DOCTRINAL STATEMENTS OF THREE PASTORAL CANDIDATES AND THEIR EXCEPTIONS TO THE WESTMINSTER STANDARDS

By Robert Barnes

The Inspiration of Scripture: The Bible consists only of the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments. All Scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit, is self-attesting as the inerrant and infallible written Word of God, and provides everything necessary for God's glory and for our salvation, and it is the final authority on all matters pertaining to faith and practice.

The Inspiration of Scripture: I believe in the verbal and plenary inspiration of the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments by the Holy Spirit as He sovereignly carried the human authors along, though not discounting their unique personalities and cultural milieu, affirming that these books alone are the inerrant and infallible written word of God in the original autographs. As the word of God, Scripture is the only binding rule for God's people in matters of faith and practice, sufficiently teaching the way of salvation, and possessing supreme and final authority in all matters of which it speaks.

The Inspiration of Scripture: I believe the Scriptures are God's holy, perfect revelation of Himself. They are inspired and infallible. The Scriptures repeatedly declare that God is their author or that they are inspired by Him. "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God [lit. God-breathed], and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (II Timothy 3:16). We wholeheartedly accept these affirmations and believe that the

Scriptures give abundant evidence of their truthfulness. The exact nature of this inspiration is to be determined from the phenomena of Scriptures and from their didactic statements on this subject. We believe that this inspiration is plenary in nature and thus extends equally to all parts of Scripture. Thus the words of Christ recorded in the Sermon on the Mount are no more inspired than the words of Paul, or those of the prophet Hosea, or those found in the book or Ruth. This inspiration extends not only to moral and spiritual truths, but also to historical and scientific, as well. Though the Bible is neither a scientific textbook nor a text on history, nevertheless, when it makes reference to matters contained within these spheres, the writers still speak as the organs of God and, therefore, what they state in these areas is also inspired and reliable. This is seen in that Christ sets His imprimatur upon a vast variety of facts recorded in the Old Testament as infallibly true. These include facts from the realm of religion, morality, history, science, and other spheres. This inspiration, as is clearly indicated in the Scriptures, deals not only with the thoughts conveyed but the words by which these thoughts are conveyed. Therefore, the inspiration of the Scriptures is verbal in nature. Christ has indicated that even "one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled" (Matthew 5:18). Since the inspiration of the Scriptures is both plenary and verbal, it follows that the Scriptures are infallible in all that they teach. Our Lord declares, "The scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35).

The Trinity: There is one only, living and true God. In the unity of the Godhead there are three persons: the Father, the Son (eternally begotten of the Father), and the Holy Spirit (eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son). These three are one God, the same in substance and equal in power and glory.

The Trinity: The living and true God eternally exists as one in essence and three in person; Father, Son and Holy Spirit, wherein each person of the Godhead is the same in substance and equal in power and glory. Though not ontologically subordinate to each other, there exists an economic subordination in the Godhead as it pertains to plan of redemption, the Son proceeding from the Father and the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son.

Trinity: I affirm an orthodox view of the Trinity. The Old Testament teaches that there is one God (Deut. 6:4-5) and the New Testament agrees (Mark 12:29-30; 1 Tim. 2:5). But the Old Testament hints at what the New Testament makes clear: there are three personal agents, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, who work together to bring about the saving plan of God (Rom. 8; Eph. 1; 2 Thess. 2:13-14). This does not explain the mystery of God's unity and diversity, but the formulation from the Athanasian Creed of "One God, Three Persons" functions as a boundary for our thoughts about this mystery. I am happy with the classical summaries of the teaching of Scripture on the Trinity found in the creeds and formulas of the early church, particularly noting the Athanasian Creed and secondarily the Chalcedonian Creed.

The Person and Work of Christ: Jesus Christ, is the eternal Son of God. He became flesh through His miraculous conception by the Holy Spirit and His virgin birth. He is truly God and truly man; united in one Person forever.

