Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Colossians 2:16 Continued Again

In studying the use of the Greek word sabbatos in the entire Bible (and the Hebrew shabbat in the Old Testament), it is clear that sometimes sabbatos means Sabbath, and sometimes it means Sabbaths. Why might this be the case? The reason is that there are two types of Sabbaths in the Old Testament economy. The first is the weekly Sabbath. The principle of this weekly Sabbath is set out in Gen 2:1-3. It is mentioned in passing in Ex 16. It is given in full in the Ten Commandments (Ex 20 and Deut 5). The second type of Sabbath is related to the annual appointed feasts (Lev 23:2). Each of the annual festivals occurred at appointed times during the year. These feasts are set out in schematic form in Lev 23. What becomes clear from that chapter is that there were a number of days during the year that, whether they fell on the weekly Sabbath or not, they were accounted as Sabbaths, because they were appointed holy days attached to each of the appointed feasts. For example, the first and last days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread were Sabbaths, as ordinary work was prohibited on those days (Lev 23:7-8). Pentecost is likewise identified, even though it, by definition, never occurred on the Sabbath (Lev 23:21). The Day of Atonement is explicitly identified as a Sabbath, even though it rarely occurred on the weekly Sabbath (Lev 23:32).

The two types of Sabbath are thus lumped together in the use of the plural form of sabbatos. Is it possible to distinguish between the two types of Sabbaths? There does appear to be an idiom in the Old Testament in which the use of Sabbaths is explicitly connected with the annual cycle of festivals, thus setting those "special" Sabbaths apart from the ordinary weekly Sabbath. This is the phrase "the Sabbaths, the new moons, and the feasts." Those three terms occur together often enough (though not always in the same order) that it appears to be a shorthand way of referring to the annual festival cycle, without including the weekly Sabbaths. As indicated in this chart,



1Ch 23:31

ἐν τοῖς σαββάτοις καὶ ἐν ταῖς νεομηνίαις καὶ ἐν ταῖς ἑορταῖς

2Ch 2:4

καὶ ἐν τοῖς σαββάτοις καὶ ἐν ταῖς νουμηνίαις καὶ ἐν ταῖς ἑορταῖς

2Ch 8:13

ἐν τοῖς σαββάτοις καὶ ἐν τοῖς μησὶν καὶ ἐν ταῖς ἑορταῖς

2Ch 31:3

εἰς σάββατα καὶ εἰς τὰς νουμηνίας καὶ εἰς τὰς ἑορτὰς

Neh 10:34

τῶν σαββάτων τῶν νουμηνιῶν εἰς τὰς ἑορτὰς

Hos 2:11

ἑορτὰς αὐτῆς καὶ τὰς νουμηνίας αὐτῆς καὶ τὰ σάββατα αὐτῆς

Isa 1:13

τὰς νουμηνίας ὑμῶν καὶ τὰ σάββατα καὶ ἡμέραν μεγάλην

Ezk 44:24

ταῖς ἑορταῖς μου φυλάξονται καὶ τὰ σάββατά

Ezk 45:17

ἐν ταῖς ἑορταῖς καὶ ἐν ταῖς νουμηνίαις καὶ ἐν τοῖς σαββάτοις

Ezk 46:3

ἐν τοῖς σαββάτοις καὶ ἐν ταῖς νουμηνίαις

Col 2:16

ἑορτῆς ἢ νεομηνίας ἢ σαββάτων·

From a comparison of these passages with Col 2:16, it appears to be the case that Paul is not including the weekly Sabbath, but is rather pointing to the annual cycle of festivals, with its feasts, new moons, and "special" Sabbaths as no longer obligatory on Christians. It is this annual cycle that was the "shadow of the things to come," and which pointed to Christ. The regular weekly Sabbath is in another category altogether.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Colossians 2:16 Continued

In my first post on this text (August 31) I mentioned that the use of the Greek sabbatos is inconsistent in the New Testament, sometime being singular and sometimes plural, though referring to the Sabbath. An examination of sabbatos in the Greek of the Old and New Testaments reveals the following. In the Pentateuch (Genesis through Deuteronomy), the Septuagint regularly uses the plural of sabbatos to translate the singular Hebrew word shabbat. In the historical books (2 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles, and Nehemiah), the Septuagint uses the singular of sabbatos to translate the singular shabbat, and the plural of sabbatos to translate the plural of shabbat. The prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea and Amos follow the practice found in the Pentateuch. Ezekiel follows the pattern of the historical books. In the New Testament, Matthew and Mark are the least consistent. Matthew uses the plural 6 times* and the singular 4 times. Mark uses the plural 6 times and the singular 6 times. Luke primarily uses the singular (only 5 plurals out of 20 occurrences). John uses the singular 11 times, and the plural twice. But the plural occurrences both mean "week" rather than "Sabbath." Acts is somewhat mixed, using the plural four times (once it means "week," and once it is modified by the number three, so would reasonably be plural) and the singular 6 times. The word sabbatos is used only twice in the epistles. In 1 Cor 16:1 it is singular, and means "week." In Col 2:16 it is plural. So the question is, does it mean "Sabbath" or "Sabbaths"? That will be the topic of the next post.

*The English versions regularly translate sabbatos as "Sabbath" whether it is singular or plural, except when it means "week."

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Notes on Ezekiel, 4: Chapter 1 continued

The vision moves from the living creatures to the wheels. The key verse here is vs 18, "And their rims were tall and awesome, and the rims of all four were full of eyes all around." The wheels, which are clearly means of locomotion, demonstrate two things: first, the omnipresence of God. He is not limited as to location. It is hard for us to imagine, but in the Old Testament, though the omnipresence of God is a given (see Ps 139), there was a sense in which he had "attached" himself to the temple in Jerusalem. Thus, the mobile throne is a radical departure. Second, the plethora of eyes indicate his omniscience. In a pictorial way, this says the same thing as Ex 2:25, "God saw the people of Israel, and God knew."

The final element of the vision is the throne above the creatures. It rests on an "expanse" (same word as in Gen 1:6). The allusion to the creation narrative is deliberate. The God whom Ezekiel sees is the creator of heaven and earth. Ezekiel sees a human-like figure, but all he can describe is brightness, and a rainbow. Again, the allusion to Genesis 9 is deliberate. The figure represents God coming in judgment, but not without mercy.

