Tuesday, April 01, 2008

A Confession, not a Denomination

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1 John 4:15
Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God

A Christian without a confession is like a ship in the ocean, without rudder and without sail. To be a Christian is to confess the Gospel. To believe is to confess, to confess is to believe.


Steve Newell said...

Most "evangelical" churches don't like confessions because it forces them put into writing what they teach, believe and confess. They will counter with "No creed but the Bible" but that doesn't explain how they read the bible. The confession also acts as an anchor hold a church to its doctrine when the winds of church fads come.

For example, most "evangelical" churches reject the real presents in the bread and wine of Christ. They will state they that they teach what the bible teaches until we get to the clear words of Jesus and the writing of Paul. Likewise, many don't have a clear distinction between Law & Gospel and this becomes evident in their pastor's sermons.

Augustinian Successor said...

Too true ... I mean the distinction between Law and Gospel is BASIC to PREACHING THE WORD OF GOD. It's sad that even in many conservative or confessional Reformed circles, such ignorance or neglect persists ...

Many of the Reformed and evangelicals neglect to understand the Lord's Supper must be understood as the Last Will and Testament. THAT is the basic approach to interpreting the Last Supper. Instead, the Last Supper is thought of a memorial event. This becomes the basic approach for the Reformed and evangelicals.

But the Last Will and Testament is not meant to be remembered as a memorial event. It is meant to be distributed - TO BE GIVEN FOR YOU. To remember Jesus is precisely to receive His Body and Blood in, under and with the bread and wine, BROKEN AND SHED ON THE CROSS FOR YOU. In other words, Do this in memory of Me means that the Church remembers Jesus in the action of eating and drinking as the event of the Cross "becomes real" in the living present. It is not so much we go back to the past, but the past catches up with us or is extended to us. But it is precisely not a gnostic Cross which simply a knowledge to be had and recalled each time at the celebration, but the Cross is MEDIATED to us by the event of the Lord's Supper itself. In the eschatological sense, the Cross actually 'pre-dates' the Lord's Supper. What comes first in the temporal sense is reversed in eschatological sense.

So, yes the Lutheran Confessions are right on the score when they say that the Holy Spirit (and by extension, the work of the Cross) is mediated ONLY by the Word and Sacraments.

Augustinian Successor said...

That is to say, unlike the modern Reformed and evangelical understanding of the Lord's Supper as the occasion or context in which to remember His death, the Lutheran tradition rightly insist that as a matter of principle from the biblical and confessional stance, the Lord's Supper itself is the MEANS or INSTRUMENT by which we do the remembering. This precisely explains why we Lutherans find it difficult to be accommodating and compromising on this issue.

Such is the confusion between the Lord's Supper which is a Sacrament of the Gospel and the rites of the Church. In the scheme of the modern Reformed/evangelical, the Sacrament is conflated together with the rites of the Church! At least, that is the implication of hte treatment. No wonder, the attitude is that it is just an ordinance which we hear a lot in these circles, and not a Sacrament.

The Lord's Supper is not something ADDED to the life of the Church, but INTEGRAL to the life of the Church!

In the final analysis, like Baptism, observing the Lord's Supper becomes a Law, not Gospel as it should be. It becomes necessary not for SALVATION, but necessary because of TRADITION.

L P Cruz said...


It is rather sad that evangelicals identify themselves to be protestants but they do not know what the early protestants taught.

That discussion on the Lord's Supper is very enlightening. The thing though is what makes folk stumble upon it is because it is not rational. The mind says it can not be so it must not be.

Hence, to believe the FOR YOU is again faith. It is interesting too that AP IV says that we also do not take it ex opere operato.

Rather faith cleaves to the word and not the action per se. So it is not intuitive hence, if it is not then it gets reduced to Law, which is what it should not be.


Augustinian Successor said...

In summary, what the Reformed and evangelicals fail to understand is that the Lord's Supper is not ABOUT the Gospel --- it IS the Gospel.

Irony of ironies, the Roman Church with its abomination and aberration correctly understand the basic principle that the Lord's Supper is the Gospel. The abomination consists of bridging the time gap by going back to the Cross. This in effect ritualises the historicity of the Supper instead of sacramentalising it. Thus the Cross as the source of the Lord's Supper and the Lord's Supper as the means of the Cross is confused. They are distinct and NOT the same! (although intimately related).

The Supper is not about going back in time to the Cross by enacting, but precisely applying the power of the Cross in the living present!

When Our Lord says This do in remembrance of Me, it is precisely to remind us that it is His death which makes the Supper efficacious and hence the 'benefits' received real!

We say to our Reformed and evangelical brethren, the Lord's Supper is the GOSPEL!

Augustinian Successor said...

Contra the Roman and the Reformed, at the risk of oversimplification, the Lord's Supper is not an enactment but the execution of the Last Will and Testament of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by the authorised ministers of the Church. (It is a public cult meant for private consumption only).

This is why the term visual words is probably misleading, as I think the more about it. Lutherans are right in calling it, the bodily word. The bread and wine are not just symbols but they embody the Body and Blood of Christ, which broken and shed for you. This is why it is an eschatological meal. It looks forward to the manifestation of the union and communion the Church now enjoys with the Lord.

