Special Issue of Trinity Review

Trinity Foundation just released a special issue of Trinity Review.  It is a review by Kevin Reed (author of Imperious Presbyterianism) of David Engelsma’s recent book;  Bound to Join: Letters on Church Membership.

I haven’t read the special issue yet, but am eager to do so particularly after some of the heated debate recently in one of the comboxes.

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13 Comments on “Special Issue of Trinity Review”

  1. Hugh McCann Says:

    I thought this was going to be a link to YOUR special issue of the Review!

    Who is Kevin Reed? There is no bio on him.

    His earlier stuff has been very good, and this looks quite promising. He appears much better equipped to deal with Engelsma’s rabid & Romish membershipolatry than I.

    Hopefully Reed can help settle our heated debate (arguing my position, of course!), and we can put the PRC behind us.
    ——————————

    In that same April 2011 issue of the PRC Theo. Journal, they botch the cov’t of works, too. One more strike…

  2. Sean Gerety Says:

    I don’t know if he’s an exclusive psalmist, but per the wiki piece he is opposed to musical instruments in worship (usually the one follows the other). I know JR was no EPer. There is also a link to some sort of tiff with Richard Bacon some time ago.

  3. Sean Gerety Says:

    Well, Hugh, I read the piece. While I doubt very much it will settle anything, Reed criticisms are balanced and if anything nuanced; something the topic requires for various reasons and is something that Engelsma’s handling lacks (which is bound to cause the confusion it has). On the plus side, while Engelsma can and should be faulted in a number of areas, he nowhere teaches anything as Romanish or crass as “there is no salvation for those who are NOT members of an instituted church,” even if certain of his remarks (particularly his Cyprianic construction of the church as an “ark”) could be so (mis)construed ( going back to the question of nuance in his handling of the topic).

    To that point, Reed does make a very interesting argument that the idea of there being no salvation outside of the church in the Reformed confessions is more of a reference to the invisible church and to Christ. Reed argues in part:

    Beza’s confession expresses essentially the same doctrine found in the Scottish Confession, that outside of Christ there is no salvation, and thus only the elect (the members of Christ‟s universal, invisible church) are saved. If Gootjes is correct, that the Belgic Confession alludes to the church fathers, then the Confession certainly uses the patristic language in a manner distinct from the Romanists whom the Reformers were opposing. [a point I made repeatedly in our dispute and evidently to no avail – SG] From the language of Cyprian, the papists had developed their doctrine that outside the institutional Roman Church there is no salvation. Of course, the Belgic Confession gives no quarter to such Romish notions, having classified the Roman church as the false church.

    …Professor Engelsma takes up the ark analogy on page 4 of his book and applies it to “the instituted church.” Now, we trust that Professor Engelsma does not believe in apostolic succession. Nevertheless, his designation of the ark as a representation of the church institute smacks of a Cyprianic error, in contrast to general Reformed ecclesiology which speaks in absolute terms only of the invisible, universal church.

    Cyprian‟s principal error was based upon a confounding of the visible church with the invisible, and that led to the fundamental errors of Romish eccle-siology. Professor Engelsma‟s confusion on this matter is similarly apparent because, immediately after using the ark analogy on page 4, he is forced to qualify it on page 5, when he states: “I understand the Belgic Confession, which only echoes the teaching of the early church, to teach that there is no salvation outside the institute ordinarily. God himself may prevent membership, at least active membership, if, for example, by his mysterious providence he has one of his own wickedly con-fined to a dungeon or prison by the foes of his saints.”

    This qualification (a happy inconsistency on the Professor‟s part) negates the ark analogy for the instituted church, for at the time of Noah, there were only two places – inside or outside of the ark. The professor‟s reasoning cannot be sound, so long as he puts the church institute into the place of the invisible church. Moreover, if the Belgic Confession bears the construction Professor Engelsma places on it, then the Belgic Confession stands in contrast or contradiction to other Reformed creeds, which speak in absolute terms only with respect to the church of the elect.

    Anyway, excellent review (I liked Tom’s foot not citing TF’s view of EP in a footnote on page 12), but I hardly think that it’s the bombshell you were hoping for. Sorry.

