"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." - Jerome

Monday, November 02, 2009

Westminster Confession Surprises

Many people from as diverse backgrounds as John Piper (Baptist) and J.I. Packer (Anglican) have praised the Westminster Standards as, in the case of Packer, “the greatest summation of the faith in English” to, in the case of Piper, “perhaps 98% agreement in my faith.” The Westminster Standards contains much that every Christian ought to hold dear: The Trinity, salvation by grace alone through faith alone, etc. It also holds some particularly Calvinistic truths: The Eternal Decree of God determining election, the total depravity of man, the perseverence of the saints, which still endear it to Calvinistic Baptists like Piper and Calvinistic Anglicans like J.I. Packer.

Yet, I also find it kinda funny, because I sometimes hear believers praise the Westminster Standards (The Confession and Shorter and Larger Catechism) which contain things that might fit into Piper's 2%, or be why Packer is not Presbyterian but Anglican, but I wonder if they know it. In studying the Westminster Standards, I've found several things I had not considered before. All but a couple, I have accepted and still consider myself comparing the last couple to Scripture to see if they are faithful in their interpretation. Some of the teachings that might hit us as peculiar:

Those in authority in the church are to be considered as “father” and “mother.” (LC 124)

Sacraments become effectual means of salvation by the Holy Spirit. (LC 161)

Only approved or ordained men ought to preach the Word (LC 158)

Outside of the visible church "there is no ordinary possibility of salvation" (WCF 25.2)

Those taking the Supper in faith truly feed on Christ. (LC 170)

Those who doubt should especially take the Supper. (LC 172)

Baptism rightly administered and received confers the grace which it promises. (WCF 28.6)

The Supper rightly administered and received conveys the grace which it signifies. (WCF 29.7-8)

The pope is the antichrist. (WCF 25.6 – original language, struck by the OPC and PCA)

Making any image of any Person of the Trinity is forbidden by the Second Commandment (LC109)

The Third Commandment forbids not taking a required oath in God's name, if by a lawful authority. (LC 113, WCF 22.2)

The Fourth Commandment forbids recreation on the Sabbath (LC 117)

Christians ought not marry unbelievers or papists (WCF 24.3)

Only adultery or willful desertion are grounds for divorce (WCF 24.6)


M. Jay Bennett said...

The Standards are an awesome document. I find myself taught by it often.

On the last one, your wording makes it sound like the Confession gives two categories: (1) unbelievers and (2) papists. Is that what you mean?

Jared Nelson said...

It lists Papists next to pagans and idolators, and a discussion (or explanation) of being unequally yoked to those of radically different beliefs and godly living. I assume the original writers intended papists to be a category of unbeliever, yet I don't know if I would go that far, and would rather group Romans with the second discussion of unequally yoked.

I would think a wedding between a Roman Catholic and Protestant is ill-advised and would require the conversion of one or the other just on practical grounds...and yet conversion for marriage is not the most noble for either camp.

I just wouldn't group it the same way since there is big difference between a Catholic and Protestant marrying and a Protestant and a Hindu, that should be obvious.