Which is More Troubling?

Charismatics who sway and wave their arms during congregational singing, or evangelicals who think charismatics swaying and waving are a sign of the Spirit?

I can’t help but wonder after reading David Neff’s wishing happy birthday to the charimsatic movement in his editorial for Christianity Today. He writes:

In April 1960, I was a seventh grader in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, culturally and religiously as distant from Southern California Episcopalians as an American could be. But by 1974, I had a newly minted M.Div. and became pastor of a church near San Diego. There I became friends with Frank Maguire, an Episcopal priest who featured prominently in Dennis Bennett’s autobiographical Nine O’Clock in the Morning.

In 1959, Maguire had invited Bennett to meet members of his parish who were experiencing unusual spiritual phenomena. These folk weren’t doing anything wild and crazy, Maguire told Bennett. They just glowed “like little light bulbs” and were “so loving and ready to help whenever I asked them.” When I met Maguire almost 15 years later, the charismatics I met in his parish still weren’t wild or crazy. And they still had the glow and the love Maguire had told Bennett about.

I had been raised in a sectarian atmosphere, trained to distrust Christianity of any stripe but my own. For me, what made the charismatic renewal remarkable was the ecumenical fellowship it created. American Baptists and Roman Catholics in our community were sharing Communion—even serving Communion at each other’s churches—until the Catholic bishop put a stop to it. Episcopalians were worshiping with an intensity that undercut all my prejudices against written prayers and prescribed liturgies. Formerly competing religious communities were suddenly open to common ministry and shared worship. This was not the classic liberal ecumenism with its “Doctrine Divides, Service Unites” motto. This ecumenism flowed from recognizing that the Holy Spirit was animating and transforming others.

Some analysts say the mainline charismatic renewal fizzled. It is more accurate to describe it the way Jesus pictured the kingdom of God: like yeast that spreads through bread dough. You can hardly identify it as a movement anymore, but it has changed the way most churches worship. Repetitive choruses and raised hands are now common. Except in pockets of hardcore resistance, the fact that a fellow Christian may praise God in a private prayer language hardly elevates an eyebrow.

What I wonder is how Neff can spot the defect of Doctrine-Divides-Service-Unites ecumenism and not see the error in charismatic understandings of the Holy Spirit, the second helping of blessings, the casual worship, and the disregard for ecclesiastical office (for starters). After all, plenty of Charles Erdmans in the Presbyterian world believed that the Spirit was leading the church to a Doctrine-Divides-Service-Unites form of Protestant unity. So how do you deny the blessing of the Spirit to one form of unity but not the other?

Part of Neff’s response may fall back on doctrine, as in the kind of teachings advocated by charismatics are more true than the ideals propagated by Protestant liberals. I would likely agree. But then once you appeal to one doctrine, don’t a lot of other doctrines kick in, like all the ones that tell me charismatics are in error. And then I conclude – contra Neff – that despite talking about the Spirit a lot do not charismatics do not have special claims on the Spirit.

I think I understand Neff’s regard for charismatics. He displays an important part of the legacy of neo-evangelicalism which is to downplay the negative and accent the positive. Neo-evangelicals believed they needed to do this in order to overcome the bad PR of fundamentalism (i.e., a fundamentalist is an evangelical who is angry). Neff is trying to be generous and looking for alliances wherever they may be cultivated.

But if doctrine does not unite, and the doctrine of the Holy Spirit is a part of the church’s teaching, then shouldn’t Neff be more discerning about the charismatic movement? In fact, if Word and Spirit ordinarily work together, so that the Spirit is alive and well wherever true teaching from the Word is present, then folks like myself who cringe in the presence of swaying and waving, or when reading approving editorials about such worship behavior, may have the Spirit more than the allegedly Spirit-filled charismatics. (Of course, all such claims to the Spirit need to be read in the context of the battle between the flesh and the Spirit that requires most Augustinian readers of Paul to abstain from saying that they are Spirit-filled.)

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40 Comments

  1. Posted May 15, 2010 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    It seems to me that the writings of reformers and their bouts with the Anabaptist’s need to be reopened and examined more closely again. I have posted this quote form Luther on the Heidelblog and The Confessional Outhouse this week- thanks to RubeRad. Here is the quote:

    “Nor should we be led astray because some boast of the Spirit and despise the Scriptures or others, like the Waldensian Brethren (a footnote noted that Luther might have meant the Bohemian Brethren or Picards) , consider the languages unnecessary. But, dear friend, you may say what you will about the Spirit, I too have been in the Spirit and have seen the Spirit, perhaps more of it (if it comes to boasting of one’s own flesh) than they with all their vaunting shall see in a year. My Spirit, moreover, has given some account of itself, while theirs sits very quietly in its corner and does little but sing its own praise. But I know full well how perfectly the “spirit” does all things. I should indeed have failed egregiously if the languages had not aided me and given me a certain and positive knowledge of Scripture. I too could have lived uprightly and preached the truth in seclusion, but I should then have left undisturbed the pope and the sophists with the whole anti-christian realm. The devil has not so much respect for my spirit as he has for my speech and pen when they deal with Scripture. For my spirit takes from him nothing by myself alone, but Holy Scripture and the languages leave him but little room on earth, and that means a loss to his kingdom.

