Christian Life 

The Westminster Confession: a critique

The Westminister Confession of Faith is a 17th-century document which was drawn up at a particular point in Scottish and UK history. It continues to wield very significant influence on how presbyterian churches are run and what they believe. However it is a mixed bag.

 


 
The Westminster Confession of Faith
 
Westminster Confession‘We claim no infallibility for [the Confession], or for ourselves who declare our belief in the propositions which it contains. It is the Word of God which only abideth forever... It is open to the Church at any time to say, “We have obtained clearer light over one or other or all of the propositions contained in this Confession, we must review it; the time has come for us to frame a new bond of union with each other, a new testimony to the world.” If this freedom do not belong to us, then indeed we are in bondage to our Confession, and renounce the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free.’
Rev. William Wilson (Free Church Moderator, 1866)
 
"I look on Catechisms as mere landmarks against heresey. If there had been no heresey, they wouldn't have been wanted. It's putting them out of their place to look on them as magazines of truth. There's some of your sour orthodox folk just over-ready to stretch the Bible to square with their Catechism; all very well, all very needful as a landmark, but what I say is, do not let that wretched, mutilated thing be thrown between me and the Bible."
Rev. Thomas Chalmers
(speaking on the right use of Confessions of Faith).
 
When the Church says to both ministers and people, “This is my Confession of Faith: if anything in it appear to you inconsistent with the Word of God, I am prepared to go with you to the Word of God to settle the matter”, then does the Church speak according to her place.

But if instead of this she says, “This I have fixed to be the meaning of the Word of God, and you cannot take any other meaning without being excluded from my communion; and to entitle me to exclude you I do not need to prove to you that what you hold and teach is contrary to my Confession of Faith”; I say, if the Church of Christ use this language she no longer remembers her place as a Church.
Rev. John Macleod Campbell
(deposed in 1831 by the Church of Scotland for preaching
‘assurance of faith’ and ‘unlimited atonement’)
 

WCFPreamble:

This is the second in a series of articles which were prompted in the summer of 2009 by the question of Sunday sailings to the Hebridean island of Lewis. The issue – by no means to the only one, locally or universally – is tied up with how we understand the Mosaic Law and how the church responds to that view.

It was felt then, and indeed is still the case, that a superficial response would merely reiterate what has been so often said on both sides of the debate – that is regarding whether or not disciples of Christ are ‘under the law’. Accordingly the first article in the series gave an overview of (some of the major) Covenants in the Old Testament (aka the Old Covenant; but more correctly the Old Covenants) in order to establish a biblical foundation to build upon. It is strongly recommended that the article ‘A Covenant-Keeping God’ is read in conjunction with this writing, as it has a fundamental relationship to what follows.
 
This present article gives a background and overview to a very important period in the formative life of the reformed church in Scotland: the focus is on a creedal document which was formulated in the middle of the 17th century and is, in substantial part, an outworking of a theological construct termed 'Covenant Theology'. [The latter is a 'prism' through which some interpret Scripture and should not be confused with the covenants contained in the Bible.]
 
The Westminster Confession of Faith (Note 1.) was essentially drawn up by a committee of English ‘Westminster Divines’ with a handful of senior Scottish churchmen carrying ‘assessor’ status (which allowed them to debate, but not to vote). It has been, and continues to be hugely influential but also the cause of much controversy and debate.
In spite of its English origins, it was only adopted in that country for a short period of four years. However, and in stark contrast it has and continues to the present day to have enormous influence on the structures, beliefs, government, ministries, expectations and traditions of the Presbyterian churches in Scotland and all over the world.
 .

Caveat

It is no purpose whatsoever to create controversy or upset through this writing. Neither, however is it the intention to shrink back from expressing concerns in an unambiguous fashion. Accordingly euphemisms have been avoided for the sake of maintaining clarity.
Additionally and in this context, no significant effort will be expended in this essay on the biblical (supportable) parts of the Confession’s text. Neither (at this stage anyway) will everything that is written be annotated with source references. (The reader is encouraged to do his/her own research; with the ultimate reference being the Word of God. The supplied references relating to the WCF will be expressed in Roman numerals. Note 2.)
 

Summary

The Westminster Confession of Faith contains much solid teaching on core Christian doctrines. The document has been immensely useful as a statement of many biblical and foundational truths; and as a counter to false teaching since its inception.
 
