Tuesday, September 8, 2009

JJ Lim on the place and necessity of Creeds and Confessions

Are Creeds and Confessions necessary? What is their role and place in the life of a Church? In our second paper, Rev. J.J. Lim of Pilgrim Covenant Church attempts to answer the question in his paper here. An excerpt:

In this short article therefore, we would like to examine, as the questions: Is there a Biblical Basis for Creeds and Confessions? What are the Uses of Creed and Confessions in the Church? To what extend should Creed or Confession be binding to members?

Many modern evangelical Christians are quick to say that they believe in no creeds but the Bible. But this statement is in itself a creedal statement, and therefore makes it self-contradictory.

[more]

David Chang responds to this paper here.

[This paper is now opened for discussion]

46 comments:

Mejlina Tjoa said...

Thanks for the article. I have a question regarding the extent of the authority of the Creeds / Confessions. The author JJ Lim mentions that if a church leader does not subscribe 100% he should resign. Is this meant to be a rule for all churches?

Confessions are quite long, and while some parts are clearly agreed by most Protestants (e.g. Bible's authority), different churches / denominations do have different views on more debatable issues among Protestants like eschatology, infant baptism, etc. In that case, it is possible for a church as a whole to actually subscribe to most of WCF, for instance, but disagree on minor parts of it. Say BP churches actually believe in premilianism, but in general they hold WCF.

I'm just not too convinced on such a stringent use of those historic Confessions as binding on all church leaders to be applied to all (even reformed) churches. I think for churches who strictly subscribe to the Confessions, they can follow that rule and require that from their leaders. But for churches with varying convictions from the Confession on some issues, requiring that extent of use might not be appropriate.

valleyofvision said...

FYI, the PCA allows elders to take exceptions with the WCF provided they announce and come clean with their exceptions during the eldership review process. So that kind of allows more flexibility and yet helps the eldership selection process. It would appear that the OPC (founded by Machen et al), would be more stringent.

CREDO500 said...

Thanks for the helpful comments.

In our age, one shall have to choose between the“emerging,” “theonomic,” “federal-vision,” “psalm singing,” “Sola KJV”etc. “Confessional” thus become simply one adjective among many. Therefore, to avoid saying“reformed” by lip services, we should not underestimate it’s sources, spirit, and methods. Interestingly, the puritans told us that they were not stringent enough. That may say something of the imbalance in our proposed way of speaking“confessions” .

J.J. Lim has reminded us of our Reformed heritages that we either take for granted or should find at odds with our current praxis. Though some contentious point there, looks good fashioned and coherent to the classical covenant confessional folks. More works need to be done to the coming generations base on the Reformed tradition and worldview in it’s understanding of the Scriptures through its historic creeds and confessions.

For those who are in the process of embracing the confessional vision of Reformed theology, i would like to recommend Dr.Scott Clark’s recovering book which is a stimulated one, describing the crisis of protestanism, and the road to recovery. Lots of good points, includes the narrowly understanding of those confessions as articulated in the classical 16-17th and of those who continued the tradition. (Do check this out, if you haven’t. )

One need to ask: are we confessional enough? What are my responsibilities as a minister or church elder/leader? To what am I obliged to profess the faith of the church of the ages? Since the body of Chist has invested in and raised up so many eager and gifted people in Chinese churches, It is high time that the historic protestant emphasis on the sole authority of the Scripture and the creeds and confessions be heard at large in them.

Hope this help a little.

Hedonese said...

Mejlina raised an excellent point here... and maybe i'd like to think a bit on what it means to be 'Reformed' (that label). If subscription 100% to a confession is needed, we need to ask which one as well? The London Baptist Confession? WCF? Belgic? etc

valleyofvision said...

Good point Dave. I would guess that for some, "Reformed" means that you will baptize babies, period. So I hesitate to apply that "label" liberally.

One point: for all its worth, the original article seems to be written for a church bulletin. So given a local context and a known audience, I think its reasonable for JJ Lim to make some assumptions. But the points that you and Mejlina are making needs to be addressed in an article that's intended for a wider audience.

Anoher issue that can be raised would be intellectual honesty and denominations. If one is truly subscribing to a particular confession that's at odds with the one adopted by the denomination one finds himself in, he should (at least) not be a leader in that church.

For example, I know that Dan Phillips (of Pyromaniacs fame) attends a Presbyterian church though he is baptist by conviction. What I understand is that he will never be an elder in the church he attends but he is allowed to teach stuff that's in agreement with his church's confession of faith.

The Hedonese said...

thanks for your input, Edward. I've been considering this as well since we're part of a church plant hehe... (myself being a non-child baptiser as well in a presbyterian church! haha) so there are some things that i'd not make an issue about on the pulpit out of respect for the official stance of the church.

Coming back to the reformed label, I'd happily call someone with a reformed soteriology 'reformed' even though he may not be amill, paedobaptist, presbyterian in polity etc. What i'd like to see emerge in Asia is not a strict subscriptionist family of churches (i've seen how that has worked out in some local reformed churches and it's not pretty) but more of a 'gospel centered' coalition as what happened with Mark Dever, RC Sproul, CJ Mahaney, Piper etc

valleyofvision said...

Oh dear Dave. You obviously have not repented of the sins of the Neo-Evangelicals. *wink* But I guess I am equally unrepentant as well.

On the other hand, I think that while confessions are good and needed, we need to ground the doctrines found therein upon scriptures themselves. That's where learning something of the relationship between biblical theology and systematics is quite important and often left out in the discussions of this sort.

valleyofvision said...

A related issue I would like to raise would be this. I can't find the reference but I remember MLJ speaking of this during his controversy with Stott, Packer etc. But I can find it for you if you insist.

He made a suggestion along lines such as this: the confessions in the past were invariably shaped and formed by the theological, pastoral problems the reformers were facing then. (Hence, reference to the pope as antichrist etc.) So he actually proposed that there's a need for "evangelicals" (I think that MLJ used the word carefully and pls don't associate this term with its use in the American context.) to come together to define in details a confession of faith again, in the light of new challenges to the faith etc.

From history, we know that this suggestion wasn't taken. But why? What prevents a similar exercise in the 21st century for bible-believing Christians to do so?

(You see, that's why I am slightly uncomfortable with an over-emphasis on the creeds. because "bible-believing" becomes almost like somehing close to a swear word. The corollary seems to be that to be a good Christian, one needs to believe in both the Bible and the creeds. So we should use "bible-and-creed" believing Christians? What a mouthful!)

Edward

CREDO500 said...

Thanks for these thoughts.

David, hoping that our positions may not as far apart as your earlier comments led me to suspect. By being confessionst, principally, I used to stick to the seven forms of unity (ie., Heidelberg Cathechism, Belgic Confessions, Canons of Dort, Westminster Confession of Faith, Westminster Larger Catechism, Westminster Shorter Catechism, and the Chicago statement of faith). Whereas practically, the uses in this word“confessions” is rich, multilayered term that has both fixed and developing aspects (ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda), I think it reserves rooms for flexibility in the reformed ecumenical in terms of personal conviction or church contexture. However, frankly, I feel rather uncomfortable to the neo-evangelical view, which it seems to me that this is a false ecumenicism built out an all-too-modern diffidence towards tradition, any good? Hope this does not match up with your denial… if so, you might want to give more thought to. Anyhow, believing that there must be a better way of doing what the church fathers, reformation family and the puritans tried to do.

Edward, what you’ve said in the first truly hit the right nail on my head, since I'm currently serves under a huge umbrella of the Methodist convention and being covenanted/connectional, yet holding firm with the Calvinistic view. George Whitefield's moderate showmanship definitely become the prototype of my peers’ situation, and also those of non-conformist such as the English puritans and the underground churches in China. Sadly, most of the ministers and church leaders in my place does not subscribe a single Reformed confession before God and his church, swearing to uphold, teach, and defend the same. But note that I’m not accusing or judging the denomination I serve, though somehow do respectfully disagree the church authority and articulating the frustration that I’ve had with the non-confessional broad evangelical way of“doing church”. Lord mercy!

On a final note: by God’s Grace, we may have different views in the minor subject, but still can talk together on one round-table due to deep commitment of reformed faith. I recognizes that there are different assumptions behind us that lead our train of thoughts, however as Edwin indicated, we’d best be conscious not to say more than Scripture allows since we do not have the direct acess to God’s inner will. Thus, if anyone can give us the strict exegetical support, I’d be much obliged. Since we could be wrong either while need maturity and sanctity, I think it’s the profoundly right step, that is to discipline the theological contention from the foundation of the organic-historic nature of Scripture, that Christ is its ultimate goal. Remember the Oberman’s Tradition I, the single exegetical tradition of interpreted Scripture that we’ve all agreed. Departing from this grounded authority, how I wish to advocate the remarriage between the Confessing Orthodoxy with the Gospel Coalition kind of Reformed Evangelical movement be carried out and meet the needs of 21st Century Chinese churches.

Thanks Mejlina, keep lighten up.

Cordially,
Jonah

franas said...

I'm very amazed that an article of this scope failed to mention the two most glorious catholic or universal creeds: The Apostles’ Creed and The Nicene or Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed. Creeds are affirmation of the dogmatic core of the Christian Faith. Although they cannot claim the same inspiration and inerrancy of the bible obviously, nevertheless (and much like the TOC of the bible for instance) they deserve the highest diligence of all Christians. This is because Christ has instituted a (ONE) church (Matt 16:18) to teach in His name: “He who hears you, hears me, and he who rejects you, rejects, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me" (Lk 10:16). This Church cannot fall away into apostasy because Christ has promised that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt 16:18) and because “the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (Jn 14:26). It was this "one, holy, catholic and apostolic" Church which promulgated the above Creeds. Mindful of Christ’s mandates, it compels all Christians to submit in obedience to this Church which is called “the pillar and bulwark of the truth" (1 Tim 3:15) and which is also called upon to act as the final arbiter for matters of faith and morals ("Tell it to the church; and if he refuse to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector" (Matt 18:17).

Anyway, “Confessions” are definitely not at par with Creeds. They simply lack apostolicity and do not have the power to bind on the conscience of believers. In the wild world of Protestantism, this is all moot anyway since every believer is allowed to stand on his or her favorite bible verse(s) in defiance of authority. Is there any wonder when the ELCA took a POPULARITY VOTE to allow the ordination of people in committed same-sex or non-celibate relationships recently? And you can thank Sola Scriptura for it.

PuritanReformed said...

Unfortunately, I am not really in a cognitive position to address this issue in a way that I would like to. Here are my two cents while in this state of mind:

I agree on the need for creeds and confessions. In this, I am in general agreement with Pastor JJ. I do agree with him also that church officers are to subscribe to the confessions of their church and those who do not do so are to be asked to resign so to speak. This is a matter of integrity, for professing to believe that which you actually don't believe is lying and is a sin. Thus, the PCA is actually in error in their praxis, reflected in their failure to ask all ministers who refuse to don't believe in 24/6 creation to resign immediately.

That said, I am sympathetic to Mejlina, Dave, Edward et al. (NOTE: sympathetic, not agree). I agree that there is a need for a more "ecumenical" (in the positive sense of the term) creed to unite Christians, which is sadly lacking. A group I have started, the Reformed Resurgence, is still talking about this matter on and off, and we are no closer to resolution. I also agree that there are many points which are minor and some are matters so minor upon which I think church officers should be allowed to hold to varying positions. [Imagine if all church officers of a church are to subscribe to Supralapsarianism and that only. *shudder*]. So yes, more work has to be done on this matter.

However, for all concerned, I hope we can see that we are discussing principles here, NOT application and specifics. At least, this is how I interpret Pastor JJ's paper. Just FYI, if JJ was to push his theory into application and specifics, I would be against him too. =P

PuritanReformed said...

Mejlina:

Pastor JJ does intend to teach that this should be a rule for all churches, yes.

PuritanReformed said...

Franas:

as a Roman Catholic, this article was not written with you in mind. Nevertheless, I will respond to you once here and ask that you please respond to this question otherwise you will be subsequently treated as a troll.

The question is this: Why are you not applying the same standard to your church that you apply to Protestantism? For a "single apostolic church", your church sure has a lot more diversity than it should have. From Sedevacantists to Tridetine Vatican II-rejecting Old Catholics, to conservative VII advocates to outright theological Liberals like Teilhard de Chardin. Besides the Sedevacantists and Old Catholics, why is there such a big tent for Roman Catholicism, if you are all truly one united Catholic Church? I haven't seen Ratzlinger of the good old Inquisition even excomunicate any of the theological liberal Catholics? You know, the ones who promote abortion, pro-gay-rights etc etc, or even denying doctrines, such as the Bible is not really the Word of God etc etc.

IMHO, I think your "Church" needs a good cleaning up. You honestly have no grounds to criticize us Protestants when you cannot even get your house right.

And to repeat a question Dr. James White often asked: How many verses have your Church gave us an infallible interpretation of? As an example, what is the infallible interpretation of John 3:16? Has the pope announced this infalible ex cathedra interpretation somewhere? Where is this nebulous "Tradition" that we may see what it contains?

valleyofvision said...

