[NOTE FROM TIM: David posted this on Baylyblog eight years ago, in 2004.]
Lutheranism seems to be the newest new thing in Reformed circles, in particular, the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod (LCMS), which has developed a certain degree of cache within elements of the Reformed Church no doubt because of its unique position in the Lutheran world: standing for the inerrancy of Scripture, against the ordination of women and admitting that other Protestant denominations contain at least a small portion of Spirit and Truth.
Is this a good development? Two areas of observation, then several conclusions....
First, though, my credentials as commentator. Over the years I've had a number of more-than-glancing contacts with the LCMS, beginning with my parents sending me to a LCMS junior high and high school--where I went through the pre-confirmation catechetical training required of LCMS students. Moreover, I have a number of friends who have been lifelong Lutherans, the majority of whom were raised within the LCMS. Finally, I have several friends and acquaintances who converted to LCMS Lutheranism later in life: one, a lifelong Roman Catholic entered the LCMS upon marrying a divorcee, several others who have entered the LCMS from Reformed backgrounds.
by David and Tim Bayly on April 25, 2005 - 10:00am
A reader asks:
As a Catholic I don't feel as if my will is sovereign _at all_. I'm so finite and wretched, just a dust mote in God's Creation. How could my will be sovereign compared to Our Lord's will and the fiery love of the Holy Spirit? At the center of everything is Jesus Christ, radiating out His Divine love and mercy. My greatest hope is to die to my own self and be filled to the brim by God, so that in every action performed I do His will. Even if it breaks my human body, so be it, as long I am His little child.
And of course, from what our friend writes, it appears she has at least a partial sense of the Biblical doctrine of Divine sovereignty.
At root, the test of sovereignty is simple. A sovereign rules. A sovereign is king. He acts. He governs. Others in his kingdom have wills as well. But his will rules. Their lives reflect his will.
Reformed Christians declare God to be solely sovereign in salvation. In claiming this we do not deny the wills of the governed. The king's subjects have wills. But sovereignty is not the mere possession of a will. It is possession of power and authority to enact your will. And in this sense, sovereignty in salvation is clear: God's will rules, God's will governs, God's will is the prime mover. God acts, men react.
Reformation soteriology (teaching on salvation) is "monergistic" (teaches that there is only one power at work in salvation). It teaches that God works salvation without prior human action or agency. Man responds to God's grace in regeneration with faith and repentance. Faith and repentance are fruits of regeneration, not its cause.
Conversely, Roman Catholicism and much of modern Protestantism hold to a "synergistic" (cooperative, two workers aiding each other) view of salvation in which God and man work together to effect regeneration.
Erasmus, the Roman Catholic counter-Reformation scholar and champion of the synergistic view of salvation tells the story of a father leading a toddler to an apple. He says the child, like the sinner with God, does very little:
For most of the 1990s I habitually denied I was an Evangelical. "I used to be an Evangelical," I would say, "but now I'm just a fundamentalist." Or later, "I used to be an Evangelical, but now I'm Reformed.... Yeah, I grew up in an interdenominational Evangelical church in Wheaton, but I'm no longer an Evangelical."
Of course, that was when Evangelicalism still had a center, loosely defined by a variety of parachurch organizations such as Christianity Today, Wheaton College, Campus Crusade/InterVarsity, Christian publishers, Focus on the Family....
My rejection of Evangelicalism was never a repudiation of all things evangelical. The term "evangelical" had been applied to the Reformed faith for centuries prior to Harold Ockenga's appropriation of the term to distinguish non-fundamentalist conservative Protestantism from fundamentalism in the 1930s.
The Reformed faith was "evangelical" before it was "Reformed." The Protestant Reformation was utterly evangelical in its return to the euaggelion, or gospel, of salvation by faith, not works. Luther himself claimed to be "evangelical" before the world knew him as "Reformed". Luther named the church he founded in Germany the Evangelische Kirke, or "Evangelical Church."
Within the English-speaking world, the evangelical faith in the 1600s included the Puritans, the English separatists, the Presbyterians. In the 1700s the evangelical faith included Wesley, Whitefield and Edwards: the wonder of the Great Awakening. In the 1800s evangelical faith produced the Second Great Awakening, Princeton's theology, men like Dabney, Hodge, Alexander.
All these strains fed into 20th century American Evangelicalism. By claiming no longer to be "Evangelical" I was stating my departure from the 20th century American branch of Protestantism known as "Evangelicalism," not the glorious theology of the evangelical Church of the Reformation. I was reacting against Evangelicalism's parachurch focus, its loose (and increasingly Arminian) theology, its woeful sexual ethics and theology, its pride and wealth, its celebrity culture. I considered myself Reformed, outside the orbit of Evangelicalism.
It was fairly easy to live outside Evangelicalism in the Toledo I moved to in 1988. With several exceptions (FNBS and several godly CMA churches) Evangelicalism bypassed Toledo on its trans-continental trek from Philadelphia through Wheaton to California (and back to Colorado Springs). We didn't have to worry about the increasing heterodoxy of InterVarsity nationally in Toledo. The local InterVarsity chapter died about the time I arrived. We didn't have to oppose the "Botany-Geography" seeker church scourge. Toledo didn't get a proper creek until six years ago.
I was simply Reformed. I identified more with Doug Wilson and Moscow, Idaho, than Wheaton; with Banner of Truth and Martyn Lloyd-Jones more than Tyndale House or Bill Hybels.
And now, in 2005 at age 46, for reasons I will explain shortly, I want to revisit Evangelicalism. But to my horror I find my childhood home destroyed. All Evangelicalism's children have despised her, fleeing her for Orthodoxy, for Roman Catholicism, for Anglicanism, for Willow Creeks and Cedar Hills, for Reformed churches and Lutheranism.
Recent attempts to redefine the Reformed understanding of the story of the Good Samaritan have been advanced by advocates of the New Perspective on Paul. Because a number of those seeking to alter the traditional Reformed understanding of this parable come from within the Presbyterian Church in America, and because others who have advocated a revisionist view of this passage have close ties to the PCA, the following response to such readings is offered.
What follows is a revision of a sermon preached by David at Christ the Word Presbyterian Church in 2004.
Reading Luther's Commentary on Galatians recently brought me across these comments by Luther about the false teachers opposing Paul in Galatia.
VERSE 2. Unto the churches of Galatia. Paul had preached the Gospel throughout Galatia, founding many churches which after his departure were invaded by the false apostles. The Anabaptists in our time imitate the false apostles. They do not go where the enemies of the Gospel predominate. They go where the Christians are. Why do they not invade the Catholic provinces and preach their doctrine to godless princes, bishops, and doctors, as we have done by the help of God? These soft martyrs take no chances. They go where the Gospel has a hold, so that they may not endanger their lives. The false apostles would not go to Jerusalem of Caiaphas, or to the Rome of the Emperor, or to any other place where no man had preached before as Paul and the other apostles did. But they came to the churches of Galatia, knowing that where men profess the name of Christ they may feel secure.
Luther's point is that false teachers prey on the Church. They don't conquer new ground with their gospel of works, they derail professing Christians.
Heresy is parasitical and cowardly. It doesn't go to the animists of Papua New Guinea, it goes where the Church exists in power and advances there by subversion. It goes to the heartland of the Presbyterian Church in America rather than to the RCC or the PCUSA or, for that matter, Islam.
It seems to me the more I struggle to understand the nature of the Church that the visible-invisible set of categories is the only conceivably correct way to view her.
Several years ago on reading Bannerman and considering the theological mess of Evangelicalism as a result of years of parachurch chaos, I found myself wanting to discard the invisible category. Invisible is too baptistic. It spiritualizes too much, denying authority, enshrining individualism.
