At Saturday’s meeting of Presbytery, one of the men being examined to be ordained and installed in our Presbytery was asked this question. Actually the question interacted with the man’s statement of faith and was posed more like: “If someone were to come to you and ask, ‘how do I become a Christian,’ how would you respond?”
It’s a fair question. What was sort of alarming was that the respondent spent two minutes equivocating and then replied that he was not able to answer the question in an abstract way but would only be able to answer it in a real life situation. This response elicited applause from the floor of presbytery. This is confusing absent understanding the dominate culture of presbytery–it is now deemed inappropriate to ask candidates questions except where those questions are no-brainers.
This was further amplified when the same Teaching Elder asked a question of another man being examined who responded that “there is one [question-asker] in every presbytery.” I found this to be a profoundly disrespectful thing to say. It is disrespectful not only to the Teaching Elder in question, but to the entire presbytery whose responsibility it is to guard the peace, unity, and purity of the church. I’m of the opinion that such a response ought to draw the rebuke of the moderator of the Presbytery.
I am certainly willing to grant that the path to faith can look quite different in the lives of individual people. However, it’s disturbing that a minister of the Gospel was not able to find a simple response to the question that would capture the essence of the New Testament’s teaching. For example, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31). Or, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).
While we can claim that conversion is so context-specific that it’s impossible to answer the question, “how can I be save?” that certainly does not seem to be the posture of the New Testament.
The advent of our new form of government has permitted greater freedom in question-asking during examination. This is good because it is exposing the theological fault lines that we often like to think do not exist, and it forces those of us who are evangelicals to both question our place in presbytery and the denomination and intentionally decide how to engage in the life of the church.