How to Get Along With “TR’s”

Let me say first that I don’t really like the term (TR stands for “Truly Reformed”). The connotations of the term imply someone who doesn’t care about unity and love in the church. It also implies an arrogance that they are the only ones with any truth, and/or that they are the only people who can legitimately claim the term “Reformed” at all. All of those are untrue of confessional Presbyterians I know. I cannot judge whether they are true of me or not, though I can say that I really do not enjoy conflict, contrary to what many people might think.

However, what is often shouted at TR’s is that they are unloving, uncaring about church unity, and fanatical about doctrine, and denigrate love. What is rather amazing to me, however, is that many people do not care to find out about what makes a TR click. They do not feel that they need to take any steps to get along with TR’s. If any unity is going to happen, it can only happen if the TR abandons his convictions, they think. But what is really irritating is that the people who are yelling and screaming at the top of their lungs for love and unity aren’t showing very much love and unity in screaming and yelling for love and unity. I’ve lost count of the times this has happened to me. Raise a question of BCO procedure, and get shouted at for being unloving. It gets old. Fast.

What I would like to do is to help people understand what makes a TR click so that people can understand us. In this way, we might be able to get along better, even when we disagree.

Principle 1. Never, ever, ever ask a TR either explicitly or implicitly to abandon his principles. This is probably the single most unloving thing that anyone can do to a TR. The principles he holds are what he believes the Bible to be saying. Furthermore, asking a TR to do that will only make him that much more royally upset. Any attempt to force a TR to abandon his principles will make the TR think that the other person has abandoned truth.

Principle 2. Stop accusing the TR of being unloving. People do not know what is in someone else’s heart. It might be fair to say that a particular action seems unloving to you. That can be debated, certainly. But blanket statements about someone else’s motivations are never very helpful, and they are almost always inaccurate.

Principle 3. Focus attention on the issue when you disagree with a TR. Nothing irritates a TR more than having personalities dragged into it. The TR doesn’t want to dwell on these things. He is thinking about whether something is logical or not, whether something is biblical or not (and this is not to say that non-TR folk are not concerned about this). If I have any more thoughts about this, I’ll add to this and edit it.

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56 Comments

  1. Towne said,

    June 13, 2010 at 9:07 pm

    Mr. Keister:

    Coupled with the expression of sinful pride, you could add to your list the other side of that coin, in that the TR designation is also used as a derogatory. There simply doesn’t seem to be much middle ground.

    Aside from the mythical FV with their purported Joint Statement, there never has been, to my knowledge, any statement, joint or otherwise, that offers details as to just what constitutes a “TR”. The best you will get is the reply, “Oh, we both know what I mean.”

  2. Towne said,

    June 13, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    I must confess that did not come out the way I meant it. I did not mean to imply that the Joint Statement could be categorized as “TR”, and so “Aside from” should perhaps instead read, “More troubling than”. Wiser still, I should have simply deleted the opening clause and made the point without that reference.
    (I shall endeavour to be more careful in the future.)

  3. Evan said,

    June 14, 2010 at 5:53 am

    YES YES YES to #3. Biggest pet peeve EVER. Thank you for saying it.

  4. Frank Aderholdt said,

    June 14, 2010 at 6:10 am

    Thank you, Lane. In a few short paragraphs you have summarized the issues and given wise counsel as well as I’ve ever seen.

    I have been laboring under, suffering from, and embracing the “TR” label for exactly 40 years. I was among what I describe as the “second wave” of TR’s at Reformed Theological in Jackson in the early 1970′s. As I remember, back then we didn’t use the term “confessional” as effectively as we do today. “Confessional” is really all we were, and are–seeking to be. It seems the most obvious thing in the world that we should be meticulously faithful to the system of doctrine contained in the Scriptures and summarized in our confessions and catechisms.

