October 20, 2017

John Armstrong’s Testimony

Here on IM, we are reviewing John Armstrong’s new book, Your Church Is too Small.

In this companion video clip, the author describes how God got his attention and put a passion for the unity of the church into his heart.

Comments

  1. I’m planning to read both “Your Church Is Too Small” and “Mere Churchianity” as my next two books. Should be exciting. Mike, are you planning to review “Mere Chruchianity” here on the IM blog?

  2. How sad that a man who once embraced biblical Christianity (conservative Reformed/Calvinistic theology) has now fallen into a theological morass where works-salvation in various forms are embraced and that faith doesn’t have a certain firm ground.

    • Christopher Lake says:

      Mark,

      For years, I believed just as you do. I thought that the way I read and understood the Bible (Reformed/Calvinistic theology) was “pure, Biblical Christianity.” It HAD to be– it just seemed so CLEAR! Slowly, I started to see that even Calvinism had its Biblical “difficulties”– difficulties that were much harder to “harmonize” than I had originally thought. Then, I read some of the writings of the earliest Church Fathers– dating back to the time of the original apostles. They did not necessarily have the “clear” Reformed view that justification is by faith alone, and that ANY other view MUST be “works-salvation.”

      In short, I got a serious schooling in theology *and* humility. I had used what I thought was my clear-as-day-from-the-Bible Protestant Calvinistic theology to make very uncharitable judgments about Christians from other traditions (Eastern Orthodoxy, Catholicism). To be fair, I was taught certain interpretations of Scripture, by other Reformed Christians, that helped to lead me in that direction. I was wrong though. How very wrong I was. By God’s grace, I learned better.

      • What tradition do you belong to now?

        • Christopher Lake says:

          Mark,

          I’m currently in a “Reformed-leaning” non-denominational church (with plural elder rule), and I am meeting with an elder on a weekly basis to study through different issues.

          However, the more that I seriously attempt to take into account the WHOLE counsel of Scripture, the harder that I find it to even remain a Protestant. There are so many problems with the basic framework of Protestantism that I never previously saw. I am very grateful for the strong expository preaching in many Reformed churches, and for the clarity of the sermons, insofar as our sin and God’s holiness and grace. I have rarely heard better, more challenging sermons than I did as a member of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in D.C. When I look at certain NT passages though, and then the writings of the earliest Christians (after the apostles), describing their beliefs and worship, I now see so much missing in Reformed churches. No disrespect meant to anyone. This is just where I am at at this time.

          • I reccomend you read The Catholic Controversy by Saint Francis De Sales. Except the Fathers there are some good books to read and this is one of them. This is from a dissatisfied protestant himself.

          • Here is a link for an online reading, not a complete one but to give you an idea: http://www.goodcatholicbooks.org/francis/catholic-controversy.html
            But this book is so convincing that it makes you more unhappy and confusing until you get your mind what to do, as concerning the church you will be joined.

          • Christopher Lake says:

            Thanks so much for the link, Andy! Saint Francis De Sales *had* been on my very long reading list for some time, but now, he’s on my short reading list– as in, later tonight! 🙂

      • Reading the Church Fathers is a real eye-opener. It’s easy to see them as flirting with an almost legalistic understanding of the faith. They certainly don’t seem to wave the banner of Luther’s idea of Sola Fide. That said, I think understanding the that Church Fathers weren’t writing in a vacuum but were products of their time and place helps to see that they weren’t teaching “works-righteousness” for justification.

        Their ideas of ecclesiology are what really made me think. The Church Fathers definitely saw the Church as a visible and institutional entity apart which there was no salvation. As St. Cyprian wrote in On the Unity of the Church, “He can no longer have God for his Father who has not the Church for his mother.”

        After reading the Church Fathers, I see two options: 1) Conclude that the Church fell into apostasy immediately after the Apostles’ generation. This is problematic because without the Church Fathers we’d have no canon of Scripture. 2) Conclude that we Protestants may need to rethink some of our views on ecclesiology.

        Of course, as an Anglican, I’m pretty happy with our ecclesiology. As the Via Media I think we have the best of both worlds. 😉

        • “After reading the Church Fathers, I see two options: 1) Conclude that the Church fell into apostasy immediately after the Apostles’ generation. This is problematic because without the Church Fathers we’d have no canon of Scripture. 2) Conclude that we Protestants may need to rethink some of our views on ecclesiology.”
          Does it really have to be one or the other? Is it really irrational to believe that the fourth century church did a good, even God-inspired job of picking the writings for the canon — most of which had been commonly accepted by the church as authoritative since the late first and early second century — and also perceive that the church of that time had it’s fair share of errors and imperfections? Does believing that the church of any time period contained errors and imperfections logically require defining that church as apostate or illegitimate? Is it really absurd to try to look backward past all the accumulated religious baggage of history and read the writings of the apostles with fresh eyes — and maybe even use those writings and their direct flow from the original Source to reboot a system that has become corrupted and overloaded? Is it heretical to view all of church history as a mixed bag of good and bad, Spirit-inspired triumph and fallen human failure? And what really sets the parameters for what is included in the true Body of Christ? Are those parameters set by how a particular denomination or institution views and defines itself? Or are they set by how Christ views and defines His own body?
          I think those are all questions worth asking.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      How sad that a man who once embraced biblical Christianity (conservative Reformed/Calvinistic theology)…

      “Reformed/Calvinistic” as in Predestination Uber Alles (where even God does only what has been Predestined of Him, Eh Kismet?) and Utter Depravity Worm Theology?

      …has now fallen into a theological morass where works-salvation in various forms are embraced and that faith doesn’t have a certain firm ground.

