A Call to Reformation and to Unify in the Reformed Evangelical Faith
A Protest to the Counter Reformation of the Neo-Reformed Infiltration of Reformed Evangelical Churches
Rev. George Bancroft, B.Sci., M.Div, Th.M.
(24th November 2018) (Updated: 28th December 2018) (Updated: 12th February 2019; 1st March 2019) (Updated with Bold Section Headings: 18th March 2019) (Updated: 5th June 2020)
In writing this article, this gospel minister is well aware that such a call back to the Protestant reformation is viewed by some readers as long overdue; and after reading this article in light of Scripture and the natural interpretation of the Westminster Church Standards, as well as the Three Forms of Unity (Belgic Confession, Heidelberg Catechism, Canons of Dordt), reformed evangelical readers should be ready to make concrete steps to strive together for genuine reformed evangelical unity including works of reformation. Some other readers, however, might view this call to reformation as an overwhelming task, besides it being most difficult to convince many professing reformed readers that this article would even be worth reading. In speaking about the Protestant reformation in this article, Protestant evangelicalism and reformed evangelicalism are one in the same in meaning and embodied in reformed evangelical creeds, confessions, and catechisms written in the 16th-17th centuries; but these labels have nothing to do with the so-called “broadly evangelical” movement, which is a definite movement, but not evangelical nor protesting anything significant for reformation.
First (1), there have been too many “reforming” church failures in the last one hundred and seventy-five years, wherein it is perceived that reformed evangelical denominational unity and reformation may not be possible for this generation. In answer to this objection, every alleged Presbyterian reformation movement has been led by a mixture of reformed evangelical church officers along with peculiar neo-reformed church officers; and first and foremost there was no clear protest over the first mark of the church together with a list of the minimum gospel doctrines of Jesus Christ in contrast to perverted “gospel” doctrines in protest (see Rom. 16:17; I Cor. 1:10; Gal. 1:6-9). To put it in few words, the so-called reformed” movements from the mid-19th century onward did not follow the Protestant reformers in protest and secession from the Roman Catholic church and the other sects over the true gospel of free grace.
Second (2), because there are so many influenced by the neo-reformed pessimistic view of the end times, it may be surmised that there is little or no hope for reformation, nor can there be much effort in works of reformation leading to reformation. This objection is certainly a serious problem; and every genuine reformed evangelical advocate should be truly optimistic and even study to be in agreement with the future ‘victory of the preaching of the Word to the nations’ confessed in Larger Catechism 191, besides praying for it, as it says in the Westminster Directory for the Public Worship of God (Of Public Prayer before the Sermon). The future victory of the preaching of the Word to the nations was also advanced by John Calvin (see Commentary on KJB II Thess. 2:1-8). The neo-reformed pessimistic view of the end times (see II Thess. 2:1-2 compare KJB and the Geneva Bible with NIV, NKJV, and ESV) was deliberately placed into the following translations: New American Standard Version (NASV), Revised Standard Version (RSV), New International Version (NIV), New King James Version (NKJV), and the English Standard Version (ESV). In contrast, the American Standard Version (1901) continued with the meaning and translation as in the KJB and the Geneva Bible. Thereby, the false position of the ‘imminent return of Christ’ (see NASV, RSV, NIV, and ESV), with its pessimistic overtones, was freed up to be a viable position to hold and teach in neo-reformed churches, when that is the exact position the Apostle Paul was condemning.
