Archive for the ‘liberalism’ Category

“If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God”  1 Pet. 4:14-17a

[I have included my preface to Dr. Culpepper’s letter in blue below. Dr. Culpepper’s letter follows.]

This writer is a 1996 alumnus of Louisiana College and also a native of Alexandria, LA. While at LC, after having been raised in a theologically liberal environment, I had become a blasphemer who denied the deity of Christ.  (That’s not something that I blame on the LC faculty of that time.) Within a few years, the Lord graciously drew me to Himself and I repented of my unbelief.

Louisiana College is the only accredited college in Louisiana that is affiliated with an evangelical Bible-believing denomination.  After commencing my pilgrimage to the Celestial City in 1999, I had longed for a Louisiana College that would provide a more distinctively Christian education while also maintaining (and hopefully exceeding) the quality of the education that was currently being provided there.

I was hopeful when Dr. Malcolm Yarnell was announced as the choice for President of Louisiana College in 2004.  He eventually withdrew, notably citing “governance issues which would significantly impact my ability to lead the school” as the reason for his withdrawal.  While much good has been accomplished at LC since then, mostly due to certain faculty who were brought in, from an administrative standpoint things at Louisiana College have steadily gone downhill. For every step forward, it has seemed to me that LC has taken two steps backward.   The school has continually given the world occasion to scoff, and not for the sake of the gospel. And by no stretch of the imagination are all of the critics of LC “liberal” or “Calvinist.”  Dr. Yarnell’s conservative credentials are impeccable and he is one of the more prominent non-Calvinist Southern Baptist academicians. Yet he cited problems with the Board of Trustees and perhaps other issues back in 2004.

It is my prayer that Louisiana Baptists in general, and the Louisiana College Board of Trustees in particular, will act before it is too late and will appoint leadership at LC that is capable of administering the college in a way that glorifies God.

Former Louisiana College faculty member and alumnus Dr. Scott Culpepper has written an open letter to the Louisiana College Board of Trustees. His letter is irenic while also presenting information about the state of LC over the past several years to which many Louisiana Baptists and other interested parties have not been previously exposed. It was first posted on Facebook and he has kindly given me permission to share it here.


Ladies and Gentlemen of the Louisiana College Board of Trustees,

As an alumnus (1996) and a former faculty member (2007-2012) of Louisiana College, I urge you to take decisive action to restore the academic and spiritual integrity of our college by immediately terminating the employment of Joe Aguillard as president of Louisiana College and dismissing all charges against Joshua Breland and all other students involved in this recent fiasco.  I do not make either of these requests lightly or without good reason.  There are many who would attest to my conservative credentials, but I found that I could no longer serve under Joe Aguillard in good conscience because his leadership contradicts the very core of the scripture he claims to defend.  Public and private dishonesty, spiritual manipulation and intimidation, irresponsible anti-intellectualism, and presumptuous attempts to implement poorly conceived pipe dreams rather than responsible planning has characterized life at Louisiana College during Joe Aguillard’s tenure.  His recent attempt to penalize students for exercising their First Amendment rights is only the latest in a long series of poor decisions that have compromised the academic and spiritual integrity of Louisiana College.

I was initially a supporter of Joe Aguillard and excited about the new direction of Louisiana College.  I had been concerned about issues at Louisiana College as a student and was hopeful that the new direction of the college would provide a fresh start in a positive direction.  Even when I started to hear disturbing stories about how the transition had been engineered, I hoped that reconciliation could be achieved and that the college would move forward.  None of that happened.  As my first year at LC continued, I began to be concerned about the grandiose announcements that were being made regarding the establishment of a law school with no clear plan for funding the venture.  I also became aware that many of my colleagues were struggling financially and yet vast amounts were being funneled for the building of a new football stadium.  Only the first phase of that project is completed nearly four years later.  I told myself that maybe the administration was just operating with the hope that athletics would make money to support academics, but it became increasingly obvious that little fundraising was going on to support the undergraduate program.  In fact, the undergraduate program, the traditional core of Louisiana College’s liberal arts program, seemed to be taking a back seat to the dizzying array of proposed graduate ventures that were being advanced by the administration.

