"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." - Jerome

Friday, August 29, 2008

Why I Cannot be a Roman Catholic (Part 2): I believe in Tradition.

In Galatians 2:11-14, Paul recounts how Peter acted hypocritically, denying the gospel in his works, eating according to the Law with the circumcision party. The circumcision party believed membership in the community required subscription to the Jewish law. Paul rebuked Peter to his face, in front of everyone, for his deeds which proclaimed a false doctrine (2:14).

I began to wonder, what would have happened if Peter told Paul to take a flying leap? What if Peter excommunicated Paul? Who the heck was Paul, a murderer and by his own admission the least of the apostles (1 Cor 15:9), who wasn’t even around when Christ gave to Peter (Matt 16:19) and the other apostles (Matt 18:18) the right to bind and loosen. How dare Paul?!

Paul, one of lesser authority rebuked one of higher authority over the importance of the purity of the gospel. But what if Peter commanded Paul to recant? Paul was disrespecting the dignity of Peter’s office and causing disrepute to Peter’s ministry and the appointment of Christ.

Question: What happens when apostolic authority is challenged by apostolic doctrine? Biblically, apostolic doctrine trumped apostolic authority.

Actually, the question can be asked differently now, for we do not have divinely appointed apostles in the same manner today. The question today focuses on the nature of apostolic tradition. Roman Catholicism when confronted with a man calling for repentance played their card of apostolic authority. Martin Luther was not to question the authority of the church, for this was the nature of apostolic tradition according to the Pope: the transfer of authority.

What is Apostolic Tradition?
The difference between Roman Catholics and Protestants is NOT the acceptance of tradition by Catholics and the rejection of tradition by Protestants. For Scripture itself speaks to tradition, sometimes negatively, but the tradition of the apostles is always positive such as in 1 Corinthians 11:2:

Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.

Biblical Christianity requires “maintaining the traditions.” So what is the primary nature of apostolic tradition? Our answer is clear in 2 Thessalonians 2:15:

So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.

The church is commanded to hold firm in the traditions “taught.” Tradition is primarily the content of faith, not the transfer of authority over what is taught. That is tradition’s own self-understanding as well. It is in 2 Thess 2:15, and in early church history. Why else would the Athanasian creed say salvation was based on the catholic faith, which was the doctrine of Christ’s assumption of human flesh for the accomplishment of salvation (with no mention of authority of the Pope)? The Athanasian creed defines the catholic faith as doctrine, not authority. Irenaeus defended his doctrine because his teacher was Polycarp, and Polycarp’s teacher was the Apostle John. Irenaeus had tradition on his side, a tradition of a taught doctrine of catholic faith.

Galatians 2:11-14 presents a vivid picture of what happens when apostolic authority clashes with apostolic teaching; the apostolic faith takes precedence over all authority. Obedience to apostolic tradition means defense even against those higher in authority who contradict the gospel, be they a priest, a Bishop or even the chief of the apostles Mr first Pope himself Peter. Paul even includes himself, an apostle of authority, as under the standard of measurement, in the same book, in 1:8:

“But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.”

The Protestant case is that of, as Jaroslav Pelikan put it, “obedient rebels.” The Reformation is a question of “catholic substance and protestant principle.” The obedience of the Reformers was to the catholic faith in rebelling against the claim of apostolic authority to invalidate a call to repentance. Peter denied the gospel in deed and then repented. Rome denied the gospel in deed, then invented (or solidified the teaching of) another doctrine of the gospel to validate its deeds. Remember, Luther did not seek to found a new church, he sought repentance - he got excommunication when he refused to recant his call to repentance. To say Luther was unconcerned about the church or unity would be like saying John the Baptist had his beheading coming to him for not respecting Herod or the Pharisees. The gospel defines the church, the church does not define the gospel. The first Reformation confession, the Augsburg confession, claimed to teach nothing new, that "the Sum of our Doctrine, in which, as can be seen, there is nothing that varies from the Scriptures, or from the Church catholic" and is but the catholic faith so very old, - the gospel of Christ and Paul explained so well by Augustine and the fathers. That is, it taught the Reformation faith - the catholic faith.

So was that truly the case with Luther against the Leo X? I submit that it was, but more on that in Part 3.

