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Baptist Confessions of Faith

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1 Baptist Confessions of Faith

2 Baptist Confessions of Faith
I. Introduction A. A Survey of Selected Confessions B. Not a Detailed Theological Study C. Creeds vs. Confessions D. A Reminder about Baptist Theology E. On Rejection of Confessions

3 Confessions are bridges, not walls

4 Leon McBeth "’A creed excludes, and a confession includes. A creed tells you what you must believe, and a confession affirms what you do believe.’"

5 George Wills "Throughout Baptist history, Baptists have used the terms 'creed,' 'confession of faith,' 'articles of faith,' 'summary of doctrines' and 'abstract of principles' synonymously."

6 Charles Deweese “A confession and a creed can be worded exactly the same way. The thing that determines whether it's a confession or a creed is how it's used A confession is a document to which there is a voluntary response A creed is a statement of belief which is in a sense forced on a body - there is an attempt to achieve a level of uniformity or conformity."

7 Russell Reno “[Confessions] are exercises in drawing boundaries where the particular force of traditional Christian claims is sharpened to heighten the contrast between true belief and false belief As they shape our beliefs, confessions structure our identities.”

8 The Conclusion of the 1646 revision of the First London Confession
“we confess, that we know but in part, and that we are ignorant of many things which we desire and seek to know; and if any shall do us that friendly part to show us from the word of God that which we see not, we shall have cause to be thankful to God and them; but if any man shall impose upon us anything that we see not to be commanded by our Lord Jesus Christ, we should in His strength rather embrace all reproaches and tortures of men, to be stripped of all outward comforts, and if it were possible, to die a thousand deaths, rather than to do anything against the least tittle of the truth of God or against the light of our own consciences.”

9 The Baptist Faith and Message 1925
“As introductory to the doctrinal articles, we recommend the adoption by the Convention of the following statement of the historic Baptist conception of the nature and function of confessions of faith in our religious and denominational life, believing that some such statement will clarify the atmosphere and remove some causes of misunderstand, friction, and apprehension. Baptists approve and circulate confessions of faith with the following understandings, namely: (1) That they constitute a consensus of opinion of some Baptist body, large or small, for the general instruction and guidance of our own people and others concerning those articles of the Christian faith which are most surely held among us. They are not intended to add anything to the simply conditions of salvation revealed in the New Testament, viz., repentance towards God, and faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord. (2) That we do not regard them as complete statements of our faith, having any quality of finality or infallibility. As in the past so in the future, Baptists should hold themselves free to revise their statements of faith as may seem to them wise and expedient at any time. (3) That any group of Baptists, large or small, have the inherent right to draw up for themselves and publish to the world a confession of their faith whenever they may think it advisable to do so. (4) That the sole authority for faith and practice among Baptists is the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Confessions are only guides in interpretation, having no authority over the conscience. (5) That they are statements of religious convictions drawn from the Scriptures, and are not to be used to hamper freedom of thought or investigation in other realms of life.”

10 “Baptist Distinctives and Diversities”
“The foundation truth upon which Baptists build is the Lordship of Christ over the individual believer. All other authorities are judged by the authority of the Son of God. Ultimate loyalty, therefore, is given to a Person, rather than to creeds, books, historic patterns, or effective procedures. Christ’s will is mandatory for the believer. Joyful submission and purposeful obedience to the Savior form the essence of the Christian life” (“Baptist Distinctives and Diversities”).

11 Ultimate loyalty is therefore given to a person rather than to creeds!
Jesus is Lord Ultimate loyalty is therefore given to a person rather than to creeds!

12 William L. Lumpkin “The Baptist Movement has traditionally been non-creedal in the sense that it has not erected authoritative confessions of faith as official bases of organization and tests of orthodoxy” (Baptist Confessions of Faith 16). Further, “No confession has ever permanently bound individuals, churches, associations, conventions, or unions among Baptists. Even when issued, the confessions have allowed for individual interpretation and perspective, so that each signatory was made to feel that the statements spoke of him” (17). “These confessions represent the sincere desire of many Baptist communities to set forth their interpretations of the Scriptures regarding Christian belief and practice. No single confession has yet appeared which would be acceptable to all Baptists. On the other hand, all Baptist confessions demonstrate enough of essential agreement to procure for their proponents an acknowledgement of membership in the Baptist family It is inevitable that other confessions will be prepared and used in various groups in years to come, as men try to put into clear words their understanding of the teachings of the Scriptures” (435-36, emphasis mine).

13 Tom Nettles On the Rejection of Confessions
“. . . four objections to the serious use of confessions, or creeds, have appeared historically and continue to appear today. First, in the spirit of Thomas Armitage, many sincerely urge in opposition to confessions the principle of sola scriptura. Second, some argue that the use of confessions will give a false confidence that scripture truth is exhausted by the confession and thus stunt true growth in the knowledge of the Scriptures. A person will feel that knowledge of the confession is enough and will consequently isolate himself from the dynamic of the living Word of God. Third, a confession can be used in such a way as to repress genuine searching, give artificial answers to questions, and threaten those who are in a stage of inquiry, thereby tyrannizing the tender consciences of believers. Fourth, mental assent to the doctrines of the confession has often served as a substitute for true conversion and has led to dead orthodoxy” (my emphases).

