The General Evangelical Nature of the PCA

This post is in response to a suggestion from my good friend, Wes, whose blog you should definitely read, if you don’t now.

One thing that greatly concerns me (and him) is the sloppy nature of the PCA’s evangelical middle. I asked myself this question: why did 95% of the PCA vote in favor of the PCA’s study committee report? Was it because everyone thought that justification by faith alone needed to be protected? Undoubtedly, many in the PCA thought that. However, I’m not sure that this is the general case with the evangelical middle. I’m sure there are exceptions even here. However, what strikes me about the FV and the NPP is its neonomian tendencies. No one would ever accuse an FV’er or a NPP’er of being an antinomian. It has never happened yet, to my knowledge.

I think a lot of what drove the PCA’s decision is the genuinely antinomian character of much of the evangelical middle. They were reacting to the neonomian tendencies of the FV and the NPP, and therefore they voted against it. Be assured that I am glad they voted the way they did. However, it raises the question in my mind about their true theological stance. It has been a commonplace in critics’ evaluations of the FV that there is general agreement about the problem. The problems of rampant Endarkenment individualism (surely Enlightenment is too strong a word!), antinomianism, and general evangelical mush are evident to the FV’ers, as to many critics of the FV. What are we going to do about this? How will this victory over the FV in the PCA translate when it comes to evangelical feminism, which I realize is a contradiction in terms? What about the Arminianism rampant in the PCA today? Will we be confessional, or won’t we?

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103 Comments

  1. January 30, 2008 at 11:02 am

    I am not PCA, but know enough PCAers and have attended enough of their churches to say “huh?” at your suggestion of rampant Arminianism. I don’t see it. Is it because some have adopted Campus Crusade-style evangelism tactics, or what?

    The only way this is plausible for me is if this is in reference to the PCA laity. I have noticed that many, many PCAers are uncatechized and unfamiliar with the Westminster Standards (this varies wildly from church to church, obviously – I know some are immune from this charge). I guess once someone has made a credible profession of faith in Christ, the thinking is that this is sufficient so we’ll just preach from the Bible and leave the Standards for the elders to worry about.

  2. Adam Fites said,

    January 30, 2008 at 11:10 am

    As a member of a PCA church (and as one under care as well) I agree with David in saying, “Huh?” Some clarification would be helpful.

  3. jerry said,

    January 30, 2008 at 11:25 am

    I have been in the PCA for 19 year and find the PCA to be basically off track in several directions. First, no one in the PCA really accepts the WCF’s standards for baptism. Baptism is seen as mostly a dedication and that is all. Most are antinomian and have accepted secular, humanistic law as the ultimate authority that defines good and evil – such as abortion. They say they are pro life but have no concept of the murder of children. Most PCA folk readily accept theistic evolution as the standard. Most PCA folk have taken the kingdom of God into their hearts, home schools and churches but do not relate to the kingship of Christ over all of live, including civil governments. It is as though we worship the God of the church, home and home school but the God of the Civil realm is more powerful in that area of society. The FV folk are addressing some of these concerns which I applaud. When they debate with the TR’s they win because they can defend themselves. That is why the committee was stacked, it seems to me. We in the PCA need repentance and humility in my opinion.

  4. greenbaggins said,

    January 30, 2008 at 11:37 am

    David and Adam, what I mean is that there is an Arminian ethos. The campus crusade is one issue; so is the seeker-sensitive worship that is everywhere. I believe I have made enough qualifications in the body of the post to allow for exceptions to the generalization I made. Jerry gets at some of these issues. However, his assessment of the FV I would obviously disagree with.

  5. Sam Steinmann said,

    January 30, 2008 at 11:39 am

    I see the key problem as individualism, rather than anti-nomianism per se; but the individualistic “me and Jesus” mockery of Christianity that is prevalent in American “evangelicalism” is definitely influencing the PCA.

    Could you give us a link, or a name, or something, to Wes’ blog?

  6. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 30, 2008 at 11:42 am

    Wow. I live in a different country from Wes and Jerry. I’m not saying they’re wrong; my experience with PCA has been limited to Maryland.

    But still and all, I haven’t seen it.

    Jeff

  7. Stephen said,

    January 30, 2008 at 11:46 am

    I think what Lane is saying is that many in the PCA are not distinctly Reformed. Many congregations adopt Arminian methods and do not follow the Westminster Standards. My own observation is that the PCA was not founded to be a distinctly Reformed denomination but a reaction to the growing liberalism of the old PCUS. You can go to various PCA congregations and see how vastly different they are.

  8. greenbaggins said,

    January 30, 2008 at 11:47 am

    Oops, I meant to link to Wes’s blog in the post. I have now fixed that.

    Jeff, some of these problems are problems that the FV has been harping on for quite some time now. Are you disagreeing with their assessment as well? ;-)

  9. January 30, 2008 at 11:54 am

    I think the problem could be addressed significantly by an action casting the majority of such churches out and pointing them in the direction of EPC. Protecting the peace and purity of the church becomes a much easier undertaking if you reduce it to a numbers game.

    I propose a document not to exceed 2,000 pages which should enumerate every doctrine thus formulated by American Reformed Presbyterians (and some English ones, we can vote on it) accompanied by a range of acceptable positions for each one. The narrower the range the better, but there should be at least two different acceptable options for each individual point. This document should then be disseminated throughout PCA congregations and the elders should read it, familiarize themselves with it, then be required to preach through it for one year. After this, each member in good standing should be required to sign it, certifying that they fall within the acceptable ranges in each instance.

    If they refuse to or are unable to sign, they should be ousted. You can bet they will become troublemakers eventually.

    Not only does this serve the purpose of exhaustively defining the bounds of PCA orthodoxy, it puts everyone on notice of what sorts of ideas will and will not be tolerated. Additionally, The Church thus maintains a record of each member’s contractual obligations which can be used as evidence at trial. Ecclesiastical litigation is a lost art and only by giving it a much-needed revival can we truly protect peace and purity.

  10. greenbaggins said,

    January 30, 2008 at 11:56 am

    Christopher, this sarcasm is a bit over the top, don’t you think? It is right on the edge, certainly.

  11. January 30, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    Possibly. I certainly hope so. But I wonder how many people would read that and wonder if it weren’t too bad an idea. Many of the sentiments expressed regarding the departure of AAPC from the PCA run along the lines of: this is good for peace and purity because now we don’t have to mess around with someone in our fellowship who thinks and teaches differently than we do. If this is true, and it is good for the peace and purity of the church, then would it not be better to extend the principle to other people who don’t teach and think the same way? And wouldn’t it be more efficient to try to do it all at once?

    My point is that if “peace and purity” is reckoned in terms of doctrinal symmetry on paper and in the pulpit, the fewer people to have to keep tabs on, the better.

  12. its.reed said,

    January 30, 2008 at 12:12 pm

    Ref. #9:

    We won’t take anything you say seriously if all you’re interested in doing is sniping.

  13. magma2 said,

    January 30, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    David and Adam, what I mean is that there is an Arminian ethos.

    I don’t know if anyone remembers but the PCA used to have a little tract on the home page of their website (and I imagine it’s still available for those who want it) that began:

    “The best news you will ever hear is that God loves you and has made it possible for you to have eternal life!”

