The christian faith is based squarely on the revelation of divine truth God has given in the Holy Scriptures. Man frequently seeks to substitute his own opinions for this revelation, with disastrous results.
The proposed “Confession of 1967” of the United Presbyterian Church would shift the basis of faith from revelation to opinion. Because of the clarity of an analysis of this “confession” prepared by John S. and Margaret White Loomis, Presbyterians of Winnetka, Illinois. I have asked their permission to quote it in full.
Bible-believing Presbyterians should be concerned about the proposed “Confession of 1967.” This new confession seems to be based upon the premise that a restatement of doctrinal beliefs is necessary from time to time. But doctrines of the Christian faith, based upon the Bible, will not and cannot change. They are timeless truths, given to us by God, and God’s truth cannot change.
It is true that new views on the application of our faith may sometimes be needed to meet changing conditions in the world; but should not these views be set forth in a separate document and not embodied in a “confession of faith”?
This new confession undermines the authority and divine inspiration of the Bible. The Bible is placed on the back shelf, leaving us with nothing basic to rely on. The confession says, “The one sufficient revelation of God is Jesus Christ, the Word of God incarnate.” It is true that God did reveal himself in Christ; but we know this only because the Bible says so! God reveals himself to us through his written Word, our Holy Bible, which we as Christians accept as the infallible (in the original manuscripts) and inspired Wind of God, not just “a normative witness.” The Bible is always referred to as the Word. “When ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God …” (1 Thess. 2:13).
All we can really know about our Lord Jesus, about God the Father, and about God the Holy Spirit comes to us from the Bible, his written revelation to us and our only authority on all things spiritual and eternal. Inspiration may come to Christians through the indwelling Holy Spirit, but the revelation of heavenly truth comes to us only through the written Word of God.
About the Bible this new confession says: “The words of the Scriptures are the words of men, conditioned by the language, thought forms, and literary fashions of the places and times at which they were written.” But where in this statement can we find any hint that these writers were writing under the inspiration of God through the Holy Spirit? We believe that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Tim. 3:16a).
The Presbyterian Church in the past has taken a strong stand for the doctrine of inspiration, and a failure now in the new confession to proclaim that the Bible is the inspired Word of God constitutes a denial of this inspiration. To us, the inspiration of God is the very heart and soul of the Bible and the basis of our Christian faith. Without it we have nothing. This proposed confession pointedly omits certain other basic Christian doctrines, also.
This vital truth about the inspiration of the Scriptures should be emphasized and proclaimed by our church. The human writers of the Bible proclaim its divine authorship; why can’t we?
Throughout the new confession there is a tinge of universalism that is in direct contradiction of the Bible. The theology of reconciliation is emphasized in a vague and misleading manner that at times implies that all men are or will be reconciled and saved. But our Lord said that “few there be that find it” (Matt. 7:14).
All Christians should know that our Lord Jesus, by his act of reconciliation on the Cross, removed the barrier of sin between God and man. By this act alone no one was saved, but the way was opened for all men to receive God’s gift of salvation and eternal life by repenting and believing in Jesus Christ and by receiving him as Saviour and Lord. This message of salvation is not properly proclaimed in the new confession.
The new creed implies that the substitutionary atonement on the Cross is an “image of a truth which remains beyond the reach of all theory in the depths of God’s love for man.” The Cross is hard to understand, but Christians believe it through faith. The Atonement is a great scriptural truth and not merely an image of a truth.
In this new confession too much emphasis is placed upon the social gospel, as if the principal duty of the Church is to improve the earthly welfare of men. As Christians we know that the job of the Church is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:1–4) in order to try to win all men to him. Of course we must be concerned about human welfare, but we must keep a sense of proportion. In this welfare work we try to bring about a more abundant life for a person for the next ten to eighty years. But how about the next billion years?
The committee that drafted this new confession included in the proposed “Book of Confessions” the Nicene and Apostles’ Creeds and others. They also included the Westminster Confession, because it is “demonstrative of the actual process of confessional utterance.” But the “Confession of 1967” nullifies certain basic truths proclaimed in the Westminster Confession. The committee admits that the proposed creed is in part “an intended revision of the Westminster doctrine on the Bible, which rested primarily on a view of inspiration and equated the Biblical canon directly with the Word of God.”
In effect, this new watered-down and confusing confession has erected a large umbrella under which modernists, liberals, neo-orthodox, and Bible-believers may all stand together. Apparently each may choose his doctrinal beliefs from the various creeds and write his own bible. It has been said that this new creed has “made legal” the unscriptural beliefs that have been held and taught by a large number of ministers and seminaries in the United Presbyterian Church. In the effort to formulate a creed that could in part satisfy all, it appears that truth has been diluted.
All concerned laymen and ministers of the United Presbyterian Church who do not approve of this new confession should make themselves heard. Fear of causing a division should not be considered. Certainly our Lord Jesus wants us to “hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering” (Heb. 10:23a). Remember what he said: “Suppose ye that I am come to bring peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division” (Luke 12:51).
If this confession is adopted without basic changes, Bible-believing Christians will be faced with a hard decision—whether to leave the denomination or to stay and “earnestly contend for the faith …” (Jude 3) from within. Our answer has to come from God. All must seek his will and pray for guidance. The Holy Spirit will lead us.
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