The More Evangelical You Become, The Less Presbyterian

On this morning’s broadcast with Angelo and company, I heard Carson Wentz describe the bond he shares with Nick Foles by virtue of a common faith.
I’m sure many evangelicals were encouraged.

But I could not help but wonder what would happen when Carson learned that his Lutheran church (I’m speculating) would not welcome Nick to preach because the Eagle’s backup QB is evangelical, not Lutheran. What happens when ecclesiastical requirements get in the way of the bond that comes from being born-again? What even happens if being Presbyterian gets in the way of participating in The Gospel Coalition? The Allies claim “We are a fellowship of evangelical churches in the Reformed tradition deeply committed to renewing our faith in the gospel of Christ and to reforming our ministry practices to conform fully to the Scriptures.” How can that be? How can you be evangelical and in the Reformed tradition “deeply”?

This is a fundamental tension between Protestants who trace their roots back to the Reformation (Anglican, Reformed, Lutheran) and those who only go as far as the First Pretty Good Awakening. For confessional Protestants, fellowship has standards. But for evangelicals, the bar is low.

And that is why you need to give up a lot if you are a Presbyterian to become an evangelical. If beliefs and practices about theology, worship, and church government matter to being a Christian, then the Reformation gets in the way of being evangelical. But if being born-again is what matters, then you don’t really need the Reformation.

Machen knew the score on this one (came across this after hearing Angelo and Carson):

One of the very greatest evils of present-day religious life, it seems to me, is the reception into the Church of persons who merely repeat a form of words such as “I accept Christ as my personal Saviour,” without giving the slightest evidence to show that they know what such words mean. As a consequence of this practice, hosts of persons are being received into the Church on the basis, as has been well said, of nothing more than a vague admiration for the moral character of Jesus, or else on the basis of a vague purpose of engaging in humanitarian work. One such person within the Church does more harm to the cause of Christ, I for my part believe, than ten such persons outside; and the whole practice ought to be radically changed. The truth is that the ecclesiastical currency in our day has been sadly debased; Church membership, as well as Church office, no longer means what it ought to mean. In view of such a situation, we ought, I think, to have reality at least; instead of comforting ourselves with columns of church statistics, we ought to face the facts; we ought to recall this paper currency and get back to a standard of gold.

To that end, it should, I think, be made much harder than it now is to enter the Church: the confession of faith that is required should be a credible confession; and if it becomes evident upon examination that a candidate has no notion of what he is doing, he should be advised to enter upon a course of instruction before he becomes a member of the Church. Such a course of instruction, moreover, should be conducted not by comparatively untrained laymen, but ordinarily by the ministers; the excellent institution of the catechetical class should be generally revived. Those churches, like the Lutheran bodies in America, which have maintained that institution, have profited enormously by its employment; and their example deserves to be generally followed. (What is Faith?, 156-57)

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548 thoughts on “The More Evangelical You Become, The Less Presbyterian

  1. Keith, there seems to be a dichotomy between the personal faith, who needs church when I have Jesus evangelical crowd and confessional reformed protestants. The latter see the need to “work out their salvation with fear and trembling” but do so in the setting of the church. We think said church matters, as do things like creeds, confessions, and communion. We all have a tent, and it’s either large or small.

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  2. I know very, very, well – that it was my indoctrination into ‘evangelicalism’, well supplied and fueled by my youthful zeal for the same, that hindered, even blinded me to any reception of Reformed theology. William Cowper is so correct – ‘God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform’. The way in which my heart and mind were turned toward Reformed doctrine was nothing short of miraculous, as I was a ‘die-hard’ Charismatic-Evangelical-Pietist (but didn’t know I was other than Charismatic). I feel for the people who are trapped in this very confusing mix, and who are under leadership promulgating the very same. I do feel for the leadership also, but – and I can’t prove this – because only God knows the hearts – but I will go out on a limb and say I do believe that many leaders recognize the veracity of the Reformed tradition, but still choose to oppose it in varying degrees – the Gospel Reformation Network is one such entity that makes me feel this way – and there are good people caught up in the middle of such. They are the ones I feel for the most, yet, I do desire that all (including the leaders who oppose) could know the love, comfort, and assurance of the Gospel. When I read Calvin, Ursinus, etc., I feel hope, desire to trust in Christ alone. When I read Gospel Reformation Network materials, I feel like I should do more and try harder…………even the name – Gospel Reformation Network – says it all. As a first reading, the name communicates that the Gospel should be reformed (changed), and we (the Network) are here to do that. With their emphasis on sanctification, the name communicates their mission exactly, so the name is perfect for them. If the name was ‘Reformation Gospel Network’ – it would seem to communicate that the group is interested in the Reformation, and presenting the Gospel in the tradition of the very same. And also – that group uses the term ‘Contemporary Grace Movement’ – it’s their term alone. What that communicates is confusing. So is their list of Affirmations and Denials. It’s all Evangelical, so it’s all good, right?

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  3. Keith, I think the tension for experiential Christians is not between experience and church forms, but between experience and the Bible. The Bible is a form that contains lots of stuff about piety beyond experience. But I find that some Spirit-filled types disregard holy writ because they think, in Luther’s words, they’ve swallowed the Holy Ghost feathers and all. I would argue, in fact, that the enthusiasts always let experience or mysticism trump the written word.

    That’s a problem.

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  4. Somebody needs to let Carl Trueman know that becoming more Catholic means you become less Presbyterian (Baptist, Evangelical or Lutheran as well)! He has been recommending a lot of Catholic material on MOS lately. I am beginning to wonder if he has Scott Hahn on his speed dial. While you are at it tell him that becoming Atheist, Feminist, and Lesbian means becoming less Presbyterian (at least OPC I think?)(Baptist, Evangelical or Lutheran for that matter). Recommending Camille Paglia is rather strange and confusing.

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  5. That’s exactly right, Dr. Hart – I lived in that genre for a long time, and it’s hard to come out of, even when you know that the Word is the final authority, because you will have pangs that still feel that you will be ‘quenching the Spirit’ – or disobeying the ‘still small voice’ that has been giving you direction and guidance in all things (or so you believe – even if you’re sincerely wrong). I really respect what others have posted here as well. Only the Lord can work in the heart to bring about the desire and interest for sound teaching, doctrine and understanding of Christ and His Good News.

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  6. I love the MOS folks, but I always come away feeling like I need to try harder – do better – do more…….or I’m a less-than somehow/someway…….sorry, that’s my impression of them/the material. Can’t relate.

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  7. The problem I have with the above approach is that being Presbyterian seems to have replaced the Scriptures in terms of acting as a canon. Who wants to say that the Presbyterian confessions are inerrant or that Presbyterians have nothing to learn from Evangelicals?

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  8. Lots to learn from Islam, Mormonism, Catholicism, and Republicans. Doesn’t mean that it makes sense to call myself a Muslim Presbyterian, Mormon Presbyterian, Catholic Presbyterian, or Republican Presbyterian. It can be true that there is much to learn from evangelicals and that evangelicalism is incompatible with Presbyterian piety.

    If the Presbyterian Confessions are inerrant, then they are wrong to say they are not inerrant. Uh oh!!

    Claiming that the confessions are correct and the most reliable guide of what scripture teaches does not entail that I think they are perfect.

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  9. @ Curt:

    There is a difference between sola Scriptura and solo Scriptura. For those in the latter camp, confessionalism looks like replacing the Bible with canon. But those in the former understand the difference between infallible Scripture, fallible collected wisdom of the church, and the best hermeneutical efforts of the individual.

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  10. Curt, what Jeff said, plus you ask rhetorically about what Presbyterians have to learn from eeeevangelicals. Are you new here? That’s the problem, modern Presbyterians have imbibed much too much of eeeevangelicalism. I know it’s always about what one has to learn from the other with you (egalitarianism alert), but if that’s the case then arguably it’s the other way around and maybe the victors have something to learn from the underdogs. I know you’ll say yes (egalitarianism alert), but frankly if one believes eeeevangelicalism is long since bankrupt, the field is quite uneven in terms of who has to learn from whom.

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  11. Zrim,
    Are you new here?

    Answering a real question with a rhetorical question, Very good.

    We have to judge groups not just by the confessions they adhere to, but by behaviors as well. If only Evangelicalism has corrupted Presbyterianism and not the other way around also, then you have answered my question with an unsatisfactory answer.

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  12. Jeff,
    I am with the sola scriptura crowd. But the behavior of some fellow sola scriptura believers causes confusion. That is because people from the sola scriptura crowd tend to put the confessions on pedestals of various heights. And the higher those pedestals, the more confusion they cause.

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  13. @ Curt: That can happen. Some Presbies take a “the confession says it, that settles it” approach. Such confessional positivism is clearly out of bounds. It’s also rare.

    For every person in that category, there are ten people in the solo crowd who use “you’re treating the confession as infallible” as a defense mechanism to avoid having to ask the hard question: Why am I at odds with the collected wisdom of the church?

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  14. Curt, if Presbyterianism is the best (if imperfect) articulation of what the Bible teaches going, then why do you seem to assume it’s just one among many (more egalitarianism)? All adherents of all systems are corrupt, but that’s beside the point as is yours about behaviors. But your point about confessions is the same as Finney’s: paper popes. It’s not new.

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  15. “ We have to judge groups…”
    No, we do not have to judge groups. Evaluating ideas is one thing, and rendering moral judgments in groups is another. You regularly conflate the two.

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  16. Zrim,
    Suppose Presbyterianian is the best of what you claimed. Would that mean that it would have nothing to learn from others?

    And who cares if my point is new? What is more important is how much truth is in my point.

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  17. Jeff,
    It would be interesting to see where you got your statistics from. But what is apparent is a great sensitivity toward any criticism leveled at Presbyterianism. And that seems to undercut the stats you claim to exist.

    As for your question, the collective wisdom of which church?

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  18. “ It would be interesting to see where you got your statistics from. “
    I would be happy to see you document one single accusation you have made about Presbyterians. Perhaps dig up a quote from someone saying that the confessions are inviolable someone else who says that Presbyterians have nothing to learn from evangelicals.

    I can find plenty of quotes asserting that the standards are subordinate to scripture, and lots of Presbyterian clergy asserting that the PCA is evangelical, point to First Pres in Columbia where Ferguson’s Church was using WillowCreek material for VBS, show P&R churches that use Crown, Focus on the Family, and Kay Arthur in Sunday School classes, and sing Getty/Tomlin/Hillsong in worship. Is reformed piety compatible with the soft revivalism coming from the neoevangelical synthesis as characterized by Graham, Henry, et al? I think most in the PCA have a hard time conceiving that there could possibly be a problem or that there is a straight line from Graham to Bell.

    “But what is apparent is a great sensitivity toward any criticism leveled at Presbyterianism. And that seems to undercut the stats you claim to exist.“
    More likely just frustration with your Zinnian approach to cultural analysis that veers into moralistic preening when criticism of one group is perceived to be insufficiently balanced by self abasement…an abasement curiously never on display. It’s almost as if you think you have everything to teach and nothing to learn.

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  19. Curt, see the revisions. Whatever else could be said about them, couldn’t it also be said that they are prompted by a humility that comes in learning from others?

    http://www.opc.org/documents/WCF_orig.html

    So you’re Finney-ish point is that confessionalists treat the doctrinal standards like paper popes and you say it matters how much truth is in it. The answer is not much, because a high view of a source (Protestant) just isn’t the same as an inerrant and infallible view (Roman). Maybe the distinction between persons and churches would help. It makes sense that confessional persons read widely and benefit from others, but not so much a confessional church since by the very nature of it a denomination has deliberated and concluded what it believes is in and is out. I can read Arians and Baptists on plenty of matters and possibly learn something, but an orthodox church can’t read an Arian on Christology or a Baptist on baptism and learn.

    Speaking of persons and churches, the next question for you is why as a non-confessionalist you’re in a confessionalist church?

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  20. Darryl, feel the Curt. But so is Trump an evangelical. If Curt can learn something edifying from him, he’s a better man than me. But if Trump is to politics what Sunday is to religion, I won’t feel too bad about it.

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  21. Zrim,
    Putting labels on people so as to try to garner command of the discussion is not an act humility.

    Here’s the point, when we put our confessions on too high a pedestal, we begin to substitute them for the Scriptures. And if we admit that we are sinners saved by grace alone, it seems that we would look at that practice as a reason for self-examination rather than self-defense.

    In addition, the more we substitute the use of our confessions for the Scriptures, the more we will look down on fellow Christians who disagree with some of the content of our confessions. Evangelicals and Confessional Presbyterians are part of one body. And what does Paul say about one part of the body looking down on the other?

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  22. D.G.,
    No one says that the confessions are inerrant. But when the parts of the confessions are used to try the truth of an issue more than the Scriptures are used, then we have evidence that the confessions are beginning to take the place of the Scriptures in our lives.

    And your second note is mere mockery. But not so funny is that what the NT says about how we should treat each other never has as much influence in how you correspond with fellow Christians who disagree as the confessions have in determining your Christian identity.

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  23. Curt:

    Putting labels on people so as to try to garner command of the discussion is not an act humility.

    Here’s the point, when we put our confessions on too high a pedestal, we begin to substitute them for the Scriptures. And if we admit that we are sinners saved by grace alone, it seems that we would look at that practice as a reason for self-examination rather than self-defense.

    Your second paragraph puts labels on people, seemingly for the purpose of self-defense. Now what?

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  24. Curt, labels are a good thing (and contrary to popular belief, you can often read a book by its cover), but it’s not designed to garner command of a discussion. Now you’re passing judgment, which I would think violates your doctrine of open-mindedness and learning from others.

    “Evangelicals and Confessional Presbyterians are part of one body.”

    Aren’t those labels?

    Paul says members of the body looking down on each other is bad. What does Paul also say of divisions? “For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.” So some are genuine and some are not, but to say another isn’t genuine isn’t to look down on him, it’s to encourage him to repentance from error.

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  25. @Curt

    But not so funny is that what the NT says about how we should treat each other never has as much influence in how Curt corresponds with fellow Christians who disagree as the political/economic views have in determining your Christian identity.

    You have yet to show any evidence of humility, ability to concede any point to anyone here, or learn from anyone. You repeated judge motives, life experience, and assume bad faith on the part of those who disagree with you. Yet you lash out in unacceptable ways with baseless accusations against others that you yourself do. Not a good look.

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  26. sdb,
    So you are finding fault with me for not agreeing with you? What you are really trying to do is to change the subject of the discussion from the issues at hand to me. No thank you. That is a reason for not responding to your comments. BTW, in this current discussion, I’ve judged no one.

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  27. Curt,

    So you are finding fault with me for not agreeing with you?

    No, the fault is with you accusing people here of believing the confessions are inerrant and that we think we have absolutely nothing to learn from non-confessionalists, both of which are false charges. More broadly, you have repeatedly accused the evangelical church of this country for being selfish, for discriminating against homosexuals, and for being sinful for thinking that capitalism on the whole is a better economic system than socialism.

    In addition, the more we substitute the use of our confessions for the Scriptures, the more we will look down on fellow Christians who disagree with some of the content of our confessions.

    This charge might have some merit if it reflected the confessionalist position. I’d like first to see some evidence of anyone here substituting the use of our confessions for the Scriptures. You also seem to misunderstand the purpose of confessions. Confessions are received because they are believed to be accurate summaries for the teaching of Scripture, and they are appealed to because of that. We don’t need to reinvent and resummarize what the Bible says on a number of important issues if we already has a summary that does that, and its convenient to appeal to the confessions instead of relitigating the biblical doctrine of the Trinity, predestination, the inspiration of Scripture, etc. any time someone seems to be going of the rails. Further, if one believes the confessions are deficient, there is a process by which they can be revised if they are found to be inaccurate in one place or another.

    It’s also possible to believe that another body of Christians is wrong on some point of doctrine without “looking down” on them.

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  28. Zrim,
    Labels have a limited use. But when used to gain control of a debate, they employ an all-or-nothing type thinking that is more detrimental to the discussion than helpful.

    Now, what judgment did I pass that was a first strike? You wrote:


    So you’re Finney-ish point is that confessionalists treat the doctrinal standards like paper popes and you say it matters how much truth is in it.

    The problem here is that you seem to think that I am accusing all confessionalists of putting the confessions above the Scriptures. But I am not doing that. I was describing the approach of the article in my first comment. Evertthing that followed implied a hypothetical.. And , again, all of this started as a response to an article the portrayed those who are confessional as being superior to Evangelicals.

    Perhaps at this point, we should remember what Paul wrote in I Cor 8:


    We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. 2 Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. 3 But whoever loves God is known by God.[a]

    In the end, aren’t those of us who are confessional, merely a kind of evangelical? And if we aren’t that, are we not Christians for whom Christ died? And yet, we are talking about what makes a Christian better than others? Are those who are confessional above Evangelicals? Does holding to the confessions make us better than mere Evangelicals? And yet, the above article uses the confessions as a dividing line between Christians. Doesn’t claiming that we have something they don’t make us sound like gnostics?

    What I am getting at are the problems that come when we use standards like the confessions to so easily divide ourselves. And those problems are a risk for all of us. Again, what does I Cor 8:1ff say?

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  29. Curt
    The point of the post is that (contra the conventional wisdom) Presbyterianism is in tension with evangelicalism. You took off in another direction by making the accusations Robert has detailed. You’ve accused confessionalists of elevating the standards above scripture, yet have not provided a single example to support your accusation.

    Following this method, Rather than try to understand or gain clarification, you chose to judge my motives (“What you are really trying to do is to change the subject of the discussion from the issues at hand to me.”) No, I am not “really trying” to do so at all. You really should give up your career as a mind reader and get off your pedestal.

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  30. ” again, all of this started as a response to an article the portrayed those who are confessional as being superior to Evangelicals.”

    How does this article portray confessional as superior to Evangelical? I suspect many evangelicals would agree that being born again is all that matters. Again, stop with the mind reading.

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  31. Post says “merely repeat a form of words such as “I accept Christ as my personal Saviour,” without giving the slightest evidence to show that they know what such words mean”.

    Amen Glad to see this sentiment at OL!

    2 Corinthians 5:14 For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; 15 and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. 17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

    Galatians 2: 20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

    1 Peter 4:1Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.

    John 6:68 Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.

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  32. Curt, if you’re point is that this post shows how confessional Prots view themselves as unduly superior to evangelicals then you’re only reading what you want to see. There is nothing in it which suggests that. What it suggests is that there are substantive differences, and I would add that the difference is as substantive as that between Protestants and Catholics (more labels, sorry). So, no, we are not a kind of evangelical anymore than we are a kind of Catholic. All that kind of squishy ideation does is muddy waters. Is there overlap between these categories? Sure, but there are important differences and the more you muddy waters the less you actually demonstrate a desire to learn and understand religious phenomenon, which is quite ironic.

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  33. Curt, if we put marriage (and the vows that go into it) on a pedestal, why not confessions and subscription?

    And if we think our wives are the most beautiful people in the world, don’t we look down on other women? (Wife’s answer, “you better.”)

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  34. sdb,
    Again, your question ignores evidence that is in front of you. I will simply quote some of D.G.’s article for you to find the seeds of superiority:


    What happens when ecclesiastical requirements get in the way of the bond that comes from being born-again? What even happens if being Presbyterian gets in the way of participating in The Gospel Coalition? The Allies claim “We are a fellowship of evangelical churches in the Reformed tradition deeply committed to renewing our faith in the gospel of Christ and to reforming our ministry practices to conform fully to the Scriptures.” How can that be? How can you be evangelical and in the Reformed tradition “deeply”?

    This is a fundamental tension between Protestants who trace their roots back to the Reformation (Anglican, Reformed, Lutheran) and those who only go as far as the First Pretty Good Awakening. For confessional Protestants, fellowship has standards. But for evangelicals, the bar is low.

    And that is why you need to give up a lot if you are a Presbyterian to become an evangelical. If beliefs and practices about theology, worship, and church government matter to being a Christian, then the Reformation gets in the way of being evangelical. But if being born-again is what matters, then you don’t really need the Reformation.

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  35. Curt, you are conflating looking down with being critical. You are being critical, quit looking down on us. See? Is this what you tell your students when they submit formal evaluations and have some critiques?

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  36. “Again, your question ignores evidence that is in front of you. I will simply quote some of D.G.’s article for you to find the seeds of superiority.”
    OK. I’m game. Let’s analyze this text:

    “What happens when ecclesiastical requirements get in the way of the bond that comes from being born-again?”
    This of course is an allusion to the sentiment of reconstructionists that doctrine divides. Or to put it other ways: no creed but the Bible, no Confession but Christ. The revivalists believed that ecclesiastical requirements of confessional churches are an impediment to unity on the essentials. No superiority here – just highlighting a difference.

    “What even happens if being Presbyterian gets in the way of participating in The Gospel Coalition? The Allies claim “We are a fellowship of evangelical churches in the Reformed tradition deeply committed to renewing our faith in the gospel of Christ and to reforming our ministry practices to conform fully to the Scriptures.” How can that be? How can you be evangelical and in the Reformed tradition “deeply”?”

    Good question. One that evangelicals who eschew Calvinism also ask.

    “This is a fundamental tension between Protestants who trace their roots back to the Reformation (Anglican, Reformed, Lutheran) and those who only go as far as the First Pretty Good Awakening. For confessional Protestants, fellowship has standards. But for evangelicals, the bar is low.”
    They would agree with this – hold to the essentials and jettison tradition. Calvary chapel was pretty explicit about this. What is essential? Confessionalist have a pretty clear answer that is different from evangelicals who have their four points. Not claiming one is better necessarily- only pointing out the distinction and the challenge that reformed evangelicalism faces.

    “And that is why you need to give up a lot if you are a Presbyterian to become an evangelical. If beliefs and practices about theology, worship, and church government matter to being a Christian, then the Reformation gets in the way of being evangelical. But if being born-again is what matters, then you don’t really need the Reformation.”

    Who could disagree? Same could be said about reformed and Lutheran, reformed and Catholic, etc…

    Now of course if you recognize a meaningful distinction and pick one as true, then you necessarily think one is superior. But I bet our evangelical friend Petros would basically agree with this and point out that is why he is an evangelical rather than a Presbyterian.

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  37. Curt: So who here did I label without including myself? I said we are sinners and then I stated a hypothetical that mentioned no names.

    Also Curt: Here’s the point, when we put our confessions on too high a pedestal, we begin to substitute them for the Scriptures.

    If we are being fully transparent, we will admit that “we” in that sentence means “you”, amiright?

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  38. Curt, don’t forget that ever since Whitefield, the pietists have looked down on Presbyterians. It goes both way.

    Plus, you look down on capitalists. What’s up with that?

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  39. D.G.,
    I agree that it goes both ways and that is a sad reflection on us Christians. It shows conformity to the world rather than being transformed by God’s grace.

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  40. Jeff,
    Why ask a question you just quoted me as answering? I am referring to all who fit the hypothetical and we are all vulnerable to falling prey to the hypothetical. Also, please see D.G.’s note on it going both ways. I agree with him on that.

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  41. sdb,
    What you seem not to get from what I cited from D.G.’s article is the monolithic way Evangelicals are portrayed as being the theological hicks of Christianity. They only know about accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior but they don’t anything outside of that and sometimes including what it means to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.

    In addition, no comparison was made in D.G.’s article about how Evangelicals, or a subset of them, are demonstrating love to each other and to those outside the faith with how confessional Presbyterians are demonstrating love. Again, knowledge puffs up.

    So in the end, what is implied by D.G.’s article is that confessional Reformed Churches have everything to teach and nothing to learn from Evangelicals. That explains why the speculation of Carson Wentz’s church not allowing Nick Foles to preach.

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  42. Zrim,
    Again, I didn’t accuse you or anyone else here of anything. I criticized the article and then implied a hypothetical that applies to all of us. And realize that those of us to don’t fit the hypothetical I implied still fall prey to other sins.

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  43. Curt, you just accused Darryl of calling evangies theological hicks. If he had I suppose you’d have a point. But he didn’t, so you don’t. What he did was trace out the differences in a perfectly kosher and measured way. You’re finding things that just aren’t there, perhaps what you want to see. A confessional Prot would be critical of the evangie way, but so what? The favor would be returned by an evangie and if you squealed about the evangie being a meanie head we’d take a pass on your breathless defense (but thanks anyway).

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  44. Curt: I am referring to all who fit the hypothetical and we are all vulnerable to falling prey to the hypothetical. Also, please see D.G.’s note on it going both ways. I agree with him on that.

    Do you believe that you do in fact fit the hypothetical (not “are vulnerable to falling prey”)?

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  45. “What you seem not to get from what I cited from D.G.’s article is the monolithic way Evangelicals are portrayed as being the theological hicks of Christianity. ”

    What dgh wrote does not entail that. You read that into the text… Not very charitable of you! If you thought that might be what he meant, you could always seek clarification.

    ” So in the end, what is implied by D.G.’s article is that confessional Reformed Churches have everything to teach and nothing to learn from Evangelicals. That explains why the speculation of Carson Wentz’s church not allowing Nick Foles to preach.”

    Not at all. In your effort to accuse and find fault, you completely missed the point of the article. When four people point out your mistake, you double down and lash out. Not a good look! The article has nothing to do with the relative merits of evangelicalism and reformed Christianity. The point is that blurring the distinction inevitably results in the loss of key reformed convictions. MSLutherans understand this which is why they hold the broader evangelical world at arm’s length, practice closed communion, and wouldn’t let evangelicals like Foles preach at Wentz’s church. Do Lutherans go too far? Perhaps, but it seems to me that NAPARC churches have something to learn from them. And that’s the point of this article. Try as charitable exegetical stance… you might learn something.

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  46. Zrim,
    The article, including the citing Machen, portrayed Evangelicals as the hicks of Christianity. That is for sure. But also consider D.G.’s response, he noted something that is true: That the judgment door swings both ways.

    And, if you are trying contradict my comment to you, please note what it said:


    Again, I didn’t accuse you or anyone else here of anything. I criticized the article and then implied a hypothetical that applies to all of us. And realize that those of us to don’t fit the hypothetical I implied still fall prey to other sins.

    I criticized the article without making any personal statements about D.G. So you can ask him if he thinks that Evangelicals, as he portrayed them in the article, are the hicks of Christianity.

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  47. @Curt:

    Thanks. And is it also true that you do believe that certain posters here do fit that hypothetical?

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  48. Hey Darryl,
    Did you intend to imply that evangelicals are the hicks of Christianity with this post, or was your point that ecclesiastical blurring necessarily results in the loss of reformed distinctive? Asking for a friend.

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  49. sdb, while we’re asking questions for a friend, this one from the post itself is a very very good one:

    “What happens when ecclesiastical requirements get in the way of the bond that comes from being born-again?”

    wwJs (say)

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  50. @Ali
    Im not sure. Paul tells the Corinthians to do things in an orderly manner and establishes criteria for eldership. Congregants are also commanded to submit to their elders. Paul thought all that stuff really mattered, and if we believe the Holy Spirit is the author of scripture and all of it is profitable, then I have a hard time seeing how we can divide essentials (soteriology and moral behavior) and non-essentials (ecclesiology, Lords Day, worship, and sscraments). If my convictions about what scripture teaches on these purported “non-essentials” are correct then evangelicals have really big problems. If I am wrong, then I am adding to the law as it were.

    But whatever the case, blurring the distinction and assuming that ecclesiastical cooperation is ok is to concede that our Reformed convictions are wrong. Maybe we are, but then say so. Pretending that there is no tension between evangelicalism and reformed piety is dishonest (or at least lacks a measure of circumspection). When influential say they can partner ecclesiastically with evangelicals, the message they send is that Sabbath keeping, regulative worship, covenant baptism, the Lord’s supper as an effectual means of grace, Presbyterian polity, etc… are unimportant and that we are wrong to have these standards.

    This is not to say that evangelicals have nothing to offer, that individual believers shouldn’t fellowship, etc… But it does mean we should not plant nonreformed churches, sign non reformed confessions, and hold nonreformed pastor conferences (isn’t it weird to have a speaker bring a message who would be brought up on charges if he were ordained in your church?).

    I think the LCMS goes too far with closed communion, but that boundary may be what makes them a more stable communion and perhaps more effective at passing on their faith than the OPC/PCA. But I could be way off here..

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  51. The article, including the citing Machen, portrayed Evangelicals as the hicks of Christianity. That is for sure. But also consider D.G.’s response, he noted something that is true: That the judgment door swings both ways.

    Curt, maybe that portrayal is obvious to you but you have yet to show in any real way how. All you’ve done is cut/paste and said “see?”. The “judgement door” swings both ways because different groups see things in different ways. It shows an ability to take another seriously enough to either commend or critique. So far all you seem to want to do is commend. Not only is that boring, it’s more sentimental than serious.

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  52. thanks sdb. I’m not sure either. But I do know many things the Lord has said. And He is dead serious about unity. Including literally. dead. serious because He died for a united people for God’s own possession.
    And what did Jesus pray so earnestly about (John 17) – a unified people.
    And how many bodies, hopes, faiths, baptism established by the Lord, Spirit, God (Ephesians 4:4-6) are there:- one.

    All that to say, that we all should tread very carefully – Curt’s point I believe – about how we speak of other members of His body – His people, to whom He has given His Spirit. We will all give an account to Him. Nothing new. We all with the Spirit have already been informed by the Spirit of this.

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  53. ” And how many bodies, hopes, faiths, baptism established by the Lord, Spirit, God (Ephesians 4:4-6) are there:- one.”

    Agreed. There are a few consistent ways to recognize this:
    1. Close the table to all except members of the true church who are in fellowship based on truth. Landmark Baptists, churches of Christ, and of course Rome are sects that take this approach to unity.
    2. Open table all baptized believers in good standing with a Christian church are welcome.

    The Baptistic evangelical view is incoherent in my view. All believers are welcome to the table, but if paedo communers want to join the body they have to be rebaptized. They would say the previous rite was not baptism, so the new member would be being baptized. The problem then is that unbaptized Christains are welcome to the table. What kind of unity is that? The logical extension is that baptism (and communion) are not essentials and can this be cast off in the name of unity. So my parents attended an evangelical community church where baptism and communion were things a member could request, but not part of the ordinary life of the congregation. I am not sure such a church is Christain. “Unity” with such a congregation is not what Jesus was praying for I think. What do you think?

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  54. sdb, I believe Jesus tells us that all believers should partake of the Lord’s Supper that all believers should be baptized and that nonbelievers should do neither.

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  55. Zrim,
    The article shows it and it is obvious. Take for example the following from the article:


    This is a fundamental tension between Protestants who trace their roots back to the Reformation (Anglican, Reformed, Lutheran) and those who only go as far as the First Pretty Good Awakening. For confessional Protestants, fellowship has standards. But for evangelicals, the bar is low

    Those Protestants who cling to the Reformation as their heritage not only have antiquity on their side, but they have a higher bar for fellowship.

    Or go to what is said before that when D.G. compares [real] Protestants with those who would participate in the Gospel Coalition:


    What even happens if being Presbyterian gets in the way of participating in The Gospel Coalition? The Allies claim “We are a fellowship of evangelical churches in the Reformed tradition deeply committed to renewing our faith in the gospel of Christ and to reforming our ministry practices to conform fully to the Scriptures.” How can that be? How can you be evangelical and in the Reformed tradition “deeply”?

    or as Ali previously pointed out:


    What happens when ecclesiastical requirements get in the way of the bond that comes from being born-again?

    You really don’t see the claims of superiority yet or low regard that being evangelical gains in comparison to being confessional?

    Or note how being evangelical is reduced to being born-again?


    And that is why you need to give up a lot if you are a Presbyterian to become an evangelical. If beliefs and practices about theology, worship, and church government matter to being a Christian, then the Reformation gets in the way of being evangelical. But if being born-again is what matters, then you don’t really need the Reformation.

    Or finally, go to D.G.’s citation of Machen:


    One of the very greatest evils of present-day religious life, it seems to me, is the reception into the Church of persons who merely repeat a form of words such as “I accept Christ as my personal Saviour,” without giving the slightest evidence to show that they know what such words mean. As a consequence of this practice, hosts of persons are being received into the Church on the basis, as has been well said, of nothing more than a vague admiration for the moral character of Jesus, or else on the basis of a vague purpose of engaging in humanitarian work. One such person within the Church does more harm to the cause of Christ, I for my part believe, than ten such persons outside; and the whole practice ought to be radically changed. The truth is that the ecclesiastical currency in our day has been sadly debased; Church membership, as well as Church office, no longer means what it ought to mean.

    Note how, unlike Machen, D.G. tightly associates these words with evangelicals by using the quote to back his argument against Reformed participation with evangelicals. If D.G. had not spoken of evangelicals as a monolith, which Machen did not, then I would not have said that his article describes evangelicals as the hicks of Christianity. But, sadly, that is not the case. Rather, his argument seems to hint at even a worse description of what evangelicals are to confessionalists: they are spiritual lepers whom confessionalists can’t afford to touch in the sense of working with to advance the Gospel. Somehow Paul’s epistles come to mind as providing a warning against such elitism.

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  56. Memo: the eeee-world traces its roots neither to the Reformation nor to the Pretty Good Awakening, but to the NT. Further, in the spirit of ecclesia semper reformanda est, it is regrettable that some presby’s are stuck in the mud in the 1550’s, holding views of sacraments and extra-biblical confessions and church governance structures in higher regard than is properly due them.

    There are probably many on this blog who decry that Jesus merely said to Nicodemus “You must be born again”, and forgot to give dear ol’ Nic the voluminous presby handout on rules of order, confessions, sacramentology, et al.

