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Tuesday
Mar202018

Hold Fast to the Word of God

(Photo: lsmadison)

YOU KNOW, I think I am still too young to give into nostalgia. But in light of Easter coming up, I was reminiscing with a friend about how in the old days it was easy to spot a liberal. First it is the sap running in the trees, then you hear the faint song of the migratory birds having returned. Then in their rite of spring, an enlightened liberal stands in the pulpit announcing a non-literal understanding of the resurrection, to a declining and disinterested congregation on Easter morn. Ah the good old days. Spotting a liberal is slightly more difficult now that the denial of credal doctrine is largely out of fashion. It has become a more subtle art.

Lately, amongst evangelicals there has been a kind of hesitation about these categories. What do we make of someone who preaches Jesus, believes in mission, denies neither the virgin birth nor the resurrection, but also advocates for same-sex marriage? Neither fish nor fowl? In the Church of England there has been a long tradition of liberal Evangelicals, but I have only recently noticed its development in Canada.

At some point, the metric applied was the creeds (though usually only the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds, not the magnificent Athanasian Creed). And this was certainly quite helpful when the progressive wing of the church was seeking to jettison basic Christology and literal interpretations of miracles in order to curry favour with the scientific community. But with the shift in culture over the last half century, the reconciliation of science and Scripture is no longer a great concern. Instead, today’s progressives want to fit seamlessly within the growing acceptance of identity issues, and modern sexual ethics – and so we should not be surprised that that measure is now less effective.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the creeds do speak to modern issues. While they don’t specifically state sexual ethics, or even the authority of Scripture, surely with a minute’s thought we can draw a direct line from the affirmation of the lordship of Christ, the Holy Ghost (who spake through the prophets) and an Apostolic Church, to the authority of the Scripture and to the teaching of our Lord on sexual immorality. Thus any denial of Scripture’s teaching is a Christological challenge. And any attempt to say that one can adopt teaching which is opposed to Scripture yet still be a credal Christian is fundamentally incoherent.

But even then, I think we are setting up a false structure in demanding that the measure be the creeds. When did the creeds replace Scripture as having the ultimate authority? Would we not recognise that the creeds are only authoritative insofar as they are a kind of précis for Scripture, and that Scripture itself retains the ultimate authority?

Paul certainly did not have the creeds when he condemned false teachers. Nor did it appear that the issues for which he condemned false teachers were credal issues, relating to Christological errors and the like. For instance, the creeds say nothing about circumcision, but Paul described those who preached that it was required were preaching another gospel, and should ‘be accursed.’

It would be very convenient if we could use the creeds as the shibboleth for orthodoxy. If we lowered the bar to only those matters specifically referenced in those few paragraphs, we would have little cause for friction with progressives in and out of the church. And we could be done with the anguish that comes from trying to live faithfully before God in an increasingly hostile world (and church). Yet, we do not have the liberty to jettison the revelation of Holy Scripture that way – thanks be to God. You see, in those finer strokes of Scripture there is such glorious good news and freedom. He did not leave us alone to figure out the details of his plan of redemption and restoration, but he gave us the Holy Spirit and the apostolic teaching.

Let us not be confused. Believe in the sound doctrine of the creeds. But above that read, meditate and hold fast to the Word of God. For in it is life and freedom and truth.   TAP

 

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Let me close by noting that this issue is our 100th issue of The Anglican Planet. It has been and continues to be a great joy to serve the Church in this way. We are enormously grateful for the encouraging letters and support that we receive from across the country. To celebrate this 100th issue, let me request: if you enjoy our little publication and share its vision for biblical Anglicanism in Canada, then spread the word, give away some gift subscriptions and pray for us. Soli Deo Gloria!


 

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