“The St Andrews Declaration on a Shared Humanity” – Statement from the Trustees 7th October 2016
‘The St Andrews Declaration on a Shared Humanity’ was signed recently by the Church of Scotland Moderator.
The wording of the declaration can be found here: http://www.yearofinterfaithdialogue.com/
The University of St Andrews website states that this document, ‘written by St Andrews Professor of Divinity Mario Aguilar, incorporates the teachings of different faiths and embraces the basic principles of humanity, equality, diversity and freedom. Once signed, it is hoped that the document will be used in schools, and by community and faith groups around the world, to form discussion and foster the idea of a common humanity, as a tool against radicalisation’.
The document was signed at the end of September 2016 by leaders from various religions, including Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and followers of the Dalai Lama. Amongst the signatories was the present Moderator of the Church of Scotland, the Right Rev Dr Russell Barr.
To argue for the importance of our common humanity and to build alliances by which we can stand together, opposed to the violence against our fellow human beings that has become increasingly associated with radicalisation, is a good thing and something that Covenant Fellowship Scotland would wish to commend and support.
As Christians, we believe that every human being is made in the image of God and therefore has an innate value and dignity and ought to be treated with respect.
Furthermore, we believe that people of any and every religious belief ought to be treated with respect and be able to pursue their religion free from persecution.
We also believe that it is desirable for all Christians and churches, including the Church of Scotland, to work with adherents of other religions, wherever possible, for the common good.
To that extent we understand and appreciate the Moderator’s desire to join with others at St Andrews to highlight our common humanity, our desire to stand against violence – particularly that associated with radicalisation, and to help to encourage a peaceable spirit at this time in the world’s history.
However, a problem arises in that the Declaration, which has been signed by our Moderator amongst others, goes well beyond the intention described above.
In particular, point 4 of the Declaration begins ‘We share a common path towards the Absolute …’, thus presenting the view that all religions are expressions of the same human search for spiritual meaning and purpose.
There are two problems with this statement:
1) First, it denies the uniqueness of Christ. As Christians, we believe that there is one God, who has revealed Himself in and through Jesus Christ, who is the incarnate Son of God, the eternal second Person of the Trinity. We believe that forgiveness and salvation are only to be found in Christ.
2) Second, we do not believe that all paths lead to the Absolute. Nor do we believe that all religions are on a common, shared journey. Following the teaching of Jesus (e.g. Matt 7:13-14), we believe that there are two paths: ‘the narrow road’ that leads to life and ‘the broad road’ that leads to destruction. We believe that adherents of other religions must be reached with the Gospel and called to faith in Jesus Christ.
There are other problems with the Declaration, including the way in which an attempt has been made to squeeze the plain teaching of Jesus in John 17:21 into a very different mould from that intended by Jesus and the apostle John. The fundamental problem with the Declaration, however, is the one highlighted above.
Let us remember the definition of the Church of Scotland and its core doctrines as expressed in the very first of its ‘Articles Declaratory’:
‘The Church of Scotland is part of the Holy Catholic or Universal Church; worshipping one God, Almighty, all-wise, and all-loving, in the Trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, the same in substance, equal in power and glory; adoring the Father, infinite in Majesty, of whom are all things; confessing our Lord Jesus Christ, the Eternal Son, made very man for our salvation; glorying in His Cross and Resurrection, and owning obedience to Him as the Head over all things to His Church; trusting in the promised renewal and guidance of the Holy Spirit; proclaiming the forgiveness of sins and acceptance with God through faith in Christ, and the gift of Eternal Life; and labouring for the advancement of the Kingdom of God throughout the world…’
This Article makes it clear that the Church of Scotland is legally constituted as a church that (amongst other things) is committed to:
- Worshipping one God, the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit
- Adoring the Father
- Confessing the Lordship of Jesus Christ; glorying in His Cross and Resurrection; and owning obedience to Him as the Head
- Trusting in the renewing power and guidance of the Holy Spirit
- Proclaiming the forgiveness of sins and acceptance with God through faith in Jesus Christ
Let us commit ourselves afresh, therefore, to stand shoulder to shoulder wherever possible with women and men of faith: declaring and upholding our common humanity and the dignity and equality of every human being; respecting one another and enabling one another to pursue our chosen religion free from persecution; working with adherents of other religions wherever possible for the common good; and standing against violence – particularly that associated with radicalisation – as we seek to encourage a peaceable spirit at this time in the world’s history.
But let us do that as those who stand true to the fundamental convictions of the Scriptures as embraced within our own first Article Declaratory, which after all define who and what the Church of Scotland is.
The Trustees of Covenant Fellowship Scotland