If confessions are so biblical and valuable, why have confessions gone away? A couple of ideas to mention would be:
1) With the rise of rationalism and skepticism the Bible itself has been down played. If the Bible isn’t the Word of God than I certainly don’t need a confession about it.
2) Mysticism. If I get extra words from God, again it makes my Bible less important and confessions than follow suit in being minimized.
3) Perhaps the main reason for the decline of confessions and continual distaste for them is rampant individualism. It is just me and the Bible; I don’t need anyone or anything else. I need my individual private interpretation. Alexander Campbell wanted to get back to the early pristine church, to get behind all the layers of theology. No creed but the Bible. This may sound good initially, but is unrealistic and unbiblical. We have fought many battles over theology and so to ignore 2,000 years of church history would be arrogant, ignorant and damaging to the Christian faith. We are to pass the faith down to the next generation and this requires defending it against errors. New errors or old errors reborn continually crop up and must be dealt with.
Merely claiming to believe the Bible does not fulfill our charge to be a pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tm 3:15). Most heretics would be willing to affirm the same statement. “’To arrive at the truth we must dismiss religious prejudices…We must let God speak for himself…Our appeal is to the Bible for truth.’ The problem with this statement, of course, is that it is drawn from Let God be True, published by the Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
4) There is also the fact that some have misused and abused them just like some misuse and abuse Scripture. One person used the phrase Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Guns have a legitimate use to hunt (offensive) and protect ourselves (defensive). Abuse by some does not negate a legitimate use. Confessions have been misused by some as well. Confessions are offensive in promoting the gospel, training up people and our children and defensive, defending the “once for all handed down to the saints” faith. In 1776 39% of church goers went to a confessional church, just 75 years later it was 15%. America is very individualistic.
One author says “we live in a non-creedal, even an anti-creedal, age marked by existential relativism, anti-authoritarianism and historical isolationism.” That is a good summary. Perhaps now would be a good time to say we affirm sola scriptura and as we will see so does the confession itself. The confession does not replace the Bible and no one who affirms them, or written them, has claimed that, as far as this author is aware of. The confessions are man-made, uninspired, nonetheless agreed upon understanding of what Scripture says. They connect us to the church historic, which is helpful because we often have blind spots in where we are at in history and so we get a different perspective to look at ourselves from.
Jay Wipf is a former student of Coalt Robinson and attended Grace University where he earned his degree in Christian Education. Jay is currently studying at Reformed Baptist Seminary in the comfort of his home in Huron, SD. By grace and at Grace he met his beautiful wife Rachel, and they now have three young children. Jay and his family live in Huron where he works in facilities at a local credit union and serves within the local church.