What Evangelicalism needed, I believed, was a good dose of the Church visible and, as much as possible, eradication of the Church invisible.
Tim and I are wanting to send a friend from a Roman Catholic background several books which will provide a winsome introduction to Reformed/Puritan thinking.
Any suggestions on books? We're not looking for modern books. Older books are more what we'd like to send. Nor are we looking for heavy systematic stuff. Our goal is not to provide a systematic, but to give a picture of Puritan/Reformed spirituality and thought at its highest levels.
If such a book comes to mind, please add it via the comments.
Tim and I have several ideas, but would appreciate hearing the thoughts of others--especially from those who love the Puritans. Thanks. David
As I read advocates of the (what shall I call it? offense is inevitable...) "new perspective on baptism" within segments of the PCA call for a return to Biblical language in speaking of the sacraments, I wonder to myself which words they're seeking to reclaim.
Are they trying to reclaim all of Scripture's teaching on baptism, or just a subset of that teaching?
It seems to me that those advocating a "return to Biblical language" concerning baptism are perched precariously on knife's edge between Roman Catholic and Baptist views of the sacrament.
On the one hand, they're very near to the washing-of-original-concupiscence, entry-into-the-only-Church view of Roman Catholicism. Though they vehemently deny this, I increasingly view the differentiation they claim in this area as distinction without difference.
On the other hand, of course, if their view of baptism truly is distinct both from both today's majority Presbyterian view and Roman Catholicism, and if it is distinct precisely because it hews closely to "plain Scriptural language" about baptism, then perhaps they are arguing for believer baptism. Because if there is one view that clearly CAN be argued about baptism from the "plain language without resort to preconceived notions or spiritualization" viewpoint, it's the Baptist view...
"Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins." Acts 2:38
"He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned." Mark 16:16
Try telling a Baptist that Presbyterian sacramentalists are advocating a simple-meaning, plain-language, no-spiritualizing-Scripture view. To a Baptist, the idea would be patently absurd. Honesty should also compel us to treat such claims as disingenuous.
A response from Dr. Leithart to my unattributed quotation from him in my post on 1 Peter 3:21 can be found here.
More could be said on this, but not on a beautiful Memorial Day.
May I add, however, that I did not name Dr. Leithart initially simply because I do not view him as the foremost public advocate of the position I argue against. He is, however, a good writer, and his paragraph seemed the best summation of the view I oppose. There are two other PCA authors I considered quoting whose views are far more colorful and arguable, but use of them would have constituted a form of casuistry I want to avoid.
I tried to be equally fair in quoting from Calvin. There are sections of Calvin's commentary on 1 Peter 3 where, quoted out of context, Calvin could be made to sound entirely Zwinglian. That's not my view, nor is it fair to claim Calvin held a low view of the gracious and incorporative efficacy of baptism.
So, yes, I was quoting Dr. Leithart. Overall, however, as with Doug Wilson, I find Dr. Leithart's statements in these and other areas more nuanced and careful than those of many who claim him as a source of theological inspiration. This was my sole reason for not naming him. Also note his measured response to the Mississippi Valley Presbytery report here.
I see that at least one teaching elder in the PCA mentioned in Bryan Chapell's assessment of the New Perspective/Federal Vision movement has responded to Mr. Chapell's piece.
I suspect this was not an altogether-wise move. Chapell's piece was surprisingly astute and fair. If I'd been in the FV crowd, I'd have thanked him and moved on.
If, as this individual claims in his reaction to Chapell's piece, the Auburn Avenue/Federal Vision crowd has been principally defined and united by the attacks of their opponents, proponents of FV theology should be cautious not to accomplish the same in reverse.
Second, I read in Peter Leithart's comments on my post on 1 Peter 3:21 that he is concerned I may be a closet Baptist. He also noted, correctly, my concern that those in the "baptism-does-something-indescribable-but-amazing" camp are close to being closet Roman Catholics. I'm tempted, facetiously, to ask which is better: to be a closet Baptist or a closet Roman Catholic. The reason I don't, however, is that I'm afraid my facetious question would draw a disturbingly non-facetious answer.
If you haven't yet seen it, check out this web site containing a growing collection of the writings of John Frame and Vern Poythress. The ultimate goal of this site is to be as complete as possible a repository of these two professors who stand out for their irenic and humble, yet principled, approach to Reformed theology.
This site was established and is now being filled out with material gathered from Professors Frame and Poythress by Andrew Dionne, one of my colleagues at Christ the Word.
I would especially recommend to those who are unfamiliar with these men Professor Frame's relatively recent article, Machen's Warrior Children.
With a few potential caveats (primarily in the "Role of Women" portion which strikes me as unnecessarily descriptive rather than prescriptive), this view of what constitutes true Reformed essentials broadly represents where we wish to stand at Christ the Word.
Divide PCA churches into camps and categories and one of the dominant strains you'll find persistently rising to the fore is the "mercy ministry" focused PCA church.
PCA mercy ministries take a variety of forms--from financial provision for unwed teen mothers to church art fairs to employment services and divorce recovery seminars.... The list of PCA (or PCA-endorsed) mercy ministries goes on ad infinitum. But there is absolutely no attempt at definition. A mercy ministry is any good thing you can imagine, inside a church or outside, parachurch or church-based, meeting real physical needs or addressing perceived cultural weaknesses.
The only thing you won't generally see defined as a "mercy ministry" in the PCA is anything that would have been a typical church outreach in past generations. No VBS has yet been described as a mercy ministry to the best of my knowledge. Sunday School classes aren't mercy ministries. Prison ministries are. Ladies' neighborhood Bible studies aren't.
The dividing lines seem to fall in several discernible areas. First, if it takes place in a city or addresses the needs of residents of a city, it's definitely a mercy ministry rather than regular church programming. If a program involves blacks or latinos (basically, any race other than white), it's definitely a mercy ministry. If it's "artistic" it's a mercy ministry. If its focus lies outside the church, it's a mercy ministry.
But it seems those works of mercy specifically vouchsafed the church for her obedience in passages such as Acts 6, 1 Corinthians 16, and 1 Timothy 5 don't rank high on the prestige pole of PCA mercy ministries.
by David and Tim Bayly on August 29, 2005 - 11:13am
Note in I Chronicles 13 and 14 (the account of the ark's return to Jerusalem under David) that the regulative principle of worship (RPW) extends far beyond what we normally view as its parameters: acts of formal public worship.
When David says of the death of Uzzah, "The Lord our God broke out against us because we did not seek Him according to the rule," he is admitting that all that took place on the trip bringing the ark to Jerusalem was part of "seeking Him." Thus, under the regulative principle, far more than formal public worship is comprehended. And, David's dancing in the street is part of what the RPW permits.
In fact, we must understand that the RPW encompasses all of life, not merely life in God's house. It also governs private devotions, family worship and festival days. So, the attitude toward the RPW which simply uses it to regulate public worship is often shortsighted and overly restrictive because it fails to see that the RPW does not stop and restart on the way from home to church and back.
Yes, worship in the church contains certain elements that cannot be done in the home, and vice versa, but the regulative principle applies to both.
What the RPW does not demand:
1) That we forego great joy. Joy so great that it leads to physical expression, even ecstatic dance.
2) Liturgy that is, from a human perspective, deep and sophisticated. Liturgy in the O.T. and the N.T. is a liturgy of blood. The profundity of true worship is all centered in the holiness and grace of God rather than in the liturgical sophistication of man.
by David and Tim Bayly on September 8, 2005 - 11:03am
Several weeks ago Tim and I were asked to contribute to another WORLD magazine web site called Zeitgeist, intended to be a Christian version of National Review Online's The Corner, a group-authored conservative blog.
