Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Dr. Horton's essay is available for free here.
This is for the paper I am writing for Active Obedience in my Holy Spirit Class @ WSCAL, so any feed back would be most appreciated. (Just so everyone knows this is a indirect argument for justification in Christ alone by faith alone because only Christ was perfect to earn justification in our place which is received by us through faith).
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Well it seems to me that there is at least one thing they know about the Divine Essence, namely, that they cannot know anything about it. They would end up knowing something about a unknowable thing which is a contradiction. Contradictions are necessarily false and this view of the Divine Essence is contradictory. Therefore, it would seem to follow that Eastern Orthodoxy which embraces this view of the Divine Essence is necessarily false.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
There is no explicit NT statement asserting that physical generation's significance for covenantal succession ends with Jesus' advent. And nowhere is it explicitly indicated that physical generation's significance for covenantal succession only concerns matters of Israelite ethnic identity. Therefore, this equivalence of significance has to be inferred or assumed.
I find this inference or assumption to be mistaken. The covenant promise elaborated to Abraham in Genesis 22 includes the proviso that through Abraham all the peoples of the earth will be blessed. This has the force of a qualitative (as opposed to quantitative) pronouncement certifying that all types of people will be blessed through the outworking of God's gracious covenant (not that every person on earth will partake of its blessing). OT Prophecy foretelling New Covenant times in which many distinct people groups will come to worship the one true God and NT statements concerning the proclamation of the Gospel to the many peoples or families or nations indicate that in the ancient world members of the human race were very much conceived of as diversified under national and ethnic identities and that the inclusion of all people's under the grace of the New Covenant meant the inclusion of people from the many distinct national and ethnic identities. Peoples of these diverse ethnicities and nationalities would have, like the Israelites, understood the succession of their various groups in terms of physical generation. When people of the Jews and the diverse Gentile people groups responded to the calling to be part of a heavenly race at the head of which was Christ the heavenly king, they would have naturally understood their own physical generation to also carry significance for the succession of their new transcendent ethnic identity. Thus the New Covenant entails the fulfillment of the significance of Israelite ethnic identity for covenant succession, and in fulfilling the significance of this specific ethnic identity, it could be seen to broaden the scope of the significance of physical generation for covenant succession to extend this significance to members of Gentile people groups now identified among Christ's transcendent heavenly ethnicity.
Friday, September 10, 2010
I was persuaded that we must resort to analogy in referencing God through consideration of the way in which Kant arrives at the notion of noumena. Kant is led to posit the concept of "the noumenal" through his recognition that logical possiblity exceeds the range of phenomena which can possibly appear to the human subject in his/her humanly conditioned mode of consciousness and cognition. Kant claims, for example, that that the human mode of consciousness is temporally and spatially conditioned so that the range of phenomena that can possibly appear to the human subject will be all alike temporally and spatially conditioned. Yet, no contradiction is involved in the notion of a timeless and spaceless "something" therefore it must be acknowledged that possibly such a "something" could exist though it can never appear within the human consciousness/cognition. Thus the placeholder: noumena. On Kant's formulation of noumena, however, one would have to remain strictly agnostic as to whether such entities exist and as to what they would be like since we are by definition and of necessity precluded conscious cognitive access to them.
In the domain of orthodox Christian theology, a notion of the being of God is given which defies conceptualization under the human mode of cognition. A God is confessed who is in His essence, according to systemmetized revelation, timeless and spaceless, 3 and 1, simple and multi-faceted, etc. While no two of the revealed aspects of God's nature yeild contradiction, taken together they clearly show that human cognition of God "in Himself" is precluded based on the limitations of the human cognitive intellective mode. Still, we are given in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, authoritative, infalible revelation as to what God is "like." Various creaturely pure perfections are supplied after these ends. With the application of each creaturely concept to God, however, it is to be remembered that this manner of predication only indicates what God is "like" in that He is
(perfection x) to a degree greater than can be humanly concieved. Thus analogical ascription to God of any creaturely pure perfection "x" sanctioned in Scripture could take the following analytic form: God's nature is "x" like creature s exhibits x but to a degree greater than can be humanly concieved. For instance: God's nature is "wisdom" like Socrates exhibits wisdom but to a degree greater than can be humanly concieved. Thus, through revelation, we are given an analogical notion of what God is like although He defies comprehension under our cognitive mode.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
In this post we are going to take up the Defense of Christ's Active obedience. This is an important doctrine for understanding justification by faith alone and there have been some who even claim to be “Reformed” who reject this doctrine. Christ's Active obedience is Christ's perfect obedience with respect to the Law of God and this is imputed to us when we first have saving faith in Christ. This is distinct from but not separate from Christ's passive obedience which is Christ allowing himself to be the just satisfaction for our sins on the cross. Both the active and passive obedience of Christ are given to us in our justification. If we do not have both the passive and active obedience of Christ no one can be saved. The active obedience of Christ is a very important topic because it has to do with the Gospel. It is a sad thing that many in the church are either ignorant of this doctrine or they explicitly reject this doctrine. So it is more than fitting that we look at the scriptures to establish this essential doctrine of the Christian faith.
One way to prove active obedience is to start with the assumption of the truth of the doctrine of justification by faith alone (Rom. 4:1-8). In the Reformed doctrine of justification one is entirely righteousness to inherit eternal life without adding any works of their own to their justification. However, the Bible teaches that one needs to follow the Law perfectly to obtain heaven so this means that when we are justified by faith alone we have to be imputed a persons perfect Law keeping. As the scriptures teach there is only one person who followed the Law of God perfectly and that is Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:19; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15). Therefore, when we are justified by faith we are imputed the perfect law keeping of Jesus Christ. The controversial step in this line of reasoning is that we have to follow the Law perfectly in order to obtain heaven. So let us look to God's word to support that in order to be justified one needs to follow the Law perfectly:
Luke 10:25-28 25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" 26 He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How do you read it?" 27 And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." 28 And he said to him, "You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live."
This verse teaches that if we follow God with all our ability then we will inherit eternal life. If we sin just once we have failed to love God with all of our ability and this means that the Law does not just require relative obedience for eternal life but perfect perpetual obedience for eternal life. When Jesus says “do this, and you will live” he does not mean physical life but eternal life because in context that was the question asked to him by the Lawyer (v. 25). Therefore, to enter into heaven one has to be perfectly righteous. Mark 12:28-34 is another passage that is similar to Luke 10 but Mark shows us that the requirement of perfection cannot merely be substituted or satisfied by sacrifices:
“28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, "Which commandment is the most important of all?" 29 Jesus answered, "The most important is, 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' 31 The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." 32 And the scribe said to him, "You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33 And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices." 34 And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.”
