Wright on Election in Ephesians 1

"Yes, I really did write that."

“Yes, I really did write that.”

N.T. Wright makes two points about election in Ephesians 1. The first is that it’s real:

Verses 4–6 celebrate the fact that God’s people in the Messiah are chosen by grace. This is, perhaps, the most mysterious thing of all. God, the creator, ‘chose us in him’, that is, in the king, ‘before the world was made’; and he ‘foreordained us for himself’.

Many people, including many devout Christians, have found this shocking, or even unbelievable. How can God choose some and not others? How can being a follower of Jesus Christ be a matter of God’s prior decision, overriding any decision or freedom of our own?

Various answers can be given to this. We have to be careful here. Paul emphasizes throughout this paragraph that everything we have in Christ is a gift of God’s grace; and in the next chapter he will declare that before this grace reached down to us we were ‘dead’, and needing to be ‘made alive’ (2:5). We couldn’t lift a finger to help ourselves; the rescue we needed had to come from God’s side. That’s one of the things this opening section is celebrating.

Contrary to what some might think (even myself initially!), Wright affirms in a very careful, tentative, but apparently open way that God’s election of some and not others really is a thing. Now, very quickly he moves on to make a second point that many who affirm the first can tend to forget if they’re not careful:

The second thing, which is often missed in discussions of this point, is that our salvation in Christ is a vital stage, but only a stage, on the way to the much larger purpose of God. God’s plan is for the whole cosmos, the entire universe; his choosing and calling of us, and his shaping and directing of us in the Messiah, are somehow connected with that larger intention. How this works out we shall see a little later. But the point is that we aren’t chosen for our own sake, but for the sake of what God wants to accomplish through us. –N.T. Wright, Paul for Everyone: The Prison Letters: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon (8–9)

God has plans for his elect beyond their election. They are chosen for a purpose–various purposes really, such as mission, worship, and so forth, all culminating in the glorification and enjoyment of God. An awareness of God’s saving grace in election, then, ought not be an invitation to sit on your stump, but to get on the move and fulfill God’s proposed purposes through us in the Church (Eph. 2:8-10; 3:9-11). Yes, that grace outrages and amazes, and it should also enliven us to worshipful service in the world.

Soli Deo Gloria

P.S. If someone wants to post clear evidence to the contrary about Wright’s views on election, feel free to correct me here. I know he typically pushes a number of election passages in a corporate direction saying they’re not really what former dogmatics has said. Still, I’ve never seen him out and out deny individual election, and have seen him make statements like this that seem like affirmations of it.

P.S.S. Here’s the sort of thing I’m referring to in the P.S.: Wright on Election in Romans 9. (HT: Michael Bird and Matt Armstrong.)

God Gives the Growth (Or, Unexpected English Fruit)

vineI’ve never been a farmer, nor have I ever planted a tree. I think the closest I’ve come to sustained attempts at horticulture was a 3rd-grade science experiment involving a lima bean. Even from that limited experience, though, I suspect I’d be a terrible farmer, especially if I had to work with crops that yield fruit only with great lengths of time and enormous amounts of cultivation. I can just imagine myself, planting a seed, covering it, pouring water on it, and then just staring, waiting for something to happen.

Planting. Watering. Staring. Waiting. Planting. Watering. Staring. Waiting…

Of course, the terrible thing about a realization like that is that, as a pastor, that’s essentially my job. Yes, the shepherding metaphor is prominent, but cultivation metaphors for ministry abound in scripture as well (1 Cor. 3:5-9). Being young, impatient, and foolish is terrible sometimes. Actually, impatience and foolishness are always terrible.

In any case, my horticultural reflections on ministry were sparked by a little section in Bruce Gordon’s biography of John Calvin where he details the Genevan Reformer’s efforts in England. While Calvin never personally travelled to the Isles, for many years he followed the Reform efforts there with great interest. Through an extensive letter-writing ministry, he corresponded with men like Cranmer, the Duke of Somerset, and others in the later Elizabethan period trying to encourage the Reform efforts and goad them in more “pure” direction.

