Indictment of the PCA Standing Judicial Commission | Exhibit 14

The Ministerial Obligation is provided in the PCA Handbook for Presbytery Clerks, year after year. All teaching elders must sign the same Confessional Subscription (BCO 13-7) corresponding to the same ordination vows (BCO 21-5) in order to be ordained, and their presbyteries must retain these contracts on file.

“… and became prone to evil as the sparks fly upward.” 

A Commentary on Romans, Charles Hodge, p. 189

“‘Ah, stubborn children,’ declares the LORD,
‘who carry out a plan, but not mine,
and who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit,
that they may add sin to sin’ …” 

— Isaiah 30:1 

“Now after the king had burned the scroll with the words that Baruch wrote at Jeremiah’s dictation, the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: ‘Take another scroll and write on it all the former words that were in the first scroll, which Jehoiakim the king of Judah has burned. And concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah you shall say, ‘Thus says the LORD, You have burned this scroll, saying, ‘Why have you written in it that the king of Babylon will certainly come and destroy this land, and will cut off from it man and beast?’ Therefore thus says the LORD concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah: He shall have none to sit on the throne of David, and his dead body shall be cast out to the heat by day and the frost by night. And I will punish him and his offspring and his servants for their iniquity. I will bring upon them and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem and upon the people of Judah all the disaster that I have pronounced against them, but they would not hear.’’
Then Jeremiah took another scroll and gave it to Baruch the scribe, the son of Neriah, who wrote on it at the dictation of Jeremiah all the words of the scroll that Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire. And many similar words were added to them.” 

— Jeremiah 36:27-32 

Jeremiah 36:1-32
Jehoiakim didn’t want to hear bad news, so he burned the scroll that contained the news. He himself refused to learn the truth and change his ways, but the foolishness of the act also led to the destruction of his nation. Jehoiakim chose to ‘protect’ himself from information that was vital to his success as a leader. Some of the most important organizational – and personal – changes are made only when leaders are willing to process bad news. …
Jeremiah 18:18
Jeremiah told people they were in danger because they were living in sin. Their foolish response was to attack the one man with enough concern and courage to tell them the truth. A leader who errs and then punishes one who points out his error commits a double fault.
Jeremiah 26:17-19
The elders who stepped forward urged people to learn from the successes and failures of the past. Good leaders build learning organizations.” 

Handbook to Leadership: Leadership in the Image of God, Kenneth Boa, Sid Buzzell and Bill Perkins, p. 588, 619

“Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.” 

— Ephesians 6:9

Ephesians 6:9
Here’s a good reminder that position means nothing to the One who holds all individuals accountable for their own actions. When God looks at an organization’s power structure, all He sees is the flatness of the paper on which it’s printed.” 

Handbook to Leadership: Leadership in the Image of God, Kenneth Boa, Sid Buzzell and Bill Perkins, p. 553

Jonah 1:1-12
Jonah was called to be a moral leader. But instead of helping, he disobeyed God’s specific instructions and made a mess of a situation to which he could have offered a contribution. Leaders who lack character are often more destructive to the organization than helpful. …
Genesis 27:5-13
Instead of waiting on God to fulfill His promise concerning her sons (25:22-23), Rebekah manipulated the process. Ironically, the result of her deception was personal misery – she never saw her favorite son Jacob ever again. Leaders who willfully deceive others as they try to achieve their goals are sometimes forced to live with permanent scars. 
Jeremiah 52:3
This brief statement speaks volumes: Zedekiah rebelled (v. 3). Everyone works for someone. Leaders are only able to lead because someone has empowered them to do so. The wise leader will identify and respect the sources of his or her power. But Zedekiah rebelled, and the rest of the chapter chronicles the results of that rebellion. …
Jeremiah 38:5
King Zedekiah was a leader without courage. Instead of using his power to protect God’s prophet, he let others abuse Jeremiah. He abdicated his responsibility as leader by declaring himself powerless to act. One of the greatest abuses of power happens when leaders delegate unsavory tasks, those which with they wouldn’t want to be associated, to people who they know will accomplish the evil they want done.
Daniel 2:1-13
Nebuchadnezzar knew that he had enough power to do whatever he wanted. Asking his followers to do the impossible and then punishing them when they failed was a terrible injustice. The king’s cruel and irrational attitude in this account shows that how a leader uses – or abuses – power makes a crucial statement about that leader.
Amos 5:7-17
Notice how God condemned injustice and encouraged equitable treatment for all people. The leader who allows – or worse, practices – injustice within his or her sphere of influence violates a principle that God holds dear.” 

— ibid., pp. 533, 542, 607, 662-663

Leaders who selfishly pursue their own interests above those of God and others become unfaithful stewards whose influence debases rather than edifies. …
Leadership Passages
15:23:-31: These two succinct accounts of evil rulers depict the godlessness and corruption at the highest levels of ancient Israelite culture.
19:1-36: God hears and answers the prayers of godly leaders.
Leadership Passages
1:3: The leader who knows God’s will but still chooses to run in the opposite direction embarks on a journey of futility.” 

