OPC GA - Changing Language

Discussion in 'The Confession of Faith' started by Andrew P.C., Jun 9, 2017.

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  1. Andrew P.C.

    Andrew P.C. Puritan Board Junior

    I was reading through the minutes and I came across this:

    What is the purpose for this? Personally, I find it somewhat alarming when someone wants to change language because it's "archaic". The Westminster standards was written in the high orthodox period with precise language for a reason. Updating the language alters meaning and preciseness.
  2. Romans922

    Romans922 Puritan Board Professor

    Oh, you're reading the PCA GA minutes. Just normal stuff. :)

    Yes, you are right. No matter what you do, "updating language" changes meaning. It's inevitable.
  3. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    Its a publication, correct? Available for purchase to churches, individuals, etc., for classes, etc. It's a study aid, like many others.

    The doctrinal standards of the OPC are titled: "The Confession of Faith and Catechisms of the OPC." We don't even label them as the "Westminster Confession," both to state clearly what these documents are relative to us, and to avoid criticism for the American revisions retained by us, from those confessing the original WCF.

    To "update" the terms of the church's Confession--archaic language or anything--is a constitutional matter, requiring a supermajority of the Presbyteries' approval. No one is moving that way. Even talk about this study edition required years of review at G.A. level, and lots of assurance to commissioners about the purpose for this project.
  4. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    Actually Bruce, it was not just a study version. That was the request sent to them previously to consider. But the Christian Education Committee in response recommended amending the standards to update English morphological changes (i.e. hath to has, doth to does, accepteth to accepts, etc.) and clearly archaic words. I don't think anyone objected to morphological changes. The concern was over how you define "archaic" words and then what to replace them with. Some were obvious like "stews". Others were more complicated, like which translation would you use for the 10 commandments and Lord's Prayer in the catechisms. Because of that, it was referred back to the committee to study it some more and revise their recommendation. The major concern was that our people have modern English translations of the Bible in most pulpits, and very few read 17th century English. So it would be useful to update the English in these narrows ways. Basically, they were advocating an ESV version of the OPC Standards. There were other concerns brought up in objection, but these were the main points. But they were very clear they were not recommending any change in technical or doctrinal terms.
  5. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    Updating the English to modern terminology on and by itself though would not be a bad thing, as it would make it easier to be read and understood by those who were not raised up as reformed....
  6. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    It would require the historical events that prompted the WCF in the first place. The church militant calling for and sanctioning such a revision. It is not something just done in an isolated manner. If you want a modern translation see the following:

  7. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    Think that would be nice to have the church at large within the Reformed Presbyterian churches agree to such a revision...
  8. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    To do that they would all have to agree and subscribe to the original Westminster standards or some agreed upon version; as it stands, this is the OPC altering the OPC's version of those originals (as has been said).
  9. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Good point, but can we take the difficulty a step further? Wasn't it Parliament that called the Assembly? In that case, wouldn't Congress (yikes!) today have to do it?
  10. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    Moreover it would require Congress to be like-minded about liturgy, discipline, and government within the church. We have no Church of US as did England, so there is little likelihood.
  11. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    Thank you, Patrick. I would like to see no verbal changes. Nor do I think this move should be made without moving to amend the constitution. "Cosmetic" change is still change. I hope this idea is eventually deep-sixed.
  12. hammondjones

    hammondjones Puritan Board Sophomore

    Wouldn't seem to be many options for that, what with the "for thine is the kingdom..."
  13. Edward

    Edward Puritanboard Commissioner

    If someone doesn't have an agenda, aren't they trying to re-invent the wheel? A fairly decent Westminster Confession in modern English came out in the 1980s https://www.amazon.com/Westminster-...d_wg=7FOfg&psc=1&refRID=3SWRQNKHERVX5M04209H; if they need something more understandable, they could use that as a supplement instead of tinkering with what they have now. I think there was a Shorter that came out about the same time https://www.amazon.com/Westminster-Shorter-Catechism-Modern-English/dp/0875525482 probably this one is the one of which I am thinking.
  14. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

  15. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    I would not be opposed to the narrow changes they had in mind. If they started revising more technical and doctrinal terms I would object. Some have argued to leave the standards alone and just provide a modern language study version, which I would be fine with too. But then you could end up with a de facto confession/catechism that in practice supersedes the official one, especially when they are committing the catechism to memory. Van Dixhoorn made an important point that if we modernize too much, our ministers and elders would no longer be conversant in 17th-19th century works in which most of our tradition is written, thus cutting them off from our historical roots. It's an important point, at least for officers. But many members in our congregations are already cut off from that tradition simply because they don't read at all, much less 17th century Reformed works. At what point does the shift in English language warrant a re-translation to bridge the gap and keep the Reformed faith accessible to the average layman? It's not an easy question to answer, but we will have to answer it sooner or later.
  16. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    Here's an old quote from Calvin on 2 Timothy 1:13

    Hold the form of sound words. Some explain it thus: “Let thy doctrine be, as it were, a pattern which others may imitate.” I do not approve of that view. Equally removed from Paul’s meaning is Chrysostom’s exposition, that Timothy should have at hand the image of virtues engraven on his heart by Paul’s doctrine. I rather think that Paul commands Timothy to hold fast the doctrine which he had learned, not only as to substance, but as to the very form of expression; for ὑποτύπωσις—the word which Paul employs on this occasion—denotes a lively picture of objects, as if they were actually placed before the eyes. Paul knew how ready men are to depart or fall off from pure doctrine. For this reason he earnestly cautions Timothy not to turn aside from that form of teaching which he had received, and to regulate his manner of teaching by the rule which had been laid down; not that we ought to be very scrupulous about words, but because to misrepresent doctrine, even in the smallest degree, is exceedingly injurious.

    Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentaries on the Epistles to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon (pp. 201–202). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
    My 2 cents...
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2017
  17. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    And yet Calvin also advocated translating those Greek sound words into the common tongue of his day. This discussion in the OPC is not about changing doctrine, but making that same doctrine clearer to modern English speakers. Let's not go beyond the narrow scope of the proposed changes which this thread was focused on.
  18. Andrew P.C.

    Andrew P.C. Puritan Board Junior

    I agree with Mr. Walsh in principle and this is one concern in the back of my mind. I also agree that what was proposed was not to change doctrine.

    Words give meaning to precise language for doctrinal reasons. One concern in this thread was about the modern layman. However, let's just look at a simple example:

    Thou, thee, thy/thine (genetive), and thine (possessive)

    There seems to be lost meaning when you replace these with "you" or "yours". "Whereas 'you' does not differentiate between subject and object form, or singular and plural form, 'thou' does." (Westminster Reference Bible, xxiv)
  19. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    Neither was Calvin speaking of changing doctrine. Unless I misunderstand Calvin, I think he was saying the even the very words that were assembled by competent (authorized) people are to be faithfully passed on word-for-word. The Westminster Confession was authored by many competent divines over a long period, during a Reforming time in the history of the Church. (And they knew it) We should not take lightly changing even the form of sound words.

    I think your reductio ad absurdum about translating Greek to the vulgar languages misses the point completely. It was with great care over time, and by many hands that this process was to be carried out.

    I am only saying that if these "minor" changes are to be made, they should be made with major care, by many men, over time.

    Do you think I have miss understood Calvin? If not. Do you think he was misguided in his concern?

    I am coming off a personal experience in my church where a single elder paraphrased the WSC Q. What is prayer?, in such a way that it was unrecognizable to my children and me. I later told the elder that I did not think one man was ever competent to modernize the Standards, no matter how hard they tried. They would inevitably get something wrong.

    Someday the Standards will be updated. Someday when the Church is in a similar Reforming time. I do not think we live in such times today.

    I have no more to say. I am just suspicious of anyone messing with the language of the Standards in our present day and age.

    As to translation:
    All the canonical books of the Old and New Testament (...) shall be publicly read in the vulgar tongue, out of the best allowed translation, distinctly, that all may hear and understand.

    The Westminster Confession of Faith: Edinburgh Edition (p. 482). Philadelphia: William S. Young. - From the Directory for the Public Worship of God.
  20. Miguel

    Miguel Puritan Board Freshman

    It would be useful for who as English as second language!!
  21. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    Very good points, but my concern would be that since the Confessions ina nd by themselves were not inspired as the scriptures were, would not the updating in grammar and vocabulary to modern terms not interfere with their essential meanings and understandings? Also, has not the reformed/Christian faith advanced in its theology over the years, or perhaps better to say it that we can have additional and future applications of the scriptures to modern times in areas not even a consideration or concern during time of their writings?
  22. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    That's debatable...
  23. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    I frankly don't understand this. Is it really that difficult for people to understand the Westminster Standards, or the King James Version for that matter? I grant that one will occasionally run into a word he doesn't know, but that can be remedied, in our day, by a simple Google search. Other than laziness, what prevents people from understanding the standards?

    If someone can't understand the nontechnical "archaic" words, how can he be expected to understand the technical ones? It seems that if someone is educated enough to understand what it means that God is "without body, parts, or passions," then he will be able to understand the less technical language.
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2017
  24. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    Think that the common biblical understanding has really been watered down though, so much so that some modern versions even remove theological terminology, as most were not able to really grasp and understand them...
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 12, 2017
  25. Edward

    Edward Puritanboard Commissioner

    Not necessarily. It depends on the technical care taken. I find the two modern documents which I referenced up thread helpful. But that doesn't mean that just any modern version would fall in that category.
  26. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    There is no such thing as a changeless change. Words are symbols of meaning. Even if there is no change of apparent meaning in the alteration of a word, there will be a change of association and attendant circumstances in the new connection that is made between words, besides what takes place in terms of resonance and clarity.

    Perhaps the most objectionable aspect of introducing a new word into a time-honoured document is its lack of historical proof. A new word opens the door for people to make of it what they will, whereas an old word can be shown to be used in specific ways that determine its meaning.

    This is an age of historic revisionism and radical progressivism. A conservative who values the treasures of the past will naturally look on the idea of updating or refreshing a master-piece with a high degree of concern, especially in a matter involving sacred vows.
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2017
  27. OPC'n

    OPC'n Puritan Board Doctor

    Is it a bad thing for them to replace thou's and hath's etc? I don't see how it's changing doctrine at all.
  28. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    It's not so much of a bad thing as it is a bad time. If more people knew the Standards, they would not want to see them changed. There is a history attached to the older language.

    I wonder how many on the PB still recite the Lord's Prayer in King James English. I go to a PCA church that has standardized on the ESV. But when it comes to reciting the Prayer, everyone speaks King James. There is a reason for that. It is history.

    If I had a vote, I would cast it against change until we find ourselves in a Reforming time again.
  29. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    I think that the Confessions should reflect and speak into each generation, as the English has indeed been changed and transformed a lot since time of their creation, so just as the scriptures are allowed to be updated and modernized with modern translations, why not them also? Since i am a Baptist, mainly referring to the 1689 Confession......
  30. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    Good point, as I think that there are two issues here, as some may want to merely update to modern English terminology, while others may wish to have a full rewrite...
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