I started speaking on the Social justice and the Gospel statement yesterday, and if you wish to start at the beginning, you can do so here. I am just going to go ahead and pick up where I left off.
Affirmation/Denial 6 deals with the gospel. Overall, I have no issue with the statement as it is all true, but I do wonder what is meant by substitutionary atonement. If this i being used as an umbrella term referring to the numerous substitution models of atonement, then I am all for it as I find elements of truth in all of them that, when taken together, form a much clearer picture of the whole that we can understand about Christ’s atoning sacrifice. If however, this is being limited to the idea of penal substitution out of the reformation time frame, then I find it to limiting. I do not find it helpful to reduce the substitutionary atonement of Christ to an argument over the details of how it works since it is miraculous and part of the great mystery of faith, thus our understanding of it will be limited.
Affirmation/Denial 7 speaks to salvation. I believe very much that the only way that we can be assured of our salvation, is through Christ. I will not however put a limit on whom God will decide to save. That is a judgement on the eternal destiny of a person, and that is for God alone. If you want to be able to have the assurance of salvation, then Christ is the way, but at the end of all things, God will save whom He will. That is above my pay grade, and not my call.
Affirmation/Denial 8 is about the church. This is another area where the statement and I have some significant differences. “We affirm that, under the lordship of Christ, we are to obey the governing authorities established by God and pray for civil leaders.” This is such a loaded statement that does not hold up under scrutiny. Before I go into that, yes, we are to pray for our leaders. There is no issue with that, but no, we are not obligated to obey such laws that violate the expressed will of God. This is way to close to the Nuremberg defense (not a comparison to the war crimes trials, this is simply what the just following orders defense has become known as. Relax, no Hitler or Nazis) for my taste and comfort. If we were to follow the orders of the rulers of this world, then that would say that there are parts of the world where the word of God should not be spoken. That seems off to me. At various points the disciples were forbidden to preach the gospel by the authorities. Jesus was executed under Roman law for treason, and under temple law for blasphemy. That means he did not obey the earthly rulers of His day in those matters, and obviously rightly so. (Yes, I realize that there are prophetic reasons for Christ’s death as the ultimate plan of salvation and am not claiming that Christ’s death was unnecessary, just so we are clear.) There is a tension here as we are not called to be anarchists, but at the same time are not called to follow laws that directly violate the scripture.
“Though believers can and should utilize all lawful means that God has providentially established to have some effect on the laws of a society, we deny that these activities are either evidence of saving faith or constitute a central part of the church’s mission given to her by Jesus Christ, her head.” I have issues with this as well. I can agree with the idea that this is not the central mission of the church without issue, but I can not agree with the idea that such things are not evidence of the saving grace of Christ. Challenging the law in a Florida community that did not allow for feeding brown bag lunches to the homeless in a park is indeed evidence of the saving grace of Christ. Such an act is a direct result of following Christ’s commands to feed the hungry. We love because He first loved us. Now mind you, each incident must be examined for such evidence to be sure, and there is not an inherent Christian goodness in social activism, but there is room for some social activism to be evidence of the salvation that the faithful share.
Affirmation/Denial 9 deals with heresy, and at first thought, I did not have a huge issue with it. Upon some reflection however, I think that there are some serious problems with any definition of heresy that is not focused on the essential attributes and nature of the Triune God. It is likely that my issue here is simply linguistic and style based, so I will leave it at that.
Affirmation/Denial 10 is on sexuality and marriage, and here is where we really get into the snare that is human sexuality. “The curse of sin results in sinful, disordered affections that manifest in some people as same-sex attraction. Salvation grants sanctifying power to renounce such dishonorable affections as sinful and to mortify them by the Spirit.” I am more in line with Augustine (and numerous other church fathers) here. The sin is not in the desire, but is in the desire mastering us instead of us mastering the desire. The disordered affection language was actually made famous by Augustine, but not used in this way. For Augustine the disorder was not in the affection, but in not us mastering, that is to say resisting, the affection, in order to lead a holy life that is pleasing to God. Ignatious also agreed with these thoughts and while he recognized that such affections could lead one to death, did not find the affections the issue, but our response to them, going so far as to develop numerous spiritual disciplines to help one master desire instead of desire mastering the self. Even Wesley, heavily influenced by pietism as he was, recognized that the sins that would lead us to damnation were not those things which we thought, but those things which we did. The promise is that the Holy Spirit will work to conform our thoughts and mind to Christ. Our job is to, until that happens, in this world or the new Heaven and Earth, not act upon such thoughts and desires. The action is what threatens our soul.
“We further affirm that God’s design for marriage is that one woman and one man live in a one-flesh, covenantal, sexual relationship until separated by death.” I flatly reject that a Christian marriage needs to be sexual. Whether through age, disease, injury, what have you, if a couple is incapable of having sex, it does not invalidate their marriage, or make their marriage outside of God’s design. Our sexuality is very much a gift, of that there is no doubt, but it is not a necessity in marriage. It can be, and when able likely should be, an enjoyable part of marriage, but not necessary for marriage. Sexuality is a divine gift, and should be treated as such, but it is not a necessity for a marriage to follow God’s design. The statement is to rigid.
I made it to ten! Only a few more to go. Again, I want to stress that I do not find things in the statement to be outside the Christian realm of belief, though obviously I do have some issues with them. I do find such statements useful in do far as they do edify those with shared beliefs and challenge those with differing, or even no, belief. NExt one should wrap it all up I think. Until then, enjoy.