— ibid., pp. 785-786, 809

“You are out of order, TE Borger. …
It is historically ironic that the St. Paul’s Session at this point appears to be accessorizing itself to the ongoing transgressions of the Saint Andrew’s Session. It was St. Paul’s which was the victim of schism when R.C. Sproul sinned against his ordination vows and split from St. Paul’s to illicitly start Saint Andrew’s. For a time, I hoped and prayed for your involvement in its efficient correction especially given the original connection of these two churches — but not for the type of interference that is evident at this time. It is your very own Confession and BCO that proves the manifold sins of Saint Andrew’s. On account of what you wrote in your recent letter, I am starting to believe you are just as bad as their renegade prelacy, if not actually worse, because Scripture generally cautions against the double danger of those who know better giving approval to others who make practice of sin (cf. Romans 1:32, I Timothy 5:22).
After a quarter century, the historical bond between St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church and Saint Andrew’s Chapel seems to be coming full circle. Yet, I fear that yours may in truth transpire as the circle that Dante Alighieri overlooked. 

‘Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way. Only fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart.’” 

— Benyola’s response to TE Borger’s ultracrepidarian ukase, April 1, 2022 

An Advertisement to the Pious and Judicious Reader 

“A perfect enumeration and description of scandals can be made in no book, but in the Scriptures; and when all is done, must we not refer to that? All scandals are punishable as well as any; to inflict penalties on some and not on others as bad or worse is inexcusable partiality. Why should not presbyteries duly constituted, especially the greater [ones], be accounted at least as faithful, intelligent, prudent [as an individual curate], and every way as competent judges of what is scandal [or] what not, according to Scriptures, and that without arbitrariness and tyrannicalness, as any civil court, committee or commissioners or whatever? Ruling church assemblies are entrusted with the whole government in the church, consequently, with this and every part. The best reformed churches allow to their presbyteries power to keep scandalous persons from the ordinances … Therefore, no new thing is desired but what is commonly practiced in the Reformed Churches, whom we should imitate as far as they lead us on towards purity and perfection.” 

Jus Divinum Regiminis Ecclesiastici, p. 46 

“Whoever slanders his neighbor secretly
I will destroy.
Whoever has a haughty look and an arrogant heart
I will not endure.
I will look with favor on the faithful in the land,
that they may dwell with me;
he who walks in the way that is blameless
shall minister to me.
No one who practices deceit
shall dwell in my house;
no one who utters lies
shall continue before my eyes.
Morning by morning I will destroy
all the wicked in the land,
cutting off all the evildoers
from the city of the LORD.” 

— Psalm 101:5-8 

Shepherding the Whistleblower

Unfortunately, organizations in need of a whistleblower are those most likely to suppress, reject, banish, or destroy messengers. Loyalty to an organization tends to supersede truth. Whistleblowers, like prophets, call their audience to recognize evil and purge it. Reliable, confidential, and anonymous reporting systems capable of instituting intervention are critical.” 

Report of the Ad Interim Committee on Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault to the Forty-Ninth General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America (2019-2022), PCA General Assembly Commissioner Handbook 2022, p. 2484 

“Believest thou? then thou wilt speak boldly. Speakest thou boldly? then thou must suffer. Sufferest thou? then thou shalt be comforted. For faith, the confession thereof, and the cross, follow one upon another.”

Martin Luther, Tischreden [Table Talk], CCCXV


04/13/2022: Benyola spent the majority of 2019 — before lodging any formal Complaints with the Church courts — trying to get these St. Paul’s elders’ help with resolving serious offenses he witnessed at Saint Andrew’s Chapel, but they never took his repeated entreaties seriously: either downplaying, sloughing off, or simply ignoring his informal yet earnest attempts at remediation. These people evidently never thought it was important for their peer teaching elders running Saint Andrew’s to meet with Benyola on their own, or to facilitate such a meeting with them, or at the very least to require their inclusion in the meetings that they required of Benyola, in obedience to Matthew 18:15-18 and BCO 34-2,-3. But now, the St. Paul’s Session suddenly is interested in the matter, interfering with Presbytery’s investigation and possibly prejudicing the outcome, and finds it awfully necessary to try to use their power to call Benyola on the carpet for alleged wrongdoing. So, the Stated Clerk of the St. Paul’s Session transmits a “Citation” to the Complainant to appear before the Session, which is 500 miles away. Perhaps Sir Stated Clerk is going to dispatch all the king’s horses and all the king’s men into Sherwood Forest to capture Benyola and carry him back to answer the Court? This is ludicrous. The Session’s letter is riddled with factual inaccuracies — particularly with multiple falsified dates of correspondence and Complaints, to mislead the Church courts that the alleged offenses took place within the BCO’s statute of limitations — ignores the evidence, refuses to answer questions of doctrine and discipline seriously and reasonably proposed to the Court (BCO 11-4), and lacks adequate information on which it bases its false allegations. 

