Sabbatarian and antiSabbatarian OPC Presbyteries

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NaphtaliPress

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I'm asking from what has seem to come out as the case in this thread, what happened to the OPC of John Murray etc. that took the Westminster Confession and Catechisms to be true, that today one OPC presbytery can be generally confessional (of the SE) on the Christian Sabbath or Lord's Day, and one (the SW) has, for many at least, gained a reputation of being antisabbatarian?
 

Jeri Tanner

Administrator
Staff member
This is a post I saw earlier this morning on the Covenanter FB page. I think it's true; men of the presbyteries who are more moderate, good men perhaps, want to keep the peace and preserve congregations from fighting or splitting.

"Many Presbyterians (along with other Christians) would rather have their denomination led by theological moderates who tolerate theological deviation rather than conservatives who oppose theological deviation and try to remove it. Usually, the argument they make is that the moderates aren't actually liberals themselves and that they will do a better job of preserving peace and unity in the church. Dr. Albert Mohler explains why that is a fatal error:

"This is a pattern we need to note that has been widespread throughout the liberal overtaking of American Protestantism. When you consider the other mainline Protestant denominations, it comes down to a trichotomy identified by Presbyterian historian Bradley Longfield. In the subtitle of his history of the Presbyterian controversy, he called the three parties, Modernists--that means the liberals--and Fundamentalists and Moderates, but in almost every case it's the muddy middle that ends up ensuring the liberal future of the church because those moderates are unwilling to draw clear doctrinal and moral boundaries and to make them stick. They are far more concerned with holding the denomination, the institution, or the congregation together than they are with keeping a very clear commitment to the historic Christian faith and to its central doctrines and moral teachings.

In almost every single case, indeed, without exception, the liberals were themselves not sufficiently numerous to take over the denomination. But they were able to bring along the moderates who were unwilling to kick the liberals out, and in almost every case that has meant that it is the conservatives that have left."
 

Taylor

Puritan Board Graduate
Could it be theological and regional heritage? I am in the Presbytery of the Southeast in the OPC. One of the biggest theological influences on this presbytery is Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. This seminary takes some rather strong stands on things that a lot of modern Reformed folk do not—namely, things like the Sabbath, the regulative principle, and the days of creation.

Included with the influence of GPTS is the influence of its towering founder, Morton Smith, who was known for being a staunch defender of strict subscriptionism.

I wonder if we also might include the fact that many in the more Old School branch of Presbyterianism in the South are very influenced historically by men like Robert Lewis Dabney and James Henley Thornwell, who were strong Sabbatarians. Dabney wrote a book on the subject.

I think these are among the many factors that make the Presbytery of the Southeast in the OPC the way it is today. I wonder if the Presbytery of the Southwest shares a similar heritage. If they don't, could this be an explanation?
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
I don't know. I have gathered in the past that the heavy Dutch influence may be at fault, allowing for the falsely named continental view, but traditionally the Dutch Reformed in practice would have been as if not more conservative mid last century and later (all anecdotal). It may simply be the same societal influences that affected all Presbyterians and the PoftSE is the outlier because of those relatively late influences you mentioned?
 

Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
But they were able to bring along the moderates who were unwilling to kick the liberals out, and in almost every case that has meant that it is the conservatives that have left."

I like to put it this way.

When a church or denomination backslides from its former attainments, no matter how small the group of the faithful, even if only one man, and their conscience governed by the Word and the church's Confessional Standards are compromised, and when all remedies to admonish the majority have failed to the point where separation is the only alternative, it should not be said of the minority that they are leaving the church. It is the church or denomination that has left them.
 
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ADKing

Puritan Board Junior
The OPC does not require full subscription to their confessional standards for ordination--opting instead for the "system of doctrine." In my experience, this practice leads to different sessions and presbyteries having their own definitions of what constitutes that "system."
 

Jie-Huli

Puritan Board Freshman
The OPC does not require full subscription to their confessional standards for ordination--opting instead for the "system of doctrine." In my experience, this practice leads to different sessions and presbyteries having their own definitions of what constitutes that "system."

