Church Unity

Chapter 13 of RINE is entitled “Church Unity.” This chapter is talking about the church as one body of Christ. Let’s start with the positive aspects of this chapter. I really like what he says about baptism in this chapter. I agree that Mormon “baptisms” are not baptisms at all, but that Roman Catholic baptisms are to be received as genuine baptisms “in order to be nursed back to health” (p. 121), which, to my mind, is a brilliantly helpful way of putting things. It gets at the problem of corrupt churches (such as Rome) while still acknowledging the baptism to be genuine. Implied, but not stated explicitly, is the idea that the form of the words (the Trinitarian formula) is determinative for the genuineness of the baptism (see p. 120). I might choose to disagree with his assessment of the Roman Catholic Church (I would argue that any church that has justification by faith distorted is an apostate church, not just a corrupt church; plus, I’m not entirely sure about the distinction between apostate and corrupt: where does he get that biblically?), but we would both accept the RCC baptism as valid.

The only other point that needs to be brought up here is the unspoken assumption on Wilson’s part that church unity is a fundamentally organizational goal. One can see this with the pejorative statements “ungodly denominational system,”(p. 117) and “denominations are a necessary evil” (p. 118). Why is the unity of the body of Christ organizational? If there are believers in just about every Christian denomination, then there is Christian unity. Period. Christian unity is a (S)spiritual unity (see Ephesians 4:1-6, where nowhere is it implied that it has to be an organizational unity). Paul does not say that there should be Christian unity. He says there is unity. If that passage applies at all today, then the unity is in no way, shape, or form organizational. I am by no means saying that the cottage industry of denomination fragmentation is a good thing. Many denominations are formed for wrong reasons. But if denominations are inherently evil, then the Reformation was wrong to start new denominations (of course, they argued that the Roman Catholics were the schismatics, since they were the ones abandoning truth). If we want to avoid conflict with our Baptist brothers, because they will not baptize infants, and we will, then we had better worship apart for the sake of unity. In fact, we have greater unity with the Baptists by worshipping apart than we would if we were constantly fighting over the proper subjects of baptism. Should we strive for eliminating unnecessary denominations? Absolutely. There is no particular reason why the PCA and the OPC should be two separate denominations. Not really. Of course it would require a lot of work. But I think we are duty bound to seek such unification. However, because the principle of denominations is abused does not mean that the principle itself is evil. People are different, and there are different worship styles, as well as different theological beliefs. So true Christian unity is trans-denominational.

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45 Comments

  1. Tim Wilder said,

    August 27, 2007 at 3:47 pm

    “Christian unity is a (S)spiritual unity (see Ephesians 4:1-6, where nowhere is it implied that it has to be an organizational unity).”

    We need a good book, or study, on Spiritual unity. This idea that unity is organizational and implemented by church professionals is a constant drumbeat from many directions. We need the Biblical view of unity to be taught, as well as the unBiblical view denied.

  2. tim prussic said,

    August 27, 2007 at 4:19 pm

    I agree with Mr. Wilder and I appreciate Pastor Lane’s post.

    I think that denominational fragmentation is grotesque, but not as much as the underlying reasons for the fragmentation. The external disunity only reflects internal schism. In Rome’s case, their supposed external unity is a lie and masks all the schism in their ranks. At leasts Protestants are more honest in this regard. We’re all, I fear, guilty of schism and could use education from the Scripture regarding the spiritual unity of the church and the consequent visible unity.

  3. Mark T. said,

    August 27, 2007 at 8:03 pm

    I admit up front that this comment is purely gratuitous, but am I the only one who thinks that Pope Doug is the last man on earth who is qualified to address the subject of church unity?

    Would it not have been more honest of him to write a chapter called “How to Split a Church in Your Self-Made Puppet Denomination”?

    Thank you.

  4. Matt Beatty said,

    August 27, 2007 at 9:16 pm

    Lane,

    Are you really content with your construal of Wilson in this chapter? Moreover, do you really believe – as you post would appear to indicate – that Christian unity is spiritual TO THE EXCLUSION of the earthly/temporal?

    BOQ ” If that passage applies at all today, then the unity is in no way, shape, or form organizational.” EOQ Really?

    How would Paul know if the brethren were, in fact, unified except by their being in real-time fellowship with one another. He seems to know when they’re NOT in fellowship with one another (i.e. Philippians 4; 1 Cor 12-14, etc.), why doesn’t it work the other way?

    Relatedly, how many PCA churches do you know that maintain a healthy relationship with other evangelical churches in their area – that aren’t NAPARC affiliates? The local A/G, or EvFree, or non-denom., or confessing mainliners?

    Lane, perhaps you can educate me here (Mark T.): On what principle(s) is breaking from the apostate mainline church c. 1973 and NOT JOINING an already existing, orthodox, Reformed body of believers (the OPC or ARP) fine and dandy, but doing the same thing (or similar thing) thirty years later makes you a prime target for the firm but loving remarks of Mark T. above? If I’m missing something, I’d honestly like to know.

    Thanks.

  5. Tim Wilder said,

    August 27, 2007 at 9:58 pm

    “How would Paul know if the brethren were, in fact, unified except by their being in real-time fellowship with one another”

    It would depend on what “unity” is. You can’t leap over the problem of what unity Paul was talking about and start preaching about its institutional form without begging the question.

  6. Mark T. said,

    August 28, 2007 at 6:17 am

    Gratuities aside, I sincerely ask Mr. Beatty’s forgiveness because I never intended anyone to misunderstand the point of my quip, which was apparently his case.

