The Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) along with other evangelical (or "gospel-oriented") churches, share the core of their beliefs--the inerrancy of Scripture, the Trinity, justification by faith alone, the divine-human nature of Jesus Christ, His substitutionary death and bodily resurrection. There are some beliefs, however, that Presbyterians distinctly stress:
1. The Sovereignty of God
We say that God is sovereign, meaning God is King, the King. He is king over creation and king over every sphere of life, and thus also king over human salvation. He is both transcendent (holy and wholly other from creation) and immanent (intimately involved in guiding and governing creation). As a result, human history has purpose and direction, both on a macro level (the scope of history), and a micro level (our individual life stories).
2. The Priority of Grace
Presbyterians stress that salvation comes not through any amount of self-effort of self-enlightenment, but is rooted completely in God's good pleasure and promises, and originates entirely from Him. That is, God's grace comes first and is prior to any good thing. This includes, most famously, our salvation, but also our walk of faith and our transformation; it also includes God's "common grace" to humankind at large in the regular provision of the necessities of life and the preservation of uniform laws of science and nature.
3. Covenant and Kingdom
God's covenant is the story of redemption; the story of God's voluntary condescension to relate to beings He created and graciously entering into relationship with them. The story began in Eden and continues today, heading toward the end of God's reign, His Kingdom made manifest throughout the whole earth. Presbyterians stress the continuity of this redemption story through the Old and New Testaments, and the consistency of God's promise to provide a Redeemer for His people.
4. The Nature of the Church
Presbyterians believe that the church is at the center of God's purposes for the world, and therefore is God's primary way of dealing with His people today. The church is described as the people (at large) who are shaped by the Trinity and by the gospel, but also in terms of local church bodies. The language of the "invisible" and "visible" church refers to the church as God sees it (all times and places) and the church as we see it (made up of professing adults and their children).
Baptism and the Lord's Supper are the only two sacraments in Presbyterian theology. The sacraments serve as both signs and seals of the covenant of God's grace. As signs, they point us to Christ; as seals, they remind us of God's promises and call on His faithfulness as their guarantee. The sacraments have no power in themselves to confer grace, but instead refer to the spiritual reality of Christ and His benefits.
Baptism is the sign of entrance into God's visible people, and as such is administered to those who make professions of faith, as well as to their children. The Lord's Supper is the sign of Christ's death and the benefits resulting from His sacrifice in our place, and is administered to those who have made a profession of faith.
For more information, visit the PCA website: www.pcanet.org/about-pca/