The Westminster Confession of Faith is permeated with unsupportable statements and also very significant ‘holes’. It is – at once and in parts – deficient, erroneous, ambiguous, unbiblical and extra-biblical. It also strays from defining doctrine into setting out what was and is merely ‘opinion’ – including also matters of church law. It has the characteristics of what one writer described as being a ‘paper Pope’, and become as another has said a ‘golden calf’. In this writer’s view, it has ever been deficient and in error.

Essentially the WCF is a 'child of its time'; a veritable ‘curate’s egg' – a mixture of good and bad; a compendium of Truth, error and omissions; and, at least in the present day, serves the church very badly in a number of areas of Christian life and church practices.
 
The document has caused continuing division amongst those who hold the Word of God in high regard; and has also been demonstrably incapable of maintaining Truth amongst those who don’t. There are very few indeed who believe it all; and probably none who can, from a biblical base, justify all that it contains.

------------------
 

Introduction and Background

CovenantersAll the Presbyterian churches and denominations in Scotland link back to 1560AD and the Reformation – as a spiritual movement to correct the abuses, excesses and errors within the (Roman) Catholic Church at that time. In that year, John Knox and the five other reformers (all with the Christian name John), formulated a creedal statement entitled the Scots Confession. It was completed in four days.

This ‘Confession’ was however superseded over 80 years later by a document entitled the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) – drawn up from 1643, on instruction issued by the London-based parliament from whence the document’s title derives. Yet in spite of its Westminster origins, the Confession had, as the summary states, only fleeting place in England and in the Anglican Church.
It is also worthwhile noting that the ‘scripture proofs’ were only added on later instruction from the Westminster parliament. Many of these Bible references (aka ‘proof texts’) – appended in postscript fashion – have tenuous relevance to the body text.
 
Paradoxically however, and though the cause of much debate and controversy through the centuries since, the WCF survives and is maintained universally as the subordinate standard of Presbyterian churches in Scotland and indeed around the world (Note 3).
 
The backdrop to the Confession was both religious and political. In Scotland, the reformers (Covenanters) wished not only to eradicate all traces of episcopacy and earthly-sovereign headship, but also saw a chance to extend the Presbyterian system of church government into England. (The Covenanting ideal being that of one church in the nation; with one king under the one true God.)
 
Meanwhile the anti-royalist parliamentarians in England saw advantage in enlisting the Scots in the puritan struggles be break free from the Church of England with the King (Charles I) as its supreme governor. Additionally however there was the perceived need to reduce the threat of Irish-Catholic intervention in the first English civil war (1642 – 1646). After much haggling, these separate and distinct agendas were built into a document called the ‘Solemn League and Covenant’ (dated 1643, and not to be confused with the earlier purely-Scottish ‘National Covenant’ of 1638) – the title reflecting the dual perceptions and purposes.
 
[The cross-border alliance however later broke down when, in 1649, the English assassinated Charles I (who was not merely the English monarch, but Scotland’s king also); and because the dominant grouping amongst the parliamentary puritans rejected presbyterian church polity in favour of congregationalism. Subsequent to this turn of events, the Scots then ‘changed sides’ and obtained King Charles II signature on the Solemn League and Covenant. The occasion giving rise to Oliver Cromwell’s famous plea to the Scots: “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.”]

It was within this ambivalent and fluid context that the Westminster Confessions were formulated.
 

Doctrinal issues

<click on image below for Theology Chart>

Theology Chart2From a doctrinal standpoint, much of the WCF is based on a theological construct commonly known as Covenant Theology. The effect of this system of theology on Christian doctrine is profound.
Three of the very important derivative doctrines relate to the view that the church is now ‘Israel’ (i.e. Replacement Theology/Supercessionism); the way ‘the Law’ is understood and applied in NT times (theonomy); and end-time expectations (eschatology).
 
There are many other issues relating (inter alia) to how the church is governed; the relationship with the state; baptism; clergy/laity distinctions; the Sacraments and the administration of same; double predestination which consigns some to hell; and how to understand the prophetic scriptures.
[In the context of the ‘Drilling Down’ series, further articles will be written (d.v.) relating to church/state relationships, the Mosaic Law and legalism.]
 
As affirmed above, the venerated document contains much that is sound and fundamental to the Christian faith. Indeed (as also stated above) in the context of previous centuries, the WCF has served as an ‘anchor in the storms’ of the post-Reformation Presbyterian churches in Scotland. However, the WCF has created storms of its own; and controversies remain to the present day.
 
