Monday, February 28, 2011

Cross-Examination of Frank: Q4

Q4: What exactly do you think is the major difference between the Galatian and the Corinthian churches that caused Paul to write to them differently?

A4: I think the standard answer is — the one you may have heard on the White Horse Inn, for example — is that the Galatians were practically not a church and the Corinthians were a church. That is: the Galatians were practically denying the Gospel, and the Corinthians were only ignoring it.

For the sake of this exchange, I’m willing to utterly accept that interpretation of Paul’s approach and intent in the two different letters.

What we cannot do with that distinction is then say, “and what Paul meant for the Galatians is that the good ones (if there were any) had to leave the bad ones for the sake of their own personal/ecclesiastical holiness.” You cannot find anything in that letter which says that, implies that, or can be twisted to say such a thing. What is utterly vacant from the letter to the Galatians is the command to leave, or any instructions on how to leave.

See: some will say that Paul offers the Galatians a terse and cold salutation. But those people simply don’t bother to compare Gal 1:1-5 to 1 Cor 1:1-2, or Col 1:1-2. The salutation of Gal 1 is actually longer and more robust theologically than it is in Col 1 — and yet it still extends the same qualifiers for those to whom it is written: the saints. He calls them “the saints and the faithful (ones)” in writing to the Colossians; he says to the Galatians that Christ died for “us” (meaning: you and me; all of us).

That said, the tone of Galatians is plainly one of discipline, as is the tone of 1 Cor. Paul is exhorting them against their failings because they are serious. And his fear is that they are turning away from the Gospel.

But the first obvious item is that Paul doesn’t write them a letter to tell them he’s finished with them. That is: Paul doesn’t separate from the foolish Galatians! Unlike your interpretation which says Paul isn’t writing to the bad ones, plainly Paul addresses the foolish Galatians (Gal 3:1) with his rebuke.

The last obvious item (because of the limits of the word count) is Gal 6:1-5, where Paul says exactly what to do with a person in the church who is in grave error. Your method and defintion [sic] of separation utterly ignores that. I pray for your own sake you can be rid of your mistake and find a place for Paul’s full teaching to the Galatians in your theology.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Wes White on the Visible/Invisible Church Distinction

Some time ago, Pastor Wes White wrote a series of blog posts on the errors of the Federal Vision. In part 5 of the series, he addressed the traditional Reformed understanding of the Visible/ Invisible Church distinction and the Federal Vision's denial of it. As he has said,

Many Protestants today do not understand the importance of the visible/invisible Church distinction. However, for classical Protestantism, this distinction was a vital one with profound implications for the salvation of sinners and the life of the Church.

Classic Protestant theology defined the Church as true believers in Christ. Thus, Martin Luther said, “He who does not truly believe . . . does not belong to the Christian Church” (note how Luther uses the phrase “the” Christian Church” differently than the FV). Consequently, he adds, “If the Pope were not pious and holy, he could not be a member, much less the head of the holy Church.” Calvin speaks similarly, “To God alone must be left the knowledge of His Church, of which His secret election forms the foundation.” 4 Similarly, Charles Hodge stated, “If a man is not justified, sanctified, and consecrated to God, he is not a saint, and therefore does not belong to the Church, which is the communion of saints” (Church Polity, p. 6, again note the use of “the Church” over against the FV).

However, these theologians also recognized that God had commanded that believers come together for joint profession, worship, and discipline. The problem is that in this external communion many gather who are not actual believers and do not possess forgiveness of sins, union with Christ, new life, and adoption. As a result, they followed the Bible in distinguishing the Church as it appears from the Church as it really is (see Mt. 13). This is often called the visible/invisible Church distinction.

Do read through this short piece, as the visible/invisible church distinction is indeed a vital doctrine for us to grasp.

Cross-Examination of Frank: Q3

Q3: Frank, an interesting albeit long answer, with various false assumptions however.

In your second answer, you mentioned that the “local church is the visible church,” and then continued with a long excursive on the local church. I note that your answer differs from the traditional understanding of the visible church being the universal church, not the local church. Regardless, the invisible church was not mentioned again in your answer. So to restate the question, is there any use of the concept of the invisible church in Church practice besides the belief that souls are saved not by church attendance but by grace?


  1. My understanding of visible/invisible doesn’t vary from the traditional understanding in any meaningful way. For Daniel to do more than merely make that accusation, he’ll have to pony up some evidence of the “visible church” which isn’t actually a local church (3 marks, after all), and how it is that the “invisible” church is discerned apart from God’s final judgment and the ultimate glorification of the saints.
  2. The visible/invisible distinction Daniel ought to hold to is in WCF XXV. It requires (which his demand for separation completely ignores) that only inside the visible church is where the 3 marks he thinks are necessary for “the church” can be demonstrated (specifically WCF XXV.3). These things don’t exist apart from local bodies who are actually doing them.
  3. I like it that Q3 intimates that only those with an active theology of the “invisible church” (meaning: you have to account for them all, therefore accounting for those in the visible but not in the invisible) have a decent ecclesiology, and therefore a decent theology. The only mention of the “invisible church” in the WCF is in XXV.1, and my use of that term is in-line with the WCF’s use and weight of the term.
  4. What is utterly evident in the Larger Catechism is that men aren’t required to discern the invisible church inside the visible church. Q61 makes the distinction that church membership doesn’t equate to salvation, but Q90 makes it transparently clear that only at the final judgment will God make the final sorting of goats and sheep. In reformed baptist circles, (a people I would love to hear Daniel’s opinion of, unless he parrots R. Scott Clark) that means we don’t baptize infants in order that we don’t admit unbelievers to the visible church. In more paleo-reformed circles, the baptism of infants is taken to be the expression of the broad offer of the Gospel to believers and their children. Because we cannot discern the elect from the non-elect, says the paedobaptist, we must assume the sovereignty of the God and therefore the inviolability of His promises. If the promises are “to the children”, then we must assume they are in the church without regard to the status of their own faith or confession. For those at home, this is why Paedos practice confirmation and credos don’t.

But the point for this discussion is clear: how the paedobaptist then won’t extend the full benefits of those promises to visible members he sees as still needing grace is utterly beyond explanation. You cannot hold a confessional view and then demand a doctrine of separation which has actual church discipline absent from the process. Separation cannot be a matter of private judgment but a matter of ecclesiastical practice for the sake of pastoral ends.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Cross-Examination of Frank: Q2

Q2: Do you see any practical uses of the visible/ invisible church distinction in the context of the local church, besides the knowledge that people are saved by grace alone through faith alone and not by church membership, attendance or the lack thereof? If so, what do you think they are?

I again offer an unlimited word count for the answer.

A2: I have listed all the uses of the local church in my two opening statements, but I am grateful for the opportunity to restate them:

The purest churches under heaven are subject to mixture and error; and some have so degenerated as to become no churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan; nevertheless Christ always hath had, and ever shall have a kingdom in this world, to the end thereof, of such as believe in him, and make profession of his name.

In the execution of this power wherewith he is so entrusted, the Lord Jesus calleth out of the world unto himself, through the ministry of his word, by his Spirit, those that are given unto him by his Father, that they may walk before him in all the ways of obedience, which he prescribeth to them in his word. Those thus called, he commandeth to walk together in particular societies, or churches, for their mutual edification, and the due performance of that public worship, which he requireth of them in the world.

The members of these churches are saints by calling, visibly manifesting and evidencing (in and by their profession and walking) their obedience unto that call of Christ; and do willingly consent to walk together, according to the appointment of Christ; giving up themselves to the Lord, and one to another, by the will of God, in professed subjection to the ordinances of the Gospel.

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.

No church members, upon any offence taken by them, having performed their duty required of them towards the person they are offended at, ought to disturb any church order, or absent themselves from the assemblies of the church, or administration of any ordinances, upon the account of such offence at any of their fellow members, but to wait upon Christ, in the further proceeding of the church.

To be as specific as possible, I believe the local church is the visible church — and if all of the work of the church is not evident there, it needs reforming. So for example, Daniel would appeal to the three marks of the church (Biblical preaching [both Law and Gospel, one hopes], Use of Sacraments, exercise of Discipline) and call it quits. But thankful, the Protestant confessions call for much more than that for the church to be true to the call to be saints joined together.

