Friday, July 20, 2018

Closed Communion: Nine More Points

Nine More Points Concerning Closed Communion: Is the Lord's Table an unrestricted Christian right or a local church privilege?

(1) It is inappropriate and unfortunate to suggest that the practice of "closed" communion is unchristian, unkind or vindictive. Adherents of closed communion do not teach or imply that the stand is based on a judgment of either the sincerity or personal faith of those outside the local body. It is certainly possible a visitor to a church that observes closed communion may be more pious, loving, holy, and generally better instructed and more knowledgeable than even the pastor of the  church. Such a church simply holds that though visiting believers may be of sterling Christian character, they simply are not part of the local body. 

(2) Taking of communion is not simply a matter of the individual believer and his Lord. It is an act in concert and fellowship with a specific body of believers - with whom the believer shares worship, leadership, doctrinal understanding, church polity (and unless they are recently joined) a history of faith and life together. Communion knits us together before the Lord as co-partakers of Christ's grace, and under like submission to our local church. Whatever else can be said about the visitor in our midst - it is at least certain he has not joined himself to us. He may be a oneness Pentecostal or Roman Catholic or a Jehovah's Witness. The Table is not a individualistic experience disconnected from it's ecclesiastical mooring. It is the fellowship and open uniting around the sacrifice of the Lord by a concrete church that has a specific life of doctrine, polity and spiritual experience. 


(3) The automatic acceptance of "open communion" is a fairly modern phenomenon, and hardly rooted in consistent practice in the past. Many in the Reformed and Lutheran churches have practiced (and some still do) various forms of closed communion. It is hardly a universally accepted idea or teaching that an unknown visitor to a meeting of a church has automatic rights to the Table. 

(4) Error crept into the early churches almost as fast as they were formed. However, the codification of that error - by which specific doctrinal confusion had evolved into the forms to be seen centuries later, e.g. in Catholicism and other sects -  did not exist in the early apostolic church. The churches at Galatia, Ephesus, Corinth etc. did not devolve into (for instance)Campbellite errors, Arminian excesses, or modalistic Oneness Pentecostalism. The early churches had problems for sure, as we can see from even a cursory reading of Revelation 3  and the epistles- but they were still churches basically committed to the "faith once delivered unto the saints." (Jude 1:3) Do you know the visitor in your midst who is sharing your vertical and horizontal  communion with the Lord at the Table believes  and  espouses the same Christ you do? The same faith of Jude 1:3? Perhaps he returns to his work or family and tells them he took communion with your church. And just maybe, he 's a heretic. What does this do to your reputation in your community?

(5) Akin to the point above - what about the non-member overtaken by some gross public sin? He may be a visitor in your midst for many months or years, and take communion freely while enmeshed in the deepest, darkest open sins. You may complain - "yes, but so might a fellow church member be taken in such sin and continue to take the Table." This is so...but the difference is that such a one may be discovered eventually, and dealt with in discipline. How does this happen with the non-member...when a non-member cannot be disciplined? A church can only discipline it's members.   Oddly, the non-member is left able to take communion while the excluded member is presumably not!

(6) What mechanism keeps a man who is disciplined out of a church across town from taking communion with your church in open communion? To say, "well, he is drinking damnation to his own soul" ( I Cor 11:29)  hardly makes for a compelling  excuse or justification. Why would you want to facilitate that damnation?? Why should you? In fact, we do no one a favor by inviting them to partake of a local church function to which they are not truly entitled. 

(7) Even open communion Baptists really don't practice an absolutely open communion. Most at least make an effort to exclude non-believers by issuing some sort of pre-communion statement of it's appropriateness only for believers. Also, almost all Baptists require baptism as a precursor to the Table. The consistent insistence on baptism would rule out our Reformed brethren taking the communion with us, as well as those claiming the faith who have for whatever reason felt unconstrained to follow the Lord in baptism per His command. A very large percentage of professing Christians have NEVER been scripturally baptized - how then are they free to partake in the Lord's Supper? Can anyone provide an example of infant baptism or baptism by other modes than immersion?  Can anyone provide a scriptural example of the unbaptized partaking in the Table?

