The Nashville Statement and Why Our Congregation Adopted It

Most of the great creedal and confessional formulations of the church have been composed in response to widespread error or heresy within the body of Christ and while there are many different errors and heresies that are currently dividing the church, some of the most destructive are the ones that concern human sexuality. In particular, many in the church today have embraced a form of declension that tolerates or even celebrates destructive sexual sins such as fornication, homosexuality, and transgenderism.

While this kind of error in the church is serious and extremely destructive, it is by no means new. In his first letter to the Corinthians Paul spent what would eventually become an entire chapter (1 Cor. 5) of his epistle admonishing the Corinthians for allowing a member of their church to sleep with his stepmother. Instead of rebuking the offender, and practicing church discipline, the Corinthian Christians were actually celebrating how gracious they were being towards this man in tolerating his offense. Paul warned that by adopting this practice they would simply encourage more sexual sin, and bring down the Lord’s judgement upon themselves. What was needed was not more patting themselves on the back for how tolerant they were, but discipline and excommunication. They were told that they should not have fellowship with anyone who called themselves a brother – not even eating with them – who practiced sexual immorality.

Today’s church needs the same kind of wake-up call that Paul gave to the Corinthian Christians in his letter, and it is for that reason that the session of our congregation, Providence PCA, was extremely grateful to the CBMW for publishing “The Nashville Statement” which deals biblically with the subject of human sexuality. The statement which consists of a series of 14 articles, each consisting of an affirmation and a denial, was signed by a variety of evangelical and reformed pastors, authors, and theologians including, but not limited to:

John Piper
James Dobson
J. I. Packer
Wayne Grudem
R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
John MacArthur
R. C. Sproul
Rosaria Butterfield
Francis Chan
Marvin Olasky
Ligon Duncan
Kevin DeYoung
Alistair Begg
Matt Chandler

Our session has adopted the statement as our own statement on the subject of human sexuality and over the next 15 weeks I will be preaching on each of the articles and comparing it to the teaching of scripture. As I said in my first sermon on the subject, the Nashville Statement, in common with all merely human confessions, is far from perfect, but it is also an excellent start at dealing with the flood of heretical and erroneous beliefs that will inevitably end up drowning the church in the 21st century if left unchecked.

Here then is a link to listen to our first sermon on the PREAMBLE to the Nashville Statement:

Nashville Statement: Preamble

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Posted in Church Discipline, Compromise, Homosexual Marriage, Homosexuality, Liberalism, Spiritual Declension | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Does the Bible Say About the Reasons for Disasters like Hurricanes Harvey and Irma?

Whenever there is a tragedy like the terrible hurricane that struck Houston, the question “Why did this happen?”  is inevitably asked. When Christians ask that question they are not simply asking for a scientific explanation of the weather patterns in the Gulf of Mexico, or how Hurricanes flood cities or Tornados destroy schools, they are asking why the God they serve did this, (or perhaps “allowed it to happen” if they don’t believe in the sovereignty of God or haven’t really wrestled sufficiently with verses like Amos 3:6b). It was to answer that question that I wrote the following in 2004, after Florida had just passed through a series of devastating hurricanes including the 2nd and 3rd costliest Hurricanes in history at the time. When I did so I particularly wanted to address the common notion that disasters and tragedies are a direct consequence of the sins of the people they affect.

NKJ Luke 13:1 There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? 3 “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. 4 “Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? 5 “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:1-5)

Floridians must be some of the most wicked people in America mustn’t they? To be visited with three massive hurricanes in a row! We here in North Carolina, on the other hand are very virtuous people, because we haven’t really been hit by any of them. Oh sure, we’ve had a little rain, some flooding, and so on, but nothing like the level of destruction that the sinners of Florida have brought down on their heads. But oh, lest we think we are too good. I understand that the city of Las Vegas has suffered hardly any storm related damage this year. Obviously they have attained to a level of sanctification that we here in North Carolina can only continue to strive for.

Now obviously I’m being sarcastic, but the point is that the kind of thinking that says bad things happen to bad people is more common than you might think. You will hardly be able to find a pastor who hasn’t been asked at least once, “Do you think this bad thing happened to me because of my sin?” I’ve even fallen prey to the same kind of thinking myself on more than one occasion. Continue reading

Posted in Current Events, Disasters, Eschatology, God's Sovereignty, History | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Open Reply to Jemar Tisby and “The Downside of Integration for Black Christians”

Dear Jemar,

I recently read your article entitled, “The Downside of Integration for Black Christians” which was posted on the RAAN Network on August 21, 2017 and I’d really like to engage you more on this particular subject. All too often there simply isn’t any “reasoning together” going on when it comes to racial issues, and as a result existing positions just become more entrenched and emotive by the day.

