King David: Warrior and Poet After God’s Own Heart (19)

praying-israeliteGod’s Promise to David (3)

David’s Prayer: 2 Samuel 7:18-24

What will be King David’s response to this gracious, eternal promise from the LORD God?  Could there be a more clear case for self-congratulation and boasting than had David at this point in time?  After all, the LORD God had purposefully chosen him to be king, and had shown His favor across the years of struggle necessary to reach this point.  And David himself had, through his wisdom and prowess, overcome all his enemies, both internal and external to the nation.

David had participated in banditry and bloody combat, with easily thousands of human deaths either directly or indirectly caused by his actions.  At this point might not a person with this on his conscience be overwhelmingly tempted to respond in self-justification?  That is, to turn God’s blessing to his own purposes, to absolve himself of guilt.

And yet, this is how King David actually did begin his prayerful response.

18 Then King David went in and sat before the Lord, and he said:

“Who am I, Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? 19 And as if this were not enough in your sight, Sovereign Lord, you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant—and this decree, Sovereign Lord, is for a mere human!

20 “What more can David say to you? For you know your servant, Sovereign Lord. 21 For the sake of your word and according to your will, you have done this great thing and made it known to your servant.

22 “How great you are, Sovereign Lord! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears. 23 And who is like your people Israel—the one nation on earth that God went out to redeem as a people for himself, and to make a name for himself, and to perform great and awesome wonders by driving out nations and their gods from before your people, whom you redeemed from Egypt? 24 You have established your people Israel as your very own forever, and you, Lord, have become their God.


I must ask, in this current time of Facebook/Twitter/Instagram (et al.) self-promotion, self-congratulation, self-absorption; can there be anything more foreign than this beginning of King David’s prayer?  No.  For this elect soul, this victor over all adversity and adversaries, this bloodied warrior points always and only away from himself and towards the LORD God.

However, there’s a deeper problem that prevents many contemporary people from giving David an open-minded hearing.  That being David is the exact opposite of everything that they believe to comprise morality.  In the view of many David is a far closer to (if not actually being) a war criminal than to a man after God’s own heart.  Thus, the fact that Holy Scripture lifts up this particular man can actually undermine their confidence.  In the next post I will directly address this difficult issue.

For today let’s, as Christians, be clear on the fundamental point.  Regardless of our own feelings, knowledge and opinions, David’s story is in the Word of God.  We do not judge it, nor does our personal sense of morality supersede it.  God has placed it in His Word for our benefit.  Yes, we should first seek guidance from the Holy Spirit in prayer and then use all of our God-given gifts to properly interpret and apply it to our life and times.  But, we Christians must stand with David, a God-chosen pillar of our faith in saying.

“Who am I, Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?”

Humility, thankfulness, and submission to an external, eternal sovereign LORD God…

30It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” 

(1 Corinthians 1:30,31, NIV)

King David: Warrior and Poet After God’s Own Heart (1)

Michaelangelo-David

Michelangelo’s David

Opening Thoughts

In the first verse of the first Book of the New Testament, the Gospel of Matthew, the name of David occurs at the twelfth word[1].

This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham: (Matthew 1:1, NIV)

Thus, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ is tied in the most intimate manner with King David, a warrior and poet after God’s own heart.  And yet, when 21st century Christians seek to interpret the person and purpose of Jesus Christ, this unmistakable bond with an ancient king from the Old Testament is all too often ignored.

David-W&P

We live in an age dominated by pacifistic, narcissistic and perfectionistic modes of thought.  Thus the most natural interpretation of our Savior’s character is “gentle Jesus, meek and mild.”  While I will not here contend that this sweet Wesleyan phrase is an inaccurate description of Christ’s nature, I will strenuously argue that it is a dangerous falsehood to consider it to be anything even approaching a complete one.  For, if we follow the thread from Matthew 1:1 back to the story of David in 1 and 2 Samuel, we are confronted by a person who somehow combined the brutality of a warrior with the sensitivity of a poet, and thus is described in Scripture (Acts 13:22, 23, NIV):

After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’  “From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised.[2]

And, this Covenant made by God with David is said in the Gospel of Luke to have been completed in Jesus Christ.

He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:32,33, NIV)

And thus the circle is closed between King David, a warrior and poet after God’s own heart and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.


[1] I have previously considered the second patriarch in this verse, Abraham, in God’s Acts of Providence.

