I believe the importance of this subject for the PCA is now matched by its urgency. If I may speak personally, one of the most alarming trends that I’ve seen among candidates for the ministry and among teaching and ruling elders in our denomination, is the growing opinion that the Standards are merely constitutional documents, on a par with the Book of Church Order (BCO) or Robert’s Rules of Order. It is an opinion that I suspect is held in equal numbers by those who take very few or no exceptions as much as by those who take several. To them, the Standards are necessary administrative instruments of good governance, and little more: “Certainly, we need to read them and know them and subscribe to them, but only in so far as doing so allows us to hold office in the denomination.” The idea that vibrant, useful, life-giving, God-exalting theology, piety, and practice can and should be mined from our Standards in any ongoing way, for the sake of the health of our own souls and the fruitfulness of our ministries, is quite foreign to their minds.
The tragic result is that the proclamation heard from our pulpits, the Christian formation provided in our Sunday School classes, and the piety practiced in our churches is less and less fluent in the historic syntax and grammar of the Reformed faith. Too often, in our ministries, after having declared our adherence to them before our presbyteries (or, if we are ruling elders or deacons, before our Sessions), we simply assume the theology of the Westminster Standards ever afterwards. Perhaps, in some cases, it might be more accurate to say that, after subscribing to them, we largely ignore and leave behind the theology of the Standards, in favor of novel ways of framing the truth which appear in our own eyes to be far more exciting and helpful. Read more»
David Strain, “Good Faith Subscription? Confessional Integrity In The PCA” | Gospel Reformation Network | June 27, 2021
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- Recovering the Reformed Confession (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2008).
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- Flashback To 2006: “Presbyterians And Presbyterians Together” As The Background To The Open Letter (Updated)
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- The Question Of The Hour In The PCA
Those Standards become Suggestions. They become like those old family sepia photographs which look nice on the wall and tug at our hearts in peculiar ways as we pass t hgem by. These Suggestions may be viewed occasionally only to be seen as quaint and interesting relics of the past that carry no compelling urgency or authority, remaining largely inaccessible to multicoloured moderns who apparently know better. Reinventing the new is much more in vogue all the while shoving aside the DNA blood lines of hope which course in our memories.
I am in mid-sixties now and heavily lament that my 50+ years of faith-life was not given the necessary standard disciplines to underpin and inform my progress. But I am recovering for God is kind and faithful, and I want no other, praise his name.
[The ‘read more’ goes to a dead link]
Amen and thank you for the heads up.
The Westminster Confession has become much like the Ten Commandments: They serve a purpose but it’s not like they’re written in stone. Wait, what?
I think David’s comments have wider application to other situations. If we learn to love our confessional standards they will enrich our preaching and ministry. When in the OPC the WCF was widely available at a congregational level, not just for elders but for all. In many “Reformed” congregations today they are a hidden treasure. I would encourage every church to make the WCF available in a cheap form for each family. I also commend the MSV edition, or the updated language in Roland Ward’s edition.