The Doctrinal and Practical Standards for Local Church Membership According to the Bible and the Second London Confession of Faith

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.

You can read the full article via PDF here.

HT: The Confessing Baptist


James Boyce, Southern Seminary & Confessions

As Boyce stated and made clear during the birth of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) “Three Changes” were a must to build a common theological seminary in the South. Boyce suggested three ideals that SBTS should embody, that they may stand strong for the years to come. The first being openness, a seminary for everyone and anyone who was called by God regardless of academic background or social status. Second, was excellence. Boyce was intent upon establishing an advanced program of theological study which in its academic rigor would be compared with they type of instruction that was being offered at Princeton, Andover, Harvard, and Yale. However it is the third change that Boyce brought to SBTS that would establish a set of doctrines that must be held and a confessional guidelines for those that taught at SBTS. Timothy George sheds light about this in his work Theologians of the Baptist Tradition (which I started reading this week and highly recommend reading);

The third ideal was confessional identity. Boyce proposed that the seminary be established on a set of doctrinal principles that would provide consistency and direction for the future. This, too, was a radical step in the context of nineteenth-century Baptist life. Newton Theological Institute, the first seminary founded by Baptists in America, had no such confessional guidelines. Nor, indeed, did the Southern Baptist Convention, organized in 1845. However, Boyce firmly believed that it was necessary to protect the seminary from doctrinal erosion. From his student days in New England, Boyce was aware of the recent currents in theology: Unitarianism, Transcendentalism, the New Divinity. In particular, he spoke against the “blasphemous doctrines” of Theodore Parker, who had denied that Christianity was based on a special revelation of God. At the same time he was concerned about populist theologies in the South, and warned against the “twin errors of Campbellism and Arminianism.”

Two things come to mind. One while all three are true of SBTS today, some more than others, it does interest me today why SBTS would use dominantly and primarily use Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine and not their own confessional standards, The Abstract of Systematic Theology written by their founder James Boyce’s. Then second, if the Abstracts by Dr. Boyce truly came from the Philadelphia Confession, which came from the 2nd London Baptist Confession, which had agreed with the Cannons of Dort, then how could an Arminian Professor sign and adhere to the Abstracts to teach at SBTS?

***Quote taken from Timothy George and David S. Dockery, Theologians of the Baptist Tradition (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001), 77.


The Great Commission or the Apostles Ordination?

The blogosphere,  within Evangelical and Baptist circles, has continued to go back and froth about the recent discussion on soteriology and the Ten Article Preamble written by a number within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). The Preamble has been written with a major concern of New Calvinists gaining ground and number within the SBC denomination.

The Ten Article Preamble has a heavily bent towards Arminianism;  and at times has been argued as Semi-Pelagian. It has brought constant posts, disagreements and differences among a number of leaders within the SBC. From the beginning, Calvinists have taken the time, on a number of platforms, to respond by pointing out their differences with the Ten Articles, none of which excel Rev. Dr. Tom Ascol’s 13 part series titled “Response to A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation.

I have seen a number disagreements with almost every point of the Ten Article Preamble, including Number 10 which concerns The Great Commission. As a matter of fact, The Rev. Dr. Tom Ascol,  from my reading and understanding, did not disagree with Article Ten: The Great Commission. Article ten states,

We affirm that the Lord Jesus Christ commissioned His church to preach the good news of salvation to all people to the ends of the earth. We affirm that the proclamation of the Gospel is God’s means of bringing any person to salvation. We deny that salvation is possible outside of a faith response to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

As Scriptural proof text, the writers of this article use the following:

Psalm 51:13; Proverbs 11:30; Isaiah 52:7; Matthew 28:19-20; John 14:6; Acts 1:8; 4:12; 10:42-43; Romans 1:16, 10:13-15; 1 Corinthians 1:17-21; Ephesians 3:7-9; 6:19-20; Philippians 1:12-14; 1 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Timothy 2:5; 2 Timothy 4:1-5.

It is what the “Traditional SBCers ” affirm that brings some concern and is in need of clarification for a proper understanding and doctrinal agreement for myself. Two things come to my mind after reading the 10th Article along side their Scriptural proof texts.

The first concerns the fact that the SBC has remained dominantly Dispensational in their hermeneutics. Seeing the writers use proof texts in the Old Testament,  such the Psalms and Isaiah, while applying them to the New Testament people of God seems to be a move towards a more covenantal hermeneutic.

