Of Slopes & Church History – An Interview with Dr. D. G. Hart on Slippery Slopes & Church History

B.I.: I’ve often contended that, for the moment, the conflicts in the PCA (and maybe other Presbyterian and Reformed bodies) is between Presbyterians and Evangelicals rather than between the theologically orthodox and theological liberals. Do you think that’s right? Also, do you see evidence of a slippage to something like liberalism in broader Evangelicalism? What are the signs, if any?

D.G.H: That’s probably correct. Do we see conservative Presbyterians conducting biblical study or doing theology in ways that depart from doctrinal norms? It’s not clear other than the flap over complementarianism and the Trinity from a couple years ago.

But if liberalism is more a product of transformationalism or social justice then, yes, there are signs of liberalism in the PCA and other Reformed communions. Some will recoil from the idea that activism is synonymous with liberalism. But if you think the church has a certain work to perform, to minister the gospel, save the lost, and prepare people for judgment day, the church’s mission is inherently otherworldly. That is clear in Paul’s writings such as 2 Cor 4:18: “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Such otherworldliness recognizes that the ministry of Word and Sacrament is way more consequential than urban renewal, police reform, or redistribution of wealth. But often in church history Christians have thought that yes, we have the message, but the church needs to do more in this particular moment. In those cases, the present becomes as important, in some cases, more important, than the eternal. And in that case, someone may affirm the Trinity or the atonement and then say, “So what? What’s it doing for my neighborhood or my ethnic group right now?” And once you have that, you have a kind of doctrinal indifference that if not liberal is adjacent to it, because a believer or church officer does not recognize the significance of what God’s Word reveals.

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