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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

Monday, February 06, 2012

Anglicanism and How Many Points?

  Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. (John 17:17 ESV)


Recently in reconsidering several issues regarding what constitutes the so-called Reformed center, a term which attempts to reify exactly what Reformed theology is in actuality, I revisited the Riddleblog, a blog owned by Kim Riddlebarger of The White Horse Inn.  Kim is an expert on the issue of eschatology and amillennialism.  I happen to agree with amillennialism since it appears to be the best explanation of the apocalyptic material in the book of Revelation.  However, what particularly caught my attention was Dr. Riddlebarger's refutation of Dr. John MacArthur's dispensational attack on the Reformed faith while at the same time claiming to be a "five point Calvinist".  Dr. Riddlebarger rightly points out that Calvinism is way more than simply the five points of Calvinism.  (See, A Reply to John MacArthur).  Essentially, Dr. Riddlebarger says that Baptists are not Reformed, despite the fact that they may adhere to the five points of Calvinism.  Anyone familiar with the Canons of Dort knows that it is part of the Three Forms of Unity, which would include the Heidelberg Catechism and the Belgic Confession, both of which flatly reject MacArthur's Baptist view of the sacraments, his rejection of covenantal theology, and his premillennial dispensationalism.

Unfortunately,  particular Baptists get many other things wrong as well,  They are particularly prone to associate with Arminian Baptists since being Baptist trumps the Canons of Dort.  So on this aspect Baptists are not really in full agreement with the so-called five points of Calvinism either.  I might add that the Sydney Anglicans are inconsistent here as well since the Synod of Dort equally condemned the view that the atonement is in any sense all universal rather than particular to the elect.

This raises other issues as well.  I should point out here that the so-called "Clarkian apologetics" crowd is not a unified group either.  Many of them are non-cessationists or particular Baptists and outright reject confessional theology, something Gordon H. Clark with which Clark himself would have never agreed.  (See: Scripturalism).  They make this huge leap in logic based on the fact that in Clark's last book, The Incarnation, he repudiated his earlier affirmation of the Westminster Confession's view that Christ is one person but two.  (See: Was Clark a Nestorian?) From that one point many in the so-called "Clarkian" crowd jump to premature Anabaptist conclusions that therefore all confessional theology is up for grabs.  Question everything in creeds and confessions they say.

But that was not the position taken by Clark.  His view was thoroughly confessional and presupposed that the Westminster Standards were the best representation of biblical Christianity.  Although Clark, like all Reformed theologians, affirmed that Scripture is the final authority and that creeds and confessions possibly err, he did not adopt the sort of skepticism toward the creeds and Reformed standards which we see the particular Baptists and non-cessationists taking, particularly those who claim to be Scripturalists in the line of Gordon H. Clark.

In short, it is my contention that non-cessationists, particular Baptists, and others in sympathy with subjective and ecstatic leadings of the Spirit common to the Anabaptist tradition, are not truly Scripturalists at all.  They are a curious offshoot of Clark's Scripturalism.  Furthermore, the principle of Sola Scriptura is not subject to solipsism or hyper-individualism or a rejection of confessional Reformed theology.  (See:  How Many Points?, by Richard Muller).

There are many divisions in the wider Reformed and Protestant tradition.  Theonomy and reconstruction adopt a post millennial view that exalts the law above the Gospel and social transformation above the doctrines of grace.  Baptists reject creeds and confessions and adopt views very similar to the Anabaptists, including a legalistic view of "Lordship salvation".  Ironically, some so-called "Clarkians" like Kenneth Talbot are both Van Tilian and theonomic and Clarkian--as if the two go together???

The Anglican tradition suffers from a similar form of schizophrenic disjunction with the Anglican Formularies.  Ango-Catholicism, Tractarianism, and high church Arminianism are heretical perversions of the English Reformation.  But it is my contention that theonomy, dispensationalism, the Lordship salvation controversy, non-cessationism, future vindication, and assorted other theological errors could be avoided were more pastors, theologians and plow boys familiar with the Reformed standards.  My study of both Scripture and the various Reformed confessions of faith and catechisms has greatly enriched my understanding of theology and the Bible.

While I have a great appreciation for the Scripturalism of Gordon H. Clark and for the work of The Trinity Foundation regarding their stand for the doctrine of justification by faith alone, I do not and cannot adopt an Anabaptist attitude toward the Westminster Standards, the Three Forms of Unity, or the Anglican Formularies.  Unfortunately, the advocates of Clark's Scripturalism these days have little to do with Clark's rejection of the continuation of the gifts of the Spirit or with Clark's own position that the Westminster Standards best represent biblical Christianity:

Definition of Christianity
It is essential therefore to define Christianity more exactly by a specific doctrinal system.  Romanism is not what is meant.  By Christianity we shall mean, to use common names, what is called Calvinism.  Or, to be most specific, the definition of Christianity shall be the articles of the Westminster Confession.   With such a definite basis, it will no longer be necessary to spin dizzily in a whirlpool of equivocal disputation.  Now we can look at what we are talking about.  ["Is Christianity a Religion? in Christian Philosophy, volume 4, The Works of Gordon Haddon Clark, (Unicoi:  Trinity Foundation, 2004), p. 122.]



I would contend that if Anglicans actually believed what the Anglican Formularies teach then there would be much less disputation.  This is also true regarding the those who "claim" to follow the apologetics of Dr. Clark.  If they were confessional presbyterians there would be much less confusion and disputation.  Unfortunately even Sean Gerety is much more willing to compromise confessional Calvinism as it is expressed in the Westminster Standards--for the sake of a facade of unity among Clarkians on other issues like the neo-nestorianism of Clark's final book--than to stand for what Clark himself defined as biblical Christianity:  the articles of The Westminster Confession.

I would contend that for Anglicans biblical Christianity is expressed in the Anglican Formularies, which do teach the five points of Calvinism in incipient form and further developed in the Lambeth Articles of 1595, the Irish Articles, and the Westminster Standards.  While Calvinism is much more than adhering to the five points of Calvinism, Anglicanism is much more than some generic wishy washy Amyraldianism or Arminianism.  It is solidly Augustinian, Reformed, and Calvinist as that is expressed in the Formularies, Lambeth Articles, the Irish Articles, and the Westminster Standards which are drawn from them.

Although it is true that Reformation Anglicans are not Puritans or Presbyterians, it can be said that we have much more in common with the confessional view of Presbyterians or the Dutch Reformed than with particular Baptists--or even with the Clarkian Baptists masquerading under the guise of the "five points".


Sincerely in Christ,


Charlie



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