The Strange Fruit of Common Grace

The Acton Institute is a Roman Catholic ecumenical think tank that purportedly is “dedicated to the study of free-market economics informed by religious faith and moral absolutes.”  While “free-market Roman Catholic” is as oxymoronic as “ecumenical think tank,” the Acton Institute is run by a former  “faith healer” and homosexual activist turned Catholic priest (re-closeted), Robert Sirico.  Admittedly the idea of an in-the-closet homosexual priest is hardly shocking, what is perhaps more shocking is that the Acton Institute is reportedly “funded by Michigan-based Dutch Calvinist business entrepreneurs.”  My how far Dutch Calvinism has fallen.

Today the  Roman Catholic ecumenist Acton Institute has “partnered” with Kuyper College to “translate Abraham Kuyper’s seminal three-volume work on common grace (De gemeene gratie).”

Now you might be wondering why would a Roman Catholic think tank be partnering with anyone to translate Kuyper’s work on common grace?  According to the Acton Institute:

Common Grace is the capstone of Kuyper’s constructive public theology and the best available platform to draw evangelicals back to first principles and to orient their social thought.

There is little doubt that the Acton Institute plans to draw evangelicals back but it’s not to their first principles.  The irony is that Kuyper first developed his novel doctrine of common grace as a means to justify his own coalition building with Roman Catholics in Holland during his bid to become Prime Minister.  As Herman Hanko explains:

Kuyper’s major writing in this period [prior to his involvement in politics] was a book with the title Dat God’s Genade Particulier Is, translated into English under the title “Particular Grace.” (The translation is by Mr. Marvin Kamps, and is published by the Reformed Free Publishing Association.) In this book Kuyper argued against the universalism of the modernists in the Reformed Churches and defended particularism in all areas of salvation, especially in the atoning work of Christ.. The interesting part of this book, as far as we are concerned, is Kuyper’s repudiation of the gracious and well-meant offer of the gospel. In fact, the texts commonly quoted in support of the offer of the gospel (II Peter 3:9, I Tim. 2:4, etc.) were all explained by Kuyper in a particularist way as referring to the elect only. Kuyper was, at this stage in his life, soundly Reformed.

But Kuyper underwent a change. He came out with a three-volume work entitled Gemeene Gratie or, General Grace. In this work, Kuyper, without ever repudiating his rejection of the free offer of the gospel, now, strangely, steered the church in the direction of another aspect of common grace, namely, a grace given to all men that restrained sin and produced in the unregenerate the ability to do good works.

This change in Kuyper’s thinking came about because Kuyper committed the grievous sin of resigning from the active ministry of the Word in order to enter politics. He formed a political party, ran for and won a place in the Lower Chamber and became the head of his party. He aspired, however, to the office of prime minister, but could not get sufficient members of his party elected to the Lower Chamber to thrust him into the prime minister’s office. And so he formed a coalition with the Roman Catholic party to secure enough votes to gain the prime minister’s seat.  Dr. Abraham Kuyper and Common Grace (11)

I think it’s fair to say that with the Acton Institute now involved in translating Kuyper’s Common Grace we have an excellent example of the old adage turnabout is fair play.

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127 Comments on “The Strange Fruit of Common Grace”

  1. Sean Gerety Says:

    And, yes, the title is a pun.

  2. Jim Butler Says:

    “While ‘free-market Roman Catholic’ is as oxymoronic as ‘ecumenical think tank…’”

    Thank you Sean — I actually chuckled out loud!

    jim

  3. LJ Says:

    For anyone interested, Herman Hanko, on his blog http://common-grace-considered.blogspot.com/ has a series of articles on Common Grace.

    Again, the PRC has done the best work I have read refuting the notion of both “Common Grace” and the more noxious (in my view) “Well Meant Offer.”

    Thanks for the post Sean.

    LJ

  4. LJ Says:

    Also, a group of men from my church started meeting over a year ago, originally, to study the doctrine of Common Grace. We read through all of these: http://www.prca.org/prtj/apr96c.html

    Then we moved on to other issues. But these articles by Rev. Hanko were, in my opinion, very good.

    LJ

  5. LJ Says:

    And while this here feller can be very unreasonable (JRob once called him a “very unreasonable man”), most of what he’s written on Common Grace and FOG, in my view, is right on: http://www.outsidethecamp.org/commongrace.htm

    He says GHC wasn’t saved because he once wrote something that appeared to capitulate to Arminianism; then he proceeded to pronounce nearly everyone, ever, unsaved based on any association with ANY Arminian. I wrote him once protesting and, you guessed it, he found me unsaved also.

    But the CG/FOG stuff is pretty good.

    LJ

  6. Hugh McCann Says:

    Common Grace is… the best available platform to draw evangelicals back to first principles and to orient their social thought.

    Of course.

    How do you say, “Oh, poop!” in Dutch?

  7. Gus gianello Says:

    I think it is very appropriate to say, considering 19th, 20th & 21st century Holland, can any good thing come from Holland?

    Geert Wilders seems to be the best that Holland has to offer. And if my mother/father-in-law (who was a ruling elder in the URCNA) are any indication of the spiritual condition of the laity, then I’m afraid most may be heading for damnation.

    Gus

  8. LJ Says:

    How do you say, “Oh, poop!” in Dutch?

    DeDung!

  9. Hugh McCann Says:

    Ha ha!
    Dank je wel, L.J.!

  10. Hugh McCann Says:

    Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
    Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
    Black body swinging in the Southern breeze,
    Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

    Pastoral scene of the gallant South,
    The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
    Scent of magnolia sweet and fresh,
    And the sudden smell of burning flesh!

    Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck,
    For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
    For the sun to rot, for a tree to drop,
    Here is a strange and bitter crop.

  11. LJ Says:

    Probably not written by R.L. Dabney.

    What happened to the Presbyterians in the South prior to and up to the Civil War (ahem, The War of Northern Aggression)? I suspect it’s an interesting study and, admittedly, one that I have not seriously studied. Since I am originally a Southerner and now a Presbyterian (hopefully you’ll allow me to own that even though I’m in the OPC!!) that might be a worthwhile future project. Any thoughts?

  12. LJ Says:

    Hugh:

    http://www.cityreformed.org/snoke/racism.pdf

    Check out the article if you have time. I think it is very interesting and well argued. Here’s a cut:

    “As discussed above, the arguments of both the North and South both failed because what they understood as slavery was not merely the economic arrangement discussed in the Bible, which could happen to anyone, but a state of permanent subservience based on innate inferiority. The Northern Christians, therefore, did not argue that the South violated specific laws of the Bible regarding slavery, but instead argued that all men are equal. They might have made more headway with Southern Christians if they had argued that the South did not follow biblical law on slavery.”

    LJ

  13. Sean Gerety Says:

    Start with Robbins’ booklet Slavery and Christianity.

  14. LJ Says:

    Is anyone familiar with Professor Snoke of the University of Pittsburgh? City Reformed Presbyterian Church. I just found the article on Southern Presbyterian Church, PCCSA (Presbyterian Church Confederate States of America) to be interesting.

    If you’re interested: http://www.cityreformed.org/snoke/

    Sean,
    I have several copies of JRob’s booklet and give them out frequently.

    LJ

  15. LJ Says:

    He, Snoke, also comments on Federal Vision: http://www.cityreformed.org/snoke/federalvision.pdf

    LJ

  16. Monty L. Collier Says:

    Sean, excellent article.

    In my opinion, the mistake of “Restraining Grace” seems to prosper in areas where Calvinists know little of Law / Gospel Distinction. For example, in Calvinism, it is the 1st Use of the Law that restrains sin and crime in society, not some universal “restraining grace” alien to Scripture.

    Although the Protestant Reformed Churches do oppose common grace, I have never seen them use Law / Gospel Distinction to oppose “Restraining Grace.”

    In fact, Sean Gerety pointing out this recent Roman Catholic / Dutch Calvinist connection, reminds me of another recent Roman Catholic / Dutch Calvinist connection (a Roman Catholic / PRC connection): Sola Ecclesia.

    David J. Engelsma’s latest book “Bound To Join” teaches there is no salvation for those who are NOT members of an instituted church congregation. Engelsma writes: “As there was salvation only in the ark, so there is salvation only in the instituted church” (Bound To Join, page 4).

    Engelsma goes on to say that “In this body He [God] gives each member His grace by the preaching of the Gospel and by the sacraments, as the means of the spirit of Christ” (Bound To Join, page 47).

    Strangely, this is the same Federal Vision teaching found by such men like Peter Leithart (see his book “The Baptized Body, chapter 4, page 83-84). Leithart writes: “Membership in the corporate body never occurs without a personal connection with the Lord of that body.”

    Compare these false views with Gordon H. Clark, who wrote: “the universal Church is invisible because it does not coincide with the membership rolls of the several visible churches. Some people whose names are on the rolls are not Christians; and some Christians are not members of any visible church” (What Do Presbyterians Believe?, page 219).

    In short, being a member of an instituted church no more implies the member actually accepts the Gospel any more than being a citizen of the United States implies the citizen actually accepts the Bill of Rights. Proponents of Common Grace are wrong, but so are those who teach the Gospel demands us to join an instituted church–for they are mixing Law and Gospel, asserting that salvation is conditioned upon our obedience, and contradicting Justification By Faith Alone. Such people are on their way back to Rome.

  17. Hugh McCann Says:

    LJ,

    “They might have made more headway with Southern Christians if they had argued that the South did not follow biblical law on slavery.”

    Might have, indeed. Doubtful methinks, but biblical arguments -as I recall JR promoting- is our procedure, not firing upon the citizenry.

    I will read the Snoke, and I read JR’s unconvincing booklet when it came out, but this is probably for another thread.

  18. Hugh McCann Says:

    Monty,

    It sounds like Engelsma’s rooted (or too much rooting around) in Augustine contra Donatists!

    Churchmen love the institution more than the people therein, it appears.

    (G.H.) Clark better discerned the True Ark (Bride) than does even our brother in Grand Rapids.

  19. Sean Gerety Says:

    Monty, does D.E. define what is meant by the “instituted church”?

  20. Cliffton Says:

    If the knowledge of God is salvation, and salvation is bound to membership in the church institute, then the knowledge of God is bound to membership in the church institute. Contrary to Engelsma, the Scriptures declare that the Word is not bound. Bound To Join is an abomination.

  21. Louis Says:

    Shaun,
    Monty’s reading of Engelsma is correct. D.E. time and again states that the church outside of which is no salvation, is a visible congregation. See also the review of his book by one of his supporters in the “Protestant Reformed Theological Journal” (Volume 44/2, 2011). You may want to refer to the article I posted to you again. Perhaps you could make it available on the blog. You will also note that D.E. links forgiveness of sins with the organised church, just as the so-called “apostles creed” does. Significantly the 1689 Baptist Cofession omits this requirement for salvation altogether.
    Also, should not Bavinck be scrutinised as well. After all, whereas Kuiper made common grace popular in the secular arena, Bavinck carried it into the church. Refer to his Dogamatics, vol I: 318-319, for instance. Monty has also drawn attention to this elsewhere. In South Africa, the more so since he has appeared in English, Bavinck has been embraced by liberal and post-modern denominations. Vid his assesment of the Roman Catholic state.
    Regards, Louis Breytenbach

  22. Louis Says:

    Sean,
    I’m sorry. I did it again with my “Shaun”!
    Louis

  23. Hugh McCann Says:

    Louis or Monty,

    Not having read Engelsma’s “Bound” book, I ask how does he differ from a Landmark Baptist or Papist?

    This smacks of the LBs & RCs take that “The-visible-church-is-the-only-church (and ours happens to be the only true & faithful one)”!

  24. Sean Gerety Says:

    Louis, you did not answer my question. Monty may be correct in his assessment of Engelsma’s book (fwiw I think the PRC is also wrong on marriage and divorce), but I asked if he explains in the book what he means by the “instituted church”?

