Monday, June 29, 2015

Everybody's Doing It

Why Not I?
(That's "me" for those who didn't have strict English teachers.)

When I was a boy (yes, I am sounding increasingly like an old man because that is what I increasingly am), I never found the argument, "Everybody else is doing it" an effective argument. You got answers like, "If everybody else was running straight into hell, would you follow them?" This was the answer for everything from, "Everybody's going skating Friday night," to "Everybody's going to the dance," (this really was getting on the path to hell) to "Everybody's gets to use the car on weekends." 

I note that everybody else is commenting on the SCOTUS decision on gay marriage, so why not I?

Can the church survive the decision? Of course, it not only can but will. It may have fewer numbers or lose tax exemptions, but it will be more distinct from society, there will be less civil religion, Christians will be forced to decide if being a Christian means anything significant, and we will see ourselves more as as exiles living in Babylon than as Jewish believers living in apostatising Judah. To put it in another way, we will live in a context more like that of the Apostolic Church in the Empire than the Elizabethan Church in  England. The church will survive as it has for 2000 years in different places and in varying circumstances. 

The question that troubles me is, Can western civilization survive? There are many things that feed my natural pessimism. Multiculturalism that insists that all cultures are equal. Postmodernism that teaches that all truth is perception. Obsession with race that is destroying what little unity remains in American society. All these things are triumphant in the universities, ascendant in public education, and increasingly influential in the church.  

With regard to the Court decision we face questions such as: Can a civilization long exist that not only tolerates but approves homosexual practice? That undermines the family structure which seems necessary to societal stability? That turns on their heads both the historic understanding of marriage and the confidence that language has meaning? I loathe the disintegration of western civilization as an intellectual tradition and the possible loss of the societal, civil, and political benefits it has produced. God will work out his purposes with or without western civilization and the western democracies, but I have to wish he would work his purposes with them.

There, I've done what everybody's doing. I have expressed an opinion about the SCOTUS decision. Now I want to turn to another sense of "everbody's doing it" that I think in part led to the decision - sex.

It seems to me that what opened the door to the demand for "marriage equality" for homosexual couples is the fact that marriage itself has long been in the process of becoming meaningless. The world of the Beach Boys' "Wouldn't It Be Nice" which existed in high school for my generation (more evidence of my advanced age) is almost impossible to imagine - even among Christian young people.

Wouldn't it be nice if we were older?
Then we wouldn't have to wait so long
And wouldn't it be nice to live together
In the kind of world where we belong

Wouldn't it be nice if we could wake up
In the morning when the day is new?
And after having spent the day together
Hold each other close the whole night through

Maybe if we think, and wish, and hope, and pray, it might come true
Baby, then there wouldn't be a single thing we couldn't do
We could be married
And then we'd be happy

Today everybody's doing it without marriage. To be sure a lot of people were doing it in my youth, including Christian kids. If they were doing it, they might talk about doing it with their close friends, and, if they lacked class, brag about it to their buddies. But they knew they were going against social morality, and if they were a Christians, against God's and the church's morality. As the Beach Boys' song reveals, marriage still meant something. If we were older and could get married, we wouldn't have to wait so long.

If a guy and his girlfriend got caught up in the passion of "making out", and they "did it",  they knew they had "messed up" or "gone too far." Their consciences bothered them, at least for awhile. The concept of immorality testified to the existence of morality. Pretending you hadn't done it and pretending you were virgins on your wedding day was the homage that vice did to virtue, that wrong did to right.

For a long time now, marriage has not been a state-sanctioned (and to some extent-state regulated) permanent relationship consummated by sexual intercourse. Now a wedding is just a ceremony and and a party. It's a spectacle that means at most, "Of the people I have had sex with, including this one, I sort of plan not to have sex anymore with anyone but him/her."  Marriage is not the gateway to sex. People open that gate long before marriage. 

So you have sex with whomever you wish (so long as he/she is willing) whenever you want in all the places available to you without marriage - not your car on lover's lane but your dorm room, a hotel, your apartment, maybe your bedroom in your parent's home. If you really like each other, move in and see what it's like. If you get pregnant and don't want to avail yourself of your right to an abortion, have the baby. Someday, if for whatever reason(s) you decide you want to get married, go ahead, but the day before marriage and the day after marriage are no different, except that the day before you were in your home together and the day after at a resort together. There are no blushing brides and no elbowing the groom in the ribs after the honeymoon and slyly asking, "Well, how was it?" And if you don't like the way it works out, see your friendly divorce attorney who can fix that for you.

