Confessions have played a major role in the life of the church throughout history. Many times they are the product of doctrinal controversy. For instance, the Definition of Chalcedon sought to counter the misconceptions and false beliefs about the person of Jesus Christ in relation to his two natures.
“We also teach that we apprehend this one and only Christ-Son, Lord, only-begotten — in two natures; and we do this without confusing the two natures, without transmuting one nature into the other, without dividing them into two separate categories, without contrasting them according to area or function.”
In this way, confessions are best understood in the context of the doctrinal climate of their day. They often address the concerns of a particular group of Christians in a particular era. In most cases (if not all), they are timeless in what they do say but at the same time should not be asked to stretch beyond their concerns. They should not be dismissed for not addressing certain doctrines when those doctrines were not within the scope of their concerns. We should value the grand confessions of the church for what they do say and not what they lack. If doctrinal criticism is warranted then it should be on the basis of what a confession says inaccurately.
While confessions are set in a particular context, they are also built on the traditions and beliefs of the past. The authors of the Definition of Chalcedon make this clear in the opening statement of their confession.
“Following, then, the holy fathers, we unite in teaching all men to confess the one and only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The “faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” does not change over time. Our articulation of that truth may change but we are united with believers of every era in a common faith rooted in the person and work of Jesus Christ. We are truly one church united by one faith in one God and Savior who exists in Triune splendor.
One of the most profitable products of my seminary education has come as a result of my systematic theology classes. We were asked to write personal confessions on a variety of doctrines in order to express what we believe about certain truths. I quickly learned to appreciate the hard work of those individuals who have produced the beautiful confessional documents of our Christian faith. Confession writing is extremely difficult. It takes a lot of effort to expound doctrine in a concise and precise manner. Over the next few days I will be posting my confessions on here as a statement about what I believe. I would welcome any feedback, thoughts, or corrections to them as a means of sharpening these beliefs in my own mind and heart. Ultimately, I hope that these confessions will be an encouragement to your own faith as you seek to hold fast to Christ and confess him in the world.