Sunday, 20 October 2013

Why I am a Free Presbyterian

Why am I a Free Presbyterian? First and foremost I am of course a Christian, but why do I attend the Free Presbyterian Church? Perhaps it is a question you would also do well to ask yourself if you too attend the Free Presbyterian Church. If attend another denomination it may also cause you to ask some questions about the church which you attend. Yet first of all there are issues which we must clearly state are NOT the reason we are Free Presbyterians.

Family influence: Perhaps you are a Free Presbyterian simply because your parents and grandparents before were before you. This is a very perilous position to be in, to be without a personal conviction about the stand of the denomination but to be part of it just because those before you were also. Personal conviction about the truth of God’s word is essential for the future of the denomination if we are to stand steadfastly in times of testing and trial. I am a Free Presbyterian because it is the church I choose, not because of others.

Hope of salvation: I am not a Free Presbyterian because I believe it save my soul. If you hope that your Free Presbyterianism will somehow help you in the day of judgement then you are greatly mistaken. If you have not accepted Christ as your own and personal saviour then you may as well have sat in the chapel all the days of your life listening to a priest blaspheme the name of Christ for it will do you as much good as having been a Free Presbyterian. Acts 4:12 says that ‘Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved’. Salvation is not found in any church but in the Lord Jesus Christ alone.

A perfect church: Many people claim that Free Presbyterians think that their church is perfect, and that it alone has the message of salvation. For all those who state such a thing, I have never heard a Free Presbyterian say it, and any that does is a fool. The Free Presbyterian Church is not a perfect church, for it's members are at best sinners saved by grace. Neither do we deny that there are other churches faithful to the word of God, there clearly are. I simply believe the Free Presbyterian Church to be the best church that there is.

Political interest: The Free Presbyterian Church has throughout its history, rightly or wrongly, been associated with particular strands of political opinion in Northern Ireland. Some may then have chosen the church on the grounds that their political view appears to have considerable popularity within the denomination. This is foolish, for the Free Presbyterian Church is not a political party; it is a body of believers seeking to serve the Lord. Its purpose is not and has never been political, but spiritual, seeking to spread the message of salvation.

What then are the right and proper reasons for being a Free Presbyterian? Why am I personally a Free Presbyterian?

Separation from apostasy: The Free Presbyterian Church believes in the teaching of 2 Corinthians 6:17 to separate from false doctrine and apostasy. This was one of the motivating factors that resulted in the founding of the denomination. The first congregation in Crossgar was formed because they could no longer be associated with the Irish Presbyterian Church, such was the apostasy in that denomination. The errors of Professor Davey had continued unchecked and do so to this day. The Irish Presbyterian Church is as apostate as it ever was, and those believers still in it should heed the command of scripture to come out from among them. I am a Free Presbyterian because I have no desire for fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness. Perhaps that is something which we need to be reminded of; to have no association whatsoever with those denominations which have departed wholesale from the Word of God.

Rejection of ecumenism: It has come to my attention only today that a Presbyterian elder from Rev Ken Newell's church has apparently converted to Romanism. Where must part of the blame lie in this case? With his own minister, for Rev Newell has been long known as an ecumenist, and the journey from what he has been teaching to the errors of Rome has likely been a short one for his elder. Yet is this conversion likely to bar that same elder from participating in Presbyterian services? Probably not, for such practices are common in the Presbyterian Church, as they are in the Methodist and the Church of Ireland. The Free Presbyterian Church desires no union with Rome, but rejects it as the system of anti-christ (a fact some Free Presbyterian politicians would do well to remember when attending functions during the course of their duties!)

Maintaining of Biblical standards: How many churches consider it a necessity for women to have their head covered? Yet it is clearly taught in Scripture. How many take any consideration of which version of the bible is used. How many will reject the modern styles of Christian music and seek a biblical form of worship, free from the influences of the world. How many believe that we ought to dress appropriately when we come to the house of the Lord. In all of questions the answer is very few. Whilst our standards have clearly slipped from those of past generations
(especially when we are out of the sight of our own minister at some other meeting), they are still to be seen to a greater extent than in most churches. Let us maintain, and reclaim those biblical standards.

Evangelical zeal: The Free Presbyterian Church has always laid great emphasis on the need for evangelism. Whilst many denominations have replaced the preaching of God’s word with drama and entertainment and sacrificed evangelism for social action we believe in the need to reach men and women with the good news of the gospel. It is the foolishness of preaching which saves sinners and we preach Christ crucified. To have a zeal for evangelising the lost is essential for any Free Presbyterian.

