Don't Stand There in the Entry, Come on In!

Kevin DeYoung, on of the authors of a terrific book on the emergent/emerging movements has a blog and he writes today about a conference just held at his congregation with Collin Hansen. He makes a couple of points to which I want to respond. I tried to reply on the blog but it threw me into an endless loop so I post it here instead.Kevin, We met the WSC faculty conference, “Missional and Reformed.” I enjoy the blog very much and enjoyed the book on the Emerging/Emergent movements and have recommended it widely.

As a minister who has spent a fair bit of time calling people to Christ AND to the Reformed confession, however, I take exception to the implication that it’s an either/or choice. It isn’t. You’ve made this implication before I on the blog and think it would be worthwhile spending some time criticizing it. As I understand the Reformed faith, we confess what we do because we believe it to be biblical. Being Reformed is not a second blessing for the illuminati.

It is worthwhile to contest the YRR appropriation of the adjective “Reformed.” Most of the YRR folk are, in fact, Particular Baptists or, as it were, Particular Charismatics. Yes, it’s exciting to see people from outside the tradition (from where I came) coming to embrace the doctrines of grace but there is, as you know, much more to the Reformed faith than simply the Canons of Dort. The Canons were themselves nothing more than a commentary on the Belgic Confession.

We should not settle for a lowest-common-denominator definition of Reformed any more that we should settle for allowing Rome to define “catholic” (William Perkins made this point) or allowing contemporary evangelicals to define “evangelical.” It was baby-baptizing Protestants who defined the “evangelical” faith in the 16th century.  Each of these is an important adjective. We are catholic. We are evangelical. We are Reformed. From an historical perspective, of these adjectives, the most precise is Reformed. It has been defined by the Reformed Churches in public, ecclesiastically sanctioned documents (the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, the Canons of Dort, and the Westminster Standards to name a few) and it encompasses a theology that is more than the five points, a Word and sacrament piety, and a churchly practice that includes the administration of baptism to covenant children.

It’s truly exciting to see folks from outside the tradition come to appreciate aspects of the Reformed faith but the 5 points are just the vestibule. Let’s not leave our guests in the hall way. Let’s invite them into the rest of the house.

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  1. Dr. Clark,

    Do you think the sequestering of the term “Reformed” by baptists, charismatics, &tc is also due in large part to real confessionally Reformed Christians who have not been jealous and defended the roots of the confessional Reformed tradition? I mean what message can we get when we’ve got “major league reformed christians” like RC Sproul have 2-day conferences with baptists? (I’m afraid to think to a certain extent White Horse Inn is also guilty of this.)

    (I know I don’t have to give you a history lesson and I’m sorry if I seem pretentious I’m really not) but referring to paedobaptism, Ursinus said of the Anabaptists in his commentary of the HC, “…it is clear that the denial of infant baptism is no trifiling error, but a grievous heresy, in direct opposition to the Word of God, and the comfort of the church. Wherefore this and similar follies of the sect of the Anabaptists should be carefully avoided, since they have, without doubt, been hatched by the devil, and are detestable heresies which they have fabricated from various errors and blasphemies.” (pg. 368) I plead ignorance here but has something changed in respect to our relationship between us and baptists in the last 400+ years that has somehow closed the gap on this bridge?

    I greatly appreciate you sounding out and being jealous of our confessional tradition I only wish we would also critique those who should be doing the same.

    Just my 2 cents.

  2. I have to echo some of Victor’s comments here. It seems like a lot of the confessional Reformed theologians and pastors deny the Belgic Confession’s doctrine of the church in practice. Up till recently, this would have sounded very strange to me, but… are conferences like Together for the Gospel really beneficial to the church? Don’t get me wrong, I rejoice to see orthodox doctrines of the atonement and particular grace find a hearing. However, I fear that confessional Reformed Christians have set themselves up for a YRR definition of “Reformed” when they collaborate at conferences with charismatic anabaptists.

  3. There is a danger that we call people to confessionalism instead of calling people to Christ… There is a danger that we focus most on what makes us Reformed or Presbyterian instead of what makes us Evangelical.

