Experiential Quandry

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AC.

Puritan Board Freshman
1) Experiential Preaching - A type of preaching where we are told how it must go in the life of a true child of God with an emphasis on 'marks' of grace. Here we receive a description of the disposition of one whom is saved. We are told that 'to be converted' must be the first and foremost desire that lies in our hearts and that we must pray for this desire (for true conversion) or a 'new heart.' There seems to be a very stong emphasis on the sinner's depravity and hardness of heart and a concern over the presumption of salvation and strong discernment/caution of separating converted from unconverted. We are told we cannot do anything but must go down on our knees and pray and wait on the Lord for regeneration.









This leads me to a general concern about Experiential Preaching. Is there a difference between experiential preaching and a more generalized form of preaching. Isn't it strange to try to define a type of preaching as experiential? Isn't that trying to force the issue? SHouldn't we just let God's Word do the work for us? If we are faithful to the Word isn't the preaching naturally experiential without having to have an overemphasis on 'marks' and 'experience' and label it as such?


Please help!?!?!



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MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
This leads me to a general concern about Experiential Preaching. Not just how it is conducted in my church but in general. Is there a difference between experiential preaching and a more generalized form of preaching. Isn't it strange to try to define a type of preaching as experiential? Isn't that trying to force the issue? SHouldn't we just let God's Word do the work for us? If we are faithful to the Word isn't the preaching naturally experiential without having to have an overemphasis on 'marks' and 'experience' and label it as such?

Experiential preaching can become as inbalanced as expository preaching or anything really which serves as an adjective to preaching. What is generally meant by the term is simply an acknowledgment that preaching should contain this element over against the perception that it is missing or under-emphasised. I don't believe it is intended to state that preaching should only be experiential any more than expository preaching intends to be solely expository.

The reason why preaching can't just let the Word do the work is the simple fact that Christians in the modern day live in situations which the Word does not explicitly address, but situations nonetheless to which the teaching of the Word applies. Hence the need for careful and understanding application. This is simply an acknowledgment that our task of understanding and practising the word is by nature a post-canonical task. As with the development of doctrine, there are philosophical forces and theological corruptions to which the church's teaching addresses itself, so also with respect to "conversation" or "life-patterns," there are cultural forces and specific forms of immorality to which the church's teaching addresses itself.

Experientialism is simply a part of the application process. The "appropriation of faith" is part of receiving the word into good soil. This is the process whereby the outlook of biblical teaching becomes one's own outlook. The perversion of experientialism lies in the perversion of what is faith and its functionality in the work of salvation. If experience, as the appropriation of faith, is emphasised according to its specific place afforded in reformed theology, the outcome will be a reformed experientialism. If not, then it will be corrupted.

If a church is teaching, (1.) hyper-Calvinism, then its experiential emphasis will be hyper-Calvinistic, that is, it is all a work of God, and there is no duty on your part to appropriate the promises by faith. This is not reformed. The reformed emphasise diligent and believing waiting on the means of grace. (2.) If it teaches works sanctification then it is equally clear that the experientialism is not reformed. Sanctification should be taught as a benefit and expression of union with Christ in His death and resurrection.

As can be seen, there is nothing wrong with experiential preaching in itself; it is rather a matter of ensuring that the experiential emphasis is in accord with the reformed system of truth.
 

AC.

Puritan Board Freshman
thanks armourbearer -

but what about the 'marks' of grace? how do we know God has truly worked in our lives and continues to lead us?

and how do we know that we have fully experienced our depravity? so that we can truly repent and be converted?

Any scriptures you can provide that can help clarify would be helpful!
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
but what about the 'marks' of grace? how do we know God has truly worked in our lives and continues to lead us?

and how do we know that we have fully experienced our depravity? so that we can truly repent and be converted?

Any scriptures you can provide that can help clarify would be helpful!

The marks of grace should be taught in the context of the means of grace. It is part of an organic process, just as knowing a tree by its fruits. It is futile to require fruit from a developing tree, but at the same time believers should be taught to look for signs of growth in their Christian life within the context of the professing and active Christian community.

One might profitably consult the first chapter of 2 Peter and discover that making our calling and election sure consists in adding to our faith the virtues of Christ-likeness. But this should not be taken in isolation as Peter specifically exhorts that heed be taken to the more sure word over and above personal experience, and draws attention to the process of the day star rising in the experience of the believer. 1st John also indicates various marks whereby one who is born of God might be identified. Here there is an emphasis on communal Christianity as well as a recognition of the various stages of development -- children, young men, fathers.
 

