Sincere questions for Federal Visionaries....

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.

  1. 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?
  2. 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….
  3. 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?
  4. 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?
  5. 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?
  6. 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?
  7. 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?

Comments

Wow. Those are good questions, David.

1. I'm not CREC. I also don't use "baptistic" as a perjorative too much, though I found the old Christianity&Civilization #1 "Failure of the American Baptist Culture" to be a helpful collection, particularly the essay dealing with Kline's view of baptism as "all ordeal" and Murray's as "all grace" and finding a via media between them. Baptist practice (teaching kids the Lord's Prayer) is better than official baptist theology of course. the Baptistic stuff I've only ever been disturbed by are 1) "zwinglian" views of the supper within confessional churches, 2) the way some confessional churches seem to attract happy percentages of baptist adherents, so that the pastor spends most of a baptism service explaining what baptism *doesn't* do, and 3) an overdependence on conversion narratives for covenant children.

2. I'd rather be a Baptist. But I'd pick Anglican or Lutheran first if those were options.

3. Yes, it would be hypocritical. I wonder how many would actually pick RC.

4. Schlissel, but only occasionally, and very reluctantly, since I want to love everyone and read their words in the best possible light. But Schliss seems to love being a loose canon and tweaking people and hates dealing with theology-as-it-are-spoken, it seems. "Repudiate" is possibly too strong a word. There's alot of baby with his bathwater though, and what I heard of his AAPC lecture sounded great.

Wilkins took his "we can't know we're elect" too far (but understandably so), but seems to have backed off.

Everybody in the FV who talks to each other "rides herd" on each other.

5: I don't see that right off the bat. You might need to clarify it more. I see the recovery of sacraments as *assurances* where Christ is met. Perhaps some of Jordan's emphasis on the training Liturgy gives us for Christian life and renewing covenant with God sounds that way (Tim Wilder certainly misreads it that way) and I suppose if so there is a danger of forgetting that God desires "mercy and not sacrifice[covenant renewal worship]"

I'm interested in how you see this one. I could imagine some scenarios, but I think that may be due to empahsis and not anything the FV would deny. Kinda like Theonomy was chastised for ignoring evanglism or piety, when theonomy was a discussion in one realm of theology to start.

6. Again, not able to think of examples here.

7. They grow up knowing that Christ has graciously marked them as his own and put them into relation to him. They have a communication that all the blessings of the covenant are theirs by baptism-right, without any works on their part. With whatever mysterious and inchohate awareness of the Spirit of Christ that an infant has, they have encountered, not just "water and a strange man" as one PCA pastor put it, but the crucified and risen Lord [that's independent, I think, of ones "veiw" on this]. Their seed and root of unactualzied faith is planted and watered.

One of the most powerful sermons on baptism I heard at a WELS church I visited. He was speaking, not on baptism, but the way we have been set to fight against the wiles of satan. "And where did you enlist in this battle? [walks to the font] right here!" I'd want my kids to know that too, and not have to learn it outside of the PCA when they're 26.

#4: supplemental: anyone who messes with bowing to manmade objects

As i have said, i don't consider myself FV, and to be very honest, this very morning, in light of a post that i posted on my blog (a picture of a Baptist Church's sign with some funny stances), a Baptist friend of mine "called me out" about how the title of the post ("Why I'm No Longer a Baptist") leads one to believe that i have very poor grounds for rejecting baptistic thought. I do plan, in light of that fact, to spell out explicitly why i rejected my baptistic views. It all got that whole thing stirring in my mind, though, about the CREC and how they self-consciously invite practicing Baptists into membership in their churches (mind you, i believe we should invite them and welcome them into membership, provided that, while they still have their convictions, they shall not serve as officers, and provided that they agree to submit to the faith and practice of our church). It seemed to me a very strange set of contradictions (to speak against any Paedobaptist who resembles a Baptist in his theology and practice, but then to fully embrace, ecclesiastically, Baptists, as if there is nothing wrong with it).

So, while i believe that the bulk of these questions are excellent questions that my FV friends should answer (not only since they will challenge my FV friends to further refine some of their statments, but also since they are stated in the most brotherly and kind way that they could have been; let no one ever accuse David Bayly of being hateful to the FV). However, even as a non-FVer, i find myself in disagreement with the presuppositions evinced in several of the questions, which not only assault the FV, but also assault the Reformed tradition as a whole.

For instance, starting with the last question, i agree with Lewis Schenck's book, "The Presbyterian Doctrine of Children in the Covenant" that baptism based upon presumptive regeneration because of the promise of God to children of believers is the heart of the Reformed and Presbyterian practice. He took great pains to show how, all the way back to Calvin, the langauge that was used was that of believing and trusting that children already having faith or the seed of faith; while ackowledging that some of them may not, the assumption was that all of them did, until and unless they rebelled against God and the Church. He contrasted this with the Southern Church's prevailing presumption of unregeneracy (which is just New School views that were codified in the Southern Church more strongly than in the Northern Church), exemplified by Thornwell and others of his ilk. Here are my questions for you: How do you view and treat your children, as regenerate or unregenerate? Since those are the only two options, you will inevitably treat them one way or the other, either as regenerate disciples whose need is for teaching, discipleshio, and sanctification, or as unregenerate lost people whose need is not discipleship until after what they really need, which is conversion. If you look at them as regenerate (even if you might be wrong about it, as is sometimes the case with any church member), then i understand your teaching them Scripture, teaching them obedience to the ten commandments, and teaching them to call God their Father and Christ their Savior. However, if you look at them as unregenerate, what makes you *STOP* looking at them as unregenerate, and why would you, until whatever it is that would make you look at them differently, treat them as though they were, in any way, entitled to good standing in the Church or treatment as though they were already disciples (i.e., under the discipline and discipleship of the Church)? Thornwell was consistent in this: he beleived that baptized members were not really members at all, in spite of their baptism (which, according to the WCF, is always a solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible Church), because they were not to be the subjects of discipline or any other benefit of the Church (other than evangelism) until they professed faith (and presumably, were previously converted). Schenck pointed out the blatant inconsistencies of this view, and while he didn't say it so clearly, it was obvious that Thornwell was basically a Baptist who sprinkled babies. Certainly, Lewis Schenck wasn't a FVist. He was, in fact, an Old School opponent of the prevailing liberalism (he was a member of the Northern Church, and he wrote his book around the turn of the 20th century), which liberalism itself was the result, in part, of New School thinking.

I personally agree with Schenck about presumptive regeneration, that it is the antidote against full-blown baptismal regeneration as well as against viewing our children as unregenerate until some later conversion experience. After all, in light of what Nevin contrasted as the way of the bench and the way of the catechism, we certainly don't believe that study of the catechism will regenerate our children, even if we don't allow them to the table until they have studied it. Rather, we teach our children the catechism precisely *BECAUSE* we believe that they are young disciples in need of teaching and sanctification, and not little heathens in need of conversion from death to life.

