Ready for a Book of Order downgrade?
General Assembly in June 2008 will work on the draft and vote on a final version. Then presbyteries will need to approve or disapprove the changes to our constitution during the year from June 2008 to June 2009. Thus, we’ll all know about it eventually.
But right now, we are being invited to comment on some preliminary drafts, helping the FOG Task Force refine its work. Cindy Bolbach and Sharon M. Davison, FOG Co-Moderators, are taking a proactive approach to receive feedback. They reached out in an e-mail: “The task force invites your involvement and solicits your help in the following ways:
1. Read with us the resources listed in our bibliography;
2. Read the documents we have posted on the website [here and here];
3. Share your comments, questions, and insights with us;
4. Continue to hold the task force in prayer as it continues its work.”
“We hope you will share this invitation to dialogue and discussion with all within your organization,” they ventured. So here I am, sharing. You can send your comments to FOG by e-mail.
Troublesome first impressions
I have not had time to study the documents carefully, but even a cursory reading of the first part of the “Foundations of Presbyterian Polity” was rather disappointing. I read it with the superb first four chapters of the current Form of Government open for comparison, and the new diet version seemed anemic and left a bitter taste in comparison.
Why would I want to jettison the rich theology of the current foundational chapters of the Book of Order for the new draft language, which begins, “The church bears witness to God’s sovereign activity in the world as told in the Bible and understood by faith….”?
“As told in the Bible”? Tales are told. God’s Word, however--awesome and authoritative--is grandly revealed by God. Likewise, a Bible left to the whims of subjectively being “understood by faith” can be twisted like a putty nose to say or mean nearly anything.
This is not a good start.
Then I immediately ran into what looks to me like the classic heresy of Modalism in the sections about “God,” “Jesus Christ,” and “the Holy Spirit.” So let me get this straight: Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit aren’t God? It’s at best a highly awkward Trinitarianism.
Aren’t Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit co-eternal with God the Father, and weren’t they, too, intimately involved in Creation? You wouldn’t get it in the new draft language of 1.0101.
Didn’t Jesus, the eternal Son of God, exist before the Incarnation? And doesn’t he “sit at the right hand of God the Father Almighty” right now? And won’t he “come to judge the living and the dead?” You wouldn’t know it from the draft section 1.0102, which gives us only the Incarnate Jesus.
Is the Holy Spirit the only eternally present Person of the Godhead? Are the Father and the Son now distant, having once operated in the past? Are they currently dormant? You’d think so from the new section 1.0103.
Thus, at this early point, I’m still left wondering, Why trade the valuable Form of Government we’ve got for pottage? I don’t remember anyone demonstrating that the old Book of Order was broken. So if it ain’t broke, why fix it?
And when the new draft ain’t fixin’ it, but rather messin’ it up, it makes even less sense to me.
Take a look at the drafts (remember, they’re not final documents yet). Compare them to the first four chapters of the current Form of Government. And then send the FOG Task Force your commentary, too. They invited it.