Confession of 1967 - Controversies and Theological Influences - Predestination and Determinism

Predestination and Determinism

Conservatives were similarly concerned the confession opposed many of the traditional elements of Calvinism, including the concept of Predestination. Calvinist theology has historically provided the foundation for Presbyterian confessions. Many factions within the denominations rejected the committee's attempt to distance the denomination from Calvin.
Many opponents maintain that the authors of the document deny that Christ died only for the sins of the elect rather than for all people, contrary to the original Westminster Confession. In its place, conservatives believe that the 1967 modification supports universalism. Additionally, they take issue with the more humanistic theology, focusing more on man's ability to "save himself," trivializing the centrality of God in the salvation of both individuals and society as a whole. There are thosewho believe that some of the phraseology suggests that man has the capacity for self-transcendence. In the Protestant community the debate between God's sovereignty scripture and freedom is long standing, with different communities weighting the role of man and God in salvation differently. However, conservatives claim that the confession all together leaves out God's spirit in the reconciliation of man to man.

There was also backlash relating to the Church's interference into the political sphere. The Presbyterian Lay Committee voiced their concerns about the inappropriateness of a spiritual body turning away from its purported historical call to enter into secular affairs. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, a Presbyterian Elder, expressed his concern about the "disarmament mentality" suggested by the confession. The committee was also concerned about the theological changes proposed in the document, taking special issue with the claim, "the scriptures are nevertheless the words of men...". They campaigned heavily against the passage of the confession, and took out full page ads in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal expressing their protest. The movement also created a newsletter called The Layman, which remains in circulation today. It claims credit for "sharp reductions of unrestricted church gifts for projects controlled by the General Assembly Mission Council."

The confession ultimately had broad support, being approved by presbyteries by a nearly 90% margin.

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