Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The new FOG and the person of Jesus Christ


In a rather relaxing manner, I copied out “The Foundations of Presbyterian Polity,” and started reading through it as a way of focusing on other writing subjects I needed to do. I thought I would just skim read before working on something else. As I read I noted here and there things I liked and those that bothered me.

But I begin to feel uneasy by the constant use of “Christ” without the addition of Jesus. Jesus is there once in a great while but generally the name is missing. It is perfectly biblical to do that, the confessions and the Scriptures also use just Christ at times but not to the constant exclusion of the name Jesus. Also, importantly, the “Word of God” is used in place of Jesus.

And then I came to this line in chapter two titled “The Church and Its Confessions,” under the subtitle, “F-2.03 The Confessions as Statements of the Faith of the Church Catholic:”

“The Confessions express the faith of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church in the recognition of canonical Scriptures and the formulation and adoption of the ecumenical creeds, notably the Nicene and Apostles’ Creeds with their definitions of the mystery of the Triune God and of the incarnation of the eternal Word of God in Jesus Christ.” (My emphasis)

While this may be just sloppy language, the constant disuse of the name Jesus amplifies a problem here. That statement could mean that the eternal Son came into a man (Jesus) anointed by the Holy Spirit. And that is heresy.

In F-2.02, the authors of the paper do refer to Jesus Christ as the Word of God, writing that the confessions are subject to him as the “Scriptures bear witness to him.” That is another problem to return to another time. But the problem here is that the mainline denominations are so full of the heresy of dividing Christ from the historical Jesus that orthodoxy in this paper needs to be strengthened. Two examples of such heretical thinking, used by mainline pastors, including Presbyterian pastors, is in the writings of John Shelby Spong and Marcus Borg.

Another example is Elizabeth A. Johnson who is often used by the more progressive pastors and theologians of the Church. In fact Johnson’s book, She Who Is, is quoted, (as helpful) in the document “Well Chosen Words,” written by what was the Women’s Ministry Area and is now called All Women in the Church.

In her book Johnson writes, “The fundamental nature of Christian identity as life in Christ makes clear that the biblical symbol Christ, the one anointed in the Spirit, cannot be restricted to the historical person Jesus nor to certain select members of the community but signifies all those who drinking of the Spirit participate in the community of disciples.” (162)

With that kind of heresy infiltrating the Church it is very important for the authors of the FOG document to be very clear with their language usage. For that reason I offer some important clarity from the Confessions.

Here are some statements about the Incarnation from the Confessions:

The Nicene:
“[We believe] in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only- begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man …”


The Scots Confession

“When the fullness of time came God sent his Son, his eternal wisdom, the substance of his own glory, into the world, who took the nature of humanity from the substance of a woman, a virgin, by means of the Holy Ghost. And so was born the ‘just seed of David,’ the ‘Angel of the great counsel of God,’ the very Messiah promised, whom we confess and acknowledge to be Emmanuel, true God and true man, two perfect natures united and joined in one person. So by our confession we condemn the damnable and pestilent heresies of Arius, Marcion, Eutyches, Nestorius, and such others as did either deny the eternity of his Godhead, or the truth of his humanity, or confounded them, or else divided them.”

The quote from the new FOG seemingly divides the natures. Added to this, the constant use of Christ without reference to Jesus simply amplifies the problem.

The Creed of Chalcedon

While the text to this creed is not found in the Presbyterian (USA) Book of Confessions, it is referenced in the index and found in “The Second Helvetic Confession.” It too is one of the ecumenical creeds of Christendom. The Second Helvetic Confession states:

“And to say many things with a few words, with a sincere heart, we believe, and freely confess with open mouth, whatever things are defined from the Holy Scriptures concerning the mystery of the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, and are summed up in the Creeds and decrees of the first four most excellent synods convened at Nicaea, Constantinople, Ephesus and Chalcedon—together with the Creed of blessed Athanasius, and all similar symbols; and we condemn everything contrary to these.” (5.078)

And so Chalcedon states:

“Therefore, following the holy fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin; as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the fathers has handed down to us.” (My emphasis)

The point here as above, Jesus Christ is the eternal Word of the Father. The eternal word is not in Jesus Christ but is Jesus Christ.

The Westminster Confession of Faith:

"The Son of God, the second Person in the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance, and equal with the Father, did, when the fullness of time was come, take upon man’s nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof; yet without sin: being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, of her substance. So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion. Which person is very God and very man, yet one Christ, the only Mediator between God and man.” (6.044)(My emphasis)

If the wording about Jesus Christ as it is stated in “The Foundations of Presbyterian Polity,” in F-2.03, is voted in, as far as I am concerned the Church will be in apostasy. Jesus Christ is the eternal word, he is not a man incarnated by the eternal word.


39 comments:

Anonymous said...

Viola,

You temporarily pulled this post, and when you re-posted it you left out the comments. I’m assuming that was not intentional? I thought maybe you had changed your mind.

I find this post troubling.

Is being “in apostasy” the same as being “apostate”? I think most people would say “yes”.

I read "the incarnation of the eternal Word of God in Jesus Christ" as synonymous with "the incarnation of the eternal Word of God, Jesus Christ"

As an example, to say “I believe in Jesus Christ” is the same as to say “I believe Jesus Christ”. I believe it’s a Latin rooted usage. It is not uncommon.

Too bad we don’t have an academy of letters like they do in some other countries to define proper English. We could just write the academy and ask. But I would be willing to take it up with some recognized experts in the English language just to be sure, if it was really an issue.

You are entitled to your opinion of course, but I think you are reading a meaning that is not there in the usage of the word “in”, and pulling out the apostasy card for such a fine nuance, I feel, is a trifling call.

Tom
KC, but not much longer

Viola Larson said...

Tom,
Forgive me for doing that to the comments. I needed to redo some parts and that was the only way I could do it. I hoped you would re-comment.

And I do disagree with your way of viewing the language. This is after all going to be a part of the Presbyterian (USA)'s constitution. Like a Confession the language is extremely important.

Kattie W. Coon said...

"While this may be just sloppy language"...

As I stated the last time, I believe it's >>at worst<< sloppy language.

From my point of view the meaning is crystal clear, and the clear meaning is to be taken as consistent with the Confessions, which they apparently affirm. The mere fact that they are so affirming of the historic Confessions should be enough to guide one to the proper understanding of the use of the word "in". In this case the word "in" should be interpreted as describing an attribute of Jesus Christ rather than describing a directed process (such as the word "into" would imply). Also, it would make no sense at all to refer to Jesus Christ as if Christ was his last name, and that is what one would be doing if one assumed that Jesus Christ existed for a time without the incarnation of the eternal Word. In other words, you can’t rightly call him Christ if he isn’t already the Word incarnate.

So now I see you are using two rather extreme terms to refer to this rather simple statement: Heresy and Apostasy. If you want to read heresy into it, I can’t stop you, but I think there’s more than sufficient evidence to the contrary. As far as apostasy goes, where have they denied the historic faith?

I said it before, so I’ll just say it again: Using your kind of presumptive logic, I could claim that you intended to find heresy and apostasy in their statement regardless of whether or not it was really there.

As far as you pointing out the attributes of Jesus Christ as written on the Confessions is concerned: I think you did a good job, and I wish more of our membership was aware of and studied the Confessions. I just wish you hadn’t used it as a weapon to attack the authors of “The Foundations of Presbyterian Polity”, and launch a preemptive strike against the PC(USA).

Kattie
Huntsville, Al

Anonymous said...

Viola,

No problem.

If you feel that strongly about the language, then I respectfully suggest you get an expert opinion, maybe several, before you go out on a limb on prime time, because I am pretty sure you are reading it wrong.

Or is that "wrongly".

Tom
KC

Viola Larson said...

