All We Want

“Our problem is that most of us would like to remain in the PCA, all we really want is an orthodox, Bible-believing, law and gospel preaching, Presbyterian church that is solidly committed to the doctrines taught in the Westminster Confession of Faith.”

Andy Webb, in “An Open Letter to James Kessler and the leaders of the National Partnership

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28 comments

  1. And that is all that those in the “National Partnership” want too. So what’s the problem? The problem is really those who agree with Rev. Webb. Based on the themes of RRC as I understood it, those “conservatives” are too much focused on their own QIRC. What the “National Partnership” is really saying, is “we need to make sure that the QIRC of some does not hinder the mission of the PCA”. Pretty reasonable.

    Even if the conservatives left the PCA where would they go? The OPC? What they don’t like about the OPC isn’t going to change, and there is a little bit of truth at least to the idea of what they do like about the PCA is that it is not the OPC. So they will hardly be any happier in the OPC than they were in the PCA, they’ll just have a new set of complaints.

    It is a shame when those let their own QIRC overwhelm them that they are driven to be minsters without a denomination.

    Then again, maybe just maybe the scriptures are little more certain on some things than any of us would like to admit. But since the one thing that they’ve all agreed on is the psalms in WCF21 are not the Psalms of the bible, why quibble over if day means day or Adam means one specific directly created man as the first human being or just some chieftain of a tribe or a hominid adopted by God and given a soul?

    I find it hard to share in the outrage of those who bemoan the lack of confessionalism when they really don’t have a problem with redefining the basic terms of the confession, they just want to be the only ones with that power.

    • Andrew,

      I find myself in the middle here. I share the sentiment of the quotation but I agree that some “conservatives” in the PCA want more than mere confessionalism. Some have a very particular interpretation of “six days” that they would use as a standard for orthodoxy, that, as you indicate I have argued is a poor standard of orthodoxy.

      Yet, don’t you also agree that there have been moves to marginalize “conservatives” and “confessionalists” in the PCA? This isn’t the first sort of “members only” sort of movement in the PCA. That aspect of it seems troubling doesn’t it?

      I think the standards should be the middle ground. The “conservatives” should settle for the confession and the “progressives” (or however they think of themselves) should strive to be more confessional.

      I agree with Frank (below) re using QIRC to = “anyone with whom I disagree.”

      Re: Psalms. Are you suggesting that it’s impossible to translate the Psalms faithfully into English such that they can be sung without making them something other than Psalms? This is an odd view of translation. It doesn’t account for the confession’s doctrine of “the light of nature” (i.e., circumstances). Meter, language, and tune are circumstances dictated by the light nature.

      We do regard our faithfully translated English Bibles as God’s Word, right?

  2. Wow, Andrew, your tone is mighty bitter. You might want to regroup your thoughts and rewrite your post to sound a little more charitable. I’m surprised that a post on this blog can be so dismissive of men committed to the Reformed confessions.

    We all need to be very careful not to define QIRC as “anyone I disagree with.” Pastor Webb discussed several specific examples of PCA men departing from or refusing to adhere to the Confession. His arguments were calm, reasonable, and fact-based, in my opinion. As one who has kept up with PCA ebbs and flows for forty years, I can assure you that Andy is largely right on target.

    Also, your snarkiness in the next-to-last paragraph borders on the offensive. I take it that your muddled allusion to WCF21 is a reference to exclusive psalmody. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.) You must be aware that men completely committed to the regulative principle come to different conclusions regarding the Biblical phrase “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.” This is entirely different from the dismissive attitude of men who adopt some form of theistic evolution.

  3. Alert the media! Stop the presses! Dr. Clark finds himself “in the middle.” Document and archive.

    All kidding aside, there’s one undeniable fact often overlooked in discussions like these: Reformed men who are firmly and uncompromisingly confessional (don’t want to multiply terms needlessly), are remarkably uniform. They find themselves in substantial agreement with each other on almost everything. If I’m exaggerating a bit, it’s to make a point. Compared to the “moderates,” or “progressives,” or “liberals” in the PCA, for example, the conservatives have no real differences. (Note well the important phrase “compared to.”) We must not lose this perspective.

    I think this is what we mean when we speak of Reformed catholicity or being “merely Reformed.” It is to be wholeheartedly and unequivocally confessional. It’s no surprise that such men enjoy a striking unity, whatever their differences, in contrast to the free-for-all among men of other convictions.

