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Introducing “A Conservative Christian Declaration”

Click here for the print edition (and Kindle) of this Declaration.

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:

  1. We want to articulate clearly a fully-orbed conservative Christianity that includes both doctrine and practice (including holy living and rightly ordered worship).
  2. We want to help answer and prevent common caricatures of our positions on these matters.
  3. 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.
  4. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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):

  1. The Apostles’ Creed
  2. The Nicene Creed
  3. The Definition of Chalcedon
  4. The Athanasian Creed

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:

  1. The Belgic Confession of Faith
  2. The Heidelberg Catechism
  3. The Schleitheim Confession
  4. The Westminster Confession of Faith
  5. The London Baptist Confession / The Philadelphia Baptist Confession
  6. The Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England
  7. The New Hampshire Baptist Confession
  8. 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.

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Scott Aniol

About Scott Aniol

Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is on faculty at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He has written two books, dozens of articles, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and two children.

41 Responses to Introducing “A Conservative Christian Declaration”

  1. Benjamin Habegger says:

    First of all, the date at the end should be January 11, 2014, not 2013.

  2. Scott Aniol Scott Aniol says:

    Just changed that. Thanks!

  3. Hi,

    I appreciate the work on this. It is difficult to get the wording right. I don’t know how many hours were spent on it, but it is very good. I have done one thorough reading, and after one read through, I agree with most of what you wrote. Among other things, the following seems insufficient to reach your goal:

    We deny that Christian fellowship is possible with those who deny the fundamentals of the gospel including the inerrancy of Scripture, the virgin birth, the deity of Christ, his sacrificial atonement, and justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

    There may be a comma needed after “gospel.” If you wrote, “including at least,” then I would agree, but you write as those are it. In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul also talks about “another spirit.” It seems that at Corinth, their worship was influenced by “another spirit” of the false teachers. Can we fellowship with someone with another Jesus or another spirit? Perhaps you think that is implied in those five you listed.

    You say that the whole counsel of God is the center and the gospel is the boundary. So you fellowship with those involved in false worship, as long as they agree on those five fundamentals, essential to the gospel? By including those teachings, it reads like that is what you are teaching, that false worship is not a separating issue. If someone believes those, but uses corrupt communication as a practice, you can continue in fellowship. I’m fine with finding out I’m wrong. You say that truth, goodness, and beauty are inseparable. This contradicts what you’re writing, it seems clear. If someone has a false view of beauty, he doesn’t have the same God. How can he be saved, converted, if he has a different God? He might believe in Jesus, but if it is not the same Jesus, and I’m not talking just about the deity issue, then how is he saved?

    There is so much that I agree with, but I wouldn’t be able to sign it, because it isn’t going to preserve true worship. Again, I don’t mind finding out if I’m wrong, but there seems to be a gaping hole in it.

  4. Benjamin Habegger says:

    For what they’re worth, here are a few thoughts of mine. I have two questions. First, might the article on the “visceral appetites” be more effective with a bit more definition of those appetites (possibly including more explicit contrast with the affections)? Second, might the last sentence in Article 14 be better worded? Perhaps the word “contributes” could cause unnecessary confusion. Some might wrongly interpret this sentence as denying the possibility of any “spiritual growth and maturity” within the context of an age-segregated children’s worship service. I think the intent was to deny the necessity of age-segregation itself for such spiritual benefits in childrens’ lives. Then again, you might have meant more than that. In any case, thank you to all the contributors for your hard work on this document.

  5. […] worked on drafting a kind of statement of some of the distinctives of conservative Christianity. As Scott Aniol said of our goals in putting this […]

  6. Scott Aniol Scott Aniol says:

    Thanks for the feedback, gentlemen. A few responses.

    Kent,

    First, each Article is not meant to stand on its own; each progresses and builds on each other.

    Second, “including” implies that it is not an exhaustive list but rather representative. As mentioned in this post, this document is not meant to articulate the boundaries of Christian fellowship or define the gospel. We leave it to the historic creed and confessions to do that.

    Third, by “Christian fellowship,” we mean basic Christian recognition. So, yes, I would recognize someone as a Christian and fellowship with him on that basic level if he is within the boundary of the gospel but worships in a way that I believe to be deficient. However, as is expressed in this post and several times through the declaration, differences over worship will certainly limit, and in some cases prevent, cooperation on any significant level. That is the only point behind Article 2.

    Benjamin,

    First, visceral appetites is meant to mean nothing more than its most obvious meaning: the purely physical passions such as hunger, sexual drive, fear, sentimentality, etc.

    Second, “regularly” in Article 14 is key for us. The authors do not believe that there are no cases in which it might be helpful to separate children out for their own time of discipleship. There are a lot of negatives in that sentence, so let me rephrase: Most of the authors believe that in some cases it may be beneficial to separate children for their own time of discipleship. But the main point of that sentence in Article 14 is that we do not believe that REGULARLY separating them out, particularly from corporate worship, is good for their spiritual growth. So I would actually go beyond what you assumed we meant. It’s not just that we don’t think that age-segregation is a necessity; we don’t think REGULAR age-segregation from corporate worship is beneficial. To put it positively: We believe that the best thing for our children is to have them part of corporate worship, although (for some of us) there may be occasional times when segregation is helpful. And to reiterate, this sentence refers to corporate worship. Most of the authors agree that other times of age-appropriate discipleship (Sunday School, for example) may be helpful (although a few authors may disagree).

  7. Benjamin Habegger says:

    Scott,
    Thank you for your clarifications. I’m not sure most American Christians would be able to articulate how worship might appeal to the appetites; but that’s a fault of popular Christian thought, not of this document. In Article 14, I did catch the emphasis on regular practices, as well as the distinction between corporate worship and other teaching venues; and given your response, I realize that my paraphrase was a bit lacking. Thank you again for your response.

  8. Hi Scott,

    What you expressed makes us very, very close with this document, to the point where we could declare it with you, but perhaps still not getting there, even with your explanation. I say this as someone who wants to agree. I’m also seeing it as a very significant issue for you, even if we don’t agree on what fellowship and separation should be. I don’t think this declaration is necessarily a position statement on separation, but on being a conservative church. We are a conservative church.

    Perhaps, amidst your busyness with block classes, debate with Shai Linne, among all your other duties, you could help me with this.

    You would at least be emphasizing those five as fundamentals by listing them, and by doing so, excluding others. Can someone believe in a biblical Jesus, who is represented or presented as ugly or banal or profane? You did not, it seemed, leave any wiggle room between truth, goodness, and beauty? They proceed from God, as He is one, they too are one. Should someone who believes in another Jesus or another Spirit be given Christian recognition?

    One of us could be wrong.

  9. Scott Aniol Scott Aniol says:

    I think I understand what you’re saying. Two comments:

    First, again, this document is not supposed to address everything. You’re right; it’s not a document on separation. It’s meant simply as a tool for teaching and articulating the heart of conservative Christianity. We believe fundamentalism/separation is an implication of conservative Christianity.

    Second, I do believe it is possible to be within the boundary of Christianity (the gospel) and yet still be someone with whom I would share very little cooperation or official fellowship. But I would still call that person a Christian. So yes, it is possible that there be someone who I think has a terrible philosophy of worship that demeans Christ, I would certainly try to convince him they are wrong, and I would have problems cooperating with him on significant ecclesiastical levels. But I would still call them Christian.

  10. […] to preserve what is transcendent, absolute, true, good, and beautiful. In particular, as “A Conservative Christian Declaration” […]

  11. […] This is a series to further explain the articles of “A Conservative Christian Declaration.” […]

  12. Erik Charter says:

    If “Religious Affections” as taught by Jonathan Edwards are to be a focal point of the Christian life, what do you make of the course taken by the New England Congregational churches that Edwards was a part of? Can you abstract religious affections from the fate of those churches?

    What is your opinion of the ministry and writings of Gilbert Tennent?

  13. […] This is a series to further explain the articles of “A Conservative Christian Declaration.” […]

  14. […] This is a series to further explain the articles of “A Conservative Christian Declaration.” […]

  15. […] This is a series to further explain the articles of “A Conservative Christian Declaration.” […]

  16. Coby says:

    My first reading of this document disturbed me deeply. It sounded like a bludgeon specifically designed to wield against modern music in the church. I don’t know precisely where you all are headed with this, but I hope it is in the direction of “until we all attain to the unity of the faith.” I’m not there yet, either, but very few things upset me as much as a warm church turning cold. Please be sure you’re not quenching the Spirit. That’s not the way to deal with errors, by throwing the baby out with the bath.

  17. […] This is a series to further explain the articles of “A Conservative Christian Declaration.” […]

  18. […] This is a series to further explain the articles of “A Conservative Christian Declaration.” […]

  19. […] This is a series to further explain the articles of “A Conservative Christian Declaration.” […]

  20. […] This is a series to further explain the articles of “A Conservative Christian Declaration.” […]

  21. […] This is a series to further explain the articles of “A Conservative Christian Declaration.” […]

  22. […] This is a series to further explain the articles of “A Conservative Christian Declaration.” […]

  23. […] This is a series to further explain the articles of “A Conservative Christian Declaration.” […]

  24. […] This is a series to further explain the articles of “A Conservative Christian Declaration.” […]

  25. […] This is a series to further explain the articles of “A Conservative Christian Declaration.” […]

  26. […] This is a series to further explain the articles of “A Conservative Christian Declaration.” […]

  27. […] This is a series to further explain the articles of “A Conservative Christian Declaration.” […]

  28. […] This is a series to further explain the articles of “A Conservative Christian Declaration.” […]

  29. […] Article 9: On Harmony and Variety in Ordinate Expression | Conservative Christianity, Worship, Culture, Aesthetics – Religious Affections Ministries on Introducing “A Conservative Christian Declaration” […]

  30. […] Article 10: On Meaning | Conservative Christianity, Worship, Culture, Aesthetics – Religious Affections Ministries on Introducing “A Conservative Christian Declaration” […]

  31. […] Article 11: On Popular Culture | Conservative Christianity, Worship, Culture, Aesthetics – Religious Affections Ministries on Introducing “A Conservative Christian Declaration” […]

  32. Adam Blumer says:

    I see you have a free Kindle version of this available if we are willing to promote it at our blogs. I’m wondering…Is it possible to review it and then decide if I want to promote it? Thanks.

  33. Scott Aniol Scott Aniol says:

    You’ll find the body of the book here in this blog series; this is simply a print edition (with various adjustments/improvements) of this series. We would ask that you would commit to some kind of mention of the book before we send you a free preview copy, even if it is a critical review (which is certainly acceptable!).

  34. […] This is a series to further explain the articles of “A Conservative Christian Declaration.” […]

  35. Jesse B. says:

    I replied to the last email I received but am not sure it went through.

    Here is my book review.

    http://ablogblessing.blogspot.com/2014/09/a-book-review-for-conservative.html

  36. Ron Evans says:

    Hello, Excellent document and very well thought out. Can you give me the extact definiton you have in mind when the word “Worship” is used? Both in the Declaration and through out this website? Thank you for uour time and efforts. I am very new to this site but will be investing time here.

    Evans

  37. Scott Aniol Scott Aniol says:

    Hi, Ron! Welcome to the site. I hope you find it beneficial.

    That’s a big question, of course, so I’d encourage you to spend some time on the site, and read my two books (Worship in Song and Sound Worship), which will give you a through explanation of my views on the issue.

    I will summarize a few things, though.

    In general, “worship” could be used general to describe devotion to the Lord, or it could specifically refer to corporate worship. So context will determine that.

    I might suggest you start with this post: http://religiousaffections.org/articles/articles-on-worship/what-is-worship/

    It will give you a basic understanding of what I mean, and then other posts in that series with flesh out other aspects.

    I hope that helps!

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