The thing about gravity is that it is the law. Same pretty much goes for water current. It just is. You don’t have to do anything for these realities to do their thing. They are pulling, tugging, and carving, and they are changing you, taking you places, even if you aren’t doing anything. And frequently because you aren’t doing anything.
Call this the Second Law of Thermodynamics applied to culture. Or maybe it’s just Original Sin, but the point is that the systems of the world, human societies, families, churches, nations — apart from the restraining, redeeming grace of God empowering men to remain vigilant and diligent to keep and guard the truth — all human associations are set to “implode.” The implosion tends to be fairly slow — slow enough for some astute cultural commentators to call the whole thing “progress.” Look! They cry, with boyish glee: The mold has grown hair! Conservatives staunchly favor a much slower implosion, while the progressives compete for maximum implosion points.
Switch metaphors, and imagine the number of germs, fungi, viruses, and generally yucky things in and on your body at this very moment. To be honest, you and I are both thoroughly infested. What does your body have to do to succumb to the next sickness? Nothing. In fact, this is what immune disorders are. Diseases that attack the immune system are smart cluster bombs. They attack the body’s defense mechanisms first, and having neutralized the security team, the viruses are free to ransack the body at whatever pace they like. If the body’s secret service agents are all hog tied up in the epithalamus, it doesn’t really matter if you’re feeling fine. You’re actually dying. The sickness is unto death. It’s just a matter of time.
Now all of this is an admittedly long introduction to the simple point I want to make about recent General Assembly PCA doings. I made a few observations on the social medias, and as that conjured a few questions, I thought a more lengthy explanation was in order.
I wrote in one place, “The fact that the PCA *debated* whether to adopt something like the Nashville Statement and the vote was something like 800-500 tells you how bad the cancer is. This was not a victory for conservatives. It was a biopsy of the denomination. The results show us that the PCA has cancer in almost 40% of its lymph nodes. This is stage 4, and apart from radical chemo repentance, this cancer metastasizes and the PCA is dead.”
Now, I grant that some of what I wrote here could be taken in a couple of different ways. What did my emphasis on the word “debated” actually mean for example? This was intentionally a little ambiguous and let me explain why. My point was not that debating is unhealthy or that good men with good intentions could not vote “no” for legitimate concerns. My point was that the fact that something like this needed to be debated tells us how bad things are. And this is admittedly complicated. Some things that need to be debated are already a shameful spectacle. Imagine explaining to John Calvin the need to write the Nashville Statement, much less get the elders of the churches of Geneva to commend it to their congregations. No, Calvin, these men aren’t actually planning to sodomize any men, but they are strongly tempted to sodomy and find it useful to congregate together, identify themselves with this temptation, and to talk about it a lot. Some of them think there’s some unique gift inherent in the temptation to sodomy. Imagine explaining that to John Knox or Jonathan Edwards. Imagine explaining it to the founders of the PCA fifty years ago. The fact that we are having this conversation is an indication of how deep the rot goes. The thought that such a thing would be needed would appall our forefathers. The thought occurreth not.
But this leads to the second sense in which I meant what I wrote about “debate,” and that is that if the thought ever did occurreth to the esteemed fathers aforementioned, the thing would have gone down in 15 minutes like post haste, like a freight train, like mom’s oatmeal cookies fresh out of the oven, crumbling in your mouth, with a large glass of whole milk. And what I mean is that if the fathers could be prevailed upon to see the need to state clearly what sex is for and who may have whom in their beds and what it means to be a man and the shameful sin of effeminacy, they would have passed the thing like it was one of those green, fuzzy balls at Wimbledon, like it was a question about Hillary’s servers at the Democratic Presidential debates. The only difference would be that they would all have likely passed something with a bit more biblical starch than the Nashville Statement. I mean the Nashville Statement was fine. It was decent. It was a bare minimum of biblical. But John Knox probably would have just sent up a bunch of Bible verses about not having sex with barnyard animals, Romans 1, the monstrous regiment of women, and the curses of the covenant hurled from Mt. Ebal, with probably more than a few Hells and Damns sprinkled over the whole thing, and a call to repentance and faith in the cleansing blood of Jesus, all in a thickly curdled Scottish accent.
So I said this whole thing was not some great victory for conservatives but rather a biopsy of the whole denomination, and lo, the cancer is deep in the lymph nodes, as around 500 delegates voted against it, roughly 40% of the assembly. Now granted, maybe the 40% figure was a bit low, but I was primarily taking the word of Pastor Greg Johnson who posted on Twitter regarding the whole business on the next day (since removed) — he being the pastor of the Memorial PCA, the host of the original Revoice Conference. He said that 40% of the PCA rejected the Nashville Statement and that is the future of the PCA. Of course, some in that number likely voted “no” out of procedural or constitutional concerns, some no doubt anointed by the spirit of John Knox wished for something with more of the peat bog in it, but initial reports are that most of the voiced opposition simply saw Nashville as too harsh. They wanted more words like “broken” and “hurting” and “heartache” and “apologies” and “intimate” and “mithional” and “thacramental” and “perichorethith.”