While his name and theology carried some definite influence in England, he never really had the effect he hoped for, especially in the reform under Elizabeth, in his lifetime. Due to his association with John Knox and Knox’s ill-advised publications on female rulers (written in the reign of Mary but known and hated by Elizabeth), Calvin was persona non grata in Elizabeth’s court and therefore any advice he might give would fall on deaf ears. The widespread reform of the Church of England and unification with the continental churches was not to be.

And yet, that’s not the whole of the story by a long shot. Gordon is worth quoting here at length:

Calvin and England is a curiously enigmatic subject. He died only six years after the accession of the Protestant queen. Their relationship had begun disastrously and never recovered, yet that was only part of the story. Through the stranger churches, French and Dutch, Geneva continued to be a major presence in England, and Calvin’s name most prominent. He and Heinrich Bullinger were the continental patriarchs of the British reformations. Those who had been in exile in Calvin’s city never forgot the experience: in marked them for life. They remained committed to what they had been taught there and never felt comfortable in the compromised world of the Elizabethan settlement. Many of these ‘Genevans’ kept themselves apart from English churches in order to preserve discipline, preferring to attend the services of the Dutch and French churches in London with their Geneva-style discipline rather than their own parishes. They belonged to the generation that had been shaped by the experiences of exile and through their contacts with Geneva and Zurich they became part of the Reformed church, which had been rejected by the Lutherans. When they died, the legacy remained. The stranger churches were the principal line of contact to Geneva, the practical means by which correspondence was exchanged. And Puritanism took from those churches Calvin’s theology, which it made its own. We are now aware of the astonishing quantity of Calvin’s works translated into English during the sixteenth century, far outstripping his contemporaries, even Bullinger. The 1559 Institutes was printed in translation in 1561, but that was just the tip of the iceberg, for it was soon followed by the biblical commentaries particularly during the 1570s. Calvin was long dead, but in England he was now reaching the lay audience he had so vigorously pursued.

–Bruce Gordon, Calvin, pg. 266

It wasn’t so much through all of his direct efforts to influence Reform from the top down in the English church, but in the slower, smaller, long-range work that he had his effect. It was in his efforts to find places for exiles in other communities, especially his personal hospitality towards exiled ministers, to secure properly trained pastors for churches in other nations, and the slow, steady stream of scholarship that ended up exerting the widespread reach he ended up having. In other words, the growth of English fruit was slow, indirect, and not the sort that it seems Calvin had hoped for most.

I don’t know that there are any easy moral lessons here, except to wonder at the odd, providential ways that our work bears fruit. I don’t think it’s a matter of saying “See, look, it’s the grass-roots stuff that works! Not that top-down Constantinianism!” I don’t particularly think it was a bad thing for Calvin to occupy himself writing the top leaders of the Reformation, or dedicating a commentary to Queen Elizabeth in order to gain her ear. It didn’t work, but I don’t think it would have been an insignificant or bad thing if he had. It had certainly had an impact in other situations.

All I will say is that it’s worth reflecting on the fact that we cannot predict what impact our faithful labors. Remember that it is “God who gives the growth.” Ours is only to obediently plant, water, and wait–maybe with a little less staring, as that tends to keep us from more planting and watering.

Soli Deo Gloria

Proof that PROOF Works: A Gracious Response From Jones And Montgomery

proofToday I had a review go up at the Gospel Coalition for the book PROOF by Timothy Paul Jones and Daniel Montgomery. It’s a good book that I think many will profit from. I said as much in my review. Still, I had one very big quibble with it:

…about a rather specific and unfortunate use of the phrase “camel-jockey” to refer to the patriarch Abraham (60). Maybe that’s just a colloquialism in some parts of the country, but as a Christian of Arab descent who’s been insulted with that term, I couldn’t help but flinch at the use of the slur. Given the authors’ robust defense of the racial universality of the gospel call, the offense was obviously unintended. Still, somebody in editing ought to have caught that phrase.

I wrote this with some trepidation because I didn’t want to sink or distract from the book. I had no ill-will towards Montgomery and Jones and I did think it was probably something careless or inadvertent.  Still, I felt that it needed to be said to maintain my integrity. This is why I was so pleased to read this near-immediate response in the comments on The Gospel Coalition review by Timothy Paul Jones:

First off, thanks to Derek for his review of PROOF. Both Daniel and I deeply appreciate the care and attention Derek has taken in his reading and review. Second, neither of us were aware that “camel jockey” functions as a derogatory epithet, and we apologize that we erred by including anything in the book that might be hurtful to any ethnic group.