Our tenure at Zeitgeist has not been easy. There have been numerous run-ins with other authors on the site and the disparate backgrounds and views of the site's authors have produced a general sense of malaise on the site--not at all helped by an apparent lack of readers.
Interestingly, debate has been strongest and sharpest in discussions between Tim and myself and several other Reformed writers on the site.
I don't know if the site will ultimately last, or if we will continue to write for it, but I just posted this entry there in an attempt to lend a degree of clarity and perspective to what may appear to be Tim's and my cantankerous refusal to get with the cultural engagement of the other writers. I post it here because it underlines, I think, the reason Tim and I and many like us in our churches and elsewhere in the backwaters of American Protestant Christianity do not easily fit within the current Evangelical and Reformed worlds, why we are willing to focus on the negative when others see only the positive, why we persist in holding to the idea that faithful ministry declares God's "No" along with His "Yes."
If God is a God of wrath...
Arise, O Lord! Let not man prevail;
let the nations be judged before you!
Put them in fear, O Lord!
Let the nations know that they are but men! Selah
I've been thinking about the divide that seems to have arisen between brothers on this site recently, and it seems from my perspective that the deepest point of division is not Roman Catholic vs. Reformed Protestant vs. Casual Evangelical vs. Orthodox, but of mindsets.
My mind is spiritually fixed on God as a God of wrath and judgment as well as grace. Though not the foreground of the picture, the wrath of God for me is the entire backdrop. The play of grace is performed against a tableau of dying, ruined men.
by David and Tim Bayly on September 12, 2005 - 7:50am
Some of the most trafficked Evangelical blogs are authored not by theologians or pastors, but by computer programmers, web designers, journalists and other laymen.
Evangelical Outpost, Challies, WORLD's main blog and Pyromaniac are among the most popular conservative Christian blogs and while theological themes are common fare on these blogs, none is authored by a pastor or theologian.
In fact, the silence of the theologians on the internet is deafening. With the exception of Doug Wilson, no major figure in the world of theology routinely writes on the internet.
Why is this? I suspect a number of factors lie behind this trend.
1. Appearance and sophistication are important on the internet. The most trafficked blogs are typically visually superior sites containing sophisticated graphics and creative design--handing a vast advantage to web designers capable of producing their own sites.
by David and Tim Bayly on September 20, 2005 - 9:44am
Good Christian leaders looking at the silence of Evangelicalism's leadership in the face of sin and heresy respond by rethinking Evangelicalism. Is a parachurch-based Christianity good? Is the Big Man ministry model healthy? Is an atomistic church formed from the clay of individual decisions and individual relationships to the Saviour a true reflection of the Zion of God?
Of course not, the thinking Christian concludes. We have elevated the part over the whole. Zion has become nothing while her citizens bask in glory. This is wrong. God loves Zion, and because He loves Zion, He loves those born in her, those whose names are recorded in her rolls.
And so the reaction in certain Biblically-astute circles is to elevate Zion, to elevate the Church, to elevate her means of grace, to elevate precisely those Ecclesiological elements Evangelicalism has long disdained.
But there is a danger here. And that danger is to elevate the Church above her Master, to make the Bride greater than the Groom. That is the danger we must ever be aware of. Even as we fight Evangelicalism's diminishment of the Bride, we must be on guard against those forms of heresy which tend to obligate the Groom to obey the Bride.
by David and Tim Bayly on October 5, 2005 - 10:01pm
I've just finished teaching Galatians to the men in our pastors' college using Luther's commentary as our guide. It was a fascinating six weeks and I ended the course convinced that advocates of the New Perspective on Paul--and especially N. T. Wright--are dead wrong in their attacks on Luther's understanding of the fundamental Galatian heresy.
In fact, I find myself increasingly perplexed that any Reformed thinker would champion Wright and disdain Luther in this fundamentally important realm.
by David and Tim Bayly on October 8, 2005 - 7:24pm
Preaching through Galatians, I wonder how some get the Apostle Paul's condemnation of the circumcision of the Judaizers but fail to make the transparent application of that condemnation to their own sacramentalism or the latent sacramentalism within their flock? How can a man understand Jesus PLUS circumcision without understanding Jesus PLUS baptism?
And if reformed men quickly issue reassurances that we deny the doctrine of ex opere operato, I'm not reassured. From my observation, ex opere operato is not civilized in observing the theological boundaries claimed in its regard. Whatever reformed doctrine teaches, no reformed pastor can deny that something analagous to ex opere operato is constantly nipping at our heels as we serve our flocks.
The danger posed by sacramentalism is clear to Calvin who, in his comments on Galatians 5:3-6, writes:
To show more clearly the agreement between the doctrine of the Papists and that which Paul opposes, it must be observed, that the sacraments, when we partake of them in a sincere manner, are not the works of men, but of God. In baptism or the Lord's supper, we do nothing but present ourselves to God, in order to receive his grace. Baptism, viewed in regard to us, is a passive work: we bring nothing to it but faith; and all that belongs to it is laid up in Christ. But what are the views of the Papists? They contrive the opus operatum, by which men merit the grace of God; and what is this, but to extinguish utterly the truth of the sacrament? Baptism and the Lord's supper are retained by us, because it was the will of Christ that the use of them should be perpetual; but we bitterly detest those ungodly absurdities, as we should do.
...Righteousness, therefore, lies in faith and is obtained in the Spirit, without ceremonies.... When he says that we obtain righteousness by faith, it applies equally to us and to the patriarchs. All of them, as the Scripture testifies, pleased God by faith; but their faith was wrapped up in the veil of ceremonies. Therefore he distinguishes us from them by the word 'spirit', which is contrasted to outward shadows. He therefore means that bare faith is now sufficient for obtaining righteousness, one which is not adorned with the pomp of ceremonies but is satisfied with the spiritual worship of God.
...by synecdoche, the word 'circumcision' is put for ceremonies.
by David and Tim Bayly on October 10, 2005 - 5:43pm
When you hear a role for works advocated in the area of justification, don't assume that the one advocating such a view actually possesses a high view of the Law. Yes, there are those who advocate justification by faith plus works. But they are usually satisfied with very meagre works, and their respect for the Law is usually equally meagre.
There are many who wish to reintroduce the Law into justification, who suggest that the message of the parable of the Good Samaritan is simply that we should do like the Good Samaritan to inherit eternal life, but do they actually respect God's Law? Are their churches notable bastions of righteousness where the Law is thoroughly preached, where repentance is urged and church discipline rigorously applied to law breakers? Are they themselves men who hold themselves to higher moral standards than other men?
No. The average Puritan who denied the Law a role in justification did a better job of preaching and applying the Law than such men. Martin Luther, whose view of the Law such men revile, would be ashamed to send out preachers so ill-equipped to call men to obedience and the sanctified life of repentance and love as these men.
This is what you need to understand: men who shout works and parade the Law in the realm of justification are not actually men who lead others to obedience to the Law. They're practicing bait and switch, a theological shell game in which they shout, "Law, law, law," but are actually thinking inside, "Sacraments, sacraments, sacraments."
Reintroduce law into justification and you open the door to faith-plus-something. That "something" is never legal righteousness. It always turns out to be sacerdotal power, the great grand priest in his robes and sacerdotal office holding forth like the Pope.
Understand this: whenever you hear a pastor arguing for works as part of justification, you hear a pastor seeking the office of Pope.
Roman Catholicism is the premiere example of faith plus works. And do you see much of holy works in Roman Catholicism? Does Roman Catholicism stand out for the piety and holiness of its adherents? Or does it rather stand out for the claims of its priests, for its sacerdotal answers to sinful failure to keep the Law?
