Larry Ball

Natural Law and Outhouses – What Do They Have in Common?

What is the fatal flaw among the natural law proponents? The natural law proponents have greatly underestimated the power of sin in the unbeliever apart from some form of the influence of the Christian Faith. The Westminster Confession of Faith VI.2 states that in the Fall man “became dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the parts and faculties of soul and body.” Without the influence of the Christian Faith in society, man will be exposed for what he truly is—a hater of Christ and opposed to God and his law.

When I was a child, my family would visit my grandparents who lived on a farm.  They had no bathrooms, so we all had the grand experience of using a real outhouse. My mother persuaded my grandfather to build a small bathroom in his house, and he did.  However, even with the bathroom in the house, he still preferred to go to that antiquated outhouse. Old habits are hard to break.
In reading an article recently about the topic of natural law, it reminded me of my grandfather’s outhouse.  Both outhouses and natural law have been useful in their own day, but now they have become nothing but a blight on our landscape. Yet, people still go back to them as if they were given by God as the standard for all ages.
What is natural law? Basically, it is the belief that man by nature (natural), as being created in the image of God, knows right and wrong (law); and this knowledge is inherent in all men apart from any knowledge of the Holy Scriptures. We may need the Bible to teach us about such things such as redemption in Christ and the Lord’s Supper, but most truths, especially those distinguishing good and evil, men know instinctively. This natural law, apart from God’s law, is sufficient for directing and regulating culture, especially the civil government in creating and maintaining a peaceful society.
The official line of most American seminaries today is that the Bible was given for the church, but natural law is sufficient to inform us of the laws that should govern our society.  One of the biblical passages supporting this view is Romans 2: 14-15, “For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them.” It should be noted that this verse appears in the context of man’s accountability to God and not man’s ability to rule over man. Men may know right and wrong as creatures made in the image of God, but they suppress it (Rom. 1:18-19). Men do not legislate what they stifle in unrighteousness.
Another phrase used by the general populace which demonstrates this view of natural law is the idea of “common sense.”  It has long been considered common sense that a man should marry a woman rather than another man, and that sex (or gender) is determined at birth and cannot be changed. “What’s wrong with people today, are they going crazy!” I hear this all the time. The problem however, as we all should know by now, is that common sense without the Bible is neither common nor sensible.
Also, this view of natural law complements the idea of the church-state separation in the United States.  Church-State separation is biblical, but religion can never be separated from the State. So, we are told that the Bible is for regulating the church, and natural law is for regulating everything outside of the church. We hear from them that to impose biblical law on secular society is a form of religious tyranny in a pluralistic nation, and if implemented, could only become second to the Holocaust in horrific disasters.
American pluralism (polytheism), is a sacred cow in most evangelical churches. The idea of a Christian nation is anathema among religious pluralists, even though we are still living off the capital of America as a Christian nation.   However, I believe that this capital has just run out.
Just as the old outhouse on my grandfather’s farm is not viable anymore, so the parallel concept of natural law, which may have been useful in the past, is not viable anymore either.
Natural law was useful and accepted without debate in Christian cultures of the past, whether in Calvin’s Geneva, Queen Anne’s England, or Eisenhower’s America. The culture was based on biblical law, so men were free to sing the praises of natural law without objection. Natural law stood tall and strong and was viewed in awe like the great tower of Babel. Christians and non-Christians alike sang the hymns of praise to this great wonder, especially as the age of science dawned in the West. Mathematical equations were independent of the Bible (except they really were not because predictability assumes a sovereign God who orders the universe). Enter Isaac Newton, but we do not have enough time for him in this article.
However, people in their own pride forgot that the great tower of natural law had to have a foundation, or it would collapse quickly. All towers do.  Man in his pride forgot that with the removal of a distinctly Christian culture based on the Bible as the foundation of a nation, this new secular tower would fall to the ground into pieces like the chandelier in a great cathedral after an earthquake. “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3).
What is the fatal flaw among the natural law proponents? The natural law proponents have greatly underestimated the power of sin in the unbeliever apart from some form of the influence of the Christian Faith. The Westminster Confession of Faith VI.2 states that in the Fall man “became dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the parts and faculties of soul and body.” Without the influence of the Christian Faith in society, man will be exposed for what he truly is—a hater of Christ and opposed to God and his law. How some theologians who have been trained as Calvinists, can promote hope in natural law in the present decadent society, is beyond me. However, they have done so in the past, and we see the results today in our land.
Sinful man will not be restrained apart from the threat of the penalties included in biblical law (the second use of the law), but rather he will be released to revel in debauchery and licentiousness.  Without the fear of God’s law in civil society, there is no bottom to the depth of shamelessness that that will befall man. Today, there seems to be little resistance to drag queens reading to children in public libraries.  Young people are being groomed as potential sex-partners.  Teenagers are being surgically mutilated in esteemed hospitals in the name of transgenderism. Popular evangelical singers are hosting gay weddings.
Reprobates and Christians cannot live in peace with one another because they are at war.  Both are today quickly becoming “epistemologically self-conscious,” and the war is getting out of control. Christians have been asleep. We did not see what was coming.  American Christians currently are in a self-esteem stupor while our nation drifts toward something worse than Sodom, and while the people are being pacified with bread and circuses.
Not everyone reading this is presently mandated to attend gay celebrations at work.  Not everyone must take an oath to uphold CRT. Not everyone is required to pledge allegiance to the rainbow flag. Not everyone has lost their income because of their commitment to the teaching of the Word of God.  However, you should realize that they may be coming for you and your children next.
Lastly, we must also understand that where men hate God’s Law, they only bring judgment upon themselves.  “All those who hate me love death” (Prov. 8:36).
America is in a crisis today.  The evangelical church is in shambles. In addition to expository sermons, preachers need to supplement their preaching by adding a few sermons on the issues of the day like Neo-Marxism, CRT, and inflation. I would not say this unless I had done it myself. Our culture is in decline and the pulpit is still holding onto the sacredness of the natural law, and a faulty view of the separation of Church and State.  Instead of sending our people out the door each week to be more than conquers, I am afraid we are sending them out to be doormats for Jesus.
Apart from a Reformation inside the church, the sins of America will probably grow exponentially over the next few years. Expect nothing but an increase in sex outside of marriage, homelessness, depression, drug abuse, and tyranny by civil magistrates. God may soon judge our nation in a more dramatic fashion in real time and space.  Older Christians such as I may escape, but may God have mercy on our children and grandchildren.
God save us not only from our real enemies who are outside of Christ, but also from our brothers and sisters inside the church who are bewildered, and who like my grandfather, still go to the outhouse, when something much better is available.  Natural law worked in ages past, but today we must preach the crown rights of Jesus Christ over all of life.
Larry E. Ball is a retired minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is now a CPA. He lives in Kingsport, Tenn.
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A Progress Report on “Christian Nationalism”

Ultimately, evangelism is our only hope.  A Christian nation must come from the bottom up (the hearts of a converted people), not from the top down (political legislation).  Neither will it come from heavy-weight books.  America must be discipled again with the gospel before we can begin to think about being a Christian nation. Jesus commanded us to disciple the nations (and not just a few elect from among the nations), and that includes America. Here is where we must begin. 

