Is my doctrine in line with the doctrine of the Westminster standards? Or do I have to engage in a certain amount of mental gymnastics in order not to be a liar when I say that I “sincerely receive and adopt” the standards as “containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures”? If the latter, shouldn’t I, regardless of what the cost might be to myself and the local church I currently serve, move a denomination where I can be honest in my vows?
Have I read, prayerfully, the Commissioner’s Handbook? The Commissioner’s Handbook hardly seems like something to be read prayerfully. After all, it isn’t Hind’s Feet on High Places. But this is the work of the King that we claim to be about. His business, as well as his worship, needs to be approached prayerfully.
Have I been praying for those with whom I disagree? Every year there are issues that divide commissioners. For the most part, we know what those issues are, and we have our opinions about how those issues should be decided. But we should also recognize that well-intentioned men of good conscience can disagree on these things without being heretics. We need to be praying for one another that we would be men after God’s own heart, happy to lose “our cause” for His.
Am I working at being a churchman, or playing at it? Is GA week vacation for me, or is it a work week? Admittedly, given the way that GA is structured, it can be very tempting to spend a good part of the week attending anything but the Assembly sessions, especially the information segments that largely repeat the material in the Handbook. Perhaps wise changes there would make for a better and more useful assembly. For the time being, we should commit ourselves to being there for the boring parts, as well as the times when there might be exciting debate.
Am I here seeking God’s agenda, or my own? This relates to #2 above. We need to remember that God cares more for his church than we do. He has demonstrated that he is more than willing to give up denominations for the sake of the overall health of his church. This ought to scare us, at least a little.
What is my relationship to the constitution of the PCA? As a reminder, the Constitution of the PCA consists of the Westminster standards and the BCO (minus some specified chapters). Constitutions can, and sometimes should, be amended.
But given their current state, is my doctrine in line with the doctrine of the Westminster standards? Or do I have to engage in a certain amount of mental gymnastics in order not to be a liar when I say that I “sincerely receive and adopt” the standards as “containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures”? If the latter, shouldn’t I, regardless of what the cost might be to myself and the local church I currently serve, move a denomination where I can be honest in my vows?
Given its current state, is my practice in line with the BCO or do I make it up as I go along? The PCA BCO is far from perfect, as is attested by the fact that it is amended almost every year. Yet do we make it our aim to carry out our practice in line with its prescriptions. We might find it would save a lot of difficulty if we did. It would also be easier to follow the practice of the BCO if we made ourselves more familiar with its content, rather than relying on Roy Taylor and David Coffin to tell us what it says.
Benjamin Shaw, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Hebrew & OT and Academic Dean at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. He blogs at GPTS Rabbi where this article first appeared. It is used with permission.