"Such was the likeness of the appearance of the glory of the Lord." Ezekiel saw the glory of the Lord, but at best he is able to describe it only indirectly. The vision overwhelmed him, and he ended up on his face. This reminds us that we are never to take God for granted (which the Israelites had done, assuming that because they had the temple, God would not let Jerusalem fall). Nor are we to think of God as our good buddy. He is the maker of heaven and earth, judge and savior, and were we to have Ezekiel's vision, we would respond in like fashion. In some sense, Christ bridges the gap between us and God (there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 1 Tim 2:5), but one day to him every knee shall bow (Phil 2:10-11)

Monday, November 15, 2010

What does the 2nd Commandment Forbid?

Provoked by someone's blog post this morning, I want to take a few minutes to try to explain the traditional Reformed view of the 2nd Commandment, and the prohibition of pictures of Jesus. This first thing to note is that there are two facets to the prohibition. The first facet prohibits making (Ex 20: 4). The second facet prohibits worshiping (Ex 20:5). Regarding the prohibition of making, it is usually argued (and the particular blog post in view did argue) that if the command is taken literally, it prohibits all representational art. In other words, statues, paintings, photographs, etc. of anything are prohibited by this command. This is the view that Islam takes, and explains why all Muslim art is abstract. This seems to be a plain reading of the command: "You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in the heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth" (Ex 20:4, ESV).

However, this is where it is necessary to consult the Hebrew text. Two terms are used here, represented in the ESV by "carved image" and "likeness." Neither term refers to what we might call representational art. So, for example, the term "likeness" in Ex 20:4 is not the same word as "likeness" in Gen 1:26. Both words in Ex 20:4 refer specifically to images that are intended to represent deity. In other words, the command says, "Do not make a representation of God using anything in the created order as the foundation for that representation."

So how does this affect the "images of Christ"? First, granted that Christ is one person in two natures--human and divine. Any attempt to represent him visually can represent only his human nature. So it does not represent the "full Christ." Further, there are no descriptions given in the New Testament of what Jesus looked like. Since the death of the apostles, no one knows what Jesus looked like. Hence, any representation of his human appearance is a false representation. Thus, visual representations of Jesus fail the test of two commandments. First, they fail the 2nd Commandment test, in that they attempt to represent deity using part of the created order to do so. Second, they fail the 9th Commandment in two ways. They represent Jesus as if he were human only, which he is not. Second, they lie about his appearance.

Given this, it does not appear to me that "pictures" of Jesus can be justified, unless the 2nd and 9th Commandments are eliminated as laws for Christian behavior.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Notes on Ezekiel, 3: Chapter 1

The chief difficulty with interpreting Ezekiel is the temptation to over-interpret. So, for example, in the first chapter all the details of the visions that Ezekiel describes seem to cry out for interpretation. But the reader should remember that this is a vision. Hence, much of it is not only not to be taken literally, the point of it is to communicate to the reader an impression. Second, the reader should pay attention to the frequent use of terms such as “the likeness of,” “the appearance of,” “like,” and other terms indicating comparison. In some sense this chapter is on extended set of metaphors. Third, the reader should try to grasp the big picture, and not to become lost in the details of the imagery. In other words, the details of the vision are something like the dots of color that make up a pointillist painting. (If the reader doesn't know what pointillism is, the Wikipedia article is sufficient.) The details, to some extent, do not matter in themselves. It is what they bring to the whole that creates the effect intended by Ezekiel’s description.

The chapter divides into four parts: the introduction (1-3), the four living creatures (4-14), the wheels (15-21), and the throne (22-28). The introduction sets us in time and place. The time is the fifth year of the exile of Jeoiachin, fifth day of the fourth month. According to modern chronology, that puts Ezekiel by the River Chebar (pronounced key-bar) on Jul 31, 593 BC. The Chebar River (or canal) is located between modern Baghdad and Basra. This appears to have been the location of one of the villages of the Judean exiles.

The opening of the heavens is the idea that Ezekiel is allowed to see into the heavenly realm ordinarily not accessible to us. What he saw, he attempted to describe. But the language that he used indicates that he was operating at the limits of human language to communicate what he saw. Much of the language is clearly metaphorical. So what are we to take from the vision? First, we are to apprehend the completely overwhelming nature of the vision. At the conclusion, Ezekiel fell on his face (vs 28). Second, the reader should note the main themes of the vision. The cherubim (not identified here as such, but specified in 10:1) are human in form, having faces representing the highest of the various created orders: human, domestic animals, wild animals, and birds. Thus the created order magnifies God. The frequent mention of fire carries with it the idea of the judgment of God. Note that the storm came out of the north (1:4), which is the standard direction from which judgment arrives for Israel (see also Jer 1:14). The cherubim are also connected with the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:24), the Ark of the Covenant (Ex 25:17ff), the curtains of the tabernacle (Ex 36:8), and the walls of the temple (1 Kgs 6:29). They serve to protect the holiness of God, and hold off the unholy man who would draw too near.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Notes on Ezekiel, 2: Outline, Organization, Main Themes


I. Proclaiming judgment against Judah, chs 1-24

II. Proclaiming judgment against the nations, chs 25-32

III. Proclaiming restoration for Israel, chs 33-48


The book is organized chronologically, beginning in the fifth year of the captivity of Jehoiachin (593 BC). The last dated prophecy (571 BC), and the only one out of chronological order, is found in ch 29:17ff. This seems to have been connected thematically to the context, accounting for the date out of order. The vision of the new temple, chs 40-48, concludes the book, being dated to 573 BC. The material from the first 24 chapters all date from the period 593-588 BC. The oracles of judgment on the nations date from 587-571 BC. The prophecies of restoration date from 585-573 BC.

Thematically, the book is organized around Ezekiel’s three visions of the glory of the Lord. The first of these visions is the account of his call to the prophetic office in chs 1-3, in which the glory of the Lord appears to him among the exiles in Mesopotamia. The second vision, chs 8-11, recounts the gross idolatry of Israel, and the moving of the glory of the Lord out of the temple and out of the city of Jerusalem, leaving it unprotected and open to the coming attack by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar. The final vision, concluding the promises of restoration, shows the glory of the Lord settling in the new temple, in a restored land, in a renewed city

Main Themes:

Chapter 36:16-32 is a key passage for the book as a whole. In this passage the primary themes of the book appear all together. The first theme is the holiness and transcendence of God, demonstrated by the overwhelming appearance of the glory of the Lord, and the repeated emphasis on God’s concern for his holiness.

The second theme is the sinfulness of the people, and the consequent inevitability of judgment. Obviously, this is presented in terse, summary form in chapter 36, but it takes up the whole of the first half of the book.

The third primary theme is that of God’s gracious restoration. While summarized in 36:22ff, it takes up almost the entirety of the last third of the book.

