A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians (ECO) is a sister denomination to my own EPC. ECO began as a church in 2012, composed of congregations departing from the PCUSA. I have a few friends ministering in ECO, and I have made some efforts at better institutional unity between our churches. At the EPC’s 2017 General Assembly I sat on the Standing Committee (i.e. temporary committee limited to that meeting) on Fraternal Relations. I convinced the rest of the committee to recommend to the Assembly, that the Permanent Committee on Fraternal Relations should be instructed to begin dialogue with ECO aimed at forming a fraternal relationship. This recommendation was approved by the Assembly and encouraging work has begun in that direction.
I mention this to make clear that I like ECO. My hope is that the EPC and ECO formally unite as one church. But there are some significant barriers that need to be overcome if that union is to occur. The most substantial barrier is the issue of confessionalism and doctrine…
Heidelberg Catechism 20
Q. Are all people then saved through Christ
just as they were lost through Adam?
Only those are saved
who through true faith
are grafted into Christ
and receive all his benefits.
One of the interesting subtleties of the catechism is how it describes salvation. It is not actually faith that saves; faith is the mechanism by which salvation comes, but does not save in itself. Salvation comes from being grafted into Christ. Union with Christ is the essence of salvation and the fundamental distinguishing feature of the Christian.
To be lost in Adam is to be separated from God. To be saved in Jesus is greater than being found my him – it is to be joined to him…
The EPC prides itself on allowing differences in “non-essentials” among its churches, and this has included the thorny issue of the eternal fate of people who die in infancy.
The Westminster Confession of Faith states,
Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated, and saved by Christ, through the Spirit, who worketh when, and where, and how he pleaseth: so also are all other elect persons who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.
The Confession strikes an agnostic position that borders on a tautology: elect infants dying in infancy are the ones who are saved. This position allows for a great deal of flexibility, since the who and how of election for those incapable of being outwardly called is not identified.
In 1903 the PCUSA added a declaratory statement to the beginning of the WCF which functionally amended it. The declaration stated, in part, that,
…with reference to Chapter 10, Section 3, of the Confession of Faith, that it is not to be regarded as teaching that any who die in infancy are lost. We believe that all dying in infancy are included in the election of grace, and are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit, who works when and where and how he pleases.
This declaration had the effect of eliminating flexibility from confessional subscription. Now only one position, namely that all who die in infancy are elect, was permitted. The EPC formed in 1981, and had to choose which amendments and alterations to the Westminster Standards it should adopt. The Declaratory Statement was one of the items considered…
As a followup to my recent post on the death of the Old Testament, I want to provide two direct solutions to breathing life back into the church’s use of it. The problem is not just that the Old Testament is often absent from the the life of the church, but in its presence it is not used well.
The simplest, most immediate solution is to starting singing the Psalms in worship. Not worship songs loosely based on a psalm, such as Matt Redman’s “10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)” inspired by Psalm 103, but singing actual psalms…
The horror coming out of Pennsylvania is absolutely sickening. The attitude of “it’s not that big a deal” from the Roman Catholic episcopate communicates that the possibility of this kind of coverup happening again is very likely. Coming on the heels of the revelation that Cardinal McCarrick was a rapist and that the Catholic Church covered for him, the events in Pennsylvania should jolt the Catholic laity into the realization that this was not an abnormality: the hierarchy of the Catholic Church has no interest in or willpower to do what it takes to protect their people. And often the Roman Catholic Church itself is the source of this danger.
The Roman Catholic Church continues to teach that it is the only true church. Now, Protestant churches are not immune from sin or from covering that sin up, even sin as heinous as the abuses of the Roman Catholics. The difference lies in Rome’s claim to be the true church, and to be subsequently assaulting their own people and covering up that assault.
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