He is the only redeemer of God's elect. He is the Mediator of the Covenant of Grace. He executes the offices of prophet, priest, and king in both his exaltation and humiliation. As such, he reveals to us the will of God for our salvation, has offered himself up as a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice and reconcile us to God, continually makes intercession for us and as our King, subdues us to himself by ruling and defending us, and restrains as well as conquers all of His and our enemies.

The Person and Work of Christ: In accordance with the ancient creeds of Nicea and Chalcedon, I believe the Second Person of the Trinity, the eternal Son of God through whom all things were made, became flesh in the person of Jesus Christ through His miraculous conception by the Holy Spirit and virgin birth, and thereby possesses two natures, both fully divine and fully human, without confusion, change, division or separation, subsisting in one person forever. As Covenant Head of the elect and sole Mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ met all the conditions set by the Father to secure the salvation of the elect both in precept and penalty, living a sinless life under the law, dying a substitutionary death on the cross to atone for sin and then rising from the dead in victory to ascend to the Father's right hand where He now intercedes on behalf of the church and governs all things for advancement of His kingdom fulfilling the role of Prophet, Priest and King on behalf of His people.

Person and Work of Christ: I affirm an orthodox view of the person and work of Christ. I believe that Jesus Christ is the divine Son of God, the second Person of the Trinity; therefore, equal with the Father and the Holy Spirit. As a divine being He shares with the other members of the Trinity all of the attributes of divinity, both those which are communicable and those which are incommunicable. In the incarnation He took up on Himself the true nature of man. These two natures continue united in His Person, yet ever remain true divinity and true humanity, unmixed and as to their essence, unchanged. In His work, Christ discharges all three of the offices of the Mediator between God and man: Those of Prophet, Priest, and King. In both His humiliation and His exaltation He fulfills all things that are required for the salvation of man. This has been taught and affirmed by all branches of the true church since the Chalcedonian Creed, to which I heartily agree.

His Death and Resurrection Jesus Christ died on the cross as a substitutionary sacrifice for our sins. On the third day He arose bodily from the dead, He ascended into heaven, where, at the right hand of the Majesty on High, He now rules over us and makes intercession for us.

His Death and Resurrection: As the God-man, Jesus Christ died a real physical death by crucifixion under Pontius Pilate, wherein He suffered the just wrath of God for the sin of the elect, paying the penalty due all their transgressions - past, present and future as a once for all substitutionary sacrifice. Though sufficient for all because of the infinite value of His person, His atonement is efficient only for the elect - those chosen by the Father for whom He came to save. After three days, God raised Jesus from the dead in a glorified body demonstrating His approval of Christ's redemptive work as full payment for sin. Raised in victory over the power of sin and death Jesus is the first fruits of the resurrection, confirming that God's promise of a new age has dawned with its consummation yet to be realized when all those united to Christ shall also be raised in glory. The risen Christ appeared to His disciples and many others over a period of forty days before ascending to heaven at the right hand of the Father.

His Death and Resurrection: I affirm that the resurrection is a historical fact and necessity for biblical Christianity. As our High Priest, both by His death and His intercession on high, Christ has made full atonement for the sins of those whom the Father has given. I believe that the death of Christ is a propitiation, and thus turns aside the wrath of God from sinners. It is a expiation and thus removes or blots out our sin from before the face of God. Finally, it provides a reconciliation, turning the hearts of estranged men back to their God. Concerning His resurrection, which is the central fact upon which the Gospel is founded, I believe that Christ arose from the dead on the third day and walked out of the tomb with the same body with which He was crucified, yet with different qualities.

The Doctrine of Man: The human race fell from our original righteousness and communion with God when Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. From this original guilt and corruption, all humans became morally defiled in every aspect of their being, unable to do good, guilty before God, and subject to God's wrath and eternal judgment in hell forever.

