Leave church because they have normative principle?

Not open for further replies.

Max Hase

Puritan Board Freshman
I am a German Five-Point-Calvinist and supporter of infant baptism and the Westminster Confession and the regulative principle (puritan principle). I believe that Sunday is the Christian Sabbath and that Christmas and Easter are wrong and sin.

I am member of a Reformed Church in Germany. This church confess the Heidelberg catechism. But my church supports the normative principle. They celebrate Christmas and Easter. They don't believe that Sunday is the Christian Sabbath and they have relationships with conservative evangelical churches but not with pure Calvinist churches.

So it is a sin when I still stay there? Should I leave my church? But my problem is this: I don't know any other church at all where I can become a member. If I don't belong to any church at all, there are no elders who can protect me and I cannot take part at the Lord’s supper. Another Calvinist says to me, that it is not a good idea to leave my church because the risk is too high.

But what should I do? I am not sure if I have to leave my church because my church is too liberal! But the churches in Germany are so liberal that even my church is perhaps one of the most conservative churches in Germany. What is worse: To stay in my church or to leave and to belong to no church at all?? Of course I can try to start a new church. But I am very pessimistic and I am not sure if I would be successful because in Germany it is too hard!

So I need your advice and a quick answer because I have to decide very quick!

I would be very thankful for your advice and a quick answer!

So I need your advice and a quick answer because I have to decide very quick!

I would be very thankful for your advice and a quick answer!

Max -

Quick answers, and quick decisions, are often unreliable. It takes a high degree of experience and education to be able to shoot from the hip and hit the target with any amount of consistency. Anyway...

If they confess the Heidelberg Catechism then I doubt they "don't believe that Sunday is the Christian Sabbath." I think you're exaggerating a bit. Furthermore, you're in Germany and "pure Calvinist churches" are very very rare. Consequently it seems very logical that they would seek out relationships with "conservative evangelical churches" (which themselves are very rare in Germany).

In short, I think you're being overly critical and a bit too harsh in your judgment of this church. If you departed this church, where would you attend worship that *would* meet your criteria?

When we are in a constrained situation, we sometimes have to settle. In this case, I don't think you're being asked to give up much. Frankly, given the extreme scarcity of Reformed churches in Germany, I'm surprised you're complaining. (Incidentally, the sermon I preached last week was about complaining...)

So I say, stay there, learn from the saints in this congregation, and if providence eventually provides an option that will meet all your criteria for a church, then by all means cross that bridge when you get there.

BTW - Where in Germany are you located?
You don't indicate where in Germany you are located, but it's been my experience that the options are mighty slim in your country. There are no perfect churches, and to continually search for one will just leave you tired and frustrated. Absent heresy (and you haven't suggested that there is any) you certainly shouldn't leave when you have no place better to go.
Speaking as a person in the pew but also as a firm opponent of some of the seasonal practices you are grieved by in your church, I don't think there is any question that the sin would be to voluntarily leave a church, though corrupt in many ways but still a church, for no church at all. Reject the practices and be a patient and faithful witness according to your place and station against the corruptions and work for whatever change may be possible. If and when a viable alternative presents itself, then it would be time to consider the question of leaving. But not when there is no alternative. Often times the struggle when one becomes convinced about biblical principles of worship is holding those while still maintaining a biblical ecclesiology. Reformed folk are not separatists.
Of course you ought to stay with this church. The alternative of no church is far worse than what you've described. If I were in Germany, I'd be pleased to find a Heidelberg-confessing church that takes the gospel seriously enough to align with evangelicals rather than liberals. I wouldn't expect such a church to shun Christmas and Easter (which is a Puritan take on the "regulative principle" that the Continental Reformed tradition generally doesn't hold to while still taking an overall regulative approach to worship). And if I found myself out of agreement with teaching and practices regarding the Sabbath, I would find it a relatively easy thing to stomach compared the the alternatives of no church, liberalism, or even full-blown Arminian or Charismatic evangelicalism.

