... for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions?—Canticles 1.7.
The Testimony of the RPCNA:
Notes from an Examination
Shared in the Hope of its Reparation.
By Jeremy T. Kerr,
A Brother who Cares.
AFTER many years of being aware of various defects in the Testimony of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA), as it is presently organized, such as those places where its revisers chose to contradict the Westminster Confession of Faith, circumstances have induced me to take time to give a thorough reading to the entire document. This Testimony makes up an important part of what the RPCNA receives as its Constitution, and therefore demands the attention of all who choose to enter into Communicant Membership with this body by swearing its membership vows, as well as others of us who have been invited to such communion and fellowship, or who have been urged to believe that this is our Christian duty.
In the beginning of 2017, I finished reading this Testimony, and in late Spring, I finished compiling my notes into a spreadsheet form, hoping it would be more useful as a quick index to remind me which problems with the document are most considerable, and how many problems there are of specific natures. As a Covenanter, or Reformed Presbyterian, I cannot help judging this Testimony by the historic principles of the Reformed Presbyterian Church itself, and in doing so, I find that in some things it either fails to reflect, or directly opposes, doctrines which are essential to the true Reformed Presbyterian Testimony and Identity. For myself and others, this involves us in some weighty dilemmas. To express these at the outset might irritate the reader as a list of complaints, or perhaps accusations. So I will forbear.
In the meanwhile, having made the above-mentioned examination, and compiled notes of this sort, it would not be best to keep them to myself. The wisdom of Holy Scripture assures us that, “Open rebuke is better than secret love,” Prov. 27.5, and that the concealing of several sins, or erroneous contradictions of Christian doctrine, is not a Biblical way for me to love my RPCNA brethren, but something the Lord would account as a hating of my brethren. (Lev. 19.17.) Accordingly, I have taken the former spreadsheet of notes, and derived from this the following table of information, with clear identification of those faults most problematic in the Testimony of the modern RPCNA.
Various objections or challenges might be offered to me for doing what I have. Some might think I should be silent as one who is not a “clergyman.” Others might think I should not make public the faults of Christian brethren, and stumble the world with the differences which exist among brethren. Yet others might be irritated that my urging of historic Presbyterian beliefs dishonours every Presbyterian by bringing to view convictions of which they are wrongly ashamed. There are answers for all of these objections. The objection which weighs on my mind most heavily is that a former performance, written by another, inevitably gives an unfavourable context to my effort, and obstructs that which I hope will be the fruit of such a document. But I cannot re-write history, neither my own, nor anyone else’s. And if I should write nothing, then I can only be the more to blame for allowing bad history to seemingly conclude a good thing which is not yet done. Some will understand: Satan has played his game well, but he will be the loser still.
Jesus Christ is King of his whole Church, and mightier than all her enemies. He knows the faults, the blemishes, the scandals, of every part of his Church, big and small. And with a perfect love, which can never be defeated, he is resolved to heal all her diseases, and make her beautiful again. This is essential and identifying Reformed Presbyterian doctrine. In this confidence I labor, and in this confidence my brethren in the RPCNA labor. And because of this hope, which Satan cannot defeat, I offer the following notes, observations, questions, etc. in the full expectation that to some they will be acceptable.
|Chapter||C. Title||Test. Sect.||Text||Note||Anti-WCF||Note Category|
|Introduction||6||… They are children of the covenant bearing witness corporately to His lordship over every sphere of their life. There is nothing outside of His dominion.||There is nothing outside of His dominion||Positive|
|Introduction||8||The whole creation is under God’s covenant to accomplish His will through Christ, the Mediator, by the Holy Spirit.||Which covenant(s)?||Change Needed|
|Introduction||10||… Some current topics of vital importance for the Christian Church were unknown in the 17th century. Therefore, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America presents its Testimony applying Scripture truth to the contemporary situation....||Purpose of Testimony is to apply the truth in the Confession.||Positive|
|Introduction||12||“earlier documents are to be interpreted by the later ones.”||What limits whether one can be interpreted contrary to the evident meaning of another? When is conflicting interpretation heretical, and its enforcement schismatic?||Question|
|1||Of the Holy Scripture||9||Question: What is the significance of the distinction between those items which this testimony opposes with “we reject” and those which it opposes with “we deny”? Examples: Evolution c4 A-20; Magistracy c23 A-71; Lord’s Supper c29 A-99.||Question|
|1||Of the Holy Scripture||10||OT of equal authority with NT||Positive|
|1||Of the Holy Scripture||14||We reject the view that the Holy Spirit gives personal revelations or that He leads men apart from the general principles of the Word or contrary to its teachings.||It is neither the doctrine of the early church, Reformation, nor of Scripture to assert all revelations of every sort are ceased.||Change Needed|
|1||Of the Holy Scripture||15||We reject the concept that there is continuing revelation of God in the actions, decisions, or decrees of the Church.||Exceptions: in a scenario such as Acts 1, is not the lot a revelation of God’s will?
See Note 1
|1||Of the Holy Scripture||16||… Other doctrines are taught in Scripture which human reason cannot fully comprehend and which must be received on the authority of God.||The doctrine taught can be “comprehended” or understood: it is of the nature of revelation to be intelligible.||Change Needed / Revision Useful|
|1||Of the Holy Scripture||18||Bible translations.... Paraphrases, which interpret rather than translate, must be used with great caution.||And must be rejected from being used as Holy Scripture|
|1||Of the Holy Scripture||19||All men have the right to read the Bible.... In interpreting the Bible consideration must be given to the historical situation in which the passage was written, to the grammatical structure, and to the literary form. The instruction and counsel of fellow believers, of teachers of the Word, and creeds and confession of the Church should be given due consideration....||This is not application of the Truth of the WCF – This is additional Doctrine, and ought not to supplant or lessen the priority doctrine of the WCF. (The infallible rule... The supreme judge... no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.)
See Note 2
|2||Of God, and of the Holy Trinity||Note: 10 of 15 paragraphs in this chapter relate to the Holy Spirit|
|3||Of God’s Eternal Decree|
|4||Of Creation||3||… The increase of varieties which occurred is within genetic limitations provided at creation.||Is this Religion or Science? Replace ‘genetic’ with ‘natural’||Change Needed|
|4||Of Creation||11||Economics: … No existing economic system incorporates all these teachings.||Positive|
|4||Of Creation||12||… dialectical materialism....||Define||Change Needed|
|4||Of Creation||13||We reject that form of capitalism which holds that men possess absolute property rights and that the state has no right to protect the weak and restrain evil in economic affairs.||Positive|
|4||Of Creation||15||… the fact that Christ endorsed tithing...||?||Problem / ?|
|4||Of Creation||15||… Christian should respond out of love by giving at least as great a proportion of his income to the Lord’s work through the Church.||as great as 1. the above generosity? [or] 2. The 1/10 proportion?||Change Needed / Revision Useful|
|4||Of Creation||17||To possess wealth is not in itself sinful, but men should resist the temptation to accumulate wealth by exploiting others or for sinful purposes.||conclude with: or as an end in itself.||Change Needed|
|5||Of Providence||2||… He is to seek to understand the meaning and purpose of God’s dealings with him in the light of the Word of God.||N.B.|
|5||Of Providence||4||… The Christian should avoid … lotteries, bingo for gain, wagerings, raffles, and bets.||No Qualification Needed! (“for gain”)||Anti-WLC||Problem|
|6||Of the Fall of Man, of Sin, and of the Punishment Thereof|
|7||Of God’s Covenant with Man||1||We reject the teaching that Adam was not a covenant head and representative of all his descendants. We reject the view that Adam’s headship involves any injustice.||Positive|
|7||Of God’s Covenant with Man||3||… By His death Christ secured the delay of the full penalty of death for sin (the second death,) for all men. They therefore may enjoy the creation and have some fruitful toil in it for God’s glory, even though they be rebellious against Him. This is usually called common grace.||Common Grace|
|7||Of God’s Covenant with Man||4||We reject the concept that God extends grace to any man apart from the atoning work of Christ.||? Saving grace or ‘grace’ ?||Change Needed / Revision Useful|
|8||Of Christ the Mediator||1||… All men, in every possible relation and condition, are under obligation to promote His gracious purposes according to His law. The holy angels minister, under His direction, to the heirs of salvation.||Positive|
|8||Of Christ the Mediator||2||Jesus Christ, as Head over all things for the sake of the Church, rules in perfect wisdom and justice over all parts of His creation including wicked men and devils....||Positive|
|8||Of Christ the Mediator||3||We reject any teaching that denies or obscures the truth that Jesus is both God and man in two distinct natures and one person forever.||We need language more strong than “We reject” –- Like “We condemn” or “let him be anathema.”||Change Needed|
|9||Of Free Will|
|10||Of Effectual Calling||2||The elect are effectually called by means of the Gospel offer. This offer is not a declaration to any sinner that his name is in the Book of Life. It is founded upon God’s command to offer Christ....||Positive|
|10||Of Effectual Calling||3||We reject the teaching that the Gospel offer of salvation is freely and truly offered only to the elect.||Positive|
|10||Of Effectual Calling||3||We reject the teaching that particular redemption is to be so understood and presented that Christ as ransom and propitiation is not preached or offered to all men indiscriminately.||Positive|
|10||Of Effectual Calling||7||Those evangelizing should use all available means consistent with the Bible so that every person may be given the opportunity to hear, understand and receive the Gospel.||This language is not sufficiently definitive. The Church must use the means prescribed in the Bible and promised the Divine blessing. R.P.s need to guard against evangelical trends that implement creative means accounted “consistent with the Bible” simply because they are not explicitly forbidden. This is much like the issue of worship and the RPW.||Problem|
|10||Of Effectual Calling||6||Evangelism is the proclamation of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord as He is offered in the Gospel....||Evangelism|
|10||Of Effectual Calling||7||While guarding against undue pressure, we must urge men to be reconciled to God.||Good and Important to note the ministry’s responsibility to “urge” or beseech; but what is to be classified as “undue pressure”? Where does the Bible warn against this?||Question / Revision Useful|
|10||Of Effectual Calling||8||Evangelism is not only to seek the conversion of sinners but also to build them up to become effective in the Church’s continuing task.||Positive|
|10||Of Effectual Calling||9||… Every culture is to be transformed and made subject to Christ through redeemed men, all for the glory of God.||* Cultures to be Transformed *||Positive|
|10||Of Effectual Calling||10||Wherever consistent with faithfulness to God’s truth, different branches of the visible church should cooperate in evangelism to strengthen their witness by demonstrating their unity in Christ.||Again – Not sufficiently definitive. A door is opened, and no door is plainly shut to cooperation which is actually sinful, unless an individual holds that opinion himself. Testimonies are not intended merely to present abstract generalities but make application.||Problem|
|11||Of Justification||1||… Although he is still an unworthy sinner, yet because he is united to Christ, he has Christ’s perfect righteousness imputed to him.||Better to include this imputation directly in the definition of Justification, as is done in our catechisms. Such a doctrine of Justification is what the Protestant Reformers contended for against the Papists.||Change Needed|
|11||Of Justification||2||Faith is the only means of justification....||Add: “Instrumental” means of justification.||Change Needed|
|14||Of Saving Faith||1||… The Holy Spirit, therefore, regenerates each one of them, enabling them to receive Jesus Christ by faith as their Lord and Savior.||Add: “persuading and” enabling them... --- To use the language of our WSC.||Change Needed|
|14||Of Saving Faith||2||We reject the teaching that regeneration is the result of saving faith.||Positive|
|14||Of Saving Faith||3||Saving faith will normally come to expression in a public confession of Christ within the visible church.||Positive|
|14||Of Saving Faith||6||We reject the idea that unregenerate people can be persuaded to believe without the ministry of the Holy Spirit.||Clarify “to believe” by using instead “to act saving faith.”||Change Needed|
|14||Of Saving Faith||7||We reject the concept that saving faith is merely agreeing that the Bible is historically accurate, and that the doctrines of the Bible are true.||Positive|
|14||Of Saving Faith||10||We reject the idea that saving faith is a man’s persuading himself that he is elect, and that he has already been saved.||Positive|
|14||Of Saving Faith||Item 4 from the original testimony (RPE) is an important doctrinal point which needs to be stated in opposition to an idea promoted by the republication of WM’s Gospel Mystery.
See Note 3
|15||Of Repentance Unto Life||4||Unregenerate men may, and often do, feel regret... but they may not see sin as an offense against the holy God....||“may not” --- do not? --- obscure wording.||Change Needed / Revision Useful|
|15||Of Repentance Unto Life||7||… no need of priest... should also confess to men against whom he has sinned, and submit to all lawful penalties.||What about the use of confessing sins to brethren for their counsel, prayers, & comfort?||Change Needed|
|15||Of Repentance Unto Life||8||Every man bears a degree of responsibility for the sins of groups in which he participates. When sins are corporate, repentance and confession should be corporate as well as individual.||Positive / **|
|16||Of Good Works||1||Good works, while not a means of salvation, are required of believer as a testimony...||Compare WSC 88, WLC 153, WLC 154; Revise wording.||Change Needed|
|16||Of Good Works||4||Voluntary Associations|
|16||Of Good Works||4||… The Christian may work with unbelievers in seeking the good of society, but his chief motive should be the glory of God. Christians should avoid any voluntary association in which they cannot maintain a consistent testimony for Christ.||Presupposes a Christian can maintain a good-enough testimony in some voluntary associations with unbelievers --- No Definitive Guidance --- Says nothing about schismatics.
