TKNY Even in UK

Even while in Ireland, I could not evade Tim Keller. One morning while reading the magazine Standpoint, I read a column which contained this:

As well as being one of the great delaying mechanisms of modern times, YouTube is one of the great gifts of our age. It not only allows us to watch videos of cats and people falling over, but also serious discussions like the recent one between Tim Keller and the sociologist Jonathan Haidt at NYU. What a model discussion it was. Haidt (whose book The Righteous Mind is one of the best explanations of modern politics I know) is respectful towards religion while being an atheist. Keller is a deeply learned reader of philosophy and sociology, and a pastor. Perhaps most striking was the agreement from both speakers over not only what is broken in our culture but what might be done to fix it. Particularly interesting was the observation that our society’s rewarding of outrage (fuelled by social media) means that we are ever less-inclined to give people what we used to call “the benefit of the doubt”. Increasingly, we put the worst possible gloss on people’s words and intentions so that any discussion across boundaries (believers versus non-believers, Left versus Right) becomes almost impossible. Can the urge be resisted? Perhaps, but we would have to have the right role models. Haidt and Keller are certainly two such.

A deeply learned reader of philosophy and sociology? That does not sound like Machen’s “specialist in the Bible.” But how would the op-ed writers and journalists know whether a pastor was properly explaining God’s word?

In the same issue, though, I read a review of Rodney Stark’s book about anti-Catholic myths:

Few now believe in the teaching of Luther or Calvin on Justification, or sola scriptura, but, as we see in the case of Sir Simon Jenkins, the myths of Catholic iniquity are embedded in many a Briton’s sense of who they are. Just as the French do not like to admit that their philosophes paved the way for totalitarianism, or Americans that the founding fathers of their Land of the Free owned slaves, so no amount of historical research will persuade today’s sceptics and secularists that, from the fall of the Roman Empire to the rise of the nation state, the Catholic Church was the source of most that is best in our civilisation; and that death camps and gulags are only to be found when Christianity lost its hold on the conscience of Europeans.

Imagine if Tim Keller had spent as much time defending the imputed righteousness of Christ as making belief in God plausible. Would he be as popular as he is? One reason for asking is that all the hype about New York City has not put a dent in the Roman Catholic apologists’ argument that the future of western civilization hangs on the fortunes not of the Big Apple but The Eternal City.

In the hierarchy of cities, New York may have to get in line behind Rome. Doh!

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225 thoughts on “TKNY Even in UK

  1. “”Imagine if Tim Keller had spent as much time defending the imputed righteousness of Christ as making belief in God plausible. Would he be as popular as he is?””
    Sooooooooo true!

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  2. D.G.,
    KInd of a typical authoritarian response. Machen doesn’t approve and thus the implications are obvious. Don’t we realize that the credibility of our witness for Christ often depends on what we associate with Christianity by our actions, the groups we belong to, and our words. And to be ignorant of the world associates all that comes with that ignorance–something. Paul certainly didn’t do that when he preached to the Greeks.

    Again, there is a desire in you to make your world as small as possible. It is in your criticisms of Keller and it is in your conservative libertarianism. If you want to do that, that is fine as long as you realize what you are associating with Christianity by doing so. The problem becomes when you want to compulsively criticize people for whom Christ died because they don’t follow your small world ideology.

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  3. “the Catholic Church was the source of most that is best in our civilisation;”

    I think that source is JESUS.

    which reminds me – I can see what he is saying here: http://www.ligonier.org/blog/roman-catholicism-and-battle-over-words/ Roman Catholicism and the Battle Over Words
    “But then the authors say, but if you look closely, and if you try to understand what these words mean, you find that wherever the Catechism speaks of Christ, it speaks of the church; wherever it speaks of grace, it speaks also of the sacraments; wherever it speaks of faith, it speaks of works; wherever it speaks of the glory of God; it speaks also of the veneration of the saints and Mary.”

    -1 John 4:19 We love, because HE first loved us.
    -Jer 9:24 but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows ME, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the Lord.
    -Col 1:28a We proclaim HIM
    -2 Cor 2:14a thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in CHRIST.
    -Col 2:2battaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, CHRIST Himself, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
    -1 Cor 1:30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31 so that, just as it is written, “LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD.”
    -2 Cor10:17 But HE WHO BOASTS IS TO BOAST IN THE LORD.
    -Gal 6:14 But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our LORD JESUS CHRIST, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

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  4. DGH and E. Burns – I know you’re not implying Tim Keller is emphasizing the existence of God in his apologetics because he seeks popularity, right? Because it’s hard to imagine something less charitable than that.

    Let me ask you something: would you rather have someone become a regenerate Catholic or remain an atheist? I ask, because I’m pretty sure an atheist doesn’t care one bit about forensic justification.

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  5. Vae Vic,

    I think you are missing the point. No I am not questioning Keller’s motive or suggesting that. My grandparents were Roman Catholic and I believe (despite some messed up theology) were trusting in Christ. They disagreed with much of Rome and revealed in many conversations and life that they possessed a saving faith. Not an issue, at least not in how you are attempting to divert. At times there is a serendipitous inconsistency with one’s ecclesiastical attachments versus one’s faith/trust. But my grandparents were not writing books, speaking, leading or otherwise promoting their theology. Keller is a man of the cloth (as my grandpa would say) so he is held to a higher standard and very public and indeed popular. He is is held up as a standard to emulate.

    Let me ask you something….. Do you really believe making God’s existence plausible is more important than getting the gospel right? 99% of humans on planet earth believe there is a God. So what? Everyone from Oprah to Donald Trump and everyone in between has a “belief” in God. So what!? All manner of Civic Relegion is all around us in the air we breath, but is it saving faith? So I think you are missing Dr. Hart’s larger point…….that it ain’t all that courageous (or countercultural ) nor is it going out on a limb to affirm the possibility of God’s existence, or morals, making religion primarily about ethics, our works, being/ doing the gospel, etc…. where as taking a stand for the imputed righteousness of Christ that’s a whole other story my friend.

    Now, to be sure, I am not suggesting that Keller never takes the right stand. However, the fact is he is more known for “making belief in God plausible”, rather than for being the champion of the Gospel that say a Machen, Sproul, Hart, Dr. Clark, Dr. Horton, etc, are. Do you want to deny that fact? My guess is you would, and again here is where this all comes back to proper definitions of what the Gosppel really is and isn’t. That is not resting on authoritarian cushions (as some would mischaracterize), rather that is observing reality. Having good motives is not the get out of jail free card for having bad theology, especially when one is a leader and held up as a model to emulate.

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  6. I like the way CW put it in another post……
    “The Gospel Coalition — (and I think Keller is in that camp) They seem excessively gospelly at first, but they’re really quite scoldy and have a number of new “musts” for us. Such a jumble.”” Again, not that Keller (or the gospel coalition for that matter) gets it all wrong, but the dominant thrust does seem to be scoldy. A nice gentle scoldy mind you. (Did CW coin that term, scoldy, I like it)

    Affirm all the truths of the gospel, then begin to pile additions……….What better kinder gentiler Neonomian additions than the nice sounding terms like……transformationalist, incarnational ministry, do/ be the gospel, hyper second awakening introspection and pietism on whether I’m doing enough, being enough,……heck I can’t even suffer without these Neo-Calvinist/ Neonomian’s questioning whether I might be “wasting my suffering” or not, you know not doing it good enough by their new law….hmmmm, I mean ” incarnational” standards. Etc. etc. etc.

    I am not throwing the baby out with the bath water here, nor am I denying we bare fruit, but there does seem to be a good recipe for making people neurotic culture warriors rather than a cookbook for solid gospel ministry. But hey the OPC has there share of those folks too. (Swanson)

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  7. Curt, “the groups we belong to”? Are we allowed in your world.

    My world is small? When was the last time you spoke to college students in Ireland?

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  8. E. Burns – we all want the proper definition of the Gospel. I can shout the proper definition of the Gospel from the rooftops, but if no one around me even believes in God they will simply shrug their shoulders at the idea of imputed righteousness. I read a biography of Marcus Aurelius a few years back, and the author pointed out that Greek philosophy was appealing to Roman elite because Roman paganism was logically incoherent and intellectually feeble, whereas philosophy was logical and required no faith of its adherents. Hence Marcus Aurelius was a Stoic with nominal pagan beliefs. The author claimed (correctly) that Christianity – which was rapidly ascendant at the time – was intrinsically coherent and logically consistent, but required an initial leap of faith that many Roman elite were unwilling to make. To convert a Roman like Marcus Aurelius you would first have to convince them of the plausibility of an transcendent Deity before he would even consider the Gospel.

    So it is with Manhattan. A few (mostly nominal) Catholics and orthodox Jews aside, most people of Manhattan (and most major cities) are secular atheists or agnostics, or have a deistic view that God is a distant figure with no real impact in the world today. Like the Roman elites of the 1st and 2nd century, they need to believe in the existence of a transcendent and imminent God before they will be even minimally receptive to the Gospel. It’s not the Gospel OR the existence of God, it’s the Gospel as it flows from the existence of God: the God of the Bible is real/plausible, and that being the case I need to read His Word, which clearly states that I am a sinner whose only hope is the grace of God through the perfect life, atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s not a big leap from God to the Gospel, but it’s a huge leap from atheism to God.

    If Tim Keller was the pastor of a church in rural Alabama, I bet he would devote far more of his energy to presenting the Gospel in opposition to fundamentalism and cultural Christianity than proving the existence of God. A missionary in Saudi Arabia will discuss the truth of the New Testament rather than basic belief in God, and a church planter in tribal Africa will focus on the folly of animism in relation to the truth of the Gospel. Jesus spoke to the masses differently than the Pharisees. I think you see the point: yes, proclaiming the correct Gospel is vital, but the way we present the Gospel will invariably look different to different people with different cultures and beliefs.

    And I reject the idea that Keller and the Gospel Coalition have Neonomian tendencies. I’m honestly not even sure where you get that idea. Maybe if you could point to some concrete examples it would help me understand your criticism.

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  9. “It’s not a big leap from God to the Gospel” Really? I fundamentally disagree with this assertio. I’m not sure our conversation will be productive. Anymore than it would be trying to convince of the gospel one who needs to believe in God first in order to embrace that gospel. I get that, but if this assertion of yours is true why are the majority of the 99% who claim belief in God, so far from a orthodox Christianity grounded in Jessus Christ?

    As far as your rejecting that “Keller and the Gospel Coalition have Neonomian tendencies” , I would say we are seeing different things for sure. I bet many a old lifer could produce links citing concrete examples. I will try to get back with some myself later, but I did elude to some if you were paying attention. But real quick I got one for you right off the bat…… PCA Pastor Mark Jones book “Antinomianism: Reformed Theology’s UnWelcome Guest” is in itself a great example of what I am driving at. Of all the books to write, of all the driving concerns about what is happening in Reformed circles….Really!!?? If ones driving point , spotlight and emphasis is that the Paramont and central problem within the Reformed camp is Antinomianism this to me shows how all wet the coalition folks often (not always) are. Please!! Yes, in broader evangelicalism I would say antinomianism is the bigger problem, but in Reformed circles it is Neonomianism. (To be sure pockets of both are found, but we are talking about what is the bigger problem). Google or look at Old Life past blogs on John Piper or Mark Jones for more examples. Critical these blog pieces may be, but true, fair and accurate as well.

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  10. Personally, I’m finding it hard to believe that Keller has made belief in God plausible for those who otherwise find it implausible. The fact is, the only people who find belief in God implausible are hardcore, philosophically naive atheists such Richard Dawkins. Even secular agnostics will tell you that belief in God is plausible, even if they don’t find it compelling.

    Granted, I’m not in New York, but if Princeton, standing in the broadly Christian theistic tradition, thinks that Keller is a rightwing religious fanatic, how in the world are secularists thinking anything different? This isn’t to knock Keller. I know many Christians who have benefitted from works of his such as The Reason for God. But I’ve also found that apologetics does far more for people who are already converted than it does for non-Christians. Even historically, precious few have been converted because of apologetics, though apologetics can have a role in breaking down objections.

    I guess I just don’t buy the hype. Are there any kind of statistics that anyone knows of that indicate how many people who attend Redeemer NY are currently or formerly hardened secularists, or is Keller drawing mainly just people who have some kind of church background? If it’s just the latter, it isn’t that impressive.

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  11. Re: antinomians

    Is there one PCA church in this country where adultery is winked at or encouraged? No, not one. Is street murder or abortion encouraged? Nowhere. Are lascivious images projected during worship services? No….but, does what the old guys called sensual worship often prevail? Yes. Are church laws flouted or ignored? Oui. Are a couple of the first four commandments massaged to fit modern preferences? Absolutely. There be many kinds of antinomians.

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  12. D.G.,
    You are certainly invited to the groups I belong to. In fact, why not attend the Left Forum at the beginning of June in NYC?

    Also, there are several different kinds of small worlds. Small doesn’t refer to geographic size only.

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  13. vae vic, well isn’t that convenient. Add “regenerate” to Roman Catholic. If you are regenerate, why go to a place that doesn’t preach the gospel? Why would Keller allow someone to go there?

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  14. vae vic, “If Tim Keller was the pastor of a church in rural Alabama” . . . you’d have never heard of Tim Keller (except for the politician in Arizona).

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  15. DGH – the Catholic Church has major errors in its theology, but do you think the average lay Catholic understands their own theology? You posted a survey recently that showed that 43% of Catholics rejected transubstantiation. I would bet the house that if given an identical theology exam, lay Protestants and Catholics would answer the same questions roughly the same way. That is to say, both are catechized so poorly I doubt there is a real difference, at least in America.

    Robert – I don’t have any numbers for un-churched people being converted by Keller/Redeemer (and have no idea if such records are kept), but the number would have to be in the thousands. I’ll give you two examples. First, my best friend was raised by immigrant parents from Hong Kong, and had literally no spiritual upbringing whatsoever. I suppose he was an atheist, but I don’t think he really cared – he lived quite the hedonistic lifestyle while attending NYU. In the 1990s a friend invited him to Redeemer, which was the first time he had ever set foot in church. He converted after attending Redeemer for some time, and now is a dedicated believer; I attended Bible study with him just last night. Second, a more famous example is Kirsten Powers. Her story is here:

    http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2013/november/fox-news-highly-reluctant-jesus-follower-kirsten-powers.html.

    Stories like these are so common at Redeemer they are borderline cliche. Certainly many people who attend Redeemer were raised in the church, but there are huge numbers of atheists and non-Christians who are converted as well.

    E. Burns – please re-read my comment. I was very clear that the leap from atheism to God is the biggest one for an atheist. I very clearly stated that the Gospel must be presented differently to people with different backgrounds. A Muslim’s intellectual and emotional obstacles to Christianity will probably not entail trouble believing in the existence of God the way an atheist’s would.

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  16. Vae vic, if things are so bad, then isn’t Joel Osteen as good as Keller? You want to reserve superiority for Keller but then go all relativist to defend Keller’s missteps.

    That’s the Keller effect. If he took a dump on the desk you’d defend it.

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  17. DGH – as bad as their theology is in many ways, if Joel Osteen and Pope Francis enhance the Kingdom in any way I say praise be to God. It would be great if all Christians affirmed Reformed Presbyterian doctrine, but that has never happened and will never happen. That’s no excuse for pastors to promulgate bad theology, of course, but when reaching the secular atheistic lost I think it wise to focus first on the importance of repentance and faith in Christ alone – I would rather them have saving faith than ace a Theology 101 exam. And that’s the thing: Keller does reach the lost from a strong Reformed Presbyterian foundation. If we’re worried about Gospel integrity don’t we need pastors like Keller and his ilk to counter the influence of Osteen and the pope? I fail to see the problem with “celebrity” if it’s a byproduct of expanding the Kingdom and Reformed influence.

    I have no problem criticizing Keller and Redeemer when appropriate, but if I’m quick to defend then you are quick to criticize. I sometimes wonder if Tim Keller parted the Hudson and converted 99% of NYC you would kvetch because it cluttered your Twitter feed. Of all the things to kvetch about, a Reformed Presbyterian pastor’s notoriety across the pond seems pretty low on the list.

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  18. vae vic, I’m quick to criticize if only because of apologies like yours. On the one hand, if Keller is like Osteen and Francis, great. On the other hand, he’s so much better than Osteen and Francis because of his strong Reformed foundation.

    Thing is, you’ve already conceded that Keller has done a lot for the doctrine of justification by faith alone. So it makes sense why he thinks (as you do) that he can work with non-Reformed in promoting the kingdom.

    Oh, but this is based on a solid Reformed foundation.

    Rinse. Repeat.

    This is like arguing with Bryan Cross on papal infallibility. It’s circular and circles win.

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  19. VV, so it comes back to naivete over celebrity. You think it’s basically good instead of inherently problematic. From over here, it looks like what you think Protestantism has going for it isn’t so much its substance but its celebrities (one test: have you ever ordered anything from MissionalWear or ReformedGear?). But would the Reformation have even happened with your brand of Erasmian middling?

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  20. DGH – when did I ever say Keller is “like” Osteen and Francis?

    And yes, I’m all for cooperating with non-Reformed churches (to a degree) to spread the truth of the Gospel. I’ll take massive spread of the Gospel with peripheral bad theology over minimal spread of the Gospel with pristine theology. Jesus says as much in Mark 9:40 and Paul echoes those ideas in Phil 1:17-18. Redeemer is, er, was (now it’s actually 3 separate churches) committed to Reformed Presbyterian theology. Great. But they realize not all Christians will agree with Reformed Presbyterian theology, so they are willing to cooperate selectively with non-Reformed churches with the aim of ultimately enhancing the Kingdom. There’s no circle here.

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  21. Via Vic,

    I know you made it clear that the leap from atheism to God is the biggest one for an atheist. And I appreciate that. Even respect and agree in some degree. (I.E… A person has to accept there is a God first) However the bigger more important leap is towards Christ. Honestly I think your last comments reveal how equivocating Neo-Calvinist, Kellerites and The Coalition can be.

    You should re-read the last comment by Dr. Hart.

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  22. Zrim – I have no problem with celebrity if it’s a byproduct of being particularly effective at reaching the lost with the truth of the Gospel. I would never argue that celebrity is more important than substance. Prominent Reformed pastors are simply instruments to spread the Gospel and build the Kingdom.

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  23. “Massive spread of the Gospel”. ??? This is where we’re not even talking and communicating on the same playing field. Joel Olsteen is not participating in the spread of THE GOSPEL. And to whatever degree Keller or others water down or other wise truncate it……. It is a big problem.

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  24. vae vic, “if Joel Osteen and Pope Francis enhance the Kingdom in any way I say praise be to God.”

    If?

    How do you possibly know what those churches are committed to?

    Does this sound “Reformed Presbyterian” (you mean Covenanter)?

    Second, I hope you see here a church that works toward the good of our neighbors and the flourishing of the entire city—from our worship to our Community Groups to our Neighborhood Gatherings and social justice ministries and even in our emphasis on integrating our faith into our daily work.

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  25. VV, right, and that’s the naievete I’m talking about. You seem to assume that prominence is inherently blessed favor. More, that it also means the prominent one is less vulnerable to error because, obviously, God is using prominence to spread the gospel. Rings Roman-esque since celebrity is what animates popery. But older Calvinist sensibilities actually grow more skeptical as prominence and celebrity increase.

    BTW, if TKNY’s thing is simply making the case for God in general, that’s not the same as “spreading the gospel.” If you think they are, I wonder what service he’s actually been to you.

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  26. DGH – here’s the first point you didn’t quote:
    “First, I hope you sense our joyful belief that the gospel of Jesus Christ is good news for every person in the world and that this belief singularly shapes everything we do.”

    That sounds pretty solidly Reformed (Presbyterian and otherwise) to me. But the point you did quote is solidly Reformed as well. WCF 16.2:
    “These good works, done in obedience to God’s commandments, are the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith: and by them believers manifest their thankfulness, strengthen their assurance, edify their brethren, adorn the profession of the gospel, stop the mouths of the adversaries, and glorify God, whose workmanship they are, created in Christ Jesus thereunto, that, having their fruit unto holiness, they may have the end, eternal life.”

    I’m pretty sure working “toward the good of our neighbor” is a good work commanded by Jesus. Parable of the good Samaritan and all.

