A Reply to Principium 1643[links added/updated 10/15/07]
Principium 1643 (P1643) seems to be of fairly recent vintage, first showing up on the radar screen about a month ago to our knowledge. (It used to be found here, but seems to have moved here and is dated 7/8/07.) For us, it printed out at 82 pages with numerous subheadings in two sections that together sprawl almost 40,000 words. (See it here for the pagination referenced in this reply). While some have called P1643 “masterful” and “brilliant”, we are not so minded. Rather as another has said, ‘methinks the brother doth protest too much.’ That, if not the brother is too clever by half. In our opinion, P1643 is a curious, confused and disjointed document regardless if one agrees with it or not. Obviously as below, we don’t, much more we think it a mean spirited and petty diatribe on top of and besides its errors and sidestepping of the real questions at issue, but in that we are party to the controversy, the readers may judge that for themselves after wading through it, if they are up to it.
I: An Erroneous Defence of the Extraordinary Court
The first section (pp.1-52) essentially defends the extraordinary international congregational court of the “RPNA(GM)” which has presbyterial, if not synodical power, authority and jurisdiction. (This is the same extraordinary court which released its official Position Paper on Sessional Authority (PPSA), justifying its existence just over a year ago, on June 4, ‘06.) Its main argument seems to be, in that it lacks any kind of introduction or an explicit statement of its thesis, that the fixedness of officers and members are not essential to either a presbyterian court or church. This from the Form of Presbyterial Church Government found in the Westminster Standards which P1643 quotes a number of times:
“The several congregations in Jerusalem being one church, the elders of the church are mentioned as meeting together for acts of government; which proves that those several congregations were under one presbyterial government. And whether these congregations were fixed or not fixed, in regard of officers or members, it is all one as to the truth of the proposition (FPP, 1997, p.408 as quoted pp. 4, 10,11,25,47, P1643, emph. added).Unfortunately though, this is irrelevant and a diversion from the real issue that has split the former RPNA, however endemic to the “RPNA(GM)” and its apologists the whole idea is, of asking and answering the wrong question. Rather that before the house and publicly since 11/8/06, is whether the standard historical-grammatical exegesis of Matt. 18:20 ever understands “gathered together in my name” as anything other than two or more officers actually coming together face to face in a fixed stated meeting; that the officers in a given court actually “brush shoulders” with each other, never mind the members of the church or churches over which the court has jurisdiction. It was first asked in direct reply to the query by the elders 11/4/06 (under Section 6) as to where in Scripture, disaffected brethren could find proof for a temporary extraordinary [local] session, but not a permanent extraordinary [out of town] session. Any further comments on Matt. 18:20 have not been forthcoming from the elders that we are aware of, though perhaps as the future son in law of an elder, Mr. NS’s paper should be understood as an authoritative statement of the “RPNA(GM)” position in what seems to be the standard ad hoc/tacit/extraordinary/convenient/expedient/merciful mode of operation that is typical of the organization.