Bad Organist

Puritan Board Freshman
Hi,

I grew up in the NRC, and so know where you are coming from. From the sounds of it, the NRC has not changed much in the last 30 years.

I too remember about it being said "we have the truth", but I don't remember it being said (or at least very often), that "we preach the gospel of Jesus Christ". If I remember correctly, in the NRC it seemed to be very much a qualified gospel, something like Jesus is Saviour, BUT we can't offer Him freely, only if the Holy Spirit works in you, etc. There was always the "But" in there. So, there was a lot of doubting, spiritual bondage, lack of assurance, etc. among the faithful. And as you say, a lot of what was said in the pulpit was dealing with the experiential part of Christian life. The question was something like this, did the Holy Spirit really work in my life, and was my experience of it deep enough. Because of that, only a handful of "truly converted" folk would partake of the Lord's supper. Because of this approach they sort of have their own take on the half-way covenant, or a two step membership, a member if you intellectually agree with the teachings of the church and are willing to submit to it's discipline, and a stage two if you will "converted membership", for those who wish to partake of the Lord's Supper.

Regarding your comment on a strict lifestyle, I remember some of those do's and don'ts. Although, Christian lifestyle should be markedly different than that of the world, sometimes I think the preacher and by extension the church tried to be the law-giver and the conscience of the adherents of the church. Surely, the scriptures alone should be our guide. Sometimes, I think that "strict" churches can end up like the Pharisees in Jesus' time, who had amended God's law with hundreds of their own laws. In these days however, it seems that there is a trend, even in so-called reformed churches to no longer preach the law, and so in the end promote antinomianism.

About the marks of grace. I'm sure you have heard them many times, am I humble, do I hate sin, do I love the law, do I see Christ, have I experienced conviction of sin, have I repented of sin, have I love to God, have I love toward the brethren, etc. Surely, it should be our daily business to be sure that if we be in Christ, that we possess in some measure the "marks". And if we are not sure, surely it should be a trial to us, and should bring us on our knees to the throne of grace. In Romans 8:16, the Apostle Paul writes, "The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. In other words, if we find we have the marks of grace in us, we believe we have experienced the forgiveness of sin through application of Christ's blood and see Him as our Lord and Saviour, our conscience is no longer guilty before God, and the Spirit confirms these things to us in our prayers, meditations, reading of the scriptures, in the hearing of the preached word,etc. then surely we can say we are justified, sanctified and adopted into the family of God.

I'm not sure asking the question of having "fully experienced", or "depth of conviction" or "truly repented" etc. is so helpful. I think this can lead to a lot of doubting, lack of assurance, joyless faith, etc. Scripture does not give an exact recipe for these things, but does give general prescriptions. God deals with each individual in His own way, as He leads them to Himself.

Perhaps, also of great help, are the first 2 questions and answers of the Heidelberg Catechism.

It's past my bedtime now............

Arie V
FC of Scotland
Toronto, Canada
 

jayce475

Puritan Board Freshman
Hi Anthony,

I've lately been involved in a bit of discourse with my friends and brethren from church regarding pop culture. Something that I posted regarding this issue on facebook:
Worldliness
Basically, I tried to summarise JC Ryle's chapter on worldliness from his book "Practical Religion" and added a few applications.

I'm pretty certain that every time certain aspects of our lives are being pointed out as being worldly, there would be cries of "this is so legalistic!". Would be considered legalistic in your sight? TV and movies are pretty much the very mediums of the infiltration of pop culture into the minds of today, so perhaps we should wrest with the issue of watching TV and movies a bit more.

In terms of marks of grace, they have all been covered. Case in point, a child of God isn't one who is already able to attain perfection and does not reek of worldliness at all, but one who is constantly fighting against the flesh and the temptations of the devil in the form of worldly pleasures.
 

AC.

Puritan Board Freshman
Hi Jason,

I was so impressed by your page on 'worldliness' that I sent you a friend request..

God Bless

AC
 

jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
Is NRC Netherlands Reformed Church?

I'm wondering about the implications for rearing children, especially that they must have a sense of their depravity first ...
 

AC.

Puritan Board Freshman
Yes...NRC is Netherlands Reformed Congregation....

I think the doctrine of depravity is touched on to some extent in all truely Reformed congregations. When dealing with a child we must meet them where they are at in terms of maturity, development and understanding. That being said I have had issues with the way doctrine has been presented to the children in my church....specifically a constant focus on being outside the kingdom and 'praying for a new heart' is taught at nauseum..........
 

earl40

Puritan Board Professor
Let me ask you one question.

