Category Archives: WCF & Reformed Theology

Westminster Confession of Faith and Reformed Theology

WCF I.4, 5

“An even clearer testimony to the authority of Scripture is Scripture itself. Its focus is heavenward, like no other book. Its teaching transforms. Its prose and poetry have moved men and women for thousands of years. And readers old and new continue to marvel at the weight and density of this book, and the way in which the various parts of the Bible inform and illumine each other. And this is only the beginning! Is there any other book that has so perfectly achieved its purpose of giving all glory to God? Is there another place where we can learn all that we need to know about the one way of salvation? Really, there are so many incomparable excellencies to which we could point, such overwhelming evidence of perfection, that we can only conclude that the Bible ‘abundantly evidence[s] itself to be the Word of God’. In a very real sense, we can say that Holy Scripture is self-authenticating” (Chad Van Dixhoorn, Confessing the Faith: A Reader’s Guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith, 14).

Frequent Bible Reading

“If this is God’s Word, then little wonder that it is to be our rule of faith and life. Here we learn who and how to worship, who and how to trust for our salvation and all of our needs, and how to live our lives. It is for this reason that the whole Bible should be read frequently by all Christians, and should be at the centre of the Christian church” (Chad Van Dixhoorn, Confessing the Faith: A Reader’s Guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith, 10-11).

Total Number of Books Inspired by God

“Protestants understand that these books [66 books of the Bible] are not an anthology of works collected from a greater corpus, a mere selection from a wider number of God’s writings. On the contrary, this is the total number of the books that are inspired by God and preserved for his church. For that reason, we do well to take the warning at the close of the book of Revelation and apply it to the whole of God’s revelation, for who are we to add to it or take away from it? (Rev. 22:18, 19; see also Deut. 4:2)” (Chad Van Dixhoorn, Confessing the Faith: A Reader’s Guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith, 10).

Special Revelation

“This general revelation has limits. As the confession reminds us, ‘they are not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of his will, which is necessary unto salvation.’ . . . Therefore, since the real objective of Christian theology, and of this confession, is to show the way to life and the way to live life, this chapter goes on to tell us about God’s spoken revelation. . . . Above all, it is the purpose of Scripture to reveal God. It is his self-revelation, for it is not only the case that he himself is the one who reveals, but it is also the case that what he reveals is his own self” (Chad Van Dixhoorn, Confessing the Faith: A Reader’s Guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith, 5).

“Every person has been stung with knowledge of God.”

“Here, unmistakably, the confession [WCF I.1) is following the trail laid down by the Apostle Paul in Romans 1-2 (see esp. Rom. 1:19, 20, 32; 2:1, 14, 15; cf. Psa. 19:1-3). In those chapters the apostle both reminds us of this general revelation and tells us that it leaves every person without an excuse before God. For this reason, both in our evangelism and in our defense of the faith, we should always remember that Christians should never be trying to prove the existence of God to unbelievers. We are reminding unbelievers of what they already know. Every person has been stung with knowledge of God; there is an Existence about which they may be intensely aware, or which they may consciously or subconsciously suppress. But every person knows enough about God that they ought never to stop searching for him” (Chad Van Dixhoorn, Confessing the Faith: A Reader’s Guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith, 4).

Confessing Redemptive History

“Readers will quickly see that, chapter by chapter, the Westminster Confession of Faith traces the great history of our redemption: the grim realities of the fall, God’s gracious covenants with man, the stunning announcement of salvation, and our sure hope of eternal life — all these are sketched out in bold but considered strokes” (Chad Van Dixhoorn, Confessing the Faith: A Reader’s Guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith, xix).

A Large Faith

“The Westminster Confession of Faith is a summary of biblical doctrine. But it is more than that. It is a creed, and one from which all evangelical Christians will derive much benefit if it is carefully studied. This is a text rich in theology, offering a wealth of biblical and doctrinal reflection. It is not flawless. Nonetheless it is very good. And I consider its age to be more of a benefit than a liability; it is good to study texts which remind us that Christianity was not invented last Tuesday. . . . As I see it, the church needs to experiment with theological maximalism in place of its current minimalism if we are to maintain a faithful witness to Christ in our generation. A dozen doctrinal points on a website is probably inadequate for the church’s thriving, for its mission not only to evangelize but also to teach the nations. This creed from Westminster holds out a large faith for us to own, a welcome view of the triune God and his work, and an unusually robust statement of the gospel of Christ” (Chad Van Dixhoorn, Confessing the Faith: A Reader’s Guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith, xii).