I will say more later Kattie,
But for now let me say this is not intended as a preemptive strike against the PCUSA of which I am a member so it would be a strike against myself anyway. Instead it is meant as a corrective to a very important document which will shape all of our futures in the Church.

Viola Larson said...

Tom,
I did, that is one of the reasons I pulled it.

Pastor Bob said...

Viola

A question as one who serves on a presbytery task force on the nFOG:

Is the language you criticize new language or is it currently part of chapters 1 - 4 of the FOG? I know there are parts and wording in the FOG I would change but am particularly concerned right now with things that have changed in the nFOG from the current FOG

Bob Campbell
Sharon Hill, PA

Viola Larson said...

Bob,
This is from the Foundations of Presbyterian Polity --Draft for Study-October 2008. From this page, http://www.pcusa.org/formofgovernment/ I am putting this down to make sure I am answering you right. It is the nFOG.

Kattie W. Coon said...

Great question Bob!

Please refer to G-2.0300.

It appears that, unbeknownst to Viola, the Church (I guess that includes her too) has been apostate for quite some time.

Viola,

Care to change your opinion as to what they meant by “in”?

Kattie
Huntsville, Al

DSW2187 said...

Viola:

Regarding your concern about F-2.03 in the proposed Foundations of Presbyterian Polity, you conclude as follows: “If the wording about Jesus Christ as it is stated in ... F-2.03, is voted in, as far as I am concerned the Church will be in apostasy.”

I guess, then, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has been apostate since 1983, at the very least, and also likely guilty of heresy, as you imply elsewhere. The section that concerns you in the Foundations is exactly the same language that has been in the Book of Order since reunion in 1983, in G-2.0300. It would be interesting to see if our antecedent denominations said something similar, but I do not have those books readily at hand at the moment.

The Form of Government Task Force, guided by the mandate given by the 217th GA (2006) to preserve essential Presbyterian polity, especially as laid out in chapters 1-4 of the existing FOG, chose not to change the wording on this and other parts of the chapter on the Church and its Confessions. Your concern about the tendency to divorce “Jesus’ from ‘Christ’ is not an attempt to introduce variant views on the incarnation of Jesus into our polity. The preference for using ‘Christ’ alone is a feature of the 1983 FOG.

In fact, in the current Book of Order, the section on Jesus Christ is titled “Christ Is Head of the Church” (G-1.0100). Throughout these opening paragraphs, our Lord is referred to more frequently as just Christ. We moved these paragraphs largely intact into the first chapter of the Foundations, after new paragraph F-1.01 that begins the missional framework of our re-working of current FOG chapters 1-4. (A more missional polity is another of our mandates.) One minor, but significant change we did make was to title F-1.02 as “Jesus Christ Is Head of the Church,” as opposed to the former title noted above. So, any reference to ‘Christ’ is further defined by this title.

At one point in our work, something like 63 of the 66 paragraphs in current FOG chapters 1-4 were in the proposed Foundations, albeit in a different order. The percentage may have dropped somewhat in subsequent edits, as suggestions are made to the Task Force, such as the overture by Foothills Presbytery submitted through the 218th GA (2008).

Would it be helpful to you for the Task Force to consider breaking from the current pattern, above, in our next revision of this document, or does knowing that this language is over 25 years old and is something we have been living and working with together lessen this concern for you?

Dan Williams
Co-Moderator
Form of Government Task Force

P.S. Since your blog was referenced on PresbyWeb, I will also be sending this response as a letter to that site’s editor.

Viola Larson said...

Sigh, Kattie you are right and I did not see that. So I will just have to say that reading through the first part of the nFOG set me up for that, which is where I got it from. So maybe while we are at it, we can shape the language to better correct the first part of the new FOG.

But yes I have to admit I have egg on my face.

Kattie W. Coon said...

Viola,

I have to admit that when I saw this post linked to Presbyweb I smirked a bit because I felt the imminent egging.

Lord, please forgive me for I have sinned.

Kattie
Huntsville, Al

Viola Larson said...