    Pope Doug never broke away from any denomination; he simply and deliberately split a church in his own denomination for no other reason than payback to his fellow confederate Andrew Sandlin.

    So the moral of this story is that while denominations may be a necessary evil for Pope Doug, his iron-fisted rule over his puppet denomination is an even greater evil, and his subjects love to have it so.

    Thank you.

  7. Keith Phillips said,

    August 28, 2007 at 8:43 am

    “For no other reason than payback.” This is just laughable — is it another example of what is supposed to be funny rhetoric?

    I hope so since there is no possible way that you could know that payback was the only reason — What about personal financial gain? What about nothing better to do with his time? What about stupidity? What about human error? What about some good motive?

  8. Sam Steinmann said,

    August 28, 2007 at 8:49 am

    I would agree that “organizational unity” and “spiritual unity” are not the same thing; it is certainly possible to have Christian unity in a congregational system.

    However, I see much of today’s denominational system as hindering the work of the church, and so I argue that if the appointed work of the church is hindered, it isn’t unity of any sort. If the denominational system undermines Church discipline, and mutual submission; if it leads to a much time being spent mocking and despising other Christians, rather than building up believers and spreading the gospel; if our denomination and its standards are “right” and everyone else is “wrong”; that is not “spiritual unity”, it’s disunity.

  9. Mark T. said,

    August 28, 2007 at 9:14 am

    Mr. Phillips,

    In case you didn’t read Church of the King – Santa Cruz’s statement, here are the words that they used to convey Pope Doug’s motive for splitting their church:

    At one point Rev. Wilson communicated to us that the main issue of this entire dispute was his personal differences with one of our elders, P. Andrew Sandlin. Though Revs. Sandlin and Wilson do maintain certain theological disagreements, these disagreements were tangent to the actual church issues under consideration. Nevertheless, when Rev. Sandlin repeatedly offered to meet Rev. Wilson privately to address any differences these highly visible men might have, Rev. Wilson declined each offer. (COTK)

    That said, I suppose any of your random speculations may have applied secondarily to the situation, but a plain reading of the words indicates that Pope Doug had very serious personal disagreements with Andrew Sandlin that compelled him to choose retribution over “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

    Then again, it’s entirely possible that these words don’t mean what they say and we need Pope Doug’s divine interpretation. But interestingly enough, neither Pope Doug nor any other dignitary from the CREC ever responded to Church of the King’s statement, with the exception of a few flying monkeys who chilled Church of the King to remove the statement from the web, which fact you can confirm (here.

    Thank you.

  10. Jonathan Bonomo said,

    August 28, 2007 at 9:30 am

    Rev. Keister,

    I must demure. Yes, Paul states in Ephesians that there *is* spiritual unity. However, he also calls us to *maintain*, in the here an now, the unity which already exists (4:3). The notion that the fact that spiritual unity is what is essential for the being of the church cancels out our duty to bring into greater realization in a visible fashion here and now the unity which we already possess in the Spirit is rather short sighted, IMO.

    I would encourage you to not isolate Eph. 4:1-6 from the rest of the Epistle, before and after. Notice that in that letter Paul begins by laying the foundation of spiritual unity in chs. 1-3, and then moves from there into a visible unity. “Strive to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Why? “Because there is one body and one Spirit…” “But” (v. 7) God has given ministers to the church to presverve that unity in the organized assembly (4:11-17). Is this unity the ministers of the Church are called to preserve spiritual in the sense of “invisible,” or “visible”? I would argue that the essential unity which the body of Christ enjoys is at bottom mystical, spiritual, and invisible, but the trajectory of Holy Scripture is always that of making the invisible visible: i.e. incarnation, new creation, et c.

    How one can read Eph. 4:11-17 (building on 4:1-6, and chs. 1-3 also, for that matter) and not get the idea that visible unity is what Paul is calling us to strive for there is beyond me. It seams to me that he uses the metaphor of a body specifically to make this clear. So, to stop at a sort of quasi-Docetic invisible unity and not move beyond that toward an enfleshed, catholic, visible unity, is a fundamentally unbiblical notion, in my view.

    This does not mean that any particular governmental structure or organizational shape is necessary for the existence of the church (outward forms are secondary), but it does mean that the church (i.e. we) ought to be striving toward visible unity in at least some form.

  11. Sean Gerety said,

    August 28, 2007 at 9:39 am

    There is no particular reason why the PCA and the OPC should be two separate denominations. Not really.

    First, there may soon be no good reason for this denominational devision depending on what the SJC decides per the Wilkins’ case. However, as of now the reason for the devision is because the OPC courts have determined the false gospel of the FV may be taught and promulgated alongside of the true gospel. Read the Kinnaird case. As I recall, even before formalizing this in per OPC court decisions, the PCA had concerns over the doctrine of justification being taught in the OPC. Maybe the PCA no longer has those concerns, but, as I say, what the SJC decides shortly will perhaps make the denominational differences negligible.

    Second, Jame Thornwell was correct. RC baptisms are not Christian baptisms. I simply do not understand why people continue to confuse Romanism with Christianity? Of course, I understand fully why Wilson and other FVers do.

  12. Tim Wilder said,

    August 28, 2007 at 9:52 am

    Re: 9

    “How one can read Eph. 4:11-17 (building on 4:1-6, and chs. 1-3 also, for that matter) and not get the idea that visible unity is what Paul is calling us to strive for there is beyond me.”

