Monday, July 12, 2010

PCUSA Decisions a Warning for the PCA

Many of us on the PCA side of the Presbyterian world are watching with great sadness as the PCUSA gnaws its own limbs off in an effort to escape the horrible bonds of irrelevance. In motion after motion, it concedes time and time again to the shifting mores of the day. Of course, its most recent decision to permit ministers who identify themselves as non-celibate and homosexual is perhaps its saddest move yet. This of course still has to be passed by the majority of Presbyteries nationwide and is therefore far from decided. However, the downward spiral of the PCUSA is nevertheless heartbreaking.

On the plus side, the PCUSA did decide against redefining marriage as being between two objects, so long as both objects occupy space and are composed of matter, which was something of a relief.*

One feature which seems largely absent from most of the coverage of this decision by the PCUSA is the profound absence of arguments from the traditionalists. One story from the Associated Press presented statements from one gay minister, referring to the decision to not redefine marriage:
"I think we’re seeing acts of desperation by those who feel their way of life is slipping away," the Rev. Ray Bagnuolo, the openly gay pastor of Janhus Presbyterian Church in New York City, said after the marriage vote. "Progress takes time. But to gay and lesbian people, it says their relationships, who they are, does not matter to this church. I don’t call that Christian or loving."

I will say that Bagnuolo has a bizarre way of defining "Christian," and most definitely has a strange idea of "loving." Apparently, for Bagnuolo, loving is "approving of your neighbor doing whatever he wants, even if it is forbidden by God."

Bagnuolo seems to think that conservatives within his denomination are merely defending an old-world, Bunker-esque way of life as one longs nostalgically for the good old days. What boggles the mind is that if Bagnuolo had really thought these issues through theologically, wouldn't he be willing to grant that the other side prima facie seems to have some persuasive Biblical arguments? Or that the Bible seems to - even at first glance - teach that homosexuality is a sin? The idea that Bagnuolo sees this as a sociological issue and not theological tells me that he simply isn't listening to his opponents within the PCUSA.

I really couldn't care less what the state does, regarding marriage. If the secular authorities want to recognize a man marrying a turtle, what do we in the church care? But when it comes to fights within the church over issues like this, I am for all-out war (metaphorically speaking, of course). When a church literally looks at a passage like Romans 1:26-27 and goes, "It doesn't say that," or worse, "Who cares if it says that?" then it is a reprobate institution and is ashamed of the Gospel.

We in the PCA should be very cognizant of how the PCUSA got to where it is. Not that I'm a historian, but one thing which should be obvious is that had the PCUSA voted on the issue of having non-celibate gay clergy back in 1950, there is no doubt which way the PCUSA GA would have voted. Fast forward 60 years, and suddenly the very same denomination now has a majority in their leadership who favor this horrifying change. It's almost unbelievably laughable if it wasn't so terrifying.

So these things happen over time, and it is theological compromise early in the church's life which can land it in its death throws a hundred years later. For the PCA, this sort of compromise seems like a realistic possibility since we inhabit such a relatively big tent. Keeping the big tent big and orthodox is quite a task which in our generation doesn't seem like a problem, but the fight for orthodoxy and truth is a day-to-day battle. We in the PCA do have our own battles over homosexuality, but they seem to trend in the opposite direction of where the PCUSA is. In our present day, battles such as the Pacific Northwest Presbytery's issues with FVer Peter Leithart are watershed issues which will determine what sort of Gospel is and is not tolerated within the PCA. This is a worthwhile battle.

Though I don't know enough about the Strategic Initiative to really make any comments for myself, I can say that I know many in the PCA who are concerned that passage of the strategic initiative will do long-term harm to our denomination, even if it does cause our numbers to grow.

A hundred years from now, history demonstrates for us that these discussions will matter in bigger ways than we can ever really understand within our own lifetimes. And so we have to take the long view on theological controversies.

He may not be a Presbyterian, but I really think that Piper's emphasis in this video is exactly where our long-term antidote is:


1 comment:

  1. I've never commented here yet, but I just have a couple of words. "Faustian deal". It is assured that, holding fast to preaching the Word of God in its completeness, people WILL flock to it. People want the truth. Not concessions that make them feel good. At least, that is what I've always believed.


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