Getting It Right

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Once there was a Presbyterian minister who had made the whole topic of sola fide his special field of study. He had mastered the subject, as far as any mortal man can be said to have mastered anything. After a long and fruitful ministry, he eventually did what all Presbyterian ministers do, which is to say, he died.

As he approached the pearly gates, he was mildly surprised to see that St. Peter was there, just like in all the jokes. But he was, he thought, prepared to roll with it because, after all, he was going to Heaven.

Right next to St. Peter was a long wooden table, of the kind you see in examination rooms. A chair was pulled out for him, and on the table was a thick test, and a pencil next to it. As he walked up to St. Peter, he was greeted warmly and the set-up was explained to him.

“We have prepared a small fifty-page test for you,” Peter said. “Because we believe in grace, we decided to prepare a test for you that is right in your wheelhouse. This entire test is dedicated to the subject of sola fide, a subject you have been studying for forty years, I understand. If you get a perfect score, you may enter into joy.” With that pronouncement, Peter handed the pencil to the minister, and gestured to the waiting chair.

The minister held the pencil for a moment, thinking about it, and then quietly, without a word, he handed the pencil back.

A smile played around the corner of St. Peter’s mouth. “You pass,” he said.

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John Barry
John Barry
7 years ago

Doug,

Good story!

timothy
timothy
7 years ago

I passed the test too. Thanks for the post.

Melody
Melody
7 years ago

LIKE!

Becky Pliego
7 years ago

Wonderful.

jigawatt
jigawatt
7 years ago

Doug, I think you need a lesson in 21st century storytelling. Being an expert in theology, this minister was obviously a religious person. And since God Hates Religion, he would have failed the test and not been allowed into Heaven.

Jane Dunsworth
Jane Dunsworth
7 years ago

Terrific!

And kudos to jigawatt, as well.

rorwal
rorwal
7 years ago

Except Paul says in Galatians that those teaching a Gospel of faith-plus-works are anathema, and says to those following that so-called “Gospel” that Christ is of no benefit to them.

Doug is using an extreme no one is playing at here. When the Romanists add works, our complaint is not that they fail to be 100% perfect on the exam, but simply that they add works — that is, they do the thing that makes Christ of no benefit to them, and everyone teaching that message is anathema.

The 100% exam score is a straw man.

Valerie (Kyriosity)
7 years ago

Perfect.

Rick
Rick
7 years ago

Great story. It undermines your recent assertions about Chesterton and Tolkien, though, if the were committed to Catholicism on their deathbeds. They would have replied, “How long may I review my Roman Catholic works in Purgatory before I sit for the test?”

timbushong
7 years ago

To quote Mr. Burns: “Excellent.”

Bill Cockrell
7 years ago

Awesome!

Eric Stampher
Eric Stampher
7 years ago

Whew! Good thing he wasn’t trying to get into Christ Church!

There, unless you do take and pass that exam, you get the visitor tag.
But don’t worry yourselves.
You get to be an “honorary” member!!

Just don’t ask to help in some of the governance privileges.
Those are reserved for the test takers.

Valerie (Kyriosity)
7 years ago

Personally, I’m glad to know I’ve checked into a hospital where not every patient, visitor, and maintenance guy gets to wield a scalpel.

DCHammers
7 years ago

Eric, That would be the same in our non-CREC church as well. Sola fide! But if you want to teach or lead, you gotta know something. Just like Valerie said.

Eric Stampher
Eric Stampher
7 years ago

The “thing” you gotta know = only “Do you agree with us?”

I’m not talking about the leaders only.
You can’t be a rank and file “voting” member unless you take their test.

Eric Stampher
Eric Stampher
7 years ago

But speaking of leaders …

I asked the pastor of a similar reformed denomination:
“Would you allowed Spurgeon to preach from your pulpit” — No!
“Pope John Paul?” — Hell no!

These churches have become clubs, what with their membership for the pew-goers, and restrictions on whom God has called to pastor.

Like Valerie said — we like it when not every Tom, Dick and Henry gets to minister to others.

Eric Stampher
Eric Stampher
7 years ago

Is being a Christian good enough to get you received into heaven?

Well it ain’t good enough to be received into membership at Christ Church.

Steven Opp
Steven Opp
7 years ago

Eric, being a Christian (if what you mean by Christian is holding to a Christian confession), is not good enough to get you into Heaven, that is, to the Father. The blood of Christ is what gets you there. That’s the point of the story.
Getting into the Church, however, is about witness. And witnesses have to answer questions.
So to say the Christ Church leadership makes it harder to get into Church than God makes it to get into Heaven is apples to oranges.

Robert
Robert
7 years ago

Eric, have you ever even visited Christ Church?

Jane Dunsworth
Jane Dunsworth
7 years ago

Like Valerie said — we like it when not every Tom, Dick and Henry gets to minister to others.

That’s not what Valerie said — unless you think the only people in the hospital doing anything for the patients are the surgeons.