  4. Dear Andrew,

    I don’t know you and as a Minister in the OPC I am a bit out of touch with all of the struggles going on in the PCA.

    Nevertheless, there is an aspect of the “National Partnership” which was of immediate concern to me and that is its obviously political orientation. What I mean by “political” is that the group is about organizing like-minded officers in the PCA behind the scenes so as to be more effective at implementing their common agenda.

    The problem with this approach is that the Church is not a democracy or a republic. The Church is a monarchy. Therefore officers should all be seeking that Christ’s will would be done rather than striving to ensure that my will, or the will of my group, be done. Doesn’t this require openness rather than secrecy? Isn’t the fact that groups of ordained officers in the PCA are organizing behind closed doors a sign that things have already gone badly wrong?

    To give a personal example, I don’t even try to recruit my Ruling Elders to my point of view prior to Presbytery meetings. Occasionally this leads to us voting on opposite sides of issues (notice that I didn’t write “against one another”). There are no hard feelings because we are all pressing on toward the same goal that Christ’s will would be done in our churches.

    Yet, and here’s the catch, we can only have confidence that we are all pressing toward the same goal because we are Confessionally Reformed Presbyterians. Because of this, your second to last paragraph strikes me as a particularly dangerous line of reasoning. You seem to be implying that men like Pastor Webb don’t take their confessional commitments as seriously as they claim to on certain points, and therefore they shouldn’t mind the fact that other Ministers and Elders don’t take their confessional commitments seriously on other points. It seems to me that such an approach undermines mutual trust and necessarily leads to factionalism.

    I do pray regularly for the PCA. Due to its relative size within NAPARC the PCA, humanly speaking, will have a a great deal of impact on the future of Bible-believing Reformed Christianity in North America. I would also ask any officer in the PCA who has joined any movement whose membership and activities are secret to reconsider that choice.

    In Christ,

    David

  5. Let me throw in a little history as a foundation for my comment. Actually, being ‘political’ in and of itself is not a bad thing. Those of us who remember the PCUS before 1973 will recall a lot of ‘politics’ on the conservative side. The Presbyterian Journal was a magazine that sought to shine a light on what was happening among the ‘progressives’ (or whatever description you want to use for the non-conservatives). I seem to recall that Aiken Taylor was called a name or two back in the day. And some of the pictures on the front page of the journal back in those days were a bit ‘in your face’ – anyone remember the photo of empty beer and booze bottles outside a dorm at a GA site?

    Then there was Concerned Presbyterians. Group that tried to get the Ruling Elders up to snuff on what was happening. They would conduct meetings (that would a lot like caucus meetings to us) just prior to Synod and GA meetings to discuss what was going to be voted on. They would even have a well-known RE sit near the front of the meeting and give instructions to watch how he voted if you had any questions. (Story was told – don’t know it was true – that at one Synod a big bunch all walked off the floor at once; the vote signal guy had to go to the men’s room).

    So ‘politics’ has always been with us. Even in the early days of the PCA. I remember in those early days there was a meeting held annually at Briarwood Presbyterian where nominations were discussed, names recommended as possible replacements, what committees had important votes coming up, etc. I was invited to attend and I certainly would not have been considered to be in the same corral as most of the guys

    So – being ‘political’ doesn’t bother me. It’s the secret stuff that is a problem. Men can hold different opinions, can advocate those positions, can even meet and firm up their positions – but to attempt to do it in secret, while using the concept of ‘confidential’, is a real problem. Everybody should just say what they think – in public. In blogs. On organizational web sites. In magazines. Write opinions one way or the other.

    I wrote the story for the Aquila Report earlier this week about what happened at the Nominating Committee. I worked hard (put in hours of work) to get only facts into the article. Don’t listen to what someone said about the article being one sided or slanted. Read it for yourself. Of course I left stuff out that was said on the floor; but that was on purpose. I left out both sides of discussions that I thought were slanted opinions and I didn’t want them in the story. But I thought the result of that public meeting was important news for folks to know.

    Politics is politics; it’s part of the sociological makeup of mankind. We certainly need to try to express our own opinions without slandering others but trying to muzzle the news is what is done in closed societies.

    • Dear Don,

      Thank you for your thoughts.

      If all that is meant by “politics” is publishing magazines and trying to advocate for the truth as each officer sees fit then I would have no objection.

      Yet, there is a different sort of politics that is about organizing voting blocks and planning parliamentary strategy behind closed doors. I believe that this sort of politics has no rightful place within Christ’s Church.