Additional Bibliographical Note:

When posting the other day, I forgot to mention the exposition of Ezekiel by Patrick Fairbairn, which is still useful. In addition, the section on Ezekiel in O. P. Robertson’s The Christ of the Prophets is probably the best short theological summary in print.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Notes on Ezekiel, 1

Historical Context: 2 Kings 21-25, 2 Chronicles 33-36
In 609 BC, Josiah, king of Judah dies in battle against Pharaoh Neco. He is replaced by his son Jehoahaz, who reigns for three months before he is deposed by Neco. Neco replaces him with Eliakim, whom he renames Jehoiakim. Jehoiakim comes under pressure from Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, and in 605 BC Nebuchadnezzar takes a number of Judean hostages, among whom is Daniel. Jehoiakim died in 597, and was replaced by Jehoiachin, who reigned for three months. Nebuchadnezzar took him and a number of other Judeans captive, replacing Jehoiachin with Zedekiah. Ezekiel appears to have been among this group of captives, since most of the events in the book are dated from the captivity of Jehoiachin. Thus the context for Ezekiel is that he is a captive in Babylon among the exiles. He is a priest separated from the temple in Jerusalem.

Religious/Theological Context:
About a century before we meet Ezekiel, Manasseh became king of Judah. He made idolatry official policy, and reigned for more than half a century. Though he repented near the end of his life, it was too little, too late. He was replaced by his son Amon, who reigned for two years and restored his father's official policy of state idolatry. Amon was succeeded by Josiah, who became king on 640 BC. Josiah was a godly man, and instituted religious reforms, but they seem to have had little effect on the people as a whole. After Josiah's death in battle, it appears that the people returned to the idolatry of those who had preceded Josiah.
The prophet Jeremiah began to prophecy in 627 BC, the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah. In 622 BC, the scroll of the law was found in the temple, and its legitimacy verified by Huldah the prophetess. After the death of Josiah, the religious apostasy quickened, and the final twenty years of the kingdom of Judah was a time of disaster: political, social, and religious.

Personal Context:
Assuming that the "thirty years" of Ezekiel 1:1 refers to the thirtieth year of Ezekiel, Ezekiel was born in the year that the Book of the Law was found in the temple. He grew up in a priestly household, and no doubt expected that when he reached the age of twenty-five, he would begin the five-year apprenticeship that would precede his entering into full priestly status when he turned thirty. Thus his entire life would have been one of training for the priesthood. However, the year he would have begun his apprenticeship is the year that he was taken into captivity. he spent the next five years perhaps hoping that he would return to Jerusalem and to his "real" calling as a priest. Instead, in his thirtieth year, God called him as a prophet.

The standard English-language technical commentary for some years to come will probably be that by Daniel Block in the New International Commentary series. Also worth consulting is the short commentary by John Taylor in the Tyndale OT Commentaries, and the exposition by Christopher J. H. Wright, The Message of Ezekiel. Keil's commentary in the Keil & Delitzsch should not be omitted. The one by Lamar Cooper, Sr. in the New American Commentary series is worth consulting, though marred by a dispensational theology. William Greenhill, the Puritan commentator costs more work than I have found him to be worth. Iaian Duguid's volume in the NIV Application Commentary series well repays study. Two incomplete commentaries worth consulting are those by Calvin, who made it into chapter 20, and the Anchor Bible volumes by Moshe Greenberg. Greenberg died before completing the commentary, and Jacob Milgrom, who was appointed to complete it died not too long thereafter. It is uncertain when that set will be completed.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The NLT and the 10 Virgins

In chapel the other day, Dr. Carrick preached on the parable of the Ten Virgins (Matt 25:1-13). I happened to have grabbed a copy of the New Living Translation to take with me to chapel. What struck me as I heard Dr. Carrick read the passage (from the KJV) was how different the NLT sounded. Some of these differences are due to the fact that the KJV is based on the Textus Receptus, while the NLT is based on the 27th edition of the Nestle-Aland Greek text. So, for example, 25:2 in the KJV reads, "And five of them were wise, and five were foolish." The NLT reads, "Five of them were foolish, and five were wise." The differing order of wise and foolish represents the different texts.

However, some of the differences are not as easy to explain. So verses 3-4 in the KJV read, "They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them; But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps." In the NLT, those verses read, "The five who were foolish didn't take enough olive oil for their lamps, but the other five were wise enough to take along extra oil." The differences in text cannot account for the differences in the translation. The 27th N-A reads, "For the foolish, taking their lamps, did not take with them oil, but the wise took oil in the vessels with their lamps." Why does the NLT import "five" into verse 4 (not in the text) and eliminate the clear foolish-wise distinction (in the text). I fail to see how the NLT is any clearer than the KJV, and it introduces unnecessary changes.

See also vss 8-9, where the KJV reads, "and the foolish said to the wise ... but the wise answered." The NLT reads, "Then the five foolish ones asked the others ... But the others replied." The NLT uses "others" twice in place of the Greek phronimoi (wise). Why? What clarity is gained by failing to keep pressing on the reader the wise-foolish contrast that Jesus was pressing on his hearers? How is it any easier to understand than the KJV?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Ecclesiastes 1:9 and Stephen Hawking

The quote I posted on FB yesterday ("an infinite number of imperishable atoms coalesced through blind chance or immanent mechanical laws to form countless worlds in a vacuum of immeasurable proportion")I read in Reiner Smolinski's introduction to Cotton Mather's Biblia Americana, a vast, multi-volume commentary on the Bible that was never published in his lifetime. Only now is it being brought to press for the first time, with its publication projected over the next decade.

But the quote is a summary of the origin views of seventeenth-century Cartesian philosophers and naturalists. What struck me about the quote was the similarity to some things said by Stephen Hawking in an excerpt from his book The Grand Design. The most striking paragraphs are the following: "The laws of gravity and quantum theory allow universe to appear spontaneously from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason their is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going. Our universe seems to be one of many, each with different laws. That multiverse idea is not a notion invented to account for the miracle of fine tuning. It is a consequence predicted by many theories in modern cosmology." (Originally published in the WSJ 9/3/2010, accessed online at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704206804575467921609024244.html?KEYWORDS=Stephen+Hawking.

The mechanical laws, the countless worlds, and the immeasurable proportion of the known universe, so similar to Hawking's propositions, make it appear that he has advanced all the way to the seventeenth century and even to the Greeks Democritus and Epicurus. So much for the latest new thing.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Colossians 2:16 The End of the Sabbath?

Colossians 2:16 is often pointed to by anti-Sabbatarians as proof that the Sabbath is over and done. The text seems clear: "Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath." (ESV) The Contemporary English Version simply puts into print what many people believe the verse says: "Don't let anyone tell you what you must eat or drink. Don't let them say that you must celebrate the New Moon festival, the Sabbath, or any other festival." It's clear. The Sabbath has passed, and is no more to be observed. But has it? This is where first, it becomes necessary not only to read the passage in Greek, but to interpret properly what it says.

