Hywel Jones Conference on Heretics Within
According to Jones, the sleeping church is characterized by forgetfulness and lack of proper mindset – one of humbleness, of right perspective on our sin, of comprehension that we are no longer civilians, but are in God’s army.
by JAN MACOR
CALGARY, CANADA. Is it possible for a church to sleep in the Light? It is not only possible, it is a historical and present-day fact, according to Dr. Hywel R. Jones, Professor of Practical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary Escondido, California.
Over 300 people received a "wake up" call at the November 1-3, 2002 Annual Calgary Reformation Conference.
Under the theme of "Contending for the Faith" Dr. Jones, teaching from the Book of Jude, described how godless men, scoffers, shepherds who feed only themselves (Jude vv.4,12 & 18) had infiltrated the Church and were attempting to destroy the Faith.
According to Jones, the sleeping church is characterized by forgetfulness and lack of proper mindset – one of humbleness, of right perspective on our sin, of comprehension that we are no longer civilians, but are in God’s army. Jude reminded the Church of what they already knew, but had not retained. "It wasn’t that they denied the truth," said Dr. Jones, "but it wasn’t a present reality in their thinking or living." Jones asserted that we too, like the Church in Jude’s time, have been neglectful in defending the Truth, in part due to our surrender to the seductive easiness of life in North America. We are soft and not alert, so we can’t perceive what is happening and therefore, we can’t guard the body of harmonious truths in Scripture against the attack from within our own ranks.
David Linden, an Elder at Bethel URC Church, Calgary spoke on the current battle over the doctrine of justification. Some theologians, such as N.T. Wright, have adopted a ‘New Perspective’, which is rapidly gaining popularity. This view maintains not only that all Reformations confessions are incorrect, but also claims that the Reformation has never accurately understood Paul’s concern over "works righteousness," at least not until the latter part of the 20th century. "When Paul condemned works of the law, Mr. Linden explained, "the theologians holding to the new perspective claim he was only addressing issues of ethnicity. Suggesting that Paul does not refer to our obedience to the moral law opens the door to justification by faith plus our obedience." Mr. Linden also dealt with Norman Shepherd’s recent article on "Faith Alone". A review of the article is available on his website at: www.grebeweb.com.
Yet, we need not worry, the Scriptures are clear – our sufficiency is in Christ, affirmed conference speaker Rev. Marcusse, Pastor of Bethel URC Church, Calgary. We do not need to live our lives in fear, wondering if what we do is good enough; we know that it isn’t. Works demonstrate that faith exists, but we are justified and reconciled to God through Jesus’ perfect righteousness by faith alone.
But we still need to deal with those who attack the Faith. How do we contend for the Faith? Expounding on Jude’s call to persevere in verses 20-23, Dr. Jones implored his audience to:
- Diligently study God’s Word to create a solid foundation of the body of truths in Scripture.
- Pray in the Holy Spirit, asking for the internalization of the Word, to implant it on our hearts and mind.
- Get specific when describing the Gospel. Biblical definitions are extremely important. We must recapture words like Protestant and Evangelical, which have been misused over the years.
- Know the enemy and what they are teaching.
- Ask questions of doubters – warn them. Be forceful with some, and with those practising false doctrine, be merciful, but be careful and protect yourself.
Dr. Jones was definite – "We can’t just talk up our identity; we must take steps to maintain our identity. This will involve going against this unthinking, ‘be positive’, politically correct world. Be prepared to not be well received -liberals will find our direct questions unloving, our discussion of the fall and our sinful state as impolite – but when battling against the foes – being positive doesn’t work, as Jude demonstrates. He didn’t leave things to inference; he spells them out in graphic detail; he draws a line in the sand." Jude called that church to put their hands to the task – to spare no effort, to agonize for the Gospel, to contend for the Faith at all costs – so wake up Church! – we are called to do the same.
The tape series "Contending for the Faith" is posted on the Bethel URC web site at www.bethelurc.org and is also available for purchase by writing to email@example.com or calling 403.240.9202. Cost is $20.00 plus 3.00 for shipping. Cheques are made payable to Bethel URC.
A special freewill offering held on Saturday morning for Westminster Theological Seminary raised almost $3000.
Janet E. Macor is a member of Bethel URC, Calgary, Alberta
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