    The rest of it was also along the lines of “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life 4 spiritual laws type of pablum parading as the Christianity. Very nauseating and completely Arminian stuff. I fired off a letter complaining how their published approach contradicted the PCA’s standards. Probably ended up in the trash.

    There is definitely a view among many in the PCA that Arminianism is just Calvinism lite and that evangelism needs, scratch that, requires an Arminian approach to soteriology in order to be effective.

    There is no question the PCA has some problems. I mean, they couldn’t even figure out how many days it took God to create. OTOH and per the vote on the Committee report, those who would defend JBFA have always been accused of antinomianism (see Romans 6,7), so this in and of itself does not necessarily reflect badly on those in the middle who might have (rightly) seen the FV as a threat to this doctrine.

  14. January 30, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    Reed,

    Based on my experience, I’m already disqualified from being taken seriously simply by virtue of the fact that I disagree with the majority here. Even though I was being sarcastic, I think the point is a valid one. This concept of peace and purity seems to correlate directly with numbers, does it not? The more people, the more chances there are for someone to be disagreeable.

    I know of at least one prominent place that thinks so. It’s a web forum that, as I have been told, is run by a Presbyterian denomination in a manner consistent with the way they run their churches. There, you’re free to join the conversation until you say or espouse something the denom disagrees with, at which point you are ejected and banned. If this is a web experiment, it has proven that it is possible to maintain an organization made up of people who “tow the line” and if this is what we want, why shouldn’t we follow the example?

  15. thomasgoodwin said,

    January 30, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    I’ve long thought the problem of antinomianism is (perhaps) an even bigger one than the FV. There are more antinomian churches than FV churches in the PCA, speaking from personal experience. I’m glad you called attention to it.

  16. greenbaggins said,

    January 30, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    This is precisely what happened when I started disagreeing with the Wrightsaid group.

  17. January 30, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    But that group is not an ecclesiastical ministry with a presbytery as its overseeing body. I’m talking about a church weeding people out who do not agree with them. It is proven to be effective. Why not expand the scope?

  18. David Gray said,

    January 30, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    I think there are a substantial number of people in the PCA who do not functionally accept the WCF teaching on baptism, the Lord’s Supper and ecclesiology. I base this both on travel around the country where I’ve attended various PCA churches but on surveying church websites which often give you insight.

  19. greenbaggins said,

    January 30, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    The church should weed out heretics, don’t you think? A denomination should also weed out people who do not hold to the standards of the church. Otherwise, why have standards at all? Your tone needs to change, Christopher. There is no need of sarcasm with me.

  20. January 30, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    I am not being sarcastic. I’m not trying to be, anyway. Sometimes it’s hard to turn it off.

    I do think a church should weed out heretics and I do think there needs to be some measure of accountability to the church’s standards. Recognize, however, that in the context of the Westminster Standards (since that’s what most of us use) there is the text of the Standards and there is the (more or less) accepted interpretation of the text. If a heretic is someone who disagrees with the accepted interpretation of the Standards, then as you’ve pointed out in the original article, there are a lot of would-be heretics.

  21. Adam Fites said,

    January 30, 2008 at 1:26 pm

    Re #4 and #13 – Thanks for the clarification.

  22. Andrew Webb said,

    January 30, 2008 at 1:53 pm

    Lane,

    Obviously we don’t often disagree, but I’m going to have to part company with you here. The essential divide in the PCA is not antinomians reacting to neonomians, but evangelicals reacting to non-evangelicals. This may seem overly simplistic, but the critical divide can be seen in the manner in which evangelicals expect people to be born again and become Christians, versus the way the FV advocates expect people to become Christians. Evangelicals expect that people will be regenerated and born-again via the preaching of the Word (the Reformed specifically expect it to come via the effectual calling that accompanies the preaching of the word). The FV, on the other hand, expects people to become Christians via Baptism which they speak and write of as the means by which one is united to Christ. Therefore the evangelical emphasis is necessarily on Gospel preaching while, FV emphasis is primarily on the sacraments (and then on teaching the baptized how to maintain their status in the covenant). Evangelicals, for instance, emphasize that even the children of believers need to make good their baptism by closing with Christ, and that they do this via their own personal faith. The FV on the other hand, assumes that the children of believers are already united to Christ via their baptism and thus have no need to close with him (hence the emphasis on paedocommunion – after all how can the sacrament be a curse to those really united to Christ? How can anyone in the visible church take the sacrament unworthily?) and thus the emphasis is on continuing to be numbered amongst the members of the visible church.

    While there has been much talk about how this conflict “distracts us from preaching the gospel” and “draws our attention away from real problems like feminism” both of these criticisms miss the mark. First, the conflict really is over the gospel and the necessity of its preaching in order to save men’s souls, is our emphasis going to be on going out into the highways and byways and compelling them to come in? On praying for revival? On reaching and convicting and converting the lost and the children in our own churches? Because if it is, none of these are in keeping with the FV distinctives. The FV simply put is not evangelistic in its emphasis. The second critique regarding feminism being a greater danger, also misses the mark. While I agree that things like feminism pose a substantial threat to the health church, I also believe it is possible to be an evangelical feminist and go to heaven. I do not believe it is possible to deny Sola Fide, the necessity of regeneration, or the imputation of Christ’s righteousness and still go to heaven.

    Simply put Lane, I believe the divide really is over the critical matter of the evangel, and I believe it would behoove us in this instance to continue to join hands with the evangelicals in our midst over a critical issue, rather than dividing over issues that while they are important, are not nearly so critical. Brother, I long ago realized we have more in common with an evangelical Baptist or EV Free preacher than most of the FV men.

    While we are caricatured as being “TRs” by the FV men, the truth is that we are actually “TEs” (truly evangelical) and should be willing to stand together on that platform.

  23. January 30, 2008 at 1:59 pm

    As extreme as FV theology Webb may think it to be, it is absolutely ludicrous to think that the FV advocates do not believe in or preach that one must be born again over and against sacramental practice. This sort of accusation ought to signal for anyone without an axe to grind that the criticisms leveled against FV theology and the ministers that advocate it have little do with the difference between evangelical and non-evangelical theology than it does with different understandings of what it means to be a confessionally Reformed Christian.

    Lane is on the right track and Webb is just flat crazy with the sort of bloodlust that keeps him on the warpath no matter whether what he’s chasing is really the Indians or not.

  24. greenbaggins said,

    January 30, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    Andy, I’m not so sure that we really disagree. Firstly, I do not claim that feminist issues are more important than the FV. I think of them both as threats. Secondly, I am certainly glad to find help from the majority of the PCA on the FV issue.

    I think what I am trying to get at is that there is a group of people who call themselves evangelical, but twist the definition to include far more than it has historically included. At the same time, it often includes far less. Oftentimes, there is no expository preaching, the worship is not in accordance with the regulative principle, and there are similar issues. While we may well have more in common with them than with the FV guys, still there is a sense in which these people are not confessional.

