Fuzzy boundaries or none at all?

2013/06/18

From Rick Phillips on the effort to prohibit intinction* in the Presbyterian Church in America:

It seems likely that this amendment is going to fail to achieve the necessary 2/3 of presbyteries to be approved, so that we will see the novelty of a Reformed Presbyterian denomination approving a procedure historically associated with the Roman Catholic Mass. What is more revealing, and to me discouraging, is the kind of argument being reported in presbytery after presbytery.

Typical arguments include the following:

“People doing intinction are just trying to reach people with the gospel. Why are we giving them a hard time?”

“What is wrong with the PCA that we even debate silly things like this?”

“Are we really going to say that brothers are wrong and force them to do things our way?”

There is, of course, no doctrine or practice that can be excluded under the above arguments, which it seems will carry the day in the PCA.

(emphasis added)

That last comment about the impossibility of excluding any practice hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. It’s now commonplace for sentimental arguments to sway Presbyterian bodies. Whatever celebrates diversity, whatever exalts “love” over common belief and practice, whatever is most “ecumenical” or “catholic,” tolerate these things. (Never mind that novel, unbiblical practices strike at Reformed catholicity). Deep irony rests in the fact that doctrinal and liturgical openness have the potential to destroy the soul of the PCA (and other Reformed bodies) before it becomes the big tent church the revisionist side desires.

True, there are more substantive arguments to be found (even if they ultimately fail) for the progressive positions in the Presbyterian world (eg. paedo-communion, “High Church” liturgy, drama-in-worship, deaconesses, religious images and artwork, recreation on the Lord’s Day). We should hope so, because there is no way one will differentiate a Reformed church from anything using the reasons Rick Phillips lists above.

* Intinction is the practice of dipping the bread into the wine in the observance of the Lord’s Supper.

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