A correspondent to the Heidelblog writes:
…I have been living in the Heidelblog lately, and have been challenged to rethink so many previous convictions. Thank you for this resource! I especially have been edified by the QIRC/QIRE idea, but thinking through it has raised the following question. How is following a historical confession of faith not a form of QIRC? Is the key in the I? Is it because it’s a natural consequence of sola scriptura?
Thank you and God Bless you,
Thanks for this and for the encouragement.
As you suggest, Sola Scriptura is a great hedge against the QIRC, which I take it is the more relevant of the two to this question.
It is a matter of definitions. The key adjective is illegitimate. The Quest for Illegitimate Religious Certainty has three aspects: to know things the way God knows them, this is a form of rationalism. The Reformed reject this as contrary to the Word of God. Second, it is the desire to know things that cannot be known. This desire contradicts Deuteronomy 29:29. Third, it is the desire for absolute certainty in matters about which absolute certainty is either impossible or undesirable. The Reformed confessions do not indulge in this quest.
The Reformed Churches have met in assemblies and in prayer, and after much study, after consulting the church’s reading of Scripture from the preceding 1,500 years, has agreed with the Ancient Church on the essentials, as summarized in the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene-Constantinoplitan Creed, the Athanasian, and the Definition of Chalcedon. Before all that, and with the ancient church, the Reformed Churches start with the essential perspicuity of Scripture: the Bible is, by divine intention, clear enough to know what we must know for the Christian faith and the Christian life.
Thus, adjective “historical” is potentially misleading. Yes, the creeds and confessions are historical but that is not all they are. We still confess these documents. We still teach them. They are a contemporary confession of our understanding of Scripture. We do not say that they are correct because they are ancient but because they are true to the Word of God.
It is not QIRC-y to hold confessions because, by definition, a QIRC-er is irreformable. He must be right and cannot be wrong and typically, he must be right about things that are outside the ecumenical creeds and Reformed confessions. He may be indifferent about the two natures of Christ, about which the ancient church and the Reformed church is deeply interested but absolutely certain about the age of the earth and length of the creation days. The Reformed churches do not confess on these issues, at least not that way. The concerns that have always animated the church also animate the Reformed churches and are reflected in their confessions. Further, our confessions are corrigible. Where we are wrong we are committed to revising our confession to conform to holy Scripture. Thus, most of the Reformed churches (especially in the USA) have revised their confessional language about the role of the state relative to the church (see the resources below).
Against the broadly evangelical latitudinarian spirit, which seeks to confess as little as possible (so called mere Christianity), the Reformed churches have always confessed the faith fulsomely, though we have not confessed on every controversial point. There have been issues that the churches have left open and there are yet issues we may address. Further, we reserve the right to form a new confession entirely, for which I have argued in Recovering the Reformed Confession (and again in Modern Reformation in 2017). See below for more.
With that basis, the churches have confessed the faith relative to the most important issues facing it and we continue to affirm that confession by subscribing and teaching it. The ecumenical faith and the Reformation consensus and the Reformed confessions are not illegitimate. We are not asking questions that Scripture is not answering. We are not seeking to bind consciences on matters that should be left to Christian liberty.
If we say that any certainty is illegitimate, then we have given up the faith for skepticism. After all, our faith rests on a fact claim about history: that Jesus of Nazareth was raised from the dead. Absent that reality we are above all men to be pitied (1 Cor 15:19), as Paul says. We are not skeptics. We are Christians.
©R. Scott Clark
- How To Subscribe To Heidelmedia
- How to support Heidelmedia: use the donate button below
- HB Resource Page
- Heidelmedia Archive
- Reformed Confessions
- The Catholic (Universal) Creeds
- Why the Focus on the Confessions?
- What Must A Christian Believe?
- Indy Reformed: Why Creeds And Confessions?
- The Revision of Belgic Confession Article 36 on Church and State
- Resources For Those Discovering The Reformed Confession
- Discussing QIRC And QIRE On Presbycast
- The QIRC-er Must Be Right
- Recovering the Reformed Confession
- Fesko, J. V. The Need for Creeds Today: Confessional Faith in a Faithless Age. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2020.
- Trueman, Carl R. The Creedal Imperative. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2012.