What Hath Dort to do With Moscow? On WITCH HUNTING, Extra-Confessional Binding & TOLERATION
(Editors Note: The following section from Hales is difficult to read. It is a collection of bits and fragments of Simon Episcopious’ oration. I summarize the oration in the Notes section to help the reader understand his main concerns)
Dort 7 December, 1618. Stylo Novo
Then were the Remonstrants called in…Episcopius standing up required that a little time might be granted to them to speak, and forthwith uttered an Oration, acrem sane animosam, and about which, by reason of some particulars in it, there will grow some stir. The effect of the oration was this.
That religion was the chief note of a man, and we were more distinguished by it from other creatures than by our reason….That religion was nothing else but a right conceit and worship of God. That the conceits concerning God are of two sorts: some absolutely necessary, which were the grounds of all true worship—in these to error might finally endanger a man; and some not absolutely necessary—and in these sometimes without great danger men might mistake. That they decried many conceits passing in our churches, which could not stand with the goodness and justice of God, with the use of the sacraments, with the duties of Christian men; these had given occasion to the adversaries abroad to accuse our churches, and lay upon them many strange imputations, and to provide as much as in them lay, that the conceits of some few might not pass for the general doctrine of our churches.
But this their endeavor had hitherto had but ill success. And as in a diseased body many times when physick is administered, the humors which before were quiet are now stirred, and hence the body proves more distempered; so their endeavors to cure the church had caused greater disorder, yet in this they had not offended. For they labored to none other end, but that the church might not be traduced by reason of the private conceits of some of her ministers. That in this behalf the world had been exceedingly incensed against them, but this envy they esteemed their gloriam & palmarious; that for this they did not mean to forsake their cause, and were it so that they should lose the day, yet would they joy in it, and think it glory enough magnis ausis excidisse…
First matters were handled against them clancularly, and by stealth, after this they broke out into the open, but false accusations, and after this into wrath, into scoffing, and bitterness, till at length effractic moderationis repagulis every one came with open mouth against them, tanguam in publici odii victimis. [Here followed a grave and serious invocation of Christ as a witness to the truth of what they said]. True indeed it was, that in their books many things were to be found amiss. For a very hard matter they thought it for minds exasperated simper rectum clavem tenere. That for the settling of these things, they could but three courses be thought of; either a national Synod, or a mutual toleration of each others opinions, or the cession and resignation of their calling and place in the church. To quit them of their calling and to fly, this were a not of the hireling. As for a Synod, which they much desired, remorabantur qui minime debebant; and it was pretended that the condition of the times would not suffer it. There remains only a mutual toleration, of the possibility of which alone they had hope. And for this end they did exceedingly approve of the decree of the states of Holland and West-Friesland, which they thought confirmed by the example of Beza’s dealing with some, of their own dealing with the Lutherans, of the advice of the king of Great Britian.
But all this was labor lost for there was a buzz and jealousy spread in the head of mean, that under this larve, this whistling suit of toleration there lay personated more dangerous designs. That behind this, tanquam post fiparium, there lay intents of opening a way to the profession of all the ancient heresies, and that the Remonstrants could pro tempore, conscientiae fuae imperere quod volunt, upon this begin men’s minds to be alienated from them, which thing at length broke forth into schism and open separation. Now began their books to be more narrowly inquired into, every line, every phrase, every word and tittle to be stretched to the uttermost to prove them heretics…that all fundamental points of divinity they had preserved untouched.
For they knew that there were many things of which it is now lawful to dispute, and they abhorred from that conceit of many men, who would believe nothing but what they were able to give a reason of. That what they questioned was only such a matter, which for a long time had been without danger, both pro and contra disputed of. They thought it sufficient if the chief points of religion remain unshaken. That there had been always sundry opinions even amongst the fathers themselves which yet had not broken out into separation of minds and breach of charity. That it was impossible for all wits to jump in one point. It was the judgment of Paraeus, a great divine, that the greatest cause of contentions in the church was this, that the school men’s conclusions, and cathedral decisions had been received as oracles, and articles of faith.
