Death Rattles

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

Explore posts in the same categories: Heresies

25 Comments on “Death Rattles”

  1. Denson Dube Says:

    It starts with neglect of doctrine, what Clark called ‘non-doctrinal Christianity’ or pietism, which may be exaltation of emotion(“I feel good”, James Brown) or experience, whether inner/mystical(e.g. Keswick and other ‘deeper life’ varieties) or outward manifestations(the miraculous and supernatural phenomena) over the intellect, which leads to myrads of seemingly minor infelicities which you would be condemned if you raised objections to(“These are non essentials”, they will say), then creeps in active opposition to sound doctrine as unnecesary, harsh, mean-spirited, unloving, and finally open apostasy. Truth is foundational and ireplaceable and the word of God is that Truth..

  2. I am gravely concerned about the unwillingness of some to call Rome a false church, a Synagogue of Satan.

    If Rome is a true church then we are schismatic and should head back across the Tiber. But if we confess the truth, that Rome is a wicked body and spreader of lies about Christ then we need to have the gumption to stand on our Protestant fortress and rightly condemn them for their false teachings.

  3. Gus Gianello Says:

    ROME is the beast and the Pope is the man of sin that Antichrist. THEREFORE any putative Protestant teaching which mirrors, mimics, or recapitulates Romanist doctrine is of the spirit of Antichrist.

    I AM CONVINCED as a result of Rev. 17 that Federal Vision is a doctrine of demons. I am also convinced that committed and knowledgeable teachers of Fv are demon possessed and therefore not Christians.
    If anyone disagrees with me prove it from Scripture.

    Gus G

  4. justbybelief Says:

    “ROME is the beast and the Pope is the man of sin that Antichrist. THEREFORE any putative Protestant teaching which mirrors, mimics, or recapitulates Romanist doctrine is of the spirit of Antichrist.

    I AM CONVINCED as a result of Rev. 17 that Federal Vision is a doctrine of demons. I am also convinced that committed and knowledgeable teachers of Fv are demon possessed and therefore not Christians.
    If anyone disagrees with me prove it from Scripture. ”

    Just the way I like it, ambiguous.

  5. Anderson Says:

    I attended Park Cities Presbyterian Church (easily the largest church in the PCA) for about a year and a half and observed all manner of error and heresy, including:

    -A federal visionist Sunday school class that was tolerated by the Church, federal visionist speakers at retreats

    -Loads of high church liturgy including, a choir that made a procession down the isle of the church and, I kid you not, a pastor who would make the sign of the cross towards the congregation, and say “in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” at the end of his sermons (I believe he was eventually stopped from doing this by the elders)

    -Observation of feast days

    -An ordained pastor once told me that if I wanted to understand the Lord’s Supper I should read Eastern Orthodox writers (Alexander Men was a favorite of his)

    -I took a membership class and I was not once exposed the the WCF

    -most disturbingly, a complete absence (at least in public) of the Gospel

    None of this really shocked me at the time because I was not a Christian then, but it shocks me now!

    I think a big contributor to their error might have been the fact that the vast majority of the members were former PCUSA members who were basically too conservative to stay in the PCUSA but not biblically grounded enough to take hard doctrinal stances. The end result was a wishy washy Presbyterian Mega Church that was filled with on one hand, non-doctrinal members and on the other, false-doctrinal members.

    What do you guys think? Is the PCA’s PCUSA heritage part of the problem?

  6. LJ Says:

    I have a hunch which like all hunches is just a hunch. The problem is boredom. Belief in the gospel and a simple Christian life of work, family, and Church is just not titillating enough for the modern Western man. Novelty, Romish superstition, pomp and ceremony break the boredom.


  7. Benjamin P. Glaser Says:

    Well it is official. Stellman has gone to Rome.

  8. Hugh Says:


    “NOTHING FOUND” there.

    Apropos for a Romish site!

  9. Lauren Says:

    Hugh, Click on the home page.
    What is sad and tragic is that those who have “converted” to the Federal Vision and to Rome were never Christians in the first place.

    For Hebrews 6:4-6 states, It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen[a] away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.

    In other words, if it were true that you could fall away after being saved, then you would never be able to be brought back to repentance. But the fact is that a true genuine Christian will never fall away because they belong to Christ who will never forsake them.. Jesus promises over and over again that no one and nothing will ever snatch His sheep away from Him. So, those who have fallen away to Rome never really fell away; they never came to Christ at all. The PCA has a bunch of non-Christians in the pulpit.

    The PCA leadership is made up of a mix of God’s sheep and Satan’s wolves disguised as Federal Vision sheep. These wolves never fell away from the truth; they were never saved to begin with – they are wolves, not sheep.

    Jesus instructed us to let the tares and wheat grow together until the final judgment when the tares would be destroyed by fire. What He did not say was for the true believer to remain under the spiritual leadership of tares. He told us to leave – flee. When true believers leave the PCA, let the PCA go out of business. The sheep leave and all that’s left are the wolves. Since wolves devour, all they can do is devour each other if there are no sheep. That’s exactly what is happening here in the Ohio Valley Presbytery. Give it time.

