I have been researching and drafting confessions, and I’ve discovered a few surprises which I will share soon. But first I would appreciate any thoughts which you might have on this one. I wrote this for a nondenominational church which is baptistic and Calvinisticish. They wanted a concise, clear statement that their people would read (a problem with many doctrinal statements) and that could be further unpacked by a longer, more detailed statement.
Please let me know if something doesn’t sound right or if you notice any important items left out. At present it doesn’t mention election or the effectual call but it does teach the perseverance of the saints (I would put all of these into my confession, but this statement is not for me). It also is silent on a view of the millennium and open theism (a flash in the pan?) but attempts to take a stand for penal substitution, exclusivism, and the direct creation of Adam and Eve (contra they evolved from fish). I am prepared to add a second sentence to the section on God which addresses his providence, knowledge, and decree, though I fear it may detract from the simplicity of what is already there.
As you can tell, the first challenge to writing a doctrinal statement is to keep it concise and readable and yet exhaustive enough to do its job. The second challenge is to write it well, which is a problem with many.
The EFCA recently composed an excellent confession, which I used as a template for mine (I used most of their outline and stole their sentence on Jesus’ two natures). Here it is:
We believe in one holy and sovereign God who eternally exists in three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—who from love and for his glory created all things out of nothing and pronounced them good.
We believe that God has revealed himself in the verbally inspired Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. These well-preserved and infallible books contain no errors in the original writings and are our final authority in everything they affirm. These sacred texts lead us to Jesus Christ, the fullness of God’s revelation, and enable us to rightly interpret God’s general revelation in humanity, nature, and history.
We believe that God directly created Adam and Eve in his image, but our first parents lost their original righteousness when they fell for Satan’s temptation and rebelled against God’s revealed will. Now every human is born with Adam’s sinful nature so that we are depraved, alienated from God, and doomed to spiritual and physical death.
We believe that the Son of God became human to save the world. Our Lord Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man, one Person in two natures, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. Jesus obeyed God perfectly; atoned for our sins by dying in our place and on our behalf; arose bodily and triumphantly over sin, death, and Satan; and ascended to heaven where he reigns at the Father’s right hand, intercedes for his people, and sends his Spirit to gift, fill, and lead his church.
We believe that the Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost to establish the church; that he uses the Word of God to give new life to those who repent of their sin and believe in Christ; and that only and all who trust solely in Christ’s finished work are justified by his shed blood, united with Christ, adopted into the family of God, forgiven of all their sin, indwelt and illuminated by the Spirit, empowered for Christian service, kept and assured of their salvation, and added to the church.
We believe that the one, holy, and universal church is the body of Christ on earth. The true church consists of all who have been justified by grace through faith in Christ and is manifest in local churches of baptized believers. The church gathers to celebrate the gospel through the preaching of the Word, prayer, fellowship, and the ordinances of believer’s baptism and the Lord’s Supper; and it disperses to proclaim that same gospel of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection to a sinful world which must hear the good news in order to be saved. The church makes disciples of Jesus who embody the kingdom values of loving neighbor, serving those in need, and caring for creation and so anticipate the redemption of all things at Christ’s return.
The Return of Christ
We believe that our Lord Jesus Christ will personally, bodily, and gloriously return at any moment to consummate his kingdom by delivering this world from Satan’s power and handing it to the Father. Jesus will raise the dead physically for final judgment; send the lost to everlasting, conscious punishment; and live forever with his redeemed people in the glories of the new earth.
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