  25. Wes White said,

    January 30, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    I do not believe that theoretical Arminianism is a big problem in the PCA. However, practical Arminianism is a struggle. Here’s what I mean:

    http://johannesweslianus.blogspot.com/2006/01/reformed-worship-evangelism-against.html

    In my latest post, I tried to sharpen this somewhat:

    http://johannesweslianus.blogspot.com/2008/01/using-word-without-spirit.html

    As for what to do about it, I think it is very simple. We simply need to maintain the Westminster Confession as it is. On the other side, if people are truly disatisfied with what the Confession says about paedocommunion, the Sabbath, idolatry, the covenant of works, or the regulative principle of worship; then, they should try to change it.

  26. thomasgoodwin said,

    January 30, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    And I think Carl Trueman has recently demonstrated how unhelpful the term ‘evangelical’ is in its North American context. I think there’s not a little truth in Lane’s original contention re: antinomianism. I’ve seen it myself in the PCA and it’s a real problem at the congregational level, as well.

  27. David R. McCrory said,

    January 30, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    “A denomination should also weed out people who do not hold to the standards of the church.”

    ~ I hope you mean ministers that do not maintain their oath to uphold the Standards. But the Standards should not be a test for membership. The “people” in the pews should be Christians, not neccesarily Westminsterians. Conformity to the Standards is for officers, not laypeople. The doors to the church should be as wide as the Gospel call itself.

  28. thomasgoodwin said,

    January 30, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    I’m pretty sure Lane’s theology isn’t that bad. Hence, of course he means ‘ministers’. Otherwise, my congregation would evaporate into thin air.

  29. David R. McCrory said,

    January 30, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    Precision, Mr. Goodwin, precision.

  30. thomasgoodwin said,

    January 30, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    indeed.

  31. thomasgoodwin said,

    January 30, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    Goodwin was a D.D., by the way. :)

  32. David R. McCrory said,

    January 30, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    I almost put that, but wasn’t excatly sure which title was appropriate.

  33. greenbaggins said,

    January 30, 2008 at 2:40 pm

    Yes, thank you, David, I meant “ministers.” I think that the context makes that fairly clear, but more clarity is certainly not harmful.

  34. Wes White said,

    January 30, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    Andy,

    No doubt Lane would agree with you, as would I, that someone who truly preaches the law and the Gospel with clarity is much closer to us than the advocates of the FV.

    However, I would also warn that there are also dangers on the other side. There is the danger of affirming the truth but not denying and refuting its antithesis. We can preach the “Gospel” without the law. When that happens “the Gospel” assumes a different meaning. There is the danger that we do not preach clearly that men must repent, if they will be saved. When not one in a hundred “evangelicals” can name the Ten Commandments, does this not show that there is a danger?

    That sort of bland, non-confrontational “evangelicalism,” can be just as dangerous because it also brings the law down to man’s level. Inadvertently, it leads people into works righteousness. It leads people into greater and greater compromise and causes them to make peace with all sorts of errors including Rome.

    While, I do not think that these descriptions generally characterize the PCA, which error do you think the PCA is more likely to fall into, a bland, accept-all theology? or FV?

  35. David R. McCrory said,

    January 30, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    “As for what to do about it, I think it is very simple. We simply need to maintain the Westminster Confession as it is.”

    ~ Would this not include more discipline on the presbyterial level (ministirial) level against ministers to are not positively teaching the Standards? This is where pastors have to put their committment to God and sound theology above their relationships with other ministers.

    One area I have found wanting (in Reformed churches in general) is in the lack of committment to the Directory of Family Worship. Heads of households are not being held accountable for the nurture of their respective families. As a result, the rate of children leaving the church in “covenant” homes is strikingly similar to that of other communions.

    I’m like Lane, if we are only going to pay lips service to our respective Standards, and not hold officers accountable to teaching and discipling their congregations in light of them, why have them at all?

  36. Wes White said,

    January 30, 2008 at 3:01 pm

    David,

    I think you’re right on all points. On the other hand, I think it would be very difficult to make a case that someone is not “positively teaching the Standards.” Any ideas on how you would put together such a case or investigation?

  37. David R. McCrory said,

    January 30, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    Well, shooting from the hip, what if ministers were required to submit an annual “Plan for Positively Teaching the Standards in my Church” form which a committee of Prebytery would review and hold that minister too. This could include anything from offering a Sunday school class on the Standards, to teaching them on Sunday night. A list of completed catechcuems could also submitted. If a certain percentage of people (children) aren’t completing them, you’d look in to find out why. Presbytery could also “check up” on ministers through contacting lay elders and people in various congregations. Etc. Etc.

    In other words, REAL accountablity. Not a good-ole-boy meeting once a year at GA.

  38. Sam Steinmann said,

    January 30, 2008 at 3:29 pm

    Do we really want to focus on “teaching the standards”? I know that’s what the Dutch Reformed pattern has been, but I’m failing to see why consistent, expository preaching, by someone who believes and understands the standards, isn’t a better route to the same goal.

    If I were to suggest a more useful area of focus, it would be a bit more strictness in requiring that elders in general, and teaching elders in particular, meet the Scriptural qualifications. Most especially, “ruling their own household well”; no ignorant-of-Scripture or notably-badly-behaved children, no sullen teenagers, etc. (That’s in my view one of the on-the-ground areas in which the Plain tradition does far better than the Reformed, and which drew me home to that tradition.)

  39. Sam Steinmann said,

    January 30, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    My first sentence, above, should say “you” instead of “we”–since, as is clear further on in the comment, I’m no longer part of the PCA.

  40. January 30, 2008 at 4:01 pm

    If the PCA is going to go beyond pretending that it really is presbyterian and/or Reformed–the best thing to do is emphasize fidelity to the Westminster Confession of Faith for her ministers and put the same teeth in its bite for other erring ministers that they attempted to do for the FV men.

    It’s hypocritical of the PCA to require it of FV advocates within her ranks but let your average free range golf shirt wearing “pastor” of country club “congregations” the ability to do whatever they like in planting churches and modifying how worship is done to culturally attract the unchurched around them.

    The Confessions were never really meant to apply strictly to laymen in most cases but ministers who claim to be presbyterian instead of evangelical in the PCA need to actually act like it–that or go join the Southern Baptists or some other non-confessional group like Acts 29 that couldn’t care less about its confessional heritage and the Reformed understanding and practice of the faith beyond what little they talk of Calvinist soteriology.

  41. David R. McCrory said,

    January 30, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    Sam,

    I agree. I’d even go one further, I’d suggest that we do both! We need godly BIBLICALLY QUALIFIED men in our churches teaching the Word faithfully as it is represented in their respective Standards. In addition, they should preach expositionally, pastor freverently, and pray fearfully.

    In other words, godly men, called to be men of God. Not merely men who obtain a particular seminary’s degree. But men who are first committed to the Lord Jesus Christ, and only then to particular theological traditions, denominations, etc. I often wonder how many churches would need pastors if we sincerely applied those qualifications on men seeking the ministry.

  42. David R. McCrory said,

    January 30, 2008 at 4:42 pm

    Sam, what church are you in?

  43. Sam Steinmann said,

    January 30, 2008 at 4:53 pm

    I’m in an “Charity” church–a weird hybrid of Plain and evangelical. I grew up in a Plain church, and consider the Dordrecht Confession the most faithful to Scripture of the ones I know.

