The PCUSA Wouldn't Treat Machen Thus Today…

Or would they? According to this (somewhat provocatively worded) story in the Layman Online (a conservative publication in the PCUSA), perhaps things haven’t changed much in the PCUSA since 1936?


The PCUSA is also investigating (going after?) those congregations that are leaving or have left for the EPC (HT: Presbyterians Weekly News)

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  1. I don’t understand. When are all these so-called “conservative” PCUSA people going to figure it out? It’s an apostate denomination! Get out! They’ll be glad to have you in the other presbyterian denominations!

  2. The PCUSA is the whore of Babylon. She is a synagogue of Satan. She works for the Anti-Christ. Nothing that she does resembles the Church of Jesus Christ. Luther, Calvin, Knox, yes, even Machen, knew that it was better to separate from apostates than to remain part of them. The fact that they are ousting God fearing pastors rather than hearing their cause is only further manifestation of their apostacy.

    • Brother,

      I understand your frustration, but this sort of rhetoric (remember this is Clark talking) is over the top. By the admission of many within the PCUSA it is deeply corrupted but to assign it such eschatological significance is hyperbole – I know that Machen called it apostate, but “whore of Babylon”? Further, it won’t help those who continue to labor in the PCUSA. I want them to come out and join us in the sideline. I think the PCUSA is more a field of mission than an agent of mission. That seems to be clear. One of the things about the sideline that frightens mainliners is our shrill tone.

      Pray for the believers left in the PCUSA and for those congregations preparing to leave or that have left.

      • Scott,

        Word up.

        As one hanging on by his fingernails in the borderline CRC, when I read comments like those above, I cringe. With clowns to the left of me and jokers to the right what I wouldn’t do to have some confessionalists stuck in the middle with me. I have no illusions about either the CRC’s future or my feeble influence even in my immediate sphere. But for every thoughtful plea I might make it seems I have to do ten times the damage control because of this sort of asinine blustering. Fundamentalists learning to be Presbyterian wear my patience at least as much as confessionalists hating their tradition and trading it in for broad evangelicalism.

        Have you guys ever considered that some of us might have good reason for sticking it out?

        • “As one hanging on by his fingernails in the borderline CRC”

          You too, eh?

          “I have no illusions about either the CRC’s future or my feeble influence even in my immediate sphere.”

          Ditto that. Every glimmer of hope I see is usually just that, a glimmer.

  3. I understand where you are coming from, Dr. Clark, but I stand by what I said. The PCUSA is apostate, yes, but it has shown itself to be n anti-christian in many ways. When a Church begins to treat godly ministers in this way, it isn’t enough to call it apostate.

    • Steven,

      In fairness, we only have the report of the Layman here. In my experience, the Layman is accurate but we don’t have both sides of the story.

  4. >The PCUSA is also investigating (going after?) those congregations that are leaving or have left for the EPC

    Interesting. My brother is on session at the PCUSA church I grew up in (UPC then), and we were chatting about that last year sometime. There was one thriving local (to them) congregation that went to the EPC with all property, so it can be done. That presbytery is not one getting a Gestapo visit.

    >It’s an apostate denomination! Get out!

    Not easy sometimes. My Dad has been a member since 1945 or so. And yes, he reads The Layman. You want a church with real “community” — this is it, by virtue of being a country church with a core of farm families there really long term. My ancestors back for a good century are buried in the churchyard there.

    Not easy to leave. Yes, pray for the “7000 who have not bowed the knee to Baal, nor kissed his face.”

    How many straight years of membership loss has there been? I remember talk of it when I was in high school, 1970 or so. In the long run, barring a revival by God, they’ll be left with a lefty pagan core, irrelevant to much of anything.

    • Steven,

      Don’t take it too personally. Just like every man has a little piggy inside, confessionalists all have inner fundamentalists. Men and confessionalists (I am both) sometimes have to manage their inner demons better, that’s all. Calvin said every believer goes to his deathbed with an unbeliever stilll resident within. I’m trying to keep mine at bay as best I can.

      And it may be that your comment is getting in the way of your track record.

      • Zrim,

        My comment is inspired by the Confession I adhere to, the WCF. This is not getting in the way of my track record.

        >>”confessionalists all have inner fundamentalists”

        Oh really? You seem to know a lot about every confessionalist. Do you even know what “fundamentalist” means? Maybe there is a fundamentalist inside of me, but your little piggy, arrogance, is showing his ugly head.

        • Steven,

          I cut my spiritual teeth in Fundamentalism. I like to think I know what I know what it means.

          Well, feel free not to admit inner demons. I’m not sure how Calvinist that is. For my part I have all sorts: a pig, an unbeliever, a Fundy, a liberal, a theonomist, a transformer. I even have a Lutheran. But I like him. A lot.

          • Zrim,

            I have plenty of inner demons; I readily admit along with Paul that Christ Jesus came to save sinners of whom I am the chief. Anger is one of my biggest problems, which you could have probably guessed from my comments on this post. If you want to know more about my faults, feel free to contact my wife. She knows all of them, and, thank God, she is a patient woman.

            I still take issue, though, with your flaunting the word “fundamentalist.” You’re using a weasel word. Fundamentalist can be used for just about anything or anyone. I have been labeled a fundamentalist for thinking that the Lord’s Day is the Christian Sabbath. I have been called a fundamentalist by professors at Kuyper for saying that women should not hold office. Yes, I have even been called a fundy for my exclusive psalmody/non-instrumental views. All of these things are part of my confessional heritage.

