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

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.”


Jared Nelson said...

POST: "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."

Facinating to hear Judson say that. The sharp distinction between the Church and Israel, I don't think, was yet to be hatched in Dispensationalism. Usually, like with Gill, the Church was a continuation, but the New Covenant was radically different. So I guess he is a proto-dispensationalist. Just having to revise my historical theology of Dispensationalism here. I've always had a theory that baptism issues are why dispensationalism took off with credo-baptists and not paedo-baptists.

Aaron said...

He did see parallels but did not want to press more on them then he felt the NT allowed. Christ was also called Israel how far should we go with that etc. Children partook of the Passover feast, is it not cruel to deny them the Lord’s Supper etc etc. Orthodox still give the Lord's supper to babies? You know all this inside out. Anyway his heart was more the point of the post.

Aaron said...

I am not sure honestly either way how much to read into the "it is not a continuation". He does talk about the true church was always one by faith. He did liken it to a new constitution for the church, and you can not go back to the old monarchy to get the laws you miss from it when you are under a new government.

My heart tells me, dear brethren, that I am still one with you, though we differ on the subject of baptism. May ever blessing, temporal and spiritual, rest on you and on your children.

- A Judson

Matthew Bradley said...

While I can appreciate the gumption it took to make a decision in the face of such odds, I was saddened by the time I finished reading. I do not mean to charge Judson with pride or an inflated sense of self. Far from it. But it is hard to miss in the final comments. Judson essentially argues that he knew the truth when all around him were deceived...his parents, his church, his society (which is a reference to the missionary organization that commissioned him), his missionary companions, his friends all around him. And his argument seems to be that he gained this truth by his solitary reading of the text (and I'm sure he properly credits the HS).

I admire his determination, but wonder about his judgment. Not because I disagree with his conclusion, but because he would make such an important doctrinal decision contrary to any communal context.

Aaron said...

He would not have wanted to say it was just him and HS. He read up on both sides. To him it would not have been any different than what Calvin said about sola fide. If the gospel was lost it was the fault of man not God. I believe the Council of Trent even said no one knows when the "Anabaptist" view started. So it has never been divorced from the church. Minority view certainly, but Judson was not inventing anything. Give him a bit of a break there. He just came to a different conclusion than you. In a lot of ways he is not that different that you.

Jared Nelson said...

1) I think Judson's mode of coming to his position, in which he refused to talk to the Congregationalists with him about it was indeed errant too. I don't think that is being hard on Judson. He was a great man.

2) I do not believe Sola Fide belongs in the same category as Anabaptism. Sola Fide is a development in reaction to Catholic doctrinal inventions, not an invention itself.

3) I don't know that we can say the gospel has ever been lost without contradicating Matt 16:18, can we?

Aaron said...

Well that is a great start since I am now mostly trying to defend his honor (and the honor of Baptists) rather than his position. So let’s take the points of honor.

1.) Is it always sin that leads people to incorrect conclusions? I assert the answer is no. So “He would not talk to Congregationalist”. I know you shared an antidotal story that may be feeding this. If it is the same one it was first offered to me as a positive. Now it seems it is a negative. But you might have different evidence against him to submit. All I can say is keep in mind he grew up congregational; his father was a minister in that church. He read many books on the subject by Congregationalist before the switch. So I am not sure that is a fair sin to lie at his feet. He may have simply not wanted to fight with a brother over it. So I come back to that he studied it and came to a different conclusion than you. I must respect that you see the correct conclusion to be as plan as the nose on our faces. But that is what I met by cut him a break. Are you sure about his character failure on this? Both Jared and Matthew seem to pity his character on the subject. Hence pity all of ours.

2.) Even if it is shear stupidity that leads Baptists to their position my point was they do not see it as “invented”. The other thing you implied in your response is that “Anabaptist” view is invented and sola fide is not so well duh it does not apply. So again I say cut them a break. You place it in a diffrent category they do not. If it is just ignorance then the statement by Calvin in response to his theology being “new” would IN THEIR VIEW (and mine) apply to their position on Baptism as well,

I do not know how Calvin would respond to your point three. While I could guess at many great responses I don’t want to go down that rabbit trail. I will just give the quote I had in mind.

First by calling it “new” they do a great wrong to God, whose Sacred Word does not deserve to be accursed of novelty…. That it has lain long unknown and buried is the fault of man’s impiety. Now when it is restored to us by God’s goodness, its claims to antiquity ought to be admitted at least by right of recovery

-John Calvin (The Institutes)

Now he does lay sin at the root of the problem and so do I. But on Baptism, who ever is right, sin might have been involved in introducing the error. But now there are matters that could confuse the information for some. Again this is a can of worms but I hope the spirit of where I am going will be understood rather then getting hung up on every detail and possibility of this is sin, this is textual difficulty, history issue here, culture issue there etc etc etc.

Aaron said...

I submit that Judson is a lot like Jared only a mirror image on the result. First super smart guy. Second, well read on both sides. According to Ann Judson, “Mr. Judson” started reading up on the issue so he could make a reasonable defense of his position (pro infant baptism) to the Baptists when he met them. He read every pedobaptist book he could get his hands on. Oddly enough he did all the work and they(the Baptist missionaries) never brought it (the subject of Baptism) up. Surprising to Judson! I wonder did he think that is all they cared about?
So yeah, well read on both sides, smart, heart for God. No wonder Jared and Judson are big heros of mine. They just came to a different conclusion because, well God only knows. I will not accept it was because either of them are stupid or of another spirit! Ha! I also hold out the possibility that either of them could be right. Gasp I said it! :-)