|We are a denomination fully committed to the Westminster Standards, which is The Westminster Confession, The Larger Catechism, and The Shorter Catechism.
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Explained and Proved in Scripture
George W Bancroft, B.Sci, M.Div. Th. M.
With the Fundamentals of the Faith Marked Out and Heresies Refuted
(Date: April 14, 2022; January 4, 2023)
The Epistle to the Reader
The reformed evangelical Shorter Catechism was written by ministers of the gospel in the Church of England Westminster Assembly, with commissioner gospel minsters and church governors (ruling elders) from the Church of Scotland, during the years 1643-1647. It was soon adopted by the Church of Scotland (1648) and the ‘Presbyterian’ Church of England (1648) to be the introductory church catechism for communicant church membership, which would promote gospel doctrinal and Apostolic church ordinance unity in every congregation (Rom. 12:16; 16:17; I Cor. 1:10; 11:18-19; Gal. 5:15-21, KJB, Geneva B). Prior to this, they had been using the Heidelberg Catechism (1563), as the introductory catechism in England and Scotland for communicant membership. At the Westminster Assembly, the ministers of the gospel and church governors (I Cor 12:28, KJB, Geneva B) were predominantly committed to Presbyterian church form of government; but there were a minority who were committed to Congregational-Independency church government. The minority ministers of the Word, and some church governors, later published the Savoy Declaration of Faith and Order (1658) to be slightly distinct from the Presbyterian Westminster Confession, yet continue to advance the reformed evangelical faith as genuine Protestant evangelicals. In the 17th century, the Congregational-Independents did not write another reformed catechism, but continued to employ the Shorter and Larger Catechisms for doctrinal unity from 1648-1700 (see Thomas Ridgely, “A Body of Divinity, explaining the Larger Catechism”). The Westminster Shorter Catechism was the catechism in use in the Massachusetts Colony by the mid-17th century for communicant membership.
The Shorter Catechism became the introductory catechism to teach professing Christian basic adherents, even older children coming to years of discretion in reformed evangelical homes, to confess the gospel body of divinity for preparation for the Lord’s Supper. The Shorter Catechism was adopted in the following manner by the Church of Scotland in 1648:
The General Assembly having seriously considered the Shorter Catechism agreed upon by the Assembly of Divines sitting at Westminster, with assistance of commissioners of the Kirk; do find, upon due examination thereof, that the said Catechism is agreeable to the word of God and in nothing contrary to the received doctrine, worship, and government of this Kirk: And therefore approve the said Shorter Catechism, as a part of the intended uniformity, to be a Directory for catechising such as are of weaker capacity.
Whilst the Larger Catechism became the catechism for preaching through the heads of doctrine, the Shorter Catechism became the Presbyterian and Congregational-Independent reformed evangelical churches’ catechism to advance and defend the reformed evangelical fundamentals of the faith, plus important additional distinctives in the Catechism for unity in church ordinances and as well as unified instruction in prayer.
In this explanation of the Shorter Catechism, the 16th and 17th centuries Protestant use of the term ‘evangelical’ will be used throughout, even the reformers use of the terms, ‘sect’ and ‘heresies’. Having lost the understanding by the mid-20th century of ‘sect’ and ‘heresies’, many were reduced to speaking of ‘reformed’ churches and ‘evangelical’ churches without any documented doctrinal clarity of the use of these labels. Furthermore, there is no clarity of the gospel body of divinity nor a biblical assurance of Salvation for far too many church attendees. The neo-evangelical congregations and many neo-reformed congregations are not striving together for gospel doctrinal unity; and they are definitely not of one mind within congregations (see Romans 12:16; I Cor. 1:10; Phil 1:27; 2:2; I Pet 3:8, KJB, Geneva B, NKJV). The effort to work for gospel doctrinal unity is then left for God-fearing heads of households to desperately try and foster unity within families (Eph. 5:4; Heb. 12:14, KJB, Geneva B), with sadly some doing little or nothing about family worship nor catechizing in the home.