First, it should be noted that some versions, such as the two quoted here, have "Sabbath" in the singular, while others, such as the KJV and the NKJV, have it in the plural. This should, to the attentive reader, first raise the question of the text. Are there some Greek texts that read "sabbaths" while others read "sabbath"? A quick check of the standard critical Greek texts shows that there are no variations on that word, that in fact it is in the plural. So the follow-up question is why some translations have translated it as a singular. This becomes a more difficult issue, and demonstrates for us that while it is necessary that interpreters of the Bible be able to read it in the original languages, that in itself does not necessarily solve difficult questions. In fact, sometimes it seems to increase the difficulty of the question.

In this case, the increased difficulty comes from the following set of facts. First, the Greek word 'sabbaton" occurs sixty some-odd times in the New Testament. In over forty of these, the word is in the singular, while in the remaining cases it is in the plural. But both singular and plural forms are used with singular meaning. For example, in Mt 12:1-12, the word occurs eight times, three times in the singular (vss. 2, 5, 8) and the other five times in the plural (vss. 1, 5, 10, 11, 12). Yet most versions translate all eight of these occurrences in the singular.

Further, on a number of occasions, 'sabbaton' means "week," as it does in 1 Cor 16.2. Yet even here, the usage is inconsistent. In 1 Cor 16:2 the word is singular, whereas in Lk 24:1 it is plural.

So rather than immediately solving the problem by reference to the original language, I seem to have complicated the issue. Therefore, more posts will be necessary.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Strategic Plan Wrap-Up #2

Theme 2: Increased Involvement
Goal: Increase involvement by providing more opportunities to utilize greater variety of people and life experiences (especially younger leaders, women, ethnic leaders, and global church representatives) in the discussions concerning PCA ministry direction and development.

What initially strikes me as I reread this after a few days is that virtually all of this could be accomplished in a single stroke. Stop making GA a convention and make it again a deliberative body, a court of the church. As I noted in the last post, only 752 churches (43%) were represented at GA. The unrepresented churches are largely pastored by young men and men from ethnic minorities. Further, fewer than 300 churches actually had ruling elder representatives. The concerns of women in the local churches are generally more ably represented by their ruling elders than by their teaching elders. Further, the broader inclusion of REs will increase the representation of various minority viewpoints, as the REs have not attended the same half-dozen seminaries that virtually all the TEs in the PCA have attended. Thus, the REs are not thinking as part of the herd.

How do you change GA from a convention to a deliberative body? First, stop advertising it as family vacation. Second, locate it at something like Covenant College. Have the men stay in the dorms and eat in the cafeteria. If CC is not large enough, have it someplace larger but with the idea remaining the same: no luxury hotels, no spending large wads of cash at local eateries or at overpriced convention center food courts. Third, without the distractions of vacation and resort, and with no place else to go, men will actually go the the GA meetings. There were at least two votes during this past GA that required a "yes" vote by more than half of those registered in order to pass. The measures did not pass. Why? There were fewer than half of the registered attendants present. Ask your TE, and your RE, if he actually attended the business sessions of the GA. Ask him to explain to you what happened. These men who attend GA but do not attend GA need to be called to account, and they need to repent.

Action 2 in the preceding paragraph will immediately cut the cost of GA by a significant margin. Right now, depending on where GA is, and where you travel from, attending GA costs in the range of $1,500 to $2,000. That is a prohibitive for many small churches. It is also prohibitive for REs who have to take off a week of work in order to attend.

If the Administration Committee (which currently spends about one-quarter of its budget on GA) took these actions, it would say to the REs that it really is worth your time and expense to make your voice heard at GA. With this kind of encouragement, smaller churches will also be encouraged to send their due representatives, even if thay have to take up a special offering to do so.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Strategic Plan Wrap-Up #1

As you know by now, the recently completed PCA General Assembly approved the Strategic Plan in the following fashion. We approved three themes, each with a single goal. Under each of these themes we approved both specific and general means. I have three general complaints (specific complaints to follow as examples). First, some of the things we approved are already being done. So what is intended by the fact that we approved them? Are we to continue to do them? Are we to do them more? Are we to do them differently? No one knows. My second general complaint is that we approved things that don't need to be done, because there is already a mechanism in place for dealing with them. My third general complaint is that we approved some things as "specific means" that are either entirely undefined, or they are almost incomprehensible. Thus they cannot serve as means to accomplish the stated goal.

I here list exactly what was passed, with my comments serving as specific complaints.

Theme 1: Civil Conversation [Who can be against that? But what constitutes civil conversation? We tend to think of our country's founding fathers as being masters of civil conversation. But check out last week's Wall Street Journal article "Our Feuding Fathers." 'Nuff said.]
Goal: Establish places to enter into civil conversation about the best ways to advance the PCA's faithfulness to biblical belief, ministry, and mission. [Who can object? But who has the time? Does this mean face-to-face, in person meetings? If so, where and how? If not, doesn't the blogoshpere already accomplish much of this (though admittedly not always civilly)?]
Means 1: Provide public forums at GA to discuss difficult subjects or new ideas without vote, offering charitable judgments among elders in the fellowship of the ministry. [Again, who can object? But it is already being done. In addition, GA is becoming in some sense less and less relevant to the issue. This year we had 333 Ruling Elders and 919 Teaching Elders in attendance. That was up a little from last year, but the general trend is still downward. Only 752 churches were represented (about 43% of the whole). In some sense, even fewer than 752 churches were represented, because there were only 333 REs present. So, as far as RE representation goes, fewer than 333 churches were represented (some large churches bring more than one RE. Even 2nd Pres Greenville, SC, not a terribly large church, brought three REs.)
Means 2: Encourage similar forums in the presbyteries (possibly continuing discussion from each year's GA). [Again, who can object? But reality is against us here. Calvary is a geographically small presbytery with approximately forty churches. So attendance should be around one hundred (including all TEs and some churches having more than one RE). But it is rarely close to that. Some men chronically do not come, though the shepherding committee is trying to work on that. If something like this is going to work, there has to be the commitment to make the time, and with all due respect to my brothers in the ministry who voted for this thing, I don't see the commitment to make it work.]
Means 3: Encourage gatherings of non-agreeing enclaves to discuss major denomination-changing or culture-changing ideas, and how to live together with differences. [Who can object? But there needs to be a commitment to make it work, and I do not see that commitment. These things take time, planing, organization, and I don't have the time or other resources to do that. There may be people who do, but they don't appear to be doing it. To some extent, the blogs do this, but there is so much invective, and so many blogs, that no one has the time to keep up with them, and fulfill their ministry responsibilities as well.]

