Review: The Theology of the Westminster Standards: Historical Context and Theological Insights

91UJ3VryXFLDuring a time of wild hostility between Charles I and the Puritans, Parliament called together a group of Divines to form the Westminster Assembly. Beginning in 1643 these Divines would meet together at Westminster Abbey, to begin to discuss church polity and other related issues. The Theology of the Westminster Standards: Historical Context and Theological Insights from Church Historian, Dr. J.V. Fesko is an excellent resource for those interested in the formation, thought, and outcome of these meetings.

Approaching the Assembly and its grand outcome of, not only a reformed church polity, but of two superb catechisms and a grand view of theology in the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) is extremely helpful. Fesko takes the topics and ideas that have shaped the church for hundreds of years and applies the lenses of scripture to them. Here we have a proof text explanation of the WCF as we move from loci to loci.

Fesko not only upholds the WCF, for it is indeed necessary to do so, but he also includes any objections which have been raised against it and similar confessions. The first thing on his mind are the statements of the confession but he also is cognizant of what scripture is to say as well. That being said, he also notices that the men of the Assembly were fallible men who quarreled among themselves and could not come to an overall agreement on some subjects.

As you would with any confession, one must ask “How does this apply to me today?” Fesko understands the foundational documents were written in a time where the English language and the context was far different from ours. The confession itself though, has lasting influence that is still a prominent part in many denominational circles today. Fesko throws us a bone in deciphering with expert analysis the thoughts and ideas behind some of the more troublesome or difficult passages of the WCF.

Certainly a textbook like this is needed today if we are to understand our history of confessional Christianity. This book is more than that though. It is a volume which lends itself to being reread in light of dense confession we have before us. Now I don’t hold to the WCF but the document I do hold onto as a confession was largely written verbatim with some changes on the mode of baptism and church government, which leads to an interesting point.

The Dutch Reformed, Presbyterians, and Reformed crowd share a very close connection with their Reformed Baptist brethren, and a little ways down the road live the confessional Anglicans and those like them. We have a common faith between us, even if we disagree as to being baptized as an infant or adult. These standards are a resounding echo of the clarity of the gospel and so should they be affirmed by anyone who claims a confessional Christianity.

Fesko, J.V. The Theology of the Westminster Standards: Historical Context and Theological Insights. Wheaton: Crossway, 2014. 448. Print.


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