This affects Christian young people. Some live according to the new standards. They have sex, move in together, probably avoid having a child, and go to church and Bible study and prayer groups. But, even if they do not adopt the new ways themselves, they do not disapprove of those who do. As they see it, everybody's got to make their own decisions about these things. At all costs, we must be accepting and tolerant. We must avoid judgmentalism - even if judgmentalism does not mean shunning and condemning but simply asserting that standards exist and that all sex outside marriage is wrong. "Things have changed since your day, Dad." "The world's different now, Mom."

I cheekily said, "Homosexuals want to marry for moral reasons. They don't want to have sex before marriage." Well, no. Primarily they want to make a point and compel society to recognize their relationship.  Morality and marriage have very little to do with one another. It's the meaninglessness of heterosexual marriage that creates the logic of homosexual marriage. 

What does marriage mean when everybody's doing it? 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

It's All Bad

But God’s Good

Dresden after Bombing

Old Testament: Lamentations 3:22-33 (KJV)

22 It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.
23 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.
24 The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.
25 The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.
26 It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.
27 It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.
28 He sitteth alone and keepeth silence, because he hath borne it upon him.
29 He putteth his mouth in the dust; if so be there may be hope.
30 He giveth his cheek to him that smiteth him: he is filled full with reproach.
31 For the Lord will not cast off for ever:
32 But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies.
33 For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men.

When my wife accuses me of being a pessimist, I say, “No I’m a realist.”  I felt vindicated when I read a report that said that pessimists are in closer touch with reality than optimists.

Sometimes reality is dark, and it seems nearly impossible to find even a faint glimmer of light. That’s the setting of the book of Lamentations.

1. Sin’s Devastations

  Put yourself in the shoes of a believer walking
         around Jerusalem a few years after 587 B.C.

a.What you see. What do you see?

Destruction. You see a destruction  following the Babylonian invasion of Judah and the fall of Jerusalem. The city walls are broken down. The houses and buildings lie in rubble. The Temple has been destroyed. Perhaps you have seen pictures of fire-bombed Dresden, Germany, or Hiroshima or Nagasaki after the atomic bombs. You would see something similar in ransacked Jerusalem.

Depopulation. You see a city lacking population. Many have been killed in the war. Others, especially the young, the educated, and the skilled were deported to Babylon. Those left behind are mainly the old and weak who are unable to do any rebuilding.

Starvation. People do not have food. That usually accompanies the devastation of war. After World War II the people of Europe, especially Germany, had very little to eat. Army policy forbad sharing leftover food with the population, and caloric intake fell to 1000-1200 daily, 2000 fewer calories than the average American. It was worse in Jerusalem. The writer says:

“All her people groan as they search for bread” (1:1:11). 

“...infants and babies faint in the streets of the city. They cry to their mothers, ‘Where is the food and the wine?’ (2:11.12) 

“Happier were the victims of the sword than the victims of hunger...the hands of compassionate women have boiled their own children” (4:9,10).

b. What you feel. As you look at your city, you have experiences of emotion.

Corporate. You feel what the community feels. As a community they are close to despair, and say, as though they were one person: 

“How lonely sits the city that was full of people!” (1:1)

“O, Lord behold my affliction, for the enemy has triumphed.’(1:9)

“Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow, which was brought upon me.” (1:12)

“Look, O Lord, and see! With whom have you dealt thus?” (2:20) 

“Remember, O LORD, what has befallen us; look, and see our disgrace!” (5:1)

Total devastation has led to almost total despair.

Personal. This is something the community goes through, but also something you feel personally. It is corporate tragedy, but also personal tragedy: 

“I am a man who has seen affliction under the rod of his (God’s) wrath; he has driven me and brought my into darkness without any light; surely against me he turns his hand again and again the whole day long” (3:1-3). 

“ soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, ‘My endurance has perished; so has my help form the LORD.’” (3:17,18)

The writer feels the depths of despair as he lives through what has happened to his city.

c. What you know. If you are walking in this man’s shoes in Jerusalem, you know two things.

