Considering Exceptions (Steve Tipton)

It is not uncommon for ministers in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA)--the denomination in which I pastor--to lament a lack of doctrinal uniformity among fellow pastors in our denomination. It is also not uncommon for ministers in the denomination in which I minister to lament the lamentations of those who lament a lack of doctrinal uniformity. At the center of these expressions of grief are the stated differences that ordained men either do or do no take in regard to the doctrine set out in the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms (i.e. the Westminster Standards). Many of those who have no stated differences with the Standards look with suspicion at those who have stated difference-and vice versa. The first group of ministers wonders if the second group has ever carefully read and studied the Confession and Catechisms. The second group of ministers wonders the same thing about the first group. A candidate for licensure, ordination, or transfer must state their differences in their own words for all to read and examine. In these instances there is usually no doubt as to their depth of understanding. The candidate for ministry must define and defend their understanding of the Standards to the degree required by the Presbytery and/or its examining committee. Yet, for many Presbyteries, there appears to be no process for examining a man with no stated differences on a number of those doctrines on which others frequently state differences. For instance, I have yet to witness a man with no stated differences examined with regard to his view of such portion of the Standards as WCF 7.4 (regarding "the covenant of grace frequently set forth in Scripture by the name testament."), WCF 21.5, WLC 109 (regarding "the making any representation of God, of all or of any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image"), or WLC 123-133/WSC 63-66. These issues only ever seem to arise in an...

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