Nine Marks? How about two?

Kevin Johnson has a thoughtful critique of the Nine Marks phenomenon.

This tends to confirm my thoughts on the emerging trend of many soteriologic calvinistic Baptistic churches to find common ground with southern Presbyterians. And the southern Presbyterians return the favor by joining hands in dozens of conferences. Since there is no sacramental unity, this marriage is bound to occur.

Calvin’s understanding of what constitutes a healthy Reformed church is a more biblical model:

“Wherever we see the Word of God purely preached and heard, and the sacraments administered according to Christ’s institution, there, it is not to be doubted, a church of God exists. … If it has the ministry of the Word and honors it, if it has the administration of the sacraments, it deserves without doubt to be held and considered a church. For it is certain that such things are not without fruit” (Calvin, Institutes, IV.i.9).

About Uri Brito

I am the Pastor of Providence Church (CREC) in Pensacola, Fl.
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3 Responses to Nine Marks? How about two?

  1. Ron Henzel says:

    A “thoughtful critique”? Hardly!

  2. apologus says:

    Ron, I think you are refusing to see the greater point, and that is: Is this what our Reformed fore bearers envisioned? How can a church be healthy that minimizes the sacraments? I would be more prone to endorse such marks if the sacraments was thrown in there somewhere. If the reformers believed that sacraments nourished, then a church that does not see the sacraments as significant is un-nourished? Your thoughts please.
    Further, these marks could be easily applicable to Dispensationalists. What is Reformed about Dispensationalists? Nothing. To me, though there are helpful components–and though I would find myself in agreement with those marks properly understood-it seems like an attempt to bring together Southern Presbyterians and soteriologic Calvinistic Baptists. As Kevin mentioned, that leaves out Lutherans, conservative Anglicans, and the like.

  3. John Fraiser says:


    Is this the post that you said was similar to my post poking fun at Piper? If not let me know to which one you were referring.

    I agree with most of what Calvin says here, and agree that no judgment of the identity of the church can ignore the sacraments. As I began to read Luther I realized how contrived and deficient Dever’s view of the church was. Luther rightly points out that a parameters of the true church cannot be “marked”. We can establish what the center of the church is, but we can’t necessarily outline the edges of the church. That is, we can identify what the church perfect looks like but we can’t say how flawed the church can be before it no longer constitutes the church.

    Most of what Dever understands a healthy church to be comes down to holding positions on a particular ideology (such as whether the local church preaches expositionally through a passage of the bible?) In short, his nine marks teach that a healthy church makes itself healthy. It also promotes a healthy identity according to right thinking not according to saving grace (notice how many of the marks contain the word “understanding”). Even Dever comes to the subject of conversion, he doesn’t say that a healthy church needs to be converted, he only says that it needs to have the right UNDERSTANDING of conversion. He points out the need for God’s grace in the conversion of the individual, yet it is absent from his understanding of a healthy church. In his view, a church is healthy because it has acheived an understanding or enlightenment.

    The same point can be made in his mark “Promotion of Christian Discipleship and Growth”. If what he says is true, we don’t actually have to make disciples like Christ commands in Matthew 28, we only need to promote it in order to be a healthy church. All of his marks are put a healthy church in our hands not in Christ’s hands. Not one of these marks is something that God does in Christ, and this is why a participation in the sacraments is left out. A mark that would say that God unites us with Christ in baptism or that says that we are nourished by his body and blood in Holy Supper would stick out like a sore thumb from the rest of his marks.

    There is not a single orthodox figure in Reformation history (except perhaps Zwingli, if you consider him orthodox) or pre-reformation history that would agree with Dever’s definition of what constitutes a healthy church. This is a significant point. A church with no sacraments fits his definition of a healthy church, but what would Paul say about a church that ignored the sacraments but still considered itself healthy?

    Unfortunately, Ron can only “insult and run”. Ron, if Kevin Johnson’s critique isn’t thoughtful, explain why it isn’t. Otherwise, your comment is just like so much useless rhetoric that is all to common in the blogosphere.

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