Does anyone benefit from the PCA’s Gleason-Rogers exchange?
I have to admit, I was not able to finish reading Ron Gleason’s most recent article written in response to Kevin Rogers on the state of the Presbyterian Church in America. It is not that the subject matter is not worthy. There are many very thoughtful and theologically astute people who are concerned that the PCA is losing its distinctively Reformed character to a merely Calvinistic Evangelicalism. Gleason is raising important questions worthy of sober analysis, serious conversation, and prayer.
But Gleason is discussing these matters in a way that entirely undermines his own case. I cannot imagine that anyone who disagrees with Gleason would be persuaded by anything that he says. His style of writing swings wildly from sharp criticism to in-house humor, from sober judgment to political cliche. More often than not Gleason tars individuals and ideas as suspect by associating them with unconservative political views or some old liberal heresy rather than actually engaging those individuals and ideas carefully and concretely.
Gleason could use a strong dose of the two kingdoms doctrine to remind him that Christ’s kingdom cannot be associated with a particular political agenda, no matter how thoughtful the reasoning behind that agenda might be. There may be all sorts of good reasons to criticize the political Left, but throwing out the cliches of the Right in the name of defending theological orthodoxy is hardly the place to start.
I do not want to criticize Gleason’s writing alone. Kevin Rogers’s response, which I suggest is just the sort of response Gleason’s original articles deserved, is hardly more serious or thoughtful. And judging by the number of comments on his second response, interest in this debate is waning. There is a place for humor and good-natured jesting, but is this really the sort of dialog that the PCA needs right now? Is this what will help the different groups come together for better mutual understanding and productive criticism? Why does the Aquila Report publicize this low level of debate?
I do not want to or mean to be disrespectful to my fathers in the church, I want to make that clear. I speak these words with urgency and humility. But I also care tremendously about the PCA. Wes White is doing an excellent job posting some helpful materials reminding us why the PCA was founded in the first place (here and here). He’s even offering helpful thoughts as to why the political trends of our day threaten to force the church to have an implicit partisan association. We clearly need to keep talking about and defending the authority of Scripture, the importance of biblical Reformed theology, and the dangers of the Social Gospel. And as readers of this blog know, I take the relation of the church’s public witness to politics very seriously. But the very vital importance of these matters calls for thoughtful reflection and sobriety. Instead of slandering those who care about the Church’s witness to the poor, or about potential tensions between biblical fidelity and confessional rigidity, let’s show the love of Christ by speaking the truth in love and with the goal of building up the church in peace. The PCA may well depend on it.