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13th August 2011, 10:14 AM
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Join Date: 17th May 2011
Location: North Carolina
Reps: 47,183,106,742,381,784 (power: 47,183,106,742,384)
| | Should a plain old Christian join a Presbyterian church?
I'm non-denominational, but I found a good affirming church near my university that happens to be Presbyterian and if I'm going to commit, I just wanted to ask y'all if it's a good idea for someone unfamiliar with the denomination.
I grew up in a Methodist church, attended a Baptist church for a couple of years alone, and now my mom and I have been going to Presbyterian for a little while (I've probably attended at most four or five services altogether). Some of the practices, such as reciting the Apostle's Creed and confessing as a group, were unfamiliar to me but I still enjoyed the experience. In other words, it was more of an adjustment than a culture shock (of course), but browsing this section of CF shows me that I really don't know much about Presbyterianism's key points that set it apart from Methodism, Baptism, and other sects.
I guess my main concern is whether or not a non-denominational Christian should join a Presbyterian congregation. Is it kind of an open group, or should I be a devout Presbyterian already to try the church? I just don't want to disagree with the priorities or have half the sermon fly over my head, nor do I want to offend or disrespect any existing member with my separate ideals or ignorance. Thank you!
Your life doesn't have to be perfect for you to believe in God. It doesn't have to be imperfect for you to need Him.
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13th August 2011, 01:36 PM
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Join Date: 8th February 2009
Location: New Jersey
Reps: 533,695,394,542,638,976 (power: 533,695,394,542,648)
I generally feel that the local church matters more than the denomination.
The reason specifics of Presbyterian theology and practice don't matter as much as you might think is that most "generic" Christians are largely Presbyterian anyway.
In the original Reformation there were really only two fully-formed theologies: Lutheran and Reformed. The third major wing was the Left Wing. But there are few churches in the US that really go back to them. (The peace churches such as the Mennonites are the main exception, but even they have adopted a fairly normal Protestant theology where their tradition doesn't have something specific to say.) The US Baptist and low-church tradition comes from the English Baptists, who were basically Reformed, with a few ideas from the left wing.
The Anglicans have a distinguished theological tradition, but their foundational theology is really Reformed, and Catholic. (The balance varies depending upon the Anglican.) The Methodists are an off-shoot of the Anglicans, and were to some extent influenced in the US by an Reformed evangelism. The rest of the US churches are mostly offshoots of Methodists or Baptists. So underneath there's basically Reformed theology. Denominations typically differ in specific things: infant baptism and predestination being the most common. The presence of Christ in communion in often seen as an issue, but I claim most normal Protestant Christians hold a position similar to the Presbyterian one, whatever their denomination's theory. (Lutherans are the main exception to this and the rest of this paragraph.) So overall Reformed theology just doesn't differ that much from most Protestants.
There were institutional and emotional reasons why these differences got blown up. But today people mostly draw their "us and them" lines based on newer issues that cut across the denominations: "literal" interpretation of Scripture and legalism, our attitude towards science, and things like that.
This assumes you're dealing with the PCUSA which is still by far the largest Presbyterian group. If your church is part of the PCA or another conservative group, they are going to be more hard-core about distinctive Reformed theology. The PCUSA is happy to accept anyone who accepts Christ as a member. You'll hear preaching and teaching based on Reformed theology, but it's only when you're ready to be an officer that we ask you to say that you accept Reformed theology. The more conservative churches generally expect all members to do so. But even then, you may well find that the Reformed tradition just isn't that foreign.
Last edited by hedrick; 13th August 2011 at 02:44 PM.
15th August 2011, 03:20 PM
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Join Date: 21st March 2011
Reps: 2,888,141,158,952,934 (power: 2,888,141,158,955)
I think Hedrick is accurate. I think present day divisions in the churches don't have much to do with their denominational distinctives or history, but more where they fall on issues that cross all denominations, such as the authority of Scripture, their understanding of purity and sexual ethics, who is qualified to serve as a minister or elder, etc. This affects both denominations and individual churches within denominations. It is not unusual to have in the same town two churches of the same denomination that have widely different beliefs on issues such as authority of Scripture, etc. So what ultimately is important is where the individual church is.
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