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)

Machen Day 2017

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)

Does a "Big" and Bloated Denomination Need to Lose Some Weight?

The bloggers at Vintage 73 have been silent for a while but they returned to eprint with a vengeance by asking whether the PCA should divide. Sam DeSocio has the nerve to ask the question and he suggests the benefits are several:

If instead of one larger theologically conservative Presbyterian church we were three such smaller groups, it might make it possible for us to better cooperate with many other denominations. What I’m suggesting is that maybe for the sake of framing a larger church we first need to do some demo.

This might also give us a much need opportunity to reassess how we have interacted with other ethnic and cultural groups in America. Right now the dominant cultural paradigm of the PCA is a White South Suburban perspective (consider why we don’t have General Assembly outside of the south east but once or twice a decade.) Maybe such a shake up would produce a healthier inclusion of Black Christians, Asian Christian, Latino Christian etc.

The Second potential benefit of a partitioning is the chance for local church leaders to assess their hopes for the church at large. Quite honestly, I believe that many of the problems of the PCA come down to ostrich-itis. Local church leaders are unsettled with certain things going on in the PCA (shifts to the right or to the left), but many shrug their shoulders and give up. They see the stalemate. So, they simply give up participating at a denominational level.

One intriguing aspect of this post is that it conflicts with Tim Keller’s own assessment of the PCA (from a piece no longer available on-line “Why I Like the PCA”):

TThe history of conservative Presbyterianism in the U.S., Scotland, and the Netherlands over the last 125 years is a painful account of bloody splits and the formation of many new, smaller, and weaker denominations. Let me assert right here that there is nothing wrong with smallness per se. (Pietists and culturalists often sneer at smallness as being intrinsically inferior, and I think this one of their inherent spiritual blind spots which rightly makes doctrinalists furious.) Splitting a church over an issue of truth and conscience can sometimes lead to theological and spiritual renewal. The best example of this, I think, was the original Disruption of 1843 of the Church of Scotland, led by Thomas Chalmers, after which the new Free Church of Scotland grew in both quality and quantity, reaching out across the land in an explosion of both new church development and a renewed sense of social responsibility. In this case, the new ‘schism’ church was truly a healthy new Reformed church with all its historic impulses intact.

Nevertheless, such fruit from church splits is rare. A more normal result of church splits is the pruning off of branches in a way that both wounds and yet, ironically, does not last. Something of this pattern, I think, can be seen in the history of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.20 Early in its history, after the death of J. Gresham Machen, the OPC went through a split in which its New Side/New School branch left, led by J.Oliver Buswell of Wheaton College and Carl T. McIntire. But, no surprise, by the 1970s the OPC had grown a new ‘pietist/revivalist’ wing under the influence of Jack Miller. The New Life Churches and their Sonship course was classic revivalism, and it did not fit well with the more doctrinalist cast of the OPC. While not a formal split, like that of 1937, the New Life churches were made to feel unwelcome and nearly all left in the early 90s to swell the pietist ranks of the PCA.

Whenever a Reformed church purifies itself by purging itself of one of its impulses, it finds that within a generation or two, its younger leaders are starting to at look in a friendly way toward the lost parts.

I happened to use Keller’s piece in concluding my course at WSC this week and find that his perspective on Presbyterian history is decidedly fanciful — the Free Church hardly resulted in a communion with quantity. Either way, DeSocio’s idea that a split may be valuable and Keller’s that the PCA needs to remain a big take tent is another indication that the younger generation is not following the PCA’s celebrity pastor and may be willing to figure it out for themselves.

One other point to notice is this prevalent idea that the PCA is large. I know that it looks big from the perspective of the OPC (30,000) and the RPCNA (6,000). But 300,000 (the PCA’s rough membership) makes them a piker in American Christianity. The Evangelical Lutheran Church (one of the U.S.’s top ten) has roughly 5.5 million members (last I checked). The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod has about 2.6 million. The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod has approximately 400,000 members. The ELCA is to Lutheranism what the PCUSA is to Presbyterianism, just at the LCMS is the Lutheran equivalent of the PCA, which leaves the Wisconsin Lutherans the Lutheran version of the OPC. In other words, the small Lutheran denomination — WELS — has 33 percent more members than the PCA. And I bet the Wisconsin Synod folks think of themselves as small. So why is the PCA so impressed with its size? Comparing yourself to the OPC is not wise.

