Does a "Big" and Bloated Denomination Need to Lose Some Weight?

The bloggers at Vintage 73 have been silent for a while but they returned to eprint with a vengeance by asking whether the PCA should divide. Sam DeSocio has the nerve to ask the question and he suggests the benefits are several:

If instead of one larger theologically conservative Presbyterian church we were three such smaller groups, it might make it possible for us to better cooperate with many other denominations. What I’m suggesting is that maybe for the sake of framing a larger church we first need to do some demo.

This might also give us a much need opportunity to reassess how we have interacted with other ethnic and cultural groups in America. Right now the dominant cultural paradigm of the PCA is a White South Suburban perspective (consider why we don’t have General Assembly outside of the south east but once or twice a decade.) Maybe such a shake up would produce a healthier inclusion of Black Christians, Asian Christian, Latino Christian etc.

The Second potential benefit of a partitioning is the chance for local church leaders to assess their hopes for the church at large. Quite honestly, I believe that many of the problems of the PCA come down to ostrich-itis. Local church leaders are unsettled with certain things going on in the PCA (shifts to the right or to the left), but many shrug their shoulders and give up. They see the stalemate. So, they simply give up participating at a denominational level.

One intriguing aspect of this post is that it conflicts with Tim Keller’s own assessment of the PCA (from a piece no longer available on-line “Why I Like the PCA”):

TThe history of conservative Presbyterianism in the U.S., Scotland, and the Netherlands over the last 125 years is a painful account of bloody splits and the formation of many new, smaller, and weaker denominations. Let me assert right here that there is nothing wrong with smallness per se. (Pietists and culturalists often sneer at smallness as being intrinsically inferior, and I think this one of their inherent spiritual blind spots which rightly makes doctrinalists furious.) Splitting a church over an issue of truth and conscience can sometimes lead to theological and spiritual renewal. The best example of this, I think, was the original Disruption of 1843 of the Church of Scotland, led by Thomas Chalmers, after which the new Free Church of Scotland grew in both quality and quantity, reaching out across the land in an explosion of both new church development and a renewed sense of social responsibility. In this case, the new ‘schism’ church was truly a healthy new Reformed church with all its historic impulses intact.

Nevertheless, such fruit from church splits is rare. A more normal result of church splits is the pruning off of branches in a way that both wounds and yet, ironically, does not last. Something of this pattern, I think, can be seen in the history of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.20 Early in its history, after the death of J. Gresham Machen, the OPC went through a split in which its New Side/New School branch left, led by J.Oliver Buswell of Wheaton College and Carl T. McIntire. But, no surprise, by the 1970s the OPC had grown a new ‘pietist/revivalist’ wing under the influence of Jack Miller. The New Life Churches and their Sonship course was classic revivalism, and it did not fit well with the more doctrinalist cast of the OPC. While not a formal split, like that of 1937, the New Life churches were made to feel unwelcome and nearly all left in the early 90s to swell the pietist ranks of the PCA.

Whenever a Reformed church purifies itself by purging itself of one of its impulses, it finds that within a generation or two, its younger leaders are starting to at look in a friendly way toward the lost parts.

I happened to use Keller’s piece in concluding my course at WSC this week and find that his perspective on Presbyterian history is decidedly fanciful — the Free Church hardly resulted in a communion with quantity. Either way, DeSocio’s idea that a split may be valuable and Keller’s that the PCA needs to remain a big take tent is another indication that the younger generation is not following the PCA’s celebrity pastor and may be willing to figure it out for themselves.

One other point to notice is this prevalent idea that the PCA is large. I know that it looks big from the perspective of the OPC (30,000) and the RPCNA (6,000). But 300,000 (the PCA’s rough membership) makes them a piker in American Christianity. The Evangelical Lutheran Church (one of the U.S.’s top ten) has roughly 5.5 million members (last I checked). The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod has about 2.6 million. The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod has approximately 400,000 members. The ELCA is to Lutheranism what the PCUSA is to Presbyterianism, just at the LCMS is the Lutheran equivalent of the PCA, which leaves the Wisconsin Lutherans the Lutheran version of the OPC. In other words, the small Lutheran denomination — WELS — has 33 percent more members than the PCA. And I bet the Wisconsin Synod folks think of themselves as small. So why is the PCA so impressed with its size? Comparing yourself to the OPC is not wise.