The Doctrine of Man: Both man and woman were created in the image of God in the Garden of Eden, man from the dust of the earth and woman from the rib of Adam. They were supernaturally created, soul and body, by the wisdom and power of God to experience fellowship with their Creator and each other, as well as to exercise dominion over the earth as God's vice-regents and did not evolve from any previous life form. Our first parents, who could have been confirmed in righteousness upon the condition of perfect obedience in the probationary period in the Garden, nevertheless, being left to the freedom on their own wills sinned against God by eating the forbidden fruit and by virtue of his appointed representation of all mankind, Adam brought himself and all his descendants into an estate of sin and misery, resulting in inevitable physical death and spiritual death, whereby all who are born, with the sole exception of Jesus Christ, are separated from the life of God and are worthy of His just condemnation for the guilt imputed to them as a result of the Fall along with their actual transgressions. Since the Fall, man's body has been subject to death and all his faculties have been corrupted by sin so that he cannot do anything spiritual good in order to merit something before God, possessing neither the ability to believe nor the ability to prepare himself for belief, but can only be redeemed from his state of spiritual death and darkness by the sole exercise of God's saving grace through Christ alone, wherein God sovereignly grants new life in the elect by the Spirit, moving them to repentance and faith in Christ as He is held out before them in the gospel.

The Doctrine of Man: I affirm that man is a created being with a body and soul. I believe that man was created by an immediate act of God and is thus not the result of evolutionary processes. I believe that God created man in His own image and, therefore, gave to man a transcendent value and worth. I believe that man was given, in the context of his nature, a free will. He was placed under a covenant of works and he chose to rebel against his Creator and thus was plunged into spiritual death, whereby the image of God was marred and man's will was left in slavery to sin. Through the covenant of grace, a totally depraved man may be regenerated by God, become a new creature in Christ, and find the image of God restored in him.

The Final State of Man: On the day when Christ comes to judge the living and the dead, the righteous shall enter into everlasting life and the wicked and unbelieving shall enter into everlasting damnation.

The Final State of Man: The Scriptures teach that it is appointed for man to die once and after that to face judgment. Before the Second Advent, all those who die will undergo a separation of body and soul, the body being left to the ground to return to dust and the soul continuing in personal conscious existence - the souls of believers enjoying the presence of Christ and the communion of saints in heaven and the souls of unbelievers suffering in the torments of hell. When Christ returns in glory, all people, both the wicked and the righteous will be raised up in body and soul to stand before the Lord's judgment, the former being consigned to everlasting and irrevocable destruction in hell along with Satan and the demons, and the later entering into the eternal joy and glory of God's presence in a new heaven and a new earth, confirmed in holiness without the possibility of rebelling again.

The Final State of Man: I affirm with all evangelicals the eternality of man's soul in either heaven or hell. The bodies of both the saved and the lost remain in the grave until the Last Day, at which time they shall be raised by the power of God and rejoined to their souls. This is the general resurrection, and it will be followed by a general judgment, after which those that have truly been united to Christ shall be taken into the presence of God forever while those who are impenitent shall be cast into outer darkness forever.

The Second Coming of Christ God has appointed a day when He will judge the world by Jesus Christ, who has been given all authority to judge by the Father. On that day, Jesus Christ will return to earth – personally, visibly, and bodily –and all persons of all generations will appear before His throne to be judged. The righteous shall enter into everlasting life and the wicked and unbelieving to everlasting damnation. In this way, God will consummate history and His plan of salvation, and He will receive eternal praise.

The Second Coming of Christ: When all of the elect have been saved and God's purposes in this age are complete, the Lord Jesus Christ will come again to earth personally, visibly and bodily to judge the world, consummate history and usher in God's eternal plan.

The Second Coming of Christ: I affirm the evangelical doctrine of the yet-future return of our victorious Lord Jesus Christ. I believe that at the Last Day, which remains unknown to men, Jesus Christ will visibly, bodily, gloriously, and triumphantly return. Of this fact we are to be certain; of its time we are to be uncertain so we may say with all God's people, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus."

The Doctrine of the Church The true Church is composed of all persons who through saving faith in Jesus Christ and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit are united together in the body of Christ. The Church finds her visible, yet imperfect, expression in local congregations of professing believers and their children where the Word of God is preached in its purity, where the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper are administered in their integrity, where scriptural discipline is practiced, and where loving fellowship is maintained. For her perfecting, she awaits the return of her Lord.