See Note 4
|17||Of the Perseverance of the Saints|
|18||Of the Assurance of Grace and Salvation||3||Spiritual experiences or circumstances, however worthy, such as birth of Christian parents, church membership, participation in the sacraments, the hearing of the Word, good works, response to an altar call, speaking in tongues, and other real or imagined evidences of grace, do not of themselves constitute a basis for assurance of salvation.||Westminster Confession, 18.2, uses language to assert that “the inward evidence of those graces unto which the promises are made” is partly that upon which “assurance of faith” is “founded.” The RPCNA Testimony appears to disagree, affirming that “real... evidences of grace, do not of themselves constitute a basis for assurance of salvation.” Does the RPCNA accept the WCF doctrine about the basis of Assurance?||Anti-WCF||Problem|
|18||Of the Assurance of Grace and Salvation||6||… it is not the proper function of the minister or any other person to tell people whether they are saved.||? And yet they might address them as elect/saved.||Change Needed / Revision Useful|
|18||Of the Assurance of Grace and Salvation||6||… it is not the proper function of the minister or any other person to tell people whether they are saved.||? And ought they not ever to declare they are forgiven?||Change Needed|
|18||Of the Assurance of Grace and Salvation||9||A believer’s lack of assurance may evidence sinful neglect. Fear respecting the state of a man’s own heart is not necessarily the sin of unbelief, for unbelief consists in rejecting the Gospel, not in questioning the presence of grace in the heart.||Positive|
|18||Of the Assurance of Grace and Salvation||10||We reject the teaching that a full assurance of salvation is so inseparably connected with saving faith that a believer cannot be saved without it.||Positive|
|18||Of the Assurance of Grace and Salvation||11||We reject the teaching that assurance of salvation leads to complacency, or is unimportant to the life and walk of faith, to prayer, and to good works.||Positive|
|19||Of the Law of God||The Theonomist movement makes it proper to formulate a definitive stand and condemn attempts to resolve the threefold categories of the Law into twofold categories. Oppose those who slander WCF/Reformers in terms of 1 Tim. 1.7.||Change Needed|
|20||Of Christian Liberty, and Liberty of Conscience||4||… Conscience shows the work of the law written on the heart, but is distorted by the work of Satan, by man’s sinful nature, and by the ungodly standards of the world.||Positive|
|20||Of Christian Liberty, and Liberty of Conscience||4||… Although conscience is not infallible, a person should not do what he believes to be wrong.||More precisely, “a person sins when he acts contrary to his own conscience.” The Testimony’s present language technically makes the belief or conscience of the individual his ultimate rule.||Problem|
|21||Of Religious Worship, and the Sabbath Day||2||Worship is to be offered in accordance with God’s appointment, and in harmony with the scriptural principle that whatever is not commanded in the worship of God, by precept or example, is forbidden.||Clarify with: “approved” example.||Change Needed / Revision Useful|
|21||Of Religious Worship, and the Sabbath Day||3||The use of pictures or images of Jesus in worship, or as aids to devotion, is unscriptural. The Scriptures do not provide a sufficient description of His physical appearance to picture Him. The work of artists....||Better reasons should first be stated: (1) Giving God’s glory to another; (2) The likeness to Heathen worship; (3) The Effects upon worship and worshippers.||Change Needed|
|21||Of Religious Worship, and the Sabbath Day||5||… The Greek words in the New Testament which are translated “psalm,” “hymn,” and “song” all appear in the Septuagint (Greek) version of the Book of Psalms.||Make the point more evident: … are the same words used to describe particular psalms in their titles, as they are found in the....||Change Needed|
|21||Of Religious Worship, and the Sabbath Day||5||[ Supplement, or add new section to give a proper testimony against the sin of hymn-singing. ]||The singing of hymns is a type of idolatry which in Scripture is called will worship. It leads to human presumption and an unholy creativity, and becomes the ready door for other idolatry and heresy. Those who open the door assert that their elders will carefully keep out the heresy, but these are elders which consented that the door should be opened.||Change Needed|
|21||Of Religious Worship, and the Sabbath Day||8||The presentation of tithes and offerings is warranted as part of worship.||Is this a doctrine of the Covenanted Reformation? It does not appear to have been Paul’s doctrine: 1 Cor. 16.2.||Problem|
|21||Of Religious Worship, and the Sabbath Day||10||Worship in small groups is also encouraged by the Scripture.||Fellowship Meetings. Covenanter Societies.||Positive|
|21||Of Religious Worship, and the Sabbath Day||12||God promises rich blessings for keeping the Lord’s Day holy.||Which cannot be said of “festival days,” or “Holy-days.” Therefore, the uniqueness of the Lord’s Day as a time to expect and pray for (on the basis of promises) the blessing of God’s Spirit, should be affirmed, and...||Change Needed|
|21||Of Religious Worship, and the Sabbath Day||12||[ Addition necessary to remedy culpable omission. ]||A Testimony against religious Festival Days or “Holy Days” of human appointment is required. Christmas and Easter are biblically unlawful and are forbidden by the Directory that was received as part of our Covenanted Reformation, and were also solemnly renounced among the five articles of Perth when the National Covenant was renewed in 1638.||Problem|
|22||Of Lawful Oath and Vows||9||… it is appropriate for churches and nations to covenant to be the Lord’s and to serve Him.||National Covenanting||Positive|
|22||Of Lawful Oath and Vows||9||… Such covenants have continuing validity in so far as they give true expression to the Word of God for the times and situation in which believers live.||This is not a sufficiently definite way of affirming the perpetual or descending obligation of specific covenants, for which the RPCNA is called to give its favorable testimony.
