“Why do we have confessions of faith?” That’s the starting-point for Richard Burnett’s exploration of the importance and power of confessions of faith for our life together.
It’s a timely question. Some question the value of confessions altogether – wouldn’t it be easier to affirm a couple of points that would fit on a 3 x 5 card? Others warmly affirm the value of having historic statements of faith – but only as expressions of beliefs held then by those people, people who lived in the past. Again and again we’ve seen confessions used as depots of weapons containing doctrinal snippets to launch at one another in debate. As a denomination we have struggled to read the Book of Confessions in a coherent way.
Holding to a shared confession of faith is deeply counter-cultural in an individualistic age. Everyone seems deeply committed to what I believe, but it is more difficult for us to be clear about what we believe. Richard Burnett’s talk sorts through challenges and difficulties of being a confessional denomination, calling us to claim this gift of our tradition. Along the way he draws on themes explored by Kevin Vanhoozer in talks that were also part of the 3rd Theology Conference of the Fellowship Community in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
What is Richard Burnett’s first, basic answer to the question, “Why do we have confessions”? What significant elements does he add to this answer in the course of his talk?
What is the “Reformed Scripture Principle”? How can it inform our understanding of confessions today?
How does the Reformed tradition understand confessions to be binding, and authoritative?
What three basic temptations have we in the Reformed tradition faced in our commitment to confessing the faith? Which of these temptations do you find to be strong today?
What is the image of the “hallway,” that Burnett draws from the writings of C.S.Lewis?
How does it help us make sense of what Christians have in common?
What insight in Burnett’s discussion of confessing our faith do you find yourself continuing to reflect on? How might it change your practice of our faith?
Richard Burnett is the Editor of Theology Matters. He has served as a Professor of Theology, and has spoken and taught in a wide variety of settings in the church.