The debate is hot as I predicted (Christian Nationalism – Dump the Term While We Still Can).  Dr. Steven Wolfe has led the way with his book titled The Case for Christian Nationalism.  Most critical reviews of his book have been hard-hitting (The Rise of Right-Wing Wokeism by Kevin DeYoung).  I do not think the popularity of the book will survive.  I hope Dr. Wolfe does.
The phrase Christian Nationalism sounds like a political movement.  I suppose this is one reason I do not use the term. I prefer the term Christian Nation which is much more rooted in the Bible. The title “A Case for a Christian Nation” would have been more to my liking.
As I view the landscape of the culture behind the book, and the cultures behind the critical reviews, it appears to me that there are some fundamental issues missing in the whole discussion.  Maybe it is my training in mathematics, but from all that I have read, I do not think those on either side are asking the right questions.
Let us deal with two main issues that are missing in this whole discussion.
The Definition of a Nation
Before the rise of modern America, defining a nation was not a difficult task.  I think we have made things too complex.  Maybe, because we live in America, we have become unable to define a traditional nation. The Bible assumes that we know what a nation is because it commands us to disciple them.  Biblically, a nation was defined by four components – language, borders, religion, and common ancestry.
First, In Acts 2:6, on the day of Pentecost, each nation could be identified by a distinct language.  Secondly, in Acts 17:26, Paul tells those on Mars Hill that God has determined the “times and boundaries” of the nations.
Thirdly, all nations have a god or a religion that determines their civil laws and culture.  As Rushdoony said years ago, the source of law in any nation is the god of that nation.  National customs and traditions are often the application of the religion of a particular nation.  For example, Christmas is still a national holiday in secular America.  In a post-Christian society, I suppose it is a holiday just too good to give up. My wife and I are the only ones on our street that go to church, but nearly everyone has their house decorated for Christmas.
Lastly, the word “nation” is derived from the same word from which we get the word “nativity.”  It is the root word for birth.  Nations or countries in history, before America was born, were formed from people with common ancestors like the nation of Edom, the nation of Ammon, or the nation of Moab; or from a common region of people who shared common traits, like the land of the giants (Anakim).  In the time of Christ, Rome was an empire, but Israel was a nation. The recent world wars were fought by nations mostly defined by these four markers, perhaps except for America.  Sadly, the mere historical recognition of this attribute today harbors the risk being called a racist.
Although originally the United States consisted of white Europeans, we have decided that we can dispense with the ancestor marker and create a land mixed with different ethnicities and nationalities. This is often justified by an appeal to the universality of the gospel.  The universality of the gospel may be ideal for the church community, but in my opinion, the universality of the gospel cannot hold together a multi-ethic nation unless that nation is first a Christian nation.
America is still an experiment in process, and the last chapter of our history has yet to be written.  We are becoming an Empire that holds subservient nations (ethnic groups) together by the force of law.  Today, we define our nation by an idea (democracy will keep us together) rather than by the four attributes previously mentioned.  Whether we can defy these four historical makers, we will see.  Right now, with the rise of CRT, BLM, Wokism, and open borders, our future looks dim.
Was America Ever Christian?
To answer this question, we must go back and define some concepts (my mathematics background again). There are three markers in the United States that could be used to consider whether we were ever a Christian nation.  I call them social, command, and legal.
First, socially America was indeed a Christian nation at her beginnings.  Christian values permeated our people and our institutions. This is generally considered beyond debate.  We do not need a new book pleading for something we want to be (a Christian nation), when we have plenty of history of what we once were (a Christian nation).
I remember not long ago when marriage was only between a man and a woman, abortion was illegal, and locally owned businesses were closed on Sunday and Wednesday evenings (for church prayer meetings).  Church steeples still cover the landscape of our nation.  These were a just a few of the many attributes that made us a Christian nation. Thus, from a social perspective America was originally a Christian nation. With the rise of Neo-Marxism coming out of our universities and the decline of the church, the Christian social fabric of our nation is dying.
Secondly, I use the word command to describe the structure of the American governmental system.  Most state constitutions originally had a religious test in order to hold office which included oaths to the Triune God or to the Bible.  When America was defined as a confederation of states with civil power posited in those states, America was a Christian nation.
The States were the loci of power. The States could command their people in accordance with their own constitutions and Christian principles. It is interesting to note that the State of Tennessee today codifies in its Constitution that marriage can only be between a man and a woman.   However, in essence, this is null and void because state constitutions are basically irrelevant in the present system of civil government where the power of command is now lodged at the federal level.
As a result of the Civil War, the pivot point of the command component shifted from the States to Washington, D.C. With this shift, America ceased to be a Christian Nation.  Thus, if we use the command component as a baseline, and the fact that at one time America consisted of nation-states, we can conclude that America was originally a Christian nation. With this change in the command component, we are no longer a Christian nation.
Thirdly, from a legal perspective, since the loci of command has shifted to the federal government, the United States Constitution is now the dominant legal document.  It is the final reference point for all legal matters, as it is interpreted by the Supreme Court. Originally, from a legal perspective, America as a confederation of states was a Christian nation.  Not so now.
It is my view that the United States Constitution was never a Christian document.  We must realize that our founding forefathers had clay feet just like us.  I believe George Washington (who presided over the Constitutional Convention) was a Christian man, but I think his commitment to the Masonic Lodge (with its unitarian god) was greater than his commitment to the Church.  Ben Franklin, a prominent presence at the Convention, was a deist in addition to being a Mason.
James Madison (not a Mason) studied under Rev. John Witherspoon at what is now Princeton University, but he graduated with a commitment to the perspective of Scottish Realism and Natural Law (learned from Witherspoon).  Religion was good for civil order, but Christian denominations served America best by fighting with each other.  In his mind, this would keep them from establishing a national church.
Christianity so permeated society in early America that our founders could not foresee what would be happening in a little over 200 years.  In predicting the long-term consequences of present actions, we all have our blind spots.
I believe this decision to become legally a secular nation on the federal level during the Constitution Convention was deliberate. There was a real disconnect between the lawyers at the Convention and the clergy in their pulpits.  There was no reference to the Triune God of the Bible or his law in the Constitution.  No religious test was allowed on the national level as it was required on the state level in most states.
Luther Martin, a delegate to the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention from the State of Maryland, said of the debate on this issue:
“The part of the system, which provides that no religious tests shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States, was adopted by a great majority of the Convention, and without much debate.  However, there were some members so unfashionable (like Mr. Martin) as to think that a belief of the existence of a Deity, and of a state of future rewards and punishments, would be welcome security for the good conduct of our rulers, and that in a Christian country, it would be at least decent to hold out some distinction between the professors of Christianity and downright infidelity or paganism.” 
Some argue that a religious test was not needed because the Constitution was intended as a procedural manual only (Rushdoony).  Others argue that since the states had religious tests then none was needed in the U. S. Constitution (DeMar).  Some, like myself, reject both these arguments.  I think those who authored the Constitution knew exactly what they were doing.  They were creating a secular national government based on what they conceived as Natural Law.  Thus, welcome to modern America, the product of a secular United States Constitution.
A religious test in the United States Constitution would have made America legally a Christian nation on a national level, but our forefathers chose a different structure.  With the rise of power in the hands of the federal government supplanting the state governments, America legally forfeited its status as a Christian nation.  Legally, the God of the Bible no longer exists, and if he does exist, he is no longer relevant.
One Christian clergyman saw it all very clearly in his own day. In 1788 the Rev. Henry Abbot was a member of the North Carolina State Convention which was called to ratify the proposed United States Constitution.  Representing his constituents, he spoke to the body of delegates and prophetically said:
“The exclusion of religious tests is by many thought dangerous and impolitic. They suppose that if there is no religious test required, pagans, deists, and Mahometans might obtain offices among us, and that the senators and representatives might all be pagans.”
His constituents saw the issues very clearly. Prophets indeed! The United States Congress in our own time has members who are homosexuals, transgenders, and Muslims.  They are voting on laws to regulate Christian thought and action. Since there is no religious test, the concept of positive law (the law is what I say it is) has replaced biblical law in both judicial and legislative processes.  This does not bode well for our nation.
Conclusion
Foundational definitions matter.  This is what is missing in the current discussion on topics like Christian Nationalism.  One thing is for certain, from what I call the social, command, and legal perspectives, America is no longer a Christian nation. The alarm is now being heard very clearly. Christians are dealing with grief, and are scrambling to do something about it.  Some like Dr. Wolfe are writing books. Some, reluctantly, are adopting his terms.  Others are attacking the writers of such books without offering foundational definitions.  
Yes, ultimately, evangelism is our only hope.  A Christian nation must come from the bottom up (the hearts of a converted people), not from the top down (political legislation).  Neither will it come from heavy-weight books.  America must be discipled again with the gospel before we can begin to think about being a Christian nation. Jesus commanded us to disciple the nations (and not just a few elect from among the nations), and that includes America. Here is where we must begin.
Larry E. Ball is a retired minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is now a CPA. He lives in Kingsport, Tenn.

