WCF and Resurrection

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JohnOwen007

Puritan Board Sophomore
This thread is a follow on from Bob's on the WCF and missions, and reformed traditionalism.

Lest anyone think I'm having a go at the WCF: I think it is the most eminent of all church confessions ever written.

However, tradition is fallible.

One problem I have with the WCF is not what it says, but what it doesn't say: very little about the resurrection of Christ, a topic that is central to the NT.

If the WCF is a "summary" of Scripture, it's not doing a good job on this point. It's no use saying that it wasn't a bone of contention in the 17th century, because the WCF is a summary of Scripture, not just contentions. What is critical is maintaining the theological balance of Scripture: what is important to Scripture, should be important in confessions.

At the moment there is something of a lacuna confessionally on the resurrection for reformed believers.

Comments?
 

JohnOwen007

Puritan Board Sophomore
What do you want? Don't forget the LC 52, 87-90; and WSC. The WCF was not intended as a single.

Yes, thanks Chris. But these additions don't really get close to the NT teaching on the resurrection in all of its magnificence.

This is of course because there's also been great steps made in eschatology since the Westminster standards were written--and I'm not talking about dispensationalism!
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Would it be possible to provide a propositional statement which could be tested in terms of its content rather than a general accusation which may or may not be true? What element of eschatological focus concerning the resurrection is omitted by the Westminster Standards? I think all would agree that inaugurated eschatology was not in and of itself developed by the divines; but as Derek Thomas notes in his "Eschatology of the Westminster Confession," "unconsciously there are allusions to it in some of its pronouncements." It might also be a debatable question whether a meta-hermeneutic like eschatological perspective ought to be included in a confession of faith, which by definition should be more concerned with systematic formulation rather than exegetical lines of thought. Further, a confession which seeks to formulate in terms of a hermeneutic which has only come to be recognised in the twentieth century runs the risk of excommunicating the previous eighteen centuries of Christian thought, and thereby excluding itself as a truly catholic statement of faith.
 

JohnOwen007

Puritan Board Sophomore
Brother Matthew, the man armed with armour,

Would it be possible to provide a propositional statement [...]

I'd rather make a statement that isn't "propositional". :)

What element of eschatological focus concerning the resurrection [...]

I'd rather an "element" that doesn't have "focus"? :)

[Seriously, and as an aside, Matthew have you ever read Strunk and White's Elements of Style? It helped me tremendously.]

My point was the absence of statements in the WCF specifically, and I'd add to the standards generally. This absence doesn't reflect the balance of the NT.

It raises an important point: a confession can't fully anticipate future doctrinal development, or untruth. The implication is that confessions will need to be either updated or rewritten to allow for this.

It might also be a debatable question whether a meta-hermeneutic like eschatological perspective ought to be included in a confession of faith, which by definition should be more concerned with systematic formulation rather than exegetical lines of thought.

Well if a confession of faith is a summary of the Bible, I don't see how you wouldn't want something about inaugurated eschatology in it: it's so critical to the NT and more importantly, to rightly understanding the experimental Christian life. Doctrine is a hermeneutic whether "meta" or "micro": it influences the way we read the Bible.

Further, a confession which seeks to formulate in terms of a hermeneutic which has only come to be recognised in the twentieth century runs the risk of excommunicating the previous eighteen centuries of Christian thought, and thereby excluding itself as a truly catholic statement of faith.

This was similar to what the Roman Catholic church said of the reformers! It misunderstands the development of doctrine in the church. When the reformers codified justification by faith alone, a doctrine that had long been lost for centuries, they were not condemning those who lived in theological ignorance / darkness but concerned with bringing clarity to believers for experimental and hence God-glorifying reasons. Ditto the Nicene faith.

Every blessing dear brother. Hope life in Rocky is warmer than here in Cambridge at the moment; the English weather is certainly a shock to the system! Moreover, I haven't seen a surfable wave for too long ... I can see detox in the distance ...
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
My point was the absence of statements in the WCF specifically, and I'd add to the standards generally. This absence doesn't reflect the balance of the NT.

