All Around Us

Coral Ridge leaves the Presbyterian Church 

U.S. One of the best known of the Southern Presbyterian churches, the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, has voted to leave its present denomination to affiliate with the new Presbyterian Church in America. The Presbyterian Journal reports in its issue of Jan. 18, 1978:

Two prominent south Florida congregations, one with an international reputation, have joined the exodus from the Presbyterian Church US (Southern) in anticipation of union with the new Presbyterian Church in America. 

Voting simultaneously on Jan. 8 to separate from the PCUS were the 4,500-member Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church here and the 500-member First Presbyterian Church of Plantation. 

The vote in the Coral Ridge congregational meeting was 1754 to 1. The vote in the Plantation meeting was unanimous. 

“Overriding consideration in our action,” said the Rev. D. James Kennedy, Coral Ridge’s senior minister who has an international reputation in the field of evangelism, “was the changes that the PCUS has made in the ordination vows for officers. We feel that the change is tantamount to doing away with the Westminster Confession of Faith as the foundation of the Church’s doctrinal position.” 

Dr. Kennedy indicated that before the congregational meeting, all of the organizational leadership of the church, from the session to the Christian education council, had registered unanimous votes in support of separation. 

Almost identical consideration and actions accompanied the vote at Plantation. Speaking for the church in the absence of the pastor, the Rev. Joseph A. Scharer, who was unavailable at press time, the Rev. Anthony J. Casoria, associate pastor, told the Journal that the new ordination vows probably constituted the deciding issue. 

It is understood that both congregations will pursue the possibility of formal dismissal by the parent presbytery, Everglades, before taking the unilateral route of withdrawal.

The consequences of this kind of shift of allegiance remain to be seen. One can not help but wonder what this will do to the PCA. There have been already there some rather strong differences of opinion on significant doctrinal questions. We will be watching the effect of a union by Coral Ridge congregation with the PCA. 

A second question which arises would be: what will happen to the properties—valued at several millions of dollars? According to Christianity Today, Coral Ridge anticipates no difficulty. Though their property cost more than $5 million to build, it remains heavily in debt. The huge mortgage is said to require $4,000 per day! The Southern Presbyterian Church will likely not be too anxious to take over properties with that sort of indebtedness. 

Episcopalians and Roman Catholics 

Christianity Today, Jan. 27, 1978, reports on the efforts to unite the Episcopal and Roman Catholic denominations:

Episcopalians and Roman Catholics in the United States share such a “unity of faith” that they must give it “visible expression and testimony now.” That is the conclusion of the officially appointed Anglican-Roman Catholic Consultation after twelve years of study. 

The nineteen-member body, composed mostly of theological professors but chaired by two bishops, issued its report last month. The seventeen-page document suggests specific joint activities for demonstration of unity. These include cooperative projects in evangelism, the war against world hunger, and the like. 

The report cites six areas where there is wide agreement: baptism and the Eucharist; the Bible as the inspired Word of God; traditional central doctrines (the Trinity, Christ as true God and true man, the Church, and others); the role of bishops; ethics and Christian life-style; and personal life in Christ. Indeed, suggests the document, there is so much agreement that the two bodies can be considered “sister churches.” 

In the section on the Bible, the document states in part: “Episcopalians and Roman Catholics believe that in the Bible the inspired Word of God is expressed: through the Holy Scriptures the living God speaks to us still today. . . . To help comprehend the meaning of Scripture [both] churches endorse and utilize historical, critical methods of exegesis.” 

The report identified four “problem areas”: papal authority, the role of women, the tension between “normative” tradition and individual conscience, and the degree of unity that must be reached before there can be “sacramental sharing.”

Other magazines have reported also on the above. There appears to be a readiness, yea even an eagerness, within the leadership of the Anglican (Episcopal), Church to seek union with the Roman Catholic denomination. And there are admittedly many similarities between certain segments of the Anglican Church and the Roman Catholic Church. It would be difficult to predict whether there will be an actual merger, or whether greater and greater cooperation will ensue. But all of this surely works to the time when the antichrist will rule within his church and against the faithful in Jesus Christ. 

