As a young church, we’ve been praying about how to set out some statement of the doctrines to which we hold. After much prayer and consideration, it looks like we’re leaning toward affirming The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith.
However, this leads to an important question. Must we subscribe to every single thing in that confession? What if there are things we disagree with? What if someone new comes to our assembly and disagrees with a minor point? What about a major point? Who decides what is minor or major?
These important questions led me to ask some other Australian Baptist ministers for their input. These guys helped me wrestle through the issues a bit and I wanted to share a brief summary. First, I found this article by Dr. Robert Gonzales, Jr. quite helpful: Confessional Subscription: Strict vs. Substantial. In it, he outlines roughly five different levels of subscription to a confessional statement (given here in order of strictness):
- Strict subscription (subscribe to all of the confession, as the authors held it)
- Full subscription (subscribe to all of the confession, room for differing interpretations of statements)
- Substantial subscription (subscribe to most of the confession)
- System subscription (subscribe to the general theological system of the confession)
- Substance subscription (subscribe to the essentials of the confession)
I personally have some significant concerns with both the top and bottom options (#1 and #5). The closer we get to the middle (#3), the more comfortable I am. I don’t have time to explain the whys on any of that here, but a look at the linked article might give some insights.
All that to say, let’s be praying as a church that God will give us clarity on the best way to express our doctrinal convictions, and, if we choose one of the standing confessions, the level at which we should subscribe.
Grace to you.