Baptists a False Church According to the Belgic Confession?

Status
Not open for further replies.

N. Eshelman

Puritan Board Senior
Brothers,

I have a question that deals with the Belgic Confession's language of "false church/true church" as it relates to Baptists.

In the Westminster tradition, we use the language of "more pure or less pure" when talking about the church. Chapter 25.4 of the Westminster Confession reads, " This catholic Church hath been sometimes more, sometimes less visible. And particular churches, which are members thereof, are more or less pure, according as the doctrine of the Gospel is taught and embraced, ordinances administered, and public worship performed more or less purely in them." It would seem that according to Westminster doctrine we could say that Baptist churches are less pure than Presbyterian Churches (I am not trying to offend, brothers... here me out.)

The Belgic Confession, article 29, which deals with the church, uses the language of true/false church. Here is what they have to say about the false church, "As for the false Church, it ascribes more power and authority to itself and its ordinances than to the Word of God, and will not submit itself to the yoke of Christ. Neither does it administer the sacraments as appointed by Christ in His Word, but adds to and takes from them, as it thinks proper; it relies more upon men than upon Christ; and persecutes those who live holily according to the Word of God and rebuke it for its errors, covetousness, and idolatry."

Here's my loaded question (and this is a real pastoral question, not a fight pickin' for my Baptist friends), According to the doctrine of the Belgic Confession, are Baptist churches FALSE churches? Why or why not?

I know it's a hot question... please help me in answering it.

Nathan
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
You could also say that an otherwise orthodox Presbyterian Church that administered the sacrament of baptism too widely or narrowly was a false church, on the statement from the Belgic Confession alone.

The Baptist position is an error. I don't know whether the Belgic Confession is saying it is such an error as to class all Baptist churches as false churches. I would have to study the Belgic Confession more closely. :2cents:
 

Dearly Bought

Puritan Board Junior
I would say that a Baptist church does fail on the second mark and is therefore a false church. Compromising the sacraments ends up compromising the Gospel as it is visibly represented there. There are many Reformed Baptists who agree, from the other perspective of course: "there is one gospel preached by their lips and another by their water" (Samuel Waldron, Biblical Baptism, p. 12).

I don't buy the notion that the Westminster Confession differs on this matter. Historically, the Westminster Confession was adopted by Scottish Presbyterians in addition to the Scottish Confession (1560). I do not know the constitutional status of the Scottish Confession in various American churches such as the RPCNA, so perhaps the brethren can help me out. The Scottish Confession presents the same teaching as the Belgic:
The notes, therefore, of the true kirk of God we believe, confess, and avow to be: first, the true preaching of the word of God, into the which God has revealed himself to us, as the writings of the prophets and apostles do declare; secondly, the right administration of the sacraments of Christ Jesus, which must be annexed unto the word and promise of God, to seal and confirm the same in our hearts; last, ecclesiastical discipline uprightly ministered, as God's word prescribes, whereby vice is repressed, and virtue nourished. Wheresoever then these former notes are seen, and of any time continue (be the number [of persons] never so few, about two or three) there, without all doubt, is the true kirk of Christ: who, according to his promise is in the midst of them: not that universal [kirk] (of which we have before spoken) but particular; such as were in Corinth,Galatia, Ephesus,and other places in which the ministry was planted by Paul, and were of himself named the kirks of God.

Furthermore, the Westminster Confession speaks of the great sin of contemning or neglecting baptism, appending Exodus 4:24-26 as a prooftext (WCF 28.5).


