Questions about the 1980 RPCNA Testimony

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Puritan Board Post-Graduate
A friend of mine gave me his copy of the RPCNA Constitution which I read through over the weekend. I was greatly encouraged by what I read and I see that we (as Continental and Presbyterian traditions) have much in common. I especially appreciated many of the applications of the WCF to contemporary issues.

I did have a number of questions, however, about the Testimony which I hope my RPCNA brothers would be kind enough to answer for me (please forgive me if I misrepresent the intent of any article or sound naive in my presentation of them. I am just seeking understanding):

N.B. When I ask about whether persons or congregations hold to/practice something, I am not looking for names, location of congregations etc. Please just affirm or deny whether what I am asking is true of not.

i) First of all is strict subscription to the Testimony required for the officers of the church? and members? Or is it possible to take exceptions? How do the Presbytery's and sessions decide what is required (or not)?

ii) In Chapter 2: Of God, and of the Holy Trinity, Testimony 7 (A-14) reads “The Holy Spirit… supplies man’s powers of reason and conscience. I examined the scripture references but I didn't find this statement (implied or otherwise) in the passages cited and I was wondering if anyone had anything to add by way of clarification or comment on the truth of this statement.

iii) In Chapter 4: Of Creation. Testimony 15 (A-22) speaks to the issue of tithing. It appears that it does not require a 10% tithe but would encourage it in terms of our understanding of the principle of giving. Is this correct?

iv) In Chapter 5: Of Providence. Testimony 4 (A-24) states “Many of the same objections may be brought against sweepstakes, door prizes, drawings and other similar practices.” Is the Testimony condemning these then or discouraging members from participating in these things? How strictly is this enforced?

v) Chapter 7: Of God’s Covenant with Man. Testimony 4 (A-29) “We reject the concept that God extends grace to any man apart from the atoning work of Christ” Presumably this does not refer to Testimony 3 which refers to God’s “common grace"?

vi) Chapter 11: Of Effectual Calling. Testimony 9 (A-38) “The Bible recognizes the legitimacy of diverse cultures.” Could someone spell out what this means? (especially legitimacy)

vii) Chapter 18: Of the Assurance of Grace and Salvation. Testimony 6 (A-54) “it is not the proper function of the minster or any other person to tell people whether they are saved” I assume that this refers to personal counselling so that "people" is meant to be read in the singular.

viii) Chapter 21: Of Religious Worship, and the Sabbath Day. Testimony 1 (A-61) “The tendency to emphasize ritual, liturgy and ceremony is contrary to the Scriptures." I assume thatliturgy itself is not discouraged? (The Directory of Public Worship speaks of the “exercises of worship” being “conducted in dignified and edifying manner" and an “order of service is [then] suggested” (F-2).

ix) Chapter 23: Of the Civil Magistrate. Testimony 16 (A-73) “It is sinful for a Christian to take an oath which compromises his supreme allegiance to Jesus Christ. It is also sinful to vote for officials who are required to take an oath which a Christian himself could not take in good conscience. Voting involves the voter in responsibility for any act required of the official as a condition of holding his office.”
How far does one go with this? Do RPCNA members vote (ever)? Are they disciplined if they vote 'incorrectly'?

See Testimony 25 (A-76) “It is within the corporate power of the Church, acting through its courts, to declare that facts or circumstances which may exist in a specific situation render the taking of a civil oath sinful.”

See also Testimony 25-26 (A-76)
“Any promise of submission or oath of allegiance beyond this [ed. due submission to the Lord] is sinful.” A-25
“If the oath of allegiance to civil authority explicitly or by clear implication requires support of anti-Christian, atheistic, or secular principles, then the Christian must refuse on these grounds to take the oath of allegiance.” A-26

Is an oath anti-Christian if it is not explicity Christian (such as the oath of allegiance)?

x) Chapter 23: Of the Civil Magistrate. Testimony 18 (A-73)
Note that the Testimony rejects the portion of paragraph 3 after the colon. I tend to agree with this revision, but does this rule out theonomy as an official position of the RPCNA? I understand that there are theonomists in the RPCNA so are they free to express their opinions about it?

