21 October 2011

A brief word on Truth & Unity (illustrated)

by Frank Turk

I have three pictures for you today to think about.
Figure #1
Here's a picture we might call "Unity in Truth," right?  A simple Venn diagram which puts all aspects of "Unity" as a subset of "Truth," and I think it's easy, when you see "Unity" this way, you can (and must) believe that as long as you're talking about "Unity," you must be talking about "Truth."

There are some transparent problems with this.  For example, if you start talking about having spiritual solidarity with Muslims because all Unity is a subset of Truth, you are off the rails -- because you are denying some part of what is True in order to obtain Unity. This view of Unity and Truth doesn't actually work.

So let's try another one:

Figure #2
This one eliminates the problem that the first one had by illustrating that there are some aspects of "Unity" which are actually not part of "Truth" -- but it assumes that if you are talking about "Truth" you will automatically demonstrate "Unity."  That is, all Truth is in Unity, but some Unity is outside Truth.

Hey: this is the Internet, folks.  You don't have to go very far to find contrafactual evidence for that statement.  So let's toddle over to yet another attempt to diagram the relationship between "Truth" and "Unity" in order to have a reference point mentally for what we ought to be talking about when we say something like "Unity in Truth."


Figure #3
To which all the readers say, "Aha!"

On the one hand, we have the kind of Unity which is absent from the Truth; on the other hand, we see that some kinds of Truth have nothing to do with Unity; and on the third hand we see that there is a place where we find Unity and Truth together.  This is the one which should help us visualize the relationship between Truth and Unity.

But so what?  Why break out the Gadfly color scheme and make us think using something other than words on a Friday?  Well, here's what:
Figure #3A
This is what we need to talk about.  There are probably 10,000 applications of Figure 3 -- like how to think about the "Occupy" movement, for example -- but Figure 3A here now makes us think about US for a second in a way that isn't going to be self-congratulatory.  Because the first thing we have to realize or recognize is that the church, walking around today (as it has from the day after Pentecost) really looks more like this:
Figure #4
That is: while we would love it that the Church actually is the place where Truth creates Unity and Unity reinforces Truth, we actually have some places where we are unified over the wrong things, and we are clinging to kinds of Truth in a way that harms Unity, and we also have things we do which are neither in Truth nor in Unity -- and these are, by a lot, our worst moments.  This is what the LBCF means when it says, "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."  The Church ought to be the place where Unity and Truth intersect, but because we are talking about people here and not a bag of dimes, it's not going to be a uniform thing from the standpoint of what is and isn't inside it.

So here's the thing: if this is the reality of how the church exists in fact (and I am open to reasonable arguments against this view), why is it that we make such a big thing out of the problem of, for example, inviting T.D. Jakes to a meeting of pastors and calling him a brother in Christ?  Can't we just sort of sweep him up in our confessional escape clause here and say it all comes out in the wash?

Or subsequent to that: can't we just let the Gospel Coalition work it out privately now that this thing has happened?  Is it really necessary to see the calculus which gets us from the statement of the problem to the resolution of the issues -- or can we just be satisfied without all the steps to hear them say, at various times and places, "oh yeah -- we talked it all over, and we're good.  #Brothers #AgreeToDisagree."

Here's my answer to both those question, and then you can have at it:

We can make a big thing of this because the church is actually tasked to be Figure #3 in spite of actually being Figure #4 -- in fact we must make a big thing of it, if we believe our Bibles as we say we do.  We make a big thing out of it because what the Confession warns us about is becoming this:

What we categorically do not want is to become so concerned with Unity that we are simply giving up on Truth for Unity.

Last thing today: this is the struggle which produced the confessions and the creeds.  This concern about how much truth needs to be present in our unity is what caused the Church (big "C") to make creeds and confessions so that the clarity of the Gospel -- the whole Gospel, and all its necessary consequences -- can be both proclaimed and received.  When we choose a path -- no matter who we are, no matter what else we have accomplished for Christ's sake in the course of out lives -- which abates the drift, above, we are doing it wrong.  We are part of the problem and not part of the solution.

That said, this weekend, you personally be in the Lord's house on the Lord's day with the Lord's people where there will be some admixture of falsehood in with the truth -- but at least you will not have forsaken the fellowship of the believers, as some have already done.








64 comments:

Frank Turk said...

And before you comment: I will address the wisdom of Scripture on this topic next. It is utterly congruent to this post, but this post was already too long.

Alex Guggenheim said...

With truth as the constant I cannot see anything aside from truth as that around which the body of Christ considers the cause for unity.

Now it is true that there are ancillary causes and cases in the body of Christ where unity occurs but never should they be at the price of truth (though this is the case too often).

