Popery, Psalms and Protestant Pharisees

“Q: Why doesn’t @theweeflea, director of Solas, have a single #Reformation tweet on or around #ReformationDay?”

This is the tweet that broke the camels back! Every couple of months an American fundamentalist called Chuck O’Neal, tweets a message which is then retweeted to me several times by his followers, identifying me as a friend of the Antichrist and a counter reforming heretic in the midst of the Reformed world. It’s kind of sweet, and nuts at the same time. It reminds me of the rumour that went round a few years ago that I was brought up by the Jesuits and then planted in the Free Church as their secret agent!

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Poor Chuck went to John MacArthur’s conference where each of the 3 1/2 thousand delegates got a copy of Magnificent Obsession. I think he almost had a heart attack!  The next deluge of tweets followed:

“How can major Reformed men & ministries promote @theweeflea, his apostate book, & his counter-reformation?”.

So I think it’s about time that I answered Mr O’Neal and the others who think that for some reason I am a great danger to the Reformed Church in the West.     And more importantly lets reflect on how we relate to the Catholic Church and our Catholic brothers and sisters.

Apart from the fact that Chuck rather overestimates my role in the reformed world, (I am after all just a wee flea,) perhaps I need to take his charges a bit more seriously? After all he is not the only one.

For example last week a simple post about a beautiful psalm sung in Aramaic kicked off yet another Internet argument.

Given that this was a beautiful rendition of Psalm 53 in the context of a war-torn region of the world, in the language that Jesus spoke, why would some Christians be offended by it? It was because of the presence of the Pope. This resulted in such comments as:

Strangest looking protestant church I have ever seen…. Pretty sure there is something mentioned in the Westminster confession about popery? True colours showing him through here.

Have you repented of your supporting the previous Anti-Christ’s visit? Have you repented of your breach of your ordination vows?

That is not beautiful! A bunch of people howling. Sounds like rock meets Hillsong!

David Andrew Robertson, you have failed to disown Catholic doctrine by openly treating Catholics, including the last pope, as Christians. You have wholeheartedly endorsed the same pope’s Christology by stating that he had written the best book on Jesus that you had read.

 Potpourri

Someone remarked that I was being accused of Potpourri – I found this deeply offensive – I have never put dried petals into a ball in order to perfume a room!

When I was really being accused of was popery. Love of the Pope. Devotion to the anti-Christ. Normally it’s the kind of thing that one just let’s go, because it’s an argument that goes nowhere – however it has become a little bit tiring to have a handful of people follow you around everywhere and accuse you of being a heretic.

The trouble is that I quote the Pope. Or at least the previous one – Benedict. Here are three of my favourites from Magnificent Obsession.

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If people do not believe the word of Scripture, then they will not believe someone coming from the next world either. The highest truths cannot be forced into the type of empirical evidence that only applies to material reality.

 ‘Was Jesus in reality a liberal rabbi – a forerunner of Christian liberalism? Is the Christ of faith, and therefore the whole faith of the Church, just one big mistake?

 And the Antichrist, with an air of scholarly excellence, tells us that any exegesis that reads the Bible from the perspective of faith in the living God, in order to listen to what God has to say, is fundamentalism; he wants to convince us that only his kind of exegesis, the supposedly purely scientific kind, in which God says nothing and has nothing to say, is able to keep abreast of the times.

 It’s really quite hard to find anything wrong with these quotes, but the objection is not so much with the content as with the person who made them. The objectors make the illogical conclusion that citing someone means that you approve of them, their role and everything they say. There are actually two reasons that I cited Pope Benedict. Firstly I wanted to make Magnificent Obsession accessible to Roman Catholics as well as Protestants, atheists and others. Secondly I thought the quotes were brilliant, and they came from two of my favourite books about Jesus. The fact that they were written by a Pope is irrelevant to me. And it is this that damns me in the eyes of the Pharisaic-Protestants.

They will be even more disappointed to find that I quote the current Pope in my latest article on Christian today.   And that I am currently reading Augustine, Aquinas and GK Chesterton – all great heroes of the Roman Catholic Church.

