As the PCA’s General Assembly met this year, the item that consumed most of its energy was the Strategic Plan presented by the Cooperative Ministries Committee (CMC). The primary objection raised against the SP from the floor was its lack of scriptural analysis. It was argued that commissioners were voting on a document replete with sociological analysis but deficient in scriptural warrant. Some were so upset by this that they entered an official protest signed by 128 commissioners. But was the SP truly lacking in scriptural warrant? And is proof-texting even necessary?
From the beginning, the SP has explicitly assumed both the innerancy of scripture and the wisdom of our confessional standards. With those issues settled, the CMC tackled the question, “How do we give hands and feet to our theology in the 21st century?” So while it is true that the SP did not include proof texts for its various assertions, it is also true that it did not need to. Do elders in the church need to be constantly and explicitly reminded that there is scriptural warrant for missions? Or that the Bible calls us to engage the culture? I suppose the CMC could have referenced Matthew 28 and Acts 17. Would that truly have made those uncomfortable with the SP suddenly excited about it?
Moreover, does our tradition have a history of including proof-texts for all assertions? When the Westminster Assembly first adopted the Confession they included no scripture references. The proof texts were added months later. The Federal Vision statement we adopted in 2007, though quite lengthy, contained only twelve scripture references, most of which were mentioned only parenthetically and none of which were accompanied by careful exegesis. I don’t recall hearing any complaints about that at the time.
Our own confession eliminates the need for explicit textual justification for every action:
WCF Chapter I, section VI. The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word: and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed. [emphasis added]
Our confession argues that the “light of nature” (which would include sociological insights) and “Christian prudence” (biblical wisdom and some sanctified common sense) are legitimate animators for church action as long as they are in accordance with “the general rules of the Word.” One might argue that the need for proof-texting is actually an anti-confessional view.
Seeing the Forest, Not Just the Trees
But perhaps the more pertinent question is why didn’t the SP’s detractors make an argument for how it is unbiblical? Isn’t this a far more important issue than proof-texting? If those who signed the protest are convinced that the SP is unbiblical then why didn’t they make such an argument from the floor? Without such arguments the protest comes across as an objection in search of a justification.
As the denomination considers how to implement the plan they have approved, my prayer is that we can move forward in a commitment to do ministry together and that the Holy Spirit would grant wisdom in doing so.