Form Of Subscription Debate

“The first task of any fascist reformation is to discredit the authority of the past, and this was the top priority of the New Left….Received wisdom, dogma, and ‘ritualistic language,’ Tom Hayden wrote in his 1961 ‘Letter to the New (Young)Left,’ would be swept aside by a revolutionary spirit that ‘finds no rest in conclusions (and in which)answers are seen as provisional, to be discarded in the face of new evidence or changed conditions.

J. Goldberg
Liberal Fascism — pg. 172

In the Christian Reformed Church there is currently discussion swirling on the 2005 proposal to substantially alter (some would contend functionally eliminate) the Form of Subscription. For those who are unaware of what the Form of Subscription is, you should know that it is a document that office bearers in the CRC sign, communicating their intent to be loyal to and to defend the three forms of unity. The intent of the Form of subscription is to preserve doctrinal unity in the denomination. In 2005 an adventurous committee was assigned to give the form of subscription language a update, but instead what transpired was a proposal to reinvent the wheel. The committee was assigned a wax and polish job and returned instead with a completely different vehicle.

The reason that I provide that Goldberg quote in connection with this is that when one reads the draft proposal on the table in has a good bit of the kind of smell in it that reflects what Goldberg is getting at in the quote. I do see in the committees work a (perhaps unintentional) discrediting of the authority of the past.

For example the committee can write,

Our committee believes that from 1976 on, the history of the FOS indicates that the first assumption remains true (that a church’s identity and mission arise out of a specific heritage) while the second (that a regulatory instrument is needed to keep us orthodox) is increasingly being called into question. Increased cultural and ethnic diversity, the increase in new church plants, and the cultural moment often described as postmodernism are among the factors raising these questions.

Notice that ‘changed conditions’ are convincing the committee that the Form of subscription and the authority of the past it represents must be severely altered. One wonders if this is the first time since 1619 that our conditions have so changed that it requires largely gutting what amounts to a simple promissory note to be faithful to the Gospel as expressed in the three forms of unity. What has changed so much in our conditions that promising to be faithful to the Gospel is now some kind of barrier? Further, what is the present Form of Subscription a barrier to? I wonder how it is that the requirement for office bearers to sign the present Form of Subscription gets in the way of ministering the Gospel?

Well, having re-read the committee report I have decided to tackle this issue in a different, and more thorough fashion. Stay tuned for a return to this subject.

Also, quickly, please note I am not trying to accuse anybody of being self-consciously fascist. I am just noting the similarities of approaches between what Goldberg sees in the political realm and what I am seeing in a theological realm. Perhaps those similarities will become more clear as I continue to deal with this.

Politics Make Strange Bedmates

“On January 28, 1961, Elijah Muhammad sent Malcolm X to Atlanta to negotiate an agreement with the Klu Klux Klan whereby the Klan would support a separate Black state.”

J. Goldberg
Liberal Fascism — pg. 196

The premise here is that both the Klan and the Nation of Islam were Fascist Nationalist movements who could reach accord on eliminating the presence of each by pursuing ethnic / cultural segregation in agreeing to give each a purified homeland.

Since we see that fascism is colorblind, is it also possible to have a kind of fascism that is reverse of what we see above? In other words would it be possible for a people to desire a homeland that was purified of any distinct ethnicity / culture, choosing instead to build a kind of mongrel nationalism where the kind of ethnic identity required would be no or all ethnic / cultural identity (we might even call it multiculturalism) and where the presence of any unique ethnic / cultural identity except mongrel ethnic / cultural identity would be considered unpatriotic?

Would that be possible?

Who Could Have Guessed?

Recently, I posted a series of three ‘Ask The Pastor’ Posts. What I didn’t say in those posts is that these were the questions that I would be asked during my Colloquium Doctum interview for transfer of ordination into the Christian Reformed Church.

Today I underwent examination and passed unanimously and so I am now officially what I have been unofficially for the past 13 years, to wit, an ordained minister in good standing in the Christian Reformed Church. It seems the only minor issue was my strong rejection of open theism. I think I said that it was heresy and a canker that needed to be ripped out of the Church. I never would have imagined that sentiment could have been controversial in the least. There were also some questions about my rejection of women to hold ordained positions but apparently I convinced them that such a position isn’t akin to being a knuckle scraping troglodyte who habitually grabs and drags stray women by their hair. I probably should have worked harder to convince people that my position is the position that esteems women and reflects godly compassion for women while the contrary position in reality does just the opposite but I think most of the people in Classis’s position on that is pretty much set in concrete and not even my eloquence could have changed that.

I have mixed thoughts and emotions about my newly minted status with the CRC. First, I realize that the CRC is not a perfect denomination and has some challenges before it but as I map out the Reformed denominational landscape I do not see a denomination that isn’t without its substantial issues. In the end I think all of us, who are trying to be epistemologically self conscious about being Reformed, are, in many respects, in the same boat together, and together, regardless of what Reformed denomination we are in, we are either going to survive together or we are going to capsize together. I honestly believe I can help all genuinely Reformed people, regardless of their Reformed denominational stripe, by working for Reformation and awakening in the CRC. Second, I am relieved to have this behind me. I have been operating 20 years as a Reformed minister with independent Baptist credentials. It is satisfying to finally be a Reformed minister with Reformed credentials. Third, I feel conflicted. I have not pushed this credential issue over the years because I was never absolutely confident that Bret McAtee and the CRCNA was a good fit. As long as Classis was willing to ignore me, I was willing to let them ignore me. Now I am CRC. Have I made the right decision? I believe I have but only time will tell. Fourth, as contradictory as it might sound, compared to what I’ve just said about being conflicted, I am confident. When pressed with decisions that result in being conflicted I have always trusted Augustine’s motto of ‘love God and do as you please.’ By God’s grace I do love God and I have done as I pleased and now I am confident that God will work to glorify His name in this decision and the consequences that will be subsequent to it.

