ARBCA Needs a Calvin

Calvin 3

John Calvin is renowned for his inflexible stance against the errors of Rome, the “Spirituals”, and others whose teachings compromised the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Unfortunately many do not realize that while he so staunchly stood against errors from those who oppose the gospel, he also worked tremendously hard to establish and maintain peace and unity among the Reformed.  He was a brilliant example of the peacemaker of Matt. 5:9.

For instance, a Synod was held at Berne in 1537 in order to establish unity among the German and Swiss Reformed churches concerning the Lord’s Supper.  Zurich, Basel, Strasburg, Geneva, and Berne each sent representatives.  Bucer, the Strasburg Reformer, had always been sympathetic to Luther’s view. He had been in attendance at one of Luther’s first public disputations and had held him in the highest esteem ever since.  Megander, originally from Zurich, now representing Berne, was determined not to compromise Zwingle’s position in any way.  Dissension prevailed until Calvin came forward.  By recognizing the Biblical truth that each side was determined to uphold, he was able to set forth the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper in a manner which upheld the true sentiments of each side without compromising with error.

Bucer had “pointed out that Zwingli and Luther had set out from two different points of view; Zwingli striving to keep as far away as possible from the Roman dogma of transubstantiation, and Luther endeavoring to maintain that there is nevertheless some kind of real presence in the bread.”[i]

Calvin was able, with this in mind, to formulate a doctrinal statement that did justice to the Biblical concerns of both parties without compromising Biblical truth.  In summary he said, “The Spirit is the means by which we are partakers of Christ. That Spirit nourishes us with the flesh and the blood of the Lord, and thus quickens us for immortality. Christ offers this communion under the symbols of bread and wine to all those who celebrate the supper aright and in accordance with his institution.”[ii]

To this Bucer replied “I embrace as orthodox, this view of our excellent brothers Calvin, Farel, and Viret. I never held that Christ was locally present in the holy supper. He has a real finite body, and that body remains in the celestial glory. But in raising us by faith to heaven, the bread which we eat and the cup which we drink are for us the communication of his body and his blood.”[iii]

Thus, these eminent reformers established peace with one another in regard to this vital doctrine.  They were not content to simply have each side adhere to a confessional statement that propounded the particular truths they esteemed most important.  They strove to establish peace, unity and agreement.  The Lord greatly blessed such efforts for the betterment of His church universal and the glory of His name.

Of course, the doctrine under dispute in ARBCA today is not the nature of the Lord’s Supper, but rather, the understanding of the phrase “without passions” in Chapter 2, Paragraph 1 of the London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689.  This is, of course an oversimplification, but we could fairly accurately describe the dispute like this.  On the one side are those whose primary concern is to uphold the unchangeable character of God.  They hold to what we could call the traditional understanding of the phrase “without passions”, which was undoubtedly the understanding of that phrase by those who authored our confession.  (I happen to agree with this side, in my understanding of the issue.) On the other side of the controversy are those who fear that this classical understanding of these words is prone to give the impression that God is cold,  distant, or mechanical.  They do not reject the phrase “without passions” but define it somewhat differently than the authors of the confession did.[iv]  They rightly point to men like Warfield and Hodge as examples of how they understand the phrase.

The Heart of the Issue?

It seems to me that what lies at the heart of this issue is our understanding of the fact that man, as he is an image bearer of God, is endowed with the faculties of mind, will and emotions.  Those who are defending the traditional understanding of “without passions” are almost exclusively focusing on what man’s emotions do not reveal about God.  Affections in man arise from the affects of things outside of himself.  God, existing outside of time, cannot be affected by anything outside of Himself, therefore He has no affections.  (And other similar, sound arguments)  Those who are advocating a modified view of the phrase in question do not do so in an effort to make God more like man, but rather, in an effort to do justice to the role of the emotions of man in his image-bearing capacity.

I am a great distance from the inner workings of ARBCA and have no direct knowledge of the exact means by which they plan to deal with this issue.  But it seems possible, if not likely, that something like this will happen:  A position paper will be published that simply states the traditional understanding of the phrase “without passions” and demonstrates that the authors of the confession had this in mind when they penned the words.  This paper will be voted on  and approved.  Any church that has an issue with this understanding will no longer be welcome in ARBCA.  Thus unity of doctrine will be firmly established among the remaining churches.  I think it would be a great shame if this is what actually takes place.

