Within wider Christianity, Presbyterians are often labeled—and sometimes dismissed—as traditionalists. This label may seem to explain some aspects of Presbyterian piety, but not all.
When Christians outside of Reformed circles learn about the Presbyterian passion for singing Psalms, keeping Sabbath, and rejecting images of Christ, they begin to recognize that something more than traditionalism is taking place. These quirky practices do not arise from traditionalist nostalgia for “the good old days,” but from deeply formed biblical and confessional convictions.
Even within the PCA, many argue that our idiosyncrasies in these areas are peripheral, debatable, optional, and not fundamental to our system of doctrine. Why, then, do confessional Presbyterians put so much weight on such peculiar practices?
As I have personally wrestled with those questions, what most clarified my understanding was to identify the focal point of biblical piety. In The Glory of Christ, the last book that John Owen wrote before his death in 1683, Owen captured the heart of piety as seeing the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6):
There are, therefore, two ways or degrees of beholding the glory of Christ, which are constantly distinguished in the Scripture. The one is by faith in this world, which is ‘the evidence of things not seen’; the other is by sight, or immediate vision in eternity, ‘We walk by faith and not by sight’ (2 Cor. 5:7) …. No man shall ever behold the glory of Christ by sight hereafter, who does not in some measure behold it by faith here in this world. Grace is a necessary preparation for glory, and faith for sight.
What Owen identifies here is that we cannot measure our piety by what we can physically see according to outward appearances. As he draws out through the rest of the book, Christian piety is (1) biblical, (2) spiritual (i.e., by the Spirit), and (3) invisible (i.e., by faith). Read more»
Jacob Gerber | “Three Presbyterian Convictions: Psalms, Sabbath, & the Rejection of Images” | March 31, 2022
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