"In 1994, a group of prominent evangelicals and Roman Catholics issued a statement of cooperation entitled 'Evangelicals and Catholics Together'" and a general evangelical hubbub followed. The document was applauded by numerous evangelicals and attacked by others. Unfortunately, some of the most ardent critics of ECT -- men like Dave Hunt -- are not nearly as Protestant as they think they are.
The premise of the ECT was that evangelicals and Catholics have quite a bit in common, and all to the good.
In this outstanding book, Kevin Reed shows that modern evangelicals and Catholics do have quite a bit in common, but it is a commonality which amounts to a joint rejection of classical Protestantism, which in turn is a corruption of the gospel. Reed in particular addresses the crucial issues of salvation and worship, carefully establishing a biblical foundation.
could be improved in some minor respects. Reed demonstrates in a
footnote that he does not yet fully grasp the classical Protestant distinction
between a corrupt church and an apostate church (p. 27). The duty of reform is
necessary within the former, as
well as the duty of separation from the latter. The Church was overwhelmingly corrupt from the Second
Nicea on, but was not apostate until Trent. Modern evangelicalism is corrupt,
but not yet apostate -- and may God grant reformation. In that reformation,
books like this one will play an important part.
by Kevin Reed
P. O. Box 180922
Dallas, Texas 75218
29 January 1996
P.O. Box 8741
Moscow, Idaho 83843
I was astounded by the comments of your book reviewer, in response to my book Making Shipwreck of the Faith: Evangelicals and Roman Catholics Together (Credenda/Agenda, 8:1, p. 7). The reviewer refers to a footnote in which I wrote, "if both Rome and evangelicals have corrupted the gospel, why should either group be regarded as a true Christian church?" Your reviewer then asserts that I failed to grasp "the classic Protestant distinction between a corrupt church and an apostate church," along with the duty to reform within the former, while separating from the latter.
Perhaps your reviewer should reread chapter 2 of the book. In that chapter, among other things, I have shown that "evangelicals" are proclaiming a doctrine of free-will through the "gospel" of decisionalism. Their message is a false gospel. Indeed, the doctrine of free will was condemned by the church at the time of Augustine; and the synod of Dordt echoed that conclusion when it condemned the Arminians for bringing "again out of hell the Pelagian error" of free will.
Regarding "classic Protestant" distinctions, I would direct you to the following creeds: The Confession of the English Congregation at Geneva (1556); the French Confession of Faith (1559), articles 26-28; the Scottish Confession of Faith (1560), chapters 16 and 18; the Belgic Confession of Faith (1561), articles 27-29; the Second Helvetic Confession (1566), chapter 17. These Protestant confessions uniformly regard the marks of the church to be the true preaching of the gospel, the right administration of the sacraments, and the practice of church discipline. In delineating these marks, the creeds often speak pastorally; they provide guidance for Christians who are confused by the rival assertions of aberrant religious assemblies which claim to be churches of Christ.
Now the logic of the case is quite simple: preaching the true gospel is a mark of the true church; many modern evangelical churches are not preaching the true gospel, but have instead embraced a false gospel; therefore, these evangelical churches are not true churches.
There is also another aspect of this discussion which your reviewer misses. If we characterize a group as apostate, we infer that they have fallen from a previous position of truth to a subsequent position of error. For some "evangelical" churches this may be true. Yet, in the current ecclesiastical landscape, there are many "evangelical" churches which were founded on a commitment to free-will, decisionalism, charismatic errors, etc. They never possessed the truth; they are simply heretics, not apostates. Historically considered, such churches bear a close resemblance to the Anabaptists, whose assemblies the reformers uniformly regarded as false churches.
The Protestant reformers called upon all men to flee from hotbeds of heresy to separate from both Rome and the Anabaptist assemblies and to join only those churches which bear the marks of the true church. This fact seems to have completely escaped your reviewer.
Thus, I conclude that it is your reviewer who fails to grasp important "classical Protestant distinctions" such as the distinction between the true gospel and a false gospel, and the distinction between a true church and a false church.
