Shuck and Jive

Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Christianity and Superstition

I spent 45 minutes watching Parker Williamson of the LayMAN give a history of the downfall of the Presbyterian Church, Christianity and Liberalism: The Church in an Age of Upheaval.

His talk was part of an entire weekend of superstition.

Mr. Williamson talks about how bad The Reimagining Conference was and what an apostate Dirk Ficca is. Parker asserts that we "liberals" believe in a different God and Jesus than he does. I couldn't agree more. I agree with him that the direction of the church matters. His direction is about 180 degrees backward.
I wish Parker was right about how "liberal" our denomination is. We have a long way to go.

The point of his speech was that the PCUSA sucks because we didn't follow the fundamentalist path of J. Gresham Machen back in the 1930s. Machen does have followers. He started his own denomination, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC), and his own seminary after Princeton decided to embrace higher criticism of the Bible.

This begs the question. Why doesn't Parker and Friends join that denomination? If over 80 years ago the Presbyterian church decided that they didn't want the denomination run by fundamentalists why are fundamentalists so surprised at our "apostasy?" And it isn't as though the OPC is the only choice for the superstitiously disaffected. You can be narrow in more ways than one. There are also the PCA, the EPC, and other flavors.

But, hey, if Parker likes being on the losing team, then bless him and welcome.

You know what would be fun? I would love to have a debate with him. I personally think his views on God, the Bible, and Jesus are superstitious, infantile, and wrong. Don't misunderstand. Just because I think I can make a convincing case that his views are wrong doesn't mean I think he should be out of our club. That's the difference between us. He wants the "apostates" out. I want to take the "superstitious" on.

Anyone else think that would be fun?



36 comments:

  1. Good lord, they're still whining about the re-imagining conference?!? When was that? 1994? Sheesh. Let. It. Go.

    I agree though, if he wants to be in the club, let him stay. I've never had any interest in pushing people out, nor holding people here if they want to leave.

    But when you've spent 30 years tearing down the church like dear Parker has, you have to wonder why he's so upset about, evidently, being so successful at his own agenda.

    He has spent 30 years publishing a rag that does nothing but criticize the denomination, its members, its ministers, its commissioners to GA, its confessions, its theology and its history while simultaneously publishing the essential guidebook on how to pick up your marbles and leave this apostate denomination, then he turns around and blames liberals for loss of members? Seems a bit disingenuous to me. You'd think instead he'd be taking a victory lap.

    But Parker knows that unlike the PCUSA, his shenanigans would never be allowed in the OPC or the EPC, so he's stuck in a denomination he hates. Sorta fitting, I think.

    But seriously....1994? These people really should get a life before its too late. They're not getting any younger.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I think a debate like that would be a waste of time. We already know who would "win," and that would depend on which side of the fence the listeners began on. There are better things for us to spend energy on.

    Regarding "superstition" I don't have an issue with people believing out-of-the-scientific-box things. My issue is when belief systems do emotional and spiritual damage to people involved in a community. JD Crossan distinguishes between a literalist and a fundamentalist. A literalist says "I take everything I can in the Bible literally." A fundamentalists says the same and adds "and you do too if you are a Christian." (Um, precise quote might be a bit off, but the point is there.) Fundamentalism is a good example of a system that crosses into emotional and spiritual abuse.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I know this has been covered before, but would you please tell me once more what you mean whe you say...

    I want to take the "superstitious" on.

    Thanks Mary

    ReplyDelete
  5. @Mary

    Debate, discuss, chit chat over Cheetos...that kind of thing : )

    ReplyDelete
  6. @irreverence

    A debate may be a waste of time. Or not. I would get a kick out of it. I am of the opinion as of late that those with a viewpoint similar to mine need to be more outspoken. The reason for the "emotional and spiritual abuse" as you rightly put it is because we--for whatever reason--let it pass. I say no more free passes for fundamentalism.