ARBCA Needs a Calvin

I am not saying that a position paper defending the traditional understanding of the phrase in question should not be drawn up, it should.  But it should do more.  As Calvin recognized and dealt with the concerns of both sides of the issue at Berne, so those who seek to defend the traditional understanding of  “without passions” should go out of their way to recognize and address the legitimate concerns expressed by the other side.  A careful doctrinal statement should be drawn up that not only demonstrates what the Bible teaches about God that prevents us from rightly ascribing affections to Him, but also palpably demonstrates the manner in which the emotions of man actually do reflect something of the character of God.  It must be demonstrated that justice can be done to the anthropopathisms of Scripture without resorting to any sort of modified theism.  If we really want unity in the sense that the great Reformers sought it, we must go out of our way to rightly address the issues on both sides.

We must recognize the real issue that brings about concern regarding the manner in which Divine impassibility is often taught.  For example, after listening to a sermon or lecture that clearly demonstrates that affections cannot be rightly attributed to God, a child of God may walk away saying to himself, “OK, so God is love, but He has no affection for me.”  This is hardly a comforting thought.  But if we understand that even though the love of God toward us is not an affection, in that this love is not brought about by any affect we have had on God, as a Divine perfection, it is something far greater than any affection of love we have ever experienced.  We also must be clear that the emotion of love that God endowed men with is actually in some sense revelatory of what God’s love is like.  It is a reflection of what the Divine perfection of love is, a dim and imperfect reflection, but a reflection none the less.

When one demonstrates that the emotion of anger cannot rightly be attributed to God, but merely expresses His determination to rightly meet out justice against all sin, the impression that may easily be given is that this is something quite cold and mechanical.  The problem with this is that when God speaks of His anger, He means to convey a truth that is easily lost in this definition.   God’s “hot displeasure” that will manifest itself in the eternal flames of hell is anything but cold!  The human emotion of anger is truly meant to give us some insight into the nature of God’s eternal, unchangeable disposition toward sin.

Surely we are correct to insist that it is beyond the bounds of propriety to speak of God experiencing the sensation of delight.  But we ought also to admit that the emotion of delight that men experience is in some real sense revelatory of what the eternal disposition of the Father toward the Son is like.  In this way we not only guard against the idea that God can be affected by something outside of Himself, but we also guard against the idea that this makes Him cold and mechanical.

We ought also to go beyond the Scriptural anthropopathisms that are easier to explain, such as God repenting or relenting.  We need to deal with passages such as the command “do not grieve the Holy Spirit” in such a way that God is not left just telling us not to do something that we are entirely unable to do.  Perhaps one could demonstrate that the feeling of grief a parent has when he is sinned against by a child he loves gives us some insight into God’s eternal and unchangeable disposition toward the remaining sin in His redeemed people.

We need to be as earnest to establish unity among Reformed Baptists as the Reformers were to establish unity among their churches.  I am not certain that this can ever be achieved in this area, but I am certain that we can strive for it more earnestly than we have thus far.  May the spirit of love and peace that was so manifest in Calvin and his fellow Reformers be manifest in us today.

 

His Throne is Forever and Ever!

rex

 

[i] Merle d’Aubigne, J. H. History of the Reformation in the Time of Calvin The AGES Digital Library, Vol. 6, Book 11, p. 271

[ii] Ibid. p. 273

[iii] Ibid p. 273

[iv] For example, as one proponent of the modified view in this debate has explained:  “We take no exception to the 1689 LBCF in 2:1. We confess that God is without body, parts, or passions.  We believe in divine impassibility. God has no internal (ad intra) fluctuation, passions, or changes in his nature of any sort. We believe that his divine affections are perfectly infinite and immutable (thus, they are also impassible). Our understanding of ‘divine emotivity’ resides in his external (ad extra) interactions with his world via the very covenant condescension described in the 1689 LBCF 7:1.”

 

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Why Don’t They Associate? (part 3)

As I stated earlier, this blog series was prompted by some statements in Tom Chantry’s blog on Reformed Baptist Church history.  I felt that some could come to the wrong conclusion as to the reasons why many Reformed Baptists churches conscientiously refrain from entering into formal associations such as ARBCA, and I wanted to demonstrate that these churches do not take this stance in order to avoid the type of interchurch communion prescribed in our beloved 1689 Confession of Faith.  My studies have kept me from finishing this series in a timely manner, for which I apologize, but this will be my concluding post on the issue.  In these past two weeks Pastor Chantry’s blog has taken an unfortunate turn and entered a realm that I will avoid following him into.  I have no wish to air dirty laundry; I want to help promote unity and love among us as Reformed Baptists.