    This sort of thing is unfortunate (and frustrating), since it seems to take away with one hand what is given with the other. While I understand his concern for disconnect, and I appreciate the need to make clear the difference between a high view of confessional statements and an infallible one, often I think these are responses to phantoms and reveal just how deep the revivalist influences are. And what ends up being implied is that, instead of being complementary, the confessional formulations are still more suspect in relation to scripture than simply fallible; or that Reformed/Presbyterian are provincial and sectarian (read: suspect) terms that should never get in the way of evangelical.

    I can never help thinking this is the Reformed version of the Evangelical who refrains from the word “catholic” when considering the creed.

  4. “I mean what message can we get when we’ve got “major league reformed christians” like RC Sproul have 2-day conferences with baptists? (I’m afraid to think to a certain extent White Horse Inn is also guilty of this.)”

    Guilty of reaching out to our fellow brothers in Christ? At what point in time did being “reformed” come to mean being monastic and not associating with other brothers and sisters in the Lord? The message you should get from Sproul and others is that we are to be united. Luther tore down the wall. Calvin and Luther didn’t disagree on very many points. Now we have 5000 demoninations. A handful of them still believe the Bible is the Word of God. They believe in teaching. Preaching. Administering the Sacraments. I am not here to argue with you and I doubt I have the theological knowledge of most of the people who would normally post here but your comment reeks of arrogance and sectarianism. So what is stopping you from reaching out to your fellow Lutheran, and Anglican brothers and sisters? Consubstantiation? Infant baptism? Or even reaching out to those who are URC, OPC, or PCA? Since they seem to have so little in common with each other or one would come to think after seeing some of their congregant issues over who’s church is “more true”. I would think it would be better to strengthen and encourage your fellow believers who may not attend your church and build the Body than to argue endlessly over whether or not they have everything figured out (theologically speaking). Assuming YOU happen to have everything figured out (and if you do I applaud you).

  5. Whew, good thing Dr. Clark, arbiter of all things “Truly Reformed” caught wind of this. Too bad you didn’t get there in time to bar the doors and deny those Baptists. As it was, we fellowshipped with one another and enjoyed the teaching on John Calvin and enjoyed the heritage he has left the church, Baptist, Anglican, Lutheran, Presbytyerian and even GASP Charismatic alike.

  6. 2 things.

    1) Dr. Clark, thank you for your passion to maintain objective definition in a highly reletivistic society. “Reformed” has a meaning, as does “Christian”. In so many ways today, “Christian” is what ever I have created and believe, not THE FAITH once for all handed down to the saints.

    2) For those posting comments so far… are you serious? Heresy? Since when did one have to espouse the Reformed Standards to be saved? Oh, yeah, I remember, when the rich, young ruler asked how to be saved, Jesus replied, “Thow must reciteth the Heildelberg catechism” and when the theif asked Christ to remember him in His Kingdom he responded, “Do you uphold the Westminster Standards?”… I believe that those verses are found in the book of 2 Opinions? Is that right? Where is the grace that Christ has shown? How many of us were perfect in our theology when we were first saved, better yet, how many of us are now? Armenian/Reformed, paedo/credo, cessationist/biblical charismatic, all secondary issues that fall under sanctification, not justification, or has the REAL TRUTH of Reformed faith escaped us… justification by FAITH ALONE, not confessional documents and catechisms! Catechisis is post salvation – oh that we would remember that fact, and extend the grace of Christ to those who have put faith in Him, but have yet to learn the beauties of all that we hold dear in our confessions.

  7. Luther assuredly did not tear down any walls to the Anabaptists. Read his work Concerning Rebaptism if you want to know what sort of ecumenical relations he might have envisioned…

    From my reading, I think John Calvin would be pretty befuddled to watch Anabaptists and Enthusiasts (Charismatics) enjoying a conference about the heritage he left the church. I think he might conclude that such a conference was not entirely faithful to his theology.

    Moreover, these views are not the rants of individuals. The Reformed confessions teach an ecclesiology that is expressly opposed to “lowest common denominator” ecumenism. The doctrine of the true church in the Belgic Confession leaves no room for activities that might appear to endorse Anabaptist gatherings as true churches of Christ (or their ministers as legitimate ministers of Word and Sacrament). It’s not meant to be mean, rather it emphasizes the importance of the sacraments.

    Why is this controversial? Many Baptist churches wouldn’t be caught dead with a man who was baptized as an infant in the pulpit, much less in their church membership.

  8. Prof. Clark,

    While I agree that we should not reduce the word “Reformed” to subscription of the 5-points of Calvinism, I would also argue that expanding it so far as necessitating subscription a sacramental view of Baptism/Lord’s Supper and a particular eschatological viewpoint is equally erroneous.

    As important as the sacraments may be, they were not at the ideological center of the Reformation (with perhaps the universal rejection of the Catholic conception of them).

    As much as the children of Reformed scholasticism wish to continue to hijack the term, the reality is that the word “Reformed” applies equally to Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli–despite their respective differences.

    “Reformed” is an historical term, and not owned by one particular group (e.g. the padeobaptists).

  9. Josh,

    You’re right thast “Reformed” is an historical term, but you’re wrong that the sacraments are a secondary matter in the Reformed tradition. When you read the Reformers on these matters, you sure don’t get such an idea. And all the Reformed Confessions came to all reject Zwingli’s memorialism. Calvin called a nuda signa conception of the sacraments such as we would find among the Baptists an “execrable blasphemy” (in his “Short Treatise on the Lord’s Supper”, for instance). The Reformers would not separate the sacraments into a supposed second tier of doctrine, and they certainly wouldn’t stand for folks who insisted that they needed to be rebaptized. Such groups were very quickly exiled from Reformed lands.

  10. Jonathan,

    I agree. But we really have two issues here. First, can we honestly attempt to claim that Zwingli was not a central part of the Reformation? Can we honestly say that he didn’t stand in complete solidarity with the other Reformers on almost every single point? Do we really believe that Calvin and Luther looked upon Zwingli as “Non-reformed”? I believe the answer to each of those questions is clearly “no”.

    Secondly, despite Calvin’s (natural) aversion to anti-padeobaptism, we must ask ourselves if his views on baptism were essential components of the Reformation, or “secondary aspects”. What I mean here is can we honestly say the various sacramental views (within the protestant world) are the dividing line for determining who is, and who is not, reformed? Certainly this issue is an important one, but is it the criteria for determining who is reformed? I think not. Just because it was contained in all of the reformed confessions doesn’t automatically place it in the “primary tier”. All of the early Reformers were “Magisterial” (i.e. advocated some sort of government control over the church or church matters). By your logic, the Congregationalists of the 17th century are not reformed because they believe in local church autonomy! (One would suspect even the 17t century Presbyterians wouldn’t make the cut).

    Calvin was a product of his time, as was Luther. They put so much weight on padeobaptism, as those in Clark’s guild do today. For something that suppossedly is so essential to what it means to be church (so much so that Clark and many of the commentors here believe you are not a true church if you are not padeobaptist) I find it odd that the New Testament says nothing about this. Odd, that Christ would be silent on an “essential” aspect of the church. Perhaps the argument for it may well be logical from a continuationist hermeneutic, but then we are saying that this absolutely vital teaching—inherent to the very nature of the church–is at best only implied in the New Testament. Odd indeed.

  11. jonathan,

    You wrote: “The Reformers would not separate the sacraments into a supposed second tier of doctrine, and they certainly wouldn’t stand for folks who insisted that they needed to be rebaptized. Such groups were very quickly exiled from Reformed lands.”

    Don’t worry…..I have already forgiven them for this unbiblical sin. We are all guilty of ignorance and pride….even our reformation heroes! LOL

  12. The “vestibule” of the doctrines of grace (the 5 points), as part of the sovereignty of God, are the best part of the “Reformed” house. While I do agree that there is more, much more, I think we can minimize the importance of the 5 points and rush them into the rest of the house.

    When we do minimize the importance of the 5 points and rush them into the rest of the house, it becomes like the situation in the church in Galatia. “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain–if indeed it was in vain? So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?” Galatians 3:3-5.

    To state it another way, “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins.” Luke 5:37-38. Think of the doctrines of grace (the 5 points) as fresh wineskins and Reformed piety and practice as fresh wine.

    Reformed piety and practice can very easily turn into legalism if we neglect these doctrine of grace.

    As one who grew up in the Christian Reformed Church and who now attends a PCA church, I do appreciate the importance of all of the Reformed confessions, infant baptism, the Regulative Principle of Worship, and the rest. My web site will confirm that point.

