The Intent of the Original Westminster Standards in Comparison to the Synods of Dort

Should the Original Westminster Standards be considered an Exclusive Psalmody required document?

  • Yes

    Votes: 19 82.6%
  • No

    Votes: 4 17.4%

  • Total voters
    23
  • Poll closed .
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Grant

Puritan Board Senior
Good Morning,

Preface: I do currently hold to the Exclusive Psalmody / Acapella Only in Worship positions and believe them to be at least supported by the Westminster Standards.

However, I have often wondered if the original Westminster Standards should be viewed as an Exclusive Psalmody (EP) document. The phrasing, I believe raises questions for both those who are EP and IP (Inclusive Psalmist). In other words, do the Standards require EP/AO or do they merely Support/Allow them?

The phrase comes from Westminster 21.5: “....singing of psalms with grace in the heart… are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God…”

So the question is: Should the Original Westminster Standards be considered an Exclusive Psalmody required document?

I have read online articles, books, and also old Puritan Board threads that included Rev. Winzer. The answers certainly seem to vary. However, it is likely more largely agreed that a majority of the divines did seem to hold forth a view in support of EP. However, majority personal beliefs may not always get fully expressed in a document seeking to balance theological truth and clarity along with unity of a larger body.

I have been disappointed with Van Dixhoorn’s Confessing the Faith, as it is more of a Devotional book defending the American Revisions and less of a historical account of the standards ( it is still a beneficial read, but I was mislead by the title). Dixhoorn would answer the above bolded question in the negative.

Recently, my family has had the blessing of sitting under the preaching of the word from JV Fesko on Lord’s Day evenings in Clinton, MS. I knew that Fesko had studied and even had a published work dealing with historical matters surrounding the Westminster Assembly and subsequent standards. I decided to ask JV Fesko his opinion on the matter. JV Fesko gave a really insightful answer that makes more sense in my brain than Dixhoorn’s, yet is also answering in the Negative. Dr. Fesko pointed to the conclusion of the Synods of Dort, which would have been known at the time of the Westminster Assembly. He stated that Dort was very precise and clear in their statements that ONLY the Psalms of David should be sung in Worship proper. Dr. Fesko stated that Westminster seems to use language and word structure to allow a broader approach. Dr. Fesko stated when compared to the Synods of Dort, it is very important to see both what Westminster DOES say and also to note what Westminster DOES NOT say.

I was very thankful for Dr. Fesko‘s perspective as it spurred be to look into the Dort Synods. PB user @Travis Fentiman has a nice summary on his website that you might find helpful to understanding the perspective of Dr. Fesko. https://reformedbooksonline.com/top...of-praise/the-history-of-psalm-singing/#dutch

Dutch Synods

National Synod of Dort 1578 Article 76

‘The Psalms of David, in the edition of Petrus Dathenus, shall be sung in the Christian meetings of the Netherlands Churches (as has been done until now), abandoning the hymns which are not found in Holy Scripture.’

.

National Synod of Middelburg 1581 Article 51

‘Only the Psalms of David shall be sung in the church, omitting the hymns which one cannot find in Holy Scripture.’

.

National Synod of Gravenhage 1586 Article 62

‘The Psalms of David shall be sung in the churches, omitting the hymns which one does not find in Holy Scripture.’

.

The Synod of Dort 1618-1619

Michael Bushell – Songs of Zion: A Contemporary Case for Exclusive Psalmody Buy (3rd ed., 1999) pp. 218

‘The Remonstrants [Arminians], not surprisingly, were strong advocates of the use of uninspired song in worship, and in 1612 they attempted to introduce 85 hymns of the old church. The collection was published in 1615… but it was rejected by the Synod of Dort in 1618 (Blume, Protestant Church Music, 1974, p. 566), which also at that time limited congregational song to the 150 Psalms, plus versifications of the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, the Twelve Articles of Faith, and the Songs of Mary, Zacharias and Simeon… these restrictions on worship song in the Dutch Church were maintained until 1789…

To be clear this is not about agreeing or disagreeing with Fesko’s line of reasoning. This thread is to seek how you have sought to answer the bolded question, which again is: : Should the Original Westminster Standards be considered an Exclusive Psalmody required document?
 
