Confession and Pastoral Theology: An Extraordinary Means of Constant Conversion

Pastors should hold fast to their time-tested confessions and catechisms

“Faithful ministers often endure ignorantly suspicious criticism for defaulting to the confessions and catechisms in regular pastoral care, but we must remember that they are especially designed and proven rods and staffs that guide the truly longing to lie down in green pastures and beside still waters at the feet of the Good Shepherd.”

 

Several people have told me they were first truly converted Christians upon becoming Calvinists.  Finally, the Bible made sense when the Spirit enlightened them to see, caress, and smell TULIP’s five lovely petals of God’s sovereign embrace from regeneration to glorification.[1]

Thus, as the Westminster Standards succinctly teach the most mature system of Calvinism (that is, Scriptural Christianity), one man and minister has testified to them for his “second conversion”.

In his article, “My Story”, the Rev. Philip Burley (now a retired pastor of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Australia)[2] shares how he was confounded with his sin and Scripture while a young Bible school student until being introduced to the Westminster Confession of Faith and experiencing an awakening:

… things changed for me in a rather unusual way. I asked the Principal to please give me a book which would help me sort out the different aspects of the law of God. I was confused.  What applied to my life in the ceremonial, the judicial law and moral law, and what didn’t?  He handed me the Westminster Confession of Faith.  That, he said, might help me sort it out.  It did, most certainly, do that!  It did so much more as well. It introduced me to the historic Reformed Faith.[3]

Faithful ministers often endure ignorantly suspicious criticism for defaulting to the confessions and catechisms in regular pastoral care, but we must remember that they are especially designed and proven rods and staffs that guide the truly longing to lie down in green pastures and beside still waters at the feet of the Good Shepherd.  And just as they comforted us to hear Christ’s voice and fear no evil, so they did for Rev. Burley:

There I was, a teenager with an acute sense of my sinfulness, and I read the chapter on Christ the Mediator!  I read with amazement how He came to seek and save lost sinners, to redeem them, to pay the price for their sin.  All of a sudden the light of truth flooded into my soul. It was not what I must do – it is what Christ Jesus had done for me! … The next amazing truth that came to me with great force was that of total depravity; the error of free will was thus dealt a fatal blow.[4]

The Westminster Confession of Faith and its supplementary catechisms, directories for worship, and form of church government should be seen not as dead documents but those which the Lord has and does use to breathe dry bones to life, put meat on their frames, and support Christ’s Body with ongoing Scriptural exercise unto stronger godliness.  They are an amazingly important commentary handbook on the whole counsel of God for the Christian’s faith and life.

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