This section of scripture sheds light on a very important principle: Obedience is better than sacrifice (v. 33). This means that any sacrifice cannot be a mere replacement of perfect law keeping because obedience to the Law is better than sacrifice. Many people who reject active obedience do so on the basis that we do not need perfect law keeping imputed to us because all we need is Jesus' sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins, but verse 33 teaches that sacrifice cannot be a replacement of obedience because obedience is valued more by God. Rather in order for us to be right before God we need sacrifice and perfect obedience to be credited to our account. So we cannot say that the passive obedience can replace the active obedience because both the passive and active obedience are both necessary conditions for us to be right before God. Another passage that shows us that God requires perfection is Matthew 5:48 which says
“48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
There verse could not be any clearer in communicating this: God requires us to be morally perfect just like he is morally perfect. God does not grade on a curve he expects perfect obedience to his Law because his perfect nature demands it. It is therefore, established that to do the Law one needs to follow it perfectly because this is what God requires. In order for a human being to be justified one has to follow the Law as Romans 2:13 teaches
“13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.”
In order for a human being to be justified before God he has to do the law and as I have shown to do the Law means to follow it perfectly. However, only one person has followed the Law perfectly and that is Jesus Christ. So the only way for us to be justified is to be imputed Christ's perfect law keeping. This is one clear way to prove active obedience and it is legitimate because it is a clear and necessary inference from the Bible like the Trinity and the two wills of Jesus Christ. But there are actually texts that seem to explicitly affirm that Christ's perfect obedience to the Law is imputed to us, one clear example of this is Romans 5:19:
“19 For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.”
This is one of the clearest verses on Active obedience. This verse clearly teaches that the basis of us being imputed righteousness is Christ's perfect obedience. In other words, this verse teaches that the ground of our righteousness is the imputation of Christ's obedience to the Law. This cannot be a infused righteousness because of the fact that infused righteousness is logically incompatible with the objection that Paul anticipates in Romans 6:1 “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” This is an objection that could only arise if in fact Paul was teaching a legal imputation of righteousness through grace by faith alone. Lastly, the preceding context also gives us a strong indication that Paul is working with a legal context (Rom. 4:5-8; 5:1). Therefore, this verse clearly is teaching that Christ's obedience is the legal basis by which we are imputed righteousness. Another verse like 1 Corinthians 1:29-31 helps us connect the dots by teaching that Christ's righteousness is our righteousness, it reads as follows:
29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord."
This verse is used to show us that the righteousness of Jesus Christ is our righteousness. In other words, this verse shows us that it is Christ's righteousness that makes us righteous. The context suggests this strongly because it emphasizes that we cannot boast before the Lord and the only way this would be true is if the perfect righteousness we had for entering heaven was not our own righteousness but the righteousness of Jesus Christ, then and only then would we not be able to boast in ourselves, but only in the Lord for he is our righteousness. And we receive the righteousness of the Lord by faith as Paul teaches in Philippians 3:8-9
“8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith-”
Paul counts all of his accomplishments and all of his good deeds as loss by only trusting in Christ and receiving the righteousness from God. Paul says that he has no righteousness of his own, but rather he has the righteousness from God by faith in Christ. Paul cannot trust in his active obedience anymore for righteousness but the only active obedience he can trust in for his justification is Christ' righteousness. For if we were to ever trust in our own law keeping for righteousness we would all be doomed. There would be no hope in this life if we did not have Christ's righteousness because we fall into sin every day, we are so very far from perfection. This is why I am so deeply moved by the words of Dr. J. Gresham Machen shortly before he died he sent his final telegram to his friend Professor John Murray. The words of the telegram were these: "I'm so thankful for the active obedience of Christ. No hope without it." There is so much significance and truth packed into Machen's last words to John Murray. The fact is that without Christ's righteousness there is no hope because our own best righteousness is like fifthly rags. It might not be today and it might not be tomorrow but someday we will all die. And in your last dying breath, the moment right before you go, do you want to die knowing that you are about to go before a holy God with just your daily sins? Or would you rather die knowing that you have been imputed with Christ' perfect righteousness? For the Apostle Paul and Machen the answer to this was clear we must only rely on Christ and his perfect righteousness because without it there is simply no hope in this life.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
"37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
But some people who have rejected the doctrine of perseverance of the saints have said that this passage does not mention the fact that we can separate ourselves from the love of Christ Jesus by our actions whether it be by sin or free will. However, it seems that Romans 8:37-39 does teach that even a believers sin and free will cannot separate them from the love of Jesus Christ as the following argument demonstrates:
Premise 1: Anything that is creation cannot separate us from the love of Christ
Premise 2: Believers are a part of creation
Conclusion: Therefore, Believers cannot separate themselves from the love of Christ
Premise 1 is supported by verse 39 that tells us that nothing in creation can separate us from the love of Jesus Christ. From premise 1 the rest of the argument logically follows and so from Romans 8 we can derive the teaching that nothing can separate those who are saved from the love of Jesus Christ. Another interesting thing we can infer from Romans 8:1 is that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. So we find out a beautiful combination of truths from Romans 8 that those who are in Christ Jesus cannot ever be separated from his love nor be condemned. This is surely a comforting truth for all believers in Christ Jesus.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
So let us suppose for the moment that sola scriptura is not taught in the Bible and that we reject the Eastern Orthodox and the Roman Catholic arguments (as I have done elsewhere on this blog) then all we are left with is scripture. So we could modify our view of God's revelation to be as follows: Scripture alone is the only infallible and authoritative rule for faith and practice that we have knowledge of. As for there being additional revelation other than the Bible we should withhold belief that such additional revelation exists. In other words, with respect to the proposition that there is additional revelation other than the Bible we should be agnostic with respect to this proposition.
Once one has accepted this epistemological form of sola scriptura (the criteria given above) then it seems like the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox claims of incoherence lose their weight. This is because the conjunction of reason and scripture warrant the conclusion that these are the only scriptures we know of (this is of course assuming that the other church authority arguments fails). Therefore, there is no logical incoherence with this epistemological version of sola scriptura.