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“The Shadowy Nature of Theonomy”? A Reply to Batzig

The term theonomy implies nothing more than the application of God’s Law to all of life.  It is true that the sundry laws of the Old Testament expired with the state of that people, but the Westminster Confession of Faith clearly teaches that the general equity of the Old Testament law did not expire with the state of Old Testament Israel. This general equity is normative and regulative not only for the church today, but also for the civil magistrate since he is a minister of the same God as the God who rules the church.

In the recent article, The Shadowy Nature of Theonomy (Nov. 22, 2022), Nicolas T. Batzig takes to task that grand old nemesis of post-modern and Reformed churchmen: Theonomy. He draws the conclusion that the judicial laws of the Old Testament are ecclesiocentric rather than theocentric, i.e., that the judicial laws of the Old Covenant are fulfilled in the New Testament Church alone.  As a shadow of the future, their application was limited to the church only. The earthy Old Testament laws are spiritualized and solitarily find their home in the ecclesia. This thinking fits well with the radical two-kingdom theology prevalent at Westminster Seminary in California.  The assertion is that these Old Testament laws have nothing to do with the realm of the modern civil magistrate today; the church is spiritual and she only becomes soiled when dealing with politics.
However, God’s Kingdom not only includes the church, but also extends beyond the church.  The God of the Bible is sovereign and the center of the universe.  All of life (including the civil magistrate) is under him and his law, thus the term theocentric.
I know Mr. Batzig’s arguments well since I was once in his camp.  I studied at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia (when there was only one) during the late 1960’s and the early 1970’s. I came out of Seminary teaching Mr. Batzig’s views to the churches where I pastored.
Eventually, I concluded that Christ Kingship extends beyond the church into all areas of life.  If Christ is not King over all, then he is not King at all.  I became a student of Rushdoony, North, Bahnsen, Gentry, and DeMar.  I was delivered from my “dogmatic slumber.”
The term theonomy implies nothing more than the application of God’s Law to all of life.  It is true that the sundry laws of the Old Testament expired with the state of that people, but the Westminster Confession of Faith clearly teaches that the general equity of the Old Testament law did not expire with the state of Old Testament Israel. This general equity is normative and regulative not only for the church today, but also for the civil magistrate since he is a minister of the same God as the God who rules the church (Rom. 13:4).
Because of this silence of the church, many Christians today are struggling to find a way to push back against what they see as the deterioration of America.  Hence, the rise of the conversation about Christian Nationalism. The modern church and her ecclesiocentricity has left a vacuum, and many Christians are looking for something to fill that vacuum. I have spoken against the use of the term Christian Nationalism (see my article on Christian Nationalism – Dump the Term While We Still Can), but I have also spoken for the concept of Christendom and the concept of a Christian Nation (e.g., here, here and here).
The Apostle Paul was an apostle to the church and not to the Empire of Rome.  The early church was a persecuted church in embryonic form, and Paul did apply the Old Testament laws to the church (like not muzzling the ox, excommunication, and the necessity of two or three witnesses), and rightly so.
However, just because Paul limited their application to the church in her nascent form does not negate their regulatory purpose in the world outside of the church at other periods in history.  The same general equity of these laws also applies to every other institution of life, especially the civil government. The experience of the New Testament church with the civil magistrate is not normative for all ages. Paul’s teaching in Romans 13 is the standard!  The civil magistrate is to promote good and mitigate evil. The definition of good and evil is found only in the Bible, and the general equity of the Old Testament judicial laws have much to add to our knowledge of good and evil.
For example, in the Old Testament there was a law that demanded a parapet be put around the roof of a house.  There was also a law that a kid shall not be boiled in its mother’s milk.  In specificity, these laws are irrelevant to our society today, except where the general equity does apply. The law requiring parapets teaches us to love our neighbors by taking every precaution to preserve their life.  My neighbor has a fence around her swimming pool. The boiling-milk law teaches us that mothers are to give life to their children and not death.
Christ told us that when we pray, we should ask that his Kingdom come.  His Kingdom is clearly seen by God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven. We do not pray that his will be done only in the church today, but rather on the whole earth in every part of life.  The Lord’s Prayer is not ecclesiocentric.  It is theocentric.
The consequences of ecclesiocentricity have been devastating for our nation and will likely bring a curse upon our children and grandchildren. This is not mere academics, but real life in a real world. Ideas have consequences.  When Christians stopped believing in a theocentric world where God’s law reigns supreme in all areas of life, we, de facto, delivered the realm of the civil magistrate (and all other institutions) over to the religion of Neo-Marxism. Our silence to speak to the issues of our society helped create the lawless world in which we live today. Unlike John the Baptist, we failed to confront the king with the law of God.  We neglected our duty as prophets.
America has been de-Christianized over the last 50-70 years, and consequently abortion and homosexual marriage are now legal. Men dress like women and dance before our youth.  Young children are being groomed into changing their gender by surgical mutilation. Laws (e.g., the Respect for Marriage Act) are presently being promoted to silence all opposition coming from Christians in the public square. This is because what our enemy desires in the end is not toleration but domination.
We are in a war, and ecclesiocentricity is no option for Christians.
Larry E. Ball is a retired minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is now a CPA. He lives in Kingsport, Tenn.
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Two Final Pleas As PCA Presbyteries Vote on the Proposed BCO Amendments

Regarding Item 1: No one is doubting the integrity of a man’s self-description. We believe he rightly owns that description. We believe he is a man of integrity. The major point is whether such a man is eligible to serve as an officer in the PCA. Regarding Item 7: It’s already difficult to get 2 presbyteries to request the Assembly to assume original jurisdiction, and raising it to 10% would make it nearly impossible. 

