Online Bible and Study Tools
Translate || Vine / Schaff || Alts/Vars/Criticism/Aramaic

 
 


End Times Chart


Introduction and Key

BOOKS:  BIBLICAL STUDIES (1500BC-AD70) / EARLY CHRISTIAN PRETERISM (AD50-1000) / FREE ONLINE BOOKS (AD1000-2008)


David S. Clark - The Message From Patmos: A Postmillennial Commentary on the Book of Revelation (1921) "This early twentieth-century Postmillennial commentary on the Book of Revelation, written by the father of theologian Gordon Clark, offers an easy-to-read alternative to the popular Pre-millennial/Dispensational views of the best-selling Scofield Reference Bible and a multitude of other dissertations on end-time prophecy that litter the shelves of Christian bookstores. "


Historical Preterism
Historical Preterism Main
Study Archive

Click For Site Updates Page

Free Online Books Page

Historical Preterism Main

Modern Preterism Main

Hyper Preterism Main

Preterist Idealism Main

Critical Article Archive Main

Church History's Preteristic Presupposition

Study Archive Main

Dispensationalist dEmEnTiA  Main

Josephus' Wars of the Jews Main

Online Study Bible Main

HISTORICAL PRETERISM
(Minor Fulfillment of Matt. 24/25 or Revelation in Past)

Joseph Addison
Oswald T. Allis
Thomas Aquinas
Karl Auberlen
Augustine
Albert Barnes
Karl Barth
G.K. Beale
Beasley-Murray
John Bengel
Wilhelm Bousset
John A. Broadus

David Brown
"Haddington Brown"
F.F. Bruce

Augustin Calmut
John Calvin
B.H. Carroll
Johannes Cocceius
Vern Crisler
Thomas Dekker
Wilhelm De Wette
Philip Doddridge
Isaak Dorner
Dutch Annotators
Alfred Edersheim
Jonathan Edwards

E.B. Elliott
Heinrich Ewald
Patrick Fairbairn
Js. Farquharson
A.R. Fausset
Robert Fleming
Hermann Gebhardt
Geneva Bible
Charles Homer Giblin
John Gill
William Gilpin
W.B. Godbey
Ezra Gould
Hank Hanegraaff
Hengstenberg
Matthew Henry
G.A. Henty
George Holford
Johann von Hug
William Hurte
J, F, and Brown
B.W. Johnson
John Jortin
Benjamin Keach
K.F. Keil
Henry Kett
Richard Knatchbull
Johann Lange

Cornelius Lapide
Nathaniel Lardner
Jean Le Clerc
Peter Leithart
Jack P. Lewis
Abiel Livermore
John Locke
Martin Luther

James MacDonald
James MacKnight
Dave MacPherson
Keith Mathison
Philip Mauro
Thomas Manton
Heinrich Meyer
J.D. Michaelis
Johann Neander
Sir Isaac Newton
Thomas Newton
Stafford North
Dr. John Owen
 Blaise Pascal
William W. Patton
Arthur Pink

Thomas Pyle
Maurus Rabanus
St. Remigius

Anne Rice
Kim Riddlebarger
J.C. Robertson
Edward Robinson
Andrew Sandlin
Johann Schabalie
Philip Schaff
Thomas Scott
C.J. Seraiah
Daniel Smith
Dr. John Smith
C.H. Spurgeon

Rudolph E. Stier
A.H. Strong
St. Symeon
Theophylact
Friedrich Tholuck
George Townsend
James Ussher
Wm. Warburton
Benjamin Warfield

Noah Webster
John Wesley
B.F. Westcott
William Whiston
Herman Witsius
N.T. Wright

John Wycliffe
Richard Wynne
C.F.J. Zullig

Samuel Frost and the Westminster Confession

By Dr. Kenneth Gary Talbot

 

I have known Samuel Frost for over 10 years. We are friends and we do disagree on many theological issues. I am Reformed and he is not. I am covenantal and he is not. However, we are agreed on Apologetics. I was a student of Dr. Gordon Clark, and Samuel was trained in Axiomatic Presuppositionalism. He knows the system well. We are both young earth creationists and I greatly appreciate his defense against the mislabeled ‘covenant creation’ theory. However, when Samuel writes universal statements like this one posted at SGP, I cannot help but respond in kind. Knowing that he is my friend, that we are both looking forward to the ‘debate’ over Preterism, I know he would not mind me responding to his rant on the “Westminster Confession and errant doctrine.”

Samuel Frost, in trying to deal with the issue of the heretical charge for his Hyper-preterism quotes the Westminster Confession of Faith, stating: “The word “may” is subjunctive possibility. It is a logical introduction of possibility. Once that is allowed, the door is thrown open. Here is a statement that has been quoted in every Creed, Council or Synod: “He shall come again to judge the living and the dead.” According to the Westminster Confession, this statement “may” err.

Perfect logical deduction. This conclusion is unassailable.”

 

Here is the syllogism:

 

1st Premise:      “All Councils….may err.”

2nd Premise:    “He shall come again was formed within the Council”

Conclusion:       “Therefore, This Council may have erred.”
 

Perfect logical syllogism. What’s the problem? What idiot cannot grasp this? (Dr. Talbot: The term ‘idiot’ is universal in its usage, therefore it must include me)

Samuel Frost goes on to state:

“They want to say to you, Preterist, that you are not a Christian. That you rail against Christianity. Yet, the above syllogism DENOUNCES this heathenistic charge. I may, and am allowed, to stand AS A CHRISTIAN and charge a Council with having error. Simple as that. MY CHRISTIANITY ALLOWS ME TO DO THIS. IT IS CHRISTIANITY THAT TELLS ME I CAN DO THIS. PRETERISTS DID NOT MAKE THIS RULE UP.”

 

Dr. Talbot responds:

First, not everything is so ‘simple’ as Mr. Frost would have you believe. We should remember that as a subjective verb, the term “may” is only considered as a hypothetical, not a confession or statement of error. The fact that the Divines did not change their chapter on eschatology, nor has their followers for the past 362 years, clearly mandates that the they are continuing to believe their exegetical and hermeneutical studies over-against those of Mr. Frost and the Hyper-preterist doctrine. 