    TR’s take their ordination vows as elders or deacons very seriously. Westminster Confession Chapter XXII applies this solemn language to both oaths and vows: “Whosoever taketh an oath ought duly to consider the weightiness of so solemn an act, and therein to avouch nothing but what he is fully persuaded is the truth: neither may any man bind himself by oath to anything but what is good and just, and what he believeth so to be, and what he is able and resolved to perform.”

    By the way, “TR” originally meant “Thoroughly Reformed” and described of course, not what we claimed to be but what we aspired to be, by God’s grace.

    Young men: I’ve seen the pattern Lane describes for forty years. If you wish to be TC – “Thoroughly Confessional” – get ready now for the misunderstandings and misrepresentations of you and your position. But also strive to be more Christ-like, more humble, more kind, and more patient that those who attack you. May your doctrine and your life be without reproach.

  5. CharlieJ said,

    June 14, 2010 at 6:24 am

    Lane, probably many people reading your blog are familiar with the term “TR,” but for those who aren’t, defining it in the first paragraph might not be a bad idea. Good post.

  6. David said,

    June 14, 2010 at 7:42 am

    I find point 3 to be a little revealing. One could read it to say: TR’s believe in impersonal ideas. It comes across as if you are saying, “Let’s talk about truth. Let’s never talk about whether the truth is spoken in love.” This only seems to further the stereotype, at least that was my first impression.

  7. greenbaggins said,

    June 14, 2010 at 8:51 am

    David, I was primarily thinking of doctrinal issues and debates. Under the cover of asking the question whether someone is speaking in love, people attack the messenger as being unloving, thus changing the subject and committing the ad hominem abusive fallacy. That’s what I have in mind. Not whether we should be speaking the truth in love, which I imagine we all agree should be done at all times.

  8. Reed Here said,

    June 14, 2010 at 11:46 am

    Good post Lane.

  9. David said,

    June 14, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    Lane, so when is it okay in the middle of a theological debate to question whether someone is speaking in love?

  10. greenbaggins said,

    June 14, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    David, that’s a difficult question. One thing I do know is that one should not automatically assume that someone else is being deliberately (or accidentally, for that matter!) unloving. This is usually how escalation happens, and that has happened WAY too often on this blog. I would suspect that when it gets personal, rather than focusing on the theological issue, then the question can be raised. But it should be asked in such a manner as does not already assume the answer. After all, if the point is actually reconciliation, it does no good to put the other guy on the defensive.

  11. Phil Derksen said,

    June 14, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    Pastor Lane #10: A wise answer indeed.

  12. June 14, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    Re #5. Good! I didn’t know what was meant by “TR” at first, but today I correctly guessed it, and I see that it has now been clarified. Before that, probably many besides Reformed Protestants would have no idea what was being referred to.

    I’ve been around y’all’s circles enough (in my endless theological / apologetic journeys on the Web) to at least be able to guess it and have a working knowledge of what it means, prior to reading this thread. But I think I would be atypical in that regard (esp. for a Catholic).

    I do the same thing at times: use terms that I assume readers know, but many may not, which would be a bit counter-productive.

  13. TurretinFan said,

    June 14, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    “After all, if the point is actually reconciliation, it does no good to put the other guy on the defensive.”

    That’s an excellent observation.

  14. T said,

    June 14, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    Really interesting post. I don’t know the specific context for this post (this post is the first thing I’ve seen on this blog, so maybe the 3 principles read differently in that context, but a few thoughts on #1: “Never, ever, ever ask a TR either explicitly or implicitly to abandon his principles.” This seems a little too broad, especially when “principles” are defined as everything the TR believes the bible to be saying. Based on this, no one should ever, ever expressly or implicitly ask (suggest? question? etc.) a TR to believe or consider something different about what the bible says? I’m probably not “truly” reformed, but I don’t want people to never expressly or impliedly ask me to believe or think differently than I already do. Maybe you meant “principles” to be much more central and narrow, though. If this principle was justified, we might as well change ‘truly reformed’ to ‘finished reforming/growing/listening to others’ which I (because of love!) doubt is what you’re asking for.