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Reply to Mr. Acton

Mr Acton said: With all due respect Dr. Shaw, the PCA is not a union of congregationalists. The higher courts gain their jus dinivus from the principle of appeal. Our connection above the presbytery level is such as is needful to maintain peace and purity. There is no principle or example of coordinated ministry above the presbytery level. Antioch appealed to the Jerusalem council to handle a doctrinal controversy, it did not coordinate with J'salem in her missionary endeavors. It does not affect the point whether the churches in question were simply congregations or classical presbyteries. Coordinated ministry is nice but not necessary to make one truly Presbyterian.

I don't disagree with anything you've said, except to point out that many churches in the PCA do indeed function as congregational churches. They involve themselves marginally in presbytery and marginally in GA, but for the most part function as if they had no connection to their sister congregations.

PCA Strategic Plan Post 13a

Follow-up given a question from Andrew. Do I think the funding plan is ideal? No. But it does seem that some alternative to the current system must be put into place, or something must be done to make the current system workable. Charging TEs $400 registration fee in order to attend GA is outrageous, but it is done in order to cover the budget shortfall of the Admin Committee. I am a member of both the Society of Biblical Literature and the Evangelical Theological Society. Neither of their annual national conventions charges a registration fee that is anywhere close to what the PCA GA charges. Both of those annual meetings are larger than the PCA GA, and much more difficult from an administrative perspective, since both have hundreds of sessions meeting concurrently.

So how do we fund the Admin Committee of the PCA? Andrew proposes that the AC be funded by the other committees and agencies of the PCA. That's a possibility. But those other committees also have trouble getting their necessary funding.

I think the fundamental problem is the ethos of the PCA. It is a congregational assemblage posing as a presbyterian church. Thus, the individual churches feel no responsibility to fund the higher courts of the church (either presbytery or GA). In my presbytery, for example, there are a significant number of churches that give nothing at all to the work of the presbytery (and I'm sure they give nothing at all to the work of the GA), yet their TEs and REs have a right to vote along with everyone else, often for things that work to their own advantage.

Two changes have to occur in the PCA (maybe more, but I can think of two key things right now). The first is, that TEs, REs, sessions and congregations need to begin thinking of themselves as part of a connectional body, not as Lone Rangers. Unfortunately, many TEs are not well-trained in the biblical case for presbyterianism; they come out of congregational or parachurch backgrounds; and so they do not teach their sessions and congregations to think of the church in a presbyterian manner.

The second change that has to take place is the development of a culture of accountability and humility in the PCA bureaucracy. I am not saying that on an individual level the people who work for the PCA administration are not humble. I am saying that many in the PCA perceive the administration as having a "we know what to do, you don't, so listen to us" attitude, as well as acting in a way that seems to be accountable only to the really large churches in the denomination, with little or no consideration for the smaller churches. Such a perceptions leads to mistrust of the administration, and an administration that is not trusted will not be funded by a voluntary funding base.

These changes cannot take place overnight, but we can begin working on them immediately. But we must commit to working on them. That is the reason I support Overture 24. If adopted, and put into practice, it will accomplish not only adequate funding for the PCA AC, but for a lot more.

PCA Strategic Plan: Post 13

The Funding Plan

Read the Funding Plan Model at: http://www.pcaac.org/2010StrategicPlanDocuments/Funding%20Plan%20Model.pdf

Read the Executive Summary at: http://www.pcaac.org/2010StrategicPlanDocuments/Executive%20Summary%20of%20AC%20Funding%20Plan.pdf

I don’t really have any objections to the funding plan. As the plan notes, only 45% of the churches give anything to the Administrative Committee, and only 16% give the full Partnership Share. The plan as stated would require an annual registration fee for churches and for teaching elders. The fee for TEs would be $100 per annum, while that for churches would be 1/3 of 1% of the church budget (though it must be admitted that this is not explicitly stated in the Plan). What the Plan says is:

The groupings of ranges above were done by setting a mean (average) for each Tithes and Offerings Range and multiplying by 0.334% (or 1/3 of 1%). Ranges were also set in consideration of some existing realities within the PCA such as number of churches in a particular range and consideration of what the ranges could reasonably and fairly bear. Per capita was abandoned for this chart, as it created some considerable unfairness relative to size of church budget vs. number of members.

Once the plan is implemented, the following would take place:

Those not paying in a timely manner would receive second notices and encouragement to pay.

Any churches not paying before General Assembly would be ineligible for sending ruling elder commissioners.

Any teaching elders not paying before General Assembly would be ineligible for voting at General Assembly.

Any churches, teaching elders, or presbyteries not paying by the end of the year would be listed and reported to the Administrative Committee and subsequently to the General Assembly.

After two years of delinquency in payment, a report would be given to the AC and then to the General Assembly for consideration of appropriate action.

According to the chart provided, this would mean that 448 churches in the PCA would pay an annual registration fee of between $1,200 and $25,000 per year (Categories A-M in the chart on page 2. The other 1,283 churches in the PCA (categories N-R) would pay between $100 and $800 per year.

That would be fine if it works. But given the history of non-giving, is there any reasonable expectation that it will work? Further, this provides for the funding only of the Administrative Committee. It does not provide for the funding of the other committees and agencies, and those committees and agencies have also suffered chronic budgetary shortfalls under the current system. Is there a plan to provide for those as well? Notice also that while churches and TEs that do not pay may not vote at GA, it is already the case that many churches are not represented at GA because of the costs. So will this plan change things? In addition, notice that there is no mention of eliminating churches for non-payment, only “consideration of appropriate action.” The PCA leadership does not want to lose churches and members. But that would be the reasonable action for chronic non-payment of the fees. So we are back to a voluntary system not too dissimilar from that which has been ineffectively in place for the last 38 years.

I’m not hopeful about the results even if this plan is adopted. In any case, Dr. Taylor’s final statement in the Executive Summary is certainly true, “The ethos of the PCA will need to change.”

PCA Strategic Plan: Post 12

The body of the Strategic Plan is followed by three charts: Safe Places; More Seats; In God’s global mission. I will not address these in detail. Instead, I will make some comments on themes and specific items.

Notice, first of all, how central the CMC is in everything. You may rightfully ask what the CMC is. It is “comprised of the coordinators and presidents of PCA agencies and committees, and the past six moderators of the General Assembly” (quoted from http://byfaithonline.com/page/pca-news/administrative-committee-approves-strategic-plan). This already sounds more episcopal than presbyterian, a problem that others also have commented on.

