The Confession of 1967 (2 of 2)
The Confession of 1967 was, by the admission of its primary authors, intended to directly contradict the Westminster Confession on numerous central doctrinal points. The consequences for a denomination that purports to be “confessional” have been nothing short of disastrous. Before proceeding further, allow me to quote from the authors themselves regarding their purpose (see here and here for expanded information).
This section is an intended revision of the Westminster doctrine, which rested primarily on a view of inspiration and equated the Biblical canon directly with the Word of God. By contrast, the preeminent and primary meaning of the word of God in the Confession of 1967 is the Word of God incarnate. The function of the Bible is to be the instrument of the revelation of the Word in the living church. It is not a witness among others but the witness without parallel, the norm of all other witness. At the same time questions of antiquated cosmology, diverse cultural influences, and the like, may be dealt with by careful scholarship uninhibited by the doctrine of inerrancy which placed the older Reformed theology at odds with advances in historical and scientific studies. (“The Proposal to Revise the Confessional Position of The United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America,” p. 29)
The clearly described intent of these authors is transformed into the following two sentences in the Confession of 1967 (emphasis added).
The one sufficient revelation of God is Jesus Christ, the Word of God incarnate, to whom the Holy Spirit bears unique and authoritative witness through the Holy Scriptures, which are received and obeyed as the word of God written.
The Scriptures, given under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, are nevertheless the words of men, conditioned by the language, thought forms, and literary fashions of the places and times at which they were written.
As is so often the case, the radical break with previous doctrinal understanding is obscured behind subtle, confusing language that appears to be perfectly acceptable on the surface, but actually smuggles in a monumental theological change of perspective. In this case, the crucial point of departure is clearly identified as follows.
According to the Confession, Jesus Christ is the Word of God, in distinction from Scripture; Scripture, the words of men, merely bears witness to Jesus Christ, the Word of God.
As I have discussed in detail, the practical consequence of this distinction is to completely decouple the person and purpose of Jesus Christ from the Words of Scripture. That is, in practice, the Confession of 1967 frees pastors, elders and deacons to substitute who they believe Jesus Christ should be, based upon their own beliefs, for who the Scriptures actually describe Him to be. They are so freed because in their ordination vow:
c. Do you sincerely receive and adopt the essential tenets of the Reformed faith as expressed in the confessions of our church as authentic and reliable expositions of what Scripture leads us to believe and do, and will you be instructed and led by those confessions as you lead the people of God?
they are in effect committing to a nullity. That is, since “the confessions of our church” simultaneously teach two diametrically opposed views of Scripture, they essentially cancel each other out, leaving nothing but a gaping doctrinal void.
The Confession of 1967 is a foundational component of the PCUSA’s demise. It is the source from which the evasions, deceptions and outright heresies perpetrated by our ruling elite are justified. For, as the most recent full “confession of faith,” the Confession of 1967 has negated huge areas of Reformed doctrine. These areas have been replaced by whatever our PCUSA elite decide should be true on any particular issue at any particular time.
The Confession of 1967’s teaching on Scripture, and, on many other doctrinal issues as well, is diametrically opposed to the doctrines of our historic (i.e., pre-1967) confessions. As an elder, I will not accept that I have vowed to follow Jesus Christ based on the leadership of a nullity. Rather I will choose which of the two diametrically opposed confessional standards that I will follow. I choose the historic confessions.
This post completes discussion of our confessional basis for general Biblical interpretation. I will now apply these concepts to the specific question: Is Jesus Christ a pacifist and how can we know?