Doctrinal Failures ARE Moral Failures

The title is my thesis in this post. This point might seem obvious, except that many people do not treat doctrinal failures this way. To prove the thesis is easy. A doctrinal failure leads people astray. Leading people astray is a moral failure. Therefore, doctrinal failures are moral failures. Scripturally, one can point to Acts 20:28-31 and the book of Jude (and there are many other passages as well).

But there are complicating factors, aren’t there? Consider these points: 1. every teacher is wrong on some points of doctrine or other; 2. there are degrees of failure, some of which would lead people to Hell, while others might only lead to confusion. How does one tell what kind of category governs a particular failure or not? And how does one judge how serious an error is? The Bible does tell us of a pattern of teaching, of sound doctrine. There is such a pattern. There is a faith once for all delivered to the saints. There is a pattern of sound teaching to which we need to conform. There is a system, in other words. The Westminster divines believed that they had codified that system in their standards. They were concerned to put the system of doctrine contained in the Holy Scriptures down in a form to which the church could agree. Therefore, I believe that the Westminster Standards is the system of sound teaching described by Paul, and that it is the faith once for all delivered to the saints.

Many folks would disagree with this, arguing that the system is much smaller than that. They might limit it to the Apostles Creed or the Nicene Creed. But there are many central things in the Christian faith of which those two creeds do not speak. For instance, neither the Apostles Creed nor the Nicene Creed speak of justification by faith alone. That’s pretty central. Neither of those creeds speak of the sacraments in any detailed way. Those are central to the very definition of the church. Now, the Apostles Creed and Nicene Creed are very important, and surely everything that they DO address is certainly of the highest level of importance. But neither can be said to be a complete system, even when one takes into consideration the later expositions of the creeds. For Reformed folk, the best we have are the Westminster Standards and the Three Forms of Unity.

Take paedocommunion as a test case. If one believes that the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed are the only issues of importance, then one will judge paedocommunion to be a secondary matter. However, if the proper administration of the sacraments is a matter pertaining to the very definition of the church, then it is not a secondary issue. Paedocommunion is a doctrinal failure. Therefore, teaching paedocommunion is a moral failure.

This might outrage folks out there who are not thinking in these terms. But notice how different we usually feel about two hypothetical scenarios: if a pastor were embezzling funds from the church, or if he were falling prey to alcoholism and the Presbytery found out about it, firm steps would be taken to discipline that pastor, and rightly so. But so far, when a pastor is caught teaching unconfessional doctrine, practically no steps are taken, and when they are taken (usually under duress!), the situation is treated completely differently. The idea sometimes emerges that, even if he were teaching wrong ideas, and has “changed,” then it doesn’t matter whether he was teaching falsely before. That’s like saying that a pastor who was caught in having an affair can be given a free pass as long as he’s changed. The situations are identical. He has led people astray! Period!

The biggest problem right now is the “good ole boy” club syndrome. This is that teaching elders in the PCA are being given a free pass on their doctrine because “he’s such a nice guy,” or because he’s been there a long time, or because of some other social reason. We are forgetting the sheep in all of this. Sheep are being led astray, and because of our “good ole boy” syndrome, we are forgetting how serious a sin this is. And so, instead of exercising due diligence and following up problematic doctrine (such as the FV), we attack anyone who possibly, dares audaciously, in a totally unloving way, to actually bring up the remote possibility that there is an error somewhere in someone’s teaching! The whistle-blower is impugned, attacked and dredged through the mud, all in the name of love and charity, of course. Of course, if the issue were adultery, no one would even think of attacking the messenger. But doctrine is not being treated as a moral failure, but rather as a slight, insignificant “infirmity.” The Bible treats doctrinal failure much more severely than we do, and we are in big trouble because of it.



  1. Andrew Duggan said,

    May 27, 2012 at 4:10 pm

    Lane, What you said is a very hard saying, who can take it? I agree that many have a much smaller system that of the Westminster Confession and Catechisms, even those who subscribe to them. So to them it is more like Westminster Confession “contains” a system of doctrine of some important doctrines found in Holy Scripture, surrounded by a lot of optional out-of-system doctrine, rather the Confession and Catechism as being the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures. That way nearly everyone can more or less determine for himself what’s in-system or not.

    So it is therefore uncharitable for someone to point out a doctrinal failure, say regarding a certain Dr. TE but the kind, gentle scholarly Dr. TE, he’s OK, because well he is kind gentle and scholarly. That he teaches contrary to the Westminster Standards, simply means the Westminster Standards are too comprehensive, even for those who think they are mostly optional doctrines.

    How the contemporary church has gotten Matt 5:19 totally backwards. The great teach error, and those that object are despised as those who are least in the kingdom. However, He who judges rightly knows the real uncharitableness is with him who teaches error.

  2. andrew said,

    May 27, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    Interesting post.

    If I understand you aright, your arguement is that the WCOF has an inherent status, regardless of the level of subscription the minister gives (otherwise it can hardly be binding by subscription, if the subscription expressly omits certain areas). Here are a few thoughts.

    i) Did the Westminster divines understand themselves to be exactly setting out the system of teaching Paul refers to, and nothing else at all?

    ii) Does the Confession say this of itself? If not, the we must look to the weight the church places on it – i.e. we are back to the strictness of subscription vows taken.

    iii) Are you willing to be consistent in applying this? For example, my own congregation uses (regrettably) juice rather than wine in the Lord’s Supper. This is more substantial confessional breach than paedocommunnion. Are you calling for ministers who display such moral failures to be disciplined? (Don’t mind if you do, hust wondering …)

    Or what about those who elders who go whom to a fine Sunday dinner contrary to WCOF 21:7?

    Or from a previous topic, while you disagree with, are you prepared to discipline those leading people astray by teaching a non-Pauline authorship of Hebrews? (BC, Art.4)

    iv) What do you do about the revised nature of WCOF as commonly used in America? Did the original WCOF have the status you suggest, or did it only aquire it after the revision?

    v) You mention the Three Forms of Unity. If I recall right, these are generally thought to be be infralapsarian. Should suprelapsarian ministers be disciplined? Do think it posible the Three Forms might have some minor points of difference with the WCOF (e.g on the Sabbath)? Which gets precedence? Is Paul’s system of doctrine only where these two coincide, or where they do not contradict?

    I do have a good deal of sympathy with what you are trying to achieve, and once held it myself. Your posistion also works the other way – it gives some protection from those who want to be stricter than the confessions (e.g. on headcovering, or particular views of the millenium, or versions, etc.). But the devil is in details.

    Even the Apostle’s Creed becomes difficult with the descend to hell clause. One can understand in as Calvin does, which allows subscription to the actual words, but it was hardly what the authors had in mind.

  3. May 27, 2012 at 8:58 pm


    Great post. I have said before that integrity and pride are underlying issues in all this. Some harbor so much pride that they believe their minority view should prevail even after an almost unanimous majority has rejected their view. Integrity is compromised when terms are redefined in ways that contravene the Standards while professing conformity thereunto. The PCA FV report was clear on this issue:

    Moreover, to affirm the Standards, and then redefine the terms used in the Standards, is not to affirm the Standards.

    I stand with you 100%. Strict vs. Good Faith Subscription is not, and never has been the issue with FV. Non-subscription to key doctrines is the issue.

    I dare say there is another issue which you may have implied, or maybe I misread you, that multiplies the good-‘ol-boy effect. Presbyteries apparently substitute a cult of academic letters for the plain statements of the Standards. The more letters after your name, the more books and papers written, the greater credibility afforded regardless of the absurdity espoused. I saw that clearly in the abysmal treatment you received from the defense in PNWP. You had more knowledge on the subject at hand than anyone else in that room save Leithart himself. Your treatment was shameful and the individuals responsible owe you a public apology.

    Of course, you’ll never get one, because you are obviously violated the 9th Commandment by daring to try to hold the very nice Dr. accountable. Bad Lane. ;-)

  4. May 27, 2012 at 9:05 pm


    I’m not sure that I see your point. FV doesn’t involve subtleties between 3FU and Westminster, nor the Divine’s original intent which has been all the vogue recently. We’re talking about the nature of baptism, justification, sanctification, adoption, perseverance, covenant, etc. Once we get the mountains squared away, then we can discuss the grains of sand.

  5. Towne said,

    May 27, 2012 at 11:27 pm

    Consistent with Lane’s post above, I would encourage all to read Jeremiah Burroughs on the Beatitudes, Sermon XXVI, pages 162-68.

  6. Jack Bradley said,

    May 27, 2012 at 11:44 pm


    I’ve been sitting here trying to be charitable over this shockingly uncharitable post.

    “Paedocommunion is a doctrinal failure. Therefore, teaching paedocommunion is a moral failure.”

    You’ve impugned good men of high stature, especially considering that paedocommunion was the MAJORITY report of the OPC when it was studied, and was much more capably defended in the minority report when it was studied by the PCA.

  7. Mark Kim said,

    May 28, 2012 at 2:07 am


    But what if some PCA leader taught that justification is not only through faith alone but also by the “obedience of faith”?

    Or even worse, how about someone who professes to be confessionally Reformed and in ecclesiological authority teaching that a true believer can be de-united from Christ for certain sins (and hence, cut off from justification)?

    Certain doctrinal matters are matters that godly men and women can agree to disagree on and keep fellowship (e.g., the mode of baptism, church government, traducianism/creationism, the time of Revelation 20, etc.). However, certain doctrinal matters are not issues that can be just sidestepped for the sake of unity or to keep peace in the church (for example, the character of justification).

  8. andrew said,

    May 28, 2012 at 2:57 am

    Re 4 – Reformed Musings

    Are you certain you have digested Lane’s post? It not, prima facie, about the FV. It answers the difficulty of recognising the gravity of error by whether such an issue is present in certain confessional standards.

    The post itself gets the example of a non FV distinctive – paedocommunnion, (and my my view a relatively minor matter not even found in the confession itself!). But it is one that Lane feels passionate about. I was simply pointing out other areas where folks may not feel so passionate, but which would also attract discipline, if the logic of the post is carried through.

