Confessionalism and the Need for Creeds Pt. 5 - (Creeds and the Matter to be Confessed 2 — Matters of Faith Not Necessary for Salvation)
Confessionalism and the Need for Creeds
(Creeds and the Matter to be Confessed 2—Matters of Faith Not Necessary for Salvation)
Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matt. 28:20)
Question.—What are non-fundamental articles of faith?
Answer.—Non-fundamental articles of faith would include all those articles of Christian doctrine which a man might not know, or even deny, while not denying those primary fundamentals or secondary fundamentals, 1 Cor. 3:11-15. We know that these cannot pertain to matters which are primary, or necessary, fundamental truths without which no one can be saved, 1 John 5:11, 12. These are they which build saving faith, Isa. 28:16. Nor can they include those secondary fundamentals which, if a man denies or refuses, might make shipwreck of the faith, 1 Tim. 1:19, 20. These are they which, being denied or refused, destroy saving faith, Gal. 5:4.
Question.—What are the kinds of non-fundamental articles of faith?
Answer.—Non-fundamental articles of faith may be classified in several sorts:
First, there are those matters of historical faith, things the ignorance or the denial simpliciter of which, do not necessarily strike at those things fundamental to the presence of saving faith, whether: 1.) Of very minor note, cf. 2 Tim. 4:13; or 2.) Historically circumstantial, cf. 1 Tim. 6:13; or, 3.) Perhaps even matters more directly involved in the very formation of the faith of the Church, cf. 1 Tim. 1:2.
Second, there are those teachings which refer to affairs wherein the consequence is limited to matters of this life, such as: 1.) Paul’s teaching concerning widows and their care, 1 Tim. 5:9. 2.) Paul’s admonition concerning the care and remuneration of elders, 1 Tim. 5:17. 3.) Paul’s teaching to take a little wine for stomach health, 1 Tim. 5:23.
Third, those doctrines which, though briefly asserted in this or that portion of Scripture, though they be taken away or denied, in their own substance, nonetheless in no way subvert or prejudice the faithful against fundamental dogma, of which sort are those about: 1.) The fall and permanent rejection of some angels, Jude 6. 2.) The confirmation of the some angels in holiness, cf. 1 Tim. 5:21. 3.) Man’s immortality before the Fall, Gen. 2:17. 4.) The unforgivability of the sin against the Holy Spirit, Matt. 12:31, 32. 5.) The virgin birth of Christ, Luke 1:27. 6.) The burial of Christ, John 19:41. 7.) The world as created in time, Gen. 1:31. 8.) The visibility and invisibility of the Church, cf. Col. 1:18 w/ 1 Cor. 1:2. 9.) The marks of the true Church, Eph. 5:23; 1 Cor. 5:13. 10.) The doctrine of the Antichrist, 2 Thess. 2:3; 1 John 2:18. 11.) The nature of the Millennium, Rev. 20:2, 3.
Non-fundamental doctrines are taught in Scripture, not always with the same definiteness and clearness as to scope and comprehensiveness, but in a way which establishes their revelation as unquestionable, Matt. 1:22, 23; 2 Thess. 2:5. These all belong to that category of teachings, even articles of faith, which those who entertain mistaken notions concerning them may still be saved, 1 Cor. 3:12, 13, 15; Zech. 13:9.
Question.—What purpose do these doctrines serve?
Answer.—These doctrines are those which are built upon the foundational (θεμέλιον), or fundamental, Eph. 2:20-22. They form part of that whole which comprises the perfection (τελειότητα), or maturity, to which all Christians are to aspire, Heb. 6:1. Christ calls all professing Christians to this perfection (τέλειοι), or maturity, in imitation of the Deity, Matt. 5:48.
Doctrines of perfection are compared to meat whilst fundamental doctrines are described as milk, Heb. 5:12. The purpose of milk is to bring about growth in newborn children, 1 Pet. 2:2. Knowledge and understanding of doctrine belongs to those who are weaned from milk, Isa. 28:9. Meat belongs to those who are “of full age” (τελείων), mature, by reason of exercising of their private judgment (διάκρισιν), Heb. 5:14. Such belongs to those who are not dull of hearing, Heb. 5:11; Job 34:3. These doctrines, which form the perfection of all believers, are most necessary in those who are teachers in the Church, Heb. 5:12; Ezra 7:10.
Question.—Ought non-fundamentals to be included in the confession of the Church?
Answer.—Just because something is non-fundamental with regard to saving faith does not make it unnecessary to the confession and life of the Church, 2 Tim. 3:16. The fact is, that from the very beginning, the earliest creedal forms found in Scripture included non-fundamental doctrines, 1 Cor. 15:3-7; 1 Tim. 3:16; Col. 1:16. That they are proper subjects of the Church’s confession is borne out:
First, because Christ Himself enjoined upon the Church the teaching of all things, not merely some things, Matt. 28:20.
Second, the apostle enjoins us to move beyond mere milk and enter into a maturity, or perfection (τέλειοι), of judgment and understanding, 1 Cor. 14:20.
Third, failure to go on to perfection by demanding to remain children in understanding, is a sign of carnality and is the real source of all strife and schism in the Church, 1 Cor. 3:1-3. Thus, the teaching of the Church is to rise above mere fundamentals if the Church would achieve the “perfect (τέλειον) man” in unity and stability in the truth, Eph. 4:12-14.
Fourth, it is a demonstration of pursuing, or pressing toward the mark of this perfect mindedness (τέλειοι) together, when one engages to an understanding that goes beyond fundamentals, Phil. 3:13-15.
Fifth, when the Church takes seriously the mandate to move onto perfection she will exhibit this maturity in thought, understanding and speech, or as ecclesiastical speech is called confession, 1 Cor. 13:11.
Sixth, it is in this perfection (ἐν τοῖς τελείοις) of the saints that the apostolic wisdom is spoken forth, 1 Cor. 2:6.