Again, rather than bare accusation, why not specify, in propositional statement, what this absence is, so that the accusation can be tested? Whatever one may have learned from books on Style, holy scripture teaches believers to test the spirits on the basis of the content of their message, 1 Cor. 12:3.

It raises an important point: a confession can't fully anticipate future doctrinal development, or untruth. The implication is that confessions will need to be either updated or rewritten to allow for this.

Undoubtedly; but the writing of a confession does not belong to just any person in any condition. There are periods of creed-making which reflect consensus on doctrinal development. When such a period emerges by the good providence of God, I am sure all truth-loving people will embrace the opportunity to join hands together in making a fuller declaration of the faith of Jesus Christ. Until then, we do not reject a creed simply on the basis that it is old and fallible, especially not on the suggestion of one who is young and fallible. Hebrews 13:7, 8.
 

JohnOwen007

Puritan Board Sophomore
Dear Matthew,

Again, rather than bare accusation, why not specify, in propositional statement, what this absence is, so that the accusation can be tested?

The WCF does not explicitly teach the now-net yet kingdom eschatology developed by the likes of Gerhardus Vos so central to the NT .

Whatever one may have learned from books on Style, holy scripture teaches believers to test the spirits on the basis of the content of their message, 1 Cor. 12:3.

We are brothers in Christ aren't we? 1 Cor. 12:3 is talking about people who deny the very gospel ("Jesus be cursed"). We're not talking about heresy (a la 1 Cor. 12:3). When the testing becomes looking for the speck in another one's eye it's ceases to be edifying.

It raises an important point: a confession can't fully anticipate future doctrinal development, or untruth. The implication is that confessions will need to be either updated or rewritten to allow for this.

Undoubtedly; but the writing of a confession does not belong to just any person in any condition. There are periods of creed-making which reflect consensus on doctrinal development. When such a period emerges by the good providence of God, I am sure all truth-loving people will embrace the opportunity to join hands together in making a fuller declaration of the faith of Jesus Christ. Until then, we do not reject a creed simply on the basis that it is old and fallible, especially not on the suggestion of one who is young and fallible. Hebrews 13:7, 8.

Fallible yes. Young? That is highly debatable! My students certainly don't think so, and neither does my body these days. Seriously, I struggle with your statement, because:

[1] The now / not-yet kingdom eschatology has been received for quite some time now by a large body of reformed believers. I never claimed to be the only one who does so, and the accusation of it is bizarre.

[2] If you are interested in reformed consensus what does that say about your denomination with all of it's 2 or so congregations? This could be seen (I'm not saying it is), by your own standards, as a minority of fallible people who are on the crank fringe of the reformed tradition.

[3] Was the original WCF was ever really received by a consensus of reformed believers? It wasn't that long before it was rejected by some who wrote the Savoy, and others who wrote the 1689. And of course a large body reject the original teaching on church and state.

[4] Rising from [3] is the theological chicken and egg problem: who defines what a reformed consensus is, because in that is a definition of who is reformed (congregationalists?, baptists?, strict subscriptionists?, EPers?).

Best wishes Matthew, the Lord's blessing upon your ministry.
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
If the Reformed confessions are lacking in the area of eshatology, wouldn't that be due to the fact that it wasn't much of a battleground at the time? Similarly, the confessions lack any specific statements condemning grape juice with the Lord's Supper. Grape juice didn't even exist. In addition, the confessions do not take a stand on the CT. That simply wasn't a battleground at the time.

My question is this: In those cases where the confessions are silent, shouldn't we first go to the writings of the Reformers themselves and fill in the blanks before writing a new confession?

I would hope that our US government would do similarly with our Constitution.

If the answer is yes, then can't we agree that Reformed thought does include a realized eshatology even though there is no explicit statement in the confessions?
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
The WCF does not explicitly teach the now-net yet kingdom eschatology developed by the likes of Gerhardus Vos so central to the NT.

Chris Coldwell has directed attention to the Larger Catechism, which teaches the now/not yet benefits of union and communion with Christ; and explicitly speaks of "the first-fruits of glory with Christ."

