Saturday, May 24, 2008

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q5/What Is Presbyterianism?

I have realized that I have been prefacing these questions with comments and thought it might become difficult to preface 107 questions so I have decided to introduce each new question from now on with Charles Hodges' "What Is Presbyterianism." I felt these two fit well together so here is the first part along with the next catechism question, enjoy.

"Setting aside Erastianism, which teaches that the Church is only one form of the State; and Quakerism, which does not provide for the external organization of the Church; there are only four radically different theories on the subject of Church polity.

1. The Popish theory, which assumes that Christ, the apostles, and believers constituted the Church while our Savior was on earth, and that this organization was designed to be perpetual. After the ascension of our Lord, Peter became his vicar, and took his place as the visible head of the Church. This primacy of Peter, as the universal bishop, is continued in his successors, the bishops of Rome; and the apostleship is perpetuated in the order of prelates. As in the primitive Church no one could be an apostle who was not subject to Christ, so now no one can be a prelate who is not subject to the Pope; and as then no one could be a Christian who was not subject to Christ and the apostles, so now no one can be a Christian who is not subject to the Pope and the prelates. This is the Roman theory of the Church: A vicar of Christ, a perpetual college of apostles, and the people subject to their infallible control.

2. The Prelatical theory assumes the perpetuity of the apostleship as the governing power in the Church; which therefore consists of those who profess the true religion and are subject to apostle–bishops. This is the Anglican or High Church form of this theory. In its Low Church form the Prelatical theory simply teaches that there was originally a threefold order in the ministry, and that there should be now; but it does not affirm that mode of organization to be essential.

3. The Independent or Congregational theory includes two principles: first, that the governing and executive power in the Church is in the brotherhood; and, secondly, that the Church organization is complete in each worshipping assembly, which is independent of every other.

4. The fourth theory is the Presbyterian, which it is our present business to attempt to unfold. The three great negations of Presbyterianism—that is, the three great errors which it denies—are:

(1) That all Church power vests in the clergy;
(2) That the apostolic office is perpetual;
(3) That each individual Christian congregation is independent.

The affirmative statement of these principles is:

(1) That the people have a right to a substantive part in the government of the Church;
(2) That presbyters, who minister in word and doctrine, are the highest permanent officers of the Church, and all belong to the same order;
(3) That the outward and visible Church is, or should be, one, in the sense that a smaller part is subject to a larger, and a larger to the whole. It is not holding one of these principles that makes a man a Presbyterian, but his holding them all."

A.A. Hodge, Charles Hodge and A.A. Hodge, The Confession of Faith : With Questions for Theological Students and Bible Classes, With an appendix on Presbyterianism by Charles Hodge. Index created by Christian Classics Foundation., electronic ed. based on the 1992 Banner of Truth reprint., 399 (Simpsonville SC: Christian Classics Foundation, 1996).

Q:Are there more Gods than one?
A:There is but One only, the living and true God. (Deut. 6:4, Jer. 10:10)

The Westminster Shorter Catechism : With Scripture Proofs., 3rd edition., Question 5 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996).

4 “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!

New American Standard Bible : 1995 Update, Dt 6:4 (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995).

10 But the Lord is the true God;
He is the living God and the everlasting King.
At His wrath the earth quakes,
And the nations cannot endure His indignation.

New American Standard Bible : 1995 Update, Je 10:10 (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995).

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