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NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Folks make this too hard a question when it is quite simple. What the assembly itself set out to "produce" tells us exactly what they meant. The original intent of the original assembly productions was to sing psalms. That is what they authorized, and a psalter is what they produced, purged of what was not psalm material which had become customary.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
I don't like the poll question as folks will take it to mean doctrine rather than pratice. The WA authorized a psalter to fulfill the intent of uniform worship between the three kingdoms as outline in the Solemn League and Covenant. Their doctrinal standards support the practice authorized in their first document, the directory for the public worship of God. So, all it envisioned was authorizing psalms for public worship. The doctrine behind the practice was never discussed or fleshed out in discussing "what about this's" in addition; rather the only matters we know that were discussed were cutting extras out that had crept into practice (some extra doxologies between psalms). So the intent is clear though we cannot identify explicit EP doctrinal reasons as behind this. The divines knew in theory of singing other things. Baillie was taught by Robert Boyd who bemoans Scottish practice in his famous lectures on Ephesians (essentially his systematic theology buried in a massive commentary on Ephesians), and Baillie and others were aware of the practice in separatist churches of singing songs of one's own composition. But these were not anything near consequential enough to cause any debate. The church sang psalms; they hadn't done anything else before the assembly. If the assembly had wanted to be explicit and authorize more than just psalms they could easily have been clear, just as the LBCF did 30 years later. They didn't need to be explicit in defending just psalms because you don't spend time on issues you are not facing when you have more issues than you can deal with that you are facing. One only has to do all sorts of gymnastics with material external to the assembly and its work if one is intent on trying to show they meant something other than what is very clear from the context of their work.
 

W.C. Dean

Puritan Board Sophomore
I say yes, absolutely. We must look to authorial intent. What did the Divines mean they wrote 21.5? The Directory for Worship interprets for us. They meant it to mean Psalms exclusively.

Now, the LBCF says Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. On paper, I can also confess this because of my interpretation of Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16. But, the authorial intent of the LBCF version dictates they intended to allow for non-psalms to be sung.

DPW: Of Singing of Psalms

"IT is the duty of Christians to praise God publickly, by singing of psalms together in the congregation, and also privately in the family."
 
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NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
So to be succinct, the question I think is, did the Westminster assembly in its confession, catechisms and directories only authorize the psalms for singing in public worship. Easy "yes."
Can you qualify this some? Do you mean in Europe? Would not the Synods of Dort prove that “other songs” had begun to be used in public worship?
they=the assembly of divines. The English and Scottish experience would have been similar but with different psalters and as Baillie noted, the extras were those doxologies which it was agreed to remove from the new book of psalms to impose on the three kingdoms, thus having a text just of the 150 Psalms.
 

Grant

Puritan Board Senior
So to be succinct, the question I think is, did the Westminster assembly in its confession, catechisms and directories only authorize the psalms for singing in public worship. Easy "yes."

they=the assembly of divines. The English and Scottish experience would have been similar but with different psalters and as Baillie noted, the extras were those doxologies which it was agreed to remove from the new book of psalms to impose on the three kingdoms, thus having a text just of the 150 Psalms.
Very helpful. It has just always given me pause that “psalms” was chosen over say “Psalms” or “Psalms of David”. Especially considering the language from Dort.

“psalms” certainly includes the 150, which is obvious as you say in light of the song book published afterwards. But I’ve often wondered if there was intentionality in not being as precise as Dort regarding requiring exclusivity vs. requiring inclusivity.

To be clear, I’m not trying to poke eyeballs here just trying to be careful and objective since I certainly am no historian. Dr. Fesko’s point made in private just got my wheels turning again. It may already be crystal clear to others but I am trying to be objective in my own evaluation of this topic as I have only been EP for a of couple years now.
 