    There is no redemptive value in trying to save a denomination. If it holds to the truth, it will stand; if it doesn’t, then let it die. How many times in Revelation, does the Lord warn churches that He will take away their “candlesticks” and remove them? And, He did. You can’t find them today except for two.

    The PCA treats blogging like those who want gun control after this latest shooting. Take away the blogging and the PCA will flourish, supposedly. Colorado and Chicago have the strictest gun control laws, yet the highest murder rates. What does that mean? Taking guns away from law-abiding citizens leaves them more vulnerable to the criminals who break the laws. Blogging works the same way. Prohibit blogging and that allows the false teachers of the PCA to run rampant in the denomination. Perhaps, that is why Wes signed off – let the PCA fall on its own sword and get it over with.

  10. Hugh Says:

    Lauren, It’s gone (for now). Home page has nothing on Stellman either.

    Called To Confusion’s FB page says: “It was taken down at Jason’s request. I can’t say more than that, except that it is not because he has changed his position. Those who have CTC on their RSS feed may still be able to read the article through the feed saved by the RSS reader.”

  11. Steve M Says:


    I went to the home page, but still was unable to find the Stellman article. The link worked when I tried it on the 24th. It seems the article must have been removed.

  12. Bob S Says:

    Next question, did anybody save the CTC Stellman page?

  13. Sean Gerety Says:

    No, but I noticed Google got ride of it’s cache option. You can see the page if you just hover over it and the cached copy shows up but I can’t read it, I’m sure someone has the feed, but I suppose who cares. I think we all know what he’s going to say.

  14. Steve M Says:

    Bob S

    I found a website which, I believe, has the entire text of the Stellman article with some comments interspersed for anyone that might be interested.

  15. Bob S Says:

    Thanks, I got it a couple of days ago from Trialblogue? Not sure.
    Jason has showed up over at Green Baggins and is doing his thing. I guess he is also posting at his website, but haven’t checked it.
    Like don’t get me started.

  16. Sean Gerety Says:

    I take it Bob you weren’t one of those joining the chorus about what a great man of integrity, blah, blah, blah, Stellman is for his defection. The only good thing I can say about the man is that he left.

  17. Steve M Says:


    Oops! I goofed on the link. Thanks for the correction.

  18. Bob S Says:

    Nope. I for see more collision in the future if the GB thread continues, Sean. One even might say JJS is becoming a Bryan understudy of sorts.

  19. Hugh Says:

    The PCA is here described as being in “poor health, in critical condition, things haven’t improved since 2009, look bleak, anemic, unhealthy, continues to decline,” etc.

    But also, “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. …it’s now only a matter of time for the PCA’s final postmortem to be written.”

    A “final” post-mortem?
    Has an “initial” post-mortem been offered?
    Is she post-mortem? Is she dead or alive?

    This is all the more confusing in light of other entries here at God’s Hammer which appear to indicate that the Presbyterian Church in America HAS breathed her last, and is indeed moribund.

    Is the PCA a false church? Is she apostate?

  20. Hugh Says:

    Elliott claims the PCA is toast and that believers must flee Jerusalem/ Babylon:

    That’s his opinion. What is yours, Sean?

  21. Hugh McCann Says:

    The PCA’s one-foot-in-NAPARC/ one-foot-in-Reformed-Communion* policy is a serious problem.

    Unless –as one PCA elder describes them– the CRC & RCA are “brother denominations” to the inclusive PCA.

    One wonders where (if?) the PCA knows where to draw a biblical line.

    Queer it is that City Church in San Francisco had to leave the PCA for the RCA to ordain some women elders, and yet PCA elders may be in cahoots with the latter in RefComm.

    An individual PCA elder may join Deformed Confusion if he wants to. So while the PCA is not in communion with the CRC, EPC, or RCA, a PCA minister may be. ~ Spiritual schizophrenia #1.

    He may even officially become one flesh with a harlot church (“laboring out of bounds”) as long as everyone is happy with the arrangement, and the proper reports are filed. With t’s crossed, and i’s dotted, everyone is resting happy in Zion. ~ Spiritual schizophrenia #2.

    Lane Keister serves RCA & CRC churches, and Peter Leithart is “out of bounds” in a CREC congregation.

    The Bible says, “Just say no to ungodly associations” {II Cor. 6:14-7:1}, one’s presbytery or GA, notwithstanding.

    You can kiss the whore for only so long before the v.d. starts presenting.

    No wonder the PCA is falling apart, brothers. It stands for nothing. Will she hear, mene, mene, tekel upharsin?

    “Complicity with error will take from the best of men the power to enter any successful protest against it.” ~ C.H. Spurgeon, 1888.

    As the PCA slides into full agreement with the RCA, CRC, & EPC, they can all merge together as an amorphous mess of the quasi-reformed.

    As one TE in the OPC asked me, “I guess the real question is do such PCA ministers need to be brought up on charges?”

    Will the NAPARC call the PCA to repent of its schizophrenic policies, or just oust the sad lot of them?

    * Keller podcasts and Leithart articles grace the RefComm website.

  22. Jon Says:

    Is intinction non-confessional? And if so, why?

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