Indictment of the PCA Standing Judicial Commission | Exhibit 23

On June 15, 2023 in Memphis, TN, Teaching Elder Fred Greco apparently railroads a floor vote for the General Assembly to sustain his ruling as Moderator that GA Commissioners are not permitted to question his work as Standing Judicial Commission Assistant Secretary — an audacious power play to which, astonishingly, the GA Commissioners acquiesce by a landslide. So much for postulated Presbyterian “accountability” and “parity”?


The Member Vows for the Standing Judicial Commission are provided in the Operating Manual for Standing Judicial Commission, annexed to the PCA Book of Church Order, year after year. Every teaching elder and ruling elder elected to the SJC must sign this contract. Yet, has amassed a preponderance of evidence that would seem to indicate a deleterious disjunction between what the SJC members profess in their vows and what they actually do.

“… a true Christian church will be radically ethical.” 

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

“The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. …
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. …
So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” 

— Matthew 23:2, 23, 28 

“At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, ‘Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.’ And he said to them, ‘Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’ O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’” 

— Luke 13:31-35

“The fox is guarding the henhouse.” 

— metaphor of Luke 13:31-35, and a zoomorphism obviously observed via natural reason 

Part IV. Parties in Whom the Right to Exercise Church Power is Vested
Chapter V. The Independent System of Church Polity as opposed to the Presbyterian
Section I. The Congregational Principle as opposed to Presbyterianism
“The system of Presbyterianism requires that every proper means be employed, in the way of explanation, persuasion, and instruction, to secure the concurrence of the members in the acts and proceedings of the rulers of the Christian society.” 

The Church of Christ, James Bannerman, p. 824 

Thesis 90.
“To repress these very sharp arguments of the laity by force alone, and not to resolve them by giving reasons, is to expose the church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies and to make Christians unhappy.” 

— Martin Luther, Disputatio pro declaratione virtutis indulgentiarum, October 31, 1517 

“Certainly it is a grievous sin to propagate what is incapable of defense. The basic question about any message that may be propagated is the question whether it is true
Nothing can be done, we know, by trying to tyrannize over men’s minds; all that we can do is present the facts as we see them, to hold out a sympathizing hand to our younger brethren, and to commit them to God in prayer.
We cannot, indeed, seek to win men by false hopes; we cannot encourage them to think that if they decide to stand for Christ, they will have the favor of the modern world or necessarily of the modern church. On the contrary, if we read the signs of the times aright, both in the church and in the state, there may soon come a period of genuine persecution for the children of God. …
Such, we are inclined to think, will be the lot of those who stand against the whole current of the age. It is not an easy thing to oppose a world in arms, nor is it an easy thing to oppose an increasingly hostile church. But when one does so, with full conviction, what a blessed, inward peace!
… Conviction has issued here truly into Christian life.
… It may come squarely into conflict, at some points, with the present leadership of the church. But because the fervent piety … may be opposed at some points to the ecclesiastical machinery, it does not follow that the ecclesiastical machinery should be allowed to crush it out. Long has been the conflict, during nineteen centuries, between ecclesiastical authority and the free and mysterious operation of the Spirit of God. But under our Presbyterian institutions the tyrannical practices to which ecclesiastical authority has elsewhere resorted are an anomaly and a shame.” 

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

“Corrupt practices are the fruit of corrupt principles; and he who is false to his God, will not be true to his fellow mortals.” 

Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, Malachi 2:10-17 

Acts 24:22-26
On two separate occasions Paul appeared before Felix. Both times Felix put off dealing with Paul and his message. As a political leader Felix demonstrated distorted priorities, a mistake that may have had eternal consequences. …
2 Timothy 3:1-9
A leader who lacks self-discipline shouldn’t be deceived into thinking that his or her followers don’t know what’s going on. Even for those leaders who try their best to cover their actions, their foolishness is generally made apparent to everyone (v. 9). How’s that for a sobering thought! …
Acts 17:10-12
The Bereans possessed ‘noble character’ because they examined the Scriptures to make sure that what Paul had taught them was true. Note that Paul wasn’t threatened by their investigation. Effective leaders have the wisdom to know that truth will only be validated by scrutiny. …
Exodus 8:19
Pharaoh refused to learn from the plagues even after his magicians warned him that these signs originated from God and not from magic. His heart was hard, and he failed to respond to the evidence that was obvious to others. Such refusal to deal with reality has negative consequences for any organization.
Numbers 23:1-24:25
Although Balak had hired Balaam to prophesy against Israel, he refused to learn from Balaam’s oracles. Clearly, the prophet was inspired to bless, not curse the Israelites. But Balak kept trying to manipulate the situation so that he would hear what he wanted to hear. A leader who presses an agenda without listening treads hazardous terrain. …
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. …
2 Chronicles 19:4-11
Jehoshaphat set up a system for administering justice in Judah by appointing judges in each fortified city and instructing them to judge others with fairness and equity, knowing that God would hold them accountable. …
Psalm 11:1-7
The Lord is a God of justice who examines both the righteous and the wicked. His character is perfect and He loves justice, since it is an expression of His nature.
Isaiah 1:21-23
God called the people of Jerusalem to clean up their act by calling the city’s leaders to restore a just and fair society. Injustice is of special concern to God. The power of leadership must be applied toward creating a climate of justice.
Isaiah 10:1-4
This passage presents a serious admonition to leaders who treat followers unjustly. God’s stern condemnation stands as a severe warning to oppressive and unjust leaders; He is pictured in verse 4 with His hand raised up to deliver His judgment on such people.
Isaiah 59:9, 11
Injustice and oppression had clouded these leaders’ thinking so much that they had lost their ability to see things correctly. As verses 12-15 explain, right and wrong had become distorted in their minds. Whether dealing with internal or external stakeholders, the effective leader makes justice and righteousness his guiding principles.
Ezekiel 16:49-50
Of all of Sodom’s sins (Genesis 19), notice which one God singled out. Failure to use power and resources to bring about justice is abominable to God.
Micah 3:1-4, 8-12
God pronounces a sorry future for leaders and rulers who practice injustice and use their power to abuse their followers. …
Mark 15:1-15
Pilate’s desire to please the masses overrode his sense of justice. Instead of using his position of power to do what was right and good, he condemned an innocent man and released a guilty one. …
James 5:1-6
These words mirror those of the prophet Amos and the Teacher of Ecclesiastes. As you reflect on your own situation, are you as just as you should be with the people whom you lead? The Bible in general, and James in particular, does not mince words when describing the ‘reward’ of those who treat others unjustly.” 

Handbook to Leadership: Leadership in the Image of God, Kenneth Boa, Sid Buzzell and Bill Perkins, pp. 567, 574, 583, 602-603, 607, 610-613 

Part VI. From Antioch to Rome—The Gentile Christian Church
Chapter IV. Organization of Apostolic Church in Second Period of Its History
3. Relation of the elders to each other.
“That a leading presbyter might sometimes ‘love the first seat’ among his brethren, and make an unwarrantable use of the influence and authority connected with it, was to be expected, human nature being what it is even in Christian men. Instances of this kind were to be found in the annals of the Jewish synagogue elderships, and of ‘the presbytery of Israel’ in Jerusalem. In what is perhaps the latest document of the New Testament, the Third Epistle of John, the aged apostle speaks with strong reprehension of ambitious tendencies of this sort on the part of leading men in some of the Churches of Asia. ‘I wrote somewhat unto the Church; but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the pre-eminence among them (or over them …), receiveth us not. Therefore, if I come, I will bring to remembrance his works which he doeth, prating against us with wicked words; and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and them that would he forbiddeth, and casteth them out of the Church. Beloved, imitate not that which is evil, but that which is good.’” 