    You are right that these things are grains of sand – that is the difficulty with the post. You are right to distinguish the major issues that FV involves – but that is precisely the sort of approach the post is trying to clamp down on. I am not concerned with defending FV, but I am concerned about liberty on the points I mentioned

    You need to be careful – if Lane decides his exhaustive view of the confession is confessional, you might even be liable for discipline!

  9. greenbaggins said,

    May 28, 2012 at 8:52 am

    So, Jack, please explain to me how it is morally neutral for a man to teach that it is okay for a child to eat and drink judgment on himself. The problem with your acerbic reply (no doubt issued on behalf of love) is that you brought personalities into it, and you didn’t consider the thing itself. According to the non-paedocommunion position, an infant, not recognizing the body of Christ, would eat and drink judgment on himself. So, how CAN it be morally neutral to teach something that advocates children bringing judgment upon themselves? If you disagree with the exegesis of 1 Corinthians 11, fine. But from my standpoint, and in my shoes, that is what is happening when someone teaches PC. It is hardly unloving, then, to point out the moral dangers of teaching such a position.

    As to whether the issue itself is secondary or not, I would simply point out that we do not believe the age of the recipients of baptism is a secondary order issue, do we? We do not ordain credo-baptists into our denomination. How can the age of the recipients of baptism be a first-order issue, while the age of the recipients of THE OTHER SACRAMENT be a secondary order issue? That makes no sense whatsoever. If it be replied that PC advocates cannot practice PC in the PCA, that is irrelevant. We would still not ordain a credo-Baptist, even if he were to agree to practice paedo-baptism while teaching credo-baptism. That, therefore, is no argument at all.

    Let me point out also that such a doctrinal failure, which is also a moral failure, is not the unforgivable sin, and is covered by the blood of Christ. I am pointing out that it IS a moral failure. Put in the above terms, I do not understand how it can be uncharitable to say so, unless you drag personalities into it. I am speaking of the issue itself, not who does or who does not believe it.

  10. greenbaggins said,

    May 28, 2012 at 9:14 am

    Andrew, how can you say that PC is not an issue found in the confession? Check out questions 173 and 177 of the Larger Catechism and revise your opinion forthwith. Would not infants fall under the category of “ignorant?” And isn’t “only to such as are of years and ability to examine themselves” a pretty clear exclusion of the practice of PC?

  11. May 28, 2012 at 10:45 am


    In the PCA, which is the point of this discussion, the minority paedocommunion report was rejected, as was PC itself by the General Assembly. Losing positions hold no sway or authority, period. That’s the bottom line for BCO purposes. I’m always amazed when folks use losing positions to defend errors. The Confession and Catechisms clearly teach against PC. Lane pointed out the LC, and I would add WCF 29.7 and 29.8 especially considering their attached proof texts. Supposed “good men of high stature” are not the issue. The plain reading of the Standards and the Scriptures is the issue.

  12. Jack Bradley said,

    May 28, 2012 at 10:56 am


    You’re right. If you think PC entails teaching a child to eat and drink judgment on himself, you cannot be morally neutral.

    Thankfully, the numbers of those who think paedocommunion entails recognizing that it is a cup of blessing, not of cursing, is growing every day.

    I think one of the significant reasons for that growth is seeing (as these linked documents amply demonstrate) that paedocommunion is the natural, scriptural outgrowth of paedobaptism.

    Sorry, but personalities are part of it. I know you don’t think it’s the unforgivable sin, but “moral failure” is weighty enough. You’ve also impugned every presbytery that grants exceptions to those who hold PC.

    No, we would not ordain a credo-baptist, because they completely misunderstand the covenant. But most presbyteries realize that this is not true of those who hold to PC. Of course those who hold to PC believe it to be more covenantally consistent.

  13. Jack Bradley said,

    May 28, 2012 at 10:59 am

    Yes, it was rejected, as was the majority position in the OPC. Both those bodies weren’t ready for it. But it’s only a matter of time. Truth always wins out.

  14. greenbaggins said,

    May 28, 2012 at 11:54 am

    Jack, the matter is simple: if I believe that PC entails having a child eat and drink judgment on himself, then I cannot hold that someone teaching PC is committing anything other than a moral failure, can I? You admitted the former in your first paragraph. I suggest, then, that you take back the bit about uncharitable. I am not being uncharitable. I am following my convictions.

    The Lord’s Supper is a blessing, not a curse. But any unworthy participation turns the cup of blessing into a cup of curse. Surely that is what Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 11. It is, therefore, like many other gifts of God: abuse turns it into a curse. The obvious example today is sex, of course, a great gift from God that is twisted in a myriad of different ways, thereby turning it into a curse, and a means of judgment. Therefore, kindly do not hint that I believe the cup is a cup of cursing. For that is not its nature, but is inherent in any abuse. Have you read Venema and the Duncan/Waters edited book on these subjects? I think they answer the PC position more than adequately.

  15. Roy Kerns said,

    May 28, 2012 at 11:58 am

    Pursuing the paedocommunion illustration sidetracks from the point which Lane stated so explicitly in the opening sentence of his post.

    Of course one may also point out that, as several noted, the sidetrack itself illustrates the point. What one teaches does lead people into either obedience or rebellion. There does not actually exist a theoretical vs practical distinction. That the ethical imperative flows from the redemptive indicative has a converse: teaching other than biblical reality generates chaotic behavior.

    May this understanding shape the preaching of those pastors reading these blog posts. It will keep them from the absurd idea that one may preach without expecting people to shape their behavior by what they hear from the pulpit.

  16. todd said,

    May 28, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    “You’ve also impugned every presbytery that grants exceptions to those who hold PC. ”

    Is this true? If so, what does this mean? Does it mean the minister might be allowed to believe it but not teach it, or believe it and teach it within certain Presbyteries?

  17. Zrim said,

    May 28, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    Lane, all agreed, but the point might gain more credibility (or disdain, depending) if not ordaining those who teach contrary to the confession extended to not making laity members who believe and practice the same. In other words, if paedo-communion is the mirror error of credo-baptism, and if doctrinal errors are also moral errors then why do so many American Presbyterians (and some Reformed) make members of those who withhold baptism from their children? The answer since the 19th century seems to be that non-ordained members are somehow different from ordained members such that the former don’t have to practice the Reformed faith the way the latter do. But my guess is that nobody would make members of a fornicating couple, so why make members of those either withhold baptism or extend the Supper? Isn’t repentance required in all cases?

  18. greenbaggins said,

    May 28, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    Zrim, those are important points that need to be reflected upon. I confess that I have not thought them through yet.

  19. andrew said,

    May 28, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    Re 11.

    Lane, your famous logic is blunt today.

    If I say paedocommunnion is not found “in the confession itself”, pointing out that it is found in the Larger Catechism affirms my point, and does not negate it.

    But that a passing matter.

    Is your post just a round about attack on paedocommunion, or do you actually believe what you post says? If so, are you willing to affirm discipline in the examples I mentioned?

  20. greenbaggins said,

    May 28, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    Andrew, you are nit-picking. The Westminster Larger Catechism is absolutely one with the WCF. It is part of our CONFESSIONAL standards. So, your assertion that it is not found in the confession is nonsense, if by that you mean that it has no confessional discussion. It does. So why would you even mention it? As if there is a heirarchy of our confessional standards? So, in fact it is your logic that is blunt, Andrew. As I told Zrim, I haven’t worked through the discipline examples that you or he brought up, so I would be reluctant to comment at this time.

  21. Dave said,

    May 28, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    “How does one tell what kind of category governs a particular failure or not? And how does one judge how serious an error is?”

    Seems like this suggests a third complicating factor that is implicit in much of what is happening in this discussion and in the church: that those necessary judgments based upon a perspicuous, inerrant and infallible standard (the Bible), in conjunction with fallible (amendable) subordinate standards which express the system of doctrine currently agreed upon by those who have vowed to uphold it to be that contained in the Bible, are inevitably authoritatively enforced by fallible men in courts ordained of God and guided by the Holy Spirit (yet not incapable of error), and deriving their force from their “own justice, the approbation of an impartial public, and the countenance and blessing of the great Head of the Church.” (BCO Preliminary Principles) Sanctification on any scale (individually or corporately) is a messy process through which we walk by faith, battling the frustrations with ourselves and others (in addition to the issues being deliberated, sins being mortified, …), but trusting in our faithful heavenly Father to make all of this work for our good and his glory.

    Not a response to any particular line of argument going on here, just an additional thought for the morning. Lord, give us wisdom and grace, that we may persevere.

  22. greenbaggins said,

    May 28, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    Jack, one other point comes to mind in all of this. As I’m sure you well know, Leithart wrote a book on the subject of PC entitled “Daddy, Why Was I Excommunicated?” Now, if you are correct that I am being uncharitable, do you think it is charitable of Leithart to suggest that a non-PC position effectively excommunicates children from the body of Christ? Surely, he would then be accusing non-PC folk like me of moral failure, wouldn’t he? As it so happens, since I believe he is committing a moral failure by teaching PC, he also thinks folk like me are committing a moral failure by not teaching and practicing PC. And, if PC is correct, then non-PC folk are committing moral failures by not giving the sacrament to children. Surely you can see this parity of reasoning, can’t you? And believe me, having read most of the relevant literature on PC, I can attest to the PC willingness to accuse non-PC folk of moral failure. Rhetoric like “Non-PC positions are preventing the little children from coming to Jesus” is quite common in PC literature (and wouldn’t that be a moral failure?). I respect the fact that they accuse us of moral failure. From their point of view, that is the logical outcome of their position. Similarly, the logical outcome of my position is that teaching and/or practicing PC is a moral failure. It is not uncharitable, then, to say so. It is simply the logical outcome of the positions.

  23. May 28, 2012 at 2:55 pm


    I hardly feel qualified to make this point any better than Venema, Duncan, or Waters, but PC involves a misunderstanding of the sacraments themselves and the role that they play in the Covenant of Grace.

