(This is a guest blog from a member of Sovereign King Church's core team, Ben Carmack. Peter Leithart, a federal revisionist Presbyterian who recently wrote that the Protestant Reformation was a failure, has called for work toward unity between Protestants and Rome. We at Sovereign King Church are firmly Protestant and there can be no unity with those who anathematize the true gospel of Christ.)
Last weekend, Dr. Peter J. Leithart of the Theopolis Institute in Birmingham, AL presented some lectures in Louisville, KY on church unity based upon his recent book The End of Protestantism. Dr. Leithart has also written at some length in the journal First Things on the same theme. The following is an imaginary dialogue on church unity between Dr. Leithart and the late Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
For those who may not know, Dr. Leithart and Dr. Lloyd-Jones were not contemporaries, but they do represent two very distinct streams of thought. Some liberties have been taken, but overall, what each man says is based on something he really did say.
Lloyd-Jones: Pardon me, but I see you are buried in your notes and papers, would you mind if I said Hello? I’m not from around here…
Leithart: Oh, it’s not a problem, sir. Hello. My name is Peter. Pleased to make your acquaintance. I was just working on some lecture notes for a series on unity between Christians I’ll be delivering soon. I can tell by your accent that you must be from across the pond. I have many friends from Britain, and I studied at Cambridge for a time.
Lloyd-Jones: Yes, I come from Britain. My name is Martyn. I am an evangelical clergyman, a Calvinistic Methodist. I am encouraged by my many evangelical friends in America. Though we are from different countries, yet we share unity in the same faith! Tell me, are you an Anglican or Episcopalian? I noticed your collar…
Leithart: Actually, I’m a Presbyterian minister and teacher. But, I do think Christians of different denominations should learn from other kinds of Christians. We should behave as though we all share one body of Christ, one baptism.
Lloyd-Jones: Yes, good man, but aren’t you begging the question of what it is that makes a Christian?
Leithart: Not exactly. Without qualification or hedging, the Church is the Body of Christ, and all who are part of Christ’s Body are one in Him. And we get into that Body through our baptism. In the New Testament, baptism is baptism. Baptism really does what the Scripture tells us it does; we shouldn’t be afraid to speak how the Bible speaks. The baptized are all consecrated as priests. I’ve written a few books on it…
Lloyd-Jones: Well, in my country nearly every man has been baptized. Yet very few evidence regeneration or the knowledge and fear of God. Are you saying baptism saves?
Leithart: No, that’s the wrong question. We are saved through union with Christ’s Body, the Church. That union, like other events in our lives, is effected through symbols. Baptism makes a Christian just as a wedding ceremony makes a marriage. There’s nothing magical in the ritual, but rituals do change and shape our lives.
Lloyd-Jones: So, does baptism save?
Leithart: Baptism doesn’t save. Being part of Christ’s Church does.
Lloyd-Jones: Ah, so this church unity you speak of must be very important for you? I must say you sound very much like ecumeninists in my country that I had some dealings with in the 1960s.
Leithart: I’ve said before that my project is to drag conservative Reformed Christians, kicking and screaming, into the 20th century, the century of eccelesiology. And there were many good things the ecumenical movement produced that I think we should look to as good examples.
Lloyd-Jones: Oh dear, no, I quite disagree. But we should be here many hours if I should say all that I think of your proposal.
Leithart: Why don’t you tell me what you think church unity should be?
Lloyd-Jones: I am a great believer in church unity. But there is all the difference in the world between a true spiritual, biblical, New Testament unity and a mere amalgamation of people who call themselves Christian who disagree violently with one another with regard to the very essentials of the Gospel. That’s my criticism of the ecumenical movement. For instance, what would the public think if two men appeared on a political platform together maintaining that they were standing for the same things, one of them an extreme socialist, and the other a dyed-in-the-wool Tory?
Leithart: It sounds as if you’re suggesting that there is only one correct viewpoint of what the Christian faith should be, your own. That sounds like tribalism to me. How can Christians ever obey Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer in John 17 that all His people be one in if we think as you do?
Lloyd-Jones: It’s isn’t tribalism, but contending for right distinctions. I think that there are certain broad distinctions, and I would say that the one big dividing line is what I would call evangelical or non-evangelical, or if you like, evangelical and more Catholic. Again, I put it in this way: Men who believe in definitions of the faith that are opposed to any vagueness or uncertainty, and those who take a perhaps more priestly view…
Leithart: It sounds to me like you have my work in the cross-hairs. Christians ought not to run away from the priestly imagery of Old Testament worship. After all, that is how most Christians in most ages in most countries have worshipped. We dare not dismiss half the Church.
Lloyd-Jones: You don’t decide these matters in terms of figures; it’s a question of your view of the Truth. Besides, simply claiming membership in the Church or membership in the covenant is not enough. Scripture teaches of a remnant within the Church whom God will redeem in the end.
Leithart: The Church will never unify if we all persist in being as narrow as you are. Every denomination, every tradition and every systematic theology must die so that the Brave New Church of the Future can take hold. God wants to do a new thing in our midst, and this new thing will be the eventual reunion of all Christians.
Lloyd-Jones: It sounds to me as if you are saying that the Reformation was a tragedy.
Leithart: No, I’m not saying that.
Lloyd-Jones: Yes, but there was division in the Church, wasn’t there? And over matters of doctrine, matters of Truth? Wasn’t the Reformation led by the same sort of dreadfully narrow men you accuse me of being? At one point, Luther stood absolutely alone in proclaiming God’s Word.
Leithart: Surely you would recognize that not everything the Reformers taught was right? And not everything the Roman Catholics taught was wrong?
Leithart: Well, in order for our unhappy divisions to be overcome, we must cast aside our Protestant triumphalism, our defining ourselves as Not-Catholic. We must reach for consensus with our fellow Christians, for there must come a time when the Church comes together again.
Lloyd-Jones: No, no, I don’t believe you will ever have a perfect church. This mechanical attempt today to produce one world church...is to be something that’s quite impossible. The church will never be perfect, even if you had only the evangelical church...even that would not be a perfect church by any means.
Leithart: What’s your vision for the future of the Church? What does the Church need?
Lloyd-Jones: The Church must be absolutely certain of her message. She must know nothing but Christ and Him crucified. We must preach the absolute necessity of New Birth in the Spirit. Without the power of the Holy Spirit, even preaching of the Gospel is in vain. As Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, “Our Gospel came not unto in Word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, with much assurance.” Those are the essentials.
Leithart: Well, Martyn, I’ve enjoyed our discussion, but I really need to be going...
Lloyd-Jones: Oh, well I don’t want to trouble you further. Good day, Peter.
Who’s right, Leithart or Lloyd-Jones? Choose wisely.
 Many of Lloyd-Jones’ comments come from this interview.
 The Tory Party is Britain’s equivalent of the Republican Party.
Sunday 10:30 AM