Hegel in the PCA?

It seems like a dialectic. It’s almost a minimalist definition of “Reformed” and Darryl has some interesting analysis of it.

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  1. Now I understand why my CTS trained, Keller influenced pastor and I keep threatening to “end” each other. Much like the rock band who attribute their greatness to creative conflict, I’m sure our antagonism will make for a great end product. Though neither of us will survive the fight to be their to see it. Somebody needs to tell these Redeemer devotees, the church isn’t a blank canvas and they aren’t Jackson Pollock.

  2. I was at the meeting. It was quite the group hug. More details when I return home in two days.

  3. So, when are you and Dr. Hart going to begin the expulsion of the “world-and-life-view” crowd from your respective communions, then?

  4. I am not sure how Tim’s paper or presentation were in any way a minimalist definition of “Reformed.” In the PCA, as in the URC and OPC, Calvinist bona fides are not up for debate. Carl McIntire could not be ordained in today’s PCA. The PCA founders had, in their midst, four pointers and dispensationalists. We would not ordain those today.

    Tim is talking about a diversity of emphases. History is instructive, but not normative. There truly are no New Schoolers in the PCA. We may have people who put too much trust in methodology, but Finney would not be tolerated in the PCA today.

    So, Sean’s and Tim’s big tent is only big relative to the conservative presbyterian world. It does not include liberals, Auburn Affirmationists, supposed moderates like Erdman and Speer, Arminians, etc.

    Darryl laments whether or not the perpetual bickering is healthy for the PCA. Name one denomination that does not perpetually bicker. The OPC is far more homogeneous than the PCA, and it has bickered throughout its whole history. Until recently, we may have thought the ARP had little bickering, but the Erskine debacle belies that myth. Amid a sinful and shortsighted mass of humanity, bickering is both about issues and personalities.

    Those in the broader Reformed world ought to be grateful for the PCA, and its slightly broader tent, I think. It is, after all, the tent that holds not just Keller, but Sproul and Boice (until he transferred his membership to the church triumphant, where all bickering ceases) and Duncan and yes Keller.

    I just think it’s interesting that two fine scholars (and I am not being disingenuous) representing two denominations that have in their own midst and history a diversity of streams (the URC’s being Afscheiding and Doleantie, and the OPC’s founder being at least initially willing to accept a man and group the PCA would never accept) are pointing fingers at the PCA, and questioning its Reformed-ness.

    Keller owns the Westminster Confession, Duncan too. How can that be a crisis of confessionalism?

    • Have you been paying attention to what Tim has been saying and doing? Are we talking about the same Tim Keller? I have a lot of respect for Tim’s abilities and gifts and for what the Lord has done through him but it’s not altogether beyond the pale to query where Tim is going and where he wants to take the PCA.

      I’m probably a little less critical (and more appreciative) of the PCA than Darryl but I don’t really recognize the PCA you’re describing and I doubt that many other honest surveyors, even fans, of the PCA would either. It is much more broadly evangelical than your account suggests.

      Is there room for Tom Wright (or his adherents) or the FV in the PCA?

      No no schoolers in the PCA? Really? That seems like a bold claim for a denom of 300,000 people!

      Is the PCA (or any other NAPARC group for that matter) really organized around the Reformed confession (defined narrowly AND/OR broadly?

      My concern about Tim’s talk is that it sounded more like Hegel than Calvin. I doubt the “pies, docs, and Kuyps” analysis in the first place and I quite doubt the “we all need each other” notion in the second place. It’s the latter that sounds a little dialectical to me. We have the Word of God, we have ecclesiastical confessions, we need to orient our ministry and mission around those things. “Thy Word is Truth.” It doesn’t emerge in a dialectic of competing theses and antitheses.

    • Ken, have you seen ByFaith magazine? Have you heard or read Keller on worship? And what say you about the Gospel Ecosystem and Redeemer’s cooperating with non-Reformed churches in church planting. Do you recall the Plan of Union of 1801 that worked out how Presbyterians and Congregationalists would plant churches in the NW Territory? And do you recall that that plan was a major reason the Old School excised the New School presbyteries.

      BTW, Ken, I think it is very hard to say that Keller owns the regulative principle or the Sabbath. The point is that if you start to have a best-of-doctrines within the Confession, you no longer have a confession.

  5. Thank you, Ken, for your helpful comments. I saw you several times at GA but didn’t have a chance to speak with you. You may have overstated our unity a bit, but one thing is clear to this Ruling Elder who remembers the early days (especially 1972-1977): Today the PCA is more consistently Reformed and more self-consciously confessional than ever before. Yes, there are diverse voices and some questionable methodology, and the tent is bigger than I would like. But, as one of my fellow elders remarked about the 38th General Assembly, we “did no harm.” In my opinion, the top-down, bureaucratic mentality so on display in the strategic plan paled in comparison to the constant reminders of our Biblical and confessional foundations. We avoided rocks in the channel and set the stage for some clear sailing ahead.