But this goes to the very first of your questions. What is the other option if you reject full-blown baptismal regeneration (which we should) and if we reject presumptive regeneration? What will we embrace? We will embrace decisional regeneration or her ugly twin crisis conversion. The real question of being "baptistic" is how we treat our children, whether as Christians already, or whether as potential Christians (which is another way of saying, as non-Christians in need of conversion to Christ to begin with). There isn't any kind of via media between those two options, like pious ignorance. Those who disagree with viewing their children as regenerate and Christians can only follow the Baptist reasoning that our children are presumptively unregenerate, in need of Christ, and should not be treated as though he were a young believer. If taken to its logical conclusion (which only one Bapist i know of has done, namely Jim Elliff), that would mean you don't even disciple your children at all, you don't tell them that Christ died for them, you don't tell them that they are forgiven by the blood of Christ, and you certainly don't teach them the ten commandments and encourage them to follow them or pray to God as their Father (which would, if the presumptive unregenerists are correct, only make them legalists and Pharisees and not disciples in any wise).

So, yes, i *DO* (though not FV) use the term "baptistic" as a perjorative term to describe many PCA Presbyterians (some in my own congregation). I can consistently do this because, firstly, i don't see myself ever being part of a denomination that welcomes both conversionist Baptists *AND* Covenantal Presbyterians. Oil and water don't mix. Secondly, i can do it because i see the inconsistency of Southern Presbyterianism (and even Northern Presbyterians that were also given over to the New School) as it has come down to us. That's not to say i don't love my Baptist brothers and sisters (or even my own Father and Mother, who are both Baptists), but that i see their stance as more consistent than the self-contradictory "mix" between credo (i.e., "conversionist") convictions and paedo (i.e., "covenantal") practice. In both cases, thankfully, there are "blessed inconsistencies," but neither full-blown Baptist convictions nor a mix between Baptist conviction and Paedobaptist practice is a thing for truly Covenantal Presbyterians to emulate.

On #1, I don't have a problem with the idea that it's worse for Presbyterians to be Baptists than for Baptists to be Baptists. I don't see criticizing Presbyterians for holding Baptist views while claiming they're not, as contradictory with accepting that Baptists can be full members of a fellowship while disagreeing with them. That's what I see going on with the FV/CREC attitude toward "baptistic Presbyterians" vs. Baptists.

Well, I'm just me, talking as me, but I'll take a run at your questions.

1) I have many Christian brothers who are Baptists. Some of them are coworkers. Three of my four grandparents are Baptists. So, while I have described the anti-FV position as Baptist, invariably I qualify that by stating that I'm not looking to break fellowship or anything. I'm seeking to be accurate, not trying to be pejorative.

2) Baptist. Answered quickly and without qualification.

3) n/a ;-)

4) Personally, most of my connection with FV is through Leithart, Wilson, Jordan, and my growing up with Murray's book on baptism. I've found Leithart to be the model of a Christian gentleman. Wilson is...how shall we say it...edgier, though I think that he has done a good job of having a focused critique in this. (I'll honestly admit to enjoying his turn of a phrase, too.) Jordan has, to my knowledge, written very little on this topic, though he has seemed quite put out in the little FV-related writings of his that I've actually read. Beyond that, I tend to be of the opinion that there are a lot of people in this controversy on both sides that serve Christ and His Church by just being quiet for a while. While they're at it, they could focus on doing some good works or something like that. (Ephesians 2:10) I say this as a recovering young turk, you understand.

5) Hmm. I can see how you can get there, although I think that's a misreading of the position. The sacraments aren't meritorious works done by us; they are the application of Jesus's works. The "good works" are other things, like feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, healing the sick, and such.

6) I can only speak for myself on this one. I am not opposed to piety. As Hebrews 12:14 says, "Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord." My concern, which may or may not be the same as what you are discussing, is that we identify fellow Christians by behavioral cultural markers (e.g. "We don't smoke, don't chew, and don't go with girls that do") instead of by the sacramental declarations of baptism and communion. Does that answer your question?

7) Well, here's the heart of it all, isn't it? I'll answer the question with a question of my own. I'm a Christian, baptized as an infant, and my children were also baptized as infants. Are my children Christians? Can you answer that question quickly and without qualification? The promises of the Bible are to God's people. Do they belong to my children? Can I tell them that Jesus is caring for them? Can I take comfort that Jesus loves them, especially when they are ill or suffering? That's a big deal, both to them and to me.

By the way, I do appreciate your even-handedness with this issue. I know that you and I do not agree, but I appreciate that you have treated folks on the FV side of things as brothers and not simply crypto-heretics to be lambasted and cast aside.

Dear Pastor Trey:

Are these our only options: baptismal regeneration, presumptive regeneration, decisional regeneration? How were the adults in the NT era regenerated? Was it by decisional regeneration or her ugly twin?

Perhaps you have mis-spoken on this and want to add some more, because I don't think you've said all you may have wanted to say.

I also think you should reconsider your pejorative use of the term "Baptist." In the Zambian context, the one in which I live and work, "Baptist" is a term of honour; at least it is for me. Most of the Reformed people in our country are Baptists and I am glad to co-labour with them and help them and work under them.

I have more questions about your post, especially about our children, but I'll leave that for later.

Warm regards,

Pastor Wegener,

When i spoke of my use of "Baptist" as a perjorative word, i did not mean, as i hope was clear from what i said, that i don't have great respect and love for Baptists, nor that i would not work with them for the sake of the Gospel--i do and i would (and have). What i mean was what pentamom refers to. It is better to be a "single-minded" (and IMHO, wrong) Baptist than it is to be a "double-minded" (not only wrong, but inconsistent) Presbyterian. I have much more respect for Baptists who live out their convictions than i do for Presbyterians who live out Baptist convictions. So, my use of the term as a perjorative is always and only waged against Presbyterians who act like Baptists, not Baptists, for whom being baptistic is perfectly normal.

And, no, i do not believe there is a "fourth option." Both baptismal regeneration and decisional regeneration are explanations of "how" one is regenerated. Presumptive regeneration simply looks at the evidence available with the judgment of charity and affirms that they believe (i.e., "presume") that regeneration *HAS* happened (without trying to quantify the "how"). Scripture is clear, even about the case of the first-century converts to Christianity, that God, by his Spirit moves in inexplicable (cf., John 3) ways to bring people to new life. One of those ways is certainly the Word, through which the Spirit works to bring new life. However, as Scripture also clearly teaches, baptism is one means through which the Spirit can Work (though, as the WCF says, not exclusively, and not such that all who are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated). Testimony, though, from many early Church sources show that the cliche, "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church," is also true, because the Spirit can use the "witness" of another believer (i.e., witness up to and including the full "witness" martyrdom) to bring about new life in a sinner. There is no exclusivity in any one of these means, and i could mention more, but the point is that, while Scripture shows various "hows" it never tells us to look for a certain "how" in order to know what has taken place (i.e., we can never set one of the "hows" as the exclusive means by which the Spirit will work and never by any other, as baptismal regeneration does). We are simply to take the evidence into account and take the word of those who claim Christ unless there is evidence to the contrary. That's what presumptive regeneration means. It applies not only to children, but it applies to Christians i meet in my work and on the street and at conferences and at the grocery store. I presume that they are regenerate based upon their claim so to be (and i realize i'm not always right when i so presume, but i still presume it to be the case). But, of course, it also does have to do with children, since they are unable to bear witness to their faith or claim with their mouths that they are regenerate (which would, in a Baptist context, mean that they should not be regarded as regenerate at all), but in this Calvin (among others) tells us that the promise of God given to children is *EVEN BETTER* evidence than the claim or testimony of men. In all cases, we presume that the evidence we hear (whether personal testimony or God's promise declared to and about children of professing believers) is accurate and true, and hence we presume that every member of the Church we meet is regenerate until and unless they prove us wrong by failing to show "fruit of repentance" (cf., Matt. 3:8) or, stated another way, "fruit of the Spirit" (cf., Gal. 5). But even then, we are not free to *CALL* them unregenerate until the doors of the Kingdom are closed on them through the exercise of discipline against them by those who hold the keys of the Kingdom.

Hope that clarifies.

I think pentamom is wrong.

Personally, I don't understand how somebody can claim to be paedo while allowing and approving of creedo in their congregations and then turn around and fault a paedo for being to creedo. This sounds a great deal like, "We understand and accept that Scripture teaches both paedo and creedo but we will only knock your chops if you are paedo but, in our opinion, act creedo." On such a watershed issue like this one, if Scripture teaches paedo and if a man believes that is true then he ought not to allow that which he doesn't believe to thrive and if he does allow it to thrive then he should be mute when he sees it thriving where he doesn't think it should thrive.

Another example of the contradiction in the CREC is that they allow for congregations that will affirm several different confessions and one of those confessions explicitly states,

"Therefore we detest the error of the Anabaptists, who are not content with the one only Baptism they have once received, and moreover condemn the baptism of the infants of believers, who we believe ought to be baptized and sealed with the sign of the covenant.

Now some CREC Baptists may say, "we don't condemn the baptism of infants of believers we just don't agree with it," but I can't help but wonder if the refusal to bring their children is a condemnation of the Biblical view that children are included in the covenant.

Personally, given this arrangement, I don't understand why one couldn't have a denomination with both Arminians and Reformed in it with the same understanding existing that 'men of good conscience differ on these matters.' Certainly if a denomination existed that made explicit provision for Arminians and Reformed to exist together the Reformed in that denomination would be odd ducks for hurling invective at denominations that were solely Reformed for being to Arminian.

Bret

Dear Pastor Austin:

I'm not sure if it does clarify. You didn't (directly) answer my question, or maybe you did. How were the adults converted during the apostolic era (as we find in the book of Acts and in the letters to NT churches) regenerated? Was it decisional regeneration or its ugly twin?

As far as questioning the faith of professing believers, Paul did it all the time, 2 Corinthians 13:5 being only one example. One can look at the book of 1 John as supplying tests of regeneration. How do we know if someone is regenerated? That book tells us and it is applied in the case of those who had left the apostolic community (1 John 2:19).

So I look for evidence of regeneration, in my children, in my church, at my school. This is not simply looking for evidence to the contrary, but it is looking for positive evidence.

Is this different from what you are saying?

DW

Pastor Wegener said: "So I look for evidence of regeneration, in my children, in my church, at my school. This is not simply looking for evidence to the contrary, but it is looking for positive evidence."

Well, i don't have a problem with looking for positive evidence as a way of reassuring ourselves of the truth of the matter. I do agree with you that Scripture provides such evidences. However, i trust (in fact, i know for a fact, because not only Presbyterians, but also Baptists do it) that you do not presume the unregeneracy of all persons whom you know or meet until and unless they prove it to you by those markers--least of all should a Presbyterian do that to his own children. It is one thing to look at the evidence that is presented to you (either positively or negatively), but it is quite another to wait for that evidence to convince you before you will presume someone regenerate. We can't know with certainty the state of another person's heart; hence, "presumption" one way or the other is inevitable. As i stated before, you will either presume Christians regenerate or you will presume all people unregenerate until they prove that they are regenerate. My argument is that the former is biblical Covenantalism, and the latter is the baptistic presuppositions working themselves out to their logical conclusions.

With regard to how the NT believers were regenerated, i do think i answered that: the Holy Spirit always does the regenerating, but he may employ a variety of means. I really don't think there are three options as i seem to have implied in my previous posts. The reality is that both baptismal regeneration and decisional regeneration (which goes along with crisis conversion) are both part of the attempt to limit God to working in one particular way. As i said, God works through various means to accomplish his purpose in the lives of those in his Church. Any one explanation of "how" it takes place which assumes that it is the *ONLY* explanation of "how" falls into the very same kind of category as baptismal regeneration and decisional regeneration. The only other option to that attempt to "pin down" the Holy Spirit (which, as John 3 says, is quite ridiculous--like trying to catch the wind) on how he does what he does is to simply trust *THAT* he does what he does, and to presume that it has indeed happened to anyone who has claimed that it has (in the case of adult converts) and anyone whom the promise of God says he *WILL* do it for (in the case of Covenant children). In both cases, we trust ("presume") that it has happened, but that presumption should not lead us to reject any further evidence in the case.

Allow me also to add that i believe that this job of trying to judge the fruit is predominantly the job of shepherds of God's fold, and should not be (as we so often see it today) employed by any and every lay person who just doesn't think a person acts like he should. Those people with concerns over a person should go to the person, and if ultimately unsatisfied with the response, should present the case to the church council, but the ultimate finding of the church council should be the decision that stands, and not the person's opinions of individual Christians who think it is their job to be the spiritual police and tell everyone else who is and is not regenerate.

1. I think "baptistic" is supposed to be a call to the presbyterian to remember the tradition that he claims. In other words, if you're claiming presbyterianism then stop acting/thinking like baptists. FV advocates are accusing their presbyterian and reformed critics that they are betraying their roots by being baptistic in their assessment(s) and, in that sense, such a term is "powerfully pejorative."

2. Baptist.

3. n/a

4. The only two FV advocates I've spent time reading (thus far) are Doug Wilson and Peter Leithart, neither of whom would I repudiate. Undoubtedly there are some within the FV movement who have taken their theological arguments too far; I am not well read enough to name names. I think if the FV can be ultimately defined it is by the implications and ramifications of "covenantal objectivity", whatever that may be. What does the phrase "ride herd" mean?

5. I don't understand why you would say that so I don't see truth in your perception.

6. There is a fine line between piety and self-righteousness. Self-righteousness that has the facade of piety should be mocked appropriately. I don't understand why you would say "it seems FVers delight in contradicting others’ expectations of holiness" but if this were the case it certainly would not be wise.

