Over 70 attended Presbyterian Reformed Church, Stockton-on-Tees, on Saturday 28 October 2017, for an annual conference, this year recalling Reformation themes.
At least six evangelical Protestant denominations were represented, demonstrating our unity in Christ. Three excellent papers were given. The first, ‘The Reformation cornerstone: justification by faith’, was by Pastor Roger Fay of Zion Evangelical Baptist Church, Ripon.
His paper was based on Romans 3:9–4:9, with the following propositions: (1) Our great need is for righteousness before God; (2) God will freely account as righteous those who believe on Jesus Christ; (3) This righteousness is not infused in us, but imputed to us by faith; (4) Justification takes place when we believe, not a second earlier — there is no ‘eternal justification’.
(5) Believers can take no credit for their justification; (6) The gospel is, therefore, the same for everybody; we are all guilty; (7) Only this forensic way brings joy, peace and blessedness; (8) Justification by faith issues in good works, the fruit of saving faith.
The second paper, ‘The Reformation hope: a biblical survey of expectation here and hereafter’, was by Pastor David Silversides of Loughbrickland Reformed Presbyterian Church. Starting with Hebrews 12:1-3, he explained why Reformation believers had such hope and confidence as to be ready to die for the faith.
They had peace with God on the basis of Christ’s death to justify the ungodly. They believed God is in control of all things and the gospel cause is not failing nor the future haphazard. They believed the Lord controls the issues of death and had great hope for the future — the resurrection of the dead and a renewed universe.
The third paper, ‘Islam and our Reformation heritage: fundamental differences’, was by Tim Dieppe, head of public policy at Christian Concern.
This showed the important differences between Islam and Christianity. He charted Islam’s influence in Britain, where there are about the same number of Muslims as churchgoers. Trevor Phillips has commented that full integration of Muslims into British society will be Britain’s hardest task.
Islam and Christianity have completely different founders. Unlike Jesus, Muhammad performed no miracles, was not born of a virgin, was sinful, is not returning, killed other people, owned slaves, was not prophesied in the Bible and had many wives.
They have a different book. A wealth of information was given distinguishing between the Qur’an and the Bible over such issues as inspiration, discrimination against women, violence and killing for unbelief and apostasy.
Islam teaches a different kind of kingdom from Christianity. Islam can never have a reformation, since any return to its roots leads to radicalisation.
No summary can do justice to the wealth of information provided in Mr Dieppe’s paper, much of which was valuable for apologetic and evangelistic purposes. Nor can a short report catalogue the wealth of biblical material cited during this encouraging conference.