How Tim Keller Reasons

John Piper has a new book on thinking that I wonder if Tim Keller has read. (Do the celebrity figures of organizations like the Gospel Coalition have enough time, apart from their own writing, speaking, and travel to read the work of each other?) The reason for wondering is a tendency that Keller exhibits in many of the pieces I have read – namely, to avoid extremes in favor of a middle way. You don’t need to be Barry Goldwater, the guy who said “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice,” to know that both-and solutions are often impossible. To keep the Lord’s Day holy you need to avoid work on Sunday (for starters). You don’t work a little, rest some, and work a bit. And to honor your Reformed convictions, you don’t cooperate in ministries with Arminians. You can’t have the five points of Dort and the four points of the Remonstrants. You can’t ordain men only and have deaconesses. Sometimes the truths you profess require a choice.

But Keller does not seem to like being confined to either-or’s and he also apparently thinks that many of the errors in church history stem precisely from binary situations. His foreword to a new book by former Bush administration staffers on Christianity and politics (posted at the Gospel Coalition blog) exhibits precisely the tendency to identify extremism and run to the other side – but only so far, of course.

Here is Keller’s take on H. Richard Niebuhr:

In the mid-twentieth-century, H. Richard Niebuhr wrote his classic Christ and Culture, which helped mainline Christian churches think through ways to relate faith to politics. In the end, Niebuhr came down on the side of universalism, the view that ultimately God is working to improve things through all kinds of religions and political movements. The result of his work was to lead mainline Protestant churches to become uncritical supporters of a liberal political agenda (though Niebuhr himself opposed such a move).

Now, as the recent Pew Forum poll indicated, most Americans do not know their nation’s church history that well and Keller should not be faulted for getting Niebuhr wrong. At the time that the older brother of Reinhold wrote Christ and Culture, mainline Protestants were firmly in the Republican fold and also very bullish on maintaining a Christian America and a Christian world order. After all, H. Richard’s brother was a prominent supporter of the Cold War and one of the architects of anti-communist foreign policy in the Eisenhower administration was the Presbyterian, John Foster Dulles. In fact, the folks in the orbit of Union Seminary (NYC) were so bullish on a Christian America that their rhetoric foreshadowed that of Jerry Fallwell some thirty years later.

In which case, if Keller is going to use history to avoid its mistakes, he should try to avoid mistaken readings of history.

But this is not Keller’s only appeal to history. He goes on in the foreword to answer the objections of evangelicals who say that politics is “a distraction, that we should concentrate fully on the only important things—the defense of orthodox doctrine and the evangelism of the world.” I wish I knew of such evangelicals. I doubt Keller comes across many of them in New York and you can’t even find them at Bob Jones University these days where Keller’s rhetoric of transformationalism has more appeal that the school’s former fundamentalist denunciations of worldliness. Still, to counter the fundamentalist argument, Keller appeals to the errors of history:

. . . as the authors point out, in 1930s Germany, a faulty understanding of how Christianity relates to the political contributed to the disaster of Nazism, which in turn meant the loss of the German Lutheran Church’s credibility, evangelistic witness, and even orthodoxy. Something similar happened in South Africa, where an orthodox Reformed theology, invoking the views of Abraham Kuyper, created a civil religion that supported apartheid, and as a consequence has suffered incalculable loss to its standing in the eyes of the people. Ironically, the Lutherans followed a two-kingdom approach to Christ and culture, in which Christians are not to bring their faith into politics, while Reformed Christianity has been characterized by a view that Christians are supposed to transform culture. Both approaches, when not applied thoughtfully and wisely, have led to cultural, political, and ultimately spiritual disaster.

Several oddities stand out in this historical judgment. Just how many Americans after fighting a war against Germany twenty years earlier were sitting by their wireless, waiting to hear what the Lutheran Churches in Germany were saying about anything, let alone National Socialism? Lutherans never had a lot of credibility with Anglo-American Protestants, not even the American Lutheran communions.

