Thursday, March 05, 2009

Against the Darbyites: Excerpts in defense of Lent, Church authority, and the Church's indefectibility

Yes, Lent...it's the forty days of preparation before Easter. It's a penitential season marked by abstinence and fasting for those of us who "regard the day" as our fathers in the faith have done for countless generations.

...I'm glad you're willing to stick around and have a serious conversation, ___. Welcome. I'm surprised Brethren so-called admit the necessity of confession. First John 1:9 prescribes the confession of sin for both forgiveness and purification of sins. I only recall an emphasis on psychological alleviation after initial conversion, since supposedly we've been forgiven for all our sins--even those we haven't yet commited. Once saved, always saved--right? Brethren argue that any post-conversion alienation we experience due to sin is merely psychological since we have been reconciled to God and guaranteed Heaven whether we actually persevere or not.

This is not the biblical view. I believe St. John when he says we confess in order to receive judicial forgiveness and moral purification. I believe the Lord Jesus when He tells us to pray "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." I believe Him when He says only those who love, forgive, and provide restitution will be loved, forgiven, and restored. Without works, faith is dead.

I believe the Bible when it says only those who persevere to the end will be saved. (Of course, I affirm the necessity of grace--the indwelling Holy Spirit's effectual working--for this). I believe the Bible when it says our Lord gave the Apostles authority to remit and retain sins. I believe the Bible when it says the Apostles were commissioned to baptize and disciple the nations. Therefore, I believe there is a priestly, pastoral, ruling and teaching authority in the Church associated with offices that were established from the beginning.

All of these offices exist by virtue of Christ's Royal High Priestly ministry that He exercises perpetually for us. Gifts that are practiced without the authority of an office are out of order. A personal relationship with Jesus outside of a legal covenant structure is an illicit relationship. One cannot have Jesus as his Savior if he does not also accept Him as his Lord (King and Master).

Because of Christ's faithfulness, His Church will not fail. Perhaps parts of it can be cut off, but the whole can never be destroyed. The gates of hell cannot prevail against it. Only those who agree with Korah's rebellious spirit (Jude 11; Num. 16:3) are deluded enough to believe that the entire Church fell away in the apostolic period. The Revelation to St. John (the last NT prophecy to be committed to writing) demonstrates that at least seven churches in Asia had not completely fallen away. St. Paul had already been executed by this time (we know this from Church tradition and only Church tradition). [Explanation: Darbyites believe the Church fell away as a public testimony to the Gospel and the unity of the Body in the apostolic period.]

We possess writings by contemporaries of the Apostles, men that were personally discipled by them and martyred. There is much of value in the writings of the Fathers. We read Holy Scripture in light (especially) of what the Holy Spirit taught them concerning the doctrines of God (the Trinity) and Christ (wholly God and wholly man, without confusion or separation) through the holy scriptures they were given the privelege to preserve, collect, and canonize by ecclesiastical authority.

I am prepared to demonstrate that the faith of the Church Fathers is in full conformity with the original deposit of Scripture, while acceding to the reality that their understanding was imperfect in many areas. It was given to later generations to flesh out the teaching of Scripture on other matters.

Anyway, I wasn't originally referring to the Church Fathers. I was referring to all the fathers in the faith that connect us to the first generation Church through an unbroken line of historic succession.

The Church is not the United States. The United States does not have Christ's guarantee that it will be preserved until the end of time. However, like He prayed for St. Peter, Jesus prays for us that our faith will not fail.

Postscript: Because there is disciplinary authority in the Church to pastor Christian disciples, prescribed feasts and fasts have been observed since the earliest times. The OT church had its own festivals and penitential seasons. The NT church has its correlative observances in light of Christ's coming and accomplished work of redemption. For the Christian, all things (including times) are holy but there is variation between them. Because divine goodness is multifaceted, not all times are the same. For example, Sunday is different from all the other days of the week.

To deny we should ever fast or feast in anticipation/ commemoration of significant redemptive events is basically the error of denying there are appropriate times for communal joy and sorrow. There is a time to mourn and a time to rejoice. To say it's pointless for Christians in general to engage in collective repentance is to say that collective repentance is pointless.

Of course, you Brethren deny the collective integrity of the Church on earth. In fact, anything having to do with material things/ the body is suspect because it's not spiritual enough. Ever heard of Docetism? John Nelson Darby's doctrine of Christ's heavenly humanity is definitely docetic in tendency.

Unfortunately for your theories, fasting is New Testament practice: Jesus, the disciples, and St. Paul all fasted. When was the last time you ever fasted, if ever?

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