[2] Here in Acts the Apostle Paul, in Pisidian Antioch, is summarizing 2 Samuel 7:12-16.

What does the Bible Teach on Immigration and Refugee Policy (2)

bible-bordersThe Reverend Gradye Parsons’ Letter

I’ll begin the careful scrutiny of this issue by discussing the PC(USA) “Stated Clerk issues letter to Trump on refugees, immigrants” (dated October 2, 2015) that was introduced in my previous post.  The value is that a high officer is here explaining the denomination’s policy positions in an official capacity.  Thus, what is said, implied and unsaid is of great significance.  The Biblical interpretative, philosophical and communication strategies utilized are also important aspects of the analysis.  All text from the letter is included in order as quotes, with my commentary inserted as regular text.

Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.
725 Fifth Avenue
New York, New York 10022

Mr. Trump,

I am the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the denomination of the congregation in Queens, New York, where you were baptized. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) develops its policies through councils of teaching elders and ruling elders. At the national level it does that through the General Assembly. I would like to share with you the Presbyterian policies on refugees and immigrants.

There was a time in my living memory when such a preamble would have elicited an expectation of Christian profundity.  I detect a sense of chastisement here, as Rev. Parsons deigns to educate Mr. Trump on the refugee and immigration positions of his own denomination.  I must say that on this point we are in agreement.  However, whereas the issue at hand elicited this response, for me it began when Mr. Trump said “I’m Presbyterian.  Boy, that’s down the middle of the road, folks, in all fairness.”

Presbyterians profess a faith in Christ, whose parents were forced to flee with him to Egypt when he was an infant to save him from King Herod. Knowing our Lord was once a refugee, faithful Presbyterians have been writing church policy urging the welcome of refugees and demanding higher annual admissions into the United States since the refugee crisis of World War II.

Here we find the one and only Biblical reference, summarizing Matthew 2:13-20.  What startles is the unexplained logical leap from our Lord’s specific experience to an apparently general application.  Does the fact that Jesus Christ was once a refugee mean that any and all who claim that status have been automatically bestowed with His sinlessness?  Is it possible in Rev. Parsons’ ideology for someone who claims refugee status to yet harbor evil intent?  And, if this is a realistic possibility, would a sovereign nation be obliged to welcome that person into their population?  Note that these real and pressing issues don’t even warrant acknowledgment let alone serious consideration in this authoritative statement of the PC(USA)’s positions.

Presbyterians have a mission presence in many refugee-sending countries, including Syria and Lebanon, where we have been present since 1823. Our relationship with people of faith and communities in these countries gives us knowledge of the root causes of the flight of refugees and further cements a commitment to welcome.

1983-beirut-bombing-by-hezbollah-iran-e1404967583363

1983 Hezbollah Bombing of the U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut Lebanon

These two sentences manage to encompass the decadence and irresponsibility that defines our national denominational leadership.  Here we have mentioned two countries, one having experienced and the other currently embroiled in bloody, brutal civil war, held up as places from which blameless refugees are guaranteed to originate.  Who, I wonder, has been doing all of the killing in Syria resulting in almost 500,000 dead?  Weren’t upwards of 150,000 killed in the Lebanese Civil War (1975-90) by someone?  Isn’t Syria the home of ISIS and Lebanon of Hezbollah, both vicious, genocidal Islamic terrorist groups who target the United States?  Is it not possible that someone complicit in or directly responsible for this mass murder might seek to enter the United States as a refugee?

isis-san-bernardino-terrorists

2015 San Bernardino ISIS Terrorist Murderers

And yet, in the face of this absolutely obvious set of circumstances, the Rev. Parsons bestows blanket innocence upon all refugees from these troubled countries because of the PC(USA)’s supposed “knowledge.”  What can possibly account for the existence of this level of moral blindness?  The Rev. Parsons, speaking for the PC(USA) General Assembly, is more than happy to signal their supposed superior virtue while ignoring the real and present danger to their fellow citizens from uncontrolled entry of refugees.  That is, they will happily claim all of the virtue points for their “compassionate” stance on refugees but deny any culpability for associated crime and terrorism because “their intentions were good.”  This is not virtue, it is its opposite, and, it’s long past time that we ceased allowing our national leaders to have it both ways.

Presbyterians through decades of policy have demanded humane treatment of people of all nationalities and faiths who find themselves within our borders.

