From time to time, here at Baptist21 we will post a question posed to some of our faithful forefathers. Today I post a query that was posed to the Philadelphia Baptist Convention in 1748. We would like to hear from you. How would you, had you been a member of the convention, answered and advised this church? In a few days, I will post the answer from our Philadelphia brethren.
Query posed from the Church at Horseneck in New England:
1. “Whether to deny the foreknowledge of the eternal God, concerning all future evil as well as good, be not a fundamental error?”
The Association’s answer to 1. “We look upon such an opinion to be directly repugnant to Scripture; therefore exceeding erroneous and pernicious. First, because it supposes God imperfect, and so no God. Hebrews 4:13. Secondly, If so, there would be no room for the divine fall of man, which is contrary to express Scripture Testimony. Thirdly, It is an error, which, in its nature and consequences, doth oppose and tend to overthrow the whole Christian Religion, Acts 2:23, 4:28.”
2. “Whether a member of the church holding such an opinion, endeavors to propagate it, and obstinately persists in it, is not worthy of the highest censure, notwithstanding he pleads matter of conscience?”
The Association’s Answer to 2. “We judge such worthy of the highest censure; because a church is to proceed against a person who is erroneous in judgment, as well as against one vicious in practice, notwithstanding they may plead conscience in the affair. Titus 3:10, 2 Thessalonians 3:14.”
The query posed above to the Philadelphia Association over 200 years ago shows that many of issues that we are dealing with are not “new”. Some of these errors go back centuries, and calling the foreknowledge of God into question did not start with Pinnock, Boyd, and others. The Philadelphia brethren were dealing with similar issues; they labeled them for what they were, heresy, “erroneous” and “pernicious.” This kind of question calls into “question” the very attributes of God and the church must call such a teaching and such a teacher to account. The wording used by the Philadelphia Association about this kind of teaching is masterful, we find it “directly repugnant to Scripture” and it “supposes God imperfect and so no God.”
We see that in a negative way, “there is nothing new under the sun” and yet in this example I believe our Philadelphia Forbearers in the faith got it right. Ken Keathley says in a post on the matter of church discipline that clear heretical beliefs are worthy of excommunication if they are persisted in, and the Philadelphia brothers agree, they would have no room in the church pews for members like Boyd and Pinnock, instead they would say such heretical teaching is “worthy of the highest censure.”
I think it is extremely interesting that something we think is a contemporary problem and form of false doctrine and that we call ‘open theism’ has been around for centuries! I wonder if we today are handling it the same as our Baptist forefathers?
There really is nothing new under the sun! We think that the Emergent church is peddling new philosophies, when really it is just a restatement of Hegel. We think that Open Theists are the new kids on the block….study church history and we see these issues have been dealt with before.
I like this post because it shows us the importance of studying Church History. NOT just in seminary! We need to offer these things to our church members. They need to see where we have come from, what issues have been dealt with in the past, and be able to see how faithful men and women have stood firm in the midst of heresy and hard times.
At our church, this semester in discipleship, we are offering Church History as a class. We are walking our people from before Acts, to Acts, through today. If we can see our roots, see what fights have been fought, what mistakes have been made, we are better prepared to stand in the future.
Thanks for the words…and I love how the brethern of yesterday stood firm on truth and called heresy for what it is.
Our Philadelphia Forbearers in the faith got it right… on a great deal of things!
Our Forbearers were not infallible of course; but they were, as a whole, certainly more reliable guides in proper Christian doctrine than what we often find filling the shelves of most bookstores today. It is to our great shame and loss that they are all but forgotten by this generation of Baptist.
Thanks for this post… and may many more follow.