The Scripture Doctrine of the Church, D. Douglas Bannerman, p. 553 

Chapter II. Presbyterianism a representative republican form of government.
“Speaking of the Presbyterian system, Alexander Henderson writes:
‘Here is superiority without tyranny; for no minister has a papal or monarchical jurisdiction over his own flock, far less over other pastors and over all the congregations. Here is parity without confusion and disorder; for the pastors are in order before elders. Every particular church is subordinate to a presbytery, the presbytery to the synod, and the synod to the national assembly. Here is subjection without slavery; for the people are subject to the pastors and assemblies; yet there is no assembly wherein every particular church hath not interest and power.’” 

Presbyterians and the Revolution, the Rev. W.P. Breed, D.D., pp. 30-31 

“In large assemblies of men convened to consider ecclesiastical and religious questions, we may confidently assume that there are always some present whose hearts are right, and who are willing to support the truth, even though they sit in bad company, and are for the present silent and overawed. There is no warrant for staying away from assemblies and councils merely because we happen to be in a minority.” 

— J.C. Ryle commenting on the attendance of Nicodemus in the Sanhedrin, Expository Thoughts: John, vol. 2, p. 173 

“I suppose I must now assume that the Encyclical was approved by all the 137 Bishops who were present when it was finally adopted, and that it represents their united judgment. Of course, if this interpretation is correct, I find myself in the unpleasant position of being one of a very small minority. But even if I stand alone I cannot change my opinion.” 

— J.C. Ryle response to Edward W. Benson, archbishop of Canterbury, The Record, August 24, 1888 

“We want more boldness among the friends of truth. There is far too much tendency to sit still, and wait for committees, and number our adherents. We want more men who are not afraid to stand alone.
It is truth, not numbers, which shall always in the end prevail.
We have the truth, and we need not be ashamed to say so. The judgment day will prove who is right, and to that day we boldly appeal.” 

— from various writings of J.C. Ryle, as cited by Iain H. Murray, J.C. Ryle: Prepared to Stand Alone


A. Obedience to the order in the way demanded by the General Assembly would involve support of a propaganda that is contrary to the gospel of Christ.
… Evidence in support of this assertion was adduced in my argument … The charges against the policy … that were made in the argument have never been refuted. …
Actions of the General Assembly … which have been taken after the issuance of my argument have not all served to invalidate the charges made in that argument, but have rather served to substantiate them. …
B. Obedience to the order of the General Assembly would involve the substitution of a human authority for the authority of the Word of God. …

What should be done about the matter?
The answer to that question is very simple. Since the action of the General Assembly was unconstitutional, it should be ignored both by the individuals concerned and by the presbyteries.” 

— J. Gresham Machen, “Statement to the Presbytery of New Brunswick,” 1935 

“And it seems to me … like asking in a courtroom to have the accused become members of the jury. It just doesn’t make any sense to me.” 

— Sproul’s speech at the 2007 PCA General Assembly, as recounted in R. C. Sproul: A Life, Stephen J. Nichols, p. 242 

“This is the declension narrative. R. C. knew it too well.
He also saw the declension narrative play out in denominations such as his own PCUSA. This is why R. C. cared such a great deal for theological precision over ‘studied ambiguity.’ Studied ambiguity allows for latitude, allows for people to apply different meanings to the same word.”
— ibid., p. 256 

“Many great branches of the church are completely dominated by the non-Christian forces; our own Presbyterian Church in America is in the gravest danger of going on the same path.” 

— J. Gresham Machen, “The Mission of the Church,” 1926 

“What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there a thing of which it is said,
‘See, this is new’?
It has been already
in the ages before us.
There is no remembrance of former things,
nor will there be any remembrance
of later things yet to be
among those who come after.” 

— Ecclesiastes 1:9-11


06/15/2023: At the General Assembly, RE Jackson Wilson, the Chairman of the Standing Judicial Commission, presents a concise (about 3 minutes) “report” of the cases brought to the SJC during the term, in which a single case out of 24, “We believe one case warrants some brief discussion …”
Following the report, a lone teaching elder from Pacific Northwest Presbytery, TE Jerid Krulish, steps up to mic number 3 and attempts to lodge an “objection” concerning “an erroneous oversight” (pertaining to some case unrelated to any of Benyola’s four elevated Complaints during that same term). As the TE begins to speak, this year’s GA Moderator, TE Fred Greco, immediately interrupts the minister, stating, “Sir, now that I know what you’re doing, uh, I’m gonna rule that out of order. Commissioners to the General Assembly do not have the right under 45 to object to an SJC decision.” TE Krulish then attempts to challenge the chair and reason for his right to make an objection, which is not asking for a rehearing on a decision but simply his right to speak and to be heard. The Moderator responds, “The Chair is ruling this out of order in accord with the ruling last year with a similar motion, uh, or a similar attempt to lodge an objection. Uh, the Chair does that under the provisions that those who are indicated under BCO 45 as being able to object for not having a right to vote does not refer to those who are not on a commission, but rather it refers to those who are on the commission but lost their right to vote. … historically, objections to the decision of a commission are only permitted by those who are members of the commission. A dissenter can cast a dissenting vote. An objector would be an, a potential dissenter who is not able to dissent because of a conflict of interest, not just generally anyone who is not on the commission. So I’m ruling this out of order. The question that will come before you is: Shall the Chair be sustained?”
So, in other words, the GA Moderator, who himself is one of the four Officers of the SJC, argues that only members of the Standing Judicial Commission are permitted to object or dissent from any decisions of the Standing Judicial Commission. Subsequently, the GA Commissioners uphold the Chair by a vote of 830 Yes, 139 No, 24 Abstain (presumably, the 24 SJC members).
So, let’s do the math. The Chairman of the Standing Judicial Commission, which has sole authority to adjudge all judicial cases arising to the highest level from anywhere in the PCA denomination, presents a three-minute report not detailing any of the 24 cases; then a single GA Commissioner out of almost a thousand in the room tries to speak, but the GA Moderator, who also is the sitting SJC Assistant Secretary, standing right behind the SJC Chairman, immediately runs interference and will not allow even this solitary brave soul to get a word in edgewise; then they hastily move to a vote, and then 83 percent of all the ruling and teaching elders in the room side with the GA Moderator (also SJC Assistant Secretary) in claiming they have no input at their own Assembly to object to, or even query, any of the decrees/ukases of this body of 24 men on the SJC. In toto, the church body voices concurrence that they have no voice. Now, why does this seem so familiar?
(Hint: refer to Exhibit 4)
Who bears the greater blame, oppressive leaders for oppressing, or the oppressed for just taking it?
If the Standing Judicial Commission does not want anyone to be able to hold them accountable for their actions, then why don’t they just say so? The Moderator is the one who mentioned the term “conflict of interest” in his deflection of an attempt to dissent from his and the rest of the SJC’s edicts. While we’re talking about a “conflict of interest,” doesn’t anyone else notice that the most powerful judicial body in the denomination is also moderating the General Assembly? Where in this scenario is the “parity” and “plurality” that Presbyterians purport as principles? How does the Assistant Secretary of the Standing Judicial Commission doubling as GA Moderator not epitomize the apothegm, “The fox guarding the henhouse”? If, hypothetically, the SJC ever sought to cover up scandals in the denomination and ensure no one is permitted to ask any questions about it, what stratagem could possibly be more conducive to such an agenda than allowing an SJC Officer to also steer the General Assembly? Why then quickly railroad on to the next item of business? Why does the General Assembly proceed to spend hours upon hours deliberating its overtures to tweak words in the Book of Church Order, while nobody permits a discussion of any judicial cases to find out if the PCA courts are actually even following the Book of Discipline that they already have? Is the Standing Judicial Commission distracting the General Assembly Commissioners from noticing their machinations, with endless discussion of overtures, then adjourning Assembly early, before 5 p.m., while none of the judicial cases are ever checked by the Assembly? If the highest Court of the denomination is content with relegating all its judicial matters to the SJC, no questions asked, then why not simply commit all the denomination’s business for the SJC to just take care of everything? Why bother to rent conference centers? Why do elders expend their and their churches’ resources traversing the country to go to GA, since they seem insouciant in voting away their right to speak? 
Why does the Moderator seem to need to repeatedly remind the Assembly, “We are your Standing Judicial Commission.”? What would happen if any Commissioner would ever go up to the mic and remind the SJC, “You know, we are your General Assembly.”? Is there a pathological insecurity with at least one of the SJC Officers fueling an autocratic drive to control and squelch open discussion?
Did the Standing Judicial Commission just essentially hijack the 2023 PCA General Assembly? 