    E. Burns and DGH – we’re overlapping our discussion of two different issues re: Osteen/Francis and partnering with non-Reformed churches. I would oppose Redeemer partnering with an Osteen-type “faith and word” church or a Catholic parish for church planting or evangelism. These churches at least partially obscure the Gospel, and partnering with them would be unwise. On the other hand, let’s say a non-believer in Houston reads one of Keller’s books and God uses that to lead him to repentance and faith. Is the Kingdom diminished if, in his Christian infancy, he joins Lakewood and affirms the poor theology of Osteen? Would it be better for Keller not to write books (to avoid celebrity, after all) and have a man like this never turn to Christ? This goes back the original question: would you rather have regenerate Catholics or Protestants with poor theology, or altogether unregenerate people?

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  27. Vae Vic,

    Are people in general at Osteen’s church embracing the Biblical Christ? Is that the message they are faithfully/ consistently hearing? Faith and repentance? You state……..””I’ll take massive spread of the Gospel with peripheral bad theology over minimal spread of the Gospel with pristine theology.”” AND……””let’s say a non-believer in Houston reads one of Keller’s books and God uses that to lead him to repentance and faith. Is the Kingdom diminished if, in his Christian infancy, he joins Lakewood and affirms the poor theology of Osteen?”” Again, is Osteen preaching the Christ of Scripture??? When does the growth beyond infancy happen in this setting? When does it happen at Reedemer?? Seems a worthwhile question since the emphasis is all on social justice, making God plausible, etc. etc.

    See what you are doing there? You are reducing to the lowest common denominator and essential calling it OK. So does Keller. That is the point and that is why he is so popular. That is the Kellerite problem.

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  28. Zrim – I have never said that “God is using prominence to spread the Gospel” and certainly don’t believe that “prominence is inherently blessed favor.” Keller’s prominence is BECAUSE he has been effective spreading the Gospel. If Redeemer consisted of 50 people meeting in a broom closet 28 years after it was founded, no one would care. Starting a major Reformed movement in the greatest city in the world understandably leads to prominence, don’t you think? And of course “making the case for God” is not the same as preaching the Gospel – I was clear on that in my go-round with E. Burns on Friday (see above).

    E. Burns – first of all, Redeemer is an excellent catalyst for spiritual growth for people who are members or attend regularly. I won’t go into detail now, but Redeemer does well with the “ministry, oracles, and ordinances of God.” Second, adhering to Osteen’s theology or Catholic theology is not “ok,” but I would rather a regenerate person attend Osteen’s church or become Catholic than remain unregenerate. Wouldn’t you?

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  29. VV, is your question whether the Spirit can work freely? Of course. Does that mean popular (even ordained) men shouldn’t be questioned? No.

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  30. “Starting a major Reformed movement in the greatest city in the world understandably leads to prominence, don’t you think?”

    Yes, and that’s the problem. The church and a “major Reformed movement” aren’t the same thing.

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  31. 1. New York is the greatest city in the world? Really?
    2. Why would a congregation of 50 people be an indication that one wasn’t effective at spreading the Gospel? Who brings the increase?

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  32. Zrim – it is a movement of Reformed churches. Yes, not all churches Redeemer has helped plant are Reformed, but there is still a solid core of newly planted Reformed churches.

    sdb – 1. NYC is the economic, cultural, and political capital of the world. That’s not really debatable. Compare the global influence of any other city and it comes up short next to NYC.
    2. We all know that God ultimately builds His Kingdom. And size doesn’t necessarily correlate with effectiveness or faithfulness. My point is that the massive growth of Reformed churches in the heart of Manhattan is newsworthy and naturally brings prominence.

    cw – I’ll try to consolidate an answer to all 5 of your comments here. Once again, we all wish every church was Reformed and Presbyterian. But they aren’t, so we can either “compete” against them or work with them by selectively supporting Gospel-centered churches and pastors of other denominations. See Mark 9:38-40, 1 Corinthians 3:1-15.

    Redeemer is unprecedented for several reasons. 1. It is very new – by far the youngest on that list of Manhattan churches (Times Square Church was planted around the same time, but I think a few years earlier); 2. It is a thriving Reformed church in Manhattan; 3. Its outreach is directed primarily at secular Manhattan residents; 4. It has had an expansive city-wide impact (in terms of church planting) far beyond any other church on that list; 5. It has established a robust worldwide church planting network.

    Also, your comment about the Asian population may not be racist, but is certainly ignorant. Sure, there is a sizable contingent of Christian (and even Presbyterian) Koreans at Redeemer, but your comment discounts the large number of non-Korean Asians and paints all Asian and Korean Christians with an excessively broad brush. But really, who cares what the racial make-up of any church is?

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  33. VV, sliding words around isn’t the point. The point is that there is a difference between movements (human) and churches (Spirit). Movements impress and charm, churches don’t.

    “My point is that the massive growth of Reformed churches in the heart of Manhattan is newsworthy and naturally brings prominence.”

    You sound almost giddy. You should sound skeptical.

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  34. VV,

    If you read the posts here, the problem that most of the commenters have with TK is not in itself that he is as broad as he is. The problem is that he is an ordained Presbyterian minister who does decidedly non-Presbyterian things without disavowing Presbyterianism. If he were to leave the PCA for general evangelicalism, it would be a different story.

    Redeemer might be a thriving church, but is it a thriving Reformed church? That’s the question. Either Reformed and Presbyterian polity is the most biblical way or not. If it is, why is a Reformed Presbyterian church not planting exclusively Reformed/Presby churches? If it isn’t, why stay Presby?

    Can a Presby work with non-Presbys on a wide variety of things that get the basic biblical gospel out? Sure. Can a Presby plant non-Presby churches? Doesn’t seem very wise.

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  35. Zrim – so, should we be skeptical of the 3000 people who were converted after Peter’s sermon on Pentecost? Or the converts being added “day by day?” Or should we be skeptical of Peter’s prominence? He was the first pope, after all…

    Robert – I’ve answered this multiple times in this thread already. Presbyterian polity is the best way, but sadly not everyone sees it that way. So the choice is competition or careful cooperation. I can’t see any Scriptural basis for competition, but I certainly can for cooperation.

    cw – the stats themselves are not racist, but your assumption that all Asian Presbyterians are Koreans, or that the only reason an Asian would attend Redeemer is because they are a Korean Presbyterian is just silly.

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  36. VV, once again there’s that subtle suggestion that TKNY is in the order of the apostles. But Peter wasn’t prominent in a TKNY sort of way–more persecution than esteemed invitations to the cultural and religious centers of the day. But why is the choice a binary one between competition against or careful cooperation with others? What about a category for simple obedience to God, one that really isn’t all that interested in the other two choices?

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  37. vae vic, “That sounds pretty solidly Reformed”

    Actually, you can hear Pope Francis say he same.

    And why do you have to supply all the confessional statements for Redeemer. Why don’t they call you? Maybe you’re too Reformed Presbyterian.

    Do you really think that the conversion of folks in Houston depends on Keller’s books?

    Take a breath.

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  38. cw, “He has gutted, deconstructed, sanded down, and knocked the corners and edges off the presbyterian church model.”

    And the Vae Vic’s of the Protestant world keep being really really really impressed.

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  39. Vae Vic, Redeemer is not a Reformed church. It may be thriving. But a Reformed church doesn’t help plant non-Reformed churches. What’s so hard about that?

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  40. ” sdb – 1. NYC is the economic, cultural, and political capital of the world. That’s not really debatable. Compare the global influence of any other city and it comes up short next to NYC.
    2. We all know that God ultimately builds His Kingdom. And size doesn’t necessarily correlate with effectiveness or faithfulness. My point is that the massive growth of Reformed churches in the heart of Manhattan is newsworthy and naturally brings prominence.”

    1. Global influence of Silicon Valley is >> than NYC. Same is true of SoCal: car culture, franchise culture, STEM, and of course Hollywood make LA more influential than NYC. Intellectual center of mass is Boston – Harvard, MIT, Tufts, Northeastern… way more important globally than Columbia, CUNY, and NYU. Not sure NYC gets into top-5: Bay Area with Berkeley, Stanford, and GCT (and SLAC and Livermore) and LA with UCLA, Caltech, etc… Chicago with UC and NW. Then maybe you could make a case for NYC over the research triangle, Baltimore area, and DC. Political center is DC…by far. NYC is the center of publishing (this is waning) and finance, but otherwise overrated in the US…forget about a worldwide comparison. It’s not the 60’s any more. Finance brings a lot of wealth and wealth seekers to NYC – this gives the illusion of sophistication and cultural influence, but it is just gilded rot. The forces directing the direction of the world aren’t coming from NYC – Keller is wrong.

    2. The reformation is about the importance of ecclesiology too. One would think that the devastating effect of 19th century revivalism, fruit of those labor so (how’s the ymca these days?), and hollowing out of the mainline would remind people of the importance of sound ecclesiology. But no. We (Keller and his acolytes) are repeating those mistakes by reducing the faith to “essentials”, building parachurch organizations with no ecclesiastical oversight, and playing fast and loose with denominational standards. We’ve seen how this ends and it isn’t good.

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  41. VV,

    Presbyterian polity is the best way, but sadly not everyone sees it that way. So the choice is competition or careful cooperation. I can’t see any Scriptural basis for competition, but I certainly can for cooperation.

    But I don’t think the problem that most of the commenters have is with careful cooperation. Can Presbyterians and Baptists work together at a soup kitchen? Sure. Can Presbyterians and Anglicans team up to write evangelistic tracts that present the basic gospel? Of course. Can Reformed Presbyterians, Baptists, and Anglicans all staff a seminary? There might be more of an issue with that, but it has been done at places such as RTS, at least in the past, where there are also substantive discussions of church polity.

    The chief problem is the ecclesiology and church planting. Why does cooperation necessitate planting non-Reformed, non-Presbyterian churches, because apparently for TK, it does. It’s one thing to have a Baptist show up at your door and point him to a Baptist church. It’s quite another to plant a church for him when you don’t believe his model is truly adequate. If you are planting churches of other polities, you are effectively saying the polity doesn’t really matter, and if that’s the case, why be Presbyterian. It amounts to a philosophy of “Well, I can work within this model,” not, “This model, I believe is the best and most biblical.” That is concerning.

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  42. Zrim and Robert – it’s a binary choice between careful cooperation and competition because if we don’t cooperate with planting, say, an Anglican church with a strong Gospel message and otherwise solid theology, we may get a very bad Anglican church with a distorted Gospel in its place. If a non-Reformed denomination is going to plant a church, why not aid them in planting a good non-Reformed church with a theologically sound pastor rather than risk ending up with a truly bad one? To use a political example, it’s the same as the US supporting a foreign dictator who is relatively benign and who we can trust as opposed to a cruel, wicked dictator who may cause problems for his people and others. Democracy may be the best option, but if they are going to have a dictator we might as well support a good dictator. Again, we all want all Reformed churches, but that’s just not reality. If non-Reformed churches are coming, why not make sure they are the best non-Reformed churches they can be? Doesn’t that benefit everyone and enhance the Kingdom?

    DGH – so, if Pope Francis says it then it can’t be Reformed? Pope Benedict said that Martin Luther was correct and that justification is by faith alone – that sounds an awful lot like Reformed, Presbyterian theology to me (is it better with the Oxford comma?). So why can’t Reformed churches help plant non-Reformed churches? That sounds like an assertion without supporting evidence from, well, anything. Very un-academic of you.

    sdb – if you think Silicon Valley or SoCal have more global influence than NYC then you must not get out much. I’ll grant that NYC is not the center of education, but that’s about all you got right. Silicon Valley is like Detroit in the 50s and 60s – they are to tech what Detroit was to cars. Did anyone ever accuse Detroit of having a massive global influence? Mass producing something does not indicate mass influence. NYC is the world’s political capital. It has the UN. Both presidential candidates in 2016 had their headquarters in New York. A huge amount of influence and wealth in American politics comes from NYC. The major news outlets are mostly based in NYC. It is the world’s cultural capital: music, TV shows (way more influential than movies these days), theater, food, dance, fashion – you think LA or the Bay area comes close to NYC? Hamilton tapped into the zeitgeist (I hate that word) of American culture far more than anything Hollywood has made in the past 5 years. And economically it’s not even close. The stock market is 4 times larger than the world’s second largest (London). There are more millionaires in NYC than any other city in the world, and the GDP dwarfs any other American city, and is second only to the much larger Tokyo worldwide. Major company headquarters, marketing, advertising, etc – all NYC. I love LA and SF – but I wouldn’t try to make the case they are more influential than NYC.

    I disagree with your point that the Redeemer “model” espouses poor ecclesiology. In what sense is Redeemer a hollow church? How have they played “fast and loose” with denomination standards? I’m pretty sure they still adhere to the Westminster Standards, and to make DGH happy, they don’t even need me to help them.

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  43. VV,

    If a non-Reformed denomination is going to plant a church, why not aid them in planting a good non-Reformed church with a theologically sound pastor rather than risk ending up with a truly bad one?

    But if Reformed theology and ecclesiology is what the Bible teaches, then by definition there is no such thing as a “good non-Reformed church with a theologically sound pastor.” That’s kind of the point.

    Nobody is denying that God can save people in a non-Reformed, non-Presbyterian church. But you can only get a non-Reformed, theologically sound church if you boil down the Christian faith to the Apostles Creed. You certainly don’t get a necessarily Protestant one. Even C.S. Lewis, who was willing to boil things down, essentially jettisoned JBFA as essential to a sound church.

    “There’s going to be an non-Reformed church anyway, might as well make it a good one” doesn’t hold water. We’re supposed to trust God for the church’s growth, right? We preach and plant Reformed churches and trust God for the increase. Has God saved some people through the Left Behind series and TBN? Sure. Are there some people who might never darken the door of a Reformed church but got the gospel in that way, and should we be glad they are saved? Sure. Does that mean we need to buy cartons of Left Behind books and pass them out or fund the local TBN station? I’m not sure how that follows.

    I’m really not trying to be an ecclesial snob. I come from a background where I learned much through ecumenical partnerships. But there’s something inherently problematic about a guy who is in a purportedly confessional denomination helping to plant churches that deny truths in that confession that would get him defrocked if he were to start denying them.

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  44. VV, so the expansionist view of ecclesiology (as opposed to republican). But why is it a Reformed concern to make sure lesser evils exist? Don’t Reformed churches have enough on their plates just trying to be faithful in their own doings? Or is it assumed they already are (easy-peasy) and now the real efforts go to making sure the surrounding territories are as good as they can be? How odd, though in keeping with “go big or go home in the greatest city on planet earth (‘merica)” outlook.

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  45. @ VV, you’ve made solid arguments. Be assured, however, that if TKNY (or anyone else) has a speck in their eye, you can count on OL’ers to volunteer to take it out for them. Btw, “I am of Machen” (1 Cor 1:12) is their rallying cry.

    @sdb, if the Reformation was about anything, it was about the primacy of soteriology over ecclesiology.

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  46. “If it be inquired, then, by what things chiefly the Christian religion has a standing existence amongst us, and maintains its truth, it will be found that the following two not only occupy the principal place, but comprehend under them all the other parts, and consequently the whole substance of Christianity: that is, a knowledge, first, of the mode in which God is duly worshipped; and, secondly, of the source from which salvation is to be obtained. When these are kept out of view, though we may glory in the name of Christians, our profession is empty and vain. After these come the sacraments and the government of the church, which, as they were instituted for the preservation of these branches of doctrine, ought not to be employed for any other purpose; and, indeed, the only means of ascertaining whether they are administered purely and in due form, or otherwise, is to bring them to this test. If any one is desirous of a clearer and more familiar illustration, I would say, that rule in the church, the pastoral office, and all other matters of order, resemble the body, whereas the doctrine which regulates the due worship of God, and points out the ground on which the consciences of men must rest their hope of salvation, is the soul which animates the body, renders it lively and active, and, in short, makes it not to be a dead and useless carcass.”

    http://www.wright.edu/~christopher.oldstone-moore/calvin.htm

    I would include worship (Calvin’s #1) as falling under ecclesiology since it is the business of the church and happens in the church. Calvin calls ecclesiology. It is “doctrine with regulates the due worship of God” — different doctrine, different worship. Lots of variety of worship in Redeemer-planted churches.

    And no one says TK is not virtuous. He’s not a bad guy. Who said he was. He may, however, be highly suspect as a presbyterian churchman.

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  47. Petros, it may be true that where Protestantism ask where is the gospel (adhere then to that church), Rome asks where is the church (adhere then to that gospel), it’s hardly the case that Protestantism shrugs at ecclesiology such that what VV is saying holds, i.e. work cooperatively with those who don’t hold to the three marks. The best of Protestantism actually takes its cues from Philippians:

    It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.

    As I’ve been saying to VV, so what that there are bad preachers and teachers out and about? If Christ is actually preached, okey doke. What matters is that we are faithful. Just worry about your own ordained space. Why is that so hard?

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  48. @Zrim, it certainly is apparent that you/OL do not shrug at ecclesiology. It is also apparent that you have a legit argument about TKNY’s non-compliance with your confessions. What is less apparent (to us non-presby’s) is whether your intramural squabbles with TKNY are Biblically justifiable. Glad you seemingly affirm Phil 1:18, but there is 100x more angst/heartburn on OL pages towards TKNY than there is any rejoicing in his faithful proclamation of the gospel.

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  49. Petros, as has been pointed out, that’s because he formally claims Presbyterian. Were he to line up his formal affiliation with his obvious practice and trade his narrow Presbyterian credentials for broad eeeevangelicalism, less heartburn.

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  50. Vae Vic, “Pope Benedict said that Martin Luther was correct and that justification is by faith alone”

    Gullibility warning. Read the fine print.

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  51. cw, and that’s the point. The PCA and New Calvinists are selling Keller — and he’s not exactly disagreeing while he’s sitting on bus stop benches — as THE best way to do Presbyterian ministry. Meanwhile, Keller admits he’s not all that interested in Presbyterian ministry.

    Who should I believe?

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  52. Petros, “What is less apparent (to us non-presby’s) is whether your intramural squabbles with TKNY are Biblically justifiable.”

    You don’t seem to get it that Keller’s identification as a Presbyterian should bring him up short in your estimate of what is biblically justifiable. So you ding OL for being too Presbyterian. And yet you passover Keller’s ordination as a Presbyterian (and his not so scrupulous adherence to his own decision to be a Presbyterian).

    Keller’s as much a problem for your evangelicalism as my Presbyterianism. Actually, he’s more a problem for you.

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  53. VV don’t underrate the cultural significance of motown or the way technology drives culture. Guttenberg was more important to the reformation than Luther or Calvin.

    That being said, SV is more than electronic gizmos. Hoover and Rand were and are two of the most significant sources of political influence in the world. Kerr’s model has transformed highered worldwide. The Bologna reform was essentially establishing the uc model as the worldwide standard. IP law and changes to how media produced, consummed, and owned is coming out of sv. So, besides tech revolution, highered, and post- coldwar international political order SV is just like Detroit.

    Regarding SoCal, Hollywood has way more global influence than Broadway. Transformers and Fast & Furious have a much larger global impact than Hamilton. Yeah, Hollywood doesn’t capture the us zeitgeist so well, but that is because they aren’t making movies for the us.

    Nyc has finance and thus wealth. But nyc is a cultural consumer (because of its wealth) not innovator. No one is looking to nyc for the next big thing, they are hoping to sell it to traders in the city.

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  54. ” , if the Reformation was about anything, it was about the primacy of soteriology over ecclesiology.”
    Curious. Do you think the reformed or lutheran standards reflect that priority?

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  55. VV,

    Pope Benedict said that Martin Luther was correct and that justification is by faith alone – that sounds an awful lot like Reformed, Presbyterian theology to me (is it better with the Oxford comma?).

    He said Luther was correct as long as Luther meant “faith formed by love,” which basically means Luther wasn’t correct. There hasn’t been any change. RCs just use squishy language.

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  56. cw l’unificateur says: There be many kinds of antinomians.
    cw l’unificateur says: the whole substance of Christianity: that is, a knowledge, first, of the mode in which God is duly worshipped

    Jesus agreeing, I think: Matt 15:8 ‘THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME.

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  57. @sdb, wrt “Do you think the reformed or lutheran standards reflect that priority?”, my answer is “both”, and to my knowledge, reformed church history experts (Godfrey, Trueman) would affirm that. The recovery of key concepts like justification by faith alone, sola scriptura (over and against the authority of Rome), along with a healthy theology of the cross, were the hallmarks of the Reformation. Ecclesiological reforms were secondary and tangential, although not unimportant.

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  58. As the Calvin-quote shows (from The Necessity for Reforming the Church), soteriology is to ecclesiology as means are to ends.

    Justification is vital, and vital to get right, and it has temporal priority. Calvin calls it the hinge on which our salvation turns. But Calvin sets it down as the second thing in logical priority, because the most important thing is true worship. Last in priority, first in execution. What comes first in order–if the order is a necessary one–is obviously crucial to attaining the end. To miss it means failure in the end. But it isn’t the end.