            You really haven’t explained to me how saying that the PCUSA is an anti-christian denomination is fundamentalistic. What is so fundamentalistic about calling the PCUSA a synagogue of Satan, or an anti-christian church? Again, the confession I hold to uses such language. I am calling the PCUSA what it is. I will grant that “whore of babylon” was over the top. I was hyped up on coffee and was a little riled up by the Layman story. But still, I think it is unwarranted to label me a fundamentalist based upon what I said.

            Since I have been appealing to my track record, let me put some of it out for you to judge: There are PCUSA Churches that I have attended to my benefit. I don’t believe that the CRC is an apostate denomination; I think it is still a true Church. I have friends in both denominations. I don’t read the Bible literally; I try as best as I know how to use the historical/grammatical approach. I hold to a confession. I love covenant theology. I am quite active in culture (not quite a transformationist, although I will admit this piggy lurks beneath the surface). There is not a racist bone in my body. I didn’t vote for “W”, nor did I vote for McCain. I don’t think the US Constitution is inspired. I like Austrian Economics, but I don’t think that it is the economics of the Bible. I use the KJV, but I have no problems with the ESV.

            Well, in the final analysis you still may say that I am a fundy, but I still will maintain that it is proper to use confessional language to describe a church as wicked and apostate as the PCUSA.

        • Steven,

          Zrim is right here. My I’ve thought and said the same kinds of things about the mainline but it is selective. That’s why I wrote RRC, because we in the sideline are not really that much better off in many ways. We’re on a continuum with the mainline and they’re ahead of us.

          Now my attitude is to clean up our own house so that, if folk leave the mainline, they’ll have a place to go. For example, if PCUSA folk are going to the EPC, what will happen then? Will the EPC continue on its trajectory toward confessionalism or will it begin to look more like the mainline.

          Assuming, for the sake of discussion, that the Layman is getting the story right (and the piece on the PCUSA’s official site is condemning enough) no one should be surprised at this. I guess that most folk in the PCUSA don’t know the history with Machen or with those who’ve come along since.


          Recently Trinity URC in Visalia left the CRC for the URC and I think they’ve been very happy. Of course it’s trading problems but I think they feel a genuine likemindedness with the URCs that they hadn’t experienced in the CRC for a long time. Some of the apprehension about leaving for the URCs was based on misunderstanding and personal feelings that weren’t exactly ecclesiastical in nature, if you know what I mean. Since joining the URCs I think that’s most evaporated. The URCs have plenty of sins and I document them here, and one has to pick one’s troubles, but the trajectory of the CRC is not toward the confessions. One does see movement in parts of the URCs toward the confessions.

          What glimmers of hope are there in the CRCs? Who in the CRC is speaking up in defense of Reformed theology, piety, and practice?

          • Scott,

            Again, I think you’ve nailed it all around. The URCs here seem more interested in not being CRC (and not minding the abiding revivalism, fundamentalism and transformationalism) than in recovering the confession.

            Personally, generally speaking, I don’t think there is any glimmer of hope on the CRC, not from where I sit anyway. Depending on the day, that generates more grief in me than vitriol. Lately more of the latter. For better or ill, I suppose my attitude resembles my relationship to my little brother growing up: I could pick on him but he was off-limits to others. I like the family analogy here for lots of reasons (dysfunction also comes to mind), but, of course, all analogies do break down.

            At least I finally got our pastor to pick and read RRC.

          • Scott,

            Again, I think you’ve nailed it all around. The URCs here seem more interested in not being CRC (and not minding the abiding revivalism, fundamentalism and transformationalism) than in recovering the confession.

            Personally, generally speaking, I don’t think there is any glimmer of hope in the CRC, not from where I sit anyway. Depending on the day, that generates more grief in me than vitriol. Lately more of the latter. For better or ill, I suppose my attitude resembles my relationship to my little brother growing up: I could pick on him but he was off-limits to others. I like the family analogy here (dysfunction also comes to mind), but, of course, all analogies do break down.

          • I see glimmers in certain churches and CRC pastors who want to reform the CRC from within (e.g. the Returning Church). Aren’t there influential members at CTS who are still properly influencing and teaching seminarians (e.g. Muller?). And at least the CRC I attend hasn’t turned into a Saddleback clone, although it’s more of a LaGrave clone.

            Perhaps these are sad outliers on the trajectory away from confessionalism. I won’t argue with that. At the same time, I have some frustration with the URC. Having lived through the formation of the URC as a teenager with some in my family being charter members, in the circles my folks traveled in it seemed that three issues led the charge: (1) women in office, (2) 24/7 creationism, and (3) the trend towards modern worship styles. I’m dubious that (2) should even be an issue. I’m not sure (1), standing alone, is a reason for schism. Certainly, there were probably much bigger issues underlying these three, but what if all those congregations, pastors, and professors, now associated with the URCNA, had stayed in the CRC and fought the good fight? Would we be talking, in 2009, about paedocommunion, infant dedications, the Belhar Confession, revising the FOS, and basically reuniting with the RCA somewhere down the road? Perhaps we would have drafted some of the majority Committee reports on these issues rather than being satisfied with minority status?


  5. Let it be known that I have several friends in the PCUSA, one of whom is a minister. I sympathize with those who are trying to “stick it out.” They are in many respects better men than I am. If I were in there shoes, I honestly don’t know what I would do.

