Response to Armstrong’s Historical Revisionism

In a post today, Dave Armstrong claims: “And Protestants continue to argue that folks can disagree on the “secondary” issues and still have unity. Nuh-uh. That ain’t a biblical view. The original Protestants didn’t argue this way at all. They felt that they had spiritual and theological truth and fought for it. It’s only when liberalism came in and continuing Protestant sectarianism, that this other worldview of acceptance of the necessary presence of contradiction and error somewhere, started being accepted.” (source)

I’m not going to sit here and correct his grammar or logic. I am simply going to demonstrate from Calvin (one of the Reformers – and someone indisputably entitled to be one of “the original Protestants” by any typical Roman Catholic Standard – which normally places the start of the Reformation with Luther) that – in fact – the Reformers did believe in liberty in the non-essentials (See as well this earlier post):

Calvin, John – Institutes of the Christian Religion (presented here in Beveridge’s 1599 translation), Book IV, Chapter 1, Section 12.

Heeding the marks guards against capricious separation

When we say that the pure ministry of the word and pure celebration of the sacraments is a fit pledge and earnest, so that we may safely recognise a church in every society in which both exists our meaning is that we are never to discard it so-long as these remain, though it may otherwise teem with numerous faults.

Nay, even in the administration of word and Sacraments defects may creep in which ought not to alienate us from its communion. For all the heads of true doctrine are not in the same position. Some are so necessary to be known, that all must hold them to be fixed and undoubted as the proper essentials of religion: for instance, that God is one, that Christ is God, and the Son of God, that our salvation depends on the mercy of God, and the like. Others, again, which are the subject of controversy among the churches, do not destroy the unity of the faith ; for why should it be regarded as a ground of dissension between churches, if one, without any spirit of contention or perverseness in dogmatising, hold that the soul on quitting the body flies to heaven, and another, without venturing to speak positively as to the abode, holds it for certain that it lives with the Lord? The words of the apostle are, “Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you,” (Phil. 3: 15.) Does he not sufficiently intimate that a difference of opinion as to these matters which are not absolutely necessary, ought not to be a ground of dissension among Christians? The best thing, indeed, is to be perfectly agreed, but seeing there is no man who is not involved in some mist of ignorance, we must either have no church at all or pardon delusion in those things of which one may be ignorant, without violating the substance of religion and forfeiting salvation.

Here, however, I have no wish to patronise even the minutest errors, as if I thought it right to foster them by flattery or connivance; what I say is, that we are not on account of every minute difference to abandon a church, provided it retain sound and unimpaired that doctrine in which the safety of piety consists, and keep the use of the sacraments instituted by the Lord. Meanwhile, if we strive to reform what is offensive, we act in the discharge of duty. To this effect are the words of Paul, “If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace,” (1 Cor. 14: 30.) From this it is evident that to each member of the Church, according to his measure of grace, the study of public edification has been assigned, provided it be done decently and in order. In other words, we must neither renounce the communion of the Church, nor, continuing in it, disturb peace and discipline when duly arranged.



5 Responses to “Response to Armstrong’s Historical Revisionism”

  1. J.R. Polk Says:

    Great response. Unfortunately, I think we’re simply going to see Mr. Armstrong’s argument “morph” in light of what you’ve posted here. This seems to be the common Romanist method of operation when cornered — just look at the latest bru ha ha over on James Swan’s blog for a great example of this.Thanks for the work you put into this blog.

  2. Turretinfan Says:

    Mr. Polk,I guess we’ll have to wait and see.-TurretinFan

  3. natamllc Says:

    Of all that has been written, by the Finger of God til now, this is one powerful thrust of the Sword in your own words TF!:::>TF:”Here, however, I have no wish to patronise even the minutest errors”,…Oh, can I hear an AMEN! That there was me being just a wee bit excited!!Well, why should we for one minutest minute entertain one minutest error seeing John wrote this:::>1Jn 3:1 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. I can say with some confidence that in the coming days and weeks and years, if more and more of the Elect should rise up and reign in Life through Jesus Christ, Romans 5:17 cf, we will see God through Christ through the Church He built for Him to dwell forever in will bring about this and then there will be no need for the flesh as you most adequately capture it’s ideal essence here when you write this:::>TF:”….hold that the soul on quitting the body flies to heaven, and another, without venturing to speak positively as to the abode, holds it for certain that it lives with the Lord?….”Now then to my point from it all is this here:::> 1Jn 3:8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. Just a bit of flare in the Truth coming out of me after reading hereon thereto.My sentiments as well TF as the commenter before has said:Polk:”Thanks for the work you put into this blog.”

  4. GeneMBridges Says:

    Dave would do well to read if I recall, the last chapter of Volume 1 of Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics by Richard Muller. He deals with this issue in detail.Mr. Armstrong is confused between the way Lutherans viewed fundamental articles of faith and the way the Reformed construed them. The Lutherans did historically affirm that all articles are fundamental articles. The Reformed adopted a position that drew distinctions between kinds and types of error. They always did so, because, unlike the Lutherans, the Reformed adopted a wider range of views about some articles. This is reflected in the trajectory our confessions developed over time.

  5. Turretinfan Says:

    Gene,It’s sometimes even valuable to distinguish between Luther ipse and the Lutherans.Michael,Thanks for the kind words, but I cannot claim credit for the bulk of the post. It was written in the 1500’s by a much more scholarly theologian than me: John Calvin.-TurretinFan

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