From DGH on Critiquing Westminster Submitted on 2015 02 12 at 11:15 a.m.


I understand that you live in Canada and do historical theology and so may be unfamiliar with Presbyterian developments in the United States. But when you want to revise the Shorter Catechism Q. 1 with “To glorify God and Christ and enjoy them, through the Spirit,” you may not understand how much you are following the trail blazed by those American Presbyterians who wanted to gut the Westminster Standards of their hard Calvinist edge.

Maybe you can recall the writings from the 1890s of Benjamin Warfield and W. G. T. Shedd against confessional revision. Their arguments failed and the PCUSA went ahead and added chapters to the Confession of Faith on the Holy Spirit and the Love of God. The thinking (if you can call it that) was that the Confession didn’t say much about the Holy Spirit or the love of God and so needed explicit statements — as if you can’t find the Holy Spirit wherever the divines invoked the Word of God or as if the chapters on salvation and its application are not affirmations of God’s love.

The kicker of this revision was that it set up the 1906 merger between the PCUSA and the Cumberland Presbyterian Church — a body that in 1810 had explicitly rejected Calvinism’s harder edges. Affirming the Holy Spirit and the love of God sweetened the deal and made Warfield worry.

So when you add the language about Christ and the Holy Spirit to Q. 1, do you have in mind some kind of merger between the PCA and the Presbyterian Church of Canada? Your later explanation is helpful to a point. But because you continue to live in the world of seventeenth-century English speaking theologians and don’t seem to pay heed to historical contexts of closer proximity, I do worry about this latest move.

11 thoughts on “From DGH on Critiquing Westminster Submitted on 2015 02 12 at 11:15 a.m.

  1. Catechism revision, not Confessional revision. But not even catechism changing, just a different way to think about man’s chief end.


  2. Well, it is a bit confusing. The WSC is part of our (OPC and PCA) public confessional standards. And it was the WSC #1 that Mark was wanting to revise due to what he perceives as its inadequacy. I didn’t take from his post that he was merely interested in writing his own personal catechism as a pastor, which seems to be his point or emphasis in the later explanation linked above. In the later post I thought he made some good points for other private catechisms. But it would seem to me that that exercise simply falls under the teaching office of a pastor, unpacking and teaching more fully the confessional standards to the congregation.


  3. Order in the Trinity questions seem always to be related to order in the application of salvation questions, which in turn always seem to be related to order in the relationship of redemptive history to the order of application questions. In his preface to the new Presbyterian and Reformed edition of Gaffin’s By Faith Not by Sight, Mark Jones insists on faith before “union”, but if his logic holds, then “union” also has “not-yet aspects”, which are conditioned on the “not yet” aspects of “faith after union”.

    The slippery slope leads to the idea of “more and more” union and “more and more” justification


  4. Thanks Mark

    I was curious if there was a link between the two but not wanting to stir the pot, declined to comment. It’s all very interesting.


  5. I think MJ ought to leave the Westminster Shorter Catechism alone and see if the New City Catechism can be amended to accommodate these views.


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