I thought I was alone in my concerns for a while and possibly overreacting.  As evidence began to accumulate that my impressions were accurate, I started to compare notes with colleagues.  I discovered that several of them had similar concerns and also new information to add to what I had observed myself.  It also became obvious that there was no forum for faculty to safely speak to the administration about these issues.  Conversations I had with Dr. Aguillard about them generally degenerated into attempts on his part to find out who I had been talking with and reminders that we need to be careful of idle gossip.  We were told that anyone who went directly to the Board of Trustees without first speaking with Aguillard would be immediately terminated for insubordination.

My first direct encounter with Aguillard’s style of managing subordinates came in the spring of 2009 when I voiced concern, first through a series of e-mail messages and then through a letter sent to leading administrators as well as select faculty members, about comments made by David Barton at the spring commencement.  Mr. Barton made several comments at the ceremony that were erroneous.  Not only students but faculty members seemed to be taking his false assertions as fact.  I had already communicated to the administration before the event Barton’s well known reputation for distorting facts and his nearly universal repudiation by Christian academics.  I requested that Aguillard allow us to present the other side of the argument for students and faculty who might be aware of Barton’s factual distortions.  The response was bizarre.  Dr. Chuck Quarles had also written a letter in which he echoed some of my concerns about Barton’s presentation.  Aguillard requested that his personal assistant, Joseph Cole, vet my letter and Dr. Quarles’ for factual accuracy because we probably “misunderstood Bro. Barton.”  Cole was a music major with no background in history who had not even completed his undergraduate degree.  Aguillard finally called me in for a rather strange conversation in which I tried to convince him with historical evidence that Barton was incorrect, and he responded by continually asserting that I would believe otherwise if I felt the spiritual vibe at Barton’s headquarters in Aledo, TX.  The meeting ended with Aguillard saying that he forgave me for my letter.  When I tried to diplomatically say that I stood by the letter and was not apologizing for its content, Aguillard said it would be best for my long term future at Louisiana College to forget about Barton.  I am still convinced that if Dr. Quarles had not been involved as well and I had not just been selected as Professor of the Year by the student body that spring that my treatment at  this time might have mirrored the ordeal that Rondall Reynoso endured two years later.

My second direct encounter occurred in the early summer of 2010.  I had become increasingly aware of the deteriorating infrastructure on campus.  The information technology services were and continue to be an embarrassment.  The dorms and library were rotting even then.  I had just returned to my office after teaching a May term class.  My students in the class were upset because they had not been able to access e-mail for days; they were unable to read primary sources for the class that day because the blackboard server was down; several of them had major registration issues, and the classroom computers did not function that day.  As I sat contemplating all these frustrations, the melodic strains of “Home on the Range” wafted over Alexandria Hall from the sparkling new chimes that had been installed in our dilapidated headquarters through the generosity of an anonymous donor.  Sick and tired of the complete cloak of silence imposed by the administration on any hint of a statement that sounded like a critique or criticism, I placed a statement on my Facebook page expressing my frustration that we had money to install bells to play American folk anthems on the hour, but none to provide an adequate infrastructure for our students.  Several students and faculty members responded with their own frustrations.  Joe’s response was immediate.  He called me and two other faculty members to his office with no warning.

In my meeting with him, he claimed that the donor was very upset and that the donor had specified which songs he wanted played.  “Home on the Range” was supposedly one of them.  I am guessing he liked “The Wizard of Oz” as well because we often heard other triumphant songs to advance the Kingdom of God such as “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”  I was very open and honest with Aguillard at this meeting.  I told him that I wanted to trust him but that I had serious questions about the direction of the college and his leadership.  He responded by giving me a trite illustrative story on gossip printed from one of those web sites that provides cribbed illustrations for sermons.  When I said that there were others who shared my concerns, Aguillard responded, “Who?  I want to know all their names!”  When I refused to provide him with names, he accused me of lying about there being other concerned parties.  When he asked why I did not think that the administration was working to raise money to care for the campus, I indicated that the library roof was in disrepair, the dorms were falling apart, and the information technology infrastructure was shot.  When I mentioned the library roof, Aguillard shouted, “That is a lie!  You have been a pastor and you are lying about the state of our campus!” I later learned that a crew was brought in just a few weeks later to examine the roof.  Two years later, I learned from a student that both a donor and the Board of Trustees were going around campus asking questions but not about the condition of the campus.  They were asking questions about me.  To this day none of them, including the donor, has ever approached me or asked me anything about my reasons for expressing those concerns.  I am convinced again that it was only my good record and the verbal support of many students that protected me.  I am also convinced that this was the moment that the administration decided to make Rondall Reynoso the scapegoat for faculty dissent.  Rondall was only one individual involved in the Facebook posts, but as an Art professor with a small cohort who was unknown to many students on campus, he was easier to slander than the rest of us.  He also was known to challenge the administration on ethical issues when they were in the wrong.  Aguillard directly called Rondall poison in our meeting that day and said I needed to “pray about the influences on my life.”

