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Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Bible Verse

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Mere Christianity: Many Rooms of Relativism

The following is a comment on an article posted at The Evangelical Outpost called, "Village Green: A Proper Understanding of Mere Christian Evangelicialism," by David Nilsen.
 
Another commenter said: 

"Pretty ignorant post having just read Witheringtons book on the problems in Evangelical theology. Your wide tent collects all the poorest forms of doctrine.


"C.S. Lewis was Anglican by the way, and had this to say about one of your doctrines:

"If God's moral judgment differs from ours so that our 'black' may be His 'white', we can mean nothing by calling Him good; for to say 'God is good', while asserting that His goodness is wholly other than ours, is really only to say 'God is we know not what'. And an utterly unknown quality in God cannot give us moral grounds for loving or obeying Him. If He is not (in our sense) 'good' we shall obey, if at all, only through fear–and should be equally ready to obey an omnipotent Fiend. The doctrine of Total Depravity–when the consequence is drawn that, since we are totally depraved, our idea of good is worth simply nothing–may thus turn Christianity into a form of devil-worship."



I thought the comment was straight to the heart of Michael Horton's new version of theological relativism. In fact, when I heard this idea put forward on the White Horse Inn, I wondered how Horton's view was any different from the view he is allegedly challenging in his thesis that Evangelicalism is a form of "Christless Christianity."


I posted my own comment to the article:


"If your presentation of Michael Horton's position is accurate, then I must say that Horton's solution is no solution at all. Martin Luther, the English Reformers, and the Swiss and Continental Reformers were less concerned with ecumenicalism than with doctrinal purity. The reason the Reformed churches formulated doctrinal statements in the first place was to establish what they believed the Scriptures taught and what they considered to be "essential" doctrine in matters relating to salvation and soteriology."


"What you and Horton are offering is compromise and is just another form of theological relativism. What is right for you is right for you and what is right for me is right for me. C.S. Lewis was in fact an Anglo-Catholic sympathizer. I fail to see how the Eastern Orthodox Church or the Roman Catholic Church today is any different from their 16th century personas. The Reformed confessions of that day did not mince words and even called the pope an anti-christ and the Roman Catholic Church a 'synagogue of satan.'"


"What Horton is pointing out is that there is no basis for ecumenical cooperation among Evangelicals because Evangelicalism is a total failure. What Horton is proposing is nothing short of another form of what he calls "Christless Christianity." Either doctrine constitutes what it means to be a Christian or it does not. Is apostolic doctrine and the faith once delivered to the saints what is central to Christianity or is it not? (Jude 3-4)."


"For Luther and the Protestant Reformers the five solas of the their day were non-negotiable and essential to any cooperation or fellowship between Christians. Yet, Horton seems to be saying what the liberal churches have been saying for years–doctrine is unimportant. Keep it to yourselves so we can all just get along. "Mere" Christianity is no Christianity at all as Horton has already pointed out in his critique of "non-denominational" evangelicalism. Why Horton thinks 'mere' Christianity is any different from 'Christless Christianity' I have no idea!"

Another problem is Horton assumes the visible church is some large organization of churches somewhat on the model of presbyterianism and episcopacy. But this is not the biblical model at all. Rather, most of the Reformed confessions rightfully identify the visible church as a local congregation where the gospel is rightly preached and the sacraments are rightly and duly administered (See Article 19).

Honestly, I thought Horton and his crowd was sincerely offering a better way forward. However, reading articles like this one gives me cause for second thoughts and makes me wonder if Horton is simply repackaging pelagianism in a more palatable form of universalism and theological relativism?

Sincerely in Christ,


Charlie J. Ray


Reasonable Christian


The Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity.

The Collect.

ALMIGHTY and merciful God, of whose only gift it cometh that thy faithful people do unto thee true and laudable service; Grant, we beseech thee, that we may so faithfully serve thee in this life, that we fail not finally to attain thy heavenly promises; through the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

4 comments:

Charlie J. Ray said...

Puddleglum is apparently some Arminian who hates Reformed theology. But the comment remains relevant to my point. Mutually conflicting theologies cannot endorse some silly reductionism to 2 points. You may as well endorse the Lambeth Quadrilateral. Reductionism never works other than to produce more relativism.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Did C.S. Lewis Go to Heaven?, by John Robbins.

Charlie J. Ray said...

The article by John Robbins points out that Lewis himself would not have been qualified for membership in the Evangelical Theological Society.

By the way, the requirements for membership in the Society for Pentecostal Studies are stronger in some ways than the Evangelical Theological Society but noticeably missing is the doctrine of the trinity:

a) To encourage fellowship and facilitate co-ordination of effort among Pentecostal believers throughout the world.

Baptism 1953(b) To demonstrate to the world the essential unity of Spirit-baptized believers, fulfilling the prayer of the Lord Jesus Christ,

(c) To cooperate in an endeavor to respond to the unchanging commission of the Lord Jesus, to carry His message to all people of all nations.

(d) To promote courtesy and mutual understanding, “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, until we all come in the unity of the faith”

(e) To afford prayerful and practical assistance to any Pentecostal body in need of such.

(f) To promote and maintain the scriptural purity of the (World Pentecostal) Fellowship by Bible study and prayer.

(g) To uphold and maintain those Pentecostal truths, “most surely believed among us.” Membership, Society for Pentecostal Studies.

The short answer is reductionism leaves gaping loopholes. At least the SPS still includes the emphasis on preaching the Gospel. However, judging by their doctrinal statements and their practical preaching, that is itself often heterodox or even heretical. I'm coming more to the opinion that secular organizations like denominations and academic societies are as prone to error as any church council in church history:

XXI. Of the authority of General Councils.
GENERAL Councils may not be gathered together without the commandment and will of princes. And when they be gathered together, forasmuch as they be an assembly of men, whereof all be not governed with the Spirit and word of God, they may err and sometime have erred, even in things pertaining to God. Wherefore things ordained by them as necessary to salvation have neither strength nor authority, unless it may be declared that they be taken out of Holy Scripture.

Charlie J. Ray said...

David Nilsen says:
September 8, 2009 at 9:49 pm

Dr. Horton’s article (as well as a response from Roger Olson and a reply to Olson from Horton) was in Christian Scholar’s Review, Volume XXXI, Number 2 (Winter 2001). You can’t find it online, so you’d have to find a hard copy of the actual issue. Here is a link to more info about the issue:

Christian Scholars Review, Volume XXXI, Number 2.

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