Thursday, 21 March 2013

The Rationale and Remedy for Worldly Worship

One of the big things that the churches focus on is ministry to children and is something they do continually and to children of all ages.

Now you would think that when young people reach a certain age they would "leave childish things behind them." But sadly that is not the case, especially in 'evangelical' churches. The big drive in these churches is to cater for the needs of the young people and children.

The problem arises when teenagers and young adults never grow up - and their needs have to be catered for. And if they don't get what they want, their childish and adolescence ways come to the fore, and they throw their toys out of their prams and huff. Some even threaten to leave the church and go to where their childish ways are catered for. For them it's a win-win situation for there are any number of 'churches' that cater for childish ways and childish people of all ages.

So what does the church leadership do? They find out what will 'hold' those in the congregations who have adolescent tantrums, and then give them what they want. Hence, the pre-occupation with worldly worship of the holy God within the evangelical churches.

Many local church leaders have told me, "You must keep the young people." This is their explanation for and justification of their adoption of worldly worship. An evanmgelical minister told me that “if it is OK to beat drums for King William, it’s also OK to beat drums for King Jesus.” That was the extent of this man’s doctrine of worship! The Bible is no longer sufficient as “the only infallible rule” how we are to worship and serve the Lord. The Protestant 'rule of faith' has in practice been abandoned decades ago, yet those who have abandoned it still claim to be protestant evangelicals. How utterly incongruous!

I wonder if these people ever really met with God. I wonder if they have times of deafening silence and stillness in the Lord's holy and searching presence. I wonder just how well they know the Lord and take seriously what He has revealed to them in His Word.

These questions go through my mind constantly. When I raise these issues, I am treated with contempt. They think of me as being "an old fuddy duddy." They tell me that the church has to move with the times. They want the church to be relevant to the contemporary world. So what do they do? They work to make the church so like the world that you would be hard pressed to distinguish it from the world at times.

When our youngest son was converted to Christ almost six years ago, he told me, in relation to the kind of worship that went on in the church we attended, that before he was converted he went to night clubs; now that he is a Christian, he does not want to go to more night clubs. The church we then attended was the next best thing to an evangelical night club.

What is the solution to the worldliness that has not just crept into the church, but has been deliberately brought into the church by evangelicals and others? The answer is a return to the principles of worship enshrined in the teaching of the greatest revival of true religion since the days of the apostles - the Protestant Reformation in sixteenth century Europe. Discover what the reformers discovered from Scripture and compare that with what obtained in the pre-reformation churches. There, you had all kinds of childishness, religious entertainment involving magic shows where the priests took a piece of ordinary bread and actually turned it into the body of Christ which was then given to the faithful to eat (is that cannibalism?), endless meaningless rituals to keep the people interested, teaching to keep them from straying into the wrong paths, complicated services of worship, a refusal of biblical simplicity, etc.

This all had to go and Christian worship was re-introduced into the re-formed churches in all its simplicity and biblical dignity. I would call on church leaders to re-visit the teaching and practice of the reformation, and set about reforming their churches in line with the teaching and practice of the Word of God.

Caveat: it will be very costly for those biblically-driven ministers who attempt this reform within the evangelical churches today. Be prepared for dismissal. Reformation is costly business.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013


  Norwich Reformed Church

Amyraldian Features in Welsh Calvinism

Affirming Calvin’s Authentic Biblical Christianity


Attleborough Baptist Church
11-12 APRIL 2013

*derived from words by William Williams, Pantycelyn


Building on the discoveries of previous conferences, we extend our investigations to Wales, this year being the tercentenary of the birth of the eminent Calvinistic Methodist preacher Daniel Rowland (1713-90). At its most basic, our conference seeks to highlight the theme shared by this year’s Banner of Truth Ministers’ Conference: ‘The Gospel: What it is and Why it matters’. However, despite our appeal to Banner publications, most brethren at Leicester are unlikely to share our stance. Since the Bible makes it clear that the Gospel of Christ has a global reach (Matt. 28: 19; Mk. 16: 15; Jn.3: 16), no member of the human race is to be denied the message of mercy, even though many reject it. True, only a portion of humanity will be saved—God’s elect. It is equally true that the provision and offer of pardon are universal. Otherwise there is no ‘Good News for every creature’. Hence our Saviour’s atoning death has a ‘double reference’: to all mankind in general and to the believing elect in particular. This ‘duality’ is basic to the Amyraldian view of the Gospel.  


During his heresy trial at the National Synod of Alençon (1637), Moïse Amyraut declared that ‘Jesus Christ died for all men sufficiently, but for the elect only effectually: and that consequentially his intention was to die for all men in respect of the sufficiency of his satisfaction, but for the elect only in respect of its quickening and saving virtue and efficacy; which is to say, that Christ’s will was that the sacrifice of his cross should be of an infinite price and value, and most abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world; yet nevertheless the efficacy of his death appertains only unto the elect;...for this was the most free counsel and gracious purpose both of God the Father, in giving his Son for the salvation of mankind, and of the Lord Jesus Christ, in suffering the pains of death, that the efficacy thereof should particularly belong unto all the elect, and to them only…’ (John Quick, Synodicon in Gallia Reformata, 1692, ii. 354).

