Some Thoughts on General Assembly

These thoughts are not in any particular order. But I did want to address some of the issues, and try to explain them in such a way that the average ruling elder in particular would be able to understand and follow the important things that are going on.

First up is the evening of confessional concern and prayer being held on Monday night. One thing I had not noticed about it the first time I read it was that it is an RSVP event. So please remember that and RSVP if you are planning to attend. The second thing I want to say about this (a thing which isn’t entirely clear in the Aquila Report) is that this evening of confessional concern and prayer is a shot across the bow of “wake-up call” for the PCA. EDIT: I have changed this language at the request of people I respect, as it is liable to misunderstanding: what I mean by it is simply that we are concerned about the direction the denomination is going, and we are going public with that concern. This is not merely a discussion of the major issues facing the denomination at the General Assembly. This is a group of people who are seriously concerned about the direction the PCA is headed. This is the beginning of action being taken about that direction. CWAGA folk (“Can’t We All Get Along?”) and liberal progressives take note. Now, this might not be the intention of everyone who will be there, or even everyone who will be presenting. I cannot speak for them. However, the design and original intention of this meeting is as I have outlined.

The second issue I want to talk about is the Insider Movement report. The Insider Movement (IM) is a missiological trend whereby people are being encouraged to identify themselves as both Christian and Muslim. Closely associated with this is a trend in Bible translation that removes references to the sonship of Jesus to the Father in favor of other terms like “Messiah” or “highly favored one.” The intended or unintended (not to prejudge!) consequence of this action is seriously to jeopardize the Scripture’s witness to the eternal sonship of Jesus to the Father. The report exposes these errors. This is not a peripheral issue of doctrine, but one that is absolutely central to the Christian faith, as the doctrine is present in every single creed in Christendom that Jesus is the eternally begotten Son of the eternal Father. If Jesus is not the eternal Son of the Father, then He cannot bear the infinite guilt of our sins on His shoulders. Why did this trend get started, you might ask? The alleged reason, according to the report, is that translators were discovering that Muslim people tend to think of biological sex being involved when they hear the phrase “Son of God.” They find that offensive, and so the move to eliminate references to Jesus’ sonship in the Bible.

The third issue is the request by Philadelphia Presbytery to have a study committee report on women’s ordination. Now, the request is specific. It is asking about whether a person can believe in women’s ordination if he is not willing to practice it in order to conform to our BCO. I should note that one of the “whereas’s” reads as follows: “Whereas, our constitution does not clearly delineate or define ‘the general principles of biblical polity or their relation to male only eldership.” I had to scratch my head on that one. I thought our BCO clearly said that the offices of elder and deacon are open to men only. The BCO is part of our constitution. So I’m not quite sure how they came up with this statement, which seems on the face of it to be completely false. To be perfectly blunt about this, if we open this question we are denying everything the PCA has stood for since its inception. This denomination was founded in part because of liberalism on women’s issues (the other major piece being the doctrine of Scripture itself; the two are intimately related, of course, because of how one has to twist and distort 1 Timothy 2 or deny its authority in order to achieve women’s ordination). So, if we open the question of women’s ordination, then we also need to open the question of Scripture’s authority, since the only way you can get women’s ordination is to deny that Scripture has the authority to prevent it.

The fourth issue I wish to talk about is theistic evolution, being brought up to the GA by means of Overture 32. There are some in the PCA who deny that theistic evolution is being taught by anyone in the PCA. I would say that such people have their head in the sand. According to a Christianity Today article, Tim Keller believes that it is the job of pastors to promote a narrative for Biologos:

Few Christian colleges or seminaries teach young earth creationism (YEC), participants noted during discussion groups. But less formal, grassroots educational initiatives, often centered on homeschooling, have won over the majority of evangelicals. “We have arguments, but they have a narrative,” noted Tim Keller. Both young earth creationists and atheistic evolutionists tell a story tapping into an existing cultural narrative of decline. To develop a Biologos narrative is “the job of pastors,” Keller said.

Unofficially connected with Redeemer Church (as in, he has no official connection, but has done many Sunday School seminars and the like) is Dr. Ron Choong, a man who clearly espouses theistic evolution, and opines that no one at Redeemer has had any problems with his teaching.