7. Particular views of baptism don't give benefits to children one way or another; they are just that, views. One of the benefits of the FV view is that it encourages parents to be more involved in the spiritual/covenantal development of their children rather than (more or less) passively waiting for their child to choose one route or another, or waiting for the session to "approve" them as "authentic" Christians. I would argue for the FV view over the traditional view because the FV view doesn't require starving my children of the grace they are entitled to as covenant members. The last two questions are not really applicable given the context in which the FV view of baptism resides.

Jared wrote: "...the FV view doesn't require starving my children of the grace they are entitled to as covenant members."

You know, I'm unclear on the whole "starving my children of grace" argument. OTOH the FV says that grace is not a "commodity", which I believe personally is inarguable, but "starving my children of grace" certainly appears to treat it as such. Unless someone does THIS, he or she won't receive grace. If that someone DOES perform whatever "this" is, he or she WILL receive grace.

How the heck does that not qualify as a "commodity" view of grace?

I kind of hope that "FV" will go away just so I don't have to be "a younger sort of FVer." I've learned much from them, but I've also learned a lot from the vrijgemaakt, the Radical Orthodoxy discussion, the Finnish school on Luther, the English Puritans, and the Post-Nicene Fathers.

My complaint isn't really with "the Baptists." I was raised a Baptist, and many of my friends and family are Baptists. Baptists are supposed to be Baptistic. My complaint is with the Presbyterian and Reformed (who aren't supposed to be Baptistic) and their inconsistency. I don't see why it is ok to continue to call Roman Catholics idolaters and antichrists if we are not also going to call Baptists mad beasts, lunatics, and fanatics. It seems that history has given us reason to be nice and try to understand the Baptists, but for some reason it has not done this in regards to the Catholics. From my experience, the post Vatican II Catholics are much more willing to work with us than the Baptists are. I think it really is just prejudice on our parts for continuing to favor the Baptists and anathematize the Roman Catholics.

I'm also not sure that it is safe to assume that there is more heresy among Roman Catholics than among Baptists. From my experience knowledge of the trinity and orthodox Christology is very very weak in Baptist circles. The doctrines of the Church and sacraments isn't even existent.

And so I'm willing to work with churches that I deem theologically adrift, but I'm not willing to work with supposed purists who are themselves adrift, but merely in areas that they don't deem important. Most Baptists are committed to Sola Scriptura, whereas most Baptistic Presbys are not. Again, this makes working with actual Baptists possible where it is not possible with Baptistic Presbyterians. Actual Baptists are often pretty nice too, whereas Baptistic Presbyterians are too busy giving you theological exams (I'm not kidding about this. Real on-paper exams!).

So I can see how the CREC can work with Baptists and actually get somewhere. It makes perfect sense in our current denominational Americana. The criteria needs to be a mutual commitment to treating one another as you'd like to be treating with an eye towards future reform and reconciliation.

Trey wrote: "I really don't think there are three options as i seem to have implied in my previous posts. The reality is that both baptismal regeneration and decisional regeneration (which goes along with crisis conversion) are both part of the attempt to limit God to working in one particular way."

I'm glad you finally spit it out, brother, because I was about to take you to the mat. So I'm pleased to see the biblical wisdom in this statement and those immediately following. We all need to return to John 3 and put it more at center of these discussions.

David, these are good, albeit tricky questions. In response:

1. The denial of paedobaptism completely undercuts the covenental foundations of our faith. Although I have no personal antipathy towards Baptists, suffice it to say I would not let my daughters marry one.

2. Epistemologically, there is no difference. Both credobaptists and sacerdotalists place the locus of authority somewhere else than a sovereign God.

3. I would consider this being placed on the horns of a false dilemma.

4. The tone has been uncharitable on both sides. Also, there do seem to be those who have come to conclusions that do not necessarily follow from their premises.

5. I honestly do not believe that the FV doctrine of sacremental efficacy constitutes a doctrine of works righteousness.

6. David, you are more than just a friend. The tone that you've noticed indicates immaturity and a lack of humility at best. The mocking of genuine piety indicates something much worse.

7. The primary benefit that my children receive from my view of baptism is the benefit of being reared with an understanding of the reality of the covenant. When Charlemagne focibly baptised the northern tribes in the eighth century, they turned away from many of the grosser manifestations of pagenism not because they were regenerate but because they realized that receiving the covenant seal made them liable to the sanctions of the Lord of the covenant. In this regard the northen pagens had an understanding superior to that of modern evangelicals.

As always, yours in Christ

Don Alexander

Dear Pduggie, Seth, Trey and Don,

I appreciate your answers. Thank you brothers.

Pduggie, I've come to respect you through your interaction here and elsewhere. Thank you for taking my questions seriously. Tim and I have found our fondness for members of the FV movement deepening as we've watched the debate over the FV/NPP report progress--probably because we've come to see that there are those on the FV side besides Doug Wilson who are willing to engage without snarling like pit bulls.

Trey, we love your humility and willingness to debate. We want you to see the value of some of the things you now reject--but if I can say so without appearing condescending, we understand how a young man from an Evangelical or Baptist background could come to possess the strong feelings you currently entertain on these topics.

Seth, it's good to hear from you again brother. I know I promised you a response on this issue two years ago and never delivered. It's one of many areas of guilt that cause me to cringe in the midst of my general feeling of happiness.

Don, I love you brother and am overjoyed to count you, your wife, your sons and daughters part of CTW. I do hope that a godly Baptist would end up receiving your blessing. Even Douglas Wilson was once a Baptist after all....

David Bayly

Ms. Ivy,

Excellent observation, i believe. One certainly could argue that a person who claims that all non-paedocommunion Christians necessarily "starve their children of grace" seem to be treating the sacrament contains grace, or confers that grace automatically.

At the same time, though, there are those who argue that children shouldn't receive communion based on the seeming assumption that anyone who hasn't professed faith or come to a self-conscious awareness of an experience of salvation to be able to "examine himself" is necessarily approaching the table unworthily and will incur wrath and chastisement because of it. In the same way, these paedocommunion opponents seem to believe that, while there is no benefit for children in the sacrament, there is always condemnation in it for them. In my opinion, it says alot more about how they view Covenant children than it does about how they view the table of the Lord.

The bottom line is, though, that, while parents are most immediately charged with the training of their children in the Lord, the elders are (even if they have skewed conceptions about who should come to the table, upon what conditions, and when) those who have been given the power of the keys (which, from my understanding of Scripture, includes the power to close the doors of the Kingdom and open them up again to those whom they judge to be fit recipients. It's not mama and daddy's job to judge whether little Johnny is read to come to the table.

Pastor David Bayly wrote: "Trey, we love your humility and willingness to debate. We want you to see the value of some of the things you now reject--but if I can say so without appearing condescending, we understand how a young man from an Evangelical or Baptist background could come to possess the strong feelings you currently entertain on these topics."

Thanks for that, brother.