In the scheme of the modern Reformed and evangelical, symbols becomes a BARRIER to fellowship!!! Instead of the very means of fellowship ... if this or that is symbolic, then the meal is no longer eschathologically-oriented, properly speaking but takes on a more apocalyptic dimension when we await for the REAL action to arrive. But, no Jesus is here and now FOR US, hidden in the very lowly creatures of bread and wine as 'pre-figuring' the glorious restored union between the heavenly and earthly. His glory is revealed here and now, though not fully, but still really.

Augustinian Successor said...

"Hence, to believe the FOR YOU is again faith. It is interesting too that AP IV says that we also do not take it ex opere operato."

My personal opinion (which does not really count as distinctly Lutheran) is that though the impious truly and really partake of the Body and Blood of Christ, the presence is not "definitive", but "repletive". In other words, the definitive presence of Jesus in the bread and wine is only for the elect - FOR YOU. The promise of the Gospel is 'attached' to the presence, so to speak. But the impious eat Jesus Who is there as Judge and King (seateth at the right hand of God the Father).

So, whilst Jesus died for sins of the whole world, elect and reprobate alike, and hence reconciled all to the Father, only the elect are justified by faith in the Lord's Supper. To be reconciled, in my mind, means there are no impediment to believing the Gospel or being saved. The Law (as distinguished from the Gospel) applies to all irrespective of the Cross. It comes as a command.

But to be justified is to be declared righteous for Christ' sake AND die and be raised up again anew. The impious do not experience justification but only reconciliation.

Steve Newell said...

AS and LPC,

The use of Law & Gospel is an example that I used. What is your thoughts on my point that most "evangelicals" don't want confessional statements on which they base their doctrine on?

L P Cruz said...


IMHO, it is a misguided thing not to have confessional statements. I remember when I was with AOG. I observe that they have 16 points in their Statement of Faith. The thing though is that since there are gaps withing these 16 points, anyone who comes and preach on topics that do not cover these 16 points, neither attacking them or what not, can come in and hence, heresy can be inserted in between.


Augustinian Successor said...

Dear Bro. Steve,

I believe that evangelicals who balk at confessions, or who have a beef against confessions do so because they are suspicious of other people's theology but theirs. Whilst they do not think that *their* own theology is suspect, they think they have every right or freedom or liberty to cast aspersion on the theology of others. This is a downright *abuse* of the right to *private judgment*, and definitely gives ammo to detractors of the Reformation to point out the obvious flaws of the Reformation.

So, sola Scriptura is unwittingly pitted against private judgment, which simply means in this context, my personal viewpoint is pitted against sola Scriptura for sola Scriptura emphatically does not mean that the contemporary Church can ignore creeds, confessions, etc.

That is to *relativise* sola Scriptura and is a means to promote liberalism, etc.

Secondly, this attitude on the part of evangelicals belie their charismatic or Montanist mentality whereby being bound to confessions is bondage, is being shackled to tradition and the like. What they failed to realise is that the guidance of the Holy Spirit to guide the Church to all truth is precisely that the Holy Spirit always guides the *Church*, the pillar and ground of the truth, to all truth. Without a connection to the Catholic Church, the evangelical cannot claim to have the guidance of the Holy Spirit to all truth. The fulness of the faith is precisely found in the Catholic Church. This is where Past Elder's emphasis of wholeness is important.

Actually, evangelicals these days disparage confessions for all sorts of reasons. Scholarship is one reason. It has become an idolatry in certain circles. The New Perspective on Paul (NPP) has overriden confessional truth and insights. Charismatic heresy too is another, though more established phenomenon. And of course, we also have the ecumenical climate too. And yes, we are referring to conservative Christians - evangelicals.

So, there is a real and inherent danger of abandoning or neglecting confessions. And I believe that there is not much need to draft new ones. We must make use of our legacy, heritage, inheritance, of the Protestant Reformation. I beleive that confessions as drawn up by Pentecostals (e.g. AoG), Arminian Baptists, etc. are of not much use because they do not reflect the theology of the Protestant Reformation. I believe nothing short of return to the roots of the Protestant Reformation is required to revive the effectiveness of the witness of the Church.

L P Cruz said...

Also, I add that evangelicals being allergic to the confession stems from its association with dead orthodoxy. We should note that evangelicalism as it is today is fed by other streams one of them is pietism.

Pietism mis-analyzed the deadness found in dead orthodoxy. Their reaction to it is fair enough, however, rather than expelling the example of those who worship God with their lips but whose hearts are far from them, they rejected the whole scheme.

In other words, they threw the baby, the bath water, and the tub too.

Evangelicals who become Lutherites are in danger of the same thing, that is throwing the baby, the bath water and the tub as well.

We can give credit where credit is due, their zeal for people to "know the Lord" is commendable, however, how they go about it is that such zeal is not fed by the Gospel but by the Law.

We were evangelicals before, and based on my experience, it was a zeal without proper knowledge. They were also taught wrong and are being influenced by charismatic leaders. When that is mixed with the experiential nature of present evangelicalism, the product is cynicism against confessions.

Lastly they also see the wars that have happened because of maintaining confessional integrity, but the solution is not to have them but to dialogue and cooperate where there are possibilities for such cooperation but still maintain the differences for the sake of dialogue and spiritual growth and wisdom.


Doorman-Priest said...

Birthday: Oct 5th. In need of a Book of Concord.

L P Cruz said...


OK, got that, I need a shipping address. email me details off line. ;-)


Past Elder said...

That's just over half a bloody year away! Why the wait? Henry burning books again?

L P Cruz said...

Either they will read it at the White Horse Tavern or make it fuel for winter.

My oath. (LOL)