When error is admitted into the Church, it will be found that the stages of its progress are always three. It begins by asking toleration. Its friends say to the majority: You need not be afraid of us; we are few, and weak; only let us alone; we shall not disturb the faith of the others. The Church has her standards of doctrine; of course we shall never interfere with them; we only ask for ourselves to be spared interference with our private opinions. Indulged in this for a time, error goes on to assert equal rights. Truth and error are two balancing forces. The Church shall do nothing which looks like deciding between them; that would be partiality. It is bigotry to assert any superior right for the truth. We are to agree to differ, and any favoring of the truth, because it is truth, is partisanship. What the friends of truth and error hold in common is fundamental. Anything on which they differ is ipso facto non-essential. Anybody who makes account of such a thing is a disturber of the peace of the church. Read more»
CHARLES PORTERFIELD KRAUTH | The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology As Represented in the Augsburg Confession and In the History and Literature of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1871) | 195–96. (HT: Ken Johnson).
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- From Tolerance To Compulsion
- On Arminius, Confessional Subscription, and the Limits of Tolerance
- Machen: All Tolerance is Not Equal
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
Ah, you’re a Rush fan?
Sorry Mike R, my bad.
Isn’t it amazing that Paul wrote about this very thing? “Wolves” I believe was the word he used.
Not so now, we call them “academics”, and marvel at the ridiculous positions they expound and yet sound so…smart.
This map holds true. In the early 20th century the PCUS voted to reject Rev. Briggs for his modernist low-view of Scripture. A few years later the conservative elders decided that the tent needed to be big enough to accommodate the liberals. Later, the liberals sought to push out the conservatives, and of course nowadays the PCUSA is not safe for anyone with orthodox views. The PCA is now engaged in stage 2 of this (stage 1 fizzled). I am predicting that this GA will not be the one where they reject aberrant views on the supernatural work of Christ, nor reject the denial of such, but will vote to accommodate or acquiesce to the neo-liberals to keep the tent commodious to all comers.
Para-church influencer orgs cover-down on the state’s moral and spiritual agenda. This could not be more obvious. Side-B in the PCA “came-out” after Obergefell and now the NP and fraternal orgs/cut-outs running the same thing in various presbyteries. Soon they’ll be pushing for a “compromise” on gender identities. The SBC has a similar organization that carried water for the Obergefell decision when it came out.
The question is, “How do we keep losing?” Losers lose; winners win. Seems like we need to stare hard in the mirror and ask ourselves what we’re going to be.
Here is where it would be very helpful to distinguish between the two spheres of the kingdom: sacred and secular. In so far as we are talking about the kingdom of God, it is not a place for power religion.
If there is any place for talk of winning, it is in the secular kingdom not relative to the KOG.
OK, I’m a ruling elder currently at GA. Can you tell me what you’re referring to? Thanks.
Conservative Protestants shouldn’t talk of defeating liberals disturbing the peace and purity of true church? Would Athanasius agree?
Talk of winning and losing in the church seems foreign both to the apostolic faith and to the early church, including Athanasius. Standing for the truth, defending the truth, and exposing error and refusing it is less about winning and losing and more about being faithful.
Winning and losing is about outcomes and control.
Interesting take. Seems like I’ve seen memos and Tweets from the NP that they can win any vote if they stick together. It appears that they have a “minority” whip and seem to be winning or at least not losing and none seem to be giving up on their agenda. Overture 41 was defeated. Have many NP members publicly renounced their membership and repented? What is the conservative plan if NP members cannot be persuaded to stop playing power politics? Will it result in different outcomes than the past?
Please see my reply to Bob.
Tom: They are talking about the efforts to preserve Biblical fidelity in the PCA. The argument is whether it should be looked at as a battle with “winners” and “losers” using secular strategies or whether the focus should be on remaining faithful and leaving the outcome of the struggle to the Lord. The non-confessional elements such as the National Partnership use secular political strategies to try to realize the outcomes they desire and the more conservative confessional members who are on the other side of the debate are being tempted to use similar methods. It is the question of whether ends justify means within the Church.
This gets to the heart of my concern about talk of “winners and losers” in the church: the importing of secular political models into the church. I’m not naive. I’ve been attending ecclesiastical assemblies since c. 1980. It’s clear that that the National Partnership doesn’t share my scruples about importing secular political models & behaviors into the church but I still believe in the spirituality of the church and that doctrine means something about how confessionalists should behave. If we have to sell our souls to secular political models to win then we’ve lost.
I’m using the terms “winning” and “losing” in the vernacular – as an Average Joe would see it. I’m not talking about setting up a similar-but-opposite organization to the NP.
What about church discipline? Does it apply to officers who engage in secretive realpolitik or only to conservatives? I thought one of the marks of a true church was the practice of discipline and the Lord hates unequal weights, by which I mean unequal application of the law.
So far, I’m not hearing a plan by which conservatives will bring any liberals to the bar of justice. For example, Greg Johnson is still preaching and the SJC refused to assume original jurisdiction. Meanwhile, I’m seeing the machinery established by which so-called conservatives will be convicted and hounded-out.
What are conservatives’ duties when liberals play realpolitik and refuse to honor biblical and procedural norms?
The plan is use the divinely instituted means of correcting error and gross sin in the church: discipline. Attending to that would be education. I concede all that you say about how the NP has behaved. I’ve highlighted it here repeatedly.
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I’ve also written at length on how the church should respond, e.g., by abandoning good faith subscription, by abandoning the disastrous “Strategic Plan” (c. 2010) etc.