God. You know this is God’s doing. The writer repeats this so often, there can be no doubt that he means that God has caused all this destruction:

“...the Lord gave me into the hands of those I cannot withstand” (1:14). 

“The Lord determined to lay in ruins the walls of the daughter of Zion; he stretched out the measuring line; he did not restrain his hand from destroying… (2:8).

“The Lord has done what he purposed; he has carried out his word… (2:17).

Who has spoken and it came to pass,unless the Lord commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the most high that both good and bad come?” (3:37,38).

Sometimes people think they must defend the Lord from any responsibility for the bad things that happen in this world. The say that God could have nothing to do with the things that happened to Jerusalem. But that does not help. For one thing, if God has nothing to do with it, then both God and we are at the mercy of evil forces. And, if God has nothing to do with the bad things, what good is it to pray to him for deliverance? Most important, God does not want us defend him, because he says repeatedly in his word, that he does send such things.

Sin. The second thing you know is that God has caused this because of Jerusalem’s sin. Since the time of Moses, God warned people that rebellion and wickedness would bring judgment. Through centuries he sent prophets to plead and warn, calling them to repent and return to him, and promising mercy and blessing. But they refused. Finally in 587 he sent the Babylonians to carry his judgment. The writer clearly lays this disaster at the feet of the sins of Judah:

“...the Lord has afflicted her (Jerusalem) for the multitude of her transgressions (1:5).

“ there any sorrow like my sorrow, which was brought on me, which the Lord inflicted on the day of his fierce anger” (1:12).

“The Lord is in the right for I have rebelled against his word…(1:18).

“Why should a living man complain, man about the punishments of his sin?”

“Our fathers sinned and are no more; and we bear their iniquities” (5:7).

The picture is bleak. Devastation sent by the Lord in judgment because of the sins of his people.

There are times when we can identify with one part part Lamentations or another. 

You think about all the violence in the world. The bloody, merciless executions of men, women, and children by Islamist extremists. The senseless racist murders carried out by Dylann Roof in Charleston.

Or moral decline and decay. The hook-up culture. The perversion spread across the internet. The lightning quick redefinition of marriage, which is so essential to the stability of society. How long such a civilization can survive?

You might think about the hard times this church has gone through when you wondered if the parish could survive.

Your mind may go to times in your family or personal life when everything tumbled in and you feared being crushed. You might even think of time you wondered, or even felt certain, it was because of sin.

2. Faith’s Expectation

This morning’s Old Testament Lesson comes in the middle of the five poems that make up Lamentations. Right in the center of the book, amid all the devastation despair there is hope - the expectation the arises from faith. Again, put yourself in the place of this believing man in Jerusalem.

You ask yourself, Why are still here? Why are any of us left? The answer is that God’s love is steadfast love. It is love that depends not on us but God’s unchanging promise. God’s has many mercies he shows his people even when they have no reason to expect mercy. Every new day brings some new evidence of his mercy. God faithfulness is large and lasting. Even when it seems he has cast us off, it is not permanent. When God afflict his people it is not because he has any delight in it. 

Human beings are fickle. Their love can come and go. They may be merciful or or mean. Their hearts can be filled with malice. They can enjoy inflicting pain. With human beings you may not know what a new day may bring. There can be an end of human faithfulness either because they are unfaithfulness or because they finally give upon us. 

But  God’s love is steadfast, his mercies are many, his faithfulness has no limits.

Because the Psalmist knows this, he can submit to the afflictions for now, and confess, “The LORD is my portion...therefore I will  hope in him.” What is our portion - our greatest prize and treasure? It can be so many things. Sadly for us it can be that God does not become our portion till we have lost the  things that usually are our portion. The writer has lost just about everything, and he knows the Lord is who and what is most important to him, that the Lord is  greatest treasure and pleasure. So he has hope not in himself or others or circumstances but in the Lord.

Let me tell you why we can know with certainty that the Lord’s love for us is steadfast, that his mercies will never fail, that is faithfulness will never end. It is because of Christ. “He was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace” (Isaiah 53:5).

Pardon for sin, and a peace that endureth,
thine own dear presence to cheer and guide,
strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow,
blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside.

Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!