Further, it should be pointed out that Mr. Frost does not understand the difference between ‘submission’ to the confession, verses, ‘belief in the Bible.’ Let me point out for the record that the Reformers, Puritans, and Presbyterians, believe that the creeds and confessions are good for the establishment of the Church, but they are not the replacement to Scripture, only a doctrinal formula that was developed as a result of their exegetical and hermeneutical studies of the Scripture. The Reformed subscribe to our doctrinal statements in our confessions as the purist expression of the teaching of Scripture. We maintain that Bible alone is the Word of God, inerrant, infallible, and authoritative Word of God. Therefore, as true to the Scriptures as our doctrinal formulas are expressed, they are a ‘subordinate’ standard to the Bible, yet, ‘authoritative’ if they convey the same teaching as the Scripture. We argue that is true on a personal level of one person stating, “I believe that the Bible teaches….,” or a minister when preaching says “I believe that the Bible teaches….,”, or when a denomination writes their confession saying, “We believe the Bible teaches…,”. If that is not the case, then at every point, in any propositional form of communication, no one person, or group of persons may speak about what the Bible teaches. Such a position is sheer absurdity! Listen to the vows taken by those who assembled at Westminster to examine the scripture in order to formulate the correct and pure teaching of the Word of God for His Church: “I (name) do seriously promise and vow, in the presence of Almighty God, That in this Assembly, whereof I am a member, I will maintain nothing in point of doctrine, but what I believe to be most agreeable to the Word of God; nor in point of discipline, but what may make most for God’s glory, and the peace and good of this church” (WCF, Free Presbyterian Publications, pg. 13). It is also  worthy to note the Foreword of the Free Presbyterian Publications, what John Walter Ross, the Convener of the Publications Committee wrote about the Confession. “In every age a Confession is necessary; how much more in an age of doubt such as ours. In the Westminster Confession of Faith we have the ‘entire doctrinal process of Protestantism making itself confessionally manifest.’ It give expression to divine truth in a manner which meets with surprising fitness the issues and questions of the present day. The charge that creeds usurp the place that belongs to Scripture cannot be brought against the Westminster Confession of Faith. The seal which the Westminster divines adopted took the form of an open book with the inscription The Word of God upon its pages. This badge fitly symbolized that unique place that Scripture was to be given by the formulators of the Confession. Indeed one of the first rules of the Assembly was: ‘What any man undertakes to prove as necessary, he shall make good ‘out of the Scripture.’ It is not surprising, therefore, when one turns to the Confession itself to find that it begins by asserting the authority of Holy Scripture as the supreme and final rule of faith and conduct. Having thus affirmed that the ‘source and foundation of all belief’ is the Bible it proceeds to present the fundamentals of our Christian religion.” I am satisfied that the work of the divines, in their doctrinal formulas, express the true teaching of the Scripture according to their exegetical and hermeneutical studies. I have examined those texts of Scripture on eschatology and believe that they were correct in their interpretations. What authority does Mr. Frost come forth with and demand that I change my views of Scripture? It is Mr. Frost that is out of conformity with the Confession, and therefore the Scriptures, and not the Confession out of accord with Mr. Frost’s beliefs. Further, why is he going to infer that I am an idiot?

Now as to the syllogism, it is logically consistent. Yet, we must not forget that logical consistency does not prove the truthfulness or falsity of the argument, only that it is argued consistently. Logic is, as Dr. Gordon Clark stated: “the negative test for truth.” If something does not contradict itself, it seems it is a valid argument, but may still be false. The Divines, along with 2000 years of exegetical and hermeneutical studies have continued to state and show Mr. Frost that he is wrong in his views! So, let’s look at another syllogism.

To quote Mr. Frost: “This conclusion is unassailable.”

 

Here is the syllogism:

 

1st Premise:     “Sam Frost is a hyper-preterist”

2nd Premise:    “all hyper-preterists are heretics”

Conclusion:     “Therefore, Sam Frost is a heretic.”

 

What can I say? I know, let me quote my friend Mr. Frost: “Perfect logical syllogism. What’s the problem? What idiot cannot grasp this?”

 

Dr. Talbot continues:

“Now what is the difference between “may” as an hypothetical subjunctive verb, verses the ‘absolute certainty’ that Samuel Frost is a heretic or even worse a ‘damnable’ one at that? It is the confessions of Mr. Frost and Mr. Green, two hyper-preterists.”

 

David Green wrote:  “Keith Mathison was correct on this point: If futurism is true, then preterism is definitely a damnable doctrine. (http://www.preteristcosmos.com/matresponse.html)

 

Samuel Frost also wrote: “Preterism, the word I choose to call this doctrine and movement, is a risky venture. Two millennia of Church tradition on the Second Coming of Christ is now seen as an error. This was not a minor theological dispute, either. The Second Coming of Christ was and is a major tenet of Christianity. Most Christians that have come across preterist material immediately scoff at its views. Some have undertaken to wipe it out completely if possible as a damanable heresy. …Preterism is an interpretive system that is locked on the vents of 66-70 A.D. It views this as the decisive eschatological event. The Second Coming, Resurrection of the Dead and Great Judgment are seen as having taken place in and around these years. This is a contradiction to Christian orthodoxy and its Creeds, Councils, and all the Reformed, Baptist, and Methodist Standards (and we wonder why preterists are called “heretics”!)” (Observations, pg. 7, from articles: Reign of Grace)

Dr. Talbot responds:

Here Mr. Frost acknowledges himself as rightfully being a ‘heretic’ in light of Reformed theology. We also read in: The Constitution of Christ Covenant Church, Organized by Samuel Frost, in Section 1:A 1:2, Frost and others where they wrote:

“We are fully aware of the opinion by many that preterism is regarded as a “damnable heresy.”

 

Dr. Talbot continues:

Again, Mr. Frost clearly understands the implications of his doctrine in light of both Reformed and Evangelical Christianity. Why would he acknowledge that he is rightfully being called a ‘heretic’ and a ‘damnable heretic’ (not my words, but Mr. Frost’s and Mr. Green’s), and then complain about being called a ‘heretic’ and a ‘damnable heretic’ at that? Let’s see if this is logical.

 

 

Here is the syllogism:

 

1st Premise:     “By confessional standards Sam Frost is an unrepentant heretic”

2nd Premise:   “By confessional standards an unrepentant heretic is damnable”

Conclusion:    “By confessional standards Sam Frost is damnable”

 

Quoting Mr. Frost again: “This conclusion is unassailable. Perfect logical syllogism. What’s the problem? What idiot cannot grasp this?”

