In Proposition 10, George Peters states:
“This kingdom should be studied in the light of the Holy Scriptures, and not merely in that of creeds, confessions, formulas of doctrine, etc.”
This is giant pet peeve of mine as there is a great tendency, most notably among theological academics but also displayed among bloggers, pastors, authors, and the average to come dangerously close to elevating creeds, confessions, and theological systems to the level of Scripture. The dogma and thus the lens through which many understand and approach Scripture is not based on Scripture itself, but rather the musings and opinions of man.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not discounting the value of confessional statements as they are quite helpful in codifying foundational beliefs. I have studied them in great detail in Bible College and Seminary, read and reviewed a plethora of books on them, and have referred to their content on more than one occasion. With that said, if one is looking to these confessions and creeds as gospel, then they are grossly misusing such things. We do not believe for example that sin is a vast and pervasive problem for which the only solution is the cross because some confession declares it to be so. We believe such a truth because Scripture declares it to be true. A confession, if biblically valid will essentially reiterate without alteration what God already declared to be true through His Word. This is true of any biblical doctrine and thus as noted by Peters is true of the doctrine of the kingdom.
The most notable observation Peters presents in Proposition 10 is the following:
“This Proposition in its definite statement is the more needed, since at the present day multitudes find themselves so fettered by an undue reverence for human authority, as presented in and through the church, that it is scarcely possible to get them to consider any subject in its true scriptural aspect. We have no sympathy with the men who could, if they were able, destroy the memorials of the church’s view and struggles. The creeds, confessions, formulas of doctrine, systems of divinity, theological writings of the past, however some may be one-sided, prolix, etc., are precious heirlooms, giving us a dogmatical or systematic form the opinions of noble men, in different epochs, entertained respecting the truth. They, too, subserved a great and glorious purpose in holding up Christ and the essentials in Him, in opposing great error, and in resisting the torrent of unbelief. Admitting that the necessities of our spiritual nature, the thirst after truth, the deep feeling caused by the realities of Revelation, the impressive ideas evolved and suggested by contact with the truth, the earnest desire to extend and bulwarks and barriers; – while receiving them with gratitude and acknowledging our indebtedness to them, yet we cannot, for a moment, give them the authority of God’s Word. They, too, the workmanship of man, must bow to the supremacy of Holy Writ, as, in nearly every instance, the framers thereof intended and declared by appeals to the Bible, indicating it to be the sole, paramount rule of faith.”
Peters wrote his treatise in 1884 so it seems the temptation to improperly elevate the creeds and theological systems in his day was as rampant as it is today. I would submit to some degree the urge is even greater today. A very important reminder is provided by Peters in this observation and that it regardless of how much of an heirloom a creed or theological system may be, it must be subservient to Scripture. The Bereans did not go search out the writings of the rabbinical schools to determine if what Paul said was true. They searched the Scriptures. May those who claim to be of the Berean tradition follow their lead. As we study this doctrine of the kingdom, may the driving force be God’s Word over and above any opinion of man.