Dr. David Strain on Standing for the Standards

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C. M. Sheffield

Puritan Board Graduate
This article appeared on the Gospel Reformation Network by Dr. David Strain. I think his points here are not only true for Presbyterians but for confessional Baptists as well.

Doubtless, we are all aware of the growing polarization characteristic of our current cultural moment. The Left and the Right appeal to the politics of fear in an attempt to drive us towards proposals at the polar extremes. For many, the demonization of the opposition is too tempting a strategy to resist. Sometimes a sad necessity of language, they nevertheless allow us to summarize and identify a party or a position without the tiresome repetition of all the elements involved. But today, more often than not, derogatory labels are hurled at political opponents in the hopes that some of the muck will stick.

As the 46thGeneral Assembly of the PCA approaches, I’m more conscious than ever of the brinksmanship which is so often a feature of our political discourse replicating itself in the life of the church. Do not misunderstand: I have no interest in advocating for a mushy middle way. An insincere, “bless-your-heart” niceness helps no one. Papering over the cracks where real differences lie is dangerous. Cracks often reveal a problem at the foundation. If the house is to stand secure, we must not ignore the warning signs. So, I have no desire to see us pretend that all is well if mutually incompatible philosophies of ministry or theological convictions continue to divide us. This isn’t an exhortation to simply “play nice” at GA.

But it is a plea for a tertium quid. It is a plea for what I’ll call “simple confessionalism”. Neither blindly traditional, nor unquestioningly trendy, I believe that to stand with the Westminster Standards places us neither on the Left nor on the Right. Sometimes I wonder, as I listen to debates around the Church, if we have forgotten that the Westminster Standards express the convictions of the central ground, the main stream of the Presbyterian Church across the ages and around the world. Understanding that fact alone should change my tone and alter my posture.

I will not concede that a commitment to the theology and piety of our Standards is narrow, or right wing, or conservative. I will not relegate the core of Presbyterian identity to a party-political platform. To stand where our Confession and Catechisms stand is to dwell in the broad central plain that forms the historic heartland of Presbyterian conviction.

But I fear that an unapologetic and cheerful confessionalism is becoming an increasingly uncomfortable stance to adopt in our Church. Those who view the Standards with impatience too glibly characterize those whose faith is expressed in their language as rightwing and hardline. Those who are in fact hardline and narrow-minded tend to agree. We all know some doctrinal vigilantes who delight in nothing so much as the opportunity to pounce on an ill phrased expression during a credentials exam. We’ve all heard the prophets of impending denominational doom who seem to find reasons for melancholy in every action of the General Assembly. These men love to be considered confessional. It validates their grumpiness and justifies their gloom. Meanwhile, those who view our Standards as a constricting theological straight-jacket delight to link confessionalism with that kind of crankiness. After all, who would want to be identified as confessional, if that’s what it produces!

But both groups miss the mark. If you stand where the Westminster Confession and Catechisms stand, do not adopt the posture of a minority report. There is no need to be defensive. We are not outliers. No, the Standards express the heartbeat of Presbyterian doctrine and devotion. The Standards need no apology. Let us have confidence in our Confession and Catechisms, and in the constitution of our Church, built to reflect a polity and a piety consistent with our Standards. Let us cheerfully expect everyone in every court of the church to adhere to the teaching of the Scriptures summarized so very well by our Confession. After all, exceptions by definition ought not to be a norm. They ought to be exceptional. At presbytery, there should be surprise when an exception is taken, not suspicion when none is offered. In our pulpits the patterns of truth so carefully articulated in our Catechisms ought to be commended to our people and shown to be the clear teaching of the Word of God.

If the Westminster Standards become mere shibboleths, used only to screen for heresy in a credentials exam, we have lost our way. If insisting on the Westminster Standards generates impatience in our hearts, we have lost our way. If we counsel ordinands to learn the Standards- but only as a hoop through which they must jump to get to the stuff in ministry that really matters- we have lost our way. Instead, let’s stand where our Standards put us: right in the heart of what it means to be Reformed and Evangelical Christians. And let’s work to adopt a posture in the courts of the church and in the life of our congregations that reflects that.
 

