The Confession Alone: The 6th Sola

The Confession Alone: The 6th Sola

Confessions and formalized creeds have been an edifying edition to the Christian faith. Since the beginning of the New Covenant (and even further back since the dawn of teaching), mankind has formalized and rehearsed many sayings, creeds, idioms, and other phrases that have refreshed our minds about a how we ought to think or understand life. Within Christendom, there are certain flavors of creeds and confessions that we Reformed folks hold to very dearly. Assuming that you understand which confessions exist, I seek to make my point quickly. If you have never read a creed, confession, or catechism, I highly suggest you do some research and learn from them.

Having said all that, there is an authoritative flaw in our Reformed circles. I call it he Sixth Sola: Confession Alone. It is this idea that if it is not a part of your confession, it cannot (or in some cases should not) be taught or even considered as biblical. Or, practically speaking, although we do not verbally admit this, when we are discussing Scripture with someone, and the first thing that comes out of their mouth is “X confession says…” when making their case, it is making the confession the ultimate authority in the conversation (unless they are just using the confession as a springboard to talk about Scripture). I am aware that this last statement may have ruffled more feathers than the first, but understand what I am actually saying and do not misinterpret my words. If your first or final authoritative response in any discussion about theology or what the Bible teaches concerning what you believe and why is “the confession says” you have turned a guidepost into a destination.

Most, if not all, creeds, confession, and catechisms are reactive. That is, they are written and formed based off of some other creed or confession that is in opposition, and those forming it wish to distinguish themselves for the opposing party. It can be in response to false teaching (or perceived false teaching), or it can be simply trying to make a stand about a certain belief within a specific community that affirms X belief(s). As I already said, this is not inherently wrong. These are great ways to find out where your stand in your faith. i would argue that it is impossible to say anything without it being “creedle” in some way. But if you do not study the Scriptures and seek to understand why you believe what you believe, and whether or not you think you can agree with these confessions, you are placing the cart before horse. The confessions can point you in a specific direction (guidepost), but they are not the final authority (destination). Our first response in any discussion should be Sola Scriptura, not Sola Confessio (Latin check). Yet, time after time, when I dive into the Scriptures with particular pastors, preachers, and believers who ascribe heavily to confessions and creeds, whenever there are any disagreements or whenever I make my points from Scripture, I am faced with “but the Confession says…” How can this be within a Reformed world whose foundational mindset is supposed to be Scripture Alone?

There can be many reasons why one authoritatively appeals to the a confession more than Scripture. But I think I have narrowed them down to two main roots: Traditionalism and laziness. There is nothing wrong with tradition. Every denomination and person has them. It is when that tradition begins to have authority over Scripture that we have a huge problem. Some people find great joy in holding to the long standing tradition that some of our creeds and confessions teach. Nothing wrong with that if you understand what you believe and why. But it seems that this is not the case with many. By proxy, if you are a traditionalist in this area, you will quote the confession better than you can quote Scripture because you are relying on the confession to approve yourself before God (or men). Unless for whatever reason you don’t have any access to Scripture, or in some way you are only able to memorize Scripture by categorizing them via the confession, there should be no reason why you cannot study for yourself what the Bible teaches within the pages that the confessions are pointing to. Which brings me to my next point.

I find that it is easier to quote a saying, phrase, creed, etc., in place of actually making a verbal argument concerning what you actually believe and why. Nothing wrong with summarizing what you believe, or repeating a summarization of something you would affirm. But If I believe that the reason why man exists is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, why? Because the confession says so? Or because the Scripture quoted in the confessions says so? Have I looked at the listed Scriptures? Have I taken the time to study and reform my thinking in light of the Scriptures that a confession teaches? Will I be courageous to practice Semper Reformanda if I discover some nuance in the Scriptures? Or will I be taking the confession at face value because my community of believers/churches do? Or because the men before me were theological giants who were totally incapable of error even in the minutia? Laziness is what causes us to use the confessions as they were not meant to be used. These are guideposts, not destinations.

Notice, I am not challenging the confessions. Nor am I exhorting anyone to cast away the didactic luxury that they bring to our lives. I am challenging how we think concerning them. We all have a tendency to elevate anything good over God. That is evident in Scripture and in our daily lives. If we find ourselves running to the confessions and creeds as our primary authoritative source for understanding and assurance of our faith in Christ, and we can quote and explain a confession easier than we can explain Scripture and the gospel, we must immediately eject ourselves from the seat of traditionalism and laziness, and we must diligently seek God through the Scriptures for our assurance and understanding. This doesn’t mean we cannot use the confessions to help us in this direction. But once again, where does your affection, affirmation, and assurance of your faith lie? In Scripture Alone, or in the Confession Alone? Is it because the confession says so that you believe X, Y, Z, or is it because you have studied and affirmed that the Scriptures teach it?