No matter how unintended it may have been, the hurtfulness inherent in such an epithet runs counter to everything toward which we are working at Sojourn Community Church–to rejoice in the diversity of cultures and languages that God brings together through faith in Jesus Christ. We are thankful to Derek for calling us to account in this area so that we may share the grace of Jesus Christ more effectively with persons from every tribe, every language, and every ethnicity.

This morning, we have already taken every necessary step to have this error corrected. The first printing of the book has already shipped, but we have been assured by the editors at Zondervan that this section will be reworded prior to the second printing of the book.

Pastors and leaders, this is a godly response. As I said in my original review, I believe they didn’t know “camel-jockey” to be a slur or they wouldn’t have used it. And yet, Jones still owned up for the unintentional offense and even thanked me for the correction!

A humble, gracious, and quick response such as this is one that flows from a desire to not see anything stain or besmirch the name of Jesus or the Gospel. I’m so grateful for this demonstration of Christ-centered humility on the part of these leaders in the church. In an age of manufactured press releases and micro-managed spin, it’s rare to see an actual apology and swift movement to course-correct.

Leaders who are striving after Christ don’t reject the well-intended, or even not-so-well-intended, criticisms of others out of hand. Instead, they stop, listen, examine themselves and their sources to see if it’s true and if, and in what way, there is any opportunity for repentance or correction. They can do this because they know that ultimately their identity is found in Christ, where they are securely held by their Savior, no matter what (true or false) criticisms come their way. Leaders care far more about the name of Christ than feeling the need to prove they get it perfectly every time. Indeed, they know that at times a quick apology for whatever offense they might have provoked (that isn’t simply the offense of the gospel, that is) is more God-glorifying than getting it perfect the first time.

This is a wonderful testimony that Montgomery and Jones have truly imbibed deeply of the message of grace they write about so powerfully in their book. In other words, it’s a little more proof that PROOF works.

Soli Deo Gloria

Just as I went to hit ‘publish’, I saw on Twitter that Jones had posted a follow-up to this statement on his blog. You can go read it here.

PROOF Review (TGC)

proofDaniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones. PROOF: Finding Freedom Through The Intoxicating Joy of Irresistible Grace. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014. 224 pp. $16.99.

Grace. There are few words more cherished in the evangelical idiom. Step into our churches and you’ll probably hear the word every Sunday. You’d even think the word would be seared into the American consciousness. I mean, everyone knows that God shed his grace on America, and who couldn’t sing a few bars of “Amazing Grace”?

And yet for all that familiarity, Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones contend, most of us tend to live a graceless existence where performance and conditionality determine everything, threatening to thrust us into the cauldron of faith-killing despair. If we truly understood the beauty of the astonishing grace of the biblical gospel, it would make us stagger like drunken men intoxicated on the highest-proof spirits we could lay our hands on. In their pastoral, lively, and accessible book PROOF: Finding Freedom through the Intoxicating Joy of Irresistible Grace, they aim to get us tipsy by presenting us with a God who is sovereign, gracious, and mighty to save—far beyond the Cosmic Butler/Therapist of our imaginations.

You can read the review HERE.

Soli Deo Gloria

Casting Across the Pond Podcast

Last week I had a virtual sit-down with  a couple of my favorite writers from across the pond–Andrew Wilson and Alastair Roberts–and had a chat. Not only that, we recorded it and gave it a fancy name: “Casting Across the Pond.” That’s right kids, it’s our first podcast.

In this episode we take some time to talk about the connection between Jesus, the Old Testament, and our use of problem texts in our conversations on things like, say, the death penalty. It was a great convo and me excited for what’s to come.

You can find it here at Mere Orthodoxy, where Matt Anderson has graciously demanded that it be hosted. Please give it a listen and maybe share it with some friends. Thanks!!

But really, go listen to it.

Honestly.

Like, right now.

