We’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about the name of our site. They usually sound something like, “You three agree on a lot; how are you contrarians?” So we’ve added a paragraph on our About page that explains where the name comes from. This week we’ll be discussing where we agree, where we part ways, and how we interpret and confess our collective statement. Check out Andrew’s post from Monday about how he came to find himself in the Anglican tradition, and Tucker’s post on his own confessionally Reformed position.
These three profiles are a public beginning of conversations the Contrarians have together in person, with one another and with other comrades at our seminary. These conversations are rather freewheeling and happen at various times and places, and can grow heated enough to induce forays into name-calling, at times. That said, every week we worship together in our chapel, we confess our common creed, break bread together, pray for one another, confess sin and offer assurance of forgiveness, and share one Lord of all our studies. To me this is the essence of what it means to be a Collective Contrarian.
If you’ve been following our writing, you know that I am something of an accidental baptist. For the purposes of this profile, then, I want to expand on what I said before and call myself a confessionally catholic, theologically baptist, and robustly ecumenical Christian.
What I mean by this is I organize confessional commitments in concentric circles that grow increasingly narrow. Thus the broadest circle, including all with whom I understand that I share a common confession, is a commitment to the Scriptures as the inspired self-revealed Word of God, the final, sufficient authority in all matters of life and doctrine, and a commitment to the catholic creeds and confessions of the early church as faithful distillations of the language and grammar of Scripture. I appreciate Andrew’s comments on the challenge of defining the edges of this broadest circle, especially with regard to sexual ethics, and though I think that particular issue is more black and white than Andrew does (a topic for another blog post), he helpfully reminds that this question is perhaps the most important pastoral and theological issue currently facing the church in the West.
I think I am in broad agreement with my fellow Contrarians on the two matters above, though as Andrew noted, if you "double-click" on either of them, you’ll find differences quite quickly. This broadly orthodox commitment to the authority of Scripture and the creeds as basic distillations of the gospel teaching leads to a “robust ecumenism” founded not on compromise for the sake of institutional unity, but based on holding fast to broad gospel distinctives.
A narrower circle inside of the outermost is that which contains all the confessing Christians who are children of the Reformation - the renewal movement that insists on the primacy of God’s gracious, completed work in salvation and our utter helplessness before God unless he saves us.
Yet more narrow, and for me, the center of my circles, is the fact that theologically, I am a baptist. I confess the London Baptist Confession of 1689 and the SBC Faith and Message and use them to express my understanding of the doctrine of the church, salvation, and the sacraments. These provide a framework for thought that, to my mind, gives solid hermeneutical rules and a clear biblical theology, without either straying into the silliness of “no creed but the Bible” fundamentalism on the one hand or the imposition of an overly detailed theological system with little textual warrant on the other. It is at this level that I have the most disagreements with my fellow Contrarians; on matters of church polity, on exactly what happens in Baptism (and to whom the sacrament is to be applied), and on the nature of the Lord’s Supper. This is also the level where dialogue is potentially the most fruitful, because on this level I am most open to correction by both the Word of God and brothers and sisters. That, then, is why I am a Contrarian: to hold fast to what is most important, confessing it with clarity, charity, and vigor; and to argue cheerfully, charitably, and frequently in pursuit of truth.