Blogmatics—On Confessions of Faith

Blogmatics (i.e. what we at Ancient Paths believe)

You can find my own articulation of our beliefs in this post. But, the title of this blog being Ancient Paths, I thought it appropriate to also point to some of the old historic confessions that accurately represent the doctrinal beliefs we hold. So then…

Ancient Creeds

Though I take some exception with the specific wording here and there, I think the creeds have tremendously valuable formulations that, sadly, have been forgotten and ignored in much of modern Christianity. And, for that reason, we no longer have any moors by which to define historic Christian orthodoxy.

Confessions of Faith

I come from a tradition that typically has some rather considerable disdain for confessionalism. This is unfortunate for various reasons, and not necessarily characteristic of the older tradition of which I am a beneficiary. I wouldn’t necessarily call myself confessional, simply because of some of the connotations that term now carries. However, I think the historic confessions are indispensable to a robust understanding of theology, and I would consider myself to be more or less in line with these four confessions.

Some Modern Declarations

Again, with some minor differences in preferred wording, I have found the following declarations on specific topics (and two modern confessions) to be of considerable public value, and of tremendous personal benefit as well.

Extra Reading

I’ve found these confessions to be particularly helpful in their wording, for the most part, but unfortunately have some significant disagreements with the views expressed in one or more places.

  • Helwys’ Confession (1611) (with the exception of article 7 on falling from grace; but I especially appreciate his wording on election in article 5; particularly relevant to our day is article 16 on the appropriate size of a congregation—as Voddie would say, if you can’t say amen, you ought to say ouch)
  • The Standard Confession (1660) (a helpful Baptist confession, but my discomfort lies primarily in articles 12 and 14)
  • The Orthodox Creed (1679) (This is an important confession, but it’s problematic when it comes to the Adamic Covenant, and thus the active obedience of Christ)
  • A Short Confession or a Brief Narrative of Faith (1691) (This confession has some unfortunate wording concerning original sin and justification. Despite this, the sections on the extent of Christ’s death, providence, and election, are especially helpful)
  • New Hampshire Confession (1833) (This is a well-written Particular Baptist confession based loosely on the 1689; I disagree with their wording on Perseverance, and the Christian Sabbath, but the majority of the confession is solid)

For the Uncomfortable and/or Curious

If the idea of subscribing to historic confessions is new to you, you may find these articles from Founders Ministries helpful. Of course, Founders subscribes to the 1689 Second London Confession, which I disagree with at various points; however, their arguments and explanations are still valid and a very valuable introduction to the importance of utilizing the creeds and confessions.

 


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Series on How to Compose a Doctrinal Statement

Aside

Below, you’ll find links to my series on how to develop and write a doctrinal statement. I’ve geared this toward churches specifically, but I hope it will be of some benefit to you personally as well. This also is my personal statement of faith (adapted for churches of course), so this will let you get to know me a little better as well.

Composing a Doctrinal Statement [section 10 — on the Authority of the Doctrinal Statement]

Composing a doctrinal statement (or any other essential documents) can be one of the most arduous (but crucial) projects undertaken by a church. In this series, I’m sharing my own doctrinal statement in an attempt to provide a helpful example of a detailed statement that is worded positively, but articulated precisely enough to exclude certain theological positions for the protection and unity of the church.

This is the last section of the doctrinal statement, and the last post in this series. I hope it’s been interesting and perhaps helpful.


Section 10 — Authority of this Doctrinal Statement [1]

This doctrinal statement does not exhaust the extent of our beliefs. The Bible — as the inspired and inerrant Word of God, itself the very standard of truth — speaks authoritatively concerning doctrine, morality, and the proper conduct of mankind [2], and is the inceptive and final source of all that we believe [3]. For the purposes of this church’s doctrine, the Council of Elders bears the delegated responsibility of interpreting and communicating the Bible’s meaning and application for the church [4]. We do believe, however, that the foregoing doctrinal statement accurately represents the teaching of the Bible and, therefore, is binding upon all members.

(John 17:17; Acts 15:12–21; 20:28; Galatians 1:8; 2 Timothy 4:1–2; Titus 1:9; Hebrews 13:17; 1 Peter 5:2–3; 2 Peter 1:19–20)


Notes:

1] The National Center for Life and Liberty strongly recommends, for legal and practical reasons, that the local church “should adopt, as part of its bylaws, a statement explaining that the Bible is the sole and final source of all the ministry believes and that the statement of faith, as a reflection of the major doctrinal and lifestyle beliefs of the ministry, is binding upon all members, staff, students, and volunteers.”

2] See the statement on the Scriptures

3] “Inceptive” means that the Bible is not just our final standard — it’s our starting point. The Bible is the first place we go to decide what we believe. What makes Scripture the standard of truth is that God’s word is the very source of truth. See note 3 on section 1 for more info.