So even if Protestants cannot provide a proof text for sola scriptura this still does not entail that one should be a Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox. In fact it would appear that the epistemic status of Protestantism is not effected at all if one cannot give a proof text.
Additional arguments must be given and have dealt with those arguments in the posts referenced below.
For the refutation of all the positive arguments that the East and Rome gives for believing their positions see the following blog posts:
Friday, July 23, 2010
P1: Honoring your Mother entails that if S has the ability to keep S's mother sinless then S would bring it about that S's mother is sinless
P2: Jesus has the ability to keep his mother sinless
C: Jesus brought it about that his mother is sinless
The problem with this argument is obvious: When Mary was born and inherited original sin at that time she was not Jesus' mother (Jesus with respect to his human nature was not born). So Jesus at that time was not under obligation to bring about her sinlessness. Another obvious problem with this argument is that the commandment says to honor your *father* and your mother. This means that if this argument was carried out consistently then we ought to think that Joseph was sinless, but neither Catholics nor Protestants teach this. All this to say: arguments like these are entirely desperate attempts to hide the obvious truth that Roman Catholic churches teachings cannot be justified by scripture and right reason.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Historic Protestantism has always taught that the Bible teaches that justification is by faith alone. The Doctrine of justification by faith alone is clearly taught in Romans 3:28 28 “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” However, there has been in recent years some Protestants that reject the doctrine of justification by faith alone on the basis of a future justification based on works. This rejection of justification by faith alone can be explicit or implicit depending on who you are reading. This tendency to reject sola fide on the basis of a future justification by works is primarily held by those who are proponents of the Federal Visionists movement. To give a concrete example: Rich Lusk is a Federal Visionists proponent and he says the following from his blog here http://www.hornes.org/theologia/rich-lusk/future-justification-to-the-doers-of-the-law concerning future justification:
“The initial clothing in white is received by faith alone. This is the beginning of Joshua’s justification. But if Joshua is to remain justified — that is, if the garments he has received are not to become re-soiled with his iniquity — he must be faithful. Thus, initial justification is by faith alone; subsequent justifications include obedience.”
And again Rich Lusk says:
“Again, we find the Bible teaching that future justification is according to works. Final justification is to the (faithful) doers of the law (Rom. 2:1ff) and by those good works which make faith complete (Jas. 2:14ff). Justification will not be fully realized until the resurrection.”
In these two quotations we see an explicit denial of the traditional doctrine of justification by faith alone. Therefore, because of the seriousness of this issue in even Protestant circles now. I believe it is important that we look at the biblical texts that are often used to support future justification by works. It is my position that the Bible does not teach a future justification by works. I shall deal with the Bible passages that are appealed to support a future justification by works and I shall demonstrate that none of these passages in fact teach this doctrine that is incompatible with sola fide.
The first text I will look at is Romans 2:6-8 which reads “ 6 He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.” Paul is teaching in Romans 2:6-8 that the only way for us to obtain eternal life is by works. Protestants do not actually disagree with this nor is this principle incompatible with justification by faith. This is because in the doctrine of justification by faith we are legally imputed Christ's perfect work by faith alone (Rom. 4:5; 5:19). So we will go to heaven by this works principle. However, this is not our works but Christ's works which are legally imputed to our account (Rom. 5:19). Therefore, this text does not disprove justification by faith alone, but it rather this proves the principle behind justification by faith which is this: that in order to obtain eternal salvation one needs to have fulfilled a works principle.
Romans 2 contains another passage that is used to attempt to support a future justification by works, this is in Romans 2:13 which reads “13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” This is an additional passage that expresses the principle in Romans 2:6-8. The principle is this: In order to be righteous one needs to do the Law of God perfectly. This is what Jesus did for us and it is imputed to us by faith alone in Christ Jesus (Rom. 4:5; 5:19). Contextually, this is the most plausible understanding of this text because Paul in Romans 3:9-20 teaches that in light of human sin no one can be justified by works because everyone has failed to follow the law. So if we were to take this passage in the way that some Federal Visionists do then we would end up contradicting Paul's thought in the larger context of Romans; the Federal Visionist interpretation of this text contradicts Paul's thought on the lack of ability of humans to follow God's Law and on the doctrine of justification by faith alone. The best explanation of these two texts in Romans 2 is to understand them as a principle that is behind justification by faith alone.
2 Corinthians 5:10
Another text that is mistakenly used to support a future justification by works is 2 Corinthians 5:10 which reads 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” The best way to understand this passage is that it is referring to God's perfect standard of Justice for goodness or good deeds done in the body. The only way we are going to get to heaven is if we are good in our bodies, but we have all failed to do this. So the only option for a sinful person is to have faith in Jesus, so that his goodness is legally imputed to us by faith alone.
Now we are going to moving from Paul's Epistles to the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew 7:21-23 is one of many sections in Matthew that has been mistakenly thought to be teaching a future justification by works, it reads “21 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' 23 Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” This verse is compatible with justification by faith alone and it actually teaches against a future justification by works. These people are condemned by God because they are appealing to their good works so that God will let them into heaven. God's response is that what they are doing is against his “will” and that he never knew them. What is God's “will” for sinners so that they can enter into heaven? God's prescribed “will” for sinners is that they are to have faith in Christ so that they can enter heaven. So far from contradicting justification by faith this verse is compatible with it and it teaches against a future justification by works.
Another passage that is used in Matthew to support a future justification by works is Matthew 12:36-37 which reads “36 But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned." The context here is that Jesus is condemning the self-righteous Pharisees. The way Jesus is condemning them is by holding before them a perfect standard of speech which they have failed. The principle behind these passages is the same sort of principle we have seen in the previous passages we have looked at. This principle is that God requires perfect obedience and in this case Jesus is emphasizing perfect obedience in speech. The only person who had perfect speech was Jesus Christ himself and we receive all of his righteousness by faith alone.
The last passage we will look at is Matthew 25:31-46 and it reads “31 "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34 "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' 37 "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' 40 "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' 41 "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.' 44 "They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' 45 "He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' 46 "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." These passages are not teaching that one is justified by these good deeds, but rather Jesus is pointing out their good works to demonstrate to them that they have been justified by faith alone. The final judgment has an element which is demonstrative. In other words, on the final day of judgment God will speak of your good works to show that you were imputed Christ righteousness when you had faith in Christ. God will give you evidence that you are believer and he will give others evidence that they are unbelievers. This is what Matthew 25 is teaching.
