Why Confessions?

The Reformed Faith: Exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith To question the need for Christian confessions isn’t a new thing.  Among other Reformed pastors in church history, Robert Shaw (a Scottish Presbyterian in the mid-19th century) ably defended the use of confessions.  His defense comes in the introduction to his excellent study, An Exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith.  The entire introduction is worth reading; here, however, I can only give a few excerpts.

“The necessity for the formation of Confessions of Faith does not lie in the nature of the sacred truth revealed to man; but in the nature of the human itself.  A Confession of Faith is not a revelation of the divine truth – it is ‘not even a rule of faith and practice, but a help in both,’ to use the words of our own Confession…”

“If any man say, that his only rule of faith is the Bible, every man who believes the Bible to be the Word of God will agree in this sentiment; but still the question returns, ‘What do you understand the Bible to teach?’  It would be no answer to this question merely to repeat a series of texts; for this would give no information in what sense those texts were understood.  This must be obvious to everyone who reflects for a moment….”

“The Christian Church, as a divine institution, takes the Word of God alone, and the whole Word of God, as her only rule of faith; but she must also frame and promulgate a statement of what she understands the Word of God to teach.  This she does, not as arrogating any authority to suppress, change, or amend anything that God’s Word teaches, but in discharge of the various duties which she owes to God, to the world, and to her own communion.  Since she has been constituted the depository of God’s truth, it is her duty him to state, in the most distinct and explicit terms, what she understands that truth to mean.”

“In this manner she not only proclaims what God has said, but also appends her seal that God is true.  Thus a Confession of Faith is not the very voice of divine truth, but the echo of that voice from souls that have heard its utterance, felt its power, and are answering to its call” (p. 13-14).

Robert Shaw, An Exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith (Ross-Shire: Christian Focus Publications, 2008).

rev. shane lems

sunnyside wa