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Question and Answer

Is the OPC fundamentalist?

Question:

Is the OPC a fundamentalist denomination? Does it interpret the Bible literally? What would you not interpret literally that a fundamentalist church would? How are you less rigorously Reformed than these churches, is it mainly the drinking issue?

Answer:

Technically speaking we are not fundamentalist, if you mean by it that we narrow our interests to only a few doctrines and a strict literalism in interpreting Scripture. Our doctrinal standards are the Westminster Confession of Faith and its Catechisms. We refer to these as our secondary standards, Scripture coming first; we believe they give an accurate presentation of biblical doctrine. We do hold the Bible to be the literal Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit and written by men moved by God to write what he desired. We also hold the Bible to be inerrant. We identify ourselves as Reformed, i.e., holding the doctrines of the Reformation: Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, Solus Christus, Sola Gratia and Soli Deo Gloria. We hold to the Westminster Standards.

I would say that the OPC is rigorously Reformed, however. We believe that the church is to be reformed by the Word of God, including dealing with the Bible as it deals with itself. If the Scripture depicts an event or person as a literal historical reality, we believe that it is indeed literal history. If a passage is figurative, we will try to understand the figure from the clearer passages.

As far as interpreting the Scripture literally, we believe there are portions that must be interpreted literally: God created the world in six days, Christ literally became a man while remaining God, literally died on the cross for sinners and literally arose three days later and will really and literally return one day. There are fundamentalists who do not believe the Bible uses symbolic language, and argue that only literal interpretations are accepted. The church and Israel, for example, are not to be identified; Israel has one track and the church another. (Perhaps you might know more about these differences than I do, though, coming as you do from that background.) Bear in mind that fundamentalism was not despised by most of our founders. For more information on our founder, J. Gresham Machen, who was happy to call himself a fundamentalist when the Bible was being attacked in the early twentieth century, see the biography on this giant of the faith by Ned Stonehouse, or a briefer version by Henry Coray.

We do not believe it sinful to drink alcoholic beverages, while we do believe the Bible calls drunkenness a sin. As to drinking, we respect the consciences of those who reject drinking as a Christian liberty, but disagree in calling drinking itself a sin.

I could go on, but this should be enough to help you see we are not traditionally fundamentalist while holding to many if not all of the same fundamentalist doctrines.

I think your best course would be to simply make an appointment with an OPC minster and ask him questions and hear answers and discuss them. One thing you will find we agree on with our fundamentalist brothers and sisters is this: sinners must come to Christ and rest in him alone to be saved. Not a bad starting point, is it?


About Q&A

"Questions and Answers" is a weekly feature of the OPC website. At least one new question is posted each week, so there should always be something new here for you to read. (For those who would like to look at previous questions and answers, they will continue to be available as well.)

The questions come from individuals like yourself. If you have questions about biblical and theological matters, you are invited to send them by e-mail by using the "Pose a Question" link on the OPC home page or by clicking here.

The purpose of the OPC website's "Questions and Answers" is to respond to biblical and theological questions. Matters of church discipline, disputes, or debates go beyond the scope of our work. We recommend that you present your concerns in these areas to the appropriate judicatory. In most cases this will be to a local pastor, elder, or session. We do not want the website to replace personal involvement in, or commitment to, the local, visible church.

While we will respond to every serious questioner, we are not bound to give a substantive answer to every question, should we deem the question to be beyond the scope of our purpose or our own ability to answer.

You will receive an answer by email. Please be patient as many of our respondents are busy pastors. The response to your question may take up to two weeks. Some of the questions submitted will be chosen to be posted here, along with the corresponding answers.

The answers come from individual ministers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church expressing their own convictions and do not necessarily represent an "official" position of the Church, especially in areas where the Standards of the Church (the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms) are silent.

Note that the "Questions and Answers" posted on the site have been edited—all personal references are removed, Scripture references may be added, and sometimes portions are expanded—to make the questions and answers more useful to a larger audience.

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