I posted a few days ago that we're going over the Westminster Confession of Faith
in a leadership class at my church. It's a document that was written in the 17th Century. (A little wiki history
) It isn't inspired by God so it's not considered infallible, but it was written by a large group of scholars who studied and prayed over it for years so it does carry some weight (at least in Reformed circles).
So last night's class went over the first five chapters. It was challenging to cover that much material in a rather short time and we had some good discussion. I thought I'd share the ones that challenged me the most as a way of working through them.
From chapter one...
Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men unexcusable; Â
This is a big struggle for me. What it says basically is that creation itself shows us God's nature in such a way that no man should be able to say, "There is no god." This is called "General Revelation". It doesn't mean that nature is enough for us to now that this creator god is the Christian/Jewish God. That's "Specific Revelation" and is given to us in the Bible. The reason I have a hard time with it is I know that there are people that don't see any kind of creator as having been necessary to get us here and now. My friend (and Assoc. Pastor) Ben says that anyone who says that is really lying to themselves. I'm not so sure.
Later that same chapter:
which makes the Holy Scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God's revealing His will unto His people being now ceased.
I can't quite track what that last bit means. What has ceased. It seems to me that it's referring to God manifesting himself in physical ways (pillar of fire, burning bush, etc.) or through His prophets.
From chapter three:
I. God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.
I agree with what is said here, but this is one of those apparent paradoxes that comes with a belief in God's sovereignty. He ordains everything but didn't author sin, intrude on our free will, or interfere with second causes (natural laws).
VII. The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of His own will, whereby He extends or withholds mercy, as He pleases, for the glory of His sovereign power over His creatures, to pass by; and to ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin, to the praised of His glorious justice.
This is more interesting than difficult to me. The language regarding reprobation
here is more passive than the language regarding election
. God "withholds mercy" and passes by the reprobate.