65 thoughts on “Does a "Big" and Bloated Denomination Need to Lose Some Weight?

  1. I’m all for the SEC contingent of the PCA doing their own thing. They can 6 day creation, southern gentry, covenant college, belhaven and covenant seminary their way to dixie nirvana.

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  2. “bloody splits”?

    The Bible Presbyterians were “New Side/New School”? I think their fundamentalism was more the issue than their revivalism (and their dislike of smoking & drinking).

    “big tent”, not “big take”, I think.

    Maybe Old Life needs to split into four blogs – 2K, Neocalvinist, Theonomist, and Revivalist. My days would be so much more peaceful.

    I sat down in the home of one of the most outspoken atheists in the country yesterday, just the two of us, and talked for 2 1/2 hours straight. The discussion was far more enjoyable and fruitful than any discussion I have ever had with Richard or Doug. Face to face is admittedly different than online.

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  3. The Federal Visionists need their own gig, too. More of them cropping up here lately.

    Catholics are always welcome, however. Those outside the Reformed camp amuse more than annoy.

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  4. I think we’re about 2+ centuries too far down the track to suggest that denominational affiliations aren’t substantially tied to pragmatic concerns.

    I have a number of friends in the PCA. I spend a lot of my time working in DC, and attend a PCA church (in NOVA) when I’m there. I think the alliance has outlived its utility. I tend to see three distinct camps in the PCA: (1) revivalists, who don’t differ a lot from most Southern Baptists, and whose numbers are probably sufficient to continue as their own denomination; (2) confessionalists, would probably be more at home if they were to join the OPC or URC; and (3) mainline refugees, who still hold to a basic mainline ethos, but who are orthodox Christians, and would probably prefer to affiliate with an orthodox remnant that emerges out of the PCUSA.

    Most here are in category (2). I am in category (3). I’m an old-lifer in the sense that I agree with the importance of the church, and the importance of word and sacrament in defining (if not circumscribing) the church’s role. But we likely disagree on other things (on which I will elect to hold my peace).

    (Unlike others here, I feel that it is in bad taste to come to another’s blog and fill up the comments section with diatribes that do no more than object to the site’s central themes. After all, I assume that people come here because they want to learn more about Old Side Presbyterianism, not because they want to re-read and re-read and re-read Richard’s and Doug’s tired objections to it. Interestingly enough, it strikes me that the Old Lifers are far more patient with their Edwardian detractors than the Edwardians (e.g., the Baylys) are with their Old Life detractors.)

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  5. “Maybe Old Life needs to split into four blogs – 2K, Neocalvinist, Theonomist, and Revivalist. My days would be so much more peaceful.”

    And yet, in the words of Tammy Fae Bakker, you “run to the roar.” Let’s face it, Erik – you need Richard like Joker needs Batman. “Wait! Stop! Reverse that.”

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  6. Erik Charter: I need Richard like I need a persistent anal itch…

    RS:
    Eph 5:3 But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints;
    4 and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.
    5 For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
    6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.
    7 Therefore do not be partakers with them;

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  7. Erik: I sat down in the home of one of the most outspoken atheists in the country yesterday, just the two of us, and talked for 2 1/2 hours straight. The discussion was far more enjoyable and fruitful than any discussion I have ever had with Richard or Doug. Face to face is admittedly different than online.

    RS: In other words, the athiest was nice to you and did not challenge you on sinful behavior and things like that. You would also have some nice visits with some Methodists and Unitarians as well.

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  8. Bobby: After all, I assume that people come here because they want to learn more about Old Side Presbyterianism, not because they want to re-read and re-read and re-read Richard’s and Doug’s tired objections to it.

    RS: But the objections are not tired, they are biblical. Not to mention that the Old Side folks have many misunderstanding of Edwards and his biblical theology.

    Bobby: Interestingly enough, it strikes me that the Old Lifers are far more patient with their Edwardian detractors than the Edwardians (e.g., the Baylys) are with their Old Life detractors.)

    RS: Don’t be so sure that the Baylys are really Edwardsean in their thinking. So far I have not seen them as being that biblical.

