I’ve been away for a week, resting up from the convocation and for whatever lies ahead. I was out of email contact, so I wasn’t able to see the latest comments on this blog. There have been a couple of significant ones, with similar themes, so I’d like to address them here.
The first theme addressed my comments on the need for the church to be Scripture centered in order to teach and protect us and our children. One comment stated “We cannot protect our children from bad influences in the world or in our church.” The respondent went on to say, “In a church like the PCUSA we are in a unique and privileged position of not being able very much to avoid the current fads of unbelief, as they go right through our church, which forces us to know them and to answer them.”
I don’t think for a moment that we can avoid contact with the bad influences in the world, but I do believe that we can provide protection against whatever in it is harmful. A good analogy is driving. We teach our youth the rules of the road for their protection. If they ignore them, it is to their peril (and, perhaps, anyone else on the road with them). The fact that we teach the rules is because we KNOW that they will encounter bad driving and dangerous situations. So it is, I believe, with Scripture and life. Scripture sets out what is right. If we truly KNOW it, we will fare better by acting as God created us to act. Just as good drivers occasionally fail the rules of the road, all of us occasionally faith Scriptural precepts. That we do is occasion for confession, not the abandonment or diminishing of Scripture’s role in our lives.
I don’t see what is positive about our “unique and privileged position” in the PCUSA. If we were Biblically addressing what is happening in culture, that would be great. Trouble is, we seem to be joining culture as quickly as we can cast off the restraints of a common-sense understanding of Scripture.
A second theme is about the focus on sexuality. The reason this blog has been focused there is because our denomination is focused there. I didn’t ask that we have a conflict over sexual mores. People have come into or out of our denomination demanding change, creating the conflict. Not to respond would be unfaithful. If the current debate were over greed, or gluttony, or any other human failing being redefined as a “good” part of God’s creation, that’s what the subject would be. That we are talking about this now in no way means that I ignore other important issues.
The third theme is about all the negativity concerning the PCUSA. If you believe that this is made up, I believe that you are in denial. If you believe it is true, but that we shouldn’t address it, I believe that you are in even more dangerous denial. The issues we are addressing are not minor. They go to the very foundations of our faith.
There can come a time when the negatives so outweigh the positives that it is a form of denial to “balance” things. When you go to the doctor with a particular complaint and she diagnoses a life-threatening condition, the focus will need to go there. If you’ve been having chest-pains, it’d be smart to talk about them instead of addressing a sore knee.
Our denomination has been declining for the last 40 years. This decline has to do with demographics, theological disagreements, and moral tension. Those of us in renewal groups have joined them to try to bring these issues to the attention of the denomination while there was time to change.
Sadly, it seems that such a time may be past. The 217th General Assembly demonstrated that, faced with the naked truth, the denomination still supported falsehood. It was not and is not open to change that will effect spiritual and numeric growth. If a patient ignores the doctor’s diagnosis and treatment, the doctor moves on, leaving the patient to his own devises.
I wish that I could say more good about our denomination. I realize that there are good Christians throughout the PCUSA. I see acts of love and kindness because of this denomination in response to tragedies like the Katrina disaster. But—unless the negatives before us are addressed and corrected—there will be little or no opportunity to maintain or increase the good that is being done.
Unless we begin to reach out effectively to younger people, there will be no PCUSA in just a generation. Unless we begin to affirm a Biblically consistent theology, the Lord will not bless this denomination or others through it. I believe that we are on an incredibly slippery slope toward demise.