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Featured Confessionalism and the Salters' Hall Synod

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by Martin Marprelate, Mar 3, 2018.

  1. Martin Marprelate

    Martin Marprelate Well-Known Member
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    Almost exactly 300 years ago there was a remarkable event in English Free Church history, which precipitated the collapse of Presbyterianism and the General Baptists in England, and came close, humanly speaking, to destroying Trinitarianism.

    I believe that this event has important implications for the Church today and highlights the vital importance of Biblical confessions.

    http://marprelate.wordpress.com/2011/02/07/learning-the-lessons-of-history-1/

    http://marprelate.wordpress.com/2011/02/09/learning-the-lessons-of-history-2/

    I posted this on the History forum about seven years ago, but in the light of recent discussions, I think it may be worth looking at again. Please read it.
     
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  2. Jerome

    Jerome Well-Known Member
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    Here's a link to the original thread:
     
  3. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn Well-Known Member
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    Martin, thanks for linking your writings about the Salters' Hall Synod.
     
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  4. Martin Marprelate

    Martin Marprelate Well-Known Member
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    Thanks to the six or seven people who read my article.

    For those who have not done so, the gist of it is that Unitarianism gained a foothold in England in the early 18th Century because of the reluctance to uphold the Westminster and 1689 Confessions. Those who were introducing heresy, refused to accept any creedal definition of the Trinity or Deity of Christ, but appealed to the Bible upon which they placed their own interpretation.

    This should surprise no one. The phrase 'No creed but the Bible' has been the cry of heretics from the earliest times. Here is an account of Arius' conduct at the Council of Nicaea:

    When the Council entered on the examination of the subject [of Arius' view of the divinity of Christ], it was found extremely difficult to obtain from Arius and satisfactory explanation of his views. He was not only as ready as the most orthodox divine present to profess that he believed the Bible; but he also declared himself willing to adopt as his own, all the language of the Scriptures, in detail, concerning the Person and character of the blessed Redeemer. But when the members of the Council wished to ascertain in what sense he understood this language, he discovered a disposition to evade and equivocate, and actually, for a considerable time, baffled the attempts of the most ingenious of the orthodox to specify his errors, and to bring them to light. He declared that he was perfectly willing to employ the popular language on the subject; and wished to have it believed that he differed very little from the body of the Church.
    Accordingly, the orthodox went over the various titles of Christ plainly expressive of divinity, such as "God"-- "the true God," the "express image of God," etc.-- to everyone of which Arius and his followers most readily subscribed-- claiming a right, however, to put their own construction on the scriptural titles in question.
    After employing much time and ingenuity in vain, in endeavouring to drag this artful thief from his lurking places, and to obtain from him an explanation of his views, the Council found it would be impossible to accomplish their object as long as they permitted him to entrench himself behind a mere general profession of belief in the Bible. They therefore......expressed, in their own language, what they supposed to be the doctrine of Scripture concerning the divinity of the Saviour; in other words, they drew up a Confession of faith on this subject, which they called Arius and his followers to subscribe. This the heretics refused: and wre thus virtually brought to the acknowledgement that they did not understand the Scriptures as the rest of the Council understood them, and of course, that the charge against them was correct. [Samuel Miller, The Utility and Importance of Creeds and Confessions ]

    To object to confessions and creeds is not, as @JonC seems to suggest, a mark of Biblicism, but a mark either of pride or naivety. The church in which I was saved was a Brethren congregation and its creed was 'the Bible.' Because the church was successful, we had people coming in from different denominations: Methodists, Pentecostals and allsorts. People started pushing for this or that distinctive and because there was no confession and the constitution stated only that we followed the Bible, there was nothing to regulate things except the elders. Then one of those espoused Pentecostalism and the church split down the middle. One elder left; another had a nervous breakdown. It still exists today, but the Gospel is no longer preached there.

    Here are two comments by Baptists on creeds: one English, the other American:

    'There is a great diversity of sentiment in the world concerning morality, as well as doctrine: and if it be an unscriptural imposition to agree any articles whatsoever, it must also be to exclude anyone for immorality, or even to admonish him on that account; for it might be alleged that he only thinks for himself, and acts accordingly. Nor would it stop here: almost every species of immorality has been defended and may be disguised, and thus, under the pretence of a right of private judgement, the Church would become like the mother of harlots-- 2The habitation of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.' [Andrew Fuller]

    Is this not what we see increasingly in many churches today that do not have a firm written foundation of faith and conduct? It certainly is in many Baptist Union churches in Britain.

    'A church with a little creed is a church with a little life. the more divine doctrines a church can agree on, the greater its power, and the wider its usefulness. The fewer its articles of faith, the fewer its bonds of union and compactness. The moder cry, "Less creed and more liberty," is a degeneration from the vertebrate to the jellyfish, and means less unity and less morality, and it means more heresy. Definitive truth does not create heresy-- it only exposes and corrects. Shut off the creed and the Christian world would fill up with heresy unsuspected and uncorrected, but none the less deadly.' [B.H. Carroll]

    Nor does the lack of confessions mean a church that is less legalistic. The Brethren movement was founded to be a loose association of assemblies following nothing but the Bible and meting around the Lord's table. But very soon after its inception, J.N. Darby took exception to something written by another leader, Benjamin Newton, and Darby refused to associate with any assembly that did not separate from Newton's church. Brethrenism divided into Open Brethren and Exclusive Brethren. The latter body became the most legalistic group imaginable and its members more reclusive and severe than the J.W.s.