What’s wrong with you people? 

(Thursday Morning Business PCA GA 2023, timestamp 16:10 through 23:50


06/25/2023: The Central Florida Presbytery dispatches an ecclesiastical commission of elders to particularize Saint Andrew’s Chapel as a new local church of the Presbyterian Church in America. 

(Saint Andrew’s Chapel evening worship bulletin, Sunday, June 25, 2023)



“So this is how liberty dies, with thunderous applause.” 

— Senator Amidala’s Lament 

“Despise the birthright now and fling it from you if you please, but know that when at a future day your eyes open to your silly indifference, and you would be anxious to inherit the blessing, you may find no place of repentance, though you seek it carefully with tears.” 

— “What Would Be The Result?”, Thomas Witherow, Irish Presbyterian theologian, 1871 

Amos 6:1-8
God condemned Israel’s leaders (able men to whom Israel had come [v. 1]) for their complacency. They construed leadership as a position of privilege and pride instead of an office of responsibility. While their followers were sinning against God and abusing each other, they were enjoying the luxuries of their achievements. …
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. …
1 Kings 14:1-11
Although God had raised up Jeroboam to his position of power, He took that power away because Jeroboam was a poor steward of that which the Lord had given him. God is the source of power, and He holds each person’s life in His hand, at times taking power and position away from those who misuse His gifts.
Ezekiel 33:1-9
The responsibility of moral leadership is enormous. When people choose to be followers and appoint a given individual to a position of power, that person accepts an obligation to be a ‘watchman.’ Read this passage carefully to understand the weight of moral leadership.
Joel 1:1-3:21
Where are the leaders when you need them? Joel refers to elders, priests, drunkards, farmers and the young in this short book. But throughout all the turmoil and devastation he describes, the prophet never once mentions leaders or kings as even possible sources of help. A leader who is an irrelevant presence is worse than no leader at all. …
Lamentations 2:14
A strong team is comprised of strong members. The players who provide counsel for the team have to be trusted to speak the truth. Wise leaders include courageous counselors on their leadership team and cultivate a climate in which they can freely contribute and demonstrate their strengths.
Jeremiah 44:29-30
The Jewish exiles in Egypt refused to stop worshiping idols. Their idolatry led to Pharaoh’s defeat. Two seemingly isolated events – the Jews’ idolatry and Egypt’s defeat – are intricately connected. The systems thinker is constantly asking how parts of the organization are affecting each other. Like a virus in a human body, an ‘insignificant’ problem in a remote part of the system cannot be ignored. …
Ecclesiastes 8:9
Who has not seen this truth illustrated? The leader who is ready to exert power but refuses to serve hurts both himself or herself and the organization. …
Jeremiah 5:26-29
Woe to the leader who uses power for personal gain at the expense of those being led.
Ezekiel 22:30
Verses 24-29 describe a leader who oppresses and destroys his or her followers. By contrast, God instructs leaders to protect followers and teach them how to live better lives. God wants leaders who serve their followers; He despises leaders who exploit others.” 

Handbook to Leadership: Leadership in the Image of God, Kenneth Boa, Sid Buzzell and Bill Perkins, pp. 574, 619, 634-635, 642, 644, 666-667

The wild story line in this short book testifies to the dangers implicit in leadership that is unrestrained by accountability. As the ruler of an entire empire, Xerxes did whatever he wished. He allowed neither conscience nor convention to limit his actions, but acted with a perceived impunity. Such loose-cannon leadership may well feed the leader’s ego, but in the end it produces disarray and a sliding scale of justice. Lack of accountability to a set standard of values makes day-to-day living uncertain and even dangerous for those who live under such leadership. …
Power and position are God’s gifts to leaders; abuse of these gifts incites God’s wrath. …
Obadiah is probably the most obscure of all the Old Testament prophets, yet his indictment of Edom is a timeless lesson for all leaders. Obadiah clearly states that pride, arrogance and treachery will be rewarded with destruction but that humility, loyalty and obedience to God will always be rewarded with blessing.
Edom’s leaders were descendants of Esau who harbored a lingering hatred toward their cousins, the Israelites. The Edomite leaders allowed anger and a desire for vengeance to go unchecked for centuries, harassing the Isrealites and gloating over their misfortunes. But God ultimately repaid the Edomites with total annihilation. …
All the power and success in the world will never compensate for failure with God.
Leadership and People
Nahum was an obscure prophet of Judah whom God commissioned to announce His judgment on the wicked city of Nineveh. The Ninevites’ ancestors had failed to pass along their experience of God’s grace to successive generations. Nahum cites this lack of communication as the reason for their powerful city’s downfall.
The leaders of Nineveh were smug, self-assured and spiritually blind. Though their ancestors had been spared God’s judgment because of heartfelt repentance (see the Book of Jonah), a subtle erosion of their godly values led them to revert to the cruel practices of the past and gave rise to spiritual apathy toward their present wickedness. …
Leadership and People
Habakkuk knew the value of asking questions for clarification. As a contemporary of Ezekiel and Jeremiah, Habakkuk recognized the lawlessness and immorality of his people, yet he questioned God’s plan for their punishment. After he had received a confirmation of God’s justice, Habakkuk’s words of complaint became a song of confidence in God.
The wicked leaders of Judah boldly rebelled against God, perverted justice and oppressed the righteous. From idol worship and child sacrifices to murder and ungodly alliances with foreign nations, the leaders of Judah led God’s people into disobedience and heaped God’s judgment upon themselves in return.” 

— ibid., pp. 767-768, 807-808, 811-812

“The miserable policy of sitting still, doing nothing, crying peace, and snubbing anxious Protestants has utterly failed and broken down, as many foresaw it would. We are in troubled waters, and our good old ship is in imminent danger. But I cannot for a moment see that the proposals of Churchmen in Council are likely to prevent shipwreck.” 

— J.C. Ryle, “Churchmen in Council,” The Record, February 28, 1890 

Read Exodus 18:1-27
Notice that the idea for the organizational structure didn’t come from Moses but from his father-in-law, Jethro. Strong leaders are approachable and welcome others who tweak the organizational structure, if doing so will strengthen it. How open are you to seeking and welcoming help to improve your organizational structure? …
See John 15:1-8 to consider Jesus’ profound allegory about the vine and the fruit produced by its branches. … If any part of the system malfunctions, the byproduct of fruit will fail to appear.
Systems involve leaders, groups and circumstances. In the case of this allegory, the leader is Jesus and the group consists of His followers. Disciples of Christ who are called into positions of leadership must first be submissive to the spiritual system described in this passage before they can hope to create organizational and relational systems that will have a lasting impact on others. …
Organizations are important; they help us to achieve some of the most important outcomes by structuring multiple resources around a common task. But at times the very organization that is created to serve becomes an obstacle to the outcome. Numbers 11:11-17 illustrates how structure serves rather than dominates an enterprise. …
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.
… Isaac was the family’s leader, but he was a poor one. One of the great tragedies of poor leadership is the fallout for the followers. Isaac’s antics put everyone in the family under pressure to engage in counterproductive behavior. Rebekah became a deceitful schemer to achieve what she knew to be right. Jacob lied and performed a terrible trick on his blind father to get what he wanted. Esau was determined to receive his ‘due’ in spite of his carelessness.
So Isaac, with his distorted sense of values, created a dysfunctional household made up of scheming, lying people. Isaac as a human being would inevitably have pursued what he valued – but he could have adjusted his values.
As a leader, have you adjusted your values so they’re truly in line with what is best according to God’s perspective? Whatever organization you lead, don’t make the mistake Isaac did and force your followers to function in spite of you.” 