Soli Deo Gloria

 

Two Instances of NT Judgment (Or, Apparently Luke Didn’t Get the Memo)

sapphira-leclercEverybody knows that God allegedly struck people down in wrath in the Old Testament. We find dozens of instances in the Torah of God dealing out judgment in the form of illness or death, both on foreign enemies (Pharaoh & the Egyptians) as well as his own people (Sons of Korah, the snakes, etc.) for their sins. The pattern continues on through the historical prophets, as well as the the literary prophets. In text after text we see God prove that he both “kills, and makes alive” (Deut. 32:39; 1 Sam. 2:6), as he executes his righteous rule over the earth.

Of course, that’s the Old Testament. It’s now quite common to assert something along the lines of “Well, though the OT was really inspired (to a point), the fact of the matter is the OT authors were confused on some realities when it comes to God. How do we know this? Well, Jesus. I mean, Jesus is the fullest revelation of God, who does whatever he sees the Father doing, right? So Jesus never killed anybody nor did he teach anybody to kill anybody. Therefore, we know that God’s not the kind of God who would kill anybody or ever command anybody to be killed like we see in a number of OT narratives and legal passages. Now that Jesus came, we can overlay Jesus’ picture on the OT and see clearly which parts get God right and which don’t.” Or something like that.

This is the sort of thing Andrew Wilson has dubbed the Jesus Tea Strainer hermeneutic. I’ve dealt at length  with this sort of logic before in a few places myself, dealing with the problematic theology of revelation, hyper-pacifism, and it’s contradiction of Jesus’ own views of the Old Testament. Once here with respect to some unfortunate things Brian Zahnd said, and a second time with respect to Steve Chalke and Sabbath Sticks. Still, it’s worth pursuing the line of thought from another angle.

You see, it appears to me that if this logic were true, then the New Testament writers who had seen Jesus wouldn’t have gotten God wrong, right? I mean, they’d seen him face to face and received the New Covenant blessing of the Holy Spirit in union with Christ who would reveal all things to them, right? And anybody being discipled by them in subsequent years who also wrote inspired Scriptures should have that gift as well, right? So then, if any biblical writers might be expected to get the totally non-violent nature of God right, it would be the New Testament writers.

Except for it seems that they didn’t get the memo. At least Luke didn’t. Observe:

But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last.

And great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him. After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things. (Acts 5:1-11)

In this dark and disturbing story we see the judge of all the earth disciplining his church. Ananias and Sapphira greedily and foolishly conspired to lie to the church about their giving and in doing so lied to God himself, bringing down his judgment. Now, of course, it’s possible for you to try and speculate as to whether both Ananias and his wife both just so happened to have cardiac failures on the same day, in the same situation, (shared eating habits & whatnot), or you can accept it in line with the revelation of the OT as the hand of God.

Still, if that’s not convincing enough, jump ahead a few chapters to Acts 12:

Now Herod was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon, and they came to him with one accord, and having persuaded Blastus, the king’s chamberlain, they asked for peace, because their country depended on the king’s country for food. On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.  (Acts 12:20-23)

Just as in the Old Testament, the Lord strikes down a tyrant who has been oppressing his people for his pride and arrogance. If in the last story Luke left the author of judgment anonymous, here he explicitly names him: “Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down…” Now again, if you want to go about speculating as to whether this was a rogue angel, prone to disobey God, who nonetheless goes about defending his name…well, that’s your prerogative. It seems clear enough from the context, though, that this is to be taken as a divinely authorized judgment–angels are “messengers” bringing God’s righteous message here.

Of course, it’s worth pointing out that in both cases Jesus’ followers are not the ones executing judgment. A pacifist reading of these texts is totally possible; I don’t mean to settle that issue here. What I will say is that unless you want to go around calling into question the New Testament’s revelation of the character of God as well, then you have to have an amazing level of confidence in your ability to distinguish the really inspired bits from the not-so-inspired bits–one that I’ll admit I simply don’t share. This is especially the case when I consider that the inspired author of Acts is also the inspired author of one of those Gospels I’m relying on to get my picture of the non-violent Jesus who points us to a God who never violently judges people.

Now, this may not be enough to convince you, but I do hope it at least slows you down from the overhasty judgments about Jesus & the OT we’ve been seeing lately. Buying into these claims means biting off, chewing up, (and eventually spitting out) a bit more than you might have anticipated.