IF T.D. Jakes cannot be called a brother because he does not meet confessional demands (which are assumed to be a reflection of the truths of Scriptures) then to call him a brother is to unify at the cost of truth. And if one wishes to alter the confessional criteria so that Jakes may be called and treated as a brother, then again that is their business. But while a confession remains to disqualify Jakes as a brother, he must not be treated in this manner because it is at the cost of truth.

But to have him present without declaring him a brother (this is not to be taken as a implication one way or the other about my own view of Jakes as a brother or not, that remains outside this view) but qualify his person so as to be clear and not compromise a truth one allegedly believes (MacDonald), then that is not unity at the cost of truth. The unity is now, not based on compromise of truth so that one can call another "brother" when he may not be, rather that unity is based on simply forming a panel with the objective being having a discussion.

Christ centered theology, Christ centered unity.

Tom Chantry said...

But, MacDonald did call Jakes a brother, and only backed off when called on it. The panel discussion was promoted as a discussion among Christians; the purpose statement was revised only under pressure. And the revised statement still speaks of "sharpening," something Christians do for other Christians. The purpose of the discussion is to talk about how best to build up the church of Christ.

Cosmetic changes to the purpose statement have done nothing to change the ultimate damage done here - this invitation was made at the expense of truth.

Tom Chantry said...

The paragraph of the Confession prior to that Frank quoted is also apposite:

All persons throughout the world, professing the faith of the gospel, and obedience unto God by Christ according unto it, not destroying their own profession by any errors everting the foundation, or unholiness of conversation, are and may be called visible saints; and of such ought all particular congregations to be constituted.

To "evert" is to overthrow. Denial of Trinitarianism overthrows the foundation of gospel truth.

Robert said...

I agree with Tom and think that MacDonald could have just as easily invited the pope, the current prophet for the Mormons, priests (male, female, homosexual, etc.) from liberal branches of different religions, Todd Bentley, and a whole host of other people if all he wanted to do was try to iron out the differences in their heretical beliefs and Biblical Christianity. And that could have all been done under a different premise.

However, that is not what he did and that was not the original premise. I think the best thing to do would be to admit he was wrong and also to really examine the whole thought process behind the Elephant Room and decide if what they are doing is really wise. If there are pastors doing it wrong, do we need to give them a platform with pastors who are sound and let them all hash it out for everybody to see? From what I saw, it seemed like some of the more sound pastors were not as strong in their position as I would have lifed for them to have been. And that is the type of thing that can slowly lead to what Frank has shown in the last figure...unity pulling us away from truth.

wv: cooti...I wish that the evangelical community at large had the same feeling about bad/false teaching as young boys do about cooties

David Kyle said...

Frank... thanks for this:

Last thing today: this is the struggle which produced the confessions and the creeds. This concern about how much truth needs to be present in our unity is what caused the Church (big "C") to make creeds and confessions so that the clarity of the Gospel -- the whole Gospel, and all its necessary consequences -- can be both proclaimed and received.

I have recently tried to express this to a friend, but this was so much clearer... thanks.

olan strickland said...

Aha! On the other, other, (that is to say, "Third"), hand, there is essential truth and nonessential truth. In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty!

Frank Turk said...

Olan:

Everyone accepts that maxim on face value; I would say I accept it on face value.

How does that maxim avoid the situation in the final diagram? Or perhaps you could ask: does that maxim contribute the the situation of the final diagram?

Robert said...

Frank,

I appreciated this pop-up note:

All diagrams are provided by Frank Turk. Please discern accordingly.

If only all blogposts, articles, videos, and other media came with such warnings.

olan strickland said...

Frank,

Good questions. There is nothing wrong with the maxim. The maxim is biblical and perhaps that is why it is accepted at face value. The problem is when either the categories are confused (essentials with nonessentials and vice-versa) or the definition of the categories are challenged.

olan strickland said...

Actually,the easiest way to challenge the maxim is to call an essential a nonessential (like saying that modalism is a nonessential) and then say that anyone who disagrees is either a Pharisee or legalist, burning other Christians while the world burns. Or something like that.

Frank Turk said...

Well, not so fast there, Olan.

Is baptism an essential of Christian doctrine?

Let me ask that another way: given that he doesn't die the moment he becomes a believer, must the believer be baptized? Must any non-believers be baptized?

Frank Turk said...

The haters have arrived: this post got a 1-star rating on the first vote.

And I'm not getting the pop-up.

Robert said...

I'm not getting it any more, either. I know I saw it, though...I felt it'd be more appropriate for stuff from the likes of Furtick or Noble, myself (with their name and not yours, of course)

Robert said...

OK...I figured out the problem...it was actually from the sidebar...this computer actually left the pop-up a few seconds after I had moved the cursor. Slow computers here (that issue actually got the most questions at our last company town hall)

Alex Guggenheim said...

Blogger Tom Chantry said...

