Barth on confessionality: I

If the public, ecumenical, dogmatically permanent creedal nature of the Augustana is a poor representative of what the Reformed confessionality looks like, here's what Barth poses as better. Barth sees the myriad of Reformed confessions as local and contextual, binding at the moment of confession as a communal act, but always a witness to the truth of God in scripture as understood at that time, in that place, and for that church. It is always the faith confessed, not the confession in itself, that is declared true. This is the reason that Barth can jump off from the myriad confessions and discuss the Scripture Principle as the core of Reformed belief and confession. These confessions do not stand next to the Bible; rather, they point to it, and through it to the revealed truth of God.

There's a lot to this that rings true with the way I've learned my Lutheran heritage. Heck, with as well as the Concord is taught in the congregations of my acquaintance, the scripture principle had as well be all that's holding the church together. And at that, I'm real glad that we're teaching Book of Faith! But setting aside the present realities of American congregational Protestantism, it is certainly true that the confessors at Augsburg were making a very contingent, contextual confession of their faith. They were making it in light of the opposition of a church claiming universality for itself, and so many of its claims are to a universal Christian faith. And the ground on which that stands is the faithful exposition of scripture. Provided consensus on what the ground rules are for exposition of scripture, you have a confession in the making.


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