Reassessing the EPC’s Modern Language Westminster Standards

In 2019 I started a series on confessionalism and the EPC. My initial post received a lot of pushback and interest. That combination led to some good friendships developing and a hesitation on publishing the rest. Now I’ve decided to get the remaining, written parts of the series out there.

All posts in that series can be found here. The first article focused upon the EPC’s amendments to the Westminster Standards and can be found here, something I’ve written about additionally and more accessibly here.

This is Part II, on the EPC’s modern language versions of the Westminster Confession and Catechisms. In summary, I argue that,

  • The EPC never adopted the modern language versions of the Westminster Confession and Catechisms. At different points the EPC has approved them for use or publication, but never adopted as the official doctrinal standard of the church.
  • The original language version of the Westminster Confession and Catechisms were the original constitutional standard of the EPC, meaning that they are the default standard, not the modern language. If the modern language versions are to be used as the doctrinal standard of the church they would need to be approved following the constitutional amendment process.
  • There are significant differences in content between the original and modern language versions of the Standards. The doctrine of God, the imputation of sin, the nature of justification, the accomplishment and application of Christ’s redemptive work, and the nature of the church and its ordinances are all articulated differently in the modern language version. These are significant areas of theology with significant divergences from the constitutional and original version of the Westminster Standards.
  • The modern language versions, whether or not they were formally adopted by the EPC, are functionally the confessional standards of our church. They are promoted, published, and used in ways that the original is not. With the differences between the two versions being significant, without proactive reinterpretation by pastors, the modern language version will mislead congregants. Their use should be ended, and if a modern language version is really desired, then a more conservative and less inventive alternative should be endorsed.