PLURALISM" AND REFORMED CHRISTOLOGY
by Sarah J. Melcher
In a CrossCurrents article from 1999, Rita M. Gross
argues that "coming to terms" with genuine religious pluralism is one
of the most important tasks facing monotheistic religions today.1
According to Gross, the monotheistic religions have repeatedly shown that they
have a difficult time dealing constructively with the issue of religious diversity.
She points out, in reliance upon Huston Smith, that "the major persecuting
religions of the world are monotheistic, and that their willingness to persecute
is tied directly to their universalis-tic convictions, especially the conviction
that their conceptualization of the deity is universally relevant and supreme."2
This article takes seriously Gross's call to religious thinkers of monotheistic
faiths to pursue the goal of "genuine pluralism." Therefore, the discourse
below explores some obstacles to the "genuine pluralism" that Gross
envisions within one particular monotheistic tradition, that of the Reformed church,
with a particular focus on the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), where the present
author has had a lifelong membership.
I have two goals in writing this
article. First, I am attempting to respond to Gross' call to pursue the goal of
"genuine pluralism" by reflecting upon my own faith tradition. Second,
I hope to encourage persons within that tradition to show greater openness in
their relationships with non-Christian people of faith, an openness that would
be reflected in Reformed theology.
An event in my own life precipitated
my theological reflection on matters related to Reformed christology. A few years
ago, I was asked to travel with a group of faculty and students to a Jewish-Christian
dialogue event in Oswiecim, Poland. As part of the experience, faculty and students
toured Birkenau, one of the death camps in the Auschwitz complex. As our guide
was leading us through Birkenau, I moved closer to a Christian student who had
been walking alone. I sensed that the student was struggling and I wanted to offer
support. Together we learned that at least 1.2 million Jews died at Birkenau.
As we were walking by ourselves, the student asked me, "Do you think that
the Jews who died here went to hell?" I was very startled by the question.
After a pause for reflection, a line from a favorite Presbyterian hymn came to
me: "There is a wideness in God's mercy/ Like the wideness of the sea."
If I had answered in a way that was more in keeping with traditional Presbyterian
doctrine, I might have responded quite differently to the student, perhaps quoting
from the Westminster Larger Catechism (adopted by the Scottish General Assembly
in 1647); "They who having never heard the gospel, know not Jesus Christ,
and believe not in him, cannot be saved, be they never so diligent to frame their
lives according to the law of nature, or the laws of that religion which they
profess; neither is there salvation in any other, but in Christ alone, who is
the Savior only of his body, the church."3 I did not
have the heart to reply to the student according to the official doctrine of the
Presbyterian Confessions. In that place—in the setting of the Birkenau death camp—to
respond in such a way struck me as an inadequate response to the horrific offense
that had been committed there.
As this anecdote from my own experience
illustrates, a particularly knotty and controversial difficulty for interfaith
relations between Christian churches of the Reformed tradition and non-Christian
faith groups is the classic statement of Reformed christology that there is no
salvation by any other means than through Jesus Christ alone. Historically, Reformed
churches have affirmed, again and again, the belief that Jesus Christ is the only
savior.4 This theological tenet has had a deep
impact on relationships between Reformed Christians and those from other non-Christian
Often christological questions are addressed inwardly—toward
fellow members of a particular tradition—but it is important for discussion on
such questions to take place in public, dialogic, settings where people of diverse
faith communities can respond and be heard. Theologies that have a public impact
must be addressed in a broad public forum, in addition to more particular discussions
confined to a distinct religious tradition.
A recent christological statement
within the PC(USA), Hope in the Lord Jesus Christ, was adopted by the General
Assembly of the denomination in 2002.5 Although
it was approved by an overwhelming majority vote—and hailed by some as a great
step forward—the statement tends to an extent to repeat the exclusivist kind of
christology that the Reformed tradition has produced in the past.6
To illustrate the point that I am trying to make about the tone of the document,
I include lines 155-168:
155 Jesus Christ
is the only Savior and Lord, and all people
156 everywhere are called to place
their faith, hope, and love
157 in him. No one is saved by virtue of inherent
158 admirable living, for "by grace you have been saved
159 through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the
160 gift of God"
[Ephesians 2:8]. No one is saved apart from
161 God's gracious redemption
in Jesus Christ. Yet we do not
162 presume to limit the sovereign freedom
of "God our
163 Savior, who desires everyone to be saved and to come
164 the knowledge of the truth" [1 Timothy 2:4]. Thus, we
neither restrict the grace of God to those who profess
166 explicit faith
in Christ nor assume that all people are
167 saved regardless of faith. Grace,
love, and communion
168 belong to God, and are not ours to determine.