But even odder about the assessment of Lutherans is the juxtaposition with Kuyperians. Keller does well to remember that the political failings of Protestants have been not simply on the Lutheran side. Reformed Protestants have to answer for their own performance.

And yet, Keller’s conclusion does not follow. He says that Lutherans lost their credibility for National Socialism and Dutch-African Reformed for apartheid. And yet, where has Kuyper lost any credibility with American Protestants – even Keller himself – who still rally under the banner of “every square inch”? In other words, if the German churches’ acquiescence to Hitler makes 2k theology suspect, why doesn’t neo-Calvinist support for apartheid make Kuyperianism suspect? And yet, it is the Kuyperian-flavored transformationalism that Keller himself consumes and that also accounts for some of the more vigorous critiques of 2k.

So instead of trying to avoid the errors of the past, perhaps Keller and others who appeal to history for directions in the present should understand that the past is complicated, its actors flawed, and that bad things happen to good causes. 2k theology did not create Hitler any more than neo-Calvinism is responsible for apartheid. History has no single causes. History also yields no consequences that disprove ideas. If Keller wants to argue against 2k theology or fundamentalist otherworldliness, fine. But guilt-by-association is not a good form of thinking. I suspect that even Piper agrees.

Forensic Friday: Reformed and Lutherans Make Music

Reformed Protestants these days tend to be absorbed with the Three Forms of Unity and the Westminster Standards and for good reason. These are the confessions of most extant Reformed and Presbyterian communions. But as the current project of Jim Dennison indicates, the confessional output of Protestantism was vast and many of the Reformed churches’ oldest creeds remain unknown.

One creedal endeavor that has received almost no scrutiny was the Harmony of Confessions, published in 1581 in Geneva. It was an effort by Zanchi and Ursinus, called by German electors, to reflect the unity of Protestants in Europe by publishing parts from eleven confessions – Lutheran, Reformed, and Anglican. These included: the Augsburg Confession (1530), Tetrapolitan (1530), Basel (1534), the First (1536) and Second (1566) Helvetic Confessions, Saxony (1551), Wirtemberg (1552), Gallican (1559), the Belgic (1561), the Thirty-Nine Articles (1562), and Bohemia (1573).

Philip Benedict concedes that the Harmony was a more hopeful than a realistic expression of Protestant unity. But he adds that it was “one example of the conviction of many Reformed that the bonds of brotherhood ought to encompass the Lutheran churches as well. Those who had taken part in Lutheran services were allowed to attend the Lord’s Supper at Geneva without undergoing the rite of public contrition required of those who had attended a Catholic mass; and the French Reformed decided in 1631 to admit visiting Lutherans to their communion services without impediment, asserting that the churches of the Augsburg Confession agree with ‘the other Reformed churches’ on the fundamental points of true religion.” This magnanimity came despite the constant bluster and huffiness of Gnesio Lutherans.

One of the sections of Augsburg that the Harmony included was article twenty, Of Good Works:

Our teachers are falsely accused of forbidding Good Works. For their published writings on the Ten Commandments, and others of like import, bear witness that they have taught to good purpose concerning all estates and duties of life, as to what estates of life and what works in every calling be pleasing to God. Concerning these things preachers heretofore taught but little, and urged only childish and needless works, as particular holy-days, particular fasts, brotherhoods, pilgrimages, services in honor of saints, the use of rosaries, monasticism, and such like. Since our adversaries have been admonished of these things, they are now unlearning them, and do not preach these unprofitable works as heretofore. Besides, they begin to mention faith, of which there was heretofore marvelous silence. They teach that we are justified not by works only, but they conjoin faith and works, and say that we are justified by faith and works. This doctrine is more tolerable than the former one, and can afford more consolation than their old doctrine.

