To My Friends on the Other Side (1)
May 18, 2015
I was interested to read Dr. Bryan Chapell’s piece in By Faith on the current tensions in the PCA between what he calls traditionalists and progressives.
Not surprisingly Dr. Chapell’s piece is gracious and helpful in some ways. I share his hope that the PCA will remain united. I share his concern about the rising demands of pluralism (what Chapell calls “our greatest enemy”). Our insistence that Jesus is mankind’s only hope for salvation is indeed something that will earn us the malediction of society. But this has always been the case. In the early centuries of the church, Christians were often branded as atheists and haters of humanity because of their commitment to monotheism and the necessity of faith in Christ.
Dr. Chapell calls pluralism an enemy that “dwarfs our doctrinal squabbles and our persistent concern on how to treat issues of sexuality and gender.” But are not issues such as gender and sexual ethics part of a complex of issues tied directly to the pluralism of our day? The same demands that we jettison our claims concerning Jesus are directly tied to the demands that we celebrate damning and destructive sins such as homosexuality.
I am deeply concerned that the PCA remain faithful to our confessional distinctives. I suppose that makes me a “traditionalist.” But I, along with every other Teaching Elder in the PCA, took vows both to believe and faithfully uphold the Westminster Standards. I serve in a largely conservative presbytery. I serve with a conservative session. I regularly correspond with like-minded brothers. So I have a pretty good idea of who the PCA “traditionlists” are. But I did not recognize myself or my brothers at all in Dr. Chapell’s description. His description is more fitting to conservative Southern Baptists of an older generation than the conservatives within the PCA.
It seems to me that, that particular error renders Dr. Chapell’s piece ultimately unhelpful. I have yet to speak to a single traditionalist who believes the article accurately represents their views. In fact the unanimous response I have received is that the description is far from the mark.
I am thankful, therefore, for Richard Phillips’ gracious but clear response to Chapell’s piece. I won’t try to reiterate what Phillips has already so effectively communicated.
I am glad that Dr. Chapell is seeking to address directly the current divisions within the PCA. We need greater openness on this issue. It will do us no good to ignore it. But candor will require that we understand each other. I truly do not want to misrepresent the views of my brothers in the PCA who are progressives. Helpful critique demands that I take the time to truly understand the views of those with whom I disagree.
My intention is write a follow-up to this post concerning our disagreements over how to engage the culture and how to address the issues of gender and homosexuality.