Theology, Piety, and Practice, Sept 11 2011,
The Confession of the Faith Part 1
We call ourselves a “confessional” church. This should not be confused with the catholic box with a screen known as a confessional. Nor does it refer to just any confession. The term confessional is a specific kind of protestant church that actually abides by the doctrinal standards set down during the Protestant Reformation of the 16th and 17th centuries. Specifically, we are a church which subscribes to the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms (Larger and Shorter).
These confessional standards give us a guiding line to say “we believe x.” you will hear x from the pulpit. This is really a great thing because it protects you. It protects you from hearing heresies. It protects you from me when I decide to start teaching something other than what the confession teaches (though, Lord willing, I never will).
Having standard confessions is good, practical, and protecting thing. But, is it Biblical? The topic of this series is a Biblical justification for confessing the faith in private and corporate Christian life. I want to convince you that; yes, the Bible does tell us to confess the faith, and to formulate doctrine, and live by it.
The Bible explicitly teaches us to formulate, trust in, and live by doctrine. Here is a defense of this thesis and catalogue of some verses on this topic. Doctrine is the use of human terms and learning in order to interpret, describe, define, and apply God’s revelation in Scripture. We need to reinterpret our views of all things in light of the way the Bible speaks and teaches. Nevertheless, we need to use human language in order to do that. The task then is to pour Biblical meanings into the human words used in these formulations.
So, at the same time as defending Confessionalism, I am defending against Biblicism. Biblicism sounds like a great term, but the historical context from whence it comes is, ironically, not Biblical. Throughout church history there have been some who tend toward the view of confessions and creeds encapsulated in the slogans, “no creed but Christ,” “it is not a religion, it is a relationship,” “deeds not creeds.” However, Christianity is most certainly is about creeds. There are two reasons for this. First, we need creeds. Second, the Bible teaches the church to formulate doctrine and creedal documents. These two themes will be our topics for the next two weeks.