Monday, 27 June 2016

More on the Muslim Prayer at the G.A. (PCUSA)

More on the Muslim Prayer at the G.A. (PCUSA)

Further comment and analysis on the blasphemy of prayer to a false god at the PCUSA General Assembly is given by Dr Mateen Elass, a Christian apologist who was converted from Islam.  He not only provides insightful analysis of the prayer, which is asking that those who hear it embrace Islam and Mohammed as a true prophet, but he shows the duplicity of the non-apology issued by the PCUSA Stated Clerk.

Liberal Presbyterianism, as represented by the PCUSA and the Church of Scotland, inevitably follows the path of denying the exclusivity of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Liberalism contends that those of other faiths do not need to be converted; they are simply on another road that equally leads to salvation and therefore are to be embraced.

Read Dr Mateen’s analysis on these two blog posts:

Friday, 24 June 2016

Muslim Prayer at General Assembly PCUSA

Muslim Prayer at the General Assembly?

Given that the Church of Scotland is following the same trajectory as the PCUSA, (rejection of Scriptural authority, embracing homosexual marriage for office-bearers, refusing to affirm the exclusive nature of salvation by faith alone in Christ alone, etc), how long before we have a Muslim offering “prayers” in general Assembly?  Five years?  Ten years? Sooner?

At the close of the afternoon plenary on Wednesday, June 22, the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, Rev. Gradye Parsons, offered an apology. He said that he had become aware that some had found the prayer on Saturday offensive. Parsons said that sometimes mistakes can be made in ecumenical relationships and stated it was not intentional. “It was never the intention to offend anyone, and we offer an apology to those who were offended.”

Here, in part,  is the prayer that caused offence:

Allah bless us and bless our families and bless our Lord. Lead us on the straight path – the path of all the prophets: Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad,” and so went the prayer offered up by Wajidi Said, from the Portland Muslim Community, as part of the “first order of business” during the opening plenary session of the 222nd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

The video of the time of first plenary session can be viewed here. The time of remembrance begins at the 6:45 mark and the prayer to Allah starts at the 14:04 mark.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Extract from Account of the Life and Writings of John Erskine

Extract from Account of the Life and Writings of John Erskine By Sir Henry Moncreiff-Wellwood (1818)

John Erskine was undoubtedly the leading Scottish evangelical in the early eighteenth century.  His essay,” A Humble Attempt to promote Frequent Communicating” argued for frequent, indeed weekly communion and a biblical simplicity in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper

“The essay by which he intended to promote the more frequent dispensation of the Lord's Supper, was connected with an overture, which had probably originated with himself, circulated through the church by the synod of Glasgow and Ayr, and transmitted to the Assembly; proposing that this ordinance should be dispensed in every parish at least four times in every year, and in all the parishes of the same presbytery on the same day; and that there should be only a single sermon preached on a week day preceding the communion Sabbath, in place of the multiplicity of sermons which had till that time been in use.
There were certainly strong reasons for the proposal which was the object of this essay, as well as for many of the alterations which were suggested to render it practicable.

The subject had been under the consideration of the presbytery of Edinburgh in 1720, who, without going as far as the overture from the synod of Glasgow and Ayr, had abridged the number of sermons, *and made an arrangement by which the Lord's Supper was to be dispensed in one or more of the congregations within the bounds of the presbytery, in every month of the year. But no change had hitherto been made in other districts of Scotland, where, because the inconvenience attending the common practice was obviously greater, there was more occasion for reformation.

Dr Erskine discussed this subject with singular ability and learning, and his essay is, in point of execution, equal to any one of his other publications. He states, from the original authorities, the doctrine and practice of the early ages of the church; the decisions of Councils, and the opinions of the Fathers on the subject, with the practice of the reformers and of the reformed churches down to the latest period, as far as he had been able to procure them. He then represents the practice introduced into Scotland, immediately after the Reformation, and the circumstances in the times of persecution, from which a different mode was adopted. He points out the inconvenience attending the multiplicity of sermons which had been first brought into practice, when the Lord's Supper was dispensed under the rod of persecution; and which was still continued when the circumstances were no more the same; and he shews how unnecessary and inexpedient the same number of sermons becomes in different times; placing, in a very striking and forcible light, the arguments which then pressed on his own mind in support of the synodical overture.

