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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, August 12, 2012

Farewell to the Blogosphere from Wes White « Johannes Weslianus




Quite frankly I was surprised to see a Presbyterian Church in America pastor straightforwardly admit that he regards broad Evangelicalism to be the focus of an allegedly "Reformed" denomination.  It only proves that doctrinal distinctives and doctrinal reductionism are the word of the day.  This is particularly sad when in fact Calvinism is the Gospel itself.  By that I mean that classical Calvinism alone is logically and systematically consistent with a holistic reading of the Holy Scriptures.  Even Lutheranism in modern times has made concessions to both neo-orthodoxy and Armininism, although the same thing could be said of the so-called neo-Kuyperians and Van Tilian proponents of the theology of paradox.

What I found particularly disturbing was Wes White's summary of "dangers" that face the PCA.  In point 3. he says:

Reformedism: when our Reformed identity becomes more important than our evangelical identity. Reformed theology and practice is what our elders subscribe to, and it forms the framework for our ministry. But it is not what forms our congregations. Our congregations are formed by a simple, credible profession of faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. When we emphasize our Reformed identity over our evangelical identity, our churches become more about making mature Christians and Christian leaders than making Christians and nurturing Christians of all stages.
Did you hear that?  Doctrine in other words is not important.  What is important is that someone professes "simple" faith in the Lord Jesus Christ--presumably a Christ of their own imagination and perception.  This approach reminds me of the Alcoholics Anonymous approach to God:

3.  Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
Ironically, point 3. coincides with Step 3. in the Twelve Steps of the Alcoholics Anonymous program.  In short, Wes White, like all compromisers thinks that Calvinism is not the Gospel but instead is just a matter of adiaphora or indifference.  What really matters is that we focus on a Jesus Christ as we conceive him, not how the Bible unequivocally and in logical propositions defines Him.  (Cf. 2 Corinthians 11:3-4).  Not only this but the Gospel is defined specifically in Scripture and Scripture is the final authority.  (Cf. Galatians 1:6-9).  I suppose by White's reckoning the Gospel itself is adiaphora--unless you happen to be a ruling or teaching elder in the PCA.  Only the elders are required to believe the Westminster Standards or the doctrines of grace.  Everyone else who is a layperson in the denomination is free to become a member of the congregation no matter what they believe.  All they need to do is tithe, make a "simple" profession of faith in Jesus Christ as they conceive Him and not as Scripture defines Him.  In other words, Arminians and even Roman Catholics would be fully welcome as members.

It seems that my assessment of the PCA as just another broad Evangelical denomination is confirmed by this public statement by an allegedly "Reformed" pastor.  Whatever happened to catechism?  This is not the first "Reformed" pastor I have encountered who denigrates the catechism as a requirement to church membership in the PCA.  We wouldn't want to offend Arminians by catechizing them with the Larger and Shorter Catechism, would we?  In fact, the Larger Catechism was designed for adults and the Shorter Catechism was for children.  My how anti-intellectual and lazy Christians have become.  If anything Reformed Christians ought to be setting a standard for Evangelicals rather than caving to the "mere Christianity" of doctrinal reductionism and Evangelical ecumenicalism.  Maybe Wes White ought to join up with Rome and be done with it as so many other so-called "Calvinists" have done before?  I'm thinking here of Called to Communion and the recent apostasy of the prosecutor in the Peter Leithart case in the Northwest Presbytery of the PCA.   (See:  Jason Stellman's Farewell to the PCA).

Wes White must be under pressure from the Arminians in his congregation to drop the blog or be fired.  This is the problem with denominations.  Being a "company man" is more important than faithfully preaching and teaching the Gospel and the doctrines of grace.  To remain a "professional" minister one must be willing to compromise essential doctrine so that the Arminians and Catholics in the congregation will feel welcome.  Can you say "hireling"?  (Cf. John 10:12-13).  When ecumenical concerns outweigh the faithful preaching of the Gospel and the Reformed standards and when ecumenical concerns supersede the requirement of studying the Larger Catechism as a condition for acceptance into membership of a local congregation then theological liberalism is just around the corner.  Latitudinarian attitudes like that which Wes White has here expressed is a symptom of the malady affecting Reformed denominations in general.  How many other mainline Reformed denominations have gone liberal by adopting this broad church view rather than defending Calvinism as the best systematic expression of the Gospel and Scriptural teaching?