RPEphesian

Puritan Board Junior
Very good. I was surprised to learn that the Westminster Confession and catechisms were not written to be precise on every matter. The intention was to be broad while also being faithful, and the central purpose was an unifying document, not a dividing one. We are on another world now.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
I'm not sure how this is helpful; it is asking for something that not only does not exist but is not possible until the PCA gets rid of good faith subscription. So where is the move for that? Exceptions not only exist but they are so prominent as to replace the standards, and you are viewed as strange if you don't take exceptions, as he notes. And where are these trollish confessionalists in equal number to match all the progressives and exception takers? Where are all these grumpy people! We'd have won this war for the standards by now if there are so many as to be singled out to be anything like a serious competing extreme!?

Where are the resolutions yearly for better Lord's Day observance? For condemnation and abandonment of error such as theistic evolution? Or immoral practice like dangerous reading as it used to be called (in our day think "game of thrones" type entertainment). If people are taking the standards seriously these things should be coming up every year. It was a mark that the battle was over when the Sabbath was no longer an issue and when concern and resolutions ceased on this in the old PCUS.
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
I warmly and lovingly concur that the Standards are "the heartbeat of Presbyterian doctrine and devotion." The fact remains though that there is an enemy in the camp. It is not just a mere exceptional exception. I was surprised to hear there are supporters for such things as Revoice. It is a wonder that the Federal Vision took such a hold. I am surprised Biologos has even been tolerated. The problem isn't that we are scared of exceptions. The Problem is that we have allowed Satan to whisper in our ears, "Hath God really said?" Or "Do you really understand what God wrote?" I love the Standards. They faithfully reflect spirit tested proven truth in summary.

It isn't necessarily that we may appear grumpy. It is that we should be saddened and mourn in a repentful way before the Lord. We should hope that we be granted repentance. If that repentance be granted then he shall turn our sadness into happiness and our tears into joyful boasting in his goodness.


BTW, I am not a grumpy troll. I am a happy little fat man. LOL. More like a neighborhood Santa Claus / Grandpa kinda guy.
 

jw

Administrator
I'm not sure how this is helpful; it is asking for something that not only does not exist but is not possible until the PCA gets rid of good faith subscription. So where is the move for that? Exceptions not only exist but they are so prominent as to replace the standards, and you are viewed as strange if you don't take exceptions, as he notes. And where are these trollish confessionalists in equal number to match all the progressives and exception takers? Where are all these grumpy people! We'd have won this war for the standards by now if there are so many as to be singled out to be anything like a serious competing extreme!?

Where are the resolutions yearly for better Lord's Day observance? For condemnation and abandonment of error such as theistic evolution? Or immoral practice like dangerous reading as it used to be called (in our day think "game of thrones" type entertainment). If people are taking the standards seriously these things should be coming up every year. It was a mark that the battle was over when the Sabbath was no longer an issue and when concern and resolutions ceased on this in the old PCUS.
I logged in just to "like" this. Getting tired of the accusations of grumpiness, and - while such may exist - we should be careful not to interpret grief and grieving with mere grumpiness. Grief should be for our own sins and the sins of the of our age ("Rivers of water run down mine eyes because they keep not thy law," Ps. 119.136), especially those sins of the visible church (Ezek. 9.4)!
 

C. M. Sheffield

Puritan Board Graduate
I'm not sure how this is helpful; it is asking for something that not only does not exist but is not possible until the PCA gets rid of good faith subscription. So where is the move for that? Exceptions not only exist but they are so prominent as to replace the standards, and you are viewed as strange if you don't take exceptions, as he notes. And where are these trollish confessionalists in equal number to match all the progressives and exception takers? Where are all these grumpy people! We'd have won this war for the standards by now if there are so many as to be singled out to be anything like a serious competing extreme!?

Where are the resolutions yearly for better Lord's Day observance? For condemnation and abandonment of error such as theistic evolution? Or immoral practice like dangerous reading as it used to be called (in our day think "game of thrones" type entertainment). If people are taking the standards seriously these things should be coming up every year. It was a mark that the battle was over when the Sabbath was no longer an issue and when concern and resolutions ceased on this in the old PCUS.
Those are good and fair criticisms. He is likely trying to win over his audience by showing a willingness to acknowledge extremes on either side. The problem is, as you've pointed out, it isn't at all reflective of the current state of things in the PCA.
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
Is this an overreaction?

https://www.theaquilareport.com/vanguard-presbytery-a-new-presbyterian-denomination-being-formed/


From the post...

