Experiments in the social gospel never end well.
The conversation which is currently swirling about this issue is actually a really compelling example of how the PCA is evolving, as well as how to actually pursue resolution of divisive issues which necessarily invade the public sphere. This article which Todd released today gives me some hope that the discussion around this might actually be civil and productive, but I do feel like the podcast the original article references may serve as a lightning rod for many of the issues circulating in the PCA.
My take on this issue is that there has been a legitimately confusing blurring of lines and a coalescence of unfortunate alliances. The podcast the first blog article criticized makes the significant error of conflating race and gender as analogous issues. The hosts (and guests) make other related mistakes, like buying into the whole “gender is a social construct” line put out by the left today, but the essential error is that they tend to bring a lot of civil rights language to the gender discussion in genuinely destructive ways.
On the other side, I believe that Todd’s complaints are generally valid, but there is a sense in which we should acknowledge that there certainly are still serious strands of misogyny and racism within the PCA (as well as other conservative, Reformed denominations). It is absolutely necessary in this conversation to make it clear that it is worth objecting to misogyny and racism, but that such objections can not be made on the basis of invalid, ungodly, and destructive theological constructions such as liberation theology. When we admit such constructions into the conversation, they inevitably highjack the conversation and provide space for the undermining of biblical truth (such as arguing for “marriage equality” and the legitimacy of transgender identities, both of which are obviously unbiblical).
This all being said, we should acknowledge that what we have here is essentially a complaint looking for a theology. When the hosts of Truth’s Table feel a deep complaint (about racism, misogyny, whatever), they go fishing for theology to fit that complaint. They theology they find – liberation theology – says what they want to say, so they co-opt it into the conversation. This is bad, BUT if we dismiss the complaint entire because it is wedded to bad theology, we remain sadly blind to the underlying issue. Is racism evil and unbiblical? Yes. Is misogyny not only evil, but a serious and pervasive problem in the conservative church? Yes. The difficulty is that we need to address these problems from the basis of a proper, Reformed theological construction, rather than letting the more extreme voices in the conversation determine the agenda. Polemical approaches are necessary to addresses error, but polemics, poorly restrained, breeds polarized theology. Please keep this in mind when having conversations about these issues.
It is probably too late to go back to the hymnal. I am not at all convinced we ought to. But it is still worth considering what we lost along the way and how congregational singing has been utterly transformed by what may appear to have been a simple and practical switch in the media. That little change from book to screen changed nearly everything.
Please note that I actually disagree with Challies in his final evaluation (mentioned above), but I do believe that he puts his finger pretty clearly on what the shift of many churches from hymnals to projected media has caused. I think the ultimate question we need to ask is whether the issues he mentions are worth fighting for or not. My personal is evaluation is that, yes, they are, but hymnals come at a serious cost of accessibility as well. It is not a lossless equation.