  15. michael said,

    June 14, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    Unity is a gift from the Giver! My mentoring Pastor taught a five step maturity process so that, at least, as far as I am involved in the dialogue, I can remain in unity with everyone, leaving all retribution to God; “vengeance is Mine”.

    First, when enlightened, one is enlightened to “who” Jesus Christ is and what He “does” and has done, for us. He is the foundation upon which the Church rests.

    Second, by this “relationship” experience, the forgiveness of our sins, Christ, Our Lord, King, Servant Leader, Ruler, Judge leads us to the experiential knowledge of the Love of God, bringing us into a holy fellowship with Him, our Heavenly Father who now we cry “Abba Father”, to.

    Third, now that we have received Christ and the Love of God, God can impart to us “Their” vision, we are now well on our way to becoming Their workmanship created in Jesus Christ for “good works”.

    Fourth, now that we have Christ as our foundation, God’s Love and Their vision constraining us, we can remain actively reaching out to all humanity with the Words of Christ by the Holy Spirit because of our growth in the Love of God.

    Fifth, finally, now that we are established in the Truth, we can discuss doctrines and principles with one another all day long and night too because nothing now will separate us from the Love of God which is found in Christ Jesus, Our Lord. We then, as well, are acutely aware of evil forces working to divide us from the Truth or from our responsibilities to love our neighbors as ourself and to love our enemies for Christ’s sake; that is, all humans, not fallen spirit beings. “Love the sinner, hate the sin”!

    We can certainly love ourselves and hate our sinful natures, first! With this sort of mature humility at work within us, it then isn’t that difficult to believe all things, hold to that which is good and disregard the rest as we go about enduring hardship as good soldiers proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom to every creature for a witness!

  16. June 14, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    I like to learn from the TR, but I realize they are growing in grace and knowledge as I am. Have they ever really arrived? I keep asking “Am I Reformed yet?” I know I am truly saved, and feel I am learning about the Reformed faith. I know ten years ago I was just learning. I like 2 Peter 3:14-18 which says to watch out for unstable and untaught people, to continue in steadfastness even though some things are hard to understand, and to grow in both grace and knowledge.

    Last Thursday I reflected on my ten year journey in Reformed thinking and practice on http://millennialdreams.blogspot.com/. Maybe one day I will be TR, but I am glad I am truly saved and growing grace and knowledge.

    Thank you, TRs, for paving the way.

  17. Zrim said,

    June 14, 2010 at 11:11 pm

    To the extent that Protestantism in America generally breaks down along confessional and evangelical lines, instead of the problematic “TR” language, it might be better to distinguish between the confessionally Reformed and the evangelically Reformed. Granted, that’s something of a compromise to those of us who think the Reformed sort of made our own bed by wanting to join the evangelical fiesta when other confessional Prot’s wisely kept their distance. But, whatever else this does, it at least allows the critics of confessionalism some room on the reservation (which can serve to help diffuse escalations) while at the same time maintaining that there are significant reasons for the evident differences–which have little to nothing to do with personality traits.

    How’s that for ecumenical?

  18. June 15, 2010 at 12:12 am

    I wonder if the term “Truly Reformed” should be abandoned in the same way that some, myself included, have chosen to abandon the term Evangelical. Granted, no one is clamoring to create a National Association of Truly Reformed; nevertheless, the TR label carries enough baggage that it may no longer be useful as a term to describe those of us who hold strongly to the Reformed confessions. BTW, many of those who call themselves TRs have to carry the lion’s share of the blame for defaming the term in much the same way that many American Evangelicals have defamed the term Evangelical by co-opting it in the interest of American Nationalism. Specifically, I am referring to certain TRs that seem to believe they are THE true remnant Reformed Church and look down upon those who who claim to be Reformed but do not measure up.

