Back To The Form Of Subscription

Recently, I heard somebody of some import and seniority suggest that we should scrap the previous form of subscription for the new one based on the metaphor of chapel attendance. It seems that when this person was in college she was required to attend chapel and did much to avoid the requirement, and according to her testimony, her low views of Chapel were shared by many of her classmates. However, once she graduated college the college lifted the mandated attendance requirement and, mirable dictu, voluntary chapel attendance blossomed like thousands of acres of Tulips after a fresh spring rain.

Obviously the illustration was supposed to prove that requiring somebody to sign the Form of Subscription only makes them want to do everything they can to avoid what is required of them while, so the thinking goes, if we make signing less onerous then the result will be that everybody will take the Three Forms of Unity seriously, just as lifting mandatory chapel attendance resulted in massive chapel attendance.

Now, as one who could never be outstripped in finding creative ways to avoid mandatory chapel attendance I found this analogy intriguing. The problem though is the metaphor doesn’t really fit. First, requiring people to sign the form of subscription is more akin to requiring somebody to consummate their marriage after they are married. The attitude is not, ‘well, if I have to,’ but rather, ‘well, duh, that’s one reason I signed up.’ Just so with the Form of Subscription. A requirement to sign the document should be met with a ‘well, that’s why I’m here to begin with,’ and not a ‘well, if you’re going to make me, I guess I will, but boy promising to defend those Three Forms of Unity is like being asked to go to worthless chapel services.’

Second, the metaphor doesn’t fit unless what is included is that the new document really means that the requirement is that you don’t have to uphold the three forms of unity any more. In the above metaphor it was the release from attending chapel that supposedly freed people to attend chapel. If the metaphor is going to fit we would have to say that we no longer require a form of subscription, in any sense at all, believing that the results would be that deacons and elders would instantly begin to defend the Three Forms of Unity. With the new ‘covenant of ordination’ we haven’t released people from going to chapel, unless of course that is really what the subtext is.

Still, if the whole denomination is consistent with polling I recently read where only 17% of a small sampling of denominational Ministers, Elders, and Deacons, have read the Three Forms of Unity in the last ten years, I’m not sure why we should have a Form of Subscription, a Covenant of Ordination, a note from Mother excusing us from swearing allegiance, or any other kind of promissory process.

Now, I need to finish this so I can get to Chapel. You wouldn’t believe how many of those things I have yet to make up.

Author: jetbrane

I am a Pastor of a small Church in Mid-Michigan who delights in my family, my congregation and my calling. I am postmillennial in my eschatology. Paedo-Calvinist Covenantal in my Christianity Reformed in my Soteriology Presuppositional in my apologetics Familialist in my family theology Agrarian in my regional community social order belief Christianity creates culture and so Christendom in my national social order belief Mythic-Poetic / Grammatical Historical in my Hermeneutic Pre-modern, Medieval, & Feudal before Enlightenment, modernity, & postmodern Reconstructionist / Theonomic in my Worldview One part paleo-conservative / one part micro Libertarian in my politics Systematic and Biblical theology need one another but Systematics has pride of place Some of my favorite authors, Augustine, Turretin, Calvin, Tolkien, Chesterton, Nock, Tozer, Dabney, Bavinck, Wodehouse, Rushdoony, Bahnsen, Schaeffer, C. Van Til, H. Van Til, G. H. Clark, C. Dawson, H. Berman, R. Nash, C. G. Singer, R. Kipling, G. North, J. Edwards, S. Foote, F. Hayek, O. Guiness, J. Witte, M. Rothbard, Clyde Wilson, Mencken, Lasch, Postman, Gatto, T. Boston, Thomas Brooks, Terry Brooks, C. Hodge, J. Calhoun, Llyod-Jones, T. Sowell, A. McClaren, M. Muggeridge, C. F. H. Henry, F. Swarz, M. Henry, G. Marten, P. Schaff, T. S. Elliott, K. Van Hoozer, K. Gentry, etc. My passion is to write in such a way that the Lord Christ might be pleased. It is my hope that people will be challenged to reconsider what are considered the givens of the current culture. Your biggest help to me dear reader will be to often remind me that God is Sovereign and that all that is, is because it pleases him.

6 thoughts on “Back To The Form Of Subscription”

  1. Brett, good post
    I agree. It’s not a great analogy and you
    point out the reasons. I especially agree
    with your second reason. As for your first
    reason (which makes sense), the problem we
    have is that people aren’t necessarily in
    Reformed churches because of Reformed theology.
    They are there because they’ve grown up in
    these churches or because their friends go or
    because they like the worship style or because
    it’s the church in town that is closest to
    their doctrine. Or some are there simply
    because their friends invited them to come out
    of the world and join and they are in the
    process of forming their theology. They are
    babes and yet are called on for elder/deacon
    service because there are not many others able
    or willing to serve. (Of course, this is a
    problem). A couple of the above reasons are
    legitimate reasons for being at a church. Heck,
    I might go to a Protestant Reformed or even
    Reformed baptist (oxymoron?) church if it was
    the only thing close to Reformed in town.
    So we have a practical issue…non-Reformed
    or semi-Reformed people in Reformed churches.
    The hope of course is that there is solid
    biblical teaching and that all come to see
    the truth. In the mean time, we need leaders!!
    And so often the church will choose the bright
    business man with non-Reformed theology over
    the factory worker with Reformed theology, but
    lacking the leadership/administrative/
    shepherding gifts.
    I’ve seen this cry for leadership.
    It’s a good post. Those are my thoughts.

  2. Nathan,

    Thank you for stopping by!

    I agree with every word you said. The lack of qualified leadership is especially troubling and in my estimation, at least in part, stems from the reality that we are not catechizing our children. Increasingly I am becoming convinced that if the average person’s worldview isn’t in place by the time they are 22 then it is unlikely that worldview will change at all. So, are children grow up to be adults and because we haven’t catechized / worldview trained we have unqualified leadership, who at this point in life are understandably to busy with life to take the time to learn.

    Thanks again for your insights brother,


  3. Bret,
    I agree this is a great topic.
    I am amazed when leaders in different churches that I come into contact with who are losing membership, or even attendance, and truly don’t understand why this is so.

    The latest of these was in a church I was attending. This group of “elders” had even gone so far as to invite a group come into their church, from out of town,to talk with their membership to discover what the membership’s opinion was about their church, good or bad. I was able to attend the last of these meetings. At this meeting the folks who showed for the meeting (which was an impressive 120-150) where asked to break-up into small groups and review 16 different problems returned from the out of town group. Among these “options” where young adult (high school) ministries and poor preaching.

    Ultimately these folks wanted to understand why they were dropping precipitously in numbers. I later discovered that one of the pastors of this church finds that “… Calvinism is like dry ice. When you touch it, it freezes you… so I really don’t like Calvinism.”

    Is it any wonder that their numbers are dropping? How can our mighty jealous God bless a church that finds the Doctrines of His Grace to be too cold to touch?

    The Church is anemic THERE IS NO IRON IN THEIR INK!


  4. I spend most of my free time online for pleasure. I know all websites, and this is the one about real events that really took place in the world.

  5. I’m trying to keep away from reading posts like this. It is totally meaningless. Ain’t it shame to post rubbish like this?

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