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:
“[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.