(8) If the Lord's table is not a congregational ordinance for a specific membership assembled in one place - is it appropriate to take communion as a family? In a casual Bible study? While listening to a "radio preacher?" Alone? Can I make friends with a new Christian friend on a plane trip, and take communion with him while crossing the "friendly skies?" If communion is not exclusively a local church function, what exactly are it's perimeters and purposes? If unrestricted, extra-church communion is a good thing, and it is not definitely restricted to local church stricture - are we remiss for not incorporating it our wider, extra-local church activities?

(9) Beyond dispute (I hope!) a person can only be a member of one local body at a time. They are in (by way of personal confession and church recognition)  the congregation the Lord has set them in. (I Cor 12:19)  Known or unknown, beloved or a mystery -  no visitor is a member of the body that they are visiting. To ascribe to them a nebulous "membership among the elect," or part of some worldwide "invisible church" is besides the point. The "invisible church" doesn't meet, doesn't exercise judgment or baptism or teaching/preaching, doesn't sing praises -  and has no Lord's table. We are all part of the general assembly (Hebrews 12:22-24) - but that church has no current earthly role or function. 

Thursday, July 19, 2018

A Reply to a Brother on Closed Communion

What follows is a reply to Mike Teruel's comment on a previous post on "closed communion."  His reply is printed in full. My response to Mike is given below. You may want to read my original post as well. 
Mike is a good friend, a clear thinker and writer, and on his way (I hope) to the eldership in our church. I value his time, candor and sanctified good sense. 

One interesting fact that we often overlook, and that just came to mind as I read Watson's "The Lord's Supper," is that those who were invited to the original meal were only the disciples. As Watson puts it "the sacrament was the children's bread." He also quotes Horace when he said that "there is no room for more shades" the implication of which is that in the context a shade would be someone not invited by the host, but brought by one of the other guests of importance as a member of their party.

Since Christ only poured out his blood for those who would believe, it seems incongruous to offer the supper to those who, at present are not part of the body, and may never be in the future. Continuing with Watson "impenitent sinners have no benefit from Christ's blood." Thus, to make them partakers of the sacrament (or the ordinance in Baptist speak), would be superfluous at best and incorrect at worst.

That being said, I think you're right when you indicated that closed communion is your conviction and that you do not seek to impose it on anyone. There are several issues that must be considered before a decision such as this one could be taken.

-As I mentioned last night, there's the problem of determining whether someone belongs to a "like-minded" church. How are you going to determine that? It is clear that it can only work on the basis of the honor system.
-You are correct when you say that, if something is scriptural, then what other people think (even our brethren) should take a back seat to that issue. That being said, however, I think that Thomas Jefferson's comment in the Declaration of Independence bears mentioning: "... a decent respect for the opinions of Mankind." We are not politicians, needless to say, but especially when you're in a position of leadership you need to consider the effect that decisions will have on the body as a whole. Will closing communion be a source of division? Will some leave the fellowship over this issue, on either side of the divide?
-The fact is that even if you were to restrict communion to the membership, the only one who knows where a particular individual's heart is, is the Lord. You may have 70-80 individuals who are members of GBC, but of those only 60 may be in good standing with the Lord. Thus, you will always have some who are partaking of the supper and "eating and drinking damnation to themselves."
-In the final analysis, you must consider whether such a decision must be taken or whether it would simply be an expedient. Are we sinning by having open communion? Must we, based on sound scriptural exegesis and examination, close the communion table to non-believers and non-members or not? And why would we make the artificial divide between non-believers or non-members? If someone is a member of the body, are they not entitled to partake even if with others who are not members of the same local church?

Just some thoughts for you to consider. Thanks for your article; it certainly, as I mentioned, was very thought-provoking.