    What I mean by free pass is thinking that no matter how irrational or damaging someone's belief is, because it is a religious belief, it must be better than having no belief.

    For instance, if someone believes that Eve was created from Adam's rib, we are not to criticize that belief as it might damage someone's "faith." So we believe in belief.

    I say, no, that it makes no sense and does the world no good to claim a piece of folklore is history. To believe that Eve was created by Adam's rib is superstition. The story is fiction. To tell people otherwise, especially children, is to lie to them.

    Most stories associated with religion are being exposed as fiction including the "god" we created. It is time to come clean and say what we know. I am not saying I am right, or my view is necessarily true (although I think it is). I am ultimately saying, let's take off the blinders and have an open discussion regarding religion and belief. No more hiding behind creeds, confessions, and threats of church discipline. Let's have it out.

    We can talk about the formation of sacred stories, the formation of creeds, what we have learned about the Universe thanks to the Enlightenment, anything. That's what I am talking about and what I mean about taking the superstitious on.

    ReplyDelete
  7. @John

    It was probably a lot more fun talking with me. I wouldn't call it a debate rather a discussion. Then again I try to be polite.

    ReplyDelete
  8. You know Bob, it was fun talking to you. In fact, 'Conversations with Bob' was a highlight of this blog! It was a very polite discussion as well! : )

    ReplyDelete
  9. @Alan

    I had the same reaction regarding Re-Imagining. Not to take anything away from those who attended back in the early Clinton years, but it was pretty much a non event. In my circles that type of theology is fairly commonplace. The genius of the LayMAN is that they turned it into a money maker for themselves and a talking point of how apostate the denomination is. It was the next best thing to Angela Davis.

    Then, good ol' Dirk Ficca.

    "What's the big deal about Dirk Ficca?"

    His one line "What's the big deal about Jesus?" taken out of context in a speech exploring religious pluralism and the LayMAN creates the Blowhard Church Movement.

    I wish I could find a way to be apostate enough so they could make money off of me. Like to do my part to "raise the standard."

    ReplyDelete
  10. Superstition has driven people to tithe their 10% of their income and donate their inheritance to this superstitious God. Superstition has driven people to volunteer all over the world. Superstition has built the PCUSA to the institution that funds all the things you support.

    For me without that superstition, I have to ask, Whats in it for me? If the bible is a story only with good moral stories, then I can find a lot of books that do that. Then donating money becomes irrelevant, attendance (who cares), there are other social activities and events. Well I can spend all that money on myself?

    If I weren't superstitious this sounds like a pretty good gig.

    Mary

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hey John!

    I think that a debate between you Parker would be great! If you are able to arrange it I would sure like to be able to see or hear it online. And now that you've got me to thinkin' 'bout it, what might be better still would be a debate followed by a Pastoral Mud Wrestling Match! Yeah, that's the ticket! An intellectual challenge followed by a good old fashioned (kind of) Trial by Combat! Who knows, maybe Parker would prefer the latter over the former? Let me know what you think about this idea.

    Peace Through Power

    Steve

    ReplyDelete
  12. @Steve

    Parker and I will sling mud then wrestle in the mud.

    @Mary

    From your examples you are arguing that belief in belief causes people to do good things. Regardless if superstitions are true or not, we should continue them because otherwise people will stop being generous with their money, time, and so forth.

    A couple of things come to mind for me.

    Would you, Mary, really not do good things if you discovered that Jesus wasn't born of a virgin and that there is no heaven or hell?

    Would you stop being a good person? I am not speaking hypothetically about people in general, but you.

    My guess is that you, Mary E., would be a good person even if you realized that our religious doctrines were made up. It may depress you at first but then you would clear your head and say, "OK, now what?"

    You may decide not to support some causes (ie. smuggling Bibles to China or whatever so the Chinese won't go to hell. What is the point of that?) But you might support other causes instead (ie. doctors without borders).