    Nor can I at all commend the Waldensian Brethren for depreciating the languages. Even if they taught the truth, they must nevertheless frequently miss the right sense of a text and are also unequipped and unskilled in the defense of the faith against error. Moreover, their teaching is so obscure and expressed in so peculiar a form, departing from that of Scripture, that I am afraid it may not be pure or may not continue pure. For there is great danger in speaking of divine things in a different manner and in different terms from those employed by God Himself. In short, they may lead holy lives and teach holy things among themselves, but as long as they remain without the languages they cannot but lack what all the rest lack, namely, the ability to treat scripture with certainty and thoroughness and to be useful to other nations. But since they could do this and refuse, let them see how they will answer for it to God.”

    This quote is taken from Luther’s letter to the councilmen in all the cities of Germany in order to establish schools for German youths for the betterment of the state of Germany. I thought it was a very telling letter about those who opposed the reformation which Luther was fighting for and how Luther related to the state. Here is the whole letter: “To the Councilmen of All Cities in Germany, that they Establish and Maintain Christian Schools.” or here: http://go2.wordpress.com/?id=725X1342&site=confessionalouthouse.wordpress.com&url=http%3A%2F%2Fbooks.google.com%2Fbooks%3Fid%3DhGR548TlX2oC%26lpg%3DPA3%26pg%3DPA99%23v%3Donepage%26q%26f%3Dfalse&sref=http%3A%2F%2Fconfessionalouthouse.wordpress.com%2F2010%2F05%2F10%2Fa-christian-call-for-state-education%2F

  2. Posted May 15, 2010 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    What else can one expect from Evangelicals, Darryl?

    Besides the proclivity to confuse “spirited” and spiritual worship (or QIRE, as RSClark puts it), Evangelical non-ecclesiology fits precisely with Neff’s version of “ecumencity” –viz, they think the real action is in the “hallways” or “on the green” (as Mike Horton puts it).

    A Reformed Confessionalist take would be to say that all this is besides the point, however. Those who are non-Reformed in their soteriology (most Evangelicals and Charismatics) shouldn’t be considered fellow-believers. They have a different gospel, and their churches aren’t true churches.

  3. Posted May 15, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Seriously Baus? I don’t know how many Reformed Confessionalists that are lining up to anathematize most Evangelicals and Charismatics. I’m not even sure how you square your views confessionally. WCF 25. 4-5 seem to be pretty clear that there is a spectrum of purity in the church. The onus is on you to demonstrate why most Evangelical and Charismatic congregations have so denigrated as to become false churches.

  4. Posted May 15, 2010 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    Any chance you could elaborate on this quote: “(Of course, all such claims to the Spirit need to be read in the context of the battle between the flesh and the Spirit that requires most Augustinian readers of Paul to abstain from saying that they are Spirit-filled.)”
    BTW – I’m a Presbyterian pastor who has lost many congregants to the charismatic movement. Charismaticism almost seems like a drug to me – once it gets in someone’s system they seem inoculated to any proper understanding of the ministry of word and sacrament.

  5. cnh
    Posted May 15, 2010 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    dgh, what’s your take on the “reformed charismatic” movement in the Sovereign Grace Ministries under CJ Mahaney? I have not had much interaction with them except a couple of fellow seminarians were part of that movement when I was attending.

  6. Posted May 15, 2010 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

    Jed, I’m happy explain. We could continue the discussion by email if you like.
    [i'm @ ideolog-at-gmail-dot-com]

    If an individual professes, or a church confesses a faith that is contrary to the gospel then we are not at liberty to “charitably” judge them to be fellow believers or a Christian church.

    So, the question is “what is the gospel?” Those who deny the definitive efficacy of the person and work of Christ alone (to fully and freely save all for whom He atoned), get the gospel wrong.

  7. dgh
    Posted May 16, 2010 at 4:48 am | Permalink

    David Wayne, all I meant by that convoluted parenthetical remark was that I’m uncomfortable with seeming to claim that I am spirit filled. I think I am, on the basis of what God’s word teaches about regeneration and effectual calling. But I also know some of the darker corners of my body and soul.

    Jared and Baus, while I appreciate Baus’ full-court press on non-Reformed, I myself would follow Warfield’s The Plan of Salvation in parsing Protestant versions of the gospel, and so see reasons for still calling evangelicals “evangelical” in the old Reformation sense of the term.

    cnh, I can’t say I know that much about Sovereign Grace folks. But if they are charismatics I’m troubled, and I’m especially troubled by Reformed Protestants who join with charismatics in parachurch “ministries.”

