Sectarian Confessionalism

Mark Knoll, describing the progression of American Christianity, makes an interesting point about the “marketplace” that emerged in the colonial period of American Christianity and continued to the present day:

The only way for a denomination to be confessionally conservative is for it to become sectarian — that is, to actively oppose the marketplace reasoning; to refuse to abide by the democratic will of majorities; to insist upon higher authorities than the vox populi; and to privilege  ancestral, traditional, or hierarchical will over individual choice.

Mark Knoll, The Old Religion in a New World ,25

Knoll proceeds to mention Machen’s stand for confessionalism that resulted in his expulsion from the denomination of which he was a part, and consequently the formation of a new ‘sectarian’ denomination.

Looking at from this perspective it is easy to see how the American church is now having to eat the seeds it planted.  The democratic majority–the vox populi–is now speaking out against the teachings that the church has “confessed” for millennia.  We must prepare to be viewed as sectarians for refusing to capitulate our practice to the will of the people.  There is a higher authority than the vox populi to which we will one day have to answer. As hard as it is to face the judgment of the vox populi, it will be much harder to face the judgment of God’s authority.

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