While these two encounters represent occasions when I attempted to express concerns directly to Dr. Aguillard, we daily lived in an atmosphere of tension and paranoia.  Aguillard and many of his associates routinely acted in ways that were spiritually immature.  They made a regular practice of shunning people who displeased them by refusing to acknowledge their presence when they passed them in the hallway.  There was an expectation that, in the words of an administrator, “You must love everyone Joe loves and hate everyone Joe hates.”  My department chair increasingly put pressure on me to stop allowing people to come to my office who were considered critical of the administration.  Information technology personnel who could not keep the campus network operating in the best of circumstances spent an inordinate amount of time monitoring faculty e-mail and Facebook to look for “subversive” activities.  A spirit of fear and paranoia pervaded the campus.

We hung our heads in embarrassment as Joe launched a crusade against the “Satanic” Town Talk which dared to print the truth about his administration.  I listened to hateful diatribes in chapel and faculty meetings that contradicted everything we were trying to teach our students about developing the mind for God’s glory.  We watched as Joe ate worms twice, hired an actor to play a mentally retarded person to make a point about how we needed to be open to admitting people with mental handicaps, listened as he slandered Baylor University as a godless and secular school, and chuckled at the great bat infestation which the administration would never admit happened.  I listened to Joe lie repeatedly about the extent of our problems with SACS when I knew the truth and was threatened for sharing it.  The entire time my heart broke for my students, some of whom had no idea what they were not getting at Louisiana College and others who endured threats and intimidation because they knew exactly what was happening and would not stand for it.  In fact, those who are rightly expressing concern for the students now being repressed should know that there were many before them who were quietly dealt with by the administration and whose cause was not taken up simply because they were not ministerial students.  In fact, the Christian Studies department often warned their students to stay away from these students because they were “troublemakers.”

The tactics of the administration reached a new low with the Rondall Reynoso prosecution.  I will not retell the entire story because Rondall has told it well himself on several forums.  For my part, I was walking a very thin line because of my friendship with Rondall and my obvious agreement with his critique.  I was “asked” to recuse myself from his case, the only faculty case ever to reach the Faculty Advisory Committee during my tenure of service, because evidence would be presented about situations in which I had been involved.  This directive was sent down despite the fact that Carolyn Spears, a fervent supporter of Aguillard, was allowed to serve on the committee even though she was implicated in evidence that Rondall was presenting in his defense.  Aguillard’s “request” was delivered to me by Joseph Cole.  Cole walked into an upper-level class and interrupted me mid-lecture to hand-deliver me the document in front of a room full of startled students.  In addition to Rondall’s dismissal, another of my colleagues, Beth Overhauser was released from her contract despite the fact that she had been given a promissory notice that her contract would be renewed a month earlier.  Beth had testified on Rondall’s behalf, a practice that was permitted by the faculty handbook, and she also dared to suggest to Aguillard that she was concerned that his rhetoric in chapel regarding homosexuality might be tempered with more references to God’s willingness to forgive anyone who would repent.  Several faculty members assisted the administration in branding Beth a radical because we had read George Orwell’s 1984 in a faculty reading group.  They also said she was disparaging Louisiana because we read John Kennedy Toole’s Confederacy of Dunces. This book had been chosen by another member of the group.  All other books we read were chosen from a list of acknowledged classics by group consensus.  It did not matter.  She was given no contract while other faculty members received ours in our boxes during commencement exercises.  She had to request a meeting to get face-to-face confirmation from acting president Tim Johnson and Vice President of Academic Affairs Tim Searcy that she was not being renewed..

