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During the run-up to the 1903 PCUSA revision of the Westminster Confession of Faith, B.B. Warfield wasn’t the only prominent Princetonian expressing concerns about the potential risks to the church. Geerhardus Vos, in an exchange with Abraham Kuyper, the Dutch theologian, during the 1890’s, reveals his opposition to the planned revision.
This exchange — detailed in Danny E. Olinger’s recent biography, Geerhardus Vos: Reformed Biblical Theologican, Confessional Presbyterian (2018), and in James T. Dennison, Jr.’s The Letters of Geerhardus Vos (2006) [both available at our Secondary Sources Bookstore page] — was private, but he also addressed the matter publicly on a few occasions. One was his article on “The Biblical Idea of Preterition” (The Presbyterian, 70, 36 (September 5, 1900): pp. 9-10); another was "The Scriptural Doctrine of the Love of God” (The Presbyterian and Reformed Review, 13, 49 (January 1902): pp. 1-37). In the former article, Vos noted,
One of the gravest symptoms of the revision movement in the Presbyterian Church today consists in the absence of serious appeal to scriptural authority for the changes of confessional statement that are advocated….Consequently there is reason to fear that the spirit in which revision is sought forebodes greater evil to the church than any material modifications of the creed to which revision may lead. Even if the Calvinistic system of doctrine embodied in our standards were seriously mutilated in result of the present movement, so long as the great body of believers feel themselves in conscience bound to yield unquestioning faith to the Bible, there is always hope for a rehabilitation of the principles temporarily abandoned. But when once the sense of allegiance to the Word of God as the only authoritative rule of faith has become weakened, or while still recognized in theory has ceased to be a living force in the minds of believers, then the hope of a return to the truth once forsaken is reduced to a minimum.
See Olinger’s discussion of these articles, ibid., pp. 107-116, for a helpful analysis of the concerns that Vos had.
Furthermore, in 1896, Vos published his handwritten 5-volume Reformed Dogmatics in Dutch. As these volumes have been recently translated (they are not currently on this site), readers will find interesting his remarks from Volume 5, p. 41, on the value of faithful creeds and confessions.
There are many who deny to the church the power and right of making creeds, and think that to do so is in conflict with the sufficiency of Holy Scripture. Hence, too, there are many communions that hold to no confession, such as the Quakers, Darbyists, etc. One should grant that creeds are not absolutely necessary. A church, if one wishes to reason in the abstract, can exist without confessional documents, and has existed without such. These, however, were exceptional situations. It is impossible to guide someone through Scripture in its entirety or to ask him his opinions concerning the whole of Scripture. The essential things must be gathered together in order that the church may show how it understands Scripture in the light of the Spirit. The authority of these creeds is always bound to Scripture; they are susceptible to improvement, but may not be lightly revised, inasmuch as they are not a compendium of theology but the ripe fruits of the spiritual development of the church, sometimes obtained through a long struggle. A true revision does not tear down the old but explains and confirms it and further illumines it in connection with new times and circumstances. But it remains true that the Scripture is the norma normans [norming norm], the confession the norma normata [normed norm].
From these sources we learn both how Vos opposed the movement to amend the Westminster Confession of Faith, which succeeded in its goal in 1903, and why Vos valued sound confessionalism, viewing faithful creeds as a means to aid the church in its affirmation of what Scripture teaches on a systematic basis. It was precisely because of his view that Scripture is the only rule of faith and practice that Vos taught the necessity of creeds as subordinate to Scripture — to guard the exposition of those Scriptures by the church from error — and the danger of revisions when they sprang from preference as opposed to scriptural mandate.