With the formation of the Gospel Coalition, recently covered in Christianity Today, Tim Keller, the pastor who almost single-handedly redirected church-planting strategy in the PCA, appears to have severed his ties to his Presbyterian communion.
How else should we interpret his involvement in the Gospel Coalition. Co-founded by such evangelical heavyweights as D. A. Carson and John Piper, GC is a fellowship of churches that have come together for the purpose of “renewing our faith in the gospel of Christ and to reforming our ministry practices to conform fully to the Scriptures.” GC plans to execute its promotion of the gospel through the ordained means of word and sacrament. “We intend to [serve the church] through the ordinary means of his grace: prayer, the ministry of the Word, baptism and the Lordâ€™s supper, and the fellowship of the saints.”
Two additional questions suggest themselves from Keller’s involvement in GC. First, I would have thought that the Presbyterian Church in America itself was a “gospel coalition,” that is, churches that had come together to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ through word and sacrament. Do the founders of GC not regard the PCA or other confessional Protestant denominations (the RPCNA, OPC and LCMS come to mind) as ambassadors fo the good news?
Second, no other evangelical cooperative effort has even considered doing the work of the church. The National Association of Evangelicals was precisely that, an association of evangelicals who would cooperate in various religious activities. They never considered administering the sacraments (partly because some members baptized infants, others didn’t, a similar difficulty facing Keller, Piper, and Carson). Also, the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is a collection of individuals who have joined up as a kind of advocacy group for a recovery of a faithful evangelicalism. But ACE never thought of itself as a church or group of churches. At least the guys at Together for the Gospel acknowledged this difficulty. Lig Duncan has tried to wrestle with the problem of being together with Baptists for the gospel but apart at the table and font (http://blog.togetherforthegospel.org/2007/08/yes-we-really-a.html). But TGR is up front that it is four friends united to do conferences on the gospel. So why have the founders of the Gospel Coalition not recognized the novelty of their endeavor?