For example, as said in my second opening statement, Calvin himself found the idea that the church should be completely perfect in this world a "dangerous temptation", and that "the man that is prepossessed with this notion, must necessarily in the end withdraw from all others, and look upon himself as the only saint in the world, or set up a peculiar sect in company with a few hypocrites." Those are Calvin's words of caution to those who are so urgent to be separated from other Christians who are imperfect — given in context of describing how it is possible that Paul can call what is at Corinth a "church" where discipline is almost unfound, the sacraments are misused grossly, and the Gospel itself is being corrupted by factions, by a waywardness toward idolatry, and by a false view of the resurrection.

From that perspective, one very serious and sobering use of the visible church distinction is how the church models reconciliation. It's interesting to see that Paul demands that the man in dire sin in Corinth be cast out in his first letter, but then in his second letter tells the Corinthians to forgive him because he is now repentant -- an act that Daniel and I would both say is the right working of discipline. But at the same time, does Paul require of the Corinthians that they separate from the super-saints who are slandering him in Corinth and causing divisions and all manner of other failings? Not once does he say this! He instead pleads Christ's sacrifice for all believers so that the factionalism will be overcome. Paul doesn't require that the "good ones" maintain their distance from the "bad ones" when it comes to the abuses of the Lord's Supper: he requires instead that the Lord's supper [sic] be the sign of unity among them, because the body of Christ is discerned there — not just a feast for our favorite friends. And think of this: in Paul's discourse to the Corinthians about right worship, he makes it clear that worship does not exclude unbelievers but in fact must be intelligible to them so that when they are present among the believers in worship, the act of worship will convict them and call them to account. Most critically, in 1 Cor 7, Paul requires of believers married to unbelievers to say [sic stay] in the marriage if the unbeliever is willing to stay married to them. This is magnified ten-fold when laid up against the definition of marriage Paul lists elsewhere in Eph 5.

So what of discipline then? And of the doctrine of separation? What are these and what are they used for?

The first is simply answered: the local church categorically has the responsibility to pastor the flock through elders so that the spiritual welfare and maturity of each member and the church as a whole is cared for. That is: the local church is responsible for seeing to it that there is unity through truth. From a positive standpoint, this is done through the exhortation of truth from the pulpit and from the fellowship hall. From a negative standpoint, it is also upheld by expressing the truth in love to those who are not doing it right. As I have said elsewhere, "churches ought to exercise some kind of process which recognizes that they do not exist as a body which stands for nothing, and which gives them a clear process for working that out in real life."

But what of this "doctrine of separation" which is at the center of your complaint against me? You have made quite a lot of noise against my alleged ignorance or apathy to the historical contexts of the Protestant confessions, but one thing radically absent from all of them is the severe definitions of separation which you are nevertheless demanding. You have equated your view with the work of the councils, but ironically no councils exist to hand down the judgments you are extolling, and you are then requiring the individual to make the particular judgments completely apart from visible church structures and authority.

So for example, if Warren's The Purpose Driven Life is read in a church (probably in the 40-day structure), I perceive that your view is that it's not a church anymore: they have "taken part in the wicked deeds of Rick Warren". Those who count themselves as very on about holiness have to run away — be separate immediately, or be subjects of separation themselves.

Yet where is this found in the theology of the reformation? Indeed: the best possible place to attempt to find it is Robert Shaw's exposition of the Westminster Catechism when he says this about Sanctification:

In Scripture, the word sanctification bears a variety of senses. It signifies separation from a common to a sacred use, or dedication to the service of God. Thus the altar, temple, priests, and all the sacred utensils, were sanctified. It also signifies purification from ceremonial defilement.–Heb. ix. 13. But the sanctification of believers, of which this chapter treats, consists in their purification from the pollution of sin, and the renovation of their nature after the image of God.

... Sanctification is imperfect in this life. There have been men, and there still are, who maintain, that sinless perfection is attainable in this life. This is held by Antinomians, who profess that the perfect holiness of Christ is imputed to believers. It is held likewise by Romanists, Socinians, and others, who affirm that believers have, or may attain, a perfect inherent holiness. The doctrine of sinless perfection was also held by the founder of the Methodists; and the same opinion is still held by his followers. In opposition to such views, our Confession decidedly affirms, that sanctification is "imperfect in this life." Though it extends to the whole man, yet "there abideth still some remnants of corruption in every part." The Scriptures abound with the most explicit testimonies against the doctrine of sinless perfection.–Eccl. vii 20; James iii. 2; Prov. xx. 9, 1 John i. 8. The epithet perfect, is indeed applied to several saints, but it must be understood either comparatively, in which sense "Noah was perfect in his generation;" or, as synonymous with sincerity or uprightness, in which sense God said to Abraham, "Walk before me, and be thou perfect." That the most eminent saints mentioned in Scripture were not free from sin, is evident from the defects and blemishes which are discovered in their conduct. They were far from imagining that they had attained to sinless perfection. - Job ix. 20; Ps. xix. 12; Phil. iii. 12. Every real Christian will certainly aspire after perfection; but none can attain to absolute perfection in this life.

As there is both grace and the remainders of corruption in every saint, it follows, that there will be "a continual and irreconcilable war" between these two opposite principles. This conflict is described in a very striking manner.–Rom. vii.; Gal. v. 17 Sometimes the one principle prevails, and sometimes the other; but grace will finally overcome.

But sadly, that cannot be twisted into a doctrine which demands that Christians, themselves imperfect, must exact through a tribunal of their own reason, either repentance or banishment from every creature confessing faith in Christ. Instead, Shaw rightly points out that the doctrine of sanctification is about my war with my sin as it is conducted by the Holy Spirit for the purpose of God's grace overcoming that sin — not to drive me away from others over matters of opinion, or worse: my own execution of some confession against those who disagree with me.

Finally, the spectacular fact of the visible church is that it is the place where sinners are made right with God. That is: not only are we reconciled by the blood of Christ to God over and against our sins, but we are also made right toward each other so that our objections to each others [sic] flaws and shortcomings can be laid to rest through Christ's work.

By no means should that be construed as a license to be lawless, or to allow for utter lawlessness and blasphemy. But it does make for the basis to be reconcilers first, and to seek to forgive first, and to call to repentance with a loving and hopeful heart first. The Gospel is not the Law, and it does not demand of us that we seek the condemnation of others through the Law. It makes us into something better than the Law could have made of us, and with that comes something greater than the mere requirements of fundamentalist separation.

Cross-Examination of Frank: Q1

Q1: Frank, let’s start with a case study. A member of a local parish of the Roman Catholic Church was witnessed to on the street. As a result, he repented of his sin and turned to Christ. Suppose that you were his friend and he sought your counsel as to whether he should leave his church. What would be your advice? Would your advice be any different if he was an Italian living in Italy?

I offer an unlimited word count for the answer.

A1: Unequivocally, this person you describe in your Q#1 is under the anathema of Rome. He should leave that church and seek one which does not make the mistakes Rome has made confessionally, ecclesiastically, and ecumenically.

I would invite him to my local church in spite of the fact that, since they have not separated from me, in Daniel's view they "have according to 2 John 11 taken part in the wicked deeds" of a person like me.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

My cross-examination questions

I would be offering up my questions to Frank Turk first, and only later when I have the answers would post both on my blog. If any readers are dying to know my cross-examinations questions which I have asked Frank before I post them here, check out his Debate blog.

Cross-examination of Daniel: Q10

Q10: As an aside on the aside, note that doling out anathemas for nonessential matters is not the same as affirming central truths and anathematizing the deniers of those truths. That Daniel does not make this distinction is telling.

So for my last question to you, Daniel: What is the most significant difference between what happened, for example, at Nicea and the common claim easily found all kinds of places today that John Piper, for failing to practice separation from Rick Warren, must himself be the object of separation for anyone who is truly a Christian? Is there one?

A10: As I have mentioned, Frank, I am a Reformed Confessionalist, not an Evangelical minimalist.

I have addressed the issue of John Piper briefly in my second statement. As I have said:

Secondary separation means that we are to rebuke Pastor Piper of his sin and to treat him as an erring brother under censure, as he has according to 2 John 11 taken part in the wicked deeds of Douglas Wilson and Rick Warren. He is still at least a brother in Christ, but his compromise with heretics means that we are to censure him in hopes that he will repent one day, not to encourage him in his sin by continuing on writing open letters to praise him as if nothing has actually happened.

Secondary separation is different from primary separation, although both are done for the Gospel. Secondary separation (applicable to compromisers like John Piper) is done as a measure of reprove and censure towards Christians for their compromise, while primary separation (an application of Nicea) is an act of judgment against heretics, schismatics and true apostates.

