Sunday, June 15, 2008

Furious and Imperious Presbyterianism

Links updated and added 8/2/08

The latest essay on the Trinity Foundation website is “Imperious Presbyterianism” by Kevin Reed.
Pavlov aside, the names of both should ring a bell for contemporary presbyterians.

Kevin Reed set up Presbyterian Heritage Publications in 1983 to publish historic and contemporary works defensive and expository on presbyterian worship and government. Other than a complete backlog of PHP titles published on CD-Rom in 2001, Reed and PHP have been  pretty much silent.  Aside from the P&R churches which still observed historic reformed worship and after GI Williamson,  PHP played an important part in laying the foundation for the explosion in literature about and interest in the regulative principle of worship in the ‘90's. (See “The Regulative Principle of Worship: Sixty Years in Reformed Literature, Part One” in the 2006 Confessional Presbyterian. In other words, SWRB/PRCE was a Johnny come lately on this doctrine.) Biblical Church Government (1983, '94) was a concise and well received pamphlet on the principles of presbyterian government. Canterbury Tales (1984, rpt. '89, '96) was a critique of then reconstructionist and now Federal Visionist James Jordan's Anglican views of worship. (Jordan later came out with more 'liturgical nonsense' which is essentially reviewed here.) Reed also published The Antinomian Streak in Reconstructionism (1988), which properly nailed theonomy on its lax view of the first table, if not the Second Commandment, all the while it professed to have and uphold a high view of God's law. Theonomist/reconstructionists were of course, properly outraged that they had been out argued, if not hoisted on their own petard.

Along with John Knox’s classic piece of historical theology, "A Vindication of the Doctrine That The Sacrifice of the Mass is Idolatry” under the title of True and False Worship (1988, Reed's introductory essay is here), PHP also published Volume 1 of a proposed two volume Selected Writings of John Knox (1995) and a collection of John Calvin’s Anti-Nicodemite sermons entitled Come Out From Among Them (2001).
John Knox's collected Works has been out of print since Laing edited the standard six volumes in the 1850's, although Dickinson edited a critical version of The History of the Reformation in Scotland (Vol. 1 & 2) in 1950. Yet as Reed makes clear in his contribution of "John Knox and the Reformation of Worship in the Scottish Reformation" to the collected essays of Worship in the Presence of God (1992), Knox's recognition of the regulative principle of worship was fundamental to his reorganization of that worship. The RPW and the reformation of Scottish worship are synonymous.

On the other hand, Calvin's previously unpublished sermons were in regard to the compromise of professing Protestants attempting to justify attending on Roman worship in France. In other words, worship, as well as doctrine was a serious concern for John Calvin, if not that worship was the outworking of doctrine. Worship (much more attendance on the gross Roman idolatry of the mass) was not indifferent or a matter of adiaphora for Calvin and the Reformed church as it was for the Lutheran reformation and church and contra many professed Calvinists in doctrine today. (For an instance of modern mass attendance, see the
Lord MacKay/APC schism in the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland in 1989.)

Trinity Foundation was begun by John Robbins in order to publish the works of Gordon Clark, a Calvinist theologian and philosopher. (Mr. Robbins came down with cancer a couple of years back and may not yet be out of the woods.) While the Trinity Foundation has been in the forefront of analyzing and condemning the Federal Vision theology and its fraudulent version of justification, with its Northern/American Presbyterian roots, the RPW has largely been off the radar screen for the Trinity Foundation, though as a ministry that began in Maryland, it holds to the classic confessional presbyterian position on the roman pope as antichrist (WCF 25:6) and at least condemns gross roman idolatry. Likewise as an American Presbyterian (Revolution Settlement) entity, it denies Second Reformation doctrine and insists on separating religion and the state.

That said, we don’t know, but we still suspect "Imperious Presbyterianism" may be of passing interest to those aware of the recent debacle involving some imperious presbyterians, furious to the point of excommunicating sundry individuals who did not acknowledge the legitimacy of their extraordinary and unannounced secret session (& secret/nonexistent general meeting). For that matter and for some strange and secret reason, the Position Paper justifying this court - and in our opinion, egregiously abusing Scripture, history and reason - still cannot be found at the official website, but again can be found here.) The essay at Trinity Foundation points out that the being of the church is all who confess Christ and their seed as per the WCF 25:2, while officers are given for the well being of the church and they are primarily called to service, not authority. Hear, hear.

Even further, the couplet on the title page of James Begg's Anarchy in Worship (1875) is to the point in our day and age:

"When nations are to perish in their sins,
Tis in the church the leprosy begins."

For our money, the leprosy of imperious presbyterianism can be said to have begun in the RPNA(GM) some time ago, never mind the current political and financial crises, God in his good providence is visiting upon our nation. Neither has it been repented of according to the secret/private announcement of the demise of the court by the officers of the same spurious session of a dubious and questioned constitution. In other words, those who pretend to be covenanted presbyterian officers and elders would do well to mind their p's and q's before pressing oppressive oaths upon and lording it over the sheep, all the while they look down their long noses and tut-tut at an uncovenanted constitution and godless nation. To whom more is given, more is required (cf. Lk. 12:48).