I believe I “get” what you’re saying about wanting to spend time alone with people from the same race and culture and I understand it to a certain degree. Everyone tends to prefer to spend time with people they have an affinity with. It’s one of the many reasons I’m happiest on a Sunday – I get to spend all day with the people I share genuine communion with, and with whom I’m looking forward to sharing eternity with. We all have a common experience of the love of Christ, shared ways of thinking about reality, a (broadly) common world and life view, and the same values and hopes. I have an even greater connection when it’s a gathering of pastors, and then an even greater connection when the pastors are like minded. That’s one of the reasons I enjoy the Banner of Truth Ministers’ Conference so much, I’m sharing time there with ministers who understand what it is to pastor from a Puritan and Reformed viewpoint. For me, that’s the highest level of affinity possible. Meeting with the men from a British cultural background just adds the cherry to the top.

In hindsight, that’s one of the reasons we formed a weekly lunchtime bible study many years ago when I worked at a publishing company in Washington D.C. The experience of spending so much time with worldlings, many of whom hated Christ and Christianity and ran it down continually was grinding for the believers at the company. Those moments praying and reading the word together with my brothers and sisters in Christ were like springs in the wilderness for my soul and a weekly reminder that there was a day coming when sin, separation, and division would be over forever. As it happened, I was one of only three white people who showed up for those studies and one of only four men. The majority of the other members of the study were black and Hispanic women, but I felt closer to them than I ever felt to the people who may have looked like me and had similar ethnic and cultural backgrounds, but with whom I had no communion whatsoever. Continue reading

Posted in Ecclesiology, Liberation Theology, Pastoral Theology, PCA, Politics and The Civil Magistate, Race & Ethnicity, The Spirituality of the Church | Tagged , , , , , , | 11 Comments

A Brief Introduction to Help You Study the Old Testament

1. Introduction

If you look at the bible you will notice that majority of it is made up of the Old Testament

The Old Testament did not drop from the sky as one complete book, it was also not all written at once, but over a period stretching just short of one thousand years, it had many human authors, but not many themes, and ultimately adds up to one book with only one author – God.

How was this possible? These human authors wrote down his truth under God’s inspiration.

INSPIRATION: Continue reading

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A Short Explanation of the Primary Differences Between Christianity and the Various (Marxist) Liberation Theologies Gaining Ground Among Evangelicals

“White Out” co-authored by Alexander Jun, Diversity and Social Justice in Higher Education professor and moderator of the 45th PCA General Assembly.

In Christianity the most fundamental division among men is between the saved and the unsaved (or expressed in the eternal sense the elect and the reprobate, the line of Cain and the line of Seth) and while the divisions according to race, nation, tribe, language, and class are acknowledged, they are not primary, rather we are saved out of them, and on the last day, whether one was a king or a slave on earth, that won’t matter one whit if one is not in Christ. (See Rev. 5:9 and 6:15-17 for instance). The kingdom of heaven is also never fully realized here on earth in this present evil age, and certain things, like hatred and poverty cannot be eliminated because sin will continue till Christ returns. The primary calling of Christians therefore is to proclaim the gospel, that men might believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, be saved, and become members of His body, the Church. Within the church here on earth, people may remain members of the same race or class, but these divisions are unimportant and as the Apostle James points out, shouldn’t make any difference between believers. Additionally, our standing in human society should have no bearing on our standing in the church, and brotherhood should be possible (and often was) between the very rich and the very poor.

In Marxism, the primary division is that of class – the “haves” and the “have-nots”, and the haves have what they have because they prevent the have-nots from gaining access to the means of accumulating the material wealth that would allow them to become haves as well. This means that the rich became that way by making other people poor, and as long as the rich remain rich, the poor will remain poor. Therefore, all of human history for the Marxist is a political struggle between oppressed and oppressors, and in Liberation theology which is derived from the political theories of Marxism, Jesus is a champion of the oppressed who calls for the overthrow of the oppressors and the creation of an egalitarian kingdom here on earth. In Marxism the kingdom can be realized here on earth via reeducation and a fundamental reordering of society where the oppressors lose their material advantages and privileges either freely or via force and their wealth and influence is redistributed to the have-nots so that in theory everyone has an equal amount of wealth and power.

