The PCA’s Westminster Presbytery: Were Adam and Eve Real People?

Adam and Eve were real people and if you do not agree with this, there is no need to apply for membership in Westminster Presbytery.

Yes, we agree that the Confession and Catechisms are our only constitutional standards, but there are differences over the interpretation of what those standards mean.  Such differences almost destroyed our Presbytery about twenty years ago.  The Conflict Resolution Committee Report brought peace to our Presbytery by stating our interpretation of the standards without creating new standards.

 

Westminster Presbytery is a part of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).  It is a regional body that includes churches and ministers in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.

Several years ago the Presbytery adopted a nearly two-page document stating our commitment to the belief that Adam and Eve were real people.  We called this position the affirmation of the historicity of Adam and Eve. Presbytery concluded the Declaration by stating that “any man desiring to serve as an ordained officer in this court must affirm and agree with this Declaration.”  Presbytery also voted to include the Resolution in its By-laws (Manual).

Many in the Presbytery were concerned that in some evangelical circles, the historicity of Adam and Eve was being denied, and that some Christians were interpreting the reference to Adam and Eve in the Bible as poetic or literary language only.  We were seeking to guard the churches in our Presbytery from the influence of what we considered a serious threat to the integrity of the Bible.

The PCA voted years ago to accommodate those ministers and elders in her midst who do not agree that God created the world in six twenty-four hour days.  You do not have to affirm six twenty-four hour day creationism to be ordained in the PCA.  We were fearful that a denial of the historicity of Adam and Eve might be next.  It is a slippery slope.  As one who was ordained in the old PCUS (Southern Presbyterian Church) before the PCA came into existence, I saw how eventually this slippery slope resulted in the denial by some in that church of the historicity of the resurrection of Christ.  We were afraid!

This past year the General Assembly took an “exception of substance” to the Minutes of Westminster Presbytery in regard to our actions.  Presbyteries in the PCA are required to respond to the General Assembly in regard to objections of substance to their Minutes.  In November of this year Westminster Presbytery adopted a response to the General Assembly.

For those interested in this whole procedure, let me be perfectly clear.  First, the General Assembly in no way took issue with our stand on the historicity of Adam and Eve.  Contrary to some rumors, that was not the issue at all.  Does the PCA stand firmly on the historicity of Adam and Eve?  Yes — absolutely!

The issue was not the doctrinal position of Westminster Presbytery, but rather the issue was procedural only.  Westminster Presbytery included the statement in the Manual of Presbytery, and the General Assembly objected to this.

Be careful in judging the PCA.  A serious error of judging a court’s action or even a man’s motives often occurs when a man or a court may vote against a motion which is perfectly orthodox.  For example, a man may vote against a statement adopted by a court that states that “God exists,” which is perfectly orthodox.  But the reason why he votes against it is not that he disagrees with the statement in itself.  He totally agrees.

On the contrary, he may vote against it because of procedural matters. He may think that the court has already taken this position in its constitutional standards and there is no value in repeating what has already been said.  He believes that the court is adding to the constitutional standards of the church.  Therefore, be careful before you judge the motives of either an individual man or a court of the church as a result of a vote that was cast.

The objection of the General Assembly to the Minutes of Westminster Presbytery was purely procedural.  Basically, the Assembly said that the Declaration should not be included in the Manual because this creates an additional confession of faith (constitutional standards), and that the Westminster Standards are sufficient.  The Church should not be establishing additional standards that men are expected to affirm.  We already take vows to affirm our own constitutional standards.

As you might imagine, there were several resolutions to Presbytery on how we should respond to the objection of substance to our Minutes.  After some debate, finally Presbytery voted to remove the statement from its Manual and to inform the General Assembly that we have taken this action.

However, this is not the end of the story.  A subsequent motion was adopted that a short version of the Declaration be included in Presbytery’s Conflict Resolution Committee Report.  This is a document which has no constitutional standing in our Presbytery.  It was adopted years ago to resolve conflict in Presbytery over such issues as creationism and Christian Education.  No vows or commitments are required to this document. It is a Gentlemen’s Agreement. It is simply a report of a committee that we approved as a way to preserve the peace in Presbytery.  In November we amended that report.  As a matter of courtesy, a copy of this report is sent to all potential candidates who are seeking to become a member of Westminster Presbytery.

The bottom line is that if you don’t hold to the views in this Report then there is no need to waste your time or our time in applying for membership in Westminster Presbytery.  For example, if you don’t believe in six twenty-four hour day creationism, then there is no need to apply.  Now, as a result of our latest action, if you do not hold to the historicity of Adam and Eve, there is no need to apply.

Yes, we agree that the Confession and Catechisms are our only constitutional standards, but there are differences over the interpretation of what those standards mean.  Such differences almost destroyed our Presbytery about twenty years ago.  The Conflict Resolution Committee Report brought peace to our Presbytery by stating our interpretation of the standards without creating new standards.

Thus in summary, a majority of Presbytery agreed with the “exception of substance” of the General Assembly, but we are also now on record in the matter of the historicity of Adam and Eve via our Conflict Resolution Committee Report.  Adam and Eve were real people and if you do not agree with this, there is no need to apply for membership in Westminster Presbytery.

Larry E. Ball is a Honorably Retired Minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is now a CPA. He lives in Kingsport, Tennessee.



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