I suspect you not only need to stay, but also need to do a "heart check" and work on worshipping with an appreciative attitude. I don't say that to scold you, but rather from experience. I too find it so very easy to get caught up in everything that's wrong with a church that I end up a sourpuss. It's a dangerous state that the devil loves to see us enter. Resist it. Cultivate a thankful heart. And if at some point providence puts you in an even better church than the one you currently have, then be thankful again.
Can you find another church that is better? Can you move to a new location that has a better church? If you say "no" to these questions, then stay where you are.
Can you find another church that is better? Can you move to a new location that has a better church? If you say "no" to these questions, then stay where you are.

This. In addition, respectfully let the elders of your church know your convictions.
Are you in the state reformed church? Is it the presbyterian state church or the "uniert" - Lutheran/Presbyterian Church?
As a supplement, you might consider the internet for good German language preaching. John McArthur's sermons are in German on SermonAudio, but I really wanted to hear reformed preaching and then the SERK-Selbständige-Reformierte Kirche work started in Heidelberg and the preaching is very good. SERK has ties to the URC-OPC-PCA in the US and I think also the Free Reformed or their sister federation in the Netherlands. I guess if I were in Germany I would want to be close to Heidelberg and hear Sebastian Heck or maybe in Bentheim County so I could cross over the border into Holland to the Free Reformed. The only Westminster congregation I know of was one down in Austria, so being puritan would be a bit tough. But even the state reformed church has the plain look and Psalm singing and the look of reformed but rather than hearing the Gospel I only heard dialectial stuff what in the USA is called neo-ÄOrthodoxÄ.
Dave Maurmann
Phoenix USA
First of all, thank you so much for your honest answers! They were very helpful for my and opened my eyes.

I changed my mind and I want to stay in my church!

Nonetheless it is important that I don't sin. Of course I know that the Bible says, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together” (Hebrews 10:25). But on Christmas Eve or Good Friday I can’t go to Church Service because it is sin to celebrate Christmas or Easter. I hope that my elders will accept this! Even if they won't accept this, I can’t obey them in this point. Because “we ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

The problem is: Christmas and Good Friday are official parts of our Church Order. We have even marriage ceremony as special service. This is against the regulative principle, too. So I have to fight!

Of course, in every church are sinners. I am a (huge) sinner, too. And of course, we all fail. And elders fail. They have a hard job. I have huge respect for them. When somebody says, “There is a sin in my life, but I always fail!” Then I can say, “Okay, perhaps I am worse than you because you are honest and I am a hypocrite. So let's fight together! Don't give up!” Or when a elder says, “I know a brother is sinning but I have not enough courage to exhort him” than I can say (or only think for myself), “I even have not courage just to talk about this problem.”

But this is not my case. There are sins – public sins – since many years and almost everybody in my church do this. The elders don't say, “We don't know, what we can do against this”. They say: “We do the same! And why you don't do this? Almost every Christian in Germany do this!” They even say, “This is biblical.” They even say, that it is against the bible when I don't do this sins. Of course they are against my criticism and warning of other brothers. The problem is clear: They don't think that the sins are sins! So I can understand very well that they don't contravene this sins. They have another theological conviction in fundamental issues. They are not puritans. They say that I am too strict and almost every christian do this.

But this is not an argument at all. Even if everybody in the whole world would do this sin, I don't care! Only the Bible counts – not less and not more. Our Church Order allows official some sins. The Church Order give the elders the right to do some sins. This is my problem. But I haven't any alternative. So I have to fight.

@Verkehrsteilnehmer: No my church is not a state church. My church is what in Germany is called “Freikirche” (Free Church). Official there is no state church in Germany. But the most biggest churches are in fact a little bit like that. There are called “Volkskirche” (literally: people's Church). The relationship between church and state in Germany is a little bit complicated. For example: How to explain the church tax for Americans? The People's Churches in Germany are not churches at all. I think that this wannabe “churches” belong to the most liberal “churches” of the whole world. They belong to the dark side! They are very evil!
There is a passage from one of Martin Bucer's letters where he urged some Reformed who were worshipping in Lutheran lands (because of persecution in France) to be peaceful even when they don't agree with the Lutheran liturgy. I wish I can find it.
So I have to fight!

