It’s a good question. To be honest, it seems a bit silly at this point in history to be starting a blog when there are so many robust, courageous, and scholarly outlets for Christians to find solid, biblical content. Why add to the noise, when there’s clearly already too much content to profitably take in?
In a strange way, it’s actually a question related to the other question which has been stalking in the back of my mind as I’ve been working my way through seminary: “Why am I a Bible Presbyterian?” We are only one very small segment of the Christian world, so why one more denomination in the deafening cacaphony that is American evangelicalism?
It is possible (quite likely, actually) that many of you readers don’t even know what a Bible Presbyterian is. Put as succintly as I can, we were the fundamentalist wing of the OPC which left shortly after the break w/ the mainline Presbyterian church under the leadership of Carl McIntire, among others. These days, we’re a slightly more evangelical version of the OPC, only much smaller and still possessed of some of our fundamentalist heritage, such as a broadly cautious attitude about alcohol and a general adherence to premillennial eschatology. To be completely fair, there are quite a few within the BPC who are not hostile to the consumption of alcohol and are not premil (such as myself, for example), but I found myself continually pushed toward the same questions:
Why does the BPC exist at all, if these other denominations really are true, God-honoring churches?
Are we, as a denomination, persisting in sin by refusing to reconcile with our Christian brothers?
Wouldn’t I be more at home in the PCA, or the OPC, where my millenial views and attitudes toward alcohol would be “normal” rather than eccentric?
Can I be a Bible Presbyterian if I don’t really consider myself a fundamentalist?
None of these are easily answered, and my intent here is not to provide a thorough and exhaustive discussion of issues of meaningful separation between churches. To be completely honest, when I began seminary 5 years ago, I legitimately expected to end up somewhere other than the BPC, partially for some of the concerns stated above, partially becuase the denomination has shrunk to the point that finding a vacant pulpit in a BP church is difficult. However, taking the slow track of doing seminary on top of full-time work in the secular world, starting a family, serving as an elder, etc… have all given me time to gain a more fruitful perspective on the BPC and a wider perspective of the conservative, Reformed world in which we walk. The entire sphere, encompassing not only our Presbyterian brethren, but also Reformed baptists, is a much more complicated and confusing place than I had known. The egalitarian/complimentarian debate in the PCA is a confusing and disheartening one to me, as such issues were formative to the founding of that denomination but have since become significantly muddled, both in doctrine and practice. The SBC seems like an almost scary place at the moment, with outright hostility between Calvinistic and Arminian factions coming to blows rather frequently. Despite meaningful efforts to denounce theological distortions like Federal Vision or the New Perspective on Paul, such doctrines and their proponents still remain massively influential among conservative, Reformed churches today. If larger denominations, with their formidable academic and popular muscle, are unable to resolve such serious conflicts, what do we even hope to bring to the conversation?
The BPC is in a unique position these days, partially becuase of our relative isolation. We have many ministers and congregants who have watched the issues which beset our Presbyterian brethren in other denominations, but who have not become embroiled in them. While we are certainly interested observers, we carry little of the baggage which other denominations have accrued through the manner in which they dealt with the conflicts described above. Certainly, we have our own baggage, but it is of a notably different type. The spectre of the dispensationalism, which was tolerated in the early days of the denomination, still pokes its head around the corner occasionally, more often in simple turns of phrase and broad attitudes than explicit theological affirmation. The political activism which was so central to Carl McIntire’s ministry still echoes in a general willingness to speak more openly and boldly about politics and social morality than other denominations in our milieu (as well as a certain wistfulness for the cultural environment of yesteryears and a corresponding pessimism toward the current national morality). Sometimes this is expressed in an admirable courage to speak to national depravity, and sometimes it is an unhealthy expectation of politics as the salvation of the church. Much of this might well cause us to appear as a cultural artifact of a different era, and to be honest, there’s a fair bit of truth in that. The point I want to make is that this is bane and boon together.
I’m legitimately hopeful that this timely anachronism is what you’ll see in this blog. My wager is that you will read some articles which display attitudes which seem to speak from a perspective which, frankly, barely exists in culture today, as well as polemics which are located in the current cultural controversies in the Christian world. We are, in a meaningful sense, a church out of place, and I hope that means that we can speak a distinctive voice into a culture which has forgotten much of that which it used to know. When we forget the battles fought in years past, when we burn our former heroes in effigy for their sins rather than understanding their true purposes and contributions, we make those battles necessary again. Fundamentalism was a movement with virtues and vices, like any movement, but you will rarely find anyone these days who will speak a whisper in favor of it. We have walked in the ranks of the fundamentalists for many years, and have seen the sins and successes of such men. We understand the ups and the down, and who we are today is very much the product of who we were.
I will say that I have benefitted greatly from coming up in a basically fundamentalist church and denomination. I have a respect for the authority and inerrancy of scripture which is increasingly rare in the American church of our day. I absolutely share our denomination’s committment to understanding the implications of the gospel in every sphere of society – religious, political, social, and everything between. I love that the teachers and pastors in our churches transparently love the gospel, study it rigorously, and speak it boldly into our society and relationships. I love that we are unashamed to be seen as odd, in the eyes of the world, for the sake of the gospel.
I hope you will see the same things in the writing of the contributors to this site. May all the glory be to God.