Why are you still at a church like this?

Let me give you some advice. Run Forest run.
 

AC.

Puritan Board Freshman
It's a good, faithful church....I'm the one with the problem.
 
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earl40

Puritan Board Professor
I know, I know.....it's complicated.....but I'm supplementing the extremes with sound teachings from outside sources that are more Bibically balanced in the meantime....

What you describe is a cult like environment. It not like you live in Alaska. Find a good church. Now that you know what is "extreme".

Bless you

earl
 

Kevin

Puritan Board Doctor
Brother, when I read the first few lines I thought "sounds sort of like the NRC"!

I know that the (non-bishop) of your denomination is very popular here, and with some of my good friends, BUT I would never allow my children to be raised in a NR congregation. If you don't have kids your plan to be fed elsewhere may work for a while, but that is not a healthy option long term.

There are not many reformed churches that I would say this about, but I would say it in this case. Flee.:2cents:
 

kvanlaan

Puritan Board Doctor
Let me ask you one question.

Why are you still at a church like this?

Let me give you some advice. Run Forest run.

I have sat under a couple of FRC ministers that I was told were 99% NRC. They were strict, but excellent. I have sat under some HNRC ministers that were likewise excellent. I knew an NRC missionary in China that was more giving and loving than I have seen from many other denomination's missionaries there. I do find the idea that "we have the truth - exclusively!" being hard to handle; I simply can't abide that (and there are other issues that I see in there as well - that's not the only one), but likewise the idea that you should 'run' is lacking grace and simply incorrect insofar as brotherly advice is concerned. If you feel conflicted over their teaching and are not at peace about it, perhaps you should leave. But leaving because it is an unfaithful church is invalid. For every church that pays perhaps too much attention to this experiential/flee-the-world philosophy (and is perhaps then unbalanced in this direction), there are far too many who are so spotted by the world, there is no discernible difference between them and the world.

There are members in good standing on the PB who are of this denomination (I know of one at least, personally, and he is a good and godly man) and to make over-the-top statements to 'run' and to 'flee' is a slap in the face to them.

Anthony, this sermon by Joel Beeke touches on some of the fruitfulness issues you mentioned above, though not as directly as you might like:

SermonAudio.com - The Unfruitful Fig Tree
 
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AC.

Puritan Board Freshman
Kevin from Ontorio,

I totally here what you are saying....
 
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kvanlaan

Puritan Board Doctor
Thing is, there are elements in the FRC that also believe that they are "the one true church". And there are plenty of other churches that are in approximately the same camp. Thing is too, if you don't believe the doctrine, you should depart. I know people in these churches who are the Standardbearers of God, and who live their faith in ways I can hardly even comprehend. But there are, as in many other churches, pew warmers as well, and what's the point in that case?

I think as you think about the 'legalism', you should consider this: no one in that church thinks that forcing unbelievers to live like Christians (honoring the Sabbath, etc.) makes any sense (i.e., no one gets any closer to heaven by being 'good'). On the contrary, they seem to be of exactly the opposite persuasion, so I don't know that it is legalism that you're dealing with. And if they share a bench with you, they feel like it is part of their duty to warn you of certain behaviours that can cause a 'brother' to stumble. Hence the focus on 'marks' and a signature of conversion. It is part of the package which you signed up to play in that sandbox, not unlike being on the PB (follow the rules or be 'moderated'). However, if I was staying on the PB because I was worried that, if I left, Josh and a team of Moderating Regulators would come after me, then there is no reason for me to stay whatsoever. My soul belongs to Christ, not to Josh, and that's the only thing worth worrying about, really (though I've heard Josh is a pretty good shot). Do you love Christ enough to hate your family? (But first and foremost, is that truly the reason you're leaving???) We caught a lot of flack for moving one rung on the same ladder, you're talking about switching ladders entirely!

However, I would caution that, before you leave, you think well of what you choose. Leaving a close-knit group like that could sever you from some friends forever, and if you hold certain convictions that put you there in the first place, you will not likely find the grass to be any greener elsewhere (and be frustrated to boot!) What is the real issue? Can you sit with your Dominee and discuss any of these issues? Even a simple discussion of justification and sanctification in his eyes might give you a clearer idea of what you're truly dealing with.

In fact, if I were to leave it probably would be for a FRC or a HRC (not exactly a drastic departure).

:lol:
 

earl40

Puritan Board Professor
GOod points Kevin,

Let's set aside the leaving part altogther, I'm not there yet.

