No novelties; just agreeing with our fathers...

(Tim) When ClearNote Church was founded and her officers were exploring extending a call to me to serve as her pastor, I asked for something quite large from them. What I wanted was the freedom to hold to, live, and preach and teach historic Christian, Protestant, Reformed doctrine. Nothing new--just the old stuff. Were they willing to grant me that inestimably precious liberty?

They said "Yes," and on such a very simple question and answer hang the destinies of men and women across the ages and around the world.

Today, churches would do well to know the historic Christian, Protestant, and Reformed (which is to say the Biblical) faith and doctrine, and to fire any pastor or elder who wants to go a different way. Oppositely, churches should love and protect any pastor or elder who has those commitments and teaches truth, rebukes sin and false doctrine, and lovingly calls the souls under His care back to the Word of God.

This thought came to mind reading this from an e-mail just received from a friend who described his teaching and writing ministry...

this way:

As a young boy I "paid attention to things," especially the things my own father thought important (our fathers were doubtless much alike), and I, like you, am one of those sons who agrees with his father, who for his own part, agreed with his. I have no desire in life to do anything new or spectacular, only to lay another course, as straight and plumb as I can make it, on the foundation they left us. That, indeed, takes all I've got.

Here's how Charles Hodge put it in 1857 in a letter to the Scottish historical theologian, William Cunningham:

I have had but one object in my professional career and as a writer, and that is to state and to vindicate the doctrines of the Reformed Church. I have never advanced a new idea, and have never aimed to improve on the doctrines of our fathers. Having become satisfied that the system of doctrines taught in the symbols of the Reformed Churches is taught in the Bible, I have endeavored to sustain it, and am willing to believe even where I cannot understand.”

-David B. Calhoun, Princeton Seminary, vol. 2: The Majestic Testimony, 1869-1929, Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1996, p. 57.

Don't you love that? What humility! What faith! What grace! Praise God for fifteen years, now, that our pastors and elders and I have been loved and surrouned by women and men at least as committed to the doctrine of Scripture as we are--and we live together in love and unity! Amazing. Such wonderful grace from God!

Thank you, Heavenly Father!

Comments

Tim,

I'm in substantial agreement with this post, but...

In his essay on systematic theology, John Murray (hardly a bleeding-edge theologian) speaks of the wisdom, even necessity, of each new generation of the Church to explore the Bible's teaching on "X" and "Y" more and more - to push into new areas previously unexplored... or at least underserved/neglected.

How do our pastor-scholars (and the teachers of the Church) bring the Word to bear in a fresh way, but in a way that is self-consciously building on the foundation in a way that is consistent and creative?

Thanks.

Dear Matt,

The two don't seem to be contradictory. I'm reminded of Joe Brown's (Harold O. J. Brown) statement in his book on heresy that each period has its own work to do combating the heresies of his own time. Doing this faithfully, I believe we always grow in our understanding and appreciation of Scripture in that area where we give battle. So yes, we stand on our fathers' shoulders.

Love,

Well, I for one am glad that Christians in the Reformation period and after were prepared to work through the New Testament's teaching on believer's baptism, and be prepared to do something about it. And while I am not Reformed, there are Reformed Baptists who would share that view.

I'm not glad that certain folk decided the Holy Spirit left the Church dumb and blind for over 1500 years and decided to pursue their novelty of believer's baptism.

Why not, then?

If justification by faith fell off the radar for a millenium or so, is it any surprise that believers' baptism did likewise?

[would welcome a Reformed Bapist contribution at this point ... :-)]

There is no evidence that believer's baptism was ever on the radar. And justification by faith, in Calvin and Luther's estimation, did not disappear for a millenium but rather a much smaller period and not wholly.

Dear Ross,

Leaving aside infant baptism, as one of the longest-standing readers of Baylyblog, resign yourself, man. You are Reformed--you just don't know it.

With love,

And on infant baptism, what we do agree on is that man's love for ceremonies and for replacing faith with ceremonial securities of one sort and another has never left us. Thus neither Reformed paedobaptists nor Reformed credobaptists are sacerdotalists or sacramentalists, and our union in opposing that great wickedness dwarfs our disagreement over the application of the sign of the Covenant to newborns.

Which is to say if I were somehow forced to choose between becoming credobaptist or Roman Catholic, it would be credo one hundred out of one hundred times.

Put that in your pipes and smoke it.

Love,

We are indeed blessed that this is not our choice.

>>We are indeed blessed that this is not our choice.

Smiling broadly...

Love,

Also - in the church movement I do belong to, we make a lot of the need to preach "the main and the plain" of Scripture. This is something our esteemed moderators would see as pretty important as well, I am quite sure. The trouble we have - to bring us back to where this thread started - is when Christians disagree on what 'the main and the plain' comprises.