Mike:


Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I appreciate your time and effort.  Allow me a few observations in response: 

(1) I agree that decisions about doctrine and polity must be made by the elders with the congregation in mind and part of the process. However, by that I do not mean that truth is to be tempered or modified because of the possibility it may find hostile or otherwise unfriendly reception. If a closed communion position is believed to better represent biblical truth, then church leadership should move the body in that direction via an exercise of specific teaching and preaching on the matter - mixed with time as needed, an appropriate dose of patience, and readiness to answer questions as they arise. If all this be true...then it seems to me that the concern about "will it cause division" is not the overriding concern. In fact, I don't think it should be a concern at all. A pastor CANNOT temper truth with dishonest hedging in order to circumvent possible division. The fact is, almost ANYTHING can be divisive. I cannot think of a doctrine we believe as a church that does not have it's detractors. Sovereign grace is "divisive." Baptism by immersion is "divisive." Plurality of elders is "divisive." Any eschatological scheme is going to be "divisive." There is always a danger that some will leave a fellowship over virtually any doctrinal stand - particularly if it is a doctrine new to the congregation. That should make leaders cautious and introspective about introducing genuine change, but it should not hinder them from doing so if they are convinced they are in the right. 

(2) You are correct to say that closed communion is my personal conviction and that I am not seeking to impose it. The truth is, I have no mechanism to impose it even if I wanted to. I am not a teacher or a pastor, and I do not have the ear of the congregation on doctrinal matters. Certainly I could mount a campaign via email or by going family to family to try to convince them on the matter, but such an effort, even if pursued with the most pure of intent would almost certainly end in failure. Besides, I have no desire to circumvent our pastor, no do I have any intent to be an Aaron or Miriam with some sense of disgruntled importance and relevance:

"And they said, Hath the LORD indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by Us? And the LORD heard it. Numbers 12:2 

I do feel liberty in speaking with you on the matter, or John or Tim - but as for the rest of the congregation, not so much. Besides, if I cannot garner a hearing from the three most doctrinally astute in our congregation, what would I gain by convincing those of less theological awareness? No one in the congregation, to my knowledge, will even read of my convictions written in  my blog...because save for you, and on occasion John...no one reads it. I'm not sure Tim even has. 

One more thought. It is my personal conviction, but it is a conviction based on what I perceive is substantiated by scriptural evidence. Thus, it is not merely a preference in a "feely" subjective way. I have many preferences concerning church life - hard to have been in churches since the early 70's without having a few! For instance, I prefer the "box in the back" sort of giving as opposed to passing the plate. I understand the argument for passing the plate, but I simply think the other option is preferable. However, that is simply a preference. I cannot and would not insist the church do it my way. "Closed communion" transcends preference - I believe it best represents sound doctrinal practice. BUT....it is not a doctrinal concern of such looming importance, or of such singular absolute clarity that I feel compelled to break fellowship over it. In other words, I freely grant that a Christian man studying the issue could come to a different conclusion than mine. There is no definitive verse teaching closed communion. The doctrine is built upon certain presuppositions and constructs concerning the nature and purpose of communion - and upon other presuppositions and constructs concerning the nature and purpose of the church.  Obviously not all are going to share all those presuppositions.  

(3) I am not too persuaded by your sort of back-handed argument that some in the congregation are likely unbelievers or otherwise unworthy to take the supper as supporting evidence for open communion.  You wrote: 

"The fact that even if you were to restrict communion to the membership, the only one who knows where a particular individuals heart is, is the Lord. You may have 70-80 individuals who are members of GBC, of those only 60 may be in good standing with the Lord. Thus you will always have some who are partaking of the supper and "eating and drinking damnation to themselves." 

So Mike...your answer to the problem of having unworthy members of our own church taking the Supper is to invite outsiders to join their rank and increase the number of unworthy participants?? Ha! That seems to me a strange bit of reasoning! At least within the fellowship there is some opportunity to know and ascertain spiritual standing and problems - there is absolutely zero opportunity to do the same with those who simply pop in on any given Sunday...unknown to the congregation...who take the Supper willy-nilly. Closed communion at least restricts the number of those who may be eating unworthily. Open communion only causes that number to swell.  