See Note 5
|23||Of the Civil Magistrate||2||God has given the exercise of all authority to the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ is the Divine Lawgiver, Governor, and Judge....||Positive|
|23||Of the Civil Magistrate||3||God has assigned to people, both individually and collectively, the responsibility for establishing and maintaining civil government, and the people are accountable to Jesus Christ for the proper exercise of this responsibility.||Positive|
|23||Of the Civil Magistrate||4||Every nation.... It should enter into covenant with Christ and serve to advance His Kingdom on earth.||National Covenanting||Positive|
|23||Of the Civil Magistrate||4||The negligence of civil government in any of these particulars is sinful, makes the nation liable to the wrath of God, and threatens the continued existence of the government and nation.||Necessity of Religious Establishment||Positive|
|23||Of the Civil Magistrate||5||We reject the view that nations have no corporate responsibility for acknowledging and obeying Christ.||Positive|
|23||Of the Civil Magistrate||6||It is the duty of every Christian citizen to labor and pray for his nation’s official and explicit recognition of the authority and law of Jesus Christ....||Positive|
|23||Of the Civil Magistrate||7||We deny that constitutional recognition of Jesus Christ means union of church and state.||Positive|
|23||Of the Civil Magistrate||8||We reject the teaching that Christians should not seek the establishment of Christian civil government.||Must seek establishment of Christian Civil Government||Positive|
|23||Of the Civil Magistrate||11||… Neither their official position, however, nor the orders of their superiors, nor the will of the people, exonerates them from blame for any unscriptural action or inaction.||Must obey God rather than man||Positive|
|23||Of the Civil Magistrate||13||Citizens cannot abdicate their responsibility to determine the moral legitimacy of a particular war and to govern their participation accordingly....||Positive|
|23||Of the Civil Magistrate||14||When justly administered, capital punishment is a scriptural application of civil authority.||Positive|
|23||Of the Civil Magistrate||15||Very good statements through #14, but problem with #15|
|23||Of the Civil Magistrate||15||The Christian, when such action involves no disloyalty to Christ, ought to be involved in the selection of and to vote for civil rulers who fear God, love truth and justice, hate evil, and are publicly committed to scriptural principles of civil government.||Will we judge, or not? Will the Church counsel, or not? >>>> This is not a Testimony if it doesn’t speak to our circumstances and apply our scriptural principles.||Problem|
|23||Of the Civil Magistrate||16||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.||Good Doctrine, But this is supposed to be a Testimony, not a Confession or Catechism – How does the principle apply to the United States?||Problem|
|23||Of the Civil Magistrate||17||… Whatever the official action of the civil government of a nation may be, the Christian in his civil actions must always exhibit his loyalty to Christ.||Positive|
|23||Of the Civil Magistrate||17||The Christian must relinquish every right or privilege of citizenship which involves him in silence about, or denial of the supreme authority of Jesus Christ.||Positive|
|23||Of the Civil Magistrate||18||We reject the portion of paragraph 3 [in the WCF] after the colon.||Commitment to the RPCNA’s testimony in this is sinful: It is anti-Reformed in article 18.
See Note 6
|Anti-WCF||Problem / Anti-WCF|
|23||Of the Civil Magistrate||19||The governments of church and state differ in sphere of authority in that due submission to the government of the visible church is the obligation of members thereof, while due submission to civil government is the obligation of all men.||This is not really correct. It fits better the theory of Modern sectarianism than the Great Commission.||Problem / ?|
|23||Of the Civil Magistrate||21||No civil government which deprives men of civil or religious liberty, fails to protect human life, or proposes to force men to do violence to the spirit and precepts of the Christian religion or interferes unjustly with private ownership of property, can in such matters rightfully expect the submission of its citizens or the blessings of God promised for obedience to Him.||Is religious liberty defined?||Question|
|23||Of the Civil Magistrate||23||The failure of a civil government, through negligence, ignorance, or rebellion, to recognize the authority of Jesus Christ does not cancel its just authority.||This is not the historic RP / Covenanter Testimony --- A Reformed Presbyterian Testimony must be explicit in declaring that specific immoral governments are not “the ordinance of God” as in R.P.E. and other publications in the 1800s.
See Note 7
|23||Of the Civil Magistrate||23||A civil government, though guilty of many sins, still has authority in so far as it furthers some of the scriptural ends of civil government.||This is not American. How many “scriptural ends of civil government” furthered will make up for how much “rebellion” against the “authority of Jesus Christ”?||Change Needed|
|23||Of the Civil Magistrate||24||… No person, however, is required by God to obey civil authority when such authority demands that the citizen or subject do that which is clearly contrary to the law of God as revealed in the Scriptures.||What about that which is contrary to his religious vows, or those made for him by former generations?||Change Needed / Revision Useful|
|23||Of the Civil Magistrate||24||… when such authority demands that the citizen or subject do that which is clearly contrary to the law of God as revealed in the Scriptures.||This only contemplates such matters as the Associate Presbyterians would have agreed about. Is the RPCNA still Reformed Presbyterian? Nothing is said in this chapter about the actual moral quality of the US Constitution or its validity – nor defining what governments should be disowned.||Problem|
|23||Of the Civil Magistrate||25||If and when the civil government of a nation requires, as a condition of civil service or of holding office, an oath which implies that civil allegiance transcends the swearer’s convictions of conscience and obedience to God, it is the Christian’s duty to refuse such an oath.||Positive|
|23||Of the Civil Magistrate||25||… 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.||And scandalous – And therefore proceed with Church Discipline in case her members disregard her just determinations||Change Needed|
|23||Of the Civil Magistrate||26||It is the duty of the Christian to ascertain whether any prescribed oath of allegiance to the civil authority involves acceptance of unchristian principles stated or implied in its constitution of government.||Stated or Implied||Positive|
|23||Of the Civil Magistrate||27||In the matter of taking oaths required by civil authority, the Christian should seek the guidance and support of the Church.||This is true, but as official direction it tends to hinge the Christian’s conscience on the Church’s unknown determinations. Therefore, particulars which can be stated, should be stated, in the testimony, and consistently enforced in church courts.||Change Needed|
|23||Of the Civil Magistrate||28||… When the Church by orderly processes in her own courts determines that the oath of allegiance to a civil government compromises the Christian’s loyalty to Christ or involves the Christian in the support of sinful principles of civil government, the Church must require her members to refuse such sinful oaths.||Positive|
|23||Of the Civil Magistrate||29||When participating in political elections, the Christian should support and vote only for such men as are publicly committed to scriptural principles of civil government.||The first part is like #15||Problem|
|23||Of the Civil Magistrate||29||… Should the Christian seek civil office by political election, he must openly inform those whose support he seeks of his adherence to Christian principles of civil government.||Neither part of this section (see above) is suitable as a testimony in our circumstances, both parts seeming to assume our old practices / application has been set aside or never existed.||Problem|
|23||Of the Civil Magistrate||30||… conscience... It cannot be proper for the Christian to assume that an oath of allegiance implies sinful requirements, when the civil courts have explicitly contradicted such implication.||No – But this does not relate to our circumstances... It [this statement] would not have been helpful for confessors & martyrs in the days of Charles II.||Problem|
|24||Of Marriage and Divorce||5||The validity of marriage depends on the mutual agreement of the parties, rather than upon official administration; yet for the glory of God and the protection of the parties....||But it must be in some manner Public and with consent of parents, etc.||Problem|
|24||Of Marriage and Divorce||16||Although in certain circumstances in the service of God it may be unwise for a person to marry, we deny that Scripture forbids officers of the Church to marry.||Also – Should Deny that the Church has a right to forbid this.||Change Needed|
|24||Of Marriage and Divorce||19||… Deliberately induced abortion, except possibly to save the mother’s life, is murder.||It is the duty of society to strive to preserve the Life of both Mother and child when illness or other circumstances put either or both at risk. The testimony should testify to truth, not speculate about what is “possibly” not murder, and thereby “possibly” encourage men and women in a “deliberately induced abortion” which is murder.||Problem|
|24||Of Marriage and Divorce||20||Christians should not marry those who give only nominal adherence to the Christian faith.||Positive ++|
|24||Of Marriage and Divorce||21||We reject the last sentence in paragraph 4 of the Confession of Faith. [concerning marrying kindred of previous spouse.]||This opens the door to incest – The uncertainty of Bible scholars is a reason to keep a good rule, not get rid of it.||Anti-WCF||Problem / Anti-WCF|
|24||Of Marriage and Divorce||22||The prohibition of marriage with a deceased wife’s sister or a deceased husband’s brother is not warranted by Scripture.||Lev. 18.18 cited – But this may be speaking of Polygamy. Deut. 25.5-10 cited – But this is an exception of positive commandment in qualified circumstances prescribed by the Lawgiver.
