PCI Moderator Airs Modernist Theology
Rev. Martyn McGeown
On 19 November, 2006, BBC Radio Ulster’s religious
affairs show Sunday Sequence hosted a special programme in which
host, William Crawley, interviewed the four main church leaders in
Northern Ireland, asking them questions on a range of questions submitted
by the listening public. The four clergymen were Presbyterian Moderator,
David Clarke; Roman Catholic (RC) Archbishop, Sean Brady; Church of
Ireland Archbishop, Robin Eames; and Methodist President, Ivan McElhinney.
Their responses to fundamental biblical questions reveal how far the
"mainstream" denominations in Ireland, in their leaders, have departed
from a good confession of the Word of God. The fact that these men are
able to make such statements on public radio without any sign of protest
from the members of their churches is a sad indication that the four
largest churches are hopelessly apostate (Jer. 3:20). The Presbyterian
Church in Ireland (PCI) with its Westminster Confession of Faith is
particularly culpable before God for her departure from the truth of
Scriptures as summarized in this Reformed confession. For this reason,
David Clarke’s answers will be given special attention.
1. Rome, a True Church
On being asked whether he regards the Roman Catholic
Church as a true Christian church, Presbyterian Moderator, David Clarke
stated unequivocally that "the stated position of our church [i.e., the PCI] is
that we accept the Roman Catholic Church as a Christian church." While
acknowledging that there "may well be some [in the PCI] who take [the]
view" that the Roman Catholic Church is a false church, and that there are
"significant differences" between the PCI and the Roman Catholic Church,
so that the Roman Catholic Church is a "Christian church with error,"
David Clarke was unable or unwilling to confess the traditional Reformed
view of the Roman Church. She is the false church who persecutes
the true church and who teaches a false gospel of faith and works, which
leads those who teach it and those who believe it to hell (Gal. 1:8-9).
Rome’s false gospel has not changed one whit for the better since the
Reformation, the superficial changes in form at Vatican II
The RC Archbishop, Sean Brady, complained that the
division of Christians is a "scandal" but could not acknowledge the PCI to
be a church "in the fullest sense." This is in keeping with the document
Dominus Iesus which was compiled by Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope
Benedict XVI) which stated that non-Roman Christians belong to
"communities of faith" but not to churches per se, since only Rome is
truly church. Brady revealed that he has a lot in common with David Clarke
and the other clerics present: they are all baptized in the name of the
Triune God and they can agree on the early ecumenical creeds. He revealed
further that "some years ago," he preached in Fitzroy Presbyterian Church
and the congregation of Roman Catholics and Presbyterians recited the
creed together ("that came through most powerfully when I stood up to
preach in Fitzroy Presbyterian Church some years ago and we recited the
same creed together"). The question must be asked: Why has no member of
the Presbyterian Church in Ireland protested to Kirk Session, Presbytery
and the General Assembly that the Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church
was permitted to preach in a Presbyterian Church?
2. The Salvation of Unevangelized Heathen
After the clerics had all agreed that Rome is a true
church and they had all affirmed their supposed oneness in Christ the
subject was widened to other religions. What about Muslims, Jews or
Hindus who live and die in their respective faiths and never confess the
Christian religion: Can they be saved?
David Clarke started well when he said, "We as
Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to God the Father."
Had he ended there, we could have agreed with him. But he added this
caveat: "But we also accept the view of the Old Testament, you know:
'Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?' We leave it there." When
pressed by the presenter, William Crawley, whether there is then a
possibility of salvation in other religions, he did not deny it. "Well,
that's between them and their relationship with God," he said.
The Westminster Confession of Faith is
unequivocal on this issue: "Much less can men, not professing the
Christian religion, be saved in any other way whatsoever, be they never so
diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature and the law
of that religion they do profess; and to assert and maintain that they may
is very pernicious and to be detested" (10:4).
The whole of Scripture teaches that those who are
outside of Jesus Christ are lost; those who do not believe in the true God
are without hope in the world (Eph. 2:12). It is not true to say that
devout Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists or Jews are sincerely seeking God (Rom.