That they were therefore unjustly charged with the bringing in of a sceptick theologie. They sought for nothing else but for that liberty which is the mean between servitude and liberty. That now they appeared before Synod…that they profess they oppose themselves, first against those conclusions concerning predestination, which the authors themselves have called Horrida Decreta. Second, against those who for the Five Articles so called have made a separation, never expecting any synodical sentence. Third, against those who cast from them all those who in some things dissent from them…
These are the fragments of Episcopious’ speech…
On December 7, 1618 the Synod called in the Remonstrants. The decree was set before them to make known, plainly, what they believed concerning their Five Points they had propounded to the world at large in their many writings, sermons, and books. Hales records a long oration that then ensued by Simon Episcopious, a leader in the Remonstrant party. Hales mentions that Episcopious oration, at some points, caused quite a stir in the assembly. There are three major emphases of the speech that directly speak to our current controversy. They are as follows:
1. No Extra Confessional Binding
2. Stop Breaking the Ninth Commandment Against Us
3. Tolerate Our Views
The first is the Remonstrant appeal to things indifferent.
Part Three: What Hath Dort to do With Moscow?—On JOINT STATEMENTS & Anti-Synods.
Dort, 15 December 1618 Stylo Novo
On Thursday the 4/14 of December, the Synod being sat, and repetition being made, according to the custom, of what had past in the former session, the Remonstrants being called in, were asked whether or not they had set down in writing their opinion concerning the first article. Forthwith they exhibited to the Synod their opinion subscribed with all their hands. The copy of this your Lordship shall receive here with these letters.
The paper being read, the Praeses asked them all one by one, whether this were their opinion, to which each man answered affirmatively. The Remonstrants being dismissed, the Praeses proposed to the Synod, whether it were not fit that they should be sent for one by one, and examined singly as concerning their tenant. His reason was, because he understood they made themselves an Anti-Synod, and had among themselves ordained a Praeses, two assessors, and two scribes, according to the form of the Synod, and so they did these all things communi consensus—like a little Synod.
To this some answered, that they thought it fit, some, that those only should be singled out where were carried away with respect to their company, and if they were alone would think and do otherwise; others thought it utterly unfit, because it might seem olere artificium aliquod, to favor of a trick, whereas it best become the Synod to do all things candid and sincere. Others would have no man examined alone, but when all the rest were by; others left it to the judgment of the Praeses, to do as he thought good when occasion served—which last sentence, as it seemed, stood good.
After this, there was a general exception against the manner in which they had proposed their sentence; that they had done it confuse, distracte & obscure; that they had intermingled things impertinent and belonging to other questions; that the most of their proposals were negatives, what they did not hold, and not affirmatives—what they did; whereas their appearance there was to show what they did hold, not what they did not hold. And it was discovered that this their proceeding by negatives was, that they might take occasions to refute other opinions, and not to confirm their own; whereas by the decree of the states they were called thither ut Sententiam SUAM dilucide, perspicue, & exponerent & dedenderent, not that they should oppugn others.
That it had been their custom very liberally to examine other men’s opinions and to be sparing in confirming their own. That if they did refuse to deal more plainly in expounding their mind, they Synod should take order that the state of the question should be taken out of their books, especially out of the Hague Conference, and so they should be questioned whether they would stand it or not; that they did maintain among them an implicit faith, and it was usual with some of them, when they were pressed with any reason they could not put by, to answer, that thought themselves could say little to it, yet such and such could say much, which was enough for them.
When all had spoken their pleasure, the conclusion of the Synod was, that they must reform the manner of propounding their mind; that they must give us their answer in affirmatives, as much as was possible; that this form of answer was not according to decree of the states; and that this was the effect of the session….
From Dort December 15, 1618 Stylo November Your Lordships Chaplain and bounded in all Duty, Jo. Hales
Just when it seemed that the Synod
I recently acquired a copy of Edward Leigh's Complete System of Divinity (1654), one of the very few (and scarce) Puritan Systematic theologies. In the Epistle Dedicatorie, he gives a serious call to all Christians to defend the gospel. We would do well to hear Leigh's plea in our day with so many distressing doctrines.
