Domingo, 03 de Março de 2024
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Confessions and Confusions

What is a functional illiterate? This type of illiterate is the person who knows how to identify the letters of the alphabet, join syllables and read the words composed. The problem is their reading goes only up to this point. It is only mechanical. He reads, but does not understand what he reads, as simple as the text may be. Worse than that: for not understanding what they read, sometimes they give meanings to the text that have never been there.

Evangelical community is full of functional illiterates. I am their victim sometimes. For instance, I have recently said that the great confessions of faith of the Reformed tradition are not error-free documents, nor above any revision work. Some people, however, misread what I wrote and said: “Pastor Marcos is against the confessions of faith”. Others even suggested I oppose the adoption of any confession at all or the composition of a document such as this. What a distortion! And maybe what a perversion
(or perversity)! I am not against the faith confessions! Quite the opposite, I am a fierce defender of their relevance and need.

In fact, during my exam for pastoral ordination that took place long ago, my first act was handing the fifteen pastors a copy of my own faith confession. Also, when I came to Redenção Baptist Church, one of the first actions I took was to devise a faith declaration. This faith declaration can be found in our booklet Get to know IBR, which I prepared for our New Members Class. Everyone who wishes to become a member studies it. It is also available in our website for anyone who wants to read it. On top of that, not long ago I advised the director of a well-known seminar in Brazil to take the institution into a clear and more intense commitment through a well defined faith declaration, in order to narrow down the students’ selection and, mainly, professors’.

So, far be it from me to oppose religious confessionalism in any way. What must be avoided, in my view, is placing the ancient confessions at the standard of untouchable rule of faith, once it destroys the Sola Scriptura principle. If reformed churches mess up like this with their traditional confessions, they will fall into the same mistake of Roman Catholic churches, which place tradition in the same level of authority as the Bible. That way, meaning to defend the Reformer’s theology, they will end up making the mistake so condemned by them.

What is more: to consider a certain confession untouchable means getting stuck with hermeneutics, freezing it and making it useless. If the ancient confessions indeed reach the point of exegetic conclusions in some areas, with no need to add anything to them and nothing to be reconsidered or adjusted, why then continue with Bible text analysis related to the themes dealt with in the confessions?

Something seemingly unknown to many people is that exegesis moves forward along with new findings in the area of ancient history and the grammar of biblical languages. That does not mean that the good exegete has to adopt modernist views or tools that compromise orthodoxy. Rather, it means true orthodoxy, carefully shaped by holy pastors of the past, may be even more well cut, not damaging the large diamond of truth, but making it even more beautiful and shiny.

Let me give you an example. Theology authors who wrote the confessions in the 17th century did not know about the Colwell Rule only proposed in the early 1930s. According to that rule, in New Testament greek, if an anarthrous (no article) predicative precedes a verb, it can (and most times will) be interpreted or translated as definite. This was a huge breakthrough in the exegetic field, mainly impacting the debate about Christology. Of course such rule has been questioned both in its validity as its relevance. However, the discussions themselves were important in order to maturate biblical interpretation. Theologians from previous centuries, however, have never even heard of the Colwell Rule. If they had, their exegetic work would have been richer, for sure, exposing even more solid bases for their conclusions and maybe even correcting some mistakes. Actually, it is due to the dynamics of a living exegesis – one which moves further in the defense of more and more enhanced orthodoxy – that the Bible student delights as if taking part in an adventure to discover in the Bible even more powerful weapons to dissipate lies.

What if findings like this work so as to correct or improve the ancient confessions, making them more faithful to what the Bible really says? That’s for sure! And no one should be scared or scandalized in face of that. We are not Catholics. Our orthodoxy is alive. It grows and gains strength as we move forward in the knowledge of the Word. “Reformed Church, always reforming”.

Therefore, cherish the old confessions. Do study such instructive and enriching documents. Take them seriously and do not ever get into a church’s membership before reading and understanding its faith definition. However, do remember that confessions are humanly compositions, not inspired by the Holy Ghost, and can be tainted by errors here and there, needing to be revised, updated and expanded as the exegetical studies advance.

Pr. Marcos Granconato

Strength and faith

Soli Deo gloria

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