Under Theme 1: Safe Places consider the following: establish “prime time” forums at GA. So what happens to GA, if the pre-Assembly and early morning times are already taken up by seminars on various topics. I realize that the PCA has been moving toward making the actual actions of GA less and less significant over the years (to the extent that two years ago [I did not attend in 2009] the entire business of the GA was done in about 8 hours. This, of course, did not include the endless self-congratulatory “informational” presentations of the committees and agencies, but was limited to the items that were actually discussed and voted on. That is GA’s dirty little secret: most of the week is devoted to non-essentials and vacation time..

Under Theme 2: More Seats consider the following: “establish standards for voluntary certification of men and women for specific non-ordained vocational ministries.” What is “non-ordained vocational ministry”? The PCA, in her constitutional documents, recognizes vocational ministry to be limited to the offices of elder and deacon. There has been, and continues to be, debate over whether the office of elder is a single office or two offices (hence the two-office vs. three-office debate). But we recognize, and I don’t see any biblical defense for such a thing as certified non-ordained vocational ministry. As a result, whether the authors of this intended it or not, it begins to look like the camel’s nose under the edge of the tent for ordination of women to church offices (deacon and elder). Or it might look like the camel’s nose under the edge of the tent for the discarding of the doctrine of ordination altogether, as some evangelical churches have already done.

Also under Theme 2: consider “alternative ordination credentialing of men for constituencies.” I’m not necessarily opposed to considering such, but the strong negative here is that historically this approach has produced a two-tiered ministry, and those who have pursued the “alternative credentialing” have always found themselves on the bottom of the pile. What this produces is not an end to disadvantaged constituencies, but an institutional perpetuation of them.

Also under Theme 2: consider “Formalize CEP Women’s Ministries organization for women in vocational ministries.” What are “women in vocational ministries”? Are they women who work in the church office? Are they women who work with the deacons? Are they women who work with adoption agencies and centers that provide alternatives to abortion? We have a major problem with definitions here, and one suspects that the CMC is hoping we won’t notice it.

I won’t even go into Theme 3. It is all so drearily like a corporate organization chart, and about as spiritual as a doorknob. I know the men who produced this thing mean well. I know they put a lot of hard work into it. But it is as dry as dust.

For others comments on the Strategic Plan, see the following:


And this: http://heidelblog.wordpress.com/2010/04/28/thoughts-on-the-pcas-proposed-strategic-plan/

And this: http://www.rongleason.blogspot.com/

Thursday, May 27, 2010

PCA Strategic Plan: Post 11

Again, I have put my comments in brackets.

VI. Questions to Address in Making Strategic Plans for the PCA

The questions below identify issues that should be addressed by a Strategic Plan for the PCA in light of the preceding analysis. Most questions were suggested by the 2008 Cooperative Ministries Committee after reviewing the analysis. Additional questions were added by 2008 General Assembly commissioners who attended its Strategic Planning Seminar and also reviewed the preceding analysis. The questions are not arranged in any priority order.

1. How to Provide Safe Places to Talk about New Ideas to Advance the PCA’s Faithfulness to Biblical Belief, Ministry and Mission [Such places are already available. There is the official place-presbytery; and there are unofficial gatherings and meetings. There are also the seminars at GA (mentioned by someone else in a critique). Some might say that presbytery is not safe, but that is simply untrue. It is more the case that many do not seem to want to use presbytery in this fashion. As far as I know, but that might just be limited knowledge, no one has ever been brought up on charges for something they have said in presbytery, unless it simply added to charges that were already being investigated.]

2. How to Provide “More Seats at the Table” (especially younger leaders, women, and ethnic leaders) for PCA Ministry Direction and Development [What does this mean? Frankly, it sounds to me like the kind of thing the UPCUSA (the old “Northern” Presbyterian church before the 1983 merger of the UPCUSA and the PCUS (the old “Southern” Presbyterian Church) produced the PC(USA). It resulted in such things as “youth elders” being elected to sessions. The church is a kingdom, not a democracy, and the role of elders is a spiritual, pastoring, role, not an “elected representative” role. It would certainly help most churches if the both the TEs and the REs were more consistent about pastoring their flocks, but the situation will not be improved by trying to create a kind of democracy in the church with representatives selected from various constituent groups.]

3. How to Identify and Support Agencies/Institutions Most Critical to Our Calling

4. How to Do Mission Corporately and Globally (this includes learning from the Global Church, as well unifying ourselves to minister to and with the Global church)

5. How to Understand, Appreciate and Utilize Our Differences/Gifts

6. How to Work and Worship with Gospel Co-laborers outside the PCA (i.e., working out what Reformed Catholicity means; esp. defining “field” and “fences” of cooperation) in Order to Fulfill the Highest Kingdom Purposes

7. How to Ensure a Common Commitment among PCA Leaders Regarding Theological Approaches to Ministry and Mission [Without trying to be “snarky,” it might help if the denomination’s seminary were more diligent in teaching its students how presbyterianism works. Graduates of that institution consistently do poorly in their examinations on such topics.]

8. How to Inspire Involvement in Corporate Church Structures and Efforts (i.e., Acting in Consistency with Our Connectional Theology) [I agree. This is an important issue. Again, many of the founding PCA churches came from a context in which there was distrust of the denomination bred into the local churches. In my estimation, this problem was never adequately dealt with in the early years of the denomination, so churches coming in came in to a denomination in which distrust of structures was more the case than not. The PCA at its founding was prfoundly congregational in its functioning, and that has never really changed. A further problem is that many pastors who have come into the PCA in the last forty years have come from either congregational or parachurch backgrounds, and never learned presbyterianism.]

9. How to Encourage Mutual Love and Respect among Committees and Agencies [Openness, honesty, and transparency never hurt. It is also the case that many see the attitudes of those laboring in the committees and agencies as having a “we know what we’re doing, we’re the professionals, you’re not” attitude. Probably some self-examination and repentance on both sides would go a long way toward fixing this issue.]

10. How to Inspire and Engage Churches and Presbyteries in a Global Strategy

11. How to Prepare Ordained Leadership for Immigrant and Ethnic Communities not Traditionally PCA

12. How to Provide Unity within Variety regarding Worship Principles [Maybe putting to work the theology we claim to hold to?]

Friday, May 14, 2010

Uncle Ben's Book Blog: Michael Horton, Christless Christianity

This book provoked a horrendously long and embarrassingly silly response from John Frame (read at http://www.frame-poythress.org/frame_articles/2009Horton.htm). One does not need to agree with all of Horton's views in order to agree with his thesis that American evangelicalism is in dire straits. Though he begins by dealing with such people as Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer, they are only the starting point for Horton's jeremiad. In Horton's view, and I agree, much of American evangelicalism is thinly veiled "feel good" works righteousness posing as the gospel.