This sentence is a masterpiece of obfuscation.  On the surface it appears to be undeniable.  Yes, absolutely, we in the United States should treat all within our borders humanely.  And yet, what if someone finds “themselves within our borders” because they have entered illegally?  Is it inhumane to deny them social services, welfare, work?  Is it inhumane to deport them?  If they commit a felonious crime, is it still inhumane to deport them?  All of this is left unaddressed.  One has to dig a little to uncover the true position of the PC(USA).

We have challenged our government when it neglects to acknowledge the refugee status of those fleeing persecution.

Has the PC(USA) ever supported laws or policies that ensure careful vetting of refugees?  Unless information to the contrary can be presented, their position on vetting refugees from lawless, violent nations appears to be that it shouldn’t be done at all.

We have pushed for due process at the border and we continue to petition for immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for undocumented persons.

I believe that “due process” likely means that a non-citizen of the United States should be given all of the Constitutional rights as has a citizen even when outside of the country.  Were this position to be accepted then the ability of the United States to control entry of non-citizens would be at the very least severely damaged.

As a Presbyterian I acknowledge my immigrant ancestors and my new immigrant sisters and brothers. I also respect that we came uninvited to a land already occupied by people. This creates a sense of humility about my citizenship that shapes my views on those who seek a place here.

This is an excellent example of the Jonathan Gruber school of political discourse: “lack of transparency is a huge political advantage.”  For, obscured behind all of the virtue signaling is effectively the demand for “open borders.”  Yes, the Rev. Parsons doesn’t explicitly say this.  However, since he admits guilt for his ancestors coming “uninvited to a land already occupied by people,” the most reasonable conclusion is that anyone who seeks “a place here” should be allowed in.  Of course to say so outright would create yet another reason for members to exit the denomination.  So, the position is only tacitly communicated.  However, I have little doubt that “open borders” is both what is meant and what is being pursued by the PC(USA) leadership.

I hope you will find this helpful. I especially hope it will inform you on your policies going forward.

In Christ,

The Reverend Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

It certainly was helpful, but not necessarily in the way intended.  This letter helps by exposing the unsupported logical leaps, lack of theological seriousness, irresponsible virtue signaling, disdain for the safety of our citizens, obfuscation and purposeful ambiguity of the PC(USA)’s national leadership.  Only a leadership clique hermetically sealed inside an alternative-reality ideology could be capable of generating, approving and releasing such a defective statement.

Comments on the 222nd General Assembly (1 of 3)

Meet our New Co-Moderators

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The Presbyterian Church (USA) elected Jan Edmiston, right, and Denise Anderson as the Co-Moderators of their 222nd General Assembly. Photo by Danny Bolin, courtesy of PC(USA)

The GA elected the Rev. Denise Anderson as a co-moderator at its 222nd General Assembly, who wrote this in her blog on June 12 concerning the Orlando massacre by an Islamic terrorist (emphasis added):

This particular gunman took out fifty people in one night. How many LGBT sisters and brothers have we — the Church — gradually and systemically killed over a longer period of time? He and we have been in the same business. We’re simply not as efficient as he was.

And lest there be any doubt whom is included in this appalling diatribe (emphasis again added).

Sadly, many in our own ranks aren’t too idealistically different from this gunman. And, though he may have been a “lone wolf,” this kind of hate does not develop in a vacuum. It is nurtured. It is facilitated. It is given permission to thrive and grow. It is provided with a safe space. Church, for whom/what will we provide sanctuary? I believe God is calling us to make that decision today.

Much more could be said about the theology / ideology / mindset that is here on display.  For now, it is sufficient to convey that this person who accuses Christians of being “inefficient” mass murderers was overwhelmingly elected by our GA into the highest position in the PCUSA.

The other co-moderator is the Chicago Presbytery’s own Rev. Jan Edmonton, who’s Presbytery concurred with the Overture “On the Admission of, and Apology for, Harms Done to the LGBTQ/Q Members of the PC(USA), Family and Friends—From the Presbytery of New York City”.

This Overture demanded an apology by PCUSA Christians who object to same-gender marriage and/or gay ordination just a few years after the GA had promised respect for opposing views It was too extreme for even for the GA’s Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP), who proposed a softened version (although other GA committees strongly supported the Presbytery of New York City Overture, emphasis added).

