The Role of the Laity in the PCA’s Battle Against the Nations: Part II

The Battle for the World: Engaged in the spiritual battle to protect and preserve the Church’s foundational truths.

History records that when the church has failed to discern where the battle lines are drawn around doctrinal controversy, or even that there is a controversy to battle over, it is because it has failed to believe the Word of God, to use it to understand the nature of the battle, and to guide how the battle should be engaged. When the church has failed to stand up against those who deny the authority of scripture, the result is that the church generally has become more like the world, instead of the church making the world more like Christ.

 

Read Part I

As we discuss the importance of the laity’s role in the Presbyterian Church in America’s (PCA) debates over issues of theology, governance, and the culture, we should note that there certainly is plenty to debate these days. In case you haven’t noticed, we are in the midst of a spiritual battle as the nations rage against the reign of Christ our King as He is making all things new and putting all his enemies under his feet.

Of course, this battle isn’t just taking place in the atheistic culture; it is taking place against and within the church. Whether or not Nicholas actually struck Arius centuries ago, the Council of Nicaea was front and center in this battle within the church. The Reformation highlighted the fact that much of the church was losing the battle. Similarly, we need not look far today to see many denominations that have seemingly lost the battle with the culture–such was the realization of those who reluctantly founded the PCA (“the PCA was started primarily through the efforts of ruling elders”) in the face of “a decline in theological orthodoxy, a decline in discipline, and an abuse of ecclesiastical power” (Taylor, Uniqueness, 3) in the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS).

However, while Reformed believers understand that this spiritual battle is taking place everywhere because it takes place even within believers, it seems that it is not obvious to some in the PCA the extent to which it is being waged within our denomination.

History records that when the church has failed to discern where the battle lines are drawn around doctrinal controversy, or even that there is a controversy to battle over, it is because it has failed to believe the Word of God, to use it to understand the nature of the battle, and to guide how the battle should be engaged. When the church has failed to stand up against those who deny the authority of scripture, the result is that the church generally has become more like the world, instead of the church making the world more like Christ.

The PCA was founded by those who decided the battle for the authority of scripture had been lost within the Presbyterian Church in the United States. This account shows that the PCA’s founders thought they would be free from such battles over doctrine once they left the PCUS:

Having been in on the ground floor of the PCA as a “founding son” in 1973, I think I shared the expectation of many who were part of the nascent PCA in thinking that once the new denomination was launched we would be free from doctrinal controversy, that we would be able to devote ourselves to positive endeavors, and that PCA churches would rally to the support of the young ecclesiastical body. In retrospect, thirty-six years later, it is evident that such was not a realistic expectation (Taylor, Issues, 1).

Hardly. The truth is, one needs a scorecard today to keep up with the challenges and controversies within the PCA that are often debated at its annual General Assembly: the Revoice Conference and LGBTQ+ Christiansthe roles and relationships of men and women in the church and society, the Federal Visionrace and Christ’s ministry of reconciliation, the meaning and historicity of Genesis 1-3, and a mishmash of the role of government, biblical justice, and the gospel often referred to by the terms social justice and social gospel.

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I’ve quoted from four works in this series. They are:

The Book of Church Order of the Presbyterian Church of America

Issues Facing PCA by L. Roy Taylor

“Presbyterianism” by L. Roy Taylor, Chapter 2 in Who Runs the Church edited by Paul Engle

The Uniqueness of PCA Polity by L. Roy Taylor, the Stated Clerk of the PCA