 

Dr. Talbot Continues:

 

Now this is a lesson about logic. Is Samuel Frost a heretic and damned? According to David Green and Samuel Frost, he most certainly is! I did not say it, Mr. Green and Mr. Frost said that and that is what supports the validity of the 1st premises. Their statements also included all full (hyper) preterists. I don’t understand Mr. Frost, having made such a confession, why you are frustrated with being called what you have already acknowledge you are by Reformed confessional standards.

 

What is more important though, is that Mr. Frost has admitted that NO FULL (hyper) PRETERIST can be Reformed in their theology. That statement alone is worth all his ranting about creeds and confessions.  By the way, the use of the term “hyper-creedalist” or “hyper-confessionalist” is a false statement. The term ‘hyper’ means going ‘beyond’. If I say that someone is a ‘hyper’ Calvinist, it means that the individual has gone ‘beyond’ the Calvinist standard of teaching. How can a person or group of persons be called ‘hyper-creedalist’ or ‘hyper-confessionalist’ unless they have gone ‘beyond’ the standards of the creed or confession?

 

On Sovereign Grace Preterism Mr. Frost wrote:

 

“…you cannot be “thoroughly” Reformed if, in fact, you posit the fulfillment of I Corinthians 15 in A.D. 70!!! That is THE resurrection passage sine qua non! You cannot maintain a fulfilled eschatology, and then turn around and maintain a Reformed soteriology. It cannot be done since the Reformed soteriology is BASED on the looked-forward-to Second Coming of Christ (all futurist soteriology is based on this) … One thing I do know is Reformed theology, and I have tried to square them. But, from Calvin to Berkhof, from Clark to Reymond, it can’t be done. So, when you say, you are coming from a Reformed perspective and that it disagrees with FP, SURE IT DOES! … You can’t have our cake and eat it, too. That’s why I would become Roman Catholic and Premillennial (adopting Justin, Irenaeus and a host of others). (http://preterism.ning.com/forum/topics/typological)

 

Mr. Frost continues in another post:

 

“Since you are Reformed, you cannot adhere to a Full Preterist eschatology. There is not one example from Reformed commentaries, creeds, synods, authors, preachers, puritans, etc. that would show me 1 Corinthians 15 as fulfilled. If you are going to be Reformed go the whole route.” (http://preterism.ning.com/forum/topics/typological)

 

Dr. Talbot responds:

 

Let me see if I have this correct. If you were not a full (hyper) preterist currently, you will be a Premillennial Roman Catholic? Now is that not jumping out of the frying pan into the fire? Roman Catholics are already considered ‘damnable heretics.’ I guess you would be complaining about that designation also as a Romanist. However, this is a telling statement! Mr. Frost is “not” by his own implications a protestant evangelical since there is no theological difference currently between Roman and Mr. Frost. Once could say that maybe Mr. Frost is a closet Premillennial Romanist! Wait just a second! The other implication is that you can not be “Reformed” or “Evangelical” if you are a full (hyper) preterist. WOW and OUCH! I didn’t see this coming! What a confession! Some nice fellow tried to help Mr. Frost by stating that maybe he was not really ‘Reformed,’ but a ‘Calvinist.’ However, in light of Mr. Frost’s confession, that is no help at all. I seriously doubt that John Calvin would claim Mr. Frost as his follower, and every Calvinist I know would deny him standing as being Calvinistic. I would suggest, that at best Mr. Frost is an ‘inconsistent Arminian’ with a truncated ‘dispensational’ eschatology. However, in light of the statement above, I believe the term better suited would be ‘semi-pelagian.’ Nevertheless, let us just consider the former issue at this time. Let’s see if this is logical.

 

Here is the syllogism:

 

1st Premise:      “Sam Frost is a full (hyper) preterist”

2nd Premise:     “No Full (hyper) preterists are Reformed”

Conclusion:      “Therefore, Sam Frost is not Reformed”

 

Let’s try it again:

 

1st Premise:       “House Divided is a full (hyper) preterist book”

2nd Premise:      “No full (hyper) preterit book is Reformed”

Conclusion:       “Therefore, House Divided is not a Reformed book”

 

There you have it! The book is not a Reformed response to Reformed Eschatology. According to Mr. Green and Mr. Frost, it is a heretical book, by damnable people who are full (hyper) preterists and are not Reformed at all. So the Reformed community is not divided after all on ‘general’ eschatological issues. Yes, we disagree on millennial chronology, but that has been true for 2000 years.

 

What can I say? I guess I will have to quote Mr. Samuel Frost one more time: “This conclusion is unassailable. Perfect logic. What’s the problem? What idiot cannot grasp this?”

 

Dr. Talbot continues:

 

Perhaps Mr. Frost, those who wrote the book just don’t get it! Hey, wait just a second! You can’t call those men idiots who wrote this book with you! I think you owe them an apology. Folks, I apologize for my friend’s transgression. He was angry when he posted his original thoughts on this issue.

 

Apologetically speaking, I would say my “A” game is in play. Remember, the next time you decide to call ‘me’ an idiot, stop and think it over.  I am your friend, but I will respond in kind when you make unfounded allegations that include me.

 

Key phrase for today’s lesson: “Subscription to the Confession is different than believing the Bible The Bible is the ‘supreme’ authority while the confession is a subordinate authority as long as it teaches the same as the Bible.  It derives its authority from the Bible.”

 

Remember, the determination about the correctness of Confession’s formulation of the Scripture on eschatology is not yours to make. That determination is mine, along with those ministers who subscribe to it. Besides, I have read your doctrinal statement on eschatology and you are absolutely wrong. Repent and sin no more my friend.

 

P.S. I forgot to answer the whole point of your rant Samuel. You wrote: “I may, and am allowed, to stand AS A CHRISTIAN and charge a Council with having error. Simple as that. MY CHRISTIANITY ALLOWS ME TO DO THIS. IT IS CHRISTIANITY THAT TELLS ME I CAN DO THIS. PRETERISTS DID NOT MAKE THIS RULE UP.” Yes, Samuel, please feel free to make all the charges you want to make. You have my permission. You can tell anyone that I said so. LISTEN up all you Reformed and Evangelical Confessionalists! My friend Samuel Frost wants to make charges against the Westminster Confession of Faith and every other confession and creed written or held by our Reformed and Evangelical denominations. I have given him permission to write and complain all he wants. He has my permission to yell, scream, shake his fist, stomp his feet, and curse at us to his heart’s content on the internet.

 

Lastly, it is a rule that the Divines intended that you do from within the Church, and not from without. Anyone can stand outside of the building and throw rocks, it is another matter to work within and under the authority and accountability of other ministers.

