Brief Historical Taxonomy On How Churches Once Viewed One Another

In our pluralistic age it is inevitable that the pluralism that characterizes us leaks into the Church. Today, if one insists that the Denomination in which they are members of, or the faith expression they embrace is the “one true Church,” to the neglect of all other faith expressions or denominations they are likely to be pretty quickly castigated and scorned. This collegiality among different faith expressions and denominations was not always the norm, and would have been considered, even a short 100 years ago or so to be quite inconsistent with Biblical faith.

For example, Dr. Francis Pieper, a noted Lutheran, in his book, “Christian Dogmatics, Vol. III, p. 422,” could write,

“Congregations and Church bodies must be divided into two classes according to their doctrine … “

Pieper then goes on to speak of churches that are orthodox and those which are heterodox with the implication clearly present that only Lutherans are orthodox.

This kind of thinking was also seen in the Lutheran Dr. Walter Maier when Maier refused to speak at a inter-denominational Bible conference because of its heterodox nature. Maier only agreed to speak at the conference when it was agreed that a Lutheran pastor would come in to preside over the conference. With a Lutheran Pastor presiding Dr. Maier could participate because then the conference would be orthodox.

Some of this thinking still carries on today among some Lutherans. I have a Lutheran Pastor friend who would not allow me to join his church since I am Reformed and could never agree with the Lutheran distinctives. I don’t fault him for that stance since it has been the position for much of the Church throughout Church history that organizations that don’t hold to distinctive doctrines as taught in the Scripture are not true Churches and should not be considered as such.

As another example consider the Baptist view of a little over 100 years ago of who does not constitute a true Church.

“It is only courtesy to speak of paedobaptist organizations as ‘churches,’ although we do not regard these churches as organized in full accordance with Christ’s laws as they are indicated in the New Testament… So we in matters … vitally effecting the existence of the Church, as regenerate church membership, must stand by the New Testament, and refuse to call any other body of Christians a regular Church…”

Dr. A. H. Strong, 1836-1921
Reformed Baptist Theologian
Systematic Theology

What Strong offers here is merely the classical view of Baptist Churches. That some Baptist Churches might not hold this merely means that those Baptist Churches are inconsistent with their own doctrine and have yet one more contradiction in their thinking. As an anecdote on this score I am reminded of a woman who was a member in a Reformed Church that I serve. She had been baptized as a infant. She wanted to volunteer to work for a local Baptist school. The Pastor of the Baptist Church was told of this and despite her protestations that she was already baptized as an infant the Pastor insisted that if she was to work at their school she must be baptized as an adult. The Pastor was only being consistent with the kind of doctrine that Baptists, such a Dr. Strong, has been articulating for years. Note that Dr. Strong called paedobaptist organizations “churches” out of a way of being polite. He clearly did not believe that they were Churches. Given the fact that paedobaptist churches eschew universal regenerate membership and credo-baptist doctrine it is only reasonable and consistent that Dr. Strong would speak the same way as the Lutheran Dr. Pieper above.

Note, that neither Dr. Strong, nor Dr. Pieper necessarily believed that those who were in those other religious organizations were not Christians. They merely insisted that their Churches (Denominations) were the one true Church.

The Reformed faith has always concurred with this thinking and have found fault with Baptist doctrine and Lutheran doctrine the same way that Lutherans and Baptists find fault with their doctrine and so likewise did not consider those denominations to be expressions of the true Church.

“The true church can be recognized if it has the following marks: The church engages in the pure preaching of the gospel; it makes use of the pure administration of the sacraments as Christ instituted them; it practices church discipline for correcting faults. In short, it governs itself according to the pure Word of God, rejecting all things contrary to it and holding Jesus Christ as the only Head. By these marks one can be assured of recognizing the true church– and no one ought to be separated from it….

As for the false church, it assigns more authority to itself and its ordinances than to the Word of God; it does not want to subject itself to the yoke of Christ; it does not administer the sacraments as Christ commanded in his Word; it rather adds to them or subtracts from them as it pleases; it bases itself on men, more than on Jesus Christ; it persecutes those who live holy lives according to the Word of God and who rebuke it for its faults, greed, and idolatry.