    For 5 years, I was a member of All Saints RPC in Richmond VA–Howard Griffith, now professor of Systematic Theology at RTS-Washington, was pastor. I hold him, and that church, in very high regard, but was never able to accept the Presbyterian position on church and state; I think if I could have gotten to agreement on that (where I really wanted the Presbyterian position to be right–I like it much better) I might have come around on the other issues.

  44. David R. McCrory said,

    January 30, 2008 at 4:55 pm

    Are they (you) a credobaptist church?

  45. Jesse Pirschel said,

    January 30, 2008 at 5:58 pm

    Andy,

    Would you part ways with Hart’s view of a catechetical model over against a “conversion” model of church life? Or another way, is “experimental Calvinism” in your mind the dividing line of what makes one evangelical in a healthy way?

    Blessings,

    Jesse Pirschel

  46. January 30, 2008 at 7:51 pm

    Lane,

    My concern with the PCA is not so much that there might be practical arminianism at work there, but like the heresy trials in the PCUSA in the 1890s, I fear that this is the last gasp of confessionalism in the PCA. The “middle” in the PCA is not so much Arminian as they are not distinctively reformed. Once we are afraid to be reformed we’ve lost the whole shootin’ match, because reformed is simply biblical.

  47. Seth Foster said,

    January 30, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    I was raised in a presbyterian church. I was baptized as an infant. I attended a confirmation class and sailed through the exam and successfully gave a profession of faith before the session. I then became a member of the church and took my first communion at the age of 12. Everyone including my family assumed I was a Christian, having gone through the outward motions. But, I was not born again. I was not a Christian.

    When I was in college, a classmate shared Romans 3:23 and Romans 6:23. For the very first time I was confronted with my sin and my total inability to save myself. Through the work of the Holy Spirit and by God’s grace, I was convicted of my sin, was brought to repentance, was cleansed and forgiven, and received Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I was born again. When I opened up my Bible which I had received after my confirmation, it was as if I had never read the Bible before. For now I was able to read it with my spiritual eyes and I had a whole new understanding. I was able to say with the blind man, “Once I was blind, but now I see.” And, following Christ was no longer a list of do’s and don’ts, nor a duty, but an expression of love and gratitude.

    Why do I share this? Because I believe that evangelicalism has been almost lost in the PCA. Parents assume their covenant children are saved and thus, these children never come to a personal conviction of their sin and the sense of being lost in their sin and needing a Savior. Yes, they learn important truths by memorizing the catechism, but we often assume that head knowledge = heart knowledge. The Israelites were taught the ways of God while in the wilderness, but only a small remnant that came out of Egypt actually entered the Promised land. Why? Because they had both profession and possession. They professed with their mouths and believed in their hearts.

    Evangelism is both a corporate and individual experience. The church is described as a temple made up of living stones. How is it possible for a stone to be living? Only by each individual stone coming to a personal faith in Jesus Christ and being born again by the Spirit. If the church neglects the heart issues and only focuses on head knowledge and outward profession, then all she will build is a pile of hard lifeless stones.

  48. Sam Steinmann said,

    January 31, 2008 at 9:26 am

    David,

    Yes; absolutely. The Plain (Amish/Mennonite/related small groups) churches are uniformly credobaptist. (Anyone with a confession including the phrase “infant baptism, the first and greatest abominiation of the Pope” is pretty decidedly credobaptist.)

    If you want my email–let me know; I don’t want to derail this thread too much.

  49. David Gilleran said,

    January 31, 2008 at 10:07 am

    I write this as someone who has been in the PCA from the start. First as a member, then as a Teaching Elder. The PCA has never been a ” Reformed ” church in the sense that the OPC was. Why did the split take place in 1973? For some the Person and Work of Jesus Christ was being denigrated and they felt they had to leave. Others left due to the support of left wing politics i.e. the Angela Davis case. Others, and it hurts to say this, left to keep in tact, “the Southern Way of Life ” i.e. keeping blacks out of our churches. Looking back the real but often unspoken reasons were two: Conservatives, who were evangelical but not necessarily reformed, were tired of the Commission of the Minister and His Work keeping men out of presbyteries who held to the five fundamentals and remaking the pulpits and sessions into a more liberal image. The other is property. Many churches left because of a desire to keep their property. They felt,rightly so, that the liberal side of the PCUS would not keep their word on leaving with property intact.

    When the first GA was called in 1973 the PCA was formed by men who were primarily broad evangelicals. If you look at the names on the Address to the Churches you find men who were and are broad evangelicals whose fight was with Christianity vs. Liberalism. Their concern can been seen in Machen’s book about the subject. There was a nod to the Westminster Standards but the concern was against Liberal unbelief.You will see names of then young men who graduated from RTS who had been taught by Dr. Smith who had a zeal for the Reformed faith and wanted the PCA to be a Reformed church.

    At the 3rd GA when MTW sought and it was approved of co-operative agreements with non-Reformed agencies, the younger men knew that the PCA was not going to be a ” Reformed ” church. Rather it was going to be a broad based presbyterian church whose first emphasis is going to be on evangelism.

    What does this mean for us today? I would caution younger men that the vote on FV and the leaving of Auburn Avenue Church is far less significant than you think. I assure you the loss of the Cedar Springs Church and TE John Wood is far more significant in the eyes of the movers and shakers of the PCA than the Auburn Avenue Church and TE Steve Wilkins.TE Wilkins stood against those things which make the Cedar Springs Church attractive to many in the PCA.

    Just as the prophet Haggai said that before the coming of our Lord their would be a great shaking of the heavens and the earth, so there is a great shaking going on in the PCA. I do not know where and when it will end but I would not be surprised if the church we see today is totally different in ten years.

  50. Scott said,

    January 31, 2008 at 11:00 am

    David,

    Thanks for your overview of the history of our denomination. Though I do not share in the pessimism, it is helpful to understand all this in order to discern and put things in context.

    I accept that the main reason, by far, for our denomination coming into being is expressed in our motto,

    “Faithful to Scripture, True to the Reformed Faith and Obedient to the Great Commission.”

    All that I have experienced in my 14 years in the PCA has re-enforced that.

    Coming from a Methodist and then a non-denominational charismatic influenced church background, our denomination has been a place for me to grow much in my understanding of the whole of Scripture and of the “doctrines of grace” of Reformed Theology. It’s not a perfect denomination, but a very good one.

    I have read accounts of the General Assembly several years ago in the PNS news service and am generally aware there were some major battles regarding issues like creation, strict subscription, women in teaching authority, etc. Our latest battle is the Federal Vision theology.

    These battles are necessary as contending for the truth and purity of God’s Word is an on-going task. God intended it to be so.

    It seems to me, though I am not familiar with the intricacies of each issue and have not had formal theological training, that our denomination has been well preserved by God and generally has done the right thing. By that I mean been faithful to what our motto expresses.

    It seems the subscription issue is working out well, both in substance and process as the Louisiana Presbytery case demonstrates. Exceptions are few and far between, documented, carefully scrutinized in a doctrinal system that is highly defined.

