Presbyterian Church Government


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Acts 15:1-2, 4-6; 1 Timothy 5:17

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Two brief readings for tonight. Acts 15:1-2, 4-6; 1Timothy 5:17 The question is this: what do those texts teach us about the government of the church?

Tonight I am beginning another short series of subject sermons apropos the church’s transition to a new pastorate. I have entitled the series “How My Mind Has Changed.” But that title needs some careful explanation. Explaining it, I hope, will also provide a rationale for this series of sermons. I certainly don’t mean to suggest that changes in my thinking should be considered to be particularly earth-shaking. I am one of upwards of 2,000 PCA ministers. No doubt most of them have experienced at one time or another a change in opinion or conviction. Something they thought was the teaching of the Bible they came to believe was not or they happened upon what they came to think was a better way of expressing some biblical teaching. Such a change is very common. It happens to men who study the Bible and the history of the church. It has always happened that men over the course of their life’s work change their mind about this or that. There is nothing remarkable in that.

Nor do I imagine that the particular alterations in my convictions or my biblical or theological understanding are in any way unique. To begin with, I’ve come to change my thinking in the same way others in our church have changed theirs. I am, as they are, a creature of this particular historical moment. If I had lived at another time, chances are some of these new convictions would never have occurred to me. I certainly don’t claim any genius for myself. I’m hardly the founder of a new school of Christian thinking or the originator of new ideas that will reshape the Christian church. Frankly, I don’t know any of our men who, at this point, may be thought of in such terms. The changes in thought that are underway in certain segments of our church are hardly the harbinger of a new Reformation.

What is more, the changes in viewpoint to which I have come through the years concern matters that lie not at the center but more toward the periphery of Christian thought and practice. I subscribe ex animo that is to say “from the heart” to the Westminster Confession of Faith. I don’t agree with absolutely everything in it – it is a large and complex account of biblical theology written nearly 400 years ago – hardly anyone can say he agrees with every word. For example, the Larger Catechism asserts that the State, the civil government, ought to pay the salaries of Christian ministers. Everyone in the 17th Century assumed such an arrangement as a matter of course; no one does today. I wonder if there is a single minister in the Presbyterian Church in America who believes that the government should pay his salary! But the theological system and even most of the detailed argument for it I can confess as my own understanding and that with all my heart. In this short series of sermons I will not be talking about the Trinity, or the deity of Jesus Christ, or the sovereignty of God, or Christ’s atonement, or the new birth as a divine act of recreation, or justification by faith, or the authority of God’s law, or the Second Coming, or heaven or hell. All of those convictions have, through these forty years of concentrated study of Holy Scripture and the theology of the church, remained as they were at the beginning. If anything I am the more confident in those convictions and the better able intelligently to argue for them.

So what is my point? It is this. I want to show you – and how better can I do that than by appeal to my own experience – that a conscientious Christian minister is unlikely to think about everything the way he once did. His opinions, his convictions in regard to this or that will change. There are probably not two ministers in the world who completely agree about absolutely everything. That is some proof of how necessary it is for the church and for any particular church both to learn both to distinguish between a different opinion or conviction on the one hand and a killing error or heresy on the other and to learn to accommodate acceptable differences of opinion as a matter of course. We must live with them because we cannot avoid them.

Believe me, our new minister is unlikely to think about everything the way I have come to think about it. I would be shocked if he were to say that he agreed with me in every point. Indeed, I would suspect immediately that he was simply trying to please rather than honestly disclosing his mind.

But there is another purpose in this exercise, another reason for me to reflect with you on changes that have occurred in my convictions through the years. These changes will illustrate for you where our consensus among evangelical, Bible-believing Presbyterians has begun to fray. Of course I don’t mean to suggest that there weren’t differences of opinion from the beginning. There were. There were significant differences of opinion among the divines of the Westminster Assembly. They did not think as one man about everything, even about some very important theological matters. An effort to accommodate differences of opinion is now known to explain why, for example, there are three quite different definitions of the covenant of grace in the Westminster Standards. But as the years passed there did come to be, in most respects, a surprising consensus of thought and conviction. And that consensus lasted until very recently. As late as the 1970s, when I was in seminary, we had almost nothing of the parties and circles of opinion that are now a common feature of our conservative Presbyterian world. We hadn’t yet heard of theonomy or paedocommunion or Federal Vision and so on. No one was clamoring for the ordination of women to the diaconate in conservative Presbyterian circles. The liturgical revolution had not really yet begun so virtually every Presbyterian Sunday service was substantially the same. There were differences of attitude, but surprisingly few differences in theological conviction. Some drank wine and most didn’t; we argued about the millennium, but we all agreed that the Presbyterian faith was the correct account of the teaching of the Bible and we all understood that faith in the same way.

