Loveland Protestant Reformed Church

709 East 57th Street; Loveland, CO 80538

Services: 9:30 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. (7:00 p.m. June through August)

Vol. 6, No. 14 Pastor: Rev. Garry Eriks Phone: (970) 667-9481

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Church Government
God's Dealings With Israel (2)
Does the Alpha Course Teach the Truth?

Church Government

One thing that has often divided the church of Jesus Christ is the whole matter of church government, particularly the whole question of independency versus denominationalism. It is with some trepidation, therefore, that we approach the subject.

We do believe that independentism is not only wrong but deadly as far as the existence of the church is concerned. We see it as a most significant reason for the decline of the church in many places.

Independentism leaves both the members and officers of the church without recourse or help when problems arise. It therefore ignores the Word of God in Proverbs 24:6 and similar passages. It does not follow the pattern of Acts 15, and it fails to promote unity on any broader basis than the local church.

Nevertheless, faults are found on the other side also. All too often the church is run "from the top down" by committees and boards for which there is no Biblical warrant, so that neither the local church nor its members have any "say" in the church. Nor are the church's leaders answerable to the members (or anyone) for their conduct.

This, in Presbyterian and Reformed denominations, is heirarchicalism, a kind of popery in which assemblies and committees have the kind of power in the church that only Christ should have. This, too, we abominate.

We believe the Bible gives us an answer that avoids the problems on both sides. That answer is, first, that congregations must join in the work Christ has given them to do for mutual help and supervision (Acts 15). This is necessary to "keep the unity of the Spirit" (Eph. 4:3).

Second, the autonomy of the local church must be maintained. It is to the church, not to church assemblies or committees, that the work of preaching the gospel, administering the sacraments, and exercising Christian discipline belongs (Acts 13:1-4, I Cor. 5:4, 5). The authority Christ has given for these things resides in the local church. The church is not, therefore, run from the top down.

This means, too, that the assemblies must be carefully limited in their functions. As in Acts 15 they must be for mutual help and advice. When they make Biblical decisions on such matters as come to them those decisions must be heeded (Acts 15:23-29). But they must be heeded not because some higher authority has decreed it, but rather because the churches themselves together have decided it in harmony with God's Word.

Third, in the local church the offices must function according to the pattern laid down in Scripture, and all the officers of the church must be answerable to the church itself, that is, to the body of believers. With all the authority Christ has given them, they are not lords over the church, but servants of it (II Cor. 4:5, Col. 4:17).

These are the first steps at least in seeing to it that things are done decently and in good order in the church of Jesus Christ. Such good order is necessary for the safety and well-being of the church. Rev. Ronald Hanko

God's Dealings With Israel (2)

Hear, O my people, and I will testify unto thee . . . . I am the Lord thy God . . . . But my people would not hearken to my voice . . . . So I gave them up unto their own hearts' lusts . . . . Psalm 81:8-14.

Our readers will recall that the verses quoted above are parts of Psalm 81 on which we were asked to comment.

In the last issue, which I hoped you saved and which you should really now reread, we talked about the fact that God never deals with people only as individuals. This idea of God's individual treatment of people is basically an Arminian idea, and it is one reason why Arminianism is so popular in our day. Our age is an age where it is "every man for himself, and the devil take the hindmost." Every man thinks only of himself and has no concern about those whose lives he touches because of the God-created relationships in which a man lives.

Arminianism encourages that kind of thinking because an Arminian is, above all, concerned about the individual's personal relationship to God. This is a dreadful fault that leads to Arminian and Pelagian heresies. If only people would think about family and about church, and not always be thinking in terms of: What can I get out of it? the church would be much stronger.

However all these things may be, the Scriptures always speak in terms of family, church, nation, race, and, indeed, the whole human race which fell in Adam.

Because this is God's way of treating people, the Bible also uses many different figures to illustrate the church. We were using the illustration of a farmer and his field in which were wheat and weeds. So it is with the church which has in it elect and reprobate.

Just as a farmer calls his field full of wheat and weeds a wheat field (because his purpose is to grow wheat, not weeds) so God calls the nation of Israel (and the church), "My people." His purpose with Israel and the church is to save His people.

Just as a farmer cultivates, fertilizes, and irrigates both wheat and weeds, so God causes His Word and sacraments with all the means of covenant instruction to be given to elect and reprobate alike. But the care of the farmer is not for the weeds, but for the wheat. And the care of God for the church is not for the reprobate, but for the elect.

And just as sometimes there are more weeds than wheat, so sometimes there are more reprobate than elect.

