In my own youth I was an Elder in a Presbyterian Church which took the Westminster Confession of Faith (1646, from what we might call England’s Taliban phase) very seriously indeed. You may peruse this classic Calvinist creed for yourselves. I should add that the current Anglican Archbishop of Sydney is very much a Calvinist, if not quite as hardline as the Westminster Confession, but his followers now, as we did then, admire The Banner of Truth Trust, for example.
From The Westminster Confession, which is vigorous at least, not mincing words:
…V. The purest Churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error; and some have so degenerated, as to become no Churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan. Nevertheless, there shall be always a Church on earth to worship God according to His will.
VI. There is no other head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ. Nor can the Pope of Rome, in any sense, be head thereof; but is that Antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalts himself, in the Church, against Christ and all that is called God.
VII. No man may vow to do any thing forbidden in the Word of God, or what would hinder any duty therein commanded, or which is not in his own power, and for the performance whereof he has no promise of ability from God. In which respects, popish monastical vows of perpetual single life, professed poverty, and regular obedience, are so far from being degrees of higher perfection, that they are superstitious and sinful snares, in which no Christian may entangle himself.
IV. And because the powers which God has ordained, and the liberty which Christ has purchased are not intended by God to destroy, but mutually to uphold and preserve one another, they who, upon pretence of Christian liberty, shall oppose any lawful power, or the lawful exercise of it, whether it be civil or ecclesiastical, resist the ordinance of God. And, for their publishing of such opinions, or maintaining of such practices, as are contrary to the light of nature, or to the known principles of Christianity (whether concerning faith, worship, or conversation), or to the power of godliness; or, such erroneous opinions or practices, as either in their own nature, or in the manner of publishing or maintaining them, are destructive to the external peace and order which Christ has established in the Church, they may lawfully be called to account, and proceeded against, by the censures of the Church, and by the power of the civil magistrate.
That, you may say, was then, and so say I; but there are those among us who still cherish such thoughts.
My father, when I was deeply into all this — I got Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion (and a new stereo) for my 21st birthday — used to quote Omar Khayyam (see head link) to me:
Myself when young did eagerly frequent
Doctor and Saint, and heard great Argument
About it and about: but evermore
came out by the same door as in I went.
UPDATE 11 January 2008
That was written two years ago, and as you will see from the comments my friend Jim Belshaw did take exception to England’s Taliban phase. OK, let’s consider: yes, I am actually a total fan of what the English system evolved, which we in Australia (thank God) have as our heritage. However, during those few years of the Civil War and Commonwealth you had a blurring of the roles of church and state, an assumption that the state should be run according to Biblical injunctions rather than Common Law, a suspension of Parliament, or when there was a Parliament, a purged one, the execution of a head of state, draconian laws governing belief, the closing of the theatres, the abolition of Christmas and maypole dancing, the destruction of much heritage in churches, civil war, the imposition of quite ruthless English law on Ireland… Differences? Obviously. The Taliban are with us now but the England we are talking about vanished in 1660, and the Holy Books are different, and women didn’t have to wear full body cover.
England in the long run did not go down that path. Eventually people couldn’t stand it. Interesting to speculate what things may have been like if they had continued many more years in their building of a Holy City.