Talking Baptism And Defining “Reformed” With Theololgy Gals

For your listening pleasure: an hour-long conversation with the Theology Gals podcast (Coleen and Angela) on how to define the adjective Reformed and answering questions about baptism.

Here is the episode.

RESOURCES

  1. On Being Reformed: Debates over a Theological Identity by Matthew C. Bingham, Chris Caughey, R. Scott Clark, Crawford Gribben, D. G. Hart
  2. On Being Reformed – Office Hours podcast
  3. Covenant Theology with R. Scott Clark – Theology Gals Episode
  4. A Curriculum For Those Wrestling Through Covenant Theology And Infant Baptism
  5. Heidelcast Series: I Will Be A God To You And To Your Children
  6. Covenant Theology and Infant Baptism
  7. A Contemporary Reformed Defense of Infant Baptism – R. Scott Clark

    Post authored by:

  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

    More by R. Scott Clark ›

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49 comments

  1. Kudos to the Theology Gals for their interview questions and your answers. This interview provides a wonderfully concise and accurate statement of what it is that sets Reformed theology apart from other predestinarian theologies that want to call themselves “reformed.” Also for the episode on the Federal Vision as a heresy centered around baptism and the Lord’s Supper, because their understanding of God’s covenants is false. How we understand God’s covenants is the defining principle of Reformed theology. A Reformed understanding of the covenants is found in our Standards. Although the church has amended some peripheral statements, such as the relation of church and state, these do not change the fundamental doctrines of Reformed theology which are defined through our unified understanding of Scripture based on one way of salvation for one people of God.

    • Angela: You refer to the Federal Vision as “heresy”. I agree that it is error but is it heresy or heterodoxy?

    • Bob, to change the Reformed statement of faith, from faith alone to faithfulness, and to teach a final judgment based on that faithfulness is a denial of salvation by grace, through faith in Christ alone. It is nothing short of a denial of the Reformed faith. I unapologetically call that the heresy of heresies that will damn you to hell if you believe it, because you are NOT trusting in Christ ALONE. Did you listen to the linked episodes of Theology Gals with Dewey Roberts?

      to cha

    • Angela and Dr. Clark: I don’t think there is a hard and fast definition for “heresy” or “heretic”. Can much of a distinction be made between Federal Vision and Arminianism? If you can’t draw a bright line between them, aren’t you excluding a lot of people in North America from the visible church? If you are a member of a church that teaches “heresy”, are you automatically a “heretic” personally? I just get the sense that “heresy” and “heretic” are thrown around rather loosely when heterodox may be more accurate. Your thoughts?

  2. Bob, you are right, there is practically NO difference between Arminianism, FV, the teachings you will find in many so called evangelical churches, and the Roman Catholic teachings. They are all versions of moralism. All teach that we are saved by grace AND cooperation with grace. The problem with this is that Christ is our all in all, and He will either be your complete Savior or not your Savior at all. That is why any teaching that does not hold up Christ as our ONLY Savior is a false religion, a heresy that denies the gospel. Sadly much of what passes as Christianity in the evangelical churches is a false religion that cannot save. That is the point of Dr. Clark’s posts on Machen, who sounded the alarm that this is a totally different religion from true Christianity. It is heresy, pure and simple. You are not saved or damned by your church membership, but by what you personally put your trust in. If you believe the teachings of Arminianism, FV, or Roman Catholicism, you are trusting in your own righteousness, that is what will damn you to hell. That is the sad state of the so called Christian religion in North America, and it is shocking. People who think they are on their way to heaven, are going to hell because they do not trust in Christ ALONE! The Reformed churches formulated the Canons of Dort to condemn the heresy of Arminianism, which is essentially the same heresy as Roman Catholicism, the Federal Vision, and any form of “evangelicalism” that teaches salvation through cooperation with grace and a two stage justification of initial and final justificastion based on that cooperation. The true faith says we are saved only by the imputed righteousness, active and passive, of Christ alone. Our good works of sanctification are free expressions of love and gratitude to God for so great a salvation, this salvation through trusting in Christ alone will be vindicated, not determined, when Christ returns. The false religion teaches that our final salvation is determined by faith and cooperation with grace. That is a heresy because it is not the true gospel, it does not teach salvation through trusting in Christ ALONE.

    • Sounds like the only people who can claim to be in the visible church are those in Reformed churches and a smattering of Reforming baptists. I doubt if everyone is as sure as you seem to be about the bright dividing line you have drawn for who is in the visible church and who is not.

