Latitudinarianism In The PCA Is A Big Gamble

Many of us were raised in broad evangelicalism. We left that for what we thought was an intentionally confessional denomination. We love confessionalism because it both guards our fidelity to Scripture and offers a firm foundation for unity. By definition, confessions of faith such as the WCF deliberately narrow latitude. They do not expand it. If you are looking for a lot of latitude doctrinally, a Reformed Presbyterian denomination might not be the best place to look.

I am not advocating a thoughtless sort of lockstep conformity. For instance, I do not expect the gathered worship of PCA churches to be identical to one another. I do not expect every pastor to dress the same way or reach the same conclusions concerning the age of the earth. But neither do I believe that “latitude” ought to be the controlling hermeneutic in understanding and applying our doctrinal standards.

When I took sacred vows to become a Teaching Elder in the PCA, it was a moment of fear and trembling. I vowed before God and my brothers that I did indeed receive the Westminster Standards as a faithful summary of the Scripture’s doctrine. I promised that day that I believed and would teach in conformity to those Standards. I solemnly affirmed that, should my doctrine change, I would alert my brothers in the presbytery. It never occurred to me that those vows would allow me to interpret our Standards in ways which actually undermine them.

Given the things that the latitudinarians in the PCA continue to fight for, it appears that latitude includes making a place for Federal Vision theology—a theology that rips the foundation out from under Sola Fide. How can this be? Because of the desire for latitude, I suppose. “Latitude for thee, means latitude for me,” after all.

Of course, since 2018 we have found that latitude in the PCA includes gay Christianity. Many of us recall how the overwhelming approval of Overtures 23 and 37 at GA 2021 was dismissed bitterly by Greg Johnson as a symptom of “southern pietistic moralism.” As many of you already know, the overtures, while gaining the approval of most of our presbyteries, failed to gain the necessary 2/3 support required to amend the Book of Church Order. So, as things stand now, the PCA is a gay Christianity affirming denomination.

Our latitudinarians have made clear their belief that the PCA must allow the ordination to sacred office of men who identify themselves by unnatural sexual desires. Every dead and dying denomination began their path to fully affirming homosexuality at this very point. Will we be so arrogant as to think the project to embrace gay Christianity will end up differently for the PCA?

The price of such latitude in the PCA will be high; higher than we can afford. Read more»

Todd Pruitt | “Doctrinal Latitude and the PCA” | March 14, 2022


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  1. Todd is right on in his analysis. The title “Latitudinarianism in the PCA is a Big Gamble” is a bit off. There’s no gamble to it. It’s a sure bet. If it continues on its current path, the result will be another liberal denomination on the ash heap of history.

  2. Praise God for the work and witness of our brother Todd Pruitt! He shows one of the finest traits of a good churchman: When he speaks, you listen. This article is another “go-to” source for the issues plaguing the PCA right now. We need more deeply sober, deadly serious articles just like this.

    For several years, I thought the PCA “cons” (conservatives/confessionalists) were a little too tentative. Now I see the wisdom of my fellow elders’ approach. What would have seemed hysterical and hyperbolic five years ago is now just tellin’ it like it is, calmly and firmly. The time for comfortable, armchair discourse is over. Both the peace and the purity of the PCA are in peril.

  3. The dirty little secret in the background being, of course, that the PCA has lost membership for two years in a row. If we really want to go the way of the PCUSA, we’re on the right track (which is, of course, the wrong track for a Biblically faithful denomination.)

  4. Latitudinarianism? What about the ubiquitous practice of admitting credo-baptists to membership (PCA and OPC)? I might be tempted to invoke the slippery slope line of argument often used in female ordination debates: today, women, tomorrow homosexuals. Today admitting CBs, tomorrow Revoice. But it’s a dubious line of argumentation. I’d rather just ask, if everyone is so worried about latitudinarianism then where’s any huffing and puffing over admitting CBs? Which makes this kind of hand-wringing look more like culture war than concern for confessional and ecclesiastical integrity.

    • Zrim,

      I’m with you that the American Presbyterian practice of admitting laity to membership who deny their confession (e.g., on baptism and covenant theology, which are not small features in Reformed theology, piety, and practice) is a bad idea but don’t you agree that there is a difference to be recognized between admitting laity to membership and admitting to the pulpit a minister who is advocating contra-Reformed theology? The defense of Johnson’s views in the PCA has revealed an influential, powerful movement in the PCA that wants to marginalize the confession even more than it is already marginalized (via “good faith” subscription). That sort of latitudinarianism has never worked out well in the history of the P&R churches.

  5. Scott, no, I don’t see any substantive difference. Our OPC has just been through this baptism/membership issue recently. Admitting CBs is not just “a bad idea.” It’s to undermine the witness and work of the church. It’s to make hash out of the second mark of the church. It’s to utterly devalue the sacrament of baptism and thus the gospel itself. It’s worth filing a complaint against a session for doing so (which we did, but lost). But it’s widespread and practiced without impunity. It’s a function of latitudinarianism. And yet, not a peep from anyone. But here comes the culturalist issue of sexuality and now everyone cares about lat’ism? I don’t buy it, not for a second. The problem isn’t lat’ism, it’s sex stuff. It’s a culturalist concern, not a doctrinalist one. If it were the latter, I’d expect to see a much different landscape re CB admittance than the collective yawning.

    When we suggested to our session the possibility of an unrepentant homosexual seeking membership, why, it was utterly clear to them that reform would be needed first. But not when an unrepentant family of CBs comes calling. Get stronger on CB admittance and maybe I’ll think about this one. Until then, you culturalists on your own.

    • Zrim,

      I humbly submit that perhaps you haven’t taken sufficient time to pay attention to what Greg Johnson is arguing. He’s proposing a fairly revolutionary doctrine of sanctification. This case is also about who is eligible to be a TE/minister in the PCA. May a man be same-sex attracted (and immutably so) and still be a minister or is SSA inherently corrupt (i.e., concupiscent) and therefore disqualifying?

      These are significant questions to do directly with the church.

    • Wow, this thread took a weird turn with the rant (yes, rant IMO) about admitting credo-baptists to membership in Reformed church.

      “I’d rather just ask, if everyone is so worried about latitudinarianism then where’s any huffing and puffing over admitting CBs? Which makes this kind of hand-wringing look more like culture war than concern for confessional and ecclesiastical integrity.”

      To which I reply – as calmly as possible, not easy in this case – WHAT? I am firmly committed to the tradition (Southern Presbyterian in my case) of a “credible profession of faith” as the only requirement for church membership. I see any other standard as overly sectarian at best, aggressively arrogant at worst.

      It is up to the elders – Session or Consistory – of each congregation to inform potential new members of the “ground rules” of a confessional church. All members may make respectful inquiries concerning the church’s doctrinal standards; they may not teach in opposition to them, or create dissension by propagating other views. The elders’ responsibility is to lead all members over time, patiently and graciously, into greater commitment to our standards. This is one vital element of discipleship. Officers of the church, of course, must subscribe to the standards (we trust wholeheartedly and fully!).

      Honestly, I’m taken aback by this narrowness. Of course, it’s not important that another view is contrary to my own tradition. It’s that I cannot see it as biblical. It sets a standard for full communion in the congregation beyond a “credible profession of faith.” That I cannot abide.

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