When I received my latest copy of Credenda/Agenda, I was hoping for better things. But when I saw your reply to my letter, I was grieved by your toleration toward the false gospel of modern evangelicals.
Your comments in the latest issue of the magazine evade the central issue of my earlier correspondence, so I'll put the question more directly. Is the Pelagian (free-will) "gospel" of contemporary evangelicals the true gospel, or is it a false gospel?
If you answer that it is a true gospel, then you stand contrary to the councils of the church (from the 4th century through the 17th century), as well as against the published opinions of the major reformers (Luther, Calvin, Knox). If you answer that it is not a true gospel, then you must concede that churches holding to the free-will gospel of decisionalism fail to exhibit the marks of a true church.
In the former case, you must relinquish your claim to be "reformed;" in the latter case you must abandon your previously-stated position that such "evangelical" churches are to be accounted true churches of Christ (unless you believe that a person can be reformed and yet simultaneously stand against the unified witness of the reformed creeds and the major reformers a fallacy which surely is beyond the logicians of Credenda/Agenda).
Your claim that evanglicalism has not yet held "her Trent" is meaningless, since the true church both before and after Trent has condemned free will. Besides, I would be interested to know: from your perspective, specifically, what would it take for you to consider American evangelicalism to have crossed the line that demarcates her Trent? You seem to believe that the boundary is somewhere beyond abandoning the gospel, since you hold that the false gospel of evangelicalism is an insufficient cause for separation.
Moreover, your analysis of the historic situation prior to Trent is inadequate. It's true that Protestant theologians consider Trent a defining event in Rome's departure from the gospel (the consummate seal of her apostasy). But does that mean that separation from Rome was not lawful (or desirable) prior to Trent? Luther was forced out of the Romish communion, but Calvin and Knox withdrew unilaterally: all prior to Trent. The reformers then lifted a unified voice, consistently calling upon the faithful to separate from Rome, so as not to partake of the popish sins of idolatry and corruption of the gospel again, all before Trent.
Likewise, the reformers denounced the Anabaptist assemblies as false churches. And many of the Anabaptist heresies are embodied within contemporary evangelical churches.
Your citation from Jus Divinum is a nice quote, but it does not speak to the issue at hand; it is concerned with abstract issues regarding the continuation of outward ordinances within the pale of professing Christendom; the quote contains no pastoral advice respecting the duty of church members as regards apostate churches. Thus, the dubious comments of an individual (or individuals), found in a theological treatise, should not be used to set aside the clear teaching of the numerous godly councils which produced the creeds and confessions of Protestants churches.
Again, I direct your attention to the creeds listed in my previous correspondence: The Confession of the English Congregation at Geneva (1556); the French Confession of Faith (1559), articles 26-28; the Scottish Confession of Faith (1560), chapters 16 and 18; the Belgic Confession (1566), chapter 17. I find it interesting that you failed to interact with the content of any of the confessions listed in my letter. My point was that these creeds speak specifically to the issue in a pastoral way; they instruct Christians to join themselves to a true church, and to flee from false churches. In our day, when the true gospel is perverted in "evangelical" churches, it is unconscionable for you to leave readers with the impression that they should remain in congregations which embrace the false gospel of decisionalism.
Finally, you say "we simply have to disagree about this point." If you mean by this assertion, that we should hold each other's opinion as a valid expression of biblical and reformed thought, then I do not agree to disagree over an issue so paramount as the gospel. You may not preach the free-will gospel of decisionalism yourself. But your toleration of it is evil in itself. That kind of toleration is a reprehensible species of religious pluralism which should be banished from the thinking of all godly Christians (2 Cor. 11:3-4; Gal. 1:8-9). Therefore, I attest my unwillingness to adopt that kind of thinking, and encourage you to repent of your softness toward the purveyors of a false gospel.
