One role of education, particularly biblically reformed Christian education, is to link together the past and present. Recognizing this link is important in order to understand where we are today. We cannot do that in isolation from the past. Neither is our understanding complete if it does not incorporate thoughts and ideas about the present and future; that would make an idol of the past, and God does not call us to live in the past.
Christians should be aware that life is dynamic, not static. Change is always in the air. But unless we understand our past, which gives us a sense of continuity with something more than the existential moment, we may not understand why we are where we are today, and how we got here. We might get so caught up in change that we change the wrong things, which, in turn, may take us in the wrong direction in the future. This need for balance and my study of people like Abraham Kuyper (see Buy the Book) has led me to develop the idea that we need to be biblically orthodox, philosophically and theologically reformed, and culturally progressive. We must learn to live, though carefully so, on this slippery slope in today’s world where things are not nearly so black and white.
In our postmodern world, few things are the same as they have always been. (For postmodernists that is acceptable because of their philosophical concepts that we have to continually deconstruct and rewrite history to make it say what we want it to say.) Actually, nothing is exactly like it used to be. We only hold to false illusions if we think things can always be the way they have always been. We might wish for that, especially in some areas, but in holding too strongly to the past we can often distort our understanding of the past, present, and the future. I remember when a loaf of bread was 15 cents and gasoline was 25 cents a gallon. I remember when Atlanta’s famous Varsity hot dog was two for 25 cents and cokes were a dime. It is easy to think, “Boy, I wish it were still that way!” until I realize the bigger picture: salaries were much lower then, people were living shorter lives, and many were marrying too young. I have to be careful not to let my maturing years lock me in the nostalgia of the past, which could keep me from serving God’s purpose to this generation because I would focus on myself and not on them. On the other hand I must not let the things of today cause me to neglect or forget the things of the past. As I grow older, and hopefully more mature, (though I feel less and less so the older I get-I do not know nearly as much as I thought I did twenty years ago), I must continue to know God, to know his Word and to know his world and to know myself. (That is a summary of the Christian Education and Publications mission statement.)
A number of years ago when Dr. Paul Gilchrist was editor of the PCA Messenger, the denominational magazine at the time, he asked me to write an article on the PCA. I included several things that I thought important to remember about the PCA, its history, and its current development. I entitled that article, “The PCA: Past, Present, and Future.” As one of the speakers at the General Assembly in St. Louis, I was asked to elaborate on that topic as we celebrated the PCA’s 25th anniversary. As a member of the organizing committee, the pastor of one of the thirty churches that called for the Presbyterian Church in America, a member of the original administration committee, and chairman of the constitutional documents committee, I am often asked why I participated in the formation of the PCA and what is distinctive about this denomination.
Obviously, to call ourselves Presbyterians should reflect that we are biblically reformed in our beliefs and that we follow the Presbyterian form of government in the life of our church. Sadly, modernism has caused “Presbyterian” to mean something different. It has become such a problem that many newly formed mission churches are hesitant to use the word Presbyterian in their title because of its negative connotation in our culture. That is unfortunate because, historically understood, it is a good term. It reflects the principle of “reformed and always reforming.” Clearly this means reforming according to the Word. But over the years, not all reforming was according to the Word. This became such a problem that some of us felt led to stand together and form a new denomination that was “true to the Scriptures, the Reformed faith, and obedient to the great commission.” That became the motto of the PCA! We believed that truth really mattered twenty-eight years ago and that we had to do something to communicate that to the younger generations and give them a framework for understanding that truth does matter.
The lead article in this issue, “Passing on the PCA Distinctives to the Next Generation, ” describes five distinctives that were crucial at the formation of the PCA, and that continue to matter in the midst of-perhaps even more so because of-our changing culture. Many who were children twenty-eight years ago when the PCA began are now emerging as pastors and leaders of the denomination. As they begin to take the reigns, and as they train their own children, it is more important than ever that we understand our past so that we are faithful in the present and prepared for the future.
We suggest to church leaders that they encourage parents to teach their children about the PCA. It is important for them to understand what it is and why it is. One reason we formed the PCA was to communicate to our children and grandchildren that truth matters and that God determines what is truth. We also want our children to know that we are not simply committed to building a future for them but we are committed to building them for the future. Truth matters, our young people matter, and the PCA is concerned about both. The lead article, Equip Tip, book reviews, and camp and conference schedules in this issue will equip you for your own ministry, and help you prepare your children for theirs.