Book to Read for Reformation Day

I just finished Scott Clark’s new book Recovering the Reformed Confession. If one has to choose just one word to describe it, I would have to go with “invigorating.” And this describes the whole book, even though one might not agree with every part of the book. For instance, my differences with Clark would come in the area of the creation days (although I do not make the 24 hour view a test of orthodoxy), and in the area of exclusively inspired hymnody (he does not advocate exclusive Psalmody, but rather that we should sing hymns that are the biblical text, and from any part of Scripture), and in the area of instruments. He mounts arguments that would certainly be difficult to overcome for anyone who does disagree with him.

The book has a very simple structure: problem, then solution. The problem is two-fold, the quest for illegitimate religious certainty, or QIRC, abbreviated (and in this category, Clark attacks KJV only-ism as a test for orthodoxy, the denial of the free offer of the Gospel, the theology of glory that Luther attacked so vigorously, liquid modernity, 24-hour creation days as a test for orthodoxy, theonomy, and the Federal Vision); and the quest for illegitimate religious experience, or QIRE (and here he attacks pietism and revivalism mostly, as it seeks to escape the normal means of grace for an immediate experience of God. Jonathan Edwards, it should be noted, falls under Clark’s critique at this point, which would certainly be another controversial point). It should also be noted that Clark is very careful to distinguish between pietism and the piety of Reformed Confessional practice. The latter is based on the normal means of grace, whereas the former is based on direct experiences of God. Clark’s point here is that God’s grace is mediated today through the means of grace. We should therefore not seek to bypass those means of grace.

The solution part of the book, which is the longer section, has a number of proposals which are very intriguing. For instance (and this is the one which intrigues me the most), he advocates setting up a committee formed with members from all NAPARC denominations in order to draw up a new confession. He notes that, on average, the Reformed churches came out with a new major confession every six years. And it is certainly true that we need to confess our faith. Such a document would have to be consistent with with the six forms of unity we already have, of course. But that is probably why Clark advocates having members from all NAPARC denoms participating. I was thinking about this, and what might be the best way to proceed is to have a structure for this committee similar to the US governmental legislative branch. To have a “senate” where each denom has equal participation, and then have a “house” where larger denoms have more say. The confession of faith resulting would then have to pass both the “house” and the “senate.”

The reason this is important is that the word “Reformed” is being used today without reference to any fixed definition. Clark advocates using the word in the sense that the Reformed confessions define theology. This I agree with completely. There is no sense in using a word that can mean a hundred different things to a hundred different people. We do not want to have happen to this word what has happened to the word “evangelical,” and I think that is exactly what Clark is wanting to avoid.

One other point I want to bring up about the book is his comments about the evening worship service. First of all, his discussion of the Sabbath issue is tremendously helpful, and shows that it is way to facile to say that there is a “continental” view of the Sabbath as opposed to a “puritan” view. Clark shows that this simply was not the case. All one has to do is read Turretin and a’Brakel on the 4th commandment to know that Clark is right. Calvin did not bowl on the Sabbath day. The day was for worship. And an excellent barometer of the spiritual maturity of people is whether or not they attend evening worship.

This book is the book to give to people who want to understand where “TR”s” ( I hate that label, but it has stuck) are really coming from, and what their concerns are. It is a very exciting book to read, and I recommend it enthusiastically.


  1. G.C. Berkley said,

    October 31, 2008 at 10:26 am

    “And an excellent barometer of the spiritual maturity of people is whether or not they attend evening worship.”

    I love and always attend evening worship, but it is an issue of church practice and no where fixed in Scripture. Would you say attendance at evening worship ought to be a requirement for church membership?

    And do you suppose John Frame bowls on Sunday? ;-)

  2. Lee said,

    October 31, 2008 at 10:33 am

    Even though the NAPARC suggestion made me throw up a little in my mouth, I am intrigued by the book anyway.

    I was wondering, Lane, if you might could expand just a little on what Clark says about the 24-Hour Creation days as a test for orthodoxy as illegitimate. Does the WCF not specify creation in 6 days? I am curious to know what Clark’s argument on that point is.

    Thanks for the review.

  3. Benjamin P. Glaser said,

    October 31, 2008 at 11:05 am

    The WCF is pretty clear about 6-days. But remember Dr. Clark is a TFU guy, not a Westminsterian.

  4. RBerman said,

    October 31, 2008 at 11:38 am

    And what of churches whose weekly worship service is on Sunday evening as opposed to Sunday morning?