    My guess is that you would support those things you felt were good to support and you would be generous as you are now, and it would require no doctrine of punishment or reward for you to do those things.

    I think that at least one factor why mainline churches including the PCUSA are less compelling for more and more people is that people are less convinced by belief in belief.

    They don't believe this stuff anymore. It doesn't ring true. It is for them, superstition. But they do support the things they like (Living Waters for the World, and other social justice ministries and so forth) not because of the creeds and dogmas but in spite of them.

    Now there are more and more secular organizations that do good things that these generous folks like to do without the creeds and dogmas.

    I have a viewpoint that churches are still useful as gathering places for our social life, ritual, and what not. For whatever reasons, folks still find the singing, the stories, the forms interesting and helpful. In turn, we are inspired to do good things, not things to promote outdated dogmas but things to promote the well-being of Earth and its inhabitants.

    I argue that outmoded religious dogmas are not a vehicle to well-being but are a hindrance. If something is not true then it should not be believed even if we kid ourselves into thinking that believing it makes us better.

    ReplyDelete
  13. @Mary

    >>Whats in it for me?<<

    Ah, a question born of pure self-serving interest rather than Other-serving love and adoration. Btw, I assume that you are asking that rhetorically and that it isn't really a question you ask. For, indeed, when people ask that question in its many forms it reveals that they are guided not by faith but by greed.

    That's why it's important to ask a "what if" when someone asks that. What if the answer is nothing? What if there is no heaven? What is there is no kingdom of God? What if you work yourself to the bone and don't get squat? Would you still worship God?

    Inasmuch as their answer is "yes," they have answered in faith.

    ReplyDelete
  14. "What if there is no heaven?" Don't you have to give John Lennon copyright creds when you say that? :)

    ReplyDelete
  15. "raise the standard."

    They're not even self-aware enough to get the joke, are they?

    ReplyDelete
  16. I do believe in The More as Marcus Borg calls it. I don't think the Church is just another social organization although there are plenty of good things about that.

    My problem with Fundamentalism is its insistence on a particular version of The More which requires a suspension of rational thinking for many of us. I am convinced that the founders of Christianity knew very well that they were telling stories and not reporting the facts. That's why I am so frustrated with Presbyterians (and other Christians) who insist on my believing what I am sure the Early Christians didn't believe. They were simply telling great stories about The More, about the Mysterious and, yes, the Miraculous. But the Miraculous is NOT science-defying events such as walking on water and turning water into wine and raising people from the dead. Those things don't happen now (have you noticed?) and they didn't happen then.

    The More, The Miraculous, The Mysterious is a dimension of consciousness which is extremely active in our moment-to-moment lives. Prayer changes things. The changes are extremely difficult to describe because they take us out of our normal perception of reality and move us into a new awareness, a new consciousness, an awareness of our unity with all other creatures. This is New Life. This is Baptism. This is Communion. This is Resurrection. This is Enlightenment. This is Nirvana. This is Home.

    The early Christians did a wonderful job of giving us powerful stories about The More, The Mysterious, The Miraculous.

    We definitely need to give people enormous freedom to discover what this realm is like for themselves. Forcing us to confine ourselves to an extremely narrow and oppresive version of Christianity is harmful, abusive, wrong.

    I agree with John that it is high time we stop this abuse, this oppression, and allow people the freedom to embrace Christianity in all kinds of liberating and compassionate ways, even re-imagining God and the Church. Thank God for the visionaries, the dreamers, the prophets, the pioneers, the adventurers, the explorers, the sages, the guides, the teachers and, yes, the preachers who proclaim boldly that God is doing a new thing, making all things new.

    love, john + www.abundancetrek.com + "Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer." -- Rainer Maria Rilke

    ReplyDelete
  17. John S wrote, "I want to take the "superstitious" on. "

    And John W wrote, "Those things don't happen now (have you noticed?) and they didn't happen then."