(4) You ask "Are we sinning by having open communion?"  James 4:17 says "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin." It seems to me that in  this instance, if I may be so bold to say so (and not sound pretentious) - I don't think you know the right thing about communion, at least relating to this concern. You are acting according to the light you have. So no, I don't think you are sinning. I don't think Tim is sinning, I don't think the church at large is sinning. What about me? If I know the right, and don't do it - am I sinning? No, I don't think so. If I had a leadership role and held back this truth to preserve my standing or avoid criticism, then yes, quite likely I could be accused of sinning. Am I sinning by not holding back from the Table personally? Again, I don't think so. Would that help me, honor the Lord or have some sort of doctrine-changing effect on the church? Seems unlikely. I think I no more sin by going along with the church on this issue that I do in going along on any other issue I may disagree with but don't consider primary. Being a member CANNOT mean I must agree with Tim on every single nuanced point of doctrine and practice in  every instance and without exception. And likewise, the church.

I've left a few of your points unaddressed. Perhaps I shall return to this a little later. 

Thank you brother for your input!


Monday, July 16, 2018

Open or Closed Communion?



For most Christians, even the possible suggestion of "closed communion" seems ominous and inherently uncharitable. As a descriptive phrase, "closed communion" has all the charm that "limited atonement" has to proponents of Arminianism and various other stripes of universalism. It simply sounds too narrow, too sectarian, too unnecessarily restrictive. When seeing the adjective "closed" attached to the word "communion," one is tempted to think in terms of "closed minded," or "intolerant," or "inflexibly dogmatic." Whatever else might be said about it in terms of Biblical soundness, "closed communion" suffers an undeniable "PR' problem. Before proceeding, let's define terms. What is meant by "open communion" and "closed communion?"   

Open communion essentially means that anyone is allowed to participate in communion. Closed communion restricts participants to members of the local assembly. There is something of a middle ground known as "close communion" but that will not be addressed here, as "close communion" is basically a modification of "closed," but allowing those of known like faith to participate. 

Open communion is a practice that either puts no hedges around the Lord's Table in that all are encouraged to participate irrespective of any doctrinal or salvific consideration - or - it establishes very minimum restriction, generally no more  than a preference or request that the participants see themselves as Christian. In other words, if one believes one's self to be a believer, one is invited to partake...irrespective of local church affiliation, previous baptism or Christian character and conduct observed by the serving church. Some churches attempt to circumvent potential problems here by limiting their otherwise open invitation to those who are members of "like churches." The question then arises - what exactly is a "like church?" Can a "like church" be a church that in every other circumstance my current elders might discourage me from visiting?  Are Arminian Baptists "like churches?" Are paedobaptists churches "like churches?" What about Dispensational Bible churches? Southern Baptists? The truth is that an opening to those of "like churches" probably means whatever the visitor thinks it means. In other words, it becomes a purely subjective standard that is ultimately anchored in the opinion of the hearer. 

Adherents of open communion often defend the practice by suggesting that the "table is the Lord's." Meaning, one supposes, that the elders or congregation do not have standing to discourage communion to an unknown (or even known) visitor. Meaning that it is the individual alone who determines the worthiness of himself/herself as potential communicant, and that the church cannot or should not  discourage anyone from partaking. Meaning perhaps that a right to the table is sacrosanct, and that is boorish and sub-Christian or needlessly sectarian to discourage visitors from participating in this local church function. 

