Ecclesiology is so hot right now. And there is so much to be said. For now I want to briefly focus on a particular claim. The claim is that “church membership is necessary for our sanctification”. The claim also came with an assurance that “Church membership will justify no one.” Simply put, this is a problem that shines a light on a dangerous over emphasis on a pet doctrine.
This is a guest post from friend and fellow Abolitionist, Alex Johnson. Although we do not wish to spend too much time responding to this sort of lightweight article, it is good that Alex responded. So much could be said about Fred Butler’s article, but one striking that popped out to me was Fred’s admission that one would have to reject the historic Reformed doctrine of Covenant Theology in order to find relevance in Old Testament texts regarding True Religion. In other words, his denial of the obligation of the Church to establish justice and show mercy is directly connected to his dispensationalism and pessimistic eschatology. Pay attention to that.
This radical Dispensational denial of the applicability of over half of God’s Word is quickly becoming the only Theological refuge of the stubborn anti-abolitionist. Furthermore, Fred hides behind all of the typical pietistic arguments of the Evangellyfish American Church culture. When we ask “Do We Love Theology More Than God and Our Neighbor?”, the pietist will answer along with Fred Butler with an emphatic “YES”.
Thanks to Alex for writing this. It is a good response a lot nicer than my response would have been.
Read PART ONE here.
LOCAL CHURCH AUTONOMY
Some Reformed Baptists have said that Church Repent is an assault on the autonomy of the local church. This is absurd on its face because a man with a sign and some literature isn’t trying to formally govern the particular Baptist church. This dearly held Reformed Baptist view most directly pertains to a specific administrative and theological understanding of local church governance. Primarily, it regards the elder session of the particular local church as the highest court of appeals to the congregants within. The local church is thus not answerable formally and bureaucratically to a higher elder session (or presbytery). This, however, does not mean that members of these independent Reformed Baptist churches and the local church bodies themselves are immune to any outside teaching or exhortation. Those who offer correction or even a rebuke to an independent Reformed Baptist church are not attempting to submit the church to a Presbyterian structure or usurp its administrative independence. They are simply acknowledging that, bureaucratic independence aside, all Christians should exhort one another to good works as we are all a part of the same catholic Body of Christ. Being members of that Body, we are all able and even commanded to give loving correction and rebuke to our brothers and sisters. According to the autonomous local Reformed Baptist church, “rabble rousers” with literature cannot use the formal administrative means of correction. Even so, should this bar Christians from speaking to their brothers and sisters in Christ?
Once again, this criticism of the CRP is utterly schizophrenic taking into account the various Reformed celebrities, bloggers, podcasters, and pastors who regularly critique and even call on other Reformed Baptist congregations and leaders to repent. When a popular Reformed Baptist podcaster rebukes a massively popular Reformed Baptist pastor, exhorting him and his congregation to live and preach the Christian worldview consistently, there isn’t much of an outcry denouncing the podcaster for upending the sacred autonomy of the Reformed Baptist pastor’s megachurch.
Don’t be fooled by soundbites.
I confess that I was once an avid critic of the Church Repent Project. I recall one evening after I watched a video from a producer of “Babies Are Murdered Here”. I was truly upset. I came close to unliking the public Abolish Human Abortion Facebook page, boxing up my t-shirt, and scraping the AHA from the front of my MacBook. Those are small and insignificant things, but I also came close to turning my back on friends, repeating slander (and therefore partaking in the sin), and most egregiously, using the Church Repent controversy as my excuse to not actively participate in loving my preborn neighbors. If the abolitionists are wrong about Church Repent, maybe they’re also wrong about my own personal responsibility. After all, I’m no “anti-church”, “ecclesiological anarchist”, “church hater”. But I noticed one little thing. Although the loudest critics talked a lot, they offered very little reasoning. Very little content. What I was left with was soundbites. I was used to hearing soundbites from political talking heads, from both sides of the aisle, but I wasn’t expecting the same hollowness in a harsh condemnation of fellow believers.
We’ve all seen this.