Regarding the NRC. The legalism & Hyper-C is implied. (i.e. You still own a tv so you can't be saved, you vacation there so you can't be saved, you went to a restaurant so you can't be saved, you went to a parade or a cookout but God's people would never go there, that minister when to such-and-suches house the week prior to lord's supper, etc) It's never said out loud but that's the environment that has been fostered. They are looking for super-fruits. SPeaking of the Lord's Day. The congregation is left to doubt or question there standing before God so much thanks to the nature of the experiential preaching that nobody participates. Outward expressions of fatih and hope are met cynically while doubt and despondency are seen as marks of the true convert.

FRC may be NRC-lite.

HRC seems a bit more balanced or maybe it's just Beeke

I'm just a poor sinner who was rescued from the RCC.

I love God and do not want to dishonor Him but I still have to resist temptations to look at a pretty woman, or seek out a rock song, or show interest in a sporting event, or curb my tongue etc. I will often repent and go back to God despite the sudden impulses and implications I may be fighting at the moment. It's hard enough to fight worldliness without striving for perfection as a condition of acceptance into the kingdom of God.

It's not that I don't want to serve God over the world, it's just that the old man rears it's ugly head from time to time. I don't want you to think I think too much of myself.....

My Self-righteousness is as filthy rags...but sometimes the NRC makes me feel that my experience doesn't run deep enough....

After reading the above I will be more "kind" and say, walk away Forest walk away. Any implied legalism or hypercalvinism should be cause for alarm. Along with the implied inference of God to give you a new heart. How this applies to a hypercalvinistic church evades me though. This smacks of pure Arminianism.
 

kvanlaan

Puritan Board Doctor
I love God and do not want to dishonor Him but I still have to resist temptations to look at a pretty woman, or seek out a rock song, or show interest in a sporting event, or curb my tongue etc. I will often repent and go back to God despite the sudden impulses and implications I may be fighting at the moment. It's hard enough to fight worldliness without striving for perfection as a condition of acceptance into the kingdom of God.

It's not that I don't want to serve God over the world, it's just that the old man rears it's ugly head from time to time. I don't want you to think I think too much of myself.....

So it sounds to me like you're Paul, by your description. You love the Lord, you know not why you do what you hate, when you strive to do as you know the Lord would have you do (a mark, gasp, of regeneration, because what reprobate would struggle against sin?) Not a bad place to be...

It's hard enough to fight worldliness without striving for perfection as a condition of acceptance into the kingdom of God.

I think this example is a great question for a pastor: is this not backwards? Do we not strive for holiness after acceptance into the kingdom of God? Before that, we are dead in our sins. We can do nothing but sin. After regeneration, we strive to holiness by the power of the Holy Spirit, not of ourselves. I would also appeal to NRC literature as a context (for example, I have a copy of Rev Kersten's "A Treatise of the Compendium" which seems like the "this is how we see things" text of the NRC; come to your pastor on this basis - he should have no wiggle room and no evasiveness on these terms). This should at least give you some clarification on where you stand and what doctrines you can accept and those you cannot to help you make up your mind. I will contact the brother that I know in the NRC and see if he is up to a personal email exchange. Take courage, Anthony!
 

AC.

Puritan Board Freshman
thanks Kevin,

I acknowledge everyone's experience is different. As a member of the RCC, I grew up in a non-restrcitive environment. So I was exposed to much more worldliness and sin than somebody who grew up in the church. I envy NRC members who were sheltered and protected from alot of the poisons the outside world has to offer....tv being one of them.

So, again, I am not looking to bash and I thank everyone for their concern!!!
 

AC.

Puritan Board Freshman
I've been doing much reflection.

I think I've been too unfairly critical of the NRC. I firmly believe I misrepresented the church and put a biased spin. It very well may be my own pride. It was the natural man talking.

If any thing the NRC church is very similar to the Puritans in terms of their quest and consciousmess of Godly living not as a means to salvation but out of honor and respect to God.

Also, we need to be cautious of a presumptive assurance and a mere intellectual faith.

As for me, I too easily fall into sin in thought, word and deed to think too much of myself or that GOd has truely worked in my life. It goes against my nature to totally give myself over to the Lord, I want to serve God and the world and am unfamiliar with the depth of my sinful depravity. I am still too self-righteous and need to be stripped of all my own abilites....

I hope everyone, especially those with ties to the NRC, will please accept my humble retraction of my criticisms.

God Bless You All!!!
 
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