The Creeds and Confessions Force Us to Wrestle with the Whole Counsel of God
In the nineteenth century especially, there was this move away from the Puritan confessions. We see it in Charles Finney in the Second Great Awakening. We see it in the Stone-Campbell Movement. In fact, it was Barton Stone that held a funeral service for the Westminster Standards at his church. They put them in a box, and they went outside the church to the churchyard, and they dug a hole, and they buried the Standards. ‘Because we’re past that now.’
But here’s what happens: What the Standards force us to do, what the creeds force us to do is wrestle with the whole counsel of God. Who is Jesus? My goodness, there’s a lot of texts in here that talk about who Jesus is. And what we need to do is pull all those strands together, weave them into a beautiful tapestry and that is Jesus fully God and fully human, our substitutionary sacrifice. The creeds remind us of the whole counsel of God. Because you know what we like to do—we all do this, we are all guilty of this—we find the texts in Scripture we like and we camp out there. And we become reductionists.
The Victorians did this in the nineteenth century. The favorite image of the Victorians and the favorite text of the Victorians was ‘suffer the little children to come unto me.’ And so there are the images after images of Jesus from the nineteenth century surrounded by little children—the loving Jesus, the kind Jesus, the meek Jesus. And fortunately for the Victorian poets, child rhymes with mild. So the Jesus that loves the child is the Jesus that is oh so mild. We reduce Jesus to the Jesus we want him to be.