A certain ministerial candidate was being examined by presbytery, and because his children didn’t have any tattoos, smoke cigarettes, and get drunk every now and again, thinking themselves better than other preachers’ kids, the candidate was having a rough go of it. Not that the subject of his children came up in the examination or anything.
“What is your position on the doctrine of sola fide?” his interlocuter asked.
The candidate answered him, making the good confession, and he said, “I believe that a man is justified by faith, through faith, to faith, under faith, and over faith. Furthermore, I believe that there has never been a time in the history of the world when this was not the case.”
At this, the inquisitor’s eyes got all squinty-like. “In the history of the world? So then, you must deny the covenant of works. The covenant God made with Adam?”
The candidate answered and said, “I do not deny the existence of such a covenant. I simply maintain that Adam broke that covenant through his unbelief, and that, had he kept it, he would have done so by grace alone through faith alone.”
The inquisitor tore an imaginary mitre from his head, and held his head with both hands, like he had a head full of bees. “That does it! He denies the covenant of works! Logically, he will eventually deny sola fide, if he hasn’t already!”
A minister from the fastest growing church in the presbytery, the one with a hopping worship band and a parking lot the size of Rhode Island, said, “He denies sola fide because he extends it into everything? You’re losing me, Robert.”
But before the inquisitor could answer, the oldest member raised his hand, and all eyes turned to him. “Young man,” he said, his voice quavering. “You have run afoul of the traditions of the elders, and I can see how this was inadvertent. You have violated one of the watchwords of our historic Church, which is ecclesia deformata et semper deformanda.
“You’re saying it wrong!” hissed the interlocutor.
The oldest member shook his head. “I have been on this presbytery for forty-five years. I think I know what I said.”