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. VI. Of the Fall of Man, of Sin, and of the Punishment Thereof.
1. Why does the fall of man need much emphasis today?
It needs much emphasis today because of the prominence and acceptance of neo-orthodoxy, whose proponents typically deny that the fall took place when “an actual historical person . . . at a particular time and at a specific location on earth ate a real piece of forbidden fruit” (70).
2. What does neo-orthodoxy (the term itself) mean?
Neo-orthodoxy means “new orthodoxy.”
3. From what did it [neo-orthodoxy] arise?
It arose from and was a response to the “old rationalism” indicative of the post-enlightenment era.
4. Why did it sound promising at first?
Neo-orthodoxy sounded promising because it used the historical/traditional vocabulary of the Christian Church; the proponents of neo-orthodoxy would refer to “creation,” “the fall,” and “election,” however, they re-tooled the thing (meaning) signified by the traditional vocabulary. It had the appearance of orthodox Christian belief, but in the final analysis it lacked the content.
5. What is its tragic defect (basic to all other defects in it)?
The tragic defect of neo-orthodoxy is its “merely exchanging the old form of reliance upon the supremacy of man’s reason with a new form of the same evil” (70). The tragic defect is neo-orthodoxy’s treating God’s Word subservient to human reason.
6. When neo-orthodoxy says that a thing is “true” doctrine, what does it mean?
It means they believe the doctrine is “true” in a nonhistorical sense, i.e. it is merely symbolically or mythically.
7. Why does neo-orthodoxy take such a position?
Neo-orthodoxy takes this position, the position of attempting to affirm the Bible (that the Bible teaches truth) and deny (that what the Bible says is actually true) at the same time, because modernism created a milieu in which it which the traditional Christian belief that the Word of God was above human wisdom/human science was viewed as untenable (see page 70).
8. What choice were neo-orthodox theologians force to make?
“There were but two choices: (1) either accept the authority of God’s Word and lose standing with this world, or (2) retain the approval of the world, and reject the authority of the Bible” (70-71).
9. How were the neo-orthodox theologians more ingenious (and therefore more dangerous) than the older rationalists and modernists?
The neo-orthodox theologians chose the latter of the two choices above (retain the approval of the world, and reject the authority of the Bible), and the “ingenuity of the neo-orthodox theologians was seen in their ability to camouflage the loss of biblical authority. They did it by removing doctrine from history. And so long as they did not say that these doctrines are really true (that is, that they actually happened in history), they were free to say that they are symbolically true (that is, that they are above and beyond our world). In this way they were free to preach abut such things as “the fall” without losing their self-respect and standing with the world” (71).
10. How does the neo-orthodox attitude resemble that of Adam?
It resembles Adam’s attitude (sin) in that both attempt to have truth that is untethered and insubmissive to God’s word.
11. By “total depravity” which do we mean:
- that Adam had a nature like ours with added powers,
- that nothing human remains in sinful men,
- that every faculty of man’s nature is corrupt and polluted,
- that fallen man is stupid whereas Adam was brilliant,
- the faculties of human nature were annihilated by the fall?
Bullet point # 3 – “that every faculty of man’s nature is corrupt and polluted,” i.e. “The ‘total’ in ‘total depravity’ refers to the extent of the damage rather than the degree.
12. By “total depravity,” do we mean that the extent of the damage or the degree of the damage is complete in fallen human nature?
It refers to the extent. Sin is an ethical disease that affects the whole of our human nature.
13. Does man (being totally depraved) do anything that is not sinful? Why?
Not a single thing. Man being totally depraved can only sin. “Every man (who is not redeemed) worships and serves the creature rather than the Creator (Rom. 1:25)” (72). Why is this? Because will flows from nature: if our whole human nature is sick/poisoned with the ethical disease of sin, then our will, desires, affections, and actions are sinful: “it is the disposition of sinful men to do their own will rather than the will of God, they are incapable of submitting their own will to his. The one thing that an independent will cannot do is to willingly submit, thereby ceasing to be independent” (72-73). As Romans 3:11 says, “There is none who seeks God.”