But, as you know by now, that is no longer the case. The way I typically explain this to people is to say that the great achievement of the Westminster divines has finally run its course; it has lost its momentum and is now slowly coming to a halt. Now hear me carefully. I’m not saying that the great doctrines defined and explained and defended in that magnificent confession of faith are no longer believed. Quite the contrary. In our Presbyterian Church in America, so far as I know, there is no inkling of any loss of confidence in Reformed theology as it is expressed in the Westminster Standards. We believe in the great doctrines of our faith and in the distinctive doctrines of our theological system – the sovereignty of God in salvation, the unity of the covenant of grace, paedobaptism, and so on – as faithful Presbyterians always have.

But the Confession is now nearly 400 years old. It spoke to a religious world that has long since disappeared. It hardly addresses at all the great challenges that Christian faith and practice now face in the modern world. It was written long before Marx, Darwin, and Freud changed the face of western civilization. In 17th century Europe, when the Westminster Confession was written, Roman Catholicism was the principal philosophical and theological alternative to Reformed Protestantism. In the 21st century our principal philosophical and theological enemy is naturalism in all its forms. The Westminster Confession of Faith is, frankly, of little help in the battle with naturalism. Pentecostalism is the rising star in world Christianity in our time, but the Confession says very little to help us in dealing with the vast numbers of Christians in the world who think about the ministry of the Holy Spirit in very different ways than we do. There is no chapter on the Holy Spirit in the Westminster Standards; Pentecost is not so much as even mentioned anywhere in the Confession or the Catechisms. For that matter nothing is said anywhere in those documents about evangelism or world missions or how the church will practice its unity when it exists, as it now does, in every country and culture on the face of the earth. Abortion isn’t so much as mentioned in the Standards, including in that long section in which the implications of the Law of God are developed in the Shorter and Larger Catechisms – no Christian would think to approve of it in the 17th century, it was a dangerous and often lethal procedure, and so no one thought it an issue needing to be addressed, that abortion was a great sin was accepted on all sides – nor are the questions regarding sexual differentiation addressed in the Standards, the roles of men and women in life and in the church, and I could go on and on. The fact is, the Westminster Standards do not scratch where we itch in the early 21st century. The result of that is that the Standards, alas, and regrettably, occupy an ever smaller place in the consciousness of the church and its ministry.

That was inevitable and should surprise no one. It certainly would not surprise the divines themselves. They spoke to the issues of their age. They addressed the questions that were uppermost in people’s minds. They wrote the Confession in the midst of a civil war and a political revolution the outcome of which was unknown at the time and which, as it happened, turned out badly for the Presbyterian cause. They charted a course for the church of their own times. I’m quite sure they would be nonplussed that we were still using their Confession these centuries later when so many new issues and questions now challenge the Christian faith.

I think myself we need a new confession of faith. I think we have the talent to write a very good one. When the challenge to the doctrine of biblical inerrancy became a pressing matter within the evangelical world, believing scholars met in 1978 to produce the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. If you’ve never read that statement you should look it up on the internet and read it through. It is a splendid piece of work, as good as anything ever done on the doctrine of the Bible. By the way, ordinands in the PCA nowadays are required to confess their faith in an inerrant Bible. The Westminster Confession says nothing about the Bible being inerrant. It was not an issue in the 17th century; Roman Catholics and Protestants agreed that the Bible was without error. We recognized that in that particular respect our Confession was deficient, out-of-date, and we supplemented it by adding another ordination vow. Why not, then, revise our Confession more comprehensively? The most conservative side of our church both continues to think the Confession adequate and to fear what changes might be introduced in a new one. Others doubt we have the talent to do a job anywhere as good as the Westminster divines did 400 years ago. According to our church law, even to address this question would require so nearly unanimous consent throughout the church that it seems highly unlikely that anything like this will be done for a long time yet. And, I fully admit, the writing of a new confession of faith would be an immense undertaking. It would require years of labor by a large number of men.