The reader should take note that the mid-20th century distinction between the “reformed” realm and the “evangelical” or “broad evangelicalism” is unbiblical and severely flawed. First, the label “evangelical” should never be given up to neo-evangelical Baptist churches, namely Anabaptists, who had been called ‘sects’ in the 16th through 19th centuries, being publicly opposed to the reformed evangelical fundamentals of the faith; and second, many professing “reformed” (namely, neo-reformed) churches began departing from reformed evangelical fundamentals of the faith by the late 19th century as well. Many have departed from biblical saving faith, including changing repentance to merely turning from sin to Jesus, without active reformed ‘evangelical’ obedience in accordance with the whole moral law of God in the Old and New Testaments. In 17th century England, such congregations were called the ‘Antinomian sect’. Having rejected the perpetual covenant of works, another party have reacted with promoting Justification by faith plus works, even though some would deny it and claim to be essentially “reformed”; but neither ‘heretical party’ (literal Greek, Acts 15:5) wants to accept biblical saving faith as taught in the Westminster Standards (see explanation of SCQA 86-87).
Both visible church realms, the Anabaptist neo-evangelicals and the neo-reformed camp could no longer defend having a definite creed or catechism with a list of fundamentals of the Christian faith, when it is required in Scripture for unity in the gospel of free grace and church ordinances (Acts 2:42, 47; Rom. 12:16; 16:117-18; I Cor. 1:10; Phil. 1:27; Jude 3). Moreover, the confessions or catechisms mentioned in some neo-reformed churches are too often mere guides and not church creeds nor helpful for family study, as they are reinterpreted in neo-reformed preaching, by the pastors own “heads of doctrine”.
In the 21st century, many professing reformed Baptists speak of credobaptism; but for far too many, there is no definite creed, not even using Benjamin Keach’s Catechism (1693) nor C. H. Spurgeon’s Catechism (1855) to fence the Lord’s Supper. Furthermore, let us not forget that the reformed evangelical Baptists did not even have a catechism until 1693. By the mid-20th century, Acts 2:37-47 was deemed to no longer be normative for churches, neither the ‘Apostles’ doctrine’ nor Apostolic church ordinances (II Thess. 2:15, KJB, Geneva B); and thereby there was no longer definite adding unto faithful churches with biblical Baptism nor worthy partaking at the Lord’s Supper (see for explanation QA 96-97).
The neo-reformed catechisms and confessions are often called ‘subordinate standards’ and not church constitutional standards. When a church or congregation goes beyond chapter one section eight to speak and write of “subordinate” standards (see WCF 1:8-10), they become subordinate, subordinate, and subordinate to what procedure for scrutiny? The subordinate standards have become mere commentaries or guides like commentaries in one’s home library, since the pastors can change their doctrines, whenever they deem necessary, without following a procedure to amend with other competent ministers and ruling elders. The pastor can essentially ‘amend’ the reformed catechism by simply mounting the pulpit and preaching his own fundamental doctrines any given week without even mentioning a reformed confession or catechism in the introduction.
The Necessity of the Striving to be Reformed Evangelical
Certainly, we can and should speak of some professing ‘reformed’ churches striving to be reformed evangelical, if they indeed are honorable in striving for advancing the gospel body of divinity in Scripture (I Cor. 1:10; Phil. 1:27; Jude 3-4, KJB, Geneva B). Yet at a certain point, if it becomes most apparent that some professing ‘reformed’ churches are presumptuous, arrogant, and have no definite interest in the reformed evangelical faith with an honorable reformed evangelical catechism, then they should be labelled neo-reformed churches, both Anabaptists and Paedobaptists. If such professing ‘reformed’ churches have no interest in true biblical saving faith, including no interest in reformed evangelical obedience, required in biblical repentance unto life (explanation of QA 87), then we can and should refer to those churches to be following in the ways of the 17th century English ‘Antinomian sect’ (see Matt. 7:21-23; Lk. 3:3-14; Acts 11:18; 15:5; II Tim. 2:19; II Jn 4-6, KJB, Geneva B).
