Search This Blog

Monday, December 13, 2010

On Understanding - The Difference is Chalk and Cheese.

Quotes a) Iain Murray (biographer) b) Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones found on pages 546 & 547 of the former's biography on the latter:

"At the next meeting of the Westminster Fellowship on July 3, I 1967, he also gave an address which concentrated on the nature of the unity to be sought among those who were agreed in their opposition to ecumenism. At this point they faced, he believed a danger which was the very opposite of the threat from ecumenism. Ecumenical leaders worked on the principle of minimum doctrinal statement, they sought to say something so loosely that no one is excluded. 'Among us, on the other hand,' he went on, 'in our desire to safeguard orthodoxy we tend to become too precise. We go to the opposite extreme of the ecumenical mentality. Even the detailed statements of the 16th and 17th centuries have not been able to safeguard the faith. You can never safeguard the truth by statements on paper or guarantee continuing orthodoxy by paper declarations.'

Two main things, he proceeded, should govern our attitude:

First, it is spiritual life, the experience of the grace of God, which creates the desire for fellowship (Acts 2:46). This was primary in the unity of the early church. If we do not say this we are in danger of scholasticism. An interest in theology which is not based on life is dangerous . . . Such was the position of the Pharisees and of many since. Sound theology can be taken up as a great system in the same way that some people take up crossword puzzles.

Second, the seriousness of schism, rightly defined and understood. Schism means separations among those agreed on fundamentals on account of secondary matters. It is constantly condemned in the New Testament. Unless we have a burning desire to preserve unity we are in a dangerous position.

He believed that the crux of the present position had to do with the recognition of the distinction between truths which are essential and those which are not essential. To be anti-ecumenical was essential because the ecumenical movement was deliberately guilty of doctrinal indifferentism. Its chief concern was a kind of organisational fellowship.

'Ecumenical thinking is to take the churches as they are and to bring them all together. So they take up a minimal statement of faith and even that they do not apply .. . The first thing we want to know with regard to a man who comes to us for fellowship is. What is his attitude to this. To have fellowship with men who deny the truth is to deny the truth by implying that the truth does not matter.'

Foremost among the doctrines he listed as 'absolutely essential' was the sole authority of Scripture in faith and practice. We do not receive tradition as being a subsidiary authority. There must be a full acceptance of revelation: 'We have no fellowship with a man who does not submit himself as a little child to Scripture. It is no use for a man to profess he believes in the "supreme authority of Scripture" in general and then question the foretelling aspect of prophecy or the historicity of creation and of Adam as the first man.' A new tendency to do this among evangelicals he described as 'one of the saddest things I have known in my ministry'. Then among the chief doctrines taught in Scripture he specified: the Trinity; the devil and evil powers; the plan of redemption; the person and work of Christ; man (born spiritually dead, having died in Adam); regeneration by the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit; justification and sanctification, with the necessity of good works.

He then turned to non-essentials, which he did not understand to mean truths which are unimportant, 'but they are not so important as to divide us'. 'You notice that I did not put in my list of essentials the doctrine of election. I believe the doctrine of election. I cannot interpret Scripture without it and I preached it last night as one of you has ever done, but I cannot say that a man who does not believe it is not a Christian, or that I cannot have fellowship with him. I say he is seriously defective in his understanding. I do not say that Arminianism is "another gospel". It is rather another understanding of the mechanism of how salvation is given to us.' Among other subjects upon which Christians differed in their understanding he instanced views on baptism, assurance, church polity, unfulfilled prophecy and charismatic gifts. 'On such issues we may hold to our convictions, but with love and patience towards others. We must not break fellowship. We must condemn all wrangling. We all realize that we are saved in spite of ourselves. Not one of us is perfect in our understanding of these matters.' He concluded:

I have never proposed a united evangelical Church. What I have believed in is fellowship for mutual edification and encouragement and perhaps certain other activities. There may be groups of churches even in such fellowship who are disagreed on some of these non-essential matters: I cannot see the impossibility of a loose fellowship including those who are Presbyterian, those who are independent, and those with varying views on baptism."

Note the distinction between the man used mightily of our Lord in bringing glory to Himself in the salvation of sinners compared to the diluted opinion of moderates within the current Episcopal Diocese of Sydney on essential understanding of the historicity of creation. The latter regard the issue as secondary.

Sam Drucker

1 comment:

neil moore said...

Jesus said: "My mother and my brothers are those who hear God's word and put it into practice." (Luke 8:21)

Such a statement raises the question raised by Martyn Lloyd-Jones i.e. with whom are we to fellowship?