(Now reading: Jean Grondin, The Philosophy of Gadamer)
a statement is always a dangerous thing to do. Statements can be taken
out of context, distorting or obscuring the message one means to
communicate in a statement. We cannot say anything without putting it
into words, but it would be a mistake to confuse the words we say (that
is, the words we have said already, in the past) with what we are
saying. In other words, ongoing conversation is a much better way of
expressing and uncovering truth and meaning than a fixed doctrinal
statement. Which is one of the reasons I object to creeds and
confessions of faith in the Church, when we take them to be
authoritative statements that capture and contain the truth. Truth is
bigger than any finite box we can make to put it in.
be put into words, but it cannot be put into any finished set of words,
only into an unfinished, ongoing conversation.
also explains why people who want to rule by authoritative words always
feel an impetus to expand on the authoritative words they've already
spoken and endorsed. Once you write a statement of faith or a position
statement, that can be interpreted in various ways. When "those other
people" understand the statement in a way the powers-that-be don't like,
they feel a need to explain what they really meant by making further
For example: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/november/crisis-of-faith-statements.html.
Cedarville took issue with Dr. Michael Pahl's understanding of the
school's doctrinal commitment to a historical Adam. Pahl said he
believes in a historical Adam, but not based on a conservative reading
of Genesis 1-3. That wasn't good enough for the powers-that-be at
Cedarville, and they issued white papers explaining what the doctrinal
statement really meant. Just wait, at some point someone will think they
agree with the doctrinal statement AND the commentary, but they'll
still get in trouble for believing the wrong thing the wrong way, and
then there will have to be further commentary explaining why they were
interpreting it wrong.
MCUSA, most official statements in recent years about homosexuality
limit themselves to affirming that yes, we still affirm that the
denominational statements from the 1980s, and "A Confession of Faith in
Mennonite Perspective" (note the indefinite article, by the way--it
isn't *the* Mennonite perspective) as the church's "teaching position".
But that doesn't keep us from disagreeing about the implications of
these statements. Some people on both sides of the homosexuality debate
in the church would probably like there to be an official, authoritative
elaboration of these statements, hoping that such elaborations would
prove (by vote?) that "we" are right and "they" are wrong in the way
they interpret the statements themselves.
should absolutely keep making statements, but we should absolutely not
regard the statements we make as absolute and final. We need to regard
them as contributions to an ongoing hermeneutical conversation.