Monday, August 13, 2018

I confess

Confessions, in the 17th century, were not seen as candy-store-like documents from which a person could take some from one, some from the other, and still some from another, and formulate their own theology in isolation from a historical church tradition. That way of thinking is relatively innovative from the perspective of ecclesiastical history. Surely, fringe individuals have existed at all times throughout church history, but the scope and fervor of their subjective choosiness has never been so explosive until now. 

Is one allowed to take any exception and still be considered confessional? Are we really not confessional if we fail to believe the Pope is the antichrist, as some confessional documents have stated (including the 1689)? Admittedly, the answer to this question is not always easy, and there are many dear brothers who would consider themselves confessional while at the same time not holding to every jot and tittle of any one document (though, I would disagree with their approach).

i) I have no a problem with creeds and confessions. That's a legitimate and even necessary expression of the church's teaching mandate. 

ii) That said, is there something intrinsically wrong with creedal eclecticism? Is the objective fidelity to a creed or fidelity to revelation? 

iii) Is there any presumption that lengthy creedal statements like the WCF and LBCF will be inerrant? If anything, is there not a presumption that any inspired human document of sufficient size is likely to make mistakes? The longer the document, the greater opportunities for error.  

In fairness, 17C creeds have more shakedown time than primitive creeds. They distill centuries of theological reflection. In that respect a long later creed might be more accurate than a brief primitive creed.

Nevertheless, creeds and confessions are consensus documents. It comes down to which side has the most votes. That's a very fallible process. So we can't reasonably treat creeds as unquestionably true. Indeed, that isn't even possible since different creeds represent divergent theological traditions. Hence, you have to evaluate creeds on a case-by-case basis. 

iv) Moreover, some creeds are predetermined to be radically wrong. Given the theological agenda of the framers, the Racovian catechism is inevitably heretical. Tridentine theology is another example. So creeds can't be the ultimate benchmark. 

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