Uncertain dogma, The Shire, and related musings

17 May

First, a Meet a Blog: uncertain dogma. From one of David Clark’s pages there I have taken this:



There is much I can respect and relate to in David’s approach to faith and philosophy.

Another site that I have been exploring recently is the Uniting Church in Australia theologian Bill Loader:  Revd Professor William R. G. Loader BA (Auckl) BD (Otago) Dr theol (Mainz, Germany) FAHA, Research Professor at Murdoch University, with a five year Australian Research Council Professorial Fellowship to work on the project: Attitudes towards Sexuality in Judaism and Christianity in the Hellenistic Greco-Roman Era. I am attaching, given today being International Day Against Homophobia, Bill Loader’s “Biblical Perspectives on Homosexuality and Leadership”: Bill Loader on Homosexuality and Leadership (PDF).

Long ago on my blogs I drew your attention to Sojourners and Jim Wallis, and have continued to do so from time to time:


Jim Wallis is quite clearly an Evangelical Christian but he, along with the “friends”, is moving beyond the kind of evangelicalism they see as being captive to right-wing politics. The best way to appreciate what they are about is to explore what they say on that blog. Further, Jim Wallis is signatory to An Evangelical Manifesto:

An Evangelical Manifesto is an open declaration of who Evangelicals are and what they stand for. It has been drafted and published by a representative group of Evangelical leaders who do not claim to speak for all Evangelicals, but who invite all other Evangelicals to stand with them and help clarify what Evangelical means in light of “confusions within and the consternation without” the movement. As the Manifesto states, the signers are not out to attack or exclude anyone, but to rally and to call for reform.

As an open declaration, An Evangelical Manifesto addresses not only Evangelicals and other Christians but other American citizens and people of all other faiths in America, including those who say they have no faith. It therefore stands as an example of how different faith communities may address each other in public life, without any compromise of their own faith but with a clear commitment to the common good of the societies in which we all live together.

For those who are Evangelicals, the deepest purpose of the Manifesto is a serious call to reform—an urgent challenge to reaffirm Evangelical identity, to reform Evangelical behavior, to reposition Evangelicals in public life, and so rededicate ourselves to the high calling of being Evangelical followers of Jesus Christ…

It is what it is, and I applaud it as good for religion, the USA, and especially in the latter respect, for the world at large. I have emphasised the second paragraph of the preamble in the light of a discussion of the Manifesto on Five Public Opinions.

What does The Shire have to do with this?

Not a lot so far, but when I was researching the series I have been doing over on Ninglun’s Specials I encountered Caringbah Presbyterian Church. (The links in the extract below go to their site and do not open in new windows.)

In Sydney and throughout Australia, evangelical and supposedly reformed pulpits and presbyteries, as well as amongst Bishops and Archbishops there is considerable doubt whether we have nine or ten commandments? Some are unsure if there are one or two sacraments? Is anyone sure about infant baptism? Is there such a thing as moral law? What about justification by faith alone or limited atonement? I dare not even raise the issue of worship – indeed, I’m told we shouldn’t even use the word to describe what we do on the Lord’s day if there is such a thing!

So what’s behind all this disagreement amongst evangelicals and reformed believers? Is it that the Bible is too difficult to understand or the passages of Scripture are so ambiguous that good men must agree to disagree? Is it that some colleges teach Greek exegesis well and others turn out exegetical neanderthals? The answer is obviously no!

All the disagreements alluded to are not really exegetical disagreements but hermeneutical disagreements (hermeneutics  is the theory of how to interpret the Bible). Fundamentally then, our disagreements are not over practice (Lord’s day, baptism or worship) but over theology, and in particular, the hermeneutic of Covenant theology as opposed to other hermeneutics (popular in Sydney) like new covenant theology. For the reasons outlined above seeks to be an Australian resource for the many evangelicals that are seemingly indifferent or ignorant of Reformed theology. To God be the glory!