At the same time, despite rapid recent gains in social acceptance for marriage equality in U.S. society at large, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has pledged to remain a place where conscientious individual views on both ordination and marriage will continue to be respected. In the larger world, we are well aware that Christians hold a range of views about sexuality, celibacy, reproductive rights, freedom of religious expression, and human rights generally.

But lest you place your hope for honorable treatment in the ACSWP, note hat they are simply asking for a “decent interval” between the making and breaking of the PCUSA’s promise.  Note that “11-05” refers to the original Overture (emphasis added).

The proponents of Item 11-05 are deeply right to lift up the forty-year journey taken by our church on matters of sexual orientation. While the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy believes it is not time for an apology such as the one proposed

In fact, the ACSWP doesn’t even fundamentally disagree with the Rev. Denise Anderson’s views.

We are part of a society in which discrimination and even violence toward LGBTQ persons still occur and with which our faith community is sometimes complicit.

We have been pretending for far too long that our local church’s Christian witness can be conducted independently from the PCUSA at the Presbytery, Synod and GA levels.  The election of these individuals as co-moderators makes it absolutely clear what direction the denominational elites plan to take us.  That is, the strategic and daily decisions that set the direction for our denomination will be made by two individuals who have openly stated their disgust for and contempt of non-progressive (or even not sufficiently progressive) Christians.

Will a person who claims no difference between Christians who oppose same-gender marriage and Islamic mass murderers work to heal the wounds of a divided denomination?  Will a person who has attempted to force remaining Bible trusting PCUSA members into apologizing for their position respect their consciences?  The questions answer themselves.

I’m sorry to say that there’s more to report, but I’ll give you time to deal with this installment.

A Continued Excursion into PCUSA Heresy

The PCUSA 222 General Assembly (2016)

Screen Shot 2016-06-04 at 11.36.03 AMThe 222nd General Assembly (GA) of the PCUSA will occur from June 18–25 in Portland, Oregon.  It turns out that the official hosting Presbytery is the one that approved the Rev. John Shuck as a pastor.  By so doing, the Presbytery of the Cascades welcomed an open, aggressive atheist into its membership.

You can learn more about this Presbytery’s contribution to the same-gender marriage debacle here and here.  I’m certain that their prominent role in falsifying what Jesus Christ teaches about the institution of Christian marriage significantly contributed to earning them this honor.Screen Shot 2016-06-04 at 11.37.25 AM

Certainly the fact that they accepted an aggressive atheist as a pastor for one of their churches didn’t count against them.  It was probably a plus, given the PCUSA’s love of inclusiveness for heretics.

I will have more to say about the 222nd General Assembly in the near future.  We have already established that heretics are fine as pastors in the PCUSA.  It’s possible that by this GA’s end, Bible trusting Christians will be under denominational condemnation.

Woe to those who call evil good
    and good evil,
who put darkness for light
    and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
    and sweet for bitter!  (Isaiah 5:20, RSV)

A Brief Excursion into PCUSA Heresy

heresy1At a recent Bible Study I said that the PCUSA is being torn asunder by a “christianity” that believes in “god” as simply a human construct that can be used to manipulate others.  I made this comment as an inference based on my observation of our denominational elite’s behavior.  For example, that in the over 24,000 words written in support of gay marriage at the recent General Assembly, Jesus Christ Himself was not quoted even once.  Rather, the entire argument was based on what the proponents believed about Jesus Christ.
The very next day I was stunned to discover that there is a PCUSA pastor (the Rev. John Shuck) in apparently good standing who states openly that which I had inferred.  If you follow the links, you will go from the original source article to The Friendly Atheist, where you will find the Rev. Shuck’s summary of his beliefs:

For example, I believe that:

  • Religion is a human construct
  • The symbols of faith are products of human cultural evolution
  • Jesus may have been an historical figure, but most of what we know about him is in the form of legend
  • God is a symbol of myth-making and not credible as a supernatural being or force
  • The Bible is a human product as opposed to special revelation from a divine being
  • Human consciousness is the result of natural selection, so there’s no afterlife
From “The Friendly Atheist” site we can continue follow links to Pastor Shuck’s blog site to Southminster Presbyterian Church (Beaverton, OR) to their Staff page.  There you will find that the Rev. Shuck has been their pastor since January 1, 2015.  You will also be told in Rev. Shuck’s staff bio that:

John has been involved in the work of the Westar Institute (the Jesus Seminar).   Westar promotes the advancement of religious literacy.   John is proud that Southminster engages spirituality and critical thinking.   John is a signatory of the Clergy Letter Project that advocates scientific literacy including teaching Evolutionary Theory.   John’s favorite Sunday is Evolution Sunday on the Sunday closest to Charles Darwin’s birthday.