Friday, June 26, 2015

No Country for Old Men

The Legacy of Dr. Morton H. Smith

It has been asserted to me by one of my younger Facebook friends, who is kind enough sometimes to call me "Mr. Bill" and sometimes "Fr. Bill" but so far not "you old geezer" or worse, that the legacy of Dr. Morton H. Smith is diminished by the fact that he, like most Southerners of his generation, was a segregationist, and further by the fact that he never repudiated his spoken or written words in defense of segregation and in opposition to intermarriage of the races. It should not be necessary for me to repeat this again, but for the sake of absolute clarity, I do not agree with Dr. Smith on these matters. I am probably one of the last true integrationists (as integration was conceived in pre-multiculuralism days), and I hold the right of heterosexual people to marry pretty much any one they darn well please, except that Christian communicants should marry only Christian communicants.

This exchange with my friend, set me to thinking about what Dr. Smith's legacy might be. Here are a few things that might be included :
1. Instructor of B-17 Bomber pilots during World War II.
2. Doctor of Theology, Free University of Amsterdam, under G.C. Berkouwer
3.  Professor of Bible and Department Chair, Belhaven College
4. Original Faculty Member, Professor and Chair of Department of Systematic Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary
5. A Founder of the Presbyterian Church in America
6. First Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the PCA
7. The Only Trained Theologian Among the Founders of the PCA 
8. Professor of Systematic and Biblical Theology, Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary
 9. The Hundreds of Students He Taught and To Whom He Imparted a Knowledge of, Love for, and Practice of the Reformed Faith in Minstry and Other Callings
10. The Christian Character of His Life: Faith, Humility, Meekness, Courtesy, Courage, and Heart to Know and to Do the Will of God

Ten will suffice. I could wish I might have one of the ten as a legacy. But this set me thinking about what Dr. Smith has aspired to in his life. I think that it was that he might be faithful in his time to God, to Christ, to the Bible, and to the Church. I have no doubt that, as well as any sinner I have known, he has attained that to which he aspired.

But, then, this led to my further thinking, How concerned is Dr. Smith about his legacy? Understand that Dr. Smith would never speak this way, but I don't think he gives a rat's ass about his legacy. I think he is well content to leave any legacy to God. 

I told my friend, when he said Dr. Smith's legacy is damaged, that it all depends on who gets to decide. Dr. Smith's generation? Mine? My friend's? But I have reconsidered. Dr. Smith's legacy will be determined by none of us but by God. 

Would I put Dr. Smith on a pedestal? No, I would not. He and I disagree about too many things besides racial matters. He has burned my butt too many times. Our temperaments could hardly be more different. I can't imagine socializing with him.

Merle Haggard sang, "If you're runnin' down my country, hoss, you're walkin' on the figthin' side of me." When it comes to Dr. Smith, there are some folks out there who are walking on the fighting side of me - and not a few others - and I will fight. 

It's becoming no ecclesiastical country for old men. In the case of Dr. Smith it is because he is one of whom his country is not worthy. 


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Heaven's PCA Hounds

The Chase Is On

The Pursuit of Dr. Morton H. Smith

1. Following some of the traffic on social media regarding the PCA, race, and Dr. Morton Smith, it appears to me that this argument is being made:

a. Racism and racial reconciliation are the great moral issues before the church today.

b.  Dr. Morton Smith, one of the last surviving founders of the PCA, on occasion spoke and wrote in support of racial segregation and against intermarriage.

c. Dr. Smith's views and his having spoken and written in defense of them, are not just mistaken, unwise, and unfortunate but sinful.  

d.  Therefore, Dr. Smith needs to be confronted (albeit gently) and brought to repentance for the sake of (1) the honor of Christ and the righteousness of the church, (2) the welfare of Dr. Smith's soul, and (3) the cause of racial reconciliation in the PCA. I believe the last consideration is primary.

