Thursday, March 13, 2014

Fishing trips

I'm not expert on the ins and outs of PCA policy and polity, so my post is more hypothetical, but I'm curious about this allegation:

With all of the hoopla in the evangelical world and the rising incidences of P.C.A. candidates for ordination taking exception to the second commandment we are observing a disturbing trend in modern Christianity. Somehow, we seem to have a type of spiritual amnesia forgetting that we do not carry the meaning of the cross “within ourselves, nor can we find it in this world. What eludes us is something we have to be given by God himself.”8 This is the essence of the debate surrounding “pictures of Jesus,” isn’t it? Why shouldn’t we allow children to look at pictures of Jesus in Sunday School material? Is it wrong to have any pictures of Jesus? What if we have no intention of bowing down and worshiping those pictures? Are we still violating the second commandment?

I infer from Pastor Gleason's statement that during their oral and/or written ordination exams, PCA presbyteries are questioning ordinands on whether they think movies about Jesus violate the 2nd commandment. Which makes me wonder–unless the PCA has an official policy condemning movies about Jesus as a violation of the 2nd commandment, isn't it an abuse of authority for examiners to question ordinands on that issue? Isn't the purpose of the examination process to determine if the ordinand's theology is consistent with official policy of the denomination? Presumably, it's not a pretext  to conduct a fishing expedition to find out if an ordinand's views on movies about Jesus conflict with the private, unofficial opinion of the examiner.

If Pastor Gleason thinks the PCA should adopt the Puritan position, isn't the proper venue for that debate a resolution at the General Assembly rather than an ordination exam? As it stands, his allegation seems to be a veiled threat against prospective ordinands. He's accusing them for "violating" the 2nd commandment if they don't share his views on movies about Jesus. Doesn't that suggest he'd vote against an ordinand for giving the "wrong" answer to that question, even though the denomination hasn't ruled on this issue? Conversely, if he and other like-minded elders lack the votes to get a binding resolution passed at the General Assembly, then there's the appearance of subverting due process by trying to push through at the level of an ordination exam what can't be achieved at the General Assembly. But perhaps I'm not conversant with the relevant rules and regulations.

Finally, assuming for the sake of argument that the PCA was officially opposed to movies about Jesus, what practical form would that policy take? Would it forbid a pastor from viewing a movie about Jesus? Would it enjoin a pastor to forbid his parishioners to view movies about Jesus? Would infractions be subject to church discipline? 


  1. FYI: Yes, ordinands are questioned in conservative Presbyterian circles about what each of the commandments mean. It is part of our ecclesiastical tradition. If you read the article carefully, you will have noted that I did not prohibit my congregants to view movies about Jesus. Quite honestly, however, I would have appreciated your blog more if you had interacted with Dr. J.I. Packer, Dr. Jochem Douma, and Dr. David Wells, all of whom concluded the same thing I did.

    1. Thanks for your comment. I make get around to engaging your case. For now I'd simply point out that the issue is not whether ordinands are questioned on their understanding of the 2nd commandment, but whether they are accused of holding views which "violate" the 2nd commandment unless they share the Puritan interpretation/application which you champion.