I could write an entire book chronicling the issues at Louisiana College.  Since this document is already longer than I planned, I will close by saying that the examples here could be supported by a ream of other incidents.  By God’s grace, He delivered my family from these circumstances last year when we received a call to teach at another private Christian college.  While I will not chronicle all of our personal issues due to our LC experience, suffice it to say that it was unbelievably stressful for our entire family.  Louisiana College administrators often brought up our families when reminding us that we needed to toe the party line, regardless of the truth.  They constantly displayed callousness towards concerns about the welfare of families and other innocents that stood in direct contrast to the compassion Jesus commands us to have for even our enemies.

For these reasons and many others that I have not had time to record, I state once again my impassioned request that you begin the rebuilding of Louisiana College by removing Joe Aguillard from power, rescuing the Christian Studies students he is persecuting currently, and dismantling the network of supports who have enabled his ruthless leadership.  This task will not be easy.  There are many who would still be at Louisiana College who have been willing instruments in implementing Aguillard’s reign of terror.  Others have enabled him through their silence or by reporting on other faculty and students who sought to bring change.  Anyone who takes the helm will have to deal with these remaining corrupt elements as well as with a Louisiana Baptist constituency that has no understanding of how to foster a quality conservative Christian education.  In other words, you and the future president of Louisiana College have your work cut out for you.  But I am praying that you have been sent for this time, to this place, in this role, for such a time as this.  May God bless you and Louisiana College!


Dr. Scott Culpepper

LC Class of 1996

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Over the past several years, I’ve had a few acquaintances who have converted to Eastern Orthodoxy (hereafter EO).  Others are currently drawn to it or at some point have been strongly attracted to it.  Most of these are people I’ve encountered in various online discussion forums dedicated to the discussion of Reformed theology.

All of these have been folks who were at one time members of a conservative Presbyterian denomination like the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) or the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) and who were often some kind of Baptist to begin with.  Often, although not always, they were attracted to the Federal Vision and the New Perspective on Paul in the mid 2000’s.   The following observations may or may not apply to the same degree to Westerners from different backgrounds who go EO.

It seems to me that Westerners convert to Eastern Orthodoxy due to a few reasons or considerations:

1.  They reject Roman Catholicism because they cannot accept papal infallibility, the primacy of the Bishop of Rome and maybe a few other things.  In general, Rome has too much baggage for many Americans and some other Westerners of a Protestant background.  Due to Trent and subsequent statements, Rome’s teaching appears to be a lot more clearly defined as well.  A clear marking of boundaries tends to give rise to controversy.  I don’t know that the East ever experienced a scholastic phase to the extent that the West did during the Middle Ages and later with the Reformation and Counter-Reformation.  Thus, it seems that one can look eastward and see what he wants to see to a greater degree.

2.  Many of them would have been attracted to Anglicanism in previous years.  However, Anglicanism is now basically a disaster in the West, having been eviscerated by liberalism over the past 100 years and with apparently no cohesive conservative remnant.  Some Calvinistic evangelical Anglicans (or what used to be called low church) may go into some kind of Reformed or Presbyterian church and a few others may affiliate with the African Anglicans that are now overseeing some parishes that have disaffiliated from the Episcopal Church USA.  A good many of the high church types tend to cross the Tiber eventually unless they are hung up on the ordination of women, celibacy or Rome’s claim to authority. 

3.  They have rejected Calvinism and for whatever reason cannot be Lutheran, probably because of the strong law/grace distinction and Two Kingdom theology that is found in Lutheranism.  The EO types are typically into the idea of Christendom and often have an emphasis on influencing the culture.  Thus, Anglicanism would have been a good fit but see #2.  Lutheranism, like Calvinism, is also viewed as insufficiently apostolic by those who equate the ancient church (and thus authentic Christianity) with Rome or the East.  But I find that the rejection of Protestantism on the grounds of it not being apostolic in its teaching or authority typically follows discontent with it in some other regard.