    But, I am puzzled to see church leaders rush the congregants through this vestibule of the doctrines of grace. I made that observation when I taught a RC Sproul video on “Amazing Grace” at a CRC church, and so many people knew so little about “TULIP” (the 5 points). I make that observation now at my PRC church where the Sunday School class is teaching a book Are 5 points enough? even though I do not remember the 5 points being systematically (point by point) taught much in my church. I have also previously pondered this point when I discussed with church leaders at various churches my excitement about TULIP, and it seemed as if they always were quick to reply: “Well, there is much more to Reformed doctrine than TULIP.” This felt like they threw a wet cold blanket over a fire.

    “The simplicity that is in Christ” seems to be the simplicity of a Christ who truly saves from beginning to end such as taught in the 5 points (doctrine of grace). Maybe, we should heed Paul’s warning. “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” 2 Corinthians 11:3.

    In summary, let us linger in the doctrines of grace. Particularly, let the Young Restless and Reformed linger there. We all will be better equipped to handle the rest.

  13. Dr. Clark,

    I attended the conference that Pastor Kevin was mentioning, and I think the concern from his blog represents the same concern he had during the conference. He posed the question to Hansen, “Why does it seem that so much of the Young, Restless, and Reformed movement is coming from non-confessional camps?” While I’m sure that there are many confessionaly reformed pastors who are faithfully serving in their churches, it seems that many of the movers and shakers in this movement aren’t traditionally reformed. Any suggestions for how we address this dilemna? Maybe we just drop the title reformed and call them Calvinists? Who knows?

    Personally I have been blessed beyond measure by the ministries of men like John Piper and Mark Dever. Therefore, I am hesitant to start pointing out slight differences in theology and then demanding that people stop referring to them as reformed. I am also not convinced that conferences like Together for the Gospel or The Gospel Coalition are necessarily bad; especially in light of the greater dangers of The Emergent Church.

    Anyways, this is just some food for thought. I hope that someone has some more intelligible things to say on this matter than I.

  14. Hi,

    For those who are new to the HB, welcome!

    1. For a much more complete account of this argument (in 300+ pages) see Recovering the Reformed Confession. The link is on the top of the page and to the left.

    2. There are lots of posts on the HB on these themes. You might start here.

  15. Josh,

    Luther emphatically did believe that Zwingli was, as he put it, “of a different spirit.” Calvin, as I said, labelled the strict memorialist view of the sacraments an “execrable blasphemy.” Doesn’t sound like “secondary” language to me. The Reformed confessions all witness decidedly against your assertion that the sacraments are a matter secondary to the Reformed confession.

    And regarding the Baptism issue: How can I say that I am of the same tradition with those who claim that I and my entire communion is not Baptized? Why would they want to claim to be of the same tradition as such un-Baptized folks as me and my sorry lot? As far as I see it, and defining things according to historically Protestant standards, a church without Baptism is in reality a non-Church.

    Further, on the question of Church government, the Reformed confessions say little on the matter, and the Reformers themselves (much unlike their many emphatic statements on the sacraments), clearly said that this is a secondary matter , so I have little problem embracing Reformed Episcopalians and Congregationalists of the Savoy tradition within the Reformed pale.


    Differences over the sacraments are not “slight.” Such an insinuation itself runs counter to the Reformed confession. In asking us to overlook this issue y’all are effectively asking us to forsake our confessional tradition. Why is it that, whenever this issue is discussed, it is always assumed that the confessional folks are the ones who need to compromise? As I see it, it is those who are adovcating non-confessional views who need to come to grips with the fact that they are in reality part of a different theological system which has for some reason seen fit to relegate the sacraments to a level of secondary or even tertiary importance.

    I for the life of me cannot fathom why anyone would want to claim to be Reformed while saying that those within historically Reformed communions are not actually Baptized. The only way you can do this is to say that Baptism is not essential to the Church. In which case I say, “Uh, yeah… now there’s a historically Protestant position fer ya!”

  16. Personally I have been blessed beyond measure by the ministries of men like John Piper and Mark Dever. Therefore, I am hesitant to start pointing out slight differences in theology and then demanding that people stop referring to them as reformed.

    Frustration alert.