  5. greenbaggins said,

    October 31, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    Actually, Ben, as a professor at WSC, he is required to hold to the WS as well. Clark does not think that the 24-hour creation day issue should be a test for orthodoxy. As to the WS, he agrees with Will Barker’s take on the issue, namely, that the Westminster divines were arguing against Augustine’s view of instantaneous creation, and were thus not arguing against older earth views. This would be contra David Hall’s argumentation that the divines meant 24-hour days. Personally, I agree with Hall, and that the WS say 6 periods of 24 hours, and that any other view of the creation days (as long as it excludes evolution) ought to be regarded as an exception to the standards that does not strike at the vitals of religion.

    I think evening worship ought to be required of church members. When the church meets, the members are to be there.

  6. Benjamin P. Glaser said,

    October 31, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    How could one hold to the WCF and the TFU at the same time without contradiction on some points? I agree with you that 6-days means 6-days and should be regarded as an exception.

  7. thomasgoodwin said,

    October 31, 2008 at 12:38 pm

    While I am not necessarily 6-24 myself, I think it’s probably more accurate to argue that the Divines were 6-24. Remember, Ussher had a massive influence upon the Westminster Confession (an area that no one has explored in detail yet); and Goodwin explicitly refers to the earth being 6 thousand years old (though, he does say – in a Gaffin-esque way – that the creation of the world was actually at the resurrection).


  8. G.C. Berkley said,

    October 31, 2008 at 12:47 pm


    In another thread reformedmusings said he thought such a requirement was legalism. I agree that morning and evening worship is a pattern in Scripture, but cannot see how the church can assert compliance with an inference about such a practice. All we can assert is that the church met on the Lord’s day. Of course, every member should be encouraged to attend all the worship services of the church, but there ought to be room for those brethren who are not persuaded that 3 services on the Lord’s day (SS, AM, PM) are required of them by God. My church just had a big split over this issue and I didn’t think it was worth it….

  9. G.C. Berkley said,

    October 31, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    Apparently Rey would like to be banned AND deleted….

  10. G.C. Berkley said,

    October 31, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    Yeah Rey, you really got us there. Should I remove my human mask to show you my demon face now? Brouhahahahaha!

  11. its.reed said,

    October 31, 2008 at 1:13 pm


    You need to show some of the high character you claim to have and abide by the wishes of this blog’s owner.

    If someone kept ignoring your request that he stay off your property, that person would be guilty of trespassing, a violation of the 8th commandment.

    Such a violation, as you know, is called sin.

    Sin, as you know, is characteristic of the behavior of the children of Satan.

    So, lest you want us to conclude that you are actually the child of Satan here, maybe you better stop violating the 8th commandment and go away.

  12. tim prussic said,

    October 31, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    The funny thing that that the brothers at WSC depart from the Confession when they think they should, so how are they any more “confessional” than anyone else who claims it? Further, no one thinks his point of disagreement with the Confession ought to be a made a test of orthodoxy.

    Augustine’s error regarding creation is different than that of Clark et al in Cali, but the Confession is positively clear. It doesn’t condemn Augustine, it asserts 6-day creation.

    I wish Clark et al would show the charity to others who have variances with the Confession that they have for themselves. It’s not as those the doctrine of creation isn’t quite foundational to the Christian view of men and things, more so than, say, a theonomic view of civil law.

    The reality if that Clark, like everyone else, loves the Confession when he agrees with it.

  13. greenbaggins said,

    October 31, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    Tim, don’t you think the issue is more narrow than creation? It is the length of the creation days, not that God created the heavens and the earth. And I am speaking from a 24-hour literal point of view. So, to say that the length of creation days equals one’s doctrine of creation is not quite accurate, in my opinion. Therefore, it is not in the same category as one’s view of the law.

  14. tim prussic said,

    October 31, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    Sure, Pr. Lane, there different things going on, to be sure. The denial of divine creation is more problematic than the denial of 6-days of creation. One’s view of *how* God created, being as fundamental as it is, had drastic effect upon one’s view of men and things. One’s cosmogony effects so many ideas, including one’s cosmology, anthropology – maybe even one’s view of the veracity of the biblical narrative. The denial of the 6-day time frame is clearly a capitulation to outside influences, which themselves have wreaked much havoc with Christianity for the last century and a half… a heck of a lot more than theonomy ever could!

    The Confessional issue is simply that our Confession explicitly states a six-day view. Everyone knows what they meant and everyone knows what they opposed. I’d have far more respect for these “Reformed” men if they’d simply be more frank and say that they out and out DISAGREE with the Confession. But they don’t. They write books about how confessional they are. Meanwhile, their “confessionalism” doesn’t appear as impressive from the outside as they might have hoped.

  15. greenbaggins said,

    October 31, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    However, Tim, if a man says that the creation days were long, but didn’t believe in evolution, what other aspects of his theology would be affected? This is the question I wrestle with on the length of the creation days. Even if they are looking at science in one area, that doesn’t mean that science has forced them on all other areas.

