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February 2022 New Horizons

The Theology of the Westminster Standards

 

Contents

The Theology of the Westminster Standards

A Few of Our Favorite Things

The Westminster Standards and the "Ordinary Means"

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The Theology of the Westminster Standards

The Westminster Standards were penned at the end of England’s second reformation, in the years 1646–1648. As rich summaries of the Bible’s teaching, with helpful footnotes to key biblical passages, the Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms represent the high-water mark of Protestant creed-making. The Catechisms and Confession, as three distinct parts of the Westminster Standards, together teach a system of doctrine. They have been celebrated by Presbyterians, imitated by Congregationalists and Baptists, and, in the case of the Shorter Catechism, even reissued for publication by no less than John Wesley, the spiritual father of the Arminian branch of the Methodist family tree. What is of interest to me is that John Wesley had to edit the Shorter Catechism before it could be safe for the high-church, Episcopally-minded, predestination-denying communion that he was trying to form. His systematic revision is testimony to the fact that Wesley understood even the Catechism contained a ... Read more

A Few of Our Favorite Things

“Count your blessings,” we have been told. For a Christian, this is no easy task—not because we have so few, but because we have so many! And they are so amazing, we struggle to find words to describe them fully. We need help. And we have that help in the Westminster Confession of Faith. The Confession provides an inventory of our spiritual blessings in Christ. With the assistance of a hundred seventeenth-century pastors, we can begin to describe our greatest blessings in depth and detail. We can read the table of contents of the Confession as a list of reasons to give thanks to God: Holy Scripture, creation, providence, effectual calling, justification, adoption, sanctification, saving faith, repentance unto life, and good works—just to name a few. Are these realities not all blessings to the Christian? Studying the Confession chapter by chapter gives us the help we need to count our spiritual blessings with clarity, so that in both the hard times and the good times, we can heartily praise ... Read more

The Westminster Standards and the "Ordinary Means"

On July 7, 1643, Oliver Bowles preached for the convocation of what would become known as the Westminster Assembly. He was nearly seventy when the assembly convened, and he wrote in the preface to the sermon that he was chosen for the honor in order “that dayes and multitudes of years should speak” (quoted in Philip Ryken, “The Puritan Pastorate”). His sermon, later published as Zeale for God’s House Quickened; or, a Sermon . . . expressing the Eminency of Zeale required in Church-Reformers, in many ways framed the deliberations to follow. Bowles’s choice of topic was no coincidence. Ministerial concerns were at the heart of the assembly’s work. This concern for zeal in the pursuit of the aims of gospel ministry is on display in a number of ways, both in the discussions recorded in the minutes, and in the actual text of the Standards themselves. In two chapters of the Westminster Confession, zeal for biblically regulated ministry led to the use of what attorneys might call a term of art— ... Read more

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