The Doctrine of the Church: Throughout the history of redemption there has been and will only be one people of God, the elect from all nations, whether Jew or Gentile, who are called out, set apart and adopted into the family of God by His saving grace to worship and serve Him as is His due. Under the old covenant, the church was manifested in a national form in the theocratic state of Israel, but under the universal character of the new covenant the church is comprised of all peoples who profess loyalty to Christ, and though they gather in multitudinous local expressions they belong to one worldwide body. The invisible church is representative of all genuine believers, whether dead or alive, the dead reigning with Christ in heaven as the church triumphant and the church on earth proclaiming the gospel to the nations as the church militant. The visible church is comprised of all those who profess faith in the true God through Christ and their children, though not all in the visible church are truly of the faith, which will only be made clear at the final judgment. The church is the presence of Christ on earth of which He is the Head, and through the power of the Word proclaimed Christ extends His ever-growing kingdom losing none of all the Father has given Him. The true marks of Christ's church are the preaching and teaching of His Word, the proper administration of the sacraments and the discipline of its members. Though the Lord grants all His people gifts for the edification of the church, He has determined to build up and govern His bride by providing faithful men, who, being recognized with the appropriate gifts by the body, serve as elders to shepherd the flock, oversee its care, teach His truth and guard God's people from error as well as deacons to care for the sick and poor.

The Doctrine of the Church: I affirm the Protestant view of one, holy, catholic and apostolic people of God that is Reformed, yet always reforming. Throughout history, God's covenant community has been identified, though by various images and figures of speech. But since men began to gather and call upon the name of the Lord (Gen. 4:26), the holy institution of the church has existed. In a more general sense, and in reference to WCF 25.1, I affirm that the church is made up of all God's elect who are or shall be gathered under Christ.

The two sacraments of the church are the Lord's Supper and covenant baptism. Though the visible church may stumble and fail, the invisible church marches as a mighty army bearing the defining marks of its Master as it preaches the Gospel, properly administers the sacraments, and performs corrective discipline upon its members, all three marks accentuated by a love for God overflowing to a love for God's people.

The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit: The Holy Spirit has come to glorify Jesus Christ and to apply the saving work of Christ to our hearts. He convicts us of sin and draws us to the Savior. The Holy Spirit indwells our hearts and gives us a new heart and a saving faith. He empowers us and imparts gifts to us for service. He instructs and guides us into all truth, and seals us for the day of redemption.

As far as charismatic gifts, I believe that the spectacular or Apostolic gifts which are recorded in the New Testament were sign gifts for the early church era and served the purpose of authenticating the office and teaching of the Apostles. These gifts have now ceased in this present age, which implicitly implies that the canon of Scripture is forever closed and is not to be added to nor taken away from.

The person and work of the Holy Spirit: The Holy Spirit is not a mere divine influence or designation of God's power, but as the third person of the Trinity, is Himself God, the same in substance with the Father and Son, equal in power and glory, proceeding from the Father and the Son to bring glory to the Son, even as the Son brings glory to the Father. The Spirit convicts the world of sin and judgment and applies the redemptive work of Christ to the elect effectually calling them, regenerating their hearts, granting them repentance and faith in Christ unto justification, bearing witness with their spirits that they are God's adopted children, sanctifying them through and through and preserving them in the faith until the end when they are glorified with Christ. All believers are baptized by the Spirit at conversion, though they continue to be filled for service. Therefore, He indwells all believers, comforting and guiding them in accordance with the Word of God which He inspired and continues to illumine so that God's people may walk in the light even as He empowers them to obey God's commandments, enabling them to overcome the flesh, the world and the devil's schemes as they are ever transformed into the image of Christ, although never completely in this life.