    Baptism is a confirming ordinance, recognizing the believer’s child as a covenant child in the visible church with access to the promises of the covenant. The child may or may not regenerated at that time, or may not be elected at all. They will inevitably fall away, trample upon the promises and renounce the covenant later if they are not elect.

    The Lord’s Supper has an entirely different character. Nothing in 1 Cor 11:17-33 can actually be accomplish by or apply to an infant or child. The context of 1 Cor 11 makes it clear that the Lord’s Supper is for BELIEVERS ONLY. No one can make such a statement about an infant’s or child’s beliefs until the child can make a credible profession of faith, including discerning the Lord’s body, before the elders. Even then, no one knows for sure but at least the elders will have done the only due diligence possible this side of heaven. Thus as Lane says, if you force a non-elect infant or allow a non-elect child to partake of the body and blood of Christ, you are an active participant in bringing God’s judgement on them. Woe be to all in that situation!

    I think that it’s hypocritical to withhold the elements from adults professing to be non-believing yet give them to infants and children whose status cannot be determined. In both cases, the individual in question may or may not be elect and eventually regenerated. We would apparently take the unbelieving adult’s statements at face value yet provide those same elements to an infant or child who cannot even go so far as to make such a profession. We should follow Scripture and not serve the Lord’s Supper to either to be consistent.

    I cannot imagine how anyone could want to provide the Lord’s Supper to any who cannot fulfill the clearly stated commands in 1 Cor 11:17-33. To do so is indeed a moral failure as Lane states. Supposedly being “good men of high stature” doesn’t excuse anyone from the commands of Scripture.

  24. Roy Kerns said,

    May 28, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    Zrim #18, you correctly recognize a problem that confessional presby’s typically just don’t even think about: what to do with members who defy the Lord of the Covenant and refuse submission. Ex 12:48-49 tells how to resolve that situation: excommunication. Ex 4:24-26 declares that God does not take that defiance lightly. Neither may the church.

    With one caveat: time to discern whether someone is ignorant or defiant. It may be that someone new to the church has lots to learn as a brand new Christian. It may also be that person (family) has lots to unlearn, eg, sovereign grace baptists. In the meantime, they should be part of the church while it works to disciple.

    Of course that leads to actively using the occurrences of the sacraments as clear, bold teaching opportunities.

    BTW, in harmony with Lane’s thesis as declared in his opening sentence, those who think the Bible forbids baptizing children of professing believers must obey that conviction.

  25. andrew said,

    May 28, 2012 at 6:18 pm

    Re 21 – Lane says:

    “I haven’t worked through the discipline examples that you or he brought up, so I would be reluctant to comment at this time.”

    OK. But will you concede general point – that if x,y,or z (the examples given) are points the confession deal with – then those ministers in breach of those are suitable objects of discipline.

    If you can’t, your post is just a pose. If you do, fair play for consistency, and best wishes for persuading the rest of the PCA to clamp down on Sunday dinners and other such moral failings that so beset Zion in these days.

    On the other point – you misread my post to reformed musing, and rather than acknowledge that, reply with some mild insult. Your blog, your call. I never mind a bit of robust banter.

    My reason for mentioning (in passing) that you were refering to the LQ rather than WCOF, was to emphasize how far-reaching the suggestion in your original post. The LQ is well-known for its amount of detail, particularily in regard to the 10 commandments.

    It is not a knock-down argument, but seeing your reluctance to commit to some of the more obvious details of the confession, seems a valid reminder to folks, no?

    But lets leave that item there; the consistency point is more key than who has the sharpest logic ( which, in general, I readily concede to your good self)!

  26. Jack Bradley said,

    May 28, 2012 at 7:08 pm


    I can see the moral parallel to an extent, but the obvious difference is one of degree. Your position is that PC is positively leading the little ones into judgment, while Leithart’s is that non-PC is negatively depriving them of a means of grace.

  27. Zrim said,

    May 28, 2012 at 9:45 pm

    Roy, my point has in mind not those who are ignorant but are willful. Certainly I agree that patience is owed those in our midst who have not come to confess and practice the Reformed faith, in this case specifically both paedobaptism and credo-communionism. But what is puzzling is how a local Pres/Reformed church can affirm as members those who willfully practice that which is clearly contrary to the confessed doctrine and life. One explanation, as I suggested, could be the curious bifurcation between ordained and lay membership that sprang up in American Presbyterianism in the 19thC (something not seen among the earlier British Presbyterians or the Continental Reformed). Another may be the relative victory of sacramental latitudinarianism over precisonism.

    So, I think Lane is right to point out how PC is a test case for doctrinal and moral failure. But I also think there is the 800lb gorilla in the room concerning the other sacrament and ubiquitous affirmation of credo-baptists amongst paedobaptists. If credo-baptism is tolerated, even ecclesiastically affirmed, then why not paedocommunionism? Far be it from me to give FV any cover, but those who might suspect guilt-by-association here might have some ground so long as credo-baptism keeps getting passes.

  28. greenbaggins said,

    May 28, 2012 at 10:04 pm

    Jack, you downplay Leithart’s actual position rather a lot. His position is that non-PC positions effectively excommunicate children, not merely deprive them of grace.

  29. greenbaggins said,

    May 28, 2012 at 10:06 pm

    Zrim, I don’t know what you think of this, but my usual practice with credo-baptist members is to say initially that yes, they can join, but if, after due teaching and careful counseling they are not convinced of the paedo-baptist position, then they will need to look for a Baptist church. In other words, I do not allow the status quo to remain unchallenged. This actually rarely occurs, anyway. Most Baptists will look for a Baptist church.

  30. May 28, 2012 at 10:16 pm


    I want to return to your original point. Our BCO does wisely allow for a presbytery to grant differing levels of error. For instance, 34-5 states, “Heresy and schism may be of such a nature as to warrant deposition; but errors ought to be carefully considered, whether they strike at the vitals of religion and are industrially spread, or whether they arise from the weakness of the human understanding and are not likely to do much injury.”

    So, even with Paedocommunion advocates, there are really different kinds. There are some who think it is the most Scriptural but don’t see it as a major matter — since it is faith alone which justifies — and so don’t make it a major part of their system. But there are others who promote it, have websites about it, lobby GA about it, etc — they are industrially spreading it, and sometimes because it springs out of a larger doctrinal system which DOES strike at the vitals.

    So, the point is, it is probably too strong to say that PC — of itself — is a serious moral failure. All error is sin, including doctrinal error; but the phrasing, “moral failure” implies the need to discipline, imo.

    So, the point is, that the BCO does NOT regard all doctrinal error as serious moral failure. If it strikes at the vitals, then yes, it is moral failure deserving “deposition.”

  31. rcjr said,

    May 29, 2012 at 8:36 am

    Hesitant to get involved here, (and am happy to agree a. that one side of the other on the paedocommunion issue is engaged in moral failure, of necessity as either we are obeying Jesus or not and b. that fv, at least some places in the spectrum has far deeper issues as others have said) but I think I can, and need to understand a sort of side issue. Is it the PCA’s practice that one must subscribe to that system contained in the catechisms? I am more than willing to concede that the LC does not leave room for pc. I’m also willing to concede that the Divines would not have allowed it. But were I to seek entrance into the PCA, would I be required to list my exceptions to what is in the wsc, the lc and sc, or all three? How about the Directory of Worship?

  32. Zrim said,

    May 29, 2012 at 8:41 am

    Lane, that seems fairly standard practice, but I admit I remain somewhat puzzled by it. I’m glad for a line in the sand, but I also worry that such practice can send mixed and confusing messages. If opposing Reformed teaching is a problem such that it eventually requires sending someone away, I don’t know why it’s done later instead of sooner and after having affirmed by way of membership. My guess is that this wouldn’t be the approach with someone who just couldn’t shake unorthodox christology or soteriology (and rightly so), so it’s not clear to me why it would be for unorthodox sacramentology. The only thing I can think is that sacramental latitudinarianism is at play. It seems to me more prudent and loving to withhold membership until someone can affirm Reformed orthodoxy and orthopraxis, and in the meantime exercise patience. I’m not sure where the love is in affirming someone one day only to send him away the next.

  33. Zrim said,

    May 29, 2012 at 8:51 am

    Chris H., that is the question then, isn’t it? Is sacramental theology vital? If the second mark of the true church is the proper administration of the sacraments that seems to suggest that the answer is yes. In which case, whatever is contrary to Reformed sacramentology (e.g. PC and CB) strikes at the vitals. The alternative would seem to be to lower the stakes and revise the second mark, making the proper administration of the sacraments secondary instead of essential.

  34. May 29, 2012 at 9:04 am


    I think proper sacramentology is essential to the well-being of the church, but not its essence. Otherwise, we would not recognize those bodies which practice it differently than we do (BCO 2), though still in their fundamental integrity. We are not Landmarkers, but catholic; in fact, I would argue the most catholic of all churches, since we receive all baptisms and (normally) invite all true believers to the Table. And we allow members who affirm the five membership vows, without requiring them to adopt the WCF. Now, if one wants to argue that questions 3-5 involve obeying the WCF at every point, we have quite a different church than one I would be comfortable pastoring. Moreover, I am comfortable allowing in TEs who hold to PC humbly and not as part of a larger errant system. Our presbytery passed such a standard, which I would be happy to email you offline.

  35. Andrew Duggan said,

    May 29, 2012 at 11:39 am

    The other Andrew would well note that it is illegitimate to hold others such as Lane to a perfect level of consistency in all of their positions. Even if one is wrong on issue ‘B” doesn’t mean any attempt to hold the confessional and catechismal line on “A” (or “A” and “C through Z”) is just a “pose”. I seriously doubt Lane was excluding himself regarding doctrinal errors being moral failures. We all maintain as WCF 13 teaches that sanctification is imperfect in us all in this life.

    While it is terribly unpopular today to consider the WCF LC and SC as the system of doctrine taught in Holy Scripture, and that as such ministers would use that as a mutual agreement with respect to the organization of the church, is it really honest to claim it for the constitution of one’s church if that is not how it is going to be used? If the standard of discipline (for elders TE and RE) for doctrinal error is “does it strike at the vitals” , what then is your agreement on what constitutes the “vitals”? What subset of the WCF LC and SC are the vitals? The PCUSA in the latter part of the 19th and early part of the 20th centuries went down that path. It was less than a decade and a half from the doctrinal deliverance of 1910 to the Auburn Affirmation.

    So why do contemporary conservative Presbyterians think it won’t happen again in the PCA and OPC for that matter? Perhaps it should be considered that the reformations that produced the OPC and the PCA didn’t really address the underlying problem, but only turned the clock back (as it were), leaving the underlying constitutional problems intact.

    Those who do hold to PC (even if they agree not to teach it), should consider the way in which Lane frames the issue. The issue is one of eating and drinking judgment. 1 Cor 11 was written in the strong terms it was for the express purpose so that this would be clear. There is simply no way for the ignorant including young children and infants to examine himself per 1 Cor 11:28. So per WCF 1, when Jesus says suffer the little children to come unto me, we wonder regarding the scope of that, does that mean they should come to the Lord’s Table? 1 Cor 11:28 makes that perfectly clear, no because they cannot examine themselves.

    Even among the commenters on this thread, there is no agreement as to whether PC strikes at the vitals, although it seems to me that the majority would say it doesn’t. In this case I mean that striking at the vitals requires disciplinary action. Probably a lot more agreement on the FV, with some vocal exceptions, though! While the warning about the good ole boy network is well taken, I think the fluidity of what constitutes the vitals is also a serious factor. So if the WCF LC and SC taken together is not your vitals, then what is? Is deferring the determination of the question of what is included in the vitals to a case by case basis, really a wise way to organize a church? Is it the way Christ has organized his Church?

  36. greenbaggins said,

    May 29, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    RC, the WLC and the WSC have equal confessional status with the WCF in the PCA. What a person would do is not “declare exceptions.” Rather, he would list every place where he disagrees with the WCF, the WLC, and the WSC, and the Presbytery would judge whether it is merely a semantic difference, or whether it is an exception that does not strike at the vitals of religion, or whether it is a difference that strikes at the vitals of religion (and thus makes ordaining the man impossible). We do not subscribe to the Directory of Worship (unfortunately, as it has made worship completely uncontrolled).

  37. Zrim said,

    May 29, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    Chris, it seems to me that if proper sacramentology isn’t of the essence then some actual confessional re-working is in order. On top of making proper sacramentology the second mark of the true church, there are also things like WCF 28.4 and .5:

    “IV. Not only those that do actually profess faith in and obedience unto Christ, but also the infants of one, or both, believing parents, are to be baptized.

    V. Although it is a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance, yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto it, as that no person can be regenerated, or saved, without it:or, that all that are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated.”

    As well as Belgic 34 (in part):

    “For that reason we detest the error of the Anabaptists who are not content with a single baptism once received and also condemn the baptism of the children of believers. We believe our children ought to be baptized and sealed with the sign of the covenant, as little children were circumcised in Israel on the basis of the same promises made to our children.”

    I’m not sure how we can speak this way if sacramentology isn’t of the essence. And if you’re comfortable allowing TEs who hold to PC humbly and not as part of a larger errant system, does the same hold for those who hold to CB? If so, then maybe the Evangelical Free denom is onto something by allowing both PB and CB to co-exist.

  38. darrelltoddmaurina said,

    May 29, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    greenbaggins said on May 28, 2012 at 10:06 pm: “Zrim, I don’t know what you think of this, but my usual practice with credo-baptist members is to say initially that yes, they can join, but if, after due teaching and careful counseling they are not convinced of the paedo-baptist position, then they will need to look for a Baptist church. In other words, I do not allow the status quo to remain unchallenged. This actually rarely occurs, anyway. Most Baptists will look for a Baptist church.”

    Now that you’re in the South, Rev. Keister, that may change if there’s not a solid Reformed Baptist church in your area, or if you get a reputation in the local evangelical community as a careful exegetical preacher pastoring a church where people can come to learn about the details of the Bible. Baptism was almost never an issue in my church experience in Michigan or Iowa, but it became a **CONSTANT** issue of church life south of the Mason-Dixon line where the default position held by almost all evangelicals is believer’s baptism by immersion.

    If someone becomes a Calvinist in the North, they were probably baptized as a baby in whatever church their parents attended or with which they had some sort of nominal connection. Except for Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and people out of mainline liberal denominations, that certainly is not true in the South, and it’s not generally Catholics, Lutherans and mainliners who are listening to or reading Sproul, Kennedy, Ryken, etc., and deciding to seek out a Reformed church.

  39. May 29, 2012 at 2:00 pm


    Are you suggesting we de-church all Credo-Baptist churches? That is the logical end point of your argument. Essence = essence, after all. Neglecting paedo-baptism is a sin, not an excommunication.

  40. rcjr said,

    May 29, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    Thanks Lane.

  41. May 29, 2012 at 3:27 pm


    I’ve been on the Credentials Committee that examines/interviews candidates for ordination and/or transfer into the presbytery for about 8 years. Our presbytery is probably one of the more theologically conservative in the PCA from what I can tell. We carefully filter candidates for FV, PC, theonomy, non-cessation, etc., views. Consequently, those issues rarely arise at the committee because such adherents are prefiltered by calling congregations for the same errors. For example, my session eliminated a candidate for our assistant pastor position because of his PC views. Consequently, such folks rarely make it as far as the presbytery examination.

    In my experience, most of the issues that arise in examinations come from the catechisms rather than the WCF. There are some standard issues that we don’t consider exceptions (i.e., the definition of recreations on the Lord’s Day within specific limits of intra-family activities) and others that are exceptions of varying levels as Lane listed from the BCO. Ultimately, the presbytery decides what are exceptions and which will be permitted and with what limitations. That, in turn, provides guidance to the committee.

    I hope that this was helpful.

  42. Zrim said,

    May 29, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    Chris, that might be an instance of overstating matters. For better or worse, I’d rather say that credo-baptist churches are one significant step away from being true churches. But my main point has been to wonder why anyone would be formally affirmed in membership (ordained or not) who opposes what is clearly taught by the confessions concerning the sacraments. So far, the answers seem to be implying that there is more latitude than precision on what the proper administration of the sacraments means. But if that’s the case, I can’t see how anybody gets from there to “detesting the error of the Anabapists” or it being “a great sin to neglect this ordinance.” Either the confessional language needs to be relaxed to correspond to the modern scene, or the modern scene needs to tighten up to correspond to the confessional language.

  43. rfwhite said,

    May 29, 2012 at 4:52 pm

    Lane: granted that doctrinal failures are moral failures, I take it you do not believe and teach that all who commit such failures are subject to admonition, suspension, excommunication, or deposition. Is that correct?

  44. May 29, 2012 at 5:50 pm


    I am not sure but I think your first sentence may be a misstatement, that you perhaps left out a “not” before the phrase, “being true churches.” Is that right?

    If not, then I know of no one historically or presently who goes as far as you do in saying that CB churches are not true churches (except for some Anglo-Catholics I have met who insist on apostolic succession). Would you then (re)baptize those baptized in a Credo-baptist “church?” since it is no true church? Or just treat it as an irregularity?

    You have to know that your position that CB churches are not true churches is a fringe one at best, and one not supported by the Reformed tradition. Same with requiring lay people to subscribe to the Confession. See Dabney on Broad Churchism and his critique of Alexander Campbell for starters perhaps. At least I have never read of anyone advocating your position.

    Now, the optimistic amillienialist in me sees the CB error going away in due time (thousands of years?) and eventually seen as an unfortunate aberration, but there is no way churches which preach the Gospel and administer the Sacraments, even in some error, are not churches. We are supposed to be the catholic ones!

  45. rcjr said,

    May 29, 2012 at 8:30 pm

    I’m pretty sure my friend Michael Horton, and perhaps the whole of the Dutch tradition would take the position that cb churches are not true churches. Of course given that we all agree that Zwingli was wrong, I suspect that the sacramental mark of the church must be understood in relative terms. For my own way of thinking, those churches, ie Campbellite churches, that embrace a saving view of the sacraments are in fact not true churches. Thoae, on the other hand, who make either the cb error or the Zwingliam error are true churches because they have a sacramental view that, while having errors in it, still have a broadly correct view. Of course, given my aberrant view on paedocommunion I have a motive for such a latitudinarian view

  46. greenbaggins said,

    May 29, 2012 at 9:19 pm

    Dr. White, I have not thought through that matter yet. Still munching on it, as I am what Chris has said.

  47. Zrim said,

    May 29, 2012 at 9:47 pm

    Chris, what I’m trying to say is that given all the statements we have in the confessions about both ecclesiology and sacramentology, it just doesn’t seem all that controversial to conclude that when it comes to describing a true church CB (and PC) churches have some significant problems, to say the least. And in order to avoid those ecclesial problems it seems clear that the statements about the sacraments need to be relaxed, maybe more like “unfortunate aberration” instead of “great sin” and “detestable error.” But as it is, we have the language of latter and the implications seem significant.

    If it helps, knowing CBs who have a clear grasp of the gospel, I understand the consternation this causes. I don’t think the reformers could have anticipated Reformed CBs, but here we are and letting the first mark simply swallow up the second mark isn’t satisfactory; it’s not a little frustrating when fellow P&R speak as if there is really only one mark of the true church and two really good ideas. The better CBs I know would consider my children’s baptisms null and void, and in this way I feel that I ironically have something more in common with them than with fellow P&R who are willing to overlook their negligence, or for that matter PCs who tell CCs we are depriving our children of the means of grace.

  48. Cris Dickason said,

    May 29, 2012 at 9:56 pm

    Chris H. About the true/false church distinction (#45) – it is not as fringe as you think.

    The Canadian-American Reformed Churches do not recognize any credo-baptist churches, have no ecclesiastical contact with any such. But that is not to say that they declare all such communions as false churches. Why or how is that? Simple: the churches are under no responsibility to categorize everyone as false or true. There is no warrant or commission to label in general or in abstract other groups.

    The issue only needs to come up within that of church federations that have enough in common to actually attempt to talk or work towards mutual recognition or eventual organic union.

    Observation from 18 years in a Canadian-American Reformed Church.

    The OPC (Church home book-ending my “Canadian exile”) operates in a similar fashion. The Comm. on Ecumenicity & Inter-Chuch Relations does not have as a brief examining and ruling in/out all groups who call themselves church.

    So it is incorrect to try an paint Reformed or sideline Presbyterian federations into a corner over un-churching various communions. It is asking for an answer to a question which is not recognized as a question.

    The fact that a consistory or session might interview an individual and receive that one as a member does not entail accepting or recognizing as true whatever group the interviewee came from.

    Notice the fact that Roman catholic baptism is accepted in Reformed and sideline Presbyterian churches, without in any way, shape, or form recognizing Rome as a true church.


  49. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 29, 2012 at 11:30 pm

    Chris H, I appreciate the notes you’ve struck here.

    Lane, having chewed a bit on 1 Tim 4 and 6, 2 Tim 4, and Titus 1.10 – 16, I have to agree with you: doctrinal failings are moral failings. Those who teach unsound doctrine richly deserve rebuke.

    Having said that, the Scripture also warns us against doctrinal over-scrupulousness. Paul instructs Timothy, for example, to avoid foolish and ignorant speculations, for they produce quarrels. And again, he warns against a morbid interest in controversial questions (1 Tim 6.4). Not only so, but Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for “straining at gnats and swallowing camels” — a reference to their practice of debating the finer points of the law while disobeying the big, plain, and obvious teachings of the law.

    In light of those Scriptures, we might define doctrinal over-scrupulousness as “elevating a speculation to the level of required doctrine.”

    There are several historical examples of this. Luther’s insistence that consubstantiation is Gospel truth comes to mind. So does Beza’s conflation of supralapsarianism with predestination (Beza, On Double Predestination, Ch. 5) — a conflation that Turretin neatly dissected.

    In more modern times, we have seen G. Clark insist that paradoxes are inconsistent with sound doctrine and should be rooted out, a view that has overwhelmingly failed to convince the Reformed church.

    So my concern is this: recognizing that doctrinal failings are moral failings, I would also see room for a certain liberty of conscience on matters less clearly spelled out in Scripture.

    Let’s take the issue on the table of paedocommunion. Not all PC-ers are alike; some industriously spread their views, while others hold to PC as an acknowledged exception to the Confession, an exception held on Biblical grounds, which they refrain from teaching from the pulpit or practicing in worship.

    On what grounds could one criticize the latter group?

    It would improper to criticize them for believing the Scripture, even in the face of the Confession.

    On the other hand, it would be incorrect to charge them with failing to submit to the Church, in that they have shown all submission in good conscience. Submission is not agreement, as our wives and children could remind us.

    What I’m asking is for a sharper distinction between those who privately hold to PC and those who actively teach it. You suggest such a distinction in your post, whereas Zrim would exclude both groups from membership. Is it your intent to distinguish between these groups?

  50. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 29, 2012 at 11:59 pm

    Zrim (#43): But my main point has been to wonder why anyone would be formally affirmed in membership (ordained or not) who opposes what is clearly taught by the confessions concerning the sacraments.

    The Confession defines the visible Church as consisting “of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion.” And it admits of degrees, even in the administration of sacraments: “This catholic Church hath been sometimes more, sometimes less visible. And particular Churches, which are members thereof, are more or less pure, according as the doctrine of the Gospel is taught and embraced, ordinances administered, and public worship performed more or less purely in them. ”

    But the view expressed in #43 seems to admit to no such degrees: “Get the sacraments right, or no membership for you.”

    And strangely, you seem (though perhaps I’m misreading you) to be willing to extend the “true church” label to Lutherans more readily than you are to Baptists. And yet consubstantiation is a far more serious matter than credobaptism, since it attributes divine omnipresence to Jesus’ human nature. Surely a Christological error ought to carry more weight than a Covenantal error?

    #43 seems to be striving for purity of doctrine as a precondition of membership. If we admit that doctrinal errors are moral failings, then aren’t you asking people to exhibit a species of moral perfection prior to admitting them into your church?

  51. May 30, 2012 at 9:10 am


    Great line: “it’s not a little frustrating when fellow P&R speak as if there is really only one mark of the true church and two really good ideas.”

    However, my understanding is that Calvin did not hold discipline to be a mark of the Church per se, so there has even been disagreement as to what the marks are.

    But granted that Word & Sacraments are both marks, the Confession itself gives pride of place to the Word in WCF 14.1. Check it out. The Word ordinarily “wroughts” saving faith; the sacraments and prayer (only) “strengthen” it. A very important distinction and which gives us warrant to place preaching the Gospel clearly over and above getting one’s precise sacramentology correct.

  52. May 30, 2012 at 9:17 am

    RCJR & Cris,

    I was unaware that these parts of our tradition do not regard CB churches as true churches. I would still like to see some documentation to that regard, but I take your word for it. I think the analogy to the RC church is a good one.

    BTW, not all Campbellite churches believe in baptismal regeneration or necessity for salvation; that’s the problem, they have no uniform creed. But I agree if I got a guy from one of those type churches, then I would say they *don’t* actually preach the Gospel, are thus not true churches, and must therefore be baptized.

    But I have a really hard time saying that John Piper and Mark Dever and many others pastor “gatherings” on Sunday mornings, which are not churches. I know that sounds like an appeal to emotion or authority, and I don’t mean to be, but think through carefully what we would be saying if all CB churches are not part of the Visible Church on earth. What about Africa and China? I guess the Church is not growing there much at all, then; just some sort of proto-gospel movement?

    After all, it’s not like CBs are *trying* to go against the Gospel or the Scriptures. It is their sincere reading of the Acts texts and Romans 6 and Colossians 2. I think the case for paedo-baptism is VERY strong, but it is still not nearly as clear as justification by faith alone. We must grant some leeway to sincerely minded brothers who don’t see it yet.

  53. May 30, 2012 at 9:19 am


    P.S. I grant your point that we may want to take out the word “great” from WCF 28.6, or at least allow it as an exception.

  54. Zrim said,

    May 30, 2012 at 9:40 am

    Jeff, my point has been that CB/PC churches are “less pure,” while PB/CC churches are “more pure.” If you haven’t noticed, I have tried to stop short of “de-churching” (Chris H.’s word) or otherwise suggesting CB/PC churches to be “false.” It may be that that the language of falsehood be reserved for those that depart from the first mark. But I’m interested here in seeing PB/CCers own up to the second mark and at least be willing to admit that CB/PC churches are “less pure.”

    I don’t recall saying anything hitherto about Lutherans in this discussion at all. Perhaps you’re thinking of my suggestion in other places that Lutherans are the Reformed’s closest theological relatives (time used to be that when P&R were out of town over a Lord’s Day they’d search out a Lutheran church before a Baptist one, these days it’s vice versa). But that doesn’t mean something like consubstantiation is negligible and can be swallowed up by the first mark. If a Lutheran wanted membership in a Reformed church I think he’d have to exchange his consubstantiation for real presence as much as the Baptist would have to conform to paedobaptism. So I don’t agree with you that the Lutheran’s eucharistic error is worse than the Baptist’s baptismal error—they both are out of Reformed accord. This is part of what I am trying to understand—you assert that a Christological error is worse than a sacramental one. But if that’s the case then why does the second mark concern sacramentology?

    43 seems to be striving for purity of doctrine as a precondition of membership. If we admit that doctrinal errors are moral failings, then aren’t you asking people to exhibit a species of moral perfection prior to admitting them into your church?

    In his post, Lane suggested an equivalency between the doctrinal error of PC and the moral failure of theft and drunkenness. Would you ask me the same thing if I wanted to see a fornicating couple repent before admitting them as members? I doubt it. So I think imputing the expectation of “moral perfection” is unfair here. No, I’m not asking for perfection. I’m asking for people (ordained or lay) to confess and practice what we confess and practice in both doctrine and in life. Again, the only thing I can imagine as to why this is over-read as undue perfectionism is that a sort of doctrinal latitudinarianism is at play.

  55. May 30, 2012 at 10:17 am


    OK, I misunderstood you then. As a PB/CC guy, yes, I would definitely say that CB/PC churches are less pure on these counts, no question. That said, there may be other places where they happen to be more pure than my particular congregation (say in evangelism), so even as I try to correct them

    I also happen to agree that classical Lutherans and Reformed are much closer than many people realize. Chadwick’s excellent little history of the Reformation has a whole chapter on how they often cooperated in large parts of Germany to form union churches (and did so as well on the American frontier — hence the German Evangelical denomination).

    I also like to think that we are positioned between good reformed Baptist bodies and the Lutherans/some Anglicans. I think it’s a healthy spot, and we can benefit from both sides and helps us remain BOTH PB and CC, I think.

  56. May 30, 2012 at 10:18 am

    forgot to finish my last paragraph…. “so even as we try to correct them on these counts, we must do so humbly.” Something like that.

  57. Jack Bradley said,

    May 30, 2012 at 10:35 am

    I’m glad we’re at least discussing this. It seems there is no room for discussion about baptism and membership on the Baptist side:

    “As baptists we’re not denying that paedobaptists have a right to their own perspective, we are simply maintaining the integrity of our own convictions. Our consciences will not permit us to welcome into membership and communion those who have not obeyed Jesus at the point of baptism.

    This is the whole reason there are Baptist churches at all. This is why baptists don’t commune with Presbyterians, though it doesn’t close down the possibility of cooperation in gospel efforts that are wider than local church ministry (such as T4G and TGC). If this issue were not big enough to divide over, to deny membership over, then why did the baptists ever separate from the presbyterians?”