Those who advocate works in justification care little for works, care little for God's Law, are not preachers of righteousness, are not pastors of churches notable for holiness. They are Pope wannabes, and nothing else.
by David and Tim Bayly on October 20, 2005 - 10:19am
Doug Wilson posted a troubling little piece recently titled, "Discerning the Body" in which he purports to take N.T. Wright to task for deficiencies in his corporate view of justification, but in fact, takes just as much of a stick to those who reject the paedocommunionist implications of corporate justification.
by David and Tim Bayly on October 22, 2005 - 7:18pm
Earlier, I mentioned how pleased I was that the elders of the church John Piper serves as pastor, Bethlehem Baptist, have proposed to allow fellow Christians to hold membership without being rebaptized if they received covenantal household baptism as infants or children. And in that same connection, I wrote that I am opposed to those who say that full immersion is the only legitimate mode of baptism. I'm equally opposed to Presbyterians who refuse to baptize adults by any method other than effusion.
Often, this controversy has seemed to me nothing but a "Nanny nanny poo poo!" contest between Baptists and Presbyterians. Something to the effect of, "You require immersion so we require effusion. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it!"
Tomorrow morning we have the privilege of witnessing the public profession of faith and baptism of Justin Clampitt, a young man who has grown up in our church whose parents are of the Baptist persuasion. And I will be pleased to baptize him by full immersion, not feeling at all that I'm failing to spread my own Presbyterian doctrinal commitments. How can I say such a thing?
Read on for a very good explanation by Princeton Seminary's own B. B. Warfield, one of America's most eminent theologians. If you have a dog in this race, please read this piece. Thanks.
John Lightfoot has preserved for us a curious account of the debate in the Westminster Assembly upon the question whether the new Directory for Worship should recognize immersion alongside of affusion as an alternative mode of baptism, or should exclude it altogether in favor of affusion. The latter was determined upon; but Lightfoot tells us, "It was voted so indifferently, that we were glad to count names twice: for so many were unwilling to have dipping excluded, that the votes came to an equality within one; for the one side was twenty-four--the other twenty-five." The guarded clauses which finally took their places in the Westminster Directory and Confession of Faith, reflect the state of opinion in the Assembly revealed by this close vote; and, when read in its light, will not fail to operate to enshrine still a reminiscence of the earlier custom of baptism by immersion.
Survivals such as these prepare us to learn that here was a time when immersion was as universal even in the West as in the East.
There is a sense, then, in which we may say broadly that the present diversity in baptismal usage is a growth of time; and that, should we move back within the first millennium of the Church's life, we should find the whole Christian world united in the ordinary use of trine immersion. The meaning of this fact to us will be conditioned, however, by the results of two further lines of inquiry. We should inquire whether this universality of trine immersion was itself the result of ecclesiastical development, or whether it represents primitive, that is, apostolic practice. And we should inquire whether conformity to this mode of baptism was held to be essential to the validity of baptism, or only necessary to the good order of the Church...
I agree with you in the main - you could also have quoted Calvin, who stated that immersion was a legitimate mode of baptism. My experience has been that very few Presbyterians (save Jay Adams and those who follow his booklet) are in principle opposed to immersion as a mode of baptism.
The problem that I have - and I wonder (sincerely) if you would comment to it - is not so much a matter of sacramentology as ecclesiology. If the clear practice of a church, as well as its physical capabilities are in a certain direction, i.e. there is no baptismal immersion tub, is it wise to change the Church to meet the needs of the individual?
by David and Tim Bayly on November 17, 2005 - 8:47am
We might well be thrown off the scent were we to read Calvinists to understand Calvin or Lutherans to understand Luther. There's a little secret shared by intellectuals and scholars called "primary sources," by which they make quite a nice living--in fact, a living in every way comparable or even superior to any of the ecclesiastical "livings" attacked by Good Man Kierkegaard. And they leave only the drippings for the poor souls in the pew, having thrust their forks into the pot and made off with the fat and choicest cuts of meat.
Educated or uneducated, wise souls will refuse to be left with with the bony and tough secondary sources and demand their full money's worth--namely, the words of Luther himself rather than his pedantic, formalistic, and antinomian descendants.
In that vein, from Luther's scribes we hear much of the "three uses of the law," and in all their discussions we might well never hear mention of what Luther himself labelled the "three abuses of the law." Well then, straight from the horses mouth, this wonderful summary of God's grace to sinners who have been saved by grace but still struggle with the law of sin and death within us:
(Galatians 3:23, 24) But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed.
We know that Paul has reference to the time of Christ's coming. It was then that faith and the object of faith were fully revealed. But we may apply the historical fact to our inner life. When Christ came He abolished the Law and brought liberty and life to light. This He continues to do in the hearts of the believers. The Christian has a body in whose members, as Paul says, sin dwells and wars. I take sin to mean not only the deed but root, tree, fruit, and all. A Christian may perhaps not fall into the gross sins of murder, adultery, theft, but he is not free from impatience, complaints, hatreds, and blasphemy of God. As carnal lust is strong in a young man, in a man of full age the desire for glory, and in an old man covetousness, so impatience, doubt, and hatred of God often prevail in the hearts of sincere Christians. Examples of these sins may be garnered from the Psalms, Job, Jeremiah, and all the Sacred Scriptures.
Accordingly each Christian continues to experience in his heart times of the Law and times of the Gospel. The times of the Law are discernible by heaviness of heart, by a lively sense of sin, and a feeling of despair brought on by the Law. These periods of the Law will come again and again as long as we live. To mention my own case...
by David and Tim Bayly on November 26, 2005 - 9:48am
While we've not failed to argue the reformed distinction between general and special revelation--that general revelation is sufficient to condemn while special revelation alone leads to saving faith in Jesus Christ--there is a current within reformed churches today that uses this distinction to provide comfort for what appears to us to be heartlessness toward our neighbors. The illogic goes something like this:
If pagans choose to kill their unborn (or newly born) children, they do so because God has given them over. Who are we to intervene?
If pagans choose to copulate like alley cats, they do so because God has given them over. Why should we oppose what God has decreed?
If pagans choose to sterilize their marital love, more power to God's covenant people who will have lots of children, teach them how to think and lead, and take over our nation.
If pagans choose to sodomize one another, what business is that of ours? We can't expect them to acknowledge, let alone follow, God's Law. Let the civil authority handle such matters in the way best calculated to preserve peace among us; if sodomites come to Christ, they will see the error of their ways and repent.
It is such reasoning that allows reformed and evangelical leaders to argue in favor of the repeal of all laws opposing sodomy across our nation. What are we to say to them...
The following was written over a year ago as my own personal mental discipline in response to a certain teaching elder within my own denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America, coming out in a prominent national forum in favor of the repeal of all sodomy laws across our country. I have not published these thoughts on the blog or in any other forum. Now, though, I am putting them on this blog to assist others in fighting against this betrayal of God's Truth and the souls and lives of those vulnerable to sodomy. I would welcome E-mails from any who have additional sources or arguments to add strengthening this case.
Genesis 2:20-25 The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. 21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. 22 The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. 23 The man said, "This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man." 24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
God ordained the nature and meaning of sexuality prior to the Fall, and no human authority may separate what God has joined together: sex is to be within species and heterosexual (between man and woman). This is a universal truth rooted in the Creation Order and therefore binding on all men across all time. This is the teaching of Genesis 2 and other texts having to do with sexuality, and marriage only builds upon what Genesis 2 declares.
Exodus 20:14 You shall not commit adultery.
