Invite Arminians to the Lord's Table?

Discussion in 'Calvinism & The Doctrines of Grace' started by non dignus, Jun 8, 2007.

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  1. turmeric

    turmeric Megerator

    Here is a piece I wrote at the request of the Missions Committee at my church when this subject came up. The issue is support of missionaries and why I would support some and not others because of doctrine.

    Specific Concerns I Have about Non-Reformed Missionaries

    Keswick holiness-Perfection
    This model of holiness-perfection was popularized by Hannah Whitehall Smith and admired by D.L.Moody. It comes in many flavors from mild to intense, from the Campus Crusade for Christ variety to the radical teachings of the Pentecostals. It was incorporated into Dispensationalism, (the theology of most independent Bible churches) and was later adopted by the Foursquare Church and the Assemblies of God churches as well. This has made it pretty much ubiquitous in mainstream evangelicalism. This is the teaching which has brought us the “carnal Christian”.

    As Michael Horton points out;

    “The Westminster Confession defines sin as, not only ‘transgression of the law of God,’ but ‘any lack of conformity to’ that law. Because the law is ignored in the Evangelical world…we have invented our own standards of righteousness. Thus, sin and righteousness are not measured by the degree to which we conform to the law in thought, word and deed, but in being able to live above ‘known sins’. But the Bible doesn’t call us to be ‘fully surrendered’; it demands that we conform perfectly to the righteousness commanded in the law. And it condemns not only for ‘known’ but also for ‘unknown sins’. One unknown sin is enough of an affront to God’s majesty to condemn a person for all eternity...Whenever the law is diminished in its strict terror, we lose the stern taskmaster that leads us to Christ for salvation…For the ‘victorious Christian life’ teaching, sin is not a failure to conform to God’s legal righteousness, but merely a failure to yield or surrender to the Spirit.”

    Horton goes on in a later chapter to compare the typical altar-call (decisional regeneration, and rededication) to the Roman Catholic sacrament of confession.

    Decisional Regeneration
    This is the teaching that the moment a person expresses assent to certain propositions, that one is reborn. Once the required propositions have been given the person may express his assent in any number of ways, from repeating a prayer to signing a card, or simply by making eye-contact with the speaker. Salvation is represented as occurring the instant the person believes the stated propositions. This notion of faith is very different from the classic Reformed definition, which represents saving faith as a gift from God which consists of three things, knowledge of Gospel content, assent to the Gospel, and personal trust in Jesus’ death as payment for one’s sin. Neither knowledge nor assent is enough. The desire to end one’s rebellion against God must be present as well. This is a result, not a cause, of regeneration; hence regeneration is entirely a work of God.

    Active Obedience of Christ
    Unfortunately, broad evangelicalism has misunderstood and de-emphasized Christ’s active obedience. One popular author (Maj. W. Ian Thomas) has actually written that the perfect life of Jesus on earth condemns us, whereas His death saves us). Because of this misunderstanding among their teachers, many evangelicals have either never been taught about Christ’s active righteousness, or have been incorrectly taught that the righteousness of Christ which God imputes to us is not the active obedience He performed in His earthly lifetime, but another righteousness of Christ, that which He has now in His resurrected life. The idea is that we draw from this resource in order not to sin; rather than realizing that Jesus kept the law in our place in His life on earth.
  2. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    I think that point has been made clear. After reading the thread through again it seems the issue revolves around what makes a person "the Lord's." Is the definition provided by Dort at all normative for determining who are the Lord's people?
  3. thekingsknight

    thekingsknight Puritan Board Freshman

    What is being "pushed" on this thread is "closed" communion-i.e. the practice of allowing only members in good standing in one's own church or denomination to partake of the Lord's Supper. What you and I believe in is "resticted" communion-i.e. Only "true" believers who are members in good standing in a "true" church of Jesus Christ may partake of the Lord's Supper.
    A public announcement is made at my church of the "biblical requirements" and "private prohibition" of those known to be unworthy (i.e. those who might partake who are "openly ungodly" professing Christians and/or a "true" believer who is in a state of unrepentance for sins commited).
    This obviouly covers the issue of "open communion" i.e. all may partake.
    Arm yourself well if you desire to fight the good fight. Contend for the faith, not tradition!
  4. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Trevor, I'm not sure the "damnation" rhetoric is at all helpful to the thread. We need to understand what is the proper relationship between "salvation" and the Lord's supper. The supper does not exist to confirm one's status as "saved," but in order to confirm the person in their salvation so they might grow up to be an assured and active Christian. A part of this process of confirmation is right teaching. Sacramental efficacy is never divorced from the sound instruction of the Word. The real question then is this: If a person will not receive sound instruction from the Word should they be admitted to the Lord's supper?

