Resolving Confessional Dissonance

What happens when someone who serves in a teaching ministry in the church finds that his reading of Scripture is no longer within the parameters of the church’s teaching position?

This question isn’t the same as whether someone who no longer agrees with a church’s theological position can stay in the church: or course that person can stay, unless as a member he’s been excommunicated because the church hopes in this way to bring him to repentance for a sin. This person in the teaching ministry, likewise, can stay. But will he?

But why not? Well, it’s not, if the church is being a church, a matter of being shunned. It’s not even a matter of personal preferences vis-à-vis the church’s interpretation. No, rather, it’s a matter of being able to operate with the set of spiritual gifts that God has given. If teaching is one of these gifts that this person has in Christ for the church’s edification, can he continue to use it within the parameters of this particular church’s teaching position?

Teaching in contradiction to the church’s position seems out of the question. In such a case, is it better to say nothing or to leave the church or to find places outside of the institutional church to use the gift? The last option is a disembodied option that attempts to ditch the church to satisfy something that exists for the church, so that is unacceptable. Now, then, it comes down to ignoring dissonance or going to another church.

This must happen commonly enough: surely the same issue comes up for PCA pastors who no longer subscribe fully to the Westminster Confession, &c., &c. For laypeople, however, the question seems to remain unanswered.

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9 responses to “Resolving Confessional Dissonance

  1. I believe that one should willingly submit to the authority/leadership of the local church as part of one’s one discipleship and sanctification. If I find that I disagree with something the church teaches, then I don’t teach against the church because usually the things on which we agree far outweigh the areas of disagreement. When I am teaching, my role in that case is to teach the doctrine of the church, not to assert whether or not I agree with it in all aspects.

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  2. Even for an outside observer, teaching against the church’s position would represent an unacceptable breach of contract.

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  3. I presume the same issue goes for any spiritual gift… not just teaching? Or is it only with teaching that it becomes so sticky?

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  4. With most other ministries, there’s little opportunity for conflict with the teaching position. People in teaching ministries, however, often get a copy of the church’s teaching position, which is a clue about when such dilemmas may arise.

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  5. I agree with elderj about willing submission to the church authority. My problem with the teacher is the potential confusion that he or she can inflict. I don’t believe a teacher should teach where he or she confuses others from the church theology, though it doesn’t mean a church cannot be spiritually fulfilling or supportive even when one disagrees with the church’s tenets. I think the church authorities need to be notified, and they can decide what to do with the teacher. This is why we have elders.

    Also, I think there is a line between upholding a set of beliefs like the Westminster Confession and squabbling over details of the Flood.

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  6. I’m assuming that few churches take any kind of official position about the details of the Flood even if they teach a certain way about the Flood.

    But should the teacher be silent about his changed beliefs, or should he stop teaching so as to be able to problematize some accepted teachings, or should he join another church to teach in a way that he agrees with?

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  7. Did u ever come to a resolution for yourself on this issue?

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  8. I think I’d just avoid that conflict as long as possible by not skirting those theological issues unless it became a hindrance to people’s full edification, at which point I would try to find other serving opportunities where I was sure I was fully committed to the church’s position. If that couldn’t happen, I’d either focus on my other spiritual gifts for a time or go to another church.

    Thankfully, none of this is quite on my horizon, though it’s always a possibility.

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  9. Pingback: Differing with Confessional Standards « Cogito, Credo, Petam

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