Hmm.. let me throw out another question then.. how about Rabbi Duncan (19th Century Scottish Minister), who said

"I'm first a Christian, next a catholic, then a Calvinist, fourth a paedobaptist, and fifth a Presbyterian. I cannot reverse this order."

That seems to pretty much sums up my position except that I am a credobaptist and (possibly) a Baptist. (BTW, 19th Century predates 20th, so the Neo-evangelical label doesn't apply here.):-)

PuritanReformed said...

Edward:

you seem to be bothered about the issue of New Eangelicalism?

valleyofvision said...

I guess its a bit of cross-talking happening here. Personally, I do not identify myself with Neo-evangelicals (e.g. read Fuller, ECT, Stott and Keele conference etc). For those familiar with the history, I lean more on Lloyd-Jones side in the controversy he had with Packer and Stott. It is awkward being put in a straitjacket that doesn't fit. :-)

franas said...

To PuritanReformed:

The ancient “Creeds” must be too old-fashioned. I actually think that we still shared the same heritage of "One Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Eph 4:5) and that Protestantism even came out of the church of the West. Or may be the first 1600 years of Christianity really did not count and that Christ was just joking when He gave the promises to Peter in Matt 16:18.

You asked why Pope Benedict hasn’t disciplined all the “misfits” in the church. Obviously, I can’t speak for the Pope but I do know that I’m in line when I say that we are a church of sinners who’s spiritual dispositions are known to God only. As warranted, there have been various formal sanctions either by Rome or a local episcopate, and automatic excommunication is incurred in many other cases according to Code of Canon Law. Also, there has been a major shift in paradigm with the old order of Christendom now being replaced by fundamentalist atheist and secular States. Papal influence is circumscribed and Christianity is ever being considered counter-culture. But what still distinguishes Catholicism from other faith traditions is that the faithful knows exactly what are the official teachings of the church in spite of it all. No individual or group of theologians, scholars or even Church Fathers can claim to be the divine magisterium of the church. This same church will also not bend to a popularity vote because she is faithful to her Master and claims no authority to change His commandments like divorce and the male priesthood. Thankfully, we are also experiencing a major conversion of the boldest and brightest Protestant ministers and scholars who oftentimes are required to face the ridicule and rejection by family and friends ("I have not come to bring peace, but a sword", Mt 10:34) and pay a hefty price of their reputation, image, career and livelihood ("He who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me", v: 38) in the process. They all have “crossed the Tiber” because they want to follow their Master faithfully. They come bringing their talents and gifts to enrich the church, the bride of Christ.

I don’t quite understand the gist of the James-White question. Yes, there are exactly six bible verses infallible defined so far (and good Protestants should be happy that Rome is not trying to “lord over” or monopolize the business of bible interpretation in spite of the rumor). The magisterium’s usefulness with respect to interpreting Scripture isn’t based on how many definitive interpretations of individual biblical texts it has rendered. Anytime the Church rejects a heresy or defines a doctrine, it’s interpreting the biblical message even if the sense of no particular passage is defined. As far as Jn 3:16 is concerned, is there a major crisis of faith or heresy in Christianity at large requiring Rome’s intervention for a pronouncement ex-cathedra on the particular verse? I know you are being facetious but as far as Tradition is concerned, don’t you have the written strain of it in your faithful Bible? For the oral strain of the Tradition, you are just too disconnected from historical Christianity to find it even if you want to. Hints: The canon of the Bible, Trinity, Incarnation and all the christology definitions you inherited from the mother church but now disowned.

franas said...

Food for thought:

Here's the real Calvinist translation of John 3:16:

For God so loved the elect, that He gave His only Son, that whomsoever He had chosen to not perish but have eternal life should believe in Him. For God sent His Son to condemn the world, and to save the elect.”

Augustinian Successor said...

Edward is right. The New Evangelicals are a cause for concern. The departure from the confessions is eroding the integrity of the Reformation, which the New Evangelicals claim descent. What they don't realise the creeds are to be read through the lenses of the confessions, not the other way round. The latter is tantamount to compromising the gospel.

Mejlina Tjoa said...

To Franas:

This part you typed is not correct representation of Calvinism: "For God sent His Son to condemn the world, and to save the elect.”