(3) Furthermore, there is the notion that the church is in need of being perceived as very congenial, compromising and ‘winsome’ to any and all in the profession of the Christian faith. This expression ‘winsome’ is neo-reformed, and particularly an Arminian-Pelagian expression, wherein there is no such notion or concept taught in Scripture. The English word ‘gentle’ in the King James Bible (KJB) has its origins in the courts of England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland from ‘genteel’ or gentle knights (KJB Gal. 5:19-23; II Tim. 2:24-26). God-fearing church officers are to be genteel in the courts of God, yet ready to use the spiritual ‘sword of the Lord’, the Scriptures, to defend the true gospel of free grace without compromise (KJB Gal. 1:6-9; II Cor. 11:3-4; Jude 3); but they are not to be flatterers, effeminate, nor perceived to be weak in defence of the true gospel of free grace (see KJB Prov. 26:22-18; 29:5; Rom. 16:17-19; I Cor. 6:9-11). Reformed evangelical preachers need to preach as called and instructed according to the example of the Prophets, Jesus Christ, and the Apostles in Scripture, presented both positively and negatively in doctrine and precept (KJB Acts 20:26-27; Eph. 4:11-14; II Tim. 4:1-2; Jude 3-4). Consider the practical result of trying to be ‘winsome’ with the duty of gospel ministers to preach the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:26-27). On any given Lord’s Day, visitors, unregenerates, including nominal (i.e., in name only) Christians could get upset and never return, regardless of how doctrines, moral precepts, and church ordinances are explained with patience. So the end result of trying to be ‘winsome’ can only result in failure to preach the whole counsel of God, compromise the gospel doctrines, and God-fearing attendees suffering under limited preaching of the Scriptures, always being concerned not to upset unregenerates. Instead, we should trust God to effectually call His elect in His planned time, that is, if the reformed evangelical doctrine of effectual calling is truly believed, confessed, and upheld.
In reading this article, it should be read as if it is a transcribed vitally important conference lecture(s) that would be given over a few days and perhaps printed in a booklet. Please read it through part by part, with regular breaks; and read the article through two or three times. During the first reading through the article, the writer suggests to not look up any proof-texts in the Scriptures nor other references; but instead look up the proof-texts gradually upon the second and third reading with study of the Scriptures, the Westminster Church Standards, and the Three Forms of Unity. Some readers, unused to submitting to reformed evangelical 45 minute to one hour preaching, morning and evening, and reformed evangelical articles with much application and teaching of Protestant evangelical church history, may complain about the length of this article. It should be noted that this article is not written with some neo-reformed activists in mind who often complain and are not teachable in Scripture sound doctrine and church history. From time to time, improvements in this article will be made as to presentation on the internet. Yet, noting that without Divine intervention, some neo-reformed adherents and activists will have little or no interest in reading this article nor works of reformation until, Lord willing, the third wave of reformation (see the Conclusion); or they hear of the article, be compelled to make a response, thereby stimulated to read the article. In the meantime, this article is written for people who will appreciate and understand how important each part is in this article and this call to reformation, and respond with concrete works of reformation. After reading this article, genuine reformed evangelical readers will know why it had to be written with this amount of detail and this length.**
Moreover, readers should make sure that the main study Bible is the KJB with supplement from the Geneva Bible online; and this gospel minister makes no apology for expecting professing Christians to look up proof-texts and other references. This generation (sometimes labelled the ‘millennial generation’) is not any less capable then previous generations to learn to follow preaching through the Scriptures and look up proof-texts for themselves; and every reformed evangelical advocate should willingly do so. The other versions, NIV and ESV, should be available for comparison online and studied to take note of the damaging neo-reformed unscholarly translation changes. The deliberate changes in the RSV, NIV, and ESV (and sometimes followed in the NKJV) are not just specifically in corrupted textual variants; but there are deliberate changes and mistranslations which were made in order to be clever in their schismatic cause to infiltrate formerly Protestant evangelical denominations (namely, reformed evangelical denominations). These sectarian translations (e.g., RSV, NIV and ESV) were deliberately promoted by unscholarly translators and publishers in hopes that reformed evangelical church officers would think, ponder, and not follow Acts 15:1-16:5, Romans 16:17, I Corinthians 1:10, 11:18-19. Galatians 5:19-21, and Titus 3:10-11 with synodical decrees, marking out and expelling certain neo-reformed church officers; and for awhile this scheme by unscholarly translators has worked.