      Your brother,

      David

  6. So, was what happened in the SBC to turn things in a more Biblical direction politics? Perhaps it would be helpful to forget loaded words like politics and say what we mean specifically. To be clear, I agree with Rev. Webb. The issues we have been dealing with in the PCA are not the meaning of “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs”, but rather, assumptions such as, even if there was such a thing as the regulative principal, why should it apply today? And, things like evolution versus Creation, inerrancy of Scripture, ordination of women, Justification by Faith Alone, sacramentalism, ect.

    • Hi Mark,

      I am saying what I mean to say when I use the word politics. I am just as opposed to such an approach by ordained officers when it produces results that I like as when it produces results that I dislike.

      Are you suggesting that the ends justify the means? If not, then surely you agree with me that organizing secret factions within Christ’s Church is intrinsically wrong even if you applaud everything such men hope to accomplish.

      David

  7. These theologically left-ward developments within the PCA, a sister denomination with which we in the OPC maintain fraternal relations, are sad to see. Seems to me that a communion which tolerates (for example) church officers who deny the historical Adam and/or view Genesis 1-11 as Divinely inspired mythology (as I’m given to understand certain segments of the PCA do); which tolerates church officers who promote and teach the Federal Vision error; and which allow churches to practice intinctionism (so much for the Protestant effort to restore the cup to the laity; not to mention the regulative principle!), is a church in decline. One wonders if the PCA a generation from now will be virtually indistinguishable from the PCUSA today. May our Lord see fit to renew the PCA in a more consistently confessional direction, and spare her from wolves in sheep’s clothing.

  8. As a low level lay person who left the PCA almost 3 years ago for some of these very reasons and issues, I can say that what Andy Webb states here hits it spot on……..

    “Despite the manifest failure of conservatives to move the PCA in a conservative direction in matters of critical importance like creation, the National Partnership represents the second major group formed by PCA liberals and moderates to attempt to overcome our supposed influence. If your objective is to force conservatives out of the PCA, you will probably succeed.”

    I don’t know if that is there objective, nonetheless it will be (has been) the result. The conservatives have failed in the PCA, that just has to be owned, it does not make them bad folks, it’s just true. So in that sense I empathize with Andrew D’s comments. The conservatives and Confessionalist should probably just go. The confessional folks have a place to go, I’m not so sure about the “conservatives”. Some of Andrew’s comments in this regard were sound. He is right ….”what they don’t like about the OPC isn’t going to change.”

    But it is not just the issue of Creation, (which is huge for the conservatives) it is also doctrine, RPW, embedded pragmatism. To name just three other issues. For us Confessional lay folks who have left the PCA, we got sick and tried of the historic Reformed doctrines consistently disregarded. They were not being taught consistently in churches that call themselves “Reformed” & Presbyterian. Instead we witnessed a virtual discard of those doctrines in favor of whatever the pragmatic, “relevant” revivalistic, ‘myth of influence’ or social justice trend was. “National Partnership” sounds like one more in a long line (Strategic Plan) of issues that are at the heart of PCA decline. I say that with no bitterness. I love the PCA and I did not leave with a clinched fist, I left with a heart ache & tears. Nonetheless, I knew it was time for my family & I to leave.

    Grace & Peace

  9. I want to offer a different view here. Perhaps some of the reaction against the confessions and more traditional views are an all or nothing reaction to those who either too adamantly held to those confessions or who too strongly tied other conservatisms, such as political conservatism, too closely to the confessions. Thus, the rejection of the confessions by some might be nothing more than an errant throwing of the baby out with the bathwater.

    A partial remedy to this is to replace saying that the confessions are the best way of describing or summarizing what the Bible teaches. Describing the confessions this way is very imprecise. To some, this implies that we cannot improve on what the confessions have said. To others, such a statement makes us feel like we are voting for the lesser of two or more evils. We need to find a better way to describe the importance of the confessions without putting them on a faulty pedestal.

    In my own OPC church, though we are not in danger of compromising on the confessions, our witness to the world is being severely tested by the attitude that we have everything to teach the world and nothing to learn–I am borrowing from a Martin Luther King line here. We have spent so much time uncritically studying the confessions that we say to the world to talk to the hand while demanding their full attention to our preaching. We have quit growing because our witness will only appeal to a small number of likeminded people.