Reformed theology never teaches that God sent His Son to condemn the world, but the fallen world is already condemned before Incarnation, and His Son redeemed the elect, which is the Church.

CREDO500 said...

Hi Augustinian, I love your comments.

There is still a lot of smoke around Protestant-Catholic reappraisals of the reformation and counter reformation, lots of serious differences and the issues that divided the Reformers from RCC in the 16th century remain unsolved, lots of honest disagreements over the relationship between Scripture and Tradition.

In all fairness, in response to the exodus out of neo/post-evangelical trails, J.J Lim stated clearly in this creeds and confessions paper, the imperative necessity to consider relocating theologically and ecclesiastically not to Rome, or to Constantinople or even to the Emergent village(mine emphasis), but rather to Geneva.

Peace,
Jonah

franas said...

To valleyofvision:

Instead of Rabbi Duncan, I would personally prefer St. Pacian, Church Father, Bishop of Barcelona and who attended a church council at Sardica in 347 AD:

"Christian is my name, Catholic my surname" (Ep. ad Sympron, 1,43 PL 13, 1055)


To Mejlina Tjoa:

Double predestination still means that God chose who would go to heaven and who to hell, and that his decision is infallibly to come to pass. So at the end of the day, either you are the "elect" or is on the other pond called "Damned" foreordained for the reprobate.

I would personally prefer to think that to God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy. When therefore he establishes his eternal plan of 'predestination', he includes in it each person's free response to his grace.

In Christ,

Mejlina Tjoa said...

To Franas:

I respect your view, which is common among Protestants as well. Apart from the way we understand God's sovereignty, the other basic difference is our understanding of the extent of the Fall, hence man's ability / inability to respond to God in his sinful state.

To Daniel:

Thanks for the clarification. Actually I agree with JJ Lim if we are discussing in principles only, and indeed I am referring to specifics / applications.

It does not mean I take principles only as abstract ideas that does not need to be applied. But I think setting principles is good & is only the first step. When we move to the next step of applications, considerations of contextual factors are very important, and not letters are perfect solutions for all cases under the sun. Certain enforcements might need to be done in stages and given the grace of time, rather than required immediately. (I'm just discussing in general, not referring to any particular issue). Wholesale applications often forget that we are not machines, but flesh and blood.

franas said...

To Mejlina Tjoa:

That's a good assessment of our differences regarding Predestination from our respective background. It will be OT to discuss it here so maybe one day we can dialogue further on it. Thanks.

In Christ,

Augustinian Successor said...

Dear Jonah,

Yes, the confessions are still relevant today. They help guide the church in a changing and complex environment. And they provide a proper guide to understanding the creeds, which contain the core of Christian teachings.

The creeds provide the backdrop for the gospel; and the confessions articulate what the gospel is. I'm wary of attempts to dilute or re-interpret the confessions. Because this will have a 'multiplier effect' on the creeds themselves.

Like Daniel have so rightly alluded to, six-day creationism is essential. Some conservative Reformed in the US, as we all know, refuse to affirm that; instead, they prefer to leave the question open. We have the same attitude in the Roman Church. But this destroys the meaning of the creeds which affirm the creative activity of the Father in ALL things.

PuritanReformed said...

Franas:

First of all, you did not address the issues of the varying sects in your church. Since you claim that the principle of Sola Scriptura is the one that creates division, the fact of the matter is that your principle of Sola Ecclesia is not creating unity in the Roman Catholic communion ether. On this point, you did not prove otherwise.

Secondly, you did not show us what specifically is included in this nebulous "Tradition" Rome possesses. The Reformed "tradition" is not the primary norm of the churches so they are to be derived from and corrected by Scripture. However, your "Tradition" is a primary norm, thus you need to show us exactly what this "Tradition" is. For starters, do you believe in the Tridentine idea of partim-partim, or the more modern idea of apostolic development?

PuritanReformed said...

Mejlina:

I agree. But praxis must flow from principles. If our principles are wrong, there is nothing to apply.

valleyofvision said...

Hi franas,

I am not even responding to you when I quoted "Rabbi" Duncan, who is a Scottish prebysterian missionary in the 19th centuray. To be fair, what he means by "catholic" is that he belongs to the Universal Church of Christ thats spans both time and space.