"For almost a year, some elders have been working on starting a new denomination. This effort is a result of the opinion that the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) has left her spiritual, theological and structural moorings and is drifting aimlessly. Recently, documents were filed in Tennessee forming a legal entity called Vanguard Presbytery. Those forming Vanguard Presbytery intend to formally organize the denomination sometime during 2020. The Steering Committee, comprised of both teaching and ruling elders (from within and outside of the PCA), is guiding the development of the new denomination. These elders are developing what they believe is a true grassroots Book of Church Order. At some time in 2020 there will be a convocation of sessions that will be open to all who desire to be a part of this denomination. Those forming Vanguard Presbytery would prefer that the PCA would return to its founding principles, but without a mighty revival of God’s Spirit, they are not confident that this will happen at this point.

The PCA that began with high ideals in 1973 has changed and no longer exists as it was formed. Having begun as a grassroots denomination, forty-six years later it has morphed into a quasi-hierarchical denomination. While the PCA continues to claim to be grassroots, many of us do not agree.

It is not enough to be against something, but to make affirmative statements of what we believe and how this affects the practice of ministry...."
 
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C. M. Sheffield

Puritan Board Graduate
It is not enough to be against something, but to make affirmative statements of what we believe and how this affects the practice of ministry....
Agreed. How many times have we seen splinter groups break from their denominations because they were becoming too liberal too fast only to form a denomination that differed only in that it wanted to continue progressing toward the same liberalism, just at a slower pace.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Those are good and fair criticisms. He is likely trying to win over his audience by showing a willingness to acknowledge extremes on either side. The problem is, as you've pointed out, it isn't at all reflective of the current state of things in the PCA.
I think that is probably right. Understand I don't want to criticize Dr. Strain; he appears in the forthcoming rpw movie, Spirit & Truth. He's one of the good guys. But this seems to throw some under the bus that have been fighting for 20 years or more and about to walk away for the lack of progress turning back the slide into the flavor of the month. The PCA needs its remaining confessional adhering members to have any chance of not losing the denomination. And that is just getting back to a conservative not a fully confessional church; conservatives probably have just as many who take the usual exceptions Dr. Strain alludes to as the progressives.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Again, we don't need another Presbyterian denomination that takes the same exceptions to the standards. This was more likely what Dr. Strain had in view if you followed the grass roots group.
Agreed. How many times have we seen splinter groups break from their denominations because they were becoming too liberal too fast only to form a denomination that differed only in that it wanted to continue progressing toward the same liberalism, just at a slower pace.
Is this an overreaction?

https://www.theaquilareport.com/vanguard-presbytery-a-new-presbyterian-denomination-being-formed/


From the post...

"For almost a year, some elders have been working on starting a new denomination. This effort is a result of the opinion that the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) has left her spiritual, theological and structural moorings and is drifting aimlessly. Recently, documents were filed in Tennessee forming a legal entity called Vanguard Presbytery. Those forming Vanguard Presbytery intend to formally organize the denomination sometime during 2020. The Steering Committee, comprised of both teaching and ruling elders (from within and outside of the PCA), is guiding the development of the new denomination. These elders are developing what they believe is a true grassroots Book of Church Order. At some time in 2020 there will be a convocation of sessions that will be open to all who desire to be a part of this denomination. Those forming Vanguard Presbytery would prefer that the PCA would return to its founding principles, but without a mighty revival of God’s Spirit, they are not confident that this will happen at this point.

The PCA that began with high ideals in 1973 has changed and no longer exists as it was formed. Having begun as a grassroots denomination, forty-six years later it has morphed into a quasi-hierarchical denomination. While the PCA continues to claim to be grassroots, many of us do not agree.

