by Tamara Schmerse
Part 9 of 17
I looked again to my work. The small company I worked for was a hotbed of religious tension, as among its 10-15 staff, you would find 10-15 deeply pious Christians of very different denominations. Being that it was a workplace, religion was not discussed very often, but whenever it came up, there were many jibes about his church would do things this way, while my church doesn’t accept that. I knew that the majority of my workmates belonged to COC-similar Charismatic Evangelical churches, and there was one person who looked disdainfully on all of them whenever the topic of church came up.
I asked this young man, let’s call him Paul, about his view of women in ministry, since that was the subject that was causing me hardship in the church I had called home for almost two years. He shook his head sadly and said “There are so many churches that give in nowadays, because it’s fashionable, but that’s not what the Bible says.”
I felt vindicated – here was an educated person who agreed with my understanding of the Bible. Upon enquiry, I discovered that he was the son of a Presbyterian minister, and his father’s church, which happened to be just around the corner, appeared to be the conservative, traditional church that I was looing for. He kindly gave me his father’s email address, and after work that night I emailed Reverend Michael to ask him about his standpoint on women in ministry, and other related topics.
Rev. Michael wrote back immediately, and became my main correspondent for a short period about every Biblical and religious issue I was having trouble with in my position in the Methodist church. What I knew of the Presbyterian Church was scattered, but appeared good: in the tiny outback town where I grew up, there were four churches: Catholic, Anglican, Methodist and Presbyterian, and the year before I was born the Methodist and Presbyterian had merged together to form the Uniting Church in Australia. This indicated to me that their core beliefs must be similar. It also told me that they were a respected, traditional church, around for a long time, something my parents would have heard of, and also a place where many of my friends from the Baptist Church had ended up.
So eventually my curiosity was peaked: I asked Rev. Michael to tell me about the Presbyterian Church. I was thinking that this may become my new church home, as things in the Methodist were continuing further down the path to Charismatic Evangelicalism, and I was growing increasingly uncomfortable with every passing Sunday. And so, Reverend Michael emailed me the Westminster Confession of Faith.
The email was, of course, huge, so to prevent square eyes I printed it out, stapled it together and took it to the bedroom to read in peace. I had not been reading long when I came across several passages that made me feel extremely uncomfortable:
Chapter III: “III. By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death.” … “VI. As God has appointed the elect unto glory, so has He, by the eternal and most free purpose of His will, foreordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore, they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by His Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by His power, through faith, unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only. VII. The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of His own will, whereby He extends or withholds mercy, as He pleases, for the glory of His sovereign power over His creatures, to pass by; and to ordain them to dishonour and wrath for their sin, to the praise of His glorious justice.”
Chapter X: “III. Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated, and saved by Christ, through the Spirit, who works when, and where, and how He pleases: so also are all other elect persons who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word. IV. Others, not elected, although they may be called by the ministry of the Word, and may have some common operations of the Spirit, yet they never truly come unto Christ, and therefore cannot be saved: much less can men, not professing the Christian religion, be saved in any other way whatsoever, be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature, and the laws of that religion they do profess. And to assert and maintain that they may, is very pernicious, and to be detested.” (Emphasis mine).
I re-read those passages three or four times, to ensure I understood their claims. At first I could not believe it, I was sure I had read it wrong. Three years of Bible College and all the denominations I had studied and worshiped with had not prepared me for actually coming face-to-face with a written confession of Predestination Doctrine. I decided to sleep on it, and read it again in the morning when my mind was more refreshed.
Unsurprisingly, the next morning the document told me exactly the same thing it had said the night before. I was devastated. I actually cried. Of all the confusing things I had been told about God from different sources, the one thing they all agreed on was that God was a loving, merciful and forgiving God. This god, described in this awful Confession, did not sound loving, merciful or forgiving in any way, shape or form. To actually create human beings, the majority of human beings no less, for the sole purpose of torturing them in Hell for all eternity? What kind of sick game was God playing with His creation??
I went to work that day with little else on my mind. At the earliest opportunity, when Paul asked me how I was going with the material his father had sent, I told him that I was having trouble getting my head around the Predestination concept, as this was not taught in any denomination I had studied with before.
“Yeah, that’s always a hard issue for people to understand,” he said, “but really when you think about it, do you want a soppy, happy-clappy god like the Charismatics have, or do you want a strong, powerful god?”
“I want the True God,”
was my reply.
I drove home from work that afternoon, went straight to my bedroom, picked up the crinkled copy of the Westminster Confession, my husband’s cigarette lighter, and took them both over to the sink, where I formally and officially put to rest any notion of my ever joining the Presbyterian Church.
Part 10 can be read by clicking HERE.