Why are you a Free Presbyterian? It ought to be because you share that desire of our forefathers to stand outside the camp of apostasy and to faithfully proclaim the gospel. May these characteristics always be true of our denomination, and where we have fallen away from what we once professed, may we repent and return to the bible. 'Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage'.


  1. What about the Free Presbyterian ministers son who got married in a mass in Rome and now would rather attend an RC chapel - also the family attended the wedding

  2. I am not aware of any Free Presbyterian minister having attended the mass for any reason. If you believe this to be the case then name them, however I will also expect your own name. Anonymous discussions I will tolerate for a time, but not anonymous allegations.

  3. Are you comfortable with Free Presbyterian involvement in the Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible? Brian McClung and Ivan Foster have recently exposed that Bible's Romeward leanings.

  4. Clearly the study note in the Reformation Heritage Study Bible which indentifies the rock in Matthew 16:18 as Peter is wrong. The traditional Protestant (and I believe correct) view is that the rock was Peter's confession of Christ. The study notes may follow on by saying that this does not support the apostolic succession of the Popes, however to identify Peter as the rock helps to support that particular claim of the church of Rome and is detrimental to the study bible's reformation tag.

    I do not personally have a copy of this study bible and therefore cannot make any judgment on it as a whole, so I would not be willing to write it off on the basis of this erroneous note. I do not imagine that there is any study bible out there with which we will agree wholesale with its notes.

    That said I will re-iterate that this particular note is wrong and extremely unhelpful. Perhaps if they run a re-print they will consider amending it!

  5. Further to the exposure of the RFSB's Romish teaching in relation to Peter, Brian McClung and Ivan Foster have revealed that the RFSB is falsely teaching that justification brings about a change in man's moral nature. This again is Romish teaching.

    I ask again are you comfortable with Free Presbyterian involvement in the Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible?

  6. Surely, given that its contributors are on the most conservative end of the Protestant and Reformed spectrum, it's somewhat excessive to say that the Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible has "Romeward leanings"! I don't think either Reverend Ivan or Brian has claimed that -- at least, I hope not. (The latter has made something of a major issue out of what may only be an erroneous note about justification, calling for "an immediate, public clarification and correction", but seems less keen to face up to similar unfortunate comments he has made in comments on his blog.) If the Study Bible were saturated with Roman Catholic theology throughout, "Romeward leanings" might be a viable assessment, but the occasional slip-up is to be expected in a first edition like this.

    1. Hi Andrew Stewart,

      The language being used by Brian and Ivan is very strong. They are charging the RHSB with teaching popish doctrine and false teaching. Ivan is highlighting the involvement of senior FP ministers and basically saying they should be hanging their heads in shame. You can read it for yourself at

    2. Hi Anonymous,

      Thanks for your reply. It doesn't surprise me that Rev. Messrs. Foster and McClung are speaking in such terms about the RHSB (my initial comment was tongue-in-cheek to some extent), for it could be argued that both men are rather too often inclined towards immoderate severity ...

      This is not to say that the RHSB's errors oughtn't to have been highlighted. Normally, however, criticisms or suggestions for improvement can be fruitfully expressed in a review article or blog post where the reviewer will also be attentive to what is praiseworthy and will note these aspects with enthusiasm. Unfortunately, such an approach has been glaringly absent in this case. Moreover, I sense a degree of triumphalism in Rev. Brian's blog posts pinpointing the RHSB's faults, for he and Rev. Ivan have been vocal in their criticism of Dr. Beeke and Reformation Heritage, over against their denominational colleagues who have adopted a more approving stance towards Beeke's ministry. It is a cause for concern that there is an evident lack in Rev. Ivan and Rev. Brian's ability to perceive that such reactions might be construed as delighting in others' mistakes.

      Given that the readership of the RHSB is most likely to be overwhelmingly situated within the most conservative end of the Reformed and Protestant spectrum, where a higher degree of biblical and theological awareness tends to exist, I would question the necessity of the kind of fevered and alarmist response that Rev. Brian has decided to make. Yes, it is good that error does not go unchecked, but the way in which it is addressed needs to be appropriately scaled to the context, with these factors in mind, and carried out with sensitivity and grace.