4] No matter who you decide must biblically, or will practically, hold the final functional responsibility of “interpreting and communicating the Bible’s meaning and application for the church” — the council of elders, just the senior pastor, or the congregation as a whole — it needs to be specified in your documents, or you will face unbelievable division over who gets to decide on a difficult issue that arises one day. In my view, the elders are clearly given the authority to teach the Word to the congregation, with the congregation given the command to submit to and trust their leadership (while still holding the power as an assembly to remove an elder when he compromises the gospel or is otherwise no longer qualified to be an elder). Thus, this position is reflected in where I place the functional authority in this statement — with the leadership. Read my thoughts on church polity for more explanation.

Composing a Doctrinal Statement [section 9 part 2 — Marriage and Sexuality]

Composing a doctrinal statement (or any other essential documents) can be one of the most arduous (but crucial) projects undertaken by a church. In this series, I’m sharing my own doctrinal statement in an attempt to provide a helpful example of a detailed statement that is worded positively, but articulated precisely enough to exclude certain theological positions for the protection and unity of the church.


Marriage: We believe that the only biblical marriage is the formal union of a man and a woman in a lifelong, exclusive, comprehensive covenant. [1]

(Genesis 2:24; Malachi 2:14–16; Matthew 19:4–6; Mark 10:6–9; Romans 7:2–3; 1 Corinthians 7:10–11, 39; Ephesians 5:22–33)

Human Sexuality: We believe that any other sexual activity, identity, or expression outside of this definition of a biblical marriage, including those that are becoming more accepted in the culture and the courts, are contrary to God’s natural design and purpose for sexual activity, and thus are sinful. Any form of sexual perversion such as (but not limited to [2]) fornication, adultery, incest, homosexuality, bisexuality, bestiality, pedophilia, pornography, any attempt to change one’s sex or gender, or disagreement with one’s biological sex, are sinful perversions of God’s gift of sex, gender, and marriage. God has created us male and female, and he desires that we find joy and contentment in His design.

We believe that gender is God-given, not socially constructed or self-determined. Gender distinctions are rooted in creation, and manifested in biological, emotional, and constitutional differences [3]. Being created as a man or woman is an essential [4] aspect of our identity, transcending social customs and cultural stereotypes.

(Genesis 2:18–25; Exodus 20:14; Leviticus 18:1–30; Matt 19:4–5; Mark 10:6–9; Romans 1:26–29; 1 Corinthians 5:1; 6:9–10; 1 Thessalonians 4:3–8; Hebrews 13:4; Jude 7)


Notes:

1] Having a clear, biblical definition of marriage will not make your church popular, but it will mean standing on the authority of the Word of God and not compromising truth for approval. Having clear statements on marriage and sexuality also serve to protect the church in matters such as hiring staff and hosting weddings, and are the first line of defense against related legal issues. If you have a simple policy that anyone the church hires must agree with and conform to the church’s doctrinal statement, you avoid alot of agony in court. If you have a facilities use policy that the church building is not to be used for anything that goes against the church’s doctrine, then you protect yourself from lawsuits for refusing to host homosexual weddings and the like. At least right now, this is still an effective means of legal protection for the church. The day is coming very soon when churches will lose tax-exempt status over these issues. But for now at least, why not use the simple provisions our legal system has in place (left over from a time when the government thought that freedom of religion was something worth protecting, and that churches were a good to society) to protect your church from unneeded attack and hardship in these moments before the unavoidable persecution arrives? Here is a great resource on the matter.

2] It’s helpful, but not necessary, to have a list of some specific things you’re referring to, though there is no way to mention every variety of sexual sin individually, but we acknowledge that we live in a Romans 1 society in which people are inventing new ways to distort God’s design every day. The best way to cover it all is to say that any sexual activity outside of a biblical marriage is sinful.

3] That is, the makeup of maleness and femaleness is fundamentally different at the foundational, essential (see next note) level.

4] I’m using “essential” here in the technical sense of the word — that is, not to mean “really important,” but rather having to do with one’s essence, one’s ontology. In other words, we are not just created as humans, we are created as male or female humans.

Composing a Doctrinal Statement [section 9 — Moral Issues]

Composing a doctrinal statement (or any other essential documents) can be one of the most arduous (but crucial) projects undertaken by a church. In this series, I’m sharing my own doctrinal statement in an attempt to provide a helpful example of a detailed statement that is worded positively, but articulated precisely enough to exclude certain theological positions for the protection and unity of the church.


Section 9 — Moral Issues [1]

Euthanasia: We believe that the direct taking of an innocent human life is a moral evil regardless of the motivation. Life is a gift of God and must be respected from fertilization until natural death. An act or omission which causes death merely in order to eliminate suffering constitutes a murder contrary to the will of God. However, discontinuing medical procedures that merely prolong death, rather than prolong life, can be a legitimate refusal of over-zealous treatment.