Alleged violations (errors and/or delinquencies) by the Session of St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church 

Primary standards: Genesis 18:25, 44:16, Exodus 20:16, Leviticus 19:15, Deuteronomy 10:16, II Chronicles 7:14, Psalms 6:7-10, 7:12-16, 10:2,7,15-18, 11:1-3, 12:1-2, 15:1-4, 19:7-14, 24:3-6, 26:4-5, 34:11-22, 37:27-33, 40:4, 50:14-23, 52:1-4, 53:4, 55:2-3, 56:5-7, 58:1-5, 64:1-6, 65:1, 71:10-11, 74:4-5, 76:11, 78:72, 86:14, 94:16,20, 101:5-8, 106:3, 109:1-5, 116:18-19, 140:1-5,9-11, Proverbs 1:29-31, 3:27, 10:23, 11:1, 12:19, 18:5,13,17, 20:23, 22:22, 24:11-12,23-25,28-29, 26:17, 28:9,13, Ecclesiastes 3:16, 5:1-9, 7:7, 8:1-5,11, 9:17, 10:5,8-10, Jeremiah 11:18-20, 15:15-21, 20:10-13, 21:12, 36:27-32, Lamentations 3:34-36, 5:14, Ezekiel 9:4, 33:1-9, 34:1-10, Amos 5:7,10,14-15,23-24, Zechariah 8:16, Malachi 2:7-14, Matthew 3:8, 5:10-12,22-25, 18:16-17, 23:1-5,13-25,28, Luke 17:3-4, 19:14,27, 21:12-13, Acts 20:27-30, Romans 1:32, 2:1-3,17-21,23-24, I Corinthians 1:10-11, 13:6, II Corinthians 6:3-8, 11:26, 12:20, Ephesians 4:31, 5:6-12, 6:9, I Timothy 3:2,15, Titus 1:5-7, James 1:22-25, 3:1,17-18, I Peter 2:1, 5:1-4, Revelation 2:9, 3:9 

Secondary standards: WCF 1.10; 15.6; 20.1-4; 22.1-6; 30.3; 31.1-3; WLC Q.99.6-8, 111-114, 130, 143-145, 151; WSC Q.14, 76-78; BCO Preface II.1,4; 8-1,-2,-3; 11-2,-4; 13-9.e,f; 14-7; 21-5.7; 31-11; 31-2; 32-2,-6.b,-17; 34-3; 35-3 

Tertiary standards: RONR (12th ed.) 61:22; 63:7-9, 13, 35 


04/25/2022: The Complainant carries his Complaint versus the Session of St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church with Appellate Brief to Central Florida Presbytery. With the Session’s choice to burgeon a fresh bungle, the violations accrue, so Complaints and replications chronicling it keep piling up. 

(Escalation of the (first) Complaint of Peter Benyola versus the Session of St. Paul’s PCA) 


04/26/2022: Benyola files a second formal Complaint against the St. Paul’s Session’s errors and delinquencies, which compound the Session’s obstruction of justice in a Presbytery judicial case by retaliating against the Complainant for lodging charges against Church officers that have not yet been adjudicated. Because the PCA Standing Judicial Commission has ruled against the Session’s legacy of botched discipline, and due to no confidence for the Session’s integrity and competence, Benyola’s final act as a Church member is to formally tender his resignation as a Church member. 

((second) Complaint of Peter Benyola versus the Session of St. Paul’s PCA


04/27/2022: The Senior Pastor of St. Paul’s emails Benyola with a “Second Citation” to appear before the Session, apparently ignoring his Complaint containing his resignation of membership. Henceforth, all actions the Pastor and his Session commit violate not only the ecclesiastical laws governing their church, but also the civil laws governing their state not-for-profit corporation. 

Alleged violations (errors and/or delinquencies) by the St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church Senior Pastor, Moderator of the Session, President of the Corporation, et al. 

Primary standards: Genesis 18:25, 44:16, Exodus 20:16, Leviticus 19:15, Deuteronomy 10:16, II Chronicles 7:14, Psalms 6:7-10, 7:12-16, 10:2,7,15-18, 11:1-3, 12:1-2, 15:1-4, 19:7-14, 24:3-6, 26:4-5, 34:11-22, 37:27-33, 40:4, 50:14-23, 52:1-4, 53:4, 55:2-3, 56:5-7, 58:1-5, 64:1-6, 65:1, 71:10-11, 74:4-5, 76:11, 86:14, 94:16,20, 101:5-8, 106:3, 109:1-5, 116:18-19, 140:1-5,9-11, Proverbs 1:29-31, 3:27, 10:23, 11:1, 12:19, 18:5,13,17, 20:23, 22:22, 24:11-12,23-25,28-29, 26:17, 28:9,13, Ecclesiastes 3:16, 5:1-9, 7:7, 8:1-5,11, 9:17, 10:5,8-10, Jeremiah 11:18-20, 15:15-21, 20:10-13, 21:12, 36:27-32, Lamentations 3:34-36, 5:14, Ezekiel 9:4, 33:1-9, 34:1-10, Amos 5:7,10,14-15,23-24, Zechariah 1:2-6, 8:16, Malachi 2:7, Matthew 3:8, 5:10-12,22-25, 18:16-17, 23:1-5,13-25,28, Luke 17:3-4, 19:14,27, 21:12-13, Acts 20:27-30, Romans 1:32, 2:1-3,17-21,23-24, 13:1-6, I Corinthians 1:10-11, 13:6, II Corinthians 6:3-8, 11:26, 12:20, Ephesians 4:31, 5:6-12, 6:9, I Timothy 3:2,15, Titus 1:5-7, James 1:19-25, 3:1,17-18, I Peter 2:1,12-17, 5:1-4, Revelation 2:9, 3:9 