Until then, enjoy:

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Why I Cannot be a Roman Catholic (Part 1): I believe in the catholic faith

I have engaged many Roman Catholics when discussing religion, either online or in person. I enjoy engaging Catholics on common beliefs, and even on controversial issues. When I state my belief that tradition is important (even authoritative), that the church has authority in matters of discipline and that the canon of the New Testament is based (at least partially) on the testimony of the church - Roman Catholics usually want a sinner’s prayer conversion to Catholicism right there.

I feel I should first state that several pre-Trentine Catholics have been instrumental in my theological and spiritual development (such as Thomas Aquinas and Anselm of Canterbury). I have even appreciated some post-Trentine Catholics like Francis Thompson, Peter Kreeft, Richard John Neuhaus, Henri Nouwen, G.K. Chesterton, and James V. Schall.

But I am not Roman Catholic. I cannot be. Paradoxically, my inability to be Catholic depends on my inability to recant the catholic faith. I thought I would take a few posts over the next few days and explain what this means in a few important areas. I believe I have sufficiently posted on my own beliefs to warrant a critique of another tradition, without the charge that the project or my entire intention in blogging is merely negative.

But the task seems negative. In fact, to a degree it is and must be. In being a Protestant, it is a question one must ask: What am I protesting? By living in western civilization, one must at one time or another ask “Why am I not ‘Catholic’?” After all, Christianity is not a cafeteria where you get to choose those teachings which are to be authoritative and which are not. The catholic faith deserves submission.

This series also does not mean to imply that all Catholics are hell-bound. It does, however, imply and explicitly state (at least here) that the Roman Catholic church is not the external manifestation of the true Church. There are doctrines in the Roman Catholic church which I will not attack, for they are either correct or at a minimum not contrary to the Bible such as the honor of the saints, exercise of church discipline, paedobaptism, confession to a priest, doing penance, or exclusivity of salvation in the church, for though I may have critiques on their exercise and exclusivity in the Latin Church, they are not apostate beliefs.

Being Protestant means I protest certain things in the teachings of the church claiming catholicity. The Roman claim to catholicity is just as offensive to Protestants as my criticism of Rome’s demerits are to Catholics. So be it.

[Please note my use of ‘Catholic’ refers to Roman Catholics and ‘catholic’ refers to universal. As a Protestant, I hold that the two are NOT interchangeable. That is why Reformation Christians refer to Catholics sometimes as Papists or Romish, because they are not catholic in the truest sense of the word. But all that in due time…]

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Early Church and Abortion

Most have heard of Speaker Pelosi's recent theological pontifications. Pelosi declared that Augustine of Hippo wrote that a baby was not entitled to human rights until 3 months in the womb. Jay the Bennett had a couple of good posts already on it (here and here).

What I was wondering is where the heck she got that from? I cannot find any references to Augustine saying such a thing, though someone suggested that it was Thomas Aquinas and not Augustine. Having just completed a study on the Early Church and their view of Sex and Marriage, most believed that the egg was fully contained in the man's contribution to procreation, and thus even having sex during pregnancy or after menapause was prohibited. Abortion was nothing new in the Early Church, and as early as it is mentioned, it is condemned. Witness Clement of Alexandria:

"Our entire life will be spent observing the laws of nature...if we do not kill off with devious instruments the human creature that has been conceived according to divine providence. For women who, in order to conceal their incontinence, make use of death-dealing drugs that completely expel the mortal creature, abort not only the embryo, but also human kindness." -Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor 96

Why reference tradition when it is so slanted against you? Why not claim new revelation like liberals have on homosexuality and women's ordination? Where was she getting this from? Has anyone run across something like what she said in your studies?

The catholicity of the Reformation

The more I read about the Reformation, the more I am interested in what I would call the second-generation Reformed ecumenism. The Reformed and Lutheran camps were at odds in the first generation between Zwingli and Luther, but second generation reformers John Calvin, Phillip Melancthon, Thomas Cranmer, Martin Bucer and Bullinger all made moves towards uniting the Reformed, Lutheran and Anglican streams in one Reformation confession. Often the starting point was the Augsburg Confession, especially as explained by Melancthon. Tragically, the more ardent Lutherans rejected Melancthon's efforts as compromise and liberalism, the Church of England went from the golden age of Protestantism under Edward VI to the brutal rule of Catholic Bloody Mary in which Cranmer was burned at the stake, and so reconciliation was thwarted, despite its Biblical mandate.

