Thursday, April 11, 2013

When is it time to leave?

As a follow up on the previous post for conservatives to leave the PCA, I will enter into a short discussion about why and what I think governs the decision of when it is time to leave.

The decision to leave a denomination hinges upon the marks of a true church: faithful preaching of the word, right administration of the sacraments, and church discipline (as found in Belgic Confession of Faith second paragraph of Article 29).  The reason it is time to leave the PCA is because they have forsaken these marks.  And as Article 29 somewhat lesser known continues to state a true church should "in short, if all things are managed according to the pure word of God, and all things contrary thereto rejected . . ."  The PCA has failed to reject things contrary to the Word of God.  

The situation in the PCA is a good example to us all about knowing when we should leave.  It started with people who were professing and preaching doctrine that was unfaithful and heretical.  Now just because it turned it that the denomination had a fairly sizable minority that disagreed on the basic premise of salvation is not in and of itself grounds to leave the denomination.  This is because there are three marks, one of which is discipline.  The correct thing to happen to bring these unfaithful preachers up on charges, to begin discipline.  One might could argue that the PCA waited to long to start this process, but it was a process they started eventually.  And the wheels of discipline grind slowly.  I would argue purposefully slow.  The slow speed gives people a chance to catch their breath, biblically evaluate, and if need be repent.  The goal of discipline after all is restoration and reconciliation.  So, one must wait for the process to finish before conclusions can be reached.  

However, what has happened is the highest and final court in the PCA has declared the Federal Vision theology of one of its preachers to be acceptable preaching and beliefs in the PCA.  Thus, there not only has been a failure to practice discipline, but that failure has enshrined a unfaithful preaching as acceptable, and many of these questionable beliefs are also about the sacraments.  So what mark of the true church is left?  If there are no marks left, then why stick around?  

There are others who have a much more gracious opinion to what has happened than I do, such as Rev. R. Scott Clark.  He presents a nice syllogism that he thinks got confused somewhere.  I suppose I think the only way this verdict can be read is that the PCA no longer rejects the doctrines of the Federal Vision.  It does not matter what happened in 2007.  Judicially this is the first big challenge, and the PCA has accepted rather than rejected the FV.  

Are there still plenty of faithful, biblical churches left in the PCA?  Absolutely.  Could I recommend the PCA church to someone who was moving to another town?  No.  Because even if the PCA pastor there now was faithful, who would be next?  And what does it say about a church that stays in communion with other churches that have a fundamentally different gospel?  

That is the question for conservatives to answer (and for anyone who is thinking of switching denominations), is the Federal Vision of Peter Leithart a fundamentally different gospel?  If so, then how can one continue to be in the same denomination with them, and now with others who think that it is an acceptable gospel?  If it is a different gospel (and if it is not why was he on trial), then at least two of the three marks of a church are missing, distorted, or ignored.  When that happens it is time to go.  


The Shunned said...

Just wondering if it is okay to leave if (even though they may meet these marks) both the pastor and the rest of the congregation won't speak to you?