Secondary standards: WCF 1.10; 15.6; 20.1-4; 22.1-6; 23.3,4; 30.3; 31.1-3; WLC Q.99.6-8, 111-114, 130, 143-145, 151; WSC Q.14, 76-78; BCO Preface II.1,4; 8-1,-2,-3; 10-3; 11-2,-4; 13-9.e,f; 14-7; 21-5.7; 25-11 (cf. SJC 93-3, M22GA, 1994, pp. 110-123); 31-2; 32-2,-6.b,-17; 34-3; 35-3; 38-4 

Tertiary standards: RONR (12th ed.) 61:22; 63:7-9, 13, 35; Bylaws of St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church, Inc., Incorporation, Exhibit C-1 

Civil laws: The 2022 Florida Statutes, Title XXXVI, 617.0601(5); 617.1601(1,3,4,5); 617.1602(1,2) 


04/28/2022: Benyola responds to Senior Pastor Justin Borger’s legally vexatious letter, reminding him that he already resigned his membership, therefore he does not recognize the authority of the St. Paul’s Session. Benyola advises this teaching elder that Florida Statutes require a not-for-profit corporation in Florida to record membership resignations in the membership book, and that the BCO entitles members the basic right to end their voluntary memberships in PCA churches (BCO 25-11, 38:4; cf. SJC 93-3, M22GA, 1994, pp. 110-123). Benyola advises that if the Senior Pastor does not comply, then he may be found in violation of civil law as well as ecclesiastical law. 

(Minutes of the Twenty-Second General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America, pp. 110-116; The 2022 Florida Statutes, Title XXXVI, 617.0601(5)


04/28/2022: Central Florida Presbytery officers email a total of three responses to each of the three items of business considered and decided upon at its 04/26 stated meeting: the 12/17/2021 Credible Report recommending charge and specifications versus the Stated Clerk of Presbytery; the 03/15/2022 Credible Report recommending charge and specifications versus the four teaching elders presiding Saint Andrew’s Chapel; and the 04/25/2022 Escalation of the Complaint of Peter Benyola versus the Session of St. Paul’s. All three letters dismiss the salient claims without actually addressing the facts and the corroborative evidence, ignore the merits of all three representations, and attempt to shift all the blame to the Complainant/Plaintiff for even bringing up the problems. With every objection about questionable actions that the Saint Andrew’s Session takes, the Central Florida Presbytery often was keen to remind Benyola that Saint Andrew’s is not under Presbytery’s jurisdiction. Okay; well, then why does this Presbytery keep letting its own Presbyterian teaching elders excommunicate people who are members of a church that is outside the PCA’s jurisdiction? This seems morally, ethically, ecclesiologically incoherent, inconsistent and illogical in every way. 

Alleged violations (errors and/or delinquencies) by the Central Florida Presbytery 

Primary standards: Genesis 18:25, 44:16, Exodus 20:16, Leviticus 19:15, Deuteronomy 10:16, II Chronicles 7:14, Psalms 7:12-16, 10:2,7,15-18, 11:1-3, 19:7-14, 24:3-6, 26:4-5, 31:8-9, 34:11-22, 37:27-33, 40:4, 50:14-23, 52:1-4, 53:4, 55:2-3, 56:5-7, 71:10-11, 74:4-5, 76:11, 78:72, 86:14, 94:16,20, 101:5-8, 106:3, 109:1-5, 116:18-19, 140:1-5,9-11, Proverbs 1:29-31, 3:27, 10:23, 11:1, 12:19, 18:5,13,17, 20:23, 22:22, 24:11-12,23-25,28-29, 28:9,13, Ecclesiastes 3:16, 5:1-9, 7:7, 8:1-5,11, 9:17, 9:10, 10:5,8-10, Jeremiah 11:18-20, 15:15-21, 20:10-13, 21:12, 36:27-32, Lamentations 3:34-36, 5:14, Ezekiel 9:4, 33:1-9, 34:1-10, Amos 5:7,10,14-15,23-24, Zechariah 8:16, Malachi 2:7-14, Matthew 3:8, 5:10-12,22-25, 18:16-17, 23:1-5,13-25,28, Luke 17:3-4, 19:14,27, 21:12-13, Acts 20:27-30, Romans 1:32, 2:1-3,17-21,23-24, 13:1-6, I Corinthians 1:10-11, 13:6, II Corinthians 6:3-8, 11:26, 12:20, Ephesians 4:31, 5:6-12, I Timothy 3:2,15, Titus 1:5-7, Hebrews 12:15, James 1:22-25, 3:1,17-18, I Peter 2:1, 5:1-4, Revelation 2:9, 3:9 

Secondary standards: WCF 1.10; 15.6; 20.1-4; 22.1-6; 30.3; 31.1-3; WLC Q.99.6-8, 111-114, 130, 143-145, 151; WSC Q.14, 76-78; BCO Preface II.1,4; 11-2,-4; 13-9.e,f; 14-7; 27-1,-2,-3,-4,-5; 29-1,-2,-3,-4; 31-2,-5; 32-2,-3,-6.b,-17,-20; 34-1,-2,-3,-5; 35-3; 40-5; 43-6 