We have seen no good reason to believe in a future justification by works. This view is incompatible with what Paul teaches on justification by faith alone and it is also incompatible with the Gospel of Grace. When we as believers die we should not fear a future judgment by works because we will be judged by Christ's perfect works. Therefore, on that glorious day God will say to us “well done good and faithful servant, enter into the Joy of your Master”. The only reason why God will say this is because of Jesus, who was a good and faithful servant in our place.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
If you recall last weeks post I was giving positive biblical reasons for the truth of infant baptism. The three reasons I gave were 1) continuity of the covenants, 2) the replacement of circumcision by baptism, and 3) and children being in the covenant community. I argued that all three of these reasons show that from scripture the case for infant baptism is more plausible than it's negation. Today I am arguing that there are no good reasons for thinking that credo baptism is true. In this post I will show that none of the strongest arguments against infant baptism are sound and persuasive.
Objection 1: Only Believers in the New Covenant
One of the most common objections against Infant baptism is that children can no longer be in the covenant anymore as they were in the Abrahamic covenant because the new covenant is different in that only believers are in this covenant. And because children are not believers then they therefore cannot be in the new covenant. The Baptists typically justify this theological argument by one obscure and foggy prophetic text: Jeremiah 31:31-34 which reads 31 "The time is coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them," declares the LORD. 33 "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," declares the LORD. "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." The baptists interprets verse 34 to mean that all believers in the New covenant will be saved. However, Reformed paedobaptist interpreters have understood verse 34 to either be a reference to the new heavens and the new earth (amill. interpretation) or they have understood it to mean that in the age of the New covenant there will come a point were most people in the world will be saved (post-mill interpretation). Both interpretations are entirely plausible depending on which view of the end of the world you hold to. There are two fundamental problems with the baptist interpretation of this text: 1) it is incompatible with the teaching of the New Testament and 2) it is logically incompatible with Calvinism. The one text that demonstrate these two points are Hebrews 10:28-31. Let us first look at Hebrews 10:28-31 which reads as follows: Hebrews 10:28-31 28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," and again, "The Lord will judge his people." 31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. What we have in this text is a man who is sanctified or set apart by the new covenant that falls away from it and is going to receive damnation for falling away from the covenant. Now if you say as the baptists do that all those in the new covenant are saved then the logical conclusion to this text is that someone has fallen away from salvation. If we take the baptists interpretation of this text then it would be incompatible with the Calvinistic doctrine of perseverance of the Saints which is clearly taught in Romans 8. So on the baptists interpretation we generate a contradiction with Calvinism and worse with the Word of God. But on the classical Reformed paedobaptists view we can account for this text by saying that people can fall away from the New covenant and not be saved because the covenant functioned the same way as the Abrahamic covenant. The function of the Abrahamic and the New covenant in the classical Reformed view is that there are both believers and unbelievers in the covenant community. If we understand Hebrews 10:29 in this sense then there is no contradiction in the Word of God. Moreover, the text teaches that the person who is condemned in the covenant community is considered to be a part of the people of God. This is evident when the author of Hebrews says in verse 30 "The Lord will judge his people." Therefore, this clear New Testament text teaches us that there are unbelievers in the New Covenant community. The classical Reformed hermeneutic is more consistent because we interpret the Old Testament by the New Testament and we interpret the clear by the unclear. So the logical implication is that we ought to interpret the unclear Old Testament prophetic text of Jeremiah 31 by the clear teaching on the covenant community found in the New Testament, like Hebrews 10:29. Thus, the baptists argument that the New Covenant is only comprised of believers is defeated by clear New Testament scripture.
Objection 2: Only Believers are Baptized in The New Testament
One very popular objection by baptists is that every example of Baptism in the New Testament involves professing adults, therefore, the New Testament teaches that only professing believers ought to be baptized. This argument is an argument from silence that assumes that the other clear Reformed infant baptism arguments are unsuccessful. Furthermore, the argument is unclear because there are some examples in which we do not know if all people that were baptized professed faith. For example in Acts 16:15 it reads: 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. "If you consider me a believer in the Lord," she said, "come and stay at my house." And she persuaded us.” In this text we have a household baptism that does mention whether or not if all the members of the household professed faith. So it is entirely unclear whether or not only professing believers were baptized in the New Testament. Because this argument is an argument from silence that assumes that the other infant baptists arguments are unsuccessful and it is altogether unclear then this argument is to be regarded as a failure.
Objection 3: Children are not Disciples
Another very popular objection is that 1) Matthew 28:19-20 teaches that we should only baptize disciples, 2) infants are not disciples, 3) hence would should not baptize infants. Before I answer the objections let us take a look at Matthew 28:19-20 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." The text is saying that the way we make disciples is by baptizing and teaching them. So there is nothing in the text that would exclude infants because after all we can teach infants (otherwise how would they ever learn) and we can baptize them. Therefore, it seems that we can make infants disciples because we can baptize and teach them so far from this verse disproving infant baptism it actually supports infant baptism (after all Judas was disciple, how much more should believers children be disciples).