  4. Hugh McCann Says:

    Maybe not a bombshell, but neither a thumbs-up for the PRC’s main man.

    Engelsma is flat-out wrong, and Reed points up his inconsistency in the bits you give above.

    D.E. misreads Calvin and misunderstands (or refuses to rightly understand) the in/visible church doctrine for the sake of his popish premise.

    Most telling is Engelsma’s paucity of scriptural support for his Romish railings. He has to rely on his misreading of Calvin and abuse his Reformed creeds.
    ———————————–
    The April 2011 issue of the PRC’s theological journal indicates their slide: with not only a schmoozy “review” of the erring Engelsma tome, but also a sad attempt at refuting the Adamic strictly works-cov’t.

    Too bad; they’d been good on the oxymoronic “common” grace, and schizoid “free offer.”

  5. Hugh McCann Says:

    on paragraphs cited:

    Beza’s confession expresses essentially the same doctrine found in the Scottish Confession, that outside of Christ there is no salvation, and thus only the elect (the members of Christ’s universal, invisible church) are saved. If Gootjes is correct, that the Belgic Confession alludes to the church fathers, then the Confession certainly uses the patristic language in a manner distinct from the Romanists whom the Reformers were opposing. [a point I made repeatedly in our dispute and evidently to no avail – SG]

    Beza, the Scots, Belgic, Gootjes, Engelsma, Gerety, Reed, et.al. do well to painstakingly clarify such changes in meanings of terms when using terminology previously employed by the harlot church, lest confusion unnecessarily ensue.

    From the language of Cyprian, the papists had developed their doctrine that outside the institutional Roman Church there is no salvation. Of course, the Belgic Confession gives no quarter to such Romish notions, having classified the Roman church as the false church.

    Engelsma is NOT clear on this. To wit:

    his designation of the ark as a representation of the church institute smacks of a Cyprianic error, in contrast to general Reformed ecclesiology which speaks in absolute terms only of the invisible, universal church.

    Cyprian’s principal error was based upon a confounding of the visible church with the invisible, and that led to the fundamental errors of Romish ecclesiology. Professor Engelsma’s confusion on this matter is similarly apparent because, immediately after using the ark analogy on page 4, he is forced to qualify it…

    By then, however, D.E.’s weak qualification (for those forcibly detained from proper church attendance/ membership) is too little too late: He’s already hanged himself. To again cite Reed: Engelsma

    negates the ark analogy for the instituted church, for at the time of Noah, there were only two places – inside or outside of the ark. The professor’s reasoning cannot be sound, so long as he puts the church institute into the place of the invisible church.

  6. Steve M Says:

    John Robbins said In The Church (Trinity Review Spt-Oct 1989) “The only authority elected leaders of the church have is both given and limited by the Bible. It is the duty to teach the truth. It is not, I shall briefly argue, the power of excommunication. Paul gives a good example of the proper exercise of excommunication in his letters to the Corinthians. In the first letter, as you recall, he wrote to them – and notice the involvement of the whole congregation, not simply the elders – “In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.”
    In his second letter, Paul wrote: “The punishment which was inflicted by the majority [note well] is sufficient for such a man, so that on the contrary you ought rather to forgive and comfort him.”
    The commands which Christ gave in Matthew 18 similarly involve discipline by the majority: Go to your brother first. If he will not hear you, take a witness. If he still does not listen, tell it to the church. If he will not listen to the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. The church does not mean the church leaders: It means the entire assembly.
    Moreover, this procedure applies to all Christians, not just to laymen. There are no special courts set up for judging the clergy. All Christians are brothers, and to establish separate judicial procedures for leaders and for laity is unbiblical. The Bible regards ordinary Christians, assuming the teachers have been doing their job correctly, as entirely competent to judge, as well as to counsel, one another.”

    My questions: Is a Church that places the power of excommunication in the hands of elders alone a true church? Is a church that teaches that Matthew 18 does not apply to elders a true church? I am interested in opinions on these two questions.

  7. David Reece Says:

    It seems like jrob’s position basically makes excommunication and censures a part of the job of the congregation and would lead to Congregationalism rather than Presbyterianism.

