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I am a 1967 graduate of The Citadel (Distinguished Military Student, member of the Economic Honor Society, Dean's List), a 1975 graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div., magna cum laude, member of the Phi Alpha Chi academic honor society); I attended the Free University of Amsterdam and completed my History of Dogma there and then received a full scholarship from the Dutch government to transfer to the sister school in Kampen, Holland. In 1979 I graduated from the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Churches of Holland (Drs. with honors in Ethics). My New Testament minor was completed with Herman Ridderbos. I am also a 2001 Ph.D. graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary (Systematic Theology) in Philly with a dissertation on the "unio mystica" in the theology of Dr. Herman Bavinck (1854-1921). I am a former tank commander, and instructor in the US Army Armor School at Ft. Knox, KY. I have been happily married to my childhood sweetheart and best friend, Sally, for 43 years. We have 6 children, one of whom is with the Lord, and 14 wonderful grandchildren.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Church of Christ (IX)

The Marks or Notes of the Christian (II)
We’re still dealing with Article 29 of the Belgic Confession regarding the marks of the true church and where she differs from the false church. By way of quick review, Article 27 dealt with the concept of the catholic/universal Church of Jesus Christ and Article 28 reminded us that every Christian is duty bound to seek out, find, and then attach him- or herself to the most biblical local congregation they can find.
Church choice is not rocket science, but it is more important than rocket science. Unfortunately, few today take the requisite time to find a true congregation of the Lord. The false assumption is that all that bear the name “Church” are truly churches. Moreover, this sounds like a rather time-consuming process and the modern church-going consumer has a rather sparse list of what he or she is looking for anyway. Some semblance of entertainment is usually rather high on the list; biblical substance doesn’t rank too high, although modern church-goers want to believe that they are in a “Bible believing church” that will suit/meet their needs and will be attuned to what’s going down in pop culture.
In our last installment (Sorry that I missed a week, but I was away speaking at a conference and am on my way tomorrow to lecture at Reformed Theological Seminary—Memphis), we were discussing what the B.C. also has to say in Article 29 about the “marks of Christians.” The Church and the people of God/body of Christ truly do belong together. The Dutch New Testament scholar, Herman Ridderbos, correctly states, “The church belongs to the central content of Paul’s preaching…. Consequently all that has been said in the foregoing about the salvation given in Christ has special reference to the church and to the individual believer because he belongs to the church…. [T]he church is the continuation and fulfillment of the historical people of God that in Abraham God chose to himself from all peoples and to which he bound himself by making the covenant and the promises.”[1]
What seems to escape some modern Christians is the relationship between salvation and the Church as well as the centrality of preaching regarding both. In essence, Paul was not writing anything new and different that Jesus had not already said. He did expand upon it, however, and place everything in a post-resurrection and post-ascension context, where the Holy Spirit both informed and formed the Church. Conformity to the image of Christ does follow a biblical pattern.
After having said that true Christians may be known by the content of true, saving faith, de Brès proceeds and states further, “…and when they have received Jesus Christ the only Savior, they avoid sin, follow after righteousness, love the true God and their neighbor, neither turn aside to the right or left, and crucify the flesh with the works thereof.”[2]
The only time I caught a glimpse of Joel Osteen (I was channel surfing for a baseball game), I heard him promise his—whatever they are that attend his whatever it is—that they would never hear the word “sin” from his lips. They were pleased; he was very pleased; I was displeased. Of course, I understand that many in the modern Church in the 21st century don’t know Scripture, don’t know doctrine, and haven’t read a substantial Church Father.
In “our time,”—to borrow a phrase from David Wells—Christians gorge themselves on steady diets of Osteen, Hybels, Schuler, Campolo, Stormy Omartian, and McLaren—if they read at all—and neglect Luther, Calvin, Bucer, Owen, Edwards, and Bavinck. How could anyone neglect Bavinck?
Describing the history of God’s people in the Old Testament, the psalmist writes this in Ps. 106:13-15, “But they soon forgot his works; they did not wait for his counsel. But they had a wanton craving in the wilderness, and put God to the test in the desert; he gave them what they asked, but sent a wasting disease among them” (ESV). The Authorized Version (1901) gives us a “word picture” rendering: “And he gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul.”
A steady diet of 21st century theology is tantamount to being on a theological starvation diet. If Mr. Osteen will not speak of sin, then the question is begged: How will those in attendance know about grace? Many today do not connect the dots on this one. They are oblivious to the fact that if a person does not come to a knowledge of the depth of his or her sins and miseries, they will have a truncated, cut-off-at-the-knees view of God’s grace and Christ’s atonement. Sadly, few seem to mind or care if this transpires. Such is the nature of the consumer, entertain-me-to-death mentality in the mega-church and Emergent church movements.
How can the Church be striving for holiness—especially the holiness apart from which no one will see God (cf. Heb. 12:14)—and not know the magnitude of its sin? And it is evident, is it not, that the modern Church is on par with its secular counterparts vis-à-vis morality?If Christians are not reading their Bibles on a regular, systematic basis—and most who call themselves Christians are not—and not hearing about the horrific reality of sin in a person’s life, how are they to avoid sin and follow after righteousness? If they are unaware of their sins, how will they love the true God and their neighbor?

