Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Theology and Baptist History As It Dovetails with World History

Every bit of the audio and video is up for the 2015 Word of Truth Conference, including the Panel Discussion (audio pt 1, pt 2, video).  The audio is here and the video is here (just click and enjoy).

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Today you have men who believe justification by faith, who say they believe the reformed doctrine of justification.  In other words, they say Roman Catholicism botched up justification for millennia and the reformation came along and corrected the doctrine of salvation.  These men believe, they say, a teaching altered by the reformation, which brought people back to the Bible.  I don't think that is an exactly true view of history, but I'm fine with their rejecting Roman Catholicism for true justification by faith, which actually saves.  I'm happy for them in that way.  What they brought along with it were various iterations of John Calvin, which some now also equate with the doctrine of salvation, because they can trace it to that juncture in history.  They read like, since it jumpstarted right there, it must be original.

So what do I believe really happened?  I don't believe justification is a reformed doctrine, just a biblical doctrine, and that there were always people who believed in justification by faith alone, because that view would not have totally apostatized.  The people in history who continued believing justification by faith alone were always separate from Roman Catholicism, but were not always, actually very seldom, either able to write about it or at least having their writings preserved so that we can see that those existed and that they believed this.  We can trace believers down through history from writings, but we can't track every single thing that they believed in those centuries.  What we do know is that there had been believers, separate from a Catholic state church, traceable through the centuries.  Even though there was a reformed doctrine of justification, justification was still winding its way through the annals of history on a trajectory separate from Roman Catholicism.

Yes, the faulty dogma of Roman Catholicism was edited after the invention of the printing press when people could see it for what it really was.  Theological white-out and then necessary insertions brought the doctrine of salvation up to biblical speed for reformers, but it was never lost to be found, just like the text of scripture wasn't lost to be found.  That viewpoint sets on unscriptural presuppositions.  It is actually a faulty method, the wrong approach to history.  No one should trace his lineage through Roman Catholicism.  When one does, he also gets infant sprinkling, allegorical hermeneutics, spiritualized ecclesiology, pagan liturgy, and wrong church government.

I see the reformed in this as a small child with a silly grin, having gotten his soteriology cleaned up, showing his coloring to his mom with just a tiny bit of scribble scrabbles.  This person hasn't arrived.  He has rolled a one or a two and is now moving his game piece onto the board.  At the most, he's in the game, but he acts like he's already won.  When you take a step back, while studying the instruction manual, God's Word, you see how far he's come.  It's important.  It is.  Just because you're mostly on track with your doctrine of salvation doesn't mean you're done or you've arrived.

After the printing press was invented, the Bible began to circulate in the language of the people, translations into a common tongue, and copies spread exponentially.  The dark ages stunted the fulfillment of God's cultural mandate.  His sovereign plan, as always, continues unimpeded, unabated.  Feudalism though trapped people in a tragic hopeless economic system.  Everyone acted out with obedience roles protected by the state church.  The Reformers did little to stop or change this.  Even in the colonial period of America, state church held sway, until masses of converted ones populated New Testament churches, Baptists, who rejected ratification of the United States Constitution without the promise of liberty.  That freedom fueled capitalism and acquisition of wealth.

What I'm writing here is that many in this audience should consider that their beliefs need further reform. They still embrace and nurture doctrine concocted by or traced to Roman Catholicism.  They reformed in soteriology but not ecclesiology and eschatology.  God is one and His truth is one.  You can't just believe different about salvation and then preserve the truth about salvation.  All the doctrine and not just the doctrine, the affections, must line up with those of God.  The trajectory must point to Jerusalem when Jesus gathered His assembly and taught His Words.  The church didn't start in Rome and the truth wasn't preserved there.

14 comments:

Colin Maxwell said...

Hi Kent,

So the Reformed are like a child with a silly grin? Yet I'd say that your bookshelves and hymnbooks are filled with the fruit of these babbling children. I must remember your comments when the great John Owen gets invoked again. I must get a rubber stamp with Scribble scrabbles on it so that I can remind myself when I lift down my Matthew Henry commentary or the said John Owen on the Holy Spirit or the insights of Bishop Ryle.

Thanks for the advice. No doubt, you are the people etc.,

Colin Maxwell.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Colin,

Thanks for dropping over. Have you read through scripture and seen metaphors like babes crying for the sincere milk or even in Hebrews where it says you are babes when you should have been teachers? Moses is to be highly respected -- the Jews did -- but if you really respected him, you were to move on from him, right? Book of Hebrews.