Article 29
Belgic Confession of Faith

Because the Reformed Church has believed the above it does not recognize Baptist Churches, Lutheran Churches, Holiness Churches, or Roman Catholic Churches as true Churches since they do not (1) engage in the pure preaching of the Gospel, or (2) make use of the pure administration of the sacraments, or (3) practices church discipline.

Now, once again, this does not mean the Reformed people don’t believe that there aren’t Christians in those organizations but it does explicitly teach, like Baptists and Lutherans and Catholics, that other denominations are not genuine Churches.

Now, currently if any Church or denomination express this once standard vanilla theology that there is only one true Church and those in alien denominations, for the good of their own souls, need to repent and join the one true Church those people are seen as “narrow minded,” “uncharitable,” or “mean-spirited.” But, clearly those who refuse to embrace this once nearly universal teaching who are narrow-minded since they are not broadminded enough to accept Churches who define themselves other then the casual pluralistic way they want to define churches. They are the ones who are uncharitable since they will not accept those who disagree with their pluralistic stamp. They are the ones who are mean spirited since they have decided scorn against those who define the Church as the confessions do.

The ironic thing in all this is that those who want to insist that the Church needs to be defined pluralistically are really members of the same ideological denomination regardless what the denominational stamp is on the church they attend. If all people in Baptist, Lutheran, Holiness, Congregational, Roman Catholic organizations and Reformed Churches are to insist that the genuine Church is where ever people gather who call themselves Christian, regardless of the denominational stamp then they have defined themselves as the same ideological denomination over against those who want to draw the genuine Church definition in different ways as we have seen above.

For Reformed folks we have historically said Reformed Baptists Churches were not true Churches because we are required to “detest the error of the Anabaptists who are not who are not content with a single baptism once received and also condemn the baptism of the children of believers” (Article 35 Belgic Confession) For Reformed folks we have historically said Lutheran Churches were not true Churches since they deny Limited Atonement. For Reformed folks we have historically said that Holiness Churches are not true Churches since they are Arminian. For Reformed folks we have historically said the Roman Catholic Churches are not true Churches because of their semi-pelagianism. None of this means that we believe that all the Christians in those organizations are unregenerate. It merely means that out of love for God and love for them we do not refer to their organizations are Churches.

Later Editorial note:

I believe the drive to see all denominations as all being genuine Churches may be another consequence of our egalitarian age which loathes making distinctions between “this and that.” In an egalitarian age that desires to insist that all people and both sexes are alike it is easy to insist likewise that all churches are alike and eventually, over the course of time, all religions are even alike.

15 Responses to “Brief Historical Taxonomy On How Churches Once Viewed One Another”

  1. Truth Unites... and Divides April 3, 2012 at 2:09 pm #

    Superb article, Pastor McAtee.

    For an interesting perspective, this article is worth reading:

    http://www.christianpost.com/news/why-all-christians-are-actually-non-denominational-72136/

    • jetbrane April 3, 2012 at 4:46 pm #

      Of course that gentleman is wrong TUAD. Desperately wrong.

  2. Ben Maas April 3, 2012 at 9:35 pm #

    Rev. McAtee,

    In R.L. Dabney’s review of Theodosia Ernest (http://dabneyarchive.com/ReviewTheodosiaErnest.pdf), he critiques the idea that immersion is essential unto baptism: a position he calls “immersionism.” In chapter 11, “Immersionism is High Churchism,” he makes the critique that immersionists must believe that all paedobaptist churches are outside of the visible church, and must therefore not treat any un-immersed professing Christians as genuine Christians. In other words, because the visible church is marked by baptism, immersionists must deny that anyone who is not baptized is even part of the visible church. It follows that paedobaptists ministers are not actually ministers (for one cannot hold office in an institution to which he does not truly belong) and that paedobaptist sacraments are not actually sacraments (since sacraments take place within the institutional church). In the midst of this critique, as Dabney states that the immersionist must see all paedobaptists as outside the pale of the visible church, he phrases it as if immersionists deny that there is any such thing as a Presbyterian church, Episcopalian church, Lutheran church, etc. In other words, he seems to see (1) denying that paedobaptists are in the visible church and (2) denying that paedobaptist institutions are truly churches as the same claim.

    Do you agree that (1) and (2) are the same claim? And if so, how could you say that you think people outside the Reformed church are still Christians, given that there is no ordinary hope of salvation outside the visible church?

