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Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Bible Verse

Friday, February 15, 2013

Westminster Larger Catechism: Question 3

Question 3

What is the word of God?

The holy scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the word of God, (2 Tim. 3:16, 2 Pet. 1:19–21) the only rule of faith and obedience. (Eph. 2:20, Rev. 22:18–19, Isa. 8 :20, Luke 16:29,31, Gal. 1:8–9, 2 Tim. 3:15–16)


The Westminster Larger Catechism: With Scripture Proofs. (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996).

The catechumen should note that the Old Testament scriptures are said to be the word of God along with the New Testament.  That would contradict the modern Marcionites and Dispensationalists who reject the OT.

And while I'm making this short commentary, it should be pointed out that the purpose of a "catechism" is to instruct new converts in the doctrines of the Christian faith.  That presupposes that they are also expressing a desire to become communicant members of a local congregation.  On this score there are no orthodox Presbyterian denominations who follow this worthy practice.  That would mean that even "conservative" Reformed denominations like the Presbyterian Church in America, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, the United Reformed Churches of North America, the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, and others are in effect rejecting the long standing Reformed practice of requiring new church members to memorize or at least review and learn the Larger Catechism.  

Pastor Brian McWilliams of Covenant Presbyterian Church (PCA), recently commented that the Shorter Catechism was intended for children.  If so, then that would imply that adults who wished to become communicant members of a local body of Reformed believers would have been required to learn and agree with the Larger Catechism.  The Larger Catechism was not meant just for ministers to learn.  It was intended to be used as a source for instruction and for a supplement to expository preaching.  The idea that the Larger or Shorter Catechism could not be a topic for preaching is therefore wrong.  The Dutch Reformed churches had an afternoon sermon dedicated just to the Heidelberg Catechism, while the morning sermon was an expository sermon from the text.

This debate goes back to the alleged conflict between biblical theology and systematic theology.  If the principle of Sola Scriptura is to be followed, the implication is that Scripture interprets Scripture.  Therefore, the Bible as a whole stands both in its inductive sources in the details and in the synthetic systematizing of the propositional doctrines of the Bible.  The purpose of the Reformed standards such as the Westminster Standards, the Three Forms of Unity, and the Anglican Formularies is to set out a systematic theology of the overall teaching of the scriptures.  Those who reject systematic theology are therefore opposing confessionalism.  That is not to say that expository preaching is to be rejected but rather that expository preaching must not contradict systematic theology, particularly as it is laid out in the confessional system of doctrine.  A single proposition taken out of a systematic context of the many essential propositions of Scripture becomes a heresy.

Furthermore, as worthy as expository preaching is, it should be pointed out that very few ministers follow the actual practice.  Many who claim to be preaching an expository series of sermons through a book of the Bible will skip over one or two verses along the way with no commentary on the verses whatsoever.  This process of selectively expositing a text renders the expository preaching more in line with a succession of textual sermons rather than genuine inductive study and preaching of an entire book of the Bible.  In other words, a genuinely expository study of a book of the Bible might take a year or two to complete.  When certain pericopes of a book are preached rather than the entire book then what you have is not expository preaching but a series of textual sermons based on an expurgated or selective text.

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