Calvin: minus doctrine, sacraments only "frigid, unavailing ceremonies"...

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.

This being taken away, it is only a frigid unavailing ceremony. This is not only shown by Scripture, but attested by the canons of the Pope, (Can. Detrahe. i. 4,1,) in a passage quoted from St. Augustine, (Tract 80, in Joan.) in which he asks- “What is the water of baptism without the word but just a corruptible element? The word (he immediately adds) not as pronounced, but as understood.” By this he means, that the sacraments derive their virtue from the word when it is preached intelligibly. Without this they deserve not the name of sacraments. Now so far is there from being any intelligible doctrine in the Mass, that, on the contrary, the whole mystery is considered spoiled if every thing be not said and done in whispers, so that nothing is understood. Hence their consecration is only a species of sorcery, seeing that by muttering and gesticulating like sorcerers, they think to constrain Jesus to come down into their hands. We thus see how the Mass, being thus arranged, is an evident profanation of the Supper of Christ, rather than an observance of it, as the proper and principal substance of the Supper is wanting, viz., full explanation of the ordinance and clear statement of the promises, instead of the priest standing apart and muttering to himself without sense or reason. I call it buffoonery, also, because of mimicry and' gestures, better adapted to a farce than to such an ordinance as the sacred Supper of our Lord.

51. THE DEATH AND PASSION OF OUR LORD THE PERFECT AND ONLY SACRIFICE.
Hence also we see how those to whom God has given the knowledge of his truth should differ from the Papists. First, they cannot doubt that it is abominable blasphemy to regard the Mass as a sacrifice by which the forgiveness of sins is purchased for us; or rather, that the priest is a kind of mediator to apply the merit of Christ's passion and death to those who purchase his mass, or are present at it, or feel devotion for it. On the contrary, they must hold decidedly that the death and suffering of the Lord is the only sacrifice by which the anger of God has been satisfied, and eternal righteousness procured for us; and, likewise, that the Lord Jesus has entered into the heavenly sanctuary in order to appear there for us, and intercede in virtue of his sacrifice.

Moreover, they will readily grant, that the benefit of his death is communicated to us in the Supper, not by the merit of the act, but because of the promises which are given us, provided we receive them in faith. Secondly, they should on no account grant that the bread is transubstantiated into the body of Jesus Christ, nor the wine into his blood, but should persist in holding that the visible signs retain their true substance, in order to represent the spiritual reality of which we have spoken. Thirdly, they ought also to hold for certain, that the Lord gives us in the Supper that which he signifies by it, and, consequently, that we truly receive the. body and blood of Jesus Christ. Nevertheless they will not seek him as if he were enclosed under the bread, or attached locally to the visible sign. So far from adoring the sacrament, they will rather raise their understandings and their hearts on high, as well to receive Jesus Christ, as to adore him.

And second, Calvin on the errors of Luther and Zwingli:

55. HISTORY OF THE CONTROVERSY ON THIS SUBJECT AMONG THE REFORMERS.—LUTHER.
When Luther began to teach, he took a view of the subject which seemed to imply, that in regard to the corporal presence in the Supper he was willing to leave the generally received opinion untouched; for while condemning transubstantiation, he said that the bread was the body of Christ, inasmuch as it was united with `him. Besides, he added similitudes which were somewhat harsh and rude; but he was in a manner compelled to do so, as he could not otherwise explain his meaning. For it is difficult to give an explanation of so high a matter without using some impropriety of speech.

56. VIEWS OF ZWINGLI AND ŒCOLOMPADIUS.
On the other hand arose ZWINGLI and Œcolompadius, who, considering the abuse and deceit which the devil had employed in establishing such a carnal presence of Christ as had been taught and held for more than six hundred years, thought it unlawful to disguise their sentiments, since that view implied an execrable idolatry, in that Jesus Christ was worshipped as enclosed in the bread. Now, as it was very difficult to remove this opinion, `which had been so long rooted in the hearts of men, they applied all their talents to bring it into discredit, showing how gross an error it was not to recognize what is so clearly declared in Scripture touching the ascension of Jesus Christ, that he has been received in. his humanity into heaven, and will remain there until be descend to judge the world. Meantime, while engrossed with this point, they forgot to show what presence of Jesus Christ ought to be believed in the Supper, and what communion of his body and blood is `there received.