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That being said, I will now finally get to the answer to the question:  “Why don’t they associate?”  Why do many Reformed Baptist churches feel that entering into a formal association of churches is the wrong way to go about fulfilling the requirements of Chapter 26 Paragraphs 14 & 15?  Rather than writing a full explanation, I will simply give examples from three different pastors so you can see their position explicated in their own words.  I especially recommend you read Alan Dunn’s essay, I find it to be the fullest and most convincing.

Perspectives on Inter-church Fellowship by Pastor Alan Dunn

Together by Stephen Rees of Grace Baptist Church in Stockport (UK)

Inter-church Relationship from Sovereign Grace Bible Church of Cebu (Philippines)

As you can see, these esteemed pastors believe they have a Biblical basis for not creating extrabiblical supra-church structures.  As they view the ecclesiology of the New Testament they can find no example of authority over churches besides that of Christ Himself ruling over the churches through the authority He vested in the Apostles and Prophets now codified in the word of God.  Elders are clearly placed in an authoritative role over individual churches as under-shepherds who receive that authority from Christ Himself.  There is no example of a structure of churches banding together as a formal authority over other churches.

As these men examine the Biblical arguments for formal associations they are unconvinced.  Pastor Dunn does an excellent job scrutinizing these arguments and judging them by the word of God.  I have not been able to locate any response to his paper, so if anyone is aware of one I would be exceedingly grateful if they could point it out to me so I could see how association advocates seek to overcome his objections.

Their bottom line, as I see it, is the complete lack of Biblical precept or example.  The reason they do not want to build a supra-church structure is the same reason we do not create an official church office called  “trustee”.  The Regulative Principle of the church prevents them from entering into such associations.

A Plea for Unity

The Confessing Baptist podcast posted an interview with Dr. James Renihan on Sept. 3, 2013 that I believe will be very helpful in this discussion.

http://confessingbaptist.com/podcast022/

Right around the 30 minute mark, Dr. Renihan begins to discuss one of the characteristics of a good confession of faith.  He explains that a good confession has both exclusive and inclusive functions.  The confession is exclusive in the way it excludes particular errors from what should be considered orthodox.  The example given is that the confession excludes those who would reject a doctrine like the Trinity.  More important for this discussion, I believe, is the inclusive aspect of the confession.  The confession states doctrines clearly and concisely, yet in a manner that allows for subscription by those who still hold some disagreements in the background.  Please take the time to listen for yourself.  The discussion I reference begins at 28:28 and lasts about 5-10 minutes.

In light of the examples I have given in the two preceding blogs, where we observe that these churches do genuinely practice interchurch communion & as we examine Chapter 26, paragraphs 14-15, we can recognize that the practice of these churches reflects a genuine effort to abide by them as they accurately reflect the requirements found in the word of God.  Even if we fully concede Dr. Renihan’s argument that the churches who originally published the 1689 used the word communion as a technical term for formal association, must we therefore conclude that they meant to use this term in an exclusive manner?  Are we to believe that the authors of the confession used the term communion in order to exclude those who do not enter into formal associations?  If they in fact desired to exclude churches who seek to hold communion without formally associating would they have used a term with such broad Biblical usage?

It is my contention, indeed my plea, in the spirit of charity and unity, that even if the original framers of our confession used the term “communion” in an exclusive manner, we can in good conscience hold to these paragraphs in an inclusive manner.  Let us recognize that both associating and non-associating churches are actively and laboriously seeking to foster interchurch communion in a manner that is compatible with the words of our confession and accept one another as fellow Reformed Baptists.

As I stated, I want to refrain from further interacting with Tom Chantry’s blog, but I cannot close without one final thought.   Chantry states , ” It had been their desire to see a mutual effort among the churches to establish a seminary, but instead a local-churchist institution was established.”   I am one of the hundreds upon hundreds of sheep who are eternally grateful for the training our pastors received at Trinity Ministerial Academy.  Sheep do not need a pastor who is accepted in academic circles.  They need pastors who love them, who nurture and care for their souls both in and outside the pulpit.  TMA trained men to do just that in a manner that is unsurpassed to my knowledge.  They received exemplary training in systematic, biblical, exegetical and pastoral theology.  Pastor Martin’s Pastoral Theology lectures are amazing.  There is nothing in them of an authoritarian nature; quite to the contrary, they are packed with love, affection and wisdom beyond anything I’ve had the blessing to find. The fact that TMA was a local church institution is far from a problem.  The local church is exactly the environment in which Christ commanded men to be trained for pastoral ministry.  “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”