"Shall the heretical party be so active for Popery, for error, and shall not the orthodox be as studious to hold fast and hold forth the truth? Let magistrates make the interest of Christ, his truths, his worship, his people, their great interest; let them discountenance gross errors and damnable heresies. Let ministers preach down, pray down, live down those abominable doctrines now among us. Let all the people of God study fundamentals, labor to establish the truth, and in their places oppose falsehood, Libertinism, and all horrid blasphemies, and pray earnestly to God, that he would cause the false prophets and the unclean spirits to pass out of the land (Zec. 13:2); and I should yet hope (though our care be very sad) that God would continue his gospel still among us in power and purity, though by our sins we have forfeited a great mercy..."
See Intro and Part One Part Two—What Hath Dort to do with Moscow?--On Schism & Toleration
Dort, 10 December 1618 Stylo Novo (Continued) John Hales
The same day after dinner the deputies met again; where the Praeses commended to the Synod the consideration of that reproachful name of schism, which the Remonstrants did so openly and so often brand them with. For it was Episcopius his palmarium argumentum, the Synod was all either schismatics or favorers of them, and therefore could not be their judges. It was much that they should grow to that boldness, as that openly they should call the Synod, the seculars, the chief Magistrates, yes the Prince of Orange himself, schismatics. For what had formerly been done in the matter of secession and division of the churches was done by their consent and approbation.
He required therefore the Synod to deliver themselves to what was to be done. Divers spoke diversely: Lydius of South Holland relating the story of what had been done in the time of separation, cleared them of schism; and showed first, that the name of schism was used craftily by them, as for a reproach, so likewise for a farther end they had for themselves. For a schism is only a breach of charity and peace of the church, the doctrine remaining entire. If there were a separation by reason of doctrinal heretical (as here he thought there was) it was not to be called a schism. Now the Remonstrants did therefore use the name of schism, that they might persuade the world, that the difference was only in certain points indifferent, in which it matter not which end went forward, by this means to make their way open to toleration. Again, the separation which was made, was made upon good reason. For they were forced unto it by the Remonstrants violence, as in particular he did show. At length he and the rest of the Synod concluded, that they should roundly be put in mind of their duty, and to speak more respectively to the Synod.
Upon this, the Remonstrants being called in, the Praeses signified what he disliked in them, and what behavior it expected at their hands, and withal willed them to attend the decree of the states. Episcopius would have answered, but he was prohibited. Then immediately followed a decree of the states to this purpose: that whereas the Remonstrants had hitherto made many dilatory answers, to the injury both of the ecclesiastics and seculars, it was to be decreed by them, that they should lay aside by all frivolous exceptions and dilatory answers, and forthwith proceed to set down their minds concerning the Five Articles, for which end they came together.
Then began Episcopius to purge himself, and declare, that in the imputation of schism they included not the seculars, they only charged the Ecclesiastics; and if the Seculars had a hand in it, they meddled not with that. The Praeses urged them to give their answer, whether or no they would set down their minds concerning the Points in controversy; they still excepted, that the Synod were not their competent judges. The Praeses asked by whom they would be judged? They replied, they would not answer this it was sufficient that the Synod not be their judges. They were willed to remember they were Citati. They replied, Citatorum est excipere de compententia judicis.
The Praeses of the Seculars willed them to remember that they were subjects; they replied, the Magistrate could not command their consciences. Being again willed to give their answer, whether or no they would exhibit their minds concerning the Five Articles, they required first to have their exceptions answered; when no other answer would be given, they dismissed them, and appointed that of the Synod two should be chosen delegates, who should immediately go to them, and in the name of the Synod warn them to lay by all other answers, and at the next session categorically answer; whether they would exhibit their minds concerning the points in controversy, or no; that so the Synod might know what they had to do—and so they broke up, this morning therefore we look what will be done. And so for this time I humbly take my leave, commended your honor to God’s Good Protection.
Your Honors Chaplain, and Bounden in All Duty, Jo Hales.