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  9. He didn’t challenge me on sin but he challenged every other presupposition that I hold. He started out by showing me his library, which was amazing. More amazing is how much of it he had read (stickers all over the place marking pages). He was a Pentecostal evangelist at age 7 and graduated from college at 17. Ph.D. in Biblical Studies from Harvard. He’s one of the guys interviewed in “Expelled”. Lost his faith around the time he went to college. Fascinating guy. I hope we get together again. For him “sin” is mostly brain chemistry run amok. Most people have brain chemistry that makes them empathetic. A serial killer is lacking those particular chemicals. Same type of thing with homosexuality. I hope to get together again but we’re both busy. Next time I’m bringing my pastor. Many interesting conversations to continue and new topics to talk about as well. Here he is debating William Lane Craig:

    Oh, and he had Hodge and Machen’s “Christianity and Liberalism” on his shelves. He went through a Reformed phase between Pentecostalism and atheism.

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  10. There’s a Baptist church like 3 properties away from him. He debates frequently with the pastor there in the Newspaper. I asked him if he had ever met the pastor in person and he said he hadn’t. He said he had invited the pastor to get together but the pastor had not taken him up on it. When people who are enemies of Christianity want to get together with us, we need to take them up on it. What an opportunity. I told him we were ideal friends — I’m a Calvinist and he’s an atheist. Long term neither of us should worry about much given our respective worldviews. Calvinist evangelism is fearless evangelism.

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  11. The reason interacting with Richard is tedious is that he is not teachable. He has an agenda here that he knows people disagree with but he is compelled to pursue it. After awhile, what’s the point for him or anyone else? If I go to the Democratic Party website day after day and tell them I’m right and they’re wrong it will become a waste of everyone’s time pretty quickly.

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  12. Erik Charter: The reason interacting with Richard is tedious is that he is not teachable.

    RS: If you define not teachable as one who will not agree to that which is false or just because somone says something is true, then you are correct. In other words, basing your ideas about what I believe by jumping to conclusions based on false deductions is not the way to teach another. For a person to really change a belief that was arrived at by a lot of effort and changing of other beliefs or beliefs that are supported by the belief you are trying to change requires more than the giving of a few funnies from Utube or something like that. You might check W.V.O. Quine on that.

    Erik: He has an agenda here that he knows people disagree with but he is compelled to pursue it.

    RS: What is that agenda? Remember, no jumping to conclusions based on hastily drawn conclusion coming from false presuppositions. When you just assume that because a person believes A that the person must believe B, it leads you to accuse them of false things.

    Erik: After awhile, what’s the point for him or anyone else? If I go to the Democratic Party website day after day and tell them I’m right and they’re wrong it will become a waste of everyone’s time pretty quickly.

    RS: Then try going and starting a real conversation based on real arguments (giving reasons). You give an argument and then they try to show you where you are wrong from their perspective. You then respond to their argument or position without blasting at them and attacking the person or drawing false conclusions. That is the way real discussions happen when people are really trying to understand issues.

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  13. D. G. Hart: Bobby, you’re free to end your peace. It will likely be less repetitive than Doug or Richard.

    RS: Can’t speak for Doug, but it easier to be less repetitive when others will actually deal with the points being made.

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  14. “sean” (last name unknown),

    Re your first post (January 12th, 2:16 p.m.). My, aren’t you the kind, tolerant, loving Christian brother, seeking peace as well as unity. I try to be a Southern Christian gentleman (though hardly gentry) at all times, so I’ll say no more.

    –Frank Aderholdt, Hattiesburg, Mississippi, great-great-grandson of a Major General in the Army of Northern Virginia, C. S. A.

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  15. Frank,

    I’m sure my characterization was too far reaching and unfair to a number of southern PCA’s and members. But having now been around and been involved with(in one regard or another) a couple of handful of churches and folks with these affiliations, I see a trend. So forgive me from impugning the whole group unfairly, I should’ve merely asserted that I don’t come from or have a particular affinity for some of the cultural and theological emphasis that a number of these churches and institutions are championing. And more than a few times found myself on the ‘outside looking in’ because I didn’t share their perspectives or inclinations on a number of non-essential and uniquely cultural bias’.

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  16. ” Hattiesburg, Mississippi, great-great-grandson of a Major General in the Army of Northern Virginia, C. S. A.”

    Or maybe I was right on target with my initial post

    -Native Texan, reformed by way of Rome with significant time and training by way of So-Cal.