    Also, since all this has completely nothing to do with the topic of the blog post above (I love Monty but he does have a habit of doing that), how do you understand WCF XXV:2 on the Visible Church, specifically the highlighted portion below:

    The visible church, which is also catholick or universal under the gospel, (not confined to one nation, as before under the law,) consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion, together with their children; and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.

    Is this just some sort of Romanist relic that somehow made it into the Confession?

  25. Louis Says:

    Hugh,
    In the Journal I referred to, a desperate effort is made to deny that the position taken by Engelsma is RC. I am not familiar with blog procedures, but if Sean cannot upload the aricle, I will onpass a PDF to you.
    My contact is louiskbb@gmail.com
    Louis

  26. Sean Gerety Says:

    Louis, you can start your own blog for free and in just a matter of minutes. Go to wordpress.com and upload anything you want to your heart’s content. In the meantime I’ll wait for either you or Monty to answer my question(s). Thanks.

  27. Louis Says:

    Sean,
    As you will remember, that was exactly the question I put in desperation to you, defering to your better understanding of reformed issues.
    Since the topic is now off bounds, perhaps you could treat of it at another time.
    However, the article I posted to you makes it absolutely clear in what sense Engelsma understands the instituted church.It is a place for instance, where one could receive baptism (p.117).

  28. Sean Gerety Says:

    Louis, nice try, but I didn’t say the topic was off bounds. Also, if instituted church means “where one could receive baptism” then it seems to me that this would include any number of home churches as well. After all and as I understand it, when John Robbins left the PCA in disgust he started a church that met in his home with one or two other families. Last I checked they’re still going and I assume is even a place where believers can be baptized. So what’s the problem?

  29. Louis Says:

    Sean,
    The question is simply this. Am I saved by faith alone or by faith and church membership. Is my seeking the company of other believers the fruit of my salvation or a condition of my salvation. I do not understand the Reformed Confessions on this issue. Any help

  30. Sean Gerety Says:

    Here’s some help. The proof text for the highlighted is Acts 2:47: “praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”

    So, now, you tell me is this a denial of JBFA in favor of JBCM (justification by church membership)?

  31. Cliffton Says:

    Sean, he does define the church institute. Consistent with imperious presbyterianism, Engelsma defines the church in view of the office bearers.

  32. Sean Gerety Says:

    Doesn’t Acts 6 (for starters) give us the criterion for choosing office bearers? Also, maybe I’m confusing you with someone else, but aren’t you PRC Cliffton?

  33. Cliffton Says:

    My father, sister, and I no longer attend a PR church. Sean, do you accept the argument that I presented?

  34. Sean Gerety Says:

    What argument, that churches have elected officers? Of course they do, although I don’t know why this is by itself qualifies as imperious pesbyterianism or is JBCM per Louis’ concerns? Look, I’m not saying that there might not be problems with Englesma’s book (I haven’t read it) and that it is as you and Monty describe it, but nothing you’ve told me so far raises any flags. I think if you’re going to take issue with what someone writes you should be able to demonstrate the error and not just assert it. Is that too much to ask? 🙂

  35. Cliffton Says:

    Not too much to ask. If the knowledge of God is salvation, and salvation is bound to membership in the church institute, then the knowledge of God is bound to membership in the church institute. This subordinates the knowledge of God to the church institute.

  36. Monty L. Collier Says:

    Sean,
    Sorry about the digression (mea culpa).
    I hope the following shines some light on the discussion.

    David J. Engelsma writes:
    “It is absolutely necessary that every Christian, every believer, belong to and be an active, faithful member, not of some church or other, but of a true, instituted congregation. A true church is characterized by three plain marks: the pure preaching of the sound doctrine of the gospel; the right administration of the sacraments; and the proper exercise of Christian discipline (Belgic Confession, Article 29). The first and second marks, it should be noted, imply important truths about the public worship and liturgy of the church. The last implies something important about the government of the church, namely, rule by a body of elders.

    “My concern now is not how far a church may drift from the truth before it becomes an apostate, or false, church. This can be a difficult problem for the church member. But I simply want to point out that church membership is not an option. It is not even required so long as it does not cause extreme physical hardship. IT IS DEMANDED BY GOD, regardless of any and all circumstances of our lives.

    “Ariticle 28 of the Belgic Confession specifies some extreme hardships possibly attending obedience to this demand, including loss of one’s life: “yea, though they should suffer death or bodily punishment.” Earlier the article states that “all men are in duty bound to join and unite themselves with it.” One reason is that “OUT OF IT THERE IS NO SALVATION,” that is, OUTSIDE THE INSTITUTE THERE IS NO SALVATION.

    “How important to us is our salvation and that of our children!

    “THIS IS HOW IMPORTANT CHURCH MEMBERSHIP IS! The ground for this statement in the Belgic Confession is that the means of grace and salvation have been given by Christ to the instituted congregation and ARE ENJOYED ONLY BY THE MEMBERS WITHIN THE CHURCH. Christ, the living, life-giving Christ, is in the church as savior. As there was salvation only in the ark, SO THERE IS SALVATION ONLY IN THE INSTITUTED CHURCH.”
    (Bound To Join, pages 3-4, the emphasis is mine)

    Now, I may be wrong, but I don’t think Martin Luther was converted under the preaching of a true, instituted church exhibiting the marks found in Article 29 of the Belgic Confession. After Luther’s “tower conversion” in 1513, which happened as a result of Bible study (not as a result of the preaching of some elder from a true, instituted church), Luther did not move to Michigan and join a true, instituted church. In fact, as far as Luther could tell by looking around him, dare I say it, the true believers were invisible! There was no true, instituted church for Luther to join.

    When such topics arise in “Bound To Join,” Engelsma starts to speak the language of mystery–God save us from the Dutch and their mysteries!
    Engelsma writes:
    “The lesson we must learn from the MYSTERIOUS corruption of the instituted church in the centuries before the Reformation…Concerning the existence of the true church during those centuries, I am puzzled as anyone” (Bound To Join, pages 126-127, emphasis mine).

    Martin Luther wasn’t puzzled, nor was John Calvin. Calvin explained what happened in the Institutes of the Christian Religion. Read John Calvin’s “Prefatory Address To His Most Christian Majesty, The Most Mighty And Illustrious Monarch, Francis, King Of The French.” In that prefatory address, Calvin writes:

    “The hinges on which the controversy turns are these: first, in their contending that the form of the Church is always visible and apparent; and, secondly, in their placing this form in the see of the Church of Rome and its hierarchy. WE, ON THE CONTRARY, MAINTAIN, BOTH THAT THE CHURCH MAY EXIST WITHOUT ANY APPARENT FORM, and, moreover, that the form is not ascertained by that external splendor which they foolishly admire, but by a very different mark, namely, by the pure preaching of the word of God, and the due administration of the sacraments. They [The Papists–RedBeetle] make an outcry whenever the Church cannot be pointed to with the finger. BUT HOW OFT WAS IT THE FATE OF THE CHURCH AMONG THE JEWS TO BE SO DEFACED THAT NO COMELINESS APPEARED? WHAT DO WE SUPPOSE TO HAVE BEEN THE SPLENDID FORM WHEN ELIJAH COMPLAINED THAT HE WAS LEFT ALONE? (I Kings xix. 14). HOW LONG AFTER THE ADVENT OF CHRIST DID IT LIE HID WITHOUT FORM? HOW OFTEN SINCE HAS IT BEEN SO OPPRESSED BY WARS, SEDITIONS, AND HERESIES, THAT IT WAS NOWHERE SEEN IN SPLENDOR? Had they lived at that time, would they have believed there was any Church? But Elijah learned that there remained seven thousand men who had not bowed the knee to Baal; nor ought we doubt Christ has always reigned on earth ever since he ascended to heaven. HAD THE FAITHFUL AT THAT TIME REQUIRED SOME DISCERNIBLE FORM, MUST THEY NOT HAVE FORTHWITH GIVEN WAY TO DESPONDENCY?…Away then, with this absurd mode of judging! Let us rather reverently admit, that as God alone knows who are his, so he may sometimes withdraw the EXTERNAL manifestation of his Church from the view of men.”
    (Institutes Of The Christian Religion, Calvin’s Prefatory Address, page 14-15–I’m using the 1989 one volume edition, from Eerdmans Publishing, the Henry Beveridge translation–the emphasis is mine)

  37. Louis Says:

    Sean,
    I see that you translate Acts 2.47: “…those who were being saved”. It seems to me that you have a process in mind, just as Calvin expresses it in his commentary:

    “Furthermore, we must note that he saith, that those were gathered unto the Church which should be saved. For he teacheth that this is the means to attain salvation, if we be incorporate into the Church. For like as there is no remission of sins, so neither is there any hope of salvation out of it (“extra eam”)”.

    Of course this accords exactly with the Vulgate’s periphrasis.
    I hold that this is impossible Greek. The force of the passive participle is here at most itterative. That is, the believers were added to the community (v 44) as they were saved.
    I also hold that it is our Biblical duty as believers to join ourselves with other believers in the way the Bible instructs us to.
    I deny that church membership should be made a condition for salvation.

  38. Sean Gerety Says:

    Unless I’m completely misunderstanding Monty, it seems to me that he is quoting Calvin favorably. On the other hand, Louis not so much. In which case, either Calvin has simply contradicted himself (always possible) or he is using the idea of salvation in a narrower (Monty) and broader (Louis) sense. Louis agrees that it is a biblical imperative that Christians are to join with other believers, but he just doesn’t like the idea of membership and prefers the idea of community. I’m starting to think that much of the fuss is in large part due to equivocations on some key terms. In fairness, I don’t see D.E. saying JBCM (although he might be and I’m just missing the context).

    Was JR’s two family home church a true church? I think so. Would D.E. agree?

    FWIW I lent my copy of Clark What Do Presbyterians Believe and never got it back. Does anyone have Clark’s take on the WCF passage above?

  39. Hugh McCann Says:

    “The visible church = all …that profess the true religion, together with their children;
    and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ,
    the house and family of God,
    out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.”

    Romanist relic? Kind of. At best incomplete, as it doesn’t address the invisible church issue.

  40. Hugh McCann Says:

    “Furthermore, we must note that he saith, that those were gathered unto the Church which should be saved. For he teacheth that this is the means to attain salvation, if we be incorporate into the Church. For like as there is no remission of sins, so neither is there any hope of salvation out of it (“extra eam”)”. CALVIN

    Hope he merely meant the mystical/ invisible/ spiritual body of Christ when he said, ‘gathered unto’ or ‘incorporate into’ the Church!

    And not saved by being in the church (either in- or visible), but by grace alone thru faith alone, one is then & thus gathered/ incorporated/ united unto or with Christ.


  41. Dear Sean,

    Please allow me to tell you, that in my opinion, David J. Engelsma sounds like Jeff Meyers.

    My love to you in Christ.

  42. Steve M Says:

    I am trying to figure out what Abraham Kuyper would have thought about David J. Engelsma’s latest book “Bound To Join”.

    I don’t know if I will be able to come any definite conclusion. Maybe someone can help. I am open to anyone’s speculations.

  43. Sean Gerety Says:

    Romanist relic? Kind of. At best incomplete, as it doesn’t address the invisible church issue.

    Hugh, you’re kidding right? XXV:1. The Invisible Universal Church

    The catholick or universal church, which is invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ the head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fulnes of him that filleth all in all.

  44. Hugh McCann Says:

    Sean,

    No, but then I was merely commenting on the sec. 2 quote you’d supplied.

    This is good, this is good: “The catholick or universal church, which is invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ the head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fulnes of him that filleth all in all.”