    Also, I find it strange that Dort can be written off as extra biblical baggage whilst the name "Arminian" is allowed recognition. I sense the one is being used in a technical sense and the other is being used loosely.

    We should also make a distinction between the formal and material teaching of Dort. Formally, no, it is not requisite that one subscribe to Dort in order to be saved. Materially, however, we acknowledge that Dort outlines the biblical doctrine of salvation. That being the case, we cannot ignore what Dort states is necessary for salvation in assessing who are the Lord's people.
  5. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member


    This is very revealing. What is "The Faith" Ted?

    I find it fascinating how people that most eschew a Confessional expression of the faith once and for all delivered to the Saints as being "tradition" and carrying too much weight, themselves become the arbiter of what "the faith" is.

    Notice how dogmatic you are:

    1. You prescribe that communion consists of: "Only "true" believers who are members in good standing in a "true" church of Jesus Christ may partake of the Lord's Supper."

    OK, Ted, on what basis do you make this pronouncement? Could it be your interpretation of the Scriptures? What makes it superior to Dort's out of curiosity? Were they using Scripture when they wrote the Canons or is it your contention that they were shooting from the hip?

    2. Contrarily, the historic Reformed position that seeks to be consistent with the Scriptures itself on the role of Elders and Church discipline is eschewed as Tradition {scary music plays in the background as the word is uttered}

    But not you right? You have THE FAITH. Is that how I'm supposed to read it? That's right - Calvin, Knox, Dort, and all those other crazy theologians were bound by tradition. They didn't read the Scriptures. Is that what tradition means?

    I think I have to type this same idea about once every week lately when somebody claims to have "the faith" or "the Scriptures" against a Church's confession. Let's remember here, people, that the Confession is what we believe the Scriptures teach. I find it fascinating that it is presumed to be the arrogant position when an entire group of people submits to their Elders and says: "We love the Word but are ever reforming and don't know it exhaustively. We submit to our Elder's teaching on this because we are striving for the unity of the faith once delivered to the Saints and we don't believe that means that a new interpretation of the Scriptures is born every time a Christian is."

    It's like the post-modernist that claims the Christian is arrogant because he believes in Truth. The truth is that it is the autonomous man who is arrogantly ascribing to himself the right to filter all truth claims, including God's in His Word, and deciding what is true and what is not.

    And so, you'll have to forgive me Ted if I don't find your "You and I believe..." statement to be the paragon of humility. Are you stating that you're better studied in the Scriptures than those that have preceded you in the Reformed faith. Are you wiser than Dort? Let us see your exegesis for restricted communion and determine the scholarship that went into your statement.

    I don't mind the discussion but when a man chalks up the entire history of Reformed confessionalism and, with a wave of his hand, calls it tradition to HIS faith, that really raises my eyebrows.
  6. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    I agree Rev Winzer.

    It's funny that, on the same thread, I have to argue against two poles - one side that jumps to the end of Church discipline and another that wants to ascribe discipline to "damning".

    Honestly, Trevor, you should know better than to state that the Church "damns" a man. Excommunication, at its worst, doesn't damn a man. Only God does that.

    I agree with Rev. Winzer that such language is unhelpful. This discussion really ought to focus on this aspect of discipline not as a final act but as a corrective act.

    What complicates this whole discussion is that people are simply not working off of the same definitions. The nature of the Sacraments. The nature of faith. The nature of rebellion or ignorance are all factors that have to be spelled out and agreed upon or we're simply talking past one another. To state, by fiat, that a Methodist must be allowed to the Table cannot be sustained by Scripture. Now, might you present a case where a particular Methodist should be allowed after then sure. Maybe there's a valid discussion on what it means to fence the table - should it be closed or restricted (I don't have a problem with the discussion but I do have a problem when people wave away a systematic confession as "tradition" and present their own view as "the faith").

    The point is that Elders have some work to do in the Supper and it's not just a free for all. What shocks me is how few Elders take their responsibility for the care of the flock (those who must give account) and how little fear there is in the hearts of men that someone might be drinking to their own destruction. Doesn't that cause some folks pause? Drinking to destruction. Seriously, if you're an LBCF guy, it's not like you even ascribe anything to the Supper than a memorial value. They're not "missing out" on infused grace if they're barred from the Table as a precaution. The Elder's not saying "you're not a brother" but he is saying "I don't want you to be judged for this."