    In short, our emphasis on the confessions is both a strength and a weakness. And unless we realize that some of the liberalization and deemphasis on the confessions might be a reflection of our own flaws, we could eventually view ourselves as being helpless victims of preventable circumstances.

    • Mr. Day: I’m not sure I understand from your comments what your particular concerns are. You make some broad-sweeping generalizations. (For example, you say that those who hold “too adamantly” to the confessions tend to tie political conservatism too closely to the confession, but then you don’t offer any specific examples.) If you could offer some specific examples of what you are trying to say, it might help some of us (at least a sometimes dense fellow like myself) understand your concerns better. Thank you.
      Grace & Peace,
      Geoff Willour

  10. Dr. Clark writes:

    I think the standards should be the middle ground. The “conservatives” should settle for the confession and the “progressives” (or however they think of themselves) should strive to be more confessional.

    Wise words… Keep one’s literal six-day (which I lean toward) and keep your social justice project! But humbly adhere to the confessions/catechisms as what defines and unifies the testimony of the church.

  11. Geoff,
    Thank you for the question. Being a political Leftist, I see how those who hold on to the confessions the closest also hold on to other conservativisms on a regular basis and it becomes personal by how they react to my Leftist political views.

    Specific examples can be seen by polling the conservative Christians you know on whom they voted for, what safety net programs they support or oppose, what regulations for business they support or oppose, and whether they supported President Bush’s wars vs President Obamas.

    On a personal level, my faith has been doubted, I have been glared and yelled at for expressing my views or asking questions. I have been told that I am wasting my time on social justice issues and that I should only preach the Gospel. Certainly these are not the only reactions I have received, but they have happened in sufficient quantity.

    But I could also go to print. Take Wayne Gruden’s book on politics. His brief mentioning of socialism consists solely of worn out stereotypes. Gruden never distinguished, for example, between elite-centered socialism from non-elite socialism. Nor did he distinguish between a democratically representative gov’t that controlled means of production from a non-democratic one. His views on anarchism demonstrated even more ignorance and negative stereotyping. And some of his views have been repeated by people in my church as well as other conservatives I know.

    Our church, as well as other conservative Christians who adhere to the confessions whom I know encourage people to be Reformed Amish. That is they are encouraged at all levels to read only theologically Reformed and politically conservative sources, that is when they must read politics. They are led to be content on reading conservative critiques of non-conservative movements rather than reading what non-Conservatives say about themselves.

    I hate to write such a long response but I was hoping to answer your question as fully as possible. Most of the religious conservatives I know, both in and outside of my church, only confirm what the Left says about the Church. That is that the Church is an institution of indoctrination for maintaining the status quo. And whether you are a conservative, liberal, or leftist Christian, we must speak out against the status quo when its maintenance rests on exploitation and injustice. To not do so not only makes one complicit in practicing sin, it hurts the credibility of our preaching of the Gospel especially in a post modern world. This is because though post modernism cannot solve our problems, it can recognize problems and threats that we have been blind to previously.

  12. Hi Scott,

    No I was not saying that I thought the Psalms could not be translated in a way that made them suitable for singing. Quite the contrary, I believe the metrical Psalms are as authoritative as any other translation of the Psalms. — more below.

    Yes, I do agree that the “conservatives” are the victims of being marginalized, and I think its clear that is what is going on here. But as you saw from another response to mine, that conservatives love to marginalized those with whom they don’t agree too. How else can you explain the characterization of my remarks as bitter. I was trying to provocative, because this kind of reaction that Rev Webb published has proven not to work. Quite the contrary, that is exactly the reaction I think those in the partnership were trying to get.

    Secondly, if a minister is going to threaten to leave his denomination, he needs to have a place to go. Where are they going to go? My point about the OPC is pretty valid. The OPC has been round for 77+years, to the PCAs 40. Rev Webb was an adult when he sought ordination, he knew about the OPC because he went to Westminster. He chose the PCA. The things he is complaining about in the PCA today were all present when he was ordained. Sure they have found newer forms of expression, but the underlying issues were all there.
    All of this was knowable by any of the current under 65 ministers in the PCA that call themselves conservative. They chose the PCA, so why complain now? Why single out the under 65 year old ministers? They were all ordained after the formation of the PCA.

    Thirdly, of course I agree that QIRC should not be defined as anyone who disagrees with me. But I firmly believe that one of the major purposes for a church confession of faith (WCF, LC, SC) is so that all the of the ministers and elders agree as to what is certain.