57. LUTHER IMPUGNS THEIR VIEWS.
Luther thought that they meant to leave nothing but the bare signs without their spiritual substance. Accordingly he began to resist them to the face, and call them heretics. After the contention was once begun it got more inflamed by time, and has thus continued too bitterly for the space of fifteen years or so without the parties ever listening to each other in a peaceful temper. For though they once had a conference, there was such alienation that they parted without any agreement. Instead of meeting on some good ground, they have always receded more and more, looking to nothing else than to defend their own view and refute the opposite.

58. ATTEMPTED RECONCILIATION.—CAUSE OF FAILURE.
We thus see wherein Luther failed on his side, and ZWINGLI and Œcolompadius on theirs. It was Luther's duty first to have given notice that it was not his intention to establish such a local presence as the Papist's dream; secondly, to protest that he did not mean to have the sacrament adored instead of God; and lastly, to abstain from those similitudes so harsh and difficult to be conceived, or have used them with moderation, interpreting them so that they could not give rise to any scandal. After the debate was moved, he exceeded bounds as well in declaring his opinion, as in blaming others with too much sharpness of speech. For instead of explaining himself in such a way as to make it possible to receive his view, he, with his accustomed vehemence in assailing those who contradicted him, used hyperbolical forms of speech very difficult to be borne by those who otherwise were not, much disposed to believe at his nod. The other party also offended, in being so bent on declaiming against the superstitious and fanatical opinion of the Papists, touching the local presence of Jesus Christ within the sacrament, and the perverse adoration consequent upon it, that they labored more to pull down what was evil than to build up what was good; for though they did not deny the truth, they did not teach it so clearly as they ought to have done. I mean that in their too great anxiety to maintain that the bread and wine are called the body of Christ, because they are signs of them, they did not attend to add, that though they are signs, the reality is conjoined with them, and thus protest, that they had no intention whatever to obscure the true communion which the Lord gives us in his body and blood by this sacrament.

-John Calvin, Short Treatise on the Supper of our Lord: In Which Is Shown Its True Institution, Benefit, and Utility, 1540. (Thanks, dear brother Dan.)

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and fifteen grandchildren.

Comments

I guess I'll come in from the opposite direction (even though I haven't been studying this subject lately) and ask what's wrong with "bare memorialism" (other than the negative tone of the phrase)?

As a Baptist, I've observed this discussion on sacramentalism from afar, as if looking through the window into another family's living room. The debate about how much of the Spirit inhabits the physical material of the sacraments can be solved if you just say, "None." But I know I'm in the minority around here.

But I find these comments by Calvin a bit question-begging. Why is Zwingli wrong?

"...they forgot to show what presence of Jesus Christ ought to be believed in the Supper, and what communion of his body and blood is there received."

"...though they are signs, the reality is conjoined with them, and thus protest, that they had no intention whatever to obscure the true communion which the Lord gives us in his body and blood by this sacrament."

I'd still like a definition of what constitutes sacramentalism.

David (Gray),

The definition is very simple: sacramentalism is any view advocating an objective, instrumental connection between the sign and the thing signified.

Of course, when one places that as the definition, it indicts the WCF (and Calvin himself, in spite of the protestations otherwise). This is very sad, because those of us who actually *HOLD* what the WCF says ("The grace which is exhibited in or by the sacraments, rightly used, is not conferred by any power in them; neither doth the efficacy of a sacrament depend upon the piety or intention of him that doth administer it, but upon the work of the Spirit, and the word of institution; which contains, together with a precept authorizing the use thereof, a promise of benefit to worthy receivers," and, "...by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited and conferred by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God's own will, in his appointed time.") are now being represented as placing too much emphasis on the sacraments.

