Confessional Subscription and the Animus Imponentis

Dr. Alan Strange comes to the program to discuss the animus imponentis. Animus imponentis is a legal term that refers to the meaning of the words of an oath or confession that is intended by the body imposing the oath or confession. The concept clarifies what it means for officers of a modern church to subscribe to a confession composed by men who lived several centuries ago. On today’s episode, Dr. Strange explains the animus imponentis in greater detail and applies it to the issue of the days of creation, the topic of an OPC committee of which Dr. Strange was a part.

Dr. Strange is Professor of Church History, Registrar, and Theological Librarian at Mid-America Reformed Seminary in Dyer, Indiana. He recently completed a Ph.D. from the University of Wales.

Conference talks on the animus imponentis: http://www.pncnopc.org/audio/audio-presbytery/2009-animus-imponentis-conference/

“What is the ‘System of Doctrine?'” – Charles Hodge: http://www.pcahistory.org/documents/subscription/hodge.html

OPC report on the creation days: http://opc.org/GA/CreationReport.pdf

Participants: , , ,

Christ the Center focuses on Reformed Christian theology. In each episode a group of informed panelists discusses important issues in order to encourage critical thinking and a better understanding of Reformed doctrine with a view toward godly living. Browse more episodes from this program or subscribe to the podcast feed.

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6 years ago

I guess shows like this are what is called the academic approach to the faith. I prefer the spiritual warfare approach. We live in a spiritual landscape, on a spiritual battlefield.


6 years ago

“speculations”/”arguments” (2 Cor. 10:5)

Camden Bucey

6 years ago


It doesn’t have to be an either/or. How are we to engage in Spiritual warfare without knowing what we believe and how that fits (or doesn’t) with the beliefs of our church? Paul teaches that many false teachers are in our midst. There are wolves seeking to devour the sheep. Part of the church’s responsibility is to maintain the purity of doctrine among its teachers. The animus imponentis is a critical element to understanding what it means to subscribe to a confession. It helps us ascertain whether our beliefs and the beliefs of others are within the bounds of our ecclesiastical body. That is absolutely and directly applicable to our spiritual warfare.




6 years ago

When I say academic I don’t refer to biblical doctrine. I see biblical doctrine as armor of God. I refer I suppose to a philosophical and theoretical distancing of oneself from the practical level of the faith.

Robert Mossotti

1 year ago

Our Lord quoted the Old Testament thusly—“love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.” But the OT actually doesn’t say this exactly; Christ added the word “mind.” Why did he modify the OT injunction in this way for His disciples? Because He knew some of His disciples would—after the arrival of the Spirit who would initiate the period of inaugurated eschatology—dismiss the mental labor He expects, actually demands, all in the name of greater “Spirituality.” He knew His disciples of this epoch would need to hear this more than they would have “under the Law” (speaking in terms of historia salutis).

Jeff Wiebe

6 years ago

Respectfully, ‘we’ are integrated beings made in the image of God, which includes the ability to know by experience (empirical knowledge), testimony (including revelation), and inference (reasoning from the first two means of knowlege.) History is hopefully an account of how those who have gone before us have taken their own exposure to experience/empiricism and testimony, developed inferences under the Holy Spirit’s guidance, subject to Scripture, and written it down. This then becomes testimony for us, which we combine with our own experience and in turn make inferences from.

The reason I lay all this out is that it is in this very context that we *do* ‘spiritual warfare’, and in which we ‘test the spirits’, ‘examine the Scriptures every day to see if what X says is true’ (a la Berea) and ‘keep in step with the Spirit’. An academic approach to the faith is not illegitimate or farther removed from sincere heart-piety than the simplest farmhand’s wordless praise to the Lord as s/he sees the sunrise over a bountiful field of crops. We all speculate and need to continually seek and submit the Word and Spirit to discipline and guide our speculations, whether they are sophisticated and based on PhD level learning or on accumulated and quasi-instinctual experience. Jesus Christ is the Lord of his servants, and he has made some with gifts for mechanics and others with gifts for metaphysics. Let’s not dismiss either, nor the folks in between.


6 years ago

By any definition, what was happening on this show was not serious.

The knee jerk response from academics is a charge of anti-intellectualism. Got it. The political left does the same.

Then ironically the same academic-oriented Christians refuse to accept anything resembling terminal knowledge of the faith, choosing to be always learning, never able (or willing) to come to understanding.

I.e., I’ve encountered hard core Reformation era Reformed, Calvinist doctrine. OK. Hey, let’s see what Karl Barth was talking about over there… Why do I have to be so stuck in this orthodox stuff…

Get somebody on who can talk about being awake and loving your enemy, and doing it in a non-shallow, pious, pacifist way. Somebody who understands the doctrine as it’s carried out on the spiritual battlefield. Everyday. Myriad other examples.

What the newly-minted PhDs were talking about was not serious.


6 years ago

Been waiting for Dr. Strange to be on the show for a long time. Bravo!

Jeff Downs

6 years ago

Actually, this is quite an important discussion.

Benjamin P. Glaser

6 years ago

The discussion on WCF 21.5 was very interesting.

For information the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church has an “explanatory note” on 21.5 that says, basically, that the ARP believes that 21.5, originally understood, requires EP and therefore the ARP has “modified” 21.5 to teach Psalms and man-made hymns.

Justin Andrusk

6 years ago

If you take 21.5 and cross-reference it to 1.2 along with applying the Regulative Principle for Worship, there really is no option, but Exclusive Psalmody. Man-made hymns are not inspired and to sing them as a part of worship is a violation of both 21.5 and 1.2.

Alan Pontier

6 years ago

Just listened to this podcast and was reminded of what a pleasure it was to work with Alan Strange on the committee. I agree with just about everything that he said in the interview. I think especially important is his closing comment (beginning at about 59:50) that the report was not meant to end the debate over creation days. We all recognized that the General Assembly that erected the committee did not give us a mandate to solve the issue. The operative words in the mandate were: “assist the church…” I still believe we fulfilled that mandate even though some thought the report should have taken a position on the length of the days and others wrongly believe that the report ended the debate. The debate continues but, I hope, in a more orderly manner.

Cris A. Dickason

6 years ago

Alan Pontier;

Thanks for your additional comments. I too found the interview/discussion with Dr. Strange (the other Alan) beneficial. I’ve also listened to the Animus Conference recordings from a few years back. I certainly hope that within our circles (OPC) we can continue to discuss the exegetical and theological issues concerning creation with brotherly affection, as we continue to affirm God created all things of nothing by the word of his power.

Ruling Elder, Trinity Church, Hatboro
We meet at the Wheaton GA (or maybe the anniversary GA in MD)

Glen Clary

6 years ago

Thanks, Alan, for your work on this subject and on the creation report. I hope the report of the study committee on republication has the same pacifying effect that the creation report has had.


5 years ago

I’d really like to get a citation into the minutes so I can look up this “24-hour day” thing. For instance, there is a scan of some version of the minutes online at archive.org, can it be found in there somewhere?



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