  45. ray kikkert Says:

    article 28 of the belgic confession is clear enough … if you d’ont like it …join up with harold kamping … then we will not have to deal with you come may 21st 🙂

  46. Hugh McCann Says:

    United Ref. Church: “Since the Scriptures teach that salvation is found only in true visible churches you must join one and not leave.”

    http://urclearning.org/2008/09/28/belgic-confession-article-28-the-true-visible-church/

  47. Hugh McCann Says:

    BELGIC from Art. 27 ~ The Holy Catholic Church.
    We believe and confess one single catholic or universal church— a holy congregation and gathering of true Christian believers, awaiting their entire salvation in Jesus Christ being washed by his blood, and sanctified and sealed by the Holy Spirit.

    …And so this holy church is not confined, bound, or limited to a certain place or certain persons. But it is spread and dispersed throughout the entire world, though still joined and united in heart and will, in one and the same Spirit, by the power of faith.

    Art. 28 ~ The Obligations of Church Members.
    We believe that since this holy assembly and congregation is the gathering of those who are saved and there is no salvation apart from it, no one ought to withdraw from it, content to be by himself, regardless of his status or condition.

    But all people are obliged to join and unite with it, keeping the unity of the church by submitting to its instruction and discipline, by bending their necks under the yoke of Jesus Christ, and by serving to build up one another, according to the gifts God has given them as members of each other in the same body.

    And to preserve this unity more effectively, it is the duty of all believers, according to God’s Word, to separate themselves from those who do not belong to the church, in order to join this assembly wherever God has established it, even if civil authorities and royal decrees forbid and death and physical punishment result.

    And so, all who withdraw from the church or do not join it act contrary to God’s ordinance.

    ~~~~~~~
    {GOTTA love those church-state churches!}

  48. Louis Says:

    Sean,
    Ray says:

    “article 28 of the belgic confession is clear enough … if you d’ont like it …join up with harold kamping (sic)”

    I do not like the article (28), but it does not follow that I must join up with Camping. My family and I will keep our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ alone.

    Ray and Engelsma’s reliance on a confession rather than the Bible implies a kind of “final grace” as per the federal visionists. As I read it, they have conflated justification and sanctification.

    More importantly, Acts 2.42,44 and 47 contradicts Article 28. The order is salvation (complete) and then being joined to the church.

    Heb 10.23-25 urgently warns that Chritians should stay in communion with each other.The warning properly belongs to the sanctification we should persue. This obviously includes being joint to a visible church where possible. And the PRC is not the only true vissible church.

    Engelsma and Ray are also contradicted by Calvin:
    “[W]ould that they had the courage to gather in the name of Jesus Christ wherever they are, and set up some sort of church, either in their houses or in those of their neighbours, to do in their place what we do here…” (“Come Out From Among Them”: 192). Calvin was urging believers not to attend the churches of Rome, but to withdraw.

    Why Calvin and the Westminster Confession kept a statement (“Outside the church there is no salvation”) that originated with Cyprian, should be a matter of futher serious grammatical-historical exegesis. Perhaps the Reformers simply overstated their case??

    In any event, the proof text of the Westminster Confession, when translated correctly, is no proof at all. It should read: “those that were saved”, and not: “those that should be saved”.

  49. Louis Says:

    Sean,

    From Berkhof, L. 1969. The History of Christiam Doctrines. 228-229

    Cyprian maintained that: “True members will always obey and remain in the church, OUTSIDE OF WHICH THERE IS NO POSSIBILITY OF BEING SAVED. This conception of the church logically caused Cyprian to deny the validity of baptism administered by heretics. To him it was perfectly evident that one who was himself ooutside the church could not induct others into it. Moreover, he believed that only the leaders who received the Spirit – AND HE WAS RECEIVED ONLY IN THE CHURCH – COULD IMPART THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS. Thus Cyprian was the first to bring out clearly and distinctly the idea of a Catholic Church, comprhending all true branches of the Church of Chtist, and bound together by a visible and external unity. This is what Cunningham calls ‘Cyprian’s grand contribution to the progress of error and corruption in the Church’. Historival Theology, I, p169”. (Emphasis mine).

  50. Jaco Myburgh Says:

    **Sean Gerety Says:

    May 14, 2011 at 10:01 am

    Louis, you did not answer my question. Monty may be correct in his assessment of Engelsma’s book (fwiw I think the PRC is also wrong on marriage and divorce), but I asked if he explains in the book what he means by the “instituted church”?**

    -I hope the following helps:

    “”In several letters to this forum I have affirmed that every believer and the children of believers must sustain a lively membership in a true, instituted church. Church membership is not an option. It is not even something to be desired when one’s circumstances conveniently allow for it. It is necessary. The New Testament makes abundantly plain that that the will of God is that every Christian is a member of a congregation where there is regular preaching of the word, the administration of sacraments, and the exercise of discipline and oversight by a body of elders. Not to be overlooked is the necessity of the communion of the saints, which includes fellowship with others in the one faith, mutual oversight, help of various kinds, and the possibility of cooperating in the work of the lord, to which each of us is called, for example, supporting a seminary and conducting missions.

    The Reformed confessions are clear, especially Articles 27-29 of the Belgic Confession. Each one is duty-bound to unite himself to a true church, regardless of the earthly cost, including life itself, and never to leave for any reason. In this connection, Article 28 declares, as the church has taught down the ages, “Out of it [the instituted church with the word and sacraments] is no salvation.””

    Bound to Join – Letter 8, page 47.

  51. Louis Says:

    Sean,

    Correction: My post of May 16, 2011 at 1:55 am should, with reference to the Scripture quotations read: Acts2.41, 42, 44 and 47.

  52. Cliffton Says:

    And the worst part of the book is, if I remember correctly, he is silent about a very significant fact. Just because one wants to be a member doesn’t make it so. The individual must be received into membership upon the authoritative determination of the office holders. So his thesis ought to read: “salvation is bound up to the determination of the office holders, apart from which you are going to hell.

  53. Denson Dube Says:

    Mathew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”(ESV 2001)
    Two or three is certainly not an institutionalised church gathering in the formal sense yet where Jesus is, surely there is Salvation?

  54. ray kikkert Says:

    Well isn’t that a shocker … charged with exalting the confessions over Scripture … not liking article 28 of the Belgic Confession … or the Westminster confession parallel … Englesma is a closet FVist … they are at bottom … pathetic excuses to justify a laxity of disgruntled -use to be members of a church – who now do what is right in their own eyes … and would rather smear the likes of Prof. Englesma …twist his words … instead of lifting their butt cheek off their comfy house chair and actively do something about it.
    “Bound to Join” is a book which was a series of letters that Prof. Englesma wrote to concerned folk in Great Britian that wrestle with not having a solid reformed church to be a member in … the medicine is strong and some bitterly rejected the sound reformed teachings … as some modern day libertines here with their verbal flatulence reject it to vindicate their laxity in joining with a reformed church.
    The PRC is not the only true church … whatever idiot thinks that needs a smack to the head … it’s wake up time …

    The warning … remember Harold Kamping … remember the nicodemites … remember the words of Christ to the churches in the book of Revelation.

  55. Jaco Myburgh Says:

    Ray Kikkert; does the Gospel proper, in is narrow and saving sense, demand anything from the sinner?

  56. LJ Says:

    Sean, you asked:
    The visible church, which is also catholick or universal under the gospel, (not confined to one nation, as before under the law,) consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion, together with their children; and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.

    I skipped to the bottom of the page and this may have already been answered. But my understanding would be that the term “ordinary” is the key qualifier. If you’re a believer, a Christian, you ought to be in the visible church. However, out of the ordinary, there are some whom God saves outside of ordinary means. At least that’s my understanding.

    LJ

  57. Sean Gerety Says:

    That’s my understanding.

  58. Hugh McCann Says:

    Here’s a new (to me) difference between the WCF & Belgic Conf. A pretty serious one, too, by the looks of these posts.

    The Belgic & ‘Bound’.

    It’s scary that these follow in the foul footsteps of Cyprian, Augustine, & Cyril who are touted by Engelsma as viable authorities. Even a host of continental ‘Reformed’ guys are also listed.

    This is sadly not surprising, given the church-statism of state churches. Maybe the Reformation didn’t end in 1561! (Or even 1619.)

    What is surprising is the “out” afforded by the WCF with it “ordinary” qualifier.

  59. Hugh McCann Says:

    While the West. Standards are an improvement over earlier statements, they cannot be the be-all-and-end-all, re: truth. The Bible owns that corner.

    But reformation is ever an ongoing process as we (individuals and denominations) hopefully GROW in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

  60. Hugh McCann Says:

    Like Romanists and Landmark Baptists, the PRC representative (and his obsequeous reviewer) fail to acknowledge the reality of the invisible church.

    What obscene, Augustinian hooey! Purely Bovine Scatology.

    I’m damned by the Campingites b/c I am in a church,
    and by the Papists ’cause it ain’t Rome,
    then by the & L.Baps since it’s not theirs,
    and now by the Reformed guys, since it’s not one of theirs!

  61. Louis Says:

    Sean,

    Since Ray Kikkert has now made it clear that we should be joined to a visible church in order to be saved, I trust that he will provide us with a detailed list of every meritorious work needed in the church. If he cannot, he is in a desperate position:

    “Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousnes. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works…” (Rom 4.4-6)

  62. Sean Gerety Says:

    Louis, I think you have Ray (his obvious frustration with the direction this thread notwithstanding)preciesly backwards (I’m sure Ray will correct me if I’m wrong) 🙂

    I think his point is that if you are saved you will join a church. I suppose it is similar to someone who professes Christ and yet remains a thief. For example, I don’t see the WCF stating JBCM. I think the argument is along the lines of if you’re a member of the invisible church, you will seek to be a member in the visible church whenever or wherever possible.

  63. Jaco Myburgh Says:

    Sean,

    Our works are necessary, but not necessary for salvation.

    Church membership is necessary, but not necessary for salvation.

    Ray and Engelsma are heretics. They hold that membership to an instituted church is necessary for salvation. Works salvation?

    Do I have to meet certain conditions to be saved? If so, which ones? And to what degree? The Law of God demands perfect obedience. Can you or me or anyone keep it? NO! We are sinners. If my church membership is conditional for my salvation I am lost. It is no more of grace, but my pathetic attempts to keep the Law of God for salvation. I am therefore Antinomian or Neonomian.

    What is worse, as Cliffton pointed out: Our salvation depends on the determination of the office holders, apart from which you are going to hell.

    I think he has it spot on regarding the book “Bound to Join”.

    Smelling Federal vision yet? Perhaps Lordship Salvation? Or the Pope?

    John Gill, in a sermon titled “The Scriptures, the only guide in matters of religion,” writes the following:

    “This is a way of duty, but not of life and salvation; it is a command of Christ to be obeyed by all believers in Him, but not to be trusted in and depended on; it is essential to church communion, but not to salvation…It ought to be done as Christ has directed it should; but when it is best done, it is no saving ordinance: this, I rather mention, to remove from us a wicked and foolish imputation, that we make an idol of this ordinance, and place our confidence and dependence on it, and put it in the room of the Savior”

    A Body Of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity, Memoir, page xxvii

    And that from a Baptist! Shall we discuss Engelsma’s view of Baptists, “Calvinistic” or other?…sorry, that was more aimed at Ray.

  64. Jaco Myburgh Says:

    Just to add:

    Gill was discussing Baptism and Church membership as quoted in my previous comment.

  65. Sean Gerety Says:

    Jaco. I don’t disagree with you or Gill, but saved in what sense? You say church membership is “necessary.” Necessary for what? The quotes cited from Engelsma do not seem to me to teach JBCM (justification by church membership). In addition Ray and Engelsma are not heretics. That’s just silly. They may be wrong, but if you’re going to say they’re teaching JBCM you need to demonstrate it.

    Again, it seems to me much of the fuss has more to do with a problem of equivocation than anything substantive (sorry Monty).

    Also, I’ll ask again, does anyone have Clark on the visible church per WDPB? I’d be curious to see what Clark says, if anything, in reference to the last clause in WCF 25.2.