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NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
What makes you think the assembly chose "psalms" lowercase?
The Burges MS has Psalms. But whether that was convention or conscience is not clear. The printer's changed it at will and they were generally the guardians of convention.
This is cool: https://cudl.lib.cam.ac.uk/view/MS-WESTMINSTER-CONFESSION-00001/274
While I didn't mention Burges I don't think, I explored this back in 2007 (similar material is on the PB if you search big P little p) and I've extracted and attached here an appendix I provided for the 2nd part of the Survey of Regulative Principle Literature by Frank Smith published in the 2007 3rd issue of The Confessional Presbyterian.

Very helpful. It has just always given me pause that “psalms” was chosen over day “Psalms” or “Psalms of David”. Especially considering the language from Dort.

“psalms” certainly includes the 150, which is obvious as you say in light of the song book published afterwards. But I’ve often wondered if there was intentionality in not being as precise as Dort regarding requiring exclusivity vs. requiring inclusivity.

To be clear, I’m not trying to poke eyeballs here just trying to be careful and objective since I certainly am no historian. Dr. Fesko’s point made in private just got my wheels turning again. It may already be crystal clear to others but I am trying to be objective in my own evaluation of this topic as I have been not been EP for couple years.
 

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W.C. Dean

Puritan Board Sophomore
Forgive me if I am being dense here. My BOT Publication of the 1647 Westminster list the “singing of psalms” in 21.5.
I have the Puritan Publications edition of the Confession, catechisms, and Directories. It uses lowercase "psalms" in the Confession and DPW.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Sorry; I was a bit pokey editing my post. See the additional material I added. Burges in his MS capitalizes it; the printers set capitalization standards not the author; so you see it inconsistent and going back and forth.
Forgive me if I am being dense here. My BOT Publication of the 1647 Westminster list the “singing of psalms” in 21.5.
I have the Puritan Publications edition of the Confession, catechisms, and Directories. It uses lowercase "psalms" in the Confession and DPW.
 

Grant

Puritan Board Senior
Things are clicking now. Thanks for taking the time to interact here Chris. If the assembly had in mind for uninspired songs to be included, then per the RPW they would be required. Hence one would have expected some Westminster approved uninspired hymns to be published along with the Psalter.
 

Phil D.

Puritan Board Junior
Dr. Fesko pointed to the conclusion of the Synods of Dort, which would have been known at the time of the Westminster Assembly. He stated that Dort was very precise and clear in their statements that ONLY the Psalms of David should be sung in Worship proper.

I'm not here to weigh in on the WCF, but historically I'm not sure how to reconcile the above comment with this:

In the churches only the 150 Psalms of David, the ten commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, the twelve articles of faith [i.e. The Apostle's Creed], the Songs of Mary, Zacharias and Simeon shall be sung. Whether or not to use the hymn, ‘O God who art our Father,’ etc. is left to the freedom of the churches. All other hymns shall be kept out of the churches, and where some have already been introduced, they shall be discontinued by the most appropriate means.​
Post-Acta of the National Synod of Dordrecht, Article 69 (derived from Session 162; May 16, 1619)​
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Things are clicking now. Thanks for taking the time to interact here Chris. If the assembly had in mind for uninspired songs to be included, then per the RPW they would be required. Hence one would have expected some Westminster approved uninspired hymns to be published along with the Psalter.
Or, it seems to me if they believed in uninspired hymns given their high view of ecclessiology as well as the regulative principle, they would have addressed some orderly way to provide hymns, or address the the question of the unprovided biblical office of "composer of song."
 

