The hurly burly of life is exasperating to the tidy-minded, and the tidy-minded always want to carve out a niche where that exasperation can be ameliorated. That carved out niche is an artificial world where the rules can be enforced — as they can be enforced in a chess game.
For Reformed Christians who are tidy-minded in this way, the confessions present a temptation to turn them into something they were not intended to be. A summary of some of the great themes of the faith is very helpful, and if someone subscribes to these confessions honestly, this means that such a summary would serve very well as their own summary. Having such confessions is essential, and they are quite helpful.
But the temptation runs this way. Instead of seeing the confession as a summary of Christian doctrine, the uber-confessionalist sees the confession as “the rules of the game.” Not only that, but people of such a mind often seek out a vocation where they can play that game all the time. Over time, they come to believe that their game is life.
Now, for the one playing chess, while he is playing chess, there is nothing to be found outside the rules of the game. For the one playing football, the sidelines are important because the game occurs inside the sidelines. It is all there, on the field.
The problem is that life has no sidelines, and the confessions (treated as the rules of the game) do. So someone goes to order a filet mignon at his favorite restaurant, and finds himself flagged by an overzealous ref for delay of game. He is not in the game, all the time, and the ref is. When they get into an argument, as they might, the hapless steak-orderer may find himself accused of despising the rules of football, when he was doing nothing of the kind. He loves football. He just doesn’t think that the rules of football govern absolutely everything.
I am bound confessionally to the Westminster Confession, and I think that is one of the coolest things in the world. My attitude is not slavish, for I have taken a few exceptions here and there, which proves that I did not drink the KoolAid. At the same time, I have been accused of “striking at the vitals” of the Reformed faith. Wherefore and hownow?
It is because I think there is life outside the confession. It is because I believe there is life in the Bible outside the confession. The fact that Westminster is an accurate summary of the doctrines of our holy faith does not make it an exhaustive summary of everything biblical, soup to nuts. And it does not mean that the fine theologians behind that document ever thought about some of the modern heresies that rampage through the halls of our seminaries.