New Opportunity for Denominational Unity in the PCA

These thoughts are republished with permission from the author, Pastor Chris Hutchinson, whose X (Twitter) account is private for reasons of social media sanity. You can find and follow him here. And if you are already following him, you can find the original thread here. I've done some minor editing to convert the abbreviations and colloquialisms of X to long-form writing.

Two Big Moments of Denominational Unity

Federal Vision

I've been ordained in the PCA since 1998, and two big moments of denominational unity stand out to me in that time. The first is when all parties came together to protest the so called "Federal Vision" theology, c. 2004.

I was invited to take part in [this] colloquium early (as one of the minor players). There were many issues, but at the heart, justification by faith alone was at stake, IMO. This brought all sides together.

(If anyone cares, here is a pamphlet-length essay I wrote about my greatest concerns in the discussion, the law-gospel distinction.)

I remember saying to my more "totally reformed" friends, FV is against the Confession. And saying to my "Sonship" friends - y'all, grace itself is at stake. And, as a denomination, we came together to reject the Federal Vision errors.

But theonomy/post-mil/Lost Cause apologetic was also a major part of the FV program. The PCA dealt well with the Justification part. But I am not sure we ever came to grips with the Theonomy side.

(Disclaimer. I have worked with some wonderful theonomists in the PCA - men who knew it was secondary AND acted like it. The Gospel came first. But many can't do that. Theonomy IS the project for them. It subsumes the Gospel, b/c they think it is all the same.) 

Racial Reconciliation

The other moment of great denominational unity came from Sean Lucas's and Ligon Duncan's spearheading our repentance regarding the segregationism of our past and ongoing racial issues.

Another long story but I was part of the effort to delay that by a year, not because I was against it (far from) but because I wanted it to be more a wide-spread effort. (Wrote about that here.) In the end, we came together on this in Mobile in 2016, united.

Some have observed that we seem to have gone backwards on racial issues from those hopeful days. I won't speak to that here. What I will say is I think we have a new opportunity to come together as a denomination, TR's ["Truly Reformed"] & more broadly reformed. On what, you ask?

A New Opportunity for Unity

Christian Nationalism. Disestablishmentarianism. (Yes, I just wrote that word.) These are not minor matters. The spirituality of the Church is enshrined in our BCO's [Book of Church Order's] preliminary principles and throughout the book. And in my opinion, as with FV [Federal Vision], two things are stake ...

Fidelity to our Constitution (yes, the 1789 revisions - what WE adopted) and fidelity to grace itself. Yes, I said it. In my observation, whatever the motives, when someone becomes devoted to CN [Christian Nationalism], the Gospel eventually gets buried. CN becomes the project, not grace.

Just my opinion. And I have no proposals, just the thought that this is something we all (or 90%) of us can agree on. Great breadth of opinion on church & culture is allowed in the PCA. But not this current iteration of CN/establishmentarianism. Let's unite to reject it.

The Problem with Christian Nationalism

The following was an older thread that Pastor Chris retweeted (with the first paragraph to introduce it) and included here for context on the above comments.

And old thread which explains some of my concerns with Christian Nationalism by which I mean the conflation of the Gospel and the sword. It was the majority report in the West for about 1,300 years, but I don't want a RETURN to that. Part of being optimistically amillennial...

The problem with Christian nationalism is not that it makes Christ's Lordship too large; it is that it makes Christ's Lordship too small.

Christian nationalism is too optimistic about what government can accomplish in the moral sphere; and too pessimistic about what Jesus will do through His Church.

Christian nationalism too readily identifies Christ's cause with particular nations or ethnic groups, and too readily dismisses Christ's determination to break down walls between peoples.

Forms of Christian nationalism have done some good in the past, as most things have; but the alliance of heavenly grace with earthly power is always a problematic mix at best.

No sword can ever accomplish what the Cross achieves; and the Cross has no intent to accomplish what the sword carves out for itself. They are at odds and ever will be, eternally.

The Cross is for those meek of spirit; not those made meek by force of arms. When arms are borne in the name of Christ, there is no grace left to tell: Cross becomes cudgel, and the love of Jesus becomes legend.

But the Good News is this. A new heavens and a new earth is coming, inexorably and soon enough. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

And citizens from every nation, tribe, people and tongue will be there, a greater number than anyone can count.

From Pastor Chris Hutchinson's X (Twitter) bio:

@CAHutch1990 Unfamous Minister (PCA) / Married, Dad, Army Vet / Lyme ♿️ / Twitter policy on my substack / Mercy triumphs / FWIW my humility book: http://goo.gl/a2XN7B
chrishutchinson.substack.com

About the author 

Lynna Sutherland

Lynna has been in the PCA since 1982. Four generations of her family have participated in PCA church planting. Lynna has been around long enough to see the good, the bad, and the ugly and her particular calling is to equip the people in the pew to understand their church government and to advocate for victims of abuse in the PCA.

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