    There, those comments outta draw some fire from the gallery!

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  57. Curt, I cut my spiritual teeth in evangelicalism. Critiques like Darryl’s were what helped put my finger on what ailed from the beginning in order to find a way to confessional Protestantism. I can attest that the born-again experience is quite central (not simply reduced) to what it means to be Christian. Re the Machen quote, Machen was then referring to what are commonly now called Protestant liberals. The point here is that the categories aren’t confessional v. liberal but confessional v. evangelical because liberals are a narrow species of a more broad evangelical. One shared trait is experientialism (which may flesh out differently between the tall steeple liberals and mega church revivalists but it’s a distinction without a difference). Still, you’re way overstating things with all this leper-and-hick stuff. But it’s a free country and an open blog so whateves.

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  58. Petros, right, you’re the ones who are naturally the Bible people because you guys truly get it (and you describe yourselves as merely Christians because you don’t recognize kinds of Christians because you’re Jesus’ collective best friends as opposed to those yucky yahoos who get caught up in forms). We get it, you’re above it all because you’ve got Jesus down, down, down, down in the depths of your heart (where?!). But confessionalists make room for the fact that there different kinds of Christians in the world because that’s just life east of Eden, and we’re simply trying to distinguish ourselves as best we can from the rest. We like to think we take being born from above seriously and that God alone saves sinners without their help, which is why we prefer not to labor with decisionists and semi-decisionists who would seem to believe otherwise.

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  59. Petros – I agree with your characterization of evangelicalism, and it seems consistent with the point dgh is making – namely evangelical and reformed theology are in tension. Would you agree?

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  60. @Z, wrt “we’re simply trying to distinguish ourselves as best we can from the rest”. That may be the money quote that captures the issue. Unfortunately, Scripture never exhorts anyone or any church to “distinguish” themselves from other believers. Just the opposite. Why you folks would think “church government matters to being a Christian” in sufficient manner to be an impediment to ministry is quite curious. Jesus and Paul didn’t seem to get that memo.

    @sdb, yes, I agree. It’s curious that this blog clique generally responds to that tension by taking potshots at the eeee-world, rather than just quietly going about its own biz, being happy to exclude itself from that eeee-world. Your thoughts?

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  61. Zrim,
    Again, one of the problems with the article is that it describes Evangelicalism as a monolith. Not everyone’s experiences with evangelicals are the same. I have experiences with both the Reformed community and Evangelicals who are not either Reformed or conscientiously Reformed. And each community has lessons to teach the other.

    Remember that knowledge puffs up. And Petros’s last comment is correct:


    Unfortunately, Scripture never exhorts anyone or any church to “distinguish” themselves from other believers. Just the opposite.

    See, when we enthusiastically make distinctions between Christians, we distract from Jesus because He is the center of our faith and the only one who died for our sins. It is better to say that not all Christians are the same than to stand off from those who embarrass us with their theological or other beliefs. Because they are also a part of the body of Christ, we can’t say that we don’t need them nor can we afford to dishonor them.

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  62. There is a distinguishing talked about for believers – in conduct:
    -Proverbs 20:11 It is by his deeds that a lad distinguishes himself If his conduct is pure and right.

    and -as an example:
    -Phil 3:16,17a let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained; Brethren, join in following my example.
    -1 Thess 1:6a,7a You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, so that you became an example
    -1 Tim 4:12b in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.
    -Titus 2:7-8a in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach.

    the above, some may disdainfully call ‘pietist’

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  63. ” @sdb, yes, I agree. It’s curious that this blog clique generally responds to that tension by taking potshots at the eeee-world, rather than just quietly going about its own biz, being happy to exclude itself from that eeee-world. Your thoughts?”

    Because syncretism (if you will) with evangelicalism is a threat in a way that Pentecostals, Lutherans, and Catholics aren’t. The mainline was lost to liberalism because of evangelicals who found debates over doctrine divisive. All scripture is God breathed, so what it teaches is all essential – including the stuff about governance, sacraments, and worship.

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  64. @sdb, your response is quite interesting, if not revealing. But, if your view is representative of this blog clique, it’s helpful to understand this place’s preoccupation with throwing darts at the eeee-world. You’re equating the eeee-world with liberalism? Really? Or that the eeee-world “is a threat in a way that Pentecostals, Lutherans, and Catholics aren’t”? A “threat”?

    If you’d like to elaborate, I’m sure TKNY and Don Carson are eager to learn how they are pushing the presby world towards liberalism, or how they pose such a grave threat.

    And memo: you simply cannot find Scripture going into church governance minutiae the way presby’s do. So, it’s curious on what possible basis you’d describe presby church governance preferences as being anything close to “essential”.

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  65. @Petros
    1. Not sure if my views are representative of anyone here. I’ve never met any of them outside of the comments to posts.

    2. The problem is not evangelicalism per se – you don’t see many darts directed at Warren, Dobson, or Falwell for example. The problem is that there are those who have taken vows to uphold standards that are inconsistent with evangelicalism and at the same time claim to be evangelical.

    3. Not equating evangelicalism with liberalism. The point is that evangelicals like Speer made space for liberals like Fosdick. The same is happening today in the PCA – in a quest not to be “divisive” fidelity to our standards is being eroded. When that infidelity runs into what you may consider “essentials”, the church finds itself without the resources to oppose these developments. Machen’s battle for the presbyterian church was a battle against evangelicals as it was liberals. This is a tension that is under appreciated.

    4. My point is not that evangelicalism is worse than pentecostalism, lutheranism, or catholicism – rather vast swaths of the PCA see themselves as evangelicals first and reformed incidentally. This simply is not the case for other Christian movements.

    5.For example, TKNY poses a threat to the health of the PCA by signing onto a catechism that treats baptism of children as non-essential while simultaneously taking a vow to uphold a standard that asserts that depriving covenant children of baptism is a grave sin. Rather than speak out against this grave sin, he helps plant churches that propagate this error. Now perhaps he does not believe that WCF is correct that withholding baptism from covenant children is a grave sin. Fair enough – he should be upfront about that and submit to the leadership of his fellow elders if they disagree or leave the denomination if his conscience won’t allow him to sign onto this. Simply ignoring this issue is to teach others that these standards don’t really matter and that what we believe God teaches us in his word is not essential.

    6. You would be surprised what I can do! My reading of the NT is that there is a proper role for church governance described and that we should submit to it. I think the Westminster standards capture the essentials. Of course, feel free to disagree. We can still have a beer, I can read your books and learn from them, and maybe even sing some of the same songs. What we shouldn’t do is plant churches together and pretend we all believe the same thing.

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  66. @Ali Conduct certainly matters. That’s not pietism.

    My bible reading this morning just took me through Isaiah 56… somehow seems relevant to your comment.

    Thus says the Lord: “Keep justice, and do righteousness, for soon my salvation will come, and my righteousness be revealed. Blessed is the man who does this, and the son of man who holds it fast, who keeps the Sabbath, not profaning it, and keeps his hand from doing any evil.”

    Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say, “The Lord will surely separate me from his people”; and let not the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.” For thus says the Lord: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.

    “And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant— these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

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  67. Curt, you’d have more credibility defending anti-confessionalism if you weren’t a member of a confessional denomination.

    Petros, and it never exhorts believers hold to Nicene trinitarianism and yet evangies are always hot to exclude JWs from the fold even to the point of breathlessly labeling them a cult. But it’s the good and necessary consequence of Scripture to make doctrinal distinctions. I don’t know how you can read the NT epistles and come away thinking there is not the slightest care for taking pains for making distinctions. There are plenty of proof texts for it but 1 Cor 11 is a good starter:

    “For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.” The apostolic nerve.

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  68. @sdb, thanks. But, it seems like your own arguments cause you to step on your own church governance rake. If your angst is with Speer or TKNY for failure to adhere to your standards, then alas, please invoke the appropriate church governance clauses and excommunicate them.

    Lemme encourage you to keep comparing your voluminous church governance stds to the relatively brief and somewhat cryptic principles outlined in the NT. What we have in the NT is certainly “essential”, by definition. What presby’s have piled on top of the NT and claimed to be “essential”, is what the eeee-world is not sympathetic to.

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  69. Petros: Lemme encourage you to keep comparing your voluminous church governance stds to the relatively brief and somewhat cryptic principles outlined in the NT.

    Once I properly read “stds” as “standards”, I made more sense out of that sentence.

    Which volumes do you have in mind? I was intrigued by your critique, for it was reflection on church government that started my journey into being Presbyterian.

    Just the basic structure, found in the NT, of having a plurality of elders together with accountability to a general church council (Acts 15), sets Presbyterians apart from Baptists, Methodists, Catholics, Episcopalians, and Bible churches.

    So explain in more detail: where do you see evangelical church governance to be superior to Presby?

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  70. @Z, wow. You wanna use 1 Cor 11:19 to rationalize your argument for proactively making distinctions between believers and for presby’s superiority? That’s contextually oxymoronic and exegetically lame on multiple levels.

    Let’s hope Robert and Jeff C can weigh in and add some exegetical sobriety.

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  71. @Jeff, the intrinsic argument here is not about which form of church government may be preferred, nor even which one can be deemed to be closer to what the NT describes. It’s about whether agreement on the form of church government is itself an “essential”. Would you really elevate church governance to being an “essential”?

    And, btw, I’m sure you know that many eeee-churches ARE governed by a plurality of elders in their church, without layering on the hierarchical layers of bureaucracy (ineffectual and impotent as they appear to be to allow TKNY to go rogue) of the presby world.

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  72. @Jeff, and, to state the obvious, the eeee-world makes no claim that a single “evangelical church governance” structure exists or is even recommended. There’s a wide latitude, because, ahem, few of us view the topic as “essential”. In short, GREAT if Wentz and Foles have an “essential” bond that transcends whatever picayune church governance diffs may exist between their two churches.

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  73. Petros,

    I think it is helpful to think of two different kinds of essential doctrines. I’ve heard it explained that there are doctrines that are essential to the being of the church and doctrines that are essential to the well-being of the church. In other words, there are some doctrines that are necessary in order to call a church a church. Without these doctrines, a church is not really a church. The doctrines that are necessary to the healthiest functioning of a church would be those that are necessary to its well-being. Every church that has the doctrines that are necessary to the well-being of the church will also have doctrines that are necessary to the being of the church, but not every church will have the doctrines that are necessary to the full well-being of the church.

    So, from a Presbyterian perspective, what we might think of as a broadly evangelical church might have all the doctrines necessary to the being of the church, but not all the doctrines of the well-being of the church. I think that’s what Westminster is getting at when it talks about all churches being mixed bodies of truth and error.

    As someone with Presbyterian convictions, I would generally agree with the above statements. However, I think that we Presbyterians could do a better job of not thinking that Presbyterianism is going to cure all ills. I can see why you as a non-Presbyterian might get that impression from this blog and commenters sometimes. I think I’ve said it before, but an ecclesiology is—at the end of the day—only as good as the willingness on the part of its practitioners to enforce it. So, there are many Baptist churches (congregational churches) and Methodist (episcopal polity), for example, that may in the Presbyterian view not have the best ecclesiology but are much better (have more well-being) than many Presby churches because they actually follow their ecclesiology.

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  74. Petros, et al,

    One question I have is whether evangelicalism and Presbyterianism have to be at odds. I guess it depends on how you define evangelicalism. One problem, as Darryl has often pointed out, is that evangelicalism has come to have such a broad definition that it has become essentially meaningless.

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  75. Petros et al,

    Another interesting question would be how much the common American evangelical view that church governance is an indifferent matter is owed to the American cultural experience. Does freedom of religion and the separation of church and state make it more likely that individuals will think that matters of church governance are indifferent? When, Constitutionally speaking, the church is essentially a body that results from freedom of association, how important will citizens view its governance? If they don’t like it, they can just go somewhere else.

    If there is a connection between the American experiment and the tendency of American Protestants to see church governance as indifferent, that would be interesting. Would it make a strong 2K view actually undermine belief in the importance of church governance/ecclesiology?

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  76. Zrim,

    Petros, and it never exhorts believers hold to Nicene trinitarianism and yet evangies are always hot to exclude JWs from the fold even to the point of breathlessly labeling them a cult. But it’s the good and necessary consequence of Scripture to make doctrinal distinctions. I don’t know how you can read the NT epistles and come away thinking there is not the slightest care for taking pains for making distinctions.

    I don’t think Petros’ problem is with making distinctions; it’s with deciding which distinctions are important enough to break fellowship over.

    In defense of evangelicals, there are places where Scripture says you can’t be saved if you deny something like the deity of Christ (John 8), but I don’t know of any place that Scripture says you can’t be saved if you have a wrong or partially wrong ecclesiology.

    In defense of many of the commenters here, I don’t think anyone is saying that you have to be a Presbyterian in order to be saved, though having come from an evangelical background, I can understand why someone might think that the Presbys here are arguing that. And frankly, from my experience in the Reformed churches, people do sometimes speak with a tone that indicates they don’t think that the non-Reformed are truly saved or that they believe the non-Reformed are saved, but just barely.

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  77. Robert: Another interesting question would be how much the common American evangelical view that church governance is an indifferent matter is owed to the American cultural experience.

    Bingo. Hello, 2GA.

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  78. Petros: It’s about whether agreement on the form of church government is itself an “essential”. Would you really elevate church governance to being an “essential”?

    In my mind, church governance consists of

    * Maintenance of doctrinal standards
    * Church discipline
    * Shepherding

    Is that essential? I can adduce a number of passages off the top that testify to the necessity of good church governance. Titus 1 / 1 Tim 3. Titus 2. 1 Tim 5. 1 Cor 5. Rev 2.14 – 15. Need I go on?

    In other words, God wants His church to be governed well. So yes, I would elevate good church governance to “necessary” — because God has clearly made it a priority.

    And I would ask in return: Given the wealth of Scripture that enjoins good governance, do you really want to set that aside as a non-essential?

    Petros: And, btw, I’m sure you know that many eeee-churches ARE governed by a plurality of elders in their church, without layering on the hierarchical layers of bureaucracy (ineffectual and impotent as they appear to be to allow TKNY to go rogue) of the presby world.

    Half-credit to them, and it was from an eeee-church that I learned about the necessity of plurality of eldership. Nevertheless, being an isolated church island denies the pattern of Acts 15. Councils are a thing.

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  79. @Robert, your distinction between “being” and “well being” is interesting. But, of necessity, doesn’t your distinction entail that doctrines associated with “being” are MORE essential than those associated with “well being”? And, if that’s the case, I’m not sure you can have two distinct categories and yet call them both “essential” for the same purpose.

    Fwiw, on my end, it’s easy for me to say that the eeee-world and Presbyism don’t have to be at odds. But, that’s more of a fight you can have with DGH.

    Wrt “ecclesiology is—at the end of the day—only as good as the willingness on the part of its practitioners to enforce it.” Well said. I agree wholeheartedly. (The consequence of your stmt, however, enforces my view that, necessarily, diffs in forms of church governance are NOT essential, and should not be barriers for Wentz and Foles.)

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  80. Petros, feel free to back up your accusation.

    Robert, you may be right but I’m not sure. He’s always seemed cranked about the way confessional edges work to both maintain truth and enhance unity. Go figure. But “being saved” is evangie lingo. When Presbyterians speak that way it seems to indicate the relative influence evangelicalism has had. Mine has been another experience trading ev’ism for confessional Prot’ism. It’s the former that tends highly to be exclusive about who’s in and out, typically based on subjective and unbiblical criteria. Confessional Prot’s seem more cognizant of the biblical warning not to be turning over inward stones in the first place. The upshot tends to be that while more militant about outward confession, also more capacity to understand there are wolves within and sheep without. Perhaps counter-intuitive but in a word I have found CPs to be way more ecumenical than evangies.

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  81. It’s the former that tends highly to be exclusive about who’s in and out, typically based on subjective and unbiblical criteria. Confessional Prot’s seem more cognizant of the biblical warning not to be turning over inward stones in the first place. The upshot tends to be that while more militant about outward confession, also more capacity to understand there are wolves within and sheep without. Perhaps counter-intuitive but in a word I have found CPs to be way more ecumenical than evangies.

    ^^^^ This

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  82. @Jeff, well, you substituted “necessity” for “essential” and changed the criteria for what purpose something is necessary ‘for’. The topic is what is essential for fellowship, not what is necessary for good church governance.
    The intrinsic issue is whether Wentz & Foles should allow whatever diffs they may have on church governance to alter their fellowship. This blog post seems to argue in the affirmative. Do you, too, agree?

    Yes, the NT outlines principles for governance of the church. And yes, those principles are needed for “good” governance. Nice not to have greedy elders, for instance. How presby’s extrapolate the NT texts into its volumes of presby bylaws, and then claim its bylaws are “essential”, is not so clear to me.

    Fwiw, you’re making Acts 15 carry a lot of weight to base your view of Councils. Big diff between Luke describing the existence of the Acts 15 council, and any NT author mandating such an ongoing structure. I’m not saying your view has no foundation. But, is 100% agreement on that “essential”? If you think it is, then you should join DGH’s chorus line to excommunicate TKNY and avoid any association with the broader eeee-world. If you don’t, then, I’ll enjoy watching you debate DGH.

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  83. @Z, “CPs are more ecumenical than evangies”. Ha ha ha. Sounds like DGH needs to see you straight, there, Z-man. That’s not counter-intuitive, that’s nonsensical!

    I think I’d rather see Robert and Jeff to come to your defense on your view of 1 Cor 11:19. Reasoned scholars that they are, my guess is that they’ll pass on that opportunity.

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  84. Petros: you substituted “necessity” for “essential”

    Yes, deliberately so. The word “essential” is squishy; the word “necessary” is not. So I made the substitution in order to facilitate clearer conversation.

    More later.

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  85. @Robert, “I don’t think Petros’ problem is with making distinctions; it’s with deciding which distinctions are important enough to break fellowship over.” Correct. And, that’s the point of DGH’s post here.

    Wrt “Would it make a strong 2K view actually undermine belief in the importance of church governance/ecclesiology?” That’s an interesting question! Hope some of the strident 2K presby’s engage with it. I’m curious, too.

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  86. Curt, why don’t you admit you interpreted me as saying evangelicals are hicks and that I did not say that explicitly.

    Zrim and b,sd, thanks for trying to talk sense to Curt.

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  87. @Petros “But, it seems like your own arguments cause you to step on your own church governance rake. If your angst is with Speer or TKNY for failure to adhere to your standards, then alas, please invoke the appropriate church governance clauses and excommunicate them.”

    Isn’t that like when the pro-choicer says that if you are really prolife you need to press for the death penalty for every woman who has had an abortion? Not sure how this line of thinking clarifies anything.

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  88. @Robert & Petros
    I’m not so sure that “essential” and “non-essential” are really helpful (much less biblical distinctions). If you mean, something you must be believe in order to get into heaven, then I would say not. Then again, I suspect that most pew sitters in most evangelical and NAPARC churches have heretical understandings of the Trinity, dual nature of Christ, etc… I think Paul tells us what is of “first importance” in 1 Cor 15. The membership vows of the PCA are minimal for a reason (and I think that is wise). So I stand opposed to those (like the fellow here who sometimes comments and seems to have some connection to Mark) who say that you have to get the doctrine of the limited atonement right to be justified. But I don’t think that is what anyone is talking about here.

    The question here is ecclesiastical – if you want to preach in a church or serve as an elder the bar is much higher. Should a convinced baptist plant a church that practices paedocommunion? I think the answer there has to be no as it undermines the integrity of their convictions. It is one thing to be wrong about baptism (or communion, or church governance) and something else altogether that it doesn’t matter what the Bible teaches on these things – they are non-essential because you can get to heaven while being wrong on them.

    This was the philosophy of the reconstructionists and other early 19th century liberals (those who wanted to be liberated from creeds and confessions). The fruit of those movements has been the continual splintering of believers and a loss of the gospel. Fosdick was quite conservative compared to a lot of evangelicals today – the motto of the United Church of Christ is “That they may all be one”. The popular 17th century catch phrase, “In essentials unity, in non-essentials diversity, in all things charity” is the rallying cry of a church that has adopted feminine pronouns for God, implemented non-trinitarian baptism formulae, embrace SSM, and sees abortion as a positive good. All “non-essentials” so to speak. The Disciples of Christ, ELCA, PCUSA, RCA, etc.. have ecumenical relations so that they can claim “unity”.

    Post-WWII evangelicals have been relatively doctrinally and socially conservative in large part because of their demographics. That is changing rapidly. From NewSpring playing AC/DC “Highway to Hell on Easter morning to cracks showing on ssm – it is hard to see how a church that treats vast swaths of what the Bible teaches as non-essential from being swept away by the cultural tides.

    Evangelicalism is a flavor of protestantism with four characteristics: emphasis on the bible, conversion, substitutionary atonement, and activism. I would add a fifth characteristic – an emphasis on separating what the Bible teaches into essentials and non-essentials. I think this is what ties the other elements together and makes it prone to slide into liberalism generation after generation. When the Holy Spirit, speaking through Paul, tells us to appoint elders – he meant it. When we are told to keep the Lord’s day holy and not neglect gathering together, he meant it. When we are told to worship Him the way he wants us to rather than any old way that seems right to us, he meant it. All scripture (and what it teaches) is essential.

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  89. “Would it make a strong 2K view actually undermine belief in the importance of church governance/ecclesiology?”

    My sense is that it goes the other direction. When the church’s authority extends to “all of life”, it necessarily limits Christian liberty and thus the authority has to be pared down to the essentials. When the Church’s authority is limited to what God has commanded it, then you can have strange views about setting the Lord’s day apart, strict standards for marriage/divorce, and etc… and still live peacefully with one’s unbelieving neighbors.

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  90. Petros,

    But, of necessity, doesn’t your distinction entail that doctrines associated with “being” are MORE essential than those associated with “well being”? And, if that’s the case, I’m not sure you can have two distinct categories and yet call them both “essential” for the same purpose.

    They are essential for different purposes. Some doctrines are more essential for salvation than others. The Presbys here would (should) agree with that. I don’t see anyone arguing that Lutherans, Baptists, et al are not saved simply by having a different ecclesiology.

    In general, I think the broadly evangelical world has a fairly good grasp of which doctrines are necessary for salvation. They know enough to get one into the kingdom, but the Presby retort is that the Christian life is about more than getting into the kingdom. I don’t think you, as an evangelical, would disagree with that. In fact, I don’t think that most evangelicals I have known would disagree with that. The differences between Reformed piety/ecclesiology and evangelical piety/ecclesiology, where they exist, are over matters not essential for salvation and over matters that touch on important emphasizes in the Christian life but which not all traditions emphasize equally. Traditional Presbys will put more emphasis on church-centric piety—sacraments, corporate worship—than they will on personal, individual piety such as private devotions. As a rule, evangelicals tend to emphasize a little bit more on personal, individual piety. Probably the right answer is to give weight to both, with perhaps a little bit more weight on corporate activities since the Bible is written more toward a corporate entity—the church—than it is to individuals.

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  91. SDB,

    The question here is ecclesiastical – if you want to preach in a church or serve as an elder the bar is much higher. Should a convinced baptist plant a church that practices paedocommunion? I think the answer there has to be no as it undermines the integrity of their convictions. It is one thing to be wrong about baptism (or communion, or church governance) and something else altogether that it doesn’t matter what the Bible teaches on these things – they are non-essential because you can get to heaven while being wrong on them.

    I agree. But I’m not sure how many evangelicals would say it doesn’t matter what the Bible teaches on these things. Maybe the very broadest of the broad. Most non-denom evangelicals I have known, for example, attend churches that draw lines of membership related to baptism and other matters that we Presbys think are important but which we might have different convictions on.

    The question arises as to what kind of agreement is necessary for cooperation with other bodies. Should we not cooperate at all with non-Presbyterians in any ministry endeavors? It would seem that the views of some would basically amount to that. That doesn’t seem right to me. At the very least, I will point someone to a Reformed Baptist Church if he just cannot wrap his head around infant baptism. I would think that should be impossible if you have a certain view of the importance of getting your ecclesiology right.

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  92. “The question arises as to what kind of agreement is necessary for cooperation with other bodies. Should we not cooperate at all with non-Presbyterians in any ministry endeavors? It would seem that the views of some would basically amount to that. That doesn’t seem right to me. At the very least, I will point someone to a Reformed Baptist Church if he just cannot wrap his head around infant baptism. I would think that should be impossible if you have a certain view of the importance of getting your ecclesiology right.”

    Ministry cooperation and pointing someone to a church are very different things. If I had no problem pointing an atheist colleague of mine to the local Episcopal Church when he started moving in a thiest direction know what I know about him and the churches. At least he will hear the scriptures read and sung even if the pastor is a bit of a lion.

    I think ministries should be under the oversight of the church, so (for example) I am happy to support RUF, but not so thrilled with Cru or Young Life. I have big questions about the independent reformed seminaries, but my ignorance here is vast (even for me).

    I seem to recall (though I am sketchy on the details) that a PCA member was kicked out of TGC because of his views on sanctification. Now if it is acceptable for these views to be held in the PCA, it seems problematic for PCA pastors to serve a ministry that proscribes them. I probably have my facts jumbled, so treat it as a hypothetical if you will. Does that make sense?

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  93. D.G.,
    Nobody said that you explicitly said that Evangelicals are hicks. That was clear from my first comment. But you did portray them as a monolith who could only say that they accepted Jesus but did not know what that meant. Thus, you presented Evangelicals as Christians who knew far far less than any other Christian group. Thus, the metaphor. You can substitute another word for the word hick, but you can’t substitute for how you described them.

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  94. Zrim: But it’s the good and necessary consequence of Scripture to make doctrinal distinctions. I don’t know how you can read the NT epistles and come away thinking there is not the slightest care for taking pains for making distinctions. There are plenty of proof texts for it but 1 Cor 11 is a good starter:

    Petros: @Z, wow. You wanna use 1 Cor 11:19 to rationalize your argument for proactively making distinctions between believers and for presby’s superiority? That’s contextually oxymoronic and exegetically lame on multiple levels.

    Let’s hope Robert and Jeff C can weigh in and add some exegetical sobriety.

    Sober notes it is.

    (1) I’ve usually found that Zrim does his homework. He doesn’t wear it on his sleeve, but it’s there in the background.

    (2) 1 Cor 11.19 has two exegetical histories. One is to take Paul’s statement as ironic: “I suppose there must be divisions so that those of you who feel superior can flaunt it.” The other is to take Paul’s statement as serious: “God has ordained that there would be divisions among you in order to separate wheat from tares.” That latter reading is taken by commentators from Chrysostom through Calvin and, I’ve read but cannot verify, up to even eeee-MacArthur.

    So while I don’t agree with Zrim, I also recognize that he is speaking from a grounded interpretation.

    But do be careful — he was using 1 Cor 11 to argue for making doctrinal distinctions, not to argue for Presby superiority.

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  95. Peter, I see the point but then you need to explain why the pietists and revivalists did precisely what you say confessionalists now do. It was Whitefield who told Presbyterians they weren’t good enough and so introduced a distinction between “good” Christians and Presbyterians. Presbyterians were there before revivalists but revivalists made a point of saying Presbyterians weren’t good enough.

    You really do need to think about history.

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  96. Curt, like I said to Peter, evangelicals distinguished themselves from the Protestants who were already there. Evangelicalism did not start at the Reformation. Confessionalism did. So why did evangelicals need to separate themselves?

    Also, if you really think we shouldn’t distinguish ourselves, aren’t you arguing for remaining a Roman Catholic?

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  97. Peter, from the perspective of the Reformation evangelicalism is liberal. Evangelicalism abandoned the creeds, worship, and government of the Reformation churches.

    How do you feel now?

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  98. Peter, “please invoke the appropriate church governance clauses and excommunicate them.”

    Notice how evangelicals like Presbyterians who do not adhere to Presbyterian norms and then say that evangelicals aren’t liberal.

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  99. Peter, actually on matters of church government, evangelicalism doesn’t even have a church. What’s to govern?

    How do you get rid of the prosperity gospel in evangelical world? I dare you.

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  100. Peter, “it’s easy for me to say that the eeee-world and Presbyism don’t have to be at odds.”

    That’s like saying it’s not necessary for Canada and the US to be at odds. Who in the US (ev’s) cares about Canada (Presbyterians)?

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  101. Curt, evangelicals portray themselves as Christians who know far less than any other group. 9 doctrinal affirmations after 2000 years? That’s it?

    So evangelicals portray themselves as hicks by your logic.

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  102. @Curt

    You wrote, “The article…portrayed Evangelicals as the hicks of Christianity. That is for sure.”
    Later you wrote, “Nobody said that you explicitly said that Evangelicals are hicks. That was clear from my first comment. But you did portray them as a monolith who could only say that they accepted Jesus but did not know what that meant.”

    Hmmm…. maybe it makes sense in binary.

    You again:

    The article shows [that it portrays Evangelicals as hicks of Christianity] and it is obvious. Take for example the following from the article:

    This is a fundamental tension between Protestants who trace their roots back to the Reformation (Anglican, Reformed, Lutheran) and those who only go as far as the First Pretty Good Awakening. For confessional Protestants, fellowship has standards. But for evangelicals, the bar is low

    Those Protestants who cling to the Reformation as their heritage not only have antiquity on their side, but they have a higher bar for fellowship.

    Right. I don’t think evangelicals would dispute that. Indeed, Petros seems to think that this is a weakness for presbys. It certainly doesn’t entail that evangelicals are inferior unless antiquity and the high bar for fellowship are unmitigated goods. That would make Catholics the best I suppose.

    Or go to what is said before that when D.G. compares [real] Protestants with those who would participate in the Gospel Coalition:

    What even happens if being Presbyterian gets in the way of participating in The Gospel Coalition? The Allies claim “We are a fellowship of evangelical churches in the Reformed tradition deeply committed to renewing our faith in the gospel of Christ and to reforming our ministry practices to conform fully to the Scriptures.” How can that be? How can you be evangelical and in the Reformed tradition “deeply”?

    This doesn’t imply that evangelicals are hicks either. The point is that there is tension between what it means to be a presbyterian and what it means to be an evangelical. As you can see in the conversation with Petros, we think things like convictions on church governance, baptism, etc… matter in a way that evangelicals don’t. They are far more lattitudinarian on issues that presbys aren’t.

    or as Ali previously pointed out:
    What happens when ecclesiastical requirements get in the way of the bond that comes from being born-again?

    You really don’t see the claims of superiority yet or low regard that being evangelical gains in comparison to being confessional?

    Again, this is not a claim for superiority. It is a claim that the two worlds are incongruent. Evangelicals are big tent and want to eliminate all barriers outside of soteriology. Presbys (should) think that thinks like ecclesiology, worship, etc… are necessary too.

    Or note how being evangelical is reduced to being born-again?

    And that is why you need to give up a lot if you are a Presbyterian to become an evangelical. If beliefs and practices about theology, worship, and church government matter to being a Christian, then the Reformation gets in the way of being evangelical. But if being born-again is what matters, then you don’t really need the Reformation.

    Evangelicalism is not reduced to being born-again. You are reading that into this quote. The standard for fellowship is being born-again. Beliefs and practices about theology, worship, church government matter to the reformed in ways that they do not matter to evangelicals. It’s not that they don’t have beliefs about these things, they just don’t see them as “essential” for fellowship.

    Or finally, go to D.G.’s citation of Machen:

    One of the very greatest evils of present-day religious life, it seems to me, is the reception into the Church of persons who merely repeat a form of words such as “I accept Christ as my personal Saviour,” without giving the slightest evidence to show that they know what such words mean. As a consequence of this practice, hosts of persons are being received into the Church on the basis, as has been well said, of nothing more than a vague admiration for the moral character of Jesus, or else on the basis of a vague purpose of engaging in humanitarian work. One such person within the Church does more harm to the cause of Christ, I for my part believe, than ten such persons outside; and the whole practice ought to be radically changed. The truth is that the ecclesiastical currency in our day has been sadly debased; Church membership, as well as Church office, no longer means what it ought to mean.

    Note how, unlike Machen, D.G. tightly associates these words with evangelicals by using the quote to back his argument against Reformed participation with evangelicals. If D.G. had not spoken of evangelicals as a monolith, which Machen did not, then I would not have said that his article describes evangelicals as the hicks of Christianity. But, sadly, that is not the case. Rather, his argument seems to hint at even a worse description of what evangelicals are to confessionalists: they are spiritual lepers whom confessionalists can’t afford to touch in the sense of working with to advance the Gospel. Somehow Paul’s epistles come to mind as providing a warning against such elitism.

    Your “seems” is doing a lot of work here. Earlier you said it was obvious. Yet, several of us have pushed back against you. You should infer from the pushback that your observation isn’t so obvious. The point of this reference is that the low-bar of fellowship undermines reformed distinctives that we think are really important. It says nothing about the relative merits of individual evangelicals or necessarily evangelicalism as a whole. The same would be true if Lutherans, Catholics, or Mormons were being included without having to give up their convictions – eventually it would undermine things. It is obvious for these groups. It is less obvious to a lot of people why that would be true for evangelicalism.

    As far as treating evangelicalism as a monolith – if the word has content, then being evangelical necessarily entails certain things. Do you dispute that evangelicalism is big tent and has a low bar for fellowship (more or less limited to soteriology)?

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  103. Robert says Probably the right answer is to give weight to both, with perhaps a little bit more weight on corporate activities since the Bible is written more toward a corporate entity—the church—than it is to individuals.