4.  Due to the conversions of Peter Gillquist and others, the easy availability of information on the internet that wouldn’t have been readily available a few decades ago and perhaps some of the American Orthodox churches becoming less of an ethnic social club, Eastern Orthodoxy is more accessible to Americans than it has ever been.

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J. Gresham Machen:

Clear-cut definition of terms in religious matters, bold facing of the logical implications of religious views, is by many persons regarded as an impious proceeding. May it not discourage contribution to mission boards? May it not hinder the progress of consolidation, and produce a poor showing in columns of Church statistics? But with such persons we cannot possibly bring ourselves to agree. Light may seem at times to be an impertinent intruder, but it is always beneficial in the end. The type of religion which rejoices in the pious sound of traditional phrases, regardless of their meanings, or shrinks from “controversial” matters, will never stand amid the shocks of life. In the sphere of religion, as in other spheres, the things about which men are agreed are apt to be the things that are least worth holding; the really important things are the things about which men will fight.

Christianity and Liberalism pp. 1-2.

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Some wonder today if the Conservative Resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention was truly worth it.  One needs to look no further than this article in the Associated Baptist Press for an example of why it was necessary.

HT:  Dr. Thomas White

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According to Bob L. Ross, Spurgeon blamed the Down Grade on Calvinism, or specifically, the “Hybrid Calvinism” that Ross says is taught by Reformed paedobaptists as well as some “Reformed Baptists” and those who are affiliated with Founders Ministries. As will soon become clear, nothing could be further from the truth, unless by “Hybrid Calvinism” Ross means baptismal regeneration. But since the Down Grade was a significant problem among Baptists and there is no evidence that either Calvinism or “Hybrid Calvinism” were the cause, it would seem obvious that there is another explanation.

In March 1887, two articles on the “Down Grade” appeared in the Sword and the Trowel. This marked the beginning of the famous Down Grade controversy that continued until Spurgeon’s death. The issue contained two articles that were issued anonymously which were authored by Robert Shindler, a Baptist pastor who was an associate of Spurgeon’s. They can be found here and here.

Generally, the articles trace the decline of orthodoxy (i.e. the Down Grade) among the dissenters. Now, as Ross notes, the first article does say that the Presbyterians were the first to “get on the downline”. But one searches it in vain to find “hybrid Calvinism” given as a cause. In the 18th Century the English Presbyterians embarked upon a path toward apostasy. This was hastened by their view that “baptized” children were to be regarded as regenerate* and entitled to participate in the Lord’s Supper so long as they were outwardly moral.  There was also a tendency to pay inordinate attention to “classical attainments” as Shindler notes. However, the Presbyterians decline was also due to their defection from Calvinism that eventually led to them embracing various heretical views, as the same article makes clear. Indeed, that theme is repeated several times in both articles. The reasons for the Presbyterians leading the way on the “downline” were attributable primarily to their ecclesiology and to a lesser extent to cultural factors that had nothing to do with why Baptists and other nonconformists eventually did the same by the 19th Century.

For some reason the following passages from the Sword and Trowel Down Grade issue were ignored in the post “The Ignored Spurgeon”:

“The General [i.e. Arminian] Baptists have yet to be noticed. And here we must draw a line hard and sharp between the Old Connexion and the New Connexion. The latter was formed in 1770, and was the result of the heterodoxy of the former. The Old Connexion generally became Arianized, and, with hardly an exception, followed on “the down grade” to Socinianism. A writer of acknowledged repute, writing at the early part of the present century, makes this rather startling statement:—
“Arminianism among the dissenters has, in general, been a cold, dry, and lifeless system, and its effects upon the heart have been commonly weak and spiritless. With the General Baptists, who avowed it to be their creed, this was remarkably the effect, and their congregations did not increase. Besides, from facts too stubborn to be bent, and too numerous to be contradicted, Arminianism has been among them the common road to Arianism and Socinianism. Their ministers and congregations were the first who openly professed these opinions; and their societies have felt the decay which these opinions have uniformly produced.”

“The writer is of opinion that the great majority of those who are sound in the doctrine of inspiration, are more or less Calvinistic in doctrine”

“Perhaps it cannot be contradicted that, in proportion as any sect recedes from Calvinism, their veneration for the Scriptures is diminished The Bible is the Calvinist’s creed.”