But, MacDonald did call Jakes a brother, and only backed off when called on it. The panel discussion was promoted as a discussion among Christians; the purpose statement was revised only under pressure.
____________

I was speaking without the actually facts in view, rather just about acceptable and unacceptable constructs.

But as you related, the facts of the matter are very concerning and an ex post facto changing of the premise for the ER discussion does not undo the error nor compensate for the lack of clarity by MacDonald in his follow-up.

Jim Crigler said...

Once again, Frank shows his genius for slashing his way through the thicket to the heart of the matter. Dude, thanks for that.

Steve Drake said...

I've never been too fond of 'In essentials: unity, in non-essentials: liberty'. Who gets to decide what portions of God's Word are essential and what are non-essential?

E.g., Is creation in 6 days (24 hours) non-essential?
Are Adam and Eve as the historical first couple and progenitors of all humans non-essential?
Is the historical Fall a non-essential?
How about a global, universal Flood in the days of Noah? Is that non-essential as well?

All of these are currently denied, discounted, and pushed aside by many current evangelical pastors, scholars, and laypeople under the banner that we should have 'liberty' in non-essentials. The Word of God stands alone as the quintessential presupposition for the Christian. 'All' of it should be trusted, believed, and acted upon.

Jugulum said...

Frank,

> "Let me ask that another way: given that he doesn't die the moment he becomes a believer, must the believer be baptized? Must any non-believers be baptized?" <

Doesn't that point to the need to distinguish between different kinds of "essential"?

E.g., essential for salvation, essential for discipleship, essential for the continued health of the church, etc.

But my head starts to hurt when I try to parse those out--what are the important categories of essentialness, what are their individual ramifications, etc.


Part of the problem is that if we think primarily in terms of "essentials", we're thinking in terms of "bare minimums". And that has its place, but it's hardly the way God wants us to live and think. So the maxim has merit, but is too limited to be a good general guideline.

Robert said...

Steve,

You can track that all back to the same question...

Did God really say:

He created the universe and all life within it in 6 days (24 hours)?

Adam and Eve are the historical first couple and progenitors of all humans?

The historical Fall is true history?

There was a global, universal Flood in the days of Noah?

To which I will add did God really say we are all sinful? Did God say that He chose some before time began to be saved from the sin that they choose over Him? Did God really say that woman is the helper of man?

The list goes on and on and sadly, many people think that they know what is right better than God, Who can do nothing but what is perfect and holy and right.

olan strickland said...

Frank, the way I see it there are three main categories for determining what is essential:
1. The exclusivity of the Gospel. This entails its redemptive-historical context as revealed in the Word of God. Included would be creation, solidarity with one man (we're all sinners in Adam), virgin birth of Christ to bypass the sin nature which implies His deity (so modalism is heresy as per other passages in which the Father speaks to the Son and the Holy Spirit descends upon Him), the sinless life, sacrifical death, and supernatural resurrection of Christ, His Lordship, and His right to Judge.
2. The sufficiency of the Gospel. Nothing is to be added to or taken away from the work of Christ. Adding circumcision or baptism or anything else to His work as necessary for salvation is heresy and legalism. Also removing any aspect of His work is heresy.
3. The effectiveness of the Gospel. One cannot practice disobedience to the clear moral commands of Scripture and be Christian.

Everything else falls into the nonessential category and is a matter of conviction and personal obedience to Christ's Lordship (Romans 14:5-6).

Daren Redekopp said...

Nice. Those pictures reminded me of the spirograph: an marvellous and inexpensive toy for drawing hypotrochoids and epitrochoids.

olan strickland said...

Steve, I wholeheartedly agree. However, when, as you say of the Bible, 'All' of it [is] trusted, believed, and acted upon, essential and nonessential categories must be distinguished or else there are some portions of Scripture that must be removed - like Romans 14 for instance.

stratagem said...

When I got about halfway through this article's diagrams, I was afraid I was being set up for some sort of a joke where at the end, the diagram would end up looking like Mickey Mouse. Glad I was wrong!
Interesting article!

Robert said...

I personally think that Romans 14 applies more to areas where Scripture doesn't give a firm guideline. What do we say about the damage that has been done by free grace/easy believism proponents? I'd say it goes further than just saying people can't practice disobedience to the clear moral commands of Scripture, but that we also can't teach the type of doctrine that leads people to that conclusion.

And let us not forget that the infamous altar call and emotional pleas that proceded it cause the same problems. We have to make sure we work out the implications of the actions and messages that people put forth and decide how essential it is.

Jugulum said...

olan,

I'm not sure Romans 14 applies; I don't see the categories of "essential" & "nonessential" in that chapter, but rather "inherent moral issue" and "not an inherent moral issue".

