Thursday, August 04, 2011

Selective Reformation pt. 2

Afterwards a story is told. The story is history. It might be historical that someone believed something, but that doesn't mean that something is true. It might just mean that somebody believed it. That's all. And that has some significance. Some. But usually too much to too many people. What is written as history often has too much influence. And because it has that influence, it gets used far more than it's worth.

The Bible must always arrive to transcend or even debunk history. History cannot impress so much that Scripture takes a secondary role. We should consider history. The Lord said so. He said in Isaiah 41:22, "Show the former things, what they be, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them." Historical writings or happenings are worth considering, especially to view "the latter end of them." How did they turn out?

The Old Testament historical books are a good example of a righteous consideration of history. God said bad things would happen to covenant breakers. A covenant was broken and bad things happened. The Lord He is God. The Lord He is God. The former things were the Deuteronomic promises. The latter end of them were blessings and cursings. God still operates in seeming silent times. Count on that.

If any written history penned before the Noahic flood would have survived, we might not get the impression that Noah was that important a figure. He was either mocked or ignored. The latter end, post torrential downpour, says he was important. We want to evaluate the former things there in light of their latter end. The elephant in the room was with Noah.

The latter end of Roman Catholicism helps us understand its faulty trajectory. But we have something even better than history. We have God's Word, which surpasses historical significance. Everything can be judged under its scrutiny, including the development of Roman Catholic traditions.

Protestant criticism of Catholicism has merit. It is worth consideration. But the Reformation too has a latter end ripe for analysis. The Protestant state church could print its story, but that doesn't make it inspired, especially since it follows the same trajectory as Catholicism.

Reformation history shouldn't cloud biblical truth. I can hear the Reformation defenders already. "Ad fontes." True. Go to the Bible as the source of authority. But what is ironic is that the Protestants have their history in a major way because of their own state churches. They published unfettered, printing their doctrines without the physical threat with which they intimidated others. So now we're left with what they wrote as the mainstream of professing Christianity.

Protestants will say sole Scriptura. Yes. But then they refer back to what Reformers said about Scripture. What the Reformers said has a lot of influence, becomes authoritative in its role of historical theology. But how much of the Reformation theology was driven by Catholic writers? We should suspect Protestant doctrine. Not being Catholic doesn't make it right.

Just because Protestant Reformers may have gotten justification by faith right doesn't assume they corrected everything wrong with Roman Catholicism. We shouldn't take that for granted either. We have seen alterations to Protestant eschatology. We should consider "the latter end" of Protestant ecclesiology too. Does its trajectory follow Catholicism or the Bible?

History offers a faulty circular reasoning. The "Bible teaches" a certain ecclesiology because the "Reformers said" and the "Reformers said" because of what the "Bible teaches." Amillennialism dominated history, but a movement of premillennialism broke its grip in professing Christianity. The trajectory of Catholic eschatology was altered. How about a movement of biblical ecclesiology to displace Catholic and then Protestant history? If a Catholic, allegorical hermeneutic could affect eschatology, couldn't it have affected ecclesiology too? Could we not at least consider this as a possibility?

I understand someone growing up hearing only one point of view, the Catholic or Protestant position. People grow up Buddhists in Thailand, Mormons in Utah, Catholics in the Venezuela, animists in Africa, Unitarians in Vermont, Reformed in Holland, Free Presbyterian in Ireland, and Fundamentalist in Greenville. Could you open your mind to the possibility that allegorization or spiritualizing has affected your ecclesiology? Through the trajectory of Catholicism and Protestantism, Platonism has immersed or even sprinkled your thoughts? Let's take the deserted island approach. A Bible was dropped on you and you are clean slate for what it says about the church. Let's begin.


jg said...

Pastor Brandenburg, two points.

1. In general, if not in every specific, we are agreed on preservation re: the Greek and Hebrew texts. But --- it appears to me that in terms of the text of Scripture, much of your argument is from history. Here, you downplay the value of history. I have some thoughts on why the two areas are different, but perhaps you could elaborate on why the difference.