As of this writing, twelve presbyteries (out of 88) in the PCA have already voted on the proposed amendments to the Book of Church Order (BCO).  It’s becoming late in the game, but I want to make two final pleas hoping to have some influence on the votes of the remaining presbyteries and possibly at the General Assembly next year (to read the wording of each of the proposed amendments, go here).  I’ll be short and hopefully sweet.
Plea Number 1
One argument against Item #1 (from Overture #15 seeking to add BCO 7-4) regarding self- described homosexuals being qualified to be ordained as officers in the PCA has come to my attention. The concern is over the word “claim” as it appears in the proposed amendment (see in italics below).
“Men who describe themselves as homosexual, even those who describe themselves as homosexual and claim to practice celibacy by refraining from homosexual conduct, are disqualified from holding office in the Presbyterian Church in America.”
This is how the opposing argument goes against adopting the wording in Item #1.  The word claim implies that there is a possibility that the man describing himself as a homosexual is not telling us the truth, and therefore this is an unfair judgment upon the man.  The word claim is a poor or bad word, so the proposed amendment, taken as a whole, should be rejected.  Thus, elders are urged to vote against the proposed change based on the use of this one word.
However, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary lists two main definitions of the word claim.  It can mean 1) to assent on the face of possible contradiction, or 2) to take as rightful owner.
It is the second definition of the word claim that is the intent in this proposed change to the BCO.  No one is doubting the integrity of a man’s self-description. We believe he rightly owns that description. We believe he is a man of integrity. The major point is whether such a man is eligible to serve as an officer in the PCA.  To choose one dictionary definition over another equally legitimate definition of the same word in order to negate the major issue of the proposed amendment is, in my opinion, just not fair.
This is my first plea: Vote for Item #1.
Plea Number 2
Item #7 (Overture #8) seeks to amend BCO 33-1 and 34-1 regarding the number of sessions (BCO 33) or presbyteries (BCO 34) are required for a presbytery to assume jurisdiction over a session, or for the General Assembly to assume original jurisdiction over a presbytery in cases of pubic scandal where the original court fails to act (or indict under the new language). The proposal would change the number of courts required from the present 2 courts (sessions or presbyteries) to 10%. The effect of this change would increase the number of sessions needed for a presbytery to act, and in the case of the General Assembly, it would raise the number to assume original jurisdiction to 9 presbyteries. As more presbyteries are added, the number would grow since it is based on a percentage of presbyteries.
A similar attempt was made 20 years ago at the 2002 General Assembly to change the number of presbyteries needed to make the request from two to 10% (an alternative of 5% was considered but was rejected).  The 10% proposal was passed by the General Assembly but failed to be approved by two-thirds of the presbyteries.
The reason I object to this change is that the numbers 2 and 3 are used in the Bible in the matter of judicial procedures.  “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses” (1 Tim. 5:19).  This was also the basis of judicial procedure in the Old Testament (Deut. 19:15), and it is used numerous times in other places in the New Testament.  Paul even used it when referring to the necessity of his third visit to the Corinthian Church (2 Cor. 13:1).
It’s already difficult to get 2 presbyteries to request the Assembly to assume original jurisdiction, and raising it to 10% would make it nearly impossible.  Besides, it is above the minimum requirement specified in the Bible.
This is my second plea: Vote against Item #7.
Larry E. Ball is a retired minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is now a CPA. He lives in Kingsport, Tenn.
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“Christian Nationalism”: Dump the Term While We Still Can

The term Christian Nationalist sends the wrong message to both those outside the church and those inside the church.  Therefore, I simply do not use the term.  I prefer the term Christendom. When I speak of Christendom, surprisingly most people in the church today have never heard of it.  I find this ironic because America (with all her warts) at various times in history could be judged as an example of Christendom. We have been living off that borrowed capital for years, but it is hastily running out.

