Whenever something happens that seems impervious to plain reason speaking with an open Bible, one starts to look around for an explanation. How is it possible for something like this to happen? The PCA is supposed to be one of the stalwart evangelical denominations, and we all looked away for a minute and then blammo. Here we all are, pole-axed by the impudence.
Not only do we see what is happening, but they know that we see it and decided that the time was right anyway. That judgment may have been correct, or perhaps incorrect, but they thought the time was right for the next normalization move. They thought that the time was right for a little more boundary-pushing. We shall see.
In the meantime, let us try to explain it. The progression of sin works the same way with churches as it does with individuals.
“Who can understand his errors? Cleanse thou me from secret faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; Let them not have dominion over me: Then shall I be upright, And I shall be innocent from the great transgression.” (Ps. 19:12–13).
Note the progression here. Secret faults > presumptuous sins > great transgression.
In a church or denomination, the secret faults would be the things that were covered up, the things that were hushed up, and the things that were paid to go away. This would include situations like mishandled molestation cases, pastoral infidelities, quiet retirements and reassignments, and so on. Secret faults. The presumptuous sins are the sins that are out in the open, but which everyone budgets for. “Oh, that’s just how this works. Politics as usual. That’s just so-and-so.” Presumptuous sins. And then, one day, the whole thing blows up. Great transgression.
On an individual level, let us say that we have a hard-driving CEO of some ministry or other. He has long tolerated his own private lusts (secret faults). Everyone who works for him knows that he has a violent temper (presumptuous sins). And then, when he runs off with someone else’s wife (great transgression), the public is surprised, but no one close to the situation should be surprised at all. Sin is organic, and sin tolerated always grows.
With the Revoice conference, we are now at the place where the PCA is about to allow the great transgression. It might be suppressed for simple PR reasons if the outcry against it is loud enough, without real repentance, but that in my view is unlikely. But real repentance would involve dealing with far more than just this conference. Real repentance would work back up the line, and confess the presumptuous sins, and then the secret faults.
One of the glaring presumptuous sins when it comes to evangelicals engaging with the culture is the pride of place that is given to how something feels. Say an issue arises—families separated at the border, or sex trafficking, or something like that. Such issues really are legitimate issues, but the thing to watch is how they are handled by our evangelical ruling class.
It is like the kid at the Christian school who had to do his science project, and he decided to do something on stars. He does all the requisite work, and prepares his poster board display, and then realizes at the last minute that he forget the biblical worldview part. He redresses this by finding a verse with stars in it, and pasting it in the lower right hand corner of the poster board. “Praise ye him, sun and moon: Praise him, all ye stars of light” (Psalm 148:3). The verse is hauled in after the fact, after all the conclusions have been drawn.
Evangelical social action has deteriorated in just this way. Something happens that makes MSNBC sad, and CNN sad, and so by good and necessary consequence, it makes some Evangelical Thought Leaders (all rise!) sad as well. The sadness is a given. The sadness is the conclusion. The sadness is the imperative. All we need now is a verse.
Now whatever verse is found, that verse is fully authoritative, in its original context, and in the spirit of conscientious application. It has no authority at all when you are using it as a last minute decoration for a godless policy. Say the topic is immigration and open borders. You need to do more than just say “widows and orphans!”
Please note that I am talking about how we do our exegetical work, and have said nothing here about what I think our approach to immigration and open borders should actually be. That is a complex subject, worthy of study. What I am saying is that it is illegitimate simply to take the talking points of the globalizers (or the nationalists) and festoon them with your verse.
But if your process is an unfaithful one, and your feelings are already committed, the only thing that remains is to declare your verse, and demonize your opponents.
So this has been the Revoice process. How marginalized gays and lesbians feel (and the Ts and Bs, don’t forget the Ts and Bs! And the Qs! And the +++s!) . . . as I was saying, how they feel in our white bread churches has predetermined the conclusion of all this. All we need is a verse. In the inspiring words of Isaiah, “He hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted . . .” And someone to demonize and/or ignore.
Incidentally, should we be concerned about how they are going to unpack what we need to do to make the +++s welcome?
In the responses to Revoice thus far, there have been the measured and moderate critiques, valuable in their place (Wedgeworth, Mohler, Walker). There have also been the more vigorous responses that have been pouring hot grease on the guys coming up the ladders (Bayly, me). We may argue pleasantly about which approach is more effective, but please note that both approaches are being ignored.
And so we may conclude with this. Revoice hurts my feelings, and nobody should care. Revoice is a plain and naked play to make open effeminacy an acceptable option for PCA members in good standing, and what that does to my sensibilities is entirely beside the point. My feelings are as irrelevant to this as they are to the movement of the tides. Nobody should care what I think.
Let us modify that slightly. Nobody should care what I think unless I have an open Bible, and I have laid out the arguments. That takes us to a different level. What are God’s feelings about all of this? Given the nature of God’s attributes, what His feelings are may simply be equated with absolute truth.
This is something we ought to care about more than we apparently do.