And yet I now have to upset my Catholic friends. Whilst there is much I can agree with in the Catholic Church and much that we have in common (indeed I have far more in common with a conservative Catholic than a liberal Protestant) I’m afraid that I don’t buy into all the doctrines. The office of Pope, Mariolatry, the Mass, Baptismal regeneration and the refusal to accept justification by faith alone, are all an unbiblical departure from the ‘faith once delivered to the saints’. I therefore cannot come ‘home to Rome’ but would instead plead with the Catholic Church to ‘re-form’ and come home to the apostolic church.

I guess this article best sums up my position (from the Gospel Coalition).

The history of the Catholic Church as a whole has been very varied – some Popes have been anti-Christian, whilst others have been clear followers of Christ. The point is that just because someone is Pope does not make them a Christian, nor does it make them the Antichrist. Given that the Antichrist is somebody who denies that Jesus has come in the flesh, and then Pope Benedict, whose works are the ones I know best, it is clearly not the antichrist. Unless you are so obsessed by this that you are prepared to say that the Holy Spirit speaking through the apostle John got it wrong!

Are Catholics Christians?

The other objection people have is to my referring to Catholics as Christians, and the Catholic Church as a Christian church. Somehow they regard this as unreformed. Which shows how little they know the Reformers.  I’m somewhat amused by the more rabid fundamentalists who quote me of being anti-Calvinist because I accept infant baptism – which then has the wonderful result of making Calvin an anti-Calvinist! It is surely wrong to regard someone as being a Christian solely because of the membership of a particular church, whether Catholic or Protestant. But it is just as wrong to say that because they belong to a particular church they cannot be a Christian? I have met many fine Catholic Christians and many not so fine Protestant atheists!

Several years ago a doctor from Zambia came before our Kirk session asking to become a member in the church. When we asked why she wanted to join St Peters, she said, “it’s because it’s the church in Dundee that’s most like my church at home in Zambia”. “What church is that?” – “the Roman Catholic Church!”

We have had several Catholics attending St Peters – I remember especially the teenage mum who thought I was just a trendy priest without a dog collar, and the 80-year-old lady who remarked as she left “Father, I’ve not been in the Catholic Church for 50 years. My how it’s changed!”

We began to say the Apostles Creed occasionally, because it gave those Catholics who are nervous about coming to a “Protestant” church (there is sectarianism on all sides!) the assurance that we were part of the one holy catholic, apostolic church.   I have met Catholics who are not Christians who needed to come to know the Lord, as I have met Protestants in the same condition. And I’ve also met those who, despite being in the Catholic Church (or as they might say because of being in the Catholic Church) are lovely and faithful followers of Jesus Christ. Let me put it bluntly – Catholics are as welcome in St Peters in Dundee as they are in St Peters in Rome. If they know Jesus they are welcome as brothers and sisters, if they don’t they are welcome as those who have been brought up in a tradition that says that the Bible is the word of God and that Jesus is the Son of God. I will teach them that word and plead with them to give their lives to that Son. I will not attack Catholicism or abuse people from a different Christian denomination. I will teach what the word of God says, and where their tradition (or indeed mine) differs from that then they must choose to follow Christ and his word, or the tradition. The irony for me is that there are people whose loyalty is to an anti-Catholic tradition, as much as it is to the word of God.

Being in McCheynes’ Church I love what he wrote to a local Dundee newspaper:

 But the living servant of Christ is dear to my heart, and welcome to address
my flock, let him come from whatever quarter of the earth he may.
I have sat with delight under the burning words of a faithful
Lutheran pastor. I have been fed by the ministrations of American
Congregationalists and devoted Episcopalians, and all of them who
know and love Christ would have loved to hear them too. If dear
Martin Boos were alive, pastor of the Church of Rome though he
was, he would have been welcome too; and who that knows the
value of souls and the value of a living testimony would say it was
wrong? Had I admitted to my pulpit some frigid Evangelical of our
own Church (I allude to no individual, but I fear it is a common
case), one whose head is sound in all the stirring questions of the
day, but whose heart is cold in seeking the salvation of sinners,
would any watchful brother of sinners have sounded an alarm in the
next day’s gazette to warn me and my flock of the sin and the
danger? I fear not.”