The book being discussed above is available from SWRB:
Making Shipwreck of the Faith: Evangelicals and
Roman Catholics Together
This is the best book, critiquing this unholy alliance, to appear yet. It is the only book that has gone to the heart of the issues, at the most basic level, and not merely dealt with the obvious external differences with Rome. It convincingly shows that, concerning "critical aspects of doctrine and practice," many "modern evangelicals have become very much like Rome." The two major areas dealt with are the doctrines of salvation (especially regarding justification, predestination, evangelism and the bondage of the will) and worship. Arminianism, in both these areas, has already made such inroads into "evangelicalism," that most Protestant churches would not even be recognized by their own Protestant forefathers. For example, Reed writes, "[i]f you are resting your assurance of salvation upon your "decision;" if you think that your "free will" or "accepting Christ" produced the new birth within you; then you are deceived, you are no better off than a Judaizer or a Romanist. You have made your "decision" into a work, and subverted the doctrine of salvation by grace." Furthermore, it is perceptively pointed out that "[t]oday, many Roman Catholics and evangelicals decry the sins of abortion and homosexuality as manifestations of our nation's corruptions (which they are); but these same contemporary moralists are generally silent about the heinous sin of corrupt worship" (p. 35). You would think that for much of "evangelicalism" today, the first table of the law was never a reflection of God's unchanging moral perfections, or that the God of the Old Testament has forgotten His own most important moral directions to mankind -- at least since the coming of Christ. If you want the Biblical reasons for rejecting man-made gospels and man-made worship (whether they be found in Rome, or among the Charismatics, Baptists, independents, or other so-called "evangelicals") this book tells it like it is. For as Reed states, "[l]iving in an era of religious pluralism, we are too apt to forget that heresy is a form of moral corruption; it is classed among 'works of the flesh' along with adultery, fornication, uncleaness, idolatry, witchcraft, murder, and drunkenness (Gal. 5:19-21). That is how the Lord views heresy. And thus heresy is dangerous to our souls; there are heresies which are "damnable" in their nature (2 Pet. 2:1). The issues which fostered the Protestant Reformation are not simply matters for academic debate. They are great and eternal matters respecting the way of salvation and the proper worship of God" (book, p. 82). Don't miss this important and fiery rebuke against modern apostasy, calling the signers of ECT to repentance!
Other titles by the same author include:
"The Protestant Reformation was a conflict over many critical issues. And of all the issues contested between Romanists and the reformers, no issue was more crucial than the question of true worship" (Reed, John Knox the Forgotten Reformer, p. 37). This book explains the two preeminent characteristics of all faithful corporate worship, as seen both in the OT and in the NT. It also contains an excellent section on disputed aspects of worship. This section, in particular, is very valuable, in that it shows how many non-Romanist communions today have actually rejected the Reformation and adopted Rome's presuppositions regarding worship. Refutes modern innovations in worship (like dance, drama, etc.) and the advocates of "free-style services, wherein anyone present may exercise his "gifts" spontaneously," what the author calls "religious democracy with a vengeance." Also deals with instrumental music, man-made hymnody, ecclesiastical holi-days and the use of the cross as a religious symbol. One of our best shorter books on this topic (80 pages).
