Saturday, March 18, 2006

A Denomination with No Beliefs

“I don't believe in God. I don't believe Jesus Christ was the son of a God that I don't believe in, nor do I believe Jesus rose from the dead to ascend to a heaven that I don't believe exists. Given these positions, this year I did the only thing that seemed sensible: I formally joined a Christian church. Standing before the congregation of St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Austin, I affirmed that I: (1) endorsed the core principles in Christ's teaching; (2) intended to work to deepen my understanding and practice of the universal love at the heart of those principles; and (3) pledged to be a responsible member of the church and the larger community. So, I'm a Christian, sort of. A secular Christian. A Christian atheist, perhaps. But, in a deep sense, I would argue, a real Christian.”

This quote is from Robert Jensen as found on the March 11 edition of the Houston Chronicle’s web site He is a member of the PCUSA but doesn’t believe in God! Doesn’t believe that Jesus is the Son of God! Doesn’t believe that he rose from the dead! Let me try to get a grasp on this… a church session (for the non-Presbyterians out there that is the church board) questioned Mr. Jensen concerning his beliefs. I guess they don’t hold that a belief on God, Jesus or the resurrection as critical beliefs for church membership in the PCUSA.

Has the PCUSA become so diverse that it is no longer a Christian church? I don’t think so, at least not yet. However, the day may come…

Hang around at presbytery, synod or General Assembly and you will hear the phrase “Reformed Tradition.” Stay a little longer and you will hear the phrase “essential tenants.” Now here is the fun part—ask thirty people what those essential tenants are and compare their answers. Now try to find them listed in our Book of Order. Not there! On top of that, a session or presbytery could just ignore them if they were there.

In the early 1980s a man named John Hicks wanted to become a member of San Gabriel Presbytery. Hicks was (is?) a theologian who had an impressive list of published material. Hicks did not believe in the virgin birth, that Jesus was the son of God, that Jesus did any miracles, that Jesus died for our sins, or that Jesus rose from the grave. The presbytery accepted him as a member-at-large. Thankfully there were complaints that the presbytery did not allow any questions to be ask of Hicks on the floor of presbytery. His membership was removed until he could be questioned at presbytery. At that point he with drew his request for membership. The presbytery’s leadership was very aware of Hicks’ beliefs (or lack there of). They saw nothing wrong with them!

It is time for the PCUSA to establish some minimum core beliefs that cannot be waved by a session, synod, or General Assembly.


At 9:48 AM , Blogger Classical Presbyterian said...

But Lance----if we do what you call for, then we'll have to say "no" to people!!

The horror!!


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