So, I am a CRC minister. Next time you see me you can address me as ‘Dominee.’

Failing that, ‘Your Holiness’ will be sufficient.

p.s. – Regarding the last part, in the famous words of Foghorn Leghorn,

“That’s a joke… I say, that’s a joke, son, don’t you get it?”

What’s In A Name?

Recently the name of the leading Democratic Presidential contender has wormed its way back into the news. Specifically we are being told that it is fear mongering to mention that Barack Hussein Obama’s middle name is ‘Hussein.’ Such mewling from the Democrats on this issue serves them well due to their every expanding, ‘poor me, I’m a victim’ party creed. Quite beyond that I want to briefly examine the issue of the name itself.

First keep in mind that the use of middle names among Presidents has a long and storied tradition. Just off the top of my head, without looking I can give you,

Warren Gamaliel Harding
John Calvin Coolidge
Herbert Clark Hoover
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Harry S. Truman (The ‘S’ stood alone)
Dwight David Eisenhower
John Fitzgerald Kennedy (along with his brother Robert Francis)
Lyndon Baines Johnson
Richard Milhous Nixon
Leslie Lynch King (sometimes known as Gerald Rudolph Ford)
James Earl Carter
Ronald Wilson Reagan
George Herbert Walker Bush
William Jefferson Blythe Clinton
George Walker Bush

Some of these President’s were trademarked by their monograms, which of course included their middle initial (FDR, JFK, LBJ). The sum of the point is that the awareness and usage of middle names among those who are Presidential aspirants is not uncommon. So, given that reality why is it that Barack Hussein Obama is complaining that the usage of his middle name, by his opponents, is fear mongering?

The answer to that is twofold. First, Barak Hussein Obama, by complaining about this issue, morphs the issue from being about his Muslim origins into an issue about being victimized. Second, by complaining about this issue as fear mongering Barak Hussein Obama achieves the elimination of a story that potentially has real legs. What of Obama’s past? What kind of difference did it make growing up with Muslim Dads? Keep in mind here that the issue isn’t that Barak, or even his Dad’s were active Muslims. The issue here is (or at least should be) answering the question of the ways that the Islamic cultural matrix that Obama grew up in influenced him. The Americans listed above grew up in a culture largely defined by Christian categories. Some of them might have been unfaithful to those Christian categories but nobody can deny that those Christian categories influenced them. How did Muslim categories influence and shape Barak Hussein Obama?

This is also an issue because what Democrats are asking Americans to do, with the nomination of Barak Hussein Obama, is to elect somebody that only partially belongs to Ameri-euro culture. Take a look again at those names listed above. They are all Anglo Saxon Christian names and those men reflected, often times quite imperfectly, Anglo-ized Saxonized Christianized Culture. With the election of Barak Hussein Obama the case can be made that, at least symbolically speaking, America will have turned its back on its ethnic and cultural roots and will have officially embraced becoming a ‘World Nation’ as opposed to a Anglo-ized Saxon-ized Christianized nation where the oppressed of the world are welcome.

Many people who believe that nationality is bound up in abstract ideas that people of different cultures can abstractly embrace don’t find the above notion to be a problem. I think we are going to find out if they are correct. A look at how Nations around the world, where the kind of ethnic and cultural differences exist that we are insisting can make for a cohesive Nation, are pulling apart at the seams suggest that they are not.

Voting for Barak Hussein Obama may reveal if a radically polyglot nation can really be E pluribus unum.

William F. Buckley – A Short Requiem In A Minor Key

“The central question that emerges is whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas where it does not predominate numerically? The sobering answer is Yes-the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race.”

William F. Buckley — American Man Of Letters
National Review, August 24, 1957

Everybody knows that Bill Buckley died Wednesday. I can’t honestly say that I was overwhelmingly influenced by Buckley, though like all conservatives, I read his columns and watched his ‘Firing Line’ production.

In many ways he was a man of subtle contradictions. On one hand he was the architect of Reagan era conservatism while on the other hand he remained a member in good standing of the Council of Foreign Relations.
On one hand he professed loyalty to conservatism, while on the other hand he gave Joe Sobran the ‘heave ho’ from National Review and embraced Trotskyites neo-cons (non-cons) such as Norm and Midge Decter (nee – Podhertz). Within his lifetime he gathered the conservative movement and within his lifetime he saw it splinter again.

Buckley will always be remembered as erudite, urbane, and witty. He still retains those character traits. Buckley could marshal those traits in defense of convictions, as can be seen above, that still lie outside mainstream America — convictions, that if were articulated today by a well placed conservative, would bring the wrath of the politically correct world down upon them.

Perhaps it is fitting that Buckley should die at the time when it seems that the Republican party, which was the ideological vehicle of ‘Buckleyism’ is officially burying that brand of conservatism underneath the rubble of the ‘conservatism’ of those people, who at the end of his career, he was unwilling to cast out of the movement and who finally took over his magazine.

Conservatives everywhere owe a great deal of gratitude to William F. Buckley, but it should be ‘eyes wide open’ gratitude. Buckley carried the conservative embers for most of his life, but at the end he passed the torch to a group, who are in many ways, the very opposite of what he contended for throughout his life.

We should thank God for William F. Buckley and pray that in our old age we will be able to finish well what we started.