Time For a New Reformed Confession?

Discussion in 'The Confession of Faith' started by ken.kang-hui, Aug 30, 2010.

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  1. ken.kang-hui

    ken.kang-hui Puritan Board Freshman

    If you haven't read it, go to Rev. Jason Stellman's blog, Creed Code Cult, and check out his latest post. There he argues for rewriting our Reformed Confessions. I posted a comment arguing why it might make sense, particularly at this time in the PCA.
     
  2. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritan Board Doctor

    It's easy to say that a time-tested 350 year old standard needs to be re-written. That somehow we have a superior collective wisdom and selfless focus in our generation. That our generation has a broader consensus than the imperiled, very focused one that God used to produce our historic Confessions.

    I don't think the state of the church in this generation bears that out.

    Also, unless someone spells out the specific sections they disagree with, the discussion is meaningless.

    The problem in our generation is not much that the Standards are unclear- it is that playing with the meaning of words, words losing their meaning has become an art form in our generation. And that men, do not want to be bound to their holy vows.

    We have the same thing going on with the PCA Book of Order. A very few want to disobey the clear instruction of that constitution with regard to 'deaconess.' First claiming lack of clarity, alternately claiming need for superficial change to it, then major re-write to accommodate another (narrow) view.

    Those who say provisions like this are "unclear," and need to be re-written,

    Presbyterian Church in America
    Book of Church Order
    CHAPTER 7
    Church Officers-General Classification

    will not be satisfied until the re-write is something ambiguous or says the opposite.

    Neither furthers the peace and purity of the church, which is to be defended for His Honor and His Glory from all challenge in every generation.

    None of this is a sign of integrity, spiritual maturity, nor need to re-write.

    If anything, it's a call for more accountability, lest God's people stray.
     
  3. P.F.

    P.F. Puritan Board Freshman

    Stellman's proposal is more honest than those who continue to try to claim that they subscribe to the standards while believing less and less of them. It's still a terrible idea (as Scott has pointed out), but it's more honest than undermining the standards while claiming to support them.
     
  4. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritan Board Doctor

    Taking the Confession of Faith lightly, or the vows that uphold them, or vows taken to receive and uphold a denomination's constitution, vows to pay debts, marriage vows- all are taken quite seriously by our God, though men imagine and rationalize otherwise.

    The only enforcement mechanism is the one the gentleman who wrote the blog is going through. With sinners all, it can be a difficult process. But it is the responsibility before God, particularly of those called as officers, and sometimes that requires suffering. But, we are told to lay up treasure in heaven.
    It is not in vain at all.

    God will judge vow breakers,

    those who distort the meaning of words to justify their own disobedience. We have His Word on it.

    Our call is to be truthful, do right in His sight, and be faithful with the imperfect people, situations, and mechanisms He appoints for us.
     
  5. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    I suppose such a move would be more honest for many congregation, though it would be a sad day indeed. Where do you suppose churches would go if they decided to leave the PCA. If churches currently strive to uphold the WCF standards, where would they best fit?
     
  6. jayce475

    jayce475 Puritan Board Freshman

    "Rayburn’s point in bringing up these kinds of statements from the Westminster Standards is to point out that hardly any ordained PCA minister actually believes them, and yet very few have taken an exception to them before their presbyteries. Does this not demonstrate how low our regard is for our church’s official teachings?

    Setting aside the fact that Rayburn does not believe Leithart’s teachings to be in conflict with the Standards (a point about which we strongly disagree), I do think he makes an interesting point. Why should we have confessions or catechisms that contain loads of statements that we all agree are not intrinsic to the Reformed system of doctrine? Why include “in the space of six days” if it can be disagreed with? Why affirm that Paul wrote Hebrews if none of us really believes he did? Why say that the Bible frequently calls the covenant a testament if the claim is false on its face? Why forbid images of Jesus of Nazareth if virtually every children’s Bible or Sunday School curriculum violates this?"