See Note 8
|Anti-WCF||Problem / Anti-WCF|
|24||Of Marriage and Divorce||25||Members of the household of faith should beware of seeking marriage counsel from unbelievers or from those who have failed to integrate their faith with their professional work.||Change: Are forbidden to. Jer. 10.1-2; Job 21.16.||Change Needed|
|24||Of Marriage and Divorce||28||Where the guilty party shows evidence of repentance for the sin of breaking a marriage, the Church may receive or restore him or her to membership.||Add reference: 2 Cor. 2.6.||Change Needed|
|24||Of Marriage and Divorce||29||Education of Children [Sections 29-34.]||Education|
|24||Of Marriage and Divorce||30||… In order to promote the general welfare, the state may prescribe educational standards and should provide educational opportunities, both in harmony with God’s law.||Church, State, and other institutions concerned therein.||Change Needed|
|24||Of Marriage and Divorce||31||… To a large extent instruction is based on a secular, humanistic philosophy which ignores God and sees man’s welfare as the highest good. Local schools vary widely, however, according to the standards of the community and the quality of the teachers. All Christians, especially those who are teachers, school administrators or board members, should bear witness to the whole truth of God as it relates to education.||This is not proper testimony or teaching about the Christian’s Duty in these circumstances.||Problem|
|24||Of Marriage and Divorce||32||Where necessary and possible, Christian parents should cooperate in supporting or establishing schools whose curriculum presents a biblical world and life view, and place their children in them.||Definition of Necessary?||Question|
|24||Of Marriage and Divorce||32||This requires maintenance of the highest academic quality along with Christian orientation in every subject and activity.||Priority?||Change Needed|
|24||Of Marriage and Divorce||33||We reject any attempt by the state to force a secular, humanistic philosophy on Christian schools.||What about other schools?||Change Needed|
|25||Of the Church||1||The Church is the body of Christ, which He has redeemed with His own blood, to be a chosen people unto Himself.||Why is term not qualified? [visible or invisible.]||Change Needed|
|25||Of the Church||4||There is a visible and an invisible aspect of the Church, but these are not two churches.||? Does this new language fully acknowledge and account for our historic doctrine ?||Question|
|25||Of the Church||4||There is a visible and an invisible aspect of the Church, but these are not two churches.||Are we not avoiding one error by exposing ourselves to the error of the papists and anabaptists who seek to identify (as one) the visible and invisible Church? Perhaps Qualify “two churches” with “as if” explanation.||Change Needed / **|
|25||Of the Church||6||The Lord Jesus Christ has clothed His Church with power and authority. This authority is vested in the whole membership of the Church, which has the right to choose its officers from among those of its own members who possess the scriptural qualifications.||“This authority” --- Change this to “An authority” or “A privilege” otherwise it is congregationalism and conflicts with chapt. 31, sect. 3, mentioned in the next section.||Problem|
|25||Of the Church||6||The Lord Jesus Christ has clothed His Church with power and authority. This authority is vested in the whole membership of the Church, which has the right to choose its officers from among those of its own members who possess the scriptural qualifications.||References?||Change Needed|
|25||Of the Church||8||… Women as well as men may hold the office of deacon.||It would be much more fitting, in our day, to state the calling & role of women as it is stated in Scripture. The World and the Church need this testimony. Instead this section declares a willingness to learn from the world and worldly-wandering churches.||Problem|
|25||Of the Church||12||… Persons displaying the gift of evangelism should minister under the oversight of the Church in given situations.||Although the last sentence is logically true, yet its bounding only limits individuals and not congregations, committees, courts, etc. In that regard it is a blank-check and no testimony at all. Considering the Evangelists and Ministries of the day, a more explicit and limiting statement is required.||Change Needed|
|25||Of the Church||13||We deny that the exclusion of women from the office of elder can be said to result in the frustration of one’s divine vocation or the neglect of one’s spiritual gifts for ministry.||Positive|
|25||Of the Church||14||… It is the duty of every believer to unite with the branch of the visible church which adheres most closely to the Scriptures. Acts 15:22-29; 1 Cor. 10:17; Eph. 4:4-6; Acts 17:11-12.||This idea has been incorporated into the R.P. Testimony since 1806. Following Acts 17 (cited,) we need to be able to demonstrate it (the idea) if correct, because it involves two pressing questions: (1) Should members of less-Scriptural churches immediately leave those churches where they are members with obligations to brethren? (Answered in #17) and (2) Are there not now many cases where no reasonably-local congregation in the visible church can be joined without participating in and countenancing sin?
See Note 9
|25||Of the Church||17||When any church imposes sinful requirements for membership; when its constitution or creedal statements are fundamentally unscriptural; when its administration is corrupt; or when sound preaching and proper discipline are neglected...||Separation Principles: Reasons for Separation||Positive|
|25||Of the Church||17||… it is the duty of Christians to attempt its reformation. Then if such efforts prove ineffectual, it is their duty to separate from it, and to unite with a sound church.||The “attempt its reformation” clause is connected here more generally than in the original statement.||Change Needed|
|25||Of the Church||18||Many antichrists will be present in the world throughout history. Prior to Christ’s coming the final “man of lawlessness” will be revealed. He will be destroyed by Christ.||This language plainly obscures the Confession’s historic Protestant doctrine and gives countenance to unbiblical Futurist Eschatology.