Over and above these issues, there is a broad agreement amongst many (including the most ardent of its supporters) that the WCF is – simultaneously – seriously deficient, while also being erroneous and unbalanced in many of its thirty-three chapters of creedal statements. (Note 4.) These difficulties are compounded by the fact that the WCF contains 17th-century dictates on church law, and is also dogmatic on subjects that in fact attract a range of differing opinions across the Bible-believing spectrum of the church of Christ. This latter category of problem includes particular views on who should receive baptism; the beliefs relating to Christ’s second coming (eschatology); the way of salvation (soteriology); church government (ecclesiology/prelacy) and church/state relationships.
 
One of the WCF’s most controversial statements labels the Pope as the Antichrist (which pre-supposes a particular eschatology on which there is no universal agreement).
 
wcf4There are four very significant problems
relating to the Westminster Confession:
 
  • the first of these relates to the inadequacies, errors and unscriptural assertions made within the document itself.
  • the second major issue is the extent to which the WCF is regarded by some as sacrosanct and beyond question (in a de facto sense denying the ‘semper reformanda’ maxim).
  • the third relates to the extent to which the WCF seeks to conform the Christian ‘life and doctrine’ to some significant and unbiblical patterns.
  • and the forth major problem is the extent to which the WCF has contributed to the denominational divisions - even within the Presbyterian denominations which subscribe to it (at one level of commitment or another).
 
Concerning these matters, the WCF is questionable in the following areas
(and this list is not exhaustive) –
 
  • teaching the transcendence of God but failing to include the immanence of God (cf WCF II (ii); , Rom 8:15, Gal. 4:6, Eph 1:5, Matt 1:23, Heb 1:3)
  • contradicting itself by describing God as ‘without passions’ and yet ‘hating sin’ (WCF Ch II(ii)
  • allowing an assumed ‘two-covenant’ hermeneutic of 'works' and 'grace' (WCF VII(ii, iii, iv, vi; XXI(i; vi)) to formulate doctrine on a range of issues (e.g. relating to the understanding and the application the ‘law’; and the place of Israel with respect to God's purposes.) (See below also.)
  • dogmatically prescribing the mode of baptism (WCF XXVIII (iii)) and the ‘baptism’ of infants (WCF XXVIII (iv))
  • assuming the state has a duty to support the church (WCF XXIII (i)) (More in a subsequent article on church/state relationships – the principal cause of the 1843 Disruption.)
  • restricting the ‘sacraments’ to those (two) which Jesus ordained (WCF Ch XXVII (iv) cf. James 5:13 – 15)
  • teaching a two-tier clergy/laity distinction in the priesthood of all believers (see above notes re the administration of the sacraments; and WCF Ch XXXI (ii))
  • teaching double-predestination (God pre-ordaining/consigning some to Hell) (WCF X(iv))
  • creating a lack of assurance of salvation (as a result of the above)
  • failing to teach on the (major) doctrine of the Holy Spirit as the third person of the Godhead
  • failing to include any teaching on the biblical injunction of the Great Commission i.e. no mention of evangelising the lost
  • declaring the Pope as being the definitive antichrist (based on a particular post-millennial eschatology) (WCF XXV (vi))
  • a minimalist, inadequate and limited conception of worship (whilst seeking to define same)(WCF XXI(i and ii))
  • creating extra-biblical distinctions between the OT laws (i.e. civil/ceremonial/moral: XIX (iii; iv; v)) and thereby...
  • selectively forcing some old covenant laws upon Christian believers (who are accountable under the New Covenant laws of Christ rather than the 613 OT laws). (WCF XXI (vii, viii) (More in a subsequent article d.v.)

 

----------------------------

 

Closing remarks

 

Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down.

And you do many things like that."                                                   Mark 7:13

 

Two of the principle tenets of the Reformation were (are?):
Sola Scriptura’ (Scripture alone) and ‘Semper Reformanda’ (continually open to reform).

It is the author’s earnest hope and prayer that the 21st-century Presbyterian church will abide by, and be seen to be abiding by these principles, by re-visiting and critically examining the Westminster Confession of Faith as its principal subordinate standard – for the good of the church as the body of Christ, but supremely for the glory of God and the extension of His Kingdom. Amen.
 

Footnotes:
1. The text of the WCF (with Scripture references) can be found at www.reformed.org/documents/wcf_with_proofs/index.html
Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, is a very convenient and quick reference source. What it lacks in comprehensiveness it gains in neutrality.
 