    I agree that the standards explicitly affirm a 24-hour view, which is why any other view on the creation days ought to be an exception.

    So, I think that Clark is, in fact, being honest here.

  16. Andrew said,

    October 31, 2008 at 2:58 pm


    Do those who hold to ‘long’ days, also believe that death occured before the fall (thus allowing them to explain foossils, etc, in a way sympathetic to contempory culture)? If they do, then everything in Christian theology is up for graps, since sufferring and death would preceed sin. This would strongly impact our view of God and his goodness, etc. Of course, such persons may not be consistent in their views.

    If the ‘long’ day view does not bring with it such views, then I agree that theology seems unaffected. However, it would be a psoistion of tactical stupidy, since it would gain no more academic kudos, and posits (in my view) tenous exegesis, and creates confusion as to the perpescuity of Scripture.

    But perhaps I am being too simplistic?

  17. its.reed said,

    October 31, 2008 at 3:21 pm


    One must at least affirm:

    > The historicity of creation ex nihilo,
    > The historicity of Adam, and
    > The of the Fall,

    In that order.

    I agree with you Adam that death before Fall is a problem (I’d say fatal). Yet I have heard some argue for some form of a rhetorical use of the concept of death. I think that and other such “literary only, no historicity” positions to result in nothing more than a paper god, one who bases the foundations of our whole existence and future on mere rhetoric and not in any way actual acts.

  18. greenbaggins said,

    October 31, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    Andrew, some say that death did not occur before the fall, and others say that it did. I would certainly part company here with Meredith Kline, who argued that death was before the Fall, which, to my mind, directly contradicts Paul, who says that death came through disobedience. Of course, Kline only believes that death happened to animals and plants before the Fall, not to humans.

  19. November 1, 2008 at 12:40 am

    Lane: You say that a new confession would have to conform to the six we already have. Wouldn’t that obviate the need for a new confession at all? If a new confession had to conform with the old ones, then why bother? Also, I assume that a new confession would be written “from scratch,” as it were, meaning that the primary resource for writing it would be the Scriptures, rather than existing secondary documents.

    I assume that one reason for writing a new confession would be that it could serve to better explain the Bible’s theology and to correct any perceived mistakes, obscurities, or other unclear presentations in existing documents. A new confession would also present an opportunity to, of course, be written in modern English, which would not only be a relief to most modern Reformed Christians, but would also facilitate memorization, etc.

    A new confession would not overturn Reformed theology (one would hope!). Yet, at the same time, I don’t think it should be merely an echo of previous statements. It should be fresh and new in its presentation.

    Or am I misunderstanding what you mean?

  20. Matt Holst said,

    November 1, 2008 at 7:24 am

    On the issue of Sabbath observance, I think we tend to approach the “one service or two” discussion from the wrong position. Whether the church insists on attendance at both (I don’t see Sunday School as mandatory) I think is to miss the point.

    If “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” is a Biblical requirement, the question “should I attend the evening service” is redundant (save works of necessity and mercy). It should be every Christian’s fervent desire to attend the means of grace – if that desire is not present, then yes, attendance at the evening service is an excellent and accurate spiritual barometer.

    Thus attendance at the evening worship service, not should, but IS mandatory. We should be stepping over each other to get into God’s house. For those who would rather be watching football or out fishing (both of which I like) demonstrates that they don’t understand the earlier command “to love…” and / or that they don’t understand the Lord’s Day and “going to church” as that foretaste of the New Heaven and New Earth.

    Solution: Much patience and teaching concerning the Sabbath in our chruches.


    Matt H

  21. its.reed said,

    November 1, 2008 at 7:59 am


    Are you saying evangelical obedience flows from a grace-rooted love response, rather than a man-centered duty response? (This distinction is hard to qualify).

  22. greenbaggins said,

    November 1, 2008 at 8:38 am

    Richard, I am saying that if Clark is right, and there are issues that may need to be addressed, achieving greater clarity (on the imputation of Christ’s active obedience, for instance: although I believe the WCF teach it, it could be made a bit clearer, since we have to go to rather extraordinary historical labors to prove the point). It is not a question of going outside the boundaries of the confessions we already have, but of acknowledging that, on some issues, we may have achieved greater doctrinal clarity. Furthermore, and this is really what Clark is saying, the exercise of making a new confession would impress upon us the confessional nature of the Reformed faith.

  23. Matt Holst said,

    November 1, 2008 at 9:48 am


    I think SC 44 answers that question (if I have understood what you are asking.) “That because God is The Lord AND our God AND Redeemer, therefore we are to keep his commandments”. I would say both love and duty are our motivations. (I’m not sure what you mean by “man-centred”? A divine imperative is never man-centred, but I think we would agree on that).

