Worth Quoting – Steven Wedgeworth on Sectarianism

August 31, 2007 § Leave a comment

Steven Wedgeworth, of Wedgewords blog, recently posted this comment on Blog and Mablog, Doug Wilson’s blog. I thought this comment captured the essence of the turmoil currently going on in the Reformed church world.

“Sectarianism is very comforting. It gives one great support to know that he is in the *true* church and all others are not. He doesn’t need to wrestle with tough questions, try understand Biblical texts, or even read historical theology. He’s safe.

But once one starts to consider the possibility that Athanasius or Gregory of Nazianzus might actually not be a heretic, that is when things get difficult. When one realizes that Augustine blurred sanctification and justification, and therefore the Reformation cannot possibly hope to claim for itself a represtination of Augustine on this point, that’s when it gets difficult.

One is forced to rethink all that he was taught by Banner of Truth and Soli Deo Gloria book intros. He is suddenly in a state of epistemological crisis. Can he really accept that things have not always been the way the authorities say they have been, and can he accept the even more challenging claim that important figures in Church history have been wrong?

Many cannot, and so Rome or TR-dom [“Truly Reformed” denomination] are ready opiates. It is certainly true that one can grow up within Rome or TR churches and not be so naive, but very often the converts to them are the most naive.

Wrestling with history and the future is the real challenge, and I suspect everyone will see defections throughout the course of our lives over this precise struggle.”

This is just a great insight. With the advent of the internet: blogging, forums, discussion list, etc., there is a lot of information getting out to the masses that was previously only accessible by a few. Because of this a certain “ideal” is now being challenged at the grass roots level.

Blessings in Christ,
Terry W. West

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A “Reformed” Cultist Mentality?

August 26, 2007 § Leave a comment

There seems to be a very troubling sentiment in some people who call themselves “Reformed”. It seems to be a very militant approach to anything or anyone that seems to be slightly outside of the perceived boundaries of what is acceptable. It seems that there is, in some, a cultist type mentality. I think this is because some people in the Reformed camp have bought into a certain ideal. They have come to believe that the Reformed tradition is a monolithic ideal with no real variance in thought. Those that have bought in to this view of the Reformed tradition have built their whole existence around this fantasy. So, when they begin to see their world view coming apart at the seams, by other people (who are supposed to be Reformed as well) questioning this “ideal”, they lash out in anger and attack whatever they see as responsible for undermining this “Reformed” ideal that has become their foundational “truth”.

I am very familiar with this kind of militant thinking. I myself come from a cultist type background. I see the same kind of reaction in some of my family members when I try to provide them with information that challenges what they hold as “the truth”. There usually cannot be any reasonable discussion between myself and other members of my family, because I now represent to them everything they have believed to be a lie all their lives. If I am right, even a little, then their whole world view has been the lie.

This is a staggering thing for someone to have contemplate, and most will not. They will just seek to silence the “voices” they see as attacking their world view. And they will do so from the belief that they are God’s “man” defending God’s truth against the enemy.

May God grant to those of us, in the Reformed camp, the grace to avoid this trap, and to see the danger of this type of mentality.

Blessings in Christ
Terry W. West

Worth Quoting – Ignatius’ Exhortation to Steadfastness and Unity

August 25, 2007 § Leave a comment

Stand fast, brethren, in the faith of Jesus Christ, and in His love, in His passion, and in His resurrection. Do ye all come together in common, and individually, through grace, in one faith of God the Father, and of Jesus Christ His only-begotten Son, and “the first-born of every creature,” but of the seed of David according to the flesh, being under the guidance of the Comforter, in obedience to the bishop and the presbytery with an undivided mind, breaking one and the same bread, which is the medicine of immortality, and the antidote which prevents us from dying, but a cleansing remedy driving away evil, [which causes] that we should live in God through Jesus Christ.

Ignatius (A.D. 35-107) Epistle to the Ephesians, Chapter 20

Worth Quoting – Ignatius on the Importance of Corporate Worship

August 25, 2007 § Leave a comment

Take heed, then, often to come together to give thanks to God, and show forth His praise. For when ye assemble frequently in the same place, the powers of Satan are destroyed, and the destruction at which he aims is prevented by the unity of your faith. Nothing is more precious than peace, by which all war, both in heaven and earth, is brought to an end.

