A Brief Critique of the “Explanatory Declaration” Used by the RPCNA to Avoid the Necessity of Political Dissent and by which they Nullify any Testimony Against the Immorality of the US Constitution.
The following Explanatory Declaration was adopted by the Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America for its members taking the Constitutional Oath:
“In taking this oath I make no mental reservation. I am a member of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, and I declare that I owe a supreme allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ, and in making that declaration I take the same God as my witness, invoking His assistance to help me render due obedience to my country in all temporal matters.
“And I do further declare that I do not know any matter in which I intend actual disobedience to any command of my country now know to me.”
It is disturbing to see people claiming to be Covenanters discussing things about which they appear to have no understanding. For example, one member of the US military (who is by reason of this connection no genuine Covenanter) stakes his claim upon the so-called Explanatory Declaration which is an auxiliary oath crafted by the RPCNA to allow members to take oaths to immoral governments while supposedly protecting them from pledging to do anything contrary to Scripture. They think that by prefacing any oath tendered by stating that they are themselves members of the RPCNA and pledge supreme allegiance to Jesus Christ that it absolves them from all guilt contracted by the VOLUNTARY association into which they enter by oath or vow. The absurdity of this position stands in several things:
First, as Westminster Confession XXII.2 states, oaths and vows are to be imposed only by “lawful” authorities. The US government is, according to genuine Reformed Presbyterian doctrine, an immorally constituted civil government and, as such, cannot be a “lawful” authority competent to tender oaths and vows. This is one reason why, historically, Covenanters did not and DO NOT serve in any capacity requiring such entangling alliances.
Second, Westminster Confession XXII.4, says, oaths are “to be taken in the plain and common sense of the words, without equivocation, or mental reservation.” However, what is the Explanatory Declaration but a platform of equivocation? It amounts to a pledge to serve Baal as long as one can also serve Jesus Christ. Notice it only asserts “a supreme allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ,” not the supreme allegiance. Is there some realm where this allegiance does not apply? This is a mental reservation, albeit vocalized, which any real competent and “lawful” authority would recognize as such and reject. The fact that the US government allows this proves them to be a “lawless authority” and, therefore, not competent to tender lawful oaths and vows.
Third, should I grant the lawfulness of the US government to tender these oaths, then I should inquire by what authority either the individual or the church (RPCNA) interpose their own oath into a matter competent only to lawful civil authorities—civil oaths and vows? There appears to be a species of Popery attached to the conceit that the church has authority to meddle in civil affairs. And, before anyone object that the oath or vow is religious, I would point out that it is an ordinance of the light of nature (which is why the heathen mariners vow in Jonah 1) not strictly under the authority of the church.
Fourth, Westminster Confession XXII.6, states that oaths and vows are to made “to God alone.” Yet, it is a notorious fact that the US Constitution is godless, rejecting the true religion and prepared to allow for any religion and guaranteeing its freedom of practice (cf. First Amendment). Thus, the authorities tendering the oath worship some other god than the true God in Christ. Again, we must ask, how can one join the name of Jesus (even if you find some authority to meddle in civil affairs) with that of Baal, or some other heathen idols? What fellowship hath Christ with Baal? What kind of Christian would seek to join Jesus with idols?
Finally, the notion that a person could finish this oath by denying that there are any commands “of my country” to which there exists an intent to disobey suggests either complete ignorance or duplicity. An oath to the US government is an oath to uphold a constitution which is fundamentally godless. All of the moral degradation of the country which is upheld by law (e.g., abortion, sodomitical marriage, etc.) flow from this poison root. This principle was once well known and recognized to be an insurmountable evil to any civil incorporations by American Covenanters—and it still is.
The Explanatory Declaration was the product of a church in terrible theological. It was framed by those who had long before lost sight of the Covenants which made Reformed Presbyterians Covenanters. It is the product of a church whose “Covenant of 1871” buried the genuine witness for Covenanted Reformation. Frankly, had the early American Covenanters agreed with this doctrine, they would have all gone into the “New Light” and would now, through a series of mergers, all be members of the PCA where they belong.