My illustrious father has been very curious about the title of this reading log and I’ve been, thus far, unwilling to enlighten him. One of his good guesses has been that it refers to something that is often called the “Fourth Confession” – the Belhar Confession which is often added to the Three Formulae of Unity. This confession, written by the Colored South African church, is a powerful cry for visible church unity and justice and against an apartheid distortion of the gospel. Neither Calendar nor Clock is a series of reflections by Peit Naude on how the Belhar fits in with Christian orthodoxy, with the contemporary situation and with the modern world. Reading this book, I’m struck by distinctions between our particular traditions, which seem quite close.
Naude comes from a Barthian and continental reformed tradition and his theoretical stance on confession derives closely from that. One of the questions he asks (in chapter 3 “The confessional character of the Belhar Confession”) is whether or not Barth would sign the confession. Through comparison with the Barmen Declaration he determines that he would. But the fact that he thought the question worth asking puts him in sharp contrast with the Presbyterian anti-Barthians that I’ve been learning from (and whom I recently visited at Westminster Theological Seminary).
Similarly drawing a contrast with my recent theological homies was genealogical tracing of apartheid’s theological underpinning to Kuyperian neo-Calvinism and Scottish Presbyterian pietism. These strike a little close to home but we cannot deny the history. In fact, part of a courageous appropriation of Kuyperianism requires confronting these unsavory elements in the tradition and explaining how they went wrong within the social theory of neo-Calvinism.
I’m not sure if these distinctions were more than superficial but they gave a nice bit of dissonance to Naude’s argument. Calling out our mentors for their faults and praising our demons for their virtues is a good exercise in moral vision.
Hm. And I find I’ve not actually talked about the Confession at all. I’ll save that bit for tomorrow.