It is not enough to be against something, but to make affirmative statements of what we believe and how this affects the practice of ministry...."
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
Agreed. How many times have we seen splinter groups break from their denominations because they were becoming too liberal too fast only to form a denomination that differed only in that it wanted to continue progressing toward the same liberalism, just at a slower pace.
Well...., Not sure I totally agree. I do have a lot of admiration for the OPC and the URCNA. At the other end of the spectrum there are the micro Presbyterian denominations such as the Steelites that tend to have some issues also. I do worry about the spirit of Independency. I am also saddened by the unbiblical liberalism that has affected the mainline denominations such as the PCUSA. I feel fortunate to belong to one of the oldest denominations of our Nation. It hasn't strayed that far off the rails of our heritage. I just wonder what the difference is that has helped us in the RPCNA to remain faithful to our heritage. I wonder what would help other denominations remain faithful and full of fidelity to their Confessional heritages.
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
I'm not sure how this is helpful; it is asking for something that not only does not exist but is not possible until the PCA gets rid of good faith subscription.
Is good faith subscription one of the major problems? That sounds like terminology that is very slippery. Is good faith subscription technical terminology or just jargon to make exceptions acceptable in despite of confessional fidelity?
 

Seeking_Thy_Kingdom

Puritan Board Sophomore
Is good faith subscription one of the major problems? That sounds like terminology that is very slippery. Is good faith subscription technical terminology or just jargon to make exceptions acceptable in despite of confessional fidelity?
Whenever I hear the term good faith subscription I am reminded of Dr Clark’s book Recovering the Reformed Confessions, it was one of the first books I read when I became Reformed. I don’t have the time to double check the article, but I believe this should give a a good idea of what is meant.

https://heidelblog.net/2014/01/when-subscription-isnt/
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Is good faith subscription one of the major problems? That sounds like terminology that is very slippery. Is good faith subscription technical terminology or just jargon to make exceptions acceptable in despite of confessional fidelity?
Some make the case that good faith subscription stepped on the gas for the PCA's decline. Dr. McGraw ten years ago about argued that it removed the PCA from any real confessional commitments. The article and site it was on have been pulled down and I can't find that he's reposted it; here it is on archives: https://web.archive.org/web/2016081...u/2010/11/church-without-confession-some.html
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
I don’t have the time to double check the article, but I believe this should give a a good idea of what is meant.
The blog appears to be okay. I am truly wondering if the PCA has "Good Faith Subscription" technically defined. i am wondering how the PCA uses the terminology and how they decide what that "good faith" is. I am also wondering how it is practiced if it is technical terminology.
 

Seeking_Thy_Kingdom

Puritan Board Sophomore
The blog appears to be okay. I am truly wondering if the PCA has "Good Faith Subscription" technically defined. i am wondering how the PCA uses the terminology and how they decide what that "good faith" is. I am also wondering how it is practiced if it is technical terminology.
I would not know the answer, perhaps someone who knows the PCA better than I do does. To me however, “good faith” sounds like do whatever you want as long as you make it sound Reformed.
 

A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
I'm not sure how this is helpful; it is asking for something that not only does not exist but is not possible until the PCA gets rid of good faith subscription. So where is the move for that? Exceptions not only exist but they are so prominent as to replace the standards, and you are viewed as strange if you don't take exceptions, as he notes. And where are these trollish confessionalists in equal number to match all the progressives and exception takers? Where are all these grumpy people! We'd have won this war for the standards by now if there are so many as to be singled out to be anything like a serious competing extreme!?

Where are the resolutions yearly for better Lord's Day observance? For condemnation and abandonment of error such as theistic evolution? Or immoral practice like dangerous reading as it used to be called (in our day think "game of thrones" type entertainment). If people are taking the standards seriously these things should be coming up every year. It was a mark that the battle was over when the Sabbath was no longer an issue and when concern and resolutions ceased on this in the old PCUS.
Amen! There can be no left or right wing. There can be no freemason Christian, no gay Christians, no white church, no woke church, no patriot church, no elite church, no liberal Christian, no conservative Christian, no social justice Christian, no 2nd amendment Christian, no pro-Trump Christian... no celebrity Christian, no Christian academic (you can be a Christian and an academic, but as soon as your academic filter shapes your Christianity you're toast). As soon as you adopt any of these postures, your Confession will be strained. This isn't a call for perfectionism. It's a call to check your motives... and agendas...and unique (non-confessional)distinctions.... and conspiracies. We all have blind spots. Some more detrimental than others. Lets never stop talking about them. But don't be like I tend to be when pressed for time.... be nice!
 