    Until then, Robert Shaw in his commentary of the WCF writes:

    There is no ordinary possibility of salvation out of the visible Church. This is widely different from the doctrine of the Romish Church, which affirms that the Roman Catholic is the only Church, and that there is no salvation out of that Church. The same arrogant pretensions are frequently put forth by proud, uncharitable Prelatists, in the southern part of the island, who, assuming that their own society is “the Church,” pronounce all who do not submit to the government of bishops to be schismatics, and hand them over to the uncovenanted mercies of God; or, in other words, exclude them from all hope of salvation. But we are not so presumptuous as to confine the possibility of salvation within the limits of any particular Church, neither do we absolutely affirm that there is no possibility of salvation out of the universal visible Church. Our Confession, in terms remarkably guarded, only asserts, that “out of the visible Church there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.” There is, then, a possibility of salvation without its pale; for a person: may, by some means, such as by the perusal of the Scriptures, be brought to the knowledge of the truth, and have no opportunity of joining himself to the Church; but such cases are extraordinary: and, as God usually works by means, there is no ordinary possibility of salvation out of the visible Church, because those who are out of the Church are destitute of the ordinary means of salvation.

    Similarly with little exception, A.A. Hodge says basically the same thing:

    These sections teach that out of the bounds of this universal visible Church there is no ordinary possibility of salvation. This proposition is believed by our Church and by all other evangelical Christians to apply only to adults who are out of the pale of the visible Church. A11 the members of the human race dying in infancy are believed to be saved through the merits of Christ. Since, then, the universal visible Church consists of all the professors of the true religion in the world, to say that out of it there is ordinarily no possibility of salvation is only saying — (1.) That God has never in any way revealed his intention of saving any sane adult destitute of the personal knowledge of Christ. (2.) That an unexceptional experience in heathen lands leads us to the conviction that none in such a condition are saved. (3.) That God has very emphatically declared that those who deny his Son before men shall not be saved. Matt. x. 33. (4.) That every man who hears the gospel is commanded to confess Christ before men — that is, to become a public, visible professor of the true religion. Matt. x. 32. The conditions of salvation laid down in Rom. x. 9, 10 are –” If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe with thy heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” There are obviously various ways in which Christ may be publicly acknowledged and confessed. In some way every person having the love of Christ in his heart will confess him. But our Confession intends in these sections to teach further that ordinarily, where there is the knowledge and opportunity, God requires every one who loves Christ to confess him in the regular way of joining the community of his people and of taking the sacramental badges of his discipleship. That this is commanded will be shown under chapters xxvii.-xxix. And that when providentially possible every Christian heart will be prompt to obey in this matter, is self-evident. When shame or fear of persecution is the preventing consideration, then the failure to obey is equivalent to the positive rejection of Christ, since the rejection of him will have to be publicly pretended in such case in order to avoid the consequences attending upon the public acknowledgment of him.

    Now it could be that the Dutch churches are more dogmatic on this point, but then I would recommend seeking out a church that adheres to the Westminster Standards. Of course it could be that all this is much ado about nothing and you gentlemen are getting into a froth for no good reason.

  66. Cliffton Says:

    Sean, u don’t get it. Unless you are speaking from the vantage point of one who is a member of a church institute, you can never “recommend” anything with respect to the knowledge of God. For if the knowledge of God is salvation, and salvation is bound to membership in the church institute (outside of which there is no salvation), it necessarily follows that the knowledge of God is bound to membership in the church institute. The issue is a matter of authority. The issue is a matter of sola scriptura. The issue is whether or not the Bible alone is the Word of God.

  67. Sean Gerety Says:

    Maybe I don’t get it Cliffton, but I just cited Shaw and Hodge on WCF 25.2 and I get them. Do you have a problem with either of the above commentaries?

  68. Jaco Myburgh Says:

    Sean,

    I’ll give you the first part of the quote from Gill.

    “This is a way of duty, but not of life and salvation; it is a command of Christ to be obeyed by all believers in Him, but not to be trusted in and depended on; it is ESSENTIAL TO CHURCH COMMUNION…” (Emphasis mine)

    Notice, Gill is pointing out that church membership is necessary for communion with other believers, but not for salvation.

    Is this something you agree with?

  69. Louis Says:

    Sean,

    1. How do I have Ray (and Engelsma) backwards? Here once again from page 4 of “Bound”:

    “…the means of grace and salvation have been given by Christ to the INSTITUTED CONGREGATION and are enjoyed only by the members within the church. Christ, the living, life-giving Christ, is in the church as the saviour. As there was salvation only in the ark, so there is salvation only in the church…Futher, according to I Timothy 3.15, the congregation is the “house of God”. God lives there as the covenant God of frienship with his people. OUTSIDE THE HOUSE IS NO FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD”.

    2. There is a huge difference between the BCF, Article 28 and the WCF 25.2.
    Can Ray or anyone provide the Scriptures from which Cyprian logically deduced the proposition: “Outside the church (visible) there is no salvation”? After all, as per Engelsma’s own appeal, the doctrine originated with him (See also Berkhof above). Notice how the WCF only cites Acts 2:47. And Acts 2:47 says nothing of the sort.

    3. I think the issue is substantive and of great importance as some of your correspondents have also pointed out.
    Either we are saved and justified by the work of the Lord Jesus Christ once and for all, outside of us, 2000 odd years ago, or we are lost. The alternative is the RC heresy, and we are still lost.
    Also, why is it that churches subscribing to the BCF so easily condemn people to hell? In Ray’s case, even threatening physical violence? (I communicated my experience – in a mainline Dutch Reformed congregation – to you in private).

    4. Clark makes no mention of the WCF clause as far as I could make out. Williamson in his commentary on the WCF also ignores it as far as I could make out.

  70. Louis Says:

    And Sean,

    5. Without being argumentative or sarcastic, if church (visible) membership is saving, how does Engelsma’s teaching differ from FV? Can you not see it? In his scheme the church (visible) is no longer the place where those elected from eternity, and saved by grace through faith alone, gather as the Bible commands, but an institution that actually disseminates grace, and only to those who are faithful members.(I will not repeat all the quatations already given by the other participants and myself).

    6. Thank you for Hodge and Shaw.

  71. Denson Dube Says:

    Hi Sean,
    “Now it could be that the Dutch churches are more dogmatic on this point, but then I would recommend seeking out a church that adheres to the Westminster Standards. Of course it could be that all this is much ado about nothing and you gentlemen are getting into a froth for no good reason.”

    Well, Sean, irresponsible or even FV language is certainly not ‘much ado about nothing’, and is a good reason to froth, as you have taught us in this blog all these years, Shaw and Hodge’s comments above not withstanding. ‘Don’t be silly, you know David Engelsema does not mean that’ is hardly comforting. People need to say what they mean and mean what they say, or as I like to put it, ‘People must speak English!’

    Whilst you recommend a church that adheres to the Westminster Standards(sound doctrine), David Engelsema suggests damnation if one doesn’t. John Gill is at pains to explain that salvation is NOT dependent on any of these things, church membership included. Membership in an institution cannot and does not guarantee anything, not orthodoxy, not even spiritual sustenance, let alone salvation, as the history of the church attests to, and as I am sure we all can attest to.
    Christians I believe “naturally” seek for fellowship with others of their kind. A book length exhortation for church membership seems unnecessary if not odd to me, especially ‘no salvation outside it’ being profered as one of the reasons for it. The reason Christians are often discouraged from church membership is unbiblical churches(ignorance aside), which is a biblical reason not to be a member of a church and what David should have directed his considerable talents towards addressing. Freedom of conscience means acting according to the truth one believes. That means an instituted Church( membership) should be a result of a believer’s convictions(beliefs) and not the cause of it. An instituted church depends on the believer not the other way round. A believer must not be a member of any so-called ‘instituted’ church at all, if none can be found that is biblically sound.

  72. Sean Gerety Says:

    Jaco, I said I agreed with Gill. Now why don’t you answer my questions?

  73. Sean Gerety Says:

    I will say I really do think the evidence adduced so far against Engelsma proves that he is teaching JBCM or in Louis’ words “church (visible) membership is saving.” My guess is that ya’ll are taking him out of context, but not having read Bound I can only go by the evidence so far provided (mostly from Monty who seems to be the only one who actually cares about trying to back up his argument.

    Anyway, for a little experiment here is the Belgic Confession Article 28:

    The Obligations of Church Members

    We believe that since this holy assembly and congregation is the gathering of those who are saved and there is no salvation apart from it, no one ought to withdraw from it, content to be by himself, regardless of his status or condition.

    But all people are obliged to join and unite with it, keeping the unity of the church by submitting to its instruction and discipline, by bending their necks under the yoke of Jesus Christ, and by serving to build up one another, according to the gifts God has given them as members of each other in the same body.

    And to preserve this unity more effectively, it is the duty of all believers, according to God’s Word, to separate themselves from those who do not belong to the church, in order to join this assembly wherever God has established it, even if civil authorities and royal decrees forbid and death and physical punishment result.

    And so, all who withdraw from the church or do not join it act contrary to God’s ordinance.

    Now, here is a pertinent section from Kim Riddlebarger’s commentary on the same (you can read his entire commentary here):

    Clearly, De Bres meant by the phrase there is “no salvation outside the church” that the church is that place where the gospel is preached and where the sacraments are administered according to the word of God. The church as an institution does not dispense either grace or salvation. We are not saved through our connection to the church. Rather, Protestants believe that saving grace is to be found wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the public assembly of those united in mind and heart around that gospel. But if the gospel isn’t proclaimed in such an assembly, it is not a true church regardless of the denomination to which it belongs–but that is a subject we take up next time when we come to the marks of the church.

    Do any of you really have a problem with this? Also, since some are concerned with the stridency of BCF Riddlebarger also provides some of the historical background which also needs to be kept in mind. In part he writes:

    Because the visible church (which is where the word is preached and the sacraments are administered) is where the invisible church (the elect) takes form when we assemble for public worship, no one can profess faith in Jesus Christ and then withdraw from the church for reasons other than those related to the marks of the church. There is no permission given us in the Bible to be content to be by ourselves and not under authority of creeds and confessions (in so far as these summarize Scripture), the authority of ministers of word and sacrament (who exercise the keys of the kingdom) and the authority of the local consistorys (the elders who rule the church in the name of Christ). De Bres is clearly speaking of those who are afraid of being persecuted so that they refuse to join, choosing instead to keep their commitment to Protestantism secret. We can surely understand why people would need such an exhortation under those circumstances. But we cannot understand such reluctance and apathy toward the church today

    Again, does anyone really have a problem with this?

  74. Cliffton Says:

    Sean, God is the immediate and sole cause of all things, and therefore of salvation. And the scriptures teach that the gospel IS the power of God unto salvation. Ultimately there is only one “apart from which” relationship between the individual and salvation. To assert that something other than the power of God is necessary is to deny that power of God *alone* saves. As far as hodge, shaw, and the wcf, they are confusing categories. They wish to speak about a relationship between God, man, the church, and the possibility of something taking place, namely salvation. However, if God is the immediate and sole cause of all things, the “possibility” (if this term is to have any meaning) of something occurring can only be understood in relation to the power of God. That is, it is only the power of God that can bring anything about. The qualifiers point to their confusion. They do not want to make an absolute statement. They wish to leave room for God to do as He pleases. And presumably it is because they understand that they were saved (ordinarily?) ONLY because God did as He pleased.

  75. Sean Gerety Says:

    Cliffton, could it be that you’re the one confusing categories? There is nothing in Shaw, Hodge or Riddlebarger above that denies or undermines the truth that “God is the immediate and sole cause of all things, and therefore of salvation.” Nor is there any statement in any of the above commentaries that asserts that “something other than the power of God is necessary” to salvation. Again, Riddlebarger writes:

    “Clearly, De Bres meant by the phrase there is “no salvation outside the church” that the church is that place where the gospel is preached and where the sacraments are administered according to the word of God. The church as an institution does not dispense either grace or salvation.”

    I hardly see what the controversy is about. But I do see that you do take issue with Hodge, Shaw and the WCF.