In making this pronouncement, this may not be called slandering, mocking or cursing, but following in the ways of Jesus Christ and the Apostles doctrine, calling out every wind of doctrine, even another gospel II Cor 11:3-4; Gal. 1:6-9; Eph 4:14, KJB, Geneva B). To state otherwise is to express wholesale ignorance of the Scriptures and to ignorantly implicate Jesus Christ, besides the Apostles and the Prophets, into “unloving” scandalous sinners. Instead, in accordance with the duties of Christ’s ministers, it is a blessing to hear preaching that includes calling out ‘another gospel’. Those who equate such forthright concerns for the souls of men in the true gospel of free grace to be mocking and cursing have a very different view of love, morality, blessing and caring for the souls of men; and they are rejecting the Apostle Peter’s exhortation for making one’s calling and election sure as well as failure to heed the warning of exposing false teachers (Rom. 16:17; II Pet 1:3-11; 2:1-3; Tit. 3:10-11, KJB, Geneva B). According to Westminster Presbyterians, secession is definitely in order in accordance with ‘worthy partaking’ at the Lord’s Supper (see explanation, QA 96-97), if the denomination has no interest in reforming with unconverted ministers as church ‘mentors’ controlling the church courts (I Tim. 4:16; Tit. 3:10-11, KJB, Geneva B).
At this point, one may object and say that the writers and subscribers of the Westminster Shorter Catechism added some things formerly not deemed Protestant evangelical fundamentals of the faith: such as six-day creationism, perpetual covenant of works, ‘conditional’ covenant of grace, the primacy of ministerial preaching, infant baptism, and fencing the Lord’s Supper with worthy partaking. First thing, all these things were already being faithfully preached and implemented in reformed evangelical churches, including six-day creationism to phase out from the Roman Catholic false teaching of instantaneous creation. Six-day creationism is taught in plain English in any faithful Bible translation; and to deny it is to usher in theistic evolution with severe fundamental errors in the church unto sectarianism. Also, the common practice in the reformed Church of Geneva, reformed Church of Holland, reformed Church of England, and reformed Church of Scotland was closed local communicant and close denominational communicant partaking, newly coming in with more movement about of communicant members. Reformed evangelical Baptist churches came to even practice closed communion. Since a right understanding of the reformed evangelical covenant of works and the covenant of grace were proven to be most important for fencing the Lord’s Supper in the Church of England and the Church of Scotland, it was added in the Shorter Catechism; and infant Baptism flows from the scriptural doctrine of the visible church and the biblical covenant of grace (see explanation QA 20, 94-95).
The Necessity of a Church Catechism
The first sign of a neo-reformed church failing to strive to be reformed evangelical is when the church officers state that a church does not need such a definite reformed evangelical public document for communicant membership and gospel doctrinal church unity, namely, a reformed catechism. They instead argue that they go by ‘Scripture alone’ or simply ‘faith alone’. This is a 20th century ignorant and false summary of the 16th and 17th centuries reformation; and it is a sign of wholesale ignorance of Scripture and often heresy in the midst (see I Cor. 11:18-19; Gal. 5:19-21, KJB, Geneva B). It is quite clear in Scripture that it is necessary for a church to have a public document (booklet, book) in accordance with Scripture in their confession of Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour; and they need to be ready to present it when asked (see Prov 15:28; Acts 2:42, 47; Rom 16:17; Gal 1:6-9; 5:19-21; II Cor 11:3-4; Phil 1:27; I Pet 3:15; Jude 3-4, KJB, Geneva B). Prior to the 16th century, the people of God in faithful churches (e.g., Celtic churches, Huguenot churches) would have endeavoured to memorize the fundamentals of the faith with church ordinances, besides some scribes would have hand written a ‘catechism’ to read in churches (see for example, Col. 4:16; II Tim 4:13, KJB, Geneva B). If not, a given church has no right to be distinctive and separated from other churches.