    I have prayed regularly for our denomination. It appears we are taking a clear stand against the serious error of Federal Vision teaching. Regarding your insights, I would not be so suspect of the motives of people voting against Federal Vision. Even if people had wrong motives or do not really grasp the issues, the fact is the right is done (with overwhelming agreement). I am hopeful we will even see some genuine repentance in all this.

    In studying the Ten Commandments and the Westminster Confession I have learned we should even try to believe the best in our Christian brethren, part of the duty of the ninth commandment. Easy to say, hard to do. That’s not an excuse to overlook truth, because I like you, dearly love the truth.

    Blessings.

  51. January 31, 2008 at 11:11 am

    In 2001, the PCA was introduced to the International Conference of Reformed Churches, the WARC for confessionally Presbyterian and Reformed churches. Here’s a part of what the minutes recorded for the introduction of the PCA to Conference. Even as I read the document, I found the language telling.

    The PCA has some 320,000 members, some 1200 churches and 200 mission churches, and 600 missionaries. It is a member of NAPARC and of the National Association of Evangelicals. Membership of the ICRC is not a prospect for the near future.

    The PCA faces the challenge to become increasingly reformed.

    In 2008, it sounds like the challenge hasn’t gone away.

  52. David Gilleran said,

    January 31, 2008 at 11:37 am

    I do not suspect people’s motives in their vote about FV one way or the other. What I am saying that is not as significant as some believe. I am not pessimistic about the church at large. I am saying that it appears the Lord is shaking the PCA at this time.

  53. Steven Carr said,

    January 31, 2008 at 11:48 am

    Lane,

    Why are there so many “Arminians” (or as I would say, overly broad evangeliscals) in the PCA? The answer must lie in the seminaries that provide pastors to the PCA. First of all, the Church needs to regain control of the seminaries and put a tighter rein on what is being taught. Secondly, presbyteries need to be more guarded in their examinations and approvals of incoming candidates. I have been at several candidates and credentials committee examinations and came away wondering what on earth was everybody thinking in approving the candidate. Elders in the Presbyteries need to have the brass you know what to say, “This man should not be in our presbytery.” Even if it incurs the wrath of other elders.

  54. greenbaggins said,

    January 31, 2008 at 11:51 am

    Yes, and we live in such a “polite” society, where judgment and discernment are not encouraged. Good points.

  55. David Gilleran said,

    January 31, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    The PCA has only one official seminary. You could make everyone go there since in theory the GA has control over CTS. That means that all Westminster Theological branches, all the Reformed Theological branches,Greenville Seminary and all others could not accept PCA candidates. The PCA has no control of these boards.Now if you want to discipline PCA Teaching Elders who are teaching at these non-controlled seminaries, that is a different story.

  56. greenbaggins said,

    January 31, 2008 at 12:16 pm

    True, and yet the PCA can exert enormous pressure on even the non-denominational seminaries. I think we are seeing this to a certain extent in the WTS dust-up with Enns. I do think that the PCA has sent a clear signal that we want confessional TE’s. But we really need to work on CTS, which has me worried to no end.

  57. David Gilleran said,

    January 31, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    The pressure can be exerted by each presbytery telling its candidates what seminaries are approved. For example back in the 70’s Evangel Presbytery came within a few votes having all candidates under care of Presbytery attend Briarwood Theological Seminary. That would have meant I would have gone there rather than RTS-Jackson..

  58. Steven Carr said,

    January 31, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    David,

    Covenant Seminary in my opinion is one of the seminaries in question. I think I need to qualify my statement about regaining control of the seminaries. I think the first way to proceed is by making a shift in perception. Instead of the seminaries providing pastors to the presbyteries, the presbyteries should be providing candidates to the seminaries. A subtle shift but effective I think. Actually I will be writing on this soon over at my blog if anyone is interested. A shameless plug for my blog–I know.

  59. greenbaggins said,

    January 31, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    I like this idea, Steven! You should definitely pursue a well-orbed full statement of this idea.

  60. Wayne Wylie said,

    January 31, 2008 at 12:41 pm

    It is interesting that the majority of the comments regarding the current and future fate of the PCA is focusing on the fidelity of TE’s. And it is true that the PCA needs ministers who are faithful to their vows and teach and preach the tenants of the Standards and that they should be held accountable. But IMHO, the problems that the PCA and other Presbyterian denominations face starts at the level of the Session. If you want to get to the root of a problem, you have to start at the root.

    Mr. Wilkins was not soley responsible for what was being taught and preached at AAPC. The Session, a court of the Church, was just as responsible. Go to their web site and note the Session approved statements that were made. RE’s make up the majority of a Session and can put a stop to a lot of the errors that may be taught and preached in the church. Though a Session has no direct jusrisdiction over a TE, RE’s can make a definite mark on what happens in our churches. Until RE’s are held just as responsible for what is happening in the church, I’m afraid that errors such as FV will continue to grow.

  61. Sam Steinmann said,

    January 31, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    Steven Carr,

    Are you proposing something like the Anglican model? (Those who are seeking ordination are examined and sponsored by their bishop to attend seminary; there aren’t usual alternatives.) That seems to me to be a better model in many respects.

    I’ll re-iterate that I think consistent application of “ruling his own household well”, “having faithful children, not accused of riot or unruly” as a qualification for all elders is very valuable.

  62. January 31, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    Since we’re on the topic of Covenant Seminary, is it located within the bounds of the same presbytery where Jeff Meyers and Mark Horne minister? If we’re talking about seminaries producing confessional candidates, you’d think they’d try to do something about (possibly) unconfessional ministers, wouldn’t you?

    Or does that get in the way of transforming the culture? (Couldn’t resist, sorry!)

  63. magma2 said,

    January 31, 2008 at 1:58 pm

    Instead of the seminaries providing pastors to the presbyteries, the presbyteries should be providing candidates to the seminaries.

    I wonder what kind of candidates, say, the LAP, NWP and some other Pres’ will send? FWIW, I don’t see the above as being much of a solution. Why not just fire profs who teach anti-Christian junk even when they call it “cutting edge”? If the seminary won’t police itself, then the GA should find a president who will. The problem at WTS is that it has no denominational oversight. Why would there be any problems at Covenant (he asks only slightly rhetorically)? ;)

    Isn’t Covenant already accountable to the GA and under the PCA’s oversight? Of course, when O. Palmer Robertson moved that the GA require Covenant’s theological journal publish his history of the justification controversy at Westminster, after the piece was originally accepted then later rejected for publication, the GA rejected his motion. The argument given was that Robertson’s piece would have been too offensive to others in the Reformed community as Dr. Robbins explain when he published Roberston’s paper in book form:

    Covenant Seminary’s Role

    When Dr. Robertson wrote The Current Justification Controversy, the Editorial Committee of Presbyterion, the theological journal of Covenant Seminary (where Dr. Robertson had been a member of the faculty since 1980) accepted it for publication. But the faculty of Covenant Seminary intervened and voted to stop its publication on the grounds that it might embarrass the faculty of another Reformed Seminary, namely, Westminster. Dr. Robertson authored a Resolution appealing this decision to the General Assembly of the PCA, the highest court in the denomination:

    A Resolution to the Eleventh General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America

    Whereas the pursuit of truth with integrity is essential to the propagation and defense of the Gospel; and

    Whereas this pursuit of truth must he carried on with Christian love and sensitivity but without respect of persons or institutions; and

    Whereas the attached history of the current justification controversy among Reformed and Presbyterian churches in America has been submitted to the theological journal of Covenant Theological Seminary by a faculty member of the Seminary; and

    Whereas the editorial committee of this journal (Presbyterion) has commended this article as a fair representation of the issues currently before the church so far as it can determine, noting that the material must be published, and even offering to assist financially in its publication; and

    Whereas this committee, and then by a vote of five to four with two abstentions, the faculty of Covenant Seminary voted not to publish this article in its journal, giving as its reason that it might be offensive to another respected seminary of the Reformed and Presbyterian family in America; and

    Whereas the author of this article has expressed his openness to editorial suggestions, and his willingness to have other viewpoints on this issue printed in subsequent editions of Presbyterion so long as they are factually true and promote the doctrinal positions of the Presbyterian Church in America; and

    Whereas due to this church’s relation to Covenant Theological Seminary, Presbyterion in some sense serves as the organ for ongoing theological discussion within the Presbyterian Church in America, and not merely the organ of Covenant Theological Seminary; and

    Whereas the policies and decisions related to Covenant Theological Seminary are subject to the review and control of the Presbyterian Church in America;

    Therefore, the Presbyterian Church in America is respectfully requested to determine whether or not the pages of Presbyterion should be open to this article on the current justification controversy.

    Respectfully submitted,

    O. Palmer Robertson

    Dr. Robertson’s appeal failed. His detailed history of the justification controversy was never published in any theological journal. The powers that be, reading their copies of 1984, as well as church history, did their best to suppress it.

  64. magma2 said,

    January 31, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    Seems Jason and I are thinking along the same lines.

  65. January 31, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    So is that a “yes, CTS and Meyers are members of the same presbytery”?

  66. January 31, 2008 at 2:34 pm

    There is some difficulty in tackling this problem if the PCA’s “Arminianism” is really just a “tendency” or type of practice, not an actual teaching of ministers or churches. Arminian and non-Reformed practices manifest themselves in many ways, but we can’t, say, just go around disciplining people for having guitars or drums in their worship services, if you take my meaning. You can’t even really forbid folks from handing out “God loves you…” tracts (common grace and all). It is really hard to pin down specifics to go after without being a legalist.

  67. Steven Carr said,

    January 31, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    Sam (#61),

    I am pursuing the Presbyterian model. But I don’t want to give too much away. I will explain all that D. V. on my blog. I hopefully will have that by this Saturday, if school schedule permits.

  68. pduggie said,

    January 31, 2008 at 2:53 pm

    “but we can’t, say, just go around disciplining people for having guitars or drums in their worship services, if you take my meaning.”

    True, but maybe we can discipline people who have inductive bible studies.

  69. Jesse Pirschel said,

    January 31, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    This debate has always made me uncomfortable from both sides. It would seem from Rev. Webb suggestions above and on the Warfield list that this debate has been against a view that sees our children as God’s. The answer in his mind is the model of personal conversion.

    The question above to Mr. Webb is where the rubber will meet the road. Are we seeking the Great Awakening or the Reformation? Is Calvin a primary example or one of the suspects? Which side is the good guys and which the bad?

    Well, it all depends on whose framing the question. If the FV is wrong does that mean the Tennants were right. For some folks it seems this is the case. I’ll pass thanks.

  70. Michael Saville said,

    January 31, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    Jason,
    Yes, Jeff is a member of the Missouri Presbytery, where he also chairs the C&C Committee. This is also the presbytery in which some (though not all), of the seminary faculty have their credentials.

  71. January 31, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    My humble suggestion to the PCA would be to take a page from us continental Reformed types. Our book of church order requires pastors to devote one of the two Lord’s Day services to preaching through the Belgic Confession, Heidelberg Catechism, and Canons or Dordt. This will not only catechize your congregation, but it will saturate them in a distinctly Reformed mindset. Good things (beliefs, attitudes, and practices) can only flow out of that.

    I have a feeling that in many PCA churches, if you preached through the WLC on Sunday MORNINGS, you’d get people’s attention! Might shake up the old, blue-haired ladies and give them the vapors. That would be magnifiscent.

  72. Jesse Pirschel said,

    January 31, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    “Personal conversion” is not meant to be a slam on the need for conversion, but with Hart I would say that it is lifelong and not tied to only one moment where we “close” with Christ.

  73. Steven Carr said,

    January 31, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    David (#66),

    As far as Arminian Worship sevices go. The PCA should make the Directory for Worship Constitutional. I realize by saying that, many men will gasp in utter astonishment. But a good bulk of the Reformation was focused on worship, perhaps more so than doctrine, yet we make Reformed doctrine constitutional but not Reformed worship. Seems a bit strange to me.

  74. January 31, 2008 at 3:24 pm

    Jesse wrote: “Well, it all depends on whose [sic] framing the question. If the FV is wrong does that mean the Tennants were right. For some folks it seems this is the case. I’ll pass thanks.”

    I’ll pass, too. The FV rightly sought to remedy the abuses of revivalism, but it has not succeeded to provide a Reformed corrective.

    For my own part, I have found that good ol’ confessional Reformed piety has all the warmth of devotion and heartfelt dependence on the ministry of the church that is needed.

  75. barlow said,

    January 31, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    Pastor Meyers is my pastor and he is a wonderful minister. Every Sunday, morning and evening (and in Sunday school too) he preaches from the text of scripture. He is jolly and encourages a spirit of community at the church. He is a faithful husband and father and he is a man who grows, year by year, in maturity and faith. He has also dedicated a lot of time and energy to researching Christian worship and has produced a very helpful book that grounds the order of worship in the scriptures. Meyers is very confessional, but most of all he is very biblical in his preaching. We are now in the middle of a series on Luke that has been very good.

    As for Mark Horne, Mark went before the Missouri Presbytery upon transfer and was subjected to hours of questioning before the floor of presbytery. I don’t think I know anyone who knows the confession and its scriptural basis better than Mark. He has really thought through the confession and how it uses scripture to make the arguments that it makes. Because people in other presbyteries poisoned the well for Mark in advance, there was every reason in the world to expect a rough interview, but Mark handled it with aplomb. If Horne had been unconfessional, don’t you think that would have been evident?

    Anyway, you guys strike me as extreme busybodies – Missouri presbytery is a productive, fruitful, and growing presbytery that is planting churches and seeing many people enter the kingdom and minister to the world. Those of us at Providence love our pastor and sit, every week, under the preaching of the scriptures. I would doubt if more than 20% of the congregation even could tell you what “the federal vision” is.

    As for Covenant Seminary – they are busy teaching Greek, Hebrew, the Bible, and the various loci of theology. They avoid all party spirit in most, if not all, of the classroom teaching. For instance, you will not be indoctrinated into a particular approach to apologetics or counseling at Covenant, much less eschatology. The professors at Covenant rarely participate in Presbytery – a notable exception being that they were encouraged to participate in the FV study committee that produced a report a few years ago. It is odd to think that some of you want to go after a presbytery that already considered the FV controversy and produced a report – a report that was a true committee effort.