      • Bob,

        The Reformed churches confess what they do based on their reading of God’s Word. It seems controversial here (in the USA) and now (after the 2nd Great Awakening) because American evangelicalism reflects the Anabaptist traditions more than the Reformation churches.

        Actually, I think Particular Baptist congregations are irregular. Ask yourself this: which of today’s leading evangelicals would even be allowed to come to communion in 16th or 17th century Geneva, Heidelberg, or Edinburgh.

        RE: the Synod of Dort, this isn’t a private opinion. It’s a formal ecclesiastical judgment. The United Reformed Churches in North America haven’t declared the FV heresy but we have formally adopted 9 points of “pastoral advice:”

        https://heidelblog.net/2016/06/the-urcs-nine-points-against-the-federal-vision-2007/

        We used the same language as the synod of Dort. Here’s a series of lectures for background:

        https://heidelblog.net/2013/04/federal-vision-audio/

        Insofar as the FV teaches essentially the same thing as the Remonstrants, it may be said to be heresy. They have, e.g., the same doctrine denying the perseverance of the saints.

        We reject an ex opere view of the sacraments, which the FV teaches.

        Take a look at the FV resource page:

        https://heidelblog.net/2018/08/resources-on-the-federal-vision-theology/

    • Bob, the visible church is all who claim to be Christians, the elect of God, who trust in Christ alone are the true Church. If you can not see the difference between trusting in Christ alone, and Arminianism, and the various other forms of moralism, I am very sorry for you.

    • Angela: I see the difference. What I’m not as sure about as you apparently are is which errors exclude a group from being a part of the visible church. I’d like a second opinion before excluding 80% or more of those who call themselves Christian from the visible Church. Maybe Dr. Clark will weigh in.

    • I’m not excluding anyone from the VISIBLE church. Anyone who calls themselves Christian is part of the visible church, no matter what they inwardly believe. The INVISIBLE, inward membership is all who believe the true gospel of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, and in Christ alone. The operative word is ALONE. As the Apostle Paul writes, not all Israel is Israel. Rom. 9:6 The true Israel trusted only in the Savior promised by God. The Israel that trusted in whole or in part in their observance of the law was not the true people of God, just as those who call themselves Christians today, but trust partly or in whole in their own faithfulness are not the true people of God. Jesus said the road that leads to destruction is wide and many enter through it. Matt. 7:13

      As far as the Federal Vision being a heresy, it is not just my opinion, but the synodical declaration of most of the Reformed Churches. The Canons of Dort also declared Arminianism a heresy because it was a denial of the true gospel.

  3. Angela: We have no ability to discern the invisible Church. Onlu God knows that. As far as the visible Church is concerned you are saying that 80% or more of those who claim to be Christian cannot be called brothers and sisters in Christ according to your criteria. What are those limits that define the visible Chuech? Would continuationists be excluded. How about those who practice close communion? What if they don’t accept covenant theology? This sounds like the debate in the early 20th century over the Fundamentals.

  4. Bob, you are right, we cannot infallibly say who is and who is not elect, and therefore who is part of the true, invisible church, only God knows for sure. However we can know what is false and what is true doctrine. True doctrine, that teaches salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone is the gospel message of the Word of God. The Reformed confessions provide a summary that helps us to determine when this is truly being taught. Teaching that does not conform to our confessions is heresy, according to the Reformed churches. A person who denies the teaching of our confessions is a heretic, because he denies the gospel, according to Reformed doctrine.

  5. Angela: You wrote: “Teaching that does not conform to our confessions is heresy, according to the Reformed churches”. I don’t think your statement is accurate. I have never seen that formulation in any Reformed confession. You’re going to have to quote which specific confession makes that edict and where specifically.

    • Bob,

      There are two uses of the term heresy, broader and narrower. In the narrow sense, heresy is that teaching that denies the ecumenical faith. Pelagianism is heresy according to the 4th Ecumenical Council (Ephesus AD 431). The Reformed confessions all teach that Pelagianism is heresy. That was the use on which the Synod of Dort relied.

      One other thing to consider, there is a strain within the Federal Vision theology (e.g., Ralph Smith) that seeks to revise the ecumenical doctrine of Trinity as confessed in the ecumenical/catholic creeds. This view is essentially tri-theism. If so, then it is heresy against the ecumenical/catholic faith.