 

I love you Sam! Now, you owe me lunch next time we meet. And remember, “Put on a happy face!” ☺

 



Sola Scriptura  and Tradition

in Reformed Theology

 

The Defense of Councils, Creeds, and Confessions  

that Instruct and Equip the Church in the  Biblical

Traditions as Declared in the Holy Scripture

 

~ by ~

 

Dr. Kenneth Gary Talbot

Whitefield Theological Seminary

Lakeland, Florida

 

Introduction to the Issues

 

When we speak of ‘tradition,’ it must be with specificity. Often we incur statements in the writings of Reformed men who are speaking against the ‘non-biblical’ tradition of Roman Catholicism or better stated, as ‘extra biblical’ tradition. Such writings are often mistaken and some think that Calvin and the Reformers were against all ‘tradition’ within the Church of Jesus Christ. This is clearly a mistaken presumption resulting from poor scholarship. For example, in Calvin’s letter to Farel on October 8, 1539, dealing with the issues of Carolia’s accusations against him about rejecting the early Church Creeds, Calvin writes:

 

“He endeavored in every possible way to excuse himself, he boasted, moreover, that at first he had a most just cause of complaint against us, that he did not immediately rush forward to accuse us, but required in a friendly way, that we should subscribe the three creeds; that we not only declined doing so, but disparaged with much scornful derision those three symbols (creeds), which by the perpetual confession of good men have always been held as of established authority in the Church.”  (Tracts and Letters, Baker Books, pg. 218)

 

Calvin Scholar, A. Mitchell Hunter, of New College, Edinburgh, Scotland, comments that:

 

“In the same considered respect he (Calvin) held the Creeds of the Ancient Church molded by these Fathers, and to their doctrine he substantially subscribed. The Apostles’ Creed provided the frame work of the institutes in its original form. In deed it may be said that the basal (basic) doctrines contained in that work were not so much what he had drawn directly from Scripture as what had become already the theological furniture of his mind, supplied by the Ancient Symbols (Creeds) of the Christian Church. He accepted these as correctly summarizing the essential and fundamental truths of Scripture. They provided him with his terminology and the foundation stones of the structure of his thought. … He hated heresy with all his soul, and heresy to him was practically what did not square with the teachings of the classical Creeds, especially the Apostles’ and Nicene. His quarrel with the Roman Church was due to its having become a hothouse of heresies of all kinds. The mischievous results of departure from the recognized standards were illustrated on the other hand by the Libertines whose conduct was the practical counterpart and outcome of a philosophy which was a resurrection of all the worst ancient heresies. … To Calvin, however, it was an article of faith which formed an integral part of the creedal foundations of the Church” (The Teachings of Calvin, pg. 39-41).

 

We shall begin this monograph by speaking of ‘biblical tradition’ as mentioned in the Scripture and then contrast it with ‘extra biblical tradition.’ We shall note that Biblical tradition has continued throughout the history of the Church in the teachings and practices of the creeds or confessions that the Church has written according to Scriptural interpretation.

 

Of late, the Reformed practice of creedal or confessional theology has come under attack from various individuals. Along with some denominations, these individuals have been unwilling to commit themselves to a written standard based upon the teaching of Scripture. They fail to see that biblically based creeds actually contend for the truth of God as He has revealed Himself in the Scripture. Rather, they are adrift in the mucky waters of shifting doctrine and empty clichés.

 

It is time for the Reformed community to respond against the foolishness of those who make such insidious claims that they have no creed, no confession, other than the Bible. Nor should we leave out those who claim that Sola Scriptura precludes the use of Creeds and Confessions. To state that you do not have a creed or confession translates that you have ‘no beliefs at all.’ Such a declaration means that you have no established settled teachings about Scripture! I then am forced to ask, “have you ever read the Bible?” Only to be followed with another question, “what did you think the Bible was teaching?” If you have read the Bible, you of necessity had to think about what the Bible meant. If you try to tell me what the Bible is about, then you have created a creed.

 

Nevertheless, if we carry out this line of thought (no creeds, therefore no beliefs, meaning no doctrine or teachings) to its logical conclusions, the results are devastating. That would mean each time you come to study the Bible, you are required to reexamine every doctrinal declaration given in the Scripture before proceeding to other studies. This mentality is a never-ending method that requires one to begin fresh daily without settled doctrine or perspective. If this is necessarily the case, then such individuals must begin with the concept that they are to approach the Bible with ‘no prior knowledge or interpretation.’ I shall address these implications later in this document.

 

Many Reformed churches and/or denominations continue to adhere to the biblical tradition of creedal or confessional theology developed in their heritage. This heritage does not make the written creed or confession self-authoritative. The authority thereof is from the Scripture alone, as systematically expressed in those doctrinal declarations that are exegetically true to the Word of God. Therefore, the authority is from the Word of God and the creeds derive their authority from that supreme source of truth and knowledge. A. A. Hodge points out that:

 

“It is asserted in the first chapter of this Confession (The Westminster Confession of Faith), and vindicated in this exposition that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, having been given by inspiration of God, are for man in his present state the only and the all-sufficient rule of faith and practice. All that man is to believe concerning God, and the entire duty which God requires of man, are revealed therein, and are to be believed and obeyed because contained therein, is the word of God. This divine word, therefore, is the only standard of doctrine which has intrinsic authority binding the conscience of men. And all other standards are of value or authority only in proportion as they teach what the Scriptures teach. … Every student of the Bible must do this, and all make it obvious that they do it by the terms they use in their prayers and religious discourse, whether they admit or deny the propriety of human creeds and confessions. If they refuse the assistance afforded by the statements of doctrine slowly elaborated and defined by the Church, they must make out their own creed by their own unaided wisdom. The real question is not, as often pretended, between the word of God and the creed of man, but between the tried and proved faith of the collective body of God’s people, and the private judgment and the unassisted wisdom of the repudiator of creeds. … It must be remembered, however, that the matter of these Creeds and Confessions binds the consciences of men only so far as it is purely scriptural, and because it is so; and as to the form in which that matter is stated, they bind those only who have voluntarily subscribed the Confession, and because of that subscription” (The Confession of Faith, pg. 1-3).

 

We must not attach the authority to Church history, for that would be no different that the practices of the Roman Catholic tradition. Rather, the recognition is from the Scripture as thousands of biblical scholars have drawn the same doctrinal statements from their exegetical studies.