We are brothers in Christ aren't we? 1 Cor. 12:3 is talking about people who deny the very gospel ("Jesus be cursed"). We're not talking about heresy (a la 1 Cor. 12:3). When the testing becomes looking for the speck in another one's eye it's ceases to be edifying.

As the apostle was addressing a problem in the gatherings of the brethren I am obliged to acknowledge that he applies the rule specifically to brethren. The "speck" allusion is to judgment of personal faults, not to doctrinal criticisms.

Fallible yes. Young? That is highly debatable! My students certainly don't think so, and neither does my body these days. Seriously, I struggle with your statement, because:

"Young" was used in comparison to the documents which are being crtiticised in this thread.

[1] The now / not-yet kingdom eschatology has been received for quite some time now by a large body of reformed believers. I never claimed to be the only one who does so, and the accusation of it is bizarre.

As above, that aspect of eschatological perspective is contained in the Westminster formularies.

[2] If you are interested in reformed consensus what does that say about your denomination with all of it's 2 or so congregations? This could be seen (I'm not saying it is), by your own standards, as a minority of fallible people who are on the crank fringe of the reformed tradition.

We demonstrate our interest in reformed consensus by the fact that we work with other denominations of a like mind and are working towards visible unity with them. One shouldn't judge a book by its cover. John 7:24, "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment."

[3] Was the original WCF was ever really received by a consensus of reformed believers? It wasn't that long before it was rejected by some who wrote the Savoy, and others who wrote the 1689. And of course a large body reject the original teaching on church and state.

Yes, it was received by a consensus. Please read its title page.
 

JohnOwen007

Puritan Board Sophomore
The WCF does not explicitly teach the now-net yet kingdom eschatology developed by the likes of Gerhardus Vos so central to the NT.

Chris Coldwell has directed attention to the Larger Catechism, which teaches the now/not yet benefits of union and communion with Christ; and explicitly speaks of "the first-fruits of glory with Christ."

This doesn't speak to what was said: "explicitly teach the now-not yet kingdom eschatology". (Read the posts above).

We are brothers in Christ aren't we? 1 Cor. 12:3 is talking about people who deny the very gospel ("Jesus be cursed"). We're not talking about heresy (a la 1 Cor. 12:3). When the testing becomes looking for the speck in another one's eye it's ceases to be edifying.

As the apostle was addressing a problem in the gatherings of the brethren I am obliged to acknowledge that he applies the rule specifically to brethren. The "speck" allusion is to judgment of personal faults, not to doctrinal criticisms.

And as you well know often doctrinal criticisms have more to do with personal animosity. Most of the church fights over doctrine I've seen have mainly been power struggles or personality conflicts. Doctrine has been the mask to cover those up.

[2] If you are interested in reformed consensus what does that say about your denomination with all of it's 2 or so congregations? This could be seen (I'm not saying it is), by your own standards, as a minority of fallible people who are on the crank fringe of the reformed tradition.

We demonstrate our interest in reformed consensus by the fact that we work with other denominations of a like mind and are working towards visible unity with them. One shouldn't judge a book by its cover. John 7:24, "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment."

So why then visibly splinter the reformed church into yet another denomination that is only accountable to itself rather than the larger reformed community?

Your doctrinal positions on say, Paul's authorship of Hebrews, EP, and KJV, are on the fringes of the international reformed community today. In other words, they're outside the current consensus.

[3] Was the original WCF was ever really received by a consensus of reformed believers? It wasn't that long before it was rejected by some who wrote the Savoy, and others who wrote the 1689. And of course a large body reject the original teaching on church and state.

Yes, it was received by a consensus. Please read its title page.

The title page doesn't speak to the issue. A consensus isn't made up of a snapshot of the tradition several hundred years old. The reofrmed consensus also goes through time up until the present. One simply has to look at how the WCF has been embraced hitherto in the reformed world to see it hasn't been a consensus document.

Blessings brother Matthew.
 

