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Archive for the ‘ecclesiology’ Category

Francis Schaeffer’s paedobaptist covenant premillennialism appears to be rarely held today, although apparently it was commonly held among the Bible Presbyterians and the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (RPCES), both of which he ministered in during his career.

The following is Schaeffer’s view in a nutshell and basically explains why he takes prophecy “literally” but why he wasn’t a dispensationalist even though he was a pre-tribulationist. It is from the second half of the message on the Covenant of Grace in the Westminster Confession of Faith series that was taught at L’Abri in the early 1960s. (This series includes the sermon from which his little book on Baptism was drawn.)

This is basically an introduction to a series of messages on the Abrahamic Covenant in which he emphasizes what he terms the unity and diversity of the covenant. This transcription is very lightly edited to remove repetition, etc. My apologies for any grammatical errors.
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Schaeffer:

We have here two halves in the first three verses of the Abrahamic Covenant. [He then quotes Gen 12:1-3.]

Here we have two halves and we must not get the two halves confused. There is a national, natural promise here to the natural seed of Abraham who are the Jews. But there is also the spiritual portion. The Covenant of Grace is operating here. The Covenant to Noah is under the Covenant of Grace. The Covenant to Abraham is under the Covenant of Grace. It is not aside from the Covenant of Grace. It is a part and a portion of the Covenant of Grace.

What you have is the two halves given. There is the half that deals with the Jews as the Jews, a nation. And I would say that Romans makes very plain that God is not done with the Jews. This portion of the covenant still stands. As a matter of fact, I would say immediately that if it doesn’t stand, then we cannot trust God, because he says in reference to his covenant to the Jews, as Paul is speaking to the Jews concerning national, natural Israel, his brethren according to the flesh, he says “The gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” He’s talking about the national, natural portion of the promise of the Abrahamic Covenant to the Jews as Jews. But we mustn’t forget that that isn’t all there is to it. There is a spiritual portion, a spiritual and personal element that is shown here: Looking forward to the coming of Messiah and an individual’s partaking in personally in it.

Those who tend to take the amillennial position tend to lose the diversity of this and confuse the national, natural portion with the spiritual portion. But there are many many people today who make the opposite mistake. And that is that they lose the unity, the failure to understand the total unity of the Covenant of Grace from the promise of Gen 3:15 onward, including the fact that there is a unity to those of us who are born again, now on this side of the cross, a unity with these promises, the spiritual side of the promises made to Abraham. Let us not lose the diversity. There is a difference between the promise made to the nation of the Jews as Jews and the spiritual portion, but let us equally beware of losing the unity, There is a unity to the Covenant of Grace. To say in passing, this is the reason I am not a dispensationalist. There is a unity.

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I recently discovered a great number of lectures by Francis Schaeffer.  Evidently these are the “L’Abri tapes” that I first saw mentioned in True Spirituality.

I haven’t listened to very many of these yet, but this includes lectures that appear to be the basis of several of his books. These include True Spirituality, No Little People, Joshua and the Flow of Biblical History, Genesis and Science, A Christian Manifesto, The Mark of the Christian and The Finished Work of Christ, among others. I must confess that I am less familiar with his well known apologetical works than I am with some of his others but I’m sure much of that material is there in embryonic form as well.

Overall, a wide variety of topics are covered, from cultural analysis, theology in general (including a series on the Westminster Confession of Faith), apologetics, the arts, etc.  There are also a good many lectures on eschatology, including an exposition of the book of Revelation.  It is well known that Schaeffer was premillennial, which was not uncommon among Presbyterians of his day, particularly among those of his background.  The titles of some of them seem to indicate that he was pretribulational as well.  But those lectures appear to be from the early 1960’s so I don’t know if he ever changed his views as did some others like James Montgomery Boice, for example.  I haven’t read that much of Schaeffer’s work, but I hope to remedy that soon.  However, I have noticed allusions to a future for Israel in some of his writings that were published in the 1970’s.  I do think it’s interesting that a leader who was known for teachings on cultural and other issues would have taught so much on prophetical themes. But most if not all of those lectures were from the early 1960’s, prior to him becoming a popular evangelical leader in the United States and beyond.

There is also a large amount of video material available online as well, perhaps most notably the film version of How Should We Then Live?

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In The Polemics of Infant Baptism, B.B. Warfield writes:

All Protestants should easily agree that only Christ’s children have a right to the ordinance of baptism. The cleavage in their ranks enters in only when we inquire how the external Church is to hold itself relatively to the recognition of the children of Christ. If we say that its attitude should be as exclusive as possible, and that it must receive as the children of Christ only those whom it is forced to recognize as such, then we shall inevitably narrow the circle of the subjects of baptism to the lowest limits. If, on the other hand, we say that its attitude should be as inclusive as possible, and that it should receive as the children of Christ all whom, in the judgment of charity, it may fairly recognize as such, then we shall naturally widen the circle of the subjects of baptism to far more ample limits. The former represents, broadly speaking, the Puritan idea of the Church, the latter the general Protestant doctrine. It is on the basis of the Puritan conception of the Church that the Baptists are led to exclude infants from baptism. For, if we are to demand anything like demonstrative evidence of actual participation in Christ before we baptize, no infant, who by reason of years is incapable of affording signs of his union with Christ, can be thought a proper subject of the rite.

Your thoughts?

 

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Over the past several years, I’ve had a few acquaintances who have converted to Eastern Orthodoxy (hereafter EO).  Others are currently drawn to it or at some point have been strongly attracted to it.  Most of these are people I’ve encountered in various online discussion forums dedicated to the discussion of Reformed theology.