    How do you know that visible unity is institutional unity? Why is it not people visibly teaching the same doctrines, practicing the same instructions in their lives and, of course, worshiping the same God in their meetings?

  13. Jonathan Bonomo said,

    August 28, 2007 at 10:15 am

    Something about the words, “from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love,” makes me think that Paul doesn’t have in mind a group of loosely affiliated congregations separated by denominational bickering off doing their own things separate from one another.

    But maybe it’s just me.

  14. tim prussic said,

    August 28, 2007 at 10:38 am

    Re #7: Mr. Phillips, I see that you’ve also identified Mr. T.’s ignorant slander. As it does no good, I’m through speaking with Mr. T about it, but I will call attention to it when I see it.

    Re #10: Mr. Gerety, suppose the worst: FV teachers/pastors are actually papists in disguise. Suppose they’re denying sola fide and introducing works of the law into the doctrine of justification. Supposing all of that, would FV churches no longer be Christian churches and would the baptisms no longer be valid baptisms?

  15. Tim Wilder said,

    August 28, 2007 at 10:39 am

    “But maybe it’s just me.”

    It’s not just you. It’s every clerical minded authoritarian that sees disunity wherever he lacks the power to cram his idiosyncracies down everyone’s throat.

  16. Mark T. said,

    August 28, 2007 at 10:54 am

    Tim and Keith,

    Please see comment #9, and I remind Tim that it’s not slander if it’s true. Therefore, it behooves you to interact with Church of the King instead of me, unless of course you consider them slanderers as well for publishing the wicked deeds of Pope Doug.

    Thank you.

  17. Jonathan Bonomo said,

    August 28, 2007 at 11:10 am

    Tim,

    I’m at a loss at how you got “authoritarian” and “idiosyncracies” out of my comments. I offered no personal ideas which I have on how unity is to be acheived, nor have I insuated that I wanted to ram anything down anyone’s throat. I provided biblical rationale for why I view Christian unity as being something more than invisible. I pushed no ecclesial agenda, nor did I even insinuate that any particular governmental structure is to be desired (in fact, I insinuated precisely the opposite).

    Look in the mirror and consider how you treat and speak to others before going around accusing folks who simply see unity as something real and tangible of being “authoritarian.”

  18. Tim Wilder said,

    August 28, 2007 at 11:35 am

    “I’m at a loss at how you got “authoritarian” and “idiosyncracies” out of my comments.”

    I got it from the only alternative to institutionalism that you were willing to acknowledge as a possibility.

  19. greenbaggins said,

    August 28, 2007 at 11:40 am

    Jonathan, you completely misread me. Indeed, I am at a total loss at how you get this (“The notion that the fact that spiritual unity is what is essential for the being of the church cancels out our duty to bring into greater realization in a visible fashion here and now the unity which we already possess in the Spirit is rather short sighted”) out of what I said. I said or implied no such thing at any time whatsoever. In fact, I emphasized the importance of eliminating unnecessary church splits. My point was *rather* that claiming that denominations are inherently evil is misguided. We are to strive for unity as much as we can. But what happens when the Roman Catholic Church goes off the deep end in the time of the Reformation? What should the Reformers do? They tried to reform the church from within. The pope would have nothing of it. They kicked the Reformers out when the Reformers were right.

    And you are misreading Ephesians 4. By your argument, the denominations around today cannot be part of the body of Christ, since it has to be a visible manifestation. You have the same problem, by the way, even if you have organizational unity, since each individual church is separate from another church. What difference does it make if separate churches happen to be in the same denomination or a different denomination? Are they any less part of the body of Christ? The body of Christ is plainly the whole church, and unless you want to disenfranchise thousands upon thousands of churches from being part of the body of Christ, you ***cannot*** define the body of Christ in this way.

  20. Sean Gerety said,

    August 28, 2007 at 12:01 pm

    Re #10: Mr. Gerety, suppose the worst: FV teachers/pastors are actually papists in disguise. Suppose they’re denying sola fide and introducing works of the law into the doctrine of justification. Supposing all of that, would FV churches no longer be Christian churches and would the baptisms no longer be valid baptisms?

    I don’t really need to suppose anything Tim. You really need to read Thornwell. He demolished Hodge.

    In the meantime, the visible church is one that professes the true religion to lesser or greater degrees. I hardly think the denial of the central doctrine of the faith, JBFA, or the corruption of this doctrine by the addition of ongoing faithfulness which is required to receive so-called “final justification” on the basis of works, qualifies any organization as a church. So, unless you’re going to argue that the Roman/State church (and by extension the CREC church in Moscow) professes the true religion and does not by its own profession qualify as a “synagogue of Satan,” then I fail to see how being baptized into such a so-called “church” might be “valid”? After all, I thought one of the functions of baptism was for “the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible church”? How can the Roman state/church be considered part of the visible church? Are you so foolish as to confuse Romanism with its cultic and superstitious practices, not to mention its outright denial of the finished work of Christ in principle and practice, with the Christian religion?

    Is what makes baptism valid for you the trinitarian sounding mumblings of a priest? Perhaps you can explain it to me?

  21. tim prussic said,

    August 28, 2007 at 12:09 pm

    Now THIS smacks of unadulterated truth:

    “Pope Doug never broke away from any denomination; he simply and deliberately split a church in his own denomination for no other reason than payback to his fellow confederate Andrew Sandlin.”