Grant

Puritan Board Senior
I'm not here to weigh in on the WCF, but historically I'm not sure how to reconcile the above comment with this:

In the churches only the 150 Psalms of David, the ten commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, the twelve articles of faith [i.e The Apostle's Creed], the Songs of Mary, Zacharias and Simeon shall be sung. Whether or not to use the hymn, ‘O God who art our Father,’ etc. is left to the freedom of the churches. All other hymns shall be kept out of the churches, and where some have already been introduced, they shall be discontinued by the most appropriate means.​
Post-Acta of the National Synod of Dordrecht, Article 69 (derived from Session 162; May 16, 1619)​
I would want to bear any perceived fault or flaw in that my tiny brain failed to comprehend what Dr. Fesko was stating. But Phil this is a very helpful citation.
 

Eyedoc84

Puritan Board Freshman
I ask this question in ignorance. Is the Confession and DPW itself supposed to be read “regulatively” on this point? I realize the circumstantial evidence weighs almost entirely on the EP side, but do we have statements by the Divines that they intended for what was prescribed in the Standards to be the only things that were allowed?
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Yes; argued from the standpoint these things were going to be imposed by authority of the state as well as church on three kingdoms, so they needed to agree on what those things were going to be, which also they had covenanted to come to agreement on in the Solemn League & Covenant.
I ask this question in ignorance. Is the Confession and DPW itself supposed to be read “regulatively” on this point? I realize the circumstantial evidence weighs almost entirely on the EP side, but do we have statements by the Divines that they intended for what was prescribed in the Standards to be the only things that were allowed?
 

Charles Johnson

Puritan Board Freshman
I think when we talk about Exclusive Psalmody, it's important to precisely define what we mean by the term. The position of most of the RP folks I've seen - and I would include myself in this - is something of a de jure exclusive psalmody. That is, it is only lawful to sing the 150 psalms of David in the churches, since they are seen as being the only canonical songs - that is, the only songs the Spirit saw fit to include within the canon of the psalter. This is actually somewhat different from what we see in Geneva and the Dutch churches, where more pragmatic arguments were employed for psalms, like that they were safe, doctrinally sound, pious, etc, without absolutely denying the lawfulness of the use of other songs. I've seen some argue that Geneva was basically exclusive psalmodist because by the end of Calvin's tenure they only sang the Psalms, plus the Lord's Prayer, Apostle's Creed, and Songs of Simeon and Mary. (Someone can correct me if I'm mistaken about one of those). However, consistent inclusion of songs beyond the 150 psalms is quite clear evidence that they thought singing something besides the psalms was lawful. 'Almost exclusive psalmody' is a strange way of saying 'not exclusive psalmody', at least in a de jure sense. We see a similar situation in the Dutch churches. The Synod of Dort prescribed that nothing be sung besides the psalms, plus the Songs of Simeon and Mary, if memory serves. That shows a belief that at least singing the words of Scripture contained outside the Psalter is lawful. Moreover, the words of Voetius, found in his Politica Ecclesiastica, offer no support for de jure exclusive psalmody (it may be remembered that besides being a member of the Synod, Voetius was something of a hardliner for the RPW). Voetius writes that the decision was made to restrict songs to the words of Scripture, the 150 psalms plus those two others, because of doctrinal errors that had crept into the hymns of the church (with an eye toward the ongoing Arminian controversy). So while affirming the Synod's decision, his reasons are entirely pragmatic, and he lends support the idea that singing the words of Scripture contained beyond the psalter is lawful.
Now on to the Westminster Assembly, my personal opinion is that it represents something of a de facto exclusive psalmody. That is, it really does only authorize the singing of psalms, and is silent on the lawfulness of other songs, but it does not assert a de jure exclusive psalmodist position, when doing so would merely require the addition of 'only' in 21.5. Now how one interprets the relationship between the views of the authors of the confession and the confession itself comes down to whether one believes the confession was intended to be a strict doctrinal standard or not, because if it was, it becomes less plausible that it is saying something a number of the members would disagree with. I do believe it was intended to be a strict standard for full subscription, and that it was not intended to absolutely exclude Burgess's views of baptism, Twisse's views on active and passive obedience, etc, so neither do I find it likely, without any explicit language to that effect, that it was intended to absolutely exclude Edward Leigh's belief in the lawfulness of uninspired hymns, but that it meant to endorse psalms while being silent on that particular matter. Neither did Leigh, who wrote his Systematic after the assembly, express awareness of disagreement with the Standards on the matter. Leigh's words are the following:
"As we may lawfully sing Scripture psalms, so also Songs and Psalms of our own* inditing (say some) agreeable to Scripture, Sing unto the Lord a new Song, framed on a fresh occasion, therefore 1 Cor. 14. 26. a Psalm is named among those things which they had for the use of the Church. For seeing a Psalm is but a musical praier for the most part, therefore we may make Songs for our selves agreeable to the Word of God as well as prayers, and God knowing the efficacie of Poetry and Musick, to help memory and stirre up affection doth allow his people to use it for their spiritual comfort as well as natural. The Apostle speaketh of Psalms, Hymns and spi∣ritual Songs, Ephes. 5. 19. & Col. 3. 16. Who can shew any reason to limit his speech to Scripture-psalms? Why may not one praise God in a Song for our deliverance in 88, or the Gun pouder treason?" (Here)
 

