Full Text for American Religious Scene- Volume 30 - Finding and interpreting texts (Video)

No. 30. >> That helps me understand. Thank you very much. Now, if I understand you correctly, all groups have a confession of some sort, even if they claim they don't. Where do we go to find these texts? And how do we go about interpreting them? >>DR. LAWRENCE R. RAST, JR.: Josh, well put. In fact, you've captured something I was leading towards and hadn't said explicitly. A material principle is a confession of sorts. And even those church bodies that say: We don't have a confessional text, do have a confession, at least theologically that they make in some way, shape or form. Even those groups that say, for example, that say "No creed but the Bible" have just offered up a creed. So where do we go to find these particular texts? Well, this is the area of theology and historical study that we call comparative symbolics. That sounds like a mouthful. And unnecessary technical jargon. Let me tell you what it means. It means comparing the official confessional texts of a variety of different traditions. Now in the Lutheran case, this is pretty simple for us to get after. We have our Book of Concord, 1580. And our Confessions I and Confessions II courses have led you through that material or will do so if you're taking that course in the future. What you'll find there are explicit confessional text its that our particular community has put together based on the Scriptures. A little bit earlier we talked about the norma normans. The norming norm. The Scriptures themselves. The formal principle. Well, we also saw that a number of other traditions have their own norm norms, shall we say. Their own way of reading the Scriptures. And while we share with most Protestants in understanding of Scripture as the formal principle, what we also find is reading the Bible leads us to different conclusions in some cases. Thus, each one of these traditions has some kind of confessional statement that it puts together, even if it's brief and simple. We Lutherans have a fairly comprehensive statement with the Book of Concord embracing the Augsburg Confession, the apology, Luther's two Catechisms, the treatise of the Smalcald Articles, the treatise of the power and primacy of the Pope and the Formula of Concord. That gives us a place to go, a norma normata, a normed norm, based on the Scripture to understand and to learn what it is Lutherans have confessed. Other traditions have similar texts. For example, the Church of England has its Thirty-Nine Articles. They were adopted as an expression of the Church of England's faith. The Presbyterian tradition has the Westminster Confession along with the Shorter and Larger Catechisms. The Methodist Church has its Articles of Religion and also certain sermons of John Wesley to which it terms as authoritative texts, once again. Even the Baptists have their Philadelphia Confession, the New Hampshire Confession and other statements of faith that they turn to when explicating their position and making a statement of what it is that they believe, teach and confess. Even in some of the more anti-creedal groups you'll find these kind of statements, as well. In my own ministry we were surrounded by members of the Church of Christ. And one of the points they consistently made was they did not have an absolute confessional text. I would query some of the pastors and members: Then what is it that you believe, teach and confess? Where do you turn to know these kinds of things? How do you teach children what it is that you believe? And they would come back and say of course: We only use the Bible. The Bible alone. No creed but the Bible. But I would say: Then how do you keep from everybody coming up with their own thing? And their response was: Well, there are things certainly believed among us. And I said: What are those things? And there would be a consistent list that they would offer me. And I would say: That sound to me like a confession of sorts. They weren't always thrilled to hear me say that. But nonetheless, I think the point got across. Every group has its confessional statement. Whether it be formalized in a Book of Concord or Westminster Confession or more informal in terms of the things that are certainly believed among us. It's to those kinds of texts that we will turn as we explore the various positions of these church bodies, comparing their symbolics, their texts, their authoritative documents for their traditions. We'll look at them, consider them, compare them and find out how they square up with the Word of God. It will be I think an interesting task. And an enlightening one, as well. And it will help you above all to understand the variety of positions that have characterized the Christian church here in America. And I think, too, it might also have some very practical purposes.