  76. Hugh McCann Says:

    Sean,

    Have you read the Angus Stewart review of Engelsma’s book? Louis B. can forward it.

    The WCF ‘side’ (Hodge, Shaw, Clark) is not saying AT ALL what the early churchmen, continental Reformed, Belgic, or Engelsma are saying.

    That word, ‘ordinary’ is huge in this debate. It seems it’s the difference between grace and works!

    As for Kim R., he’s being unfaithful to his URC & their standard, the BCF. His own URC says, “Since the Scriptures teach that salvation is found only in true visible churches you must join one and not leave.” That’s the issue; not whether one should leave the Roman church and go Reformed…

    Kim R. is a red herring, Sean. He wants to talk about Catholicism, and waxes eloquently about the nicer Reformed churches. OK, but this doesn’t address Engelsma’s more pertinent, BCF-driven point.

    The latter, faithful to his creed, is veering into Cyprianite/ Augustinian/ Cyrilian waters: Very polluted!

  77. Hugh McCann Says:

    Sean,

    Shaw saith, “Our Confession, in terms remarkably guarded, only asserts, that ‘out of the visible Church there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.'”

    “Guarded,” “only asserts,” “visible,” and “ordinary” we note as necessary qualifiers.

    From the BCF, Art. 28:

    “..since this holy assembly and congregation is the gathering of those who are saved and there is no salvation apart from it, no one ought to withdraw from it, content to be by himself..

    “..all people are obliged to join and unite with it..

    “..it is the duty of all believers, according to God’s Word, to separate themselves from those who do not belong to the church..

    “And so, all who withdraw from the church or do not join it act contrary to God’s ordinance.”
    ~ ~ ~ ~

    This isn’t just, “Leave Rome & come home.”

    This is a threat of eternal judgment for not being in THEIR one & only, true, visible church!

  78. Sean Gerety Says:

    Hugh, I don’t think Kim R. is a red herring at all. I think that is a perfectly acceptable, and arguable the right way, to understand what the BCF is saying. I think “ordinary” clarifies what is meant (for the record I think the WCF is superior to the Three Forms), but I think BCF is saying basically the same thing. So I disagree that there is a “huge” difference between the WCF and the BCF or that the BCF is teaching salvation by works. That’s ridiculous. Besides, if what you said were true it would fly in the face of everything else taught in BCF. For example, Article 22 states in part: “to say that Christ is not enough but that something else is needed as well is a most enormous blasphemy against God– for it then would follow that Jesus Christ is only half a Savior. And therefore we justly say with Paul that we are justified “by faith alone” or by faith “apart from works.”

    I think both the WCF and the BCF mean when they teach “no salvation outside the church” that it has to do with the proclamation of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments and not church membership as somehow being salvific or something in addition to faith alone as you and others make it out to be.

    I think you are making a mountain out of a mole hill.

  79. Sean Gerety Says:

    Also, let me add for the record, that it has become clear that your issue is not with something Engelsma may have written or some error he might be teaching, what you’re objecting to is the BCF and you believe it teaching salvation by church membership. Again, I think that is absurd in the extreme.

  80. Hugh McCann Says:

    Sean,

    To answer your earlier ques. to another, no, there’s no problem with Kim R.’s spin on the BCF, but rather with the seemingly intemperate talk of Engelsma, who appears to be more faithful to the creed.

    Please read Stewart’s review of _Bound to Join_.

    I concur with Louis, above, where he says,

    2. There is a huge difference between the BCF, Article 28 and the WCF 25.2.

    Can Ray or anyone provide the Scriptures from which Cyprian logically deduced the proposition: “Outside the church (visible) there is no salvation”? After all, as per Engelsma’s own appeal, the doctrine originated with him (See also Berkhof above). Notice how the WCF only cites Acts 2:47. And Acts 2:47 says nothing of the sort…

  81. Sean Gerety Says:

    FWIW I’ve read Stewart’s review and found nothing at all objectionable in it. Actually, it confirmed my suspicion that those who were objecting to Engelsma’s thesis, not to mention the BCF 28 along with WCF 25.2 (Louis admits he doesn’t know what to make of it), have clearly misunderstood the argument and rest their objections on an equivocation (or on a lack of understanding concerning the differences between Roman and Reformed doctrine of the church).

    Per the mounds of evidence Stewart provides I think he demonstrates quite convincingly (to me anyway) that Engelsma is not saying what some here have attributed to him.

  82. Hugh McCann Says:

    Then I’d better reread Stewart, post haste!

  83. Monty L. Collier Says:

    In the Trinity Review titled “Rethinking The Apostle’s Creed” (April / 2003), Clifton R. Louks correctly writes the following:

    “Of course, confessing that “God has chosen and saved his own people out of every race and nation” DOESN’T RESTRICT THE ELECT TO AN INSTITUTIONAL CHURCH, which might be a stumblingblock to the traditionalists; but it was no problem for the apostle who penned a letter to “the strangers scattered throughout…Asia…elect, according to…God…the Spirit…and Jesus Christ…..” The Elect of God were strangers in the world, and strangers to each other. That is why we are not to neglect entertaining strangers” (the emphasis is mine).

    Notice how Clifton Louks and the Trinity Foundation does NOT restrict the salvation of the elect to the institutional church. Compare the above with Engelsma, who clearly DOES restrict the salvation of the elect to the institutional church:

    “…the means of grace and salvation have been given by Christ to the INSTITUTED CONGREGATION and are enjoyed ONLY BY THE MEMBERS WITHIN THE [instituted] church. Christ, the living, life-giving Christ, is in the church as the savior. As there was salvation only in the ark, SO THERE IS SALVATION ONLY IN THE INSTITUTED CHURCH” (Protestant Reformed Theological Journal, Volume 44, April 2011, No.2, page 108 [I’m quoting from Angus Stewart’s article which reviews and defends Engelsma’s “Bound To Join.”], again, the emphasis is mine).

  84. Sean Gerety Says:

    The problem Monty is that you are cherry picking quotes out of context in order to make your case. For example Stewart also wrote:

    “Moreover, if teaching extra ecclesiam nulla salus makes Engelsma a purveyor of the heresy of justification by faith and works…[t]hen Belgic Confession Articles 22-23 on justification are overturned by Article 28 on the church. Likewise, Westminster Confession 11 is overthrown by chapter 25. The same goes for the writings of Luther, Calvin, Beza, Olevianus, etc. Apparently, the modern critics have spotted a contradiction in the faith of the Protestant Reformation that the Reformers and their successors did not notice … Church membership is not a good work compromising justification by faith alone, any more than are loving one’s wife or honouring the Lord’s Day or partaking of the Holy Supper or praying out of gratitude to God. These things are the fruit of our salvation. As has been well said, justification is by faith alone but not by a faith that is alone, for from it spring all manner of good works. As R. B. Kuiper put it above: “The Scriptural rule is that, while membership in the church is not a prerequisite of salvation, it is a necessary consequence of salvation.” Likewise, Ursinus states, “I am one of this number [of those truly converted]; and therefore a member of both the visible and invisible church, and shall forever remain such.”

    Odd, why didn’t you quote that section Monty?

  85. Hugh McCann Says:

    Sean,

    Your Stewart quote is not helping your cause.

    First, he’s missing the extraordinary “ordinary” in WCF 25.2, which changes things tremendously. He tries to spin it to agree with BCF 28.

    2ndly, he asserts that church membership is a NECESSARY good fruit for the believer. But he is guilty here of subtle equivocation:

    He wants to say that “loving one’s wife or honouring the Lord’s Day or partaking of the Holy Supper or praying out of gratitude to God” or any other good work is a necessary fruit of justification & regeneration. O.K.

    But that’s much less than what is stated by Engelsma & Co. in their ‘extra ecclesiam nulla salus’! That says that THERE IS NO SALVATION OUTSIDE THE {VISIBLE} CHURCH!

    One may be regenerate and justified, and yet at times be unloving, dishonoring, abstaining, unprayerful, ungrateful. In short, sinning by commission and ommission.

    But acc. to A.S. & D.E., one must be a member of the visible church or he will be damned.

    Lastly, we note that Collier’s quote of Louks is diametrically opposed to Stewart/ Engelsma.

  86. Hugh McCann Says:

    Sad gleanings from Stewart’s review of _Bound to Join_:

    Calvin slips in his catechesis:

    “Master- Why do you subjoin forgiveness of sins to the Church?

    Scholar- Because no man obtains it without being previously united to the people of God, maintaining unity with the Body of Christ, perseveringly to the end, thereby attesting that he is a true member of the Church.

    Master- In this way you conclude that out of the Church is naught but ruin and damnation?

    Scholar- Certainly. Those who make a departure from the body of Christ, and rend its unity by faction, as cut off from all hope of salvation during the time they remain in this schism, be it however short.”

    Oops, Ursinus, too: “…out of the Church there is no Savior, and hence, no salvation…”

    And, “…although the elect are not always members of the visible church, yet they all become such before they die.”

    Had they only but qualified “Church” as being the “invisible”…!

  87. Monty L. Collier Says:

    Sean,
    Joining an institution is not a necessary consequence of Justification. Some elect, like the believing thief on the cross, never join a true instituted church. Are they lost?

    (1) None outside the instituted church are saved
    logically contradicts
    (2) Some outside the instituted church are saved

    The Westminster Confession of Faith (25,2) clearly asserts (2): that some outside the visible church are saved. This assertion logically contradicts Engelsma’s claim.

    One can live their entire life and be part of the invisible and visible church–yet NEVER join any church institution. Membership in the visible church is, by definition, one who professes faith in the true Gospel–not one who joins the institutional church. As John Gill pointed out, church membership is only necessary for having communion with other church members–it is NOT necessary for salvation.

    It is logically possible for no true instituted church to exist, while there are still Bible-believing Christians. John Calvin pointed this out long ago in his letter to the King of France (which the Protestant Reformed Churches never mention! I wonder why?). Do you think Calvin was wrong in pointing this out?

    As anyone can see from Engelsma’s own words, he claims grace is ONLY found in and enjoyed within a true instituted church by its members–and them alone. What true institution dispensed grace to Martin Luther? What true institution did Luther run off and join? Like Engelsma, will you appeal to mystery and puzzles? John Calvin didn’t. Is an Apostolic succession lurking somewhere in your background?

    Are you actually teaching that everyone who claims to believe the Gospel, yet dies before joining a true instituted church, end up in hell? Who cold pretend such a teaching is not making salvation dependent upon man’s works?! Is this not the same line of reasoning from the idiotic Church Of Christ, which claims that all who are not baptised will be lost–despite their belief in the Gospel?! A most evil mixing of Law / Gospel–thus demonstrating that the institution proclaiming it is NO true church! Something members of the PRC should carefully consider. If you are teaching this, then you are teaching justification by faith and works.

  88. Sean Gerety Says:

    Hugh, are you even following this?

    Stewart states “membership in the church is not a prerequisite of salvation.” Monty juxtaposes a quote that *appears* to be at odds with the quote from Louks suggesting that church membership IS a prerequisite of salvation, when that is CLEARLY not what Stewart is saying.

    Nothing Stewart wrote is at odds with what Kim R. above when he writes: “The church as an institution does not dispense either grace or salvation. We are not saved through our connection to the church.”

    FWIW I can hardly believe you actually read the Stewart piece. For example he quotes Peter De Jong in reference to the idea “THERE IS NO SALVATION OUTSIDE THE {VISIBLE} CHURCH!” — the very statement you assign all caps and an exclamation point — and explains it this way:

    This sounds utterly foreign to most Protestant ears. To many it smacks of Romanism, which makes salvation dependent upon its recognized hierarchy as mediators between God and man. Now nothing is farther removed from the Reformed convictions than such a construction of these words. This is a perversion of the Biblical doctrine of the church . . . To be a Christian means to have fellowship with the living Christ and in the same moment with his people. To break this fellowship lightly, on the basis of personal prejudices and insights, is to imperil our salvation. How else could we hear the word of the living God, except through the preachers whom he has sent? And how could such preachers receive their commission, except by the church which believes and lives by the word of God . . . Now we can understand why Luther, Calvin and their contemporaries expressed themselves so clearly and circumspectly on the point of the church. They refused to identify the true church with any specific ecclesiastical organization. Wherever the word is purely preached, there is the church.