In Black Liberation Theology, the fundamental division is between whites (oppressors) and blacks (the oppressed), but there are other varieties of liberation theology such as Feminist Theology which sees the essential division as being between men (oppressors) and women (the oppressed), and Queer Theology which sees the essential division as being between heterosexuals (oppressors) and homosexuals (the oppressed). These streams often flow together to create a larger tableau of the oppressed (women, minorities, homosexuals, transgenders), etc.

Also – and this is incredibly important – in Christianity the primary fellowship is on the grounds of communion in Christ. This means that in Christianity, regardless of race or nation or class, you are my brother or sister if we are both believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. In Marxism, on the other hand, the primary fellowship is on the basis of our shared position in the political struggle. Therefore in Marxism we are comrades if we are both members of an oppressed class struggling against oppression. So in order for someone in the oppressor class to become a comrade, they must repudiate their class and origin, condemn their privileges, cast off their material advantages, and actively join the struggle, only then can they become a comrade. In practice this means that in Black Liberation Theology there cannot be real communion between blacks and whites until those whites repudiate their race, condemn and lament their privileges, and actively join the political struggle.

These ideologies (Christianity and [Fill in the Blank] Liberation Theology) are fundamentally incompatible and cannot coexist in the church. One will inevitably end up driving the other out.

Posted in Current Events, Liberalism, Liberation Theology, Marxism, PCA, The Spirituality of the Church, Theological Declension | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Day By Day Summary and Review of the Major Actions of the 2017 PCA General Assembly

Tuesday (6/13/17)

1) Most of the committee of commissioners (CoC) meetings were held on Tuesday morning. I was on the CoC for Covenant College. There was nothing much of note in our deliberations, I did notice, however, that the Board had changed its by-laws so that they no longer assume that the board of trustees would be composed exclusively of (male) elders. They said this was just their attempt to stay in step with the General Assembly and the assumption that the Report on Woman in the Ministry of the Church would pass. It seemed a bit premature to me, however, and also seemed (and again this is merely a personal opinion) to reflect an unhealthy tendency of the Permanent Committees to be working hand in glove with the Cooperative Ministry Committee (CMC) and their agenda. An agenda which is in turn being pushed on the floor of the Assembly by the National Partnership. To this untrained eye, that agenda looks like part of a unified long-range strategic plan.

2) Outgoing Moderator George Robertson preached in the evening. He began by telling us that he’d written the sermon and then was told by a friend that his points were good but didn’t spring from the texts he was going to use, so he had to look for other texts to preach from. His sermon focused on how God can use us with all of our disabilities, handicaps, sins, and failures and how the kingdom would not be the kingdom without people of every color and shape. Then there was a celebration of sacramental efficacy in lifting us out of depression and giving us assurance of our being accepted by Christ via a personal story. The first 20 minutes were mostly stories of the handicapped overcoming disability. This included Moses who had to overcome the handicap of a “heavy mouth.”

3) As Mike Khandjian of the National Partnership (NP) prophesied, Alexander Jun was indeed elected moderator over a highly experienced RE by the name of Bice. Jun is the first Korean-American to be elected to that position, and it was impossible not to notice how pleased Korean commissioners on the floor were with the development. Against that, Jun is the very model of a modern social justice warrior. You can see his latest book, “White Out” here: https://rjhe.org/2017/02/19/book-release-white-out/ and an example of one of his lectures, ” The Pursuit of Racial Justice in Higher Education” here: https://youtu.be/e4jq9ZoPx_s 

Also, his election really represented one NP moderator handing over the gavel to the next NP moderator. This will probably be the trend for the foreseeable future. Given that the NP also controlled the nominating process for the permanent committees this year, their control over the apparatus of the PCA is fairly impressive. If they don’t like you, you are going to have a hard time getting elected to much at the GA level.

4) The vote was 60/40 in Jun’s favor, and I’m guessing that will be the margin for conservative losses on most of the future votes at this assembly, we’ll see if I’m right. If I am, it probably means that the age of political bloc voting at the GA is here and its likely here to stay.

5) Now for some good news: I had some really good Goat Rogan Josh for dinner and met with some dear old friends.

