Magistrate calling synods and supressing heresy

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N. Eshelman

Puritan Board Senior
Can anyone give me some good reading on why most American Presbyterian churches deny these things in the Westminster Confession of Faith:

1. The civil magistrate having the right to call synods.

2. The suppressing of error, heresy, and an established church.

Thanks!
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Can anyone give me some good reading on why most American Presbyterian churches deny these things in the Westminster Confession of Faith:

1. The civil magistrate having the right to call synods.

2. The suppressing of error, heresy, and an established church.

Thanks!
Democracy and pluralism. Those are the two twins that dictate American thinking. They are also incompatible with the Confession.
 

Poimen

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Because it leans in the direction of Erastianism and is against the spirit of the Reformation. It is also a denial of the separation between church and state.
 

crhoades

Puritan Board Graduate
Because it leans in the direction of Erastianism and is against the spirit of the Reformation. It is also a denial of the separation between church and state.
I would argue that is in the very spirit of the Reformation. The spirit of the Reformation may be wrong at this point, but it is enshrined in all of the confessions/catechisms of the time as well as the writings.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner
Because it leans in the direction of Erastianism and is against the spirit of the Reformation. It is also a denial of the separation between church and state.
Instead it is recognition that both church and state are under the authority of Christ; if the magistrate does not have the authority to call a synod of godly ministers to advise him on civil matters, then the state does not have to listen to the church.

Church and state have separate duties and spheres of authority, but they must co-operate for the glory of God.
 

fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
Perhaps the answer is that the American Presbyterians looked to the example of how the magistrate used this clause to basically destroy Presbyterianism and (Savoy) Independency forever in England and to establish a State Church antithetical to the Confession.

Or maybe they looked and saw that there has never been a government/magistrate that has used this clause to the health of the Church, but always its detriment.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
On a constructive note to the OP, I would look for 18th century works around the time of the founding of the various American Presbyterian denominations to see if it was discussed, particularly as the Covenanter churches might have objected to the changes. The ARP published their changed standards in 1799, and the PCUSA in 1789.:2cents:
 

VirginiaHuguenot

Puritanboard Librarian
Because it leans in the direction of Erastianism and is against the spirit of the Reformation. It is also a denial of the separation between church and state.
I would argue that is in the very spirit of the Reformation. The spirit of the Reformation may be wrong at this point, but it is enshrined in all of the confessions/catechisms of the time as well as the writings.
Hence (in part), it was known as the "Magisterial Reformation."
 

Thomas2007

Puritan Board Sophomore
Part of the concern in the United States was based upon the structural constitutionalism as well as explicit constitutionalism in the federal compact of separate but equal States. The American Presbyterians updated the Confession in 1789 and the Bill of Rights wasn't added until 1791 to the Federal Constitution. Quite possibly they wouldn't have been compelled to engage the change if the Bill of Rights was added prior to 1789, as they were of the mind that the United States could never exercise jurisdiction over the Church, whereas the State's had official State Churches. Hence, I think it is proper to consider it a defensive in advance of the First Amendment.
 

VirginiaHuguenot

Puritanboard Librarian
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BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Oliver O'Donovan (an anglican of all things) has helpfully suggested that however we view the relation of magistrate to church, it is important that we see how political authority reconstituted under the authority of Christ.
 

Poimen

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Because it leans in the direction of Erastianism and is against the spirit of the Reformation. It is also a denial of the separation between church and state.
Instead it is recognition that both church and state are under the authority of Christ; if the magistrate does not have the authority to call a synod of godly ministers to advise him on civil matters, then the state does not have to listen to the church.

Church and state have separate duties and spheres of authority, but they must co-operate for the glory of God.
The spirit of the Reformation prevailed against the opinion(s) of the medieval age; the writers of the revised WCF were men of their time no more than the revisers of the original.

Just read Calvin's Institutes, Book 4, Chapter 20 to see what I mean by the spirit of the Reformation.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
The spirit of the Reformation prevailed against the opinion(s) of the medieval age; the writers of the revised WCF were men of their time no more than the revisers of the original.

Just read Calvin's Institutes, Book 4, Chapter 20 to see what I mean by the spirit of the Reformation.
I don't see the separation of Church and State in either Calvin's Institutes or the American revision of the Westminster Confession.
 

Theoretical

Puritan Board Professor
Here's a good article on the still-theocratic nature of the American WCF from J. Ligon Duncan. Link

Disclaimer in advance: I'm not posting this article to stir up the theonomy debate (as Dr. Duncan's article certainly takes a position in that respect), but only to show that a strong argument can be made that the American WCF notes that the state has distinct responsibilities towards Christ's Church.

One of the footnotes in reference to voluntaryism is particularly choice:

8. Not the more extreme "voluntaryism" of British independency which
operated on the principle that the responsibility for the advancement of
the cause of Christ rests merely on individual men, rather than rulers and
nations (see again Historical Theology), but a "moderate voluntaryism"
which explicitly intended government to favor the Christian religion (but
not one particular denomination), protect all denominations of Christians,
pass no law hindering Christian ministers and church members in the due
exercise of religion, and to uphold the moral law. Cf., WCF 23:2,3
(American revision). We will discuss this point more fully later.
There is most definitely a robust role for the state as the guardian of the Church, even within its more constricted role in the 1789 WCF.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner
Can anyone give me some good reading on why most American Presbyterian churches deny these things in the Westminster Confession of Faith:

1. The civil magistrate having the right to call synods.

2. The suppressing of error, heresy, and an established church.

Thanks!
Concerning point 2, it should be noted that when the United States was formed there were established churches in the states, however, as these were different denominations (Independent, Anglican, Presbyterian) it was not possible to have a established Federal church. Of course, Stephen Perks' view of a Confessional establishment, rather than a denominational establishment might be more attractive to Americans. :2cents:
 
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