    This part of the blog is disappointing. So, is this reverend claiming that majority of PCA's ordained ministers don't agree with 6/24 creation, that Paul did not write Hebrews, that the new covenant is not a testament and that violations of the second commandment ought to be acceptable? And yet for the sake of wanting to maintain their ordinations, they claim to subscribe to the confessions without making their exceptions public? I really hope it isn't so.
     
  7. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder

    Perhaps someone needs to instruct Mr. Rayburn (and perhaps Mr. Stellman as well) as to what a tu quoque fallacy is.
     
  8. P.F.

    P.F. Puritan Board Freshman

    Regarding this: "Why include “in the space of six days” if it can be disagreed with? Why affirm that Paul wrote Hebrews if none of us really believes he did? Why say that the Bible frequently calls the covenant a testament if the claim is false on its face? Why forbid images of Jesus of Nazareth if virtually every children’s Bible or Sunday School curriculum violates this?""

    Where in the PCA's standards does it claim that Paul wrote Hebrews? Here's a link to their version of the confession:

    http://www.pcanet.org/general/cof_chapi-v.htm

    Like the 1646, it does not claim Pauline authorship of The Epistle to the Hebrews.
     
  9. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    There's no reason to stop there. Why not make it a truly ecumenical confession if (and he really does, if you read carefully) Stellman would allow certain Catholics to marry one of his parishioners?

    As a side note, after reading Rev. Winzer's piece on the use of perfect obedience rather than whole obedience in the WLC and the history behind the change, if I were Rayburn et. al.. I'd hammer the SJC's ruling against Leithart on the point of Christ's active obedience being salvic, just to play mind games with the other side. That while trolling through tapes of anti FV advocates looking for things like Paul not being the author of Hebrews and opening cases against them.

    What a mess.
     
  10. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder

    The more I think about this, this really really bothers me. It's bad enough that you have folks like Rayburn and Leithart saying this sort of thing; that's almost to be expected to some degree. But to have Stellman agreeing with them? Consider Q. 112 and the mention of God using "lots" to make himself known. Is it really true that we have this plethora of Reformed ministers (or at least ministers in the PCA) who deny this? Do they not realize the numerous biblical texts they would have to deny or object to or painfully qualify in order to do this? What do they do with passages like Proverbs 16:33; Isaiah 34:17; the division of the land under Joshua; the selection of Zacharias in Luke 1; or the selection of Matthias in Acts 1?
     
  11. Grillsy

    Grillsy Puritan Board Junior

    Correct me if I am wrong but it seems that someone could be disciplined for holding these beliefs.
    If we really believe the article then the majority of the PCA are denying large and important aspects of the Confession.
    Apparently, according to the blog, it is widely accepted to be unequally yoked and have icons in that presbytery.
     
  12. Wayne

    Wayne Tempus faciendi, Domine.

    Tim, you make excellent points. I think you need to wander over to Jason's blog and make a comment or two.

    Personally, I don't think either this or the rising generation are up to the task. When men start spending twelve and sixteen hours a day in their studies, when they exhibit a depth of biblical knowledge comparable to the Westminster divines and especially when moral purity, humility and reverence rises to a high level, then perhaps we will see men capable of drafting the confession they claim we need.
     
  13. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    I think it is interesting and somewhat revealing that no one is seeking to revise the Apostles Creed or the Nicene Creed. The problem as I see it is that we have seen a shift in perspective on how doctrine progresses. The way it actually progresses is that gradually, over time, various loci of doctrine receive more and more definitive treatment from the church. As that area of doctrine gets nailed down, attention focuses on other areas. However, what we are seeing now is that there has been a shift in perspective. No longer are we thinking about a progression in doctrine that goes deeper, but rather a progression in doctrine that shifts sideways. This is the problem. I have zero problem with making new confessions, although Wayne's points are well-taken here. But they should be confessions of faith that operate within the Reformed confessions that we already have, not ones that seek to undermine or shift doctrine sideways.
     