  58. Zrim said,

    May 30, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    Chris H., thanks. Humility is obviously a virtue that should mark. But so should wisdom, and I’m still not sure extending membership to those we mean to correct is wise. It seems like a mixed message.

  59. Zrim said,

    May 30, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    Jack, that’s my kind of Baptist. If only there were more P&R like him. His point raises the question: if there are Reformed (credo) Baptist churches, is it only a matter of time before we see Reformed (paedo) Communionist churches? A Northern Communionist Federation to mirror the Southern Baptist Convention?

  60. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 30, 2012 at 1:05 pm

    Zrim, yes, I would agree that CB and PC churches are less pure.

    If you haven’t noticed, I have tried to stop short of “de-churching”

    I noticed, but I wasn’t able to square that with the “disen-church-izing” of folk in #43.

    Perhaps you’re thinking of my suggestion in other places that Lutherans are the Reformed’s closest theological relatives


    This is part of what I am trying to understand—you assert that a Christological error is worse than a sacramental one. But if that’s the case then why does the second mark concern sacramentology?

    Actually, the point is simpler. There are two sacramental errors on the table (consubstantiation and CB). One strikes at Christology; the other strikes at the nature of the Covenant. Which is the greater error?

    (As always, I appreciate your way with words — “exchange his consubstantiation for real presence” is well-stated)

    In his post, Lane suggested an equivalency between the doctrinal error of PC and the moral failure of theft and drunkenness. Would you ask me the same thing if I wanted to see a fornicating couple repent before admitting them as members? I doubt it.

    Well, I am suggesting that PC is not equivalent to public theft and drunkenness. Two reasons:

    (1) Theft and drunkenness are clearly and explicitly condemned in Scripture. PC is condemned by inference, an inference that relies on several reasonable but not inarguable assumptions. The case against PC rests on assuming that 1 Cor 11 comprehends children, and the assumption that children are incapable of exercising the faith needed to benefit from the sacrament.

    I think both of those assumptions are sufficiently reasonable that I reject PC. But I can also appreciate that others might question those assumptions in good conscience by argument from Scripture.

    By contrast, Scripture is abundantly clear on both theft and drunkenness. One cannot thieve on Scriptural grounds.

    (2) Again, I believe there is a difference between privately holding a rejected view and publicly disseminating it.

    The latter suggests rejection of church authority; the former does not.

    At one point, you believed that dissent was a legitimate part of the Reformed tradition. Have you changed your mind?

  61. Zrim said,

    May 30, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    Jeff, no, I have not changed my mind on the legitimacy of dissent in the Reformed tradition. And whereas you affirm those for membership who oppose Reformed sacramentology, I exercise my dissent.

  62. Cris Dickason said,

    May 30, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    Chris H. @ 53

    You ask about documentation: it’s mostly an argument from silence. There is no carte blanche labeling of other “communions” or fellowships as “false” with the exception of the Roman catholic church. There is the basic and historical recognition that the Roman church has so departed the truth as to be false. Indeed, in terms of the Belgic Confession, Rome exhibits its falseness in its persecution of the true church. The OPC’s principles of the unity of the Church ( do mention the goal of “one world-wide presbyterian/reformed church.” That’s as ultimate goal. I guess the test would come if a baptist body applies for some level of ecclesiastic fellowship.

    So you are only going to find documented statements and efforts at ecclesiastic fellowship between those close enough to make it matter. The rest just isn’t given a label, because it’s not a proactive thing, this labeling of true/false.

    Note, the positions of denominations and federations and their committees do not force one’s personal opinion, one is not required to regard with suspicion or disdain a co-worker who attends a baptist church.

    Chris, you stated:

    BTW, not all Campbellite churches believe in baptismal regeneration or necessity for salvation; that’s the problem, they have no uniform creed. But I agree if I got a guy from one of those type churches, then I would say they *don’t* actually preach the Gospel, are thus not true churches, and must therefore be baptized.

    Am I reading you correctly: you would rebaptize one who came from a Campbellite church? I’m surprised. Do you require a convert from Rome to be rebaptized?

    Granted, it’s anecdotal, but way back, a number of friends made their way from the Jesus People movement (Calvary Chapel and all that) into the OPC. That is the only time someone In know of was asked to be rebaptized. This was because the “prior” one had been one of those swimming pool rites by a “lay man” and not by an ordained minister.

    I am intrigued by your position.

  63. May 30, 2012 at 4:40 pm


    I think it is left up to each Session to investigate the previous “church” and/or “baptism” to determine if it is a Christian church and was a baptism. Almost always, we here have accepted every form of Trinitarian baptism done in a Christian setting, even if irregular. This is because being catholic on this matter is very important to us and we want to honor what we believe God has already done.

    So, yes, we accept RC baptisms, and other irregular baptisms, for instance, one performed by a Cru Staff member in a pool, done decently and in good order, and this Staff member was an ordained man. Irregular, but we still deemed it to be baptism. If we are wrong, I am certain this brother is still going to heaven on account of his faith.

    But here are three recent situations where we chose to baptize, we believe for the first time:

    1) the recipient could not remember if they were baptized as an infant, and neither parent could either; nor did the church have a record of it. So we baptized.

    2) the recipient was baptized in the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a Trinitarian, and sola fide church; yet which still received the book of Mormon as a secondary standard. We deemed this to not be a Christian church. (But I happen to think there may be Christians within this church.)

    3) the recipient was spontaneously baptized in a swmming pool at a camp by a possibly unordained man, as part of a ritual to denouce Satan and devote oneself to God. We deemed this to be some sort of extra-biblical commitment ceremony, but not baptism. Plus the recipient could not remember if the Trinitarian formula was used.

    So, to answer your question, if a baptized individual came to us from a Campbellite church, I probably would not baptize them if it were a fairly moderate variety, such as the Disciples of Christ, or Instrumental Church of Christ.

    But there are some Campbellite churches which have become cults, preaching a salvation of faith plus works AND that you MUST be IMMERSED in THEIR CHURCH to be saved. If you die on the way to your baptism, you still go to hell. Obviously, this is much worse than Rome, because they believe that THEY are the only true church, e.g. the Boston Church of Christ, aka the International Church of Christ. They are no longer Christian, but a cult. I would baptize one of these, no question.

    Having said all that, I am sympathetic with the argument that says we should baptize converts from Rome, and used to hold to that myself. But I have just conformed myself to the majority report of the PCA on the matter. Hope that helps.

  64. May 30, 2012 at 4:48 pm


    You wrote: “Humility is obviously a virtue that should mark. But so should wisdom, and I’m still not sure extending membership to those we mean to correct is wise. It seems like a mixed message.”

    We do this all the time. It’s Presbyterianism 101. If they are justified, get them in the church, and then disciple them. We have no rights to keep the keys from them, if we deem them to be justified. I have been astounded and gratified to see how much people mature in their conduct and doctrine, once on the insider and subject to the official discipleship of the Church. I think it’s God’s plan of discipleship.

    See my next post, please.

  65. May 30, 2012 at 4:49 pm


    Here is Dabney on the subject, from his essay arguing for strict subscriptionism, called “Broad Churchism:”


    “In enforcing upon church teachers and rulers the sacred obli­gations of strict orthodoxy, Presbyterians fully admit that some doctrines of the Christian system are not fundamental to salva­tion. By this we mean that a soul who embraces the funda­mental and necessary points will be saved, notwithstanding his failure, through ignorance or misconception, to embrace the former. We accordingly gladly receive into the body of Christ’s church catholic, and into the communion of saints, all such per­sons, although they do not receive sundry truths which we are assured God has revealed. Again, in obedience to Rom. xiv. 1, “Him that la weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations,” we uniformly receive private or lay members to the full communion of our own branch of the church who pro­fess only the primary rudiments of the faith, and we require nothing more of them than that they confirm that profession by a life of repentance. Our Directory, Chap. IX. Sec. 1, in­structs pastors to inquire only whether the life of the applicant be consistent, and if he has knowledge to discern the Lord’s body. As to the flock, there is no church under heaven more catholic and liberal than ours, in receiving all, whatever their doctrinal differences from us, provided they truly receive Christ as their Redeemer. We believe, indeed, that of the shepherds who undertake to guide the flock, our divine Head exacts more perfect knowledge and agreement. But even where they fail of that doctrinal harmony with us to such an extent that we dare no longer to entrust to them a part of the flock for which God has made us responsible, we still act with respectful considera­tion for the uncertainties of the human reason, and draw a broad distinction between the misfortune of honest error, and the crimi­nality of willful transgression. (See Book of Discipline, Chap. V., Sec. 14).”

  66. darrelltoddmaurina said,

    May 30, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    I agree with ZRim on very little but I do agree with what I think he’s saying here about the great evil of allowing children to eat and drink damnation to themselves at the Lord’s Table.

    There is no excuse for a Reformed church to practice paedocommunion and if someone is teaching it, he should be carefully examined to see if he’s merely confused or worthy of discipline. Ages of spiritual maturity differ, but coming to the Lord’s Table is an extremely serious matter. Why, other than a low view of God’s warnings about unworthy participation, would we possibly let someone come to the Table who we wouldn’t consider capable of any other major responsibility of adulthood?

    The standard Dutch Reformed practice of requiring the sort of spiritual maturity usually shown in young adults or older teens seems entirely appropriate. Exceptions exist and wise elders understand them, but the exception should never be allowed to become the norm.

  67. Zrim said,

    May 30, 2012 at 6:48 pm

    Chris, thanks for the Dabney quote. Though he seems to be propping up the bifurcation between ordained and lay membership (such that the latter do not have to confess and practice what the former do), an American Presbyterian notion that this Dutch Reformed believer can’t countenance, I do think there is something to be gained here:

    But even where they fail of that doctrinal harmony with us to such an extent that we dare no longer to entrust to them a part of the flock for which God has made us responsible, we still act with respectful considera¬tion for the uncertainties of the human reason, and draw a broad distinction between the misfortune of honest error, and the crimi¬nality of willful transgression.

