Saturday, June 03, 2006

Mah Two Sents, After All Ahm Just a Dum Babtist

I may as well weigh on the famous questions.

“1. Why do modern conservative Reformed Christians seem to have historical amnesia when it comes to events that transpired in church history from the death of John on the Isle of Patmos, late in the first century, until the completion of the Canon several centuries later?”

That's funny, because Tom Nettles teaches historical theology at SBTS as I recall. I'm teaching church history myself at my church in NC starting in the fall, and as I recall PRBC where James White is an elder is either presently doing or has already completed a very, very lengthy church history course for their congregation. By the way, my undergraduate degree is in modern European history, which begins ca. 1000 AD but which is predicated on a working knowledge of church history, given the fact that the early creeds themselves deeply affected the way people thought in that age. For example,working out that human nature included a rational soul in Chalcedon deeply affected European (and thus American) values on human life until very recently. As the Trinity and Christology go, so goes the church, and so goes society.

Don't forget that a great many of us are also in churches where we are often among the most educated while the flock is not, so we sometimes peg our references to where they are in their understanding, because they read the blogs. I can only speak for myself here, but I come from a part of NC where Jerry Falwell revivalism has a stranglehold on everybody. Perhaps some others are not discussing church history because their people aren't there yet themselves.

“2. Why do modern conservative Reformed Christians virtually ignore the Church Fathers as well as the catholic creeds of the Christian church?”

As I recall, our brother Jason here, as well as Brother Eric Svendsen are very, very conversant with the Early Fathers, and, this may surprise you, because I tend to hover in Baptist issues, but know my way around the ECF as well. See also the standards, LCBF and WCF. May I ask why the ECF should be considered above a modern commentary?

“3. Why do modern conservative Reformed Christians ignore the fact that John Calvin was especially influenced by the Church Fathers? For that matter why do these same conservative Reformed Christians virtually ignore other Reformed writers who relied very heavily upon the classical catholic tradition such as Thomas Cranmer, Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley?”

Hmm, as I recall King and Webster deal with this in Holy Scripture: The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith. One fails to see why a person in the modern period should rely on Anglo-Catholics centuries old.

“4. Why do conservative Reformed Christians treat only certain confessional traditions, such as the Westminster Confession or its cousin the London Baptist Confession, as if only these confessions and catechisms were the proper confessional grounds for the Reformed faith and thus for contemporary understanding of the Bible and classical Christian thought, if they even care about classical thought? These important creedal standards of the 17th century are not the only standards for orthodoxy, for all time and all cultures, and few have ever treated them in this manner. Therefore, why do ordinary Christians hardly ever hear this from the many of the conservative Reformed spokesmen? (There are few if any conservative Reformed spokeswomen, which is another question for another time.)”

Perhaps you need to pay better attention. Speaking for myself, I'm in an LCBF 1 not an LCBF 2 church. Also, the WCF is the standard for evangelical Presbyterians, but their seminaires have staked out some official positions and, on top of this, some denominations have staked out positions on certain articles. How many Sabbatarians are really in the PCA? I'd add the Savoy Declaration as well, as some of us recognize this too. We refer to these a great deal, because they are the best written and well developed. I'd happily peg a reply to the Belgic Confession, and I have written on the New Hampshire Confession and the Philadelphia/Charleston Confession in the past as well. Some of us also use the Abstract of Principles. In short, perhaps you should read what we say a bit more closely. I have, in point of fact, posited the writing of a new Baptist confession for the SBC itself if not RB's as a whole in recent history on this very blog which would be drawn in part on the LCBF.

“5. Why do conservative Reformed Christians demand a kind of purity from other modern Reformed writers that allows so many of them to never actually engage the culture and do the hard work of the Kingdom in the 21st century? Why do they attack all expressions of emerging culture and church life when in fact their tradition emerged in a specific time in history too?””