I do not think that it is ungodly or unbelieving to trust that God actually does what he says in and through the sacraments (even while recognizing and admitting that he doesn't always choose to use them, nor does he always use hem in the exact same way and timing). Seeing the sacraments as instruments causes us not to look to the outward signs, but to God himself who uses them. When i turn on the TV and see a painting being created, i don't look at the brushes and say, "Wow! What a wonderful job those brushes are doing creating such a beautiful painting!," because the brushes did nothing from any power or worth in themselves. No, i must praise (and gladly) the talent and giftedness of the artist in whose hands the brushes do what he desires for them to do. In anyone else's hands, they would not do the same thing or be as wonderfully productive in creating beautiful paintings. On the other hand, it would be just as wrong for a person to say, "I am not one of those people who irreverently thinks that the brushes are involved at all in painting those paintings; i give credit where it is due: to the painter himself!" That would be an astoundingly ridiculous statement. To separate the sign and the thing signified and claim that, regardless of the outward sign, God still works immediately to bestow the thing signified is to separate what God has joined together.

BTW, it is a misrepresentation that i claimed that it was *ONLY* the words of institution that give the authority to the sacraments (even though that's all the WCF says, mind you), because in the post to which David Bayly refers, i said, "I believe that the Word is essential in the efficacy of the sacraments (*WHICH IS WHY IT IS PREACHED* and spoken in the Words of Institution at the administration of both of them, and why we are called to improve our baptisms, at least, at the administration of baptism to others)..." (i added the emphasis so that everyone can see that i have been misrepresented in saying that i claimed it was *ONLY* the words of institution that playing any part; i clearly included the preahed Word as well.

To paraphrase Tim from a previous post, i'm beginning to see that those who don't understand this issue don't because they won't.

Do not be afraid of the sacraments. They are our friends. They are, together with the Word and prayer, the outward means by which God brings us to salvation. Why treat them as something of which to be afraid? Or do we think that because we actually have a high respect for and expectation from the sacraments that this is somehow and insipid return to Rome? That is paranoia at its best.

BTW, it should be noticed that Calvin nowhere *EVER* calls Luther's view erroneous, only his manner of expressing it. This, coupled with the fact that Calvin, in good faith, signed a copy of the Augsburg Confession, shows that Calvin was in substantial agreement in Luther's understanding of Christ's presence.

Keith Mathison expounds on this point in _Given for You: Reclaiming Calvin's Doctrine of the Lord's Supper_. He quotes approvingly of Francois Wendel's summary of the basic difference between the Calvinian view and the Lutheran view:

"The whole conflict upon this point [of the manner of Christ's presence in the sacrament of the Eucharist] can be shortly summed up thus: Union between the Christ and the Eucharistic elements meant, according to the Lutherans, that there was real contact between the body and the blood on the one hand, and the bread and the wine on the other: according to Calvin, it meant only that the believer received the body of Christ when he consumed the consecrated bread. Westphal and the Lutherans therefore maintained that there was a direct relation between the Christ and the elements; Calvin, on the contrary, put the Christ and the elements separately into direct contact with the believer." (Quoted in Mathison, _Given for You_, p. 36.)

It was the local, carnal presence that Calvin disputed (and which, even as your quote shows, he fully believed that Luther disputed as well, which is why, Calvin says, Luther had a responsibility to make that fact known to Zwingli and Oecolampadius in a way that they could understand it), not that the true body and blood of Christ (the thing signified) came along with the sign to be presented and partaken by the believer. Anyone who tries to make Calvin say otherwise is making Calvin into a Zwinglian--which is ironic, because Calvin really *DID* take exception to Zwingli's views on the matter.

Sacramentalism is the belief that "the proper and principal substance of the Supper is" not the "full explanation of the ordinance and clear statement of the promises," but the ordinance's elements themselves. This Calvin denies.