See Note 10
|Anti-WCF||Problem / Anti-WCF|
|26||Of the Communion of Saints||3||… assemble for social purposes as another means of support and growth. … This is especially necessary when, in the providence of God, brethren need material support and moral and spiritual encouragement.||Fellowship in Private Worship – Proper here to mention Covenanter Society Meetings, which can meet even when a proper congregation is not yet formed. (Compare c. 21, s. 10.)||Change Needed|
|26||Of the Communion of Saints||4||For preservation of life and because of respect for our bodies as God’s creation, we are to be careful in the use of drugs. Christians should avoid enslavement to alcohol, tobacco or any habit-forming drug. The Scripture strongly condemns drunkenness as a sin.||This doesn’t greatly fit in (with the chapter) unless we want to emphasize something about how different Christian Fellowship is from the world’s fellowship activities.||Change Needed|
|26||Of the Communion of Saints||5||Because drunkenness is so common, and because the intemperate use of alcohol is constantly being promoted by advertising, business practices, and social pressure, Christians must be careful not to conform to the attitudes and practices of the world with regard to alcoholic beverages.||Is Drunkenness more common now than in the days when Craighead, Cuthbertson, and Martin were all dealt with about their failings?||Question|
|26||Of the Communion of Saints||5||… To prevent damage to our neighbor, to provide mutual help in godly living, and to strengthen each other in living a disciplined life it is altogether wise and proper that Christians refrain from the use sale and manufacture of alcoholic beverages. [ Also, section 6, and section 7. ]||Are rules being imposed or not? Are those rules / moral discernments more proper than historic Christian practices/rules which did not conflict with the Bible (as opposing all use of alcohol does) by dealing with the influence of “advertising... social pressure” [from section 5] through rules against associations and entertainment practices?||Change Needed|
|27||Of the Sacraments||2||The administration of the sacraments is to be accompanied by the reading and preaching of the Word.||Without the word they are not sacraments.||Change Needed|
|27||Of the Sacraments||3||We reject the view that sacraments are mere symbols and not means of grace.||Positive|
|28||Of Baptism||1||All those who have received baptism are to be considered part of the covenant people of God.||The Logic is inverted here – The Reformed Church says those are to be baptized, who are part of the Covenant people of God.||Change Needed|
|28||Of Baptism||2||The church accepts as valid the baptism which has been administered in any true branch of the visible church.||“True branch...” Not defined: Basically a matter of definition to say it this way. [ Therefore not useful. ]||Change Needed|
|29||Of the Lord’s Supper||1||The Lord’s Supper is to be repeatedly administered.. according to the needs of the congregation.||[ There is more to weigh than the congregation’s needs. Perhaps change to: ] Needs and capacity.||Change Needed / Revision Useful|
|29||Of the Lord’s Supper||2||When a congregation is observing the Lord’s Supper, worship services in which this sacrament is observed may be held for the sick and invalid who are of sound mind in the presence of members of the session and congregation. There is no instance in Scripture of private communion.||? What is this ?||Change Needed|
|29||Of the Lord’s Supper||5||The Lord’s Supper is to be administered only to those who are accepted by the session dispensing the sacrament.||Sounds arbitrary – there is a right & wrong about the conduct of a session in this. This needs to be defined and Terms of Communion were a suitable way to do that.||Problem|
|29||Of the Lord’s Supper||6||We deny that the individual is sole judge of his fitness to partake of the sacrament.||Positive|
|30||Of Church Censures||1||Our Lord commanded church discipline, so no church which fails to exercise it where needed can hope for His blessing.||[ Add first word: ] As||Change Needed|
|30||Of Church Censures||4||The authority and discipline of the Church extends to all members, irrespective of rank or station in life. Children who are baptized members are subject to that discipline.||Positive|
|30||Of Church Censures||6||We reject the view that a church member should be disciplined for everything at which another may be justly displeased.||BOD Chapter 1 Section 6 defines three kinds of offenses which require discipline. But the Scripture references do not define other categories which do not require discipline. Will this lead to arbitrariness and inconsistency?||Change Needed / Revision Useful|
|31||Of Synods and Councils||2||We reject paragraph 2 of the Confession of Faith. [ about magistrates calling synods. ]||Which part? BOTH? This is not how the G.A. clarified their adherence to the Confession as part of their Covenanted Reformation.
See Note 11
|Anti-WCF||Problem / Anti-WCF|
|31||Of Synods and Councils||3||No ecclesiastical authority is placed in the hands of private Christians or civil rulers; church judicatories are subordinate only to Christ Jesus. They appoint, by an exclusive right, their own times and places of meeting and adjournment.||Positive|
|31||Of Synods and Councils||4||We reject the systems of church government which center authority in one individual or in a hierarchy of bishops. We further reject the independent congregational system with authority vested in autonomous congregations.||Positive|
|31||Of Synods and Councils||5||Subordinate standards.... They are never to be taken as a substitute for God’s Word or as a complete or final exposition of it.||* Never Complete or Final||Positive|
|31||Of Synods and Councils||6||It is the responsibility of the Church to declare God’s Word to civil authorities as it applies to their use of the power that has been given them.||Positive|
|32||Of the State of Men after Death, and the Resurrection of the Dead||3||We reject the teaching that there is a “second chance” of salvation after death.||Positive|
|32||Of the State of Men after Death, and the Resurrection of the Dead||5||We reject the idea that the soul at death is, or can be, reincarnated in another human or animal form.||Positive|
|33||Of the Last Judgment||1||The return of our Lord to earth is clearly taught in Scripture. He made many promises to return. His coming will be personal and visible. He will come in glory at a time unknown to man.||Positive|
|33||Of the Last Judgment||2||At the time of Christ’s second coming all the dead will be raised and the world will be judged.||Against Pre-millenialism||Positive|
|33||Of the Last Judgment||3||We reject the teaching that the Kingdom of God can only be brought in by Christ’s return or that Christ is not now reigning as King over all things.||Positive|
|33||Of the Last Judgment||4||The final judgment for the Christian will be an assessment of his obedience to God and of his stewardship of the gifts and talents God has committed to his care. Whatever is imperfect will be burned away, and his faithfulness will be rewarded.||Positive|
|33||Of the Last Judgment||5||Believers are to look forward eagerly to the last great day, in which they will share with Christ’s final victory over evil and experience the fulness of joy which is found in the presence of God, forever.||Positive|
Such are my notes and observations on the present Testimony of the RPCNA. As is evident from some of these, a summary criticism, of a very simple and general nature, is that this Testimony does not consistently exhibit the character of a Testimony. In many places we have to state that it is not a testimony. The Declarations & Testimonies of the old United Societies, or the early Reformed Presbytery, or even the modern Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland, more consistently avoid the RPCNA’s pattern of putting a Confession of Faith in the place of a testimony, or even substituting abstract and indefinite statements, which give no actual direction, in the place of the solid conclusions and obligations which other testimonies express.
