“…Thus many of us seem to be as men without a country, or as odd individualists in other fellowships. Yet we do not relish the spirit of total independency which is plagued with weakness. Perhaps it is time to begin a Fellowship of like-minded brethren for mutual edification and encouragement…” – Walter J. Chantry, 1966
It is possible to posit a variety of dates for the beginning of the Reformed Baptist movement in America. The first of the modern Reformed Baptist churches was started in 1951. The same church adopted the 1689 Confession in 1958. Ernie Reisinger and Walt Chantry met Al Martin for the first time in 1965. However, if the question is when a movement of churches began, the answer must be fifty years ago today – June 7, 1966.
That day, which in 1966 also fell on a Tuesday, was marked by the opening of the first of the Carlisle Pastors Conferences which were the first attempt to form a more formal communion among those churches which subscribed to the 1689 Confession. The conferences were hosted by Grace Baptist Church of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, of which Chantry was pastor. The reason is expressed in the quote above, drawn from the letter of invitation sent to those Calvinistic Baptists known to the Carlisle church…
Pastor Tom Chantry encourages us to draw out the right lesson from Driscoll and Tchividjian controversy:
…What we [Reformed Baptists] have, then, is a distinct system from Presbyterianism, but one which, like Presbyterianism, endeavors to pay heed to the biblical principles by which all churches must be governed, namely: 1) the Headship of the Lord Jesus Christ over the church, 2) the careful application of the authority and power he grants the church through orderly processes, 3) a mutual and prayerful respect between the officers and members of every congregation, and 4) a similarly mutual and prayerful respect between like-minded congregations which serve under the same Head. It is, in other words, a serious polity worthy of serious Christians.
But will it preserve us from a badly mishandled scandal? No, not if we trust in polity alone. Forgive my transgression of theological categories, but right polity cannot save ex opere operato! To avoid scandal, or rather to handle it rightly when it comes, we need grace from on high. For this reason our polity must be pursued carefully and prayerfully by upright and humble men. Otherwise it will fail. We may wish to say that such terrible scandals as Driscoll and Tchividjian have perpetrated could never happen under our polity, but as our Presbyterian friends have discovered, they might! In fact, brothers, I would say that they have, only not so publicly…
The reason, however, is probably not polity. It is far more likely that the problem lies within our hearts. Maybe we do have one of those polities which, to expropriate Adams’ words, is “better fitted for being well administered than others.” Very well, but let us heed Pope also, and administer it well and faithfully.
I’m sure that you, like everyone else in America, recognizes that we may well be in the midst of a sea change on the issue of abortion. A few years ago, when Kermit Gosnell (a rather typical inner city abortionist) was tried and sentenced, the true nature of the abortion industry began to leak out. Now, due to the stunning revelations of the Center for Medical Progress, the truth is front and center. In spite of the desire of the media to shield you and the rest of us from the truth, in spite of two entertaining primary races, and in spite of a dust-up at congress within the President’s party, there is still a great deal of light shining on the behind-the-scenes activities of Planned Parenthood. Both sides are quick to sing the party line, but I’ve been wondering how to talk to you.
Many in America have attempted to ignore the ugly details, but you, of all people, cannot afford to do that. One of the terrible revelations of the last few weeks has been that Planned Parenthood regularly misleads those who come into their clinics. You may have been told a story about curing cancer, and even if you refused to donate “tissue” the remains of your baby may have been taken and sold. It turns out no one was concerned with your dignity and privacy, and that the comforting words were all a façade. You, of all of us, need to look this scandal squarely in the face and acknowledge what has been done to you.
That is because in one sense you are among the victims of the cruel corporation which receives half a billion dollars of our state and federal funds every year in order to perpetrate this monstrosity on us. But in another sense, and I know I am telling you something you already recognize, most of you are not really victims. You were not pinned down by a secret criminal enterprise and forced to “donate” specimens; instead you, a person with free will and a conscience, chose this path. That is the real reason it is so difficult to know how to address you.