America is at war—not literally as in the shedding of blood.  At least, not yet.  However, we have not been this divided since the advent of the Civil War.  History does tend to repeat itself.  It appears to me that total anarchy is on the horizon, and the 2024 presidential election could easily trigger this event.
On the one hand, we have a political party (with a president in the White House) that is pro-abortion up to the point of birth, a proponent of homosexual marriage, and an advocate of the mutilation of children in the name of transgenderism.  With this party in power, we are now a nation that is known for Drag Queens teaching children at public libraries, open United States borders, and monetary inflation that steals purchasing power from every household.
On the other hand, we have a second political party in this country that is pushing back on some of these issues, although not all of them. For Bible-believing Christians the present political and social disorder is very appalling.  Most biblical Christians have lost hope in both political parties.
Some Christians are looking for a rapture very soon.  They believe they will escape what could be a coming calamity.  Others, like myself, believe that this is simply the judgment of God on our nation, and this is something we all must face head on.
The issue before us is very simple.  America has changed religions.  From a nation where political laws were based on the Ten Commandments, our nation has been commandeered by those who despise God’s law.  This new religion controls almost all landscapes of our country including the political, the educational, the military, the media, and even the arena of large business corporations.  It is quickly infiltrating the church.
The Evangelical Church is a mess and unable to respond.  Most pastors are silent from the pulpit in order to avoid conflict. Other pastors in the name of the separation of church and state (or the separation of two kingdoms) believe that only the church should be under the law of God, and it is alright if the state legalizes abortion, homosexuality, and the freedom to choose one’s sex. They promote the idea that the church is spiritual and the Bible has no authority over civil magistrates or unbelievers. Persecution is our calling and we should welcome it. It is the way of glory.
Thus, out of desperation and grief, there has arisen a new movement calling itself Christian Nationalism.  It is a backlash against the current war against Christianity.  It is partially a replacement movement for a silent church.  Leaders include Marjorie Taylor Greene, a U.S. House Representative from Georgia, and Lauren Boebert, a U. S. House Representative from Colorado.  Al Mohler, who has spoken against the use of the term in the past, now seems to be warming up to it.
For several reasons, I am opposed to adopting or using the term Christian Nationalism as a response to the present anti-Christian crusade.  I believe the term will do more harm than good.  My reasons are as follows.
First, no one has defined the term Christian Nationalism.  There is no consensus on what it means.  Cultural theologians, both liberal and conservative are attempting to give it meaning, seeking to be the first in line to claim that honor.
Secondly, it is all happening so fast that it makes my head swim.  It may be time to just sit down and do more thinking about it rather than bellow the term in frustration.  Proverbs 25:8 tells us to be cautious about arguing our case too quickly. This is wisdom that is needed in our day.
Thirdly, the term nationalism will be associated with the Nazi Nationalism of Germany before World War ll.  Since the mainstream media is pushing this narrative too, and since they control much of public opinion, biblical Christians who are vocal will be called Nazis.  In the case of our present President of the United States, he has already called people like me Semi-Facist.  The FBI has become a political arm of the present regime, and many vocal Christians will likely come under considerable scrutiny (like the My Pillow Man).
Fourthly, no one that I know believes that the church should rule the state.  In the Old Testament there was a separation of the realms of Moses and Aaron.  In the New Testament the power of the sword belongs to the civil magistrate and not to the church.  This idea of the church ruling the state is simply a false conflagration to scare the ignorant and to create a false phobia.
The separation of church and state is biblical.  However, no one can separate religion and state.  Every state will be dominated by some religion, whether it be Christianity, Islam, or (now in the case of America) Neo-Marxism (see my book Critical Race Theory and the Church – A Concise Analysis).
I have the same frustration as both Representatives Greene and Boebert, but I have a better name for what they want to see.  It is called Christendom!  It is a word that has been in use for hundreds of years.  It does not have a pejorative connotation tied to it.  It simply refers to a nation that, either by a consensus of the people (democracy) or by royal inheritance (Great Britain), is a culture governed by Christian principles and as such will be blessed with peace and prosperity.
In Christendom the church-state separation is respected.  The ten commandments are the basis of a civil society.  The laws of the state should reflect in principle the laws of God.  No one is forced to go to church.  After working six days, God gives us a day of rest.  The dignity of life is to be protected, even those in the womb.  Adultery is treason against the family because God created the family for security and protection. Opportunity is based on merit, and not on race or color.
The term Christian Nationalist sends the wrong message to both those outside the church and those inside the church.  Therefore, I simply do not use the term.  I prefer the term Christendom.
When I speak of Christendom, surprisingly most people in the church today have never heard of it.  I find this ironic because America (with all her warts) at various times in history could be judged as an example of Christendom. We have been living off that borrowed capital for years, but it is hastily running out. The bank account is almost empty.
Only a full-orbed gospel can create a true and lasting Christendom.  The hearts of the elect must first be changed through the power of the Holy Spirit.  In Christendom, good Christian men will become leaders in all the domains of life. This is the only way to stop the present slide toward insanity and suicide.  Remember, all who hate God love death (Prov. 8:36).  Not all men in a Christian nation will be Christians, but in spite of their rebellious hearts, they will reap some of the blessings of God.
There is much that could be said about this topic.  I cannot deal with it all here.  I am not sure that I am capable.  But I plead for my Christian brethren to dump the term Christian Nationalism and use the term Christendom.  Then, let the real conversation begin.
Larry E. Ball is a retired minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is now a CPA. He lives in Kingsport, Tenn.
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The Story Behind Overture 15: The Original Intent of Its Author

We all struggle with the darkness of all types of sins.  My entire case for submitting the original overture is that the “public” announcement (like in Christianity Today) of constantly struggling with any particular sin disqualifies a man from holding office in the church.  The key word here is not the word “struggles” or even the word “sin,” but rather the word “public.”  What is public is a man’s reputation.  A man may fight privately with all types of sin which do not have dominion over him, but once he comes out of the closet and names those sins publicly to the whole world, he loses his eligibility to hold office. 

I appreciate the recent article in The Aquila Report, Clarity on Overture 15, by Ryan Biese.  It provided more precision in stating what Overture 15 actually says.  In this post, he takes issue with a public statement recently made by the PCA Stated Clerk summarizing the Overture as meaning that “the desire itself is disqualifying.” On the contrary, this Overture speaks of “men who describe themselves as homosexuals….” Mr. Biese is correct.  There is a big difference here.
Our Stated Clerk refers in this same public presentation to the fact that he had brought together in the same room those who are in opposition to each other on this issue.  Supposedly, this discussion produced a compromise resulting in Overtures 29 and 31. However, the Stated Clerk misjudged the PCA as a whole.  Overture 15 came out of nowhere like a misfired missile.
Well, I was not in the room! I have always been an outlier. Maybe I should have been in the room, since I was the originator of Overture 15 that came from Westminster Presbytery (in Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee).  It originally came from the Session of my former Church who asked for my advice before they submitted this overture to our Presbytery several years ago.  The Overture was approved by our Presbytery, and then in good and proper parliamentary fashion disappeared at the 48th General Assembly in St. Louis.  This was what I call the first disappearance.
Early this year (2022) before the meeting of the General Assembly in Birmingham, I submitted the overture again to Westminster Presbytery, but it was lost when it was sent to a Committee. I think it was inadvertently lost in the transmission from the Clerk of Presbytery to the Chairman of the Committee. This was the second disappearance.
Because it was lost, I later reminded Presbytery that it had vanished.  I also reminded them that I had submitted it at the previous Presbytery meeting.  At this point I had finally made a decision to withdraw it altogether.  I was thinking that the Lord must have a purpose in what appeared to be some type of providential evaporation of this overture.  So, the overture was sent back to the same Presbytery committee to act upon my request to withdraw it from any further consideration. Later, a member of that Committee, representing the Committee as a whole, called me and asked that I not withdraw it, and that it be presented to Westminster Presbytery a third time.  I agreed, and it was adopted by Presbytery and sent to the General Assembly.  So, the “big one” (now Overture 15) almost did not make it to the General Assembly.  God works in mysterious ways. Just think—and we would never have heard the famous speech by Dr. Palmer Robertson!
As I have mentioned before (Overture 15 – The Tipping Point for a Split in the PCA? – July 18) in The Aquila Report, I expect BCO Changes in Overtures with numbers 29 and 31 to be to be adopted by 2/3 of the presbyteries and then pass by a majority vote at the next General Assembly.  Victory will be declared and everything will go on the same in the PCA, except there will be a few more churches leave our denomination.  From a statement that Greg Johnson made on the floor of the General Assembly this year, he appears to be able to live with these changes in the Book of Church Order, so that should tell you all you need to know about them.
Let me add a little more precision to the meaning of the original overture which was slightly edited by the Overtures Committee in Birmingham.  The word “Identify” was changed to “describe.”  Evidently, for some major reason, the word “identify” is a bad word in this context.  Better to speak of those who “describe themselves as homosexuals.” I don’t particularly like this change in wording, but the Overture belongs to the Church now and not to me.
My original intent in what has become Overture 15 was not to disqualify from office in the PCA anyone who struggles with sin, either homosexuality, incest, or even bestiality (or even theft or murder). Don’t be shocked about incest and bestiality, especially as some college students are now taking litterboxes with them to their classrooms.  This is not the reason I submitted the original overture.  I do believe that homosexuality, incest, or even bestiality are more heinous sins.  They are perversions of God’s created order. They are more specifically called abominations by God.  However, even this was not the reason I submitted the original overture.
We all struggle with the darkness of all types of sins.  My entire case for submitting the original overture is that the “public” announcement (like in Christianity Today) of constantly struggling with any particular sin disqualifies a man from holding office in the church.  The key word here is not the word “struggles” or even the word “sin,” but rather the word “public.”  What is public is a man’s reputation.  A man may fight privately with all types of sin which do not have dominion over him, but once he comes out of the closet and names those sins publicly to the whole world, he loses his eligibility to hold office.  The biblical basis for this is that a man who holds office must be of “good repute with those outside of the church” (1 Tim. 3:7).  In a wicked society like today, this public announcement that a man is a homosexual may be viewed with admiration by those outside the church, but in the context of the biblical era, it was shameful. Letting people know that we struggle with sin in general is biblical (Rms. 7), but once we begin to name them particularly and talk about them all the time, then we move beyond the exemplar of the Bible.
Thus, I believe that a man may struggle constantly with homosexual desires and still hold office in the church.  As long as it is private and he keeps it private.  We all have private sinful thoughts and tendencies that are only known to us and to God.  However, if we have concluded that they do not have dominion over us, and by God’s grace we can handle them in a biblical fashion, then we may legitimately deduce that we are not disqualified from holding office.  There is no biblical requisite that we publicly broadcast our particular struggles. Once a man comes out of the closet, especially as he identifies himself with the genre of homosexuality in terms of dress and various other signals, he loses his reputation and the right to speak God’s Word authoritatively.
Contrary to the PCA Stated Clerk, the mere existence of the desire of homosexuality is not the issue.  The issue is neither self-identification (or self-description) as long as that self-identification is private.  However, public acknowledgement to the world is a whole different matter.  At least it was to the Apostle Paul.  My intent of the proposed amendment to the BCO was specifically about those who publicly describe themselves as homosexuals.  The publication of the existence of a man’s lust to those outside the church makes it very dangerous to the individual, to those who sit under his oversight, and to young people who are tempted to experiment with the unknown. It will definitely change the attitude of the next generation. It spreads like cancer, especially in a woke culture.  In addition, it hurts the reputation of the church.  It damages the gospel of Jesus Christ. It disqualifies a man from being an ordained representative of our Savior.
A generation known for humility and extreme privacy (such as the World War II generation) has produced a generation that appears to need public recognition, whether it be for righteousness or for sinfulness.  So, it is not a matter of temptation, sinful thoughts, or even private self-assessment. It’s a matter of the public reputation of a man who has been given the right by the visible church to speak publicly in the name of God.
Larry E. Ball is a retired minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is now a CPA. He lives in Kingsport, Tenn.
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Are We Stuck in the Reformation Period?: A Brief Diatribe