Jake

Puritan Board Senior
The ARP Church has added an endnote to its version of the WCF regarding of "singing of Psalms": r

relating to Chapter XXI, paragraph 5 –“To conform with the more recent practice of the Synod of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, as approved in the year 1946, the validity of suitable evangelical hymns was recognized and their use permitted in those congregations electing to do so.”
 
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timfost

Puritan Board Senior
I would want to bear any perceived fault or flaw in that my tiny brain failed to comprehend what Dr. Fesko was stating. But Phil this is a very helpful citation.

If this helps:

"Given these three reasons—the different interpretations of Colossians 3:16, the absence of a prohibition against non-inspired scriptural songs in worship, and the varied definition of the term psalm—the most likely scenario is that the Standards promote the inclusive use of psalmody in worship as a necessary element but are silent regarding the use of non-inspired scriptural songs in worship.83 This conclusion appears sound when one compares the DPW with the Church Order approved by the Synod of Dort, which states, “In the churches only the 150 Psalms of David, the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, the 12 Articles of Faith, the Songs of Mary, Zacharias, and Simeon shall be sung.” Dort’s position is basically one of exclusive psalmody, whereas the DPW is inclusive and silent regarding the use of other songs in worship."

The Theology of the Westminster Standards, Fesko
 

Phil D.

Puritan Board Junior
...the Church Order approved by the Synod of Dort, which states, “In the churches only the 150 Psalms of David, the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, the 12 Articles of Faith, the Songs of Mary, Zacharias, and Simeon shall be sung.” Dort’s position is basically one of exclusive psalmody...
I'm still having some difficulty fully reconciling Fesko's citation with his description of it. I guess he's saying that unless "of David" is attached to "psalms", then the intent is to be inclusive of "other" psalms. But that still seems a little strange. I would take the "only" in Dort's statement as applying to all that follows in the list, rather than (only) specifically to the 150 Psalms of David. Or what am I missing?
 
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iainduguid

Puritan Board Sophomore
I find it hard to square John Fesko's argument with the reality that (as Chris alluded to above) there was a difference before the assembly between Scottish and English practice of Psalm singing: the Scots were accustomed to sing the doxology as a conclusion to the Psalms, where the English did not. After some fairly intense discussion (as I recall, Calderwood cried out "Leave it alone! I hope to sing that in heaven"), it appears that the English position won out and became the basis for the standard practice of both kingdoms moving forward.

