The Rev. Charles L. Rassieur, Ph.D.
February 7, 2014
ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians is well on the way to being supported by many voting presbyteries as a legitimate Reformed denomination for those congregations that want to leave the PC(USA) for another Reformed denomination.
ECO, in documents posted on the Internet, clearly claims a Reformed theological orientation while insisting on the wholehearted adoption of the Book of Confessions of the PC(USA) as its confessional standard. However, I am writing to say that all should understand that in its most basic theological tenet about the authority of scripture, ECO has abandoned the traditional Trinitarian theology of the Nicene Creed.
The following two sentences are quoted from the section in the ECO Essential Tenets on Scripture. Of course I cannot here quote the entire section, but these are the two key sentences in the section affirming the authority of Scripture according to the ECO understanding. I urge you to read the entire section so that you see the context for these two definitive sentences.
“We affirm that the same Holy Spirit who overshadowed the virgin Mary also inspired the writing and preservation of the Scriptures.”
“The revelation of the incarnate Word does not minimize, qualify, or set aside the authority of the written Word.”
Though not using the word “proceeding,” the ECO Essential Tenets profess a new Trinity. In the ECO Trinity, it is the Father, the Spirit and the Word, the Word proceeding from the Spirit and being manifest in two co-authoritative forms, the Incarnate Word and the Written Word. I will not elaborate here on the radical implications of this formulation, but it is the theological bedrock for the ECO Essential Tenets while abandoning the traditionally authoritative Nicene Trinitarian heritage of the Christian Church and the Reformed tradition. Likewise, this ECO reformulation of the Trinity is the basic theological premise upon which the arguments from Scripture are constructed for separation from the PC(USA). I personally cannot imagine that ECO would ever consider deleting or amending the sentences in the Essential Tenets regarding the co-authority of the Incarnate and the Written Word, which has the final effect of radically elevating the authority of Scripture and radically diminishing the authority of Jesus Christ.
I invite any academic theologian on the faculty of any of our Presbyterian seminaries to dispute my description of the ECO Trinity, which in the least does not reflect historic Christian orthodoxy. I am saying this despite the efforts of ECO to describe and claim in the Essential Tenets a traditional Reformed theological basis.
Churches will continue to be dismissed from the PC(USA) to ECO. But, my aim and hope are that fewer Presbyterians will be deceived into thinking that ECO is a thoroughly Reformed body while its Essential Tenets rest upon a blatantly unorthodox view of Scriptural authority.
My hope is that there will be a wider discussion of the ECO Essential Tenets.