  14. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritan Board Doctor

    I'm not familiar with the gentleman on the blog.

    I do not see the broad situation of congregations crying out for a re-write of the Confession, rather, I see people hungry for the clarity and awesome challenge to their lives that the Confessions/Standards bring.

    Rather, as ordinary discipline works its way, as God guides it, certain things are being called out. This is its purpose, for the peace and purity of His Church. There are many denominations that have little or no doctrinal accountability, where the words and vows have lost their meaning. But, what a fearful place to go to, particularly for one held to the higher standard that God calls teachers of His Word to.
     
  15. P.F.

    P.F. Puritan Board Freshman

    Lane Keister wrote: "I think it is interesting and somewhat revealing that no one is seeking to revise the Apostles Creed or the Nicene Creed."

    You're mistaken about that.

    There's a push from folks who want to revise the meaning of the second line of the Apostles' Creed ("maker of heaven and earth") to embrace the heresy of theistic evolutionism;

    There's a push from many folks to remove the phrase "he descended into hell;" and

    There's a push from EO and sympathizers to remove (or restore the omission of) the double procession of the Spirit from the Nicene creed.
     
  16. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    I'm sure you are correct about that. However, is this happening in Reformed circles? Plus, I seriously doubt that those changes will actually be made, except in maybe one denomination per change desired.
     
  17. Zenas

    Zenas Snow Miser

    He asks the wrong question and incorrectly concludes we need to change the Confession to fit our beliefs. Rather, we should be questioning our beliefs and changing them to comport with the Confession, as they are a systematic expression of what we know to be true. If our teachers are not prepared to forsake graven images of Christ or the notion of an old earth, they need to be shown the door.

    This gives me cause for concern. I will begin seeking a new church in December and the only other Reformed Presbyterian demonination in the area is the PCA. His statements remind me that not many share the belief that an image of Christ is a commandment violation. Granted, not many share my beliefs regarding the Sabbath, but that doesn't infringe on me. They may do as their conscience provides and so may I. However, giving my son coloring books filled with supposed pictures of Jimmy the Shepherd is something I won't tolerate and gives me cause for concern.
     
  18. P.F.

    P.F. Puritan Board Freshman

    "I'm sure you are correct about that. However, is this happening in Reformed circles? Plus, I seriously doubt that those changes will actually be made, except in maybe one denomination per change desired."

    I've heard Reformed people talk about not liking the "descended into hell" phrase. But, those creeds are not part of the standards of my denomination, the OPC - nor are they part of the standards of the PCA (as far as I know). So, it would presumably not even be necessary for any change to be done on a denominational level for those in the Westminster family of churches.

    I'm not sure about those following the three forms (which does include the Pauline authorship of Hebrews claim). They would be in a position to make revisions (either in terms of meaning - as with the theistic evolution issue - or in terms of wordings). I'm not sure whether any have.

    But yes, revision of standards is typically done on a denominational basis in denominations, and on a congregational level in congregational churches.
     
  19. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder

    With regard to the "He descended into hell" phrase in the Apostles' Creed, If I recall correctly the historical nature of that phrase has been debated (with regard to origin of the phrase, whether it should read "Hades" or "the dead" etc.). I used to have major problems with the phrase, but this is actually one of the areas in which the Westminster Standards (specifically, the WLC) are extremely helpful:

     
  20. Theoretical

    Theoretical Puritan Board Professor

    I do agree that it is a more honest approach to amend the confessions rather than run roughshod over numerous sections that aren't "popular." That doesn't mean it SHOULD be done; rather, efforts should be made to encourage greater confessionalism and unity in the church for the standards there.
     
  21. Zenas

    Zenas Snow Miser

    Due to the anonymity of the "thumbs up", discussed elsewhere, I will point out that I found this post helpful. (And pad my post count.)
     
