Aren’t There Enough Generally Evangelical Denominations?

I get really tired of people complaining about the Westminster Standards. These people want us to broaden our horizons beyond confessional boundaries so that we can be more ecumenical. I would like to ask these people, aren’t there enough generally evangelical denominations? Why do we need to become one of them, as well? The entire modern ethos is utterly opposed to confessional churches. It is surely not generally evangelical churches that need to be encouraged right now, but rather confessionally Reformed churches. NAPARC is about the only bastion of confessionally Reformed churches in North America, and all of NAPARC put together is pretty tiny. And even within NAPARC churches, there are strong pushes away from confessionalism. So, when you get right down to it, confessionally Reformed churches are rare birds, dare I say, even an endangered species.

This push comes from a misunderstanding of the true nature of the church. Does the true unity of all believers consist in a denomination, or does it consist of all those who have faith in Christ Jesus? I would argue strongly that it is the latter. We do not all have to belong to the same denomination to be truly ecumenical. True ecumenicity is not visible, but invisible. Of course we should not give up talking to brothers and sisters in other denominations. Far from it. However, when it comes to our identity, why are we so often embarrassed to be part of a confessional denomination? I would strongly encourage everyone reading these words to prayerfully consider becoming more confessional, not less. These boundaries are not hurtful things, but helpful things. See here, here, here, and here for some other thoughts related to boundaries.

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35 Comments

  1. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    January 29, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    True ecumenicity is not visible, but invisible.

    I agree.

    True ecumenicity, being invisible, can be found in a united front for the sanctity of life, biblical marriage, and religious liberty.

  2. Andrew Voelkel said,

    January 29, 2010 at 5:17 pm

    Rev. Lane,
    Isn’t some of the reaction against the “FV” really just a push toward strict subscription? There certainly are real theological issues being discussed, but much of this seems to be another round of the strict subscription debates.

    Our BCO currently allows ministers to differ with the Westminster Standards in some of its statements and/or propositions, so long as the minister declares his differences and so long as the Presbytery concludes that the minister holds to the system of doctrine in the standards and that his differences don’t strike at the vitals of religion. But some of us in the PCA genuinely feel that any doctrinal difference automatically strikes at the vitals of religion and ultimately undermines our whole system of doctrine. With our BCO allowing differences, and with no real definition of the meaning of the “vitals of religion” or the “system of doctrine”, and with many Presbyters and Presbyteries feeling doctrinal differences should not be allowed at all, controversy is inevitable.

    When being examined for ordination, I declared my differences in accordance with BCO 21-4 and was approved. But as the presbytery has changed, with the coming and going of pastors, and as “FV” fear has spread, I have heard more and more brothers (in person and on the internet) assert that my doctrinal differences should not be allowed in the PCA. I have even been asked why I don’t just leave and go minister in a denomination that agrees with me. (Sound familiar?)
    But where would I go? What evangelical church would you recommend?
    And do you really think that broadly evangelical churches want guys who subscribe to the Westminster Standards, with only a few exceptions? And what about the church which I have been called to serve as pastor? — Am I just to leave them because doctrinal differences can no longer be tolerated in the PCA?

    I was discipled in the PCA, went to seminary under the direction and blessing of my home PCA presbytery, received a theological education in our PCA seminary, was ordained in my home PCA presbytery under the guidelines of our BCO, and now there is a push in our denomination to move toward strict subscription and to purge the denomination of anyone like me who disagrees with any portion of the Westminster Standards. I find this disappointing as you can imagine.

    I could very well be in error in where I differ with our Standards, and I may indeed change my mind in the future, just as I have changed my mind on issues in the past; but in the meantime, I wish that our unity and forbearance with one another in the PCA was not so “invisible”.

    I am afraid that the push against the “FV”, together with a push toward strict subscription, is going to leave much collateral damage in our denomination. You may be tired of hearing people disagree with the Westminster Standards, but the problem is that some of us came in under the premise that we were allowed to respectfully disagree with our Standards from time to time.

  3. pduggie said,

    January 29, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    That’s an interesting point Mr Voekel.

    It seemed to me that some of the strongest opposition to FV started basically within the group that “lost” the strict subscription and 6 day creationist debates. (Which is ironic, since the FV men are almost entirely 6 day creationists).

    I wonder if some of the psychology of the FV guys was, well, if the PCA isn’t even going to stand for 6 days when the confession says that, then I may as well be bold in expressing my own confessional deviations.