    True, Dr. Clark, we only have one side of the story, but how many other cases do we have of the PCUSA wielding its power in a tyrranical way, defrocking godly ministers who stand for the truth, and using civil power to go after churches who want evangelical truth? The Reformed Confession I adhere to, which is the same confession used by the PCUSA, has a name for such a Church.

    • Steven,

      I agree that using the civil authority to prosecute the godly is truly wicked. The question is one of rhetorical strategy and spiritual stance. If we look and sound like self-righteous pharisees why would anyone come our way?

      Why have folk stayed in the decaying mainline for so long? Often its because they are afraid of the alternative. It’s not fair but we who still believe the confessions get held to a higher standard and everything we do that confirms the fears of those who would leave but don’t counts against us as much or more than what the crazies are doing in the mainline. It seems more plausible to stay in that to come out even though staying in drives them batty. It’s “the devil you know” v “the devil you fear.”

  6. Interesting dialogue. I’m one of those hanging on by my fingernails in the mainline, but if I had my druthers we’d be far down the road toward joining the many congregations who’ve already split for the EPC. Like Lee said it’s not that easy. I’m just one of twelve elders, all of whom are conservative, but some of whom have various reasons why they think we should stick it out. Our Presbytery has remained overwhelmingly orthodox and evangelical which has shielded us from a lot of the stuff that’s been well documented by the Layman. Some of our churches in this neck of the woods are even quite confessional! Having said that though, I have no hope for the denomination as a whole, and one way or another this will be the last PCUSA congregation we’ll be part of. The philosophy of “we’re in the denomination but not of the denomination” will eventually become completely untenable for whatever remnant remains.

  7. Mike,

    All good points, I think.

    “Reforming from within” sounds like a good idea. But, beyond its Erasmian undertone, I’m not so sure it’s very realistic; it tends to nurture an entrenched, even combative, posture. I mean, you have to have something to work with instead of presenting yourself as the one group that gets it.

    And my sense is that something like the “Returning church” is at least as much about preserving an ethnicity as it might be about recovering the confession (a la RSC). Nobody admits that, but it might take someone un-Dutch to see it. My Dutch Reformed have an acute sense of their ethnic roadblocks, but they really don’t know what to do about it. So they employ politically correct diversity dogmas instead of the confessional tradition to obliterate it. Talk about missed opportunities.

    There are two more options: get along or quietly leave. My dualism is put the test anymore as I try to do both at once, if you know what I mean.

    • Zrim,

      Spot on with the Dutch guilt, unfortunately. “We” love being Dutch and hate being Dutch at the same time, and somehow “we” decided the resolution is to stop being Reformed. To paraphrase Cornelis Venema, instead of burning the wooden shoes, we torched the Confessions. I simply can’t figure that one out.

      Your point is taken about the Returning Church. Perhaps it will be tolerated as a novelty act in the CRC as long as it remains a novelty act. And maybe the CRC reached the point of no return many moons ago, but those who pick up and move to (or start) a new denomination won’t necessarily escape their entrenched or combative posture. For example, as much as I agree with Dr. Clark’s approach in RRC, it’s going to be a tough sell in most denominations, even the OPC, the URC, and the PCA.


      • Mike,

        White guilt can be brutal. But the Dutch are good people. Then again, so are WASPs, evangelicals and Catholics.

        As far as the Returning church, I suppose I don’t see much value in existing within an enclave within a denomination. What’s the point? It seems more movement-y than churchly and fosters more disconnect than unity. And I agree, RRC is a tough sell. But sometimes tough sells are the most fun. And they are usually worth it.

  8. Steven,

    My intention in using the F-word was more to convey something of the spirit of your comment rather than the letter of your “track record.” In other words, I wasn’t labeling you so much as frying your heavy-handed comment. I have nothing against passion and conviction, or even strong language (obviously). But I might suggest you consider your own reaction to my wording: if you don’t like the F-word maybe “synygogue of Satan, etc.” isn’t the best choice of words?

    BTW, your comment wasn’t the only one in my cross-hairs.

    • Again, Zrim, you have yet to demonstrate that even the spirit of my words is fundamentalistic. I am using language from my confessional heritage which I think is appropriate for the situation.

      • If you really want to play games like this, Zrim. How about when you call me a fundy, I call you a Nicodemite? How fun is that? Seriously, though, you are obviously not able to prove that my comments are fundamentalistic in any way, and I am getting nowhere with you fast so, I’m done with this conversation.

  9. Zrim,

    When you said, “your comment wasn’t the only one in my cross-hairs”, it was obvious that you had me in mind. So, I guess I’ll respond.

    First, the PCUSA is an apostate denomination. This is obvious. Note that I’m talking about the denomination as a corporate body. This does not mean that every single individual person, or even every single church within the denomination is apostate. I don’t see any reason to defend such a claim. It was apostate at the time of Machen and has only gotten worse since then.

    Second, that the denomination is apostate matters. For Presbyterians, denominational leadership is important. We see Acts 15 for example, and we therefore rightly recognize that Church government ought to be thought of as beyond merely the local elders, the local church.

    If the Bible teaches that there ought to be such a thing as presbyteries and denominations, which Presbyterians are convinced of, then it follows that our reaction to an apostate denomination ought to be the same as an apostate local church: get out.

    There are many churches who remain in these mainline denominations who seem to be ignoring this. Their thinking is anti-presbyterian. I have all the sympathy in the world for them. It’s awful to leave your church, or for a church to leave their denomination. That’s a terrible thing. I wish it were not so. But you can’t just hope that the problem will go away. It won’t. It can and will only get worse.

