the problem of denominationalism

The concept of “denominations” is essentially un-Presbyterian and un-scriptural and brings out an essentially schismatic way of thinking if it is just accepted at face value. The concept is certainly foreign to the principles of the Reformed Church of Scotland and its clear teaching concerning the indivisibility of the visible Church.

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4 thoughts on “the problem of denominationalism

  1. Great article! I appreciate Rev. Campbell’s clarity and boldness in pointing out the un-presbyterian nature of denominationalism and the importance of the unity of the visible church, both in Scotland and elsewhere. I also appreciate his boldness in stating the claims of the FPCS to be the true Church of Scotland clearly.


  2. The FPCS may indeed claim to be the true Church of Scotland today but does she have a valid title to direct lineal, constitutional descent from the Reformation Church of Scotland? And in so far as she does not is she not just another denomination?


    • Hi Donald,

      I sense your questions are intended to be rhetorical, and in your mind you answer them “no” and “yes” respectively (in fact the “in so far as she does not” in your second question presupposes a denial of the FPCS claim).

      I would be interested to know your reasons for this. As the direct lineage of the FPCS from the Reformation Church of Scotland is not in doubt, and is alluded to in the article, your denial of the validity of the FP church’s claim must be based on a constitutional break at some period between the position of the FP church and the position of the Reformation Church of Scotland. To my knowledge (as far as that goes), it is difficult to pinpoint any period in history in which the FP church or its predecessor denominations were in a different constitutional position from the Reformed Church of Scotland.

      To put it another way, it is difficult to construct an argument for the view that any other Scottish denomination can claim “a valid title to direct lineal, constitutional descent from the Reformation Church of Scotland” with more legitimacy than the FP church. I would be interested to hear your views on this, as it appears you see things rather differently (perhaps because of a greater wealth of knowledge regarding the history of Scottish presbyterian denominations).

      Of course, the answer to your second (rhetorical, I know) question is yes, the FP church is, in the final analysis, just another denomination. But surely the point of the article, and of the broader discussion, is that of all the “just another denomination”s, a maximum of one can claim to be the true heir, as it were, of the Reformation Church of Scotland. So stating that the FP church is just another denomination is just covering common ground, and does not belie their claim to be the valid descendant of the Reformation Church of Scotland.


  3. I think Rev. Campbell’s underlying principles need to be addressed, whether the FPCS is the true Church of Scotland or some other church. Biblical presbyterianism does not allow for multiple church bodies, and therefore when denominations are separated from each other they are rejecting each others’ de jure legitimacy and authority. If they accepted each others’ legitimacy and authority, they would necessarily have to be one in formal full communion, as separate existence from a true de jure church body would be necessarily sinfully schismatic.

    This is of crucial importance, because it means that we Presbyterians can’t simply be content to look around at the divisions of Christendom, whether in Scotland or elsewhere, and think of the visible catholic church as consisting of a bunch of autonomous de jure bodies out of formal communion with each other. As Rev. Campell says, it is not enough to be a true church de facto–that is, a body which preaches fundamentally orthodox doctrine. The issue of de jure legitimacy must be squarely faced and we must decide which church we think has that legitimacy–and it can be only one. To look at the situation any other way is to betray presbyterian church government, usually for some kind of semi-congregationalism, which seems to be the dominant perspective in practice even among a lot of Reformed people today.

    So if the FPCS is not the true Church of Scotland, someone else is. The claims have to be weighed on all sides, taking into account both doctrine and history. This is the only Presbyterian way to proceed.


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