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On "Churchless Evangelicals"

Over at the Heidelblog, Dr. Scott Clark has completed posting his three-part series on "Churchless Evangelicals."  I really encourage you to read this.

Scott deals with the thorny subject of the necessity of church membership, and with the marks of a true church.  If you profess faith in Christ, then you need to be a member of a local church where Christ's word is preached, his sacraments are administered, and where church discipline is actually practiced.

It is one thing to be in transition--looking for a place to land after becoming Reformed.  It is another to act like church membership is unimportant, or that any ole church will do.

Click here: On Churchless Evangelicals (pt 1) « Heidelblog

Click here: On Churchless Evangelicals (pt 2) « Heidelblog

Click here: On Churchless Evangelicals (Pt 3) « Heidelblog


Reader Comments (17)

Kim, is this part of what he discussed on his recent WHI guest shot or something additional?
December 30, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPB
I read this article in its entirety. It struck me as too polemical when you get to its nitty gritty, i.e., its endorsement of paedobaptism as the sine qua non of a true church . If the goal is to reduce the ranks of a true church to a handful of churches and then to call everyone else unchurched I guess this succeeds. (However that sounds a little cultish)
I am a Baptist and find it hard to justify infant baptism based on Scripture other than by analogy to circumcision, which I think is a stretched analogy. There are no specific instances of infant baptism in the Bible. What we do see is that children before they attain emancipation and/or reach the age of responsibility (whatever age that may be) are always welcome to come to Jesus (whether or not baptized), and that the kingdom of God is composed of "such as these."

So while parts 1 and 2 were food for thought, part 3 kind of lost me/offended me. I do not think the specifics and the rigidity of this position reflects what Scripture teaches. It seems like a lot of teachings of men advanced to the level of Scripture or higher- an almost RC view of the subject.
December 30, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterreg
Reg says "There are no specific instances of infant baptism in the Bible."

Where are all the biblical passages telling of people growing up in the Church and being baptized only once they have faith, as the baptists practice? I think your argument proves too much.
December 30, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterbil
All the biblical passages suggest belief first, then baptism. However, if as you say "my argument proves too much" it proves that we should be very careful in making hard and fast absolute rules on this topic. Certainly I would not accuse either camp of being outside of the true church because of their belief on baptism. This ought to be a topic on which it is permissible to disagree. The article referenced by Kim seems to exclude this possibility.
December 30, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterreg
I too was not at all impressed with Part 3, and I am glad that most paedobaptists do not agree with Dr. Clark on several of his points, with all due respect to Dr. Clark. It seems he was attempting to prove his points by the confessions and church history, not from Scripture. I know that Reformed folks do not elevate the confessions to the level of Scripture, but it almost seems to me that at times we do.
December 30, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDave

Myself, I am not much at all for "being offended," but it doesn't take a little audacity for a credo-baptist to fault a paedo-baptist the way you suggest, the way 9 out of 10 credo's regularly. Indeed, that was the brilliance of part 3 to my mind.

Your views on baptism create necessary boundary lines which, while we don't agree with we also respect; yet you want to tell us ours are "cultish" or otherwise invalid. Once a credo-baptist pastor agrees to baptize an infant then you'll have grounds for your criticism. As it is, plenty of paedo's seem to demonstrate (some might say too much) charity and patience to those "Bapterians" in their own ranks who want to wait until their children can walk to the font. Yet nobody faults the Baptist pastor for telling a parent who might be so misguided as to ask for his child to be baptized, "we don't do that, go back to your pew."

This only tangetially has to do with credo- vs. paedo-baptism per se. It has more to do with a double standard on credos' parts about the bounds of Christian orthodoxy. Moreover, I'd have a lot more respect for the other side of the table if you all wouldn't then relegate the sacraments to a matter disputable. I mean, sheesh, you call yourselves Baptists for Pete's sake, you obviously must place a lot of (some might say undue) emphasis on this issue. Is it that it's ok for you to do so because of your particular views on it, but we get called cultish because we depart from your views? The irony and arrogance is way too much: "It's ok that you paedo's are flat wrong, let's get together all feel all right."
December 31, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterZrim
Actually my point was one of tolerance of divergent views and a sense that Dr. Clark was not. I would not with absolute certainty state that paedo's are wrong, only that as I read Scripture it is credo first then baptism. However I also recognize that when there is a baptism it is often of a person and his entire household (which presumably includes his children of unspecified age as well). What "offended" me was the absolutist statements by Dr. Clark that (I guess) mean I do not go to a "true" church. (I actually know of congregational churches were either/both types of baptisms are practiced depsending on the views of the parents/congregant (although I suspect the paedo is usulaly followed by a credo later on.))

On my "cultish" comment, let me go out on a limb and add fuel to the fire and state what as been a growing issue that troubles me vis a vis the views of many reformed theologians. I am a calvinist at heart and my disagreement is not about basic theoilogy. I regularly read MR, have read many of Dr. Horton's books (as well as Kim's) and of late I have noticed an almost RC elevation fo the church and the sacraments over salvation.and scripture. It is almost like a personal encounter with the Living God is less important than church membership in a "true" church and a view of the sacraments (especially the Lord's Supper) as somehow imparting grace. rather than being rites of reverence and remembrance. In reading between the line in parts of Christless Christianity or the most recent issues of MR I get the sense that church membership and creeds and sacraments are elevated above the Scripture and being born again. That was always the RC game- the church trumps/interprests the Scripture and the sacraments infuse grace.
It seems to me that Scripture teaches first and foremost that we must be born again and that as born again believers we are to meet and fellowship and be subject too a church. How that church conducts its services or the specifics of what is to occur is left pretty vague other than to tell us the true Gospel must be preached, the Lord's supper taken seriously and regularly and, church discipline administered. We should "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God." but the specific form of such music or the type of baptism, etc. is never specified.