(Necessary Note: I love my Baptist brothers and will rejoice to worship our God together in glory one day.)
 

reformed_vanilla

Puritan Board Freshman
Could it be that the Belgic Confession is outlining contributing factors of a false church, rather than declaring a church which does any one of these things is a false church?
 

rbcbob

Puritan Board Graduate
The Belgic Confession was written in the context of 16th century passions which ran high. The worst excesses of some anabaptists were imputed to all who dissented from State Churches and no allowance made for pious lovers of Jesus who worshipped according to conscience in their humble congregations. *Verduin's "The Reformers and Their Stepchildren" documents much of this history.*
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
The Belgic Confession, article 29, which deals with the church, uses the language of true/false church. Here is what they have to say about the false church, "As for the false Church, it ascribes more power and authority to itself and its ordinances than to the Word of God, and will not submit itself to the yoke of Christ. Neither does it administer the sacraments as appointed by Christ in His Word, but adds to and takes from them, as it thinks proper; it relies more upon men than upon Christ; and persecutes those who live holily according to the Word of God and rebuke it for its errors, covetousness, and idolatry."

That particular paragraph doesn't say that any one of these characteristics makes a false church false. It rather paints a summary picture of a false church as a whole, and declares that this is what a false church looks like.

So unless we're prepared to say that simply being Baptist means a church is ascribing more power to itself than to the Word of God, and is refusing to submit to Christ, and persecutes those who live holy lives... that particular statement as a whole does NOT describe a Baptist church and therefore does not say Baptist churches are false churches.

The false church in question makes ALL these errors.

However... earlier in that same article (29) of the Belgic, the confession lists the three necessary marks of a true church. One of those is "the pure administration of the sacraments." Here, each one is necessary. So it is that line that might preclude Baptist churches, especially when taken together with the later passage you quoted which explains that unpure administration includes taking from the sacraments. A paedobaptist could argue that a Baptist takes from the sacrament by excluding the extension of this grace to children of believers.

What do I think? Although I believe Baptists to be in error, I don't believe the error is so great as to fit the description of the willfully arrogant church described in the section you quoted. That description is a big clue to what the confession means to speak against. Hence, a Baptist church is not a false church according to the Belgic.
 

Guido's Brother

Puritan Board Junior
These are my lecture notes on the part of the Confession in question:

"In the past, some have oversimplified the Confession’s approach here. Some have said that there are two categories. A church is either true or false. It’s one or the other. If a church does not perfectly bear the three marks of a true church, then it must be a false church. So a church can have faithful preaching of the gospel, faithful administration of the sacraments, but if it fails in the area of church discipline, then it is a false church. But the Confession doesn’t say this.

The Confession has another category here that’s often forgotten: the sect. The sect is a group that claims to be a Christian church but is lacking in some key area or another. In the original context of Guido de Bres, most of the Anabaptist groups were regarded as sects. They were not true churches, but they were not the false church either. Now, true Bible-believing Christians don’t belong in sects and they should separate from them. But the false church is really in a league all of its own and it’s the false church that the Confession focuses on at the end of article 29."
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
I think looking at the grammar of article 29 would answer the question. The false church does all of the things mentioned. Baptists as an ecclesiastical group, at any rate, don't seem to have a notoriously high level of persecution of those who live holily; as such, they signally fail in one of the marks of the false church.
 

davenporter

Puritan Board Freshman
I have a question about what we mean by "false churches" -- are we equating the concept of a "false church" with the idea of a "synagogue of Satan"? If so, are we saying that in a false church, there would be "no ordinary possibility of salvation"? Here are the passages from the WCF I am getting these ideas:

WCF, 25, II. The visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the Gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children: and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.
(...)
V. The purest Churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error; and some have so degenerated, as to become no Churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan. (...)

I'm not trying to change the subject, I'm just trying to see the implications of what we're saying... how could we have fellowship with 'believers' in a "false visible church" (i.e. not a true church) -- if outside of the Visible Church there is no "ordinary salvation"?


Another question I have regarding the application of the Belgic Confession in this way would be regarding the ordinances -- if one church practices exclusive psalmody and another uses uninspired hymns, wouldn't the same problem arise if we interpret the Belgic Confession this way (i.e. the exclusive psalmodists would call the other church a false church)? To me it seems to be the same argument; please correct me if I'm wrong.