  4. Reed Here said,

    January 29, 2010 at 6:48 pm

    Andrew, #2: yet the PCA has declared the FV system out of accord with the Standards. Real unity is founded on truth. There is no necessary push toward strict subscription. Rather there is a defense against error.

    If defense against error is tataumont to divisiveness, then why have any subscription at all? Or better yet, why not all join the E-Free? (Oh wait, they require dispy-premil last time I looked).

    I’ve sympathy with your personal story. I’ve don’t have much for the conclusions you draw from it with regard to the FV.

    Either it is wrong or it isn’t. Why are the ones affirming the denomination’s stand taken to task for doing so? Why are they maligned as “strict-subscriptionists” or “TRs”?

    Not saying you intend that. However, comments similar to yours have often been a preface to such maligning.

    Yes, being confessional means being willing to be tested, challenged, etc. That is not in and of itself evidence of any wrong.

  5. Martin said,

    January 29, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    The older I get the more I value the distinctiveness of being in a denomination that stands for something, or as you put it is actually confessional. To me it is actually more freeing in that I have something firm to stand on, and from that point I can charitably interact with people in other denominations.

  6. Reed Here said,

    January 29, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    Martin: amen. I spent way too many years in the wilderness of Evangellyfish. It is a Darwinian dream in some respects (tooth and claw, dripping with blood).

  7. January 29, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    This push comes from a misunderstanding of the true nature of the church. Does the true unity of all believers consist in a denomination, or does it consist of all those who have faith in Christ Jesus? I would argue strongly that it is the latter. We do not all have to belong to the same denomination to be truly ecumenical. True ecumenicity is not visible, but invisible.

    I totally agree with the reasoning behind this post, but I think we also need to reckon with the way Paul spoke of unity, and particularly, how he grounded unity in the sacraments. We shouldn’t be divided because we eat of the same loaf; we shouldn’t battle each other because we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body.

    The more I think about it, the more I can’t seem to avoid the conclusion that any notion of unity that exalts the invisible over the sacramental is gnostic.

    This doesn’t mean that we all need to join a single denomination, but it does mean that, say, a confessional Lutheran’s claim to be united with a Presbyterian whom he refuses to serve communion rings hollow, as does the Baptist’s claim to be unified with a Reformed person whose baptism he will not acknowledge as valid.

    So I guess that I don’t think that true unity is invisible. I think it’s sacramental.

  8. January 29, 2010 at 8:08 pm

    Andrew,

    Differences are categorized as either striking at the vitals or not. From your narrative, there’s no way to tell where your exceptions fall.

    It is a typical FV approach to throw out red herrings and try to misdirect the debate. Lane didn’t write about subscriptionists of any variety. That’s a red herring. The discussion is about what strikes at the vitals of the Reformed faith. The PCA and six other orthodox Reformed denominations decided that FV strikes at the vitals. Lane’s point and that of many of us who care for God’s flock in the PCA think that it’s time for folks who hold to errors which have been rejected to move on. It’s not how anybody got here that matters, but where they should be going.

  9. pduggie said,

    January 29, 2010 at 8:15 pm

    “The more I think about it, the more I can’t seem to avoid the conclusion that any notion of unity that exalts the invisible over the sacramental is gnostic.”

    Um Ok. Fine by me. There is a sacramental unity.

    It exists between all saints by profession. I’d hope communion with the triune God is somehow involved in that common unity too.

  10. January 29, 2010 at 8:18 pm

    Paul,

    I’d hope communion with the triune God is somehow involved in that common unity too.

    Not for the reprobate, sorry.

  11. pduggie said,

    January 29, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    You never played “electricity” as a child, did you, RM?

  12. Andrew Voelkel said,

    January 29, 2010 at 9:13 pm

    Reed, #4,
    I certainly don’t mean to malign when using the “strict-subscription” label. Strict Subscription (as I understand it) is a legitimate position with obvious benefits for protecting the truths found in our Standards and for promoting theological unity within a denomination. But strict subscription currently is not the policy of the PCA (for legitimate reasons as well), thus making the doctrinal controversy more complicated than it would be in a strict subscription denomination. In a strict subscription denomination the main task in controversy would be to determine whether or not something is contrary to the Westminster Standards, and that would settle it. But we in the PCA have a much more challenging task (at least it seems to me). We must determine whether a contrary/differing position strikes at the “vitals of religion” and/or places someone totally outside the “system of doctrine”. And since those terms are so fuzzy, it is no surprise that there is a lack of consensus at the Presbytery level.