14 John Leland "Why this Virgin Mary between the souls of men and the Scriptures? Had a system of religion been essential to salvation or even the happiness of the saints, would not Jesus, who was faithful in all his house, have left us one? If he has, it is accessible to all. If he has not, why should a man be called a heretick because he cannot believe what he cannot believe, though he believes the Bible with all his heart? Confessions of faith often check any farther pursuit after truth, confine the mind into a particular way of reasoning, and give rise to frequent separations."

15 Baptist Confessions of Faith
II. Confessions: Their Purposes and Uses A. A Variety of Views B. Some General Points 1. William L. Lumpkin 2. Carol Crawford Holcomb 3. H. Leon McBeth 4. Preface of the Second London Confession, 1689 C. A Specific Use 1. John Smyth’s Short Confession of Faith 2. Article 55 of The Faith and Practice of Thirty Congregations (1651)

16 Bill J. Leonard “Some Baptists reject the use of confessions altogether as detrimental to biblical authority as the only ‘rule of faith and practice’ for Baptist churches. Others use confessions but with a disclaimer that they are not binding on the conscience of any believer who might differ with one segment or another. Still others gather their churches and denominations around such documents as an antidote to heresy and doctrinal laxity. Some compel congregational or denominational employees or board members to sign confessional documents as a part of their requirements for service.”

17 William L. Lumpkin “These confessions represent the sincere desire of many Baptist communities to set forth their interpretations of the Scriptures regarding Christian belief and practice.” A secondary use was as “. . . summaries for instruction of member, as means of refuting heresy, and as guides to the study of the Bible.”

18 Carol Crawford Holcomb
They “were accused of publishing ‘seditious pamphlets,’ of conducting ‘night meetings of naked men and women,’ and of promoting ‘licentious spiritual marriages.’” The First London Confession (1644) was issued “to set the record straight concerning their beliefs and practices.”

19 H. Leon McBeth “Baptists often used confessions not to proclaim ‘Baptist distinctives’ but instead to show how similar Baptists were to other orthodox Christians.” Fisher Humphreys adds, The First London Confession (1644) is “an early Baptist exercise in public and ecumenical theology” which “clearly displays that Baptists engaged in the practice of public theology.”

20 Preface of the Second London Confession (1689)
“And forasmuch as that Confession [the 1644 London Confession] is not now commonly to be had, and also that many others have since embraced the same truth which is owned therein, it was judged necessary by us to join together in giving a testimony to the world of our firm adhering to those wholesome principles by the publication of this which is now in your hand.”

21 Preface of the Second London Confession (1689)
“One thing that greatly prevailed with us to undertake this work was (not only to give a full account of ourselves to those Christians that differ from us about the subject of baptism, but also) the profit that might from thence arise unto those that have any account of our labors in their instruction and establishment in the great truths of the Gospel, in the clear understanding and steady belief of which our comfortable walking with God, and fruitfulness before him in all our ways, is most nearly concerned In those things wherein we differ from others we have expressed ourselves with all candor and plainness, that none might entertain jealousy of aught secretly lodged in our breasts that we would not the world should be acquainted with; yet we hope we have also observed those rules of modesty and humility as will render our freedom in this respect inoffensive, even to those whose sentiments are different from ours.”

22 John Smyth’s Short Confession of Faith, Article 13
“That the church of Christ has power delegated to themselves of announcing the word, administering the sacraments, appointing ministers, disclaiming them, and also excommunicating; but the last appeal is to the brethren of the body of the church.”

23 The Faith and Practice of Thirty Congregations (1651) Article 55
“That if any one of the fellowship neglect the watching over his own heart, and so break out into an evill life and conversation, and all good meanes that God hath appointed hath been used towards such a one, and that person hath not performed, then ought not such a one to break bread with obedient walkers, to shew forth the death of Christ, seeing he doth deny him in life and conversation; I Cor ”

24 Baptist Confessions of Faith
III. Survey of Selected Confessions of Faith A. The First London Confession 1644 B. The Faith and Practice of Thirty Congregations 1651 C. The New Hampshire Confession 1833 D. The Baptist Faith and Message

25 The First London Confession 1644
Refuted five charges: 1. holding to free will 2. holding to falling from grace 3. denying original sin 4. opposing the magistracy 5. unseemly acts in baptisms

26 ON FREE WILL “And touching his creature man, God had in Christ before the foundation of the world, according to the good pleasure of his will, foreordained some men to eternal life through Jesus Christ, to the praise and glory of his grace, leaving the rest in their sin to their just condemnation, to the praise of his Justice.”