  8. Posted May 16, 2010 at 5:05 am | Permalink

    Jed,

    Nice eye. It seems to me the Reformed tradition has much more invested in determining true churches (as in the three marks) than in which individuals are true or false. And at the risk of sounding pragmatic, we might get further with our friends if we refrained from peering into mysteries and passed judgment reserved for God alone and spent more time judging what is known (Dt. 29:29). Sometimes I wonder if we really understand what it means to upturn inward stones, or that there are as many lambs without as there are wolves within.

  9. Posted May 16, 2010 at 6:56 am | Permalink

    Zrim, it is precisely because we cannot see into the heart, because we must refrain from “peering into the mysteries and pass judgment reserved for God alone,” that we lie about the gospel if we call gospel-deniers fellow believers or call their churches Christian or true churches.

    Neither you nor any one else can know what a denier of the gospel might embrace other than what they profess to embrace.

  10. Posted May 16, 2010 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    Baus,

    I can see warrant in saying that some, or even many evangelical and charismatic churches fall short of the marks of a true church. But I think, correct me if I am off here, that the primary criteria that we receive an individual as a fellow Christian, is a credible profession of faith. If they are part of a manifestly impure, or even false church, then it is on us to encourage him to join a true church where the gospel is purely preached, and the sacraments are rightly administered. I am not so sure I am willing to follow you and say that most of these churches are false, and most evangelicals ought not be considered believers. I prefer Horton’s village green analogy in approaching evangelicalism at large, it seems more balanced.

  11. Andrew Duggan
    Posted May 16, 2010 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    Who gets to decide what is a credible profession of faith? Is not the church? It is not an individual judgment. So the real question is not who does “Joe Christian” think is a Christian, but who does the church admit to communicant membership or participation in the sacraments.

    Being part of a false church doesn’t really help the credibility of one’s profession of faith does it? For example, if one denies sola scriptura, because of a belief in ongoing revelation of the Spirit, doesn’t a session already have good reason to doubt said profession that his faith is in Christ alone? Do you think that sessions should be required to overlook some things like sola scriptura?

    Since only God can read the heart and know if any are believers the church has to go by what men profess. There is no way for me to know if anyone in my OPC congregation are actually believers. The session listens to someone’s profession, evaluates that in light of his life, and then determines or that said profession is credible to them or not.

    One of the other requirements for communicant church membership is not being ignorant. One may ignorantly be a part of an “evangelical” church, but denies sola scriptura, because they believe in ongoing revelation, (or a myriad of other aberrant doctrines) but at least in the OPC, the BCO at a minimum allows churches to bar the uninstructed from the table (and by good & necessary consequences) communicant membership. Now whether or not they do so is well, another question entirely.

    The question to me really seems to be are the reformed churches being as diligent in keeping the uninstructed from the Lord’s table as they should be?

  12. Posted May 16, 2010 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    Baus,

    I’m with you on the hard edges of true and false churches. But just don’t see the biblical-confessional warrant to do the same with individuals. What I see is the duty to demarcate true churches and call pious souls to adhere to her, for outside the true church there is no hope of salvation (BC 28, WCF 25:2).

    To the extent that most eeeevangelical churches are credo-baptist, I am quite at ease concluding that they are false per the second mark, but I think that is far different from concluding on any individual’s eternal status. I think one of the implications of the visible (militant) church/invisible (triumphant) church is that we will likely be surprised at some we see in glory and a little aghast over the absence of some we would’ve sworn would be there.

  13. Jed Paschall
    Posted May 16, 2010 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    Andrew,

    On an official level, I agree, but what about Joe Xian that you work with who claims that he is a believer, who comes to you with an issue for your prayer and consideration? Do you march him down to your reformed congregation and determine via session that he has a credible profession of faith? At some level, as we exist in a pluralist Christian culture, we might have to make judgment calls in an unofficial capacity. Last time I checked, sessions were only interested in making these kind of determinations that directly concerned their churches anyway.

  14. Posted May 16, 2010 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

    Zrim, I think Jed understands me. It is a question of ones profession of the gospel.

    It has nothing to do at all with concluding on anyone’s regeneracy or with eternal status. As I said, we cannot know the heart (or future). Let that sink in.

    What, then, is (part of) the criterion for discerning whether we may call another a fellow Christian?
    The issue concerns what sort of gospel one professes to believe about the person and work of Christ. I assume you know the biblical and confessional warrant concerning the essential-ness of the profession concerning the definitive efficacy for full and free salvation of Christ alone. Does an individual deny this essential-gospel? If so, then you cannot (without lying about the gospel) call that one a brother.

    [Apologies to Darryl for derailing his post].

  15. Andrew Duggan
    Posted May 16, 2010 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

    Jed,
    That’s not really a simple question. So this is probably more than you want…

    but what about Joe Xian that you work with who claims that he is a believer, who comes to you with an issue for your prayer and consideration?