"The table is the Lord's" has the sound of spiritual warmth and openness, but is this really the measure by which a church offers the table? When non-members are in attendance at a church business meeting, do we allow their participation or vote in the meeting with a view that "the church is the Lord's," meaning that it is unduly narrow and provincial of us to limit the business of the church to it's members? The church is indeed the Lord's, but does that mean the visitor among us has set before him every privilege and prerogative of the membership? Suppose my church is considering recognizing an elder that I do not want. Further suppose that installing such an elder requires 100% (or 90%, or 75%..etc) church approval. If the "church is the Lord's" and I bring in 25 people into a voting situation who are not members...that I have coached to vote against the installation of a new elder...who would view such action as truly commendable?? "The church is the Lord's," though certainly true when rightly understood... in some situations makes for a misguided standard of church doctrine and polity if by it's usage we imply an ecumenicalism that transcends Biblical standards. 

"It is the Lord's table" suggests not that the Table is  wide open, but rather, that because it is the Lord's we ought take care concerning it's function and boundaries. It's the Lord's baptism - do we not utilize reasonable assurance that the recipients are indeed the Lord's? Do we not eschew infant baptism exactly because baptism IS THE LORD'S and we have no prerogative to accommodate it to Reformed preferences? It is the Lord's church - do we not take care to admit only those with a credible profession and life? We have (or ought to have) opportunity  to know those who seek to unite with us, or who seek baptism in our midst in obedience to the Lord - why then do we lower the standard at the Table? 

If the measure of this issue is limited to the phrase "it is the Lord's table," then tell me this: do you, when you travel, take communion with Anglicans? Methodists? Assemblies of God? For if communion is "the Lord's table" for we Baptists, is it any less for these other groups? Doesn't our open communion vindicate the communion of these other traditions? Are we prepared to say we wouldn't be caught dead in a chandelier swinging, tongue-speaking, fake-healing Pentecostal church - but if we did go, it would be just dandy to take communion with them in spite of the fact that their understanding of the faith was barely recognizable as truth to us? 

To my awareness, we Baptists believe that baptism proceeds the Table. Perhaps less as a strict rule, than a matter of practice - but it does seem to be the general order of things. Do we then query the stranger among us prior to the Table about his baptismal experience? Why not? What of the Presbyterian among us? Don't misunderstand - it's splendid  to be patient and charitable with our Presbyterian brethren - but let's be honest, infant baptism is no baptism at all. A Presbyterian minister is, quite likely - not baptized. And it's worse than that. He isn't even part of his own church! He's part of the "session of elders." Should we share communion with a church-less unbaptized Presbyterian? It's something to seriously consider!  

As Baptists we believe that each local church has a specific membership, and that visitors - even if of outstanding spiritual  reputation - have not been put in that church by God, are not submitted to it's leadership or subject to it's discipline. The relationship believers have to one another in a local church body transcends any other relationship between believers (e.g. bible studies, school fellowships, etc.) And communion at the Lord's Table is a major part of this interrelationship between these brethren. (I Cor. 10:15-17) 

Part of the problem with open communion is it ignores the fact that a true Lord's Table is part of the large function of church discipline and judgement. Every church must be responsible to correctly judge those within it's membership - but if we open the Table to every non-member, we are prone to bring false doctrine or overt sin into our midst - and that while having no authority over those people. To open the door wide to non-member participation in the Table is to ignore or deny it is a congregational ordinance, and to put ourselves in the untenable position of welcoming to the Table those we know unsuitable for membership by way of sin, scandal or false doctrine. Think about it this way. If a church disciplines a member out of the congregation for unrepentant sin, and thereby precludes him/her from the Table, how can they at the same time invite participants who are non-members who may be in far more precarious spiritual situations than their disciplined member? How is a trouble-maker from the church down the road a more fit communicant than our disciplined member? The following verses must have some practical implication, and it seems certain that they have at least partial, if not sometimes primary connection to the Lord's table by way of application. (Titus 3:10-11; Eph. 5:11; II Thess 3:6) We would welcome the excommunicated to the public preaching of the gospel, but not to the Lord's Table. 

Do you allow for ANY restrictions to the Lord's Table? If so, on what basis? Suppose a well known Christ-mocker....a known atheist....suddenly plops down in the front pew, making faces, sighing, clearly despising every word he hears. When the elements are passed for the Supper, upon what basis will you deny this man? Any Scripture that one appeals to in order to deny this nonbeliever will certify a more serious limitation than is normally ever applied at a typical communion service.

