As a former Roman Catholic, I’m still a bit of a newbie when it comes to being a Protestant. And I have to admit, I’m somewhat puzzled by “church discipline”.
For some Reformed Christians – in some of the Reformed Confessions – there are two marks of the church: that the Gospel is faithfully preached, and that the sacraments are properly administered. For others, there is that “third mark” of “church discipline,” and here is where we face potential train wrecks.
Now, I know that some pastors are very sensitive to the dimension of discipline, and discipline, properly effected, is a good thing. It can save eternal lives. And as a member of a PCA church, I have taken a membership vow that “I submit myself to the government and discipline of the Church, and promise to study its purity and peace.” I don’t wish to question the concept of church discipline.
But sometimes, it seems as if the concept of “church discipline” can be taken too far.
I’m not going to speculate as to who did what to whom in this case. I know that Clark was frequently controversial. At one point he turned off the comments on his blog because they became too rowdy.
As a freshly-minted non-Roman Catholic in the late 1990’s, I searched the Internet for sources about Reformation theology, and one of the sources I found was a site that was the precursor of Clark’s Heidelblog.
Because of his writings and his blog, I was able to get to interact with and to know the man. Not well, but even during some disputes, I always found him to be accessible and open and a good guide through a number of Reformation-related topics. I referred to, and even quoted his blog a number of times.
And no doubt the same is true for many of his students and readers.
Whether you like(d) Clark or hate(d) him, The Heidleblog, in its entirety, was the culmination of years’-worth of effort from a brilliant and erudite man. And its removal has the feel of a 21st-century book burning.
Edit (3:00 pm EDT): Since I made this initial post, I've learned a bit more about Dr. Clark’s reasons for deleting the blog. What I have to say is that it takes a tremendous amount of work and commitment to continue to write, day after day, on controversial topics. As Christians, we should be grateful for the work of such individuals, especially those who labor mightily for the kingdom -- on all sides of controversies that we have among ourselves -- and we need to be mindful that we work for the ultimate [in this world] controversialist, Jesus Christ.