Rail Against The Machine — Reflection On The Belhar;

The Belhar would find us confessing,

We believe

• that God has entrusted the church with the message of reconciliation in and through Jesus Christ; that the church is called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world, that the church is called blessed because it is a peacemaker, that the church is witness both by word and by deed to the new heaven and the new earth in which righteousness dwells

Now remember the problem that we have recognized with the Belhar is its ambiguity. The reason for that ambiguity is lodged in the reality that we do not know what meaning the drafters of the Belhar are filling their words with. We need to keep in mind in this discussion that while words have true meaning in themselves, one tactic that is used by a alien worldveiw to overthrow an existing worldview is to retain the form of the word while emptying it of its true meaning and then filling that word with a novel meaning unique to the worldview that the word is now dwelling. Purposeful ambiguity thus becomes a chief weapon for those seeking to introduce non-Biblical thinking. The Church has had to fight this tactic of subterfuge by purposeful ambiguity for millennium. If one reads carefully through books like Jude or I John one sees that a similar tactic was being used there as the Gnostics / Docetists were retaining the language and jargon of the Christian faith but were filling it with a meaning that was unique to their alien world and life view. In the 20th century, in the Modernist vs. Liberal controversy that roiled the Church the battle was fought over the tactic of the Liberals / neo-orthodox to empty Christian words and jargon of its orthodox meaning only to fill those words and that jargon with a meaning that was alien to Biblical Christianity. In all such contests the form of Christianity is maintained but the thing itself is mutated into something unrecognizable to those who previously identified with it.

This is the kind of ambiguity we find throughout the Belhar. Over and over again we find words, concepts, and jargon used that sounds familiar to the Christian ear but upon closer examination one is left wondering if the words used, left undefined as they are, really mean what they have historically meant or if those words are being used ambiguously in pursuit of subterfuge.

The emboldened words in the paragraph above is just such an example.

What few people in the American setting recognize is that the words “witness by word and by deed to the new heaven and the new earth in which righteousness dwells,” have a decidedly political meaning in the light of statements that have been made by liberation theologians. In other words what we have in the phrase “witness by word and by deed to the new heaven and the new earth in which righteousness dwells,” is a phrase that has been co-opted by some of the Liberation Theologians. Dr Allan Boesak, a key drafter of the Belhar and one influenced by Liberation theology and theologians, explained the above emboldened phrase like this:

“The New Jerusalem is no future world somewhere else. No, the new Jerusalem comes from Heaven into this reality… The New Jerusalem is no mirage from the beyond… It does not need to wait for eternity. This new Jerusalem will arise from the ashes of all that which today is called Pretoria. For the old things have passed away.”

Now, when you read the quote immediately above and then juxtapose it with this liberation theology inspired quote below from Dr. Boesak suddenly the implications of the Belhar take on foreboding meaning,

“[Black Power] is action to achieve justice and liberation for black people. It does not purport to be the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, or the true Christian church. Black Theology is how black theologians understand Jesus Christ, the Spirit, the church, etc., in relation to justice and liberation

Farewell To Innocence: A Socio Ethical Study On Black Theology And Black Power
Dr. Allen Boesak — pg. 71

Now, in light of these words one wonders if the New Jerusalem in which righteousness dwells is in fact a community ruled by Black Liberation Marxist theologians and inhabited by disciples of James Cone. At the very least we see that the phrase “the church is witness both by word and by deed to the new heaven and the new earth in which righteousness dwells,” is one that is filled with ambiguity. If the Belhar is adopted that phrase could be read in terms of its historic Christian meaning or it could easily be read in terms of Liberation theology. Do we want to affirm a Confession that we are not sure what it means?

Author: jetbrane

I am a Pastor of a small Church in Mid-Michigan who delights in my family, my congregation and my calling. I am postmillennial in my eschatology. Paedo-Calvinist Covenantal in my Christianity Reformed in my Soteriology Presuppositional in my apologetics Familialist in my family theology Agrarian in my regional community social order belief Christianity creates culture and so Christendom in my national social order belief Mythic-Poetic / Grammatical Historical in my Hermeneutic Pre-modern, Medieval, & Feudal before Enlightenment, modernity, & postmodern Reconstructionist / Theonomic in my Worldview One part paleo-conservative / one part micro Libertarian in my politics Systematic and Biblical theology need one another but Systematics has pride of place Some of my favorite authors, Augustine, Turretin, Calvin, Tolkien, Chesterton, Nock, Tozer, Dabney, Bavinck, Wodehouse, Rushdoony, Bahnsen, Schaeffer, C. Van Til, H. Van Til, G. H. Clark, C. Dawson, H. Berman, R. Nash, C. G. Singer, R. Kipling, G. North, J. Edwards, S. Foote, F. Hayek, O. Guiness, J. Witte, M. Rothbard, Clyde Wilson, Mencken, Lasch, Postman, Gatto, T. Boston, Thomas Brooks, Terry Brooks, C. Hodge, J. Calhoun, Llyod-Jones, T. Sowell, A. McClaren, M. Muggeridge, C. F. H. Henry, F. Swarz, M. Henry, G. Marten, P. Schaff, T. S. Elliott, K. Van Hoozer, K. Gentry, etc. My passion is to write in such a way that the Lord Christ might be pleased. It is my hope that people will be challenged to reconsider what are considered the givens of the current culture. Your biggest help to me dear reader will be to often remind me that God is Sovereign and that all that is, is because it pleases him.

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