Wednesday, March 14, 2007


The Scots Confession, written in 1560 by John Knox and five other Scots reformers, is the oldest English language Reformation confession. Knox and his friends worked almost literally under the gun, as their work put words to a vision of ecclesiastic and political unity in a Scotland emerging from a long and bloody fight for independence from both the Roman Catholic French and the Protestant monarchy of England.
While the political intrigue of a Europe emerging from the Middle Ages into early modernity was shaped by the particular institutions and individuals of the time, the broad social, political, economic and intellectual tumult bears some striking parallels to our own age. New communications technologies (the printing press), rapidly expanding trade (flowing forth from Columbus' exploration of the New World), an emerging economic order of capitalism, and the first stirrings of democratic political yearnings (though still two centuries away from the American Revolution) marked the age much as the emergence of the internet, global trade, and post-colonial political yearnings continue to mark our age.
So, in the midst of that world-altering change what did the fathers of Presbyterianism choose to focus on? A church marked by right preaching of the word, right observation of the sacraments, and discipline in ecclesiastical order. Is it any wonder that we Presbyterians are "decent and in order in all things"?
The Scots Confession is a clarion call to commitment to the church (the Kirk, the word Knox chose as closest to the New Testament Greek kyriakon), and its passion is captured in what stand as, perhaps, is most well known words:
"The notes of the true Kirk, therefore, we believe, confess, and avow to be: first, the true preaching of the Word of God, in which God has revealed himself to us, as the writings of the prophets and apostles declare; secondly, the right administration of the sacraments of Christ Jesus, with which must be associated the Word and promise of God to seal and confirm them in our hearts; and lastly, ecclesiastical discipline uprightly ministered, as God's Word prescribes, whereby vice is repressed and virtue nourished. Then wherever these notes are seen and continue for any time, be the number complete or not, there, beyond any doubt, is the true Kirk of Christ, who, according to his promise, is in its midst. "
Against the tumult of the age, the Reformers called the faithful to live in fidelity to the true Kirk. In our age, the question is similar: what are the marks of the church today? What does it mean to be authentically the church of Jesus Christ in the post modern world? How do we confess our faith now? What can the Reformers teach us, who would be reformers still?

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