The second applies to Article Ten which states “that the Lord Jesus Christ commissioned His church to preach the good news of salvation to all people to the ends of the earth.” This is proof texted by Matthew 28:19-20. I would like to see some clarification on what is meant by “commissioned His church.” What does “His church” mean in the Article? Is it every single individual member of the church? Is it the commission of the church? Does it mean that the commission was given to the offices of the church? Is this “great” commission given to both men and women of the church?

Maybe it is time that the “Traditional Baptists” of the SBC take a look at their elder brothers of the Protestant Faith such as the “Particular” Baptist. The 1689 London Baptist Confession (LBC) chapter 28 sections 1 & 2 state the following,

1. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are ordinances of positive and sovereign institution, appointed by the Lord Jesus, the only lawgiver, to be continued in his church to the end of the world. 2. These holy appointments are to be administered by those only who are qualified and thereunto called, according to the commission of Christ. Scriptural Proof Text: Matthew 28:19-20.

What American Evangelicals, such as the SBC have commonly titled The Great Commission and used as a Scriptural proof for the Church to evangelize has lost its theological intent and audience. Here in the LBC (as well in the Westminster Confession of Faith chapter 28 & The Belgic Confession Article 34 ) traditionally Protestants have seen Matthew 28:19-20 not as The Great Commission, but as the Apostles Commission, or better said The Apostles Ordination by Jesus Christ.

Here Jesus ordaining the disciples into the office of Apostleship, passing the keys and authority that had been given to Him from His father, telling the Apostles their commission, “to teach and baptize… to all the nations” meaning both to the Jew and Gentile takes place before His ascension. Later in the New Testament, it is this office of Apostles and commission of teaching and baptizing that had been given to them by Jesus Christ himself that is passed to the office of the teaching elder. (Cf. Acts 14:23, 20:28; Titus 1:5) As John Calvin gives light to the original intent and theological importance of the passage to the church today;

Now since this charge is expressly given to the apostles along with the preaching of the word, it follows that none can lawfully administer baptism but those who are also the ministers of doctrine. When private persons, and even women, are permitted to baptize, nothing can be more at variance with the ordinance of Christ, nor is it any thing else than a mere profanation.”


Baptist & Presbyterian Confessions for the sake of Protestantism

Presbyterians will at times make the remark that London Baptist copied their confession. While layout and words are almost identical at times (chapters 1, 9, 16, and 32) there are additions, differences, and sections condensed throughout the whole of the LBC. If you do not agree, you can take a look at a Tabular Comparison of the WCF & 2nd-LBC for yourself. An issue at times I have heard from my close Presbyterian brothers (closer than my American-Baptist brothers) is that the London Baptist stole their outline, or copied their work. During the 17-century there were a number of issues in England that help bring about the change from the 1st 1644 LBC to the 2nd 1689 LBC, but more so that the Baptist and Presbyterians would be closer in work and deed than further a part like that we see in America today. A number of issues came about that brought the Second London Baptist Confession in it entirety, and in its likeness of its earlier cousin the Westminster Confession of Faith.

1. 1661 – The Episcopalians had recaptured the machinery and endowments of the Church of England and they were bent on achieving uniformity in England, and not accepting Presbyterians, nor the WCF-1646.

2. 1661 -1665 – A series of coercive acts which form the Clarendon Code were put into act effect to suppress the dissant, namely Presbyterians, but yet effecting Baptist as well, and other Congregationalists throughout England.

3. 1672 – King Charles favored the restoration of Roman Catholicism and issued a Declaration of Indulgence which suspended all penal laws of an ecclesiastical nature against all Protestant dissenters, Presbyterian and Baptist.

4. 1673 – England Parliament passed the Test Act which barred non-conformist from all military and civil offices.

These four key issues brought the Particular Baptist of London to show their agreement with Presbyterians and other Congregationalists through England by making the Westminster Confession their basis of a new (2nd) confession of their own. Thus the London Baptist purpose has been clearly stated,

Our (Baptist) hearty agreement with them (Presbyterians) in that wholesome protestant doctrine, which, with so clear evidence of Scriptures they have asserted.”

I believe one of the most evident “Presbyterian-friendly” areas the authors saw fit to change in the 1689 can be found in chapter 30 on The Lord’s Supper, that it is not restricted to scripturally baptized people, as in the 1644-LBC. The assembly writing the 2nd-LBC saw fit to work with the Presbyterians, for the sake of Protestantism during their time. While yes, yes, yes I understand their are differences (chapters 19-23), sections belittle some Presbyterians might add (chapter 7 & 25 ), and chapters done better by the Baptists (chapter 17), in all they often have more similarities in purpose than one may think.