    Like I said above to Roy, I am not talking about those in honest error but in willful error. I don’t understand what sense it makes to formally affirm those in willful error. (Indeed, I don’t even understand what someone in willful error wants in seeking membership in a church that opposes what they hold. You may think this is academic, but our URC has extended associate membership to CBs. Like the article Jack linked for us, I thought the point of being BAPTIST was largely sacramental, so whatever else a CB likes about a Reformed church, wouldn’t the paedobaptism be enough to count it out?)

    Still, when it comes to honest error, I don’t see what’s so problematic about delaying membership until matters are sorted out. You say, and I have heard this many times from those who share your view, that from your experience eventually most folks come around. Well, why not bank on that experience, encourage these folks to informally continue on in your midst and then affirm with formal membership once things click? I have to say, it all sounds so rushed when you say “get them into church.” What’s the big hurry? Where’s the patience, even trust that God will preserve his people and lead them into all truth?

  68. Zrim said,

    May 30, 2012 at 6:49 pm

    DTM, as you may know, our shared former CRC effectively approved PC last year (and I just received my Banner this afternoon, whose cover story is all about fanning the PC flames). So far, it doesn’t look like cultural Calvinism has been doing her much good. Say what you will, but whatever else it’s about, 2k is after a higher view of the church and her sacraments.

  69. andrew said,

    May 30, 2012 at 7:14 pm

    Re 36 – Andrew Duggan

    I think we can make a distinction be personal and logical consistency. I am not arguing that Lane is involved in any moral failings at all, nor would such be relevant (that would probably be some sort of ad hominem fallacy).

    Instead, the alleged flaw is in the argument -i.e that it seems to lead to a posistion so absurd/extreme that no one will go there. Whether correct or not, that seems a fair and common TYPE of response to me.

    You are right that not affirming all of the confessional material as of the ‘vitals’ of religion leaves us without as clear and objective a standard. But are you willing to pay the price by disciplining the minister who doubts a Pauline authorship of Hebrews or who enjoys a good Sunday dinner?

    My suggestion is that we treat the Confession as the ‘presumed posistion’/standard, from which certain exceptions can be granted (i.e good faith subscription). This gives us a fair amount of certainity and objectivity, but allows conscience on what most regard as minor matters. I recognise that this ultimately places the guard for orthodoxy with the church, since it is deciding on a case by case basis. But the church is also your criterion, since it authored the confessions.

    But Lane’s suggested posistion, even if we found someone willing to actually hold it, is not without some complications. I have already challeneged Lane as to whether his view of the confession is itself confessional. Then we have the difficulty of how explicit something must be – can we reason by ‘good and necessary’ consequence from the confession?

    So on the paedocommunnion example, it is possible that the Confession is at odds withself. The main planks of the PC case (children are members, comunion is for members, communion is a symbol of membership/unity) are confessional and conceded by by most (all?) Presbyterians: the quarrel is with what PCer’s see as the logical implications.

    So from a PC point of view the confession contradicts itself: he does not have to see himself as being ‘unconfessional’; he merely chooses what conflicting part to affirm. Now admittedly, he disagrees with a clear and specific statement of the Larger Catechism (albeit a brief one) in favour of implied teaching. But if those implications do logically follow, and follow from several central teachings found widely throughout the Confession, there is an arguable case.

    In addition, a church could give communion a 3yr old and reasonably conform to the LC (since thit does not define what ‘years and abilty to discern’ means). Would you be content that the great moral evil of PC had thus been avoided, and orthodoxy maintained?

    I am reluctant to get into a substantial discussion on PC, since that would detract from the apparant purpose of the post. If you look under the tag ‘paedocommunion’, there is a fairly extensive discussion in the comments. In my jaudinced opinion, the credocommunion position was placed under a good deal of pressure. However, Lane and Doug’s exchange of posts stopped before we ever got into the meat of I Cor 11, so we never really heard the CC arguement in its full strenght and glory.

    In brief though – it is not enough for you to cite the verses about judgement and self-examination. To engage with the PCer you need to show why it is not possible to understand these verses in the same way as we understand verses like “Repent, and be baptized”, or “Whoever does not work should not eat”. We realize that these promises or warnings are addressed to those capable of repenting or working. So why can’t I Cor 11 be addressed to those capable of self examination?

    Now no one in the latest CC book (Guy Waters) even attempts to address this, which is one reason why the book is so disappointing. This might be a deliberate putting their head in the sand, as they don’t think there really is an answer. Or perhaps they assumed some one else in the book would do it. Or perhaps, as I suspect, they have never really understood the paedocommunion argument.

    Given the centraility of I Cor 11 to the credocommunion case, this is a basic and foundational question to answer. The failure to do so is propably the reason why we seem to talk past each other when discussing the topic.

  70. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 30, 2012 at 9:33 pm

    Zrim (#69): 2k is after a higher view of the church and her sacraments.

    Exactly. And for that reason, I appreciate your dissent. The church ought to be about preaching the word and administering the sacrament. These are the marks of the church; these are the mission of the church. And I appreciate that you want members to affirm that they are on board with the mission of the church before they join.

    Now, I’m asking you to consider qualifying your dissent by including the doctrine of the visible church.

    Consider what it means to say to a person, “We will not accept you for membership in the visible church because X.”

    The Confession says this: “[the visible church] is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.”

    That is, membership in the visible church is a fallible mark of salvation.

    For that reason, excommunication means something. It is “shutting the kingdom against the impenitent.”

    Likewise, admission to membership means something. It is “opening the kingdom to penitent sinners.”

    And refusing admission to membership … what does it mean? What should be the threshold for that refusal?

  71. Zrim said,

    May 30, 2012 at 10:17 pm

    Jeff (#71), in the context of this discussion, refusing admission to membership could have more to do with the church involved than with the person in question. To affirm those who oppose what we hold to be of the essence of the faith seems undermining and contradictory on the part of the church. Following the cues of the marks, the threshold is not every jot and tittle of doctrinal formula, it is simply gospel and sacrament.

    You know I love my analogies, so I think of membership in marital terms. If someone says he wants to marry my daughter but he shrinks on the part about, say, sticking around in sickness, well, then he mayn’t marry her because that is of the essence of marriage. I can understand an element giving a man trouble, and I can even believe he really does love my daughter, but if he wants my affirmation he has to abide by the essence of the institution. Maybe he thinks I am being too strict, but so be it. To allow a man who shrinks on an essential to marriage is to do a disservice to my daughter. I trust you get who’s who and what’s what in this analogy. Maybe it’s more about protecting the church than assuaging a man’s (or woman’s) inward sense that s/he belongs to Jesus.

  72. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 30, 2012 at 10:56 pm

    Is it possible that you are taking the marks of the institutional church and mistaking them for the marks of individual church members?

  73. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 31, 2012 at 8:21 am

    Zrim (#72): Following the cues of the marks, the threshold is not every jot and tittle of doctrinal formula, it is simply gospel and sacrament.

    That’s reassuring. For a moment there I thought you were walking down the John Anderson close(d) communion path.

    But let’s take the marriage analogy, pausing to shudder at the prospect of either of us becoming a father-in-law anytime soon.

    Suppose your prospective son-in-law is hanging out with you over root beers (he’s an ex-Baptist), and the question comes up, “What if my daughter went missing. Would you get re-married?”

    And suppose for the sake of discussion that your preferred answer would be, “Yes, for the sake of our kids, I would get re-married after X years had passed.”

    But he says, “No, I would hold out hope until a corpse is found.”

    What then? Is this difference of opinion significant enough to tell your daughter, “I cannot give my blessing to this marriage”?

    Likewise here: If a man comes to you for membership. He affirms the entirety of the Confession BUT believes that WLC 173 is overly restrictive. Are you going to pull the trigger of withholding church membership from this person?

    This seems to lack sense of proportion.

    And that brings me back to the point: Word and sacrament are big deals. But so is visible church membership, and the withholding of membership is equivalent to denying ordinary possibility of salvation.

  74. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 31, 2012 at 8:26 am

    …and let’s clarify precisely whom we are talking about. I’m referring here to individuals who agree to outwardly refrain from practicing PC, but believe privately that PC is more likely to be the correct doctrine than non-PC.

    In other words, submissive dissenters.

  75. Andrew Duggan said,

    May 31, 2012 at 8:46 am


    The solution you propose about allowing exceptions, is really none, as the each exception is either the camel’s nose or some other larger portion of him inside the tent. Rather, to be objective and honest, the church should amend by deletion those words, phrases or sections of the Confession, LC and/or SC (the Standards) to which it would like to grant exceptions. Where the the Standards are silent then liberty is allowed. For example, the standards do allow liberty on eschatology (a-mill vs post-mill, and perhaps non-dispy premill). Also the “main” Presbyterian church in America amended the Standards in the 18th century mostly by deletion, so if the contemporary churches need a better Standard then it can amend.

    To suggest the Standards are contradictory (or at odds with themselves) on the subject of PC is nonsense. The limits in LC 177 for the Lord’s Supper are limits of which members are to come to the Lord’s Supper, not a contradiction. Any reading that suggests the Standards approve of that is a misreading of the Standards, not a contradiction within them. Appealing to alleged contradiction certainly is the contemporary wedge to break the bands of Christ and cast his cords away.

    You seem to frame the issue as: if we suggest discipline for the moral failing of doctrinal error, who would be left to minister in the church? How about calling errant ministers and elders to repentance and compliance on the church’s confession as being the system of doctrine taught in Holy Scriptures? Errant elders rather than taking exceptions should instead increase their efforts in searching the Scriptures to come to the understanding of the doctrines taught in the Standards as a reflection of those in Scripture rather than to assert their own or their favored professors’ much better exegesis. It seems to me that many elders today have moved way beyond a “Berean” critical reading of the Standards, to a how can I show myself to be smarter and/or wiser than the authors of the Standards.

    As I stated in my first comment, this is a hard thing that Lane has said, who can take it? A great many of the issues of the day are a direct result of the church’s answer to that question being, it is too hard, so we’re not even going to try.