He had an able and respectable coadjutor who published on the same subject, the Reverend Mr Thomas Randall, then minister of Inchture, and afterwards of Stirling — a man whose learning, ingenuity, and eminence as a Christian pastor, entitled him to the first distinctions in the church to which he belonged, as much as the variety of his conversation, and the cheerfulness of his private intercourse, have secured to him the affectionate and perpetual remembrance of his friends. No individual could have had a better claim to be heard on a subject so important to the edification of the people, and which he was, in every respect, so competent to discuss.

From very different topics he maintained the same argument with Dr Erskine; equally zealous in promoting the object; and detailing, with more minuteness, the inconvenience of the practice which prevailed, and some pernicious effects ascribed to it on what was then the condition of the country.

Mr Randall's pamphlet (probably in manuscript) had reached Dr Erskine, after he had written, but before he had circulated his own publication. With the unassuming modesty which was natural to him, and which is more or less to be found in almost every transaction of his life, he thought it necessary, after he had read it, to subjoin to what he had printed the following note: "Though Mr Randall handles the argument in a different method from me, and "there are very few particulars in which "we coincide, yet I think myself bound to "acquaint the public, that they would not have been troubled with this hasty essay, if I had seen Mr Randall's papers before composing it…" So humble and unpretending was the mind of Dr Erskine, even on a subject which he had thoroughly examined, and on which he admits that his argument had not been anticipated! So much had he imbibed the spirit or the evangelical rule which enjoins "every man to "esteem his neighbour better than him*' self."

The subject discussed in these pamphlets was certainly of very serious importance. A more frequent dispensation of the Lord's Supper than was at this time usual in Scotland, was unquestionably an object which deserved all the zeal and attention which it excited. The overture from the synod of Glasgow went perhaps somewhat farther than the circumstances required, or than was suited to the general situation of parishes in Scotland. But the thing attempted was, notwithstanding, though not in its full extent, in a great degree attained. The argument in Dr Erskine's and Mr Randall’s essays went a great way to lessen the evil of which they complained. The Lord's Supper has, from that time, been more frequently and more uniformly dispensed, and in no small proportion of the parishes the number of sermons connected with it has been at least considerably abridged.

* Before this time, the practice since the Revolution had uniformly been, that three sermons should be preached on a fast-day, in the middle of the week preceding the Sunday appointed for the dispensation of the Lord's Supper, two on the Saturday, one in the morning and another in the evening of the Sunday, and two on the Monday. In some congregations in Scotland, the same practice is still continued, though the Lord's Supper is more frequently dispensed.

The people ate attached to this multiplicity of sermons from the usage of their ancestors, who introduced it in more difficult times, and have transmitted it to their descendants, with other memorials of their piety and zeal under the hardships which they suffered; hardships which they endured with a magnanimity of principle, which the frequency of their religious exercises had no small influence in sustaining; and which, if their posterity are worthy of their origin, neither malignity nor wit can ever render contemptible in their eyes.

But the same expedients are not necessary in times of general quiet and security. The presbytery of Edinburgh might have safely gone farther than they did go, in abridging the number of sermons; and though they might have had to combat the prejudices, they would have certainly added greatly to the comfort of the people.