    That is the genesis (pardon the pun) of my remarks about the WCF21 and Psalms. The Psalms were displaced in the main presbyterian church in the late 18th century by the songs of Isaac Watts because with the affects of the Great Awakening, the old Psalms of the bible didn’t match their new experience. They were mislead into thinking that they had to sing the name of Jesus Christ or the songs just didn’t evoke in themselves the experience they were seeking, and being told they needed to achieve. (So the historical analysis needs to be a bit more in depth than just the 40 year history of the PCA)

    So the first redefinition of a confessional term was tolerated and psalms in WCF21 no longer meant just the 150 Psalms of the scriptures. The regulative principle was redefined to match so that those presbyterians could still claim to follow the regulative principle of worship, even while attempting to worship God in songs he didn’t command. Experience trumped all other concerns. And then we wonder why all this is happening.

    So my point was that once you start that process of redefining confessional terms to allow liberty of “interpretation” it never stops. God clearly tells us how that will work out in history (in general) in Ex 20:5 and Romans 1, but that doesn’t happen to the the reformed churches, no way, no how, yet here we are.

    However for contemporary “reformed” they think what has been handed down to them is historic reformed orthodoxy and worship, when in fact it is very seriously damaged (and in the case of worship a counterfeit). But we are just like the OT church, and do not think that God’s condemnation of idolatry apply to us in the least. The contemporary reformed churches say “we hold the regulative principle, we are not idolaters, Romanists are idolaters, but not us“. Even sadder today, it’s hard to get reformed folks even to admit that Romanists are idolaters.

    So yeah, I agree QIRC should not equal what ever I don’t agree with, but in practice this is how everyone (you, me, and everyone else) ultimately really uses it. As I said, a major function of the confession is to act as an agreement as to what is certain, but when we, either individually or in partnership, redefine confessional terms to suit ourselves, then that agreement gets pretty murky. So six days in WCF 4 is no longer six days. Psalms are not psalms but just praise. Adam is not necessarily a historical first human being made directly out of the dust of the ground, and Eve from the body of Adam.

    So my point was that the conservative are quite happy with certain amount of redefinition of confessional terms. They just want to be the ones that determine which terms and how broad. It seems to me that the partnership is saying that the conservatives should not be the gatekeepers of what is certain and binding in the confession, and thereby the PCA because it ends up hindering the mission of the PCA. Since the conservatives also like to redefine confessional terms what’s really the problem with the goals of the partnership, besides it being secret or confidential as Ken Pierce pointed out recently?

  13. @Curt Day-
    Leftism-Socialism-Fascism-Communism all make the State into a god to be worshipped (idolatry).

    Many on the Right are guilty of the same sin. The difference between Left and Right is how one thinks their god should be worshipped.

    Jesus commands us to avoid State worship (Matt 17:25-26).

  14. Gas,
    Actually, that is not the case. The Left is not a monolithic group and many of them view elite-centered socialism, such as seen in the Soviet Union and China, as non-socialistic. In addition, one can believe in the extended democracy and more equitable distribution of wealth of socialism without worshipping the state. I agree that we should avoid worshipping the state.

    • Curt,

      Your account of the history of fascism is not quite right. There is a close historical, genealogical relation between communism and fascism. The typical presentation, that fascism = right and communism = left, isn’t entirely accurate. Take a look at the history of Mussolini. He ties the two movements together.

  15. Gas,
    I do want to add that to call socialism fascism is to forget fascism’s roots in industry’s political power in Europe during the 20th century.

  16. I agree with Andrew Duggan, “the first redefinition of a confessional term was tolerated and psalms in WCF21 no longer meant just the 150 Psalms of the scriptures. The regulative principle was redefined to match so that those presbyterians could still claim to follow the regulative principle of worship, even while attempting to worship God in songs he didn’t command. Experience trumped all other concerns. And then we wonder why all this is happening. … the conservative are quite happy with certain amount of redefinition of confessional terms. They just want to be the ones that determine which terms and how broad.”

    So, I echo Pastor Andy Webb in saying that I “really want is an orthodox, Bible-believing, law and gospel preaching, Presbyterian church that is solidly committed to the doctrines taught in the Westminster Confession of Faith.” Unfortunately, I didn’t find it in NAPARC, which is why I am now a member of the Free Church of Scotland (continuing).

