Throughout history the church has produced confessions, some to counter certain heresies, at other times to set a standard for membership or demonstrate denominational orthodoxy. Accordingly, the authors of a confession complete two major tasks while generating a confession:
They set out of the systematic theology a group of churches, church or individual holds.
They identify in concise form the doctrinal expression of what the scriptures state
Here at Westminster Baptist Church, we align ourselves with the London Baptist Confession, a confession generated in the 17th century; its first version completed in 1644, rewritten in 1677, and published in 1689 after the passage of the Toleration Act. This confession is an eminently valuable gem of systematic theology, and one we are privileged to access and be encouraged by in the 21st century
What does this mean:
- Our preaching will practically align with the 1689.
- The confession holds a useful outline of the views the church would hold.
Why do we align ourselves with this confession
- Because we believe it seeks to faithfully set out the body of doctrine we find in the Bible.
- It largley aligns with the doctrines upon which the church was founded and seeks to continue to uphold.
Although we appreciate the eminent value of this confession, a caveat must be elucidated. And that interjection is this – the confession is still a man-made resource by which we can learn and teach.
I am not fond of the following objection to confessionalism – ‘I just believe the bible’. Indeed, the intention of most confessions is to set out what the Bible says.
However, we must emphasis the unique purity of the Word of God. Proverbs 30.5 says every word of God is pure. Indeed, the bible is infallible, unlike man-made resources.
It should therefore be our chief aim in our confessions, preaching and writing to be grounded in the scriptures. Confessions, as noted, are an excellent means of succinctly iterating our beliefs in a systematic way, though they are not comparable with the scripture itself. As with all man-made resources, they should be viewed with a modicum of skepticism – tested against scripture, ruminated upon. Indeed, confessions are more like a commentary – an aid to scripture – never to be equivocated with scripture itself. Indeed, to quote the 1689, ‘scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience’.
It is my hope that Westminster’s members will continue to grow in knowledge and appreciation of the Second Baptist Confession, given its immense value, while also continuing to ruminate upon all the truths it contains, test them with scripture, and consider their veracity for themselves.
By Pastor Jonathan