What Is The “Judgment Of Charity” And Is It Relevant To The PCA Controversy Over Side B/”Gay Christianity”?

Historically the term judgment of charity has been used in discussions of the infant offspring of believers, especially regarding their reception of baptism or of eternal life (in cases of premature death). The former sense is the only way in which Herman Bavinck uses it in his Reformed Dogmatics, and can be seen in statements such as this from B.B. Warfield:

If . . . we say that [the church’s] attitude should be as inclusive as possible, and that it should receive as the children of Christ all whom, in the judgment of charity, it may fairly recognize as such, then we shall naturally widen the circle of the subjects of baptism to far more ample limits.

The term is sometimes used to refer to the election of other professing believers (comp. Calvin on 1 Cor. 1:9) or more generally to the desire to be fair in judgment.

…In a recent judicial opinion[1] the judgment of charity is given as one reason why the Presbyterian Church in America’s (PCA) Standing Judicial Commission (SJC) was justified in upholding Missouri Presbytery’s refusal to indict Greg Johnson for doctrinal error…

I must confess that my intellect was so boggled by this statement that it was temporarily laid prostrate. First, if the plain meaning and force of the words that a suspected false teacher uses are such that they teach heterodoxy, then they “must be so interpreted.” That is simply how language works: words mean what they are commonly understood to mean, not what we earnestly desire them to mean. A suspect may have spoken rather by careless incompetence than by intentional deception, and there may be other mitigating factors that temper our response, both of which are important questions, but we do not do anyone a favor by pretending that someone said something other than what he actually did say. Read more»

Tom Hervey | “The Judgment of Charity in Questions of Official Misconduct” | March 17, 2022


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One comment

  1. It is hard to imagine a situation where the PCA SJC will make a firm theological judgment on any matter as long the current methods of selecting people to the SJC stand. As a result of disappointment with the SJC’s recent handling of a number of cases, I have heard some talk about possible overtures which would change the way members of the SJC are selected and how long they could serve with the intent to lessen the influence of the NP on the SJC.

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