Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Use of Confessions Part 2

In this post I would like to make a positive argument for the use of Confessions in the local church. If you read Schinnerer's article carefully, you may have wondered what the logical connection is between Revelation 22 and Deuteronomy 4 and the use of Confessions. Let me be blunt at this point. Mr. Schinnerer does not seem to realize that when he read those texts, he is interpreting those texts within his Tradition. Because Mr. Schinnerer seems to not be aware of his Traditions, his Traditions become equivalent to the Word of God. In other words, he sees no difference between his conclusions (his confession) and the text itself. He is also assuming that when you read those texts, you should come to the same conclusion he does. No logical argumentation is ever offered.

In the Summer 2005 edition of the Founders Journal Tom Nettles wrote,
John Gale [an early 18th century baptist] expressed the opinion of the non-subscribers [the position he held] when he preached, "Away then with all human forms and compositions, with all decrees and determinations of councils and synods, with all confessions and subscriptions;...let every pious Christian embrace and subscribe only that most valuable form of sound words contained in the scriptures." No evangelical Christian disagrees with the desire to have every doctrine supported by the clear words of Scripture. To assert that desire accompanied by a denigration of the value of confessions, however, often cloaks a disbelief of vital doctrine more than it affirms a belief of Scripture. [-- emphasis mine]
So stating that we only believe the Bible is something far too vague. If Jesus were to ask us what we believe, would we say nothing? I would suggest that Confessions serve a purpose in helping the average member understand the faith once for all delivered to the saints.

1) First of all Confessions are useful for expressing what we believe Scripture to be saying in summary form. In Matthew 16 we have a similar example of the need for Confessions. Jesus asked His disciples who men thought He was. He then turned the question to them. At this point Peter gives his famous confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

Scripture deals with many topics. Yet, there is clearly an overarching theme. The Scriptures teach us who and what man is. They also teach us who God is. Confessions are useful to offer a summary statement about what it is we believe they teach about God and man.

Remember the initial responses to Jesus' question. Men confessed all kinds of things about who Jesus is. Simply saying I believe in Jesus doesn't mean a thing if that definition of who Jesus is is wrong. We, like Peter, must confess what God has revealed in His Word about Jesus.

2) They are useful for unity of the local congregation. Too often we see churches that do not maintain a Biblical polity split for various reasons. However, churches also split over doctrinal issues. If the pastoral leadership is held to a stricter standard to the Confession, then doctrinal purity may be more easily maintained. It must be admitted that Confessions do not keep churches from drifting into error. They are a tool that is most helpful in settling disputes.

Sam Waldron wrote in the same issue,
It is clear from all this that a vital distinction must be maintained between the members and the elders of the church. Members need only to submit to the confession. Elders are obliged to teach it (1 Tim 3:2; 2 Tim 2:24; Titus 1:9).
Obviously the Confessions are not the ultimate authority. They derive their authority from Scripture and local church's abiding by it. They are of a secondary nature of authority. If a member were to "stray" from a local church's confession, then they are straying from the authority of the local church.

3) Confessions explain what a specific church's Traditions are upfront. By using a Confession, a church may see its own traditions and admit them up front. A member may see how their particular church approaches interpreting the Bible. This is very helpful when dealing with Christians from other denominations. It is also extremely helpful when dealing with cultists.

Again Waldron wrote about the London Baptist Confession of 1689,
Its distinctives are biblical. Its Reformed approach to God, His decree, the work of Christ, the application of salvation, the law of God, and the Christian worship is biblical. Its Baptist approach to the covenants, the ordinances, and the local church are all deeply and substantially biblical.
Here Waldron admits that the Confession helps the member understand how a local church approaches the text of the Bible. How he sees its unity in the covenants. This basically lays all of the cards on the table for all to see.

4) A great teaching tool. How often have churches received new members into their church only to discover over time those same members disappear. Some of those members are thrown into teaching positions (a most unbiblical thing to do...) not really knowing what they are teaching. A Confession is a simple and easy way to introduce someone to the broad teaching of the Bible.

It also serves us in reminding us that Christianity just didn't start the day we were saved. We stand on the shoulders of giants. It is most arrogant to say that we will invent the wheel when it has already been done.

Tom Ascol wrote in his article,
I do not automatically check my sermons by the 2LC to make sure that I am staying within its doctrinal boundaries. I do not have to since I am in agreement with it. I do consult it when I run up against knotty theological issues in my expositional work. If I find myself coming to conclusions that are contrary to the confession, I pause and give serious reconsideration to the text. Often the problem has been one of language or emphasis. Never have I found myself in contradiction to the clear doctrinal commitments of the confession.
We are not the first to arrive on this planet as Christians. Many godly men have gone on before us laying down a solid foundation. Great men of the past have wrestled with texts of the Bible just as we will continue to do so in our own generation and those to come. This isn't to say that men of the past are infallible. They are not and are just as subject to God's Word as we are. Nevertheless, they ought not to be despised.

In conclusion, I simply do not see how we may say we do not need Confessions. Christian men have come before us. We would be wise to receive their council. To say we do not is to despise gifts that God has given to His church. He has not only given to His church the Scriptures, but He has also given to us Apostles and prophets, and pastors and teachers.

Every generation must contend for that faith which was delivered unto the saints. What confession of faith will you defend?

No comments: