LIBERTY UNIVERSITY

CONFESSIONS COMPARISON: SHORT CONFESSION OF FAITH IN TWENTY ARTICLES OF 1609
VS. WALDENSIAN CONFESSION OF 1544

A PAPER SUBMITTED TO DR. A. J. SMITH IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR
THE COURSE CHHI 694

LIBERTY BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY

BY ELKE SPELIOPOULOS

DOWNINGTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 2012

CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION ...................................................................................................................... 1 ON WHO GOD IS ...................................................................................................................... 2 ON WHAT SIN IS...................................................................................................................... 2 ON WHO CAN BE SAVED ....................................................................................................... 3 ON JUSTIFICATION ................................................................................................................. 3 ON ETERNAL SECURITY ....................................................................................................... 4 ON WHAT THE CHURCH IS ................................................................................................... 4 ON SACRAMENTS OF THE CHURCH.................................................................................... 4 ON THE CHURCH¶S MINISTERS............................................................................................ 5 ON CHURCH DISCIPLINE ....................................................................................................... 5 ON THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD ............................................................................. 5 A BELIEVER¶S PURPOSE AND DUTY ................................................................................... 6 ON BELIEVERS¶ RELATIONSHIP TO GOVERNMENT ........................................................ 6 COMPARISON OF CONFESSIONS ......................................................................................... 6 CONCLUSION .......................................................................................................................... 7 BIBLIOGRAPHY ....................................................................................................................... 8

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INTRODUCTION While the early church used the term ³confession´ for the testimony of martyrs, it more commonly describes ³formal statements of Christian faith written by Protestants since the earliest day of the Reformation.´1 Groups throughout Protestant history have written confessions of faith. This paper will be comparing and contrasting the Short Confession of Faith in Twenty Articles, written by John Smyth in 1609, and the Waldensian Confession of 1544, in the areas of who God is, what sin is, who can be saved, what justification and eternal security mean, what the church is, what the sacraments of the church are, who should be the church¶s ministers, to whom church discipline is applied to, the beliefs on the resurrection of the dead and a believer¶s purpose and duty, and what the relationship of believers should be to government. John Smyth (1554-1612), the author of the Short Confession of Faith in Twenty Articles, was an Anglican priest who was disenchanted with the reforms of Anglicanism and founded an independent church. His group was forced to flee to Amsterdam due to persecution in England. He adopted Mennonite views of pacifism and oath-taking, as well as believer¶s baptism.2 The Waldensians began as a movement in the decade 1170-80 in Lyons, France. They adopted a lifestyle of simplicity and poverty. Waldensians saw Scripture as their highest authority. Ministers who did not conform to the biblical teaching were condemned by them. They believed themselves to be the continuation of the authentic Christian church, driven underground during the persecution phase and now re-emerging. A persecuted group, Waldensians nevertheless challenged the thinking during the time of the Protestant Reformation and many of their beliefs entered into Protestant tradition.3
Walter A. Elwell, ed., Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, second ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001), s.vv. "Confessions of Faith." Justo L. González, The Story of Christianity: The Reformation to the Present Day (New York, NY: HarperOne, 2010), 2:195.
3 2 1

Elwell, Confessions of Faith.

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These two confessions are brief documents, with 20 and 12 articles respectively. They are not comprehensive statements of faith, yet each reflects the key areas of importance for a particular body of believers during a particular time in history. While both confessions agree on who God is, the Short Confession of Faith in Twenty Articles has a clear emphasis on sin and justification, but also on church polity and discipline, whereas the Waldensian Confession is more concerned with holy living. ON WHO GOD IS The Short Confession of Faith in Twenty Articles (SCF20A) declares that God is the Creator and Preserver of all, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (SCF20A 1). He has created and redeemed the human race in His own image (SCF20A 2). Jesus Christ is deemed true God and true man (SCF20A 6) and was conceived of the Holy Spirit in Mary¶s womb (SCF20A 7). He lived the life described in Scripture, and after His crucifixion, burial and resurrection, He ascended into Heaven where He was given all power and where He is King, Priest, and Prophet (SCF20A 7). The Waldensian Confession (WC) is more explicit in its definition of who God is, dedicating a full paragraph to each person of the Trinity (WC 1-3). God is described as Spirit. He is the Creator of all things and Father of all (WC 1). Jesus is the Son and the image of the Father (WC 2). The Holy Spirit is the Comforter and proceeds from Father and Son (WC 3). The WC elaborates on the character of God in a more refined and explicit manner than the SCF20A. The former has 12 articles, whereas the latter has 20, as such the WC spends a significant portion of the confession on simply defining who God is. ON WHAT SIN IS Sin is defined in the SCF20A as not being imposed on man by God, but rather that sin comes about when man sins freely through the influence of Satan (SCF20A 3). The confession