Neo-Marxists are re-creating history, inventing a new language, targeting the Christian family, and are seeking to eradicate the two sexes that God created in the Garden of Eden. Children are being chemically castrated and physically mutilated in order to change genders. A justice who sits on the Supreme Court who cannot define what a woman is.  This is the tip of the iceberg, and worst of all it is seeping into the church through false guilt and misplaced pity.  Or, perhaps, and just as dangerous, your church may be ignoring this monster altogether claiming that they are being faithful stewards by concentrating on “spiritual” matters.  

The Protestant Reformation was one of the paramount events in the history of the world.  The Westminster Confession of Faith may be one of the greatest man-made documents ever prepared by the church.  The doctrine of justification by faith alone is the crux of our hope in Christ.
Contrary to what I witnessed a number of years ago, Reformed churches today have become uncompromising in teaching and protecting the great truths coming out of the Reformation period. Only a few decades ago, there were just a few of these churches, at least in the South.  I am a witness to that, having been ordained for over fifty years.  Indeed, every generation must be diligent in protecting these truths because every generation produces its own heresies. If the Reformed Faith is not aggressively taught, it will be lost. Reformed churches will die.  I have witnessed this too.
However, if we remain in the culture of the Reformation period without expanding our defense of the faith against modern insurgent movements bent on destroying our beloved church, then we are in great danger.  We are failing the very people over whom we are called to be shepherds.
Sitting through presbytery ordination examinations for these last fifty years, it has become obvious to me that there is a major flaw in the seminary education of our young men preparing for the ministry. They have no knowledge of that which is a real and present danger.  Later as pastors, they don’t read outside the box of what they were given in seminary.  It’s not what you hear from the pulpit that is the problem.  You are probably hearing orthodoxy every Sunday.  It’s what you don’t hear from the pulpit that concerns me.
The greatest threat to our nation and to the modern church today is Neo-Marxism.  If you do not know what that is, then someone has failed you in your Christian walk. With all due respect to my godly brethren in the pulpits, probably your pastor will be hard-pressed to explain it.  Neo-Marxism is the great white elephant in the room.
Neo-Marxism is a religion.  It is the most dangerous modern enemy seeking to destroy Christianity.  It has infiltrated almost every institution in America from modern universities to the civil government. It is capturing our public education system.  It is foundational in courses taught in graduate business schools.  Results based on Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) scores set the religious direction of our corporations.  It is the religion that undergirds three of the largest investment institutions in the world – Blackrock, Vanguard, and State Street.
Neo-Marxists are re-creating history, inventing a new language, targeting the Christian family, and are seeking to eradicate the two sexes that God created in the Garden of Eden. Children are being chemically castrated and physically mutilated in order to change genders. A justice who sits on the Supreme Court who cannot define what a woman is.  This is the tip of the iceberg, and worst of all it is seeping into the church through false guilt and misplaced pity.  Or, perhaps, and just as dangerous, your church may be ignoring this monster altogether claiming that they are being faithful stewards by concentrating on “spiritual” matters.
Seminary instruction is heavy-weighted on the side of soteriology and missiology.  There are no classes on Neo-Marxism.  The very weapons that seminary students need to fight against the modern tenets of Satan are avoided. It’s the great failure of American Christianity.  The reasons for this failure are numerous, and I cannot go into those here.
This is a diatribe. It’s not an introduction to a book.  It’s really not a short article written for edification. It’s one way to handle my immense frustrations with the modern pulpit. Remember, I have been in the pulpit myself for over fifty years.  Maybe that gives me a right to say what I am saying.  What better way to conclude this short diatribe than by a quote attributed to Martin Luther.
“If I profess, with the loudest voice and the clearest exposition, every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christianity. Where the battle rages the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle-field besides is mere flight and disgrace to him if he flinches at that one point.”
Larry E. Ball is a retired minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is now a CPA. He lives in Kingsport, Tenn.
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Overture 15 – The Tipping Point for a Split in the PCA?

The following is the wording of Overture 15 approved by the General Assembly: “Men who describe themselves as homosexual, even those who describe themselves as homosexual and claim to practice celibacy by refraining from homosexual conduct, are disqualified from holding office in the Presbyterian Church in America.”

The Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) is divided over whether men who describe themselves as homosexuals (even though they claim to practice celibacy) should be able to hold the offices of elder or deacon in the Church. This division was evident at the 49th General Assembly (GA) in Birmingham, Alabama, where the Majority Report of the Overtures Committee recommended a motion to deny Overture 15 from Westminster Presbytery.
However, a Minority Report of the Overtures Committee that recommended a slightly edited version of Overture 15 was adopted by the Assembly. A motion to make the Minority Report the main motion was adopted by a vote of 1099-1049.  This was only a 50-vote difference. If this procedural vote had failed, the Minority Report (and Overture 15) would have been dead in the water.  This Minority Report has now become a proposed amendment to the Book of Church Order (BCO) which must pass a vote of 2/3 of the presbyteries. Then finally, it must pass by a majority vote at the next General Assembly in Memphis, Tennessee.
Overture 15[1] cuts to the chase and lays the cards on the table. It is short and concise.  It basically says that men who describe themselves as homosexuals, even though they claim to practice celibacy, are disqualified from holding office in the PCA.  It gets to the root of the problem that is causing the division in the PCA.  Because it is so succinct and to the point, the wording itself should not be a major issue of contention.
Its brevity should circumvent typical objections to both language and parliamentary procedure, even though some will object because they don’t like the word “claim,” and others because the amendment could better be placed in another part of the BCO.  I have heard other PCA elders call the language inflammatory and unloving.  However, there is not much wiggle room here.  Basically, a man is either for it or against it.
As Dr. Palmer Robertson alluded to in his speech on the floor of the Assembly, Overture 15 draws the line in the sand. The line has been drawn and the future of the PCA will be greatly impacted by this vote.  I don’t think most people in the PCA realize how serious this is.
I expect that Overture 15 will fail to get the required number of presbytery votes needed in order to be presented to the next GA as a change to the BCO. This effort is viewed by many in the PCA as the last possible attempt to change the direction of our beloved Church. If this proposed change in the BCO fails, then the battle might very well be over. It may be said that the conservatives fought well, but they lost.  The question then becomes what will happen after that. What happens in the PCA if Overture 15 fails?  I see three possibilities.
First, there could be some who will try again.  More overtures next year?  Some may fight on. However, many of the conservatives in the PCA are tired of fighting, and I think the number of new overtures on this issue will drop dramatically, if not disappear altogether. Every option available has been pursued including judicial action, study reports, and changes to the BCO, but all these have failed to stop the direction of the PCA.
Secondly, this could lead to a split in the PCA. However, the problem with this scenario on a national level is that there is no leadership for this type of movement. Without leadership, it just will not happen. Maybe in another 5-10 years, but not now.  The Gospel Reformation Network (GRN) does not appear to be making any plans for this.  No one else of any stature has stepped up to the plate.
I don’t expect any split in the PCA. The tepid overtures this year on this issue, which define sanctification in generic terms, came from some of our most conservative presbyteries. Only Westminster Presbytery (Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia) had the temerity to submit a forthright overture like 15.
Unless there is a confident move on the part of come in the PCA, she will remain intact.  Overture #29 will be adopted.  It will be used as a tool to say that the problem has been resolved. Attendance at the GA by ruling elders will drop, and the PCA will then move more in the direction of the progressive left. History will not look kindly upon my generation.
Thirdly, I think the most likely reaction will be that more individual churches will leave the PCA, and either seek membership in the OPC or the ARP.  Vanguard Presbytery is not an option because within a two-year period, that group has already experienced a division which resulted in a new denomination of only a very miniscule number of churches.
As a charter member of the first General Assembly in Birmingham, Alabama in 1973, this is all heart-breaking for me.  It seems providentially ironic that at the 50th General Assembly celebration of the PCA, the vision of our founding fathers will be the beginning of the end. The dream that these men had just fifty years ago will disappear.
I would plead with all the readers of this article that they contact their teaching and ruling elders and encourage them to vote for the passage of the Proposed Change to the Book of Church Order reflecting the content of Overture 15.  I encourage you to send this article to all of your friends in the PCA.  The PCA was founded by the grassroots, and I believe that only the grassroots can save her.
Larry E. Ball is a retired minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is now a CPA. He lives in Kingsport, Tenn.
[1] The following is the wording of Overture 15 approved by the General Assembly: “Men who describe themselves as homosexual, even those who describe themselves as homosexual and claim to practice celibacy by refraining from homosexual conduct, are disqualified from holding office in the Presbyterian Church in America.”
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Some Early Reactions to the 49th PCA General Assembly

Even though the PCA consists of men who love the Lord and love our standards, it is greatly divided.  The future still looks dim, but light continues to shine in the most unusual places at the most inopportune times. I attribute this to fervent prayer. Never discount the providence of God to change things.  My fear today in the modern evangelical world is that energized holiness is being replaced by quiet piety, and therapeutic theology under the guise of love has replaced the Law of God. 

I was not there, but I watched most of the 49th PCA General Assembly (GA) online. I’m actually elated, if only for a short time.  Let me tell you why.