Handbook to Leadership: Leadership in the Image of God, Kenneth Boa, Sid Buzzell and Bill Perkins, pp. 401, 406, 414-415, 553, 699

3rd. Unity of the Church; relation of local Churches to each other and to the Christian society as a whole.
“The position and work of the apostolic deputies furnish a valuable and suggestive precedent, which has not been followed in all branches of the Reformed Church as it might have been, with respect to the importance of entrusting special powers at times to men of special gifts for organization and administration. Such men, under suitable safeguards against prelatic developments, may act, and have acted, most usefully as eyes and hands to the ordinary elderships of the Church, as superintendents or overseers of special departments over wide districts, or in responsible and honourable missions in the general interests of the Church and the cause of Christ at home and abroad. Such men sent forth with special temporary commissions in apostolic times, as under the ancient synagogue system, did not a little to maintain and express the essential unity of the apostolic Church in the second portion of its history.
We have traced the growth and development of the Church of Christ, so far as our limits would allow, to the close of the New Testament period. Of the shortcomings of the work no one can be more conscious than its author. He can at least say that he has honestly sought to see and to speak the truth regarding this great subject, as set forth in Scripture. May the result be for the glory of God, and for the good of His Church on earth.
‘Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto Him be the glory in the Church, and in Christ Jesus, unto all generations for ever and ever. Amen.’” 

The Scripture Doctrine of the Church, D. Douglas Bannerman, p. 569 

Power/Influence and Who I Am
… Read Daniel 4:34-37 for an account of a powerful man who lost everything until he learned the lesson that power is a trust, not a prerogative. …
God never bestows positional and personal power as an end in itself, but always as a trust to be exercised with stewardship for the benefit of others. Those who misuse this trust by squandering it on extending their own egos through oppressing and manipulating others will ultimately give an account to the One who gave them their power in the first place.
Daniel advised King Nebuchadnezzar to use his positional power in the service of others through acts of kindness. To what extent are you seeking to use your God-given influence in this way?” 

Handbook to Leadership: Leadership in the Image of God, Kenneth Boa, Sid Buzzell and Bill Perkins, pp. 492-493

Application of the Test: The Result
“One is here reminded of the truthful remark of Dr. George Campbell [Lectures on Ecclesiastical History, p. 403]: 

‘Power has a sort of attractive force, which gives it a tendency to accumulate, insomuch that what in the beginning is a distinction barely perceptible, grows in process of time a most remarkable disparity.’ 

The disparity existing among teaching and ruling elders among Presbyterians, instead of being defended, is very much to be lamented, and ought as much as possible to be removed. This is to be done, however, not by lowering the teaching elder, but by elevating the ruling elder, and appointing to office those only who are distinguished from the people by more than a common measure of graces and gifts, who are aware of the responsibilities of the eldership, and who are determined, for the Lord’s sake, to the best of their ability to discharge its duties.” 

The Apostolic Church Which Is It?, Thomas Witherow, 1855 

Chapter 28. The Form of Government
“The principle of parity is to co-ordinate with that of plurality. Strictly speaking there can be no plurality if there is not parity. For if one is in the least degree above the others, then, in respect of that hegemony, there is no longer plurality. Plurality applies to all government of the church, and there must therefore be parity in the plurality. There is not the slightest evidence in the New Testament that among the elders there was any hierarchy; the elders exercise government in unison, and on a parity with one another.
This principle has oftentimes suffered eclipse within the presbyterian fold. It has come to expression within presbyterian churches by the entertaining of the notion that to the minister of the Word belongs priority or pre-eminence in the government of the church. It is true that the minister as a teaching elder has his own distinctive function in the preaching and teaching of the Word. He labours in the Word and doctrine. It is natural and proper that his knowledge and experience should be given due respect in the deliberations which must be undertaken by the elders in the exercise of the government of the church. But it cannot be too strongly emphasized that, in respect of ruling, the minister of the Word is on a parity with all the others who are designated elders. When this is discarded, then there ensues that type of clerical hierarchism which has reached its logical outcome in what is known as hierarchical episcopacy, and it is the first step in the abandonment of the institution of Christ. Ministers of the word in presbyterian denominations are not immune to the vice of autocracy, and they are too ready to grasp at an authority that does not belong to them. This evil, which has marred the witness of churches professing presbyterian government, only illustrates the need for constant vigilance, lest the elementary principles of presbyterian government be violated and desecrated. It is not only by erroneous theory that presbytery is prejudiced, but also by practice which subtly annuls the theory professed. …
We have found that the kind of government set forth in the New Testament is that of a plurality of elders or bishops exercising oversight on a parity with one another. It is all-important to take account of the fact that it is on the local level that this must, first of all, be applied. It is in the local assembly, or congregation of God’s people, that the ordinances of Christ’s appointment for his church are regularly administered. The importance of the local congregation is therefore paramount and it is in the local congregation that the presbyterian principle must first be exemplified. If it is not preserved and practised at this point, it is not in operation at all.” 

Collected Writings of John Murray Volume Two: Select Lectures in Systematic Theology, pp. 346-348 

“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.
… they [the commissioners] will naturally not understand that the men in charge of the whole ecclesiastical machinery are in reality active partisans in the dispute. And so, without any real consideration at all, and with the best intentions in the world on the part of the lay members of the Assembly and on the part of many ministers, a very great injustice may be consummated. In view of the inexperience and lack of information of the bulk of the commissioners, the ecclesiastical machinery may again be supreme. The only hope is that the sound Christian heart of the church, despite all the obstacles, may become genuinely interested at last in this supremely important matter, and that thus there may be fair play.
It is to the rank and file of the church that we must make our appeal. …
Ecclesiastical action can never, indeed, destroy vital Christianity from human hearts. …
Vital Christianity never will be crushed out of the world by action of church legislatures or courts. The gospel of Christ is still enshrined, even in these sad, cold days, in the hearts of men.
But though vital Christianity cannot be destroyed by ecclesiastical action, it may be driven out of the Presbyterian church; Christian people are trying vainly to keep the waters sweet when the fountain is corrupt. It will be a sad day if Presbyterianism in America falls into such a condition as that. …
But possibly the leaders may come to see, on sober second thought, that even from their point of view the end is being attained at too great a cost, that in running roughshod over the principles of liberty in the church they are really harming their own cause, that theological pacifism will hardly prosper in the long run if it is stained with crime. Thus we have hope of every man; and we shall rejoice with all our heart if the present leaders the church show that although they are against us in many matters, they prefer at least to fight with weapons that are fair.
But our chief appeal is to the rank and file of our church. We have a just cause, and the heart of the church, we hope, is still true.” 

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

The Present Duty of the Conservatives
Under these discouraging circumstances, what should be done by the sound elements in the church? The answer might seem to be that they ought to withdraw from the existing organization and form a real Presbyterian church that should be true to the Reformed faith. From such a course of action—upon which God has put such signal marks of his favor both in Holland and in the Christian Reformed church in America—they have been deterred especially by the conviction, which many of them cherish, that the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. is fundamentally sound and that if its rank and file only knew what is going on, it would stand true to the Word of God.
In support of this conviction, some things undoubtedly may be said. Those who are in control of the ecclesiastical machinery have done everything in their power to prevent light from being shed upon the issues of the day. … Hence many votes unquestionably were cast in complete ignorance of the issues that were at stake.
It is, indeed, very strange that if the heart of our church is really sound, it does not react vigorously against such unjust and ruthless measures … But doubtful though we hold the optimistic conviction about the soundness of the church to be, that conviction is at least natural; and since God, alas, has raised up no Abraham Kuyper to lead us in the true path, many of our number are at present uncertain what our immediate ecclesiastical duty is. …
One thing, at least, is clear—if there is to be any conservation of the sound element in the Presbyterian church, we must have a truly Reformed, and ringingly polemic, source of ministerial supply.” 