Tertiary standards: RONR (12th ed.) 61:22; 63:7-9, 13, 35


“The committee that Dr. Thompson appointed was of a thoroughly partisan kind. … In general, it would be difficult to imagine a more perfect example of a partisan committee.
From such a committee no impartial report could reasonably have been expected. And yet one could scarcely have anticipated quite such unfairness as that which characterizes the report that was actually produced—the misrepresentation of various kinds, the omission of vitally relevant evidence, the unjudicial tone throughout. It is safe to say that seldom has a more unfair document been submitted to a body such as the General Assembly of our church.
Such a document never could have been submitted with any reasonable certainty of its being adopted if time had been allowed for the commissioners to peruse it with any care and for the persons whom it attacked to prepare their defense. …
The whole action would be stopped if the rank and file of the church were given the slightest real voice in the questions in dispute. …
But the present method of procedure is such that the laity is given little voice.” 

— J. Gresham Machen, “The Attack upon Princeton Seminary: A Plea for Fair Play,” 1927 

“‘No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn.’ Isaiah 54:17
There is great clatter in the forges and smithies of the enemy. They are I making weapons wherewith to smite the saints. They could not even do as much as this if the LORD of saints did not allow them; for He has created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire. But see how busily they labor! How many swords and spears they fashion! It matters nothing, for on the blade of every weapon you may read this inscription: It shall not Prosper. But now listen to another noise: it is the strife of tongues. Tongues are more terrible instruments than can be made with hammers and anvils, and the evil which they inflict cuts deeper and spreads wider. What will become of us now? Slander, falsehood, insinuation, ridicule-these are poisoned arrows; how can we meet them? The LORD God promises us that, if we cannot silence them, we shall, at least, escape from being ruined by them. They condemn us for the moment, but we shall condemn them at last and forever. The mouth of them that speak lies shall be stopped, and their falsehoods shall be turned to the honor of those good men who suffered by them.” 

The Cheque Book of the Bank of Faith, Charles Spurgeon, November 16 reading

“A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to every one.
Although these statements appear contradictory, yet, when they are found to agree together, they will do excellently for my purpose. They are both the statements of Paul himself, who says, ‘Though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself a servant unto all’ (I Cor. ix. 19), and ‘Owe no man anything but to love one another’ (Rom. xiii. 8). Now love is by its own nature dutiful and obedient to the beloved object. Thus even Christ, though Lord of all things, was yet made of a woman; made under the law; at once free and a servant; at once in the form of God and in the form of a servant.” 

Martin Luther, On Christian Freedom, 1520 

Chapter 4. Courts of the church. 

Section 2. Of the church session. 

160. How are matters to be brought up before the session for its judgment upon them?
Either by an elder, or by any member of the church presenting a memorial, or bringing a complaint, or making charges.
161. Is there any appeal from the judgment of the session, by a party supposing himself aggrieved?
Yes; there is an appeal from the session to the presbytery.
(Acts 15:6, Matthew 18:15-20, I Corinthians 14:33) 

Section 6. Of the Presbytery concluded. 

185. Is there any appeal from the decision of the presbytery?
Yes; an appeal can be taken from the decision of the presbytery to the synod. 

Section 8. Of the synod.

193. Is there any appeal from the judgment of the synod?
Yes; there is an appeal to the general assembly, the greatest and highest court of the church. 

Chapter 5. Power of the church 

Section 7. Of admission to, and exclusion from, the church. 

277. Are the rulers of the church deeply responsible for the right exercise of discipline?
They who hold office by appointment from Christ, whose faithfulness will be followed by so many and great blessings, whose negligence must be the source of such deep and lasting injuries to the church, dishonor to Christ, and evil to sinners; should feel themselves under a most solemn responsibility in this matter, and must expect to be called to a most strict account at the day of judgment, for the part which they act in relation to it. 

Chapter 7. Relation of the Presbyterian Church to other denominations and to the world. 

Section 5. The advantages and claims of the Presbyterian church. 

326. Name some of the further advantages possessed by members of the Presbyterian church?
They possess the right of choosing their own pastors and elders; they are neither subject to the spiritual despotism of a priesthood, nor to anarchy and misrule; they can bring any matter, — whether it be unfaithfulness in ministers or elders, or in the other officers and members of the church, or errors in doctrine, — before the church courts, composed of an equal proportion of clergymen and of representatives of the people, chosen by themselves, for investigation and decision; and they have the privilege and power, when their rights as citizens of Zion are assailed, of appealing from one church court to another. 

“But the truth of the matter is that the church which fails to exercise discipline is sure to lose both its self-respect and the respect of those without. Strange though it may seem, the world today despises the church precisely because the church is so worldly, and the members of the church by and large take no pride in their membership because it carries with it no distinction. On the other hand, the faithful exercise of discipline is sure to enhance the church’s glory. In other words, the proper exercise of ecclesiastical discipline is decidedly salutary. It will contribute greatly to the church’s health.” 