    But corporate ‘piety’ is just the sum of individual ‘piety’.

    1 Corinthians 12 14 For the body is not one member, but many. 27 Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.
    Ephesians 4 6 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
    Romans 125 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

    Exhortation to the church about individuals in that church:
    -to the church in Pergamum: 14a But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam,15 So you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth. 17a He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches
    -church in Sardis write: 4 But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.

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  104. Petros, if by “ecumenical” you mean having a greasy religious familiarity then it’s true that evangies are more ecumenical than CPs. But if it means understanding there are sheep within communions not one’s own then evangies don’t seem as adept, because they don’t have the sort of categories that assist in it, e.g. militant and triumphant church.

    Jeff, thanks. Those are indeed the two exegetical histories with which I’m familiar and obviously I take the former.

    But, Petros, if you don’t like that reference to make the point about necessary divisions then you could consider something like 2 Tim 1:

    “Hold on to the pattern of sound teaching you have heard from me, with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.”

    Or 2 Thess 2:

    “Therefore, brothers, stand firm and cling to the traditions we taught you, whether by speech or by letter.”

    How does anyone hold, stand firm, or cling to traditions (gasp!) and teaching without divisions becoming inevitable and necessary?

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  105. SDB,

    All scripture (and what it teaches) is essential.

    Sure. But some things in Scripture are “more essential” than others depending on what we are talking about. The fact that you would point a friend to a church other than a Presbyterian Church shows that. If all of Scripture is essential and the Episcopalian church gets essential stuff wrong, then you’re doing a disservice by pointing your friend there unless you believe that some things are essential to get right for salvation and some things are not.

    The problem with broader evangelicalism is that it makes “essential for salvation” and “important” equivalent concepts, not that they talk about essentials and nonessentials. We all talk about essentials and nonessentials.

    That’s why I think it’s better to say that some things are necessary for the being of the church and some things are necessary for the well-being of the church. You can be a true church and not practice paedobaptism, but the well-being of the church is better when paedobaptism is practiced rightly.

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  106. You can be a true church and not practice paedobaptism, but the well-being of the church is better when paedobaptism is practiced rightly.

    Robert, how can a church be true that also denies what is confessed as a mark of a true church (right administration of the sacraments), or practices what is confessed as a great sin (the neglect of PB)? But my hunch is that many P&R are quick to afford baptistic churches the label of “more or less true” because they’ve also forgotten the categories of militant/triumphant, and what they mean is “I know a lot of Baptists and except for the baptism thing they’re good Christian folk so their church is more or less pure.” But I’m not sure that’s how the reformers and subsequent Prots looked at things. I’m sure they knew plenty of Roman and Anabaptist Christians they considered good Christian folk and yet they still wrote what they did about these things in the confessions about the sacraments and marks of the church. Hard to imagine contemporary P&R writing about these things as the reformers did. Some like Petros might say that’s a good thing, but others might not be able to help thinking something worth preserving’s been lost.

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  107. Zrim,

    Robert, how can a church be true that also denies what is confessed as a mark of a true church (right administration of the sacraments), or practices what is confessed as a great sin (the neglect of PB)?

    As far as I know, my denomination—the PCA—does not deny that Baptist churches are true churches. Does any modern Reformed church do that? The OPC? URC?

    But my hunch is that many P&R are quick to afford baptistic churches the label of “more or less true” because they’ve also forgotten the categories of militant/triumphant, and what they mean is “I know a lot of Baptists and except for the baptism thing they’re good Christian folk so their church is more or less pure.” But I’m not sure that’s how the reformers and subsequent Prots looked at things. I’m sure they knew plenty of Roman and Anabaptist Christians they considered good Christian folk and yet they still wrote what they did about these things in the confessions about the sacraments and marks of the church. Hard to imagine contemporary P&R writing about these things as the reformers did. Some like Petros might say that’s a good thing, but others might not be able to help thinking something worth preserving’s been lost.

    That might be true, but it looks like you’re selectively picking on the Baptists now. According to Reformed theology, the Lutherans are practicing baptism rightly either because they believe in baptismal regeneration. Are you prepared to be consistent and deny that Lutheran churches are true churches as well?

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  108. Zrim,

    You also have to wrestle with how you could even possibly regard Baptists as good Christian folk if their churches are synagogues of Satan. Because if you don’t accept the being/well-being distinction, which is really just a variation of the more pure/less pure distinction, I don’t see how you have any category other than true church and false church.

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  109. Robert, it’s not P&R practice to single out particular churches for condemnation but simply to address in more or less broad strokes beliefs and practices, and given those broad strokes it’s hard to see how Baptists churches can be so easily regarded as orthodox (unless baptism is negligible, in which case the confessions should be revised accordingly).

    Re Lutherans, the language is “administration of the sacraments,” not “specific teaching about the sacraments.” They baptize children of believers in the trinitarian formula, just like the RCs, which is why baptisms by both (and adult baptisms by Baptists) are accepted by P&R. The Baptists neglect what should be practiced, that’s the problem.

    Not saying their churches are “synagogues of Satan” (sorry, not a fan of the rhetoric). Simply saying they are heterodox on baptism, and since we confess baptism rises to the level of a mark of the true church and it being a great sin to neglect it, I don’t see how it can be so easy to consider them true nor how one can so easily point one to a church that practices a great sin. Unless it really isn’t a great sin but a negligible opsydaisy-hey-nobody’s-perfect kind of thing.

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  110. Zrim,

    It’s not that simple. Hebert Armstrong’s group baptized with the Trinitarian formula and I’m pretty sure no one accepts the baptisms of his church as valid. Take your intepretation of the standards to its logical conclusion, and you would have to say that Rome is a truer and more faithful church than your local Reformed Baptist. I’m sorry, but I’m not buying it, and I’m not buying that the Reformers would have done the same thing either had Baptists been around in their day. Anabaptists and modern Baptists aren’t equivalent.

    It’s not a matter of “easily” granting orthodoxy to them. It’s a matter of looking at a system and evaluating it based on its conformity to Scripture and using the more pure/less pure distinction. It might be a great sin to neglect infant baptism, but it’s also a great sin to teach ex opere operato regeneration like Rome and Lutheranism does. If you can grant the status of true churches to the latter, it shouldn’t be hard to grant it to the former, unless of course you just really can’t stand Baptists for whatever reason.

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  111. Robert, so here’s the hitch. If Baptists are in “true” churches, why isn’t the PCA and OPC in fellowship with Baptist conventions or congregations?

    So we do admit Baptists to the Supper (yay!), but we wouldn’t let a Baptist pastor near the pulpit or table.

    True but not trustworthy?

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  112. Robert, they did have Baptists around, which is why whenever baptism comes up in TFU/WCF there is some reference to withholding it and the severity of its error. I understand how the wonder working powers of modernity make ABs and modern Baptists different, but on the question of baptism our confessions all have strident things to say about its neglect. And it’s not clear how anyone with a latitudinarian posture could write those things.

    Take your intepretation of the standards to its logical conclusion, and you would have to say that Rome is a truer and more faithful church than your local Reformed Baptist.

    I’m not as interested in sussing out who’s more or less pure as attitudes on the gospel in Word and sacrament. If the Word is the spoken gospel and the sacraments are the visible gospel, messing with either is a vital error. Rome condemns the gospel in word, credobaptism denies it to the children of believers in baptism. I’ll leave it to others to say which is worse. What I’d like to know is if both are condemnable why some effectively shrug at one of them?

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  113. sdb,
    Again, I am not going to discuss much with you because of how you conduct discussions. You partially quote and draw inferences.

    I wrote what I wrote and I stand behind it. I criticized D.G.’s article for his monolithic portrayal of Evangelicals as knowing what phrase to say but not knowing what it or anything else meant. And by focusing on the article rather than D.G., I left room for him to correct any misperceptions. And I stand by what I said that I accused no one of explicitly calling Evangelicals hicks, but whether anyone here was as guilty as D.G.’s article depended on how they portray Evangelicals. And what I wrote is not too complicated. So do whatever you want with it, I don’t care.

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  114. You can be Reformed and never teach (or believe) that Christ died only for the sins of the elect. But you cannot be Reformed and reject ” the status of Christian children….That continues to perpetuate)a principle of radical discontinuity between Abraham and the Christian, i.e. a radical principle of discontinuity in the history of redemption . This denial of the fundamental unity of the covenant of grace as symbolized in the administration of the sign and seal of the covenant of grace to covenant children is serious enough to warrant saying that any congregation that will not practice infant initiation (baptism) into the administration of the covenant of grace is not a church.”

    https://heidelblog.net/2013/04/on-churchless-evangelicals-pt-3/

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  115. Article 29 actually does six things, according to Godfrey. 1) It teaches that “the true church must be discerned from the teaching of the Word of God” and rejects the false revelations of popes and Anabaptist prophets. 2) It affirms the presence of hypocrites in any church. This point was made against Anabaptists and other sects which “have excessive, non-biblical claims of moral purity for their adherents.” 3) It lists the three marks of the true church. 4) It affirms that these marks are to be understood in terms of adherence to biblical teaching and under Christ as head of the church. 5) It notes the marks of Christians found in the true church: “those who believe in Christ as their savior, pursue righteousness, repent of the infirmity that clings to them, and seek refuge in Christ.” 6) It contrasts the marks of the true church with those of the false church.

    “If we focus on the mark of the sacraments, history shows us that the confessionally Reformed did not believe that the Lutheran doctrine of the Lord’s Supper was perfect, but they did believe that the Lutheran churches were true churches. Indeed, the Zwinglian doctrine of the eucharist is not perfect (and probably cannot be conformed to the high Calvinist eucharistic theology in the Belgic Confession), but the Reformed always acknowledged that the Reformed church in Zurich was a true church. The Dutch Reformed invited that true Reformed church to the Synod of Dort in 1618.”

    “But Lutheran and Anglican churches did not follow this polity, the Lutherans neglecting the office of elder and the Anglicans adding the office of Bishop. Yet they were recognized as true churches. Anglican church leaders served as members of the Synod of Dort as representatives of a true Reformed church and one Anglican bishop was a very influential member of the synod.”

    “Are we being unfair to Baptists to suggest that they are not true churches, when we recognize Lutheran, Anglican, and Zwinglian churches as true churches? Or are we being inconsistent and in the name of confessional consistency should label them all false churches? If we choose the latter option, we must recognize that we are going against the interpretation of the Belgic Confession that the Dutch Reformed churches have always held.”

    https://wscal.edu/media/blog_documents/BCC_Godfrey.pdf

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  116. @Curt
    “Again, I am not going to discuss much with you because of how you conduct discussions. You partially quote and draw inferences.”
    My quotes of stuff you have written on this thread is to highlight the sections of what you wrote above. I have never intentionally left out material to change the meaning of what I understood you to write. I’m happy to stand corrected if you can point to how I’ve misconstrued your meaning. The fact of the matter is that you have contradicted yourself, several of us have pointed our your error. Instead of correcting yourself, you’ve chosen to lash out.

    As far as drawing inferences, you are correct. Like you, I read a text and infer meaning from it. You started off by saying that it was “obvious” that this article claimed evangelicals were the hicks of Christianity. What one might consider an inference – clearly an erroneous one. Now you claim that you never accused anyone of doing such a thing – as if this article wrote itself. That’s just nonsense.

    “So do whatever you want with it, I don’t care.”
    Clearly. Learning from your mistakes is hard work. You should try it – a dose of humbleness and charity would do you good.

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  117. @Robert
    “Sure. But some things in Scripture are “more essential” than others depending on what we are talking about.”
    This is where the essential/non-essential distinction is unhelpful I think. Essential for what?

    “The fact that you would point a friend to a church other than a Presbyterian Church shows that. If all of Scripture is essential and the Episcopalian church gets essential stuff wrong, then you’re doing a disservice by pointing your friend there unless you believe that some things are essential to get right for salvation and some things are not.”
    Not smoking, regular exercise, a balanced diet, and getting regular sleep is essential for good health. If you are working with a crack addict, it might be crucial for their health to put those other essential things aside while you work to get them off the crack pipe.

    “The problem with broader evangelicalism is that it makes “essential for salvation” and “important” equivalent concepts, not that they talk about essentials and nonessentials. We all talk about essentials and nonessentials.”
    Yeah, I think that is a mistake. I think it is more helpful to talk about the relative clarity or plainness of what scripture teaches. It is all essential though.

    “That’s why I think it’s better to say that some things are necessary for the being of the church and some things are necessary for the well-being of the church. You can be a true church and not practice paedobaptism, but the well-being of the church is better when paedobaptism is practiced rightly.”
    That’s a curious construction given the marks of a true church described by the reformers, and it tells you how far reformed thought has drifted under the influence of evangelicalism.

    Perhaps maintaining fidelity to one’s own communion while recognizing that good fences make good neighbors.

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  118. @ McMark: Scott also writes, Denial of infant initiation is a denial of the catholicity of the church stretching back to Abraham and it is too much like the Gnostic denial of the unity of the covenant of grace in the 2nd and 3rd centuries

    And he’s right. All who are in Christ are children of Abraham and heirs according to the promise, says Paul. Full stop, no qualifiers about “spiritually but not really” or “this promise but not that one.”

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  119. Are all who in Christ justified? Are all who are born children of all who are in Christ also in Christ? When Abraham’s two sons are circumcised, is that circumcision only about Christ’s death, even if Christ did not die for both sons.? Is circumcision only about the one and only “the promise” about the justification of all the children of Abraham?

    All the justified are children of Abraham. All the children of Abraham are justified. Those two statements are not the same, if not all the children of Abraham are children of Abraham. So if now we have not only one promise but all the promises, do we need to bring in qualifiers about “inner/outward covenant” or about “negative sanctions” (greater curses for those once bestowed with grace) . Will all of us children of Abraham live to a ripe old age?

    Genesis 15: 13 Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know this for certain: Your offspring will be foreigners in a land that does not belong to them; they will be enslaved and oppressed 400 years. 14 However, I will judge the nation they serve, and afterward they will go out with many possessions. 15 But you will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a ripe old age.

    No fine print. No “this promise but not that promise”. The land was promised to the Jews, when they were the children of Abraham. But now Luther and Calvin have come in the place of the pope, and now the children of Jews have been given a legal divorce (no more polygamy for the children of Abraham), so that all the children of all those who have received water baptism in the name of the Trinity are to be regarded as children of Abraham. (any assurance apart from the sacrament tends toward revivalism:)

    Was Godfrey being too liberal about the true visible church? It seems to me that Godfrey still has fences against anabaptists and talso hose who teach water regeneration.

    http://pilgrimunderground.blogspot.com/2018/08/israels-murder-machine.html

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  120. sdb says Perhaps maintaining fidelity to one’s own communion while recognizing that good fences make good neighbors.

    sdb, one thing I’m sure that we can be unified about is this: that it is to the glory of our Lord that we believe what He says, by the power and conviction of His Spirit, and that we desire to obey Him (love Him) and not participate in ‘very great sin’ against the Lord, by the power of His Spirit. What do you think?

    eg, some He mentions:
    -Proverbs 6:16 There are six things which the LORD hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him:17 Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,18 A heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil,19 A false witness who utters lies ,And one who spreads strife among brothers.
    -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.
    -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.

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  121. DGH and I are still giggling at Z’s assertion that confessional prots are more ecumenical than the eeee-world….. If DGH isn’t giggling, it’d be fun to see DGH set the Z-man straight on that point. Drawing a tiny circle around the curmudgeon-presby-sect (loveable as it is) is pretty much a primary raison d’etre for this blog.

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  122. @Jeff and @Z, please see Robert’s apt comment “I don’t think Petros’ problem is with making distinctions; it’s with deciding which distinctions are important enough to break fellowship over.” Correct.

    Surely you recognize the diff between merely describing situations where ‘divisions’ exist, and morphing that into some kind of apostolic sanction and mandate FOR divisions? 1 Cor 1:10 “Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.”

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  123. @dgh, “how do you get rid of the prosperity gospel in evangelical world”? Neither Paul nor Peter could, so I suspect we cannot, either. Better to allow the tares to grow with the wheat (Mt 13:30), and God will sort them out in the day of judgment.

    Better question: how do you get rid of TKNY in confessional presby circles? Show us that great presby governance in action! I dare you.

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  124. @Robert, wrt “Anabaptists and modern Baptists aren’t equivalent.” Yes, thank you, you’re right on. Some around here need a remedial church history class.

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  125. Did I ever tell you how much fun it is to see you guys wrangle out whether or not Baptists are “true” churches, or not?

    I’d also still love to see you guys make the case that TKNY and Don Carson present the existential liberal threat that you portray them as.

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  126. Mark, you’re asking a lot of questions, and most of them seem rhetorical. For example, I’m pretty sure that you can plainly the see the difference between “they” and “you” in Gen 15.13 – 15.

    So what do you really want to talk about, in 50 words or less?

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  127. P-man (I can do awkward greasy familiarity too), have you considered the idea that there are two kinds of division, good and bad? Divisions over petty things are bad, over substantive things are good. So that when Paul says, “Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment” it’s the petty kind. Or do you really imagine it means a big tent that includes even your favorite scapegoats the JWs and Mormons? Also note that unity hinges on agreement, in which case get on board with paedobaptism and Presbyterian government and quit causing division already.

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  128. Darryl,

    Robert, so here’s the hitch. If Baptists are in “true” churches, why isn’t the PCA and OPC in fellowship with Baptist conventions or congregations?

    They’re not in fellowship with Lutherans either. Is the Missouri Synod not a true church?

    So we do admit Baptists to the Supper (yay!), but we wouldn’t let a Baptist pastor near the pulpit or table.

    Is it against the BCO to let a Baptist preach in an OPC church? I’m not aware of any such regulation in the PCA at least.

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  129. SDB,

    This is where the essential/non-essential distinction is unhelpful I think. Essential for what?

    Essential for salvation and to bear the name Christian. BTW, any group to which you deny the status of “true church” you are also denying the status of “true Christian,” since only the true church has the authority to recognize what a Christian is.

    Not smoking, regular exercise, a balanced diet, and getting regular sleep is essential for good health. If you are working with a crack addict, it might be crucial for their health to put those other essential things aside while you work to get them off the crack pipe.

    You can’t set some of those other things aside indefinitely. Point someone to a non-Reformed church in the position you are espousing, and you are pointing them away from some things indefinitely, away from a true church indefinitely

    Yeah, I think that is a mistake. I think it is more helpful to talk about the relative clarity or plainness of what scripture teaches. It is all essential though.

    That would be a fine distinction as well. Under what I’m talking about, plainness/clarity of what is taught would constitute true churches. I’m all for paedobaptism, but it’s certainly not taught with the same clarity as many, many, many other doctrines.

    That’s a curious construction given the marks of a true church described by the reformers, and it tells you how far reformed thought has drifted under the influence of evangelicalism.

    Maybe the Reformers were wrong to insist that paedobaptism is the mark of the true church and the true Christian. It certainly seems that most Protestants would agree with that today.

    Perhaps maintaining fidelity to one’s own communion while recognizing that good fences make good neighbors.

    I’m not arguing against that. I’m arguing for good and proper fences. You all are very curiously erecting a fence of “not true church” and therefore “not true Christian” between the Reformed and Baptists of every single stripe. You can have a fence between Christians without saying the neighbor is not in a true church. The WC language is more pure/less pure with respect to the true church. You can have a true church that is less pure than another. But once you start saying a church is not a true church, the only alternative is a false church, and a false church is no church at all. If you really believe that, that’s fine, but then you have to start denying the name Christian to anybody except the Reformed.

    Don’t ordain in the PCA a person who is against paedobaptism, but don’t also tell the Reformed Baptist that he is a member of a false church. He’s the member of a true church that has some erroneous views with respect to the administration of the sacraments.

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  130. Petros,

    @Robert, wrt “Anabaptists and modern Baptists aren’t equivalent.” Yes, thank you, you’re right on. Some around here need a remedial church history class.

    What is hilarious is that most of the people here really like WS California and no less a luminary than Robert Godfrey, recently retired professor of church history and president of WSC insists that we can’t view those who come from the Anabaptist tradition the same way we view those who come from the Baptist tradition that started in England.

    I’ve got my issues with broad evangelicalism, but the insistence that the Baptists aren’t members of true churches in this thread is ridiculous. You can have disagreements with Baptists and evangelicals without drinking the “always against Baptists and evangelicals” kool aid. Just as non-Presbyterians can have disagreements with us without drinking the kool aid.

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  131. Zrim,

    Robert, they did have Baptists around, which is why whenever baptism comes up in TFU/WCF there is some reference to withholding it and the severity of its error. I understand how the wonder working powers of modernity make ABs and modern Baptists different, but on the question of baptism our confessions all have strident things to say about its neglect. And it’s not clear how anyone with a latitudinarian posture could write those things.

    You can say that someone is in serious error/sin without denying that the church to which they belong is a true church. The Reformers held that position with respect to Rome at least until Trent. It’s a serious error/sin for the EPC to allow for the ordination of female elders, but I don’t think they are a false church.

    Church history tells us that the ABs and modern Baptists, at least in England in North America, are not the same. Robert Godfrey has argued as much.

    I’m not as interested in sussing out who’s more or less pure as attitudes on the gospel in Word and sacrament. If the Word is the spoken gospel and the sacraments are the visible gospel, messing with either is a vital error. Rome condemns the gospel in word, credobaptism denies it to the children of believers in baptism. I’ll leave it to others to say which is worse. What I’d like to know is if both are condemnable why some effectively shrug at one of them?

    I’m not shrugging the one off. I’m just arguing that it is horribly inconsistent to deny the status of a true church to the Baptists and yet preserve it for Rome (which is effectively what we are doing by accepting Rome’s baptisms).

    But in any case, people come to faith through the right preaching of the Word of God, not the right administration of baptism. We’re not Roman Catholics. There is a certain priority given to the right preaching. If in the unfortunate event I’m in an area where I have to choose between the sound preaching of the gospel and the right administration of the sacraments because there is no church that combines both for 500 miles, I’m going with the sound preaching of the gospel.

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  132. Robert,

    I read through some of what you’ve said, and I wondered what you think of the possibility that there is a protestant church where all theological doctrine is correct. Wouldn’t that entail that all the confessions among the different churches be combined into a unified confession of faith?

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  133. Maybe the Reformers were wrong to insist that paedobaptism is the mark of the true church and the true Christian. It certainly seems that most Protestants would agree with that today.

    Robert, you’re overstating things. Nobody is saying Baptist churches are false. The larger point, like I said, is to suss out what the assumptions are about the sacraments. I think you’re right that that most Prots are latitudinarian on baptism, including confessionalists. The problem is that the confessions aren’t, and you’re admitting it here. So either latitudinarians need to align better with the confessions or vice versa.

    The rest of your comments to me come down to whether or not the sacraments are the vitals of religion, yes or no? (Again, for me this isn’t about running around saying which churches are true or false.) Sounds to me like you don’t think so. Problem is that the confessions say they are. Maybe you think the E-Free church embodies a better way where both views on baptism are accepted and practiced, because as long as they remain less than vital and churches remain separate over baptism it’s an instance of undue division.

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  134. Susan,

    I read through some of what you’ve said, and I wondered what you think of the possibility that there is a protestant church where all theological doctrine is correct.

    It’s possible, but unlikely given our sin and finitude. IMO, the Westminster Confession of Faith is as close to that as there is, but it goes too far in forbidding even mental images Christ.

    If there does exist such a church, then all should join it.

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  135. Zrim,

    The sacraments are vital, but again the question is with respect to what. If Baptist churches are true churches, then getting everything correct about the administration of the sacraments isn’t vital to making their churches true churches. That’s really all I’m saying.

    If getting the right administration of the sacraments is vital to a church being a true church, then Baptist churches aren’t true churches. If getting the right administration is vital to something else, then Baptist churches are true churches. If you are willing to say that Baptist churches can be true churches, then you are saying that getting every aspect of the administration of the sacraments correct is not vital to the essence/existence of a true church.

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  136. @Z, great, you acknowledge there’s a diff between substantive and the petty!

    You may have forgotten, but this blog post has everything to do with your wanting “ecclesiastical requirements” (ie, your confessions and church governance rules/regs) to “get in the way of the bond that comes from being born-again”. Fine, you view the diffs between Wentz and Foles to be “substantive”. Those of us in the eeee-world find that, to be, ahem, petty.

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  137. Wrt “The problem is that the confessions aren’t (latitudinarian)”. “So either latitudinarians need to align better with the confessions or vice versa.”

    What’s notable here, once again, is the appeal to the “confessions” as the canon, rather than to Scripture.
    The confessions have value in the way that commentaries have value. Nice to refer to, some stuff to learn from. They just aren’t Scripture.

    But the big elephant in the room is why that great presby governance structure doesn’t kick into gear and force those lib latitudinarians to align with the confessions!

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  138. @ Robert: I think the words “essential” and “vital” obscure more than illumine.

    Ditto the binary category of “true church” and “false”, which is alien to the Reformed confessions.

    The word “necessary” makes sense here. Is it necessary to be a paedo to be a Christian? No. Is paedobaptism essential to being a follower of Christ? That will depend on one’s definition of “essence”, which then makes essential just a matter of definition (ie, tautology).

    As to true and false churches, the WCF has a much better category than on/off:

    This catholic Church has been sometimes more, sometimes less visible.[8] And particular Churches, which are members thereof, are more or less pure, according as the doctrine of the Gospel is taught and embraced, ordinances administered, and public worship performed more or less purely in them.[9]

    V. The purest Churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error;[10] and some have so degenerated, as to become no Churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan.[11] Nevertheless, there shall be always a Church on earth to worship God according to His will.[12]

    Not binary, but a sliding scale.

    I think the reason you’re choking on Zrim et al is that you are filtering their words through the binary category. They say “Baptist churches are not visible enough”, you hear “completely false church.”

    In truth, Baptist churches *are* less visible. Their view of baptism (outward sign of inward change, outward testament to faith) places a subtle emphasis on the voice of the baptizee declaring himself to be saved, instead of on the word of cleansing from God to man.

    Likewise, the underlying ecclesiology that denies the validity of the covenant not only drives a wedge between Abraham and us, but also places pressure on children of believers to make that outward profession.

    And most Baptists end up having to resort to an “age of accountability” to reconcile their soteriology with the evident salvation of David’s son.

    There are gospel implications to the wrong sacramentology.

    In light of that, I don’t think anyone who is Reformed *should* have a problem saying that Baptist churches are less visible, to the point of needing to be held at some distance where teaching ministry is concerned.

    At the same time, WCF 26.1-2 keeps us from taking it too far.

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  139. @Jeff, wrt “Their (Baptists) view of baptism…places a subtle emphasis on the voice of the baptizee declaring himself to be saved, instead of on the word of cleansing from God to man.” You seem to imply some kind of pelagianism in the baptist community and impugn Rom 10:9,10 as the basis for the baptism. Please clarify your caricature, as it seems possibly overly influenced by your own, shall I say it, “experience”.

    “Likewise, the underlying ecclesiology that denies the validity of the covenant not only drives a wedge between Abraham and us”. Well, indeed. The “new covenant” is NEW for a reason. There are continuities and discontinuities between the covenants, and the circumcision/baptism thing is one such discontinuity. If you want to call that a bad wedge, okay fine, but I’ll call it a good wedge.

    “but also places pressure on children of believers to make that outward profession.” What do you mean by “pressure”? Was John using “pressure” when he preached “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”? Yeah, each individual will give an account, and each individual must personally believe, so if explaining that to a child (or adult) is “pressure”, then it’s good and godly pressure. As regards to “outward profession”, YES, you must “confess with your mouth”, which is presumably, an outward profession!

    Funny, Coral Ridge Presby Church (of Evangelism Explosion fame) would say “If God were to ask you, ‘why should I let you into My heaven?’”, I am guessing your recommended presby response would not be “my parents baptized me in a presby church when I was an infant, and as a result, I’m automatically part of God’s family and have salvation”.

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  140. In light of that, I don’t think anyone who is Reformed *should* have a problem saying that Baptist churches are less visible, to the point of needing to be held at some distance where teaching ministry is concerned.

    Ding, ding, ding.

    Petros, you’re conflating the natures of different textual sources. Confessions aren’t equivalent to commentaries simply because neither are inspired holy writ. Commentaries are written by persons for the purpose of offering exegetical insight, etc., which can be taken or left with no consequence. Confessions are written by churches who cull from Scripture what is doctrinally binding on a church and her officers and laity, all of whom sign on with the understanding that they are binding themselves to those doctrines and being held accountable to them by their elders (think of the difference between a book on how to build a house and a mortgage, two completely different texts). Scripture is in yet another class of textual source by being the inspired, infallible and inerrant word of God. Nobody says or implies the confessions are Scripture. I know you’ve decided a priori that’s precisely what confessionalists think, but it’s only because you haven’t a competent grasp of the differences between these textual sources. That omelette on your face keeps getting bigger somehow.

    And what is it with you and thinking Presbyterian government is only as great as it’s claimed to be if it keeps the church utterly pure of error? Must be more paper pope stuff. Heck, you’re the No Creed but Christ and the Bible people and you still have problems. It’s called abiding human sin and it can’t be overcome even by the Bible, and since so many different sinners have so many different interpretations of the Bible, sure helps to have explicit standards to assist in navigating it all. But when you’re above it all that’s a point hard to see.

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  141. Petros, when Baptists want a child to wait until he can profess faith before being baptized, how can it not be both an expression and nurture of the sort of decisionism Jeff suggests? (BTW, nothing wrong with wanting faith professed prior to participation in a sacrament, but we do it with the table.) And if you want to say baptism demonstrates that God alone saves sinners then what better image than an infant who is helpless to cleanse himself? God is completely the savior of sinners the way an adult is completely the washer of infants. But on Baptist theology, God waits for the sinner to decide to be saved the way a parent waits for a child to decide to be clean.

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  142. Z, wrt “Confessions are….what is doctrinally BINDING on a church and her officers and laity.” Right, I know presby’s think that. And some of us think that they should be downgraded to the useful realm of a good commentary.

    As regards to presby government being great, I only get that idea from what I read here, combined with equal amounts of hand-wringing about its inability to reign in rogues like TKNY, along with musings that presby government is SO important/essential as to be a valid reason not to be encouraged that Wentz and Foles have a shared faith. Taken together, it’s all very curious.

    As regards to baptism, you’re entitled to ascribe your own caricatures upon either the paedo or credo approaches, but just realize your caricatures are often unrecognizable to those of us on the credo side.

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  143. Petros:

    From the horse’s mouth:

    Baptism is a public testimony. It preaches something to an audience. While it is personal, it is not private. As a result, one’s baptism takes on the meaning of the church authorizing it. If a person comes to faith in Christ after a previous “baptismal experience,” or if a person realizes that an earlier immersion did not appropriately convey the idea of an eternally-secure salvation by grace through faith in the forever-resurrected Christ alone, then the example above argues for “scriptural baptism.” Such an act of obedience actually then clarifies their testimony and opens the door for ministry in the church and through the entities supported by the church. — “Understanding Baptism”, SBCLife

    Any Christian can baptize, anywhere, because the focus is not on the baptizer. It’s on the baptizee. You must decide to get baptized, because you want to make a public statement: “I’m with Jesus.” — “Baptism is a Church’s Act”, 9Marks

    Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, to be unto the party baptized, a sign of his fellowship with him, in his death and resurrection; of his being engrafted into him; of remission of sins; and of giving up into God, through Jesus Christ, to live and walk in newness of life. —1689 Confession

    So I say again: The Baptist understanding view of baptism…places a subtle emphasis on the voice of the baptizee declaring himself to be saved, instead of on the word of cleansing from God to man.

    It is more subtle in 1689, but quite prominent in the material from 9marks and SBC.

    I didn’t use the word “Pelagian,” but if you think that “I want to make a public statement…” is too Pelagian for your taste, then it might be worth reflecting on the fact that 9marks is a prominent Reformed Baptist voice.

    There is a fundamental tension between believing that salvation is for the elect through irresistible grace, and that the sign of cleansing should hold fire until the recipient says so.

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  144. Contrast the Belgic Confession: Baptism also witnesses to us that God, being our gracious Father, will be our God forever.

    Therefore Christ has commanded that all those who belong to him be baptized with pure water
    “in the name of the Father
    and of the Son
    and of the Holy Spirit.”

    In this way God signifies to us that just as water washes away the dirt of the body when it is poured on us
    and also is seen on the bodies of those who are baptized when it is sprinkled on them,
    so too the blood of Christ does the same thing internally, in the soul, by the Holy Spirit.

    It washes and cleanses it from its sins and transforms us from being the children of wrath into the children of God.

    This does not happen by the physical water but by the sprinkling of the precious blood of the Son of God,
    who is our Red Sea, through which we must pass

    to escape the tyranny of Pharaoh, who is the devil, and to enter the spiritual land of Canaan.

    Notice the contrast. In the Baptist documents, baptism is a message from the baptizee to the world. In the Reformed, baptism is a message from God to the baptizee.

    The contrast between Westminster and 1689 is particularly interesting because the two are so close; 1689 was a “baptist remix” of Westminster.

    WCF: I. Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible Church; but also to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in the newness of life.

    1689: Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, to be unto the party baptized, a sign of his fellowship with him, in his death and resurrection; of his being engrafted into him; of remission of sins; and of giving up into God, through Jesus Christ, to live and walk in newness of life.

    The changed phrase in bold changes the meaning: instead of baptism preaching the covenant of grace to the recipient, it now is a sign of the recipient’s fellowship with Christ.

