Membership Vows

            One of the things we are seeking to do in Vanguard Presbytery is to always go back to the Scripture. For that reason, our proposed Book of Church Order (as of August 5, 2020) adds a membership vow which has been left out of every other Presbyterian book of polity with which I am familiar (and most other denominations’ books of polity as well). That additional vow will require every member of Vanguard Presbytery to take the same vow which officers take with respect to the Scripture, as follows:

Do you believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as originally given, to be the inerrant Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice?

            Why is it important that every member of the church take such a vow? It is important because they cannot truly submit to the government and discipline of the church if they deny that the Scripture is the inerrant Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice.

            Our Proposed BCO says the following in chapter 31, section 1:

An offense, the proper object of judicial process, is anything in the principles or practice of a Church member professing faith in Christ, which is contrary to the Word of God. . . Nothing, therefore, ought to be considered by any court as an offense, or admitted as a matter of accusation, which cannot be proved to be such from Scripture.

            I have sat on judicial commissions of the highest judicatory of another denomination in which it would be seriously argued by the members thereof that the Scripture could not be referenced in judicial cases because it was not a part of the Constitution. How silly! The Scripture is THE STANDARD. The Westminster Confession of Faith, the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, and the Book of Church Order are subordinate standards, subordinate to the Scripture. The subordinate standards can never give a full exposition of all the things that Scripture teaches. Moreover, one of those subordinate standards, the Westminster Confession of Faith, makes it very clear that the Scripture must be referenced in every matter of controversy:  

The supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture (WCF 1.10)

            The Holy Spirit speaks in the Scripture. He does not speak in subordinate standards which are necessarily neither inerrant nor infallible. The great touchstone of all truth is the Holy Scripture. The Scripture is always and inherently inerrant and infallible. The compositions of men are true only in proportion to their agreement with the Scripture. The Westminster Confession of Faith is not an inspired, inerrant, and infallible document. The Book of Church Order of any denomination is not an inspired, inerrant, and infallible document. After all, the BCO’s of most denominations are changed periodically and often even annually.  

            The Scripture is unchanged and unchanging. God verbally inspired the Scripture. It is God-breathed. The subordinate standards do not address every matter. The Westminster Confession of Faith does not have a chapter on the sin of homosexuality, but the Scripture treats the matter in various places. There are many other issues that Scripture alone addresses. That is why church members must take a vow that they believe the Scripture is “the only infallible rule of faith and practice.” The discipline of the Church will fail where the Scripture is ignored in all matters of controversy. Have we not seen abundant evidence of that truth in recent days?

Dewey Roberts, Pastor at Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Destin, FL  

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