(Softcover) $7.95- 40% = 4.77
The Canterbury Tales
Interacts with James Jordan's Geneva Papers on worship. An excellent expose demonstrating how Jordan's views on worship are seriously flawed and how his writings "often show more charity toward Papists, than toward the Reformed faith." Reed wades through the many contradictions found in Jordan's writings, to show that corruption of the Reformed faith is most evident in three major areas: 1. the repudiation of the Reformed regulative principle of worship; 2. the attempt to introduce superstitions and unwarranted practices into the church; and 3. the rejection of confessional Presbyterianism. Elaborating, Reed notes that "the primary indication of the Tyler (this was first written in 1984) corruption of worship is seen in their repudiation of the Reformed regulative principle of worship. This repudiation is manifest in four ways: by false portrayals of the regulative principle; by a failure to make proper distictions within the regulative principle; by a faulty pairing of Reformed and Anabaptist notions; and by a failure to deal exegetically with the scriptural position of the reformers (and the Reformed confessions) on the topic of worship... Moreover, Mr. Jordan does not stop with the repudiation of the Reformed regulative principle. He goes on with a program to reintroduce within the church many superstitions and unwarrranted practices" (pp. 4, 24). This is not surprising, for as historical teaches, when you reject Scriptural institutions of worship, you of necessity must replace them with some form of man-made, idolatrous, ceremony or rite; building monuments to antichrist and the false prophets of the past! This very fact is illustrated by Reed when he writes, "It is also quite telling that Mr. Jordan acknoledges his affinity with Lutheran and Anglican forms of worship, in preference to others (Geneva Papers, #25). Lutheran/Anglican worship is built on an entirely different presupposition than Reformed worshiip. The Lutheran/Anglican position holds that we may worship God by various means, as long as what we are doing is not explicitly forbidden in scripture (this error of Jordan's can also be seen in his Sociology of the Church, when after paying lip service to the regulative principle (p. XX) he then repeatedly argues for the introduction of idoltry in worship on the basis This is a good introduction to historic Reformed worship, using Jordan as an example of what misguided zeal (and a great deal of ignorance) can produce in this area. Reed writes clearly and has a very good grasp of the Scriptural and historical data concerning worship issues. Reed also includes an excellent bibliography which clearly demonstrates the point at issue, showing that Jordan has jettisoned the historic Reformed view of the regulative principle (as have most modern Reformed churches and Christian Reconstructionists), all his protests to the contrary notwithstanding.
(Booklet, 28 pages) $3.95- 40% = 2.37
Christmass: A Biblical Critique
Co-authored by Michael Schneider, this books argues that Christmas is essentially a pagan holiday; and that its religious elements foster an imitation gospel which actually keeps the world from understanding the true gospel. Committed to sola Scriptura and a desire to maintain the purity of Scriptural worship, it contains a historical survey of the Pagan roots of this Roman Catholic holy-day. Numerous citations concerning Protestant opposition to "ho-ho" are cited, demonstrating that the basis of Protestant opposition to holy-days arises out of a proper understanding of the fourth commandment -- for God alone has the authority to mark out or decree special religious (i.e. holy or separated) days. And this is exactly what he has done with the Lord's day, giving us 52 holy days per year. Whenever other "holy-days" are decreed, by human authority, worship deteriorates, the regulative principle is ignored, and a low view of the Sabbath often prevails. It is interesting to note that among the Puritans, colonial magistrates in New England banned the public celebration of the Christmass in these words, cited from one of their public notices: "The observance of Christmas having been deemed a Sacrilege... and similar Satanical Practices are hereby forbidden with the Offender liable to a Fine of FIVE SHILLINGS." Gillespie waxes eloquent on this matter, including festival days among those "ceremonies that are unlawful, because they sort us with idolaters," writing, "by communicating with idolaters in their rites and ceremonies, we ourselves become guilty of idolatry; even as Ahaz, 2 Kings 16:10, was an idolater, eo ipso, that he took the pattern of an altar from idolaters. Forasmuch, then, as kneeling before the consecrated bread, the sign of the cross, surplice, festival days, bishopping, bowing down to the altar, administration of the sacraments in private places, etc., are the wares of Rome, the baggage of Babylon, the trinkets of the whore, the badges of Popery, the ensigns of Christ's enemies, and the very trophies of antichrist, -- we cannot conform, communicate and symbolise with the idolatrous Papists in the use of the same, without making ourselves idolaters by participation. Shall the chaste spouse of Christ take upon her the ornaments of the whore? Shall the Israel of God symbolise with her who is spiritually called Sodom and Egypt? Shall the Lord's redeemed people wear the ensigns of their captivity? Shall the saints be seen with the mark of the beast? Shall the Christian church be like the antichristian, the holy like the profane, religion like superstition, the temple of God like the synagogue of Satan?" (A Dispute Against English Popish Ceremonies, in Gillespie's Works volume one, p. 80). The Spirit speaking in the Scriptures ought to determine our practices, and not emotions or traditions of men, thus we hope that you will give this book a fair hearing.
(Softcover) $7.95- 50% = 3.98
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