Like who? Like what? Please reformulate your question. The short answer may have something to do with the perception of the EC that has to do with blurring the clear presentation of the gospel, sowing uncertainty and not certainty in the hearts of the sheep, and a type of pragmatic appeal that has more in common with IFBx / SBC revivalism in some cases. Granted, the EC isn't using confetti baptistries, but why does the gospel have to be repackaged for the culture for it to have an appeal?

“6. Why do conservative Reformed Christians identify so strongly, and often so stridently, with other non-Reformed Christians in certain area of gospel controversy, especially in advocating very narrow definitions of the gospel in an attempt to impress lay people and inadequately taught pastors that they alone are standing for the truth in this dark day? This has been done over the last ten years with the issuance of various joint statements and widely promoted conferences, as if these faithful spokesmen alone have the courage to defend the gospel and the correct understanding of what actually constitutes the gospel.”

Straight is the gate and narrow is the way to life, broad is the path to destruction. If you want this answered pointedly, then ask the question pointedly. What, by your measure, is "narrow?"

“7. Why do conservative Reformed Christians generally treat Roman Catholics (and Orthodox Christians if they bother to respond to them at all) as non-Christians, especially in their public pronouncements?”

To be a Christian is not to affirm the Trinity and some facts about Jesus and get your infusion of grace from a water ceremony and a wafer. Rather it is to cling to Christ alone through faith alone, not the merit of Christ, your merit, and the congruent merit of the saints. What is unclear about this? Maybe this will do it for you: to loosely quote Miss Lottie Moon's mother, "Any movement that substitutes the counting of beads for saying prayers has no claim to be a genuine quest for God." I have no problem saying this in light of Scripture.

That said, individual Catholics are not of the same stripe. We fully realize that there are those that reject many of Rome's dogmas, and we generally put Catholics on a sliding scale in this regard. Speaking for myself and a few folks at Pyromaniacs with whom I have interacted in the past, we are much more willing to give the average run of the mill Catholic church member a pass on this than a priest, bishop, etc., but they need to come out and be separate from their communion.

“Do these same Reformed Christians, at least on the Presbyterian side of the aisle, ever admit that their own traditions have always accepted Catholic/Orthodox baptism as valid Christian baptism?”

Can't answer, as I 'm not a Presbyterian. Speaking from my experience with the PCA presbytery where I live, this is a false assertion on its face.

“I also wonder if these conservatives, who stand should-to-shoulder with other non-Reformed fundamentalists in a type of reductionism that results from their narrow gospel definitions (as noted as in question six above),

except you didn't actually note anything at all.

really ever make these facts plain to their non-Reformed (Baptist and dispensational) allies, who I suppose would be aghast if they understood this?”

Because some of them come from traditions, viz the SBC which are quite willing to work within the framework of a broad evangelical tradition. As a matter of fact, the Founders Movement, to take just one example, is very plain with others.

“8. Why do conservative Reformed Christians rail so harshly, and react so emotionally, against liturgy in worship (a huge list could be constructed to make this point) on the one hand, while on the other they hate pop-cultural, happy-clappy, contemporary evangelical worship services with a passion?”

Because we affirm the regulative principle of worship.

“Do they realize that what they have created, in many cases, is a modern lecture hall with hymns and a collection? Do they realize that this is much more like a Plymouth Brethren gathering than a truly Reformed service, with all its variations and rich use of older liturgical tradition?”

Notice he asks questions about the TR while defining for us what TR is, so we don't measure up to his standard. To what standard is this referring?

“9. Why do conservative Reformed Christians often promote a high ecclesiology (in theory) while in practice they act much more like Southern Baptists who add presbyteries and general assemblies on to a modern form of culture religion? In practice these sorts of Reformed groups govern themselves, and do theology, less and less like historically Reformed bodies. Think populism and democractic idealism, not historic Reformed confessionalism, and you get my point.”

