Sunday, May 20, 2007

On Confessional Subscription

As I have been arguing, there is "a wide gulf fixed" between the Reformed doctrine of Sola Scriptura on the one hand, and the evangelical insistence upon Solo Scriptura on the other. The former locates the revelation of God in the Bible alone, and then recognizes that Bible as the church’s Book to interpret with a secondary and derivative authority. The latter also recognizes the Scripture as the sole source of divine revelation, but then dismisses as legalistic any attempts at authoritative interpretation (except those that result from the still small voice of God to the autonomous individual).

In a word, the Reformed believer seeks to understand Scripture in community with the cloud of witnesses that has gone before us, while the evangelical often sees the church's prior creeds and confessions as dusty old threats to the fresh revelations of the Holy Spirit (for being "the shy member" of the Godhead, he sure seems to have a lot to say these days).

This brings up an interesting conundrum for the Reformed confessionalist, however. What does it mean to "subscribe" to a confession, creed, or catechism? Must every jot and tittle be affirmed, or only the parts that are "essential to the system"? If the former, how much detail (or lack thereof) should our doctrinal standards contain? If the latter, who gets to decide what is included in this "confession within the confession"?

Personally, I have never been satisfied with my own position on this issue, so I hope that my mind gets at least a little closer to being made up throughout this discussion.

Opine away….