  17. Andrew,

    Amen! I gotta say you don’t sound bitter to me, I guess if by “bitter” they mean you are hitting the nail on the head, then yeah, because you are hitting it pretty spot on the truth. This outline of how the “Conservatives” (which there are a good number of in the PCA) differ from the “Confessionalists” (which I’m convinced there are really not to many in the PCA) is an important aspect in all this. You are right, these folks had the chance to move to other more historic, Reformed & Confessional denominations, but chose not to. I hope they do now, we welcome them. You are right about your assessment of the RPW in the PCA as well. This statement could not be more spot on….. “the contemporary “reformed”, they think what has been handed down to them is historic reformed orthodoxy and worship, when in fact it is very seriously damaged.” I think for the most part, this is the PCA to a T.

    Here is one of many examples I could site in this regard………… I was more doctrinally & theologically minded than the typically PCA lay person, but I’m here to tell ya straight up >> I knew jack about the historic RPW despite being in the PCA for some 13 years before leaving almost 3 years ago. Why? Because simply put it was not taught there and I never focused on it in my personal studies & reading. The idea of the RPW that was put forth was a totally redefined version of RPW. We Confessional types often say that “Evangelicalism” does not exist anymore, it’s been deconstructed. Well in the PCA the exact same thing has in fact happened with the historic RPW, the historic RPW has been deconstructed, even by many of the “Conservatives”. Let me press my example further…….

    When my family and I left the PCA church we were members of, first we approached elders and gracefully told them our concerns about what we were thinking we needed to do. We searched, left and eventually transferred membership with their blessing. I’m grateful to them for the good attitude, of course they were in reality happy to see us go since we were so theologically different at that point. We were growing more Reformed & Confessional in our theology through the years, while that PCA church was growing more & more pragmatic via the Tim Keller model, etc. In our search process we visited 6 other NAPARC churches within a 60 mile radius in the process of seeing where the Lord would want us to be. 3 were other PCA churches, 1 was RCUS, 1 was OPC and 1 was RPCNA. It is funny how the Lord works things out because of all of them we thought for sure the RPCNA would not be the one, but hey we would go and check it off the list. A more historic RPW with Psalms only and no instruments was new to us, but how could we object to singing only God’s Word? I had absolutely no dog in the Psalms only fight, but I could in no way say that was not sufficient enough for a complete Worship service. (Funny how that is essentially the argument of many who are against Psalm only, even amongst modern Reformed folk) However, we still thought it would not be the one, but as we got to know this church what we clearly saw was that out of all the 6 NAPARC we visited it was the most Confessional & the most true to Historic Reformed doctrine in its teaching, life & practice. Well a lot of eyebrows raised about us going to this “Psalm singer group” (Ya know those “TR’s” or so it was said in the Pejorative tone), a shock that even caused a decent amount of “concern” by a few TE’s we know in the PCA , Conservative PCA TE’s mind you. As I look back now on those initial conversations of concern 3 years ago that these TE’s had with me, it is abundantly clear that even these well trained Reformed Seminary grads (wiser than I) are nonetheless clueless themselves about historic Presbyterian RPW. Needless to say that in the last 3 years we have learned a lot about the subject of RPW. So if this is how a great many TE’s think, you can imagine that the typical PCA pew sitter has not a clue about historic RPW. The typical PCA conservative would be more concerned over us stopping our subscription to World Magazine, or us voting Democrat than they would be if we discarded the Historic Reformed Confessions or Worshiped God Corporately in any way that seems to “work” (pragmatism). All that said, we picked this particular RPCNA church based on it being more Confessional and more Reformed in their teaching & preaching, but it is interesting that their approach to Worship is directly tied to those things…… I know , I know, this is the part where the light bulb went on over my head in a cartoon like fashion, what can I say, 16 years of being in the Reformed world and I’m still a little slow on the uptake. The RPCNA, like Calvin and many other Reformers, see the clear tie in of doctrine, life & corporate worship practice together. I now see it as sad that soteriologically many a church is Reformed and at the same time they have flat out let the liberals win in the area of Corporate Worship of the Body. By grace is it any wonder the RPCNA have been faithfully Worshiping, preaching & teaching in the America’s since 1750’s ish and have the oldest (over 200yrs) Orthodox Reformed Seminary in the country, (3rd oldest Seminary in the USA) while many a reformed seminary have gone astray? It is not a perfect church of course, we got our problems, we got our sins, but for me, a guy who once thought he was pretty “reformed” I have learned & grown a ton. I recognize that reformed thought is not monolithic and there can be reasonable differences amongst the Reformed body. I also know that not all RPCNA churches are alike any more than all PCA churches. Clearly I still have a lot to learn and a long way to go still in my sanctification process. I am thankful people are patient and graceful with me, but I am also thankful for solid leadership and teaching in the right direction in Historic Reformed matters. This does not mean I think the Reformers walk on water.