As the Westminster Standards teach, sodomy is prohibited by the Seventh Commandment. If, despite the teaching of this Commandment, the man of God is justified in opposing and seeking the repeal of the civil authority's laws proscribing sodomy, are there any sins against this Commandment the civil authority may proscribe?
by David and Tim Bayly on December 1, 2005 - 8:16am
There's been quite a discussion, both at Mr. McCain's blog and this one--particularly in the comments under individual posts--concerning the reformed Protestant, as opposed to the Lutheran, view of God's agency in salvation and damnation.
Although there are many hundreds of texts which could be quoted here, all sides realize the classic locations that must be dealt with concerning this matter are Isaiah 45 and Romans 9. Here, then, are these texts, followed by three expositions (all emphases added).
David and I believe both the Westminster Standards and Martin Luther's Bondage of the Will are faithful to the Word of God. On the other hand, it's clear we could not subscribe to the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church's standards as they deal with these texts.
First, from the Word of God Himself, the passages under debate:
(Isaiah 45:5-10) I am the LORD, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God. I will gird you, though you have not known Me; That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun That there is no one besides Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other, The One forming light and creating darkness, Causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these. Drip down, O heavens, from above, And let the clouds pour down righteousness; Let the earth open up and salvation bear fruit, And righteousness spring up with it. I, the LORD, have created it. Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker-- An earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth! Will the clay say to the potter, "What are you doing?" Or the thing you are making say, "He has no hands"? Woe to him who says to a father, "What are you begetting?" Or to a woman, "To what are you giving birth?"
(Romans 9:18-22) So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?" On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, "Why did you make me like this," will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?
Second, Martin Luther from his Bondage of the Will:
by David and Tim Bayly on December 7, 2005 - 4:46pm
In the midst of a number of posts by good men (including, I think, my own brother) criticizing the man of "solo Scriptura" sitting alone with His Bible coming up with theology without regard for others or church history, let us remember Luther's account of his conversion, the seminal moment of the Protestant Reformation.
Can we agree that at least on occasion we should be grateful for a man sitting alone with his Bible coming to theological conclusions outside the thinking of his church and day?
Though I lived as a monk without reproach, I felt that I was a sinner before God with an extremely disturbed conscience. I could not believe that he was placated by my satisfaction. I did not love, yes, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners, and secretly, if not blasphemously, certainly murmuring greatly, I was angry with God, and said, "As if, indeed, it is not enough, that miserable sinners, eternally lost through original sin, are crushed by every kind of calamity by the law of the decalogue, without having God add pain to pain by the gospel and also by the gospel threatening us with his righteousness and wrath!" Thus I raged with a fierce and troubled conscience. Nevertheless, I beat importunately upon Paul at that place, most ardently desiring to know what St. Paul wanted.
At last, by the mercy of God, meditating day and night, I gave heed to the context of the words, namely, "In it the righteousness of God is revealed, as it is written, 'He who through faith is righteous shall live.' " There I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by a gift of God, namely by faith. And this is the meaning: the righteousness of God is revealed by the gospel, namely, the passive righteousness with which merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written, "He who through faith is righteous shall live." Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates. There a totally other face of the entire Scripture showed itself to me. Thereupon I ran through the Scriptures from memory. I also found in other terms an analogy, as, the work of God, that is, what God does in us, the power of God, with which he makes us strong, the wisdom of God, with which he makes us wise, the strength of God, the salvation of God, the glory of God.
And I extolled my sweetest word with a love as great as the hatred with which I had before hated the word "righteousness of God." Thus that place in Paul was for me truly the gate to paradise. Later I read Augustine's The Spirit and the Letter, where contrary to hope I found that he, too, interpreted God's righteousness in a similar way, as the righteousness with which God clothes us when he justifies us. Although this was heretofore said imperfectly and he did not explain all things concerning imputation clearly, it nevertheless was pleasing that God's righteousness with which we are justified was taught. Armed more fully with these thoughts, I began a second time to interpret the Psalter. And the work would have grown into a large commentary, if I had not again been compelled to leave the work begun, because Emperor Charles V in the following year convened the diet at Worms.
I relate these things, good reader, so that, if you are a reader of my puny works, you may keep in mind, that, as I said above, I was all alone and one of those who, as Augustine says of himself, have become proficient by writing and teaching. I was not one of those who from nothing suddenly become the topmost, though they are nothing, neither have labored, nor been tempted, nor become experienced, but have with one look at the Scriptures exhausted their entire spirit.
Luther, M. (1999, c1960). Vol. 34: Luther's works, vol. 34 : Career of the Reformer IV (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
by David and Tim Bayly on December 9, 2005 - 6:11am
Mud frequently tells us, "Comparisons are odious." And they are. But when someone starts comparing, sometimes it's necessary to become more odious correctively. The Wall Street Journal's Opinion Online has a column by John Wilson lauding N. T. Wright as "the most influential biblical scholar in American evangelical circles today."
Well, no one can deny his influence. But I would submit that without Doug Wilson's work over the last twenty years, Wright would have far less traction in American Evangelicalism. And my hope is that Wilson will prove a significant restraint on Wright's influence in days to come.
Though no one with a PhD or who teaches in a seminary will ever admit it, I suspect that the most truly influential theologian in American Evangelical circles today is Doug Wilson. Certainly no one, including especially any of the professional counter-Wrights of our day, is capable of doing more to limit Wright's influence over American Evangelicalism than Wilson. Not all Wright says is wrong and Wilson is among Wright's approving audience at times. But Wilson has also been one of the more accurate guides to where Wright is wrong.
by David and Tim Bayly on January 25, 2006 - 10:18am
The Anabaptist movement's success in bringing American Protestantism to disdain the flesh is increasingly complete. From baptism to marriage, what counts is not what is done in the flesh, but only what is done in the mind (or the "heart"). The ridiculous idea that the heart is true while the flesh is deceptive reigns almost universal.
The first and chief example of this is found in the triumph of the Baptist view of baptism. Even in the Reformed community baptism is increasingly viewed as a mere token of salvation rather than the instrument by which God seals His relationship to His children's children by "engrafting them into His church and adopting them as His own." (Calvin's description, not my own.)
The problem with this view, of course, lies in the trust it places in the human heart. Having performed many "believer" baptisms, I have come to place no more confidence in the redeemed status of adults I baptize by profession of faith than I possess through hope for the redemption of infants baptized into families of living faith.
So, also, the Lord's Supper has become entirely memorial, entirely representative. There is no spiritual presence of the flesh of Christ in the bread, no blood in the cup. I do not speak here of transubstantiation, the heresy that Christ's body is offered again and again in the physical presence of the communicant. But the classic teaching of Reformed theology that through faith the communicant is brought into heaven and there eats and drinks spiritually the true body and blood of Christ is disdained. The statement of Christ, that those who will not eat His flesh and drink His blood no longer carries any offense in the modern Protestant view. If only the many followers who turned away from Christ because He taught this could have known what He really meant... He was referring merely to a symbol, not real flesh and real blood.
by David and Tim Bayly on January 25, 2006 - 7:24pm
There are many reasons for Christians to honor and respect the physical nature God has endowed them with. Rather than disdain the body Christians should honor their physical natures and offer thanks to God for creating us as corporeal beings rather than spirits for the following reasons.
1. Christ became flesh. Had Christ not taken on flesh, no human flesh could enter heaven. Because Christ took on flesh, becoming God incarnate, our salvation is purchased. Flesh is so central to the work of Christ that Scripture warns us denial of Christ's flesh is rejection of Christ's work.
1 John 4:2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.
2. Scripture tells us the body should be nourished and cherished just as Christ loves His Church.
Ephesians 5:28-29 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church.