McCheyne should be thankful he lived in the era before social media or he too would have suffered the wrath of Chuck!

Let me return to the original tweet that sparked all this off:

“Q: Why doesn’t @theweeflea, director of Solas, have a single #Reformation tweet on or around #ReformationDay?”

The answer is very simple. Because I am a Truly Reformed man. I don’t buy into these special days and seasons.   I don’t need to engage in these Popish practices of having Saints days. St Luther, St Calvin and St Knox – just doesn’t work for me. Part of me regards the modern fad of having a Reformation day as being a little bit like those who boost the card industry by Father’s or Mother’s Day. I realise that that is heresy for some people, but you know the best thing about being reformed is the wonderful liberty of conscience that the good old reformed biblical theology gives me. Those who want to celebrate Halloween, or All Saints with a Calvin Tulip party can feel free…just as I feel free not to. Perhaps this Johnny Cash tune may enliven the party?!

Protestant popes with their pathetic little Twitter campaigns and online rants, are not going to put me back into their Pharisaic cage. II. God alone is Lord of the conscience, and has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are, in any thing, contrary to His Word; or beside it, if matters of faith, or worship. So that, to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commands, out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience: and the requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also” (WCF: 20:2) So you tweet your doctrinal ‘orthodoxy’, and I will continue to read Calvin/Chesterton/ Keller/Augustine/Flavel/Newton and Benedict and rejoice as they point me to Christ. And the bad news for you is that next year on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation I will be preaching in Wittenberg at a conference organised by the Reformed World Fellowship (start the angry tweets game now…!)

Happy Reformation Day…

David

This was my main reply to those who attacked the post from Georgia.

To those who turn beauty into ashes: 

There are not many things that both surprise and depress me but this thread has turned out to be one. I posted some Georgian and Iraqi Christians singing this beautiful version of a psalm and you have allowed an ugly and self-righteous ignorance to display itself – in the midst of such beauty.

It is ignorant because you condemn it as ‘the religion of anti-Christ’ and don’t seem to realise that it is a Psalm from God’s Word and it is sung in the language that Jesus used.

It is self-righteous because you who condemn think that you alone are the righteous ones – you could not even admit what your own professed doctrine teaches – that you are as sinful and desperately wicked as the rest of us. You dare to presume to judge people on the basis of their clothes and their style of worship.

And it is ugly because you take the beauty of this simple singing of God’s Word in a style that probably dates from the very earliest days of the Church and turn it into a vehicle for your own pompous and arrogant prejudice. To call this ‘wailing’ is at best a crass lack of taste and musical knowledge. Its bad enough that you accuse me of breaking ordination vows (although you as yet have not been able to show one false doctrine that I have taught – I often disagree with some Roman Catholic teachings – indeed my last radio debate was proving that the Pope is not the leader of the Christian church, and of course I believe in justification by faith alone – although it appears from your comments about the style of worship etc. that you don’t!). But what is far worse is that you condemn people you don’t know, presuming to judge hearts you cannot see, purely by your own external prejudices and ignorance. As far as I am aware this group included Iraqi Christian refugees who are currently being wiped out in their own homeland. Does that not concern you at all? Incidentally I belong to a biblical church that takes church discipline and false doctrine very seriously – so if you genuinely think that I am breaking my ordination vows it is your duty to report me to my Presbytery and not to rant and rave on social media.