Fifthly and lastly, there is the issue of the Standing Judicial Commission and the lack of oversight of that commission that currently exists. No doubt many will want to point out that the SJC is often dealing with cases that are extremely complex. No doubt that is true. However, no organization or group of people in the PCA should be without oversight and accountability. Reports of Presbytery commissions have to be approved. Therefore, what the SJC does needs to be approved or rejected by the body as a whole. This is true even if there is a difference between judicial commissions and other commissions.

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22 Comments

  1. Ken Pierce said,

    June 11, 2014 at 4:42 pm

    Lane, I want to be careful in addressing this, but I’m not sure you’ve captured the tenor of the meeting. No, it is not our intention to paper over legitimate differences. We want to address things in an honest way. The speakers will not all agree with one another. No strategy will be presented. It is more a briefing on four major issues in the “ether” and four men’s take on them. Most of all, it is a call to prayer for revival.

    IT is only RSVP to give us an idea of who may be coming. We have just discovered we will incur some cost, so if anyone is willing to make a modest (or more than modest) donation, it would be helpful.

    Thanks, brother.

  2. tominaz said,

    June 11, 2014 at 4:50 pm

    Lane,
    You’ve presented the issues at hand very well. There are some very important issues on the table. I’m wondering what kind of seat at the table principled confessionalists will have this year. Last year the chair was pulled out from under us.

  3. greenbaggins said,

    June 11, 2014 at 5:18 pm

    Ken, I’m not entirely sure how we differ in our interpretation of the event. I am well aware that there is the briefing on the four issues, and that there is no strategy involved at the moment. I also said in the post that many people might have quite different reasons for being there (including the speakers!). The prayer is a prayer for a revival of orthodoxy and a revival of the gospel. I only mentioned the RSVP because people should know about it. I wasn’t at all intending to imply anything more than that (it is certainly not intended to be a secret meeting or even an exclusive meeting). That being said, I stand by what I said about its being a shot across the bow. It is not an organizational meeting of any kind. But it is a meeting of concerned churchmen about the state of the PCA.

  4. Ken Pierce said,

    June 11, 2014 at 5:37 pm

    A shot across the bow is generally a warning to an encroaching enemy. It would seem like the organizers of the event (of which there are four of us: myself, Geoff Gleason, Mel Duncan and Rick Phillips) would be in the best possible position to say whether or not it was a shot across the bow. I sat down with two of the presenters yesterday, and they were clear they wanted no part in anything overtly divisive. I have also talked to the other two, and they are on the same page.

    We are emphatically not out to start another faction, to develop a membership list, or a voting guide. We just want to spur people to be aware of issues that are out there, to consider them, and pray about them.

    The only enemy here is Satan, who would divide us. The sole intent (and Geoff can speak for himself) that the two of us had in starting this was to brief people and make them aware of the issues. I’m just trying to be clear what our intent was and is.

  5. Ken Pierce said,

    June 11, 2014 at 5:48 pm

    http://confessingourhope.com/blog/2014/06/07/confessional-concern-and-prayer/ In case you missed it, we did a podcast with Bill Hill about it.

  6. June 11, 2014 at 6:10 pm

    Lane — I think if you listen to that discussion you will see that this isn’t “a shot across the bow” as you put it, and was something I wanted to point out immediately in the discussion.

  7. Steve Drake said,

    June 11, 2014 at 7:02 pm

    We have just discovered we will incur some cost, so if anyone is willing to make a modest (or more than modest) donation, it would be helpful.

    Where might a donation be mailed and directed?

  8. Ken Pierce said,

    June 11, 2014 at 8:04 pm

    Steve, that is very kind. Please e-mail me at kpierce AT tpcjackson.org (replacing ” AT ” with @, of course!) and I’ll give you the name and address of the church.

  9. musicosity1 said,

    June 11, 2014 at 8:40 pm

    A point of clarification: The Insider Movement is not is “a trend in Bible translation that removes references to the sonship of Jesus to the Father in favor of other terms like “Messiah” or “highly favored one.” That’s not IM. That’s MIT, or “Muslim Idiom Translation” of the Bible.