[1] Herman Ridderbos, Paul, An Outline of His Theology, (John R. de Witt [trans.]), (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), p. 327.
[2] Joel Beeke & Sinclair Ferguson (eds.), Reformed Confession Harmonized, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999), p. 193.

13 Comments:

Blogger Jeff said...

Ron,

What a beautiful and sad thought..."He gave then what they wanted, and brought leanness to their soul."

How true! Churches today seem to make a point to entertain, but thankfully, even Willow-back is learning the hard lessons that in a post-modern culture, people aren't valuing a come and see model anymore. (Though I think that Joel Olsteen, hiring Darlene C as his P&W leader is the final hold out.) Instead, secular pomo's are expecting the church to go and be. They are expecting the church to prove her love for her community. "Prove to me that you love me" is the typical, secular, pomo attitude.

And when the Lord has opened the typical, secular pomo's heart via "incarnational ministry" then there remains to be no better way of continuing to show that love than by telling the unbeliever the whole truth about him/herself: you're a worse sinner than you ever dared to imagine, and you're in desperate need of grace, but there is a Savior whose perfection and finished work has more merit than you'd ever need with the Father. Come, repent, trust, and live.

Those who are given a cheap gospel, end up being short changed in terms of eternity. Woe to me if I make the gospel a self-improvement, motivation-based course. (Be a better you!)

A "church" that fails to declare the whole gospel is no church at all. There is a difference in being winsome and being apostate.

A church should be more compassionate than the liberals, more holy than the fundamentalists, and more gospel proclaiming than either ever imagined or desired to be.

8:33 AM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...

Jeff,
Did you notice on Willow Creek's web site that their spring conference is going to be totally Emergent?

9:21 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Ron,

No I did not. So I looked it up to see. I didn't find what you meant. But it wouldn't surprise me that Willow would go Emergent. There seems to be so little that holds them together, except to "give the people what they want."

Sadly, maybe they haven't learned that whatever entertainment the church can give the world, Hollywood and Nashville can give it bettter. (Rolls eyes!)

All this is going to do is reach the 12% of the American population that is already saved and looking for a "better" church.

Did you hear that Willow tried to plant a church on the northeast side of Chicago with their methodology and it was a flop?

Maybe they think that they needs to be "emergent" because that is what the people want.

As a rule, our communities don't care how much we know until they know how much we care. God doesn't use us to open their hearts until we take them to heart.

This idea of attractional model is just plainly unbiblical. Jesus scolded the people for having a desire to see the miracles and eat their full but not having a change of life. What was the kingdom of God reclaiming territory in His word was just interesting to look at. Sad. Not sure God's people are learning.

8:21 AM  
Blogger Jim W said...

Enjoy your thoughts very much. Thanks for your writings. On to the subject: it amazes me the emergents are so rebelling from the seeker-sensitive churches yet they are so willing to use them. And the seeker-sensitives are so willing to be used, embracing the emergents, even though they appear to be diametrically opposed. I guess two wrongs do make something, but I wouldn't call it right.

11:02 AM  
Blogger Kyle said...