Notwithstanding the above, the use of 'hot-links' has been minimised in this article so as not to disadvantage anyone reading the text in hardcopy form. However, on-line reading allows 'pop-up' Bible texts to appear on 'mouse-over' of the Scripture references. 2. The original document used Roman numerals and the internet-based copies use the same.
 
3. Splits in the Presbyterian church(es) in Scotland around the turn of the 19th/20thcentury were caused by varying degrees of adherence to the WCF. Qualifying statements and subsequent ecclesiastical legislation have variously modified the extent to which strict adherence is required to all the WCF contains. The terms ‘fundamental doctrines’ and ‘substance of the faith’ have been developed and employed without any definitions of same.
 
In 1989 the APC grouping was formed when the Free Presbyterian Church disciplined an elder (Lord Mackay of Clashfern) for attending friend’s funeral service (Mass) in a Roman Catholic church – which the WCF believes to be the system of the Antichrist.
 
A de facto split in the Free Church of Scotland last year revolved around what is or not permissible in ‘worship’ (as ill-defined yet narrowly-constrained by the WCF).
 
The current fragmentation of the Church of Scotland is producing seceding groups which are (still) wedded to the Westminster Confession in spite of the latter’s failure to maintain a biblical orthodoxy.
 
Most recently controversy has again arisen due to an ‘ecumenical’ service in the isle of Lewis involving Presbyterian clergy along with a Roman Catholic priest (as an ‘agent of the Antichrist). 4. In the light of continuing controversy and disagreement relating to the WCF the Church of Scotland's Panel of Doctrine prepared a number of papers on the subject for presentation to the Church. These essays were published under the title The Westminister Confession in the Church Today [St. Andrews Press 1982]. 5. As stated above, subsequent articles will (d.v.) aim to look at Church/State relationships: the OT laws; Legalism; and Sunday/Sabbath observance (in that order) as part of the ‘Drilling Down’ series.
 
6. The above is a ‘work in progress’. It will most likely be embellished, augmented and corrected (if and where necessary). It is the second in a series; the first being an article entitled ‘A Covenant-keeping God’.

Logged-in site members can use the 'Response' facility below. Any comments from non-members of the site should be made directly to the Editor, and these will be taken account of in the final version.
Indeed considered responses made at this (earlier) stage are viewed as being much more helpful in order to facilitate an ordered discussion at a later date if this indeed transpires. It would be helpful in any responses to quote Scripture.

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The Editor, 30/01/2012

Feedback:
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Colin Ford 05/03/2014 20:09
Editor,
This is not an oft visited thread.
I am not sure that too many care?
I have addressed many of the issues you have raised above regarding the WCF in other places and shall endevour to defend the WCF as best as I am able.
One thing I would make abundantly clear is that I think it the height of sheer lunacy that any man, past or present would attempt to put this most noble of confessions on the same level as God's Word! I am not personally aware that any have.
Today we live in an age where there ARE countless 'churches', ministries and organisations, the world over, under the banner of the Name above all names, constantly drawing up and forever altering their own "Statements of Faith"? There seems to be a bit of a free for all in this regard where people pick and mix bits of the Bible and conjure up a statement of faith according to their changing beliefs?
I will briefly address The Antichrist and paedo baptism.

WCF XXV. VI
There is no other head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ. Nor can the Pope of Rome, in any sense, be head thereof; but is that Antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exhalts himself, in the Church, against Christ and all that is called God.

Until a couple of months ago, I too, would have agreed with your understanding of this statement. I must say, it somewhat disturbed me, because, if true, then how could ex-Roman Catholic priests, men, for example, like Luther, Calvin, and Knox be saved? They would have no hope at all because if as is commonly mistaken WCF XXV vi teaches that the Pope is THE Antichrist then they are forever doomed.
Lets face it, the WCF was drawn up in 1646 long after Luther, Calvin, Knox et'al were around, so I cannot quite figure out how this mistake became widely propagated.
If we read the statement carefully and without bias, we can easily see where the mistake arises from. The language of the statement is heavily borrowed from 2 Thessalonians 2.3-4 KJV. Read carefully and objectively what the WCF statement actually says: "THAT Antichrist, THAT man of sin, and son of perdition, that exhalts himself, in the church.." Not "THE Antichrist".
There obviously WERE pre-millennial believers at that time.
The statement CLEARLY says The Pope is THAT Antichrist, Not THE Antichrist! THAT Antichrist in the false church.

