What Forms Does Opposition Take?

November 16, 2011

Nehemiah suffered the opposition of men who did not want to see the Jews succeed in rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem. From the first six chapters of the book of Nehemiah, we find opposition in the following forms, some of which are evident today within the PCUSA:

1. The destruction of the Jerusalem wall, and the burning of its gates (Neh. 1:3).

            Evangelical/conservative Presbyterians see this happen in the PCUSA in the form of deconstruction of our doctrinal foundation, redefinition of faithfulness, acceptance of sinful practice as normative.

2. Accusations of disloyalty to worldly authorities (Neh. 2:19)

            “You’re not a loyal Presbyterian if you even discuss the possibility of leaving the denomination” as demonstrated by the dissolution of a pastorate and replacement of a Session with an administrative commission. The cause was the Pastor’s leading a town-hall meeting to discuss the pros and cons of leaving the denomination.

3. Ridicule of godly efforts as futile, impossible, incompetent, pipe-dreams (Neh. 4:2-3)

            Reaction of Louisville staffers to the creation of a “new Reformed body” by the Fellowship of Presbyterians. “Can’t happen; it’s unconstitutional.”

4. Plots to cause dissension within the ranks of God’s people (Neh. 4:8)

            There is dissension, but I doubt it is the result of plots. But if there were to be a perceived division of the ranks among evangelicals, I believe our opponents would seek to exploit it. Evidence: using quotations (out of context) of our esteemed Dr. Tom Gillespie to support the Covenant Network agenda at a General Assembly committee meeting, as part of a presentation in favor of ordaining practicing homosexuals. A furious Dr. Gillespie himself refuted the false claim to that committee when notified of the use of his name in quasi endorsement of an unbiblical view.

5. Harassment and open fighting against the people of Israel (Neh. 4:8)

            This happens at presbytery meetings openly, across the country, as it did to me last Tuesday and has been evident in our debates about a “gracious” dismissal policy.

6. Killing of Jews and defeating the work (Neh. 4:11)

            Thankfully, we haven’t seen this happen, although I am among those who have received threats for a public stand against ordaining practicing homosexuals. (To be absolutely fair, even I do not think these threats came from a fellow member of presbytery, but from someone in “the world” who read the newspaper account of a presbytery meeting.)

7. Dissatisfaction; economic conditions having negative impact within Israel (Neh. 5:1-5)

            The downturn in the American economy has certainly affected churches and could very well add to the pressure to exact exorbitant fees from departing congregations.

8. Calling a meeting as part of a scheme to harm (Neh. 6:2)

            Not sure about the “scheme to harm” part of this, but Presbyterians are known for calling meetings in times of stress. As long as we are meeting with our opponents, a (false?) hope is kept alive that a solution might be found. But meanwhile, proactivity is stalled and members are lulled into a perpetual holding pattern. Presbyteries have every advantage the longer a “discernment” process drags out, all under the guise of “meetings.”

9. False accusations of sedition, revolution, nonconformity (Neh. 6:6f)

            “You are not a loyal Presbyterian; you are fomenting schism; why can’t you get with the (Presbyterian) program?” Yep, heard this one: “How can you be so sure that you are right? Your view is unPresbyterian.” Au contraire, mes amis, in this Kingdom, I am obeying the King of kings and cannot condone a Presbyterian alternative universe.

10. Intimidation with power-plays or false prophets (Neh. 6:9-13)

            Power-plays? Let me count the ways: Covenant Network’s bald attempt to give definitive guidance for the examination of ministry candidates (see Viola Larson and Jim Berkley commentaries) or rulings from clerks to thwart the adoption of definitions and commitments to orthodoxy and biblically consistent sexual ethics. 

Tomorrow: Sermon on the Mount: “Love your enemies.”

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One Response to “What Forms Does Opposition Take?”


  1. At a recent presbytery meeting where 16 churches brought forth an overture to amend the Presbytery’s manuals to include a requirement for F&C. One of the speakers against called us “bad Presbyterians” because we are calling into question the decisions of the GA.

    The irony of that statement did not escape those conservative TE and RE commissioners present, but went right over the heads of the liberals there.

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