Forasmuch, therefore, as the doctrine concerning faith, which ought to be the chief one in the Church, has lain so long unknown, as all must needs grant that there was the deepest silence in their sermons concerning the righteousness of faith, while only the doctrine of works was treated in the churches, our teachers have instructed the churches concerning faith as follows:—

First, that our works cannot reconcile God or merit forgiveness of sins, grace, and justification, but that we obtain this only by faith when we believe that we are received into favor for Christ’s sake, who alone has been set forth the Mediator and Propitiation, 1 Tim. 2:5, in order that the Father may be reconciled through Him. Whoever, therefore, trusts that by works he merits grace, despises the merit and grace of Christ, and seeks a way to God without Christ, by human strength, although Christ has said of Himself: I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. John 14:6.

This doctrine concerning faith is everywhere treated by Paul, Eph. 2:8: By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of your selves; it is the gift of God, not of works, etc.

And lest any one should craftily say that a new interpretation of Paul has been devised by us, this entire matter is supported by the testimonies of the Fathers. For Augustine, in many volumes, defends grace and the righteousness of faith, over against the merits of works. And Ambrose, in his De Vocatione Gentium, and elsewhere, teaches to like effect. For in his De Vocatione Gentium he says as follows: Redemption by the blood of Christ would become of little value, neither would the preeminence of man’s works be superseded by the mercy of God, if justification, which is wrought through grace, were due to the merits going before, so as to be, not the free gift of a donor, but the reward due to the laborer.

But, although this doctrine is despised by the inexperienced, nevertheless God-fearing and anxious consciences find by experience that it brings the greatest consolation, because consciences cannot be set at rest through any works, but only by faith, when they take the sure ground that for Christ’s sake they have a reconciled God. As Paul teaches Rom. 5:1: Being justified by faith, we have peace with God. This whole doctrine is to be referred to that conflict of the terrified conscience, neither can it be understood apart from that conflict. Therefore inexperienced and profane men judge ill concerning this matter, who dream that Christian righteousness is nothing but civil and philosophical righteousness.

Heretofore consciences were plagued with the doctrine of works, they did not hear the consolation from the Gospel. Some persons were driven by conscience into the desert, into monasteries hoping there to merit grace by a monastic life. Some also devised other works whereby to merit grace and make satisfaction for sins. Hence there was very great need to treat of, and renew, this doctrine of faith in Christ, to the end that anxious consciences should not be without consolation but that they might know that grace and forgiveness of sins and justification are apprehended by faith in Christ.

Men are also admonished that here the term “faith” does not signify merely the knowledge of the history, such as is in the ungodly and in the devil, but signifies a faith which believes, not merely the history, but also the effect of the history—namely, this article: the forgiveness of sins, to wit, that we have grace, righteousness, and forgiveness of sins through Christ.

Now he that knows that he has a Father gracious to him through Christ, truly knows God; he knows also that God cares for him, and calls upon God; in a word, he is not without God, as the heathen. For devils and the ungodly are not able to believe this article: the forgiveness of sins. Hence, they hate God as an enemy, call not upon Him, and expect no good from Him. Augustine also admonishes his readers concerning the word “faith,” and teaches that the term “faith” is accepted in the Scriptures not for knowledge such as is in the ungodly but for confidence which consoles and encourages the terrified mind.

Furthermore, it is taught on our part that it is necessary to do good works, not that we should trust to merit grace by them, but because it is the will of God. It is only by faith that forgiveness of sins is apprehended, and that, for nothing. And because through faith the Holy Ghost is received, hearts are renewed and endowed with new affections, so as to be able to bring forth good works. For Ambrose says: Faith is the mother of a good will and right doing. For man’s powers without the Holy Ghost are full of ungodly affections, and are too weak to do works which are good in God’s sight. Besides, they are in the power of the devil who impels men to divers sins, to ungodly opinions, to open crimes. This we may see in the philosophers, who, although they endeavored to live an honest life could not succeed, but were defiled with many open crimes. Such is the feebleness of man when he is without faith and without the Holy Ghost, and governs himself only by human strength.

