Carl Trueman States the Fundamentalist Position

Carl Trueman is having a friendly but serious and important debate with Paul Helm. Both are conservative evangelical men, but as American conservative Christians tend to fall on either side of the Billy Graham issue, so British Christians like Trueman and Helm fall on either side of the Packer-Stott/Lloyd-Jones issue. (These UK luminaries split in 1966 over separatism.) Trueman, while expressing great appreciation for Packer (as I would), nonetheless firmly opposes his decision to stay in the Anglican church (as I would!):

It seems to me to be illogical to claim that the Church (as a whole; I am not speaking of individual ministers and congregations here) does not deny the authority of the Bible and the terms of the gospel when it has long since ceased to uphold its basic doctrinal standards through its ecclesiastical courts. After all, a nation that has a law against theft on the books but allows anyone to take anybody else’s property at will, with impunity and without fear of prosecution, permits theft and, indeed, arguably has, in practice, no real concept of theft, no matter what the statute book says. Thus, a church that has for many years ordained those who deny many basic elements of the gospel, and even promoted such to senior positions within its ranks, and which does not regulate public teaching by its official doctrinal standards, has in its practice clearly denied the authority of the Bible and the terms of the gospel as articulated in those standards, and perhaps has no concept of them in any real, meaningful sense. Talk of denial of the gospel on its own is thus too vague: there is a crucial distinction which needs to be made between a church which promotes and maintains the preaching of the gospel as non-negotiable and normative, and a church which merely tolerates the same, while allowing teaching which denies the gospel to go unchecked. It would seem that when Packer speaks of the Anglican Church not denying the gospel, he simply means that the Anglican Church tolerates the gospel. That is not the position envisaged by the Thirty-Nine Articles and is arguably not Reformation Anglicanism.

Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

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