Why We Are Presbyterian, Part 5
Why are we Presbyterians? Because we are Confessional vs Emotional. Depending on how much you have been influenced by the emotionalism of our culture today you might get a little emotional when you read that. I am not saying that Presbyterians are devoid of emotion. There are some who have the mistaken idea that Reformed or Presbyterian Christians are the “frozen chosen.” Sometimes that label is merited and at others times it is a misunderstanding. The reality is God has given us emotions and our faith and worship should include a wide range of emotions. What we do not want to do is base our faith on emotion or how we feel.
Avoid the Bible study where the leader reads a section of Scripture and then goes around the room asking each person either for their thoughts or feelings on the passage. Scripture shows us objective truth and we need to learn not to fall into the modern “what this means to me” camp. A recent study on religious life was done by LifeWay Research in September of this year. In that study 51% of Americans said the Bible was written for each person to interpret as he or she chooses. Only 47% of Americans said the Bible is 100% accurate in all it teaches. This is an attack on the authority of the Word of God. There is a vast difference between how I feel about Scripture (an emotional response) verses what does Scripture proclaim as truth
(a confessional response). I encourage you to read the article posted this week titled, 12 Lies American Evangelicals Believe. It will give you an idea of why being emotional instead of confessional is leading to great problems in the church at large. You can read the article here: https://pjmedia.com/faith/2016/10/24/12-lies-american-evangelicals-believe/
J. Gresham Machen in an address given in 1933 entitled, The Responsibility of the Church in Our New Age wrote, “In the first place, a true Christian church, now as always, will be radically doctrinal. It will never use the shibboleths of a pragmatist skepticism. It will never say that doctrine is the expression of experience; it will never confuse the useful with the true, but will place truth at the basis of all its striving and all its life. Into the welter of changing human opinion, into the modern despair with regard to any knowledge of the meaning of life, it will come with a clear and imperious message. That message it will find in the Bible, which it will hold to contain not a record of man’s religious experience but a record of a revelation from God.” (You can read this entire address at the end of Hart and Meuther’s book, Fighting the Good Fight.
OP Pastor Geoffrey Willour wrote an article on Oct. 13th, titled, Mysticism and the External Word, he states, “Mysticism” is a heresy which teaches that you can find God in your feelings, in your emotions, your inward subjective state. Mysticism in the church divorces the external Word of God (coming to us in primarily in Scripture, derivatively in preaching and sacraments) from the work of the Holy Spirit, and claims that the Spirit communicates with us today apart from the external Word.” You can read Pastor Willour’s article here: http://lakeopc.net/2016/mysticism-and-the-external-word/
God gave us the means of grace: the proclamation of the Word of God, the Sacraments, and Prayer, to help us to grow in our faith and to direct us into truth. The problem in the modern church today (and I use the word “modern” loosely as Machen’s address given in 1933 could just as well been given yesterday) is we have embraced this heresy of finding truth in our feelings and emotions somewhere within us, and we have rejected all creeds, confessions and all forms of objective truth. We like to use the label “postmodern” to describe our world today, however this rejection of objective truth has been going on since the Garden of Eden.
That shows some of the problem, but what does it mean to be confessional? Faith Bible, OPC is a confessional church. Remember everyone has a confession. Everyone believes certain things to be true, that is their creed. Every Christian believes certain things about the Bible. Even the 53% of Americans who do not believe the Bible is 100% accurate in all it teaches have a creed. Part of their creed is, “The Bible is not 100% accurate.” All people have creeds and confessions whether or not they write them down. Most Presbyterians adhere to the Westminster Standards (the Confession of Faith and Catechisms) as our secondary standards. As secondary standards we do not think that they replace Scripture in any way, rather we believe that these are an accurate summary of what Scripture teaches. If you look at the Westminster Standards along side the proof-texts given with them you will see that most phrases are direct quotations from various passages of Scripture.
You can read the Westminster Standards online here: http://www.opc.org/confessions.html I encourage you if you have not read through our secondary standards to do so. If you want to know what the Church teaches on a particular subject of Scripture this is a good place to find out. If any member of Faith Bible OPC does not have a copy of the grey bound book of our standards we would be happy to get you a copy.
Subjects that we have been going through regarding the ten commandments like images of Jesus or how we observe the Lord’s Day as an entire day, are strange to our modern ears often because of our ties to emotional responses based on our personal experiences rather than the objective truth of God’s Word. Historically in Christianity these topics would not sound new or novel to our ears. The fact that they often do today shows how far from being confessional we have drifted as a culture and even as the church.
I encourage you to read, study, and learn the richness of the Westminster Standards. I guarantee you if you begin a study of our secondary standards it will help you to be in the Word of God more, not less. Once again, we don’t look to our standards as a replacement of Scripture but a summary of what Scripture teaches. It is one means we use to measure truth versus falsehood in a world that is motivated by emotion.
I hope you have enjoyed this brief study on why we are presbyterians and that it gives you more insight into the church you belong to. I hope this not only benefits the members of Faith Bible, but it can be a tool to use as we seek to share our congregation with friends and neighbors . Please use these brief writings to either describe to your friends what our church is like or direct them to the website where these are all available.