It is our conviction that, contrary to ‘received wisdom’, these ‘Amyraldian features’ were present in Welsh Calvinism, especially among the Calvinistic Methodists. The distinguished author Dr Eifion Evans helps set the scene for us. The North Wales Methodist leader, Thomas Jones of Denbigh’s ‘great contribution lay in steering the Methodism of the [19th] century safely between the rocks of Arminianism and High Calvinism...both Thomas Jones and Thomas Charles [Bala] were following in the tradition of Rowland and Williams’ (Daniel Rowland and the Great Evangelical Awakening in Wales, Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1985, 339).

‘High Calvinism’ is properly defined as the theology of Theodore Beza, the Westminster Confession and John Owen, as distinct from the original teaching of John Calvin which Amyraut claimed to reaffirm as ‘authentic Calvinism’. Losing Calvin’s biblical balance, ‘High Calvinism’ was the prelude to the antinomian hypercalvinism which blighted Wales for a while, as it did England and elsewhere. In short, the Owenite ‘limited atonement’ teaching created evangelistic and pastoral havoc, as it still does.

This year’s conference examines the theological, devotional and practical significance of the following summary:

The Methodist Fathers were never, at first, Hyper-Calvinists,...The doctrine that was undoubtedly believed among them was that of the Articles of the Established Church, and in agreement with these they preached Jesus Christ as a sufficient Saviour for the whole world, inviting all to him. One need only read the journal of Howell Harris, the sermons of Daniel Rowland, and the hymns of William Williams, to see that they laid down no limits to the value of the Saviour's sacrifice. But just as one extreme always produces the opposite, many of the Calvinists, in the warmth of their zeal against the Wesleyans, claimed that there was no universal aspect to the call of the gospel; that the elect alone were to be called… 

John Morgan Jones & William Morgan, tr. John Aaron, The Calvinistic Methodist Fathers of Wales (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2008), ii. 605.                   (ACC)

Monday, 18 March 2013

A Presbyterian Republic?

I came across this interesting paper this morning, a paper that emanated from the Scottish Covenanters and proposed the setting up of a republic in these islands and get rid of the monarchy.

I would be very pleased to hear your views on the contents of this historic paper.

 The Queensferry Paper.

 The Queensferry Paper was so called  because it was discovered in the pocket of a Covenanter, Henry Hall of Haughshead, when he was seized at South Queensferry on 4 June 1680. Hall was in the company of Donald Cargill when they were discovered and an attempt made to arrest them. Cargill made good his escape but Hall subsequently died from his wounds. The document is thought to have been a manifesto intended to be taken by Hall to Holland where dissident Scots  could consider a new Presbyterian system for Scotland.

 Smellie in Men of the Covenant calls the paper “the most advanced of all the Covenanting manifestos “. It was a bond strong in its affirmations and denials; made a solemn confession of faith and frankly disavowed sinful rulers. It further made a declaration in favour of a republic. The document was the first formal statement of the dissident group that became known known as the Cameronians, MacMillanites and Reformed Presbyterians. A document of some 6,000 words it is much longer and definitive than the Declaration at Sanquhar which was made shortly after on 22 June 1680.

 The substance of the document given in Hewisons The Covenanters, ( the lengthy full text is in Johnson`s Treasury)  was :

 1. To covenant with and swear acknowledgement of the Trinity and to own the Old and New Testaments to be the rule of faith.

2. To advance God`s kingdom, free the church from Prelacy and Erastianism, and remove those who had forfeited authority.

3. To uphold the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, with her standards, polity, and worship, as an independent government.

4. To overthrow the kingdom of darkness, ie Popery, Prelacy and Erastianism.

5. To discard the royal family and set up a republic.

6. To decline hearing the indulged clergy.

7. To refuse the ministerial function unless duly called and ordained.

8. To defend their worship and liberties, to view assailants as declarers of war, to destroy those assaulting, and not to injure any `but those that have injured us`.[i]

 The fifth article recites the reasons for rejecting rule by a single person (the monarchy) and declares:

We do declare that we shall set up over ourselves, and over what the Lord shall give us power of, government and governors according to the Word of God, and especially that Word, Exodus xviii.21:`Moreover, though shalt  provide out of all the people, able men, such as fear God , men of truth, hating covetousness, and place such over them; to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundred, rulers of fifties , and rulers of tens.`  That we shall no more commit the government of  ourselves, and the making of laws for us, to any one single person, or lineal successor, we not being by God, as the Jews were, bound to one single family; and this kind of government by a single person being most liable to inconveniences, and aptest to degenerate into tyranny, as sad and long experience hath taught us.