    So how do we have room for those who believe in the "superstitions" and those who don't?

    That is, is your real problem with the superstitions that people like myself, or Viola, or Parker, or even Carmen "The Millstone" share, or is your problem with how those superstitions are used to justify Viola or Parker or Carmen's bullsh*t? That might be an important distinction to make that isn't being made here, or at least isn't being made well.

    Believe, if you wish, that miracles do not happen. Doubt is easy. Call faith superstitious if you like, but recognize that the term "superstitious" sounds suspiciously like the atheistic putdown that it's all BS, or "invisible sky god" or "flying spaghetti monster." It's fine to be in people's faces if you like, as long as you realize what that gets you.

    However, if you want to be truly gracious, perhaps you should do the liberal thing and acknowledge other people's beliefs, and the words they use for such beliefs, even if you don't buy them yourself. Then you can go after the BS.

    Or are you suggesting it isn't possible to believe in the "superstitions" and not get the BS as a package deal?

    Unless you just like poking people with a stick, which is fine, and something I enjoy now and then as well. :)

    ReplyDelete
  18. @Alan

    Fair enough.

    I do enjoy poking with a stick on occasion. That is probably fairly obvious. : )

    I certainly could be more gracious. It is good to call me on that.

    I generally reserve the word superstitious for the people who are mean about it. This meanness is exhibited most commonly in some sort of exclusive way.

    Justifying prejudice because of some special revelation is superstition. That is an easy one. That is the BS.

    However, there are times, as you have noticed, usually when I am fed up and short-tempered, that I regard all claims to special revelation as superstition.

    In that case, I shouldn't use that word. I should be more gracious because I am offending people who I like and agree with on far more important things and who aren't mean. Like yourself.

    I lose patience with arguments from the Bible regarding anything. If an argument cannot stand on its own, no appeal to supernatural authority will make it any better. That is my view.

    Obviously, many in the church (probably most) see things differently.

    I cannot think of one thing in my own life or what I have witnessed in the universe itself that is best explained by an appeal to special revelation or to a supernatural entity.

    I have stated that fairly clearly over the years on this blog. I am not sure what is more offensive to some, that I state what I believe (or don't believe) or that I use the word superstitious.

    My apologies to the people who aren't mean (the non-BS people) for including you in the realm of "the superstitious" because you affirm special revelation of some sort or another.

    "Taking on the superstitious" mostly refers to Parker's crowd.

    Except, I do think we need honest conversation about religious belief. Because I do think that a lot of the meanness comes from irrational thinking.

    If we religious people did not give people an "out" as in allowing them appeals to the Bible or Tradition to make claims about the age of Earth, or the Israel/Palestine problem, or sexual ethics, without challenging that appeal, I think we do the world a disservice.

    ReplyDelete
  19. "If we religious people did not give people an "out" as in allowing them appeals to the Bible or Tradition to make claims about the age of Earth, or the Israel/Palestine problem, or sexual ethics, without challenging that appeal, I think we do the world a disservice."

    I was pretty sure we're on the same page, and I don't particularly get offended by the use of the word superstition, particularly given the words used by the people you're talking about to describe the rest of us poor heretics. :)

    It's interesting to consider whether their meanness comes from irrational thinking, as you propose, or whether the meanness comes from people just being jerks, in general. I'd say there's little evidence to support the notion that the more rational among us are any nicer than the irrational. And just as the rational can try to justify their meanness with reason, so can the irrational try to justify their meanness with irrational thinking.

    I think jerks are just jerks and their jerkiness probably has far more to do with their insecurities and fears then their IQ.

    The problem, then, isn't for example, that someone believes in an omnipotent, omniscient God. The problem is when person believes that an omnipotent, omniscient God needs "The Millstone's" protection from the dirty queers. And that's not superstitious, in my opinion, its just arrogant and stupid.