You notice a Facebook post or news headline about a man being gunned down by police while his hands were in the air. The testimony is that his hands were up and that he was unarmed. Of course, many will want to see video footage. And rightfully so. Not every account of police brutality is true.
And then, thankfully, iPhone footage is released. As it turns out, the original reports are confirmed by the footage. His hands were up and he was unarmed.
But maybe we should give the esteemed professionals even more benefits of a doubt. Maybe there’s a longer video that tells the whole story. Maybe something happened to justify the shooting. Maybe something happened just off camera to cause the police to “fear for their lives”. Maybe the iPhone video is cleverly edited.
So perhaps other videos may be released. Perhaps dashcam footage or other witnesses’s iPhone videos. All the videos and all the testimonies confirm what most of us already know. The shooting was unjustified. It was murder, by any Biblical and just definition.
“Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.” – Proverbs 25:26
Within abolitionist circles there has been some talk about the doctrine of non-resistance. To be clear, only a small handful of self-proclaimed abolitionists hold this view. However, it is important enough to give some time for a rebuttal. Jered Ragon, a brother and a friend, has been in the forefront in these conversations and has taken the time to explain his views here. I’ll note now that his views are most similar to the nineteenth century abolitionist and universalist pastor, Adin Ballou. I would not call Jered a carbon copy of Ballou, but their argumentation follows the same logic and leads to the same place. Adin Ballou’s work on non-resistance can be found here. Adin says what Jered says, but he also says much more and fleshes out the implications. I do not link to this book because I think it is biblical or particularly scholarly, but it may help the reader better understand the stripe of non-resistance that is being advocated by Jered and a handful of others. Being that I believe these views to be grievous error and potentially damaging to abolitionism and the Kingdom of God, it is important to answer his views thoroughly and without sugar-coating the meaning and implications of non-resistance. For the sake of justice, truth, and mercy, I must speak plainly on these matters. The doctrine of non-resistance is an abortion of abolition and an abolition of justice. It is patently incompatible with Holy Scripture, the Kingdom of God, and abolitionism. It’s prooftexts are convincing only in a historic vacuum and in isolation from the rest of God’s Word. It perverts the very nature of justice, love, and righteousness. It pietisticly relegates the duty of the Christian to his or her personal life. And lastly, like sand thrown on a fire, the doctrine of non-resistance is a hindrance to bringing about the abolition of human abortion and other national sins. It is much more than this, and it is difficult to adequately address all of problems with the outworkings of this duplicitous doctrine. I hope that I will be able to adequately explain at least the most grievous implications. Although I am specifically addressing the words of Jered Ragon and Adin Ballou, you’ll find many of their arguments similar, if not the same as, standard Christian pacifism and some forms of Christian anarchism. In this way I hope this is helpful to more than those familiar with Jered and his small band of friends. Continue reading
From time to time I will be contributing at NewCityTimes.com. The fine gentlemen at this website recently asked me to share my thoughts on the recent SCOTUS decision to strike down the Texas abortion regulation bill, H.B. 2, and I gladly accepted their invitation. The following is a short exert from that article. I highly encourage everyone to follow this website. They offer news and editorials from a consistent Christian worldview and they are putting out a lot of great content.
On June 27 The Supreme Court of the United States ruled against a Texas abortion regulation bill. At least in some important ways, I think the Supreme Court was right. Further, the striking down of this bill is no great loss and it would not do the good people of Texas any good to defy the SCOTUS in regards to the enforcement of this bill.
Texas House Bill 2 was a bill that had two primary provisions. First, the bill required all abortionists to have admittance privileges in a hospital no greater than 30 miles from the abortion clinic. Second, HB 2 sought to require all abortion clinics to meet the Texas Health and Safety Codes for ambulatory surgical centers.
The principle reason why the SCOTUS struck this bill down was because they viewed this bill as in conflict with the Casey vs Planned Parenthood decision. They saw these regulations as putting a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking an abortion and putting an undue burden on abortion access.
The reason why I think the SCOTUS was at least partially correct was because HB 2 was intentionally designed to restrict abortion access…..
Please read more here…