I don’t condemn these comments on the basis that they are unloving (which they clearly are). I condemn them by your own criteria – they are unbiblical and Godless. To claim that all Catholics, by virtue of being Catholic are not Christians is itself a doctrine from the pit of Hell. You take the glorious beautiful doctrine of Christ and turn it into something cold, crass and ugly. I often get upset at those who mock Christ who do not profess to know him – but I get far more upset and indeed angry with those like you who profess to know Christ and yet cause his name to be blasphemed because of your harsh, cold and ignorant comments. And if anyone thinks that is not very Christian let me just simply repeat Paul’s words to the Galatians legalists “As for these agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves”. (Galatians 5:12) Paul had no time for those who distort the grace of God and make these kind of external judgements – and neither do I.

So please – go away and rant to your hearts content on your own FB pages…but leave mine alone and don’t ever come on here and turn something so beautiful into something so ugly again. And may God have mercy on you. And may he save us from the ‘frigid evangelicals’ that McCheyne warned us about. Its bad enough having to deal with the enemies of the Gospel….my prayer is that the Lord would save us from some of its professed ‘friends’!

And this expressed it better than I could have – from someone on the frontline, not pontificating from the sidelines.

Some of the reactions on this thread have been bonkers. David shared a beautiful piece of acapella Psalm singing and he’s accused of breaching ordination vows?! Govan Free Church, where I attend, is full of converted Catholics and mine is the only family from a Protestant background. When we conduct our bible studies on a Thursday in the community centre, a Republican Flute Band practices next door; it’s not unusual to hear the Boys of the Old Brigade or the Fields of Athenry as we study the Gospels. Many of the folk in attendance at our church go to the chapel on a Saturday night and then our church on a Sunday morning. The amazing thing is, time and again folk have come to reject RC doctrine and give up their catholic practice because of the faithful, confessional teaching of Scripture by Norrie. We don’t ask them to be re-baptised because, as good confessional Protestants, we believe that RC baptism is Christian baptism done in the triune name. My point is, if we pulled any of that anti-Catholic, hardcore hun vitriol with these folk when they came around at first, we’d lose them (and probably cop a well deserved punch in the mouth).
The vitriol of our Reformed fathers against Rome needs to be seen in the context of bitter persecution where they were being hounded and murdered by the papists. We live in different days and need to be sensible enough not to transport 16th Century polemic method into the present day. I can’t help but feel so much of the anti-Rome rhetoric I hear is analogous to the self-righteous cultural sabre-rattling that Paul condemned as ‘garbage’ (scholars suggest that the word is more analogous to a swear word) in Philippians 3:8.

David is a man who cares for the lost and has offered to conduct an evangelistic service in Govan entitled ‘Is Presbyterianism anti Irish?’ He’s no crypto-Romanizer, but doesn’t feel the need to pander to the shibboleths of the WATP-crowd. He cares for people more than alienating rhetoric. In short, if your anti-Roman rhetoric isn’t accompanied by tears and evangelistic zeal, shut up.\


27 thoughts on “Popery, Psalms and Protestant Pharisees

  1. David, well said! Christ is at work in all churches, including the Roman Catholic church. I have never found a person’s denomination to be an indicator of their position in Christ. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit is working in the hearts of men and women to win them for Christ. Keep up the good work!

  2. “A friend of the Antichrist and a counter reforming heretic… I am after all just a wee flea” Thanks David, you gave me a laugh with these today. His insults are almost as creative as Dawkins calling you a thick as pig**** moronic retard, a nasty little Presbyterian who isn’t even a proper clergyman. Seems a few people have a magnificent obsession. haha. Thankfully there is not need to be bothered by criticism. Either it’s accurate (in which case it’s helpful to hear it) or whatever is nasty is on the person giving the criticism being wicked.

    Instead we can:

    “Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you your heart’s desires…
    Stop being angry!
    Turn from your rage!
    Do not lose your temper—
    it only leads to harm…
    The wicked plot against the godly;
    they snarl at them in defiance.
    But the Lord just laughs,
    for he sees their day of judgment coming.” Ps 37 NLT.

  3. A well thought out and provoking blog , David . It even had me smiling at the thought of St Luther , St Calvin and St Knox day ‘s .

