The Confession of Faith in Cumberland Presbyterian History
Author: Hubert W. Morrow
Source: The Journal of Presbyterian History (1997-), FALL 1998, Vol. 76, No. 3 (FALL 1998), pp. 187-197
Published by: Presbyterian Historical Society

Dr. Hubert Morrow’s essay explores the evolving understanding of the nature and authority of a confession of faith in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. In general, it is that a confession of faith is regarded as a living document, which periodically should be reexamined in light of what the church at a given point in its history believes to be the essential teachings of scripture.

Morrow explores the historical context of the suspension of one-half of Cumberland Presbytery’s ministers in 1805 due to their loose subscription to the doctrines of predestination and limited atonement in the Westminster Confession. He highlights the refusal of these ministers to strictly adhere to the Confession on certain points, who argued that it was not intended to be an infallible standard standard by which the Holy Spirit must be limited, when God calls persons to ministry.

According to Morrow, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church’s history including it’s bold steps to revise its confession of faith in 1814, 1883, and 1984 reflect the following four key affirmations:

(1 ) It is important that a church confess its faith; that it state in a relatively brief and systematic way what are believed to be the essential theological doctrines found in scripture.
(2) It is important that a church remember at all times that such a confession of faith is a “document of human composure,” and therefore reflects the imperfections and limits of human understanding. It should never become a “paper pope.”
(3) A confession of faith should reflect the “working theology” in the preaching of its ministers and in the beliefs of its informed lay persons, but significant revisions should not be done frequently, simply in response to “pop theology.”
(4) A confession of faith should be used as a guide in the study of scripture, not as a tool in enforcing theological conformity.

Dr. Morrow further characterizes the 1984 Confession of Faith as document that reflects the “working theology” of the church within the specific historical context of the latter decades of the 20th Century.

Read Dr. Morrow’s full essay offered here for the research purposes: The Confession of Faith in Cumberland Presbyterian History

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