This text just added as an addendum to our first Revoice post:
Yesterday I talked with a dear father in the PCA who had just read this post and remonstrated with me over the statistics and my laying the blame for the condition of the PCA and Revoice at the door of Covenant Theological Seminary. He was not pleased with me; and yes, I care very much about it.
First, about the stats: from the very beginning I’ve heard questions similar to this father’s—namely, that the sample size was too small to be statistically significant and that even those who did identify themselves as affiliated with the PCA likely did so inaccurately. It was these questions that caused me to contact Pew several times with specific questions, each of which they welcomed and answered graciously.
First, I questioned Pew about the accuracy of people identifying themselves with the PCA. In response, they kindly gave me the copy of the questions that had to be answered before anyone was labelled “PCA.” Those questions are included in the footnotes to this post, and have been so from the beginning. This allows readers to come to their own conclusions about the accuracy of the PCA identity in the polling. Keep in mind that each of the denominational identities would have been determined in the same way, and thus the Pew’s findings about some other denominations would also be called into question.
Second, no one has questioned Pew’s stats on other matters concerning the PCA contained on the same page as their stats on the PCA’s position on abortion and homosexuality. Say, for instance, their breakdown of the PCA by age, education, race, etc.; if Pew’s identification of survey participants’ denominational affiliation was wrong in connection with the PCA, it hardly seems possible that the errors would be limited to views on abortion and homosexuality.
Third, even if we were to exchange the findings concerning the PCA for findings about “Evangelicals,” that exchange provides us little comfort since only 55% of Evangelicals believe homosexuality should be discouraged and only 64% oppose homosexual marriage. Is this really significantly better than the PCA when we consider this means one out of two Evangelicals thinks homosexuality is fine and one out of three thinks homosexual marriage is fine?
Regardless of our denominational affiliation and theological tradition, Pew’s Religious Landscape Study is devastating to those of us who still believe the pulpit leads the world. Who can deny the way God has used preaching and pastoral care to lead and guide His people in past centuries? Is there any reason to believe our preachers and pastors both Evangelical and PCA are less influential today and therefore not responsible for these awful realities in our churches? Can anyone deny that it is the pastors of the PCA who are responsible for (at very best) one out of every two of the souls under their preaching and authority believing homosexuality is fine and one out of every three believing homosexual marriage is fine, also?
Like pastor, like people; and like seminary, like pastor. Any construction we put on Pew’s Religious Landscape Study is damning to us pastors and to those who trained us. We have not preached the law of God. We have not preached repentance. We have not led and catechized the children of our congregations toward their witnessing a good confession. We do not fear God. We do not teach our sheep to fear God. We do not consider that we will give an answer to God for the destruction of our sheep.
Readers may respond by saying, as my dear father-in-the-faith did last night, that this all does not match our personal experience of the PCA. This father, for instance, said he has sat on his presbytery’s Candidates and Credentials Committee for decades and the Pew stats don’t reflect his experience of PCA pastors or graduates of the PCA’s seminary.
I cannot argue with your experience, but I can say these stats are what I would expect from many of the PCA pastors I’ve known.
Yes, it is possible the PCA stats were off by ten to fifteen percentage points, but really, that’s no comfort—none at all. And if the death of submission to God’s Moral Law we watch sweeping across the Church in the Western World today is not the responsibility of pastors and those who train them, whose fault is it? Surely we’re not going to say it’s the world that’s the problem—rather than the Church and her shepherds? Surely we’re not going to argue the church today in North America retains her salty savor and has not hidden her light?
It saddens me that writing these things causes many to condemn us. It especially saddens me to bring pain to this father’s life at this time.
Yes, I could be wrong both in my trust of these stats and in my assigning blame to (in this particular case) the pastors and in-house seminary of the Presbyterian Church in America. It is true that many good shepherds have been trained at Covenant Theological Seminary. By God’s grace, maybe you (or your pastor) are one of them? If so, I praise God for your faithfulness, and delight in it. I know excellent men who were trained by CTS, but strangely those men are not the ones complaining we have had it wrong in what’s been written about the PCA and CTS in these Revoice articles we’ve published.
May God bless the PCA with fruit that lasts. May those men now responsible for the PCA have wisdom to do what’s necessary to clean her up. That this work needs to be done seems to me indisputable.
Remember the Apostle Paul’s words at the end of his life and ministry:
Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.
You are aware of the fact that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes. The Lord grant mercy to the house of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains; but when he was in Rome, he eagerly searched for me and found me—the Lord grant to him to find mercy from the Lord on that day—and you know very well what services he rendered at Ephesus. (2Timothy 1:13-18)