Reformation Confessions: Their Relevance In Our Postmodern World -- By: Johan D. Tangelder

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 10:2 (Spring 2001)
Article: Reformation Confessions: Their Relevance In Our Postmodern World
Author: Johan D. Tangelder


Reformation Confessions:
Their Relevance In Our Postmodern World

Johan D. Tangelder

Do evangelicals still have an authoritative message to offer to the world? If they have one, what is it?

I believe that these questions are appropriate as the evangelical theological scene presents such a confusing picture. On the one hand, some evangelicals emphasize that all theological discourse is relative, or contextual, in nature. They claim that every theological system reflects the particular cultural framework in which it was originally written. Mark W. Karlberg observes that “according to these contex-tualists, the church’s comprehension of the Word of God is merely a fallible, human approximation of divine truth.”1 Consequently, they are either dismissive or even disdainful of the formulation of doctrinal statements. They stress their provisional, nonbinding character, claiming that they are the product of human effort, not to be confused with the changeless truth that is in the mind of God and beyond our reach.

On the other hand, other evangelicals understand that without a confession of faith they are in a doctrinal wasteland. Recent developments indicate that many are returning to the idea of a rule of faith and to forms of ecclesiastical authority for the same reason as the early church did; they are responding to what they perceive as a threat to their faith. The Lausanne Covenant, agreed upon by International Congress on World Evangelization at Lausanne, Switzerland, which met in 1974, is an important statement

of faith within evangelicalism and should be among confessional literature. In May, 1977, a gathering of forty-five evangelicals issued The Chicago Call: An Appeal to Evangelicals, urging evangelicals to return to their Christian heritage, to affirm the great ecumenical creeds and the Reformation confessions, and to witness boldly to its faith before the world. They declared: “We deplore two opposite excesses: a creedal church that merely recites a faith inherited from the past, and a creedless church that languishes in doctrinal vacuum. We confess that as evangelicals we are not immune from these defects.”2

Defining Creeds And Confessions

How do we differentiate between creeds and confessions? The word creed comes from credo (I believe), since the declaration of faith involves not merely acceptance of truth, but a personal commitment. Credo means that believers hold certain things to be true, and act as though truth matters, even at the price of martyrdom. The perso...

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