    I just think we could have the same discussion without presuming that the side that is being more guarded in this discussion is necessarily damning all who are not uber-Reformed.
  7. non dignus

    non dignus Puritan Board Sophomore

    Well put, Rich.

    This is what the confessions and councils do for us. They spell it out so we don't have to keep on re-inventing the wheel.

    I believe the Jerusalem Council was a model to use in order to combat error infecting the church. Which ever council one favors or disfavors is a form of profession.

    I have a dear friend in the Dawn Bible Students who does not recognize the council of Nicea. He says it was just a convenience for Constantine to bring in Paganism. My friend and I have great discussions because he is very knowledgeable about the Bible, but obviously we do not worship together.

    Today we must deal with the Federal Vision. We must contend for the faith. The model shown to us at Jerusalem still serves us well. What are we waiting for?
  8. turmeric

    turmeric Megerator

    It seems to me that fencing the Table is not about damnation but its opposite. It's an attempt at rescue.
  9. thekingsknight

    thekingsknight Puritan Board Freshman

    To Rich:
    Well, I've obviously stirred up your wrath and must bear the chagrin. At this point in time I have neither the time nor energy to go point by point here on this thread as I am infirmed. I will not however let my infirmity be an excuse for not answering you directly "offline" should you wish. Allow me to just say that I've been misrepresented. I never laid any claim to having any sort of superior knowledge. I dare not puff myself up to such heights. The faith? That you would ask me that, having read my testimony? If you feel any need to see if I'm in Christ, let's do it "offline".
  10. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member


    First, I hope you feel better soon.

    Second, you have incurred no wrath.

    Thirdly, I did not question whether or not you were "in Christ".

    I probably reacted more sharply than I ought to have. I apologize. I do, nevertheless, grow weary of the characterization that to be Confessional is to be, necessarily, bound to tradition.

    I labor to demonstrate repeatedly that the reason we subscribe to Confessions is because we believe they accurately confess the doctrines of the Scriptures where the speak. Where they do not they need to be reformed because they are secondary to the Scriptures but that is the purview of the Church to reform Confessional documents. Why? Because there is wisdom found in the counsel of many.

    Thus, when we're discussing something like Dort and people bring up the Canons then, for one minute, I wish the detractors would existentially transport themselves back to the 17th Century and remember that these were Godly ministers and first class theologians from all over Reformed Christendom. It may be less tempting to dismiss them if we thought of them as Godly brothers who are well studied in the Word and would have to eschew their exegesis and vast pastoral experience to their face.

    In fact, the more I intersect the Reformed theology of my forebears, the more I realize how solid not only their systematic but their practical theology was. I realize how pastoral their understanding of human nature was.

    We are infected by an modernist mindset that eschews the old. We (and I include me) need to fight this tendency because we can import that view on the Word and misunderstand the Word, which was written to a people who would have considered such thinking very foreign.

    Such thinking is precisely the opposite, in fact, of the concept of Sola Scriptura. It is assumed, today, that this means, essentially, Me and the Bible (with the emphasis on the Me). That is, that individual interpretion is what is intended by Sola Scriptura. Not so. Sola Scriptura places ultimate authority in God's Word but that does not mean, by extension, that the Word gives interpretive authority to the individual. In fact, God's Word declares that the Lord provides Pastors and Teachers for the very function of building up the community of faith and it directly commands that the Church strive for the unity of the faith.

    By necessary deduction, the Church must then have a role in determining the proper interpretation of the Word. Hence, the universal affirmation in the Reformed Confessions that synods and councils are given the authority to settle such disputes.

    Thus, while I find it interesting that some believe that Dort is out to lunch when it comes to the nature of the Lord's Table, I consider it the interpretation of a man in competition with the interpretation of the Church that I consider myself a confessing member of. I consider the former to be an opinion while I consider the latter to hold authoratative weight that I am required to not so hastily dismiss.
  11. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Yes but he also, in the same passage, extols that we ought to examine ourselves. The context of the entire letter is, in part, a rebuke that the Church was not disciplining itself properly. You infer that "ourselves" is a command from Paul that each man merely determine his own eligibility for the Table. I believe the context, in the midst of cases of Church discipline, make this assertion dubious.

    Paul, the same letter, upbraids the Church for not putting a man out of the Church for the sin he is bearing upon himself as a protective measure for the Church and for the man himself (that he might come to his senses).