    The Orthodox Presbyterians have left. They left 73 years ago. (The PCA split out of the Southern Presbies later, so I don’t mean to imply that they were late coming to the party.)

    So you say you have reasons for staying in the CRC. Fine. I wasn’t talking about you leaving the CRC. I was talking about entire local churches, calling themselves “conservative” and “confessional” in a so-called Presbyterian denomination that threw out the confession long ago. They seem to be ignoring the fact that being under the governance of an apostate denomination is biblically unacceptable.

    While we’re at it, the ordination of women does qualify as apostasy. It necessarily entails ignoring the clear and unambiguous teachings of Scripture. It amounts to overthrowing the rule of the Word of God.

    It is not like credo-baptism, which is more difficult to figure out. Sure, the Bible is clear on it, but there’s room for misunderstanding given the various erroneous teachings out there.

    I can even understand how someone could read the Scriptures and assume that we should still be speaking in tongues. After all, Paul tells the Corinthians not to forbid speaking in tongues.

    But the ordination of women? Paul says that a woman should never have authority over a man or even speak in church. This isn’t like baptism, where you have to overcome dispensationalist tendencies to understand it. This isn’t like cessation where you have to understand some key things about tongues before you can understand that tongues have ceased.

    Little children can understand this doctrine perfectly. “Children, if women can’t speak in church, can they preach?” “NO!” say all the children. “Children, if women can’t have authority over men or teach, can they be elders?” “NO!” say all the children. This is Mickey Mouse stuff here Zrim, not deep theological gnat straining.

    The ordination of women is sufficient, in my opinion, to complete the apostasy of a denomination at the denominational level. This shouldn’t even be a question. Does it matter?

    We live in a hyper-individualistic age. We think, “Well, I disagree with the denomination’s actions, and my elders and my pastor disagree with the denomination’s actions, therefore, we can stay in this denomination and just complain about it all the time.” And that’s what people I know in the PCUSA and the CRC do. They complain and complain ad naseum, and then they do nothing. They’re “polishing the brass on the Titanic.”

    My concern is that there are too many people out there who aren’t really interested in putting themselves under the proper ecclesiastical authorities. They’d rather be under apostate authorities that they can “piously” complain about and rebel against. They’d rather be the only one in the church that “gets it”, so that they have an excuse to be smug in the car ride home from church, and perhaps write a smug post on their blog, complaining about some new way that their church has violated traditional reformed faith and practice.

    But Presbyterians are firmly convinced, and this is one of the things that defines them as Presbyterians, that we NEED the presbytery and denomination as authorities. We need them to settle disputes and we need them to be courts to which we can appeal. We need these authorities to shepherd and guide us. If these authorities have apostatized, this need, which is biblical, is not being met, and thus the church is not functioning as it should. The third mark of the church is absent, due to the lack of a legitimate court to which one can appeal.

    You see, sometimes an entire session can go off the deep end. Sometimes an entire presbytery can go off the deep end. That’s why we have presbyteries to keep sessions accountable, and that’s why we have a General Assembly to keep presbyteries accountable. This is needed and it’s biblical.

    But when a “conservative, confessional” church remains in an apostate denomination, swimming against the tide of the authorities that preside over it in the presbytery and the GA, they’re in a very bad position, and it will inevitably bear bad fruit. It’s a ticking time bomb.

    Some still contend, though, that they’ll never give up, that they’ll keep fighting the good fight, etc. But Ecclesiastes reminds us that there’s a time for everything. There’s a time to try to reclaim the apostates and a time to say, well, they’re going to go their own way, let’s start a new church. There’s a time to restore and a time to excommunicate. (But the layman is capable of neither.) If there isn’t such a time, then let’s all just go back to Mother Rome.

    But maybe you say that there IS such a time, you just haven’t gotten there yet. Ok, ask yourself this, Zrim. What needs to happen for you to say, “We’re there, time to get out”? My guess is that you, like so many countless others, have never answered that question. You’ve never drawn a line in the sand and said, “This far and no further,” probably because you know that no matter where you draw that line, eventually it’ll be crossed and you’ll have to take that painful step of divorce.

    I don’t at all advocate leaving a church at the drop of a hat any more than I would advocate leaving a spouse at the drop of a hat. It’s just about as serious. Nonetheless, there is a time when it does in fact become appropriate. Sometimes divorce is the right answer.

    At any rate, for the PCUSA, that time came and went a long, long time ago.

    Just when it’s time might be a matter of wisdom to a point, but that doesn’t mean that that time never arrives. At some point it becomes sinful to stay.

    • Echo,

      Trust me, I’ve thought about everything you suggest and more (as if that’s possible). It’s not an easy task and is quite fraught.

      I think I’ll refrain from conveying the deeply personal and principle reasons for staying for two reasons: 1) This is far from the place, and 2) Even if it were, I wouldn’t trust the likes of you with it. They teach you guys any pastoral care out there, or at least give you free parking on high horses?

  10. Confessionally Steve, I think only Rome classifies as the Great Whore of Babylon. The apostate protestant daughters are called just that: apostate daughters of the whore. A fine point, I realize, but I thought I’d pipe up.

    When it comes to ordaining women though, even Rome doesn’t do that, though the pedophiles/sodomites were tolerated/permitted in the priesthood. Why the former? Maybe because Rome realizes how fundamental the issue is. (No, not that kind of fundamentalism*.) The three persons in the one triune God are the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit – not the Mother, the Daughter and the Holy Ghost and if the minister speaks to the congregation in the name of the Lord, well guess what? He ain’t a she.