Although the term charismatic has unfortunately been abused in the last century, the church remains a thoroughly charismatic institution in that it depends upon the graces and gifts of the Holy Spirit for its effectiveness. I maintain that the vast majority of the gifts are in operation today, though foundational gifts such as prophecy have since ceased with the apostolic age. Indeed, all revelatory gifts have ceased as the canon of Scripture has been closed. Moreover, the gifts of healing and the working of miracles have also ceased, serving their purpose for authenticating new revelation in the apostolic age, though we continue to pray for healing as the need requires. It is not clear in my mind if tongues were a revelatory gift or not. The former option being excluded, if it does continue as an ability to proclaim codified truth in a real and recognizable language unknown to the individual, I have not yet heard it and personally find present expressions misguided and illegitimate.

The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit: I affirm the historic, Christian view of the Holy Spirit. I believe that he Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Trinity and is, therefore, equal in power and glory with the Father and the son. With the Father and Son, he had part in the creation of the world and of man. He was active in the Old Testament in calling and inspiring the prophets in their work, and in equipping various individuals for special tasks. It was the Holy Spirit who caused Mary to conceive the Lord Jesus Christ in her womb, and the spirit was given without measure to the Son. The Spirit was involved with the Father and the Son in the resurrection of Christ and was poured out in His fullness at Pentecost upon the Church. In the economy of redemption it is the particular function of the Holy Spirit to apply the work of Christ to the lives of those whom the Father has eternally chosen. The Holy Spirit enlightens, convicts, regenerates, and thus effectually calls to Christ those whom the Father has given to Him. The Holy Spirit works faith and repentance in the heart and is the agent of sanctification involved in the impartation of the holiness of Christ to the believer. The Holy Spirit equips the Church for its God-given task and speaks not of Himself but points men to Christ. The Holy Spirit inspired the prophets, apostles, and others, in the inscripturation of the divine revelation contained in the Bible.

I believe the Holy Spirit gives many different gifts and degrees of giftings to those whom he indwells, all to build up the church (1 Cor. 14:12). Those who believe the sign/miraculous gifts have ceased are generally known as Cessationists. Those who actively promote and seek these gifts are generally known as either Charismatics or Pentecostals. I fit neatly into neither of those camps. I find the argument for cessation, based on 1 Cor. 13:8-13 "when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away" to be unconvincing. I find the argument that Christians ought to be seeking gifts and creating spiritual experiences from 1 Cor. 12:31 "desire the higher gifts" wrong as well. Constrained by Scripture, I remain open to some measure of the miraculous events and giftings listed in the Scriptures for the building up of the church. This does not include a continuing office of apostle, as that office was only by the imminent appointment of Christ (1 Cor. 15:8). My position leaves me well within the PCA positional paper on this subject. I especially affirm with that committee that any aspect of the miraculous gifts that have a verbal component (prophecy, for instance) would not re-open the canon or be held up as having the qualities reserved for God's Holy Scripture.

The Person and Work of Satan: Scripture clearly teaches that Satan is a real person and that he does continue to "roam about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour." However, Satan's kingdom has been conquered by the redemptive work and power of Jesus Christ and Satan has never nor does he now exercise free reign over men because God is and always has been sovereign over all His creation. God has imposed limitations and restraints upon him. Some deeds attributed to Satan by Scripture include: his works of raging against man, in blinding the minds of unbelievers to keep them from seeing the Gospel, in turning men away from serving God, in deceiving the nations, in sowing tares in the world and church, in obstructing world missions, in masquerading as angel of light, in warring against the saints, in throwing Christians into prison, in oppressing with physical and mental illnesses, in lying, murdering, and holding (under God) the power of death.

The Person and Work of Satan: Satan or the devil is a real and spiritual being who, though created good, for God cannot be the author of sin, nevertheless, by the use of his free will rebelled against God and was confirmed in this wicked state without the hope of reconciliation or redemption, along with a host of other fallen angels now designated demons. From the beginning Satan has been the father of lies, seeking to usurp God's authority and draw mankind away from the true God into everlasting ruin. He deceived Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, whereupon man fell and from that time until the work of Christ led the nations astray save the elect of Israel. Through His redemptive work Christ defeated Satan, and with subsequent spread of the gospel to the ends of the earth the nations are no longer bound in darkness, even though he continues to be the father of the impenitent, blinding them from the light of the gospel and in this sense the unregenerate world continues to be under his control. Being a creature Satan is not omnipotent, omniscient nor omnipresent and can only act within the parameters God has determined. Believers are called to resist him, not entertaining his temptations or accusations. Upon Christ's return he will be thrown into the lake of fire whereupon he will suffer eternally along with the demons and reprobate.