We as believers ought to relish our time of communion around the Table with the Lord's people.  It may seem petty and uncharitable to not encourage those who are without the fellowship to join us. And yet - if the visiting believer wants this (as he well ought) - does it not provide incentive to do the very thing he has a responsibility to do anyway...unite with the local church? In the local church he will find the fruition of many promised blessings: teaching, fellowship...and yes, the Table. 


One small addendum. The Scriptures do not recognize the unchurched Christian. Part of the "open communion" issue is that so many Christians flit from here to there, uncommitted and outside the Biblically mandated experience of committed local church fellowship. 


Friday, July 13, 2018

Twelve? TWELVE??

"Twelve-year-old Molly Pinta attended her very first gay pride event last month when she and her mom proudly marched in the inaugural Aurora Pride Parade in the Chicago suburbs."

This recent bit of online news made me want to wretch from the depth of my being. WHAT is this mother thinking?? 

When I was 12, way back in 1966 -  I was playing with friends under fairly tight control of my folks, going to school where we learned arcane and inscrutable subjects like reading, writing and arithmetic.   And that  without even the slightest  hint of sexual degeneracy being  on display front and center in the curriculum, and minus my mother hustling me around to morally disgusting homosexual public events (not that any existed then), fixated on my "sexual preference."  Quite honestly  - WHAT "sexual preference"  in 1966?? The phrase and concept were  unknown, save perhaps to psychologists and psychiatrists specializing in deviant sexual behavior.   

What parent sat down with their child previous to age 12, at age 12, or even post-age 12 to have that now apparently mandatory "let's discuss your sexual preference" talk? I never had such a talk. Did you?   Furthermore, somehow -  bizarre as it sounds -  I lived a reasonably well  adjusted life without having a clue about all things homosexual. Shocking, eh??  How did I ever manage to survive childhood without some enlightened teacher (or parent) coaching me about that indisputable premier concern of every 12 year old child - "what is your sexual preference?"

The notion that a mother would take children as pictured below and train them in the ways of homosexual conduct and concerns would have been not only been  viewed as unbelievably deviant and morally reprehensible - it would have never even been imagined as a possibility for even the most irresponsible and avant-garde of parents. If you were alive back then, you know that no one would have considered such a boorish course of parental  behavior. Heather, after all, still only had one Mommy. No one suspected otherwise. It gives the phrase "good ole days" genuine sentimental  appeal. 

It's understood that the 50ish world pictured below - is completely gone. But do all our modern devices and hipper (?) insights into previous vagaries of life mean that we have to inundate our children with aberrant sexual information and manipulation? Instead of drowning our young children in adult concerns, and assigning them sexually confused places that will almost certainly vex and confound them throughout their lives...can't we resolve to allow them a chance to grow up a little first?  At age 12, can't they be children just a little while longer?






Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The "Sacrament" of Abortion and the Left














See the source image









It seems nothing energizes the American Left like their obsession with the "sacrament" of abortion. Even the ever favorite cause of homosexuality and the  calculated destruction of traditional moral standards takes a back seat.  Certainly the promotion of homosexuality is important beyond dispute, but nothing...nothing....preoccupies the Left like abortion.  The advancement and  "celebration" of the culture of death  at the hands of abortionists is, to the God-rejecting Hollywood/Democratic Party/academia crowd - the very pinnacle of their ongoing war against their Creator and against those who believe in the sanctity of human life. The abortion movement is most certainly a religious movement - it seeks to replace a Christian worldview with a secular feminist worldview that has all the fervor and zeal of ardent Christian fundamentalism, but dethrones God and enthrones fallen man as the final arbiter of absolute truth. The fervor and devotion of much of the anti-God pro-abortion crowd far exceeds that of many Christians - and that passion manifest itself in total disdain and hatred for those churches, organizations and individuals who would stand against this holocaust. 