There are a number of struggles the Synod had to overcome to make a judgment that would be accepted by the world at large. The first was the Remonstrant charge that the Synod meeting, deliberating to make a judgment on Remonstrant doctrine, was itself an act of schism in the church of Jesus Christ. Hales expresses his astonishment that the Remonstrants had grown in such boldness so as to charge not only the Ecclesiastical government of the church of Christ as being schismatic, but also to extend such a charge to the secular government who, in those days, had the authority to summon a church synodical meeting.
After much discussion, the Synod determined that the charge of schism was being used craftily and as an opportunity for the Remonstrants to convince the world that the differences were only minor, on highly disputable matters, and that there should be open toleration within the bounds of their doctrine to hold to their views. The Synod overcame this charge of schism by reminding the delegates that when a church assembly meets to determine whether the doctrine in question is heretical, then the charge of schism cannot be legitimately applied. The Synod viewed the Remonstrants charge of schism as a tactic to prevent the body from its very purpose of deliberation, namely, to make a determination on Remonstrant doctrine. Therefore, the Synod was reminded of its purpose and moved forward to the goal for which they had convened.
The second struggle had to do with the Remonstrant dishonesty in being open and plain about what they believed. Hales describes the Remonstrants answers as dilatory and frivolous, causing much confusion among the church and secular provinces. The Synod, therefore, determined to make a decree that the Remonstrants should produce a concise statement concerning their five points.
Episcopious, again challenging the legitimacy of the Synod to make a ruling against them, proceeded to answer on behalf of the Remonstrants stating that if their concerns already expressed to the Synod would not be answered, then there would be no statement given to the Synod concerning what they believe on the disputed points in question. Therefore, the Synod dismissed and appointed two delegates to admonish the Remonstrants to declare what they believed on the disputed points so that the Synod might know how they should move forward in making a determination of Remonstrant doctrine.
The tactics of the Federal Visionists in our day have been the same as that of the Remonstants—we should note their fruits carefully. In our present controversy, those questioning Federal Vision teaching have been incessantly accused of breaking the ninth commandment and promoting schism in the body of Christ. In fact, this has probably been the greatest weapon of the Federal Vision to do exactly what the Synod of Dort exposed about Remonstrant tactics.
The Federal vision would have the world to believe that we are being hasty in condemning their views, and, like the Remonstrant cry, the points in question are of no great substance, falling within the pale of Reformed orthodoxy. When challenged by the many books, articles, church reports, and legitimate avenues of exposure by confessionaly Reformed pastors and theologians, not one, according to the FV, has accurately characterized their viewpoint. Now why is this? The answer is simple: the same deviant tactics employed by the Remonstrants against Dort are employed today by the FV against anyone who questions their views.
It should be noted that at the Synod of Dort, there was an unbreakable dilemma between the Remonstrant charge of being misunderstood, and their refusal to state openly what they believed. This should be a red flag for us by now, especially since we tell our children that those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it. The Remonstrants were dilatory (negligent) and frivolous in stating their views. The Synod of Dort had no problem making this determination, but, sadly, many Reformed pastors and elders have bought into the lie that we are not being accurate in our representation of the FV. After ten years into this mess, they would have us to believe that we still are not characterizing them fairly.
We might put their concerns to a test. Imagine asking the Praeses of the Synod of Dort this question. “Dear Mr. Praeses, I’m not sure you are being fair in understanding the Remonstrants. We have to maintain the highest accountability standard. You do not seem to be giving the Remonstrants opportunity to answer and provide clarity in what they believe. Nor are you characterizing their views fairly.” What do you think would be his response? It would probably go something like this. “Dear Sir, have you considered your ordination as a gospel minister. We are dealing with expressed heresies. Those holding heterodox views in the history of the church have never been cooperative, kind, and clear in making known what they believe. We have gathered here to render a judgment, and have called upon them to be open in what they believe. But look at their fruit! By your fruits you shall know them. As of yet, they refuse to be open and honest, and grow in such boldness to condemn anyone who questions them. We must render a judgment according to what we promised when stood before God at our ordinations.”