    With respect to the “FV”, it seems to me that there is still little understanding of the issues by many of the elders in the denomination. Not everyone is a theologian nor cares to be. That means that our gifted theologians opposing the FV need to be very precise in their criticisms so that we don’t end up with “a baby with the bathwater” scenario in our Presbyteries.

    Reformed Musing, #8,

    I didn’t mean to throw out a “red herring” or try to misdirect any debate. Just thought I would participate in the blog discussion, especially since I have heard similar invitations to leave the denomination in the context of strict subscription discussions.
    Your response to my comments perfectly illustrates what concerns me. Your zeal is commendable, but the speed at which you threw out the FV label could cause people to question (mistakenly I hope) your concern for precision and your desire to bear with others until we reach the unity of the faith.

    I agree with you that a difference “either strikes at the vitals or not”. The problem is that there seems to be little consensus between Presbyteries and/or Presbyters when making that judgment. I thought my difference(s) were pretty standard and acceptable in the PCA; but denominations and presbyteries change, and I recently heard someone say that my difference does indeed strike at the vitals. I differ at the moment, but who’s to say?
    — Presbytery? SJC? Blog posters? GA? All I can do is go with Presbytery for now. (FWIW — I hold a “minority view” on how we should apply Paul’s instructions in 1 Cor 11, and that makes me especially interested in the “objectivity of the covenant” discussions related to the FV debate.)

    It would be great if the PCA could agree on a list of “allowable differences” so that ministers holding allowable differences could minister in good confidence and without these open invitations to leave for some other denomination.

  13. January 29, 2010 at 10:39 pm

    Paul,

    Guess not. No idea what the game is.

  14. January 29, 2010 at 11:01 pm

    Andrew,

    but the speed at which you threw out the FV label

    I was just following your lead in #2. Maybe I misread you. If so, I apologize.

    who’s to say? — Presbytery? SJC? Blog posters? GA?

    You know the polity. Presbyteries are the court of original jurisdiction for TEs. They get first say. But, they can and have erred and hence the ability to appeal to the SJC. That’s how things were resolved for the peace and purity of the church with Louisiana Presbytery and Steve Wilkins. I expect more of the same in the near future.

    (FWIW — I hold a “minority view” on how we should apply Paul’s instructions in 1 Cor 11, and that makes me especially interested in the “objectivity of the covenant” discussions related to the FV debate.)

    OK, I think I get it. I was shocked to find that exception acceptable to some Presbyteries. That would never happen in my presbytery as it seems to clearly strike at the vitals in violating 1 Cor 11:27-30. But I’m sure you’ve heard that before.

    I find it appropriate to have one enforceable standard for the entire PCA that’s enforced uniformly. Hence I agree with your last paragraph to a large extent. That’s probably the career military pilot in me. As it is, there are TEs that cannot leave their churches or presbyteries because of their anomalous views that someone thought was acceptable at one time. That said, the PCA is what it is and I proceed within the established rules and rulings.

    As to the mythical objective covenant, many of us have written posts and articles demonstrating the absurdity of the concept. There’s no hint of such a thing in Scripture. I’ve read a lot of the source material from its purveyors and have yet to see an argument for it that handles Scripture in an orthodox Reformed manner. But then, there are teachers that tell itching ears what they want to hear.

    In any event, thanks for your continued interaction here. If no one has said it yet, welcome to Greenbaggins!

  15. Andrew Voelkel said,

    January 30, 2010 at 12:54 am

    Reformed musings, #14,

    Didn’t mean to mislead in #2. I apologize for that.

    I do know the polity on paper, but the process is much more dynamic than I thought it would be. I expected Presbyteries to essentially have the final word about what “strikes at the vitals”, especially since each presbytery is proving to be so different; and I expected SJC to stay out of all but the most blatant cases (maybe that is still true); and from what was said at GA 2007, I didn’t realize that the study report on FV/NPP would actually be used as a theological standard for us. But the paper is being used as a theological standard. and the SJC is pretty involved, and I would say that even the internet is proving to be a powerful factor for swaying the opinions of elders. (Like Luther’s printing press)

    Just as you were shocked that the exception noted was allowed in some Presbyteries, I have been equally shocked to find that some PCA elders (maybe many or most) find the noted view to “strike at the vitals”. I knew it was a minority position, but I really thought that it was widely accepted as an allowable exception.

