Am I A Bad Presbyterian?

by Andrew Tatusko

I was baptized Catholic, but became a Presbyterian in 1990. I went to a Presbyterian College and a Presbyterian seminary. I passed everything including Presbytery trials to become an ordained minister of Word and Sacrament in the PCUSA in 2000. I backed off because I did not feel ready. My theology was not formed or mature enough to honestly and healthily lead a flock to sound spiritual depth and understanding.

My theology has changed a lot over the years. Here is a list of things I now believe and when I question these beliefs, as I have for a few years, they seem to strengthen and mature with time. So tell me, am I a bad Presbyterian?

Sola Scriptura

The idea of sola scriptura does not make sense. It is never scripture alone that is the authority of faith or the church. It is only scripture through a tradition that ratifies a certain reading of scripture that gives it authority. The idea was a move of political ambition to challenge primarily the Pope. To make this a foundation of authority today misses the point of where real authority rests. A book is only words on a page until a people legitimates a specific social use for that book. The authority of the book comes from a people who then legitimate human authority structures in a social frame with that same book. Scripture alone is just a book. Scripture and tradition that are enacted by people through a view of faith in God given shape only through that tradition’s use of Scripture to validate what that faith means is the cauldron of authority.

Total Depravity

People actually do choose if they desire to seek union with God or not. God does not choose some and condemn others. That’s nonsense and betrays the diversity of human reason and freedom as agents in the world. As image bearers of God, humans have a unique place in the order of nature the centerpiece of which is the ability to choose alternatives even as God chose to create and reveal God’s self to that creation. This will make more sense with the next two heavy theological propositions.

Atonement

I no longer accept the penal subsistutionary atonement as rational much less scriptural dogma. The idea that God was compelled to kill his Son (as if the Son did not possess the fullness of the Godhead) in order to fulfill God’s law divides the Trinity for the sake of law. It also denigrates the Incarnation and its effect on humanity as a revelation of God. Christ as the true human being fully God reveals what was not possible with Adam and Eve: full union with God. It is Christ who reveals in the Incarnation the true nature of humanity.

On the Cross, Christ empties his divine nature resulting in his death. So it is not Christ paying back God’s law of punishment for sin, but Christ taking on his own self the sins of those who have rejected God, again. In the end, Christ assumes the divine nature and raises from the dead nullifying the effect of sin. It is not the Cross which reveals the full force and end of sin which is death that saves us. It is that only God who emptied God’s self in death and then raises from the dead that reveals the nature of grace.

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