    To be sure, both Confessions share both subjective and objective elements

    Subjective: “of his ingrafting into Christ”, “of his giving up unto God …”

    Objective: “of remission of sins”

    But the 1689 edit pushes the emphasis over into the subjective.

    That said, I still vastly prefer the 1689 statement over the 9marks statement, yes?

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  145. Jeff–All who are in Christ are children of Abraham and heirs according to the promise, says Paul. Full stop, no qualifiers about “spiritually but not really” or “this promise but not that one.”

    What do you really want to talk about?
    What is “the promise” to Abraham?
    Was there more than one promise to Abraham?
    I couldn’t tell the answers to these two questions from what you wrote. Were you trying to have it both ways at once?

    Is there a tension in saying that the objective grace given by the means of grace is not tied to the moment of time when that grace is administered by the Roman Catholic priest? If you think that the irresistible grace given by means of the sacrament has to hold fire until the time of God’s effectual call, does that make you a Pelagian?

    I am not and have never been a Reformed Baptist. I don’t believe in sacraments. The baptism God does saves and is not with water. Baptism with water is what sinners do.

    Leithart–The Baptists are right on all kinds of things. They are right to say that paedobaptists need to confront the problem of apostasy head-on. They are right to say that paedobaptists are inconsistent to baptize babies and refuse to feed them. They are right to say that paedobaptists have not done a great job of explaining the relationship of sacraments and faith. The reason why Baptist-paedobaptist arguments go nowhere is because it is a fraternal rivalry.

    https://theopolisinstitute.com/article/baptism-impasse-baptists-vs-presbyterians-part-ii/

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  146. “And for your children”. Is that the objective part, or is that part about us and who our children are?

    Peter does not say “that baptism does not save you, but this baptism does save you”

    Ephesians 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope at your calling— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. one baptism.

    So,does this one baptism always save or only sometimes save? Does “baptism” promise salvation? I have no problem saying that where there is God’s imputation into Christ’s death, there is the Holy Spirit and salvation. But as long as you read water into every “baptism” verse”, I think you will equivocate ( even if you never speak of covenant apostasy and conditionality when you do the baby)

    Leithart: “The big difference between the word and baptism is that the word offers God’s grace to everyone-in-general while baptism declares God’s favor TO ME . Baptism wraps the gift of forgiveness and justification and puts MY NAME on the package. Like the gospel, BAPTISM REQUIRES a response of ENDURING faith. Faith involves believing what baptism says ABOUT YOU . The baptismal declaration is that we are “justified from sin” by union with the death and resurrection of Jesus. And I can’t, of course, live a life of unbelief and disobedience, and expect baptism to rescue me at the end. Such a life would betray my baptism…..”

    mcmark- If the water is not about the person being watered but simply a seal that water baptism God sometimes uses to save (like a gospel message), why restrict the water to those who have one Christian parent?

    Scott Clark “Fundamentally, baptism is to strengthen our faith, not replace it. It is a seal to those who believe, that what baptism promises is actually true of them.” (p 8, “Baptism and the Benefits of Christ”, Confessional Presbyterian, 2006) p 12:

    Scott Clark—“Paul’s interest is not to argue that baptism confers Christ’s benefits, but rather to appeal to baptism as illustration of the union that ALREADY EXISTS.”

    Greg Bahnsen—“The signs of the covenant, whether circumcision or baptism, declare the objective truth that justification comes only by faith in God’s promise. Circumcision and baptism are NOT an individual’s personal, subjective testimony to having saving faith for himself. So, those who are in the visible church but not elect are nevertheless within the covenant of grace but under its curse.”

    Mark—Certainly I think Bahnsen’s conclusion is less harmful to the gospel but Bahnsen gets there by agreeing with Mike Horton that “baptism” does not save but rather speaks of a “visible church” which is needed before the gospel can be taught. How can you be cursed by the covenant if you are not in the covenant?

    So, is the water the sign and seal of the efficacy of law, or the sign and seal of the efficacy of grace? Only time will tell? Or is it grace that sometimes curses?

    https://contrast2.wordpress.com/2016/01/30/a-critique-of-r-scott-clarks-covenant-theology/

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  147. “This is where the essential/non-essential distinction is unhelpful I think. Essential for what?”
    Essential for salvation and to bear the name Christian.

    I don’t think this does what you want it to Robert. Paul tells us that the gospel by which we are being saved is “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures”. Nothing about the trinity, nature of Christ, baptism, etc…. Which of these you can deny and still be “saved” depends on one’s understanding doesn’t it?

    On the other hand, the chief end of man isn’t to “get saved”. We are to glorify God by worshiping him in spirit and in truth. Is it essential to properly understand baptism to worship him in truth?

    “BTW, any group to which you deny the status of “true church” you are also denying the status of “true Christian,” since only the true church has the authority to recognize what a Christian is.”

    Hmmm… I’m not so sure about this. Paul explicitly tells us not to ponder the eternal destiny of others. I’m not sure church discipline (for example) is about determining who is and isn’t “really” saved.

    “You can’t set some of those other things aside indefinitely. Point someone to a non-Reformed church in the position you are espousing, and you are pointing them away from some things indefinitely, away from a true church indefinitely”

    I’m not so sure “true church” makes sense – did I say that? If so, I shouldn’t have. More or less pure? That I think makes sense. The episcopal church certainly has very, very serious problems and is impure, but I’m not quite ready to write it off as a synagogue of satan. The unitarians universalists? Sure. Whether my colleague and I will continue to discuss matters of faith is something that is in God’s hands. I don’t think I’ve handed him off indefinitely in any sense though. While he is still wrestling with God’s existence, I suspect that hearing God’s word read and sung in the episcopal church will be helpful.

    “Yeah, I think that is a mistake. I think it is more helpful to talk about the relative clarity or plainness of what scripture teaches. It is all essential though.”
    That would be a fine distinction as well. Under what I’m talking about, plainness/clarity of what is taught would constitute true churches. I’m all for paedobaptism, but it’s certainly not taught with the same clarity as many, many, many other doctrines.

    I agree that paedobaptism is not taught with the same level of clarity as other doctrines. I don’t think that getting getting really important things wrong necessarily makes an institution something other than a true church. It is telling though that our reformed forebears disagreed with us. That should inspire some humility about what we declare less clear andOK to overlook right?

    “That’s a curious construction given the marks of a true church described by the reformers, and it tells you how far reformed thought has drifted under the influence of evangelicalism.”
    Maybe the Reformers were wrong to insist that paedobaptism is the mark of the true church and the true Christian. It certainly seems that most Protestants would agree with that today.

    Again, more or less pure is probably more helpful here. I think I see now where what I wrote caused the problem. It’s not that churches that err on really important things are no longer true churches, but rather less pure. Should we plant “less pure” churches? Should we invite pastors from “less pure” churches to preach at pastor’s conferences? I think the problem is that when you do this, you send the message that the churches aren’t really less pure and in fact these are matters of indifference. They just aren’t essential.

    “Perhaps maintaining fidelity to one’s own communion while recognizing that good fences make good neighbors.”
    I’m not arguing against that. I’m arguing for good and proper fences. You all are very curiously erecting a fence of “not true church” and therefore “not true Christian” between the Reformed and Baptists of every single stripe.

    I don’t believe that. I’m sorry if what I wrote implied that I did. Our chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever – presumably by worshiping him in spirit and in truth. Insofar as the reason for our existence is to worship him in truth, all matters of truth are ultimately essential. Whether disagreement on a matter warrants separate communions seems to me to be a prudential question as is the toll various errors take. None of us is perfect of course. I’m in the PCA (I don’t know much of anything about the OPC), and it seems indisputable to me that evangelicalism has had an enormous impact on the PCA to the extent that the PCA has lost important truths about the gospel, wise governance, purity of worships, and sabbath observance. Indeed, our willingness to hold our officers to the vows they have taken has weakened our ability to confront more serious heresies as they arise. Our churches do not take these vows as seriously as they ought.

    “You can have a fence between Christians without saying the neighbor is not in a true church. The WC language is more pure/less pure with respect to the true church. You can have a true church that is less pure than another. But once you start saying a church is not a true church, the only alternative is a false church, and a false church is no church at all. If you really believe that, that’s fine, but then you have to start denying the name Christian to anybody except the Reformed.”
    Yeah, I would be very reticent about declaring a body that believes in the resurrection of Christ for sinners a synagogue of Satan. But I don’t think we need to cooperate with churches that we can’t be in fellowship with.

    “Don’t ordain in the PCA a person who is against paedobaptism, but don’t also tell the Reformed Baptist that he is a member of a false church. He’s the member of a true church that has some erroneous views with respect to the administration of the sacraments.”
    Agreed.

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  148. Jeff, thx for the citations. Seeing them, I’m in 100% violent agreement with all of them (SBC, 9Marks, and the 1689) as each adds an important flavor. And, glad I was incorrectly seeing a possible pelagian subtlety in your restatement. (No need to re-litigate the merits of paedo-vs-credo again.)

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  149. Petros, right because evangelicalism is anti-confessional, which is yet another instance of how it keeps in step with the spirit of the age, which only increases the omelette since evangelicalism loves its role as cultural critic.

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  150. Peter, wow! Evangelicals let false teachers fester and leave it up to God. Yet you claim to believe the Bible.

    Your mistake about Keller is confusing the PCA for a confessional church. Heck, even you’d like the PCA.

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  151. Robert, we could handle a sermon from a Lutheran on one of the marks of the church — Baptism. We couldn’t from -wait for it- a Baptist.

    Which is why Reformed churches have historically recommended Lutheran churches to Reformed communicants when no Reformed church is available.

    BCO says nothing about who can preach. It’s a call for session. But why let someone into the pulpit to proclaim the whole counsel of God who doesn’t get baptism right?

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  152. @ McMark: What do you really want to talk about? … I am not and have never been a Reformed Baptist.

    I want to talk about that. You are not Reformed Baptist. You are not anabaptist.

    What is your denominational affiliation?

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  153. Peter, “you view the diffs between Wentz and Foles to be “substantive”. Those of us in the eeee-world find that, to be, ahem, petty.”

    This from a guy who thinks the differences between true and false teachers to be no biggie.

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  154. D.G.,
    And your elitism, as shown in your views of Keller and the PCA, are simply not Biblical regardless of how consistent you find them to be with the confessions. THat is not to say that Keller and the PCA have no faults. It is to say that you should take Mark 7 to heart because of how you use the confessions to divide churches.

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  155. Darryl,

    Robert, we could handle a sermon from a Lutheran on one of the marks of the church — Baptism. We couldn’t from -wait for it- a Baptist.

    How is someone preaching baptismal regeneration better than someone who views baptism as merely a public testimony of faith?

    Which is why Reformed churches have historically recommended Lutheran churches to Reformed communicants when no Reformed church is available.

    I get that context, and would be fine recommending a conservative Lutheran church if a Reformed church isn’t available. But I think I would probably recommend a Reformed Baptist church over a conservative Lutheran church because in general I think the preaching will be better.

    Full disclosure: I grew up in the ELCA, and I’ve attended Missouri Synod worship services. I have to say that the preaching was rather anemic in Missouri Synod church I went to.

    BCO says nothing about who can preach. It’s a call for session. But why let someone into the pulpit to proclaim the whole counsel of God who doesn’t get baptism right?

    Well, that’s a good question. But the fact that the session gets to make the call does say something about the legitimacy of other churches, even Baptist ones.

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  156. Jeff, well, if you view baptists to be semipelagian, and since semipelagianism is a heresy, then, you are presumably duty-bound to consider all credo’s to be heretics and their churches to be ‘false’ churches. Correct?

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  157. Hmmm… DGH says one shouldn’t “confuse the PCA for a confessional church”. Would some of you PCA congregants out there like to set DGH straight on that point? I’m guessing you, your pastor, and the various levels of PCA hierarchy will find it to be news that the PCA is not to be confused with a confessional church.

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  158. I was just reading H. Sasse’s “Here we Stand” this weekend. I strongly recommend it. He spends the first chapter talking about the relationship among Lutheran, Reformed, and Union churches. He writes,

    “It is a church which extols Luther…with the reservation that the Heidelberg catechism is also a very good book… it’s a matter of indifference which catechism is used because pure doctrine does not matter anyhow. …life is more important than teaching,”living” piety than “dead” dogma…”

    He goes on to describe how this mingling has undermined doctrine in the German churches (he is writing in the 1930’s). Definitely worth pondering how this parallels the formation of various conservative alliances and coalitions today.

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  159. Robert, the folks around here get all warm-fuzzy if a church (even say a ‘conservative’ LCMS) has a dust-covered confession somewhere in their basement that instructs some cleric to dribble water on the forehead of an infant. And so the dust-covered confession and the mindless sacrament is preferred to whether or not the Bible is taught or if pew-sitters have a personal faith in Christ (and not, ‘yeah, I was born and baptized a Lutheran, so I guess that makes me a Christian, right?’).

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  160. Petros says: ..dust-covered confession and the mindless sacrament, not whether a pew-sitter has a personal faith in Christ (‘yeah, I was born and baptized a Lutheran, so I guess that makes me a Christian, right?’).

    -Amen. My experience. What a rude awakening I had from the Lord.

    Zrim says: We get it, you’re above it all because you’ve got Jesus down, down, down, down in the depths of your heart (where?!).
    -this particular ongoing mockery is puzzling.
    1) because 1 Peter 3:18a Christ died to bring us to God (Rom 5:5b the love of God poured within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.)
    2) because it was a great prayer of Paul’s: Eph 3: 17a that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith

    Zrim says But “being saved” is evangie lingo.
    -Think it’s Jesus ‘lingo.’1 Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

    Zrim says Petros, when Baptists want a child to wait until he can profess faith before being baptized, how can it not be both an expression and nurture of the sort of decisionism Jeff suggests?
    Zrim says But on Baptist theology, God waits for the sinner to decide to be saved the way a parent waits for a child to decide to be clean.
    -Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him:…19a A false witness who utters lies,

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  161. @Ali, well said. Isn’t it curious that Z prefers to shy away from using Biblical language to describe Christ being in one’s “heart” or “being saved”. Must be tough to read a Bible that instructs that it’s incumbent upon men to “decide” to repent and follow Jesus, as egads, that “decisionism” might smack of being semi-pelagianism! But no worries, as long as that cleric dribbled some water on you years ago, it’s all good. Not.

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  162. Petros, for a guy who whines about caricatures you sure can dish them out. But it’s not difficult to read about hearts and decisions in the Bible with a good pair of Reformed lenses, why would it be?

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  163. Petros,

    I will admit that I don’t understand why some of the commenters seem to think they have more in common with Lutherans—who differ with the Reformed on baptismal regeneration, the communication of divine and human attributes in the person of Christ, the Lord’s Supper and a host of other issues—than they do with Reformed Baptists, who share Reformed soteriology and many of whom are more consistently covenantal in their theology than the Lutherans. And the Reformed Baptists will even let us Presbys commune with them at the Lord’s Table, while the most conservative, confessional Lutherans won’t. Reformed Baptist polity is also more similar to Presby polity, at least when Reformed Baptist churches are governed by a plurality of elders.

    Some people leave American evangelicalism for more confessional Reformed stances and then throw out the baby with the bathwater, I guess.

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  164. Petros – “Hmmm… DGH says one shouldn’t “confuse the PCA for a confessional church”. Would some of you PCA congregants out there like to set DGH straight on that point? I’m guessing you, your pastor, and the various levels of PCA hierarchy will find it to be news that the PCA is not to be confused with a confessional church.”

    The PCA is every bit as Confessional as the OPC is. Granted, the PCA is more culturally eeeeevangelical than I would like (especially in the South), but the OPC is less missional and ecumenical than I would like. If only there were balance. Your comment about Tim Keller going “rogue” is misguided. I’ve asked on Old Life many times before where Keller has deviated from the WCF, and I get mostly crickets, other than DGH pointing to a single instance of an RPW violation. Hardly going rogue.

    Robert – I tend to agree that DGH, Zrim, and others have an excessively narrow definition of “Reformed.” However, I tend to agree with them (and Jeff) that Lutheran (and even some Roman Catholic) errors are perhaps more tolerable than Baptist errors. More and more I’ve come to realize than the Reformed Baptist/Presbyterian alignment is more cultural than theological.

    Jeff – 100% right on the problem with Baptist view of the Sacraments. And yes, “true” churches exist on a sliding scale of purity, but at some point they cross a line and become “no Churches of Christ.” Where exactly is that line? Calvin defined true churches as those that administer the Sacraments in fundamentally correct fashion and preach the Word. He even considered the Galatian church to be a true church, even though Paul warned that they were deserting the Gospel. That said, the NT authors strongly suggest that unity trumps doctrinal purity, at least to a point. Discernment is warranted in affiliating with non-Reformed churches, but in general Scripture is far more ecumenical than we Reformed folk care to admit.

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  165. VV,

    However, I tend to agree with them (and Jeff) that Lutheran (and even some Roman Catholic) errors are perhaps more tolerable than Baptist errors. More and more I’ve come to realize than the Reformed Baptist/Presbyterian alignment is more cultural than theological.

    I think it would depend on the error. Both Lutherans and RCs hold to an ex opere operato view of baptismal regeneration. I’m not sure why that’s more tolerable than to view baptism as merely a public declaration of faith. I’m not sure why the Lutheran view of the communication of the divine and human attributes of Christ would be tolerable, since it strikes at the heart of Chalcedon.

    I don’t know. The Reformed Baptists I have known are mostly just hung up on applying the sign of baptism to their infants. In all other respects, they treat their children as covenant children, exhorting them to come to faith in Christ. Their lack of connectionalism is problematic, but connectionalism doesn’t solve anything unless it’s followed. I think Darryl’s denial of the PCA as a confessional denomination has more to do with the fact that the PCA isn’t very consistent in how it holds people to the confession across the board, which would be my main criticism of the PCA as a PCAer.

    No doubt there are cultural factors at play that make the Reformed Baptist/Presbyterian alignment possible. Probably has a lot to do with politics and voting patterns. I would still say that Reformed Baptists and Presbyterians have far more agreement than Presbys and Lutherans do.

    Presbys and Reformed Baptists both affirm the five points of Calvinism and hold to double predestination. Lutherans reject almost all of the five points and hold to single predestination.

    Presbys and Reformed Baptists agree that there is no physical presence of Christ in the Supper. They are also in more agreement on what the Supper is, whether they view it as a mere memorial or as spiritual presence.

    Presbys and Reformed Baptists tend to agree on a a covenantal hermeneutic, even if RBaps inconsistently apply it in the case of paedobaptism. Lutherans drive everything through a law-gospel hermeneutic.

    Presbys and RBaps agree that there is no ex opere operato baptismal regeneration. Lutherans say otherwise.

    Off the top of my head, the only place I can readily think of where Lutherans and Baptists agree against Presbys is in congregational polity, and even then Lutherans have bishops.

    Where do Presbys and Lutherans agree against Reformed Baptists except in that baptism should be administered to infants. Since our understandings of baptism are so different, I’m not sure how significant an agreement that is.

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  166. Jeff,

    Just saw your comments from yesterday.

    As to true and false churches, the WCF has a much better category than on/off:

    This catholic Church has been sometimes more, sometimes less visible.[8] And particular Churches, which are members thereof, are more or less pure, according as the doctrine of the Gospel is taught and embraced, ordinances administered, and public worship performed more or less purely in them.[9]

    V. The purest Churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error;[10] and some have so degenerated, as to become no Churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan.[11] Nevertheless, there shall be always a Church on earth to worship God according to His will.[12]

    Not binary, but a sliding scale.

    It is a binary, though. Some churches have “so degenerated, as to become no Churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan.” That’s pretty binary. If you’ve got so much error that you are “no church of Christ,” it seems to me you’ve slid wholly off the scale of more or less visible and more or less pure. If you are “no church of Christ,” you have no visibility with respect to being a church. If you are so bad that you are synagogue of Satan, you can’t see a church there at all.

    I think the reason you’re choking on Zrim et al is that you are filtering their words through the binary category. They say “Baptist churches are not visible enough”, you hear “completely false church.”

    But no one has said “Baptist churches are not visible enough.” It’s, “hey, wait a minute, Baptists don’t have the mark of the true church according to the Reformers.” I’m just saying we need to tease that out more, because if you say the Baptists are wholly devoid of one of the marks of the true church, you are saying Baptist churches aren’t really churches at all.

    In truth, Baptist churches *are* less visible. Their view of baptism (outward sign of inward change, outward testament to faith) places a subtle emphasis on the voice of the baptizee declaring himself to be saved, instead of on the word of cleansing from God to man.

    Agreed.

    Likewise, the underlying ecclesiology that denies the validity of the covenant not only drives a wedge between Abraham and us, but also places pressure on children of believers to make that outward profession.

    Yes to the former, but I’m not so sure about the latter. There should be “pressure” in a good sense to trust in Christ and to confess faith with one’s mouth. Paul says it is necessary to salvation. We shouldn’t treat covenant children like we treat unbelievers and non-covenant members (I don’t really know any RBaps that do this, albeit that is an inconsistency on their part), but we should be exhorting our children to trust Christ and profess faith. Jesus seemed to think professing Him before men was pretty important.

    And most Baptists end up having to resort to an “age of accountability” to reconcile their soteriology with the evident salvation of David’s son.

    Yes.

    There are gospel implications to the wrong sacramentology.

    Yes, but there seems to be a peculiar limiting of this to Reformed Baptists in this comment thread when Lutherans have errors that I think are just as egregious, albeit in different ways.

    In light of that, I don’t think anyone who is Reformed *should* have a problem saying that Baptist churches are less visible, to the point of needing to be held at some distance where teaching ministry is concerned.

    At the same time, WCF 26.1-2 keeps us from taking it too far.

    Sure. I think a RBap church is less visible than a faithful Presbyterian church, but things start to get a little more complicated when we’re talking about modern denominations. A RBap church may very well be more visible than many PCUSA churches, no?

    And we would have to parse out what we’re talking about regarding holding a RBap church at some distance. I’d say it would depend on what the subject of teaching is. At the same time, it boggles my mind that some would think that it is more consistently confessional to have a Lutheran preach in a Presbyterian church than a Reformed Baptist.

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  167. Robert, as far as I can tell, Jeff’s indicated he thinks Baptists are semi-pelagian, hence heretical, hence a synagogue of Satan. So, that explains the aversion to baptists. Given your apt outline of the issues in Lutheranism, I’ll be interested to read how/why the presbys here feel such a brotherhood with Lutherans (or, maybe they’re just the lesser of two evils?).

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  168. Petros: I can tell, Jeff’s indicated he thinks Baptists are semi-pelagian, hence heretical, hence a synagogue of Satan.

    You told wrongly.

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  169. Robert: It is a binary, though. Some churches have “so degenerated, as to become no Churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan.” That’s pretty binary. If you’ve got so much error that you are “no church of Christ,” it seems to me you’ve slid wholly off the scale of more or less visible and more or less pure.

    No, actually, that’s how classic “sliding scales” operate.

    Consider: A binary category could be “black and white.”, 0 and 1.

    Now take those values and place them on the far ends of a sliding scale — say, 0 to 255.

    Black is still 0, and anything “close enough” (like 4) will be called black; White is 255, and anything “close enough” (say, 250) will be called white. In between are varying shades of gray.

    You can do the same thing with baldness, or with purity of churches.

    If the Confession used a binary category, then a church with *any* amount of error would be “no Church of Christ.” Instead, it uses a sliding scale such that churches are more or less pure, and some (few) live down on the end of “synagogue of Satan”

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  170. Petros: Jeff, well, if you view baptists to be semipelagian, and since semipelagianism is a heresy, then, you are presumably duty-bound to consider all credo’s to be heretics and their churches to be ‘false’ churches. Correct?

    Incorrect. Look again: I did not say “baptists are semipelagian”; I said that I would use the term “semipelagian” to describe the statements I quoted. And in fact, I would go further and say that credobaptism injects a semipelagian tendency into the doctrine of sanctification.

    There’s a whole lot of generous room over here for people to be inconsistent. It’s an egregious leap of logic to jump from “X statement is semi-pelagian” to “people who say X are semi-pelagian” to “people who say X are heretics and their churches are ‘false churches'”

    In fact, if you had slowed down for a second, you might have noticed what I did say about Baptist churches: “Less visible.”

    To be transparent, I’m a little irritated at the moment at these sentences: “the folks around here get all warm-fuzzy if a church (even say a ‘conservative’ LCMS) has a dust-covered confession somewhere in their basement that instructs some cleric to dribble water on the forehead of an infant. And so the dust-covered confession and the mindless sacrament is preferred to whether or not the Bible is taught or if pew-sitters have a personal faith in Christ ”

    Can you produce *any* quote from Robert, sdb, dgh, Zrim, me, or anyone else, that remotely resembles this characterization?

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  171. Robert and Petros, beside the fact that the Reformed and Lutherans have historically always been the closest Protestant cousins, you might take a cue from Machen:

    You see, one of the things that unite me so closely to them is that they are not indifferentists or interdenominationalists, but are profoundly convinced that it is necessary to hold with all our souls to whatever system of doctrine God’s Word teaches.

    I wish indeed that they were adherents of the Reformed Faith, as they no doubt wish that I were a Lutheran. But I stand far closer to them than I should stand if they held the differences between the Reformed and the Lutheran system to be matters of no moment, so that we could proceed at once to form an “organic union” based upon some vague common measure between the two great historic branches of the Protestant Church.

    https://oldlife.org/2014/01/29/lutherans-spook-machen/

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  172. Jeff, well, sorry, glad I gave you a chance to downgrade your “I *would* use the term semi-Pelagian” to a mere “semi-pelagian tendency”. I suppose if you’re a little irritated by my caricature of dust-covered confessions, it may be your semi-pelagian grenade might be a little irritating, too.

    To re-set things, on your sliding scale of 0 (black/synagogue of Satan) to 250 (white/pure), what score would you give to the OPC, PCA, a typical LCMS church, a typical Southern Baptist church, and Joel Osteen? Please add whatever other church, not in that list, you would view to be the most pure. I’m sincerely trying to understand if these debates about church boundaries are about splitting the diff between mythical scores of 175 and 176, or between a 2 and 249. Thanks.

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  173. Jeff, fwiw, the caricature of a “dust-covered confession” emanates from the following anecdotal observations. 1) The confessions were written hundreds of years ago and, while in theory are fallible, have never had a single word modified. 2) 80%+ of confessional congregants have never read them (or maybe once in some far away class somewhere), and 90% could not intelligently articulate the theology in them.

    In what ways would you say that’s an unfair, inaccurate caricature?

    (This inquiry is not about the virtues or values of your confessions. You’re entitled to hold them in the highest regard, and I’m sure, you yourself would be an excellent spokesperson/teacher of them.)

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  174. Jeff,

    I appreciate the slide illustration, but I’m not buying it. A synagogue of Satan isn’t in any way a true church. Your sliding scale gives me churches that are still churches even though the only thing churchly about them is their name. Something tells me that the divines would not have granted the Socinians a place on that sliding scale, but they would have to if you are correct. And that’s not to mention layer groups that arose later such as the LDS, the SDAs, and the JWs.

    If you’re right, it would seem that we’d have to grant the status of visible churches to all of those groups, albeit so faint as to not to be visible to the naked eye. What am I missing?

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  175. Zrim,

    Great quote from Machen, and I agree. But since I’m not talking about an organic denominational union with the Reformed Baptists, I’m not sure how it’s relevant.

    But as for the cousins analogy, things change once you get Reformed Baptists in history. Besides, for all the love you’re showing the Lutherans, I’m not sure it’s reciprocated. Calvinism has been a bad word among all the Lutherans I’ve known, and both Anglicanism and Methodism have more in common ecclesiologically and theologically with Lutheranism than Presbyterianism.

    And another place where Presbys and RBaps agree against the Lutherans-2nd commandment issues.

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  176. The confessions were written hundreds of years ago and, while in theory are fallible, have never had a single word modified.

    Omelette alert. Petros, your ignorance is showing fairly embarrassingly. You should do a little more homework before casting aspersions like you have.

    But, Robert, the way you’ve been talking so far one wonders why you aren’t in fact vying for an organic denominational union with RBs. You make it sound like pretty much everything is aligned except for that one thing about paedobaptism. Re the unrequited love, hopefully Curt is listening. Today’s Calvinists could learn from Lutherans a few things, including how to retain ecclesiology as opposed to being wooed by the revivalists.

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  177. @ Robert: The white on the scale is a true church, and we get less true as we go down. No church hits 255; any church that gets below X (not defined in the confession) is a false church.

    I think what you’re seeing is that everything on the scale is still an object called a “church”; it’s just that not every church is true enough to still be meaningfully true.

    In the same way: everything on the grayscale 0 to 255 is still some shade of gray; but some grays are dark enough to be just plain black.

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  178. Jeff, fwiw, the caricature of a “dust-covered confession” emanates from the following anecdotal observations. 1) The confessions were written hundreds of years ago and, while in theory are fallible, have never had a single word modified.

    This is false. For example, the bit on the magistrate was modified significantly among presbyterians in the US at the time of the Revolutionary War. Note the footnote to Article 36 in the Belgic Confession which was revised in 1958 in the CRC. There is ongoing debate from what I understand in the Reformed Church over the bit about the magistrate now.

    2) 80%+ of confessional congregants have never read them (or maybe once in some far away class somewhere), and 90% could not intelligently articulate the theology in them.

    And 98% of statistics are made up. All members at my PCA church go through a new members class which includes working through the WCF and the WSC. Our children’s/youth program has catechism memorization (along with scripture memorization) at the core of our SS program. This has been the case for every PCA church I’ve attended (south, midwest, southwest). At the CRC church I attended, the sunday evening sermon was built around the Lord’s Days of the Heidelberg catechism. At the PCA church I attend now, we just finished an adult Sunday School class working through Williamson’s book on the WSC. Our pastor’s sermons regularly use confessional language to exegete the scriptures.

    Unfortunately many presbyteries in the PCA are very lattitudinarian on issues relating to worship, the Lord’s day, and governance. This is mostly sloppiness I think, but I do worry about our inability to provide proper oversight of presbyteries. Rather than wink at what the standards say about the Lord’s day, images, or worship, we should openly debate these things and change our confessions if they are in err, submit to them if we cannot convince our peers that they are in err, or move on to other denominations more inline with our convictions. Crossing one’s fingers should not be an option, and there appears to be a lot of that going around. But I could be wrong. I’m just a lowly layman with no real insider knowledge at all.

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  179. To re-set things, on your sliding scale of 0 (black/synagogue of Satan) to 250 (white/pure), what score would you give to the OPC, PCA, a typical LCMS church, a typical Southern Baptist church, and Joel Osteen? Please add whatever other church, not in that list, you would view to be the most pure. I’m sincerely trying to understand if these debates about church boundaries are about splitting the diff between mythical scores of 175 and 176, or between a 2 and 249.

    I’ll take a stab…
    0: Scientology, Unitarians Universalists, Islam (while perhaps a tangential connection to Christianity in someway, not Christian and not claiming to be)
    1-20: Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Science, Moonies, Quakers, Holiness-Oneness – closer tie to Christianity, some respect for scripture, but ultimately not legitimate churches – their baptisms would not be accepted as Christian baptisms.
    20-100: UCC, U. Methodists, Episcopalians, ELCA, mainline baptists, disciples of Christ, RCC, EO, Prosperity gosplers, state churches -> still trinitarian, accepts bible as some sort of authority, reads and sings scripture. Gospel is heavily obscured and people are mostly led astray. Baptisms are valid (though some shennanignas in UCC may bump them down a spot or two).
    100-150: Restorationist sects (Church of Christ, Church of God, Assembly of God, Landmark Baptist, Freewill baptist, COGIC, pentecostal, evangelical friends, evangelical Wesleyans, etc…) various errors such as continuing revelation, dispensationalism, baptismal regeneration, etc… basics of Gospel (Christ died for sinners and his benefit made available through faith) usually comes through though. Good on authority of scripture.
    150-175: Evangelicalism, EPC, CRC, SBC, Evangelical Free, LCMS, ACNA, etc…: High view of scripture, Gospel pretty clear, but wobbly on something important (e.g., women in ministry, denominational oversight, images of God, or efficacy of the means of grace, etc…)
    175-200: ARP, PCA, OPC, NAPARC – Confessions most biblical, and practice oversight, get sacraments right, . Weak on evangelism and tendency toward forming ghettos.
    200-250: 19th century presbyterians, 17-18th century reformed, persecuted church?
    250+: What we get in heaven…

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  180. Jeff,

    So then you would have to take the position that you can’t say that the JWS constitute a false church? Seems like a rather odd position to take.

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  181. SDB,

    I don’t think the sliding scale is all that helpful of an analogy, as it seems to require the embrace of sects that I don’t think the Westminister divines would recognize as meaningfully Christian, let alone a church. If the LDS were around in the seventeenth century, and they came along and said “apply your sliding scale to us,” I don’t think that would make any sense to the divines. They are polytheists, for goodness sakes.

    At minimum, I would think the concept of a sliding scale as “envisioned” in the confession applies only to churches that would affirm or have on the books at least the Apostles Creed. Given the connection with the Reformers, I’m not sure that the divines would have even seen the Anabaptist sects as ever having been a church in even the worst sense.

