The purpose of this study was to demonstrate the need for members of the Churches of Christ to restore confession in both private and communal worship practices. The major premise is that the men who inspired the movement that gave birth to the modern Churches of Christ either ignored or misunderstood the secular philosophies that influenced their work. As a result, the Churches of Christ as a whole have marginalized the practice of confession, and that marginalization has had several adverse effects on the churches. Recognition of those philosophies, combined with an honest critique of the most common hermeneutical principle derived from those philosophies, allows for a new perspective of the current crises confronting the Churches of Christ.
The thesis is explored through the examination of three distinct themes. A general history of the Churches of Christ reveals the absence of a confessional theology, and a number of explanations for that absence. A survey of the Bible shows that confession is multi-faceted, and all of the forms of confession occur throughout Scripture. Finally, a review of Christian history proves how confession has been a major component of the life of discipleship in every age. An additional study of the life and writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer validates the overall thesis and demonstrates the value of learning from traditions outside of one’s own narrow understanding of Scripture and history.
The study concludes that a confessional theology must begin with a proper understanding of the transcendence of God and the sinfulness of human beings. Specific practices are valuable in nurturing a life of confession, but the acts of confession must originate in the core of a confessional theology. Specific disciplines for confession, both individual and communal, are provided as an entry point into a deeper life of confession.
Content Reader: John Drane, PhD
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Smith, Paul A., "We Can Bear It No Longer: Toward a Confessional Theology within the Churches of Christ" (2015). Doctor of Ministry Projects. 174.