Note that I have already investigated PCUSA ties to the Westar Institute and Jesus Seminar (focus on the Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, see from here to here).
I would like to believe that Pastors Shuck and Reyes-Chow are isolated cranks who have no real connection to or influence in the denomination.  Unfortunately, I have to note that the Rev. Reyes-Chow was the 2008 Moderator of the PCUSA and the Rev. Shuck appears to be happily prospering in the denomination.
As I have expressed this concern the responses have varied from support and affirmation to disagreement and diminishment.  In particular on the latter response, some have attempted to diminish by pointing out that these individuals are both few in number and rendered ineffective by the “silliness” of their position.

I can’t shake the sense that the PCUSA leadership (particularly now that so many pastors/members/churches have given up and exited) see “following Christ” from a similar perspective.  Yes, I understand that these denominational leaders talk all the time about “following Christ.”  Yet, when they had the opportunity to make the supposedly compelling case for same-gender marriage, Christ as testified to in the Bible was completely excluded.  That failure destroyed the last shred of their credibility on my part.

My concern has been best put into words by Dr. Van Til in an essay on the Confession of 1967 (emphasis added).

Though we concede that the new creed and its new theology speak highly of both Christ and the Bible, we nevertheless contend that new meanings have been attached to old, familiar words. The whole question, accordingly, is one of reinterpretation. One may take a milk bottle and fill it with a poisonous white liquid and call it milk, but this does not guarantee that the poisonous liquid is milk. It may well be some thing that is highly dangerous to man. …

Though the twentieth-century church has been informed by the new theology that it can have no objective or conceptual knowledge of God and of Christ, this same theology still continues to speak about God and Christ in eloquent terms. But, as we have already noted, these terms have new definitions. The God and the Christ of this contemporary theology have very little in common with the God and the Christ of historic Christianity.  There is good reason to believe that the new theology has virtually manufactured a new Christ, a person who is essentially different from the Savior of the Scriptures.

I’m not attempting here to reopen debate on the Confession of 1967, but the theology described above is what I too often see in our denominational and presbytery leadership today.

Although there is a clear aspect of “silly” in what Pastors Shuck and Reyes-Chow are doing, there is another side far less humorous.  I see people such as them as the avant-garde who demonstrate that there are no theological bounds left within the PCUSA.  Yes, few do or even want to follow them.  But for those who are determined to obliterate Christ as testified to in the Bible and replace Him with an avatar carrying their own beliefs, they show that the denomination cannot rouse itself even to oppose in-your-face heresy.

Thus, I’m concerned that these two apostate pastors are only the tip of an awful iceberg.  That is, while they openly argue for heresy, many others quietly work incessantly to manipulate trusting Christian souls into great error.
My personal response is to pray that faithful PCUSA congregations continues to be a bright beacon of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in these dark, dangerous times.  We should support and encourage our pastors to continue preaching and teaching Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and the Bible as God’s Word.  We should speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) with courage and conviction.  And finally, we should, by trusting in God’s good providence, never despair and never cease praising His saving grace in our lives and in this broken world.

How Can We Know Who Jesus Christ is? (Part 6)

The Confession of 1967 (2 of 2)

WHOHowJCThe Confession of 1967 was, by the admission of its primary authors, intended to directly contradict the Westminster Confession on numerous central doctrinal points.  The consequences for a denomination that purports to be “confessional” have been nothing short of disastrous.  Before proceeding further, allow me to quote from the authors themselves regarding their purpose (see here and here for expanded information).

This section is an intended revision of the Westminster doctrine, which rested primarily on a view of inspiration and equated the Biblical canon directly with the Word of God. By contrast, the preeminent and primary meaning of the word of God in the Confession of 1967 is the Word of God incarnate. The function of the Bible is to be the instrument of the revelation of the Word in the living church. It is not a witness among others but the witness without parallel, the norm of all other witness. At the same time questions of antiquated cosmology, diverse cultural influences, and the like, may be dealt with by careful scholarship uninhibited by the doctrine of inerrancy which placed the older Reformed theology at odds with advances in historical and scientific studies. (“The Proposal to Revise the Confessional Position of The United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America,” p. 29)

The clearly described intent of these authors is transformed into the following two sentences in the Confession of 1967 (emphasis added).