Objection 4: Infant Baptizers are Inconsistent
The last argument is that paedobaptists are inconsistent with how they think about how circumcision relates to Baptism. The inconsistency arises from this claim that we as infant baptizers make, this is the claim: that baptism replaces circumcision so therefore we ought to baptize babies because circumcision applies to babies. The baptists claim that this claim is inconsistent with the paedobaptist's position because we do not baptize infants on the eighth day, we do not baptize slaves, and we do not baptize all males. They draw out this inconsistency from Genesis 17 so let us turn there to understand how our Reformed baptists brothers are reasoning, Genesis 17:9-14 which reads 9 Then God said to Abraham, "As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. 10 This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner-- those who are not your offspring. 13 Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant." The baptist understand this text to be saying that all infants are to be circumcised on the 8th day and that all men were to be circumcised and that it did not matter if they were believers or not. Now lets deal with these baptists claims one at a time. The first claim is that we are inconsistent because we do not baptize babies on the eighth day as they did in the Abrahamic covenant with circumcision. The continuity of the Abrahamic covenant and Matthew 19:14 does teach that children are in the new covenant community, but the Bible abrogates the practice to observe ritualistic Old Testament days, Galatians 4:10 “10 You are observing special days and months and seasons and years!” So as a general rule we need not to observe Old Testament days anymore. Therefore, the paedobaptist need not observe the eighth day to baptize their child, but children are still in the covenant community and still need the covenant sign so the parents are under obligation to baptize their children. The second baptist claim is that Genesis 17 allows for unbelieving males to be circumcised because in verse 10 it says that “every male is to be circumcised”. They conclude from this that the Abrahamic covenant allowed for the possibility of unbelievers being circumcised so that therefore we have to be willing to baptize unbelievers. The problem with this argument is that it breaks two fundamental hermetical principles which are 1) let the New Testament interpret the Old, and 2) differentiation in accounts does not entail a contradiction of the accounts. It should be first mentions that the text never says that unbelievers ought to be circumcised and the narrative does not address this question. But the New Testament does address this question in Acts 2:38 38 Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” When Peter was speaking to adults who were had the gift of tongues he told them that they were to repent and be baptized and the consistent testimony of Acts is that when unbelieving Adults profess faith they are baptized. So for adults receiving the sign of baptism this should be connected to repentance and faith. Now Genesis 17 does not say that, but does that mean that Genesis 17 is incompatible with the New Testament teaching? No, because in the Bible one Gospel records that there was one angel by the tomb and in the other it says that there was two. This is not a contradiction because in two angels you at least have one angel. The issue here is Genesis 17 and Acts 2 are addressing different topics, but not contradictory topics so we should be consistent Reformed Christians and let the New Testament interpret the Old and when we do this we will find that there is no reason to believe that God was commanding that circumcision ought to be administered to known unbelievers. So for the reasons above I simply think that none of the standard baptists objections to Reformed infant baptism are reasonable or sound. So with that being said I would like to conclude that we have seen in this brief two part series that the Bible teaches that we should baptize our children because our God is a covenant making God that does not just deal with believers, but believers and their children.
Saturday, July 10, 2010
From now on everyone will have to sign in using a Google account, Livejournal account, Wordpress account, etc. This will provide a level of accountability that we feel will help to foster a more charitable and academic dialog.
Thank you for your patience. We look forward to your comments!
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
In this blog post we will be looking at the issue of Covenant Infant Baptism. I say Covenant Infant baptism because I will be arguing for the Reformed understanding of Infant Baptism which says that we do not baptize infants because they are regenerate nor do we baptize infants to make them regenerate rather we baptize infants because God commands us in his word that we ought to administer the visible sign of the covenant (in the New Covenant Baptism) on the covenant members which include children. This view is contrasted from believers or professors baptism which says we only are to baptize persons who profess faith in Jesus Christ. But the classical Reformed Infant baptism position says that if a person were not baptized as a infant and became a Christian latter on in life then that person should be baptized when he is a professing believer. It would make very little sense for Reformed people to go around baptizing people who do not want to be in the Christian church. My basic contention is that there are good reasons to believe in covenant infant baptism and that there are no good reasons for thinking that believer's baptism is true. The first part of this series will look at the good reasons in favor of covenant baptism and the second part I will demonstrate that none of the believer's baptism arguments are successful.
Argument 1: Covenant Continuity
The first argument we will look at is the argument from presumed continuity of the covenants and the commandments of God. This argument relies on a very reasonable philosophical and theological principle which is this: If God commands or reveals a way of functioning in His word we ought to follow it unless God gives us a implicit or explicit indication that a commandment is no longer ethically binding or a indication that God is no longer functioning that way. I am going to support this principle both philosophically and theologically but first I need to tell you why this principles supports infant baptism. This principle supports infant baptism because God in his word clearly commands that Infants of believer's are in the covenant community and that male infants are to have the sign of the covenant which is circumcision. This is taught explicitly in Genesis 17:1-14 which reads: When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, "I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. 2 I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers." 3 Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, 4 "As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. 5 No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. 6 I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. 7 I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. 8 The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God." 9 Then God said to Abraham, "As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. 10 This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner-- those who are not your offspring. 13 Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant." In this passage we have the sign of the covenant administered to infant boys, so if my principle of continuity were true then it would follow that the sign of the covenant (baptism) would be administered to male infants in the New covenant. The reason why this principle would follow is because there is no verse in the New Testament were God implicitly or explicitly abrogates this commandment or the Abrahamic covenant in general. But what we do find are alterations and additions to the commandment to put the covenant sign on infant males who are in the covenant. For example we see that the covenant sign is added on to so that it includes women (Acts 8:12) and that the covenant sign is altered to baptism (Col. 2:11-12). So we see that the principle I discussed earlier gives warrant to infant baptist position. It is appropriate that I give philosophical and theological arguments in favor of the principle I developed earlier, let us call this principle “the principle of presumed continuity”. The philosophical reason for holding to this principle is that if one did not hold to it then consistency would then allow for the possibility that when God gives you a commandment you could just presume that it no longer applies to you. But surely this is not right because we could use this to rationalize away commandments like “you shall not murder” or “you shall not commit adultery”. The rationalization for no longer following the commandments not to murder and not commit adultery could go something like this: “well God has not told to me that I should stop following it, but he has not commanded this in awhile so I am not longer obligation to follow these commandments”. Because rejecting the principle of presumed continuity has ethically disastrous results then we are rational in affirming the principle to avoid these absurd results. Not only is this principle reasonable but the scriptures teach it. We see an example of this principle being carried out in Paul's theological reasoning in Galatians 3:15-18 which reads “15 Brothers, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. 16 The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say "and to seeds," meaning many people, but "and to your seed," meaning one person, who is Christ. 17 What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. 18 For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.” Paul is saying that when the Mosaic covenant came to be it did not abolish nor do away with the Abrahamic Covenant. But the Mosaic covenant did add and qualify the Abrahamic covenant by giving different Laws and regulations. So Paul's principle in this verse is that we are to assume covenant continuity even if a additional covenants comes about. Lastly, this verse connects the Abrahamic covenant to the Mediator of the New Covenant Jesus Christ. Therefore, we see that in the same text that teaches the principle of presumed continuity it also implicitly connects the New Covenant with the Abrahamic covenant. Therefore, we have strong reason for thinking that the principle of continuity is true and that the Bible even implicitly teaches that the Abrahamic covenant is connected to the New Covenant. The natural inference from this data is that because there is no hint of abrogation of the Abrahamic covenant and because the Word of God connects to the Abrahamic covenant to the New Covenant then we ought to give the covenant sign to covenant children by virtue of it being commanded in the Abrahamic covenant.