    Further, Kerry Ptacek in his excellent Family Worship: Biblical Basis, Historical Reality, Current Need (Greenville Pres. Press, 1994 and out of print unfortunately), spends Chapt. X talking about how the failure of American men to spiritually lead their families led to ministries for and run by women and youth. He concludes that this is the real reason why women are ordained:

    “In other words, since women already taught and exercised authority in the church through their own organizations and in Sunday school, why deny them the formality of ordination? (p.68)”

    But it doesn’t stop there. As he mentions, in the PCUSA, the rejection of patriarchal Christianity has led to support groups for lesbianism and goddess worship. Given time and sinful human nature, it will probably do the same in the CRC.

    *Fundamentalism, the five points of: the inspiration of Scripture, the virgin birth of Christ, the miracles of Christ, his substitutionary death and bodily resurrection.

  11. Echo,

    If all it takes for a denomination to be apostate is an error like women elders, than the Apostle should have counseled the true believers in Corinth to get out – some there denied the bodily resurrection of believers, and the leadership was obviously not purging this view. To say nothing of the fornication that was considered okay by the believers…

    • Todd,

      Agaainst some, I think we have to distinguish between “false church” and “wayward denomination.” (My CRC is certainly the latter.) It’s not too unlike distiguishing between “adultery” and “really poor judgment” (even “cultist” and “false religionist”).

      I think what many seem to do, as we have seen in this post, is conflate terms in order to hamfist their point. But I’d hate for my wife to accuse me of adultery because I was secretly emailing a former girlfriend or meeting her for meals.

  12. Just a reminder to all that Machen did not leave the PCUSA voluntarily. He was defrocked and had no alternative but to leave. Many of his colleagues in the confessional/conservative wing stayed and continued to fight. Sure, after he was kicked out, he encouraged others to join him, but that is because he did not want to be a church of one. Would he have stayed and fought if he had not been forced out? We cannot know. He certainly stayed in longer than many expected. He was probably criticized by some for remaining in an apostate church. Not that anyone is doing this, but invoking Machen as the reason to leave the PCUSA today is not enough.

  13. Zrim,

    Until you produce these reasons for staying, how on earth can you expect me to understand things from your perspective?

    You know I didn’t grow up Reformed. It’s not like I’ve never had to make tough choices. I don’t think what your reasons might be are completely outside the reach of my imagination.

    I just don’t think your reasons are as significant as you think they are. If you’re not willing to tell me what those reasons are, then you can please quit calling me and others a “fundamentalist learning to be presbyterian”. You are claiming to have some gnostic secret that proves that you have a right to be so condescending, you claim some secret wisdom about all of this that no one else has, and you refuse to dispense it.

    Until you do, I’m sorry, but your arguments are just empty.

    Prove me wrong. Prove to me that I have no idea what I’m talking about. Prove to me how complicated it is. Or stop calling people names and being so condescending and smug. Take your pick.

    Put up or shut up.


    • Echo,

      I’d repeat my point that your diagnosis of the CRC being apostate is a misdiagnosis of waywardness; again, adultery and really poor judgment are two different things. This has been my main point to you and Steven. The blusteriness on your parts signals the relative inability to distinguish between situations. This, to me, is “fundamentalistic.”

      In the same way is your quickness to level Gnosticism simply because I refuse to get personal on a blog. Sometimes it’s just recognizing the inability of certain mediums to communicate other certain things, not a belief that one has secret knowledge (what an odd suggestion).

      What is more interesting to me is that you seem to believe nobody anywhere could possibly have reasons not to jump into certain sideline denominations. For better or ill, I consider that I abide a church, not a denomination. Though we retain membership in the CRC, rest assured that the denomination holds absolutely no “brand name” power for me when out and about. But your entire disposition conveys that you are in some sort of position as judge, jury and executioner for those of us who remain in questionable denominations. It also conveys the notion that these considerations are more academic (“prove to me, argue your way into my good graces”) than human. Your whole posture is not unlike advising a spouse to lovingly endure a bad situation that has not turned adulterous yet. I happen to think this both reveals and nurtures the immaturity of our day and age. Yes, there is a time to leave, but has it occurred to you that those being poorly treated in their marriages actually might need more encouragement than judgment?

      • Zrim,

        Why don’t you come out and say it: you think the entire URC is misguided, unwise, unkind, unloving, and gave up too quickly on the CRC. That’s what your comments amount to. If the CRC hasn’t apostatized, then those folks who formed the URC because they’re convinced it HAS, have acted wrongly.

        Go ahead and claim more wisdom than men like Godfrey, Clark, Horton, Brown, all these men you claim to admire so much. Go ahead. Be explicit.

        As for your comments about thinking of it more as a church, which I take to mean a local church, rather than a denomination, then you might as well admit to having congregationalist leanings too.

        I’m not asking you to reveal deep dark personal secrets on a blog. I’m asking you to EITHER do that or quit being so smug all the time and calling people names, assuming that they have NO IDEA what they’re talking about. You are the proverbial pot calling the kettle black. You don’t know me, and as such you have no idea how ridiculous it is to call me a fundamentalist. It’s condescending and rude. My take on it is not unique either. Go up and read the other posts in this thread. You were rude to that guy for no good reason. If he’s your weaker brother, as you seem so insistent he is, then why treat him like a dog instead of your weaker brother?

        The truth is, you’re smug and bitter, and you think you’re wiser than the entire URC denomination, it’s ministers and it’s members, and anyone who disagrees with you is a child, an “evanjellyfish” “learning to be a presbyterian”.

