For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the casting down of strongholds, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ; and being in readiness to avenge all disobedience, when your obedience shall be made full (II Cor. 10:3-6).

Captive Thoughts” is dedicated to bringing every thought captive to Christ through the study of the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms, with primary focus on the Westminster Shorter Catechism. This effort is a compilation of several years of catechetical study conducted at Westminster Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Westminster, California, by its Christian Education Committee and the author of this site.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q78

“Don’t confuse me with the facts. My mind is made up.” - That is sometimes said in jest, but like most humor, there is an element of truth. When we make a personal assessment of a situation, we often let our preconceived ideas get in the way of understanding things as they really are.
In Question #78, our fathers used the word “prejudicial” in describing what is forbidden in the ninth commandment. The “Westminster Men” selected their words carefully, and this word aptly describes the all too prevalent attitude of sinful bias and preconceived judgments that are detrimental to the truth and to the good reputations of others. Bias in and of itself is not necessarily sinful. But when it clouds or unduly influences right judgment, then we sinfully fail to be champions of the truth; we fail to serve him who upholds and is truth as an infinite, eternal, and unchangeable attribute. 
Again, we must ask our Heavenly Father to make us lovers of truth, rather than those who suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18)
Q.78. What is forbidden in the ninth commandment?
A.   The ninth commandment forbiddeth whatsoever is prejudicial to truth, or injurious to our own, or our neighbour’s, good name[a].
[a] Lev. 19:16; Ps. 15:3; Prov. 6:16-19; Luke 3:14
Question #78 asks what the ninth commandment forbids and answers that the ninth commandment forbids anything that gets in the way of the truth or injures anyone’s reputation.
Comments and considerations:
The previous question spoke to the ninth commandment’s requirement to maintain and promote truth. Here we see what is forbidden. The ninth commandment is rooted in bearing witness to truth. We are to give due consideration to whatever body of evidence is present in support of the truth; we must not prejudge a situation. As James puts it, “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (James 1:19). In our modern society, men and women do just the opposite! Prov. 15:28 states rightly, “The heart of the righteous studies how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil.” But righteousness is certainly not the norm in our daily discourse in truth-bearing. This catechism answer cites Prov. 6:16-19, which we looked at in the previous study also; the Lord hates the sinful use of the tongue to lie and to destroy reputations; such speech reveals bad character and ungodly judgment.
The word prejudicial means more than simply pre-judging. The word carries a distinctive definition, a stigma or stain. The dictionaries cast it in a negative light as “an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason.” Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines prejudicial as “hurtful; mischievous; injurious; disadvantageous; detrimental; tending to obstruct or impair justice and good judgment.” It would seem that there is nothing good that comes from being prejudicial; and thus, being prejudicial to truth is a double negative. Our God is “a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth” (WSC Q4). As his images-bearers, we are to be lovers of the truth. See how he commands in Leviticus, “You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people; nor shall you take a stand against the life of your neighbor: I am the LORD” (Lev. 19:16). Also Luke records, “Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, ‘And what shall we do?’ So he said to them, ‘Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely’” (Luke 3:14).
As always, there is much to ponder here. Much evil flows from an uncontrolled tongue, from thoughtless and unreasoning prejudice. “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise” (Prov. 10:19). There are many more wise proverbs and other Scripture references that instruct us about our speech. Lord, give us a teachable and sanctified heart in keeping the ninth commandment with joy and love for you and our neighbor!
