As part of the 2022 “Mission of the Church” Conference at Westminster Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Newcastle, England, GRN Executive Council member Dr. David T. A. Strain delivered an address on “Confessionalism & Mission.” In it, he argues for the importance of theological and biblical confessionalism for the church’s faithful pursuit of its God-given mission. He explains why a public statement of belief accurately summarizing and presenting the whole counsel of God is vital for serving Christ according to His commission and command.
In the last section of the address (starting at 22:55), Dr. Strain draws from the work of James Bannerman in The Church of Christ to present three aspects of the church’s ‘essential work’ that call for creeds and confessions. In other words, Dr. Strain uses Bannerman to answer the question, for what missional purpose does the church need creeds and confessions?
1. We need a confession for holding the truth, for the sake of a unity.
“Our testimony to Christ will shine bright and clear when brothers and sisters who may well differ in background, and temperament, and culture nevertheless link arms in a common devotion to the Savior and in a common love for one another. An agreed confession is a great help in promoting and maintaining that unity, without which our witness will be terribly impaired and hindered. We must hold the truth in common. Holding the truth is part of the function of a shared confession of faith.”
2. We need a confession for teaching the truth, as a mechanism to promote clarity.
“Our members and our children need to have systematic theological categories that are derived from the teaching of the Bible as a whole that will help them interpret any particular passage they might find themselves reading, and to engage with any given theological proposition in faithful consistent ways. Has it ever been more important for Christians to know what they believe and why they believe than at this present time? Our confession and our catechisms are meant to do that faithfully and to do it well.”
3. We need a confession in our work of witnessing to the truth, as an instrument of purity and fidelity in the face of error, and for the good of the unbelieving world all around us.
“Our confession and catechisms are a banner: they are a public statement that proclaims our stance against error, and they hold us to the same gospel message in all our churches. It surely is a remarkable testimony to the biblical fidelity and the theological genius of the Westminster Divines that despite the many diverse challenges to biblical Christianity presented by our culture and by our time, the Standards continue to prove themselves wonderfully serviceable in defending the faith and exposing errors. But more than that, if the church is to reach the world, we must be able clearly and effectively to declare the mind of God revealed in His Word.”
To watch the full address from Dr. Strain, click the play button in the thumbnail below, or navigate to Westminster Presbyterian Theological Seminary’s YouTube channel here. The GRN has excerpted and curated this content from the below-embedded address by Dr. Strain, given at the 2022 Westminster Presbyterian Theological Seminary “Mission of the Church” Conference.