To finish off this answer, I would say that efforts to limit such acts of public piety to the local church sound suspiciously like Cain’s answer to God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen. 4:9ff). After all, we confess “one catholic and apostolic faith”, not many branches of disconnected faith communities.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Cross-Examination of Daniel: Q9

Q9: Well, I think you have rephrased my last question in order to answer it in a way that sounds like your way is the way Protestants were thinking, and it was not. It was the way Trent was thinking. See: the fellows at Trent believed that the only way to rectify the error of Protestantism was to anathematize it and stand separate from it. Plainly: they called those who were Christians "not Christians" and demanded they be run off.

Consider in juxtaposition the WCF on the canon of Scripture, which anathematizes no one, yet makes a vigorous affirmation that their view of the limits of the canon is the one by which believers ought to abide.

In your view, why does the WCF (as one example) fail to demand separation from those who affirm the wrong canon of Scripture? Asked another way, how can one abide that the WCF does not demand separation from those who would call those who receive only the shorter canon "not Christian"?

A9: The problem with Frank’s understanding of the Reformation and the Reformed Confessions comes from reading them apart from their historical context. We must remember that the late medieval and late Renaissance period was a time when creeds and churches go together. Not only that, there was no such thing as the separation between Church and State. What one believes limits one to a particular ecclesiastical gathering and has implications whether one’s religion is approved or persecuted by the governing authorities.

In England in the time around the English Civil War, three religious factions were vying for supremacy: the Anglicans, the Presbyterians, and the Congregationalists. Whoever came to power would suppress the other groups. The Anglicans did that before Cromwell and after the Restoration, the Congregationalists did that under Cromwell, and the Presbyterians only did so sporadically in Scotland. The Reformers and Puritans did not have to place an anathema in their confessions; it was de facto practiced. The very idea of a national church, which symbolized the visible (not invisible) church in that country, had at its very heart the idea that all believers are to join the national church and those who do not are considered by the pastors in that national church to be not in the visible Church (at least the visible Body of Christ as present in the country).

Each faction in the Reformation used their confession as simultaneously the thing which binds believers and that which excludes those outside the Church. The multiplicity of confessions in the Reformation era led to the Reformed leaders comparing confessions and accepting in spirit (with minor disagreements to be sure) each other’s confessions to show that those believers in another place were not to be considered unbelievers. (In fact, the Westminster Confession was to function as a Confession of unity between the Scots and the British, should the Presbyterians proved victorious in England.) The Reformed Confessions therefore united true believers while excluding those to be considered outside the visible Church.

There is thus no need to commend separation since all the Reformers and their descendants have separated from the Roman Church. Moreover, they kicked out the radical Anabaptists and in that sense separated from them. The Puritans later separated from the Church of England because she refused to continue reformation. Lastly, the idea of Confessionalism subsumes the doctrine of separation into a more holistic doctrine where we are not merely told what to separate from but what to separate to.

As an aside, Trent in its format is merely following the practice of the Church through the ages like for example in Nicea or Second Orange. There is nothing problematic or ahistorical in her pronouncement of anathemas; the problem rather was that Trent condemned the Gospel.

Debate: Does Rom. 11 promise the salvation of ethnic Israel?

WestCal students Nathanael Taylor and Ben Rochester had engaged in an interesting debate regarding the future of ethnic Israel as seen in Rom. 11:25-26. Nate argues that Rom. 11:25-26 teaches a future salvation for ethnic Israel, while Ben denies that there is such a future salvation promised in Rom. 11. The debate is recorded in the following audio files (unfortunately not fully captured):

Here is the introduction by the moderator:

Welcome to Hoagies & Stogies; or for all you regulars, welcome back. Since the last two events were Open Mic Night, and the one-man interview with David Zadok about Israel, it’s been Nine Long Months since we had an actual two-man debate according to our typical format. So again, to all of you I say Welcome Back.

Tonight’s topic is the hotly-contested passage of Rom 11:25-26: “a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved.” In the most straightforward reading (at least of this English translation–the ESV) it would seem that God has yet a future for the nation of Israel; and yet this is a difficult concept to reconcile with, say, the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70, and the entire book of Hebrews.

In the history of H&S, we’ve had a wide variety of speakers; ranging from pastors to professors to just plain laymen. But this time we’re really scraping the bottom of the barrel, because all you get is seminary students. But on the plus side, since they haven’t accomplished anything in life, that makes introductions easier. This is Nate, this is Ben.

At this point, I must confess that tonight you probably will not hear the debate you expected to hear. Nate Taylor, who will be arguing that there is a future for Jews, will not be arguing that this has anything to do with Judaism: not the Temple, sacrifices, circumcision, or the political state formed on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean in 1948.

Ben Rochester, on the other hand, when he argues against a future for Israel, is not arguing that God hates the Jews, and they are all condemned to hell.

Nate and Ben are in full agreement that Jews have the same right as Gentiles to be God’s people by claiming the promise of forgiveness of sins and imputed righteousness due to the perfect life, sacrificial death, and glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ.

So the question becomes, how many Jews will be saved through Christ? Nate says that “Romans says ‘all’”, and Ben (like a good Calvinist), says “all doesn’t always mean all”.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Cross-Examination of Daniel: Q8

Q8: The key issue, as you have identified, between Nicea and Trent is that one council was declaring truth and the other error. I like it that you are centered on the issue of justification as the matter at which Trent makes a fatal error. But there’s something you have missed rather broadly in Trent: it anathematizes people for excluding certain books as inspired Scripture.

Here’s my question: if Trent had not delivered the anathemas against the doctrine of justification but only the anthemas [sic] against the Protestant canon of Scripture, would “the Biblical Christian” still be bound to separate from Rome? Asked another way, do the anathemas against the Protestant canon present a doctrinal crisis that can only be resolved by separation?

A8: Yes.

The issue here presented gets at the type and amount of error required for separation — an enquiry which is related to the first mark as we need to consider the content of the truth of the Word of God. They are two different positions on this issue: the confessional maximalist (Reformed) or the confessional minimalist (Evangelical). Historically speaking, both positions will present the same answer to Frank’s question, since one of the proof texts used to support Purgatory (2 Macc. 12:42-45) is in the Apocrypha.

However, if we remove Trent from its historical context and merely ask whether an insistence to add uninspired books to Scripture is reason to separate from a church, then I will not presume to speak for the Confessional Minimalist. As a Confessional Maximalist, I would still say that such necessitate separation because a good and necessary consequence (WCF Chapter 1, Section 6) of the Gospel message means that the grounds of its authority (the Scriptures) is just as important for the Church as the Gospel.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The line in the sand: Schwärmer versus Reformed

While this guy's theology is a sure mess, I applaud his willingness to take a stand for his beliefs however wrong they are. At least he does not buy into the ecumenical nonsense and can see that the "full Gospel" religion he believes is another faith altogether from the historic Protestant Evangelical Christian faith.

Recently I made a very hard important decision concerning Facebook. I felt like a few people on my friends list were posting and promoting things, that I feel are a threat to my personal faith walk, and a threat to the effectiveness of the Body of Christ period. If you do not know by now, I am not a Calvinist, and I do not agree with the doctrines of Calvinism and reformed theology (mainly the TULIP). I’m simply a FULL GOSPEL, bible believing CHRISTIAN! So to get straight to the point, I had to delete a few fokes [sic] from my friends list (and I’ll probably be deleting more if I feel that I need to).

What made the decision so hard for me is that a few of these people I know personally and I truly love ‘em, But I have to guard my heart, and I have to contend for The Faith that was once delivered. Some of the fokes [sic] that got deleted actually called me their mentor at one time…before they went to a faithless seminary, or before they got a heart full of some faithless music. Some of the people that got deleted are popular Christian rap artists, but regardless of the genre title, Truth is Truth, and error is error.

I’ve seen these doctrines shipwreck the lives of believers who were once “on fire.” When I say fire, I’m not talking about zeal or passion, I’m talking about “Holy Ghost Fire!”…PENTECOST (yeah, I believe that Holy Ghost baptism, tongues, signs, miracles, and wonders are for today, and are ESSENTIAL to what God wills to do IN and THROUGH The Body of Christ TODAY).


If only the line was that clear cut, such that everyone can see that the two are totally different religions altogether. A person who is "full Gospel" will be seen to be no more Christian than Thomas Müntzer and the Zwickau Prophets, and nobody will think that one can be a member in both camps. To paraphrase Luther, such people are not to be trusted [in spiritual matters] even if they have swallowed the Holy Spirit "feathers and all".

