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Why Confessions Are Important
I was speaking with another Indianapolis pastor a few months ago, and he wanted to know how we are able to have paedo-baptists (Presbyterians) and credo-baptists (Baptists) work together in the same denomination and even in leadership at the same church. I began to explain to him that really we have a lot more in common with each other than we disagree about. I told him that we require leaders to adopt one of the classic reformed confessions, and I was going to move from there into describing how we allow freedom on time and mode of baptism, but he interrupted me. “What is it with you reformed guys and confessions?” he asked. “Haven’t you ever heard of sola Scriptura?”
I just put up a page explaining why we are a “confessional” church, and I want to expand a bit more on that topic. Today it is becoming common to hear people say something like, “No creed but Christ!” or maybe even “The sufficiency of Scripture!”, “Scripture alone!” or “Sola Scriptura” as an argument against submitting ourselves to creeds and confessions. In my experience, people try to use these arguments against creeds for two very different reasons.
The first reason people make these arguments is because they simply don’t understand what the point is. I briefly explained to this man that confessions are just a handy way of finding out what men believe and holding them accountable in their teaching and preaching. All through the ages there have been men who claim to be Christians who have promoted various heresies. Creeds and confessions came about when the church realized that it wasn’t good enough to simply ask men whether they believed the Bible. If you ask a Oneness Pentecostal pastor today whether he believes the Bible, he will say, “Yes of course!” The problem is that he has completely twisted what the Bible says, and he does not believe in the Trinity. So you have to ask him more specific questions to search out what he actually believes. This is part of what confessions are for–finding out what a man thinks the Bible teaches. When a man says that he believes the Bible, he could mean that he “digs that Jesus guy”. He could mean that it is a good moral story-book. He could mean Jesus wasn’t actually God, or anything else for that matter. He could mean anything, and therefore he has communicated nothing. However, if he says that he believes the Bible in the way the Westminster Standards summarize its teaching, he communicates a detailed systematic theology covering a wide range of topics. So he has communicated a great deal about what he believes. You know right away whether you believe the same general things as he does, without having to spend hours in theological discussion. It is, in essence, a very precise label.
Today, people don’t like labels, and this leads to the second reason people argue against confessions–they don’t like authority or accountability. Some people understand exactly what the point is of confessions, but they still reject them. This is generally done by men who want to be imprecise with what they believe in order to avoid accountability for their teaching. These are men who love plausible deniability. There is nothing more to say about this than that it is wicked.
(Originally posted on the ClearNote Church, Indy website, a reformed church on the west side of Indianapolis, where Joseph is the pastor.)