Confessionally Gospel-Centered

Burk Parsons is a guy I’ve grown to appreciate more and more.  I’ve been following him for the past couple of months on Twitter and have been refreshed, encouraged, and challenged by the sincerity and truthfulness of his words.  He is an associate pastor of St. Andrew’s Chapel and Editor of Tabletalk Magazine, and as Tim Challies recently shared, a former member of Backstreet Boys (see part 2 and part 3 as well).  Recently, Ligonier has taken up the issue of unity and true catholicism, and Parsons explains how the primacy and centrality of the gospel unites confessional believers even where there are other areas of doctrinal disagreements.  Consider his words:

We are not united because of a loose affiliation to our respective confessions. On the contrary, we are united by our mutual respect for each other’s faithful adherence to his confessional standards. We are united precisely because we each heartily affirm our various confessions, all of which affirm the essentials of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

Fundamentally, at the foundation of our confessional standards, there exists the same doctrinal thread, namely, the gospel of God. In its most simple form, the gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ, and in its most comprehensive form it is the Word of God. The gospel unites all people without distinction of race, ancestry, or socioeconomic status through one Lord, one faith, and one baptism in one body, the church. However, the gospel also divides. It erects walls, it builds barriers, it cuts narrow paths-, and it sets forth a gauntlet for sin — all of which we overcome through our one substitute and mediator, Christ Jesus, who has broken down the middle wall of separation — the enmity between God and His people, between our sin and His salvation, all by God’s grace and all for His glory.

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One Comment on “Confessionally Gospel-Centered”


  1. “We are not united because of a loose affiliation to our respective confessions. On the contrary, we are united by our mutual respect for each other’s faithful adherence to his confessional standards. We are united precisely because we each heartily affirm our various confessions, all of which affirm the essentials of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.”

    I’m not really following this logic. So, if there is a Christian who believes from *Scripture* in the Deity of Christ, the incarnation, the substitutionary atonement of Christ, etc., etc., etc, but does not “heartily affirm” a particular confession of faith, then he is not united to other Christians at the “precise” point that he should be?

    So, the truth found in Scripture itself is not the proper precise point? Not sufficient?

    When I was in the PCA I became friends with a PCA pastor who did not affirm all of the Westminster Confession. If he ended up rejecting many other portions of that confession [and thus had a “loose affiliation” with that confession], but maintained the essentials of the faith, then would he cease to be united to other Christians?

    I think I understand where Burk Parsons is coming from, but I believe he is making an overstatement. It also comes across as holding in too high esteem man made confessions in my opinion.

    I understand the even “heretics” can raise high the Bible and say that they believe it. However, I don’t think that necessarily means that a Christian must heartily affirm a particular confession of faith in order to be united to other Christians.

    Sure it is nice to know where someone is coming from by affirming a confession of faith. However, I think a believer can verbally affirm the essentials, for example, without having to resort to heartily affirming a confession of faith.

    On the other hand, I do think I might have a difficult time defining what it means to be united to a Christian [like someone from a Presbyterian background] if I would not be in favor of him joining the church I am a member of. I’m not advocating open membership in saying this. However, I do think there is some tension at that point.


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