The earlier, exclusivist lines are followed by a mitigating statement, which suggests
that this christological document does not mean to strictly constrain the means
by which God saves. Indeed, the document states that ". . . we neither restrict
the grace of God to those who profess explicit faith in Christ nor assume that
all people are saved regardless of faith." The final sentence of lines 167-68
softens the exclusivist opening even further, by affirming a wise and important
principle of the Reformed tradition: "Grace, love, and communion belong to
God and are not ours to determine."7 The
statement represented in lines 155-68 as a whole has a gentler tone toward non-Christian
religions than the quotation from the Westminster Larger Catechism cited above.
But, the end result does not create the kind of openness toward other religious
faiths that Gross envisions. Strictly speaking, the combined statement of lines
155-68 represents what theologians describe as an "inclusivist" stance.8
It allows room for salvation for those who do not explicitly express faith in
Christ, but, if a person has received salvation, it is Christ who has done the
Of course, an introductory letter to Hope in the Lord Jesus
Christ states expressly that the document was not intended to explore a new openness
to non-Christian religions. Indeed, the language of the letter suggests that it
was written in response to recent christological controversies within the denomination.
The comprehensive witness of the Book of Confessions is sufficient to lead, instruct,
and guide the church. From time to time, however, questions arise in the church
that call for careful articulation of a particular aspect of Christian faith,
drawing upon the testimony of the confessions in a way that illuminates the unique
and authoritative witness of the Scriptures. Such occasions do not require a new
confession, but rather a faithful expression of the consistent teaching of Scripture
and the confessions. In this way, we may be helped to reappropriate central affirmations
of the faith and to renew our faithful witness in the world. In recent times,
some within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) have expressed understandings of
Jesus Christ that other Presbyterians believe breach the limits of Scripture and
the church's confessions. Many Presbyterians have been dissatisfied with responses
to the controversy, and some have questioned the clarity of the General Assembly's
affirmation of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.9
The document's prefatory letter thus states its purpose to prepare "a concise
articulation of the church's historic faith, which also expresses our clear convictions."
However, the framers also intend to "help the church better understand the
theological richness of the Lordship of Jesus Christ," a statement that mitigates
the language of re-appropriation which precedes it.10 Yet,
the document intends to reaffirm traditional understandings of Jesus Christ and
his role in salvation in language of sufficient clarity to satisfy those who were
disturbed by recent christological controversies within the denomination.11
While I hope I have acknowledged some of the obvious strengths of the statement
Hope in the Lord Jesus Christ, there is a Reformed principle that I would
like to stress that would encourage further reconsideration, discussion, and study
on the issue of christology and non-Christian religions. A major principle of
the Reformed tradition—perhaps the most famous of its many well-considered principles—is
that the church is "reformed, always to be reformed."12
The implications of this principle for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s Confessions
and/or its theological formulations is compellingly articulated in the Confession
Confessions and declarations are subordinate
standards in the church, subject to the authority of Jesus Christ, the Word of
God, as the Scriptures bear witness to him. No one type of confession is exclusively
valid, no one statement is irreformable. Obedience to Jesus Christ alone identifies
the one universal church and supplies the continuity of its tradition. This obedience
is the ground of the church's duty and freedom to reform itself in life and doctrine,
as new occasions, in God's providence, may demand.13
experience of the Shoah (Holocaust) of World War II and subsequent genocides in
our global experience—many of which were fueled in part by religious exclusivism—are
compelling reasons for Christians to revisit their theological statements. The
participation of Protestants in the atrocities of the Shoah— including Protestants
of the Reformed tradition—is something that must be squarely faced and considered
from the vantage point of the theological formulations.14
Studies suggest that the attitudes, theological teachings, and ecclesiastical
practices of European churches contributed to a hostile atmosphere that made the
Shoah possible.15 Roman Catholics and Orthodox
Catholics participated in genocide in the Balkans in more recent times. Christian
participation in genocides of the twentieth century represents a "new occasion"—at
least from a historical perspective—which calls for the close and sustained attention
of the finest theologians from within the Reformed tradition. Such global occasions
as genocide—with its implicit accusation of complicity or indifference on the
part of professing Christians—call for a deep commitment to reformation.
