Diversity in the PCA: enforcing peace rather than forging unity...

Error message

"...until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man..." (Eph. 4:13)

The fifth key area identified by the PCA's Cooperative Ministries Committee was "Practicing diversity well in the PCA" (first, here; second, here; third, here; fourth, here):

Practicing diversity well in the PCA – particularly, theological diversity within our confessional parameters, ethnic diversity, generational diversity, urban-suburban-small-town-rural diversity, worship style diversity, philosophy of ministry diversity, etc.

"Diversity" is one of those words that makes an alarm bell go off in my head. The same goes for Stanford professor Thomas Sowell:

If there is ever a contest for words that substitute for thought, “diversity” should be recognized as the undisputed world champion. You don’t need a speck of evidence, or a single step of logic, when you rhapsodize about the supposed benefits of diversity.

"Diversity" is not a Scripture-word...

Scripture shows us diversity in unity but never diversity for diversity's sake. God's Word speaks of a variety of gifts but all of those put to use in that one Body, the Church (1 Cor. 12:12); God's Word speaks of people from every nation, tongue, and tribe who come together in that singular multitude standing before the Lamb, all clothed in white robes (Rev. 7:9); God's Word speaks about how the justifying work of Jesus Christ makes a disparate group into a singular whole: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:28).

Unity is a Scripture-word. Jesus' prayer for the church was that she would be perfected in unity (John 17:22-23). He did not pray that the church would practice diversity well. 

Two men practicing well their diversity, over against seeking to "attain to the unity of the faith," have determined one thing may never happen: they may never have a fight over what divides them. The only virtue they recognize is irenicism. They marvel at the humble magnanimity of men who never raise their voices. They believe nothing rises to the level of an argument (except for arguing). They are the kind of men who are troubled by those parts of the Institutes where Calvin refers to papists as dirty dogs (no matter how convinced they become that the papists were dirty dogs). They are pleased that progress has allowed them to call Martin Luther's zeal filthy. And Paul (i.e. not the Holy Spirit)...in Galatians...unhinged.

If practicing diversity well is the endgame of the work of the church—rather than a forged unity—peace will be the only thing that matters. Peace through diversity is not like peace that comes through unity. Peace through diversity will be exhausting work for the leadership of the PCA—as exhausting and likely as intrusive as our federal government's enforcement of sexual diversity. In the name of diversity and tolerance and open-mindedness and peace, our cultural elites have been discussing in the highest of courts, with those loftiest of minds, just exactly the breadth of the diversity our society requires. Hopefully you've noticed that you and I haven't been invited to that discussion. Federal judges now tell us that we the people must approve of gay mirage. "We shall practice diversity well", they say with their mouths as they think in their heads, "...and to hell with your talk about precise definitions of marriage and creation mandates and God's Law." Diversity, you see, will be as broad (i.e. narrow) as those who have the power determine it to be. 

Now, don't hear what I'm not saying. Ethnic, generational, and locational diversity are good. We should see red, yellow, black, and white, and young and old loving one another in farming communities, suburbs, and cities. But, if theological diversity means I must silently stand by Tim Keller's teaching on hell, creation, and sexuality, or Peter Leithart's teaching on the sacraments and catholicity, then I'm an enemy of diversity. We would be naive to think that broad theological diversity is not the sort of diversity the children of postmodernism want.

J. Gresham Machen, fighting against the Presbyterian diversity of his day, said:

In trying to remove from Christianity everything that could possibly be objected to in the name of science, in trying to bribe off the enemy by those concessions which the enemy most desires, the apologist has really abandoned what he started out to defend. Here as in many other departments of life it appears that the things that are sometimes thought to be hardest to defend are also the things that are most worth defending.

If "practicing diversity well" means acting like the church has no enemies and that there are no doctrines worth defending, unity built upon the Word of God will be sacrificed for concession and superficiality. Then we'll have to rely on the PCA's lawyers to keep the peace...

Andrew Dionne is the pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Spartanburg, SC. He and his wife Sarah have six children. Read more from Andrew here.