Some might pragmatically argue against this call to reformation, exposure and protest of the neo-reformed infiltration. Instead, they might argue to be careful in a reformed movement in the 21st century. The argument might very well be expressed in the following manner: “In this day and age, we need as many professing Christians that we can get as a voting block in ‘democratic’ countries”, which were once established Protestant evangelical countries and are no longer. One of the significant changes in formerly Protestant evangelical countries which was made by unbiblical democratic vote in the late 19th and early 20th century was popular sovereignty (that is, one person, one vote). Previously, only land owners and ministers of the gospel voted, twenty year olds and upward, who have had definite ‘stake’ in a nation long term. Whilst certainly this is perhaps a more difficult political climate and ‘hurdle’ than in the past, compromising gospel doctrines and the moral law in any national reformed movement is doomed to failure, as the Sovereign Lord God reigning in the heavens will not bless it. As a voting block, far too many professing Christians have promoted a typical unbiblical ‘democracy’ in formerly Protestant evangelical established nations; and many neo-reformed professing Christians voted to dismantle distinctive moral laws and other teachings of Protestant reformers in the last 150 years or more, long before the marriage act changed in formerly Protestant evangelical nations in the 21st century. The scriptural evidence is clear that the neo-reformed activists will not change until there is uncompromising reformed evangelical preaching, reformed evangelical unity (Phil. 1:27), and first and foremost divine intervention in the lives of the neo-reformed activists. Proverbs 29:18 is most plain and pertinent: “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” In Scripture and church history, including the Protestant reformation, reformation began within the church, which provided nations with knowledgeable reformed evangelical gospel ministers and ruling elders to lead and guide God-fearing Christians with the necessary political movements.
Certain readers might perceive that this writer has had too many blots over the years upon his name to be one of the leading ministers of the gospel in this call to reformation. In Scripture, it is revealed that Jesus Christ and the Apostles received many blots, were falsely accused, even excommunicated from the apostate Church of Israel under the sectarian Pharisees and Sadducees (Jn. 9:19-23). At the beginning of the Book of Acts, the Church of Israel (Continuing) was reconstituted and reorganised by secession and then expansion into the Roman Empire Church, by ministers of the gospel. In church history, reformed evangelical ministers and ruling elders received many blots, were falsely accused, and were even excommunicated by the sectarians (III Jn 9-10). The Apostle warned that this would happen in Philippians 1:27-30. What does ‘blameless’ and ‘having a good report from without’ in I Timothy 3:2, 7 mean? It means that after biblical investigation and moral law code judicial review, there is no charge of a scandalous nature that can stand against a minister or ruling elder from the world and even from sectarians.
From the standpoint of striving to fulfil ministerial duties (II Cor. 2:14-17) and fruit bearing in the lives of repentant believers (Psa. 1:1-3; Matt. 3:8; Rom. 1:13; Col. 1:9-10), however imperfect any faithful preacher will be, this ministry passes the test of a called gospel minister in preaching and writing, having proclaimed the reformed evangelical faith with specific catechetical preaching through the Larger Catechism and the Shorter Catechism since 1983. Now some readers need to make sure not to confuse praise with defence of a good name.*** This is not praise in relation to works righteousness; but it is a defence of the Holy Spirit’s effectual calling, initial sanctification, and required ministerial duties (comp. Prov. 20:6 with 22:1), unless some readers disagree with Larger Catechism 144; and some reformed evangelical readers know that this defence is necessary at the beginning of this article. This gospel minister has also had the experience of preaching in several congregations and even mission congregations with a mixture of both reformed evangelicals and neo-reformed attendees. By Scripture and experience, it is known that, in order to advance biblical reformation with works of reformation, there cannot be toleration of tale-bearing, false accusations, and slander of any minister, elder, or communicant member with commitment to moral law code justice (Exo. 23:1-2; Lev. 19:16; Psa. 1:1-2; 119:63; Prov. 11:9; 15:28; 18:13; 24:23-25, 28; 25:9-10; 26:22-28; I Tim. 5:17-20); and opposition to tale-bearing means that scorners may not simply speak or write speculatively, unproven tales or stories about a reformed evangelical church officer (see Deut. 19:15-20; I Tim. 5:17-20), or anyone else for that matter. The burden of proof is biblically (namely, moral law code justice) always upon the accuser and not the defendant; and any final church court action, such as, censure and excommunication, must be subject to review and especially review in light of the reformed evangelical faith (WCF 31:4).