underlying issue with the exclusivist christology included in Hope In the
Lord Jesus Christ is how Scripture has been read in order to produce such
statements. It is possible, in regard to this kind of christology, that Scripture
has been read somewhat narrowly. An important Reformed principle for reading Scripture
is to let Scripture interpret Scripture.16 The
implication of this principle, as Shirley C. Guthrie explains it, is that
. . . when we encounter difficult passages of scripture or
passages the interpretation of which is controversial, we are to (1) compare them
with other passages which throw a different or more light on the question at hand
(Second Helvetic Confession, chap. II: "like and unlike passages");
and (2) seek to understand them in light of the total message of scripture, including
parts that may not specifically deal with the question at hand. This is a safeguard
against the perennial tendency of all individuals and groups to see and quote
only passages of scripture that confirm what they already think and want the Bible
to say, to ignore or reject other passages of scripture, and to let a few passages
on a particular issue obscure what the biblical message as a whole tells us about
God and God's will for our lives.17
Though we may use this principle well for other issues, Christians tend to treat
scriptural passages that express an exclusivist christology as having a higher
level of authority than other parts of scripture. Christians tend to read a passage
like John 14:6—Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me"—as having the power somehow
to "trump" other, more inclusive passages. The theological constructions
of the Reformed tradition tend to read the rest of Scripture as necessarily conforming
with passages like Matt 11:27; John 14:6; and Acts 4:12, among others.
There are indications that Scripture's framers or compilers deliberately included
books in Scripture that represent diverse perspectives. It is not apparent, however,
that these compilers intended to make Scripture's various parts harmonious. For
instance, the book of Job challenges some of the traditional wisdom perspectives
represented within the book of Proverbs or within some poems from the Book of
Psalms.18 Ecclesiastes, too, seems to challenge
the world view of traditional wisdom. The theological perspective of the Letter
of James may challenge the perspective of Paul's Letter to the Romans or it may
seek to correct a common misinterpretation of Paul's letter.19
There are additional intra-biblical challenges.
What if Scripture's framers
intended to include various passages that offered divergent perspectives on the
issue of salvation? What if Scripture's framers understood salvation as a complex
issue and so included passages that would represent the various facets of salvation
to their readers? The habit of the Reformed tradition of making passages expressing
the exclusivist christology of salvation by Christ alone to provide the lens through
which other passages must be read may violate the principles of interpreting from
the perspective of the "total message of Scripture" or of comparing
"like and unlike passages." We of the Reformed churches often seem determined
to make all Scripture conform to a few, special passages.
A broad reading
of Scripture would have to face and resolve the challenge or witness of such passages
as Romans 11. In that chapter, Paul struggles with and resolves the issue of what
happens to the Jewish people now that salvation is obtained through faith in Christ.
He wrestles with the issue in the Letter to the Galatians, then in Romans 9-11.20
Paul reaches his conclusion at the end of chapter 11 and expresses his conviction
that all Israel shall be saved (v. 26). In verse 28b, Paul declares that "as
regards election they are beloved, for the sake of their ancestors." He adds
the explanation of verse 29; "For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable."
Finally, Paul expresses his wonder at the mystery of God's ways and affirms his
sense of God's providence over such matters in verses 33-36. Though Paul does
not know how the redemption of the Jews shall take place, he expresses his confidence
that they shall be included in God's plan.
Another passage that may challenge
the point of view that there is only one way to receive salvation is Luke 10:25-37.
In that passage, a lawyer asks Jesus, "Teacher, what must I do to inherit
eternal life?" Jesus responds by asking the lawyer what he thinks about that
from reading the law. The lawyer answers Jesus, "You shall love the Lord
your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength,
and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." Verse 28 offers Jesus'
reaction: "And he said to him, 'You have given the right answer; do this,
and you will live.'" When the lawyer asks who might be his neighbor, Jesus
offers the parable of the good Samaritan. To the question of how one might obtain
eternal life, Jesus confirms that love of God and love of neighbor will suffice.
Matthew 25:31-46 implies that something besides faith in Christ alone might
be a factor in how one spends eternity. In that passage, Jesus tells of the judgment
of the nations at the end of time. He declares that those who fed the hungry,
gave the thirsty drink, clothed the naked, cared for the sick, and visited the
prisoners would be those who would inherit the kingdom.
passages stress God's freedom to give grace to whomever God wishes, such as Exod
33:19, "And he said, 'I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will
proclaim before you the name, "The LORD"; and I will be gracious to
whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.'"
