There is a backhanded appeal to the support of the Belhar Confession. I normally wouldn’t comment on this but the blogger linked to my analysis of the Belhar and opinionated that I dismissed it “derisively.” Personally, I was hoping to have dismissed it “scornfully,” but I’ll take derisive.
Mr. Tuininga offered,
That said, is the problem really with the document itself? If DeYoung, Mouw, and others can agree with virtually everything the document says, is it possible that the misuses to which it is being put are the result of factors not pertaining to the confession itself? To be sure, in a liberal context the Belhar Confession is easily put to disastrous use. But if it is adopted in the context of strong confessional allegiances to the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Canons of Dordt, or the Westminster Confession, is it really so dangerous or is it more of a corrective?
Yes, the problem is with the document itself. The document, as I exhaustively exposed in my previous posts on the Belhar is a document that grows out of the soil of Marxist liberation theology. Second, anybody (and I do mean anybody) who can agree with virtually everything that document says is either a Marxist, a proto-Marxist, or a useful idiot. Thirdly, the reason that the Belhar, in a liberal context could be used to disastrous use is because the Belhar is a liberal document. If a Liberal context can put the Bible, which is a historically non progressive document, to a disastrous use how much more a progressive document such as the Belhar? Fourthly, just exactly what is it in the Belgic Confession, the Canons of Dordt, the Heidelberg catechism, or the Westminster Confession that needs to have a corrective as young liberal Mr. Tuininga offers the Belhar as a solution? I’d really like to know what Mr. Tuininga believes the Belhar can do that these confessions don’t already do. Finally, yes, in point of fact it really is so dangerous Mr. Tuininga. To add the Belhar to the Westminster or the Three Forms of Unity is like adding the Communist Manifesto to the US Constitution as a “corrective.” The fact that Mr. Tuininga can’t see that says more about Mr. Tuininga then it does about the relative safety of the Belhar.
Second, I’m not sure Young and Mouw are really representative of “conservative voices,” on this issue. They might be “more conservative,” but that would only mean that they represent, perhaps, the right side of the left as opposed to representing the right.
Tuininga goes on,
DeYoung argues that the Belhar Confession’s statement that God is “in a special way the God of the poor, the destitute, and the wronged” cannot be supported from Scripture. He believes that this statement contradicts the Scriptural teaching regarding God’s covenant with his people. But I would argue that DeYoung is reading too much into that statement, and that he is underselling what Scripture says about God’s concern for the poor. It is Luke, after all, who records Jesus’ proclamation Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God, and woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation (Luke 6:20, 24). It was Jesus who described his calling as requiring him to proclaim good news to the poor (Luke 4:18). DeYoung has argued in his What is the Mission of the Church? that the material significance of these statements is exaggerated, but I find his insistence on downplaying the implications of the gospel regarding poverty quite troubling. It does not go beyond Scripture to say that God is in a special way the God of the poor and the oppressed.
Yes indeed it does go beyond Scripture to say that God is in a special way the God of the poor and oppressed. Was God more God to David when he was a shepherd boy then he was God to David when David was King? Was God more God to the oppressed Israelites in Egypt than he was to Rich Abraham? Was God more God outcast Moses than He was God to Moses the leader of the Israelite Nation? Was God more God to the woman with the blood issue who had spent all her money on many Doctors than He was God to rich Zacchaeus? Was God more God to the woman caught in adultery than he was to Joseph of Arimathea? The Luke passage must be read in light of the Matthew passage which adds to “poor,” the idea of “in spirit,” in order to understand what Jesus was saying. When Scripture portrays God as hearing the cry of the poor and needy no one really believes that means that God hears the cry of the poor and needy who are wicked as well. It is past ridiculous for someone to suggest that God prioritizes the poor simply because they are poor, absent of any consideration of their relation to Christ. If Mr. Tuininga really believes that the poor qua poor are special to God I would look for him to impoverish himself instantly, take a vow of poverty, and become a mendicant monk. Now of course, God is not the God, in a special way, to the rich either. God is the God of those, rich or poor, who are united to Jesus Christ. Mr. Tuininga’s words belie his liberal leanings.
Mr. Tuininga offers,
In fact, if the Belhar Confession (or something like it) is worth adopting in our churches, I would argue that it is precisely for the reason that it challenges conservatives in their reactionary stance on matters of justice. Conservative Christians love to downplay (or ignore) the teachings of Scripture regarding the gospel’s implications for race or poverty. But they are in severe danger of allowing liberal extremes on these issues to curb their own fidelity to the biblical witness. For those who read older theologians like Calvin on these issues, the contrast is quite stark.
I wonder if Mr. Tuininga would terribly mind to much giving some examples of “conservative reactionary stances on matters of justice.” It would be good if he could provide names as well as examples. Secondly, just exactly what are the Scripture’s teaching on race and poverty that conservative Christians love to downplay? Names and examples please.
You see, I believe that it is liberal reactionary stances on matters of justice that create more poverty then what already exist. Liberals are full of good intentions that when implemented make matters worse then they were prior to their implementation. Perhaps Mr. Tuininga and I agree on the Churches and Christians role in relieving poverty.