This. This! (or, How the Westminster Confession Should Be Used)

Doug Wilson talks about the Confession and “honest subscription”.

But strict subscription does not uphold the Westminster Confession. It is a flagrant denial of it. Synods and councils have erred, and do err, including this one, chump. Loose subscription is no help either. What good is a fence around the vegetable garden of truth that makes sure there are holes every ten feet big enough for the average erroneous rabbit? But there is an alternative to strict subscription, which necessarily elevates the Confession to the level of Scripture, and loose subscription, which lowers the Confession to the level of the 9th and 10th amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

And this is the conclusion of the matter. Honest subscription is a moral necessity, one that requires diligent, hard work. Of course. liberals need to learn how to be honest with their own hearts, and with us. But there are many “conservatives” who need to learn how to be honest with the text. There is a difference between honest subscription to an oral tradition of American revivalism and honest subscription to the Westminster Confession. And as recent events have indicated, this is not a minor difference.

And, going along with this, Peter Leithart on rejoinders:

When we forget this, we reify historical statements (let us say, Confessions) into timeless, contextless axioms instead of the “answers and rejoinders” they actually were.

I appreciate being part of a confessional church. However, I am deeply disturbed by the fact that the words of the Westminster Confession of Faith are frequently idolized by my ilk. What Pastors Wilson and Leithart are saying needs to be heard by the Reformed branch of the Church, or we will continue to shrink into irrelevance and unfruitfulness.


2 responses to “This. This! (or, How the Westminster Confession Should Be Used)

  • Watchful

    It does seem as though it is either one or the other with most people these days. You either hate all confessions and creeds, or you elevate them to the level of scripture. I don’t believe either approach is Biblical!

  • Ian Hamilton

    I am puzzled as to why “strict subscription” should be equated with elevating the WCF to the level of Holy Scripture. That this may happen and has happened I do not doubt for one moment. The WCF too often has been treated like a sacred cow within the Presbyterian tradition – though rarely today. Two thoughts: First, historically, what is today called “strict subscription” was what the Scottish church required of its ministers and elders (until the later years of the 18th century). Warm experimental Calvinists such as Thomas Boston would have subscribed the WCF simpliciter and ex animo. It was the confession of “his” faith. There is no sense in Boston that he treated the Confession as if it were Holy Scripture – he knew 1.10, 31.4 and SC 2 too well. Second, I don’t know what “honest” subscription means in practice. Considering “the heart is deceitful above all things…”, I cannot begin to conceive where “honest” subscription leads – except that in the Sctottish church it has led inexorably to unbridled liberalism.
    I am not a “jot and tittle” subscriptionist. There must be room for scruples or whatever else they are called, as judged by the church.
    Whatever else, we must labour to assert that God’s word is, as the SC states, our “only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy (God)”

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