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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Composing a Doctrinal Statement [section 6 — on Salvation]

Section 6 — Salvation

We believe that freedom from the penalty and power of sin is available to mankind only through the sacrificial, substitutionary death of Jesus Christ. This salvation is the free gift of God’s grace, based entirely upon the merit of Christ’s perfect sacrifice, and not on the basis of human merit or works. Faith alone in Christ alone is the only condition for salvation [1]. Saving faith is a personal response, apart from our works, whereby we are persuaded that the finished work of Jesus Christ (His death and resurrection [2]) is sufficient to deliver us from condemnation and guarantee our eternal life, and we place our trust for forgiveness and salvation in the merit and promise of Christ’s work alone. Those who do not believe in Christ are subject to everlasting conscious punishment, but believers enjoy eternal life with God.

(John 1:12; 3:16–18, 36; 5:24; 6:35–40; 14:6; 20:31; Acts 16:30–33; Romans 3:23–24; 4:4–5; 6:23; 8:1; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 1:7; 2:1–10; 1 Thessalonians 4:3–4; 1 Peter 1:18–19; 2 Peter 1:4; 1 John 5:1)

Forgiveness, repentance, and reconciliation [3]: We believe that forgiveness for sins (past, present, and future) is graciously extended and offered to all, through Christ’s work on the cross, conditioned upon one’s trust in Christ alone. Forgiveness is a lifting of the charge of guilt from another, a formal declaration of that fact, and a promise (made and kept) to never remember the wrong against him in the future. Repentance is a change of mind about something (such as God and sin), leading to a change in disposition toward that thing. As an inner change, repentance is in no way a work that merits salvation. Inner repentance can always be distinguished from its outward acts, though one is the cause of the other (the change of heart leads to, but is not identical to or inseparable from, a change in direction). Reconciliation occurs when the sinner repents, and the one sinned against forgives. Where there is faith (a persuasion that something is true), there is a change of mind/heart.

When the unbeliever repents and trusts in Christ alone for salvation (faith), God’s forgiveness offered through Christ is applied to him (he experiences the benefits of the redemption accomplished through Christ’s work on the cross), removing the person’s guilt (justification), making his eternal destiny secure, and legally reconciling that person to God. The moment our sins were forgiven, we were adopted into the family of God.

As a member of God’s family, judicial (or legal) forgiveness and reconciliation are no longer needed in the life of the believer, since that was received at the moment of salvation, pardoning us from the penalty for sin. Sin no longer, in any way, endangers our eternal destiny. However, sin still has temporal and relational consequences. As children of God, we still disobey our Father, thus breaking fellowship and damaging our relationship with Him. Therefore, confession of sins is still needed, thus seeking the temporal (not salvific) forgiveness of, and relational reconciliation with, our Father. This is not a mechanical, legal transaction, but a dynamic of having a real, personal relationship with God as our Father.

(Psalm 32:1–5; 51; Proverbs 28:13; Matthew 3:8; 6:12–15; Mark 1:15; 11:25; Luke 3:8; 5:32; 17:3–4; 24:47; John 5:24; 13:6–10; Acts 8:22; 10:43; 11:18; 17:30-34; 20:21; 26:20; Romans 4:7–8; 8:1; 2 Corinthians 5:18–20; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14; 2:13; Hebrews 10:17–18; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 John 1:9)


Notes

1) However, it is not enough to merely state that faith is the only condition for salvation. “Faith” has been severely misused and misunderstood, and so it is good to fully define what is meant by “faith,” which is what follows.

2) It is helpful (though also more exclusive) to define even what we mean by “the work of Christ” that is sufficient for salvation.

3) Unfortunately it has become imperative to define forgiveness, repentance and reconciliation as well.

4) The distinction between legal forgiveness and reconciliation (at salvation) and relational forgiveness and reconciliation (throughout the Christian life) is one of the most important distinctions to understand in both interpreting Scripture, and in living out the Christian life.