    I have some ideas on how to properly answer this, but I would like to hear your commentary.

    • jetbrane April 4, 2012 at 5:40 am #

      Ben,

      I would have to agree that if paedobaptists are not in the visible Church then it is difficult to see how paedobaptist churches are churches.

      In terms of this question,

      how could you say that you think people outside the Reformed church are still Christians, given that there is no ordinary hope of salvation outside the visible church?

      I suppose first I would appeal to the thief on the cross who was redeemed apart from being in what we constitute the visible Church. Of course that is hardly a normative situation.

      Next, I would argue that genuine Christians who exist outside the visible Church are by necessity weak Christians since they are not being sustained by God’s grace that is only found in the true Church.

      Finally, I would probably argue that God’s grace is far more expansive then I could ever consider.

      That is probably the best I could do Ben. I would genuinely enjoy hearing your thoughts on the question.

      • Ben Maas April 4, 2012 at 10:02 pm #

        I don’t have this as well-organized in my head as I’d like, so I’ll just try to spill this into a comment in separate points. Hopefully a good answer will pop up somewhere!

        1. I agree with Dabney and you that (1) and (2) above are the same claim, or at least that they mutually entail each other. If some institution is not in the visible church, then clearly it cannot be a true church, and vice versa.

        2. Logically speaking, one can avoid the charge of pluralism without claiming that one’s own denomination is the one true church. Claiming, for instance, that Reformed theology is correct and Lutheran theology is heterodox, even though Lutheran institutions are still genuine churches, would still seem to avoid pluralism. The problem today is largely those professing Christians who cringe from any “nitpicking” done inter-denominationally — that is, who cringe if one denomination says another denomination is wrong on something. That is obviously pluralistic, but the solution does not require saying that one denomination is the one true church.

        3. I am not sure if older Christians would have insisted that their own denominations were the one true church (i.e. the totality of the visible church). Among the examples you gave, only the Baptist seemed pressed to that conclusion — and Dabney thinks that is a reason to believe Baptist theology is false. The Lutheran acknowledged that other theologies were heterodox (which is consistent with being part of the visible church), and the Belgic Confession states the marks of a true church, but I don’t know what application typical Reformed Christians would have made of it. It seems consistent to say both that A, B, and C are the marks of a true church and that some churches are deficient in those regards — while still being true churches.

        For example, if some church (which, ex hypothesi, is perfect in its doctrine and sacrament-administration) were to be generally dutiful with its church discipline, but failed once or twice in properly disciplining some members, then in some sense it would not possess the marks of a true church. Likewise, imagine some church which is pristine in many respects but has a single doctrinal error, or which is slightly too open or restrictive with the Lord’s Supper, etc. In some sense, its doctrine or practice would be “impure,” and it would not be a true church. Look at the language of the “true church” in the Belgic Confession: it speaks of an ideal church. I think this shows that the marks of a true church, according to the Belgic Confession, are not at all times crystal-clear in their applicability, but are (1) statements of the duties of a church and (2) sufficiently clear for Christians, in many cases, to understand whether a certain professing church is genuine/true or apostate. But what the Belgic Confession’s formula does not require is that all doctrinal disagreement means that each denomination must believe itself to be the true church.

        4. Another way of stating this: one can claim that other theologies/denominations are heterodox without claiming they are heretical. Heterodoxy (as applied to institutions/denominations) would presumably indicate inclusion within the visible church, or within the pale of Christianity, even if that institution is erroneous in some way. Heresy, on the other hand, indicates apostasy from the visible church.

        5. This leaves aside the other question of whether individual heretics, rather than heretical/apostate institutions, are within the visible church.
        -This also leaves aside the question of what the practical ramifications of heterodoxy are, such as whether we should permit heterodox Christians to take communion, or participate in conferences with them, etc.
        -This also leaves aside the question of saying whether certain institutions, such as those of the Baptists and the papists, should be considered genuine but heterodox churches by paedobaptist Protestants.

        5. In sum, I think this gives us an answer to include other denominations within the visible church, which seems better compatible with our understanding, for instance, that (conservative) Lutheran churches contain many true Christians. While it is true that the visible church sets the limit for the ordinary hope of salvation, it would stretch credibility to say that all Lutherans are saved only by a rare and special act of God apart from His church. Nonetheless, we can avoid pluralism by being willing to correct the errors of heterodox churches, and to be honest about our disagreements with them.