    The definition of what is/not Reformed isn’t “who blesses me beyond measure.” It is confessional formulation. I can get a lot from Peter Kreeft, but that doesn’t mean he’s Reformed. And it is odd that I bet Kreeft wouldn’t consider what separates us are “slight differences in theology,” while those who otherwise hail such mindful and precise tradition as Protestantism seem to imply the differences are negligible.

    And a question for those inclined to make what is/not Reformed a subjectivist “who blesses me beyond measure”: What do you do with he who frustrates you beyond measure but adheres to confessional Reformed formulation? For my part, I am inclined to say he simply frustrates me beyond measure, not that he is un-Reformed.

  17. I should clarify my thoughts. I don’t mean slight in the sense that baptism is somehow unimportant. What I meant by the term is that there are men who believe and confirm much of what is presented in the Standards of Unity, but aren’t convinced that an OT practice of circumcision is a 1 to 1 correlation to NT baptism. So the “slight” difference is that we disagree on one of many topics.

    Again, my question is this, “Is this ONE difference enough to raise an alarm when “we’ve got “major league reformed christians” like RC Sproul have 2-day conferences with baptists?”

    My answer is a resounding NO.

  18. R.D.,

    While I do appreciate the points they are trying to make, I’m not as convinced as some others here that as such Sproul conferencing with credo-baptists is some sort of cause for alarm. There is such a thing as common sense, after all.

    Even so, the point here is that to be unconvinced of paedobaptism is, quite frankly, quite enough to set one outside the Reformed reservation.

    In other words, the alarm has less to do with conferencing than it is about the proper marks of “Reformed.” I’ll even up the ante to make the point: conference with Kreeft, Piper and Dever any day of the week, but go separate ways with all on Sunday, literally and figuratively.

  19. From a Reformed point of view, a conference is a not a church service. A conference is more like a village green. I’m happy to go to academic and religious conferences with folks from a variety of backgrounds.

    This is one area where the doctrine of two kingdoms helps. I don’t have to baptize everyone with whom I associate. I don’t have to minimize the differences. I don’t have to flatten out my doctrine of the church and sacraments in order to share space, time, and even fellowship with folks from other traditions.

    See the piece I to which linked the other day on Geneva Redux. Machen argues there that the best way to fellowship with folks from other traditions is not to deny our own.

  20. Zrim,

    I will agree that a credo-baptist is beyond the definition of “Reformed.” That is a point that I can understand and accept. I have a few questions on what this means when we practically apply it to Sunday like you said. Does this issue does this issue define who we ordain? accept as members? allow to take the Lord’s Supper? It is easy to draw conclusions on a blog, but how do we graciously act this out in our churches?

  21. R.D.,

    It would seem to me that if we agree that certain views on baptism can render someone “beyond the definition of ‘Reformed,'” then how it might have less than full bearing on ordination, membership and communion isn’t clear to me at all, questions of “graciousness” notwithstanding. After all, isn’t that sort of implied disconnect between belief and praxis the very (ahem) definition of dead orthodoxy, that thing this side of the table is constantly accused of?


    Machen is cool.

  22. Dr. Clark,
    I think my concern is what you term as “religious conferences.” Can we really abstract Christian faith from an ecclesiastical context? I certainly understand how the doctrine of two kingdoms helps with participation in a society for academic discussion such as ETS, SBL, or AAR. However, it would seem to me as if many conferences such as Sproul’s Ligonier gatherings carry the implicit (and sometimes explicit) understanding that each invited pastor is a legitimate ordained minister of word and sacrament in a true church. There’s an underlying message that comes across to me as: “We’re all evangelicals with minor differences.” For instance, I find it revealing to note that most of these Calvin conferences fail to address Calvin’s ecclesiology or doctrine of the sacraments at all.

  23. Dr. Clark,

    You state, “From a Reformed point of view, a conference is a not a church service.” Technically, I wholeheartedly agree.

    However, I also agree with Bryan Peters when he states, “…it would seem to me as if many conferences such as Sproul’s Ligonier gatherings carry the implicit (and sometimes explicit) understanding that each invited pastor is a legitimate ordained minister of word and sacrament in a true church.”