The OT isn't scribble scrabble, but it is if you don't move on from it. I quote the OT more than John Owen. You've missed the point of the OT if you don't move on. Yes, the reformers were stilted. Look what it produced in the colonies with the halfway covenant, because of the influence of the state church and Roman Catholicism. I don't apologize for that, because you are missing the metaphor, which scripture regularly uses -- even in 1 John with the child to the young men to the old men. There is an immaturity, a childishness, to reforming Roman Catholicism. You are starting with something false, and so you get a lot of bad teaching leftover. If you don't think so, then I'd be happy to hear how from you, and I mean that.

Look at the Peasant's Revolt with Luther. The Protestant Reformation was the scribble scrabble period, yes. In a sense, Great Britain, England, the UK, continues to suffer because it didn't leave the scribble scrabble stage. It had its moments with Spurgeon, but even that hasn't left it with much. What is it, 6% church attendance? And that isn't even good churches.

d4v34x said...

Sincere babes vs. silly grin.

Kent Brandenburg said...

The silly grin is completely sincere. He's proud of his scribble scrabble, and it is pretty good for someone his age, barely outside the lines, but still outside the lines on baptism, eschatology, the church, stuff people want to call non-essential today like Cain called fruits and vegetables non-essentials.

Jeff Voegtlin said...

Kent,

I especially liked this line in your concluding paragraph:

What I'm writing here is that many in this audience should consider that their beliefs need further reform. They still embrace and nurture doctrine concocted by or traced to Roman Catholicism.

IMO, for the times (1500s), the Reformation was an improvement, generally. But they didn't go all the way. In fact, we should always be seeking to grow closer to Scripture.

I appreciate that about the Word of Truth conferences your church hosts.

Colin Maxwell said...

Hi Kent,
Thank you for your reply. I enjoyed your potted history lesson on Protestantism in the religious life of the UK. So we had our moments with Spurgeon. Yet he was a Baptist who expressed his faith in the following terms "After all, there is a Protestantism still worth contending for, there is a Calvinism still worth proclaiming, and a gospel well worth dying for." (MTP: Volume 17 p.250) and who followed it up with the trust that he was “the most ardent Protestant living” (MTP: Volume 17 p.540) He highly recommended the Puritan scribblers and said of the Reformer, John Calvin: ”A more consistent expositor of Scripture, I believe never lived...” (MTP: Volume 6 p.221) His PreMill views stopped well short of Dispensationalism and he was scathing of those Plymouth brethren commentaries that promoted it. But forsooth (to use his own phrase) he baptized only professing adults and believed in autonomous church government.
I find it amazing that in the history of Evangelicalism in the UK that you could pass by the great 18th century revivals of Whitefield and Wesley and of smaller revivals under the Anglican Evangelicals like Berridge and Venn etc., the Scottish revivals and the Welsh Methodists etc. Even in your own country, the Great Awakenings had a large Protestant impute into them, the same Whitefield popping up again and men like Jonathan Edwards. Many of the Baptists in the US at this time freely confessed themselves to be Protestant Dissenters, including Backus and Gano. http://weecalvin1509.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/backus-and-gano-protestants-click-on.html
Maybe the UK is in the mess it is in because it left the Protestantism of the Reformers, Puritans and later men like Spurgeon? Even if we could get it to return to the evangelicalism of men like Moody etc., then things would be a whole lot better. Do you think that the Dispensational, Baptist faith, as expressed by men like Curtis Hutson and Jack Hyles in a past day or the likes of Hamblin and Gray of today, really is the answer to America’s sin?
We could argue endlessly over the matter of church government and prophecy. I have no intention of doing so. If you want to feel that you have practically arrived or are further up the road to doing so that those of us who do not profess to be Baptists, then well and good. I wish you well. But I remind you that your Baptist history including some of its greatest adherents is riddled with those who embraced the core of the very Protestantism you are denouncing above.
Colin Maxwell

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Colin,

I really have no problem backing down to what you're writing, and folding up here, even erasing the post, but I still believe what I wrote. This is not a scholarly length apologetic of this point, but if I did that, it wouldn't change, I don't believe. Even Spurgeon was affected by reformed theology in a bad way. I love a lot of parts of UK history. Love. Spurgeon was more of an exception than the rule, an outlier really. You can find good reasons to celebrate the UK, and I do. I much prefer the English to anyone else. Who else is there? Hardly anything anywhere. But if we can't look, like Paul, at certain past as dung, we can't move from it.

