A Journal for Church Officers
The Nature, Limits, and Place of Exceptions and Scruples in Subscription to Our Doctrinal Standards
by Gregory E. Reynolds
Reading the Puritans and A Puritan Theology
by William B. Kessler
Center Church by Timothy Keller
by Shane Lems
A Personal Appreciation of D. A. Macfarlane by J. Cameron Fraser
by Gregory E. Reynolds
by George Herbert (1593–1633)
From the Editor. In 1999 the Committee on Candidates and Credentials of the Presbytery of New York and New England asked me write a paper on the nature of confessional subscription in order to help clarify distinctions such as scruples and exceptions. This has been required reading for all candidates ever since, so I thought it might be useful to church officers. This reminded me that the origin of our confession and catechisms, the doctrinal standards to which officers subscribe, is the Puritans and their magnificent theology. It should be noted, and sometime soon corrected in the Wikipedia article on the OPC, that our doctrinal standard, though largely based on the 1640s confession and catechisms is titled, on its cover, The Confession of Faith and Catechisms of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church; and on its title page The Confession of Faith and Catechisms: The Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms as Adopted by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. This is no small distinction because in 1788 the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America adopted a revised version of the original Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms. Chapters 20.4, 23.3, and 31.2 removed the civil magistrate “from involvement in ecclesiastical matters” (Preface, The Confession of Faith and Catechisms of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, viii). Subsequently a few more minor changes were made (see the Preface), and accepted in the founding era of the OPC. The most notable characteristic of our doctrinal standard is the revision of the proof texts in each of the three documents, the confession and catechisms. This is why added to the titles on the cover and the title page are the words “with Proof Texts.” This is why the General Assembly of 2001 authorized the Committee on Christian Education to publish these standards as our confession, since many of the editions used by ministers were the original seventeenth-century versions.
Also in this issue, William Kessler reviews a unique book by Joel Beeke and Mark Jones titled A Puritan Theology, which gathers the riches of the best Puritan theology under the standard rubrics of systematic theology. Kessler’s appreciative review contains a warning that we must not imitate everything about the ways that the Puritans communicated their theology, since those ways are often unique to their age. In our context he calls us “to prudent communion with our fathers, the Puritans.”
Shane Lems reviews Tim Keller’s new book Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City. Our newly installed general secretary of our Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension, John Shaw, will be writing on evangelism in the city in the August-September issue of Ordained Servant Online.
I review a little, but useful, book of appreciation of Free Church of Scotland Minister D. A. Macfarlane, the uncle of the author, Cameron Fraser, a classmate of mine at Westminster Theological Seminary in the late 1970s.
Finally, don’t miss George Herbert’s poem “Conscience” with its memorable concluding couplet: “The bloody cross of my dear Lord / Is both my physic and my sword.” For anyone interested in studying Herbert’s poems closely, I highly recommend Jim Scott Orrick’s A Year with George Herbert: A Guide to Fifty-Two of His Best Loved Poems, reviewed in the October 2013 OS Online.
Blessings in the Lamb,
Gregory Edward Reynolds
FROM THE ARCHIVES “CONFESSIONS AND CONFESSIONALISM”
Ordained Servant exists to help encourage, inform, and equip church officers for faithful, effective, and God-glorifying ministry in the visible church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Its primary audience is ministers, elders, and deacons of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, as well as interested officers from other Presbyterian and Reformed churches. Through high-quality editorials, articles, and book reviews we endeavor to stimulate clear thinking and the consistent practice of historic, confessional Presbyterianism.
Contact the Editor: Gregory Edward Reynolds
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Manchester, NH 03104-2522
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