It does, however, mean that every minister and elder agrees that the sum and substance of that confession is a faithful and accurate statement of the faith delivered to us in the Word of God.
In the history of the Reformed world, many ministers have found adherence to a confession to be a theological straightjacket. The history of denominations seems to indicate that, with time, confessions themselves become mere relics, without any sort of binding authority.
I can appreciate that some men would not want to be bound by our confession, particularly in the way we have chosen to make it binding. Our denomination is a voluntary association, and such men probably would rightly find a more amenable home in a less conservative denomination, of which there are many.
As it is, ministers in our denomination vow to uphold the Westminster Confession of Faith and its two Catechisms. One might hope that we do this because we love it, and esteem it, not because we deem it perfect in the way Scripture is perfect. I don't think a man has to own every aspect fleshed out in the Westminster Standards, but we do have to subscribe to them as containing the system of doctrine.
In my last post, I highlighted the case of a man who, in the estimation of myself, and at least 28 other PCA pastors, members, and elders, does not do that. The presbytery of which he is a member found differently --they have exonerated the man, and we await the full report. In the meanwhile, the same court, without any sort of process whatsoever, determined that we who signed the letter are all liars. I ask you to judge for yourself.
The aforementioned man, in 2008, publicly stated this:
When will modern Presbyterians admit that this 500-year-old document is no longer sufficient? Man, everybody in conservative Presbyterian circles talks as if Westminster was the high-point, and therefore the end-point of Reformation era creed-writing. But it often strikes me to be exactly the opposite—a sterile document that signaled the end of creative theological reflection in the Reformed churches. And what do we think? This 17th-century scholastic document will be enough for the next 100 years? 500 years? Silly. Just silly.
Notice the language: Not only does he think that our confession is sterile, and signaling the end of creative theological reflection in the Reformed churches.
Now, it did nothing of the kind, of course. There has been all sorts of creative theological expression in Reformed churches, much of it unfaithful to Scripture, but much of it within the bounds of orthodoxy. It is hard to see how any scholar of the history of the Reformed faith could read such a statement without laughing, if he considers for a moment names like Edwards, Warfield, Bavinck and Kuyper.
Yet, that is not the main issue. Let us grant that the Confession is as he says it is: sterile. Let us grant that the document will not be "enough" (enough for what is left unsaid) for the next 100 or 500 years. Let us grant that it is silly of us to think so.
How, then, could this man, in good faith, own this confession? Why, then, does he not find another voluntary association which is more open to theological development than he perceives his own to be? Why, instead, does he continue to say to certain groups of people that he loves the confession and is quite happy laboring under its dictates, and then, in open forums, goes on to deride not only the confession to which he has subscribed, but all who hold it dear?
I have been instructed by his court to treat his words charitably. That is, of course, a judgment call, and an implicit judgment that, in the past, I have not done so. Judge for yourselves. Put the most charitable interpretation on these words that you can. What is your thought?