“It (Subscription) is certainly a transaction which ought to be entered upon with much deep deliberation and humble prayer; and in which, if a man be bound to be sincere in anything, he is bound to be honest to his God, honest to himself, and honest to the church which he joins. For myself, I know of no transaction in which insincerity is more justly chargeable with the dreadful sin of “lying to the Holy Ghost” than in this. It is truly humiliating and distressing to know that in some churches it has gradually become customary to consider articles of faith as merely articles of peace: in other words, as articles which he who subscribes is not considered as professing to believe, but as merely engaging not to oppose at least in any public or offensive manner.”
Samuel Miller, 1769-1850
Doctrinal Integrity, pp. 59-60
The Canons of Dort open with statements that clearly articulate what is believed. After they are finished with the affirmations though they go on to write sections that delineate what is rejected because of what is affirmed. The men at Dort realized that every affirmation implies a rejection of its corresponding opposite. One finds the same kind of thing in the Belgic Confession of Faith. For example more then once the Confession, having made an explicit point will go on to say something like… ‘therefore we detest the errors of the ana-baptists,’ or ‘therefore we reject and abhor the errors of the Manichees.’ Similarly, when one reads the Heidelberg catechism with a close eye one realizes that certain segments are being written explicitly to contradict either Lutheran or Roman Catholic doctrines.
All of these documents are interested in defending the truth against error. We however, suggesting these documents are just ‘faith traditions’ no longer think there is a necessity to define the faith by rejecting what is not faith. Now, I realize that there is a necessity to be as broad and charitable as possible for fear of over restricting what lies within the circle of orthodoxy. I must wonder though if the modern danger we are facing is really the danger of being to narrow in our interpretations. Is it not instead the case that our generational error du jour is our proneness to hold hands and sing Kumbaya with everybody who shows up regardless of which Jesus they follow. The Reformed Church today has room for the Feminist Jesus, the Jesus in the American Flag (you know, kind of like a ‘pig in a blanket’), the ana-baptist Jesus, the Jesus whose Lordship is quarantined, the Pentecostal Jesus (whose followers seemed to have swallowed the Holy Ghost — feathers and all), and my personal favorite, the make him up as you go Jesus.
The very purpose of Confessional documents is to avoid this game of ‘pin the tail of meaning on Jesus’ that we see everywhere about us. Yet despite living in the kind of climate described above what we want to do is dilute the form of subscription in the Christian Reformed Church. This is like the one or two people who made it alive out of the Jim Jones compound in Guyana insisting that the Kool Aid needs to have more punch power the next time it gets served up.
I know… I know….
We live in a kinder and gentler time.
I have often noticed it to be the case that the people who remind me of that most frequently are the people who can afford to be kinder and gentler because their positions are in the ascendancy. Its easy for someone to admonish people to be kinder and gentler when the ones doing that admonishing are the ones having their way.
One must wonder what is afoot in the CRC. Recently we find out that it is proposed that in the projected new Psalter the Belgic Confession of Faith and the Canon’s of Dort won’t be included. Then we hear news of a proposed dilution in the force of the ‘Form of Subscription.’ If things keep going like this one won’t be surprised if one hears CRC ministers saying things like ‘Calvinism is like dry ice — to touch it is to be burned.”
Ok… so the latter would never happen but you take my point.