We have given the FV opportunity to make clear what they believe. They have done nothing but grow in boldness against anyone who questions their doctrine. We understand what they are saying. The responsibility at this point is to learn from the Synod of Dort and render the judgment. Their tactics of employing schism is crafty, and we need to keep our eyes focused on our callings as ministers, and the purpose for which we deliberate, that is, to make a judgment concerning FV doctrine and defend the gospel for the sake of the souls we oversee. This is how our brethren at Dort managed to overcome Remonstrant errors, let us learn from them.
On the 10th of December, stylo novo, the deputies met in the morning, where the first thing was to be determined, was the question as yet depending concerning the Remonstrants of Utrecht…
Here Episcopius besought the Synod that he might have leave to speak some things by way of Proeme e’re they came to action. It was first denied him, but he did so earnestly entreat, that at length he had leave to speak his mind, and so forthwith there was recited e Scripto a long and tedious speech of two hours, at the least, consisting of two general heads. First of exceptions they had against the Synod Tanquam in judicem incompetentem. Second, of a conceit of their own, what manner of Synod they thought fit it should be, which was to compose these controversies in hand. There reasons for exceptions were many and manifoldly amplified and confirmed, but amongst them all there were two especially insisted upon. First, it was against all equity and nature that the adverse party should be Judge—the Synod was here the adverse party, and, therefore, they could not be Judges. Second, those who had made an open schism and faction in the Church, and had separated themselves from their Brethren, could not be their judges. But of this Synod a great part were authors of schism, and the rest favorers and abettors of it—they could not therefore be their judges. In the prosecution of which reason they did not spare very liberally to bestow on the Synod the name of Schismatici & Novatores, and Schismatum fautores, and other goodly titles of the same nature.
The second part of their oration was a meer chimera sultans in vacuo; a strange fancy of such a Synod as never was, nor can be. I had thought to have taken an abstract of it, but tediousness deterred me. I will give your honor a taste or two of it. There were but two ways of instituting a Synod for the ending of these quarrels. The first was, by seeking out everywhere certain select men, who all this time of contention had taken part with neither side, but kept themselves unpartial. Second, if a Synod of such could not be found (as I think it could scarcely be found in the Netherlands, though the Sun itself should seek it) then such a Synod should be framed, as in which should be an equal number of both parties, each with their several praeses and assessors, and they should debate the matter between themselves and if they could not agree, (as is likely they would not) what then, thought I? Shall they part as they came? Not forsooth. The Civil Magistrate, he must come in, and prescribe the moderamen from which neither party must appeal. Provided always that he labored only for accommodation, and not to determine decisively for one part—and so I awoke. Of the same thread was the whole piece of their speech. When they had well and thoroughly wearied the auditory, they did that which we much desired—they made an end. The Praeses made a brief answer to this effect. For the point of schism, saith he, it is not yet fit time to discuss. But when if should in the Synod be made plain what had been the received doctrine of the church, then it would appear who they were that had made secession from it, and so were guilty of schism. If you refuse us because we are adversaries, whom would you have deputed as Judges? Yourselves, or the Papists, of the Anabaptists, or the Libertines, so some other faction in these countries. Let us be Schismatics, let us be scribes and Pharisees, and worse yet, you may not deny this Synod to be a lawful Synod. For first it was done by Civil Magistrate, who had the authority to do it. Second, such as were there were deputed by the consent of the Provinces. Third, they had all taken their oaths to judge uprightly. This is enough to make us your judges, and common charity should make you to hope we would judge upright, as least it should make you resolve thus fat, it we should decide truly, you would subscribe unto it, of otherwise you would patiently bear it. If you were in our places, so deputed, so sworn, and we were to be judges by you, we were to do the like. Here followed some wrangling to no great purpose, and so the session ended.
Your Honours Chaplain, and bounden in all duty, Jo. Hales
NOTES: The main charge of Episcopious and the Remonstrants against the Synod of Dort is that the whole proceeding was unjust because the Synod of Dort was the adverse party. In other words, how could the ones bringing the charges against the Remonstrants also act as judges in the matter? Further, according to the Remonstrants, many of those deliberating at the Synod of Dort were the ones causing the schism in the body of Christ against them. How could the authors of schism in the church of Jesus Christ also become their judges? The schismatics were those who had initiated what the Remonstrants believed to be an unlawful assembly against them. So the Remonstrants proposed that only neutral parties should be allowed at the Synod of Dort to render a judgment. If this could not be done, then a select number from each side should be selected to debate the matter among them. According to Hales, the Remonstrants wearied the assembly with this argument.
