Actually, though, if you look through the comment box, the claims about something being outside of the bounds of Reformed confessionalism are about R2K, not 2K. In fact, some of the comments specifically make it clear that R2K is at issue, not 2K. So, sadly, it turns out that the very framing of the issue by Hart is misleading.
But after framing the matter in terms of the discussion at Greenbaggins, Hart then states:
The argument about the confessional status of 2k can take several forms. One is that 2k is not the position of the original Westminster Confession, or of the other Reformed confessions for that matter. Another is the idea that the Bible calls the magistrate to uphold both tables of the law. And with this duty comes the magistrate’s responsibility to punish blasphemers and idolaters since the first table clearly forbids these sins and since God instructed the Israelites to execute those guilty of such sins.This characterization is again misleading: The second form is not an argument about confessional status at all. The first form is one way of measuring confessional status, but it is not one that was presented in the comment box. Again, sadly, Hart's characterizations do not honor the truth.
Hart then states:
The problem with this argument is that American Presbyterians revised (see all the revisions here) the original Westminster Confession and churches such as the PCA and the OPC continue to accept the revisions from 1787-1788.Well, that straw man is soundly defeated to the extent that the right way (or at least, "a right way") to measure Reformed confessionalism is by the American revisions.
Hart then identifies the changes and goes on to characterize the American revisions this way:
Not to be missed is that the revision not only drops entirely the magistrate’s responsibility for suppressing heresy and blasphemy, but it raises the stakes by forbidding laws that would prefer any denomination and insisting that magistrates protect the good names of all people no matter what their religion or their infidelity. It is an amazing change.It may be amazing. It is a change. It's not a contradiction (as we've already demonstrated).
Hart then goes on to say, in a longwinded fashion, that the RPCNA has (as of 2004, and perhaps before, though he does not say when) removed the same portions of Chapter 23 of the Westminster Confession that the American presbyterians did in the 18th century. Specifically, the RPCNA states that it "rejects" that portion of the chapter (see this pdf).
DGH claims that "This means, for the confessionally and grammatically challenged, that even the logic of national covenant no longer sustains the idea that the magistrate has authority [to do what WCF 23:3 says]." Logic doesn't change, people do.
DGH further claims that: "For the literacy challenged, that means that critics of 2k who insist 2k is outside the bounds of the confession would not even find a home in the RPCNA under the very Blue Banner at least on this point." With whatever respect is due Hart, this claim is pretty vapid. All it means is that the RPCNA does not hold to WCF 23:3, after the colon, and that consequently that portion could not be applied against "2K" or presumably against R2K, in the RPCNA. I don't expect to see a wave of R2K folks heading for the RPCNA, for a variety of reasons - mostly that whole "establishment of religion" thing that is still part of their confession.
But the historical reality is that in the last 20 years, the RPCNA has altered its positions on a variety of things for which it was historically known. I remember when RPCNA ministers had to abstain from alcohol, for example. Are the RPCNA folks radical liberals? Of course not. Have they changed a lot in the last 20 years, definitely.
Now some have tried to say that the revisions still assert the magistrate’s duty to suppress blasphemy and heresy. But given what the American divines said and did not say, and given that the Covenanters no longer insist on magisterial responsibility for punishing idolatry, this argument is even less believable than the one about George Washington being an orthodox Protestant.That's a link back to my post, but that's a claim I never made. I brought this issue to Hart's attention before posting, but we'll have to wait and see whether he posts any sort of retraction.
I cannot figure out whether Hart did not read the post, read the post and did not understand it, or is lying about the post. I'll leave it to Hart to clarify.
What I said there was the revisions do not contradict the original position. They do not state the original position, nor do they deny the original position. The American revisions were a move to broaden the confessional tent. And the American revisions did broaden the confessional tent, in most respects, although the American revisions did narrow the confessional tent with respect to the issue of giving preferences to a particular denomination.
Ah, well. There's a lot more that could be said. Many of Hart's positive statements are absolutely correct. He says lots of true things. For example, Hart writes:
I believe that what Scripture says is true. I believe the true church faithfully ministers the word of God. Those truths are binding on all people. The spiritual and eternal nature of those truth’s claims will not be adjudicated until the judgment day. The temporal and civil aspects of God’s law are deliberated daily by those authorities that God has ordained, and those authorities are legitimate even when they do not follow God’s law or implement it correctly.That's all good and true. The problem is this, when asked directly whether he affirms the following proposition, "Scripture says things that bind the civil magistrate," Hart indicated that he denies this. He stated, "no, I don’t agree with either of your propositions" to the person who posed this proposition to him.
That position is contrary both to the original standards and to the standards under the American revisions. It is, of course, also contrary to the position held by the RPCNA. That position is a position I view as "R2K" rather than "2K." I may be critical of some forms of 2K, but what is out of bounds is saying that the Scripture does not say things that bind the civil magistrate.
More coming on why R2K can't get along with the Westminster Standards, Lord willing.