    With that caveat in mind, some rough numbers:

    0–25 Protestant Mainline

    25–50 Roman Catholicism/Eastern Orthodoxy, Churches of Christ/restoration movements

    51–100 Word of Faith/Prosperity Gospel, many house churches (in the West at least)

    101–125 Pentecostals/Charismatics

    126–50 Many but not all non denoms, generic evangelicals, many Southern Baptists

    151–175 Methodists, Anglicans, many non denoms, generic evangelicals, Southern Baptists

    176–200 Confessional Lutherans

    201–225 Reformed Baptists

    226–254 Confessional Reformed Churches

    255+ The Church Triumphant

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  182. Zrim,

    But, Robert, the way you’ve been talking so far one wonders why you aren’t in fact vying for an organic denominational union with RBs. You make it sound like pretty much everything is aligned except for that one thing about paedobaptism.

    The difference on paedobaptism reveals an inconsistently Reformed ecclesiology and covenant theology, and I do think the sacraments are important enough that there can be no union without agreement on them.

    But it is ridiculous to me that some of you seem to think that Confessional Presbyterians and Confessional Lutherans are closer to each other than Confessional Presbys and Confessional Reformed Baptists, especially when the London Baptist confession is almost identical to the WCF.

    Re the unrequited love, hopefully Curt is listening. Today’s Calvinists could learn from Lutherans a few things, including how to retain ecclesiology as opposed to being wooed by the revivalists.

    Perhaps so. My point was don’t be so quick to think that the Lutherans are better/closer to us/more Prrotestant than the Reformed Baptists when the confessional Lutherans don’t return the favor. And they don’t.

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  183. “But it is ridiculous to me that some of you seem to think that Confessional Presbyterians and Confessional Lutherans are closer to each other than Confessional Presbys and Confessional Reformed Baptists, especially when the London Baptist confession is almost identical to the WCF.”

    I think the more parallel comparison might be Continental reformed to Lutheranism versus Presbyterians to reformed Baptists. The Union churches in 19th century explicitly merged the TFU and Lutheran standards. The differences were deemed non-essential. That didn’t work out so well. The controversy then was not unlike the Union controversy here.

    It is one thing to decide that doctrine X is ambiguous therefore non-essential as you put it, and conclude from that it shouldn’t be a barrier to fellowship/ecclesiastical partnership. It is something else to decide that we really like group X, therefore our differences must be non-essentials. This is the status I think we find with the gospel coalition (so-and-so is great on inerrancy and jbfa therefore those other differences must not matter).

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  184. Regarding sliding scale… fair enough. I took 0-20 to basically be non-christain even if they had some linkage (looks black). 255 would be church triumphant, but 250’s look good to us. the

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  185. @sdb, thx. My bad for overstating that no single word was modified. I’m happy to stand corrected about the mod to the one 60-yr old footnote and whatever the 1776 mod might have been. Having noted that, they still appear to be quite dusty….

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  186. Robert says There should be “pressure” in a good sense to trust in Christ and to confess faith with one’s mouth.
    Robert says we should be exhorting our children to trust Christ and profess faith.

    -confessing Him as LORD and SAVIOR
    Romans 10:8 9a that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord

    -’pressuring’ them too, to grow in respect to salvation
    1 Peter 2:2 like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation,
    2 Peter 3:18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

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  187. SDB,

    It is one thing to decide that doctrine X is ambiguous therefore non-essential as you put it, and conclude from that it shouldn’t be a barrier to fellowship/ecclesiastical partnership. It is something else to decide that we really like group X, therefore our differences must be non-essentials. This is the status I think we find with the gospel coalition (so-and-so is great on inerrancy and jbfa therefore those other differences must not matter).

    Agreed. I want to strongly insist that the differences do matter, perhaps not enough to prevent cooperation on some things but enough for real fences to exist that cannot be torn down unless one or both change their position. With TGC, you have the additional problem that they sometimes come across as thinking that they are the theological gatekeepers of the Reformedish evangelical world.

    And if you are an ordained person, the fences are important enough that you should not be forming parachurch organizations to establish churches that are not a part of your denomination. If you want to support privately a local church planter from another denomination, I don’t have that much a problem with it, but to be ordained in the PCA and to plant Baptist, charismatic, Lutheran, etc. churches is at the very least unseemly.

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  188. But it is ridiculous to me that some of you seem to think that Confessional Presbyterians and Confessional Lutherans are closer to each other than Confessional Presbys and Confessional Reformed Baptists, especially when the London Baptist confession is almost identical to the WCF.

    Robert, the point isn’t that any are close on every single point of doctrine. The point has to do with ecclesiology and it being robust. Baptists of whatever stripe don’t seem to have the sort of robust ecclesiology that the CLs and even Anglicans do.

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  189. Zrim,

    Baptists of whatever stripe don’t seem to have the sort of robust ecclesiology that the CLs and even Anglicans do.

    If you mean by “robust ecclesiology” connectionalism, then sure. But at the risk of sounding repetitive, why is a robust ecclesiology to be preferred to greater theological conformity on almost all other matters? Because that seems to be what is being argued.

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  190. Robert, I don’t it’s being characterized quite in that way (“a robust ecclesiology to be preferred to greater theological conformity on almost all other matters”). It’s more like a robust ecclesiology is to be preferred over an effete ecclesiology. Our age is arguably characterized by an individualistic, atomized, and anti-institutional spirit. That sort of spirit is toxic to the Christian faith and undermines the one institution God has ordained to be salt and light. Little wonder that those churches which nurture that spirit are the numerically outsized ones and the smaller ones seek to foster a more covenantal, institutional, and communal faith. Theological conformity is great, but there’s also something to be said for an abiding sense of church even where there may not be an exacting theological conformity.

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  191. Yesterday on my way to the library to get some resources on the second industrial revolution, class struggles, Communism… for my youngest, whom I homeschool, I passed an old building in a historic neighborhood (1887?)that was being repurposed as a church, for the sign out front read, “True Jesus Church.” I noticed that they did leave off using the definite article, but apparently, they see themselves as getting right what no one prior to them could. (Made me think of that scene in Elf where Buddy runs into the café that advertises that it has “World’s Best Cup of Coffee?” “Congratulations! You did it! Great Job Everybody! Glad to be here!”)

    Thinking about what I was going to the library for and thinking about the “church” that set up shop in the last few months, led me to ponder on the nature of authority and how a man has to secure it and the various systems that distribute it once it’s secured. And that led to thinking about how a system built without Christian principles can’t possibly be good for the whole body of people, and why it’s okay for us to go against authorities that are tyrannous (when they truly are) because then we are acknowledging authority in the abstract. In other words, we submit ourselves to the truth that God has made authority to keep anarchy at bay (God of order not chaos).

    “The one point fixed by nature, and by God, is that there must be authority everywhere, and that the authority existent for the time being, under such and such a form, be under that form obeyed; for since there is no actual authority in the country except under that form, to refuse to obey that is to refuse authority simply, and to revert to anarchy, which is against nature: just as a man having nothing but bread and cheese to eat, and refusing to eat his bread and cheese, under pretence that he much prefers mutton, condemns himself to starvation, which again is unnatural. But we must beware of saying of any particular form of authority, monarchy for example, or democracy either, what is true only of authority in the abstract, namely, that all nations are bound to live under it, and that never under any pretence can it be subverted. A country, once monarchical, is not eternally bound to monarchy; and circumstances are conceivable under which a republic might pass into monarchy, as Rome did under Augustus, much to its advantage. Authority rules by Divine right under whatsoever form it is established. No one form of government is more sacred and inviolate than another. Change of persons holding office is usually provided in the constitution, sometimes by rotation, sometimes by vote of the legislative assembly. No monarchical constitution provides for the change of the person of the monarch otherwise than by death or resignation. Change of the form of government can be effected constitutionally, but, as history shows, as often as not, it is brought about unconstitutionally. When the change is complete, the new government rules by right of accomplished fact. There must be an authority in the country, and theirs is the only authority available”(New Advent).
    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02137c.htm

    And I was also thinking about how kingdoms, devised by men, must come and go because even if they begin on a firm foundation (or mostly stable) inevitably they are beaten from without or corrupted within. Anyway…
    Now, after all of that background of my thoughts, I have a question. And, I realize I will probably get a few different answers here, but where does that ” True Jesus Church” get lumped? Do you confessional Protestants consider those people orthodox Christians (supposing they met JBFA doctrine somewhere along the way) in a heterodox church? If they have heterodox beliefs and are in a less pure church are they part of the invisible church? I used to think the OPC had the “world’s best cup of coffee” being singular from all those other less than orthodox communities and couldn’t figure out why we all didn’t join them.

    I’m sure the people at “True Jesus Church” would appeal to the Bible as their authority like everyone else except the EO and the RC, so would it be in keeping with doctrine of scripture alone that they should they rather be placing themselves under some group who preceded them just because they happened to articulate a confession earlier in the timeline based on their interpretation. In other words, people can devise a pretty good system, but that doesn’t make one an authority/ church.

    This is not meant to be argumentative. I was honestly contemplating the nature and legitimacies of authorities that rise up and what the legitimate responses are of a people when those systems which begin on bad principles get worse, or are good to start with, but become corrupt at some juncture.

    When it comes to human governments it seems like God wants us to use our reason to devise the kind that is most in accord with truth, justice, freedom (constrained by the moral law). Is it right to think of the church in the same way? I mean regarding revolutions and overthrows, is it right to start afresh?

    I read a response by a Catholic historian who, when asked if he’d consider being protestant in light of the scandals in the church quipped, “ I would never follow a Catholic priest.”

    There’s a lot here to unpack and I’m sorry for how scrambled it all is, but basically, this is my question:
    “Do you consider the nature of the church as an authority to be reformed, or as something best to depart from when things get morally bad, or when some wrong doctrine quickly gets spread throughout much of the structure (minds and hearts of the people)?”

    Feel free to respond to anything else that I mentioned if you’d like.

    Thanks for your thoughts!😊

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  192. Petros,
    Can’t give a numerical rating, but I can say that he has written and said somethings that are worth paying attention to and other things which are not. I tend to share his material with some unbelievers

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  193. Robert So then you would have to take the position that you can’t say that the JWS constitute a false church? Seems like a rather odd position to take.

    Sorry, I’m not following? If a church is sufficiently degenerated, it is no true church at all. If a man has lost enough hair, he’s bald.

    Somehow you’ve got it so that if he has even one hair, he’s not bald.

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  194. @Petros

    “My bad for overstating that no single word was modified. I’m happy to stand corrected about the mod to the one 60-yr old footnote and whatever the 1776 mod might have been. Having noted that, they still appear to be quite dusty….”

    What does that even mean? First you accuse us of appealing the confessions instead of bible. Now they are dusty (unused?). I’ve pointed out how they have been used in the churches I’ve been part of. The idea that a large share of regularly attending church members have no idea what is in them is nonsense. What’s the point you are trying to make here?

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  195. @ Petros:

    The bible is perspicuous, right? So it stands to reason that confessional revisions ought to be rare.

    Besides: If infrequency of revision makes for dust-collection, where does that leave Scripture?

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  196. @Susan

    Now, after all of that background of my thoughts, I have a question. And, I realize I will probably get a few different answers here, but where does that ” True Jesus Church” get lumped? Do you confessional Protestants consider those people orthodox Christians (supposing they met JBFA doctrine somewhere along the way) in a heterodox church? If they have heterodox beliefs and are in a less pure church are they part of the invisible church? I used to think the OPC had the “world’s best cup of coffee” being singular from all those other less than orthodox communities and couldn’t figure out why we all didn’t join them.

    No idea what “True Jesus Church” is all about. If I had to guess, they are some sort of pentecostal outfit, likely reject sola scriptura and take some kind of continuing revelation (like the burning in the bosom of a lot of holiness traditions). Such groups are a real mixed bag (from oneness pentecostals that deny the trinity to assembly of God whose christology, etc… is basically orthodox). It isn’t up to us to judge who is and who isn’t *really* a believer. We could look a the church and see how “pure” it is. But whatever the status of their organization, all those within that organization who have been “chose[n] us in him before the creation of the world” are part of the church.

    I’m sure the people at “True Jesus Church” would appeal to the Bible as their authority like everyone else except the EO and the RC,

    The Wesleyan and Anglican traditions do not hold to Sola Scriptura. The holiness movements that derive from the wesleyan tradition generally do not. Many believe that receive ongoing revelation from the Holy Spirit. Sola Scriptura is not the majority view among protestants.

    so would it be in keeping with doctrine of scripture alone that they should they rather be placing themselves under some group who preceded them just because they happened to articulate a confession earlier in the timeline based on their interpretation. In other words, people can devise a pretty good system, but that doesn’t make one an authority/ church.

    Nope.

    There’s a lot here to unpack and I’m sorry for how scrambled it all is, but basically, this is my question:
    “Do you consider the nature of the church as an authority to be reformed, or as something best to depart from when things get morally bad, or when some wrong doctrine quickly gets spread throughout much of the structure (minds and hearts of the people)?”

    The church is fundamentally those who have been “called out” – from Adam to Zaccheus as it were. In that since the church does not “authority”. God is the only authority, but he has delegated that authority to broken vessels. Prior to the Christ, there were legitimate authorities who the people were called to submit to. However, these authorities had very clearly erred, did not agree on the scope of the canon, and had broken into factions. Indeed, they couldn’t even agree on where to worship. Yet the samaritan woman who was worshiping in the wrong place was part of the true church even though she was not part of the visible church. So was the gentile centurion.

    There have been authorities appointed in the NT church, but the church which rests upon the foundation of the prophets and apostles (and whose chief cornerstone is Christ). Their authority is derivative, and they can err. But God’s word cannot err. We may misidentify it, misunderstand it, or misapply it, but the Word of God is infallible because God cannot err. All people err – even when they are church authorities who are teaching. When one cannot correct the authorities, it is best for all concerned to break off and start over. If you were wrong to do so, God will sort it out. What I can say, is that there is no good reason to believe that a group of men who cannot speak out against a wayward brother who is raping children are somehow incapable of teaching error when they speak with one voice. If you can’t believe that the Holy Spirit cannot preserve his inscripturated word and guide his church, it is not at all clear to me how adding a middle man makes things any more plausible.

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  197. sdb, his point is to perpetuate a tired stereotype and beat his chest about how spiritual he and his ilk are. We’re the older white males to his SJW activist, the Democrat to his Robert Jeffress.

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  198. Heh.. made me think of EzraKlein’s comment about the constitution,

    “…the Constitution is not a clear document. Written 100 years ago, when America had thirteen states and very different problems, it rarely speaks directly to the questions we ask it.”

    Never letting knowledge get in the way of a good zinger I suppose.

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  199. Zrim,

    Robert, I don’t it’s being characterized quite in that way (“a robust ecclesiology to be preferred to greater theological conformity on almost all other matters”). It’s more like a robust ecclesiology is to be preferred over an effete ecclesiology. Our age is arguably characterized by an individualistic, atomized, and anti-institutional spirit. That sort of spirit is toxic to the Christian faith and undermines the one institution God has ordained to be salt and light. Little wonder that those churches which nurture that spirit are the numerically outsized ones and the smaller ones seek to foster a more covenantal, institutional, and communal faith. Theological conformity is great, but there’s also something to be said for an abiding sense of church even where there may not be an exacting theological conformity.

    Agreed.

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  200. Jeff,

    Sorry, I’m not following? If a church is sufficiently degenerated, it is no true church at all. If a man has lost enough hair, he’s bald.

    Somehow you’ve got it so that if he has even one hair, he’s not bald.

    Because you said that the WCF does not specify when a church has crossed the line into being no church at all. Which may be formally true, but if you can call something “no true church at all,” you’ve gone into a binary, which is what you are denying exists according to the WCF.

    One is either bald or not bald. We might be able to debate over how much hair one must have to be “not bald,” but the fact is there is a binary that exists.

    I’m responding more specifically to this earlier comment:

    If the Confession used a binary category, then a church with *any* amount of error would be “no Church of Christ.” Instead, it uses a sliding scale such that churches are more or less pure, and some (few) live down on the end of “synagogue of Satan”

    If it lives in the end of a synagogue of Satan, it is no true church at all, and we are back to a binary. At some point on that scale, you have a false church.

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  201. Susan,

    When it comes to human governments it seems like God wants us to use our reason to devise the kind that is most in accord with truth, justice, freedom (constrained by the moral law). Is it right to think of the church in the same way? I mean regarding revolutions and overthrows, is it right to start afresh?

    I think you have a fundamental misunderstanding here that there is a starting “afresh” in various flavors of Protestantisms. The truth is, there is no true starting afresh. That certainly wasn’t true of the Magisterial Reformation, and even when you have people finding a Bible and “starting” a church, they aren’t really starting “the” church afresh. At the very least, some church is responsible for giving them that translation of the Bible.

    “The” church never starts afresh. It actually began back in Eden. You commit what we would see as a fundamental RC error, and that is to equate “the church” with one particular visible bureaucracy.

    There’s a lot here to unpack and I’m sorry for how scrambled it all is, but basically, this is my question:
    “Do you consider the nature of the church as an authority to be reformed,

    The church has derivative authority to pronounce only what God has pronounced and because it is governed by sinners will stand in need of reform somewhere from now until glory.

    or as something best to depart from when things get morally bad, or when some wrong doctrine quickly gets spread throughout much of the structure (minds and hearts of the people)?”

    When a particular church gets bad enough, it is no longer a church. Jesus said that he can remove lampstands from particular iterations of the church. See the book of Revelation. When a church proves itself to be irreformable according to the Word of God, it is no longer a church.

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  202. @sdb, my anecdotal experience with both Lutherans and Presbys is much diff than what you described, so it’s great if in your circles the confessions are well understood and frequently used by your church. Having said that, I’d make a point similar to the one that Robert’s been making, which is that the existence of a (dusty) Lutheran confession that advocates paedo baptism seems to gain Lutherans an outsized favorable rating around here. Since many of us in the eeee-world view most Lutherans as only a half-click removed from Catholicism, the presby affinity with Lutherans versus evangelicals is interesting.

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  203. @Jeff, yes, the Bible is perspicuous (which to my mind diminishes the need for voluminous confessions). I wouldn’t expect God-breathed Scripture to be revised. I would expect man-written fallible confessions to be revised more than the fractional % than they have been. They seem to have a similar role in presby experience as the oral law does in Judaism. Jews wouldn’t say that their oral law is Scripture, per se, but that it’s virtually on a par with it. Even using the moniker “the divines” to describe the reformers seems to ascribe a loftier role than I would expect.

    Just curious, are you an advocate for Christians not being NFL players, and for the church-at-large not watching the NFL and otherwise refraining from “worldly recreations”? If so, what ‘discipline’ would you suggest for people who disagree, or if not, what edits would you propose to the WCF? Or, is the section on the Sabbath okay to be a matter of indifference, in which case, why not remove it?

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  204. I hope you fail at turning the OPC into the Wisconsin Lutheran Synod. That is obviously your goal. You don’t want to recognize anyone in your fellowship unless they subscribe to the WCF–the way you see it.

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  205. Dan,

    I hope you fail at turning the OPC into the Wisconsin Lutheran Synod.

    I’m pretty sure that’s not Darryl’s goal. However, the WELS is a good example of what happens when ecclesiology overrides everything almost everything else in a theological system.

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  206. Robert: Because you said that the WCF does not specify when a church has crossed the line into being no church at all. Which may be formally true, but if you can call something “no true church at all,” you’ve gone into a binary, which is what you are denying exists according to the WCF.

    One is either bald or not bald. We might be able to debate over how much hair one must have to be “not bald,” but the fact is there is a binary that exists.

    Check out the “Continuum Fallacy.”

    The fallacious step is here: “if you can call something ‘no true church at all’, you’ve gone into a binary.”

    That doesn’t follow.

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  207. Petros: I would expect man-written fallible confessions to be revised more than the fractional % than they have been.

    Why?

    Petros: They seem to have a similar role in presby experience as the oral law does in Judaism.

    “Seem” based on what evidence?

    Petros: Just curious, are you an advocate for Christians not being NFL players, and for the church-at-large not watching the NFL and otherwise refraining from “worldly recreations”? If so, what ‘discipline’ would you suggest for people who disagree, or if not, what edits would you propose to the WCF? Or, is the section on the Sabbath okay to be a matter of indifference, in which case, why not remove it?

    What does the Scripture say?

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  208. Jeff,

    Check out the “Continuum Fallacy.”

    The fallacious step is here: “if you can call something ‘no true church at all’, you’ve gone into a binary.”

    That doesn’t follow.

    Well, you got me, I think. 🙂

    I guess my reply is that I’m not so sure that seeing the WCF as speaking only of a continuum is what the divines intended. It would seem that at most they are referring to only churches within the historic stream of the church. Seems to me that they would have in mind a collection of entities that either have enough to be constituted as a church at the present or at one point in their history did. In that respect, you’d look for the marks of the church and its historical relationship to other orthodox bodies. Does a church have—or did it ever have—at least one of the three marks of the church and does it have a historical relationship to the continuing church throughout history.

    So, you can speak of a continuum if you are evaluating Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, magisterial Protestant bodies, Baptists, Unitarians, and so on.

    I’m not so sure you can apply this evaluation to a group such as the LDS, which sprang up not connected to a previous denomination, and never had the gospel or the sacraments.

    But at this point, I’m a little confused, because you objected to my distinction between a false church and a true church as being adequate and then said the WCF distinction between more and less visible was better. I think what you are saying is that those two different distinctions are not finally opposed. Am I right?

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  209. Jeff, I think it is axiomatic that a fallible document would be subject to revision more than an infallible one. I’m not sure what proof/evidence I can provide you for ‘why’. But I’m guessing you are making a point and will be explaining yourself further, unless your point is that the WCF is such a virtually perfect re-telling of the Bible that it needs virtually no revision. If that’s the case, okay.

    My evidence is, admittedly, anecdotal. When asking an ortho Jew ‘why’ they do or don’t do something, I’ll get a 95% response rate of “that’s what our oral tradition tells us” rather than getting a Scriptural chapter/verse explanation. So, too, is my experience with confessional people. That is, the rationale for why or why not a certain practice is done (or not) is also usually met with reference to church tradition or confession, more than to Scripture. If my experience is not really normative, that’s wonderful.

    If you’re asking me about the NFL and strict Sabbath observance, my take is that it’s Biblically adiaphoron and up to the individual’s conscience (Rom 14:6). However, as you know, the WCF is not so, shall we say, as ‘latitudinarian’ as Paul was. And, I’d suspect, the # of professed WCF adherents who regularly violate that clause are in the vast majority. (But no, I have no official survey results to validate that assertion.)

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  210. Curt, did you see what Peter wrote?

    And so the dust-covered confession and the mindless sacrament is preferred to whether or not the Bible is taught or if pew-sitters have a personal faith in Christ (and not, ‘yeah, I was born and baptized a Lutheran, so I guess that makes me a Christian, right?’).

    That’s mean, elitist, and divisive.

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  211. Right. We still have room to speak of false churches down at the far end, and the cutoff point may be murky. The key is what we say about the rest. Let’s say the cutoff is 20. Then a church at 21 is not *poof* a true church, so much as it is a barely visible church.

    The question of LDS is interesting. It may be that organizations with no connection to the historic faith are automatically at 0.

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  212. Petros,

    I just wanted to comment on a couple of things you’ve said to some other people. I hope you don’t mind. 🙂

    My anecdotal experience with both Lutherans and Presbys is much diff than what you described, so it’s great if in your circles the confessions are well understood and frequently used by your church.

    To add to your anecdotal experience, my experiences as both a Lutheran (growing up) and a Presbyterian (now) largely agree with yours. No one ever talked about the Book of Concord in my Lutheran church of yore, though we did recite the Nicene and Apostles’ Creed. Knowledge of the WCF among the local Presbyterian laypeople I know (PCA) is by and large very poor. There are many reasons for that. One is that a lot of local Presbys here in Florida are coming from a Baptist or non-denominational background and simply have never heard of the confession. Another is that a lot of the local Presby churches have more of a generic evangelical flavor, so even if the elders know the confession, they aren’t necessarily taking a lot of time to teach through it. My suspicion is that while the PCA is a confessional denomination, across the board laypeople are largely ignorant of the confession. Most churches in the PCA are less Reformed in practice and more Baptistic-evangelical-non denominational in their worship, or at least they are trending that way. Part of that is because the PCA wants to be in the mainstream of American evangelicalism and wants to be an evangelical mainline church that is conservative in theology but in practice very open to all kinds of tastes. Right or wrong, the OPC and other Reformed bodies don’t really want that.

    Having said that, I’d make a point similar to the one that Robert’s been making, which is that the existence of a (dusty) Lutheran confession that advocates paedo baptism seems to gain Lutherans an outsized favorable rating around here. Since many of us in the eeee-world view most Lutherans as only a half-click removed from Catholicism, the presby affinity with Lutherans versus evangelicals is interesting.

    They like that the confessional Lutherans are very committed to their ecclesiology. There is something to be said for that, but many confessional Lutheran groups seems to be so insulated because of their ecclesiology that they have a real hard time seeing anyone outside of their denomination as being truly Christian. The affinity for the Lutherans around here is also odd to me because it does not go both ways. Of the confessional bodies, the Missouri Synod Lutherans are perhaps the most open to others, but none of us could take the Supper at their churches even if we had a credible profession of faith except in extraordinary circumstances. On the other hand, I can’t think of any Baptist or evangelical church that would both fence the table properly and keep me from the Lord’s Supper.

    A lot of the affinity these guys feel I think stems from their embrace of 2 kingdoms theology, especially with respect to politics. A lot of Baptists and generic evangelicals are “God and country” types in ways that Lutherans are not. IOW, Lutherans aren’t politically “icky” in the way that some Baptists are.

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  213. Peter, “I’m sincerely trying to understand if these debates about church boundaries are about splitting the diff between mythical scores of 175 and 176, or between a 2 and 249. Thanks.”

    Would it make a difference since you are okay with wheat and tares in the ministry?

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  214. Darryl,

    Robert, one reason is that Lutherans haven’t been afflicted as much as Baptists with earnestness and holy rolling.

    Well, the earnestness and holy rolling can get on my nerves as well, but some people could probably use a little more of the earnestness, at least.

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  215. b, sd, thanks for trying to answer Susan.

    I wish Susan would explain what Rome’s view of Protestantism is since no one seems to think Protestantism is an alternative to a church run down by corruption and scandal. It’s as if there is not salvation outside the Roman Catholic Church.

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  216. Petros,

    I would expect man-written fallible confessions to be revised more than the fractional % than they have been.

    I’d have to echo Jeff’s question here as to why. When people get stuff right, why revise it? That assumes that the WCF has largely gotten things right, of course. But to be a Presbyterian at least, requires one to believe that the WCF has largely or mostly gotten things right.

    Incidentally, I think one of the evidences that the WCF has mostly gotten things right is that the Reformed Baptists essentially adopted it as their own confession, with some significant changes. At least to me, that indicates that the points of agreement are far more certain to be correct readings of Scripture than where disagreement exists.

    They seem to have a similar role in presby experience as the oral law does in Judaism. Jews wouldn’t say that their oral law is Scripture, per se, but that it’s virtually on a par with it.

    This is probably true for many Presbys, but its certainly not true for all. In the PCA at least, having a higher view of the confessions would probably be a good thing. One significant difference between high confessionalists and orthodox Jews would be that many orthodox Jews believe the oral law as actually given to Moses on Sinai. No one would say that about the confessions, though I do think that for some people the idea that the confession might need revision in places would be very hard, almost impossible to swallow.

    Even using the moniker “the divines” to describe the reformers seems to ascribe a loftier role than I would expect.

    Darryl might know more of the history of this term, but to my understanding “divine” was just a synonym for “theologian” or “churchman.” IOW, the intent was not to give them a loftier role, but our use of the word “divine” today might give that impression. But we can’t read our use of the word back into theirs.

    And, I’d suspect, the # of professed WCF adherents who regularly violate that clause are in the vast majority.

    Certainly. And it is the most common exception that people take to the WCF for ordination, at least in the PCA. That also shows that in the PCA at least, the confessions don’t function as an oral law for the majority because you can take an exception to the WCF teaching on the Sabbath and still be ordained as an elder.

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  217. I’m much more of a pessimist than sdb. On a 0 to 255 scale, I wouldn’t give out higher than 150 to anyone.

    What about those Lutherans? Well, which Lutherans — let’s say LCMS. Tough to say. I made a chart and decided it would be too controversial to share. 😛

    In the end, confessional Lutherans scored slightly higher to me than Ref Baptists, but a lot of factors cancelled out. Yay for Lutheran pickiness on sola gratia, boo to closed communion and consubstantiation. Yay for Reformed Baptist emphasis on Scripture, boo to exalting teachers (ditto in the PCA and LCMS).

    That said, I’ve spent more time in Reformed Baptist / Bible churches, and they honestly feel more comfortable to me. I would probably choke on worship practices at an LCMS church.

    The real rule is that there is enough variance in any denomination that the label is only a rough guide.

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  218. DGH, “Would it make a difference since you are okay with wheat and tares in the ministry?” Since a ‘tare’ around here seems to include TKNY and Nick Foles, I’m 100% okay with those kind of tares, and see no need to endorse creating 1 Cor 11:19 divisions with them.

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  219. Robert, I understand and agree with your takes here. Other than a few things that are a little quirky (eg, Sabbath observance), the confessions are brilliant expressions of doctrinal thought. But, just as with the term “divines”, I think there was a historical/cultural context that precipitated the need for the confessions a few hundred years ago in ways that do not exist today, and so I would downgrade them from their lofty perch to being valuable and insightful commentary, and just wouldn’t use them as fencing material. But, I understand that the fencing thing is part/parcel of confessionalist adherence.

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  220. Hi sdb,

    You knIf you can’t believe that the Holy Spirit cannot preserve his inscripturated word and guide his church, it is not at all clear to me how adding a middle man makes things any more plausibleow that I believe that the inscripturization is not the sole rule of faith. I believe the ecclesiology of Catholicism because I believe that scripture told us to put ourselves in the church. I believe that it was meant to be heirarchal for the purpose of our having a reference for such thing as a highest office. I believe in an office, I don’t trust that the office holder will always have moral excellence.
    That’s why I brought up my questions about the nature of authority. I too believe it’s derivative, but I do not believe that scripture gives people without any tangible connection to the highest office the right to authority. Which would mean that no one other than priests and deacons who are under a bishop, who is under the office of Peter, chief of the apostles has authority. In other words, I cannot go to a community Church or even a presbytery assembly in my neighborhood and say I see that God has asked me to submit to you because you watch over my soul, because I don’t believe that God has called them by nature or reguires them to give an account in eternity. I believe that the arbitrary authority in the world for the sake of order was created so that we’d have some kind of structure. Whether it is a monarchy, a presidency, the party, some kind of leadership structure has to exist. In ancient Israel it was the twelve tribes ( which correspond to the 12 disciples and the reason Judas’s seat had to be filled after Judas betrayed Jesus.
    Creation is heirarchal and that’s just how it is. Even the Angels are higher than man.

    I do believe that when Jesus gave Peter the keys he was making him viceregent and instituting that office. It’s kind of astonishing that scripture can be interpreted the way I am describing and that such a heirarchal structure exists. Do you believe that scripture support what Protestants believe and that through time men without any authority, any right to call themselves the church Jesus founded, used those scriptural supports to create a chair, a bishopric…?

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  221. So sorry for the mess:/
    I’m writing from my phone and it jumbled everything together.

    I’m going to repost, so ignore what I wrote above.
    This is in response to SDB’s saying that I don’t trust scripture.

    You know that I believe that the inscripturization of God’s words is not the sole rule of faith.
    I believe the ecclesiology of Catholicism because I believe that scripture told us to put ourselves in the church. And I believe that the church was meant to be heirarchal for the purpose of our having a reference for such thing as a highest office. How else would it work otherwise?
    I believe in an office, however, I don’t trust that the office holder or any office holder will always have moral excellence.(History bears this out way before the sexual revolution)

    That’s why I brought up my questions about the nature of authority earlier. I too believe it’s derivative, but I do not believe that scripture gives people , who are without any tangible connection to the highest office, the right to the same authority. This means that no one other than priests and deacons who are under a bishop who is under the office of Peter, chief of the apostles, has authority. In other words, I cannot go to a community Church or even a presbytery assembly in my neighborhood and say:
    “Hello, I see from scripture that I am to place myself under a shepherd. Are you a shepherd of God’s church?”
    They respond, ” I feel called by God to preach his word and care for souls in this church, so if you’d like me to be your authority, I will take that upon myself and teach according to my interpretation of scripture, however, don’t put me on a pedestal. Haha!”
    Me, ” When did your church start?”
    Him” Well, first we gathered in the living room of the Smiths when I was a boy and then when my dad semi-retired, I took over”
    Me, ” So your church started in the early 1980’s Did you go to seminary?”
    Him “Yes, the same one my father went to. But to your question, no our church can properly have started with Martin Luther”
    Me ” What kind and which one?
    Him “Oh it’s completely orthodox, trust me. We tend to the Arminian side of the argument ”
    Me ” Haha. For now, I believe in freewill too, but that’s not the bulk of my concerns. There are many kinds of schools teaching theology. How do I know yours teaches the same doctrine as the earliest schools? How do I know your church teaches orthodox doctrines? You see, I have to put myself under an authority that has completely correct teachings about God, man and how we are saved. I’m scared because it’s confusing and there are a lot of counterfeits out there?”
    Him ” Well we have these writings that go back to the Reformation, so from the horse’s mouth so to speak. After that, divines, men( in wigs)really good with ancient languages and understanding typology, and salvation history etc. condensed what the Bible teaches so that we could have a ready reference on the Bible,which by the way, is really perspicuous, and so that we’d have a way to quickly impart the truths summarized. Plus it helps us weed out those who differ theologically from us. In other words it guards us from the counterfeits”
    Me- ” So your right and everyone else is wrong?”
    Him -“I wouldn’t say that. The theologians of the past can err. No person is able to teach infallibly”
    Me ” This isn’t easy. So when you teach you don’t guarantee that what you just said is the truth?
    Him- ” Listen, don’t trust a middle man. We can err.”
    Me- ” So your confessions could be wrong, but you teach them and hold others to believe what they say? What if you’ve passed on error for five centuries?”
    Him- ” Compare them with scripture to see for yourself. If something is not right, it can be changed. It’s not scripture.”
    Me- ” But isn’t it written from the viewpoint that the Catholic Church erred? Wouldn’t all the theology, or at least much of it, formulate doctrines purposely steering clear of doctrines taught prior to the Reformation? So how do you know that their theology wasn’t devised in error or with an agenda? I know that to do theology well, you have to have more than scripture. How do I know that the school you are from has the right to ordain? Anybody can set up an assembly and a school and create curriculum that’s geared to the ordination exam. Just because you pass the test doesn’t mean you pass the test. Know what I mean?”