The repeated cries of the Federal Visionists have been the same as that of the Remonstrants. The FV has consistently charged that those most schismatic and unloving have been allowed positions of rendering judgments upon them (i.e. stacked study committees, church reports, articles, published books). Charges of schism, breaking the ninth commandment, misunderstanding, mischaracterization, et al, have been made against those questioning FV formulations. Our ecclesiastical courts testify to these charges. The very same debate that occurred at the Synod of Dort, took place on the floor of the PCA GA 2007. It was argued by FV proponents that the study committee was stacked, and there should have been FV proponents on the committee to render a fair judgment. We recall RC Sproul’s momentous statement that such actions would be “akin to putting the accused on the jury”. The outcry by the FV has been the same as the Remonstrants who argued that the “schismatics” have no right to harm their reputations in making a judgment against them. Citing Doug Wilson,
Juries handle the lives and reputations of others. And so of course, you exclude the accused from the jury. You also exclude men who are hostile to the accused, and who are out to get them. You exclude the personal friends of the accused, and -- because Almighty God inhabits the highest heaven and considers the ways of men -- you also exclude the professional adversaries of the accused. The point of a jury is to find disinterested parties, who will listen to both sides, and make a determination. Instead, what do we have? (Bold Emphasis Mine)
These arguments echo the sentiments of the great Remonstrant Episcopos at more than a few points.
So how did the Synod of Dort answer? “If you refuse us because we are adversaries, whom would you have deputed as Judges? Yourselves, or the Papists, or the Anabaptists, or the Libertines, or some other faction in these countries? Let us be Schismatics, let us be scribes and Pharisees, and worse yet, you may not deny this Synod to be a lawful Synod.” The Synod praeses also reminded the Remonstrants that they had taken oaths to judge uprightly, and common charity should be enough for them trust that an upright judgment will be rendered in the matter.
The answer is the same to the Federal Visionists. Who would the FV have to be their judges over their disputed doctrine? Using Hales words, where could such judges scarcely be found in the Reformed world, though the Sun itself should seek it out? Should we turn to the Roman Catholics, or the Baptists, or the Methodists? We have taken oaths of office, and we take these oaths seriously before God. Grant us the necessary charity to render judgments according to our ordination vows and wisdom granted us by the Spirit of God.
As recognized by the Synod of Dort, it is a glaring inconsistency at best for FV proponents to charge us with breaking the ninth commandment and being schismatic when they will not grant us the common charity in accordance with the ninth commandment to render a judgment on the matter in our courts. Like the Synod of Dort, the outcome has been the same and nothing has followed but “wranglings to no great purpose” by those of the FV.
A few years back I found an extremely rare copy of John Hales’ Letters From the Synod of Dort (1688).John Hales (1584-1656), often called the Ever-Memorable for his Greek lectures at Oxford, became a well-known clergyman and scholar in the mid seventeenth century. He served as a Chaplain for Sir Dudley Carleton and was given the responsibility to observe and record the proceedings at the Synod of Dort.These letters are somewhat scarce, and, to my knowledge, have never been reprinted since the seventeenth century.Recently, a friend rebound my volume, and for the past few nights I have read well into the night learning things about the Synod of Dort that I never knew.
What particularly interests me is how difficult it was for the Synod to get to the bottom of the Remonstrant errors.Charges of schism, disunity, incompetence, conscience wounding, heresy-hunting, over scrupulous dissection of words, misunderstanding etal, were made by the Remonstrants against the Synod of Dort.Further, it was nearly impossible to get the Remonstrants to cooperate and be honest in declaring what they believed on the certain points in question. Since the Remonstrants would not cooperate at the Synod, the matter was finally resolved by going to their many teachings, books, and sermons delivered in public forum to discern what they were actually saying. Some of their brief “statements” set before the Synod were not clear and required further exploration of their views, especially when they refused to be open and honest.All this to say, there is much more agony we are unaware of that went on behind the scenes to finally produce what we enjoy and know today as the Canons of Dort.