Most of you will be wondering what that was about: CPC opposes with much vigour women speaking in church, but endorses having a wine or two; it opposes the activities we associate with Hillsong but is for a literal seven day creation. In fact one of the more absurd pages on the site solemnly documents that the assembled Divines who drew up the Westminster Confession of Faith in the 1640s rather tended to support that proposition, which I would have thought was quite splendidly irrelevant. I am sure their views on nuclear physics or genetic engineering would be equally unsurprising, if they had any… Heaven knows what they thought about church web sites. CPC is also, it appears, pro Rugby League…

There is a delicious irony too in that forty years ago, if I remember correctly, Caringbah Presbyterian Church was notoriously modernist in tendency. Back then I was part of opposition to such liberalism as Caringbah then represented — links in the following being mine and opening in new windows, and, I might add, material thus referred naming quite a number of old friends and acquaintances:

The Presbyterian Reformed Church is a relatively new church in New Zealand. Regular public worship services began at New Windsor School, Avondale, in January 1990, when two elders arrived from Australia at the invitation of local PRC members. By the grace of God the congregation has experienced steady growth since that time. A local New Zealand elder was elected by the congregation in 1992 and in 1998 the congregation called its own Teaching Elder.

In Australia, the PRC was formed in December 1967. The PRC began when almost the entire congregation in Sutherland (NSW), including its minister (Rev A G Kerr) and elders, separated from the Presbyterian Church of Australia. The immediate cause of this separation was the toleration of unbiblical teachings by the Presbyterian Churches of Australia and New Zealand. A New Zealand example was the case of Professor Lloyd Geering, Principal of the Presbyterian Theological College in New Zealand.  Professor Geering had denied, amongst other things, the bodily resurrection of Christ, the immortality of the soul, and the deity and miracles of Christ. Despite holding these unscriptural views, Professor Geering was exonerated and allowed to continue to teach and preach.

Today, such unbiblical views are commonplace in almost all of the mainstream churches in Australia and New Zealand.

Since the PRC was formed, congregations have been established in four Australian states (New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Victoria), in Vanuatu, in Fiji, and in New Zealand. So as not to compromise our loyalty to Jesus Christ, the PRC is not a member of the World Council of Churches.

I had been an elder at Sutherland Presbyterian Church, though younger at age 23 than The Rabbit now is but like him today I was then in my second year of English teaching, resigning in 1967 just before that separation; I had for a year or two been having considerable doubts about the Calvinism that Sutherland church had rediscovered, just as it seems forty years later Caringbah is rediscovering it. Since 1967-8 of course the Uniting Church has come into being, the Continuing Presbyterian Church — those who stayed out of the Uniting Church — tends to be conservative, but not all of them, and by no means all would endorse Caringbah in their heart of hearts; in fact you can easily see Caringbah’s position is assertive and to a degree embattled; some would say extreme. You don’t have to penetrate far into the Caringbah site to find Rousas J Rushdoony getting several guernseys. About that I have said earlier:

Yes, I have encountered the branch of dominionism known as Christian Reconstructionism before (chief nutter, Rousas J Rushdoony, working from the tendentious ultra-Calvinist philosopher Cornelius van Til, whose work I flirted with in my Dip Ed days way back before the Great Flood) and I can assure you this is a case of minorities inside minorities…

For that and several other posts related to these thoughts search Calvin on New Lines from a Floating Life.

NOTE: Caringbah Presbyterian Church is a Full (Sanctioned) Charge in The Presbyterian Church of Australia in the State of New South Wales; The Presbyterian Reformed Church is not affiliated with that body.

From all that I turn back with relief to the blog with which this entry began. 🙂



4 responses to “Uncertain dogma, The Shire, and related musings

  1. Kevin

    May 18, 2008 at 6:34 am

    “having a wine or two”

    ARRRRGH!!!! I love you like a brother, Ninglun, but you can’t ‘have a wine’! It’s a liquid! You could have a ‘glass’ of wine… But you can’t have a wine, unless you are willing to just have a whine. You could ‘have a whine’ if you wanted to… but wine requires a glass.

    It’s the law.

  2. ninglun

    May 18, 2008 at 9:10 am

    In Oz English we have a wine, have a beer, have a coffee… Having a glass sounds dangerous to me… 😉

  3. Kevin

    May 18, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    *whine* glass of wine, pint of beer, mug of coffee. IT’S THE LAW!

    Ok, I give up. But I’ll get you my pretty. And your little dog too!

    😉 Bet you get that a lot in Oz land.

  4. Pistol Pete

    May 19, 2008 at 3:26 am

    Very thorough look at some thorny subjects. Thanks.

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