Anyone who is willing to argue over whether or not to include the doxology along with the singing of Psalms, and decides to forbid it, seems to me to have adopted a pretty Exclusive Psalmody position. The seems confirmed by the Directory of Public Worship, which encourages everyone to have a psalm book - and the only psalm book they produced is one that only has psalms. They were almost certainly aware of the practice in some continental churches that had at times held a slightly broader view, but it seems they deliberately chose the narrower view.
 

timfost

Puritan Board Senior
I'm still having some difficulty fully reconciling Fesko's citation with his description of it. I guess he's saying that unless "of David" is attached to "psalms", then the intent is to be inclusive of "other" psalms. But that still seems a little strange. I would take the "only" in Dort's statement as applying to all that follows in the list, rather than (only) specifically to the 150 Psalms of David. Or what am I missing?

It's difficult sometimes to quote a small portion from the larger work. This immediately precedes:

"However, the DPW states only that the psalms should be sung, not that they should be sung exclusively. The DPW is silent regarding the use of non-inspired songs in worship. Third, when one considers how the word psalm was used by seventeenth-century exegetes, the evidence shows that the term encompassed both the Psalms of David and uninspired scriptural songs. Recent research surveying the views of a number of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century theologians, such as John Daillie (1584–1670), Matthew Poole (ca. 1624–1679), and Thomas Manton (1620–1677), confirms the broad use of the term psalm to denote scriptural and extra-scriptural religious musical compositions.81 Poole notes that even though the Septuagint uses the three terms that Paul employs in Colossians 3:16 to denote different types of songs within the Psalter, other places in Scripture, such as Luke 24:44, use the term translated “psalms” more generically. 82"

His point, as I understand it, is that since a historical use of "psalms" is inclusive, then the strict list in Dort's DPW is more restrictive-- more exclusive. Since a confession is in many ways a compromised document, this wording makes the most exclusive members of the assembly happy while not alienating those of an inclusive view.

In this vein, I think Grant is incorrect in post 12 since his argument about hypothetical "approved" hymns assumes that the standards were written from one perspective. Everyone in the assembly approved singing the 150 Psalms. Not everyone approved the singing of hymns. The exclusion of approved hymns does not necessarily equal their prohibition. This, I believe, is Fesko's argument as I apply to this conversation.
 

Tom Hart

Puritan Board Senior
For reference.


WCF 21.V:

The reading of Scriptures with godly fear, the sound preaching and conscionable hearing of the Word, in obedience to God, with understanding, faith, and reverence, singing of psalms with grace in the heart; as also, the due administration of the sacraments instituted by Christ, are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God: besides religious oaths, vows, solemn fastings, and thanksgivings upon special occasions, which are, in their several times and seasons, to be used in an holy and religious manner.


DPW, Of Singing of Psalms

It is the duty of Christians to praise God publicly, by singing of psalms together in the congregation, and also privately in the family.

In singing of psalms, the voice is to be tunably and gravely ordered; but the chief care must be to sing with understanding, and with grace in the heart, making melody unto the Lord.

That the whole congregation may join herein, every one that can read is to have a psalm book; and all others, not disabled by age or otherwise, are to be exhorted to learn to read. But for the present, where many in the congregation cannot read, it is convenient that the minister, or some other fit person appointed by him and the other ruling officers, do read the psalm, line by line, before the singing thereof.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
:soapbox:
Where's my soapbox.
This gets the whole gist of the history and focus of the assembly wrong. There was not some unsaid list of things they were not disallowing or not forbidding due to private opinions. This was to be a public doctrinal standard. The assembly was stating what were to be the prescribed worship elements to be imposed on 3 nations. Nothing else was to be authorized by church and state. Allowing reservations for some future practice of hymn singing, which was not a general practice at the time, or other things they were not necessarily forbidden, makes no sense. That would be an recipe for disconformity. The omission is the forbidding in practice. It's also not how confessions work. We don't say that the private opinions of all the elders in the PCA inform and expand what is allowed by the PCA doctrinal standards on the issues they speak to. I find this whole "let's expand the range of doctrine in Presbyterianism because Calamy was a hypothetical universalist or the assembly didn't forbid non literal views of creation," etc., as a recipe for apostasy. It's the behavior of progressives not conservers of orthodoxy.
Okay; off soapbox.
His point, as I understand it, is that since a historical use of "psalms" is inclusive, then the strict list in Dort's DPW is more restrictive-- more exclusive. Since a confession is in many ways a compromised document, this wording makes the most exclusive members of the assembly happy while not alienating those of an inclusive view.