When the churches functions like the Church, then her witness will be strong and certain. There will be no confusion as to what the Church believes, and we wouldn't have the current situation of professing believers attacking other professing believers for heresy, and thus give an image of internal strife within the Church. For if the churches do their work, those who are heretics will be kicked out of the churches, and there will be unity in the Gospel within the churches. The most we will have are believers attacking false churches, which is what the Apostles did anyway.

May the spirit of unbiblical ecumenism die a thousand deaths. May it never be resurrected. O Lord, come.

[HT: Michael Acidri]

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Cross-Examination of Daniel: Q7

Q7: Because I am running out of allotted questions, let’s switch gears.

You make what I would call the essential case historically for separation – using the councils all the way up to Trent to show what the doctrine can yield. As I see it, it is right, for example, for Nicea to create a creed and therefore separate the faith from the falsehoods which have sprung up around it. That’s the activity of the church: express the affirmative Gospel, and use that to exclude what is not true. It is the affirmative use of truth for unity.

There is something different about Trent, though, contra Nicea or other truly-ecumenical councils. What’s the key difference between Trent and (for example) Nicea?

Again, I offer you an open word limit to answer the question.

A7: This question is ambiguous. Certainly there are a lot of major differences between Nicea and Trent; it is almost like comparing apples and oranges, or maybe mangoes.

This question can be interpreted as enquiring into the key difference between Trent and Nicea in each council’s activity of demarcating truth from error, which is a historical question. Alternatively, we can interpret the question as to the key difference between Trent and Nicea in the implications the rulings of each council has on the Church’s method for determining truth from error, which is a hermeneutical question. Or maybe it is the key difference in the implications each has for how one determines the content of the Gospel. Perhaps what the question is driving at is what is the key difference each has on how a biblical Christian practice the doctrine of separation?

Seeing that our debate thesis is on the doctrine of separation, I will interpret the question as to the key difference in how the pronouncements of each council impact how a Christian practices the doctrine of separation. If Frank has something else in mind, he should be clearer in his questions.

The proceedings of Nicea in 325AD, especially when its doctrine is codified into the Nicene Creed (later modified at the Council of Constantinople in 381AD), proclaims the one holy catholic apostolic faith which is necessary for salvation. The council met in an attempt to resolve the Arian controversy as Arius denied the Son’s eternity and consubstantiality with the Father. While unsuccessful at halting the Arian plague, the witness at Nicea provided the creedal backbone of the faith during Athanasius’ time when it faced onslaught by the Arians and the Semi-Arians. The Council of Constantinople of 381AD finally put Arianism and her children down as a viable threat to the Church.

The initial Nicene Creed ended the creed with an anathema aimed against the Arians, which was removed at Constantinople probably because creeds aren’t meant to contain anathemas. The original anathema reads as follows:

[But those who say: 'There was a time when he was not;' and 'He was not before he was made;' and 'He was made out of nothing,' or 'He is of another substance' or 'essence,' or 'The Son of God is created,' or 'changeable,' or 'alterable'—they are condemned by the holy catholic and apostolic Church.]

In light of the decree of the Council of Nicea, the implication it has on the doctrine of separation is that we are to separate and heed the anathema the Church has hurled against the [Arian] heretics. The Council ruled that the Christian message is to be found in the Nicene Creed over and against the teachings of Arius and others like him. A biblical Christian in light of Nicea therefore merely has to follow the Church as she fought and condemned those who would destroy the faith, and separate from those the Church has already condemned to hellfire.

Trent was the official answer of the Roman Catholic Counter-Reformation to the Protestant Reformation. At Trent, a handful of Roman Catholic clergy came together and pronounced the proceedings of that council to be authoritative on the Church. Seeing themselves as the successors of Peter and Paul, all the Apostles and all the Church Fathers (as Roman Catholicism has continued to perceive herself today), they made their decrees binding de jure on all who would call themselves Christians. In the sixth session of the Council of Trent, Trent pronounced these words against the Protestants and their message:

If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema (On Justification, Canon IX)

If any one saith, that men are justified, either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ, or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, and is inherent in them; or even that the grace, whereby we are justified, is only the favour of God; let him be anathema. (On Justification, Canon XI)

If any one saith, that justifying faith is nothing else but confidence in the divine mercy which remits sins for Christ's sake; or, that this confidence alone is that whereby we are justified; let him be anathema (On Justification, Canon XII)

In light of these pronouncements at the Council of Trent, the biblical Christian could not in good conscience agree with the denunciation of the Gospel by the Roman Church. Since the Christian’s fidelity is first and foremost to Christ and the true Gospel message, he cannot agree with Trent’s attack on the Gospel in anathemizing those who believe in the Gospel.

Practicing the doctrine of separation therefore becomes more difficult. The Christian has to discern the error of Rome, reject the Roman Church and her councils, and turn to churches which continue to confess the true Gospel. The anathema against the Gospel hurled by the Roman Church means that there is no way the gap can begin to be bridged short of Rome repudiating the many articles pronounced at Trent.

The key difference between Nicea and Trent therefore on how a biblical Christian practices the doctrine of separation is this: In the former, the institutional visible Church follows Christ and we follow the Church in her actions of separation from heretics. In the latter, a significant portion of the institutional visible Church turned against the faith and therefore we follow the congregations that remained faithful by separating from that false church. In short, at Nicea we follow the Church as she is faithful, while at Trent we follow Christ and the true Church when large portions of the visible Church apostatize.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Cross-Examination of Daniel: Q6

Q6: While I would like to see more detail from you in your answers as I am enjoying them, I appreciate your candor. So far we have clarified expressly that separation is not about salvation, and it’s not about personal holiness. Those are spectacular insights regarding your objectives in promulgating this doctrine.

In your opener, you explicitly said, “the doctrine of separation permeates the entire Scriptures, seen in the motif of holiness especially in the Old Testament theocracy of Israel,” and you reference 2 Cor. 6 as your proof text.

I think you can’t have it both ways. Using the proof text you have already referenced, how is it possible that “Separation has to do with the Gospel and the proclamation of the Truth, not (individual) personal holiness or the lack thereof?”

Again, I offer you an open word count to make your case.

A6: Maybe I should have been clearer in my previous answer. The doctrine of separation has to do with public (or ecclesiastical) piety seen especially in the witness of the Gospel and the proclamation of the Truth. It does not pertain to individual private piety. Therefore, by “(individual) personal holiness”, I am referring to attending to the means of grace and growing in holiness of character as such is the default definition that Evangelicalism tends to have when it talks about holiness.

However, Christians while saved individually are not saved and left as individuals. Christ brings believers together to form the Church. As members in the Church therefore, God calls us to exercise public piety in relation to other Christians. This public piety is external as opposed to internal, and pertains to the obligations we have to others which God obligates us to. It is called “public” because such obligations do not exist if one stays in an island alone, whereas private piety such as holiness and reading the Scriptures are necessary even if one is alone on an island.

Included in this category of public piety are contending for the faith, evangelism, discipleship, rebuke, correction, the diaconal ministry of compassion and others like them.

In this light, the lists in Gal. 5 which we have been looking at are lists of private piety or vices. This is not to deny that any of those on the lists have a corporate dimension, but that they are primarily personal not ecclesiastical.

I do not know where you are trying to go so my answers would generally “lack detail”. Regardless, I will put it forward that there is a difference in kind between private and public piety. Failure in the former generally is a sin of commission whereas failure in the latter generally is a sin of omission.

Separation as an act of public piety therefore is external, just as the Gospel is an external fact outside of us, and as the Marks of a true Church is an external fact outside of us. The link with holiness, as I have mentioned in the Old Testament and 2 Cor. 6, is due to its corporate public dimension. Just as Israel had to be separate from the nations, and Christ from Belial, so the Church is to be separate from false religion and Christians from false churches and false believers. Such separateness is one of witness and not to be done for any other reason; for the witness of the Gospel so that the Gospel message will not be compromised.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Cross-Examination of Daniel: Q5

Q5: I think your last point is defeated by Gal 1:2, and I leave it to the reader to decide for himself.

It's interesting that you only focused on the two items I underscored in Gal 5:19-21, namely the "disputes" and "dissensions".

I'd think one would want to make sure "enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, ... factions, [and] envying" [NASB this time] were also able to be covered by one's theology of separation as well -- that somehow separation has to not be full of "enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, [and] envying."

How would you disambiguate someone who would say that your view of Separation is actually best described by these 8 characteristics?

Again, I offer you an open word count to address the question.

A5: Frank, the reason for the initial focus on those two words in Gal. 5:19-21 was because you were focusing on them, even by underlining them.