I recently encountered an interesting article online I thought I would recommend. It is not a published article, but most of the article consists of cited quotations of documents and correspondence. It highlights the efforts of John Calvin towards unity, but this was not at the expense of purity, as the author concludes:

"For Calvin the fundamental criterion for unity was pure doctrine."

Monday, August 25, 2008

Barth on Calvin

I don't know why, but I just love this quote by Karl Barth on John Calvin:

“Calvin is a cataract, a primeval forest, a demonic power, something directly down from the Himalayas, absolutely Chinese, strange, mythological; I lack completely the means, the suction cups, even to assimilate this phenomenon, not to speak of presenting it adequately…. I could gladly and profitably set myself down and spend all the rest of my life just with Calvin.”

—Karl Barth to Eduard Thurneysen, 8 June 1922; in Revolutionary Theology in the Making: Barth-Thurneysen Correspondence, 1914-1925 (Richmond: John Knox Press, 1964), p. 101.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

We don't associate with those people...

I thought I would post a link to a post a friend of mine wrote about his alma mater Pensacola Christian College. It just pains me that institutions calling themselves Christian go to such great lengths to pretend they are the only true Christians in the world and if you have any disagreements with others, it is because they are liberals headed straight to hell. Just reminds us that Donatism is alive and well in America. I love the quote Aaron posted a while back on Donatism from Augustine:

"The clouds roll with thunder, that the House of the Lord shall be built throughout the earth: and these frogs sit in their marsh and croak - We are the only Christians!"

Saturday, August 23, 2008


Keep, we beseech thee, O Lord, they Church with thy perpetual mercy; and because the frailty of man without thee cannot but fall, keep us ever by thy help from all things hurtful, and lead us ever by things profitable to our salvation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer 1928. 15th Sunday after Trinity.)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Medieval Theology: Hidden Diamonds

Having finished Volume 2, I've moved on to Volume 3 of Pelikan's Christian Tradition: The Growth of Medieval Theology. I highly recommend the set so far. I've read a lot of Church and Christian history, but this treatment of the history of doctrine is by far the most intelligent and profound treatment I've ever encountered. It enriches one's knowledge of God, rather than merely relaying the facts of history. Pelikan himself offers great insight into Medieval ideas such as on grace:

"it was the doctrine of the person and work of Jesus Christ, rather than the doctrine of justification or even the doctrine of grace, that became the principle vehicle for affirming the character of salvation as a free and utterly unearned gift of God." -Jaroslav Pelikan pg 116.

Pelikan also offers some other gems from medieval theologians I've liked:

"When we pray, we speak to God. But when we read [Scripture], God speaks to us" - Adalger

"To eat his flesh and drink his blood means that one abides in Christ and Christ in him." - Radbertus

"On has to ask whether we are to adore or worship anything except true God. If not, the inference must be drawn: 'How is it that you worship the Son of the Virgin if He is not true God?'" -Alcuin

"Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ." -Julian of Toledo

"all effort of human argument must be postponed were faith alone is sufficient...The righteousness of faith by which we are justified [consists in] that we believe in Him whom we do not see, and that, being cleansed by faith, we shall eventually see Him in whom we know believe." -Julian of Toledo

Monday, August 18, 2008

Early Church History class

Jay Bennett and I taught a mid-week class at PCPC on the history of the church in the form of questions. We now have the first four class notes online for those interested in perusing the material for their own knowledge or to help prepare to teach a similar class. The questions all address some area of theology especially prominent in church history in a roughly chronological order (here dealing with Bibliology, Trinitarianism, Christology and Soteriology)

1. How has God revealed himself? (Gnosticism, Ebionism, Marcionism, and Montanism) (Jay Bennett)

2. How can God be both one and more than one? Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. (Modalism, Arianism, Apollinarianism, and Niceno-Constantinopolitan Trinitarianism) (Jared Nelson)

3. How can divinity be united with humanity? (Docetism, Apollinarianism, Nestorianism, Eutychianism [Monophysitism], and Chalcedonian Christology) (Jay Bennett)

4. What is the moral capability of fallen humanity? Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. (Pelagianism, Augustinianism, and Orange Semi-augustinianism) (Jared Nelson)

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Augustine and Pelagius Pt 3: Original Sin, Augustine and Infant Baptism.

In Augustine’s debate with the Pelagians, the doctrine of Original Sin came to the forefront very early on. The denial of Original Sin by the Pelagians led Augustine to another conclusion: They will soon deny infant baptism.

