Friday, March 30, 2007

Semper Reformanda: Always Reforming!
Contra Carl Trueman on Reformation 21

My former church history professor, Carl Trueman of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, recently posted a cautionary note to the church on Reformation 21 about whether or not, when and if, and by whom and why the church's creeds and confessions should be revised.

Allow me to counter Professor Trueman with these three points:

1. The later confessions of the church are undeniably Euro-centric. This includes, but is not limited to, the Westminster Standards, the Heidelberg Catechism, and Belgic Confession. Again, staying within the trajectory of my last posts, if the church desires a true ecumenism, that is, one that allows for the voice of all Christians everywhere to chime in (especially those of the non-Western church) we'll have to allow for confessional-reconstruction. In other words, the church will have to allow for non-Western, non-Enlightenment affected theology to creep into (and even dominate) its confessions.

2. Professor Trueman cautions us that "the church is more highly fragmented now." To this I say, "So what!" I must remind Professor Trueman that the "fragmentation" he speaks about is the product of the Protestant Reformation, the same people who felt that they had the right and/or obligation to revise and reconstruct the church's creeds. Moreover, this "fragmentation" is just the logical outworking of Luther et al's break with Rome. So, let's just deal with it instead of allowing it to handcuff us.

3. There is little doubt in my mind that some of the doctrines of the later confessions were affected by modernistic categories. For example, the modern banking system as we know it was conceived of and implemented by the Medici family in the 15th century. That's the same era that Luther speaks of justification in terms of accounting. [Hmmmm, interesting.] Maybe our non-Western sisters and brothers will help to see that our confessions recapture a filial aspect of redemption instead of all the modernistic legalese that hijacked it.

Therefore, if the church is "Semper Reformada," then it needs to always be reforming--even its creeds and confessions!


David said...

Do you think Trueman would disagree with the main points you made?

I think his main point is that revising creeds is a difficult task that requires wisdom, not so much that it shouldn't be done.

Matthew Paul Buccheri said...


Maybe you're right. Maybe Trueman is much more subversive and radical than I understand him to be...

David said...

You're onto something there...think about the music he listens to. Under the veneer of a distinguished seminary professor lies a rebel at heart.


JD said...

I think David is right about your reading of Trueman. I suspect Trueman would say yes, you're right, there are very legitimate positive reasons to revise creeds/confessions, but you still run into the problems he mentioned, which your counter doesn't answer. I guess one of the reasons I know I'm a little reticent about revising creeds is that we're so...democratic. Everyone thinks he/she has a right to be heard. They don't.

pduggie said...

Yes, that bit about the priesthood of only some believers.

David said...

Ok, serious question: what would be a practical way to deal with the fragmentation instead of being handcuffed by it?

JD said...

I dunno. I've been living on the assumption that better education will help a lot. I get a bit distraught though when I think about how different some groups are though (I just watched Jesus Camp last night). I've often thought that working together on common non-theological goals might help help build bonds that will help re-weight our differences. Things like fighting hunger, medical missions, etc. I dunno man.