Many friends and others have wondered and often asked me about why I am so ardently insistent on adhering to a strong confessional standard, and why I think they are critically important for the Church. Many may also significantly wonder about this development considering my background in a non-confessional Methodist church and some forays into broad evangelicalism. Below are some of my thoughts, both from reading a lot on the PuritanBoard and The Lost Soul of American Protestantism by D.G. Hart.
I've been very encouraged by some of the wonderful things Dr. R. Scott Clark and several commenters have been writing about on the Heidelblog recently, and so I thought I'd give a bit of an apology for my confessionalism.
- Everybody has a confession and his/her interpretation of a passage of Scripture, and it is clear some teachings of Scripture are much more difficult to understand than others. The fact that Chapter I.7 of the Westminster Confession has to state the obvious is a sad testament to the tendency of many a modern to dumb down God to bite-sized theology to where any and everyone can just learn everything in the Bible on a first reading of a passage.
- Additionally, on every point of doctrine not hammered down confessionally, one leaves the door open for countless vain speculations and rehashings of the resolved arguments of the past.
- This sort of thing becomes particularly apparent when one confronts many "Statement of Faith Churches", where radical varieties of theology can occur even within the same elders and pastors of the same church. One elder might be a Calvinist, the pastor might be rather fond of Charismatic gifts and anti-Calvinist, another might be a culture warrior, and another might be very fond of Church Growth anti-doctrinal pragmatism. How is any sort of coherent, mutually strengthening teaching supposed to come from a cauldron like this situation?
- For reference: WCF I.7. "All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them." Proof texts: 2 Peter 3:16 and Psalm 119:105
- A quote from G.K. Chesterton, himself no fan of Confessional Protestantism, shall certainly suffice: "Tradition means giving a vote to most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death. Democracy tells us not to neglect a good man's opinion, even if he is our groom; tradition asks us not to neglect a good man's opinion, even if he is our father."
- In this light, while our generation may have the ability to hammer out some controversial or difficult areas of doctrine that previous generations did not have to address, it would be a travesty if every Christian had to completely build from scratch an entire Biblical Chirstian worldview.
- If you doubt me, I'd like to suggest formulating a sound, orthodox doctrine of the Trinity strictly from the Bible, regardless of the amount of theological training or Biblical background that you have. Here's the Athanasian creed for reference: http://www.carm.org/creeds/athanasian.htm.
To those wondering as about my confessional adherence, I wholeheartedly embrace the 1789 Westminister Confession (still considering Exclusive Psalmody), the Canons of Dordt, and the Westminster Shorter Catechism. The Larger Catechism, Belgic Confession, and Heidelberg Catechism I mostly agree with, but I haven't actively and specifcially hammered out every doctrinal issue they teach.
Soli Deo Gloria!