Tuesday, October 24, 2017

In the essentials - unity In the non-essentials - liberty In all things - charity

The essentials : non essentials divide depends upon context. I would distinguish between personal recognition in fellowship, church membership and church leadership. Also relevant is the church : para-church distinction. Having said this I see that the divisions above do depend on one's ecclesiology. So I write as a Presbyterian and that is a non-essential for fellowship. For fellowship and recognition, knowing that a brother or sister is Christ's by faith is the essential. We can see that some people are saved by Christ's grace alone received by faith alone without being able to formulate such a confession e.g. many Roman Catholics. We would also say this is the Christ of Scripture alone, the historic Christ not some figment of the imagination. In Presbyterian ecclesiology this is the main essential for church membership, a credible profession of faith. For membership one would add a promise to submit to the discipline of the church. This is true for para-church work also, a recognition of essentials. More essentials are required for church leadership. So for a Presbyterian it is the system of doctrine taught in the Westminster standards. Church members do not have to subscribe. Elders do, so baptism is an essential at this level. Baptists cannot be Presbyterian elders but they can be members in such a fellowship.
    Baptism is interesting in this discussion for Presbyterian Schaeffer specifically excluded his writing on baptism from his collected works as the doctrine is not an essential in the para-church work of L'Abri and to major on it would have hindered the appeal of L'Abri. The one other non-essential which does not appear in any printed work of FAS is his eschatology. That would even be a non-essential in church leadership though some make it an essential even in para-church e.g. some missionary societies. I have to say this is the only doctrinal disagreement I have with FAS. But the explicit teaching is only in on line recorded lectures though I detect its influence his pessimism about Western culture.
    Churches with Congregational government like Baptists have to have a longer list of essentials for church membership. Their government is more democracy than the representative democracy of the Presbyterian system.
    But in all things charity and accompanied with civility.

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