Whatever the differences between the churches of the Reformation, the strength and vitality of a Lutheran church committed to its Book of Concord, an Anglican church that lives out its faith and practice from the riches of the Thirty-Nine Articles and its Book of Common Prayer, a Reformed or Presbyterian church shaped by the Three Forms and Westminster Standards, and Baptists who interpret their mission in the light of the London/Philadelphia Confession are a stronger witness for the common truths that bind evangelicals than all of the statements of faith that the evangelical movement seems perpetually to generate.
To be sure, as we dig more deeply into the Scriptures and our confessional identity, we become more aware of the distinctives of a particular tradition; but if we resist the temptation to indulge the narcissism of a party spirit, we may also discover that we understand and appreciate the truths that we all confess together and there discover a genuine openness to each other as “evangelical,” even if not altogether satisfied to be called “evangelicals.” Traditionalism is as mindless as perpetual innovation. When confessional convictions become reduced to slogans, knee-jerk reactions, and narrow-minded loyalty to a heritage, that tradition has already become dangerously moribund. However, a rediscovery of the truths that others have discovered before us provides resources that help us to make real contributions instead of settling for a generic and shallow consensus. Those who have themselves become fully persuaded that covenant children should be baptized should be eager to come together with brothers and sisters who disagree and in the process, with their Bibles open, come more fully to realize their shared love for the authority of God’s Word. And where we do agree together, our common witness can only be stronger, more unified, and more profound.
From “More Confessional and More Open?” Modern Reformation 17.7 (Nov/Dec 2008): 60.
Related article: Michael Horton, “To Be or Not To Be: The Uneasy Relationship between Reformed Christianity and American Evangelicalism,” Modern Reformation 17.7 (Nov/Dec 2008): 18-21.