Shock Christmas Revelations! Pope Admits 'I am Catholic', Bears Confess to Lack of Personal Hygiene, and I Love My Wife.
One of the regular concerns expressed by readers of this blog and listeners to the podcast is the fact that many of the suggestions we make about church life and practice seem to be rather Presbyterian. Some are simply puzzled by this; others are rather offended by it.
There is a simple answer: the three of us are Presbyterians. Not Baptists, not Episcopalians, nor Roman Catholics, nor Eastern Orthodox, nor even Gospel Coalitioners. Indeed, two of us have taken ordination vows to the effect that Presbyterianism represents biblical polity which we must therefore uphold; and La Diva is a faithful member of a Presbyterian denomination (though not as far from the Kingdom of Heaven as she once was, if rumours in the Undergorund Bunker are true).
This is perhaps where the confessional in confessional evangelicalism begins to pinch for some. As I have commented before, the problem with the way the term is used in Gospel Coalition, Southern Baptist and similar circles is that it seems simply to replace the older adjective conservative (implying belief in orthodox doctrine) rather than really reflecting the idea of connecting to an historic, elaborate confession of faith allied to an appropriate polity. This is not to say that the term cannot be used in the former way, but we need to be aware that the two uses are essentially equivocal. Confessions – historic, Protestant confessions – were actually the product of historic Protestant divisions (on baptism, the Lord’s Supper, etc.). If Protestantism had originally agreed to differ on (to use the modern term) ‘non essentials’ (which assumes a rather flat and also unhistorical view of what is and is not essential), we would have no Book of Concord, no Thirty-Nine Article, no Three Forms of Unity, no Westminster Standards and no Second London Confession.
Thus, I suspect the confusion over the line taken on the Spin over issues such as baptism, polity and the like reflects a clash of cultures between confessional evangelicalism and Protestant confessionalism. It is not that we do not regard Baptists as brothers and sisters in Christ. It is that we regard them as being wrong on sacraments and polity and that we regard those differences as important – and we hope that, if they are truly Baptists, they return the compliment and regard us as in serious error on the same issues. Further, while we have no desire to denigrate Christians with whom we disagree on these matters, we do not see that we have a significant obligation to make their case for them, or vice versa.
As for myself, I have never been offended when the Pope says something that sounds robustly Roman Catholic or when bears refuse to use the public lavatories and simply relieve themselves in the woods. It is what they are supposed to do. And when I talk about how beautiful my wife is, you should not be offended when I fail to mention that your wife is equally beautiful. If I did, you could assume that there was something seriously wrong.