Thursday, May 11, 2006

Presbyterians Together, No. 2

This document, to which I referred a couple of days ago, is now published. You can find a copy of it here. Also, I think the best comments that I've read on all of this are Phil Ryken's on the Ref21 weblog.

In the light of interactions that I've had since my earlier post, as well as points made on the Presbyterians Together website, I'm glad to take proponents of this document at face value in their claim that they do not desire to preempt doctrinal discussion in the courts of the church. And so, I'd like to publically affirm this: I, for one, am glad to be charitable and patient in dealing with these matters. Having served on the Missouri Presbytery committee that studied Federal Vision, and having discussed these matters in other venues, I think patience, graciousness, and fair-dealing are important evidences of the reality of God's grace in our lives.

But then again, those were things that I promised in my own ordination vows: "Do you promise subjection to your brethren in the Lord?" and "Do you promise to be zealous and faithful in maintaining the truths of the Gospel and the purity and peace and unity of the Church, whatever persecution or opposition may arise unto you on that account?" And so, I do hope that if I will take others at face value and good faith, that others will treat me with the same generous spirit.

Because at the end of the day, like those who signed this document, I simply want Presbyterianism to flourish. Granted that my understanding of Presbyterianism is "vanilla," (as I suggest in my forthcoming book, On Being Presbyterian), my heart is for what I believe to be the most biblical form of beliefs and practices. Now, to be sure, my own desires are for a more "traditional" (or "confessional") version of that identity; still, I also recognize the need for liberty on non-essential issues (such as creation days and eschatology).

The real question is on issues under discussion that appear to me to nearer the core of historic Presbyterian beliefs--covenant, election, justification, union with Christ, sacraments. And while we can esteem others as brothers who may disagree on these issues, the church should raise questions about how much diversity a tradition can tolerate before it becomes a different tradition all together. And in the midst of this, we should raise questions whether we can truly remain united in mission if we experience doctrinal diversity on "essential" doctrines.

And so, as the church struggles to work through these issues, I do hope we proceed with charity, desiring to demonstrate the grace of God at work in our lives and remaining loyal to our ordination vows. But I also hope that we think very carefully about the unity of our church, which can only truly be had as we center our faith on a common understanding and affirmation of biblical and confessional beliefs, all done in good faith before God and others.

1 comment:

Mark Traphagen said...

Amen. I have not heard it put better or more fairly anywhere.

Mark Traphagen