Thank GOD we aren't left with Romanism or Anabaptism, but I'm with Tim, in spite of the many squandered resources within Rome, Constantinople, etc.

I agree as well but it is a false choice. I'd go LCMS before I'd go Anabaptist.

David:

What about some of the older conservative Anglican churches (such as Anglican Province of America, Reformed Episcopal Church) or the newer ones (American Mission to the Americas, Anglican Church in North America, other U.S. Anglican bodies still under the leadership of African or South American Anglican churches, etc.).

The older church bodies felt the Episcopal Church left orthodox Christianity a long time ago; the newer ones came to a breaking point within the past 5-10 years. Within this spectrum you can find churches with an evangelical, anglo-Catholic, and charismatic emphases or all of the above simultaneously... one river, three streams. Yes, we consider baptism a sacrament and recommend that parents baptize their babies as soon as possible, but so does the LCMS.

If I asked my rector what our "main and plain" was, he'd probably say it is summarized in the historic Creeds, having a personal relationship with Jesus, engaging yourself in daily Bible study AND devotions, weekly worship, and involvement in the life of our parish. If anyone in the parish does all these things, God would reveal the "main and plain" to them and it would be essentially the same, except that God would reveal to each person in a way that he or she would understand it.

A P.S. to previous post: I think my rector would also recommend partaking of the Eucharist regularly and participating in ministries where God wants you to serve. Not out of works righteousness, but because these spiritual disciplines (sorry, I left prayer out), have stood the of test of time for centuries.

OK, speaking as a Baptist who tends to some Reformed areas, I'd have to suggest that there is a very key reason that people forgot about immersion for 1500 years; Jerome's Latin translation does not translate "baptizo," but transliterates it. Hence, readers of the Word in Latin had no way of figuring out that there was a primary meaning to the word that Jerome hides. For that matter, how were most people to think about these things even in Latin prior to Gutenberg?

In the same way, Dabney's systematics notes that the Latin use of the word for "justification" does not parallel the Greek use, but largely ignores the judicial implications. Hence the Council of Trent.

So whatever our side on these issues, we can appreciate the fact that the debate would be had after Gutenberg and the fall of Constantinople.

And going back to the original topic, if God were to choose me fo the pastorate, I would be doing almost exactly what our gracious hosts are doing; building up the Church through the Scriptures with the guidance of those who have gone before. I have all too recently seen what happens when pastors get separated from those who have gone before--one does not need to subscribe to every part of the Westminster Confession (or the London Baptist Confession) to understand the importance of undestanding where we have been before.

Dear Bert,

As a fellow Baptist, I nonetheless think it's unlikely that the Vulgate's transliterated use of βαπτίζω had much to do with any disappearance of the idea of immersion. Three reasons for this:

1. Jerome's philosophy of Scriptural translation was to be scrupulously literal, even when it resulted in translations that, to many ears, seemed barbaric, and even when it led to interpretations he disagreed with. There's no evidence, then, or reason to believe, that he attempted to "hide" anything in the language of baptism.

2. More to the point, it's fairly unlikely that Jerome was even responsible for the texts in question. Jerome's role in the Vulgate New Testament was mostly one of revision and correction, and so the transliteration of βαπτίζω would have occurred long before he started his revision. Indeed, the style of the Vulgate NT is, in places, markedly different from that of the OT, and in places is even internally inconsistent. Since the gospels and epistles were some of the most frequently used texts, they are also the earliest, and the least touched by Jerome.

3. Much of the Vulgate's New Testament is a revision of the Vetus Latina (the Old Latin) version, which seems to have originated (in large part) in Africa no later than the end of the second century, and probably much earlier. Given the conservatism of African Christianity, and their tendency to perform barbarically-literal translations, it's doubtful the translators would have performed (or embraced) a translation that skewed the doctrine of baptism, if indeed immersion were still a commonly observable practice.

As a side note, βαπτίζω is such an important word in the N.T., and was so central to Christian liturgy, that its original semantic meaning might well have been quickly displaced by its new use in a Christian context. Given the early use of non-immersion methods of baptism, the Latin transliteration is more likely attributable to complete familiarity with a word that had become Christian lingo, than it is to any attempt to "hide" the idea of immersion.

So, even assuming the Latin world did "forget about" immersion, there's little textual reason to conclude that it hadn't forgotten about it long before the Vulgate.

Warmly,

Josh

OK, so you're saying, then, that the loss occurred prior to Jerome, most likely. Fair enough by me, and thanks for the history lesson.

>OK, so you're saying, then, that the loss occurred prior to Jerome, most likely. Fair enough by me, and thanks for the history lesson.

As we wander into Mormon territory...

> As we wander into Mormon territory...

Do we need to be Mormons to admit that there are some things that didn't translate well from Greek to Latin? Or from Greek to English?

....if so, "as we wander into KJV-only territory," sad to say.

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