Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Of Cultures

This gem from James Davison Hunter's very intriguing latest title, To Change the World, p. 102:

Law increases as cultural consensus decreases.

True in society, but true in denominations too? Do we desire to tighten by means of verbiage what we cannot attain by means of consensus? And is such a project doomed to failure? Are we headed towards an ever more fragmented and litigious future in the PCA?



  1. Absolutely true. If you go back to 'forms of order' for the Reformed churches in the past, they were very spare. See Calvin's Draft Ecclesiastical Ordinances.

    Tim Keller

  2. KP -
    The PCA has been headed toward this ever-litigious and fragmented future for a long while. Sadly, 'brethren' in Christ aren't friends in Christ.

  3. Nothing new under the sun pastor. Read a fascinating essay last night about BB Warfield's grandfather, Robert Breckinridge, apparently a perennial thorn in the side of Charles Hodge and Old Princeton, those who should have been his natural allies throughout the OS/NS battle. Zealous, intelligent and a gifted orator, RB nonetheless apparently brought a whopping dose of boorishness to most any debate he entered. The author of the essay thinks that the shadow of his stormy grandfather may have had a positive influence on BBW: "This deliberate restraint, this reigning in of a sensitive and argumentative nature, would characterize Warfield's career as Princeton's lead man in the chair of the Hodges. He would indeed serve as a kind of "fighting man of the church" but in a more Hodgean vein, choosing his battles with some care, treating his opponents with scrupulous fairness, yet taking a clear stand..." Perhaps we should seek to cultivate a more Warfieldian spirit in our own debates.
    Essay by Bradley Gundlach in "B.B. Warfield: Essays on His Life and Thought" Ed. Gary Johnson.

  4. Rob,

    Thanks for the recommendation. I may read that today or tomorrow.

    My fear for the PCA is not that it is going liberal, but that it is becoming Balkanized. When this occurs, people stop listening really to what others have to say.

    We have always had this problem, to some extent, as all human institutions likely do.

    That is not, of course, to say that Balkanization is our only problem.

    I think, in the past, the vociferous ultra right has been guilty of balkanizing tendencies. Yet, I have noticed, in the last several years, they have been very quiet.

    Perhaps I am a bit biased, but I see more balkanizing talk coming from the progressive end, and some of the powers that be, not counting the blogs, of course. Perhaps the bully pulpit is just larger.

    I am grateful for the more visible men who are far more moderate and charitable in tone, wherever they might fall on the denominational spectrum.

    I think being relatively centrist, whether one is center-right (where I see myself) or center-left, is probably the least comfortable position in the PCA. Maybe I feel that way because that is where I am (as I told the search committee, just a wee bit left of Ligon!).

    We all make mistakes in this regard, but I think a good barometer for rhetoric is the seriousness of issues. We can praise Luther or Machen or Athanasius for the sharpness of their rhetoric because the core truths of the faith were under attack. When this is the case, sharp rebuke is a Biblical practice. Personally, I put the FV in this category.

    But, I am hard pressed to think of any other issue we face, or have faced in my almost 13 years of ordained ministry, that rises anywhere close to that level, which is why the current climate saddens me so much.

  5. Question: While I think the characterizations floating around about the differing constituencies in the PCA (for instance in the Strategic Plan) are probably fairly accurate and are intended to help us see what's going on, does naming these groups actually encourage folks to identify with one or the other and thus, albeit unintentionally, further the Balkanizing effect?

  6. Rob,

    Absolutely. For one thing, the person who is doing the categorizing tends to be like the Christ party in Corinth --seeing himself above the fray, without bias.

    And, for another reason, there is the issue of individual piety and persona at work, too. Lig Duncan is a humble confessionalist. I could name you several confessionalists that aren't, or at least don't come across that way.

    And, I would say the same for all of the constituencies. There are men far broader than I am of whom I am very fond. And, there of men of like conviction of whom I am not fond.

    I think one marker identifying men in the middle is that they are willing to vote to ordain men who are broader than they are, whereas more right-leaning folk (and maybe more left-leaning folk too) really want to broker no deviation from their own set of opinions and practices.

    I like robust debate, and think sometimes we shy away from it to our detriment --maybe a sign of the wimpification of our age. But, at the same time, the idea that we must exclude those who do not share our conviction on every point is no recipe for any sort of Christian unity.

  7. Here's a more helpful and thoughtful characterization than the one in the Strategic Plan materials:


  8. Our Balkanization continues to make us irrelevant to the work of the Kingdom!

    B. Lamkin