Jim,

In the end they aren't diametrically opposed, being that both are fundamentally based on meeting the "felt needs" of cultural cliques. And that's the little irony that few "emergents" seem to get, while it appears to me that the "seeker-sensatives," being older and wiser in the ways of the world, do understand it-and, because it isn't fundamentally different from them, they embrace and promote it.

1:05 PM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...

All,
Currently I'm in Memphis, TN lecturing on the Church for Reformed Theological Seminary's new campus here. On part of the flight coming over I started reading McLaren's new book, "Everything Must Change." It is as dreadful as McLaren! This must be some vain attempt at ethics, but it is abysmal. For those of us who survived the hippies, this book is so reminiscent of that era. Filled with ridiculous platitudes, vague, vague generalities, and a healthy does of Liberalism/Socialism.
Unfortunately, this is the direction--and has been since its inception--of the Emergent chit-chat.

1:47 PM  
Blogger Kyle said...

Ron,

Get back to reading Bavinck, for everyone's sake! ;)

4:10 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Ron,

Hope you had a great weekend on Ecclesiology with my alma mater, and hopefully, future double alma mater (The RTS System).

I just read the first six pages on Amazon of McLaren's "I'm Above It All" book, oh, I'm sorry, "Everything Must Change". Thanks for the warning. It was confirmed in those first six pages of introduction!

I laughed and sighed when I read, "I'm a follower of God in the way of Jesus." Oh, come on! So there are followers of "God" in the "ways" of Mohammed or Moses or Buddha? Give me a break. So there is no ONE way. It's really "a way", but he's not willing to say it.

And then all the crises of liberalism/socialist concerns really is sad.

Who says that our environment is so damaged by our unsustainable economy? Good night!

The gap between rich and poor? Try the gap between rich and poor in the days of Jesus, blows our mixed capitalist system out of the water!

Sometimes I just want to bang my head. McLaren just needs to become United Church of Christa and get it over with already!

6:20 PM  
Blogger Jim W said...

Kyle, when you put it in those terms, you've hit it exactly. I never thought of it that way, because it always seemed that the seeker-sensitives were trying to be modern and the emergents were trying to go back to early days-specifically the Roman catholic "church". I know they (emergents) like to believe they are "doing church the way the first Christians" did it, but all it is is a return to the false teaching of the RC. But that is the key, both are working on the felt needs of fallen man. So, they aren't opposed. They complement, instead.
What a tangled web!

8:15 AM  
Blogger The Future Dr. Martinez said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11:29 PM  
Blogger The Future Dr. Martinez said...

Ron,
I found this on a website about the PCA and thought if I could get your opinion on this.

"Over at All Too Common, there is a discussion about a growing trend in the Presbyterian Church in America (the conservative split off of the mainline PCUSA) to reckon Roman Catholic baptisms as invalid on account of the PCA position that Roman priests are not duly ordained ministers of the Gospel.

This is interesting. I can remember a PCA minister once telling me that he thought "Catholics should be rebaptized." I thought this was merely the view of one ignorant minister. But apparently not.

The real crux of the position is that it necessarily "unchurches" John Calvin himself. John Calvin, of course, received a Roman Catholic baptism. By these new standards, it seems that Calvin wasn't really a member of the visible church, because he never received a "valid" Reformed baptism. This seems to be the logical conclusion.

The Catholic position is that any Trinitarian baptism is valid, regardless of who administers it. There must only be an implicit desire to "do what the Church does" when administering baptism. See Catechism of the Catholic Church #1256."

4:27 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

(future) Dr. Martinez:

This is an old argument between the Northern Presbyterians and the Southern Presbyterians.

In the church where I was born, my father had to stand up to his own pastor who wanted to rebaptize his adopted daughter. Talk about putting yourself in a tough position! It would have been much easier for my father to say nothing and let his pastor rebaptize his own daughter. But my father who was an OPC elder at the time told him "no." And the pastor resentfully backed down.

There is one baptism, and we need to honor it. It's never been about the worthiness of the administer of the baptism. It's always been about the God who acts in baptism!

6:06 AM  
Blogger The Future Dr. Martinez said...

So you would agree with the quote? That "any Trinitarian baptism is valid, regardless of who administers it"? You take the Catholic position?

7:07 AM  

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