His Throne is Forever and Ever!

rex

Why Don’t They Associate? (part 2)

Why Don’t They Associate? (part 1)

I may need to begin with an apology and clarification.  I entitled last week’s blog “Why Don’t They Associate?”  but I did not come to the answer to that question.  Neither will I come to the answer this week, but I will, Lord willing, address it directly next time.  My point in bringing out the fact that the wording used in Ch. 26, Par. 14-15 of our Confession of Faith originated from men and churches who did not enter into formal associations in the manner that the Particular Baptists did was NOT to suggest that RB churches who do not join formal associations make this choice because they want to follow the Congregationalists rather than the Baptists.

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My first desire was to make one thing abundantly clear.  It ought not to be stated, implied or assumed that those RB churches that conscientiously abstain from entering into formal associations do this on Fundamentalist Baptist principles or that by refusing to enter such associations, they are redefining the meaning of those chapters in our confession of faith.  I believe we have seen enough evidence for the unbiased to weigh and accurately conclude likewise.

I would ask you to take the time to read the following paper, again authored by Pastor Dave Chanski.

Chapter 26, Paragraph 15:  Foundational?

This is a paper presented by Pastor Chanski at a Reformed Baptist Pastor’s Fraternal with regard to the question of how to deal with a church that would take exception to Ch. 26 par. 15 of the 1689.  In it we find a tenacious defense of the truths and concepts of interchurch communion advocated in our Confession, as well as some excellent historical and scriptural considerations.  We also see further clarification as to what the original authors of the wording of our confession meant by “communion” between churches.  Though the stated purpose of this paper was not to make clear that those non-associating Reformed Baptists do truly believe in, adhere to and uphold the paragraph of our Confession in question, it most definitely serves that purpose.

I want to take a moment to “flesh out” what this inter-church communion actually looks like in these churches, but first, please allow me to reiterate what I feel is of utmost importance.  The fact that the Particular Baptist churches who first subscribed to our Confession used formal associations as the means of fulfilling the requirements of Ch 26, par. 14-15 of the Confession is without question.  This does not accurately lead to the conclusion that formal associations are the only legitimate means of fulfilling those requirements!  I have never seen any Particular Baptist making the claim that the Congregationalists did not really or credibly practice interchurch communion because they did not enter into such formal associations.  Unfortunately, there are some modern Reformed Baptists who are willing to assert or at least imply that the RB churches that do not enter into such formal associations are by that fact alone rejecting the 1689 statements about interchurch communion.  My contention is that such an idea is both uncharitable and unfounded, and as such ought to be rejected by all.

What does it look like?

I assert that these Reformed Baptist Churches with which I am familiar do truly hold communion with one another in a way that is in line with both scripture and our confession of faith.  I have neither the time nor inclination to develop a full orbed theology of interchurch communion as practiced by non-associating Reformed Baptist churches.  What I can and will do, however, is give you the “man in the pew” view of two major aspects of the interchurch communion practiced among these churches.  I will focus our attention on two features of this communion:  1.  Prayer Meeting  2.  Pulpit Exchange.

Before attending Providence Reformed  Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN I had never attended a prayer meeting like theirs.  Most prayer meetings I had been to consisted in about a half hour of Bible teaching followed by the voicing of particular prayer requests from both the leader and anyone in the congregation who had one.  Following that either the pastor would close in prayer, or people would divide into smaller groups where they would take turns praying.  What I found at Providence was profoundly different, it was abundantly edifying and Spiritual, and quite frankly, I miss it more than I can express in words.

We began the Prayer meeting with a hymn and a short devotion, five to ten minutes in length.  Often something from the Psalms or something pithy from a Puritan, enough to warm our hearts for the work at hand, but no full Bible study on some given topic.  We were there for the business of prayer and that work remained the focus of the entirety of the meeting.  The remainder of the time was divided into three sections.  In one section we would discuss prayer requests and needs there in the local assembly.  Then we would take those things before the throne of Grace.  The men would lead the congregation in prayer, one after the other, then the pastor would offer a concluding prayer. This section would sometimes come first, and sometimes last, order was not important.