Dan,
thank you for responding to what is my considerable error. But the question you ask is a good one. It is actually the beginning of the paper that throws me off and sets everything out of order for me. (Nonetheless, I should have recognized the old wording.) But to have torn that first statement away as the beginning of the foundational statement for the Church and mission as well is a problem.

While the side heading in the original is “Christ is Head of the Church” our Boo actually begins—and I never read the side—“All power in heaven and Earth is given to Jesus Christ by Almighty God, who raised Christ from the dead and set ….” Here it goes on to draw the mission, in the next paragraph from Jesus Christ, while not at all doing away with the mission of the Church.

And while I have your attention, sadly with my mistake, I am the author of a paper on Paul Hooker’s study, “What is Missional Ecclesiology?”, it is better edited in Theology Matters http://www.naminggrace.org/id68.htm. I bring this up because I sent it to the Task Force but have never gotten a response and that is one of the leading problems with the way I read the nFOG . We have not as a Church defined the meaning of Missional, and yet a definition is being pushed that many do not agree with. For that reason I believe even the old wording becomes a problem.

I will give you an example, in Paul’s paper he keeps suggesting that it is not the life, death and resurrection of Christ that is the new thing but something new God is doing now. He says we are not a “memorial” people. That thought read into even the old language of the Book of Order changes the way language is read.

Anyway, I hope you will respond to that and at the same time I do thank you for responding to this posting.

Viola Larson said...

I have to admit that I still have trouble with that wording--1983 or not. But I never really noticed until I was thinking along the lines of the separation of Christ from Jesus. So I am not changing my thoughts I am just seeing them in a different context.

DSW2187 said...

Viola:

I did see your article on Paul's "Missional Ecclesiology" piece some time ago. I believe you wrote it shortly after our most recent revisions were released last fall in mid October. I am not sure why the Task Force (TF) did not respond to it. We do not respond to everything we see on the web due to time constraints, primarily. I do not recall if you sent it directly to us; I do have a copy of it stored on my hard drive.

Please note that Paul's article is not one of the documents that is before the GA for action. The only items which will be before the 219th GA are the Foundations, nFOG, and Handbooks for councils.

One of my pet peeves is that the word 'missional' in the church is a lot like 'organic' in a grocery store -- it is everywhere, and subject to the definition of whoever wants to use it. (Once I even saw organic toaster pastries!) We included Paul's article not so much to define "missional ecclesiology" or "missional polity," but as something to engender discussion about the subject, as groups study the nFOG revisions. Suffice to say, not everyone on the TF has the same definition of these things.

However, we have agreed that polity cast in a more missional framework needs to begin with a statement on God's mission in the world. So, F-1.01 (which has current G-3.0101a-b in its background) presents this mission of God as centered in God's work in the world through Jesus Christ, and introduces a variation of the notes or marks of the reformed church, which provide a frame for much of our work. We then go back to where the current FOG chapter 1 begins with a discussion of Jesus Christ. Again, almost all of this section is from the 1983 FOG.

BTW, we have two Adobe documents on the FOG TF web site that give side-by-side comparisons of our work, new FOG to old, and old FOG to new.

There is more I can say about this, but this evening's Bible Study and Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services are clamoring for me to return to them. Not to mention Easter Sunday!

May you have a blessed Holy Week and Easter.

Dan Williams
FOG TF

Viola Larson said...

Dan,
Thanks again for responding. I am aware that Paul's article is not something to be voted on. The problem is your committee has asked those studying the nFOG to read it and use it as a study guide. And it does shape thoughts. it certainly shaped mine.

And yes, I should have used "the Adobe documents on the FOG TF web site that give side-by-side comparisons of our work, new FOG to old, and old FOG to new." Thank you for reminding me and thank you again for responding.

May you have a blessed Holy Week and Easter also.

Kattie W. Coon said...

