We will return eventually to the theme of unity, with which the Belhar opens and upon which it insists, after we have examined the affirmations which the Belhar sets forth. Obviously, as unity is pinioned upon shared truth, then we cannot know, concretely speaking, if we agree with Belhar’s call to unity until we know if we share Belhar’s truth affirmations. With that in mind, with the next few entries, we will look at the truth affirmations and then we will return to the clarion call for unity issued by the Belhar.
Now, as we head into this examination of the Belhar affirmations, we must keep in mind that the burden of proof is upon the Belhar to be unambiguous about its statements and what those statements mean. Since the Belhar has aspirations for confessional status and is not worldview-neutral in its affirmations, it should be approached with a hermeneutic of suspicion in order to expose any dangerous ambiguities that may lie sleeping in its text.
To that end, we note this statement of the Belhar, which follows its opening touting unity:
Therefore, we reject any doctrine which absolutises either natural diversity or the sinful separation of people in such a way that this absolutisation hinders or breaks the visible and active unity of the church, or even leads to the establishment of a separate church formation.
The ambiguity that enters with this statement is found in the two bolded words above. In this context, what does “natural diversity” mean?
Folks who subscribe to the Belhar will be rejecting any doctrine which absolutizes natural diversity. But who defines what “natural diversity” means, and by what standard? According to some neo-Christians, “natural diversity” could very well mean the “natural diversity” that we find among the various sexes. We now have social scientists insisting that, biologically speaking, there are many gradations running from female to male; and the social scientists are telling us that, depending on how one calls the shots, one can argue that along that spectrum lie at least five sexes – and perhaps even more. Are all these sexes an example of “natural diversity,” over which we are not break the visible and active unity of the Church?
To think that this lies in the realm of possibility, recognize that one of the key framers of the Belhar, Dr. Allan Boesak, in 2008, while Moderator of the Uniting Reformed Church (formerly the DRC Mission Churches), used the Belhar Declaration to justify homosexuality in the church. Now, it is true that Dr. Boesak was voted down in his attempt, but it seems that if anybody was familiar with the original intent of the Belhar document, it would be one who was an instrumental framer of the Belhar. If one of the framers of the Belhar insists that the original intent of the Belhar was to prohibit disunity in the Church, officially embracing the putative “natural diversity” of homosexuality, then why would a church, such as the Christian Reformed Church, which does not justify homosexuality, want to embrace that document as a confession? Certainly, in light of this, no one can argue with the fact that this phraseology is “ambiguous.”
That this reading of Boesak’s should be of import to CRC people is found in the continual push within the denomination to normalize homosexuality in the church. In point of fact, the March 2012 issue of the Banner finds a news clip on page 10 that opens with this paragraph:
A group of members and pastors from several West Michigan Christian Reformed churches have organized to provide educational opportunities for congregations about the full inclusion of gay, lesbian, and transgendered individuals in their churches.
In light of the push of a significant interest group within the denomination (I say it is “significant” because I cannot imagine the Banner running such a news piece on some obscure group) to normalize homosexuality, and in light of the fact that one of the key framers of the Belhar insisted that the original intent of the Belhar justified homosexuality in the church, then can we really believe that the Belhar, if adopted as a confession, will not eventually be used as leverage in the push to bring homosexuality and sexual perversion into the church? Can we deny that it will be offered as proof that we are confessionally compelled to unite with homosexuals who call themselves “Christian”?
Our concern with the Belhar does not end on this point, for elsewhere in the Belhar we get other language that allows for a interpretation that would sanction sodomy and sexual perversion.
Therefore, we reject any doctrine which explicitly or implicitly maintains that descent or any other human or social factor should be a consideration in determining membership of the Church.
With this sentence, we have moved from the ambiguity of the previous statement from the Belhar, as cited above, to an unambiguous statement through which a Mack truck could drive, interpretatively speaking. Those seven bolded words in the above quote section clearly teach that sodomy, bestiality, pedophilia, necrophilia, or any other human or social factor should not “be a consideration in determining membership of the Church.” What is sodomy, or lesbianism, or bestiality, or any other sexual perversions but a “human or social factor”?
When we begin to deal with the slippery way that the Belhar uses the word “injustice,” we will have questions once again about this matter; but for this post it is enough to see that the Belhar should not be adopted as a document. Its language is not merely ambiguous as to what is being communicated, but invites and begs those who want to advance a sodomite agenda to read the document as supporting their cause.
It is my belief that the document does support their cause, and that is why I am raging against the machine.
Full text of the Belhar Confession here.
Previous discussion of the Belhar Confession on F&H here.