    Thomas and Alexander Campbell thought they could remove the evils of what they called 'sectarianism' by gathering a Christian community without any human creed, with no bond of faith save in Jesus as Saviour and a professed determination to obey His word. Today, I understand, the so-called 'Churches of Christ' are among the most sectarian to be found anywhere.

    N.B. Quotations lifted from A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith by Samuel Waldron
     
    #4 Martin Marprelate, Mar 7, 2018
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2018
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  5. JonC

    JonC Lifelong Disciple
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    No creed (as an authority for our faith) but the Bible! ...Long live Sola Scripture! ....God save the President! ..... Kilroy was here. :Speechless
     
  6. JonC

    JonC Lifelong Disciple
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    On a more serious note, @Martin Marprelate is correct. I do believe in sola scriptura (that Scripture is the sole infallible rule or authority of our faith). We may develop creeds and confessions to explain what we believe, but once we place these statements on par with Scripture then we have moved away from scripture alone and away from holding doctrine in a biblical manner.
     
  7. Martin Marprelate

    Martin Marprelate Well-Known Member
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    Amen! We all believe in sola Scriptura. 'The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith and obedience' (1689 Confession 1:1). But it is one thing for a man to come to my church and say he believes the Bible. I want to know what he believes the Bible to teach. Notice that word 'sufficient.' It serves to keep the charismatics out.
     
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  8. JonC

    JonC Lifelong Disciple
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    Then why not just ask the man what he believes about certain doctrines?

    (My former church held a class explaining where we stood on various doctrines prior to considering one for membership.it seemed to work well).
     
  9. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn Well-Known Member
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    I was aware that Unitarianism practically wiped out General Baptists in England, but not so familiar with its leaven among the rest.

    Not that they will admit, considering everyone else part of denominationalism; but, yes, very sectarian. Very divided. I think they invented some new things to split over that Baptists hadn't even thought of!

    Yet, they will still invite all of us lost folks to enjoy communion with them if we happen to be present in their meetings.
     
  10. Martin Marprelate

    Martin Marprelate Well-Known Member
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    Read the post, especially concerning Arius at the Council of Nicaea.
     
  11. Martin Marprelate

    Martin Marprelate Well-Known Member
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    You will perhaps agree with the following statement then:

    'To arrive at the truth we must dismiss religious prejudices.......We must let God speak for Himself.......Our appeal is to the Bible for truth.'

    The only trouble is that the statement comes from the Watchtower organization in their publication, 'Let God be True.'
     
  12. JonC

    JonC Lifelong Disciple
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    They are correct that when we study Scripture we must dismiss our religious prejudices. When learning to read Scripture this is typically referred to as setting aside our presuppositions - our our preconceived notions - so that we do not read into Scripture (eisegesis). I'm surprised you oppose this idea so strongly (but it does explain a lot).


    I agree with this statement:

    "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work."


    Perhaps you would agree with this statement:

    "The God of the scriptures is a holy being. Man is commanded to be holy because God is holy."

    The only trouble is that the statement comes from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints publication (their online Bible Dictionary).

    Do you agree with Mormonism, or do you reject that God is holy and we are commanded to be holy because God is holy?

    (I know it is neither, but only wanted to illustrate the silliness of your post....we could continue....Do you believe Jesus is God? Then you must be a Seventh Day Adventist. Do you believe that Jesus was born of a virgin? Then you must be Catholic. Do you believe in the judgment of God? Then you must be Muslim. ..... get the point?)
     
  13. rsr

    rsr <b> 7,000 posts club</b>
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    This seems to be changing in places.

    When I was young there was a local radio program sponsored by the Churches of Christ that proclaimed that a Lord's Supper that didn't use a common cup was invalid.

    That kind of thinking is still out there, but I think it's less common. Some (very large) Churches of Christ have even added instrumental music to some services, and institutions like Pepperdine and Abilene Christian accommodate a capella and instrumental music.
     
  14. Martin Marprelate

    Martin Marprelate Well-Known Member
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    Thank you for proving my point.
    It will not be enough for me to say that God is holy in order to differentiate myself from Mormonism. It is not enough for you to quote 2 Tim. 3:16 to separate yourself from the Watchtower. We need to lay down the whole of our faith in writing and then the differences will be apparent.
     
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  15. JonC

    JonC Lifelong Disciple
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    The difference is that I am able to differentiate myself from the JW's through Scripture and not just from a Creed or theological standpoint.

    If the only difference between you and a Mormon is extra-biblical theology then you have more problems than your rejection of Sola Scriptura.