“Arminianism has been among them the common road to Arianism and Socinianism”

The article gives examples from the Presbyterians, Independents and Baptists that suppport the idea that generally moving from Calvinism toward Arminianism is often the first step in the Down Grade that eventually leads to heresy if not outright unbelief.

Now, I don’t know that Bro. Ross would necessarily disagree with this concept of a slippery slope from abandoning Calvinism for Arminianism and eventually to unbelief since he says he holds to “creedal Calvinism.” But the idea that a move away from Calvinism is a move away from orthodoxy is objected to strongly by those non Calvinists in the Southern Baptist Convention who have reveled in Bro. Ross’ attacks on “Hybrid Calvinism.” Indeed, at the recent John 3:16 conference we heard the opposite assertion, that a move toward Calvinism is a move away from the gospel. Ross notes that Spurgeon said that the “great evangelical truths” are far more important than Calvinism vs. Arminianism and that many evangelical Arminians were in agreement with him on the Down Grade. I agree wholeheartedly. But nonetheless the idea that a move toward Arminianism is often the first step on the downgrade was repeated several times in the Down Grade articles, and it was repeated by Spurgeon himself in the Notes from the Downgrade article from April 1887. Spurgeon and Shindler certainly didn’t blame Calvinism for the Down Grade. The following from that article appears to be a good summary of Spurgeon’s views on the matter:

We care far more for the central evangelical truths than we do for Calvinism as a system; but we believe that Calvinism has in it a conservative force which helps to hold men to the vital truth, and therefore we are sorry to see any quitting it who have once accepted it. Those who hold the eternal verities of salvation, and yet do not see all that we believe and embrace, are by no means the objects of our opposition. Our warfare is with men who are giving up the atoning sacrifice, denying the inspiration of Holy Scripture, and casting slurs upon justification by faith. The present struggle is not a debate upon the question of Calvinism or Arminianism, but of the truth of God versus the inventions of men. All who believe the gospel should unite against that “modern thought” which is its deadly enemy.

Those on both sides of the Calvinism debate would do well to pay heed to these words.

Baptismal regeneration is a worse error than evangelical Arminianism. But very few conservative Presbyterians today are guilty of believing it, certainly not to the extent that the English Presbyterians who followed Doddridge did. This is particularly true of the type of Presbyterians who are involved in things like Together for the Gospel. Now, it is clear that many “Reformed Baptists” would rather fellowship with Presbyterians rather than otherwise sound Baptists who just don’t happen to be 5 pointers. Not for nothing have they sometimes been termed “High Water Presbyterians.” As Spurgeon recognized, there are many things that confessional Presbyterians and Particular Baptists have in common. What separates us was perhaps clearer in Spurgeon’s day than ours since ecclesiology is too often a neglected subject. But it would seem that we’d be better served to refrain from selectively quoting a few statements that have the tendency to give a false impression of a work as a whole, especially given the current situation in which some are looking to blame Calvinism for the perceived ills in the SBC. Further, whether or not someone believes that regeneration precedes faith, the idea that baptized infants are always regenerated in their infancy as Ross appears to suggest in his attacks on “hybrid Calvinism” is clearly not supported by the Presbyterian’s Westminster Confession of Faith, as I believe Ross has noted in the past. Whether we agree with it or not, the idea that regeneration precedes faith really has nothing to do with paedobaptism at all. This is demonstrated by the fact that several of those who Bro. Ross cites in support of his “creedal Calvinist” views were paedobaptists themselves.

In closing, I do want to make clear how thankful we should be for Bro. Ross’ labors in publishing unabridged versions of all of Spurgeon’s works. Through the years he has also published a number of helpful books, including Old Landmarkism and the Baptists which I have recently found to be very helpful.

*The debate on how to view the so called “children of the covenant” (baptized children) has been a long running one among Presbyterians. Few conservative Presbyterians today would agree with the practice of the English Presbyterians that led to “children of the covenant” being admitted to the table without a profession of faith. Those who do believe that children should be admitted to the table without a profession of faith have recently had their views rejected by every conservative Presbyterian denomination of significance.

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