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.        Read Eph. 4:21-25. God only speaks what is true. God created us to be righteous and holy. He created us to speak and to love the truth as he does. Considering that:
             -       What was Adam’s first really big mistake when he encountered Satan’s temptation to sin? (Starr Meade refers to this as actual sin itself.)
            -       As a result, all of mankind is born with what attitude regarding truth?
            -       How does God purpose to change and redirect our heart attitude regarding truth?
2.        An attribute of God is truth. As God’s children by faith and obedience, what should be our attitude concerning truth? Read Eph. 5:8-11?
3.        In our love and desire for truth, where should our actions and attitudes for the truth begin? Read Matt. 7:3-5 and Luke 18:9-14.
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q78and WLC 145
WSC Q78. What is forbidden in the ninth commandment?
A.  The ninth commandment forbiddeth whatsoever is prejudicial to truth, or injurious to our own, or our neighbour's, good name[a].
      [a]  Lev. 19:16; Ps. 15:3; Prov. 6:16-19; Luke 3:14
WLC Q145. What are the sins forbidden in the ninth commandment?
A.  The sins forbidden in the ninth commandment are, all prejudicing the truth, and the good name of our neighbours, as well as our own[a], especially in public judicature[b]; giving false evidence[c], suborning false witnesses[d], wittingly appearing and pleading for an evil cause, outfacing and overbearing the truth[e]; passing unjust sentence[f], calling evil good, and good evil; rewarding the wicked according to the work of the righteous, and the righteous according to the work of the wicked[g]; forgery[h], concealing the truth, undue silence in a just cause[i], and holding our peace when iniquity calleth for either a reproof from ourselves[j], or complaint to others[k]; speaking the truth unseasonably[l], or maliciously to a wrong end[m], or perverting it to a wrong meaning[n], or in doubtful and equivocal expressions, to the prejudice of truth or justice[o]; speaking untruth[p], lying[q], slandering[r], backbiting[s], detracting[t], tale bearing[u], whispering[v], scoffing[w], reviling[x], rash[y], harsh[z], and partial censuring[aa]; misconstruing intentions, words, and actions[bb]; flattering[cc], vain-glorious boasting[dd]; thinking or speaking too highly or too meanly of ourselves or others[ee]; denying the gifts and graces of God[ff]; aggravating smaller faults[gg]; hiding, excusing, or extenuating of sins, when called to a free confession[hh]; unnecessary discovering of infirmities[ii]; raising false rumors[jj], receiving and countenancing evil reports[kk], and stopping our ears against just defense[ll]; evil suspicion[mm]; envying or grieving at the deserved credit of any[nn], endeavoring or desiring to impair it[oo], rejoicing in their disgrace and infamy[pp]; scornful contempt[qq], fond admiration[rr]; breach of lawful promises[ss]; neglecting such things as are of good report[tt], and practicing, or not avoiding ourselves, or not hindering what we can in others, such things as procure an ill name[uu].
[a]   1Sam. 17:28; 2Sam. 16:3; 1:9-10, 15-16
[b]   Lev. 19:15; Hab. 1:4
[c]   Prov. 19:5; 6:16, 19
[d]   Acts 6:13
[e]   Jer. 9:3, 5; Acts 24:2, 5; Ps. 12:3-4; 52:1-4
[f]   Prov. 17:15; 1Kng. 21:9-14
[g]   Isa. 5:23
[h]  Ps. 119:69; Luke 19:8; 16:5-7
[i]    Lev. 5:1; Deut. 13:8; Acts 5:3, 8-9; 2Tim. 4-6
[j]    1Kng. 1:6; Lev. 19:17
[k]  Isa. 59:4
[l]    Prov. 29:11
[m] 1Sam. 22:9-10; Ps. 52:1-5
[n]  Ps. 56:5; John 2:19; Mat. 26:60-61
[o]  Gen. 3:5; 26:7, 9
[p]  Isa. 59:13
[q]   Lev. 19:11; Col. 3:9
[r]   Ps. 50:20
[s]   Ps. 15:3
[t]   Jam. 4:11; Jer. 38:4
[u]   Lev. 19:16
[v]  Rom. 1:29-30
[w]  Gen. 21:9; Gal. 4:29
[x]  1Cor. 6:10
[y]  Mat. 7:1
[z]   Acts 28:4
[aa]Gen. 38:24; Rom. 2:1
[bb]Neh. 6:6-8; Rom. 3:8; Ps. 69:10; 1Sam. 1:13-15; 2Sam. 10:3
[cc]Ps. 12:2-3
[dd]2Tim. 3:2
[ee]Luke 18:9, 11; Rom. 12:16; 1Cor. 4:6; Acts 12:22; Exod. 4:10-14
[ff] Job 27:5-6; 4:6
[gg]Mat. 7:3-5
[hh]  Prov. 28:13; 30:20; Gen. 3:12-13; Jer. 2:35; 2Kng. 5:25; Gen. 4:9
[ii]  Gen. 9:22; Prov. 25:9-10
[jj]  Exod. 23:1
[kk]    Prov. 29:12
[ll]  Acts 7:56-57; Job 31:13-14
[mm] 1Cor. 13:5; 1Tim. 6:4
[nn]  Num. 11:29; Mat. 21:15
[oo]  Ezra 4:12-13
[pp]  Jer. 48:27
[qq]Ps. 35:15-16, 21; Mat. 27:28-29
[rr] Jude 16; Acts 12:22
[ss] Rom. 1:31; 2Tim. 3:3
[tt] 1Sam. 2:24
[uu]2Sam. 13:12-13; Prov. 5:8-9; 6:33
Question(s) for further study:

The Larger Catechisms expands extensively upon the Shorter, our fathers providing how many sins forbidden in the ninth commandment?  Does this not give cause to pause in considering the breadth and depth of James’ sober instruction “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (James 1:19), especially in view of the rancor so prevalent in our current society and cultural?

Monday, September 18, 2017

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q77

“The closer something is to the truth and yet a falsehood, the easier it is to fool the unwary” - D.G. Barnhouse
“Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pain taken to bring it to light”  - G. Washington
As we continue our study in the ninth commandment, WSC 77 deals with maintaining and promoting truth in witness bearing. The quotes above give an extra measure of perspective upon the topic. 
Again, it is important that we approach this study in prayer that the Lord would give us a love for the truth so that we might perform those things that most please and honor him. 
WSC Q77. What is required in the ninth commandment?
A.  The ninth commandment requireth the maintaining and promoting of truth between man and man, and of our own and our neighbour’s good name[a], especially in witness bearing[b].
[a]  Zech. 8:16; Acts 25:10; III John 12
[b]  Prov. 14:5, 25
Question #77 asks what the ninth commandment requires and answers that ninth commandment requires us to tell the truth and to maintain and promote it and our own and others’ reputations, especially when testifying.
Comments and considerations:
“And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). How important is the truth in the Christian’s life? A concordance shows that the word “truth” appears 100 times in the New Testament alone; the two words “the truth” are found together 60 times. Here are some examples: “speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ” (Eph. 4:15), and “we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).
The truth is significant in the tapestry of all we are, think, and do; it is central to our standing as covenant-keepers as our fathers point out in the verses associated with this catechism lesson:
These are the things you shall do:
Speak each man the truth to his neighbor;
Give judgment in your gates for truth, justice, and peace (Zech. 8:16).
According to the catechism, 1) the truth is to be maintained and promoted in our relationships, 2) reputations are to be guarded, and 3) all of this is especially important in giving testimony. The apparent focus is on judicial testimony in witness-bearing; we are to uphold justice with our words as we serve a just God (Micah 6:6-8 and Hosea 6:6). We must not hold the truth in abstract. The old playground rhyme says, “Sticks and stone may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!” But nothing could be further from the truth; words can do immense damage! During World War II, leaders warned, “Loose lips sink ships;” unguarded talk might give useful information to the enemy and cause irreparable harm. As James writes, the tongue can do both good and evil: “Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh. Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom” (James 3:10-13). To this we would add further instruction from this catechism’s list of associated verses.
A faithful witness does not lie,
But a false witness will utter lies. 
A true witness delivers souls,
But a deceitful witness speaks lies (Prov. 14:4, 25).
There is much involved in maintaining and promoting truth in our several relationships. At a minimum we must not be passive or indifferent about the truth; we must actively promote it if it is to flourish in our midst. We must also guard our own and our neighbor’s good name. In ancient cultures, a name itself reflected the character and reputation of a person. Today, names may not carry such weight, but one’s reputation is still valuable. We must not be cavalier in our treatment of our own or our neighbor’s reputation. Hear what Solomon has to say regarding truth-telling:
