Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Revising the Heidelberg Catechism

Once again the usual "progressive" suspects are bringing overtures to the PC(USA) General Assembly next week to change the definition of marriage in our Book of Order from a covenant between a "man and woman" to "two persons." Also, commissioners will be asked to approve a process for revising the translation of the Heidelberg Catechism used in the Book of Confessions. As Presbyterians for Renewal point out here, this is simply another attempt to remove language from the Constitution of the PC(USA) that says homosexual practice is sin and disqualifying for ordained office. The language targeted is this:

Q. 87. Can those who do not turn to God from their ungrateful, impenitent life be saved?

A. Certainly not! Scripture says, "Surely you know that the unjust will never come into possession of the kingdom of God. Make no mistake: no fornicator or idolater, none who are guilty either of adultery or of homosexual perversion, no thieves or grabbers or drunkards or slanderers or swindlers, will possess the kingdom of God."

There may be a case to be made that this isn't the most precise translation, but I agree with PFR that concern for historical accuracy isn't the primary motive behind these efforts.

UPDATED 6/18: R. Scott Clark comments over at the Heidelblog


Alan said...

Two corrections and a question:

1) What PFR is not telling you in that article is that the overture is being brought by the Pittsburg Presbytery, which is unquestionably one of the most conservative presbyteries in the denomination.

2) The translation they're suggesting has already been approved years ago by the Christian Reformed Church, which is (I can tell you as a former member) a FAR, FAR more conservative denomination than the PCUSA.

Surely, liberal or conservative, we should have the most correct translations possible, shouldn't we? You're not arguing that we should keep inaccurate translations just to please some conservative biases, are you? How would that be any different that what you incorrectly accuse liberals of doing?

Finally, a bit of advice: It might be good to remind yourself from time to time that not everything in the PCUSA is a liberal conspiracy. ;)


Stephen Ley said...

Alan, thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

I knew that one of the overtures is being brought by Pittsburgh (I believe the other two are from Northern Kansas and Boston). I'll take your word on the conservative bent of the Pittsburgh Presbytery.

Yes, there may be some legitimate textual issues (see the analysis by Dr. Scott Clark that I posted today -- Clark is very familiar with the original German and Latin texts of the HC and the various English translations). But I don't think PFR is being paranoid in suspecting that there's more than concern for textual accuracy behind these overtures.

Yes, we should have the most correct translations possible and no, we shouldn't keep inaccurate ones to please bias of any kind, but it's not clear to me that the present translation is inaccurate.

In any case I'll take your advice and try to see this as an effort to bring the PCUSA into greater conformity with Scripture and the Reformed confessions. Perhaps this debate will inspire more Presbyterians to become familiar with the Heidelberg Catechism. That would be a good thing.

Grace and peace.