Of course, i guess i should say that i can see how a couple of Boomer pastors who came out of liberalism can be so enamored of Evangelicalism. ;-)

What is it they say? Where you're going always looks better than where you came from. I suppose that goes for people who come from broad Evangelicalism and are headed toward more formal expressions of Christianity (like myself), and it goes for those who are coming from more formal expressions of the faith and are headed for broader Evangelicalcism (like you brothers).

In spite of what it might sound like, i really am a pretty broad fellow. It really is a shock to find myself to be (as i've said before) the liberal in the bunch where PCA Presbyterians are concerned (my exceptions to the WSs' denunciation of all images of Christ as idolatrous was a bit shocking to Westminster Presbytery, but my view that women should be deacons was like pouring a cold bucket of water on the whole lot of them). My life as an ARP really has greatly influenced me to be even-keeled and balanced about alot of things. I have to say that i really miss being in the ARP; the PCA was a definite shock. I just wish there were more discussing like this and less committee investigations. In that the PCA would be a much more pleasant place to serve. There is definitely no lack of Machen's Warrior Children in the PCA.

Anne,

Grace is not a commodity but that doesn't mean it isn't something we can have more or less of, nor does it mean it isn't something we receive or don't receive depending on our participation within the covenant body. The concept of commodity seems to imply some sort of normativity and/or consistency of the "product" and grace doesn't work that way. The image of "starving children" is sort of a misnomer in this respect because, as you've pointed out, it gives a picture grace as a "food" and in our understanding food items are commodities. But if you (or your child) is starving for grace you can't go to your local grocery store to purchase more. Rather, grace is imparted primarily (but not solely) through participation in the sacraments of (after baptism) the Lord's table and hearing of the preached word of God.

I suppose the - alright, "a" - key factor in this is one of obedience. Since the wee ones cannot "obey" under their own steam, it doesn't seem likely that the LORD would shortchange them grace He actually intends them to receive because their parents or pastors didn't give them communion.

My RC daughter (forgive me if I've mentioned this before in another comment somewhere) has a friend who is a "eucharistic minister" and to my daughter's horror, it turned out her friend is convinced it's permissible under RC canon law to take communion multiple times a day, and that doing so is beneficial, since "think of all the grace", as it was put. Her friend likened the grace in communion to Vitamin C in orange juice, BION. What I've said as a joke, this young lady actually believes in earnest.

Thing is, if "the earlier the better" and "the more often the better" is a valid viewpoint when it comes to communion, then I'm at a bit of a loss to think of how one would counter my daughter's friend (barring the simple fact she's wrong, and RC canon law forbids the laity from taking communion more than once per day, with a couple of exceptions).

If frequent communion actually increases the amount of grace bestowed, then why don't Presbyterian churches have daily communion services?

If it doesn't have such an effect, then there's no reason to fall into little pieces because of a lack of paedocommunion.

Seth,

I don't intend to ignore questions put to me in comments. I've simply been busy at hospitals and in meetings today...

You ask, "I'm a Christian, baptized as an infant, and my children were also baptized as infants. Are my children Christians? Can you answer that question quickly and without qualification?"

Well, brother, this comes back to the nature of the Church, doesn't it? Visible or invisible? Since I maintain a distinction here, I have to ask which you're referring to. I can see how my asking for a quick, unqualified answer on question 2 would make you want to stick it to me similarly, but I'm squirming out of it by saying that while there aren't really two forms of Baptist or two Catholics (though, of course, there is Catholic and catholic), there are two classic usages for "Christian."

Earlier today Tim asked me what we're to make of Jacob and Esau in the midst of this debate. How should Jacob have treated Esau? I suspect he'll write on this at some point, but it's a question we all need to consider.

Practically speaking, I assume my children are growing in faith and the favor of God. I see tendencies that are of concern and I don't want to ignore those tendencies, but my assumption at this point is that your children and mine are together growing up as Christians.

I hope this, though less than you asked for, explains my thinking.

Your brother in Christ,

David

Anne,

You are right to say that one of the key issues here is that of obedience, however I'm curious why you think children cannot "obey under their own steam." Surely they are incapable of obeying to the same extent that adults are able to obey, but how does that translate into complete lack of ability? Also keep in mind that God works through individuals so while He may intend grace for the little ones, there are proper means of dispensing that grace and if those surrounding the child aren't dispensing then, it seems to me, that the child is not receiving. Now I'm perfectly willing to grant that God is capable of confering grace sans the human element, but this is not the normal way of things.

While I do believe that "the earlier the better" and "the more often the better" I do not believe it necessarily follows, then, that we should have communion services every day. There are the issues of propriety, i.e. who is administering and under what circumstances, etc. to consider along with the tradition of Sabbath administration. Communion is also a corporate sacrament and should not be adminstered privately. There is biblical evidence that the Lord's Supper was originally celebrated as an actual supper (what we might call "felloship dinners" in our PCA circles) rather than as the formal ritual we know it as today. This would certainly account for why it was only celebrated on the Lord's day rather than every day. Given the history and tradition it seems safe to say that this is the way God intended for the sacrament to be administered (i.e. once a week and on the Sabbath) but, again, there can be exceptions (and I could be wrong).

I suppose that done properly a church could hold communion services every day but this would seem to make the meal, perhaps ironically, too common. When the sacrament ceases being sacred I think it ceases being a true celebration and, thus, can no longer be properly considered the Lord's Supper. As to your daughter's friend, if making known to her that she is wrong and that RC canon actually forbids what she seems to think it allows does not counter her then I don't think anything more or less substative would convince her otherwise either.

"I'm curious why you think children cannot 'obey under their own steam.' Surely they are incapable of obeying to the same extent that adults are able to obey, but how does that translate into complete lack of ability?"

For crying out loud, Jared, because a two week old baby isn't aware communion exists...he's not aware HE exists!...and if a two year old is going to take communion someone needs to TAKE the toddler TO the service and give him the elements.

Neither a two week old nor a two year old are themselves capable of arranging to take communion.

If I don't take communion when it's available, I've only myself to blame since I've the knowledge it's going to be offered, the desire to partake, and the ability to get myself to the service.

The same can hardly be said for a two week old or a two year old, now can it?

Y'know, it's perplexing how FV'ers can completely miss the most simple meaning of what someone says. When I said the wee ones are incapable of obeying under their own steam, I meant it in the most obvious way. They're too small to be able to perform the actions that would permit them to be present at the communion table under their own steam.

This is why the LORD is scarcely likely to effectively penalize them for not partaking of communion by withholding grace He would otherwise give them. They're dependent upon OTHERS to be able to partake.

This ain't rocket science, Jared. ;^)

Would someone explain for me precisely what is meant when it's said a Presbyterian's a closet Baptist?

For years the "You might as well be a BAPTIST!" charge has been flung around, but I've never perfectly grasped what triggers it.