Now I understand that “abortive mother” is a diverse group. For starters, there are about 58,000,000 of you. You could hardly fit into one simple category. A few of you believe you did a good thing. Others have doubts, even if you put on a brave face to the world. Others have deep regrets. Some are depressed, some convicted. Some have come to have peace with what you now believe was a very poor decision. Some of you are my sisters in Christ – saved for exactly the same reason as myself: because Jesus saves sinners like me whose souls are home to unspeakable evil and who sometimes act on it.
I understand this diversity, and so I ask your patience: hear me out. I may not appear to speak to where you are – and how can I hope to do so for so many people? But what I have to say applies, I believe, to every one of you.
Pastor Tom Chantry finished up his five part series on who is to blame for America’s moral collapse and what we do from here. Here are some snippets from part one:
Most American Christians are currently experiencing cultural whiplash.
…in one month’s time, we discover that actually, the constitutional republic our civics classes taught us about simply no longer exists. Instead, a panel of elite lawyers make up the constitution as they go, while an even smaller number of elite bureaucrats set policies according to their whims. Consider:
An American system which has long tolerated and for a while celebrated sexual perversion has now institutionalized the same. Unnatural relations are now sanctified by the name “marriage.”…
The United States has abandoned overnight the decades old policy of non-proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction…
Conclusive evidence has been unearthed that our nation, which easily leads the world in the practice of slaughtering our own babies, has for decades subsidized an organization which has not only killed 900 healthy babies a day for years, but which has profited by that holocaust by selling off baby parts to the highest bidder…
Perhaps what most unifies these three stories is the entire absence of any moral sense in the nation…
As I reflect on that biblically, I have come to this conclusion: the real culprit is the church. American Christianity is responsible for this mess. I don’t even mean those who have abandoned the central tenets of the faith to accommodate culture; I mean that the believing, orthodox Christians of America are more to blame than any other group. This disaster is ours, and for a very simple reason: we, who were supposed to live as salt and light in the world, have abandoned the concept of morality…
A very serious reformation is needed. Efforts to defund (and dismantle) Planned Parenthood are certainly a righteous cause. It is right for Christians to fight abortion, and to struggle to define marriage properly. However, a more fundamental reformation is necessary, and what is more, it is within the grasp of the church. I speak of a reformation of Evangelicalism – one in which we repent of the last half-century of abandonment of morality. The needed reformation will be spiritual, theological, ecclesiastical, and homiletical…
Pr. Tom Chantry doesn’t usually post his own sermons on his blog but Monday we were treated to a good dose of his preaching, and it is definitely a good listen. Check it out here [38 min. mp3]:
The letter to the Hebrews was written to Christian people whose earthly nation was crumbling and on the brink of collapse. It was intended to soothe their souls with the supremacy of the changeless Christ over every institution of this world. It offers great encouragement to all believers who discover that their nations and their homes are no “abiding city,” reminding us that we are on our desert pilgrimage to Zion.
While you’re listening you should subscribe to the sermon feed for Christ Reformed Baptist Church.
I wrote a post about the Sabbath and the conscience. It was long, so – being “that kind of Puritan” – I made it longer. Then I broke it up into a series. Now we have five small installments, none of which should be too much for a day’s musing on the subject…
My intent this week is not to thoroughly examine the doctrine and practice of Sabbath, nor to defend the same. I have no intention of answering every random question anyone ever wanted to pose to a Sabbatarian. Instead we will be very tightly focused on the questions of conscience: is the Sabbath command “written on the heart” as Paul describes the conscience, and to the degree that it is not, what does that tell us?
The confessional position, then, may be summarized in a few points:
There is a universal and moral law, rooted in the character of God Himself, and applicable to all men at all times.
That law was first given to Adam, instilled in him through conscience, and remains on the conscience of every one of his descendants, even if the conscience is muted by sin and may be repressed through consistent transgression.
The same moral principles have been applicable at every point in history, and have been written in the Scriptures at various places. The moral law is summarized briefly in the two “Great Commandments” cited by Christ, and is summarized at greater length in the Ten Commandments.