Faithful, namely, genuine reformed evangelical, churches are required to have a public book, booklet or time-honored catechism for at least four purposes: 1) Marks of a faithful reformed evangelical church, holding to the reformed evangelical faith (i.e., the gospel body of divinity), as well as Apostolic church ordinances (Acts 2:42; 15:5; 16:4-5; Rom 16:17; Gal 5:7-9, 19-21; Eph 4:5; Phil 1:27: II Thess 2:15, KJB, Geneva B): with no disclaimer nor allowance for exceptions (see for example, explanation QA 60, 68-69, 71-72, 77-79); 2) Communicant membership for God-fearing repentant believers and church unity in fellowship (Rom 12:16; Eph 4:11-16; I Cor 1:10; Phil 2:2, KJB, Geneva B); and 3) to keep out heretics from the pulpit and unqualified church officers (Rom 16:17; Gal 1:6-9; 3:1; 5:12; II Cor 11:3-4; Tit 3:10-11; Jude 3, KJB, Geneva B). It is a false speculation of church history that faithful ministers did not follow this biblical requirement in the 16th and early 17th centuries in the Church of England and the Church of Scotland. First, they employed the Heidelberg Catechism (1563) for preparation for the Lord Supper (called ‘confirmation’); and second, required total subscription for the gospel ministers to the Third-Nine Articles of the Christian Religion (see 1571, Introduction); and the Church of Scotland had the Scottish Confession (1563).
Contrary to a false opinion, the Westminster Form of Presbyterian Church Government (Pastors) and the Westminster Directory for the Public Worship of God did promote the duty of ministerial catechetical preaching and catechising with the heads of doctrine, with reference in the introduction of the sermon to the doctrine or moral precept from the catechism, and to be rooted in the Scripture text. The only difference between the Synod of Dordt Church Order (1618-19) and the Westminster Directory for the Public Worship of God (1645, Of the Preaching of the Word) is that the latter particularly noted textual preaching.
In the 19th to the 21st centuries, it is most disappointing to find some professing Westminster Presbyterian denominations, striving to be reformed evangelical, yet they do not have the Westminster Shorter Catechism nor the Westminster Larger Catechism as part of the intended uniformity. Then these two Westminster Catechisms are then definitely not part of subscriptionism for church officer vows, but mere guides; and without the Larger Catechism, the interpretation of the Westminster Confession and the Shorter Catechism can more easily be subject to reinterpretation. Also, the Shorter Catechism is then not definitely employed for communicant membership nor congregational unity in the reformed evangelical faith; and it is further problematic for unity throughout the denomination, having different requirements for what is called a “credible profession” of faith for communicant membership, instead of requiring an ‘accredited professing of faith and obedience’ by the Shorter Catechism.
One of the problems with this can also be the failure to note and implement the Westminster Presbyterian two-tier membership (Baptized members and Communicant members, see explanation SCQA 94-97) clearly taught in the Larger Catechism in coordination with the Shorter Catechism and the Westminster Confession. This Westminster Presbyterian change from two-tier membership gradually came in the 19th century. Then a mid-20th century view of infant Baptism also advanced that continues up to age 18, instead of up to age 11. At age of discretion in household baptisms, the older children are to make their own profession of faith and profession of obedience. Those who know their Presbyterian church history prior to the 20th century would know what was considered years of discretion. Until the early 20th century introduction of the high school, with the government school’s advancement of the same, age of discretion for young people was deemed around age 13 or 14. So the common practice in the Westminster Presbyterian Church, 17th century through 19th century, was Shorter Catechism instruction between ages 11-14.
Furthermore, this explanation of the Shorter Catechism will explain why infant Baptism is included in an introductory reformed evangelical catechism (see SCQA 95) and why the mode of Baptism is not a reformed evangelical fundamental of the faith. This writer will certainly deal with both parties, ‘Paedobaptists’ and the Anabaptist ‘anti-paedobaptists’ (19th and 20th centuries opposing camps), in their argumentation and debate. Both parties can sound like that they are teaching assumptive regeneration of those baptized and even narrowly close to baptismal regeneration. The Paedobaptists and the Anabaptists often speak of an unconditional covenant of grace, which can favor assumptive regeneration of those baptized and reject the Westminster Presbyterian two-tier membership (see explanation QA 94-95).