I recommend the book, not so much for its critique of the state of our churches, but for its critique of the state of our own hearts. One did not need to agree with all of Luther's The Babylonian Captivity of the Church to see that one's own heart was often captive to Babylon. Likewise, you don't need to agree with all of Horton in order for his work to ask probing questions of your own heart, and set you to asking yourself how much the American "feel-good gospel" has tainted your own faith.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

PCA Strategic Plan: Post 10

As with Post 9, I have placed my comments in brackets at the appropriate point.


The external challenges listed earlier in this plan should not blind us to the opportunities for Gospel progress that are also present. Because all people are made in the image of God the aspects of their culture that oppose the Gospel inevitably disclose aspects of human need. Thus, the fractures of a culture are openings for the Gospel, revealing where hearts are hurting, longing, empty and open. Below are some indications of Gospel opportunities in our culture: [In short, people have spiritual longings.]

1. Pervasive Spiritual Longing Evident in Explosion of Alternative Spiritualities

2. Relational Longing (due to loss of community, family and fathering)

3. Longing for Something “Certain” Evident in Rise in North American Catholicism,

Islam and Ancient/Future Worship

4. Longing for Racial Reconciliation

5. Cultural Regard for Piety that is Humble and Non-judgmental (e.g. Mother Teresa)

6. Appreciation for Biblical Preaching among “Churched” and “Once-churched”

7. Lack of “Grace Understanding” in Christian Media and Most Pulpits

8. Rapid Spread of Global Christianity (often through Pentecostal prosperity gospel,

with which there is growing disenchantment)

9. Disappointments in Post-modernism

10. Loss of Confidence in Economy, Experts and Government

11. Lack of Institutional or Denominational Loyalty (especially among young)

12. Fear of Terrorism and War

[All of these are true, but then, they have almost always been true. Even the first century was a “postmodern” age. There are also two sides to all these coins. In some sense, these things might draw people to the gospel, but the gospel remains an offense. In short, I’m not sure what this list tells us that we didn’t already know.]


The internal challenges listed earlier in this plan should not blind us to the resources and strengths we possess for Gospel progress. God does not leave us helpless in the face of challenges or without resources to pursue Gospel opportunities. The PCA has been richly blessed with means to confront challenges and to pursue Gospel opportunities that God reveals to us. Below are some of the PCA’s significant resources and strengths:

1. “They Preach the Bible Here….” (The vast majority of people who attend our churches are drawn to the PCA because of the belief that we are committed to proclaiming the truth of Scripture.)

2. Theological Cohesion, Soundness and Depth (Despite our internal debates, the breadth of theological difference among us is quite small on the theological spectrum. In addition, we generally share an appreciation for the necessity of Word and deed in faithful witness of the Gospel) [So really, how bad are the divisions listed above under “Internal Challenges”? Have they overstated the divisions there and understated them here?]

3. Historical Emphasis upon the Gospel of Grace

4. History and Expectation of Growth

5. History of Valuing Mission

6. History of Valuing Cultural Influence [First, what does this mean? Second, can it be documented?]

7. History of Planting Churches (esp. suburban)

8. Large and Well Supported Mission Agency [Is it well-supported or not? “Internal Challenges” seems to indicate some question here.]

9. Sound and Solid Educational Institutions (providing value continuity) [So how helpful is this if we are still left with #11? Are our institutions teaching our identity. In speaking with graduates of our institutions, I'm not sure that the institutions are teaching our identity. But maybe that's just my perception.]

10. Theological Respect for PCA in Broader Evangelicalism (except for actual position on women and perceived position on race) [The position on women is a problem. Shall we abandon our stance to fix it?

11. Connectional Theology (despite non-connectional practice)

12. Cultural Niche for “Traditional” and “Family Focused” Churches (the downside

obviously is our limited connection with non-churched or unwed persons)

13. Significant Denominational Support from Most Mid-size and Large Churches

14. Good Will of Most Congregants and Pastors (delighting to be in the PCA)

15. Large and Well Organized Women’s Organization

16. RUF

17. Openness to Ethnic Diversity (despite lack of accomplishments)

18. Key Innovator Churches and Leaders (Perimeter, Redeemer, New City, New Life,

Seven Rivers, Harbor, Southwest Church Planting Network, etc.) [Ooh! Love those innovator churches! Does that mean we all ought to be innovator churches? What about those churches that are growing and at least seemingly healthy that aren’t innovator churches? Are innovator churches necessarily a good thing? In the end, however, what does this mean?]

19. Support and Growth of National Seminary and Associated Seminaries

20. Pockets of Strong Children and Youth Ministry

21. Willing workers Among Growing Retiree Population

22. Significant PCA Representation in Leadership of Major Evangelical Organizations

[Again, I’m not sure that this tells us anything that we didn’t already know, nor do I find it particularly helpful, as many key items are either not defined or not explained.]

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

PCA Strategic Plan: Post 9

I am changing my approach in this post. The statement itself is straightforward, so I will eliminate the Summary. In addition I will make my comments in the body of the work, putting the comments in brackets, since there are many specifics of this section that need to be addressed.

Internal Challenges

The magnitude of the external challenges listed above should make it apparent that the temporal powers of our church are not the ultimate answers to our world’s problems. While the church cannot simultaneously ignore the world’s current problems and minister in Christ’s name, her energies will be consumed in futility if she perceives her primary mandate to be re-creating Eden with earthly resources. Jesus said that his Kingdom was not of this world, that we would always have the poor with us, and that his people would face suffering until his return. The ultimate mandate of the church is not to fix a fallen world, but to give God’s people rest and rescue from its corruptions. This is done by honoring, proclaiming and demonstrating the truths of God’s eternal love. God’s people give these truths credibility by the way we worship Him according to his Word and serve as salt and light in the world.

With God’s blessing our efforts can truly be culturally transformative, and the cultural mandate of Scripture obligates God’s people to bring the light of the Gospel and the demands of Christ’s Lordship into every inch of the world over which they have influence. Yet, the priority of the Gospel remains spiritual transformation through which cultural transformation may come but by which eternal security assuredly comes. This spiritual priority by no means lessens the concern or obligation of the church to seek peace and justice in the world. Rather this spiritual priority reflects the Biblical understanding that, through its transformed people, the church of Jesus Christ is the most powerful change agent in any society – whether religious, secular or pluralistic. When a community of believers lives faithful to the Gospel – loving one another, forgiving one another, helping the helpless, loving enemies, sacrificing for the undeserving, honoring Christ, sharing his claims for this world, and living with confidence in the blessings of the next – then, Christ’s Spirit becomes evident and moves across society as he intends.