Viola,

I guess I'm having trouble figuring out what you're still having trouble with. Is it still the phrase you highlighted in your original post? If so, I don't see where they have separated Jesus from Christ (it refers to Jesus Christ specifically), and also as far as the "Word of God" is concerned, section F-2.02 (the preceding paragraph) makes it clear that the Word of God and Jesus Christ are one and the same right there in the very first sentence. They are to be taken as synonymous. That being the case, there never was a Jesus Christ devoid of the Word of God, and there never was a Word of God devoid of Jesus Christ so how could the next paragraph, F-2.03, be talking about putting the Word of God into Jesus (a man), unless you think they’re referring to this guy:

http://www.jesucristohombre.com/

Kattie
Huntsville, Al

Pastor Bob said...

Dan

Both the rest of the Task Force I serve on and I sensed a disconnect between the article on missional ecclesiology and the nFOG. It raised for us the question what is missional ecclesiology and how does the nFOG reflect a missional ecclesiology. We haven't finished that conversation yet.

All of which raises for me the question: if we don't know what missional ecclesiology is why are we writing an nFOG? Except of course because the 2006 GA said to.

Bob Campbell
Sharon Hill, PA

Debbie said...

Quick response to a way earlier comment:

"As an example, to say “I believe in Jesus Christ” is the same as to say “I believe Jesus Christ”. I believe it’s a Latin rooted usage. It is not uncommon."

I'm a linguist--an expert in language. "I believe in Jesus Christ" does NOT mean the same thing as "I believe Jesus Christ." The former means that I put faith in everything that Jesus Christ represents, and/or in his power/salvation/whatever. The latter means that I accept what Jesus Christ has said to be true. There is a difference, although it may be subtle.

Language has variations for reasons.

Debbie Berkley
Bellevue, WA

Dave Moody said...

In response, affirmation, of Debbie B...

I like the Nicene creed, "I believe the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.."- I believe what THIS church, THE church, teaches...

vs, the Apostle's creed, "I believe IN the Holy Catholic church..." --- that this beast exists.

Both, I can say without crossing my fingers ... but the one requires my loyalty and interaction, the other merely my affirmation... sort of Buber's "I/Thou vs I/It..

my 2c on the differentiation btw 'believing in' and 'believing...'

Dave Moody,
S. IL

Anonymous said...

Dave,

That's the problem with translations.

In Latin the word "in" is there, but it doesn't mean what it can be construed to mean in English. (The Apostle's creed is believed to have been in Latin originally as it was once known as the Roman Creed - but maybe the same is true with Greek, I don't know)

In Latin you can't even say "I believe the Church". You must say "I believe IN the Church"

That is why I say that in English both meanings exist. In fact, since the King James Bible was translated from the Latin, it introduced many Latinisms into the English language. This could be one of them.

Any linguist should know that.

But I could be wrong. What we really need is a good English professor who can point to canonical examples for proof.

Tom
KC

Viola Larson said...

Tom,
I am almost afraid to jump in here again, but if it was a game of cards I would bet that a linguist would take an English teacher any day!

Pastor Bob said...

Tom

You may have a better source but the KJV claims to be translated out of Greek and Hebrew.

I'm not saying there aren't Latinisms in it. I don't know Latin and can't comment.

Bob Campbell
Sharon Hill, PA

Pastor Bob said...

Again, I can't speak for the Apostles' Creed but the Nicene Creed was written in Greek and I know you can say "I believe Jesus Christ" in Greek on the one hand and "I believe in Jesus Christ." The first would not use a preposition, the second would use one of several prepositions. If one followed Paul one would us "en."

Bob Campbell
Sharon Hill, PA

DSW2187 said...

If I remember correctly, the KJV utilizes the Textus Receptus, which can be traced back to Erasmus. Besides producing a freshened version of the Latin Vulgate Bible, Erasmus also produced a Greek text based on only a few late manuscripts that did not constitute a full text. Where there were gaps, Erasmus translated the Latin Vulgate back into Greek. Thus, the Latin influence within the KJV.

Rev'd Chris Larimer said...

