devotional

25OCT
2014

LBCF 1689 Reflections. Part Nine.

 

Reflections on the Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689. 23 Aug 14 began a perhaps unbroken, orderly, and personal journey through my favorite written confession of faith. This will be my personal reflections on this beloved written codification of the Christian faith according to a Baptist flavor.

 

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CHAPTER 1
OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES

Paragraph 6c: “…there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.”

 

 

What this part of the confession deals with is called adiaphora or, “Indifferent things.” These are things, frankly, that Christians can disagree on and both be right. We are greatly liberated as Christians in our love for one another when we understand this. Indifferent things are in fact most things in Scripture. They are often called, “Secondary doctrines.”

     There are certain things God expressly tells us how to do in the Bible, and then there are other things that He, in His genius so we’d have a potent means to learn the weightier matters of love and patience thereby (1 John 4:20), does not expressly tell us how to do. We grow in remarkable ways by this means under His hand. We must do these types of things 1) as seems best to us, and 2) under biblical wisdom. What the LBCF showed us here was actually their own approach to handling these things. It was very wise of them to include this. There are many examples I could give you of why I believe they kept this in the confession like the Westminster divines. The short answer is just because it covers a lot! It could help believers in every generation address things like a church’s policy on how it spends its money, whether or not there’s a, “Youth group,” how it calls its pastors, how long it ordains its deacons for, where it physically places the pulpit, whether or not there are flowers in the room, how often it administers the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper, who it does funerals for, what type of Bible translation (if just one in particular) it will standardize in its written documents or supply in its pews, how it performs water baptism (via immersion or sprinkling), etc. Differences will invariably arise over these types of things because the Bible does not expressly outline them, prescribe them, or make them exact for us. We have other means to understand such things, however, nonetheless.

     I’d like to briefly highlight how I would use this principle if I were helping a brand new church figure out its music program. First I’d establish, almost intuitively I suppose, that God does not say something in the Bible like, “Okay, come in to the church from behind a back wall, have one guitar, one cello, three singers, one saxophone and one drum (no symbols). Place all seven musicians five feet apart from each other in a U shape facing the people, sing only one song in the key of G, one song in the key of F, and then go out with your instruments in hand the same way you came in.” If He did, we’d do just that with all our might. But no, He doesn’t do that so it’s up to us, to an extent, how we sing to and of Him. Again, this is just one example of how this principle applies so very much to us in the church. This is just my perspective on it. I might first work to develop a concept of singing in the church by pulling together passages like Matthew 26:30, Hebrews 2:12, Ephesians 5:19 and Psalm 150 and more asking myself what I think such singing should look like in the body of Christ today. I would consider things like how our services are usually open to the public. I would then remind myself that church is not for the lost, but is rather for the believer. I would be compelled to seek after content over melody, words over rhythm. I would seek this because I would want people to be moved emotionally by the wonderful gift of rich music, yes, but more so I’d want them moved theologically by truth. I would want the heart moving more than the feet. I would reject the idea that we must sing only a capella as some insist. I would use every instrument available if someone could play it well. I might even permit a tambourine lady! A dozen Bible verses guide me to such pursuit like 2 Corinthians 3:18, 1 Corinthians 14:15, 2 Corinthians 10:5, Ecclesiastes 3:4, et al. I would immediately rule out things like distortion or an overt, “Rock concert” style singing because it does not reflect propriety in my culture, or my God’s nature. I’m pulling together what I think is prudent here from what I know of Scripture. I might find a hundred Scriptures to guide me. When the confession says such a subject is, “…to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence…” what they mean is that we have the freedom in Christ to pursue our own answers to such questions according to what we consider appropriate under God’s word. This is no cookie cutter religion we have. I would undoubtedly also focus my sights on 1 Corinthians 14:40. 1 Corinthians 14:40 is an example of a, “General rule” that they speak of in the confession here. It comes along side me here and provides foundation and direction to my thoughts. It would help me prevent stage dives, skin tight leather pants and silliness…I hope. P.s. it would also likely prevent tambourine lady.

     The gospel has gone out and changed entire nations and cultures, Mark 16:15. Please remember that Christianity is not a western religion. Its history is near eastern. It is a foreign religion that has shaped us westerners. Cultures may differ wildly from each other in Jesus. If we were to enter a worship service in the heart of South America or inland China, the approach to the service may be quite different than what’s seen in upstate New York. This is just fine! These writers wanted to affirm that variance in our approaches to many things are not to be feared.

     Of course, music is not the only difference we’ll see in the body of Christ if we look around. In East Africa, a Massai Creed from 1960 adapted the Apostle’s Creed. One paragraph goes:

 

We believe that God made good His promise by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, a man in the flesh, a Jew by tribe, born poor in a little village, who left His home and was always on safari doing good, curing people by the power of God, teaching about God and man, showing the meaning of religion is love. He was rejected by his people, tortured and nailed hands and feet to a cross, and died. He lay buried in the grave, but the hyenas did not touch him, and on the third day, He rose from the grave.

 

     Many things here strike me as wonderfully foreign, and that’s okay. These words are different than those I’d have chosen. They may have different music. They may have only one pastor and no more. They may baptize by asking their adherents to hold their breath underwater for a full minute to signify a full death. Whatever.

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