    So, to call the ecclesiology a “secondary” and “tangential” concern of the Reformation is quite fallacious. It is the “glorifying and enjoying God forever” that is man’s chief end.

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  59. Petros,

    if the Reformation was about anything, it was about the primacy of soteriology over ecclesiology.

    I don’t think that’s exactly right. I think it’s more accurate to say that the Reformation is about the triumph of Augustine’s view of grace over Augustine’s view of the church. Or, in other words, the Reformers just made Augustine’s idea of grace more logically and biblically consistent.

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  60. DGH and Robert – I realize that Benedict holds to a classic Catholic “justification by sanctification” doctrine. He’s wrong, but at least he recognizes that justification is by grace through faith. In any case, the point is that just because a pope says it doesn’t make it wrong.

    DGH, Robert, and Zrim – the problem is that you seem to have a sectarian myopia (as opposed to presbyopia, go figure) when it comes to evangelism and church planting. None of you have referred to Scripture – not once in this entire thread – to support your position. The Bible does not speak directly to interdenominational cooperation, but there are constant calls for unity of the Body throughout the Gospels and NT, and a constant chastisement of divisions. I doubt a biblical case can be made for only cooperating with your own denomination for purposes of church planting; if anything the opposite is true.

    But beyond that, for people who are so fastidious about presbyterianism, you have never made an historical case for your views from Reformed precedent, or even Presbyterian precedent. At what point did a Reformed church – or even Reformation leader – admonish Reformed folk not to cooperate with non-Reformed folk in church planting? When has that ever been the case in the past 500 years? DGH and Zrim like to say that Keller is not Reformed/Presbyterian for not helping plant only Reformed/Presbyterian churches, but what is the basis for this idea? It’s long on assertion, short on Scriptural and historical support.

    I get that it may rub some people the wrong way that Redeemer cooperates with non-Reformed churches in church planting. But this seems like an emotional reaction rather than a thoughtful objection based on any biblical or historical theology. I’m willing to be educated: if you can make your case from historical Reformed precedent I am open to changing my views. But as it stands now, the case against is based on a desire for non-essential theological purity over expansion of the Kingdom. I can’t get on board with that.

    cw – you quoted Calvin out of context. Here’s the full quote: “If any one is desirous of a clearer and more familiar illustration, I would say, that rule in the church, the pastoral office, and all other matters of order, resemble the body, whereas the doctrine which regulates the due worship of God, and points out the ground on which the consciences of men must rest their hope of salvation, is the soul which animates the body, renders it lively and active, and, in short, makes it not to be a dead and useless carcass.”

    He’s not saying that it is doctrine that regulates worship, he is saying that the doctrine of worship and salvation animate the body of the church. In fact, he actually undermines your point: he’s saying the “pastoral office, and all other matters of order” are useless without sound doctrine on essential matters. In other words, it’s not the polity, it’s the core doctrines that matter.

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  61. @VV
    Your “full quote” is the truncated quote. Did you mean “relevant portion?” In that case, you missed the point, both of the quote, and the relevance to the thread.

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  62. VV, I referred to Philippians.

    And as to your assumptions on the inherent problem of divisions, 1 Cor 11:

    In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval.

    What’s that, divisions can be both bad and good, i.e. reveal God’s approval? So much for sectarian being a four-letter word (more like nine). As Horton once said, it’s from within formal confessional boundaries that those without can ironically find informal fraternity (or something like that). Good fences make good neighbors and all that. Why so afraid of the very tradition you confess? Odd.

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  63. @Zrim, you declare presby’ism to be the bees-knees of Biblical church government. Yet, you say “Were he (TKNY) to line up his formal affiliation with his obvious practice and trade his narrow Presbyterian credentials for broad eeeevangelicalism, less heartburn.”

    So, what’s curious to some of us non-presby’s is this: exactly why is it left up to TKNY to trade out his Presby credentials? Aren’t the heavy-breathers in the Presby hierarchy supposed to retract TKNY’s credentials and bid him good-bye, if that is warranted, in order to protect the flock at large from his errors?

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  64. Zrim – Philippians 1:15-18 shows Paul rejoicing at the spread of the Gospel, even by people with impure motives. So, we should rejoice when the Gospel is spread by people with “selfish ambition” but not when it is spread by people with different polity?

    1 Corinthians 11:17-34 deals very specifically with the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. Yes, factions may be used providentially to reveal flawed behavior and theology, but they are not to be celebrated: “In the following directives I have no praise for you…” But again, this actually undermines your thesis. Paul admonishes them to put away disunity for the sake of worship and proper celebration of the Lord’s Supper. Presbyterians allow non-Presbyterians to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. So we can celebrate the Sacrament together but not help them plant churches? THAT is odd.

    And anyway, Paul has a lot of negatives things to say about disunity throughout 1 Corinthians: 1:10-17, 3:1-15, 4:6.

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  65. VV,

    Goodness,

    He’s wrong, but at least he recognizes that justification is by grace through faith.

    This has never, ever been at dispute between RCs and Protestants. RCism has always recognized that justification is by grace through faith. Luther and Calvin both knew this.

    In any case, the point is that just because a pope says it doesn’t make it wrong.

    No one has argued otherwise.

    The Bible does not speak directly to interdenominational cooperation, but there are constant calls for unity of the Body throughout the Gospels and NT, and a constant chastisement of divisions. I doubt a biblical case can be made for only cooperating with your own denomination for purposes of church planting; if anything the opposite is true.

    The Gospels and NT assume a unity based on doctrine and at least certain practices. And do you really think that Paul would assist in planting a church if it disagreed with him on the sacraments?

    But beyond that, for people who are so fastidious about presbyterianism, you have never made an historical case for your views from Reformed precedent, or even Presbyterian precedent. At what point did a Reformed church – or even Reformation leader – admonish Reformed folk not to cooperate with non-Reformed folk in church planting?

    The very fact that the Lutherans and the Reformed could not work out there differences is all the evidence that is necessary.

    You are stretching. Nobody that I can see is denying that Keller has reached lost people with the truth of Christ. The basic point is that if you are going to be a Presbyterian then be a Presbyterian.

    Presbyterians take vows to uphold the WCF, which includes statements that depriving baptism to infants of believers is a grave error. If you actually believe that, how in the world can you help establish churches that endorse grave error? It’s a matter of integrity. If you don’t really believe that the WCF is right on that subject or others, there are processes to change it. Until then, you should abide by your vows, not do things that openly deny them.

    Again, I don’t really have much doubt that Keller has done good things even if I think there’s a lot of hype. But if Keller really thinks certain things are “no biggies,” why stay in a denomination that is supposed to think that they are.

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  66. Petros,

    So, what’s curious to some of us non-presby’s is this: exactly why is it left up to TKNY to trade out his Presby credentials? Aren’t the heavy-breathers in the Presby hierarchy supposed to retract TKNY’s credentials and bid him good-bye, if that is warranted, in order to protect the flock at large from his errors?

    That’s an excellent question. It’s really a both/and. But the Presbyterian model will only work to the extent that people care more about the confessions and less about celebrity. But this is America, after all.

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  67. @ VV

    Here’s the full quote in outline form

    Christian Religion.
    –separated into two principal Heads:
    1. Mode of due worship, i.e. END
    2. Source of salvation, i.e. MEANS

    After which are:
    a) sacraments
    b) government
    both instituted for the preservation of the above “branches of DOCTRINE.”

    Question: “Are (a+b) “administered purely and in due form”?
    Answer: If they institute and preserve (1+2) in truth.

    Added illustration:
    Body = well-functioning (a+b); N.B. not simply any (a) or any (b)
    Soul = properly-animating (1+2); without which the body is dead.

    ******************

    Now, you said that CW misquoted Calvin (though they are C’s literal words). Meaning, I suppose, you felt he had misrepresented them. You then denied Calvin’s literal words’ prima facie intent, and pitted his illustration of soul-and-body against his manifest purpose to defend the whole complex.

    For Calvin, sacraments and government (polity) are two primary marks for discovering a true church. These ARE essentials, and core concerns.

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  68. Petros, perhaps, if Presbyterian polity was heavy-handed and authoritarian. But it isn’t (more bees knees). But it seems to me when one is touting his work (or others are touting for him), it’s fair to ask a few questions and wonder how his formal affiliation squares with his work. I understand Americans, even religious ones, don’t like questioning apparent success, but that’s the spirit of Calvinism for you.

    VV, rejoicing over what’s happening outside our reach is fine. But how do you get from Paul that working with those with a different polity is warranted? And if factions reveal who has God’s favor, how does that not grounds for rejoicing? Yes, P&R welcome non-P&R to the table. Membership is a whole different matter, and if membership is stricter than why not evangelism?

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  69. Bruce – first of all, I said CW quoted Calvin out of context, which he did in his last paragraph. Second, I agree with your basic outline above: Body is sacrament + government, Soul is correct doctrine of worship + salvation in Calvin’s illustration. You are wrong about Calvin’s intent and meaning, and his definition of a “true church.” From the Institutes Book 4, 1.9:

    “With regard to the general body we must feel differently; if they have the ministry of the word, and honor the administration of the sacraments, they are undoubtedly to be ranked with the Church, because it is certain that these things are not without a beneficial result. Thus we both maintain the Church universal in its unity, which malignant minds have always been eager to dissever, and deny not due authority to lawful assemblies distributed as circumstances require.”

    For Calvin the marks of a true church are preaching of the word and administration of sacraments. That’s it. He’s says nothing of polity or purity of peripheral doctrine. He goes on in 4.2.1:

    “Moreover, we have shown that the error to which such pardon is due, are those by which the fundamental doctrine of religion is not injured, and by which those articles of religion, in which all believers should agree, are not suppressed, while, in regard to the sacraments, the defects are such as neither destroy nor impair the legitimate institution of their Author.”

    In other words, if the core doctrines (“fundamental doctrine of religion”) are not in error, even the sacraments can have have some error in administration and the church still be considered a true church. Sacraments and polity matter, but they are not “core” or “fundamental” to Calvin, so long as the sacraments are not neglected or thoroughly corrupted. Based on this, who would Calvin say has the “malignant minds,” those who insist on denominational purity and de facto ecclesial isolation, or those who practice unity and cooperation with churches of different non-fundamental theology?

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  70. Zrim – no, membership is not a “whole different matter.” Membership qualifications include baptism and a credible profession of faith in Christ, as confirmed/approved by the session. The basic qualifications are the same for the Lord’s Supper and membership, with membership requiring examination by the session. One does not even have to be a “presbyterian” to be a member of a Presbyterian church.

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  71. VV, if you affirm the two-forms-of-membership that is admittedly prevalent in much of modern North American Presbyterianism (one stricter form for officers, another latitudinarian for laity). Not so much if you come from older continental Reformed or British Presbyterianism (one stricter form for both). But even in the modern line, officers do indeed have to be Presbyterian to be members of a Presbyterian church. Which brings us back to my point: if you must be Presbyterian to be an officer-member in a Presbyterian church, why are you evangelizing and even planting with non-Presbies?

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  72. Veevee, you may not like my interpretation, but I said “I would include worship (Calvin’s #1) as falling under ecclesiology” and explained why. And context? It was a long quote with a link to the whole piece. No funny business. His order. I’m not afraid of Calvin. You think Calvin would be thrilled by Keller’s innovations and fudgifications?

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  73. @Z, wrt “if Presbyterian polity was heavy-handed and authoritarian”. It doesn’t strike me like it needs to be either of those things to merely enforce its stated polity. It’s just curious to see presby-ism touted as such a great form of governance, when you’ve got the TKNY elephant right there in your room. Antinomianism residing in presby-land? Say it ain’t so!

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  74. VV, Baptists do not accept infant baptism. This means if a Presbyterian attends a baptist church and wants to join, he must be re-baptized to join. Thus the baptist church is declaring that the Presbyterian’s baptism is not a valid baptism, a very serious charge. So how can a Presbyterian church plant a baptist church that declares that the sacrament of the church who planted it is invalid? Seems a recipe for disunity and confusion, does it not?

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  75. Petros, what you might be missing is that what lies between doctrine and practice are sinners, the great hinge. Pres polity may be superior but it also depends on sinners to carry it out. And so you might also miss in your observation that some aren’t interested in simply stomping around pulling credentials.

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  76. @VV
    In your first sentence, you repeat your error. Saying you were correct doesn’t make it so. I showed by a thorough analysis of the entire Calvin quote that CWs representation of Calvin’s meaning is closer to original intent than yours. I’m not going to further parse CW and VV in an attempt to add to the proof. This is a public forum, and readers can make up their own minds.

    I correctly (Collins Thesaurus of the English Language – Complete and Unabridged 2nd Edition. 2002 © HarperCollins Publishers 1995, 2002) rephrased/shortened your allegation that CW “quoted Calvin out of context” as a type of “misquote,” the meaning of which term is not limited to the failure to quote verbatim.

    Calvin does not include discipline as a mark alongside the Word and Sacraments; but to stop there is mere pedantry. It takes nothing into account of his repeatedly expressed opinion on the subject. To call it “peripheral” in his thinking is, to say the least, confined.

    He wrote in A Reply to Sadoleto, “There are three things upon which the safety of the Church is founded and supported: doctrine, discipline and the sacraments.” And from Institutes IV.4.12: “All who desire to remove discipline or to hinder its restoration–whether they do this deliberately or out of ignorance–are surely contributing to the ultimate dissolution of the church.” (trans. FL Battles, p.1230). Clearly, this matter of discipline is not simply of the “well-being” of the church.

    That the Reformed churches’ confessions came in only the second generation to codify discipline as a “mark” beside the first two is evidence of the their debt to Calvin (and others of the first generation). In The Necessity of Reforming the Church, government is coordinated with sacraments in his statement of the issue, as the above analysis unmistakably shows.

    “Fundamental doctrine” is shorthand for Creedal affirmations (e.g. Apostles’ Creed, cf. VI.1.12). Calvin does not desire to exacerbate divisions in the church. But conceding this much would never make Calvin a friend of the anti-paedobaptists of his day, who (however numerous and popular today) were the true schismatics of the 16thC, and not at all non-violent. I bravely affirm he would set today’s Baptists among those who (in IV.2:1) “abolish or throw down the lawful institution of the Author.”

    And we are back to the criticism of TKNY. Why would a Reformed/Presbyterian churchman set down on the fourth shelf, or the tenth, matters of top-shelves concern; unless he had taken in hand, on his own authority, to reduce those essential identity qualities which he formerly professed? Because he is “too big to fail,” his watered-down pragmatic Presbyterianish identity threatens to redefine “Reformed,” even for those whose goal is the integrity of their Confessed inheritance.

    He would say those who equivocate on the terms they swore to uphold, and the enablers selling-out, are the malignant minds. “But, as soon as falsehood breaks into the citadel of religion and the sum of necessary doctrine is overturned and the use of the sacraments is destroyed, surely the death of the church follows…. It is certain that no church can exist where lying and falsehood have gained sway.”

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  77. Bruce – nothing screams pedantry like providing a full citation of a dictionary in the comments section of a blog. Yikes. Regarding Calvin and church discipline, let’s say arguendo your analysis is correct, and include church discipline as a mark of a true church alongside administration of the sacraments and preaching of the word. That doesn’t change much, does it? So a true church has those 3 marks. If we agree with Calvin that those are the marks of a true church, then how could we NOT cooperate with them? How could we NOT aid in planting true churches? Do you think we should refuse to cooperate with true churches? I’m sure Calvin would not agree.

    I absolutely do not agree with your statement that “government is coordinated with sacraments” according to Calvin. I actually agree with your summary of Calvin’s position as you presented in outline form above, but there’s no logical inference that Calvin views sacraments and government as somehow intertwined or intimately related. He simply lists them as secondary matters (relative to worship and doctrine of salvation), along with “matters of order.” Government and sacraments and other factors exist to preserve proper worship and doctrines of salvation. But to claim that they are so intertwined as to be synonyms in Calvin’s view of a true church is not supported by The Necessity of Reforming the Church or the Institutes. Calvin repeatedly, clearly, defines a true church as one that celebrates the sacraments and preaches the word. There is no logical, incontrovertible “coordination” between government and sacraments.

    To that point, Calvin defines his view of “fundamental doctrine,” which I agree basically amounts to the Creeds. All else is non-essential. From Institutes 4.1.12:

    “For all the heads of true doctrine are not in the same position. Some are so necessary to be known, that all must hold them to be fixed and undoubted as the proper essentials of religion: for instance, that God is one, that Christ is God, and the Son of God, that our salvation depends on the mercy of God, and the like. Others, again, which are the subject of controversy among churches, DO NOT DESTROY UNITY OF THE FAITH…The best thing is to be perfectly agreed, but seeing there is no man who is not involved in some mist of ignorance, we must either have no church at all or pardon delusion in those things of which one may be ignorant, without violating the substance of religion and forfeiting salvation.” (emphasis obviously mine)

    Does that sound like a man who opposes planting churches that differ on non-essential doctrine? You can read your personal opinion into Calvin all you like, but anyone with an ounce of reading comprehension and intellectual honesty will agree that for Calvin a true church is defined by right essential doctrine (Creeds), and administration of the sacraments, and NOTHING else should cause disunity. We all knew this would devolve into a Calvin quoting contest eventually (good Presbyterians that we are), but I cannot see a Scriptural or historical argument for not cooperating in the planting of true churches, and no one here has bothered to make one.

    Which brings us back to Tim Keller and Redeemer. Maybe instead of criticizing you should follow their lead – certainly seems they are following Scriptural and Reformed precedent more than the critics here. They are undoubtedly advancing the Kingdom. How can we possibly say that is an undesirable outcome?

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  78. Todd – I’m sure Baptist practice varies widely on this. John Piper’s church, for example, does admit members who were baptized as infants and make a credible profession of faith. But that’s really neither here nor there. The reality is there will be Baptist churches. If people would attend/join a Baptist church rather than a Presbyterian church over beliefs on baptism, then why not work together for the sake of the Kingdom?

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  79. V Vic, “DGH and Zrim like to say that Keller is not Reformed/Presbyterian for not helping plant only Reformed/Presbyterian churches, but what is the basis for this idea? It’s long on assertion, short on Scriptural and historical support.”

    Have you ever heard of the New School Old SChool Presbyterian split of 1837 when Old Schoolers cut off New Schoolers for cooperating with all sorts of non-Presbyterians? Funny, how Princeton Seminar was an Old School institution. Funny even more how Westminster, where Keller taught and received his doctorate, was founded to perpetuate Old School Presbyterianism.

    That’s not Scripture. But the idea that Presbyterians don’t cooperate is hardly novel. Now you need to prove from Scripture that Hodge, Warfield, and Machen were wrong.

    Up for that?

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  80. “If people would attend/join a Baptist church rather than a Presbyterian church over beliefs on baptism, then why not work together for the sake of the Kingdom?”

    Because truth matters, and unity matters.

    As for unity, imagine attending a church where in Sunday School the elders contradicted the pastor, and say that what the pastor just taught in the sermon on baptism, or the gifts of the Spirit, or election, was unbibical. If that would not promote unity, why would it be any different among churches with serious doctrinal differences trying to work together to plant churches?

    As for truth, you seem to want to relegate all essential truth to the Trinity, and how someone becomes a Christian. The rest are non-essentials. But the Bible does not approach doctrinal error this way. The Apostle Paul very sternly corrects doctrinal errors throughout the epistles, and many of those errors are not a direct denial of the Trinity or justification by faith. Would Paul encourage the same men who he was correcting to plant churches and teach those same errors in the churches they planted, as long as they did not deny the Trinity, or justification?

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  81. Also: re “the glorifying and enjoying God forever”; “desire for theological purity”; “advancing the Kingdom”, “true church discipline, essentials, marks”; “existing or not where lying and falsehood have gained sway.”

    Reminder (Rev 1-4) from Him Who : is and was and is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ – The Amen, the Beginning of the creation of God , the faithful and true Witness, firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood; the first and the last; Who was dead but is alive forevermore; Who has the keys of death and Hades and the key of David; Who holds the seven stars in His right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands; and has the sharp two-edged sword ; the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire and feet like burnished bronze; Who is holy and true, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens,

    Who says: He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches

    Who has commendations: for the toiling ,perseverance, not growing weary; endurance for His name’s sake; for holding fast His name; not denying His name and faith; for love, faith and deeds of late greater than at first; for those who can’t tolerate evil men; who put apostles to the test; who hate the Nicolaitans deeds

    And rebukes for some: who have left their first love; who hold the teaching of Balaam; who keep teaching Balak and Nicolaitans; who tolerate Jezebel; who have a name for being alive but are dead; who are lukewarm; who are rich and have need of nothing

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  82. @DGH, for those of us who are okay with bigger tent eeeevangelicalism, TKNY is more than welcome, and hardly hurts the cause. Some of us aren’t necessarily or overly concerned with Christian sub-labels, like “Presbyterian”. But then, apparently, the PCA is in agreement with that view, or they would have de-frocked TKNY for his egregious sins that you’ve carefully documented on this blog.