The civil magistrate may not assume to himself the administration of the Word and sacraments, or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven: yet he hath authority, and it is his duty, to take order, that unity and peace be preserved in the Church, that the truth of God be kept pure and entire, that all blasphemies and heresies be suppressed, all corruptions and abuses in worship and discipline prevented or reformed, and all the ordinances of God duly settled, administered, and observed. For the better effecting whereof, he hath power to call synods, to be present at them, and to provide that whatsoever is transacted in them be according to the mind of God.

xi) Chapter 24: Of Marriage and Divorce. Testimony 30 (A-84) “the state may prescribe educational standards and should provide educational opportunities, both in harmony with God’s law." "May" is better than "should" but perhaps a little strong for those who advocate that the state has no role in providing educational standards & opportunities. Are there parties in the RPCNA who disagree with this statement?

xii) Chapter 26: Of the Communion of the Saints. Testimony 5&6 (A-92)
“it is altogether wise and proper that Christians refrain from the use, sale and manufacture of alcoholic beverages.” (5) “The use of tobacco is detrimental to health and is to be avoided because of the responsibility to preserve the body which is the temple of God.” (6)

I assume that this is not enforced considering the number of RPCNA officebearers and members who drink and smoke.

xiii) Chapter 28: Of Baptism. Testimony 2 (A-94) “The church accepts as valid the baptism which has been administered in any true branch of the visible church.” Does this statement exclude Roman Catholic baptism? Are there any RPCNA congregations who reject Roman Catholic baptism?

Thank you brothers.
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Puritan Board Post-Graduate

I have the 2010 edition of the RPCNA constitution in my possession. I don't believe that the Testimony has been updated since 1980.


Staff member

You asked so many questions it is kind of hard to respond. I have read things concerning most of the topics you ask about. From my experience there are some hard liners and some people who are soft on some of the issues. It seems I read a few things on issues where Liberty and binding of conscience has come into play as arguments pro or con. Oaths are a bit more serious. So is the topic of worship. The voting issue has some diversity and challenges. Liturgy? Well, that has to probably be defined as that might be understood a bit more differently depending on who you are talking to. We do responsive reading of the scriptures and of course have a schedule or order in which the service takes place. Concerning Theonomy, I have heard there are some. I don't think it is taught at the seminary and it is not a position of the Church to advocate that the Mosaic civil punishments are binding. I listened to Dr. Kinneer on a radio podcast explain the differences and while we may have some things in common, we are not Theonomists. They did get some things correct.

Maybe if you pick just one or two questions to start with this will get moving a bit better.

Let me also say that I am not a spokesman for the RPCNA. I am just a communicate member who has some familiarity with the denomination. Just like every other denomination the congregations I am familiar with have their set cultural issues and temperaments.


Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Thank you for your answers Randy. And yes I realize that I have asked many questions (I am nothing if not thorough!) but I thought I would put them in one thread since sometimes people like to respond point by point to these kind of queries. If, due to its size, it fails to attract any answers I will contact those I know in the denomination.

But, to answer your query, I would say that questions i) & ix) are the most significant ones.


Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I have also started another thread *here* (on a related but different subject matter) that only has a few questions.
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Staff member
I can answer that strict subscription for membership is not an issue. But the examination process is important. I do know of men who can not be members in the RPCNA and have been adherents for a time.

At the same time the membership vows are very important from the side of the Communicant Member. There are promises made that we submit to the teaching and leadership of our Elders as we learn in the Covenant of Church Membership #4 on page G-1.
4. Do you promise to submit in the Lord to the teaching and government of this church as being based upon the Scriptures and described in substance in the Constitution of the Reformed Presbyterian Church
of North America? Do you recognize your responsibility to work with others in the church and do you promise to support and encourage them in their service to the Lord? In case you should need correction in
doctrine or life, do you promise to respect the authority and discipline of the church?

As you might remember, I was a member in the 80's at this Church and decided to leave and join a different Church for doctrinal reasons. I was a Baptist. When the boys and I returned I was still a Baptist. I submitted to their teaching and didn't cause any division in the Church. There are still a few Credo's in my congregation. The Eldership is very patient and understands that God gives the increase and wisdom. As you know I am very solidly a paedo-baptist now believing in the baptism of covenant children and converts. My hurdle had to do with the Nature of the Mosaic Covenant. I say all of that to just emphasize that the Elders are the ones ordained in Section D-1 to make those decisions about those coming into the Church. There are some really good and wise men who are Elders in the RPCNA. All of the ones I know are most gentle and patient loving men who are Covenanters in spirit. Their concern is that a person should have a testimony of God's grace and salvation along with a consistent progressing walk with God. And the measuring rod for that is going to vary from person to person. We all mature differently as you know.

I hope that helps a bit.

Section D1
4. Candidates for communicant membership shall be examined by the session in constituted court. the examination shall seek to bring out the degree of the candidate’s knowledge of Divine truth, his personal sense of sin and need of salvation and his knowledge of and willing acceptance of the Covenant of Church Membership including the distinctive principles of the reformed Presbyterian Church. the degree of knowledge necessary for admission depends, to a considerable extent, upon the capacity of the candidate and the opportunities which he has had for acquiring such knowledge. Children should be encouraged to memorize the Shorter Catechism and urged to read and study the Testimony and Confession of Faith as they come to years of fuller understanding. no one should be admitted who is ignorant of the plan of salvation, or who gives no credible evidence of having been born again, or who assumes an attitude antagonistic to the principles set forth in the standards of the Church.
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