When our office-bearers sign the Form of Subscription (p. 71, back of Psalter Hymnal) something fine takes places; a commitment of faith in, and loyalty to, our Reformed Standards.
It has been unfairly claimed that this signing asks us to “rule out in advance all public discussion of all creedal problems.” But a careful reading gives better light. It is the “difficulties or different sentiments” which must be dealt with as here prescribed. It would be well if this were better kept in mind.
But there is danger hard by in our signing the’ Form; it lurks in a signing with mental reservations.
For instance, our Confession in Art. IV counts Hebrews among Paul’s epistles and in Art. 36 says that we “detest and Anabaptists.” To these, and perhaps some other, points many do not subscribe. But they still sign the Form since these points are not basic doctrines to be safeguarded.
However the Form states that our Reformed Standards “do fully agree with the Word of God.” We, to be sure, do not press this in an absolutistic sense as if this makes our creeds as infallible as the Bible itself, which our church has never meant. But we do seem called upon to make our creeds agree with God’s Word as fully as we possibly can.
Some, indeed, suggest that as long as the intent of the creed is loyally held fast, the outward formulation and terminology need not be changed. They feel that if only the content of the faith is held fast, the inadequacies of form can be lived with.
But should not a church which is “Reformed because reforming” do all diligence to keep its creedal expressions as “fully” as possible in agreement with God’s Word? Just what will prevent the necessary changes from being made?
Does not grave danger lurk in any signing with mental reservations; that it be first in less important matters, then gradually, increasingly, in more baSic matters of faith?
Does not church history show many sad cases of how creeds have been used with mental reservations? Do not liberal churches use the Apostles’ Creed manifestly with tongue in check at some points? And even use God’s Word with mental reservations until soundness of doctrine is lost? Surely we must guard against the beginnings of such perilous inroads.
The idea that we can accept the form of the creed with elastic reservations, if only we hold to the intent, presents grave dangers. If 16th and 17th century concepts and terms are inadequate for our day, let us make the necessary changes. Is it not the very task of the creed to state adequately the truth we arc to hold?
If we are not to be guided by what our creeds say, will not subjectivity take over? How, then, shall we know clearly where we stand in the basic matters of our faith?