No book but the Bible?

No book but the Bible?

If all kinds of Christian churches believe that the Bible is God’s word, that should be enough, right? All Bible-believing churches should be very similar to one another. In an ideal world that would be true. The reality is that we are all sinful people who don’t always agree on things and who read the Bible differently from one another. All of us are theologians; we all have a concept of God and a view on various things. It is better if we are clear on what these things are and what we really believe.

The foundation of any good church is an adherence to the Bible as being God’s word, the ultimate standard for truth and life. If God is the king, and the Bible is God’s word, then we need to submit to the authority of what the Bible teaches. We are not free to pick and choose the bits we like and ignore the bits we don’t, or the bits that our culture disagrees with.

It is helpful for everyone if it is clear what their church believes about the Bible and what the Bible teaches. This doesn’t mean that we are not free to read it ourselves and disagree on some points; it gives us a structure and basic understanding of what God reveals in his Word. Our denomination, and hence our local church, subscribes to the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF). This means that all elders and pastors are trained in this and examined as to their understanding of it, and any exceptions they have to the WCF need to be stated to the denomination.

If you’ve never read it, you can find the WCF here among other places. I think it is a clear and elegant explanation of the core ideas the Bible teaches. It is not perfect, and it doesn’t deal directly with some modern issues I wish it did, but it remains useful. It means that visitors know what we believe. Too many churches don’t subscribe to some subordinate standard and are not clear what they believe on certain issues.

There are, however, other practical issues that we need guidelines for if we are organising ourselves as a church. What is expected of a local church Session? How do we go about training people for deacon, elder and pastor? How do we assess a new church plant? How do we go about practicing church discipline in a godly and Biblical way? Again, we could come up with ideas on all of these as we go along, but it makes more sense to have a standard way of doing them. It saves time and means we can benefit from the wisdom of others. It also means each church in our denomination does things in similar ways. The book that includes procedures and things like that is known as the Book of Church Order (BCO). You can read it online here if you are interested.

You might think that adding the WCF and BCO is complicated. Why not just stick with the Bible? The truth is that all churches have a theology and way of operating; the WPC churches simply make it clear upfront what we believe and how we have agreed to act. We can then train new office bearers in these things, adjust them as they need to be, and not have to reinvent the wheel each time.