It should be apparent, if you have read my previous three posts, that confessing the faith is important business. It is not to be taken lightly by the individual or the church. Jaroslav Pelikan, in his magnum opus five volume work, The Christian Tradition, says in volume one that Christian doctrine is "what the church of Jesus Christ believes, teaches and confesses on the basis of the word of God." He says in a later book (Credo, 53), that the proper emphasis should be seen in the subtitle of his work: "A history of the development of doctrine." The real point he wants to make is that the Christian faith must be taught, that is, passed on by and through faithful confessing. Thus Pelikan's emphasis in his last great work on doctrine was on "confessing the faith" (Credo, 53).
The relationship between believing and confessing is both close and complex. Yale theologian Miroslav Volf (photo at right) puts this well: "Without personal identification with Jesus Christ, cognitive specification of who he is remains empty; without cognitive specification of who Jesus Christ is, however, personal identification with him is blind" (quoted in Credo, 53). Read that again. It is rich.
But just as believing has multiple meanings, as we saw the last few days, so confessing does too. The attempt to present a proper understanding of these multiple meanings led the great doctor Thomas Aquinas to classify the multiple meanings of confessing by three distinctions: (1) A confession of the truths of the faith, which bears on the end of faith; (2) A confession of thanks and praise, which is the virtue of faith; (3) A confessions of sins, which is the real end of the virtue of penance. Augustine, in his famous Confessions, says confessio means "accusation of oneself; praise of God."
I am quite sure of one thing in this doctrinal development: what is to be "confessed" and "believed" is Jesus Christ as Lord. We are right back to Romans 10:9-10. It seems that Paul may have actually been developing doctrine within this statement in the Roman Epistle. Early Gnostic heresy separated "Jesus" from the "Christ" as two different entities. For Paul this clearly was not possible. 1 John 5:1 (as well as 4:2-3) make the same point I think. Tertullian would later say that the object of our worship "is the one God" and such confession is crucial to the faith that is in Christ.
But confession and confessing are not the same. In the twentieth century this became apparent in Germany where Karl Barth, in the now famous Barmen Declaration, was quite right to make such a distinction in the face of a German church that was saying a confession but not making a clear, biblical confessing faith position the center of their life together. A confession, in modern usage, can easily become a declaration of one's articles of belief (there again is that hard word in English).
In the modern era churches in formerly non-Christian cultures and lands have begun to grapple with this matter in whole new ways. Can a church, say in India, declare a faith that is one with the historic church yet at the same time "undertake its own grappling with the problems of