    You, Monty and others are accusing Engelsma and Stewart of advancing the exact same Romanish perversion that they not only emphatically deny, but soundly refute. That is amazing.

  89. Hugh McCann Says:

    Erratum: Last quote from Calvin’s catechism should read,

    “Those who make a departure from the body of Christ, and rend its unity by faction, are cut off from all hope of salvation during the time they remain in this schism, be it however short.” (pp.94f)

  90. Sean Gerety Says:

    Monty writes:

    Are you actually teaching that everyone who claims to believe the Gospel, yet dies before joining a true instituted church, end up in hell? Who cold pretend such a teaching is not making salvation dependent upon man’s works?!

    Oddly, no one is teaching that. I’m guessing it is just a figment of your imagination Monty, because you are without question fighting a straw man. Read the Stewart piece. Per Stewart Engelsma is teaching nothing of the sort and neither have any of the Reformed before him. The handful of quotes from the piece I have provided are teaching the EXACT opposite of what you say they are.

  91. Monty L. Collier Says:

    Sean,
    You are not dealing with Engelsma’s own words:

    (1) None outside the instituted church are saved
    logically contradicts

    The Westminster Confession of Faith (25,2) which claims:

    (2) Some outside the instituted church are saved

    Any comments?


  92. Hugh McCann said:

    “Lastly, we note that Collier’s quote of Louks is diametrically opposed to Stewart/ Engelsma.”

    Not only THAT, but Monty Collier, correctly, used a quote that used direct Scripture to substantiate what Louks was saying!

    I am of the opinion that when Scripture is quoted instead of Confessions, Standards and the rest, the ants in people’s pants start marching on.

    Just an observation.

  93. Hugh McCann Says:

    Sean,
    Yes.
    It appears that Angus can say both good things and evil.
    Monty has it:

    (1) None outside the instituted church are saved
    logically contradicts
    (2) Some outside the instituted church are saved

    The Westminster Confession of Faith (25,2) clearly asserts (2): that some outside the visible church are saved. This assertion logically contradicts Engelsma’s claim.

    Again I say, they claim that THERE IS NO SALVATION OUTSIDE THE {VISIBLE} CHURCH!

    According to Stewart, Engelsma, Calvin, Ursinus, Cyprian, Augie, and Cyril, one is either a member of the visible church, or he is damned.

  94. Hugh McCann Says:

    Sean,

    I note that after Stewart’s quotes the hard-core EENS guys (pp 91-99), he then quotes the softer stance from Muller, your DeJong, Kuiper, & Martin (99-105), ending with a hard-core quote by Mathison (105).

    He cannot see that these groups say two very different things.

    One: There is no salvation outside the visible church, vs two: There usually is no salvation outside the visible church.

  95. Sean Gerety Says:

    Let’s see if I can put this to bed once and for all.

    Hugh writes:

    That word, ‘ordinary’ is huge in this debate. It seems it’s the difference between grace and works!

    Monty writes:

    Joining an institution is not a necessary consequence of Justification. Some elect, like the believing thief on the cross, never join a true instituted church. Are they lost?

    Then thinking I’ve ignored his argument (an argument in which Hugh seems to think that Monty nailed it), he repeats his argument:

    Sean,

    You are not dealing with Engelsma’s own words:

    (1) None outside the instituted church are saved

    logically contradicts The Westminster Confession of Faith (25,2) which claims:

    (2) Some outside the instituted church are saved

    Any comments?

    Yes, I have a comment; neither you or Hugh can read.

    Quoted in the Stewart piece which you both (and Louis) claim to have read, Engelsma writes:

    One does not leave a church merely because one “does not agree with the consistory,” or because the congregation did something that was not right, or because one is “uncomfortable” there, or, as often is the case, because the church “refused to recognize my gifts by electing me elder.” Such grounds for leaving are not adequate. This mentality sins against the unity of the church. The ground for leaving a church is that the church seriously and impenitently errs concerning the marks of the true church (p. 142).

    So what do we learn here? According to Engelsma there are legitimate biblical reasons for believers to withdrawn their membership and sinful reasons why they should not. So far so good. Clearly there are times when not being a member of “instituted church” is legitimate and times when withdrawing one’s membership is sin (could this be the reason so many are having problems with Engelsma not to mention the Reformed Confessions?).

    Next Stewart writes (now pay attention Hugh since you at least claim to have read the Stewart piece twice):

    Engelsma acknowledges—as does the Westminster Confession (25:2) and, following it, David Dickson, Hugh Martin, and A. A. Hodge—“there is no salvation outside the institute [church] ordinarily” (p. 5; italics his). He gives as an example a believer being “wickedly confined to a dungeon or prison by the foes of the saints” (p. 5). A biblical instance would be the penitent thief on the cross. Earlier in this review article, R. B. Kuiper was quoted giving another example: “It is possible that a true believer because of some unusual circumstance may fail to unite with the church. Conceivably one may, for instance, believe in Christ and die before receiving baptism.”

    Monty’s first premise fails to accurately represent what Engelsma has written re WCF 25.2, therefore his argument that E has contradicted WCF 25.2 similarly fails. QED.

  96. Monty L. Collier Says:

    Sean,
    You have yet to deal with a single quote I provide from Engelsma’s book. I never claimed Engelsma did not contradict himself. In other parts of his book, he does. That Engelsma contradicts his heretical teachings is no justification for them. Confusion is not a remedy.

    According to you, whenever Engelsm says “There is no salvation outside the instituted church,” whenever Engelsma says “None are saved outside the instituted church,” then we should immediately think “That’s alright, because what Engelsma really means is that some ARE saved outside the visible church!” To see a Clarkian reward such intentional ambiguous nonsense is sad. We are commanded to teach clearly (1 Corinthians 14:7), not paradoxically.

    Consider another popular Dutch theologian. When Van Til wrote, “The mind of God does not coincide with the mind of man at any point,” we should immediately think: “Nah, that doesn’t imply that man can know nothing, because what Van Til really means is: ‘The mind of God DOES coincide with the mind of man at some points!’ ” Apply this thinking to the Clark / Van Til Controversy, then ask yourself: “What was all the fuss about?”

    Since you brought up leaving the instituted church, and since you haven’t read Engelsma’s book, then let’s look at another quote from Engelsma:

    “If I did not dislike long titles, I would have added to the title of this book, “and Forbidden to Leave” (Bound To Join, page X).

    Now the absurd claim “There is no salvation outside the institutional / visible church” has always been used to intimidate people. It scares them into joining, tithing, mindlessly obeying the elders, and from never leaving. It’s all about power, money, and putting oneself in the place of Jesus Christ (In short, it’s about giving in to all three temptations Christ overcame in the wilderness (see Luke 4). It’s simply ecclesiastical tyranny.

    When you hear such claims about church membership, you should remember what J.C. Ryle wrote:

    “But when people are taught that because they are members of the church they are as a matter of course members of Christ, I believe their souls are in great danger. Such teaching appears to me to overthrow the doctrine of justification by faith. They only are joined to Christ who believe. All men do not believe” (The Church Effeminate, page 147).

    Now compare what Ryle wrote to what Engelsma wrote:

    “Out of it [the instituted church with the word and sacraments] is no salvation. The deepest reason for the necessity of the church membership is that the church is the body of Christ (I Cor. 12:27). When Christ saves his own elect, he does not save them in isolation from himself and from the other members. But he unites them to himself by uniting them to a visible manifestation of his body (v. 13). In this body he gives each member his grace by the preaching of the gospel and by the sacraments, as the means of the Spirit of Christ” (Bound To Join, page 47, the emphasis is Engelsma’s).

    Why does Engelsma leave us with the impression that we are united to Christ, not by faith, but by being a member of the instituted church? Engelsma would have us to believe that all members of the instituted church receive grace and are saved. Didn’t you know there are no reprobates in the instituted church?!! So much for Jude 4! But wait, maybe when Engelsma says “In this body he gives each member his grace,” then he really means “In this body Jesus does NOT give some members his grace!”

    Those of you who have read John Robbins already know he did not peddle absurd claims like “Outside the visible church there is no salvation.” Robbins did not think that one’s salvation depended on joining an instituted church–nor did Robbins think that one’s salvation depended upon NOT leaving a visible church. Robbins, attacking what would become Federal Vision, writes:

    “Moreover, Jordan thunders, an individual cannot simply leave a church: “If an individual leaves a local church, without transferring, then he has apostatized from the church. He is no longer part of the church of Christ”(74). Jordan stops short of saying the former church member is going to Hell, but he wants the reader to draw that conclusion. He clearly means: Outside the (visible)church there is no salvation. But with most churches today, there is no salvation INSIDE the visible church. A high churchman like Jordan, lusting for dominion over men, cannot permit the masses, the common people, simply to leave a church. They must be scared into staying, even if the church is a liberal Episcopal or the Roman Church-State itself. “Intimidation,” Jordan believes, “is a good thing. people should be intimidated by the church [that is, the clergy] (276)”(The Church Effeminate, page 397).

  97. ray kikkert Says:

    Sean …stopped by tonight to check out the posts after work … you have had your hands full today … thanks for the reality checks for those who have ears to hear …

    I know there is bitterness with this topic and most opposed to Engelsma’s stance … are not themselves being above board as to why they do not have membership in a reformed church … I am thankful … quite thankful indeed … to have membership in a reformed church … and I also know somewhat how tough it is for other folks who struggle with this where solid reformed churches are not close at all… I spent some time discussing this on a European forum called GenevaNet with members of arminian and baptist churches. Also on PredestinarianNet or 5solas … where there were similar struggles and disagreements with respect to church membership. Some of these churches have left scars and bitterness with those who want the truth of the Gospel.

    But shame on those who have a reformed church close by and opt not to join … this is sheer pride and arrogance …finding it easier to malign the truth then live it… with a looking out for number one attitude instead of thinking what’s best for their own family or the brethren as a whole in the congregation.

    These shrinking reformed churches are not perfect … fact is there are better so called reformed baptist congregations that show the 3 marks of a true church then reformed churches that should be and are not.

    Would any of us recommend a CREC congregation? Not me …

    Reverend Stewart’s review accurately shows the intent of the book. Rev. Stewart ought to know … he has lived it more so than any of us …hailing from Ireland … I for one am very thankful for Rev. Stewart. He is a tireless servant of the Gospel and is very bold and zealous for the sake of Christ and Him crucified.

    Thanks again Sean … for those doing the babbling, and yet seem to admire Gordon Clark … your sure not following his example in this reagrd to the topic at hand and how he handled church membership.

  98. Hugh McCann Says:

    Sean,

    1. I can read (though my typing is weak).

    2. “now pay attention Hugh since you at least claim to have read the Stewart piece twice” ~ Not accurate; I said I would reread the review.

    3. So Engelsma says that no one outside the instituted church are saved and that some outside the instituted church may be saved. Yippee. I quote Collier who’s said it much better than I:

    >I never claimed Engelsma did not contradict himself. In other parts of his book, he does. That Engelsma contradicts his heretical teachings is no justification for them. Confusion is not a remedy.
    >According to you, whenever Engelsm says “There is no salvation outside the instituted church,” whenever Engelsma says “None are saved outside the instituted church,” then we should immediately think “That’s alright, because what Engelsma really means is that some ARE saved outside the visible church!”…

    4. I stand by what I have written. These ham-handed, two-faced (able to quote contradictory sources AND GET AWAY WITH IT!) prelates are at best boring, at worst very dangerous, and at least tiresome. Stewart & apparently Engelsma (& here, R. Kikkert) do nothing to recommend their positions with grace or winsomeness, much less, Scripture. Just lots and lots of confession-slinging, banal butch bluster, and damning threats of anathema.