      In the broad sense, teaching that deviates from the Word of God as confessed by the Reformed churches may be said to be heresy. See the articles I linked earlier re the definition of heresy.

  6. The whole purpose of the confessions is to spell out the teachings of the Reformed churches on what constitutes the gospel, the true saving faith, what a true Christian must believe in order to be saved. The confessions are our doctrinal statement, and as such are the standard by which we are to judge any teaching in the church. If the teaching accords to the confessions it is orthodox, if it does not, it is considered heresy. That was the standard that was used by most of the Reformed churches in declaring the Federal Vision a heresy. It is a historic fact that the Reformed churches formulated the confessions to spell out what we accept as true doctrine. It was the confessions that provided the standards by which Arminius was condemned as a heretic, and by which the Canons of Dort were written to prove why Arminius and his followers, and any who teach a similar doctrine, such as the Federal Vision, are heretics.

  7. Could any Reformed ecclesiastical body today declare Arminianism to be heresy? Could such a statement get enough votes to pass?

    • Bob,

      We still affirm the Canons of Dort. Ministers in Reformed churches literally subscribe their names under the Canons, the Heidelberg, the Belgic Confession.

      We have a way to go to Recover the Reformed Confession (read the book) but we’re making progress here and there.

  8. At the risk of causing more heat than light… Art 29 of the Belgic confession states, to paraphrase, a true church has three marks. the first is the true gospel is being preached. The Canons of Dort declare the Arminians are teaching a false gospel/heresy. Therefore Arminian groups are not true churches. However, you are making the false assumption that we are saying the people attending these places are not Christians. That is not the case. However, we desire they attend a church that preaches the true gospel for their growth and assurance. more to it than that but that is the gist.

    • Thomas,

      Yes, the question is not the status of individuals. That’s not our business. What we can judge is the status of congregations. Do they have the marks of the true church? That’s the question we’re asking in Belgic 29.

    • It is my understanding that a heresy may be defined as a teaching that denies the ecumenical faith as expressed in the Reformed confessions, therefore we may make the judgment that a person who teaches such a heresy is a heretic. That was how Arminius and his followers were judged as heretics by the Synod of Dort. Only God can know whether that person is elect or not. However I think we can warn that if a person believes a false gospel of salvation through cooperation with grace or faithfulness they have a false gospel that cannot save them. We can make a general statement that such people as do not trust in Christ alone are not true Christians.

  9. I think there is an important distinction between being convinced that what you believe is true and taking that assurance to the level that only those who have my understanding of scripture are in Christ and all those of any other denomination necessarily cannot be. Don’t split hairs and say that I am misrepresenting your position because there might be a handful of true believers in those other denominations. It seems that not being Reformed has become the second unpardonable sin. This strikes me as spiritual pride of the first order.

    • The one and only unpardonable sin is to reject the Holy Spirit’s witness in the preached and read Word that salvation is to be found through trusting in the imputed active and passive righteousness of Jesus Christ. Period. Full Stop. I am a Reformed Christian because I believe the Reformed confessions accurately teach this. The Christian faith is stubbornly intolerant of deviations from salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, in Scripture alone, and to the Glory of God alone. It has always been criticized for being exclusionist and narrow minded that way, so that true Christians have been persecuted and ridiculed for being so narrow minded. If only they would be more tolerant, says the Worldly Wiseman.

      Sorry if it strikes you as spiritual pride of the first order, to be boasting only in Jesus Christ and him crucified because in myself I am only worthy of God’s eternal wrath. Because I am such a sinful wretch, I cling to Christ alone as my only hope. Gal. 6:14, 2Cor. 11:30, 12:9, 1Cor. 4:6

  10. Angela: How many others outside the Reformed community also boast only in Jesus Christ and Him crucified? I don’t know about you but I came to faith long before I even knew there was such a thing as “Reformed”. From everything you said before it seems as if you are saying that secondly and of equal weight is your boast that you hold to the WCF and the Three Forms of Unity which are, as accurate as they may be, all written by fallen men and by their own admission must yield to Scripture.

    • Hi Bob and Angela,

      The Reformed churches have never said that there are no Christians beyond the Reformed churches.

      What we have said is that there are true and false churches and sects. Rome is a false church and there are sects that call themselves churches but are not churches because they lack the marks of the true church.