And who, pray, in this discussion at least, said that the "proper and principal substance" of either sacrament is the outward sign?

I actually say that the proper and principal substance of the sacrament is the thing signified in it. And, of course, the Word is integral in communicating that substance, but the sign is not a bare and empty sign, but has great effect in conferring the thing signified by the power of the Holy Spirit and according to God's will.

Of course, this whole discussion started when i said that i advocate sacramentalism. Apparently, for most broad Evangelicals (with which the PCA is most populated), any kind of high sacramental understanding is nigh unto Romanism. It really is very sad that people want to make Calvin into a Zwinglian. Zwingli really did believe and teach that something spiritual happened when one partook of the sacrament, contemplated upon it, and was reminded of what Christ had done. If that's what you mean by being built up and sanctified through the sacrament, you've gone no farther than Zwingli himself went. So, what do you think that Calvin said differently? That's what i want to know. I still haven't seen the difference. For my money, David L. has the best question for those who want to make Calvin say something he's not saying: what exactly *IS* wrong with memorialism? After all, that's basically what you've said Calvin holds.

Calvin's interpretation of Augustine as writing "that the sacraments derive their virtue from the word when it is preached intelligibly" is not supported by the text. Augustine's Tract 80 on the Gospel of John can be found here:

http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1701080.htm (in English)

and here:

http://www.augustinus.it/latino/commento_vsg/omelia_080_testo.htm (in Latin)

The section that Calvin quotes comes from Augustine's commentary on John 15:3: "Now you are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you."

Augustine writes that, "in the water also it is the word that cleanses".

"Take away the word, and the water is neither more nor less than water. The word is added to the element, and there results the Sacrament, as if itself also a kind of visible word. ... And whence has water so great an efficacy, as in touching the body to cleanse the soul, save by the operation of the word; and that not because it is uttered, but because it is believed?"

"The cleansing, therefore, would on no account be attributed to the fleeting and perishable element, were it not for that which is added, 'by the word.' This word of faith possesses such virtue in the Church of God, that through the medium of him who in faith presents, and blesses, and sprinkles it, He cleanses even the tiny infant, although itself unable as yet with the heart to believe unto righteousness, and to make confession with the mouth unto salvation. All this is done by means of the word, whereof the Lord says, 'Now you are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.'"

It seems clear from the example of the infant being baptized, that the sacraments derive their virtue not from "intelligible preaching", but rather from the word spoken by Christ.

Actually, John, here is the complete text of Augustine's comments, and it seems to me Calvin has Augustine's sense just about right:

>>3. "Now you are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Why does He not say, You are clean through the baptism wherewith you have been washed, but "through the word which I have spoken unto you," save only that in the water also it is the word that cleanses? Take away the word, and the water is neither more nor less than water. The word is added to the element, and there results the Sacrament, as if itself also a kind of visible word. For He had said also to the same effect, when washing the disciples' feet, "He that is washed needs not, save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit." And whence has water so great an efficacy, as in touching the body to cleanse the soul, save by the operation of the word; and that not because it is uttered, but because it is believed? For even in the word itself the passing sound is one thing, the abiding efficacy another. "This is the word of faith which we preach," says the apostle, "that if you shall confess with your mouth that Jesus is the Lord, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart man believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." Romans 10:10 Accordingly, we read in the Acts of the Apostles, "Purifying their hearts by faith;" Acts 15:9 and, says the blessed Peter in his epistle, "Even as baptism does also now save us, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience." "This is the word of faith which we preach," whereby baptism, doubtless, is also consecrated, in order to its possession of the power to cleanse. For Christ, who is the vine with us, and the husbandman with the Father, "loved the Church, and gave Himself for it." And then read the apostle, and see what he adds: "That He might sanctify it, cleansing it with the washing of water by the word." Ephesians 5:25-26 The cleansing, therefore, would on no account be attributed to the fleeting and perishable element, were it not for that which is added,"by the word." This word of faith possesses such virtue in the Church of God, that through the medium of him who in faith presents, and blesses, and sprinkles it, He cleanses even the tiny infant, although itself unable as yet with the heart to believe unto righteousness, and to make confession with the mouth unto salvation. All this is done by means of the word, whereof the Lord says, "Now you are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you."