Wednesday (6/14/17)

Wednesday was frustrating in how little actually got done, a lot of which was due to the fact that the moderator clearly had little or no experience moderating a court of the church. While we may be tempted to view the moderator as an honorary position, the choice of moderator can actually make the difference between a smoothly run or frustrating assembly. Presbyters should take note of this and only choose men who can be reasonably expected to do a competent job.

In any event, here is a very quick review of the actions of the assembly on Wednesday:

We started with an “assembly wide seminar” on the role of women, led by the committee that produced the report on the role of women in the church. The lack of freedom for women to exercise their gifts in the church was presented as a crisis, and while those who spoke affirmed that they did not want women to become elders or have authority, some made it clear that they wanted deaconesses as an ordained office in the PCA. Kathy Keller, Tim Keller’s wife, made that statement directly. Mrs. Keller also passionately opined that “no one in the PCA” wants women to be ordained as elders, which reminded me of her husband’s statement to the GA many years ago during the equally contentious creation debate that no one in the one PCA wanted theistic evolution to be taught in the PCA. Oddly enough, shortly after that Redeemer NYC (Tim’s church) began hosting conferences for BioLogos, the most influential theistic evolution organization in the country and Pastor Keller told Christianity Today that it was the duty of pastors to spread the BioLogos narrative. All that to say, I’m going to take assurances as to what “no one in the PCA” wants with a very large grain of salt. The seminar made it clear that they were in favor of having women become “commissioned church workers” (i.e. full time paid ministerial staff) in the PCA and it seems clear that we’ll be seeing overtures calling for ordained deaconesses as soon as next year’s assembly. While the standard arguments against slippery slopes were deployed, the idea that we’ll have generations of female deacons and ministers but NEVER elders strikes me as highly unlikely.

But again, that’s just my opinion.

Next up, we had the Stated Clerk’s report, who pointed out that the PCA is still growing in terms of churches and members, and thus defying current trends.

The Overtures Committee then gave a partial report the highlight of which was a rule change which sought to curb the power of the CMC (Cooperative Ministry Committee) a permanent committee mostly composed of ex-moderators that had effectively reversed the normal means by which changes come to the PCA. In the past, changes in the PCA happened via overtures sent by Presbyteries to the GA, but the CMC – an arm of the administration – had begun sending changes to the GA themselves. For instance, the CMC was the source of the overture that created the women in ministry study committee above. The New England overture had sought to return that power to the presbyteries. The Overtures committee was not willing to go that far, but did suggest a revised overture which would hobble the power of the CMC to effect change a bit. Amazingly, the revised overture passed.

We then had fraternal greetings where representatives from other churches sought to outdo each other by telling the funniest jokes. The winner was the Free Church representative who said, “As Henry the Eighth said to his wife, I’ll only keep you for a while.” The runner-up was Pastor Chad Van Dixhorn of the OPC who I’m told introduced himself as a “Non-Commissioned Church Worker”

Following this we had the report of the Ad Interim Committee on the Role of women. NP leaders scurried to and fro, social media hummed, and suddenly the room was packed again. The recommendations from the committee were then discussed and voted on. The entire process was held up by endless inquiries, attempted substitutes, substitutes for the substitutes, and points of order which sucked the oxygen out of the room and left very little time for actual debate. The process dragged and wasn’t helped by the fact that the moderator, while witty, clearly has little or no experience moderating a meeting of the church and relied heavily on the stated clerk, parliamentarians, and members of the assembly to tell him what to do. It was hard to tell where we were at any given point and most presbyters were very willing to vote to call the question on the various recommendations without much real debate on the substance of the recommendations having taken place. Here’s the condensed summary that doesn’t convey any of the actual frustration.

Recommendation 1, an attempt to declare that appointing the committee was an error and dismiss them with our thanks, failed. A suggested amendment proposed by Dr. Joey Pipa to simply send the report without comment to the Presbyteries for study also failed.

Recommendation 2, which essentially said we’ve always held differing views on what women should be doing in the church, and that we should respect our diversity of opinions passed 880 to 339

Recommendation 3, which essentially said that sessions, presbyteries, and the GA should be using qualified women in all sorts of roles, and sending overtures that would allow women to serve on committees and agencies (previously only open to elders and in some cases deacons) also passed by an even higher margin.

We were on Recommendation 4 (whose language had been improved by an amendment from David Coffin) when Mike Khandjian pointed out that worship and family time was around the corner and the we should recess. This passed overwhelmingly.

