A Sidekick's Blog

Finally

June 5, 2017
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Last night my lovely bride and I finally joined a church we can both agree on, and the adventure begins anew towards mutual growth on common ground.


Presbyterian Again

May 24, 2017
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I guess it was about 2 years ago that I left a Presbyterian Church in America – henceforth PCA church for a Reformed Baptist church that was truly Reformed, not a mixture of Eastern Orthodox liturgy with popular evangelicalism and secret flirtations among the staff with the writings of N.T. Wright. I explained in a blog post why I became a Baptist. Now, I find myself back in a PCA church – and with the blessing of the Elders at my former Baptist church! Not due to doctrinal differences (which do still matter), but because my bride and I need to be of the same mind and under the same spiritual headship. We had been getting some marriage counseling. Everyone should! It’s very helpful to avoid self-deception and making me aware of way I was hurting my family without even knowing it. At a certain point, because church is central and vital to making the best of a Christian marriage, and because my wife wouldn’t join my church (why is not relevant to this post), I asked the Elders about looking elsewhere, even though I had a vital role in worship there. It is with their blessing that my wife and I – together – are joining with a PCA church here in town. None of the fancy Orthodox-inspired liturgy, no flirtations with damnable heresies, and the Lord’s Supper every week (I have always wished for that)! A chance at real friendships is part of the reason God is moving us there too, I think. It just wasn’t possible without both of us being committed to the same church.

In the post linked above, I cited three differences between Reformed Baptists and their Presbyterian brethren. In my situation now I’m having to give them a second look, especially since we’re joining this new church and expect to be more than just “regular attenders.”

Hermeneutics:

“Baptists don’t deuce,” my former pastor told me in explaining the difference. But to reach some of the conclusions they have reached, they had to have deduced them “by necessary consequence” even though not contained, per se, in the Scriptures. Baptism, for example, which they define as immersion only, forbidding any other mode. In Scripture there are multiple baptisms, and not all of them by immersion. “The Greek word baptizo means ‘to immerse,'” they say, yet I can’t find independent proof of that claim from anyone but Baptist scholars who simply assert it as fact. Applying the sacrament only to believers is also deduced, since creating a type-and-shadow relationship between physical birth and spiritual birth (regeneration) also requires deduction beyond what is strictly contained in the Scriptures. The Scriptures themselves draw a parallel between Old Testament circumcision and New Testament covenant baptism. One of my favorite little Baptist deductions is drawn from 1 Peter 3:18-21, in which Baptists must deduce that “baptism now saves you” means “only believers should be baptized.” Two Old Testament events are compared to baptism (besides covenant baptism): Noah’s flood (in the 1 Peter 3 passage), and the flight from Egypt (1st Corinthians 10:1-4). In both of those events, I say with a wry but sincerely friendly smile, the people of God were sprinkled, and it was the enemies of God who were immersed! Oops…

Covenant:

The covenants of God with Adam, with Moses, with David – are eternal, even though ancient Israel as it was in Moses’ time and David’s time is long gone. Baptists separate them, reasonably so, into Old (type and shadow) and New (reality prefigured by type and shadow). But Christ fulfilled the Covenants rather than doing away with them. There remains one everlasting Covenant of Grace, which existed even before Creation itself, as the Three Persons of the Godhead covenanted together to redeem a people for God from the fallen race of Adam. Type and shadow are certainly demonstrable from the Scriptures, but they do not represent separate covenants, nor separate people.

The Regulative Principle of Worship

Since the baptism of the children of believers is not expressly and explicitly commanded in the New Testament, Baptists are wise to refer to the Regulative Principle as their main argument for not practicing covenant (“infant”) baptism. We are, however, expressly and explicitly commanded not to neglect the traditions of the Apostles (2 Thes 3:6, 25). The validity of custom is asserted “for those who wish to be contentious,” in 1st Cor. 11:16. So I’m not sure the RP truly applies when it comes to baptism.

A lot of Baptist ways of thinking and applying the Word will remain with me as long as I live, and I’m grateful for it!

But – omygosh, my friends – I’m a Presbyterian. Again.


Simplicity, Sincerity and Worship

December 15, 2013
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I have been a Baptist, a Charismatic (Pentecostal), a Presbyterian, and now – for the time being – an unaffiliated “Protestant.”

In all that time, the sweetest and purest and most deeply satisfying worship experience I have ever known, apart from my own private time alone with God, was the unaccompanied singing of Psalms – scripture that was written to be sung! Unfettered by ecclesiastical traditions and trappings, uncluttered by the addition of organ, piano, or guitar, unassuming, unpretentious, and unerring in the perfection of the words of scripture itself, and sung from the heart by a handful of Jesus’ disciples who wished only to adore Him, and to do so in the way He Himself prescribed instead of inventing some fancy, elaborate pomp and ceremony as if to impress Him, or in some effort to bring Him down from heaven into our midst. That simple time of worship, lasting only minutes, was as close as I have ever come to “heaven on Earth.”

Much more so than in those times of frenzied Pentecostal efforts to “conjure up the Holy Ghost” (to put it as kindly as I can), and much more so than in the grand, lofty, High Church, Anglican-style pomp and ceremony of my last former church. Today I revisited my old church because I have family visiting this week for whom it is their home church. But if today’s visit had been my first visit to this PCA church, it would surely have been my last. While all the pomp and ceremony is beautiful and pleasing to the senses, and while on it’s face the words of the liturgy and song service were fully glorifying to God, there was little else to appeal to a simple, humble sidekick who just wants to adore his Lord as the Lord has instructed. And the sermon, the pastor walked over to the Advent Wreath and explained that neither he nor the Session really knows what it’s supposed to mean, we just have it there and light the candles in a certain order because. Just because. My first thought: “Is this a Reformed church?” My second thought: “No, apparently not (that is, more apparent than before), and that’s part of the reason I left.” So we’ve got all these symbols and ceremonial trappings borrowed from Anglicanism, Romanism, and even Eastern Orthodoxy, which we don’t even understand, yet we employ them in “Reformed” worship? Was all that pomp and circumstance supposed to make up for such a sermon?

picard headesk

Don’t get me wrong, I know this Pastor well enough to know that he loves the Lord and is passionate for His gospel. I know him to be a devoted servant of Christ who is not only a lot smarter than me, but far more disciplined spiritually, mentally, and academically than me. I’d love to be half the Christian he is! And yet, simplicity and humility in my faith, in my practice, and in my worship have become far more valuable to me lately than academic discipline and spiritual knowledge. That denomination’s willingness to tolerate the damnable heresy of “the Federal Vision” eventually manifests itself this way I suppose, since FV is basically little more than a call back to Rome! The Reformation’s Regulative Principle of Worship is simply the doctrine of Sola Scriptura applied to worship. I suppose it just figures that the Regulative Principle would be an early casualty of my former church’s tolerance for such a heresy.

It makes me sad. And at the same time, glad to have found another church that practices sincere, humble, simple, unpretentious worship – and they’ve never even heard of the Regulative Principle of Worship.