Thursday, July 06, 2006

Tom Nefyn Williams: A Warning from History 10: Closing thoughts

We shall end where we began, in a room in the former United Theological College, looking out on the sea. The College closed in 2002, and is now offices and accomodation. What happened is part of the Tom Nefyn story. It is now my intention to draw some conclusions:

1. Simply because a man proves to be a good preacher does not mean that he is immune to the effects of liberalism. Tom Nefyn remained to the end a powerful preacher, but had become simply a 'dramatic reciter', to quote Iain Murray. Even his attendance at Porth had not armed Nefyn against the effects of liberal professors.

2. The effect of liberal theological teaching can be far in excess of the liberalism of the lecturers. Tom Nefyn, as we have seen, came to hold doctrines that shocked even his lecturers. Taught to view the Bible as no more than a human document, Nefyn spilled into out-and-out Socinianism, despite the fact that his teachers stopped short (Equally, we must admit that others can pass through liberal colleges and seminaries without bad effects, such as William Vernon Higham, former Minister of Heath Church, Cardiff).

3. Attempts to enforce Church discipline against heretical teachers will always be portrayed as an 'inquisition' by the world. The Presbyterian Church of Wales, a denomination with a confession of faith, was perfectly within its rights to discipline Tom Nefyn, whatever the opinion of his church. He was not an Independent, unlike his most prominent defender, John Morgan Jones. Had Tom Nefyn wanted to minister in a Church with loose doctrine, as we have seen, he could have.

4. In Church discipline of heretical teachers, the church involved must show backbone. The controversy over Tom Nefyn left the church so traumatised that no further stand over heresy would be taken. The descent of the Presbyterian Church from Calvinism to rationalism was slowed, it was not ended.

5. Either denominations must exercise discipline firmly, or doom themselves to become rationalist sects.



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