Psalm 115:3 seems to support this kind of sovereignty: "Our God is in the
heavens; he does whatever he pleases." Amos 9:7 challenges the ideology that
Israel alone is God's people: "Are you not like the Ethiopians to me, O people
of Israel? says the LORD. Did I not bring Israel up from the land of Egypt, and
the Philistines from Caphtor and the Arameans from Kir?"21
This verse may serve to challenge the idea that Christians alone are the recipients
of God's salvation.
When one spends a great deal of time reading the
texts of the Hebrew Bible, as I do, one is confronted by numerous passages that
depict the God of Israel as the deliverer of various people. The God of Israel
serves as savior to the people of Israel or their ancestors, primarily, but God's
grace is not confined to them, even in the Hebrew Bible. Since, in the Reformed
tradition, lay and clergy alike craft theological statements and since such statements
are voted upon by elder and clergy representatives, I will venture an observation
about the use of the Hebrew Bible within the PC(USA). In all the official documents
of the church, the role of the Hebrew Bible as part of Holy Scripture is upheld,
but its texts are often neglected in the life of the individual churches. Some
clergy rarely preach from the Hebrew Bible and Bible studies most often focus
on the texts from the Christian Scriptures. There are clergy, of course, in the
PC(USA) who are careful to use the Hebrew Bible in a balanced way in preaching,
teaching, and liturgy, but there is a tendency among others to neglect its passages.
If the Hebrew Bible suffers neglect in some of the individual churches, how will
readers and listeners be confronted by the idea that God saves—in passages that
lack an explicit reference to Jesus Christ? Those who take the witness of the
Hebrew Bible into balanced consideration in their theological formulations emphasize
the unity of the Triune God and respect the principle that the works of the Trinity
are indivisible (Opera trinitatis ad extra indivisa sunt).22
While the doctrine that salvation comes only through Christ
follows the principle of Scriptural interpretation called "The Rule of Faith"
(which means that one should be guided by the doctrinal consensus of the church),
does the doctrine as it is currently formulated, understood, and taught adhere
to "The Rule of Love?"23 Is it loving
to focus on those passages of Scripture that confirm our sense of religious superiority,
when there are passages that offer a broader point of view? Is it loving to hold
on to theologies that reinforce barriers between the Reformed churches and people
of other faiths?
Another important question to ask in regard to Scripture
and the doctrine of Jesus Christ as the only way to salvation is this: have we
thoroughly explored the historical and sociological background to passages that
promote an exclusivist christology? Were there factors related to the ancient
context that shaped these christologies? The Confession of 1967 states that "the
church . . . has an obligation to approach the Scriptures with literary and historical
understanding."24 Though the Confession
of 1967 acknowledges that Scripture is divinely inspired, the words are human
words, "conditioned by the language, thought forms, and literary fashions
of the places and times at which they were written. They reflect views of life,
history, and the cosmos that were then current." If the Presbyterian Church
(U.S .A.) follows its obligation to explore the historical context in which the
biblical text was written and there are concrete, historical reasons for the emphasis
on "salvation only through Christ," how would that impact our appraisal
of the doctrine's centrality? The principle that interpretation of the Bible requires
earnest study entails that interpreters must attempt to discern what in Scripture
represents an accepted cultural attitude and what constitutes a message from God.25
Two other Reformed principles of interpretation are germane here: the principle
that Jesus Christ, the Redeemer, is the center of Scripture and the principle
of dependence upon the guidance of the Holy Spirit in interpreting and applying
God's message. The first principle suggests that Jesus' attitudes and teaching
should inform our interpretations.26 In this
instance, the church should ask itself if the doctrine of salvation only through
Christ is something that Jesus himself would promote. If the purpose of the incarnation
was to reconcile human beings to God, does the doctrine of salvation only through
Christ serve that primary purpose? Or, does this exclusivist doctrine work against
the reconciliation of human beings to one another and so represent an attitude
that would not be supported by Jesus himself? It is a complex issue indeed. The
second principle of reliance upon the guidance of the Holy Spirit means that the
Spirit offers ongoing illumination of the biblical text. As Jack Rogers explains
the principle, we believe that "God continues to guide us and lead us into
deeper understandings of biblical truth, correcting our errors."27
Perhaps, as Presbyterians continue to invoke the help of the Holy Spirit as they
interpret Scripture in reference to the christology of Christ as the only savior
they will be led to deeper understandings of the issue of salvation in Scripture.