Farewell to the Blogosphere from Wes White « Johannes Weslianus


Addendum:  Catechism Preaching:

The Heidelberg Catechism was officially adopted in January 1563. This catechism went through some changes before it was included in the Church Order of the Palatinate, which the Elector of the Palatinate issued on November 15, 1563. The division into 52 Lord's Days occurs for the first time in this edition.[3] Schaff, then, was right when he advocated an early date for the division in Lord's Days. But this division is even earlier than Schaff knew. It dates from the year during which the catechism was first published.
 
It is interesting to read in the Church Order how home, school, and church had to cooperate in instructing in the catechism. The students had to learn the questions and answers of the catechism at school and at home. In the afternoon service they had to say the questions and answers the minister had preached on the previous Sunday, and the questions and answers for this service. For that purpose the catechism had been divided into Lord's Days. The minister had to preach through the catechism at least once a year. [4] The Church Order shows that the division into Lord's Days is connected with preaching.
Yet, the impression could still linger that the preaching on the Heidelberg Catechism was an afterthought. For the catechism was published in January of 1563, and the Church Order which prescribes preaching on the catechism was not published until November of that year. History teaches differently, however. There are several indications that catechism preaching was intended right from the beginning, when the Heidelberg Catechism was made.
 
An indication can be found in a letter Ursinus, the main author of the Heidelberg Catechism, wrote in 1563. He complains in this letter that he had too much to do. The authorities have added to his workload that he has to preach the catechism in the Sunday three o'clock catechism service. This sermon was previously preached by Olevianus. [5] This shows that catechism preaching, at least in Heidelberg, the capital of the Palatinate, antedates the publication of the Church Order.
 
Probably we can trace catechism preaching back right to the beginning of the catechism. In the preface to the first edition of the Heidelberg Catechism, dated January 19, 1563, the elector urged and directed the preachers and teachers of his princedom, to inculcate it into the young people in schools and churches, and into the common man from the pulpit. [6]
 
The Heidelberg Catechism was made to be taught in class as well as to be preached in church.
Needless to say this would apply to the Westminster Larger and Shorter Catechisms as well since Calvin practiced teaching and preaching through the catechisms as well.  So much for Wes White and dumbing down doctrine for the sake of  "Evangelical" ecumenicalism and doctrinal minimalism. 

[Calvin had his own catechism that predated the Westminster Larger and Shorter Catechism].

5 comments:

Aaron C said...

As an honest question, what does "membership" have to do with anything?

Charlie J. Ray said...

Aaron, I'm glad you asked that question since I myself am not currently a "member" of any denomination or congregation. However, it is a pressing question since the Holy Scriptures insist that we meet together regularly for the preaching of the Word and the right administration of the sacraments:

not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:25 NKJ)

And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. (Acts 2:42 NKJ)

Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight. (Acts 20:7 NKJ)

Charlie J. Ray said...

See also: Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 "For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call." 40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation." 41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. 42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. (Acts 2:38-42 NKJ)

Charlie J. Ray said...

The Reformed Confessions likewise say that we are to become part of a congregation of "faithful" men where the Word is preached and the sacraments are "duly" administered:

XIX. Of the Church.
THE visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in the which the pure word of God is preached and the sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ's ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same. As the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch have erred: so also the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of ceremonies, but also in matters of faith. See: Article 19


The Westminster Standards are helpful here, too: Harmony of the Westminster Standards: Chapter 25 Of the Church

Charlie J. Ray said...

I believe that we should make an effort to find a Reformed church. However, since the vast majority of "reformed" churches are either liberal or broadly evangelical (PCA, OPC, URCNA, et. al.) it would be difficult to find one. The Anglican or Episcopal denominations are either liberal or Anglo-Catholic, rendering them mostly apostate congregations.

For this reason I would recommend studying the Reformed confessions and catechisms and the Scriptures on your own until such time as the Reformed denominations repent of their ecumenicalism and apostasy.

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