David, since you're coming from a Baptist background, I'd recommend you read Wayne Grudem's section on the sacraments in his "Systematic Theology." If I remember correctly, he does a good job of interpreting to Baptists the errors of a memorial-only view.

Tim,

I'm not sure what in the complete text would support Calvin's interpretation. Certainly, the example of infant baptism appears to me to rule out the "intelligible preaching" understanding of what Augustine wrote.

ISTM that the Reformed view leaves one in a state of agnosticism.

Since no one has any way of telling whether the infant is elect, and there are zero outward signs of the grace having been conferred, you are necessarily left in an agnostic condition.

If a parent asks you, "Did anything actually happen?", one must always answer, "I don't know. There's no way to tell."

The WCF never clearly says that God will add His grace to the sacraments. Indeed, it adds numerous caveats, such as that the pertinent grace might not be applied at the time of the ceremony, or might not be applied by God at all, ever.

And yet, contradicting itself, it says in that second paragraph earlier cited by Trey that saving grace isn't merely proffered (contra the Anabaptists, I assume) but actually conferred. Saving grace is conferred.

Well, which is it?

Is the grace sometimes conferred, or is it actually conferred? If it is always conferred, then that is sacramental salvationism.

If I am a Baptist, and my child is elect of God, then my child will be converted, and his/her lack of infant baptism is of no importance.

Heaven has lots of people in it who never received any kind of sacrament -- like Abel, and Enoch. Sacraments didn't even exist prior to the events described in Genesis 17.

OTOH, hell is filled with reprobated sinners who were all paedo-baptized in Presbyterian churches.

So all this seems like much ado about nothing. The elect will be saved sans baptism, and the baptized unbeliever will be eternally condemned. Is saving grace conferred? Maybe, maybe not, no one can tell. Not very useful.

Jack said: "If I am a Baptist, and my child is elect of God, then my child will be converted, and his/her lack of infant baptism is of no importance."

Case in point where abject Puritanist rationalism leads. Absolute antinomianism and Hyper-Calvinism. Why worry about the ordinary means of grace for those who are elect? Jack clearly doesn't do it, but there are those who follow this line of reasoning with the lack of need for hearing of the Gospel itself, not just the Gospel sacraments. Both are Hyper-Calvinistic (or, better, "decretalistic") rationalizations.

Jack again: "Heaven has lots of people in it who never received any kind of sacrament -- like Abel, and Enoch. Sacraments didn't even exist prior to the events described in Genesis 17."

Not so. Sacraments have been around since God himself slew an animal in sacrifice and clothed our First Parents with its skin. Both Abel and Cain participated in the sacrament of sacrifice, one effectually (Abel, because he offered it in faith), and another ineffectually (Cain, because he offered it without faith).

Jack: "OTOH, hell is filled with reprobated sinners who were all paedo-baptized in Presbyterian churches."

And they are neighbors to many credo-baptized in EV Free churches (to mention only one). Of course, neither is an antidote against Covenant breaking; the question is which way God instituted the sacrament of initiation to be practiced and lived out. Baptism's efficacy has everything to do with a person's owning the thing signified by faith, and, as a corollary, it has much to do with a person's nurture in that faith from the moment of his or her baptism. In short, children who have only the outward sign without any kind of nurture in the faith into which he or she was baptized will be of little effect--but then, that requires parents to trust God to provide what the sign signifies and seals and to consider, from the moment of baptism, that the child is what God said he or she is in that rite of baptism.

Jack: "So all this seems like much ado about nothing. The elect will be saved sans baptism, and the baptized unbeliever will be eternally condemned. Is saving grace conferred? Maybe, maybe not, no one can tell. Not very useful."

