Friday, November 5, 2010

Orthodox Presbyterian Church: "The Overly Prickly Church"

Yesterday, while engaged in a bit of online research, I discovered that the older periodical of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, The Presbyterian Guardian, is now available online (all extant issues, 1935-1979, HERE).

This periodical is an invaluable resource for those who are interested in taking an 'insiders' look at the mindset and 'goings on' of the oldest (and probably the most vocal and intellectually influential), conservative Presbyterian sect in American.

While reading through the archives, the following article caught my eye (I have reproduced the first section, and provided the link to the rest of the article):

The Overly Prickly Church

by John J. Mitchell

It was an Orthodox Presbyterian minister that I first heard refer to his denomination as the "overly prickly church." He was being a bit sarcastic, perhaps. But as in most sarcasm, there was enough of the truth to make the remark—well, prickly.

Certainly there are plenty of people—many outside, some inside the Orthodox Presbyterian Church—who would consider this title as quite appropriate. We just do not seem to get along too well with anyone, even including ourselves.

What other thirty-year-old- church has had the squabbles we've had? We were poured from a crucible of bitterness and vindictiveness. It is certainly true that Machen and his friends were disrupting the peace of the 'old church'—a church that wanted peace with unbelief. Those men refused to cooperate in the coercive efforts made to prevent their speaking God's truth. No wonder they were thrown out!

So a new church was founded, the result of expulsion and antagonism. Did the new denomination live peacefully and happily ever after? Hardly! Scarcely a year had passed before we were separated from that group of sincere and zealous Christians who became the Bible Presbyterian Church. And later on we succeeded in rubbing each other so raw in the "Clark case" that we lost other valuable congregations and ministers. Since then we've stewed and simmered over the "Peniel problem," destroying one congregation in the process, losing a few more ministers, and irritating many of our loyal members elsewhere.
(The Presbyterian Guardian, Vol. 35.3 - March, 1966, p. 44— http://opc.org/cfh/guardian/Volume_35/1966-03.pdf .)

I touched on this penchant for schism among conservative North American Presbyterians in THIS THREAD, and the related topic of "Reformed civil war" in THIS THREAD.

Being a former member of the OPC, I can attest to the continued lack of charity among conservative Presbyterians, having experienced the failed attempt/s of the OPC and PCA to merge in the 1980s. The Clark/Van Til battles, the 'curious case' of Norman Shepherd, the issue of theonomy, and the Federal Vision controversy, add 'fuel-to-the-fire'—it is apparent that Mr. Mitchell's concerns have fallen on deaf ears.

This conservative Presbyterian microcosm seems to be indicative of some of the inherent 'difficulties' that exists within the conservative, Protestant, North American Christian paradigm as a whole, and raises some serious questions, which include the following: why such a lack of the "fruit of the spirit" (e.g. love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control) among supposedly 'like-minded', 'regenerate' believers; why the lack of true unity; is there a 'root' cause to the seemingly endless schisms?


Grace and peace,

David

4 comments:

natamllc said...

David

with trepidation I will answer your question with a Psalm.

As your question speaks for itself, so the answer, the Psalm, speaks clearly as well:

the question:

why such a lack of the "fruit of the spirit" (e.g. love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control) among supposedly 'like-minded', 'regenerate' believers; why the lack of true unity; is there a 'root' cause to the seemingly endless schisms?

The Psalm as the answer:

Psa 143:1 A Psalm of David. Hear my prayer, O LORD; give ear to my pleas for mercy! In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness!
Psa 143:2 Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.
Psa 143:3 For the enemy has pursued my soul; he has crushed my life to the ground; he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead.
Psa 143:4 Therefore my spirit faints within me; my heart within me is appalled.
Psa 143:5 I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands.
Psa 143:6 I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Selah
Psa 143:7 Answer me quickly, O LORD! My spirit fails! Hide not your face from me, lest I be like those who go down to the pit.
Psa 143:8 Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.
Psa 143:9 Deliver me from my enemies, O LORD! I have fled to you for refuge!
Psa 143:10 Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!
Psa 143:11 For your name's sake, O LORD, preserve my life! In your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble!
Psa 143:12 And in your steadfast love you will cut off my enemies, and you will destroy all the adversaries of my soul, for I am your servant.


