WCF Subscribers: Ecclesiology Poll

What is your position?


  • Total voters
    38

B.L.

Puritan Board Sophomore
Brothers, your objections are very strange - this is a poll for those who subscribe to the Westminster Confession of Faith, a Confession that includes Chapter 31.3 -

"III. It belongeth to synods and councils ministerially to determine controversies of faith, and cases of conscience; to set down rules and directions for the better ordering of the public worship of God, and government of his church; to receive complaints in cases of mal-administration, and authoritatively to determine the same: which decrees and determinations, if consonant to the word of God, are to be received with reverence and submission, not only for their agreement with the word, but also for the power whereby they are made, as being an ordinance of God, appointed thereunto in his word."

Once again, I do not understand in what world, someone can object to a Presbyterian upholding the Confession of Faith as saying Congregationalism in particular, is sinful - because Synods and councils are an ordinance of God in the Confession of Faith.

Proof texts - ""Acts 15:15, 19, 24, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31. [See in the Bible.] Acts 16:4.

Feel free to disagree - but that is not the point of this thread. If you want to know why Presbyterians would find other forms of church government sinful - well, I don't know what else to tell you. It is spelled out in many different works and many threads undoubtedly on this very board.

Hey, go easy! Lol. We're just a pair of Baptists curious why you voted the way you did.

You have more to worry about from the other Presbyterians who voted differently than you. ;)

The question in the OP is addressed to those who believe that the presbyterial form of church government is founded on and agreeable to scripture. For the purposes of this thread, I am not going to write a treatise on church government.

Okay with me friend, but similar to my tongue-in-cheek comment to Rom it would seem there are other Presbyterians here who while subscribing to the same confession of faith as you reach a different conclusion altogether.

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Have a joyful night folks!
 

Phil D.

Puritan Board Junior
The question in the OP is addressed to those who believe that the presbyterial form of church government is founded on and agreeable to scripture.
In all fairness, an option in the poll is "I am not a Presbyterian", which could be taken as an invitation for such to participate in the discussion along those lines. But in retrospect that is admittedly a somewhat backhanded assumption given the actual headlining question. So for myself I'm bowing out... but why oh why wasn't I stopped earlier.?!? :duh:
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
I think it is a hard sell to show how Congregationalism, or any other polity outside Presbyterianism, is an actual transgression of the law of God (i.e. sinful).
If it is established that there is a government of divine right in Scripture as to particulars, e.g., offices, forms such as synods, etc., then error, denial de jure as stipulated, in those things have to be a sin, just like the wrong view of baptism must be. But this has already been beaten to death by others; I just didn't want you to think I ignored you reply.
 

83r17h

Puritan Board Freshman
I think it is a hard sell to show how Congregationalism, or any other polity outside Presbyterianism, is an actual transgression of the law of God (i.e. sinful).

Some of the dialogues throughout Bannerman's The Church of Christ where he addresses various other forms of government under various topics may be helpful to you in understanding this perspective. A very brief example might have to do with church power. A form of government which appropriates power that Christ has not given is stealing from Christ. This is sin.
 

W.C. Dean

Puritan Board Sophomore
In all fairness, an option in the poll is "I am not a Presbyterian", which could be taken as an invitation for such to participate in the discussion along those lines. But in retrospect that is admittedly a somewhat backhanded assumption given the actual headlining question. So for myself I'm bowing out... but why oh why wasn't I stopped earlier.?!? :duh:
Yeah sorry that's my fault. I figured that if the WCF does not explicitly say Presbyterianism is exclusive, there could be non-Presbyterians who hold to the WCF. Admittedly, the number of people in that camp is probably exceedingly rare. I was thinking of Anglicans or paedobaptism Congregationalists when I put in that option. I am enjoying reading the discussion however. It has been peaceful thus far.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Some of the dialogues throughout Bannerman's The Church of Christ where he addresses various other forms of government under various topics may be helpful to you in understanding this perspective. A very brief example might have to do with church power. A form of government which appropriates power that Christ has not given is stealing from Christ. This is sin.
This is why the Westminster assembly was reprimanded with a "breach of privilege" charge from Parliament because they dared to tell it they had encroached upon Christ's royal prerogatives in deciding that a civil court would decide who to suspend from the Lord's Table, when by "the will and appointment of Jesus Christ" that belongs to His church officers. More than a bit tweaked the House of Commons demanded answers to nine questions which the assembly began work on the summer of 1645. Cooler heads prevailed and the House told the assembly to get back to work on the Confession in July, and others took up an answer in August. It has always been assumed that the work the assembly did formed or at least informed the answer to those questions made by Sundry Ministers of London in their Jus Divinum Regiminis Ecclesiastici: or, the divine right of church government. As I've noted here and yon a new critical edition of this has been published by Naphtali Press and Reformation Heritage Books. In the first shorter part they set out to prove that church government must be of divine right and it is valuable in outlining the ways one discerns a divine prescription in Scripture. The longer part two is taken up in describing that prescribed government. https://www.heritagebooks.org/produ...vine-right-of-church-government-coldwell.html
 

