Scott Clark has a long post here, in which he urges Reformed congregations to hold the line on strict subscriptions to their confessions, applying that standard of subscription with regard to the members of their congregations. In contrast to that form of Reformed sectarianism, here is a dose of Reformed catholicity.
“In all Churches a distinction is made between the terms upon which private members are admitted to membership, and the terms upon which office-bearers are admitted to their sacred trusts of teaching and ruling. A Church has no right to make anything a condition of membership which Christ has not made a condition of salvation. The Church is Christ’s fold. The sacraments are the seals of his covenant. All have a right to claim admittance who make a credible profession of the true religion; that is, who are presumptively the people of Christ” (A.A. Hodge, The Confession of Faith, p. 3).
But Clark’s argument is that, if we let folks into our Reformed congregations who do not subscribe fully to the confession in question, this will create a two-tiered membership within Reformed churches — those who hold to the confession and those who do not.
“There was never any intent to create a circumstance in which the Reformed faith would be confessed by an elite few in the congregation. We don’t confess two classes of believers. We don’t confess two definitions of faith and repentance.”
But, of necessity, this approach still has to confess two classes of believers. It confesses that there are genuine believers who can join our church and then that other group of genuine believers who can’t join our church. What is that but to divide the body of Christ (not, incidentally, the same thing as the URC, CREC, or PCA) into two classes of believers? Often, the next step taken to remove the resultant consistencies has often been to deny that people who don’t subscribe to the strict forms of “our denomination” must not be genuine believers. Happily, Clark has not taken this step — which is why this position remains inconsistent, and really very hard to defend.
This mistake is the result of confusing the session interview with St. Peter’s interview at the Pearlies. It demands of preschoolers that they show their high school diploma as a condition for admittance into preschool. It confuses the end from the beginning, and the beginning from the end. It muddles baptism and the eschaton. It reverses the order of the Great Commission — teach them obedience to all that the Lord commanded, and then bring them in. It is theological dyslexia.