Note: I began a new series last Sunday afternoon teaching through the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689). Here are some notes from the first message: Are Confessions Biblical?
Some will say they want to be simple Biblicists, free from a systematic approach. Some will denounce all so-called “man-made” systems. They declare they want, “No creed but Christ, no book but the Bible.”
These overlook several important facts:
First, human beings have a tendency to think in orderly ways. This is the way God has made us. We are “meaning-makers.” Our desire to see things in an orderly way reflects the fact that we were made in the image of a consistent and orderly God (see 1 Cor 14:33). Though our reason has been tainted by sin (total depravity) we retain a rational capacity. A confession of faith, rightly used, is not an attempt to impose a system on Scripture but to make sense of or to systematize what Scripture teaches.
Second, those who dismiss all systemic approaches to Scripture also dismiss the fact that God intended the Scriptures to be clearly understood by those who read them. Rejection of creeds and confessions is a rejection of the doctrine of the perspicuity (clarity) of Scripture.
Those who denounce efforts at a systematic and meaningful approach Scripture have the burden of explaining why God is more glorified by disorganized and contradictory thinking than by organized and harmonious thinking. Many of those who denounce clearly defined systems are in fact operating with highly developed systematic doctrinal interpretations that are merely left unspoken and unwritten. Their problem with a confession like the 1689 is not with the fact that it is a human interpretation of Scripture but that it contradicts their own human interpretation of Scripture.
The eighteenth century Particular Baptist leader Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) wrote:
The man who has no creed has no belief; which is to say the same thing as an unbeliever; and he whose belief is not formed into a system has only a few loose, unconnected thoughts, without entering into the harmony and glory of the gospel. Every well-informed and consistent believer, therefore, must have a creed—a system which he supposes to contain the leading principles of Divine revelation (“Creeds and Subscriptions,” in The Complete Works of the Rev. Andrew Fuller, Vol. 3 [Sprinkle Publications, 1988]: p. 449).
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
Agreed, but never elevate creed above Scripture. No accusation, merely reminder.
Thanks for the caution, JR.
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