Recently, I have been posting why Redemption Hill Church is confessional. The term confessional has lost its luster over the last 100 years, but prior, most churches held to a Confession of Faith. I attempt to show in these blog posts the value of confessions and why a local church should be confessional. This blog is part 3 of 4. These four blogs on confessionalism are about:
- The Nature of Confessionalism
- The Parameters of Confessionalism
- A Vision of Confessionalism
- Subscription to a Confession (forthcoming)
If you are new to confessionalism, or the term is foreign, that’s ok. The purpose of cornfieldtheology.com is to introduce people to new concepts, terms, and theological ideas.
These four blogs on confessionalism have been adapted from a paper I submitted to the elders of Trinity Fellowship Churches in preparation for Theology Day before our General Assembly. This third blog post is on a vision for confessionalism. How should a local church use its Confession of Faith? Again, the question comes down to utility and function.
In The Local Church
Your church might have a statement of faith. You know, the 8-10 points on the church website that outlines the trinity, salvation through Jesus, and eschatological. But, unfortunately, there is a high probability that church A copied and pasted their statement of faith from church B. Church B gave their statement of faith to church C. There might be slight tweets to give the appearance of originality, but the pattern is the same. Now, on the one hand, good theology should not change. Good theology is good theology. But, on the other hand, copying and pasting a statement of faith is lazy.
When it comes to teaching, a Confession of Faith offers maximum opportunity. Here are a few ways pastors can teach and train using a Confession of Faith.
A Confession of Faith serves as a tool for discipleship. Because of its robust theology – unlike most statements of faith – a confession can help a Christian understand the depth of Holy Scripture in great detail. A confession is a tool for a new believer, allows for discipleship in the home, and an ongoing catechism for older believers. Because of the theological depth of a confession, there is a sense that there is always more to discover. Here is an example of how a Confession of Faith can be an excellent teaching tool for discipleship. Here is 9.2 of our Confession of Faith.
The Son of God, the second person in the Holy Trinity, is the true and eternal God, the brightness of the Father’s glory, of one substance and equal with him who made the world, who upholds and governs all things he has made. When the fullness of time had come, he took upon himself man’s nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities of it, yet without sin. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin Mary when the Holy Spirit came down upon her and the power of the Most High overshadowed her. So he was born of a woman of the tribe of Judah, of the seed of Abraham and David according to the Scriptures. Two whole, perfect, and distinct natures were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion. This person is truly God and truly man, yet one Christ, the only mediator between God and man.– 9.2 Trinity Fellowship Churches Confession of Faith
Here is a statement on the Person of Christ from Vanilla Church Down the Road
We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ as both God and man is the only One who can reconcile us to God. He lived a sinless and exemplary life, died on the cross in our place, and rose again to prove His victory and empower us for life.– Vanilla Church Down The Road
Do you see the difference? 9.2 of our Confession of Faith is one of ten points under the heading Christ the Mediator, and Vanilla Church Down the Road has two sentences explaining the deity and work of Christ. What does it mean for Jesus to be God and man? Their statement of faith does not explain it. However, our Confessions of Faith is a tool of discipleship to instill the deep and rich truths of the historic Christian faith, in this case, the nature and person of Christ.
On Sunday Morning
Confessions can be used on Sunday Mornings. Like worship in song, specific areas of a confession and supplement the liturgy. For example, a portion of a Confession of Faith can support a sermon point. In addition, a section of the confession can be corporately read out loud by the congregation. So it could be as simple as corporately affirming a section of our confession. The format could also be Q&A. The goal of using a confession on Sunday morning is to remind ourselves and others of God’s truth.
Back to the Word
In my opinion, the most significant reason for a Confession of Faith is to be driven back to the Word of God. A person, church, and denomination must never forget the inerrancy, authority, and sufficiency of the Bible. The inerrancy, authority, and sufficiency on the Word of God must never be conflated with a Confession of Faith. Yes, a Confession of Faith aims to represent the Word of God accurately, but it’s the Word of God that was written by men who “spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 2:21).
The content of our Confession of Faith should lead the local church to worship. The truth contained in a confession tells about our glorious God. For example, chapter 2 of TFC’s current Confession of Faith should lead us to worship. It begins like this,
The Lord, our God, is one, the only living and true God. He exists in and of himself; he is infinite in being and perfection; his essence cannot be comprehended by anyone but himself; he is a perfectly pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions.– 2.1 Trinity Fellowship Churches Confession of Faith
Imagine reading this aloud at church, home, or a small group. These few words capture what Holy Scripture tells us about God and why we should be led to worship our great God.
In Our Denomination
In Trinity Fellowship Churches, our Confession of Faith serves as a metric to test potential elders. There is no need to hide what we want potential elders to affirm, teach, and defend. And there is no need to hide the answers to the test. We want future elders to know our Confession of Faith well. Because of the robust nature of most confessions, a potential elder is forced to think well and work hard to see the confession well. Unlike some networks and denominations that hand out pastorates like candy on Halloween, we believe there is a high theological standard to become a pastor. A confession helps to ensure a high standard is held.
By virtue of writing down what is believed, confessions are polemical. But they also unite like-minded churches. When churches are like-minded in theological conviction, they can easily partner in the greater gospel mission. Of course, this is not to say local churches can not partner with churches that are not a part of their denomination. Still, there is something refreshing, sweet, and special to know there is theological fidelity with other churches in the community, country, and around the world.