  22. Jonathan Bonomo said,

    August 28, 2007 at 12:09 pm

    Rev. Keister,

    Thanks for the clarification in par. 1. I will admit that I misread you. We are probably not as far here as I initially presumed, and I apologize for the misunderstanding.

    However, with regard to par. 2: If we are thinking both locally as well as universally, I think we can see the issue better. What I have most immediately in mind is congregations which are not separated by location, but since they possess different denominational affiliations and doctrinal idiosyncrasies (to use the word of the day) on secondary matters, are separated nonetheless. You know, the “I am of Paul, I am of Apollos” type of thing. I would like to flesh out the unbiblical nature of such a situation as well as the problems it poses to there actually being a “Church of God which is in… fill in the blank,” in the New Testament sense; but unfortunately I don’t possess the time at the moment to do so.

    Also, I think it is clear that church unity at both the local and universal levels go hand in hand. The place to begin is at the local level, but since we do in fact believe in “one holy, catholic, apostolic church,” it is to be desired that unity be acheived on a universal level as well. How this would look is beyond me, as it is quite hard to envision any such thing given our historical context. I just know *that* we should be trying to do something about it, not necessarily *how* to go about doing so. The only thing I’m pretty sure of is that the place to start is at the local level, not the universal level. But even here, being a mere seminary student, still piecing together the puzzle of my own thought, I’m not quite sure what the best method of proceedure would be. (Probably one place to start would be to begin preaching from the pulpit that the Christian world is bigger than our own given denominations, and that there are Christians we are called to love in our given locales who do not necessarily meet with us on a weekly basis.)

    I don’t think denominations are *inherently* evil. They have been necessary for quite some time. The Reformers were right to break free from the shackles of Roman corruption. Lutherans and Calvinists, at their stage in history, were not necessarily at fault to build their own doctrinal traditions as distinct from each other. But it was Calvin himself who wrote to Cranmer that he would “gladly cross ten seas for the unity of the catholic Church.” And he meant this with reference to the Church of England, The Swiss Reformed, and also the Lutheran churches.

    In the end, although denominations may not be inherently evil, they for darn sure look different from the ideal held forth to us in the New Testament, and they smell much different to me than the scent I get from the writings of the early Fathers as well as Calvin, Bucer, Bullinger, Melanchthon, et al. Denominational fragmentation such as exists in our day is completely foreign to both the ethos of the New Testament as well as that of the early Church which framed the great Creedal statements which our confessions uphold. From your first paragraph above it seems you at least agree in principle, although we would probably diverge on how serious of an issue we see this to be.

  23. tim prussic said,

    August 28, 2007 at 12:46 pm

    Mr. Gerety, I’m quite sure that I can explain nothing to you. However, I can demonstrate that you’re unbiblical and more a Donatist than a Calvinist.

    If any churches of the NT era could be accused to denial of the cardinal doctrine of JBFA, it would be the churches of Galatia under the false teaching of the Judaizers. Paul attacks the Judaizers and their doctrine with great power, but he still extends the hand of fellowship to the churches. Indeed, he calls them churches (Gal 1:2).
    You, on the other hand, follow your father, Donatus Magnus, by cutting off the churches that the Lord calls churches. Our Reformed fathers (that is, the magisterial Reformers) ALL received Roman baptism and opposed Rome and her doctrines.
    When you follow schismatics (e.g., Robbins), you become a source of division. When you follow more biblical and catholic thinkers (e.g., Augustine, Calvin, Princeton boys, ya know, HISTORIC Calvinists) you can move toward a biblical unity.

  24. Mark T. said,

    August 28, 2007 at 1:09 pm

    Tim,

    I noticed that you called John Robbins a schismatic and you did so without citing any evidence other than yourself as your own authority. However, when I cite CRE minutes or official church statements to buttress my points, you accuse me of slander. Please tell me what standard I must meet before I can make willy-nilly assertions, like you, and still be free of sin.

    Thank you.

  25. tim prussic said,

    August 28, 2007 at 1:40 pm

    A fine observation, Mr. T., and I appreciate it. There’s one GREAT difference between our two situations. I can accuse Dr. Robbins of being a schismatic based upon his many writing and public lectures. In my own hearing (in a public lecture), he said that he would not receive PCUSA baptisms! Need I say more on that score?

    You, however, cite private incidents that are merely made mention of and only minutely disclosed in published notes. You have no idea of ANY of the finer details (in fact, hardly any notion of the details whatever), but you launch yourself into their private business as if you sat through all the session meetings and knew all the details.

    One’s based upon public teaching, the other is private matter made public only by a very small window. One’s a matter of self disclosure and the other one of mere accusation. With one, there’s a plethora of data but with the other very little, indeed.

    I hope that distinction is clear enough. If I’m wrong in it, I’ll be happy to recant on my Robbins accusation. In fact, I hope I am wrong.

  26. Dean said,

    August 28, 2007 at 1:48 pm

    Sean G

    Kinnaird does not deny the imputation of the active and passive obedience of Christ. Kinnaird does not hold to covenantal election and covenantal justification.

    You may not like his interpretation of Rom 2:13 but he makes some highly qualified statements that separate him from the FV.