But in my view we both could and should write a new confession: one that restates in modern English the historic doctrines of the Christian Church and, in particular, the Reformed Church but addresses the world in which we live, replies to the rejection of the Christian faith by the elite culture of our day, and speaks to the issues that in our time define a Christian’s loyalty to God and the Bible. In most respects it would simply restate and update the doctrinal definitions and explanations we find in the Westminster Confession of Faith, in other respects it would either add or subtract subjects for example, the Westminster Confession the chapter on vows addressed an extremely difficult issue in the 17th century; that chapter is longer than the chapter on God; it is not so important in our timeand in a few places it would introduce changes, mostly clarifying changes. But it would address our world and would be more useful and carry greater authority for having been written by theologians who live in our time and address the issues of our time. The Christian faith is timeless; but its statement and its application are not. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, but the implications of faith in him and obedience to him vary from place to place and time to time. Insight into the teaching of the Word of God proceeds apace through the centuries. We understand some things in the Bible better than did the divines who met at Westminster. We do not struggle with the crude idolatry of the ancient world; we are not fascinated by gods of wood and stone and metal. But our idolatries are just as real in the 21st century, just as deadly, if not more so, because they gain power from the zeitgeist, from the cultural consensus but are of a very different type in our age of capitalism, relativism, feminism, technological advancement, scientism, evolution, and the sexual revolution.

But for our purposes in this series of sermons and at this time when we are anticipating a pastoral transition after so many years it is enough simply to acknowledge that what it means to be a Bible-believing Presbyterian isn’t what it used to be. As the consensus has broken down disagreements have surfaced. To this point those disagreements are absolutely the sort that can be tolerated in a church loyal to the Reformed confessions and the Word of God. But we are making a pastoral transition at a time when to a surprising degree – considering the extent a unifying consensus that has governed believing Presbyterian life for the last several centuries such disagreements are a fact of life in our communion. I dare say that many of us, myself included, may well find ourselves at odds, in one way or another, with our new minister. If he is the man we want and need, he will be well able intelligently to explain himself, he will leave us in no doubt that he is loyal to the Bible and to the Reformed faith, but his views in some respects may not be the same as what we have been used to.

And to help us come to grips with this fact and this expectation, I want to tell you how my own views have changed from what they once were and how I too departed from what was and perhaps still is the Bible-believing Presbyterian consensus.

Tonight I want to begin with Presbyterianism itself, that is, the technical meaning of the term as a description of a particular form of church government. Now, no one thinks church government is the be all and end all of the Christian faith. Jesus Christ didn’t come into the world to teach us church government! In fact, he says almost nothing about the subject, so far as his teaching is recorded in the Gospels. However, polity – the term often used in Christian discussions of church government – is not, for that reason, unimportant. And among Christians in general Presbyterians have often been among those stressing the importance of the right kind of church government.

I graduated from seminary a de jure Presbyterian. That is the way it was said. De jure means in this case “by divine law.” That is, a de jure Presbyterian believes that the Bible actually teaches all Christians to be Presbyterians. If they are not Presbyterians it is only because they have not rightly understood the Bible’s teaching. There may be de facto Presbyterians, that is, people who practice as Presbyterians, who think it an acceptable form of church government, as good or perhaps better than any other, but who would not say that Presbyterianism is, in fact, commanded in the Bible. But I was, and most of my contemporaries were de jure Presbyterians. We believed that the Bible teaches that the Christian church ought to be Presbyterian in its polity. It was a frustration for us that most Christians in the world, in fact, the vast majority of Christians in the world were not Presbyterians. To us Presbyterianism was so obviously the teaching of the Bible. The books we read taught de jure or, as it used to be called divine right Presbyterianism. By the way, whether Presbyterianism is in fact commanded in the Bible was a huge issue at Westminster in the mid-17th century. It was an age in which most people still believed in the divine right of kings, and Roman Catholics thought their form of episcopal government was by divine right, de jure. So it is hardly surprising that there were divines at Westminster who were divine right Presbyterians, indeed they made up the largest party at the Westminster Assembly. There were also de facto Presbyterians but there were at the same time Episcopalians, Independents, and Erastians (the latter who held that the state had some authority over the church). Some of the most bitter divisions among the divines during the time of the Assembly concerned these questions of church government and central to those divisions was the question of divine right, that is, whether the Bible actually commanded us to govern the church in a certain way and, if so, what precisely did it command us to do.