Anne,

You are correct, this isn't rocket science. The problem is that most in the PCA, especially teaching and ruling elders, use your very reasoning to deny them the table in the first place. Obviously I was taking for granted that the child would actually have access to the elements which, of course, would necessitate appropriate accomodation(s). Given access to the table, then, why would one presume that the child is incapable of partaking "in a worthy manner"? Because developmental psychology tells us that consciousness doesn't occur until a certain age after birth (which, incidentally, isn't true)? What makes you think a two-week old infant isn't aware of himself or couldn't be aware of the elements if given the opportunity to partake? Even prior to birth, infants are capable of experiencing the qualia of reality; why would communion be excluded (except for the fact that it cannot be taken while still in the womb)? Again, you are right, this is not rocket science.

Now, I'm not unreasonable and I am not, here, trying to put together a case for letting newborns partake of the Lord's Supper; so don't get me wrong. I am, however, wondering what could possibly exclude a covenant child who is clearly able to participate "under his own steam," as it were. Appealing to lack of self-consciousness or self-awareness at this point is certainly bogus and all that we're left with is a fencing guideline which is incorrectly derived from Paul's admonishing of the Corinthians to examine themselves. Would I let my two-week old child partake of the elements? No, I don't think I would. Would I let my two-year old partake? Sure, if the church I was attending allowed for it.

At what age should we let children partake? I suppose that's ultimately up to the parents to decide, or should be anyway. In the PCA, however, it is decided for them and I think that is a mistake. Maybe my current views will change once I have children (come this November for our first!) but I don't believe they will.

I've no strong feeling either for or against paedocommunion, Jared. Feeding it to an actual, literal infant-in-arms strikes me as sort of silly, but that's about the worst one can say about it.

Keep in mind my focus, which was on your original "starving children" statement. It's not the first time I've run across it, and frankly, that's a viewpoint I'd like to see stomped out.

Well. "Stomped out" in a nice way.

But the whole "We MUST be allowed to give our babies communion otherwise they're being deprived of grace!" argument is invalid and ought to be given the ol' heave-ho.

Want to argue in favor of paedocommunion, fine, but not because failure to provide paedocommunion leads to spiritual rickets for the small fry in the congregation.

Anne,

Perhaps not spiritual rickets, as such, but there's a loss or lack of something if we really believe that grace is conferred by participating in the sacrament. This is part and parcel to the whole "objectivity of the covenant" thing that FV'ers are concerned with. The "starving children" picture works in this vein because it's the Lord's *Supper* and the children are being denied *food*. I was simply attempting to show you that (1) this picture doesn't necessarily imply a "commodity" view of grace and (2) there is weight behind the surface argument in support of paedocommunion.

We're going to have to agree to disagree, Jared, for thus far I've seen no reason to change my view that the way the FV treats grace turns it into a commodity.

If a person incapable of either asking FOR or making any personal effort to partake OF communion suffers loss or lack of grace unless they're fed it by someone else, then how grace isn't a "thing" riding along with the elements, beats me.

Clearly, though, you've figured out a way it works to your satisfaction. Doubtless I'm just tone-deaf in this area.

Thanks for the discussion!

Jared, Mr Wilson, Mark Horne

I would be interested to know, in your own opinions, how much of a factor does paedoommunion play in the FV? I have heard many anti FV'ers state that they believe Paedocommunion is the driving force in this movement, IMO, it does seem to be one of the consistant views of the various FV advocates.

I apologize to all, as I intended to address my question to all, not just the three listed.

At the risk of giving the wrong answer, I suppose I would choose to be the average Roman Catholic for the simple reason that the average Baptist church does not accept, as valid, baptisms from other traditions that are done in infancy, and even some baptisms that are done by other Baptist churches. I want to be a member of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church, and I don't see how I could do that by joining a church that didn't have a spirit of catholicity to other churches. I could hold my nose during all the Mary stuff and refuse to bow to statues, but imagine going to church every Sunday at a church that didn't recognize my Presbyterian friends as actually being baptized Christians. That would gnaw at my heart.

But the RC church also wouldn't allow my Presbyterian friends to commune either, so that would be frustrating. That's why I like the PCA - we accept baptisms from any Trinitarian Christian church, and we also do not have "close communion" - I think that's the best of all worlds as far as catholicity goes. Of course, I also like the Calvinism part :)

But my brother Barlow, though I don't disagree with your thoughts about Baptists rejecting infant baptism, it seems clear to me that you're placing communion on the same plane as the Gospel.

I sometimes think these issues are being played out on two levels: the pastoral and the philosophical, for want of better terms. Dealing only intellectually or philosophically with these issues leads to the sort of thinking you express (and I thank you for taking the time to express it here). Your comment seems to reflect what I read in many FV advocates. It's a consistent argument, even a valid argument, but I would submit to you that it's an unweighted argument.

I like Pastor Wilson on these issues because to my mind he approaches them pastorally. He realizes that souls are at stake and he practices theological triage--going for the salvation of souls first, then dealing with other issues. And while the issue of communion that you raise is real, the simple addition of idolatry to the mix on the Roman side (an official plank of the RV platform, mind you) suddenly skews everything. I could add more to my concerns about RCC, but let's stick to idolatry for the purposes of this discussion....

How can there be equivalence in attitude toward a church which officially endorses idolatry and a church which may have a deficient view of the sacraments, the Church, etc., but doesn't condone idolatry?

The only way I can see you and others arguing that being Baptist is little better than being RC is if you actually view the differences in our views of the sacraments as extending into the salvific. In other words, IF you view Baptist sacramentology as so deficient that Baptists are being led to hell by their views or practices, then your arguments make sense. Is that what you're saying? I hope not. But if the issues between you and Baptists are less than salvific (and again, this is why I asked this question of FVers: I want to know how far you go in your view of sacramental efficacy) then the idolatry of Rome alone should rise to a level which would have you running for the nearest SBC church if you can't be Presbyterian.

Real souls are at stake in these issues. We have to remember this, brother.

Yours in Christ,

David

Hello, Pastor David!

First, carry no guilt for not getting back to me. I'm not holding a grudge over here; indeed, I had completely forgotten about it.

Anyways, on to the question at hand. Just for fun, I'll take things in reverse order. You said this:

"Practically speaking, I assume my children are growing in faith and the favor of God. I see tendencies that are of concern and I don't want to ignore those tendencies, but my assumption at this point is that your children and mine are together growing up as Christians."

Now, if I were to add "because of their baptism" to this paragraph (in a grammatically appropriate place), it would be a reasonable summation of my position. I don't assume this of all children, just like I don't assume this of all people. Instead, I rest on the promises of God to His people, which includes them, while calling them ever onward in their obedience to the Savior Who bought them.

Of course, I do the same with all the other baptized people around me. This isn't just about children; this is about how we treat our brothers.

"Well, brother, this comes back to the nature of the Church, doesn't it? Visible or invisible? Since I maintain a distinction here, I have to ask which you're referring to."

And this is the other heart of the matter. As I recall, the Westminster Confession says that the invisible church includes all the elect: past, present, and future. In other words, this includes people who are currently unregenerate and, indeed, those who are not yet born. So are we to say that I can speak to someone who is unregenerate as a Christian, because he is elect?