  27. Sean Gerety said,

    August 28, 2007 at 4:24 pm

    Tim, it’s nice to see your true colors finally showing. Your asinine reply hardly deserves a response. Actually it deserves no response at all, at least from me, so here is that great defender of the Christian faith, John Robbins, to provide a much needed rebuttal to your vacuous calumny:
    ________________

    Thornwell showed that the ritual use of the name of the Trinity in baptism is not a magic incantation, as the Protestant sympathizers with Rome seem to believe, but must involve the faith of the Trinity, which the Roman Church-State does not have. To argue, as Protestant sympathizers with Rome do, that baptism is valid if it is performed in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, is, ironically, to argue that pronouncing that name works magically – ex opere operato, even if the church, the priest, the parents, and the child lack the faith of the Trinity. Thornwell wrote:

    <blockquote.To baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit is not to pronounce these words as an idle form or a mystical charm, but to acknowledge that solemn compact [the covenant of redemption] which these glorious agents entered, for eternity, for the redemption of the church. It is the faith of the Trinity, much more than the names of its separate Persons, that belongs to the essence of baptism….

    A standard argument used by Protestant sympathizers with Rome is that if it is true that Romanist baptism is not Christian baptism, then the church was without Christian baptism for centuries. This historical argument is of particular importance to those who favor Tradition and exalt the Church. Here is Thornwell’s devastating reply to opponents who ask:

    Did baptism become extinct when this innovation [adulteration of the water] was first introduced among the churches that adopted it? My reply is that I know of no sacredness in baptism which should entitle it to be preserved in its integrity when the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper has been confessedly abolished in the Latin Church. Why should baptism be perpetuated entire, and the Supper transmitted with grievous mutilations? Or will it be maintained that the essence of the Supper was still retained when the cup was denied to the laity? Is it more incredible that an outward ordinance should be invalidated than that the precious truths which it was designed to represent should be lost? Is the shell more important the substance? And shall we admit that the cardinal doctrines of the Gospel have been damnably corrupted in the Church of Rome, and yet be afraid to declare that the signs and seals of the covenant have shared the same fate? If Rome is corrupt in doctrine, I see not why she may not be equally corrupt in ordinances, and if she has lost one sacrament, I see not why she may not have lost the other; and as the foundations of her apostasy were laid in the ages immediately succeeding the time of the Apostles, I cannot understand why the loss of the real sacrament of baptism may not have been an early symptom of degeneracy and decay.

    Then Thornwell drove his unanswerable argument home:

    But our business is with truth and not with consequences. We should not be deterred from admitting a Scriptural conclusion because it removes, with a desolating besom [broom], the structures of antiquity. We are not to say, a priori, that the Church in the fifth or sixth centuries must have had the true sacrament of baptism, and then infer that such and such corruptions do not invalidate the ordinance. But we are first to ascertain from Scriptures what the true sacrament of baptism is, and then judge the practice of the church in every age by this standard. If its customs have at any time departed from the law and the testimony, let them be condemned; if they have been something essentially different from what God has enjoined, let them be denounced as spurious. The unbroken transmission of a visible Church in any line of succession is a figment of papists and prelatists. Conformity with the Scriptures, not ecclesiastical genealogy, is the true touchstone of a sound church; and if our fathers were without the ordinances, and fed upon ashes for bread, let us only be the more thankful for the greater privileges vouchsafed [given] to ourselves.

    _____________________

    Those old school Presbyters really did understand the idea of semper reformata, whereas the new school, not to mention the heretics of the FV and their sympathizers are making a beeline back to Rome. Thanks for once again helping to point the way TP. :)

  28. Mark T. said,

    August 28, 2007 at 4:38 pm

    Tim,

    Okay, you cite your eye-witness testimony to one public lecture; I cite public documents and have deliberately withheld my eye-witness testimony because I know anyone could easily rebut it. Of course, you have denied that I am an eye witness, based upon your mere assertion. Would you care to address that?

    Now to the public documents: Church of the King – Santa Cruz (COTK) released its statement to inform the public of the reason they removed their membership from the CREC, despite your claim of “private incidents that are merely made mention of and only minutely disclosed in published notes.” Did you notice that your mere assertion denied the stated intent of COTK’s statement, which they titled “For the Record”?

    Regarding the CREC minutes, well, they say a lot more than you think and I am confident that if Green Baggins or ReformedMusings felt inclined to comment on those minutes, they would land with me on the interpretation. Then again, I could offer my eye-witness testimony (on both events), but that is easily refutable without other witnesses to substantiate, just like your mere assertion about Dr. Robbins.

    This is what I meant yesterday when I encouraged you to think through your sentences to make sure that one statement follows the other in logical sequence. Just because you are an eyewitness does not make you an authority and it does not mean that your interpretation of the event(s) you saw and heard is correct. It simply means you are an eye witness.

    And by the way, I never attributed your highly emotional conclusions to your sloppy typing. In fact, the thought never crossed my mind. It is a figment of your imagination; another mere assertion. I called your conclusions “highly emotional” because what they lack in substance they compensate with hysteria. And truth be told, they are utterly void.

    Thank you.

  29. Sean Gerety said,

    August 28, 2007 at 4:40 pm

    Dean, if were just for Kinnaird’s butchering of Romans 2:13 I doubt he would have been found guilty of heresy, not that it didn’t (rightly) contribute to his conviction. The GA erred grievously in overturning his conviction since a better parrot of Norm Shepherd (who was also allowed to leave the OPC without discipline and in good standing) can hardly be found anywhere.