    Well, I certainly think it is appropriate to pray for anyone that asks for it, although as WSC 103 succinctly puts it, praying for someone may not reflect what the requester had in mind, since many people (including the reformed) really struggle with surrendering their will to the will of God. No, I don’t think you should necessarily “march him down to your reformed congregation and determine via session that he has a credible profession of faith.”

    So for casual interactions one needs to make his own call, but the intimacy of the spiritual fellowship one can have with others who claim to be believers is really quite limited unless both are members of a Reformed Church. The right thing to do is to offer them access to the Reformed Church, where one finds the best access to the means of grace, especially the chief of those, the preaching of the Word.

    However, depending on how well one knows “Joe”, and what one knows of Joe’s “faith”, I think it important to use that interaction as a teachable moment, within in the context of what Joe is likely to be able to receive based on where he is, pointing him ever more clearly to Christ, and the fullness of the Gospel as it is found in its clearest systematic expression to which men by God’s grace have yet achieved that being the Reformed Confessions in general, and the Westminster CF/LC/SC in particular. Acknowledging of course, you can’t do that all at once, but only as God, in His providence, makes it possible.

    That not withstanding, I think it important to never interact with others that are not members of the Reformed churches in a way that would lead them to think their issue or point-of-view is legitimized simply by their “claim” of being a believer. — What I mean by that is you may have to start with correcting how the issue was framed. (That often needs to be done with Reformed folk as well, since now-a-days most Reformed folk even in NAPARC churches are more nominally than actually Reformed) One’s point-of-view is legitimized by how well it compares to the teaching of Scripture as summarized in the Reformed Confessions. I do think that should and can be done without condescension.

    At some level, as we exist in a pluralist Christian culture,

    Well, perhaps, but once you get beyond the context of TFU vs Westminster, I’m going to bail on admitting to any idea of equal footing pluralism between broadly evangelical and Reformed. I think being uncompromising without being a jerk about it is the best course of action.

    FWIW, I think it might be helpful not only to pray for him under those circumstances, but also offer to pray with him, so long as it is clearly understood that (especially in the case of the “Joe”) that only the “Reformed” Christian would be leading in the prayer, so that the proper guard can be maintained.

    Finally, I do think we should reserve the title of “brother or sister” to those that are members of the Reformed Churches, since only the Reformed Churches have the authority to determine the credibility of a believer’s profession of faith. The bottom line is that one should be quite guarded in spiritual interactions with others claiming to be believers until all parties have the equivalent of a marriage contract, i.e. good and regular membership in a Reformed Church.

  16. Posted May 16, 2010 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

    Andrew,

    I think your response cuts to the heart of our disagreement. We confess “one holy and catholic church”. It seems that you are willing only to extend that catholicity to those in a Reformed (e.g. WCF, TFU) communion. I believe with you that the Reformed church confesses the orthodox truth of Scripture, however, I also believe that there are believers and communions outside the confines of the Reformed confessions who can appropriately claim the catholic faith. What of our Particular Baptist brothers? Or Evangelicals who confess Sola Fide? Or those who differ with us with respect to sacraments and ecclesiology as Confessional Lutherans do? I am sure my brothers in the Sovereign Grace churches receive and rest of Christ alone for their salvation, even if I am at odds with them on their charismatic views.

    I am not saying that we extend the same fellowship that we do to those in our communions, but you place yourself in a precarious position if you seek to deny someone who has an ostensibly credible profession of faith the right to pray to the same Father as you pray to. I can appreciate that you wouldn’t seek to sound like a jerk, but I am not sure that you wouldn’t be received as such if you insist you somehow have privileged access to God in prayer. But by all means, if he will still pray with you under this criteria, encourage and exhort him to join a Reformed congregation.

  17. Posted May 16, 2010 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

    Zrim,

    It seems that you would conclude that say a LBC Baptist congregation is a false church based on this criteria. The problem is that they carry out the Trinitarian baptism per the form laid out clearly in Scripture. As I face my upcoming member vows in a confessional PCA congregation, I will not be asked to be re-baptized in order to be received as a member, because my baptism (@ age 12 in a baptist church) is viewed as valid. As I understand it, Baptists are in error because they do not extend baptism to covenant children, however the credo-baptisms they administer are valid because a) they are Trinitarian and b) because they are performed in a church that faithfully (not inerrantly) executes the other marks of the church.

