Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), Heidelberg Catechism, Book of Confessions, homosexuality: There is a long history here and the doctrinal problems must be solved. Very interesting in light of the Stanford lecture on love that I watched today (7.11.13 … “Which of the many beautiful things should I love? … None of the beautiful things. Love beauty itself … “) which talks about homosexual love between a teacher and a young male as “greater love” than heterosexual love …
Now that Heidelberg has passed …
On May 23, the Office of the General Assembly of the PC(USA) announced that the proposed changes to the translation of the Heidelberg Catechism from the denomination’s Book of Confessions had passed. As of the time I write this, 122 presbyteries had voted for the change, while 11 had voted against. Forty presbyteries had yet to vote.
I will attend one of those presbyteries soon. I look forward to reviewing with them the changes proposed in the new translation, including the most controversial change to question 87, which had formerly referred to “homosexual perversion.” (The new version follows the original German much more closely and excludes this phrase.)
via Now that Heidelberg has passed …
This is what the current version says,
Q. 87. Can those who do not turn to God from their ungrateful, impenitent life be saved?
A. Certainlynot!Scripturesays,“Surelyyouknowthattheunjustwill 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 homo- sexual perversion, no thieves or grabbers or drunkards or slanderers or swindlers, will possess the kingdom of God.”
An analysis of the debate …
Question 87 has long been the “issue” and remains the target of retranslation efforts. In the current Book of Confessions (BOC), Q87 reads:
“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.’”
The answer to this question is a direct quotation of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. Those who seek to normalize lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) sexual relations want to eliminate “homosexual perversion” from the list of sins explicitly condemned in the Biblical text. They note that the original German text of the catechism omitted that phrase. What they don’t say is why. In the 16th century it was considered poor pedagogy to have confirmands consider such unmentionable acts as homosexual perversion. Times have changed. The Word of God has not. That is important to remember in this particular debate.
The proposed retranslation drops the Scriptural reference to “homosexual perversion” and instead offers a paraphrase. As a way of assuaging criticism, Scriptural references are added in footnotes. The problem is that footnotes are not an official part of the catechism proper.
Questions you might ask during a presbytery debate of the matter:
Are retranslations or restorations designed to return all confessions to their original texts also planned? The Westminster Confession of Faith, Larger and Shorter Catechisms have been adapted and revised several times since their original writing. The version of the Westminster Confession in the current BOC differs significantly from the 1647 original. Changes were made in 1788, 1903 and 1958. What motivates the desire to retranslate the Heidelberg when other confessions in the BOC are not the original texts?
Why the concern over a return to the literal, original language of this particular confession and yet a departure from the original meaning of the texts of the Scriptures?
If the intent is to conform to the original German in the most literal form, why has inclusive human language and inclusive God language been introduced to reflect modern preferences where that inclusive language does not appear in the German?