The remaining two sections of prayer time were spent praying for churches with which we were informally associated.  The pastor would take the time to read fairly lengthy letters from sister churches in which intimate details of their struggles and triumphs were laid before us.  Often times we would be given short outlines of the prayer requests and praises as aids while we listened, but when that was absent we would make clear notes so that we would not forget how to pray particularly for each of these churches’ specific needs.  After two or three letters were read we would stop and once again be led by the men, each in turn as they led us before the throne of Grace to bring these petitions unto our glorious Mediator.  We entered into the most intimate spiritual fellowship with these brethren, most of whom we had never met.  We wept with those who wept. We rejoiced with those who rejoiced.  We wrestled with God on behalf of those with whom He had given us such a spiritual kinship.  We gloried in His continued answers to such prayers and blessed Him for His remarkable work of grace among these sister churches. The Pastor would close out that section with a prayer and then lead on through the next section with prayer letters followed by the same heartfelt, Spirit wrought petitions for the needs of those churches.  We met as a local church, for the express purpose of going before the throne of grace as one body, and offering up prayers and supplications for these other local churches whom we knew and loved.

We gained an intimate knowledge of and love for these churches as we heard updates from them as months and years went by.  Our hearts were truly knit to the brethren in these sister churches.  When by providence I would meet someone from one of these churches it was in a very real sense as though we were already friends.  And I cannot even begin to describe the benefit of the knowledge that these churches were doing the same for us.  If you have never experienced a prayer meeting of this nature, I don’t think you can comprehend the sense of true Spiritual communion that it fosters and supplies.

The benefits of the prayer meeting were not limited to prayer either.  Oh how we would long to put feet to our prayers.  As we listened to the struggles and needs of these brethren, we did not do so in order to pray for them and forget about it.  How our hearts would yearn to reach out and help those in need in any way we could.  How often at the end of prayer meeting we would discuss by what means we could help those who had needs.  This was no cold dead prayer meeting, this was intimate Spirit wrought communion that needed to be expressed in deeds as well as words.

Another means God has used to foster Spiritual communion between such churches is the regular exchange of pulpits.  On a fairly regular basis, Pastors from sister churches would travel and preach in one another’s pulpits.  This fostered a great deal of love and kinship between us.  As these men of God would come before us and feed us from the depths of the word of God, ministering to our souls and edifying our spirits, we gained a heartfelt attachment to them.  The love they had for our Risen Lord was evident in their character and demeanor as well as their preaching, and witnessing such love fostered an admiration in us for them as Pastors and for the people whom they served.  This gave opportunity to practice hospitality toward these men, and as they spent time in our homes we got to know them better and kept up to date on the work of Christ in their home church.  Such pulpit exchanges are also great for the sharing of  “gifted brethren.”  If a church recognizes a man in their church as possessing certain gifts and graces that may qualify him for the pastoral office they would send him to preach in other churches as well.  Not only does this give these sister churches the benefit of the gifts God is developing in such a man, it develops a relationship between them and him.  As the people benefit from the ministry of such a man they also yearn to see him used of God wherever God may choose to send him, and support him in such endeavors.

In closing I simply desire to point out something that seems to me ought to be obvious.  In such situations as we find described in Ch. 26, Par. 15, where difficulties or differences in doctrine or administration make it necessary for other churches to meet together to consider and give advice about the matter, the environment created by the two practices I’ve just described is the soil in which such consideration and advice is most likely to bear good fruit.  When the churches who come together for this purpose are the churches you know and love through mutual prayer, and the pastors who bring advice and admonition are those who have repeatedly ministered to your soul, a favorable outcome is much more likely than when such things are missing.  I am by no means insinuating that the churches of which I speak are the only churches to engage in such practices.  But I do think it is abundantly clear that these churches have genuine, vital and scriptural interchurch communion even though they do not join in formal associations such as ARBCA.

As I said, I will address the actual question “Why don’t they associate?” next time, Lord willing.