    Are the Elders supposed to just ignore something as obviously perilous as "eating and drinking judgment...and simply conclude, in the thread of the entire rebuke: "Well, each man for himself to determine fitness I suppose...."
  12. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Incidentally, Trevor, it's statements like this that poison the well.

    Not a soul has argued for a discernment of a Creed or a Confession. If you would focus your argument against your opponents and not on straw men then you might make some headway. I don't know who you're arguing with. I catch a lot of flack from Baptists for speaking strongly but at least I attempt to state their Confession accurately before I ravage it in sometimes offensive ways.

    Perhaps, in another thread, you ought to present your systematic view of the role of Officers in the Church from the Scriptures so we can see how much or little such men need to fear from God for the care of the flock. Maybe then we could overlay that discussion with this and see how well they mesh.
    To state that barring from the Table is tantamount to disallowing worship is another mischaracterization. You started with characterizing discipline as damnation but haven't quite yet backed up to what the real implication would be in the worst case. It is a temporary stage of discipline or may not be discipline at all but a precautionary state. The reason I pointed out the LBCF view of the ordinance is that the Supper is even less significant a meal by your Confession than it is for mine. Neither of our Confessions state that the temporary barring from the Supper is tantamount to complete excommunication or disallowing of fellowship. I frankly don't know what you attribute to the Supper that's not in the Scriptures (and reflected in a Confession) but I don't see any warrant to agree with the charge you have made.
    What? Men that subscribed to the WCF were nice? Say it isn't so Trevor. You didn't depend upon an elder's opinion of you? Does that mean that if a member of the Church was cheating on his wife, the elders just said: "That's between you and God, don't worry about what we think. What does your heart tell you?"
  13. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member


    I think in the final analysis, who is/isn't admitted to the Table is always a local Church issue. Some elders are stricter than others. Some are probably more strict than they ought but I believe that the elders that exercise no discernible discipline in this matter are ultimately the most to be condemned for their wanton lack of care for sheep.

    I don't agree with the "if you're not in our denomination then you're not in the Church" stance. I could construct a thought experiment where a man from an Arminian Church, after being interviewed by the Elders of a Church, should be admitted to the Table. I'll be honest, until you've interviewed a man, how do you know he's Christ's at all? Just because he says so? Mormons say that. I think questions that penetrate into his trust in a very primitive fashion are necessary.

    I hope to be an Elder someday and I would not ask: "Do you embrace the 5 points of Calvinism?" Rather, I would ask simple questions that penetrated where the man's trust was. If I sensed he was in denial of the consequences of sin and denied Christ's substitionary death for those who embrace Him by faith then I would enjoin him to believe in such things. If he refused and stood on some heterodox doctrine then, without labelling it, I would have to refuse him to the Table. This wouldn't be on the basis of being "in a camp" but on the basis of what unites a man to Christ.

    I honestly believe that, although it is complex language, Dort gives such guidelines on what it means to be united to Christ. All such systematic theology needs to be applied practically and pastorally and, as noted repeatedly, this doesn't mean that all participants have to recite a precise theological formula and pass an exam but, if they're found to be rejecting the Gospel in these basic areas then, very basically, we need to try to get them to see how they relate to their salvation.

    Then, if they are recalcitrant and say: "I simply cannot accept that men are depraved sinners!" what are you supposed to do? It's simply not an option at that point to say: "Well Arminians are Christians too!" This is why I hate labels - because men need to be taken one at a time and there is a winsome way to present the Gospel (aka the Reformed Confessional understanding of it) without "5 pointing" it and saying: "Choose ye this day whether ye will be Arminian or Calvinist!" Instead, you work with them and hope they embrace such Truths of the Gospel and when they reject them you have to protect them from the Table.

    Trevor, I'm really not trying to toot my own horn but check out:

    Listen to my teaching on Romans 8:1-17 (and 5-7 if you have the time). I don't think you'll learn anything, per se, but I have managed to communicate my Confessional theology without having to use terms in a bludgeoning way. What if, in the middle of my presentation of Romans 8, a man simply cannot stomach such Truth? I would say that such a man should not be at the Table of the Lord.