Argument 2: Baptism Replaces Circumcision
The second argument for infant baptism is that circumcision is connected to and is replaced by baptism so we should assume that the replacement functions the same unless there is a sufficient reason to doubt it. Now let us look at the various ways circumcision and baptism connect and parallel. We see in Colossians 2:11-12 that both circumcision and baptism points to our salvation and the death of Christ, Colossians 2:11-12 which reads 11 In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. In this case circumcision points to the death of Christ and Baptism points back to the death of Christ. Ultimately circumcision and baptism are related in that they both are connected in Jesus Christ and his death. We also see that circumcision and baptism are connected by external visual symbols of the representations of the inward realities of our salvation in Christ Jesus. We are circumcised by Jesus cutting off our sinful flesh and this is done by being buried with him in baptism. In Paul's mind baptism and circumcision were so linked and connected that he could use them as overlapping imagery to point to Christ's death and to describe our inward regeneration. The implications of this text for infant baptism is 1) that baptism and circumcision both point to regeneration and 2) that those who are regenerated have a circumcision of the heart by having been baptized by the Holy Spirit. Paul does not use this visual salvation language for no reason, but rather he uses this imagery to show the truth that we have the equivalence of the sign physical circumcision having been baptized physically. This interpretation can make sense of the context and concerns of the book of Colossians because Paul is dealing with Jewish mystical moralist who wants to follow the Jewish Laws (which circumcision was one of them) in this letter (Col. 2:16-23). The way Paul deals with this moralist that want to follow the Old Testament Laws is that he uses this new regeneration by Jesus and his death by using physical signs that point to the death of Christ. Paul shows in the same statement that we need not follow the system of the circumcision anymore because we have that and more in our baptism. Now if circumcision is equivalent to baptism in the sense that baptism now functions in the place of circumcision. Therefore, we ought to assume they function the same unless we have reason to doubt it. My contention is that we have no reason to doubt that baptism should be also applied to covenant children as circumcision was. This is then my second argument for infant baptism, so with that in mind let us move to my third argument for infant baptism.
Argument 3: Children in the Covenant
My third argument for Infant baptism is that 1) if children are in the covenant community we ought to give them the sign of the covenant which is baptism. 2) Children are in the covenant community, 3) therefore, we should baptize them. The text I am going to be using to justify this argument is Matthew 19:13-14 which reads 13 Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. 14 Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." There are a few things I want to point out before I give my support for the infant baptism argument from this text. My contention in this text is that kingdom of heaven means the new covenant. Now you might ask: How do you know this text is referring to the new covenant? Well by eliminating all the other plausible meanings of the phrase “kingdom of heaven” and this process of elimination shows that in this specific text the most plausible meaning of the phrase kingdom of heaven is the new covenant. There are three plausible meanings of the phrase kingdom of heaven: 1) The entire world, 2) the regenerate, or 3) the new covenant (Matt. 16:19) It cannot be the entire world because that would make the words of Jesus trivial and insignificant. If this were the meaning why would Jesus even need to mention it? Jesus would be in effect saying, “hey you have the same status as every person in the world so that justifies you coming to me” The reason I put it like this is because if all people are in the kingdom of heaven why would this justify Jesus' actions of blessing them and allowing others to bring children to Jesus? This would make Jesus' reasoning absurd because even his unbelieving enemies like the Pharisees were in the kingdom of heaven on this understanding. This understanding of the kingdom of heaven is inappropriate in immediate context and it makes Jesus' reasoning trivial therefore this cannot be plausibly the meaning of “kingdom of heaven” in this text. The second meaning of kingdom of heaven is that it refers to those who are regenerate. This is even more absurd because this would suggest that all of the children of believers are regenerate, but we know that children of believers can later become unbelievers. So in order to hold to this meaning of kingdom of heaven one would have to reject the doctrine that once someone is truly justified they cannot lose their justification (perseverance of the saints), but the bible clearly teaches perseverance of the saints or that once one is truly justified they cannot lose their justification. Therefore, the kingdom of heaven cannot refer to those who are regenerate in this context. The only plausible option that remains is that kingdom of God is referring to the New Covenant and that according to Jesus children are in the New covenant. Therefore, it follows that children are in the new covenant, the kingdom of heaven, and it is plausible that we should baptized those who kingdom/covenant members.
I have established that there is good reason to believe that children are to be given the sign of the New Covenant which is baptism. There are many baptist objections to infant baptism and in the next week I shall argue that all objections are insufficient to defeat the arguments that I have given. When we give covenant children the sign of baptism we are doing what Abraham did with his sons and this shows God's consistency in working with his church throughout the ages.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
In this post will be demonstrating that the Bible does not teach paedocommunion, rather the Bible clearly teaches credocommunion. Before we go into the arguments that refute the paedocommunionists position we need to first know what it is. Paedocommunion is the view that very young children can partake of the Lord's supper by virtue of the child being baptized and in the covenant. This view says that a young child at three of years need not examine himself or make a profession of faith before he takes communion, but that a child's covenantal status is a sufficient condition for the children of believers to partake of the Lord's Supper. Conversely, the credocommunionists position is that in order to partake of the Lord's supper a child or any person must be a believer who can 1) understand the significance of the supper, and 2) examine themselves in order to see if they are eating the supper in a worthy manner. This is the opposite of the paedocommunion position because on the credocommunion position just being in the covenant can never be a sufficient condition or qualification to partake of the Lord's supper. Because the church has been given elders who are supposed to enforce biblical doctrine with authority it us up to their biblical wisdom to ensure that both these qualifications are satisfied in any particular individual on the credocommunionists position (Titus 1:9;2:1,7, 15). The structure of this refutation of paedocommunion is that I will first present the strongest proof for the credocommunionists position and then after that I will demonstrate that all other arguments and objections from paedocommunionists position are unsuccessful.
1 Corinthians 11:27-29
My argument for credocommunion is from 1 Corinthians 11:27-29. In these verses we find qualifications for partaking in the Lord's supper. However, these qualifications arise out of a problem in the church of Corinth. The problem in the church of Corinth is that there are people who are eating all the food and getting drunk off of drinking to much wine while partaking in the Lord's supper. They were eating and drinking so much that there was not enough food and drink for other poor believers who wanted to participate in the Lord's Supper. So these are the circumstances in which Paul gives qualifications for partaking in the Lord's supper. These qualifications function in such a way as to prevent these unique historical circumstances that were occurring in the church of Corinth. Yet, these qualifications function to give a general guide for the church to practice communion in a proper way. I will go into this more after I have given my exegesis of verses 27-29 which I believe conclusively establishes credocommunion.