We can learn much from our history. Over the next few weeks, I will be posting many of Hales' letters with some brief annotation to show how heretics and others departing from our confessional Reformed heritage often behave and operate when advancing heterodox views.I hope to show that the current Federal Vision controversy is a microcosm of the same controversy the Synod of Dort had to face. The Federal Vision is nothing but Arminianism done under the tent of covenant theology.As many Reformed ecclesiastical bodies are making judgments concerning the FV, they would do well to learn what their Reformed brothers faced at the Synod Dort in dealing with the Remonstrant errors. The tactics, arguments, double-talk, dishonesty, and rancorous rhetoric exposed in Hales' letters are the same problems that we face in our current controversy.
Most beneficial will be to learn how our faithful brothers at Dort managed to overcome all the pressures and attacks in their defense of the truth, and produce a faithful confession for the churches about what constitutes a true Reformed understanding of the doctrines of grace.
Recently, Dr. Scott Clark of Westminster Seminary CA read my blog posts on Going Off-Roading With God and asked to do an interview about my experience attending some of the evangelical mega-churches in the region. So this is part one of the interview on the state of the Evangelical Church in the Pacific Northwest. It's a must listen!
I am posting here the response of Dr. Mark Beach to the recent Nampa critique of our URCNA committee report on the FV. You can find more discussion and follow-up at Wes White's Blog, since this is only part one .
Comments on the Paper of the Consistory of the United Reformed
Church of Nampa, Idaho
“Interaction with the ‘Report of the Synodical Study Committee on the Federal
Vision and Justification’ ”
by J. Mark Beach
This paper is a response to a recent study produced by the Consistory of the United Reformed Church of Nampa, Idaho (3 June 2010) interacting with the “Report of the Synodical Study Committee on the Federal Vision and Justification.” Inasmuch as I am a minister in the United Reformed Churches, but not a delegate to Synod 2010, this reply, I suppose, is my only opportunity to offer some observations about the Study Committee Report and more particularly about the Nampa Consistory document, which invites the churches to consider the critique of the Study Committee Report “as they prepare to deliberate on these issues at Synod.”
As an official consistorial document, it is not clear to me why the Nampa URC paper was not processed through ecclesiastical channels, which seems to be the protocol for an official reply to a synodical Study Committee. Rather than post this document over the internet, it seems to me that it would have been a brotherly duty to correspond with the Study Committee directly so that this Committee could evaluate and weigh the validity of the concerns enunciated in the Nampa document, or at the very least submit this document to Classis as an overture, and if Classis refused to adopt the overture as its own, then send their report to Synod. As it stands, the procedure the Nampa Consistory has followed in this regard may be construed to show a low view of the church, an uncharitable approach to the Study Committee, and to be setting an unwise, even a kind of politicizing, precedent for ecclesiastical debate and discussion. (The Study Committee Report has been available to the churches since mid-summer 2009.) No doubt, some consistories and interested individuals will study this document while others are free to ignore it since it is not a document properly processed through the assemblies of the church. For this reason, given the public nature of the Nampa document, I feel compelled to offer some analytical comments of the Nampa study, though I wish the whole discussion had been left within official ecclesiastical boundaries.
The United Reformed Churches, the Confessional churches who split off from the Christian Reformed Church, has a committee that will report at its July 26-30, 2010 Synod recommending that the Synod condemn the Federal Vision teaching as contrary to the Reformed Confessions. You can read this report here. The United Reformed Church of Nampa, Idaho has published a critical interaction with the report on their web site. This critique has received ringing endorsements from some within the URC. Rev. Doug Barnes, minister of the URC in Hills, MN wrote on the co-urc list: As we prepare for synod, I believe it is imperative that we prepare carefully, so as to properly evaluate the material before us. This paper was written by one of our ministers and approved by his consistory in an effort to be as faithful as possible in that work of preparation. Having read it, I heartily endorse both the paper and its conclusions. (If anything, had I written it, I doubt I would have been as gentle.) Members of the URC have also debated this report publicly, and several have defended it, including ex-URC minister and Federal Visionist Pastor John Barach. You can read those comments here. In light of the importance of this issue, Dr. Mark Beach, professor of practical theology and doctrinal studies at Mid-America Reformed Seminary has prepared a response to Nampa's critical interaction with the report. I think that even those who are not a part of the URC will find his explanations helpful. I will be posting the first part of his critique later this morning.