alexandermsmith

Puritan Board Junior
de facto is the essence of irregular. It means that in a particular situation this is not the right way of doing things (de jure) but is the best way possible under the circumstances (de facto). For example, a new church plant (or a small established congregation) may not be able to appoint a plurality of local elders, voted in by the local congregation. de jure they rightly believe that congregations should have a plural eldership of men from within the congregation, but that is not possible under the present circumstances. In most of our Forms of Church Government, there is provision for Presbytery to appoint elders from outside the congregation to provide temporary leadership as a provisional (i.e. irregular) Session. Otherwise, they would have to shut the church plant or church down since it was in sin. Similarly, it's not right for members of a church never to attend public worship. Yet infirm and disabled people may never be able to attend worship in person. Should they be excommunicated for their sin? No, they are excused because of being "providentially hindered" - i.e. their situation is irregular. Of course, the irregular category can be abused, but it is historically an important category in the doctrine of the church.

The Scriptural warrant for this principle may be seen in Moses' "Irregular" Passover in Numbers 9. People who were ceremonially unclean through no fault of their own (for example, attending a relative who had just died) could not take part in the regular Passover in the first month. Yet anyone who failed to take part ion the Passover was to be cut off from the community. Moses inquired of the Lord, and the Lord gave an "irregular" provision for the Passover to be celebrated in the second month by these people - along with others who were providentially hindered for example by being on a journey. Yet they were not free to celebrate the Passover any time they wanted or in any way they wanted. They had to follow exactly the same rules, just one month later.

Irregular situations are those where a church or Christian is unable to do things the way they acknowledge to be right and Scriptural, for providential reasons. They are not thereby given license to do things in any way that they wish, but they may at times adopt different ways of doing things that are as close as possible to the right way of doing things under the particular set of circumstances. They acknowledge these things to be irregular/provisional and seek to move toward the right way of doing things as soon as possible.

Those who are unable to attend worship because they are infirm or disabled are not excused because their situation is "irregular" but for reasons of mercy. Scripture teaches that there are exceptions/exemptions to the Sabbath command for reasons of necessity and mercy. Sometimes there is debate over what falls under these general principles, but the principles are nevertheless derived from Scripture. The non- attendance of these persons, therefore, is only irregular in the sense that the normal situation for a Christian is that he attends public worship. I would dispute that the non-attendance of such people is irregular in the sense being discussed here: a practice that does not conform to Scriptural precept but has been sanctioned due to practical necessity or circumstance. That is quite different from Biblical exemptions to the Sabbath command which, because they are Biblcial principles, are not irregular.

However I did not say that irregularity is automatically sinful. For example, sometimes a minister is unable to take a service and an elder stands in his place (I am obviously operating on the basis that an ordained ministed is distinct from an elder). This is irregular but it is not, that I can see, contrary to Scripture. What I said was that what is contrary to Scripture is sinful. Sin is the transgression of the Law. If one does what is forbidden, or fails to do what is required, one has sinned (this takes into account the Lord's application of His own Law which we have in Scripture). But in the situation we are discussing those forms of church government which do not adhere to the presbyterian model are operating contrary to Scripture. It is a conscious decision to do so. And as I was trying to explain, an isolated congregation is at liberty to associate itself with a denomination in another territory in order to conform to that Scriptural model.

Irregularities do happen and should be dealt with on a case by case basis. But we shouldn't dismiss them as "simple irregularities" as if irregularity in adherence to God's Law is a small thing, and we shouldn't suggest that irregularity is (by necessity, as opposed to by choice) more common than it is. And we certainly shouldn't reduce what is clearly contrary to Scriptural teaching to an irregularity because it is convenient to do so.
 
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