An Open Letter to the Ministers of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church

 

Editor’s Comments: The article below is by Mr. Craig Mutton. Mr. Mutton and his family are members of the Unity ARP Church, Piedmont, South Carolina.

On July 14, 2012 I sent an open letter to the officials of the ARPC at the Synod level. I also published it in the comments section of ARPTalk. The Rev. Chuck Wilson has asked me to expand my original letter, to give a somewhat fuller explanation and argument. The result follows.

The Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church has a problem of long standing. Some would identify that problem as Erskine College and Seminary. I do not; instead, I see the situation at Erskine College and Seminary (EC&S) both as a symptom and as a manifestation of a deeper problem. Let me use an analogy to define that problem as I see it.

Suppose a local church operates a Christian day school. The session hires a principal, who in turn hires the school’s faculty and staff. Now, suppose that some of these teachers instruct their students contrary to the beliefs of the church. In fact, the teachers actually mock the church’s doctrines and the elders who hold to them.

In response, the pastor leads the session in composing a letter of remonstrance to the principal and faculty. The letter spells out the church’s expectation that the faculty and staff of the school must publicly acknowledge the church’s doctrine and conform their teaching to its standards.

The school personnel, however, ignore the letter. The session sends another. And another. And another. This goes on for years. Some of the letters contain warnings that if the teachers do not comply, they will suffer consequences. As it turns out, the only consequences come in the form of more letters, with more warnings. Through the whole process, the session continues to approve payment of the principal’s and teachers’ salaries.

Now, some may think that the primary problem lies with the teachers. Get rid of them, and everything will be fine. Others will lay major blame at the feet of the principal who hired unbelievers to teach in a Christian school. I say the real source of the problem lies with a pastor and session who refuse to get off the dime and take punitive action against each employee who has broken faith with the church and school.

The church’s leadership professes the teachings of Scripture. But every time a scoffing teacher receives a paycheck, the leaders’ actions side with unbelief

When pastors and ruling elders act as though they have a stack of marshmallows in place of a backbone, when they allow church employees to run roughshod over them, and when they do no more than engage in hand wringing when said employees subvert the faith of their covenant children, then they do not HAVE a problem. They ARE the problem! They have manifested themselves as the root issue.

Let me put it another way. Sheep graze, but pigs root and wallow. When pigs mingle with the flock and spoil the pasture, don’t blame the pigs. Blame the delinquent shepherds who neglect to separate the intruders from the flock.

Now, as I turn from my analogies, consider the relationship between the ARPC and its educational institutions. Going back decades, Synod after Synod has issued numerous directives to EC&S. Look at one excerpt as an example:

As a Christian college, the uniqueness of each individual is a basic premise, but the universality of our human dependence on Jesus Christ as the ultimate Word is equally fundamental, the point of reference for all knowledge and all experience being Biblical revelation and authority

You would search long and hard to find an equally succinct Biblical statement of educational philosophy. The directive quoted above shows no lack in philosophy or theology, but rather in application. A confessional church cannot maintain its theological integrity without provision for negative sanctions and the will to use them.

One Christian historian has observed that conservatives’ hesitancy to impose sanctions played a key role in the loss of the Northern Presbyterian Church.

Theology without sanctions becomes mere opinion . . . . Without the threat of sanctions, the Confession and the catechisms steadily became museum pieces. The modernists’ strategy was to defend the legitimacy of verbal profession at the time of one’s ordination, but deny the moral legitimacy of Church sanctions to defend the integrity of these professions. This was a strategy that the New School had already established as a de facto policy of the denomination in 1869. It was to lead, step by step, decade by decade, to the capture of Northern Presbyterianism by the modernists. (Gary North, Crossed Fingers, pp. 142, 144)

The provision for sanctions exists in the ARPC. Recent history, however, demonstrates that the majority have lacked the will to enforce their own directives. Instead, they have continued to fund an institution well leavened with liberalism, thereby contributing support to those whose work subverts the faith.

God has chosen his ministers to receive the tithes of His people and to disburse those funds for His Kingdom and in accord with the principles of Scripture. Can they so flagrantly violate that trust without incurring His hot displeasure? God’s ministers should not take the fiduciary responsibility that He has laid upon them lightly. They will give a strict account of what they have done with the assets of the Kingdom. (Luke 19:15-27) I do not see the Lord of Heaven looking with indifference on those who have used His money to pay for the enemy’s servants to propagate their false teaching.