The translators of the Authorized Version (aka KJV) had access to the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint (referring to the latter when the former was unclear). The Book of Common Prayer has a different Psalter because it is tied more closely to the Vulgate (and the Septuagint) through its grounding in the monastic Daily Office.

The NT basis of the AV/KJV was the Textus Receptus (TR)/ Byzantine Text model (though there are places where we see that it followed the Western Text type found in Codex Bezae Cantabrigensis - being a complete set of the Gospels and Acts lodged at Cambridge). The actual text they used was the Stephanus version called the Editio Regio, which was the fourth Erasmian rescension of his own text - adding Greek support from the Complutensian Polyglot to shore up the few places left where Erasmus' own manuscripts had lacunae (holes). Thus, the entire TR now had a Greek basis with the notable exception of the Comma Johanneum (which Erasmus fabricated back into Greek after receiving pressure from the higher-ups).

We should note that what is now called the TR was not called that until AFTER the 1633 printing (20+ years after the 1611 AV/KJV). It was the Editio Regio - Erasmus' last rescension - which also (in its third? edition) was the basis of Der Luther Bibel.

Dave Moody said...

Tom-
Not sure where you're getting your information- but I'd check your sources... on several fronts.

dm
S. IL

Rev'd Chris Larimer said...

Tom,

What is your foundation for your musings on Latin?

Looking at the Roman / Apostles Creed, "in Iesum Christum" it's a rather clear case of IN + accusative. Lewis & Short list the following as options for this construction: "on, about, respecting; towards, against; for, as; in, to; into" The only real question is whether it means "respecting/about Jesus Christ" or "in Jesus Christ" - the former having the weight of syntax on its side because this isn’t locative – and there’s little sense of what it means to "believe into Jesus" at this point in history (that being a product of later piety – both in the medieval mystics and the Lutheran piety movement). The Apostles Creed is laying out what must be believed about Jesus in the context of nascent doctrinal disputes.*

As for your statement about not being able to say you "believe in the church" in Latin, that's not supported by the data. The Latin form of the Nicene translates the "pisteuo eis" (I believe in) as "credo in" then continues to use the accusative of person to express grammatical agreement with the Greek. The only place where the Greek "eis" is not translated with the Latin "in" is in reference to the church because it is redundant through classical usage. Again, it is presented as an accusative of person, indicating one of two constructions: "to believe in, trust in" or "to trust one in his declarations, assertions, etc., i. e. to give him credence, to believe" – the same as is given for each person of the Godhead.

Remember also that this statement is found in an expression of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church's ability to discern truth from error under the illumination of the Holy Spirit (which is why the two are fused under the same "pisteuo in" or "credo in" in both Greek and Latin). It does NOT mean to simply acknowledge the existence of ("to believe a thing, hold or admit as true" - a possible meaning of CREDO when used with accusative and a non-person) the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. If that had been the meaning, it would have better been constructed with a genitive absolute.

The point is underscored when the verbal change is made to "acknowledgement" in the statements about baptism and forgiveness that follow the belief IN the church. In the Greek it is "homologo" and in the Latin it is "confiteor" - both of which underscore that the credence (pisteuo en/credo in with accusative of person) given to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is - in some way - closely tied with the kind of credence (pisteuo en/credo in with accusative of person) given to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church but is different from the sacramental union which Christians confess (homologo/Confiteor) through baptism and the remission of sins (according to the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed). Context is everything - and the context here is the church's ability to clarify what the Scriptures teach and what must be believed.

Thus, if anything, you would conclude that the doctrinal development seen in the move from the Roman Baptismal Creed to the Nicene Creed is one of emphasizing the teaching authority of the catholic and apostolic church as opposed to leveling the playing field to simply the baptized.