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  83. Oh. And. Reminder:

    (Rev 1-4) from Him Who : is and was and is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ – The Amen, the Beginning of the creation of God , the faithful and true Witness, firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood; the first and the last; Who was dead but is alive forevermore; Who has the keys of death and Hades and the key of David; Who holds the seven stars in His right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands; and has the sharp two-edged sword ; the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire and feet like burnished bronze; Who is holy and true, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens,…

    Repent.
    (except to Philadelphia) which, apparently, may be cw’s church 🙂

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  84. Oh. And as to complicating saving faith by having the audacity to say it is GOD who must open eyes:
    Reminder:

    (Rev 1-4) from Him Who : is and was and is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ – The Amen, the Beginning of the creation of God , the faithful and true Witness, firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood; the first and the last; Who was dead but is alive forevermore; Who has the keys of death and Hades and the key of David; Who holds the seven stars in His right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands; and has the sharp two-edged sword ; the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire and feet like burnished bronze; Who is holy and true, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens,…

    Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed;

    and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.

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  85. DGH – you know better than to compare the 1837 split to the discussion today. The New Schoolers actually joined with the Congregationalists – it wasn’t mere cooperation – and of course many of the New School had truly non-Presbyterian, non-Calvinistic theology. To say the split was over New Schoolers “cooperating” with non-Presbyterian denominations is excessively reductionist, if not plainly wrong. And Machen? Here’s what he had to say:

    “But if the two-fold test is met; if, in the first place, the doctrine or the message is right, and if, in the second place, the result is not deceitfulness, but truth, then many a despised company of believers, many a hopeless minority, is to be recognized as a true Church of Christ. It is to be so recognized by us, and above all, it is actually so recognized by our Lord. And what warmth of fellowship we enjoy, in these days of stress and strain, with many Christians of many names who are our true brothers in Christ!”

    “What warmth of fellowship we enjoy” with “many a despised company of believers.” Sound like someone who opposed cooperating with non-Presbyterians? Now, in the same address he affirms the primacy of Reformed, Presbyterian theology (as we all do), and advises that controversy can be valuable when it comes to fundamental doctrine. You know better than anyone that Machen was never afraid to take a stand and never avoided controversy, but he knew to pick his battles: he left Princeton and the PCUSA over Modernism/liberalism (including rejection of the virgin birth and the resurrection), not doctrines of church polity. And certainly not over matters of cooperating with non-Presbyterian churches.

    Todd – I’m not saying there isn’t a place for denominations, and unity within the denominations. But the bigger picture is there should be unity and cooperation with denominations within the Kingdom of God. I believe in infant baptism, so I’m a Presbyterian, not a Baptist. But I also believe that most Baptist churches are true churches, and therefore part of the ultimate, universal church. That being the case, how can I not cooperate with them to advance the Gospel? I agree they are wrong about paedobaptism, but they are right in their fundamental beliefs. Are we not all on the same team here? Why would I refuse to aid them in their mission, which is the same as mine, or pretend they don’t exist?

    Petros – maybe there haven’t been any “egregious sins.” And maybe that’s your point.

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  86. @CW, thank you. The warmth from your posts always fills me up, peaceably, as it only could coming from a unificateur.

    @VV, keep up the good work here, outnumbered as you are. And yes, only at OL will you find TKNY to be guilty of egregious sins. Wrt “the bigger picture is there should be unity and cooperation with denominations within the Kingdom of God”, AMEN to that!

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  87. I agree they [Baptists] are wrong about paedobaptism, but they are right in their fundamental beliefs.

    And there it is–baptism isn’t essential. So maybe one of the first steps should be revising the standards deeming the proper administration of the sacraments something as high as the second mark of the true church? After all, that’s a pretty high standard for something so non-essential. (Nah, too hard and not inspiring enough, just duck and weave and Koombaya.)

    More oddity for older Calvinists–having more in common with Baptists who require those baptized as infants to be re-baptized for membership than with fellow Presbies who shrug at requiring confessing and and practicing paedobaptism for membership.

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  88. Proof that the Heidelblogger reads Old Life: https://heidelblog.net/2017/05/turretin-on-the-fundamental-articles-of-the-faith/

    @VV,
    Pedantic, absolutely. Why should I have to appeal to authority in the first place? You refused the accuracy of the simpler, earlier declaration.

    We can admit the true church exists *in spite of* serious deformities in both doctrine and practice. But their maladies set limits on what unequally yoked entities could accomplish to a good end. That Calvin, or even Presbyterians of 200yrs ago would find it tolerable for Reformed stewardship to participate in the establishment of Baptist churches (corruption of the sacraments), let alone Montanists (ancient Pentecostals), is incredible.

    Your incredulous response to DGH notwithstanding, the mainline denomination split in 1837 over the manifest failure (to the Old Side) of church-planting cooperation with Congregationalists; who, excepting for polity, were nearly as close to Presbyterians as any sister church-body. The doctrinal declension of the New Divinity weakened the Presbyterian commitment to its Confession.

    Despite agreement on an analytic breakdown of the relevant quote, you deny there is coordination in (a+b). Don’t you think there are actually deeper layers, ones that probably contain the things that are less vital, in Calvin’s view? Listen to him again, from The Necessity of Reforming the Church, “Let there be an examination

    i.) of our whole doctrine,
    ii.) of our form of administering the sacraments,
    iii.) and our method of governing the Church;

    and in none of these three things will it be found that we have made any change upon the ancient form, without attempting to restore it to the exact standard of the Word of God.” The whole thing is accessible online, and worth reading. https://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/sdg/calvin_necessityreform.html

    Is it not evident that for Calvin, all these matters are so far from being matters of minor consequence? Altogether, they were the things that HAD TO BE reformed *together.* You have far less problem than Calvin would have separating some “agreed upon minimum” as essential, from that which makes us what we are. As if our being Presbyterian rather than Episcopal, Baptist, Charismatic, etc. was of no more consequence than a man’s melanin-count. When in fact, the difference (as we confess it on paper) is more akin to a man being as well as he can be rather than sick or handicapped in some manner.

    You seem willing to put things in the “nonessential” category that Calvin would retain as essential; at least so far as limiting common cause by degrees. “Errors which ought to be pardoned are… with regard to the sacraments, those which do not abolish or throw down the lawful institution of the Author.” WCF.38.5, “It is a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance,” an ordinance that includes the infants of one or both believing parents.

    The true churches we should be cooperating with for new plants, through funding and promotion, should be ones that share our full Confession. The “confession-within-confession” unity is part of the recipe for eventual reunion with Rome, the healing of its mortal wound.

    Embrace the limits of denominationalism. It actually helps sincere believers search for and find (by grace) the churches with greatest purity, and join them.

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  89. Peter, ah, but you are concerned when Presbyterians like we bring it up Presbyterianism. So you overlook Keller’s but feature mine. Just admit you have a man crush on tkny.

    I mean your own attitude toward Keller tells it all. You don’t think his Presbyterianism matters — which it doesn’t. But at some point your concern for Keller’s honesty should kick in. Why minister under the Presbyterian label and receive Presbyterian funds? I don’t think you have anywhere near an answer for that.

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  90. Vae Vic, “DGH – you know better than to compare the 1837 split to the discussion today. The New Schoolers actually joined with the Congregationalists – it wasn’t mere cooperation – and of course many of the New School had truly non-Presbyterian, non-Calvinistic theology.”

    So Keller cooperates with Pentecostals and that’s more Old School? Are you kidding?

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  91. Zrim says: VV, so baptism IS essential?

    There is a tleast have unity on this – baptism does not save a person.

    You shouldn’t distort (or maybe you were just kidding) (or maybe you think baptism saves a person) what those who believe in believer’s baptism (public testimony of one’s faith and identification with Jesus for one who has placed their faith in Christ) believe. Baptism -the result of salvation not a contributor to it.

    looked at WCF and the texts it references:
    Q. 93. Which are the sacraments of the New Testament? A. The sacraments of the New Testament are, Baptism [a], and the Lord’s Supper [b]. [a]. Matt. 28:19 [b]. ICor 11:23-26
    Q. 94. What is Baptism? A. Baptism is a sacrament, wherein the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost [a], doth signify and seal our ingrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our engagement to be the Lord’s [b]. [a]. Matt. 28:19 [b]. Acts 2:38-42; 22:16; Rom. 6:3-4; Gal. 3:26-27; I Pet. 3:21
    Q. 95. To whom is Baptism to be administered? A. Baptism is not to be administered to any that are out of the visible church, till they profess their faith in Christ, and obedience to him [a]; but the infants of such as are members of the visible church are to be baptized [b]. [a]. Acts. 2:41; 8:12, 36, 38; 18:8 [b]. Gen. 17:7, 9-11; Acts 2:38-39; 16:32-33; Col. 2:11-12

    -Matt 28:19 1) make disciples 2) baptizing them
    -Acts 2:41 those who had 1) received his word 2) were baptized
    -Acts 22:13 1) Saul, receive your sight, 1) 14 God has appointed you 2) be baptized
    -1 Peter 3:21 2) baptism 1) appeal to God for a good conscience thru Jesus
    -Acts 2:41 1) those who had received his word 2) were baptized
    -Acts 8:121) when they believed Philip preaching the good news 2) they were being baptized
    -Acts 8: 351 Philip 1) preached Jesus to him.and 37said, 1) “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And the eunuch said, 1) “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. 2) 38 Philip baptized him.
    -Acts 18:8 1) when they heard, were believing and 2) being baptized.
    -Acts 2:38 “1) Repent, and 2) each of you be baptized
    -Acts 16:32 1) word of the Lord spoken to him together with all his house 1) 34 having believed in God with his whole household. 33 2) he was baptized, he and all his household.

    -Col 2:12) having been buried with Him 1) in baptism 2) raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, 2) v13 formerly dead but now made alive 2) v.14 having certificate of debt cancelled
    -Rom 6:3 1) baptized into Christ Jesus have bben 2) baptized into His death? 4 buried with Him through baptism 2) into death that we too might 2) walk in newness of life.2) dead to/no longer slaves to sin 2) deriving our benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.
    -Gal 3:26 For you are all 2) sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 1 ) baptized into Christ 2) have clothed yourselves with Christ. 2) 29 if 2) you belong to Christ, you are Abraham’s descendants, 2) heirs according to promise

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  92. Ali, you’re not following. The point isn’t about baptism per se, it’s about working with and even making members of those who confess and practice something fundamentally different about it, which only matters if it’s firstly assumed that baptism is essential to Christian orthodoxy and practice. If it is, then working with those who depart makes little to no sense. If it isn’t, then cease confessing that it is.

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  93. Bruce – “When in fact, the difference (as we confess it on paper) is more akin to a man being as well as he can be rather than sick or handicapped in some manner.”

    This is helpful – the best argument anyone has made so far in support of Presbyterian-only church plants. I don’t agree, because I think Kingdom unity and advancement trumps this principle, but I do think it is a valid point worthy of consideration. More on that below.

    Regarding Calvin’s view of essentials, it is plain from the Institutes what constitutes essentials in terms of being a true church: correct fundamental doctrine and sacraments. In the Necessity of Reforming the Church, Calvin is speaking of problems with the Roman Catholic Church specifically, so of course he lists all the problems with the RCC, including sacraments and polity. But that does not imply that they are either irrevocably bound up together or of equal importance. In the Institutes, Calvin describes what makes the RCC not a true church, and not surprisingly it is a combination of two factors: a failure to preach the word, and utter corruption of the Lord’s Supper, where “the foulest sacrilege has entered.” (4.2.2) Calvin disagrees with RCC polity, as he makes clear, but that is not what makes the RCC a false church. If the RCC taught the word and administered the sacraments appropriately (even if imperfectly), I doubt Calvin would denounce reconciliation over polity alone, or even other peripheral doctrine alone. But because the RCC was “compounded of lies,” and had fatally corrupted the Lord’s Supper, reconciliation was not possible. Polity needed reforming, but it was not a fatal flaw the way the administration of sacraments (specifically the Lord’s Supper) and failure to preach the word were.

    Regarding baptism, and to humor Zrim as well, of course baptism is essential for a true church. And yes, Baptists have a wrong doctrine of baptism. That’s why I’m not Baptist, and I hope they see the error of their ways and repent. But flawed doctrine of baptism does not make them a false church. Calvin even acknowledged that Catholic baptism was valid, even though administered under corrupt auspices. Now I’m not saying ALL Baptist churches are true churches, because some of them are fatally flawed. But are we going to say that a Baptist church under the leadership of a John MacArthur or John Piper is a false church? The truth is clearly taught and the sacraments administered in uncorrupted – though flawed – form.

    Again, I think you make a very reasonable case against planting non-Reformed churches based on making churches as “well” as they can be. That’s fair and valid. But I can’t agree completely, because if there are non-Reformed true churches – and I think we all agree there are – then how can we not cooperate with them? Doesn’t unity of the Kingdom – especially when it directly involves advancing the Kingdom – overshadow denominational boundaries? In the Gospels and NT we read nothing but unity, love for the brothers, avoid divisions, etc. from Jesus, Paul, Peter, and John. I realize these admonitions are largely (though not entirely) directed at individual churches, but the principle still holds, broadly speaking. Unity is crucial to Christ and the apostles. Now, I’m not saying we should cooperate with EVERY church or denomination or pastor, because certainly some careful discernment is required. But the clear theme of the NT is that spread of the Gospel trumps theological purity. Isn’t cooperating with non-Reformed church planting in keeping with that spirit?

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  94. DGH – you’re getting off topic. I never said Keller is “more Old School.” Let’s review: 1. I said no one has made an historic or Scriptural case against cooperating with non-Reformed churches. 2. You said the 1837 split is an historical precedent because the split was over cooperating with non-Reformed churches. 3. I countered that to the extent that statement is true, it is highly reductionist. So that’s where we left it: my point is that the 1837 split was not over cooperating with non-Reformed churches; I never made the case that Keller is pure Old School.

    You made this response to Petros: “But at some point your concern for Keller’s honesty should kick in. Why minister under the Presbyterian label and receive Presbyterian funds? I don’t think you have anywhere near an answer for that.”

    Aren’t those Gospel/Kingdom funds over and above Presbyterian funds? Keller is pretty open about his practices – it’s not as though he collects funds under the guise of absolute Presbyterianism and then uses them to support non-Presbyterian churches.

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  95. @DGH, yes, I stipulate that it appears you have a legit argument about TKNY’s lack of adherence to his denominational vows. It’s just notable that a) you vent your ire towards him personally, b) give his presby superiors a pass, c) view his apparent lack of confessional adherence to be such an over-the-top presby mortal sin, and d) show no recognition or joy that his ministry might have any legit spiritual fruit/impact.

    But, ongoing hatin’ on TKNY is good for your blog hit counts, to be sure. It’s both sad and entertaining for us non-presbys to observe.

    @VV – keep up the good work here.

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  96. VV,

    But the clear theme of the NT is that spread of the Gospel trumps theological purity.

    No it’s not. The Gospel itself has to be theologically pure or it’s no gospel at all. See Galatians 1.

    Isn’t cooperating with non-Reformed church planting in keeping with that spirit?

    Part of the problem is that a lot of things are being conflated here. Is it possible for the pure, basic Gospel to be proclaimed by an impure church? Sure. Happens in every church. But churches vary in their degree of purity. On a purely practical level, why am I going to plant a less pure church when I could direct my resources to plant a purer church?

    And that’s one of the issues with Keller. Why spend the time and resources on impure churches when he could be planting purer PCA churches? Or purer NAPARC churches?

    If you’re in a situation where you are a small Reformed church in a college town and can’t field your own campus ministry, then maybe supporting the local IVCF chapter makes good sense. But when you are a PCA megachurch or a Baptist megachurch or whatever, why are you not devoting your resources to planting PCA or Baptist churches. Presumably, you think they are the purest churches available, right?

    Is there a severe shortage of PCA guys who don’t want to go to New York and work under Redeemer to plant more PCA churches?

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  97. Robert – “No it’s not. The Gospel itself has to be theologically pure or it’s no gospel at all. See Galatians 1.”

    Interestingly, I would agree with you about the theological purity of fundamental doctrine, but Calvin wouldn’t. He believed the Galatians were still a true church even though they “had done all but abandon the Gospel,” as were the Corinthians, despite their moral and doctrinal flaws. I suppose the real issue then is defining what is fundamental to the Gospel.

    The practical side of planting non-Reformed churches in NYC likely has to do with the the close proximity of the existing PCA churches. Redeemer East Side and Redeemer West Side are at most 2 miles apart, and maybe 3-4 miles from Redeemer Downtown. So there are 3 large PCA churches within a short distance of each other, and those are just Redeemer churches, not to mention all the other PCA plants in Manhattan and the Boroughs. How many PCA churches do you need in that small of an area? They don’t need to match the ubiquity of Starbucks!

    The reality is some people won’t go to a PCA church for whatever reason, but might attend an Anglican, Baptist, Wesleyan, or non-denominational church. Thus if there is an adequate number of PCA churches for the area, why not try to assist churches that are not Presbyterian?

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  98. But are we going to say that a Baptist church under the leadership of a John MacArthur or John Piper is a false church? The truth is clearly taught and the sacraments administered in uncorrupted – though flawed – form.

    There it is again, more appeal to religious celebrity. Heavens to Murgatryod, how could we ever say that a church under these sorts of celebrities could ever be a problem? Alas, even Bruce who admittedly provides the most salient reasoning for sectarian practice cannot overcome the power of celebrity.

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  99. VV,

    I suppose the real issue then is defining what is fundamental to the Gospel.

    Bingo. That’s part of the problem with this discussion.

    As far as ecclesiology—there are certain things essential to the being of the church and other things essential to the well-being of the church. So, you can have a true church present even if the doctrine of baptism isn’t as solid as you would like. I’m sure you would agree with this, and I think everyone here would agree with this.

    I also think that everyone here would agree that there are ways that you can work with other denominations even for the sake of preaching the basic gospel. Darryl has worked at seminaries with strong but not exclusively Presbyterian ties, for example.

    The issue is this—our goal should be to set up an environment that will promote long-term gospel health and success, inasmuch as we can based on providence and the unknown future. If something like the sacraments rightly administered is essential to the well-being of the church, then by planting churches that do not administer them rightly, we are setting up a gospel work for long-term problems despite our good intentions.

    The only way around this is to downplay the importance of the sacraments or pick your issue for the well-being of the church.

    TK might be planting churches that preach the basic gospel, but if Presbyterian polity and sacramental theology is really what the Bible teaches, is he doing a long-term good by planting such churches? I think the answer has to be no, however grateful we may be that these other churches are preaching the gospel that saves. Does this mean TK can’t cooperate with other denominations at all? I don’t think so. Soup kitchens, apologetics, etc. might all be viable ways of working with others. But planting churches that specifically confess that it is a sin to baptize babies?

    The practical side of planting non-Reformed churches in NYC likely has to do with the the close proximity of the existing PCA churches. Redeemer East Side and Redeemer West Side are at most 2 miles apart, and maybe 3-4 miles from Redeemer Downtown. So there are 3 large PCA churches within a short distance of each other, and those are just Redeemer churches, not to mention all the other PCA plants in Manhattan and the Boroughs. How many PCA churches do you need in that small of an area? They don’t need to match the ubiquity of Starbucks!

    The reality is some people won’t go to a PCA church for whatever reason, but might attend an Anglican, Baptist, Wesleyan, or non-denominational church. Thus if there is an adequate number of PCA churches for the area, why not try to assist churches that are not Presbyterian?

    But if Presbyterian polity is biblical, you need as many PCA or OPC or whatever in an area as there are people to serve. In fact, if it is biblical, you should actually want all those other churches to become Presbyterian. Will it happen in our lifetime? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean you stop working to that end or at least not do things that would actively stand in the way of that.

    But again, it goes back to whether certain things are necessary for the well-being of the church. The Wesleyan church across the street from my congregation might be preaching the basic gospel. It might be making the best disciples of Jesus it can given whatever flaws it might have. But how am I doing long-term good for the kingdom by promoting an unbiblical ecclesiology and funding a doctrine of sanctification that creates legalism, lack of assurance, and other problems long term because of its very nature?