Infant Baptism and Original sin were intricately tied together for Augustine. Infant baptism proved Original Sin, while at the same time, Original Sin necessitated Infant Baptism.

When a parent brought a child for baptism, this was acknowledged:

“[Christ] came to call not the righteous, but sinners…For who would dare to say that Christ is not the Savior and Redeemer of infants?” (On Forgiv. Bapt. Chpt 24,33)

This did not mean all baptized infants were saved by the mere fact that they were baptized. Indeed: “many who seem to be on the outside are in fact on the inside, and many who seem to be on the inside are neverless in fact on the outside.” (Bapt. 5.27.38)

But if baptism does not assure salvation or even indicate predestination, why perform infant baptism? Beyond the biblical covenantal considerations already considered, it would be beneficial to consider Augustine’s close connection between original sin and infant baptism. The image in an infant baptism becomes the image we all experience in salvation:

God comes to us in our infirmity, our helplessness, our inability to feed ourselves, and blindness to our need and gives to us grace. Why baptize infants? Because they are sinners in need of a Savior, and a parent acknowledges this every time they bring a child for baptism. The confession of a person’s salvation becomes the confession of God’s coming to him, and confessing God’s initiative. The adult convert who is baptized is not allowed to see this as an acknowledgment of his decision and then God’s response, but is taught every time he sees an infant baptized, THIS is the story of your conversion, God’s initiation, not yours.

In fact, the practice of bringing infants to Christ is as old as the time when Christ walked the earth. In Luke 18:15-18, mothers bring their children to Jesus to bless. The disciples rebuke the mothers, but Jesus in turn rebukes them saying “let the children come to me, do not hinder them…whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” Clement has a great line commenting on this verse that "mothers still bring their children for Jesus to touch."

Whoever receives the kingdom is one who is brought without their own ability, as one without ability to save themselves.

Augustine and Pelagius Pt 2: What is the moral capacity of fallen man?

[sorry, I am low on time, so Part 2 may be a little sketchy and less complete than my original outline in teaching this. I might correct it later...]

The story of St. Augustine is largely known from his autobiography “The Confessions.” Augustine, especially in this work, The Confessions, exerted more influence than any figure previously or since on Western Civilization. Within this book, Augustine posits the priority of grace and God’s initiative in salvation. Within the book, Augustine pens a prayer that becomes popular:

"Lord command what you will, and will what you command" or
“Lord command what You wish, and grant what You command.”

Augustine believed that God must grant us the power and grace to do anything that God commands.

On the other side of the Roman Empire, Pelagius labored to minister to English sailors. Pelagius found this popular prayer of Augustine to be a perscription for licence. If God has commanded us, then this implies we are able to perform that which God commands, Pelagius retorted.

The Question at hand was: What is the moral capacity of fallen man?

Pelagius, as stated, believed that man was capable of fulfilling the will of God in his own power. Adam had set an unfortunate example, but Christ is our perfect example, the model of what our obedience should be.

Augustine, on the other hand, said Adam’s sin killed us, and our moral capacity is dead. (Eph 2:1,5) What man requires in order to do anything God commands is the restoration of his life. If we see anything in us that is worthy of calling good, Augustine turned to his favorite verse in the debate, 1 Cor 4:7:

1 Cor 4:7 – “For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?”

In the debate, Pope Zosimus defended Pelagius. The church, however, condemned Pelagius at the Council of Ephesus. Vindicating Augustine’s position. The Council of Orange even confirmed Augustine’s position that the good of faith must be said to be from God as well, stating in Canon 5:

“ the increase of faith…also its beginning and the very desire for faith, by which we believe in Him who justifies the ungodly …[is] a gift of grace ”

This seemed to create a problem. The question then has to be answered, if the early church insisted that man was responsible for their own sin, how is it that man is free, yet God must draw them?

Augustine drew a distinction between coersion and inevitability: God coerses no man against his will, but all whom God draws come.

How did Augustine explain this seeming contradiction?