His Throne is Forever and Ever!

rex

Why Don’t They Associate? (part 1)

When Tom Chantry announced that he was going to begin a new series of blog articles about the history of the Reformed Baptist movement in America over the past several decades I was quite excited about it.  I greatly enjoyed the lectures on Modern Church history from Reformed Baptist Seminary, and I always enjoy hearing other perspectives on historical events.  I have genuinely enjoyed reading these blogs as they have been posted and I recommend anyone who wasn’t aware of them to go over to Chantrynotes.wordpress.com and spend some time there.  (later addition:  after reading some of the later posts I plead with anyone who reads them to do so with a heavy dose of Proverbs 18:17)

I must also say, however, that after reading his fourth and sixth installments, I became concerned about something.  I am not making the claim that Tom is purposefully misrepresenting a section of the Reformed Baptist movement, but I fear that those readers who are unacquainted with the Reformed Baptist Churches that conscientiously refrain from formal associations may easily get the wrong idea about them.  Since what Tom is presenting is a historical narrative of the interactions between these churches, it would be silly to ask him to take the time to articulate all the historical, theological and exegetical reasons for the different positions taken by these churches.  Imagine how long that would take!  But I am uncomfortable with the idea that anyone should be left with the impression that the churches like Trinity in Montville, NJ and the pastors like AN Martin held their position on the matter of associations merely out of historical ignorance, fundamentalist Baptist influences and fear of the repetition of previous injurious denominational situations.

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It is for this reason that I begin this short blog series.  My purpose is to accurately represent the historical, theological and Biblical reasoning behind some Reformed Baptist churches conscientiously abstaining from formal associations.  I am not by any means attempting to attack ARBCA or like associations.  I am a member of a Reformed Baptist church that belongs to ARBCA, and I have never made any attempt to convince our elders that we should leave the association.  I also spent 11 years in another Reformed Baptist church that conscientiously abstained from joining ARBCA, which I believe gives me some insight into the real reasons such churches have for their choice not to formally associate.  It hurts me to think that a bias against these churches might be formed by anyone whose opinion is shaped solely by the representation of those who disagree with them on this subject. Therefore I will attempt to paint a faithful picture, and set forth at least some of the reasoning behind a non-associating stance as well as demonstrating how such churches answer the most common objections brought against them.

Historical Precedence

The first area I want to address is the most common thread I have noticed among those who advocate the formal association of churches.  It is repeatedly pointed out that early in the Reformed Baptist movement there was almost complete ignorance of the associational practices of the Particular Baptist churches who penned our beloved Confession of Faith and held to its doctrine.  I do not wish  to contradict the fact that very little was known at that time and I certainly do not wish to take anything away from the wonderful work Dr. Renihan has done.  We are indeed in great debt to him for his research and labor. I love to repeatedly listen to the lectures he has on the history of the Particular Baptists.  The point I wish to make on the subject is this:  The mere fact that the Particular Baptist churches of the 1600’s joined in formal associations and used those associations as the means of fulfilling the statements of chapter 26 of our confession, does not necessitate the idea that the only legitimate means of fulfilling those statements is through formal associations.  That sentence seems about as clear as mud, so please allow me to elaborate.

It is true that the Particular Baptists believed in joining formal associations of churches.  It is also true that they used these associations as a means of fulfilling the requirements of paragraphs 14 & 15 of chapter 26 of our Confession of Faith.  But it is not true that those Particular Baptist churches taught that to abstain from a formal association of churches would violate the requirements of those paragraphs.

Please take the time to read the paper I have included here:

Another Perspective 

–in which Pastor Dave Chanski examines the historical context of the wording of our Confession of Faith on the matter of communion of churches.

As Pastor Chanski has made abundantly clear, the original authors of the wording of our confession, (men like John Owen, Thomas Goodwin and Jeremiah Burroughs), did not enter into formal associations of churches.  In fact, as you can see in footnote 14 & 15, these Puritans plainly opposed certain aspects of formal associations.  The men who originally penned “The Two Most Contentious Paragraphs in Reformed Baptist History” did not believe that formal associations of churches were required in order to abide by them!

I just want to make a few applications of these facts before closing this first installment.

  1.  Any claim that a church cannot abide by Chap. 26 par 14-15 of our Confession of Faith unless they join in formal associations must be abandoned.  We may argue that the requirements are more easily met through formal associations or that formal associations are a genuine aid in our efforts to carry out the provisions of these paragraphs.  But we must drop the idea that formal association is absolutely necessary.
  2. We cannot assume that any church rejecting formal association does so on fundamentalist Baptist principles.  Surely the Puritan Congregationalists who penned the words of our confession were free from such influences.
  3. The idea that to reject formal association is to redefine “communion” in chapter 26 of our confession is completely untenable.  Those who originally wrote the words did not define it that way.  Neither did the Particular Baptists redefine the term by adhering to formal associations.  The fact of the matter is, the terms of these two paragraphs can be met either with or without formal associations of churches without any need of redefining terms.

His Throne is Forever and Ever!

rex