The Doctrinal and Practical Standards for Local Church Membership According to the Bible and the Second London Confession of FaithPosted: September 4, 2013
James M. Renihan writes,
The first standard for membership must be a living faith in Jesus Christ, evidenced in the baptismal commitment. As we shall see, this does not mean or imply a full-blown theological understanding of the Christian faith. It simply means that every individual must be able to express his or her conviction that God has saved them through Christ… Here is a second standard; in the case of Saul, it was ethical. A man who was notorious for his hatred of Christ and his church, even to the point of persecution, was held away from membership. Evidence of genuine submission to the Lordship of Christ is essential prior to acceptance into his church.
Those that know of, or run in the Reformed Baptist (Confessional) circles know there are commonly two sides of RB’s in America today. Some have generalize by classifying them as heavy eldership (Al Martin) and those that see the primary role of the elder as a servant (Walter Chantry). While trying to engage myself with Reform Baptists Churches in the past (two for the record), I came away with the same concern from both – their theology of church membership, or the lack there of. While some became members within weeks, others became members after jumping through hoops, then occasionally there is the seminary graduate that was rung through the mill, theologically examined, and given a checklist of do’s and don’ts in order to become a member of God’s church. There was no standard, no consistency, and no understanding (or very little) of the confessional stance on permitting members into a RB church. I had not, till this morning read James M. Renihan’s very helpful article from the 2005 ARBCA General Assembly on “The Doctrinal and Practical Standards for Local Church Membership According to the Bible and the Second London Confession of Faith.” I imagine the world a much better place if ARBCA churches actually held to this understanding of membership in the 1689.
The quote below is by Scottish Presbyterian Thomas Chalmers (1780–1847), who is speaking specifically of the English Particular (Calvinist) Baptists would held to the LBC-1689. He states the following from his observations of them during his time,
Let it never be forgotten of the Particular Baptists of England that they form the denomination of [Andrew] Fuller and [William] Carey and [John] Ryland [Jr.] and [Robert Hall [Jr.] and [John] Foster; that they have originated among the greatest of all missionary enterprises; that they have enriched the Christian literature of our country with authorship of the most exalted piety as well as of the first talent and the first eloquence; that they have waged a very noble and successful war with the hydra of Antinomianism; that perhaps there is not a more intellectual community of ministers in our island or who have put forth to their number a greater amount of mental power and mental activity in the defence and illustration of our common faith; and, what is better than all the triumph of genius or understanding, who, by their zeal and fidelity and pastoral labour among the congregations which they have reared, have done more to swell the lists of genuine discipleship in the walks of private society—and thus both to uphold and to extend the living Christianity of our nation.
From Presbyterian Thomas Chalmers personal experience and witness of the Particular Baptist during his time, they defended the Christian Faith against such theological errors like Antinomianism. Now if such could be said about today’s American Baptist, could you imagine the difference in understanding Law and Grace?
*** Quote taken from Lectures on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1844), 76.
What Is A Reformed Baptist Church? William Payne
What Is A Reformed Baptist Church? Jim Savastio
What Is A Reformed Baptist Church? Reformed Baptist Church of Sault Ste Marie, Michigan
To maintain the purity of doctrine. . .
In the course of time the church has been assaulted by damnable heresies. The church had to clearly express what she stood for. The heretics have often awakened the church and caused her to stand firm on the truth once delivered to her. Without Arius Athanasius would not have performed his life work. Without Donatus and Pelagius Augustine would not have developed to such an outstanding theologian. The church had profit even from the struggles against heretics.
The church against Arius clearly testified of Divine nature of Christ and the doctrine of the Holy Trinity as portrayed by Athanasius was made into a confession. At the council of Carthage in 418 Pelagianism was completely banished and condemned. The heretics forced the church to conduct a deep exegesis. Actually the salvation of souls was at stake. Over against deceit they had to place the truth in clear formulations. These became confessions.
To be tolerant here would have shown a lack of character. When scripture has spoken and Christ has made this message clear to the church then the church may sign no pact of tolerance but must be sharp in portraying and exposing deceit and lying.
The church used thereby the Word of God and could plead and experience and trust the promise of Christ that the Holy Spirit would lead into all truth. In clear words the church could state that she believes and confesses and condemns.
This was again the case during the reformation. Calvin wanted to maintain the purity in doctrine by also letting the children of Geneva study the truth in catechism. This catechism would lead the children to do confession of faith. The confession of the church was seen as a means to maintain the purity of doctrine.
My question is why the London Baptist 1642 is not placed a part of the Reformed Confessions? Oh well…
Lecture handouts in PDF format available here (162 KB)
This is the first of a projected three volume set, which compiles numerous Reformed confessions of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries translated into English. For many of these texts, this is their debut in the Anglo-Saxon vernacular. It provides the English-speaking world a richer and more comprehensive view of the emergence and maturation of Reformed theology in these foundational centuries foundational centuries for Reformed thought and foundational summaries of Reformed doctrine for these centuries. Each confessional statement is preceded by a brief introduction containing necessary historical and bibliographical background. The confessions are arranged chronologically, with this first volume presenting thirty-three documents covering the years 1523-1552.