Common Differences in PCA: How to Answer?

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Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
How would you respond to common differences with the Standards (these are heard in the PCA often)? Feel free to include, here's why it is wrong and these are sources I would encourage the young man to read to think through his views more clearly. If you have other common differences with the Standards you hear, feel free to add them here.


1. WCF 7.4 says that "This covenant of grace is frequently set forth in Scripture by the name of a testament.” This difference only deals with the linguistic difference between the Puritan translation of diatheke (they translated it “testament”) and the modern translation (we now translate it “covenant”).


2. WCF 5.2 seems to say that all things occur by secondary causes. John Murray points this out and suggests that the Divines erred in stating this since some things do not happen according to secondary causes. This seems more minor since Section 4 acknowledges that God is free to work above secondary causes.


3. WCF 25.2 states that “The visible church…is the kingdom of Jesus Christ.” The kingdom of God is broader than the visible church. It seems if the Divines are to say this that there needs to be more nuance in the wording.


4. WLC 119 when it interprets the fourth commandment as forbidding “idleness…needless works…and thoughts about worldly employments and recreations.” I would loosen my interpretation of the application of the fourth commandment some. It shouldn’t be sinful, for example, for someone to have the thought: “I have to go to work tomorrow and will need to plan on getting up at 6:30 am if I’m going to get there on time.” I would also say that it is okay for a person to play with his children in the yard or even for children to play in the yard on a Sunday. The context of the Westminster Assembly seems to indicate that organized sports formed much of the context of what the Standards say on these issues, and in that sense I would agree that a Christian ought not to participate in organized activities such as sports that draw their attention away from the primary activities of the Lord’s Day.
 

Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
Don't forget images!

Add an example Difference here (i.e. write it out). I didn't forget, I just gave a few. :)

For example,

"I think that the thrust of this command is against idolatry so I am okay with having illustrations of the second person of the Trinity for the purposes of Christian Education, particularly in teaching children. I think using pictures of Jesus does not need to violate the second commandment against idolatry. I would be uncomfortable, however, in using such illustrations during worship, and, of course, worshipping them in any way is forbidden."

OR

"WLC 109 - I believe that the Scriptures do not forbid mental images of the Godhead, especially Christ given that His appearance is described many times in the Gospels and Revelation 1."
 
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MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Feel free to include, here's why it is wrong and these are sources I would encourage the young man to read to think through his views more clearly.

I only comment as one who has vowed to assert, maintain, and defend the whole doctrine of the Confession. There is no intention to address issues in another church.

Robert Shaw's Exposition is helpful for gaining an understanding of what each section intends to teach. There is little point discussing exceptions to the wording of the Confession when the wording is mistakenly applied.

7.4. Is there one covenant of grace? The Confession says that there is. This is not only the substance of its teaching, but a part of its very structure. It affirms that both the old and the new "diatheke" were administrations of the covenant of grace. Always translate "diatheke" as "covenant," and the result will be two covenants of grace, an old and a new. If "diatheke" always means "covenant," there is no exegetical basis for claiming there is one and the same covenant of grace under various dispensations. One would then be compelled to take exception to the substance and structure of the doctrine, and require a rewriting of the whole chapter.

5.2 is simply being misappropriated. The purpose of the section is only to show the interrelation between God as the First Cause and the ordinary use of second causes. It is not speaking to the point on which the criticism has been made. The fact the Confession uses the adjective "ordinary" in the next section shows that it can use the word "providence" in this sense without denying a place for "extraordinary" providence.

The criticism on 25.2 is guilty both of taking words out of context and of misquoting the Confession. A "broader" use of the "kingdom of God" does not nullify the specific senses in which the term can be taken. The Confession uses other expressions to explain its meaning, and these other expressions indicate a specific sense in which it was speaking about the kingdom, namely, as the kingdom of grace. At no point does it restrict the kingdom of God to the church. It only restricts it to the church in the sense that it is also "the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation."

But, secondly, the criticism is guilty of misquoting the Confession. It does not say the visible church catholic is the kingdom of God; it calls it the kingdom of "our Lord Jesus Christ." Christ as mediator is head of the church. If one broadens his mediatorial headship to include the whole world it will necessitate having to rewrite the whole chapter, as well as chapters 23, 30, and 31; and it will open the door for visible heads of the church, such as civil magistrates, whose legitimate power from God would give them power in the church.

The word "needless" adequately qualifies the restriction in the WLC. If the prospective preacher is going to carelessly overlook basic qualifications in the subordinate standards, how can he expect his hearers to pay careful attention to his own qualifications? On this basis his future sermons might be open to regular disputation among his congregation, and might lead to processes being brought before his presbytery. Would he like it if his own qualifications were ignored in this way?
 

earl40

Puritan Board Professor
Below one ought to recognize who are the members of the church (the elect) which includes Our Elders and Deacons.

Chapter XXV

Of the Church

I. 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 fulness of Him that fills all in all.[1]



Below I have found a lot of confusion on who is to perform the proper roles withing the institution of the church.


III. Unto this catholic visible Church Christ has given the ministry, oracles, and ordinances of God, for the gathering and perfecting of the saints, in this life, to the end of the world: and does, by His own presence and Spirit, according to His promise, make them effectual thereunto.[7]

IV. This catholic Church has been sometimes more, sometimes less visible.[8] And particular Churches, which are members thereof, are more or less pure, according as the doctrine of the Gospel is taught and embraced, ordinances administered, and public worship performed more or less purely in them.[9]

V. The purest Churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error;[10] and some have so degenerated, as to become no Churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan.[11] Nevertheless, there shall be always a Church on earth to worship God according to His will.[12]
 
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Andrew P.C.

Puritan Board Junior
4. WLC 119 when it interprets the fourth commandment as forbidding “idleness…needless works…and thoughts about worldly employments and recreations.” I would loosen my interpretation of the application of the fourth commandment some. It shouldn’t be sinful, for example, for someone to have the thought: “I have to go to work tomorrow and will need to plan on getting up at 6:30 am if I’m going to get there on time.” I would also say that it is okay for a person to play with his children in the yard or even for children to play in the yard on a Sunday. The context of the Westminster Assembly seems to indicate that organized sports formed much of the context of what the Standards say on these issues, and in that sense I would agree that a Christian ought not to participate in organized activities such as sports that draw their attention away from the primary activities of the Lord’s Day.

I believe the issue here is that this particular person sees the 4th commandment as "forbidding" things with no positive argument for what we ought to do. Rather, two questions previous to 119 says that we should be "making it our delight to spend the whole time (except so much of it as is to be taken up in works of necessity and mercy) in the public and private exercises of God’s worship: and, to that end, we are to prepare our hearts, and with such foresight, diligence, and moderation, to dispose, and seasonably to despatch our worldly business, that we may be the more free and fit for the duties of that day." We put down earthly labors and recreations for heavenly works. If the person does not see a child playing games on the front lawn as a recreation in which "on other days lawful", then I think he needs to reexamine his understanding of the Sabbath. We are to put away with those things that we do 6 days out of the week and worship on the Sabbath.

It seems to me that he only understands the 4th commandment as something negative, when two questions previous we understand the context of 119. Although every question can be seen individually, it is not wise to stand them alone in order to understand the structure.
 
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