3. The one-flesh union of man and wife was given mankind by God to serve as the source of our greatest earthly help and comfort. Without our physical bodies there would be no marriage, no sexual union, no children. God has blessed us in a manner denied the angels by permitting us bodies with which we may take part in the wonder of procreation. Isaac went into his mother's tent with Rebecca and was comforted there in the loss of his mother by the body of his wife.
4. Without the body how much less joyful life would be. No feasting. No ice cream! No back rubs! No body surfing! No exhaustion! No rest!
5. Without the body, the sacraments could not exist.
6. Though "the flesh" often stands for the sinfulness of this world in Scripture, one of Scripture's great promises is that God will give hearts of flesh in place of hearts of stone to those whom He loves.
Ezekiel 36:26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
7. The Bible promises us that through acting on the flesh God influences and cleanses the spirit.
1 Peter 4:1 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.
Those who disdain the physical significance of the sacraments rarely speak against the value of suffering in the flesh. Yet isn't the promise of spiritual fruit from physical deeds of 1 Peter 4:1 similar in principle to the promises attached to baptism and the Lord's Supper?
by David and Tim Bayly on February 13, 2006 - 9:52am
May I gently remind our good readers that Tim and I firmly believe that the practice of theology as currently conducted in much of the Evangelical and Reformed world is tragically warped by its disconnect from the authority of the Church and the shepherding work of the pastoral office.
Tim and I not only value the biblically-defined calling of women too highly to honor women who prefer the sterile realm of the rabbinical school above those who give their all to motherhood, we honor the calling of fatherhood in home and Church over that of professional theologian as well.
Theology can little more be practiced in the absence of authority than swimming can be practiced in the absence of water. We must be under Church authority and possessed of Church authority to be true theologicans. Theology without authority is philosophy. Theology without shepherding is dilettantism. Unfortunately, the Evangelical theological fraternity (much like the internet theological world) is filled with philosophical dilettantism.
Doesn't the PCA (along with many other Reformed and Evangelical demoninations) need more doers of and fewer speculators upon the Word? Though the issue that brings this to the fore is Ms Custis-James urging women to become rabbinical students, it doesn't end there. It continues on into Evangelical seminaries and internet monasteries where men are as likely to be dry clouds as the women who follow Ms Custis James.
In the years I spent arguing (one-sidedly, admittedly) against Open Theism in general and John Sanders' "inclusivist" strain of Open Theism within my former denomination in particular, I often wondered if Sanders and his friends had ever really read the Old Testament--not just paged through it glancing at words, but READ it.
The same thought occurs to me today as I read modern critics of a substitutionary and propitiatory atonement suggest that God would not cast the sins of all men on one Man.
What Bible do these men read? I know they pay lip service to the scapegoat and sacrifices of the Old Testament, but they fail to see in these a specific act of substitutionary propitiation. And perhaps legitimately so, because the sin of man could never be borne by goats or bulls. Substitionary penal atonement can be seen only in type in the Old Testament's sacrifices.
But what about those passages which specifically refer to transfer of sin and guilt in the Old Testament? In Numbers 18 the LORD says to Aaron, "You and your sons and your father's household with you shall bear the guilt in connection with the santuary, and you and your sons with you shall bear the guilt in connection with the priesthood."
And in Numbers 9:13, the Law states of the person who fails to observe the Passover, "...that man will bear his sin."
At such points Scripture is no longer speaking typically. This is not a picture, this is a clear statement of the transfer of sin.
The real problem at the heart of modern rejection of the substitutionary, propitiatory view of the atonement is not a distaste for the substitutionary violence of God against His Son, but a low view of sin. Advocates of newer views of the atonement hate the high regard for sin inherent in Scripture's sacrificial system. Their problem really, is an unwillingness to accept the Biblical picture of depravity, not a substitionary and propitiatory view of the atonement.
Greg Johnson is a graduate of my denomination's seminary, Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, and this article he's written strikes me as typical of the sort of poisonous grace talk I've run into too often, recently, including among men from Covenant. Because the error is so common, it might be good for us to critique this particular piece as a means of warning others away from these errors.
Note well: I am not saying everything in this article is bad. There are things here worth saying, some of which are downright helpful and good. But the admixture of truth and error ultimately renders this piece unsalvageable except as an exercise in the practice of that most-neglected-of-all-spiritual-gifts, discernment.
So would you please take some part of this article and, quoting it, show how it is contrary to Scripture? Don't worry if your work is duplicated by someone else. I'm hopeful we'll have thousands of words written about this piece, permanently deposited here in our comments section to be read by others. Of course, it's proper to note the good points Johnson makes, but my principal concern is to see the errors exposed as a warning to all.
Feel free to argue against another reader's critique. The goal here is to grow our discernment quotient, making us all more useful in defending the church against false teaching--particularly false teaching hiding behind the cover of "grace."
Freedom from Quiet Time Guilt: The rare beauty of Weakness Christianity
by Greg Johnson
1. The Diagnosis: Quiet Time Guilt
I recently watched as a congregation I love was spiritually raped. A Christian ministry came into the church for a three-day program whose purpose was to encourage believers to pray more. During one of the breakout sessions, a man expressed his frustration with unanswered prayer. He had faithfully prayed with and for his daughter for years, and still she was not walking with God. He was broken, depressed, perhaps more than a little ashamed. How does God in his grace speak to this man? A bruised reed was crying out for help.
"You need to try harder. You need to pray more." That was the message he was given. I was enraged. Having known this church for many years, I was horrified. What I was hearing was what one seminary professor calls sola bootstrapa. Self-reliance--we pull ourselves up by our own spiritual bootstraps. The teachers who said such things surely meant well. The problem was not a lack of sincerity on their part. The diagnosis is far more severe. The problem was heresy. Any heresy wounds the soul.
When I look upon the evangelical world today, I see millions of sincere believers who are loaded down with false guilt by teachers who fail to grasp the basics of biblical prayer. To sharpen the point slightly, Christ's sheep have been lied to. They have been told that prayer is a work that we must perform in order to get God to bless us. As heresies go, this one is often subtle. Prayer has become a work rather than a grace. The result has been a loss of joy in prayer.
And prayer is not the only grace we've turned into a work. Personal Bible study has become a source of bondage as well. A whole generation of Christians has been told that God will bless them if they read their Bibles every day, as if the act of reading the Scriptures were some kind of magic talisman by which we gain power over God and secure his favor. This is not the religion of the Bible. This pervasive belief that God gives us grace as a reward for our devotional consistency is antithetical to the religion of Jesus Christ. Prayer and Bible study--what evangelicals for the past century have called the "quiet time"--have become dreaded precisely because they have been radically misunderstood.
It's ironic, but the Quiet Time has become the number one cause of defeat among Bible-believing Christians today. At one time or another, nearly every sincere believer feels a deep sense of failure and the accompanying feelings of guilt and shame because he or she has failed to set aside a separate time for Bible study and prayer. This condition is called Quiet Time Guilt. And it's a condition with many repercussions. The shame of Quiet Time Guilt manifests itself in even deeper inability to fruitfully and joyfully study Scripture. Prayer becomes a dread; Bible study a burden. The Christian suffering from Quiet Time Guilt then despairs of seeing God work in his or her life, until finally he or she simply gives up. He may continue outward and public Christian commitments like church attendance, but secretly he feels a hypocrite. What is the root of Quiet Time Guilt?
2. The Culprit: Legalism
The root of Quiet Time Guilt is legalism. Often when we think of legalism, we think of the petty man-made rules that have so often strangled the churches--rules against dancing or drinking or makeup or 'secular' music. But these legalistic rules are merely an outward sign of a deeper legalism of the heart. When prayer and Bible study are thought of primarily as duties ('disciplines') rather than as grace, both prayer and the study of Scripture become unfruitful in our lives...
