There's an oft-repeated phrase in some documents that are hundreds of years old: "believe, teach, and confess". The documents are a collection of statements about what some Christian churches in 16th-century Germany were doing. And quite often the introduction to these explanations was, "our churches believe, teach, and confess...". #WeBTC. Has a nice hashtag ring to it.
Book cover in Public Domain. Quick and dirty photochopping by me.
There's an oft-repeated phrase in some documents that are hundreds of years old: "believe, teach, and confess". The documents are a collection of statements about what some Christian churches in 16th-century Germany were doing. And quite often the introduction to these explanations was, "our churches believe, teach, and confess...".
I'm going to be using those documents to write about the basics of the Christian faith over the next little while, and that phrase is a great way of beginning. And, it's a (hash)tag that will glue the series together: #WeBTC - We Believe, Teach, and Confess.
What does that phrase mean, in a personal sense?
Even if I speak in the singular (as in, "I believe"), this is not just what I believe. It's what we believe, together, as a group of churches. Contrary to what some say (that Luther made it possible for everyone to interpret the Bible individually; spoiler alert: he didn't) Christian theology has never been done in an individualistic vacuum. When it's done well, it's never been about one person's work alone. (Well, except for Jesus. He has the authority to interpret anything He wants, like the Fifth Commandment (Matthew 5:21-26) or the Sixth (Matthew 5:27-32), or all of them (Matthew 22:34-40), for example. But He's Jesus, and we're the Church. So for us, it's not I, but it's always we.)
I'll be writing in the singular, because this a personal project, but none of what I say on this is my own unique take on things. It may be my wording at times, but the substance belongs to the Word of God and is a common confession with many others.
I (again, not just me, but along with many others) believe this stuff that I'm writing about. I'm not just toeing a party line or saying something official that I'm required to say. I actually believe it.
I teach this stuff to my congregation and other people. When I talk about the Bible, or God, or whatever it is, I'm teaching people. Maybe it's in a formal setting like in worship or in a Bible study, or in an informal setting like over coffee or someone popping in for a quick, "hey-have-you-got-a-minute" conversation that can last an hour.
This word literally means to "same-say". In our church, we use it to describe what's happening when what we say (or communicate in any way) what we believe. So someone can believe something, but that's a personal and private thing until that person expresses that belief to someone else. So not only do I believe this stuff, but I tell you that I believe it. And there's one more detail: confession is never "the first word". Go back to the definition: to "same-say". So there has to be something that already exists - some statement or truth or fact, whatever it is - that a person can "say the same as". So when I confess, I'm not just making stuff up. I'm agreeing with and echoing something that's already in existence. In the case of Christian teaching, I'm confessing what the Bible teaches. I'm "same-saying" the Bible.
I hope you'll join me in this journey; not just learning what We Believe, Teach, and Confess, but thinking about how that might impact your own believing, confessing, and yes, even teaching.