Guest Blogger: Jason Helopoulos

The resurgence of Reformed theology over the past ten years has been very exciting. I am hopeful that the next resurgence will find the YRR folks making their way to a more explicit adherence to confessional reformed theology.

What are the benefits to confessional Christianity? I think about it this way. The confessions and/or creeds are helpful  because they:

Tie us to Scripture

We must understand the whole of what the Bible teaches concerning a certain subject. And the confessions are a faithful attempt to do this very thing. Thus, the confessions do not lead us away from Scripture. Rather, they lead us to the Scriptures in what they articulate in a systematic way.

If I asked you, “How many persons are there in the Godhead?” You could turn to John 10:30 where Jesus states, “I and the Father are one,” and make the argument, as some have, that God is one person. But this would be wrong, because you took the Scriptures only in part and not as a whole. A good student of the Scriptures must be informed by all the Scriptures. Therefore, you would  also want to turn to Matthew 3:16-17. And there it is clear that there are three persons of the Triune Godhead distinguished one from another. But you couldn’t stop there. One must also look at passages like John 15:26, 2 Corinthians 13:14, Galatians 4:6, Colossians 1:15, Hebrews 1:2-3, and on we could go. All of this needs to be considered together as a consistent whole.

Tie us to Orthodoxy

These confessions and creeds are the products of painstaking dialogue, theological wrangling, and years of hard fought established truths. The Church has never existed in a vacuum as heretical teaching has found its way into the church in every age. And many of these teachings have struck at the vitals of our faith. In such cases,  the Church has often risen to address these errors and safeguard itself by articulating the truths of Scripture in carefully worded documents. As we read, study, and compare these confessions/creeds to the teaching of Scripture they encourage our own orthodoxy and serve to check our own inclination to theological wandering.

Tie us to the past

The Church of Jesus Christ is older than any church we sit in on Sunday mornings. For that fact, it is older than any of our denominations. Confessions bind us to the historical church. It helps to stymie fascination with whatever is fadish and expedient. It encourages trust and waiting upon the Lord as one reflects upon the faithfulness of God through the generations. It reminds us that the Church to which we belong is nothing new. It includes all those in the faith who have preceded us. It directs us to old teachers and teachings in the church that have stood the test of time and scrutiny.

Tie us in the present

The confessions allow us to have true unity and accord with others in the faith. It provides the basis for ecclesiastical fellowship, ministry endeavors,  labor together, and accountability.

Tie us to the future

Confessions (and their attendant catechisms in particular) provide a means to pass this great faith on to those of the next generation. Every Christian must have a concern for the Church in the next age. We labor to pass on the faith to our children and grandchildren. And the confessions provide a wonderful pedagogical tool for our use. They summarize our faith and articulate the essentials. They provide a systematic and concise understanding of what “man is to believe concerning God and what duty God requires of man” (WSC Q/A 3).

 

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9 thoughts on “The Next Resurgence?”

  1. Riley says:

    Amen, brother! May God make it so.

  2. Dan says:

    Excellent use of a blog! Good teaching tool; in these days where confessional Christianity is a foreign concept across evangelicalism, I appreciate being able to share something that provides a basic explanation of what creeds and confessions are for, why they exist, and why they serve the Church in a healthy way.

    I believe especially that creeds and confessions make a good fundamental “next step” for those who embrace the Doctrines of Grace and other aspects of God’s sovereignty. They broaden one’s view of the Christian faith and as we read them, we can learn not only sound biblical doctrine but a good dose of church history. I have also found that the organization of some theology volumes follows the organization of confessions to varying degrees (Gregg Allison’s Historical Theology being the most recent example I’ve personally looked at, and even Bruce Ware’s “Big Truths for Young Hearts”, written for pre-teens).

    Conclusion: this is a helpful post both for those coming from broad evangelical backgrounds with little or no prior exposure to confessional Christianity, such as myself; and likely also for those in historic confessional denominations who may desire to discard the confessions as outdated and outmoded. Burk Parsons’ “Why Do We Have Creeds?” is a helpful short intro, and I look forward to Carl Trueman’s “The Creedal Imperative” from Crossway, due on 9/30/12 according to Crossway’s website.

  3. Great piece. I knew about the creeds early enough, but I found out about the beauty of the confessions and catechisms through DeYoung’s book. It turned me onto the idea of confessions and catechisms as devotional literature which has been a real blessing in my life. This is a little piece I wrote on the subject.
    http://derekzrishmawy.com/2012/08/13/beefing-up-your-quiet-times-catechisms-and-confessions-as-devotional-literature/
    Anyways, thanks for the piece.

  4. Wesley says:

    Great post bro – reminds me again that i want to pick up ‘Carl-bomb’s’ (Trueman) new book “The Creedal Imperative” (http://www.amazon.com/The-Creedal-Imperative-Carl-Trueman/dp/1433521903) sooner than later as i absolutely agree with what you’ve written here. I was really interested to learn that the word for Creed actually pictures a half of a piece of broken pottery that would be fit to another half in order to confirm the identity of someone. So the Creeds (whatever else they are) are also a measuring stick by which one can see how closely they are aligned to orthodox Christianity.

  5. All likely true but unfortunately for many (including many self-identified “Reformed” people) confessions haven’t tied them to scripture but have supplanted scripture. The effective authority in their life and church is their confession rather than the Word of God and as such they have departed from Sola Scriptura, ironically strayed from the very essence of what it is to be “Reformed”.

    Also, the confessions then handicap them from communicating persuasively to other Christians who don’t accept their confession. They can only cite their confession (or their confession’s interpretation of scripture) and so can’t appeal to someone on the basis of the shared authority of scripture. I’m thinking of John Gerstner’s fine book “Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth” which accurately critiques dispensationalism but does it on the basis of the Westminster Confession instead of the Word of God. His argument is therefore lost on those who don’t already agree with Westminster, like most dispensationalists.

    Further, as a student of the Puritans, who actually crafted Westminster, I note that they were not particularly confessional. I have yet to see a New England Puritan refer to Westminster or any confession to make their arguments. They would instead appeal to scripture. Perhaps that’s a large part of why they were so effective.

  6. Dan says:

    John makes a valid point that I’ve also heard from someone who grew up Reformed, that confessions often supplant Scripture. Their attraction to me, in the midst of an evangelicalism with seemingly only the most basic doctrinal consensus, is that fallible though they may be, confessions make some comprehensive sense of what Scripture teaches on the major points of doctrine.

    So then, how do churches strive in practice to maintain the ministerial nature of the confessions while reserving the magisterial authority to Scripture alone?

  7. Ok – color me a bit confused. Where are these people who supplant Scripture with the creeds? Where? I’m a pastor in the PCA. I’ve not seen it. Even in the pastoral candidate process and going before presbytery. I’ve not seen it. In fact, most of the people can’t articulate basic creedal theology AT ALL! The doctrine of the Trinity is muddy and confused at best. I suspect the attack on creedal but not biblical assumption is a boogyman not a reality for almost all people involved.

    We’re not creedal because we’re not biblical. We’re biblically illiterate, doctrinally week, and constitutionally unaware. Do your people know the constitution of their church? Mine don’t.

    We are broken, not by over-creedalism, but by general ignorance and unawareness. You’ve got a better chance of having a fruitful discussion about NFL referees than the Arian debate at Nicea.

    I’m genuinely curious – has anybody actually met someone who said, “I know what the Bible says, but the confession says…”?

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Kevin DeYoung


Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church (RCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. He and his wife Trisha have six young children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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