    The Insider Movement Paradigm is a broader issue that deals with (1) the identity, beliefs, and practices of Christ-followers living in non-Western cultures, and (2) the hermeneutic used to address such missiological issues. MIT is one issue related to IM, but they should be distinguished. The PCA dealt with the MIT issue at the 2012 GA, commending the report dealing with that issue. IM is the topic at this GA.

    Here is an article sampling some of the issues that arise in IMPs: http://www.reformation21.org/articles/is-the-insider-movement-really-that-bad.php

    And here is the first of a three-part exchange between David Garner and Nelson Jennings about whether the PCA is competent or not (respectively) to address these questions. http://www.reformation21.org/articles/jennings-and-garner-debate-the-insider-movement.php

  10. Jon Foster said,

    June 12, 2014 at 1:35 am

    Keller has discussed theistic evolution much more directly here:

    http://biologos.org/blog/series/creation-evolution-laypeople-series

  11. June 12, 2014 at 7:01 am

    Reblogged this on A Sidekick's Blog and commented:
    Though no longer in the PCA, I share this as a brother with deep roots in the PCA and the Reformation. I am still surprised at how a denomination with such a specific and detailed Confession of Faith can even consider some of the ideas being proposed. “Federal Vision” is one threat to orthodoxy that remains inadequately addressed by the PCA. Now see what is being added to it! “Translating” the bible and omitting any reference to the Sonship of Christ so as not to offend Muslims; the ordination of women to ecclesiastical office; the independence of a committee with no accountability to the General Assembly (potentially disastrous!), and theistic evolution (also very prevalent now in the PCA). Another “float” in a long parade of examples of why we need to pray for our leaders, and why “ruling” elders must not be content to “defer theological matters” to the “experts” who – in every single case – are the ones who invent and spread these ridiculous, unbiblical ideas.

  12. Dave Sarafolean said,

    June 12, 2014 at 11:22 am

    About the Philadelphia overture: I agree, this is a sad development. The BCO is pretty clear on this topic.

    To be honest, there are already men in the PCA who privately believe that women can serve as elders but they will not teach it. They may be few and far between but they are around.

  13. greenbaggins said,

    June 12, 2014 at 11:26 am

    Ken, perhaps we have a different definition of what a “shot across the bow” means. I have listened to the podcast now, and several things stood out to me. Yes, it is not a political meeting, not a secret meeting, not a hostile meeting. Nevertheless, there is an advocation for the confessional positions on these four issues. The very words “concerned” and “confessional” will almost certainly be interpreted as a shot across the bow, despite your efforts to avoid having it seen so. What I mean by “shot across the bow” is probably less than you think. All I am saying by it is that we are giving notice to those who do not agree with us that we are doing something about these four issues and about the state of the denomination. You guys said that on the podcast yourselves, especially in your discussion of the various issues.

  14. Ken Pierce said,

    June 12, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    Lane, I am not sure there is a confessional position on SJC reform, and I know there isn’t one on whether or not it’s a good idea to have a study committee on whether female elders are an allowable exception (the issue of egalitarianism itself, I think, continues to be one that the vast majority of the PCA are against). And, some of the panelists will disagree.

    Mostly, my heart on this is that it be a cry to God for both revival and unity. I am sick of the infighting, impugned motives, etc. We need to be on our blogs less and on our knees more.

  15. paigebritton said,

    June 12, 2014 at 4:34 pm

    Hey, Lane, I think I’m in agreement with Ken about the language you used there, “shot across the bow” — even if you didn’t have in mind an aggressive armed warning, others might be glad to read it that way. It would be a shame, I think, to see this phrase picked up in the rhetoric of those who are eager for battle (or fearing it from the “confessional concern” participants). Maybe “wake-up call” gets at what you meant more innocuously? :)

  16. Alan D. Strange said,

    June 12, 2014 at 6:58 pm

    I was thinking the same thing about “shot across the bow” and “wake-up call:” perhaps you want the latter, although the former used to mean less than it does now (it used to mean a shot to elicit what flag one was sailing under, prompting identification). This is not to say that we don’t also need a shot across the bow in the more modern sense (a warning shot), a warning of coming wrath unless we repent (and perhaps this is what Lane had in mind, though I get why the organizers don’t prefer that image).