        Men like Godfrey, who actually do know what they’re talking about, have said, “the CRC has become another American Methodist Church.” Is Godfrey wrong? Is he unwise? What lessons are you going to bestow on him? What wise words would you instruct him with?

        Prove him wrong. If not, fine. That’s your choice. But at least treat others with civility, if you’re such a mature and wise Christian.


        • E,

          I question the decision of some of those who formed the URC in 1995-96. I say this as someone who has family (immediate and extended) in both the CRC and URC. It was an ugly scene with some permanent scars. Throw tight ethnic and family relationships into the usual brew of denominational politics and theological disputes and you’ll have a sense of what went down. You go into certain Dutch areas of the country where there is a URC and a CRC across the street from each other and those folks are probably still feuding.

          The CRC circa the mid 1990s at least in my opinion was not like the PCUSA of Machen’s time. It was a denomination that was wrong about a number of issues and was continuing to move in the wrong direction on others. But it was not apostate. It still is not.

          I’m not here to second guess the decisions of Horton, Clark, Godfrey, Brown and others. But I would also suspect that the brand of URC they promote is alot different than the URCs you would find in West Michigan that used to be a CRC. My recollection is that the CRC Drs. Horton and Riddlebarger started in So-Cal was so completely different from any other CRC plant that the denomination didn’t know what to make of it. Some URCs are also mainly about what they’re against than what they’re for.

          All of this is water under the bridge. But the point is that the decision of when to pull out or stay is not as cut and dry as some might make it seem.


  14. Todd,

    Note that Paul didn’t tell the Corinthians to simply go on tolerating things the way they are, but demanded excommunication for the immoral, and corrected the wrong teaching through his letter. It was not the whole church who was given over to wrong teaching, it was some few who were troubling the rest. From the letter, it’s clear that Paul is responding to a letter from the Corinthians. Now they have a letter from the Apostle that clearly and unambiguously proved the false teachers wrong. Now they had sure and certain ground to get rid of the false teachers.

    And they did so. Meanwhile, the PCUSA is a completely different story. In the PCUSA, the authority of the Apostle’s writings have been thrown out at the GA level long ago and have never been reestablished. False teachers cannot be thrown out. Thus they remain.

    The PCUSA and Corinth are two VASTLY different situations.


    • Echo,

      Well, when it came to fornication in I Cor 6, Paul did not demand excommunication at all, but reminded them of their union with Christ, nor did he demand excommunication for their easy divorces of chapter 7. And you said after Paul’s letter they got rid of the false teachers. You need to read II Cor. to see that wasn’t so at all (II Cor 11:4). And the PCUSA still holds to the kernel of the gospel as the WCF is still an official doctrinal statement. I know, the additions in 67′ seem to nullify the teaching, but one can still subscribe to the WCF and be a minister there, and preach the gospel unambiguously if he desires. Doesn’t sound completely apostate to me, though certainly in very bad shape.

      • Todd,

        Is it really true that a minister can preach the gospel unambiguously
        in the PCUSA? Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that some ministers,
        in some presbyteries, can still get away with preaching the gospel?

        It’s certainly not the case that a minister can preach the law without
        looking over his shoulder. He/she cannot preach the exclusivity of
        Christ without reprisal or jeopardy.

        Let me say that my heart breaks for those laity in the mainline who’ve
        never known anything but the PCUSA, who have dim memories of hearing
        Christ preached but who’ve not heard any such thing in decades.
        Occasionally a WSC student gets to preach in a PCUSA somewhere and the
        reports are almost always the same: “We’ve not heard that sort of
        preaching in 40/50/60 (pick your number) years.”

        This doesn’t answer necessarily the question of what “conservatives”
        in the mainline should do, but my perception of the state of things is
        less positive than yours. Did you hear the interview with Parker
        Williamson on the WHI. He said that the PCUSA no longer has the marks
        of the church, if I recall correctly.

        Some years back an older brother of a dear friend, both now glorified,
        explained to me that he left the OPC for the PCUSA because “even the
        Northern kingdoms had prophets.” Okay, fine, but are those prophets
        willing to be thrown down a well for Jesus? (Jer 38)

        • Scott,

          Yes, I should have stated it more clearly, some PCUSA ministers in certain areas can preach the law and gospel without harassment, but in many areas that is not the case. I was just making the point that you still can preach the true gospel without fear of ex-communication, which in itself wouldn’t make it apostate, but I agree, as a whole the denomination isn’t very Christian, but a synagogue of Satan would never tolerate the gospel on any level.


          • Todd,

            If the preaching of the gospel is tolerated in the PCUSA, then why was Machen so viciously assaulted and ultimately defrocked? Why were so many who undermined the divinity of Christ tolerated and not disciplined?

            You seem to think that if just one guy can get away with preaching the true gospel in some country bumpkin church in Nebraska (all due respect to Dr. Clark), then the entire church is not yet fully apostate.

            So if there’s just one Roman Catholic priest who’s preaching the gospel, then is the Roman Church not apostate?

            The Presbyterian Church as THE CHURCH, got to together and threw Machen out because he didn’t want to support missionaries who were undermining the divinity of Christ. And this was over 70 years ago! They’ve only gotten worse since then!

            With all due respect, your argument that the PCUSA is not completely apostate is shocking to me.

            Praise God if there remains some tiny number of ministers in that denomination who preach the gospel. Shouldn’t we remark that those men are thwarting the church’s best efforts for the last century at least to get rid of them?