But the same is true of a Christian. He is two people because of God's work of salvation. He is a totally depraved sinner, and He is a saint who walks in obedience to God. Both at the same time. And just as sometimes the evil in him dominates, and he walks in sin, so at other times the new man in Christ dominates, the old man is shoved into the background, and the elect child of God lives near to God, prays, meditates on God's Word and delights in walking in God's ways.

So it was also in the nation of Israel (and in the church). Sometimes the reprobate element dominated and the nation walked in idolatry serving all the gods of the heathen. The temple worship was neglected. The sacrifices were made only to idols. The law of God was trampled under foot. If you looked at the nation as a whole, you would say, as God said: "But my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me."

Did that mean that even the elect walked in these sins? Well, I am afraid that often they did. Yet God reserved unto Himself 7000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal in those dreadful days of apostasy under Ahab.

But sometimes as in the days of David and Solomon, the worship of God flourished and God's laws were kept in the nation. Did that mean that all in the nation were elect? Of course not. But the elect element dominated and determined, under good kings, the whole moral and spiritual direction of the nation.

And so it is with the church. Sometimes the church is strong -- as at the time of the Reformation. Sometimes the wicked dominate in the church and apostasy overwhelms the church. Do times of great spiritual strength mean there are no wicked and carnal people in the church? Of course not. Do times of grave weakness and apostasy mean that there are no elect? Not if a church has not become the wholly false church. God reserves unto himself 7000 who do not bow the knee to the modern Baals of modern preachers.

Psalm 81 describes a period in Israel's history when the wicked dominated: My people would not hearken to my voice.

And so God sent His judgments upon the nation. Upon the whole nation, for He deals with men as a part of the nation. The whole nation is described in verse 12: "So I gave them up unto their own hearts' lust: and they walked in their own counsels."

But again, our space is taken. Will you please keep this Newsletter in a safe place so that you may review it when the next issue comes? Prof. H. Hanko

Does the Alpha Course Teach the Truth?

We continue here with the question of the previous issue: "Are there any specific parts of the Alpha Course which would make it non-Christian or unsound?"

We have already dealt with two areas in which this popular course is open to criticism, its ecumenical emphasis and its Charismatic origins and teachings. In this issue we wish to examine its teaching or lack of teaching concerning key Bible doctrines.

Perhaps the worst feature of Alpha is that it teaches so very little. This is the reason, we suppose, that a Roman bishop could say that he found nothing in it contrary to Catholic doctrine. Nearly all the key doctrines of the faith are passed over completely or touched on only very lightly.

This is in harmony with Alpha's stated purpose, i.e., to present the "gospel" in a "non-threatening" way, and to allow people to have fun while learning the "truth" (the author has said that "the church is meant to be a party"). The lack of teaching also fits its strong charismatic emphasis - an emphasis that exalts feeling and experience over truth.

As far as specific doctrines are concerned, therefore, the course says nothing or next to nothing about such fundamental doctrines as justification by faith alone, election, the holiness and justice of God, the coming judgment and the wrath of God, the law, depravity, repentance, the new birth, or sanctification. This, of course, explains its broad ecumenical appeal and its "success," for the true gospel in teaching these things is both a savour of life unto life and of death unto death" (II Cor. 2:15, 16).

Perhaps the most notable omission is any serious teaching regarding God Himself. That knowledge of God which is life eternal, is hardly to be found in the course. The only thing taught is the love of God and that is distorted beyond recognition. It is possible, therefore, to take the whole course and remain entirely ignorant of the God of Scripture.

What the course does teach is more often than not misleading or downright error. Though the Trinity is mentioned, far more time and teaching is devoted to the Holy Spirit than to God the Father or even to Christ, in spite of what Christ says in John 16:13, 14.

In its teaching concerning salvation Alpha is thoroughly Arminian, teaching that God loves everyone, that Christ died for all without exception, and that faith is man's decision for Christ. Thus, too, sin is presented primarily in terms of "messed up lives," of unhappiness and other problems, but never clearly in terms of offending God and breaking His law. Only the evil consequence, not the guilt of sin, is emphasized.

The authority and sufficiency of Holy Scripture are undermined by the teaching that God speaks still today "through prophecy, dreams, visions and other people." Tongues and miracles are promoted as the evidences of the Spirit along with physical heat and other such phenomena, instead of the true "fruits of the Spirit" mentioned in Galatians 5.

Our answer, then, to the question is that nearly every part of the course is unsound. The "gospel" presented in the Alpha Course is another gospel, not the "good news" of salvation through Jesus Christ, by the sovereign grace of God and through faith, the gift of God. May God preserve His church from such teaching. Rev. R. Hanko

For a more detailed analysis of the Alpha Course, confer the book, Falling Short? The Alpha Course Examined, by Chris Hand - available from Christian Research Network, PO Box 8400, London, SE13 5ZQ (4.50).