One should note the exhortation of the great Bible scholar, Saul of Tarsus, converted by Christ and summarily known afterwards as Paul the Apostle, after the answer settles upon your soul, here:

Rom 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

thegrandverbalizer19 said...

With the name of Allah, Peace be unto those who follow the guidance from their Lord.

I think this is one of the unfortunate consequences of 'Sola Scriptura' or the idea that all human beings are equal. This creates a leveling out of humanity and makes one person feel they are just as capable as the next in all matters.

It would be interesting if the Christians came up with a theological maxim that allowed for divergent opinions within the fold of Christianity but did not necessarily expel a person outside.

We (In Sunni Islam) have done this. That is why you have the four madhabs (legal schools and not one).

This is why you have the 3 schools of aqidah( theological schools or approaches that are defensible within the parameters of orthodoxy).

I was curious David if you had something of a more personal encounter during your stay with the Presbyterians that you could share with us.

An example of intellectual curiosity that you felt was silenced or shut down by either congregants or those whom the faith had been entrusted to guard.

Thank you once again for an interesting post.

David Waltz said...

Hi GV19,

So nice to see you back at AF, thanks much for responding to my musings; you wrote:

>>I think this is one of the unfortunate consequences of 'Sola Scriptura' or the idea that all human beings are equal. This creates a leveling out of humanity and makes one person feel they are just as capable as the next in all matters.>>

Me: Sola Scriptura has differing views among the various Christians who claim to adhere to the doctrine/principle. I have noticed that those who 'make a living' off of the Gospel, tend to emphasize the 'need' for teachers; yet, one of common principles of SS is that the 'essentials' can be understood by ALL via SS.

>>It would be interesting if the Christians came up with a theological maxim that allowed for divergent opinions within the fold of Christianity but did not necessarily expel a person outside.>>

Me: I think pretty much the majority of Christians in some sense 'allow' for some divergence; however, the essentials/fundamentals that one is NOT allowed to 'stray' from, seem to vary from age to age.

>>We (In Sunni Islam) have done this. That is why you have the four madhabs (legal schools and not one).

This is why you have the 3 schools of aqidah( theological schools or approaches that are defensible within the parameters of orthodoxy).>>

Me: Do most Sunnis accept the Shia (I am thinking primarily of the 12vers) as 'orthodox'?

>>I was curious David if you had something of a more personal encounter during your stay with the Presbyterians that you could share with us.>>

Me: As with my journey as a JW, my days as a Presbyterian were for the most part, a 'positive' experience. My reason/s for 'leaving' the JWs, OPC, and RCC were doctrinal and historical issues, not personal.

>>An example of intellectual curiosity that you felt was silenced or shut down by either congregants or those whom the faith had been entrusted to guard.>>

Me: It seems from my experience, that when one begins to explore options outside of the 'accepted' bounds (i.e. tradition) within any given paradigm one can expect criticism/opposition in varying degrees from both the clergy and lay members.

>>Thank you once again for an interesting post.>>

Me: And thank you for your continued interest in this beachbum's musings.


God bless,

David

thegrandverbalizer19 said...

With the name of Allah,

Peace be unto you David.

David you asked,

Do most Sunnis accept the Shia (I am thinking primarily of the 12vers) as 'orthodox'?

I think most of the traditional Sunni Muslims do not regard the Shi'a as Orthodox they regard them as Muslims with deviant views; however Muslim nonetheless.

However, in recent years there have been moves and gestures on both sides for acceptance but in reality this hearkens back to the work I mentioned prior by Imam Al Ghazali "The Boundaries of Theological Tolerance in Islam" -translated by Sherman Jackson.

Get your hands on that nugget!


Me: It seems from my experience, that when one begins to explore options outside of the 'accepted' bounds (i.e. tradition) within any given paradigm one can expect criticism/opposition in varying degrees from both the clergy and lay members.

This is what I love about Islam (Sunnism) the need for having orthodoxy a magisterium ora collective body of scholarship; but at the same time realizing that this body of scholarship can and at times needs to be challenged.

Especially in terms of the legal code, though anyone can understand the need for stability in theological formulations.


Me: And thank you for your continued interest in this beachbum's musings.

And thank you for allowing this country bumpkin to comment on your various threads... :)

God bless,