Clarity and Honesty Might Help
I do not think this is in any way the only issue. But, I think sometimes it would be good for men and women considering marriage and for those experiencing marital difficulties to say to say to one another, “Just tell me what you want.” It can help both the answer-giver and the answer-receiver to know what is negotiable, what is non-negotiable, and what doesn’t matter.
The healthcare debate might be helped by a little more clarity and honesty. What do you want? What are the costs of what you want?
You want everyone to have healthcare provided by some kind of government coverage (single payer) or government mandate? How much money will it take? Who will pay? Who will be taxed and how much? What will it add to the cost of doing business and what will be the impact on business? How much and what quality of care will be provided to all? Who will decide?
You want everyone to take care of himself and his family on his own? How do you propose that people do that? What will you do Medicaid and Medicare? What will you do about those who do not have the money or the insurance and show up at the emergency room asking for treatment? How much will depend on voluntary charity? What are you willing to see happen to those who for whatever reasons, worthy or unworthy, cannot or will not make the necessary sacrifices to pay for healthcare?
To put it in terms of personal impact: I’d like for the first group to tell me how much money it will take out of my pocket in taxes or increased costs of goods and services and what it will do to the accessibility and quality of my health care. I’d like for the second to tell me what will happen if I cannot afford my healthcare and under what circumstances, given that I must die, they are willing to see me die of curable or treatable conditions.
Of course, there are a great number of political questions where I would prefer that I be told exactly what people want to do and what they are willing to do or live with to get what they want. But I don’t believe for a minute the parties and politicians are going to talk straight.
I would like to see the same kind of clarity and honesty about ecclesiastical issues, though I am not very optimistic about it happening.
Some sample questions:
To those who believe mercy ministry (not just the church taking care of its own needy but the church doing justice, engaging in social action, and helping the poor in society) is a mark of the church: Are ready to require transferring ministers and ordinands to accept mercy ministry as a mark? What would say and do about churches that do not possess this mark? If not practicing mercy ministry is a something close to a denial of the gospel, why is not baptizing covenant children?
To those who believe that Scripture and Confession require belief in six ordinary 24 hour days of creation and in a young earth: What would you do with those who do not believe that the days were 24 hours or that the earth is young? About those who do but would not require others to? If Warfield were alive today would you have the church condemn his writings? Would you exclude Machen from its ministry? What would you do with those already ordained who do not hold your views?
To those who take a broader view the regulative principle: How far can it stretch before it is meaningless? How much do you think culture is determinative of worship? Do you think the forms of traditional Reformed worship are Biblical and transferable to cultures in which it did not originate or are they historically and culturally limited? To those who take a stricter view: At what point is the principle violated? When Christmas and Easter are observed? When a choir sings both with and to the congregation? To both: To what extent should a member of the PCA expect he could worship with a comfortable conscience regardless of what congregation he may attend on a Sunday? How much uniformity can we expect? How much diversity can we live with?
It can be helpful to the clarity of our own thinking when we ask ourselves questions: What do I really want? What would be the consequences of getting what I want? What differences can I live with? Not live with?
Then honestly with others can help toward understanding and toward mutual acceptance, if it is possible, or separation, if it is necessary. We can quit the games and the sloganeering and just say what we think.
I don’t know if this kind of thing happened in the recent “Meeting of Understanding” in the PCA, but I hope it did. And I hope eventually the whole church can be informed what men of stature and influence think are the issues that need to be understood, where and where not they have attained understanding, and what all this means for the rest of us.
Tell me what you want. And, if you’re interested, I’ll try to tell you what I want. Is this really so hard?