Paul starts out in verse 27 by showing the importance of eating the supper properly Paul puts it like this in verse 27 1 Corinthians 11:27 “27 Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.” Paul is saying here that if we partake of the Lord's supper in a sinful way then we are guilty of sinning against the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Now this does not mean that one has to be perfect or that one should not partake of the supper if they are struggling with sin, rather this text is teaching us not to partake of the supper in a sinful fashion. However, I would say that this text excludes unbelievers from taking the supper because a unbeliever suppresses the truth of God in unrighteousness and he will certainly not take the supper in a worthy fashion if he has that mindset. This therefore, establishes the principle that only believers are to partake in the Lord's supper. Furthermore, if one holds to the principle “better safe than sorry” then this also implicitly teaches against paedocommunion because we are not certain if children are regenerate until they profess faith. So if a child ends up not professing faith and they were partaking of the Lord's supper the whole time then they would have been guilty of profaning and sinning against the body and blood of the Lord and the church would be permitting this. The costs here are much too high so therefore it is reasonable that we adopt the principle that it is better to be cautious about very important spiritual matters rather than not be. These assumptions are wise for carefully applying God's word, however, they also rule out paedocommunion.
Verse 28 makes the case for paedocommunion even more difficult because Paul gives explicit qualifications that would rule out very young children just baptized in the covenant, verse 28 reads: 1 Corinthians 11:28 28 A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. Paul is saying that a person in the singular should examine himself before he partakes of the supper. If a person does not examine themselves then they are not following this scripture verse. The reason why people examine themselves is to see if they are going to partake of the supper in a worthy manner. This means they are to see if they are Christians and if they are not going to partake of the supper in a sinful fashion. Clearly, many very young children either do not have the mental capacity or have not shown that they have the mental capacity to fulfill this qualification. Therefore, if a young child cannot meet this criteria then they ought to be excluded from the table and this entails that paedocommunion is false.
But Paul does not just stop there, he goes on to give a further qualification to the supper in verse 29 which reads: “For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.” Paul's point here is that if anyone does not recognizing the significance of the body of the Lord then he reaps judgment on himself. What Paul means by body in this verse is the body of the Lord because this Greek “soma” word is used in this way in the immediate preceding context two times in verses 24 and 27 of 1 Corinthians 11. Many paedocommunionist out of desperation argue that this means the church, however, this goes against Paul's use of the word “soma” in the immediate context. What Paul means by recognizing the body of the Lord is probably acknowledging the proper understanding of the Lord's supper and to what the supper points to which is the shed blood and broken body of Jesus for our justification. Clearly, this falsifies paedocommunion because paedocommunion teaches that we should allow children to the table only because they are in the covenant, but this verse gives more qualifications than just covenant membership. Not only does this verse disprove paedocommunion but it shows the danger of paedocommunion position because parents that do not make sure that their children follow these qualifications put their children at risk of the judgment of almighty God. Therefore, this is all the more encouragement to the church that we should carefully to observe these qualifications and this is why I think that biblical wisdom suggests that a closed table is very beneficial to have.
Objections to 1 Corinthians 11
However, before I move on there are two prominent paedocommunionists objections to the traditional Reformed reading of 1 Corinthians 11:27-29 that I will deal with. The first objection is that to apply verses 27-29 to paedocommunion is to take it out of context because 1 Corinthians 11 is about unifying the differing factions in the church rather than excluding people from the Lord's table. The first problem with this objection is that the main theme in the immediate context is not so much about unity in general so much as it is about those who were not eating the supper properly because they are not including believers who legitimately have a right to eat the supper. Paul's point to them is that the reason why this sinful event was happening to begin with is because they were not following the proper qualifications for partaking in the supper. As we can see this is perfectly compatible with the context because Paul's general principle does not allow for the Corinthians behavior and as well as other behaviors that we have previously discussed. The paedocommunionists usually means by “it is out of context” is that we should only apply these qualifications to cases when believers eat the supper in a way that does not include all of the church. The problem with this response is that the qualifications themselves do not actually say this, so the paedocommunionists is simply putting something in the text that is not there. Furthermore, to try to limit the application of this text is inconsistent with how we read the Bible and how we apply it to our own unique circumstances. For example, in 1 Corinthians 5 when Paul commands the church to discipline a person for sexual immorality we do not limit the application of this text to only disciplining people who are sexually immoral but to all individual's who are living in unrepentant sin. Therefore, to only limit the qualifications in 1 Corinthians 11 to the situations involving people taking the supper sinfully by not including believers is inconsistent to how we apply the Bible to all areas of life. The second paedocommunionists objection to this passage is that we do not apply other commandments and qualifications to very small children so it is inconsistent to apply these qualifications to very small children. For instance, Tim Gallant uses 2 Thessalonians 3:10 which says that “those who do not work do not eat”, Gallant argues surely we do not apply this to very small children so therefore we do not apply 1 Corinthians 11 to very small children. My response to Gallant is threefold 1) if we were to be consistent with this line of reasoning then we could exclude very small children from the commandments of God and hence very small children could not really sin (which Tim himself rejects). 2) If we were to exclude very small from all sorts of qualification then very small children could function as elders in our churches because the qualifications do not apply to them. 3) Because Tim's principle leads absurdities like 1 and 2 then we should adopt the following principle: a child is only excluded from a commandment and requirement only if it leads to something that is clearly immoral like in the case of Tim's example of starving your children because they are not working. Therefore, we can consistently say on basis of 1 Corinthians 11 that small children that have not professed faith cannot come to the table and that objections offered to the contrary are unsound. In the time remaining I will refute the two most popular positive arguments offered for paedocommunion.
