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Confessions Paper

Debbie Kim

BITH 315

Dr. Barshinger

December 5, 2016

















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The purpose of this paper is to analyze four different confessions about the Christian faith

namely, the Anglican Thirty-Nine Articles, The Baptist Faith and Message (2000), The Westminster

Confession of Faith, and The Wesleyan Churchs confession. Throughout the discussion of these four

confessions, I will highlight what animates each confession, what these share in common, their distinctive

structural qualities, as well as their differences in content. After examining each confession, this will then

lead into what the purpose and role creeds might play in our daily worship, faith, and practice.

Each of the four confessions all have various purposes and visions. This is significant because the

root of a confession lays the foundation for the denominations beliefs and practices. The Thirty-Nine

Articles of religion is typically utilized in the Anglican context. According to the American revision in

1801, this confession seeks to preserve both the Catholic and Protestant traditions, creating a unique blend

of both worlds.1 The Baptist Faith and Message confession tends to appeal to the Baptist denomination,

and their missional vision, revised in the year 2000, is to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every

person in the world and to make disciples of all nations.2 The Westminster Confession of Faith, adopted

by many Presbyterians, was established in 1646, claiming the title as the oldest confession being

examined. This confession is the product of numerous theological traditions such as the Native British

Augustinianism, Puritan Covenant Theory, the Reformed theology of Rhineland, and Calvinism.3 Lastly,

the Wesleyan Church thrives off of conduct. They believe that those who are renewed in Christ are called

to be holy and that this mission is what drives Christians.4

Conveniently, there are various similarities between these four confessions, all of which are

incredibly essential for the Christian faith. After examining these different confessions carefully, it is

clear that the fundamental basics are all the same the Trinitarian God, the divinely inspired Holy


1
Leith, John H. 1982. Creeds of the Churches: A Reader in Christian Doctrine From the Bible to the Present.
Louisville, Kentucky: John Knox Press.
2
Southern Baptist Convention. 2000. The Baptist Faith and Message.

3
Leith, John H. 1982. Creeds of the Churches: A Reader in Christian Doctrine From the Bible to the Present.
Louisville, Kentucky: John Knox Press.
4
The Wesleyan Church. Articles of Religion.
3

Scriptures, the idea of faith, justification, sanctification, glorification are all discussed (with different

ordering), and the idea of holy sacraments, specifically baptism and the Lords Supper.5 These similarities

between differing confessions is a testament to Gods continuity and faithfulness across denominations.

The Trinitarian God is significant in recognizing the three persons of God and their functions. All

confessions agree that the three persons are distinct from one another, recognize that God is the Father,

the Son Jesus Christ was fully man and was the mediator for our sins, and that the Holy Spirit is fully God

and has the glory and majesty as that of the other persons. God, in his Trinitarian entity, is everlasting

from beginning to the end. All three persons are equal in power, different in function, while maintaining

unity.6

While there are some differences with Holy Scriptures, all confessions agree that the Word of

God is divinely inspired and God-breathed. All four confessions agree that the Scriptures are given by

God.7 The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion does not expand upon this section much, but the other three

confessions all expand and agree upon the idea of its authority, infallible nature, and instructive teaching.8

Additionally, while the wording and ordering of faith, justification, sanctification and

glorification might differ, these are essential ideas utilized and understood under the Christian faith.

Recognizing the weight of our sin, being justified in Christ through faith and continuing to strive for

holiness on this earth in hopes to achieve perfection with God in heaven is essential to ones salvation

because it affects everyday behavior and attitudes. Acknowledging this concept as a core belief in

Christianity is a great unity amongst the confessions.9


5
Leith, John H. 1982. Creeds of the Churches: A Reader in Christian Doctrine From the Bible to the Present.
Louisville, Kentucky: John Knox Press.
6
Southern Baptist Convention. 2000. The Baptist Faith and Message.

7
Leith, John H. 1982. Creeds of the Churches: A Reader in Christian Doctrine From the Bible to the Present.
Louisville, Kentucky: John Knox Press.
8
The Wesleyan Church. Articles of Religion.
9
Leith, John H. 1982. Creeds of the Churches: A Reader in Christian Doctrine From the Bible to the Present.
Louisville, Kentucky: John Knox Press.
4

Lastly, the two sacraments that all four confessions mention are baptism and the Lords Supper.

These are the only two sacraments ordained by Christ our Lord in the gospel, which we must take into full

consideration. Baptism is an outward profession of faith, claiming that we are renewed in Christ Jesus and

the Lords Supper is a testament to our new selves, being righteous and worthy to sit at the table of

Jesus.10

While similarities are important for confessions, it is also significant to note the distinctive,

structural qualities of each confession as well as their differences in content.The Thirty-Nine Articles of

Faith is 15 pages long, evidently discussing 39 articles, and the title of every article starts with Of. It is

quite a lengthy confession, with an interesting take on the Canon at its attempt to reconcile Catholicism

and Protestantism.11 The Baptist Faith and Message confession consists of 18 articles, utilizes more

colloquial language, and also incorporates a list of relevant scriptures at the end of each article to support

its claim.12 The Westminster Confession of Faith is the oldest and longest of the four confessions,

consisting of 38 pages. There are 33 articles that also all start with Of, but this confession has several

subcategories underneath each article.13 Lastly, the Wesleyan Churchs confession contains 21 articles,

also utilizing a more colloquial language. Each article is rather short a paragraph at most making it

one of the shorter confessions.14

In regards to content, each confession has various articles that none of the other confessions

discuss. I will examine and evaluate one unique point from each confession.