The Scots, by the way, were the fiercest defenders of de jure Presbyterianism because, of course, Scotland was the only Presbyterian nation in the world in those days. These were great men – Samuel Rutherford, Alexander Henderson, George Gillespie and a few others – but not everyone agreed with them. And much of the debate concerned this very question: was Presbyterianism commanded in the Bible; was it the church’s government by divine right? The final result was Presbyterian, but, of course, as soon as Charles II was restored to the throne, the Presbyterian settlement was overthrown, at least in England, and by the end of the seventeenth century there was hardly any British Presbyterian Church left except in Scotland.

What then is Presbyterian church government? Well you know the general idea. The officers of the church in the Presbyterian system are minister, lay elder, and deacon (and sometimes doctor or professor). There is a general parity among the ministers and elders in regard to the exercise of church authority. Hierarchy is denied. So bishops and archbishops who exercise authority over lower orders of ministry are excluded. There are to be elders (whether ministers or lay rulers) – note the plural, that’s very important in Presbyterianism – in every church. Church power is held by the presbytery, a term that basically refers to the elders and ministers of the church gathered together for the purpose of exercising oversight and rule. Church power, therefore, is held by the presbytery not by a bishop, an archbishop or pope. Nor is it held by the congregation. The church is to be organized in such a way as to demonstrate and practice its unity. Thus every Christian and every congregation has the right of appeal to and the obligation of submission to the whole church’s authority as exercised by the ministers and elders of the church as a whole. It is this last principle that accounts for regional organizations of ministers and elders – presbyteries – and national organizations – the general assembly, none of which, it is admitted, is mentioned anywhere specifically in the Bible. But it is, Presbyterians say, the good and necessary consequence of biblical teaching.

So Presbyterianism is not independency or congregationalism because congregations are understood to belong to and thus to be subject to the authority of the church as a whole. The unity of the church is perhaps the chief principle of Presbyterian Church government. Presbyterianism is not episcopacy because the hierarchy of ministry – ministers under bishops who are under archbishops – is denied. As I said, when I graduated from seminary I was a de jure Presbyterian. I believed that the Bible commanded a certain form of church government and that what it commanded was Presbyterianism. But, as often happens, I was mugged by reality.

First, I went to Scotland for three years, the spiritual home of Presbyterians and I worshipped in a Presbyterian Church there. There were, of course, many features of Presbyterianism in Scotland that I was familiar with: ministers and ruling elders, presbyteries, a general assembly, and so on. But I noticed other things.

  1. This was a Presbyterian church that was different in some important ways from what I was used to. For example, pastors of churches were paid by the denomination not by the local congregation. Their paychecks came from 121 George Street, Edinburgh, the headquarters of the Church of Scotland. There is a historical reason for this, but it was my first experience of the fact that Presbyterianism comes in quite different forms. Scottish Presbyterianism was much more top-down than bottom up. The larger church had much more control of ministers and of individual congregations than was the case in Presbyterian churches in the United States. Another difference I noticed was that in Scottish Presbyterianism ruling elders were not ordained. They were set apart by prayer but not ordained by the laying on of hands. In other words, there was a greater distinction made in the Scottish church between the authority of the minister and that of the ruling elder. In practice they seemed to function much as we did in America, but I knew enough to know that American Presbyterians would not have stood for this; they would have thought it highly un-Presbyterian even though the Scottish form of Presbyterianism was more original than the American.
  2. Second, it was a liberal church. I was, of course, aware that the Presbyterian Church in the United States had substantially defected from orthodox Christianity over the years of the twentieth century. I was raised in separatist, conservative, orthodox Presbyterianism. We cut our teeth on the liberalism of the large Presbyterian denomination. But I didn’t worship in liberal Presbyterian churches; I knew them only by reputation. But in Scotland I worshipped in and came to love a Presbyterian congregation in a very liberal Presbyterian Church. There I came face to face for the first time with the fact that Presbyterian church government was by itself no protector of orthodox Christianity. For the people in my congregation in Aberdeen, Scotland the Presbyterian Church was as much their enemy as it was their home. It was at this point that I also began to notice in my own intellectual and spiritual development that some of the writers from whom I was learning the most about the Christian faith and the Christian life were not Presbyterians. Some were Episcopalians, like J.I. Packer; some were Independents, like Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and so on. It becomes harder to defend Presbyterianism as the only biblically approved form of church government when most Presbyterians in the world demonstrate precious little loyalty to the Bible and when other churches are graced with such learned and godly people.