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PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
Some make the case that good faith subscription stepped on the gas for the PCA's decline. Dr. McGraw ten years ago about argued that it removed the PCA from any real confessional commitments. The article and site it was on have been pulled down and I can't find that he's reposted it; here it is on archives: https://web.archive.org/web/2016081...u/2010/11/church-without-confession-some.html
Thank You So Much Chris, I just recently got his book on John Owen Trajectories in Reformed Orthodoxy. BTW, CPJ gets a Thank You in the front.

I appreciated his article much better. It is more precise and articulates what I desired to know.
 

A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
Very good. I was surprised to learn that the Westminster Confession and catechisms were not written to be precise on every matter. The intention was to be broad while also being faithful, and the central purpose was an unifying document, not a dividing one. We are on another world now.
How is it broad in the modern context? Can you be specific in how it is broadly applied in a modern context. What matters doesn’t it speak to (precisely)? Can you provide an example?
 
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A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
This article appeared on the Gospel Reformation Network by Dr. David Strain. I think his points here are not only true for Presbyterians but for confessional Baptists as well.

Doubtless, we are all aware of the growing polarization characteristic of our current cultural moment. The Left and the Right appeal to the politics of fear in an attempt to drive us towards proposals at the polar extremes. For many, the demonization of the opposition is too tempting a strategy to resist. Sometimes a sad necessity of language, they nevertheless allow us to summarize and identify a party or a position without the tiresome repetition of all the elements involved. But today, more often than not, derogatory labels are hurled at political opponents in the hopes that some of the muck will stick.

As the 46thGeneral Assembly of the PCA approaches, I’m more conscious than ever of the brinksmanship which is so often a feature of our political discourse replicating itself in the life of the church. Do not misunderstand: I have no interest in advocating for a mushy middle way. An insincere, “bless-your-heart” niceness helps no one. Papering over the cracks where real differences lie is dangerous. Cracks often reveal a problem at the foundation. If the house is to stand secure, we must not ignore the warning signs. So, I have no desire to see us pretend that all is well if mutually incompatible philosophies of ministry or theological convictions continue to divide us. This isn’t an exhortation to simply “play nice” at GA.

But it is a plea for a tertium quid. It is a plea for what I’ll call “simple confessionalism”. Neither blindly traditional, nor unquestioningly trendy, I believe that to stand with the Westminster Standards places us neither on the Left nor on the Right. Sometimes I wonder, as I listen to debates around the Church, if we have forgotten that the Westminster Standards express the convictions of the central ground, the main stream of the Presbyterian Church across the ages and around the world. Understanding that fact alone should change my tone and alter my posture.

I will not concede that a commitment to the theology and piety of our Standards is narrow, or right wing, or conservative. I will not relegate the core of Presbyterian identity to a party-political platform. To stand where our Confession and Catechisms stand is to dwell in the broad central plain that forms the historic heartland of Presbyterian conviction.

But I fear that an unapologetic and cheerful confessionalism is becoming an increasingly uncomfortable stance to adopt in our Church. Those who view the Standards with impatience too glibly characterize those whose faith is expressed in their language as rightwing and hardline. Those who are in fact hardline and narrow-minded tend to agree. We all know some doctrinal vigilantes who delight in nothing so much as the opportunity to pounce on an ill phrased expression during a credentials exam. We’ve all heard the prophets of impending denominational doom who seem to find reasons for melancholy in every action of the General Assembly. These men love to be considered confessional. It validates their grumpiness and justifies their gloom. Meanwhile, those who view our Standards as a constricting theological straight-jacket delight to link confessionalism with that kind of crankiness. After all, who would want to be identified as confessional, if that’s what it produces!

But both groups miss the mark. If you stand where the Westminster Confession and Catechisms stand, do not adopt the posture of a minority report. There is no need to be defensive. We are not outliers. No, the Standards express the heartbeat of Presbyterian doctrine and devotion. The Standards need no apology. Let us have confidence in our Confession and Catechisms, and in the constitution of our Church, built to reflect a polity and a piety consistent with our Standards. Let us cheerfully expect everyone in every court of the church to adhere to the teaching of the Scriptures summarized so very well by our Confession. After all, exceptions by definition ought not to be a norm. They ought to be exceptional. At presbytery, there should be surprise when an exception is taken, not suspicion when none is offered. In our pulpits the patterns of truth so carefully articulated in our Catechisms ought to be commended to our people and shown to be the clear teaching of the Word of God.

