This passion, for confessional association, once strong among our Baptist brethren, no longer holds the attraction it once did in the lives of many of our congregations. The causes of a negative reaction or a turning away from "associational" life as set forth in our ancient Baptist confessions, are many and varied. A sampling of "reactions" against confessionalism is set forth in the items that follow:
1. The Mask of Scriptural Authority: Many say having a confessional-fellowship (CF) intrudes on the authority of Scripture in the life of the believer and the church. "I believe the Bible," they vehemently declare, even following their declaration up with verbiage about "inerrancy" and "infallibility" (themselves confessional declarations - but we will not quibble about that here). Simply put these brothers, many of them well-meaning, want to affirm the sole authority of the Scripture in the life of the church and they see the use of confessions to frame our fellowship as intrusive to that desire. Interestingly, in affirming "Sola Scriptura," many of them seem to forget that many of our sound, orthodox creeds or confessions came out of the period of the Reformation and years following. Apparently the Reformers so no contradiction between the formal principle of scriptural authority and the formal stating of their beliefs in a confessional framework.
2. The Cry for No Creed but Christ: Though this seems at first glance to be the most "spiritual" of the objections, it is but a smoke screen for today’s "individual" who wants his own personal Jesus who looks and acts more like a marionette puppet than the authoritative Christ making his demands on his people through his written word. Embedded in this cry is often an inherent dislike and opposition to authority and accountability to any outside the all sovereign self.
3. The Doctrine Divides Mentality: There seems to be a prevailing view among many in our anti-doctrinal age that doctrine divides. On the affirmative side, we agree, truth does in fact divide: it separates the wheat from the chaff, the weeds from the wheat, the true from the false, and the sheep from the goats. Doctrine does divide, thanks be unto God! On the flip side of this however, the lable the preaching or statement of true biblical doctrine with the pejorative designation "divider of unifies brethren" is to put the blame in the wrong place. It’s like blaming the doctor for ruining your "healthy" lung as his knife precisely makes its incision reveal a cancerous tumor within. The truth often sheds light on the error and "dis-unity" already present in the body. The truth of the word of God comes in like the two edge sword, with the first pass it exposes and lays bare and with the second it makes whole and brings healing. B. H. Carroll, that great Baptist theologian from the early 20th century said of this kind of church:
"A church with a little creed is a church with a little life. The more divine doctrines a church can agree on, the greater its power, and the wider its usefulness. The fewer its articles of faith, the fewer its bonds of union and compactness. The modern cry, ‘Less creed and more liberty,’ is a degeneration from the vertebrate to the jellyfish, and means less unity and less morality, and it means more heresy. Definitive truth does not create heresy - it only exposes and corrects. Shut off the creed and the Christian world would fill up with heresy unsuspected and uncorrected, but note the less deadly."
- The Scriptural Means of a Confessional-Fellowship
- The Scriptural Motivation of a Confessional-Fellowship
- The Scriptural Mutuality of a Confessional-Fellowship
- The Scriptural Marks of a Confessional-Fellowship
Rev. 2:29 (ESV) He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'
2. We are to Labor Together for the Increase of Love
3. We are to Labor Together for Mutual Edification