Our obligation is not to demand that the Spirit move according to our design or timing, but to be vessels for his wisdom and work. As jars of clay, we should expect that our efforts will sometimes be flawed. Still, we are a branch of the visible church through which the Spirit brings his transformation and should expect that God will use us as we seek to serve him in humility and repentance. True humility will require understanding that we are not the only branch of his church through which God will work, and also acknowledgement of the many challenges for which our wisdom alone is insufficient. True repentance will require confession of weakness and sin that are evident in many of our internal challenges. These internal challenges are now listed not to discourage or blame, but to enable us to address what we must in order to be a worthy vessel for God’s transforming work of souls and society:

1. Slowed Growth with Lack of “Rallying” Strategic Plan (key influencers also “burned” by previous 2000-2006 Strategic Plan Process) [Is the slowed growth due to the lack of a strategic plan? The writers have not demonstrated that the slowed growth is any more than normal after the adding of a whole denomination and the Korean churches. Also, who are the “key influencers”? In what way were they burned by the 2000-2006 Strategic Plan Process? Does the former process indicate anything significant for the current process? In other words, have we learned anything from previous experience? There’s no indication here that we have.]

2. Predominantly Small Churches Struggling to Survive (49% of churches have less than 120 members; 20% have less than 50 members; only 8% have more than 500 members) [What do these statistics mean? Is the goal to have all churches >500 members? Are those the only churches that are healthy? What about the churches with membership between 50 and 120? Are these by nature unhealthy? What about the churches under 50 members? Are they necessarily unhealthy? Is it possible for a church >500 members to be unhealthy? Has the denomination (or presbyteries) looked into possible solutions for the small churches (such as multi-point charges, wehere one minister serves more than one church)? In other words, these are bare facts that need some constext in order to be understood. If they are not properly understood, we cannot possibly respond to them correctly.

3. Anti-denominational Historical Context and Post-denominational Present Context [This is probably an accurate summary of where American Evangelicalism is, but it would be nice to have a couple of studies cited, rather than bare assertion.]

4. Loss of Denominational Heritage, Knowledge and Identity with Passing of Denominational “Fathers” [If this is true, whose fault is it? Is it the fault of the seminaries? Is it the fault of the “denominaitonal father”? Is it the fault of the denomination at large?]

5. Culture of Suspicion and Caricature Perpetuated by Past Narratives (e.g., encroaching liberalism, insensitive bureaucracies, racist agendas, big steeple power) and Present Divisions (see below):

a. Have and Have-not Divisions (size, salaries, recognition, influence)

b. Generational Divides: Builders/Boomers=Institutional priorities; Gen-X=Relational priorities (See earlier discussion of Evangelical generational divide)

c. Regional Divides (Southern identity; Northeastern; and Western autonomy)

d. Perspectival Divides (Creating false and destructive dichotomies)

-Aggressive TRs (eradicating unReformed) vs. Cynical Progressives (abandoning Reformed)

-Doctrinalists (theological-erosion policemen) vs. Missionalists (reaching-the-lost pragmatists)

-Southern Presbyterian Theology vs. Continental Reformed Theology vs. Broadly Evangelical

-Traditionalists (prioritize traditional churches) vs. Emergents (prioritize relational churches)

-Fundamentalists (piety removed from culture) vs. Tranformationists (piety traded for culture)

-Planters (entrepreneurs and innovators) vs. Providers (structure maintainers and shepherds)

-Younger pastors (desiring mentors and shared leadership with peers, not RE’s) vs. Older Pastors (desiring authority and shared leadership with RE’s)

[All of these are probably common perceptions in the PCA. But common perceptions, and conventional wisdom are often wrong. Furthermore, they have the appearance of false dichotomies. Can these divides be documented? Or is this another case of bare assertion and simplistic analysis?]

6. Pervasive Disregard for Eph. 4:15 and Matthew 18 in Discussions of Differences

Our organizational cohesion has not primarily been achieved by shared mission goals, ministry practice, organizational support, worship style, ethnicity, political perspectives or economic status – but by doctrinal agreement. The downside of so valuing doctrine is that we have little tolerance within or without the church for theological variance. Our tendency is not simply to consider those who differ with us wrong – but to consider them bad (because they are obviously “compromisers” or “unbiblical”). It is easy for us to give moral status to our theological perspective – even on secondary issues, and thus rationalize uncharitable characterizations of those who differ (esp. on blogs) [Doesn’t this paragraph display a certain diregard for Eph 4:18 and Mt 18? The way the paragraph is worded strikes directly and intolerantly at those who hold doctrine important, painting them with a broad brush as an intolerant bunch of theological purists with evil motives.]

7. Decline of Confidence in Presbyteries for Pastoral Support or Cooperative Ministry [Is there a documented decline, or has the support always been low. We need data here, which is surely available, not more assertion.]

8. Rise of Networks for Fellowship/Perspective Affiliation

9. Disinterest in (and suspicion of) General Assembly Structures, Positions and Participants (dissatisfaction among young Progressives resulting in a few departures and many discussions, as with TR’s in previous decade) [Once again, may we please have some documentation?]

10. Committee/Agency Non-Support

-Competition re: resources/recognition

-Doubts re: effectiveness and leadership

-Concerns re: relational harmony/cooperation

11. Maintaining Biblical Worship with Cultural Diversity

12. Ethnic Homogeneity both in General Membership and Denominational Leadership (with vestiges of racism despite strong Korean presence)

13. Most Members and Leaders with Little Exposure to Other Cultures or the Global church

14. Significant Consternation Regarding How to Do Theological Reflection in Confessional Church [What does this mean? I think at the very least, consternation is not the word they really wanted here.}

15. Maintaining Biblical Standards While Encouraging Women to Minister in the Church (and how to discuss this without being caricatured chauvinist or liberal; and how to relate to Evangelicals who differ with PCA standards)

16. Generational Divide among Women re: Responsibilities in Church, Workplace and Home (these are not typically issues related to ordination but to contribution and significance)

17. Loss of Youth (secular culture and denominational disinterest causing many of our children to leave the PCA – and the visible church)

18. Lack of Desire among Young Leaders to Assume Positions with PCA’s Most Significant Pulpits and Organizations (perception that they are moribund and dangerous for families) [Again, may we please have some documentation?]

In sum, this section is particularly troubling, since it is filled with the kind of unsupported assertions that the document itself has already called unhelpful. Further, even in cases where documentation is certainly available, the writers of this analysis have not made use of it. The end result is entirely unhelpful.