Fulfilling a desire I’ve had for some time now, in July, 2013 I gathered together a group of pastors and ministry educators to discuss the future of conservative Christianity. As a result of that meeting, we worked for a period of twelve months to formulate a document that would accomplish the following goals:
- We want to articulate clearly a fully-orbed conservative Christianity that includes both doctrine and practice (including holy living and rightly ordered worship).
- We want to help answer and prevent common caricatures of our positions on these matters.
- We want a statement that like-minded Christians can rally around as an accurate expression of our convictions, while allowing for appropriate differences among us.
- We want to produce a statement that can be used as a tool to teach biblical conservatism.
Toward this end, we penned “A Conservative Christian Declaration.” We see this document as very similar to statements like the “Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” the “Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood,” and even recent documents like the T4G Affirmations and Denials and the Gospel Coalition documents. Our declaration defines what we believe to be important in a simple way. We also anticipate that it will be used similarly to the documents mentioned. It is a statement that individuals can use to articulate their views or that churches and other institutions can adopt or use as a teaching tool for adult discipleship. Before introducing the declaration, here are a few clarifications and explanations of its underlying purposes:
- We acknowledge that certain doctrinal commitments that are essential to Christianity are not articulated in the document. This statement does not fully articulate the fundamentals of the Christian faith. We look to the traditional creeds and confessions for that.
- We do not intend to imply that those who find affinity with the ideas expressed in this document will be able to work together in every circumstance (church planting, church membership, etc.). Doctrinal and practical matters beyond the concerns of this statement (such as denominational distinctives) will and should influence cooperation between Christians.
- We see this statement as an articulation of ideas that go beyond our core confessions. The Conservative Christian Declaration helps to define certain values that we consider important across denominational lines and that we fear have been lost in contemporary evangelicalism.
We would affirm as a foundation to this declaration the system of doctrine expressed in the early creeds of Christianity (see the Appendices for the full texts of these historic creeds):
Furthermore, we would insist upon the affirmation of additional doctrinal clarification and refinement provided by at least one other post-Reformation confession of faith. These might include one of the following:
- The Belgic Confession of Faith
- The Heidelberg Catechism
- The Schleitheim Confession
- The Westminster Confession of Faith
- The London Baptist Confession / The Philadelphia Baptist Confession
- The Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England
- The New Hampshire Baptist Confession
- The Baptist Faith and Message
In other words, we believe that the early creeds and at least one post-Reformation confession are necessary for summarizing biblical Christianity today. The Conservative Christian Declaration assumes traditional Christian and evangelical doctrine, adding important distinctives that we believe have been overlooked in recent years. In the posts that follow, you will find a preamble to the Declaration, followed by articles of affirmation and denial. We then offer brief explanations as clarifications of each article in the Declaration. The authors of this declaration do not consider it to be the final word on the subjects that it discusses. We recognize that we ourselves are in the process of learning, and we anticipate that both friends and opponents will help us to arrive at a more complete understanding of the truth. Consequently, both the statement itself and the explanatory chapters may be revised from time to time. While we have published these pages only after considerable thought, and while we are prepared to defend the ideas that we here articulate, we hold ourselves open to challenge and are prepared to be convinced of error and misstatement.