I pray that the PCA will have the presence of mind to vote this non-Plan Plan down….My concern is not that we don’t know who we are, but that we don’t know what we’re becoming.
Creating a Perspective for Planning (V)
The more one progresses through the PCA’s Strategic Plan, the more the impression begins to force itself upon you that you could be reading something from the Social Gospel. I do not want to impugn false motives on the ones who put this document together. In the last installment I mentioned the references made to the “Global Challenges” facing the PCA and wondered out loud how we expected to remedy the 25 items listed under the heading of Global Challenges, since according to the Strategic Plan the PCA has not been able to figure out what it means to be Reformed over the last 30 years. How, one might ask, can we be looking at global challenges when we seem unable and incompetent to solve our own domestic challenges? I’m just askin’.
Quite honestly, some of the 25 items listed as Global Challenges are, well, laughable. This doesn’t mean that they’re not serious and well-meant, it simply means that they are difficult, if not impossible, to control or change. I am not intimating that God cannot intervene sovereignly and change the whole course of events. I am convinced that he is fully capable of doing just that, if he so pleases. That being said, however, I am not totally convinced that the PCA can do much about Third World debt increasing and leading to greater disparities (item 11, p. 10). If we want to add a 26th Global Challenge, I’d like to add “Islamic jihadists cutting off people’s heads on YouTube.” We can do about as much about that as we can “Russian Federation re-militarization,” which is item 18 or, “Waning impact of U.S. on global economy (and interdependence of all economies), which is item 12.
There is, of course, an economic reason why there is a waning impact of the U.S. on global economy that has to do, in part, with the fact that we have sold our economic soul to a thuggish country like China and our children and grandchildren will not be able to pay the trillions of dollars of debt we’ve accumulated. Moreover, monetizing debt is the most foolish of foolish ideas. If, however, the PCA can figure out how to get the government to stop trying to spend our way out of a recession/depression, perhaps there’s hope that the PCA can figure out what it means to be Presbyterian and Reformed.
Item 4 is so convoluted that most will just scratch their heads and pass on to “Expanse of Global Pentecostalism,” which seems to be somewhat understandable. Here is the way item 4 reads: “Majority World church deserving and demanding influence on global Christianity development and doctrine with significant challenges ahead, e.g., Male and female leadership of Chinese Church vs. Male leadership of Developing World church vs. Male and female leadership of Western mainline & new Evangelicals vs. Male leadership of PCA).” If I still lived in the South, I’d say, “Say what?” This item sounds like a doctoral dissertation in the Department of Obfuscation. What or where might the Majority World church be? If we cannot locate it, how can it be demanding influence on global Christianity development and doctrine? Why is it that many, myself included, have never even heard the phrase before? How does any church, Majority World or otherwise, demand influence on doctrine? Apart from the formulation of this item; it sounds like a veiled, or less than veiled, attempt to raise the issue of “female leadership.” Before I pass on, I want to add my two cents. Whatever the Bible teaches about male and female leadership is universal, absolute truth. Therefore it matters not at all whether the truth of the Word of God is taught in Southern California, New York City, or China, Majority World church notwithstanding.
I want to move on to page 24 of the Strategic Plan, which is “Theme 3: In God’s Global Mission.” The goal that is stated reads this way: “Participate in God’s Global Mission with Exemplary Unity, Humility & Effectiveness.” Naively, I thought that’s what the PCA had been striving for since its inception. If this does not describe what the PCA has been doing, then would someone please tell me what it has been doing? Quite honestly, this “goal” resembles breaking down an open door. But it does get more interesting when we read on. The “Means (General)” says that the PCA should “Provide internal means & will to make the PCA a significant contributor to God’s Global Mission.”
The “Objectives” listed are beyond vague. For example, we are to “Participate meaningfully in the largest expansion of Christianity in world history.” Participating meaningfully far exceeds participating meaninglessly. The number two objective is to “Salt the world movement of Christianity with sound Biblical teaching.” That’s interesting, since the document suggests that we haven’t quite grasped what that sound Biblical teaching is yet. Number three: “Learn from the global church Biblical truths beneficial to our own growth in God’s purposes.” Would someone please point me to the address of “the global church”? Who will decide which of these global truths from the global church will be beneficial? Ah, I know. We’ll need to appoint a committee for that.
