Scott Clark on Evangelical Affiliations
Scott Clark, over at Heidelblog, has some very interesting thoughts about ecclesiology, confessionalism and evangelical affiliations. Clark writes:
Our personal relations with others, as private persons, however, doesnâ€™t answer the ecclesiastical question. We have to love those non-Reformed congregations, but that love takes a different form on an ecclesiastical level than it does on a personal level.
Weâ€™re not helping congregations if we tell them, â€œReally, Word and sacrament ministry is no big deal. The means of grace are indifferent.â€ I donâ€™t see how a confessionally Reformed person can be an ecclesiastical pluralist (beyond the bounds of the Word as confessed by the Reformed and Presbyterian churches) If a congregation doesnâ€™t have the marks of a true church, it isnâ€™t a church. As a matter of fact, we have to accept the anomaly of christians in congregations without the marks. As a matter of ethics, however, we ought to encourage those Christians to unite themselves to congregations with the marks (Belgic 29).
In this regard I think itâ€™s helpful to speak about persons and congregations rather than speaking about the abstraction or universal â€œevangelicalâ€ without definition. A universal, to be meaningful, must have particulars. The only particular that is universal to all contemporary evangelicals is: â€œhas had an unmediated encounter with the risen Christâ€ or even â€œhas had an intense religious experience in a Christian context.â€
You can read the rest of the post here.
What do you think about what he’s saying?
IMO, I agree that we need to safeguard the importance of Reformed ecclesiology and the sacraments, but to argue that we can’t have any ecclesiastical relationship with the Mark Dever’s of the world because they aren’t “true” churches is a little overboard. Furthermore, if we go this route, do I tell my Baptist brothers that they aren’t in a Church (after all it would be a “false” church) on the Lord’s day. It sounds ridiculous but I can’t see the logic pushing any other way!
Maybe I am objecting to the definition of what makes a true church according to the confessions. Or maybe not?
I would never go so far as to include Mark Dever in this statement. I think it needs to be read in a case by case situation. I do like what he is saying in many respects however. It is the Gospel that unites believers. What unites denominations is another question. Would I work with an Arminian church on evangelical outreach in the community? It depends on the particular situation.
Hi Nick and Mike,
Mark Dever’s a friend and I’ve no doubt he’s a Christian. That’s why I included the category of “anomalous situation.” Mark’s congregation, as it denies the admission of infants into the covenant community on principle, lacks one of the marks of true church. The Belgic says “pure administration of the sacraments.”
It’s a trade. Mark doesn’t think I’m baptized and I don’t recognize his congregation as a true church.
I appreciate the clarification. This is a difficult subject and I for one appreciate your willingness to tackle it instead of avoiding the particulars. By the way, if someone thinks you are extreme they should read what Mark Dever has to say about Presbyterians and the Lord’s Supper on the T4G blog.
Thanks for that lead NIck. I had forgotten about that discussion.