Then as I began my ministry and began to read more about Presbyterian church government and then when a few years later the RPCES, the denomination in which I was ordained and of which this congregation was a member church, merged with the PCA I discovered other things.

  1. I discovered in my reading that Presbyterianism, even de jure Presbyterianism, means quite different things to different people. For example, Francis Turretin, one of the greatest of the Reformed theologians of the scholastic period (the 17th and 18th centuries) held that a Presbyterian Church could, if it wished, elect a president and endow him with great power and it would still be Presbyterianism so long as the exercise of the president’s power was subject to the review and control of the assembly of ministers and elders. No American Presbyterian that I am aware of would ever have accepted such an arrangement as Presbyterian! Lutherans had powerful presidents, but we didn’t. We would have thought it elitist and hierarchical. But if Presbyterians could have such presidents as Turretin claimed, what was the practical difference between the two forms of church government? In fact, during my seminary days, Concordia Seminary, also in St. Louis, the large seminary of the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church and at the time one of the largest seminaries in the world, had been saved for orthodoxy when the denomination elected a new president, a fiery theological conservative by the name of Jacob Preus, and in one of his first acts he fired the liberal president of Concordia Seminary and, in effect, sacked most of the faculty. Nothing like that could have happened in our American Presbyterian Church, liberal or conservative, but, according to Turretin, it could have. Well, I began to ask myself, if differences that substantial could be accommodated in a Presbyterian polity, how distinctive was Presbyterianism? For example, how different was it really from some forms of Lutheran or Episcopal Church government?
  2. Then the PCA, at least in a general way, held to a form of Presbyterianism very different from what I had known growing up in the RPCES, had observed in Scotland, and was taught in the standard works on Presbyterian church government. They called it “two-office” Presbyterianism and according to this conception the minister and the ruling elder held the same office and the distinction between them was a matter of mere practicality and personal choice. Some men were better preachers, others betters rulers, and they chose what particular function they felt best suited for. But the minister and the ruling elder in this understanding of Presbyterianism, were, in principle, the same thing. They hold the same office; they have fundamentally the same responsibility. This theory, to be sure, was very inconsistently practiced in the PCA; always has been. In PCA churches also, the minister and the ruling elder were not actually regarded as holding the same office, at least not by the men themselves and certainly not by the congregation. Only the minister could officiate the sacraments, for example, as had always been the case in Presbyterian Churches. Ruling elders could not even preach as a general rule without being licensed by their presbytery, as other men not elders, might also be. But that ministers and elders had the same office was a talking point and a matter of some emphasis nevertheless. What is more, the PCA was a very congregational church. They called it a “grass-roots” or a “bottom-up” church. The power of the presbytery over local congregations was virtually, is virtually, non-existent. At this key point the PCA was very unlike the Church of Scotland. Once again I had to ask: how different was PCA Presbyterianism from some forms of Independent or Congregational church government? After all, Baptist churches – which are independent or congregational in their church government – practice some form of connection with other Baptist churches. And when PCA people want to speak about their togetherness, their unity, they usually speak of being a connectional church, a very vague term with no fixed meaning, not unlike Baptist practice.

These things set me to wondering just what Presbyterianism is and precisely what the Bible actually did say about church government. And when I began to investigate those questions, the more muddled the situation became. There are, in fact, only a few verses in the New Testament to which appeal can be made in fashioning a theory of church government and, to make matters worse, every one of them is interpreted in different ways even by Presbyterians! What is more, none of them explicitly amounts to a command to order the government of the church in just this way. We have information about some things that were done in the apostolic church; we have nothing in the way of a statement that it is precisely this that is always to be done. And alas sometimes one thing is done and other times something else quite different. That we are given more example than instruction is in itself is not a problem. The Bible often teaches us by example. But the problem is that we have so little information even by way of example; still less of instruction.