Not dissimilar then to the Free Church of Scotland’s 1893 Declaratory Act, which allowed for “diversity of opinion” on such points in the Confession that do not enter into the “substance of the Reformed Faith”, and left it to the church to decide what these points were on a case by case basis.

A perilous position.
 

Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
A perilous position.

Yes, it is. The members of a church that the exception-taker pastors should be able to take for granted what their leader believes. This is no longer so. My formed pastor believed and taught the framework hypothesis view of the days of creation. The congregation was confused.

Here's a personal note about Psalm singing--A brief excerpt from a letter I wrote to the elders recently.

Pastor [name], you have said now twice to me that you are Psalm inclusive. I've been coming here for a while now (5 years), and I have yet to hear a true Psalm sung. I may have missed it on one of the weeks I was not at worship. I know there are a few paraphrases in the front of the hymnal, but they are far from Scripture. I am glad to sing them, but which one could you announce thusly, "Now let us all sing together Psalm one. This is the Word of God."

I knew someone that was offering to supply the Church with the new Trinity Psalter. But as the months passed, it became apparent that the idea met with little enthusiasm. So the offer was withdrawn.

Singing many of the hymns is tedious work for me. I am always reading ahead and correcting and changing the words that were poorly chosen--the theology. Occasionally, I give up entirely and turn to the Psalms in the back of the hymnal to better redeem the time.​
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Formal, jot and title subscription has not preserved confessional churches. I wish it were so, but it isn't the prescription that heals and holds.

What preserves is this, and only this: the willingness to try judicial cases over doctrinal purity. The problem faced by those who would defend a system-subscription formula, is how incrementally the deviations from pure doctrine typically present themselves.

So that, by the time of an Auburn Affirmation type scenario, there is little hope of getting the church to defend a blatant denial of cardinal doctrine. The reasoning may go thus: "If I take a stand for this doctrine, then perhaps my waffling on another doctrine (even if it is less substantial in the system) will be subject to censure; better to allow the worst, therefore."

The signers of the A.A. were surely some thorough liberals, some moderates without convictions, and maybe even some of a more confessional mind who were nonetheless disturbed by the attempt of (well meaning) essentialists (conservatives) in the Presbyterian Church to create a standard within the Standards.

But that standard was seen by them proposing the "Five Fundamentals" as a desperate stopgap to prevent critical erosion of the church's doctrinal identity. The real problem had been with them so long--the problem of not trying anyone for heresy--that their solution was better off a failure. Its one true success we might define as getting the A.A. published in response. That put the heretics and their enablers on the record.

Here's what I'm trying to get at. The men who adhere to a good-faith conviction regarding the system of doctrine approach have to be willing to test that conviction. They have to be willing to test it, repeatedly, in the church courts; just as much as the church that claims a supposedly very strict subscriptionist position does. The latter can claim all they like, and yet if they won't hold the subscribers accountable to their oath and promise: their public position is worthless.

The Machen trial was symbolic. It was demonstration by the liberals that they could and would expel anyone who made waves over doctrine. The only unassailable doctrine was "anything goes." Oppose that, and it was curtains. Machen was deposed for his resistance (behavior), not his doctrine. His attempt to make a doctrinal defense of himself was shut down.

Since then, in the mainline church "allowable" behavior is now anything short of murder and embezzlement. Violations of Robert's Rules will get you sent to time out in the penalty box (the cry room nursery--soundproof with windows on the meeting and audio piped in). That church engages the "conservatives" with fights over such behavioral allowances--things that used to distinguish the church's ethics from the world's--marking them as cultural debates in a sinking culture.

It is better to have different Presbyteries having different standards of strictness or laxity on the Sabbath question, than to have a whole church that is either formally strict, which strictness is meaningless; or completely lax. The OPC is not completely, nor generally lax on the Sabbath. What exactly constitutes crossing the line hasn't been tested (to my knowledge, to the Assembly level) in a long time. But our history tells us that the church at least 1X disciplined a minister for violating this biblical doctrine. Until it is clear that this will not or cannot happen again, the Standard--if dusty--is still present and will take weight.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Until it is clear that this will not or cannot happen again, the Standard--if dusty--is still present and will take weight.
Well, I've been waived off from the OPC as any refuge on this issue by an OPC TE in the presbytery of the SW, and that coupled with all else I've seen on this and the other thread, it seems to me your 1x judicial case is as much "wish it were true" as strict confessionalism being a cure all to decline. It is not, but who can dispute it wouldn't be better to have a denomination united in taking its doctrinal statements seriously?
 

