It’s More Than A Semantic Difference

I do not forget that some of the respected and beloved brethren, who are regarded as the advocates of the doctrines alluded to, tell us continually that they believe substantially as we believe; that the difference between them and us is chiefly, if not entirely a difference of words. And is it possible, if this is the case, that they will allow so much anxiety and noise to be created by a mere verbal dispute?
But whatever may be the understanding and the intention of leading preachers of the doctrines referred to, the question is, “How are they understood by others?”
… There is the utmost danger that others (not so discerning or so pious) will be led astray by the language in question, and really embrace, in all their extent, the errors which it was originally employed to express. …
Besides, all experience admonishes us to be upon our guard against those who, in publishing erroneous opinions, insist upon it that they differ from the old orthodox creed “only in words.” This plan has been often pursued, until the language became familiar, and the opinions which it naturally expressed, current; and then the real existence of something more than verbal difference was disclosed in all its extent and inveteracy. Such was the course adopted by Arius, in the fourth century. …
It is, indeed, an easy thing for a minister accused of heresy, and affording too much evidence of the fact, by ingenious refinements, and plausible protestations, to render it difficult, if not impossible for a judicatory to convict him. And it is easy for such of his brethren as resolve him from censure, so to varnish over his opinions — as to hide, for the present, most of their deformity.

—Samuel Miller, Doctrinal Integrity: The Utility and Importance of Creeds and Confessions and Adherence to our Doctrinal Standards (Dallas, Texas: Presbyterian Heritage Publications, 1989), pp.103-105, 109-110 (HT: Rachel Miller).


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  1. Thanks Scott (and Rachel Miller)! Good stuff!

    These are available for download in two parts. One is “The Utility and Importance of Creeds and Confessions” available through Google Books; and the other (from which the post’s quotes are taken) is “Adherence to Our Doctrinal Standards” originally titled Letters to the Presbyterians

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