 

Biblical and Non-Biblical Traditions

 

The process of formulating doctrinal truths into written propositional statements has been a part of the Christian Church from its earliest development in Apostolic times. The confession is a written work based upon the exegesis of the Holy Scripture. It is the continuation of the Scripture’s own demand that we maintain the standard of sound Words. That ‘standard,’ ‘tradition,’ or ‘symbol’ as creeds were often called, is simply the teaching of the Apostles and prophets as they were moved by the Holy Spirit to write the Scripture. The Apostle Peter wrote in his Second Epistle, “For prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21) We shall now examine what the Bible teaches about tradition according to the teachings of God and men.

 

Tradition According to the Teachings of God

 

There are two types of tradition mentioned in the New Testament. The Greek term ‘paradoxis’ is translated “tradition” in 1 Corinthians 11:2: “Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you.” Those traditions are the ‘doctrines’ and ‘practices’ that the Apostle Paul taught the Corinthians. The same principle is taught in 2 Thessalonians 2:15 which states: “Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.” Again, we find this principle in Colossians 2:6, wherein Paul writes: “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.” In 1 Corinthians 15:1-2 the ‘tradition’ spoken of by Paul is identified as ‘the Gospel’: “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you — unless you believed in vain.” The Lord’s Supper is also identified with the ‘tradition’ that was explicated by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:23: “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread.” Such tradition as found in the Scripture is a confession of the biblical faith. Scriptural tradition is the teachings or doctrines delivered to the Church of Jesus Christ by the sacred writers under the influence of the Holy Spirit. This tradition for the Church continues today as the Scriptural interpretation expressing the true meaning of the Bible. The church was to maintain this tradition, creed, or confession, throughout its history. This is what we mean by orthodox (right teaching) theology. These traditions or creedal doctrines were to be used to identify false teaching by making comparisons. In 1 Timothy 1:10 this principle is spoken of and declared by the Apostle when he states: “for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine.” It is also found in 1 Timothy 6:20: “O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge.” Paul further states in 2 Timothy 1:13-14 that this tradition or confession is to continue to be orthodox in nature. Paul writes, “Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.”  

 

Tradition According to the Teachings of Men

 

To be sure, there are passages that warn about the traditions of men, such as Mark 7:9 which contrasts the Jewish Tradition (which is extra biblical) from the commandment of God. In Mark 7:8 we find the phrase “tradition of men” which states: “For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men — the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.” An example of this phrase, “traditions of men,” is found in Matthew 15:3 where Christ is contrasting the Jewish teachings (not according to the Old Testament), that is, their oral traditions or Rabbinical teachings over against the Commandments of God. Christ states: “He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?” This same concept of the “tradition of men” is stated in Mark 7:13: “making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do.” These “traditions of men” are in the Bible, but they are not the traditions given by God under the influence of the Holy Spirit and maintained and practiced by the Christian Church. It is incumbent upon every Christian to examine all written or oral traditions as developed in the councils, creeds, and confessions as to whether or not they are the teachings of the Word of God. Further, we must flee from the teaching of men no matter how logical or consistent they may appear. Remember, logical consistency is not the standard of whether the content is truth or falsehood. Logic may demonstrate the reasonableness of a doctrine (without contradiction), but the test of the doctrine’s truth or falsity is based on whether or not it is the teaching of God’s Word properly interpreted. However, we are to embrace the doctrines of the Scripture, as formulated by the Church of Jesus Christ, as long as they are in agreement with the Bible.

 

A Reformed Perspective on Tradition

 

This issue for Calvin and the Reformers was not that ‘all tradition is wrong.’ As stated earlier, anyone making such a claim that Calvin or the Reformers held that ‘all tradition is wrong’ simply has not read Calvin or the Reformers correctly! The fact is that everyone has traditions. Councils, creeds, and confessions are nothing more than traditions of the doctrines and practices of the Church derived from Scripture (if they indeed teach the Scripture). That is not to say that all councils, creeds, or confessions are proper interpretations of the Scripture. However, make no mistake that those holding to them will make such a claim. These creeds or confessions can be oral or written. If someone says that, “AD 70 was the fulfillment of all Bible prophecy” that is a ‘tradition,’ ‘creed,’ or ‘confession’ of doctrine. It does not matter if it is written or spoken. If you believe it, teach it, and live by it, it is your tradition; and if adopted by a denomination or church it is their tradition. The question is this: “Whether the ‘tradition,’ ‘creed,’ or ‘confession’ is explicitly or implicitly derived from a right understanding of the teaching of Scripture?” Calvin and the Reformers never rejected biblical traditions, often referred to as ‘apostolic tradition.’ If they did, they would have been rejecting the Scripture itself. It was the ‘papal tradition’ that Calvin and the Reformers so utterly rejected. Calvin maintained that the Scripture alone (Sola Scriptura) was the applied principle in all matters of faith and practice. Calvin wrote a confession of faith (Gallican Confession). He also framed the writing of the Institutes of the Christian Religion and his catechism according to the Apostles Creed. He did not believe that a creed, confession, or council was inspired or inerrant. However, if a creed, confession, or council was faithfully proclaiming the truth or traditions of Scripture, such a creed or confession, in the Reformed perspective, is considered authoritative and binding because it is nothing more than the Bible’s teaching systematized. Such traditions from the Scripture are based upon proper exegetical interpretation. As previously mentioned, Presbyterian theologian A. A. Hodge writing in defense of creedalism states:

 

While, however, the Scriptures are from God, the understanding of them belongs to the part of men. Men must interpret to the best of their ability each particular part of Scripture separately, and then combine all that the Scriptures teach upon every subject into a consistent whole, and then adjust their teachings upon different subjects in mutual consistency as parts of a harmonious system.” (Outlines of Theology, Pg. 113).

