The decisive question put to all humans is, “Who do you say that the Son of Man is? (Matthew 16:13) We Christians cannot speak with a forked tongue and answer out of both sides of our mouths in order to please everyone. Obviously, the Presbyterian church cannot long survive with confusion or deception about its basic witness to the Lordship of Christ. Even allowing for legitimate diversity of opinion, there must be a basic clarity and unity concerning the central affirmation of faith.
Traditionally, Presbyterians look for theological answers first in Holy Scripture which is the unique and authoritative witness to the One whose call and mission were completely vindicated by his resurrection from the dead on the third day. His declaration, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6) should settle the matter, but for some interpreters it does not. The four gospels do indeed offer a somewhat different witness to the person and work of Jesus Christ, as four persons observing the same event might give somewhat differing accounts. The witness is uniform, not unified, but far from detracting from the witness, its truth is strengthened.
Presbyterians are also guided by the creeds and confessions of the church. That is, we are instructed by the obedience of Christian people who have gone before us. The early church took five centuries to hammer out the response to the question of Christ’s identity, and the answer is contained in the earliest ecumenical confessions, especially Nicaea and Chalcedon. These testimonies of Christian faith are not academic exercises; they were battles to the death over the truth of God’s self-revelation to the world in Jesus Christ. Positively, the creeds give a form to what we confess; negatively, they protect the faith by establishing boundaries for obedient reflection.
However, according to the wisdom of the world, Jesus Christ — as witnessed in Holy Scripture and the proclamation of the church that bears his name — is a stumbling block and foolishness. His crucifixion is a scandal (1 Corinthians 1: 18-25). This is precisely so because of Jesus’ exclusive claims that in him God’s plan to unite all created things takes place. No modern person wants to appear rude or insensitive or intolerant.
Therefore, even some Christians are tempted to think there must be other ways to God — that Jesus was misunderstood, or wrong, in declaring, “No one comes to the Father except by me” (John 14:6). Obviously, we cannot limit the freedom of God, but the Christian church must obediently recognize and serve the One Lord revealed in Jesus Christ. This is what the Presbyterian church has always believed and proclaimed.
Perhaps the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is presently mired down in extraneous and secondary issues, at least in part, to avoid the worldly embarrassment of our published claim that Jesus Christ is the Lord and savior of all people, the One in whom all the promises of God to the human race are fulfilled, the One who rules at the right hand of the Father, the One who will come again to judge the living and the dead, the eternal Word of God who became flesh and dwells among us full of grace and truth. Readers expect this journal to report the news (good news and bad news) as fairly as possible. Readers also expect The Outlook to represent and defend the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).
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