So, why baptize at all? You're saved without anyway, right? Even if you are the best low-church, baptistic Christian you could be, you'd say that it is, at best, an act of obedience, but then, by your reasoning, even the disobedient elect will be saved, right? So now you've just made Jesus's, Paul's, Peter's, Luke's, Mark's, and John's statements about baptism absolutely meaningless.

Congratulations, Jack!

I agree with Jack Brooks. According to covenant thinking, the baptized infant is neither unsaved nor saved, just suspended in an ethereal limbo until... what? And he's right about the effects of baptism, too. I was reading Grudem in the bookstore today, and he argues that baptism for infants under the covenant represents (strangely) nothing but a "possible future regeneration" (or something along those lines), which has no biblical precedent.

Pastor Austin said under a different post that Baptists "treat their children as unbelievers until and unless they make some kind of overt action like walking an aisle, when what they should be doing is treating them like a Christian who has a high calling as a member of Christ's Covenant, and then teaching those children how to live out that Covenant in their lives (i.e., by trusting in Christ and repenting of sin)." I'd quibble with the phrase "treat them as unbelievers," but I do consider my kids as unsaved (remember that whole Original Sin thing?), raising them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord and teaching them their need for Christ and His love for them. Since they've not been baptized, I guess I should start worrying, eh? Thanks for reminding me why I don't ascribe to this brand of Covenant Theology.

I find it rather startling that no one challenged the comment made under a previous post stating that stillborn babies of Christians will be in heaven with their parents. Who says? If you believe the doctrines of grace, you should believe that some will be elect and some won't, just like the non-baptized children of Baptists--and even pagans, perhaps.

Trey says in disbelief, "by your reasoning, even the disobedient elect will be saved, right?"

Wow. Heaven forfend. And he wants us to believe he's not a sacramentalist. Having begun in the spirit, are you made perfect by the flesh?

"So, why baptize at all?" Coming from a former Baptist, this rhetorical question is incredibly ungracious. The trend in recent years to find peace and common ground between paedo- and credo-baptists seems to have affected you not at all. You know the answer to this question. First, it's an act of obedience; second, it's a public statement about what has happened spiritually to the person; third, it's the mark of entry into the church and a prerequisite for communion. It also has complete Biblical support. (And how can it be hyper-Calvinist, when so many Baptists are Arminians?) You know all these arguments, and you've been part of the Baptist community in the past, and yet you act as if such heresy has never been spoken of. I find your shock hard to swallow.

>I find it rather startling that no one challenged the comment made under a previous post stating that stillborn babies of Christians will be in heaven with their parents. Who says?

Peter taught that the promise was for believers and their children. Children, may, in due course of their lives break covenant. Stillborn children have not broken covenant.

>If you believe the doctrines of grace, you should believe that some will be elect and some won't, just like the non-baptized children of Baptists--and even pagans, perhaps.

One should believe the promises. That holds comfort for both the obedient parent and the Baptist parent. It does not hold comfort for the pagan.

Well, Mr. Gray, obviously Scripture isn't explicit about this topic, so I'm not being dogmatic. But you seem to be suggesting that children of believers are saved until they prove otherwise, whereas the Bible tells us the opposite is true--we're lost until Christ's shed blood is applied to us. Again, what about original sin? "You must be born again." One argument against paedobaptism (which I'm sure you know--I'm just rehearsing for my own benefit here) is that babies can't make a response in faith to the Gospel.

What you're arguing for seems very much like what the Church of Christ teaches, i.e., that children are righteous until the age of accountability (whenever that is).

As for Peter, what he actually said was, "The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call." That's obviously a much bigger group than the one you have in mind. It definitely could include pagans, whom God saves as adults all the time.

And this notion of "comfort" has come up repeatedly. What it says to me is that parents can rest assured or relax or be happy about their kids' eventual salvation because they're being raised in a Christian home--by virtue of the parents' belief. How in the world is that any different from other brands of sacramentalism--or from the example given by David Bayly earlier, about the woman whose son walked the aisle at age 11? Hope is being put in the flesh. The situation with stillborns is, we just don't know.