    3. Thank you Andrew Stewart for your reply.

      I appreciate you taking the time to place the issue of the RHSB in the context of diivisions in the FPC over Joel Beeke. It is most helpful to know that this criticism must be considered in the wider context of a split among FPC ministers over Joel Beeke.

      Do you think the divisions that exist over Beeke represent a wider split in the denomination similar to that in the larger Presbyterian church, where there is an evangelical wing and an ecumenical wing?

    4. Hi Anonymous,

      Andrew McDonald has responded to your question below. I agree with him, from my own standpoint, that an evangelical–ecumenical split in the FPC is rather fanciful. As Andrew has suggested, it has something more to do with differing views on the extent of what constitutes biblical separation, with the Rev. Ivan Foster and the Rev. Brian McClung remaining committed to the more extreme concept of this. It may be that theirs is more consistent with the view of secondary separation espoused by the denomination (but this does not mean that Rev. Messrs. Foster and McClung are consistent to their own self-imposed standards). In any case, this much is clear -- theirs is an approach which, if you'll excuse the pun, fosters attitudes of suspicion, fear and defensiveness; is completely bereft of grace and unable to cope with nuance; was criticised as biblically indefensible by major figures in whose stream they claim to follow (e.g. the Reformers); and is utterly unworkable in the real world -- i.e. it's foolish, but not in a 1 Cor 1:18ff. sense.

  7. Time will tell whether the RHKJV study bible has Romeward leanings, however that would indicate an extensive number of notes clearly advocating Roman Catholic teaching. If that were the case, and said errors were not rectified then it would a less than wise decision by FPC ministers to associate themselves with it. I am glad that I have never heard any FPC minister do anything other than denounce the Roman Catholic church as a false church, and trust that will always be the case. Rev McClung has indicated that the publishers have been made aware of the issue and acknowledged its seriousness. Hopefuly this will result in the highlighted errors being quickly rectified as the concept of a reformed KJV study bible is in itself a commendable one.

  8. Foster & McClung have now revealed that Beeke's study bible endorses the liberal interpretation that the Israelites didn't cross the Red Sea.

    Andrew McDonald, do you support Ivan Foster's call to FPC ministers who have been up to their necks in the production & promotion of this Bible to disassociate themselves from it and warn their congregations about it.

    Will The Protestant Standard join other faithful publications in exposing the errors of Beeke's Bible?

  9. Anonymous

    This is starting to become a little tedious as it appears that you indend to ask me for an updated opinion on this issue every time a FPC minister posts a new article on their own blog. Of course it is easy for you to do so as you are doing it anonymously. I may or may not post something on the matter in the future - there are always many issues which could be commented on and I cannot deal with them all, nor is it necessary to do so if a number of others have done so already.

    I wonder at your motives in raising the issue here and do not intend to continue this thread.

  10. It's disappointing Andrew that you won't give anonymous a clear answer. It looks like you are scared of directly criticising the RHSB because of its FPC iinvolvement. I suspect if the FPC wasnt involved you would be much more up front in denouncing false teaching.

  11. Steve

    I do not believe that anonymous is looking for answer for any reason other than to stir things up - a number of other anonymous comments have been made on other posts recently which have all been along the line of 'how this affects the FPC' etc. Every post that I put up here I apply to the FPC first and foremost since that is the church I am most concerned about, even if I do not mention it. (I actually intend to comment soon on why ministers should not be politicians - that something which could be perceived as being critical of past/present FPC ministers.)

    As regards the RHKJVSB there are clearly issues with it which deserve to be highlighted. Am I then suggesting that it be completely rejected? No. There are books and preachers which I can recommened without hesitation, those which I can only recommend with a caveat upon them, and those which must be rejected altogether. The RHKJVSB falls into the second of those.

  12. Steve,

    I don't want further to continue on an off-topic trajectory, but I will say that it is unfair to hound Andrew about the RHKJVSB. He has not prevaricated in his responses and has been much more level-headed about the whole issue than Rev. Messrs. Foster and McClung.

    Both men seem to be almost obsessively fixated on flaws that can easily be corrected. (Rev. Brian, in an effort to tantalise, promises that more deficiencies will be exposed in his upcoming posts.) There's nothing particularly outlandish about the RHKJVSB's Mt 16:18 footnote when one considers that other respected commentators have advocated a similar view as one of the possible options. I disagree that Christ is referring to Peter as the Rock, but that hardly leads me to think that the RHKJVSB's note is evidence of a covert propagation of "Romish" doctrine, as immediately following it there are comments refuting Roman Catholic claims about the papacy.