Paul's discussion of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15 is closer, and it's often what people point to in discussions of essentials & nonessentials. But it occurs to me that Paul didn't quite use those categories here, either. Rather, he talked in terms of "first importance".

I don't know that we can ever call something "nonessential" if it's taught in the Bible, but we certainly can talk about varying levels of importance--and the varying ramifications of being wrong (or even undecided).

Robert said...

Stratagem,

So you're saying you're glad that you didn't see this at the end? I mean you said Mickey Mouse, right?

olan strickland said...

Robert,

That's good! I would say even further that Romans 14 not only addresses teaching doctrine that does not cause one to violate the clear moral commands of Scripture (through the fruit of unbiblical methods) but that it also teaches against the twin errors of many of the YRR group:
1. Violating clear commands through language.
2. Not walking according to love with their shove-it-down-your-throat, I'll drink beer if I want to, attitude.

stratagem said...

Robert - almost right. That's a picture of two Mickey Mice, not one!

Robert said...

Strat - consider it like an amoeba splitting! That is kind of what following those figures made me think of...I was waiting for something all-new to pop out of it. I wonder if there could be something to that...hmmm.

olan strickland said...

Jugulum,

"inherent moral issue" - essential

"not an inherent moral issue" - nonessential

It is true that Romans 14 is not specifically addressing essential issues other than to say that the weak Christians are in the faith. However, unity in the essentials is to be maintained with liberty in the nonessentials.

Saying that something is a nonessential is not saying that it is unimportant. It is to say that the Bible says that nonessentials are not what we separate over. It is the Bible that teaches what is essential and what is nonessential.

Jugulum said...

olan,

So you don't think we should call anything in the Bible "non-essential"; I just said the same thing, in the comment you were replying to.

Do you recognize that there are varying levels of importance in the various biblical truths & commands? (Or if you can't affirm this precisely the way I articulated it, is there something close to it you'd affirm?)

Do you recognize that there are different ramifications for someone having bad ecclesiology (e.g. congregationalism vs presbyterianism), versus someone being misguided on the nature of election? Etc?

I ask because those are the kinds of issues & distinctions that people are seeking to handle when they talk about "essentials and nonessentials". (And it's connected to the Gospel Coalition and the T4G crowd's willingness to unite across lines of difference over baptism, ecclesiology, and the nature & continuation of tongues & prophecy--because of their substantial unity on matters of first importance.) I agree with you that there's a problem with calling those issues "nonessential", but that doesn't put the matter to rest.

So, I understand that you consider all such issues "essential", but what do you think is the proper way to distinguish among them, if any?

Daryl said...

I wonder if we're better to say "In non-essentials further discussion as required".

As has been said, nothing is non-essential for the believer to get right, although a lot is non-essential for salvation itself.

I'd also push against a couple other comments:
The idea of issues of morality being essential...is not everything commanded in Scripture a moral issue? How is it not immoral to disobey God in any sense?

Also this comment from Olan:

"Everything else falls into the nonessential category and is a matter of conviction and personal obedience to Christ's Lordship."

I know we're not Catholic's, but is there not a sense in which, while I am free to have my own convictions about what Scripture teaches, that we too easily go there to justify our own lack of submission to Scripture-rightly-taught?

Daryl said...

The tricky thing is that non-essentials can fall into the category of:

You're not a believer unless...

You can't be a member of this church unless...

You can't be an elder in this church unless...

Our church can't join together with your church unless...

And all of those are valid I think.

The thing is, there is no hint in Paul's letters of "you can see it this way if you'd like, or that way if it makes more sense."
Just a very serious "This is how it is, period."

But we don't have Paul, and the Holy Spirit seems to see fit to allow us to believe certain things with greater or lesser intensity, or to see certain things the same as the next guy, or not.

I suppose that should work as a self-correcting, sharpening sort of thing.

olan strickland said...

Jugulum,

I am establishing that "all Scripture is inspired and profitable for teaching...", that none of it can be ignored, overlooked, or twisted without serious ramifications.

It is the Bible that establishes what is essential for unity and what is a nonessential in which we give liberty.

I have already given the proper way to distinguish between the two. For instance, I can disagree with another Christian over eschatology - as long as he is not violating clear Scriptural teaching (like Camping does).

I can disagree over ecclesiology - as long as the clear teaching of Scripture is not being violated. For instance, congregationalism vs. presbyterianism is a non-essential.

However, "Seeker-Sensitive" ecclesiology not only violates clear biblical teaching on the purpose of the church but also is a result of violating harmatology and soteriology.

jimstj said...

What is the LCBF?

Robert Warren said...

Those pictures reminded me of the spirograph: an marvellous and inexpensive toy for drawing hypotrochoids and epitrochoids.