  18. Posted May 17, 2010 at 5:26 am | Permalink

    Let me put my Lutheran thoughts into this discussion if I may. It is discussions like these which made me lean towards the Lutheran Church ,and eventually become a member, even though I do have an attraction towards covenant theology. I read a paper by Korey Mass (a Lutheran pastor who teaches with Rod Rosenbladt at Concordia Seminary in Irvine, Ca.) entitled “The Place of Repentance in Luther’s Theological Development” a couple years ago which really gave me a stronger sense of assurance than anything I have ever read. He traces Luther’s struggles with the words poenitentia and metanoeite in his writings, sermons and lectures from his early days at Wittenberg (pre 1517) until the late 1520′s. It is from these struggles that Luther developed his sacramental thinking which became very controversial with other reformers. If I remember correctly, B.B. Warfield in his Plan of Salvation (which I read in the early 90′s), categorized Lutheran’s as sacramentalist’s; granting magical like salvific powers to the sacraments. I may be wrong here, so correct me if I am. I am not sure if Warfield was correct in his assessment of this matter regarding the Lutheran’s.

    Mass claims that Luther’s thinking in regards to repentance and absolution was his third great theological breakthrough (the other two being justification from the wrath and righteousness of God by faith alone and his distinction between the Law and the Gospel in the scriptures). It is in this matter that the Lutheran’s and Reformed first developed tension in their theological thinking with each other. Luther found assurance in the sacraments (an extension of the preached Gospel) and the gift of repentance where the Reformed began developing their thinking about perseverance of the saints. At least that is the way I understand it. Again, correct me if you think I am wrong.

    It seems that perseverance thinking can make one look for signs in their subjective selves for evidence of their salvation- even though some comments from those above would deny this. I also remember reading John Bunyan’s paranoia over the wrath of God coming to consume him when he was bowling with some friends on the Sabbath. This came from a secondary source so I am not sure about the story. The above discussion brings back these types of thoughts to me. I find great assurance in the Lutheran thinking about the sacraments and find no biblical warrant to change my mind.

    I, like Jed, did not have to be re-baptized when I joined the Lutheran Church. They accepted my baptism in a non-denominational charismatic church for the same reasons that the Presbyterian Church accepted Jed’s baptism. I would also tend to lean towards Jed’s thinking in his rebuttals with those about praying with Joe Xian and trying to get him to join a Reformed or Lutheran congregation.

  19. Posted May 17, 2010 at 5:31 am | Permalink

    Baus, how does this figure into your thoughts:

    4. This catholic Church hath been sometimes more, sometimes less visible. And particular Churches, which are members thereof, are more or less pure, according as the doctrine of the Gospel is taught and embraced, ordinances administered, and public worship performed more or less purely in them.

    5. 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.

    May all churches be categorized as true or false?

  20. Posted May 17, 2010 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    Baus, I suppose I don’t see how calling one a brother (or not) has as direct bearing on defining the gospel as you do. Better to define the gospel like WCF XI. To call one who denies the essential gospel a brother is sloppy indeed, but I’m not sure it’s the same as “lying about the gospel.” To my mind, lying about the gospel is something like, contra WCF XI, “We are as justified as we are sanctified,” or, say, Trent’s anathema’s in Canon’s XI – XIV, XXX.

    Jed, I’m not saying Trinitarian baptisms are invalid (I know there are different views here, but mine is that Roman and radical baptisms alike are valid), I’m saying certain churches are false per the first and/or second marks. It interesting to note that, while your PCA (correctly) wouldn’t demand your re-baptism, most credo-baptist churches would render one’s infant baptism invalid and to be re-done. Mine did. So if you think it’s being too hard on credo’s to say their churches are false, consider that I’m also saying their baptisms are valid. Consider also that they make demands paedo’s don’t.

    But Baus has a point about post derailment. Wishing happy b-day to the Radical Reformation only goes to show how much some would-be Protestants don’t seem to have the full grasp on what was happening in the 16th century (can one imagine Calvin and Luther giving plaudits to swallowing the Holy Spirit, feathers and all?).

  21. Andrew Duggan
    Posted May 17, 2010 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    Jed,

    Well, I’m not suggesting denying anyone access to God in prayer. What I am saying is that you should not allow your self to be led in prayer by those who are more likely than not to ask amiss. FWIW, I think the particular Baptists are more likely to refuse to call me brother, after all, I’m not even baptized in their “opinion”.

    I don’t deny there are believers outside the Reformed Churches. Of course there are likely to be. I just think the designation of “brother” or “sister” should be determined by the church. Should the Reformed Churches take transfer members from the Greek Orthodox?

    With respect to confession the catholic church, I know what I mean by that, but not so sure what others mean by that. The question is how many marks of the three does an “organization” have to have before it is a church, or how many does it have to lose to be dechurched? Since you mixed the idea of the catholic church with confessing the catholic faith, then I would ask you if a church can obtain a status as a true church by simply having one member that can confess the one true catholic faith?

    Why do you get to decide what’s credible profession of faith, and I’m a “bad” guy for being a little more restrictive? Why must I take your word for it that the “Sovereign Grace” types “receive and rest of Christ alone for their salvation”? They deny sola scriptura, so what they receive and rest on is as fluid as what might be said in the next ecstatic utterance.