It is worth a lengthy quotation from Augustine's commentary on John 6:44-45:

Thence also He says here, if thou turn thy attention to it, "No man cometh to me except he whom the Father shall draw." Do not think that thou art drawn against thy will. The mind is drawn also by love. …"How can I believe with the will if I am drawn?" I say it is not enough to be drawn by the will; thou art drawn even by delight. What is it to be drawn by delight? "Delight thyself in the Lord, and He shall give thee the desires of thy heart." There is a pleasure of the heart to which that bread of heaven is sweet. Moreover, if it was right in the poet to say, "Every man is drawn by his own pleasure," --not [compulsion], but pleasure; not obligation, but delight,--how much more boldly ought we to say that a man is drawn to Christ when he delights in the truth, when he delights in blessedness, delights in righteousness, delights in everlasting life, all which Christ is?... … for flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven." This revealing is itself the drawing. Thou holdest out a green twig to a sheep, and thou drawest it. Nuts [candies] are shown to a child, and he is attracted; he is drawn by what he runs to, drawn by loving it, drawn without hurt to the body, drawn by a cord of the heart.

Another illustration in a different sense may be given. If a group of blindfolded people are running for a cliff and you take the blindfold off of some, they will stop running for the cliff. They choose not to run over the side, yet they would do no other action when they are given sight. The same with God, all who are given sight can do no other than be drawn to Him, drawn by the delight of His Glory, for they can do no other.

Friday, August 08, 2008

1054: The Great Schism and the Reformation

I've been making my way through the works of Jaroslav Pelikan on the History of Doctrine, in his series, "The Christian Tradition." Volume 2 is all about Eastern Christendom and it's independent development in doctrine. I really knew nothing about some of the issues Eastern Christians dealt with in regards to the debate over Christ's will (did He have one or two) and icons. A selection stood out to me as I have been asking this question while reading the book: Would the Reformation have happened if Rome had not made a power grab in insisting on Papal Supremecy? Pelikan gave this answer (actually quoting heavily from Zernov):

"The Schism between Eastern and Western Christians is one of the greatest calamities in the history of the Church. On the one hand, it seriously underminded the Christian East to the advance of Islam, and on the other hand, it hastened the centralization of Western Christendom, which resulted in many abuses and provoked widspread discontent, so that the Reformation itself, which split the West into two hostile camps, was one of its consequences." (Christian Tradition Vol 2, pg 147)

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Dilemma

Judson was a learned man. He graduated valedictorian of his class from Brown and went onto Andover Theological Seminary where he was converted. He wrote two textbooks, one on grammar and one on Mathematics. On the boat to India as America’s first foreign missionary he was contemplating who to baptize when people were converted. After much reading he came to the conclusion that the NT taught that it should be only those who have repented and expressed faith in Jesus Christ. I get a kick out of how he continually does not want to be one of those Baptists. He expressed his dilemma in this way in a letter to his church. Not much has changed in how Baptists are viewed (yet they are still around) and we can all admire his heart even if you think he does not have sense enough to comprehend the connection:

“I cannot describe to you, dear brethren, the light of satisfaction, which I obtained, in taking this view of the matter, in considering the two churches distinct, and in classing my ideas of each in their proper place. I became possessed of a key that unlocked many a difficulty, which had long perplexed me. And the more I read the Bible, the more clearly I saw, that this was the true system therein revealed.
But while I obtained light and satisfaction on one side, I was plunged into difficult and distress on the other. If, thought I, this system is the true one, if the Christian church is not a continuation of the Jewish, if the covenant of circumcision is not precisely the covenant in which Christians now stand, the whole foundation of Paedobaptism is gone; there is no remaining ground of the administration of any church ordinance, to the children and domestics of professors; and it follows inevitably, that I who was christened in infancy, on the faith of my parents, have never yet received Christian baptism. Must I, then, forsake my parents, the church with which I stand connected, the society under whose patronage I have come out, the companions of my missionary undertaking? Must I forfeit the good opinion of all my friends in my native land, occasioning grief to some, and provoking others to anger, and be regarded henceforth, by all my former dear acquaintance, as a weak, despicable Baptist, who has not sense enough to comprehend the connection between the Abrahamic and the Christian systems? All this was mortifying; it was hard to flesh and blood. But I thought again – It is better to be guided by the opinion of Christ, who is the truth, than by the opinion of men, however good, whom I know to be in an error. The praise of Christ is better than the praise of men. Let me cleave to Christ at all events, and prefer his favor above my chief joy.”

Another reason not to like Osteen's Lakewood Church

"HOUSTON, Texas (AP) -- She's the wife of a renowned evangelical pastor and one of the leaders of a Houston megachurch, but Victoria Osteen is being accused of behavior that wasn't very Christian"

story here.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

20 Years of Enjoying Talent on Loan From God

When contemplating Rush’s career I am reminded of the Parable of the Talents, no pun or sacrilege intended. His talent truly is on loan from God and he has not squandered it, but developed it to its fullest potential.

