Friday, April 16, 2010

Denominations or Associations?

I recently finished reading Denominations or Associations?: Essays on Reformed Baptist Associations edited by James M. Renihan and highly recommend this book .

I have always struggled with the autonomous view of ecclesiology that many Baptists hold to. To me it never seemed to hold up to what we see of the early church in Acts 15. It seems from scripture that while the local churches were not dependent on other churches they were in some fashion interdependent as Acts 15 shows. This interdependency is sadly lacking in the Baptist church today and even in Reformed Baptist circles. I have for some time thought that there needed to be a manner in which churches interacted that was more scriptural. That manner of interaction is clearly put forth in this book.

The book is made up of a number of essays that touch on various aspects of how Reformed Baptist churches should associate and most involve the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith and article 26 that deals with The Church, specifically section 15:

26:15. In cases of difficulties or differences, either in point of doctrine or administration, wherein either the churches in general are concerned, or any one church, in their peace, union, and edification; or any member or members of any church are injured, in or by any proceedings in censures not agreeable to truth and order: it is according to the mind of Christ, that many churches holding communion together, do, by their messengers, meet to consider, and give their advice in or about that matter in difference, to be reported to all the churches concerned; howbeit these messengers assembled, are not intrusted with any church-power properly so called; or with any jurisdiction over the churches themselves, to exercise any censures either over any churches or persons; or to impose their determination on the churches or officers.
( Acts 15:2, 4, 6, 22, 23, 25; 2 Corinthians 1:24; 1 John 4:1 )

In looking at this section it becomes clear that the word “communion” used in the context of the time refers to an association of churches that went far beyond simply eating together or partaking in some variety of activities. This association, or communion, instead extended to the he health and vibrancy of the church by having a mutual association that in many ways contradicts the often over emphasized autonomy of the local church we see today.

The book looks at the time of the LBC and shows the thinking of such associations as the Abingdon Association (1652). It is in looking at scripture the LBC and the associations of the time that we get a clear picture that the Baptist church, particularly Reformed Baptist churches, of today has moved away from its moorings. It is a move that needs to be reversed for the church to be what God intendeds it to be; an interdependent family of believers and not the independent autonomous group it often is. I think this independence not only affects the church as a whole but the mindset begins to filter down to the individuals and creates issues at that level as well.

I highly recommend this book and would pray that this is the direction the church, and especially Reformed Baptist Churches, would head.


Devin Maddox said...

Great topic! Thanks for the review. I will keep this in mind to read in the future.

Covenant Commission said...

Great review and post. Look forward to reading the book. This is a topic of utmost importance to Reformed Baptists!

Tony said...

It is a good book and one I pray others read. Let me know your thoughts when you get a chance to read it.

I pray you both have a God glorifying Lord’s Day tomorrow at Covenant Baptist Church.