Friday, October 06, 2006

Doug Phillips: "A new vision for an old path"

Doug Phillips' presentation had the lengthy title, “Semper Reformanda: The reformation heritage of the movement to restore family and church to their complementary jurisdictions”

This is not to introduce new doctrine or say that the truths of the past need changing, but to say that we are fallible and need housekeeping in our brains. Christians should be always reforming as we seek to become more consistent to the Word of God.

“We are not revolutionaries but reformers, not taking a new path but an ancient path. Let's take the truth that has always been there and apply it.

“I regret that we don't have all day to talk about the Puritans. I consider myself a neopuritan, and we are essentially a neopuritan work, with neopuritan sympathies, not “puritanism” but in a common adherence to the sufficiency of the Scripture. From that tradition we have the United States of America. The founders especially at Plymouth made the same arguments in the same debate that we are today.

“Suppose a nation in some distant region should take the Bible for their only law book and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited ! What a Utopia; what a paradise would this region be!” -- John Adams

The Bible speaks to every aspect of life. This is the debate between Anglicanism and Puritanism, between the Reformation and Catholicism. Thomas Aquinas the Scholastic believed reason was not impaired by the fall and therefore was reliable for deriving secular issues; the Reformers said man's mind is tainted by his sin. William Blackstone's commentaries on the laws of England said that “the laws of general revelation are not sufficient to teach us to govern ourselves, and therefore God has given us a special revelation”, the Bible, and the rules of common law are based on the Pentateuch (and incorporated twice into the Constitution).

Church leaders are not comfortable with the idea of applying this kind of standard.
We have swear words in Christianity, don't we. They are designed as ad hominem arguments to neutralize the opponents. Just ban them as Legalist or Pharisee, so we don't have to discuss the issues they raise. We live in a culture of gossip and slander, and Christians are kings at this.
History is informative of the work of God over time. How can we be informed by the labors of those who have gone before? We care about history, but the Bible is our final stand. What history shows us is that modern evangelical Christianity is full of the traditions of man that have no Biblical foundation. The church today is largely the result of MTV culture, so that even lukewarm John Adams is seen as a right-wing radical legalistic theonomic Pharisee by the average pastor.

2 Tim 3:16-17 is a watershed passage for our fathers in the faith. If this is true, we're going to be living differently. He referenced the French Reformers Confession of Faith of 1599 on the primacy of Scripture [It might be findable by a search on “examined, regulated, and reformed according to them”]

When push came to shove, the Anglicans' view on vestments was if it wasn't expressly forbidden, it was expressly allowed.

Matt 15:3 – Why do you transgress for the sake of your tradition?

Caution of the tendency to a Talmudic attitude, but compare Christ's teaching that the principle of the matter – adultery in the mind – and the apostle's teaching about muzzled oxen with respect to compensating pastors. “Won't you look beyond this husk and look to the heart of the matter?”

“The movement to bring unity to church and home has its roots in the reformation as embraced by the Puritan tradition.

The theological conflict between the opponents and proponents of family integrated churches is the same theological which characterized the tension between the Church of England and the Puritans, Separatists, and Independents and Presbyterians of the 17th Century.”

Key issues of the Reformation: Key Issues Today

= Does the Bible speak to everything, and if not, what standard do we apply?
It is fallacious to say the because we don't see it mentioned in Scripture, we then have an ethics-free zone to live in. This is the hermeneutic today; where the Anglicans and Catholics said the Bible did not speak to everything, the Puritans said the Bible does speak principially to every issue.

= If something is not expressly forbidden in the Bible, it is expressly allowed?

= Are we free to introduce into worship traditions and practices not found in Scripture? He calls Finney and others “deleterious” in their influence on the modern church's marketing approach and “theology by statistics”. “It doesn't bother me that Christians disagree on what the Bible says, but that we disagree on what the authority is going to be, that bothers me a lot.” People died and the Pilgrims immigrated to avoid requirements to add non-Biblical traditions. Does it sound funny that America was founded by people didn't want to celebrate holidays or make the sign of the cross in worship?

Elements of the Reformation Movement

= Their doctrine was timely and confessional. They spoke to the issues of the day; Richard Baxter, for example, wrote against bear-baiting.

= Their preaching emphasized orthodoxy and orthopraxy.