    Personally, I prefer the labels Confessional Reformed or Old School Reformed as a more accurate description of what “those who may formerly be known as TRs” believe in terms of a high regard for and adherence to the Reformed tradition, as articulated in the classic Reformed confessions.

    BTW, let me end my comments by making a shameless plug for my blog about being a Confessional or Old School Reformed Christian in New York City at http://reformationinthecity.blogspot.com/.

  19. Raja Dani said,

    June 15, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    The real problem is not holding to doctrinal distinctives, but categorizing Christians by them.

    Ortlund’s post was right on the money. No one is asking the TR to abandon his convictions.

  20. June 15, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    [...] Ray Ortlund, Jr. re-posted one of his old blogs, to which Darryl Hart then replied, and finally Lane Keister expounded a bit further on the [...]

  21. Raja Dani said,

    June 16, 2010 at 12:09 am

    No one is asking you to abandon your principles, just don’t categorize other Christians by them. Granted, no one can read your heart, but they can read your words and the manner in which they are expressed. Will you defend the trite and snarky responses of some TRs because “you can’t read someone’s heart”.

    Ortlund’s post was right on the money.

  22. David said,

    June 16, 2010 at 6:21 am

    The irony of this post for me is that it promotes the stereotype of TR’s that I have. The TR plays the role of analytical critic who loves logic and can easily tell you about your error, even the error of how you relate to TR’s. I would love to read a post by a TR about their own errors and their tendencies to view love as secondary ( my opinion). TR’s seem quick to point out specks and when people point out their logs they accuse you of getting personalities involved.

  23. June 16, 2010 at 8:01 am

    David, hopefully we are all growing in grace, holiness, piety as the Puritans were. I aspire to glorify God and so do so most of the TR brethren. And, David, we have to keep them growing, even if we all need to be knocked down a peg at times.

    One problem with only putting love as our focus is that we have Christ as an example but not as the Savior as J. Gresham Machen points out in his book CHRISTIANITY AND LIBERALISM. We are growing in grace and knowledge as I wrote above quoting from 2 Peter.

    I am no stereotypical TR. Read that blog above.

  24. Evan said,

    June 16, 2010 at 9:31 am

    David, I think there are a couple of problems with how you represent the TR and perhaps your experience bears out the conclusions you draw so I won’t fault you for putting things the way you do. I have known many ungracious people in my life who delight in pointing out every little flaw in a church. That said, it seems to me that true TRs are very concerned indeed with love. In fact, to be truly loving we are required to seek a closer adherence to the Scriptures. It is unloving to allow a brother to continue in error for the sake of not rocking the boat. Purity before peace. That perspective should go both ways as you have observed but love, in my view, necessitates correctness. ‘If ye love me, keep my commandments.’ The TR might, in fact, have a better understanding of love because they attempt to correct error.

    There’s also a huge difference between desiring to understand and correct a theological problem and childish name-calling (ad hominem attacks). It’s never good to, for example, say something like, ‘Well, of course you think that’ and then offer no ground on which to discuss. It is, however, justifiable to observe that someone’s experience might make them prone to view a situation in a certain fashion. The difference is how you speak of/to that person; in a kind, understanding way or a dismissive way. I think we all need to step back sometimes and ask ourselves if we’re respecting the other person’s humanity.

    So perhaps the stereotypical TR needs a good dose of gentleness while others need a good dose of reproving and correcting love.

  25. Raja Dani said,

    June 16, 2010 at 9:53 am

    One of the problems I have observed with TRs is the propensity to equate love with {the TRs understanding of} truth. That is, not the truth about the gospel, the Trinity, the deity of Christ, the Resurrection, etc., but about ecclesiology, the sacraments, the order of worship, etc. In other words, secondary matters.