      The real issue is whether we may speak of true and false churches. This is an irritant in a pluralist time and place such as we are in now. I think we must affirm it, however, on the basis of Scripture.

      Let’s discuss that.

      Thanks.

  11. Bob, as Dr. Clark states, we should discuss, “the real issue is whether we may speak of true and false churches is an irritant in a pluralist time and place such as we are in now. I think we must affirm it, however, on the basis of Scripture.” So the question is, how can you determine whether your church is a true or false church? They all claim to teach the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ. But when you really look at what they teach, you find that many of them teach not salvation by trusting in Christ alone, but rather a type of moralism which actually adds stipulations and conditions, so that there are two stages in salvation. There is an initial justification through faith and a final judgment based on what you did in this life. In other words you must do your part to be saved. Is that salvation by grace alone, through faith alone and in Christ alone? Does it matter whether you are trusting only in Christ or may we say there are conditions besides trusting in Christ alone? Are churches that teach there are conditions really teaching the gospel or leading people to trust, at least partly in their works for final salvation? Does it matter?

    The Reformed confessions were not written to set up NEW rules or conditions for what a person must believe. They were written to provide an accurate summary of what the bible teaches, determined by the leadership God has given to the church, to enable the church discern the true gospel, according to the Reformed churches. Through the confessions we can pinpoint exactly what our churches’ teaching should be. No one is forced to agree with it, after all we live in a free country, but to be considered orthodox Reformed you agree with the confessions. If you do not agree, and cannot show from the bible, to the satisfaction of the church, that you are right and the church is wrong, you may be considered to be a heretic if you insist on teaching your contrary opinion in the church, as Arminius was, and the church will exercise discipline, even as that is one of the marks of the true church in the bible.

  12. Dr. Clark, I am somewhat confused as to why you want to confine the discussion to what true and false churches teach rather than to the true and false doctrines that certain people profess to believe. While we cannot judge whether a person is saved, since we cannot see their heart, as only God can, I think we can judge whether or not the doctrine that person professes to believe is true or false. I think that is what Paul is doing in Galatians, he is making a judgment that certain people are false teachers and warning the Galatians that these certain people are teaching a false doctrine that cannot save them. After all, churches are just groups of people supposedly united by a shared teaching. The problem is that if that teaching is false, it is not the church, as an institution, that is believing a false gospel that cannot save it, the problem is that people in the church will face eternal consequences based on their trusting in the true or false gospel that church teaches. That is why so called churches that lack the marks of a true church ought to be avoided.

    • Another issue is that the true people of God, the universal Church, are not confined only to specific churches. The question is, what must a person believe in order to be saved? Even though Reformed churches have gone to great lengths to spell out the true, saving gospel in their confessions, we still have people in our churches teaching false doctrine, such as the FV, and there are others, even academics and teachers in Reformed seminaries, challenging the sufficiency and inerrancy of the bible, and even the deity of Christ, and the Trinity. How does that bode for our claim to be a true church? I do think Bob has as a point, it is not your church denomination, or the confessions and creeds it teaches, but what you, as an individual believe and trust in for your right standing before God. The Reformed confessions are a well meant endeavor to pin down and summarize the true faith, but it is what real people actually believe that saves or condemns them.

    • Hi Angela,

      We may certainly discuss true and false doctrines that individuals teach. I do that on the HB regularly. My concern is that in attempting to apply Belgic art. 29 to our contemporary situation that we make it clear that we are talking about the validity of various sects and congregations and not about the eternal state of their members.

      I’m trying to make clear that in Belgic 29 the Reformed churches are not necessarily condemning everyone else to hell.

  13. Angela: Judging a false teacher is an entirely different matter than judging whether an individual person can adequately articulate his faith. I daresay that the majority of true Christians couldn’t give an explanation of their faith that theological nitpickers would give a passing grade. When Jesus healed the blind man and the Pharisees quizzed him on his theology he replied: “There is one thing I do know: I was blind but now I see.”

    • What is it that you see? It is not that hard. Do you see your inability and helplessness to be right with God by your own efforts? That Christ is the Saviour that God promised in the garden, and confirmed as a covenant with Abraham, the one that did complete all righteousness for you, and suffered the death curse you deserved for your sin? Is Christ that Savior to you? And do you trust in Him alone as your only way to stand right before God? I’m sure that is what the blind man saw, he saw God his only Savior, the One Abraham trusted in, had come, because only God could restore his sight.