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denies original sin; the only sin is of a voluntary nature (SCF20A 5). Infants are without sin (SCF20A 5). The WC only indirectly references sin in its agreement with the Apostles¶ Creed (WC 12), which refers to ³the forgiveness of sins´4. ON WHO CAN BE SAVED The SCF20A states that God has not reprobated any man, but rather that all men are ordained to life (SCF20A 2). God has clearly and openly offered disclosed His grace to all, visible in both things made and through the preaching of His Word (SCF20A 8). Man, because of God¶s grace displayed in the redemption offered through Jesus Christ, is thus able to repent, believe and turn to God through which he gains eternal life (SCF20A 9). The WC is silent on this topic, and the Apostles¶ Creed, which the Waldensians stand in agreement with, also provides no further insights. ON JUSTIFICATION According to the SCF20A, God originally used keeping of the law as the measure to grant life, however through Christ¶s redemption, believers are now justified by faith. Righteousness is imparted on the believer partly by faith through Christ¶s righteousness and partly because of ³inherent righteousness´, or regeneration, brought about ³by the operation of the Holy Spirit´ and via the righteousness of the believer (SCF20A 10). Faith without works is vain. Good works act to distinguish living faith (SCF20A 11). The WC does not directly address justification, but refers to a declaration of faith in the paragraph on baptism (WC 7). In addition, WC 12 references the Apostles¶ Creed as a guideline
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Paul P. Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press, 1997), 418.

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for its beliefs, however there is no direct statement on justification beyond belief in the ³forgiveness of sins´5. ON ETERNAL SECURITY Man is able to resist the Holy Spirit and turn from their faith, thereby forfeiting their salvation (SCF20A 9). The WC is silent on eternal security. In addition, the referenced Apostles¶ Creed (WC 12) makes no statement on this topic. ON WHAT THE CHURCH IS The church, in the SCF20A, is ³a company of the faithful´ who have been baptized after their confession of sin and faith. The church has been given the power of Christ (SCF20A 12). The church has power in and of itself to determine who will teach the Scriptures, administer sacraments, and to appoint and discipline clergy, yet final authority rests with the body of believers (SCF20A 13). To the Waldensians, church consists of ³the whole assembly of the elect and faithful´ with Jesus as the head, governed by the Word of God and guided by the Holy Spirit. Christians should fellowship as members of the church (WC 4). ON SACRAMENTS OF THE CHURCH In the SCF20A view, sacraments of the church are believer¶s baptism, which excludes infants (SCF20A 14), and the Lord¶s Supper for believers (SCF20A 15) The WC upholds baptism as a visible sign for the believer¶s faith and renewal. It serves as a vehicle to admit members to the fellowship. There is no mention of the age of the person to be baptized or the exclusion of infants, but the language referring to the person¶s faith would
5

Ibid.

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preclude infants (WC 7). The Lord¶s Supper is viewed as a commemoration that is to be taken by believers after thorough self-examination (WC 8). Marriage was instituted by God and is to be upheld as such by believers, i.e. there is no biblical reason not to get married (WC 9). ON THE CHURCH¶S MINISTERS Both confessions give minimal direction as to who its ministers are to be. Minsters of the church are both bishops and deacons (SCF20A 16). In the WC, minsters need to be without blame in both life and doctrine. Those serving need to have a calling from God like that of Aaron to be ministers. They are to feed their flocks and lead by the example of their lives (WC 5). ON CHURCH DISCIPLINE According to the SCF20A, Church members who continue in sin are to be excluded from fellowship via excommunication (SCF20A 17). They are, however, not to be avoided in business encounters (SCF20A 18). Ministers who are not faithful in life and doctrine are to be deposed and replaced (WC 5). ON THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD All dead will be raised with the same body; however the make-up of the bodies will be changed (SCF20A 19). All will appear before Christ to be judged for their works. Those who are pious will enjoy eternal life, while those who are condemned will suffer eternal punishment in hell together with the devil and his hordes (SCF20A 20). The WC is silent on the resurrection of the dead, however it includes this indirectly in the form of an agreement to the Apostles¶ Creed, which states a confirmation of ³the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting´6.
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Ibid.

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A BELIEVER¶S PURPOSE AND DUTY The SCF20A is silent on the topic of a believer¶s purpose and duty. The believer¶s purpose of pleasing God is highlighted in the WC. They are to abound in good works as described in Scripture (WC 10). Believers are to be diligent in their attention to and avoidance of false teachers (WC 11). They are to abide by the complete Bible as their rule for life. The Apostles¶ Creed is to serve as a general confession of faith (WC 12). ON BELIEVERS¶ RELATIONSHIP TO GOVERNMENT The SCF20A is silent on the topic of the relationship of believers to government. The WC cites the example of Jesus¶ civil obedience to set the precedent for believer. They are to submit to civil authorities as Scripture declares them to be appointed by God (WC 6). COMPARISON OF CONFESSIONS It is quite difficult to draw a comparison between the two confessions. It seems to be of more benefit to focus on the emphases in the confessions. The Short Confession of Faith in Twenty Articles has two distinct marks: its understanding of sin and its focus on church polity and discipline. The Waldensian Confession of 1544 has a strong focus on Christian living. In the SCF, the surprising discovery comes in the understanding of sin depicted, which is a departure from Arminius¶ beliefs who was not Pelagian in his ideas about sin, but held rather firmly to the concept of original sin7. However, the concept of the possibility of losing one¶s salvation is clearly in line with Arminian thinking as is the availability of salvation for all. The WC is silent on these topics, and the Apostles¶ Creed gives no further help. However, the earlier Waldensian Confession of Faith of 1120 provides the insight that Jesus died ³for the salvation of all who should believe´ (WCF 7).
7

Elwell, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology.

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The SCF has a strong emphasis on church polity and discipline, which highlights their resolve to be self-governing and their rejection of any state influence. The WC, on the other hand, is much more concerned with the holy living of believers and warns strongly of those who might slip in and introduce false teachings. Their relationship to government is one of obedience to authority, and there is no clear distinction to the church. The Waldensians see government as necessary and instituted by God. CONCLUSION The comparison of the Short Confession of Faith in Twenty Articles of 1609 and the Waldensian Confession of 1544 shows clear departures in emphasis. While the followers of Smyth were concerned with highlighting their theology and church polity in order to delineate their beliefs from those around them, the Waldensians seem to have produced a document that is a guideline for the believers. They also seem to fall back somewhat on the earlier Waldensian Confession of Faith, which provides additional insights and clarifications not found in the later document. Some surprising elements show up in the reading of the Short Confession of Faith in Twenty Articles, which seems to follow Arminian thought with the exception of the position on original sin. Again, the Waldensian Confession of 1544 is much less concerned with particulars of who the elect are, what sin is or how someone is justified, but serves as directions for living for those who are believers in Jesus Christ. These confessions teach the believer today that while much discussion can be had on various theological concepts, it is imperative to get the essentials of the Christian faith right. When much is at risk, our confession has to stand the test of time: the truth of Scripture.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY Elwell, Walter A., ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Second ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001. Enns, Paul P. The Moody Handbook of Theology. Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press, 1997. González, Justo L. The Story of Christianity: The Reformation to the Present Day. Vol. 2. New York, NY: HarperOne, 2010.

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