No Need to Adopt Belhar

Vantage Point
| |

In the editorial titled “Shoes” (June 2009), the editor of The Banner supports adding the Belhar Confession to the creeds and confessions of the Christian Reformed Church.

However, Rev. Bob De Moor’s editorial doesn’t address the real issue: does the Belhar rise to the level of our current creeds and confessions (for example, the Belgic Confession, Canons of Dort, and Heidelberg Catechism)?

De Moor notes that our current creeds and confessions touch only tangentially on the issues of racism, social injustice, and poverty that the Belhar addresses. But wouldn’t that be true for any issue in any culture at any time? Our current statements of faith have proved more than adequate from the 1500s until now for dealing with all manner of issues and doctrinal disputes—more than sufficient for the task of informing the church about its foundational understanding of the Word of God.

Perhaps the problem lies not in our statements of faith but in a lack of their prophetic application.

If we include the Belhar, might we need other confessions dealing with other issues that will inevitably crop up? By adopting the Belhar we open the door to a variety of creeds and confessions, each one addressing an issue from a certain perspective that someone thinks is not articulated well enough in our current creeds. Simply adding a preamble to the Belhar, as De Moor suggests, papers over the problem.

I don’t oppose adding the Belhar Confession any more than I would oppose adding the Westminster Confession or the Barmen Declaration or Our World Belongs to God as official statements of faith. I affirm its place for reading and use in regional classes, and perhaps even in worship. I affirm the Belhar’s importance to the churches of South Africa. I affirm its biblical nature and ability to address current issues through Scripture.

But I cannot affirm elevating it to the level of our other creeds and confessions.

I find nothing objectionable in the Belhar. I just don’t find that it either undergirds or informs my faith in any way that is different from the statements of faith we currently have to face the issues with which we are confronted in this day and age.

Let’s preach prophetically and with conviction the truths of Scripture that permeate our current, longstanding statements of faith.

Working toward division (adopting a confession that does not rise to the level of what we currently profess) is beneath the heritage of our denomination.

Accepting the Belhar on par with what we currently profess in the Apostles’ Creed, Nicene Creed, Athanasian Creed, Belgic Confession, Heidelberg Catechism, and Canons of Dort is not only unnecessary; it leaves the door open to future generations who would add to them, thereby diluting them and undercutting their clarity and authority.

About the Author

Rev. Paul Hansen is pastor of First Christian Reformed Church, Artesia, California.

X