Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Hoping to clear some fog away: about nFOG

While I am concerned with the whole of nFOG, I am particularly concerned with “The Foundations of Presbyterian Polity” section. Not only does the very first sentence uphold universalism but several other sections undermine a reformed understanding of the authority of Scripture.

Under section D. is this statement: “The Church receives the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ through the testimony of those whom Christ sent, both those whom we call apostles and those whom Christ has called throughout the long history of the Church. The church has been and is even now sent into the world by Jesus Christ to bear that testimony to others.” In this sentence the apostolic witness of Scriptures is equated with those throughout the history of the Church. That is adding tradition to the apostolic witness of Scripture. We are not Roman Catholic or Anglican, we are Reformed.

Likewise this sentence, “The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) affirms the Gospel of Jesus Christ as received from the prophets and apostles, and stands in continuity with God’s mission through the ages.” That is not complete; the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not just in the Gospels or the Prophets; the Gospel is in the whole Bible from Genesis to Revelation.
We must not dismiss any part of Scripture. We find the promise of Christ in Genesis and the rule of Christ in Revelation. We find the ancestors of Christ in Ruth and the social care of Christ in James. We find the need for Christ in Leviticus and the assurance of Christ in Romans. Our foundation must lift up the whole Bible.


Matt Johnson said...

The first quote is not referring to canonical authority, but how the church receives the good news of salvation. i.e., "How beautiful on the mountain are the feet of them who bring good news!" Not every statement needs to cover every theological base, and I see no infringement on the authority of Scripture here, but rather an affirmation that God is always sending his people out as bearers of good news.

You have misread the second quote, which states, "the prophets and apostles," not "the prophets and the gospels." All those who penned the OT would be considered prophets (including Moses), and all those who penned the NT were apostles or connected to apostolic authority.

Despite reading numerous critiques, I still fail to see the bogey-man in nFOG.

New Creation PCUSA said...

Big fan of your blog. Because I am teaching Presbyterian Heritage and Polity, I would be interested in hearing how this post and perspective intersects with the revered professor John Leith's understandings of tradition via "Introduction to the Reformed Tradition." In reviewing Leith's "Basic Christian Doctrine", especially the chapter on Church and The Means of Grace, how is the Foundations in conflict? Finally, utilizing the Book of Confessions, please tease out for me a little more the universalism in the Foundations section. Because the Book of Order is a form of primary theology for our communion, it would be good to understand what it teaches and that it should be supported first by the witness of Scripture and supported by the teachings of the Confessions we hold as authoritative for our communal life in Christ.

Robert said...

As I've looked at the nFoG I've asked this question: how many things need to be changed? It it's a small number it can be dealt with by amendments. If it has too many problems it should be voted down.

There are too many problems, not just theological but also in polity. Some just have to go like allowing an interim pastor to become the next installed pastor. I've got to vote no.

Robert said...

Oh and one other big problem: it doesn't list ordination exams but allows a GA to change them. Not good.

Viola Larson said...

Hi Matt,
Sorry for not answering sooner I was gone for most of the weekend.

Your disagreement with me is to me further proof of the problems with nFOG. Over all it is very badly written.

The first quote does take in canonical authority because it is the testimony of the apostles and that which the whole church gives testimony to. This is the foundation of the church's polity and life. It must be clearer.

And yes I know that it says, "affirms the Gospel of Jesus Christ as received from the prophets and apostles.” And no not all who penned the O.T. are considered prophets. There are after all the writings. But even the Jews understand the Hebrew Bible to be divided into the Law, the Prophets and the Writings. And while they see the Prophets starting at a different place then we do nonetheless that is how it is divided. The really big problem here is sloppy writing and imprecise theology.

Viola Larson said...

New Creation,

I can't help you with "John Leith's understandings of tradition via "Introduction to the Reformed Tradition." Because I have not read "Basic Christian Doctrine."

The other question is a big question but I will try. The first sentence in the nFOG in the Foundations is:

“The good news of the Gospel is that the triune God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—creates, redeems, sustains, rules, and transforms all things and all people. “ It should have been written in either of two ways, “Father, Son and Holy Spirit—creates, redeems, sustains, rules, and transforms those who have received his redemption.” (Or are called or elected, etc.) Or it should have said “Farther, Son and Holy Spirit—creates, sustains, rules all things and all people.”

The Heidelberg Catechism in question 20 asks, “Will all men, then, be saved through Christ as they became lost through Adam?” the answer is, “No. Only those who, by true faith, are incorporated into him and accept all his benefits.”

The Westminster Confession of Faith at 6.057, states, “It is the duty and privilege of everyone who hears the gospel immediately to accept its merciful provisions; and they who continue in impenitence and unbelief incur aggravated guilt and perish by their own fault.”

The WSC asks at question 20, “Did God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery/” the answer is “ God, having out of his mere good pleasure, from all eternity elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace, to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer.”

I don’t think that is teased out. It is very clear in both the Bible and the Confessions.

Please leave your name city and state if you write again.

Viola Larson said...

It is too, too many: )

Thanks for your thoughts but please do leave your full name city and state if you write again.