Monday 8 December 2014

Book Review: "Confessing the Faith: a Reader’s Guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith" by Chad Van Dixhoorn

This companion volume for a reader of the Westminster Confession of Faith is heartily welcomed. Chad Van Dixhoorn is not only the world’s expert on the minutes and papers of the Westminster assembly, but he is also an ordained minister and a church practitioner. He is not writing this volume with a detached view of theology. Far from it. His writing style seeks to engage the reader with the doctrines of this Confession and he does so intelligibly and with a lively style.

Following on from the "Foreword" by Carl Trueman, Van Dixhoorn introduces his own book and he writes of the Westminster Confession that “perhaps it is the wisest of creeds in its teaching and the finest in its doctrinal expression” (xix). A chapter in the book is devoted to each of the 33 chapters in the confession and the author imposes his own nine headings to summarise the confession’s teaching. These headings are: Foundations (1-2), The Decrees of God (3-5), Sin and the Saviour (6-8), Salvation (9-18), Law and Liberty (19-20), Worship (21-22), Civil Government and Family (23-24), The Church (25-31) and Last Things (32-33).

Van Dixhoorn has developed a helpful writing style where he inserts good “pithy comments” and “turn of phrase” at appropriate moments. For example in his explanation of the clarity of Scripture he writes that “mapping the high points of the Bible is tiring work” (22). Again on the texts and translations of Scripture, he wonderfully summarises: “The Bible we have is authentic” (23).

This book contains a freshness which can only serve to further recover confessional Christianity in our generation. The chapters on the Law, the Christian Sabbath and the Communion of the Saints may be useful starting points for those contemporary Christians and ministers who have been brought up with a reformed background and yet somehow they feel they can improve the "state of play" by down-playing key reformed doctrines. On the other hand, we must not think that this book is the final word on the doctrines of this confession. This is simply a reader’s guide, an introduction, and a companion for those who desire to teach the confession or to understand it better. “Tolle lege”; pick up and read, both this book and the Westminster Confession of Faith.

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