I guessed that all the other recommendations would pass without too much trouble, and that turned out to be right. Conservatives just didn’t have the numbers to stop it, a situation that is exacerbated by the sad level of Ruling Elder participation (A little over 200 were present from a denomination of over 350,000 members).

I didn’t have the heart to attend worship again that night, so you’ll have to look elsewhere for a sermon summary.

Thursday (6/15/2017)

The Assembly resumed on Thursday and immediately resumed work on the Women in the ministry of the church study report and began discussing and voting on the recommendations.

The only (mildly) conservative recommendation in the report was Recommendation 4 which dealt with the practice of some progressive PCA churches who are not happy that the PCA does not yet ordain women to the office of deacon. These churches deliberately choose not to ordain any deacons because it would be unfair to ordain men without women, and instead either commission all of their deacons or don’t have deacons at all. The report had mildly rebuked the practice and recommended they stop. Accordingly an NP aligned elder stood up and recommended the recommendation be gutted and simply state: “That sessions, if possible, establish a diaconate of qualified ordained men.” A more toothless statement is difficult to conceive of and I’m glad there was no National Partnership at the Council of Nicea. One can only imagine what the Nicene Creed would have looked like if there were.

All attempts by conservatives to modify the other recommendations, even slightly, failed. But here they are:

The Assembly also voted to adopt Recommendation 5:
“That sessions consider how to include non-ordained men and women in the worship of the church so as to maintain faithfulness to Scripture, as well as utilizing the gifts God has poured out to His entire church (see exegesis of 1 Corinthians 14:26 in Chapter Two).”

I attempted to amend this statement so that it would read, “That sessions, provided their consciences allow it, consider how to include…” etc. I explained that this would provide some relief for sessions who are already convinced by scripture that women and unordained men should not be taking an active role in leading the worship of the church. Unfortunately, the majority deemed that no one should have any conscience problems when it comes to this issue, and given that any suggestion from yours truly comes to the floor with 200+ votes against it already, my amendment was soundly defeated. As a result I find myself unable to comply with the directions of the assembly regarding Recommendation 5, something I take very seriously.

The assembly then slightly modified Recommendation 6, to include the words “and men.” The final version adopted by the assembly read: “that sessions and presbyteries select and appoint godly women and men of the congregation to assist the ordained diaconate.”

Then came one of the most contentious of the recommendations, namely Recommendation 7, that the PCA begin the process of creating an office that everyone agrees is not to be found anywhere in scripture, namely that of “commissioned church worker.” The moment we do so, we will no longer be able to say that our polity is derived solely from the polity found in scripture. The refusal of Presbyterians to create or submit to offices invented by the church but not found in scripture is one of our biggest differences with Episcopalians, and to reverse our stance on this issue is a much bigger deal than we are willing to admit. Despite all of that, we voted to accept the recommendation.

The last Recommendation, #8, proved to be the least contentious, and I’ll simply list it without comment at this point: “That sessions, presbyteries and the General Assembly consider how they can affirm and include underprivileged and underrepresented women in the PCA.”

We then had our Review of Presbytery Records, and the only really contentious issue was a minority report brought by brothers who believed that presbytery needed to be admonished over the use of a supposed image of Christ by the presbytery during worship. Such a use is a clear violation of our Confessional Standards – specifically WLC 109. The really odd thing is that even though not creating pictures of Jesus is our Confessional Position, the minority report had to argue this from the position of the weaker brethren (even though they know that in reality they are stronger) by asking the supposedly stronger brothers who don’t mind the use of pictures of Christ to provide their supposedly weaker consciences with some relief. So in essence they had to plead as though they were teetotalers asking that beer not be served at the church picnic. Several brethren argued that there was nothing wrong with pictures of Jesus and at least one made the kind of theological argument that the reformed theologians and confessions have been refuting for centuries. The minority report was eventually adopted, but only by a very close margin.

What this served to highlight is that in many cases the position taken in our Standards has become the exception rather than the rule, and that the brothers who agree with the Standards are clearly considered “weaker” or possibly even cranks. This tends to confirm the adage that when error is tolerated, it tends to drive out truth.