  76. barlow said,

    January 31, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    Pastor Meyers is my pastor and he is a wonderful minister. Every Sunday, morning and evening (and in Sunday school too) he preaches from the text of scripture. He is jolly and encourages a spirit of community at the church. He is a faithful husband and father and he is a man who grows, year by year, in maturity and faith. He has also dedicated a lot of time and energy to researching Christian worship and has produced a very helpful book that grounds the order of worship in the scriptures. Meyers is very confessional, but most of all he is very biblical in his preaching. We are now in the middle of a series on Luke that has been very good.

    As for Mark Horne, Mark went before the Missouri Presbytery upon transfer and was subjected to hours of questioning before the floor of presbytery. I don’t think I know anyone who knows the confession and its scriptural basis better than Mark. He has really thought through the confession and how it uses scripture to make the arguments that it makes. Because people in other presbyteries poisoned the well for Mark in advance, there was every reason in the world to expect a rough interview, but Mark handled it with aplomb. If Horne had been unconfessional, don’t you think that would have been evident?

    Anyway, you guys strike me as extreme busybodies – Missouri presbytery is a productive, fruitful, and growing presbytery that is planting churches and seeing many people enter the kingdom and minister to the world. Those of us at Providence love our pastor and sit, every week, under the preaching of the scriptures. I would doubt if more than 20% of the congregation even could tell you what “the federal vision” is.

    As for Covenant Seminary – they are busy teaching Greek, Hebrew, the Bible, and the various loci of theology. They avoid all party spirit in most, if not all, of the classroom teaching. For instance, you will not be indoctrinated into a particular approach to apologetics or counseling at Covenant, much less eschatology. The professors at Covenant rarely participate in Presbytery – a notable exception being that they were encouraged to participate in the FV study committee that produced a report a few years ago. It is odd to think that some of you want to go after a presbytery that already considered the FV controversy and produced a report – a report that was a true committee effort.

  77. barlow said,

    January 31, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    As for the DPW, it seems to me that some of the FV men are being criticized for saying the kinds of things about baptism that the DPW says:

    “Baptism is a sacrament ordained by the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a sign and seal of the inclusion of the person who is baptized in the covenant of grace. Teaching that we and our children are conceived and born in sin, it witnesses and seals unto us the remission of sins and the bestowal of all the gifts of salvation through union with Christ. Baptism with water signifies and seals cleansing from sin by the blood and the Spirit of Christ, together with our death unto sin and our resurrection unto newness of life by virtue of the death and resurrection of Christ. Since these gifts of salvation are the gracious provision of the triune God, who is pleased to claim us as his very own, we are baptized into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. And since baptized persons are called upon to assume the obligations of the covenant, baptism summons us to renounce the devil, the world and the flesh and to walk humbly with our God in devotion to his commandments.”

  78. January 31, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    Barlow,

    I meant no offense, let a lone a double offense that resulted in a double defense (#s 75 and 76).

    I was just asking a question about two of the most outspoken and, in Horne’s case, bombastic proponents of the Federal Vision being located in the presbytery of the seminary whose denomination just condemned the Federal Vision.

    If Horne can call Westminster CA a criminal institution worthy of the strongest curses he can think up, then surely I can ask a simple question about Covenant Seminary without being accused of calling into question how good a husband and father your pastor is, can’t I?

  79. Michael Saville said,

    January 31, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    Right Jonathan. As one who attended Providence during my time at CTS, I can certainly affirm the joyful and enthusiastic worship, and warm hospitality and fellowship of the Providence congregation. It was a wonderful place to be on the Lord’s Day. I also greatly appreciated Jeff’s commitment to mentoring students in the ins and outs of pastoral ministry.

  80. David R. McCrory said,

    January 31, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    “I’ll re-iterate that I think consistent application of “ruling his own household well”, “having faithful children, not accused of riot or unruly” as a qualification for all elders is very valuable.”

    ~ I have dealt with this issue and would love to get your input. Do you believe elder’s children have to be believers “faithful children” themselves in order for him to be qualified?

  81. Sam Steinmann said,

    January 31, 2008 at 4:33 pm

    Do you believe elder’s children have to be believers “faithful children” themselves in order for him to be qualified?

    Yes.

    More at length, I believe an elder’s children in his household need to be faithful (not necessarily believers, but well-disciplined, well-taught, and well-behaved) as long as they are in the household and in leaving it. I would not say that children who are grown, left the household as apparently-faithful adults, and fall into sin, are necessarily disqualifying.

  82. David R. McCrory said,

    January 31, 2008 at 4:37 pm

    Ok. so you’re saying you believe those children who are under his roof must be faithful to their parents, not necessarily to God?

    And then you’d say those children who grow up and show no signs of regeneration as adults do not necessarily disqualify a man from eldership?

  83. Sam Steinmann said,

    January 31, 2008 at 4:42 pm

    I’d say those children who grow up, show the signs of faithfulness and regeneration while teenagers (typically), leave the household at 21, fall away at 25, and are not-apparently-regenerate at all at 30 aren’t necessarily disqualifying.

    To me, that’s a different case from a child who leaves home at 16 and never seems to be following Christ; I would consider that to be disqualifying.

  84. Sam Steinmann said,

    January 31, 2008 at 4:46 pm

    But my real concern–and the one I’ve thought most about–is at the other end. I am not comfortable, either prudentially or Scripturally, ordaining men who have only an infant, or no children at all, or whose small children are not well-taught and well-disciplined. I am opposed to ordaining (or keeping in positions to which they were previously ordained) men whose at-home teen-agers are openly rebellious. Those seem to me to be exactly the sort of thing that “if he can’t rule his own house, how do you expect him to rule the church?” applies to.

  85. David R. McCrory said,

    January 31, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    Allow me to press it a little further. What do you think “faithful” constitutes in the passage? Some say faithful to the parents (obedient, disciplined,etc.) some say it means an evangelical faithfulness to God.

    Is this not more of an issue of the man’s diligent pursuit of his child’s spiritual well-being, rather than an examination of the outcome of such an effort given we cannot actually do the saving?

  86. barlow said,

    January 31, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    Jason – sorry to overreact. I should not blame you for what I think is pretty certain Andy Webb is doing – filing complaints against anyone associated with FVish things.

    Yes, Mark is sometimes bombastic (in print). I’m just trying to take up for these guys – they are not wolves in sheep costumes and have ministered to me and my family for a long time.

  87. David R. McCrory said,

    January 31, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    “I am not comfortable, either prudentially or Scripturally, ordaining men who have only an infant, or no children at all, or whose small children are not well-taught and well-disciplined.”

    ~ So should we ordain fresh-wet-behind-the-ears seminary grads with a newlywed wife and a their first covenant bun in the oven?

    ~ Should we ordain single men with no children? (Is marriage and older children a prerequsite to eldership?)

    These are question with important implications.

  88. January 31, 2008 at 5:00 pm

    Gotcha, Barlow, apology accepted.