    Jeff raises a good question, “May all churches be categorized as true or false?”, but I guess I think it is more helpful to ask does anyone here think there actually some that “have so degenerated as to become no Churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan.”? If so does that have any implications for the Reformed Churches?

    As for the validity of baptisms, well, what is necessary more than water and a Trinitarian formulation? If that is all that is required for a baptism, then the church has no exclusivity in “administration” of the sacraments. What troubles me about that is WLC 162, in that a “sacrament is an holy ordinance instituted by Christ in his church“. So the question is can a sacrament be administered outside the visible church, in a synagogue of Satan or those that have so degenerated as to become no Churches of Christ? So if one maintains water and a Trinitarian formulation are all that is required for a valid baptism, and one also receives WLC 162, then it seems that makes there to be one mark of the church, and that is whether or not baptisms are administered with water and with a Trinitarian formulation.

    If anyone can perform a valid baptism, can anyone administer the Lord’s Supper? If anyone can administer the Lord’s Supper why can’t just anyone preach?

  22. Posted May 17, 2010 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    Andrew,

    All this to say that you simply have a more restrictive view than I do. That certainly doesn’t make you a jerk. Like Baus has said earlier, it is impossible to tell the internal state of a man before God, I don’t bear that burden. If someone says they are a Christian because they believe Jesus is who He claims to be in Scripture, and that they have placed their faith in him alone for their salvation, I am inclined to believe them. Does my assessment come with any ecclesiastical authority? Of course not, but conscience simply will not allow me (as a layman) to deny someone the status of “brother” unless a) they lack a reasonable profession of faith or b) I am directed by those in authority over me not to.

    I am not sure how, except in the case of clear adamant heresy we can determine that a church has devolved into a Synagogue of Satan. I would assume that any official pronouncement would come from a confessing body, and not an individual believer. As to member transfers, Reformed Churches have their own prescribed process, I am sure that an Orthodox Xian would have to go through a far more involved process than someone transferring from one NAPARC congregation. My opinions in this regard are of little value beyond discussion since I am not an elder qualified to make these kind of calls anyway.

  23. Andrew Duggan
    Posted May 17, 2010 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

    Jed,
    First off, based on what you wrote to Zrim

    As I face my upcoming member vows in a confessional PCA congregation

    Let me say, I think that is excellent. Welcome to the Reformed church. So please take the following in the spirit of “friendly” jibbing.

    You wrote:

    Of course not, but conscience simply will not allow me (as a layman) to deny someone the status of “brother” unless a) they lack a reasonable profession of faith or b) I am directed by those in authority over me not to.

    It is interesting how you phrased that — you say “deny someone the status of ‘brother’” — Why the necessity for the negativity? If I didn’t hope better, I would think that you were attempting a rhetorical device to subtly present my point of view as wanting to deny the status of “brother” to others, instead of how I’ve expressed it as being more restrictive to whom that title is granted. A claim of faith in Christ is no more a request to be called “brother” any more than a single visit of a church is a request to become a member — is it? However, you wouldn’t do that because well, that wouldn’t be very brotherly would it? You’ll just have to take my word for it, but I’m not the kind of guy that waits around to pounce on some poor soul with a claim of faith in Christ just so I can crush him with a big red “DENIED” stamp.

    FWIW, when you wrote further back

    I think your response cuts to the heart of our disagreement. We confess “one holy and catholic church”. It seems that you are willing only to extend that catholicity to those in a Reformed (e.g. WCF, TFU) communion.

    doesn’t really track with what I had written respect the the WCF/TFU, which I will remind you was

    once you get beyond the context of TFU vs Westminster, I’m going to bail on admitting to any idea of equal footing pluralism between broadly evangelical and Reformed.

    N.B, my usage of the phrase “equal footing pluralism between broadly evangelical and Reformed.” I was qualifying the idea of pluralism with “equal footing”. That’s where we get into the idea of more or less pure, churches, not false churches vs true churches. There again, we seem to have the spectre of rhetoric, to color my point of view as wanting to restrict the catholicity of the church to the Reformed only. Now I will admit I sort of played along in my reply earlier today, but I see that really didn’t help. I just chalk up the rhetoric to nature online communications.

    You also wrote:

    All this to say that you simply have a more restrictive view than I do.

    Well I was responding really to this what you wrote yesterday morning.

    But I think, correct me if I am off here, that the primary criteria that we receive an individual as a fellow Christian, is a credible profession of faith. If they are part of a manifestly impure, or even false church, then it is on us to encourage him to join a true church where the gospel is purely preached, and the sacraments are rightly administered

    What I asked is who really has the authority to determine the credibility of a profession of faith, and then pointed out that membership in a false church or manifestly impure church is not “helpful” to the credibility of said profession. I can see now you were using the word “receive” in a broad sense, whereas when I see that especially preceded by a plural pronoun, I automatically take that as a churchly function.