    • Bob,

      The man born blind is a great example of where we begin our Christian life but not where we end it. I have an article on this chapter forthcoming, where I walk through this passage in detail. Indeed, the man himself fid not end there even within the passage.

      It’s probably true that many, maybe most, Christians cannot articulate their faith well. I hope resources such as the HB as others will help improve this situation. We certainly should not settle for the status quo.

    • Bob, I would just like to share a bit from my experiences of working with groups of very young children, two year olds in children’s bible class, to be exact, that might illustrate how simple the Christian faith is. After spending several lessons on the sin in the garden, and how we all deserve God’s anger for our sin, but God promised to send his Son to take our punishment by dying on the cross, I have seen many of these little ones sorry and in tears, that Jesus suffered and died for them, and then expressing how much they love him. Our next lesson would be a resurrection party to celebrate that Jesus is alive again and cares for us from heaven. After reviewing the previous lesson on the cross, and then announcing He’s alive again, it always brings tears of joy to my eyes to see their relief and joy. I would say that these little ones seem to get the gospel! It’s really that simple.

  14. Angela: I think you are putting a lot more words in the blind man’s mouth than were actually there. I thank God that He cannot be put in a box of our making where only those who can robustly articulate their faith according to our formulas are saved. The Lord’s strength is perfected in weakness. He also can save those of keen minds and excellent speech. I think someday we will find that the tapestry of the invisible Church is considerably more varied than we might believe on this side of glory. How can you explain the faith of those who die in infancy who God chooses as his elect? As much as we might try, there is no way to shorten God’s arm as to whom and how he saves or even how He chooses to sanctify them.

    • Bob, the Christian faith is very simple. It just requires a child like trust in Jesus as your ONLY hope for a right standing before God. Jesus said, I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me! John 14 :6 Good luck with your idea that, “the tapestry of the invisible Church is considerably more varied than we might believe on this side of glory.” That is nowhere in God’s Word! The source of faith in Christ is not the strength of our faith, but the object of that faith, Christ alone! Repent, and believe the gospel! Matt.3:2, 4:17, Mark 1:15 for there is none other name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved. Acts 4:12

    • God can use extraordinary means to save elect infants. Even when he was in the womb, John the Baptist leaped for joy when the good news was announced that Mary would give birth to God’s Son. But for those of us who can hear, and reject Christ as our only Savior, there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth when He returns. Luke 13:28

    • Bob i am curious, should we encourage our non reformed friends to attend our reformed churches and why?

  15. Angela: The Bible also doesn’t indicate anything that would lead anyone to believe that the Reformed contingent will form the majority of the invisible Church in Heaven. How could that possibly be? You also didn’t mention anything about the faith of infants who die in childhood. I’m not arguing for some kind of universalism. I’m just saying your judgment of the state of those in some other Protestant denominations may not be a righteous judgment.

    • Bob,

      Some Protestants (e.g., Luther) early on speculated about infant faith but the Reformed mostly abandoned any doctrine of infant faith through the 17th century. None of our ecclesiastical confessions speak of infant faith. One of the places that addresses it most specifically is Canons of Dort 1.17 where we confess the salvation of the children of believers who die in infancy. The basis of the teaching, however, is not infant faith but the divine promise to Abraham, “I will be God to you and to your children,”

  16. Bob, I am a Reformed Christian because I appreciate the Reformed confessions as a true SUMMARY of the gospel. I have never said that Reformed Christians have a monopoly on the truth that Jesus is our ONLY Savior! All I am saying is that some denominations do not teach that we are saved by trusting ONLY in Christ, but teach that we are saved by faith and works. I am saying that is NOT trusting ONLY in Christ, so that is a false gospel that cannot save. Even in the Reformed churches, and in spite of our confessions, we have teachers, such as the Federal Vision who are teaching a two stage salvation based on doing our part through faithfulness, and there are others teaching heresies, even in our seminaries. No denomination has a monopoly on truth. The one doctrine that is completely necessary is that we are saved by trusting in Christ alone for our right standing with God. That is the cardinal doctrine of the Christian faith. It is so simple, yet there are so many that want to add to it. Tragically, when you trust in anything else, even in part, it is no longer the gospel of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, and in Christ alone. Regardless of your denomination and its teachings, if you put your personal trust in Christ alone for your right standing with God, you are eternally right with God. The operative word is Christ ALONE.