Soli Deo Gloria

 

Is There Such a Thing as ‘Moral Orthodoxy’?

Heston, bro. 'Nuff said.

Heston, bro. ‘Nuff said.

Note: The following is a somewhat tentative post. It is offered in a spirit of exploration and invitation to conversation, not as a definitive pronouncement or prescription on the issue.

Just yesterday, in a post on the Future of Protestantism (#protfuture), I raised the issue of what we might term “moral orthodoxy.” In the contemporary Evangelical discussion about sexuality, marriage, and the moral permissibility of same-sex romantic or sexual relationships, one of the big issues that’s been toyed around with is whether or not differing sexual ethics is a “gospel issue” and so forth.

The question has become, “Is rejecting the traditional position on same-sex relationships an issue of orthodoxy? Especially since it’s not something explicitly referred to in any of the creeds? Is it appropriate to call an Apostolic-, Nicene-, Chalcedon-affirming Christian, who nonetheless changes their mind on this issue, heterodox? Or is this more in the adiaphora category? Or maybe it’s not something that will brand you a heretic, but certainly not an Evangelical? Are the creeds sufficient to define the faithful, then?” Or something on that order.

Note, the issue isn’t whether someone is saved or not. Rather, it’s about the category of seriousness, or the classification of the sort of error (assuming a revisionist position is in error), this happens to be.

To be honest, I find myself sympathizing in both directions. While I would never say that the issue is adiaphora–a departure of this nature is far more serious than that–I initially have trouble reconciling myself to calling a resurrection-affirming, Trinity-praising, even justification-by-faith confessing believer a heretic because of their position on gay marriage. I tend to think heresy is a heavy word to be used mostly with reference to the classic heresies (Arianism, Pelagianism, Doceticsm, etc)–errors with a council condemning it or something.

That said, I do wonder how much of that tends to reflect a rather modern split between theology and ethics. “As long as you get your Christology right, then most of the rest of it we can discuss.” Being more of a dogmatics guy, I’m probably even more bent in that direction. The problem is, I’m not sure I really see that kind of divide countenanced in Scripture. Indeed, thinking of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he moves seamlessly from correcting doctrinal deviancies to ethical ones and drawing a number of connections in between. Chapter 6 ties a tight knot holding the resurrection of the body together with its sexual uses. It’s a Christological sexual ethic. In which case, a deviance on sex seems to imply a deviance on Christology.

Which, as I begin to think of it, reminds me of Alastair Roberts’ suggestion that such a demarcation of creedal sufficiency isn’t really even how creedalism works.

Affirming the Creeds
In a thoughtful post on what it means to be a creedal Christian, Roberts examines what that actually involves. Does being a creedal Christian simply mean that one happens to affirm the content of, say, the 12 articles of the Apostles’ creed as a summary? A lowest, common-denominator of faith? Or is it more than that? Does affirming the creed actually involve posture of humility and commitment towards believing and living within them as norm (normed under the Word of God, of course)? Possibly accepting it as firm yardstick of orthodoxy and so forth? Is there a depth beyond the surface?

Those are leading questions, of course. Roberts answers them quite clearly and suggests that mere affirmation of the words of the creed isn’t really enough. No, indeed, a certain level of adherence to accepted interpretation is involved:

The creed is given to us as a tool by which to discern error and as a form within which to recognize shared truths. Much is implied within the creed that is not explicitly stated. Various theological stances adopted by people who express the creed may be discovered to be unorthodox as their positions are revealed to be contrary to the creed on account of their hidden implications.

Pelagianism isn’t explicitly contrary to, say, any of the big three symbols I named earlier, and yet the Church later saw that it was in fact deeply destructive to the faith, constituting a fundamental denial of the truth of salvation in Christ. Tied to this point also is the fact that the creeds don’t deal with a number of issues of great importance (creation in the Image of God, etc.).

Finally, and crucially for my point, it must be noted that some can even affirm the creeds verbally while substantially denying them. It’s easily possible to see someone confessing the Apostles Creed while being a Trinity-denying heretic. Actually, in the 4th century there were teachers who held variations of Arianism that still affirmed the first Nicene creed. Their interpretation of the received text is rightly deemed to be a false one, contrary to the content it was designed to protect. So, while affirming Nicaea, they weren’t actually properly Nicene. Therefore, heretics.

