To the Modern Church: Look Backward

The Coffee — We are fast approaching my favorite season. The weather is cooling down, and the leaves will soon start changing colors. This provides great opportunities to sit outside and enjoy coffee with the fresh air. Something about the cool air compliments the warm coffee and creates the perfect atmosphere to relax and rest or enjoy with friends. I encourage you this fall to take your cup of coffee outside and enjoy fall while it is here. My favorite coffee I have had thus far is Yirgacheffe REKO roast from Foster Hobbs. The acidity is just right and it has a light and crisp feel to it with a good blend of sweetness and some citrus. I have a few other Ethiopian roasts from Foster Hobbs that I look forward to trying out. I have gotten several roasts from them in the past and they have all been excellent and their service is unmatched.

The Theology — There is a trend emerging in the modern church today. From revitalizing and growing churches to vast mega-churches, these local bodies are attempting to encompass the vast aspects of Christian theology through simplified and watered-down statements of faith. Even major denominations have put forward faith statements, in an attempt to simplify and modernize theological understanding, that have diluted what has held true historically. In the past year, I have read through the 1689 London Baptist Confession of faith, and have become convinced that the best way for modern churches to define their beliefs, it to look backward and adhere to a historical confession of faith.

A church utilizing a historical confession of faith as its foundation will find many benefits. The confessions represent spiritual maturity. They have stood the test of time, unlike ill-defined and modern attempts at faith statements which tend to be changed and edited with the trends of society. Due to their thoroughness, it keeps churches from having to “reinvent the wheel”, by providing detailed and specific scriptural guidance on a vast array of issues that could become points of contention or be open to misinterpretation if not addressed. Furthermore, this thoroughness also means that members of the church are not burdened to organize and research every doctrinal topic themselves when an issue or question arises. The confessions provide organized and topical information for members to utilize and reference. It also provides a benefit for individuals who are not members within the congregation, those seeking membership, or those visiting the church. The confessions for these people are a straightforward way of knowing explicitly what a church believes. There can be no confusion as to what the church, pastors, and members believe, as their beliefs are public. Adhering to a historic confession also protects both the pastor and the congregation. If a church stands by the confession, it will provide recourse against a pastor or staff who put forth or teach questionable doctrine. Furthermore, it protects the pastor and staff against the encroachment of non-biblical fads and societal pressures as any new idea would have to be examined against the confession, which has stood the test of time against countless fads and societal pressures. With the pastors, staff, elders, and deacons adhering to the confession, it promotes unity throughout the staff towards the congregation.

One might think that the above benefits can still be obtained by modern pastors writing their own church faith statements, or simply subscribing to a broad denominational faith statement. However, the logical prowess, knowledge, and dedication to the task at hand of writing a confession/faith statement is generally unable to be matched today. Our pastors and staff do amazing work and faithfully preach the gospel. They also do an incredible amount of shepherding and behind the scenes work that simply does not allow for the same time and dedication the reformers were able to put into writing the historic confessions. Furthermore, putting forth generic faith statements, or subscribing solely to broad denominational statements, cannot possibly and encompass the complexity of issues facing the church and can even give the impression that the few simplified points included in the generic statements are the church’s only spiritual stances or “lines in the sand”. As stated above, using a confession with vast amounts of topical statements prevents the possibility of members, and visitors confusing or misinterpreting what the church believes. Another objective in modernizing and rewriting faith statements is to simplify the language utilized in the statement of faith. The goal of this is usually to widen the audience and appeal of the statement. However, the writers of the historic confessions intentionally selected their words and phrases to make sure to thoroughly address topics and avoid any heresy and confusion. While the gospel of Jesus Christ is simple, the implications, rationale, and theology behind it can be detailed. The more we try to simply some of the more complex aspects of Christian theology the more danger we run of confusing theological aspects, or worse, writing and teaching heresy.

I recognize in most modern churches, the majority of visitors and even members would not pick up and read an entire confession of faith if their church adopted it as their statement of faith. However, the confession would still stand as a crucial resource to utilize as an aid to scripture when members ask for clarification and information on topics. It would also be a great resource in new member classes, and in small groups to thoroughly teach members what their denomination has believed throughout history as well as giving them sound reasoning behind crucial aspects of their theology; such as the ordinances of the Lord’s Supper and Baptism, as well as the worship service as a whole. I strongly urge churches of all sizes to publicly adhere to a historic confession of faith and make them available for their members. To Baptists and applicable nondenominational churches, I recommend the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith. The 1649 Westminster Confession of Faith is also a great option to explore as it is widely utilized by conservative Presbyterian denominations. For additional reference, the Westminster Shorter and Larger Catechisms and the Heidelberg Catechisms are also great resources. I encourage all believers to explore some of these options to grow in their faith.

If you have any comments, further discussion points, or suggestions for future topics I urge you to use the contact function; or email pourovertheology@gmail.com

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