    Only appealing to the fear of man? Even if he’s ordained, he isn’t frightening. Sorry, it’s not convincing, attractive, or even a good scare.

  99. David Reece Says:

    Sean and Monty,

    I consider you both to be important leaders of the Scripturalist movement. I try to keep up on everything you both publish. I respect you both.

    I consider you both to be brothers, men who believe the true Gospel of grace. Please be patient with each other and with me.

    It seems to me that Sean is trying to offer DE a fair hearing and to let DE’s clarifying statements inform his (Sean’s) reading of DE. Sean seems to think that DE is not saying contradictory things, but that he is, instead, making absolute statements with the explanation of the exceptions to follow. Sean also seems to think this is the way we should interpret the Continental Reformed Creeds. I agree with Sean that we should be willing to read documents with this method of interpretation, but we must also keep clarity in mind as a virtue. We must discourage writing that is of this sort. It is right to rebuke and attack unclear statements that require hermeneutical gymnastics to be rightly understood.

    I think that Monty is trying to show that DE is ultimately saying contradictory and unclear statements at best. Monty also seems to think that it is more likely that DE is intentionally trying to confuse and control churchmen with wrongful claims about the relationship between salvation, the institutional church, the visible church, and the invisible church. I have not read “Bound to Join”, but I have read several other works by DE, and I am inclined to think that DE is both authoritarian and less careful than he should be with his words about salvation.

    Monty is right that we would not and should not allow Van Tillians to get away with language like DE’s, and we should not let our friends play with a different set of rules.

    We have seen the effects of these sorts of failures too often. Is it not time to press for more clarity, more care, and to discourage the type of writing that is either simply wrong or hard to interpret in an orthodox way.

    Sean, perhaps I have missed something do you think I am wrong here? Have I misunderstood you?

    Monty, what do you think ought to be done about DE’s writing? Have you considered sending him any of the criticisms you have mentioned?

    Anybody, are you aware of any responses to criticism of this sort by DE?

  100. Sean Gerety Says:

    Denson, I’m deleting your post. If you’d like to submit it without the flatulence crack please do so.

  101. Sean Gerety Says:

    I think that Monty is trying to show that DE is ultimately saying contradictory and unclear statements at best.

    Like most here, I’m just going by Rev. Stewart’s review and according to that Engelsma does allow for extra-ordinary circumstances, but the Belgic Confession article 28, and evidently D.E., deals with ordinary circumstances. For some reason Monty and Hugh can’t make that distinction.

    The implication along with direct statements made by Monty and Hugh is that the statement “there is no salvation outside of the visible church” (which is just a restatement of Article 28 “We believe that since this holy assembly and congregation is the gathering of those who are saved and there is no salvation apart from it…) is the equivalent to Federal Visionists like Peter Leithart arguing that salvation is conditioned on church membership. That is ludicrous. The Belgic Confession is no refuge for Federal Visionist any more than the WCF is.

    Per Kim R.’s commentary above, the correct way to understand Article 28 is as follows:

    Clearly, De Bres meant by the phrase there is “no salvation outside the church” that the church is that place where the gospel is preached and where the sacraments are administered according to the word of God. The church as an institution does not dispense either grace or salvation. We are not saved through our connection to the church. Rather, Protestants believe that saving grace is to be found wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the public assembly of those united in mind and heart around that gospel. But if the gospel isn’t proclaimed in such an assembly, it is not a true church regardless of the denomination to which it belongs–but that is a subject we take up next time when we come to the marks of the church.

    Interesting aside, Guido de Bres who was a Walloon pastor (I knew a guy once who was Walloon and even spoke the language) was martyred by the false church for his refusal to submit to it. According to Wikipedia:

    In 1565 De Bres was arrested for his Calvinist beliefs. He was tried before the Spanish Inquisition, received the death penalty and was hanged at Valenciennes. He died a martyr’s death in front of a large crowd after making a final statement of his beliefs. He was pushed off the scaffold by the hangman whilst addressing the crowd.

    So, if Engelsma is interpreting Article 28 differently than Kim R. above or that Article 28 is somehow at odds with the WCF 25.2 because it doesn’t included the word “ordinarily” (something Hugh thinks is “huge”), Monty most certainly has not demonstrated it. I think he is reading into the Belgic Confession and Engelsma’s book his own understanding of Article 28, which is justification by church membership and impugning both D.E. and the Belgic Confession in the process. I think that is serious (at least serious enough to spend this much time on it).

    While I’ve provided a number of examples of this, just take Monty’s statement above:

    Joining an institution is not a necessary consequence of Justification. Some elect, like the believing thief on the cross, never join a true instituted church. Are they lost?

    Notice, Monty hangs his objection on the extra-ordinary exception of the thief on the cross to demonstrate that from this we are to infer that Engelsma believes in justification by church membership in addition to faith alone. Yet, according to Stewart Englesma does allow for extra-ordinary exceptions to the rule arguing:

    A biblical instance would be the penitent thief on the cross. Earlier in this review article, R. B. Kuiper was quoted giving another example: “It is possible that a true believer because of some unusual circumstance may fail to unite with the church. Conceivably one may, for instance, believe in Christ and die before receiving baptism.”

    Perhaps Stewart is “spinning” Engelsma as Hugh claims, but just citing Engelsma stating there is no salvation outside of the church doesn’t cut it. The reason is simple, if Engelsma is using the phrase in sense (A) which is perfectly acceptable and orthodox, and Monty is attributing to him sense (B) which is completely heterodox and deadly, then Monty’s entire argument against Engelsma is fallacious; it rests on an equivocation.

    What Monty needs to do – and what he has not done – is prove that Engelsma is understanding and employing the phrase used in both the BCF and the WCF in sense (B).

    FWIW I’m willing to grant without reading Engelsma’s book that Monty is correct, but just his whining that I “have yet to deal with a single quote I provide from Engelsma’s book” is not enough. He needs to demonstrate that the quotes he provided are to be read in a way that is completely foreign to a correct reading of Article 28 and in contradiction to WCF 25.2. He needs to show that Engelsma is intending to teach a Romanish scheme of justification via church membership and this he has yet to do.

  102. Hugh McCann Says:

    Well said, David Reece!

  103. Monty L. Collier Says:

    Sean,
    John Robbins did not accept the claim:
    “Outside the (visible) church there is no salvation.”
    (see the quote I provided above from his book:
    The Church Effeminate, page 397)

    In fact, Robbins went on to write:
    “Christ’s church is not to be confused with any visible organization.”
    (The Church Effeminate, page 632)

    Do you agree with Dr. Robbins?

  104. Steve M Says:

    Now I had to buy the book. Thanks a lot guys.

  105. Denson Dube Says:

    “Denson, I’m deleting your post. If you’d like to submit it without the flatulence crack please do so.”
    I am somewhat disappointed you think my post was just too much gas!! -:)
    The concern is that what these men said or say lends itself to two contradictory interpretations. When one has to “charitably” read what a Christian says, there is a huge problem! A Christian has no business using ambiguous language! Is the Bible not God’s word, and shouldn’t we, in the fear of God and compassion for His flock, utter words with the uttermost care and with the greatest clarity we can muster?

  106. Louis Says:

    Sean,

    Monty says:
    In fact, Robbins went on to write:
    “Christ’s church is not to be confused with any visible organization.”
    (The Church Effeminate, page 632)

    Just futher on Robbins also draws attention to Mark 9: 38-40.
    “Now John answered him saying, “Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.”
    But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in my name can soon afterward speak evil of me. For he who is not against us is on our side.”

    Thanks

  107. Hugh McCann Says:

    Sean,

    Engelsma reads like a logical contradiction:
    “Not A, and A”:
    “No salvation outside, and sometimes salvation outside.”

    I admit to missing the sublime subtly of Dr Englesma!

    BCF 28 says simply, “Not A.”
    WCF 25 says, “Ordinarily, Not A.”
    Are these not contradictory?

    Riddlebarger certainly sounds more Westminsterian than BCF 28, as does even Engelsma at times.

    But the BCF* says what is says.
    Engelsma affirms it in Cyprianite fashion.
    He therefore seems self-contradictory.

    Thank you again for this quote of Shaw: Our Confession, in terms remarkably GUARDED, ONLY asserts, that ‘out of the VISIBLE Church there is no ORDINARY possibility of salvation.’

    “Now it could be that the Dutch churches are more dogmatic on this point,”
    >Contradictorily dogmatic, methinks, to the Presbies.

    “but then I would recommend seeking out a church that adheres to the Westminster Standards.”
    > 🙂

    “Of course it could be that all this is much ado about nothing and you gentlemen are getting into a froth for no good reason.”
    > 🙂 !

    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
    * From BCF 28:
    “…since this holy assembly and congregation is the gathering of those who are saved and there is no salvation apart from it, no one ought to withdraw from it, content to be by himself.
    “…all people are obliged to join and unite with it.
    “…it is the duty of all believers, according to God’s Word, to separate themselves from those who do not belong to the church.
    “…And so, all who withdraw from the church or do not join it act contrary to God’s ordinance.”

  108. Sean Gerety Says:

    Monty, what is it about the Reformed definition of the visible church provided above that you don’t understand? What is keeping you from distinguishing it from the Roman/Recon/Imperious Pres variety?

    Kevin Reed in his booklet, Imperious Presbyterian, provides a fairly detailed discussion of the difference quoting heavily from William Cunningham and James Bannerman in particular. For example he writes:

    At the time of the Reformation, Protestants uniformly rejected Romish notions regarding the nature of the church. To state the issue succinctly, William Cunningham notes:

    “Papists used to lay down this position: Where there is not a valid ministry, there is not a true church; and the Reformers answered them by laying down this counter-position: Wherever there is a true church, there is, or may be, a valid ministry…. The Popish position virtually proceeds upon the assumption that the church is for the sake of the ministry, and the Protestant one upon the assumption that the ministry is for the sake of the church. The Church of Rome makes the ministry the end, and the church the means; Protestants reverse this order, and make the ministry the means, and the church the end.”

    This is a crucial distinction, and it holds important ramifications concerning the ministry in relation to the legitimacy of a church. As Cunningham notes:

    “The bearing of this relative position of the ministry and the church – the ministry being for the sake of the church, and not the church for the sake of the ministry – upon the principles discussed between the Reformers and the Church of Rome, is obvious enough. If this principle be true – and the Scripture plainly enough supports it – then these two inferences may be deduced from it: First, that the question, whether any particular company or society of professing Christians be or be not a true church, should take precedence of the question, whether or not they have a valid ministry? Secondly, that the Scripture not having explicitly asserted, or afforded any adequate ground for believing, that a valid ministry, or any specific feature in or about the ministry, is an essential mark of a true church, we are entitled, upon the ground of this general principle, positively to aver, that no inference drawn from the subject or character of the ministry can be of itself, and as a general rule, conclusive upon the character and standing of the church.”

    Clearly, when someone like Guido de Bres who penned Article 28 of the BCF states “there is no salvation apart from it” it seems to me quite natural to assume he did not mean the Roman idea that we’re saved through church membership. It is not just being charitable to assume he understood the idea that there is no salvation outside of the church *differently* from the papists who ultimately put him to death. It is that difference that I’m convinced at this point that you cannot grasp for some reason.

    Now if you do grasp the difference and I’m wrong about you then what you need to do is demonstrate from Engelsma’s book that he intends to impose the Romanish definition on the Reformed Confessions in opposition to the idea that outside of the visible church there is no ordinary possibility of salvation simply because that is where the Gospel is preached. At least per Stewart’s review it would seem that Engelsma is not doing what you are accusing him of.

