This morning, Rick Patrick posted an article on SBC Today entitled “The Rise of Soteriological Traditionalism.” In this article, he explains how the Traditionalist Statement was a natural product of a necessary movement in the SBC to balance its soteriology. Have I mentioned I hate the way Christians often over-use the word balance? It’s sooo imbalanced! But I digress. Having read the aforementioned article, I can’t help but think that Nettles’ article below might have perhaps been written, at least partially, in reaction to it.
The pivotal question of how one concedes authoritative force to a creedal, or confessional, proposition holds paramount importance in their use in pedagogical and disciplinary ways. If churches, associations, or denominations as a whole are to use their creeds as instruments of ordination, church instruction, and discipline, then some method of demonstrating the biblical character of their propositions must be clearly conceived. Phillip Schaff rightly reminds Christians, that “the Bible has, therefore, a divine and absolute, the Confession only an ecclesiastical and relative, authority.” Additionally, he warns that “any higher view of the authority of symbols is unprotestant and essentially Romanizing.” Having issued that caveat, he proposed, “Confessions, in due subordination to the Bible, are of great value and use.” He called them “summaries of the doctrines of the Bible, aids to its sound understanding, bonds of union among their professors, public standards and guards against false doctrine and practice” (Philip Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, 3 volumes, 1:7, 8.)
Confidence in the biblical authenticity of a creed’s content comes by familiarity with its historical and doctrinal context compared with the way each party interpreted Scripture. Creeds and confessions help us in consolidating the exegetical options that have characterized disagreements in the history of Christianity. They set forth propositions that are the summation of a particular group’s understanding of what Scripture teaches. The confessional propositions make possible close investigation as to their biblical fidelity and acceptance or rejection on that basis. If the creedal proposition is accepted as an accurate synthesis of biblical truth, that proposition becomes an element of an interpreter’s exegetical principles. Keep reading…