25 September 2007

Believe, Confess & Teach

The Holy Apostle Paul states that if thou confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in thy heart that God hath raised him up from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For, with the heart, we believe unto justice; [and] with the mouth, confession is made unto salvation. (Rom 10.9-10) He then continues by speaking about preaching—the act of proclaiming or teaching the kyregma; that is, content of what is believed and confessed.

Let me suggest that we do well to pay attention to the ordering of the concepts by the holy apostle. It is not unlike the order of the words when the Lord says, You are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen: that you may know, and believe me, and understand that I myself am. (Is 43.10) The word order the Lord chooses indicates theological priority: we know (gnwsis) and believe and understand. In other words, we do not understand in order to believe so that we might know. Rather, we understand what we believe due to the knowing—the profound relationship—we have in and with God. In the same way, the Holy Apostle states that believing begets confessing which, in turn, begets proclaiming and teaching. In other words, the triad is “believe, confess and teach.”

Now I freely admit that I may be parsing the triad of “believe, confess and teach” a bit too finely; for I will also freely admit that the three—believing, confessing and teaching—are symbiotically intertwined and therefore cannot always be neatly separated. Nevertheless, to understand the Orthodox view of creeds and confessions, it is necessary to understand that doctrine does not form creeds but springs from them; and therefore the primary purpose of creeds or confessions of faith is to articulate doxologically what is believed, rather than to provide content for instruction; and that while creeds or confessions of faith are norms and boundaries for what is taught, that is not their primary role. The primary role of creeds and confessions of faith—and their rightful home—is not the classroom, but the liturgy.

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