    The RHKJVSB's unfortunate description of justification in relation to the beginning of Romans 6 will, I hope, be rectified in future editions, and in any case is likely to be out of kilter with the view of justification presented throughout the rest of the Study Bible.

    Similarly, the map issue is largely one that the eagle-eyed (pedants?) would be inclined to spot, and only someone who desires to find a liberal agenda there will insist that there is one at play. Do the RHKJVSB's notes on the exodus claim that the Israelites did not cross the Red Sea? I doubt it! So if the map gives that impression, I venture it's an out-of-place suggestion that jars with the rest of the Study Bible's overwhelming testimony to the contrary.

    Not that I have any special interest in defending the RHKJVSB; I don't own a copy. However, I do find it intriguing that Rev. Brian claims his blog's purpose is not to be contentious while contending for the faith, but his entire approach indicates otherwise. His propensity to assume the worst of Beeke and others, and his calls for their repentance, are inconsistent in light of what he tolerates from himself and others. Elsewhere on his blog Rev. Brian has advocated views that seem to undermine solus Christus, but has refused to offer further clarification or engage with challenges to his position.

    That said, perhaps Rev. Brian's blog is a more appropriate place to pursue these issues. His responses to objections that have been posed to his stance on the RHKJVSB have been, in my view, rather limp so far, but there is at least an opportunity to interact with those who have questioned the severity of his reactions (or at least with those whose comments he has seen fit to publish).

  13. Thank you Andrew for this statement "Every post that I put up here I apply to the FPC first and foremost since that is the church I am most concerned about, even if I do not mention it."

    I have a question are there any posts in which you actually directly criticise the Free Presbyterian Church. For example I've noticed on the issue of homosexuality Whitewell is criticised but you are silent about Free Presbyterian complicity in funding the self styled LGBT groups.

    I'm sure how you can see how an observer might draw the conclusion that you are happy to highlight the sins of other denominations but are quiet about your own church.

    1. Philip Patrick7 April 2015 at 16:54

      Thank you Steve for asking the killer question. Andrew's admission that he has never directly criticised the FPC is a telling confession which exposes the true nature of this blog.

      He is indeed happy to criticise other conservative evangelicals such as Whitewell but maintains strict silence about the many failings of the FPC.

      Pretty poor.

    2. Philip

      A comment further on down the page will highlight the fact that there a number of churches which I have not criticised. The impression that I criticised everyone but the FPC is simply not accurate, but perhaps suits the agenda of some.

  14. Rev McClung is to be commended for his strong unequivocal stand against error and falsehood.

    How sad that The Protestant Standard has fallen silent.

    I commend to you Andrew the sermon "Ignoring Sin No Basis For Blessing" by Ivan Foster.

    I also commend for your consideration the words of Edmund Burke “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing”

    And I will pray for you that God will teach you that in order to be a man of God you must be prepared to condemn sin from whatever source it comes. No real man of God condemns sin in other churches but is silent concerning the sins of his own.

    May the Lord graciously speak to you in days to come and make you a true servant of Christ in these days of compromise and departure from the truth.

    1. Philip Patrick8 April 2015 at 15:26

      Amen to that brother.

    2. Andrew has not dodged the issue. He has linked to both Rev. Ivan Foster and Rev. Brian McClung's websites, and has given his opinion when asked about the RHKJVSB. It is difficult to take self-righteous comments seriously from someone about standing up for truth when the person doing so lacks the courage to identify himself etc. etc.

    3. Fans of the Rev. Ivan Foster and the Rev. Brian McClung will have noted that the frenzied pace of blog posts has slowed over the past few days on the "Alarm" website, in the wake of Dr. Joel Beeke's public acknowledgement of issues that require emendation in the RHKJVSB. Readers' comments have been left at the "Alarm" website over the weekend and will probably be published soon.

      The "Burning" website's author has responded by pointing his beam at Beeke's mote with the usual admirable ease. When the author of the "Alarm" website (eventually) addresses Beeke's statement with the same swiftness they demanded of Beeke, it is safe to assume that he will perpetuate the allegations of subterfuge and claims of an imaginary papist conspiracy in (ironically) the same vein of self-justification.