    ReplyDelete
  20. @ Alan + Do you think those things DO happen now -- walking on water, turning water into wine, raising people from the dead and other science-defying events?

    I find it hard to believe that a gracious and loving God would demand that I suspend my basic sense of what can and can't happen on earth and believe in that kind of stuff simply on the so-called eye witness reports of people who lived 2000 years ago. To me, it makes perfect sense that these witnesses were talking about a "Love So Amazing" that they wanted to use the popular images of their time in order to gain followers for the faith. I am glad they did.

    But now I and millions of other Christians believe that MAYBE these things did not happen in a factual way but in a metaphorical way. I use the word MAYBE so that we can have a big tent where those who believe in factual miraculous events and those believe in metaphorical miraculous events are both welcome.

    Can you understand and accept that I simply can't believe in the walking on water and water into wine and raising people from the dead kind of events as factual? Could you not use the label "doubter" on me and others. I do not doubt that Jesus Christ is Risen from the Dead. He lives. Alleluia. It is quite possible that people "saw" him after his death and maybe even "ate" with him. I think it takes a mystical or out-of-the ordinary state of consciousness for these things to happen. In other words we can get transported to a realm outside of our normal sense of time and space (such as described in by Maslow as Peak Experiences or as described by William James in several different ways in THE VARIETIES OF RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE).

    On the other hand, I am quite willing to believe the Early Christians told stories about Jesus which are not historically factual at all but metaphorical. Is that OK? Can I still be one of you without being called a "Doubter"?

    Do you KNOW what really happened?

    love, john + www.abundancetrek.com + "What is required of us is that we love the difficult and learn to deal with it. In the difficult are the friendly forces, the hands that work on us. Right in the difficult we must have our joys, our happiness, our dreams: there against the depth of this background, they stand out, there for the first time we see how beautiful they are." -- Rainer Maria Rilke

    ReplyDelete
  21. "Can you understand and accept that I simply can't believe in the walking on water and water into wine and raising people from the dead kind of events as factual?"

    I've got no problem with that, and I have the sense that you can understand and accept that I do believe in such events.

    My only issue in nudging John was on his use of the word "superstition" and how that could turn off people who really do believe in such events, but unlike the fundies, don't think that belief in those events is a big deal, and certainly not something to fight about.

    That is, if you want a big tent as I do, you can see perhaps how the term "superstition" could be seen as pejorative, eh?

    ReplyDelete
  22. @ Alan

    >>I've got no problem with that, and I have the sense that you can understand and accept that I do believe in such events.<<

    JD Crossan identifies a literalist as someone who takes the Bible literally (for the most part). And a fundamentalist does the same, except also says "and you will too if you are a Christian."

    So, if I understand what you're saying, you are a literalist, but not a fundamentalist. Am I hearing your correctly?

    ReplyDelete
  23. Parker and his ilk will never leave the PCUSA. He raises too much money with his LAYbrand to walk away.

    ReplyDelete
  24. "So, if I understand what you're saying, you are a literalist"

    eew. nope. At least, that's not a word I'd use.

    ReplyDelete
  25. That is, if you want a big tent as I do, you can see perhaps how the term "superstition" could be seen as pejorative, eh?

    Point taken. Well said.

    ReplyDelete
  26. @ Alan

    >>eew. nope. At least, that's not a word I'd use.<<

    Uh, no. You're not allowed to self-identify. I get to define who you are according to my absolute standards, established by my imperial mind that processes things at the developmental level appropriate for late childhood or early adolescence. So, if you have any questions regarding who you are and what you should be doing in your life, please forward them to me and I'll be happy to establish boundaries for you that makes me feel comfortable and in control of my world. :p

    ReplyDelete
  27. "So, if you have any questions regarding who you are and what you should be doing in your life, please forward them to me...."

    Um, Mom, you just gave yourself away.

    Put the computer down, Mom, and back away slowly.