Moreover, as Deuteronomy 29:29 says, "The secret things belong to Yahweh our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law." For a while now, I have maintained that Reformed Christians get too hung up on the decrees. Essentially, what the Bible says about them is "God made His eternal decrees, and He didn't tell you what they are." So, if this is the definition of the invisible Church, then how can we say that *anyone* is a Christian? Am I a Christian?

Which is really a roundabout way of answering your question, isn't it? So, in all seriousness and with all respect, I'll answer in this way:

I mean "Christian" in whatever sense is required to be able to look a person in the eye and say, "Because you are a Christian, Jesus loves you, and all the trials and torments that come upon you are not in vain. He stores each one of your tears in a bottle, so that they would not be forgotten. And, one day, He promises that each of those tears will be placed as diamonds in a crown of glory that you will receive from His hands, a crown that will never fade away. And then you will fall on your face and throw that crown at His feet." Because, I need to be able to say this to the right people. And, quite frankly, if I can't honestly say this to the right people, then what is the point of this all?

The peace of Christ be with you, my brother.

Seth

Pastor Leithart quotes Pastor Wilson saying FV is all about our children and paedocommunion seems to be the conviction of most FV men. With that background, here's a question and answer from the RC newspaper, "The Wanderer," to which I've subscribed for twenty-five years, now:

* * *

Q. In a recent article about Limbo, there was a quotation from n. 99 of Pope John Paul II’s 1995 encyclical "Evangelium Vitae."

According to the article, the Holy Father, in remarks to women who have had abortions, said that “ the Father of mercies is ready to give you His forgiveness and His peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. You will come to understand that nothing is definitively lost and you will also be able to ask forgiveness from your child, who is now living in the Lord.” Don’t I re member that this statement was subsequently changed to eliminate the apparent reference to the souls of aborted babies “ living in the Lord”? — M. H. D., New York.

ANSWER: Yes, your memory is correct. Apparently, this portion of the encyclical was wrongly translated. The correct version now reads: “ The Father of mercies is ready to give you His forgiveness and His peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. To the same Father and His mercy you can with sure hope entrust your child. With the friendly and expert help and advice of other people, and as a result of your own painful experience, you can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyone’s right to life.”

* * *

Yes, it's all about the children. And from my experience reading FVs, RCs, and pastoring non-FV Presbyterians and Baptists, there's very little difference in the pastoral approach of each group to the question concerning the state of the souls of unborn, and hence unbaptized, children who have died.

The Vatican is approaching this extremely sensitive issue just now, and soon we'll have better information on Rome's commitment to original sin, ex opere operato, and limbo.

By the way, I must say I'm highly skeptical of the "corrected translation" story above.

Oh, and lest it be unclear....

I greatly appreciate the honor that both you and your brother have demonstrated in this matter. We may not agree on this matter, but I hold both of you in the highest respect.

Seth

I think your points are good ones and I appreciate Pastor Wilson's pastoral approach to the issues. I would rather my children be in Baptist Sunday School than Roman Catholic Sunday School.

But I do think your several dilemmas tend to portray the Baptist church as epitomizing mere Christianity - whatever we might add to it, we wouldn't be adding anything relating to salvation. But confessing that sacraments are means of grace, as we Reformed do, I don't see how we can disassociate sacramental issues from soteriological issues since sacraments are "ordinarily" involved in salvation (e.g., baptism is admission into the visible church outside of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation).

I think that if I could boil Christianity down to a small core and that core happened to match the Baptist church, then I would join it. But I don't think it works that way; salvation is about more than saving souls simpliciter - it is aobut saving souls-in-relation, souls-in-creation, souls-engaged-in-business, souls-that-are-thirsty, souls-that-are-hungry, souls-that-need-hope, souls-that-need-beauty, etc. And that forces us to relate our soteriology to our every other -ology as best we can.

And, most importantly, sorry for leaving it out - is that if salvation is about Jesus, then it is also about his body.

Right, anyone who is familiar with the Reformation-era Eucharistic debates knows that the issue ulitmately came back to Christology.

Baptists have a docetic-ecclesiology. It is really a struggle to say that they are even Nicean.

Pastor David Bayly wrote: "The only way I can see you and others arguing that being Baptist is little better than being RC is if you actually view the differences in our views of the sacraments as extending into the salvific. In other words, IF you view Baptist sacramentology as so deficient that Baptists are being led to hell by their views or practices, then your arguments make sense. Is that what you're saying? I hope not. But if the issues between you and Baptists are less than salvific (and again, this is why I asked this question of FVers: I want to know how far you go in your view of sacramental efficacy) then the idolatry of Rome alone should rise to a level which would have you running for the nearest SBC church if you can't be Presbyterian."

Actually, brother, there is another option. :-)

The other option is that one could view what you call "idolatry" of the Roman Church as not fundamentally hampering salvation. It certainly is possible to view Baptists (remember that there are many different kinds of Baptists out there; where i live, the "average" Baptist church is a Freewill Baptist church) as equally flawed and idolatrous as the Roman Church. Do you honestly think that the Baptist rhetoric about what might be called "faith alone" is, on the whole, accurate? Or does it, as i have seen so often, fall into a kind of antinomianism, which, ironically enough, rides the cusp of legalism? But that's just the very thing that i see in the Roman Church: their antinomianism (do whatever you want and go for auricular confession, and then you're forgiven--free and clear) also rides the cusp of legalism (good works are necessary for salvation; that means you must say your rosary X# of times a day, you must attend mass at least once a week, and you must go to confession to receive absolution in order to take communion, &c.).

I suppose i'd have a hard time deciding between those two options--not because i think the Roman Church is so good, but because i don't entertain the notion that Baptist churches (please note: there is no singular one of those) are just Presbyterianism Lite: "All of the Gospel, none of the Sacraments!" As we say, 'tain't so!

Were i to choose any option, my choice would be a continuing Anglican Church and/or a church connection with a national Anglican Church, which is under the headship of an evangelical Primate/Metropolitan.

Frank Meints,

I think faithfulness to what the Scriptures teach is the driving force behind the FV movement. Paedocommunion has become one of the outspoken issues because it hasn't been practiced or really brought to the forefront of serious theological discussion until this whole Auburn Avenue fiasco erupted a few years ago. That's what I think anyway.

Christ is in our midst.

Before I think all the questions through, I'd like, in light of No. 2, to send up two cheers for Catholic worship.

First a disclaimer. I'm Presbyterian now, but I spent my high school and college years as a Baptist. Baptists gave me, or helped to solidify, my basic convictions about who Jesus is and what he has done and is doing, and about the nature of Scripture as God's word. I'm thankful for those things.

Nonetheless, I find Baptist worship (Reformed, too) wanting in ways that Catholic worship is not.

