Why Moderation and Charity Are Overrated

In Jake Meador’s review of Rod Dreher’s BenOp, he makes this passing observation of the NAPARC landscape:

A desire to preserve unity at the cost of clarity and an unwillingness to take a stance is not a solution and, in fact, will probably cause as many to drift as will a lack of charity and restraint in our rhetoric. Being in the PCA, this is the concern that occupies my mind more as it seems the greater danger in my immediate ecclesial context. I suspect that it is also the greater danger in most Catholic dioceses and many non-denominational evangelical churches.

Even so, a lack of charity and restraint in our rhetoric will lead some who might otherwise be persuadable to dismiss us. That seems the greater danger in the Southern Baptist Convention, if my read of things is accurate. It is also the greater danger in many reformed microdenominations such as the OPC and CREC, I strongly suspect.

For the record, the books that came out recently about the contemporary cultural bankruptcy had no ties to the micro Reformed denominations. They came from an Eastern Orthodox layman (Dreher), a Roman Catholic archbishop (Chaput), and a Roman Catholic layman (Esolen). Those are churches that have labored under the Christ and culture burden, have tried to make society Christian, and are now showing the effects of that weight.

What has the little old OPC produced about the current crisis (a conference on gay marriage that technical glitches prevented from being recorded?)? Nothing. It is still more or less wedded to J. Gresham Machen’s assessment of the Protestant mainstream and is more or less committed to passing on the faith without the assistance of America’s cultural or political institutions. But when a church simply tries to do what a church is called to do (see 25.3 of the Confession of Faith), it is in danger of showing a lack of restraint and charity?

Not to be missed is the kind of transformationalist vision that has become the PCA’s calling card of late. Perhaps the idea of being a church to the big city is charitable and restrained (though to anyone with half a brain it sure looks delusional to think you can teach Woody Allen’s New Yorkers to become Wheaton’s evangelicals). But from the perspective of the Protestant mainline, the PCA looks downright sectarian.

That may be the single recommendation for Rod Dreher’s book — to provoke those who want a seat at the table (or a mouthful of the Big Apple) to consider what it means to be a stranger and alien. I know Jake Meador already knows this. But sometimes his PCA identity gets in the way of his inner Stanley Hauerwas and he never says “boo” about PCA exceptionalism in the era of Tim Keller.

15 thoughts on “Why Moderation and Charity Are Overrated

  1. This was great:
    “But when a church simply tries to do what a church is called to do (see 25.3 of the Confession of Faith)…”
    I love it.


  2. People invited to give the Kuyper Lectures at Princeton are not being asked to talk about God’s sovereign election. They already have a track record of speaking in a moderate winsome style about some kind of antithesis between “covenant grace” and “moral behavior”. This is the “Calvinist” way (no “God forcing” ) and if people want to read into “common grace” God’s wish to save all of US, why would somebody lecturing at Princeton take notice of sectarians who make a big deal one way or the other about females in leadership?

    You are we? We are all of us. The OPC is like a baby born in the covenant. The only way the OPC is not included in Tim Keller’s “us” is if the OPC opts out. But that would be Donatist (watch Jeffrey Stout of Princeton explain the anti-democratic errors of Hauerwas)

    Isn’t “common for all of us” the reasonable way that Romans 9 explains history? Everybody needs grace, and the potter is not to blame in any way if the clay rejects the grace meant for him or her? OPTING OUT is an extreme COP OUT and a retreat from our shared responsibility to advance the evangelical “mere christian” false gospel in the city of man

    Norman Shepherd– “The prophets and apostles viewed election from the perspective of the covenant of grace, whereas Reformed theologians of a later day have tended to view the covenant of grace from the perspective of election. The result of this is that the reformed preacher no longer says “Christ died for you” – but, when these words are construed, not from the point of view of election, but of the covenant, then “The Reformed evangelist can and must say on the basis of John 3:16, Christ died for you.”

    Sinclair Ferguson—“Norman Shepherd appears to adopt the view of the prevailing academic critique of the covenant theology of the seventeenth century (forcefully presented decades ago by Perry Miller), which suggests that the doctrine of covenant somehow makes God’s secret counsels less harsh. We ought therefore to look at covenant, and not at election… But to use Shepherd’s own citation – the fact is that some passages, e.g. Ephesians 1:1-14, do employ the mode of looking at covenant from the viewpoint of election. Indeed, in that passage it is necessary for the reader to look for covenant in the context of election.”

    Sinclair Ferguson— “Norman Shepherd goes so far as to say that, from this covenantal perspective, the reformed preacher is under obligation to say “Christ died to save you.” But that cannot possibly be a proper assessment, for no evangelist in the New Testament shows himself to have been under an inescapable burden to say that. Tthe statement, “Christ died to save you” is not affirmed in John 3:16. Not only does the reformed evangelist not say this, The apostle John does not say it either.”


  3. D.G.,

    But when a church simply tries to do what a church is called to do

    Aren’t there multiple views of what a church is called to do and you have criticized many who have a different view than yours.

    When you put down those who are different and elevate yourself or your own group above the rest and above criticism, you are following the example of the pharisee from the parable of the two men praying


  4. D.G.,
    Now I feel like I am talking to Kellyanne Conway. The issue isn’t about having mere opinions. The issue is what a specific opinion says. So tell me why you use the Westminster Confession of Faith to condemn Keller and claim that charity is overrated while the Scriptures tell us quite the opposite about love and that there is more to the Church than what was described in your citation of the Confession? After all, doesn’t I Cor 13:13 state that love is the greatest between faith, hope, and love? And doesn’t Paul tell about the instructions he received from the Apostles including caring for the poor (Galatians 2:10)? And yet those teachings don’t merit reference in how the traditions you cited when described the Church.


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