Trinity Possil and Henry Drummond
Apologia pro vita sua
We gather together as a Congregation and Kirk Session in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, quite specifically to acknowledge that as he is King and Head of the Church so he is King and Head of this congregation, and we owe immediate, total and personal allegiance to him alone. This congregation together with the Church of Scotland is part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, worshipping one God who revealed himself in three persons Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Therefore, in keeping with the essential principles of the Church of Scotland as reiterated at each induction, we require to acknowledge that the following are essential to a proper understanding of those principles:
HOLINESS The holiness of the church is neither derived from the zeitgeist of the culture nor from the democratic view of the church nor from the prevailing pressure group from out with or within the church. The holiness of the church derives from the very nature and character of God who said, ‘You be holy for I, the LORD your God, am Holy.’ Lev 19:1-2. These words are affirmed by the King and Head of his Church in his Sermon on the Mount in the words, ‘Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect,’ Matt 5:48 and from apostolic writing for example from Peter, the Rock on whose preaching and doctrine the Church is built, 1 Peter 1:16 .
APOSTOLICITY. This means not an apostolic succession by the laying on of hands in an episcopal -style lineage but that all the doctrines of the Faith and our moral behaviour are derived chiefly from the apostles whose theology informs our living and our interpretation of the Older Testament.
UNITY IN TRINITY. This Kirk Session and congregation resist as other than the historic exposition of the Christian doctrine of God any view of God that disregards the full affirmation of one God, eternally and ontologically, in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit: as for example the view that ‘there are three great monotheistic faiths all derived from Abraham….therefore they all worship the same God.’ This is other than orthodox Christian doctrine and sets aside the plain statement of the Word of God and the creeds that define the essence of the Christian faith.
We affirm anew in every meeting of the church our belief in the Gospel of sovereign grace and love of God, wherein through Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, Incarnate, Crucified and Risen, He freely offers to all, upon repentance and faith, the forgiveness of sins, renewal by the Holy Spirit and eternal life, and calls them to labour in the fellowship of faith for the advancement of the Kingdom of God throughout the world.
THE GOSPEL. We affirm that there is an essence and substance to the Christian faith, not of our own devising or one that we may change from generation to generation, from culture to culture, or modify as we might wish to suit our own inventions. The gospel is the expression of the counsels of God, set before the foundations of the cosmos and time, and so the expression of eternal decrees of God. It constitutes the revelation of God in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, and is the sovereign work of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
INCARNATION. We affirm along with the West Conf viii Of Christ the Mediator that the doctrine that Jesus Christ was ‘…conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary…’ is essential Christian doctrine as affirmed in our ecumenically agreed Apostles’ Creed and may not be departed from without the destruction of the very faith we seek to proclaim.
CRUCIFIXION. We affirm that the death of the Lord Jesus Christ may only be properly understood according to our Lord’s own interpretation, which in turn derives from the promise and hope of the older testament as it is also proclaimed by the herald of the Lord Christ, John the Baptist. John preached, ‘Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.’ John 1:36. This concept is based on the doctrines of atonement and redemption consistently expounded in the older testament.
Jesus himself with dominical authority said, ‘The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many’ Mark 10:45. In the gospel of John he taught, ‘I am the good shepherd…..I lay down my life for the sheep…no one takes it from me I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.’ John 10: 14 – 18.
We affirm that ‘…without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness…’ Hebrews 9:22, and therefore except for the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ we would yet be ‘…without God and without hope…’ Eph 2:12, for we are by nature ‘…characterised by disobedience … (and) children of wrath…’ Eph 2:1-3.
On the basis of what the bible clearly teaches we affirm that Jesus’ death was a willing, vicarious, substitutionary atonement as the deepest expression of the grace, mercy and love of God.
RESURRECTION. We affirm, as of paramount theological importance, the bodily resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul taught not only the chief importance of the death and resurrection of Jesus but also a correct understanding of them both, ‘…that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he rose again on the third day, in accordance with the scriptures and that he appeared….’ 1 Cor 15: 3 – 8. Therefore if Jesus is not resurrected ‘… (our) faith is futile and (we) are still in our sins…’ 1 Cor 15:17 and furthermore that ‘…he was delivered over to death for our sins, and was raised to life for our justification…’ Rom 4: 25.
FREE OFFER TO ALL. As our Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God is the agent of creation, ‘Without him was not anything made that was made…’ John 1: 3, and ‘…all things were created by him and for him…’
We affirm the West Conf in xii Of Adoption and xiv Of Saving Faith.
REPENTANCE AND FAITH. We affirm the West Conf xv Of repentance unto Life. We affirm that necessity of a right view of the nature of sin inextricably bound to a right view of the object of saving faith. As Jesus taught, ‘Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in him might not perish but have eternal life.’ John 3: 14 – 16. The one in need is therefore brought to the Cross in our proclamation and invited to repent over their sin’s guilt and pollution, seek the mercy of the substitute ‘…whom God put forward to be the propitiation for our sins…’ Romans 3: 25, and receive that free gift of God which is eternal life. ‘For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ Rom 6: 23.
FORGIVENESS AND RENEWAL. We affirm the teaching in the West Conf xiii Of Sanctification. We affirm that we give ourselves to addressing the deepest need we have in our human nature namely our broken relationship with God and seek in the preaching of the gospel the transformation of lives and relationships. We affirm the Christian doctrine of justification by grace, through faith and in hope, and sanctification by the power of the Holy Spirit in the believer. We affirm our faith in the union of believers with Jesus Christ in his death, resurrection and heavenly session, as Eph 2:5-6 teach, ‘…(God) made us alive with (Christ)…raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.’ We rely upon the power and work of the Holy Spirit to bring about in us the new life and lifestyle characterised by holiness as the Word of God is read, preached, expounded and obeyed.