2. Several comments in response:

a.  The men who are pursuing this matter appear to me to be mostly young men, though they are not alone. Their self-perception is that they are moved by love and zeal for what is right and just. Youth and zeal I understand. I was once young. Being challenged by older men such as I is not welcome. I remember being part of a group of young RTS graduates whom Bob Cannada sat down in order to straighten out. I also know, mostly in retrospect, that in the Bible wisdom is usually associated with age - with the experience, seasoning, reflection, chastening, and perspective that are produced by living a a good number of years. It is not for nothing that in the ancient world an "elder" is an "older" because communities usually entrusted rule to older men. I also know that the certainly and clarity of youth are sometimes not what they seem and that zeal can lead to mistakes.  

b.  They are not moved when it is pointed out to them:

(1) that Dr. Smith is very old, now 92, and

(2) that Dr. Smith has served Christ and the church humbly, courageously, and faithfully, and

(3)  that one can be mistaken, even seriously mistaken, and not be in sin, and

(4)  that Dr. Smith's own conscience about these matters has been through the years and appears now to be clear, and

(5) that Dr. Smith is a man of his time and place, as were the characters in the Bible, the Reformers, the Westminster Divines, the Princeton theologians, the founders of the OPC and RPCES - and I, and, as one day will be seen, even they are, and

(6) that forbearance and charity would lead to honoring Dr. Smith for his service, without approving his views on race, and allowing him to live out his days in peace before he goes to the Lord.  

3. One Medicare cardholder responding to comments by me regarding the youth of most of those who seem to be pursuing Dr. Smith said two things worth noting.

a. "I do not believe that there is a statute of limitation on sin, especially if the presence of that sin in the church continues to hinder its ministry and diminish the honor due to Christ."

1) This begs the question which he does address later in 
         his post, "Do Dr. Smith's views and his exposition 
         and defense of them constitute sin?"

        2) Let us grant for now his view that Dr. Smith is in sin, 
for I wish to call attention to "no statute of limitation on 
sin." It is impossible that he means all sins; he has to 
mean some sins. Thus, obviously he means that the sin of
Dr. Smith is the kind of sin on which there must be no
statute of limitations.

3) The “sins” for which Dr. Smith is being accountable (his views defended in his speaking and writing) are sins of which the church has now become aware and to which it is now sensitive, and now he must be pursued. Dr. Smith’s views have not been unknown. His writings have been been available to the public. Dr. Smith has served the church without blemish since 1973, but in 2015 he must be pursued with regard to his alleged sins.

    4) This reminds me of the sort spectacle we
have seen when a very old man is discovered who is accused of having served as a soldier in one of the Nazi camps. He is arrested, charged, and eventually rolled in his wheelchair and attached to his oxygen concentrator into a courtroom to face his crimes against humanity. He is found guilty, but then either is released to die at home or confined till death in a prison hospital. Perhaps, this is required to do justice for those who died in the camps and to warn future soldiers of liability. Be that as it may, the point is that what is being suggested is that Dr. Smith’s sins are of sufficient gravity that the church must not allow the statute of limitations to expire regarding them.

b. Responding to me and addressing the question of mistake vs. sin my fellow senior citizen goes on to write: “I understand that some see the views in question as mistakes and not sins. With all due respect, that would ultimately be a question for a Presbytery to settle — simply asserting that opinion may not prevent others who believe the views are sinful from following Matthew 18 and speaking with the brother.”

1) I agree that, if a decision must be made as to whether Dr. Smith’s views are sin, then it is a matter for his Presbytery to decide.

2) Consider the process that would be involved: The simplest way for the matter to get to the Presbytery is for some member of the Presbytery to lodge charges against Dr. Smith. The Presbytery would then have to find the charges in order and proceed to trial. So we have Dr. Smith at 92 appearing before his Presbytery to undergo trial. Is this what you really want? Some are suggesting just that.

3) Consider two scenarios. One is the Dr. Smith is tried and found guilty. That is highly, highly unlikely. But it is possible. So he is found guilty and appeals to the SJC. The SJC overturns the guilty verdict. So, if he is found not guilty or his guilty verdict is overturned by the SJC, now where is the church in terms of unity? What does that do for the sought after racial reconciliation then?

4). One thing that is sure to come of all this is that, in at least some Presbyteries of the PCA, candidates for licensure and ordination and ministers seeking transfer can expect that a new part of the examination will be one’s views about race and what one is prepared to do in the pursuit of racial reconciliation as that is now being defined.

