Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Are Confessions Biblical?

In previous years, some of the books that I reviewed on my blog came through crossfocusedreviews.com.  As part of receiving the free book, I agreed to post my review on my blog as well as on amazon.com.  Occasionally, I would receive feedback from my blog readers, but most of the negative comments I received were responses to my book reviews posted on the Amazon website.  Therefore, I have a series of blog posts that I've labeled Countering Criticism where I evaluate the validity of the negative feedback I receive.  Today, I would like to look at a comment from a poster named 'Amazon Customer' regarding my book review on Good and Angry.  You can read my original review here.

On January 19, 2017, Amazon Customer said:
"Beth, I find your review to be self contradicting[sic]. Please forgive me if that comes of blunt or rude that is not my intent. What I see here is a double standard. In this review the critique is that he uses eisegesis vs exegesis. In other words you,[sic] wanted to see his work. That in its self[sic] is a reasonable request. If you stopped there I would say this is a fair critique. You would not be the only one wanting that. However, You[sic] then move to the view in theology to mount your assault against the book and stake your claim for its 2 star review. In your evidence for his miss handling[sic] of human vs Divine emotion you site[sic] not Scripture, but a confession made by fallible men. In essence what you did was demand Biblical authority from the author and then turned and used man's authority when you want to disclaim his point. For this reason I don't find your review helpful. However, I do love the zeal that you have to defend the person of God; that is, who he is, his character and nature."

In my review of Good and Angry, I was arguing against the author's contention that the mercy of God is like in kind to the mercy of man.  To support my position of the Doctrine of Impassibility, I quoted the The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, Chapter 2, paragraph 1: "The Lord our God is but one only living and true God; whose subsistence is in and of Himself, infinite in being and perfection; whose essence cannot be comprehended by any but Himself; a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions."  What I didn't include (because it was a review and not a thesis paper on impassibility) was the entire paragraph and the 24 supporting Bible verses for this confessional statement.  Here is the list of the 7 Bible verses that support the portion I quoted:
  • 1 Cor. 8:4, 6 "As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one...But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him."
  • Deut. 6:4 "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD."
  • Jer. 10:10 " But the LORD is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation."
  • Isa. 48:12 "Hearken unto me, O Jacob and Israel, my called; I am he; I am the first, I also am the last."
  • Exod. 3:14 "And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you."
  • John 4:24 "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth."
  • 1 Tim. 1:17 "Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen."
I agree that the London Baptist Confession of Faith (LBCF) written by fallible men is not Scripture, but it is an accurate interpretation of Scripture.  Therefore, I quote the LBCF quite often in my reviews because it provides concise descriptions of biblical concepts and includes scriptural references for support.  I use it to show that I'm not putting forth my own private interpretation of God's Word (2 Peter 1:20), but that I'm expressing the standard of how the Bible has been interpreted by previous orthodox Christians.

In his sermon titled "Are Confessions Biblical" from 09-11-16, Pastor Jeff Riddle of Christ Reformed Baptist Church gives insight into the right use of a Confession of Faith:

"A Confession of Faith is simply a summary and a declaration of what a church holds to with regard to its doctrines and practices...A Confession of Faith rightly used is not an attempt to impose a system on Scripture, but it is quite the opposite; it is looking at Scripture and seeing what is the inherent orderly system that reflects an orderly God that is in the Scriptures and how can I properly explain that in an orderly way so that I have a systematic way of understanding what Scripture teaches and says...The Scriptures are meant to be clearly understood by those who read them.  A rejection of creeds and confessions is a rejection of the Doctrine of the Perspicuity or the Clarity of Scripture.  If God has given us the Scriptures and they are clear, then any converted person with a reasonable mind can sit down and find truth and orderliness in the Scriptures; then to say we can't come up with a Confession of Faith that describes what the Scriptures teach is denying the Doctrine of the Clarity of the Scriptures...Many of those who denounce clearly defined systems are in fact operating with highly developed systematic doctrinal interpretations that are merely left unspoken or unwritten.  And sometimes they have a problem with confessions of faith, especially those like the 1689, not because they think it contradicts a reasonable interpretation of Scripture, because it contradicts their own human interpretation of Scripture."

Pastor Riddle goes on to show from the Bible that "God's people were led by the Spirit to adopt and offer written summaries of the faith that could be used as a standard for belief and practice" as seen in the Apostolic Decree by the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15, the creed that Jesus is Lord in Romans 10:9 and 1 Cor. 12:3, the creed of the Gospel in 1 Cor. 15:3-4, and a summary of the life of Jesus in 1 Tim. 3:16.  "Even within the New Testament we see this movement toward having a standard confession of faith, a creedal understanding, articulating what are the right things to believe."  Pastor Riddle notes that Paul warns believers in 2 Cor. 11:4 and Gal. 1:6 not to receive "another gospel".  Without a known standard (or confession), how were the readers to have a right understanding of Jesus so that they would not receive "another gospel"?

The passages noted in the paragraph above are biblical, so they have an inspired authority.  However, Pastor Riddle concludes: "Confessions of faith that made after the time of the apostles do not have the same inspired and infallible authority as the biblical creeds, but what we do see is a pattern, a pattern that is to be followed of articulating what it is that you believe that the Scriptures teach."

Using a Confession of Faith does not contradict the requirement of sound exegesis, rather it makes sure that what is being taught is truly biblical.

"But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.  But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.  All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works," (2 Tim. 3:13-17).