    For the details of the case, those who are interested can review them here: http://www.trinityfoundation.org/kinnaird.php

    FWIW I completely concur with the protesters of the verdict, even if they were too understated for my tastes:

    PROTEST

    70th (2003) General Assembly Orthodox Presbyterian Church

    The undersigned respectfully protest the action of the General Assembly in sustaining Specification A of the Appeal of John O. Kinnaird as presented by Advisory Committee 10B, namely, “that the Session and the Presbytery erred in finding Mr. Kinnaird’s teaching to be contrary to the Church’s Standards”, for the following reasons:

    1. The decision did not demonstrate that the specifications of error in the verdict of the Session of Bethany Church, Oxford, Pa., were false, namely, that “it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous on that Day of Judgement” sic), “those inside the city are those who have kept the law of God and those only”, and “these good works are a required condition if we would stand in the Day of Judgement” (sic)… Who are those people who thus benefit – who stand in the Day of Judgement (sic)? They are those who obey the law who will be declared righteous”.

    2. The failure of the Assembly to adopt reasons for deciding that the session and presbytery were in error in finding Mr. Kinnaird’s teaching to be contrary to the Church’s Standards, leaves the decision open to the impression that the entire content of the Kinnaird “Declaration” is fully acceptable in the Church, which the undersigned deny. In the opinion of the undersigned the “Declaration” is an untrustworthy document.

    3. The decision of the Assembly to sustain the appeal opens the gate, in the judgment of the undersigned, to the use throughout the Orthodox Presbyterian Church of a hermeneutic that allows interpretations of Scripture that are out of accord with the whole body of the Word.

    I also highly recommend Paul Elliot’s book, Christianity verses Neo-Liberalism, which provides quite a bit of additional background and information as it relates to the Kinnaird case. A must read for anyone even remotely concerned by the spread of this Federal cancer.

  30. tim prussic said,

    August 28, 2007 at 5:32 pm

    Mr. Gerety, good job not engaging. Quoting a schismatic who’s far closer to a Donatist than a Calvinist doesn’t help prove that you’re NOT a schismatic who’s far closer to a Donatist than a Calvinist. In fact, (imagine this!) it does just the opposite!

    In any event, all you’re arguing is that when YOU (or Robbins, or Thornwell) deviate from centuries of Reformed orthodoxy, it’s okay… that’s called semper reformata. What a joke!

    Mr. T., I’ve not denied that you’re an eye witness of anything, that is, I certainly have not intended to deny such. I assume Christians can be honest when they speak/write. Evidently, you do not. I will remember that such is the case.

    My one ear-witness account stands in conjuction with all that he’s published: a wealth of materials and a goodly number of lectures. Now, both books/lectures AND notes of session/presbytery meetings are public, but they not public to the same degree. Thus, “private incidents that are merely made mention of and only minutely disclosed in published notes” can be public, but not to the same extent as books and lectures. Now, Mr. T., summary notes of meetings differ greatly from scores of books and lectures elaborating ideas. They differ in type and extent. It may seem illogical to you to make such a distinction. If it does, I’m sorry.

    As to my sloppy typing, I misunderstood you. I apologize for that. However, it seems that you really like overstating your cases (which might feel good for you, but doesn’t impress anyone else). You state that what the conslusions of my arguments “lack in substance they compensate with hysteria. And truth be told, they are utterly void.” Heh… you go girl!! I’m sure all can see my “hysteria” and that my reasoning is “utterly void”!

    More to the point: you want to claim that the leaders (without qualification) of the CREC are basically rogues. You cite a couple cases a couple ministers (or whole sessions) were accused of things. You piggy back on those cases like you have the gory details and slander a whole confederation of ministers and elders. To defend yourself and your slander of gospel ministers, you try to liken it to me calling John Robbins a schismatic. Again, a bare naked tactic and quite a foolish one, at that!

    I think I’ve explained the problem enough. Despite my emotional erraticism, hysteria, and utterly void reasoning, I think I’ve made the points clear enough for reasonable folks.

  31. Mark T. said,

    August 28, 2007 at 6:15 pm

    Tim,

    No, you did not deny that I was an eyewitness; you only denied the possibility that I am an eyewitness. Yesterday you wrote:

    The scant defense you put forward for your slander falls under its own weight. What happened with Pastor Turri? Do you know names, occasions [sic], contexts, and specifics? ABSOLUTELY NOT! So, as I said before, mind your own business. (Caps original)

    I don’t think that you know this, but you answer questions that you ask of me, without consulting me, based upon your mere assertion, which is why I determined your conclusions “highly emotional.”

    Today you write,

    Mr. T., I’ve not denied that you’re an eye witness of anything, that is, I certainly have not intended to deny such. I assume Christians can be honest when they speak/write. Evidently, you do not. I will remember that such is the case.

    Perhaps you can reconcile the two block quotes; I cannot. Moreover, notice your argument in the second quote:

    Premise 1: You have not denied my eyewitness testimony (which contradicts the first quote).
    Premise 2: You assume Christians can be honest with each other, while you assert, without evidence, I do not.
    Conclusion: You will remember the mere assertion that you made about me regarding what I assume of other Christians.

    Tim, I do not want this to disintegrate any worse than it has, but this is not a logical argument. It is a series of emotional assertions grounded in your imagination.

    Here is another example of the same: yesterday, after I asked you to show me evidence that I attributed your “highly emotional conclusions” to your sloppy typing, you wrote,

    Mr. T., nitpicking just makes you look worse. Far be it from you to deal with the substance, admit your slander, repent and move on. No, no… change the topic and hope to save face.

    This doesn’t bode well for any theological discussion when men aren’t man enough to admit small faults, they certainly won’t be man enough to admit a big one.