In my view, it is time to call the dogs off.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Somebody Must Defend a 92 Year Old Man

Dr. Morton H. Smith: 
For Three Transgressions and for Four

Most people who have studied under Dr. Morton H. Smith have a story or more about "Snortin' Morton" ("snortin'" not because he used cocaine in class but because he sometimes acted as an irritated bull might), the nickname he was given during his teaching years at Belhaven College (now University). Here is one of mine. 

Because I got married the summer of 1969 I did not move to Jackson and take summer Greek at Reformed Seminary. When I discovered that I could take Systematic Theology with the seniors, I signed up for the two remaining quarters of Systematics in the 1969-70 term. At end of the Spring quarter, I noted the time and day of the exam and showed up to take it. However, Dr. Smith kicked me out of the classroom and did not allow me to take the exam. What was my offense? Discovery of plagiarism in a paper I had turned in? Catching me with a set of cheat sheet notes in my pocket? Axe murder maybe? No. I was wearing Bermuda length shorts and loafers without socks.

I had to go home and change. When I got back I had to meet with Dr. Smith and President Sam Patterson. Dr. Smith told me he did not go into downtown Jackson without putting on his suit jacket, and Mr. Patterson told me he thought the seminary was pretty lenient with the students. It was a clear incidence of what then was called "the generation gap." I was excused from the exam that day, took it later and got an A, and the next year served as Dr. Smith's student assistant. The A and the job may have been make-ups. But I'll take them.

Now, in this day of dress down everyday for everybody and of cool ministers preaching in skinny jeans they borrowed from Carl Trueman, the idea that a seminary student could be kicked out of a classroom for wearing shorts to take an exam sounds like one of those "tales from the unknown." 

The 60s and 70s were years of social and political turmoil. Vietnam (all the younger seminary students had divinity deferments from the draft). Sexual revolution. Race riots. Campus riots. War protests. Watts. Kent State. Watergate. Assassinations of JFK, MLK, and RFK. Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today? Mongomery. Selma. George Wallace. Forced busing. Woodstock. Flowers in your hair. Hair. The dawning of the age of Aquarius. Something's happening here...and you don't believe we're on the eve of destruction?

The point is that the world was very different then in ways almost inconceivable to those under 50 today. It was radically different from our day in terms of race relations and racial politics. Segregation was the norm, de jure in the South and de facto in much of the rest of the county, even as it remains the de facto reality in much of the U.S. today. Interracial dating and marriage were rare and opposed by many. It was Lyndon Johnson who cajoled and threatened till he got the Civil Rights Act passed in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965.

Dr. Smith was born in 1923. In the South. He grew up with and adopted as pretty much self-evident the racial views of white Southerners (and many white Northerners). He believed in and defended segregation. From the Bible. I think part of his argument would be that God created the races, and that what God separated man should not integrate. His view was unremarkable for his day. He was and is a man of his times.

I think Dr. Smith is wrong about race, integration, and intermarriage. He has, I understand, criticized me for my defense of an interracial couple when I was a campus minster of at the University of Southern Mississippi. (I can only imagine what he would say to me if he knew I had become an Episcopalian. I am sure he would be snortin' indeed.) He has on occasion spoken in defense of his view. I remember questions being directed to him in faculty question and answer sessions at the Pensacola Theological Institute. He has also written and published on the subject of race. At the founding of the PCA in 1973 many would have disagreed with Dr. Smith, but many would have found his views unexceptional.

It should be noted that in my experience Dr. Smith never went out of his way to defend his views on race. He answered questions when asked. I do not recall and do not believe he ever taught his views in lectures. I do not know of a single student of his at RTS who adopted his racial views. I do know that some of them, apart from Dr. Smith's influence, accommodated themselves to the racial civil and ecclesiastical politics of the times. I personally witnessed this and experienced its unhappy effects.

Today, the church following society as it so often does, race has moved to the top, or close to the top of the ecclesiastical agenda. It appears that sins regarding race are the great sins that must be urgently addressed. (What constitutes sins of race is another question and a huge one.) There are those who think it their duty to "expose" Dr. Smith, to confront him, and to call him to repudiate and repent of his views.

I think this unwise, unnecessary, unfair, and uncharitable. I believe it needs to stop. I hope that some of the "big boys" who want the PCA to address the matters of race will counsel others to stop going after Dr. Smith.