— J. Gresham Machen, “Is There a Future for Calvinism in the Presbyterian Church?” The Banner 65, 1930 

“But our present concern is not so much with the content of these dangerous overtures as with the method by which they were sent down. Technically they were sent down by the General Assembly. But was there any discussion of the merits of them on the floor? Not at all. They came to the General Assembly from the General Council through the Committee on Bills and Overtures, and were handed on to the presbyteries without debate. A similar method has been applied invariably, so far as my observation goes, in recent years. Overtures of the most radical kind are sent down to the presbyteries without the slightest discussion; they come from the General Council and are simply transmitted to the presbyteries as a matter of routine. The plain man on the floor of the Assembly has no opportunity of expressing his views with regard to them or of listening to the view of others. …
The Working of the Ecclesiastical Machinery
The discouragement of discussion at the General Assembly has made itself felt in other ways; indeed, it is one of the chief agencies which has been used for the destruction of Presbyterian liberties and of the evangelical witness of the Presbyterian church. The General Assembly, because of the unfortunate custom of rotation in the choice of commissioners, is composed almost altogether of men unacquainted with the procedure and unacquainted with what the preceding General Assembly has done. Such a situation puts the real power into the hands of the moderator and of the small group of men who are on the platform of the Assembly year after year. This power has sometimes been very ruthlessly used. …
The question here is not whether the signers of the Princeton Petition were right or wrong in their contention. Suppose for the sake of the argument that they were as wrong as wrong can be. Still, it remains true that the whole spirit of that answer to them, with its contempt for the rank and file of the church, was profoundly hostile to Presbyterian tradition and to the most elementary principles of liberty and fair play. …
As a matter of fact, no fair hearing was granted. The moderator, against the opposition of three hundred and nine commissioners, pushed through ruthlessly his plan for limitation of debate. That plan resulted, if my recollection is correct, in a grand total of twenty minutes for discussion by ordinary commissioners as distinguished from representatives of various official bodies! And then, when commissioners were pleading for a hearing, the moderator of his own motion, by calling for representatives of the Assembly’s committee and of the seminary’s financial holding corporation, arranged that two gentlemen on the same side— the moderator’s side—should, speaking in succession, close the debate!
Be it observed that the General Assembly was not in the slightest pressed for time. On the contrary, after engaging, as it usually does, in considerable waste of time and of the church’s money, it closed, if anything, slightly ahead of schedule. …
The Need of Moral Reform
I do not think that such tactics are at all unusual in the recent procedure of the Presbyterian church. … Free and open discussion has been discouraged; the church’s policy has been treated as though it concerned at most only commissioners to the General Assembly or holders of ecclesiastical office; the laity has been kept sedulously in the dark; secret diplomacy has been the rule.
In this discouragement of free discussion, the climax was reached by certain actions of the last General Assembly discouraging ‘premature’ publication of reports. … But enough has been said already, we think, to show that a thoroughgoing moral reform is needed in the Presbyterian church. The church needs to remember that it is not a secret order, whose faults can be concealed either from God or from men; it needs to abandon all secret diplomacy in its negotiations for union with other churches and form only open covenants openly arrived at; it needs to take the laity into its confidence not merely after measures are already formulated but when they are still process of being formed; it needs to remember that love in the New Testament sense is not merely in word but in deed, and that it is never really present except where simple fairness prevails. In short, it needs to turn resolutely from its present policy and spirit to the wonderful openness and freedom of the New Testament church. …
Is the church’s policy a concern only of commissioners or presbyteries or officials, or has the laity still some rights? …
But the tendency to check open discussion has also proved to be disastrous when applied to the legislative and administrative functions of the church. We traced a few of its workings … how in general it was made to operate against any fair hearing for the rank and file.
The Anti-Publicity Action
… Now in a day when even the Word of God is so frequently ‘interpreted’ to mean its exact opposite, we need not be surprised that a mere standing rule of the General Assembly should meet a like fate, when it is ‘interpreted’ so as to defeat its purpose, the result is that any really free and effective discussion of measures proposed for adoption by the Presbyterian church is either definitely checked or at least committed to the discretion of an administrative officer. …
Just how far it is to be checked, and in what way, is left to the discretion of the stated clerk. We do not know how he will employ the arbitrary power which has been placed in his hands. He may do what I believe was suggested tentatively at the General Assembly—copyright the ‘Blue Book’—so as to be able to prevent the reports from being copied in any papers except those that are favored by the ecclesiastical machinery. It is almost unthinkable, indeed, that he should venture upon anything quite so outrageous and tyrannical as that. But even if he uses his power in some less tyrannical way, the granting of that power does involve an attack upon the very vitals of Presbyterian liberty.
Autocracy vs. Democracy
What we have in this action of the 1931 General Assembly, as over against the standing rule which it nullifies, is a conflict between two widely differing notions of the government of the Presbyterian church.
The notion which underlies the standing rule is a democratic notion. According to that notion, the church—so far as human instrumentalities are concerned—is governed by its entire membership; its presbyters, officers, commissioners to the General Assembly are servants of the people, and the people have a right to know exactly what its servants plan to do. According to the present action of the General Assembly, the real business of the church should be conducted in committee rooms or around board tables, and the people are to have very little real power. …
The spirit of the standing rule nullified by this action was a spirit of fairness and openness and liberty; it was the file old spirit of the Reformed faith. The action nullifying the standing rule will, we fear, with however good intentions on the part of the stated clerk, encourage that spirit of concealment and ecclesiastical expediency and tyranny which is becoming increasingly dominant in the church.
Monopoly in Church Papers
This latter spirit was manifested also in another report that was made to the last General Assembly … That committee presented as part of the ‘ideal solution’ of the problem of publicity for church causes … The proposal means that if this policy is carried out, a monopoly of subsidized church papers is to be established in the Presbyterian church, such papers to publish what the official boards and agencies regard as ‘suitable material.’ …
What we have here is an attempt at monopoly in its most oppressive form. …
These are just the sort of papers that will serve the ends of the gentlemen now controlling the ecclesiastical machinery …
It could be shaken only by a true enlightenment of the rank and file, and to prevent that enlightenment an increasing efficiency is being attained by the ecclesiastical machinery. …
Judicial process is made worthless as a means of establishing truth not only by the partisanship of the highest Judicial Commission, but more particularly by the secrecy of the church courts. Such secrecy will be made universal and obligatory if the new Book of Discipline goes into effect; men who hold to the unpopular and disturbing evangelical position will be dealt with in a secret inquisition and deprived even of the right of an open trial. …
Under such a régime, what chance is there for the despised evangelical part in the church even to obtain a hearing? Be it remembered that the ecclesiastical pressure against it, of which we have been speaking, is reinforced by the vast pressure of the world at large. Adherents of the gospel of Christ—and we mean wholehearted adherents of it, not those who give it lip service, or are willing only to propagate it and not to defend it, or do not believe in controversy, or make their preaching ‘positive and not negative,’ or use any of the other miserable phrases by which men seek to conceal from themselves and others the real feebleness of their faith and coldness of their love—wholehearted adherents of the gospel of Christ, we say, are faced today by an overwhelming weight of public opinion. The daily press, though by no means so unfair as the ecclesiastical papers, is for the most part hostile or at least devoid of understanding. It reflects naturally the prevailing popular attitude; it is usually willing to believe the worst of the adherents of an unpopular cause. The secular magazines present for the most part only the opposing view; the schools and colleges have become agencies of propaganda against this unpopular faith. With this vast opposition of the world, the machinery of our church is making common cause. It too uses the current phrases of modern unbelief; it too discourages ‘controversy’; it too belittles what it regards as divisive contentions …
Under such conditions, faced as they are by the opposition of the world, faced by the opposition more bitter still of an increasingly apostate church, misrepresented, despised, ridiculed, tried in secret courts so that the ridiculousness of the charges against them cannot become generally known, silenced in church assemblies—under such conditions, we say, what help is there for the adherents of a gospel which now as always is diametrically opposed to the thoughts and aspirations and purposes of the generality of mankind?
The answer to that question is perfectly plain. There is no help for believers in the gospel save one, but that help is sure. It is found at the mercy seat of God.
When shall that help be used, brethren? When shall we cease benumbing ourselves with a baseless optimism; when shall we cease saying that the Presbyterian church is ‘essentially sound’; when shall we be willing to face the facts before God?
Facing the Facts before God
The facts, alas, are perfectly plain to the man who is not afraid to see. …
It is perfectly clear, moreover, that in this warfare the anti-evangelical contention has so far won the victory. Of what avail is it to point to general professions of adherence to the faith of the church by this ecclesiastical official or that? The simple fact is that the policy of the church organization as a whole is exactly that which so effectively serves the purposes of unbelief in all the churches of the world—discouragement of controversy, tolerance of anti-Christian propaganda, bitter intolerance of any effort to make the true condition of the church known, emphasis on organization at the expense of doctrine, neglect of the deep things of the Word of God. Let us not deceive ourselves, my friends. The Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. includes, indeed, many true Christian men and women; but in its corporate capacity, through its central organization, it has ceased to witness, in any clear and true sense, to the Lord Jesus Christ.
With this drift away from the faith, there has gone a lamentable moral decline. Life and doctrine, here as always, have been shown to be closely connected. When Christian doctrine is neglected or denied, Christian living sooner or later is abandoned too.
We are not referring to the sins of human weakness to which all Christians are subject. Those sins, alas, are always with us, and with regard to them it must ever be said: ‘Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.’ But we refer to the blatant and settled sins of our ecclesiastical habits—not the sins of this individual or that, but the sins that seem to be inherent in the entire corporate life of the church.
Loving Words or Loving Deeds
At this point, two errors need to be rooted out of our minds and hearts and lives.
The first error is the ancient error which applies a laxer standard of morality to the church than the standard that is applied to the world. Unfairness and oppression and dishonesty are somehow thought to become virtues when they serve ecclesiastical ends; an odor of sanctity in the church is thought to take the place of humble moral considerations which prevail generally between man and man.
That error must be rooted out of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. if it is to be a Christian church in fact as well as in name. Secret courts, depriving a man of his right to an open trial, are disgraceful and outrageous in the world at large; they are even more disgraceful and outrageous in a church that bears the name of Christ. Wrong does not become right merely by being within ecclesiastical walls.
The second error which needs to be rooted out of our minds and hearts is the error that makes loving words a substitute for loving deeds. We hear much about love in the church today, but is it really love? Oh, no, my friends. If a man really loved the church of Jesus Christ, if he really moved with his whole heart the little ones for whom Christ died, he would never repeat the vain swelling words of a foolish optimism; he would never cry, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace; he would never conceal from the church its deadly peril; he would never exalt the smooth working of ecclesiastical machinery above the simple principles of openness and fair play; … he would never deprive any man of his right to an open trial. Instead, he would present the real facts without fear or favor; he would love with a love like that of the apostle Paul, who wrote to the Corinthian Christians a truthful letter that cost him many tears. Above all, in this crisis of the church’s life he would come before God in a very agony of prayer—not the prayer that is an evasion of witness-bearing but the prayer that makes even weak men brave. He would pray that those who are leading the church astray may be convicted of their deadly error; he would pray that the great attack just launched in the name of church union against the faith of our church may by God’s grace be brought to naught; he would pray that the coldness and indifference of us who hold to the old gospel might be burned away in the flame of the divine love; he would pray that such a thing as secret courts may hardly so much as be named among us; he would pray that the church may renounce the things of darkness and may return to the light and openness and liberty of the gospel of Christ.
Who, in this time of crisis, will engage, very earnestly and very humbly, in such a prayer?” 

