Reflections on Confessionalism, Boundaries, and Discipline

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Alex Guggenheim's picture

The article was a bit wearisome to read in that seemed to be emphasizing a high degree of self-justification in the MacDonald case. Two observations:

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If someone on our Council espouses something not in line with our CS and TVM, that person is challenged. In other words, at the center there is unqualified accountability. That does not necessarily mean that there are only two options: either we decide that what the person espoused is acceptable, so we defend him, or we decide it is not, so we throw him under the bus.
This is a rather deceptive paradigm. That is to say, it implies that if TGC decides someone is not acceptable then to remove them from the circle is to "throw them under the bus". It is a convenient rhetorical device that appears to be used as a kind of discouragement of dismissing one of their members because to do so is to "through them under the bus" and no Christian throws anyone under the bus. They may dismiss someone at some point but its use, here, in their description of what happens when they do decide someone is not acceptable, throwing them under the bus, is being treated as synonymous with determining someone is unacceptable and the two are not the same. One can be dismissed from membership without being thrown under any bus.

On the Trinity this, to me, was a great articulation:

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We should offer a brief reflection on confessionalism and conversion. Confessions come in different sizes and degrees of complexity. The longest Christian confession is the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF). But no subscriber to the WCF would say that a person must believe everything in the entire document to be saved. More broadly, I suspect that most Christian pastors would concur that that it is possible to be saved without believing in the doctrine of the Trinity: young children, for instance, or fresh adult converts from illiterate and biblically illiterate backgrounds might be hard-pressed to articulate the doctrine accurately. In exactly the same way, a person may truly trust Christ without being able to articulate the doctrine of justification. In neither case, however, does this mean that the doctrine---of the Trinity, of justification---is of no importance. It would certainly be troubling to find a new (ostensible) believer denying either doctrine; equally, it would be troubling to find a putative believer drifting more and more toward unorthodox beliefs, utterly uncorrectable, perhaps reaching the point of becoming a teacher of doctrine that cannot be squared with Scripture.

MacDonald, however, I believe, will continue to be a source of difficulty for this group. His associations may, for a while, be at arms length or with qualifiers but his theological instinct is to stray from orthodoxy or at least find himself among those who blur many lines. Maybe at some point they will be forced to "throw him under the bus".

Larry's picture

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Quote:
This is a rather deceptive paradigm. That is to say, it implies that if TGC decides someone is not acceptable then to remove them from the circle is to "throw them under the bus". It is a convenient rhetorical device to relieve themselves of having to dismiss one of their members because to do so is to "through them under the bus" and no Christian throws anyone under the bus. They may dismiss someone at some point but its use, here, in their description of what happens when they do decide someone is not acceptable, throwing them under the bus, is being treated as synonymous with determining someone is unacceptable and the two are not the same. One can be dismissed from membership without being thrown under any bus.
I wonder if you didn't misread this, Alex. This statement is specifically saying these are not the only two options, though some think they are.

In the part you didn't quote, they go on to explain their process:

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There may be a redemptive option: attempting to enable the brother in question to see the error of his ways and publicly turn from those ways toward greater fidelity. Alternatively, if the brother chooses not to conform unreservedly to the CS and the TVM, we might ask him for his resignation from the Council. If he were to refuse to resign, there is machinery in place to force the issue, all the way to a vote in the Council, which is final. Or again, if the brother accepted correction, but every six months or so drifted into another nasty instance of foot-in-mouth disease, showing a disappointing self-distancing from the CS and the TVM, always reliably unreliable, the Council might well ask him for his resignation.

Alex Guggenheim's picture

I understand your view that I may have misread it but I did not. I do understand they do not believe there are only two options but they associated the option of discovering the person being "not acceptable" (which I assume means dismissal since keeping someone who is not acceptable as a member would be bizarre to say the least) with throwing them under the bus. Even those who might have the "two options" approach, I don't believe by majority, consider finding a person unacceptable synonymous with throwing them under the bus.

But still, I could be wrong as I read it since I did recognize why you considered that I might have misread it, so any continued input is appreciated.