The Anabaptists, namely, neo-reformed Baptists have a hermeneutical problem with the meaning and mode of Baptism. They use extrabiblical sources in the interpretation of the word Baptism to mean not just ceremonial ‘washing’, but beyond dipping all the way to immersion of the head: wherein it becomes a forced translation to make Baptism fit for immersion anywhere in Scripture and as a church distinctive. Anabaptists press it as a fundamental of the faith; and the reformed evangelical Baptists either do or come narrowly close to doing so, rejecting their own confessed hermeneutic (see Second London Baptist Confession, 1:9-10). Having disagreed with the Shorter Catechism on the visible church and Baptism (see explanation QA 94-95), they thereby had to add a Question and Answer in order to press those immersed to identify with a particular church (see Benjamin Keach’s Catechism, QA 100).
Anabaptists have a history of spawning various sects (e.g., Amish, Assembly of God, Brethren, Cambelite-Church of Christ, Church of God, Church of God in Prophecy, Hutterites, Mennonites, Methodists, Nazarene, New Testament Churches, Quakers, Seven Day Baptists, Seven Day Adventists, Shakers, and United Pentecostal) with a faulty view of the covenant of works, covenant of grace, simple-faith, new covenant morality, New Testament visible church, the extraordinary gifts, and their forcing of immersion to be a fundamental of the faith. Westminster Presbyterians do not have that problem, clearly teaching a ‘conditional’ covenant of grace and ushering those baptized into the visible church in accordance with the Apostles doctrine and church ordinances (Acts 2:41-47; II Thess. 2:15, KJB, Geneva B); and they reserve precise clarity of mode of Baptism for the Westminster Confession (28:3) and vows for church officers.
Therefore, the concern should not be that genuine Westminster Presbyterian churches might depart on reformed evangelical fundamentals of the faith. It is the neo-reformed Anabaptists who do and have departed on reformed evangelical fundamentals of the faith, because of their hermeneutical problems and their Anabaptist confession (The First London Baptist Confession, 1644/45); and this will be explained throughout this treatise on the Shorter Catechism.
Child Communion a significant departure from Scripture and a fundamental error from the plain teaching of the Westminster Standards, including a neo-reformed view of the covenant of grace (see explanation of SCQA 20, 97). Child communion, practised by some Paedobaptists and some Anabaptists, can only be argued from the faulty Bible translations in the 20th century, with the deliberate false translation of I Corinthians 11:18-19 and Galatians 5:19-21 and by ignoring the Greek word ‘heresies’. Regardless of the emotional counter arguments involved in correction and reforming, child communion and simple-faith false gospel communion, or even justification by faith plus works communion, are definite examples of ‘unworthy partaking’ of the Lord’s Supper with severe warnings and consequences in Scripture (see Deut. 28:15-22, 27-28, 58-61; Acts 5:1-11; I Cor 11:17-31, KJB, Geneva B); and it is certainly not based on biblical saving faith. Such churches, without catechetical instruction for the Lord’s Supper, are churches that have unworthy partaking and filled with substantial number of people that are second and third category parable of the sower people (see Lk 8:11-15, KJB, Geneva B); and so many communicants are given a false assurance by partaking at the Lord’s Supper too soon and without an accredited professing of faith and obedience.
Teaching the Shorter Catechism
The first commended Westminster Presbyterian explanation of the Westminster Assembly Shorter Catechism was written by the English puritan Presbyterian Thomas Vincent (The Shorter Catechism of the Westminster Assembly Explained and Proved From Scripture). It was published in 1674 in England. In the Epistle to the Reader, it carried an endorsement from reformed evangelical Presbyterians and Congregational-Independents with signatories of forty ministers of the gospel and church governors. The writers and signers of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, in the Epistle to the Reader, called the gospel body of divinity, the ‘grounds and principles of the Christian Religion’.
In this present explanation of the Shorter Catechism, the writer will utilize Thomas Vincent’s Explanation of the Shorter Catechism, besides the Larger Catechism and the Westminster Confession for the legislative intent meaning of the Shorter Catechism. In the Epistle to the Reader of Thomas Vincent’s explanation, the writers and signers finished with these words: “To conclude, though the Assembly’s Shorter Catechism itself be above our recommendation, as having it praises already in the Churches of Christ, yet we think it good to give it under our hands, that this Explanation of it is very worthy of acceptation.”