The topic I have attempted to address here is also one of the issues that
the Theological Task Force on Peace, Unity, and Purity of the Church has been
charged to address. This group has prepared resources for the use of members of
the church to help them engage in theological reflection. In the first video released
by the group, Rev. Dr. Frances Taylor Gench describes Presbyterian principles
of "Biblical Authority and Interpretation." She emphasizes that in the
Reformed tradition, we need everyone in the church to interpret Scripture. "We
need each other to interpret the Bible, to challenge and correct each other, to
expand our reflection and catch matters we overlooked. We need each other as we
figure out what God is calling us to be and do in our time and place." I
offer this article in that spirit—as one interpreter among many others. It remains
for the many other interpreters of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and, more
broadly, the interpreters of the Reformed tradition to decide if "genuine
pluralism" is a goal the church should pursue. If other interpreters decide
that it is appropriate to aim for this goal in relationship to the church's christology,
I have here offered only preliminary suggestions for issues that may be explored.
Nevertheless, I hope that I have helped the church to engage in theological reflection
about christology that genuinely hears and honors the critique of persons from
other faith traditions. As the Confession of 1967 puts it, "Repeatedly God
has used the insight of non-Christians to challenge the church to renewal."28
would like to close with a prayer from Dietrich Bonhoeffer. May his words inform
our continued theological reflections in the area of christology.
We come before you, source of all being,
We have betrayed you.
We saw a great lie raise its head,
And we did not
honour the truth.
We saw our brethren in the direst need,
And we feared
only for our own safety.
We come before you, source of all mercy,
of our sins.
After the ferment of these terrible times,
Send us time of
After wandering so long in darkness,
Let us walk in the light
of the sun.
After the falsehood of the current way,
Build a road for us
by your Word.
And until you wipe out our guilt, Lord, make us patient.29
1. Rita M. Gross, "Religious Diversity:
Some Implications for Monotheism," CrossCurrents 49 (Fall 1999), 349-66.
2. Ibid., 357.
3. The Westminster Larger Catechism, Answer to Question 60
(7.170). The reference numbers in parentheses are those provided in The Constitution
of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Part I: The Book of Confessions (Louisville,
Ky.: Office of the General Assembly, 1999).
4. See, for example, The Scots
Confession, Ch. XVI (3.16); The Second Helvetic Confession, Ch. V (5.025); The
Westminster Confession of Faith, Ch. X (6.056) and Ch. XII (6.067); The Confession
of 1967, Part I, Section A (9.11).
5. Office of Theology and Worship, Hope
in the Lord Jesus Christ (Louisville, Ky.: Presbyterian Church [U.S.A.], 2002).
6. For a brief description of exclusivist, inclusivist, and pluralist models for
christology and salvation, see Brennan R. Hill, Paul Knitter, and William Madges,
Faith, Religion & Theology: A Contemporary Introduction (Mystic, Conn.: Twenty-Third
7. This principle was emphasized by John Calvin in
the Institutes of the Christian Religion; "For here we are not bidden to
distinguish between reprobate and elect—that is for God alone, not for us, to
do—but to establish with certainty in our hearts that all those who, by the kindness
of God the Father, through the working of the Holy Spirit, have entered into fellowship
with Christ, are set apart as God's property and personal possession; and that
when we are of their number we share that great grace." (Book IV, Ch. 1,
section 3, John T. McNeill, ed. Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion,
Library of Christian Classics, Vol. XXI, trans. Ford Lewis Battles [Philadelphia:
Westminster, 1960], 1015-1016).
8. See Gross, "Religious Diversity,"
9. Hope in the Lord Jesus Christ, 6.
11. The precipitating
event that sparked the controversy seems to be a speech which was delivered by
Rev. Dirk Ficca to the Presbyterian Peacemaking Conference that met July 26-29,
2000. In the speech, Ficca explored some theological alternatives to the "only
through Christ" doctrine of salvation. Reactions to the speech sent ripples
throughout the denomination. Many argued that Ficca's speech did not make clear
which of the theological alternatives represented the official, accepted christology
of the denomination. The widespread concern resulted in a flurry of overtures
to the 2001 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) that called for
the denomination to reaffirm the traditional understanding of salvation in the
clearest of language.
