest map.

News Roundup

I figure it's time for another News Roundup, so here goes:

ARP/Erskine News
If you like numbers and statistics, take a look at this report at ARPTalk from last month. It gives some enrollment numbers for Erskine Theological Seminary over the past few years. Interestingly, the number of United Methodist students has declined significantly (explanation given at ARPTalk), but the number of PCUSA students has increased. I fear that will continue to be the case, until we can remove non-inerrantists from the faculty at Erskine.

In other Erskine news, Dr. David Norman recently delivered his "State of the School" report to the Board of Erskine. You can read about it at The Aquila Report. Continue to pray for Dr. Norman and his family, as he strives to manage the school. When you read the story at The Aquila Report, you will see it is no easy task he has in front of him.

PCA News
Meanwhile, in the PCA, the controversy over the Federal Vision continues. Most recently, the Missouri Presbytery exonerated Teaching Elder Jeff Meyers of teaching FV doctrine. The background for this story is that several concerned elders in the PCA sent a letter to the Missouri Presbytery about TE Meyers' teaching. MO Presbytery responded by alleging that signers of the letter had violated the Ninth Commandment and then cleared Meyers of the allegations. Doug Wilson announced the "good news" on his site. Here are links to a number of articles about this latest debacle:

MO Presbytery exonerates Federal Visionist Jeffrey Meyers of all theological errors
UPDATED: MO Presbytery’s specific exonerations of TE Meyers
Doug Wilson: “Some Heartening FV News”
TE Jeffrey Meyers Cleared by Missouri Presbytery of Allegations Against Him

In other PCA news, the next round of Presbytery meetings is about to begin, and the issue of the amendments to the BCO will be on a lot of agendas. At last count, the voting was 17 Presbyteries in favor of the amendments, 16 against. Two-thirds of all Presbyteries need to approve these amendments in order for them to be ratified, and I just don't think that will happen. Nonetheless, the Administrative Committee of the PCA is doing its best to push them through. byFaith, the denominational magazine of the PCA, published a piece on the issue, framing it as a conservative vs. liberal debate. Not the best article byFaith has ever done, in my opinion.

OPC News
And lastly in the OPC, nothing happened. Just kidding of course, but it does seem like the OPC has been strangely quiet recently. Perhaps God is giving them a bit of (well-deserved) rest. Or perhaps they have better PR people than the ARP and PCA.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Sin of Gamaliel

This last Monday night, my church's midweek Bible study covered the last half of Acts 5. In that passage, Gamaliel's advice to the Sanhedrin is recorded. His advice was to let the apostles alone; if what they were doing was from men, it would soon pass away, but if what they were doing really was from God, then the elders of Israel were wrong to oppose it. It is an interesting bit of wisdom, and God used it at that time to spare the lives of the Apostles, since the Sanhedrin wanted to kill them. Gamaliel's advice can be found in Acts 5:38, "Keep away from these men and leave them alone." His reasoning then follows: "for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God."

Gamaliel was correct. If this work was from God the elders of Israel would not be able to overthrow it. But, keep in mind who Gamaliel was and to whom he was speaking. Gamaliel was "a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people" and he was addressing the high priest and the elders of Israel. He was a teacher of the law addressing other teachers of the law. So, while Gamaliel's advice shows a more measured response to the Apostles' teaching than the rest of the Sanhedrin, it is still very bad advice. Instead of warning the rest of the council to "keep away" he should have been telling them "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ." Gamaliel, of all men, should have known that Jesus was the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises of the Messiah. Instead, this teacher of Israel advises his audience to keep away from those preaching Christ. It is a sin to advise others to stay away from Gospel preaching, and that was Gamaliel's sin. Ultimately, of course, we know that his bad advice was used for good by God. The Apostles left alive, though beaten, and "they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ" (verse 42).

What can we learn from Gamaliel? First, all the learning in the world is not enough to convince spiritually dead sinners of the truth of the Gospel. Gamaliel was possibly the best qualified of men to be converted through "reason" and yet he continues in sin, rejecting the truth that Jesus is the Messiah. Second, God uses wicked advice for His own purposes. The Apostles go on preaching Christ, both in homes and in the Temple, the very place where they had been arrested.

Gamaliel gave bad advice. He should have repented and believed. He sinned in telling others to stay away from preachers of the Gospel. The Elders and high priest followed Gamaliel's bad advice. They also should have repented and believed. But, the end of it all was that the Gospel was triumphant. The Apostles continued to preach Jesus as the Christ, and we read in Acts 6:7 that eventually, "a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith."

Beware the sin of Gamaliel, but be sure that Christ will be triumphant through the preaching of the Gospel!

Monday, January 3, 2011

The more things change...

...the more they stay the same:

The chief priests are told to their faces the indignities they did to this Jesus: "You slew him and hanged him on a tree, you cannot deny it." The apostles, instead of making an excuse, or begging their pardon, for bringing the guilt of this man's blood upon them, repeat the charge, and stand to it: "It was you that slew him; it was your act and deed," Note, People's being unwilling to hear of their faults is no good reason why they should not be faithfully told of them. It is a common excuse made for not reproving sin that the times will not bear it. But those whose office it is to reprove must not be awed by this; the times must bear it, and shall bear it. Cry aloud and spare not; cry aloud and fear not.
Matthew Henry, Commentary on Acts 5.