3:11). Rather in their idolatry they are actively suppressing the
truth they have of God (Rom. 1:21ff.) so that all false religion is really
the expression of men’s hatred against God (Rom. 8:7). Christ is therefore
just when He appears "in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that
know not God and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ" (II
Thess. 1:8). To know God in Christ is life eternal (John 17:3) and this knowledge is
a gift given to some. Jesus confirms this: "No man knoweth the Son, but
the Father, neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to
whomsoever the Son will reveal him" (Matt. 11:27).
Genesis 18:25 ("Shall not the Judge of all the earth do
right?"), the text to which David Clarke referred, in no way supports the
notion that advocates of other religions can be saved without true
conversion. In that text, Abraham is interceding with God for the
"righteous" in the city of Sodom. Surely God will not "slay the righteous
with the wicked," argues Abraham. Abraham is right. God will not
destroy the righteous in Sodom, and so He does not destroy the cities of
the plain until the one righteous person in Sodom, Lot, is
delivered (II Pet. 2:7).
But some may object. How can it be fair that God sends
people to hell who never had a chance to hear the gospel? We answer that
there is no unrighteousness with God (Rom. 9:14). Everything God does, by
virtue of the fact that He does it, is righteous and cannot be
anything other than righteous. God Himself is the standard whereby all
righteousness is measured. Man cannot in his foolish arrogance determine a
standard of righteousness to which God must conform in order to be
considered righteous in man’s eyes. For this reason, we affirm
unapologetically that God is righteous in consigning the wicked, whether
they have heard the gospel or not, to everlasting punishment in hell.
Sadly, not one of the clergymen interviewed was able to defend God’s
righteousness from the Word of God.
Archbishop Brady gave the standard Roman Catholic
response: "Each human person is made in the image and likeness of God and
certainly can be saved by following their conscience and doing what is
right and good." We have seen that such a response is contrary to
Scripture, although popular in our modern, pluralistic society. No man can
do "what is right and good" (Rom. 3:9-20) and certainly no man can be
saved by his own works. Christ alone is the way to God and outside of Him
there is no possibility of salvation (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).
Archbishop Eames claimed that those who are "born by an
accident of birth into different circumstances" still believe in the same
God. He is wrong. There are no "accidents of birth" for "God hath made of
one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth,
and hath determined the times before appointed and the bounds of their
habitation" (Acts 17:26). Clearly, then, it is God who decreed where each
individual human person would be born, whether in Northern Ireland,
Nicaragua, Norway or Nigeria. God determined whether a person would be
born to idolatrous parents or to God-fearing parents; God determined
whether the gospel would come to that person or whether He would leave him
in darkness. In this way, God accomplishes His decree of election and
reprobation. This decree is taught in the Westminster Confession:
"Some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others
foreordained to everlasting death" (3:3). This decree is unconditional
(3:5) and immutable (3:4) and, of course, biblical (Rom. 9:11-22; Acts
13:48; I Pet. 2:8; II Thess. 2:11-13; Eph. 1:4) but David Clarke made no
mention of it. Furthermore, pagans and Christians do not believe in
the same God. In the Old Testament, when the people of Israel sacrificed
unto strange gods they were not just worshipping Jehovah in a different
way. All ways did not and do not lead to God! Moses explicitly says that
"they sacrificed unto devils, not to God" (Deut. 32:17). Paul shows that
the situation was no different in the New Testament: devout worshippers of
Diana, Zeus, etc "sacrifice to devils, and not to God" (I Cor. 10:20).
Similarly, the devout Hindu who sacrifices to Ganesh or any other of his
many gods sacrifices to devils, not to God. Such is the clear teaching of
3. Theistic Evolution
Having effectively denied that Jesus is the one, only
and sufficient Saviour, the clergy proceeded to deny Scripture itself. One
listener asked the question, "Do you believe that God created the world in
six days?" Surely a very simple question! The Bible is clear (Gen. 1;
Exod. 20:11). The Westminster Confession is clear: "It pleased God
in the beginning, to create or make of nothing the world, and all things
therein, whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days and all
very good" (4:1).