Wow, there's a lot here. First, the SBC is composed of independent, fully autonomous local churches. A church can be a member of an association, state convention, or the SBC, but it can also be a member of one or more but not the others. In short, you can be in the NCBSC but not the SBC and vice versa. You could, in theory, be in the Pilot Mtn. Baptist Association, but not in the NCBSC or SBC. In Convention, the messengers and only the messengers compose the Convention. The messengers are not elders in the local church, though some are. Most are laypersons. When the SBC chooses to dictate policy to a local church, you get friction. At present the IMB policy is a clear example. The SBC itself has a confessional tradition. If you would familarize yourself with the reaction to the BFM 2000 you might get a feeling for exactly what that is and how it works.

A high church ecclesiology would be Landmarkism in a Baptist context, not a plurality of elders (either elder rule or congregational rule). Most plurality churches are congregational rule, not elder rule among Baptist churches. Elder rule churches do, in point of fact, do theology very like the old confessional tradtion. However, we recognize, as Steve noted, that there is also a need to keep away from clerical elitism and we live in an age where people can get a theological education literally at home online if necessary. That's why the congregation can veto an elder rule action in many ways. It's called checks and balances. You also find us focusing a great deal on a educated congregation, so that we can actually talk about theological issues in an informed manner.

“10. Why do conservative Reformed Christians promote certain aspects of Puritanism, often without really understanding Puritanism in the way a real scholar like J. I. Packer does, while at the same time they despise the real Puritan approach to the Holy Spirit and to a practical experiential religion centered in the heart?”

“And why do these same people hate almost every type of ascetical or mystical theology while whole segments of the Reformed movement have loved these parts of the Christian tradition deeply?This is precisely why some conservative Reformed spokesmen despise Jonathan Edwards, which I discovered first-hand, to my profound surprise, about ten years ago.)””

Like? Speaking for myself, I quite enjoy Edwards. I'm also the church librarian, and I have some Edwards books in my collection, which I purchased specifically for our people. Coming from the Founders movement myself, I'm happy to lean on Edwards a great deal, through Boyce, Dagg, Mell, Winkler, Manly Sr. and Jr., etc. You're going to have to give some concrete particulars to get better answers. Let's not forget too that the entire Princetonian tradition comes from Edwards, so, in a Presybeterian context, you'd have to be asserting that they have disconnected from Edwards. The onus is on you to elucidate this in your question if not in any assertion you make.

“Separatism and fundamentalism are both alive and well among many conservative Reformed Christians in our day.

You spoke earlier of church history. I assume you are familar with Tertullian's apologetic vs. the method of say the Alexandrians. You are familar with the tensions between Antioch and Alexandria over the use of Plato or Aristotle and the proper exegetical method of Scriptuer (literal v. allegorical) for centuries. This is a tension that has been with us from the beginning.


  1. I think the "famous questions" have been sufficiently answered - to the satisfaction of most - and that someone might be hesitant in the future to tangle (not tango) with the "tiger from North Carolina" (GMB) without having some documentation for his or her bold declarations.

    To assert without facts (factual evidence) is almost always a losing (but often humorous) game to play.

    Ouch! I wonder if the person(s) who raised the "famous questions" has adequate medical insurance....
    hope so!

    I love to watch these historical (not hysterical) guys at work, don't you?

    Proverb 17:22 - All of you have memorized this verse I trust.

    May I assert (oops!) assume that most(many...several...some...well, at least a few) of you enjoy the research Gene Bridges does and the contributions he makes to better inform (educate) the readers of various blogs - including even the older me?

  2. Shouldn't that be "jerst a Dum Babdist?"

    Pronouncing it "just" is a Romish tradition of men.

  3. Gene said:

    "Because we affirm the regulative principle of worship"

    What is the regulative principle of worship, and who defines it?

  4. Gene, I agree with virtually everything you've said here, except that I think that the reformed world would greatly benefit from having whole schools full of students and researchers investigating the things that Engwer/King/Svendsen/White have written about. (Although I know what the Lord can do with just a small number of people!)