Neo-orthodox Presbyterians?

Whether accurate or not (I’ve never read Barth) it is an Evangelical “absolute truth” that neo-orthodoxy separates the Word of God from the Bible. For an Evangelical, believing the Bible means believing God. For a “neo-orthodox” advocate, this could almost be called idolatry.

As someone who has read a lot of material from the Founding of Westminster Theological Seminary, at the time of the big war in the Northern Presbyterian Church, I remember reading a great deal of material aimed at showing that the New Testament writers held the view of Scripture that is found among Evangelicals. This was often almost funny to me because it seemed so easy to prove; Warfield, Murray, and others were shooting fish in a barrel.

But now, it is like a whole new form of neo-orthodoxy has grabbed hold of the Evangelical world. If your pastor tells you in Church,

God sent His Son to die for you and for His sake forgives you all your sins; this I declare to you in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.

and you believe him, some will now tell you that you are guilty of trusting in your pastor rather than trusting in God.

This is pretty insane and dangerous. Has God or has he not revealed himself in history? Did God or did he not establish the Church and the Gospel ministry?

What about those who “believe” their pastor but later apostasize and end up dying in their sins? Well, obviously, they didn’t truly believe the Gospel. We say this all the time about professing Christians who fall away. So why does that explanation suddenly fail? This is the gratuitous move: Instead of encouraging people to truly believe in Christ as he is offered in the Gospel, people are now insisting that the problem is that they do believe what their pastor tells them. What rationale is there for making this move? If these same people tell us that the reason professing Christians fail to inherit eternal life is that they have (in some way) failed to believe the Gospel, then why not say the same for the Gospel as declared through a Gospel minister? Or baptism? Or the Lord’s Supper? Why should anyone agree that “There are many in Hell who trusted that they were saved in their baptism”? Why not simply say in complete consistency with Presbyterian rubrics: “There are many in Hell who never truly trusted God that they were saved in their baptism”?

To insist that the failure to believe the Gospel was caused by their trust in their pastors words to them is really to attack the New Testament teaching. For there we find Paul insisting that those he writes to “those sanctified in Christ Jesus” (First Corinthians 1.2), that they are each members of the body of Christ (First Corinthians 12.12, 27), that they are among those for whom Christ “gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age (Galatians 1.4), that they are among those whom God “has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1.3, 4), etc. Paul orders Christians not to destroy those for whom Christ died (Romans 14, First Corinthians 8 In context he is obviously not saying we should go ahead and destroy those Chritians for whom Christ did not really die. Rather, he is mandating behavior that we should show toward all professing Christians.

So, did people in the church of Ephesus go to Hell because they were guilty of believing Paul rather than God? Or because they refused, in the final analysis, to believe what Paul said?

God works through means. How did Quakerism become Presbyterian?

1 thought on “Neo-orthodox Presbyterians?

  1. Todd

    At the risk of incurring the wrath of others, I suggest reading a bit of Barth. In the circles I ran in college and seminary you just as well consider Barth’s works on the “burn this book” list. After feeling the weight of some of the inadequacies I found in my early education, I thought why not check it out for myself. I have not read enough to be able to articulate one way or another regarding Barth’s “neo-orthodoxy.” What I do know is that those who hold sway get to attach the labels. So when I read some of my friends who have read much more than I and share in conversations on the subject, I am less and less inclined to believe what I was once told. In fact, I really think many only moved to critique based on what they read of someone else’s interpretation. Seems much like what you have dealt with in trying to open up some to the fact that Wright is not a heretic of the first order.


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