Another simple and general criticism is that this Testimony exhibits a detachment from the Covenanted Reformation and its real obligations. Reformation doctrine, drawn from Sacred Scripture, is herein set aside in an evident conformity with the same steps of earlier Presbyterian bodies, who have long ago drifted into doctrine and conduct subversive of the Covenanted Reformation in favor of which the RPCNA once testified. To be sure, there are general principles, such as the Mediatorial Dominion of Christ, and the obligation of nations to love and honor King Jesus, which find clear expression in the RPCNA’s Testimony. My notes above are designed to “give credit where credit is due” and there are various other ways in which this could have been done. But if we are Covenanters,—if we are Reformed Presbyterians,—then we need to be much more wary of severing ourselves from obligations to which our fathers bound themselves, and us, in their Covenants. If they were wrong, and acted sinfully, we should sever our association by plain repentance. But they were not wrong. Our Master, Jesus Christ, doesn’t want us to think about magistrates and their duties in the way the world does; he doesn’t want us to be unsure who the Anti-Christ is; and he doesn’t want us to corrupt his worship by having a birthday celebration for him in late December. Jesus wants us to be different.
As a conclusion I should observe that there is more to the schism between true Covenanters and the RPCNA than what is discovered by making a list of comments about the RPCNA’s Testimony. The problems mentioned above do express such mutual opposition as warrants one company of brothers to account another company of brothers as disorderly, divisive, stumbling, and worthy to be avoided. (Romans 16.17.) This is not to say they warrant one company to deny that the other company are brethren. (2 Thess. 3.15.) Yet still, beyond these things, there are other offenses as well, which have developed within the RPCNA, unquestionably connected with the looseness of its manner in upholding and enforcing a Covenanter testimony. It is to be hoped that if this latter fault were remedied, other offenses would also be removed: Our original Covenants would be put in their proper place; general practices would be reformed into a likeness to older and more biblical standards of Christian piety; and an identity would be assumed more agreeable to the name which is professed.
Why hold forth such hopes to a people who have been drifting in the other direction? Three reasons: (1) Because it is our duty, and Covenanters believe in the Repentance of individuals and Reformation of churches; (2) Because on the other side of the RPCNA are to be found larger parties, inviting the RPCNA to conform instead to the sinful departures which they have long justified, and successfully made “inoffensive” to many within the RPCNA; and (3) Because our own smallness, and lack of ordinances and officers, is the Lord’s wise and holy manner of necessitating Covenanters outside the RPCNA to desire and pray for the spiritual and ecclesiastical welfare of those who are within.
We are not seeking the blessing and advancement of a church we have invented or imagined — a church of our own.
We are seeking and praying for the blessing and advancement of the Church which is Christ’s — and you among them.
RETURN, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings. Behold, we come unto thee; for thou art the LORD our God. Truly in vain is salvation hoped for from the hills, and from the multitude of mountains: truly in the LORD our God is the salvation of Israel.—Jeremiah 3:22-23.
1. The reader of old Scottish Church history cannot fail to notice the accounts of miracles, dreams, etc. which are occasionally recorded in the histories of Knox, Calderwood, and Howie’s Biographia Scoticana. And as for the use of the lot, its special role as an ordinance of God, and revelation of his will, was affirmed by the Reformed Presbyterian Church into the 19th century. See her 1805 Testimony against the Abuse of Lots.
2. In this context, such a statement appears to be a rejecting of the Protestant doctrine of Scripture Interpretation, and something like a return to a pre-Reformation approach to Scripture-reading, emphasizing the difficulty of Scripture interpretation, and importance of a “humility” which leaves this to others. It is understood, that many modern “evangelicals” have adopted an extreme which is opposite to that of Rome, and perhaps more dangerous. Humility is necessary. Looking to the help of brethren, and heeding the guidance of Church Creeds, and attending to the instruction of those appointed and given by God himself for that purpose, (1 Cor. 12.30,) are all necessary to the practice of individuals, whatever their calling is, as they learn the teachings of Holy Scripture. But the act of interpreting Holy Scripture, and the method to be used, is that which our Confession itself describes. The reader may consult David Dickson’s Truth’s Victory Over Error on the first chapter of our confession, and see his handling of questions 14 and 15. The opposite extremes of Rome and the Quakers are both met with the direction that points us toward Scripture itself. The same will be found in other explanations of our Confession or of the historic Protestant doctrine of Scripture Interpretation. In this section of the RPCNA Testimony, the effect of the language is to point the reader outside of Scripture itself for direction in the actual Interpreting of Scripture. This is wrong, because ultimately “fellow believers, teachers of the Word, creeds, etc.” all need a rule for interpreting Scripture, and every claim about “historical situation, grammatical structure, literary form, etc.” must be examined, and the proper use of such categorization learned, from the authority of Scripture itself.
3. The statement of the former RPCNA testimony reads as follows:
The proposition to which God demands the sinner’s assent is true, independent of man’s belief; it is not that he shall have eternal life in Christ, but that Christ and salvation are freely offered to him; true faith, however, although it implies necessarily an assent to this proposition, chiefly consists in embracing the Gospel offer, and thus appropriating the salvation which it contains.
In a strange divergence from this, Walter Marshall’s Gospel Mystery of Sanctification describes faith as giving its assent to a proposition which “becomes a certain truth when we believe it, and... will never be true, except we do, in some measure, persuade and assure ourselves that it is so.” By his own admission, he is speaking of faith as a “strange kind of assurance” and the explanation is quite strange as he follows through with embracing the consequences of opposing that which is the doctrine of the RPCNA’s former Testimony. The Reformed Presbyterian doctrine is that the Gospel calls men to believe that which is true. If we suppose otherwise, what can we do but speculate about how God can “make a thing to be true, on our believing it, that was not true before.” Can God make truth contingent upon the acts of men? Is the Bible’s doctrine of Faith a theory about how God makes falsehoods to be true, in response to the sinners belief of what the Bible does not reveal? Inasmuch as the republication and popularization of such literature suggests these doctrines are still agreeable to some, the old R.P. testimony remains needful in this point.
