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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

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

YouTube - R. Scott Clark's Attack On Reformed Theology

YouTube - R. Scott Clark's Attack On Reformed Theology

In this video Monty Collier points out a problem with R. Scott Clark's over-emphasis on the ordinary means of grace, being of course administered through the local church. Although there are only two sacraments (Mark 16:16; Matthew 28:18-20; , the Reformed position places the preaching of the Gospel at the center of the service, not the administration of the Lord's Supper. That would include Reformed Anglican theology since Archbishop Thomas Cranmer emphasized the reading of Scripture as a means of grace. (See Ashley Null comments on Archbishop Thomas Cranmer's contribution to the English Reformation). While I agree with Collier that Scott is over-stating the case, it is true that Reformed churches and congregations are marked by church discipline. God can and does work outside the ordinary means of grace in saving the elect. However, if we go too far in the other direction, there is the problem raised by universalism. If God does not use the means of grace to effectually call the elect (John 6:37-39, 44, 65), then it follows that we do not need to send out missionaries to the unconverted people groups all around the globe (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8).


I ran across this position in reading Zwingli's article on eternal election. Some theologians like the late Philip Schaff and the still living Roger Nicole have said that God saves the elect apart from the means of grace such as unbaptized infants of non-Christian parents around the world. Others, like Billy Graham, have proposed that some individuals believe in Jesus Christ in some unconscious capacity and are therefore "saved" by Arminian standards. There are examples in Scripture such as Abraham where God does save His elect by a direct call. But the appointed means of grace today is revealed through Holy Scripture, of which Abraham had no access. (See 2 Timothy 3:15-17; 1 Corinthians 1:18; Romans 1:16-17).


In this case I have to agree with R. Scott Clark that the ordinary or appointed means of grace are mediated through the local congregation. Otherwise we wind up with lay persons who go solo and invent their own doctrinal standards, often leading to the formation of cults. Sola Scriptura does not mean that Christians are free to roam about without joining a local church.


On the other hand, I agree with Monty Collier's point as well. What does one do when there is no local church with which one can in good conscience join in mission? Frequently local churches do not properly administer the two sacraments, follow a Reformed confession of faith, preach the doctrines of grace faithfully, or properly distinguish between law and Gospel. In such cases the Reformed believer is left in a quandary.


The Reformed Anglican position is that the preaching of the Gospel is the normative way God effectually calls and saves His elect:


Article XVIII

Of obtaining eternal salvation only by the name of Christ

They also are to be had accursed that presume to say that every man shall be saved by the law or sect which he professeth, so that he be diligent to frame his life according to that law and the light of nature. For Holy Scripture doth set out to us only the name of Jesus Christ, whereby men must be saved.


We ought to remember that the majority of the Reformed confessions do uphold the idea that the local congregation is the means or instrument through which God mediates His graces to His elect:


Article 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.


The Westminster Confession and the Belgic Confession have similar articles: WCF, Chapter 25, Of the Church. BC, Article 27, Of the Catholic Church. The short answer is that Monty Collier makes a valid point that God is not limited to the ordinary means of grace. However, Collier seems to misrepresent R. Scott Clark by taking his comments out of the context of the Reformed confessions.

Collier is a Clarkian in his Reformed theology and apologetics and therefore places less emphasis on faithfulness to the secondary authority of the Westminster Confession of Faith.  Gordon H. Clark has been accused of denying the doctrine of the one person of Christ in his final book, The Incarnation. Ironically, Clark's Scripturalism has been misused as a form of anti-intellectualism and irrationalism among his modern day followers, a fact that probably would have appalled Clark himself. While The Trinity Foundation makes many valid criticisms of modern Reformed theology, Trinity itself is promoting a rebellion against the Reformed confessions on the point of the incarnation since all of them uphold the Definition of Chalcedon 451 A.D.

I should add that Collier seems to be ignorant of the Dutch Reformed confession of faith called the Belgic Confession.  Article 28, Of the Communion of the Saints in the True Church says:

We believe, since this holy assembly and congregation is the assembly of the redeemed and there is no salvation outside of it,[1] that no one ought to withdraw from it, content to be by himself, no matter what his status or standing may be. But all and everyone are obliged to join it and unite with it,[2] maintaining the unity of the church. They must submit themselves to its instruction and discipline,[3] bend their necks under the yoke of Jesus Christ,[4] and serve the edification of the brothers and sisters,[5] according to the talents which God has given them as members of the same body.[6]
 
To observe this more effectively, it is the duty of all believers, according to the Word of God, to separate from those who do not belong to the church[7] and to join this assembly[8] wherever God has established it. They should do so even though the rulers and edicts of princes were against it, and death or physical punishment might follow.[9]
 
All therefore who draw away from the church or fail to join it act contrary to the ordinance of God.

[1] Mt 16:18, 19; Acts 2:47; Gal 4:26; Eph 5:25-27; Heb 2:11, 12; Heb 12:23. [2] 2 Chron 30:8; Jn 17:21; Col 3:15. [3] Heb 13:17. [4] Mt 11:28-30. [5] Eph 4:12. [6] 1 Cor 12:7, 27; Eph 4:16. [7] Num 16:23-26; Is 52:11, 12; Acts 2:40; Rom 16:17; Rev 18:4. [8] Ps 122:1; Is 2:3; Heb 10:25. [9] Acts 4:19, 20.

The short of it is that Monty Collier seems to be ignorant of Reformed theology in the bigger picture.  The Westminster Confession of Faith says the same thing as the Belgic Confession:


The visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the Gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children: and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation. (WCF 25:2 WCS)

May the peace of God be with all who confess faith in Jesus Christ as He is revealed in Holy Scripture.

 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. (Romans 16:20 ESV)



[R. Scott Clark is not advocating Roman Catholic doctrine when he says that salvation only comes through the local church that is true to the Gospel.  The Roman doctrine is that Rome is the only true church and that Rome is the seat of authority over all the Roman Catholic churches and is the only universal and true church.  Obviously that is wrong.]


1 comment:

Charlie J. Ray said...

R. Scott Clark is not advocating Roman Catholic doctrine here. He is simply following his own Belgic Confession of Faith.

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