Plan of Action (4)
Covenant Fellowship pay lip service to another objection to their stance:
“Another ordination vow which is often quoted is the vow to seek to maintain the unity and peace of the Church. Truth, however, is as important as unity. To be united in error is the path to the ruin of the Church rather than to the peace of the Church.”
It is hard to believe that they genuinely hold that “to be united in error is the path to ruin of the Church”. This is the very point that those who have left wished to emphasis - not merely as a future possibility but as a present reality! There is no enforceable doctrinal standard in the national church - the WCF and the Declaratory Articles are mere historical documents that do not form a present standard of truth and error for the church.
Jumping ahead to a point that we will return to, the fact that they will encourage new candidates to study for the ministry of the national church under some lectures who are not evangelical, orthodox and Reformed, shows that they are not series about unity in the truth. Indeed this is partially recognised in the fact that the Highland Theological College which is evangelical, stands in stark contrast to the "official" colleges of divinity. I know that when I trained in such an institute I had one O.T. lecturer who was an open atheist, one NT lecturer who was out and out Socinian, and only one among the teaching staff who could in any sense be described as orthodox.
If "truth is more important than unity", why do they choose unity with an apostate denomination rather than the blessing of both truth and unity with a body that is truly evangelical and Reformed? I had a student ask me the question this week, "What was the most important difference you saw when you moved from the CofS to the OPC?" My answer was basically, "Unity in truth!" Or, to quote my actual words, "I thought I had gone to heaven - after years battling in a mixed and broad church, I was in a body that truly held to confessional orthodoxy and evangelical practice."
The desire for unity in truth is commendable, but CFS cannot realise this desire in a denomination that is unreformable. They will be trying to graft on Reformed orthodoxy to a rootstock that is corrupt and dying.
The problem, in part, is the CFS have no truly biblical and reformed ecclesiology. It would help to look back to historical statements of Reformed orthodoxy on this matter
Belgic Confession 1561
Comments and underlining by RMW
"We believe, that we ought diligently and circumspectly to discern from the Word of God which is the true Church, since all sects which are in the world assume to themselves the name of the Church. But we speak not here of hypocrites, who are mixed in the Church with the good, yet are not of the Church, though externally in it; but we say that the body and communion of the true Church must be distinguished from all sects, who call themselves the Church. [That is, just because a denomination claims to be a "church", it is not necessarily a true church.]
The marks, by which the true Church is known, are these: if the pure doctrine of the gospel is preached therein; if she maintains the pure administration of the sacraments as instituted by Christ; if church discipline is exercised in punishing of sin [This is certainly not the case in a church with no enforcable creed and no biblical standards of sexual conduct.]: in short, if all things are managed according to the pure Word of God, all things contrary thereto rejected, and Jesus Christ acknowledged as the only Head of the Church. Hereby the true Church may certainly be known, from which no man has a right to separate himself. [If enquiry shows that a denomination is no longer a true church, our duty is to find and join a body that does reflect the biblical marks of the church. Not to do so is schismatic and a deliberate separation from the true church.]
With respect to those, who are members of the Church, they may be known by the marks of Christians: namely, by faith; and when they have received Jesus Christ the only Saviour, they avoid sin, follow after righteousness, love the true God and their neighbour, neither turn aside to the right or left, and crucify the flesh with the works thereof. But this is not to be understood, as if there did not remain in them great infirmities; but they fight against them through the Spirit, all the days of their life, continually taking their refuge in the blood, death, passion and obedience of our Lord Jesus Christ, "in whom they have remission of sins, through faith in him."
As for the false Church, she ascribes more power and authority to herself and her ordinances than to the Word of God, and will not submit herself to the yoke of Christ. Neither does she administer the sacraments as appointed by Christ in his Word, but adds to and takes from them, as she thinks proper; she relieth more upon men than upon Christ; and persecutes those, who live holily according to the Word of God, and rebuke her for her errors, covetousness, and idolatry. These two Churches are easily known and distinguished from each other."
It seems that what our Reformed forefathers believed to be "easily known" is now a matter of perplexity and anguish - or perhaps a matter not of a failure to discern, but a failure to obey. My hope is that it is the former and not the later.