You also have to submit. That's part of being a church member.

This doesn't mean you ought to participate in activities you are convinced are sinful. Don't do that. But your overall attitude toward your elders needs to be one of respect and humble learning, even as you might try to convince them of a point or two. If you feel you must go against their instruction in some matter, do it with humility, and after much prayer. A fighting or arrogant spirit will neither honor God nor win anyone at all to your side. The differences between a Puritan and a Continental Reformed application of regulated worship are not significant enough to justify you becoming a church member who sees his primary role in the church as being there to fight with the elders.
Not much I can say other than agree with what has already been posted. I think you are wise to consider staying.
You wrote “they are very evil” and I think you are right about the EKD Landeskirchen. Better in the Freikirche than the EKD, but I can see how it would be tough for you, and I will pray for you. Even here in America, the reformed churches, by and large, only follow the regulative principle in a very "broad" way, so that in most of the congregations we have had membership in, we have had to stay away from the Christmas services, etc. So many of the Presbyterians here are not only not sabbatarian, but they don't even trust you if you believe that there is a christian sabbath. The last few years some churches have introduced the Lutheran absolution ceremony into the worship service (Westminster Directory for Publick Worship includes this in the pastoral prayer, but presbyterians did not recognise this as a sacrament or ceremony in the reformed church). But now, churches across the US are including it in the worship service, justifying it based on Calvin's stay in Germany when he signed a revised version of the Augsburg confession. Strange that these scholars pushing Lutheran absolution ignore the fact that they never recognised this in CH. I think that the Straßburg church is Ev-Lutheran now. I never thought presbyterians would turn toward Lutheranism but that is what is happening on our side, so we have had to sit through this strange new ceremony the past several years.

Again, I would recommend sermon supplements. One of the best in the English language is William Harrell of Immanuel Presbyterian Church of Norfolk, Virginia USA. His father-in-the-faith was William Still of Scotland.

Dave Maurmann
Belgic Confession Art 28:

"We believe that since this holy assembly and congregation is the gathering of those who are saved and there is no salvation apart from it, no one ought to withdraw from it, content to be by himself, regardless of his status or condition.

But all people are obliged to join and unite with it, keeping the unity of the church by submitting to its instruction and discipline, by bending their necks under the yoke of Jesus Christ, and by serving to build up one another, according to the gifts God has given them as members of each other in the same body.

And to preserve this unity more effectively, it is the duty of all believers, according to God's Word, to separate themselves from those who do not belong to the church, in order to join this assembly wherever God has established it, even if civil authorities and royal decrees forbid and death and physical punishment result.

And so, all who withdraw from the church or do not join it act contrary to God's ordinance."

Many, perhaps most, of us who share your convictions on worship find themselves in similar situations. I do think you would do well, however, to think upon the riches Christ has entrusted to your church in the means of grace and keys of the kingdom. It's easy to allow oneself to too much dwell on the aspects of worship one may (rightly) view as idolatrous and see your church wholly in terms of these deficiencies, all the while missing that Christ is still among you in public worship and the Spirit is still active and powerful in the ministry of the means of grace. An insidious danger of RPW scruples, I have found personally, is that deficiencies can loom so large to you as to make you absent in mind if not in body from public worship. Certainly much of the fault lies with those who institute idolatrous practices, but fault can easily lie with how we respond as well.
Surely, everyone would agree that there are times when one must separate. As well, can someone please tell me when the last time you witnessed a lamp stand being removed?
When one is forced to sin one must; but that is a high bar; at least higher than I think most tend to want to set it. That being said, I see no reason to compel someone to be miserable when there are other options that don't require separation to nothing. As far as being forced to sin when there are no options; hard cases make bad rules. It is a necessity to move at that point I would think.
So I have to fight!
Max, I am glad you are going to stay with the body and fight as you say. But I think you mean that you will fight the good fight of faith, watching your own heart and keeping close to the lord Jesus. See that your calling there is to love your brothers and to exhort them daily while it is called today lest any of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. So, carry on brother and fight the good fight of faith and lift up the hands that hang down, and the feeble knees;
And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.
Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:
Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;
Not open for further replies.