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  17. For more than six decades I have watched churches split up. Some were divided by pastors who took one side or the other and left; others split over synodical issues; still others divided over worship style issues. The one thing I’ve never been able to completely understand is why those who were proponents of certain kinds of worship, confessions (more likely the lack thereof), baptism methods, etc. didn’t just take their ball and go down the street to the pentecostal, independent evangelical, or baptist congregation instead of trying to disrupt life were they were.

    Some of this, but not all, probably had to do with marriage. A baptist marries a Lutheran and is never comfortable in her church so he begins wheedling here and there; a RC marries into a long standing Presbyterian family and before long starts the same process; a pentecostal finds himself in a staid orthodox congregation and pretty soon he’s getting surprised looks because he’s holding his hands in the air babbling.

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  18. “My, aren’t you the kind, tolerant, loving Christian brother, seeking peace as well as unity. I try to be a Southern Christian gentleman (though hardly gentry) at all times, so I’ll say no more.”

    Here’s the Southern way of filleting an adversary, and it just kills me. It’s how a gentleman calls someone unkind, intolerant, unloving, unChristian, and contentious. If I was in a church full of Southern Gentlemen I’d get ulcers until I could tell the difference between the smile that says “good to see you” and the smile that says “I’m about to (metaphorically) stick a knife in your ribs.”

    Frank, I am wondering if there might be a substantial point in Sean’s wise-guy delivery. Tell me this: if there was an elder candidate in your church who has published a book lauding Lincoln as the greatest President in the history of the US, could you vote for that elder candidate?

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  19. The question for Richard is, once everyone ignores him vs. engaging with him, will he still hang around? This is where it gets pathological. There’s a reason Pentecostals don’t go to Reformed churches, Reformed people don’t go to Catholic churches, and lions don’t lie down with lambs.

    Reminds me of Woody Allen’s line, the lion may lie down with the lamb, but the lamb ain’t getting much sleep.

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  20. Bless your heart, mikelmann🙂

    I found that DeSocio article interesting.The whole “brotherly love” thing really comes in to play when there is adversity and disagreement. That is when our faith is strengthened as we are driven to God’s Word. Disagreeing and confrontation is part of loving if it is done with the right spirit. I don’t see how splitting the PCA on these matters is wise.

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  21. Erik Charter: The question for Richard is, once everyone ignores him vs. engaging with him, will he still hang around? This is where it gets pathological.

    RS: It actually makes things much easier when I don’t have to keep replying to your misinterpretations and off the wall things. However, if you are not going to give substantive replies (not that you ever did), it might be better not to keep bringing up my name. It sounds like you are getting pathological.

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  22. MM: Frank, I am wondering if there might be a substantial point in Sean’s wise-guy delivery. Tell me this: if there was an elder candidate in your church who has published a book lauding Lincoln as the greatest President in the history of the US, could you vote for that elder candidate?

    RS: There would be no need to vote for that man as an elder since he would demonstrate a lack of discernment if he believed that.

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  23. Erik Charter: Reminds me of Woody Allen’s line, the lion may lie down with the lamb, but the lamb ain’t getting much sleep.

    RS: Well, back to the old Erik. Always reminded of movies and Utube things rather than the Scriptures.

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  24. RS: There would be no need to vote for that man as an elder since he would demonstrate a lack of discernment if he believed that.

    So you would break out your passionometer to screen candidates for membership and your US History test to screen candidates for the ministry. Uh, OK, Richard.

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  25. “Bless your heart, mikelmann”

    Exactly, Aimee. My heart has been thus blessed on a prior occasion. I heard the words, which sound comforting, but felt a blast of Arctic air along with them. So I marked the occasion and eventually figured out I had been more or less cursed. Not that I would ever encourage it, but I prefer actual curse words to the dreaded “bless your heart.”

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  26. Erik,

    I would suggest a different approach with Richard. No need to question the sincerity of his beliefs, or his response, I think he has been basically polite and of good behavior and sincere in his beliefs. You may still be smarting from the insult to your pastor. I would like to think my congregation has my back as well as you have your pastor’s. But Richard is not being a jerk when he states these things, he genuinely believes them. The hyper-Calvinist mindset is a remnant mindset. They are among the few who genuinely understand and preach the true gospel. That is why he can listen to a sermon from your church and say he does not hear the gospel there. Only a few do, and he is one of them in his mind. A remnant mindset does not allow any Arminians in the kingdom, and most of us, if we profess our belief in election, are at best inconsistent if we believe in common grace or God’s love for all people. That is also why when you make a remark he considers less than pure (anal itch), he throws Eph 5:5 at you – a remnant theology – few are worthy, most suspect.