W.C. Dean

Puritan Board Sophomore
It is sad that the OPC is not a bulwark of Reformed distinctives in every presbytery. The Presbytery of the Southeast (the presbytery I'm in) and the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic seems to be the pinnacle of historic American Presbyterianism. Mr. Coldwell if you ever head east, come to the OPC, especially if you're in Virginia! Reverend Lowell Ivey is one of the best preachers I've ever listened to, as well being a very kind man. He's also the one who told me he would pretty much discipline someone over willfully breaking the Sabbath.

There's a few Texan RPCGA congregations correct? Not sure how close they may be.
 

Taylor

Puritan Board Graduate
Reverend Lowell Ivey

He is one of my pastor’s best friends. I have had the pleasure of staying with him in the hotel room during Presbytery meetings. He is very friendly. He is also preaching at our church this coming Lord’s Day.
 

ADKing

Puritan Board Junior
What sort of Klinian influence are referring to?

In his last book, God, Heaven and Har Magedon (pp.195-196) Kline stated:

Another serious theological problem besets the identification of the Christian first day as the Sabbath. The Sabbath ordinance of six days of kingdom labor leading to the reward of sabbath rest was not only a component of the premessianic typological system but, as a sign of the Torah covenant, it was an exponent of the works principle that governed Israel's possession of the typological kingdom under the Law. The alleged continuance of the Sabbath in the church would carry that principle of works with it into the New Covenant administration of Gospel grace. The advocacy of such a continuance of the Decalogue ordinance of the Sabbath is therefore, in effect, a Judaizing contention.

If one believed this, or was influenced by it, it is not hard to see how it would have consequences on how one viewed and treated the Lord's Day.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
This would be an extreme position even in the PCA I would think. How was Kline not brought up on charges for so clearly rejecting the Sabbatarianism of the OPC standards?
In his last book, God, Heaven and Har Magedon (pp.195-196) Kline stated:

Another serious theological problem besets the identification of the Christian first day as the Sabbath. The Sabbath ordinance of six days of kingdom labor leading to the reward of sabbath rest was not only a component of the premessianic typological system but, as a sign of the Torah covenant, it was an exponent of the works principle that governed Israel's possession of the typological kingdom under the Law. The alleged continuance of the Sabbath in the church would carry that principle of works with it into the New Covenant administration of Gospel grace. The advocacy of such a continuance of the Decalogue ordinance of the Sabbath is therefore, in effect, a Judaizing contention.

If one believed this, or was influenced by it, it is not hard to see how it would have consequences on how one viewed and treated the Lord's Day.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Richard M. Lewis, who wrote the minority report on the Sabbath was finally brought up on charges (he died before it was resolved).
This would be an extreme position even in the PCA I would think. How was Kline not brought up on charges for so clearly rejecting the Sabbatarianism of the OPC standards?
 

Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
Klineans are often very weak on the 4th commandment because they hold a messed up view of the Mosaic Covenant, and the logical end of the view leads to the New Covenant Theology view. Now not all are consistent, but if consistent they will be weak on the 4th commandment.
 

Hamalas

whippersnapper
It is sad that the OPC is not a bulwark of Reformed distinctives in every presbytery. The Presbytery of the Southeast (the presbytery I'm in) and the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic seems to be the pinnacle of historic American Presbyterianism. Mr. Coldwell if you ever head east, come to the OPC, especially if you're in Virginia! Reverend Lowell Ivey is one of the best preachers I've ever listened to, as well being a very kind man. He's also the one who told me he would pretty much discipline someone over willfully breaking the Sabbath.

There's a few Texan RPCGA congregations correct? Not sure how close they may be.

Which is why I'm so glad to be under care in the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic!
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Reverend Lowell Ivey is one of the best preachers I've ever listened to, as well being a very kind man. He's also the one who told me he would pretty much discipline someone over willfully breaking the Sabbath.
If appealed how would such discipline stand on appeal to OPC GA?
 
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