 

Therefore, the concept of ‘Sola Scriptura’ simply meant that all doctrines and practices must come from the Scriptures explicitly or implicitly. Calvin and the Reformers maintained that the teachings of creeds, councils, confessions, and even the ‘writings of men’ must be examined as to whether they are teaching the ‘apostolic’ (biblical) traditions (teachings and practices of the Bible). If they are teaching the doctrines of Scripture, they are an authoritative rule for our faith and practice. Dr. Samuel Miller explains this principle by stating:

 

“By a creed, or confession of faith, I mean an exhibition, in human language, of those great doctrines which are believed by the framers of it to be taught in the holy scriptures; and which are drawn out in regular order, for the purpose of ascertaining how far those who wish to unite in church fellowship are really agreed in the fundamental principles of Christianity. Creeds and confessions do not claim to be in themselves laws of Christ’s house, or legislative enactments, by which any set of opinions are constituted truths, and which require, on that account, to be received as truths among the members of his family. They only profess to be summaries, extracted from the scriptures, of a few of those great gospel doctrines which are taught by Christ himself; and which those who make the summary in each particular case concur in deeming important, and agree to make the test of their religious union. They have no idea that, in forming this summary, they make anything truth that was not truth before; or that they thereby contract an obligation to believe what they were not bound by the authority of Christ to believe before. But they simply consider it as a list of the leading truths which the Bible teaches, which, of course, all men ought to believe, because the Bible does teach them; and which a certain portion of the visible church catholic agree in considering as a formula, by means of which they may know and understand one another.” (The Utility and Importance of Creeds and Confessions, Pg. 8).

 

Creedal or confessional theology affords the means by which the Church can teach the doctrines of the Bible. It also allows its members to identify false doctrines. Those who are knowledgeable in Reformed tradition understand that the confession or creed is nothing more than what they exegetically have determined that the Bible teaches, explicitly or implicitly, or as the Westminster Divines stated, “by good and necessary consequence” (WCF Chapter 1, Section 6). In one sense, a creed or confession is just like preaching. Every sermon is a creed or a confession of faith. When the minister stands to speak, his sermon or teaching is the church’s tradition in the context of his understanding of the Bible. Every proposition about believing something taught in the Scripture is, in reality, a creed, or confession. However, that does not mean that every spoken word is biblically acceptable. Scripture alone is the final determiner of what is true or false teaching. The Westminster Divines expressed this premise as follows:

 

“The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself; and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.” (Acts 15:15: “And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written.” 2 Peter 1:20-21: “knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation,  for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”) [WCF Chapter 1, Section 9]

 

They further stated:

 

“The Supreme Judge, by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.” .”). [WCF Chapter 1, Section 10]

 

The Scripture affirms this basic principle. In Matthew 22:29-31 we read: “Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven. But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying.” Further we are told in Ephesians 2:20: “having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.” Again, in Acts 28:25: “So when they did not agree among themselves, they departed after Paul had said one word: “The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers.” The Scripture is the ‘supreme’ judge as to what doctrine or tradition is acceptable and confessed by the Church. However, do not confuse what is meant when a Reformed theologian states that the, “confession or creed says,” because, this is the dynamic equivalent of stating the, “Scripture says.” This type of theological phrasing in the Reformed community is an expression of their common theological language. Only a theological novice would mistake such a statement as meaning the teaching of men and not of God!

 

Roman Catholic Tradition

 

On the other hand, the papacy had, in time, embraced and adopted a position that was extra-biblical as it related to ‘tradition.’ The Church came to believe that ‘ecclesiastical’ authority was on par with biblical authority. Rome argued for a two-fold view of ‘tradition.’ Rome held to both biblically based tradition and extra-biblical tradition as codified by the Church in its administrative (ecclesiastical) process. However, Rome was continuing on the path of apostatizing from the accepted doctrines and practices originally derived from Scripture by replacing them with the traditions of men. Rome maintained that since the Church had the authority to ‘canonize’ the Scripture, such authority existed independently of the Scripture. This was a great source of authority and therefore Rome held that accepted ecclesiastical tradition was superior to Scripture. The Roman Catholic Church made various claims from non-biblical sources as to the validity of their doctrine and practices. However, Roman tradition that was not derived from the text of the Holy Scripture is only a man made tradition and most often referred to as ‘Papal tradition.’ One can find these principles summarily taught throughout the writings of the Council of Trent and Vatican Councils I and II. Papal authority has come a long way in its historical development concerning ‘ecclesiastical’ tradition from its earliest teachings to modern times. We can never forget that such traditions are manmade and have no authority to bind the Church in their doctrines and practices. Rome’s definition of ‘tradition’ is clearly not what we mean by ‘biblical tradition.’

 

A Reformed Response to Rome

 

The Reformation was a return to ‘apostolic simplicity.’ The Reformers were rejecting the tradition of the Roman Catholic Church because their traditions were the “doctrines of men.” The phrase ‘apostolic simplicity’ was one of the adopted mottos expressing the desire of the Reformers to return to ‘apostolic tradition’ (biblical doctrine and praxis for the Church). This could only mean one thing for the Reformers, that the Scripture is the final or supreme authority in regulating the Christian faith. Regula fidei is the Latin phrase that means the rule of faith. The rule of faith in Reformed theology is the doctrines taught in the Scripture and systematically formulated from the interpretation of the Bible as maintained and taught in their churches. However, the Scripture, and the Scripture alone, is the rule by which we judge all teachings, traditions, creeds, confessions, and private teachings written or spoken by men to determine their faithfulness to Scripture.

 

It is not sinful for men to confess their faith, their beliefs about what the Bible teaches. The fact is that the Bible is replete with such confessions. Jesus Christ taught this principle in Matthew 10:32-33: “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.” We find this same principle taught in Pauline literature wherein the Apostle states: “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9-10). It does not matter if that confession is oral or written. But we are commanded to comply with this directive by some means of public statement. Such a confession is expressed by preaching also. Paul writes in Galatians 1:23: “But they were hearing only, “He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy.” The Apostle Paul himself set forth the principle that is was a more developed confession and not just “no creed but Christ or the Bible.” In Ephesians 4:1-6 we read: “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling;  one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Here we find a confession of the Christian faith that is more complex, rather than simplistic. Is not the council, creed, or confession to be an expression of the Church’s unity of faith, that is, unity in its beliefs? The Apostle Paul makes such a claim in Philippians 2:1-3, wherein he states: “Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” I maintain that it is the rejection of such written statements of beliefs, and the refusal to publicly commit to writing what is often taught in sermons and Bible studies that leads to deception. Paul warns the Christians in Ephesians 4:11-16 that unless we are united in Christ, which requires a confession of what we believe about Christ, who he was, what He has done, and what He will yet do for the Church, we will be lead about by every wind of doctrine, that is, the doctrine of men! “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ —  from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”  To have such unity of faith requires much greater specificity than a nominal statement such as “no creed but Christ” or “no creed but the Bible.” The failure in developing confessions based upon the Biblical traditions of the apostles, those beliefs and practices that the Scripture requires for the Church of Jesus Christ, is this; it leads to utter failure of the Church because she will loose her doctrinal moorings by failing to commit to a written confession for the better establishment of the Church. The Westminster Divines make this point in chapter 1, section 1 of their confession of faith wherein they state that the purpose of God to commit to writing His revelation was for the better establishment of the Christian faith. Consider how this statement explicates the need for a written confession or creed by the Church today. The Divines wrote:

 

“Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence, do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of his will, which is necessary unto salvation; therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal himself, and to declare that his will unto his Church; and afterwards, for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which maketh the holy Scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God’s revealing his will unto his people being now ceased.”

