A statement was released earlier this week, primarily driven by John MacArther, about social justice and the gospel. I am in favor of such statements as a general rule. Even should I disagree with them, there is value in putting out fairly clear and concise statements of faith about issues that are ongoing. Much like I did with the Nashville Statement, I will take a few moments to adress why I will not sign this particular statement.
Affirmation/Denial 1 in the statement claims the Bible to be inerrant. I believe that the scriptures are infallible in matters of faith and practice, but not in inerrency as it is commonly understood. In this day and age, inerrency has come to mean an “adherence to the exact letter or the literal sense”, where literal means “in accordance with, involving, or being the primary or strict meaning of the word or words; not figurative or metaphorical”. If rather the authors of the statement intended to affirm the historical-grammatical method of approaching scripture, I could affirm that. Being unclear as to what is meant by ‘innerency’ means that I can not in good conscience affirm the statement. The remainder of affirmation 1, I can happily affirm, as well as the denial.
Affirmation/Denial 2 uses the terminology that we are created as equal which, from the context, seems to indicate of equal value in the eyes of God, which I happily affirm, as well as the denial, save for the phrase about ‘God given roles’. I am not a complimentarian.
Affirmation/Denial 3 deals with justice. This is where some of my more serious issues with the statement start to come into play. The wording is as follows: “WE AFFIRM that since he is holy, righteous, and just, God requires those who bear his image to live justly in the world. This includes showing appropriate respect to every person and giving to each one what he or she is due.” I am on board with this up until the ‘what he or she is due’ bit. It seems to me to imply that should we consider that an individual is not due something that we are correct to withhold it. Living into the image of God that we are all created with does not call for us to give based upon what someone is due, but simply calls for us to share what God has blessed us with regardless of what a person is due. After all, which of us in honest examination can say that we actually want God to give us what we are due? God, through Christ, has shown mercy precisely so that we do not get what we are due, and our lives should model that. While I agree with the idea that true justice can only be found in adherence to God’s word, I am a two kingdom type of guy, so there is also earthly justice that we must contend with. I believe in equal treatment for all under the civil law. Because of this, I fully support civil same sex marriages. Civil marriage, to the state, is a contract between two people and the state. Because of this, any two people of legal age should be able to enter into this contract without hindrance. That is voluntary action by consenting adults and as such, we have little right to legislate it. God does not call us to force others after all. While that is true, God’s justice calls this a sin. Christian marriage is very much intended to be one man and one woman for all time. This is an entirely different thing from a civil marriage. Because of this, it would be patently unjust, according to God, to allow for same sex marriages blessed by the church, because it is contrary to the will of God. There is a huge difference between God’s justice, and the justice that we are capable of having on Earth under civil authority. What I know for certain is that it is not at all just to force people in a civil society to live under Godly authority. Upon Christ’s return we will have a Monarchy with Christ as the benevolent head, until then it is not our job to force others to conform to our moral standard because of God’s justice. That will surely come, but until then, proper civil justice must treat all equally.
Affirmation/Denial 4 is to simplistic. It is not necessarily false, but it is simply to simplistic, at least with my Wesleyan understandings of moral law. God’s eternal and unchanging moral law may be summarized in the ten commandments, but in order for that to make any sense as an ethic, there must be a shared understanding of what the moral law actually is. The same is true of the two great commandments. Without shared meaning, the statement is ambiguous. I reject it not because it is false, but because it is to simple and ambiguous.
Affirmation/Denial 5 starts getting deeper into sin. The first issue that I have with it is the treatment of original sin. My Wesleyan faith has a much different, and I believe theologically correct, understanding of original sin. The depravity language also starts pointing to much toward Calvinism for me to be comfortable supporting it. The denial bothers me a bit as well. It is not wrong so much as incomplete. Yes, each of us must confess our sin without a doubt, and yes, each of us must receive salvation as individuals, but yes, there is a corporate aspect to Christianity as well. While I would not say that I need to confess the sins of my forefathers, I would say that I need to be aware of them so that I do not repeat them, and pray for the strength to resit them. I also think that the sins of the church need be confessed by the church corporately. The church has made mistakes, and the church should confess those mistakes. Righteous living is not a wholly individual endeavor, nor is it a completely corporate endeavor, but it is a combination of the two. If the hand can not say to the foot that it has no need of it or that it is not a part of the body as a whole, then we can not, as parts of same said body, separate ourselves from each other, for good or ill.
It appears that my space is up for the day, so I will continue on with the rest of the statement tomorrow. I want to stress that my disagreement with parts of the statement mean that I do not find those who agree to be outside the boundaries of the Christian faith, as I do not. There are a vast number of things that fit into the category of Christian liberty so far as belief goes. It is why we can have Baptists, and Methodists, and Catholics, and Orthodox, etc. and recognize that while we are indeed on body of Christians, we do also have some varying understandings of the faith. More on this tomorrow.