Puritan Board Doctor
Ed, my point was that there is no agenda in the OPC to change the sound words but on the contrary to preserve them and make them more readable to modern English readers, something I think Calvin would approve of. We have modern English Bible versions. We have modern English updates of 17th century works. Why are the standards of the OPC somehow immune from that process of clarification? And where in Scripture are we told to only do such things in a "reforming" age? How much of Scripture itself was written during times of great moral decline and rebellion, like Jeremiah and Ezekiel? What prevents a faithful church from improving the readability of their standards even in age when the surrounding culture is less Christian? Wouldn't that instead be a motivation to be more clear, now that the assumptions of cultural Christianity have fallen away, and to remove the unnecesary verbage which does make it more burdensome to read for modern readers? We live in a awkward time where the surrounding culture is declining, and yet Reformed scholarship is also growing. Is it a coincidence that God has given us such gifts at this point in time?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.
Again the recommendation of the committee was extremely narrow, confined to morphological changes and clearly archaic words, not a wholesale revision of doctrinal and technical terms. Would it really change the meaning significantly to change "hath" to "has" or "stews" to "brothels"? Also, the process of amending the standards is deliberately slow and careful in the OPC. Plus, we have many notable scholars of Reformation and Post-Reformation theology serving as teaching and ruling elders in our denomination, more than perhaps at any point in OPC history. There has been a great resurgence of study in that field. I personally am confident that great care would be taken to consider the historic importance of even these narrow kinds of changes. Furthermore, the Christian Education commitee was told to consult other denominations with whom we have fraternal relations about this recommendation before bringing it back.
Just to outline the process, a special commitee would have to be erected by the GA to work on these changes (and likely that committee would be stacked with relevant scholars). Then that commitee would have to report back to the GA when their work was complete. Their work would be evaluated by the GA. Many hands would be working on it, not only in committee but before the whole GA. This part could take years (especially in the OPC). And these changes would not be approved until there was a two-thirds vote in favor. Then it would have to go to the presbyteries, and two-thirds of the presbyteries would have to approve it. Then it would have to go to another GA and receive a two-thirds vote to pass. Again, this process would take years (2 years, bare minimum if the commitee did perfect work and the first GA vote approved it immediately).
You cite your own experience of a pastor misquoting the catechism as giving you caution. But that error is much harder to do in the process outlined above. I have my own concerns as well, having to pastor many people who never went beyond a high school education and who really do struggle to read that older language. We cannot jettison the doctrinal and technical terms, but we can remove other unnecessary impediments to their efforts to study them, just as we do with the Scriptures. Obviously, you can see that I favor something like this, not because I want doctrinal decline, but because I want the doctrine I love so much to be more readable to my people so they may benefit from it. We are not discarding what our forefathers said, but building on it.
Sorry to be so long, but I really do think we need to be clear on what was really recommended and discussed in the OPC, and also what was not up for negotiation. If something more radical were proposed I would share your caution, but that was simply not the case here.