    All I’m really saying is that when we address the “why should I be at Sunday worship” type of Christian, our first port of call might be to ask “Given Deut 6:5, why WOULDN’T you be there?” Given the disagreement in the comments on this subject, it may be easier to determine one’s duty towards chruch attendance from Deut 6:4 / Matt 22:37, than from any other passage which specifies morning and evening worship (maybe save Heb 10:25).

    In that sense, I am advocating removing the justification for the requirement of chruch attendance, out of the realm of Lord’s Day proof texts (so to speak) and into the more certain and easily provable realm of general Christian duty and desire.

    Does that make sense? Let me know your thoughts.



  24. Matt Beatty said,

    November 1, 2008 at 2:34 pm

    Lane (and others?),

    If the man’s conscience is free from all the commandments of men (as opposed to those contained in Holy Scripture) and the Church’s may not require anything of her members that isn’t found there… perhaps you could illuminate for us where the Scripture rationale for a second service on the Lord’s Day comes from? Was it the practice of the apostolic church? Is Sunday school required, too? Wednesdays? Why/why not?

    This question is coming from someone who loves Sunday evenings spend in worship with God’s people… but who doesn’t see any Scriptural obligation for members to attend.


  25. November 1, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    […] November 1, 2008 in Recovering the Reformed Confession | Tags: Recovering the Reformed Confession Lane reviews RRC at GB. […]

  26. greenbaggins said,

    November 1, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    Matt, it goes from Hebrews’s command not to neglect the meeting of the saints as some are in the habit of doing. I would then phrase it this way: when the church meets, the people should be there. If the church has two services, the people should be there for two services. It isn’t necessary, I don’t think, to seek to prove that a second service is necessary. The question is this: is a second service appropriate to have on the Lord’s Day? If it is, then the session decides to have a second service, which they will support with their attendance so as to give a good example to the flock for their attendance.

  27. Bret McAtee said,

    November 1, 2008 at 3:29 pm

    Patrick Henry said of the Constitutional convention that “he smelled a rat.”

    My sentiments would echo that sentiment with any attempt to create a new consensus confessional document on what it means to be Reformed.

  28. Lee said,

    November 2, 2008 at 12:33 am

    I agree with Bret. I see no need for a new confession to unite us all. What is wrong with what we have? Is the need for a new one simply so we can all unite into one denomination? I see no need for that either.

    The fact that a new confession was produced every six years is misleading as well. It is not as if the same church produced new confessions. The Heidelberg Catechism was produced because the church in Heidelberg needed it. It was not saying that the Belgic Confession was no good. Those two churches were not related at all. The Confession of Basel was not the confession of the French churches. The churches were not related governmentally, geographically, or any other way one can think. Basel needed a confession to govern its church as did the church in France. What Clark is arguing makes it seem like the church in France continually came up with a new confession, which is not true. The closest you can get is England, and that is not the same either as the 42 Articles, the 39 Articles, and the Westminster all came under different rulers who substantially changed the church.

    Oh and as a 3FU guy, I would have to object to your two houses plan as it gives control of one house to the Westminster guys since the OPC and PCA are two biggest churches. I never pictured you as an Alexander Hamilton nationalist. Perhaps you have lived in NORTH Dakota too long.

    Have a great Lord’s Day.

  29. G.C. Berkley said,

    November 3, 2008 at 10:11 am


    Bottom line is then the pastor is requiring more than God clearly does, and the matter is then one of pastoral conviction. Change the pastor, change the rule (as a different pastor may have a different conviction about this). There is also the issue of placing guilt upon the conscience of a believer who may be very tired (for example) and doesn’t feel he would benefit or be useful at a second service. Hebrews 10:25 doesn’t hold the weight of the doctrine you’re trying to place upon it. Calvin said that exhortation was to converted Jews (it is a letter to the Hebrews, after all) who were distancing themselves from gentile believers who were now a part of the church. “Do not forsake the gathering of yourselves together” is not a command to never miss a church service unless you’ve lost a limb. That clause is a supporting one to “provoke one another to love and good works (the command)…by not forsaking the gathering of yourselves together. In other words, meet with your brethren. Not “you must be there whenever the church doors are open, otherwise you’re a backslider.” Forsake means to abandon. No one is abandoning a church because they stay home Sunday evening.

    And again, for the record, I love and attend PM services regulary. However, I’m trying to see beyond a tradition…

  30. Scotty Anderson said,

    November 3, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    FYI – Roland Barnes has written an excellent pamphlet on A Rationale for Evening Worship Lord’s Day using. It’s not a treatise but he covers the biblical and historical basis:

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