    Sorry that was for fun. It’s seriously the thoughts that go through my head when I see churches on every corner.

    Anyway to get back to what I was saying.

    I do believe that the nature of authority is arbitray until taken up or given by someone already in authority so that we’d have some kind of structure. Whether it is a monarchy, a presidency, the party, some kind of leadership structure has to exist. In ancient Israel it was the twelve tribes ( which correspond to the 12 disciples and the reason Judas’s seat had to be filled after Judas betrayed Jesus.
    Creation is heirarchal and that’s just how it is. Even the Angels are higher than man.

    I do believe that when Jesus gave Peter the keys he was making him viceregent and instituting that office.
    In fact, it’s astonishing that scripture can be interpreted the way I am describing and such a heirarchal structure exists.
    Do you believe that scripture supports what Protestants believe about the church being bulit on Peter’s faith only, and that through time men without any authority, any right to call themselves the church Jesus founded, used those scriptural supports to create a chair, a bishopric…?

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  222. Susan,

    There’s lots of assumptions in this statement:

    Do you believe that scripture supports what Protestants believe about the church being bulit on Peter’s faith only, and that through time men without any authority, any right to call themselves the church Jesus founded, used those scriptural supports to create a chair, a bishopric…?

    What gives anyone the right to call themselves the church Jesus founded?

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  223. “Jeff, I think it is axiomatic that a fallible document would be subject to revision more than an infallible one.”
    How many times has your Baptist Church revised which books belong in the Bible. The scope of the canon is after all a fallible, man-made tradition.

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  224. Robert,

    “What gives anyone the right to call themselves the church Jesus founded?”

    On one hand, it doesn’t seem like Luther believed that the universal church had unity through the visible church and it’s heirarchy. God was the glory of his people Israel and was supposed to be in an even more excellent way in the new covenant Church ( Feingold lecture).

    But on the other hand Luther was supposed to have wanted to reform the church but was excommunicated because he taught something novel and challenged the papacy. Why was it ever worth reforming if you can revolt and take your Bible and go elsewhere?
    Sigh.

    It looks to me based on scripture and a visible entity with a line of Pope’s is a good reason to believe that the church was God’s idea.

    Okay, not getting anywhere again.

    Wish you well!

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  225. “This is in response to SDB’s saying that I don’t trust scripture.”
    I don’t think I wrote that.

    “You know that I believe that the inscripturization of God’s words is not the sole rule of faith.”
    Understood. You are mistaken.

    “I believe the ecclesiology of Catholicism because I believe that scripture told us to put ourselves in the church.”
    Paul tells us that believers were chosen before the foundation of the world. Those that were “called out” are the church. We don’t put ourselves in the church – we are part of the church by virtue of having been called out. This has been true for all of humanity for all time.

    “And I believe that the church was meant to be heirarchal for the purpose of our having a reference for such thing as a highest office. How else would it work otherwise?”
    I’m not following you here. The church has to be hierarchal for the purpose of having a reference for such a thing as a highest office? That isn’t one of the the metaphors used in the NT. But whatever the case, I don’t think we disagree on the fact that God has ordained a hierarchy to provide earthly rule of the church on earth. What we don’t agree on is that there is one worldwide hierarchy, that the hierarchy is infallible, or that God’s people should not stand in judgement of the hierarchy. Probably this has to do with the fact that I don’t draw as sharp a line between the New and Old testament church. The fallible authorities of the OT church are evidence that infallibility is not a necessary condition for authority. The various sects of Judaism in the first century and Christ’s reference to the inscripturated word as the final authority on matters is evidence that recognition by a human authority is not necessary for the text to operate authoritatively (unlike other texts, this text is a alive).

    “I believe in an office, however, I don’t trust that the office holder or any office holder will always have moral excellence.(History bears this out way before the sexual revolution)”
    RIght. The current scandal among the pope, cardinal, and bishops is that the scandals have been common knowledge for some time, yet not a single bishop pulled a Paul and called out the raping cardinal. Not one. I have absolutely no reason to believe that this group of men who could not call out a rapist in their midst has any special charisma regardless of who laid hands on whom, what rite they went through, or what “sacrifice” they made. As God underscores for us over and over and over – obedience is better than sacrifice. Unlike Sodom – there is not one single Bishop with the courage to call out one of his own. My point in bringing this up is that it is a major hit to one of the MOCs. You might believe that even though they are all utter moral failures acting collectively, they are nonetheless guarded from theological error when speaking with once voice. That is fideism in my estimation.

    That’s why I brought up my questions about the nature of authority earlier. I too believe it’s derivative, but I do not believe that scripture gives people , who are without any tangible connection to the highest office, the right to the same authority.

    The Bereans were commended for testing Paul and John instructs us to test the spirits. Peter – the Big Kahuna – is called out by Paul and then never heard from in scripture again.

    This means that no one other than priests and deacons who are under a bishop who is under the office of Peter, chief of the apostles, has authority.

    That’s why you have the clericalism you do and why the rapists of little boys continue to get away with their crimes. The laity’s only role is to pray, pay, and obey. I disagree.

    Me- ” But isn’t it written from the viewpoint that the Catholic Church erred? … Know what I mean?”

    1. Scripture tells us that his sheep hear his voice.
    2. That the Catholic church erred does not entail that it is wrong about everything anymore than the fact that the Jewish church erred entailed that it was wrong about everything. Jesus pointed out their errors AND told the people to submit. Their fallibility did not undermine their authority.

    I do believe that the nature of authority is arbitray until taken up or given by someone already in authority so that we’d have some kind of structure.

    This sentence doesn’t make sense. What are you trying to say?

    Whether it is a monarchy, a presidency, the party, some kind of leadership structure has to exist. In ancient Israel it was the twelve tribes.

    No it wasn’t. The 12 tribes did not have a hierarchal relationship or any authority over one another. God raised up judges, then went to a monarchy that divided after three generations. But I don’t see what any of this has to do with anything. I guess if you were arguing with quakers, you might have a point?

    ( which correspond to the 12 disciples and the reason Judas’s seat had to be filled after Judas betrayed Jesus.

    And Paul made it 13…oops!

    I do believe that when Jesus gave Peter the keys he was making him viceregent and instituting that office.

    Understood. I disagree.

    In fact, it’s astonishing that scripture can be interpreted the way I am describing and such a heirarchal structure exists.

    Why? You just said that nature is fundamentally hierarchal.

    Do you believe that scripture supports what Protestants believe about the church being bulit on Peter’s faith only

    I don’t think that Protestants believe that the church is built on Peter’s faith. Rather we protestants (should) believe that the church is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” Of course foundation of apostles, prophets and Christ refers to the inscripturated word of God. In Matthew 16, it is not peter the individual or Peter’s faith who is the foundation upon which the church is built. It is the truth to which all scripture bears witness that is foundational – that Jesus is the Christ, Son of the Living God. God became man and lived among us. This is the fundamental truth to which all scripture points and is the foundation of all those who are called out by God to be his people – we are able to pass from being enemies of God to children of God only because of what Christ has done. This revelation (from the prophets, apostles, and Christ himself) is our foundation.

    “through time men without any authority, any right to call themselves the church Jesus founded, used those scriptural supports to create a chair, a bishopric…?”
    All those who have faith in Christ have the right to call God their Father, have been called out, and thus are “the church”. Scripture teaches us how the church should be organized – some do a better job than others.

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  226. If you’re asking me about the NFL and strict Sabbath observance, my take is that it’s Biblically adiaphoron and up to the individual’s conscience (Rom 14:6).

    Was just listening to a podcast by Begg on the sabbath, and he makes a quite compelling case for why what Paul has in mind here is not observing the Lord’s Day.

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  227. sdb says That’s why you have the clericalism you do and why the rapists of little boys continue to get away with their crimes. The laity’s only role is to pray, pay, and obey. I disagree.

    Amen.
    Excerpt from this am reading commentary
    https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/d-a-carson/1-samuel-24-1-corinthians-5-ezekiel-3-psalm-39/

    …”We cannot reflect on all the elements of this judgment, but observe the following:
    (1) The judgment Paul wants meted out is to be communal. The entire church, “assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus” (1 Cor. 5:4), in the consciousness of his powerful presence, is to take action. Thus the failure to do so is a church-wide failure.
    (2) One of the reasons for taking this action is because “a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough” (1 Cor. 5:6); evil in the church that no one deals with soon affects the entire church.
    (3) This has nothing to do with disciplining the outside world. Paul assumes that the world outside the church will allow sin to fester. What he has in mind is discipline within the church of God (1 Cor. 5:9–10).
    (4) Paul’s understanding of what conduct should be subject to church discipline is not restricted to the sexual arena, or this particular form of sexual sin. He means to include major moral defection and gives an exemplary list: greed, idolatry, slander, drunkenness, swindling. Elsewhere, he adds to major moral defection two other arenas: major doctrinal deviation, and persistent drive for schism.
    Now all of this he openly calls “judging” (1 Cor. 5:12–13). Christians are to judge “those inside,” while God judges “those outside.” At the very least, chapters 4 and 5 must be kept in creative tension. More importantly, the Corinthians in chapter 4 were imposing judgments “beyond what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6), i.e., deploying standards and criteria with no basis in God’s revelation, and out of mere party interest. They were not imposing judgments in chapter 5 despite what Scripture, properly understood, says. Both are breaches of God’s revelation.”

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  228. Sdb, wrt “How many times has your Baptist Church revised which books belong in the Bible. The scope of the canon is after all a fallible, man-made tradition.” Ha ha! Thank you, you’ve made my point, which is that you guys virtually equate the confessions with the canon of Scripture!

    Listening to Begg? Begg’s an eeee–guy! Careful there, aren’t you breaking some presby bylaw by listening to him?

    And, uh, fwiw, I’m a baptist with a small ‘b’, not a capital “B”, of the horrid nondenom, nonconfessional ilk.

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  229. Susan,

    You didn’t answer my question. Let me tease it out more:

    Who gets to declare themselves to be the church Christ founded?
    On what basis is that claim legitimately made?

    On one hand, it doesn’t seem like Luther believed that the universal church had unity through the visible church and it’s heirarchy. God was the glory of his people Israel and was supposed to be in an even more excellent way in the new covenant Church ( Feingold lecture).

    I don’t know what you are referring to here. Luther believed that Apostolic teaching takes precedence over claims of Apostolic succession when those claiming Apostolic succession have abandoned Apostolic teaching. That seems to be a rather obvious conclusion based on the history of Israel and what we find in the New Testament. Visible churches can lose their lampstand when they abandon Christ. Its also a matter of simple logic. If the bishops are raping young men and colluding with each other to cover it up and to slowly change the church’s teaching on an essential moral issue such as homosexuality (and BTW, Dreher shows evidence for both of these) but the “True Jesus Church” down the street is more faithful to the Scriptures—heck, if it is more faithful to the moral dogmas that Rome has in print—than the bishops, why in the world do I stay under the bishops when the bishops prove unresponsive to basic appeals to both the Scriptures, the historical moral teaching of the church, and the basic moral decency of non-Catholics who know that raping men and boys is wrong?

    But on the other hand Luther was supposed to have wanted to reform the church but was excommunicated because he taught something novel

    Susan, I don’t mean this to be cruel, but do you understand how abysmally poor your understanding of church history is? No modern historian who has received the imprimatur of your hierarchy argues that what Luther taught was completely novel. Heck, even the Vatican believes that there can be rapproachment on the issue of justification, which would be impossible if Luther taught something completely novel. I disagree with the Vatican on the issue of coming together on this, but the fact that the Vatican thinks it is possible shows that whatever you think about Luther did, what he taught does have precedence in the tradition.

    and challenged the papacy.

    Now this is the real reason why Luther was excommunicated. The pope does not take kindly to anyone questioning his authority. It continues to happen. Francis can’t kill anyone, but he moves bishops around that ask too many questions and he’s doing his level best not to answer any questions about the current scandal because to do so undercuts his authority.

    Why was it ever worth reforming if you can revolt and take your Bible and go elsewhere?
    Sigh.

    Why don’t you ask that question of God? Why did the Apostles exhort churches in the New Testament to reform themselves when they knew that those churches could just go off and not listen to them? Why did God send John the Baptist to reform Israel when he could just go off into the wilderness and operate outside the structures of the visible church of his day? Why did God send the prophets when they could do the same thing?

    It’s worth Reforming because schism is actually a serious sin. But you have the odd belief that it is impossible for Rome to be the schismatic one.

    What do you, Susan, do, when you realize that you can’t trust any of the priests in your area not to be abusers because your local bishop is a closet homosexual who actively grooms other homosexuals for seminary, moves pederasts around to shield them from the authorities and so on? From the way you talk, you have no other option but just to take it? You can’t even really leave for an EO church because then you’re being schismatic.

    When the church is what confers salvation—and that is essentially Rome’s teaching—and you effectively put yourself out of salvation by running away from the church, then you can’t really question the church. When they tell you to shut up, you have to shut up. So, your only real choice—if Rome’s doctrine is fundamentally correct—is to continue to take your children there and expose them to a real risk of abuse, abuse that might turn them against the church forever. You get the Eucharist, but your family might abandon the church. Does this look anything like what Jesus intended, especially when he said one of the worst things you can do is to cause one of his little ones to stumble? But I don’t see how this is not where Rome’s ecclesiology leads. As SDB said, pray, pay, obey. You can raise questions to the pope, but if the pope decides that it’s not wrong to cover up gross and heinous sin, then guess what—you are out of luck because he’s God’s voice on earth.

    It looks to me based on scripture and a visible entity with a line of Pope’s is a good reason to believe that the church was God’s idea.

    We all believe that the church was God’s idea. We just do not believe that the Roman Catholic Church is the church Jesus founded, and we believe that there is no credible reason to believe that what Rome has become is anything remotely close to what Jesus intended when Jesus founded the church.

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  230. ” Sdb, wrt “How many times has your Baptist Church revised which books belong in the Bible. The scope of the canon is after all a fallible, man-made tradition.” Ha ha! Thank you, you’ve made my point, which is that you guys virtually equate the confessions with the canon of Scripture!

    I’m not following you here. Scripture doesn’t tell us what is scripture. Why do you believe that the Epistle to the Hebrews should be part of the Bible? Why not Psalm 151? Following your reasoning shouldn’t the list of books in the Bible be constantly revised? Or is the tradition of our canon different.

    “Listening to Begg? Begg’s an eeee–guy! Careful there, aren’t you breaking some presby bylaw by listening to him?”
    No.

    “And, uh, fwiw, I’m a baptist with a small ‘b’, not a capital “B”, of the horrid nondenom, nonconfessional ilk.”
    That’s too bad, but so is Begg. Happy to listen to him and use what is useful. Wouldn’t have him preach in my church or help him plant non-denominational baptistic congregations. He is worth listening to on the Sabbath. Does a good job explaining why Rom does not make keep the Sabbath a matter of conscience.

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  231. Thank you! I am glad to know that you believe that there are true believers in Christ outside the OPC! How about outside the Reformed tradition?

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  232. I wonder if Machen was non-confessional, not sacramentarian. After all, he spoke at Moody Founders Week in 1923. I wonder if he was really concerned about the theology of the church, because he spoke to a multi-denominational, dispensational group of people.

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  233. SDB, yes, I’m quite aware that the Bible is a “fallible list of infallible books”, and yet with 99.999% agreement, no one is re-litigating whether the epistle to James should be included in the canon.
    The point you make for me is this: you’re making an analogy between the confessions and the settled state of the canon of Scripture, and by attempting to do so, elevate the confessions to way too lofty of prominence for my taste.

    Glad you didn’t break a presby bylaw by listening to Begg, but alas, by admitting you like to listen to him, you probably got yourself on DGH’s watchlist.

    As regards to Sabbath observance (the basis for it, the why’s, the what’s, and the how’s), that’s a more complex discussion which indeed does involve more than Rom 14:6. But alas, the topic is obviously a bit problematic for confessionalists, as I’ve noted that there doesn’t seem to be an appetite for anyone around here calling for either a) formal discipline of presby NFL players or fans, or b) re-writing the WCF so that you folks don’t have to grant so many ‘exceptions’ to that clause.

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  234. The point is cooperating with evangelicals does make one less concerned about the doctrine of the church. You have the same exclusivism that you had in your Bob Jones days. A mature person and historian understands that they are not the only ones in Christ’s Church.

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  235. Sdb and everyone reading,

    Let me first apologise for being silly and sassy. I should not have written that I “sighed”. That was unnecessary and immature of me. I only invite the same kind of sarcasm when I behave that way. I need to work on clarity. So please accept my apology.

    To sbd,
    I’m searching for a point of contact with you concerning ecclesiology and I’m not sure what where that is. Does no one else here recognize an institution founded by Jesus?
    Do you believe the church that people accuse as have become full of accretions, a true church at one time? If so during that period of 1500 years( or whenever the departure from correct doctrine occured) was there other Christian churches in the West not under the papacy? In other words, I’m asking if prior to the Reformation there was any other Bible believing and more pure communities of worship?

    You often point out that there was many forms of Judaism, but that simple isn’t so. The Samaritans were descendents of the tribes of Israel, but they were not pure in their worship of Yahweh. They also served Baal and stole temple utensils. They were punished. The tribes who returned to God and rebuilt the temple, where true worship was supposed to occur until the time when the Messiah would establish the fullment of prophecy, formed a council of 12 elders to make a “a priestly kingdom and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6) as it has been before it committed idoltry. Notice I said, “it”?
    So even though there were people who, after the Babylonian exile, were commonly referred to as ” Jews,” only the ones technically practicing Judaism were the rightful authority.

    Jesus began a new covenant community and began including and inviting the lost tribes as well as gentiles to come in and now considers us a royal priesthood and a holy people ( 1 Peter 2:9). But there truly is a right place to worship that replaces the synagogue. And it has to be found all over the world.

    St Ignatius writing in the first century told us that wherever the bishop is there is the Catholic Church.

    Anyway, I won’t waste any more time on this.

    Take care and God bless,
    Susan

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  236. Sdb,

    Though the world is full of admixture of truth that groups like the Samaritans had , and the Greeks and Romans, and so on, had or have there was only one community of people to whom God revealed Himself. Accepting that group’s message as being where God has chosen to reveal himself is what is meant by Faith. Faith is believing everything that God has spoken and the only place where we know he has spoken is in the church and Judaism before it.

    I thought you might appreciate this lecture.

    http://www.hebrewcatholic.net/05-01-apostolic-tradition-and-the-oral-torah/

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  237. Susan,

    Do you believe the church that people accuse as have become full of accretions, a true church at one time? If so during that period of 1500 years( or whenever the departure from correct doctrine occured) was there other Christian churches in the West not under the papacy? In other words, I’m asking if prior to the Reformation there was any other Bible believing and more pure communities of worship?

    Well, no one was “under” the papacy until at least the year 250 or so because there simply wasn’t a papacy until then. The monoepiscopate in Rome came about later than many other important sees. That is a historical fact.

    Papal dominance in the West is largely a historical accident that came about in large measure as the result of the fall of the Western Roman empire. Constantine moved things east, and there were more patriarchates in the East so none of them could come to prominence in terms of authority, though Constantinople achieved a certain prominence. In the West you only had one patriarchate, and once the West fell to the barbarians there was a power vacuum in the secular power that the papacy stepped into fill. As a result, church-state relations in the West have been in many ways markedly different than in the East for centuries.

    Those are kind of the broad outlines. The bishop of Rome stepped into a power vacuum that arose when the Roman Empire became the Byzantine Emperor. He took to Himself the power to forcibly and violently crush dissent. There was no “other” church that could last very long in the West until the Reformation because until the Reformation, the pope largely had the backing of the civil powers and there was no such thing as the freedom of religion. When you have political power yourself and other Western powers are in your pocket, you rise to the top because you crush all dissent. Couple that with the use of forged documents to bolster theological claims and there you go.

    This isn’t even really debatable. In broad outlines, that is how historians describe the rise of the papacy based on the actual historical evidence. Even Roman Catholic historians teach the history this way You could say that God providentially allowed the rise of the papacy, but the idea that the Apostles understood Christ to be establishing a perpetual office that would be located in Rome and that Peter would be its first holder is foreign not only to Scripture but also to history. Peter simply was not the first bishop of Rome, let alone the first pope. The church in Rome was governed by a plurality of elders well after other churches had adopted more of an episcopate. Alexandria and Antioch had bishops before Rome did.

    You often point out that there was many forms of Judaism, but that simple isn’t so. The Samaritans were descendents of the tribes of Israel, but they were not pure in their worship of Yahweh. They also served Baal and stole temple utensils. They were punished. The tribes who returned to God and rebuilt the temple, where true worship was supposed to occur until the time when the Messiah would establish the fullment of prophecy, formed a council of 12 elders to make a “a priestly kingdom and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6) as it has been before it committed idoltry. Notice I said, “it”?

    Forget the Samaritans. In the first century you had at least three major Jewish groups: the Sadducees, the Pharisees, and the Essenes. Each of them had different theological beliefs on key issues and enjoyed support by different people in Judaism. There was no authority to adjudicate religious differences definitively. The best you had was the Sanhedrin, which was made up mostly of the Sadducees, whose beliefs on the afterlife were unorthodox. The Pharisees and Sadducees could work together on occasion—for example, to kill a common enemy, namely, Jesus—but about the only thing they agreed on theologically was that there is one God and that you had to go tot he temple a few times a year for the pilgrimmage feasts. The Essenes withdrew from society, believed that everyone but them were going to hell, and copied the Dead Sea Scrolls.

    All of these groups, by the way, had some kind of claim to be “the church Moses founded.” Sadducees, in fact, could trace a line of visible priestly succession. Guess which group disappeared entirely from history? The Sadducees. The Pharisees live on as modern Judaism, more or less, and there are still groups like the Essenes in the Middle East, though they are very small.

    So even though there were people who, after the Babylonian exile, were commonly referred to as ” Jews,” only the ones technically practicing Judaism were the rightful authority.

    And after the exile, there was no one to determine authoritatively who was practicing Judaism rightly. That is SDB’s point. Neither the Sadducees nor the Pharisees thought the other group was practicing Judaism truly and purely. They mostly tolerated each other because they both hated Rome and it was the only way to maintain their traditions with Rome ruling over them.

    Jesus began a new covenant community and began including and inviting the lost tribes as well as gentiles to come in and now considers us a royal priesthood and a holy people ( 1 Peter 2:9).

    Yes.

    But there truly is a right place to worship that replaces the synagogue. And it has to be found all over the world.

    Why must it be found all over the world? When Jesus founded the church, it was located only in Palestine. Even if we assume that Rome is that true church, Rome has not always been found all over the world. In medieval times, there was no RCC in the Americas, Australia, much of Asia, and much of Africa.

    St Ignatius writing in the first century told us that wherever the bishop is there is the Catholic Church.

    What did Ignatius mean by bishop? If he didn’t mean what RCC means by “bishop,” then this fact is largely irrelevant to Rome’s claims.

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  238. DGH, egads, why wouldn’t being presby “get in the way of participating” at SBTS? I read somewhere above that “for confessional Protestants, fellowship has standards”. Did SBTS cut you a big $ check, or thirty pieces of silver?

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  239. DGH, faithful presby that you are, can you post a link to the audio of you exhorting the SBTS folks to repent of their “earnestness and holy rolling”?

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  240. Petros says: DGH, faithful presby that you are, can you post a link to the audio of you exhorting the SBTS folks to repent of their “earnestness and holy rolling”?

    !!!!!
    “All extremes, except extreme devotion to the Enemy, are to be encouraged.” Screwtape

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  241. Petros, a small b baptist? Confessionalists are small c catholics, small e evangelicals, and small a apostolics. We publicly confess the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds which includes believing in the catholic and apostolic church. I know that’s the sort of dead and dusty formalism that makes evangies wring their hands, but it sure would seem to undermine your cackling at the suggestion that we’re less than ecumenical. I mean, when they visit a confessional church they tend to choke hard on the c-word. What’s up with that?

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  242. Zrim, you’ll be happy to learn that the eeee-world fully embraces the Nicene and Apostle’s creeds. But given all your various OTHER ways you guys have added to fence off others, your claim to be ecumenical is making DGH giggle again. Surely you do not dispute DGH’s “For confessional Protestants, fellowship has standards”?

    If there’s an upshot to DGH’s post here, it’s that very claim. You’re entitled to claim lots of wonders for the world of confessionalism, but by definition, being ecumenical ain’t one of them. The grief that you guys throw at TKNY and the Gospel Coalition and Wentz/Foles is Exhibit A. Just man-up and own it.

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  243. “Zrim, you’ll be happy to learn that the eeee-world fully embraces the Nicene and Apostle’s creeds. But given all your various OTHER ways you guys have added to fence off others, your claim to be ecumenical is making DGH giggle again. Surely you do not dispute DGH’s “For confessional Protestants, fellowship has standards”?”

    Petros, your being dense by confusing ecclesiastical relations with personal ones. You would be welcome to the table of any PCA/OPC/ARP church. If you wanted to join a PCA church, the membership vows are a very, very low bar. I presume that it is similar for other NAPARC churches, but I’m not sure. You wouldn’t have to be rebaptized to join at any of them.

    Now if you want to be an officer, preach, teach, or receive financial support for your ministry, the bar is much, much higher. The problem is that TKNY/TGC are work arounds to these bars that are in place for the officers.

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  244. “I would expect man-written fallible confessions to be revised more than the fractional % than they have been.”
    OK, that fractional % is 3% if we only consider the article on the magistrate.

    “SDB, yes, I’m quite aware that the Bible is a “fallible list of infallible books”, and yet with 99.999% agreement, no one is re-litigating whether the epistle to James should be included in the canon.”
    So the article in the WCF is off the table, though you way over estimate the fraction who agree with you about the canon. James may not be on the table, but the deuterocanonical books for our Catholic friends, the extra Psalms for our Orthodox friends, the other gospels our mainline friends like to promote. But I guess since we agree about the canon, this man-made fallible list shouldn’t be expected to be changed? And somehow we aren’t over elevating the books of the Bible?

    “The point you make for me is this: you’re making an analogy between the confessions and the settled state of the canon of Scripture, and by attempting to do so, elevate the confessions to way too lofty of prominence for my taste.”

    Well the canon is part of the WCF… So I guess not changing that part is OK. You also mentioned the apostle’s creed and Nicene creed, so I guess the part of the WCF about those things are OK to not reform without elevating the confession to scripture. Six of the 33 chapters in the WCF have been revised in the US. But I’m sure you knew that too…

    “Glad you didn’t break a presby bylaw by listening to Begg, but alas, by admitting you like to listen to him, you probably got yourself on DGH’s watchlist.”
    More likely you don’t understand what you are reading here and would do well to ask more questions rather than jumping to accusations.

    “As regards to Sabbath observance (the basis for it, the why’s, the what’s, and the how’s), that’s a more complex discussion which indeed does involve more than Rom 14:6. But alas, the topic is obviously a bit problematic for confessionalists, as I’ve noted that there doesn’t seem to be an appetite for anyone around here calling for either a) formal discipline of presby NFL players or fans, or b) re-writing the WCF so that you folks don’t have to grant so many ‘exceptions’ to that clause.”
    Or maybe you don’t understand what discipline means? Hint… it isn’t just excommunication.

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  245. Petros, maybe it’s the evangie thing of being paradox adverse, like how you guys ding Calvinism for maintaining both God’s sovereignty and human responsibility (cue the cackle), but believe it or not it’s possible to be both confessional and ecumenical (as sdb suggests).

    PS yes, I’m aware evangies technically affirm the creeds. The question is why it never figures into your theological identities but just sits in the desk drawer collecting, ahem, dust. Talk about dead orthodoxy. When’s the last time you all publicly affirmed historic orthodoxy with ALLLLLL the saints through the ages?

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  246. If you wanted to join a PCA church, the membership vows are a very, very low bar. I presume that it is similar for other NAPARC churches, but I’m not sure.

    sdb, my understanding is that most in the Continental Reformed stream require an affirmation of the faith and practice of all church members, lay and officer, while those in the American Presbyterian stream tend to make the unfortunate split between lay and officer, requiring full affirmation only of the latter. So Petros could keep his credo error and still be a lay member of the PCA but not the URC (until he was nominated for officer, at which time he’d actually have to repent).

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  247. Petros,

    I wonder what you’re on about here. For example, you say But no worries, as long as that cleric dribbled some water on you years ago, it’s all good. Not. Do you really think that Presbyterians impute saving power to the water of baptism?

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  248. @ Petros, Robert, Ali:

    The ecumenicism of confessionalists looks like this:

    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.

    III. Unto this catholic visible Church Christ has given the ministry, oracles, and ordinances of God, for the gathering and perfecting of the saints, in this life, to the end of the world: and does, by His own presence and Spirit, according to His promise, make them effectual thereunto.

    IV. This catholic Church has been sometimes more, sometimes less visible. And particular Churches, which are members thereof, are more or less pure, according as the doctrine of the Gospel is taught and embraced, ordinances administered, and public worship performed more or less purely in them. — WCF 25

    And this

    All saints, that are united to Jesus Christ their Head, by His Spirit, and by faith, have fellowship with Him in His grace, sufferings, death, resurrection, and glory: and, being united to one another in love, they have communion in each other’s gifts and graces, and are obliged to the performance of such duties, public and private, as do conduce to their mutual good, both in the inward and outward man.

    II. Saints by profession are bound to maintain an holy fellowship and communion in the worship of God, and in performing such other spiritual services as tend to their mutual edification; as also in relieving each other in outward things, according to their several abilities and necessities. Which communion, as God offers opportunity, is to be extended unto all those who, in every place, call upon the name of the Lord Jesus. — WCF 26

    So to (finally) answer your question about Wentz and Foles: What they share in fellowship is each other’s gifts and graces, and an obligation to do good to each other. That’s a lot! And it’s pretty good.

    What they don’t share is a common understanding of worship, sacraments, perhaps preaching, perhaps the gospel. That is also a lot.

    I take the point of DGH’s post to be, “Let’s not pretend that these differences don’t still divide us.”

    Not because we like to be divided, but because it would be dishonest to either (a) pretend the differences aren’t real, or (b) pretend that worship, sacraments, preaching, and the gospel are matters of adiaphora.

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  249. Jeff, I know that theologically solid presby’s don’t believe in the saving power of infant baptism (but anecdotally, I’d say there’s more than a few who might be confused on that topic). But, my comment had more to do with since Lutherans sure seem to attribute saving power to infant baptism, one might think that would cause presby’s more heartburn with Lutherans than with the credo-eeee-world, or at the least, equal heartburn.

    I understand your 1:32am post. I’d affirm your “What they share in fellowship is each other’s gifts and graces, and an obligation to do good to each other. That’s a lot! And it’s pretty good.” I would differ with you, however, that this particular post came anywhere near emphasizing the “That’s a lot! And it’s pretty good” part. When DGH says “I’m sure many evangelicals were encouraged”, by inference, for better or worse, I hear “Presbys are not so encouraged”, because, alas, “For confessional Protestants, fellowship has standards.”

    Just curious, would you characterize the presby world as being more, or less, ecumenical than the eeee-world of the GC?

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  250. Peter, have you heard of 2k? I worship on Sundays in a church reformed according to the word. The rest of the week, there are options.

    But when you blur the way you do, you even get tares in the pulpit.

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  251. Peter, “you’ll be happy to learn that the eeee-world fully embraces the Nicene and Apostle’s creeds.”

    Where? Wheaton College doesn’t. Nor NAE, nor Willow Creek, nor Rick Warren.

    Could it be you’re delusionally happy?

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  252. Peter, “my comment had more to do with since Lutherans sure seem to attribute saving power to infant baptism, one might think that would cause presby’s more heartburn with Lutherans than with the credo-eeee-world, or at the least, equal heartburn.”

    Here’s why Lutherans get a pass. They don’t imagine that anyone who simply believes in Jesus is part of Team Christian. They actually promote and defend creeds, liturgy, and church government. And they are happy to agree that Lutherans and Presbyterians disagree (on some important point).

    Evangelicals though say everybody is actually in agreement and if you disagree with the consensus you are a bad Christian. I do believe you are exhibit B in this phenomenon. Why can’t you simply be an evangelical and let me be a Presbyterian?