12. The Latin phrase is ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda.
According to Anna Case-Winters, the original sense of the phrase during the Reformation
signified "a church reformed and always to be reformed according to the Word
of God." Scripture and the Spirit were regarded as the guide and impetus
for the church's reform. An explanatory addition to the motto appears frequently
in various passages, making the full phrase ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda
secundum verbi dei, which Case-Winters translates: "a church reformed and
always being reformed according to the Word of God." (See Anna Case-Winters,
"Our Misused Motto," Presbyterians Today (May 2004): http://www.pcusa.org/today/believe/past/may04/
13. The Book of Confessions, 253 (9.03).
14. Robert P. Ericksen
and Susannah Heschel point out that "The German census of May 1939 indicates
that 54 percent of Germans considered themselves Protestant and 40 percent considered
themselves Catholic, with only 3.5 percent claiming to be neo-pagan 'believers
in God,' and 1.5 percent unbelievers" (Robert P. Ericksen and Susannah Heschel,
eds., Betrayal: German Churches and the Holocaust [Minneapolis: Fortess, 1999],
15. See the extensive treatment of these issues in regard to the Roman
Catholic Church in Europe in James Carroll, Constantine's Sword: The Church and
the Jews - A History (Boston: Mariner Books, 2002). It would be wonderful if the
same kind of study would be done of Protestant churches in Europe.
C. Guthrie, Always Being Reformed: Faith for a Fragmented World (Louisville, Ky.:
Westminster John Knox Press, 1996), 26. Guthrie draws on Presbyterian Understanding
and Use of Holy Scripture and Biblical Authority and Interpretation (Louisville:
Office of the General Assembly, 1992), 12-13.
18. For instance,
Carol A. Newsom argues that "the fundamental distinction between the righteous
and the wicked was the foundation of moral thought in the ancient Near East, including
Israel (see Pss 1:6; 7:8-9 [9-10]; 9:4-5 [5-6]. The role of the gods as ultimate
authority for and upholders of the moral order was axiomatic (Ps. 89:14 ).
Job's assertion that God makes no such distinction is a radical denial of the
basis of the moral order" (Carol A. Newsom, "The Book of Job,"
in The New Interpreter's Bible [ed. Leander E. Keck; Nashville: Abingdon, 1996],
19. Luke Timothy Johnson provides a thorough treatment of
the relationship between Paul and James in The Letter of James: A New Translation
and Commentary (AB 37A; New York: Doubleday, 1995), 58-65. There Johnson acknowledges
some difficulties of making comparisons between the two authors.
biblical scholars regard Galatians as the earlier of the two letters.
Walter Brueggemann, "'Exodus' in the Plural (Amos 9:7)," in Walter Brueggemann
and George W. Stroup, eds., Many Voices, One God: Being Faithful in a Pluralistic
World (Louisville, Ky.: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1998), 19.
emphasizes the indivisibility of the works of the trinity (Opera trinitatis ad
extra indivisa sunt). See Guthrie, Always Being Reformed, 42. He notes the neglect
of this theological principle within the Reformed confessions, with the exception
of the Declaration of Faith, Presbyterian Church in the United States (1976),
5.8: "We affirm the unity of God's being and work. We may not separate the
work of God as Creator from the work of God as Redeemer. We may not set the Son's
love against the Father's justice. We may not value the Holy Spirit's work above
the work of the Father and Son. The Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit are one
God." (Lukas Vischer, ed. Reformed Witness Today: A Collection of Confessions
and Statements of Faith Issued by Reformed Churches [Bern: Evangelische Arbeitsstelle
Oekumene Schweiz, 1982], 247.)
23. See Presbyterian Understanding and Use
of Holy Scripture and Biblical Authority and Interpretation, 13-15. See also Jack
Rogers, Reading the Bible and the Confessions: The Presbyterian Way (Louisville:
Geneva Press, 1999), 41-44.
24. Book of Confessions (9.29). This is also one
of the principles for scriptural interpretation in Presbyterian Understanding
and Use of Holy Scripture and Biblical Authority and Interpretation, 8.
See Rogers, Reading the Bible and the Confessions, 44-48.
26. Ibid., 32.
27. Ibid., 38.
28. Book of Confessions (9.42).
29. Robert Van de Weyer,
compiler, The HarperCollins Book of Prayers: A Treasury of Prayers Through the
Ages (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1993), 72.