David Clarke did not give the answer of the
Westminster Confession. Instead, he stated plainly and unequivocally
that he is a theistic evolutionist:
Well, I think
sometimes we become fairly obsessed with this. People believe in creation,
in evolution and so on. Anybody who reads the Bible will recognize that
the opening chapters of Genesis are of a different nature from the rest of
that book, for instance. If you're asking me personally, I’m a Christian,
I'm a theistic evolutionist. It could well be that evolution over a long
period of years, of centuries and of millennia is the way in which God
acts. Science addresses the question, How did this world come
about. The Bible addresses the question, Who brought this world
into being. So religion and science in this issue are addressing separate
questions. If evolution over a long period is the way in which God brings
the world into being, I can live with that. God is the Creator, it's His
We repudiate the idea that the opening chapters of
Genesis are "of a different nature from the rest of the book." There is no
indication of that. Clarke is allowing himself to be influenced by the
theories of unbelieving scientists. Genesis 1:1 tells us
that God created the world. The rest of the chapter and the next
chapter tell us how He created all things. It explains the order
in which God proceeded, how long He chose to take and the result
of His creative work. It simply will not do to explain away the days in
Genesis 1 as aeons of time. God created all things "in the space of six
days." Furthermore, when God created all things, He looked upon His
handiwork and "behold, it was very good" (Gen. 1:31). This could not have
been the case if His creative work was the result of billions of years of
death, bloodshed, suffering and corruption, which is the story of
Darwinian evolution. Science cannot address the question how the
universe came into being. Only revelation from God can tell us that.
Unbelieving scientists and clergymen refuse to believe the revelation of
here to read Prof. David Engelsma's pamphlet, "Genesis 1-11: Myth or
Methodist President, Ivan McElhinney repeated the folly
of David Clarke: "The Bible tells us that God created and it is
science that tells us how God created the world … the Bible is a
very ancient document, it comes from an ancient culture." McElhinney
impugns the veracity of God’s word which he calls "a very ancient
document." This same "ancient document" teaches us the gospel of Jesus
Christ, His life, His death, His resurrection and His coming again in
judgment, which McElhinney claims to accept. Why does he accept the New Testament
accounts of Christ but refuse to affirm the truth of creation as taught
in Genesis? Christ and the apostles had no difficulty affirming the truth
of Genesis. Jesus upholds the truth of Genesis when He rebukes the
Pharisees, "Have ye not read that he which made them at the beginning made
them male and female?" (Matt. 19:4). If all living creatures evolved (as
Darwinian evolution insists) from primeval slime and over billions of
years of struggle man evolved from ape-like ancestors, what becomes of
Adam and Eve? How can it be confessed that Adam and Eve were literal,
historical people, whose literal actions had literal consequences for all
mankind, if evolution is true? If the fundamental truth of Adam and Eve is
denied, fundamental doctrines such as original sin and redemption in
Christ fall to the ground. Have the clergy ever considered this? There can
be no doubt that Christ and the apostles believed that Adam and Eve (and
Noah and other persons mentioned in Genesis) were real people (cf. Matt.
19:4; Rom. 5:12; I Cor. 15:47; I Tim. 2:13-14; etc.).
4. Conquest of Canaan
Since the church leaders were unwilling to defend the
opening chapters of Scripture, it is hardly surprising that they fail to
defend other Old Testament texts. Host, William Crawley quoted ardent
atheist and evolutionist propagandist, Richard Dawkins, who claimed
blasphemously that "the God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant
character in all of fiction" and charges Jehovah with unlawfully calling
the Israelites to commit genocide when they displaced the Canaanites.
How does David Clarke answer such a wicked charge?
Interviewer: "Richard Dawkins says that that [the conquest of Canaan] is
genocide, ethnic cleansing. How can you deny that?"
Clarke: "Well, that's one small story in the vast sweep of the Old Testament."
Interviewer: "It's a very key text."
Clarke: "There are many key texts in the Old Testament and there is so much in the Old Testament
about the mercy and loving-kindness of God."
Interviewer: "But how do you deal with that text?"
Clarke: "Take that particular text ... in those days ... the total
annihilation of the enemy indicated that the battles, the wars were fought
for the good of, on behalf of, the gods. Nowadays we fight wars for human
profit, for control of the oil wells of the Middle East ... so in a sense
there is that to be said in defence of it. But there is so much in the Old Testament
Interviewer: "Do you see this as a god sanctioning genocide in that text?"
Clarke: "It was a particular juncture in Hebrew history, the protection of
the and in development of the insight that the Hebrews had into the
greatness of the monotheistic god, and there was a light and a truth that
the Hebrews had at that time."
