Presbytery of Chicago: Amending Marriage (2 of 2)

Part 2 of 2:

Following the very brief theological phrase discusses in part 1, there are two long paragraphs discussing a same gender marriage ecclesial trial and recent secular political / judicial events in this area.  Thus, we do not encounter theologically focused text until the beginning of the very last paragraph in the Rationale, which is excerpted below.

For the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and for the good of loving, monogamous same-gender couples in our church and for the community and for the greater ministry of our clergy, sessions and churches we propose these changes to the Directory for Worship.

This statement may be compelling to those already convinced of its truth. However, I find it to be troubling. That is, the Rationale authors appear to be making this critical decision based on the bald assertion that it is for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Thus, this statement seems more like an incantation than it does a reasoned conclusion. Rather than presenting compelling ideas and arguments, the authors once again simply beg the obvious questions. For example, what is the Gospel of Jesus Christ and how can we know what is for its sake and what isn’t?

Perhaps a good place for a Reformed Christian to begin filling this void is in the Confessions. As it turns out, the Second Helvetic Confession addresses this issue directly.

“WHAT IS THE GOSPEL PROPERLY SPEAKING? And although our fathers had the Gospel in this way in the writings of the prophets by which they attained salvation in Christ through faith, yet the Gospel is properly called glad and joyous news, in which, first by John the Baptist, then by Christ the Lord himself, and afterwards by the apostles and their successors, is preached to us in the world that God has now performed what he promised from the beginning of the world, and has sent, nay more, has given us his only Son and in him reconciliation with the Father, the remission of sins, all fullness and everlasting life. Therefore, the history delineated by the four Evangelists and explaining how these things were done or fulfilled by Christ, what things Christ taught and did, and that those who believe in him have all fullness, is rightly called the Gospel. The preaching and writings of the apostles, in which the apostles explain for us how the Son was given to us by the Father, and in him everything that has to do with life and salvation, is also rightly called evangelical doctrine, so that not even today, if sincerely preached, does it lose its illustrious title.” (5.089)

Clearly though the Gospel is primarily about “reconciliation with the Father, the remission of sins, all fullness and everlasting life,” it also includes “how these things were done or fulfilled by Christ, what things Christ taught and did.” Thus, was Christ to have directly taught regarding the definition of marriage, this would be the primary source for our understanding of how this institution fits into the Gospel. It turns out that Jesus Christ did so teach (Matthew 19:4-6). However, I will wait to discuss this at length (Presbytery of Chicago: Authoritative Interpretation) .

The key point is that the Gospel of Jesus Christ itself, and, secondarily, what is and isn’t for its sake is to be determined by the Bible’s testimony, not by our own personal desires and opinions.

The Book of Confessions contains introductory sections that discuss the purpose and backgrounds for these constitutional documents. The following statement can be found in the section titled “The Nature and Purpose of Confessions.”

“3. Instruction. The confessions have been used for the education of leaders and members of the church in the right interpretation of Scripture and church tradition and to guard against the danger of individuals or groups selecting from the Bible or church tradition only that which confirms their personal opinions and desires.”

Thus, the central issue comes into view, that being are these authors “selecting from the Bible or church tradition only that that confirms their personal opinions and desires?

Overall, only 4% of this Rationale’s text dealt with Biblical and/or theological issues.  A final note, this Rationale did not quote a single Biblical or Confessional passage.

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