Chris Larimer
Patterson Scholar in Classical Languages, LPTS 2003-2006
Patterson Fellow in Church History, LPTS 2006

*Each point of doctrine to be believed about Jesus has been publicly repudiated by ministers who are supposedly governed by the Constitution – both in confessional and governmental matters. None of this hand-wringing and word-wrangling can mean anything if it lacks enforcement. And before anybody gets mad at the use of the word enforcement, just note how things like inclusive language, property ownership, minority / gender representation are enforced to see the PCUSA is fully capable of enforcing both what is done and what is said in the assemblies under its care.

Viola Larson said...

I am sorry to take so long to publish other's comments today I have been at CPM all day.

Anonymous said...

Chris,

I am overwhelmed by your force majeure. Thank you, just what I was looking for.

Accepting all that context and getting back to Viola's original post, I would say therefore that the phrase " the mystery of the Triune God and of the incarnation of the eternal Word of God in Jesus Christ. " is much more powerful than, and inclusive of, the phrase " the mystery of the Triune God and of the incarnation of the eternal Word of God, Jesus Christ".

The first phrase cannot possibly be heretical or apostate. Wouldn't you agree?

The second phrase is mine, but if I understood Viola's original objection, it would answer her mail.

Tom
KC

Rev'd Chris Larimer said...

Tom,

Viola's concern isn't about the presence or absence of "in" - regardless of how her complaint was originally worded.

The force behind her concern (and correct me if I'm wrong here, Viola) is that the generic "Christ" is used almost to the exclusion the the historically particular "Jesus." This presents at least two problems:

1) A removal of Jesus' historical particularity is taken on to avoid masculine language - a la Johnson's She Who Is. (Thus the preference for "the Christ" language instead of "he...Jesus" language.) While undercutting patriarchalism is a fine Christian thing to do, eschewing the dynamics of femininity and masculinity because of the peculiarities of our gender-driven zeitgeist actually LOSES theological content. It also evidences an uncertainty about how grounded in factual history the enterprise of Christian theology - or at least PCUSA theology - actually is.

2) The use of Christ to the exclusion of Jesus underscores a not-so-subtle shift away from Christological particularity. In our day, it follows the liberal impulse towards "Christ as consciousness." In the 3rd and 4th centuries, it was an Arian impulse of Christ as something other than uniquely theanthropos (God-man). In the 19th century, there was a mystical impulse that resulted in the Mormonized & Jehovah's Witnessized version of Jesus as being less than true God from true God.

Our context today tries to empty Jesus of his unique divinity on two fronts:

a) in the interests of non-offense in a pluralistic society. (Thus Dirk Ficca and the whole "Jesus is Lord" controversy at GA 213 & 214.)

b) in the hopes of claiming authority for ourselves as "annointed ones" - thus able to better discern "the Spirit" and liberate our own Christconsciousness" from those pitiful old patriarchal semitic texts collected in the Bible.

Thus, in our day, it is important to unequivocally express the uniqueness of Christ as found in the Scriptures, reiterated in the ecumenical councils and creeds, and reaffirmed in the confessional / catechetical statements of the Reformation era. Capitulating to cultural squeamishness about Jesus' bold claims for himself (and the claims made for him in the Old Testament and the Christian Church) does not bode well for the future of an institution that is seen as having less and less to say that differentiates it from the UN. (That can be leveled both at mainline American Presbyterianism and Anglicanism...so I'm not meddling in other people's affairs.)

Fr. Chris Larimer
Babylon

Viola Larson said...

Chris, thanks for that but it was because of the "in" that the whole conversation occurred.
Because of the lack of the mention of Jesus in earlier parts of the document the sentence "of the incarnation of the eternal Word of God in Jesus Christ.” (see paragraph 4) seems to me to cause the eternal Word to be a separate entity from Jesus Christ in that sentence. That was what the whole argument was about.
The bad part, for me, I stupidly didn’t see that I was arguing against our present Book of Order.

Viola Larson said...

Which doesn't make it right or wrong it just means I wasn't paying attention.

Rev'd Chris Larimer said...

Dear Vi,

I understand that the "in" kicked off your thoughts. But your criticism about divorcing the Word of God / The Christ / The Second Person of the Godhead from Jesus of Nazereth (in all his particularity, masculinity, historicity, and biblicality) is a point worth highlighting.