As for breaking covenant, I'm not up to speed on these ideas, but you say, "Children, may, in due course of their lives break covenant. Stillborn children have not broken covenant." To which I must respond, At what age can children begin to break the covenant? Two, five, ten, 15, 20? If stillborns can't break it, why can a one- or even a five-year-old break it? Again, this leads to a question of the age of accountability, and (even though I heard J. Vernon McGee argue that it was 20), I don't see the scriptural warrant for any of those ages. Sorry.

>But you seem to be suggesting that children of believers are saved until they prove otherwise, whereas the Bible tells us the opposite is true--we're lost until Christ's shed blood is applied to us.

So you are arguing for the damnation of all infants and people of limited mental capacity? If someone can't, due to either age or inability, accept a series of propositions they are incapable of saving faith?

>What you're arguing for seems very much like what the Church of Christ teaches, i.e., that children are righteous until the age of accountability (whenever that is).

Children are never righteous. Christ is the only righteousness for the Christian. The age of accountability is a rationalistic notion bereft of scriptural reason.

>What it says to me is that parents can rest assured or relax or be happy about their kids' eventual salvation because they're being raised in a Christian home--by virtue of the parents' belief.

Not at all, it doesn't speak to the salvation of all believer's children. Parents must teach their children to only rest in the finished work or Christ and to trust God's promises. Failure to raise children in a biblical manner has often led to children breaking covenant. But if a child dies without breaking covenant it is a comfort.

>At what age can children begin to break the covenant?

Sorry but I can't provide that sort of rationalistic comfort. God knows. We don't. We can only trust God and teach our children as the Bible instructs us to.

>finished work or Christ

Please make that "finished work of Christ"

"So you are arguing for the damnation of all infants and people of limited mental capacity?"

I said quite clearly, "The situation with stillborns is, we just don't know." As for "people of limited mental capacity," I don't know. How much knowledge of the Gospel must a person understand to accept it? It's a question I haven't studied much. Some, certainly, but not much. But an emotional distaste for the idea that children and retarded people might go to hell definitely isn't the right approach. It doesn't have to make you feel warm and fuzzy for it to be true. Are you arguing that all "people of limited mental capacity" are saved, whether or not their parents are Christians? If not, why not?

"Children are never righteous." OK, change the word to "regenerate" or "saved." You still didn't address my point about the age of accountability, and your demurring to give an age when covenant-breaking becomes possible isn't satisfactory at all. Your answer was just lame.

"Christ is the only righteousness for the Christian." That's question-begging, if you're referring to infants, and it proves my suspicion that you consider children regenerate until they prove otherwise. As does this pair of sentences: "Failure to raise children in a biblical manner has often led to children breaking covenant. But if a child dies without breaking covenant it is a comfort." Sin causes children to break covenant, not the failure of parents to be obedient, as you put it earlier. I really can't help but conclude that you're arguing for some kind of vicarious salvation--that the faith of "obedient" parents (and HOW obedient do they have to be, exactly?) is effectual in the regeneration of their children until such time as they prove otherwise. And that's just not Biblical.

>You still didn't address my point about the age of accountability, and your demurring to give an age when covenant-breaking becomes possible isn't satisfactory at all.

My purpose isn't to satisfy you. Modern man finds imprecision distasteful.

>Are you arguing that all "people of limited mental capacity" are saved, whether or not their parents are Christians? If not, why not?

No. Are they in covenant?

>I really can't help but conclude that you're arguing for some kind of vicarious salvation--that the faith of "obedient" parents (and HOW obedient do they have to be, exactly?) is effectual in the regeneration of their children until such time as they prove otherwise.

No, I'm arguing for God's faithfulness, not vicarious "parent salvation."