If it were not so serious, it would be quite amusing to watch the Left leaders in Congress and elsewhere grandstanding before TV cameras bemoaning the end of existence as we know it - merely with the prospect of a more conservative new Supreme Court nominee. Many of them are absolutely  imploding with unrestrained angst. Conservatives may be allowed a little ground here and there if absolutely necessary, but NOTHING is to touch the holy grail of abortion. NOTHING. Never mind there is no constitutional guarantee to abortion. Never mind that killing ones own children ought be at the very least intrinsically and thoroughly repugnant. Never mind that abortion is allowed in all 50 states NOT because of the will of the people via the ballot box - but rather by a few men in dark robes who merely at the wave of a judicial wand ushered in an era of barbarism in our culture and pronounced it "good." These Lefties, who venerate "choice" seem unwilling to leave the fate of abortion to the "choice" of 50 state legislatures. Hypocrisy anyone? 

Watching the hysteria on the Left serves to remind that many of our fellow citizens LOVE the culture of death, absolute autonomy and antinomianism. May God have mercy on us all. 



Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Eight Influential Books From Early In My Christian Life







1. Pink, Arthur W.  The Sovereignty of God  

2. Packer, James I. Knowing God  

3.  Ross, Bob L. Old Landmarkism And The Baptists  

4. Lewis, C. S. Mere Christianity 

5. Schaeffer, Francis True Spirituality

6.  Pink, Arthur W. Gleanings From the Scriptures: Man's Total Depravity 

7.  Elliot, Elisabeth Through Gates of Splendor 

8. Wumbrand, Richard Tortured For Christ

Honorable Mention - Not a book, but extremely influential to my theological understanding  was J. I. Packer's "Introductory Essay to John Owen's the Death of Death in the Death of Christ." I have always considered this one of the most cogent, precise theological writings I have ever read, and the best on the atonement, bar none. 
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Though these books are not ranked in order, the first in the list, Pink's SOG was probably the most influential of the eight. This was given to me and read in 1976. I still consider it an important work. It was the primary reason I abandoned my largely more overall Arminian view, and began a move toward sovereign grace theology. 

Packer's Knowing God I have often suggested as must reading to anyone who would listen -  it is probably the best Christian book I have ever read. It is simply a MUST on any Christian reading list.

 Old Landmarkism and the Baptists probably seems a curious book for such a register. However, this list is not one in which I am setting forth what I think are the best Christian books ever, but rather, those that most influenced me in my early Christian life. Having been influenced by Landmarkism in a church experience in 1976-77, this book by Ross - which I discovered in the late 70's or early 80's was the only work that took Landmark ecclesiology to task. It's reading caused me to modify my views of church substantially.  

I am not a super fan of Lewis as so many seem to be, but his Mere Christianity was the first apologetic work I ever read, sometime in the late 70's. It was profoundly helpful.  

A. W. Pink is in this list twice because his work on man's depravity helped seal my understanding of a full-orbed sovereign grace outlook. Of his Gleanings series I thought this book the best. 

My exposure to Francis Schaeffer came early in my Christian experience. I had an opportunity to go to L'Abri  while stationed in Germany in the 70's but I did not know who Schaeffer  was then, so I did not go. Later, while still in Germany I read True Spirituality and two or three other of his works. As was the experience of many young Christians in those years, I found his books profoundly influential. 

Elliot's Through Gates of Splendor , read in the late 70's, was a great demonstration of the possible cost of the Christian life. There is no doubt it inspired the next generation of missionaries, and continues to even today.  

About the time I read Elliot's book, I read Wumbrand's Tortured for Christ, a darker book than Gates, and with some Lutheran (and somewhat "mystical") views unfamiliar to me at the time, but clearly a inspiring report by a man whose faith came at great cost under Communist oppression. 
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Why eight  books (and one essay) and not more? Primarily because it is difficult for me to remember which books I read early on in my Christian life as opposed to those read later. As other influential early readings come to mind, I will expand this list.