We finally arrived at Overtures, and clearly the wind had gone out of most of the presbyters. Overture #2, which would have granted Book of Church Order chapter 59 constitutional authority, was obviously going to be the most contentious issue in the report until TE David Coffin proposed that we recommit it to Overtures, thus putting off consideration until next year. I was disappointed by this decision to punt on one of the most important issues facing the church at present. In 2015 the Supreme Court of the USA created a civil right out of thin air and made something the bible calls an abomination the law of the land. It is now 2017 and the PCA has yet to address the subject in any way. Our silence at this point is becoming deafening. One might almost suspect that we’d rather not confront the civil magistrate or the culture over this issue and hope that if we don’t talk about it people will simply assume that our positions on homosexual marriage mirror those held by the PCUSA.

Finally, in a rather ominous move, the assembly approved an overture that would make it harder to leave the denomination by raising the required quorum at a congregational meeting held to discuss leaving to 50% of the congregation. While this seems reasonable, gathering 50% of the total membership of any church for a congregational meeting is difficult indeed. The vast majority of our own congregational meetings have not come anywhere near that percentage. It also led some to ask why this was felt to be a necessary change to the BCO at this point. Is the PCA expecting an exodus of churches in the near future and what changes coming down the pike are they expecting might precipitate that exodus?

In any event, that concludes my review of the major stuff that happened at the assembly.

My Final Summary and Thoughts

Here are my thoughts about the General Assembly itself.

1) The assembly showed a clear turn towards social justice issues and the social gospel generally. The evidence for this was overwhelming and included:

a) The theme of the Assembly, “Come to the Table” which even the host committee had an obvious double meaning referring to both communion and the inclusion of people who previously didn’t have a “seat at the table”
b) The election of a Korean-American moderator who lectures on social justice at the University level
c) The fact that everyone asked to pray at the assembly was a minority
d) The women’s report and calls for deaconesses and female church workers
e) The racial reconciliation report
f) The “Welcoming the Refugees” theme of our next PCA Global Missions Conference.
and so on…

2) Once again the NP agenda passed overwhelmingly, and they demonstrated that when the votes mattered to them they could pack the assembly with commissioners very quickly. They are also clearly moving through a well defined multi-year strategic agenda for fundamentally changing the PCA, which is a point many of my Conservative brethren fail to grasp. The Women in Ministry report, for instance, was important not because of what it said, but because it was the necessary precursor to a host of overtures moving women into voting positions on the Permanent Committees, into the diaconate, and into the role of “Commissioned Church Worker.” This combined with the push to include women in worship and all kinds of ministry cannot fail to produce the kind of long term egalitarian change that progressives dearly love.

So having a few conservative nominees win positions on permanent committees and declaring that to be genuine progress is rather like chipping a few pieces off a glacier and thinking you’ve stopped it for good. Calling this a victory for conservatives would be even more misleading. It would be rather like describing the Battle of the Little Big Horn this way, “Good news! While General Custer’s northern attack ran into some trouble, the southern attack made a cunning feint towards the Sioux village, followed by a masterful tactical withdrawal. Subsequently Major Reno and his command heroically held off an attack of numerically superior Sioux Indians for a day and a night while inflicting several casualties on the enemy forces!”

Posted in Denominational Differences, Homosexual Marriage, Marriage, PCA, Politics and The Civil Magistate, Spiritual Declension, Theological Declension | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Some Last Minute Thoughts About Overture 2

Part of my preparation for going to the Presbyterian Church in America’s 45th General Assembly in Greensboro includes attempting to read through all 646 pages of the massive 2017 Commissioners Handbook. And as I was doing that, I was extremely saddened to find that the Committee on Constitutional business (CCB) had found Overture 2 from Calvary Presbytery:  “Grant BCO 59, ‘Solemnization of Marriage’ Full Constitutional Status” to be in conflict with the constitution and therefore unlikely to be adopted by the assembly.

By making this chapter, which is already part of the PCA’s Book of Church Order (BCO) constitutional, the PCA could have corporately proclaimed its continuing belief that marriage is only to be between one man and one woman, and that we will have nothing to do with movements that might try to weaken or mute that commitment. There is of course still the possibility that the Overtures Committee (OC) might simply fix the language in the final “therefore” of that overture that CCB found to be in conflict, making it obvious that Calvary Presbytery was asking the 45th GA to begin the process of changing the BCO so that chapter would have constitutional authority. This could be done by simply revising the “Temporary Statement” on  at the beginning of the Directory For the Worship of God so that it stated, “BCO 56, 57, 58, and 59 have been given full constitutional authority by the Eleventh and Forty Fifth General Assemblies after being submitted to the Presbyteries and receiving the necessary two-thirds (2/3) approval of the Presbyteries.”  

