John Vest writing about, First Principles and Like-Mindedness and a new church development training conference listed four principles which a presenter felt should be agreed upon before a committee for new church development began planning. The principles are:
§ Who is Jesus?
§ What is Church?
§ What is Salvation?
§ What is Service?
Vest felt that a conversation on those topics was important but not a consensus on the answers. He wrote, “I’m a little troubled by the suggestion that we must arrive at a consensus on these matters, because I’m not sure how realistic—or necessary—it is for an NCD team, a congregation, or a denomination to be in agreement on each of these questions”
He also stated that,“ When it comes to new church development—or any expression of the church’s mission—do I really need to find people that I can agree with on first principles before beginning missional work together? Should people that cannot agree with me find people that they can agree with and go about mission in a parallel but separate way from what I end up doing with people that I agree with?’ These are good questions but Vest’s assumptions I believe are totally misguided, as are the assumptions of many others.
Sure, it is possible to build a Habitat for Humanity house with even unbelievers. It is possible to stand side by side with a diverse mix of religious people and feed the poor in the inner city or rebuild communities torn by disasters.
But for the orthodox that part of mission only deals with the fallen- physical world; but there is a fallen humanity that needs a Savior. The Savior is both God and human. The Savior shed his blood on a cross for the sins of humanity. The Savior, who is both God and human, because he is God and human, forgives and transforms the sinner. That is revelation about the incarnation and redemption as found and known in God’s word. That is the core of mission; bringing that good news about Jesus to lost humanity. It is non-negotiable.
But that brings me to the second part of what I wanted to say.
Vest is right when he writes, “In many ways, the debates we keep having with each other are symptoms of not talking about these foundational issues [the principles he has listed]. But still he says he does not want consensus. He wants discussion, theological debate with out resolution, Nicaea with out choosing the deity of Christ over the created creature of Arianism, the Confessions without confessing. And this is what is happening in our voting.
Those seeking the ordination of practicing GLBT persons think that our polity is the necessary movement of the Holy Spirit. They believe that voting continually on the issue of standards will eventually lead the church to accept a different viewpoint about what God wants for the church. For progressives nothing is fixed, solid or absolute. It is for them, at the moment, like Vest’s ideas about conversation; the outcome will have no real resolution. Although many in the church will not agree they believe voting will make it so. Although scriptures and confessions will not agree they believe voting will make it so.
But what the progressive side does not understand is that the orthodox are not voting as a means of deciding the outcome of what God wants, they are instead, with their vote, defending the faith against a sinful invasive cultural decadence. The orthodox are voting as a means of defending the faith which upholds Jesus as both God and human. They are voting as a means of defending the redemptive work of Jesus on the cross whose bloody death brings forgiveness and transformation to all sinners who repent.
The whole of our faith is wrapped up in the voting. Sinful, weak and needy though we are, we are standing where the apostles, martyrs and followers of Jesus Christ have stood through all the centuries. It isn’t just about voting. It isn’t just about gay sex. It is about Jesus Christ as Lord of the church.