As for me, I have no problem saying that the 1983 FoG went wrong. I'm just sorry it took me a decade of trying to be faithful under it for me to see how deep the problems went. What can I say? I was in a FOG.

Until the PCUSA decides to unequivocally holds up the catholic faith - as received in the ecumenical creeds & councils and reiterated in Reformed confessionalism - then, whether it is NOW in apostasy or simply barreling there under its own weight, is a matter of inevitability.

And by uphold, I don't simply mean that the Faith remains on the books, but that it is active in discipling - and disciplining when needed - the church into greater conformity to Christ and the teaching of the Apostles.

Fr. Chris Larimer
Babylon

Anonymous said...

Chris and Viola,

I was hoping to get some closure on Viola's original concern, but I guess that will have to wait. It seems to me your view is that the PCUSA is in apostasy anyway, so anything they say must be apostate.

But here you say of all mainline churches that they are "an institution that is seen as having less and less to say that differentiates it from the UN."

While that seems to be a gratuitous slap in the face of both, I would agree that the Church is less and less influential in the world, specially with the demise of the union between Church and State. But that is not necessarily a bad thing. The Church has been trying to redefine itself in the last two or three hundred years without much success. It needs to find out who it is absent its political authority in society.

What is not good is the lack of relevance of the Church. It has in effect become obsolete. Fewer and fewer people give a hoot what the Church says, liberal, conservative, dogmatically or politically. Most people just role their eyes at Christians.

No matter if we are liberal or conservative, Roman Catholic or reformed.

It used to be that the Church offered a remedy to the human condition. The human condition has not improved all that much, but the idea that the Church offers a remedy has become less and less credible.

And that is a shame.

The Holy Spirit still offers something, but that seems more and more like something that happens in spite of the Church, not because. So all the doctrinal lessons of the centuries seem of little or no value to anyone except us Church geeks.

That's the real problem for us, I think.

Tom
KC

Rev'd Chris Larimer said...

The divorce of the Church from the State - and from the common culture - will end up being a good thing for us. It means that we can quit pretending that it's our job to do the things the state does. It also means we can quit pretending that we will be as flashy and attractive as whatever is happening in the culture.

We might just get around to doing exactly what Jesus told us to do: make disciples - baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and teach them to observe all the things which he has commanded us.

We don't have to become a welfare agency (though obeying Jesus will cause us to be charitable - and based on the facts you can decide whether "liberal" or "conservative" better fits that category). We don't have to endlessly lobby the government to make peace on earth and goodwill toward men (though our preaching will bring about reconciliation with God and with each other).

We will unequivocally say what only the Church can say: That the risen Jesus Christ - fully God and fully man, being the second person of the coequal and coeternal Trinity - is Lord, to the Glory of the Father!

CLL+

Debbie said...

I have to admit to not having read all the comments, but I just want to say that it doesn't matter what language the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed were originally written in, in terms of what a particular denomination might have as their own faith statement. If they have adopted those creeds in English as statements of faith, then they have adopted the English versions, and those are the versions they adhere to.

And whether or not Latin has the "believe"/"believe in" distinction, English does, and it matters in English.

Debbie Berkley
Bellevue, WA

P. S. Linguists and English teachers both have their separate strengths and uses. :-)

Anonymous said...

Chris,

I think that if you follow Jesus, right wingers will call you a commie, left wingers will call you a fascist, and everybody will call you nuts.

I think you follow Jesus and obey his teachings as best you can, follow "the more excellent way" of love, and let people call you whatever they damn well please.

Tom
KC

Rev'd Chris Larimer said...

Debbie,

I smell some recent denominational turmoil under that comment.

Tom,

Having been called a god-hatin' apostate liberal at an uber-conservative school and a human-hatin' pharisaical fascist at a rather-liberal seminary, I guess I'm on track (at least sometimes).

CLL+