Anthony W. Brooks
In this Sabbath Day musing I will be starting a series of posts on why I am a Presbyterian. But don’t take this musing as an attempt to convert anyone over to my side, I believe that my experience and train of thought is subjective and can hardly be the vehicle of persuasion on this point. But I feel like it is a journey worth sharing, and since my theological presuppositions are the foundation for all that I write, it is worth exploring.
Get Your Assumptions Under Control
What do you think of when you hear the word Presbyterian? Do you know what Presbyterian means? No? Well that will come later, but I will share with you what I knew about Presbyterianism. To me a Presbyterian church was a church of old liberals who didn’t believe the Bible or could even tell you how many chapters Jude has.
But that is just a stereotype that shouldn’t apply to all of us. Sure, the mainline church is sick and not a church any longer. Any time you see headlines like this: The Jointly Ordained Lesbian Couple Making History For Presbyterians, you are dealing with the mainline churches. But while I was thinking that the whole of Presbyterianism was this way, there were faithful and believing Presbyterians behind the scenes outwardly screaming at America to not see all of them in this light.
Personal Presuppositions Led to My Conversion
I was a member of the First Baptist Church of Judson for nine years. This church was one of the greatest churches I know, and I believe almost none of what they teach. The reason they are a great church in my view is that they taught me how to read my Bible and interpret it rightly. My mentor of thirteen years is now the pastor of this church and I still find my self repeating many of the things he taught me. This church was content being a small backwater fundamentalist church that taught simple faith and right living. It pushes it’s members to read the scriptures for themselves and that sin has consequences. These are good teachings, but it never got much deeper than this. I wanted something deeper than “I come to the garden alone while the dew is still on the roses…”
I remember the first study Bible that I bought was a Thompson Chain-Reference Bible. Unlike most study Bibles it did not contain any of the classic theological footnotes at the bottom of the page. It had an elaborate system of topical chain references that helped you carry a doctrine all the way through the Bible from it’s first appearance to it’s last. The man who recommended this Bible to me was my mentor, then youth pastor, and I bought it when I was fifteen years old. I carried this Bible up through college. But even though this was the air of deep study that I was taught in this church, I was never taught to deal with certain passages in the Bible that I would eventually be confronted with. These would be presented to me in college
In college I was taking biblical survey classes and one of my esteemed and well learned professors, Jaymi Blankenship, was teaching through the book of Romans. When he got to Romans 8 he stopped and hovered there for a long time. Eventually he said something that caused me much anger and prayer for the next year. He said, “If you don’t believe in predestination and election then you don’t really believe the Bible.” This hurt me and convicted me to the point where I almost dropped his class. At Judson we never studied Romans 8 or the doctrine of predestination. Judson avoided any question that touched this doctrine.
This stayed with me up to the point where I was invited to a debate. The debate was between the Southern Baptist professor Leighton Flowers and the Reformed Baptist Elder Dr. James R. White. This debate took place in Dallas Texas and the man who invited me is the terror of the ACLU Mark Lee Dickson, a pastor of Sovereign Love Church in Longview Texas and leader of the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn movement that is currently sweeping through Texas today. He invited me to this debate that was disputing whether Romans 9 taught unconditional election. Calvinism was on the table, and I didn’t know what this debate was going to do to me until it was already done. I didn’t attend the debate, but I listened to it after it was recorded and posted on YouTube. Many people think I’ve been a Calvinist for longer than five years but I can assure you that I haven’t. This debate took place in 2015.
I remember hearing the opening statements and listening to James White walk through the chapter and being angry at him for saying what he was saying. But upon repeating the presentation I knew what he was saying was true. When Leighton gave his presentation I couldn’t make heads or tails out of the system he was presenting, and this was supposed to be the system that Judson taught, so you can see how convoluted the presentation was.
I embarked on a study that would walk me through the Tulip garden of Reformed Theology and eventually convinced me of the system that set me on the path to the church I am a member of today.
I got married and had a child while a member of Judson. There is a long story of sin and repentance that I had to go through, but I’ll save that for a different post. I was writing on my last blog at this time and a few of the members of Judson were avid readers. When I came out in favor of unconditional election and particular redemption the cap blew off the bottle and I was placed up on charges of heresy before the church. A business meeting was called to deal with my case. I knew about the meeting but did not attend. For the health of this church I decided not to plead my case to the body and accepted the conclusion. I was excommunicated from the church. This was painful and heart wrenching, I have never been the subject of this kind of ecclesiastical action before. Many of the people that voted on my case were once my friends and encouraged me to walk in Christ….
Finding a Church
So I started to look and look and look and look, but I had no foundation to build on. My wife and I visited one of the mainline churches and experienced first hand the issues that were within that communion. So I went where every good millennial would, Facebook.
For a long time I was a member of the Facebook group Reformed Pub. The Reformed Pub was the conglomerate society of Reformed people on social media and everything Reformed was filtered through this group. So I went to the group of 15000+ members and laid out my situation. Within an hour I received thirty messages telling me which denominations to check out. OPC, PCA, URCNA, RPCNA, REC, etc… so I started digging. One stood out to me as the most viable option for my family, the OPC. The OPC was a thoroughly Reformed denomination that practiced strict conformity to the regulative principal of worship, expository preaching, confessionalism, and church discipline the way it was supposed to be practiced (which now was an Important issue for us).
There were two OPC churches in our area within an hour drive and we settled on the smaller of the two. The reason is that we wanted a smaller church with the ability to know everyone there. The General Assembly was meeting that week so our pastor was out of town and the sermon was being read by another elder. My first week was amazing and joyful. From the moment I stepped into this church I felt Christ in the midst of the people. In no other church have I had this experience. The Bible was read, prayers were prayed and prayed in length, the sermon that was read was deep and touched on the very subject that got me in trouble in the first place, predestination, read by Ruling Elder Dan McDonald.
The next week I met with Rev. Phil Hodson and my wife and I expressed the desire to start the classes necessary to obtain membership. After a month and a half we finished all classes and met with the session to profess our faith and join Christ the King OPC. Two weeks later we stood before the congregation and confirmed our vows to the church and our three month old son was baptized.
Aesthetics Don’t Matter
I don’t care too much about aesthetics when it comes to which church I attend. I said earlier that we visited a mainline church, First Presbyterian Church in Kilgore TX, and it was beautiful. The organ was amazing, the church was y’all and had beautiful stained glass with massive gothic chandelier hanging from the vaulted ceiling, but the church was dead and God wasn’t there. The people were walking corpses that only there to satisfy their debt to the God they didn’t really know.
Christ the King OPC isn’t much to look at. My son was baptized with water from a metal bowl, not a magnificent baptismal font. there is no choir, chandeliers, ornate stained glass, or master organist playing sacred music… there is a simple people who desire to read and be read to, pray and be prayed for, sing psalms hymns and spiritual songs, have the word drawn out to them, and partake of Christ’s body and blood. This is what a church should look like.
This Has Gone On Long Enough
I’ve been typing for a while and I think I have laid my foundation. So I’ll just leave it here. In my next few posts I’ll draw out more of my reasoning behind Presbyterianism, but the purpose of this one was to lay a foundation to build on. I hope you made it to this point…
Soli Deo Gloria!