But the real kicker, as the men over at Warhorn pointed out, was the sharp contrast between Greg Johnson’s reception on the floor of GA and Steven Warhurst’s. Greg Johnson, host pastor of the first Revoice conference, urged the GA to vote “no” on commending the Nashville Statement , and he was applauded. While Steven Warhurst, speaking in defense of another overture regarding the basics of biblical sexuality, was interrupted by objections when he had the audacity to explain what the Bible actually teaches about sodomy and the grace of shame that accompanies that sin and temptations to that sin.
So put all of this together: we find ourselves needing to defend what the Bible teaches about basic sexuality and we get a document that does an OK job of addressing the issues but fails to deal a clear and crushing blow to the whole movement. Meanwhile, the Missouri Presbytery investigates the Revoice Conference and Greg Johnson and comes back with a report that says there were faults on all sides, especially with all the internet articles raising concerns, and that while some of the Revoice guys could have been more clear and more careful, they’re a bunch of really great guys who are really trying to help, like, really hard and, omigosh, they are so cute in short shorts. And I should note that the link provided doesn’t say anything about Greg Johnson or any of the other Revoicers in shorts, let alone short ones. The point is simply that the committee was stacked with Revoice sympathizers. And don’t forget that Covenant Seminary is in St. Louis where many future PCA pastors are being groomed, er, I mean trained.
And meanwhile, Greg Johnson is applauded, not frogmarched to the SJC or back to his presbytery and promptly charged to repent of his effeminacy and recant his public teaching in defense of gay orientation. Where were the men who had the courage, or dare I say, the balls, to stand up and denounce Greg Johnson’s open and flamboyant homosexuality on the floor of GA? Where are the charges that have been filed? Where are the complaints piling up in the office of the Stated Clerk and Moderator for letting an openly celibate-gay speak publicly, let alone be cheered and applauded? That was shameful.
And this is why I fully agree with Greg’s assessment that the Revoicers and their sympathizers will eventually win the day in the PCA, if he is not promptly disciplined by men who love Jesus more than the praise of men, by men who will actually love him and will not flatter him and his lusts.
And this brings us at long last to that PCA canoe, sitting apparently rather placidly out in the middle of the water of our culture. There are birds chirping in the trees, a frog croaks somewhere in the bushes, those little water bugs are doing acrobatics across the shiny surface. And people object, aren’t you being extreme? Nothing bad has happened. Look, at all the good the PCA is doing. All is calm. Aren’t you being divisive? And why are you being so hard on the PCA, when you aren’t even in the PCA?
Do not forget that many of the other mainline denominations that have come to accept and endorse homosexual practice began by accepting the category of “celibate gay” orientation. The ELCA Lutherans had allowed celibate gays prior to 2009, when they finally accepted homosexual practice. The church of England has done much the same. It is not being divisive to point out the exact same play being run on my brothers in the PCA. And the reason I’m being so hard on the PCA is twofold: first, I’m doing unto them what I would have them do to me (and the CREC) if we were drifting into infidelity to Scripture, and second, I consider the PCA a very near relative theologically and what is accepted in the PCA is only a matter of time before it is seeping into my water supply and is becoming mainstream throughout conservative presbyterianism.
Or change the metaphor: Some brothers might object: Look, I’m a perfectly good shin bone, no cancer here. And I talked to one of my good friends right after GA, and he’s a perfectly good pectoral muscle. He voted “no” on the Nashville Statement because he thinks we can do better than that. And don’t forget that the PCA declined to include non-ordained folks on denominational boards. Sure. I’m not saying nothing good is happening in the PCA. Neither am I saying anything one way or another about your church or your pastor or the shin bones or the pectoral muscles. But your immune system is dead. The security guards are all gagged and tied up somewhere in Dallas. The PCA commending the Nashville Statement was like a cancer patient deciding to take some Flintstones vitamins. Could it help? Sure, possibly, maybe. I’m glad it passed. I really am. But vitamins really only help a body that has a functioning immune system. The terrible temptation facing the conservatives in the PCA right now is to breathe a sigh of relief right at the moment where they need to pursue and discipline to have any hope of survival.
Which reminds us of that canoe we left up there on Placid Presbyterian Pond. Only turns out that Placid Presbyterian Pond is currently being fed by Vile Affections, a dirty little stream that flows out of Mount Pride, and there’s a twisted undercurrent pulling gently but firmly right to the edge of Homo Falls. The only thing you have to do to go over the Falls is nothing. And at the moment the PCA has no paddles, no anchors, and apparently no sailors. The only folks in the canoe are arguing over whether to lean aft or leeward. This is what they call in presbyterian circles a “Study Committee.”