If Thomas Vincent’s Explanation of the Shorter Catechism was so highly praised in the 17th century, why would another explanation of the Shorter Catechism be important for the 21st century? Certainly, reformed evangelical God-fearing repentant believers will judge; and it is not for various neo-reformed churches to make the judgment, not forthrightly striving for works of reformation in the reformed evangelical faith. This writer sets forth three reasons for another explanation of the Westminster Shorter Catechism in the 21st century. (1) Thomas Vincent’s Explanation of the Shorter Catechism was primarily designed for young people in a 17th century Westminster Presbyterian established church environment, between the ages of 11 to 14; and this will be pointed out in some Questions and Answers with his comments, including the 7th commandment, where there is little instruction on pursuit of marriage. (3) Distinctions were not as readily made between fundamentals of the faith and church ordinance distinctives. It was a much better cultured reformation environment, wherein sects and heretics (for example, Antinomians, Anabaptists, Quakers, Shakers, and Leveller-Socialists) were publicly known and suppressed by the established Westminster Presbyterian church and civil government (see WCF 20:4; 23:3), marked out, and heresies publicly exposed from the pulpit (see Westminster Directory for the Public Worship of God, Of the Preaching of the Word) in accordance with Ephesians 4:11-14 (KJB, Geneva B).
As this writer seeks to explain the Shorter Catechism and root it in Scripture, readers should take note that the Shorter Catechism was not meant to stand alone as a creed or allow for reinterpretation of the Shorter Catechism differently than the Larger Catechism and the Westminster Confession (1647), in the reformed evangelical fundamentals of the faith and church ordinances. Sadly, this has been the case in far too many neo-reformed churches and professing “reformed” Christian Schools. The result is a revisionists neo-reformed interpretation of the Shorter Catechism. Teaching the legislative intent meaning of the Shorter Catechism is most important to the right explanation of the Shorter Catechism, before proving it in Scripture; and this method of interpretation will be employed throughout this explanation.
In this explanation of the Shorter Catechism, there will also be engagement with Benjamin Keach’s Catechism (1693) and Charles H. Spurgeon’s Catechism (1855). As we are living in a time, when many professing reformed Baptists do not use a catechism for fencing the Lord’s Supper, knowledgeable Westminster Presbyterians would ask some 21st century Baptists, why do they write so overly confident in their distinctives (see explanation QA 96-97)? Furthermore, Charles Spurgeon wrote his own new catechism in 1855 to have some differences with Benjamin Keach’s Catechism (adopted by the reformed evangelical Baptist churches in 1693); and did he use his reformed catechism consistently at the Metropolitan Tabernacle church in London? In his latter pastoral ministry, C. H. Spurgeon had the dispensational Baptist unlicensed preacher in the pulpit, namely, D. L. Moody. Dispensational Baptist D. L. Moody, from Illinois, was well known to promote the sect of Antinomianism and preach the simple-faith false gospel with the carnal Christian heresy; he was a forerunner to the 20th century dispensational false gospel preacher, namely, Billy Graham. Whilst Pas C. H. Spurgeon did make a contribution to the reformed evangelical Baptist realm in the 18th century, he was not the “prince of preachers”.
When expounding scriptural passages, this minister unequivocally employs the time-honored reformed evangelical hermeneutic in Westminster Confession 1:9 (see also 1:9 in the Savoy Declaration of Faith and Order 1658 and 1:9 in the Second London Baptist Confession 1689). In contrast, the 19th and 20th centuries’ Redemptive-historical preaching is neo-reformed and deliberately anti-systematic theology; and it is known by common fame to be publicly taught to be so by many advocates and promoters. These neo-reformed preachers cannot have it both ways to confuse people and bring in their sectarian preaching. Since they choose to isolate passages with times of revelation noted, they thereby do not use the reformed evangelical hermeneutic to compare Scripture with Scripture, in God’s revelation of the same gospel of free grace from Genesis to Revelation. Therefore, such anti-reformed evangelical hermeneutical preaching is inherently anti-confessions and anti-catechisms. Redemptive-historical preachers are thereby prone to preaching another gospel, failing compare Scripture with Scripture in the same gospel doctrines of the Christian faith.
