Calvinism on the Holy Spirit

Most other American Presbyterian denominations have certainly not incorporated the above-cited "chapter 34" into their version of the Westminster Confession.   Nor either have any of the many Presbyterian Churches outside of the United States, at all — save perhaps just a few of the kindred and daughterly missionary creatures of the old PCUSA.  

The principal reason, should be obvious.   For, as my previous colleague Rev. Prof. N.T. Barker (Principal-Emeritus of the Queensland Presbyterian Theological College) has rightly pointed out – there is far more on the Holy Spirit throughout the original Westminster Confession, than is now found in this subsequent "chapter 34."

Furthermore, there are also some unbiblical statements in the above "ch. 34."    The same is true of its companion "ch. 35" (on 'The Love of God and Missions') — in this (Northern) American PCUSA (per)version of the original Westminster Confession.

These perversions have been well documented — by my friend the great (Southern) American and later PCA Presbyterian theologian, Rev. Prof. Dr. Morton H. Smith.   See his famous 1973 book How Is The Gold Become Dim! (Jackson Mississippi: Premier, pp. 51-53).

Smith was formerly Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the 1973f Presbyterian Church in America — and was elected Moderator of its General Assembly in A.D. 2000.   He rightly makes several astute observations about the above (Northern) Presbyterian Church USA's insertions into the Westminster Confession.

Declares Smith: "The [Northern] PCUSA adopted [in 1903] these two chapters [“34″ & “35”] -in order to compromise the strong Calvinism of the Confession enough so that the [Arminian] Cumberland Presbyterians who rejected this aspect of the Confession, could be wooed into a union with them in 1905."   Subsequent events have shown this to be true.

The new chapter 34, explains Smith, Dr. makes "the suggestion that man has unaided ability to accept the Gospel.   There is no clear emphasis on the sovereignty of God in salvation.  There is no clear reference to the doctrine of election….   The implication [in the PCUSA version]  is to the contrary.   For example, the last sentence of Paragraph 2 of the [1903] chapter on the Holy Spirit says: ‘He prepares the way for it [the Gospel], accompanies it with His persuasive power, and urges its message upon the reason and conscience of men….'"

"Paragraph 3" of 'chapter 34,' continues Smith, "is more openly Arminian in its tone: 'The Holy

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Spirit, Whom the Father is ever willing to give to all who ask Him, is the only efficient agent in the application of redemption.'     This certainly sounds as though the unregenerate is to take the initiative in asking for the Holy Spirit.    It suspends the healing of the Spirit by the Father, upon the requesting by men.   This then gives man the final say — as to whether or not he is going to receive the Spirit.   Such is not the teaching of John 1:12-13, John 3, and other passages — which speak of the sovereignty of the Spirit in the whole matter of salvation."

I myself would add that this superadded “chapter” 34:4's statement expecting “the Church will be preserved” by the Spirit and  “increased until it shall cover the earth” — may well have been intended to mean no more than that the Church would somehow survive and extend by the skin of its teeth, until it merely establishes an ultimately-superficial presence on this planet.   This falls far short of the certain teachings of the Westminster Larger Catechism 191 & 195 — that the Devil shall “be destroyed” and “the Gospel propagated throughout the World, the Jews called, the fulness of the Gentiles brought in” and “Satan trodden under our feet.”    II  Thess. 3:1; Rom. 10:1; 11:25-26; 16:20.

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