As I have previously mentioned, the list of the works of the flesh in Gal. 5:19-21 is not a list meant to necessarily describe the Galatian Christians or the Judaizers. It is a list to show what attitudes and works are the fruits that originate from the flesh. Similarly, the list of the fruit of the Spirit is not meant to be describing any of the Galatian Christians, as if any Christian ever is perfect in this world.

The principle of separation has nothing formally to do with either of these two lists. Separation has to do with the Gospel and the proclamation of the Truth, not (individual) personal holiness or the lack thereof.

Cross-Examination of Daniel: Q4

Q4: Daniel, I have highlighted part of your last response for reference, to minimize my word count here. Yet Paul says in Galatians 5:

You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view than mine, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is.

Paul plainly states that that someone who is “troubling” the Galatians is in the midst of the people he is writing to.

Can you reconcile this difference? Asked another way, how do you reconcile your view that Paul thinks those people are not even worth addressing when in fact he makes it clear that he is addressing them in this passage?

I again offer an unlimited word count for your response.

A4: Frank, the issue here is the difference between the visible and the invisible church. It is obviously the case that there is no way the letter to the Galatians can be read without the Judaizers being present hearing it read. Paul is addressing the Galatian church as a collective whole (the visible church), and the believers within that church as individuals (the invisible church). Therefore, Paul is addressing all of them (the visible church) with the intent of speaking to some of them (the invisible church). Within the Galatian congregation therefore, Paul is rebuking the believers who are following after the Judaizers who are currently within their midst. The last portion of verse 10 is Paul’s judgment on the Judaizers who are not addressed to but spoken of in an indirect manner.

It is analogous to speaking to person A about person B while both of them are present, and ignoring person B.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Cross-Examination of Daniel: Q3

Frank: That's fantastic — we are exactly on the same page.

Here's a citation from Scripture:

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.[Gal 5:19-21, ESV]

That's quite a list from Paul to the Galatians, yes? Now, you and I agree that what Paul does not mean here is that people who do this undo Christ's work for them.

But if that's what Paul does not mean, what in fact does Paul mean by saying this? For the answer to this question, I give you an open word limit — you may use as much space as necessary to answer this question.

Daniel: Thanks Frank for the open word limit.

A3: These are the verses in the Greek, with the words underlined as you have done:

φανερὰ δέ ἐστιν τὰ ἔργα τῆς σαρκός, ἅτινά ἐστιν πορνεία, ἀκαθαρσία, ἀσέλγεια, 20 εἰδωλολατρία, φαρμακεία, ἔχθραι, ἔρις, ζῆλος, θυμοί, ἐριθεῖαι, διχοστασίαι, αἱρέσεις, 21 φθόνοι, μέθαι, κῶμοι καὶ τὰ ὅμοια τούτοις, ἃ προλέγω ὑμῖν, καθὼς προεῖπον ὅτι οἱ τὰ τοιαῦτα πράσσοντες βασιλείαν θεοῦ οὐ κληρονομήσουσιν. (Gal 5:19-21 BGT)

The word translated “dissensions” is the word eritheiai (ἐριθεῖαι), which according to the abridged LSJ lexicon denotes “an attitude of self-seeking selfish ambition.” The word translated “divisions” in the same lexicon, dichostasiai (διχοστασίαι), denotes “a standing apart, dissension.” The other occurrences of this word are both in the genitive singular: in 1 Macc 3:29 (which refers to civil discord) and Rom. 16:17. It is in Rom. 16:17 that the word is used in association with the apostles’ teaching, as it is written:

I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. (Rom. 16:17 –ESV)

From this, the word dichostasia as used in the NT has a connotation of divisions caused by the introduction of false teachings into the church. Together with the next item on the list haireseis (αἱρέσεις), they both reflect on the divisions caused by introduction of false teachings into the church.

Paul by detailing the works of the flesh is therefore telling the believers in Galatians what are the actions and attitudes to avoid and not do. We must first of all realize that the Epistle to the Galatians was written to professing believers in the covenant community, not the Judaizers. These professed believers were in danger of falling away from the faith, and Paul wrote this letter with the intention that he would rebuke them and bring them back from their perilous state. Of course, we know from other Scriptures that true believers do not fall away (c.f. Jn. 6:37-39), and those who do were never saved in the first place (1 Jn. 2:19). However, in daily living and ministry we tend to those in the visible church not the invisible, and therefore Paul assumes that at least some of them are merely deluded and thus he sharply rebukes them for their error.

I disagree with you [Frank] that we can say that doing these things will not “undo Christ’s work for them.” The list is not meant to necessarily describe the Galatians believers. The list is to show what not to do and what to avoid in people. Paul’s slight in not even thinking the Judaizers worth writing to shows that those who indeed have these works of the flesh in the fullest degree, as the Judaizers have in the area of self-seeking ambition and causing dissension by spreading false teachings, are not to be considered Christians at all.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Cross-Examination of Daniel: Q2

Q2: I thank God for your answer as it is the only Biblical one. It demonstrates that you understand that the Bible has to rule our theology in all matters, and especially in salvation.

That said, what is the ultimate fate of those who, as you say, "disobey Christ" and do not exercise the discipline of separation as you have outlined it in your opening statements?

A2: Since salvation is based on God’s grace not on our works of obedience, such people will still be saved and will be with Christ.

Nevertheless, such disobedience is contrary to God’s will and therefore they may invite chastisement by God for their sins (Heb. 12:10-11). Also, the works of their service and/or ministry will run the risk of being burned up and their rewards lost (1 Cor. 3:15)

Cross-Examination of Daniel: Q1

Q1: Does someone have to separate from heretics in order to be saved?

A1: No, salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, not by works.

One can be saved even if one is a member in a Roman Catholic church, a fact that the Reformers agreed with. The question of separation has never been about salvation, but about obedience to Christ's commands.

Friday, February 11, 2011

2nd Statement by Frank Turk (Negative)

Frank Turk's second statement is attached below:

Well, we can see exactly were Daniel is gong [sic] in this debate: because we can separate from the wicked, we must separate from the wicked. That is: it seems overwhelmingly-obvious (to him) that when we identify sin in someone, our duty is to move on.

But here's something to consider—when Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, he greeted them in this way:

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, … [1Cor 1:2-4, ESV]

You know: Paul here conflates the church with the people in it—his greeting makes it clear that he thinks that "the church" and "those sanctified" and "[those] called to be saints" are all the same set of people.

But there's some radical audacity in Paul's perception of the matter here, and Calvin says it this way:

It may perhaps appear strange that [Paul] should give the name of a Church of God to a multitude of persons that were infested with so many distempers, that Satan might be said to reign among them rather than God. Certain it's, that he did not mean to flatter the Corinthians, for he speaks under the direction of the Spirit of God, who is not accustomed to flatter. But among so many pollutions, what appearance of a Church is any longer presented? I answer, the Lord having said to him, “Fear not: I have much people in this place” (Acts 18:9, 10;) keeping this promise in mind, he conferred upon a godly few so much honor as to recognize them as a Church amidst a vast multitude of ungodly persons. Farther, notwithstanding that many vices had crept in, and various corruptions both of doctrine and manners, there were, nevertheless, certain tokens still remaining of a true Church. This is a passage that ought to be carefully observed, that we may not require that the Church, while in this world, should be free from every wrinkle and stain, or forthwith pronounce unworthy of such a title every society in which everything is not as we would wish it. For it's a dangerous temptation to think that there is no Church at all where perfect purity is not to be seen. For the man that is prepossessed with this notion, must necessarily in the end withdraw from all others, and look upon himself as the only saint in the world, or set up a peculiar sect in company with a few hypocrites.

What ground, then, had Paul for recognizing a Church at Corinth? It was this: that he saw among them the doctrine of the gospel, baptism, the Lord’s Supper — tokens by which a Church ought to be judged of. For although some had begun to have doubts as to the resurrection, the error not having spread over the entire body, the name of the Church and its reality are not thereby affected. Some faults had crept in among them in the administration of the Supper, discipline and propriety of conduct had very much declined: despising the simplicity of the gospel, they had given themselves up to show and pomp; and in consequence of the ambition of their ministers, they were split into various parties. Notwithstanding of this, however, inasmuch as they retained fundamental doctrine: as the one God was adored among them, and was invoked in the name of Christ: as they placed their dependence for salvation upon Christ, and, had a ministry not altogether corrupted: there was, on these accounts, a Church still existing among them. Accordingly, wherever the worship of God is preserved uninfringed, and that fundamental doctrine, of which I have spoken, remains, we must without hesitation conclude that in that case a Church exists. [John Calvin, Commentary on Corinthians Vol 1, Chapt 1.2] [emph. added]

Because I have let Calvin be wordy, I shall be brief. True: Calvin resorts to the 3 marks to make his case. True: he says some are corrupt. But unlike Daniel, Calvin makes it clear that someone who thinks he can just seal himself off from everyone who is not everything we think they ought to be is suffering from a "dangerous temptation" which will cause him simply to be an isolated hypocrite.