Eric Stampher
Eric Stampher
7 years ago

Steven — no, there’s only one Biblical question a witness need answer to get into the church.
The one Phillip asked the Ethiopian:
Do you believe in Jesus?

We should all then demand back to the church — So now what stops me from being baptized?

Christ Church says “Well, we require a bit more and bit different than what those early less informed apostles went by.”

Eric Stampher
Eric Stampher
7 years ago

Jane — right.

But Valerie doesn’t like the idea that the janitor can be a member of the organization.

The should remain outside contractors — not recognized as members of the local assembly … unless they pass the peculiar membership requirements God’s Hospital never invented.

Nathan
Nathan
7 years ago

I am so confused. Can someone please tell me what the heck Eric is talking about? I don’t remember having to take any test in order to be admitted in the membership rolls, and I think I would remember that sort of thing.

Eric Stampher
Eric Stampher
7 years ago

Membership in the church is accomplished with faith in Jesus.
Faith is the baptism by the Spirit.

The church formally recognizes this faith with our baptismal ceremony.

Not at Christ Church:
Membership begins when the covenant membership vows have been taken
http://www.christkirk.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Constitution-PDF.pdf

So you can go there for years — baptized, loving, obeying, ministering — sorry, we won’t recognize you as a member.

Eric Stampher
Eric Stampher
7 years ago

You remember those membership vows some of the apostles devised?
Paul called it circumcision.

Valerie (Kyriosity)
7 years ago

Eric, stop speaking for me. You’re not telling the truth, and you’re embarrassing yourself.

Valerie (Kyriosity)
7 years ago

Baptism vows are covenant membership vows. Ethan F., the last baby who was baptized (a week or two ago), is as much a member as I am or Doug is.

jigawatt
jigawatt
7 years ago

Eric Stampher said:

we like it when not every Tom, Dick and Henry gets to minister to others.

And he also said:

So you can go there for years — baptized, loving, obeying, ministering — sorry, we won’t recognize you as a member.

Can non-members minister or not?

Nathan
Nathan
7 years ago

Last time I checked, “test” and “vow” were not synonyms.

Eric Stampher
Eric Stampher
7 years ago

If baptismal vows were membership vows — does that mean all baptized folks are members?

Not at Christ Church.

Eric Stampher
Eric Stampher
7 years ago

Right Nathan.

That’s the part of the story Doug left out.

“Well you passed the test, Peter smiled. But we don’t let sola fide work up here to get you membership status — it’s sola fide et votum!”

Eric Stampher
Eric Stampher
7 years ago

jigawatt,

At Christ Church, nonmembers are officially not allowed to minister in the area of voting — what Doug calls the “governance” issues which all official members are encouraged and expected to help out with.

Christ Church considers voting an important area of ministry.

But off limits to “honorary” members, even if of recognized good character, long term obedience, love, baptism — no matter.

jigawatt
jigawatt
7 years ago

there’s only one Biblical question a witness need answer to get into the church.
The one Phillip asked the Ethiopian:
Do you believe in Jesus?
/blockquote>

So Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses should be welcomed as members, right?

Eric Stampher
Eric Stampher
7 years ago

jigawatt,

If a mormon or JW-ite or sorcerer (see Simon in Acts) came to church and confessed Jesus, the church is obliged to receive him and baptize him as a member of Christ’s body.

Now when such (Simon again) showed a second mind, he needs to be called on it.

Eric Stampher
Eric Stampher
7 years ago

jigawatt,

So the elders need to examine — go at it!!
Just don’t impose this extraBiblical, unBiblical “vow” to anything except the love of Jesus.

That only divides up and insults the body of Christ, the members in Him, who don’t get acknowledged as members with His local members; and don’t get access to participate in all aspects of ministry.

Valerie (Kyriosity)
7 years ago

Baptism vows taken at Christ Church are membership vows in Christ Church. (They are not only that, but they are that.) Baptism vows taken at another particular church are membership vows in that particular church. Of course if somebody from there wants to join here they need to take vows to join here. That’s how we know they want to join…not just by guessing. If they love us, they should join with us. It’s not terribly hard and not the least bit painful. Governance is not the same as membership. Baby Ethan cannot vote yet. I can. Neither of us… Read more »

Eric Stampher
Eric Stampher
7 years ago

So Valerie, Yours is a “club” concept of membership in a / the church. Folks who’ve gone to Christ Church for years — and you’re scratching your head in bewilderment as to whether they “want to join” you! “They need to take to vows to join here” — that comes for First … hmmm. Valerie, they have joined you, but your club rules don’t allow you to recognize them. And then you complain that you’ve made this itty bitty teeny weenie comfortable extraBiblical step so very easy for them! Just a snip here, and no worries, you’re circumsized so what’s… Read more »

Eric Stampher
Eric Stampher
7 years ago

Baptism vows taken at Christ Church are membership vows in Christ Church.

Non Transferable across the body of Christ.