    This is the rub. Godly men have disagreed about secondary matters throughout church history. Each side has it’s biblical arguments to justify their positions. In the end, you just have to realize that the Bible is not as clear on secondary matters and there is room for disagreement among brethren. Baptists shouldn’t be disciplining paedobaptists, or vice versa over the proper mode of baptism (for example).

    By all means, have vigorous theological discussion about the areas of disagreement. Write all the treatises you want on the regulative principle of worship, or the Lord’s Supper, but don’t be ungracious and arrogant about it–and realize your presuppositions could be wrong (so could mine). And don’t assert such and such a denomination is not a true church because they’re not Reformed and Presbyterian.

  26. greenbaggins said,

    June 16, 2010 at 9:53 am

    I would direct folks’s attention to the link on comment 20. Some very helpful historical background for the term “TR.”

  27. Scott said,

    June 18, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    I am not greatly familiar with these terms or the meanings that apparently are being assigned to them.

    It seems they mean different things to different people, e.g. being “truly” or “thoroughly” reformed is positive in one sense, and in another, is is being used negatively to describe behavior.

    On the one hand, it is about doctrine, on the other behavior- which is it?

    What seems to be getting lost in this in-house kind of discussion is that the opposite of the TR seems to be BR (barely reformed). How could anyone view the latter as a positive?

    It sounds like a compromised position.

  28. David Gilleran said,

    June 18, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    Scott-the term back in the day was BE broadly evangelical. Also, TR stands for either Totaly Reformed, Truly Reformed or Throughly Reformed.

  29. Zrim said,

    June 18, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    This is the rub. Godly men have disagreed about secondary matters throughout church history. Each side has it’s biblical arguments to justify their positions. In the end, you just have to realize that the Bible is not as clear on secondary matters and there is room for disagreement among brethren. Baptists shouldn’t be disciplining paedobaptists, or vice versa over the proper mode of baptism (for example).

    Raja,

    The confessions don’t seem to understand baptism to be secondary, such that improper administration is virtually negligible. The proper administration of the sacraments is the second mark of the true church(!). As a paedobaptist, I feel much more at home with a credo who demands I repent of my sacramental error than a paedobaptist who’s ready to chalk sacramentology up to inscrutable.

    In the same way, I feel much more at home with Trent leveling anathema’s than with a Protestant doing the same thing with the first mark. Consider that Ortlund compares confessional Reformed distinctives to Judaizing. That’s pretty serious. Shouldn’t he be raising his game to Trentian proportions instead of pleading Kumbaya? Rome gets it, does Ortlund?

  30. Raja Dani said,

    June 19, 2010 at 11:59 pm

    Zrim,

    I don’t think the confessions understand baptism to be secondary either. However, since Scripture is our ultimate authority, I’m not too troubled about it.

    The reason Ortlund compares confessional Reformed distinctives to Judaizing is because of the TR tendency to judge other Christians not by the Scripture, but by and through their confessional standards.

    The Pharisees did this with Jesus. He healed on the Sabbath. Their “confessional distinctives” said that was breaking the Sabbath. The thing is, He wasn’t breaking the commandment–only their application of the commandment. Surely you see the parallels.

  31. Zrim said,

    June 21, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    Raja,

    Part of my point is that to employ the category of Judaizing is a gravely serious tactic. It shouldn’t been done lightly. It’s one thing to point out the foibles of incivility and gracelessness, another to begin using language reserved for anathema. So whatever else might be said on this topic, I think it’s worth considering whether Ortlund overstates his case.

    I mean, to the extent that Judaizing is the theological equivalent of adulterizing, if I see my friend with a woman other than his wife is it wise to begin throwing the term “adultery” around when it may just be a matter of poor judgment (or less)? We are called to a zeal according to knowledge, right?

  32. Raja Dani said,

    June 22, 2010 at 9:48 am

    Zrim,

    I’ll agree he could have stated that a little less strongly. Fair point.