— R.B. Kuiper, Professor of Systematic Theology, Westminster Theological Seminary Philadelphia 

Part II. Power of the Church
Chapter II. The Rule or Law of Church Power
“III. In what light are the office-bearers of the Church to be regarded, in accordance with the doctrine that the Bible, and the Bible only, is the rule of Church power?
The answer to this question is equally plain and obvious as in the former case. They are ministerial and subordinate, having no authority or discretion of their own, and being merely ministers or servants to carry out the will and execute the appointments of Christ. They are not masters to do their own will, or act at their own discretion, but servants, held bound to submit to the will and carry out the instructions of another. There is a magisterial and supreme authority in the Church; and there is a derived and subordinate authority, accountable to the former. The one belongs to Christ as Head of His Church, the only law or limit of His authority being His own will; the other belongs to the Church, or the office-bearers of the Church, the law or limit of their authority being the power intrusted to them by their Master, and the instructions given to them by Him. In reference to the office-bearers of the Church, of whatsoever place or authority in it, they, if they keep within their office, are but the instruments in the hands of Christ Himself, acting in His name, ruling by His authority, and carrying into effect no more than His instructions. It is true here, as in other respects, that ‘the disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord.’ Their office is wholly ministerial; their authority is wholly derived and subordinate. They are not ‘lords over God’s heritage,’ licensed to act according to their discretion or caprice, and independently of any authority but their own. They are not free to administer word, or ordinance, or authority, as from themselves, and independently of the Head that is over them. In all their duties and functions they act only for Christ, and therefore must keep within the strict limits of His commission. The rights and privileges of Christ’s Church are protected from the caprice and arbitrary encroachment of the office-bearers, by the restraint of Christ’s express authority over them; and underneath His crown, and sheltered by it, is found the liberty wherewith Christ has made his people free. The functions of the office-bearers of the Church are ministerial, not lordly.
IV. In what light are the decisions of the Church or its Courts to be regarded, in consistency with the great principle that the Bible, and the Bible only, is the rule of Church power?
We have seen that the laws of the Church, in so far as they can be regarded as valid, are declaratory and not enactive. We have seen that the function of the office-bearers of the Church is ministerial, and not lordly. And now, when the office-bearers, in the lawful administration of their office, proceed to apply the laws of Christ to any particular case, as the circumstances or emergency may demand, and when, acting not for themselves, but for Christ, they pronounce a judicial decision,—in what light is that judgment to be regarded, and to what extent, and in what manner, is it binding upon the conscience? Here, too, the answer is not far to seek or difficult to find, determined as it must be by a reference to the great and fundamental principle that the mind of Christ, revealed and expressed in the Bible, is both the rule and the limit of Church power. If the judgment or decision pronounced in the lawful exercise of their authority by the Church or its office-bearers be in accordance with the principles of the Word of God, that decision was before pronounced in heaven; and it is both valid and binding upon the conscience, not only because it is consistent with God’s Word, but also because it is a decision lawfully pronounced by a lawful tribunal appointed by Christ for the purpose. ‘Verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.’ (Matt. 18:15-18) But, on the contrary, if the judgment pronounced by the Church or its office-bearers, although in the lawful exercise of their office, be itself unlawful, if it be inconsistent with the mind of Christ as expressed in His Word, then the decision is itself invalid, and the authority by which it was pronounced does not make it binding on the conscience. No judgment of any Church whatsoever can bind the conscience, except in so far as, and no further than, it is grounded upon the Word of God. And in the case of the last resort, when remonstrance and argument and persuasion have failed to induce the Church to reconsider or reverse its own decision, as incompetently or invalidly given, there is yet one remedy, and an ultimate one, reserved to the member against whom the decision is pronounced: he may transfer the case for judgment to a higher tribunal, and for relief and freedom to his own conscience may take appeal from the act of the Church of Christ on earth to the judgment of Christ Himself in heaven. Under the solemn protection of an appeal so taken, his conscience shall be free, and the sin shall not be on him, but on his judges. The acts of the Church are binding and valid only in so far as they are ratified by Christ, and in accordance with His Word.”
The Church of Christ, James Bannerman, pp. 229-231 

“Nothing engenders strife so much as a forced unity, within the same organization, of those who disagree fundamentally in aim.
But is not advocacy of such separation a flagrant instance of intolerance? The objection is often raised. But it ignores altogether the difference between involuntary and voluntary organizations. Involuntary organizations ought to be tolerant, but voluntary organizations, so far as the fundamental purpose of their existence is concerned, must be intolerant or else cease to exist. The state is an involuntary organization; a man is forced to be a member of it whether he will or no. It is therefore an interference with liberty for the state to prescribe any one type of opinion or any one type of education for its citizens. But within the state, individual citizens who desire to unite for some special purpose should be permitted to do so. Especially in the sphere of religion, such permission of individuals to unite is one of the rights which lie at the very foundation of our civil and religious liberty. The state does not scrutinize the rightness or wrongness of the religious purpose for which such voluntary religious associations are formed—if it did undertake such scrutiny all religious liberty would be gone—but it merely protects the right of individuals to unite for any religious purpose which they may choose.
Among such voluntary associations are to be found the evangelical churches. An evangelical church is composed of a number of persons who have come to agreement in a certain message about Christ and who desire to unite in the propagation of that message, as it set forth in their creed on the basis of the Bible. No one is forced to unite himself with the body thus formed; and because of this total absence of compulsion there can be no interference with liberty in the maintenance of any specific purpose—for example, the propagation of a message—as a fundamental purpose of the association.” 

