Q. Can a Confession of Faith have Divine Authority to Bind the Conscience?
A. Yes! Yes! A Thousand-Times Yes!
THE DISCRETIONARY POWER OF THE CHURCH, by: John L. Girardeau
Matt. 28:20. "Teaching them to observe all things,
whatsoever I have commanded you."
From Par. 4:
The grand principle of Protestantism is not that the supreme judge is the Word alone, nor that it is the Spirit alone; but that it is—the Word and the Spirit. This little coupling and, which brings together and indissolubly unites the two great terms the Word, the Spirit, effects the junction with a thundering clank which should ring in the ear of the church, and penetrate into her innermost heart.
From Par. 21:
"There is a specious and dangerous form of this theory of development of doctrine which threatens, at the present day, to invade the supremacy of the written Word. The ground is not openly taken that the doctrinal system of the Scriptures may be developed, but it is maintained that the creeds and confessions in which the church has logically arranged that system cannot bind the conscience or shackle thought. It is contended that they are human compositions—fruits of the human brain, and that they are consequently collections of the unauthoritative dogmas of men. To forbid the development of doctrine beyond their limits is represented as tyranny, and tyranny in its worst form..."
From Par. 22:
"...in whatever way the doctrines of the divine Word may be expressed, they are characterized by completeness and ultimate authority, and are, therefore, incapable of substantial development. Whether enunciated in the Scriptures, or written upon the tablets of the human mind, or inscribed upon the pages of a church-formulary, they are possessed of the same immutable characteristics. The question, then, is simply one of fact,—do church-creeds faithfully reproduce the doctrines of the Scriptures? The question to us as a church is, Do our standards accurately state those doctrines? If they do not, the development required is to expunge the dogmas which do not express the mind of Christ in the written Word, and incorporate those that do. If they do, as they utter the word of Christ, they are clothed with Christ’s authority. The delivery of Christ’s doctrines and commandments by men does not make them the doctrines and commandments of men. The fact being settled that the doctrines of these standards are the very doctrines of Scripture, we meet the fundamental premise in which the opposition to them is grounded with a denial. They are not human compositions, except in so far as their form and arrangement are concerned—they are for substance the composition of the divine Spirit; they coincide with the inspired writings. Their dogmas are not man's, they are God’s dogmas.
"The cry for liberty to develop theological thought beyond their doctrines is the demand for license to develop it beyond God’s doctrines. This is the real secret of revolt against the binding authority of confessions. When men cry, Down with creeds! they mean, Down with the Bible! When they shout, We will not be tied down by confessions of faith! they mean, We will not submit to God’s authority—the human intelligence is too gloriously free to be led captive by God Himself! These are not Christian views; they are the children of rationalism brought to the font of the church and baptized under the attractive names of Broad-Churchism, Liberal Christianity, and Progressive Thought—the fair daughters of men with whom, when the sons of God consort, they generate the giant leaders of defection and apostasy."