All of these have been folks who were at one time members of a conservative Presbyterian denomination like the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) or the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) and who were often some kind of Baptist to begin with.  Often, although not always, they were attracted to the Federal Vision and the New Perspective on Paul in the mid 2000’s.   The following observations may or may not apply to the same degree to Westerners from different backgrounds who go EO.

It seems to me that Westerners convert to Eastern Orthodoxy due to a few reasons or considerations:

1.  They reject Roman Catholicism because they cannot accept papal infallibility, the primacy of the Bishop of Rome and maybe a few other things.  In general, Rome has too much baggage for many Americans and some other Westerners of a Protestant background.  Due to Trent and subsequent statements, Rome’s teaching appears to be a lot more clearly defined as well.  A clear marking of boundaries tends to give rise to controversy.  I don’t know that the East ever experienced a scholastic phase to the extent that the West did during the Middle Ages and later with the Reformation and Counter-Reformation.  Thus, it seems that one can look eastward and see what he wants to see to a greater degree.

2.  Many of them would have been attracted to Anglicanism in previous years.  However, Anglicanism is now basically a disaster in the West, having been eviscerated by liberalism over the past 100 years and with apparently no cohesive conservative remnant.  Some Calvinistic evangelical Anglicans (or what used to be called low church) may go into some kind of Reformed or Presbyterian church and a few others may affiliate with the African Anglicans that are now overseeing some parishes that have disaffiliated from the Episcopal Church USA.  A good many of the high church types tend to cross the Tiber eventually unless they are hung up on the ordination of women, celibacy or Rome’s claim to authority. 

3.  They have rejected Calvinism and for whatever reason cannot be Lutheran, probably because of the strong law/grace distinction and Two Kingdom theology that is found in Lutheranism.  The EO types are typically into the idea of Christendom and often have an emphasis on influencing the culture.  Thus, Anglicanism would have been a good fit but see #2.  Lutheranism, like Calvinism, is also viewed as insufficiently apostolic by those who equate the ancient church (and thus authentic Christianity) with Rome or the East.  But I find that the rejection of Protestantism on the grounds of it not being apostolic in its teaching or authority typically follows discontent with it in some other regard.

4.  Due to the conversions of Peter Gillquist and others, the easy availability of information on the internet that wouldn’t have been readily available a few decades ago and perhaps some of the American Orthodox churches becoming less of an ethnic social club, Eastern Orthodoxy is more accessible to Americans than it has ever been.

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(Reposted from 3/17/2009)

Was St. Patrick a Baptist preacher?  W.A. Criswell thought so.  See here for full page transcript of the sermon.  The first link has the audio.

Former Roman Catholic priest Richard Bennett thinks similarly as well.  Last year Bennett was interviewed on this subject by Chris Arnzen on his program Iron Sharpens Iron.  (The preceding link is directly to the mp3 file.)

Richard Bennett also has similar material on his own site, Berean Beacon. Here is a video that Berean Beacon produced on “The Real St. Patrick.”

“We have strong reasons for regarding St. Patrick as a Baptist missionary, and beyond contradiction his baptism was immersion.”

– The Baptist Encyclopedia: Edited by William Cathcart. (1883) pp. 886-7

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Just over a year ago, I noted the parallels between the current contextual/missional/hipster/urban church planting movement inspired by Mark Driscoll and others and the Bill Hybels/Rick Warren inspired church growth movement of 10-20 years ago.  (Note that I did not say there was a 1:1 correspondence between the two, but simply noted a similar mentality that is evident in both movements.  I think the theology and general approach of Mark Driscoll and Tim Keller is much more preferable.)

While I rather doubt that I was the first one to connect those dots, I’m pretty sure that I spent more time on those posts and the related discussion across the blogosphere than I have on any other subject since I established this blog.  Depending on your point of view, that series of posts was either the most popular or the most infamous material I’ve ever posted in my short and generally undistinguished blogging career.  This was largely due to the context, which was the latest spat among Southern Baptist bloggers.  (For the few who may be keeping score, I am still an occasional blogger, but no longer a Southern Baptist.)

Earlier this evening, a post by Dean Bob Gonzales of Reformed Baptist Seminary tipped me off to an interesting post by Bill Streger, an Acts 29 church planter in Houston.  In my view, Dr. Gonzales accurately describes the original post in this fashion:  “An Acts 29 network pastor offers a caution to his colleagues and provides an example of a healthy and humble self critical posture.”

Pastor Streger cautions against a herd or movement mentality among younger leaders and church planters and warns against an uncritical emulation of prominent pastors and leaders as we saw with the church growth/seeker sensitive movement of the last generation.   Predictably it was this concluding sentence that provoked the strongest reaction:

“Or it could be that we’re simply following in the footsteps of the church growth movement that we’ve loved to publically criticize while privately trying to emulate – we’ve just replaced Bill Hybels and Rick Warren with Tim Keller and Mark Driscoll.”

The post in question clearly touched a nerve, as a furor ensued that appears to be almost worthy of the Southern Baptist blogosphere.  Indeed, the ensuing discussion resulted in a follow up post that some feel retracted more than was necessary.  As someone who has too often hastily posted things that were somewhat uncharitable, however true they may have been, I can to some small extent identify with Bro. Streger’s plight in perceiving that his initial post was not as carefully worded as it could have been.

The real news here may be the apparent inability or unwillingness of some who identify with Acts 29 (whether formally or not) to accept public criticism of their movement, especially from an insider.  Ironically, this bears no small resemblance to the reaction you might expect to see from some of the more rigid independent fundamentalists when one of their own dares to utter some criticism of their movement.  However, I was grateful to see that the criticism (which all things considered really seems to be rather mild) was taken in stride by many others.

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HT:  Truth Matters

Here is a copy of the tract that Bro. Johnson mentions.

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