Interviewer: "That's like you’re saying that that yes he did but he didn't
do it very often in the Bible?"
Clarke: "[Laughs.] Yes. But, I think, you mustn't run away from the fact
that the goodness and the mercy of God, that's in the Old Testament."
Nowhere in this response does Clarke indicate that he
actually believes that God commanded the Israelites to kill the
Canaanites. What he says is that at a certain time in Hebrew history the
Israelites had a certain "insight" into the greatness of God. The
implication is that they were mistaken. God did not really command them to
destroy the Canaanites. The Israelites simply thought that God wanted
The Bible is clear that God did command Israel
(especially through Joshua) to kill the Canaanites. It may seem harsh to
us, but we dare not accuse God of unrighteousness. God first reveals to
Abraham in Genesis 15:16 something of the end that awaits the Canaanites: "But in the fourth generation they
(i.e., Abraham’s descendants) shall
come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet
full." This is an indication that God’s judgment is coming. The Amorites
were not ripe for judgment. God would punish them but it would be many
years in the future. In Exodus 23:30, God promises to "drive out" the
Canaanites "little [by] little." This driving out is not simply a
displacement of them from the land but an utter destruction of them
(v. 27). In Deuteronomy 7:1-4, God gives clear instructions to the
Israelites. They are to "smite" and "utterly destroy them" and they are
forbidden to show mercy to them. They are not to marry them because that
would turn them away from worshipping Jehovah. Because the Israelites
failed utterly to eradicate the Canaanites, they were repeatedly enticed
into idolatry. Later in the book of Deuteronomy, God commands His people
to "save alive nothing that breatheth" but to "destroy utterly" the
inhabitants of Canaan (20:16-18).
But why did God order the utter destruction of these
was punishing the wicked Canaanites for their gross wickedness
through Israel as His instrument (and Israel understood this). This is
clear from Leviticus 18:24-28. The Canaanites, says Jehovah, are
"defiled." "I do visit the iniquity thereof upon [Canaan]," says God. Not
only that, so wicked are the Canaanites—and some of their abominable sins
are listed in Leviticus 18—that "the land itself vomiteth out her
inhabitants." God then warns the Israelites that if they engage in the
wicked practices of the Canaanites, the land will spew them out too.
God is the sovereign judge and He does right (Gen.
18:25). God’s judgments are shown all through the Old Testament. God
destroyed the wicked by the flood (Gen. 9) and in Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen.
19). Atheists, such as Dawkins, use such incidents to argue that God is a
monster unworthy of worship. Robin Eames’ response to Dawkins’ blasphemies
is to complain that his language is "hurtful." None of the clergy face the
objection head-on with an indignant rebuke. Who dares judge Jehovah? Shall
not the Creator of all things do what He wills in His creation? Is Jehovah
obligated to save the Canaanites? In that same chapter (Deut. 7), God
shows His sovereign good pleasure. He destroys the Canaanites, "seven
nations greater and mightier" than the children of Israel (v. 1). Lest the
Israelites think they are favoured by Jehovah because of their own
intrinsic worth, God reminds them that it is "not for thy righteousness or
for the uprightness of thine heart" (9:5) that He chose them but simply
because He loves them. Indeed, Israel are "a stiff-necked people" (v. 6)
and completely undeserving of God’s love.
There is the love, mercy, and compassion of God in the
Old Testament. Because God loved Noah, He destroyed the wicked. Because
God loved Lot, He destroyed the Sodomites. Because God loved the children
of Israel, He destroyed the Egyptians and because God loved His people, He
destroyed the Canaanites and because God loved the elect descendents
of Jacob, He destroyed the Edomites (Mal. 1:2-5). God did not love, but
hated, the wicked, the men of Sodom, the Egyptians, the Canaanites and the
Edomites (Josh. 11:20; Ps. 5:5; 11:5; Mal. 1:2-5). God loved Israel with a
sovereign, free, electing love. He tells Moses, "The LORD did not set his
love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number … but
because the LORD loved you" (Deut. 7:7-8). That is to say, God loved
Israel because He loved Israel. His love is grounded in Himself, not in
Israel, who was undeserving of that love. Today, too, God chooses to love
some sinners and save them. This electing love is unconditional and
sovereign (Eph. 1:4ff.). We who are loved by God must confess that we are
undeserving and marvel at the love which God has for us in Jesus Christ.