Christianity and Liberalism: Legacy Edition, J. Gresham Machen, 1923, pp. 171-172 

“Something very similar needs to be said in the realm of political and social science. There, too, something is being lost—something very precious, though very intangible and very difficult of defense before those who have not the love of it in their hearts. I refer to civil and religious liberty, for which our fathers were willing to sacrifice so much.
The word ‘liberty’ has a very archaic sound today; it is often put in quotation marks by those who are obliged to use the ridiculous word at all. Yet despised though liberty is, there are still those who love it; and unless their love of it can be eradicated from their unprogressive souls, they will never be able to agree, in their estimate of the modern age, with those who do not love it.
To those lovers of civil and religious liberty I confess that I belong; in fact, civil and religious liberty seems to me to be more valuable than any other earthly thing—than any other thing short of the truer and profounder liberty which only God can give.
What estimate of the present age can possibly be complete that does not take account of what is so marked a feature of it—namely, the loss of those civil liberties for which men formerly were willing to sacrifice all that they possessed? …
No, my friends, there is no real reason for mankind to surrender to the machine. If liberty is crushed out, if standardization has its perfect work, if the worst of all tyrannies, the tyranny of the expert, becomes universal, if the finer aspirations of humanity give way to drab efficiency, do not blame the external conditions in the world today. If human life becomes mechanized, do not blame the machine. Put the blame exactly where it belongs—upon the soul of man.
… a true Christian church will be radically intolerant. At that point, however, a word of explanation is in place. The intolerance of the church, in the sense in which I am speaking of it, does not involve any interference with liberty; on the contrary, it means the preservation of liberty. One of the most important elements in civil and religious liberty is the right of voluntary association—the right of citizens to band themselves together for any lawful purpose whatever, whether that purpose does or does not commend itself to the generality of their fellow men. Now, a church is a voluntary association. No one is compelled to be a member of it; no one is compelled to be one of its accredited representatives. It is, therefore, no interference with liberty for a church to insist that those who do choose to be its accredited representatives shall not use the vantage ground of such a position to attack that for which the church exists.
… a true Christian church will be radically ethical.” 

— J. Gresham Machen, “The Responsibility of the Church in Our New Age,” 1933

“On the contrary, it [the General Assembly] has always maintained that the right to control the property of the members of the Church, to assess the amount of their contributions, or to prescribe how they shall dispose of their money, is utterly foreign to the spirit of Presbyterianism. Every contribution on the part of an individual member of the Church must be purely voluntary. In fact, the Presbyterian Church itself is a voluntary association. All of its members voluntarily associate themselves with the Church, and maintain their affiliation with it no longer than they voluntarily choose to do so. All that they do for its support, therefore, is a voluntary donation, and there is no power which can compel them to contribute to any ecclesiastical object to which they are not willing to give.” 

— Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. 1934, General Assembly Minutes, as extracted by J. Gresham Machen in “Statement to the Presbytery of New Brunswick,” 1935 

“It is never kind to encourage a man to enter into a life of dishonesty. The fact often seems to be forgotten that the evangelical Churches are purely voluntary organizations; no one is required to enter into their service. If a man cannot accept the belief of such churches, there are other ecclesiastical bodies in which he can find a place. The belief of the Presbyterian Church, for example, is plainly set forth in the Confession of Faith, and the Church will never afford any warmth of communion or engage with any real vigor in her work until her ministers are in whole-hearted agreement with that belief. It is strange how in the interests of an utterly false kindness to men, Christiansare sometimes willing to relinquish their loyalty to the crucified Lord.” 

Christianity and Liberalism: Legacy Edition, J. Gresham Machen, 1923, p. 179

“But Machen, ever alert to threats to individual liberty … Machen’s outlook is not grasped at all unless one discerns that he was passionately devoted to liberty and that this commitment was anchored profoundly in his Christian faith and outlook. In an era when the state was encroaching more and more upon the liberty of the individual, Machen was greatly exercised that men should be aroused to pay the price necessary to preserve it.” 