So, here’s to Rush, for twenty years of broadcasting excellence and for being a loving and generous brother and uncle to my children. Sincere, heartfelt, congratulations.

David Limbaugh

August 6, Happy Transfiguration Day.

Yes, it is that time of year again. "The Day of Transfiguration" Again I share the only song I know that is about the Transfiguration, by Sufjan Stevens:

Click here for Song


When he took the three disciples
to the mountainside to pray,
his countenance was modified, his clothing was aflame.
Two men appeared: Moses and Elijah came;
they were at his side.
The prophecy, the legislation spoke of whenever he would die.

Then there came a word
of what he should accomplish on the day.
Then Peter spoke, to make of them a tabernacle place.
A cloud appeared in glory as an accolade.
They fell on the ground.
A voice arrived, the voice of God,
the face of God, covered in a cloud.

What he said to them,

the voice of God: the most beloved son.
Consider what he says to you, consider what's to come.
The prophecy was put to death,
was put to death, and so will the Son.
And keep your word, disguise the vision 'till the time has come.

Lost in the cloud, a voice. Have no fear! We draw near!
Lost in the cloud, a sign. Son of man! Turn your ear.
Lost in the cloud, a voice. Lamb of God! We draw near!
Lost in the cloud, a sign. Son of man! Son of God!

The History of Infant Baptism: Who started it?

When looking at the issue of infant baptism, the historicity of the practice is one of great speculation. Many Baptists historians have said the practice arose in the third century and then engulfed the church shortly thereafter. The question of when it started is an important one, for if it was not a practice of the early church and one that was invented or arose later, then it should be rejected.

The first exposure in the English Bible to the word “baptize” is in the Gospels, when we see John the Baptizer in the Jordan performing some Jewish cleansing ritual. Some might be tempted to speculate that Baptism began here. However, if one looks at the Greek Translation of the Jewish Bible (used by the apostles and the early church to read the Old Testament) the word appears there as well. Such a use can be seen in Leviticus 14:6, where the priest is given instructions to take two doves, kill one, and then dip the other dove in the blood of the first bird. Besides being a striking picture of the coming atonement in Christ, this action is called dipping or baptso (the root of baptismo - Baptism).

Later, in Jewish practice, baptism became a normal part of worship. Later, according to the Talmud, it became a ritual associated with proselyte initiation. The confessor Gentiles would be circumcised (if male) and undergo a washing ritual (the Talmud calls baptism). Why mention this in a post on the history of infant baptism? Because if the convert had any children, males over 13-years old and females over 12 would speak for themselves if they wanted to convert. If they were under that age, the father spoke for them and the males were circumcised and both the females and the males underwent baptism. Thus, the history of infant baptism starts BEFORE the New Testament. [so, when educating the Jews on baptism, they would have to be told to stop baptizing infants, not to start]

During the New Testament period, the Christians adopted baptism from Judaism. In regards to infant baptism, no statement as blatant as “and this infant so-and-so was baptized” occurs. However, many “household” baptisms occur in the book of Acts (such as Acts 16:15) and the word for household οἶκος includes any children and infants of the family (even in the same book of Acts in 7:20).

After the time of the New Testament, in the Early Church baptism always had a close identification with circumcision. (as it does in Paul in Col 2:11) The first recorded instance we have of a local synod addressing the timing of baptism is in Carthage in the early 200s. But it did not debate the efficacy of infant baptism, for that was assumed, instead the debate was over how some wanted baptism preformed even sooner. Many Christians were waiting until the 8th day, like circumcision in the OT, and the synod gave parents permission to baptize sooner if they wished. (Pelikan, Christian Tradition Vol 1. Pg 290-292)

But what is our earliest reference? Origen was baptized as an infant in 185AD. We also have liturgies detailing the practice of baptism near Rome in “On the Apostolic Tradition” that attempts to detail the practices of the church for posterity as they were practiced in the time of the apostles and the apostles’ followers. The later parts of the book have a “late date” (conservative scholars like to date things at their latest possible date) of 215, which is the part that gives instructions on prayer and the like. However, the early part of the book all scholars who have worked on the syntax and sources believe is older, perhaps conservatively the late 100s. The manual instructs the elder to ask the person seeking baptism to speak to their faith for themselves. But “you are to baptize the little ones…those who cannot speak for themselves, their parents or someone who belongs to their family should speak for them.” (Apostolic Tradition - Chapter 21)

Here are the hard questions to ask if infant baptism was not the consistent practice of the church in the first three centuries (really, the first 15 centuries, but let’s just focus on the early church first):

1. The church was not afraid to debate doctrine on everything from Christ’s person to Scripture canon. If a new practice arose that the apostles did not practice, why is there no record of any debate on the subject?