    Ironically, hyper-Calvinism, with it heightening of the bar above Scripture to what one needs to know to be saved, to its insistence of subjective knowledge of spiritual life for communion, ends up promoting a salvation by works, though they would never see it that way. As Matthew McMahon wrote:

    “Hyper-Calvinism is a closet “works plus grace” salvation. They would like us to believe they are cavaliers for sovereign grace. But this is not true. They do not only believe in sovereign regeneration, but a subjective knowledge of such regeneration. The subjective experience becomes a prerequisite for trusting in the promises of the Gospel. The untainted Sovereign Grace of God is mixed with a prerequisite work of “feeling” before salvation through Gospel preaching may be obtained or even allowed. This is a works plus grace salvation. That which the Hyper-Calvinist desired to guard against, he has been propagating all along! But believing in limiting the Gospel to those with certain subjective experiences is to confuse the Gospel.”

    Hyper-Calvinism is an idealist theology that does not know how to deal with the realities of the messiness and complexities of real life and real people, especially within the household of faith. I do not choose to avoid interaction with Richard because I think he is obnoxious or insincere, It’s that I understand the mindset and have dealt with it too often, and I know debate will not go anywhere. Sort of like trying to deal with rabid Clarkians – same problem, remnant mindset.

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  27. Old Alexian elder, Bob, just visited OLT for first time in a while. From nasty, irrelevant inclusion of NJ Gov.”s picture to windy Erik’s itchy a–, very UGLY, and zero help to what I am hoping to do for Him at my new residence— Alexian Village. OBM, elder. I just can’t honestly include “Love” after re-reciting 1 Cor. 13

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  28. Did Old Bob just accuse a certain body part of mine of being windy?

    Todd – I’m sure Richard appreciates your defense. He hasn’t had a friend like you since that kid who defended him from the bully on the playground who tried to steal his milk money. The only problem was the defender then proceeded to steal his milk money and his lunch.

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  29. For what it’s worth I don’t think Richard is a hypercalvinist. I just think he’s a revivalist and a teetotaller who has it in for Old Side Word & Sacrament Presbyterians (and people who practice Christian liberty) and he likes to argue. And argue, and argue, and argue…

    We’re frankly the only Reformed people who will put up with him.

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  30. mikelmann quoting RS: There would be no need to vote for that man as an elder since he would demonstrate a lack of discernment if he believed that.

    MM: So you would break out your passionometer to screen candidates for membership and your US History test to screen candidates for the ministry. Uh, OK, Richard.

    RS: Actually I wouldn’t have a passionometer or a History test to screen candidates. Neither would I have a humor test. But if I did have a humor test you would have missed it on my previous post.

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  31. In Richard’s defense, unless you possess a certain cast of mind here, you’re not going to quite fit in. I have a friend who knows D.G. and has been to his house. I talked to her about him after I had read some of his stuff before I started interacting here. She said one thing about him was that he had a huge library. I asked her why he seemed to move around from school to school vs. settling down at one school for a long career. Her assessment was something like, “he’s kind of a nonconformist’ (or something along those lines). I knew at that point I had found a kindred spirit. This is a place for wide-reading (and watching), theologically Reformed, nonconformists. If you lack even one of the three you won’t quite be weird enough to cut it fully.

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  32. Todd: Ironically, hyper-Calvinism, with it heightening of the bar above Scripture to what one needs to know to be saved, to its insistence of subjective knowledge of spiritual life for communion, ends up promoting a salvation by works, though they would never see it that way.

    RS: But then again, I am not a hyper-Calvinist. While you think that I have heightened the bar above Scripture, I think you have dropped the bar quite a ways below Scripture. You might want to consider a few passages of Scripture. You might call those things subjective knowledge or perhaps knowing the hearts of others, but read the text of Scripture carefully.

    I Thess 1: 3 constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father, 4 knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you; 5 for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. 6 You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.