One evidence of this universal morality is that all men everywhere know the same basic moral code, regardless of whether or not they have even encountered the Bible.
One critique of the Sabbath plays a large role in the thinking of many. It is the argument that Sabbath constitutes an exception to Paul’s conscience proof. “All right,” says the antinomian, “You want to say that the law written on men’s hearts is moral. That is true of the other Commandments, but the Fourth? We have a whole society which does not practice Sabbath, and no one feels pangs of conscience about it! How do you explain this if the moral law is written on everyone’s heart?
Before we can answer whether Reformed Baptists exist, we must first identify what that designation means. “Reformed Baptist” is a term – albeit a compound term – with a definition and a history. Understanding that history is necessary if anyone is going to understand what the first word in the term means. While a number of useful brief definitions exist, I intend to address the question from the standpoint of history.
Position papers in ARBCA are clarifications of the teaching of the Second London Confession, and as such are binding membership documents for its churches. Put another way, the Particular Baptists may have been the last Reformed group in England to adopt Cranmer’s words as part of their confessional standard, but their theological heirs are slated to be the first to determine whether those words are still worthy as a defining statement of ecclesiastical identity.
It is not surprising, then, that an ARBCA pastor has produced a most helpful volume of historical theology on this matter. Pastor Samuel Renihan of Trinity Reformed Baptist Church in La Mirada, California has edited God without Passions: a Reader. What Renihan has done is bring together a great deal of theological writing – not only on the doctrine of impassibility, but more broadly on the nature of God. His anthology begins at the Reformation and proceeds through the 17th century, examining the writings of various Reformed theologians and also of the Particular Baptists…
No pastor or elder who is going to participate in the weighty decisions at General Assembly ought to do so without familiarizing himself with the context and thought of our Confession. Now that this anthology is available, the failure to do so would be inexcusable.
I believe, though, that the subject matter is of great importance beyond this one denominational concern. The multiple recommendations from Reformed and Presbyterian scholars suggest that I am not alone…
So America is experiencing race riots again, which is simply awful.
My heart goes out to the people of Ferguson who are living this nightmare. My heart goes out to the police who risk their lives to protect ours. And my heart goes out to the Body of Christ, which is Black and White and Both and Neither, and in which we are expected to live as one.
Racial tension always exacerbates our struggle for unity, and racial violence does not bring out the best in any of us. Predictably, genuine Christian pastors of varying political, social, and cultural stripes have weighed in on the riots and their cause, and they have not agreed. Recriminations have followed. I have no desire to enter that fray.
In the midst of it, Voddie Baucham posted his thoughts on the Gospel Coalition blog, and while many have linked to his thoughts, it seems to me that most who have interacted or evaluated have either misunderstood or misrepresented his statements. It’s fairly obvious that most have read Baucham’s remarks through their own personal tinted goggles, so maybe I have also. But I’ll tell you what I think anyway, because if I’m reading him correctly, he has said some genuinely wonderful things.
Rick Warren, in this video throws the Biblical gospel to the curb, all in the name of “unity.” Yet there is no Christian unity apart from the gospel.
For Rome, justification is by grace plus merit, through faith plus works; by Christ plus the sinner’s contribution of inherent righteousness. In contrast, the Biblical gospel affirms (based on the sure foundation of Scripture alone) that salvation is by God’s grace alone, received through faith alone, because of Christ alone, to the Glory of God alone.
Dr. James White writes,
“…my heart truly aches when I see something like this… It is, to put it bluntly, a complete capitulation on Warren’s part. It is simply horrific. Either he is utterly ignorant of the realities of the dogmatic teachings of Rome, or, he is so completely compromised on his own view of the gospel that he can speak like this… It is such a betrayal of the Reformation and the gospel itself, and it is the fruit of the “Mere Christianity” cancer that has eaten away at the robust faith that once delivered millions from bondage to the darkness that is Romanism.”