            The local minister shouldn’t be THWARTING the denominational authorities at all. He should be submitting to them! In this case, he can’t do so in good conscience! What more do you want? Are you waiting for the PCUSA’s Council of Trent? Are you waiting for them to say that anyone who claims Christ is divine is anathema? That anyone who says that only men should be ordained is anathema?

            But they’re not going to do that. They’re killing their members softly and subtly, lulling them to sleep so that they’ll never wake up.

  15. I hesitate to wade into this fray, but I have a thought in sympathy with those (namely ministers) who stay in a sinking mainline — I’d like to throw it out to hear opinions.

    I’ll first make a disclaimer that I believe the best thing is for faithful churches to get out of a wayward denomination. If catholicity practiced in connectionalism and mutual submission of churches means anything, it is best to be with broadly like-minded churches to keep each other accountable. It’s not a good thing for a gospel-preaching church to be accountable to those who deny the gospel.

    But I’m wondering what you guys think of this: the mainline might be on the decline overall, but there are still hundreds and thousands of faithful to be shepherded throughout the country. While it’s not uncommon for a local OPC to serve a few dozen souls coming from a 50+ mile radius (and be the only confessional reformed church within); within that same area, there might be a dozen or so PC(USA)s, each serving hundreds.

    Now, I think that lone tiny OPC is necessary, and I wish it to grow and plant others in the area; it is more conducive for the perpetuity of the reformed witness than operating in the PC(USA). And there are certainly pitfalls (and the kingdom is not a mere numbers game), but do you guys think that there might be a legitimate place for one who reasons that hundreds (maybe thousands) more can be given the whole counsel of the Word weekly and be transformed by the gospel at a mainline congregation?

    • Hi Darren,

      I have a friend who ministers in a PCUSA congregation (two of them
      actually!) weekly. They’re smaller and mostly with older members. He’s
      serving them well. Preaching the gospel and the Presbytery seems to
      leave him alone—of course he leaves the Presbytery alone.

      I’m ambivalent about this. Derke Bergmsa always says that the will
      preach where ever he is allowed to preach without restriction. That
      seems like a sound rule.

      If a man is allowed to preach the whole counsel of God then that’s one
      thing. As I said to Todd, where does this happen in the PCUSA? Even in
      those places where “the gospel” is still allowed, the preaching is
      circumscribed by fear of losing the congregation. “I can’t say that!
      No one would ever come back.”

      I’m not suggesting that people should be deliberately or needlessly
      provocative but we have to preach the exclusivity of Jesus. We have to
      preach the moral law. There are non-negotiable doctrines.

    • Darren,

      Your question is one that I have wrestled with quite personally at length. I am a seminary student in the OPC. I have asked myself this very question, and yet have still chosen the OPC.

      I could have chosen to go to Princeton for FREE. They’ve got a billion dollar endowment, I’m told. I could have gotten a call (do they do that?) to a big church with a much bigger salary. But I chose to go to WSCAL, to go into debt for it, and to face the likely prospect of having to take a church plant when I graduate, and my wife will probably still have to work at least part time.

      More importantly, yes, there are many of God’s elect who desperately need shepherding, who are spiritually starving to death under ministers who teach that there are many ways to God, and that being gay is ok. They are deficient in both theology and morality. Their ministry puts the sheep to death.

      I look on and am filled with pity for those sheep. But the worst thing I could do for them is to go be a minister in the PCUSA.

      If I were to do that, I would be offering myself and my ministry as the solution for all these poor souls. The fact is, I’m not Christ. I can’t save these people. And I would only lend my good name to the credibility of that apostate church.

      No, I’ll plant an OPC somewhere. I’ll preach to whoever will listen, and I’ll preach the gospel out of the text as best I can with God’s help. It’s in God’s hands if he stirs souls to leave their churches and come to the OPC. That doesn’t mean we won’t advertise. I happen to think we need to do a lot more of that and be aggressive about it.

      But Darren, Christ is the shepherd of his people. They won’t suffer one bit more than he has designed them to.

      I myself grew up Pentecostal. I made it to the OPC, thanks to the grace of God. I am blessed. But whatever believers there might be in the PCUSA, they won’t have any smaller portion in the New Heavens, New Earth than I will. Christ is our righteousness.

      We must trust Christ to shepherd his people. We must trust his methods. We must trust that it is at least partly true that if we build it, they will come. We must not say that we need to be preachers in the PCUSA in order to reach a larger audience.

      If the Lord wills, he can flood every OPC in the country to overflowing tomorrow morning (Sunday) if he wants to. If I REALLY believe that, then I can choose, with a clear conscience, to serve the Lord in the OPC, knowing that Jesus won’t let even one of his children be ultimately snatched from his hand.

  16. If I remember correctly, both the OPC and the BPC have each declared the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. to be apostate, while the PCA on the other hand has averred from making such a declaration.

    Anecdotal: When the PCA General Assembly met in Louisville (1999), the PCA Stated Clerk, Dr. Roy Taylor was criticized by some for having met with then PC(USA) Stated Clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick during that week. What most don’t know is that during that visit, Kirkpatrick put the question to Taylor, “Is there any possibility that the PCA would ever return to the PC(USA)” [or words to that effect]. Taylor’s answer was, “Yes, we’ve always said that if the mainline denomination would return to a Biblical, evangelical faith, we would return immediately.” And to that, Kirkpatrick remained silent, having no answer.