In this explanation, ad-hominem arguments will be exposed and even some extra-biblical arguments forced into Scripture: such as church history arguments sometimes presented without principles of historiography. Sound historiography church history arguments may only be used as supporting arguments, after thoroughly dealing with the Scriptures, since reformed evangelicals are committed to the Scriptures as the only rule of faith and obedience. There will also be the engaging of the Baptist view that does make the mode or method of Baptism a fundamental of the faith, even rejecting Westminster Presbyterian young adult and adult Baptism (see explanation, QA 94-95). Not being a fundamental of the faith, the thorough argument for the scriptural mode or method is reserved for an explanation of the Westminster Confession (28:3).
In answer to some basic adherents questioning organized teaching by the reformed evangelical heads of doctrine, by catechetical teaching and catechetical preaching, readers should take note of three things concerning pastors who refuse to do it: 1) The pastor may be ignorant or dishonest and actually following the latest trends in neo-reformed theology; 2) When a given professing “reformed” pastor (neo-reformed) wants to use their own heads of doctrines, they are either ignorant or not reformed evangelical; 2) The pastor may want to train ruling elders in accordance with his own heads of doctrine, so that the pastor and his ruling elders can together stray from the reformed evangelical faith; and that pastor wants to have a congregational church unity based on his independent-minded “fundamentals of the faith” and church ordinances, but subject to change with the latest neo-reformed commentaries. The honest thing would be for such neo-reformed pastors and ruling elders to write and confess another catechism or an amended ‘reformed’ catechism; however, to do so, they would risk themselves to open public scrutiny in their departures from the reformed evangelical fundamentals of the faith.
Finally, what harm is it for professing Christians continuing to sit under such neo-reformed and neo-evangelical preaching? They are sitting under the preaching of another gospel body of divinity (I Gal. 1:6-9; 3:1; II Cor. 11:3-4; II Thess. 2:11-12, KJB, Geneva B) and can be subject to demonic delusion. Tragically, without getting grounded and settled in the true gospel body of divinity, professing Christians cannot fulfil their human responsibility to “work out their own Salvation” nor gain biblical assurance of Salvation (II Cor. 13:5; Eph. 4:11-16; Phil 2:12-13; Col 1:9-10, 23; II Pet 1:3-11, KJB, Geneva B). They cannot gain peace of conscience in their profession of faith and profession of obedience (see explanation of SCQA 36, 89). These people cannot understand nor display reformed ‘evangelical obedience’, the pursuit of holiness, nor peace-making in their relationships (Matt 5:9; Rom 12:16-18; Heb 12:14; I Pet 3:8-11, KJB, Geneva B). Without serious personal or heads of household reformed evangelical study and moving on to get under faithful reformed evangelical preaching, they cannot display to themselves and others fruit-bearing in biblical saving faith (see explanation, SCQA 2, 3, 85-90).
20th Century Bible Versions and Heretical Divisions
In the 20th century distinctive “Protestant” Christian churches, congregations, associations and denominations had proliferated into massive numbers of separated churches, without regard to right of distinctive existence under Christ the King and Head of the Church. In order to reign in and somewhat control the departures and realignments, some neo-reformed church pastors and other church officers have become authoritarian in severe violation of the 5th commandment (see explanation, QA 64-65); and others have simply accepted it. Many neo-reformed congregations have come to practice open communion with a plea from the pulpit to invite any and all professing Christians to partake, or a very minimal list of questions to ask during examination for communicant membership or guests, called a ‘credible’ profession of faith (that is, ‘quickie’ pastoral or session controlled Communion, see explanation QA 96-97). These neo-evangelical and neo-reformed church practices fit with 20th century sectarian Bible versions (e.g., RSV, NIV, and ESV), having been translated with far too many of the translation committees and the final editors being sectarians themselves (e.g., Roman Catholics, Unitarian-Modernists, and associated neo-evangelicals and some neo-reformed).