— J. Gresham Machen, “The Truth about the Presbyterian Church,” Christianity Today, November 1931, December 1931, January 1932 


A. Obedience to the order in the way demanded by the General Assembly would involve support of a propaganda that is contrary to the gospel of Christ.
… Evidence in support of this assertion was adduced in my argument … The charges against the policy … that were made in the argument have never been refuted. …
Actions of the General Assembly … which have been taken after the issuance of my argument have not all served to invalidate the charges made in that argument, but have rather served to substantiate them. …
B. Obedience to the order of the General Assembly would involve the substitution of a human authority for the authority of the Word of God. …
That obedience on my part will be generally taken to mean just this is also made clear by the fact that the principle of implicit obedience to boards and agencies is being widely advocated in the church. … The same principle has been advocated widely in the church in other ways. …
I cannot evade the issue. If I obey the order of the General Assembly … I shall plainly be taken as holding that support of the official boards and agencies is an obligation of all ministers and members in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.; and that will plainly mean that I shall have substituted a human authority for the authority of the Word of God. …
It is true, the action of the General Assembly in another place does give lip service to freedom. …
The Bible forbids a man to substitute any human authority for the Word of God.
‘Ye were bought with a price,’ says the Bible; ‘be not ye the servants of men’ (1 Cor. 7:23). That verse only summarizes the whole teaching of the Bible with regard to the seat of authority. The conflict between the Bible and the General Assembly is here particularly plain. I cannot hesitate about the side that I shall take in that conflict.
In demanding that I shall shift my message to suit the shifting votes of an Assembly that is elected anew every year, the General Assembly is attacking Christian liberty; but what should never be forgotten is that to attack Christian liberty is to attach the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
I desire to say very plainly to the Presbytery of New Brunswick that as a minister I have placed myself under the orders of Jesus Christ as his will is made known to me through the Scriptures. That is at the heart and core of Protestantism. It is also at the heart and core of the teaching of the Word of God. I cannot give it up.
If I read the Bible aright, a man who obtains his message from the pronouncements of presbyteries or General Assemblies instead of from the Bible is not truly a minister of Jesus Christ. He may wear the garb of a minister, but he is not a minister in the sight of God.
By the issuance of this command, the General Assembly has attached the authority of the Bible in very much the same way as the way in which it is attacked by the Roman Catholic church. The Roman Catholic church does not deny the authority of the Bible. Indeed, it defends the truth of the Bible, and noble service is being rendered in that defense, in our times, by Roman Catholic scholars. But we are opposed to the Roman Catholic position for one great central reason—because it holds that there is a living human authority that has a right to give an authoritative interpretation of the Bible. We are opposed to it because it holds that the seat of authority in religion is not just the Bible but the Bible interpreted authoritatively by the church. That, we hold, is a deadly error indeed: it puts fallible men in a place of authority that belongs only to the Word of God.
The same thing exactly was done by the 1934 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. That Assembly abandoned the Reformation and returned essentially to the Roman Catholic position. … it held that a minister must take his Bible from his pulpit desk and put the last minutes of the General Assembly in its place—or rather, that he must keep the Bible there but put the minutes of the General Assembly on top of it, limiting his interpretation of the Bible to what the last General Assembly says the Bible means.
That command was contrary to the heart and core of Protestantism. But it was contrary to something more than Protestantism; it was contrary to the Word of the living God.
I desire to say very plainly to the Presbytery of New Brunswick that I cannot obey such a command. If I obeyed it, in order to obtain ecclesiastical favor, then the ministry would have become for me only a profession, and rather a contemptible profession too. I cannot thus deny my Savior and Lord. I must obey God rather than men. …
The action of the General Assembly, involving as it does, and as I have shown above, the substitution of a human authority for the Word of God, is contrary to the express provisions of the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. and to the entire tenor of that constitution from beginning to end. …
The policy of the boards and agencies may change completely from year to year, since the boards are elected by successive General Assemblies. Therefore, the program of the boards may be one program this year and an opposite program next year. ‘Never mind,’ says the action of the General Assembly in effect; ‘a man must support any program which the General Assembly establishes no matter how much that program may differ from the program which it established the previous year.’ …
b. This Action of the General Assembly, the meaning of which is, as I have said, made perfectly plain by the application of the principle involved in it in the addition to the manual of the Presbytery of New Brunswick, is contrary to the Confession of Faith, which contains the following paragraph (Chapter XX, Section ii): 

II. God alone is lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are in any thing contrary to his Word, or beside it, in matters of faith or worship. So that to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commandments out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience; and the requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also. 