    And, @Martin Marprelate , whether you realize it or not, your method of interpretation is exactly like the J.W.'s. They look to Scripture and say that a certain passage necessitates their theology (John 1, for example) just like you looked to 1 John 2:2 as proof that propitiation means "bearing guilt". Both of you do exactly the same thing in practice.

    Sola Scriptura - Scripture and not Confessions, Creeds, or theology as the authority of our faith - is a baptist distinctive. You and @rsr may disagree (and you are free to do so) but insofar as a baptist distinctive those Confessions were never meant to take the place of Scripture as our authority. It is as Baptist as the Baptist pastor who baptized the infant last year.
     
  16. Martin Marprelate

    Martin Marprelate Well-Known Member
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    :Rolleyes You really, really, really don't get it, do you?
    I support confessions and would not consider joining a church that did not have one precisely because I ACCEPT Sola Scriptura. Just read the first paragraph of the first article of the 1689 Confession.

    You have said several times that you agree with Penal Substitution, but you don't in any sense that I understand. It's only when we come to definitions that the differences come out.
     
  17. JonC

    JonC Lifelong Disciple
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    No, we've already gone over this.

    I said that I am not opposed to confessions that are descriptive of our faith, but you rejected that notion when you introduced the J.W. 's argument, stating essentially that Scripture alone is insufficient for truth (that a Christian who looks to Scripture rather than Confessions are like Jehovah Witnesses).

    In practice, however, you ignore Scripture all together. Consider how you were going to show us how 1 John 2:2 dictates that "propitiation" be defined as "bearing wrath" rather than the traditional definitions. The issue is that you view your theology and interpretations as if they were Scripture. You put these Confessions to the level of Scripture even when they are based on interpretation (as evidenced by our discussion of 1 John 2:2).

    What I am suggesting is that you may benefit from learning how to study your Bible before studying it.

    “the first rule of biblical interpretation the seminary professor accepts is based upon what the Bible testifies about itself: It is the God-breathed, inerrant, inspired, authoritative Word that has been recorded and preserved for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness so that we will be equipped for every good work. It is God’s Word, recorded through human writers as they were guided by the Holy Spirit. Consequently, the seminary professor’s personal ethics must submit to the teaching of Scripture; he or she does not interpret the text to justify his or her personal opinions.” (Mark Yarbrough, How to Read the Bible like a Seminary Professor).
     
  18. Martin Marprelate

    Martin Marprelate Well-Known Member
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    I have said that the Scripture alone is always totally sufficient for truth. Do not put words in my mouth, please. That is why I am confessional. What I have said is that confessing Sola Scripture has been the device of sundry heretics down the ages as I have repeatedly shown on this thread.
    You are a piece of work! I did indeed show how 1 John 2:2 properly understood requires Penal Substitution. It's here
    Is the Penal Substitution Theory the most common theory throughout history?
    But, of course, you never engaged with it, as is your practice whenever confronted with Scripture, as I have discovered several times. You are entitled to tell me I'm wrong, but you are not entitled to tell me that I don't use the Scripture in my posts because that would be a lie.
    That's fine. You should take note of it. But the point of the thread and the O.P. is that it was the heretic who hid behind Sola Scriptura and had to be rooted out by being required to agree to the definition of the Trinity found in a confession.
     
  19. JonC

    JonC Lifelong Disciple
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    You are redefining terms. Your argument was that Sola Scriptura goes beyond God’s Word into what it teaches (what is written in Scripture and what is “necessarily contained”). Every heresy comes not from what is written but from what you would define as “necessarily contained”.

    Your definition of “necessarily contained” is subjective. It is what you believe is taught. Throughout history we have had Christians come to different interpretations, but they were able to dialogue because they recognized interpretation for what it was. You don’t. You believe every theory that blows up your skirt is Scripture itself.

    The reason I mentioned 1 John 2:2 was as example. No scholar has, as far as I know, claimed that the word “propitiation” means bearing wrath” (not even those who believe that Jesus bore God’s wrath). And no, you never offered “proof” because the thread was closed (you addressed why you think Jesus had to bear God’s wrath, not why 1 John 2:2 demanded that “propitiation” be defined as “bearing wrath”). We can drop that topic here as I don’t want to hijack this thread – but you can start one demonstrating abandoning the traditional definition for yours.

    My point is that Scripture (what is written) has to be the authority of our faith, even as we build doctrine of that teaching, but we can never hold our understanding, our theologies, our interpretations, or our philosophy over what is written.
     
  20. JonC

    JonC Lifelong Disciple
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    @Martin Marprelate, I probably cannot articulate my objection to your (and a few other's) idea of what you call "Sola Scriptura" better than R.C. Sproul did in the attached article:

    "Protestant churches have tended to be confessional in character. Subscription to confessions and creeds has been mandatory for the clergy and parish of many denominations. Confessions have been used as a test of orthodoxy and conformity to the faith and practice of the church. But the confessions are all regarded as reformable. They are considered reformable because they are considered fallible. But the Sola Scriptura principles in its classic application regards the Scripture as irreformable because of its infallibility." R.C. Sproul

    Sola Scriptura: Crucial To Evangelicalism by R.C. Sproul
     
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