 

The Church therefore was to give itself over to the regulation of their faith to guide them in doctrines and practices. This the Reformed Church to very seriously.

 

The Regulative Principle in Reformed Tradition

 

Today we find all kind of practices within many denominations and/or churches that are simply outside of the teaching of Scripture. That is why the Reformers and Puritans contended for ‘the regulative principle in worship.’ This view varies according to the Continental or Puritan perspective but not in principle. The principle is the same and their desire was to keep the worship of God (doctrinal teaching and practice) free from manmade traditions. However, to unify the practice among their churches, they wrote confessional statements that summarized the biblical principles that direct us in the way that God requires us to worship him.

 

However, not all churches have this distinctive principle of Scripture regulating their worship practices. For example, Rome argued for biblical plus Papist traditions to guide them in their worship of God. The Lutherans held that we must teach and practice what God has commanded in His Word. However, the Lutheran maintained that where God has not spoken, we are at liberty to add traditions and teachings as long as they do not contradict the Scriptures. This was not the case for Calvin, the Reformers, or the Puritans. They maintained the position that the Scripture alone governs the worship of God. Whatever the Scripture explicitly and implicitly commands is to be taught and practiced, with nothing to be added by men. Where God does not speak, men are not at liberty to put words into God’s mouth or add to the worship of God according to their own desires! For the Reformed church, our confessional standards direct us in our approach to worship God every Sabbath day according to the teaching of Scripture. This too is a ‘biblical tradition.’ This is the utilization of ‘sola scriptura’ in Reformed Tradition. This demonstrates that there is a necessity of maintaining biblical standards by formulating doctrinal propositions for the more sure establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ. The Westminster Divines wrote concerning this principle of regula fidei in Chapter 21, section 1b that:

 

“But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited to his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representations or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture.”

 

We must now turn our attention to the underlying foundational principles that establish the necessity for biblical creeds or confessions by the Church.

 

 

 

The Necessity of Biblical Traditions or Creeds

 

Too often individuals have ridiculed the use of creeds, confessions, or traditions. However, these individuals are only fooling themselves. Such a statement as being against all creeds or traditions is in reality a ‘creed’ or ‘tradition,’ even if it is a poor one. The term ‘creed’ comes from the Latin word ‘credo’ meaning ‘I believe.’ The affirmation of anything is a statement of belief or doctrine. It is a creedal statement or confession of your faith, that is, what you believe the Bible teaches. For that is the affirmation of a creed or confession. To speak against creeds and confessions is to speak against believing or saying anything. However, that, in itself, is a logical contradiction. The only way to truly practice what anti-creedalists maintain against creeds is for them to stop all writing and talking. At least that would be proof of their own commitment against creeds and confessions. It would be better if they simply would state that ‘some’ creeds and confessions, those traditions not after Scripture should be rejected. Dr. Gordon Clark speaks about the nature of creedal commitment. Clark states:

 

“today many church leaders consider creeds as obstacles to ecumenical union … There are other more humble people who sincerely believe that the adoption of a creed is an act of ecclesiastical presumption. Therefore, several denominations have no creed. They insist on believing nothing. Then there are others who regard creeds, not exactly as presumptious, but as unnecessary” (What Presbyterians Believe, pg. 4).

 

Dr. Clark maintains that a:

 

 “creed then is a statement of what the church must teach. It is the flag the church flies. It states the purpose for which the church exists. Lip service to the creed is dishonest. Diminishing its message is unfaithfulness. Scripture says more than the creed says, and this more must be preached too; but the creed summarizes the most important Biblical teachings, and these must receive the emphasis. The Bible is the Word of God, who cannot lie. When truth is vigorously and fully proclaimed, we may expect his blessing upon it” (What Presbyterians Believe, pg. 6). 

 

Clark adds, “in heaven we shall continue to believe these doctrines. We shall continue to praise God by them and for them. They shall remain our precious possession forever” (What Presbyterians Believe, pg. 7). Why is a creed or confession so important to the Church? It is a means of protecting and defending the Church as she continually faces new trials and adversity. Clark states: “…if you wished to produce a document that would be useful in meeting many of the problems the Church faces, if you wished to preserve and propagate the gospel in the face of the world’s antagonism, you would have to decide upon some logical, systematic arrangement” (What Presbyterians Believe, Pg. 7). In speaking of the Westminster Confession Clark notes that:

 

“These men and their disciples in the following century studied out and wrote down the system of doctrine which the Presbyterian and Reformed churches still profess. The Westminster Confession is no abbreviated creed written by men of abbreviated faith. On the contrary it is the nearest approach men have yet made to a full statement of the whole counsel of God which Paul did not fail to declare. The Westminster Divines were the best Biblical scholars of their time or more they labored unremittingly to formulate their summary of what the Bible Teaches. And so successful were they that their document is justly the basis of many denominations” (What Presbyterians Believe Pg. 283).

 

We must stand against creeds, councils, or traditions that express the extra biblical teachings of men, that is, teachings not derived from the Bible explicitly or implicitly. In 1 John 4:1 we are told, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” The Reformed tradition has done just that in adopting a creedal system of theology as a means to test the ‘teachings’ whether written or spoken. A. A. Hodge states that too often the contention of anti-creedalists is portrayed as an issue that is, “between the word of God and the creed of man, but between the tried and proved faith of the collective body of God’s people, and the private judgment and the unassisted wisdom of the individual objector” (Outlines of Theology, Pg. 113). When we cast off the biblical traditions derived from Scripture, we are beginning down the path of apostate theology. The writer of Jude exhorts us to contend for the faith of the biblical traditions of orthodox theology, he writes: “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 3-4).

