In the Summer 2005 edition of Founders Journal, Dr. Sam Waldron published an article arguing that churches should use the 1689 Baptist Confession as their statement of faith.
Dr. Waldron argues that the 1689 Baptist Confession is the “best available
local church confession.” In making his arguments, Waldron is clear in stating
that Scripture alone is infallible, and that—as with all lengthy
confessions—some revisions should be considered. One area of the 1689 Baptist
Confession that needs “a slight revision,” Waldron argues, is Chapter 26, Paragraph 4: that the Pope of Rome is the Antichrist; the end-times “Man of
Sin,” who will be destroyed at Christ’s return. Waldron writes:
[T]his statement ought not to have
been made or be part of our confession today. This is one of those places where
a slight revision of the 1689 Confession is necessary. In my experience (having
become a Reformed Baptist pastor in 1977 and having shepherded two Reformed
Baptist churches during that time), Reformed Baptist churches today, when they
express their allegiance to the Confession in their constitutions, commonly
make an exception of this statement.
Whereas it seems wise to forego identifying the Pope or
papacy with a single end-times Antichrist, it is important to note that there
are definite reasons that the Particular Baptists who originally adopted the
1689 Confession came to the conclusion that they did. Whether or not the “man
of sin” mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 will hold the Roman Catholic office of
“pope,” the papacy is certainly anti-Christ in the broad sense (1 John 2:18).
In fact, the papacy is diametrically opposed to all three persons of the
trinity. Consider some of the titles that the Pope claims for himself: “Holy
Father,” “Pontiff,” and “Vicar of Christ:”
alone should be called “Holy Father,” as Jesus directly commanded His disciples
in Matthew 23:9.
Christ is the only pontiff. “Pontiff” means “bridge,” or—in religious
settings—the high priest mediating between God and Man. Jesus is the only mediator
between God and Man (1 Tim 2:5); in the New Covenant era, He is the only High
Priest (Heb 8:1; 10:14).
Holy Spirit is the only vicar of Christ. (“Vicar” means “substitute.”) See:
John 14:16, 26.
Conclusion: Confessional Subscription
In light of the Pope’s blasphemous claims, along with
Waldron’s concession about the particular wording found in the 26.4, how should
churches that subscribe to the 1689 Confession view its statements concerning
the papacy? Tom Chantry, in some personal correspondence I had with him a
couple of years ago, gave a number of helpful thoughts concerning this matter.
Here is part of what he wrote to me. [The following material is consistent with
specific statements Chantry has made on his own blog, so I don’t think he’ll
mind my sharing these thoughts here.]
[N]ote that the primary doctrine expressed
in 26:4 is the exclusive headship of Christ over the church. As a
secondary doctrine, the confession condemns as blasphemy the pope’s usurpation
of Christ’s title.
So what does it mean to subscribe to this doctrine?
1. A strict subscriptionist [one who seriously takes the doctrines
expressed in the 1689 Confession as an accurate summary of biblical teaching]
must agree that Christ is the only Head of the Church, and that no man may
usurp that title.
2. A strict subscriptionist must agree that the system of papacy is
a manifestation of the spirit of antichrist, and that part of the purpose of
God the Holy Spirit in revealing antichrist to us was to prepare us to reject
the papacy. He must agree that God has rejected the papacy, and that
Christ will utterly destroy it at the Judgment.
3. A strict subscriptionist must
recognize that the papacy was the primary manifestation of the spirit of
antichrist - at least during the age and location of the authors of our
It is important to take Reformed confessions seriously and
to understand why they make specific claims concerning the papacy. It is
important to resist—and not compromise in resisting—the spirit of the
anti-Christ, wherever it might be found. Finally, it is vitally important to
glorify Christ alone as the Head of the Church, “in whom—by the appointment of
the Father—all power for the calling, institution, order, or government of the
Church, is invested in a supreme and sovereign manner.”
Labels: Reformation Theology