    I also am curious as to how you yesterday morning could invoke the idea of a false church, but today, you are

    not sure how, except in the case of clear adamant heresy we can determine that a church has devolved into a Synagogue of Satan. I would assume that any official pronouncement would come from a confessing body, and not an individual believer.

    Yesterday you felt OK with using the term “false church”, but today, you think that individuals (which I’m guessing includes yourself) are not allowed to make that determination. All along you seem to be arguing the point that individuals can make a determination of a credible profession of faith of another even in light of clear evidence of incredibility by virtue of the other being “part of a manifestly impure, or even false church”, but I’ve maintained that all of that really is the church’s prerogative. I think the real difference here is that I think being part of a manifestly impure or false church is evidence of incredibility with respect to ones profession of faith, while you don’t. Please make sure you don’t assume fatality with respect to the weight of that evidence, I am suggesting to be taken into consideration. Recall what I mentioned about the uninstructed. So, one’s profession of faith might be genuine, but not credible because the person is still rather uninstructed. I certainly hope you weren’t assuming that I thought credible == genuine.

    Sure your conscience is free and is bound by Scripture alone, are you willing to afford me the same liberty?

  24. Posted May 18, 2010 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    Cagle, yes all particular churches are either true or false, that is, part of the true church or not.

    One can only be “more or less pure” if one is a true church. Again, only true churches are more or less pure. False churches are just false. Any church that denies the “definitive efficacy” of Christ alone is a false church.

    Zrim, when you agree that a denier of the gospel is a brother, then you are agreeing with what he professes, and that is lying about the gospel.

  25. Posted May 18, 2010 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    Pushing it a little further: let’s grant that all particular churches are either true or false coram deo.

    May we categorize all churches as true or false? Could there be some churches whose status is doubtful?

  26. Posted May 18, 2010 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    …when you agree that a denier of the gospel is a brother, then you are agreeing with what he professes, and that is lying about the gospel.

    Baus, to call a gospel denier brother is imprudent, but the only way your logic makes sense is to just conflate imprudent with lying. Maybe you’re the same guy who thinks a married man exercising bad judgment by meeting secretly but also non-sexually with another woman is adultery? All adultery is bad judgment, but not all bad judgment is adultery.

    For what it’s worth, I have always found it curious how so many Reformed warmly refer to evangelicals as “brothers” (or otherwise suggest they are on the reservation), but Roman Catholics are always just “Roman Catholics.” It seems to me due caution should be exercised in both cases. Some suggest eeeevangelicals have hijacked the term “Reformed.” There’s probably some hijacking, but I’m inclined to think there’s been just as much willful selling out by Reformed, indicated by the aforementioned readiness to make synonymous the terms Reformed and eeeevangelical.

  27. Posted May 18, 2010 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

    Cagle, why would a church’s status be doubtful? Certainly, if a church denies the gospel (as, for instance, “Arminian” or “non-Calvinist” churches do –that is, those who deny the “definitive efficacy” of Christ alone), then they are false churches. What’s doubtful here?

    Again, we are not judging hearts, we are discerning professions. You might not know what a given church confesses, but once you find out, what ambiguity could there be concerning whether they affirm or deny the gospel?

    Whether we are to call someone a fellow believer, or a church true, is not “tricky.”
    This all relates to my response to Darryl’s post this way: false religion is troubling, but it is not surprising that “Evangelical” false religionists condone “Charismatic” false religionists. Rather, the really troubling thing is that those who profess the true gospel are saying that those who deny this gospel are fellow Christians.

  28. Posted May 18, 2010 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    Cagle, why would a church’s status be doubtful?

    To give an example: John Piper’s church is likely to be considered Gospel-teaching by most. BUT, they don’t properly practice the sacraments.

    So we have one-and-a-half marks of the true church.

    The Southern Baptist church I grew up in describes itself as “three-point Calvinist.” Gospel-preaching or no?

    Worse yet, the church I attended in college has ministers who describe themselves as “four-and-a-half-point Calvinist.”

    You see the problem. Even operating on the profession level — which I agree is the right test, BTW — we still end up with churches that are … well, more or less visible.

    This is actually analogous to Calvin’s situation, and the situation in which the Confession was written. The official Roman church doctrine was recognized to be no Gospel ‘tall, but individual RC churches might be more or less preaching the Gospel and practicing the sacraments properly.

    Even worse would be trying to characterize the Church prior to 1517.

    My point is just that the “more or less visible” phrase suggests a continuum of churches *as man sees them*, even though ontologically they divide into two neat buckets.

  29. Posted May 18, 2010 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    Cagle, I don’t see the problem. Granted that Piper’s church confesses the true gospel, but does not have proper administration of sacraments, then the church is not a true church, but not for “gospel-denying” reasons.

    The SB church you mention and the college church you attended, by their confession, deny the gospel and so are not true churches. There is no ambiguity in their visible falseness.

    The question of what the Roman church professed prior to Trent and prior to 1517 is a matter of historical record, and may be discerned accordingly.

