Monday, February 28, 2011

The case for Credo Baptism I

Note: This is the argument Alistair Begg made at the 1997 Ligonier conference on the topic of padeo-vs-credo baptism. I'm just going to drop it in here at this point because this is a superb rendition of it, even though this is actually the evidence that the Baptist understanding of covenants is the correct one.

The Argument

Baptism is a New Testament idea first found in Matthew 3:1,6, Luke 3:3 where a great multitude of people are coming out to hear John preach and repent of their sins.  This sets the trend that anytime we see baptism it is in regards to repentance and belief.
  • Acts 2:41 speaks to the people first accepting, then being baptized.
  • Acts 2:38 speaks to the command of first believing and repenting.
  • In Acts 8:12 they believed, then were baptized- even Simon in Acts 8:13 first believed, and his was a shaky faith. 
  • In Acts 8:36 the Eunuch wishes to be baptized, and some very early scribe didn't want a misunderstanding to occur, so he added "If you believe you may. And the Eunuch replied, I believe Jesus is the Son of God." What's interesting is that while it may be a textual addition, it tells us a lot about how the early church perceived baptism: as connected intimately and inseparably with belief.
  • In Acts 10:47 Cornelius believes, receives the Holy Spirit, and is then baptized.
  • In Acts 16:14 Lydia believes because God opens her heart, then is baptized and demonstrates her faith in belief and charity toward Paul.
  • In Acts 16:31 the jailer believes the power of God and the testimony of Paul, Timothy and Silas, and is baptized, him and his whole house. As a side note, the Paedos live in this verse, but a closer look shows us that it's much more likely the children believed and were baptized as well (if there were children). 
  • Crispus and the Corinthians were baptized after believing in Acts 18:8.
  • In Acts 22 Paul tells his own story, how he was convicted, repenting in darkness until he received his sight and was baptized.
Since baptism and faith belong together, credo-baptism must follow, because it alone recognizes that a personal, living belief and repentance are the central aspect of baptism. Why?  Because to baptize babies is to break that link, against the direction of the explicit teachings of the Scriptures. It's unfaithful to the New Testament understanding of baptism.  It's not as if the scripture is clear on adults confessing and silent, or vague, or blank on what we should do with our infants.  The Bible is entirely clear that baptism belongs behind faith.  Infants do not possess the ability to understand right or wrong Is 7:16, or even know their right hands from their left Jonah 4:11, therefore baptism is not for them.

Having realized the fatal concession a paedo-baptist might turn to verses regarding the idea of covenant children. But this too is ineffective, for what delights God is not children, but faithful children.
  • Notice that in Mark 9:42: the punishment awaits those who tamper with children who believe
  • In Acts 2:39 the idea is not that the children are saved apart from faith, but that this promise is good for everyone, you, your children, strangers--all men may believe in Christ and find refuge.
  • In Mark 10:15 the children are encouraged to come to Him, but in v16 it's clear that their faith and acceptance of the Kingdom of heaven makes them precious. Or we might say that this has nothing whatsoever to do with baptism, and that would be a valid argument as well.
To think that our covenant children may (or should) be baptized apart from a personal, living, repenting, faith is then to miss the whole purpose of baptism. It's to denigrate the greatness of faith and the centrality of it's place in the New Covenant.  Baptism is a participation in Christ's death, Rom 6:3, into a new life and body 1 Cor 12:13, Gal 3:27.  It follows after faith.  It's the mark of faith, the uniform of faith, the evidence of faith. It should by no means be divorced from an active, living, confessional faith.

Now let's move on to a bonus round argument against the paedo-baptists

(Return to the index)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

2 Kings 25:26

2 Kings 25:26- "Then all the people, both small and great, and the captains of the forces arose and went to Egypt, for they were afraid of the Chaldeans"

Is there a passage with greater force on the total rejection of God than this?  Is it any wonder this is how the book wraps up?  Considering the promised land of God, Lev 25:38 the slavery they experienced in Egypt, Lev 26:13 the miracles Num 8:17 still they reject the covenant, and the covenant land.
As a dog returns to it's own vomit...