    The problem with these conferences, as I see it, is that they are implicitly supplanting the means of grace, or at least the effect is as if they were, and doing so can be a stumbling block to the layman. And, though I can be wrong, they can be conceived as a QIRE.

    For example, in this year’s National Conference, Ligonier plans to do their conference on the Holiness of God and a “mini-conference” on Calvin’s legacy, which very wisely and shrewdly completely omits, or avoids, discussing Calvin’s ecclesiology and sacramentology [see link].

    Additionally, much like a worship service they plan, as they have done for years, to “provide music throughout our conference…and times of worship.”

    Again, my point is that, for the layman this, looks like, sounds like and smells like a worship service.

    For a lasting impression, Ligonier’s brochure for this year’s conference includes thoughts and comments from people who have attended these conferences in the past.

    “Each year seems to get better.
    There is nothing else like this on earth…
    I feel more equipped and able to serve
    God with the information gained from this conference.”
    Randy, New Mexico

    “Thank you for the godly theologians
    and speakers that you had. It is refreshing to
    hear the Word strongly preached.”
    David , Maryland

    “This is the 10th National Conference we
    have attended since 1995. The continuing
    attraction is that everything Ligonier does
    is done with the excellence befitting the
    majesty of our great God and Savior.”
    – James and Mary, Michigan

  24. I understand that folk don’t always make that distinction but the Reformed confessions do. They set apart the Sabbath and public worship as one thing and what the Puritans called “prophecy” (preaching) conferences as another. The RPW applies to the former and not the latter. The former is obligatory, the latter is not. We hold chapel on Tues and Thurs on campus. We sign hymns. I’m willing to do that then but not on the Sabbath as part of stated worship service.

    A conference might be “worship” in the broad sense but it’s not ecclesiastical. It’s private, not public. The sacraments are not administered and there’s no discipline involved for going or not going. That’s not true with a stated service. If members of a Reformed church willfully absent themselves from the means of grace they are subject to discipline.

    There are real, substantive differences between an edifying religious conference and a stated, public, ecclesiastical worship service.

  25. I’m sorry but I have to go back to Zrim’s comment, “It would seem to me that if we agree that certain views on baptism can render someone “beyond the definition of ‘Reformed,’” then how it might have less than full bearing on ordination, membership and communion isn’t clear to me at all, questions of “graciousness” notwithstanding.”

    I hope I’m mistaken but are you saying that you don’t think you should share communion with a Baptist since you are reformed? Please clarify.

  26. R D,

    The Synod of Dort restricted communion to those who “profess the Reformed religion.”

    Since that time many Presbyterians and Reformed, but not all, have extended communion to Baptists. In our congregation we do not.

    This shouldn’t be any more shocking than the Baptist claim that we are unbaptized.

    As I’ve written before in this space, the fact that most “evangelicals” in the USA are Baptistic means that it seems presumptuous for paedobaptists to restrict communion from Baptists but it’s a matter of principle not a matter of counting heads.

  27. R.D.,

    I think perhaps the implication of your question is that we are saying more than we are. But nobody is making comment on questions of invisibility, rather it is a matter of being faithful to questions of visibility. What I think is fairly well at a low ebb anymore is the understanding of the in/visibility of the church or the difference between the church militant/triumphant (it is also relevant that points about of the two kingdoms have also been brought up in this thread).

    And since graciousness seems to be a sub-text of your comments, it is gracious to attend a friend’s Roman Catholic wedding, but unwise to participate in the communion that follows. It would be ungracious to not attend simply because they are Roman Catholic.

  28. Zrim,

    I’m not going to lie, you lost me a little bit with your first paragraph.

    As to your second, I think that there are seperate reasons that I might want to abstain from taking communion at a friend’s Catholic wedding, other than the fact that they are not reformed. Chiefly the means of salvation that they tie to it.

    My dilemna and question is this: As a young man aspiring to become a pastor of a Reformed church, and trying to think through how I would want to pastor that church, and taking some of the remarks here into account it seems that some suggestions would be to not allow credo-baptists to become members, nor allow them to take communion. If I have heard you wrong then I appologize, and I hope that you can set me straight by what you do mean.

  29. R.D.,

    Sorry for losing you. My point was more or less similar to RSC’s about “counting heads.”

