If you are new to my blog, you will see that I am slowly working through the Westminster Confession of Faith. The question may arise as to why I am bothering with that or any confession. Afer all, isn't the Bible what I should be focusing on. To that my answer is, of course the Bible is what I should focus on. It is what we all should focus on and that is exactly what the Westminster Confession does. It focuses on the Bible. There is something about church history that is absolutely amazing. To see the providential hand of God working through the Church throughout the ages is wonderful and there is no other place to see this hand of God more cleary than through the historic church confessions. Wheather it is the Apostles Creed, the Nicean Creed, or the Westminster Confession. The confessions hand to us a legacy, a foundation which is rooted in Scripture. To suppose for one minute that we don't need a working knowledge of these historic confessions is, in one sense, the same as saying, "I am a better theologian than anyone in the history of the church." Beware of the pride that can arise from a credo- "Nothing but the Bible." A statement such as this is grossly ignorant and followed to its logical conclusion would turn one into the strictest form of sectarian out there. Furthermore, it has been my observation that most Christians who don't like the confessions have never taken the time to read them. They have their own idea about what is right and are unwilling to think outside their paradigm. Also, it is important to note, that those who say they don't need to bother with the confessions every church has a confession. It may be long and it may be short. These newer confessions are usually called, "Statements of Faith," or "Doctrinal Statements." This is nothing more than a confession. Every church should have a confession and it just so happens to be my belief that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the older confessions. In fact they are better than almost every "Statement of Faith" I have ever seen.
I will continue by saying, it is my firm belief that confessions and creeds have a bad rap in quite a few churches today. It is believed by many that the creeds and confessions are looked at by those who hold to them as though they were as binding as the Word of God itself. This may be the case among some groups, but it is not always the case, nor usually. To completely ignore such precious history and truth is wrong and detrimental. The truth is, creeds and confessions have a sole purpose and that is, to impart doctrinal knowledge and truth, from the youngest of children and the newest of converts to the seasoned saints. Churches who hold to these confessions, historically show a stronger congregational bond to doctrine and theology. Here are a few reasons why I believe in confessions:
- Creeds and Confession are of great usefullness in teaching and instruction. Namely, the instruction of the youth. The Church is a family and the sooner the church breaks away from the mold of the world into the truth of Scripture the sooner the next generation will be equipped to say no to the lures and temptations of the world. It is important to note that probably the best study of systematic theology is a thorough knowledge of the Westminster Confession or a confession similar to it.
- Acts as a basis of unity for those in the church. Creeds and confessions cross denominational lines and establish guidelines for fellowship this is important as too many people think their way is the only way. ( Please know that I am not at all ecumenical on this point, I am speaking of those within the true church. What I am saying is that it is true that a paedobaptist- amillenialist- covenantalist can fellowship with a credobaptist- premillenialist- dispensationalist.)
- Creeds and Confessions contain the theology of the true church which has grown over the centuries. The deep truths which we take for granted today were strongly disputed at one time. Issues such as the trinity, the deity of Christ, the two natures of Christ and so forth. Godly men and men smarter than we give them credit for have gone before us and throwing that legacy out is absurd.
- The Confessions of the church help to safe guard against error. Don't get me wrong, the Scriptures are the final rule for faith and life, but, if someone was to come into the church and bring a new teaching, if this is a teaching that is against these creeds or is just an old heresy dressed up in new clothing it will be easy to spot. One such error that is around today yet isn't so new is "Socinianism." It is called Open Theism today and is also being seen in the "emergent church."
- A confession is needed to mould minds. The confessions help to actively teach one to think biblically. They help to train the mind, life, patterns of behavior. Think about those who are behind the legacy of these confessions! Augustine, Athanasius, Justin Martyr, Polycarp, Turtulian, Jerome, Calvin, Luther, Edwards, the Westminster Divines and so forth.