    I agree that the judicial procedure has to be the same for all congregants and officers alike, but I am not sure that this means that the session/presbytery should not sit as judges.

    What would be the point of Presbytery/GA if not to act as a court?

    I am not sure either way at this point. I am Presbyterian, but I do not know that I can defend the position properly, and I do not quite understand how to deal with a number of issues.

    As to your question, if a church has a distorted or tyrannical system of church discipline, then I think one can leave that church for that reason, and unrepentant tyranny would seem to be possible cause for considering a church to not be a church that believers ought to support, and thus they should be treated either as brothers in unrepentant sin or as unbelievers (which amounts to basically the same thing right?), so I guess it would be grounds for considering a church to be a false church assuming the position is true.

  8. Hugh McCann Says:

    And here we again pitch (plug, not toss away) the KJV, for it saith “ye” @ I Cor. 5:4, indicating the plural you ~

    In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ…

  9. Hugh McCann Says:

    This is just too radical: The commands which Christ gave in Matthew 18 similarly involve discipline by the majority: Go to your brother first. If he will not hear you, take a witness. If he still does not listen, tell it to the church. If he will not listen to the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. The church does not mean the church leaders: It means the entire assembly.

    Moreover, this procedure applies to all Christians, not just to laymen. There are no special courts set up for judging the clergy. All Christians are brothers, and to establish separate judicial procedures for leaders and for laity is unbiblical. The Bible regards ordinary Christians, assuming the teachers have been doing their job correctly, as entirely competent to judge, as well as to counsel, one another.

    How a Presbyterian could write that is beyond me! 😉

    I recall my disgust & dismay @ those in the OPC & PCA who told me, “The church in Matt. 18 is the session.”
    – – – – – – – – – –

    The KJV Bible even allows (or enjoins) the elevation of the least fit to judge: Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life? If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church. I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren?

    But I know the other versions put it as a shaming question: “Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers,”

    I like to think that the least-equipped saint is better able to discern things than the most educated yet unfaithful lawyer, judge, seminarian or clergyman.

  10. Hugh McCann Says:

    Steve asked: “Is a Church that places the power of excommunication in the hands of elders alone a true church?”

    Such placement doesn’t necessarily disqualify a church, methinks.

    And, “Is a church that teaches that Matthew 18 does not apply to elders a true church?”

    Such teaching doesn’t necessarily disqualify a church, either, methinks.

    I do not see Presbyterianism as so clearly taught in Scripture that any other system is verboten.

  11. Denson Dube Says:

    Hugh, David
    Servanthood is what I understand the Bible to teach. Jesus taught His disciples –Luke 22:24 – 27 “A dispute arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And he said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. …”. Jesus explicitly sets the standard as servanthood. The Apostle Peter obviously learned this leson well for he was to write later, I Peter 5:1-4, “The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed. Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.”
    A represantative/servant serves those they represent/serve. They may or may not make decisions on certain matters depending on whether doing so serves those they represent/serve or whether they are or not exceeding the bounds of servanthood. This is not clear cut democracy/congregationalism or episcopacy/presbyterianism.
    A Bishop or Presbyter can be a true servant to those whose wellbeing they have been entrusted with. The attitude in those entrusted with leadership responsibilities is what is at issue as Jesus said. The title or “system” alone is not sufficient to indicate whether those engaged in such meet biblical requirements. However, I do think that certain systems(episcopacy for example) are inherently weak as there is exessive reliance on the spirituality of an individual. A wicked bishop can spell disaster for a whole denomination whilst a godly man will be a blessing to all. Presbyterianism offers balance if the group of men are not just buddies or if they are not simply doing what their wives tell them to do!

  12. hughmc5 Says:

    Steve asked: “Is a Church that places the power of excommunication in the hands of elders alone a true church?”

    So I ask: Could a true church place the power of excommunication in the hands of the congregation (or, in the hands of the men of the congregation)?

    S.M. asked, “Is a church that teaches that Matthew 18 does not apply to elders a true church?”

    And I ask: Could a true church teach that Matthew 18:17 only applies to elders?


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