What is it to confess the Christian faith, and what is the status of formal confessions of faith? How far does the context inform the content of the confession? These questions are addressed in Part One of this volume, with reference to the Reformed tradition in general, and to its English and Welsh Dissenting strand in particular. In an adverse political context the Dissenters’ plea for toleration under the law was eventually granted. The question of tolerance remains alive in our very different context, and in addition we face the challenge of confessing and commending the faith in an intellectual environment in which many question Christianity’s relevance and rebut its traditional defences.
In Part Two it is recognised that Christian confessing is an ecclesial, not simply an individual, calling, and that the one confessing church catholic is visibly divided over doctrine and practice. Suggestions for ameliorating this situation are offered, though the final resolution may be a matter for the eschaton. Until then Christians are called to witness faithfully and to live hopefully as citizens of heaven. In an epilogue the challenges and pitfalls of systematic theology as a discipline involving both confession and commendation are explored.
Part One: Confessing the Faith in Context
Introduction to Part One
1. Confessing the Faith and Confessions of Faith
2. Varieties of English Separatist and Dissenting Writings, 1558-1689
3. Separatists and Dissenters amidst the Arguments For and Against Toleration: Some Soundings, 1550-1689
4. Christianity, Secularism, and Toleration: Liberal Values and Illiberal Attitudes
5. The Use, Abuse, and Relevance of Religion: Some Reflections upon Abraham van de Beek’s Proposal
6. Confessing the Faith in the Intellectual Context
Part Two: Confessing the Faith Ecclesially and Hopefully
Introduction to Part Two
7. Calvin’s Challenges to the Twenty-First-Century Church: Reflections on the 500th Anniversary of Calvin’s Birth
8. Rectifying Calvin’s Ecclesiology: The Doctrinal and Ecumenical Importance of Separatist Catholicity
9. Receiving from Other Christian Traditions and Overcoming the Hindrances Thereto: Some Reformed Reflections
10. Eschatology: Historical Fluctuations and Perennial, Practical Importance
11. Confessing the Faith in Systematic Theology? The Locus and Authority of Revelation vis à vis Systematic Method:
An Epilogue Light-hearted in Style, Serious in Intention
Index of Persons
Index of Subjects
Endorsements and Reviews
From the sixteenth century to the present, from the evolution of toleration to the fluctuating history of eschatology, in conversation with Browne, Calvin, Forsyth, Barth, and countless ecumenical partners, here is Reformed theology at its elegant, thoughtful, lucid, courteous, and provocative best.
David Cornick, Fellow in Theology and Religious Studies, Robinson College, Cambridge
This book will be particularly useful to Christians of other traditions seeking to understand the Reformed tradition and its principles in the context of the Ecumenical Movement. … this is a good and stimulating book. Professor Sell is never dull.
David Carter, Churches Together in England
Drawing upon the past, Sell challenges us, both positively and provocatively, to think and live as Christians today.
Trevor Jamison, in Reform Magazine, March 2014
Any who takes interest in the reformed tradition will profit from these essays. The author has read widely in the tradition and draws from the likes of Calvin, Baxter and Watson. Sell observes and warns against the recent trend of isolating doctrines from one another, particularly ecclesiology.
John C.A. Ferguson, in The Expository Times, Vol 126, Issue 4
Sell is an interesting, interested, and learned interlocutor who keeps a tradition before us even as he furthers that tradition with his own insight.
Allan Janssen, in Journal of Reformed Theology, Vol 9.3 (2015)
Sell writes well, often with a twinkle in his eye and usually generous when treating thinkers with whom he takes issue. He displays a refreshing humility for a Reformed Theologian. … This book deserves a wide audience. … It ought to be read by church leaders and all thinking Christians.
David Peel, in Modern Believing, Vol 57.2
This essay [Chapter 11: Confessing the Faith in Systematic Theology] is characteristic of Sell’s theology, because it focuses exclusively on Christ the Saviour who reveals God as the Creator-Redeemer of holy love. It is both creative in its playing with words and still – or rather therefore – so compelling and convincing. It is also a beautiful example of living Reformed systematic theology, testifying to God’s grace with the Bible, the Christian tradition and the intellectual culture’s discussion partners: exactly what the systematic theology is supposed to be according to Sell.
Henk van den Belt, in Journal of Reformed Theology, Vol 10, 2016