The same would hold true today. Someone may come along and claim to affirm Nicaea, and yet reinterpret it–honestly, in good faith–along Arian lines, and we would say, “No, I know you think you’re affirming the creed, but really, you’ve changed it and filled it with new meaning.” It would be a verbal affirmation, but a substantial denial.

So what does this have to do with moral orthodoxy?

The Commandments as a Moral Creed
Well, Roberts goes on to discuss the “sufficiency of the creed”, pointing out that the creeds themselves were never actually designed to function on their own as sufficient to define the faithful apart from the liturgy and the rest of the church’s moral instruction. It’s at this point that the very unremarkable thought occurred to me that, despite the fact that there was no major ecumenical council adopting it as such, Christians have had a basic, unquestioned moral creed we’ve used for 2,000 years–indeed, the Jews for a 1,000 before that–the 10 Commandments.

As far as I can tell from the study of church history, alongside the early baptismal confessions, and the later expanded creeds, the 10 Commandments have functioned as an effective moral creed for the whole of Christendom. Catechism in the early church would have included teaching on the commands (See article links below.) Moving through the Middle Ages on into the catechisms and confessions of the Reformation (Luther’s, Westminster, Heidelberg, etc.) all have large sections devoted to them as they were seen as the basic skeleton of Biblical piety and ethics. As I understand it, they’re similarly central for Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic catechisms. As Roberts pointed out without quite making this point, the Commandments function as the creed does for the doctrinal storyline, standing as the summary of the rest of Torah, and really, Biblical ethics as a whole. Denying any of them, then, along with being a clear denial of Scripture, would be an unthinkable denial of the core of the faith.

If I’m correct, then, it’s just here that Roberts’ comments about the creed become relevant. It’s not that anybody in the revisionist camp actually explicitly denies the 10 Commandments. All but the most extreme liberal fringe would probably be horrified at the suggestion of such a repudiation; there’s no need to impugn motives here. Still, the question is whether or not this constitutes something similar to one of those unintentional, yet ultimately destructive, moves on the order of affirming Nicaea while actually holding beliefs that lean or are Arian. It could very well be that when properly understood there are revisionist positions–not only on same-sex issues, but with respect to premarital sex, divorce, etc.–that constitute a functional denial of the command against adultery as it sums up and embodies the biblical sexual ethic as a whole.

Any revision, then, of the traditional interpretation that has crossed confessional boundaries of Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox thought for 20 centuries, if wrong, is not likely to be a mere adiaphora.

This seems like a plausible line of thought to pursue. In fact, I’m quite sure someone already has.

Is There a Middle Category?
All the same, while I’ve floated this suggestion out there for discussion, I still find myself uneasy calling someone a heretic while they still hold the basic theology of the creeds in a fairly conservative form. Perhaps I’m too slow to call a spade a spade. It’s precisely here where I wonder, though, if there is possibly some third category between heresy and adiaphora. I don’t have a fancy name for it, but possibly something along lines of  “really, really, serious theological error.” As in, excommunication maybe isn’t fitting for the person who holds this, but then again, neither should you be signing them up to teach Sunday School for the kids.

I’m not sure where this leaves us. I guess I’m floating the idea that, no, bare-bones creedal affirmation is not enough. But then again, it doesn’t seem to have ever been–the Christian tradition has always said there was a bit more, especially in regards to biblical morality. Nor has that standard been an arbitrary one, but an ethic at the heart of biblical revelation.

As I said, this is all somewhat tentative. I think it makes sense, which is I why I wrote it, but I welcome your gracious corrections, thoughts, and comments. Please do be respectful of each other, though, and pleased don’t be offended if I don’t respond.

Soli Deo Gloria

Update:

1. Interesting post on the possible (non)-use the 10 commandments in early church catechesis. I don’t think it changes the usefulness of the proposal, but still a thing.
2. Post by Brad Littlejohn on Hooker’s distinctions when it comes to adiaphora. Longish, but helpful read.
3. Andrew Fulford has an especially instructive discussion on the difference between essential beliefs and beliefs that one is culpable or not culpable for holding.