NOTE: This article used with permission from Terry Johnson and can also be read at http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2016/06/a-troubling-turn-pca-general-a.php
A Troubling Turn: PCA General Assembly 2016
by Terry Johnson
By and large I have stayed out of the politics of the General Assembly (GA) for the past 34 years. Because I pastor at an independent Presbyterian church, I have not been motivated to educate myself–in a significant way–about the nuances of the BCO (Book of Church Order). If I’m honest, I have to admit that there is much that I do not understand about the RAO (Rules of Assembly Operation). Additionally, I have not followed the implications of the SJC (Standing Judicial Commission) rulings. I have onlytake an active part in GA when matters of worship have come to the fore, such as
development of the Trinity Psalter and the debate over intinction. I have understood enough to be annoyed over a-theological, a-historical reasoning so often employed by the progressive wing of the PCA. Yet typically I’ve not been adequately informed to enter into the debates.This year we had three conventional, par-for-the- course General Assembly decisions that included problematic elements. I’ll describe them briefly. However, we also had one that, in my opinion, included aspects that were nothing less than ominous. I wish to elaborate on that in more detail.
Covenant Seminary changed the name of its Systematic Theology courses, the core of a seminary’s curriculum, to “Missional Theology.” Missional is a fashionable term of recent coinage. This, of itself, is enough to raise suspicions. Systematic theology is where the entire curriculum is supposed to be integrated: biblical theology, Old Testament, New Testament, church history all lend their insights. I’ll never forget Roger Nicole, at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, responding to a proposed revision of the curriculum which would reduce the theological core. Nicole, of even temper; Nicole, who never got angry; Nicole, who never raised his voice; Nicole of cheerful disposition; Nicole turned red with anger and declared that the history of theological education showed that the slide towards liberalism always began with a reduction of the theological core in favor of what inevitably we called “practical” courses. Do our seminary administrators, our permanent committee, or our committee of commissioners know this history? The additional tasks assigned to Systematics, implied by the new title “Missional,” inevitably will dilute commitment to core dogmatics.
[Editorial update: One reader has drawn to our attention the fact that it is important to note that there was no “revision” or “reduction” in the curriculum at Covenant Theological Seminary (CTS). Dr. Dalbey clarified before the Assembly that the same number of hours of the same systematic theology courses are still required. Additionally, Covenant Theological Seminary changed a department name, not course names. Finally, there is a separate department at CTS referred to as “practical” theology that was not grouped in with systematic/missional.]
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