Saturday, January 03, 2009

Modern Versions of the Baptist Confession of 1689

There are a couple of modern English versions of The Baptist Confession of 1689 that it is good to be aware of:

1) The Founders Ministries website has made freely available online A Faith to Confess: The Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689 Rewritten in Modern English ©1975, Carey Publications, Ltd.

2) Stan Reeves, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Auburn University and an elder at Grace Heritage Church in Auburn, Alabama, has been working on a modern version of the 1689 Confession since August of this past year. He is publishing his work a chapter at a time using Blogger, which makes it easy for others to comment on his progress in order to ask questions or offer suggestions. He is also posting it alongside the original for easy comparison while reading. He just published chapter 15, "Repentance to Life and Salvation," this week. So far it looks like a very promising work. Here is the purpose statement from his first post:

I have long wanted to update the language of the 1689 Confession to make it more accessible to modern readers. I'm aware of other modern versions, but I object to the cost and copyright restrictions on the Carey edition (the most widely available version), and I've found that none of them seem to be very consistent in the way they approach the update. For example, the Carey edition seems to be nothing more than a paraphrase in some places and yet quite stilted in others.
I approach this whole thing with fear and trembling, and that's why I'm putting this on the web. I fear inadvertently changing the doctrine or confusing something that was clearer in the original. So I'm posting my attempts at an update so that folks can comment and make suggestions and corrections.
My goal is to maintain the structure and language to the extent that these lend themselves to clarity to the modern reader. When they don't, I will consider modern equivalent terms or rephrasing. In more difficult cases, I may rework the structure of a paragraph if it can be stated in a significantly more natural way in modern English without compromising the meaning. I don't pretend that the result will be readable on a 6th-grade level. The concepts in the confession simply don't lend themselves to such simplistic expression. Furthermore, I don't want to change well-established theological terms unless I judge that they are fairly obscure and can be greatly clarified by a modern expression.
As I wrestle through the rewording, I will be referencing and learning from the Carey edition, the Kerkham edition, the Masters edition, as well as the original, including the facsimile copy published by B&R Press. I expect my version to be sufficiently different from all the other modernized versions that there will be no violation of copyright. I've included links to electronic versions of the ones I'm consulting, except for the Masters edition, which I haven't found online.
I relish all constructive comments. I may not be able to respond to all comments or explain my reaction to them, but I will do my best to read and consider them.
Until I've finished all the edits and released a final form, I claim a copyright on the work in progress and do not grant permission to make copies. I will eventually provide permission to copy under certain conditions once I've finished it.
Thanks Stan!

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