2. The practice of infant baptism was universal geographically. This would mean the practice would have a starting point and then spread quickly between the time of the apostle John’s death (90AD) to the time of Origen’s birth (185AD), being the most silent and fastest spreading heresy of any heresy faced in the early church.

3. Why did infant baptism stop (for it existed in Judaism) and then start again with no statement of either the stopping of the practice in the New Testament or the starting of it in the historical record?

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Current CT Cover

Add this to the things I like about Mark Martin. He will be driving full time next year in the Hendrick #5 car which means as for me and my house, we will be pulling for him to be the 2009 Champ. Nothing would give him a better chance than sitting in Hendrick equipment.
He is a class act all the way. Been going part time for the past few years because he decided that his family is more important than racing, but Lord willing 2009 will be the year he finally gets the cup his career deserves. Go Mark Martin Go!

Go Deep

Monday, August 04, 2008


"The greatest struggle in my theology has not been, oddly enough, the five points of Calvinism and the Reformed faith. I find these clear and well-defined from Genesis to Revelation. Rather, the thorn in my theological flesh has been baptism... As I look back to those days as a s sincere and searching seminary student I often wonder if I was search for the truth as honestly s I thought I was..."

Fred A Malone
A string of Pearls Unstrung, p9

To that end I most humbly recommend the book on Christian Baptism by Adoniram Judson, a man of whom the world was not worthy, whose feet we are not fit to wash. At least you will have heard both sides out. As for me I am out of my league.

The Community: Is the Community made up only of believers?

As we have seen, the function of the covenant was to establish a context in which salvation takes place, but does this mean that everyone who is in the covenant is necessarily saved?

There are two views on this:

1. The Pure Community
This view sees all members of the covenant as being members of the elect. There is no room for a category of a non-elect covenant member. This view generally looks to Jer 31:34, that states “And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know me.”

2. The Mixed Community

However, outside of the Anabaptist tradition, most other Christians have acknowledged a “mixed covenant.” A mixed covenant view holds that one may be a covenant member and not be a true believer (elect). Hence, this understands Paul when he says “Not all Israel is Israel” (Rom 9:6) to mean that not all covenant members of Israel are true Israel.

I believe this is the Biblical picture of covenant community. The necessary element of membership in the elect is not the outward sign, but the inward reality. Another way this is expressed is by the concepts of the visible and invisible church. The visible church is those who are baptized members, and the invisible church is the number of the truly elect.

We see this illustrated in two teachings of Christ. Christ tells of a field planted with seed, and good seed growing up next to weeds (wheat next to tares). Within the field (not the world, but the kingdom of God - Matt 13:24) there is both good and bad unseparated until harvest. Again we see this in Christ’s teaching that the kingdom of God is a net which has within it, both good and bad fish. (Matt 13:47).

Christ taught this in a context where some Jews (the Pharisees) believed they could assume their own salvation because they were “the seed of Abraham” which in their mind meant they were by the Law and heredity, Abraham’s decendents. Christ responded by calling many of them “Son of the Devil.” (John 8:40-44) All must acknowledge there are two senses of being Israel (son of Abraham) - the spiritual and the physical, the invisible and the visible.

The error of the Pharisees was believing that being circumcised in the flesh (sons of Abraham in the flesh) made them spiritual sons of Abraham. Such was not the case, and one must be circumcised in the heart (Deut 30:6) to be a true son of Abraham. As Paul says "All Israel is not Israel." Not all circumcised are "of the circumcision." Though Israel misunderstood this, God throughout the Hebrew Scriptures never revokes or repents of his decree that the covenant was open to the children of believers (Gen 17:9-13) and neither is it changed in the New (Acts 2:38-39, 1 Cor 7:13-14). Similarly, not all baptized are baptized. The mixed community is the reality of the covenant community containing both believers and their children. In the Old Testament, the true elect were elect by grace alone though faith alone, even if they had the sign of faith: circumcision. In the New Testament, we are reminded that the true elect are elect by grace alone though faith alone, even if we have the sign of faith: baptism.