= Their message and lifestyle prioritized holiness. They were the butt of jokes and mocking, and are today, because of this standard. Modern evangelical Christianity has obliterated the concept of holiness by making everything “holy”, or rather, as “neutral” such that we can take part. John Bunyan wrote against women's fashions of the day as exposing too much at the neckline.

= They had a high regard for the entire law-word of God and saw its applicability to issues as diverse as gambling to the rules of procedure to be employed by the civil magistrate. They dealt with so many of these issues 400 years ago, but men who quote Calvin in the pulpit would never read what he wrote on birth control, for example.

= The blessing of men like Calvin and William Bradford comes from their hermeneutics, even if we disagree on their application.

= They were sacrificial visionaries who emphasized covenant keeping and multi-generational faithfulness.

Sharper Iron . Com has officially pronounced an anathema on the family integrated church movement as false teaching that Christians should have nothing to do with. “I have compassion for our fundamentalist brethren and for anyone who is caught up in the whirlwind of pop culture; I don't think we need to be burning bridges but winning our friends. Homeschoolers experienced persecution from the government and more from the church; they simply out-blessed their critics. Ten years later “Maybe we don't like them, but maybe we can sell them books.”

"One of the greatest things that could happen would be if the death- and youth-obsessed culture imploded so we all went back to basics." Bradford and the Pilgrims chose to move into the land of natives who tortured their captives rather than compromise themselves to stay in England. We don't understand true persecution and commitment in the face of it.

= Their worship was regulative. Anything that was substantive to the worship of God, if it wasn't spoken and given, was not done. The Bible speaks to that and no man may alter that. No Sunday Schools, no nurseries, and their children sat with them sometimes for as long as three hours.

= They appealed to youth but not to youth culture. They wrote and spoke to the youth but spoke to them as adults, not as Veggie Tales-kids who couldn't handle the truth of God's word. They understood we are raising warriors for God and the way they thought and spoke was critical.

Samuel Willard (1682) “[You] will be unworthy heirs of your fathers' estates if you do not prosecute their begun designs.” He quoted six propositions of Thomas Cartwright 1571.

= Puritans were persecuted by execution, banishment, and acts of uniformity.

He outlined the Reformation heritage of training children, that the fathers are responsible, truth is not to be dumbed down, and parents are commanded to procreate.

If the Scriptural patterns, precepts, and principles all point to children with parents in the meeting of the church, what then is the argument for banning them from worship? He cited the London Baptist Confession marriage and polygamy, noting that none of the passages referenced specifically command not to take multiple wives; therefore, may preachers preach against polygamy? There's no explicit command forbidding it! But didn't God give us the positive pattern of how is should be, and examples of the foolishness of men who violated that principle? But you can't use that argument if you follow the pattern of Sharper Iron and others in their camp.

Doug took a few minutes to unleash the heavy guns in the debate of Reformation and birth control. “I need to show this to you; I want you to understand the next time you read some huge tome about the 'baby machines' and the rise of homeschoolers, we are a bunch of moderates compared to our forefathers.”

He included Martin Luther's famous comment starting “The purpose of marriage is not pleasure ... they despise the blessing of God, the Author of marriage.” This can probably be easily found online. He then went to a lengthy commentary by Calvin on the sin of Onan, who called it “an unforgiveable crime”. After a brief citation of Augustine against the Manichean perversion of marriage, he returned to Luther calling Onan “a malicious and incorrigible scoundrel” and his actions “a Sodomitic sin.” Heavy guns indeed.

“I want you to understand something. Many Christians are doing things that involve abortifacient potential; I wonder if, when Jesus says 'of such is the kingdom of heaven', does that include the millions who have died because of pastors and Christian who are practicing these things because they follow the pop culture” and look down on those who seek to hold the Biblical standard. See Vision Forum's position on fruitfulness on “The Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy”.

He wrapped up with a common topic among pastors of our acquaintance, gossip. Several prominent men in the past year have been seriously slandered online, impacting families, ministries, and reputations. “Let each of us be convicted on how we manage our tongues. The Reformers, largely speaking, defended their positions but did not use ad hominem arguments. They used strong language but great amounts of charity.” He quoted the Westminster Catechism, Q.145 on the ninth commandment. “Receiving evil reports is a violation. If you frequent websites that feature reviling and gossip, you are violating the Ninth Commandment if you receive these things.”

A new vision for an old path – not family idolatry, but going back to the Bible and living the way He tells us.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the report. I found it quite informative. It is interesting to me that Mr. Phillips is doing so well at saying things the Church has believed for hundreds of years.