    I Thess 2:13 For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.

    Todd: As Matthew McMahon wrote: “Hyper-Calvinism is a closet “works plus grace” salvation. They would like us to believe they are cavaliers for sovereign grace. But this is not true. They do not only believe in sovereign regeneration, but a subjective knowledge of such regeneration. The subjective experience becomes a prerequisite for trusting in the promises of the Gospel.

    RS: Call it what you will and you can quote anyone you like to prove whatever you want to prove, but that does not make it true. It is true that I believe that a person should be able to tell (at some point) if s/he is regenerate. You can call that subjective experience if you will, but the Scriptures command us to examine ourselves and John wrote his first epistle so that people could know. But then again, as I have argued previously, my position is really looking for the objective work of God in the soul while your position appears to rest on the faith of a person in his or her own faith. That is subjective.

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  33. Richard, fair enough. I’m more than willing to say “my bad” when it is, but in all honesty it is hard for me to distinguish serious positions from jokes when it comes to you, so it’s possibly your bad.

    Hope that doesn’t sound too harsh. You do have a sense of humor, and I’ve laughed a few times at your jokes, but this one was in a gray area.

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  34. mikelmann: Richard, fair enough. I’m more than willing to say “my bad” when it is, but in all honesty it is hard for me to distinguish serious positions from jokes when it comes to you, so it’s possibly your bad.

    Hope that doesn’t sound too harsh. You do have a sense of humor, and I’ve laughed a few times at your jokes, but this one was in a gray area.

    RS: I know, I know. Dry humor is bad enough, but when a calvinistic Baptist has dry humor it is really bad.

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  35. todd: Richard, In what way are you not a hyper-Calvinist?

    RS: The only time that I am a hyper-Calvinist is if I drink a lot of caffeine on an empty stomach. I believe that the Gospel is to be proclaimed to all in line with the WCF. There are many versions of what a hyper-Calvinist is in our day, so I am sure that I fit in with a few of the descriptions. As I said before, anyone that really believes in the doctrine of election as taught in the WCF is considered to be hyper by some. Anyone who really believes in the doctrine of depravity is also considered by some as hyper. So I am what I would consider a strong Calvinist and believe that people should be taught that they must not trust in themselves or in their own free-will to be saved. True faith looks to Christ alone for faith and all things. Grace must give faith or faith comes from self. Unless people know not to look to self, they are in great danger of looking to self for faith.

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  36. Seeing the comments on Southern culture in the church, I want to recommend to Old Lifers a book I just finished reading, likely the best book I have ever read on the Civil War, and it also explains the post-war resurgence of southern romanticism and its vestiges still alive in southern Christian thinking (don’t worry, northern romanticism, seeing themselves as the great liberators of the slaves, is sharply critiqued also.) Here is the book:

    http://www.amazon.com/Fateful-Lightning-History-Civil-Reconstruction/dp/0199843287

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  37. You know if southern sensibilities want to be legitimized on grounds of reasonable political or historical considerations, fine, but, where’s the defensibility of exporting it beyond its geographic and historic bounding? Romanticism is fine for nostalgia and historic legibility and even modern economic concerns(tourism), what it has to do with the gospel or ecclesiology escapes me and is even offensive.

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  38. “sean” (last name unknown) re your post, January 13th, 9:19 a.m.: One advantage of age is that you learn how to push people’s buttons without showing your own hand too much. I love to note the reactions of others when I simply state my heritage, without comment. I haven’t said a thing about what I really think, but I get to see the other guy reveal a lot about himself. (That’s why I don’t post too often, else everyone would catch on.)

    Richard Smith, you wrote, “MM: Frank, I am wondering if there might be a substantial point in Sean’s wise-guy delivery. Tell me this: if there was an elder candidate in your church who has published a book lauding Lincoln as the greatest President in the history of the US, could you vote for that elder candidate?”

    To answer in brief, I hope never to face that situation. If I do, perhaps I will be on the Session of the ideal Southern Presbyterian church, where even to speak the name of Lincoln is forbidden. (Wow, even from my shack in Mississippi I can hear heads exploding, yours excepted, of course.)

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  39. Todd,

    I have yet to make it much past the first chapter, but Noll’s The Civil War as a Theological Crisis seemed to strike a similar balance. Haven’t read anything by Guelzo.

