Westminster Theological Seminary formalizes its litmus test for faculty

Westminster Theological Seminary has just posted a 10 page document of ‘affirmations and denials’ (pdf). [For background go to postures and trajectories of the Westminster debate]

According to the website:

The Board directs that the Affirmations and Denials . . . be utilized by the Seminary as important clarifications of doctrine and practice for all who take the Westminster Faculty and Board vows, such that it is understood that they present the Board’s understanding of critical aspects of the Bible’s doctrine of Scripture (the superior standard and only infallible rule of faith and practice) as well as the Westminster Standards’ (the inferior secondary standards to the Scriptures) doctrine of Scripture, as well as  critical clarifications of the hermeneutical method that the Scriptures and the Subordinate Standards teach.

And thus while they are neither amendments to the Standards, nor confessional documents in and of themselves, the Board finds them to serve as defining statements and clarifications of the Seminary’s core beliefs in the following ways:

a. They clarify theological and hermeneutical misunderstandings that have occurred in the recent theological controversies that have impacted the Seminary.
b. They refine core commitments of the Seminary by clarifying foundational theological boundaries established by Scripture and the Standards for the teaching of our faculty and potential faculty hires in these controverted matters.

Westminster’s Affirmations and Denials – OUTLINE:

Introduction (the full pledges of the Faculty and the Board)

I. Confessional Subscription
A. Basic character of subscription
B. Progress in understanding Scripture
C. Specific obligations implied by the pledge
D. Judgments about subscription

II. Confession and Mission
A. Universality of truth
B. The legitimacy of pedagogical adaptation

III. Scripture
A. The inspiration of Scripture
B. The interpretation of Scripture
C. The pertinence of ancient contexts: Ancient Near-Eastern and First Century Mediterranean World
D. The truthfulness of Scripture
E. The role of the Holy Spirit

IV. Special Areas of Interest
A. Special Area: Harmony of Scripture
B. Special Area: Implications of Details in Scripture, Including NT Use of the OT
C. Special Area: Old Testament Teaching
D. Special Area: Old Testament History

Westminster Seminary Distinctives

Some quotes that got my attention:

We deny that there are truths found in Scripture but not in the Standards that overthrow or undermine any element in the system of doctrine expounded in the Standards. (2)

We affirm that a person who voluntarily pledges subscription to the Standards is bound to keep his pledge. (WCF 22; 31.3.)(3)

We deny that Board and faculty judgments about compatibility with the Standards constitute an illegitimate interference with an individual’s conscience or an illegitimate abridgment of academic freedom. (3)

We affirm that, in the context of subscription by voting faculty and Board members, the meaning of any particular teaching in the Standards is determined by the Board, by referring to the historical record of orthodox Reformed tradition, and is not determined by the private interpretation of any one individual faculty member (3).

We deny that an individual faculty member has the right to import a private meaning into the Standards when he subscribes, thereby avoiding the meaning commonly understood in the Reformed tradition (3).

We affirm that the truths affirmed in the Standards are true for all times, all places, all languages, and all cultures. (WCF 1.1, 6, 8.)(4)

We deny that the truths affirmed in the Standards are true only for their seventeenth century situation or only for some cultures or circumstances. (4)

We deny that a person’s agreement with the Standards is adequate if, at any point, it merely means agreeing pragmatically with the way in which the Standards addressed the needs of their situation. (4)

We affirm that the Standards have instructional value for all times and all cultures.
We deny that the Standards have instructional value only in some cultures. (4)

We affirm that biblical theology (attention to the text in its redemptive-historical context) is the indispensable servant of systematic theology–indispensable because it is essential for the sound exegesis on which systematic theology depends, a servant because it contributes to the presentation, under appropriate topics, of the teaching of Scripture as a whole and in its overall unity that systematic theology is concerned to provide for the life of the church and its mission in the world. (10).

Read the Westminster’s Affirmations and Denials for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

Note: All “prooftext” references in the document refer to sections of the Westminster Confession of Faith [No scripture – except “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God,'” Ps. 14:1., page 6].

2 thoughts on “Westminster Theological Seminary formalizes its litmus test for faculty

  1. I don’t see why any of this should be a problem. It’s a simple statement of inerrancy.


    • Ben says:

      You had me there for a second thinking, “Oh no; here we go.” (The important punctuation at the end was missing when I first saw your comment). Whew. The discussion on Art’s blog is where it’s at.

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