Results tagged “cultural accommodation” from Reformation21 Blog

Four Cheers for PCA Approval of the Nashville Statement

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There have not been many times over the last twenty years in the PCA General Assembly when I had no idea how a crucial vote was going to turn out. Late last Thursday night (or was it Friday morning?), the GA's vote on the Nashville Statement was one of them. The Nashville Statement was produced by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood to address questions regarding gender identity and homosexuality that are contested in our culture. In my opinion, this vote was a watershed in the PCA regarding whether our ethos will be shaped by cultural pressures or by the Word of God. How relieved I was when the vote came in, a substantial majority of the assembly approving the Bible's teaching on human sexuality as reflected in the Nashville Statement.

Let me offer four reasons why I think the General Assembly's approval was important. I will outline these briefly, hoping to provide fuller explanations in the future:

  1. The teaching of God's Word brings blessing and healing. There were undoubtedly a number of reasons why a minority of commissioners voted against the Nashville Statement (NS).   The most frequently cited reason was that it would cause harm to those struggling with same sex attraction (SSA) if the PCA declared the NS a faithful and useful summary of Scripture. Very few argued that the NS was in error. What they argued instead was that by setting forth such teaching, the PCA would bring emotional harm to those struggling with homosexual desires. Yet surely the PCA is not ready to abandon its core principle that the truths of God's Word bring light and life. Moreover, the ministers who will provide tender, loving ministry to those struggling with SSA need biblical clarity on contested matters. Despite the distorted descriptions made of the NS during the debate, its greatest commendation occurred when Ruling Elder Mel Duncan simply read it. The biblical positions set forth in the NS will help us to speak the truth in love, providing careful ministry to those in need, which is why so many Christians struggling with SSA have signed and endorsed it, such as Christopher Yuan, Rosaria Butterfield, and Sam Alberry.
  2. The teaching of God's Word is needed when new cultural challenges impact the church. Another argument made against the NS during and after the GA debate was that we have no need directly to address the issues related to homosexuality and gender confusion. After all, it is said, we already have the Westminster Standards. Yet the Westminster divines scarcely imagined a culture in which homosexuality would be as aggressively celebrated and promoted as in our society. It is because we face new challenges that the proposed alternative to the NS was the PCA's own study committee, the support for which renders suspect the argument that the Westminster Standards provide sufficient clarity on our cultural context.
  3. The teaching of God's Word corrects error. The motion to support the NS was a response to the Revoice conference that emerged in 2018. While Revoice has provided different versions of its teaching, some better than others, the spreading of error has threatened the health of our denomination. These errors were replete in the GA speeches offered against the NS. One error is the confusion of sinful desire and temptation. SSA was consistently referred to as a temptation, under the notion that temptation is not sin. But as James 1:14-15 so clearly states it, temptation is the suffering imposed by inducements to sin whereas desire is the disordered affection and will that desires to embrace the temptation. Several anti-NS speeches during the debate compared SSA to medical challenges such as cancer, avoiding the truth that SSA involves a sinful aspect that mere disease does not. Another error concerns whether a Christian may wholesomely embrace a sin category as part of his or her core Christian identity. In short, is "gay Christian" a biblically faithful core conception? Despite denials that Revoice endorses "gay Christian," TE Greg Johnson assailed Article VII of the NS during his moving speech, the point of which is to "deny that adopting a homosexual or trans-gender self-conception is consistent with God's holy purposes in creation and redemption." (See 1 Cor. 6:11). Another speaker in the GA gave the frequently heard accusation that Revoice critics tell us simply "to pray the gay away." This is a disingenuous misrepresentation of our concerns. More alarming, however, is the disdain shown for the power of God to heal and deliver through the mighty resource of prayer. Revoice critics know that wrestling with SSA involves more than prayer and that this complicated issue has no easy answers. Yet dealing with SSA surely involves much prayer, and a believing hope in the power of God to deliver from sin and its effects. The scorning of prayer and God's power to deliver is a source of great alarm.
  4. The teaching of God's Word brings spiritual unity.   As I pointed out in my GA speech, the Revoice movement has greatly disturbed the peace and unity of the PCA. The way to bring unity and peace is to speak the truths of God's Word. This was greatly needed at this year's GA and I am profoundly grateful for the assembly's wisdom in supporting the NS. Moreover, as was established in the debate over remaining in the NAE, the PCA should seek to stand in unity with other evangelical bodies. I shudder to think what would have been the effect within the PCA and in our relationship with other conservative denominations if the Christianity Today headline had been reversed the morning after GA, saying that the PCA had approved Revoice over the Nashville Statement. In my opinion, the result would have been a convulsion of division that may well have led to the splitting of the PCA. I thank our Lord that the assembly took the opposite approach, supporting the NS's exposition of truth as a basis of unity, peace, and a shared vision of ministry for our denomination.