Daren: You reminded me...I had a Spirograph. But I think I would have received a spanking for being a naughty boy if I had drawn hypotrochoids and epitrochoids with it ;)

OP: if this is the reality of how the church exists in fact ... why is it that we make such a big thing out of the problem of, for example, inviting T.D. Jakes to a meeting of pastors and calling him a brother in Christ? Can't we just sort of sweep him up in our confessional escape clause here and say it all comes out in the wash?

This is probably my Duh moment for the day, but I think the LBCF is speaking to error we don't realize is happening. When the wheat and the Johnson Grass are young they look similar. But when the Johnson Grass is recognizable, it needs to be pulled-up. Just be careful not to cut your hands.

olan strickland said...

Daryl: The thing is, there is no hint in Paul's letters of "you can see it this way if you'd like, or that way if it makes more sense."
Just a very serious "This is how it is, period."


Have you not read Romans 14? Are there not differing convictions in the nonessentials?

Daryl said...

Olan,

I have, but that's not the point. Romans 14, as I read it, is about behaviour, not the doctrine that drives it.

This is why we give room the the one who abstains from alcohol, but not to the one who claims that the Bible prohibits it altogether.
We give room for the one who esteems one day more highly than another, but not for one who teaches that a given day actually is more important than another.

I took Frank's post to be about doctrine and truth, not behaviour per se.

I think there's lots of wiggle room in regards for behaviour, but truth is truth is it not?

Not saying we need to fight about it, but perhaps we too quickly walk away from the debate for fear that we may become sharpened in a way we'd rather not.

Steve Drake said...

Daryl,
"that we too easily go there to justify our own lack of submission to Scripture-rightly-taught?"

Beautiful, baby.

Jugulum said...

olan,

> "I have already given the proper way to distinguish between the two. For instance, I can disagree with another Christian over eschatology - as long as he is not violating clear Scriptural teaching (like Camping does).

I can disagree over ecclesiology - as long as the clear teaching of Scripture is not being violated. For instance, congregationalism vs. presbyterianism is a non-essential.
" <

If I'm understanding you rightly, you say that because you're convinced that Scripture doesn't clearly teach either congregationalism or presbyterianism.

So, on your view, if a pastor is persuaded that the Bible does clearly teach presbyterian ecclesiology, how should he limit his unity with a pastor of a church who is persuaded that it clearly teaches congregationalism?

Similarly: When a church is drafting a doctrinal statement to which someone must adhere before they become a member, should the church include every point of doctrine/command on which they believe the Bible is clear?

olan strickland said...

Daryl: I have, but that's not the point. Romans 14, as I read it, is about behaviour, not the doctrine that drives it.

Roman 14:2, "One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only."

Since when has behavior ever been separated from doctrine?

"He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord...." Romans 14:6. Why does he do it? DOCTRINE!

You are confusing nonessential with unimportant and the two are not the same thing.

If you'll notice the categories for determining essentials you will see that claiming one cannot be saved unless he "abstains" from this or that or "observes" certain days fails in the essentials by violating the sufficiency of the Gospel.

But to deny that Romans 14 and other places in Scripture establish the category of nonessentials (gray areas) is to misread Scripture.

Merrilee Stevenson said...

For those of us who barely got passing grades in calculus (the weaker brother/sister), IT'S NECESSARY TO SHOW THE WORK, and sometimes slowly, simply, and patiently explain it step by step. Then we will not only know the answer, but how we came to the answer, and why having the correct answer is so important. Not only that, but we'll eventually be training up the next generation, which will need to know more than addition and subtraction. Great analogy that I can slightly grasp.

olan strickland said...

Jugulum,

You are totally missing the point. Look carefully at what I have said. I keep bringing the essentials back to the GOSPEL. Ecclesiology is NOT THE GOSPEL.

That is why I said, "Everything else falls into the nonessential category and is a matter of conviction and personal obedience to Christ's Lordship."

You said, "So, on your view, if a pastor is persuaded that the Bible does clearly teach presbyterian ecclesiology, how should he limit his unity with a pastor of a church who is persuaded that it clearly teaches congregationalism?"

He should not limit his unity but instead give LIBERTY! The essentials of the Gospel have not been violated.

Hint: There's a reason I don't fellowhsip with Catholics and it's not their ecclesiology - although that is wrong.

Monty Dicksion said...

The models in this post make visual explanations. May I propose that it is not necessary to go to those lengths? We may even, in fact, be missing aspects in which those models do not hold true, when we do that.
We have already been given a model, a blueprint, where unity, truth and church function. This blueprint is the Trinity. In that model, truth, unity, community (church) and diversity function properly.
An element, when tested by that blueprint, whether it is Muslims or T.D. Jakes or something else will be seen as to how closely it corresponds with that blueprint.
Then you will hear the question, "Do you have the right blueprint?"

JackW said...

"I have three pictures for you today to think about."