I did not chip in in your discussion about "Sola Scriptura" because I have found such online discussions debates to be quite fruitless, frankly speaking. I think that the biblical support for "Sola Scriptura" is vast! Yet at the same time there needs to be a careful engagement with biblical theology to tease out the development of the theme of God's Word throughout scripture. So while the doctrine of "Sola Scriptura" is not to located within a certain "proof-texts", it is supported by the entire sweep of redemptive history. I know that this won't convince you, but the space limitations of blog comments make it really unsuitable for such serious discussions. (So trying to say that Protestants just quote 2 Tim 3:16 and leave it there is a caricature in itself.) I happen to think that early church history shows that the early church fathers believed in some form of this doctrine too, given their constant appeal to scripture.

Furthermore, I don't think that Paul is using the word "Church" has a shorthand for the ecclesiastical leaders but is referring to either the entire coporate body of Christ or the local congregation that Timothy is ministering in. BTW, the verse doesn't prove anything about the church have a parallel tradition that is as authoritative as scripture, nor does it place the church above scripture in terms of authority. So we are kind of back to square one. I really think that we will not convince each other here and so I will desist from commenting further on this issue.

regards/
Edward

valleyofvision said...

Hi,

Sorry for flogging a dead-horse. But I feel that some justification should be given as to why the PCA is wrong.

According to the their book of church order, candidates for ministry should state explicitly where they diaagree with the propositions of the Confession of faith. Look up section 21-4-f for the reference.

So I guess that to some, taking exception to a "literal six days" of creation qualifies has being "hostile to the system" and "striking at the vitals of religion". (BTW, that happens to disqualify Augustine too! Who sort of is close to thinking that God created the world in terms of nanoseconds. :-) )

So apart from this judgment call (i.e. the 6 days issue), is what they put in their book of church order consistent with sound principles?

regards
Edward
P.S. So we should set the "literal 6 days" issue aside, since that's really another issue altogether i.e. whether a disbelief in such constitutes an undermining of the entire system. It is a worthy issue to debate, but that's not my concern at the moment.

P.S.2 So perhaps some would say that PCA is not truly reformed. One needs to be like, say OPC, to be reformed? :-)

Augustinian Successor said...

I believe the WCF would exclude Augustine's view of instantaneous creation. Having said this, this is still a far cry from theistic evolution which undermines the Gospel and historicity of Scripture.

franas said...

(Part 1) PuritanReformed:

First step towards understanding of Sacred Tradition is that it is not a separate, secret and parallel revelation. It is the LIVING truth of God contained in Scripture as well as in the common teaching, life and worship of the Church. A demonstration is in order: I pick the circumcision controversy in Act 15. Scripture says circumcision is “an everlasting covenant” (Gen 17:7) which is required of every male who wants to join the Covenant People (Ex 12:48). No exceptions: Moses down to Christ and his apostles and first (Jewish) male Christians all underwent the knife. In spite of all this obvious scriptural teaching, the Council of Jerusalem pronounced that the Gentiles be exempted. What? Did apostolic "Tradition" change Scripture? No, it simply acted as a lens so that something which was hidden in Scripture was now visible - with the availability of the testimony of the as-yet-unwritten knowledge of Peter's mystical revelation (Acts 10:15) and the experiences of Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:12). It is through this Sacred Tradition that the Scripture was read, not as the "final rule of faith," but as a witness to the authoritative decision of the Church in Council. Thus James could say not "we agree with the Prophet Amos" but rather that the words of the prophets "agree with" the Council (Acts 15:15). In short, the Council places the Church on the judge's seat and the Scripture in the witness box, deriving its revelation not from Scripture alone but from Sacred Tradition and the magisterial authority of the apostles in union with Scripture. The Church can thus speak with apostolic authority when she declares, “It seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us …” (Acts 15:29). This biblical Council, just like the modern Catholic Church, had developed a doctrine which, to Sola Scriptura adherents, appears to flatly nullify Scripture yet which, upon closer inspection, turns out to uphold it (Rom 3:31).

franas said...

(Part 2) Unity

In Catholicism, there is diversity but unity of faith through the ONE magisterium and ONE set of official teachings of the Church. Hence, believers may express their dissent but only as far as they don’t offend the ordinary and extraordinary acts of the magisterium which require either the full assent of faith or the religious submission of intellect & will. Christ anticipated man’s rebellious nature and aversion to authority when he prayed for his followers to be united that “they may be one, even as we are one" (Jn 17:22). Schismatists and heretics in the Church are to be expected. To prove unity in Sola Scriptura, find two Protestants who can agree on faith and morals. To prove unity in Catholicism, there are 1.2 billions Catholics united in faith more than all Protestants taken together. Go figure.