  76. May 31, 2012 at 9:10 am

    …perhaps the whole of the Dutch tradition would take the position that cb churches are not true churches.

    I’m fairly confident this is not accurate.

  77. Zrim said,

    May 31, 2012 at 9:23 am

    Jeff, you also know that while I like analogies I also think they have their limitations. The point was that there are certain essentials to institutions, and if people can’t abide those essentials then adhering to the institution becomes nonsensical.

    So withholding visible church membership on these grounds, at least to my mind, really isn’t about making a wooden and unwarranted one-to-one correspondence between visible and invisible church status. I’m of the mind that there are plenty of sheep outside the visible church (and goats within) and who will even remain outside for the duration (and hypocrites within). But my point has to do with how the visible church ought to be ordered and populated. And when it comes to those not born into her, all I ask is adherence to the Reformed understanding of gospel (sola fide) and sacrament (PB/CC).

    And on top of this, I understand the reality of human frailty and doubts, so even feebly adhering to these things is sufficient. Heck, after years of being a broad evangelical, when I took my membership vows in a Reformed church I was still more CB than PB. I make room for growing into an understanding not yet fully grasped. Same for when I got married—I really didn’t understand what it meant to adhere to certain vows. Nevertheless, I made those vows because I at least understood they were essential to the program. And I understood that by the time we had kids I’d better be more PB than CB because that’s what it means to be Reformed.

  78. BJ Mora said,

    May 31, 2012 at 10:27 am

    Many Presbyterian churches admit CBs to membership because we believe that that position (assuming a credible profession of faith and no error such as baptismal regeneration) is not necessarily a barrier to being Christian and therefore should not be excluded from membership. The same churches do not ordain CBs because that position is enough of an error to preclude them from being fit to lead and teach.
    Lane’s approach (post 30) is the “hardest line” approach but certainly acceptable; a more lenient approach leads to the old joke about the PCA being the second largest Baptist denomination in the South.

    So the “laity” may have much more error than the leadership; but this is OK for how are all to be corrected, refined, and repent if necessary unless they sit under sound teaching?
    One of my very best brothers says all theological questions ultimately come down to either ecclesiology or soteriology. This one is ecclesiological. We are willing to say that there are laity who are not fit and may never be fit for leadership; I daresay that those good CB churches who would never admit us Presbyterians believe differently – that any member can lead, if not in worship, in some sort of ministry, as they feel themselves purer in doctrine and in membership.

    So regarding the “discipline” question Lane is pondering (post 18), I actually don’t think it’s that difficult, as in a sense, Lane, you are already doing it at least at the membership level in a mild way – for example, CBs are welcome for a while; other errors could be dealt with similarly; but errors by leadership (the ordained) should be dealt with much more intensely and swiftly.

  79. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 31, 2012 at 11:00 am

    I appreciate that you are not being rigidly dogmatic here.

    As my final push, I would point out that you’ve boxed yourself into the position of being *firm* on a position not in the Confession (that membership should be restricted to those who take no exceptions on sacraments), but dismissing as “wooden and unwarranted” on language that is in the Confession (that outside of membership in the visible church, there is no ordinary possibility of salvation).

    It just seems that you’re being doctrinally hard where you should be soft, and doctrinally soft where you should be hard.

    That said, you would still be very welcome as a member in our church, despite your clear need to grow in your understanding of the marks of the church. (hah!)

  80. Zrim said,

    May 31, 2012 at 11:27 am

    Jeff, it may be a box of your own making. First, in relation to the question of membership, I think I’m only following what seems to be the implications of our confessional standards. If sacramentology isn’t essential to being Reformed then amend Belgic 29 and 34 to being more amenable to CB. We might end up Evangelical Free though.

    Second, I consider mine a high Calvinist view of the church, not a Roman Catholic one. Adhering to the visible church is vital (contra the evangelicals) but not salvific (contra the Catholics).

    Third, thanks for the welcome, but I think providence might have us in Little Geneva for a while yet.

  81. Andrew Duggan said,

    May 31, 2012 at 11:49 am

    As a follow up to the other “andrew”, I should add regarding PC, you are mixing apples and pine-cones with comparing the warning about those who will not work should not eat, with those who “cannot” make an examination of himself to see if he can discern the Lord’s body. 1 Cor 11 says Let a man examine himself then eat and drink. Whether the reason is cannot examine or will not examine, or does not examine himself, it does not matter, failing to examine one’s self precludes the eating and drinking of the Lord’s Supper. I sense a rather Jim Jordanian manuver of taking two unrelated things together and and then say the latter is can only be understood as modified by the former. That is not a valid way of doing theology. Do you have something actually in context regarding 1 Cor 11 and/or the Lord’s supper that would modify the teaching of 1 Cor 11 as summarized in LC 177?

    Additionally, the PC guys are making an assertion that infants are to be admitted to the Lord’s Supper, contrary to the practice of the Reformed Churches and at the same time claiming that the burden of proof is on the credo communion. Sorry, but if you want PC, then legitimally demonstrate it from Scripture. The Standards reflecting the Scriptures teach CC. This whole idea that every time some old error gets re-presented to the church, the church has to come up with some new defence of orthodoxy is totally bogus. How about “been there, done that”. If you won’t beleive LC 177, then 1000 pages of new explainations are not likely to help.

  82. Cris Dickason said,

    May 31, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    Mark @ 77 – Sorry to sound so blunt, but I am very certain you are wrong on this. My only qualification: “Historically speaking.” Whatever some contemporary groups representing or descending from the Dutch Reformed Churches might now say about other fellowships and recognition, it was not the case when the Belgic Confession and the Church order of Dordt held an authoritative place in the life of “Dutch” Reformed Churches. Look at the simple beauty – the uncluttered situation as seen by the Churches of the Belgic Confession;

    Article 28 – Everyone’s duty to join the Church
    We believe, since this holy assembly and congregation is the assembly of the redeemed and there is no salvation outside of it, that no one ought to withdraw from it, content to be by himself, no matter what his state or quality may be. But all and everyone are obliged to join it and unite with it, maintaining the unity of the Church. They must submit themselves to its instruction and discipline, bend their necks under the yoke of Jesus Christ, and serve the edification of the brothers and sisters, according to the talents which God has given them as members of the same body.

    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 and to join this assembly 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.
    All therefore who draw away from the Church or fail to join it act contrary to the ordinance of God.

    From the Canadian Reformed Churches, copyright 1996.

    Next, appreciate Article 29 on the True and False Church, and the point that the marks of the Christian are to match the marks of the church, and then recall the immediately prior Article 28, the true christian is bound to join the true church.

    From there you have to remember that the Belgic Confession explicitly states in Art 34:

    Baptism should never be repeated, for we cannot be born twice*. … For that reason we reject the error of the Anabaptists, who are not content with a single baptism received only once, and who also condemn the baptism of the little children of believers.
    * i.e., re-born twice

    There was simply no thought of “inter-church relations” with the Anabaptists. The Three Forms of Unity are quite plain that there’s no place for Rome or the Anabaptists. This is the historic position since the 1619, when the 3rd “form” (Canons of Dordt plus the Church Order of Dordt) were composed.


  83. June 1, 2012 at 9:58 am

    Chris, you will note I responded to the comment that the “whole of the Dutch tradition” would agree that CB churches are not true churches. Not to sound too blunt in return, but you haven’t supplied anything that disproves my observation. I am unaware of any official consensus of Dutch Reformed denominations you can show in history that have applied the confession in the manner you suggest.

  84. Cris Dickason said,

    June 1, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    Mark, I’m puzzled. What are you looking for? You are NOT going to find lists of proscribed or false denominations. Both Refomred and OPC church relations do not work of function that way. The Reformed Churches just don’t do that, even though these same Reformed Churches do not back down from the true/false distinction of the Belgic Confession. The Belgic Confession’s teaching on true/false is not used in some high-handed or proud manner to write off everyone in advance.

    I speak from 18 years (adult years, not growing up) in the Canadian-American Reformed Churches. That’s just not how things are done, or discussed. Perhaps “historical practice” is better than “historical position”, in case you think “position” implies a paper/document.

    The OPC does not work that way either, within the OPC Form of Govt (FOG), where the terminology is churches that are more pure/less pure. The OPC CEIR does not keep a score card of Christendom. We don’t take the table of contents from Ahlstrom’s A Religious History of the American People and run through the groups listed and mark off true, false, or 90% pure, 80% pure, 90% false, etc.

    Hope this is helpful.

  85. June 1, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    I suppose we are in agreement then that are no official pronouncements as such applying the confessions to say CB churches are not true churches.. How would one then go about demonstrating this has been the historical “practice” of Dutch churches as a whole to view CB churches as not true churches? Maybe you are aware of some reliable article or treatise out there demonstrating that you are right and I’m wrong? And just a note, the issue of formal “ecclesiastical fellowship” is not entirely relevant, since there are churches that the Dutch Reformed are not in fellowship with that nonetheless are viewed as true churches.

  86. andrew said,

    June 2, 2012 at 1:29 am

    RE 82 Andrew Duggan

    Your post is precisely what I mean. Asserting that we must use a different hermenutic I Cor 11 than II Thess. 3, or the baptism passages is all well and good, but you need to show why this is. Is there, for example some gramatical reason in the construction of I Cor. 11?

    Historically, you are aware that PC is the traditional practice of the church? CC has the accolade of the ‘novel err’, albeit one commanding universal assen int the West. See Nick Needham’s cunning chapter in Guy Waters, Children and the Lord’s Supper.

  87. adoptedsidekick said,

    July 28, 2012 at 7:47 am

    Reblogged this on A Sidekick's Blog and commented:
    Another good reason for members of the PCA to abandon complacency and quit leaving theology to “the experts.” Doctrinal failures are MORAL failures! Greenbaggins offers this enlightening commentary on why doctrine matters and why members of so-called “Confessional” churches can go far astray from their foundations IN SPITE OF THE CONFESSIONS and catechisms.

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