See: the key for Paul is not that some people are evil—it's true that in 1Cor he demands that the man in open sexual sin be cut off from the church in disciple. But what about the false teaches -- the super saints? Does Paul require them to be cut off? The answer is plainly "no", even though they are causing division in the church. His call is that all be reconciled in Christ, not divided! If Paul were using Daniel's view of what must be done, 1Cor would be full of the instructions we find in 1Cor 5 -- or better (for Daniel), full of instructions for the excellent few to shuck off the rest and start their own church since they have Paul still to guide them via blog letter.

But that's not Paul's guidance at all: it's Paul's view that because Christ died for these people, they have a basis for continuous and radical reconciliation even when discipline is not being practiced, the sacraments are not being rightly practiced, and the Gospel has been obscured.

Just to be as clear as possible: of course there are some who must go. The unrepentant sinner who flaunts God's law must be disciplined (cf. 1 Cor 5) the unrepentant false teacher must be "handed over to Satan" (cf. 1 Tim 1; 2 Tim 2). If Daniel wants me to list everyone that is in that category, our word count is probably too short -- so listing people he thinks I don't object to doesn't make any case whatsoever. But in both those cases (and there may be other broad categories), the answer Scripture provides is not "flee the local church". The answer is, "the local church must take action against them". That is: the church must remove these sorts of people from their ranks, not leave them as if those people are immovable and Christ is not.

The difference, then, between Paul's view and Daniel's view is how we wield the truth. Do we use the truth only to identify those who are corrupt in order to drive them out, or do we use the truth in the best use of Law and Gospel so that we can convict ourselves—all of us together—of our failings and take up the gift of Christ to overcome those failings. Is the truth of Christ greater than sin? If it's, it doesn't just overcome sin on paper or in the future: it overcomes the problem of sin for us and right now so that reconciliation inside the local church is possible.

I am sure more can and will be said in the cross-ex. I look forward to making my point clearer in answering Daniel's questions.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

2nd Statement by Daniel Chew (Affirmative)

My second statement for the debate:

In this second statement, I would like to further develop my thesis, especially interacting with what Frank has contended for in his opening statement.

As we can see, Frank’s main concern is that “the over-arching principle of the Christian life when it comes to ecclesiology is unity.” He does not dispute that sometimes separation is necessary from non-Christian organizations like the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Rather, Frank seems to be contending for something akin to “mere Christianity” and “mere Christian churches.” In such a mere Christianity, all people in it are sinners and therefore we are to stay united in these churches and not separate from them.

The question to be asked of Frank is, “How do we define such a generic Christianity?” Jehovah’s Witnesses deny the deity of Christ and as such are outside the pale of Chalcedonian orthodoxy. On the other hand, popular “Evangelical” Word-faith teacher T.D. Jakes as a Sabellian modalist denies the Trinity. Will Frank agree that we should also separate from T.D. Jakes and all non-Trinitarians? How about Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, both of which deny the Gospel? What exactly is Frank’s criteria for defining what can be considered Christian and therefore not to be separated from, and what is not Christian like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and to be separated from? Or is anyone calling himself an “Evangelical” to be given a free pass?

The Confessional Reformed have recourse to the three marks of the true church as stated in our Confessions, which are amply supported with verses from the Scriptures. We are saying these marks are the criteria for distinguishing a true from a false church. It must be noted here that these objective marks refer to the practice of the church, not the stated orthodoxy in a confession of faith. It is the act of proclamation of the Word of God, the act of administrating the sacraments, and the act of church discipline that are the marks, not mere ink marks on paper or pixels on screens. This is thus probably the only instance whereby “deeds, not creeds” are proper in a Reformed setting.

Frank in his statement conflates the church with the people within her, but I will nevertheless address the point he raised.

The main appeal by Frank as I see it is that we should not be critical of others since all of us are sinners, and therefore we should not separate from fellow Christians. To be sure, all of us are indeed sinners, Christians included. But firstly, the main motive for the doctrine of separation has never been Pharisaic self-righteousness but holiness and submission to Christ’s commands. Just because everyone is a sinner does not mean that therefore we do not obey Christ. As an analogy, just because the judge and the accused are murderers does not mean that both are to be pardoned. Rather, they are both to be punished. So it is with Christ’s commands. The most that Frank’s argument can prove is that everyone is to be separated from including ourselves, not that separation is not to be done. We do not bring God’s Law down to our level just because we ourselves are lawbreakers, but we are to tremble before God’s Law and indict ourselves as we indict others!

Secondly, while we do not agree with the concepts of venial and mortal sin, not all sins are equal. Some sins are worse than others, like e.g. murder is worse than anger. Therefore, that all Christians are sinners does not mean that all sinners are equal and not to be punished. All sins are qualitatively equally wicked in God’s sight, but they are not quantitatively equal before God. Therefore, while the fact that we are all sinners means we cannot boast, that we are not equally sinful means that some sins are worthy of greater penalty even within the church.

One great weakness in Frank’s position is that it is incapable of dealing with wolves from within the church. Paul warns us that wolves will come out from within the churches (Acts 20:30) and Frank’s position of “You are a sinner, I am a sinner; we are all sinners” if consistently followed makes rebuke and church discipline all but impossible.

With this done, let us go back to our main thesis. I will further elucidate my argument for separation by looking at the practice of separation, which is where the rudder [sic] meets the road.

The Reformed Confessions’ standard of the three marks is to be applied to all churches regardless of outward profession. The impartial standard of God’s Word means that we are to be impartial, which means that it is wrong to judge “Evangelical” churches by closing one eye to her faults while scrutinizing the errors of Jehovah Witness kingdom halls with a magnifying glass. God does not play favorites! That a church is being called “Evangelical” or even “Reformed” is not supposed to function like a “Get out of Jail” card. If Rick Warren and Saddleback fails the test for example, it matters little even if Warren is “America’s pastor,” as if that meant anything to the Lord of heaven and earth! I am convinced and have written a paper on Warren’s distortion of the Gospel[1], which implies that Saddleback and Warren fail to have the first mark. This test could be applied to many “Evangelical” churches which may fail the test and therefore qualify as being false churches too. We must remember here that the marks are based upon the ACTS of the church not her written confessions.

Such application of the marks of a true church may be judged to be too strict by some, which is why in my opening statement I gave the example of the Puritans. The Church of England had a Calvinistic creed (the 39 Articles), yet the Puritans still separated from the national church. What the Puritans knew is that an official creed means little when the clergy did not actually agree with what the creed itself teaches, plus the Anglican Reformation stopped short of reformation of her practice. As it has been said, Anglicanism with its doctrine of the via media is a Church with a Calvinistic creed, an Arminian clergy and Popish liturgy. Those who judge the application of the marks of a true church to be too strict when applied to people like Rick Warren should rightly reject the Puritans too.

In the remainder of this statement, I would like to elucidate for us the doctrine of secondary separation, a doctrine which is certainly more controversial. The main text we would look at is 2 John 10-11:

If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works

The idea of “receiv[ing] into your house or giv[ing] him any greeting” in 2 John 10-11 is a way to indicate in that culture a welcoming of the person as a teacher and his message as being acceptable. What I would like to focus on here from the indicative in verse 11 is that welcoming a false teacher implicates the person as taking part in the same wicked works of the false teacher.

The implication of this verse gives rise to the doctrine of secondary separation. As I have argued elsewhere, secondary separation is not separating from every person who does not separate from someone who sins in that manner of compromise, and doing this ad infinitum[2]. Rather, it is separation from the person in refusing to join him in compromising the faith and rebuking him accordingly.

How this is translated in practice can be thought of in the case of Pastor John Piper, an otherwise excellent Bible teacher who compromised with Federal Vision heretic Douglas Wilson in the Desiring God conference 2009, and Purpose Driven heretic Rick Warren in the Desiring God conference 2010. Secondary separation means that we are to rebuke Pastor Piper of his sin and to treat him as an erring brother under censor [sic], as he has according to 2 John 11 taken part in the wicked deeds of Douglas Wilson and Rick Warren. He is still at least a brother in Christ, but his compromise with heretics means that we are to censure him in hopes that he will repent one day, not to encourage him in his sin by continuing on writing open letters to praise him as if nothing has actually happened.

In conclusion, it is hoped that this statement has helped to elucidate the doctrine of separation in its practice and answer Frank’s objection to it.


[1] Daniel H. Chew, Evaluating the Purpose Driven Paradigm: Recapturing the Vision of the Centrality of the Gospel, CREDO500 blog conference paper. Currently accessible at

[2] Daniel H. Chew, The Doctrine of Separation. Accessed online at

Opening statement from Frank Turk (Negative)

Here is Frank Turk's opening statement.

Well, I think it’s quite amusing that this topic has come up for a few of reasons:

1. I don’t deny that people should separate from what the LBCF calls churches “so degenerated as to become no churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan.” I don’t actually know anyone who would deny that – except for the new wave of Mormon evangelists and apologists who are ironically, broadly, and self-ignorantly ecumenical.

2. I don’t deny that, historically, this has happened over and over.

3. I don’t deny that there are good reasons to do this today. If someone gets saved and finds himself in a Jehovah’s Witness church, he should leave immediately for spiritual refuge in any Christian church.

But here is what I would actually affirm:

The purest churches under heaven are subject to mixture and error; and some have so degenerated as to become no churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan; nevertheless Christ always hath had, and ever shall have a kingdom in this world, to the end thereof, of such as believe in him, and make profession of his name.

In the execution of this power wherewith he is so entrusted, the Lord Jesus calleth out of the world unto himself, through the ministry of his word, by his Spirit, those that are given unto him by his Father, that they may walk before him in all the ways of obedience, which he prescribeth to them in his word. Those thus called, he commandeth to walk together in particular societies, or churches, for their mutual edification, and the due performance of that public worship, which he requireth of them in the world.

The members of these churches are saints by calling, visibly manifesting and evidencing (in and by their profession and walking) their obedience unto that call of Christ; and do willingly consent to walk together, according to the appointment of Christ; giving up themselves to the Lord, and one to another, by the will of God, in professed subjection to the ordinances of the Gospel.

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.

No church members, upon any offence taken by them, having performed their duty required of them towards the person they are offended at, ought to disturb any church order, or absent themselves from the assemblies of the church, or administration of any ordinances, upon the account of such offence at any of their fellow members, but to wait upon Christ, in the further proceeding of the church.

I have omitted some parts of the LBCF Chapter XXVI which are not relevant to this discussion for the sake of word count, but there it is: I believe the over-arching principle of the Christian life when it comes to ecclesiology (which is what this question hinges on entirely) is unity entirely balanced on the truth that Christ saves sinners, and the church is full of people like that. That is: rather than have only the self-centered view that one is saved and therefore entitled to all sorts of benefits (including the benefit of the doubt when one is strident or imperious), I think that one who is saved is therefore called to be joined to the others who are also saved in a concrete and visible way, and one therefore has an obligation to give others the benefit of the doubt, to give them the benefits of Christ’s work for them, and to work as if Christ is the one who makes other believers holy rather than to believe tacitly that some other person’s sin is greater than my own and therefore forces me to separate from them because thank God, I am not like them.

This view does not abandon the warnings against false teaching in the NT: it regards them with an eye to God’s intention that the church is where God is working out His plan for all things specifically and ordinarily and every day.

I wish Daniel good luck and God’s blessing as we begin this discussion.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

1st Statement by Daniel Chew (Affirmative)

Below is my first statement for the debate.

The thesis statement for this debate is “It is necessary for Christians to separate from false churches that do not proclaim the Gospel and the essentials of the Faith.” In my first statement, I would like to give a brief overview of the issue under debate, and address specifics and objections in my second statement. I would therefore briefly define my understanding of the thesis and then attempt to support my view with a brief look at both church history as well as the text of Scripture itself.

The understanding of the thesis statement that I will be working with is this: It is a biblical imperative that Christians, those who believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, should stop going to false churches and not to associate with them. False churches are to be defined as those who “do not proclaim the Gospel and the essentials of the Faith.” As a confessional Reformed Christian, I am using that phrase as shorthand for the classic Reformed doctrine of the true church as those possessing the three marks of the true church: the pure preaching of the Word of God, the right administration of the sacrament and the proper exercise of church discipline (Belgic Confession Article 29). False churches therefore are those that do not have one or more of these marks. It must be noted here that I am not arguing for perfect possession and practice of these marks, but that true churches must have these marks in varying degrees.

With this, let us do a brief overview of church history.

Throughout the history of the church, there have been conflicts and schisms. Probably the best known schismatic which threatened the unity of the early church was Novatius in the third century AD. The Donatists in the fourth and fifth centuries also split African Christianity into two. The call of Novatians and Donatists was for the purity of the church, although this is admittedly an oversimplification. Needless to say, the orthodox catholic response to the schismatics was to emphasize the unity of the catholic Church, best seen perhaps in the dictum by Cyprian of Alexandria: Extra Ecclesium Nulla Salus Est, or Outside the Church there is no salvation.

In the 16th century Reformation however, the Reformers split with the apostatizing Roman Catholic church over the issues of the Gospel and the authority of Scripture, a split which was sealed by the Roman Council of Trent. This separation from Rome forced the Reformers to dig deeper into Scripture and to re-evaluate the traditions of the Church. Out of this meditation upon the Word of God, the Reformers came up with a more mature doctrine of the Church as reflected in the Reformed Confessions. The magisterial Reformer John Calvin in his Institutes of the Christian Religion deals with this issue especially with reflection upon the understanding of the early church, which we look at later.

After the Reformation, the Puritans were notable for their split from the Church of England. The Puritans refused to be bounded by fixed liturgies and the use of clerical vestments, seeing their uses as being contrary to Scripture. The Puritans therefore founded separate congregations where they can practice their faith in a way that is pleasing to God.

Closer to our times we have the modernist controversies of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In Britain, the most notable proponent for the Gospel, Charles H Spurgeon, separated from the Baptist Union over charges of apostasy within her ranks in what became known as the Downgrade Controversy. In America, the Presbyterian scholar and theologian Dr. John G Machen separated from the apostate PC(USA) and founded both the OPC and Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.

All of these examples show us that separation from what all of these men would consider to be false churches is not a novel idea in Church history. Separation from false churches is taken by them to be a Gospel imperative, however painful it might be to them personally. What I am arguing for therefore is nothing more than the historic Protestant doctrine of the church and its corresponding doctrine of separation.

As previously stated, John Calvin addressed the doctrine of the church and its practical application for Christians in his Institutes. In Book IV Chapter 1 Section 9, Calvin mentioned that the true churches are to be discerned as having two marks: the pure preaching of the Word of God and the right administration of the sacraments. In section 11, Calvin leads us to the implication this has on how we treat any institution that calls itself a church:

… every congregation which claims the name [of a church] must be brought to that test [of the two marks] as to a Lydian stone. If it holds the order instituted by the Lord in word and sacraments there will be no deception; we may safely pay it the honour due to a church: on the other hand, if it exhibit itself without word and sacraments, we must in this case be no less careful to avoid the imposture than we were to shun pride and presumption in the other. (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, IV.1.11)

Later sections in this chapter of Calvin’s Institutes reveal his interpretation of this doctrine of the church with regards to the Novatians of the early church. According to Calvin, the Novatians erred because they separated from the true church. The Reformers were right in separating from the false church which Rome had become, but separation from a true church is a grievous sin.

Historically speaking therefore, the Reformed consensus is that believers are to judge the true churches from the false according to these three marks (the Belgic Confession among others added the third). Where these three marks are missing, believers are duty bound to separate from these institutions.

With this short overview done, let us turn to the biblical texts.

It is in my opinion that the biblical witness to the doctrine of separation permeates the entire Scriptures, seen in the motif of holiness especially in the Old Testament theocracy of Israel. Nevertheless, for brevity sake and granting Dispensational bias just for the sake of argument, I will choose the New Testament passages of 2 Cor. 6:14-18 and Rev. 2:9 to prove my point.

2 Cor. 6:14-18 contains the famous imperative to “Come out from among them and be separate” (2 Cor. 6:17b – NIV2011). The imperative by God to separate from unbelievers is extremely clear here. The exegetical issue has therefore not been whether separation is commanded by God, but rather on what this separation is and what does it entail. Does it mean separation from unbelievers in the church, separation from unbelievers in society or perhaps separation from unbelievers outside the church in terms of spiritual matters?