BTW, I marvel (as I learned from here) how modern Protestantism has come so far as to place such little regard for their own "Confessions" and "Creeds." How on earth can there be two tiers of faith and morals, one for the ministers and the other for the lay people! Isn't Truth constant?

In Christ,

Augustinian Successor said...

I'm a amazed as to how could Franas insist that 1 billion Romanists represent internal unity under the Magisterium? Do all Romanists accept the Church's teachings on contraception? Or even abortion? Look at Ted Kennedy. As Daniel has pointed out, there are fractures in the Church too caused by disagreements over the liturgy and moral issues.

The unity of the Church is never by sight. It is ever only by faith.

I BELIEVE in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church ...

The gift of faith is only imparted in the proclamation of the Gospel, not Law. The Gospel sets free, not bind men's consciences to Canon Law.

franas said...

To Augustinian Sucessor:

"the Church's teachings on contraception? Or even abortion? Look at Ted Kennedy ..."

I'm glad that you are at least current and knowledgeable about Catholicism. I've been obviously engaging in some type of hyperboly (Can I include the saints in Church Triumphant in the count? ;)) to stress a point although the proposed equation remains valid. Unfortunately, you are very correct to point out that many Catholics are/were not immune to modernism, secularization and intellectual arrogance which have been going on for the past few decades. One day, these Catholics will have to personally answer to Christ why they purposely rejected the teachings of His Church.

BTW, didn't all the major denominations of Protestantism also believed that contraception was morally wrong prior to 1930? Why the sudden "illumination" to believe differently?


To valleyofvision:

"So while the doctrine of "Sola Scriptura" is not to located within a certain "proof-texts", it is supported by the entire sweep of redemptive history"

I respect your opinion of not wanting to engage such a serious topic in the limiting sphere of the blog. Can't you at least just throw me a few bones? A mainstay doctrine like Sola Scripture can surely be easily demonstrated after 500 years of reflection. Where is this Bible Alone doctrine clearly and plainly spelled out in the Good Book such that I can be morally certain to disregard 1600 years of Christianity?

Augustinian Successor said...

Unfortunately, Protestants fall prey to rationalism when it comes to certain moral issues such as contraception and abortion. But this does not reflect the views of the Protestant Reformers.

Augustinian Successor said...

Thus, it is not the fault of the Protestantism per se, but the fault of modern Protestants. Protestantism does not claim visible unity as a mark of the Church. In fact, the Church 'becomes visible' only in the proclamation of the Gospel/Word in its oral and sacramental forms. Other than that, the Church is just another creation ordinance and an earthly institution alongside the family and the state.

PuritanReformed said...

Edward:

I guess I would deal with this issue (6-day creationism) more in my response to your review. =P

PuritanReformed said...

Franas:

Sorry, your example didn't cut. Acts 15 is IN the Bible, so it is not part of "Tradition" however defined.

About unity, I'm sorry to inform you that you are wrong. You can ask any Protestant who professes Sola Scriptura (not merely claim to be protestant), and we all have the same understanding of the Gospel. Contrast that with the situation in modern Roman Catholicism, where the liberals and conservatives cannot agree on the Gospel but who all claim to be Roman Catholics. I prefer the former type of unity instead of the latter, thank you.

franas said...

To PuritanReformed:

"Sorry, your example didn't cut. Acts 15 is IN the Bible, so it is not part of "Tradition" however defined."

What absurdity! Have you not heard of chronological history? Acts was not written when the Council of Jersalem convened.

Anyway, thank you all for allowing me to share my faith here. We are brothers and sisters in Christ, and I hope you will continue to grow in the knowledge of the Lord. I will return here periodically but will restrain from making any further comment. I will be on the other discussions for the time being. God bless.

In Christ,

valleyofvision said...

Daniel,

if you read my comments carefully, six days creationism is merely a side issue. The main point is whether PCA is right to examine their ministerial candidates according to their church book of order. (i.e. not requiring candidates to subscribe to the entire confession, but where necessary, state their exceptions and allow their exceptions to be examined as to whether these exceptions constitute a hostility towards the system. An example would be whether considering pope as Anti-christ and whether denial of postmil is equivalent to a denial of imputation of Christ's righteousness.) and this happens to coincide with the main point of this post because JJ Lim seems not to allow leeway for such a practice at all.

regards
Edward

Augustinian Successor said...