Another disclaimer: I'm about to say something nice about Catholics. I hope I can do so without drawing the gibe that I'm "on the road to Rome." The Catholic Church has problems, but some of those that Reformed critics consider the worst aren't always in evidence in gathered Sunday worship. Catholics don't pray the rosary during the Sunday liturgy, for example. (Some, therefore, don't pray it at all.) And my Presbyterian church has more images by far than the chapel at a local Catholic university.

In some ways, I think, Catholics are at their best on Sunday. On Sunday you hear an Old Testament reading, a reading from one of the New Testament letters, and a Gospel reading. Between the Old Testament and the epistle, you get a Psalm, or Psalm portion, which is sung. What's more, you sing things such as the Gloria and the Sanctus, which are full of biblical language. (On top of all that, you may well sing the hymns of Wesley and Newton and others that evangelicals see as their own.) On the whole, it's a lot more biblical than Baptist worship. More biblical, alas, than most Reformed worship I know.

Consider further: The Reformers weren't concerned about reforming eucharistic doctrine alone. They had practice in view as well. They wanted to get Communion into the mouths of Christians more than once or twice a year. Calvin thought anything less than weekly was deficient.

Well, credit where credit is due: The Catholic Church has seen some reformation in this area. At least in my experience, most Catholics in a given parish appear to be communing weekly. A lot of Reformed and Baptist churches, failing to stand with Calvin, look in this regard a bit more, well, medieval.

Steven W. said: "Baptists have a docetic-ecclesiology. It is really a struggle to say that they are even Nicean."

Does this mean that Confessional Presbyterianism's ecclesiology is Nestorian (the radical division between the visible and invisible church as distinct churches being analogous to the radical division between the natures of Christ as distinct persons)? If so, can we say that most of the PCA Presbyterians out there are really *EPHESIAN* at all (referring to the First Council of Ephesus)?

Pastor Trey,

I do think that if the division between invisible and visible is taken to mean that there are two different churches existing alongside one another, then yes we have something analogous to Nestorianism.

That's always been a threat for the Reformed, and I'm not sure that Zwingli can really be saved from it. Calvin, on the other hand, was always quick to focus on the mystical (read Spiritual- ie. the person of the Holy Spirit) union between the visible and invisible.

I would want to take it easy though with these charges. Obviously if someone has a docetic or nestorian ecclesiology, they aren't necessarily true Docetists or Nestorians. They should take care to note the correlation and, in my opnion, correct the deficiency.

A good dose of the early church's Christological debates would help us all get a better grasp of the imlications of Christ on the rest of our system.

It's a constant astonishment and disappointment to read the paeans of praise for the RCC that come from those who have never actually BEEN Roman Catholic.

Y'all have snapped your twigs, that's the top and bottom of it.

The RC communion? It'd be preferable to sit with the RC's for communion? This would be the RC communion that insists the words of the priest turn the bread and wine into the actual, literal body and blood of Christ, which is why it's suitable to be literally worshiped (I used to do that, BTW; I'd stop in the chapel at St. Andrews Catholic prior to picking kids up from the parochial school and kneel in front of the altar to worship the "Eucharistic Presence")?

Anyone who thinks it would be preferable to rub ecclesiastical shoulders with Benedict 16 rather than Al Mohler is a couple of tamales shy of a Mexican plate, as we say in Texas.

The RCC is poisonous. It's idolatrous.

My daughter, the one I spoke of before, mentioned a few months ago the trouble she was having with one of my grandchildren...the question had come up as to whom one should love most, Jesus or Mary.

To my daughter's (and MY) dismay, her child was adamant that it's MARY who deserves the most love.

When one is surrounded by a religion that on a day-to-day basis pays a lot more attention to Mary than to Jesus, I guess this could happen.

Better to be ROMAN CATHOLIC? To be part of the company that thinks it's sensible to bury statues of Joseph in the yard to facilitate selling the house?

Indulgences? Purgatory? Any of this resonating with anybody?

Good grief. =8^o

Sure thing. Those are all bad news, and it should be stated that the Roman Catholics would most certainly not allow us to commune with them.

But again, there's plenty o' trouble in the other direction. The anabaptists really rejected Nicean Christianity. They didn't believe that Jesus obtained his humanity from the substance of Mary. They didn't believe that there was one baptism for the remission of sins. They didn't believe in the communion of the Saints.

And so when we chart the course to modern day Baptists, we might find some better ones, but then again, we might find some worse ones. There's plenty of charismania and Sabellianism among your average baptist (especially the more rural you get), and in my experience there is more outright pelagianism in the Arminian branches of the Baptist church.

But there ARE Baptist churches that are sound as regards the gospel, whereas there are NO Roman Catholic churches about which one could say that, since the actual gospel is denied by its magisterium.

I've said it before and I'm gonna say it again. It's no coincidence that every ex-RC I know is adamant against the FV, recognizing the similarities and the inherent danger because of those similarities.

Tragically, FV sympathizers and supporters tend to wear rose-colored glasses about the RCC.

I think there are plenty of 20th/21st cent. RCCs that thumb their noses at the magisterium.

I'm happy to take the question on a congregation by congregation basis, but that really requires ramping down the rhetoric.

I'm an ex-Baptist, and so I think Baptists have big problems. You are an ex-Roman Catholic, and so you think they have big problems. It makes plenty of sense to me. But if we do a historical study of Christianity, I don't think there is any question which of the two broad theological group is totally off the map. Furthermore, where do you think Calvin and Luther would fit in if give only those two choices? Now ask where Augustine and Athanasius would fit in?

I think the Baptists strike out in both scenarios.

I agree there's no question which of the two groups is further off in theological left field, but it's not the same one YOU think it is.

If you want to condemn Baptist theology as salvifically deficient - even though I think that's taking it too far - fine, but don't assume that means the RCC is in any way, shape or form acceptable.

It is not.

Instead say that David offered a choice of theological strychnine or hemlock, and if those were the only two choices you'd skip 'em both and start a house church.

Anne,

I am a former RC ... RC grade school, high school, and college. I was an altar boy; my parents loved the RC church and while my father died last year, my mother still prays daily for me to return to the one true church; and my father-in-law is a deacon in the RCC (similar to an elder in prebyterian circles). All of my relatives on both sides are still RC.

And yet, I have great appreciation for the FV.

I think Doug Wilson said it best in response to David's questions: "Before David raised this question, I raised a very similar one with our session of elders. I was talking about liturgy, high, low and middlin, and said that on a historic scale of one to ten, I thought our liturgical practices at Christ Church were about a 6. I then said that I wanted to get to 7. I hastened to add that I would rather be at 5 than at 8."

I think that same principle applies to many of the FV issues. I am not on the road to Rome for a whole host of reasons ... it's not something I've even considered, much less seriously contemplated. But, I would like to see the modern Reformed church learn from its own history as well as the history of the broader catholic church.

BTW, David, I don't know you but I do know Tim. Thanks to both of you for these discussions. I have followed many of the online discussions for several years and this is one of the few where genuine interaction occurs and I believe its because of the tone set by the two of you.

Blessings,

Tom

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