27 ON FALLING FROM GRACE “Those that have this precious faith wrought in them by the Spirit, can never finally nor totally fall away; and though many storms and floods do arise and beat against them, yet they shall never be able to take them off that foundation and rock which by faith they are fastened upon, but shall be kept by the power of God to salvation, where they shall enjoy their purchased possession, they being formerly engraven upon the palms of God's hands.”

28 ON ORIGINAL SIN “In the beginning God made all things very good, created man after his own Image and likeness, filling him with all perfection of all natural excellency and uprightness, free from all sin. But long he abode not in this honor, but by the subtlety of the Serpent, which Satan used as his instrument, himself with his Angels having sinned before, and not kept their first estate, but left their own habitation; first Eve, then Adam being seduced did wittingly and willingly fall into disobedience and transgression of the Commandment of their great Creator, for the which death came upon all, and reigned over all, so that all since the Fall are conceived in sin, and brought forth in iniquity, and so by nature children of wrath, and servants of sin, subjects of death, and all other calamities due to sin in this world and forever, being considered in the state of nature, without relation to Christ.”

29 ON THE MAGISTRACY “That a civil Magistracy is an ordinance of God set up by God for the punishment of evil doers, and for the praise of them that do well; and that in all lawful things commanded by them, subjection ought to be given by us in the Lord: and that we are to make supplication and prayer for Kings, and all that are in authority, that under them we may live a peaceable and quiet life in all godliness and honesty.”

30 ON UNSEEMLY ACTS “The way and manner of the dispensing of this Ordinance the Scripture holds out to be dipping or plunging the whole body under water: it being a sign, must answer the thing signified, which are these: first, the washing the whole soul in the blood of Christ: Secondly, that interest the Saints have in the death, burial, and resurrection; thirdly, together with a confirmation of our faith, that as certainly as the body is buried under water, and riseth again, so certainly shall the bodies of the Saints be raised by the power of Christ in the day of the resurrection, to reign with Christ. [The word Baptizo, signifying to dip under water, yet so as with convenient garments both upon the administrator and subject, with all modesty.]”

31 The First London Confession 1644
Walter B. Shurden: it “was the first Baptist confessional statement to specify immersion as the scriptural manner of baptism.” Henry C. Vedder: It is “’the first publication of the doctrine of freedom of conscience, in an official document representing a body associated churches ” William Lumpkin: “Perhaps no Confession of Faith has had so formative an influence on Baptist life as this one. Vedder [a noted Baptist historian] calls it one of the chief landmarks of Baptist history. Harold Brown well says, ‘This significant document of 1644 embodies practically evey doctrine that present-day Baptists hold dear, and is, therefore vastly important in Baptist history ’”

32 The Faith and Practice of Thirty Congregations 1651 Opening Statement
“Published in love by consent of two from each Congregation, appointed for that purpose. a. To inform those who have a desire to know what Religious Duties they hold forth. b. To undeceive those that are mis-informed thereof. c. To the end that the said Congregations may in love and the spirit of Meekness, be informed by any that conceive they walk amiss.”

33 The Faith and Practice of Thirty Congregations 1651 Article 48
“That the way and manner of baptizing, both before the death of Christ, and since his resurrection and ascension, was to go into the water, and to be baptized.”

34 The New Hampshire Confession 1833 on the freeness of salvation:
“We believe that the blessings of salvation are made free to all by the gospel; that it is the immediate duty of all to accept them by a cordial, penitent, and obedient faith; and that nothing prevents the salvation of the greatest sinner on earth but his own inherent depravity and voluntary rejection of the gospel; which rejection involves him in an aggravated condemnation.”

35 The New Hampshire Confession 1833 on perseverance:
“We believe that such only are real believers as endure unto the end; that their persevering attachment to Christ is the grand mark which distinguishes them from superficial professors; that a special Providence watches over their welfare; and they are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.”

36 The New Hampshire Confession 1833 on civil government:
“We believe that civil government is of divine appointment, for the interests and good order of human society; and that magistrates are to be prayed for, conscientiously honored, and obeyed, except in things opposed to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the only Lord of the conscience, and the Prince of the kings of the earth.”

37 Baptist Confessions of Faith
IV. A Look at Sources A. Selected Confessions 1. The First London Confession The Second London Confession The Philadelphia Association Confession The New Hampshire Confession The Baptist Faith and Message 1925 B. An Example of the Evolution of a Confession





42 The New Hampshire Confession: Points related to Calvinism From Article VI:
“That the blessings of salvation are made free to all by the Gospel; that it is the immediate duty of all to accept them by a cordial, [penitent,] and obedient faith; and that nothing prevents the salvation of the greatest sinner on earth except his own [inherent depravity and] voluntary refusal to submit to the Lord Jesus Christ, which refusal will subject him to an aggravated condemnation” (the brackets indicate changes made in 1853).

43 The New Hampshire Confession: Points related to Calvinism From Article XI:
“That such only are real believers as endure unto the end; that their persevering attachment to Christ is the grand mark which distinguishes them from mere professors; that a special Providence watches over their welfare; and [that] they are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.”


45 Baptist Confessions of Faith
V. A Time for Sharing Confessions of Faith

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