Presbyterians. Strange folk. Calvin and the school of hard Knox. You probably haven't (ahem) noticed, but this blog tends to be somewhat unaffirming of Reformed theology in general. If any tradition needs a hefty dose of prophetic irritation, Presbyterianism has to be somewhere near the top of the list.
And prophetic irritation has indeed been showered upon them. Lloyd Geering in New Zealand is the country's highest profile theologian; that fact being a source of chagrin to fundamentalists and certain Otago theology faculty members alike.
Shuck seems a kindred spirit. He has some provocative things to say about a "hold the line" article appearing in a US church publication. Here's a forkful of that particular egg 'n toast:
Presbyterians believe that Jesus Christ is "fully human and fully divine, one person in two natures, without confusion and without change, without separation and without division." This statement dates all the way back to the fifth century (451 to be exact) and is known as the Chalcedonian Definition.How many Presbyterians do you know who are Chalcedonian divas? In fact, how many would really know what the word Chalcedonian even refers to? No wonder Shuck says, "I strongly resist those blanket statements. It doesn't relate so much to the content of what the authors or editors might believe, it is the assumption that everyone believes or should believe these things."
Then the top of the pepper shaker topples and the condiment is upended...
That statement from 451 doesn't even make logical sense. It is a contradiction... This statement from 451 was a political compromise. It isn't a statement of absolute truth or Divine proclamation.Shuck finishes by asking two questions about things like creeds.
Human beings decided this. Whether the means of decision were violent, manipulative, or a democratic vote, human beings made it up... They didn't all agree. There were losers. There were people who didn't win "the vote" that day. Were they wrong just because their view didn't win the day? ... I think we need to know how our ancestors wrestled with decisions. We can respect their efforts. We can criticize their efforts. We can learn from their process and their decisions. We can honor our tradition but we are not beholden to their provisional conclusions.
Are theyGood questions for all Christians - not just Presbyterians - to ponder.
1. statements of belief to which we must adhere or
2. are they streams of tradition from which we are free to learn?
1. tests of faith or
2. testimonies to faith?