Corporate Responsibility 

In an article with the above title, John Murray writes in the Bulwark, the magazine of “The Scottish Reformation Society,” and published in Scotland. An interesting section treats “denominational responsibility.” There are some pertinent thoughts which ought to be considered by those who believe that they can remain affiliated with a denomination which is rapidly departing from God’s Word, yet maintain their loyalty to Scripture in their local church. There are important thoughts also for us who are called ever to be aware of denominational activities and decisions—and to assume an active role in this.

Corporate responsibility not only makes it mandatory that we give earnest consideration to the question of our denominational affiliation, but also that we be deeply aware of and sensitive to the state and condition of that church to which we belong or with which we have affiliated ourselves. We can never take the position that we can segregate ourselves and bear witness in our own congregation, disregarding what may be happening in the churches which have become unfaithful to Christ in their corporate witness. Good people and also ministers of the Word have settled down and consolidated themselves in the position that in the situation of widespread declension and apostasy it is their responsibility to do their utmost to preserve and promote orthodox faith and practice in their own local congregation. And they console themselves with the thought that their congregation maintains a witness to Christ and his gospel even though unbelief may abound throughout the denomination. 

It is necessary to be faithful, first of all, in our local situation and it is there that individual and corporate responsibility is most accentuated. But it is to desert the corporate responsibility which we avow in our local situation if we do not apply it in the broader context of the church as a whole. This is the same evil of independentism and individualism as that by which we seek to isolate ourselves as individuals from our corporate relationships and responsibilities. Only, in this case, this individualism is applied to the local congregation rather than to the individual person.

This evil of concentrating our thought and interest and concern upon the local congregation appears, however, in orthodox denominations as well as heterodox. It is not only in opposing wrong that our corporate responsibility appears. It manifests itself also in the whole range of those functions which it is the responsibility of the church as a corporate entity to perform. Every member of the body of Christ must be alert to the corporate functions of the whole church. It is only in this way that the witness of the church can be maintained and furthered. Sometimes exclusive preoccupation with the work and witness of the local congregation may arise from the persuasion that the denomination is strictly orthodox in its work and witness and that we need not concern ourselves about it. 

Let the premise be true, the inference is false. The unity of the body of Christ is the principle which exposes its falsity, and experience has demonstrated that the sure road to decline and eventual heterodoxy is exclusive absorption with the work and witness of the local congregation. The whole denomination is a unit, and if one member suffers all the others suffer with it, if one member is honored all the others rejoice with it. Such organic unity makes isolation of any kind impossible. Let us then take our full share of the responsibilities that belong to us in the church of Christ and let us realize that only as each one of us is conscious of our relation to the whole shall we be sensitive to the demands of the honor of Christ and of the purity and unity of his body.

A Scientist on Creation 

Several of the religious magazines have recently quoted from a book, Until the Sun Dies, by Robert Jastrow, founder and director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. The man is, evidently, an unbeliever. He also is convinced of the old age of the universe. Yet in his book, he makes some startling admissions. As quoted in the Presbyterian Journal of Jan. 11, 1978, he states:

“In science, as in the Bible, the world begins with an act of creation,” writes Dr. Jastrow. “That view has not always been held by scientists. Only as a result of the most recent discoveries can we say with a fair degree of confidence that the world has not existed forever; it began abruptly, without apparent cause, in a blinding event that defies scientific explanation.”. . . 

How the universe came into being, he writes, “can never be answered: We can never tell whether the hand of God was at work in the moment of creation; for a careful study of the stars has moved as well as anything can be proved in science, that all matter in the universe was compressed into an infinitely dense and hot mass when the world began; and in the searing heat of that, holocaust, the evidence needed for a scientific study of the cause of creation was destroyed.” 

Equally vexing to the scientist, he says, is that “at present, science has no satisfactory answer to the question of the origin of life on earth.” 

“Perhaps the appearance of life on the earth is a miracle,” Dr. Jastrow speculates. “Scientists are reluctant to accept that view, but their choices are limited: Either life was created on the earth by the will of a being outside the grasp of scientific understanding, or it evolved on our planet spontaneously, through chemical reactions occurring in nonliving matter lying on the surface of the planet.”

Interesting! Remember Rom. 1:20? “For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal Dower and Godhead: so that anything can be proved in science, that all matter in they are without excuse.”