Archive for July 2012
This guy nails it. Stumbled on this from a comment in Wes White’s now defunct blog (I still think you’re making a mistake Wes).
When tragedy strikes, or more appropriately, a heinous crime against humanity is committed, as happened last week at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, it is a time for utmost sensitivity and prayer for the community and those who are mourning the loss of loved ones in a senseless, violent attack. At our small church in the country two and a quarter hours east of Aurora, I personally led prayers for the victims’ families last Sunday, and for the shooter—that God would change his heart. This is a time when people can tend to question the basic fabric of the universe. Does anything make sense when these things can happen? The world as most of us live and experience every day seems to be shattered. We no longer feel safe. If we can’t rest easy at a movie, where can we? So it may be natural to pose the question:…
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It should be no surprise that the Presbyterian Church in American is in poor health. Some might say the denomination is in critical condition. In 2009 I attempted to answer the question; Can the PCA be Saved? At that time I was pessimistic about the denomination’s ability to deal with, if they could deal with it at all, what ByFaith (the PCA’s official denominational magazine) called “the issue of this generation,” specifically the neo-legalism of the New Perspectives on Paul and Federal Vision movements. Since that time things haven’t improved as presbytery after presbytery have either exonerated or protected one Federal Visionist after another currently preaching and teaching in the PCA. The much hoped for action of the PCA’s Standing Judicial Commission to correct these miscarriages of ecclesiastic justice on the presbytery level remains elusive. To date, where the SJC has spoken on the Federal Vision it has upheld the errant decision of the lower court. The SJC as the imagined deus ex machina appears to be a TR* fantasy. Even one of the so-called “good guys” who lead the failed prosecution of Peter Leithart, arguably the most notorious Federal Visionists currently operating in the PCA, has since rejected sola fide and sola scriptura and is now headed for Rome.
Needless to say things continue to look bleak for the PCA and now we can put some numbers to the problem. Recently ByFaith reported the results of an informal poll of 255 elders and members. Of those polled, “One hundred and twenty identified themselves as teaching elders, 40 said they were ruling elders, and just over 50 indicated that they were members of PCA churches.” The results from this informal poll were not encouraging. More than 46 percent thought the PCA was either “not healthy enough” or simply “unhealthy” and over 74 percent said that leaders in the church don’t trust each other (which makes you wonder why members continue to trust their leaders). Not surprisingly there was little agreement on why the PCA remains so anemic, but that didn’t stop ByFaith from citing blogging and the internet as a reason, if not the central reason, for the distrust that permeates the denomination’s leadership (I can only assume those who think this believe censorship and silence are the keys to denominational health).
According to ByFaith:
Many PCA pastors loathe what online communication has done in the PCA. It works against us, says a teaching elder who’s familiar with “the brutal, unkind words that are aired over blogs.” Many grieve “the way people rip into each other on blogs,” and several respondents alluded to “the extreme … segment of the church trying to push everyone else out.”
Several respondents were distressed by the number of men “who seem willing to condemn others” — to call them heterodox or heretical — by name and in public. This seems less than Christ-like, one man said, and less than Christ-honoring.
Some are certain that blogs create an atmosphere where there’s a dearth of “true theological dialog.” Instead, the pattern seems to be one of “mean-spirited ad hominem attacks … complete with charges of heresy, assumption of duplicity, and slander of character.”
It’s a wonder why the Apostle Paul didn’t engage in “true theological dialog” when confronting the neo-legalists of his day corrupting the church but anathematized them instead. I suppose Paul can be forgiven as he was not professionally trained in a place like Covenant Theological Seminary that has professors actively defending neo-legalists in presbyteries around the country. Thankfully, while some want to blame blogs and the internet for the PCA’s problems, others are more willing to look into the mirror even if they can’t agree on what they see. ByFaith reports:
Where one man says, “The PCA is too tolerant of non-Confessional views, such as theistic evolution, federal vision, and intinction.” Another quickly counters that [we have] presbyteries who seem to be more interested in regulating the life of the church rather than building it.
While those polled can’t seem to figure out the cause for such a sad prognosis when it comes to the denomination’s spiritual health, the Scriptures explain exactly why the PCA continues to decline. Paul addressed a similar problem in his letter to the Galatians where he warned believers that a little leaven leavens the whole lump. Concerning Paul’s culinary metaphor Calvin writes:
This refers, I think, to doctrine, not to men. It guards them against the mischievous consequences which arise from corruption of doctrine, and warns them not to consider it, as is commonly done, to be a matter attended by little or no danger. Satan’s stratagem is, that he does not attempt an avowed destruction of the whole gospel, but he taints its purity by introducing false and corrupt opinions. Many persons are thus led to overlook the seriousness of the injury done, and therefore make a less determined resistance. The apostle proclaims aloud that, after the truth of God has been corrupted, we are no longer safe. He employs the metaphor of leaven, which, however small in quantity, communicates its sourness to the whole mass. We must exercise the utmost caution lest we allow any counterfeit to be substituted for the pure doctrine of the gospel.
Could a more apt description of the PCA be found particularly when one considers all those TEs and REs in the mushy middle who are willing to “overlook the seriousness of the injury done, and therefore make a less determined resistance” when it comes to confronting competing systems of faith like that of the Federal Vision? As Rodney King famously said after getting beaten over the head repeatedly by members of the LAPD; “Can’t we all just get along.” In the minds of many in the PCA love means never having to say you’re wrong even when it comes to the Gospel. That’s not to say, even at this late date, that there aren’t a few remaining glimmers of hope. But even those few glimmers are growing increasingly dim. While “one man” seems to understand that the PCA’s woes are related to doctrine, what remains overlooked is not that these views are non-Confessional, although they are. The problem with these doctrines are they are non-Christian and the battle over the Federal Vision is not “intramural.” As long the Federal Vision, which is a system that completely undermines the central truths of the Gospel, is allowed to grow unabated, it’s now only a matter of time for the PCA’s final postmortem to be written.
* Truly Reformed