When we read the passage in context, we can see that Paul is giving an explicit command of how the Corinthians ought to live holy lives. Such can be summarized in 2 Cor. 7:1 whereby the idea of cleansing from “defilement of body and spirit” is mentioned. Having commanded church discipline in his first letter on the man with his father’s wife (1 Cor. 5:1-2) which was effective in bringing about his repentance (2 Cor. 2:5-11), Paul continued on with this motif of holiness and called the Corinthians to holiness of life and conduct.

Scripture in 1 Cor. 5:9-10 makes it clear that the separation from unbelievers must be spiritual in nature not social. This means that the separation is always from those who are unbelievers. While marriage is definitely an application of the teaching, the “yoke” in verse 14 shows us that ministry is what Paul had in mind, as Calvin said in his commentary on this passage. Christians are therefore not to be involved in ministry with those who do not confess the faith, of which false churches are one such example.

The second passage we would be looking at is found in the book of Revelations 2:9, which deals with one of the opponents of the Church in Smyrna. The Apostle John spoke of this group of people as “those who say they are Jews but are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.” Whichever way we think of the “Jews” in this passage, they are considered the people of God. This expression of John therefore is the closest we have to a biblical mention of a false church since these people claimed to be Jews. While John does not mention separation from the false church, that he does not consider that assembly a church at all but a synagogue of Satan means that believers are obviously not supposed to be in that false church.

In conclusion, I have shown briefly how both church history and Scripture prove the thesis that Christians are to separate from false churches. I commend these arguments for our consideration, for the glory of our Lord. Amen.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

A Debate: Frank Turk (centuri0n) versus Daniel Chew (puritanreformed)

Frank Turk (aka centuri0n) has issued a debate challenge with regards to my response to his open letter. It seems that his main concern with Horton is "pastoral" not "theological" (which is revealing), so we will leave it at that and go on to one of the main issues betwen us.

The thesis to be debated is:

It is necessary for Christians to separate from false churches that do not proclaim the Gospel and the essentials of the Faith.

Affirmative: Daniel Chew; Negative: Frank Turk

The format will be as follows:

  1. 1st statement by both parties (simultaneously)
  2. 2nd statement/rebuttal by both parties (simultaneously)
  3. Cross-ex by Frank (Max 10 questions)
  4. Cross-ex by Daniel (Max 10 questions)
  5. Final statement and conclusion (simultaneously)

The debate would be posted both here and on Turk's debate blog site here.

This should be an interesting debate.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Trueman against revisons of the doctrine of justification

I am reading through the book edited by Anthony T. Selvaggio entitled The Faith Once Delivered: Essays in Honor of Dr. Wayne R. Spear (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R publishing, 2007). In this book, Carl Trueman has an interesting essay on justification, or rather a person in church history, James Buchanan, regarding the doctrine of justification.

Here is an interesting excerpt from his essay in the book, which is entitled A Tract for the Times: James Buchanan's The Doctrine of Justification:

... I offer in closing these final comments as a historian's passing shot across the bows of modern theologians—systematic, biblical, and all points in between—who pursue their calling with ne'er a glance at history: if they wish to avoid the tragi-farcial options either of reinventing the wheel or of privileging their own narrow interpretative horizons over those of the church throughout the centuries as reflected primarily in her creeds and confessions, they might do well to mediate on the fact that current controversies on justification are reminiscent in so many ways of the issues raised relative to this doctrine through the centuries, not least by the [Oxford] Tracterians [e.g. John Henry Newman] of the nineteenth century. This applied, for example, to attempts to recast the Reformation as based on a misunderstanding, and to the identification by some of the Pauline "works of the law" exclusively with Jewish ceremonial distinctives. ...

Most applicable to the New Perspective and Federal Vision.

Commenting, Interaction and Censorship

Before I begin, let me say and reiterate that I have nobody in mind. This comes about through many experiences.

The notion of blogging, commenting and censorship is something that needs to be taken into account especially when one does a blog. For me, I have set up rules for commenting in order that the blog meta does not descend into chaos. In other words, the rules are there so that fruitful discussion can take place.

While certainly commenting is a privilege (as after all the blog is owned by the owner), yet blogs function not merely as disseminators of information, but also as places of interaction. A blog whereby commenting is disallowed is in my opinion not functioning as a blog should but more as an online bulletin where the discourse is primarily one-way. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but I just do not see the rationale for calling it a blog in the full sense of the word.

While commenting is a privilege, that blogs function as places of interaction mean that inappropriate censorships should not take place. Such censorships defeat the entire purpose of interaction and let the dialogue be skewed by the blog owner and/or moderator. Therefore, the default for comments is that they are to be allowed to be posted, pursuant to abiding by the rules which are there to ensure productive dialogue. (For after all, who wants to have a flaming contest on the meta?) Rather, as long as the rules (which in my opinion are very generous) are followed, anyone with any position is allowed to post anything they wish which starts a dialogue on the post in question.

Occasionally, I have allowed comments with infractions to be published if they help to further dialogue or clarify issues. This is after all the reason why the rules exist. The rules are not after all rigid standards arbitrarily chosen but they exist for a purpose and thus, as I have said, I reserve the right to bend them if that would serve my intended purpose.

I must say that I tend to bring these rules into all forms of social interaction on the Internet, be it Multiply or Facebook. This may not be the thinking of others which causes me irritation, but at least it is true for me. I would probably need to work on my interactions elsewhere, but let me make it clear to all that interactions on all social media on my pages on the Internet follow these rules.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

The whole faith is essential

Over at the Valiant for Truth blog, Dr. Mike Horton has posted an interesting article (Part 1, Part 2) contending that the whole faith is essential. This is in response to the much abused dictum traceable to Augustine: "In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity." While certainly we understand what truth it is probably is trying to convey, the dictum itself is problematic. Horton writes as follows:

First, who decides what essentials and non-essentials are? Rejecting the Anglican and Puritan consensus on justification, Baxter forged under this banner what fellow-Puritans branded as “neo-nomianism”: that is, turning the gospel into a new law. Yet in doing so, Baxter thought he could unite not only Protestants (Arminians, Lutherans, and Calvinists) with each other, but also with Rome. So he definitely had a horse in this race.


The point is not to endorse slippery-slope arguments, but to remind ourselves that “essentials” have to be defined—and are defined in the ecumenical creeds and in the confessions of our churches. When it comes to “essentials,” I often wonder, “Essential for what?” Usually, my evangelical brothers and sisters mean something like “essential for salvation.” There may be a doctrine test, so like any nervous student, we want to know how much we have to get right to pass. However, this is “salvation by doctrine”—another form of works-righteousness. We are not saved by how well we know and can articulate Christian truth, but by trusting in Jesus Christ alone for our salvation. That involves knowledge, of course, but it’s the fact of trusting in Christ, not the degree of our knowledge, assent, or trust, that is at issue.


The division between essentials and non-essentials has allowed evangelicals of various stripes to focus on the central articles of the Christian faith (identified by the Nicene Creed) while many of their denominations were evaporating into the smog of liberalism. Yet it has also had a tendency to foster reductionism. The best examples of evangelical cooperation were inter-denominational and inter-confessional. Anglicans, Baptists, Lutherans, Reformed and Presbyterians, Methodists, and others came together with all of the depth of their own distinctive convictions. They defended their shared creed, but with the resources of actual churches and traditions over centuries. Even their strong differences and sharp debates contributed to this deepening of their common witness. Non-denominational evangelicalism is a different matter. Now, “evangelical” becomes the tradition—the most important identification. Yet “evangelical” was meant to identify people of various churches and traditions who didn’t cross their fingers when they said the Creed. It seems that the tie that binds is no longer the content of what we believe, but the methodological consensus regarding “essentials” and “non-essentials.” And as the statistics bear out, most American Protestants (including evangelicals) today cannot even summarize what they think are the actual “essentials” that would have been recognized and articulated by their forebears only a couple of generations ago.

In this setting, an evangelicalism that is nothing more than agreement on “essentials” (and what exactly those are is changing now) is shallow even in its defense and articulation of a minimial [sic] creed. We may still differ—we do still differ—over what Scripture teaches, but even going back to that Word together in the confidence that it reveals the deposit of truth is itself a remarkable source as well as sign of unity. Furthermore, our shared witness to the core of apostolic teaching can only be strengthened by confessing and teaching everything that Christ has delivered to his church. This means, of course, that we have to belong to churches that shape us over a lifetime, not merely get people to sign a tract or a statement of faith and then move on to more important things like marriage-and-family seminars. Not everything in Scripture is equally plain or equally important, but everything is essential to be taught, to understand, and to live out—always with charity toward all and malice toward none.