These six things the LORD hates,
Yes, seven are an abomination to Him
A proud look,
A lying tongue,
Hands that shed innocent blood, 
A heart that devises wicked plans,
Feet that are swift in running to evil, 
A false witness who speaks lies,
And one who sows discord among brethren (Prov. 6:16-19).
The sinful use of the tongue is mentioned three times in this list of seven sins; lying is on par with murder; and the fostering of disharmony among the brethren is an abomination to the Lord. He finds such sins disgusting, repulsive, and totally offensive. Put another way, “Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, but those who deal truthfully are His delight” (Prov. 12:22).
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.     Read I Pet. 4:8. How are we to protect the reputation of others? If we love others, how will we handle the negative things we hear about or observe in them?
2.     Though we should not jump to conclusions about a person’s intentions, we must also be careful not to ignore wrongdoing. When we see that someone may have committed an offense, how should we respond? See Matt. 18:15-18 and outline in simple terms what course of action is described there.
3.     We must protect the reputations of others by being careful with our own speech, and also by not listening to talk that may damage another’s name. How does Prov. 18:8 describe bearing tales about others?
4.     When we give information about others, according to I Cor. 13:6 and III John 3-4, what should be our heart attitude?
5.     Concerning our own reputation, how do I Pet. 3:15-16 and Matt. 5:14-16 describe how we ought to live before others?
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q77 and WLC 144
WSC Q77. What is required in the ninth commandment?
A.  The ninth commandment requireth the maintaining and promoting of truth between man and man, and of our own and our neighbour's good name[a], especially in witness bearing[b].
[a]   Zech. 8:16; Acts 25:10; IIIJohn 12
[b]   Prov. 14:5, 25
WLC Q144. What are the duties required in the ninth commandment?
A.  The duties required in the ninth commandment are, the preserving and promoting of truth between man and man[a], and the good name of our neighbour, as well as our own[b]; appearing and standing for the truth[c]; and from the heart[d], sincerely[e], freely[f], clearly[g], and fully[h], speaking the truth, and only the truth, in matters of judgment and justice[i], and in all other things whatsoever[j]; a charitable esteem of our neighbours[k]; loving, desiring, and rejoicing in their good name[l]; sorrowing for[m], and covering of their infirmities[n]; freely acknowledging of their gifts and graces[o], defending their innocency[p]; a ready receiving of a good report[q], and unwillingness to admit of an evil report[r], concerning them; discouraging tale-bearers[s], flatterers[t], and slanderers[u]; love and care of our own good name, and defending it when need requireth[v]; keeping of lawful promises[w]; studying and practicing of whatsoever things are true, honest, lovely, and of good report[x].
[a]   Zech. 8:16
[b]   3John 12
[c]   Prov. 31:8-9
[d]   Ps. 15:2
[e]   2Chro. 19:9
[f]   1Sam. 19:4-5
[g]   Josh. 7:19
[h]  2Sam. 14:18-20
[i]    Lev. 19:15; Prov. 14:5, 25
[j]    2Cor. 1:17-18; Eph. 4:25
[k]  Heb. 6:9; 1Cor. 13:7
[l]    Rom. 1:8; 2John 4; 3John 3-4
[m] 2Cor. 2:4; 12:21
[n]  Prov. 17:9; 1Pet. 4:8
[o]  1Cor. 1:4-5, 7; 2Tim. 1:4-5
[p]  1Sam. 22:14
[q]   1Cor. 13:6-7
[r]   Ps. 15:3
[s]   Prov. 25:23
[t]   Prov. 26:24-25
[u]   Ps. 101:5
[v]  Prov. 22:1; John 8:49
[w]  Ps. 15:4
[x]  Phil. 4:8

Question(s) for further study:

The Larger Catechism expands upon the Shorter providing duties required in the ninth commandment.  According to the Larger Catechism answer, those duties begin where and flow out of what (Psa. 15:2); in the end calling for what “study and practice?” (Phil 4:8)