There seems to me a very good reason why this topic is so hot right now: many people have been thinking about the PCA as being in need of a
split purification. Sam merely brought out the elephant in the room. This is the topic that no one wanted to be the first to talk about. However, now that Sam has done so, the floodgates are open now.
What is the issue? How do we go about defining the problem? Sam’s categories are a tad vague (how exactly would he describe the groups within the PCA?). And this, in my view, is the biggest difficulty I see, a difficulty that Ken Pierce pointed out rather cogently in the comments on Sam’s post: there are many people in the PCA who don’t necessarily like to be pigeon-holed. Ken himself described his own view as confessional, but wanting to be in the same denomination as, say, Tim Keller. Incidentally, this is proof positive that not all confessionalists are out for other people’s blood. Can the overly paranoid, guilt-manipulating, unity-mongering, can’t-we-all-get-along folks please take notice? (Now why, oh why, can’t you laugh at this perfectly accurate description of yourself coming from a witch-hunting, Pharisaic, camel-swallowing/needle-straining bigot?) Maybe we all be taking ourselves a wee bit too seriously? Check. Oh wait, I just pigeon-holed myself, didn’t I? Well, of all the…
Not that there aren’t serious issues going on in the PCA. There are. However, many people, including myself, are just a little bit too fond of grand-standing, and listening to our own way-too-clever bunk. (Mental note to self: do more shutting up, and do more listening!). Personally, I agree with Scott Clark. The issue surrounds the confessional standards of our church. When does the PCA become a non-confessional denomination? Many would argue that it already has. Probably everyone draws their own line in the sand. Of course, there’s always the danger of the movable line in the sand, as the Trinity Foundation folks rightly point out. Are we headed for a split? I don’t know. I think it is more profitable for me to concentrate on promoting the peace and purity of the PCA (and especially promoting them as inseparable: no peace without purity, and no purity without peace). If that becomes impossible, then I’ll cross that bridge when it comes to it. It hasn’t come yet.
How would I describe the PCA? I think, instead of sharply-defined groups, it would be more accurate to say that there exists a continuum with foci at four points on that continuum. On the far right, the confessionalists (here am I, and I can do no other). On the far left, the progressives who at least appear to despise the confession as an antiquated irrelevancy. One focus point in on the continuum (from the progressive side) is the general evangelical crowd, who want unity, are soteriologically Reformed, but are willing to compromise on just about anything other than the Gospel. One focus point in from the confessionalists are the “mostly confessionalist” crowd. This focus point can be hard to distinguish sometimes from the confessionalists, but they are more willing to allow exceptions to the Confession than the confessionalists are. The thing is that none of these focus points are rigid, not even the confessionalist point. None of the focus points are monolithic. To use a term from statistics, there is a lot of scatter data, it seems to me, that refuses to be pigeon-holed.