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14619Re: [Covenanted Reformation] REF Church

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  • gmw
    May 23, 2006
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      Hi Glenn,

      I must confess that I am hesitant to respond for a few reasons. I'm
      sure many have noticed my relative silence in this forum for quite
      some time. Truth is, I don't have the stomach for confrontational
      type interchanges anymore, even friendly ones (which I consider this
      to be). Maybe I'm getting old. Also, having interacted with you,
      and I believe also with your wife, in the past, I truly do have much
      respect for you and your family, and for the things for which you
      stand, and I don't like finding myself in disagreement with such an
      one. But, for the time being, here goes...

      > Please note:
      >
      > 1) I encourage people to be a member of some church, even at a
      distance. Is that not the practice of the RPNA?

      I'm not sure, as I am not a member nor have I ever been a member of
      the RPNA, so I cannot speak for them. However, it seems to me that
      they do not encourage folks to join any church whatsoever for the
      very sake of being in a church. Perhaps someone from the RPNA can
      speak on this.

      > I'm arguing for the biblical requirement of accountability of
      Christians. Certainly, if providentially hindered, there is no guilt
      or 'excommunication' involved. However, to ignore this biblical
      > instruction when other alternatives are available is sinful.

      If by "other alternatives" you mean "biblical alternatives," or some
      similar qualification, which I assume you do, I agree.

      > One may a) move, b) help start a new congregation in their
      community (placing themselves under the authority of elders at a
      distance until God provides local officers), c) maintain church
      membership with a Reformed congregation at a distance, traveling
      there as possible (especially for the Lord's Supper), keeping the
      Lord's Day and Sabbath worship in their homes (reading or listening
      to recordings of sermons), inviting others to join the, in the
      interim, with the hope this may become a viable local congregation.
      >

      If any of these can be done without violating the conscience as
      guided by Scripture, again, I agree.

      > 2) No church does everything perfectly.

      Agreed. This is certainly not the issue.

      > However, there are minimal marks of the church- Word, Sacraments,
      Discipline. Just because a particular congregation does not teach
      the Establishment Principle or that the Pope is the Antichrist (both
      of which I hold and teach), does not mean it is not profitable to
      hear expositional preaching from the Scriptures and teaching of other
      > Reformed doctrines of the Westminster Standards.

      Here's where I have a problem. How do I know that the sermons are
      going to be profitable? What if the sermon I happen upon on a
      particluar week is an attack on the Establishment Principle, a
      defense of the Pope against the Protestant "propaganda" of calling
      him Antichrist, an expository lesson on why we should use instruments
      in worship, a presentation of Amyraldianism or some other perversion
      of Calvinism, etc. In fact, if the Confession of Faith, or the
      Doctrinal Statement of said church indeed contains these errors,
      should I not expect that at some point my family and I will be
      preached to concerning these subjects, which leads to the quandry of
      1). Do NOT submit to those who have rule over me, thus violating the
      Scripture verse in question, or 2). Be convinced of the error and
      abandon my testimony for the truth.

      >Though I fully agree with the Establishment Principle, there would
      be something wrong with my preaching if I majored on that rather than
      >the doctrines of grace, salvation and sanctification.

      Agreed. This is certainly not the issue.

      >All doctrines are not essential or equal. Is there not a minimal
      level of doctrine that I can call 'biblical' and 'essential' because
      >it will lead men and women to the savior and growth in grace?

      I don't know, and would defer to a theologian or someone else more
      qualified than myself for an answer to this question. I sure don't
      want to be the one deciding what truth is safe to cast off in favor
      of something else more important. The thought of that makes me
      tremble.

      > Though I'm not advocating becoming a member of anything but a
      Presbyterian or Continental Reformed congregation, occasional
      attendance at a Reformed Baptist congregation if it is the only
      option may be profitable.
      >

      It may be profitable, sure. It also may be a temptation for me or my
      wife, or my children, to be convinced of false doctrine and
      encouraged in false worship practices.

      > 3) We are never to allow our consciences to be bound by unbiblical
      beliefs or practices. However, the practice of most reformed
      churches does not require adherence to a long list of doctrines,
      practices or distinctives to become a member. Most membership vows
      require one to acknowledge the Scriptures as true, oneself as a
      sinner without salvation except in Christ alone, the intention to
      live a godly life with God's grace and the assistance of the Holy
      > Spirit, and submission to the government of the church.

