Monday, February 28, 2011

Credo-Baptism: The Inductive Argument

I began with the Dispensationalist Argument for credo-baptism because I think it’s the easiest to understand, and if you can grasp it then you’re most of the way to understanding the Inductive Argument for credo-baptism. These two arguments are so similar in fact that if you’re a dispensationalist this one appears to be nothing more than the Scriptural evidences for your position.

But the two arguments aren't identical. The Dispensationalist Argument requires the reader to put together the whole redemptive sweep of history, but the Inductive Argument only requires the New Testament to make its own case for who should be baptized. Additionally the inductive argument can be used by credo-baptists who are not dispensationalists since it doesn’t reach back into the Old Testament to make any conclusions, making it more broadly applicable. Lastly, this argument rests on the parallels of the text—rather than the differences in them—to make the case that baptism requires belief. It goes like this.

Baptism is a New Testament idea first introduced in Matthew 3:1-6, (or Luke 3:3) where a great multitude are coming out to hear John preach and adults from Judah and Jerusalem are being invited to repent and be baptized. This establishes a pattern that anytime baptism is mentioned it’s followed by either repentance or belief. Consider the testimony of Acts.

Acts 2:38 – Peter commanded the multitude to repent, believe, and be baptized.
Acts 2:41 – The multitude accepts Christ and are baptized.
Acts 8:12 – The Samarians believed, then were baptized.
Acts 8:13 – Simon first believed, and then was baptized.
Acts 8:37 – The Eunuch believed, then was baptized. Note that v37 seems to be an early scribal addition to the text, and fits the same pattern. "If you believe you may. And the Eunuch replied, I believe Jesus is the Son of God."
Acts 9:18 – Paul believed, and then was baptized. See also Acts 22:16.
Acts 10:47 – Cornelius believes, then receives the Holy Spirit, then is baptized.
Acts 16:14 – Lydia believes (because God opens her heart), then is baptized.
Acts 16:31 – The jailer believed and then is baptized.
Acts 18:8 – Both Crispus and the Corinthians believed, and then were baptized.

Since faith and baptism are always seen together, it must be the case that the credo-baptist is correct; for credo-baptism alone recognizes that a personal, living faith is the central aspect of baptism. To baptize a baby who can’t profess faith and shows no fruit of belief is to break the link so clearly presented by Scripture, to be unfaithful to the New Testament understanding of baptism. Scripture is 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. If we were to turn the argument into a syllogism it might look like the following:

P1: Only people who have faith or profess repentance are valid candidates for Baptism.
P2: Infants can neither have faith nor profess repentance.
C: Infants are not valid candidates for baptism.

To think that children may (or should) be baptized apart from a personal, living, repenting, faith is to miss the whole purpose of baptism. It's to denigrate the greatness of faith and the centrality of its place in the New Covenant. Baptism is a participation in Christ's death (Rom 6:3), the celebration of 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. Salvation is by faith alone, and from faith comes the obedience of baptism. If you accept the centrality of faith in salvation and the example of baptism in Scripture then you come to the conclusion that credo-baptism is correct. Particularly when paired with the text from Jeremiah 31, the third argument for credo-baptism. 

Next: the Particular Baptist Argument for Credo-Baptism

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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."

The Heretical Religion of Wokeism

"And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served tha...