The Bonars also taught the above.

WCF XXVIII iii, iv

Infant baptism? Is it unbiblical?
Infant baptism is NOT believer's baptism.
A baby cannot confess Christ as his Saviour.
Baptism in H2O saves no one, it is but a church ordinance; Biblical though it is.
A VERY strong case can be built for infant baptism from Acts 16.15 KJV and 16.33 KJV. Who were; "and her household" and "all his"? The Bible doesn't say. We can't say there were or weren't young babies or toddlers present, most likely there were, as these Bible verses are all encompassing statements.
Many confuse being born again of the Holy Spirit with immersion in water, and we have the well known Pentecostal error.
I could write more on this.

When I capitalise, it is for the sake of emphasis only.


Editor 06/03/2014 10:01
Colin, the use of the 'jailer' and 'Lydia' to support the sprinkling of babies is nothing but conjecture. I could equally suggest that both the jailer and Lydia were most likely middle-aged and not likely to have had small children.

However, the baptism question has been over-rehearsed elsewhere so it would be tiresome to resurrect it on this thread.

You say that the language is misleading. In which case it should most certainly be changed as faulty words can create faulty understanding.
The other issue which is perhaps even more important is that the post-millennial theology leaves no room for THE (end-time) Antichrist, so the understanding within the WCF framerwork is that there is no distinction between THAT and THE.

You say: "This is not an oft visited thread.
I am not sure that too many care?"

Indeed. And if your interpretation is correct it is a tragedy that the millions who blindly follow a church practice and doctrine based on the WCF and its errors.

And if you don't believe that it is held on a de facto par with Scripture I am afraid you are unfamiliar with the ethose of most of the Presbyerian world.
Any prospective minister or elder who refuses to accept it would never be ordained (whatever that term means).

Editor 06/03/2014 10:47
Colin, the use of the 'jailer' and 'Lydia' to support the sprinkling of babies is nothing but conjecture. I could equally suggest that both the jailer and Lydia were most likely middle-aged and not likely to have had small children.

However, the baptism question has been over-rehearsed elsewhere so it would be tiresome to resurrect it on this thread.

You say that the WCF language is misleading. In which case it should most certainly be changed as wrong words or expression create faulty understanding.
The other issue which is perhaps even more important is that the post-millennial theology leaves no room for THE (end-time) Antichrist, so the understanding within the WCF theological framework is that there is no distinction between THAT and THE.

You say: "This is not an oft visited thread.
I am not sure that too many care?"

Indeed. And if your interpretation is correct it is a tragedy that there are millions then who blindly follow a church practice and doctrine based on the WCF and its errors.

And if you don't believe that it is held on a de facto par with Scripture I am afraid you are unfamiliar with the ethos of most of the Presbyerian world.
Any prospective minister or elder who refuses to 'sign up' to the WCF would never be ordained (whatever that term means).
And then there is the hyopcrisy of those who do, but who don't actually subscribe to all of it.

The WCF is spoken of in terms of 'fundamental doctrines' and 'the substance of the faith'. Are these the things that no one cares about?

I believe that the real reason for "disinterest' is that to critically examine the document and take the implications or revision on board would shake the whole presbyterian system from top to bottom. There are too many vested interests (not least from those who derived their income and status from the 'system') which would be on the line.

Colin Ford 06/03/2014 11:50
Editor,
I didn't say that the language of the WCF is misleading; only that it is peoples faulty interpretation of it, as indeed it was mine.
Anyway why am I bothered about the WCF, or the Articles etc?
I am not part of any Presbyterian church.
One reason only; just about all the books on prophecy I have ever read were by men who were 'signed up' as it were, to the WCF, so it takes on much importance.
I was talking to a prominent Reformed Calvinistic Irish Presbyterian minister (pre-millennial and post-tribulation-YES they DO exist!) only yesterday, and I asked him about WCF XXVII iv, what exactly is meant by "lawfully ordained". To which he replied verbatim; "A minister "lawfully ordained" is one ordained according to the teaching of the New Testament. A teaching elder-i.e. a minister must be one who fulfils the requirements of 1 Timothy 3.1-7 KJV."
Now I would believe that (I sincerely hope so anyway!) you would meet that criteria?
So, again no problems there? In my opinion at least!