    Re Roman communion, yes, abstaining from it due to the fact that their understanding of it differs from ours was also my point. If we fence the table to those who are in our midst, it only makes sense that when we are in their midst we “fence” ourselves, as it were.

    I’m not in the business of setting young sem students straight–that’s someone else’s job. I’m just here for the conversation. But, it seems to me that if your take-away here is merely that it’s all about keeping people out I think that may to miss forest for trees. When I became Reformed I was a credo-baptist. It seemed to me that the onus was quite on me to get this thing cleared up before I could take any membership vows in a Reformed communion (something I knew was right and what I wanted); it wasn’t on the elders to feign a worldly graciousness and let me keep me keep certain errant beliefs that are out of accord with the forms they swore to uphold and defend.

    Graciousness here is not to let error go, rather it is to bear patiently and lovingly with those who aren’t getting truth yet, and letting them grow into an understanding. I think if folks understood better that this less an academic affair and more an organic and personal one we might see folks appreciate what it means to own a tradition and not really be so bothered by the idea that to fence is not to ostracize but actually to love. Don’t underestimate just how counter-intuitive the gospel is.

  30. I have enjoyed reading this discussion since it has not only been civil but insightful. My question is this:

    Sometimes I feel as though my “reformed” brothers whom I fellowship with come across as being a bit arrogant. They act as if they have everything figured out theologically speaking and have a theologically calvinistic retort to anything I may bring up. But who is to say that Calvin had it all figured out? My friends are quick to point out the errors of Luther, yet almost unbending on their theological stances related to Calvin. Why are there hundereds of Lutheran and Anglican theologians out there who would defend their theological views, which in turn might point out errors within reformed theology? The Canons of Dort say much about worship and order within the church, yet no where in the New Testament does it say we can’t sing hymns or we must fence the table from those who believe His presence is “in” the elements mysteriously or it is a symbol of His shed blood. I’m not looking to argue the Eucharist. I am merely presenting a question. Thanks for reading.

  31. Hi Jim!

    Hebrews 11:1 tells us: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” So, when you have assurance plus conviction, it can appear as arrogance. It makes me wonder how many men of faith in Hebrews 11 and throughout history appeared to be more or less arrogant.

    Regarding, your question (Who is to say that Calvin had it all figured out?), I think that most Reformed brothers would say different things. I will just list two things.

    They would say that we each have the responsibility to judge Calvin’s teachings (doctrine) on the basis of Scripture. “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” Acts 17:11.

    They would say that they really don’t care to prove “Calvin had it all figured out”. Their goal is not to honor any one man, but rather their goal to learn and teach sound doctrine. Whatever Calvin taught that is the best sound doctrine, they could use, and whatever someone else taught that is the best doctrine, they will use that doctrine. In summary, they would point to Scripture as the first authority, Reformed creeds and confession (primarily the Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession, Canons of Dort, and Westminister Confession of Faith) as the second authority, and Calvin’s Commentaries and other writings only as the third authority.

    The Canons of Dort are primarily about the doctrine of salvation. The Synod of Dordt formed the Five Points of Calvinism (“TULIP”) in response to the challenge and errors of the Five Points of Arminianism that was posing a threat to the churches at that time. There is not as much in the Canons of Dordt about worship and order as is in the other Reformed creeds and confessions and other Reformed writings.

    Regarding hymns, I do agree that the New Testament does not prohibit it. However, there is a good article on why Psalms should at least be used more in a worship service. Here is the link to it –

    Regarding the sacrament of communion, I will let others address that issue.

    Best wishes,
    P.S. I am just a layman, so what do I know? 🙂
    There are seminary students and Professors who can also answer your questions, and they may refute me while doing so. But, hopefully, your questions and my answer will start everyone thinking.

  32. Zrim,

    You can be a credobpatist and a member in a Reformed Church in good standing. IMO too many Reformed churches make it so that Baptists can’t be members.

    If an office older did not subscribe to the whole of the WC then there would be an issue. But members of the congregation can come from a wide perspective. The churches responsibility is to make them more like Christ. Educating them in the Reformed Confessions is extremely important to this end, but at the end of the day if you didn’t subscribe to every jot and tittle of the WC, your elders would have brought disgrace on themselves if they would have barred you from communion with the Church.

