This is a letter to the editor in the Layman that struck me as being not only spot on but a great summary of my feelings as well.
Beginnings of revival?
July 18, 2007
I am very pleased with the level of discourse I am seeing in the “Letters” section of The Layman Online. I left (“was told to leave” would be more accurate) the Presbyterian Church (USA) for the Presbyterian Church in America in 2002. I am now a PCA pastor in Sturgis, S.D.
One of my great concerns was that there seemed to be very little theological acuity among the conservatives in the PCUSA, and certainly very little awareness of the historic Reformed orthodoxy as expressed by the PCUSA’s Book of Confessions. A broad evangelicalism was certainly professed and held to, but robust Reformed theology is much more than just the puddle we call contemporary evangelicalism. I remember being called a “hyper-Calvinist” by another pastor at a PCUSA conference in Indianapolis because I believed in limited atonement. I can assure you that the dear man never met a real hyper-Calvinist in his life, and seemed not to know the true definition of the term. It was obvious that he had never read the Canons of Dordt.
It particularly bothered me that we were so up in arms about the gay marriage and gay ordination issues when hardly a peep has been heard concerning the century of apostasy from the Scriptures that led directly to the gay ordination issue. But the one surely led to the other.
Nor was there much of a desire to address the sin issues that the conservatives seemed to make an easy peace with – namely: inappropriate divorce, adultery, fornication, lack of church discipline, materialism and a love of money, and a lackadaisical approach to the sacraments and the Lord’s worship.
My reluctant conclusion was that many of the conservatives were simply culturally conservative, and not really Biblically conservative. I suspected what many on the theological left must suspect – that, given enough time and enough pro-gay propaganda from the culture around us, the conservatives would settle down on the gay issue as well. How well I remember “Rev.” Steven Van Kuiken of Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church standing on the floor of Cincinnati Presbytery during the debates on Amendment O saying, “The conservatives are just being hypocrites. They capitulated to us on women’s ordination and they capitulated to us on divorce and now they’re fighting us on gay marriage?” That man is an apostate, but he understood his hermeneutics and he understood his opponents better than his opponents understood themselves.
Today, however, when I read the letters to the editor, I find links to an article by Al Mohler. I find a letter from a gentleman articulating the marks of the true visible church and saying that neither Rome nor the PCUSA fulfill the requirements. I find in another letter a very adequate defense of the Reformed understanding of the interplay between saving faith and the good works which must proceed from saving faith. I find R.C. Sproul’s Tabletalk magazine quoted to good effect, and a clear understanding that deviating from the revealed names of the three persons of the Trinity is the sin of idolatry, not simply an issue of semantics. I even find a tolerable (though roundabout) explanation of the difference between the visible and the invisible church. This is a very good thing!
My brothers and sisters, I want to encourage you. In our congregational prayers here at Foothills PCA, we frequently pray for you. You need to know that you have been cut off from a glorious theological heritage, not only by theological liberalism, but also by many well-meaning evangelical leaders who are more familiar with Bill Hybels and Chuck Swindoll than they are with the Westminster Divines and Calvin. I think it would be a very good idea if every reader of The Layman would purchase a copy of the PCUSA’s Book of Confessions and read it from cover to cover.
If you don’t want to give money to those who are responsible for the new Babylonian captivity of the church, you can find them all online. But read the Scots Confession. Read the Second Helvetic and the Belgic Confessions. Read the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms. Even the Barmen Declaration and the Confession of 1967 have some value. Read the Scripture references contained in them and carefully compare all these things with the Scriptures. It is the Scripture, after all, that is the only infallible rule of faith and life. But these guys were really, really good at exegeting the Scriptures! Think carefully for yourselves, and trust the Spirit of God to do what He promises He will do when God’s people get serious about God’s Word.
A.W. Tozer once said that when the Church behaves badly, it’s on account of the fact that the Church believes wrongly. True revival in the Church must begin with recovery of the truth. Historic Reformed theology is, in my opinion, the most thorough and careful exposition of the truths of the Scriptures that ever existed in the Church Militant.
It is my fervent prayer that these developments portend a new Great Awakening among God’s elect in the PCUSA, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, or whatever visible organizations result from the gyrations of the next few years. Tolle lege! Take up and read!
Rev. Brian Carpenter
Foothills Community Church (PCA)