Did Conservative Presbyterianism Ever Have “Mojo”?


Coming from a “convert” from broad-based Evangelicalism to Conservative Presbyterianism, I don’t think Presbyterianism ever had “Mojo”. The problem isn’t one of Conservative Presbyterians losing it’s sex-appeal (isn’t that what Mojo is?) but that the perennial tide – whatever-is-popular – has shifted and Presbyterianism, by definition, cannot shift with that tide. Current theological trends of popularity are following appeals to marketing and wider culturally defined issues. Presbyterianism knows better, or at least ought to (which is what drew me to Presbyterianism in the first place).

Since the Evangelical climate of the day cannot endure sustained intellectual argument, it’s no wonder that the Sproul’s and Boice’s of the day have fallen out of vogue. More importantly, Presbyterianism can’t follow the popular world be cause its confessional documents do not permit it. By definition, Presbyterianism is an ecclesiastical organization rooting itself in an interpretation of Scripture that is expressed in the confessional documents. Evangelicalism is not tied to the “church” – one may even argue that Evangelicalism is not tied to anything, hence why it is so difficult to pin down what it is.  Presbyterianism’s supposed popularity is tied to it’s own ecclesiastical body (or ought to be) since it seeks first and foremost to build itself up. Presbyterians know that their greatest strength is in building itself since it believes (we hope so, at least) that its confession(s) express the doctrine necessary for building healthy churches, which is where the attention of pastors and theologians ought to be. Sadly, if Presbyterians turn their attention toward popularity/influence they will find it to be the most destructive thing that Presbyterians can do.

The Machen’s of the world didn’t find their strength in appealing to the masses (remaining popular), but in staying faithful to Scripture and the Confession(s). When one surveys the current Presbyterian environment, I think that one might argue that this is, and always has been, and always will be Conservative Presbyterianism’s greatest struggle. Presbyterians cannot seek at the same time to find popular level influence and build their churches/institutions – they must seek one or the other.

Dr. Evans writes:

“it is harder to be influential in the broader context when you are trying to get your own institutional house in order.”

And I would argue that the biggest problem is that too many Presbyterians are seeking to be influential in the broader context, hence why so many of their own “institutional houses” are in disarray. If Presbyterian pastors and theologians would take their eyes off the prize of influence that the masses of Christianity have been swallowed into, they may indeed as a corollary find that they are most influential.

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