 

An Open Invitation: Examine our Biblical Tradition

 

In the Scots Confession of 1560, the ministers wrote in their preface the following:

 

“…that if any man will note in this our Confession any article or sentence repugning to God’s holy word, that it would please him of his gentleness, and for Christian charity’s sake, to admonish us of the same in writ; and We of our honour and fidelity do promise unto him satisfaction from the mouth of God (that is, from his holy Scriptures), or else reformation of that which he shall prove to be amiss. For God we take to record in our consciences, that from our hearts we abhor all sects of heresy, and all teachers of erroneous doctrine; and that with all humility we embrace the purity of Christ’s Evangel, which is the only food of our souls; and therefore so precious unto us, that we are determined to suffer the extremity of worldly danger, rather than that we will suffer ourselves to be defrauded of the same.”

 

The Reformed or Biblical Traditions are our confessions, creeds, and councils that are in agreement with the Word of God. They are our subordinate standards and that means that they are subject to the Word of God, correctly interpreted. Such standards are believed (confessed) to be the teaching of God’s Word. The Church of Scotland, in 1647, when adopting the Westminster Confession of Faith, stated:

 

“And the said Confession being, upon due examination thereof, found by the Assembly to be most agreeable to the Word of God, and in nothing contrary to the received doctrine, worship, discipline, and government of the Kirk (Church).”

 

This is the historic understanding of creedal or confessional theology as taught in the Reformed tradition. We believe that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible, and authoritative Word of God. We assert that councils, creeds, and confessions, the writings, preaching, and teaching of men are just that, the production of men. These productions cannot be inspired, inerrant, or infallible. However, if any council, creed, or confession is in agreement with what the Word of God teaches, it is ‘authoritative’ because it is declaring what the Bible itself declares. Let me state this in another way that might be helpful. Some individuals often mistakenly think that Reformed Christians try to elevate the Confession to the status of the Scripture. The problem is that they do not understand the difference between “subscription to the confession” and our “belief in the Bible as the final authority.” Let me point out that the Reformers and Puritans, from the Reformation to the present day, believe that the creeds and confessions are good for the establishment of the Church in doctrine and practice, but they are not a replacement for Scripture. Confessions are only a doctrinal formula developed from exegetical and hermeneutical studies of the Scripture. The Reformed ‘subscribe’ to doctrinal statements in our confessions as the purist expression of the teaching of Scripture. We maintain that Bible alone is the Word of God, inerrant, infallible, and authoritative Word of God. Therefore, as true to the Scriptures as our doctrinal formulas are, they are a ‘subordinate’ standard to the Bible, yet, ‘authoritative’ if they convey the same teaching as the Scripture. The following vow was required for all Assembly members who met at Westminster to examine the Scripture in order to formulate the correct and pure teaching of the Word of God for Christ’s Church. “I (name) do seriously promise and vow, in the presence of Almighty God, That in this Assembly, whereof I am a member, I will maintain nothing in point of doctrine, but what I believe to be most agreeable to the Word of God; nor in point of discipline, but what may make most for God’s glory, and the peace and good of this church” (WCF, Free Presbyterian Publications, pg. 13). It is also worthy to note in the Foreword of the Free Presbyterian Publications what John Walter Ross, the Convener of the Publications Committee wrote about the Westminster Confession of Faith. “In every age a Confession is necessary; how much more in an age of doubt such as ours. In the Westminster Confession of Faith we have the ‘entire doctrinal process of Protestantism making itself confessionally manifest.’ It gives expression to divine truth in a manner which meets with surprising fitness the issues and questions of the present day. The charge that creeds usurp the place that belongs to Scripture cannot be brought against the Westminster Confession of Faith. The seal which the Westminster divines adopted took the form of an open book with the inscription The Word of God upon its pages. This badge fitly symbolized that unique place that Scripture was to be given by the formulators of the Confession. Indeed one of the first rules of the Assembly was: ‘What any man undertakes to prove as necessary, he shall make good ‘out of the Scripture.’ It is not surprising, therefore, when one turns to the Confession itself to find that it begins by asserting the authority of Holy Scripture as the supreme and final rule of faith and conduct. Having thus affirmed that the ‘source and foundation of all belief’ is the Bible it proceeds to present the fundamentals of our Christian religion.”

 

It is for this reason that we teach and train young men according to the confessional standards of the Reformed faith. As Dr. Samuel Miller, one time professor at Princeton Theological Seminary stated to young men training for the ministry:

 

“The character and situation of one who is preparing for the sacred office are interesting beyond the power of language to express. Such a one, like the Master whom he professes to love and serve, is “set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel” (Luke 2:34). In all that he is, and in all that he does, the temporal and eternal welfare not only of himself, but of thousands, may be involved. On every side he is beset with perils. Whatever may be his talents and learning, if he has not genuine piety, he will probably be a curse instead of a blessing to the church. But this is not the only danger to which he is exposed. He may have unfeigned piety, as well as talents and learning; and yet, from habitual indiscretion; from a defect in that sobriety of mind, which is so precious to all men, but especially to every one who occupies a public station; from a fondness for novelty and innovation, or from that love of distinction which is so natural to men; after all, instead of edifying the “body of Christ,” he may become a disturber of its peace, and a corrupter of its purity; so that we might almost say, whatever may be the result with respect to himself, “it had been good for the church if he had never been born(cf. Matt. 26:24).” (The Utility and Importance of Creeds and Confessions, Pg. 9).

 

May God save us from such men who desire to minister or teach the Word but are prone to novelty that inflates their ego but does damnable damage to the body of Christ! Christian, know what you believe! Confess what you believe! Write, preach, and teach your beliefs according to the Word of God. Sola Scriptura is not in conflict with creedal or confessional tradition. Rather, a biblical creedal or confessional tradition adheres to ‘sola scriptura’ and makes the use and practice of ‘sola scriptura’ multifunctional for the Church of Jesus Christ. Soli Deo Gloria! 

© 2009  Kenneth Gary Talbot

What do YOU think ?

Submit Your Comments For Posting Here
Comment Box Disabled For Security


 

Date: 03 Sep 2012
Time: 07:41:21

Your Comments:

I think it's a battle of everyone wanting to be right. Wow! What a crowd of so called "believers."
I think that all this is creating more confusion.
I think it's true that "all men are liars" and only God is true.

 


 

Click For Index Page

Free Online Books Historical Preterism Modern Preterism Study Archive Critical Articles Dispensationalist dEmEnTiA  Main Josephus Church History Hyper Preterism Main

Email PreteristArchive.com's Sole Developer and Curator, Todd Dennis  (todd @ preteristarchive.com) Opened in 1996
http://www.preteristarchive.com