If anything in this world could be held to involve ‘the requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute blind obedience’ it is the action of the General Assembly and the addition to the manual of the Presbytery of New Brunswick, of which we are speaking just now.
c. The action of the General Assembly, with the addition to the manual of the Presbytery of New Brunswick, is contrary also to the following paragraph of the Confession of Faith (Chapter XXXI, Section iii):

III. All synods or councils since the apostles’ times, whether general or particular, may err, and many have erred; therefore, they are not to be made the rule of faith or practice, but to be used as a help in both. 

It is true that the immediately preceding section in the Confession of Faith is as follows (Chapter XXXI, Section ii): 

II. It belongeth to synods and councils, ministerially, to determine the controversies of faith, and cases of conscience; to set down rules and directions for the better ordering of the public worship of God, and government of his Church; to receive complaints in cases of mal-administration, and authoritatively to determine the same: which decrees and determinations, if consonant to the Word of God, are to be received with reverence and submission, not only for their agreement with the Word, but also for the power whereby they are made, as being an ordinance of God, appointed thereunto in his Word. 

But in the use which has been made argumentatively of this section, great mischief has been wrought by failure to notice the momentous words ‘if consonant to the Word of God.’ The decrees and determinations of synods and councils are not to be received unless they are consonant to the Word of God. To ignore those words is to do away with Protestantism, and return, essentially, to the Roman Catholic position. If those words are ignored, one has to ignore the rest of our Protestant and particularly Presbyterian view of the government of the church.
d. This action of the General Assembly, again as its meaning is made clear by the addition to the manual of the Presbytery of New Brunswick, is shown to be contrary to the whole tenor of the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., because persons who submit to it are binding themselves either to conduct which is contrary to common honesty or else to conduct which is an evasion of the plain responsibilities of a member or a minister in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. …
What course of action is open to such a minister? He is convinced that the boards and agencies are dishonest. The General Assembly is convinced that they are honest. What shall he do in such a situation? …
Support of any particular human agency is most emphatically not required in the Word of God. It is really a very dreadful thing when a fallible human agency sets up its particular program for any one year as being on a par with a holy ordinance instituted by Christ and given by him to the church. I really do not see how human presumption could go much further than that presumption of which the last General Assembly has made itself guilty.
That dreadful sentence, which has seemed to some devout men in the church to be almost blasphemous, is certainly abhorrent not only to the express provisions of the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. but to the whole tenor of that constitution from beginning to end. …
The action of the General Assembly is contrary to the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. because it requires support of an agency … which at present is unfaithful to the Word of God.
It is not necessary to labor this point. If the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. is unfaithful to what is set forth in the Word of God, then I doubt whether anyone would be quite bold enough to argue that the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. can possibly require support of such a board.
But what I want to make perfectly plain is that all the rest of my argument in the present statement is entirely valid even if I am wrong in holding that the Board of Foreign Missions is at present unfaithful. The point is that if I am conscientiously convinced that it is unfaithful, then, whether I am right or wrong in that, the constitution of the church forbids my being coerced in the manner that is involved in the action of the General Assembly. 

It has been shown in the foregoing statement that the action of the 1934 General Assembly ordering certain persons to sever their connection with the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions and ordering certain presbyteries to take disciplinary steps in case these persons should not obey that part of the order addressed to them is contrary to the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.
What should be done about the matter?
The answer to that question is very simple. Since the action of the General Assembly was unconstitutional, it should be ignored both by the individuals concerned and by the presbyteries.” 