Ok, which three? The first three? The second three? Are there three that I don't have to think about?

There are three types of people; those who can count and those who can't and I'm in one of them.

Daryl said...

Olan,

Well clearly I could be wrong, but I don't think Romans 14 is talking about teaching variant readings of Scripture, but rather the variants in living out Scripture.

I agree that doctrine and behaviour are closely linked, but Paul is talking about making allowance for a weaker brother, which I think is very different from making allowance for variations in doctrine.

Not saying we all need to be the same doctrinally, but I am saying that we need to be working towards that end.

I'm not going to question your standing in Christ if you baptize your baby, but I wouldn't let you preach on the validity of that idea...

stevenorange said...

The way the Bible presents it, is that:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

The only reason we are even having to have this discussion is because so many people through their ignorance or instability have changed the meaning of scripture over the years. Now we are all in a mess because we don't want to make anyone angry, or be branded as a LEGALIST (gasp!) so we make a few points in a statement of faith, showing that we are covicted about these truths, while throwing the rest of the Word to the four winds.

I just don't see concepts in the Word where God had commands, stuff He didn't care about, and this third category of things He Sorta Cares About, but it's cool if you just ignore it.

So as far as unity with the Church universal? Who cares. God set up autonomous local groups with local leadership which ended up with localized doctrinal and moral issues. Each church needs to be devoted to cleaning the leaven out of its lump (1st Corinthians 5), not the world at large.

Jugulum said...

olan,

> "You are totally missing the point. Look carefully at what I have said. I keep bringing the essentials back to the GOSPEL. Ecclesiology is NOT THE GOSPEL." <

To be clear, I thought you also said that anything on which the Bible clearly teaches is essential. I'll point to where I got that impression; would you take the opportunity to clarify? I'm trying very much to get your point.

This is the first place where I got that impression:

> "3. The effectiveness of the Gospel. One cannot practice disobedience to the clear moral commands of Scripture and be Christian." <

Do you not consider the way we lead our churches to be an issue of clear moral command? Even if Scripture does clearly teach us how to lead our churches?

Eschatology is also not the gospel, yet you said the following, apparently applying your point #3:
> "I can disagree with another Christian over eschatology - as long as he is not violating clear Scriptural teaching (like Camping does). " <

That's precisely why I asked about presbyterianism and congregationalism. If a Presbyterian believes that a Baptist is violating clear Scriptural teaching on leading churches, how should that affect unity between them? Is it a point of liberty (because "Ecclesiology is NOT THE GOSPEL"), or is it a point where he shouldn't see freedom to disagree (because he thinks the Baptist is "violating clear Scriptural teaching")?


I'm making an honest effort, and I don't understand how to put those statements together. I think I've said enough that you should be able to see where clarification will help. Can you provide it?

Steve Drake said...

Olan,
Part of the problem is our varying views of the components of systematic theology, isn't it? We can't even agree on how these components (The Doctrine of Creation, the Doctrine of Sin, The Doctrine of God Proper, The Doctrine of Christ, the Church, Salvation, Holy Spirit, man, angels, demons, last things, etc.) are to be defined, let alone our definitions themselves of each, that we consider as 'essentials'.

When you say that there are three main things you consider as essential, and everything else falls into the category of being non-essential, you haven't even begun to address it from a systematic viewpoint, where the components of orthodox Christianity are much broader.

olan strickland said...

Jugulum,

I apologize for not being clear. I see why you have not totally followed what I am trying to say.

1. The effectiveness of the Gospel, my #3, means that one cannot BE a fornicator, idolater, adulterer, homosexual, liar, thief, etc. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10), and be saved.

Why not? Because an essential of the Gospel is that it is the power of God unto salvation. 1 Corinthians 6:11 goes on to say, "Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God."

Jugulum: Do you not consider the way we lead our churches to be an issue of clear moral command? Even if Scripture does clearly teach us how to lead our churches?

What moral command does congregationalism violate? What moral command does Presbyterianism violate?

Jugulum: Eschatology is also not the gospel, yet you said the following, apparently applying your point #3:
> "I can disagree with another Christian over eschatology - as long as he is not violating clear Scriptural teaching (like Camping does). " <

Here is where I think I really confused you with my lack of clarity. Camping violates the essentials (the Gospel) in the category of its exclusivity. Kept in its redemptive-historical context, the exlusivity of the Gospel for one thing means that Jesus is God. Since Jesus said that "no man knows the day or the hour of His return" then Camping, with his predictions, violates in the essentials.

Jugulum: If a Presbyterian believes that a Baptist is violating clear Scriptural teaching on leading churches, how should that affect unity between them?

As long there is agreement in the clear Scriptural teaching on the essentials - they are in the faith - and are to give each other liberty in their differing ecclesiologies.

Daryl said...

