>Things you are but Won’t Admit

About once a month, I will use one of the following five terms and someone will argue that:

1. They are not that term
2. You should not be that term
3. That term may be coming between you and your personallordandsaviorjesuschrist.

Well, Christians are (or should be) all of these terms whether they like it or not:

1. Confessional – No, this does not mean you confess your sins to a clergyman or anyone else, though that wouldn’t hurt you either. This means the heart of Christianity involves that act of confessing the faith. Confessing means to acknowledge, own, or affirm. This did not start with Constantine oppressing the Church at Nicea but is the common practice of New Testament Christians such as


John 1:49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”


Matt 16:16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”


John 20:28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”

2. Creedal – creeds are the contents of what is believed. Creed comes from the latin that means to believe, and a creed merely answers what is believed. One of the most ignorant things one can say is “no creed but Christ.” This is asinine because first, that very statement is a creed – a statement of belief. And second, that statement in a non-answer. It merely tries to be clever in not answering Christ’s most important question: “Who do you say that I am?” (Luke 9:20) What is a ‘Christ’? Is that all that is necessary? Does Paul add too much to ask that “confess with your mouth that ‘Jesus is Lord’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. ” (Romans 10:9) or has Paul added too much creedalism in asking one to believe Jesus is Lord? Paul goes further in adding content to what is to be believed:

1Cor 8:6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

Paul says much more than that Jesus is Christ. Who do you say that Jesus is? What you say is your belief or creed. In saying it, you are confessing a creed. Now, I don’t like to say silly things about Jesus, so I like to say those things Scripture said. So did the early church in constructing the earliest creeds like the Apostles Creed. It is a “ready answer for the hope you have”

3. Denominational – “to denominate” means to give measure or to name. To call something “non-denominational” is to name something “unnamed” and give the measure of something as non-measured. You may not have a name for something, but you must at least have some confession to what you believe, unless everyone merely comes to your church to chant to themselves in non-language. The minute you have a confession, you denominate yourself. The minute you answer your denomination as nondenominational, you have denominated yourself. Again, our answer to questions of belief should clarify, not confuse in non-answers.

4. Liturgical – this word denotes the established order for worship. Do you usually sing songs before a sermon? There you go, that’s your liturgy. Do you have an invitation from Scripture, some hymns a prayer and a sermon? That’s a bit of a better liturgy. Are there prayers, creeds, a confession of sin, read Scripture, a sermon and the Lord’s Supper? Now that’s a great liturgy, but a liturgy no more or less so than the others. The choice is not between liturgy and no liturgy, but what is included in the liturgy and how much thought is given to the content and purpose of it.

5. Sacramental – Sacraments are “means of grace.” Now you know you don’t have those! Although, Paul did comment about preaching:

Rom 10:14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?

There in Romans 10:14, Paul gives preaching a status as a means by which God accomplishes salvation. So, perhaps preaching may be seen as a “means of grace” if by means of grace what is meant is a set form by which it is acknowledged that grace is figured and offered to the person who accepts by faith. There may be more tangable ways the word is offered, such as if you have an alter call that offers restitution, or a prayer prayed with heads bowed and eyes closed that offers salvation, then you have sacraments. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are preferred by some since they are ordained by God in Scripture (as a means of grace by the word – Ephesians 5:26, 1 Cor 11:26), but everyone has sacraments in the eyes of the congregation, the difference is whether they are Scriptural ones or the ones we replace them with.

So are you Confessional, Creedal, Liturgical, Denominational and Sacramental? If you are Christian you are. So, don’t disparage one who uses the terms for which all Christians actually believe in, whether they know it or not.



6 thoughts on “>Things you are but Won’t Admit

  1. >I do think that we’re using some important words differently. I think of “demonination” as a political entity, a formal union of congregations that stands to exert power over any given congregation. You seem to be using it simply as a category name, a range of congregations that bears similarities theologically and socially. I do prefer the word tradition because it indicates that a set of congregations shares an intelligible history and communion of ends without assuming that there is an overarching, super-congregational authority governing the lot of them. So, for instance, being a part of the Christian Churches/Churches of Christ tradition will likely involve adult baptism, but if one of our congregations stops doing that, there’s no bishop or regional presbyter or national board that’s going to excommunicate or otherwise censure the offending congregation.So I don’t deny that Christian Churches/Churches of Christ have distinctives (as I know full well that some of our number have denied) but rather assert that one of our distinctives as a tradition is not to require or desire a denominational superstructure.

    Posted by Nathan P. Gilmour | January 12, 2009, 6:44 pm
  2. >Aren’t Congregationalists, Baptists, independent Methodists, etc. denominations? They have Congregationalist government. I guess I am not understanding how Congregationalist government makes one not a denomination. Or is “tradition” a better name? Would you characterize yourself as part of the Stone-Campbell tradition rather than denomination?

    Posted by Jared Nelson | January 12, 2009, 5:12 pm
  3. >I grant your point; mine is that “denomination” in those traditions denotes not a simple naming but a participation in a regional/national organization, and “nondenominational” is a marker of polity rather than a denial of an intelligible tradition. In other words, I think of myself as part of a movement and a tradition, but since it’s a congregational rather than an episcopal or other trans-congregational structure, I still don’t think of it as a denomination.

    Posted by Nathan P. Gilmour | January 12, 2009, 5:02 pm
  4. >I think that’s my point though Nathan, The Disciples of Christ/Christian churches (which I grew up in) have a shared similar theology, a shared governance structure and a shared identity of denying they have a shared identity. They are a denomination characterized by denying they are a denomination. They share common seminaries (Lincoln Christian, Cincinati) and share a common theology. If I applied as a minister and said I planned on 1. preaching sola fide 2. preaching against baptismal regeneration 3. baptized infants They would not accept me as teaching things at varience with how they denominate themselves as a group. I don’t exactly know what is trying to be communicated by saying they are a nondenominational denomination.

    Posted by Jared Nelson | January 12, 2009, 2:38 pm
  5. >ConfessionalCreedalLiturgicalDenominationalSacramental-ist. The new catch phrase of ’09. Good post.

    Posted by Jeff Wright | January 10, 2009, 10:16 pm
  6. >I suppose I’m a four-point won’t-admittist. The only one I quibble with (you’d expect this from a Christian Churches/Churches of Christ dude) is the denominational one. While your etymology is valid, there’s also a fairly robust tradition that stays away from official regional/national denominational structures, preferring congregational governance. So while that still fits into your definition, I think that the more common definition might be handy for thought.

    Posted by Nathan P. Gilmour | January 9, 2009, 6:29 pm

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