    At any rate, I appreciate, as I am sure Lane does, Ken’s call for prayer for revival and the promotion of the (purity, peace and) unity of the church. I am happy to hear of this meeting and pray that in every way our gracious Lord would be pleased to reform according to His Word the PCA, OPC, and like churches. In fact, I pray for such for the whole Church everywhere, even those sectors that have departed far from the truth. May He be pleased to work in us all that we might be more and more enabled to die to sin and live to righteousness, transformed more and more into the image of Him who is the express image of the Father.

    We need, more than anything in our day, a revival of true religion among us in which we draw nearer to Him and each other as members of His mystical body. May He be pleased to grant it and to grant us the spirit of repentance that characterized Nehemiah and Daniel (Neh. 9 and Dan. 9). As the hymn writer said, “Correct us with thy judgments, Lord, then let Thy mercy spare.”

  17. Greg said,

    June 12, 2014 at 8:13 pm

    Don’t forget about nominations for committees (p. 1001 Commissioners Handbook). I hope we’ll have some solid nominations from the floor, particularly for SJC and AC. Deadline for floor nominations seems to be 5pm Wed. (p. 6 Commissioners Handbook)

  18. June 13, 2014 at 12:38 am

    […] the Presbyterian Church in America and is pastor of Lebanon Presbyterian Church in Winnsboro, S.C. This article appeared on his blog and is used with […]

  19. Stuart said,

    June 13, 2014 at 8:13 am

    Mostly, my heart on this is that it be a cry to God for both revival and unity. I am sick of the infighting, impugned motives, etc. We need to be on our blogs less and on our knees more.

    Amen, Ken.

    There are truly serious issues that should be addressed in our denomination. I think we all can agree on that fact. But we are fooling ourselves if we think that arguing, name-calling, questioning motives, posturing, and commiserating with those who already think like us is going to solve our problems.

    Abiding in Christ, speaking the truth in love, humbling ourselves, being slow to speak, quick to listen, slow to become angry, and praying without ceasing for wisdom, discernment, unity, and heart-change where needed (even if that is in my own heart!) will bear the peaceful fruit of righteousness in our lives and in our denomination.

    Thank you for your concern for the PCA and for the spirit you are displaying in wanting these issues addressed.

  20. Stuart said,

    June 13, 2014 at 8:16 am

    Oops. Sorry about the formatting mistake. The first paragraph is the quote and the rest are my thoughts. If one of the blog admins would please fix my error, I would be appreciative.

  21. Mark G said,

    June 13, 2014 at 8:56 am

    I think Lane is entirely correct in “shot across the bow,” but perhaps adding “stealthy” shot across the bow would improve accuracy. Military terms have been inherent in the science VERSUS the Bible debate for decades, so why the claims of unity, sweetness and light, now? When the frontal attack hasn’t worked go to the flanking maneuvers. For example, it seems the discussion causes many to think “Keller” but nobody is apparently brave enough to propose bringing charges. I’m not saying the overture is all about Keller, only using him as a surrogate to make my point; i.e., stealthy shot across the bow.

  22. Steve Drake said,

    June 20, 2014 at 8:59 pm

    Mark G. @ 21
    “The science Versus the Bible debate” is the wording of evolutionary biologists and those Christians who support evolutionary biologists and those indeed who themselves have doctorates in Evolutionary Biology.

    It’s a nasty, intentional, and disingenuous trick to set up a straw man which can then be knocked down mercilessly, painting Biblical creationists as against science and all it stands for, but you know this already Mark G. since you’ve used the exact same phrase in our dealings elsewhere.

    As I said there, I’ll say again here. Science is the purview of both sides in a worldview debate: the secular worldview and the Biblical one. Science is totally barren and bereft if not standing upon Biblical foundations and axioms that make it possible, and thieves and plunders those Biblical axioms whenever it opens its mouth to speak.

    Continuing to use such phraseology Mark, gives away quite a lot in terms of where your loyalties are at. Perhaps you’d like to continue to understand why holding an evolutionary position with its billions and millions of years of death, decay, disease, and destruction is blasphemy against God?


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