    Paul rejoiced that the gospel was going out even if under wrong motivations. But it doesn’t seem that those preaching from wrong motivations were preaching and planting congregations according to a different polity than Paul followed, so I don’t think his gladness is a good argument for what TK is doing.

    I’m really not trying to hate on TK, I promise. But either these things are necessary for the church’s long-term health or not. I can’t guarantee that a church planted with good polity and doctrine will stay that way. But I can at least not plant churches that are substantially defective in such areas.

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  100. Vae vic, Reformed Protestants (along with others) believe that Reformed Protestantism is the purest expression of Christianity. See Warfield and the Confession of Faith. If you cooperate with non-Reformed churches — hello — you cooperate with error.

    Are you prepared to ask Keller to admit that he cooperates with error, or to explain why he does.

    BTW, the 1837 split was about cooperating with non-Reformed. I’ve done the research.

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  101. Petros, Reformed Protestants (along with others) believe that Reformed Protestantism is the purest expression of Christianity. See Warfield and the Confession of Faith. If you cooperate with non-Reformed churches — hello — you cooperate with error.

    Are you prepared to ask Keller to admit that he cooperates with error, or to explain why he does.

    Why do regard this as personal? It’s about celebrity and the kind of hero worship that prompts you to turn a blind eye to people who tolerate error. Why do you do that?

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  102. Vae Vic, You’re wrong about Calvin and the Galatians (not so laudable a defense of Keller):

    He commences by administering a rebuke, though a somewhat milder one than they deserved; but his greatest severity of language is directed, as we shall see, against the false apostles. He charges them with turning aside, not only from his gospel, but from Christ; for it was impossible for them to retain their attachment to Christ, without acknowledging that he has graciously delivered us from the bondage of the law. But such a belief cannot be reconciled with those notions respecting the obligation of ceremonial observance which the false apostles inculcated. They were removed from Christ; not that they entirely rejected Christianity, but that the corruption of their doctrines was such as to leave them nothing more than an imaginary Christ.

    Thus, in our own times, the Papists, choosing to have a divided and mangled Christ, have none, and are therefore “removed from Christ.” They are full of superstitions, which are directly at variance with the nature of Christ. Let it be carefully observed, that we are removed from Christ, when we fall into those views which are inconsistent with his mediatorial office; for light can have no fellowship with darkness.

    On the same principle, he calls it another gospel, that is, a gospel different from the true one. And yet the false apostles professed that they preached the gospel of Christ; but, mingling with it their own inventions, [19] by which its principal efficacy was destroyed, they held a false, corrupt, and spurious gospel. By using the present tense, (“ye are removed”) he appears to say that they were only in the act of failing. As if he had said, “I do not yet say that ye have been removed; for then it would be more difficult to return to the right path. But now, at the critical moment, do not advance a single step, but instantly retreat.”

    But since you have compared Keller to Francis, maybe there’s a method to your whatever.

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  103. DGH – thank you for that lengthy quote from Calvin’s commentary on Galatians – we have all proven we can quote Calvin now. Unfortunately you missed the point again. The issue is not whether or not the Galatians were in the process of abandoning the Gospel: they clearly were, as Paul says directly in 1:6. The issue is whether or not their abandonment caused them to become a false church. According to Calvin, they were still a true church, and he even rebukes those who would call churches with less error false churches. From the Institutes 4.1.14:

    “If the Church still remains, simply because the administration of word and sacrament is not rejected, who will presume to deny the title of church to those whom a tenth part of these crimes cannot be imputed? How, I ask, would those who act so morosely against present churches have acted to the Galatians, who had done all but abandon the gospel (Gal 1:6), and yet among them the same apostle found churches?”

    So yes, as your (superfluous) quote makes clear, the Galatians had severely distorted the Gospel. But according to Calvin enough truth of the Gospel remained to make them a true church. As I said to Robert, I’m not certain I would agree with Calvin here – we seem to have higher standards than he did. After all, you’re not arguing that Redeemer is cooperating churches that are worse than the Galatian church, in which case Calvin would certainly consider any church Redeemer has partnered with to be a true church. For someone who prizes the 16-17th century Reformers, you clearly disagree with them when it comes to theological purity. Calvin would even call you “morose.” Forget laudable.

    And the idea that the 1837 split occurred only or primarily because of New School cooperation with non-Presbyterian denominations is ridiculous on its face. If that were the case, why did the split drag out for decades? If it was as simple as that, they would have split half a century (or earlier) than they did. You know as well as I do there was far more to it.

    Robert – you are basically making the same case Bruce did, and it’s a good one. Yes, we all value theological purity, and Reformed, Presbyterian churches are the purist in existence. The debate is not over that ideal, but whether that ideal trumps Kingdom advancement. I would argue the clear pattern of NT teaching is that unity in advancement of the Gospel and enhancement of the Kingdom of God outweighs theologically purity. So far no one has made a case to the contrary. To DGH’s point, yes, Redeemer cooperates with churches that contain error, but all churches have error, even the best Reformed churches. Aside from that, I cannot see a case for minimizing Kingdom advancement for the sake of non-essential doctrinal purity. I am open to changing my position, but I haven’t seen an argument for this yet.

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  104. Vv,

    But where do you see the Apostles excited over the advance of teaching that isn’t theirs? That’s what I don’t see and that’s what you need for your point to stand.

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  105. Vae Vic, “enough truth of the Gospel remained to make them a true church.”

    Think this through. If the Judaizers were preaching enough truth remained? So you can be anathema and still be a faithful Christian?

    Welcome to Rome.

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  106. DGH – that’s Calvin’s view, not mine. I’m not sure I would agree with Calvin that the Galatians were still a true church.

    Robert – surely the Apostles would not “celebrate” error. It comes down to the balance between two positive ideals: 1. Theological purity; 2. Kingdom advancement. Both are good, but not always aligned. So in that case, which takes precedence? I don’t have to quote and re-quote all the calls for unity and single-mindedness in spreading the Gospel in the NT. But there is absolutely no exhortation to build fences over non-essential theology. Based on the NT, where do you find basis for NOT cooperating with non-Reformed churches? Where are we ever told to distance ourselves from a true body of believers, even if their peripheral theology is incorrect? Where did the Reformers teach/practice this?

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  107. VV, you see no problem co-laboring with Baptists and Pentecostals. But on your reasoning from Calvin, it’s not clear why the line is (presumably) drawn with RCs. If true churches were found among the primitive Galatians, why not the modern Romans? I’m not aware of Redeemer co-laboring with RCs, so I assume it’s not happening. If so, why not? What causes a categorical refusal to work with any RC church? And if Redeemer may categorically refuse any RC church without being branded “sectarian,” why can’t P&R enjoy that same favor from you in categorically refusing to co-labor with Baptist and Pentecostal churches? Then again, perhaps I’m wrong and Redeemer does co-labor with some RC churches, in which case what’s really the point in having doctrinal distinctives that really only amount to mere preferences that only serve to foster (gasp!) disunity? Heck, if that’s the case then Trueman is right: just go back to Rome since it’s the default setting of the religious west anyway.

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  108. Zrim – I don’t know that there’s an absolute standard for determining the churches we should cooperate with in church planting. As I’ve noted multiple times in this thread, it requires careful discernment. If we use Calvin’s basic formula for a true church, the RC church is inappropriate for cooperation because they fail to preach the word and have fatally corrupted the Lord’s Supper. That’s Calvin’s view, which I quote in an earlier comment above, but I think we have to examine all factors, starting with Word and Sacrament as a baseline.

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  109. VV,

    Robert – surely the Apostles would not “celebrate” error. It comes down to the balance between two positive ideals: 1. Theological purity; 2. Kingdom advancement. Both are good, but not always aligned.

    Well, the fact that we are all sinners means that the all kingdom advancement will occur with some degree of theological impurity.

    So in that case, which takes precedence?

    Why does one have to take precedence? Why not work for kingdom advance in the most theologically pure way possible knowing that things won’t be perfect? This is where helping to plant non-Reformed churches doesn’t make a lick of sense. And it makes even less sense with a more well-known figure like TK. There’s no shortage of people in the PCA who would love to work with him to plant PCA churches in and around New York. Your argument is boiling down to, “Well, we know not everyone wants to be Presbyterian, so let’s just plant whatever will stick.” Where do we see any kind of methodology like that among the Apostles?

    I don’t have to quote and re-quote all the calls for unity and single-mindedness in spreading the Gospel in the NT.

    There are certainly lots of calls for that. But as I’ve said, for your argument to stand you have to give me instances of Paul being happy about churches being planted that directly deny his teaching on baptism, for example.

    But there is absolutely no exhortation to build fences over non-essential theology.

    Sure. But what counts as non-essential theology in the NT? One’s view of meat sacrificed to idols. One’s view of esteeming certain days above others. Peter says in 1 Peter 3 that baptism saves us. Seems like that makes it a pretty essential doctrine. (And note that I’m not saying that a faulty view of baptism automatically condemns one to hell).

    Based on the NT, where do you find basis for NOT cooperating with non-Reformed churches? Where are we ever told to distance ourselves from a true body of believers, even if their peripheral theology is incorrect?

    Given the attention that Paul gives to the doctrine of predestination in Romans 9–11 and his basic conclusion that it is necessary for grace to be grace, do you really think that he would countenance planting churches alongside Arminians if the Reformed are right or alongside the Reformed if Arminians are right?

    Besides, I’m not sure anyone is saying don’t cooperate in any way with non-Reformed churches. But the question is what counts as peripheral theology. Historically, predestination and the sacraments are not peripheral for, well, any denomination. Maybe they should be and if so, there are processes to change confessional standards. But we’re back to an issue of integrity. TK took vows to uphold the WCF. Unless he’s taken specific exceptions to the importance of predestination, baptism, et al, that have been upheld is he not violating his vows?

    Where did the Reformers teach/practice this?

    The Reformers weren’t too keen on the Anabaptists, some of which were close to them theologically apart from baptism.

    I get that the kingdom of God is bigger than Presbyterianism. I don’t think anyone is denying that.

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  110. VV, but Baptists with altar calls and denial of baptism to members of the covenant haven’t fatally corrupted word and sacrament? How is that discerning?

    But it sure seems to me that what’s missing in your estimations is the distinction between the visible/militant church and the invisible/triumphant church. When you speak of “kingdom advancement,” it sounds like you have the latter in mind, but you seem to think that this can happen among those who are doing the former. As it’s been pointed out already, sectarians understand that members of the kingdom (invisible) exist in other churches (visible), but what isn’t so clear is why that means visible boundaries should be relatively relaxed for the sake of kingdom advancement. Don’t you make room for the mysterious work of the Spirit to advance the kingdom despite human foible? Why not maintain the boundaries and let God works as he will? Maybe some think they can improve upon him. Yikes.

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  111. @Robert, know that I’m a fan of your reasoned posts. But wrt “give me instances of Paul being happy about churches being planted that directly deny his teaching on baptism”, I would offer a) it’s not at all clear that Paul ever gave a detailed teaching on baptism that would explicitly support only the paedo-presby view, and b) there’s a case to be made that 1 Cor 1:17 is evidence that, for Paul, the preaching of the gospel, not sacramental practice, was paramount.

    @VV, the obvious solution here is to abandon rigid adherence to often useful, but yet extra-biblical nonetheless, confessions. Even OL’ers admit to being okay with TKNY if he’d officially abandon his confessional vows.

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  112. Petros, “obvious solution here is to abandon rigid adherence to often useful, but yet extra-biblical nonetheless, confessions”

    The way Keller does? While he received support from a confessional Presbyterian church?

    Where is your morality now?

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  113. @DGH, agree that disciplining TKNY seems to be long overdue. Could you post a link to your public request that his presbyters step up?

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  114. Petros says:@DGH, agree that disciplining TKNY seems to be long overdue. Could you post a link to your public request that his presbyters step up?

    not evidence of this first, Petros? – if your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private Matt 18:15a

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  115. @Ali, per se, I am not one who has problems with TKNY. DGH and OL made the case that TKNY does not live up to his solemn vows to uphold the presby confessions. People who do not uphold their vows, as I understand the presby world, are subject to discipline. The presby’s here would have to explain how their discipline is supposed to work, and why, apparently in TKNY’s case, it doesn’t work.

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  116. Petros,

    @Robert, know that I’m a fan of your reasoned posts.

    Thanks. I appreciate the pushback you give to the positions offered here.

    But wrt “give me instances of Paul being happy about churches being planted that directly deny his teaching on baptism”, I would offer a) it’s not at all clear that Paul ever gave a detailed teaching on baptism that would explicitly support only the paedo-presby view,

    That may be true, of course. The specific issue I have is that confessional boundaries are made based on this issue on both sides, which means that both Presbyterians and Baptists, for example, think that the detailed teaching is sufficiently clear to affirm their position and to deny the distinctives of the other. If one believes that the details are specifically clear enough to commit to a confession or tradition on either side, then there are lots of problems when you start funding the establishment of churches that hold the other view and say that the position you yourself hold (on either side) is not only wrong but at least potentially leading people to sin. And that’s what both Presbyterians and Baptists say about the other position.

    In the PCA, at least, you can take exceptions to a great many things and be approved for ministry. But if you take an exception to the WCF teaching on baptism, you aren’t going to get ordained. So, presumably someone like TK has not taken an approved exception on baptism. Which means, from a Presbyterian perspective, he is planting churches that are leading people astray on a significant matter.

    On one level, it doesn’t matter which side is right on this exegetically. That’s a different argument. The problem is the funding of significant erroneous teaching according to each body. Now if one or both bodies wants to make the teaching on baptism less significant, there’s a process for that. Maybe the lines on baptism, for example, shouldn’t be so strong and the confessional language should be softened. If that’s the case, follow the process for doing that. But when Presbyterians are planting Baptist, Episcopal, Pentecostal,—non Reformed churches—they are circumventing procedure and funding what is supposed to be non-negotiable positions. In the short run, that may not have disastrous consequences, but if you look at the long-term history of Presbyterianism, for example, liberalism comes when you start winking at the established standards. Liberals have historically ignored the standards and avoided discipline until they got the majority, then they changed the standards.

    I don’t mean to say that TK is a theological liberal. I’m with Chortles on thinking that the problem isn’t TK so much as where people take his trajectory. On one level, he can’t be responsible for that. But he is responsible for setting a better trajectory. I can’t control what people do with my trajectory after I’m gone, but I can set it as soundly as possible, humanly speaking.

    The problem is the precedent this kind of thing sets. I don’t doubt that he has good intentions. The problem is the consequences these intentions can lead to. We have history to know where this leads.

    Either baptism is a big enough deal to prevent visible church unity or it’s not. If it isn’t, then the answer is to work within the system to change the standards or to leave for a denomination that accepts a wide variety of views and practices. The answer isn’t to wink at the standards and hope for the best. And I’d say the same thing if it were a Baptist planting non-Baptist churches.

    and b) there’s a case to be made that 1 Cor 1:17 is evidence that, for Paul, the preaching of the gospel, not sacramental practice, was paramount.

    I think the case is that as far as respecting an individual’s salvation, it’s far more important to get something like justification by faith alone correct. If our job is just to make converts, then preaching the basic gospel that we are saved by Christ alone apart from our efforts is paramount. The problem is that I don’t see in the NT where our job is just to make converts. We are to make disciples, teaching people to observe everything Christ has commanded. Traditionally for all Protestants, that has meant everything the Bible teaches. Obviously, you can’t make disciples without making converts. But you can make converts without making disciples, and I think the vast swaths of biblical ignorance and crazy stuff done in the name of Jesus in this country prove that. We might be doing individuals some good in making converts, but we aren’t doing the church good to make converts but not disciples. And while Jesus of course is concerned about individuals, it is the church that we are responsible for. We can’t save people, but we can endeavor to make the church as pure in doctrine and practice as we can.

    Lots of converts were made during the nineteenth century in the Burned-Over District. Now that is the some of the hardest soil of all for the gospel. As far as I can tell, the Bible encourages long-term thinking and some of what is done by watering down confessional boundaries ends up creating a lot of long-term damage.

    Now again, I don’t think anybody intends that. But if we don’t learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it.

    And finally, I’m saying all this from the perspective that Presbyterians can work with non-Presbyterians in a wide variety of contexts for the good of the gospel, making converts, and even discipleship. Things such as distributing gospel literature, social works of mercy, even evangelistic meetings can be good areas for cooperation provided boundaries are kept intact. But when we treat boundaries as insignificant, lots of problems result in the long term. It seems to me that funding the planting of churches outside of one’s confession does more long-term harm than good.

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  117. a point being, Petros, we’re not deceived to think that the Lord takes lightly how His children approach this matters?
    and being that: This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. (John 17:3); and seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. (2 Peter 1:3)- all our efforts are to know Him and make Him known as He is

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  118. @Robert, fair enough. You are a great spokesman for the presby world. And, as previously stipulated, given a confessional construct, I’m sympathetic to the heartburn created by TKNY being loose on his confessional adherence.

    Perhaps to state the obvious, many of the ecclesial issues you outline (eg, to what extent ministry cooperation, between believers who disagree on certain points, should take place and where it should take place) are avoided by sticking to a more minimalist definition of orthodoxy (eg, the Nicene Creed), rather than more full-throated confessional documents. I appreciate your concern that the trajectory of having this bigger-tent-eeevangelical view often leads to liberalism. Perhaps. But, I would simply want to give voice to concerns about (unnecessary) damage done by intra-presby confessional catfights along with lost opportunities for ministry advancement.

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  119. Robert and DGH – I reject the idea that Redeemer has violated any confessional standard by helping to plant non-Reformed churches. Redeemer is not inviting them to join the Metro NY Presbytery, or otherwise endorsing their erroneous theology. Tim Keller is not the pastor of those churches. Both the PCA BCO and the WCF make clear that all true churches are part of the Kingdom of God:

    “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.” WCF 25.2

    So cooperating with other true churches violates the very Confession that says they are all part of “the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God?” Hard to figure that one.

    Zrim – I’m talking about advancing both the visible and invisible church in the sense that God uses the visible as the ordinary means of salvation. So would you rather have a flawed (but true) visible church plant, or no church plant? Doesn’t God ordinarily act through the visible church as the means of salvation? Failing to plant true churches ultimately slows the advancement of the visible church and invisible Kingdom.

    Petros – the issue isn’t the Confessions or adhering to the Confessions, which are important for doctrinal purity and unity within a particular church. The problem is those who read into the Confessions and into the Reformed theology their own personal views rather than what is actually there.

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  120. @VV – you make interesting points. I’m just a non-confessional non-presby observer here. If you are right, then the PCA at large has done the right thing by not disciplining TKNY, and DGH should lay off, notwithstanding that TKNY has been a fave topic for OL blog posts. If DGH et al are correct, it would seem the PCA is delinquent.

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  121. VV, you keep using the phrase “true church” but as one who prescribes how do you know what one is without the confessions delineating? And what they delineate involves the sacrament of baptism. But you shrug. Departing from baptism isn’t merely flawed. It’s one giant step away from true.

    “Failing to plant true churches ultimately slows the advancement of the visible church and invisible Kingdom.”

    I get you’re eager, but what about doing things correctly? I’d like hot water flowing in my house for all who enter (including me), but shrugging at vital parts to hooking up the water heater makes for a pretty poor installer. That’s provisional life, how much more so for eternal life? Sometimes slow going is a sign of health and wisdom. Not sure why that’s so hard to grasp.

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  122. Petros,

    It is a tension. And I’m not going to pretend drawing the lines is crystal clear. It is a hard question.

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  123. VV,

    So cooperating with other true churches violates the very Confession that says they are all part of “the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God?” Hard to figure that one.

    I don’t think anyone is saying “don’t cooperate at all” but rather “cooperate in a manner that doesn’t call into question your commitment to the standards you are supposed to uphold.” At least that’s what I’m arguing for.

    The basic argument I’m getting from you is that not everyone will be Presbyterian, but everyone needs a church, so let’s plant relatively sound churches so everyone gets a church they’ll go to, otherwise they might not join a church. I’m really trying to figure out the substantial difference between that and the seeker-sensitive model.

    Besides, if Presbyterianism is the biblical model, that is the kind of church they need. Not a Baptist Church. Not an Anglican Church. I don’t really get the philosophy that says both that Presbyterianism is THE biblical model and “plant non-Presbyterian churches.” If Presbyterianism is just “a” biblical model, then it would make more sense, but that’s not what the standards teach or the BCO, and if it were, we’d have Baptist PCA pastors.

    At lot of this discussion is based on how clear one thinks Scripture is on the nature of church government and the sacraments. If it isn’t all that clear, what’s the point of being a Presbyterian? Join the SBC or some other association.