The Person and Work of Satan: I believe in Satan and his downfall. I believe that Satan is a created being, made originally by God as an angel. He fell and through him, the first sin occurred. He took with him a host of other angels who now, in their fallen state, are referred to as demons. It is his primary goal to vent his hatred of God by opposing all of God's works and seeking to thwart the redemptive activities of Christ. Thus, he blinds the minds of men to the Gospel, endeavors to keep them from its light, he tempts believers, and resists the now and coming Kingdom. According to the Scriptures, he has been bound and limited in his powers through the ministry of Christ and will, at the consummation of this age, be punished forever.

The Five Points of Calvinism: I fully accept, affirm, and believe the doctrinal truths taught in what is commonly called the "Five-Points" of Calvinism. These truths include: Total Depravity (all mankind is thoroughly corrupt and evil in their natural estate and are unable to do anything to save themselves, although because of God's restraining grace, they are not as evil as they could be); Unconditional Election (God's saving grace is 100% by His grace alone. Sola Gratia); Limited Atonement (Christ's death was and is solely efficacious for the elect of God alone); Irresistible Grace (the elect can not forever resist God's grace toward them, i.e., the elect will eventually succumb to God's grace and be born again); and Perseverance of the Saints (The elect of God are eternally secure and will, by God's grace, endure till the end).

The Five Points of Calvinism: I believe the ruling of the Synod of Dort, in response to the Remonstrance, affirmed what is truly taught in Scripture and by those following in the tradition of John Calvin, namely: total depravity; unconditional election; limited atonement; irresistible grace; and perseverance of the saints. These theological truths rightly attest that salvation is solely a work of God based upon His sovereign choice in eternity worked out in time on the basis of the Christ's redemptive work and applied by the Holy Spirit so that all the elect will in fact be saved to the uttermost by God's grace, and as such these truths must clearly be taken together or rejected as a whole, but certainly not embraced in part which is the inconsistent practice of some.

Five Points of Calvinism: I believe in all of the five points of Calvinism as stated by the Synod of Dort and affirmed in the Reformed documents cherished by the Presbyterian Church in America.

Total Depravity: I believe that man by the fall has plunged himself into sin that has extended to all parts of his being: body, mind, and soul. Therefore, in all aspects of his life he is depraved. This does not mean that his is as bad as he could be, but rather that each part of his being is effected by sin, as opposed, for example, to both the Arminian view and the Thomistic view that man's mental functions have not been seriously impaired by the fall. I believe that involved in total depravity is total inability; that man does not have the ability to do those things that he ought to do. This involves the doctrine of the bondage of the will. Though Adam was created with a will that was free, man in his fallen state is now in bondage so that though he may do that which he pleases, he is not able to do that which he ought. Therefore, until effectually called he will invariable say no to Christ.

Unconditional Election: I believe that before the foundation of the world, God has chosen some men and angels to eternal life and has passed by others. This election was not because of anything foreseen in them that would move God there unto, but was totally due to the sovereign good pleasure and free grace of God.

Limited Atonement: I believe that the atonement of Christ was not simply for men in general, but particularly for God's elect. Though it is true that the atonement of Christ does obtain certain benefits for all mankind, namely, the common grace of God, it is also true that the special grace that it procures, it procures particularly for God's elect.

Irresistible Grace: This doctrine, known in the Westminster Confession as "effectual calling", states, and I believe, that there are two callings, one which is outward and always ineffectual which is the mere preaching of the Word by human agents, and the second which is inward and always effectual when the preaching is accompanied by the irresistible calling of the Holy Spirit unto salvation. Christ declared, "All that the Father gives me shall come to me." Without this confidence we would despair of both preaching and of witnessing.