I think I may yet have only explored about two per cent of your web site- it is certainly of considerable size. It must take some maintenance.
While we are on the topic of "Statements of Faith", do you not have one on this very site? I mean there are more "S o F's" than you can shake a stick at everywhere else!
Colin Ford 06/03/2014 12:11
If I may just add, my own God given conscience as an 'independent', I would only say that I haven't yet found anything in the WCF, in my opinion, that is at variance with Scripture, similarly with the teaching so-called of Calvinism. Which only came about due to the five points of the Remonstrants. Calvin didn't know he was a Calvinist!!!
The WCF is NOT Scripture! But then there are those within the Reformed Faith that are in error.
I will keep digging.
Editor 06/03/2014 14:16
Colin, you say: " I would only say that I haven't yet found anything in the WCF, in my opinion, that is at variance with Scripture"

That's fine. We will agree to disagree. All I have done is placed my views on the site and presented the opportunity for others to disagree with what I have said (provided they can do so from Scripture). So if you wish to engage please use Scripture to back up what you say.

Incidentally, and in relation to conversation with the minister, within the presbyterian system (WCF et al) there is the 'invention' of the terms 'teaching elder' and 'ruling elder' to justify the clergy/laity division.

You will find (mainly) that the 'teaching elder' is the minister and the 'ruling elders' are the rest of the Kirk session.

Actually its a biblical requiremnent that all elders should be able to teach (1 Tim 3:2). But a Church of Scotland stipulation that none can (from a pulpit at least) unless they are (a) a clergyman or (b) an officially-approved lay reader. What utter rubbish; and totally ineffective in keeping scoundrels out of pulpits.
John Miller 06/03/2014 14:58
"my own God given conscience"

I believe that God gives men consciences but a man's conscience is not necessarily a guide to what is right or wrong.
Colin Ford 07/03/2014 10:39
http://www.christianstogether.net/Articles/365816/Christians_Together_in/Christian_Life/Covenant_Theology_and.aspx

Editor,
On your site; (the link is provided above) regarding the WCF, I will quote you verbatim;

"It is also deficient in failing to cover some major biblical themes including the person and role of the Holy Spirit, and carries no mention of the Great Commission."

Have you not read WCF chapter II and chapter XXV, specifically XXV iii?

WCF XXV v does indeed state that apostasy exists even in the "purest church"?

Where is the perfect Statement of Faith? Does one exist?

John, as you have commented here, I may add that the WCF statement of faith, is I believe universally held to by the Reformed Calvinistic Churches. These churches hold to what is known (I am sure you know this) as Covenant Theology, of which the vast majority hold to Replacement Theology. This is where I part company with them. But regards soteriology, Sovereign Grace, law, total depravity, unconditional election, particular redemption, irresistible grace and perseverance of the saints; I am at one with them. It is God's prophetical purposes for Israel, that is in the millennium, where they are in major error. They actually do believe and teach that Satan is CURRENTLY bound! It is in this area where I am in agreement with Editor, though obviously we are not in agreement with some of the other aspects of theology previously mentioned.
Covenant Theology, broadly speaking teaches one group of called out and redeemed people (call it the church) from Adam to the great white throne at the end of the millennium. There is then ONE church of all ages, the church is not some mythical parenthesis that began at Pentecost and ends at what is known as the pre-tribulation rapture. This is not to say that separate dispensations have not existed, i.e. the Edenic, Antediluvian, Mosaic etc.
The New Testament Church, however, began on the Rock, which is Christ, when He called out His little flock; it was empowered at Pentecost, but existed before. But if Dispensational theologians admit to this (which they won't), then their pre-tribulation rapture theory becomes untenable, because if the disciples asked the question of the time of the Lord's return in Matthew 24-25 (Olivet Discourse)as the founders of the New Testament Church, then they would have known of only ONE Second Advent-Matthew 24.30-31 KJV. So these theologians have to keep the disciples identified with the nation of Israel and NOT the New Testament Church.
They do teach that the warnings in these chapters are for unbelieving Jews/Israelites, as if they would be reading the NT!
Jesus Christ will rule the world from His throne in Jerusalem for a thousand years in a soon coming Day, His Day, and then we will see the fulfillment of the yet unfulfilled Old Testament prophecies come to pass. They haven't been 'spiritualised away', and the church hasn't replaced Israel.