  89. anneivy said,

    January 31, 2008 at 5:08 pm

    “Yes, Mark is sometimes bombastic (in print). I’m just trying to take up for these guys – they are not wolves in sheep costumes and have ministered to me and my family for a long time.”

    There’s no doubt but that there are many people who, dandy and delightful folk though they are IRL, have a very difficult time recognizing and heeding appropriate boundaries on the internet.

    I’ve a theory they’re very dependent upon others’ facial expressions, body language, and tones of voice to let them know how far is too far. As none of these signals are available in this mode of communication, those “brakes” can’t rein ‘em in, so they wind up posting things they wouldn’t dream of saying to someone’s face.

    It’s as if it doesn’t count if it’s on the internet, y’know?

    As I say, I’ve run across quite a few people like this over the years; the description of them by those who’ve met them or know them IRL is miles apart from their internet persona (at least when they get annoyed about something).

    It’s unnerving to think of the LORD – or more likely one of His angels – reading out loud a transcript of every word we’ve posted on the internet at judgment. (Hmmm….do you think going back and deleting posts would make ‘em disappear from that venue?)

  90. Sam Steinmann said,

    January 31, 2008 at 5:25 pm

    David,

    Let me answer your 85, and say that this is getting off-topic and I’ll need some encouragement from Pastor Lane to continue beyond this.

    Is this not more of an issue of the man’s diligent pursuit of his child’s spiritual well-being, rather than an examination of the outcome of such an effort given we cannot actually do the saving?

    I dislike that formulation, because I think part of the point is the man’s judgment and godliness. It’s possible to diligently pursue the spiritual well-being of others by counter-productive methods, or while acting in ungodly and sinful ways; men who do that, however knowledgeable and however well-intentioned, are dangerous as elders.

  91. David R. McCrory said,

    January 31, 2008 at 5:31 pm

    Sam, if you like email me,

    david.mccrory@yahoo.com

    We can pick it up there.

  92. magma2 said,

    January 31, 2008 at 6:48 pm

    I should not blame you for what I think is pretty certain Andy Webb is doing – filing complaints against anyone associated with FVish things..

    “FVish things”? You’re kidding, right Barlow? Last I checked Meyers along with Horne are FV to the core. Did they repent of their false gospel and I missed it? Was it reporte at Reformed News?

  93. February 1, 2008 at 12:24 pm

    To add to my own comment (#71) – I am curious, so I wanted to ask the PCA pastors here:

    How many of you do sermons from sections of the Confession or Catechisms? Does anyone preach *through* the whole Confession/Catechism?

    I have a feeling that some PCA pastors (probably not any who would read this blog) would not only answer “no” to both of those questions, but they would never even *reference* the Standards in passing in their preaching.

  94. its.reed said,

    February 1, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    Ref. #93:

    David:

    I routinely reference the Westminster standards to highlight, explain, illustrate, etc., a given point in a sermon.

    In a church which was in desperate need of re-discovering their reformed roots, I preached a series following the WSC. For each sermon, I used specific passage from one of the Gospels to teach the gospel represented in a given Q&A.

    Always I strive to do three things in a sermon; from the passage (either specifically or generally) show the hearer:

    1) How much more desparately wicked and sinful we are,
    2) How much more perfectly sufficient Christ is for these our needs, and
    3) How to by faith lay a hold of Christ for these needs.

    Our standards are perfectly suited for such Christ-centered, grace-oriented and gospel-driven preaching, as this is comprehensively what they teach us.

  95. Gabe Martini said,

    February 1, 2008 at 1:55 pm

    Nearly every Reformed or Presbyterian denomination outside of the United States of America would view the PCA as anti-nomian, broadly evangelical, and Zwinglian *at best* … that’s “just how it is.” This doesn’t mean every congregation in the PCA is this way, they certainly are not. However, the vast majority falls into this “middle of the road” category. If you visited, at random, 10 PCA churches, I would imagine 7-8 of them would be perceived in this way by most of the posters here. The PCA has never been a stalwart of Reformed confessionalism, and if you want it to be, you have a long way to go. A long way.

  96. Sam Steinmann said,

    February 1, 2008 at 2:05 pm

    I’m not a pastor, but my pastor when I was in the PCA frequently referred to the standards, often used one as the affirmation of faith before the Lord’s Supper, but I can’t recall him ever structuring his sermon around a standard paragraph. I’m pretty sure his text was always from Scripture.

  97. tim prussic said,

    February 1, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    While I find myself in general agreement with him, I also find it difficult to believe that Mr. Martini knows how nearly every Reformed or Presbyterian denomination outside of the United States of America would view the PCA.

    In any event, does going out to brunch after Sunday morning worship count towards antinomianism? :)

  98. February 1, 2008 at 3:31 pm

    RE #93,

    We teach through the Confession in Adult Sunday school, catechize the children both in Sunday School and at home, and have at least one small group going through the confession during the week. A part of either the Confession one of the Catechisms is read during worship as that part relates to the sermon text.

    We preach through the Scriptures exegetically, with reference to the Standards as appropriate. After all, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God, not the by the preaching of the Standards themselves.

  99. February 1, 2008 at 3:39 pm

    Bob,

    Our church order says this:

    At one of the services each Lord’s Day, the minister shall ordinarily preach the Word as summarized in the Three Forms of Unity, with special attention given to the Heidelberg Catechism by treating its Lord’s Days in sequence.

    Notice the wording of this section. It is still preaching the Word, only it is preaching the Word as our confessional standards summarize the Word. The minister should be covering the most relevant verses of Scripture in each section – the 3 Forms just give doctrinal expression, clarity, and organizing structure to the preaching of the relevant Scripture texts.

  100. David Gilleran said,

    February 1, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    Two things: In the early days of the PCA a debate at GA took place several times on adopting all the DOW with full status. It was roundly defeated every time. Right now in the PCA churches do not want to be tied to the DOW/BCO or DOW/WS.

    Second, I like the advice John Newton once gave about Calvinism and preaching. He said Calvinism is like the lump of sugar he puts into his tea. It dissolves and sweetens the whole. The same should be with out preaching. The Reformed Standards (in my case WCF/WSC/WLC) should part of the message without calling attention to it. Sometimes you do call attention to it but on the whole. it should in your life and in your message so much that it sweetens everything. The quote can be found in the Letters of John Newton published by Banner of Truth Trust.

  101. Roger Mann said,

    February 1, 2008 at 4:45 pm

    72: Jesse wrote,

    “Personal conversion” is not meant to be a slam on the need for conversion, but with Hart I would say that it is lifelong and not tied to only one moment where we “close” with Christ.

    It sure seems like Saul of Tarsus had a “personal conversion” in which he “closed” with Christ (Acts 9:1-22; Gal 1:15-16). No doubt his “conversion” resulted in a lifelong change, but the conversion itself was “tied to only one moment.”

  102. Gabe Martini said,

    February 1, 2008 at 6:52 pm

    Re: Tim, #97

    Brunch?? You must be worshipping at 7:30 am.

  103. tim prussic said,

    February 1, 2008 at 7:45 pm

    Hey, this Sabbath breaker will go to the early service in order to get to the brunch! I do whatever it takes.


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