J. Gresham Machen: A Biographical Memoir, Ned B. Stonehouse, pp. 466, 470 

“What, then if it is not found in incidentals—even so stupendous as incidental as the world war—is the real indictment against the modern world? The answer seems clear enough to some of us. The real indictment against the modern world is that by the modern world human liberty is being destroyed.
At that point, no doubt, many readers will only with difficulty repress a smile. The word ‘liberty’ today has a decidedly archaic sound. It suggests G. A. Rnety, flag-waving, the boys of ’76, and the like. Twentieth-century intellectuals, it is thought, have long ago outgrown all such childishness as that. So the modern historians are writing ‘liberty’ in quotation marks, when they are obliged to use the ridiculous word: no principle, they are telling us, for example, was involved in the American Revolution; economic causes alone produced that struggle; and Patrick Henry was indulging in cheap melodrama when he said: ‘Give me liberty or give me death.’ Certainly, at any rate, whatever our estimate of history, liberty is out of date in modern life. Standardization and efficiency have very largely taken its place.
… What is to be thought of such a mechanistic world? I will tell you what we think of it: we think it is a world in which all zest, all glory, all that makes life worth living will have been destroyed. It will no doubt have its advantages. In it, no doubt, the span of our life may be extended far beyond the previously allotted period of threescore years and ten. Experts appointed by the state will always be by our side to examine our physical and mental condition and keep us alive upon the earth. But what will be the use? Who would want to live longer in a world where life is so little worth living?
From such a slavery, which is already stalking through the earth in the materialistic paternalism of the modern state, from such a world of unrelieved drabness, we seek escape in the high adventure of the Christian religion. Men call us, indeed, devotees of a book. They are right. We are devotees of a book. But the book to which we are devoted is the Magna Charta of human liberty—the book which alone can make men free.
At that point I am particularly desirous of not being misunderstood. I do not mean for one moment that a man can ever become a real Christian merely through a desire to attain civil or political freedom or even the very highest of worldly ends. Valuable are the by-products of Christianity, and one of them is the civil liberty of the race. But if a man carries on this undertaking for the sake of the by-products, the undertaking and the by-products are both sure to be lost. Jesus said indeed: ‘Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you’: but if a man seeks the kingdom of God and his righteousness in order that all these things may be added unto him, he will miss the kingdom of God and those other things as well.
But what I do mean is that the defects of the modern world, though they will never make a man a Christian in themselves, may yet lead him to a consideration of far profounder needs. He may begin by seeking escape from mechanism and go on to seek escape from sin. In the Christian religion, we find a liberty that is far deeper than the civil and religious liberty of which we have spoken. It is a liberty that enters into the depths of the soul.
In the Bible, we find, in the first place, God. Back of the stupendous mechanism of the world there stands, as the Master of it and not as its slave, no machine but a living person. He is enveloped, indeed, in awful mystery; a dreadful curtain veils his being from the gaze of men. But unlike the world, he is free, and he has chosen in his freedom to lift the veil and grant us just a look beyond. In that look we have freedom from the mechanism of the world. God is free, and where he is, there is liberty and life.
In the Bible, we find, in the second place, we find man; we regain that birthright of freedom which had been taken from us by the modern mind. It is a dreadful birthright indeed. For with freedom goes responsibility, and with responsibility, for us, there goes the awful guilt of sin. That conscience awakens which makes cowards of us all. Gone for us Christians is the complacency of the modern mind; gone is the lax, comforting notion that crime is only a disease; gone is the notion that strips the ermine from the judge and makes him but the agent of a utilitarian society; gone is the blindness that refuses to face the moral facts. The Christian world, unlike the modern world, is a world of nameless terrors; the Christian views man as standing over a bottomless abyss. Such a view will find little sympathy from the experts of the present day; they will doubtless apply to it their usual method of dealing with a thing that they do not understand—they will give it a long name and let it go. But is their judgment really to be trusted? There are some of us who think not. There are some of us who think that the moral judgments of us sinners, even when they are the judgments of experts, are not always to be trusted, and that the real pathway of advance for humanity lies through a rediscovery of the law of God.
In the third place, in the Bible we find redemption. Into this vast universe, into this world of sin, there came in God’s good time a divine Redeemer. No mere teacher is he to us, no mere example, no mere leader into a larger life, no mere symbol or embodiment of an all-pervading divinity. No; we stand to him, if we are really his, in a relationship far dearer, far closer than all that. For us he gave his precious life upon the cross to make all well between us sinners and the righteous God, by whose love he came. …
And then, by God’s grace, there may come, when you least expect it, a flash of light into your soul, and all will be as clear as day. Then you will say with Paul, as you contemplate the Savior upon the cross: ‘He loved me and gave Himself for me.’ Thus will the ancient burden fall from our back; then do we become true moderns at last. ‘Old things are passed away; behold, they are become new.’ Then and then only will you have true freedom. It will be a freedom from mechanism, but the freedom from mechanism will be rooted in a freedom from sin. …
No, the battle between naturalism and supernaturalism, between mechanism and liberty, has to be fought out sooner or later; and I do not believe that there is any advantage in letting the enemy choose the ground on which it shall be fought. The strongest defense of the Christian religion is the outer defense; a reduced and inconsistent Christianity is weak; our real safety lies in the exultant supernaturalism of God’s Word.” 

— J. Gresham Machen, “Christianity and Liberty,” 1931 

“Hear, O our God, for we are despised. Turn back their taunt on their own heads and give them up to be plundered in a land where they are captives. Do not cover their guilt, and let not their sin be blotted out from your sight, for they have provoked you to anger in the presence of the builders.
So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work. …
In Judah it was said, ‘The strength of those who bear the burdens is failing. There is too much rubble. By ourselves we will not be able to rebuild the wall. …
And I looked and arose and said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, ‘Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes. …
The work is great and widely spread, and we are separated on the wall, far from one another. In the place where you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.” 

— Nehemiah 4:4-6, 10, 14, 19 

“If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.
And the LORD will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters do not fail.
And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to dwell in.” 

— Isaiah 58:9-12