Roman Catholic Archbishop, Sean Brady does not fare
much better with this question than his friend, David Clarke.
"Well, it certainly creates problems but the God we, we have moved on from
that to the God of Jesus Christ."
"Are they different gods?"
"Not a different God, but the God revealed by Jesus Christ is the God we
"Surely there needs to be some consistency between that God and the God
imaged in this text?"
"Well that image needs to be corrected by later revelation in Jesus
"Yes, I think so. I, I. [Clarke whispers, "Developed."] Developed. It
creates problems. There is no doubt about that, but the point where we are
at the moment is of Jesus Christ as the one who reveals God, a God who
brings compassion and forgiveness and healing."
"Are you embarrassed by the God of the Old Testament?"
"I am more fascinated by the God of the New Testament."
These answers are a complete cop-out. The God of the Old Testament
is the same unchanging God of the New Testament (Mal. 3:6; James 1:17). There is no
doubt that the God of the New Testament reveals Himself as merciful. With the coming
of Christ, the promise to Abraham that "in thee shall all the nations of
the earth be blessed" is fulfilled (Gal. 3:13-14). Sean Brady has
"problems" with the Old Testament because it does not fit with his idea of a god who
loves all without exception. All the nations are blessed in
Abraham but that blessing of salvation is not for every human being
head for head, but only for the elect who are in Christ. Outside of Christ,
God can only be known as "a consuming fire" into whose hands it is a
fearful thing to fall (Heb. 10:31). There is mercy for all those who come
to God through Christ (Heb. 7:25) and since "all that the Father giveth
[Him] shall come to [Him]," Christ can promise that "him that cometh unto
me, I shall in no wise cast out" (John 6:37). However, "He that believeth
not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him" (3:36). Those who will not repent will perish under the wrath of Jesus
Christ, "the wrath of the Lamb" (Rev. 6:16).
On the subject of homosexuality, David Clarke revealed
that the General Assembly of the PCI "passed a resolution establishing a
committee to acknowledge the existence of homophobia in society and in our
church, and to develop ways in which we could approach people of homosexual
orientation in a much more sensitive way." The stance of the PCI,
continued Clarke, is that they "regard homosexual practices as
incompatible with New Testament Christianity." Why did he not say sin?
Homosexual practices, and the lusts which lead to such practices, are sin
before God (Rom. 1:26-27; I Cor. 6:9; I Tim. 1:10; Jude 7). There needs to
be sharp preaching against the sin of sodomy. The pulpit needs to warn the
people that God hates this sin (and all sin) and will punish it severely.
That being said, we acknowledge that David Clarke does not "dignify the
relationship [of same sex civil union] with the term of Christian marriage"
and that Presbyterian ministers "are not allowed to bless civil
partnerships as such." One wonders how long the Presbyterian Church in
Ireland will "stand firm on Christian marriage as the relationship of one
man and one woman."
When a denomination can re-interpret the Bible to allow the
ordination of women (I Tim. 2:11-12; I Cor. 14:34), theistic evolution,
etc., can it be long before they conveniently cave into our culture to
re-interpret the Bible to allow for homosexuality, as many churches have
done? (Click here to read the answer!)
Where Are the True Presbyterians?
We have now examined the answers given by Presbyterian
Moderator, David Clarke, on a few, key issues (Rome, a true church; the
salvation of unevangelized heathen; theistic evolution; the conquest of
Canaan; the relationship between the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament;
His answers betrayed false ecumenism, Arminianism, liberalism, modernism,
evolutionism, higher criticism and Marcionitism, contrary to the Word of
Almighty God. "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not
according to this word, it is because there is no light in them"
(Isa. 8:20). All of these heresies are also condemned in the
Westminster Standards, which Rev. Clarke affirmed in his ordination
vows. And this is the man that the majority of Presbyteries in the PCI
voted for moderator!
We have to ask, where are the "evangelicals" in the
Presbyterian Church in Ireland? Where are the faithful pastors in the
church? Where are the protests? Why is there a deafening silence? Why are
those who deny the faith of Jesus Christ and the confession of the church
not disciplined, as Scripture, the Westminster Confession
(30:1-4) and the Heidelberg Catechism (Q. & A. 85) require?