    Church leaders must subscribe the the Confession(s). Church members ought to be taught in the Confession(s), however, congregants are not required to agree with the Confession on every point (Baptism, Lord’s Supper, or days of creation, etc).

  33. Brandon,

    I am in a Dutch Reformed communion where we confess the TFU. As I understand it (which admittedly is limited), what you are describing is more of a Presbyterian reality where officers are expected to full subscription to the WCF and such burdens are not necessarily placed on members. But in the Dutch Reformed tradition members are asked in their vows in such a way that there is a bit more onus on them.

    But where you may have a good technical point, it seems to me that the spirit of mine is superior. That is to say, it makes little to no sense to maintain one’s credo-baptism in a tradition that is paedobaptistic, just as it makes no sense to maintain one’s paedobpatism in a tradition that is credo-baptistic. It seems quite dishonest.

    Moreover, by your logic we actually see the divorce of belief and practice. At some point baptism becomes a reality for someone. If I hold paedobaptist beliefs and have children whilst a member of a credo-baptist church you can bet my beliefs won’t be allowed practice. Contrariwise, if I hold credo-baptist beliefs and have children whilst a member of a paedobaptist church I will be expected to tote them to the font (that is, if “Bapterianism” hasn’t crept in). And from my experience, an adult convert who was christened/baptized as an infant will be expected to be re-baptized (or at least not kept from it) when coming into a credo-baptist church, while said rite will be fully acknowledged by a paedobaptist church and things are a “done deal” on the baptism front—in fact, if I want to be re-baptized I will be kept from it for my own good.

    It is always ironic to me when Reformed/Presbyterians (I assume you are) hold out this logic that one “can be a credo-baptist and a member in a Reformed Church in good standing” when no credo-baptist I have ever known would be fine with someone keeping his paedobaptist beliefs/practices. I think what you are suggesting is a form of “Bapterianism” that ends up being a form of paedobaptistic self-loathing. Ironically, I find credo-baptists to have a lot more enviable chutzpa about their beliefs/.practices than too many of us do. You might be tempted to think “Bapterianism” is a form of love and charity. But holding out something that allows a covenant child to be withheld the mark of God is actually an abuse and not very loving. Further, what is so repellant about telling a Christian parent to participate in a rite s/he may not fully understand but to also understand s/he will be patiently borne to come into its understanding? After all, I still don’t fully understand the gospel or baptism, but that doesn’t mean I resist either.

  34. Brother Zrim,

    I understand where you are coming from. I can understand why it is very compelling. I’ve still yet to develop this and I haven’t had time to read Dr. Clark’s RRC, I will try to do so when time presents itself though.

    With that in mind, Dr. Clark can probably ignore these comments because I’m sure he dealt with them in RRC (I can only imagine how frustrating it is when someone brings up issues with which you have dealt with at length while not reading your argument)

    I think that in the 16th, 17th, and most of the 18th century, your formula would work. My problem is that in the American ecclesiastical context there has been substantial democratization of the Church. Churches cannot function effectively IMO with 17th century assumptions of church polity and ecumenicism. Today, divisions are not quite as clear as they were during the time of Calvin and the Reformed Scholastics.

    Maybe I’m wrong on this issue, but coming from a Baptistic background like yourself, I sympathize with those who are working through the issue. My concern here is for the health of the church. We are developing informed laity who understand the Gospel and Reformed distinctives but we unnecessarily alienate uninformed people from our midst. This is the root of my concern for strict subscriptionism.

    I know that no one is proposing that we cast off those who have problems grasping the Reformed faith, but I am afraid that it comes off this way in practice.

  35. Brandon,

    I understand. But I am not at all convinced that the confusions of our time and place imply equivocation on our confessions, etc. The onus, actually, is to remain fauthful, not figure out how to get along. Trust me, I certainly hear what this comes off as. But consider:

    “I have no idea how there are three persons in one God.”

    “Oh, well, you can hold to three gods if that helps. Of course, those guys we’ll just stigmatize as ‘cultists’ can’t, but since you seem to love Jesus in the way I do, it’s OK for you. I’ll be over here loving Jesus and holding to the doctrine you can’t get your mind around.”

    Growing into an understanding far out paces any alternative and is simply not the same as “unnecessarily alienat[ing] uninformed people from our midst.”

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