Note: The authors are SermonAudio broadcasters.
Though the word is never mentioned, the specter of Romanticism haunts Is Church Membership Biblical? (2015), a new entry in Reformation Heritage Booksâ€™ Cultivating Biblical Godliness series.
Do formal commitments enhance or stifle the heartâ€™s longings? Romanticism, as the 19th-century literary and philosophical movement was called, insists that formality represses truth and that the only honest lifestyle is to follow oneâ€™s heart. Naturally, things like marriage and formal church membership are anti-Romantic. Curiously enough, so are the bookletâ€™s authors, conservative Presbyterian ministers Ryan M. McGraw and Ryan Speck.
The basic line of argument in their booklet runs thus: The church is a community. Like every community, it is made up of individual members. But without formal commitment to the community, made by taking vows and being written down on an official list, it is impossible to fulfill the Bibleâ€™s commands. God commands us to greet one another, submit to our leaders, and exercise church discipline by admitting to and expelling from the church. These commands require physical presence with each other, and a clear demarcation of who is inside the church and who is outside it.