4. The Covenanter Church is obliged to stand by its opposition to “Voluntary Associations” or compromising associations with heretics, idolaters, schismatics, and those we testify against in these sins, because doing otherwise is contrary to both the direction of Scripture, and the sworn resolutions of our Solemn League and Covenant, Article 2. The original position of our Church can be seen in William Gibson’s Remonstrance addressed to the RPCNA Synod in 1838. Gibson was one of the original founding ministers of the RPCNA in 1798.
5. For comparison’s sake, see how much more plainly and fully this idea is expressed, in an older (but not too old) RPCNA document intended for “young people.” The 1929 Young People’s Manual was thus explicit:
“And this ‘obligation’ we say, is ‘perpetual’. A covenant binds those who take it personally, and equally those who follow them, until such things as the covenant aims to effect have been accomplished Our Covenant of 1871 will bind us until the entire world shall have been brought to acknowledge the universal sovereignty of Jesus Christ, the supremacy of the Scriptures, the perfection and sublimity of the system of grace....”
But it would be most appropriate to use the language of the RPCNA’s 1806 Terms of Communion, which acknowledges:
“that public covenanting is an ordinance of God, to be observed by Churches and nations under the New Testament Dispensation—and that those Vows, namely, that which was entered into by the Church and kingdom of Scotland, called the NATIONAL COVENANT, and that which was afterwards entered into by the three kingdoms, Scotland, England, and Ireland, and by the Reformed Churches in those kingdoms, usually called the Solemn League and Covenant, were entered into in the true spirit of that institution—and that the obligation of these covenants extends to those who were represented in the taking of them, although removed to this or any other part of the world, insofar as they bind to duties not peculiar to the Church in the British Isles, but applicable in all lands.”
6. On the topics involved with the “rejection” of this part of our Westminster Confession, the reader is urged to consult a document drawn up at the direction of the RPCNA Synod in the 19th century, specifically the Argument on the Magistrate’s Power Circa-Sacra drafted by William Sloane. Mr. Sloane gives a thorough defence of our Confession of Faith, effectively showing the warrant of every expression here. Several other items useful to the discussion can be found at the Anti-Toleration page.
7. The reader is referred to the various documents listed on the Civil Government page, under the heading of “Defence of the Reformed Presbyterian Doctrine of Political Dissent.” The reader is especially encouraged to examine the Testimony Against the Moral Evils in the Civil Institutions of the United States published at the direction of the RPCNA Synod, and also some Resolutions of our RP brethren in Scotland and Ireland, about the importance of the RPCNA’s explicit testimony against the constitution of the United States.
8. In relation to both sections 21 and 22, it is to be observed that the Synod of the RPCNA presumes to go much too far here. The RPCI, in its testimony, expresses a decision to be negligent about enforcing sound morality in this point. But the RPCNA effectively requires and teaches its members to deny Biblical truth by its statements. Moreover, they lay a serious accusation at the door of the reforming Parliament of Scotland, which in 1649 followed the same Biblical reasoning as our Confession and enacted that, “whatsoever person or persons shall hereafter be found guilty of any other degree of incest either nearer or fully as near in affinity or consanguinity, as these that are expressed in the letter of the foresaid Text [Leviticus 18,] shall be punished to the death.” Some modern discussion of the questions involved, and demonstration of biblical conclusions, can be found in Steven Dilday’s sermons/lectures on The Forbidden Degrees, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4. Meddling with this doctrine is a historic meddling with the Lord’s authority over man’s concept of marriage... one step on the road that leads where? If the Christian Church of our time, will not repent of its misguided carelessness in this matter, it will bear much of the guilt involved in the extremes of darkness the world wanders into, because we are afraid to be a light that shines in opposition to its Bible-obscuring darkness.
9. Additional questions also arise in this discussion: (1) Assuming that “the branch of the visible church which adheres most closely to the Scriptures,” is yet somewhat erroneous in its official doctrine and practice, (as will often be the case,) what is the proper method to be taken by the believer in pursuing membership on a conscionable basis? (2) What is the proper course of action if the believer is denied the privilege of “uniting”? (3) When a believer is not yet united to any particular branch of the visible church, who bears the greatest and weightiest responsibility in effecting his union with a congregation: the wandering sheep, or the shepherds? See Ezekiel 34. In conclusion, it should be observed that the doctrine presented in the last sentence of this section of the Testimony is too problematic to be included in a Testimony. Whether we consider the matter in a local context, or on a national context, the affirmation cannot be made in an absolute sense, and will often tend to lead individuals into sinful courses and dangerous circumstances. To be sure, remaining alone, or wandering without a shepherd is also exceedingly dangerous. But the doctrine presented cannot be affirmed without qualification, and is not useful unless the church which proclaims it first takes away the offenses which hinder believers from uniting with her.
10. Our Confession’s doctrine is characteristic Protestant belief. To drop this doctrine is to put ourselves outside of the category of Protestant. To obscure it is to be unfaithful in our duty of Testimony-bearing. Some writings demonstrating the historic Protestant doctrine are the 1537 Smalcald Treatise Of the Power and Primacy of the Pope, and Thomas Manton’s sermons on the “Description, Rise, Growth, and Fall of Antichrist.”
The Reformed Presbyterian Church historically upheld this doctrine as part of its official belief on Scripture Prophecy, as may be seen in former Testimonies, especially those of the R.P. Church of Scotland, 1865 and of Ireland, 1911. In America, the position has more recently received public support from Adam Kuehner in three sermons on Antichrist in Scripture: , , and ; in which he also attempts to argue that this is still the official doctrine of the RPCNA. Sermons from other RPCNA ministers, as well as the nature of Mr. Kuehner’s argument on this point, tend to demonstrate that the present Testimony has effectively obscured the Confession’s doctrine, even if it has not directly contradicted it.
11. The proper Reformed Presbyterian approach to receiving the Westminster Confession of Faith is to receive it “as it was received by the Church of Scotland” as part of the Covenanted “uniformity in religion.” In this regard, we look to the adopting act of the General Assembly, 1647, which explicitly clarifies the understanding in which we receive this section, as relating to “kirks not settled, or constituted in point of government.” To “reject” the whole paragraph in the Confession is not reasonable. The paragraph presents us with two doctrines, neither of which a Christian should deny, although a desperate Atheist might reject the first, and an extreme Erastian might reject the second. The 111 Propositions concerning the Ministry and Government of the Church contain some relevant discussion, such as paragraphs 50 and 51. But the matter proposed in this chapter of the Confession is something even less questionable.