The 41st General Assembly, Part 3: Greenville or Grand Rapids? (The Outgoing Moderator’s Sermon)

2013/07/04

I’d like to imagine some of the commissioners were getting an uneasy feeling in the gut listening to the outgoing Moderator’s sermon. Dr. Michael Ross took the theme of making all things new and steered into conventional fare about how people inevitably lose the fire of their early days. “A convert becomes a conservative.” Yet, this hackneyed theme soon bared its fangs at a segment of the room. Then came the stuff about conservatives as shrill, unloving curmudgeons who defensively react against change. They also aren’t very welcoming. In case some of his listeners were looking for a way of escape, he denounced the straw man of liberals out in the world. He then said, “I doubt sincerely that there is even one progressive, as they like to be called today, in this room this evening. We are conservative people.”

Dr. Ross’ selective scolding starts from poor exegesis. He made an erroneous application of Isaiah 48. It is an abuse of Scripture to make “God making all things new” into a Hegelian justification of new church initiatives and expanding doctrinal boundaries. One would expect that Ross would reject this characterization. And well he should. He should also reject the sloganeering popular with theological liberals for at least 200 years!

The thing that really makes me uncomfortable with Ross’ sermon is that this “God is always doing something new” bit will be painfully familiar to those of us who have already had to leave denominations that have decided that confessional Reformed theology is passé. I was once a member of the Christian Reformed Church in North America. I remember well that the apologists for that church’s progressive agenda frequently appealed to the Holy Spirit and the New Creation motif as that denomination made its final descent into confessional anarchy in the mid to late nineties. I was even told by one of my pastors, as the consistory forced pop-evangelical worship down the throats of the confessionalists, that the elders were just trying to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit!

So Mike Ross wants to warn you conservatives in the PCA that conservatism has its dark side. Never mind that liberalism has a dark side, or rather is the dark side! Yes, there is the false humility and self-correction of “I may be wrong and I may be unkind.” If only we’d stop and think about what we’re saying. Ross dismissed the straw man of liberals out in the world only to make a straw man of conservatism and miss the reality of liberalism in the church altogether! If you have to say “I may be wrong and I may be unkind” you’re probably both.

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