Click here to finish reading Johnson's article, "Freedom from Quiet Time Guilt."
Another exercise in discernment: please join this work. Resistance is not futile.
In the godly, fear and love embrace.
Dear readers, my brother, David, and I have often written here that our work on this blog is an extension of our calling to serve as shepherds of God's flock. And although we recognize this calling is primarily to particular congregations in Toledo and Bloomington, we approach this blog as an extension of our local ministry and work to serve as shepherds here, also. In fact, a high proportion of our readers are present or past members of our congregations. Whether the medium is the telephone, E-mail, church newsletters, or blogs, David and I are working to correct, encourage, and rebuke, with great patience.
At times we give in to the temptation to waste these words on inconsequential matters, but we hope not too often. Seeing the title of my recent post, "The World Cup, racism, and the reprobate," some likely wondered why I was squandering time on soccer? But the post wasn't really about soccer, but rather the sin of racism, and the failure of pastors and elders who connive at this sin in their congregations.
Why this lengthy preamble?
Here is a link to a piece I believe to be terribly dangerous. I've considered whether it's too dangerous to be circulated, but I think we need to read it. It's a sermon by Lutheran scholar Marcus Borg, titled "The Character of God," given at Calvary Episcopal Church in Memphis, Tennessee, on March 24, 2000.
Professor Borg is leading the souls he's teaching in a liberal and academic context to a place that is similar to the place Covenant Theological Seminary graduate and PCA pastor, Greg Johnson, takes us in his piece , "Freedom from Quiet Time Guilt: The Rare Beauty of Weakness Christianity." Sure, Pastor Johnson uses terminology and arguments that would appeal to conservative reformed, rather than liberal Lutheran, academic types. But both pieces, I believe, lead souls to presume on God's grace and allow no place for the fear of God...
by David and Tim Bayly on August 23, 2006 - 7:15am
Women and children first?
July 6-24, the Scripps Survey Research Center at Ohio University put the following question to 1,010 men and women:
You may recall that male passengers on the Titanic agreed to give up their places on the lifeboats for women and children. If there were a similar situation today, do you think men should be expected to die and allow women to live, or is this an old fashioned idea?
Among men, 63% of men agreed to die for women; 23% thought the idea was old fashioned; and 14% couldn't make up their minds. "Quick, the boat's sinking, Mr. Bayly: What'll it be--you or your wife?"
"Well um... Ahem... On the one hand..."
Among women, though, 43% said men shouldn't bother sacrificing for them while only 39% still thought it was good for men to give up their spots in the lifeboats for women; 18% were undecided. "Quick, the boat's sinking, Mrs. Bayly: What'll it be--you or your husband?"
"Well um... Ahem... I don't know--Tim's the man of the house; let him decide."
We all know the world has lost its way on the meaning of sexuality, but what about the church? I'm reminded of two experiences in my own denomination, the PCA, where the state of affairs became clear.
Several years ago, I served on a study committee of our general assembly assigned to produce a study paper on women in combat. As you might guess, I was agin' it but there were a number of pastors and elders on the committee who would have fit right into this poll. Some were military officers (chaplains, sadly), while others were pastors of local churches. Just short of half our committee believed..
by David and Tim Bayly on November 21, 2006 - 7:28am
Every time someone asks a candidate for licensure, "Tell me why dispensationalism is wrong," in the candidates and credentials committee of my presbytery I cringe.
I'm not a dispensationalist, but the answers sought and given are often caricatures rather than fair assessments.
Some years ago I sought to explain to one of the last dinosaurs of dispensationalism why dispensationalists couldn't be true Calvinists. The dispensationalist I was talking to was John Sailhamer. The setting of our talk was a breakfast at the 2000 meeting of the Evangelical Society in Boston--where John was assuming the presidency of ETS. The issues we discussed were Amyraldianism and the order of God's decrees (infralapsarianism vs. supralapsarianism). And what I learned was that I didn't know Reformed theology as well as my dispensationalist friend, let alone dispensationalism.
By the end of our conversation most of my cocksure views had been gently removed and I promised myself I would never again presume to define dispensationalism's faults--at least to a real live thinking dispensationalist. I don't agree with dispensationalism, but I'm not an expert on it. And when I did meet an expert, I found certain stock Reformed criticisms of dispensationalism rather threadbare. Dispensationalists deserve to be taken seriously. Reformed believers don't appreciate being accused of the things Arminians suggest against us. Most are false. We need to be as careful in what we say about dispensationalism as we ask Arminians to be toward us.
For more on illegitimate criticisms of dispensationalism read this post by Dan Phillips.
by David and Tim Bayly on February 24, 2007 - 10:25am
Note from Tim Bayly: The following is written by Rev. David Wegener, a missionary with Mission to the World who teaches theology at the Theology College of Central Africa in Ndola, Zambia. Mr. Wegener and his family are supported by the missions budgets of both Christ the Word and Church of the Good Shepherd.
This year the Wegeners are on home assignment and David has been teaching the men of the Reformed Evangelical Pastors College. I asked David to make some occasional contributions to the blog and this is his first. (If your congregation is looking for an excellent mission work and family to add to your support list, I commend David's work and family to you and suggest you send me an E-mail asking for David's contact information so they can visit you or your church.)
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One of the great joys of my life has been reading the books written by Iain Murray. Pastor Murray was the former assistant of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones at Westminster Chapel in London. He also pastored churches in England and Australia, as well as working for the Banner of Truth publishing company. I could list all of Murray's books and tell of the impact they have made on my life but that would take too long.
Recently, I've enjoyed reading one of his books, Wesley and the Men Who Followed (Banner, 2003). He answered some questions I've had about John Wesley for many years.
Wesley's conversion was a difficult process, one that John himself struggled to understand. Though brought up in a pastor's home, he went off to Oxford University as an unconverted man...
Our session has discussed changing from grape juice to wine at the Lord's Table, but decided against it. It was a lengthy and impassioned debate, but without going into the particulars, here's Matthew Henry on the subject, taken from his comments on 1Corinthians 11:
As to the visible signs; these are bread and the cup, the former of which is called bread many times over in this passage, even after what the papists call consecration. What is eaten is called bread, though it be at the same time said to be the body of the Lord, a plain argument that the apostle knew nothing of their monstrous and absurd doctrine of transubstantiation. The latter is as plainly a part of this institution as words can make it. St. Matthew tells us, our Lord bade them all drink of it (Mt 26:27), as if he would, by this expression, lay in a caveat against the papists' depriving the laity of the cup. Bread and the cup are both made use of, because it is a holy feast. Nor is it here, or any where, made necessary, that any particular liquor should be in the cup. In one evangelist, indeed, it is plain that wine was the liquor used by our Saviour, though it was, perhaps, mingled with water, according to the Jewish custom; vide Lightfoot on Matthew 26. But this by no means renders it unlawful to have a sacrament where persons cannot come at wine. In every place of scripture in which we have an account of this part of the institution it is always expressed by a figure. The cup is put for what was in it, without once specifying what the liquor was, in the words of the institution.
We've had a good discussion of the use of fermented or unfermented grape juice at the Lord's Table. Before it ends, here are a few resources for elders and pastors debating this matter. This page provides more historical context, and this page more polemics, for this debate than you ever thought existed. Finally, this page establishes the superiority of grape juice for all those who, like Prophet Gore, are willing to allow science her rightful position as final arbiter of true morality.
Turning from the matter recently treated in a prior post concerning the proper connection and chronological order of forgiveness of sin and Baptism, here's John Calvin on the Lord's Supper. Again, note how carefully he opposes sacramentalism, stating that the sacraments "derive their virtue from the word when it is preached intelligibly," and that "Without this they deserve not the name of sacraments."