    :)

    ReplyDelete
  28. John you said...
    "Regardless if superstitions are true or not, we should continue them because otherwise people will stop being generous with their money, time, and so forth."

    well why what is my motivation? You also asked me if I found out that was no virgin birth would I still be good? I would probably be good. I just would not feel the need to show up once a week for validation of being good. I could do all the same things with the Rotary Club, or Women's Club to pay my monthly dues attend required meetings so they don't kick me out. All is well dues support charities and I participate in an organization with a shared purpose. Same thing as church with out all the BS.

    irreverance said...

    That's why it's important to ask a "what if" when someone asks that. What if the answer is nothing? What if there is no heaven? What is there is no kingdom of God? What if you work yourself to the bone and don't get squat? Would you still worship God?

    Inasmuch as their answer is "yes," they have answered in faith.

    ANSWER If I said yes to a superstition it is more like hedging my bets. If I die and there is a Kingdom of God, then it is a win, if I am wrong then I would still be dead(wouldn't be saying much anyway.)

    Mary

    ReplyDelete
  29. @Mary

    That is not my argument. I was stating the position of those who advocate a belief in belief. I do not think we should continue believing things we don't believe are true or promoting beliefs that we no longer believe are true.

    That has been my mantra for some time.

    You also asked me if I found out that was no virgin birth would I still be good? I would probably be good. I just would not feel the need to show up once a week for validation of being good.

    You don't need any validation.

    Mary, if you believe that Jesus was born of a virgin, rose from the dead, and whatever other things you need to believe, great.

    I don't think any of those stories have an external reality to them. I think they are human stories. I don't think we need to regard them as events or realities to participate in this community we call "church."

    I don't think the community's life depends upon the reality of these stories. I could be wrong. It could be that when people stop believing in the reality of these stories "Church" will cease to exist.

    That, in my view, could be a good thing. It could mean that the "law will be written on our hearts" or in other words, the reality we have externalized, projected onto "God" and onto these stories is actually within us.

    We are in a period of transition. The stories of the Bible are less and less credible for more and more people except as perhaps myths or metaphors.

    What will this mean for traditional church structures, I don't know.

    What I won't do is pretend to believe things that I do not believe. Nor will I promote belief in belief as a valid ethic.

    On the other hand, as Alan pointed out, I do want to be in community with those who do hold these claims to be real, like yourself.

    I want to accept (big tent and all) but I also want to be honest. How do we do that? Is it possible?

    ReplyDelete
  30. @ Mary

    Whether "hedging one's bets" is a win depends on one's perspective. If one adopts an "orthodox" understanding, it certainly is not. Here's why.

    If one is "hedging one's bets," one is not making a confession out of faith, but rather is acting out of self interest in the hope that ones "act" of confession will earn the big payout in the end. In order to say that "hedging one's bets" would ever work, one must first reject any notion of justification by faith alone. Indeed, that's the epitome of justification by works. (And remember, this understanding became prominent when kings would "convert" to Catholicism on their deathbeds, since baptism effectively washed away all preceding sins. As long as they didn't sin in the next few minutes, they were golden.) According to the supposed "orthodox" doctrine, then, if one is hedging one's bets, one isn't going to win. Rather, it's an eternity of roasty-toasty lose.

    I'm not saying don't reject the "orthodox" doctrine of justification by faith; that's entirely up to you. I'm simply pointing this out just in case you hadn't realized that you've rejected faith as the singular, unmerited gift of the Holy Spirit that seals us for the Kingdom of Heaven. If you decide to continue to reject such a teaching, you're not alone. Catholics, Episcopalians, and Methodists also do not accept it. That's not such bad company to be in.

    ReplyDelete
  31. There is so much here I don’t know where to start.

    You said…I don't think the community's life depends upon the reality of these stories. I could be wrong. It could be that when people stop believing in the reality of these stories "Church" will cease to exist.

    Darwin would agree with you that, organizations can evolve to make other organizations extinct.