  17. Thanks Bob for voicing your concerns. Please do not jump to conclusions about my motives. I have struggled all my life to have a better understanding of what the scriptures teach. I would invite my non reformed friends not because I think they are not Christian’s but because I want them to have the richness and fullness of the reformed faith. To see the savior more clearly, have cause to love him more dearly, and have the deep assurance that flows from what is my only hope in life and death. To be catechised in guilt, grace, and gratitude. For themselves and their children. Because I love my brothers I want to share the treasure I have found. That’s why I invite them. To see Christ displayed in word and sacrament as he raises up high up in his presence each Lord’s day with a surety the Holy Spirit is is bringing us Christ through the normal means of grace. Reformed faith for me is not an intellectual tennis match but the very words of life. If my words embittered you I forgive you and wish you well. My sister Angela joins me in this passion. Be not to hard on her. I ask you to be gracious with my sister.

    • You aren’t Bob. You are guarding against a condensending attitude that we reformed ate tempted to display. But an attitude of our age is people can’t say they have the truth because that is in itself conceited. It begs the question why should we search for the truth only when once we arrive we can’t lay claim to it. To claim our confessions are the truth is not wrong. Why we want our evangelical friends to embrace it is the question. Angela loves her evangelical brothers and sisters. That is something I’m not sure you understood. I share your concern.

  18. Thomas: Here’s the question I have: Do we love our “evangelical brothers and sisters” as brothers and sisters in Christ or merely in the same sense that we love the lost? Must they pass a purity test before we grant them the “privilege” of being our brothers and sisters in Christ?

    • Bob, I’ve answered that question. I don’t pass a purity test. Why wouldn’t I want the best for those I love.

    • Bob,

      Belgic Confession Art. 29 speaks not only to the marks of the true church. It also describes the marks of the true Christian:

      As for those who can belong to the church, we can recognize them by the distinguishing marks of Christians: namely by faith, and by their fleeing from sin and pursuing righteousness, once they have received the one and only Savior, Jesus Christ.

      They love the true God and their neighbors, They love the true God and their neighbors, without turning to the right or left, and they crucify the flesh and its works.

      Though great weakness remains in them, they fight against it by the Spirit all the days of their lives, appealing constantly to the blood, suffering, death, and obedience of the Lord Jesus, in whom they have forgiveness of their sins, through faith in him.

      We, who confess the Reformed theology, believe that all who are true believers have these qualities, where ever they may be.

      We want true believers (as we confess in articles 28 and 29) to join themselves to the true church but we don’t imagine that there are no believers outside the Reformed churches.

      With this I’m going to bring this discussion to an end.

    • i guess i don’t know what you want me to say. i only know if i believe the gospel as defined by our confessions and my church confirms that my understanding is correct in these matters i can be assured i am a believer in Christ as my only comfort in life and death. i hope my evangelical friends believe the same gospel, as there is only one, but i don’t have the authority to confirm or deny their confession. i guess i loosely take them at their word but i would like them to understand the gospel with greater clarity. that only makes sense. i understand personally how an understanding of the gospel born of a muddled view of scripture can be harmful of my confidence in my savior. i don’t know what else to say. perhaps you could tell us what is driving you comments. i am willing to hear you out.

  19. Thomas: When I said “purity test” I was referring to doctrinal purity. You didn’t answer the question of whether evangelicals should be considered a field for concentrated evangelism or whether we should consider them as part of the visible church. Everybody seems to be dancing around answering that simple question but one which has profound implications.

    • Bob,

      Ok. One more.

      I’ve spoken to this many times on the HB. I’ve also written on it in print at length.

      It’s a difficult question. The problem is that much of contemporary “evangelical” theology, piety, and practice is nothing of the sort. Too much of it a mish-mash of what Christian Smith calls “therapeutic moralistic Deism.” Post 18th-century American evangelical theology, piety, & practice is more Anabaptist than biblical and Reformed. Recent surveys (sponsored by Ligonier) suggest that “evangelicals” (at the lay level) are not that at all. They can’t say what the gospel is or who Christ is or how sinners are saved by grace alone, through faith alone.

      So, do “the Evangelicals” need to be evangelized? Apparently, yes.

      Are there still essentially solid, old-school neo-evangelical congregations along the lines envisioned by Carl Henry et al (from the old Fuller faculty)? Sure but they are not calling the shots and haven’t been very influential for a long time.

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