    RPW is just one of many issues though in the PCA and for that matter theology at large. Federal Vision teaching has sunk into the pews and the Sunday school hour even more than PCA folks want to admit, also it was typical to see a very poor Law / Gospel distinction and a real lack of clarity on it, just to name a few more. I would submit that the Conservatives have for to long had a mis-placed over emphasis on women’s issues, culture warrior issues and other similar type things (not to say those are not important), but they would have done well and still can do well to be more focused on what indeed should be the middle/ higher ground of the Confessional Standards. I in no way am trying to bust on the PCA, I do love it and I hope and pray the best for it. But they have got some reality checks to make and many a PCA conservative right along with the Progressives has blown off Confessional guys like me who have voiced for years concerns over this stuff. Has to be said, has to be owned. I second and give a yea and amen to what Dr. Clark states here as well…….

    “I think the standards should be the middle ground. The “conservatives” should settle for the confession and the “progressives” (or however they think of themselves) should strive to be more confessional.”

    In Light of the Gospel,

  18. Dr. Clark,
    Mussolini was who I was thinking about when I wrote what I wrote. But I will check on that and in the meantime will point to fascism in Spain where conservatives overthrew the left-leaning Spanish Revolution and the totalitarianism in Germany where the Nazis ran on a platform of traditional values (a conservative plank) and country first. And their first targets, before the Jews, were the socialists and communists.

    In the end, I find the continuums of capitalism vs socialism or conservative vs liberal to be inadequate. The continuum we should be paying attention to is elite-centered gov’t vs non-elite gov’t. The left, liberals, and the right have provided incidents of elite-centered gov’t. If we want to limit gov’t, we need a bottom-up, more participatory gov’t and economic system from what we have now.

  19. Dr Clark,
    BTW, Mussolini did switch stances with regards to industry from public to private ownership. But realize that gov’t ownership does not imply socialism. Socialism is more about worker control than gov’t control. And when gov’t is truly run democratically, then their exercise over industry leans towards socialism but is not necessarily there. Also realize that, as in Spain, Fascist forces attacked Socialists.

    Examples of socialism today can be found in the USA where we have co-ops where decisions are made either through direct or representative democracies.

  20. Dr. Clark,
    I have read parts of the book you are referencing and I found it a bit selective. For example when Goldberg talks about Wilson and his use of the executive power, he neglects to say that one of President Wilson’s first targets was the socialist Eugene Debbs. He also neglected to notice that many of the attributes he attributed to Wilson’s liberalism are shared by today’s neoconservatives.

    I also want to point out that gov’t control of an industry or resource does not imply socialism. Rather, socialism occurs when the participants and even stakeholders are in control, not necessarily the gov’t. That is because gov’t do not necessarily represent the interests of workers or other stakeholders. Our current gov’t, under the power of either party, currently serves the interests of wealth and power rather than caring for the concerns of workers and other stakeholders.

    BTW, I thank you for the note and will read what Goldberg, as well as others have to say about Mussolini and control of industry.

  21. To All,
    I just wanted to recommend a good, short, and very easy read book on the left called “Anti-Capitalism” by Ezequiel Adamovsky. You will have to ask for the English version of the book. He traces the anti-capitalist movement from its elite-centered rule under Lenin-Trotsky-Stalin-et. al and Mau rule to what it is today. Of course, we always want to read these things under the filter of the Bible. But I recommend this book because I have all too often found that conservative definitions and perceptions of the Left depends more on what the Left’s critics say about them than what the Left says about itself. This is akin to learning about Christianity solely by watching Bill Mahr’s movie “Religulous”

    By no means is the Left a monolithic group. Some from the Left esteem the old Soviet Union while others point out, and I think rightly so, that totalitarian and elite-centered gov’ts are antithetical to true socialism.

    So if we are going to have a Christian critique of Socialism, it must include all of its versions that those who claim to be socialists define it to be. And we should also find that like Socialism, Capitalism is not a monolith either and so a Christian critique of Capitalism must include a critique of all of its versions.

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