The enrollment was the largest ever with 2380 commissioners registered. I don’t have the demographics, but this indicates to me that many ruling elders from our most conservative churches, especially in the southern states, turned out in large numbers. People in the pew are angry with the direction of the PCA.  I know of a number of churches who sent commissioners telling them “to fight for the truth.” These churches had not sent commissioners to the GA for many years.
If the National Partnership (a progressive caucus of well-known leaders in the PCA) was active, its influence was not detected. No doubt they lost on a number of key issues. It is encouraging to think that the National Partnership (NP) cannot overrule the actions of the commissioners at the General Assembly. The NP has endured bad PR over the last year, and they have not recovered.  What we saw in the Assembly was a “popular revolt.” The candidate of the conservative Gospel Reformation Network (GRN) was not elected as Moderator, but unlike the Southern Baptist Convention who elects a President with numerous powers, the PCA elects a moderator of the assembly whose influence stops after the Assembly.  Highly capable and virtuous men are usually elected as Moderator, and such was the case again this year with the election of RE John Bise.
The first major victory for the conservatives was the vote to withdraw from the National Association of Evangelical (NAE). The NAE has become part of the woke movement, and their political statements do not reflect the sentiments of most members in the PCA. This proposal has been before the Assembly on a number of occasions in the past, but was always defeated, usually after a speech by Dr. Roy Taylor, the former Stated Clerk.  Respect for him has always been so high that he would usually tip the vote in the direction of staying in the NAE.  Not this year!  The vote to leave was approved by a 60-40 ratio.  Taylor filed a protest, but that was all he could do.  The Assembly had spoken.
The major event again this year was the issue of homosexual officers. The proposed amendments to change the Book of Church Order last year failed, but this did not stop the grass roots from coming back again. Two new overture numbers you now need to remember are 15 and 29.
Overture 29 cleaned up the language of the proposed changes to the BCO that failed last year, and was easily adopted. It will be sent back to the presbyteries for a 2/3 vote, and I suspect that it will pass not only at the presbytery level, but also at the GA meeting next year in Memphis. I call it the generic overture. It reflects the position of the Ad-Interim Committee Report on Human Sexuality which has been widely praised by the PCA as a whole.  TE Greg Johnson rose to say that he could accept the wording of this proposed change to the Book of Church Order (BCO), but he also said that it was not kind and loving enough to the gay community. This confirms my point in a previous article in The Aquila Report that the language of this Overture can be so tweaked that it will change nothing “Targeting Homosexual Officers in the PCA Again: Are We Being too Nice?”
The “Jack in the Box” of the whole Assembly was Overture 15 which came out of Westminster Presbytery.[1] This Overture to amend the BCO was submitted last year but was rejected by a simple reference to the actions of the Assembly on other related overtures.  Last year it disappeared into the darkness.  The original wording stated, “Any man who identifies himself as a homosexual (even if his practices celibacy in that self-identification) shall be disqualified from holding office in the PCA.”  It was edited slightly before passage.  One of the weakest arguments against this overture was that it proposed a change to the wrong place in the BCO.  A common strategy in assembly meetings is death by procedural maneuvers.  It did not work this time.  Many members of the Assembly were “hungry” for a statement like this.  Concise and to the point!  Early in the debate, one commissioner rose and stated his disappointment with Overture 29 since it did not speak specifically to the issue of homosexual identity.  What was he going to tell his congregation at home?  He knew he needed some good news, and Overture 29 did not give that to him. He was told to wait until the consideration of Overture 15.
The highlight of the Assembly was the appearance of Dr. O. Palmer Robertson who has been absent it seems for decades. I sat under Dr. Robertson as Professor of Old Testament at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia (1969-1972).  Robertson has been serving in Uganda as a missionary for 25 years and it appeared to me that he has not been keeping up with all the dialogue about homosexual officers. However, he was like a man resurrected from the past who spoke a different language than what is heard today in seminaries and progressive churches.  He spoke with intellectual passion and read Romans 1:26-28.  He pointed to the word “perversion” and how words like “sodomy” and “sodomite” were not used any more.  I believe his speech tipped the Assembly to approve Overture 15.  If nothing else comes from this Assembly, then at least modern seminary-trained teaching elders now are able to see how much seminary training has changed over the last 50 years. To listen to Dr. Robertson’s speech go here.
Overture 15 passed by an initial vote of 1094 to 1044, just a 50-vote margin. Yes, I understand what most people are saying about this.  It will never pass the high threshold of 2/3 of the presbyteries.  I will say two things about that. First, I never thought it would even make it to the floor of the General Assembly for a vote, but I was wrong. I don’t think it will pass the presbytery vote either, but I could be wrong again.  A year is a long time, and sometimes providential events change the course of history. Second, even if it does not pass the high bar set by the BCO, it was a moment of jubilance anyway.  It was needed to encourage the souls of those who have been losing most battles in years past.  I’ll take the joy and wallow in it for a while. If all the conservatives who have left the PCA would have stayed and fought with us, the victories would have been larger and sweeter.
Other items to note include the fact that 25% of the Assembly voted not re-elect the current Stated Clerk. This was highly unusual.  However, the missing link in the Assembly was the absence of any discussion about the $13.5 million taken by the PCA Boards and Agencies from the federal government (via the Small Business Administration) during the covid crisis.  See the Aquila Report “PCA Committees and Agencies Received At Least $13.5 Million From the Small Business Payroll Protection Program in 2020.” Under what was called the Payroll Protection Program (PPP), these entities received money from the federal government in the form of loans.  If those loans were properly used as restricted by the federal government, then they were forgiven.  They never have to be paid back. The PCA is proud of her heritage of not getting involved in political matters (except by way of humble petition), but when it comes to taking free money from the State (taxpayers of whom many who are not Christians), there appears to be no conscientious objection. Nothing was done illegally, but it’s amazing how the modern church can take taxpayer money for free from the State and use it for building of the Kingdom of God. The same civil government that legalizes homosexual marriage and is pushing ungodly transgenderism is the same entity that we go to when we need money. The same State that is targeting the church as an enemy has become our trusted philanthropist in a time of need.  What every happened to the separation of church and state?
Even though the PCA consists of men who love the Lord and love our standards, it is greatly divided.  The future still looks dim, but light continues to shine in the most unusual places at the most inopportune times. I attribute this to fervent prayer. Never discount the providence of God to change things.  My fear today in the modern evangelical world is that energized holiness is being replaced by quiet piety, and therapeutic theology under the guise of love has replaced the Law of God.  But brethren, I am hopeful!  Take heart, we who love the PCA are in this for the long run.

Larry E. Ball is a retired minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is now a CPA. He lives in Kingsport, Tenn.
[1] The following is the wording approved by the General Assembly: “Men who describe themselves as homosexual, even those who describe themselves as homosexual and claim to practice celibacy by refraining from homosexual conduct, are disqualified from holding office in the Presbyterian Church in America.”

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Missouri Presbytery Admits PR Mistakes But Nothing Has Changed

My intent here is…simply to remind the PCA generally and the GA commissioners specifically, that the Bible plainly teaches that an officer in the church must be above reproach and have a good reputation with those outside of the church.  Men who publicly proclaim their status as homosexuals (even though they practice celibacy) should not hold office in the PCA. That is the issue before the GA, and not the views of Missouri Presbytery with regard to her own failures.

Just a few days before the 49th General Assembly (GA) of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), all Presbyteries and their members (which would include all commissioners to the 49th GA) received in their personal email inbox a communication from Missouri Presbytery (MOP).  This was sent from the Stated Clerk of MOP to the PCA Stated Clerk who then forwarded it to each individual Presbytery Clerk. Each Presbytery Clerk then decided whether to send it on to the members of the Presbytery.  The email was a response of MOP to the judicial decision of the PCA Standing Judicial Commission (SJC) in SJC 2020-05 (TE Ryan Speck v. Missouri Presbytery), to make amends to their errors in dealing with Revoice 18 in order to protect the peace and purity of the PCA.  This was to be done in part by interacting with the Ad-Interim Report on Human Sexuality.
After reading the report I came to one conclusion.  It is good Public Relations (PR), but nothing changed with regard to the ordination of men in the PCA who publicly identify as being a homosexual. It does not alter the need for a change in the Book of Church Order.  It should not negate the numerous overtures sent to the GA by various presbyteries to deal with this issue.
It does not deal with the main issue of whether Greg Johnson (and now others) in the PCA should continue as ordained officers, even though they have publicly proclaimed that they are homosexuals, and that this orientation is fixed.
My intent here is not to get into the substance of the report of MOP sent to the clerks via the GA Stated Clerk, but simply to remind the PCA generally and the GA commissioners specifically, that the Bible plainly teaches that an officer in the church must be above reproach and have a good reputation with those outside of the church.  Men who publicly proclaim their status as homosexuals (even though they practice celibacy) should not hold office in the PCA. That is the issue before the GA, and not the views of Missouri Presbytery with regard to her own failures.
I’m not sure that I have ever received a communication from another Presbytery via the Stated Clerk of my own Presbytery. I can understand this being placed into the minutes of the General Assembly, but I am concerned that a document that could so easily sway the Assembly should be sent out in such a fashion, so close to the meeting of the Assembly itself.  It is my opinion that only a Presbytery itself (voting as a court in session) has the right to choose what documents should be received and distributed among its members.
My fear is that as a result of the timing, the means of distribution, and the content of this communication, it may only further divide the PCA.
Larry E. Ball is a retired minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is now a CPA. He lives in Kingsport, Tenn.
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