Text Criticism of the Canons of Dort RE 1.1

This is inside baseball but it’s important inside baseball. Wes has noted a discrepancy between the English translation of the Rejection of Errors in the CD and the Latin text and it’s not an insignificant discrepancy. It’s the difference between the Synod (and the Reformed churches with them) rejecting one error and another. More to the point, it reinforces the ways in which the FV theology is like the Remonstrant theology rejected at the Synod of Dort. This revision by the CanRC might also have implications for CanRC and URC relations, might it not?

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  1. A question from an outsider: Have the URC and/or the CanRC modified the Three Forms of Unity in any way (we in the OPC don’t subscribe the WCF but to the Confession and Catechisms of the OPC – which have been modified from the original). If you don’t modify them, which versions are authoritative (i.e. Latin, German, or English translations)?



    • The textual histories of the CD and BC are complicated. There’s a common (more or less) received text from Dort but the question is whether the modern English translations are faithful.

      It’s certainly something to which we need to pay attention.

      There’s no official URC translation. There is an official CanRC translation and (I think) RCUS translation of the Three Forms.

    • Dear Rev. Booth,

      I am very glad that you pointed out that the OPC (or the PCA) does NOT subscibe to the original Westminster Standards. Yet, why is it that many OPC congregations and the web site (ok they make a disclaimer “with minor revisions”, but keep the name “Westminster”) tout that they in fact do hold to it? Is this not misleading? Should they not change the name of their Confession or make it more obvious that the Confession they hold is not the Westminster Confession of Faith? When I first became a Calvinist over 15 yrs ago, I never knew of the difference. When I was quoting the original one day, I was corrected and told that the OPC does not hold to that version. Boy was I shocked! They both go by the same name.



      • Edgar,

        Why aren’t the OPC and PCA editions merely revisions of the WCF? It’s not a new document. It’s a revision of the WCF. That doesn’t make it an entirely distinct document.

      • Edgar,

        Thank you for your question. I have mixed feelings about how to respond.

        If you look at the book of confessions put out by the OPC you will see that the title is: “The Confession of Faith and Catechisms of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.” I frequently refer to our confession this way. Certainly anyone who is becoming a member of the OPC should be made aware of this fact.

        On the other hand, I often do refer to the Westminster Confession of Faith or the Westminster Shorter Catechism and Larger Catechism (even though we have made some changes to the originals). One reason for this is to show our fundamental solidarity with all of the Confessionally Reformed churches. Furthermore, the expression “The Confession of Faith and Catechisms of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church” does not convey a great deal of meaning to many people outside of the OPC and PCA while the “Westminster Confession of Faith” does accurately convey the system of faith that we confess and teach – even though we have modified some parts of it. I suspect that this is the reason why so many OPC and PCA congregations use the title “Westminster Confession of Faith” on their websites. Personally, I don’t find this misleading. I think that it is simply an attempt to communicate as clearly and meaningfully as possible.

        BTW – It is important to remember the fundamental doctrinal unity of all the Confessionally Reformed Churches. So, for example, my congregation also reads from and teaches the Heidelberg Catechism in our congregation – even though it is not a subordinate standard in the OPC. I mention this precisely because we live at a time when this fundamental doctrinal unity is increasingly being denied by those who want to teach something contrary to what our Confessions say – while still claiming to be Reformed.

        Best wishes,


        • Dear Dr. Clark and Rev. Booth,

          Thank you for your respective responses. The revisions that were made in the 1780’s were significant. Although the changes may not seem so in many of today’s Reformed community, the Westminster divines were convinced of the Establishment Principle and the view that the Pope is that Antichrist, that man of Sin, and son of perdition as spoken of in 2 Thess. 2:3. They did not take these positions lightly but held them in high regard. Samuel Rutherford, George Gillespie, and Thomas Watson to name three well known theologians at the Assembly wrote emphatically on these topics. Today, however, these positions are not held to the level of Confessional Presbyterianism seeing that the revisions, adopted by the OPC and PCA, have eliminated these references. The revised Confession is way more conducive to the American psychology of pluralism than to the Biblical teaching of these two points of doctrine (if I am not mistaken the original Belgic Confession teaches the same view of the Establishment Principle as that of Westminster). I appreciate the tact that the RPCNA has taken via their Testimony in doing a side by side and making it very clear where the changes are and such. The Establishment Principle was at the core of getting the Westminster Assembly to meet to begin with, hence the first document produced was the Solemn League and Covenant. The American Confession totally erases the Westminster Divines’ and the Church of Scotland’s unequivocal view of these Biblical doctrines. Therefore, these revisions are much more profound than what many modern Presbyterians may realize. If I were to take someone’s writings and modify one paragraph and erase a few sentences, could that writing still be called by it’s original title and attributed to the original author and be found acceptable to the academic community as such? Now by modify I mean by eliminating the original idea, intent, and teaching that was held and replacing it with the contrary viewpoint or eliminating it altogether.

          Hence why I think that keeping the original name of Westminster, and attributing it to the American Confession of Faith may be misleading to many.

          Thank you again brethren.

          Edgar Ibarra
          Free Church of Scotland (Continuing)

      • Yes, I was ordained and installed as the pastor or Merrimack Valley Presbyterian Church in North Andover, MA at the end of May.

    • My comments became separated because I didn’t post the above “Thanks!” as a reply – but the above “Thanks!” was to Dr. Clark’s initial answer and not to whatever comment happens to end up above that one.


  2. We don’t really have translations of the Three Forms of Unity, but editions or versions. I think that’s probably how it has to be when you take confessional subscription seriously.

    • Gary,
      Or as happy as a tramp eating chips.

      Out of interest, what do you make of bible translations that render Romans 1:5 “faith and obedience”?

  3. Scott
    The picture of you under ‘About R. Scott Clark’ bears an uncanny resemblance to Ignatius of Loyola-but you, no doubt, have heard that before.

  4. NM
    I am perplexed by translations that do that .PISTEOS is used here as a subjective genitive of source and HUPAKOEN flows from this faith. It expresses purpose-to make people obedient to the message of the Gospel.See C.E.B. Cranfield’s acclaimed commentary in the I.C.C. series, (vol.l p.66 )for a list of the many ways this has been interpreted.

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