Ignatius (A.D. 35-107) Epistle to the Ephesians, Chapter 13

This quote is an excellent contrast to the modern idea of the “individual spiritual warrior”. The Christian who does his battle with Satan in his private prayer closet during his private devotions. Certainly we need to practice private devotions, but never as a substitute for the most important aspect of our Christian lives, which is our corporate worship with the church on the Lord’s day.

Blessings in Christ,
Terry W. West

The Early Reformers and Ordination in Our Modern Reformed Churches, Continued

August 21, 2007 § Leave a comment

I have a few more thoughts about this subject that I started here. I have seen some of the same sentiments (sentiments I found both incredible and at the same time refreshingly honest because many are not willing to admit that they are in disagreement with Calvin and other early reformers on some important issues, but rather try to explain away what should be explicitly clear), expressed again by this dear brother in the face of more quotes from one of our Reformed forefathers. His reply again is that it should be of no surprise that the confessions are “received” in such away by our modern adopting bodies that John Calvin and his own pastor Martin Bucer could not receive ordination in our churches. In light of this kind of opinion I asked this question in the previous post:

“As someone who is currently just a layman, but who may sometime in the future be seeking ordination, and someone who is still reading and learning more of scripture and my own adopted Reformed heritage, should I fear being able to pass an ordination exam if my views on certain doctrinal issues are in accord with say, John Calvin or Heinrich Bullinger?”

The list of Reformers could go on and on. It would include, along with Calvin and Bullinger, men such as Bucer, Ursinus, Bucanus, Vermigli, Zanchius, Pareus, Kimedonicus (he was a professor at Heidelberg, a colleague of David Pareus, and was a student of Zanchius), etc. Many, many more could be added. This is a short list by far that I have here.

I want to now offer a hypothetical example that I believe illustrates the absurdity of such a sentiment, especially when it is expressed as a positive thing. This sentiment seems to me to be akin to say, 500 years from now, the Nicene Creed being “received” in such a way by the adopting body that it is interpreted to teach modalism and then saying Athanasius would not be welcome to teach in such churches. Well, it may be true he would not be ordained in such churches, but this would most certainly not be a good thing.

Blessings in Christ,
Terry W. West

Worth Quoting – Tony Byrne on the Indiscriminate Offer of the Gospel

August 21, 2007 § 1 Comment

We are to evangelize because it is God’s will that all obey or comply with the gospel commandments. It is the knowledge of God’s revealed will that should drive our evangelistic endeavors, not our ignorance of His secret will. Our missionary activity should be a way of conforming ourselves to the very heart of God’s own missionary interests.

Tony Byrne (A.D. 1969-the rapture… 😉 )

I read this on my friend Tony’s blog, Theological Meditations. Well stated my friend! For this one you deserve a place among the likes of Calvin, Vermigli, Augustine, etc.

Blessings in Christ,
Terry W. West

The Insistent Use of Bad Arguments Part 4

August 21, 2007 § 4 Comments

This is part 4 of a series I started sometime ago under this same heading. Parts 1, 2, and 3 deal with a particular form of argument used by credo-baptist against paedo-baptist. It’s what I would call a “negative inference” fallacy or a categorical fallacy. This fallacy happens when the subject of premise 1 and the subject of premise 2 are in a different category and the conclusion drawn is a “negative” inference from what is “positively” affirmed to be true of the subjects of premises 1 and 2. The following simple syllogism is an illustration of this kind of fallacy:

Premise 1- Squirrels have tails.
Premise 2 – Dogs are not squirrels.
Conclusion 3 – Therefore dogs don’t have tails.

For those interested you can read the previous post by clicking on the following links: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

I recently was part of a discussion that followed after the critique of a portion of the new “FV” statement by Pastor Lane Keister on his blog, Green Baggins. First I want to say that my interest here is not to defend the “FV” statement itself or the “FV” theology. My intention is to simply critique one of Pastor Keister’s arguments itself. I contend that Pastor Keister is using the same fallcious form of argument that I critiqued in parts 1, 2, and 3. The following argument, offered by Pastor Keister, is based on the Westminster Larger Catechism #65. This is the arguement as stated by Pastor Lane:

“What SPECIAL (as in exclusive) benefits do the members of the invisible church enjoy by Christ? A. The members of the **invisible** church by Christ enjoy union and communion with him in grace and glory.

