Saturday, August 29, 2015

Creeds and Liberty

How often have you heard these statements? “I affirm the Fulton Confession of 1900, just as all sound PB brethren did over a century ago.” Or maybe, “I stand by the Second London Confession of Faith (1689), as our Baptist forefathers did.” Such unprofitable intramural squabbles have existed for some time among the Old Baptists, even as some of our forefathers short-sightedly declared, “I am of Paul” and “I am of Apollos.” 

It seems there’s no shortage of opinions on the matter of historical creeds in the Old Baptist church. When I hear these discussions I find myself thinking, “You say you affirm thus and such creed, but do you affirm the liberties that accompany that affirmation?” As lively discussion on the matter of the historical creeds of the Baptist faith continues to crop up, it occurs to me that those who posit their preferred creed as some de facto test for Old Baptist orthodoxy must go all the way and likewise affirm the unavoidable logical ramifications of their position. Simply stated: One cannot affirm an Old Baptist creed apart from affirming Old Baptist liberty. Consider the following:

The Fulton Confession of Faith Camp

Those who stand in lock step with the Fulton Confession of Faith (1900) as an orthodox summary of Old Baptist beliefs in so doing admit to the rights of ANNOTATION and CLARIFICATION, given that the Fulton brethren were unwilling to affirm the Second London Confession of Faith apart from the addition of their clarifying notes. It follows that any Old Baptist of this day and age must likewise be afforded the same liberty with respect to written confessions that their Old Baptist forefathers were given.

The Second London Confession of Faith Camp

Moreover, those who stand in lock step with the Second London Confession of Faith (1689) as an orthodox summary of Old Baptist beliefs in so doing admit to the rights of BORROWING, EDITING, COMPOSITION, and REJECTION, as their document is undeniably an hybrid born of the exercise of these rights toward the Westminster Confession of Faith (1646) - itself a product of Scottish Presbyterianism.  

This point bears repeating – because the Second London Confession is in no small measure directly copied from the WCF which preceded it, those who believe it represents an authoritative standard for Old Baptist orthodoxy are admitting, at least in part, that Old Baptist heritage is a product of the reformation, rather than a product of the Anabaptists who long preceded and were persecuted by the reformers.

But I digress, the core observation here is that if one regards the Second London Confession of Faith as a test for Old Baptist orthodoxy, they must also afford their current Old Baptist brethren the same liberty of BORROWING, EDITING, COMPOSITION, and REJECTION that their forefathers undeniably possessed as a matter of historical fact. 

Old Baptist Liberty is Unavoidable

Confessional examples could be multiplied but these observations are sufficient to make the case against the dangers of using historical creeds as a test of Old Baptist orthodoxy.  Whatever one might make of the much ballyhooed confessions of Baptist history, those who suggest that they represent a valid test of Old Baptist orthodoxy must likewise affirm the Old Baptist liberty of ANNOTATION, CLARIFICATION, BORROWING, EDITING, COMPOSITION, and REJECTION, as a matter of unavoidable logical consequence, because it is impossible to affirm the creed while rejecting the self-same liberty required to produce it. Refusal of such liberty denies those who would refuse to sign-off on these confessions the self-same liberty that their Old Baptists forefathers exercised in creating these confessions. And once the liberty of ANNOTATION, CLARIFICATION, BORROWING, EDITING, COMPOSITION, and REJECTION is established, every appeal to these statements as a required test for orthodoxy is obliterated.

Therefore the Bible ALONE is our Sole Rule of Faith and Practice

And so it is for this reason that we must reject the rise of formal creedalism among the Old Baptists and instead orient ourselves directly around the word of God, which declares of itself:
“The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.” (Psalm 12:6-7) 
“It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. “ (Matthew 4:4)
“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.” (II Timothy 3:16-17)


And if it seem evil unto you to heed this admonition directly from the word of God, perhaps you will hear it from an authority for which you have higher regard:
“The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience.” (Second London Confession of Faith, 1.1)
Plainly stated, if it takes a quotation from the confession to convince you of this truth, then I rest my case regarding the dangers of confessionalism in the Old Baptist Church. 

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