With reference to defence of any one’s saving grace gift of effectual calling and defence of one’s reformed evangelical preaching ministry or the defence of other church officers, this minister fully subscribes to the Larger Catechism related to duties in the 9th commandment without apology: Larger Catechism 144 ‘duties required’ (“love and care of our own good name, and defending it when need requireth”) as well as Larger Catechism 145 ‘sins forbidden’ (“speaking too highly or too meanly of ourselves or others; denying the gifts and graces of God; aggravating smaller faults”); and this gospel minister will refute in this article the neo-reformed false view of ‘pride’, including the false notion of being too serious about doctrine. Such notions of pride are not found in Scripture, but have been made up by heretics. Reformed evangelical church officers and regular members should not be shy or compromise their gift of saving grace before a neo-reformed talebearer, backbiter, slanderer, or scorner (Prov. 15:28; 25:26; II Pet. 3:15); and it is not proclaiming one’s inherent goodness by fleshly works of “righteousness” to do so (see Prov. 20:6, 9), but proclaiming the power of effectual calling, initial sanctification, and progressive sanctification by the Spirit of God in a good and God-fearing name (see LCQA 144 proof-text), as in Proverbs 22:1: “A GOOD name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold” (see also Prov. 11:16; 18:5, 17; 20:6, 9; 21:21; Phil. 1:6; 2:12-13; I Pet. 1:5). Even consider the prayer of Hezekiah, who had been regenerated by the Spirit of God early in his life; and thereby had a complete or perfect heart, dedicated to serving the Lord in the truth. In his prayer, he reminded the Lord God that he had done well with moral good works in his life serving as a godly king. The Lord God answered Hezekiah’s prayer and granted him fifteen more years to continue walking in the truth in this life to add to his good name, in his latter years for remembrance (Isa. 38:1-6). Nehemiah prayed a similar prayer, with mentioning some of his moral good works in prayer (Neh. 13:15-31). He made this prayer: “Remember me, O my God, for good” (Neh. 13:31b).
As this was first written in A.D. 2018, readers should take note that this present time frame is significant. This year is 370 years after the adoption of the Larger Catechism by the Church of Scotland; and this year is 400 years after the Synod of Dordt gathered in a general synod to refute the Remonstrance-Arminian-Pelagians. In 1618-19, ministers and ruling elders gathered in Holland to answer the counter reformation neo-reformed activists in the Canons of Dordt, with the Rejection of Errors, as well as set forth the Synod of Dordt Church Order; and the total subscription formula for the Church of Holland Three Forms of Unity was adopted in 1619. There is no debate among genuine reformed evangelicals that we are in great need of reformation in 2018-2019, as counter sectarian church officers having taken over the national churches in Canada, England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Holland, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, and in United States. Neo-reformed church officers have even taken over the so-called professing conservative Presbyterian and “reformed” denominations reconstituted in the 19th-20th centuries. The neo-reformed professing Christians have sought to falsely take the name “reformed”; and some other professing reformed Christians will not even use the label “evangelical”. Reformed evangelical church officers have been on the retreat and spending more time in the works of survival, than the works of reformation. In 2018-2019, enough is enough! It is definitely time, if not long overdue, to protest the counter reformation movement of neo-reformed activists with genuine works of reformation and a church unity according to the obvious meaning of Philippians 1:27-28 and in conformity with the natural meaning of Romans 16:17 and I Corinthians 1:10.
* The title ‘reverend’ is not always used in an article in front of the writer’s name; but in this case it seemed fitting, given the protest over the gospel of Jesus Christ, the call to reformation, and for reformed evangelicals to unify in the reformed evangelical faith as Protestant evangelical Presbyterians (see I Thess. 5:12-13; I Tim. 5:17; Heb. 13:17).
** For families who want to have a book in their home library suitable to those of weaker capacity (see Church of Scotland, Adoption Act of Shorter Catechism, 1648), then Thomas Vincent’s book, The Shorter Catechism, Explained from Scripture, is highly recommended.
*** Thomas Vincent wrote this concerning defending a good name under the 9th commandment (see references, Acts 24:10-13; I Cor. 15:10; II. Cor. 12:11): “Q. 8. How may we defend our good name? A. We may defend our good name–1. By clearing ourselves from false aspersions, and vindicating our innocency against the false accusations of our adversaries.” The Shorter Catechism, Explained from Scripture.