Continuing with the examination by Paul VanderKlay (PVK) of the results of the recent synod of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) on the subject of gay marriage. Regarding the result, and as a reminder:
The Christian Reformed Church, a small evangelical denomination of U.S. and Canadian churches, voted Wednesday (June 15) at its annual synod to codify its opposition to homosexual sex by elevating it to the status of confession, or declaration of faith.
The vote was overwhelming.
PVK has released a third video looking at the vote and the aftermath, entitled “What is a Confessional Conversation and How it Could Help the CRCNA Sort out its Future.” Through it, he expands on his thoughts of the need of just such a conversation within the CRC.
I commented at this video, and will expand on these comments here. These comments are relevant to his denomination, the broader Church, and overall, regarding society – as the same issues tearing apart one are tearing apart all.
A thing cannot both be and not be at the same time. To be or not to be, and all that…. “Or,” not “and.”
There is a standard or there isn't a standard; there is an ideal or there isn't an ideal; there is objective truth or there isn't objective truth; there are borders or there aren’t borders; there are boundaries or there aren’t boundaries; there is a created order or there isn't a created order; there is natural law or there isn't natural law.
1 Corinthians 14: 33 (a) For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.
How might we understand a God of confusion as opposed to a God of peace? What characteristics would describe one verses the other? And, as God is a God of peace, what might this mean regarding these characteristics?
Imagine a world built on standards, ideals, objective truth, borders, boundaries, created order, natural law. Then imagine a world with no standards, no ideals, no objective truth, no borders, no boundaries, no created order, no natural law. The first would be peaceful, the second would be confusing.
One could consider the characteristics of “peace” as traditional conservatism. As I have written in the past, the only meaningful thing to conserve – as all other markers are just points at which conservatives attempt to slow down the momentum of progressives – is a natural law ethic.
One could consider the characteristics of “confusion” as progressivism, modern liberalism, leftism, etc. But this isn’t quite true. These groups do have a standard – and that is to have no standard; they do have ideals – and that is to have no ideal; they have an objective truth – that there is no such thing as objective truth. So, while the statement isn’t quite true of these groups (no standard, no ideals, etc.), the practical result and application is the same.
A society without borders or boundaries – no right to justly acquired property, no right to one’s bodily integrity and life. Is this a peaceful society? A society with no commonly accepted standard or ideal – will this lead to peace or confusion?
So, in this discussion / debate in the CRC, the broader Church, and society overall, which side is the side of peace, and which side is the side of confusion? Can there be a meaningful and successful conversation (a conversation moving closer to common understanding) between those on the side of peace and those on the side of confusion?
Are there objective truths, ones above question, obvious for all to see, inherent in the design of creation (or, if you prefer, a lucky outcome of random atoms smashing together randomly)?
Once this question is addressed one can then consider which side is serving God – who is, as the verse says, the God of peace, not the God of confusion.
Which comes to the hope PVK has in holding a confessional conversation. PVK notes, rightly, that each side is just repeating the same points (as I am for the most part doing in this post and have been doing in all of my posts on the topic of natural law, liberty, the meaning crisis, etc.).
We are just talking past each other, each talking past the other side, repeating the same arguments that haven't worked thus far.
But is there any hope for a change, for some way to break past this roadblock? Is there a way to have a conversation between groups which disagree on the reality and existence of standards, ideals, objective truth, borders, boundaries, created order, natural law – with one side saying such things exist and the other side saying they don’t?
Can there be a meaningful conversation without a common foundation of knowledge?
Frank van Dun offered the answer to this question:
‘Conscientious’ means heeding conscience. Conscience (conscientia) is, of course, knowledge shared in common. It is a necessary condition of argumentation and, by implication, of all actions that can be justified argumentatively.
After all, in argumentation, arguers appeal to knowledge shared in common to expand the range of things on which they can conscientiously agree (even if it implies critical revisions of what was supposed to be common knowledge).
In any argument, there must be an agreement beforehand of knowledge shared in common. In other words, a standard, an ideal, an objective truth.
Without such shared knowledge, the argumentative exchange of questions and answers degenerates quickly into negotiations (which are appeals to one another’s particular interests, prejudices, fears or desires), dialogues of the deaf or pointless shouting matches.
Without commonly held truths (truths accepted without question; objective truths) underlying any argument, there can never be logical, rational conclusions or resolutions.
At best, it degenerates into mere debates, which differ from argumentations in that they consist of attempts to secure the agreement of a third party, an audience, a jury or a judge, by appealing to its prejudices. In debates, ignoring or ridiculing one’s opponent’s arguments is standard practice, as rhetoric usually trumps logic.
At best it degenerates into debates. At worst…a split – call it divorce, civil war, global war, or just a new Protestant denomination.
Knowledge held in common is required for peace. Such knowledge must be above and outside of man’s control. This is the value and meaning of objective truth. As C.S. Lewis puts in, in The Abolition of Man:
This thing which I have called for convenience the Tao, and which others may call Natural Law or Traditional Morality or the First Principles of Practical Reason or the First Platitudes, is not one among a series of possible systems of value. It is the sole source of all value judgements. If it is rejected, all value is rejected. If any value is retained, it is retained. The effort to refute it and raise a new system of value in its place is self-contradictory. There has never been, and never will be, a radically new judgement of value in the history of the world.
Absent acceptance of this truth, there will only be confusion; there can be no peace.
1 Corinthians 14: 33 (a) For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.
God is a God of peace, not of confusion. His enemies, starting with Satan, sow confusion. There can be no meaningful conversation – confessional or otherwise – when one is swimming in confusion, when there is no common conscience.
There is only the possibility of separation or of war. Sooner or later, it always comes to this.