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.


melissa said...

In the case of the younger generation attacking him....(they have so much energy), it's to me more a case of those without sin casting the first stone. Other folks' quirks/sins are always so much worse than our own. I agree with you. Time to lay it to rest.

Joseph Pipa said...

Thank you, Bill

Jeff said...

I was a student at GPTS from 2004 to 2009, and I had the great privilege of learning from Dr. Smith. What I witnessed was a humble, loving, godly man. He truly loves Christ and His church, and he truly loved his students and treated them all the same, no matter what color their skin was. I never heard or saw in him anything resembling racism, and I know it when I see it, being born in 1960 and raised in the South. So, if there ever was any racism in his heart, what I witnessed in my days in seminary surely had to be the fruit of repentance. I know I'm not in the PCA, so my testimony may not be considered relevant or valuable, but this godly man should be able to spend his last days in peace. And, in my opinion, he is owed a large debt of gratitude for his many years of faithful service. Dr. Smith, you have many more who love and treasure you than the few who are pursuing you right now! Thank you!

Jeff Duncan
GPTS Class of 2009

Amish Ambush said...

Randy was so quick to preen like a peacock that he went over to confront old racist Smith. I am sure this was out of genuine concern for Dr. Smith's soul and not some dog and pony show. Oh, and he didn't forget to mention the race of one of the elders that went with him. That's important! If I am going to lovingly confront one of my brothers, I am sure not going to report on it on Facebook like some 15 year old teenage girl. So let's have it over with, let's slap the scapegoat on the ass and lets get him to wandering the wilderness of South Carolina, bearing the sins of the PCA. Let us smugly say, "Oh Lord, I am glad I am not like that sinner" as we enjoy shopping for cheaply made goods made by the hands of overseas slave labor. Glad these guys can sleep at night after smearing a man who has done more for the cause of Christ than all of them put together. I sure couldn't.

Lawrence Roff said...

I guess I live too far north of the Mason/Dixon line to have been aware of this controversy. As a former student of his in the early years at Reformed Theological Seminary, I look back with gratitude for the thoroughness of his instruction. I learned from him a system of doctrine that he not only knew but also loved, a humble character that he not only expected but also modeled, and a zeal for the gospel that he not only taught but also demonstrated. I have in the past, and would at any time in the future, warmly welcomed him as a guest preacher/lecturer in churches I've served. It's painful to hear such charges as these leveled against his patriarch of the PCA. The things for which he is accused were not things that I heard or learned from him. Larry Roff, RTS class of 72

TJ Turner said...

I have to be honest, it sounds here like a primary reason to suggest dismissing this is that Dr. Smith is old and his accusers are young. You even point out how you were young and arrogant and had to be "straightened out" even though such rebuke was unwelcome. Is it possible that you are reading your own experience into these men rather than giving them the respect that ordained ministers of the Gospel deserve (the double honor Paul speaks of is not reserved for the aged) and answering them on the merit of their accusations?

William H Smith said...

TJ, no I do not think I am reading my expeience into these men. What I did was to try to identify with them both be remembering what it was like to be a young man among young men and by ackowledging the feelings I had when I was part of a group who were called to meet with Mr. Cannada. I have read quite a few of their postings. They deserve respect as ministers, as you say, as btw does Dr. Smith, but they are not immuune from either the misakes of youth or from their reading the past through the lenses what they see as the most important issue of their day (which makes them, as all men, creatures of their times). I have also acknowledged that not all of these pursuers of Dr Smith are young, and my comments are not primarily concerned with their youth, but with what they are doing regardless of their ages or the extent to which age is a factor in explaining what they are doing. I have written three posts, addressing various aspects of their concerns (which you term "accusations" which may be an accurate term, and,if so, unforunate). Perhaps you would like to read the other two as well. I remain convinced that this pursuit of Dr. Smith is both unwise and uncharitable. A part of the reason for that in my judgment is lack of the perspective of time and the prudence of experience.