When German Christians suffering under Adolph Hitler cast about for guidance as to how to act under a fascist, totalitarian regime, some of them found great help in the Scots Confession. That may surprise us because the Confession had been created by an act of the Scottish Parliament nearly 400 years earlier, in 1560, and hurriedly put together in four days by John Knox and five others.

The Confession is unpolished, a bit repetitive, uneven, often verbose, and streaked with emotion. It was the Scottish church’s official theology for only 90 years, having been superseded in 1647 by the Westminster Confession.

Yet the Confession is also cordial, vigorous, and spontaneous. A crystal-clear theological core is dressed in prophetic and militant language. A number of its passages have inspired Christians in Scotland and elsewhere. Especially noteworthy are its insights on the Bible, Communion, Christian living, and the Christian’s relationship with civil power.

Exegesis of Love

The Confession strongly affirms the exclusive authority of Scripture and the need to interpret it in light of the whole Bible: “If the interpretation of any theologian, church, or council conflicts with the plain Word of God written in any other passage of Scripture … this is not the true understanding and meaning of the Holy Spirit, although councils, kingdoms, and nations have adopted it.”

Furthermore, interpretation is not to be done in a mechanical or robotic fashion. It must square not merely with Christian faith and the whole Bible but also the dictates of love: “We dare not receive or allow any interpretation contrary to the chief points of our faith, to the clear sense of Scripture, or to the rule of love” (article 18).

Transported to Christ

Among Reformed ...

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