The one sufficient revelation of God is Jesus Christ, the Word of God incarnate, to whom the Holy Spirit bears unique and authoritative witness through the Holy Scriptures, which are received and obeyed as the word of God written.

The Scriptures, given under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, are nevertheless the words of men, conditioned by the language, thought forms, and literary fashions of the places and times at which they were written.

As is so often the case, the radical break with previous doctrinal understanding is obscured behind subtle, confusing language that appears to be perfectly acceptable on the surface, but actually smuggles in a monumental theological change of perspective.  In this case, the crucial point of departure is clearly identified as follows.

According to the Confession, Jesus Christ is the Word of God, in distinction from Scripture; Scripture, the words of men, merely bears witness to Jesus Christ, the Word of God.

As I have discussed in detail, the practical consequence of this distinction is to completely decouple the person and purpose of Jesus Christ from the Words of Scripture.  That is, in practice, the Confession of 1967 frees pastors, elders and deacons to substitute who they believe Jesus Christ should be, based upon their own beliefs, for who the Scriptures actually describe Him to be.  They are so freed because in their ordination vow:

c. Do you sincerely receive and adopt the essential tenets of the Reformed faith as expressed in the confessions of our church as authentic and reliable expositions of what Scripture leads us to believe and do, and will you be instructed and led by those confessions as you lead the people of God?

they are in effect committing to a nullity.  That is, since “the confessions of our church” simultaneously teach two diametrically opposed views of Scripture, they essentially cancel each other out, leaving nothing but a gaping doctrinal void.

The Confession of 1967 is a foundational component of the PCUSA’s demise.  It is the source from which the evasions, deceptions and outright heresies perpetrated by our ruling elite are justified.  For, as the most recent full “confession of faith,” the Confession of 1967 has negated huge areas of Reformed doctrine.  These areas have been replaced by whatever our PCUSA elite decide should be true on any particular issue at any particular time.

The Confession of 1967’s teaching on Scripture, and, on many other doctrinal issues as well, is diametrically opposed to the doctrines of our historic (i.e., pre-1967) confessions.  As an elder, I will not accept that I have vowed to follow Jesus Christ based on the leadership of a nullity.  Rather I will choose which of the two diametrically opposed confessional standards that I will follow.  I choose the historic confessions.

This post completes discussion of our confessional basis for general Biblical interpretation.  I will now apply these concepts to the specific question: Is Jesus Christ a pacifist and how can we know?

How Can We Know Who Jesus Christ is? (Part 5)

WHOHowJCThe Confession of 1967 (1 of 2)

The following is the first paragraph from the Book of Confessions introduction to the Confession of 1967.

In approving the Confession of 1967, the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America adopted its first new confession of faith in three centuries. The turbulent decade of the 1960s challenged churches everywhere to restate their faith. While the Second Vatican Council was reformulating Roman Catholic thought and practice, Presbyterians were developing the Confession of 1967.

I have read this Confession numerous times over the years.  However, this is the first time that I have done so since beginning the journey documented in this blog.  Given the theological debacle that has occurred in the case of same gender marriage (among other issues), I can’t help but be wary of the “first new confession of faith in three centuries.”

That is, this Confession was written well after the The Fundamentalist–Modernist Controversy which occurred in the 1920s and ’30s (the Theological Declaration of Barman was written in the mid-1930’s, but addressed the specific issues associated with National Socialism’s attempt in Germany to conform Christianity to its totalitarian ideology).  While a detailed discussion is beyond the scope of this post, suffice it to say that by the mid-1930’s the Mainline Presbyterian denomination (from which the PCUSA emerged) was securely in the modernist, liberal camp (the move from “modernist” to “post-modernist” theology has been one of bad to worse).

Therefore, the Confession of 1967 was written and approved by a denomination dominated by liberal Christians.  Surely then we should carefully scrutinize it for theological discrepancies between this and the other Confessions that were written centuries prior to the ascendency of liberal Christianity.

Significant discrepancies were identified as the Confession of 1967 progressed towards passage.  However, it appears that the “people in the pews” were satisfied at the time that this divergence from previous Confessions was evolutionary and of limited consequence to the overall doctrinal position of the denomination.  However, events of the past 50 years have shown that these discrepancies were revolutionary and momentous.  The full rancid fruit of these doctrinal deviations has been on display (see here, here, here and here) in the same-gender marriage debate.

