While Christians will continue to debate the divine decrees and the nature of free will, let’s not lose sight of the larger picture that unites us. Predestination is the biblical equivalent of the quiet hope that rustles through Narnia: “Aslan is on the move.There is a place for humor and joy in the rustles of hope. There is also a place for discernment and caution. And there is, in many of our journeys, a poignant sadness that somehow mixes with the joy and hope throwing us toward the only place of safety—the cross of Christ.
Our trip to the gathering of the Fellowship of Presbyterians’ began humorously. Our cheaper tickets took us from Sacramento to Phoenix on our way to Minneapolis. At the airport, waiting in line, I spied a person who reminded me of Noel Anderson of Anderspeak. Being a little embarrassed to just ask, I asked him if he knew Jim Berkley. That did get his attention and yes it was Noel, and he introduced us to another pastor waiting in line.
As we were boarding the plane we noticed many were reading books rather than magazines and several held Bibles on their laps. As I started a conversation with the fellow beside me I discovered he was a Presbyterian pastor also. We had a fantastic conversation; my husband remarked later that he felt he had been ministered to by the pastor, whose gift, by the way, is ministering to men.
As we all three remarked on how many Presbyterians seemed to be on the plane the pastor mentioned that the man up one row and across was reading the new biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. Later others mentioned reading the book. I believe it is a gift God has given to the orthodox in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) as they sort through all of the options ahead.
That was the beginning, the humorous part. There was also joy. Joy came in saying hello, often in a hurry, to so many friends in the Lord. Joy came in worship and prayer and listening to some excellent speakers—Kenneth Bailey goes to the head of the list. But there was one young pastor who only spoke for a few minutes, twice (I am sorry, I do not remember his name). He told marvelous stories that made me laugh until tears were streaming down my face. But best of all in his short speeches, sermons really, he lifted high the cross of Christ. Hopefully in later meetings he will be allowed, invited, to preach whole sermons.
And that brings me to the serious part, the part that mixes sadness with joy and hope. Aslan is on the move. God is moving, hovering, leading his Church; no, not the PCUSA, that is a denomination that houses those who belong in his Church, undoubtedly 'many' who belong. But it is in his Church that is within the PCUSA that God is moving. (This is not to say that God does not move in all places, but I am writing about his movement in his Church.)
I believe the Fellowship of Presbyterians is a part of that movement of God. But I do not know what part. Only history and time will tell. God knows.
Four options were offered by the FOP. I am sure everyone has read of them already so I will not go into detail. But I believe the idea (the fourth one) of a New Reformed Body with some connections to the PCUSA is probably one of the better options, as is the first one, which is simply staying in your Presbytery when it is friendly to the orthodox.
And therein lays the sadness. Not all presbyteries are friendly to the orthodox. Nor is all of the Louisville staff, yes, some are, some are even evangelical. But I am wary and this is why I believe a great deal of discernment and caution must be maintained. Let us put our greater trust in what the Lord of the Church will do, rather than what PCUSA officials will do. And this brings me around to another quote from Touchstone.
One of the joys of being at the gathering was the like-mindedness, the lifting up of the atonement of Jesus, his redeeming love on the cross. A sense of unity was there because many of us are under siege and having to stand for our faith in places we have not stood before. James M. Kushiner writing a small editorial, “The Suffering Church: Mere Christianity is Fundamentally Cruciform,” quotes C. S. Lewis:
Common perils, common burdens, an almost universal hatred and contempt for the flock of Christ can, by God’s grace, contribute much to the healing of our divisions. For those who suffer the same things from the same people for the same Person can scarcely not love each other.