Baptist and Presbyterian Cooperation

Discussion in 'Church Order' started by Herald, Mar 19, 2013.

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  1. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    Lately I have been considering the fractured nature of the Church. There is no lack of differences between different groups. These differences often preclude cooperation in ministry; and often times rightly so. What type of differences can be mentioned? Covenant Theology vs Dispensationalism; Calvinism vs Arminianism; Cessationism vs Continualism just to name a few. These divergent theological systems present real difficulties when seeking cooperation, thus the cause of division and denomationalism.

    The cooperation I have in mind is working together for the cause of the Gospel. I am encouraged by the unity displayed by Calvinistic/Reformed Baptists and Reformed Presbyterians. When men like Ligon Duncan, Sinclair Ferguson, and R.C. Sproul can be like-minded in Gospel work the likes with Mark Dever, Sam Waldron, and Rich Barcellos it is a good thing. These two groups have much in common. The baptism and ecclesiastical differences are real, but I believe they can be isolated without rendering them moot. In other words we can work together for the sake of the Kingdom of God while not diminishing our differences.

    How much further can both groups go in promoting the Reformed faith and cooperating together for the cause of Christ? What can we do together and what lines must we not cross?

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  2. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritanboard Commissioner

    There are a couple important practical considerations as to why there are, and must be differences (denominations and communions) until our Lord returns. It is too simple to just say we can all be one in that sense:

    1) If one confesses a significant doctrinal difference it is a violation of Scripture and conscience to represent, by words or conduct, otherwise

    2)The resources of most churches are very limited, and necessarily, they can't fulfill the needs for prayer, time and money of their own members let alone dissipate them other places to which they do not have accountability, for example

    Biblical truth is a precious commodity in these, and any, times. That, of course, doesn't mean we don't "love" people, etc. The two are not mutually exclusive. In fact truth telling is part of real love. Not the world's notion, but the real (biblical) thing.

    The impossible task our Lord has given us, possible by faith, is to recognize others who profess a biblical gospel as fellow believers, brothers and sisters in Christ, adopted by Him, just wrong in doctrine and practice (but by the grace of God we may be wrong or were wrong ourselves).

    It bears to mention that there is much less commitment to the local church in our generation, less attachment to it. That means less stable commitment to the people there, less finances, less serving of and praying for the people there. Do they go somewhere else? If the go somewhere else, what does that do their home church? What does it do to the new place to have limited participation and accountability there.

    It boils down to prioritizing. I've never seen a covenant community of believers that did not have great needs for the time, prayers and tithes of its members and more.

    Yet, within prioritizing there is still some place for cross church association, mercy work and fellowship. Perhaps an analogy is the family, if we are not meeting the basic needs of the family, we ought not be spending our time and money outside. By God's grace we ought seek to order our lives and disciplines ourselves and pray that we can meet those needs, and still have some to share beyond, but only in that priority. (Actually, I like that idea very much).

    With less attachment to the local church and denominations, we have not become a more spiritual people or more loving and open. Church membership has continued to decline, in the West, at least and the world does not perceive us as more loving (by and large the unbeliever will never do so).

    Or so it seems.:2cents:
  3. Backwoods Presbyterian

    Backwoods Presbyterian Puritanboard Amanuensis

  4. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    Let me state again, I am not seeking to dumb down our disagreements. My thoughts are motivated by my recent contemplation on the Gospel and the good that has already been done by some joint ventures such as T4G, Ligonier Conferences, and books. Perhaps that is cooperation enough.

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  5. Tim

    Tim Puritan Board Graduate

    I believe the real hurdle in all of this is ecclesiastical differences. If we are talking about cooperating, I would say that the Bible does tell us how the church is to organize herself. However, Baptists and Presbyterians disagree about the nature of this organization!
  6. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    In earlier days one was putting the other in jail; now I suppose we should learn to get along as it is far more likely we'll be sharing cells in the future.
  7. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    Chris, may God grant us that unity if we face such persecution.

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  8. J Miles

    J Miles Puritan Board Freshman

    I am sorry, but I view none of these things as minor.
    If I would have viewed them as mere trifles with men, I would have simply remained in Assembles of God style churches each Sunday and would have never bothered with anything Reformed.

  9. Tim

    Tim Puritan Board Graduate

    I think you two are in agreement.
  10. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    I did not say or intimate they are minor. They are major differences.

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  11. J Miles

    J Miles Puritan Board Freshman

    That is good. I just wanted to make my position clear.
  12. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    I don't expect what I have to say on this subject to meet with a friendly reception, but one feels the importance of bearing witness to the truth, and the truth is, "co-operation" across denominations more often than not is the mother or the child of para-church organisations; that is, co-operation either creates organisations operating outside ordinary church government or those organisations produce the co-operation. Either way, the affiliation and affection of God's people is taken away from the church to some other body which has no authority or promise of blessing vested in it by Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church. A different sense of "togetherness" and "direction" will eventually emerge from such organisations, and this in turn will give rise to divisions and sub-divisions within the church, and within a space of time new churches will emerge with a whole new demography. Whatever short term advantage is gained from para-church organisations, the long term disadvantage is not worth the sacrifice. Furthermore, there are advantages to non co-operation: primarily, each body feels responsibility for the work committed to it, and undertakes to carry its own load and prove its own work, so that more focussed activity and collectivity ensues. Finally, where there is any feeling of inadequacy, it pushes each one to depend more upon others, and so to strive to be of one mind. A part of the problem with "co-operation" is that it takes the burden away from dissenters to reach unity in the faith and thus perpetuates division.
  13. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    Matthew, you make some great points, and they are well received. Perhaps the best form of cooperation we can have is to remain faithful to the Gospel within our own convictions.

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  14. SolaScriptura

    SolaScriptura Puritan Board Doctor

    Bill, if you supply the crab, I will supply the boiling pot and butter. How's that for cooperation between a Presbyterian and a Baptist?
  15. Rangerus

    Rangerus Puritan Board Junior

    Luke 9:50 (ESV)
    50 But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.”
  16. Zach

    Zach Puritan Board Junior

    Don't they also have some pretty good crabs up in Alaska?

    In all seriousness, I think the best thing we can do to promote unity throughout the church is to be faithful to the gospel and pray for all churches that are. What unites us is much stronger than what divides us, but we're often most effective when we're not fighting amongst ourselves on the secondary issues and instead are taking the gospel to the gates of hell in our own respective local church contexts.
  17. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    Yes, but shall we immerse the crab or sprinkle it?
  18. Zach

    Zach Puritan Board Junior

    Obviously we can all agree about dunking when it comes to crab and butter!
  19. reaganmarsh

    reaganmarsh Puritan Board Senior

    Rev. Glaser - just a quick (and possibly really dumb) question: what do you mean by your statement here? I visited the website and they say they subscribe to the Westminster standards...

    I'm not familiar with the FPCNA, so please excuse my ignorance. Thanks in advance.
  20. SeanPatrickCornell

    SeanPatrickCornell Puritan Board Freshman

    Hope this helps.

    Free Presbyterian Church of North America - Separated Unto The Gospel
  21. Shawn Mathis

    Shawn Mathis Puritan Board Sophomore

    This is an excellent point, Rev. Winzer.

    Let's put some teeth in this point: an example of a "different sense of 'togetherness' and 'direction' " emerging from such organizations is the NCFIC. It is unintentional, I am sure, but when 7th Day Adventist and Reformed Presbyterian can sign the same para-church confession that calls churches and families to "reformation" and "repentance" (their own words) there is certainly a different direction and togetherness involved. And yes, the Family Integrated Movement did spawn a denomination! The Covenant Presbyterian Church.

    On a lesser scale, when conferences are used to share the same stage (repeatedly) between say, non- cessationists like Piper, with cessationists (Presbyterian), it sends a message to the audience that such differences are insignificant. This is doubly so when the audience is not theologically acute.

    Even so, cooperation can and does occur. Some examples were mentioned above. There are levels of cooperation (temporary or long term, official or intimate, etc.). And such cooperation must never trump the responsibility toward one's local and regional (Presbyterian) church.

    In the Presbyterian model we are already in cooperation with each other (in theory). This is undermined when churches bypass or otherwise ignore the gifts and opportunities of their fellow Presbyterian churches to seek out "big names" and "greater opportunities" (an American problem, I think). I greatly suspect there is much more that could be done if we took the local opportunities and gifts already given us by God's grace.
  22. Backwoods Presbyterian

    Backwoods Presbyterian Puritanboard Amanuensis

  23. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    The Puritan Board is an enigma of sorts. While I would not say there is formal cooperation between the different views of its members, much good as come from the interaction that occurs here. I have learnedly much from my Presbyterian brethren. Some of that interaction has changed my views, while some of it has not. The generally civil nature of the discussion here helps in that regard.

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  24. reaganmarsh

    reaganmarsh Puritan Board Senior

    Thanks to both of you! Not sure how I overlooked that page, but it was helpful.
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