    However, today you concede my point without acknowledging the mean-spirited digs you took at me, and you managed to take a few more shots. In other words, you do not take sufficient responsibility for your words:

    As to my sloppy typing, I misunderstood you. I apologize for that. However, it seems that you really like overstating your cases (which might feel good for you, but doesn’t impress anyone else). You state that what the conslusions of my arguments “lack in substance they compensate with hysteria. And truth be told, they are utterly void.” Heh… you go girl!! I’m sure all can see my “hysteria” and that my reasoning is “utterly void”!

    Notice again that your last five sentences do not logically follow your first two. In fact, they bear no relation except that they nullify whatever apology you offered.

    You may not like what I write or the way I write it. However, please understand that I truly have no animosity toward you and would rather engage you with plain hard facts as opposed to addressing your mere assertions that you apparently forget from one day to the next.

    Is this possible?

  32. Dean said,

    August 28, 2007 at 6:33 pm

    Sean

    “A must read for anyone even remotely concerned by the spread of this Federal cancer.”

    I have not read Elliott’s book but I did read a review by Pastor Shishko. He begins his ten page review by saying, “It is not too strong to call it 350+ pages of slander.”

    “The GA erred grievously in overturning his conviction since a better parrot of Norm Shepherd.”

    GA did not convict N Shepherd. Guilty! However, Kinnaird is not a parrot of Shepherd. Shepherd denies the imputation of the active and passive obedience of Christ, Kinnaird believes it is absolutely essential.

    I have read most of the trial. I have communicated rather extensively with Kinnaird about his view and I am satisfied with GA ruling.

    Rom 2:13 (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified;) Matt 12:36 “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. 37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

    These are not easy verses to untangle, and I believe Kinnaird’s position would fall inside what is permissible. You may disagree but he did not open the door for the FV in the OPC.

    Gaffin defended and agreed with Kinnaird at his trial and Gaffin was one of the authors of the OPC FV Report. Do you think the OPC FV Report is wimpy or opens the way for FV in the OPC? To better understand the Kinnaird case read Gaffin’s book By Faith Not by Sight.

    If you still have trouble with Gaffin’s book I will I be more than willing to listen and discuss.

  33. tim prussic said,

    August 28, 2007 at 6:35 pm

    Collection of block quotes #1: You didn’t mention personal experience. You quoted some minutes, which are NOT detailed (that was my point). Thus, I didn’t deny any claim of yours to personal experience. That you can’t “reconcile” the two quotes is curious…

    Collection of block quotes #2: The first two sentences deal with one thing (an admission), while the second deal with another. Should have put a paragraph break in for you? This is a blog, not an academic paper. Are you going to bring up my lack of correct caps and missed punctuation? You continue to draw the attention away from the substance which is your slander of church officers. Your nitpicking is merely a tactic to avoid plain hard facts and is quite tiresome.

  34. Mark T. said,

    August 28, 2007 at 6:45 pm

    Tim,

    I give up; you win. Not only do you answer for me without any evidence or knowledge, but you also know my motives. You know all things.

    Thank you.

  35. tim prussic said,

    August 28, 2007 at 7:11 pm

    Mr. T., I’m happy you’ve given up, as I’m right there with ya. I didn’t want to engage you again, as it was wholly fruitless before. I will continue to point out your slander if you continue to type it.

  36. Bedell said,

    August 28, 2007 at 9:07 pm

    And to think this thread had something to do with unity…

    I like Godfrey’s proposal on the unity bit.

  37. tim prussic said,

    August 28, 2007 at 9:45 pm

    Do tell, Bedell.

  38. Bryan Cross said,

    August 29, 2007 at 12:03 am

    Lane,

    My comments on your post can be found here.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  39. Sean Gerety said,

    August 29, 2007 at 11:50 am

    I have not read Elliott’s book but I did read a review by Pastor Shishko. He begins his ten page review by saying, “It is not too strong to call it 350+ pages of slander.”

    Well, that settles it then. Some Pastor “Shishko” accuses Elliot of false witness and libel in his review of Elliot’s book so it must be true. Of course, reading Elliot’s account for yourself might not persuade you either, but two OPC courts found Kinnaird guilty of heresy so there is no avoiding the fact that OPC courts have reached contradictory conclusions.

    After reading the transcripts of the case, not to mention Elliot’s very intimate account of the trial and events surrounding the trial, you and I do disagree and the conviction should have stood. Yet, the OPC GA stated in their decision and retrial of the case that his teaching was in accord with the Confession and Scripture.

    Here is a bit of what the OPC finds to be in harmony with the Confession and Scripture:

    “God has appointed a day when he will judge the world in righteousness. All persons who have lived upon the earth shall appear before the tribunal of Christ to give account of their thoughts, words, and deeds; and to receive according to what they have done in the body, whether good or bad. On That Great Day, the Day of Judgement, God’s righteous judgement will be revealed. God will then give to each person according to what he has done. To those who by persistence in doing good {we Presbyterians call this perseverance} seek glory , honor, and immortality, he will give eternal life.”

    “. . . we rightly conclude that those inside the city are those who have kept the law of God and those only. So, a pretty simple answer to our last two questions. Inside the city are those who do righteousness and outside are those who do evil . . . Now by this we know the decision, the judgement as to who enters the city and who stays outside for eternity will be made on that great day of judgement in accordance with what you have done in this life.

    “ . . . Acts speaks of the promised gift of the Holy Spirit. That gift is the key to understanding. And that gift is the secret to righteous living and of entry into the city of God.