    Regarding participation at my SBC Church - I get a bit of a pass. Why? Because I was immersed by profession and so was Sonya I'm not a good example because most Baptist Churches wouldn't exclude me because immersion is one of their typical "checklist" items for the Lord's Supper.
  14. thekingsknight

    thekingsknight Puritan Board Freshman

    Dear brother Rich, thanks for your last post to me. I too must apologize to you. My infirmity happens to be "Cluster Headaches" & perhaps I should'nt be posting at all during these times, as I'm not always "all there", but I both enjoy and need the interaction of the board. It helps me out a lot. Your last post to me was spot on. I don't have an argument with Dort. I'm more (hopefully not less) trying to address the original post of whether one who rejects the Canons of Dort be allowed to partake of the Lord's Supper. I don't see where Dort deals with the subject-whether explicit or implicit. What I meant by tradition is the practice of "closed" communion as by the definition given. As to the faith, I meant those things that are made plain by the light of scripture & not necessarily the "practice" of a given church/denomination. You know! "Faith & Practice". Again, sorry for the confusion.
  15. thekingsknight

    thekingsknight Puritan Board Freshman

    Rich, your post just above mine is kind of what I'm thinking. I guess that we were typing at the same time, but you beat me to the draw.
  16. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

  17. non dignus

    non dignus Puritan Board Sophomore

    By the way, you don't have to give visitors a theological exam. We ask them, "Are you a member of a Reformed Church and communing there?"

    Calvary Chapels have open communion. Conceivably the man at Corinth who was sleeping with his father's wife could have gone down the street to CCC (Calvary Chapel of Corinth) where they would have told him to examine himself. One doesn't even need to be baptised to partake! That's why I don't take communion there. I would have no idea who I was uniting with. Remember the union in communion.

    Fencing the table is for the benefit of regular members too.
  18. elnwood

    elnwood Puritan Board Junior

    It would depend on the church. I don't think most Baptist churches would require baptism by immersion for visitors to partake of the Lord's Supper. Most would require it for membership though.

    For those of you who would exclude someone from the Lord's table for disagreeing with the Synod of Dort on predestination, would you also exclude someone from the Lord's table for disagreeing with the Synod of Dort paedobaptism?
  19. non dignus

    non dignus Puritan Board Sophomore

    Did you mean just the synod of Dort; or also the Westminster Confession, Larger and Shorter Catechisms; the Belgic and 2nd Helvetic Confessions, and the Heidelberg Catechism? (Which did I leave out?)

    Baptism wasn't an issue at Dort. Even the Arminians were orthodox on Baptism, as far as I know.
  20. calgal

    calgal Puritan Board Graduate

    :up: And if I am not mistaken, the issue from the OP was a member of your church who joined with full knowledge of what the vows of membership were and said member changed his mind? In that instance, the elders can have this brother into a council disciplinary hearing for the good of that church body. Whether a random Arminian who walked in off the street would be able to take communion would be a different issue entirely. And would be at the discretion of the elders. :2cents:
  21. jenney

    jenney Puritan Board Freshman

    I've been away, but I realize I was misunderstood. Trevor, I wasn't trying to say you were off topic, so please don't apologize to me. I was only saying that your hypothetical Indonesian isn't exactly in the same boat as the person in the OP. I wanted to point out that difference, not say you were off-topic. :)
  22. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Trevor's the kind of guy that, if the teacher posts sitting, then he posts sprinting!
  23. elnwood

    elnwood Puritan Board Junior

    Dort does say that believer's children are part of the covenant. I was wondering, for those who say that the teachings of Dort need to be affirmed in order to take the Lord's Supper, whether that would also exclude Baptists, either by Dort or whatever standard being used.
  24. non dignus

    non dignus Puritan Board Sophomore

    In the URC, some churches do and some don't.
  25. A5pointer

    A5pointer Puritan Board Sophomore

    I hope this is not to tangential but this conversation revolves around interpretaton of

    28A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. 29For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.

    Examining oneself here seems to have something specific in mind not a general personal inspection. The sin of the church at Corinth was seperation along social lines in coming together for the meal. I can see this "recognizing the body of Christ" refering to the church body, keeping in context with Paul's charge. The remedy is to rightly keep unity of the church body especially as gathered for the Lord's Supper.

    I know that suggesting that an historic interpretation could be wrong is not kindly taken here but I see this as the best option in context. Feel free to fire away.
  26. non dignus

    non dignus Puritan Board Sophomore

    Good point.

    The doctrine of Baptism speaks to the nature and identity of the church. Baptists and paedobaptists discern the body differently.

    Don, would you like to start a new thread?
  27. elnwood

    elnwood Puritan Board Junior

    About what? You answered my question -- thank you.
  28. non dignus

    non dignus Puritan Board Sophomore

    Hi Gail,

    Right. We would encourage him to attend every Sunday towards making a profession of faith (membership) and then partaking of the sacrament.
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