  33. dgh said,

    June 24, 2010 at 5:43 am

    Raja, what you and perhaps Ortlund don’t understand and cannot comprehend is that Reformed Protestants believe that the confessional standards are biblical. My communion’s confession is a summary of what God has revealed. Your perspective and words, you also believe, are in accord with biblical teaching about love. So both sides are being biblical. But because one relies upon words conceived and proclaimed by a church council and the other comes from the words – not of Scripture – of a pious person, you assume your words are more biblical than mine. W. G. T. Shedd made a great point on this when he wrote:

    “Of course Scripture is the only infallible rule of faith. But this particular way of appealing to Scripture is specious and fallacious. In the first place, it assumes that Calvinism is not Scriptural, an assumption which the Presbyterian Church has never granted. . . . Secondly, this kind of appeal to Scripture is only an appeal to Scripture as the reviser understands it. Scripture properly means the interpretation of Scripture; that is, the contents of Scripture as reached by human investigation and exegesis. Creeds, like commentaries, are Scripture studied and explained, and not the mere abstract and unexplained book as it lies on the counter of the Bible House. The infallible Word of God is expounded by the fallible mind of man, and hence the variety of expositions embodied in the denominational creeds. But every interpreter claims to have understood the Scriptures correctly, and, consequently, claims that his creed is Scriptural, and if so, that it is the infallible truth of God. The Arminian appeals to the Articles of Wesley as the rule of faith, because he believes them to be the true explanation of the inspired Bible. . . . The Calvinist appeals to the creeds of Heidelberg, Dort, and Westminster as the rule of faith, because he regards them as the accurate exegesis of the revealed Word of God. By the Bible these parties, as well as all others who appeal to the Bible, mean their understanding of the Bible. There is no such thing as that abstract Scripture to which the revisionist of whom we are speaking appeals; that is, Scripture apart from any and all interpretation of it. When, therefore, the advocate of revision demands that the Westminster Confession be conformed to Scripture , he means conformation to Scripture as he and those like him read and explain it. It is impossible to make abstract Scripture the rule of faith for either an individual or a denomination. No Christian body has ever subscribed to the Bible merely as a printed book. A person who should write his name on the blank leaf of the Bible and say that his doctrinal belief was between the covers, would convey no definite information as to his creed.”

  34. greenbaggins said,

    June 24, 2010 at 10:27 am

    Darryl, thanks very much for the Shedd quotation. I think it gets at a lot of what the confusion about confessions is all about today.

  35. Raja Dani said,

    June 24, 2010 at 11:43 am

    DGH,

    Again, I have no problem with Confessions. However. allowance must be made for points of disagreement between true churches of Christ on secondary issues.

    If not, how is your strict adherence to your Confession any different from the Roman Magisterium interpreting Scripture for us? The RCC says it is the one true church, you say the churches that hold to your Confession are the only true churches of Christ. How are you different from one another?

  36. dgh said,

    June 24, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    Raja, Reformed Protestants are different because we have councils not a pope, we believe councils may err, we believe that the Bible interpreted informs our confession, and we mean what we say. Apparently, the way you interpret the Reformed confession is a bit like a liberal or cafeteria Catholic — take what you like, but leave what you don’t.

  37. Reformed Sinner said,

    June 24, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    The Chinese has a proverb: “Without the winds, the wave won’t get started.” I used to hate people’s stereotypes of “TRs” as well, until I met some “TRs” that fits all the stereotypical bill. Now, I am sure they are only the minority, but unfortunately these minorities make a lot of noise (since they like to argue with people), and typically that’s why the stereotype against “TRs” who are unloving, ungracious, etc.

    But in terms of this post and the responses, I agree with them 100%

  38. Raja Dani said,

    June 25, 2010 at 9:07 am

    DGH,

    Oh, I see. The fallible councils replace the pope and the Reformed Magisterium means what it says (even though it may err).

    No place for private judgment, after all, that would be like taking the egg plant but leaving the chicken.

    The differences are immense.