Olan,

I think part of the problem is that some of us (at least I do) see any and every Biblical imperative as a moral issue.

That is, disobeying God is immoral.

Ergo, if the Bible teaches congregationalism, then any other kind of church government is immoral.

Likewise with baptism.

So, while we must allow for differing understandings of Scripture, I'm not sure how we remain satisfied with that.
Enter, denominations, which I think are a thing that allows for that kind of serious difference, without casting each other out of the kingdom.

olan strickland said...

Steve,

I believe there are three categories of essentials. That doesn't mean there are only three essentials as you seem to imply I have said when you say, "When you say that there are three main things you consider as essential".

I did not say there are three main things I consider as essential, I said there are three main categories of essentials (see 8:14am).

These three categories will include from a systematic viewpoint, all the components of Orthodox Christianity.

Remembering the three categories only makes it simpler to discern if one is orthodox or not and therefore whether to fellowship or not.

BTW, only three categories of sin too.

Steve Drake said...

Olan,
thanks for your reply. But within those three categories, if we accept your conclusions here, encompasses all of systematic theology, correct? In essence, all essentials of Scripture? Again, I think your 'categories' are too limited, or too broad depending on how you look at them, and tell us nothing about what we are to unify over.

olan strickland said...

Daryl: I think part of the problem is that some of us (at least I do) see any and every Biblical imperative as a moral issue.

That is, disobeying God is immoral
.

Daryl, I agree and I hope that no one believes that I think there is some form of disobedience to God that is neutral. There isn't.

Here is the difference, I believe, that we are struggling with: commands and declarations are not the same thing. For instance, Jesus declared all food good. However, He did not command that we have to eat all food. Eating or not eating then is a personal conviction with no moral restrictions either way. Here there is no doctrinal or moral compromise - no heresy.

Likewise, there is no command to be either congregational or presbyterian - each is an attempt to govern the church as closely as possible to what is believed to be taught in the Bible.

Bringing it back to your illustration, "Ergo, if the Bible teaches congregationalism, then any other kind of church government is immoral."

If that is true then only congregationalists are going to heaven because no immoral person will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

Ecclesiology has now become soteriology and an essential of the Gospel.

But instead of following that reasoning to its logical conclusion, you say, "Enter, denominations, which I think are a thing that allows for that kind of serious difference, without casting each other out of the kingdom."

If Presbyterianism is immoral then they have to be cast out!

olan strickland said...

Steve,

Thanks for your graciousness. I do understand that just throwing those three categories out there does nothing as far as fleshing them out. It is in the fleshing out that they encompass what we are to unify over and I promise that it will be broader than the Fundamentals of the Faith but will not exceed the teaching of Christ (2 John 9).

This will give a systematic viewpoint of the essentials not to be confused with a complete systematic theology.

Steve Drake said...

Sorry Olan,
Not buyin' it.

Daryl said...

Olan,

Then we're all out. Since our theology is never perfect and we all believe wrong things to some extent, which means we are all in some doctrinal sin.

Seriously, this is why I say "In non-essentials keep talking until you iron something out." rather than agreeing to disagree.

Jugulum said...

olan,

Thanks for the clarification; that does help. But I still perceive a problem that I can't resolve--indeed, your answer on Camping highlights it. (Perhaps you can resolve it, but it looks to me like it's a real inconsistency in your thinking.) I'll get to it in a second.

> "1. The effectiveness of the Gospel, my #3, means that one cannot BE a fornicator, idolater, adulterer, homosexual, liar, thief, etc. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10), and be saved. " <

Agreed; sanctification always accompanies justification, and fruit always appears if we are in Christ. (I'd add that we may still struggle with various sins, but there will be real conviction, repentance, and actual struggle--and growth over time. Fruit.)

> "As long there is agreement in the clear Scriptural teaching on the essentials - they are in the faith - and are to give each other liberty in their differing ecclesiologies.
[...]
Camping violates the essentials (the Gospel) in the category of its exclusivity. Kept in its redemptive-historical context, the exlusivity of the Gospel for one thing means that Jesus is God. Since Jesus said that "no man knows the day or the hour of His return" then Camping, with his predictions, violates in the essentials.
" <

Look at what just happened, Olan--this is what looks inconsistent.

You want to say that on doctrinal issues that are not themselves essential, we can disagree without breaking unity. We can do so, even if the Bible is actually clear on the point in question. Why? Because the point of doctrine itself isn't essential. (And you identify essentialness in terms of the gospel's exclusivity, sufficiency, and efficacy.)

But when you look at Camping, you decide that his eschatology has violated an essential--even though eschatology itself isn't essential, and even though there's no command in view. Why? Because Scripture definitely teaches that we can't predict dates, and Camping says otherwise. (He creatively reinterprets that verse.) You link that back to Christ's identity as God, and God's necessary truthfulness & omniscience. Simply because Camping is wrong on something the Bible is clear about, you conclude that he violated an essential. Even though the doctrine in question isn't itself essential.