Whitfield preached in the colonies, the converts went back to their congregational churches, and then left to start Baptist ones. Whitfield himself remained an Anglican. The U.S. moved on from Whitfield. That's what I'm saying. In Spurgeon's own lifetime, things were diminishing.

The Hyles, etc. guys, you're preaching to the choir here. My point, however, isn't that anyone has arrived, but that they need to move on, and starting with admissions about the reformation and being reformed is a start, for all that I admire about it. It may not sound like admiration with my metaphor, but if I was a mom and I saw my child's work, I would appreciate it.

Anyway, you likely already knew my thinking about the above, but this just reasserts it in a more stinging way.

Thanks for commenting.

Colin Maxwell said...

Hi Kent,

Fair enough. We will agree to differ. Without prolonging anything and without making Spurgeon the be all and end all, how would you say that Spurgeon was affected by reformed theology in a bad way? He is the model (you know what I mean - all the usual T&Cs attached) for us all. True, his church went off somewhat in the decades after his death. Yet yours might do so too. The best of men are but men at their best. His church is still in existence today and a pretty healthy one at that. Baptist, still Reformed in doctrine and definitely not PreMill and definitely not Dispensationalist.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Colin,

Spurgeon is the apex of Christianity in Great Britain. I believe that, but even as that, he stuck with a spiritualized ecclesiology and eschatology, and you can't protect the gospel in the wrong container. What did he teach about separation? How did he practice it? That relates to a system of interpretation that allegorizes scripture. That hermeneutic comes from Roman Catholicism. His was far better and he was far better, I'm glad to have folks say good things about Spurgeon, as do I. I recognize his church is now doing better than in the past because of the leadership there, and that speaks well of Spurgeon's legacy too.

We see the same slide in the United States for similar reasons right now. I'm happy to break this down.

Colin Maxwell said...

Hi Kent,

I think you need to establish why your particular “container” alone protects the gospel while everyone else’s leaves it exposed to danger. Is the safety of the gospel really hinged on adherence to your strain of Baptist faith? If for some reason, all the great revivals of the past and the all great Christian commentaries, so beloved and proven edifying to Christians of all denominations throughout the centuries, just happened to belong to your particular strain of Baptists, then I think you would might a stronger case than you have now. However, we both know that this is not the case.

Say what you will about the Protestants, but our AV translation of the Bible and the best of our commentaries and the rich soundness of many of our hymns are even in the purest Baptist churches and homes. We are open enough to attend even the strictest of Baptist conferences and yet feel confident that our areas of disagreement don’t actually equate to Cain and his dirty vegetables , but constitute points wherein good men agree.

I have no doubt some, maybe many, of the attendees at your conference nodded their hearts as you and others expounded the more intricate parts of your strain of Baptist faith and attacked the Protestants and compromising Baptists like Spurgeon. However, I would say that the Protestant commentaries and Spurgeon sermons etc., will still be used as much as ever.

Anyway, enjoying chatting you.

Colin Maxwell.

Bobby Mitchell said...

Colin,

As a speaker and attendee at the Word of Truth Conference last week I can state there was no attacking of Protestants and Spurgeon. It was a conference on the Gospel, not church history. I think you would be encouraged by the preaching linked above.

Nx4.

Bobby Mitchell

Kent Brandenburg said...

Jeff Voegtlin,

Thanks, I appreciate it, and it was good seeing you.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Colin,

Agreeing with Bobby, I don't remember an attack on Protestantism or Spurgeon. I don't believe Spurgeon's name was mentioned once or Protestantism. If we went after anyone, it was mainly after independent Baptists and some evangelicals, because of their distortion to the gospel. You should watch. I'd be interested in what you would disagree with.

Colin Maxwell said...

Hi Bobby and Kent,
I appreciate you both taking the time and patience to chat me here. I took Kent’s reference to the audience here to refer to the conference last week. This assumption would be natural seeing the article appears under a title that immediately links to the conference. However, a stricter reading of the article, aided by the explanation, would indicate that this was not necessarily so. My mistake on that one.

Whatever was said or not said in the conference, the article itself esp. with its reference to the silly grin of a child and his crayons and subsequent comments really did constitute an attack on Protestantism. ”Stinging” being Kent’s own words.

However, both sides have exercised our privileges of stating our particular case. Thanks again.

In Christ