Monday, May 3, 2010

Cutting Through the Fog

Last week I posted a couple of updates about the 'slow' progress in dealing with Federal Vision Theology in the PCA. Now I understand a bit more clearly, why that is the case.

In this week's Heidelcast, Dr. R. Scott Clark interviewed PCA pastor Jason Stellman. Jason serves in the Seattle area and has been at the forefront of those in his presbytery concerned about the theology of Dr. Peter Leithart. The first half of the interview explains why his presbytery (Pacific Northwest) has been dragging its feet on the matter - a desire to be relevant. Added to this are a few comments about the PCA's proposed Strategic Plan that was recently unveiled.

The second half of the interview explores the theme of relevance as it relates to culture. Here Stellman and Clark touch on the issue that is perhaps the most divisive in the PCA. On the one side are those are who argue that all of life is spiritual and should be redeemed for Christ. Following Abraham Kuyper they see the Kingdom of God as equivalent to all legitimate activities in which Christians might be engaged. On the other are those who understand the Kingdom of God as chiefly spiritual, centered on the church, with God breaking into this present evil age through Word and Sacrament. It understands the church as a pilgrim people who suffer as their Lord suffered. The first seeks to be relevant: the second seeks to be faithful. If you want to understand the currents that are flowing within the PCA you need to understand these two perspectives.

Click on the following link to learn more. You won't be disappointed.

Jason Stellman on “Relevance” and the Two Kingdoms « Heidelblog


Kaitiaki said...

Dave, I have never really understood why these two views have to be opposed to one another. Perhaps it is my ignorance but I grew up in a Church where both the Dutch (3 forms of unity) and Scottish (Westminster Confession) were accepted as equally binding standards.

In this atmosphere both the relevance and spiritual aspects you mention in your post were held in high regard. The argument as I understand it was that the Church (in order to be salt) needs to be relevant. But, in order to remain salt, the Church needs to be focused on the Word and Sacraments since it is through the Church that God influences this "present evil age."

We saw vocation as the way the ordinary Christian influences society as he lives his life expressing the holiness which comes from the Holy Spirit. We understood that there are two kingdoms in this present world - the physical one and the spiritual one and that the ascended Christ has been given all authority over both.

Have I shown how the two views were harmonized in the Reformed Churches of NZ (as I understood it of course)?

Dave Sarafolean said...


I think that we are are on the same page. Relevance as defined in the interview has to do with the broader church and culture. In essence what is being argued is that the PCA is small enough already. If theological conservatives have their way then the denomination will shrink and our influence will wane. Put differently, they fear the PCA becoming the equivalent of the "New Amish" (a caricature to be sure).

No one I know in the PCA wants it to be relegated to the dust bin of historial irrelevance. However, relevance is being pursued in some quarters through art exhibits, wine and cheese tasting parties, emergent worship, etc. This is done under the rubric of being faithful to Kuyper's idea of 'redeeming culture.'

I like your use of the term 'vocation.' Couldn't that be what is missing in this discussion? Christians can be relevant to all sorts of people through their vocations. But when they gather for worship they gather as a distinct group of people called by God to do counter-cultural things.

Paul is often misquoted when he says, "I became all things to all men." The pronoun is singular and the context where it is applied is outside the church. People often misuse this passage as the basis for changing the fundamental practices of the church.