 

When Dead Men Speak...

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I just finished watching the TV miniseries Chernobyl. I was brought to tears by the end of the series. In the final episode (spoiler alert, the reactor explodes), Legasov, the nuclear expert rises to speak before the Soviet tribunal tasked with determining whose fault the explosion of Chernobyl was. Legasov is a dying man. He had stood in the shadow of Chernobyl during the cleanup as untold amounts of radiation rained down upon him. At one point he acknowledged that just being in that place basically meant he would only live another five years, tops.

And Legasov stands to speak before the court. The truth is, the explosion happened, in part because of ambitious bureaucrats who disregarded the safety of others. But it happened ultimately because the Soviet government decided to cut corners and save a little money. He has been instructed by the KGB that he must not say this. He may not tell the truth. It will embarrass mother Russia.

And in a pivotal scene he decides to tell the truth even though the KGB will likely imprison or torture him. He tells the truth because he believes it will save countless lives. He tells the truth because he hopes it will motivate the Soviet government to make a change... to repair the 16 other RBMK reactors all over the Soviet Union so that nothing like Chernobyl would ever happen again. And as he stands to speak he decides to tell the truth. And we as the viewer know why he can tell the truth: because he knows that he is dying. What can they do to Legasov that the radiation has not already done? What can they do to this dying man who already is living with a death sentence? What more can they take from him? His life? He's already lost it.

Legasov can tell the truth because he is a dead man. And dead men can tell the truth, and Chernobyl ends on this note of the importance of truth and the price of lies.

This idea has me thinking about current events, especially this month. With the arrival of Gay Pride month lots of brands have begun to send the signal that they have heard the cultural message and are prepared to signal that they are on what they believe will be the "right side of history." Logos are being painted with rainbow imagery. Messages are being posted to indicate that this house has paid the cultural tax and is no enemy of the sexual LGBT revolution.

I attended a Christian liberal arts college--it was relatively conservative. I had classmates with lots of different perspectives when it came to Christianity, and I knew many of them to be what I would uncharitably term "weak kneed" in the face of the authority of Scripture, the nature of God, and of course biblical teaching on human sexuality. Many of those friends are predictably flying the rainbow flag this month. Then I had other friends I did not expect to see caving on this issue--friends I was close to and thought I knew to be firm in their biblical convictions. I thought that, of all those people I know, at least they would care nothing about what the world thinks of them. However, as it has turned out in some cases, I was wrong. This unexpected effect of the rising tide of sexual revolution has left me surprised and sorrowful. For the first time since I was in college, I feel as though the rising tide has swept my comrades out to sea, and I wonder how many more will be next.

I know that there have always been times when God's people felt like the only ones holding the line in the face of immense pressure. As He said to Elijah, I know that the Lord would say today, "I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal." That is what I know. I see those faithful ones in my own denomination who are holding the line. And yet at this moment I cannot resist the feeling that the cultural revolution really is happening...it really is sweeping up those who formerly held fast to the Scriptures... it really is the new standard of the day. The pressure is immense. 

Like Legasov, I can tell the truth because I am a dead man. Yes, the KGB is standing right over there telling me I'd better speak the party line or else. But I can tell the truth because I am a dead man. I may live another 50 years, and those could become deeply unpleasant years for someone who believes that God gives us morality, not the urges and opinions of the mob. Yes, that mob may compare me to a Nazi or white supremacist (the worst of them already do). Yes, my children will be insulted (if they are faithful) and potentially mistreated because they believe God and not man. No, I will never get a glowing obituary in the New York Times when I die, celebrating my courage and bravery to question the old dusty truths that modernity has long since rejected in favor of a more enlightened perspective that attacks Scripture while pacifying the mob.

I may never receive that respect...those accolades...and--to be honest--the part of me that does want to be lauded by the crowds grimaces at the thought - who wants to die a villain? Nevertheless, I know that I have a few breaths to speak as "a dying man to dying men." The radiation may not take me, but the grave is coming nonetheless. If it isn't an RBMK reactor that takes me it will be something else. I am a dead man. And we are all dead men. And once we are in the grave, the accolades of society, the weeping masses who were inspired by our bravery in questioning God's Word, and the pundits who respected and applauded us for promoting and spreading lies will give us no comfort. In that moment, all that will matter is the truth: were we willing to speak it, did we believe it, and what will happen to us now? In that sense, death is the great equalizer, isn't it? No more mob justice to bully us into submission, no more angry placard carrying protestors to shout us down until we repent. Just the clean court of truth and justice: "What was the truth, and did we tell it?"

Christians, let me encourage you, God has saved for himself seven thousand who haven't bowed the knee to Baal. Resolve to be part of that faithful group and speak truth to a society full of lies because you are already dead men.