The following quotes are from Gordon H. Clark’s essay, “Christian Liberty,” as published in Essays on Ethics and Politics (Jefferson: Trinity Foundation, 1992. pp. 20-22). The essay was originally published in The Southern Presbyterian Journal (February 16, 1955). Although written 56 years ago, Clark’s words are completely relevant to discussion of current events in some PCA circles. Clark writes,
“Freedom and liberty are grand words, but if we are to talk intelligibly, our words must be unambiguously defined. … Chapter XX of the [Westminster] Confession enumerates the factors which compose and define Christian liberty.
‘The liberty which Christ hath purchased for believers under the gospel consists in their freedom from the guilt of sin, … the curse of the moral law, … [and] bondage to Satan. … All of which were common also to believers under the law …’ (sec. 1).
In addition to these elements of liberty, which particularly concern us in our individual lives, Christian liberty includes the liberty of conscience in the face of tyrannical ecclesiastical organizations. Some years ago a young man presented himself to a Presbytery for ordination. As he was known to believe that the boards and agencies of that church were infiltrated with modernism, he was asked whether he would support the boards and agencies. He replied that he would support them insofar as they were true to the Bible. This answer did not please the Presbytery, and he was asked if he would support the boards regardless of what they did. When the young man declined to make any such blind promise, the Presbytery refused to ordain him.
… As the twentieth century has seen a great increase in the control that national governments exercise over their citizens, so too with ecclesiastical organizations there is a trend toward centralization, bureaucracy, and an indifference toward inalienable rights. Well publicized gatherings of Protestant prelates parade in robes, and the press reports the colorful pageantry. Impressive imitation of popery! And the same eventual results are to be expected” (pp. 20-21).
Clark’s story of the tyrannical presbytery has striking similarities to that of a PCA Ruling Elder that I know. When given the ultimatum that he must sign a document stating that he would not cross the Pastor of his church in any way, he flatly refused and resigned. The government of Christ’s church is designed to incorporate accountability among its leaders. To attempt to force loyalty as in the two examples above is indeed tyrannical, ungodly, and destructive to the church.