There are things that confessionalists may do that do not involve becoming what they oppose but I can’t guarantee the desired outcome. The history of confessional Reformed churches in the 19th and 20th centuries isn’t promising in this regard but would we care about Machen had he died while conspiring in a political (in the worst) sense conference instead of taking the train to North Dakota to preach Christ? Had his last words been, “be sure to outflank the NP in such and such a committee”? I think not.
I see. Well, the plan appears to be failing.
I’m not seeing how this applies. Machen had strengths and weaknesses and did what he could in his time. He’s not a model for behavior in all cases and there’s been a lot of water under the bridge since 1936..
You can still preach the gospel AND discipline the liberals. One does not exclude the other. Otherwise, you’re just going to have to start a new denomination with fewer people than last time at a shorter interval than last time. If you plot out the census of Protestant denominations and the interval at which they’re schisming, you can see that with each new schism there are fewer confessional Protestants but and we have to create new denominations more-often. The PCA isn’t even 50.
Maybe it’s time for conservatives to introspect.
You’re assuming that getting the desired outcome is “success.” That’s a theology of glory.
Remember, this whole thing started with the Savior and his Apostles being murdered. It didn’t get a lot better in the 2nd century and it got much worse in the 3rd century.
Christianity is not a religion for the “successful.” That’s one reason the Romans found it disgusting. They had a “power religion” and they found Christianity to be “weak.” So it is.
Jesus is going to set everything right when he comes and the “strong” will find out about about “weak” Savior when he comes.
Until then, things will sometimes (frequently?) be unpleasant.
Are you reading me to be downplaying the need for discipline? You shouldn’t. Who’s been writing more about the need and practice of discipline than I? Sadly, I’ve even been required to participate in the exercise of church discipline. Reading the sentence of excommunication in a service is something I won’t forget.
Yes, Bob Godfrey said to me some years ago that the cycle of splits seems to be speeding up. I don’t think playing at power politics in the church will do much to slow it down.
Our job is to be faithful at using the marks of the church. All of them.
Dr. Clark: I agree wholeheartedly. We were never called to preserve the PCA. If we remain faithful then we can never really “lose”. The means *are* the end.
It feels like I’m not the one confusing the kingdoms here. I’m not talking about the church’s success or failure when compared to the culture but the success or failure of church officers and denominations relative to confessional standards, in this case church discipline. If the confessional side is not exercising discipline of errant members and officers, it is failing to uphold its own standards.
Within the scope of your station in life and your offices and positions, you have duties and obligations. If you are a church officer, presbyter, and commissioner, failing to exercise discipline – no matter against members or other officers – is a failure to do one’s duty. One may argue that confessionalists in the PCA simply don’t have the numbers and committee power to do so, but then we need to examine why this keeps happening in denomination after denomination. I’m held accountable for my failures at work, home, and in doctrine and life by church officers. Church officers need to hold each-other accountable or there’s a sense of broken obligations to the laity and failure to hold to their own standards/confessions.
You are obligated to preserve the gifts God has given you. When it comes to the church
WCF 26 states
WLC 99 adds:
Superiors (church officers) have the following duties towards laity. WLC 129 and 130
I don’t know what you mean that we have no duty to preserve a visible denomination God has given us.
Fair point re confusing kingdoms. Perhaps I have. It’s an old habit.
I do think that the church and her officers ought to strive mightily to preserve the church and to discipline those who are erring doctrinally or morally.
We agree on that, right? Obviously we agree on the truth of WLC 99 etc.
I don’t think that the confessionalists in the PCA should just roll over. I’m not in the PCA and I’ve written at length to try to help them.
I draw the line at politicking or at importing secular political behaviors into the church in order “to win.”
But Bob has a point. The members aren’t called to preserve the PCA as such. They are called to preserve, as much as lies within them, the true church. Should the PCA cease to have those marks (not that it has by any stretch) then a split may become necessary.
RSC – while I agree with you, I’m wondering (unlike the conclusion (Kuyperian) to which Dr. Godfrey seems to have come in his recent lectures on post-Christendom) whether the “Benedict Option” may in fact be the more advisable way to go. That is, smaller congregations with close knit “community” (not to be confused with broad ecumenism) having agreement in confessions, scripture, and scripture, grouping together to avoid both the wayward views of mainline and even some borderline communions/denominations/sects/whatever-they-call-themselves, but also the evil encroachment of federal, state, and even local governments. After all, history clearly shows the existence of the catacombs in which martyred Christians were not only buried during persecution in ancient Rome, but also met for worship because they had to hide from an evil government.
It may come to that but I do not believe it has yet. Kuyper, after all, was all about engaging the culture.
as I read the early church they did not withdraw from it until the monks in Egypt began to do so in the third century. In the middle of the second century, if Diognetus is to be believed, We were in the midst of the pagans. We were not separated by language and culture or geography. Indeed, there is good evidence that they were Christian serving in the Roman government.
Per the dialog going on about the PCA in this thread, to me one of the most frightening verses in NT scripture is Luke 18:8b. And in Luke’s account, that quote from Jesus takes place at the end of his parable of the unjust judge where He says that God will bring about justice and bring it swiftly. Makes wonder if there’s much hope for anyone.
As J. Gresham Machen telegraphed before his death, “I am so thankful for the active obedience of Christ. No hope without it.”
On that last day, the faithful and righteousness, in Christ, will be vindicated, so we can look foreward to that glorious day! Belgic 37