Thursday, May 24, 2007

Fesko on Old School Subscription

In his article entitled The Legacy of Old School Confession Subscription in the OPC (JETS 46/4 [December 2003]), J.V. Fesko challenges the strict subscriptionist's claim that theirs was the historic practice within Old School Presbyterianism, a practice crucial in stemming the system subscription of the New School which inevitably paves the way for theological liberalism.

Fesko's thesis, however, is not intended to endorse New School subscription, but to challenge the common version of strict subscription that masquerades as "the historical Presbyterian position" in contemporary Reformed churches.

Citing Hodge's and Warfield's belief in theistic evolution, Thornwell's rejection of 24-hour creation days, Machen's allowing OPC ministers to hold an eschatological view which he considered "opposed" to the Westminster Standards (i.e., premillennialism), and Murray's complete re-casting of traditonal covenant theology and rejection of the covenant of works, Fesko argues that historic Old School subscription "is conservative, in that it requires the adoption of every article and doctrine, yet it is liberal in that it does not require the adoption of every proposition."

In a word, contemporary strict subscriptionists are correct in their historical claim, but mistaken in how they implement it.
"... Officers must subscribe to the Standards because (quia) they contain the doctrines of Scripture as understood by the Church, but they can bind the consciences only in so far as (quatenus) its propositions accord with the teaching of Scripture."

I can't tell if I really like this, or if it is mere doublespeak. But either way, Pipa can't be happy....