I’m glad you asked! That is after all what this blog is concerned with.
First, the term “Old School” in the title is not specifically a reference to the pop culture phrase “old school” which, according to Wikipedia:
“is a slang term referring to an older school of thinking or acting and to old objects in general, within the context of newer, more modern times. Rather than carrying the negative connotation of obsolete, it may be used to refer to a time of perceived higher standards or level of craft. The term “old school” may be effectively equivalent to “They just don’t make ‘em like this anymore”
Having said that, there are elements in the definition above that would be applicable to the term “Old School” as we are using it. Old School Presbyterianism is indeed an older school of thought which reached its zenith in the 19th century, Old School Presbyterian churches do indeed stand out in the modern context, and we would argue that they are the product of a commitment to the highest possible standard. However, where we would diverge with the above definition is in that this blog is committed to the idea that when it comes to Old School churches, “they just don’t make ‘em like this anymore” doesn’t need to be the case. Since we believe that God is the builder of these churches, and his unchanging Word is the blueprint, there is no reason we shouldn’t be able to build new Old School churches either by building them from scratch via Old School church planting or by reforming existing churches along Old School lines.
While there are many ways we might define the term Old School, and a lot of the posts on this blog will inevitably be discussions of what Old School Presbyterianism is and isn’t here are a few principles that might be considered foundational to an understanding of Old School Presbyterianism:
1) Old School Presbyterians are committed to the idea that the Bible, which is the Word of God, is entirely sufficient for everything in our faith, life, and practice and we do not need to add anything of our own, nor should we. Therefore our worship is to be ordered according to God’s instructions, and not according to our imaginations or traditions or in any way God has not prescribed for us. This formulation is sometimes referred to as the Regulative Principle of Worship, which refers to the idea that our worship is entirely regulated and ruled by the teaching of scripture. This means that Old School Worship is neither “contemporary” nor “traditional” but simple and biblical.
2) In Church Polity Old School Presbyterians are committed to the idea that Presbyterianism is the form of church polity the bible teaches.
3) In Theology, Old School Presbyterians are committed to the Calvinism of the Westminster Standards, and believe this is the system of doctrine that the Bible teaches. They further believe that when men are ordained in Presbyterian churches, their subscription to the standards should be full and complete, and that any exceptions that a man has to the standards should be minimal.
4) Old School Presbyterians are also committed to the doctrine of the Spirituality of the Church and believe that the Church is not to embroil itself in party politics, nationalism, or anything that Christ has not commissioned his church to do. Dr. Morton Smith explains further what the spirituality of the church entails:
“There is a twofold work for the Church to accomplish. It is the gathering of the elect through the preaching of the Word, and then the instruction of those thus gathered in the full teaching of the Word. In other words the mission of the Church is to evangelize the lost, and then to teach the whole counsel of God to those who have been evangelized. We see the Church in Acts also ministering to her poor, but ultimately this was to the end that they could be taught the faith. This and this alone is the mission of the Church. R. B. Kuiper says, “The church’s task is to teach and preach the Word of God. Whatever else it may properly do is subordinate and subsidiary to that task. This is its supreme task.” He concludes his chapter on this subject by saying:
Just because the preaching of the Word is so great a task the church must devote itself to it alone. For the Church to undertake other activities, not indissolubly bound up with this one, is a colossal blunder, because it inevitably results in neglect of its proper ask. Let not the church degenerate into a social club. Let not the church go into the entertainment business. Let not the church take sides on such aspects of economics, politics, or natural science as are not dealt with in the Word of God. And let the church be content to teach special, not general revelation. Let the church be the church.
We may add further that since this was the only task given to the Church by her King, the Church should confine herself to carrying out this task and this task alone.”
5) Old School Presbyterians also believe in preaching that is warm and aimed not merely at the intellect, but at mens hearts and convictions. They are interested in and pray for genuine biblical revival within God’s churches.
Examples of Old School Presbyterian Theologians might include men like Dabney, Thornwell, Palmer, Peck, Girardeau, Cunningham, Bannerman, Brown, Alexander, Miller and a host of others from Scotland and the United States would fit into this category.
More could and will no doubt be said about this subject, but this should be suffice as a brief introduction..