Friday, May 10, 2013

New FPCS Catechism

The Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland has just released a new catechism that focuses on FPCS distinctives in terms of doctrine, practice, and history.  The catechism is enormously helpful in expressing the character and positions of the FPCS.  It addresses a large number of subjects, including the inerrancy of the Bible, evolution, church government, church unity, the need to affirm and preserve Second Reformation attainments, and many others.  It includes a number of appendices that contain key constitutional documents of the FPCS as well as synodical resolutions that define the FPCS's official position on several points.  It is a great resource for learning about the FPCS!

One of the things that excites me in particular about this catechism is that it addresses important issues regarding church unity that I personally have not seen the FPCS address officially before--in particular, it addresses the international unity of the church.  Of course, the FPCS, along with all Presbyterians, has always maintained a commitment to the universal international catholicity of the church, but until now all the pronouncements I have seen from the FPCS  that issue a specific call for church unity and for denominations to be united have focused on the churches in Scotland, with the application to international church unity being only implied.  But the new catechism explicitly addresses this.

The catechism also displays the noteworthy tendency the FPCS has to state very clearly and boldly the church's duty to be united, the need to provide a clear justification for a separate denominational existence, the fact that a failure to be united when possible or to put barriers in the way to unity is sinful schism, its own claim to be the church that has the right to separate existence, and the accompanying obligation all other churches have of being united with it.  Rather than simply advocating that "everyone stop fussing and just get along," as is so often the case in calls for church unity these days, the FPCS once again shows that it has a realistic idea of how to truly and biblically heal the divisions of the church and achieve unity.

Here are some examples from the catechism dealing with these issues of the unity of the church:

106 Q. What is meant by Christ’s Church being Catholic?
A. The word Catholic means Universal, which teaches us that the Church of Christ is one in all nations.

141 Q. Is the Free Presbyterian Church opposed to union with other Churches?
A. No, the Free Presbyterian Church encourages biblical union with any Church in Scotland or overseas provided that there is a unity in doctrine, worship, government, discipline, and practice.

146 Q. When should individual believers separate from the fellowship of others?
A. The Scriptures enjoin believers to withdraw themselves from those who are professed brethren and who walk disorderly (2 Thess. 3:6), so when men have so rejected sound doctrine, right government, and discipline, or have introduced superstitious worship, or are maintaining a schismatic position, and when an orderly correction of these evils fails, then believers are to separate from such.

147 Q. When is it lawful to break ecclesiastical union through separation?
A. Unity is an absolute duty and therefore the only lawful reason for separation is when one is compelled unavoidably to sin in order to maintain the bond of union. In this case the sin of schism is made by those compelling to sin. Up until this point any separation would be unjust schism since one may still testify against corruptions in the Church and use all lawful means to have them removed.

148 Q. What is schism?
A. Schism is a breach of the union and communion that ought to exist within the visible Church in doctrine, government and worship (1 Cor. 12:25; Rom. 16:17).

149 Q. What is the duty of Churches in Scotland who profess to represent the Reformed Church?
A. All Presbyterian Churches in Scotland claiming to represent the Reformed Church and who have caused or who maintain schisms contrary to the avowed Westminster Standards are bound to repent and to return to purity in doctrine, worship, government and discipline. The Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland is not guilty of schism and claims to be the true heir of the Reformed Church of Scotland in doctrine, worship, government and discipline. While she certainly does not claim perfection, she maintains that all Churches in Scotland should unite around her constitution and testimony.

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