Hence it may be readily seen that this doctrine is not to be charged with prohibiting good works, but rather the more to be commended, because it shows how we are enabled to do good works. For without faith human nature can in no wise do the works of the First or of the Second Commandment. Without faith it does not call upon God, nor expect anything from God, nor bear the cross, but seeks, and trusts in, man’s help. And thus, when there is no faith and trust in God all manner of lusts and human devices rule in the heart. Wherefore Christ said, John 15:5: Without Me ye can do nothing; and the Church sings:

Lacking Thy divine favor,

There is nothing found in man,

Naught in him is harmless.

Where’s Waldo Wednesday: No Getting Around Antinomianism (if you are monergistic)

Some union advocates don’t like the theological approach of asking what problem a specific doctrine solves (sorry Matt). But since we are in the arena of salvation, which is supposed to be a remedy for sin, inquiries about effects of certain doctrines, whether doctrinal or personal, seems fair.

So as near as I can tell, one of union’s greatest benefits is that it solves the Roman Catholic charge against Protestants of antinomianism, with added benefit of leaving Lutherans alone to bear the charge. (Why we don’t want to stand by our Lutheran brothers and offer aid and encouragement in a time of need is perhaps an indication of the failed Calvinist battle with spitefulness.) With union we receive justification and sanctification simultaneously, distinctly, without confusion or sequence. This means that we receive both the imputed righteousness and the infused righteousness of Christ. Which also means that we are both legally righteous and personally holy. It’s a win-win, again with the added benefit of leaving Lutherans in the dust of antinomianism since they allegedly don’t configure union this way, don’t receive sanctification at the same time, and so really are antinomian.

The added appeal of the union scheme has to do with the synecdoches of justification and sanctification, namely, faith and works (sorry cnh, whoever you are). If justification is used interchangeably with faith and sanctification with good works, which is a common usage both in the creeds and in the experience of believers, then union would appear to solve the antinomian problem, again by insuring that good works accompany justification and faith. In other words, via union, voila, I can look a Roman Catholic in the eye and tell him, when he accuses me of lacking virtue, “pound sand.” I mean to say, warm and fuzzy Calvinist that I am, “Listen fellow, I’m united to Christ. I’m both righteous in God’s sight and I have good works steaming off my body. Go find a Lutheran.”

Where this scheme breaks down, of course, is that justification and sanctification are both by faith alone. We are not justified by faith and sanctified by good works. In point of fact, justification and sanctification are acts, works of God. He is the one who declares a believer righteous. He is the one who quickens so that the believer lives to Christ.

Instead of solving the antinomian problem, then, union only makes the matter worse. By saying that I am both justified and sanctified simultaneously through union with Christ, the incentives for living a holy life virtually disappear. With the justification priority scheme, good works were a fruit and evidence of saving faith, in which case the believer would examine himself to see if he showed signs of grace. But with union, it’s all good – I am both righteous in God’s sight and I am infused with Christ’s righteousness, so conceivably I don’t need to lift a good works finger.

Now to union’s credit, it does help us see more clearly that justification and sanctification are both equally by faith. It also clarifies that sanctification is as gracious as justification because it is all of God through the application of Christ’s redemption by the Holy Spirit.

But I don’t see how it solves the antinomian problem. Justification, sanctification, and union are all about God’s good works. They are not about mine. So how am I, united to Christ, still not standing there next to my Lutheran friend, just as vulnerable to the Roman Catholic kvetch about antinomianism?

Unhuggable Lutherans

Garrison Keillor’s Life Among the Lutherans has arrived. It is already rewarding with merriment. Here are a few stanzas from “Lutheran Song.”

I was raised in Iowa, went to Concordia,
Swedish, I’m proud to say.
Got a job at Lutheran Brotherhood.
And I never was sick one day.
Bought a house in south Minneapolis
Over by Cedar Lake.
If you ask me, this latest merger
Was nothing but a big mistake.
Now I have nothing against Episcopalians;
I believe in an open door.
I’m sure it’s good to get new ideas,
But we never did that before. . . .

Espiscopalians are proud of their faith;
You ought to hear ’em talk.
Who they got? They got Henry VIII
And we got J. S. Bach.
Henry VIII he had six wives
Trying to make one son.
J. S. Bach had twenty-three children,
And wives, he had just one.
Henry VIII would marry a woman
And then her head would drop.
J. S. Bach had all those kids
‘Cause his organ had no stop. . . .

