Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Why do we want to run with this crowd?

Last spring our denomination published a strategic plan to help it avoid a plateau in its growth. Whether there is an actual plateau has been a matter of serious debate.  One of the most stunning things that came out of the plan was this statement:

Means (Specific #4): Partner with national & international ministries with whom we can most effectively participate in God's global mission...
a. Seek union or appropriate levels of cooperation with Reformed movements making Gospel progress and in harmony with our ethos & goals.
b. Withdraw from organizations with whom we share doctrinal history, but not ministry priorities currently draining our ministry energies (e.g. NAPARC).
c. Find new ways to give away our knowledge & resources to bodies of believers being spiritually blessed.

I've written about item b (NAPARC) here and here so no need to repeat that information.  And it should be noted that in the final draft of the plan the language about leaving NAPARC was removed.  But a question remains: Who or what is being identified in item a?  I believe it is groups like The Gospel Coalition.  I have nothing against that group per se, but it is no secret that they are a fairly moderate representation of the reformed faith. 

Dr. Carl Trueman has written a helpful post on one aspect of this group: Looks like a job for a taxi driver...... - Reformation21 Blog.  That the PCA leadership would propose dropping our affiliation with other confessional reformed denominations in order to affiliate with this crowd is stunning. 

Trueman's article and the original piece remind me of a saying I picked up years ago when traveling through Israel: "Haifa works, Jerusalem studies, Tel Aviv plays."  Sorry - artists do not make the world go around nor are they essential to the church.  Faithful pastors who study and teach God's Word along with faithful elders who shepherd God's people are essential. 

Our NAPARC brethren must be scratching their heads.


Ken e said...

Dave then don't complain if groups like the Gospel Coalition give a fairly moderate representation or even a misrepresentation of the reformed faith if you don't want to get involved with them. I say that for a few reasons, but the main one is that there needs to be a strong confessional representation in those groups of the reformed faith and I also think that reformed theology should not be left in a vacuum seal so to say, but should remind the church about the gospel among other things and the importance of the reformation. One of the books that I'm reading this weekend is on The New Finnish Interpretation of Luther, which basically indicates that Luther taught the Eastern Orthodox doctrine of theosis and if that's the case then even Calvin didn't understand Luther either and this is the kind of stuff that in the free church could spread fast like the New Perspective on Paul has without a good confessional reformed voice.

Dave Sarafolean said...


I'm unfamiliar with Luther and theosis. I'll have to look into it.

I'm not personally involved with GC but leaders in the PCA are trying to steer the denomination that direction. They mean well -- they want the PCA to have a greater influence in evangelicalism. But sadly, it is not evangelicalism that is influenced as much as the PCA.

Put differently, evangelicalism is always morphing and changing. It will borrow from reformed theology just as readily as it will from charismatic theology, openness of God theology, feminism, Wild at Heart, etc. And while it readily borrows it simultanteously remains committed to congregational form of church government, immersion as the only valid form of baptism and whatever worship style that will bring a crowd. To a lesser it insists on the Lord's Supper as a memorial (not a means of grace) and premillenial theology (either historic or dispensational).

When reformed folk run in these circles out of necessity they must downplay their distinctives. So, what is held in common are the doctrines of grace (five points of Calvinism) and the 5 solas of the Protestant Reformation. Everything else is up for grabs.

To put the best possible spin on why PCA leaders want to be involved, I think they hope that individual pastors and churches will eventually join the PCA or a like-minded denomination. I realize that this is a pipe-dream just as I realize that there are other possibilities to their motives (i.e. greater influence for the Kingdom of God). Count me as officially innoculated to such things. That's what happens to folks who worked with Bill Bright -- there was always another conference, crusade, movement, plan, scheme to increase CCC's influence while simultanteously fulfilling the Great Commission in our generation.