The 2012 Synod had an opportunity to stop the flow of funds to the educational complex that has stubbornly resisted conformity to our confessional standards. A majority voted to continue to hand God’s money over to them. No matter how fervently they may attest loyalty to Scripture and the Confession, their actions have overwhelmed their profession.

They remind me of the priests in the Northern Kingdom who bade the people worship idols in the name of the LORD. They, too, received tithes from the people, and the prophet Amos issued them the following rebuke:

Go to Bethel, and sin; to Gilgal, multiply sinning; and offer your slain-offerings in the morning, your tithes every three days (Amos 4:4, as found in Keil & Delitzsch)

God’s people took their tithes to two centers of idolatry, thinking that this would constitute compliance with God’s commands. John Calvin’s comments on the verse emphatically demonstrate how far wrong they had gone:

The Prophet here again pours contempt on the perverse confidence, in which the Israelites were become hardened. They thought, indeed, that their worship was fully approved by God, when they offered Sacrifices in Bethel and Gilgal. But the Prophet here shows, that the more sedulously they labored in performing sacred things, the more grievously they offended God, and the heavier judgment they gained for themselves.

I might paraphrase Amos’ words as follows:

Go to Erskine College and sin; to Erskine Seminary, multiply sinning; and offer your . . . tithes every three days.

Since the Church’s highest court has dragged its feet for so long, I must conclude that those who think the ARPC will resolve this issue soon have engaged in a shallow and baseless optimism. I further conclude that the allocation of a portion of God’s tithe to a rival religion will continue. (On liberalism as a rival religion, see J.G Machen, Christianity and Liberalism)

I understand that my God has appointed the tithe not as a gift, but as an obligation that I owe Him. The money belongs to Him by right and by Scriptural statute. (See Malachi 3:8) Because of this, I have wrestled for some time over whether I should withhold my tithe until such time as the Synod of the ARP Church should cease to fund the propagation of antichristianity. As I search Scripture, however, I can find no principle or precedent for such an act. Furthermore, withholding my tithe on account of Erskine would not address the root problem which centers upon slackness of the ministers of the ARPC, not apostasy at the college and seminary.

We really need to see our ministers repent deeply with a resultant change of attitudes and actions. Therefore, I have decided to continue to pay my tithe to and through this local church, though under protest. Moreover, as the Church’s earthly court seems bent on pursuing the status quo, I have petitioned a higher court, according to the precedent and example of Psalm 82 (et. al.).

Each Sabbath that the deacons collect my tithe, I will pray God’s judgment on all who knowingly and willingly participate in the transfer of His money to Erskine. I do not like to do this, but until God’s appointed judges take their ordination oaths seriously enough to defend the ARP Church from the false teachers who have attached themselves like leeches to its body, I see no other option.

My prayers of imprecation will continue until the courts of the Church a) take control and expel the humanists and apostates from EC&S, or b) cut off all funds to the offending institutions.

Now, some may think that my declaration partakes of some spirit other than that of “gentle Jesus, meek and mild.” I will remind them of Jesus’ own imprecations directed at the Pharisees because they acted as unfaithful stewards of the Kingdom. (See Matthew 23)

I intend this letter only as a notification and not an indictment of anyone in particular who serves in official capacity in the ARPC. Since the curse causeless shall not come (Proverbs 26:2), I will leave in God’s hands the determination of who in our denomination bears responsibility for the current deplorable state of affairs.

In conclusion, let me make it clear that I have not spoken out because I like to participate in controversy. In fact, I hate confrontation. I would much rather see our denomination in the place of Psalm 81:13-16 than in the place of Psalm 109:6-15.

Respectfully,

Craig Mutton

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  1. Dorothy Morris says:

    Well said, Mr. Mutton! Loved the analogies!!!
    Sincerely,
    Dorothy Morris

     
    • Craig Mutton says:

      Thank you, ma’am. I always dread public confrontations — and private ones, too, for that matter. Therefore, every word of encouragement means a lot.

       
  2. Jonn Wilde says:

    We like sheep have gone astray. (Sorry Mr. Mutton, I couldn’t resist).

     
    • Craig Mutton says:

      That’s okay, Mr. Wilde. You have joined a long list of people who, over the years, likewise could not resist.
      ;-)

       

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