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  40. Frank, if you’re clever in your own mind, maybe that’s all that’s important. Nevermind the narcissism, just satisfy yourself.

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  41. D. G. Hart: Richard, isn’t caffeine a sin against the Holy Spirit (since we’re all just joking today — except for Old ever loving and ever sanctimonious Bob)?

    RS: It is if one is Mormon, which is what I tell people right after telling them that I don’t drink coffee. Mormons think that drinking caffeine is a sin, but they own Pepsi. I guess that means it is okay to make money off of the sins of others. Please be nice to Bob.

    Deut 28: 49 “The LORD will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, as the eagle swoops down, a nation whose language you shall not understand, 50 a nation of fierce countenance who will have no respect for the old, nor show favor to the young.

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  42. So, Frank, you went to a blog, tricked people who don’t know you, and added nothing to the conversation. Impressive.

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  43. Mike K.: http://www.snopes.com/cokelore/mormon.asp

    RS: Assuming that snopes.com is correct is correct, I guess I will have to adjust my comment to people about why I don’t drink coffee. I thought I heard the bit about Mormons not being able to drink caffeine from a Mormon, so I did some serious research (google) and came up with the statement below. I guess it is the case that there are differing beliefs within Mormonism, but it appears that the official position is that they can drink caffeine. I have heard for years and years that they owned either Coke or Pepsi, and now to find out I was wrong.

    http://ldsphronistery.blogspot.com/2012/08/lds-church-declares-that-coke-and-pepsi.html

    Despite what was reported, the Church revelation spelling out health practices (Doctrine and Covenants 89) does not mention the use of caffeine. The Church’s health guidelines prohibit alcoholic drinks, smoking or chewing of tobacco, and “hot drinks” — taught by Church leaders to refer specifically to tea and coffee.

    This statement will hopefully correct the misconception (both inside and outside LDS Church) that Mormon’s cannot drink Pepsi and Coke. Despite the clarification, the debate among Mormons will never end. Reading the comments from various news sites show that many Mormons still think we should not be allowed to drink it even if it doesn’t violate the Word of Wisdom because its unhealthy even if its not banned under the Word of Wisdom.

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  44. Dr. Hart,

    I appreciate your thoughts.
    My hope with putting forward this article was to suggest a way past the present loggerheads, that might lead to a larger more unified American Presbyterian Church. I am well aware of how silly it is for the Pug to tease the Chihuahua. My hope would be to see a unification with the Presbyterian Tradition. If it were in my power I would gather up all the Split P’s, and bring them together with Presbyterian churches in North and South America, to form a Presbyterian Church of the Americas.

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  45. Sam, no need for titles here.

    What in your opinion would be gained by a PCA of the kind you suggest? Church union virtually inevitably yields breadth and vagueness. I know it’s a different institution, but family union is not a good idea. Two parents running things makes for more coherence in the home than 24 parents running things. So why would a unified church bring about a positive change?

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  46. DGH sez: “… Church union virtually inevitably yields breadth and vagueness. I know it’s a different institution, but family union is not a good idea. Two parents running things makes for more coherence in the home than 24 parents running things. So why would a unified church bring about a positive change?…”

    Yes, and ample proof of this lies in the ELCA, which consists of a myriad of smaller, more liberal Lutheran “synods” such as the LCA, ALCA, ULC, etc. that merged to form the now mainline, vastly inclusive, social justice-inclined organization formed in the late 80’s. As stated in other threads, this ramps down to the much smaller and rather divided, but at least nominally confessional LCMS to the likes of the tiny, but stringent WCS, ELS, and the newer ACELC. No, unification and size definitely do not bring about a positive change.

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  47. Darryl or (DG if you prefer),
    Maybe some will consider me a bit bipolar in my thinking but I can imagine a number of benefits in a PC of the Americas.

    1. It would be a witness to the world if there was one Presbyterian Church made up of millions of Christians from different countries and cultures all covenanted together.
    2. Accountability from Christians in other cultures might help us see our own American blind spots.
    3. In Scripture we are told that God uses difficulties for our growth. Pastors warn people to not immediately run from challenges, but, as American Presbyterians, we are very comfortable in many ways, and would prefer to avoid rocking the cart.

    I blame my father for showing me how to rock the cart.

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