Christology, as well as soteriology, issues that in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) have lain latent for several years, are rising once again to prominence but possibly for the wrong reasons. Although the Lordship of Jesus Christ was the big question at General Assembly over ten years ago it has been buried beneath the debate raised by ordination standards. And the many issues floating around redemptive theology, issues about violence, universalism, and pluralism, have abated for the same reasons.
But always just under the surface of the ordination debates, and with the possibility that progressivism will win on questions of sexuality; the bigger foundational essentials of Christianity are emerging in many conversations on various web sites and blogs.
Two important points should be noted about the emerging debates. (1) Since ordination standards were very much connected to the Scripture and the Confessions, loss of the standards also means a loss of the authority undergirding the standards. This makes it easier to begin attacking foundational teaching. (2)Those pastors who have displayed a remarkable distaste for traditional Christianity are now, slowly, rising to prominence among various Presbyterian related organizations, both official and unofficial.
It seems as though some were waiting in the wings for their cue. It is as though Arius has risen from the dead to insist that the church should be more concerned with his and Athanasius’s unity than with the co-equality of the eternal Son and the Father.
John Vest, a youth pastor, as well as a member of the Middle Governing Body Commission writes in his posting “Heterodoxy” that, “The fact that these creeds and doctrines are still debated centuries later is not an indication that heretics and apostates are rejecting the word of God. Rather, it is a demonstration that heterodoxy is a fact of human existence.” He goes on to explain why there is orthodoxy and to place biblical authority under his same disdain:
It is also important to remember that “orthodoxy” was established by the winners of human debates, not handed down to us from on high. (The same goes for the contents of the biblical canon, for that matter.)
Vest is actually saying that the deity of Jesus Christ is a matter of human speculation. In fact, there is for him, and others, seemingly, no longer any revelatory authority at all.
Let’s think about what is being stated with such pronouncements. The Nicene’s statement about Jesus being ‘Light from Light’, ‘God from God’ is only true because a debate was won. And the same would be true of the Reformation Confessions. Justification by faith, accordingly is not necessarily true and even if biblical perhaps still not true. The Theological Declaration of Barmen’s insistence that Jesus is the only Lord we have to hear is only an orthodox statement because the allies defeated Hitler otherwise the statements written by the German Christians about Hitler would be true.
This is the ultimate issue; it doesn’t just affect the life of the church, it decides where there is a church and where there is not a church. It decides where there is right preaching of the word and where there is not. Within this denomination, the Church needs to stand up and confess Christ as the only true Lord and the only true Savior.