Forgive me if these are elementary questions, I still have a lot to learn.
 

N. Eshelman

Puritan Board Senior
The Belgic Confession was written in the context of 16th century passions which ran high. The worst excesses of some anabaptists were imputed to all who dissented from State Churches and no allowance made for pious lovers of Jesus who worshipped according to conscience in their humble congregations. *Verduin's "The Reformers and Their Stepchildren" documents much of this history.*

I think this is a horrible explanation... saying that the passions of the reformers led to excess. This was part of John MacArthur's series on baptism when he said that the reformers were afraid of the consequences of "going all the way" therefore they cowered in their old Romish position.

Bad history.
 

N. Eshelman

Puritan Board Senior
I have a question about what we mean by "false churches" -- are we equating the concept of a "false church" with the idea of a "synagogue of Satan"? If so, are we saying that in a false church, there would be "no ordinary possibility of salvation"? Here are the passages from the WCF I am getting these ideas:

WCF, 25, II. The visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the Gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children: and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.
(...)
V. The purest Churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error; and some have so degenerated, as to become no Churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan. (...)

I'm not trying to change the subject, I'm just trying to see the implications of what we're saying... how could we have fellowship with 'believers' in a "false visible church" (i.e. not a true church) -- if outside of the Visible Church there is no "ordinary salvation"?


Another question I have regarding the application of the Belgic Confession in this way would be regarding the ordinances -- if one church practices exclusive psalmody and another uses uninspired hymns, wouldn't the same problem arise if we interpret the Belgic Confession this way (i.e. the exclusive psalmodists would call the other church a false church)? To me it seems to be the same argument; please correct me if I'm wrong.

Forgive me if these are elementary questions, I still have a lot to learn.

Well, this is part of how I am intellectually wrestling as well. Are we using different categories to describe BEING vs. WELL BEING or is the Westminster correcting a error in the BCF? Not sure. Still thinking through the implications.

Of course, the answer could just be that they are false churches. That is one email that I got this evening...
 

Myshkin

Puritan Board Freshman
It was explained to me years ago that the WCF is dealing with well-being, the Belgic with being. Still trying to understand this issue myself.

Perhaps it would help if we defined thoroughly what "true administration" of the sacraments means. Does it include the essentials of administration(with scripture/words of institution, by ordained, etc.), or does it also include the "correct" view of additional matters (proper recipients, proper view of Christ's presence, etc.).
 

rbcbob

Puritan Board Graduate
The Belgic Confession was written in the context of 16th century passions which ran high. The worst excesses of some anabaptists were imputed to all who dissented from State Churches and no allowance made for pious lovers of Jesus who worshipped according to conscience in their humble congregations. *Verduin's "The Reformers and Their Stepchildren" documents much of this history.*

I think this is a horrible explanation... saying that the passions of the reformers led to excess. This was part of John MacArthur's series on baptism when he said that the reformers were afraid of the consequences of "going all the way" therefore they cowered in their old Romish position.

Bad history.

Have you read Verduin? The history is verifiable wether it is pleasant or not. Try Dr. Timothy George "Theology of The Reformers" if you don't want to read Verduin.
 

Marrow Man

Drunk with Powder
I always read those statements in the 16th century confessions about the marks of a false church to be aimed primarily at Rome (i.e., why was Rome a false church? Because it did not preach the gospel, because it perverted the sacraments, and because it tolerated horrible moral abuses within its midst).
 

Bill The Baptist

Puritan Board Graduate
and this is a real pastoral question, not a fight pickin' for my Baptist friends

Actually, yes you are. Your pathetic attempts to mask this fact have failed miserably. Truthfully, this is a useless thread because I sincerly doubt that the Belgic Confession is your confession of faith, and so what purpose does it serve for others to give you their opinion on the matter? If you personally feel that Baptist churches are false churches, then just come out and say that instead of hiding behind this ridiculous premise of trying to seek clarity on the Belgic Confession.:2cents:
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top