    I recommend to you Rev. John Anderson’s discussion of the historic Reformed testimony on these things throughout his work Alexander and Rufus.

  30. Posted May 19, 2010 at 4:28 am | Permalink

    I’ll chew on it. In return, I commend Calvin’s discussion of the church in the Institutes, 4.1-2 and especially 4.1.12.

  31. cnh
    Posted May 19, 2010 at 6:35 am | Permalink

    So Baus, for you the only true churches are those that hold to 5-point Calvinism and infant baptism? Is there an official position for true churches on the Supper that you hold? I mean, Reformed and Lutheran disagree on that Sacrament. Is one of them, then, a false church because of this difference?

    Does it follow for you that only Reformed Christians are true Christians? If, say, there are Baptists attending a Reformed church should they be treated as unbelievers and barred from the Supper?

  32. Posted May 19, 2010 at 6:49 am | Permalink

    Baus, from the article:

    Persons cannot reasonably pretend to have communion with a particular church in her public ordinances, and especially in the Lord’s Supper, while they openly persist in an obstinate opposition to any article of her profession.

    If I am reading this correctly, in order to partake of communion in a church, one must have 100% agreement with every article of doctrine taught by the church.

    This, I would presume, would include the doctrine of close communion.

    It follows therefore that if you were to attend our service that does not practice close communion (we use the BCO standard), or if I were to attend a service that does, then we should not partake of communion in one anothers’ churches, despite agreement on the confession.

    In other words, it appears that the doctrine of close communion requires a kind of “secondary separation” — close communioners must refuse communion with those who do not also practice close communion.

    Is that correct?

  33. Posted May 19, 2010 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    One further question:

    2. The visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the Gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children: and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.

    If I’m reading you correctly, members of the two churches I mentioned have no ordinary possibility of salvation; nor did I until I became a member of the PCA.

    Is that correct?

  34. Posted May 19, 2010 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    …for you the only true churches are those that hold to 5-point Calvinism and infant baptism? Is there an official position for true churches on the Supper that you hold? I mean, Reformed and Lutheran disagree on that Sacrament. Is one of them, then, a false church because of this difference?

    cnh,

    The language of both Belgic 29 and WCF 25:4 is correct administration of, not agreement on, the sacraments. So it seems to me that while consubstantiation is an error in relation to real presence, at least Lutherans (so far as I know) don’t practice paedo-communion (which is the flip side of credo-baptism…which reminds me, why are there “(credo) Baptists” but no “(paedo) Communists”? Maybe it’s a matter of time).

    And, as has been pointed out in the justification posts, Reformed and Lutheran are virtually synonymous on the first mark (and let’s throw in 2K for good measure, just to cover concerns about ecclesiology, the third mark). Which is why old school Reformed recommend Lutheran churches to traveling Reformed before Baptist churches, while new school Reformed seem to do the opposite.

  35. Posted May 19, 2010 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    The language of both Belgic 29 and WCF 25:4 is correct administration of, not agreement on, the sacraments.

    Would you consider the Lutheran doctrine of consubstantiation to fall under correct administration of the sacraments? How about the Lutheran practice of excluding those who do not believe in consubstantiation?

  36. Posted May 19, 2010 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    Would you consider the Lutheran doctrine of consubstantiation to fall under correct administration of the sacraments? How about the Lutheran practice of excluding those who do not believe in consubstantiation?

    My point is it seems that doctrine and administration are two different things. True, practice is the result of doctrine, but to teach constubstantiation against real presence isn’t the same as withholding the sign and seal from covenant children.

    The practice of excluding RPers doesn’t make Lutherans false, just misguided. Just like to carry on platonically with a woman other than your wife isn’t adultery, it’s bad judgment (maybe that analogy doesn’t work for everyone, but, what can I say, I love familial analogies). I understand that during the eucharistic controveries between the Reformed and Lutheran that the Reformed would break the bread during consecration in order to say to the Lutherans, “See, nobody here, there or under.” I wonder if the Lutherans considered that wrongly administered?

  37. Posted May 19, 2010 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

    cnh, you can apply the three marks and discover for yourself whether, according to a Reformed confessional view, Lutheran churches are true.

    You ask whether “Reformed Christians” alone are true Christians. That depends what you mean by “Reformed Christians”. Anyone who denies the gospel that the Reformed profess is, according to Reformed teaching, not to be regarded as a fellow believer.

    Cagle, while the teaching about close communion is key (and I highlight it in my post), in this thread of comments I meant to reference the book’s discussion of true & false & more-or-less pure churches.

  38. Fix
    Posted May 22, 2010 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    Greetings from a “pocket of hardcore resistance.” :-)

  39. Posted May 25, 2010 at 10:46 am | Permalink
  40. Posted June 29, 2010 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    I bookmarked this web address a while ago because of the new content and I have never been unsatisfied. Continue the good work.

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