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  124. Zrim – right, defining a true church is a major point here. Calvin’s definition of a true church is far more basic than subscribing to the Confessions. Machen’s definition is very similar to Calvin’s. I only mention those two because their views of what constitutes a true church are directly quoted in this thread. If a major player in the history of the church believes that only a Confessional church is a true church, then by all means educate us. I won’t hold my breath.

    Robert – “I don’t really get the philosophy that says both that Presbyterianism is THE biblical model and “plant non-Presbyterian churches.””

    Because even though I believe Presbyterian is the correct model, I have no doubt we are all wrong about some aspect of Presbyterian doctrine. I’m certain we are wrong somewhere, even if we can’t see what that is right now. So if I’m supporting Presbyterianism – which I know is probably flawed somewhere – why I can’t I support other true churches that are also “subject to both mixture and error?”

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  125. VV, despite whatever may be popular thought, P&R churches do not follow any particular figure in church history. They are confessional churches, which among other things means they operate as a plurality of elders. Neither Calvin nor Machen define a true church. They may have views and they may be discerned in confessional formulations, but they do not define. I’m not asking to compare anything to Calvin or Machen, I’m asking to align with the confessions.

    But Robert asks the key question. Your answer is unsatisfying because confessionalists also believe Reformed doctrine is imperfect, as in fallible contra Rome and other holy rollers. But how that means “work with others” is still a head scratcher. My wife isn’t perfect, but does that mean I work with other women to produce families? Don’t vows matter?

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  126. Peter, but you do have a problem with Keller because he is a Presbyterian and you don’t think Presbyterianism is right. Now, if you think Keller is a good kind of Presbyterian because he doesn’t make an issue of being a Presbyterian, you’re problem just got bigger. Why does Keller insist in being a non-Presbyterian Presbyterian?

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  127. vae vic, “I reject the idea that Redeemer has violated any confessional standard”

    Surprise.

    But you don’t think working on Sunday is a sin. Do we take your word or the Confession’s?

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  128. VV and Robert, plus, the PCA does not have fraternal relations with the kinds of churches (baptist and pentecostal) that Keller is planting. If being part of the PCA matters, Keller is in violation of his denomination’s rules on ecumenicity.

    But for evangelicals, why does ecclesiology matter (so why be Presbyterian)? Sounds better than Methodist? Even better than evangelical?

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  129. VV,

    Because even though I believe Presbyterian is the correct model, I have no doubt we are all wrong about some aspect of Presbyterian doctrine. I’m certain we are wrong somewhere, even if we can’t see what that is right now. So if I’m supporting Presbyterianism – which I know is probably flawed somewhere – why I can’t I support other true churches that are also “subject to both mixture and error?”

    I think the issue is the kind of support being offered. If the SBC is doing disaster relief in area X, I would see less of an issue supporting that work, particularly if that is the only way to help people in area X. But planting churches that sees the baptism of my children as invalid?

    The Westminster Standards specifically say it is a great sin to neglect baptism and to not apply it to covenant children. To take an exception to that would strike at the vitals of religion (PCA language), and I don’t know of any case where it would be acceptable. By planting a Baptist church, you’re not only supporting error, you’re supporting a system that you are supposed to believe is leading people into sin—great sin—with such a doctrine.

    Can true churches have great sin in them? Sure. But if I as a Presby fund the planting of a Baptist church, I’m funding what I am supposed to be convinced is great sin. Do you not see the disconnect?

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  130. Darryl,

    If being part of the PCA matters, Keller is in violation of his denomination’s rules on ecumenicity.

    That’s the issue, isn’t it. Keller seems to view Presbyterianism as a system within which he can feel comfortable working, not the system of church governance given by God. I can respect that opinion, but if that is your view, why the PCA? Simple inertia?

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  131. DGH – “If being part of the PCA matters, Keller is in violation of his denomination’s rules on ecumenicity.”

    Well, let’s see what the PCA BCO says about that:

    “This visible unity of the body of Christ, though obscured, is not destroyed by its division into different denominations of professing Christians; but all of these which maintain the Word and Sacraments in their fundamental integrity are to be recognized as true branches of the Church of Jesus Christ.” (2-2)

    Sounds awfully similar to, well, every other Reformed document and Reformed writer we’ve examined in this thread. I can find nothing in any PCA administrative documents that prohibit aiding non-Reformed church plants. So what’s the basis for your accusation that Keller is violating PCA rules? What’s the basis for your accusation that he has violated the WCF? No snarky answers, no unfounded assertions: it’s time to put up or shut up. We need specific instances where Tim Keller has violated the PCA BCO and/or the WCF with specific references from each text and supporting documentation. Otherwise we can only conclude that you are engaging rank gossip and slander of an ordained Presbyterian TE.

    Robert – again, it’s a question of doctrinal purity vs. Kingdom advancement. Would you rather have a Baptist church that fails to baptize infants, or no church at all? It’s fine if you say no church at all, but your historical precedent for this is pretty thin, and the Scriptural precedent is even thinner.

    Zrim – not even the Confession regards the Confession as the absolute standard for a true church. Your have a higher regard for the WCF than its authors did!

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  132. VV, right, the old “paper pope” routine. Your Finney is showing. But when officers take vows in any P&R church, they vow to ascribe Calvin/Machen or WCF/TFU? Come on.

    “…but all of these which maintain the Word and Sacraments in their fundamental integrity are to be recognized as true branches of the Church of Jesus Christ.”

    Baptist churches do not maintain the sacraments in their fundamental integrity, in which case it is doubtful at best whether they are true branches. So why oh why do you want to work with them again? The only feasible answer is that you do not really believe that Reformed doctrine on baptism is biblical. You have a high opinion of it, perhaps bordering on sentimental or even culturalist, but you aren’t convinced of the teaching and practice as necessarily orthodox such that others who confess the faith ought to be bound to it, much less something to keep us from a-workin’ to advance the kingdom with all the bruthas and sistas.

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  133. I would concede at least in part VV’s point about the PCA BCO. My reasons for not being impressed with Keller are not so much that he doesn’t follow every jot and tittle of the confession (I don’t either) , rather it is because he has jettisoned too much of historic reformed doctrine in favor of a kind of populism and pragmatism. I am well aware I will get thrown under the “subjective” bus for holding this view. But I am not so sure the authors of the PCA BCO had in mind that Baptist who faithfully believe the gospel are not a “true church” because they do not adhere to Presbyterian views of baptism. That is not the same thing as saying the differences don’t matter or are not important. That said, is it lame that Redeemer plants Baptist churches, totally lame. It speaks to the watering down the doctrine, of the pragmatism mentioned earlier. Just not so sure I would go down the road of saying they are not a ” true church” because they don’t adhere to presbyterian forms of baptism. I think Keller is all wet, but I also believe that there is such a thing as hyper Presbyterianism or said another way and over realized ecclesiology that goes way beyond scripture. It is possible for us Reformed folks to make a paper Pope, just saying.

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  134. EB, maybe there’s too much hang up on the phrase “true church”? There seems to be some hand-wringing as if some think the point is to accuse others of “being false.” It isn’t. The point has to do with orthodoxy and just where something like baptism fits into it. The confessions are pretty clear that baptism is a vital of religion. They’re also pretty clear that to depart from a vital of religion is something the faithful should avoid, none of which seems to align with planting Baptist churches. Seems like simple maths.

    But if the P&R confessional authors did not have in mind “Baptists that faithfully believe the gospel but do not adhere to Presbyterian views of baptism” when writing about baptism, then why do you also describe P&R planting Baptist churches is “totally lame”? If you’re winking with one eye, what’s with the scowl in the other?

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  135. Zrim – Baptists practice baptism. They conduct baptism with a Trinitarian formula and valid mode (immersion). They undergird baptism with the proper theology, namely that it is a sign and seal of forgiveness of sins, a new life in Christ, and our status as beneficiaries of the blessings of Christ. They baptize adults who make a valid profession of faith. They do not baptize more than once. Their one error is that they do not baptize infants. Their doctrine of baptism is flawed, but they still practice it correctly with proper theology. As the WCF says of true churches:

    “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.” 25.4

    In other words, Baptist baptism is less pure than Presbyterian baptism, but it is still baptism and they are still a true church. You cannot justify failure to cooperate with a true church – THAT is why the term is so germane to this discussion. Show me where any Creed, Confession, Scripture, etc. admonishes Christians not to participate with other true believers/churches, even if their theology is flawed. You are confusing vital theology with perfect theology. No human theology is perfect, so that cannot be the standard. Baptists still affirm all the vitals of the faith, imperfect as their beliefs may be. That being the case, there is no basis for not cooperating with them to advance the Kingdom.

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  136. VV, which is why we accept Baptist baptisms (even Roman, neither of which are “less pure,” by the way. Valid is valid, not kinda valid). This isn’t about valid baptisms. It’s about joining with those who deny a vital with regard to recipients. Baptists may have formula and mode (frequency is iffy, plenty re-baptize) but they depart from recipients.

    It’s already been cited in this thread where P&R churches confess the great sin of withholding baptism from members of the covenant. You evidently don’t really believe it to be a great sin. You should be more concerned with revising the standards than with hop-scotching over it so you can “advance the kingdom” with those who have merely different views on a secondary matter. Either get things revised to match your practice or match your practice to the way things are currently confessed. More simple maths.

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  137. VV,

    Would you rather have a Baptist church that fails to baptize infants, or no church at all?

    I don’t accept that these are our only choices. Are you conceding that “There is just no way that God could plant a Presbyterian church in area X or among people group Y”? Because that’s what seems to underlie this question.

    If I’m a Presbyterian Church and for whatever reason my efforts to plant a church in area X don’t work, I’m not sure why my only option is to fund the planting of a Baptist church. Can I be glad that a Baptist church is doing some good in that area? Sure. But maybe God is calling me to area Z, so I go try and plant a Presby church there.

    So to apply this to TK. If he can’t get a Presbyterian church to plant in some region of NY, maybe, just maybe God isn’t calling TK to reach that part of NY. Maybe God is just calling Him to be faithful to His professed vow that refusing to baptize babies is a sin and that while he can be glad that souls are being saved through a Baptist church, his job is to be faithful within the confines of his vows and try and plant Presby or NAPARC churches and trust God for the rest.

    I’ve spent lots of time in ecumenical organizations, so I get some of the excitement of “reaching the city for Christ.” But I’m still seeing an awful lot of presumption. People can get saved in a Roman Catholic Church. Heck, it’s possible that God could people in the Mormon church because they just happened to be there when the real Word of God was read aloud and they closed off their minds or whatever to the rest of the Mormon junk. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to fund a RC Church or Mormon Church. Obviously, a Baptist church is purer than a RCC or Mormon Church, but I think the point stands.

    I’m not saying get in the way of what God may or may not be doing through the SBC, the Missouri Synod, or the ACNA in a particular area. I’m asking where is the call in Scripture for me to actively encourage and support the work of those bodies, particularly when there’s plenty I can do to further the advance of my own purer church?

    Part of me can respect the whole “Reach NYC by any means possible” but it seems wrong headed and perhaps even a bit of hubris to “God called me to reach NYC and I have taken vows before him not to support sin but obviously the former takes precedence so I’m going to fund new churches that preach what I believe to be sin.” It kind of smacks of NYC is more important than all else or that TK’s role in NYC is more important than faithfulness to denominational vows. I’ve seen this before on a much smaller scale when the pastor of the church of my youth was convinced that God called him to have this special role in reaching Miami for Christ. He just couldn’t raise his own profile large enough.

    But Zrim kind of hit on the point in specific reference to baptism. You either believe not baptizing covenant children is sin or you don’t. If you do, planting Baptist churches as a Presby makes no theological sense. And if you don’t, then staying in the PCA doesn’t make much sense except that you find the structures “comfortable enough” within which to minister. But then you are exalting your own comfort and call above what denominational structures are supposed to accomplish.

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  138. Zrim,

    No winking, just distinctions and clarifications. We are singing off the same song sheet far more than we’re not. You are right , there may be a hang up on the phrase “true church” and things that smack as such. I just want to be careful to acknowledge the fact that in Presbyterian and Reformed circles there is indeed at times a hyper Presbyterianism and an over realized ecclesiology that can or has existed. (Going beyond scripture) I just think we need to own it. Again, paper Popes can indeed be created, I’ve seen it.

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  139. …..also I said PCA BCO, (1973) because that was the reference/ context, you switched it to the confessional authors.

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  140. Robert, but even if Keller doesn’t think Presbyterianism comes from God, he does have some obligations as simply belonging to an organization. Do Republicans campaign for Democrats?

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  141. vae vic, put actions together with words:

    b. Churches in Fraternal Relation:
    Within the fellowship of Christian Churches, there are some specifically defined by doctrine and polity similar to those of the Presbyterian Church in America. Of such are those denominations adhering by conviction and public subscription to one or more of the historic Reformed confessions, viz., the Westminster Confession of Faith, The Belgic Confession, the Canons of Dort, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Westminster Larger and Shorter Catechisms; and practicing historic Presbyterian polity, viz., government by representatives of the people according to the Scriptural pattern of the eldership, with parity among ministers and ordained laymen. Among such, moreover there is the plain and unequivocal acceptance of the Old and New Testaments as the inerrant Word of God, written, the only infallible rule of faith and practice.
    With such Churches, the Presbyterian Church in America wishes to enter the possibilities and potentials of fraternal relations, such a connection to include:

    1. Appointing of delegates to each other’s supreme judicatories as a token of mutual friendship and interest in the Lord.
    2. Keeping each other informed of our progress in the Kingdom through an exchange of the acts of our General Assemblies (or Synods).
    3. Seeking through consultation and advice, encouragement and assistance in witness and service, the solution of spiritual and ecclesiastical problems.
    4. Cooperating, as much as possible, in programs of mutual interest.
    To carry out these objectives, the General Assembly shall elect a Committee on Interchurch Relations to function under the administrative oversight of the Permanent Committee on Administration. This Committee will seek to become informed of all contact made by agencies of the Presbyterian Church in America with corresponding agencies of other denominations and will offer its services to such agencies in the development of such contacts.
    The Committee, further, will be responsible for the development of fraternal relations whenever these may be desired, sought or authorized by the General Assembly, and will nominate to the Assembly fraternal delegates to those churches with which the General Assembly desires to establish such relations.

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  142. I do know of a PCA church that planted an EPC church. I find that controversial though my fellow presbyters barely batted an eye when I complained. The PCA is only in corresponding relation to the EPC, not fraternal. The EPC would seem to be closer to the PCA than any of the non-presby churches planted by Keller Enterprises.

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  143. Note that TK’s UK arm boasts of planting “highly contextualized” churches. That’s it, isn’t it? Presbyterianism (aka biblical Xianity) just doesn’t play well in all contexts.

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  144. EB, thanks but I’m not as convinced. The confessions, etc. exist for a reason. Taking them seriously and with common sense doesn’t seem like “hyper Presbyterianism.” Again, if the analogy is familial, it it hyper marital to take vows with a particular woman and work solely with her to produce a family? If not, then maybe ecclesial polygamy also makes some sense.

    PS if “working with others” is so important to certain P&R, Lutherans would seem the better choice. That it tends to be Baptists and Pentecostals just reveals how victorious revivalism has been over Reformation.

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  145. and re: discussion of ‘true church’ etc, at least we can agree on this?– there is only one ‘bride’,one ‘mature man’ , which should caution us about, e.g. how we might speak about/try to exclude ‘baptists and pentecostals’, zrim, because the LORD LOVES HIS BRIDE

    Eph 4 to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.

    Revelation 21:9b “Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”

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  146. Zrim,

    Your point is solid. I agree with the thrust. Especially the last sentence, true dat! Again, my point was more one to acknowledge that despite our disagreements other theological denominations can be “true churches”. Not saying we should help plant those.

    Let me give a real life examples of what I am trying to communicate. My wife was at a Christian book study with a group of other women from the NAPARC church we were members. A theological discussion began, suddenly one of the women stated ……”We should stop talking about this, there is not an Elder among us.” This was not a sensitive topic or a church goverment issue, It was standard variety theological conversation. Now I am not for evangelical feminism, but this was bunk! Those lady’s can talk theology! Please! (Just one of many examples I can sight of Hyper-Presbyterianism or an over realized ecclesiology, in fact a too high a view of the institutional church)

    The bigger problem broadly speaking is to low a view of the church, but for those of us with a high view of Christ’s bride, we should not get to big for our britches with authoritarianism going beyond scripture.

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  147. DGH – wow, where to begin. Let me summarize what you’ve done: you have selectively cited the PCA’s policy on interchurch relations, specifically the section on fraternal relations, which Redeemer is NOT seeking to establish with its non-Reformed church plants, and somehow using that for evidence that Tim Keller has violated PCA rules on ecumenicism while leaving out the part of the policy that encourages relations with other “Christian Churches.” Here’s the section immediately preceding the one you cut and pasted:

    “The Presbyterian Church in America recognizes that the Body of Christ on earth consists of many parts and that churches other than our own are Christian Churches, bearing a faithful testimony to the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ and the visible fellowship which is the fruit of that testimony. With all such churches, subsumed under and defined by the commonly accepted meaning of the term Evangelical, this Church desires to be in correspondence.”

    The first problem with your thinking is that Redeemer does not seek to establish “fraternal relations” with any of their non-Reformed plants. Redeemer will help the new plants, but they are not seeking anything like “appointing delegates to each other’s supreme judicatories” or anything resembling any of the other items on that list. So this section does not apply. Second, the section on fraternal relations does not imply exclusivity of aid and interaction with ONLY fraternal churches. Third, there is nothing in that entire document that prohibits cooperating with or planting non-Reformed churches. Fourth, and most damning to your argument, is the section quoted above, which clearly allows relations with all Christian Churches. It does not address church planting directly, but if anything it strongly supports the concept of helping plant non-Reformed churches: it not only allows relations, it “desires” relations. This essentially closes the case in favor of Redeemer and Keller.

    You need to tone down the “violation of PCA rules” and “violation of Confessional standards” rhetoric. Not only have you provided no proof to support these claims, but your case has been comprehensively dismantled in the eyes of anyone with an iota of objectivity and intellectual honesty. Of course you can critique with the practice of helping plant non-Reformed churches, but let’s not pretend there has been any malfeasance on the part of Tim Keller or Redeemer.

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  148. Zrim and EB,

    You can recognize an orthodox Baptist church is as a true church but with a defective sacramentology. But then it’s leap to say because X church is a true church, I must or should support it. I think that’s the leap that VV is making. Even TK at the end of the day has a limited amount of time and resources. Why is it a better investment to put money into a flawed model when other churches have better resources for discipleship.

    A lot of this is just practical consideration, as Darryl has pointed out. If you are in an orthodox denomination of any kind, what is the point in working for another “team,” as it were. Especially in the PCA where there is no shortage of interest in planting churches in NY and no real shortage of funding.

    Part of it would make more practical sense if TK couldn’t find anybody but Baptists or Pentecostals who want to plant churches in NY. But we all know that isn’t the case.

    I do suspect Zrim also hits on something—the impact of revivalism and the defined conversion experience as somehow the Christian norm. The appeal that TK isn’t doing anything ill-conceived has been—well, God’s growing his kingdom there and those people won’t go to a Presby church. But that is based on primarily counting number of professed conversions.

    I’d also add that if we are so worried that people won’t go to a Presby church, maybe we should rethink certain aspects of church culture. Yeah, a Presby church that worships according to upper-class professional cultural norms may not take in a blue collar area, but that’s not the fault of our doctrine or even the regulative principle. Presby worship, because of its simplicity, should be adaptable enough to all cultures.

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  149. Ali, learn the in/visible church distinction.

    EB, ok, but seems like your last example is a better one to make the point about over-sensitivity in the ranks, which I’d agree exists. Not sure most resistance to TKNY or other personality driven ministries are good examples of that same over-sensitivity, most seems principled. And sorry to take the edge off “hyper Presbyterianism” with “over-sensitivity,” but I doubt your wife’s experience was borne so much out of authoritarianism as it was some women being wound up a little too tightly.

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  150. @Z PS “working with others” is so important to certain P&R, Lutherans would seem the better choice. That it tends to be Baptists and Pentecostals just reveals how victorious revivalism has been over Reformation.

    I’m not so sure that this is true. I think there may be some ethnic affinity driving this. In the Anglosphere, there is a lot of historical congruence between baptists and presbyterians. The 1677 Baptist catechism was identical to the WSC save who should be baptized. Similarly, with the London Confession and WCF. These groups were much more alike than the continental anabaptists were to the lutheran or continental reformed. The Continental Reformed and Lutherans do work together (ELCA and UCC for example). The LCMS & WS bar the table for those who don’t recognize the real presence – that’s a big barrier to cooperation.