The privileged Jews -- the "natural branches" -- aren't part of the covenant olive tree anymore (Romans 11). Paul asserts in Rom. 11 that the Jew's only way back to ingrafting is through personal repentance toward Christ. He also says at the end of Romans 9 that the Gentiles attained covenant status ( which = "being saved and having eternal life") by faith alone.

Are we supposed to believe that what Paul was actually saying in Romans 11 was, "Well, the Jews as a race, including their babies, are completely cut off from the covenant olive tree, and their sole path back into the tree is through individual conversion; but oh, that isn't true of Gentiles"?

Romans 9 makes it clear that only children born of promise were true sons of Abraham (Isaac being typological of supernatural birth from God), and the elect alone were God's children (Jacob being a type of those elected unto salvation). The evangelistic invitations of God communicated prophetically through Isaiah were to all Israel, which includes the children. The Lord certainly didn't treat the children of the Jews as presumably saved people.

There is no way that someone can rationally teach baptismal salvation and unconditional election at the same time.

Baptismal salvationism dishnors the Gospel. The sole necessary means of salvation is the Gospel, period. If baptism never existed, nothing salvific would have been missed. The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation unto all who believe. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1, God did not send him to baptize but to preach the Gospel. The Gospel alone is always sufficient, and the sole necessary means of grace for salvation.

The idea that the children of believers should be considered already saved teaches them that they should consider themselves already saved. And why are they allegedly Christians? Because they were baptized. I.e., they will go through life believing "I'm a Christian because I was baptized", which means you are teaching baptismal salvationism. Your doctrine will be the instrumentality of your own children's damnation to hell, unless God intervenes and shows them how wrong Dad was.

It always amazes me how Judaizers can quote 1 Pe. 3:20 as if Peter was talking about water, when he blatantly states that he was not talking about water.

In the end, paedobaptism leaves you with nothing but agnosticism. You cannot know if the child is elect. You do know, from scripture, that only a remnant of the Jews were ever elect, and that God never promised to save all of the Jews. There are no visible signs of election, before or after christening. You are in a state of agnosticism, which is why there needs to be all this demagoguing about Zwingli, Baptists, and what-not. Just like the old-time preacher whose liner notes read, "Can't prove point here; shout louder."

>Baptismal salvationism dishnors the Gospel.

Good thing nobody is teaching that. Perhaps you should go back and examine what the church has taught for 2000 years and what the Reformers taught.

>Your doctrine will be the instrumentality of your own children's damnation to hell, unless God intervenes and shows them how wrong Dad was.

And you practice a modern novelty unknown to the church and the Reformers and in rebellion to scripture.

>"Can't prove point here; shout louder."

A pity you took that advice.

After my post-worship nap this afternoon, I began working through some URLs I had squirreled away for later examination. Here's a gem I turned up that I'll pass along:

"Sole Fide: Luther and Calvin" which may be read/downloaded from here:

http://www.ctsfw.edu/events/symposia/papers/sym2007cary.pdf

Here's a teaser from the introduction:

"I’m an Anglican. On the other hand, I’m someone who thinks Luther got most things right, and that’s why I’m here. On the things that matter most, I think he got more things right than, say, Augustine or Calvin—and that’s saying something, for a non-Lutheran. ...

"I think the difference between Luther and

Calvin is that Luther is a sacramental thinker in a deeper sense than Calvin is (I don’t anticipate

many disagreements about that in this crowd) but this means that in certain very important

respects he is more medieval and more Catholic than Calvin is (OK, now you can begin to get

uneasy) and so far as I can tell, this also means he is in some ways less Protestant than the

Lutheran Confessions are (and I suppose that’s where you may want to disagree)."

Cary goes on to develop the notion of sola fide in Calvin's thought, in Luther's thought, and -- here his paper is Very Stimulating -- he draws outo the pastoral implications for the differing ways in which Calvin and Luther construed faith as it relates to salvation and the ongoing spiritual life. And, yes, baptism figures prominently in the issues Cary analyzes.

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