Editor, I have not gone off on a tangent. All of the above are inextricably linked with the WCF.
Editor 07/03/2014 15:47
Colin, thank you for your point. I have ammended the other article to which you refer.

Original:
"It is also deficient in failing to cover some major biblical themes including the person and role of the Holy Spirit, and carries no mention of the Great Commission."

Now reads:
"It is also deficient in failing to cover some some major biblical themes: making bare mention of the person and role of the Holy Spirit, and with no mention of the Great Commission".

......

You asked: "Where is the perfect Statement of Faith? Does one exist?"

Are you, in your question, suggesting that when error is discovered that it should be allowed to remain? Surely that is not what you believe?

One of the principal tenets of the Reformed church is 'semper reformanda' (always reforming). Could I refer you to the three quotes at the head of this article.

If there are errors then these need to be addressed.

Please do not be offended but I am more concerned with focussing on the points made in the article and what the Bible actually says, than long screeds on what anyone of us believes.

If I am wrong or need to change what I have written then I am open to that.

In your defence of the WCF, you say yourself that you part company with Replacement Theology (which is actually implicity or explicitly underpins the practice of infant sprinkling); neither to you agree with the reformed post-millennial view.

And if anyone adhering dogmatically to the TULIP doctrines must necessarily accept that vast swathes of Bible-believing Christians don't.

You asked whether I have read the WCF. I can assure you I have (but I fear it is not a claim that many who have signed up to it could make).

You say: "Dispensational theologians admit to this (which they won't)"

There is as much of not more dogmatic intransigence in that section of the church with which you seem to be aligned.

-----

...

You said: "WCF XXV v does indeed state that apostasy exists even in the "purest church"?

To which article/point are you referring?
Again if here you mean that apostasy should just be passively accepted rather than being identified and addressed, then I cannot agree.
However it may be some other point that you are making.

Editor 22/05/2015 18:15
The Church of Scotland minister who convened and reported at the denomination's May 2015 General Assembly on behalf of the Kirk's Theological Forum examining same-sex relationships referred to the historical differences of opinion regarding the Westminster Confession of Faith.

It was over these differences that the licence was given at the end of the 19th century to disagree (in love while maintaining unity) over those theological matters that didn't "enter into the substance of the faith".

Speaking in his 'Convenor' capacity and addressing the Church of Scotland in General Assembly the minister concerned argued that the view on same-sex relationships should allow for differences of opinion to exist under the above 'liberty of conscience' principle.

Footnote 3 in the above article states:
"Splits in the Presbyterian church(es) in Scotland around the turn of the 19th/20thcentury were caused by varying degrees of adherence to the WCF. Qualifying statements and subsequent ecclesiastical legislation have variously modified the extent to which strict adherence is required to all the WCF contains. The terms ‘fundamental doctrines’ and ‘substance of the faith’ have been developed and employed without any definitions of same."

In 1843 the Free Church of Scotland was formed by a breakaway group concerned about state involvement in church affairs (Erastianism) and the appointment of ministers by local landowners (patronage).

In 1892 the Free Church of Scotland adopted a 'Declaratory Act' which (inter alia) stated:
"That while diversity of opinion is recognised in this Church on such points in the Confession as do not enter into the substance of the Reformed Faith therein set forth, the Church retains full authority to determine, in any case which may arise, what points fall within this description, and thus to guard against any abuse of this liberty to the detriment of sound doctrine, or to the injury of her unity and peace."

There was no definition of what was and was not regarded as the "substance of the Reformed faith"

Perceiving this to be a relaxation of committment to the Scriptures, a year later, in 1893, a breakaway group from the Free Church of Scotland formed the Free Presbyterian of Scotland.
The latter commented regarding the Declaratory Act: "The final article leaves it to a majority in the Church to decide which teachings of the Confession entered into the substance of the Reformed Faith."

It is interesting to note that it is a former Free Presbyterian Church minister who was appointed Moderator at this year's General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and who presided at the most serious departure from biblical standards that we have seen since the Reformed church came into being.

In 2015, while much of the Free Presbyterian Church is in the grip of legalism (as evidenced in the 1989 breakaway which formed the APC churches), at the other end of the spectrum, the Church of Scotland has abandoned Biblical standards.

What all this proves is that - whatever their worth - neither formal doctrinal statements, nor minister-selection committees nor church government structures are capable of maintaining a Gospel purity.
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Christians Together in the Highlands and Islands > Christian Life > The Westminster Confession: a critique