Monday, August 20, 2007

Reformed Answers To Discernment Q's

As promised, this is what I believe to be the Reformed answer to the discernment questions posted below. I am most open to correction. WCOF is short for the Westminster Confession of Faith, the confessional standard of Presbyterian churches in this country, at least historically. I'm curious how Pentecostal, Baptistic and other denominational churches would answer these questions.

1) Is there authority or not within the church?
Christ has given the ministry, oracles, and ordinances of God to the visible church, which consists of all those throughout the world who confess the true religion, and their children. He gave this power for the gathering and perfecting of the saints. Outside the church visible there is no salvation. This church is under Christ alone, and not the Pope (WCOF, Ch. XXV).

Church officers are appointed by Christ to govern the church. To them are committed the keys of the kingdom; they can shut out those who do not belong. They can censure, discipline, and excommunicate to seek purity within the church (WCOF, Ch. XXX). The strongest authority exists within the church.

2) If so, who gave the church that authority? If not, where then lies the rule of faith?
That authority comes to the church officers from Christ, through the words of scripture (WCOF, Ch. XXX).

3) Was authority with the Apostles, and did they pass on this authority?
The Apostles were granted authority by Christ in the way that today’s church officers are granted authority. There's was not a continuing office, but a special foundational one. The apostles passed on no authority; all authority is with Christ.

4) If so, did they pass it to men or to their written words?
They did not have authority to pass on. Christ and the Holy Spirit hold Authority, and with authority God breathed the Scriptures through the Apostles, as well as other men, to be the Rule of Faith for those church officers who today are appointed by Christ to govern the church.

5) What authority permitted a definition of Canon, and why are the books therein contained beyond question?
No earthly authority was needed to permit the canon’s definition. Rather, the books in the Bible are beyond question because the Westminster Divines considered the matter and concluded that those 66 books in the Protestant bible are canonical. They noted that while the 66 books’ many perfections, excellencies and consistency are evidence enough, their "full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in [their] hearts” (WCOF Ch. I.5).

In questions of interpreting scripture, the infallible rule of interpreting scripture is scripture itself (WCOF Ch. I.9).

1 comment:

Thos said...

I've received permission from Uri at ( to share some thoughts he gave me by e-mail on Reformed views of authority. Do see his blog, he seems like a fascinating and very well-read brother.

"Concerning authority, I do believe that the repository of truth is found in the Scriptures alone. In that sense, I do concur with the Confession. However, what the WCF does not address is who is the authoritative voice to interpret the Written word. Delegating that authority to the individual is foolish and dangerously cultic. The church has the authority to interpret. I am deeply concerned about certain portions of the Reformed faith who claim that if we do not believe exactly as some in the Reformed tradition did concerning the ACTIVE obedience of Christ, then we cannot be part of the fold. Here's where I ask the uncomfortable question: Who taught this prior to the 16th century? Silence... hence, questions of authority need to be deeply tied to the nature of the ecclesiastical ancient body of faith, not to 21st century evangelicals. It is my clear impression that Calvin relied much on the patristic fathers as we can see in his bibliography in the Institutes and so did Luther. Our tradition (reformed) believes that the Reformation served to start the church anew, when the reality is that they wanted to purify the church and bring it back to its patristic roots. Luther failed in his regard, particularly in his discussion with Zwingli. If the Reformation had been united from its early days, there would be no such thing as evangelicalism, rather we would all be Confessional and Creedal Christians."