I plan to do a series of posts next week on our URCNA report on Justification in response to a recent critique by one of our sister churches. But for now, all interested readers should follow the discussion below. I believe the issues are being stated clearly.
One of the more influential figures in my life who encouraged me in the direction of pastoral ministry was Jonathan Rainbow. After college I took a teaching job at Central Valley Christian High School in Visalia, CA. Jon was the high school Bible, history and english teacher. I will never forget my time interacting with Jon Rainbow. He was one of the brightest, honest, determined, and most respectable men that I had ever met. He understood sovereign grace, and encouraged me to teach such truths without compromise.
When I moved on from teaching to attend Westminster Seminary, CA., Jon gave me a signed copy of his book, "The Will of God and the Cross: An Historical and Theological Study of John Calvin's Doctrine of Limited Redemption." Little did I know about whom I had worked with. This was probably the definitive work against RT Kendal's thesis that Calvin was not a Calvinist in his view of the atonement. Kendal and others believed that Calvin and Arminius shared the common view that Christ died for all. The thesis was quickly adopted by many evangelical theologians. Jon Rainbow's book, in my humble opinion, was the definitive reply to the Calvin against the Calvinists thesis (If you can find the volume anywhere, get it!--it was published by Pickwick Publications, 1990). Jon also wrote many other articles that really were groundbreaking. His article on the duplex beneficium (the double benefit) published in Ex Auditu, is still a standard reference article to demontrate the Protestant view on the necessary connection, but not confusion, between justification and sanctification.
Jon was a mentor and friend, and I will miss him dearly. I wish that I had communicated with him more about how thankful I was for his influence upon my life. But I know that he now enjoys that eternal rest that Christ gives to all whom love him. I thank the Lord for godly influences in our lives, and one influence that will always be remembered is that of Jonathan Rainbow.
Jonathan H. Rainbow died peacefully at his home in Visalia, CA and entered his heavenly home on Tuesday, June 8, 2010. He was born the oldest son of John and Priscilla Rainbow on June 14, 1951 in Minneapolis, MN. He would have been 59 years old on his birthday. When he was a young boy, the Rainbow family moved to Pomona, CA, where Jonathan attended school and graduatedfrom Pomona High School in 1969. He continued his studies at the Universityof California at Santa Barbara, where he met his wife, Pat Weimortz Rainbow. They were married on July 8, 1972. Jonathan attended seminary atWestminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, PA. After seminary, theRainbows moved to Heil, North Dakota where he pastored his first church andstarted a family. He later earned a doctoral degree in Reformation Historyat UCSB. From there he moved to Porterville, CA with his family and was apastor for seven years before becoming a teacher of history, Bible, and Honors English at Central Valley Christian High School in Visalia, CA. Jonathan Rainbow loved music and was a great story-teller, two passions that came together in the four full-length operas he composed and produced inlocal theaters. He leaves to his family, friends, students and many who have been blessed by his preaching, a legacy of faithful service to his Lordand bold preaching of the Word of God. Jonathan is survived by his wife Pat of 38 years, three children, Hannah Ploegstra (John) of Visalia, JesseRainbow (Andrea) of Somerville, MA, and David Rainbow (Brady) of Glen Ridge,NJ.
THE GORDIAN KNOT
n. 1. An exceedingly complicated problem or deadlock. 2. An intricate knot tied by King Gordius of Phrygia and cut by Alexander the Great with his sword after hearing an oracle promise that whoever could undo it would be the next ruler of Asia.
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