Difficulties in the PCA

The recently formed denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America, is having difficulties—judging from recent issues of the Presbyterian Journal. This young denomination originated out of the Southern Presbyterian Church (P.C.U.S.) because of the liberalism in the latter body. Now, however, those who found themselves united against liberalism, find themselves divided as to how to handle the Reformed faith. Although traditionally and confessionally Calvinistic and Reformed, the new denomination is struggling with a wide diversity of views within its own midst. In throwing off the yoke of modernism, it has found that this is no guarantee of unity nor a basis for a continuing Reformed church. At least three of the past issues of the Presbyterian Journal treat the questions. It speaks rather disparagingly of the “TR”—the truly Reformed. These TR’s are presumably a class by themselves in the new denomination who insist on pure Reformed doctrine. And although the magazine and its writers claim to desire that which is Reformed, these would make allowances for those with different views: Pentecostals, Premillennials, Arminians, and others. The question is, can these views live together under one denominational roof? It appears that there are many in the PCA who are of the conviction that this is not only possible, but desirable. Rev. William E. Hill, Jr., in the March 16, 1977, issue writes:

A noted Southern Presbyterian theologian of a bygone generation has given a clear and cogent description of the Reformed faith, and the differences between Arminianism and Calvinism in a little book entitled The Gospel as Taught by Calvin. Dr. R.C. Reed wrote briefly but to the point, and he also sounded a note of warning and caution:

“After all, it is largely a difference touching words and names. Arminians believe that the atonement is limited in its application to those who believe; Calvinists believe nothing more and nothing less.

“Inasmuch, however, as Calvinists believe that God makes the application, they say the atonement is limited in design as well as application. But there is nothing in their view to prevent their offering Christ to every sinner and assuring him, on the authority of God, that if he will accept, he shall be saved. ‘Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters.’

“This is good Calvinism; and if anyone holds to a Calvinism that does square with the widest offers of God’s mercy, then he has gotten hold of a spurious : article, and the sooner he flings it away the better.’ ‘Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.’ Any so-called Calvinism that does not chime with this sweet Gospel bell deserves to ‘be cast out, and to be trodden under the foot of men.’

“We ask for no leniency of judgment on any argument or inference that would tend to make the strait gate straiter, or the narrow way more narrow. Above all things, let us believe that ‘Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners,’ and that ‘him that cometh to him He will in no wise cast out.'”

My father, grandfather and great-grandfather, ministers in the Presbyterian Church, warmly embraced the Reformed faith and I fully concur with Dr. Reed’s thesis and warnings as they did.

. . . Some try to rule out what God is doing through Billy Graham and Campus Crusade, saying they make salvation “too simplistic.” But we should beware lest our presentation becomes too complicated. It may not even touch base with the ordinary fellow, and even dedicated Christians are alienated as well, because they do not understand what the preacher is talking about.

Disagreements between those espousing the Reformed faith and other evangelical conservatives weaken the testimony of the Gospel. Such polarizations are unnecessary. “Reformed” and “evangelical” are not mutually exclusive nor should they be made so.

Or Prof. Jack B. Scott, of the Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Miss., wrote in the Mar. 9, 1977, issue:

Now it pains me to say this, but I almost have come to the point where the term “TR” makes me sick! I don’t mean the concept. I believe that the concept’ of being thoroughly Reformed is a commitment everyone of us should have. I believe every seminary should stand for doctrines that are thoroughly Reformed. But that term “TR” has become heinous to those out in the Church. The two basic reactions to it are fear and laughter.

Last of all, the editor of the Presbyterian Journalpresents an editorial in the issue of March 23, 1977, titled, “Lo, the TR!” It gives an account of a younger minister in the PCA who was released from his congregation because he was T.R. (truly Reformed). The editorial concludes:

. . . It is one thing to react against a situation in which the Bible is ignored, the Gospel is perverted and Christ is dishonored; it is quite another thing to adjust to a religion which to the uninitiated appears as strait-jacketed as that of the strictest Pharisee.

If it is un-Reformed to give a Gospel invitation; if it is heresy to tell an unsaved person God loves him; if an Arminian is no better off than one who denies the deity of Christ; if a woman cannot give her opinion in a congregational meeting; if Christmas is of the devil; if the Holy Spirit bestows no special gifts today; if an elder who has served twenty years must be expelled from the Session because he admits to being premillennialist; if a child may not be baptized because the parents have not submitted themselves to the discipline of that particular congregation—if all these, I say, are of the essence of what the Church must stand for (and I do not for one moment acknowledge that they are)—then at the very least the truly Reformed spokesman should approach his assignment the way a women’s liberationist might feel moved to address a meeting of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Male Chauvinists.

That is, treading very lightly.

So the picture is one of struggle in the new PCA. It’s impossible to know all the details of. the struggle taking place. On the one hand, the Presbyterian Journal presents these “TR’s” as harsh, crude, rude, unsympathetic, unloving tyrants who refuse to teach lovingly but will force doctrinal truths down the mouths of spiritual infants capable only of sipping some of the milk of the word. But on the other hand, one receives the distinct impression that there is a concerted effort to down-play that which is Reformed, to allow all sorts of doctrinal deviations (except a denial of Trinity and the divinity of Christ), to place Arminianism alongside of that which is Reformed—insisting that the difference isn’t all that important. If the latter is the case, the future is not bright for this new denomination. If it rejects its Presbyterian and Reformed heritage already now, the inroads of modernism will again quickly be seen there, too.

Herman Dooyeweerd: 1894-1977

Several magazines note the passing of Dooyeweerd, a well-known philosopher from the Netherlands. He was, until his emeritation, professor of jurisprudence at the Free University in Amsterdam. His best-known work was in the Dutch, De Wysbegeerte der Wetsidee. Dooyeweerd sought to carry out the thought and ideas of Dr. Abraham Kuiper. Dooyeweerd has his followers in Canada and in this country especially in the A.A.C.S. movement, centered in Toronto.

Roman Catholic—Reformed Lord’s Supper?

From Clarion, the Canadian Reformed magazine, the following appears:

The. Synod of the Dutch Reformed Church (Hervormde Kerk) has adopted a declaration which could serve as a basis for a combined celebration of the Lord’s Supper/Eucharist between the Roman Catholic Church and the Reformed Church. This declaration, set up by an interecclesiastical committee, especially discusses the “function of the offices” in connection with the Lord’s Supper. It has already been, adopted in the Reformed Churches Synodical.

Schuller’s Branch Church

The Calvinist Contact reports on a branch church of Schuller who is a minister of the Reformed Church in America:

Dr. Robert, Schuller, pastor of the famous drive-in walk-in Garden Grove Community Church near Disneyland, now plans to build a branch near Disney World in Florida.

“The Florida church will be almost entirely a ministry to older people,” he said, adding that its site near Disney World was “coincidental.” The 10-acre site was donated by the developer of an adjacent mobile home park.

Dr. Schuller hopes to form the Florida congregation from among “shivering senior citizens in northern U.S. cities (and Canada)” who faithfully watch his Hour of Power television program.