Confessionalism


Professor R Scott Clark has written an article on how to evaluate which denomination to serve in. Since I have friends who are planning on serving in numerous denominations, I think that honest discussion like Prof. Clark is exhibiting, is quite helpful for building up of the greater church. I have not digested all of what he is saying, and of course, there are areas in which I disagree with him, but overall, it is quite helpful for those who want to enter seminary but are not sure where the Lord is calling him. Read it here.

What church’s official documents contain: “what is eaten and drunk by us is the proper and natural body and the proper blood of Christ…”
Zwinglian Anabaptist Roman Catholic Reformed Evangelical Lutheran Eastern Orthodox Emergent Anglican

I am doing a comparison on a number of Reformed Creeds as part of my course-work this semester. I have regained a love and appreciation for the Belgic Confession of Faith. It is so experiential, practical, applicable, and comforting to the Christian. The article on the Sacraments is just one example of the many fine articles that our Continental brethren hold so dear:

We believe that our gracious God, taking account of our weakness and infirmities, has ordained the sacraments for us, thereby to seal unto us His promises, and to be pledges of the good will and grace of God towards us, and also to nourish and strengthen our faith; which He has joined to the Word of the gospel, the better to present to our senses both that which He declares to us by His Word and that which He works inwardly in our hearts, thereby confirming in us the salvation which He imparts to us. For they are visible signs and seals of an inward and invisible thing, by means whereof God works in us by the power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore the signs are not empty or meaningless, so as to deceive us. For Jesus Christ is the true object presented by them, without whom they would be of no moment. Moreover, we are satisfied with the number of sacraments which Christ our Lord has instituted, which are two only, namely, the sacrament of baptism and the holy supper of our Lord Jesus Christ -Belgic Confession, Article XXXII

While discussing the life and death of Guido De Bres, it was brought to my attention that there are a few of his letters that have not been translated from Dutch to English.

His letter to his wife prior to his beheading is so loving and passionate. It clearly shows that a man that loves the Lord Jesus Christ above all will show love to his wife in all circumstances- even the death of martyrdom. Let us follow in faithfulness to Jesus Christ and love for Him. May God grant some of us the great honor of dying as a faithful martyr to Jesus Christ.

I am practicing now what I have preached to others. And I must confess that when I preached I would speak about the things I am actually experiencing as a blind man speaks of colour. Since I was taken prisoner I have profited more and learned more than during all the rest of my life. I am in a good school: the Holy Spirit inspires me continually and teaches me how to use the weapons in this combat. On the other side is Satan, the adversary of all children of God. He seeks to wound me. But he who has said, “Fear not, for I have overcome the world,” makes me victorious. And already I see that the Lord puts Satan under my feet and I feel the power of God in my weakness….

As you have always loved me, I pray that you will continue this love toward our children, instructing them in the knowledge of the true God and of his Son Jesus Christ. Be their father and their mother, and take care that they use honestly the little that God has given you. If God does you the favour to permit you to live in widowhood with our children after my death, that will be well. If you cannot, and the means are lacking, then go to some good man, faithful and fearing God. And when I can, I shall write to our friends to watch over you. I think that they will not let you want for anything. Take up your regular routine after the Lord has taken me. You have our daughter Sarah who will soon be grown. She will be your companion and help you in your troubles. She will console you in your tribulations and the Lord will always be with you. Greet our good friends in my name, and let them pray to God for me, that he may give me strength and the wisdom and ability to uphold the truth of the Son of God to the last breath of my life.

The letter is quite inspiring as well as convicting. It can be read here.

In a discussion on the article of faith, “He descended into hell” you will find much confusion. The ancients intended this phrase to mean just what it says- Jesus descended into hell after his burial. Most views say that he preached or proclaimed his triumph over sin and death before demons and/or the damned.

Reformed Christians historically deny this interpretation. We have reinterpreted this phrase in our ancient creed to mean that he either entered the place of the dead or he suffered the pains of hell on the cross. My personal belief (which does not find much support in the Reformed and Presbyterian tradition) is that we strike this phrase from our Creed or we place a giant footnote at the bottom of every printing and state that we disagree with the original meaning of the authors of the text.

As far as I see there are three camps in the Reformed tradition here:
1. Those who are revisionists and reinterpret the creed.
2. Those that do not think that it is that important to change or redefine.
3. Those who want to strike the phrase out of our ancient creed.

Of course, all three have consequences. What should be done though? Does a revisionistic interpretation open the door to liberal interpretations of the Scriptures? Does striking the line show disrespect to our ancient heritage?

Three quotes were given in the discussion that shows the confusion that this phrase has made in the evangelical world. These quotes left me astonished that some have gone so far as to redefine Christ’s atoning sacrifice to fit into a creedal system. I see these as the bad fruit of not dealing with this early on in the Protestant Reformation (I understand that the Reformers would not have been able to maintain their claim on catholicity if they began disassembling the creeds of the historic Church):

When Jesus cried, ‘It is finished!’ He was not speaking of the plan of redemption. There were still three days and nights to go through before He went to the throne…Jesus’ death on the cross was only the beginning of the complete work of redemption. -Kenneth Copeland

Do you think that the punishment for our sin was to die on a cross? If that were the case, the two thieves could have paid your price. No, the punishment was to go into hell itself and to serve time in hell separated from God…Satan and all the demons of hell thought that they had Him bound and they threw a net over Jesus and they dragged Him down to the very pit of hell itself to serve our sentence. -Fredrick Price

He [Jesus] tasted spiritual death for every man. And His spirit and inner man went to hell in my place. Can’t you see that? Physical death wouldn’t remove your sins. He’s tasted death for every man. He’s talking about tasting spiritual death. -Kenneth Hagen

Q. 33. What is justification?

A. Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in His sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.
Q. 34. What is adoption?
A. Adoption is an act of God’s free grace,a whereby we are received into the number, and have a right to all the privileges, of the sons of God.

My catechumens are working on these two questions for the week. I have taken this opportunity to discuss the necessity of conversion and the need for all men (including covenant children) to have their sins pardoned.

I have given them a homework assignment that requires them to interview their believing parents and grandparents and ask them to tell the story of their justification by faith alone. As a Calvinist, I believe that one can have a testimony that says “I have never known a day when I did not love the Lord Jesus”. This is my prayer for my children, that they would know and love Christ from their very youth.

With that in mind, even covenant children can discuss and write out their testimony. I hope that this exercise proves to be beneficial to my catechumens as they again hear of how their families fell in love with the Lord Jesus Christ. I would challenge you write out yours as well. Someday you may be asked to talk about your Christian experience while sharing the good news.

As Confessional Christians, both Reformed and Presbyterian believers hold to documents that summarize the teachings of Scripture. Why do we do this? Is this necessary? Does this contradict sola scriptura? There are many questions that one must ask before signing on to a Confessional position.

The Confessing Church by Dr. Pipa is a worthy read.

The picture is Jerusalem Chamber in

Westminster Abbey.

This is where the Westminster Standards were written.