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I am a 1967 graduate of The Citadel (Distinguished Military Student, member of the Economic Honor Society, Dean's List), a 1975 graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div., magna cum laude, member of the Phi Alpha Chi academic honor society); I attended the Free University of Amsterdam and completed my History of Dogma there and then received a full scholarship from the Dutch government to transfer to the sister school in Kampen, Holland. In 1979 I graduated from the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Churches of Holland (Drs. with honors in Ethics). My New Testament minor was completed with Herman Ridderbos. I am also a 2001 Ph.D. graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary (Systematic Theology) in Philly with a dissertation on the "unio mystica" in the theology of Dr. Herman Bavinck (1854-1921). I am a former tank commander, and instructor in the US Army Armor School at Ft. Knox, KY. I have been happily married to my childhood sweetheart and best friend, Sally, for 43 years. We have 6 children, one of whom is with the Lord, and 14 wonderful grandchildren.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The PCA’s New Strategic Plan (I)

Creating a Perspective for Planning

A couple of days ago on the way to my study in my car, an 18-wheeler that I was begin (about 100 yards) had a blowout on the 91 Freeway eastbound. I watched as pieces of the blown tire flew in all directions. From my vantage point, I could see that a huge chunk of tire was going to fall on my car or land just in front of me, so I pulled over on the shoulder until the debris settled. Fortunately, I had my medicinal marijuana with me. Hey, I live in Southern California!

I used this opening to point to what I consider to be a major “blown tire” in the PCA on a number of fronts. The PCA is struggling right now and apprehensions are high. Flooding in Nashville might be the least of the PCA’s delegates to the 38th General Assembly worries at the end of June. We will, no doubt, be dealing with the question of unordained deaconesses and probably with the so-called “PCA Strategic Plan.”

As an historical highlight I want to cite a matter that I dealt with in some detail in my upcoming biography on Dr. Herman Bavinck. Bavinck and Kuyper were good friends. Kuyper was, at times, speculative in his theology. More than once, Bavinck had to correct him and rein him in. Possibly one of the most notable occasions dealt with Kuyper’s teaching on presupposed regeneration of covenant children. To correct Kuyper’s views, Bavinck wrote a series of articles in the Dutch periodical, the Free Church (Vrije Kerk). Eventually, the articles appeared as a book entitled Roeping en Wedergeboorte (Calling and Regeneration). An English volume is available from Reformation Heritage Books bearing the title Save By Grace. My compliments to Nelson Kloosterman for an excellent job in translating this work and to Mark Beach for an equally excellent Introduction.

My point here is that because Kuyper was Bavinck’s friend, Bavinck was gentler than he should have been in correcting Kuyper’s error in his sacramentology. The net result of Bavinck’s irenics is that by 1944 the followers of Kuyper insisted that Kuyper’s old error be taught. In other words, Kuyper’s followers were more insistent than Kuyper and actually took Kuyper’s teaching to a new level. This is but one example. If we were to take the time, we could produce parallel after parallel in the history of the Church. From the time of the 1970s, we could point to what occurred in both the mainline Presbyterian Church as well as the theological demise of the Christian Reformed Church. In each case, there was a discernible pattern. In virtually each case, those wanting “more” insisted that they really didn’t want more.

Describing the attitude of those who wanted to see Holland and the Reformed Churches get out from under the yoke of the Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism, the Arminians boasted of great improvements in their particular brand of theology and congratulated each other “on having gone beyond the ‘old dead orthodoxy’ and on having left behind many of its antiquated errors.”[1] This attitude is readily observable and discernible in our current context. What happened in Holland is that the church affiliation that both Bavinck and Kuyper worked so hard to effectuate, came to fruition in 1892. In 1944, it is easy to start to trace out that church’s demise to the point where neither man would ever recognize it today.

I must confess that I am not at all convinced that the question in the PCA surrounding unordained male and female deacons will end there. There are already those in the PCA wanting “more.” I received a very disturbing email today and the sender as well as the congregation in question will remain anonymous, because it is the contents that are the most important. What I am about to describe did not transpire in a local PCA congregation, but rather occurred at a meeting of a PCA Presbytery. At the end of this installment, I ask my fellow-PCA colleagues to ask themselves if what I describe is acceptable to you. Your answers are important to me because they might very well be barometers of whether I should remain in the PCA.

There was a “worship” service at the Presbytery meeting that, according to the email, had a woman “liturgist,” who lead in all the prayers. One has to wonder if, at a meeting of Presbytery, no men could be found to perform such ecclesiastical tasks. In addition, there was a candle front and center. The music was provided by a praise band (was Jennifer Knapp there?), mostly led by a woman. Was someone trying to make a statement? According to the emailer, there was a general charismatic nature to the singing, including clapping hands, raising hands, and dancing in place. The front of the worship folder was adorned with a quote from N.T. Wright. As a former student of Dr. Herman Ridderbos and as one that has read large chunks of both authors, I still cannot quite understand why a PCA theologian would prefer to read Wright over Ridderbos. But I digress.

I will not comment on the remainder of the “worship service” and “sermon,” since I have not had the opportunity to listen to it. If it is available online, I will definitely listen to it and comment at a later date. I will mention, however, that the email contained information to the fact that the Lord's Supper was available to all present and a place was available to those who wished to celebrate by intinction. This, presumably, was for the young children present at the Presbytery meeting. The sender commented that on the back of the worship folder of the host church for the Presbytery meeting that he noticed that a woman was listed as “chair” of the deacons and that there were several other women serving under the title of “Deacon.” Is this just a “typo”? I don’t think so. How many PCA churches are engaged in this type of thing right now? I’m not sure, but the very fact that nothing much has come of this thus far is enough cause for deep concern.

In the next installment, we’ll begin to examine the 2010 Strategic Planning document, which, by way of introduction, looks to be one of the most PC documents the PCA has published since it started refusing to call illegal aliens illegal aliens and choose, rather, to call them undocumented workers. That’s about as astute as calling a drug dealer an undocumented pharmacist.

[1] Samuel Miller, “Introductory Essay” in Thomas Scott, The Articles of the Synod of Dort, (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1993), p. 16.



Blogger Pastor St. John said...

I'm looking forward to your analysis.

4:04 PM  
Blogger Morris Brooks said...

Obviously, you purchased your medical marijuana from an undocumented pharmacist.

An insightful friend and mentor once told me that once you spot a trend get ready for the wave behind it, because you cannot stop it.

Once you start down the slippery slope of compromise, no matter what the guise, it becomes increasingly harder to come back. Its not impossible, but when the momentum of the herd kicks in, it is too easy to get caught up in their rush.

How's that for optimism?


11:00 PM  
Blogger t.goerz said...

Sounds like that presbytery is drinking "kool-aid" from a trough.


8:34 AM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...

It gets worse, believe me. I already have finished 2 more installments. I don't know what some in the PCA have been smoking, but it isn't looking good. This General Assembly should be very interesting! Dominic Aquila has the other installments already and they will be going up on "The Aquila Report" soon.

3:05 PM  
Blogger Pastor St. John said...

Are you the infamous "Worm Tape"? :)

8:00 AM  

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