In this vein, I think Grant is incorrect in post 12 since his argument about hypothetical "approved" hymns assumes that the standards were written from one perspective. Everyone in the assembly approved singing the 150 Psalms. Not everyone approved the singing of hymns. The exclusion of approved hymns does not necessarily equal their prohibition. This, I believe, is Fesko's argument as I apply to this conversation.
 
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timfost

Puritan Board Senior
:soapbox:
Where's my soapbox.
This gets the whole gist of the history and focus of the assembly wrong. There was not some unsaid list of things they were not disallowing or not forbidding due to private opinions. This was to be a public doctrinal standard. The assembly was stating what were to be the prescribed worship elements to be imposed on 3 nations. Nothing else was to be authorized by church and state. Allowing reservations for some future practice of hymn singing, which was not a general practice at the time, or other things they were not necessarily forbidden, makes no sense. That would be an recipe for disconformity. The omission is the forbidding in practice. It's also not how confessions work. We don't say that the private opinions of all the elders in the PCA inform and expand what is allowed by the PCA doctrinal standards on the issues they speak to. I find this whole "let's expand the range of doctrine in Presbyterianism because Calamy was a hypothetical universalist or the assembly didn't forbid non literal views of creation," etc., as a recipe for apostasy. It's the behavior or progressives not conservers of orthodoxy.
Okay; off soapbox.

Chris,

I'm trying to explain Fesko's perspective. The thread is dealing in part with Fesko's perspective. I know that you disagree with Fesko's perspective. All I know is that for a group of divines as intelligent and precise as they were, it gives me pause when the word "psalms" is inserted without any other qualifier, especially when Dort's DPW actually qualifies with "150." In this way, I think there is some merit to Fesko's argument which is also consonant with a document designed to unify. Confessions are full of ambiguity because they are designed to unite. If this reasoning paves the path into progressivism or apostasy, I don't know what to say. You are entitled to your opinion.

On a related note :stirpot: , Fesko argues that the Westminster Standards don't condemn English hypothetical universalism, which would mean that Calamy was ok. Couldn't resist. ;)

Chris, I always appreciate your zeal for orthodoxy. I also appreciate your insights, even when I disagree. You have taught me a lot, and I do sincerely thank you.
 

Tom Hart

Puritan Board Senior
Confessions are full of ambiguity because they are designed to unite.
I think this comment deserves a fuller explanation, especially in light of Chris's comments above about the purpose of the Assembly and the production of a song book that excluded anything but the psalms.

You say that confessions are "full of ambiguity." I do not wish to to take this too far off topic, but I am curious where else you find the Westminster Standards (or other confessions) ambiguous.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner
I find this whole "let's expand the range of doctrine in Presbyterianism because Calamy was a hypothetical universalist or the assembly didn't forbid non literal views of creation," etc., as a recipe for apostasy.

I sympathise with what you are saying here, but if the range of acceptable opinion has been narrowed beyond confessional boundaries then people are right to call out such purity-spiralling as needlessly divisive. The debate over mediatorial kingship is a case in point: the Westminster Standards do not make either position a test of orthodoxy. Meanwhile, you have RPs making it a term of ministerial communion on the one hand, and other antiquarians making George Gillespie's position a test of orthodoxy on the other. Why can there not be some reasonable accommodation within confessional boundaries? I suspect that denominationalism - especially micro-denominationalism - lies behind such purity testing. Those who had to operate in the context of a national Reformed church could not afford such luxuries.

Of course, I agree with you on the Westminster Confession and EP. :)
 
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