As I say above, I think Dr. Smith is mistaken. I disagree with his reading of Scripture and of Providence. But I do not believe his mistakes rise to the level of sin. I do not believe his views are disciplinable. I do not believe he needs to be rebuked. I do not think it is right to dishonor him in his dotage. I think this 92 year old man should be allowed to live out his days and die in peace. I think that it is a large mistake to pursue him as some are doing. I think it is wrong to judge his views by the insights and sensitivities of our day. What now seems self-evident, to the point of its being absurd to think otherwise in the view of younger men and black men, was not self-evident in Dr. Smith's day.

Dr. Morton H. Smith served the Lord honorably, humbly, and courageously in his day. I think he should be left alone except to honor his service to Christ and the church.

Below is a news article I wrote for The Aquila Report announcing Dr. Smith's retirement. To it is attached a tribute I wrote when he turned 80.

Morton Smith Granted ‘Honorably Retired’ status 

by PCA’s Western Carolina Presbytery

One the founders of the Presbyterian Church in America, Dr. Morton H. Smith, age 88, was granted the status of Honorably Retired as a minister of the Presbyterian Church in American by Western Carolina Presbytery at its February 25 meeting. Dr. Smith’s retirement is effective immediately.

Dr. Smith holds the Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Michigan, the Bachelor of the Theology of degree from Columbia Theological Seminary, and the Doctor of Theology from the Free University of Amsterdam.

Honorable retirement will free Dr. Smith from some responsibilities as a churchman, such as attendance at Presbytery and General Assembly, but he will continue his labors as Professor of Systematic and Biblical Theology at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, a position he has held since 1998.

The church has benefited from his wide spectrum of service which has included serving as Professor of Bible and Chairman of the Bible Department at Belhaven College, as Professor of Theology at the Reformed Theological Institute (forerunner of Reformed Theological Seminary), as Professor of Systematic Theology and Department Chairman of RTS, as the first Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church in America, and as the Moderator of the General Assembly.

In granting Dr. Smith’s request, Western Carolina Presbytery adopted the following statement:

“Western Carolina Presbyter hereby grants honorably retired status to Teaching Elder Morton Smith upon his request this twenty-fifth day of February, 2012, giving great thanks to God for His kindness to us in the gift of Dr. Smith. As a founder and leader of our denomination, as a presbyter, educator and brother in the Lord, Dr. Smith has been, under God’s providence and by His gracious provision, a guardian of our way, both exhorting and modeling the way in which our Lord would have us to go in His service. We are the better for his labors among us. While his stepping down from active service in this Presbytery is our loss, we rejoice in knowing that he will not slow down, especially when called upon for advice and assistance. There will yet be great churchmen, but none greater. All Glory to God.”

Following is a tribute that was prepared by me for the occasion of Dr. Smith’s 80th birthday:

"I join the many who are thanking God and congratulating you on eightieth birthday. Our Lord has been most gracious to you and to His Church in sparing you these many years.

Your service as Professor of Theology in two seminaries, as Stated Clerk and Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America, and as faithful pastor of Christ’s flock is much appreciated and of great benefit to our Church. The salutary effects of your ministry are seen now in many people and places, but the full effects will be known by us and by you only with the perspective of the coming kingdom.I thank you for your teaching me as a seminary student over thirty years ago. You grounded me in a system of doctrine that has been the foundation of my ministry since I was ordained in 1972. I have told several seminary presidents, as well as others, that, while other professors have their distinctive gifts and contributions, the remarkable thing about your teaching is that you have been able to get across to students a theology they understood, believed, and used in ministry. I am never embarrassed to say, “Morton Smith gave me my theology, and it is that theology that has guided me and that I have preached and taught in every place that I have served as a minister of the Gospel.”

I am appreciative, as well, that you have modeled before many of us and encouraged us to have the courage of conviction. You have stood for what you believe in all the seasons of your life and without fear or favor in the life of the Church. All this you have done as a godly man and a Christian gentleman.

I pray that the Lord will be pleased to grant you many more years of happy and useful service. You will, I am without doubt, fight the good fight, finish your course, keep the faith, and attain the crown of life. When your service is complete, you, full of years, will rest in the presence of the Savior you have trusted, loved, and served, as you await the yet more glorious day when you shall rise to honor and enter the unmixed joy of your Lord.