Personality cults and church unity (David Dickson)

Discussion in 'Ecclesiology' started by Reformed Covenanter, Dec 7, 2019.

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  1. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    Personality cults following a pet teacher are destructive of church unity:

    None of your Teachers purchased the Church to himself by death: Therefore this honour is due to none, that the Church should have its name from him, and be rent in pieces for his sake.

    David Dickson, An exposition of all St. Paul’s epistles together with an explanation of those other epistles of the apostles St. James, Peter, John & Jude: wherein the sense of every chapter and verse is analytically unfolded and the text enlightened (London: Francis Eglesfield, 1659), p. 40.
     
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  2. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    Did Cornelius Van Til die for you? Or were you baptised in the name of Gordon Clark?
     
  3. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    David Dickson also says: "You were bapti∣zed in the name of none of your Teachers, that you should take your denomination from them." (Ibid.) Unlucky for Lutherans and Wesleyans. :lol:
     
  4. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    There is another current "Reformed" personality whose name I won't mention but he has a following on social media.

    (I'll show myself to the door)
     
  5. Taylor Sexton

    Taylor Sexton Puritan Board Junior

    Although this is great stuff, I would like to point out that none of these, namely...

    1) greatly admiring someone's ministry or thought;
    2) seeking to model one's own thought after someone obviously greater;
    3) devoting a good deal of one's time to the study of the contribution of another;

    ...necessarily constitute a "personality cult."

    I really only say this because the name of Van Til was brought up, a name that has become rather dear to me personally. I am not saying that some people don't make a cult out of him and his thought (in fact, one particularly disagreeable member of this board made this the wording of one of his first posts), but just because some of us really admire him, seek to model our thought after him, or think his apologetic is correct (gasp!), doesn't mean we are involved in a "personality cult."

    I say this only to encourage us to avoid the other extreme—dismissing our opponents as being in a "personality cult" without actually engaging in thoughtful discussion.
     
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  6. RPEphesian

    RPEphesian Puritan Board Junior

    I'm personally on a Richard Baxter kick. He does me great good. But even were it the Apostle Paul, he is nothing and God is all, 1 Cor 1-3, a jar of clay with a glorious trust.
     
  7. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    Not everyone who agrees with Cornelius Van Til's apologetic is necessarily involved in a cult of personality. Even when I was a presuppositionalist, I recall making a comment to the effect that the cult-like following of both CVT and Gordon Clark disturbed me.

    It makes sense, however, that Reformed Christians follow closely, but not blindly those who either influence or framed the Reformed confessions, or who were the most faithful exponents of the theology of the confessions. There are not too many theologians post-1900 who fall into the latter category. I am not presently convinced that either CVT or GHC was among them, but others will beg to differ.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2019
  8. Taylor Sexton

    Taylor Sexton Puritan Board Junior

    I just want to be clear. My purpose in saying what I said was not to defend CVT or his thought. Rather, it was to make sure we are careful—no matter the subject—not simply to label every devoted follower of a teacher as a member of a "personality cult," and thus shake off our responsibility to dialogue thoughtfully and charitably with them. I’ve seen it happen a lot.
     
  9. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Awesome string of quotes! Good premium stuff there.
     
  10. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    When people from all around the country move their families to *your* church because of *your* minister, then.....
     
  11. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    David Dickson also warned against those who “out of prejudice … discredit faithful Ministers, because of this or that Teacher, whom we admire”.

    David Dickson, An exposition of all St. Paul’s epistles together with an explanation of those other epistles of the apostles St. James, Peter, John & Jude: wherein the sense of every chapter and verse is analytically unfolded and the text enlightened (London: Francis Eglesfield, 1659), p. 45.
     
  12. RPEphesian

    RPEphesian Puritan Board Junior

    In a similar vein, I wish people would stop choosing churches because of size and demographics.
     
  13. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    God differenceth one from another, giving more or less gifts to this or that man, according to his pleasure, no man makes himself to differ: Seeing then whatsoever gifts one man hath, he hath received them of God, he ought not to boast in what he hath received, but to think modestly of himself and others …

    David Dickson, An exposition of all St. Paul’s epistles together with an explanation of those other epistles of the apostles St. James, Peter, John & Jude: wherein the sense of every chapter and verse is analytically unfolded and the text enlightened (London: Francis Eglesfield, 1659), p. 46.
     
  14. Reformed Bookworm

    Reformed Bookworm Puritanboard Colporteur

    Many would do well to read Islay Burn's biography on his father, William H. Burns. Here is a quote from the introduction:
    "In our celebrity-driven age (from which the evangelical church is far from exempt), this is exactly the kind of life we need to study. We need to be reminded of the beauty, dignity and ultimately the glory of humble, obscure Christian service (Matt. 10:42). Yes, we need the towering leaders of men like John Calvin and John Knox. However, the great work of the church is ultimately carried forward by those who receive little earthly reward and recognition (but great is their reward in heaven!). William H. Burns was one of these, and we need many like him in our day. We need those whose life can be summarized thus: “He preached the word; dispensed the sacred supper; warned the careless; comforted the sorrowing; baptized little children; blessed the union of young and loving hearts; visited the sick, the dying; buried the dead; pressed the hand, and whispered words of peace into the ear of mourners; carried to the poor widow and friendless orphan the charity of the church and his own; slipt in softly into some happy home and gently broke the sad news of the sudden disaster far away; lifted up the fallen one from the ground, and pointed to Him who receiveth the publicans and the sinners … [He was] always at his work, and always happy in it, and desiring nothing better or higher on earth.” - From the Publishers Introduction in Islay Burns' The Pastor of Kilsyth: The Life and Times of W. H. Burns. Banner of Truth.
    http://bit.ly/PastorofKilsyth
     
  15. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    To be fair, many of the modern Reformed scholastics have also made a personality cult out of Richard Muller. It has got to the point in some circles where his word is considered to be final on everything. But given the range of subjects that his scholarship covers, it is simply not realistic to assume that he has got everything correct. Also, when Professor Muller is in the right, which is more often than not, his conclusions are right because they are right - not because Richard Muller said so. That said, his scholarship is genuinely groundbreaking and has been of great service to the church.
     
  16. smalltown_puritan

    smalltown_puritan Puritan Board Freshman

    I second this commendation. In a culture where pastors have to ‘brand themselves’ and ‘their’ churches, it is vital to remember that we are brought by divine grace into the the flock of Christ. ‘Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?’ (1 Corinthians iii.5).
     
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