Friday, January 12, 2007

Against Confessional Neglect

The church has been called to speak the truth in love. Or, to put it another way, to confess the truth of the gospel, in love. When the church fails to do this she inevitably remains immature. Doctrinal immaturity leaves churches and Christians vulnerable to errors and to the influences of those who promote them. The neglect of soundness in the faith always brings unhelpful consequences.

The way to deal with this is not only to have teachers who can instruct in sound doctrine, but pastor-teachers who can both instruct in sound doctrine and oversee the flock so that it confesses the truth in love. The goal of sound doctrine is not merely the duplication of correct knowledge (a barren orthodoxy) but the outworking of the truth in all of life and in all that we are. Or as Paul says to Timothy "
The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith" (1 Tim. 1:5).

"...the church of Christ...has a certain task to fulfill with respect to dogma. To preserve, explain, understand, and defend the truth of God entrusted to her, the church is called to appropriate it mentally, to assimilate it internally, and to profess it in the midst of the world as the truth of God."

Herman Bavinck, Prolegomena, p. 30-1

"But if we are ignorant of the doctrine and glory of Christ, who from among us will be willing to suffer on their account? And how can it be otherwise but that we will be ignorant of these things, unless we are taught and instructed in them from our childhood? A neglect of the catechism is, therefore, one of the chief causes why there are so many at the present day tossed about by every wind of doctrine, and why so many fall from Christ to Anti-Christ."

Zacharias Ursinus, Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, p. 16

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