2. As to universal church, have you written anywhere on Heb. 12:22-23 relative to that?

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hey JG,

You are quite alert here. As I wrote, I thought, some will see this as contradicting our text preservation position.

I teach history. I love it. I downplay the significance, I'm going to imagine, like you would, from what I've read you write. There are several differences here, not necessarily in this order.

First, our view of what text comes from biblical presuppositions, as seen in TSKT. There are several and altogether they lead to one. If a position doesn't fulfill scripture it is rejected, even if it seems to dominate history.

Second, ours is the only doctrinal position found in history. No other doctrine was taught by believers until Warfield came along, that we know (since we're not guaranteed the preservation of history).

Just a couple to differentiate, but there are more if I spent the time. I'm interested in your thoughts.

On number 2, I'm not sure I have something on the blog, but I have it on paper. I'll perhaps write on it in this little series.

jg said...

"As I wrote, I thought, some will see this as contradicting our text preservation position."

If we're thinking the same things, one or both of us is probably in deep trouble. :)

I would have expressed an answer to #1 this way:

Re: preservation, the Scriptures tell us certain things, and we expect to see that worked out in history. We don't take a position on the text because of what believers have historically done, we take it because of Scripture. Scripture leads us to conclude that true believers will get this one right re: preservation/canonicity.

Scripture does not lead us to conclude that believers will consistently get ecclesiology right. So history is just telling us what happened, not telling us what truth is.

That's an abbreviated version of what I was thinking.

Kent Brandenburg said...


Thanks. I think we said the same thing in explanation, just expressed it differently. It was an interesting question though.

Unknown said...

Good thoughts here Pastor Brandenburg. Thanks. History is important but secondary to the Scriptures. We do not depend on history (or any extra-Biblical source) for our interpretation. God has given us His Word, and it is good for our present day, as in the day He gave it Moses and His people back then. We, nor anyone, need not wait for the unbelieving, humanist, liberal scholar to tell us what it means. God is good.

Reformed should be glad for a post like this, after all aren't they "always reforming?"

jg said...

I thought we were on the same page, too.

Another verse (besides the Hebrews passage) that is sometimes used as a UC proof text is John 17:20-21, which appears to stress the unity of all believers. Therefore, unity is not just a local church matter.

So I'd also be interested in your comments on that, either in a comment here or in a later post. Or maybe you are aware of someone else who has written a "refuting UC proof texts" paper somewhere.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I have a chapter in our upcoming book on Ecclesiastical Separation on John 17 that considers that passage. You had asked if I had dealt with Hebrews 12:23-24 in print and you had asked a question about that to me before over at SI, and I cut and pasted what B. H. Carroll said on it. I've preached through Hebrews a couple of times, so I've written on it, but I want to deal with it here.


Thanks. True.

Lance said...

Things that are different are not the same. That seems like a statement we should all take for granted. However, Reformed people use a double Hermenuetic. When anyone enters a doctrinal discussion with a person trained in Reformed Theology, he must understand this.

Reformed Theological is corrupt because its Hermenuetical methodology is corrupt. It operates on the basis of presuppositions and Proof Texting. Its exegesis is driven by its presuppositions thereby corrupting true exegesis turning it into eisegesis.

This was evident in the discussion in the previous article regarding whether baptizo could ever mean something else besides immersion. These people CANNOT understand Dispensational transitions because they reject the very idea of Dispensationalism. Therefore, they cannot possibly comprehend an inductive theological methodology that includes Dispensational transitions.

It is impossible to establish a biblical Ecclesiology if you begin with a Roman Catholic presupposition or an invisible church presupposition. This is especially true if you use a Proof Text methodology. We are not even talking the same language. We use the same words, but they mean completely different things to them then they do to us. Things that are different are not the same.

Joshua said...

Pastor Brandenburg,

Two book related questions. Firstly, is the Ecclesiastical Separation book completed and awaiting publication, or it is to be completed following another Word of Truth conference?

Secondly, and I hate to be a pest about this one, but do you have any timeframes on "Dressing for the Lord"? I'm really looking forward to this one.



jg said...