The Perseverance of the Saints: This doctrine teaches, and I believe, that those whom God has elected, effectually called, regenerated and sanctified by the power of His Spirit, can never totally or finally fall away. Though they may temporarily and partially fall into grievous sin, if truly they are saved they will be brought back. This doctrine teaches the perseverance of the saints – not the preservation of the wicked nor the preservation of those who simply profess, but do not possess, Christ.

Exceptions to the Westminster Standards

At this time, I have only two exceptions to the Westminster Confession of faith.

First, I take exception to WCF-21:8 regarding the keeping of the Sabbath day. I do not think that Scripture sets as strict of an observance of the Sabbath as is stated in this section that seems to imply to me that recreation is not part of keeping the Sabbath day.

For instance, in Matthew 12:1, Christ and the disciples are walking through the grain fields, picking and eating grain on the Sabbath day. Also, Christ encourages those he healed on the Sabbath to "pick up your pallet and go home." Christ is even seen eating and drinking on the Sabbath, all of which received stiff rebuke from the Pharisees, but with the subsequent response by Christ of, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath."

I think then that this allows such activities on the Sabbath as walking in the park with my children, preparing and eating a meal with friends, enjoying a good book, etc. all on the Sabbath, without necessarily meaning that I have broken the Sabbath by participating in any one of these activities. In fact, I would argue that such activities actually help us to fulfill the Sabbath because Christ said in Matthew 12:12, "How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath," and any one of the above activities are in fact good.

WCF 21:8. This Sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering of their common affairs before-hand, do not only observe an holy rest all the day from their own works, words, and thoughts about their worldly employments and recreations, but also are taken up, the whole time, in the public and private exercises of His worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.

Secondly, I take exception to WCF-24:6 regarding marriage and divorce.

This section only allows divorce in the case of adultery and/or willful desertion. However, I cannot reconcile having only these two exceptions for a divorce when other, real life situations may warrant a spouse having to sever the bonds of matrimony [e.g.], in the case where a husband is physically and/or sexually abusive towards his wife and her life is threatened. In this situation, the confession makes no provision for divorce whereas I believe Scripture would provide an out for such a scenario. I would argue that such a situation would warrant a divorce because for a spouse to abuse his/her wife or husband is a breach of the vows and covenant between them made. In a sense, it could be argued that such a situation is "desertion" in the sense that it is a parting from the vows made before God and witnesses at the time of holy matrimony where they swore to honor one another, etc.

WCF 24:6. Although the corruption of man be such as is apt to study arguments unduly to put asunder those whom God hath joined together in marriage: yet, nothing but adultery, or such willful desertion as can no way be remedied by the Church, or civil magistrate, is cause sufficient of dissolving the bond of marriage: wherein, a public and orderly course of proceeding is to be observed; and the persons concerned in it not left to their own wills and discretion in their own case.

Exceptions to the Westminster Standards

Chapter XXI, paragraph VIII states that on the Sabbath men are to "observe a holy rest, all the day, from their own works, words, and thoughts about their worldly employments and recreations…"

It is clear from Scripture that God prohibits work on the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11; Deut. 5:12-15), except for works of mercy (Matt 12:11-13), that we may gather for sacred assembly (Lev. 23:3), but it is not clear that recreation is included in this prohibition, and therefore my conscience cannot be bound to this affirmation. The Scripture encourages rest (Lev 23:3), of which I find recreation to be a legitimate expression to bless and renew man, for as Jesus said, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27).

Clarification on the Westminster Confession

The following item is not an exception, but rather a clarification I thought I should note.

Chapter II, paragraph I states that God is without "passions."