TheFleshProfitethNothing

Puritan Board Freshman
The Whole of the Confession is sprinkled with the Ressurection, keeping in mind that the genius of the Confession builds upon one precept after the other, without contradiction, and yet showing forth the Truths of the Work of God in the salvation of men. That would not only include the Election of the Father, but the Work of the Son, and all the things that pertain to life and holiness in Christ (especially the Work of Christ), which would not be imputed but by the Work of the Holy Ghost in coming and ressurecting us spiritually anew, and working in the believer effectually those things that spring forth from the power of the Ressurected Christ.

It's all in there...the Ressurection wasn't expounded on as much as one might think, as I see it, for everything up until it's mention, built up to it, as one should see, if they are looking for it.

That's how I see it anyway.

Thought provolking and edifying question...thanks!
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Marty, one final response, and then I leave you to your own conclusions.

This doesn't speak to what was said: "explicitly teach the now-not yet kingdom eschatology". (Read the posts above).

I was addressing the now/not yet "eschatology," as in inaugurated eschatology, of which firstfruits is a major theme. If you are looking for an explicit reference to the now and not yet, you only need to consider Larger Catechism questions 83 and 86, which respectively teach the communion in glory (1.) in this life, that is, NOW, and (2.) immediately after death, that is, NOT YET. They did not accept the later salvation-history school view of this, which has only come into reformed circles through Ridderbos, not Vos; but even Richard Gaffin has come out against the over-objectivising tendency of this school, so that to incorporate it into a reformed confession would be madness.

And as you well know often doctrinal criticisms have more to do with personal animosity.

What I do know is that you fail to distinguish doctrinal difference from personal attack, and too easily turn conversations into a personality battle. We don't know each other personally, Marty, nor do you know anything about my denomination to be able to offer helpful criticism. You would do yourself and others a true Christian service if you confined your remarks to the content being discussed and kept your personal judgements to yourself.

Blessings!
 

JohnOwen007

Puritan Board Sophomore
Dear Matthew,

I suspect there has been some crossed lines going on.

I was addressing the now/not yet "eschatology," as in inaugurated eschatology, of which firstfruits is a major theme. If you are looking for an explicit reference to the now and not yet, you only need to consider Larger Catechism questions 83 and 86, which respectively teach the communion in glory (1.) in this life, that is, NOW, and (2.) immediately after death, that is, NOT YET.

That's implicit now / not yet eschatology and not integrated into the theme of Kingdom, so central to the synoptic gospels. It's not really scratching the apocalyptic itch.

They did not accept the later salvation-history school view of this, which has only come into reformed circles through Ridderbos, not Vos;

Huh? Vos was so central to unearthing the now / not-yet stuff and has been highly influential, indeed on Ridderbos himself. The latter couldn't have done his work without the former. Moreover, Vos was close to Van Til, who regularly lauded Vos in and out of print.

but even Richard Gaffin has come out against the over-objectivising tendency of this school, so that to incorporate it into a reformed confession would be madness.

Well anything is a problem that is over-emphasised. But it doesn't take away from the fact that the WCF has this hole.

And as you well know often doctrinal criticisms have more to do with personal animosity.

What I do know is that you fail to distinguish doctrinal difference from personal attack, and too easily turn conversations into a personality battle.

Isn't that a personal attack? You say below you don't know me that well, and say the above?

We don't know each other personally, Marty, nor do you know anything about my denomination to be able to offer helpful criticism.

Let's say I'm not completely ignorant.

You would do yourself and others a true Christian service if you confined your remarks to the content being discussed and kept your personal judgements to yourself.

Matthew, I suspect that you've missed the point of my remarks. They concerned the very subject at hand. You made the point about consensus in the reformed world concerning confessions, rather than some new-fangled ideas being accepted. And hence, I wanted to probe what you meant by consensus given that you're in a denomination of two congregations and hold to minority positions far from the consensus in the international reformed world. How could that be? What does that mean? What are you getting at with consensus? That's neither a judgment nor an attack but merely a question about it all. The whole idea of confessions being updated is both critical and complex. We can't live in the past only; but the past is critical for the present. Getting the balance is really important. For example, the WRF are currently working on a new confession ready for 2010. How are we to view this? How should it be received? Will this fix the the eschatological lacuna in the WCF.

Blessings dear brother. Hope the weather in Rocky is well.
 
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