When we say that Covenant Reformed Presbyterian is committed to the Westminster Standards, we are not saying that we are putting some creed or confession of faith
above the Bible. We are simply saying that we are a creedal or confessional church as are all of the churches of our denomination. Some churches state, "I have no creed but the Bible."
The reality is: this doesn't communicate anything what that particular church believes. When asked about one's view of baptism, the Second Coming, the nature of church government, etc.,
every church has a view, meaning that it has doctrinal distinctives. Some choose to have written doctrinal distinctives (i.e. creeds and confessions) while other churches may briefly discuss
them in their church by-laws. But they do have doctrinal views as one will surely discover.
Every church has an interpretation of the Word of God. For example, Baptist, Methodist, and Pentecostal churches believe certain doctrines that other denominations don't.
It isn't that one church believes the Bible while others don't necessarily. Christians interpret biblical passages differently. Now this doesn't mean that there can be varying
interpretations of particular passages. Often, our doctrinal beliefs are the result of what has always been communicated to us by family, friends, and church leadership.
The challenge is always - what does the Bible teach? The challenge, then, is to do personal bible study!
The Westminster Standards were not haphazardly put together as pointed out in the following paragraphs.
The Purpose of the Assembly
The Westminster Assembly was called by the Parliament of England with the following intention, as stated in their own words:
"Whereas, amongst the infinite blessings of Almighty God upon this nation, none is or can be more dear unto us than the purity of our religion; and for that, as yet, many things remain in the Liturgy, Discipline, and Government of the Church, which do necessarily require a further and more perfect reformation than as yet hath been attained; and whereas it hath been declared and resolved by the Lords and Commons assembled in Parliament, that the present Church-government by archbishops, bishops, their chancellors, commissaries, deans, dean and chapters, archdeacons, and other ecclesiastical officers depending upon the hierarchy, is evil, and justly offensive and burdensome to the kingdom, a great impediment to reformation and growth of religion, and very prejudicial to the state and government of this kingdom; and that therefore they are resolved that the same shall be taken away, and that such a government shall be settled in the Church as may be most agreeable to God's holy word, and most apt to procure and preserve the peace of the Church at home, and nearer agreement with the Church of Scotland, and other Reformed Churches abroad; and, for the better effecting hereof, and for the vindicating and clearing of the doctrine of the Church of England from all false calumnies and aspersions, it is thought fit and necessary to call an Assembly of learned, godly, and judicious Divines, who, together with some members of both the Houses of Parliament, are to consult and advise of such matters and things, touching the premises, as shall be proposed unto them by both or either of the Houses of Parliament, and to give their advice and counsel therein to both or either of the said Houses, when, and as often as they shall be thereunto required."
The Value of the Westminster Assembly
By its own testimony, the Confession does not see itself on par with Scripture, for it says in Chapter 1, section 10:
The supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined; and in whose sentence we are to rest; can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.
Having emphasized that the Confessional documents are not equated with Scripture, their value to the church of Jesus Christ is inestimable. They form a system of doctrine gleaned from careful study of the Word of God. Though not exhaustive, the Westminster Standards (Confession of Faith together with the Larger and Shorter Catechisms ) constitutes the most faithful summary of biblical truth ever conceived by fallible men. The Westminster Assembly was comprised of "learned, godly, and judicious divines" from England, Ireland, and Scotland, numbering some 150 men in all, all of whom were Calvinists, and, with few exceptions, Presbyterians.
The following are some comments from notable Reformed writers of the past:
"No creed of the Christian church is comparable to that of Westminster in respect of the skill with which the fruits of fifteen centuries of Christian thought have been preserved, and at the same time examined anew and clarified in the light of that fuller understanding of god's Word which the Holy Spirit has imparted."
- John Murray, professor at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia
quoted in Introductory Notes on the Westminster Confession of Faith by Dr. Joe Morecraft, III, pp.14-15.
"The Westminster Assembly was unique. Never before or since have so many devoted, competent Christian scholars gathered together for so long a period of time to define so many crucial teachings of the faith so well."
- Jay Adams as quoted in Introductory Notes on the Westminster Confession of Faith by Dr. Joe Morecraft, III, p. 28.
"The divines there congregated were men of eminent learning and godliness and ministerial abilities and fidelity; and, being not worthy to be one of them myself, I may the more freely speak that truth which I know, even in the face of malice and envy, that as far as I am able to judge by the information of all history of that kind, and by other evidence left to us, the Christian world since the days of the apostles had never a synod of more excellent divines than this Synod and the Synod of Dort."
- The great Puritan, Richard Baxter as quoted in Introductory Notes
on the Westminster Confession of Faith by Dr. Joe Morecraft, III, p. 29.
Our church enthusiastically endorses several doctrinal distinctives consistent with the teaching of the Westminster Confession of Faith. These are:
- Adherence to a presuppositional apologetic- the Bible attests to its own authority
- A theonomic understanding of how God's law applies to society
- A postmillennial eschatology
(victory of the Gospel in history)
- Only Male heads of households in congregational voting
For an explanation of the above distinctives please read the article by Pastor John M. Otis titled, RPCUS Distinctives and the Westminster Standards