by Rev. Dr. Maynard Koerner
In defining true faith, the Heidelberg Catechism, one of the great confessions of the Reformation, reminds us that it involves two essential aspects, knowledge and heartfelt conviction. Genuine faith understands that confessing Christ as Lord is to know who that Christ is and what He has done. It also means that you truly believe that He has done it for you.
It is important to ask the question, how does this happen? From where does this knowledge and belief come? Many would say it is a matter of their experience and how they then feel about the Jesus they have found. Such a Jesus is not the Christ of the Scriptures, rather he is the Jesus whom man has discovered and decided who he ought to be.
The gracious God has made known to lost sinners the Christ who is the Savior. God speaks this message of hope and comfort to His people through the inspired Word of God. The apostle John gives the very reason for his writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in John 20:30-31 where he says, “and truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”
The purpose for which John wrote about Jesus is so that you might believe. Therefore in the Bible we have the gospel message. It contains the truth which comes from God and makes known the plan of salvation. We begin to see the importance here of the message, the importance of knowing what God has revealed. We also see that the Holy Spirit uses this revealed truth to regenerate the heart and bring sinners to faith.
This leads me to comment on the name of this blog, “Rugged Confessionalism.” What do we have in mind with the term “rugged”? It can be defined as “having or requiring toughness and determination.” Confession refers to the stated truths understood and held by the Church as the teachings or doctrines of the Scriptures. To be a rugged confessionalist is to know with confidence and to teach with determination the truths of the Word of God.
A contemporary sense of “political correctness” says that one should be open to many and all points of view. It is okay to hold to what seems to work for you, but you should never presume to tell others what they should believe. This has essentially become the norm for much of what passes as the Christian faith today. Not only are many ignorant of the basic teachings of Scripture, they believe that doctrine is not important at all. When doctrine is not important, then Christianity has lost its footing. All that remains are thoughts and expressions about feelings, but no confidence in the sure and certain hope of the gospel.
In the face of this uncertainty and emotionalism there is a real need for a strong commitment to the Scriptures and a determination to proclaim that truth with an unwavering certainty. Christ requires men whom He has called as fellow shepherds to stand firm on the truths of Scripture, to speak with a clear and uncompromising voice. This type of strong conviction and the willingness to get into the trenches of life are exactly what is needed today. Sadly there are few who teach and hold to such firm convictions today.
The board and professors at Heidelberg Theological Seminary are not only committed to standing firm on the clear doctrines of Scripture, but we also believe that there is a great need for men to be trained in that same mold.
It has always been important for the fellow shepherds of Christ to stand firm and have strong convictions as to the revealed truths of God. This becomes particularly important as the culture in which we live becomes more and more worldly. It is one thing to stand firm and hold to the truths of Scripture as understood by the historic confessions. But these truths need to be real and used effectively in the day to day ministry within the local congregation of God’s people.
That is where rugged confessionalists go to work. They do not seek nor receive great recognition but God uses them to call and feed His people. Such is the purpose and goal of Heidelberg Theological Seminary, to prepare men to be well prepared, willing to get into the trenches and gently lead God’s people.
Rev. Dr. Maynard Koerner is Professor of Ministerial Studies at Heidelberg Theological Seminary.