    Again, perhaps Stewart’s review is all “spin,” but since you’re the one making the charge you’re the one who needs to do the work, not me. I’ve already spent too much time on this thread. I think it would be also helpful at this point if you would first explain what you think is the correct understanding of BCF Article 28 or if you think this too is some leftover Roman aberration as Hugh seems to think (actaully he said WCF 25.2 was a Roman relic at least “kind of”).

  109. Hugh McCann Says:

    Sean,

    Almost thou persuadest me to be an Anabaptist!

  110. Sean Gerety Says:

    Why? Because I’m not willing to throw Engelsma under the bus on nothing more than the slimmest of evidence that appears to be nothing more than a gross misunderstanding?

  111. Hugh McCann Says:

    >Clearly, when someone like Guido de Bres who penned Article 28 of the BCF states “there is no salvation apart from it” it seems to me quite natural to assume he did not mean the Roman idea that we’re saved through church membership. It is not just being charitable to assume he understood the idea that there is no salvation outside of the church *differently* from the papists who ultimately put him to death. It is that difference that I’m convinced at this point that you cannot grasp for some reason.<

    YES! YES! YES!

    You know me!

  112. Hugh McCann Says:

    Hugh McCann Says: Almost thou persuadest me to be an Anabaptist!
    Sean Gerety Says: Why? Because I’m not willing to throw Engelsma under the bus on nothing more than the slimmest of evidence that appears to be nothing more than a gross misunderstanding?

    No, but because I wonder if

    (1) imperious church-statism isn’t endemic to the Reformed churches,*

    (2) contradiction isn’t also a mark of most “Reformed” folk, and,

    (3) J.R. wasn’t a latent crypto-Baptist…

    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
    * Shaw, Riddlebarger, et. al. being exceptions, not the rule, and most others having not gotten enough rid of old Romish roots. (These latter need plenty of Scriptural “Round-Up”!)

  113. Sean Gerety Says:

    (1) I don’t see why? People twist Scripture to their own end (and destruction), I’m hardly surprised when the same is done to the Reformed Confessions.

    Besides, have you read the Baptist Confessions? This is from the Baptist Confession of 1689:

    CHAPTER 26, Paragraph 8. A particular church, gathered and completely organized according to the mind of Christ, consists of officers and members; and the officers appointed by Christ to be chosen and set apart by the church (so called and gathered), for the peculiar administration of ordinances, and execution of power or duty, which he intrusts them with, or calls them to, to be continued to the end of the world, are bishops or elders, and deacons.

    Paragraph 12. As all believers are bound to join themselves to particular churches, when and where they have opportunity so to do; so all that are admitted unto the privileges of a church, are also under the censures and government thereof, according to the rule of Christ.

    (2) It may be, but I’ve come across more than a few Baptist who are guilty of the same.

    (3) I hardly think so.


  114. Dear Sean,

    Yesterday, I took a few HOURS to read the Angus Stewart review on David Engelsma’s Book, “Bound to Join”. Personally, I found it a long-winded, laborious and excruciating read. Methinks the man doth protest too much. He is hell-bent on giving credence to a book that belts out blasphemy of the worst kind.

    I was raised in a Catholic convent for 16 years of my life. Catechism classes were ONE HOUR every day. Mass was a daily 6am, hour and a half ritual, as was the Rosary, albeit that was at 3pm. Benediction was a thrice weekly endurance, the stations of the cross every Friday and more often when an “important” saints feast-day was celebrated. Confession was Friday afternoons, however, the priest was summoned for immediate confession if the nuns thought your immediate (witnessed) sin was bad enough. Sundays were hellish – almost the whole day in church…on and on I could go.

    I was taught that outside the Catholic Church, there was NO POSSIBILITY of ANY Salvation. ONLY Catholics went to heaven, albeit eventually, after suffering the “penance” of Purgatory. ANYTHING Protestant was satanic and to be avoided, lest the perils of Hell overcame you. Catholic law, dogma, Catechism and canons were part of my life, and back then, I knew them like the back of my hand.

    After I got saved in March, 1987, it was SCRIPTURE that freed me from the hellish bondage of Roman Catholicism – NOT the Westminster Confession of 1640, NOT the Belgic Confession of 1651, NOT the Second Helvetic Confession of 1652, NOR ANYTHING John Calvin wrote, such as his “Catechism of the Church of Geneva (1545).

    In Angus Stewart’s lush review, he quotes all the confessions I have mentioned in a manner that would favourably lend all good credence to a book that is unbiblical at best and downright blasphemous at worst – spreading bondage, fear, and confusion amongst the saints of God, for whom Christ Jesus purchased FREEDOM, liberty and the ability to live WITHOUT fear as they travail through this valley of the shadow of death.

    I would like to repost the articles mentioned in Stewart’s review, after which I would like to pose a question or two.

    “We turn first to the Belgic Confession (1561), a creed of the denomination to which Prof. Engelsma belongs and which he quotes frequently in Bound to Join. Article 28 is entitled “That Every One Is Bound to Join Himself to the True Church:”
    We believe, since this holy congregation is an assembly of those who are saved, and that out of it there is no salvation, that no person of whatsoever state or condition he may be, ought to withdraw himself, to live in a separate state from it; but that all men are in duty bound to join and unite themselves with it; maintaining the unity of the Church; submitting themselves to the doctrine and discipline thereof; bowing their necks under the yoke of Jesus Christ; and as mutual members of the same body, serving to the edification of the brethren, according to the talents God has given them. And that this may be the more effectually observed, it is the duty of all believers, according to the word of God, to separate themselves from all those who do not belong to the Church, and to join themselves to this congregation, wheresoever God hath established it, even though the magistrates and edicts of princes be against it, yea, though they should suffer death or any other corporal punishment. Therefore all those, who separate themselves from the same, or do not join themselves to it, act contrary to the ordinance of God.

    Echoing the early church with its ark imagery, the Second Helvetic Confession, written by Heinrich Bullinger in 1562 and revised in 1564, also teaches extra ecclesiam nulla salus:

    But as for communicating with the true Church of Christ, we so highly esteem of it, that we say plainly, that none can live before God, which do not communicate with the true Church of God, but separate themselves from the same. For as without the ark of Noah there was no escaping, when the world perished in the flood; even so do we believe, that without Christ, who in the Church offereth himself to be enjoyed of the elect, there can be no certain salvation: and therefore we teach that such as would be saved, must in no wise separate themselves from the true Church of Christ (17).3

    The Second Helvetic Confession was accepted by Reformed churches not only in Switzerland but also in Scotland (1566), Hungary (1567), France (1571) and Poland (1578). In fact, it is one of the most widely accepted confessional statements among Reformed Christians throughout the world.

    The Westminster Confession of the 1640s, on behalf of Presbyterianism in the British Isles, declared,

    The visible church, which is also catholick or universal under the gospel, (not confined to one nation, as before under the law,) consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion, and of their children; and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation (25:2).”

    This truth also occurs in other works by Calvin, such as his Catechism of the Church of Geneva (1545), designed for the covenant children of that great Reformation city:

    Master – Why do you subjoin forgiveness of sins to the Church
    Scholar – Because no man obtains it without being previously united to the people of God, maintaining unity with the body of Christ perseveringly to the end, and thereby attesting that he is a true member of the Church.
    M. – In this way you conclude that out of the Church is nought but ruin and damnation?
    S. – Certainly. Those who make a departure from the body of Christ, and rend its unity by faction, are cut off from all hope of salvation during the time they remain in this schism, be it however short.6

    Had I to contend with this nonsense, written in these Confessions, after my salvation, I would have had NO CHOICE, other than to believe that I was as bound to some Protestant church, in the same way I was inexorably bound to the Roman Catholic Church. Regardless of “clever” wording, this is what Roman Catholicism taught me.

    What is written in these Confessions flies in the face of Scripture, specifically 1 Corinthians 5:10-13. It also speaks earlier on in that chapter of Paul exhorting the Corinthian church to “purge the wicked man who was sleeping with his father’s wife, from the congregation.” Nowhere in this passage does Paul say this wicked man is not a Christian. He is judging the man AS A CHRISTIAN within the church, NOT as one of the pagans, who are outside the church and to be left to the judgement of God. The man was thrown out of the church, HOWEVER, in 2 Corinthians 2:5-8, we read of Paul TENDERLY saying:

    “But if any have caused grief, he hath not grieved me, but in part: that I may not overcharge you all. Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him.”

    So now, what was this man’s fate while he was outside of the church – forcibly and by his own Christian brothers and sisters, as commanded by the Apostle Paul? Did he lose his salvation, or did he merely “fall from grace”, as the Scriptures also speak of.

    Finally, I think Monty Collier has been falsely accused. If you will allow it, I will post the link to a video he made early 2011, where he clearly and succinctly speaks of what he believes regarding this contentious issue, and why he believes it.

    Thank you for allowing me to have my say.
    My love to you in Christ

  115. Hugh McCann Says:

    Thanks, Sean.
    (1)R.B.s are from the same stream. (Landmark-types are little better: No invisible church, “our-baptism-or-the-highway,” etc., they sound Romish.)*
    (2)Amen. See above.
    (3)I’m reading into his Horror Files where he dissed Calvin on baptism. Plus, Crampton jumped; why not J.R.? But it’s moot, obviously.
    ——————-
    * Maybe I am missing something. Rome, Reformed, Baptists: Most agree against me. Hmm….

  116. Jim Butler Says:

    I don’t have a dog in this fight one way or the other, have not read Engelsma, or Stewart’s review of Engelsma. I am just curious, do people think that churches who have a formal membership are in sin? Is membership unbiblical, and therefore sinful?

    jim


  117. Jim Butler said:

    “…do people think that churches who have a formal membership are in sin? Is membership unbiblical, and therefore sinful?”

    I don’t think anyone on either side of this debate has even implied that mere church membership is either unbiblical, or sinful.

    I am saying, what David Engelsma, Angus Stewart and others of the PRC teach, promulgate and proliferate as being church membership is unbiblical and sinful. Apart from that, it is downright tyrannical.

    Scripture says we are not to forsake the coming together of the brethren – Hebrews 10:25

  118. Jim Butler Says:

    Thank you.

    jim

  119. Hugh McCann Says:

    My April 2011 P.R.(C.) Theological Journal came today! Yippee!

  120. Hugh McCann Says:

    Devils’ advocate time:

    Assuming all confessionalists from Augustine to Engelsma is right, their confessions aside, where is the SCRIPTURAL proof that _extra ecclesiam nulla salus_?

    Not “ordinarily,” but always never saved (_semper nulla salus_) unless in the visible church.

  121. Hugh McCann Says:

    Or whatever the Latin be…

  122. Sean Gerety Says:

    Acts 2:46, 47, So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

    1 Timothy 3:15, But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

  123. Hugh McCann Says:

    There it be! I sees the light! I sees the light! Glory!

    Makes we wanna be PRC. 😉

  124. Hugh McCann Says:

    Balderdash, Sean, in short.

    1st, Acts 2:46f is a historical narrative, not a directive. It describes, not prescribes.

    2ndly, it would prove too much if it were a law: We’d need to get to temple & eat together for chow (or sacrament, if you like). But how often, daily, weekly, bi-annually?

    Then, 1 Timothy 3:15 is a lovely quote describing the church and prior to it, Paul tells Tim & us how to live. All good.

    But where is the law that one must be a member of an institution?

    Or that outside of the visible church, there is (ordinarily) NULLA SALUS?!


  125. @Hugh McCann

    *giggle*

  126. Sean Gerety Says:

    1st, Acts 2:46f is a historical narrative, not a directive. It describes, not prescribes.

    Hugh, yes it describes. It describes what occurs when people for whom Christ died believe. Those who were being saved were added to the church. You ask where is the law that one must be a member of an institution, but it’s clear you have not followed anything. There is no law. There is no law that Christians join together in the body of Christ. That’s what they do. Similarly, there is no “law” that Christians meet on Sunday rather than Saturday, but per the example set in Scripture that is what Christians do.

    While I’m happy to give Elizabeth the last laugh, this thread is closed.


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