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A Slight(ed) Confession

Colorful sheets of paper behind blue scissors. Blog title, "A Slight(ed) Confession."

The Scots Confession 3.10


We undoubtedly believe, since it was impossible that the sorrows of death should retain in bondage the Author of life, that our Lord Jesus crucified, dead, and buried, who descended into hell, did rise again for our justification, and the destruction of him who was the author of death, and brought life again to us who were subject to death and its bondage. We know that his resurrection was confirmed by the testimony of his enemies, and by the resurrection of the dead, whose sepulchres did open, and they did rise and appear to many within the city of Jerusalem. It was also confirmed by the testimony of his angels, and by the senses and judgment of his apostles and of others, who had conversation, and did eat and drink with him after his resurrection.


This was our Affirmation of Faith from a few weeks ago. Sorta. I snipped out the part in bold.


Why?


Because it was too long and that was the part that I liked least.


I am a big fan of the Book of Confessions. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with it, it is a collection of documents defining and defending our faith from throughout history. It’s part of the constitution of the PC(USA).


When I was ordained I was asked this question, “Do you sincerely receive and adopt the essential tenets of the Reformed faith as expressed in the confessions of our church as authentic and reliable expositions of what Scripture leads us to believe and do, and will you be instructed and led by those confessions as you lead the people of God?” I said yes.


But then, when preparing for worship, I just excise things that I don’t want. Sometimes it’s for length, but sometimes it’s because I don’t like what they say.


For our Affirmation of Faith for this Sunday (April 28), I pulled a section of the Second Helvetic Confession (one of my favorites!). You’ll see what I picked on Sunday, but what you won’t see are the beginning and end of the paragraph.


Here’s what you’ll be missing,


“Therefore, although we teach with the apostle that a man is justified by grace through faith in Christ and not through any good works…”


and and again:


“Who gave himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds”. We therefore condemn all who despise good works and who babble that they are useless and that we do not need to pay attention to them.”


I got rid of the first part because I felt it didn’t matter to the point at hand for the sermon. The second part was just a little too long.


But other times I get rid of them because they are outdated and offensive. They may be exclusionary or mean. They may be just fine but I don’t actually believe that part.


So am I upholding my ordination vow? If I decide to just throw away the parts I don’t like, am I being responsible? Is this true especially because most folks don’t have access to the BoC without really having to look? Am I twisting words to fit my view of what I think faith should mean? Is that fair?


My answer to those questions is: yes, no, yes, yes, and probably not.


I don’t think I’m going to change this practice, and I promise not to deceptively edit the confessions.


I love the creeds and confessions. I love them for what they are. But just because I love them, doesn’t mean I agree with them. My hope is that by bringing the parts that feel most important, we can see the value of honoring our history. Maybe it’s a little revisionist, but I prefer the revisionism to constantly using the phrase “damnable heresies.”


Peace,

Rev. Jeff Fox-Kline

Twelve Corners Presbyterian Church

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