Further Thoughts on the Scottish Communion Season
”The Scottish Presbyterians, and their descendants in America, have, as we cannot but think, fallen into a serious error, in adding to the length and the number of the services connected with the Lord’s Supper. Not only is there an undue protraction of the exercises on the Sabbath, but it has been customary to set apart a day for fasting, in preparation for the ordinance, and a day of thanksgiving after it. Against these appendages, the late Dr. Mason wrote very ably; arguing that they have no warrant in the book of God; that they are contrary to the judgment of almost the whole Christian church; and that they are attended with great and serious evils. He maintains, that they establish a term of religious communion which has no scriptural sanction; that they are almost impracticable, without the aid of other pastors; that they banish both the principle and practice of scriptural fasting and thanksgiving; and that they create a pernicious distinction between the sacraments. And he dwells particularly on the point, that the multiplicity of our week-day services is incompatible with such a frequency of communion as is our indispensable duty. “Had it not been for them,” says Dr. Mason, “communions would have been much more frequent, both in the church of Scotland and the denominations which have sprung from it.” We may add, that the argument has a wider application than to merely week-day services: all services which render the celebration of the Lord’s Supper protracted or wearisome, and all instructions and ceremonies which invest it with an unscriptural mystery or awfulness, have a necessary tendency to infrequent communion. Instead of being an attractive and delightful ordinance, it thus becomes fearful and repulsive.”

The Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review, Vol. 12, no. 1 (1840)

Theses on the Lord’s Supper

Theses on the Lord’s Supper

For thoughtful discussion:

1.    The Lord’s Supper is to be celebrated on the Lord’s Day.
2.  Quarterly communions are a departure from the Scriptural model of frequent communion.
3.  When the Word is preached, the Lord’s Supper is to be celebrated.
4.  When the Word is preached there is no requirement for a second or third sermon at the Lord’s Table – this detracts from the normal association of Word and Sacrament.
5.  Bread and wine are the elements to be used in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.
6.  It is better that an individual refrain from the Lord’s Supper than the command of Christ to use bread and wine be overturned.
7.  The normal setting of the Lord’s Supper is the gathered worship of the local church.
8.  The normal president at the Lord’s Supper is the regular preacher of the local church.
9.  It is contrary to the Scriptural pattern to have the Lord’s Supper only presided over by invited guest preachers.
10.               It is contrary to the Scriptural pattern for the pastor of the flock never or rarely to preside at the celebration of the Lord’s Supper with his own flock.
11. The Scottish Communion Season is a departure from the simplicity of the Scriptural pattern.
12.               Those who come to the Lord’s Table are to be baptised communicant members who have made a credible confession of faith.
13.               The qualification for the Lord’s Supper is a credible profession of faith not age.  Children who have made a credible profession should be admitted to communicant membership and come to the Table.
14.               Children who cannot discern the body of the Lord nor examine themselves to see if they can come in a worthy manner should not come to the Lord’s Table.
15.               Christ is truly and spiritually present through the bread and wine.

16.               The Lord’s Supper is a confirming not a converting ordinance.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Pragmatic Disobedience of Christ's Commands

Pragmatic Disobedience of Christ's Commands

John Brown’s rich commentary on Galatians contains an interesting appendix on the issue of the financial support of Christian ministers. 

Commenting on Galatians 6:8, “Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches”, Brown refutes those who content that State support is necessary for the continuation of the Christian Ministry.  Pragmatic arguments were raised in his day against the principle that the congregation, not the State, should provide for the support of the ministry.

Brown writes, “A plain expression of Christ's will, like that contained in the text, in a rightly constituted Christian mind, bars all contrary reasoning. My speculations about probable consequences must not lead me to disobey, or neglect, or tamper with, any of his commands. Let me do what he bids me, and I may safely leave consequences to him, who not only foresees them, but controls them as he pleases.”

It strikes me that this is a principle which has wider application.  If Scripture speaks we are called to obedience; we are not free to “correct” Christ because of the supposed consequences of obedience to his direct word.

Thus if Scripture calls for discipline against recalcitrant heretics or those living an immoral lifestyle, we are not free to ignore his command because it may have undesirable consequences.

If Scripture teaches that we are to celebrate the Lord’s Supper frequently, we are not free to overturn Christ’s instruction because we believe it would lead to an over-familiarity with this sacrament. If Scripture says that we are to use bread and wine, we are not free to argue against Christ’s clear instruction and use other elements.

If Scripture teaches that elders are to be properly qualified men, we can neither dispense with the biblical qualifications nor introduce women to the eldership because we believe that, pragmatically, it would be more useful.

We could multiply examples, but the principle holds true “My speculations about probable consequences must not lead me to disobey, or neglect, or tamper with, any of Christ’s commands.