  4. HI David, I seldom reply to your articles but I read most, not all, of them. I must comment on this one and commend you for the wise words and lovely expression of the Gospel for all – by grace are we saved by faith indeed. It so vexes me to hear hard condemnation and judgement from those who profess to proclaim the Lord Jesus, (whom Helen Roseveare so frequently calls, “our lovely Lord Jesus”.) How sad to be seen as those who judge rather than those who love. May God bless and keep you, In Him, with love and appreciation, Pat Urquhart

  5. Well said David. I have written previously of my surprise on finding out that it was possible (in reality and not just in theory) for a (Roman) Catholic to be a Christian so I will not repeat myself here. On the topic of criticism and abusive comment or insults, on or off line, Adam’s comment is good. I am reminded of wise words I read years ago, attributed to Gautama Buddha. In response to insults he asked the individual a question. “If I were to offer you a gift and you refused to accept it, to whom would the object belong”? “To you of course” replied his tormentor. “Then I decline to accept your insults – let them be upon your own head” was the response. As to Presbyterianism being anti Irish my Irish grandmother used the term “a bit more Presbyterian” to describe the epitome of decency and good order.

  6. Just for historical clarification:

    TheWeeFlea: “The other objection people have is to my referring to Catholics as Christians, and the Catholic Church as a Christian church. Somehow they regard this as unreformed. Which shows how little they know the Reformers.”

    John Calvin: “There is falsehood wherever the pure doctrine of Christ is not in vigour. This falsehood prevails under the Papacy. Hence the Papacy is not a Church.” (Institutes, Book 4, Chapter 2)

    1. “However, when we categorically deny to the papists the title of the church, we do not for this reason impugn the existence of churches among them…….from this it therefore is evident that we by no means deny that the churches under his tyranny remain churches”…(Calvin Institutes Book 4, chapter 2) – he then goes on to talk about how the churches have been corrupted but he does not deny and even explictly confirms that Catholic churches can be Christian churches Calvin was of course convinced that the Pope was anti-Christ. But he was also convinced that the Catholic church is a Christian church because he refused to re-baptise people who had been baptised within that church.

      1. Well, of course. If there are churches in the Catholic communion where “this falsehood” does NOT prevail, then a true church may exist. Your reply does not address the issue.

        Also, Calvin’s acceptance of Catholic baptism was obviously not an acceptance of the Church that performs it, based on his unambiguous comments elsewhere. Calvin believed that, when done in Trinitarian terms, it was the Lord’s hand that administered the sacrament and not the Catholic church. So, again, your reply does not address the issue:

        John Calvin: “Moreover, if we have rightly determined that a sacrament is not to be estimated by the hand of him by whom it is administered, but is to be received as from the hand of God himself, from whom it undoubtedly proceeded, we may hence infer that its dignity neither gains nor loses by the administrator. And, just as among men, when a letter has been sent, if the hand and seal is recognised, it is not of the least consequence who or what the messenger was; so it ought to be sufficient for us to recognise the hand and seal of our Lord in his sacraments, let the administrator be who he may.” (Institutes, Book 4, Chapter 15, on Baptism).

      2. Thanks thats helpful. But Calvin did believe that Christian Baptism could not be adminstered outwith the Christian church (as a good Augustinian what else could he say?!) and would not accept the baptism for example of groups that he did not consider to be churches. Its why we accept Catholic baptism but not JW or Mormon or Unitarian. Chuck O’Neal and others do not accept ‘Romish’ baptism – and in that they differ from Calvin and Luther – that was my point. The quote you cite on baptism kind of reinforces that point – because baptism was done within the Christian church, in the name of the Triune God, then even if the actual person who did the baptism was a heretic or a hypocrite, then the baptism was not invalidated. It is precisely because Calvin recognised that the Catholic church was a Christian church that he could state that about baptism…The situation is that no matter what the local situation we would not accept JW/Mormon etc baptism because they are not Christian churches. We would accept C of S, Catholic etc because they are – even if in many things they may have moved away from the truth of the Gospel…