    You have Hybels and Osteen. I have Henes and Troxel.

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  253. ” Lutherans sure seem to attribute saving power to infant baptism, one might think that would cause presby’s more heartburn with Lutherans than with the credo-eeee-world, or at the least, equal heartburn.”

    Only if you collapse regeneration, justification, and sanctification into one undifferentiated idea. Lutherans are wrong about baptismal regeneration (as are the Church of Christ), but I’m not so sure that it is as problematic as decisional regeneration which is the majority view among evangelicals.

    But whatever the case, we don’t have high-profile pastors raising funds to plant Lutheran churches, forming partnerships with Lutherans that gloss over differences, or refer to themselves as Lutheran Presbyterians thereby sowing confusion. Read Sasse’s pamphlet “here I stand” if you are interested in attempts at reformed-lutheran Union and the problems that arose.

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  254. DGH, hope you at least got in a nice 2K chat with Russell Moore!

    Btw, you’re welcome to take Hybels and Osteen. I’ll take TKNY and Begg.

    SDB, wrt “we don’t have high-profile pastors raising funds to plant Lutheran churches, forming partnerships with Lutherans that gloss over differences”. Ha ha! Yeah, but you’ve got TKNY planting eeee-churches!

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  255. Why can’t you simply be Presbyterian without the everlasting attempt to define “evangelical” (and “Lutheran”) ?

    A Lutheran: Some people really do have eternal life before they lose it. I guess I have never doubted this, and it has always been something I have had some concern about— making shipwreck of my faith, not just being “faithless” but disowning him.

    mcmark—So when a Lutheran has “the lasting life of the age to come” , the Lutheran is thinking in some qualitative way, not of a life that necessarily continues forever? So the Lutheran is not merely thinking of a regeneration by water which can be lost but also about a justification which is lost and (perhaps) found every day?

    John 5:2 4 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has the lasting life of the age to come. . He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

    And so the question: how can a person who has passed from death to life, then pass back to death ? What is the practical difference between accusing the “pietist” of not knowing if they have life (or if they now believe) and a Lutheran saying: I know I believe now, but that does not mean I will keep believing. I know I have life now, but it might not be life forever? How have Lutherans escaped the problem–how can you know that you even really believe now? You go to church? Well, other people go to church also.

    Alastair Roberts –” For Baptists, water baptism is predominantly retrospective, looking back to a salvation largely complete. Adoption is much less about its initial reception than it is about its lifelong reception. The faith water baptism calls for is not present faith so much as future faith.”
    http://www.reformation21.org/articles/infant-baptism-and-the-when-of-baptismal-grace.php#sthash.SNY6T0Ud.dpuf

    mcmark—Because it is not yet quite politically (or confessionally) correct in some Presbyterian circles to talk about “being justified every day” or the “not yet aspect of justification”, some Presbyterians refer to “sanctification” or “adoption” as being the “not yet”. That way they avoid talking about “justified again every day.”

    Roberts—“Martin Luther resisted the ‘linear model’ of the Christian life, with an one time conversion followed by progress beyond that point. Luther maintained that we never move beyond the point of water baptism…The efficacy of water baptism day after day makes death and resurrection a reality that has not yet been fully accomplished in us….
    The magisterial Reformed were concerned to emphasize that the grace of water baptism is the grace of a promissory seal, with an efficacy that extends throughout our lives….The force of the grace of adoption summons the adopted to live out of that grace and not to turn their backs on it. Adoption is a enduring reality enjoyed only by those who continue to receive it. ”

    Mike Horton—”To be claimed by water baptism as part of God’s holy field comes with threats as well as blessings. Covenant members who do not continue to believe come under the covenant curse. How could they fall under the curse of a covenaant to which they did not belong? God promises his saving grace in Christ to each person in baptism, but if they do not continue to embrace the covenant they fall under the covenant curse….”

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  256. “SDB, wrt “we don’t have high-profile pastors raising funds to plant Lutheran churches, forming partnerships with Lutherans that gloss over differences”. Ha ha! Yeah, but you’ve got TKNY planting eeee-churches!

    What is that “Ha ha” business all about. I was writing to explain why evangelicalism gets more attention than lutheranism – because TKNY (for example) is planting Baptistic churches, not Lutheran ones.

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  257. -Petros says: DGH, faithful presby that you are, can you post a link to the audio of you exhorting the SBTS folks to repent of their “earnestness and holy rolling”?
    -D. G. Hart says: Peter, have you heard of 2k? I worship on Sundays in a church reformed according to the word. The rest of the week, there are options.

    Petros – maybe there is only so much ‘earnestness and holiness’ available, and with that being reserved for Sunday, it leaves ‘other options’ for the rest of the week

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  258. @Ali Or maybe you could consider a more charitable reading… Perhaps prayers and activities that are appropriate for one’s closet or car are not for public worship. Further, perhaps those extracurriculars will look different among believers, so that judging who is really a believer (earnestness) is a mistake. Finally, naval gazing could lead to a sort of self absorption wherein one is tempted to look to one’s works to evaluate one’s righteousness rather than focusing on what Christ alone has accomplished. Puritanical introspection puts one on the path to pride or despair.

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  259. Darryl,

    Evangelicals though say everybody is actually in agreement and if you disagree with the consensus you are a bad Christian.

    I’m not sure which evangelicals you are talking about. The evangelicals I have known are pretty clear that they differ on baptism. In fact, they are clear that they differ on it enough to preclude institutional, visible unity.

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  260. Darryl,

    They don’t imagine that anyone who simply believes in Jesus is part of Team Christian.

    And that’s laudable?? Seems like belief in Jesus is all that one needs to be a part of “Team Christian”

    If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. (Rom. 10:9–10)

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  261. SDB,

    I’m not so sure that it is as problematic as decisional regeneration which is the majority view among evangelicals.

    I would say they are probably equally problematic.

    But the problem is that a lot of you are lumping Reformed Baptists in with evangelicals and claiming that Presbyterians are somehow closer to the Lutherans overall when Reformed Baptists don’t believe in decisional regeneration and follow a confession that is almost identical to Presbyterians. Meanwhile, Confessional Lutheran bodies won’t allow us Presbyterians to their table, believe in the bodily presence of Christ in the Supper, violate the 2nd commandment left and right, don’t embrace rule by a plurality of elders, etc. RBaps aren’t perfect, but the confessional RBaps don’t do any of that. Their worst offense is that they are inconsistently covenantal.

    Look, I grew up Lutheran and have a lot of respect for that tradition, but I’m with Petros and have to question the love everyone is pouring on them. It’s a love that is not reciprocated. They baptize infants. Whoop-de-do. Their justification isn’t the same as ours for doing so.

    I’m not picking on you, but can we at least agree that the dead formalism that some bodies seem more prone to is as problematic as earnestness and holy rolling?

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  262. Robert
    I think you are missing the point here. It is not that LCMS’rs are closer to NAPARC than reformed Baptists. Rather the NAPARC have something to learn from the doctrinal integrity of the them. They learned from the mistakes of the unionists. No one is going to confuse Lutherans with PCAers. When the PCA looks the other way when officers vow to uphold the standards and then create technicalities to work around those standards (deaconesses, performing rebsptisms on request, using images of Christ, fast and loose with regulative principle, etc…). Bringing this stuff up is like being a skunk at a picnic, but we know where this leads. The push to compromise on ssm, ordination of women, etc… will only get more intense. When we play fast and loose with doctrines we claim are taught in scripture, it looks awfully arbitrary when we battle over these other issues.

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  263. sdb says: @Ali Or maybe you could consider a more charitable reading… Perhaps prayers and activities that are appropriate for one’s closet or car are not for public worship. Further, perhaps those extracurriculars will look different among believers, so that judging who is really a believer (earnestness) is a mistake. Finally, naval gazing could lead to a sort of self absorption wherein one is tempted to look to one’s works to evaluate one’s righteousness rather than focusing on what Christ alone has accomplished. Puritanical introspection puts one on the path to pride or despair.

    sdb, and maybe you might be more charitable to those whose definition of earnestness and holiness in not what you describe here but is a definition in accord with the Lord’s call on all believers lives through His word to us, whose source is Himself.
    2 Corinthians 8:16 But thanks be to God who puts the same earnestness on your behalf in the heart of Titus.

    Perhaps we all should have more charity, as Curt pointed out from the beginning, to those people who say “I accept Christ as my personal Saviour,” who we are sure do not give “the slightest evidence to show that they know what such words mean.”

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  264. Petros: I would differ with you, however, that this particular post came anywhere near emphasizing the “That’s a lot! And it’s pretty good” part.

    It didn’t. That’s not unusual; most people who are trying to correct a one-sided tendency don’t add weight to the overbalanced side.

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  265. @Ali What’s with the dodge? Do you disagree that you might have misread the comment? If so, why? Or do you disagree that things that are appropriate to do at home in personal prayer and worship are in appropriate for public worship on the Lord’s day (consider the implications of 1 Cor 14). Begg is good on the Lord’s day – you might benefit from his comments in the podcast I linked above.

    Regarding Curt’s criticism of dgh’s use of Machen here, do you really dispute that cheap grace and MTD is a problem in evangelical churches? Here’s the thing that so many people (including you) miss – in an effort to boil everything down to essentials you are following the same path as Fosdick in 100 years ago. What is and isn’t essential is ultimately subjective – no one is offering any criterion for what counts as essential apart from the vote of publishers. This is the big problem with dividing what the Bible teaches into essential and non-essential. So you you claim to accept Jesus into your heart, but treat the Lord’s day, sacraments, and worship as matters of indifference. You are left with the largest evangelical church in the most evangelical state playing AC/DC on Sunday morning. Already we see calls for discussion on everything from homosexuality, universalism, women in ministry, and blasé treatment of divorce. You see they are all non-essentials… The evangelicalism of the 1800’s birthed liberalism (liberation from creeds and confessions in favor of the bible alone and social activism). That path is repeated again. I can’t influence NewSpring, but I can work and pray to make sure the PCA doesn’t follow their lead. But it gets difficult when our leaders treat their vows as non-essentials.

    There great things to be learned from a great many baptists, evangelicals, anglicans, lutherans, methodists, orthodox, and catholics. That doesn’t mean that we should pretend that our distinctives are non-essential matters of indifference.

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  266. Robert, and then they tell me that if I make a big deal of baptism or the Lord’s Day, I’m not a good Christian. Huh?

    The Great Commission is great on paper, but let’s not take it too seriously.

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  267. Darryl,

    Robert, lots of “evangelical” churches, even Doug Wilson, will sprinkle or dedicate, parents’ option.

    And that’s the way NOT to do things.

    Robert, and then they tell me that if I make a big deal of baptism or the Lord’s Day, I’m not a good Christian. Huh?

    Well, they’re wrong. And maybe my experience is limited, but I’ve known evangelicals of all sorts of stripes and none of them would say you’re not a “good Christian” for making a big deal of such things. They might think you’re wrong, but they’re not going to doubt your piety.

    BTW, one of the funniest things about this discussion is that all of us commenting here would be classified as evangelicals by any social scientist, no matter how much we might protest.

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  268. ok sdb. in conclusion, I hope that you can see you yourself are promoting “earnestness” and “holiness” . Only your partial version. And your concern for “works righteousness” is partial. Jesus calls for much more, by the mercies of God, to present our bodies a living and holy sacrifice.

    “this people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service but they remove their hearts far from Me”

    One mocking “Jesus down down down in your heart” displays lack of clarity on what the Lord has said.

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  269. @Ali
    Those are pretty serious accusations you are making. What basis do you have for accusing me of only being partially concerned with holiness or works righteousness? And what is this bit about mockery all about? Please explain.

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  270. Jeff – “Not because we like to be divided, but because it would be dishonest to either (a) pretend the differences aren’t real, or (b) pretend that worship, sacraments, preaching, and the gospel are matters of adiaphora.”

    Yes, but are the real differences worth denominational division? Particular church division yes, but entirely different denominations? Including a lack of interdenominational cooperation beyond the most basic social functions? DGH (and probably most people here) seem to think so. I disagree. We should strive for Roman Catholic type unity, but with enough latitude to allow particular churches to have some variance in theology and practice. Obviously there have to be some basic, non-negotiable standards and I’m all for a magisterium of sorts, but in my view the Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Reformed Baptist churches (among many others) should all be part of the same denomination, along with a host of other denominations. I’d even go out on a limb and throw the RCC and EOC into the mix. Obviously that would never happen, but I have to believe sectarianism runs counter to the numerous, emphatic calls for unity throughout the NT.

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  271. @vv this is precisely what gave us the UCC. The fundamentalist/modernist controversy was largely about how much differences over “non-essentials” should divide churches. The evangelicals in the mainline 100yrs ago didn’t think they should be divided, so sectarians like Machen were run off while liberals were kept in the fold. The history of the mainline post-ww2 was one of building ecumenical bridges in the name of unity such that now the ELCA, PCUSA, UCC, ECA have reciprocity agreements among their clergy (not sure about the RCA and UMC).

    The same thing happened in Germany in the 19th century through forced marriages of Reformed and Lutherans.

    In both cases, what emerged through this emphasis on essentials is that the boundary continues to get pushed, and no single step is enough to break fellowship. But each step undermines orthodoxy until you have atheists among the clergy and Bishop like Spong.

    This history should serve as a warning to modern evangelicals. I don’t understand why they think it will be different this time.

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  272. Sdb. No accusations. Just observations– commenting because you strangely added this into the conversation:
    sdb says: @Ali Finally, naval gazing could lead to a sort of self absorption wherein one is tempted to look to one’s works to evaluate one’s righteousness rather than focusing on what Christ alone has accomplished. Puritanical introspection puts one on the path to pride or despair.

    Because I don’t know who was talking about self absortion and puritanical introspection.

    Anyway I think if ‘one is on the path to pride or despair’ as you mention, that’s a good reason the Lord says to renew one’s mind in the word, moment by moment, to get reoriented and recalibrated about it all. That too coming for believers, as we are told, because Jesus is ‘down down down in one’s heart (Zrim’s strange comment)

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  273. @Ali

    You wrote, “ your concern for “works righteousness” is partial. “

    That is an accusation. Please explain your basis for this.

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  274. Ali, you’ve never heard that children’s VBS song (hard to imagine)? It’s an anthem for heart religion, and my sarcastic remark is a reach to Luther’s about how the pietists have swallowed the Spirit feathers and all.

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  275. sdb says: @AliYou wrote, “ your concern for “works righteousness” is partial. “ That is an accusation. Please explain your basis for this.

    I’ve already included Jesus’s concern:Isaiah 29:13 Then the Lord said, “Because this people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote,

    a concern you seem to dismiss. I say dismiss because 1) you say “wherein one is tempted to look to one’s works to evaluate one’s righteousness rather than focusing on what Christ alone has accomplished.” but don’t seem to consider it can potentially also include pride for stuff one does on Sunday ’ and 2) Zrim was not corrected.
    Zrim’s comment is such a big deal because, who is truly one who “does not give slightest evidence to show that they know what such words mean”. Isn’t this best summed up in being the one who dismisses that it is all about His heart He has given us yielded to by faith (Jesus down down down in our hearts), as if our own righteous acts are not nothing but filthy rags otherwise.
    Romans 8:8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

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  276. sdb – I agree, there are real dangers to sacrificing doctrinal truths on the altar of unity; I’m not advocating completely abandoning all Scriptural truths in the name of unity. There are certain core non-negotiables, but beyond that is it really worth separating into different factions and shunning cooperation in enhancing the Kingdom? This goes back to the earlier discussion of what constitutes a “true” church. If a church is a legitimate church of Christ, then I have a hard time seeing how we can’t work with them.

    Ali – “Zrim’s comment is such a big deal because, who is truly one who “does not give slightest evidence to show that they know what such words mean”. Isn’t this best summed up in being the one who dismisses that it is all about His heart He has given us yielded to by faith (Jesus down down down in our hearts), as if our own righteous acts are not nothing but filthy rags otherwise.”

    I have read this multiple times, and I still have no idea what this paragraph means.

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  277. @vv, “There are certain core non-negotiables”. Yes, indeed. Presbys are just persuaded that their much longer, and detailed, list of non-negotiables is to be esteemed above the shorter list that the eeee-world buys into. Hopefully, everyone here will be in violent agreement on that last sentence?

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  278. @vv what are those “core non-negotiables”?
    SSM, fornication, abortion, creationism, socialism, alcohol use, egalitarianism, inerrancy, millennial views, baptism, decisions regeneration, perfectionism, baptismal regeneration, worship standards, etc…

    Petros- not so sure about that. Depends on the evangelical doesn’t it? The Baptist Faith & Message isn’t all that much shorter than the wcf. I wonder how long one would last at the largest evangelical college in America if one occasionally enjoyed a beer after work? How long would one last at First Baptist Dallas if you thought Roe was good law? The fact that they aren’t written in a confession doesn’t mean non-negotiable barriers don’t exist.

    Being the expert that you are on the WCF, what are the superfluous sections in the American version?

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  279. @sdb, to state just a couple of the more obvious, chapters 27 and 28 of the WCF include a few superfluous stipulations (from the perspective of the broader eeee-world). Not sure why that would be news to you, though.

    According to this blog, one of the weaknesses of the eeee-world is that their “bar is low”. I actually agree that the eeee-bar is lower than the presby bar, and also agree that having a low bar can be, and often is, a weakness. I just happen to think other strengths far outweigh the weaknesses. I know that’s a minority perspective around here. Fine.

    It still remains unclear why any presbys would want to argue that presbys are more ecumenical than the broader eeee-world. Maybe when DGH, faithful OPC devotee that he is, stops giggling at that assertion, he will weigh in and set the OL world straight on that.

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  280. sdb – off the top of my head (i.e. by no means exhaustive), I would say amplified versions of the Apostles Creed and Nicene Creed, faith/repentance in Christ alone, and Baptism and the Lord’s Supper as sacraments are all non-negotiable. Wrong as many other doctrines and practices may be, are they worth dividing the Body over? I believe Reformed doctrines the most correct out there, but most of them are not “essential” to ecumenicism.

    Petros and sdb – you are both correct, but in different ways. Presbyterians have a longer list of doctrinal non-negotiables, evangelicals have a longer list of practical non-negotiables. I recently went on a medical mission with a Baptist organization, and the denomination in the African country I visited refused to baptize polygamists, even those who converted after they had begun a polygamous relationship. But then they wouldn’t baptize them if they divorced one of their wives either. So pre-conversion polygamy was a non-negotiable for this particular Baptist denomination. Obviously I strongly disagreed with this practice, and so did some of the missionaries, to their credit. The point is Presbyterians would consider the Baptist doctrine of Baptism to be a non-starter, while the Baptists consider pre-existing polygamy to be a non-starter for baptism and church membership. One has an excessively narrow sacramental doctrine, one has an excessively narrow sacramental practice. In my opinion both are wrong.

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  281. Petros, think of Lewis’s analogy of the house (church) with many rooms (denoms). Denominationalists understand both the necessity of rooms in a house and their inhabitants to regularly return to them after having roamed the house and freely even warmly interacted with each other; evangies are the ones going around saying rooms are mostly dumb and it’s better to have no walls, yet at the same time trying to discern real family members by subjective and arbitrary criteria (lingo, behaviors). Denominationalists are the discerning adults, evangies the impulsive adolescents.

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  282. @vv You are essentially articulating the stance of the mainline and the impetus for their tolerance of what most evangelicals/confessional prots find objectionable. Sociologically, the main line approach to ecumenism has led to an overall watering down of the faith and exclusion of items that become divisive. The PCUSA has gone from wanting to tolerate views of the atonement beyond substitution to excluding hymns because the writers won’t agree to strike the bits about God’s justice being satisfied in Christ’s death.

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  283. @Petros – you keep making the same mistake by assuming that there is one bar. There isn’t (though evidently our continentally oriented friends disagree with us). The bar for ministry is very high. The bar for lay fellowship is very low – much lower than it is for the larger evangelical world. We don’t require rebaptisms – you do (for example).

    I’m surprised you find article 27 superfluous – Is it that there are only two sacraments (you want to argue for the sacramental nature of marriage?), that they are communion and baptism, or that they do not harbor any power in and of themselves? Curious…

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  284. @Ali So you are indeed accusing me of paying lip service to the faith I profess while my heart is far from Christ. A serious charge indeed. Certainly it is not a concern I dismiss which is why I have asked you repeatedly to clarify what you are getting at. Your writing is incredibly unclear – that’s OK, none of us are employing editors in the commboxes here. But that means that there is ample room for miscommunication and misunderstanding (setting apart all the other bits about not getting sarcasm, irony, etc… across well). Given that we are professing Christians, perhaps before making such serious, damaging, and discouraging accusations against someone you know very, very little about, you might attempt to gain more understanding.

    From what I gather from what you have written, the basis of your accusation is that I dismiss the concern about one’s heart being engaged as well as one’s words because

    “1) you say “wherein one is tempted to look to one’s works to evaluate one’s righteousness rather than focusing on what Christ alone has accomplished.” but don’t seem to consider it can potentially also include pride for stuff one does on Sunday ’ and 2) Zrim was not corrected.”

    Regarding 1 – yes, I think starting with the puritan movement and culminating in Edwards, there was a tendency to look to subjective signs of the legitimacy of one’s faith such that it becomes common for people to look to their works, shibboleths, and emotions in order to gauge the validity of their belief. This is not what scripture teaches, heart in ancient jewish and greek thought is not what we understand to be affections today, and this tendency drives people toward prideful triumphalism and/or despair. This is the basis of the reformed critique of the revivalism that swept the US and spawned the 100’s of heretical groups we see today. This critique is not a claim that lip service is sufficient. If you don’t understand the difference and the context of this debate, then rather than jumping to conclusions, you should ask about it. You might learn something. If you do know the context of this debate, then perhaps you could clarify where you fit into this ongoing discussion.

    Regarding 2 – I don’t see where Zrim needs to be corrected. The romanticism that was spawned in the late 18th century and culminated in the 19th century has permanently changed how we understand what we mean by “heart”. The trivial way this phrase gets bandied about in sunday school songs undermines the understanding of what scripture is teaching us when it tells us that the greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength.

    “Zrim’s comment is such a big deal because, who is truly one who “does not give slightest evidence to show that they know what such words mean”. Isn’t this best summed up in being the one who dismisses that it is all about His heart He has given us yielded to by faith (Jesus down down down in our hearts), as if our own righteous acts are not nothing but filthy rags otherwise. Romans 8:8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
    I don’t mean to be rude, but this string of sentences is unintelligible. I tried reading them out-loud, reshuffled a few words, and rewording the sentences. I can’t make heads or tails of what you are trying to communicate. That’s OK, typos (especially on cell phones) happen. Like I said, we don’t have editors. But that means rather than attacking people with accusations of faithlessness (as is your MO), perhaps you would be better served to seek understanding.

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  285. @sdb, however many diff bars there are, the main point remains the main point. If Begg and Mohler are not welcome in your pulpits, they’re not welcome. Further, the eeee-world is certainly more comfortable with emphasizing the priesthood of all believers, and with all people doing ministry (including preaching, baptizing, et al), and we have less of a clergy/laity dichotomy than presbys. (I’ve no current interest in litigating the merits of that particular diff here.)

    But, if you’re really not aware, the bit about sacraments being ONLY “dispensed…. by a minister of the Word lawfully ordained”, and the bit about “The sacraments of the old testament…. were, for substance, the SAME with those of the new.” is not the normative way credo-evangies would view either of the two sacraments of baptism and communion.

    So yeah, Zrim rightly notes that evangies say it’s better not to have the above kind of walls. We’re all about love and unification.

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  286. @vv, your anecdotal invocation about your Baptist friends is, well, anecdotal. That is, it is not normative by any means, and the particular practice of baptizing (or not) polygamists hardly rises to the same institutionalized level of a written confession. I can see why that one would be a thorny issue, and with understanding the local cultural dynamics being a consideration, too. As a practical matter, baptizing polygamists is not an issue that 99% of baptists (small ‘b’) in the U.S. have likely given any thought to, anyway.

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  287. But, if you’re really not aware, the bit about sacraments being ONLY “dispensed…. by a minister of the Word lawfully ordained”, and the bit about “The sacraments of the old testament…. were, for substance, the SAME with those of the new.” is not the normative way credo-evangies would view either of the two sacraments of baptism and communion.

    Petros, sure sounds like you have specific theological differences, which means you’re not so much shrugging categorically at having edges for their own sake as you are pushing back against another theological edge. Careful, you’re inner confessionalist is showing. It’s beginning to look like you may have your doctrinal edges but others may not. Logs and eyes, Mr. Bible.

    We’re all about love and unification.

    Duuuuude. But you do realize evangelicalism has become way more of a political category than a religious one, and that political category is Trump, and Trump isn’t love and unification. Then again, it’s theological side has also been described as a stew that includes everything from Sproul to Hinn. One man’s love and unification is another’s trainwreck.

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  288. Zrim, yes I (and others) have our theological edges and preferences. The diff is we do not elevate nearly as many of those edges/preferences to the level of barriers to ministry or fellowship as presbys do. For instance, I understand the presby rationale for Ch 27 of the WCF, but sorry to say do not view it theologically or exegetically compelling. You’ll create a barrier out of that diff, and I’ll shrug my shoulders as that diff isn’t so consequential.

    Wrt to the eeee-world becoming more political. I personally don’t celebrate that. To that end, 2K thinking is a valuable theological antidote, with love to DGH and others for giving voice to it.

    But, entities like the Gospel Coalition and Christianity Today are evidence that, like it or not, evangelicalism remains an apt broad religious category.

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  289. sdb – there would be a “watering down” of non-essentials, for sure. For the sake of unity, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. The NT authors had very little to say about the mode of baptism and a lot to say about unity. And I’m glad it’s not just me that was completely lost by Ali’s last paragraph.

    Zrim – the Lewis “rooms-in-a-house” analogy understates the divisions DGH and many other Presbyterians prefer. A more apt analogy would be fenced yards (front and back) in a neighborhood. Presbyterians can wave at their Baptist neighbors as they check their mail, but that’s about the extent of the interaction if some on Old Life had their way.

    Petros – the example is certainly anecdotal, but illustrates the point that B(b)aptists (the archetype of American eeevangelicals) get more hung up on practice while Presbyterians get hung up on doctrine. I’ve heard Southern Baptists debate the type of water to immerse someone in: standing or flowing. Presbyterians will debate the finer doctrinal point of baptism, but would never fuss over standing vs. flowing water.

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  290. @vv, no doubt cultural, and extra-biblical, considerations have regrettably infiltrated lots of churches. How would you characterize past presby segregationism in the south? Was that a doctrinal problem, or a practical problem?

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  291. sdb says “The trivial way this phrase gets bandied about in sunday school songs undermines the understanding of what scripture is teaching us”

    Sorry for being unclear sdb.

    Congrats to you, though, for obscuring how very clear we should be about the need to be born again in the Spirit. What is the one distinctive of a true Christian? The indwelling Spirit. What is the hope of glory? Christ in us. The Lord tells us of many implications – not the least of which – the fact of believers unity in His Spirit.

    Btw, I have taught a number of children great children songs of truth, none of which were ever bandied about trivially using heart in an improper way, and I have never had any doubt that the Lord would use these great songs well in these children’s hearts and minds.

    Carry on.

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  292. Petros, so if you’re looking for a pastor do you vote up on a guy who’s willing to baptize babies, or if someone in your church requests the pastor (or you since every member ministry) his child to be baptized then ok? Or are these barriers to ministry and fellowship? If not then why even hold a position either way since all it does is lead potentially to barriers to “love and unity”, plus aren’t all you left with is some mere religious opinion which drains your mission of any sense of urgency for unbelievers? If so then why do you get to create boundaries and confessionalists don’t?

    VV, pick your analogy (don’t they all break down at some point?). The point is that anti-confessionalism is the religious version of property without boundaries which confuses the very notion of property. Human beings simply don’t live that way unless they’re the sort that lurch toward utopia. Evangies are the hippies of Christianity (love and unity, man, no boundaries).

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  293. Zrim, whatever the weaknesses of the evangie world, a sense of urgency for reaching unbelievers is not one of them. But if all the various layers of your confessional bylaws motivate you to outreach, then PTL for that.

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  294. Mohler et al, could join our church without requiring him to change his convictions. A paedo couldn’t join his without being rebaptized. My guess is that a ss teacher in most evangelical churches wouldn’t last long if he suggested miracles are a thing of the past, babies should be baptized, that God chose who would be saved before he created them, that people are born again by the spirit before they are converted, or that Jesus only died for the elect. Someone who affirmed these would have a pretty tough time getting past the missions committee if he wanted support. At a nonegligible number of churches, one would be asked to move along if you didn’t line up with the church’s vision or philosophy of ministry. Probably necessary in a congregational polity.

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  295. Robert, and those sociologists would be either wrong or lazy. Evangelicalism is really anything someone wants it to mean. Sorry to self-promote, but Deconstructing Evangelicalism may be good on this.

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  296. Petros, the point is why should any unbeliever feel compelled to be a part of church that merely holds to pious opinions? Maybe if they want love and unity, but some of us have the audacity to say that there is ordinarily no possibility of salvation outside the church. I know you guys have zeal for unbelievers but where’s the knowledge?

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  297. Peter, “having a low bar can be, and often is, a weakness”

    So now tares ministry is not so great?

    Presbyterians have more contacts with churches around the world than your congregation, I bet. An evangelical has to depend on the vagaries of networks to be in communion with churches around the world. This is church diplomacy 101 and Presbyterian have ties that are international. Evangelicalism is an American thing.

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  298. vv, for the record, Presbyterians accept Baptist baptisms. So there’s unity and there’s unity. The issue isn’t the mode, it’s why won’t Baptist baptize kids. As Machen said, that’s doctrine.

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  299. Zrim, wrt “why should any unbeliever feel compelled to be a part of church that merely holds to pious opinions?”. I’m thinking Susan agrees with you – best you become a Cat.

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  300. Petros, and there it is, the CP/RC conflation. Omlette’s getting even bigger.

    So WCF 25 might some more superfluous gibber jabber?

    “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.”

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  301. Zrim – but is Petros really advocating anti-confessionalism? He seems to be advocating for less restrictive confessions than we have currently. At least that’s my understanding.

    Petros – I’m not sure what your point is about Presbyterian acceptance of segregation in the South. My point is that while I admire the ecumenical spirit of the eeeevangelical world when it comes to doctrine, they are often not as ecumenical when it comes to practice.

    DGH – you missed that point about the mode of Baptism: the point is we all love to discuss the minutiae of sacramental practice, but often overlook unity within the Body, which is of far greater concern to the NT authors. The fact that Presbyterians accept Baptist baptism makes sectarianism even more perplexing: so we accept their sacraments but shouldn’t help them plant churches? That’s very muddled thinking.

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  302. Z, yep, it’s superfluous gibber jabber compared to Holy Writ. And, you’re right – definitely similarities between CP’s and RC’s! Some of us are glad the reformation didn’t end in 1564.

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  303. @vv, I would advocate for a more subdued, less lofty view of confessions than what I observe in the confessional world. I’d view them as a valuable part of church history, written in a particular historical context and occasion that necessitated them, as sometimes helpful and brilliant elucidating summary statements of doctrine, as sometimes not the most exegetically accurate (imho), as sometimes not so intelligible (cf the presby debate about whether to update the English language used therein), and sometimes a superfluous barrier to ecumenical ministry. In sum, the downsides of a too elevated adherence to confessions outweigh the upsides.

    My minor point about acceptance of segregation in the south was merely to inquire if that would be viewed to be a failure in presby doctrine or a failure in presby practice.

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  304. VV, Petros has a high opinion but a low view of the confessions which means he opposes their being binding and authoritative which is anti-confessional.

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  305. Petros, but nobody is comparing them to holy writ. That’s actually the difference between CPs and RCs, the confessions not being penned by an inspired magisterium. Which is actually a similarity between RCs and evangies, the former has an infallible pope with fawning fans, the latter an authoritarian personality pastor (CPs a man under the authority of a plurality of elders).

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  306. Petros: I would advocate for a more subdued, less lofty view of confessions than what I observe in the confessional world. I’d view them as a valuable part of church history, written in a particular historical context and occasion that necessitated them, as sometimes helpful and brilliant elucidating summary statements of doctrine, as sometimes not the most exegetically accurate (imho), as sometimes not so intelligible (cf the presby debate about whether to update the English language used therein), and sometimes a superfluous barrier to ecumenical ministry. In sum, the downsides of a too elevated adherence to confessions outweigh the upsides.

    The notably absent upside in your reckoning is that the collected wisdom of the church is greatly superior to the idiosyncrasies of the individual. And that’s actually Scriptural: Prov 11.14.

    Mathison has some good reading on this in The Shape of Sola Scriptura.

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  307. @ Petros:

    Thanks. Mathison is on Amazon and cheap in paperback.

    One more thought. Is “confessions are dusty” more like “slide rules are useless” or more like “math is boring”?

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  308. Jeff, the “dusty” part has to do with (my experience only) that lay confessionalists are largely illiterate about the confessions. In that sense, confessions are a slide rule (has some utility if one understands them, but antiquated enough that most people do not). So, the entire “binding” nature of confessions is a bit curious in that way (how does one pledge fidelity to what one doesn’t understand?). And, the few that can articulate the Biblical theology underlying the confessions, are people who tend to be already Biblically literate. Hence, if one already is sufficiently Biblically literate, a binding confession appears superfluous, and the confessions downgraded to the role of a sometimes helpful commentary or reference work.

