Monday, 29 October 2012



D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, "What is an Evangelical?" Banner of Truth Trust: Edinburgh, 1992.

While we thank God for the great work of Christ in the past, e.g, the Reformation and other minor reformations, not even this work was complete because the reformation of the church according to the Word of God is or ought to be an ongoing task semper reformanda.  This is why we must not be "slaves to them", he says.  "This is the way to develop a kind of scholasticism and an arid intellectualism," (p.36).  These twin evils grow out of exaggerated adoration for past achievements, and not least in confession writing.  "It is as important to define the evangelical as being against a form of Protestantism or even reformed scholasticism, as it is that we should define the evangelical by contrast with those who are heterodox in their practice and their belief, " (p.34).  So DML-J was not impressed with scholasticism because he could see clearly the results of such an approach to theology. 

He preaches: "The devil has wrought havoc in the Church in general, as well as in individual lives, many times throughout the centuries by producing a kind of scholasticism," (p. 156).  The evangelical, he argues, is not interested in Protestant scholasticism (56).  The danger of this is clear to be seen, he contends, and results in the eventual denial of the Gospel.  Owen has clearly imbibed Aristotelian philosophy and presented this content and methodology in his theological formulations regarding the death of Christ.  His undoubted influence on the composition of the Westminster formularies is acknowledged, and was a prominent participant as deliberations proceeded.

The trouble with Roman Catholicism and with those who follow a similar methodology is that they say they believe the Bible when in fact a different authority carries more weight and influence.  The trouble with the schoolmen, both ancient and modern, is that they tend to add Aristotelian philosophy to their belief in the Bible.  Or, they arrive at their interpretation of the Bible via Aristotelian philosophy.  The result is that they interpret the message of the Bible in Aristotelian philosophical terms.  Further, the Gospel message is hidden under this sophistry. This is seen when the atonement is 'interpreted' and preached by those influenced by the schoolmen.  It was this battle that Luther fought, and won. 

"...the [Roman Catholic] church was not so much tied to the teaching of the Scripture as to the teaching of Aristotle and other Greek philosophers," therefore she got herself into difficulties that led to her denying what is truth and fact. (77).  The effect of this is to force the interpretation of Scripture through the Aristotelian sieve.  The teaching magisterium becomes the final authority of the church and every other moral or dogmatic viewpoint must find its support in that official didactic.

This is also an issue for reformed Christians to consider, whatever their denominational affiliation.  It is especially true in Presbyterian and Congregational churches but Baptist churches are not immune from this malady, according to Dr Geoffrey Thomas in a conversation with the author in February 2012.  This problem is especially pertinent where men take their theology and ecclesiology seriously.  Their concern is for “the Ark of God,” the Church, and the purity of her doctrine, a commendable policy to take. 

However, in their (proper) desire for purity of doctrine, two things tend to occur; first, the confessional standard tends to replace, in practice, the Scriptures as the church’s supreme and sole authority in all matters of faith and practice; and second, the situation tends to degenerate into religious formalism, as happens in some Presbyterian churches. 

If a church believes that by tying its officers (teaching and ruling elders) to a confessional form they are thereby protecting the purity of the church, they are badly mistaken.  Having a doctrinal standard by which to identify what a church believes is right and proper; but when this man-made document replaces the Scriptures as “the only infallible rule of faith and practice,” and is used to bind men’s consciences to every “jot and tittle” of its content, Scripture is de facto demoted to the category of a subordinate standard within that church. 

Churches must take care not to adopt confessional standards that are not demonstrably biblical in content, emphasis and balance.  Sub-biblical confessions must never be made to bind men’s consciences, therefore the whole issue of subscription must be re-opened and subjected to thoroughgoing discussion and debate with a view to demonstrating that the Scriptures are the only, full and final authority of any given church or denomination.  To bind men’s consciences to anything other than the Word of God is open to serious opposition. 

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