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The limitations of man

What analogy can I use to adequately convey the problem mankind has with the Secret Will of God?  I do not mean the lazy tendency to say "I don't know it now so it's impossible to know" I mean the class of knowledge God has not revealed to us.  The genuine secret will.
It's like an airplane runway- ignore the one track to set down on and you will end up breaking the plane.  It's like driving in the Fresno fog- you have to roll down the window and look at the line closest to you to keep going straight and avoid being lost and crashing. It's like Le-Guins book Wizard of Earthsea when the fictional character Ged talks with dragon- everything the dragon says whether lie or truth, sounds like truth, and so unless he is careful to remember what he knows he will lose his wits as every lie gets reflected as truth.  It's like a train conductor able to see the landscape but unable to leave the tracks without ruin. It's like an infant on the beach who can walk on the sand of revealed will, or into the waters of the secret will a little so long as their feet are on the sand and the water isn't deep, but go further and drown.  
Luther warns us of trying to build our conclusions, lives, and actions on the secret will when he says things like "Reason must be deluded, blinded, and destroyed. Faith must trample underfoot all reason, sense, and understanding, and whatever it sees must be put out of sight and ... know nothing but the word of God." Similarly Alistair Begg is always saying "the main things are the plain things, and the plain things are the main things."
It seems to me by experience and observation that man is a limited creature fundamentally incapable of making sense of the secret will of God, even when he knows what it is.  We must at all times tethered to the revealed will of God because He has not equipped us to make sense of the secret will.  He wasn't made with the facility for it.  Ever have someone ask you how could it be God's plan to take away their child, and have no response for it?  How can you, it would require you to understand the secret will.  Most people daring enough to answer this will use the Revealed will in the Bible to bring the grieving person comfort.
But my intention is to apply this more abstractly.  Take as proof these three ideas.

1. The Trinity
We know from as far back as Genesis 1:26 that God is three persons, but we don't know why or how Christ can be the eternally generated Son. Or how they can be one, unity, and eternally distinct.  Speculation is futile at best, and harmful at worst because God has simply not told us.  We simply have no basis for evaluating the darkness before us.

2. God's love for the non-elect
Is it the will of God that all men be saved?  Yes, (1 Tim 2:4) this is a rule for our own life- we should we evangelize, be kind to our brothers and neighbors and love them because God has told us He loves men.  But now consider how false conclusions appear true when working from the secret will.  Since God has the power to accomplish all His desires (Isa 46:10), and everyone is not saved, we know it's the secret will of God that some people are fitted as vessels for wrath. Therefore we must be careful not to evangelize, not to love them, or pray for their salvation lest we run afoul of Gods will, but we should instead trick them into committing more sins to make them a fitter vessel for wrath. Incidentally the hyper-calvinist certainly would agree with this conclusion: with unmixed fury God hates the non-elect.  It's only the moderate Calvinist who is careful not to trespass this boundary who is spared from this dilemma.

3. The Extent of the Atonement
Did Christ die for sinful men on the cross?  Yes, the revealed will tells us He dies for sins (1 Peter 3:18), of the unrighteous (Rom 5:8).  We can therefore infer that He died for all sinners, or all men, since He died as our representative, in our place.  Did He die only for the elect?  Here we are left with no answer but the secret will, which is unusable to us, because the conclusions it demands are intolerable. It would mean that we must first figure out if we were one He died for before putting faith in Him.  The hyper-calvinists will once again assert it is good only for the elect, but how do they know this without an appeal to the hidden things? I don't mean to say that Christ does not love His sheep with a special and profound love, I mean to say how can you be certain to know Christ has no value your whole life and cannot have value to you? 

Man was created with an utter and total dependence on the revealed word. In light of our weakness God has given us only what we need, in the Bible, that is to say, the revealed will- it's therefore critical to be very circumspect on making conclusions based on the secret will.  The division seems not just between two types of knowledge, but on the difference between food and poison.  It ought to drive us to humility.

PS: I recognize that the thoughtful reader will demand that my entire post be based on the revealed will, or I will have run afoul of the very thing I speak against, thus invalidating my own argument.  Therefore, see Deut 29:29.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

God as the author of sin

How can God be the author of sin and not be the cause of it?

Think of a man writing symphony. He pens the notes for the instruments he wants to hear from, when he wants, as he wants, because he is sovereign over the piece. He pens the duration of each note, the volume, the thematic elements in it. But there is something else is in this symphony that he doesn't write and yet he not only authors but uses: silence.
The man doesn't write the silence in the same way as he writes the notes, yet the silence serves to greatly enhance the beauty (or glory) of the piece. The man is still sovereign over the silence, make no mistake, but it does not flow from his work but arises by the absence of his work.

Think of silence as sin, the notes as God's positive decrees, and the symphony of God's unfolding plan for our universe.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Thoughts on knowing God through Fatherhood

As a personal opinion I think that women have the better end of the deal when it comes to submission rather than leadership, but on the other hand women get the short end of the stick in parenthood as only men get to be Fathers. Here's why. Women seem to be much more emotionally sensitive to the outside world, much more caring, much more in tune, much more responsive to stimuli.  Highs, lows, and everything in between make a direct impact on their state of being.  Men seem to be much more stable, laser focused, they pick an emotion and are that for awhile. As my wife was talking to me yesterday about how she feels being a mother, the ups the downs, the emotional roller coaster the kid is, I knew immediately from personal experience why God is described as a Father.
I don't feel like she does at all.  That one note stable emotion in me was nailed to 'love' when my daughter was born and it hasn't moved since.  It's sort of a love beyond being affected. Sure I get angry, or disappointed, or elated, based on her actions, but those ephemeral ones are built on a foundation of that primary emotion- they don't replace it.  I always feel love, I sometimes feel other things at the same time. 
This has helped me to understand the dynamic of God's "emotions" and why He would choose to use the word Father, rather than Mother, to describe Himself. I'm afraid I can't do anything better then that at the moment, but hopefully that should be enough to get you thinking along the same lines.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