      No doubt both men will maintain their unequivocal stand against error and falsehood (other people's, of course, not their own), hounding and condemning those who either don't share their hard-line stance on biblical separation or who don't follow it through with utmost consistency. One of their great heroes, J.C. Ryle, who remained within the same Church of England that housed both liberals and Anglo-Catholics, said, "Let us pray that our own country may never be without men in high places who have grace to think right, and courage to act up to their knowledge, without truckling to the opinion of men." May the Lord graciously speak to us in days to come and make us true servants of Christ in these days of compromise and departure from the truth.

  15. Steve

    I haven't re-read all my blog posts however from a quick scan of them I don't think there are any which are directly critical of the FPC. The main reason I would give for this is that whilst the FPC is not perfect, I perceive much more serious issues within other denominations and Christianity at large - I clearly cannot comment on every minor (or not so minor issue that arises)

    (Various?) anonymous

    The suggestion that there is a split within the FPC along evangelical/ecumenical lines similiar to that within the PCI is stretching the imagination a bit. Certainly not everyone will agree on all issues - that is normal, we are not clones. This is vastly different from the PCI where ministers vary in their views on fundamental doctrines such as the deity of Christ and inspiration of scripture, and where many of them will happily share a pulpit with a Roman Catholic priest. The FPC believes in biblical separation, where there will be differences are on the degree and extent of that separation.

    No Free Presbyterian should have any involement in the funding of homosexuality, and depending what they are doing in politics may necessitate church discipline. Why have I not commented on it - for the reasons that powersharing has been ongoing longer than my blog - I cannot and do not intend to go back and deal with every past issue that may exist!

    I do not intend to allow any more anonymous posts on this thread as it has gone on long enough. Anyone who wishes to leave a comment should have the confidence to leave their name, especialy when levelling accusations at others.

    1. Hi Andrew,

      Thank you for owning up to the fact that you have failed in any of your posts to date to directly criticise your own Free Presbyterian Church.

      Im sure your readers will take note of this glaring omission.

    2. Hi Andrew,

      Thank you for this "No Free Presbyterian should have any involvement in the funding of homosexuality"

      That being the case would you care to comment on the story concerning the minister for social development which the burning bush website published in its Janaury 2015. The burning bush website exposed the minister's involvement in funding homosexuality. The minister for social development is a leading Free Presbyterian elder.

      I put it to you this is not a minor matter and is a present and ongoing issue facing the FPC.

    3. Steve

      I have not read the particular article, and do not intend that my own blog be dictated by what others post on theirs. If FPC ministers are aware of other members of presbytery being directly involved in the funding of homosexuality then they should bring such concerns to presbytery

  16. Hi Anonymous - Re : divisions in FPC

    It is not the case that the divisions in the FPC are analogous to the PCI.

    It would be better to categorise the differences in terms of old paths FPs and new way FPs.

    Old paths FPs are traditional FPs who are that almost unique FP mix of reformed protestants and separatist fundamentalists. Old paths FPs are only truly comfortable fellowshipping with others who are similarly reformed and fundamentalist.

    New way FPs by contrast have slowly but surely ditched the older FP view of separation in so far that are happy to fellowship with non-separatist reformed and evangelical people. This group represents a major departure from historic FP thinking and practice. They are also the dominant group in the denomination controlling the major presbytery posts and the largest churches.

    The Beeke controversy is an outworking of the very real and serious divisions that exist between the old paths and new way FPs.

    Ultimately who prevails in the wider conflict between the old paths and new ways wings of the church will determine its long term future. Personally I have no doubt that the FPC will continue on the course the new way FPs have plotted for it.

    1. I just want to say if the blog owner will allow me - thanks very much Steve for giving that much needed clarification on the state of the FPC.

    2. Philip Patrick8 April 2015 at 15:32

      Hi Steve

      I largely agree with your comments although I would say that among the new way FPs there are certain individuals who have shown a distressingly chummy attitude to false religion and false ecumenism. The lauding of the Corrymeela community by a high profile FP being a recent notorious example. The FPC is not presently ecumenical but I would say - watch this space.

  17. Steve

    Readers will also note that the majority of my posts do not directly criticise any particular church. Some denominations get a mention now and again and some do not - the Irish Presbyterian Church gets very little mention considering this is a blog written by a Free Presbyterian! Knowing my own motivations in writing this blog I do not accept your comment. I do not intend to continue this discussion any further as I see no benefit in doing so.

    1. Andrew, my last comment wasn't directed towards you but was a response to 'anonymous'.

      Do try to keep up.