  22. P.F.

    P.F. Puritan Board Freshman

    "I used to have major problems with the phrase, but this is actually one of the areas in which the Westminster Standards (specifically, the WLC) are extremely helpful:"

    Yes, although it should be noted that the Westminster Standards and the Three forms interpret that expression differently.
     
  23. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder


    Fair enough, and I would also add that Calvin interpreted the phrase differently. But we are specifically talking about the confessional standards of Presbyterianism here. It is the confessional standard of Mr. Rayburn, Leithart, and Stellman (PCA). It is also the confessional standard for your own denomination (OPC) as well as mine (ARP). And furthermore, it is the "default" confession for this Board.
     
  24. P.F.

    P.F. Puritan Board Freshman

    "It is the confessional standard of Mr. Rayburn, Leithart, and Stellman (PCA). It is also the confessional standard for your own denomination (OPC) as well as mine (ARP). And furthermore, it is the "default" confession for this Board."

    Agreed. And, by the way, I do agree with it. I was simply pointing out that Calvin and the Continentals use the expression to mean one thing, and we use it to mean something else.
     
  25. SolaScriptura

    SolaScriptura Puritan Board Doctor

    That's probably because while they are cherished, they aren't official doctrinal standards of our church. People don't kick against goads they aren't feeling.

    But as it were, I've been to a number of PCA churches where these creeds will be read/recited and minor adjustments are made.

    I've said it before, and I'll say it again... I agree that there is a fundamental problem when we say we believe something and then allow an entire host of exceptions to be taken, by a great many ministers and churches (if not the majority!). To my simplistic mind, we either believe it to be true or we don't. If we do, then enforce it. If we don't, then quit giving lip service to believing it.
     
  26. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    I know this is off topic just a bit but Danny Hyde's book is excellent on this topic. PCFLANAGAN and Pastor Tim should get a copy. In Defense of the Descent « Heritage Booktalk

    I have no problem with a language or updated confession as long as it lines up with what the Divines meant and with the idea that the original thoughts of the divines are consulted for defining what is being said.

    Well, I just say let's keep them the way they are. If anyone wants to redo them let them start their own assemblies and become schismatic.
     
  27. Curt

    Curt Puritan Board Graduate

    To change the confessional standards because few embrace them (as has been suggested) is the same as sociological law. If people won't abide by a law, don't hold them to the law, change it. For instance, homosexual marriage and abortion.
     
  28. torstar

    torstar Puritan Board Sophomore



    +1

    Part of converting to this faith required the acceptance of documents that I would not have agreed to 10 years ago.

    It's a time to keep my trap shut about what I don't feel comfortable (or intellectually fulfilled) with and study and learn from the Word and the confessions.

    If you have to be convinced about every word, phrase, and clause in the confessions you will never get anywhere.

    There's an exit door as well.
     
  29. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Understanding the Confession we have seems like a very obvious first step before taking steps to revise or even update it, much less make a new one.

    Rayburn's point may well be valid. It ought to be remembered that Finney claimed no exceptions to the Confession as far as he understood it - though if I recall correctly he hadn't actually read it! So it is certainly possible that a lot of people subscribe to the Confession the way you click "I agree" on your latest software update, reflexively, without any thought. But that's a fault in the seminaries, not forcing students to engage seriously with the background to the Confession, with documents that help explain what they meant like Dickson's commentary or Turretin's Institutes; and it's a fault in the churches not teaching at least those men who are pursuing office about the nature and importance and value and content of the Confession.
     
  30. Willem van Oranje

    Willem van Oranje Puritan Board Junior

    Rewriting? Never. Adding? Maybe. If there are any updates to be made, it should be in the way of clarifying further or addressing concepts relevant to the church today, like abortion, the charismatic movement, etc., and it can in no wise take away from our current confession. That is, unless you are able to prove that a part of it is not founded on Scripture, which is highly unlikely.
     
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