  39. dgh said,

    June 25, 2010 at 10:06 am

    Raja, glad you keep trying, but there’s plenty of room for private judgment. Why I suspect it goes on in what Reformed bloggers choose to write about. If you follow the conversations it is actually the Reformed Protestants — again this goes back to the text that Ortlund blundered — who are distinguishing between what Scripture requires and the freedom Christians enjoy in all other realms.

    What you seem to propose is a Christian world where Reformed Prot’s are as good as Baptists, and so the things revealed in Scripture are of no real consequence beyond personal preference. On the other hand, you advocate a norm of love that comes from your own private conscience. Welcome to Galatia.

    What’s your beef with Reformed Protestants anyway? Are you sure Ortlund didn’t have you in mind when he wrote the piece?

  40. Raja Dani said,

    June 25, 2010 at 10:52 am

    DGH,

    Let me try again. So, the Confession is like the meat and the potatoes….everyone has to eat it without question. However, private judgment is like the fruit cup or the pudding….you can have whatever you like, doesn’t really matter.

    I suppose this is why guys like NT Wright get creamed? He wants to slightly modify the main course? That’s another discussion, I guess.

    There is a body of Christian truth to which all Christians subscribe and in which we can all have fellowship in the churches, that which CS Lewis referred to as mere Christianity. I’m comfortable with that while still having strong convictions about ecclesiology and sacramentology.

    Be that as it may, I think we’ve run the course on this one.

    best,

    RD

  41. dgh said,

    June 25, 2010 at 11:06 am

    How exactly does mere Christianity fit with Christ’s command in the Great Commission to teach and disciple on the basis of everything he has commanded, with the everything referring to the entire word inscripturated?

  42. rfwhite said,

    June 25, 2010 at 11:08 am

    Lane,

    Here’s another take on TR: it’s the label we use for anyone to our right.

    And this anecdote: When a man transferred from one presbytery to another, he was asked what concerns, if any, he had about his Reformed denomination. He answered by saying that he hoped that the denomination would maintain and not lose its confessional identity. The questioner responded by saying, “So you are a strict subscriptionist?” The transfer candidate said, “No, I can accept good faith subscription, but a man’s subscription is not my interest. I’m not only interested in what a man believes, but more so in what he teaches.” I wonder if the TR label will be stuck to him.

  43. Raja Dani said,

    June 25, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    DGH,

    Is the GC about the gospel, or about the gospel and every little doctrine that divides Christians today? Prove exegetically that when the Lord commanded the apostles to teach everything He commanded He had in mind not only the Good News, but the biblical role of the civil magistrate, etc.

    Should you prove that, then you have to prove that all doctrine is of equal importance to the Lord. Everything is of a primary order. Trinity, Person and Work of Christ, Fallen Nature of Man, Subjects and Mode of Baptism, Tithing, the Laying on of Hands to Heal the Sick, Elder Rule, Christian Sabbath, etc, etc.

  44. dgh said,

    June 25, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    Raja, before diving into your question, perhaps you could explain why God revealed so much when you seem to think all we need is the Bible for dummies.

  45. Raja Dani said,

    June 25, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    DGH,

    I would expect an Infinite Being to have much to reveal. It is all important to us because it comes from our heavenly Father. That doesn’t change the fact that some things are more important than others when it comes to the big picture, unless you want to assert that your position on tithing is as important as your position on the Trinity.

    Do you?

    Perhaps He revealed so much so that we will be careful with His word, and exercise love and humility toward those who differ, but to whom He has given less light. Just a thought.

  46. Evan said,

    June 25, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    Raji, dgh,

    I think the point that both of you are missing is that this is post focuses on an internal discussion involving people who all claim to subscribe to the same set of confessional documents. If they claim to hold these documents as a correct (and comprehensive) interpretation of Scripture, they ought to value so-called minor details. Also, it would seem to me that when discussing matters of form or procedure the best thing to do is to ask how it’s been done in the past and just go with it. No sense fixing what isn’t broken.