Re: Heb. 12, I went and found it, that was five years ago. I had forgotten, but when I found it I remembered. Makes more sense to me now than it did then. I can't believe you remembered that, though. :)

I think there are a lot of independent Baptists who would hold to an invisible, universal church who would do little different, in practice, than you would. You would say all true believers are brothers and sisters in Christ, and should be treated accordingly. I think many independent Baptists who hold to a UC would mean and practice the same thing you do.

I would certainly agree that wrong teaching based on a UC position has led to much error. But Hebrews tells us there is a (shall we say) prophetic UC -- there is at least going to be a UC someday. There's really no such thing as a LC-only position, if I understand you (and Carroll, and Dr. Ketcham) clearly. There is a "LC-only for this age" position.

So perhaps it would help to clarify matters a little bit if we said that the errors arise, not from teaching of a UC but rather in teaching it wrongly.

The "LC-only" terminology really hindered me on this topic, and that's probably what kept me from seeing Carroll's point previously. I couldn't get past the fact that Hebrews clearly teaches a universal church in the future. I thought Carroll was trying to talk that away somehow.

Dr. Ketcham said somewhere that it is LC-only in this age, and that was what clicked with me. It is easy to see how you reconcile Heb. 12 with your position once that is clarified. I don't think we're standing on the same base, but perhaps we're in the same ballpark after all.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Dr. K,



We're not done with Ecclesiastical Separation book, but this is our year to finish it. Hopefully we'll get it done early 2012 after completing it late 2011. The conference is November. Dress book I've got to get in gear. Finished writing long ago. Haven't stayed on layout guy at all to finish it.


The "church in prospect" doesn't function at all. It isn't existent. And it won't be universal in heaven, because it will be local then too. It will be an assembly. Nothing universal assembles. Universal and assembly are mutually exclusive.

There are a lot of differences between those who are UC and those who are LC only, and ecclesiastical separation is a major part of that. The big debate about majors and minors is because of UC. Where is unity? Is it UC or LC? If you read here, I've written a lot on that here.

Unknown said...

I think LC only has made some pretty good headway among the IFB movement. It is still strange though that when in comes to 1 Cor. 12:13 that many contradict their professed LC ecclesiology. There is an apparent failure to connect the dots. You cannot hold to LC only position and at the same time claim membership into a mystical body of Christ (at the point of Salvation) as many Fundamentalists have done.

PSFerguson said...


I have read the material here and I have found nothing that proves the local church only view point. Kent writes continuously about going back to the Scripture and then never does that for his arguments. When it suits him he overturns the clear interdependence of the local churches in the NT era by using his LC presuppositions to throw out the natural plain meaning of words like "decrees" in Acts 16:4.

JG is also correct to pick up his inconsistency on preservation here. He is happy to use all the Reformed writers historical theology to evidence the preservation position until Warfield. But when it comes to ecclesiology he argues that they are all tainted by Romanism and Platonism simply because they do not buy into his novel theory on LC only.

Lance Ketchum only proves that he did not read my comments on baptizo argument with his attempt to link it to a dispensational hermeneutic debate. My argument was primarily based on the NT era writers usage of the word baptizo in different contexts! Also, if he knew his church history he would have discovered that most of the early dispensationalists were not immersionists e.g. Scofield, Walvoord, McGee etc which knocks his theory out. Clearly you can be a staunch dispensationalist and a non-immersionist.

Frankly, all the showboating here is a bit tiresome. Can someone start taking Matthew 16 and Acts 15 and prove from the Bible that the Local Church only theory is the only possible exegetical position. Lets leave Carroll and Calvin out and just use the Scriptures. Show unambiguously that the Bible only teaches a LC position for this "dispensation."

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hey PS,

Showboat here (foghorn sound effect). I strongly hinted in the piece and comments that we would do that in part three, but I appreciate your anticipation.

Even though JG, so-called, "picked up" on my use of history, what I have said is that Baptists didn't attempt to correct where they agreed with the state church guys, well, because they agreed. For instance, both believed justification by faith. I've written on this in the past here.

I will be happy to deal with everything as I begin showing what Scripture teaches on the nature of the church so that you can stop selectively reforming.