    Scott and others, I urge you to listen to the full Duncan-Keller presentation when it’s available. When you hear all the remarks taken in context over 90 minutes, with reference to where we in the PCA “live” and work ecclesiastically, you may understand better what they were driving at.

    Dr. Duncan urged us to focus more on the overwhelming agreement we have on most things, rather than our relatively minor differences. Coming from Ligon Duncan, I assure you that’s not a “latitudinarian” position. We were counseled actually to get to know and listen to our brothers. (Well, duh.) Through several conversations with much younger men, I found every time that our differences were less than I had assumed.

    I don’t intend to paint a rosy, unrealistic picture of the PCA. After forty years of careful observation, most youthful illusions have long since fallen away. But I do believe the PCA is stronger today at almost every point than it was at birth. The “confessionalists” are certainly growing, with a young, sharp, vibrant leadership maturing each year. (To see these young guys in action this year was the highlight of the GA for me.)

    On a lighter note: Harry Reeder, Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingha, was an excellent Moderator with a razor-sharp wit. On one occasion, when someone was a little tardy coming to the front to speak, Dr. Reeder said, “Be prepared to pray, preach, die, or give a report in a minute.”

    • Frank,

      I appreciate this and will watch the video.

      I’ve been at enough classes, synods, presbyteries, and GAs, however, to know that there can be a certain Kum-Bah-Ya quality to them. In the fashion of James I’m prepared to look at what people do more than what they say at GA. I think, at the moment they say it, they really believe it but mistakenly ordaining deaconesses, intentionally inviting NT Wright, tolerating FV/NPP types within one’s ministry, planting non-Reformed congregations, those are all realities. Never mind Tim’s account of the sociology of the Reformed world that marginalizes the confession (and confessionalists as just another wing of the party—when we subscribed the confessions did we just join a wing of the party? Is that what Vow 2 means?). Did Tim apologize for any of that? Did he repent of any of that or did he just profess his undying love for the PCA? If the PCA just pledged to live and let live in order to overcome the non-existent “S-Curve” then sure, I guess Tim is thrilled but does that count as confessionalism?

      I’m encouraged by what you say but I’m also aware of whom they appointed to the SJC. I’m also hearing (from inside the PCA) that the NPP is getting a foothold in RUF. Then there is the growing loss (if that’s not an oxymoron) of the second service, the RPW, the psalter etc) and the unchecked growth of essentially episcopal forms of government within the PCA itself. Finally, I think of the influence of triperspectival pragmatism and latitudinarianism within MNA. These are realities too.

      I’m not a PCA basher (nor am I a chauvinist about the URCs—there’s plenty to critique there too!). Several of my colleagues are PCA and we work well together. I appreciate the work of MTW. I’ve learned a great deal from visiting with, worshiping in/with many PCAs and I’ve said many times that it’s easy to bash the PCA because it’s the most diverse group and most like American evangelicalism but it’s also not going to help the PCA to create “myths” (narratives that are only partly grounded in reality) to explain the state and future of the PCA.

    • Frank, I’d be more encouraged by your report on Ligon’s remarks if I had any evidence that he has actually used his considerable capital to oppose error in the PCA. I don’t follow things the way other do. But the point is that it is insufficient simply to affirm the right stuff. Affirmations always come with denials. And too many folks have conservative reputations and large followings because they don’t oppose error.

      Here I wish Lig would take a page from his and my friend Al Mohler. Al and I do not agree on matters of polity and worship, and we likely disagree on the parachurch. But it’s hard to find someone who has been more willing to stick his neck out publicly for what he knows to be right — and wrong.

      • Dr. Hart,

        I hate to disagree with you, Mohler needed to do same thing @ SBC 2010 that you asked Dr. Duncan to do at PCA GA 2010. The same Missional garbage that is infecting PCA through Keller & Redeemer is also infecting the SBC through the Acts 29 Network and SEBTS. He needed to stand up to those in SBC embracing Emerging Church as the SBC searches for it’s next gimmick.

        God Bless

        • Joe, you know the situation in the SBC better than I. Part of why I wrote about Al th way I did owes to the way he did right the ship at SBTS. Plus, although I’m not a fan of the radio commentary genre, Al has been willing to stick his neck out there also.

  6. Frank,

    I hate to rain on your optimism, but I just don’t see it. I honestly hope I’m wrong, but I doubt it. I don’t think there is any other honest way to view the rise of the redeemer model and philosophical shift as anything other than a significant pivot away from self-conscious confessionalism toward a broader “protestantism” (see evangelicalism). And that is the trick with confessionalism, it can’t be assumed. It must be positively pursued and polemically buttressed. There is no way to look at Keller’s model and say that is accomplished in his system or even that that is a desired end within it.

  7. On the road home now.Thanks, guys, for the warnings. We intend to keep our spiritual antennas in top shape.

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