    That, in my view, could be a good thing. It could mean that the "law will be written on our hearts" or in other words, the reality we have externalized, projected onto "God" and onto these stories is actually within us.

    This really confuses me…a God that man created can have a “law written on our hearts“, that doesn’t make any sense. A law created by a fictitious deity to be written on my heart why would I want that. You don’t want to teach things you don’t belief nor promote them so doesn’t that statement only promote what you don’t think exist?

    ReplyDelete
  32. @Mary

    Metaphor. Metaphor. Metaphor.

    That which we have externalized, God, Law, Absolute Morality, we now see to be a human construction. We made up all the laws (or our ancestors did) including the God we claimed made them. We gave credit for what we accomplished to some external deity. Now, we are realizing it.

    Hence "law written on our hearts."

    ReplyDelete
  33. A couple of comments about J. Gresham Machen:

    1. Although he was one of the leaders (although not a primary leader) of the Presbyterian Fundamentalist movement he left Princeton because the GA decided to add people to the Board of Trustees at Princeton that made the seminary more "open." Machen helped form Westminster Seminary. (Curiously Princeton did not "go liberal" in the sense the term was used from the 1870's to the late 1920's. Dialectical Theology or NeoOrthodoxy became the prominent theology in the PCUSA and at Princeton by 1935.) Of course Machen thought that NeoOrthodoxy was of the devil. The later leader at Westminster Seminary, Van Til, while condemning NeoOrthodoxy, moved away from the scholasticism that was popular at Princeton before 1930. The new scholastics called him a "fideist" and claimed that he had surrendered to NeoOrthodoxy.

    BTW the "liberals could not have won without the help of broad minded conservatives who sought a broader church. Machen and his friends condemned them. Charles Erdman as Moderator of the GA in 1924 (and a member of Princeton's faculty) wanted a broader church. Even a staunch conservative, Clarence Macartney. stayed in the denomination after the split in the mid 1930s. He was, at the time, pastor of 1st Presbyterian, Pittsburgh, a prime pulpit in the PCUSA. The congregation tended toward a more conservative theology and still does.

    2. Machen did not choose to leave the PCUSA. Whether you agree with him or not, he started an independent mission organization because the Presbyterian Board of World Mission would not get rid of Pearl Buck who was a Universalist. Curiously at that time (the early 30s) adherence to the denomination's institutions was more important than adhering to a particular theology (and this change had taken place in less than 10 years). The watchword of the PCUSA became "Theology divides, Mission unites" a saying of Robert Spear, after whom the library at Princeton Seminary is named. Machen was kicked out of the denomination for starting an independent mission organization. Evidently mission didn't unite. Then he and others formed the OPC.

    3. The OPC split one year later over the question of dispensationalism. Machen opposed dispensationalism. The leader (Carl McIntire) of the new denomination, the Bible Presbyterian Church, insisted it was a "fundamental." Curiously the other object of contention was over the use of alcohol. Machen opposed prohibition (I guess he was a whiskey drinking Presbyterian) and McIntire thought that drinking was of the devil.

    The most important thing to note here is that denominational splits tend to lead to further splits among those who have left. If it is OK to leave once it becomes more acceptable to leave again.

    ReplyDelete
  34. "The most important thing to note here is that denominational splits tend to lead to further splits among those who have left. If it is OK to leave once it becomes more acceptable to leave again."

    Yup. Which is why even the very fundie presbyterian denominations will one day split over women, one day split over sexual orientation issues.

    For conservatives to leave to the EPC to avoid having to talk about the dirty gays is both short sighted and hilarious. As I've always said, "They'll be back."

    ReplyDelete
  35. @ Alan - that's what happened in 1983. The only reason the southern church didn't get back together with the northern church is that the northerners wanted all the southerners to confess that they had sinned and to sign a loyalty oath to the US government.

    ReplyDelete