The Regulative Principle of the Church 15: Its Specific Application (Part 4)Subscribe
Not only does the regulative principle of the church apply to its government, tasks, and worship, it also applies to its doctrine. The church may neither add to nor subtract from the doctrines of the Bible. It must confess (in its identity as the pillar and support of the truth—1 Tim. 3:15) all that the Bible says and only what the Bible says. Surely the Westminster Confession is correct when it makes this point at chapter 20 and paragraph 2:
God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are, in anything, contrary to his Word; or beside it, if matters of faith, or worship. So that, to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commands, out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience: and the requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also.
I regret to say that the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith changed this admirable, clear, and helpful statement to read as follows: “God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are in anything contrary to his word, or not contained in it.” This revision obscures the crucial distinction implied in the Westminster between how God is the Lord of the conscience the rest of life (where the commands of legitimate human authorities have an important and necessary role to play) and matters of faith and worship where they do not.
In church doctrine it is not enough that doctrine be consistent with the Scriptures. Doctrine must be required by Scripture. It must be able to be inferred from Scripture “by good and necessary consequence.” Certain of the Marian doctrines of modern Roman Catholicism (like her bodily assumption to heaven at the end of her life) are (arguably) consistent with Scripture, but they cannot be deduced from Scripture by good and necessary consequence. They are barred by the regulative principle from holding a place in the church’s doctrine. Certain views or hypotheses of modern science may be consistent with Scripture, but they cannot be deduced from Scripture by good and necessary consequence. We may hold them quite strongly as our private opinions or convictions, but they must not be made a part of church doctrine.