I hope that OC will try do so, because I strongly believe that if we don’t do this, theological conservatives will someday have cause to regret this missed opportunity. Let me attempt to explain why.

When the first attempt to give BCO 59 full constitutional status was made in 2011, many PCA presbyters told me that they were opposed to the overture simply because it was unnecessary. More than one presbyter made a statement along the lines of, “America will never legalize same sex marriage, so being asked to legally marry men to men or women to women will never be something we have to face.”

Those prophecies were obviously proven disastrously wrong when, on June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court held in a 5-4 decision that same-sex marriage is protected under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment and thus made homosexual marriage the law of the land in all 50 states and a legally protected civil right.

Thus with one fateful Supreme Court decision, homosexual marriage became the law of nation, and never in US history has a civil right, once granted by the Supreme Court, been rescinded. To see how long lasting even the most dubious of newly created civil rights can be, we only have to look to the 1973 SCOTUS Roe vs. Wade decision that created the now 44 year old right to obtain a legal abortion out of thin air. In a similar manner it is very unlikely that we will see homosexual marriage made illegal again in our lifetimes. Perhaps even worse, a recent poll by the highly respected Pew organization indicated that popular support for homosexual marriage continues to grow with 55% of Americans now saying they support gay marriage and even more disturbingly, the level of support rises to 71% among the millennials who represent the future of this nation. Additionally, those who still oppose gay marriage are already being openly called “bigots” by mainstream America and we have seen ordinary Americans who work in both the private and public sectors lose their employment and even their businesses and savings because of a refusal to participate in homosexual marriages or call them good. Even churches and ministers are no longer exempt from cultural and legal pressure as states like Massachusetts are quickly moving to force churches to accept the gay agenda or face legal action.  

Therefore, as a denomination, we need to come to terms with at least four facts:

1) Same-Sex marriage will likely be legal in the USA for decades, if not generations to come.

2) Opposition to homosexual marriage is likely to become as odious to the American public as opposition to mixed race marriages, and not substantially different in their minds. In fact, we already see this happening.

3) The legal challenges to our right to refuse to conduct, approve of, recognize or host homosexual marriages are likely to increase exponentially over the coming years.

4) Those churches that refuse to conduct homosexual marriages will almost certainly eventually lose their right to conduct marriages as agents of the state. In other words while we will still be able to pronounce people man and wife, “By virtue of the authority committed unto me by the church of Christ” we will no longer be able to add, “and the law of the state.”

All of these factors will inevitably create considerable agitation within our denomination to take a more Laodicean approach and end our opposition to homosexual marriage.  Those who doubt this need only look at what has happened in the mainline denominations and in formerly evangelical denominations, including our closest denominational analogue, the CRC. We also need to take seriously the fact that several denominations and congregations (including ex-PCA congregations) that use the Westminster Standards have already accepted homosexual marriage. Within our own denomination, the Westminster Confession is treated as more general and considerably more open to “interpretation,” while the BCO is often treated as more binding especially when it comes to do day to day church operations. If we hope to stand on this issue for the decades to come, then common sense should tell us that BCO needs a constitutionally binding statement on the matter.

Therefore, as a denomination, if the PCA intends to continue to teach, proclaim, and practice what God teaches about marriage in the bible rather than abandoning our commitment to scripture, then we need to understand that a “business as usual” approach will not carry us through the coming storm. At the very least, while there is still time, we need to do the following:

i) Prepare for the legal battles to come by making sure our constitution is absolutely clear and uniform on this issue. 

ii) Prepare the members of our denomination by honestly explaining why we must take a Contra Mundum stand when it comes to issues of sexuality and marriage, and what that stand is likely to cost us. If we do not, we must expect that our congregants will inevitably simply conform to current cultural norms.

iii) End our denominational silence on this issue and begin prophetically proclaiming to the culture the biblical truth about sex and marriage. We must publicly condemn sin, warn of the coming judgment, exalt virtue, and point to the way of salvation in Jesus Christ.

As such, Overture 2 was always more of a beginning than an end of the work that lies ahead of us, but if we are unwilling even to make a start of that work then what hope does the PCA have of standing in the evil day?

 

Posted in Compromise, Current Events, Denominational Differences, Ecclesiology, Homosexual Marriage, Homosexuality, PCA, Politics and The Civil Magistate, Theological Declension | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments