ON FINDING MY DOCTRINAL HOME
In January of 2016, my wife and I moved to Edinburgh where I began work for the Banner of Truth Trust. This was during the last year of my degree programme at the University of Aberdeen. The job seemed appealing to me because of what I would be doing—working as part of the editorial team—and also because of who I would be working for. It was exciting to take the job and to find a new home, but no matter how significant work and accommodation are, there was something more significant that we had to figure out: finding a new church. And for the first time in my life, we were looking for something very specific: a Reformed Baptist church that held to the 1689 Baptist Confession of the Faith.
The search was the culmination of spending seven years wrestling with the word of God. I did not grow up in the church, and was not exposed to the gospel (or the Bible) until I was 18. When I became a Christian, it was substantially through the efforts of Mennonites, and I was eventually baptised by a Mennonite pastor in a Mennonite baptismal service. Mennonites are credobaptist, and this is something I’ve held onto ever since. However, other things changed. In 2009 I embraced the doctrines of grace. I know that this is sometimes a painful process but this was not the case for me. TULIP made sense in light of the Bible, and so did a greater and greater emphasis on the sovereignty of God and the glory of God. At the same time I developed a complementarian outlook on marriage and church leadership.
In the following years, my desire to grow in understanding the Bible and theology intensified. And with this growing desire came a growing depth of understanding. Doctrinal gaps were filled. I would love to read about the atonement, for instance, and loved discussing the different aspects of what Jesus did on the cross for God’s people and me with others. I began to read more and more literature from within the Reformed tradition; men like John Bunyan, John Owen, and John Murray. And I loved to hear recorded sermons from men like Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
During this time I learned that there was a name for people like me (and my wife): Reformed Baptists. Subsequently, we discovered that there was a book that, though centuries old, was foundational in summarising our doctrinal position: The Second London Baptist Confession of Faith. The Confession was originally written in 1677, but is known by many today as the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith (for the background about confessions see Michael Haykin’s article).
The Confession is not simply a good book; it is our doctrinal home. I write this not to overstate its importance. The Confession does not replace the Bible, and it is not on the same level as the Bible. The Confession itself declares that ‘The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience’ (1.1). But in outlining what the Bible teaches, it gives us a summary of what truly matters, and as such is a guide and theological foundation for us, alongside many Christians and many churches today.
When I discovered the Confession years ago, it gave a voice to the beliefs that I had discovered since becoming a Christian, and has been a faithful guide ever since.
We did find a church that held to the 1689 Confession of Faith back in 2016. I thank God that I now pastor a church that holds to the same doctrinal standard. Looking back over the past few years, there are many I can thank for their guidance in figuring out what the Bible teaches and about how to live the Christian life. Many of them were and are people in our lives: pastors, friends, and fellow church members. Others were teaching me via their books or online ministries. Many have taught me from beyond the grave. Among the finest of them were those behind the 32 chapters that make up our Confession of Faith. I thank God for them and their labours centuries ago in helping me find my doctrinal home.