If the Westminster Standards become mere shibboleths, used only to screen for heresy in a credentials exam, we have lost our way. If insisting on the Westminster Standards generates impatience in our hearts, we have lost our way. If we counsel ordinands to learn the Standards- but only as a hoop through which they must jump to get to the stuff in ministry that really matters- we have lost our way. Instead, let’s stand where our Standards put us: right in the heart of what it means to be Reformed and Evangelical Christians. And let’s work to adopt a posture in the courts of the church and in the life of our congregations that reflects that.
Some good points, however, I notice nonConfessionals will recruit moderately (whatever that is)confessional and even some truly confessional to shut down the vocally confessional. How is there anything new under the sun? Princeton, wash, rinse, repeat....

Non confessional have nothing to lose; they don’t even have to speak on their own behalf. They just sit back and enjoy the carnage
 

RPEphesian

Puritan Board Junior
How is it broad in the modern context? Can you be specific in how it is broadly applied in a modern context. What matters doesn’t it speak to (precisely)? Can you provide an example?

What I meant is that at the time the Confession was authored, it wasn't meant to address every particular issue that could come up, and is not a maximal document doctrinally speaking. The statements in the WCF and catechisms are statements on which the Assembly had achieved substantial agreement. I don't want to say it presents a "middle ground" for those represented, but a document that these pastors and theologians could give good conscience assent to and say, "This is what we believe, and under these Standards we can rule in our churches and give a good answer to God at the Last Day."

The article posted strikes me, considering what it says about exceptions. The Standards are not the Scriptures themselves, truly, but it carries great weight that an assembly of over 100 pastors and theologians met for several years to wrestle with the Scriptures and determine what God has most certainly said. These were not light-weights either. Some of them are well-known names today (Rutherford, Gouge, Caryl, Gillespie, Goodwin, et al). It's a good question to ask when you take an exception, "What do I think I understand that these men did not? Did they really not consider the viewpoint that I hold above and against the view in the Standards?"

So if one is going to take exceptions, it ought to be done with extraordinary humility, as opposed to the cavalier Bible-over-confession trump card, as though the labors of godly and zealous pastors who made this their life work could be so lightly dismissed, and as though they didn't quite get that the Bible is greater than whatever their final document would be. Unlike us, obviously.

I can tell you, as one who who prepares taxes for a living, and sees difficulties that most in America do not know exist--let alone can resolve without experienced help--taxpayers look ridiculous when they (who think about taxes only a few times a year) assert that they know better than their CPA who has made the tax code their life work. Or when they assert that their CPA has really blown it when the CPA knows full well he did not. Sometimes their irate emails and phone calls reveal that they just don't get how their taxes work.
 

A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
What I meant is that at the time the Confession was authored, it wasn't meant to address every particular issue that could come up, and is not a maximal document doctrinally speaking. The statements in the WCF and catechisms are statements on which the Assembly had achieved substantial agreement. I don't want to say it presents a "middle ground" for those represented, but a document that these pastors and theologians could give good conscience assent to and say, "This is what we believe, and under these Standards we can rule in our churches and give a good answer to God at the Last Day."

The article posted strikes me, considering what it says about exceptions. The Standards are not the Scriptures themselves, truly, but it carries great weight that an assembly of over 100 pastors and theologians met for several years to wrestle with the Scriptures and determine what God has most certainly said. These were not light-weights either. Some of them are well-known names today (Rutherford, Gouge, Caryl, Gillespie, Goodwin, et al). It's a good question to ask when you take an exception, "What do I think I understand that these men did not? Did they really not consider the viewpoint that I hold above and against the view in the Standards?"

So if one is going to take exceptions, it ought to be done with extraordinary humility, as opposed to the cavalier Bible-over-confession trump card, as though the labors of godly and zealous pastors who made this their life work could be so lightly dismissed, and as though they didn't quite get that the Bible is greater than whatever their final document would be. Unlike us, obviously.

I can tell you, as one who who prepares taxes for a living, and sees difficulties that most in America do not know exist--let alone can resolve without experienced help--taxpayers look ridiculous when they (who think about taxes only a few times a year) assert that they know better than their CPA who has made the tax code their life work. Or when they assert that their CPA has really blown it when the CPA knows full well he did not. Sometimes their irate emails and phone calls reveal that they just don't get how their taxes work.
Excellent response, thank you!
 
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