      3. “It is precisely because Calvin recognised that the Catholic church was a Christian church that he could state that about baptism…”

        No, that’s exactly what Calvin is NOT saying. The state of the *church* did not give nor take away validity from the sacrament, but only how and in what name the sacrament was performed. My previous quote (I thought) made that clear. Here’s more context, with an analogy:

        John Calvin: “Thus it did not harm the Jews that they were circumcised by impure and apostate priests. It did not nullify the symbol so as to make it necessary to repeat it. It was enough to return to its genuine origin. The objection that baptism ought to be celebrated in the assembly of the godly, does not prove that it loses its whole efficacy because it is partly defective. When we show what ought to be done to keep baptism pure and free from every taint, we do not abolish the institution of God though idolaters may corrupt it. Circumcision was anciently vitiated by many superstitions, and yet ceased not to be regarded as a symbol of grace; nor did Josiah and Hezekiah, when they assembled out of all Israel those who had revolted from God, call them to be circumcised anew.” (Institutes, Book 4, Chapter 15)

        So, such circumcision did NOT validate the apostate priests who performed it.

        “The situation is that no matter what the local situation we would not accept JW/Mormon etc baptism because they are not Christian churches.”

        If we take Calvin’s view, we reject those baptisms because they are not Trinitarian, not because they are JW’s or Mormons, for the reasons explained above.

      4. Calvins view is that of Augustines – that baptism can only take place within the context of the Christian church. If someone baptises outwith that context then it is not Christian baptism – even if it is done in the name of the Triune God. De facto he accepted (as the original quote pointed out) that the Catholic church (or at least churches) was Christian although he accepted neither the Papacy nor indeed the whole institution. If Joe Bloggs turned up at St Petes and said that they had been baptised ‘privately’ we would not accept it. We only accept baptism carried out by the Christian church. It would be quite something if Calvin’s position was different from that! Of course there are apostate Christian churches etc but that does not mean that we should take the view of the Fundamentalists I was citing who are arguing that any baptism carried out by heretics cannot be correct because they are not Christian churches.

      5. I don’t think we’re making progress here, so I’ll state very briefly how I see it, to sum up:

        John Calvin: “There is falsehood wherever the pure doctrine of Christ is not in vigour. This falsehood prevails under the Papacy. Hence the Papacy is not a Church.” (Institutes, Book 4, Chapter 2)

        Yet, even though he regarded them “not a Church” he regarded baptisms performed by them as valid, for reasons explained in Book4, chapter 15 of his Institutes.

        John Calvin: “it ought to be sufficient for us to recognise the hand and seal of our Lord in his sacraments, let the administrator be who he may.” (Institutes, Book 4, Chapter 15).

      6. I think we are stuck! But thanks for the interaction….I find it impossible to think of Calvin or others accepting any baptism from outwith the Christian church. There is no doubt that in that sense he regarded the Catholic church as a Christian church not pagan etc. There is however a paradox….at one and the same time I regard a liberal C of S where Christ is not preached, and church discipline not practiced etc as not a church at all…..and yet I would also regard the C of S as a church. I’m sure that is why Calvin did not feel that he had to be rebaptised , because he had already been baptised in the Christian church. Chuck’s point is that the Catholic church is not a Christian church and therefore their baptism is not valid and people need to be rebaptised. There is at least some consistency there?! Anyway – thanks for making me pull down my Institutes – they are always at my right hand!

  7. Marvellous.

    Ever the one not shy to display their ignorance – Calvin who?

    O the idol factory that is our hearts.

    Let us dance around and bow down to a piece of paper nailed to a piece of wood, not the LORD of Glory nailed there.

  8. One of the reasons I started to fall in love with this blog is because of your no nonsense approach to anti-catholic sectarianism. I live in the southeast United States where this sentiment is still very much alive and it is very refreshing to read a Presbyterian pastor who is devoted to sound doctrine but can also see past unwarranted prejudice, as well.