In “Means (Specific #1a),” you really need to read the fine print—and it is fine print. Here it is: “Identify & support national & international efforts that develop Gospel eco-systems (e.g. church-mercy-evangelism; church-school-community mission; church-arts/media-outreach; church-university ministry-discipleship.” (Emphasis added.) Then in “Means (Specific #1b)” we’re told, “Fund join research of Covenant College & Covenant Seminary, CEP, MTW & MNA re: the most effective Gospel eco-systems and how to multiply them beyond the PCA.” (Emphasis added.) Boom! There it is. Gospel eco-systems. The “vision of the anointed,” as Thomas Sowell calls it must know what Gospel eco-systems are. If you go to this particular web site (http://renewsouthflorida.com/wp-content/uploads/NAN%20Miami%20%28Keller%20-%20_Ecosystems_%29.mp3), you can learn from Tim Keller first hand what a “Gospel eco-system” is. [Editor’s note: the original URL (link) referenced is no longer valid, so the link has been removed.]
If you’re pressed for time, let me summarize the concept for you. It has three “layers” or “components.” First, at the core is, “an effective, contextualized way of communicating and embodying the gospel for center city residents.” Okay. Let me see if I have this straight. “Center city residents” are people who live in the inner city? What if you don’t live in, say, New York City? What if, for example, you live in opulent Orange County California where even the homeless live better than most of the wealthy in France? What if you live in Des Moines or Yellow Knife or Moosejaw? According to the podcast, “If you have an…effective, contextualized way of communicating the gospel and embodying the gospel for center city residents, you’re actually going to win large numbers of them, it’s just going to happen.” I see. One has to wonder why the Lord never revealed this to his Church before now, because there have been “center city residents” in the history of the Church.
From this core component a whole series of church planting movements emanate; at least 5 or 6. These are “different denominations and traditions, that are using the core…whether it’s Anglican, Episcopal, whether its Methodists, Presbyterian, Baptist, Pentecostal, so on.” Ah, we resolve the PCA’s identity crisis by joining with the United Methodists, liberal Anglicans, and others celebrating the absolute truth that doctrine doesn’t really matter; besides it just divides anyway, doesn’t it? We need to stop being so concerned about how Chinese Christians will view the role of female leadership and abortion and get on with this important eco-movement. If we bring our consummate confusion into the mix, we may solve the dilemma of “Global Pentecostalism,” since they will no longer be able to identify their core values. Great plan. We need to comprehend that in gospel eco-systems, ecumenical cooperation is not optional. It is mandatory. Any volunteers?
Third, there must be various categories of initiatives rooted in, but extending beyond the local church. At least three of these involve social action. First, Justice and Mercy initiatives are essential.
Second, Faith and Work initiatives are equally necessary. At this point in the podcast, Tim emphasizes that Christian artists have to have parties because that’s where art gets done. Really? I didn’t know that. I also thought that at most artist parties cocaine gets done, and maybe a little meth, but hey, I’ll drink to that. Apart from the emphasis on the arts has become a little tedious because we’ve never quite defined it, have we, it seems that we’re striving to reverse the real intention of common grace.
E. Calvin Beisner correctly observes that in many of our endeavors “We depend too much on the insights of common grace, not recognizing that the reality of common grace is the overflow of grace from Scripture through the community of the redeemed to the unredeemed, not the reverse.” This begs the question: Where did we derive the notion that Christian artists need to have parties? Was it because secular, pagan artists have parties, or was it from Scripture?
Finally, Overlapping Leaders from business, the arts, technology, and the church working together to improve the city, form the third and final component.
The Strategic Plan, without giving all the particulars, which, of course, would be a huge turn-off to those not possessing the vision of the anointed, does mention that gospel eco-systems might contain the “Potential drift into social gospel.” (p. 24.) But not to worry, we know who we are as the PCA—or do we?—so there is no danger for us to drift into social gospel! Unbelievable! There is still time before General Assembly. Read this document from cover to cover and please, please, do not overlook the “fine print.” Apart from the draconian money grab that will force PCA churches to donate to organizations within the PCA that they refuse to support, this is a bad document and its implications and applications are very, very far-reaching.
The “fee schedule” it wishes to implement on PCA churches allows no variation and no place for conscience. For instance, my home church pays double to the PCA Administration Committee, but we refuse to pay the “askings” to another PCA committee, which will remain unnamed. Our Session is fully convinced that we have every right to do what we do. Moreover, one can only wonder why not paying the requisite askings would eliminate a delegate from voting at GA. Why wouldn’t the same principle come into play at the Presbytery and congregational levels? I pray that the PCA will have the presence of mind to vote this non-Plan Plan down. It is vague, it is politically correct, and smacks of the Social Gospel. Has the PCA degenerated so far so quickly that we now speak of gospel eco-systems all the while wondering who we really are? My concern is not that we don’t know who we are, but that we don’t know what we’re becoming.
Ron Gleason, Ph.D., is pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church in Yorba Linda, Calif.