"What absurdity! Have you not heard of chronological history? Acts was not written when the Council of Jersalem convened."

Is tradition outside the Bible *infallible*? Without the Book of Acts, we would have no infallible record of the Council of Jerusalem.

Augustinian Successor said...

"Anyway, thank you all for allowing me to share my faith here. We are brothers and sisters in Christ, and I hope you will continue to grow in the knowledge of the Lord."

The Roman Church is heretical and apostate. You are a Christian, but in communion with heresy and apostasy. That makes you a heretic and apostate. Benedict 16 is the Antichrist.

Hedonese said...

Hi Ed, yikes! dun call me a neo evangelical here la... can easily be stoned to death here haha... though i'd admit to sit a bit closer with Stott/Packer than with MLJ (with all due respect)

Hi Jonah

I'm fine with people holding to the confessions you mentioned. But other reformed folks I know would prefer the London baptist confession for instance. So i hope that does not rule them out of the 'reformed circle'

The criteria of christian unity is the gospel, imho, so I'd happily work w a presbyterian who subscribes to WCF as a baptist who subscribes to LBC as with a lutheran who subscribes to neither

Tim Keller one of my PCA heroes spells out the diff between "CENTERED-SET" AND "BOUNDED-SET" CHURCHES here

http://www.redeemer2.com/themovement/issues/2004/august/postmoderncity_2_p1.html

He says: In mathematics, there are two different ways to define a 'set'. One is a 'bounded set'. A point is in the set if it is related properly to (i.e. if it is inside) the boundary. Another is the 'centered set'. A point is in the set if it is related properly to (i.e. if it is in alignment with or moving toward) the center of the set. Organizations that are 'bounded sets' put great emphasis on the lines of demarcation 'around the circle' – at all points. 1) A person cannot work with or be part of the organization in any meaningful sense without the rite of initiation and the adoption of extensive standards which set the person apart. 2) Differences between members and the outside world are emphasized. 3) Membership is defined in terms of common beliefs and policies and folkways that are pretty extensive.

Organizations that are centered-sets put more emphasis on central goals and commitments. 1) A person can work with the organization as long as it shares basic goals and is willing to work for them. 2) Differences between members and the outside world are not emphasized. 3) Membership is defined in terms of active participation toward common tasks and goals."

Just exploring if there is more hope in a centered set network than a bounded set one in our asian context

Robert G. Rhyne III said...

It’s good to find people discussing the role of creeds and confessions in the Church. They have certainly fallen out of favor and it has been to our detriment.
Personally, I lean toward the strict subscriptionist position, and I am not a fan of ‘taking exceptions” with your confession. Having said that I believe that there is considerably more ‘breathing room’ within confessional statements than is often realized. Confessions are intended to be positive proclamations of faith and to set doctrinal parameters. They were not intended to stifle the study and meditation upon the Scriptures, but to be the foundation and boundary markers for future doctrinal development.

I would also have to say that I am not a supporter of holding multiple confessions, such as holding the Three forms of Unity and the Westminster Confession of Faith together. I am opposed to this because it often leads to a weakening of subscription. The other reason is it’s just too much to serve as an effective teaching tool or to hold teaching and rulers elder accountable to. Each Reformed denomination should hold to its historical confession and recognize that both the TFU and WCF are confessional ‘traditions’ within the larger Reformed faith.

Hopefully one day we will be in a position where the reformed Churches could come together to create a joint confession. There are many theological issues and controversies which have arisen since the 17th century and these have not been specifically addressed within the Reformed confessions.

redeemedson said...

I know this discussion is a bit old and I looked to see if this point had already been posted. It did not see it, but if I missed it, I apologize for redundancy.

One thing that is interesting from a "Reformed Baptist" use of Creeds and Confessions is that Baptists particularly add one use to the ones discussed in the paper, the response, and the posts. Baptists have always used confessions to allay fears of secular authorities and other paedobaptist Protestants. In hopes of distancing themselves from the Anabaptists, 17th Century Particular Baptists used confessions to show that they would not undermine government and that they were soteriologically Calvinistic.

This practice is one that we should seek to emulate, particularly in cultures in which the church is persecuted. It will dispel false accusations and ensure that any persecution occurs becaue of hatred for the gospel rather than misinformation.

PuritanReformed said...

redeemedson:

yes, the Baptists did use creeds as such. I thnk that "tradition" starts with Justin Matyr's apology. It does indeed seem a good idea for churches in persecuted countries to do the same.