Theological Differences

The Westminster divines were generally good Calvinists, but they were able to allow for differences in areas that were deemed secondary. Besides the millennial question, they allowed for differences of opinion on such matters as the logical order of the decrees of God, leaving room for supralapsarians as well as infralapsarians. One of the interesting debates in the summer of 1643 pertained to the question of the imputation of Christ’s active obedience, as well as his passive obedience, to the believer in justification. Daniel Featley, echoing Archbishop James Ussher, argued for the imputation of Christ’s active obedience. Ranged against him were such figures as William Twisse, Thomas Gataker and Richard Vines, who contended that it was Christ’s passive obedience alone that was imputed to the believer for justification. Such formidable theologians succeeded in getting the term ‘whole obedience’ removed from the phrase ‘imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them’ in Chapter XI of the Westminster Confession, but the imputation of Chris’t active obedience was thus included; and in the Savoy Declaration, under John Owen’s influence, it would be sharpened into ‘Christ’s active obedience unto the whole law, and passive obedience in his death for their whole and sole righteousness’. The Westminster divines, in such controversies, sought to be clear and faithful to Scriptural language, yet to allow for shades of difference within a generic Calvinism.


William Barker, Puritan Profiles: 54 Puritan Personalities Drawn Together by the Westminster Assembly (Fearn, Scotland: Christian Focus Mentor, 1996), 176.