      How does that rule out a Mormon or a JW or an Arminian or a Papist?
      What Scripture? What do you mean by true? What do you mean sinner?
      What is salvation? Who is Christ? What does it mean that there is
      salvation in Christ ALONE? Define a godly life? What do you mean
      God's grace? What do you mean by the assistance of Holy Spirit? What
      do you mean by Holy Spirit? What is it to submit? What is church
      government? What is the church? Don't I need some doctrines and
      distinctives to even understand what this all means?

      >No church has authority to require one to violate their conscience
      in matters where there is no clear scriptural warrant. Though a
      church may not sing Psalms exclusively, that does not require one to
      sing hymns.>

      It requires me to either join in the public worship and sing them, or
      to in a manner separate myself from the public worship and occupy my
      mind in something else, hoping that I am not tempted, and that my
      family members are not tempted, to participate in the false worship
      we are in the midst of. Perhaps some may feel strong enough to
      resist that temptation, I don't know.

      >Though I'd prefer to be in public worship with no mention of 'holy
      days,' an occasional mention of 'Advent' is not going to contaminate
      me.>

      Maybe the occasional mention of Advent is not going to contaminate
      me, maybe it will contaminate me. But what about the constant
      preaching about Advent during Advent, and the public observation of
      it as a holy time, will that contaminate me? I wish I could pretend
      to be so strong against sin. Will it contaminate my children, who I
      am simultaneously teaching to listen to the minister but not listen
      to the minister, to obey the leadership of the church, and to disobey
      the leadership of the church? I don't know. It sounds like some
      would have me take that chance.

      > I wouldn't want them to have a steady diet of such things (thus,
      point #1 above);>

      Me neither, so I won't go where those things are regularly served.

      > Yes, there is a point where exposure to unwarranted worship
      practices outweighs any benefits. That bar is much higher for me now
      than in former years.>

      In what way do you mean this? That you are more able to tolerate
      false worship, or that you are less able to tolerate false worship?
      I'm probably being dense here.

      > 4) A Baptist or Congregational congregation willing to censure
      unscriptural doctrine, practice or morals is better than a
      Presbyterian polity without discipline.>

      And if they discipline me for seeking the baptism of my children?
      For causing division by sitting with my mouth shut while they're
      standing to sing? It just seems to me that trying to seek out a
      Baptist Church that is serious enough about church discipline, so
      that I can benefit from church discipline, and then expecting them to
      not discipline me, OR, actually being disciplined exactly the way I
      would expect baptists to discipline, is a bit of a futile exercise.

      >There are also Presbyterian churches not holding a strict view of
      the RPW, the Establishment Principle, or continuing obligation of
      nations to covenant with God, who never-the-less practice biblical
      discipline. To the extent they do so, they act as a court of heaven
      and their judgment is binding.
      >

      And I am to confess the same true religion with them, when I am in
      very deed NOT of the same Confession?

      > If you were traveling though Boise and visited our OP congregation,
      you'd hear consecutive expositional preaching; meet elders who hold
      the Westminster Standards,>

      ~not~ the original, but the Americanized Standards, right? If so, we
      are not of the same Confession.

      >... visit the flock and do not hesitate to administer biblical
      censure; and observe the sacraments (with real wine in communion).
      There would be no mention of 'holy days,' no choirs or special
      music. Psalms are sung abundantly but not (yet) exclusively. You
      wouldn't be expected to join in the singing of non-Psalms, as certain
      members don't, or be ridiculed for your non-participation.>

      It sounds like your congregation is heading in a good direction, no
      doubt due in some measure to your influence. May God bless and
      continue this reformation.

      >Would worship and fellowship with us be of less benefit than private
      worship in your hotel room?>

      I don't know, you did not provide the example of what's going on in
      my hotel room!

      :-)


      > Covenanters argue for the distinction between the 'being' and
      > the 'well being' of the Church,

      I understand that some Covenanters have stressed this distinction.

      > do we not recognize the essential marks of the church when we find
      them?>

      I guess I'm just not convinced that we must wait for the essential
      marks to completely die before separating or refusing to join a
      particular church.

      > We might win a hearing for our distinctives by acknowledging the
      essentials we share in common with other believers, especially
      Reformed believers.
      >

      Maybe. Then again, they might win me, and my family. And they might
      win others as well. And if everyone takes this advice, perhaps all
      those who hold to these distinctives will eventually be absorbed by
      less faithful churches, and those doctrines can again lay buried and
      forgotten, until God raises up a future generation to uncover them.

      The following article was written by a Lutheran, but it does address
      some issues that I remain concerned about in this discussion of just
      attending any church for the sake of being in a church:

      http://clclutheran.org/shared/thoughtdocs/isolated.htm

      Take care,
      gmw.
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