A reformed evangelical time-honored biblical principle was written into the Westminster Directory for the Public Worship of God (1645) concerning Bible translations for public use: “All the canonical books of the Old and New Testament (but none of those which are common called Apocrypha) shall be publickly read in the vulgar tongue, out of the best allowed translation, distinctly, that all may read and hear” (Of Publick Reading of the Scriptures). According to the Westminster Confession 1:8, including the Savoy Declaration of Faith and Order of 1658 and the Second London Baptist Confession of 1689, the best translation available in regular print would first be the King James Bible (1611, 1767 spelling update); and the second choice would be the Geneva Bible (1599), but not in regular print with many printings as the KJB. Some reformed evangelicals call the KJB, the Authorised Version, but not to give any credence to the notion that King James the I authorised it (1611), as a civil magistrate. King James the I only endorsed it and promoted it. Therefore, all Scripture references and quotes in this book will be in accordance with the King James Bible, unless otherwise stated.
If readers are unfamiliar with the use of the word ‘heresy’, ‘heretic’, or ‘sect’ directly related to Acts 15:5, I Corinthians 11:18-19, II Corinthians 11:3-4, Galatians 1:6-9, 5:19-21, Titus 3:10-11, II Peter 2:1-3, and Jude 3-4 (see KJB, Geneva B), it is because they have been attending an unfaithful church and using the ecumenical and sectarian Revised Standard Version (RSV), the New International Version (NIV) or the English Standard Version (ESV). The sectarian main translators presumptuously failed to translate the exact Greek word to be ‘sect’, ‘heresies’, and ‘heretic’ in Acts 15:5, I Corinthians 11:18-19, Galatians 5:19-21, and Titus 3:10-11; and whilst the American Standard Version (ASV) and the New American Standard Version (NASV) did maintain the term ‘sect’ (i.e., ‘heretical party’ in the literal Greek) in Acts 15:5, they failed to get ‘heresy’ or ‘heretic’ into the crucial mistranslated passages. Sadly, the New King James Bible (NKJV) translators only maintained ‘sect’ in Acts 15:5 and managed to put ‘heresies’ back into the list of scandalous sins in Galatians 5:19-21; but the main translators failed and made a crucial error in the translation of I Corinthians 11:18-19 as well as Titus 3:10-11. Pastors who employ 20th century translations are either ignorant of the fundamental errors or are simply not qualified for the pastoral ministry; and they at the very least need remedial instruction.
Many of the sectarian neo-reformed and neo-evangelical preachers, using the NIV or ESV, and some using the NASV or the NKJV, have been employing deliberately unbiblical revisionist terminology in the pulpit and in counsel against serious advocates of the reformed evangelical faith (“majoring on minors”, “too black and white”, “judgmental”, “divisive”, and even “legalism”). This unbiblical revisionist terminology advances the sect of Antinomians and is against biblical repentance unto life as well as against biblical ‘evangelical’ obedience (see explanation SCQA 31, 35, 40, 86-87. They have done this to safeguard themselves against works of reformation by reformed evangelical brethren back to the reformed evangelical fundamentals of the faith; and very sadly, these neo-reformed preachers have made these false accusations from the pulpit against reformed evangelical pastors and reformed evangelical brethren, besides in other venues in public speech. This is definitely reviling, cursing, dishonesty, and even promoting cultish means to wrongly protect the people in the congregations they serve (Rom 12:9; III Jn 9-11), failure to promote Acts 17:11, and with a false interpretation of I Corinthians 8:1. Church attendees sitting under such sect of Antinomian neo-reformed preaching need to prepare to depart from these churches, getting themselves and their families under faithful reformed evangelical preaching; and the false notion of certain professing reformed congregations staying associated in neo-reformed denominations, based on waiting until being “kicked out”, will be refuted throughout this explanation of the Shorter Catechism. Secession is definitely in order when a denomination crosses the line of the Shorter Catechism, departing from reformed evangelical fundamentals of the faith. Without congregational secession, there can be no blessing of the Lord, unto church unity, nor genuine advancement of the true Christian faith (Acts 16:5-6; Gal. 4:25-31; 5:15-21).
In drawing this Epistle to a close, this minister of the Word, confesses, preaches, and walks in the true reformed evangelical faith by Sovereign saving grace. Having been tried in the furnace of suffering for righteousness sake (I Pet. 3:12-17; 4:12-13), over a forty year ministry, I present this explanation of the Shorter Catechism as part of works of reformation, even to reform the visible church in the gospel body of divinity, church ordinances, and instruction in prayer.