    I will defend not certain Catholic doctrine but I will not act as if there are not faithful followers of Christ despite certain doctrinal beliefs. Thank you David, for being a peaceful voice and a defender of truth at the same time.

  9. David

    I’m not sure if my approbation is a help or a hindrance but this papist has never been in any doubt as to which side your Calvinist bread is buttered, much as I would like you to join the Tiber swim team. We disagree on a lot (which is not upsetting in the least) but I admire anyone who preaches the Gospel in the teeth of the oncoming secular storm. Nor do I believe Thomas More, John Ogilvie et al. will be spinning in their graves as a result. More power to your elbow.

    I’m reminded of an old tutor with a wry view of “ecumenical relations” in our little country: welcome to Scotland, please turn your watches back 400 years.

    Thanks also for posting the rendition of Psalm 53. Beautiful and incredibly poignant, given what is happening to our brothers and sisters in the Middle East. ISIS is not stopping to ask if our martyrs are Catholic, Protestant or Orthodox.

    Montefiasco

  10. Interesting read, I am just surprised it needed saying!!! I will admit I did wish a few of my friends ‘happy reformation day’ but that was as an answer to their interest in celebrating Halloween and an opportunity to remind them of persecution many went through for them to have the freedom they have today.

  11. Jesuit secret agent David Aloysius Robertson… oh dearie me. I suppose they say your rosary is disguised as a bicycle chain!

    I know whose “howling” I’d rather hear. A very moving sound. What a voice that guy has. Would St Pete’s acoustics be up to that sort of thing…?

    I suppose I’d be found a bit suspect too – when I saw the choir lassie at 2:25 I thought “It’s Mary!”

  12. For what it’s worth coming from Downunder: Well said! It’s rather interesting to note that, during my years in ministry, I found that those who made the most noise with their judgmentalism actually hid their professed Christianity from neighbours and friends.

  13. In the discussion between Hobbes and David, can someone help me.

    1. What is “church”? Did Calvin define what is Church and what isn’t? There’s nothing quoted to show what Calvin defined as true Church.

    2 What did Calvin mean by the “pure doctrine of Christ?” Christ alone?

    2. Isn’t there the visible and invisible church, a church of true believers within Church structure’s – those believing the Apostle Creed even if those “in charge” do not

    3 Whilst an apostate priest’s baptism in the name of the triune God will not invalidate the baptism. can there not be believing “priests”, within an apostate church, a remnant, if you like?

    4 I thank God for creedal baptism, non covenantal, pedal baptism.

    5 I thank God for those believers who lived and died in Christ before Calvin was born.

    6 None of this should be taken as rubbishing Calvin’s teaching, and I’m to old and uncommitted to delve into the difference between his teaching and how it has developed ,although I think that was part of RT Kendal’s doctoral dissertation, seeking to unify the Institutes with Calvin’s commentaries to attempt to arrive at Calvin’s overall theology and for which he’s been castigated. From his 3 Volume Understanding Theology series I think he accepts 4 points.

    7 I accept the so called five points of Calvinism, as fitting together like the digits of a hand, not through indoctrination, being raised into, confessions of faith, but after some years of wrestling, and down dead ends, through self study mainly through Grudem, Piper, Pink, but the one who helped me pull it all together was Sam Storms and his internet material of some years ago. And since then I’ve searched out marvellous teaching from many including Keller, Duguid, Goligher, Palmer Robertson, Clowney, Lloyd-Jones, Mike Reeves, Ferguson, Chappell, Motyer, Lucas, Edwardes, and many others following the redemptive historical approach. I thank God for them all.

    8 I have Methodist, Wesleyan and charismatic friends to whom Calvinism is anathema (to put it mildly) who are truly saved and Christ is their LORD. I tank God for them all.

    9 I have some catholic friends and family. I thank God for them all.

    10 If anyone wants to pigeon- hole me I’d describe myself as a “Charismatic, non- cessationist Calvinist. An impossibility, perhaps? And not always an easy place to be.

