The Name and the Flame: The Westminster Challenge and the God Who Answers by Fire

By David C. Brand - Posted at The Christian Observer:
Our purpose as we unite in Westminster Fellowship is to
become such complete disciples of Jesus Christ
that we will discover God’s will for our lives and do it.
-UPUSA Westminster Youth Fellowship Purpose in 1958- 
Youth at work are bringing God’s own glory
to the earth from heaven above,
here to set aflame his story
one in service truth and love.
We are striving to be faithful
to the will of God,
to the will, the will of God.
-UPUSA Westminster Youth Fellowship Hymn in 1958- [1]

Such was the statement of purpose we affirmed as Presbyterian teen-agers and the hymn we sang in affirmation of that purpose. The name Westminster referred to Westminster Abbey where English and Scottish Presbyterians gathered in the 1640s to stake out the articles of their biblical faith, the Westminster Standards comprised of the Westminster Confession and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms. The Puritan Congregationalists who settled New England affirmed these same reformation standards taking exception only with respect to church polity. [2]

In 1958, in the beautiful Westminster Chapel on the College of Wooster campus, a youth affirmed Christ as Savior and Lord responding to God’s call to Christian ministry via the preparation and delivery of a sermon on James 2:14-26. Only later would he come to appreciate the historic role of the Westminster Standards and discover that they were about to be overshadowed by the Confession of ‘67 within the United Presbyterian Church of the USA. Eugene Carson Blake, the highly influential Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, argued that the Westminster affirmation of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as “the only infallible rule of faith and practice” tended to make the interpreter infallible. [3] In contrast, the highly distinguished scholar and third-generation missionary to Korea, Dr. Horace Grant Underwood II (1917-2004), characterized the Confession of ‘67 as “timid.” [4] In the context of Korean church history, one could hardly think of a more disqualifying label than “timid” to represent a confession of the Christian faith.


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