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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

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Reformation Society of Central Florida

Last night I heard two speakers at the conference for the Reformation Society of Central Florida, held at First Baptist Church of Markham Woods, Lake Mary, Florida.  The first speaker was Kenny St. John and the second was R. C. Sproul, Jr.  Those in attendance at the conference were predominately Reformed Baptists as were the books at the book table.
 
Kenny St. John's message was interesting and focused on the sovereignty of God.  However, during his presentation his Baptist predispositions kept appearing.  In one part of the sermon St. John said that a favorite professor his in seminary preached in a large church and St. John sensed an "anointing" was on the preacher.  This is not "reformed" theology but rather pentecostal theology.  The term "anointing" is never used of any preacher in the Bible except for Jesus.  Also, St. John's heavy emphasis on relationship with Jesus and love for Jesus and one's neighbor were unwittingly a return to law.  The escape of a "relationship" defined by "doctrine" was merely giving lip service to the Gospel. 
 
Surprisingly, R. C. Sproul, Jr. gave a much more biblical message and stole his father's thunder with his message that we are all naturally "pelagians."  In fact, Sproul pretty much slammed the first speaker and even directly referred to St. John's "testimony" of being once a heroine addict as somehow "works" as a means of keeping ourselves saved.  Sproul rightly pointed out that we do not start out with grace and then keep ourselves by doing good works.  Rather, we are saved by grace and kept by grace until the very end.  At the hour of our death we no longer sin but through glorification become sinless as our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was sinless.
 
I was suspicious of R. C. Sproul, Jr., however.  He is ordained by the Christian Reformed Evangelical Church, which is openly affiliated with the federal visionist movement.  There was one point in Sproul's sermon where he said that when we stand before God He will ask us why He should let us into His heaven we won't be able to say, "Lord, because I believe in justification by faith alone."  Rather, according to Sproul, we will say, "Lord, it is because I trusted in Christ alone to save me."  This is a false dichotomy.  The doctrine of justification by faith alone is defined precisely by the five solas of the Reformation, which Sproul also hinted were not the focus of Christianity in and of themselves.  It made me think that perhaps Sproul does not fully believe the five solas are biblical?  Of course, we believe in the person of Jesus Christ but right doctrine is essential to understanding who Jesus is.  The disjunction between the theology and apologetics of Cornelius Van Til versus the propositional apologetics of Gordon H. Clark come to mind here. 
 
The error of both speakers last night was to emphasize "relationship" over against "right doctrine."  The Scriptures over and over again emphasize sound doctrine and right doctrine as the only means of being in right relationship with God.  (Jude 1-7;  2 Timothy 3:15-17; 1 Timothy 6:3-4).  Popular Baptist pietism and an over-emphasis on holiness, as R.C., Jr. rightly pointed out, can lead even those in the Reformed camp into the same sort of pride and arrogance we observe in the Wesleyan holiness, entire sanctification theology of some Arminians.  We begin to focus on the outward works of the law and outward behavior rather than recognizing that we are totally depraved and corrupt in every part of our human nature and being.  There is nothing good in us at all and we must all cry out to God for mercy and for His grace.  (Romans 3:9, 3:23; Ecclesiastes 7:20; Galatians 3:22; 1 John 1:8-10).
 
Over all, however, I must say that Sproul preached the Gospel and upheld the doctrines of grace while St. John's commitment to Baptist tradition made him give mere lip service to the doctrines of grace and emphasize instead a pietistic emphasis on the law to love Jesus and love one's neighbor.  Law is still law no matter how we sugar coat it or dress it up as if it were the Gospel.  I think Baptists could profit greatly from reading Luther on this.
 
In fairness to St. John, however, he rightly pointed out that often there are conversions in Baptist churches where emotional appeals are made and the Gospel has not even been clearly presented.  People come to the front to shake the minister's hand because they are sorry they have a broken marriage rather than recognizing that they are lost sinners in the hands of an angry God.  It's not as though we are angry with God and Jesus comes to help us understand God and reconcile us to God.   The typical image is of a good God with lots of people who are wrongly angry with God.  If only we could persuade them that God is good they would be converted is the popular message.  But that is pelagianism.  The real picture is that we are not good.  We are totally depraved and it is God who is angry with us and that is the problem.  God needs to be reconciled to us and not that we need to be reconciled to God.  God does not answer to creatures but the creature must answer to the Creator for our rebellion both as original sin inherited from Adam and for our own actual sins. (Genesis 6:5-6; Romans 5:12-14).
 
Moreover, the event last night was encouraging because more people are being introduced to the doctrines of grace and the sovereignty of God.  However, more work needs to be done to broaden the exposure to other Christian denominations besides Southern Baptists and Presbyterians in the Presbyterian Church in America.  I think I was the only Anglican there last and there were only a few Presbyterians.
 
The Reformation Societies are part of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals.  I am still curious as to why Michael Horton and the White Horse Inn folks have separated from the ACE.  I suppose that story might never be revealed.
 
 
  Glory be to the Father, and to the Son : and to the Holy Ghost;
    Answer. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be : world without end. Amen.
 
 

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