Three or Two offices – Which is More Confessional?

As I continue to ponder and explore questions relating to confessional subscription, the issue of two versus three offices in the church stirs my thought.

My denomination subscribes to the Westminster Standards, but that is only part of our subscription (which is true for most NAPARC denominations).  We also subscribe to the Form of Government, Directory of Public Worship, Book of Discipline, etc.  And, our subscription is not to these documents individually, but they form a singular constitution for our denomination.  I believe this is how sticky situations like cohering WCF 21 with its original intent to our Directory of Public Worship are worked out.

So, while the Westminster Standards don’t touch on the debate of church office, our Form of Government does.  We are a three office denomination (minister, elder, and deacon).  I personally hold to a three office view, but it is interesting that some of my more ‘confessionalist’ and strict subscriptionist friends might be two office proponents.  Yet, I’m pretty sure my friends don’t take an exception on this point.

Now, I could be a stickler and argue my friends toward informing their presbyteries on such an ecclesiological issue, but I wonder if it really is beneficial.  They obviously submit to a three office paradigm in our denomination (they don’t allow ruling elders to administer the sacraments).  It seems petty to force two office proponents to go through the scrutiny of statement their exception to three office ecclesiology.

I wonder what the parallels are to the two vs three office debate?  Six day creation?  Christ & culture?  Eschatology?  Certain fixtures regarding worship?  Particular details of covenant theology?  I don’t know myself, but I think it’s clear that even the strictest of subscriptionists have not thought some of these issues through.

Perhaps the debate is not over strict subscription versus system or loose subscription.  We need to examine the very nature of ‘subscribing’ to fallible documents which are Reformed and should be reformed as the church age progresses.


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