One last time, I am not bashing any confession, or the use of them in discussion. But I am standing against any form of authoritative proclamation or behavior that insists that the confession is the first and final say so in any biblical discussion and practice. If your “go-to” argument and assurance of your belief is “the confession says,” you’ve lost all credibility. And if the confession is your main source for approving yourself before God, your credibility may not be the only thing that is lost.

-Until we go home

Instructions for the Ignorant

Instruction for the Ignorant:

BEING A SALVE TO CURE THAT GREAT WANT OF KNOWLEDGE, WHICH SO MUCH REIGNS BOTH IN YOUNG AND OLD.

PREPARED AND PRESENTED TO THEM IN A PLAIN AND EASY DIALOGUE, FITTED TO THE CAPACITY OF THE WEAKEST.

‘My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.’–Hosea 4:6

Bunyan’s Catechisminstructions-for-the-ignorant

ADVERTISEMENT BY THE EDITOR.

This little catechism is upon a plan perfectly new and unique. It was first published as a pocket volume in 1675, and has been republished in every collection of the author’s works; and recently in a separate tract. The earliest edition that has been discovered bears the date of 1691; from which our copy has been prepared for the press. This is the first book of this class that was composed upon the broad basis of Christianity, perfectly free from sectarian bias or peculiarity. It is an exhibition of scriptural truths, before which error falls without the trouble of pulling it down. It is in the world, like the ark of God in the temple of Dagon. It is alike admirably calculated to convey the most important truths to the inmates of a palace or of a workhouse,–to the young or to the aged,–to the ignorant Roman Catholic, or to the equally ignorant Protestant. Its broad catholicity is its distinguishing excellence. In the separate communions included within the general church of Christ are various, and in many respects, inestimable compendiums of Christian truth, arranged for the catechetical instruction of the young and ignorant; but it cannot be denied that these, one and all, exhibit some marks of sectarian feeling and dogmatic teaching in the details that relate to the special views which each communion takes of certain scriptural doctrines. The reason why this should be the case is very obvious: there would be no differences of opinion amongst Christians except from conviction that these differences are essential, and such conviction naturally leads to these points of disagreement being (may we not say?) rather too obtrusively enforced as part and portion of a saving belief. All Bunyan’s efforts were to awaken sinners to a sense of their degradation, misery, and danger, and to direct them to the only refuge from the wrath to come–the hope set before them in the gospel; and then leaving the pious convert to the guidance of his Bible in forming his connections in the pilgrimage of life. Bunyan is solemnly in earnest; his desire is, that poor sinners should be relieved from ignorance, darkness, and destruction, and be introduced into the glorious liberty of the sons of God. May his impressive injunction be indelibly fixed upon our souls, ‘To read, ponder over, and receive the wholesome medicine as we shall answer in the day of the terrible judgment.’–GEO. OFFOR.

Read this 24 page catechism here.

A Catechism for Babes, or, Little Ones

“There never was a man in the world without a creed. What is a creed? A creed is what you believe. What is a confession? It is a declaration of what you believe. That declaration may be oral or it may be committed to writing, but the creed is there either expressed or implied.”—B.H. Carrol

A Catechism for Babes, or, Little Ones, Suitable to their Capacity more than others have been Formerly,

1652 by H. Jessey, a servany of Jesus Christ

Prov. 22.6 Catechise or begin the child in his way, according to his 1capacitie: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

 2 Tim. 3.15. From 2infancy thou hast known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation.
 1Heb. mouth 2Gr. an infant

Q. Who made you?
A. God made me. (Psal. 100.3. Know that the Lord is God, he made us, and not we.)

Q. When did God make you?
A. God made me before I was born. (Psal. 139.13,16, next proof.)

Q. Where did God make you?
A. God made me in my Mother’s womb. (Job 31.15. Did not he that made me in the womb, make him?)

Q. Wherefore did God make you?
A. God made me that I should serve him. (Psal. 100.3. Serve the Lord, —he made us. Luke 1.74.)

Q. Must you not then learn to know God, that so you may rightly serve him?
A. Yea I must learn to know God. (See the first proof 1 Chro. 28.9: Know the God of thy Fathers.)

Q. When must you learn to know God?
A. I must learn to know God now, when I am but a child. (2 Tim. 3,14,15. Eccles. 12.1,2. Prov. 22.6. Remember now thy Creator. See the Title page.)

Q. How may you learn to know God?
A. I may learn to know God by his word, and by his workes. (Deut. 17.19. Psai. 91.7. 11.1 John 39.40. Rom. 1.19,20. He shall read it all the dayes of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God. The Heavens declare the glory of God. Psa. 19.1.

You are encouraged to read the complete catechism – and find many other excellent resources to build up your faith in Christ – right here.