Once in a while we go to shows,
But a Lutheran is not a fan.
We don’t whistle and we don’t laugh;
We smile as loud as we can.
If you come to church, don’t expect to be hugged;
Don’t expect your hand to be shook.
If we need to know who you are,
We can look in the visitors’ book.
I was raised to keep a lid on it,
Guard what you say or do.
A mighty fortress is our God,
So he must be Lutheran too. . . .

Where's Waldo Wednesday


As part of oldlife’s continuing effort to assist in clarifying the Reformed faith and overcoming unnecessary disagreements, we will be featuring a number of quotations on the application of redemption from noted Reformed theologians. What drives this series is an effort to understand how the doctrine of union with Christ has or has not functioned in discussions of the ordo salutis and the benefits that believers receive through Christ’s mediatorial work. If we feature quotations where the discussion of union is absent, we are confident that others will see union even where we don’t.

The following comes from B. B. Warfield’s article on sanctification:

The evangelical doctrine of salvation common to the Lutheran and Reformed Churches includes the following points: 1) The soul after regeneration continues dependent upon the constant gracious operations of the Holy Spirit, but is through grace, able to co-operate with them. 2) The sanctifying operations of the Spirit are supernatural, and yet effected in connection with and through the instrumentality of means: the means of sanctification being either internal, such as faith and the co-operation of the regenerated will with grace, or external, such as the word of God, sacraments, prayer, Christian fellowship, and the providential discipline of our heavenly Father. 3) In this process the Spirit gradually completes the work of moral purification commenced in regeneration. The works has two sides: a) the cleansing of the soul from sin and emancipation from its power, and b) the development of the implanted principle of spiritual life and infused habits of grace, until the subject comes to the stature of perfect manhood in Christ. Its effect is spiritually and morally to transform the whole man, intellect, affections, and will, soul, and body. 4) The work proceeds with various degrees of thoroughness during life, but is never consummated in absolute moral perfection until the subject passes into glory. (Selected Shorter Writings – II, pp. 327-28)

Why Not Lutheran Baptist?

oxymoronOr, why do Baptists want to be Reformed (as opposed to Calvinistic or particular), and why do Reformed Protestants present an object more attractive than Lutherans to Baptists?

These questions continue to bump and push around the mush in my mind, especially when I read folks like James White taking exception to Presbyterians who want to say that Reformed Baptist is something of an oxymoron, and then read the follow-up discussion over at Scott Clark’s blog. I understand how some may take the narrowing of Reformed identity to exclude Baptists as needlessly exclusive. Though I also can’t understand why no reviewer complained about the Dictionary of the Reformed and Presbyterian Tradition in America’s exclusion of Baptists from the scope of entries. (Mark Noll and I didn’t even include those Baptists who do baptize infants – Congregationalists.) I also understand that a Baptist might try to be covenantal in his understanding of redemptive history and still reject infant baptism.

What I don’t comprehend is how few seem to notice or take issue with the traffic for so long running between confessional Reformed and Baptists instead of between confessional Reformed and other confessional Protestants. Mind you, I enjoy the company of Calvinistic Baptists as much as the next Orthodox Presbyterian, and find all sorts of signs of health among those congregations known as Reformed Baptist.

But why are Lutherans chopped liver? Why, in fact, has Lutheran become in some Reformed circles almost as objectionable as the other l-word – “liberal”? One could actually argue that confessional Lutherans share as much in common with confessional Reformed as particular Baptists, and our history is even longer (though it obviously has some rough spots). Could it be the objections to Lutherans run along ethnic lines – dare we say the twentieth-century German problem that forced German-Americans in Pennsylvania to become “Pennsylvania Dutch”? Or is it a problem of liturgy and the triumph of John Owen and Banner of Truth among American Presbyterians as opposed to the liturgical traditions of the Reformed churches on the continent?

If the latter, then as is so often the case, the turning point in American Presbyterian history is 1741 and the anointing of George Whitefield as the Boy George of vital Calvinism. Odd though that no one called that Episcopal priest Reformed.