    Just my 2 cents.

  47. dgh said,

    June 25, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    Raja, do you have the cliff notes to the Bible to know what is most important? Either way, our good Lord so constituted the universe that even pagans know the difference between capital crimes and misdemeanors. I may not receive a death sentence for not paying taxes, but I still get in trouble. Isn’t trouble a bad thing? What do you think of a Christian who regards disobeying Scripture on the less important things as okay?

    Evan, surely you are aware that liberalism arose in churches where supposedly all parties agreed on the confessional documents. When you adopt the policy that there is a core and a husk within the creed, you are on the sure road to evangelicalism which leads to the broad highway of liberalism where loving Jesus is plentiful. What Jesus is another question.

  48. David Gray said,

    June 26, 2010 at 5:52 am

    >Here’s another take on TR: it’s the label we use for anyone to our right.

    Hmmm. I generally think of TRs as being to my left.

  49. Evan said,

    June 26, 2010 at 6:41 am

    dhg, That was exactly my point. Assent is assent even to the “small” things. I did, however, want to emphasize that people outside the Reformed camp can’t be expected to agree with the TR and their correctness/non-correctness wasn’t the point of the original post. Talking about them gets away from the intended discussion.

  50. dgh said,

    June 26, 2010 at 9:36 pm

    Evan, so what was the intended discussion?

  51. Evan said,

    June 27, 2010 at 6:16 am

    Well, the phrase “raise a question of BCO procedure” suggested to me that the discussion was intended to be limited to inter-Presbyterian relationships. And I haven’t heard the term ‘TR’ used outside of a Reformed context so it seemed that the bounds of the post were Presbyterian/Reformed. Bringing in other denominations broadens the available talking points so much that it’s impossible to reach any kind of consensus.

  52. Zrim said,

    June 27, 2010 at 7:20 am

    Evan,

    You may have missd it, but when Raja says, “I have no problem with Confessions. However. allowance must be made for points of disagreement between true churches of Christ on secondary issues” what he means, based on discussions elsewhere, is that he thinks sacramentology is minor and secondary. And those who continue to hold to Belgic 29 and WCF 25:4 are being divisive and functionally “Romanist.” So he actually does have a problem with the Confessions, and from what I can tell he wants Reformed communions and Baptist communions to be effectively Evangelical Free on baptism. If he can manage that then maybe he can get the RCC to make papal authority optional? But what he doesn’t seem to understand is that some views are just plain essential to their traditions. That’s what makes “Is the pope Catholic?” such an effective answer to obvious questions.

  53. Evan said,

    June 27, 2010 at 7:59 am

    I noticed. I ignored it.

    Call me old-fashioned but when somebody veers way out like that and opens up all kinds of rabbit-trail possibilities, I just pretend I didn’t hear it. I’m like that one gray-haired teacher in college that ignores people when they ask non-pertinent questions and has as his #1 classroom rule, ‘Stay on Topic.’

  54. Zrim said,

    June 27, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    Evan,

    Sometimes perceived rabbit trails have a lot to do with the topic. One of the many ways Reformed evangelicalism distinguishes itself from Reformed confessionalism is precisely via low sacramentology (a result of low ecclesiology).

  55. Evan said,

    June 27, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    I was under the impression that being Reformed meant having both. Apparently I’m part of the reason for this discussion in the first place. Who knew?

  56. Zrim said,

    June 28, 2010 at 10:41 am

    Evan,

    It’s true that being Reformed entails being evangelical, but evangelicalism and confessionalism are at loggerheads. That’s what the whole “intended discussion” is all about. And when Reformed evangelicals suggest Reformed confessionalists are being Galatian (Ortlund’s post) it’s pretty similar to when the Reformed revivalists told the Reformed confessionalists they were unconverted, etc. See principles 2 & 3 in the post proper.


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