    Three articles by Machen relevant to the discussion:

    “An Apostate Church?”

    “Are We Schismatics?”

    “The Need of Regeneration”
    Machen quote from this last article:
    “My own opinion is not only that the church is exceedingly corrupt but that it is hopelessly corrupt.
    When I say that, I want to make perfectly clear what I mean. I do not mean that the reform of the church is beyond the power of the Spirit of God. On the contrary, the Spirit of God is all-powerful. He could, if He pleased, regenerate a million people in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. in a year or in a month or in a single day. If that many people were regenerated in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., the church could no doubt be reformed.
    But what I mean by saying that the church is hopelessly corrupt is that the church cannot be reformed with the Christian resources now in the church.
    We ought, it is true, to be very slow about trying to look into the heart of the individual man…

    • Thanks Wayne.

      This is very helpful. Certainly the situation in the mainline hasn’t
      improved but one wonders if there aren’t more opportunities now in the
      mainline for the orthodox to gain a hearing?

      The power structure in the mainline has too much invested (literally)
      in the status quo to go back but there’s hope for congregations and
      individuals (laity and ordained) to recover the Reformed confession.
      Can they do it and stay in the PCUSA? I doubt it, but they might begin
      the journey in the mainline.

      • There was a 900 member church in Cedar Grove, WI that left the PCUSA in the last 2-3 years. It can and does happen.

  17. Echo wrote:

    “Todd, if the preaching of the gospel is tolerated in the PCUSA, then why was Machen so viciously assaulted and ultimately defrocked?”

    There were many gospel believing ministers who stayed in the PCUSA and did not join the OPC. And the reality is there are still small pockets of PCUSA churches where the gospel is preached and tolerated. The historical reality is never as black and white as we assume.

    “So if there’s just one Roman Catholic priest who’s preaching the gospel, then is the Roman Church not apostate?”

    There is a difference. Given the billions of RC’s in the world, renegade priests can get away with teaching against the church. But if they are caught publicly teaching against the Pope, they will be disciplined. That is not the case in the PCUSA; they tend to leave each other alone, so those small country bumpkin churches preach the gospel without fear or hiding; no doubt a small minority though.

    “The Presbyterian Church as THE CHURCH, got to together and threw Machen out because he didn’t want to support missionaries who were undermining the divinity of Christ. And this was over 70 years ago! They’ve only gotten worse since then!”

    Yes, agreed they have declined since then.

    “Praise God if there remains some tiny number of ministers in that denomination who preach the gospel. Shouldn’t we remark that those men are thwarting the church’s best efforts for the last century at least to get rid of them?”

    I think for the most part the gospel preachers are ignored and considered irrelevant, not persecuted. Echo, I appreciate your zeal. I used to have zeal before being in the ministry for a while (only half kidding). I am not ready to tell genuine believers they are in sin for not separating from their PCUSA church, which your stand would require you to counsel.

    One thing to remember, the WWII generation looks upon denominational commitment much differently than boomers and X’ers today. They were born and raised in their denomination, and they will die there. They don’t care what the liberals are doing. You just don’t leave your church. Not questioning the rightness or wrongness of this, it is just that generation’s culture. I remember in Washington a wonderful Christian elderly couple in their late 70’s would come to our evening service about once a month. They belonged to the Episcopalian Church in town. They would say, “we came to hear good gospel preaching, tonight a lesbian preacher is preaching at our church.” Now it seemed clear to me what they should do, but they didn’t see it that way, and I remained silent, not judging their generation’s commitment to denomination.

    • Todd,

      If I might, I think what you are demonstrating here is a far superior pastoral sense of these things. Perhaps my father’s boomerism has reached into the next generation with me, but I take my churchly vows quite seriously. At the same time, we as Protestants are nothing if not able to judge between right and wrong in these matters. To continue the family analogy, there comes a time when you cannot endure dysfunction any longer and must distance yourself. These can be my own tensions.

      I try to remember these things when I am, as a non-cradle CRCer, quick to get impatient with the Dutch ethic that seems to live and die with denominational loyalty. It can be similar to fish not knowing that they are wet. But I understand loyalty, maybe too much (!).

      • I understand why people stay. Most people choices about church have
        little to do with doctrine. I guess most folk in the PCUSA still don’t
        know what happens in the church. At the same time, I think that those
        who think they can reform it are probably naive and I do think we
        ought to encourage folk to leave it.

        The case is more difficult in the CRC, which is still a borderline
        denom. It would be more encouraging if the conservatives and
        confessionalists in the CRC were putting up more of a fight against
        the slide.

        Doesn’t it help to keep thinking about the marks of a true church? Are
        those marks present in a given CRC congregation? Is the gospel being
        preached purely? Are the sacraments being administered purely? Now
        that paedocommunion is allowed, does that so corrupt the sacrament
        that it is not administered purely? Arguably it does so corrupt the
        admin of the sacrament. Is there discipline? Are the folk advocating
        error being disciplined? Is there any discipline for impenitent sin?

        The Belgic may not be as easy to apply now as it was in 1561 but it’s
        still the confession of the CRC and they haven’t set it aside so it’s
        fair to expect them to uphold it.

        • We’re doing what we can. But I try to be realistic in my little corner as well. I don’t want to be naive about it, since the picture looks pretty bleak. I think it more realistic to understand our time in the CRC as limited, piping up along the way as thoughtfully as I can, where and when I can. Sometimes, though, it’s all I can do not to curse the lot, tie a brick around “Recovering,” throw it through the blessed front window and go home.

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