Here is my personal perspective on the following questions: Is the U.S. M.B. Confession of faith a bounded set or centered set? Or perhaps should we view it as descriptive verses prescriptive? (In response to “Pondering questions about Confessions of Faith,” Voices blog post 11/19/21)
Confessions of Faith and Creedal Statements have always been written in response to issues in the Church. These were processed in the larger community of Church leaders. But in every prescriptive or descriptive case they were a response to the Church being pushed by human reason to adopt some aspect of cultural or societal thought or practice. Right belief, and right practice were always based on biblical revelation.
In the eyes of human reason some of the decisions made no sense to the minds of the culture. For example: the doctrine of the Trinity cannot be logically or adequately explained by human reason, nor can the incarnation or the atonement. These things are too wonderful for us to understand, and there are many nuances to them that are beyond human imagination, yet they are definitely bounded sets, based on revelation in the Scriptures. I would argue that even though the times may seem to change, the basic issues of the human heart are not culturally bound. In their case, “there is nothing new under the sun.”
LGBTQ+ was an issue that goes back at least as far as Roman and Greek culture and probably further, otherwise the Old and New Testaments would not address this issue. The writings of the apostle Paul clearly address these issues, along with other forms of sexual immorality that continue to ravage our society. The Bible is not a book that we can cut out the parts we dislike and paste in the cultural norms of our day that we like. There are bad habits in my life also that I wish that the Bible didn’t address, but it does. It calls me to repentance. It does not call me to cut and paste.
So, as we look at our Confession, yes, I would argue that it describes clear boundaries and some of it is centered in that it prescribes to us to the way of Jesus, the center of the way of life. And, as a result they both call me to repent and follow the way of Christ. The Law describes where the boundaries of the road are and the way of Christ tells me where the center of the road is. And, to the best of my understanding of Scripture, the center never crossed over the boundaries. As pilgrims, the way of Jesus is a narrow path and there are few that find it.
Both the bounded and the centered are descriptive and prescriptive. Thus, according to our understanding of Scripture, as an MB Conference, our Confession is our best summary of a prescription to follow the way of Christ as described in the Bible. As we continue to debate issues regarding our interpretation of scripture, we must continue to examine God’s revelation as a community of Bible readers and believers.
David A. Loewen
This article has been posted by Christian Leader staff. The Christian Leader is the magazine of U.S. Mennonite Brethren.