    “Further, it seems to be alleged in certain circles that the Westminster creedal system is a faith-alone system. I judge it to be the very opposite. Our system is based around the concept that Faith is God’s only instrument used by Him to apply to us the salvation accomplished by Christ. Further, it is based on the concept that the faith which God provides is never alone but is always accompanied by all other required soteric graces.

    . . . God has provided not only justification from the guilt of sin, he has also, for all those begotten from above by the seed of God, provided that holiness without which no one will see the Lord. Hebrews 12:14. These good works are a required condition if we would stand in the Day of Judgement and they are supplied by God to all His people.”

    Notice again and again, our righteous living even by faith – and not by belief in the finished and perfect work of Christ alone – provides us with “entry into the city of God.” Works done in faith have a clear and unequivocal soteric purpose in justification and are necessary for one to inherent eternal life in Kinnaird’s theology and now, by extension, in the official theology of the OPC so says the OPC GA.

    If all this is the gospel Dean, I guess I must have missed it all these years. My works are now necessary in order to be finally justified at the bar of God’s tribunal on the last day. The imputation of Christ’s work alone (active and passive) by belief alone will not suffice so say John Kinnaird. He obliterates the distinction of law and grace and ends up with a soteriology of salvation by faith and works.

    Gaffin defended and agreed with Kinnaird at his trial and Gaffin was one of the authors of the OPC FV Report. Do you think the OPC FV Report is wimpy or opens the way for FV in the OPC? To better understand the Kinnaird case read Gaffin’s book By Faith Not by Sight.

    I plan to read Gaffin’s book, God willing. I have read some reviews already that raise some serious concerns you evidently overlooked. I read his previous book and was not at all impressed by his own new perspective on Paul, but it did explain why this man not only defended Kinnaird, but also openly and powerfully defended Norm Shepherd for the duration the “Shepherd controversy” raged at WTS (seven years) and beyond. Maybe you forgot Gaffin’s glowing endorsement of The Call of Grace. Was that another “oops”?

    If you still have trouble with Gaffin’s book I will I be more than willing to listen and discuss.

    I guess I’ll have to get back to you on that one Dean.

    Just curious, are you OPC?

  40. Dean said,

    August 29, 2007 at 12:28 pm

    Sean G

    I converted to the OPC a little over year ago from the Protestant Reformed Churches. That may not mean much to you if you are not familiar with the PRC, but it is precisely because of my PR background that I studied the Kinnaird case. I am not really interested in being part of a denomination that weakens the fundamental truth of Justification by Faith Alone.

    When I first began reading the Kinnaird case I was stunned. It looked like garbage. I wondered how the OPC reverse the previous decisions?

    Gaffin’s book was a big help to me to understand Kinnaird’s framework. His framework is not something I was familiar with in the PRC, but I found it very useful. I believe Piper book The Future of Justification will be another book that will clearly show the dividing line between NPP/FV/Shepherdism and good reformed theology. If one does not have imputation correct not much else matters.

    If you have the reviews of Gaffins books available that raise some serious concerns I would like to read them. dbekkering at yahoo dot com

  41. Keith Phillips said,

    August 29, 2007 at 1:10 pm

    Dear Mark T.,

    “At one point Rev. Wilson communicated to us that the main issue of this entire dispute was his personal differences with one of our elders, P. Andrew Sandlin” does not equal “For no other reason than payback.”

    Obviously, there was some sort of dispute between COK and Doug Wilson, and obviously there was or is some sort of personal differences between Andrew Sandlin and Doug Wilson. As far as I can tell, none of the parties involved would deny those statements. Disputes and differences happen quite a bit in this world — even among Christians. However, those statements do nothing to establish the motivation of the original differences and dispute, they do nothing to establish that Doug Wilson intentionally divided a church with the sole motive of payback.

    You suggest that “it’s entirely possible that these words don’t mean what they say, and we need Pope Doug’s divine interpretation.” Well, I don’t think that at all. Without any help from Doug Wilson I can read the words and see that they don’t communicate all that you allege.

  42. Sean Gerety said,

    August 29, 2007 at 5:17 pm

    Mr. Gerety, good job not engaging. Quoting a schismatic who’s far closer to a Donatist than a Calvinist doesn’t help prove that you’re NOT a schismatic who’s far closer to a Donatist than a Calvinist.

    LOL :) Talk about not engaging. It’s obvious from your silly libel of a great Christian man who has done more over the last ten or twelve years to expose these heretics of the FV, that you don’t even know what a Donatist is!

    Pathetic. Besides, it’s not my job to prove a negative. Perhaps you can tells us all when you stopped beating your wife!

    I see bearing false witness is an excusable offense in FV theology. Good luck with that final justification thing. ;) LOL.

  43. tim prussic said,

    August 29, 2007 at 5:43 pm

    I ne’er asked you “to prove a negative,” Mr. Gerety, nor did I mean to imply that you were to. I simply asserted, based upon an answer to a question put to you, that your position is unbiblical and that your posture is closer to Donatism than to historic Calvinism. You responded with a lengthy block quote which seemed not to deny, but rather to support my assertion. If you feel it necessary, you can disprove my positive assertion by responding directly to my original question to you in post #14.

    Where, brother, have I lied about you or anyone else?

  44. September 12, 2007 at 10:56 am

    [...] 12th, 2007 at 10:56 am (Assurance of Salvation, Federal Vision) Chapter 13 was reviewed here (just for DW’s convenience, as he has not replied to that one just yet). Some other posts of [...]


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