    Fwiw, I also cringe when some otherwise solid Bible teaching orthodox evangelical churches include in their statement of faith a fair bit of minutiae about their particular view of the eschaton (eg, say details about raptures and dispensations, et al). That is, if 99% of the people in the church are unable to defend/articulate the minutiae, they should leave that stuff out entirely, and simplify to “yeah, we believe Christ is coming again” and leave it at that. The entire topic seems to devolve to a) how one defines what the appropriate prerequisite irreducible minimum core or essential set of doctrines are for fellowship and ministry, and b) how comfortable one is with people pledging allegiance to stuff they don’t understand.

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  309. Petros, maybe it takes actually being a lay confessionalist to have a more realistic take the state of our understanding, which is a mixed bag–though I know it helps your case to claim that most are ignorant, it would help ours to say most aren’t but a mixed bag seems the most accurate. But let’s assume most are ignorant. That only irritates a hyper sense of individualism. Do husbands and wives understand their marriage vows when tying the knot? Those of us long married know they don’t. So do we say it’s foolish to get married? Does every employee understand everything before he’s hired such that we say it’s foolish to join a company unless one has the understanding of upper management? I’m not sure what you mean by illiterate, though I imagine it’s a way of suggesting a lazy and presumptuous spirituality on the part of confessionalists. But I wonder if you’ve ever considered how to make room for ignorance in the ranks beyond something nefarious. Maybe some have a limited capacity to understand or maybe some are relatively new to the faith but both have heard the the voice of their shepherd and are doing what they can to catch up to grasp the doctrines of his church.

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  310. Zrim, ha ha. I knew you’d offer blowback. Yeah, actually I’d say husbands & wives DO understand the short/simple “till death do us part” vows far more than people understand the 92-page pdf of the WCF, replete with 578 footnotes. I’ve not suggested anything nefarious on your part. I maintain the confessions have value, but at a far less lofty level than this “binding” of the ‘mixed bag’ group to whom you refer.

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  311. @Petros:

    “how one defines what the appropriate prerequisite irreducible minimum core or essential set of doctrines are for fellowship and ministry”

    You seem to assume throughout your comments that the essential set of doctrines for fellowship are identical to the essential set of doctrines for ministry. Is that a fair reading?

    Here are the vows one must adhere to in order to join a PCA congregation:

    Do you acknowledge yourself to be a sinner in the sight of God, justly deserving His displeasure, and without hope save in His sovereign mercy?
    Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and Savior of sinners, and do you receive and rest upon Him alone for salvation as He is offered in the Gospel?
    Do you now resolve and promise, in humble reliance upon the grace of the Holy Spirit, that you will endeavor to live as becomes the followers of Christ?
    Do you promise to support the Church in its worship and work to the best of your ability?
    Do you submit yourself to the government and discipline of the Church, and promise to study its purity and peace?

    I’m curious – would you consider this getting too far into the weeds for “fellowship”?

    What are the minimum doctrinal affirmations one should make in order to serve as the senior pastor of your church? Is a paedo welcome? What about someone who believes in the real presence at communion? Are preterists acceptable as well? Double predestination? Advocate of the limited atonement? What about those around here who think that you can’t be born again without believing in the limited atonement? Would a pastor who only accepts psalm singing in worship be OK too? My bet is that you have opinions on whether your pastor should should hold to these things, but you just don’t write it down and hope it never comes up. Fair assessment?

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  312. @sdb, there are certain distinct attributes for ecclesial leadership (otoh, I think ALL believers are given a ministry). Look, it’s wonderful that you’re a confessionalist. Just try not to be too distraught if Wentz and Foles (ahem, which was the origin of this thread) share a bond of faith. Being an eeee-guy, I’ll be encouraged.

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  313. Petros, you missed my point, which wasn’t to compare husbands and wives to church laity. It was how people commit to institutions, beliefs, and vows without having expert knowledge about those things and work their way toward a more mature knowledge after the fact (you know, improve upon your baptism and work out your salvation?). In fact, it’s done all the time, but the way you speak it’s as if it’s intolerable to commit to those things first, then work on understanding: understand first, then commit. You see this often in credo reasoning, infants can’t profess faith therefore it’s heinous to baptize them, and see, they grow up to be lazy and presumptuous Christians and even hypocrites (rationalism alert).

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  314. Zrim, all the best to you and your kin in working out your understanding on a post-facto, post conscience-binding, basis (irrationalism alert).

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  315. @Petros:

    Your answer fell between the stools. The point is, a slide rule is useless because a completely superior alternative exists: the abacus calculator.

    Math, on the other hand, is amazingly useful — but is derided as boring (or obscure, or useless, as in “I took all that algebra and never used it once!”) — by people who don’t understand it.

    So I guess I’m looking for the superior alternative that you offer. Or else a concession that perhaps you don’t understand the logic behind having a confession?

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  316. “ Just try not to be too distraught if Wentz and Foles (ahem, which was the origin of this thread) share a bond of faith. “
    Ifthat is your take away, you have utterly missed the point of the post. Perhaps if you were more interested in learning something than scoring rhetorical points from snarky drive-bys, you might learn something. A few take aways to consider:

    1. The standards have been substantially revised
    2. Your own tradition has its own standards, those these are often unwritten and not informed by the wisdom of previous generations of believers.
    3. Modern day evangelicalism and quests for unity around essentials is not new. The fruit of these efforts have not been positive. The refusal to soberly study that history is hubris.
    4. Interdenominational ecclesiastical cooperation (fellowship of churches in TGC parlance) necessarily requires compromise.
    5. There is an asymmetry between confessional protestantism and evangelicalism is such that such compromises result in the loss of confessional distinctives (though as an aside some Southern Baptists have similar concerns).

    Feel free to disagree of course, but don’t misconstrue the point of this post.

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  317. Jeff, this may fall between some more stools, but I think math is useful and not boring, and I think slide rules can be useful. I also agree slide rules are not as useful as superior alternatives. Confessions are slide rules. Not useless, but not anywhere near the level of Scripture (I realize you’re not claiming that it is), which is the superior alternative (aka ‘calculator’). We’ll have to agree to disagree on the relative merits of the upsides (I acknowledge these exist), and downsides, to confessions.

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  318. @sdb, thanks. It’s always rich when OL’ers accuse others of snark. As to the main point of the post, that is something usually made in the very first paragraph. To that end, the eeee-world IS encouraged that Wentz & Foles share a common faith. Meanwhile, DGH is exhorting the confessional world to be vigilant in making sure that “ecclesiastical requirements (do) get in the way of the bond that comes from being born-again”. It’s not more complicated than that. So, contra whatever low bar you want to represent as to who is welcome in your church, the exhortation of DGH remains “For confessional Protestants, fellowship has standards.” Time to get off the hamster wheel, and agree to disagree.

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  319. For anyone who wants to answer—SDB, Zrim, Jeff, Darryl,

    What exactly are you advocating at the end of the day?

    Do you want more discernment when it comes to interdenominational cooperation? If that’s it, I agree.

    Do you want interdenominational parachurch organizations such as TGC not to do the work of the church? IE, do you want them to stop producing catechisms, acting like the theological arbiters of what is “Reformed”, etc. If that’s so, then I agree.

    Do you want someone like TKNY to take his confessional commitments more seriously and plant only Presbyterian churches? If that’s so, then I agree.

    It’s hard for me, at least, to discern what you want. Often it reads as if at least some of you want to cease all forms of interdenominational cooperation. Is that the case?

    The problem with that is that there seem to be at least some things that, given the present division in the visible church, probably should only be done through interdenominational cooperation. I’m thinking, for example, of Bible translation. We might even put theological education in this box since denominational seminaries don’t tend to stay orthodox.

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  320. @Robert

    “Do you want more discernment when it comes to interdenominational cooperation? If that’s it, I agree.”
    Me too

    “Do you want interdenominational parachurch organizations such as TGC not to do the work of the church? IE, do you want them to stop producing catechisms, acting like the theological arbiters of what is “Reformed”, etc. If that’s so, then I agree.”
    Me too

    “Do you want someone like TKNY to take his confessional commitments more seriously and plant only Presbyterian churches? If that’s so, then I agree.”
    Me too

    “It’s hard for me, at least, to discern what you want.”
    I want reformed pastors and sessions to take the work of shepherding their churches more seriously. That means forthrightness in how they handle the standards: advocate for change if your conscience requires it and submit it leave if the church remains unconvinced. Sorta ordaining deaconesses, letting Sabbath day violations slide, cheating the regulative principle, etc… are forms of dishonesty imho.

    “Often it reads as if at least some of you want to cease all forms of interdenominational cooperation. Is that the case?”
    Not necessarily, I just want clear boundaries between the work of the church and common efforts.

    “The problem with that is that there seem to be at least some things that, given the present division in the visible church, probably should only be done through interdenominational cooperation. I’m thinking, for example, of Bible translation. We might even put theological education in this box since denominational seminaries don’t tend to stay orthodox.”
    Good points. I’m stuck on the issue of seminaries. It seems to me that trailer pastors should be the work of the church.

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  321. “thanks. It’s always rich when OL’ers accuse others of snark. ”
    You’re welcome. I’m just a commenter here. I don’t know any of the regulars here outside of the commbox.

    “As to the main point of the post, that is something usually made in the very first paragraph.”
    That’s not a rule of writing I’ve ever heard of. The first paragraph is sometimes a hook to lead into the main point.

    “To that end, the eeee-world IS encouraged that Wentz & Foles share a common faith.”
    Which is not the main point.

    “Meanwhile, DGH is exhorting the confessional world to be vigilant in making sure that “ecclesiastical requirements (do) get in the way of the bond that comes from being born-again”.
    That’s right. To teach/preach in your church it takes more than being born again.

    “It’s not more complicated than that. So, contra whatever low bar you want to represent as to who is welcome in your church, the exhortation of DGH remains “For confessional Protestants, fellowship has standards.””
    Right. In context, that fellowship is ecclesiastical fellowship. Curt and I had the same argument and dgh clarified that Curt was making the same error you are making.

    ” Time to get off the hamster wheel, and agree to disagree.”
    Right. You know what dgh means better than he does because there are rules man. Are you an engineer?

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  322. SDB,

    I want reformed pastors and sessions to take the work of shepherding their churches more seriously. That means forthrightness in how they handle the standards: advocate for change if your conscience requires it and submit it leave if the church remains unconvinced. Sorta ordaining deaconesses, letting Sabbath day violations slide, cheating the regulative principle, etc… are forms of dishonesty imho.

    Can’t argue with that. If that’s all we’re talking about, then I agree 100 percent.

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  323. @ Petros: I’m pretty sure that DGH’s thesis in the article was not “I’m sure many evangelicals were encouraged.” If it were, we would be reading an article about the evangelicals that were encouraged.

    Try this one: “Those churches, like the Lutheran bodies in America, which have maintained that institution, have profited enormously by its employment; and their example deserves to be generally followed.”

    It’s the standard DGH format.

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  324. Petros: Jeff, this may fall between some more stools, but I think math is useful and not boring, and I think slide rules can be useful.

    Points for taste! And good sense.

    Petros: I also agree slide rules are not as useful as superior alternatives. Confessions are slide rules. Not useless, but not anywhere near the level of Scripture (I realize you’re not claiming that it is), which is the superior alternative (aka ‘calculator’).

    Ah. In that case, I will choose for you: You don’t understand confessions. Nothing personal or snarky, but consider your words:

    P: [The Scripture] is the superior alternative [to confessions]

    P: So, the entire “binding” nature of confessions is a bit curious in that way (how does one pledge fidelity to what one doesn’t understand?).

    First point: confessions and Scripture don’t occupy the same space. One is not the alternative to the other. Scripture alone is the word of God. It is nourishment and light and a means of grace.

    Confessions are never intended to BE the word of God. They are intended to be a joint statement of our understanding of Scripture. Hence WCF speaking of itself and other products of synods:

    I. For the better government, and further edification of the Church, there ought to be such assemblies as are commonly called synods or councils…

    IV. All synods or councils, since the apostles’ times, whether general or particular, may err; and many have erred. Therefore they are not to be made the rule of faith, or practice; but to be used as a help in both.

    Second point: Members don’t pledge fidelity to the Confession. That is no part of our membership vows.

    Officers do, and for very good reason. It is necessary for officers to uphold sound doctrine (per 2 Tim / Titus). Therefore, it is necessary for churches to examine their doctrine, and to require of them that they teach such. When officers take their vows, it is only after an examination to ensure that they in fact know the doctrine they profess.

    That system isn’t perfect — generation over generation, examinations can become pro forma — but the structure is not what you describe.

    Members, meanwhile, are instructed, or are supposed to be instructed, by sound teaching. Will that teaching come primarily from Scripture? Yes, as it should. The Confession is used to clarify thorny issues, and to contrast sound doctrine from unsound.

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  325. Robert, how about just a reversal of emphasis: the church is where the vital action is, and if it has to exists at all para church activity is a nice idea as far as it goes but is negligible. But I think the point here is less about what to see in practical terms and more of an observation on the lamentable loss of institutions, adherence, commitment, cohesion, all of which isn’t great for koombaya but does a much better job of fostering a faith with some depth and meaning.

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  326. Zrim,

    Ideally, yes. The problem is what are we to do in settings where the institutional church is not meeting a real need. At my undergraduate university, for example, the only institutional churches actually doing ministry on the campus were the Roman Catholic Church and the Southern Baptists (if you can call them an institution). If any evangelism and discipleship was to be done, it was the parachurch organizations doing it. (There were a handful of churches off campus that had some kind of college group for their students, but not many).

    I can think of other situations as well where needs are not being met. Perhaps we can fault evangelicals for their earnestness and low ecclesiology, but maybe too high of an ecclesiology can be a problem as well. Instead of faulting the revivalists and evangelicals, maybe NAPARC churches should focus on some of the efforts that the revivalists and evangelicals have typically picked up the slack on.

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  327. Robert, since each of our world’s has their own set of foibles, I appreciate you nailing a couple of the bigger downsides in the presby world. Risky move on your part around here.

    It seems to me that when presbys have too lofty a view of the professional clergy (the ones authorized, ecclesially, to do ministry) and want to ensure that the world is safe from the horrors of “every member ministry”, well, ahem, not nearly as much ministry gets done as does in the broader eeee-world.

    It’ll probably take awhile for Zrim to respond to you, though. He’s busy right now campaigning to abolish Vacation Bible Schools from the neighborhoods of Grand Rapids.

    Unless/until the presby world heeds your exhortation to “focus on some of the efforts that the revivalists and evangelicals have typically picked up the slack on”, maybe they should stop whining about TGC and parachurch ministries and look in the mirror. Do presbys really advocate for the abolition of CRU, Navigators, Inter-Varsity, Youth for Christ, Prison Fellowship, local rescue missions, any number of interdenominational foreign mission agencies, Wycliffe Bible Translators, etc, etc.???

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  328. Robert, mine’s a different experience which makes me skeptical of this popular notion that the only ones doing evangelism and discipleship are anybody but the confessional Protestants; there were P&R groups at my university. Maybe it doesn’t look like the RCCs or SBCs, but that doesn’t mean it’s absent. Our OPC church plant in Grand Rapids seeks to have a college presence, but we refrain from joining up with things like CityFest (father and son revivalists Luis and Andrew Palau that appeals to and captures cross-denominationally), electing rather to continue inviting college students and others to both Sunday services and a Wednesday night study group. Much less sizzle and lower profile but hard-pressed to say that the orthodox confessionalists here aren’t doing anything.

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  329. “…campaigning to abolish Vacation Bible Schools from the neighborhoods of Grand Rapids…Do presbys really advocate for the abolition of CRU, Navigators, Inter-Varsity, Youth for Christ, Prison Fellowship, local rescue missions, any number of interdenominational foreign mission agencies, Wycliffe Bible Translators, etc, etc.???”

    Old schoolers don’t “campaign to abolish or advocate for the abolition of” anything. That’s the language of activism. So while you may ding us for not jumping on do-gooder social justice bandwagons to save the world under religious pretentions, you also benefit by this in that we we don’t actively seek to rid the world of things of which we’re critical. Go ahead with your VBS, prison fellowships, and CityFests. We’ll stick with the lowly God ordained means, which if nothing else, helps free up time to be in the world while not of it.

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  330. Zrim,

    I wouldn’t say they aren’t doing anything. Maybe things are different in other areas, but there aren’t a whole lot of confessionally Reformed people in the country, for good or for ill, which means that such ministry is going to be more limited than that offered by other traditions, for good or ill.

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  331. Petros,

    Do presbys really advocate for the abolition of CRU, Navigators, Inter-Varsity, Youth for Christ, Prison Fellowship, local rescue missions, any number of interdenominational foreign mission agencies, Wycliffe Bible Translators, etc, etc.???

    Not in my experience, at least not in the PCA. In fact, Presbyterians have served as presidents of IVCF and CRU’s director of theological education teaches from time to time at Reformed Theological Seminary.

    Confessionalists who would be especially wary of such groups are a distinct minority.

    FWIW, I’ve never known any evangelical who would say differences over something such as baptism is unimportant. They would just say that such differences shouldn’t get in the way of cooperation in such areas as evangelism and education. I’ve worked and volunteered in enough parachurch settings to know that you can actually be committed to the confessions and work profitably with Christians of other confessional commitments as long as the parachurch group is not doing the specific work of the church. Most of those groups you list, in my experience, aren’t trying to plant new churches, conduct weekly worship, administer the sacraments, or other such things.

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  332. Petros,

    It seems to me that when presbys have too lofty a view of the professional clergy (the ones authorized, ecclesially, to do ministry) and want to ensure that the world is safe from the horrors of “every member ministry”, well, ahem, not nearly as much ministry gets done as does in the broader eeee-world.

    It’s a tradeoff. You might get “less done,” but what is done is done more “decently and orderly.” It’s hard because none of should want to turn things into mere pragmatics, but at the same time, there is something to be said for getting things done.

    There are strengths and weaknesses in both worlds, and the lines/differences between confessional and evangelical are not nearly as tight as some commentators seem to think they are. Under any historical definition of evangelical, everyone commenting here is an evangelical. Even Darryl. 🙂

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  333. Peter, nice insertion of “(do).” The point you missed is that evangelical requirements WILL get in the way of the bond that evangelicals sentimentalize. You don’t have to do anything other than follow your theological and church government standards.

    Oh, that’s right. You’re favorite “Presbyterian” is someone who has to be reminded to “(do).”

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  334. Robert, you’re following along well. Yes, yes, and yes to your first three questions.

    Cue Peter.

    On Bible translation, why should publishers make all the money from Bible translations?

    On seminaries, I’ve long observed the tension that comes from trying to be confessional and then trying to market yourself to a broader world. Look at WTS (not WSC). [I have less fear writing that now that Carl Trueman does not work for WTS.]

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  335. Zrim, “Old schoolers don’t “campaign to abolish or advocate for the abolition of” anything.” Well, lots of hand-wringing around here about the TGC’s existence.

    Claiming the phrase “God ordained means” for church-only presby ministry is a bit rich. Last I checked, God ordained the preaching of the gospel, which is what VBS, prison fellowships, et al, thankfully, DO.

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  336. Robert, “Not in my experience, at least not in the PCA.” Not in my experience, either, which is why the OL club here is a curiosity to me, however tiny it is.

    “Confessionalists who would be especially wary of such groups are a distinct minority.” And (with apologies to Zrim) PTL that it IS a distinct minority!

    “FWIW, I’ve never known any evangelical who would say differences over something such as baptism is unimportant. They would just say that such differences shouldn’t get in the way of cooperation in such areas as evangelism and education.” Yep, agree. That’s my view, too.

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  337. Zrim, “ding us for not jumping on do-gooder social justice bandwagons to save the world under religious pretentions”. Hmmmm….Zrim thinks Wycliffe Bible Translators, CRU, Navs, et all are on a “social justice bandwagon”. Wow.

    Robert, please tell Zrim your work in the parachurch sphere wasn’t just some social justice bandwagon thing you were doing!

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  338. DGH, “why should publishers make all the money from Bible translations?” Yeah, that last translation of the NT into Mongolian a few years ago was a real $-maker.

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  339. Petros, haha, right, because TGC is going to fold up and go away because of OL kinds of criticism. Also lots of criticism of RCC, do you imagine OL expects that to throw in the towel? Abolition of things is theonomic (another OL target). Get up to speed.

    “Last I checked, God ordained the preaching of the gospel, which is what VBS, prison fellowships, et al, thankfully, DO.”

    Oh, so why not start administering the sacraments, exercising discipline, and collecting tithes among the kiddos and cons?

    “Zrim thinks Wycliffe Bible Translators, CRU, Navs, et all are on a ‘social justice bandwagon’.”

    Huh? No, he doesn’t.

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  340. Zrim, I’m guessing DGH may want to close this thread down, but since you asked “why not start administering the sacraments, exercising discipline, and collecting tithes”, assuming you’re not at risk for a heart attack, let me answer. Yeah, those things happen from time to time, and it’s perfectly FINE!

    As regards to collecting $, if a parachurch ministry or missionary solicits funds (which most do to stay alive), nothing wrong with that. As regards to “discipline”, there’s far more real personal training, mentorship, reproof, teaching and Scripture memory going on in most Nav college discipleship groups than in any local church, as a general rule. And as regards to sacraments, if an 11th grade new believer wants the Youth for Christ staffer who led him to Christ (uh oh, there’s that awful decisionist thing happening again!) to baptize him in the high school swimming pool in front of his peers, that’s awesome!

    Okay, okay, I know you all disagree with the above…..

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  341. DGH – “vv, in case you haven’t noticed, Presbyterians accept Roman Catholic baptisms. Is TKNY now planting Roman Catholic churches?

    Fair point. Maybe Redeemer CTC should look at planting Catholic churches? Though I doubt the RCC would oblige…

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  342. As regards to “discipline”, there’s far more real personal training, mentorship, reproof, teaching and Scripture memory going on in most Nav college discipleship groups than in any local church, as a general rule.

    Petros, there you go again with those speculative stats. Of all the Reformed churches I’ve experienced it was a mixed bag but plenty of them were doing their due diligence to disciple. So if you have in mind local Reformed churches then since you aren’t involved in them you have no real way of comparing. If you have in mind local evangie churches then you help make the case for what contributes to the bankruptcy of evangelicalism.

    And as regards to sacraments, if an 11th grade new believer wants the Youth for Christ staffer who led him to Christ (uh oh, there’s that awful decisionist thing happening again!) to baptize him in the high school swimming pool in front of his peers, that’s awesome!

    Tacky, but if the staffer is duly ordained then ok. If not, then what happened to the notion that parachurch work is meant to bolster the local church and the young man is sent to the local church to seek baptism in a good and decent order?

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  343. Darryl,

    On seminaries, I’ve long observed the tension that comes from trying to be confessional and then trying to market yourself to a broader world. Look at WTS (not WSC). [I have less fear writing that now that Carl Trueman does not work for WTS.]

    It is a difficulty. Depending on the campus, RTS seems to do a pretty good job of it, at least these days. You’re going to get an education that advocates for WCF positions no matter who you are as a student. The Baptist students take a Baptist polity class and there are polity classes for the different Presbyterian denominations. Of course, RTS doesn’t market itself loudly as being an essentially WCF institution, but that’s what students get when they go to class.

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  344. Zrim, as regards to stats, sorry, you’re on the losing end, both as to the quantity of college kids reached/discipled by CRU and Navs versus by any local churches, whether confessional or otherwise, and the quality of the personal training (Bible study practices, evangelism, etc) the kids receive. You may not like that, but it’s reality. If you know of an exception to that general rule, great, but it’s an exception only. And, fwiw, my kids attended a solid PCA church in college, and neither they nor the PCA church would begin to claim, or compare, the Sunday-only ministry of the church to what either CRU or Navs were doing throughout the week. The beauty, not the bankruptcy, of evangelicalism is that evangelical churches welcome and CELEBRATE the various parachurch ministries that are out there.

    Nope – YFC staffers are not duly ordained, or at least not “ordained” the way you define ordination. They are ordained by Scripture, though. If there were a strict Biblical warrant to seek a baptism only in the local church by a paid clergy, you might have a case…but alas, it ain’t there.

    Yes, I know you don’t like this, and that you disagree….

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  345. “Ordained by Scripture.”

    Huh. So a Bible reaches out and lays hands on the YFC minister and ordains him, just like Paul ordained Ephesian elders?

    Richard Mitchell taught me to be suspicious of language that obscures human agency.

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  346. Petros, you seem concerned for who beats whom on discipling. I don’t care. I care about suggestions that actual churches aren’t doing anything except fostering laze and presumption, which is what all your comments do.

    “They are ordained by Scripture, though.”

    Swallowing the Holy Spirit, feathers and all.

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  347. Zrim, Jeff,

    I think Petros’ point is that saying that ONLY officially ordained ministers can baptize is not nearly as self-evident as we would like it to be. It does take a whole lot of good and necessary consequence to get there, which might be fine as far as it goes, but it isn’t much help in extraordinary circumstances. If a group of guys finds a Bible in remote Africa, are converted, and get together to form a church that is pretty orthodox, whose going to rightly baptize them?

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  348. Zrim, I don’t have concerns about who beats whom, because, alas, in the eeee-world, parachurches and churches are all on the same team. Just remember it is you who looks askance at parachurch ministries “administering the sacraments, exercising discipline, and collecting tithes”. PTL for the many faithful excellent parachurch ministries that reach/disciple bizzillions of people outside the usual scope of the local church.

    Robert, thank you, YES! wrt “not nearly as self-evident as we would like it to be… It does take a whole lot of good and necessary consequence to get there”. Well said. I appreciate that you, as a presby, can be self-aware in that regard. (And yes, I can be self-aware that in the eeee-world a newbie untrained believer might not be the best choice to preach through the book of Romans, either.)

    But whether the new believers are in remote Africa or downtown Grand Rapids, it makes perfect sense for an unchurched high schooler whose first/only connection to the gospel was through YFC to be baptized in his high school swimming pool or in the Grand River by that unordained YFC staffer.

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  349. But, Robert, Petros is assuming ordinary circumstances where there are local churches but those aren’t good enough because there are rad Bible toting Cru dudes on fire for Jesus who can do it so much better than some dusty old man. Donatist alert, baptism is extra effectual when rad dudes do it.

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  350. Just to be clear, wrt “baptism is extra effectual”…actually, water baptism is not effectual. It effects NOTHING. It is an important outward symbolic act representing an inner spiritual reality.

    If you want to get misty-eyed that something effectual is going on when a presby clergy sprinkles some drops on an infant…

    Enough of this stuff. I wanna see the Carson-v-DGH cage match!

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  351. Petros, I suppose because you’ve swallowed the Holy Spirit feathers and all there remain no proclivities toward heresies. But when there churches around you see no need to point the convert there since the pastor is probably a hypocrite anyway.

    And you don’t think an outward act representing an inner reality effects anything? Then why do you do it? You don’t see how that’s hypocrisy (more rationalism from the credo)?

    Jesus to John the Baptizer: “Baptize me.”
    John: “Water baptism is not effectual. It effects NOTHING.”

    It’s never good when one thinks he can improve upon God himself.

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  352. Zrim, I’ll respond to the (small) part of your post that’s intelligible. The rite of baptism is effective as a communication vehicle to the world that the new believer has repented of their sin, has trusted Christ, and is pledging his undying loyalty to follow Christ. When the high school YFC’er does that in front of his peers, it’s an awesome testimony to the transformative power of the gospel. Yes, that’s diff than clergy dribbling water on an unsuspecting infant in front of adult believers. I’ll get misty-eyed about the YFC’er, and you can get misty-eyed about the infant.

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  353. @ Petros:

    What is the Biblical warrant for the belief that God intends baptism to be a “communication vehicle to the world that the new believer has repented of their sin, has trusted Christ, and is pledging his undying loyalty to follow Christ. ”?

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  354. Jeff, I’m sure you’re familiar with the basis for credo rationale and I don’t think that topic needs to get re-litigated here. I’ll happily admit that there’s a certain amount of “good and necessary” inference on how we get to there, which is why TGC and much of the eeee-world is happy to not make agreement on the details of the sacrament a barrier. Paedos and credos are all welcome in the TGC, however anathema that is to some.

    Just curious….when you folks talk about church A accepting (or not) the baptism of church B, how would you process the h.s. guy baptized by an unordained YFC staffer? Does that count? I assume it does, but if it does, Zrim must be horrified at the thought.

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  355. Thanks Petros for the Don Carson link ; excerpt: “moreover, we have tried to write these documents in such a way as to show that our creedalism is not just cerebral, but is to be worked out

    in adoration of our Maker and Redeemer,

    in transformation of life under the Lordship of King Jesus

    and in the power of the Holy Spirit.

    That’s what holds us together “

    Amen.
    btw, I think it’s enough for a believer to say they obey getting baptized, because they love the Lord and desire to obey Him.

    John 14:23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

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  356. Petros, I’m not given to getting misty eyed (emotionalism alert). But, yes, that’s more or less how I understood my adult baptism as an eeeevangelical, namely a display of my own piety. Orthodoxy of course teaches something very different, namely an act of God to both effect and display his salvation of sinners apart from any works or assistance from them. Those understandings of baptism are two entirely different programs. Like Jeff, I’ve no idea where you get yours from Scripture, but the Reformed doctrine is fairly plain from it. Again, I thought you were the Bible people?

    Why should I be horrified? I presume the baptism was trinitarian. Perhaps irregular but likely kosher. Should our friend think better of your guidance and seek membership in our church plant, I’d have no reason to reject his baptism.

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  357. Ali: btw, I think it’s enough for a believer to say they obey getting baptized, because they love the Lord and desire to obey Him.

    Agreed.

    Likewise, it’s enough for a believer to say that they obey baptizing their children, for the same reason.

    It’s really hard for credos to wrap their heads around the fact that paedos view infant baptism as a positive command, given in Gen 17 to all those who are of the faith of Abraham.

    I get the disagreement over whether that actually *is* a command that applies to us, but it needs to be clear that obedience is the motive.

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  358. Petros: Jeff, I’m sure you’re familiar with the basis for credo rationale and I don’t think that topic needs to get re-litigated here.

    Actually, I’m not. I know from a historical theological perspective how the view of baptism as a declaration of allegiance came about (Tertullian), but I can’t recall ever reading a Scriptural argument for it. So enlighten me.

    Petros: I’ll happily admit that there’s a certain amount of “good and necessary” inference on how we get to there, which is why TGC and much of the eeee-world is happy to not make agreement on the details of the sacrament a barrier.

    That’s quite false, in two ways.

    (1) Credos refuse to accept paedobaptism as valid baptism. Period. If you want to join a credo church, you *must* be rebaptized on the grounds that the first baptism was not an actual baptism.

    Talk about barriers! “We won’t admit you as a member unless you (act as if you) take our view.” Presbies are far more accepting of credos in their ranks.

    (2) Credos attach sinister implications to paedobaptism: nominalism, Constantinianism, sacerdotalism. Carson may be an exception, but MacArthur (who should know better via Sproul) has delivered lectures blaming paedobaptism for the unsaved pew-sitters in churches, as if there are more of those in PCA churches than in baptist ones.

    So yeah, credos absolutely make “agreement on the details of the sacrament a barrier.” Institutionally and in terms of informal fellowship, credos make a big triumphal deal out of credobaptism.

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  359. Jeff, since you’re familiar with MacArthur, you can find his debate vs Sproul on baptism and acquaint yourself with his arguments, which are quite representative.

    Wrt “Credos refuse to accept paedobaptism as valid baptism. Period.” Actually, no. Tho’ church history is definitely not Zrim’s strength, even he is aware that there’s plenty of latitude on that topic in the E-Free denomination, and many others, as but one example. I’m not saying you won’t find more strident barrier-Baptists out there, but your characterization is a bit over the top.

    As regards to nominalism, perhaps that characterization is due to the many lib mainline paedo-practicing denominations, where nominalism is rampant. How rampant it is versus more astute presbys like yourself, I dunno, but I suspect there’s way more mainliners than there are Jeffs in the world. However, I’m happy to say I hope I’m wrong in that assessment.

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  360. Jeff, in what way – “Period” – is the TGC not happy to not make agreement on the details of the sacrament a barrier? I really don’t understand your blowback.

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  361. Ali, as usual I’ve no idea what you’re trying to say with regard to baptism.

    Petros, Jeff is referring to CBs who have the courage of their convictions. It makes sense to PBs with similar courage. Ironically these both have more in common with each other than either do with the modern creatures to think they can exist somewhere in between. It’s not unlike so-called 3-point Calvinists (or Calminians) who only demonstrate they understand very little of the case between Calvinists and Arminians.

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  362. Jeff Cagle says: It’s really hard for credos to wrap their heads around the fact that paedos view infant baptism as a positive command, given in Gen 17 to all those who are of the faith of Abraham. I get the disagreement over whether that actually *is* a command that applies to us, but it needs to be clear that obedience is the motive.

    Yes, thanks Jeff -we do agree on this: it needs to be clear obedience is the motive and that the (primary) motive for obedience is love for God.

    btw, I think it’s ok to say the Bible does not record any infant baptism and that the NT does not describe baptism as the New Covenant replacement for Old Covenant circumcision without getting lambasted.

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  363. Zrim says: Ali, as usual I’ve no idea what you’re trying to say with regard to baptism.

    Hey Zrim, this is probably going to not be well taken, but I think it’s possible you have landed in the right sect (in general) for your contempt of women.

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