        Sorry for the wordiness. As I hoped at the beginning, I think I formulated a decent answer by the end.

      • jetbrane April 5, 2012 at 5:56 am #

        Ben,

        1.) Obviously the Belgic confession is not looking for a perfect church as if to say that a true Church can only be a true church IF it perfectly proclaims the word, and if it perfectly administers the sacraments and if it perfectly practices discipline.

        However, you have not convinced me that Belgic confession would allow us to refer to Lutheran Churches, for example, to be called true Churches. You see the problem with Lutheran churches is not that they are merely imperfect in the marks but that they themselves define the what constitutes the faithful preaching of the word and the pure administration of the sacraments quite differently according to a significantly different theological template. I would be glad to consider them not heretical but only heterodox but is it the case that a heterodox church is a genuine church?

        2.) I’ve had some pretty intense conversations with hard core Lutherans that assures me that they do no see Calvinists as particularly Christian. Keep in mind in Church History, for example, the Lutherans took up with the Arminians in the whole Synod of Dordt controversy at certain points. Particularly on the issue of the Sacraments there is a goodly amount of deviation. Also certain parts of the Heidelberg Catechism were written with refuting Lutheran error in mind.

        Now, I’m sure if we approach these matters as Church irenicists and not polemicists we might be able to conclude that Lutheran Church’s bear the “Marks of the Church,” but we would have to be ignoring some weighty matters between us. Remember, at the end of the day Luther divided from Zwingli at the Marburg coloquy saying to Zwingli, “You have a different Spirit from us.”

        3.) Certainly a Reformed person could believe that different stripes of Reformed expression (denominations) fell into the one true church though even here it is interesting to hear the old timers explain how scandalous it was for a young man from the CRC to begin romancing a young lady from the RCA.

        Just so certainly a Lutheran person could believe that different stripes of Lutheran expression all fall into the one true Church.

        Same with Baptists but even here, I remember debates growing up between baptists. Some Baptists didn’t believe that other Baptists were pure enough based on who they did and didn’t fraternize with.

        4.) I’m not sure I’m willing to say all Lutheran and all Baptist Churches are not churches but I am willing to say that the subject should be at least considered.

  3. Shotgun April 18, 2012 at 1:35 pm #

    I appreciate this blog and the resulting discussion. It’s hard to find material on this issue from sympathetic ideologues. In particular: from a Postmillenial, theonomic view point.

    Here’s a question I’m struggling with:

    As Postmillennialists and Theonomists, aren’t we obligated to hold the position that the Kingdom of God has come? So:

    The Visible Church = The Kingdom Which Has Come

    Both of these are equivalent with God’s Kingdom of Israel in the OT. We, the Visible Church in the New Covenant Administration, *are* Israel. We’ve been grafted into the Covenant of Grace.

    Does this obligate us (as Postmils and theonomists) to some sort of Ecclesiastical Nationalism, where our job is to gather on Earth, the Visible Church?

    If not, why not?

    • jetbrane April 19, 2012 at 6:43 am #

      Scott,

      I don’t believe that the “Kingdom of God” can be circumscribed to the visible Church. Wherever God’s people are in submission to the Lord Christ as seen by their practice of godly dominion there one can talk about the presence of God’s Kingdom.

      In history there have been postmils who have held that the Kingdom of God is future but I agree with you and some more recent posmtmils who have and are teaching that the Kingdom has come and is yet coming. (Now, not yet).

      I would say, in reference to your last question, that we are obligated to progressively extend the already present crown rights of King Jesus over every area of life. I would further say that the pursuit of Ecclesiastical Natioanlism (Solemn League & Covenant?) should be pursued on a nation by nation (people by people) basis. So, yes … we are obligated to seek to establish Christian social order among the nations.

      Thanks for visiting Scott. You are aware of my esteem for you.

  4. Shotgun April 19, 2012 at 1:53 pm #

    Pastor JB,

    In interacting with what you’ve just supplied, couldn’t we frame the “Kingdom of God” in the same light as your blog frames the church?