We do not believe in sinless perfection but we always seek the grace of God to keep us in his will.
The Church of Scotland acknowledges the Word of God, which is contained in (no other sacred writings than) the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, to be the supreme rule of faith and life.
WORD OF GOD. We affirm our commitment to the teaching of the West Conf i Of the Holy Scriptures. We affirm that the Bible is called the Word of God because it is the Word of God. (West Conf 1: iv). The law of God is a broad term that covers a spectrum of nuances, Ps 19: 7 – 9, and 119 throughout (passim)
‘And God spoke all these words saying…’ Ex 20: 1 ‘...The tablets were the work of God; the writing was the writing of God…’ Ex 32: 16. Isaiah 40:5 and 8 says ‘…for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it… the Word of our God stands for ever,’ and the prophecy of Jeremiah says, ‘…Take a scroll and write on it all the words I have spoken to you….’ Jer 36: 2.
Jesus our Lord himself said with respect to the Old Testament, ‘It stands written.. .’
The apostle Paul wrote, ‘All Scripture is God-breathed (theopneustos)…’
We affirm that there is no greater authority amongst us and in the Church of Scotland than Scripture, and it is the fountainhead of our faith and sets the character of our life and work. Everything we believe and do is derived specifically and only from Scripture.
We affirm God’s Word is as powerful and effective as his creative word Isaiah 55: 10-11, for it is ‘…living and active sharper than any two-edged sword…’ Heb 4: 12, and God himself is ‘…watching to see that (his) word is fulfilled…’ Jer 1: 12.
We affirm that the Word of God is perfect, Ps 19: 7, flawless Ps 12: 6, Prov 30: 5 and may not be added to or deleted. That word perspicuous and is always and ever true, for every era of history and each culture.
We affirm that the Word of God is the supreme authority in this congregation than which there is none greater. Our conscience is held captive not to ourselves and our own opinion but held captive to holy Scriptures.
INTERPRETATION. We affirm, on the apostolic authority of Peter, that ‘…above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophets own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit,’ 2Peter 1:20-21. Hence Jesus challenged both the Pharisees in their interpretation of Scripture, Mk 7:1ff and the Sadducees in theirs Mk 12:24. He also directly opposed the interpretation of Satan during the course of his probationary temptations.
We affirm the teaching of the West Conf in i:ix which says, ‘The infallible rule of interpretation of scripture is scripture itself; and therefore when there is a question about the true and full sense of any scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.’ We affirm also West Conf 1:x that ‘The supreme Judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writes, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and on whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other than the Holy Spirit speaking in the scriptures.’ Eph 2: 20 with Acts 28: 25. So for example the true interpretation of Isaiah 53 is to be found in Acts 8:32 -35.
We acknowledge that there are differences of opinion with respect to our understanding of the Word of God. However, we grow up into maturity and unity as we grow up in our clearer knowledge of that Word not in our rejecting that word for contemporary and culturally bound views. However our final appeal is to the plain statement of the Word of God either in the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek or in a reliable translation from them.
We affirm that an interpretation may not be a contradiction.
SUPREME RULE. We affirm that there is no greater authority in our congregation or the Church of Scotland than the plain statement of the Word of God. There is no area of our church life which is excluded from the authority of the Word of God, nor any way we seek to apply it to our life than in accordance with that Word.
We affirm that we may not set aside either all or any part of the scriptures of the old and new testaments in favour of ‘coming to a mind’ in a congregation, Kirk Session, Presbytery or General Assembly, for that would be an act of contumacy against the God whose word it is. The mind of the church ought to be conformed to the plain teaching of the Word of God.
The Church of Scotland holds as its subordinate standard the Westminster Confession of Faith, recognising liberty of opinion in such points of doctrine as do not enter into the substance of the faith, and claiming the right in, dependence on the promised guidance of the Holy Spirit, to formulate, interpret or modify its subordinate standard; always in agreement with the Word of God and the fundamental doctrines of the Christian Faith contained in the said Confession, of which agreement the Church itself shall be sole judge.
SUBORDINATE STANDARD. We reaffirm our commitment to the Calvinistic theology of the Reformation as it is expressed in the Westminster Confession of Faith, accepted and received as the sub-ordinate standard of the Church of Scotland. Its theology of God, salvation, faith and life we acknowledge as being consonant with the whole tenor of the Word of God and therefore ought to be taken seriously and substantially adhered to by all ministers and elders in the Church of Scotland. We have the right to deal with the subordinate standard as a human document and so capable of fallibility. Not so the Word of God. Therefore, we may formulate, interpret or modify it, but we may not corrupt or tamper with the Word of God.
We affirm that any alteration of the subordinate standard can only be done strictly according to the plain statement of the Word of God.
SUBSTANCE OF THE FAITH. We affirm that there is substance to the Christian faith and this is not the subject of interpretation, modification or alteration to reflect contemporary cultural or philosophical trends without the complete destruction of the self-revelation of God in Christ Jesus. The substance of the faith is formulated in our Apostle’s, Nicaeno-Constantinopolitan and Athanasian creeds which are to be understood as a summary statement of the truth as far as these reflect the theology of the Word of God.