I fear that with the emphasis on church membership (which I agreee is important) and only of particular churches, coupled with paedo baptism you could result in a church with all of the externals of a church but with many unregenerate members who attend because of tradition or upbringing. (Perhaps the Church of Sardis.)

I am comfortable with the body of Christ being composed of churches with divergent views on many issues and forms as long as the true Gospel is preached and only believers are members, (with their families/children at least until they reach the age of emancipation). Thus the body of Christ is composed of Baptists, Presbys, Pentys (who emphasize the Spirit more than the previous two), etc.

This is way too long, I will leave it here.
December 31, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterreg

If you had a change in views and asked your pastor to baptize your child he’d tell you Baptists don’t do that. You’d ask him why not. He’d be forced to explain that it isn’t scriptural, thus not in keeping with Christian teaching, thus not true Christian practice. If he’s a good Baptist, he’s not telling you that you’re not a believer, just that true faith doesn’t baptize infants.

I get the sense that when credo folks hear us say that certain non/practices exempt certain churches from being true that it is some sort of comment on peoples’ eternal status. The gripe is that we are confusing invisible with visible. But ironically the gripe itself is based upon that very confusion as it becomes clear that you think something is being said about eternal status. I don’t know about you, but I expect to see plenty of folks who we both would brand heretics in glory, as well as not see some we could have sworn were orthodox. I think much of this also owes to a lower ecclesiology on credo’s part in general. What is curious is that credo’s go by a name (Baptist) that seems to imply they have baptism figured out in a way that the larger balance of Christendom doesn’t (remember, credo-baptism is a novelty is church history), yet don’t want that to cause division. It’s really passive-aggressive when you think about it.
December 31, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterZrim
"I fear that with the emphasis on church membership (which I agreee is important) and only of particular churches, coupled with paedo baptism you could result in a church with all of the externals of a church but with many unregenerate members who attend because of tradition or upbringing. (Perhaps the Church of Sardis.)"

1. I think you mean over-emphasizing church membership. Nobody is doing that here. All that is being said is that membership matters--more than the Anabaptists, less than the Romanists.

2. Skewed emphasis on externals is not abeted by skewed emphasis on internals. The church of Sardis is not fixed by super-apostleship.

3. Love and duty are not mutually exclusive. Last I counted, upbringing and tradition are not four-letter words. Wheat and tares are supposed to grow together. We are not commanded to put our own hand toward upturning inward stones.

4. "I fear that with the under-emphasis on church membership (which I agreee is important) and only of particular churches, coupled with credo-baptism you could result in a church with all of the internals of a revival but with many unregenerate members who hide behind personal relationship lingo because of tradition or upbringing. (Perhaps the super apostles.)"

5. It seems to me your Anabaptism goes well beyond the immediate problem of baptism.
December 31, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterZrim

I would really encourage you to read Horton's People and Place. You simply cannot develop a theology of the means of grace (word and sacrament), or an ecclesiology by simply reacting out of fear of Romanism or ritualism. We all agree that Rome is a false church, and that a mere formalism is not the same thing as "faith" (defined by Heidelberg as a "hearty trust" [Q 21]).

But the fact is that Christ founded a church, and the New Testament knows not of someone who is a Christian but not a member of a local church. The question is, "which church should a Christian join?" Should you join a church which excludes people (children of believers) who are members of the covenant of grace? Reformed Christians say "no" to that question. That does not mean that we are saying you are not a Christian. We are saying that you are in error. There's a huge difference between these two things.

The Belgic Confession (Article 29) defines true and false churches through summarizing a whole bunch of biblical texts. I know that it may sound like the confessions function in the place of Scripture (and that is what you are reacting against), but if you look at the text of the confession you'll find that a whole series of biblical passages are cited. Whenever these differences surface, we (on the Reformed side) assume that those outside Reformed churches likewise understand that the confessions are based upon these proof-texts (and are authoritative only insofar as they are faithful to these passages).

Take a look at the Belgic Confession (articles 27-35) and look-up the proof-texts as you do so. It is not like the New Testament is silent on these things.
December 31, 2008 | Registered CommenterKim Riddlebarger

Thanks. I will look at those Belgic Confession articles and I will also order the book you recommend.

ps-Happy New Year to all.
December 31, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterreg
It seems to me that Reg is coming perilously close to espousing the errors of biblicism as Scott Clark explained in his recent book. This is the most heated exchange I have seen in a while on the Riddleblog. I doubt if Reg would bother to read Scott Clark's new book considering his response to the Heidelblog's "On Churchless Evangelicals." I have not read Mr. Clark's views yet on the Heidelblog but will definitely make a point of it now.
December 31, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Y
Guys - we aren't going to solve this one. Far better men than we have tried and failed...
December 31, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPB

Who said solve? Sometimes it's just fun to talk.
December 31, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterZrim

You have nailed it. For those of us on the Reformed side, these are settled issues . . .

For the Baptist brethren, not so much . . .
December 31, 2008 | Registered CommenterKim Riddlebarger
Ah, Kim, for a moment there I thought you were softening...but you recovered just in time!<grin>
December 31, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPB
The title of your post reminds me of what one of our children once said when hearing about the "Evangelical Free Church". He was wondering how the church could make sure there were no evangelicals in it, as in "Fat Free Milk".
April 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterArnold Sikkema

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