WCF 1.10 — Pastoral Comments

Posted on Nov 29, 2017 by admin

1.10 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.1
1 Matt 22:29, 31; Eph 2:20; Acts 28:25.

This statement of our Confession is easily misread, taken out of context and misunderstood. So it is essential for us to begin by disabusing our minds of the idea that it is teaching us that the subjective notions that the Holy Spirit may produce in our minds when we read the Scripture must be accepted as always correct and indisputable. In fact, this is somewhat the opposite of what the statement is intended to convey!
We must read this statement, rather, against the previous declaration that the infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself (WCF 1:9). With this in mind, it is clear that what the framers of our Confession mean by the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture” is not some esoteric communication or subjective notions in our minds, but simply the true and full sense of the Scripture as intended by the Holy Spirit.
In other words, what we are taught here is simply that the ultimate arbiter in all religious controversies must be the inspired Scripture properly interpreted.
Thus, the Scripture must be the primary and ultimate standard of the church. The opinions of men, regardless whether they are ancient Church Fathers or contemporary newbies to the faith or esteemed commentators and Christian authors (all of which may be regarded as private spirits) must be weighed against the Scripture properly understood. The same is true with Creeds and Confession of Faith (i.e. decrees of Councils). These are, of course, to be received by the church as authoritative. The interpretation of Scripture given in the Standards adopted by the church should be regarded as true until proven false, rather than as false until proven true. This is the spirit of the Berean Christians who received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so (Acts 17:11). Nevertheless, these standards must be regarded as Subordinate Standards. This means that if it can be proven conclusively to the church that the Scripture properly interpreted says something different from what our Confession says, then the Confession must be regarded as being in error while the Scripture is upheld as infallibly true.

Westminster Confession of Faith — With Brief Pastoral Comments
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