Over the years I have heard many objections to any sort of reference to creeds, confessions or church traditions. Some of them are valid. Whenever a creed or tradition is used to trump Scripture, the creed is being used as an equal authority to Scripture. I recognize that this is an abuse of a legitimate resource. After all, The Reformation was largely about Sola Scriptura. In the final analysis, where there is a conflict between creed and tradition, creed and tradition must yield to the final authority of Scripture.
In this new interview, Matthew Barrett talks about his most recent book, The Grace of Godliness: An Introduction to Doctrine and Piety in the Canons of Dort. Barrett is Assistant Professor of Christian Studies at California Baptist University (OPS) and executive editor of Credo Magazine. Michael A.G. Haykin has written the foreword to the book, and here are some of the book’s commendations as well:
Come join is Vancouver in the month of October as we explore the foundations of the Christian Church. Our old friend Derek Thomas and a new friend of the ministry, Stephen Wellum, explore the biblical basis for the 5 Solas of the Reformation. Each session will explore these core concepts and expound on their iplications for evangelism, sanctification and the everyday life of the believer.
It is a reason for great joy that in our day the Reformed Baptist faith in its various forms, and particularly as articulated in the London Confession of 1689, is coming to more and more people around the world. It was my privilege recently to travel to Nairobi, Kenya, where a conference, attended by around 50 men, mostly ministers, was taking place. I was the main speaker and I endeavoured to bring before the men the wonderful but often misunderstood reformed doctrine of regeneration.
The doctrines of justification and sanctification are both necessary components of the Christian faith. There is no such thing as a justified but unsanctified sinner and no such thing as a sanctified but unjustified sinner. Both are essential. There is, however, a tendency in the church to confuse the doctrines, to combine the doctrines, and to fail to recognize the distinction between the two. Justification is concerned with Christ’s work for the sinner as the ground of acceptance with our holy God. Sanctification is the work of the Spirit in the justified sinner whereby he is conformed more and more into the image of the Lord Jesus.
If there is anything that marks the preaching of our generation it is its need for “relevance.” We go to church today and very naturally expect to hear something that will in some way help our life this week. And if the sermon is not “practical” in these terms, addressing our felt needs, it just isn’t worth our time.
I’ve heard the song only a couple of times now, and so I can’t quote it exactly. But it’s message goes something like this: it’s not our interpretations that matter, it’s not our firmly held positions, it’s not the doctrinal points we argue over—“It’s still the cross!”
In the broader Reformed community we have a number of prominent voices that persistently remind us of the duty to preach Christ (1Corinthians 2:2). Such reminders must be welcomed, for “If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed” (1 Corinthians 16:22). However, preaching Christ means preaching the whole of Christ, not only with a focus on His humiliation, but also with an emphasis on His heavenly ministry toward sinners on earth. And, here, I’ve observed, our preaching could be improved. Knowing that Christ died for my sins is of first importance (1 Corinthians 15:3); but knowing that Christ, as a merciful high priest in heaven, pities me-now, while I remain a sinner on earth-flows out of the reality of His death and resurrection. A robust Christology, with an emphasis on the Holy Spirit’s relation to Christ Himself, ensures that we preach the whole of Christ’s work, including His heavenly ministry.
Baptists: a confessional people1
Historically Baptists have been, and thankfully many still are, a confessional people. Yes, they are supremely a people of the Book, the Holy Scriptures. But confessions have been central to their experience of the Christian life. The twentieth-century attempt to explain Baptist life and thought in terms of primarily soul-liberty seriously skews the evidence. Of course, freedom from external coercion has always been a major concern of Baptist apologetics. But up until the twentieth century, this emphasis has generally never been at the expense of a clear and explicit confessionalism.