    Still I find it very odd that a denomination would plant a church her members could not join. The Evangelical Free, ECC, and especially the SBC (not to mention all the independent reformed/evangelical churches) are so much larger than the PCA and OPC and have much more resources available to them, I have a hard time seeing why we should use scarce denominational resources to underwrite churches our members can’t join (Baptist or Lutheran). Are we so awash in $$$ and short on church planters that we are better off sending those funds to other denominations? That hasn’t been my experience – our plants seem to struggle and our planters spend a lot of time raising funds that could go to ministry. Should we cooperate with Baptists, Lutherans, Pentecostals, Wesleyans, Anglicans, and independents to advance the gospel? Yes. Should we redirect denominational resources to extra-denominational efforts driven by celebrity pastors that receive no oversight from our presbyteries? I don’t think it is wise to do so.

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  151. Zrim says: Ali, learn the in/visible church distinction.

    Partial smokescreen zrim -some of your attitude reflected in statements goes beyond that. And you too – learn. take heed from brotherly wisdom : E. Burns says: Zrim,
    -Again, my point was more one to acknowledge that despite our disagreements other theological denominations can be “true churches”.
    -Hyper-Presbyterianism or an over realized ecclesiology, in fact a too high a view of the institutional church
    -those of us with a high view of Christ’s bride, we should not get to big for our britches with authoritarianism going beyond scripture.

    Zrim says I doubt your wife’s experience was borne so much out of authoritarianism as it was some women being wound up a little too tightly.

    Interesting.

    Robert says the defined conversion experience as somehow the Christian norm.

    per Jesus: the Christian norm (required)/defined conversion experience
    Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again. The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
    As many as received Me, to them I give the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

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  152. Zrim – you’re all over the place. On the one hand Baptists proclaim a true Gospel and perform valid sacraments, and they maybe are a true(ish) church, but on the other hand we can’t train their pastors or help them financially because they don’t subscribe to our Confessions, even though those same Confessions make no such claim to exclusivity in terms of Church unity. I really can’t even figure out what you’re guiding principle is. I would say you believe in strict adherence to the Confessions, but you really don’t because you can’t use them to support your views on what amounts to isolationist Presbyterianism. It seems you are just a hard core Presbyterian enthusiast (nothing wrong with that) who takes an extremely narrow, and I would argue anti-Scriptural, view on church unity.

    Robert – “If you are in an orthodox denomination of any kind, what is the point in working for another “team,” as it were.”

    This is the fatal flaw in your thinking. Your team is not the Presbyterian church, it is the Kingdom of God. That’s the ultimate team. Baptists, Presbyterians, Wesleyans, etc. are all ultimately on the same side in this. Extending the team metaphor, denominations are really just units or specialized positions on the same team. The offensive line doesn’t refuse to cooperate with the defensive backs simply because they play the game different ways. They are all on the same team, just as true churches are all on the same team. This unity is fundamental to the Church throughout the NT.

    DGH said denominations are like Republicans and Democrats, but this is absurd. Denominations are like different branches of the same political party: conservatives, libertarians, Trumpists, etc. disagree on some things and even have guiding philosophies in some cases, but they are all in the Republican party and all oppose the Democrats. Seeing our brothers and sisters in different denominations as opponents to be defeated is frankly anti-Christian and ultimately destructive to God’s people.

    And going back to an earlier comment, no one is suggesting Redeemer help plant RCC or Mormon churches. I have said all along it requires discernment and wisdom in determining which churches and individual pastors to aid. You say it is presumptuous to plant non-Reformed churches, but I say it is presumptuous not to help other true churches – who gave you the right to decide that Reformed doctrinal purity outweighs the spread of the Gospel? Given the calls to unity, who gave you the authority to decide that certain doctrines are of more worth than unity? I agree with you and Bruce and others that doctrinal purity is important and we should strive to plant the healthiest churches possible. I just cannot see the Scriptural or historical precedent for not aiding other true churches in their spread of the Gospel through church planting.

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  153. VV, or you’re conflating things. The point was that there is a difference between accepting valid baptisms and working with those who deny what we confess is vital. So I can affirm the fellow who wants P&R membership and the baptism he received in a Baptist church, but turning around and joining with that church which also denies baptism to members of the covenant is completely different. You really can’t see that difference?

    But it’s clear you prioritize unity over doctrine. That’s what evangelical Reformed do, but confessional Reformed are the reverse. It’s interesting, however, how when it comes to RCC you sound confessional. Then again, evangelical Reformed also seem prone to that modern tendency to see Catholicism and Protestantism in terms of whatever isn’t Catholic is Protestant. The Reformers didn’t though. They knew there was more to being Protestant than not being Catholic (which is why the Radicals weren’t considered Protestant). FWIW, from this “isolationist Presbyterian’s” perspective, there are certainly members of the invisible church in the RCC. How that means we should work with the RCC (visible church) isn’t clear. Likewise, for Baptists and Pentecostals and Anglicans, etc. Until you grasp that distinction, I don’t think you’ll grasp the push back from over here at all.

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  154. Zrim – I understand the distinction. You are confusing the notion of a false church (RCC) with members of the invisible church in it with a true church with flawed doctrines (Baptists, Pentecostals, Anglicans, etc). You can call yourself “confessional” all you want, but your definition of a true church doesn’t jibe with the confessional definition of a true church.

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  155. VV, the problem with your diagnoses is that the confessions do not name denominations as examples of anything, i.e. “Baptists churches are true churches with flawed doctrines.” They generally prescribe the marks of a true church, second of which is the proper administration of the sacraments. How that means Baptist churches are closer to true than false isn’t clear. The writers had in mind the Anabaptists and they identified a very particular error of theirs (not everything). Modern baptists share that error and it’s enough to call into serious question their orthodoxy. But insufficient to the modern evangelical, of course.

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  156. Zrim,

    Zrim….”but I doubt your wife’s experience was borne so much out of authoritarianism as it was some women being wound up a little too tightly.””

    No I don’t think so. Besides you may be making a distinction without a difference here. The “ranks” didn’t just come up with this on a whim. The kind of hyper presbyterian authoritarianism, dominion theology does exist with the NAPARC circles. Do I need to send a litany of video links from OPC Pastor Kevin Swanson again to prove that ??

    https://oldlife.org/2016/01/kevin-swanson-is-not-tim-keller/

    Talk about a guy wound too tightly!! No he is not Keller, he is worse!

    To deny this existence within NAPARC or too soft pedal it is to lose credibility when one obsessively hunts for guys like Keller, which some do. Keller is off in the weeds, we agree. I am not for sacrificing doctrinal truths at the altar of unity. (Not clear Biblical ones). However, can’t we remain orthodox, have a high view of the church without being Hyper-Presbyterian and over reliant on every jot and tittle of the confessions? Again, I say this as one who agrees with the vast majority of the confessions, one who left the PCA at least in part because they did not in my view respect the confessions enough. The start of this flow in conversation began with a questioning of what makes a “true church”, followed by a citation from a confession (not scripture) to prove a “true church” definition. Not saying we can’t cite from a confession, but there does seem to be perhaps an over dependence on church process, authoritarian positions and tradition in general at times. Let’s speak out where Keller errors, but let’s do it for all the right reasons, going after the right things. The “True church” ( regarding Baptist ,Anglican, evangelical or Lutheran, etc) road ain’t the one to go down it would seem to me.

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  157. Zrim – “proper administration” of the sacraments has far more to do with the RCC Eucharist than failure to baptize infants. There is no question that Baptists administer the sacraments properly, if imperfectly.

    E. Burns – I understand your point and appreciate your willingness to bring balance to the discussion. But I think defining the “true church” is the key point in this discussion. The reason why Zrim and others are so hesitant to call non-Reformed churches true churches is because they know they will have an incredibly difficult time defending the idea that we should not cooperate with other true churches. It’s one thing to make the case that a certain denomination is not a true church. It is quite another to argue we should not cooperate with other true churches in church planting simply because we do not agree with all of their peripheral theology.

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  158. EB, Swanson’s a wingnut, but have you considered that ignoring wingnuts is one way of keeping them marginal? That’s what mom always said anyway.

    VV, convenient assertion for your cause but no it doesn’t, not if something like Belgic 34 is taken as parallel to WCF, which states in part:

    …therefore we detest the error of the Anabaptists, who are not content with the one only baptism they have once received, and moreover condemn the baptism of the infants of believers, whom we believe ought to be baptized and sealed with the sign of the covenant, as the children in Israel formerly were circumcised, upon the same promises which are made unto our children.

    Proper administration has various things in mind, including the error of withholding baptism from members of the covenant. But so do RCs administer baptism properly, which is why they are accepted in P&R churches. If you think the Prots winked at credo-baptism the way you do, you don’t understand Protestantism.

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  159. This is the fatal flaw in your thinking. Your team is not the Presbyterian church, it is the Kingdom of God.

    Sure. It’s just a shorthand expression.

    That’s the ultimate team. Baptists, Presbyterians, Wesleyans, etc. are all ultimately on the same side in this. Extending the team metaphor, denominations are really just units or specialized positions on the same team. The offensive line doesn’t refuse to cooperate with the defensive backs simply because they play the game different ways. They are all on the same team, just as true churches are all on the same team. This unity is fundamental to the Church throughout the NT.

    So is your contention that Paul or Peter would financially support a church that wanted to start but differed with them on predestination? Or baptism? Really?

    Unity is fundamental but so is doctrine. And if a doctrine is enough to keep a church from recognizing my baptism or admitting me to the Lord’s Supper, then where’s the unity? Which goes back to the question as to why would anyone plant a church that could never accept him as a member.

    DGH said denominations are like Republicans and Democrats, but this is absurd. Denominations are like different branches of the same political party: conservatives, libertarians, Trumpists, etc. disagree on some things and even have guiding philosophies in some cases, but they are all in the Republican party and all oppose the Democrats. Seeing our brothers and sisters in different denominations as opponents to be defeated is frankly anti-Christian and ultimately destructive to God’s people.

    What do you mean by defeat? If the WCF is right on baptism, for example, is it sinful for me to want all Baptists to become Presbyterians?

    You say it is presumptuous to plant non-Reformed churches, but I say it is presumptuous not to help other true churches – who gave you the right to decide that Reformed doctrinal purity outweighs the spread of the Gospel?

    I didn’t say it outweighs the spread of the gospel. And I’ve said many, many times there are ways Reformed and non-Reformed can work together to “spread the gospel.” I’m concerned about the long-term health of the church. It’s frankly not self-evidently better for the kingdom of God in the long run to plant an Arminian church if that’s the only kind of church that will “take” in a certain area. Can you really imagine Paul writing to the Romans, “Well, predestination is true, but since it won’t take in your city, I’m just going to ignore it”?

    Honestly, where has working together to plant churches across denominational lines gotten us in this country. The burned over district in New York. The American South where the altar call is the only real sacrament left. No in-depth discipleship. It’s all well and good to talk about “the spread of the gospel,” but you still haven’t addressed the question of the long-term good for the church. It seems as if you are saying, “Well, as long as people are getting saved, we should support it.” Where’s your concern for discipleship? And if making disciples entails teaching all Jesus commanded, why are you kosher with planting churches that teach the opposite of what you believe Jesus to be teaching? And don’t give me, “Well, I could be wrong.” Sure. We all could be wrong. But you evidently want to take a position firm enough on some of these “peripheral” issues to join a confessional denomination. What’s the point? Join a group where they don’t care, where they live and let live. I’m not trying to be hostile. I’m just wanting people to work within the bounds of the confessions and structures to which they belong. When we don’t do that but still “cling” to membership in groups that adhere to them, that’s a recipe for liberalism.

    Given the calls to unity, who gave you the authority to decide that certain doctrines are of more worth than unity?

    Who gave you the authority to decide that defining unity by some lowest common denominator for the sake of non-meaningful unity (remember, I can’t take the Lord’s Supper at a Baptist Church historically) is more important than acting according to confessional vows?

    I agree with you and Bruce and others that doctrinal purity is important and we should strive to plant the healthiest churches possible.

    Ok. Then this shouldn’t really be an issue. If, for the sake of argument, the WCF is the biblical faith, then TK is not striving to plant the healthiest churches possible by planting anything other than NAPARC churches. He’s striving to plant whatever will “take.” Now if you don’t agree that the doctrine and practice of NAPARC churches are the surest summaries of biblical religion, then that’s fine. But then why be Presby.

    Again, this is what I don’t get: “The NAPARC model is the healthiest model possible but I’m going to plant churches that directly contradict it at certain points.”

    I just cannot see the Scriptural or historical precedent for not aiding other true churches in their spread of the Gospel through church planting.

    Historically, the Reformed churches have only helped other Reformed churches in church planting. They certainly haven’t helped Baptists who, again, historically won’t admit you to the Lord’s Supper if you were baptized as a baby. Maybe they were wrong, but you haven’t made the case for that Scripturally except to say there’s lots of calls for unity. Nobody denies that. But it is significant that confessional adherence, historically, has led to a lack of cooperation in church planting because it means that whatever we might think today, those who wrote the confessions didn’t agree with you and that most generations of Christians who sought to live by the confessions don’t agree with you.

    Scripturally, Paul affirms that there is one baptism alongside the fact that there is one Lord. Seems like he thinks baptism is important enough to list it along with the exclusivity and supremacy of Christ. He certainly though predestination was important enough to preserve the biblical doctrine of grace to devote three chapters to it in Romans.

    I’m just trying to imagine a scenario in the first century where Paul meets another missionary who disagrees with him on predestination and on baptism, as well as other subjects but then he says, “Here’s the money I raised for planting healthy churches in Syria. You take it because I know my doctrine and practice won’t work there, but those Syrians love them some second blessing teaching and bishops.”

    I just cannot see the Scriptural or historical precedent for not aiding other true churches in their spread of the Gospel through church planting.

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  160. Certainly, it’s been asked already, but how do you unify around anything other than doctrine? We don’t yet live outside this temporal setting and temporal settings don’t have substance without forms. And, at least in the PCA, the BCO requires planting churches(sessions and presbyterys) to supervise doctrinal fealty of planted churches and ministers. Presbyterianism is a form of church gov. after all.

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  161. VaeVic, so what’s your answer to establishing churches with which you will not have fraternal relations?

    Sure seems like Keller doesn’t pay attention to the rules governing ecumenicity in his communion.

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  162. VaeVic, how absurd is analogizing from political parties since J. Gresham Machen did and made the point that political parties have more integrity than Protestants who don’t play by church rules.

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  163. DGH – please point out where it is “against the rules” to help plant a church where with which there will be no fraternal relations. I don’t see it.

    Robert – “I’m just trying to imagine a scenario in the first century where Paul meets another missionary who disagrees with him on predestination and on baptism, as well as other subjects but then he says, “Here’s the money I raised for planting healthy churches in Syria. You take it because I know my doctrine and practice won’t work there, but those Syrians love them some second blessing teaching and bishops.””

    Absolutely he would do this! Remember, he took funds from the Galatian and Corinthian churches, which certainly had major theological and moral problems, to give to the church at Jerusalem (which also had problems). If he took money from them, there’s no reason he wouldn’t give money to them as well, despite their theological errors. In light of Philippians 1:17-18 and the numerous other appeals to unity, I can’t imagine Paul refusing to help a church plant, even if their theology was flawed, as long as they “preached Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2) and were “holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.” (Col 2:19) Are you trying to tell me Paul wouldn’t aid a flawed church plant? I don’t buy it.

    The burden of proof is actually on you to tell us where we are EVER instructed anywhere to refuse to help other true churches on theological grounds. There is absolutely no precedent for that in Scripture, and any instances of Reformed churches refusing to help other non-Reformed plants are thin and anecdotal at best – no real examples have been given in this thread, whatever DGH tries to say about the 1837 split.

    Your comment that “there is one baptism alongside the fact that there is one Lord” actually severely undermines your argument. What is the context of that affirmation? Unity:

    ” …bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one spirit – just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Eph 4:2-6)

    I’m sure Paul had in mind a bunch of severed limbs failing to work together. Forget “bearing with one another,” make sure you maintain theological purity at all costs, even if it destroys the Body – it’s hard to imagine any apostle advocating this. We should strive for theological purity and correct those who are in error. But destroying the Body – or at least failing to support other members of the Body – is not in Paul’s (or any apostle’s) view.

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  164. Zrim – check out Belgic 29: Marks of the True Church. Pretty clear: preaching of the Gospel, administration of the sacraments, and discipline. And while you’re in the neighborhood, check out what Article 28 says about unity and the obligations of church members. One can hate the error of the Baptists and still consider them a true church.

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  165. VV, all this call to unity in the face of serious doctrinal error and yet you draw the line at the RCC. If in your mind Paul would join with the unrepentant Galatians, why so down on Rome? Sure seems arbitrary.

    Re Belgic 29, yeah so? Read it in conjunction with 34 and how do you not see that proper admin of sacraments includes baptizing children, i.e. withholding is an instance of IMPROPER admin?

    Re Belgic 28, huh? What’s it have to do with unity? The point is that there is a visible church to which all professing believers have a duty to adhere. Unity may be inherent to such a call, but how in thee heck do you read all three of those article and get those who embrace a serious and condemnable error are just peachy? Wow, that’s some serious confessional eisegesis.

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  166. vae vic, if you are a Reformed pastor why would you help plant Pentecostal churches? What’s the point of being Presbyterian? It’s more culturally acceptable than Assemblies of God.

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  167. I’m sincerely interested if a presby here could comment on their view of the propriety, per presby regulations, of making accusations against a presby elder of alleged offenses on a blog site? I just surfed through both the PCA’s “Rules of Discipline” and the OPC’s “Book of Discipline”. Both offer quite comprehensive and detailed procedures, but neither mention the virtue of using a blog site. Your thoughts?

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  168. Petros – exactly. There are a lot of paper tigers on this site. They talk a big game about Tim Keller breaking rules and confessional standards and the like, but when challenged to actually provide proof: crickets. And forget lodging a formal complaint with the Metro NY Presbytery – not enough moxie here to actually take action against something they believe is so terrible. The bottom line is they are Presbyterian loyalists to a fault. They advocate a specific brand of extreme Reformed and Presbyterian practice, even at the expense of little things, like, you know, spreading the Gospel and advancing the Kingdom of God and maintaining the peace and unity of the Body of Christ. But hey, at the end of the day if they can flatter themselves as being sufficiently Old School and pure blood Presbyterian then all is well.

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  169. Petro’s and Vae victis did you mean to interrupt zrim’s ‘contemptable eror’ discussion [ zrim says those who embrace a serious and condemnable error]

    1 Cor 106 Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. Heb 3:19 So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief.

    Galatians 5:19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
    1 Corinthians 6:9b Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.
    Ephesians 5:5 For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

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  170. VV,

    Absolutely he would do this! Remember, he took funds from the Galatian and Corinthian churches, which certainly had major theological and moral problems, to give to the church at Jerusalem (which also had problems). If he took money from them, there’s no reason he wouldn’t give money to them as well, despite their theological errors. In light of Philippians 1:17-18 and the numerous other appeals to unity, I can’t imagine Paul refusing to help a church plant, even if their theology was flawed, as long as they “preached Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2) and were “holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.” (Col 2:19) Are you trying to tell me Paul wouldn’t aid a flawed church plant? I don’t buy it.

    What I’m trying to tell you is that Paul is not going to aid a flawed church plant that is impenitently teaching the direct opposite of what he is teaching. When he writes to the Galatians and Corinthians, there is error but not impenitent error. At the very least, Paul expects the Galatians to change their mind and practice.

    And by the way, what does it mean to “preach Christ and Him crucified” in a way that makes baptism no biggie? Especially since Paul says we were crucified with Christ in baptism.

    Your comment that “there is one baptism alongside the fact that there is one Lord” actually severely undermines your argument. What is the context of that affirmation? Unity:

    ” …bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one spirit – just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Eph 4:2-6)

    I’m sure Paul had in mind a bunch of severed limbs failing to work together. Forget “bearing with one another,” make sure you maintain theological purity at all costs, even if it destroys the Body – it’s hard to imagine any apostle advocating this. We should strive for theological purity and correct those who are in error. But destroying the Body – or at least failing to support other members of the Body – is not in Paul’s (or any apostle’s) view.

    How would TK or a Baptist or anyone else be “destroying the body” by only planting churches within their confessional bounds?

    As a sheer matter of practicality, is their a dearth of NAPARC churches looking for help in planting in New York? If a Baptist and a Presbyterian both come to TK City to City, how does TK choose who to help? And if he chooses the Baptist or the Presby over the other because, you know, limited resources, how is he not destroying the body?

