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1999 Issue 4

The Reformed Presbyterian Church in the United States (RPCUS) was born in 1983 out of a continuing struggle to uphold the all-embracing, inerrant authority of the Bible as the Word of God, to maintain the purity of the church and to proclaim the truth of the Reformed faith "in all openness unhindered."

We believe that God has called us into existence to glorify him by being faithful to the Word of God, the historic Reformed faith of the Protestant Reformation, and the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ. We agree with the late R.B. Kuiper who wrote, "The truth of the matter is that we believe that the Reformed faith is the Christian faith in its most comprehensive and consistent formulation Christianity in its purest and most precise expression." By this conviction we do not seek to judge all non-Reformed evangelicals as unbelievers. We simply insist that there is ultimately only one true religion taught in the Bible, and we believe that the most consistent and best expression of that religion is the Reformed faith. We are urgent and insistent about calling Christians and the Church back to the Reformed faith because as B.B. Warfield, a Princeton theologian of the last century, expressed it, "It may be contended that the future, as the past, of Christianity itself is bound up with the fortunes of the Reformed faith."

The governing constitution of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in the United States (RPCUS) is the original Westminster Confession of Faith, the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, the Westminster Form of Presbyterial Church Government (with certain caveats), and the Westminster Directory for the Public Worship of God. Our comprehensive commitment and strict subscription to these Standards (I.e., the Confession and Catechisms) includes our adherence to three distinctive doctrines of those Standards which are frequently discussed today: (1) a presuppositional approach to apologetics; (2) a theonomic approach to ethics; and (3) a postmillennial eschatology.

Before we explain these distinctives, two other related and commonly asked questions must be answered: To what extent does the RPCUS demand subscription of its officers to these distinctives? And what do we mean by "strict subscription" to the Westminster Standards?

On February 20, 1983 the Chalcedon Presbyterian Church congregation voted to withdraw from the Presbyterian Church in America, the denomination with which the church had been affiliated since its founding.

We would like, here, to present the resolution which the congregation passed on that day in 1983.

The educational function of the church is at the very heart of its reason d'etre. Explicitly stated in the Lord Jesus Christ's parting commission to His apostles is the command to "make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you" (Matt. 28:19-20). This educational function exists within the context of the worship and covenant life of Christ's church. And, it cannot be understood apart from that context.

Jesus made it clear that God the Father is seeking a people to worship him in spirit and truth (John 4:23), to glorify him and enjoy him (Rom. 11:37). Worship is man's reason d'etre, his highest good, his chief end (WCF, Shorter Catechism Question #1; hereafter, SCQ). Worship here is broader than the formal cultus of the institutional church. It encompasses all of life (Psalm 73:24-28). The Christian worships God at all times, being and reflecting His image (John 17:21-23), acknowledging His sovereign lordship (Prov. 3:6), being humbled before His will (John 4:34), and serving His purposes (Heb. 10:7).

We live in a day in which the concept and practice of Godly rule is despised and ridiculed. Whether it is the state, school, business, church or family, a radical spirit of democracy has so pervaded our thinking that no institution has been left untouched. Sadly, the church has been too receptive to the democratization of the body of Christ. This┬Ěhas led many reformed churches to compromise or circumvent altogether God-ordained rule within the church. As a result, the door has been left open for numerous errors to infiltrate and spoil the purity of the church. Much of the blame for this condition can be placed on the failure of ruling elders to faithfully carry out their office. The purpose of this article is to examine the importance of the ruling elder to the purity and peace of Christ's church.

The house was slowly yet steadily being undermined. More and more of the foundation was exposed as the excavation proceeded. The team of demolition experts was hitting the exposed foundation with hammers. Each blow created cracks in the foundation. These cracks steadily crawled up the walls. However, the occupants of the house lauded the progress that was being made by their wisdom and broad-mindedness. The mantra that they had sung for years grew louder as more and more elders joined them. "Diversity is our strength," they sang as they honored the very men who were gradually destroying the very foundations upon which the house rested. They rejected any warnings that the course they were on spelled disaster for the house and those in it. "We need to be charitable rather than criticize these men who are so broad-minded. We personally don't see the issues the way they do, yet we certainly don't want to offend them by asking them to adhere to our own personal interpretation of Scripture. After all we are one big happy family. We don't want to be so parochial as to 'bind anyone's conscience' or exclude anyone who says they love Jesus."

Presbyterians in America are living through a very significant time. For the first time in over a century, the Presbyterians in the southern part of the United States have suffered a major division. Some 50,000 members of the Presbyterian Church in the United States have separated from their "mother church" to form the Presbyterian Church in America.

As a group essentially drawn from the "Southern Presbyterian Church" who think of themselves as continuing their past Southern Presbyterian heritage, this new church has a special interest in the writings of James Henley Thornwell, one of the founding fathers of the "Southern Presbyterian Church." Happily, the Banner of Truth Trust is presently in the process of republishing Thornwell's Collected Writings, together with his Life and Letters by Dr. Benjamin Morgan Palmer (this latter volume already being available). Every Presbyterian minister would do well to obtain these works and study them.

Teaching Elder Joe Morecraft made a presentation of the establishment of the constitution of Covenant Presbytery, [now the RPCUS]: ...the WCF, Larger and Shorter Catechisms as originally published by the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland must be subscribed to by all ordained members. Passed. - Minutes of Covenant Presbytery August 29, 1983

Why did I make that motion? Let me give you four reasons.

First, the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland edition of the Westminster Standards is a sturdy, hardback book with readable print. It contains the Westminster Assembly's Scriptural footnotes completely written out, for the Confession, Catechisms and book of church government. It also includes other historical documents that are important for organizing a church and understanding our heritage as Presbyterians, which documents are not included in other editions of the Standards, such as the original Directory of Publick Worship, the Form of Presbyterial Church-Government, the Solemn League and Covenant, etc.