Guarding the Treasure: The Case for Confessionalism

June 8, 2016 — Leave a comment

For the time will come when men will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.

— 2 Timothy 4:3-4

In every age, among all peoples, the truth of God’s word has been under assault. The event that precipitated the Fall of man was the direct contradiction of the clearly spoken word of God by the serpent.  “Indeed, has God said . . .?” From that awful event in history when Adam and Eve were deceived by lies and rejected truth, and all of the human race inherited Adam’s sin until now, truth has been called into question. Timeless truths that were once thought unquestionable are now scoffed at with regularity. For example, Moses wrote, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). While the Genesis account of creation has been routinely ridiculed, it seems to be a recent development to deny that there are two (and only two) sexes — male and female. The Supreme Court of the United States in Obergefell v. Hodges ruled that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry. President Obama recently issued a directive that public school transgender students should be allowed to use the bathrooms of their choice, regardless of their God-given gender. Lawmakers in the State of Massachusetts recently passed a law allowing use of restrooms based on gender identity.

How did society come to so readily accept moral relativism on such a large scale? To answer this question, it is reasonable to assert that society itself is not to blame. It is not surprising for lost men to behave like lost men. Perhaps, those to whom truth was entrusted are to blame. Paul admonished young Timothy to “Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you” (2 Timothy 1:13-14). However, rather than guarding the treasure, some theologians tarnished it by elevating experience above truth. While many are responsible for the proliferation of religious experientialism, it was Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834) who influenced a generation of religious thinkers to believe that a person’s experience and feelings is the guide to religious truth. But if experience itself is the standard, how will a person know if he is being deceived? Paul wrote, “But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13). Indeed, things have proceeded from bad to worse and truth is in peril — even in the professed Church of Jesus Christ.

Some theologians tarnished the treasure by elevating experience above truth.

It is imperative the the Church “continue in the things we have learned and become convinced of” (2 Timothy 3:14). The things which we have learned and become convinced of are those truths written in Holy Scripture. Every great confession of faith begins by acknowledging that Holy Scripture is true, infallible, sufficient, trustworthy, and is “the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried” (The Baptist Faith and Message, 2000).  Scripture is the supreme judge.  No creed or confession can claim to be the “all-sufficient, certain and infallible rule or standard of the knowledge, faith and obedience” (1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith).  All confessions and creeds are subservient to Scripture. “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for correction, for training in righteousness.” Whatever your confession, it is not inspired. However, a biblical confession is essential in this day of religious experientialism. Charles Haddon Spurgeon, perhaps the greatest Baptist preacher in history, had this to say in reissuing the 1689 London Baptist Confession to the London Metropolitan Tabernacle in 1856:

“We accept the same (the Confession), not as an authoritative rule or code of faith, whereby we are to be fettered, but as an assistance to us in controversy, a confirmation in faith, and a means of edification in righteousness. In this confession, the members of our church will have a body of divinity, of concise, scripturally-based doctrine; and, by means of scriptural proofs, they can be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in them.”

Spurgeon recognized that while Scripture was the supreme standard by which all creeds should be tried, a confession was nevertheless necessary to assist the Church in matters of controversy. While it sounds very spiritual to sing the oft-repeated refrain, “No creed but the Bible,” the fact is “The most radical denials of biblical truth frequently coexist with a professed regard for the authority and testimony of the Bible.” The great Southern Baptist statesman, B.H. Carroll said, “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. The modern cry, ‘Less creed and more liberty,’ is a degeneration from the vertebrate to the jellyfish, and means less unity and less morality, and it means more heresy. …It is a positive and very hurtful sin to magnify liberty at the expense of doctrine.”

The conclusion of the matter is that we must guard the treasure that has been entrusted to us.  More to come . . .

Ken Fryer

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I currently serve on the staff of Riverside Baptist Church in Denham Springs, Louisiana and serve on the faculty of Sequitur Classical Academy in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

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