Despite the potential for misunderstanding, the outward reminds us of the inward. The sign teaches the community of God's grace and God's faithfulness to the covenant, a God who is faithful to extend His promise in a real way to his covenant community, even when only a remnant remain faithful to him. (Isaiah 10:22-23)

What is a Covenant?

A major motif through Scripture is covenant. From the book of Genesis through to the Prophets to the New Testament (or New Covenant), the word and concept of covenant repeats as God’s main mode of dealing with humanity, appearing over 280 times just in the Old Testament.

The most simple definition would be an agreement between two or more parties. The agreement would include some sort of exchange or promise and conditions for that promise to be fulfilled. Usually, in the Bible, these covenants are accompanied by a sign.

The major covenants between God and man are found between God and:

Noah: Gen 6, 9
Abraham: Gen 15, 17
Moses: Ex 24, 31
David: 1 Chron 15
New: Jer 31, Luke 22:20, Acts 2, Heb 8, 9

Other places might be seen as covenant, though the word is not used at the time, such as between Adam and God: the agreement that if Adam obey he will live, if he disobeys he will die.

But if we start with Noah, we can see most of the elements of a covenant:
Noahic Covenant:
Parties: Noah (all humanity) and God
promise: For God not to destroy the world by water
Sign: Rainbow

The one element that is missing is a set of conditions or stimulations for the promise to be given. Thus, the Noahic covenant takes the form more a declaration or decree, since God gives, without condition, to all. In fact, the same structures exist for the Davidic covenant.

However, the Mosaic, Abrahamic and New Covenant take the more typical form, including stipulations with the promise, parties and sign components.

Abraham Covenant (Genesis 15, 17):
Parties: The believer and their child. Abraham and his decendents [Israel]. (Genesis 17:9-12)
Sign: Circumcision (Gen 17:9-13)
Promise: Great Nation, Land of Canaan, Salvation.
Stipulations: Faith (Gen 15:6)

I say the stipulations in both covenants are faith due to the reference to the efficacy of Abraham’s faith in Genesis and the requirement of faith in the Mosaic covenant. Other factors such the Law come in, but I’m only interested in a broad definition here.


A question arises here: How were Abraham’s decendents included in the covenant if they did not have faith?

We see the sign of circumcision is given to Abraham after he came to faith, and Isaac before his faith. Yet, we cannot say that Isaac was not required to have the stipulation to receive the promise. Hence, Isaac would come to mature faith in the covenant to receive the promise, but nonetheless was in the covenant before faith and did not require initiation (re-circumcision) after coming to faith.

What about the final “New Covenant”? What are the elements of the New Covenant?

In the first sermon by Peter to the Jews in Acts 2:38-39, Peter tells them how the covenant has changed:
And Peter said to them,"Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself."

New Covenant:
Parties: Believer and their child. The near (the audience: Jews) and the far (Gentiles) [Acts 2:38-39] [cf. Eph 2:11-22 for near far language use for Gentiles and Jews]
Promise: The Gift of the Holy Spirit (salvation)
Stipulations: Faith/Repentence
Sign: Baptism (the replacement for circumcision Col 2:11-12)

Peter repeats that the promise is for the children of believers as well. It is an issue he would have to address with the audience, as they would have understood that their children are covenant members in Judaism. If the children are not included, the question would have to answered: when were they kicked out of the covenant?

So just as circumcision was a sign of the covenant, and even a sign of faith (Romans 4:11) so Baptism is a sign of the covenant and faith, and available to believers and their children.

Spurgeon on the Church of England Catechism

Good old snarky Spurgeon:

"The Church of England Catechism has in it, as some of you may remember, the question, 'What is required of persons to be baptised?' and the answer I was tought to give, and did give, was, 'Repentance, whereby they forsake sin, and faith, whereby they steadfastly believe the promises of God made to them in that sacrament.' I looked thart answer up in the Bible, and I found it to be strictly correct as far as repentance and faith are concerned, and of course, when I afterwards became a Christian, I also became a Baptist; and here I am, and it is due to the Church of England Catechism that I am a Baptist."

C.H. Spurgeon: The Early Years, p.38

Friday, August 01, 2008

Losing my religion

The one has come, a savior for the people.

On second thought I will stick with the religion I have for now.