    In other words: we’d have to talk about how different particular instantiations of the Kingdom of God view each other. I mean: Each local congregation of the Kingdom would have to evaluate the others and determine if the others are practicing correct “Godly dominion”.

    I suppose what I’m wanting to understand is the hierarchical structure of the Kingdom of God.

    I’m concerned about this because it seems that the *Alienist* who is also a Theonomist and Postmillennialist, may have a superfically-sound case for the forceful advocacy of race-mixing (I mean: ethnic, linguistic and cultural mixing as well, where the Alienist seeks to merge all of these categories into one Christian class).

    1. If the Kingdom has come
    2. and if we’re to help bring in the Kingdom
    3. and if the Kingdom = The New Covenant Nation of Israel
    4. and if all (truly-regenerate) Christians are members of Israel

    Conclusion: then Given 4, all Christians are members of the same “nation” and if only members of the same nation can marry and be given in marriage with each other (most alienist theonomists I’ve spoken with, believe that a Christian must marry within the nation of Christ) then any Christian can marry any other Christian, regardless of the Christian’s association with a non-Israeli nation.

    In fact, it is very likely our duty to help break down the emotional-connections to the old nationalities and help foster a new love and a new loyalty to the New Covenant Nation of Israel (or the Kingdom of God).

    Now, my response as a Kinist would be to highlight how the above scenario is in error because the hypoethical alienist is trying to claim the New Covenant Administration (and Christian unity) abrogates the old Covenant of Works (that God established with man in the Garden). And in the Covenant of Works, we find ordinances — “Creation” ordinances; and I’m specifically concerned with the relationship between the man and woman that naturally (and necessarily) implies ethnic-nationalism.

    I’d argue that ethnic-nationalism is a Creation Ordinance that is never abrogated anywhere in the New Testament.

    And, like Dr. Bahnsen always says to the critics of theonomy: If you think something has been abrogated, then show where, why and how. But don’t just assume it is no longer valid.

    But, as you can tell in all, Pastor JB, I’m foggy on the details of this arrangement, specifically the relationship between the Visible Church and the Kingdom of God, and the Reformed view of how the Kingdom of God is to be structured.

    I thank you kindly for your comments thus far as they’ve greatly helped me focus my thinking. I also really appreciate your articles on the Belhar Confession. You’re the coolest clergy I know!

    God bless.

  5. Adam April 19, 2012 at 5:17 pm #

    Shotgun,

    I’ve been following your conversation on this issue over on the kinism forum. I was thinking of making a reply but it seems my account expired due to inactivity.

    You gave a summary of John Frame’s view of the believer’s Kingdom citizenship as spiritual in nature, and I believe that is the correct view. A temporal reality is used as a type of a greater spiritual reality and doesn’t imply equivalence. For example, human marriage is a “mystery” pointing to the reality of Christ and the Church, but we certainly do not suppose that the one-flesh of marriage is equivalent to the one-flesh of the Messiah and His bride. So too, the fact that a particular, physical ethnicity is a type of the Church does not imply equivalence.

    If, in the new covenant age, spiritual realities were to over-ride and replace their typological representations, we would end up in a hopeless moral quagmire. By such logic, all Christian marriage would be incestuous! The anabaptists repudiated the servant/master relationship on such an argument, but Luther replied that they did not comprehend the spiritual nature of the Church. (Pastor Bret has posted this somewhere on Ironink.)

    So, in light of this, I think we can say that Isreal in the Old Testament, with its tribal divisions, stands as a picture of the Kingdom, with Christ enthroned in the New Jerusalem, the Church in the midst of the nations. If anything, the tribal divisions within the “unity” of Israel show the legitimacy of distinctions of heritage within the Kingdom of God. Numbers 36 gives us a case law proving that amalgamation or transfer of ancestral inheritance is not a sound application of biblical law-order. It gives freedom to families and peoples to restrict marriages which would result in loss of inheritance. If a people believes (rightly) that racial identity is part-and-parcel of their God-given inheritance, then they have the right to ban radical admixture. Common citizenship in God’s Kingdom does not abrogate this right.

    Even if someone wanted to argue that the Kingdom was indeed a nation like Israel in the literal sense, I don’t see how this would change anything. Ezekiel prophesied that strangers would one day be eligible for full citizenship in Israel, and that when such a time came, they would be given their own family inheritance in the land. Again, there is the continuance of ancestral inheritance. Only by insisting that race is not a real and God-given inheritance could one conceivably justify inter-racial marriage.