If there’s only one thing that I’ve learned in this recent work, it’s this:

Don’t take what is said by the PCUSA elite at face value.  Rather, look for the inconsistencies and omissions that can, over time, be leveraged to smuggle false, foreign ideas into Christianity.

This statement will likely cause discomfort in some readers.  However, given the PCUSA’s recent record, how can we possibly avoid such a conclusion?

The only real alternative is to go on pretending that all of the theological, social and spiritual destruction that has occurred in the PCUSA over the past 50 years mysteriously occurred in spite of a solid, true doctrinal foundation.  I simply can’t say this because my conscience would rightly accuse me of telling a purposeful lie were I to do so.

It is indeed a humbling experience as I conduct the research associated with this blog.  In particular, I regularly uncover analysis from generations past by people who clearly saw the approaching storm and had the courage to describe it clearly.  What they foresaw I have only recently stumbled and bumbled into, after wasted years of inattention and cowardice.  The most recent occurrence is a booklet on The Confession of 1967 by Dr. Van Til.  What he wrote in 1967 better identifies and explains postmodern Christianity and its consequences than could I ever, even with my advantage of hindsight.

Though we concede that the new creed and its new theology speak highly of both Christ and the Bible, we nevertheless contend that new meanings have been attached to old, familiar words. The whole question, accordingly, is one of reinterpretation. One may take a milk bottle and fill it with a poisonous white liquid and call it milk, but this does not guarantee that the poisonous liquid is milk. It may well be some thing that is highly dangerous to man.

Such is the case, we believe, with the new theology: It is an essentially humanistic theology which disguises itself as an up-to-date Christian theology. Of course, we are told that the new Confession is contemporary in its view of truth. We are also told that the Westminster Standards are outdated, being written in an age of absolutism. By contrast, today’s theological thinkers know that truth is relative to man and the human situation. Has not Immanuel Kant taught us that man can know nothing of God and of Christ in so far as Christ is said to be God as well as man? From Kant recent philosophers and theologians have learned that man’s conceptual knowledge is limited to the impersonal world of science and does not apply to the religious dimension.

Though the twentieth-century church has been informed by the new theology that it can have no objective or conceptual knowledge of God and of Christ, this same theology still continues to speak about God and Christ in eloquent terms. But, as we have already noted, these terms have new definitions. The God and the Christ of this contemporary theology have very little in common with the God and the Christ of historic Christianity.  There is good reason to believe that the new theology has virtually manufactured a new Christ, a person who is essentially different from the Savior of the Scriptures.

Is this not “postmodern Christianity” foreseen?  Should we not seriously consider past analysis that accurately predicted the theological and spiritual chaos that The Confession of 1967 precipitated?  If you honestly believe that all is well in the PCUSA since 1967, then feel free to ignore all that follows (though I beg you to reconsider your belief).  If you are concerned that something has gone terribly wrong, then perhaps there is reason to continue.

Finally, I’m well aware  that for some Presbyterians this severe criticism of The Confession of 1967 is shocking.  After all, it was approved by the denomination almost 50 years ago, and, it is now a settled part of our Book of Confessions.  My responses are:

  1. I am only following to where the evidence appears to lead
  2. We are not bound to continue adherence to any human sourced statement if it is shown to be counter to Holy Scripture.  As stated in the Scots Confession: “So if the interpretation or opinion of any theologian, Kirk, or council, is contrary to the plain Word of God written in any other passage of the Scripture, it is most certain that this is not the true understanding and meaning of the Holy Ghost, although councils, realms, and nations have approved and received it. We dare not receive or admit any interpretation which is contrary to any principal point of our faith, or to any other plain text of Scripture, or to the rule of love.”

In Part 2 I will address the Confession of 1967 as it relates to the Bible and interpretation thereof.

How Can We Know Who Jesus Christ is? (Part 4)

WHOHowJCThe Westminster Confession of Faith

This Confession was developed by an assembly of 151 members from 1640’s.  In 1647 the Scottish General Assembly adopted the Westminster Standards.  They have served as foundational Presbyterian theology for centuries.  The Book of Confessions summarizes them as follows.

The Westminster Standards represent the fruits of a Protestant scholasticism that refined and systematized the teachings of the Reformation. The standards lift up the truth and authority of the Scriptures, as immediately inspired in Hebrew and Greek, kept pure in all ages, and known through the internal witness of the Holy Spirit.