1 Peter 3:18-21 interpretation by avoiding assumptions

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, 
Peter has been talking at length about the importance of suffering righteously under government, under husbands, and what our attitude and mindset should be while suffering. He holds up Christ as our model, who when reviled did not open His mouth; when suffered, He blessed.  Suffering for a purpose is the larger context of the letter at this point, which we must keep in mind when we sail into the more choppy waters of verse 19.
I propose that in examining this verse we avoid making undue assumptions, and select the meaning that doesn't cause an avalanche of assumptions that lead away from Peters larger context.

in which He went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.
Assumption: the verse speaks of a chronology.  That is, after dying Christ then went to preach to the Spirits in prison. 

However, this very natural assumption does not hold up, because logically the text would go Noah, Crucifixion, preaching. While there is every reason to think that Christ went to sheol after death considering He didn't go to the Father (John 20:17), and that He went to preach His triumph and lead a captive host free, there are really no grounds to assume this is what Peter had in mind given his discussion on suffering.  Once made, this assumption too easily joins hands with the next one

Assumption: the Spirits were in prison during the time of preaching.
It must be true if Christ was preaching after His death, but since that one is dubious, this one is doubly so, and worse, it's dragging a third assumption with it

Assumption: the Bible is using prison not as an explanation but as a place

which is unsound given the way we as humans speak, and how often the Bible engages in commentary.  For example, I might ask you "When did you first meet your wife?" and you would understand my question, even though I'm importing a later relationship that doesn't "currently" exist, as a reference.  Technically I'm committing an error in calling her your wife before she's actually your wife, but it's likely you would not attach significance to this, you would assume my meaning and tell me of the time the two of you first met, before you were married, although strictly speaking you first met your wife at the alter. 
The Bible often references relationships like this, I'll just throw out one I just read to prove the point, 1 Kings 21:25-26.  The more natural way to read this is as the NASB says "proclaimed to the Spirits who are now in prison"

Assumption: spirit means angels, or considering they were in prison, fallen angels.

This one tends to unhinge any remaining interpretation completely, because it must be asked, what are they in prison for? And the answer must be a stupefyingly huge assumption that they were the sons of God who had kids by the daughters of men, (which is itself really two assumptions: demons can take on bodies as desired, and demons are genetically and anatomically compatible with women to produce hybrid offspring.) Which is frankly, totally absurd. 

Without those assumptions here is how the text reads
in the same way He died in the body and was alive by spirit which He went and proclaimed to the spirits of humans who are now in prison, and who are there because they formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.  Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ

The idea is that during the ministry of Noah, Christ's spirit was patiently waiting, suffering at the abuse of wretched men. He was preaching to them to repent, to live, but they refused to obey and so all perished underwater.  Likewise, Christ suffered under their abuse on the cross, and his body perished, but His spirit was saved.  Likewise too, just as the ancient world was wiped out with water and righteous Noah was spared you have had your sinful nature annihilated by the flood so that your spirit could be saved. Your flesh has died with Christ in baptism, and your spirit has been raised to a new life.
So Christian do not be alarmed that you suffer in the flesh, or that it is wasting away, but be of good cheer, your spirit will be all the more alive for it. (See 2 Cor 4:16)
And no need to muddle through all sorts of weird theology to get there either.

Original Sin

Original Sin is the sin of Adam passed on to the rest of the human family.  The reformed crowd speak of this as an inclination to do evil, a propensity to sin, or more often as a moral inability to believe God's goodness and trust in Him.  But this unwittingly forces a dichotomy in the mind of a personal sin and a ruined nature, leading people to think you can have a ruined sinful nature and yet be free of sin- babies being the classic example.  They will sin, but they have not yet. 
The answer to that hazard is thus: immoral inclinations are a sin in themselves, because they are a blight on the perfection of God's design. I'll give a rather crude analogy: God designed the perfect hardware platform and set man up and running, but Adam downloaded new operating instructions that ruined the beauty of the original design. The replication of that ruin is a sin, as the entire system is now less then perfect. 
Babies therefore have already committed a personal sin against God when Adam's nature is inherited.  That inclination to be less than wholly devoted to God is their first sin, or original sin, in addition to being the root of the rest of the sins. Stated another way, it is not merely the source of the sins, but it's existence is itself a sin, an affront to God. The poisoned water handed to the Master is an insult, no less than the very existence of the poisoned well by which we draw it from in the midst of the land He created good.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Because I couldn't say it better myself

Mathison tells you exactly what is wrong with the Churches of Christ. And he's even nice enough to not single them out too much.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Naboth the foreshadow

1 Kings 21:2 "And after this Ahab said to Naboth, "Give me your vineyard, that I may have it for a vegetable garden, because it is near my house, and I will give you a better vineyard for it; or, if it seems good to you, I will give you its value in money."
Luke 20:13 "Then the owner of the vineyard said, 'What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.' But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, 'This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.'"