In the Anglican Thirty-Nine Articles of Faith, the 13th article titled Of Works before

Justification is quite interesting. It states that Good Works done before knowing Christ and having the


10
Southern Baptist Convention. 2000. The Baptist Faith and Message.
11
Leith, John H. 1982. Creeds of the Churches: A Reader in Christian Doctrine From the Bible to the Present.
Louisville, Kentucky: John Knox Press.
12
Southern Baptist Convention. 2000. The Baptist Faith and Message.

13
Leith, John H. 1982. Creeds of the Churches: A Reader in Christian Doctrine From the Bible to the Present.
Louisville, Kentucky: John Knox Press.
14
The Wesleyan Church. Articles of Religion.

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Spirit are not pleasant to God; only the works after justification are acceptable and pleasing to Him.15 I

have a hard time accepting this article, because I believe that all humans are made in the likeness and

image of God. Therefore, we all have some sort of good within us. Whether or not we know about

Christ, I think all lower-cased good works can still be pleasing to God, as long as it is with pure

intentions.

The Baptist Faith and Message confession discusses education in its 12th article. It discusses the

idea that Christianity is the religion of enlightenment and intelligence, and that Christians all have a

responsibility to further our intellect as part of our Christian heritage. I do agree with this former section

of the article but grapple with the latter. It goes on to claim that a Christian education system is

necessary to a complete spiritual program for Christs people.16 It seems like a requirement to the

Christian faith which I disagree with.

While other confessions touch on the ideas of marriage and family, divorce is unique to the

Westminster Confession of Faith. In the 24th article titled Of Marriage and Divorce, the fifth

subcategory allows divorce if the spouse commits adultery against the other. Furthermore, the victim of

this marriage is allowed to remarry, after the divorce, as if the spouse were dead.17 I firmly agree with this

statement but I do think that the section of divorce is rather short. In addition to infidelity, I believe that

an abusive spouse is another permissible reason to leave a marriage. Repeated accounts of abuse is

inexcusable, no matter how gracious one might be. This is not furthering the kingdom of God, which is

the primary purpose of marriage.

Lastly, the Wesleyan Church incorporates this idea of Destiny in its 21st article of the confession.

It basically discusses the idea post-death, whether or not one will enter heaven or hell. Destiny is


15
Leith, John H. 1982. Creeds of the Churches: A Reader in Christian Doctrine From the Bible to the Present.
Louisville, Kentucky: John Knox Press.
16
Southern Baptist Convention. 2000. The Baptist Faith and Message.
17
Leith, John H. 1982. Creeds of the Churches: A Reader in Christian Doctrine From the Bible to the Present.
Louisville, Kentucky: John Knox Press.
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determined by ones response to Gods grace and how ones actions reflects this faith. 18This idea is a

concept widely accepted amongst believers, myself included, but I find the word choice rather strange.

The term destiny seems too secular, or rather, lacks the God-centered will for humanity. Despite the

verbiage, I agree with this final article from the Wesleyan confession.

The purpose and role of creeds and confessions is a topic widely discussed throughout the

centuries. Based on intelligent theologians and personal experiences, I believe that creeds and confessions

should play an important role in daily worship, faith, and practice, being careful not to place these

supplementary texts above Scripture.

Dockery and Georges writings provide great insight as for the purpose of confessions and creeds.

They compare confessions and creeds to guardrails. Whereas Jesus is the road, these confessions are

guardrails, keeping us on track guided by the light that is the Holy Scriptures. Furthermore, these

additional texts provide as a great resource for defining the Churchs faith. There are stark differences

between the faith, my faith, and the Churchs faith. The faith is the objective I do believe response to

Jesuss death and resurrection. My faith is my personal relationship with Jesus Christ. However, the

Churchs faith looks differently, as it must consider mass peoples beliefs.19 As the four confessions

examined previously in this paper, they all have unique, distinct missions and articles. These confessions

lay out the basis for what each respective Church or denomination believes in.

As far as what role confessions and creed should play, I believe that these are important pieces of

text that needs to be considered corporately at worship, personal faith, as well as put into practice.

However, I do firmly believe that sometimes creeds and confessions can become the focus rather than the

Word and that is something that should very well be avoided. Within a church service context, I believe

liturgy can be very beneficial as a reminder of what the churchs faith is. It is a powerful thing, to recite

historical and religious text as a body, to profess the same faith and confession before the Lord. Secondly,


18
The Wesleyan Church. Articles of Religion.
19
Dockery, David, and Timothy, George. 2012. The Great Traditions of Christian Thinking: A Students
Guide.
Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway.
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I believe that confessions are helpful to the personal faith. I know that sometimes when a specific

confession is read during chapel or a worship service, as opposed to a general confession, it strikes a

certain chord in my heart and I am deeply convicted. Although those are not my words or my prayer, it

helps me realize that these struggles have also been faced by those who came before and that is

encouraging to me. Lastly, applying these creeds is very important because these instructions are from

God. Creeds and confessions take biblical truths and compile them into a shortened, summarized version.

The convictions experienced by listening, reading, or reciting creeds is a work of the Holy Spirit and

should not be ignored. These are the reasons why I believe creeds and confessions should have a role

within worship.

References


Dockery, David, and Timothy, George. 2012. The Great Traditions of Christian Thinking: A Students Guide.
Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway.

Leith, John H. 1982. Creeds of the Churches: A Reader in Christian Doctrine From the Bible to the Present.
Louisville, Kentucky: John Knox Press.

Southern Baptist Convention. 2000. The Baptist Faith and Message.
http://www.sbc.net/bfm2000/bfm2000.asp

The Wesleyan Church. Articles of Religion. https://www.wesleyan.org/979/a