We know what kind of Christian man an elder ought to be, but there is no instruction anywhere in the New Testament as to what elders are supposed to do: what their responsibilities are and how they are to exercise their office; how they are to relate to the ministers, and so on. And so you have actually very different conceptions of the office of elder even across our own PCA. In some churches they amount to a Board of Trustees, in other churches they amount to lay pastors. Presbyterians argue among themselves if the term “elder” in 1 Tim. 3 and Titus 1 – where the qualifications for the office are given – even refers to ruling elders or indicates only the men we would call ministers. We have the important text in Acts 15 – what may be said to be the crux interpretum, that is, the key text for the Presbyterian theory of church government – the account of the meeting of the apostles and elders in Jerusalem to discuss the question of Gentile inclusion in the church – though the meaning of the term “elder” is not defined there – and otherwise nothing is said of ministers and elders gathering in presbyteries or of a general assembly and so on. The term elder, after all, is very flexible in the NT. The Apostles John and Peter call themselves “elders,” but that certainly didn’t mean that every elder was an apostle. The Jews of the time could refer to both lay rulers and priests as “elders,” as we learn in the Gospels. The elders of the people were the men who sat in the Sanhedrin which included both lay rulers and priests. But they certainly didn’t think that priests and lay rulers held the same office or the same responsibilities. What the term “elder” refers to in its NT uses is a standing problem in the history of discussions of church polity.

The concept of the office of elder is taken over from the OT. Fair enough. The Bible is one. But then in the first important discussion of the office of elder – that in Exodus 18 – we read of Moses taking “able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and [placing] such men as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And let them judge the people at all times.” [18:21-27] But that doesn’t sound like parity, like equality; that sounds as if some elders have more authority than others. Was that to be carried over into the NT situation? The NT doesn’t say yes or no. There was a high priest in Israel, an archbishop if you will. That at least suggests that there is nothing in itself sinful in the idea of one minister having more authority than another. The NT doesn’t seem to suggest such an office, but it doesn’t say there couldn’t be one either. The first Christians were Jews who were used to the priestly hierarchy. And by the end of the first century there were bishops in the Christian church, ministers with authority over other ministers. Where did they come from? There is precious little data with which to answer those questions.

So I had to ask myself whether my Presbyterian convictions had more to do with the teaching of the Bible or more to do with the fact that I was an American, a democrat, with a visceral dislike of hierarchy, with an inbred suspicion that hierarchy fostered elitism and an attitude of superiority, rather than that they were the clear teaching of the Bible.

Thankfully, as a minister in the PCA all I have to be willing to say is that the PCA’s Book of Church order is “in conformity with the general principles of Biblical polity.” It doesn’t even specify what those general principles are. I can take that vow. I believe the church is one and that its government should demonstrate that unity. Of course, so do Episcopalians. I think the body of ministers and elders are to exercise God’s authority in the church. I agree that Acts 15 is a very important text for biblical church government. In some way the church should be ruled as one. Obviously as a voluntary society it can do this only to the extent that people accept its authority, but still, that is the principle. I also agree that there should be lay rulers and deacons in the church. I agree that the state has no God-given authority over the church. If all of that that makes me a Presbyterian, so be it. I am happy to be a Presbyterian. I don’t think the argument for any of the other church governments is any better than the argument for my own. On the other hand, those principles might just as well make me an Episcopalian because I’m no longer sure that anyone can prove from anything said in the Bible that it is contrary to God’s will that one minister should have more authority than another. Interestingly, for all our posturing about parity among ministers, typically a shibboleth among de jure Presbyterians, we virtually admit this in our own PCA, having as we do associate and assistant pastors. They may have the same vote in the presbytery, but in every practical way they are subordinate officers in their own churches. Everyone accepts this, however little they may be able to defend it on Presbyterian principles.

So, where does that leave us? We may call as our next pastor a de jure Presbyterian who is much more confident in his Presbyterianism than I am. He may talk about it more than I have and think it more important than I do. He will be able to argue his case very well and you may find him more persuasive on this subject than you find me. I want you to know that will be perfectly fine by me. Of course, my feelings will be hurt if you tell me that you find him more persuasive than I, so you should keep that opinion to yourself! But you may think him more persuasive in private. Seriously, my point tonight and on these following Sunday nights is this: there are differences of opinion, a good number of them entertained by good and worthy men in our own Church. It is a fact of life in our Reformed and Presbyterian world in a way it was not fifty, sixty, seventy, eighty years ago. We should cheerfully acknowledge this as we contemplate calling a new minister.