    11 And last but not least, I thank God for David.

    May my heart be more and more spiritually enlarged for love of Christ and all His image bearer, much more so than it is physically.

    1 O thou who camest from above
    the pure celestial fire to impart
    kindle a flame of sacred love
    upon the mean altar of my heart.

    2. There let it for thy glory burn
    with inextinguishable blaze,
    and trembling to its source return,
    in humble prayer and fervent praise.

    3. Jesus, confirm my heart’s desire
    to work and speak and think for thee;
    still let me guard the holy fire,
    and still stir up thy gift in me.

    4. Ready for all thy perfect will,
    my acts of faith and love repeat,
    till death thy endless mercies seal,
    and make my sacrifice complete.

  14. ” I have met many fine Catholic Christians and many not so fine Protestant atheists!”

    I suspect that I have shared this personal experience before (!) but, when a student at what had just become the Faculty of Divinity of the Univ of Glasgow (rather than the Trinity College at which I had commenced my studies), I attended the first-ever lecture by a Roman priest. As a “sound evangelical” I went along prepared to challenge this man if he said anything with which I disagreed! To my astonishment, I found that I was more in agreement with him than I was with some of my “protestant” (and, in one case, atheist) lecturers under whose tutelage I regularly sat!

    I have, since those far-off days, had many friends in, and from, the Church of Rome. As David states, one does not have to accept every teaching of Rome in order to speak with, and even befriend, those of its members who display more of Jesus than do many in my former denomination of the CoS!

  15. Have you ever spoken with Julie Anne Smith? She’s the woman that “Pastor” Chuck attempted to sue for half a million dollars — along with several other former congregants.

  16. David, Hobbes,
    I admire your knowledge of Calvin’s works and share your enormous respect for him (I even named my four successive and beloved Dobermann Pinschers after him) but are you not forgetting that, unlike modern popes, he never claimed infallibility and there might, just possibly, be the occasional contradiction, inconsistency, or even error in his writings? I have not the slightest doubt that he (with yourselves) heartily concurred with the apostle Paul when he said “Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel” (1 Cor 1v17) and regarded the circumstances of somebody’s baptism as being trivial by comparison with their understanding of, and response to, that gospel.
    And David, I wish you would stop using the F word. J I Packer was right: “fundamentalist” is a theological swear word. He wrote “Fundamentalism and the Word of God” in response to certain Liberals and Anglo-Catholics who were using the word as a term of abuse for historic Conservative Evangelical belief. Had you been born three quarters of a century earlier you might well have been among the authors of “The Fundamentals” which originally gave rise to the term. It was a nasty shock, only twenty years after Packer’s book was published, (when I strayed across the border into Scotland) to meet professing Evangelicals who labelled everyone who believed in an infallible bible or who questioned evolution as “fundamentalists.” By calling him an F—–, you put Chuck into better company than he merits.
    As with your term of abuse, your polite reference to converted Roman Catholics as “brothers and sisters” might be taken to have a wider application than you intend.
    Anyone who is aware of the current dogma of the Ecumenical Movement that everyone who is baptised is a christian might be pardoned for thinking that you were saying the same thing.
    I am glad that you have made your position clear.

  17. HI Andrew Proud (not the Bishop of Reading who shares the same name)!!

    Yes, without hesitation I will admit that Calvin is not infallible. We got sidetracked a little by the issue of baptism here. It was not my intention to defend Calvin nor to discuss whether Calvin was right or wrong in his views. It was a purely historical question about how the Reformation understood the nature and state of the Catholic Church – something that David addresses in his blog – and Calvin seemed a good way in to start the discussion on that point.

    1. HI Andrew Proud (not the Bishop of Reading who shares the same name)!!

      Yes, without hesitation I will admit that Calvin is not infallible. We got sidetracked a little by the issue of baptism here. It was not my intention to defend Calvin nor to discuss whether Calvin was right or wrong in his views. It was a purely historical question about how the Reformation understood the nature and state of the Catholic Church – something that David addresses in his blog – and Calvin seemed a good way in to start the discussion on that point.

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