Four Reasons for Search Committees to Consider Baptist Confessions

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TylerR's picture

Editor

I love this confession. It warms my heart when I read it, and it is an excellent, brief but comprehensive summary of Christian truth.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Bert Perry's picture

It strikes me that, used properly, a confession or creed is a great way of making sure the search committee is discipled in some critical doctrines.  Used poorly, it's a great pretext for a shouting match.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Ron Bean's picture

I was a candidate at a Baptist Church that was founded before the American Revolution. I was pleased to see that it claimed the Philadelphia Confession of Faith as its declaration of doctrine. After preaching there a number of Sundays, I met with the pulpit committee for examination where I was informed that I would not be considered because I was a Calvinist. They knew that because my written answers to their questionnaire were definitely Calvinistic. Those answers were quotes from the PCF. When I pointed out that this was their church's doctrinal statement, they said that it wasn't what they believed as a church.

I appreciate confessions and creeds but it's important that the churches know what they mean.  

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

TylerR's picture

Editor

I come from a Christian tradition on the moderate far right of fundamentalism (e.g. so-called "imperial fundamentalism") where there is basically no tradition at all. Over the years, thanks to some good education, I've gradually learned to appreciate the rich history of the generally Reformed and Baptist traditions. Here are some takeaways for me:

  • Creeds and Confessions. What a wonderful reference source, and a place to learn. These documents are masterpieces, written by learned and Godly men who didn't have Logos 7 or Bibleworks 10. I am in awe whenever I read the 1833 NHCF, or the 1689 London Confession, or the Belgic Confession, or the 2nd Helvetic Confession. What amazing resources for Christians, as summary statements of Christian doctrine! Because I come from a tradition with little to no appreciation for Reformed and Baptist history, when I went for ordination, I wrote my own doctrinal statement from scratch. What would I do now? I'd point to the 1833 NHCF and say, "that's what I believe. Ask me anything you want and I'll elaborate 'till the cows come home."
  • History. I'm very interested in real history, not well-meaning but whitewashed propaganda (e.g. the Novatians were Baptists!). I think Christians need to have a deep appreciation for how events shaped men, and the decisions they made. I admit I've been extraordinarily influenced by Carl Trueman on this. I've listened to two separate, graduate-level courses he's done on the Reformation, and I think his approach to doing history is the way to go. I've actually dropped plans to get a PhD one day, and plan to do a secular MA in Ancient and Classical History, focused on the patristic era, instead.  
  • Liturgy. No, I don't mean I've become a Roman Catholic, or bought a black robe. I mean I think Baptists should consciously try to be a bit more "high church." I picked up a copy of the Book of Common Prayer at a used bookstore a while back, and I've been looking through it. The orders of service (e.g. liturgy!) are simply beautiful. Read the recitation and prayers for Baptism or the Lord's Supper. They're beautiful. Adapt them, and get rid of the paedo-baptist stuff. Use them. The corporate prayers of confession for the Pastor are models of heartfelt, beautiful prayers. Think how you could model competent prayer for the congregation! I could go on, but The Book of Common Prayer is a real treasure. It can be adapted and implemented here and there in our services. I think it'll enrich things.

I appreciate my fundamental Baptist roots. I still think I am a fundamentalist. But, I am very grateful I've broadened my horizons to take in some good stuff (and reject even more bad stuff!) from other traditions. We don't have to re-invent the wheel every generation. We should learn from folks in the past, even if they did live before 1800!

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Bert Perry's picture

A good picture of the problems with a lack of creeds are shown by the Restoration movement--I'm glad "no creed but Christ" started among Baptists, and I'm even gladder that the Baptists were the ones to show them the door as well.  Restorationists had a tendency to jettison even critical doctrines like the Trinity.  A good, USED creed (thanks Ron) is a great sanity check.

And regarding liturgies, while not all churches make the Lord's Supper into a sacrament, all churches do in effect have a liturgy.  The question is whether it points to Christ well or not, not whether it exists.  I, too, was taken with the beauty of liturgies when I visited Europe and saw an Anglican liturgy in Copenhagen (St. Alban's on the harbor) and various Catholic churches across the continent.  I learned enough so that when I was at St. Peter's in Rome, I was asked what this and that was.  Then I was out of my depth!

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.