      Why don’t you just come out and say “Romish Popery” directly, O Ye of Great Faith and Correct Theology?

  3. I especially love the triumphant background music.

  4. How eerily similar are the views of John Armstrong and the young Joseph Smith in New York State in the 1800’s. And how sad that both of them came to equally false and diverse conclusions about “unity”. Mr. Armstrong should read the Apostles Creed as that “holy catholic (universal) ekklesia (called out ones)”. That would preclude any form of syncretism because God is the one drawing us to Him. And of course the Apostles came along long before the R.C. church.

    • Uh, come again? Joseph Smith believed in “one holy catholic and apostolic church”?

      He believed the whole church had become apostate and that he alone was given authority to restore the keys of the kingdom to a new, reconstituted “church”—the Latter Day Saints.

      Yeah, that’s what John Armstrong believes. Sheesh.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        J Eric is well on the road to becoming the next A W Pink, the Only True Christian in All History, all others being False Apostates and Heretics.

        Along with your other two frequent and vocal commenters, Matthew & Mark.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        He believed the whole church had become apostate and that he alone was given authority to restore the keys of the kingdom to a new, reconstituted “church”—the Latter Day Saints.

        How does that differ from the origin backstory of all those Evangelical splinter churches?

        The usual pattern of these origin stories is that the Church went completely into Apostasy (usually Romish Popery) around the time the last Apostle died and every So-Called Christian between then and the founding of Our One True New Testament Church (“Us Four, No More, Amen”) was a False Christian — Heretic, Apostate, and is now Burning in Hell for All Eternity.

    • I’ve watched the video three times and I don’t see where it implies any sort of syncretism. Is the assumption that Armstrong is trying to bring Protestantism back into the Roman Catholic Church? I’d think he’d have converted to Catholicism if that were the case. Listening to a single afternoon on EWTN shows that Rome has no shortage of converts from Protestantism who are making that argument (and quite well, apparently).

      I think Armstrong is rather working toward a “little ‘c'” catholicity that is big enough to include Rome, Constantinople, Geneva, Canterbury, etc. I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again and again. If we could look to the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds as a baseline orthodoxy, we’d go a long way toward such a visible catholicity.

      Then again, that would require a lot less rancor toward Rome, wouldn’t it?

  5. I think it is the rediculous option, the one that most would not seriously consider.

  6. Some rather amazing comments here for sure and Chaplain Mike has only done part one. I wonder what comes next when readers see more of the argument I make. I have to say I am not sure whether to laugh or cry when I read some of the comments made about my book here. Sounds like some people are rather unwilling to actually practice the doctrine of sola Scriptura that they talk so strongly about. Anyway, Obed gets closest to my real views in both of his posts.

    Thanks Chaplain Mike for letting folks hear my thoughts and for urging us to more civility and conversation, a really novel idea for far too many Christians I know. You have captured in this first post a good introduction. BTW, the video clip is taken from a 29-minute whole so the music and argument fits best to see it all in whole at http://www.act3online.com.

  7. Why can’t we see the obvious? Why couldn’t the majority of Jews see Jesus even when He was amongst them doing signs and wonders? I am not looking for a bible quote answer here. Even now, 2000 years later, they must think: “Wow this sect that made great claims has grown to cover the face of the earth.” What could the explanation possibly be, if not God? It seems so apparent and obvious to many of us, yet they cannot see. This strikes me as facinating and difficult to understand.
    Could we have fallen pray to the same sort of blindness? I mean, lets get real about it. We know the Master but we are forever confused about what he loves most outside Himself, his Church. I believe it is so obvious the world even knows. Just ask global leaders who the head of the Christian church is. You may get alot of answers, but what if they were pressed to just name one? You and I both know who comes to mind, whether it repels you or gives you consolation and joy. What church has spread to the four corners of the earth? What church claims they are the church? What church goes back to the beginning? I’m not talking about doctrine or dogma or what I think or don’t think of it. I’m talking about the reality that is staring everyone in the face, and we stare back like deer in the headlights or we break out that book they gave to us and begin to recite the 101 reasons why it couldn’t be . The way I see it you have three options: one the church is invisible, two it is divided into a thousand sects, or three it is and always has been the one Holy Catholic church. The obvious answer is proabley the right answer. I’ll call this an apologetic of the obvious.

    • What church goes back to the beginning? That’s a good question. I’m sure the answer you’re suggesting is the RCC, but, according to a lot of historians and scholars, the RCC (if you define it as the church with the Pope as its supreme earthly CEO) came into being in the fifth and sixth centuries as the bishops of Rome stepped into the power vacuum left by the disintegrating government of the Western Roman empire. Before that was the imperial state church — from which was born both the RCC and Byzantine Church — with the emperor as CEO and the four or five most powerful bishops as his board of directors. Before that was the early church under first local and then regional bishops — a church that included a good deal of diversity and disagreement but still viewed itself (for the most part) as a single “catholic” church. Before that was the apostolic church under the apostles and local elders, which began as entirely Jewish, expanded to include gentiles, and started to divide between mainly Jewish and mainly Gentile branchings late in the first century. The Gentile branching ultimately prevailed and the Jewish branch, for the most part, disappeared from history. Before that was the entirely Jewish church that followed Jesus around from town to town.
      Both the RCC and the EOC claim a direct institutional and apostolic line back to the beginning, but both of those claims require what I consider a somewhat questionable, idealized, and narrow presentation of church history.
      And what major denomination hasn’t spread to the four corners of the planet? If you count the underground church in China as Protestants, then Protestantism may very well have surpassed the RCC numerically on the world scene.
      I’m not trying to demean Roman Catholocism here. I’m just saying that, to the honest student of history, the answer really isn’t that obvious.