A Toolkit for Confessions: Helps for the Study of English Puritan Confessions of Faith

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by James M. Renihan

Series description

This is the fourth book in the series Recovering our Confessional Heritage The series is sponsored by the Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies  in cooperation with RBAP. The Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies is a graduate theological school which aids churches in preparing men to serve in the Gospel Ministry. For more information please visit irbsseminary.org.

The purpose of the series . . . is to address issues related to the Second London Confession of Faith of 1677/89 (2LCF). . . . The series will include treatments of various subjects by multiple authors. The subjects to be covered are those the series editors (along with consultants) determine to be of particular interest in our day. The authors will be those who display ample ability to address the issue under discussion. Some of the installments will be more involved than others due to the nature of the subject addressed and perceived current needs. Many of the contributions will cover foundational aspects of the self-consistent theological system expressed in the Confession. Others will address difficult, often misunderstood, or even denied facets of the doctrinal formulations of the 2LCF. Each installment will have a “For Further Reading” bibliography at the end to encourage further study on the issue discussed. ~ from the series editors, James M. Renihan and Richard C. Barcellos

Product description

“As confessional Christians, we are convinced that our Confession of Faith summarizes the system of doctrine contained in the Holy Scriptures. We recognize that it is a human product, the fruit of centuries of Bible study and theological formulation, but I wonder if sometimes we forget that it is not a modern document in the strictest sense of the term. In fact, it could easily be argued that it is a late-medieval production, published at the very end of that era, just as the Enlightenment was to overwhelm European intellectual life. For this reason, it must be approached cautiously. If the perspicuous Word of God requires careful contextual study and interpretation, how much more so a document of human formulation? In reality, proper understanding of the Confession requires several things of us—familiarity with theological development throughout the preceding centuries, acquaintance with contemporary theological thought (especially in its Reformed variety), and an unwillingness to import twentieth- or twenty-first-century ideas into its words and phrases. This book is intended to assist the interpreter in doing these things.” ~ James M. Renihan

144 pages
Published 2018

Product endorsements

I first heard Jim Renihan speak on the Second London Confession of Faith at a conference in Charlesworth, Derbyshire, several years ago and I immediately warmed to him because he clearly loved my country, my heritage, and my forefathers in the faith. At the same time I was ashamed that I knew so little about these men and that my understanding of their system of theology was so limited. Having lived for years on a restricted diet of “Biblical Theology,” I realized that my preaching had become lopsided and despite following the consecutive expository method, I had unwittingly been neglecting and even misrepresenting major doctrines in my ministry.

Through hearing and meditating upon the material now made available in this very helpful little book, I have come to value the system of doctrine laid out in the Confession. As a church we have enjoyed its breadth and depth and found a new confidence in our faith. Through studying the Confession together, with the help of Dr. Renihan’s “Toolkit,” we have come to enjoy a new strength of unity and depth of joy in “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” Our great desire now is to preserve and pass on this faith to the coming generation.

Oliver Allmand-Smith
Trinity Grace Church
Lancashire, UK

Many pastors and elders serve churches that formally subscribe the 1689 Second London Confession of Faith but are only vaguely aware of the document’s historical context. Much of the problem stems from a lack of reliable and accessible materials that treat Baptist contributions to seventeenth-century ecclesiastical history. Baptist church leaders must often make do with historical and theological analyses of the Westminster standards, adapting them to their own context as best they can. James Renihan’s A Toolkit for Confessions represents a major step toward remedying this need. By combining historical and theological insight into the Second London Confession with a primer on reading early modern confessions more generally, this book represents a unique resource that should become a standard point of departure for confessional Reformed Baptist churches seeking to explore their theological heritage. A Toolkit for Confessions will be tremendously helpful to anyone who wishes to better understand both the Second London Confession itself and the ecclesiastical context out of which it emerged.

Dr. Matthew C. Bingham
Queen’s University Belfast
Belfast, UK

The Second London Confession is a biblical and beautiful articulation of the Christian faith that has served Baptists well for well over 300 years. But it is also an old document that emerged in a time very different from our own, which leaves many modern readers sometimes confused. A Toolkit for Confessions is a welcome and necessary resource for those who want to understand and use the Second London in the local church or even in their personal lives. In this small and accessible work, Dr. Renihan effectively educates and equips the reader to get much more from the Confession than would be possible without it. By shedding light on the purpose, structure, language, and doctrinal emphases of the Second London Confession this “toolkit” becomes an essential companion to our beloved Confession of Faith, and a must for every Baptist library.

Joe Thorn
Author and Lead Pastor
Redeemer Fellowship
St. Charles, IL

When we first arrive at a destination like a famous museum or cathedral it is easy to be overwhelmed. We may look for a guide who will be able to help us understand the background, history, and significance of the place. Our best guides both inform our minds and engage our attention. When we come to the Second London Confession of Faith, we may be grateful to have just such a guide in James M. Renihan’s A Toolkit for Confessions. Renihan provides us an accessible and instructive introduction to the background, history, context, structure, and contents of the 2LCF. Baptist readers will especially benefit from this study of an important but often neglected part of the Baptist confessional and theological heritage. Baptist and non-Baptist readers alike will appreciate the ways in which Renihan shows how the 2LCF constructively relates to the broader family of Reformed confessions. A Toolkit for Confessions is a welcome and valuable addition to the growing body of literature on the confessions and catechisms of the seventeenth century.

Guy Prentiss Waters, Ph.D
James M. Baird, Jr. Professor of New Testament
Reformed Theological Seminary
Jackson, MS

About the author

James M. Renihan, Ph.D., is President-elect and Professor of Historical Theology at IRBS Theological Seminary, Mansfield, TX. He is author of Edification and Beauty: The Practical Ecclesiology of the English Particular Baptists, 1675-1705, Wipf & Stock and editor of Faith and Life for Baptists: The Documents of the London Particular Baptist General Assemblies, 1689-1694.