But Paul told the Romans to receive the folks coming in.
And they hadn’t taken vows in Corinth to begin with!

Rick Davis
7 years ago

Eric, I’ve gotten the point that you don’t like the system of church membership. I’ve seen enough posts from you to make this abundantly clear. Here’s a question I wonder though. Even if you think that the system of church membership in place is not ideal or biblically based, assuming there’s a local church you plan on attending long-term and being committed to, is there any good reason not to just go ahead and join? I mean, I think it’s silly that the government wants me to register my vehicle and have it inspected every year, but, given that I… Read more »

Rick Davis
7 years ago

Eric, I’ve gotten the point that you don’t like the system of church membership. I’ve seen enough posts from you to make this abundantly clear. Here’s a question I wonder though. Even if you think that the system of church membership in place is not ideal or biblically based, assuming there’s a local church you plan on attending long-term and being committed to, is there any good reason not to just go ahead and join? I mean, I think it’s silly that the government wants me to register my vehicle and have it inspected every year, but, given that I… Read more »

Rick Davis
7 years ago

One more quick thought along the same lines. The Church in the New Testament was in its embryonic state. The idea that many people have (strict house-church folks, for example) that the Church today ought to operate exactly how the Church in the New Testament operated is faulty. Jesus founded an organization, an organization that grew and continues to grow to this day: new offices, new creeds, new liturgies, etc… If the New Testament Church was an acorn, what we see today is a massive, spreading oak tree. Demanding that the oak tree be more like the acorn is essentially… Read more »

Brian
Brian
7 years ago

Eric Stampher, Excellent points; thank you for your encouraging comments. Truly, extrabiblical membership vows aren’t shown in regulative/authoritative Scripture to be required to be regarded as a member (i.e., body part) in a local body of Christ as accountable disciples, while repentance and a baptism in the name of Jesus to evince Holy Spirit led faith in Jesus are (Ac 2:37,38,41,47; 18:8,10,11). As the case in these previous mentioned biblical references, no membership required vows to add to repentance and baptism for even a notorious persecutor of threat, blows/stripes, imprisonment, and murder of the church of Christ’s people (Ac 22:16;… Read more »

Eric Stampher
Eric Stampher
7 years ago

Hi Rick, I’ll answer — but first let me observe: To use your argument: Come on — did demanding circumcision really need to be such a deal breaker for Paul?! Just get it cut and move on. Well yes it is a big deal. Why? Because at best you are sending a message to folks who are member in Christ that they are second class citizens in the kingdom. Secondly, if you were consistent & logical, you’d come to the conclusion that this system demands you not only don’t receive non-vowers as members, but identify them as unrepenten, noncomforming unbelievers.… Read more »

Eric Stampher
Eric Stampher
7 years ago

Brian,

I’m not sure I’m with you on the regulative principle operating procedure.
I say that because I don’t think the apostles or Jesus followed it.
But honestly I need to learn more about your position.
Can you direct me?

As to hope for Doug & the CREC, remember that Doug has stepped from whatever it was to paedobaptism to now paedocommunion.
Talk about bravery added to wisdom.
If I could be guaranteed to become half the man he is by becoming a postmillenial memberist, I’d do it in a heartbeat.

Eric Stampher
Eric Stampher
7 years ago

Rick

You say “Just join — ain’t that hard!”

Can two play at this?

“Just recognize me as a member — ain’t hard!”

Valerie (Kyriosity)
7 years ago

Yours is a “club” concept of membership in a / the church. No, it’s a covenant concept. Folks who’ve gone to Christ Church for years — and you’re scratching your head in bewilderment as to whether they “want to join” you! If I see a couple who have lived together for years, I don’t assume they want to be married. “They need to take to vows to join here” — that comes for First … hmmm. Valerie, they have joined you, but your club rules don’t allow you to recognize them. Nope. They’re hanging out with us, but they haven’t… Read more »

Eric Stampher
Eric Stampher
7 years ago

Brian

I think a problem with the regulativator position is it doesn’t emulate how Scripture teaches us to operate — which includes hearing His authoritative Word in nature.

Eric Stampher
Eric Stampher
7 years ago

Valerie

Couples who’ve lived together for years are married.

Folks who’ve attended there for years are members.

That you would shoosh away fellow members in Christ over this comforts with memberist club mentality, not with the Biblical approach of receiving and loving one another.

Eric Stampher
Eric Stampher
7 years ago

“…that’s on their shoulders”

It’s out of love for these folks who hunger to be recognized as fellow members with you that I’m surfacing this argument.

You’re laying on them an unloving and unfair burden.

Valerie (Kyriosity)
7 years ago

Why do I get the feeling that you wouldn’t put up such a fuss about membership vows if it weren’t for that pesky bit about submitting to properly ordained authorities? You only want one authority — His Most Royal Highness Eric Stampher — who gets to define the terms and make up the rules as he goes along. Happily, that’s an authority I’m at liberty to utterly disdain and ignore.