(Exodus 20:13; 23:7; Matthew 5:21; Acts 17:28)

Abortion: We believe that human life begins at fertilization [2], and that the unborn child is a living human being. All human life is sacred, because we are created in the image of God. Abortion constitutes the unjustified, unexcused taking of God-given human life, and, therefore, is murder contrary to the will of God.

(Genesis 9:6; Exodus 21:22–25; Psalm 51:5; 139:13–16; Isaiah 49:1, 5; Jeremiah 1:5; 20:15–18; Luke 1:41–44)


Notes:

1] Remember from the explanation of my philosophy of doctrinal statements that I believe one of the components of a doctrinal statement should be to include those topics that have become hot-button issues in the surrounding culture, which includes moral issues like abortion, euthanasia, sexuality, marriage, and divorce.

2] The word “fertilization” is probably a better choice today than “conception,” because conception is generally meant to refer specifically to natural fertilization in the womb, whereas the more general term “fertilization” can include what is done in a laboratory.

Composing a Doctrinal Statement [section 8 — End Times]

Composing a doctrinal statement (or any other essential documents) can be one of the most arduous (but crucial) projects undertaken by a church. In this series, I’m sharing my own doctrinal statement in an attempt to provide a helpful example of a detailed statement that is worded positively, but articulated precisely enough to exclude certain theological positions for the protection and unity of the church.


Section 8 — End Times

The Rapture and Subsequent Events: We believe in the imminent, premillennial return of Christ for His people [1]. At that moment, all those in Christ [2], dead and alive, shall receive their glorified bodies, and be caught up in the air by the Lord and taken to heaven to await the establishment of Christ’s physical, everlasting kingdom on earth following the tribulation, the seventieth week of Daniel, when Christ will reign over all the earth from the Davidic throne in Jerusalem. At the end of the Millennium, there will be a final rebellion of Satan and his followers (fallen angels and living unbelievers) against the rule and authority of Christ, at which time they will be summarily destroyed — Satan, his fallen angels, and all the unsaved being thrown into the Lake of Fire to suffer eternal punishment. At this time, God will create a New Heaven and a New Earth in which there will be no more curse and no more death, where all believers will live in peace and fellowship with God in His kingdom forever.

(Daniel 9:25–27; Matthew 24:19–31; 19:28; 25:31–32; Luke 1:32–33; 1 Corinthians 15:26; 1 Thessalonians 4:14–18; Revelation 20–22)

The Eternal State: We believe that at death the souls of those who have trusted in Christ for salvation pass immediately into His presence and there remain in conscious bliss until the resurrection of the glorified body when Christ comes for His own, whereupon soul and body, thus reunited, shall enjoy fellowship with Him forever in glory; but the souls of the unbelieving remain after death conscious of condemnation and in misery until the final judgment of the great white throne at the close of the millennium, when soul and body, reunited, shall be cast into the lake of fire — not to be annihilated, but to suffer punishment and everlasting separation from the presence and glory of the Lord.

(Daniel 12:2; Matthew 25:46; Luke 16:19–26; 23:42; 2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:23; 2 Thessalonians 1:7–9; Jude 6; Revelation 20:11–15)


Notes:

1] I am very firm on the pre-millenial rapture, but not so firm on the pre-tribulational rapture. In fact, I haven’t even made the pre-trib rapture a part of my doctrinal statement (though it fits best). I personally am convinced that the rapture happens before the 7-year tribulation. There are three primary reasons I hold this view: 1) The pre-trib rapture most fully and consistently maintains the doctrine of imminency; 2) The pre-trib rapture is the only view that sufficiently explains where mortal unbelievers living in the millennium come from; 3) The pre-trib rapture best holds together as a view in light of various prophetic passages. However, I simply do not think the pre-trib rapture is explicit enough in Scripture to be dogmatic about it, since arguments can be made in favor of a rapture that is not pre-trib (though, in my opinion, all other views have significant problems with one or more various passages which a pre-trib rapture view resolves).

Read more: here, here, here, and here.

2] I changed this from “all believers” to “all those in Christ” not only because it matches the language Paul uses (1 Thess 4:16), but also because there is a legitimate interpretation among some dispensational theologians that this refers only to church-age believers (since they say only church-age believers are “in Christ”), leaving Old Testament saints to be resurrected either at the beginning or end of the Millennium (Rev 20:4–5). I don’t hold this view, but instead hold that all believers, Old and New Testament believers, are resurrected at the rapture. However, because the other view is a legitimate and common interpretation, I don’t mind simply saying “all those in Christ” and allowing us to understand the reference in slightly different ways.