    FWIW, I kind of backed into the position when thinking about whether withholding the supper was an appropriate means of discipline. I found one scripture text that might support suspension from the Lord’s Supper, but most of what I read in NT seemed to support admonition and/or excommunication rather than suspension. I also thought that Paul’s command in 1 Cor 11:33-34 required that we read 1 Cor 11:27-30 as a means to ensuring 1 Cor 11:33-34 was followed with regard to the whole group. (My reading is basically the one seen in the Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible). Anyway, I admit that my understanding on the issue may be flawed. But I hope you see how that that reading/position/error forces me into an “objectivity of the covenant” position:
    If Paul knows that not all in the church are Genuine Christians (1 Cor 11:19), but Paul commands them to all eat the supper together anyway (minority reading of “wait for one another” – 1 Cor 11:33-34),
    then all must be granted access to the covenant meal on the basis of some external standard (like baptism) rather than an internal standard (like faith).

    Again, it may be flawed, but the objectivity of covenant seemed a better solution than saying that all should take the supper because all are automatically “saved” on account of their baptism. (That did not seem like a real option on account of Paul’s warnings against presumption). Of course I could avoid both of those solutions by going back to the majority reading of 1 Cor 11:27-30, but then I don’t know what to do with 1 Cor 11:33-34.

    Your comment is actually the first time I have ever heard someone reject, all together, any “objectivity of the covenant.” That shows how little I know about the PCA as a whole. I thought the objectivity of the covenant was standard language and understanding in the PCA. I think Pratt teaches the concept in the third millenium ministries video entitled, “Why We Baptize Our Babies.” There he argues that God’s covenants throughout history include both believers and unbelievers and that all baptized persons are part of the New Covenant community.
    Is that the position you are saying is “mythical”?
    Maybe I misunderstood your comment. Or maybe I misunderstood Pratt and others. Or maybe we just mean different things by the phrase “objectivity of the covenant”. I will REALLY be shocked to find serious disagreement among us on that point. And if there is, it shows that the issues being labeled “FV” are really much, much broader than the things which were set forth by the Auburn Avenue group.

    If groups holding these differing positions do have to part ways, I hope it can be done in a spirit of brothers agreeing to disagree rather than with one group calling the other heretical. But I do think that Jesus and the Apostles would have us stick it out together despite our lack of agreement. The church may still be young and we could have a long way to go still.

    Thanks for the welcome to Greenbaggins.

  16. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    January 30, 2010 at 2:28 am

    (A). True ecumenicity is not visible, but invisible.

    (B) So I guess that I don’t think that true unity is invisible. I think it’s sacramental.

    I vote for (A).

  17. Zac Wyse said,

    January 30, 2010 at 4:36 am

    Yet we have no access to God’s decree of election (invisible); therefore, we must function according to visible, sacramental unity until the age to come.

    I vote for (B)

  18. Reed Here said,

    January 30, 2010 at 7:59 am

    Andrew, #12:

    We must determine whether a contrary/differing position strikes at the “vitals of religion” and/or places someone totally outside the “system of doctrine”. And since those terms are so fuzzy, it is no surprise that there is a lack of consensus at the Presbytery level.

    With respect to the “FV”, it seems to me that there is still little understanding of the issues by many of the elders in the denomination. Not everyone is a theologian nor cares to be. That means that our gifted theologians opposing the FV need to be very precise in their criticisms so that we don’t end up with “a baby with the bathwater” scenario in our Presbyteries.

    Couldn’t agree more.

    I think we do have some very helpful and precise summaries. Aside from some excellent work Lane has done, I think of some things from LIg Duncan and others.

    I don’t think the problem is on the side of those who disagree with the FV. We’ve been at this for quite sometime. Rather, it seems to be a combination of the factors you note above concerning the average TE/Re and their response to such matters.

  19. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    January 30, 2010 at 10:25 am

    (A). True ecumenicity is not visible, but invisible.

    (B) So I guess that I don’t think that true unity is invisible. I think it’s sacramental.

    The Westminster Confession of Faith explains, “The catholic or universal Church, which is invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ the Head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all.”