— J. Gresham Machen, “Statement to the Presbytery of New Brunswick,” 1935 

“The question of the church’s responsibility in the new age involves two other questions: (1) What is the new age? (2) What is the church?
The former question is being answered in a number of different ways; differences of opinion prevail, in particular, with regard to the exact degree of newness to which the new age may justifiably lay claim. There are those who think that the new age is so very new that nothing that approved itself to past ages can conceivably be valid now. There are others, however, who think that the human nature remains essentially the same and that two and two still make four. With this latter point of view I am on the whole inclined to agree. In particular, I hold that facts have a most unprogressive habit of staying put, and that if a thing really happened in the first century of our era, the acquisition of new knowledge and the improvement of scientific method can never make it into a thing that did not happen. …
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?
… Everywhere in the world we have centralization of power, the ticketing and cataloguing of the individual by irresponsible and doctrinaire bureaus; and worst of all, in many places we have monopolistic control of education by the state.
But is all that new? In principle it is not. Something very much like it was advocated in Plato’s Republic over two thousand years ago. The battle between collectivism and liberty is an age-long battle, and even the materialistic paternalism of the modern state is by no means altogether new. The technique of tyranny has, indeed, been enormously improved; a state-controlled compulsory education has proved far more effective in crushing our liberty than the older and cruder weapons of fire and sword, and modern experts have proved to be more efficient than the dilettante tyrants of the past. But such differences are differences of degree and not of kind, and essentially the battle for freedom is the same as it always has been.
If the battle is lost, if collectivism finally triumphs, if we come to live in a world where recreation as well as labor is prescribed for us by experts appointed by the state, if the sweetness and the sorrows of family relationships are alike eliminated and liberty becomes a thing of the past, we ought to place the blame for this sad denouement—for this sad result of all the pathetic strivings of the human race—exactly where it belongs. And it does not belong to the external conditions of modern life. …
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.
Is it not in general within the realm of the soul of man that evils of society have their origin today? We have developed a vast and rather wonderful machinery—the machinery of our modern life. For some reason, it has recently ceased to function. The experts are busily cranking the engine, as I used to do with my Ford car in the heroic days when a Ford was still a Ford. They are wondering why the engine does not start. They are giving learned explanations of its failure to do so; they are adducing the most intricate principles of dynamics. It is all very instructive, no doubt. But the real explanation is much simpler. It is simply that the driver of the car has forgotten to turn on the switch. The real trouble with the engine of modern society is that it is not producing a spark. The real trouble lies in that unseen realm which is found within the soul of man.
… But if that is so, if the real trouble with the world lies in the soul of man, we may perhaps turn for help to an agency which is generally thought to have the soul of man as its special province. I mean the Christian church.
… there is, at any rate, not a trace of any nondoctrinal preaching that possessed one bit of power in those early days of the Christian church. It is perfectly clear that that strangely powerful movement which emerged from the obscurity of Palestine in the first century of our era was doctrinal from the very beginning and to the very core. It was totally unlike the ethical preaching of the Stoic and Cynic philosophers. Unlike those philosophers, it had a very clear-cut message—and at the center of that message was the doctrine that set forth the person and work of Jesus Christ. …
The primitive church, we have just seen, was radically doctrinal. In the second place, it was radically intolerant. In being radically intolerant, as in being radically doctrinal, it placed itself squarely in opposition to the spirit of that age. That was an age of synchronism and tolerance in religion; it was an age of what J. S. Phillimore has called ‘the courtly polygamies of the soul.’ But with that tolerance, with those courtly polygamies of the soul, the primitive Christian church would have nothing to do. It demanded a completely exclusive devotion. A man could not be a worshiper of the God of the Christians and at the same time be a worshiper of other gods; he could not accept the salvation offered by Christ and at the same time admit that for other people there might be some other way of salvation; he could not agree to refrain from proselytizing among men of other faiths, but came forward, no matter what it might cost, with a universal appeal. That is what I mean by saying that the primitive Christian church was radically intolerant. …
In the third place, the primitive church was radically ethical. Religion in those days, save among the Jews, was by no means closely connected with goodness. But with such nonethical religion the primitive Christian church would have nothing whatever to do. God, according to the primitive Christians, is holy; and in his presence no unclean thing can stand. Jesus Christ presented a life of perfect goodness upon earth, and only they can belong to him who hunger and thirst after righteousness. Christians were, indeed, by no means perfect—they stood before God only in the merit of Christ their Savior, not their own merit—but they had been saved for holiness, and even in this life that holiness must begin to appear. A salvation which permitted a man to continue in sin was, according to the primitive church, no matter what profession of faith it might make, nothing but a sham.
These characteristics of primitive Christianity have never been completely lost in the long history of the Christian church. They have, however, always had to be defended against foes within as well as without the church. The conflicts began in apostolic days; and there is in the New Testament not a bit of comfort for the feeble notion that controversy in the church is to be avoided, that a man can make his preaching positive without making it negative, that he can ever proclaim truth without attacking error. Another conflict arose in the second century, against Gnosticism, and still another when Augustine defended against Pelagius the Christian view of sin.
At the close of the Middle Ages, it looked as though at last the battle were lost—as though at last the church had become merged with the world. When Luther went to Rome, a blatant paganism was there in control. But the Bible was rediscovered; the ninety-five theses were nailed up; Calvin’s Institutes was written; there was a counter-reformation in the church of Rome; and the essential character of the Christian church was preserved. The Reformation, like primitive Christianity, was radically doctrinal, radically intolerant, and radically ethical. It preserved these characteristics in the face of opposition. It would not go a step with Erasmus, for example, in his indifferentism and his tolerance; it was founded squarely on the Bible, and it proclaimed, as providing the only way of salvation, the message that the Bible contains.
At the present time, the Christian church stands in the midst of another conflict. Like the previous conflicts, it is a conflict not between two forms of the Christian religion but between the Christian religion on the one hand and an alien religion on the other. Yet—again like the previous conflicts—it is carried on within the church. The non-Christian forces have made use of Christian terminology and have sought to dominate the organization of the church.
This modern attack upon the Christian religion has assumed many different forms, but everywhere it is essentially the same. Sometimes it is frankly naturalistic, denying the historicity of the basic miracles, such as the resurrection of Jesus Christ. At other times it assails the necessity rather than the truth of the Christian message—but strictly speaking, to assail the necessity of the message is to assail its truth, since the universal necessity of the message is at the center of the message itself. Often the attack uses the shibboleths of a complete pragmatist skepticism. Christianity, it declares, is a life and not a doctrine; and doctrine is the expression, in the thoughtforms of each generation, of Christian experience. One doctrine may express Christian experience in this generation; a contradictory doctrine may express it equally well in a generation to come. That means, of course, not merely this or that truth is being attacked, but that truth itself is being attacked. The very possibility of our attaining to truth, as distinguished from mere usefulness, is denied. …
Many of the rank and file of the churches, many of the individual congregations, are genuinely Christian; but the central organizations of the churches have in many cases gradually discontinued their propagation of the Christian religion and have become agencies for the propagation of a vague type of religion, to which Christianity from its very beginning was diametrically opposed. …
The trouble is that the gentlemen in control of these organizations are, though with the best and most honorable intentions in the world, in a hopelessly false position. The churches are for the most part creedal; it is on the basis of their creeds that they have in the past appealed, and that to some extent they still appeal, for support; yet the central organizations of the churches have quietly pushed the creeds into the background and have devoted themselves to other activities and a different propaganda. Perhaps in doing so they have accomplished good here and there in a worldly sort of way. But in general, the false position in which they stand has militated against their highest usefulness. Equivocation, the double use of traditional terminology, subscription to solemn creedal statements in a sense different from the sense originally intended in those statements—these things give a man a poor platform upon which to stand, no matter what it is that he proposes, upon that platform, to do.
But if the existing Protestant church organizations, with some notable exceptions, must be radically reformed before they can be regarded as truly Christian, what, as distinguished from these organizations, is the function of a true Christian church?
In the first place, a true Christian church, now as always, will be radically doctrinal. It will never use the shibboleths of a pragmatist skepticism. It will never say that doctrine is the expression of experience; it will never confuse the useful with the true, but will place truth at the basis of all its striving and all its life. …
In the second place, 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. …
But when I say that a true Christian church is radically intolerant, I mean simply that the church must maintain the high exclusiveness and universality of its message. It presents the gospel of Jesus Christ not merely as one way of salvation, but as the only way. It cannot make common cause with other faiths. It cannot agree not to proselytize. Its appeal is universal, and admits of no exceptions. All are lost in sin; none may be saved except by the way set forth in the gospel. Therein lies the offense of the Christianity religion, but therein lies also its glory and its power. A Christianity tolerant of other religions is just no Christianity at all.
In the third place, a true Christian church will be radically ethical. It will not be ethical in the sense that it will cherish any hope in an appeal to the human will; it will not be ethical in the sense that it will regard itself as perfect, even when its members have been redeemed by the grace of God. But it will be ethical in the sense that it will cherish the hope of true goodness in the other world, and that even here and now it will exhibit the beginnings of a new life which is the gift of God. …
If you are dissatisfied with a relative goodness, which is no goodness at all; if you are conscious of your sin and if you hunger and thirst after righteousness; if you are dissatisfied with the world and are seeking the living God, then turn to the church of Jesus Christ. That church is not always easy to distinguish today. It does not always present itself to you in powerful organizations; it is often hidden away here and there, in individual congregations resisting the central ecclesiastical mechanism; it is found in groups, large or small, of those who have been redeemed from sin and are citizens of a heavenly kingdom. But wherever it is found, you must turn to that true church of Jesus Christ for a message from God. The message will not be enforced by human authority or by the pomp of numbers. Yet some of you may hear it. If you do hear it and heed it, you will possess riches greater than the riches of all the world. …
I will present to you a strange paradox but an assured truth—this world’s problems can never be solved by those who make this world the object of their desires. This world cannot ultimately be bettered if you think that this world is all. To move the world, you must have a place to stand.
This, then, is the answer that I give to the question before us. The responsibility of the church in the new age is the same as its responsibility in every age. It is to testify that this world is lost in sin; that the span of human life—no, all the lengths in human history—is an infinitesimal island in the awful depths of eternity; that there is a mysterious, holy, living God, Creator of all, Upholder of all, infinitely beyond all; that he has revealed himself to us in his Word and offered us communion with himself through Jesus Christ the Lord; that there is no other salvation, for individuals or for nations, save this, but that this salvation is full and free, and that whoever possesses it has for himself and for all others to whom he may be the instrument of bringing it a treasure compared with which all the kingdoms of the earth—no, all the wonders of the starry heavens—are as the dust of the street.
An unpopular message it is—an impractical message, we are told. But it is the message of the Christian church. Neglect it, and you will have destruction; heed it, and you will have life.” 

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

“What’s wrong with you people?” 

— R.C. Sproul, Ligonier National Conference, March 14, 2014, Questions and Answers #2, timestamp 25:10