  6. Shotgun April 19, 2012 at 6:03 pm #

    Adam,

    Thank you so much for your response. It’s greatly appreciated. You guys (being Reformed) know what it’s like to be excited about an issue like this so I hope you can sympathize with me.

    My project evolved from trying to find the answer to a few (seemingly) simple questions, to a full-scale attempt to express my “Kinism” in a theologically-accurate and systematic form. I’ve left too much of my worldview hanging loose, and I’m trying to systematize my Covenant Theology with my view of the church and my view of the end-times.

    So, in that spirit, I have a few questions about what you’ve provided:

    1. If we believe the “Kingdom” has not come physically, but only come in some “spiritual” sense, does that obligate us to an A-Mil eschatology?

    2. You attempt a reductio by claiming that the “one-flesh” of marriage is not equivalent to the one-flesh of the Messiah and His bride. Granted, that sounds right, but I still wonder if — to the degree the husband and wife are both Christians — we can’t speak as if they (the husband and wife) are particular instances of the Messianic reality?

    I doubt any one ethnicity *is* the entirety of the Kingdom. I hope all true Reformed Christians would join me in rejecting that view — although, I’m thinking the Alienist might argue as if the new-covenant Kingdom, the new Israel, is a new “mixed” ethnicity, composed of people from all worldly ethnicities (or nations). (I think you’ve presented an alternate view that would adequately counter that assertion).

    3. If the Kingdom of God is a spiritual reality that is not equivalent with the temporal reality, then how is the temporal reality to be governed? Can we any longer promote the dominion of God’s law over creation?

    Thanks again for helping me think through these issues.

    • jetbrane April 19, 2012 at 8:22 pm #

      Shotgun offered a potential alienist type conclusion,

      all Christians are members of the same “nation” and if only members of the same nation can marry and be given in marriage with each other (most alienist theonomists I’ve spoken with, believe that a Christian must marry within the nation of Christ) then any Christian can marry any other Christian, regardless of the Christian’s association with a non-Israeli nation.

      All Christians are members of the same “nation,” but that nation of which they are all members is a Spiritual nation composed of corporeal nations. The Kingdom of God is a (Spiritual) nation inhabited by (corporeal) nations who have been given eternal life. Marriage considerations must ultimately consider faith issues but all because faith issues are ultimate does not mean that penultimate issues are unimportant. Issues like shared culture, shared national history, shared people-hood, shared interests, shared literature, etc. are issues that if ignored promise all kinds of potential problems in marriage for those who ignore the requirement that a wife be a helpmeet (mirror reflection) of the husband.

      In fact, it is very likely our duty to help break down the emotional-connections to the old nationalities and help foster a new love and a new loyalty to the New Covenant Nation of Israel (or the Kingdom of God).

      Now, my response as a Kinist would be to highlight how the above scenario is in error because the hypothetical alienist is trying to claim the New Covenant Administration (and Christian unity) abrogates the old Covenant of Works (that God established with man in the Garden). And in the Covenant of Works, we find ordinances — “Creation” ordinances; and I’m specifically concerned with the relationship between the man and woman that naturally (and necessarily) implies ethnic-nationalism.

      The Old Covenant was a gracious covenant. To suggest it wasn’t gracious would be suggest that people are saved differently in the old and new covenant. That the old covenant was not antinomian is seen in passages like,

      1 Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him,
      “I am [a]God Almighty;
      Walk before Me, and be [b]blameless.
      2 “I will [c]establish My covenant between Me and you,
      And I will multiply you exceedingly.”

      The New Covenant likewise is not antinomian,

      19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: [i]immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, [j]factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

      So, no orthodox Reformed minister believes that the new and better covenant is a covenant where obedience is not expected. Indeed Ephesians teaches that,

      10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

      I’d argue that ethnic-nationalism is a Creation Ordinance that is never abrogated anywhere in the New Testament.

      And, like Dr. Bahnsen always says to the critics of theonomy: If you think something has been abrogated, then show where, why and how. But don’t just assume it is no longer valid.