(In case I wasn't clear: I was asking about someone who is convinced that the Bible clearly teaches that churches should be led in a presbyterian system--as clearly as it teaches that we can't know the hour of Christ's return.)


So how do I put your two answers together? Why do you reject unity with Camping over his disbelief of clear Biblical teaching on one nonessential topic, but advise the hypothetical Presbyterian to unity with people who disbelieve what he thinks is equally clear Biblical teaching on another nonessential topic?



> "What moral command does congregationalism violate? What moral command does Presbyterianism violate?" <

Daryl gave my answer. I agree with your statement that commands and declarations are not the same thing, but again, I asked what someone should do with people who reject/disbelieve the Bible's clear teaching & counsel.

By the way, disagreement over credobaptism/pedobaptism is more clearly an issue of obedience: If Baptists are right, then Presbyterians are not obeying the command to baptize all disciples--they don't baptize disciples who were born in the church. It's disobedience out of ignorance, or disbelief/disagreement with what Baptists think to be clear Biblical teaching.

That would be my answer to "If that is true then only congregationalists are going to heaven". A truly regenerate person can end up disobeying out of ignorance.

olan strickland said...

Steve, LOL! I'm not selling it.

So here is a sampling of how just the category of the exclusivity of the Gospel could be outlined and further fleshed out.

The exclusivity of the Gospel:
1. God is Creator
A. He is transcendent
B. He is immaterial/omnipresent
C. He is omniscient
D. He is omnipotent
E. He is self-sufficient

2. Adam as the first man
A. Evolution is a lie including theistic evolution
B. We have solidarity with Adam since he is progenitor of the race

3. God as covenant maker
A. Promises death for disobedience
B. Promises life for obedience

4. Adam as covenant breaker
A. Earned death
B. When Adam sinned we were in him
C. All natural born descendents of Adam are born with a sin nature

5. Jesus as the second Adam
A. Born of a virgin to bypass the sin nature – implies Deity and humanity
B. Progenitor of all who have faith in Him

6. Jesus as covenant keeper
A. Earned life through His sinless life
B. Died a sacrificial death
C. Experienced a supernatural resurrection
D. All supernatural born descendents of Jesus are born again with a new nature
E. All His offspring are promised life
F. Salvation is in no one else

7. Jesus is Lord
A. He is the Lord of life
B. He is Lord over death

8. Jesus is Judge

Does not the Gospel entail these things? Is that not systematic?

No charge.

olan strickland said...

Daryl,

No one is out because of differing beliefs in the nonessentials. That's why they are NONESSENTIALS.

olan strickland said...

Jugulum,

I never said that one could not discover another's violation of the essentials either through their ecclesiology or eschatology. Sometimes ones violation of the essentials is discerned from these areas. What I am saying though is trace it back to violation of the essentials and if you can't then fellowship on that basis although you disagree in some gray areas.

You cannot discern violation of the essentials though just through either congregationalism or presbyterianism. However, if a congregationalist violates the essentials, I do not fellowship with him.

I can clearly discern that someone who claims to know when Jesus is coming back does not either know or believe Jesus. Why can I make that call? It violates His Lordship in a clear way. His Lordship is part of the essentials.

That call cannot be made on the basis of either congregationalism or presbyterianism. There are no clear passages being violated that compromise the essentials. If there is then point it out.

Sir Aaron said...

Ok, you guys are going back and forth. Did you read the whole post?

Last thing today: this is the struggle which produced the confessions and the creeds. This concern about how much truth needs to be present in our unity is what caused the Church (big "C") to make creeds and confessions so that the clarity of the Gospel.

Again: this is the struggle which produced the confessions and creeds.

You aren't going to solve this in a comment thread.

dac said...

but at least you will not have forsaken the fellowship of the believers, as some have already done.

For all the good the reformation did, I do think that one unintended side effect was to indirectly lead to this.

Clearly one of the major impacts was to put the bible in the hands of individual believers for them to read, study and interpret the bible themselves, so that they would not be victimized by the RCC. Luther's German translation, putting it in the vernacular, gave, for the first time in over 1000 plus years, people the ability to read it themselves. This trend has accelerated 1000 times from the beginnings of the printing press to to today's ability for everyone to publish their screeds on the internet.

Once you have believers (and others) reading for themselves, they start making decisions for themselves. Once this starts to happen, is it so far a stretch to question why exactly do I need the church? If I don't need the church, exactly where is the value of unity? If I don't live in community, who am I to be unified with?

That said, this weekend, you personally be in the Lord's house on the Lord's day with the Lord's people where there will be some admixture of falsehood in with the truth

Amen