Chapter 1: Of the Holy Scriptures

The stunning situation with regard to the Westminster Confession is the extent to which I have already documented the PCUSA elite’s utter abandonment of these standards.  The following brief comments contain links to some of the posts in which these betrayals are discussed.  This subversion is made all the more appalling due to the historic central place of the Westminster Confessions in Presbyterian theology.

6. The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men.

I have argued elsewhere that the PCUSA elite are destroying the denomination through claims of “new revelations of the spirit,” and adherence to the ” traditions of men.”

9. The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture, is the Scripture itself; and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it may be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.

They have also completely rejected any responsibility to search out and find in Scripture “places that speak more clearly” regarding Biblical interpretation.

10. The Supreme Judge, by whichg all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.

Note that it is NOT the “Holy Sprit” speaking OUTSIDE of Scripture that is the source of correct Biblical interpretation, but rather “the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.

How Can We Know Who Jesus Christ Is? (Part 3)

WHOHowJCThe Second Helvetic Confession

The second Confession from which we will seek guidance on Biblical interpretation is the Second Helvetic, which was written in 1561 by Heinrich Bullinger.

The following excerpt from the Book of Confessions provides background.

The word “Helvetic” is Latin for “Swiss.” The setting of the Second Helvetic Confession is Swiss-German Reformed Protestantism.  …

Reflecting the theological maturity of the Reformed churches, the Second Helvetic Confession is moderate in tone and catholic in spirit. From the opening paragraphs it emphasizes the church and its life and affirms the authority of the Scriptures for the church’s government and reformation. By including an article on predestination, the confession asks the church to trust in God’s free and gracious election of its membership in Jesus Christ. At the same time, the confession addresses the practical life of the gathered community, detailing matters of worship, church order and conflict, ministry, the sacraments, and marriage.

As in the previous post, indented text indicated commentary on the previous Confessional text.  I will do my best to avoid unnecessary repetition, but some points are so important that they bear repeating.

Chapter I:  Of the Holy Scripture Being the True Word of God

CANONICAL SCRIPTURE. We believe and confess the canonical Scriptures of the holy prophets and apostles of both Testaments to be the true Word of God, and to have sufficient authority of themselves, not of men.

For God himself spoke to the fathers, prophets, apostles, and still speaks to us through the Holy Scriptures.  And in this Holy Scripture, the universal Church of Christ has the most complete exposition of all that pertains to a saving faith, and also to the framing of a life acceptable to God; and in this respect it is expressly commanded by God that nothing be either added to or taken from the same.

Note that neither of the two Testaments is given precedence.  It was by the Old Testament that the Gospel of Jesus Christ was preached to the Jewish and Pagan populations in the Roman Empire.  The New Testament as we know it today didn’t come into existence until centuries later.  Thus, at a time in which the Christian Church was at it’s smallest the Old Testament was more than sufficient to bring many thousands into saving faith.  Jesus Christ Himself  clearly considered the Old Testament to be God’s Word, and treated it as such (as did the Apostles). So, when a Christian claims spiritual superiority because they follow only the New Testament they are turning their back on Christ’s actual teaching.  What a sad commentary on the state of Biblical knowledge.

Chapter II: Of Interpreting the Holy Scriptures; and of Fathers, Councils, and Traditions

Emphasis added.

THE TRUE INTERPRETATION OF SCRIPTURE. The apostle Peter has said that the Holy Scriptures are not of private interpretation (II Peter 1:20), and thus we do not allow all possible interpretations. … But we hold that interpretation of the Scripture to be orthodox and genuine which is gleaned from the Scriptures themselves (from the nature of the language in which they were written, likewise according to the circumstances in which they were set down, and expounded in the light of like and unlike passages and of many and clearer passages) and which agree with the rule of faith and love, and contributes much to the glory of God and man’s salvation.

The first bolded phrase is in direct contradiction to the post-modern understanding of Scriptural interpretation, where each individual is free to conclude whatever they wish.

The second bolded passage makes clear that Scripture is interpreted by Scripture itself.  That is, we must search for answers within the bounds of Scripture while taking into account contextual issues.

The third bolded phrase means that, prior to stating an opinion on the meaning of Scripture, we must search out all of the related passages, compare them and only then attempt to derive an answer.  Thus, were many relevant passages of Scripture ignored in order to reach a conclusion then the credibility of the interpretative process must be rejected.