    I don’t see anything here about sacramental unity. So I still opt for (A).

  20. Zac Wyse said,

    January 30, 2010 at 11:24 am

    TUaD,
    I’m not disagreeing with you. I’m simply saying that it’s more complex than that. On a practical, functional level, because we don’t have access to election, we find our unity in the visible church, which is marked by the Word and Sacraments. If I’m not able to receive the sacraments in an LCMS congregation, then I’m clearly not united to them. If a person is under ecclesiastical discipline and barred from the Lord’s Table, there is no visible unity, although the person may still be a member of the invisible church.
    Thoughts?

  21. January 30, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    That’s my point, Zac. We can talk all we want about feelings of comaraderie, but the NT doesn’t root unity there, it roots it in sacraments that you can actually see, because they are visible signs.

    To whatever degree we are unable to partake in other churches’ sacraments, therefore, to that degree we are disunited with them (and by extension, to that degree we are in sin).

  22. January 30, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    Andrew,

    I expected Presbyteries to essentially have the final word about what “strikes at the vitals”, especially since each presbytery is proving to be so different;

    Yet, the PCA has denominational standards which the BCO says that presbyteries must uphold. The presbyteries have considerable leeway within that construct, but the Confession says that councils can and do err. Presbyteries must be held accountable for their decisions. When those decisions fail to uphold the peace and purity of the church, they must be corrected. It’s not conceptually different than the U.S. appellate court system. We who are simul justus et peccator need such a system of mutual accountability.

    Your comment is actually the first time I have ever heard someone reject, all together, any “objectivity of the covenant.”

    The term has been used as a cornerstone by the FV. They use it to usurp and replace the Biblical covenant system. Richard Phillips has an excellent overview and critique of this error in Covenant Confusion. I highly recommend his article, as it will give you some perspective on what’s at stake – nothing less than the gospel of grace.

    Thanks for your continued interaction.

  23. January 30, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    [...] 30, 2010 by gairneybridge Why should the Reformed community be committed to confessionalism? Greenbaggins gets it right: I get really tired of people complaining about the Westminster Standards. These people want us to [...]

  24. GLW Johnson said,

    January 31, 2010 at 9:41 am

    Lane
    It never ceases to amaze me why these folks who get all bend out shape over a ‘strict’ reading of the Westminster Standards nonetheless try so desperately to appear to champion a “genereous ‘Reformed’ orthodoxy”. Why not just go join the CREC where that mentality is practised and celebrated ? On top of it all they will the oversight of the bishop of Moscow who wordsmithing is ledgendary-the kind that will prevent confessional ‘gnat swallowing’ from ever being a pest.

  25. Reformed Sinner said,

    February 1, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    The Least Common Denominator approach to anything will bring superficial unity at best, individual autonomy at worst. We already have a “general” label and it’s called: “Christian”

    I echo the sentiment that true ecumenical is invisible rather than visible. I don’t know why so many Protestants that I have met admire the “unity” of the Roman Catholic Church. I have a distant relative that is a trained priest in Rome and I can tell you the Catholic Church is anything but an unified entity.

  26. February 1, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    The unity of the RCC is a myth. In actuality, they are broken into “orders” – Dominican, Jesuit, Franciscan, Sacred Heart, etc. There are other internal divisions as well. Those all might as well be separate denominations for all practical purposes.

  27. Dean B said,

    February 1, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    Great Post!

    I am reading Minority Report by Trueman and he really helped me understand the importance of being Confessional rather than just Evangelical. This is especially drawn out in the chapter entitled “Uneasy Consciences and Critical Minds: What the Followers of Carl Henry can learn from Edward Said”

  28. David Gray said,

    February 1, 2010 at 8:06 pm

    People should read D.G. Hart’s book “Rediscovering Mother Kirk.” He does a great job examining the difficulty in considering one’s self to be both evangelical, as generally understood, and presbyterian.

  29. Reformed Sinner said,

    February 1, 2010 at 8:47 pm

    Evangelical is becoming such a catch-phrase that everyone wants to use it. I am working on a project that is purely Reformed Confessional but my supporters insisted that I add the word “Evangelical” into it because they fear the words “Reformed Confessional” will sound too strict and not loving enough, and I’m not talking about non-Reformed folks that wanted me to do this, but this request is made by various Reformed Confessional pastors. Urgh…

  30. Robert Berman said,

    February 3, 2010 at 9:06 am

    Wasn’t the WCF originally intended as a consensus statement from a diverse group of Reformed scholars? They had substantial differences on other matters, but they could agree on everything they put in WCF. ISTM that WCF no longer serves that purpose for us; rather than doing the hard work, as the Divines did, of crafting a statement on whose particulars we can agree 100% (i.e. strictly), we have kept the WCF as-is (or at least, as it was left in the 18th century) but then said that 100% agreement is not necessary.