    If there is only one baptism, there is only one fully authorized way of doing it. And there are questions raised about lordship. If person A and B aren’t following Jesus’ instructions, questions start to be raised about whether they are serving the same Lord.

    Again, don’t mistake me for saying you need perfect theology to be saved. If that’s true, we’re all sunk. But having one Lord in a practical sense entails one set of commandments that we both are following the same way. There’s either one baptism or there isn’t. And if there is, then whoever isn’t following it is not in full submission to the one Lord. So we plant churches that aren’t in submission?

    The burden of proof is actually on you to tell us where we are EVER instructed anywhere to refuse to help other true churches on theological grounds.

    Why does it have to be a matter of “refusing to help true churches”? All of us have limited resources. If two church plants need help, why am I obligated to help the less pure church? I get the sense that you believe we are obligated to help whatever church has the greatest potential to “stick” in a given area? I’m not sure where Scripture thinks getting a lot of professed converts and members is better than proclaiming the purest doctrine possible and trusting God for the rest.

    You could probably make a better argument that if there are no other Reformed churches/plants to help in a given area, then you can help the Baptist church plant. But is this the reality in New York? I keep asking this question or something like it, and I don’t see an answer, but maybe I missed it: “Why should I be happy if lots of Arminian Churches preaching Second-Blessing sanctification that leads invariably to spiritual destruction gets planted simply because they are making a lot of professed converts?”

    My concern is that I’m not seeing any concern for the long-term in view in what you are saying. When Paul planted churches, he stayed there and taught for a good time, and left behind elders. He established good doctrine and good polity. He had a view for the long term. The sense I get from a lot of your comments is, “Let’s get a lot of churches and a lot of professed conversions and then we’ll be winning.” That certainly isn’t how it’s played out in the south.

    There is absolutely no precedent for that in Scripture, and any instances of Reformed churches refusing to help other non-Reformed plants are thin and anecdotal at best – no real examples have been given in this thread, whatever DGH tries to say about the 1837 split.

    There’s “no precedent” in Scripture because we have a more unified church that had the benefit of living Apostolic correction. When you are an Apostle and are confident that the church under your care is going to listen to your correction, you’re probably going to do things a bit differently.

    Is there vast historical evidence for Anglicans planting Presbyterian churches? Don’t you remember the Puritans having to flee not only because the Anglicans weren’t helping them but because they were persecuting them? And I don’t remember the great love John Calvin had for the Anabaptists—who you at least would see as true churches, at least many of them. Calvin disagreed. Then there’s Machen—who was not afraid to work with other denominations and Christians of other traditions when appropriate. How come, then, he founded an Independent PRESBYTERIAN Board of Missions if he was so keen on helping non-Reformed church plants? And on and on.

    I did not grow up Presby. I grew up Lutheran. Spent time in the Charismatic movement, in the SBC, and among traditional Wesleyans (Church of Nazarene). Spent time in lots of ecumenical movements. Almost no representation by the PCA in any of those groups (1980s–1990s). All of those churches were big into working with other denominations except for the traditional Wesleyans, and even they hired non-Wesleyan teachers at their church private school. I entered seminary on my way to becoming Reformed but not yet fully there. It was a Reformed seminary and it was right before TK became a real celebrity. There was no student there from the PCA who would have dreamt of helping a non-PCA church plant. I always thought it a bit odd that the Presbyterians were so against helping non-Reformed churches. Well, then I became a Presbyterian and now I see why.

    Maybe Presbyterians have been wrong historically. But they have certainly been among the traditions least likely to help those outside their tradition. The exception has been the PCUSA, but their ecumenicity has grown in concert with their liberalization.

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  171. Petros,

    I’m sincerely interested if a presby here could comment on their view of the propriety, per presby regulations, of making accusations against a presby elder of alleged offenses on a blog site? I just surfed through both the PCA’s “Rules of Discipline” and the OPC’s “Book of Discipline”. Both offer quite comprehensive and detailed procedures, but neither mention the virtue of using a blog site. Your thoughts?

    I can’t speak for everyone, but it seems that it’s more of an issue of raising questions about TK and the long term trajectory he might represent than actually alleging impropriety or full-on chargeable offenses. I for one have more questions about the wisdom of some of what TK is doing than to say I’m 100 percent sure he’s violating the confession or his vows. (It’s possible that his presbytery allowed him to take an exception to the clause in the WCF that says depriving children of baptism is a great sin. I think it’s unlikely, but if they let him take such an exception, then what he is doing makes a good deal more sense.)

    My concern is more that he is weakening confessionalism in the PCA than that he is committing an outright sin. I’m more concerned that he’s giving into pragmatism—”Well, we just know that a PCA church won’t take in THAT neighborhood.” My concern is also how he is held up as some kind of universal model for how to do church anywhere. To be fair, that’s probably not entirely his fault. I’ve also seen some of the fruit of his approach in places like San Francisco, Orlando, and Nashville, and I’m not impressed. Lots of squishiness, and in the case of City Church San Francisco, outright apostasy.

    I don’t know whether anyone on the site has raised concerns with TK’s presbytery directly. As for me, I’m far more concerned with TK’s successors than I am with him. I don’t think he’s paid enough attention to the long-term potential consequences of his approach, especially when employed by individuals who are less savvy and less orthodox than he is.

    I’d also add that raising concerns ecclesiastically is likely to get crickets.

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  172. Petros, you’ll likely howl but I don’t see much that rises to accusations anywhere along here. I do see critiques. Not sure why that is such a problem, unless one is afflicted to greater or lesser degrees with religious celebrity, such that even informal discussions that include criticism of said celebrity are rendered accusations by his devotees. I think you forget the breezy and informal nature of a blog. Maybe if you could better make the distinction between formal and informal settings you’d understand it’s just a blog and these are just opinions.

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  173. @Robert, your argument to @vv seems primarily one based on prudence. That is, given a variety of presby premises, you’re arguing that what TKNY makes no sense That’s fine, as far as that goes. But, you do appear to join in with others here in implying that TKNY violates his confessional vows. If that’s the case, I don’t think you’ve addressed the essential issue of why presby rules for discipline are not followed. And, I think you’ve further raised an equally problematic issue, for the virtues of presby governance anyway, of why you’d get crickets if the TKNY concerns were raised ecclesiastically. Put yet another way, since the heavy breathers in the PCA apparently think TKNY has not been unfaithful to his vows, wouldn’t it be incumbent upon the rank/file presby person to respect the presbytery’s decision and not cast aspersions on TKNY?

    @Zrim, no howls from me, as I don’t have a rooting interest in a presby catfight about TKNY. But, let me suggest you and others have offered a lot more than just breezy opinions about TKNY. You’ve asserted he’s not been faithful to his confessional vows, and presumably those vows are important regardless of whether the elder in question is a celebrity. For the public’s interest, it’d be good if you’d make up your mind if faithfulness to confessions are important, or not.

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  174. Petros,

    Perhaps so. I guess I would add is that I think precious few in the PCA, including Keller’s presbytery, have actually given any thought to the matter. Basically, I think most people who know about him see him as reaching people that others haven’t been able to reach and so they are just happy to let him alone. It’s basically the same approach people took to Mark Driscoll.

    I’d say that Keller lines up with what many American Christians consider to be hip, and since American Christians like to be hip, he’s given a wide pass. The question is whether the broader culture thinks Keller is hip. My sense is that the real movers and shakers of public opinion view him as maybe a nicer version of Jerry Falwell. They might like his tone better, but they don’t really take him any more seriously than they do Jerry Falwell or Jerry Falwell Jr. But because he’s built a fairly good size congregation in NYC, a lot of Christians think he’s effectively reaching the culture. It’s really hard for me to buy the hype, especially when I don’t think any of the non-Presby evangelicals in my family have heard of him.

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  175. Petros, that’s a lot of interest for someone who claims no (rooting) interest. But all that’s really been suggested is that it makes little sense for an avowed officer of one denom to plant churches in another. So you’re saying unless critics are willing to light torches and take up pitchforks, they can’t possibly be serious about their professed confessional commitments? But there’s still a lot of in-betweenery I don’t think you take into account, perhaps willfully–blogs aren’t courts and criticism isn’t aspersion.

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  176. “Robert says I guess I would add is that I think precious few in the PCA, including Keller’s presbytery, have actually given any thought to the matter. Basically, I think most people who know about him see him as reaching people that others haven’t been able to reach and so they are just happy to let him alone. It’s basically the same approach people took to Mark Driscoll.”

    and Tullian Tchividjian, in that case, it would it be: “precious few in “the PCA”, in his local PCA church, and in subsequent PCA church(s) [but excluding TGC]-
    *“In Tullian’s case, it was obvious to observers that for some time there has been an increasingly strident debate going on around the issue of sanctification. The differences were doctrinal and probably even more matters of pastoral practice and wisdom. Recently it became clear that the dispute was becoming increasingly sharp and divisive rather than moving toward greater unity.”

    Robert says I’d say that Keller lines up with what many American Christians consider to be hip, and since American Christians like to be hip, he’s given a wide pass.

    ‘hip’ not bad necessarily, unless it is some kind of code word for ear-tickling (2 Tim 4:2-4)

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  177. @Robert, I didn’t think the question was about TKNY’s being hip, or not. His alleged celebrity status (seemingly in doubt in your own fam) is another matter. The question was about TKNY’s confessional compliance, which is an either/or question, and when in doubt, why the presby rules of governance are not invoked.

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  178. @Z, good to know that the considerable amount of airtime given to TKNY at OL is not aspersion, but only breezy criticism. Right.

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  179. Robert says: Ali,I’m not using “Hip” to mean bad or ear-tickling.

    Didn’t think so (for TK).
    Unlike for Tullian Tchividjian.
    Btw, sincere question, you keep mentioning the WCF says not baptizing infants is a great sin. Does WCF call out any other sin(s) as ‘great’?

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  180. Or, perhaps the argument is that presby governance controls should not be expected to be effective if the elder in question is a celebrity. It’s all quite curious to non-presby’s. Oh, well.

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  181. @Ali The wcf also refers to unbelievers taking the Lord’s Supper a great sin. Transubstantiation is called a gross idolatry. There is strong language in the chapter on marriage as well. That being said, the wcf is somewhat limited in scope. The WLC in the section on the 10 commandments has what you are looking for (Q91-Q151). The wcf, wsc, and wlc are complementary documents that together provide a summary of what the Bible teaches about what man is to believe concerning God and what duty God requires of man.

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  182. Peter, please tell me how you distinguish the difference between an accusation and an observation. Is it not true that Keller helps to plant non-Presbyterian churches? And I’m not supposed to notice or comment? Now you — YOU — go all Book of Church Order. Be serious.

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  183. Vae Vic, so far you have agreed that Keller helps to plant non-Presbyterian churches. It doesn’t bother him. It doesn’t bother you.

    What do I have wrong?

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  184. Peter, have you in your pastor crush on Keller ever considered what his vows imply and whether you yourself can reconcile your crush with Keller’s Presbyterianism? If you love Keller because he transcends Presbyterianism, you are proof of the problem of Keller’s bait and switch.

    Aren’t you in sales?

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  185. Peter, either/or maybe. How about truth in advertising? If Keller is a Presbyterian why doesn’t he act like one? Some call that insincere, inauthentic. That’s entirely counter to evangelical demands for earnestness. Heck, Keller falls short on New Calvinist grounds.

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  186. Petros, glad to help but you don’t sound convinced. But this must be what it feels like to be the culture when it’s told by eeeevangelicals (and those influenced by them) that all the finger waging at its worst moments isn’t really a way of blaming it for what it isn’t but just an effort at helping, with bunches of love. Right.

    You guys have a funny way of criticising things you also don’t seem to care much about. What is that? Are you bored?

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  187. DGH – for your cut-n-paste reading pleasure:

    “It would be great if all Christians affirmed Reformed Presbyterian doctrine, but that has never happened and will never happen. That’s no excuse for pastors to promulgate bad theology, of course, but when reaching the secular atheistic lost I think it wise to focus first on the importance of repentance and faith in Christ alone – I would rather them have saving faith than ace a Theology 101 exam. And that’s the thing: Keller does reach the lost from a strong Reformed Presbyterian foundation. If we’re worried about Gospel integrity don’t we need pastors like Keller and his ilk to counter the influence of Osteen and the pope?”

    “I’ll take massive spread of the Gospel with peripheral bad theology over minimal spread of the Gospel with pristine theology. Jesus says as much in Mark 9:40 and Paul echoes those ideas in Phil 1:17-18. Redeemer is, er, was (now it’s actually 3 separate churches) committed to Reformed Presbyterian theology. Great. But they realize not all Christians will agree with Reformed Presbyterian theology, so they are willing to cooperate selectively with non-Reformed churches with the aim of ultimately enhancing the Kingdom.”

    “Once again, we all wish every church was Reformed and Presbyterian. But they aren’t, so we can either “compete” against them or work with them by selectively supporting Gospel-centered churches and pastors of other denominations. See Mark 9:38-40, 1 Corinthians 3:1-15.”

    “I’ve answered this multiple times in this thread already. Presbyterian polity is the best way, but sadly not everyone sees it that way. So the choice is competition or careful cooperation.”

    “The reality is some people won’t go to a PCA church for whatever reason, but might attend an Anglican, Baptist, Wesleyan, or non-denominational church. Thus if there is an adequate number of PCA churches for the area, why not try to assist churches that are not Presbyterian?”

    “Because even though I believe Presbyterian is the correct model, I have no doubt we are all wrong about some aspect of Presbyterian doctrine. I’m certain we are wrong somewhere, even if we can’t see what that is right now. So if I’m supporting Presbyterianism – which I know is probably flawed somewhere – why I can’t I support other true churches that are also “subject to both mixture and error?””

    “Yes, we all value theological purity, and Reformed, Presbyterian churches are the purist in existence. The debate is not over that ideal, but whether that ideal trumps Kingdom advancement.”

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  188. Zrim – “I think you forget the breezy and informal nature of a blog. Maybe if you could better make the distinction between formal and informal settings you’d understand it’s just a blog and these are just opinions.”

    This is precious. So you consider these gems from Bruce and DGH to be “breezy and informal” critiques?

    “…to reduce those essential identity qualities which he formerly professed? Because he is “too big to fail,” his watered-down pragmatic Presbyterianish identity threatens to redefine “Reformed,” even for those whose goal is the integrity of their Confessed inheritance.

    He [Calvin] would say those who equivocate on the terms they swore to uphold, and the enablers selling-out, are the malignant minds.”

    “If being part of the PCA matters, Keller is in violation of his denomination’s rules on ecumenicity.”

    “”Petros, “obvious solution here is to abandon rigid adherence to often useful, but yet extra-biblical nonetheless, confessions”

    The way Keller does? While he received support from a confessional Presbyterian church?””

    “Sure seems like Keller doesn’t pay attention to the rules governing ecumenicity in his communion.”

    Look, I have no problem criticizing anyone, including Tim Keller or Redeemer. But when criticism of a practice turns into accusations of breaking oaths and vows, breaking denominational rules, abandoning the WCF, etc. a line has been crossed. Those accusations can be made, but they must be carefully supported with hard evidence; they have not been in this thread.

    Zrim, I agree that you and Robert have taken a more practical approach to this: why be Presbyterian if you cooperate with Presbyterian churches? I understand that argument and the criticism of Keller/Redeemer. There are valid points to be made against cooperating with non-Reformed churches in church planting, which Robert and Bruce have done a good job fleshing out in this discussion.

    Boiling things down, it seems we all agree that: 1. Presbyterian polity and Reformed theology are the most biblical; 2. We all desire purity of doctrine in the Church; 3. Unity of the Church is of very high value; 4. Kingdom advancement and Gospel spread are high ideals; 5. Reformed churches can/should cooperate with other true churches in some fashion. The disagreements include: 1. The exact definition of a true church; 2. The extent that can we cooperate with other true churches that are not Reformed/Presbyterian.

    I believe the Scriptural precedent is that Kingdom advancement and unity are higher ideals than doctrinal purity, and thus advocate careful cooperation with non-Reformed churches in terms of church planting when prudent. Robert, Bruce, Zrim, Dr. Hart, et al. seem to take the view that doctrinal purity is of greater value, at least long term. The sticking point for me is the lack of theological precedent (Scriptural or historical) to support this view. There are practical considerations, to be sure, but I can’t see the theological case. This is a helpful discussion though. Lots of good, provocative, thoughtful arguments on all sides.

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  189. vae vic, thanks.

    So being Presbyterian is a preference. It’s an ideal.

    It’s not a “thus,saith the Lord.”

    In other words, Presbyterianism for you is one piece of the kingdom but it shares that with others.

    Still doesn’t answer why you cooperate with error or why you leave Roman Catholicism. You seem to think lots of erroneous churches are also advancing the kingdom. So you don’t have any advantage in being Presbyterian.

    But as long as you admit to being New School and that Keller is also, we’re good.

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  190. VV, correct, all just the edgy end of criticism. I get that as a fan you don’t like it, but it seems a bit breathless to render it some sort of accusatory slander. Heck, OL has found itself hunted by plenty of hyperventilating critics saying much worse but not much responding in kind happens.

    Anyway, your last point is good because it’s one I made up there somewhere about the difference between evangelical Reformed (emphasis on the relational and unity) and confessional Reformed (emphasis on the doctrinal and discipline). That difference is being played out here. This is the part where the more trite among us might suggest something about members of the body needing each other and let’s take the best of each and make some awesomesauce, but it’s not in the confessional nature to indulge the sentimentality. Let it be enough to say you’re right about the dis/agreements but only because I agree with you (philosophical humor, that).

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  191. DGH – no, I believe Presbyterian theology is the truth, but my contention is that “lesser” churches are still worthy of partnering with for the sake of the Kingdom. I hold out hope for enough reform in the RCC to make some sort of reconciliation. The debate has shifted dramatically over the past 500 years: instead of Reformed folks being heretics, they were generally correct. Sort of. With some qualifications. Still, massive progress has been made on that front, especially in the American RCC. But right now it would be unwise to cooperate with them in church planting – not that they would cooperate with a Protestant church anyway. The Old School/New School labels are largely antiquated.

    Zrim – there is a fine line between edgy criticism and slanderous accusation. I’ve been on the wrong side of that line before, and that line has been crossed – probably unintentionally – in this thread as well. I disagree that there is necessarily a clear evangelical/confessional Reformed distinction. I think you view the confessions in a way that their authors never intended them to be viewed.

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  192. vae vic, those labels are not antiquated here, nor are they antiquated in the PCA unless you think 1973 is ancient. A big chunk of southern Presbyterians wanted to retain Old School Presbyterianism at the PCA’s founding. Heck, I think Keller was even alive then and he may actually know Lig Duncan and Joey Pipa.

    For the life of me, I don’t understand why you think unbiblical worship is something with which a Reformed Protestant should cooperate.

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  193. See Calvin in “Necessity of Reforming the Church”. And what would Calvin have done with raving charismatic baptists (I’d like to buy an “a” and an “n” and an “a”) like Mahaney, Piper, and Sam Storms?

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  194. VV, well, then maybe you should show the way by getting these “slanderous accusations” dealt with more formally and seriously? Until you do, you come across a bit too nonplussed. Of course, once you do you’ll also look a bit reactionary. Not sure how you avoid the eggface here, save dialing it down and enjoying the back and forth a little more. Sure seems easier, too.

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  195. DGH – it’s either cooperating with imperfect worship or no worship at all. Which is worse?

    Zrim – I think those who crossed the line backed off sufficiently. And as I said, I doubt it was intentional. I have no problem writing a formal complaint to a presbytery as a last resort, particularly when it involves an elder slandering other elders. I was compiling a long list on Tim Bayly – for his defamation of Tim Keller and to a lesser extent Dr. Hart, among other things – before he bailed on the PCA to establish his own denominational patriarchate.

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  196. VV, got it. FWIW, as I recall, Bayly is similarly kosher with not drawing any lines on baptism for the sake of advancing the kingdom (as well as employing creative forms of worship). Don’t look now, but you may have more in common with the patriarchal BBs than with the conservative OL. But how your dual compilation doesn’t reveal a devotion to a celebrity, I’m not sure–if the BBs are advancing the kingdom by working with other true churches and that’s so vital in your mind, isn’t your compilation sort of hindering that work? Or does protecting TKNY who’s doing the same work rank higher?

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  197. VV, that’s what evangelical Reformed do because denoms make big deals out of things like baptism at the expense of “advancing the kingdom.” You sound critical of it, which is good, but how that harmonizes with your Reformed evangelicalism is…cornfusing.

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