When it comes to the local church, a confession of faith serves as a transparent advertisement as to where the church stands on important theological matters and can be extremely helpful for potential new members in the community. When people are looking for a church home, it’s important to define the church’s position on key issues of the faith and a robust theological confession can do this with a great deal of precision. A confession communicates to the community: “Here is where we stand!”
For centuries, God’s people have been using creeds and confessions in order to identify where they stand on critical issues of the faith. We can likewise see confessions in Scripture. We find in the Scriptures forms of early church confessions of faith. For instance, in Paul’s words to Timothy, we find an example of this in 1 Timothy 3:16:
Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:
He was manifested in the flesh,
vindicated by the Spirit,
seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory.
As was common in the early church, they organized the confession and arranged it into a hymn to be sung in worship. Yet, like all theologically sound hymns of the faith, the song is more than a superficial song. It’s a concise theological confession of truth about God and to be confessed for his glory.
Through the years, some groups have created intentionally broad confessions of faith in order to keep the line of divisions to a minimum and to maintain a big tent approach to their associations. Yet, in doing so, it’s almost inevitable that the group or denomination at some point takes a leftward turn due to a lack of theological conviction.
Still others err by rejecting the spirit of confessionalism by claiming “No Creed but Christ.” This group fails to see this is a creedal statement (yet very shallow), and they too find themselves with no anchor in swift cultural waters that eventually sweep them away.
Confessions and creeds, while not bulletproof, can be extremely beneficial when used properly in the life of a Christian home, denomination, or organization.
Fortress Wall for Protection
If you’ve ever had the privilege to visit a castle, the fortress wall can be quite impressive. The purpose of the fortress wall with it’s robust width and impressive height is to serve as a frontline defense strategy against enemies. There are always other weapons on the inside of the castle, but the fortress wall serves as a first line of defense against those who might come along and try to overtake the castle. The reason why many castles around the world today are merely partially standing buildings surrounded by piles of rocks is indicative of the fact that their wall was weak and the enemy prevailed.
In a similar way, a theological confession serves that same purpose as it provides a frontline defense against heretical statements, ideologies, and agendas that often plague God’s people. Flowing out of the Reformation are different streams where we have different confessions. Historically, we see the Augsburg Confession, Belgic Confession, Westminster Confession, and the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith to name a few. Alongside the confessions, church history has provided us with important theological statements that respond to theological error. We can point to the Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed as examples. In addition to creeds and confessions, we likewise have the catechisms that provide more light and clarity on theological distinctions and definitions.
When it comes to the gospel or doctrines like the Trinity which is at the very heart of Christianity, almost everyone agrees that confessions function as a defense against cultural attacks that seek to pervert the teachings of Scripture. However, as we have witnessed through the years, there are many entry points into the church where heresy can arise and lead people astray.