Rick Warren has been used in a Roman Catholic promotional video to white-wash the fundamental differences between Christianity and Romanism. Here is a brief response, shot in Irpin, Ukraine, challenging Warren’s capitulation to Rome’s claims
Tom Chantry interacts with Rick Warren’s video via an alternative method [time machine!] and gives us, “The Warren Trajectory“:
…Armchair theologians like to speculate about where various theologians church celebrities are going to wind up. Well, speculate no longer, because I’m back from the future with a thumb-drive, and I’ve discovered some pretty interesting video evidence of the near future…
Well here’s what we found just five years into the future [2 min. video]:
Spent the vast majority of the program reviewing the videos I responded to from Kiev regarding Rick Warren. Since some folks do not follow the blog or FaceBook, and only listen to the DL, I felt it important to address Warren’s claims and statements on the program. And, of course, I could go into more detail on the DL…
I am no politician or elected official. I’ve been around public policy enough to know that it’s no cure-all. I’m not misplacing my hope. I have no sense that doing these things will fix everything or usher in the kingdom of God.
But this I do know: There is no way people of good conscience or people of Christian faith can look at the events in Ferguson and conclude there’s nothing left for us to do or nothing that can be done. No, both pure religion and good citizenship require we not settle for what’s happened in the shooting of Michael Brown and the aftermath of the grand jury’s decision. The Ferguson grand jury has given us our marching orders. They have ordered us to march for a more just system of policing and the protection of all life. We are obligated–if we love Christ or love this country–to find a way forward to justice, a way suitable to the dictates of our individual consciences and the word of God. Perhaps you don’t agree with my feeble recommendations above. Great! That’s freedom in action. Now propose something better and let’s get to work.
In the end, the best lesson my children can learn from Ferguson is not that they need to be on the lookout for white cops. It is far more important that I use this teachable moment to remind them that “God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Gal. 6:7). Moments before his death, Michael Brown had violently robbed a man in a store. A man doing the best he could to make a living. Minutes later, Brown reaped what he sowed, and was gunned down in the street. That is the sad truth.
My sons have far more to fear from making bad choices than they have to fear from the police. The overwhelming majority of police officers are decent people just trying to make a living. They are much more likely to help you than to harm you. A life of thuggery, however, is NEVER your friend. In the end, it will cost you . . . sometimes, it costs you everything.
Voddie Baucham posted his thoughts on the Gospel Coalition blog, and while many have linked to his thoughts, it seems to me that most who have interacted or evaluated have either misunderstood or misrepresented his statements. It’s fairly obvious that most have read Baucham’s remarks through their own personal tinted goggles, so maybe I have also. But I’ll tell you what I think anyway, because if I’m reading him correctly, he has said some genuinely wonderful things.
When the Psalms are sung, the minister never leaves without hearing a sermon. Psalms are amazing compositions; we would expect nothing else from inspired Scripture. They dig down to the root of truth and press in on the heart of the believer. They apply truth to our condition by urging us to trust and praise the Lord. Each Psalm is a sermon in verse, expounding and applying the truth of God.
Those of us who minister, particularly in small churches, very often go to the assembly several times on a Lord’s Day and preach the word every time. We could go months at a time without hearing the preaching of the Word. But because my church opens each week with a Psalm, I hear a sermon, ‘preached’ by the choir (which in solid, Reformed fashion is made up of all the congregants singing together). I cannot say how often I am moved beyond expression by the message of the Psalm. I do not feel the lack of a ministry dedicated to my own spiritual needs, my people supply that by singing the Psalm in my direction.
I would probably be a happier, healthier Baptist if I just kept my nose out of the ongoing kerfuffle debate over at Reformation21 over the question of closed communion among Baptists. I just wanted to say that right up front so that you would all realize that I recognize the fact.
However, having been critical of some of the Presbyterian brethren there in the past when their treatment of Baptists – and particularly of Reformed Baptists – left just a bit to be desired, and having once written that both sides should “reign in the bullies,” I don’t know that I have a choice. So here are my thoughts in what is so far an unfinished discussion. I’ll try to keep them brief.