I do not take this to mean that God is without emotions. Dr. Richard Gamble of Reformed Theological Seminary has mentioned that the Westminster divines had the word "emotions" available to them, but choose not to utilize the term. Rather, they preferred to say God is without passions, most likely implying that God is not capricious in His actions nor uncontrolled in His expressions like man. Moreover, God's emotions are never inappropriate, but are perfectly consistent with His character. I do believe that we, as bearers of His image, reflect the nature of God in some manner in our emotions. In his Systematic Theology Charles Hodge wrote:

Our religious nature, in demanding an object of supreme reverence, love and confidence, demands a personal God, a God clothed with the attributes of a nature like our own; who can hear our confessions, praises, and prayers; who can love and be loved; who can supply our wants and fill all our capacities for good. Thus again it appears that unless our whole nature is a contradiction and a falsehood, we arrive at a true knowledge of God when we ascribe to Him the perfections of our own nature.

In his sermon entitled, "Imitating the Incarnation" B.B. Warfield wrote:

Men tell us that God is, by the very necessity of His nature, incapable of passion, incapable of being moved by inducements from without; that He dwells in holy calm and unchangeable blessedness, untouched by human sufferings or human sorrows for ever…Let us bless our God that it is not true. God can feel; God does love…Let us rejoice that He has plainly revealed Himself to us in His Word as a God who loves us, and who because He loves us, has sacrificed Himself for us.

There seems to be an acknowledgement within the Reformed community that God does indeed have emotions analogous to ours, albeit perfect. In his recent work No Other God, Professor John Frame has said to deny God has emotions is "unbiblical" for "Scripture ascribes many attitudes to God that are generally regarded as emotions, such as compassion, tender mercy, patience, rejoicing, delight, pleasure, pity, love, wrath, and jealousy." While I attribute an emotional dimension to God based upon His own testimony in Scripture, I also, by the same testimony, affirm that God is unchanging in His being and is not dependent upon what He has created for His essential happiness.

Exceptions to the Westminster Standards

WCF 1.8: I do not believe that the Old Testament is written only in Hebrew, as there are sections of the Prophets that are written in Aramaic.

WCF 21.8, WLC 117, WSC 60: I do not believe that Scripture requires on the Sabbath a rest from "words and thoughts about their worldly employments and recreations." Rather, I believe that the Sabbath is a time to consecrate our worldly activities to God and to seek more godly ways of performing them. In that way, we should be thinking and speaking about our worldly employments and recreations. WLC 119 speaks about needless thoughts about these, and that is a better formulation in my view.

I also believe that Scripture prescribes rest as an important aspect of Sabbath observance, and that such rest can include recreations. These must not replace worship or displace it from its central role.

WLC 3: The Catechism appears here to define "Word of God" as Scripture. Scripture itself teaches, however, that there are other words of God: God's utterances in creation and providence, the words of prophets, apostles, and Jesus not written in Scripture, and Jesus himself as the living Word of God. Scripture is the Word of God, sufficient for our faith and life, but it is not all of the Word of God.

WLC 47: I do not believe that, in Scripture, "Son of Man" primarily describes Jesus' state of humiliation.

WLC 109. Forbidding "the making any representation of God, of all or of any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image or likeness of any creature whatsoever." Taken literally, this language would forbid even a symbol of God. I do not believe that the Second Commandment forbids this kind of symbolization. And if the Catechism intends to forbid pictures of Jesus, even mental ones, I think it is reading too much into the Second Commandment. Scripture itself gives us a narrative of the incarnate Christ that makes it psychologically impossible to avoid forming mental pictures of Jesus, in touching his humanity. I believe the Second Commandment forbids making images of the two other persons of the Trinity, as they are entirely spiritual and invisible in substance.

WLC 158: While this kind of fencing is not devoid of wisdom, if this formula means that no one may ever preach the Word except ordained officers of the church, then in my judgment it goes too far. If such a principle is taken literally, then no one could ever preach as part of his training or preparation for ministry. Or, alternatively, we would be forced to draw sharper lines between "preaching," "teaching," "exhortation," "sharing," and so forth, than Scripture warrants. I would prefer to say that no one may preach in public worship without the approval and oversight of the elders of the church.

WLC 169: Although I believe that the Catechism gives wise counsel here, and pledge to follow that counsel, I do not think it can be shown from Scripture that only "ministers of the Word" may administer the Lord's Supper.

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