Dabney on the WCF

“In an essay commemorating the 250th anniversary of the Westminster Assembly, Dabney compared the Westminster Confession to an arch in which “the removal of any one [stone] loosens all the rest and endangers the fall of the whole.” In the same way, the Westminster Standards were an organic whole; to deny one part was to do harm to the rest of the system. “It is for this reason,” Dabney wrote, “that the Confession will need no amendment until the Bible needs to be amended.” Strict adherence to an unchanging creed was the way to maintain orthodoxy in the South” (Sean Michael Lucas, Robert Lewis Dabney, 86).

WCF. VII. Of God’s Covenant with Man – 2-3. Q & A

Blogging through and answering the questions from G. I. Williamson’s The Westminster Confession of Faith for Study Classes for personal review and comprehension.

WCF. VII. Of God’s Covenant with Man.

Sections 2-3.

1. Why is it proper to speak of the “covenant of works” as a biblical teaching though it is not technically designated as such in Scripture?

It is proper because it is clearly implied in Genesis 2:17, as well as the hypothetical situation raised by Paul in Galatians 3:12, that man in Eden had “the alternative of obedience and life, or disobedience and death” (84).

2. What reasons are given by those who object to speaking of a covenant of works?

It is generally objected for two reasons: first, that it is not formally stated in Scripture (in a syntactical sense), and, second, that this erroneously suggest that the work’s of a man would merit (read: necessitate) the blessings of God.

3. What answers may be given to these arguments?

The first argument is not convincing because a great deal of orthodox Christian belief is not “formally stated in Scripture”, e.g., the doctrine of the Trinity. The second argument is not convincing because the “Confession carefully guards against the very danger that is being warned about” (84); the terminology of the former covenant (covenant of works) is used to distinguish it from the latter covenant (covenant of grace). Both covenants were sovereignly imposed by God, but the conditions in the former were the obedient works of man, but the latter is not a covenant between God and man, it is a covenant between the persons of the Godhead (a covenant between mutual parties, oftentimes called a parity covenant).

4. What merit has this designation (covenant of works)?

As stated above, the obedient works of man were the conditions (means for) the gracious provisions (covenantal promises).

5. What is meant by saying that the covenant was sovereignly imposed?

God consults Himself and nothing else.

6. State the Arminian conception of the condition of the covenant of grace.

The Arminian conception of the condition of the covenant of grace teaches that Jesus died for all men, i.e., “procured their removal from the covenant of works and introduced them into the provisions of the covenant of grace.” In this new arena, salvation is made possible… man can attain eternal life on a “new and easier basis than that of the covenant of works.” Why put it that way? Because, according to the former covenant, God required absolute, perfect obedience, but now God requires an abridged version of obedience–faith, repentance, and evangelical obedience. Like the former covenant, rewards and provisions are conferred upon the basis of man’s works, but only because Jesus has made this a possibility. Note: salvation according to the Arminian conception is not really a gift of a parity covenant of grace between the persons of the Godhead.

7. State the Reformed conception of the condition of the covenant of grace.

The Reformed conception is that all of the conditions of the parity covenant of grace between the persons of the Godhead are fulfilled explicitly and solely by God! Thus, “the life and salvation offered sinners in the Reformed version of the gospel is actual, because it depends upon God alone not only for the end to be attained, but also for the creation of those attitudes and actions in us that are necessary for receiving of that end” (85). The conditions of the covenant of grace are “conditional only in the sense that it depends upon certain effects of the work of the holy Spirit in the hearts of God’s elect,” i.e., regeneration, sanctification, etc.

Note the key difference between the two: the Arminian conception of God’s plan of salvation for man is merely a possibility, while the Reformed conception of God’s plan of salvation for man is an actuality.