Friday, April 02, 2004

A Sensible Reformed Ecumenism (P. Andrew Sandlin)

From P. Andrew Sandlin's blog, 3-31-04 (posted in its entirety):

An Unbridgeable (Calvinian) Chasm | An unparalleled (catholic) opportunity

After the schismatic events of the last few weeks (public and private), culminating certain similar events of the last few years, I am more skeptical than ever about the unity the Reformed sector of the church. Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised. As John Frame's insightful essay "Machen's Warrior Children" in the new McGrath festschrift documents, we Calvinians have been an acerbic, divisive bunch (for 75 years, at least). So, perhaps we have gotten what we deserve. Or, at least, we've not lately acted out of character.

Thee major Reformed conferences in this month alone (one of which CCL co-sponsored) have served only to further reveal the deep fissures in our midst. When Westminster Seminary-West (for example) announces a conference trumpeting that the Gospel of Jesus is under attack within the Reformed camp, specifically invoking the name of former WTS-East professor Norman Shepherd as a culprit, we can be certain that the handwriting is on the wall. (The May issue of Christian Culture will carry my hard-hitting essay "What Is the Gospel?")

A cluster of issues (some unrelated to the others) contribute to this seemingly irreconcilable fracas: justification, the covenant of works, theonomy, the "New Perspective on Paul," infant communion, the Law-Gospel relationship, the imputation of “active obedience,” Shepherd's interpretation of the Westminster Confession, and so on. Public and private attempts at reconciliation have to this point proved fruitless. I have great faith in the power of the Holy Spirit, but humanly speaking, I have little confidence that this deep schism will be healed in my lifetime. This is no prediction, just an observation. I hope I’m wrong.

I do not wish to lay undue blame. I must confess, however, that when one side in a dispute anathematizes the other as denying or attacking the Gospel, the only recourse is division, since by the side doing the accusing nothing will suffice short of repudiation by the other side of their views and repentance for them. This is a formula for schism, not discussion.

I predict that each side will persist in its views (and further develop them) and increasingly avoid contact with those from "The Other Side" (such parlance is distasteful, but it is sadly and inescapably accurate in this case).

It is pretty clear that my sentiments are with those who practice a "generous orthodoxy" — standing within the bounds of historic orthodox Christianity and willing to innovate (cautiously) in terms of a careful reading of the Bible, despite secondary disagreements we may have with one another. While I pray for those brothers on "The Other Side," and while I love them and (with rare exception) respect them, I cannot follow them in their labeling (libeling?) all divergence from their views a denial of or attack on the Gospel.

We at CCL and other ministries will, therefore, go our own way, without (we pray) bitterness or rancor. We are called to faithfulness to the King, and we intend to serve Him as He gives us ability.

The good news is that an entire generation of young Christians (a few older ones, too) is weary of the schismatic rancor and is eager to work together in combatting the evils of society in restoring Christian culture. And we intend to join with all Christians of whatever denomination everywhere who will join us in pressing the claims of Christ the King in all areas of culture.

Christus Victor!

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