In my one of my classes this year, I’m planning on working through the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF). It’s 11th grade Bible, and it has been a systematic theology class since I started teaching it. I’ve used a variety of textbooks, just trying to find what works well. Last year, I settled on utilizing Grudem’s Bible Doctrine as a textbook since it had good review questions built in, and thanks to one of my TA’s, I have now have answer keys.
As far as the structure of the lectures go, while I have PowerPoints keyed to Grudem (thanks to Zondervan’s Textbooks Plus program), I didn’t particularly like them. Also, it seemed a bit redundant asking students to read the book and then sit through a PowerPoint that was built on the headings of what they had already read. I decided I wanted to do something different this year, and so settled on using the weekly lectures as an opportunity to go through the WCF.
To help with that, I’m reading along through Chad Van Dixhoorn’s Confessing The Faith: A Reader’s Guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith. The 33 chapters of the book follow the 33 sections of the WCF. However, each chapter is split into smaller readable portions, suitable for a daily read through. These sections each reproduce the historic text of the WCF, as well as a modern version for each section.
As an example, here’s the historic text of WCF 2.1:
There is but one only, living, and true God: who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions, immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute, working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will, for his own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek him; and withal, most just and terrible in his judgments, hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty.
And here is in the modern version:
There is only one living and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection. He is a most pure spirit, invisible, with neither body, parts, nor passive properties. He is unchangeable, boundless, eternal, and incomprehensible. He is almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, and most absolute. He works all things according to the counsel of his own unchangeable and most righteous will, for his own glory. He is most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin, and he is the rewarder of those who diligently seek him. He is also most just and terrifying in his judgments, hating all sin, and will by no means acquit the guilty.
Stylistically, I find modern a bit smoother, but it is helpful to be able to compare it against the historic text. Along with each section’s statement, Van Dixhoorn includes the necessary Scriptural proofs, keyed to the historic text via alphabetic footnotes. Then, he offers brief commentary on the particular section. Sometimes he groups several sections together, since the goal is to have the sections on commentary comprise what could be a single day’s reading for 10 minutes or so.
All in all, from what I’ve read it has been a helpful exposition. I got through about the first 6 sections before pausing back in the spring. Now, I’m starting up a reading plan to go along with my lecture schedule. As questions arise, I’m hopeful that having read Van Dixhoorn’s analysis, I’ll be better prepared to clarify. Even you’re not in the position of teaching theology like I am, I imagine you’d find this resource useful for understanding this important historic confession of faith better.
Chad Van Dixhoorn, Confessing The Faith: A Reader’s Guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith. Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, August 2014. 512 pp. Hardcover, $30.00.
Read an excerpt
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Thanks to The Banner of Truth Trust for the review copy!