One comment under the post I previously referenced tried to pass off the reformers' emphasis on the connection between the Word and the sacraments as being fulfilled in the reading of the words of institution. Here Calvin makes clear it is the Word preached.
Finally, note Calvin's interesting and helpful discussion of the errors, but similar concerns, of Luther and Zwingli in the matter of the Lord's Supper. May we oppose sacramentalism and bare memorialism with the same kind understanding.
FIrst, then, Calvin on the proper understanding of the Lord's Supper:
48. THE WORD OUGHT ALWAYS TO ACCOMPANY THE SACRAMENTS. The principal thing recommended by our Lord is to celebrate the ordinance with true understanding. From this it follows that the essential part lies in the doctrine.
I’ve recently been struck by similarities between the arguments made by champions of baptismal efficacy in Reformed circles and advocates of the altar call in Baptist and fundamentalist circles.
In my early years as a pastor I served a church where an altar call was expected at the conclusion of each sermon. When I questioned the need for the altar call I was told (by those who could provide any defense at all) that the altar call was simply a form which permitted obedience to Scripture’s command, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
No one denies that confession of Christ as Lord is a Scriptural hallmark of regenerate life. But what those who focus on the efficacy of baptism often seem to forget is that Scripture just as frequently and overtly ties salvation to verbal confession as to water baptism:
Romans 10:9-10 … if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
1 John 1:7-9 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 2:23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.
1 John 4:15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.
Matthew 10:32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven…
When I would ask older parents in that church the spiritual state of their children they would routinely describe lives of tragic sin and rebellion against God: "Donald's had some trouble with alcohol. He's losing his license to practice law. He's about to get his third divorce...." Yet when I would go on to ask Mrs. Smith if she would like me to pray for Donald's salvation she would answer, “No, Donald's not an unbeliever. He went to the altar when he was eleven and I just know he’s a Christian.”
I've read Rev. Peter Leithart's post-General Assembly letter to the stated clerk of his presbytery several times now and two questions occur to me.
Before beginning, however, a confession. I find the idea of a pre-fall covenant of works between God and Adam somewhat of a stretch Biblically, I do believe in the powerful congruence between Adam and Christ which the term "covenant of works" apparently refers to. Yet Hosea 6:7 notwithstanding, I remain unconvinced Scripturally of the existence of an objective covenant between God and Adam. In this as in most matters I prefer Calvin's approach to the Covenants to the views that followed him
That said, I don't understand why Pastor Leithart rejects any notion of merit in Adam in his response to point 4 of the Ad Interim Report only to argue in point 9 that James teaches a final judgment according to works. It seems he cuts the donkey's nose off only to turn around and pin it on its tail by denying merit in Adam while arguing for a final judgment based on works. Perhaps he distinguishes between works and merit. If so, it seems a distinction without much difference. The idea that Adam's obedience did not satisfy God because God needs no one's obedience doesn't square with his somewhat inchoate insistence that we give the passage in James its due which declares, "You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone."
It's often suggested that Matthew 25 teaches a final judgment according to works. I question the accuracy of such language in reference to Matthew 25. In fact, Matthew 25 does speak of a final judgment in accord with what we do, but the basis of that judgment isn't works in the plural sense, the basis of that judgment is said by Christ to be one deed (or work), whether good or ill.
Christ is describing the final judgment before His throne where the sheep will be separated from the goats.
Speaking to the sheep, Christ says, the King will say:
Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.
This clearly sounds like the scenario described by those who propose a final judgment on the basis of works. But then Christ adds further details fundamentally important to understanding this judgment. First, he tells us that the sheep will not understand their acquittal:
It’s stock-in-trade for persecuted theological minorities to claim they’re doing Biblical theology while their foes are engaged only in systematic theology. It’s also stock-in-trade for persecuted minorities to claim, “I’m only asking questions here. Can’t we ask questions?”
Well, of course, questions are permissible. But sometimes questions become statements, and that’s when the issue of Biblical versus systematic theology comes into play.
Biblical theology, I’m increasingly convinced, is simply systematic theology with blinkers on. It’s theology without the analogy of faith. It’s a man in a rut liking his rut, finding reward in his rut and telling the world they should live in his rut if they really want to see the truth.
I have a list of questions that have been occurring to me—primarily during my morning shower—that I’d like to ask serious proponents of Federal Vision theology. I have a similar, but shorter, list of questions I'd like to ask supporters of the Ad Interim Report on Federal Vision and New Perspective theology but I’ll ignore them for now since they need time to germinate in my mind.
Let me add that I’m asking these questions in all seriousness. They’re important questions, answers to which would help me (and perhaps others) understand the Federal Vision trajectory more clearly.
When I read Federal Vision (FV) writers—especially the younger sort who seem to populate the blog world—they routinely accuse their non-FV foes of being “Baptist” or “baptistic.” Now it occurs to me that since the Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches (CREC), the ecclesiastical center of FV thought, accepts churches and elders which subscribe to the London Baptist Confession, that instead of a pejorative, this may actually be a term of endearment. Obviously I’m being sarcastic, but I truly mean the question: is “baptistic” the powerfully pejorative term it appears to be in the FV world?
If you answered the previous question in the affirmative, which would you prefer to be: an average North American Baptist or an average North American Roman Catholic? Only concise, unqualified answers to this question, please….
If you did not quickly and unqualifiedly answer “Baptist” to question number 2, do you complain bitterly when FV foes say FV advocates are on their way to Rome? Why? At the very least wouldn’t you agree that it’s hypocritical to complain about being called an incipient Roman Catholic when you accuse others of being “Baptist” and you view being Baptist as negatively as being Roman Catholic?
As a supporter of the Ad Interim Report I’ve criticized strategy, tone and at times even the arguments of FV foes within the PCA. I can’t recall ever hearing serious self-criticism within the FV camp. Are there people within the FV movement whose tone you repudiate? Are there those who have taken their theological arguments too far? Or is the FV movement ultimately defined, as it sometimes seems to me, by the most radical of its young turks? Does anyone ride herd on the FV movement?
Please understand that this is a genuine question… I understand, I think, the FV desire to emphasize works. To a certain degree I even agree with it. BUT, it increasingly seems to me that the FV movement, though arguing for a final judgment on the basis of works, ultimately tends to limit those justifying works to the sacraments. Do you understand why I would say this? Is there any truth to my perception?
Again, please remember that I’m at least somewhat your friend when I ask this…. I’ve noticed a tone of condescension—at times snideness—among FV advocates when the subject of piety comes up. And while pietism is, I suppose, a sufficiently defined form of legalism to warrant condemnation, piety itself is condoned and even commanded by Scripture. Why, brothers, do many FVers permit (if not condone) the mocking of piety? Can you understand my saying that at times it seems FVers delight in contradicting others’ expectations of holiness? Is this wise?
Finally, perhaps my most important question. But first a prelude…. I see danger in FV statements of baptismal efficacy. I think the FV view of baptism could (at the very least) lead FV proponents and churches into the camp of presumptive regeneration, a view I’m convinced is dangerous to our children’s spiritual health. You may not agree with me about that danger. That’s fine. But here’s my question: what advantage do your children obtain from your view? What is the benefit to your children of your view of baptism? How does it spiritually bless them? If both your infants and mine are actually baptized, where does the benefit of your view reside? In baptism itself, or in your view of baptism? If the power is in baptism itself and not the view of baptism, why do you so strenuously advocate your view? And IF you agree that there are at least potential dangers in the direction you are pushing us, what benefits are my baptized children deprived of by my view that your children receive in baptism that make the risks of your view worth taking?