1 Kings 21:3 "But Naboth said to Ahab, "The LORD forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers."
Matthew 4:8-10 "Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, "All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me." Then Jesus said to him, "Be gone, Satan! For it is written, "'You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.'"

1 Kings 21:13 "And the two worthless men came in and sat opposite him. And the worthless men brought a charge against Naboth in the presence of the people, saying, "Naboth cursed God and the king." So they took him outside the city and stoned him to death with stones"
Mark 14:55-56,61,64, 15:37 "Now the chief priests and the whole Council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none. For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree...But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?...You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?" And they all condemned him as deserving death...And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last"

2 Kings 9:26 "'As surely as I saw yesterday the blood of Naboth and the blood of his sons..."
Acts 8:33 (NIV) "In His humiliation He was deprived of justice. Who can speak of His descendants? For His life was taken from the earth."


First the Lord gave Ahab warnings of His power by subduing idolatrous worship of Baal 1 Kings 18:20-21,38-39
Then the Lord proved his power to Ahab personally over enemy nation of Syria 1 Kings 20:13, and again 1 Kings 20:28.  It strikes me chiefly that Ahab was given a huge number of second chances, that he was continually given opportunities to respond in order to show the might of the dark heart of man.  Ahab continually took the graciousness from God to use as a weapon, not only fleeing from His prophets, (hence the necessity of the disguise 1 Kings 20:41) but being a self proclaimed enemy of Him. 1 Kings 21:20
It's no wonder he died in his schemes and apostasy 1 Kings 22:34,37, but it is a wonder that God would tolerate it so long.
Herod becomes a leader taken from the same mold as Ahab much later- given every opportunity to do right, shown every kindness, and at every turn demonstrates the necessity of his extermination.

Atheism is not for want of evidence, but of goodness.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Dispensationalism amuses me

There is a guy at work who comes by my cube to tell me the beast is coming out of the sea, and that the feast of the great bird will soon be fulfilled in Israel.  Needless to say, I find this hilarious.  One thing he often says is that America will be utterly obliterated, because America is not in the Bible.  And lo, look at this argument:  
Egypt is on firmer soil than we in America are. How so? Try as they might, Biblical scholars have not found America in Biblical prophecy, with any confidence. However, Egypt is present, beyond doubt — and it ultimately has a bright future (Followed by a quote from Isaiah 19)
Let me rephrase it this way: 
Only countries blessed in the Bible by name will survive in the [near] future.  Egypt is blessed by name, therefore Egypt will survive and thrive in the future. 
And the corollary is certainly true: Philip Comer is not mentioned in the Bible by name, therefore he will not be saved.
It's not possible this is explained by Isaiah 11:11 is it?  Or that this interpretation may conflict with Zep 2:13-15 which states that Assyria is going to be eliminated, (as proved by history)?   No?  Well then it's best to take the easy way out- anything that seems hard must be about the millennial kingdom.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Omri the King

846 BC, Mesha Inscription Lines 7 and 8- 
Omri had occupied the land of Medeba (northern Moab), and had dwelt there in his time (Albright 1969: 320)
841 BC, From the records of the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III and the Black  Obelisk
In the 18th year of my rule I crossed the Euphrates for the 16th time.... At that time I received the tribute of... Jehu, son of Omri (Oppenheim 1969:280)
"The tribute of Jehu, son of Omri..." (Oppenheim 1969:281)

732 BC, Annalistic Record of the Assyrian King Tiglath-Pileser III
"Omri-Land... and its inhabitants and their possessions I led to Assyria" (Oppenheim 1969:284). 

721 BC, Annalistic Record of the Assyrian King Sargon II
I conquered and sacked the towns of Shinuhtu and Samaria, and all Omri-Land (Oppenheim 1969:285)

The commander of the Israelite army did very well for himself as king, making a lasting impression on his northern neighbors for many years to come.  Notice how the world came to know Israel as Omri-land- it's remarkable how patient God was in letting Omri get away with such conquest to bring himself glory.

But now see how the Bible records his accomplishments: 1 Kings 16:25,28- "Omri did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and did more evil than all who were before him... And Omri slept with his fathers and was buried in Samaria, and Ahab his son reigned in his place." 

Brings this to mind: 1 Samuel 16:7. And this one: Galatians 2:16