    “The Westminster Confession in the 21st Century Vol 1″ (Ed. Ligon Duncan) showed me that the PCA is not the first Presbyterian denomination to walk down this road. In Scotland, in Australia, and in the PCUSA, “system subscription” proved to be a shifting sand and a gateway to liberalism. Is it automatic that the PCA will go the same route? No. But do we have some distinctive in polity or ethos that will protect us from that same drift? Not that I can tell.

    “Optional rule” is an oxymoron. If WCF fails to reflect the mind of the church on some point (exclusive psalmody, mental images of Christ, Sabbatarian practice, etc.) the appropriate solution is not to say, “That part of WCF isn’t part of the system anyway.” The appropriate solution is to amend WCF to be a document which we can affirm in good conscience.

    It seems like a similar dynamic to the brouhaha over the Manhattan Declaration, which is not about soteriology, but which makes incidental comments which impinge upon soteriology. Some are unable in good conscience to sign the MD because of those comments; others are willing to sign the MD because they consider those comments incidental to the “system of doctrine” in the MD; in effect, they sign the MD while taking a “good faith” exception to a portion of it. It would be interesting to see how the sign/no-sign folks with respect to MD line up compared to system/strict subscriptionism.

  31. David Gray said,

    February 3, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    And last time I checked the PCA and OPC WCFs aren’t the same as the original anyway.

  32. Dean B said,

    February 3, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    Robert

    BOQ Wasn’t the WCF originally intended as a consensus statement from a diverse group of Reformed scholars? They had substantial differences on other matters, but they could agree on everything they put in WCF. EOQ

    Dr. Trueman makes an interesting point in Minority Report which I have not heard expressed before and the second point gets to the inherent problem with thinking the MD as a confession.

    BOQ Given this, that creeds and confessions have, historically, almost always been documents aimed at consensus, two further points must be made. First, I am persuaded that such documents, particularly the early church creeds, should be understood in a broadly negative fashion. Scholars, do disagree on this point, but it seems to me to make sense of, say, the Nicene Creed if we understand it as essentially setting up boundaries which exclude certain positions. In effect, it tells you what you cannot say about God without you consequently failing to make sense of Scripture’s teaching. This, it leaves open a space for theological reflection, exploration, and even disagreement. The difference between this and understanding a creed as a positive statement of what you must believe is subtle but very significant. This way underscores consensus and inclusion; the latter focuses on precise agreement and exclusion. The same people may be included and excluded under both understandings, but I would still argue that the former is more appropriately modest and charitable and a lot less likely to lead to the usurpation of biblical authority.

    The second point arising from the consensus nature of creeds and confessions is that they generally focus on the very core elements of faith which command general agreement on both content and importance within the given constituency. EOQ pg 121

  33. Robert Berman said,

    February 3, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    Dean, Dr Trueman is surely right that the creeds did not purport to say everything that could be said, for instance, about the Trinity. And the WCF does not purport to say everything that could be said about any of its chapter headings. So, for instance, WCF doesn’t discuss the distinction between “definitive sanctification” and “progressive sanctification” in the way that many people have discussed today, but that doesn’t make such discussion an “exception” to WCF.

    However, I don’t think it’s healthy to leave doctrines on the books and then stipulate that unspecified parts of the books are nonbinding. If the confession does not reflect the view of the body, I’d like to see the confession modified, even on matters where I agree with the confession rather than the body.

  34. todd said,

    February 3, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    Robert,

    Even if the Confession is modified, it is modified by vote. So the minority still disagrees with the changes. So what really has changed? The whole church still cannot agree to every detail.

  35. Robert Berman said,

    February 4, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    Well, that depends on the nature of the change, Todd. I’d argue that a confessional phrase with which the majority agree is an improvement over a confessional phrase with which the majority disagree. But another approach would be to change the confession by excising the disputed portion altogether; then the document would consist of those statements agreeable to all.


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