      I see nothing in the new and better covenant where God promises a Kingdom that has the effect of giving us a Unitarian globalist New World Christian order. In point of fact, throughout the New Testament we see the assumption, consistent with Federal theology categories, that people come into the Kingdom as family groups.

      But, as you can tell in all, Pastor JB, I’m foggy on the details of this arrangement, specifically the relationship between the Visible Church and the Kingdom of God, and the Reformed view of how the Kingdom of God is to be structured.

      I thank you kindly for your comments thus far as they’ve greatly helped me focus my thinking. I also really appreciate your articles on the Belhar Confession. You’re the coolest clergy I know!

      God bless.

      I’ve always thought of the visible church as being populated by wheat and tares. Where the visible Church is being increasingly faithful, there you find the hearth of God’s Kingdom. However, the Kingdom hearth emanates Kingdom heat and that emanated Kingdom heat is that which expands the Kingdom of God in the broader culture. If the Kingdom fire in the hearth (visible Church) is hot the Kingdom heat emanates over families, legal order, social order, arts, etc.

      Some people find that too ecclesiocentric, but even if so, it can be tweaked to not be so ecclesiocentric.

  7. Adam April 20, 2012 at 4:10 pm #

    Shotgun,

    I do know what it’s like to be excited about a growing understanding of one’s worldview. Sadly with many issues, especially this one, a sound understanding will put you outside of the mainstream to such a degree as to be very trying. The Preacher said truly, “He who increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.”

    To your questions:

    For most people, questions 1 and 3 go together, so I hope my answer will encompass both. When Jesus said, “My Kingdom is not of this world,” I believe he was affirming the spiritual nature of God’s Kingdom. First of all, Christ’s authority does not have its source in, and is not limited by, the Jewish nation. Secondly, it is not perceived in the same manner an earthly kingdom is perceived — we don’t see Christ assuming the crown and leading the Jews to victory over the Roman Empire.

    I don’t think this necessitates either a-millenialism or the relinquishing of dominion. Man already has dominion over the earth, but his heart is under the power of the devil. Once that heart is transformed then you have the beginning of the Kingdom of God. “The kingdom of this world has become the Kingdom of the Lord and of His Christ.” Every man must subject himself and everything he owns to the Lordship of Christ. When a man is a civil ruler, then he must begin to rule in accordance with that true justice revealed in the Law. In such a way that which is spiritual in nature becomes outwardly manifest.

    To your second question: A Christian marriage could indeed be conceived as an “instantiation” of or participation in the heavenly reality. But it reveals the truth of Christ’s marriage precisely as it remains a real, physical marriage. There is no real way of “spiritualizing” marriage without actually losing the object lesson. Consider the Catholic nun who becomes “married” to Christ in her vow of celibacy. If we all abandoned marriage in such a way, we would lose the very thing God gave us to illustrate the reality! Likewise, if the bonds of peoplehood show us the reality of our Spiritual kinship in Christ, then the abolition of the nations can only serve to impoverish our understanding.

    The special relationships of physical kinship teach us how to conduct ourselves to our fellow Christians. Treat “the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, in all purity.” If we take away the natural family, then such instruction becomes unintelligible. As a man once said, “if all men are my brothers, I have no brothers.”

    Consider the following from Carleton Putnam:

    “I believe that just as charity begins at home (although it should not end there), so brotherhood begins with the family. The communist technique of undermining the family as a social unit is very much of a part with their pressures for racial integration. The communists wish to kill any loyalties other than to ‘the state’. But the Christian social structure, like many others, is built upon the unit of the family. It recognizes the natural impulse of men to group themselves around their own kind. Birds of a feather flock together. This does not prohibit cooperation and sympathy beyond the family–in the community, the state, and throughout the world. However, the process, to be sound, must source in the primary natural unit of the home, and the ‘brotherhood of man’ must be understood in this light.

    “The important thing is to recognize that the grouping instinct is basic, and that race is one of the wider groups. To preach against its manifestations is not only a perversion of ideals, but a very effective way of destroying a civilization.”

    • jetbrane April 21, 2012 at 4:14 pm #

      Adam,

      Sound words Brother. Thanks for hanging out here.

  8. Shotgun April 23, 2012 at 4:34 pm #

    Thank you both so much! I’ve got a lot to consider.

Leave a Reply:

Gravatar Image