November 08, 2017 Q & A

Is the OPC fundamentalist?


Is the OPC a fundamentalist denomination? Does it interpret the Bible literally? What would you not interpret literally that a fundamentalist church would? How are you less rigorously Reformed than these churches, is it mainly the drinking issue?


Technically speaking we are not fundamentalist, if you mean by it that we narrow our interests to only a few doctrines and a strict literalism in interpreting Scripture. Our doctrinal standards are the Westminster Confession of Faith and its Catechisms. We refer to these as our secondary standards, Scripture coming first; we believe they give an accurate presentation of biblical doctrine. We do hold the Bible to be the literal Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit and written by men moved by God to write what he desired. We also hold the Bible to be inerrant. We identify ourselves as Reformed, i.e., holding the doctrines of the Reformation: Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, Solus Christus, Sola Gratia and Soli Deo Gloria. We hold to the Westminster Standards.

I would say that the OPC is rigorously Reformed, however. We believe that the church is to be reformed by the Word of God, including dealing with the Bible as it deals with itself. If the Scripture depicts an event or person as a literal historical reality, we believe that it is indeed literal history. If a passage is figurative, we will try to understand the figure from the clearer passages.

As far as interpreting the Scripture literally, we believe there are portions that must be interpreted literally: God created the world in six days, Christ literally became a man while remaining God, literally died on the cross for sinners and literally arose three days later and will really and literally return one day. There are fundamentalists who do not believe the Bible uses symbolic language, and argue that only literal interpretations are accepted. The church and Israel, for example, are not to be identified; Israel has one track and the church another. (Perhaps you might know more about these differences than I do, though, coming as you do from that background.) Bear in mind that fundamentalism was not despised by most of our founders. For more information on our founder, J. Gresham Machen, who was happy to call himself a fundamentalist when the Bible was being attacked in the early twentieth century, see the biography on this giant of the faith by Ned Stonehouse, or a briefer version by Henry Coray.

We do not believe it sinful to drink alcoholic beverages, while we do believe the Bible calls drunkenness a sin. As to drinking, we respect the consciences of those who reject drinking as a Christian liberty, but disagree in calling drinking itself a sin.

I could go on, but this should be enough to help you see we are not traditionally fundamentalist while holding to many if not all of the same fundamentalist doctrines.

I think your best course would be to simply make an appointment with an OPC minster and ask him questions and hear answers and discuss them. One thing you will find we agree on with our fundamentalist brothers and sisters is this: sinners must come to Christ and rest in him alone to be saved. Not a bad starting point, is it?



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