A Recommendation for “Reflections”

by John Yoder on February 12, 2014

The blog series “Reflections on Reformed Baptist History” by Pastors Tom Chantry and David Dykstra has now been concluded and will soon be published in a book entitled “Holding Communion Together”.  So I want to publicly thank both of these men for courageously and carefully giving us the history of the modern Reformed Baptist movement.  I also want to recommend that you take the time to read the story and learn from the insights concerning: our associational struggles, the error of authoritarianism, and the importance of full confessional subscription.

(1) I wish I had known about the influences which precipitated the associational struggles among Reformed Baptist when I was first introduced to this movement.  Coming from a denomination that was theologically and practically diverse, I embraced the 1689 LBCF as a unifying document.  Even after my grandfather (a seasoned minister) warned me, I doubted that there could be significant division with a detailed and comprehensive statement of faith and practice.  But as I grew in my understanding of what it meant to be a confessional Reformed Baptist, I could see the differences between those who had been positively influenced by Presbyterianism and others who were influenced by fundamentalism or neo-evangelicalism.  As some of you have discovered, not all pastors or churches, who call themselves Reformed Baptist, are alike.  So I want you to know about these three influences, as we continue to navigate the challenges in the years ahead.

(2) It is also important to read the series in order to understand danger of authoritarianism.  This will come as no surprise to those of us who have suffered from the abuse of church leaders.  But for others, you need to be aware that authoritarianism can still be a problem as described in the narrative and confronted in the book, Shepherding the Flock of God (republished as Biblical Shepherding of God’s Sheep, ed. by Steve Martin).  For example, elders become abusive shepherds by usurping control over an individuals conscience, claiming authority beyond the Word of God, being excessive in the use of church discipline, rejecting those who dissent with the elders’ opinion, and treating church members and other elders harshly, etc.  This description should also be a corrective for those who have falsely charged some elders with being authoritarian.  May the Lord keep us from all such error and provide us with meek and loving pastors.

(3) Finally, as you come to the end of “Reflections” you will read that our association was established on the basis of full subscription to the 1689 LBCF.  This requires the churches to receive and adopt the 1689 LBCF as containing the system of doctrine taught in Holy Scripture.  (The one-page definition of full subscription by Dr. Jim Renihan, “What is Full Subscription?” was attached to the ARBCA constitution as Appendix 1 and gives a more detailed summary of our position.)  While many churches in our day are anti-confessional and others are advocating for a weaker view of subscription, it is important to remember where we began and where we now stand.  It is only full subscription which will keep us from the downward spiral of subjectivism and provide unity for the communion of our churches and the communication of the whole counsel of God.  Let us hold fast to “the things most surely believed among us” (Spurgeon).

So in the concluding words of the authors: “A rising generation of Reformed Baptists needs to understand our confessional roots, our associational struggles, and the authoritarian error that has risen and has been combatted.  As with all history, this history can prevent us from tripping over the same stumbling blocks in the years to come.”  Amen.

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