This expressly says that only the elect enjoy union with Christ. The non-elect do not enjoy union with Christ. By saying that the non-elect enjoy union with Christ, the FV fudges the boundary between the elect and the non-elect, such that they have this thing in common.”

First let me say that I agree that the “special” communion/union with Christ that the “invisible” church enjoys is particular to them. That’s not the point of dispute. What I want to dispute is the inference that therefore the other class of church member, i.e. merely visible, has no “sense” of communion/union with Christ. This does not follow from the bare positive affirmation of the “special” communion/union the invisible members enjoy.

Let me illustrate this fallacy with the same example I used in “The Insistent Use of Bad Arguments” parts 1-3. Using the squirrel and the dog. In this example the squirrel is the “elect/invisible” church member, the dog is the “non-elect/merely visible” church member and the tail is “communion/union” . This is what the argument would look like:

Premise 1. Squirrels (i.e the Elect) have long very furry (i.e. special) tails (i.e. communion/union).
Premise 2. Dogs (i.e. the non-elect) are not squirrels (i.e. the elect)
Conclusion. Dogs(i.e. the non-elect) do not have tails(i.e. communion/union).

Now I think we would all agree that the fact that a dog is not a squirrel does not excludes the dog from having a tail. A squirrel has a squirrels tail and a dog has a dogs tail, but both have tails. I can’t exclude the dog from possessing every possible kind of tail simply because I’ve established that squirrels have a certain kind of tail. The same is true for the visible and invisible church member. The fact that the invisible church member enjoys a “special/invisible” kind or sense of communion/union does not exclude the visible church member from possessing a “visible” kind or sense of communion/union. Lets compare the squirrel and dog example again. The most that can be inferred from the fact that a squirrel has a tail and a dog is not a squirrel is that a dog does not have a squirrels tail. I can infer nothing about the dog and it’s having or not having a tail based on my my positive affirmation of a squirrel possessing a tail. So, the fact that WLC #65 teaches me positively that the invisible church members enjoy a “special” communion/union, I cannot infer from this that the merely visible church member is therefore excluded from all possible senses of communion/union, because, just as a dog can have a “dog” kind of tail, though it differs from a “squirrel” kind of tail, so a visible church member can have a differing “kind” or “sense” of communion/union with Christ, but a real sense of communion/union nonetheless.

Lets look at Pastor Lane’s argument again:

“What SPECIAL (as in exclusive) benefits do the members of the invisible church enjoy by Christ? A. The members of the **invisible** church by Christ enjoy union and communion with him in grace and glory.

This expressly says that only the elect enjoy union with Christ. The non-elect do not enjoy union with Christ. By saying that the non-elect enjoy union with Christ, the FV fudges the boundary between the elect and the non-elect, such that they have this thing in common.”

Again, at the risk of being redundant, the conclusion drawn here does not follow and is fallacious. The only possible inference from the explicit statement in WLC #65, is that the non-elect do not enjoy THE “special” union that the elect enjoy with Christ. WLC #65, in no way excludes the non-elect from all possible senses of communion/union altogether.

To end this post I want to offer a defense of the argument I used as an illustration earlier in this post (with my tongue planted firmly in my cheek of course). First the argument again:

Premise 1. Squirrels (i.e the Elect) have long very furry (i.e. special) tails (i.e. communion/union).
Premise 2. Dogs (i.e. the non-elect) are not squirrels (i.e. the elect)
Conclusion. Dogs(i.e. the non-elect) do not have tails(i.e. communion/union) in any sense.

And now my defense:

Now, I am going to attempt to defend this argument. You see, the tail that the squirrel has is “THE” tail by which we define what it is to be a tail. So, a dog, even though he has something that is similar to what a tail should be, yet really has no tail at all in any sense, because even though the appendage that is attach to the dogs rump, (this is also true of a Squirrels tail) is similar in almost every way to the squirrels it cannot be a tail because it is by the squirrel that a tail is defined strictly speaking.

Now after such a defense of my argument I will find it incredible if anyone reading this post is not persuaded by this unassailable argument.

Blessings in Christ,
Terry W. West

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