Posted by: reformedmusings | September 23, 2007

Mythbuster: WCF and the PCA’s Nine Declarations

I’ve seen a thread around the Net since my return. Amateur and semi-pro lawyers are trying to draw a wedge between the WCF and the PCA’s Nine Declarations. Once again, I’ll endeavor to set the record straight.

The Nine Declarations were accepted by the PCA’s 35th General Assembly when the GA approved the study committee’s five recommendations. To refresh the reader’s memory, the five recommendations are:

1. That the General Assembly commend to Ruling and Teaching Elders and their congregations this report of the Ad Interim Committee on NPP, AAT and FV for careful consideration and study.

2. That the General Assembly remind the Church, its officers and congregations of the provisions of BCO 29-1 and 39-3 which assert that the Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms of the Westminster Assembly, while “subordinate to the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, the inerrant Word of God,” have been adopted by the PCA “as standard expositions of the teachings of Scripture in relation to both faith and practice.”

3. That the General Assembly recommend the declarations in this report as a faithful exposition of the Westminster Standards, and further reminds those ruling and teaching elders whose views are out of accord with our Standards of their obligation to make known to their courts any differences in their views.

4. That the General Assembly remind the Sessions and Presbyteries of the PCA that it is their duty “to exercise care over those subject to their authority” and “to condemn erroneous opinions which injure the purity or peace of the Church” (BCO 31-2; 13-9f).

5. That the Ad Interim Study Committee on NPP, AAT and FV be dismissed with thanks.

Let’s go through this carefully. First, Recommendation 2 reiterates that the Westminster Standards are considered subordinate to the Scriptures, yet are “the standard expositions of the teachings of Scripture in relation to both faith and practice.” All the Federal Vision posters who claim that the study committee and/or the GA somehow supercede Scripture with the Standards or the committee report are just flat wrong. You cannot reasonably dispute the words. You have it here and in the Book of Church Order in black and white.

Second, by approving Recommendation 3, the General Assembly accepts that the Nine Declarations are faithful expositions of the Westminster Standards, not a new standard. I’ve seen that red herring tossed around lately. Recommendation 3 also makes it clear that anyone out of accord with the Standards (that would be any officer who holds Federal Vision views) should report that to their presbytery in accordance with their oath of office. Only a few PCA officers holding to Federal Vision theology have done so.

Now follow the chain above. The PCA holds, and officers swear, that the Westminster Standards, though subordinate to the Scriptures, are faithful expositions of the Scriptures. Again, EVERY PCA officer swears to this at their ordination. Should be no controversy about this. Next, the Nine Declarations are approved as faithful expositions of the Westminster Standards. So, it is perfectly proper to use the Nine Declarations to query new ordinates or transferring officers for their conformity. If they don’t conform to the Nine Declarations, then by definition they don’t conform to the Standards. It’s that simple and clearly stated in the approved recommendations. There’s no new standard here, just expositions of existing standards.

Which leads us to Recommendation 4. Orthodox officers and presbyteries should do something. After all, they almost all voted to do this. Openly condemn the errors of Federal Vision theology. Openly challenge officers who hold to it by urging their repentance, then file charges in the presbytery if they don’t. The PCA voted overwhelmingly that presbyteries and officers do the right thing and was explicit on what the right thing is. Just do it!

One FV proponent rightly observed that I wasn’t his presbytery. OK, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to see that! However, where are these presbyteries now and what are they doing about officers holding Federal Vision views?

Now, PCA officers holding to Federal Vision theology don’t want to believe all this. In their private world, the Federal Vision officers are Jeremiahs standing alone against the supposed shortcomings of the Standards. Sounds a bit more like Don Quixote, especially since the GA voted overwhelmingly that these officers are out of accordance with the Standards. But even at that, I and others say fine. Propose changes to the Standards. That would take courage and integrity. I guess we’ll see if anyone is up to the challenge that’s been on the table since the 35th General Assembly’s overwhelming vote.

In the meantime, Recommendation 1 comes into play as well. Study the Ad Interim Committee’s report. Become familiar with the issues and the orthodox answers thereto. Teach the Scriptures and the Standards, contrasting their contents with the Federal Vision. Don’t fear or believe the empty rhetoric of the Federal Vision blogs. Be an active part of the solution, for the peace and purity of the PCA.

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