Argument 1: The Passover
One of the most popular arguments in favor of paedocommunion is that the passover celebration included small covenant children without qualification and the passover celebration is connected to the Lord's supper, hence, the Lord's supper should include small covenant children without qualification. The reason why this argument is a failure is because of the fact the Old Testament data never clearly says that small covenant children participated in the passover, this is rather a foggy inference that the paedocommunist's draws. So in order to make this argument work the paedocommunist's makes way too much out of the Old Testaments unclear evidence. And in doing this the paedocommunist's violates two solid hermetical principles that have been around since the Reformation, they are, as follows: 1) Let the clear scripture interpret the unclear scripture, and 2) let the New Testament interpret the Old Testament. The paedocommunist's reasoning violates both these principles at the same time when he lets the unclear Old Testament evidences interpret the clear New Testament evidence of 1 Corinthians 11. The actual passover event was said to include households in Exodus 12 and it does not really say explicitly whether or not covenant children who had not professed faith had participated in it. The passover was a unique event, but what was a repeated event was remembering and celebrating the passover which better fits with the Lord's supper which we repeatedly celebrate to remember the death of Christ. This puts the paedocommunists in a very difficult position because the celebration of the passover was only commanded to individual's and it involved a pilgrimage to Jerusalem which was a command that a very small child could not have even followed. Deuteronomy 16:1-7 is the text that commands how the passover is to be followed: “Observe the month of Abib and celebrate the Passover of the LORD your God, because in the month of Abib he brought you out of Egypt by night. 2 Sacrifice as the Passover to the LORD your God an animal from your flock or herd at the place the LORD will choose as a dwelling for his Name. 3 Do not eat it with bread made with yeast, but for seven days eat unleavened bread, the bread of affliction, because you left Egypt in haste-- so that all the days of your life you may remember the time of your departure from Egypt. 4 Let no yeast be found in your possession in all your land for seven days. Do not let any of the meat you sacrifice on the evening of the first day remain until morning. 5 You must not sacrifice the Passover in any town the LORD your God gives you 6 except in the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name. There you must sacrifice the Passover in the evening, when the sun goes down, on the anniversary of your departure from Egypt. 7 Roast it and eat it at the place the LORD your God will choose. Then in the morning return to your tents.” Not only is doubtful that very small covenant children could even follow this, but it is not even commanded to family units it is commanded to individual's because every single Hebrew verb is in the masculine singular. Therefore, it is not clear that small covenant children that did not profess faith took part in the passover celebration. So the best option for us is to follow the reasonable hermetical principles of the Reformation and let the clear interpret the unclear, let the New Testament interpret Old Testament and when we follow these principles the paedocommunists passover argument is unsuccessful.
Argument 2: 1 Corinthians 10:16-17
The last argument we will be dealing with comes from 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 which reads: 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 “16 Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.” The argument made by the paedocommunionist is that Paul says that the one Body of Christ partakes in the Lord's Supper and children are a part of the body of Christ, therefore, children ought to partake of the Lord's supper. The problem with this argument is this: if the paedocommunionists were consistent with this line of reasoning then this would mean that even infants who are too young to have hard foods would be obligated to partake in the supper, but paedocommunionists state that only when a child is old enough to eat solid foods then they can partake in the supper. So even the paedocommunionists see 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 as not the entire body of Christ, but only those who are old enough to eat of it. But then if this true then it is inconsistent with the claim that body of Christ means every single person because it excludes infants that cannot eat solid food, therefore, there is no problem with the credocommunionists adding other biblical qualifications to partake in the Lord's supper that are found in 1 Corinthians 11. As we have seen there are simply no good reasons to think that paedocommunion is true, rather 1 Corinthians 11 gives us sufficient reason to doubt the truth of paedocommunion.
Saturday, June 19, 2010
The natural response by most Christians is "well we can construct the Bible today to 99% accuracy to the originals so surely there has not been that much copying errors." While this is true this does answer the principle in the argument: Why would God permit any sort of copying errors in the Bible at all?
Well the way I would approach this argument is by attacking two of the key premises for our purposes we will call these two premises: P1 and P2
P1: If we can think of no morally sufficient reason for why God would permit scribal errors then we have good reason for thinking that there is none.
P2: We can think of no morally sufficient reason for why God would permit scribal errors.
P1 seems to be false to me because Christian theism theologically admits at least a light form of skeptical theism. That is simply to say: God is incomprehensible so God's reasons for doing this may beyond our cognitive grasp. Surely it would not be completely absurd if God only allows man to damage his word a little bit for some incomprehensible morally sufficient reason. Now with all things being equal then it seems to me that we ought to be say that P1 is neither justified nor unjustified so it cannot function as a defeater against Christian theism.
However, I believe we can do better and actually provide a possible reason for why God would permit man to slightly make copying errors in his Word. In other words we can actually show this entire argument to be less reasonable to believe rather than to affirm. We can show this argument to be more than inscrutable because we can plausibly show it to be false. We can do this by giving reasons for rejecting P2 and if we give sufficient reason for rejecting P2 then this argument really does not even get off the ground. With that being said here are a few possible reasons one could give:
Reason 1: God allowed errors in his word to show his Glory by showing how his goodness and perfection far surpasses ours and this would encourage us to depend on him more. The reason why allow errors would do this is because God has given us his perfect word that does not have any error and the moment God gives this to humanity they mess it up by their fallibility. In the end the greater good is accomplished. God shows his glory and perfection and we experience his glory. But in all of this our imperfection and fallibility is exposed and this highlights our need for God and the greatness of God. This is all done at a very small cost: small non-essential errors that do not even effect our Christian life in a negative fashion.
Reason 2: There is another possible reason that is strange, but it still remains a possible morally sufficient reason. God permitted demons to do slight damage to His Word so that He can punish them and show His justice. Now the demons could have caused the human scribes to make small accidental errors and so on. So God gets to display His justice towards absolute evil at the cost of the smallest errors that do not effect the Bible's essential message to humanity. This seems like a morally sufficient reason.
As we can see, Bart Ehrman's argument is to be regarded as a failure so when you hear him give this reason for leaving Christianity you can be assured that this is a bad reason for abandoning one's Christian faith.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
It's Ironic here that Dawkins says he will only debate a Bishop, Archbishop, Pope, or Cardinal and will not debate a creationist. The reason why it is Ironic is because Dawkins debated John Lennox who Dawkins considers to be a creationist and yet fits none of Dawkins above criteria. Furthermore, Dawkins also debated Alister Mcgrath who also does not fit into Dawkins criteria of a high ranking church man. It seems that Dawkins excuse for not debating William Lane Craig does not hold water.
Monday, June 14, 2010
I am going to give a brief overview of Calvinism in this post. This means that I am going to provide a explanation of each of the five points of Calvinism and then provide the strongest arguments in favor of each point. This was a Sermon I present at Grace URC for the second Service and so the content is very simple at the cost of not being overly precise. But this is a very good general introduction and defense to Calvinism.
With that being said let us move right into the first point of Calvinism which is Total depravity. There are a few misunderstandings about this point so I will start with what this point is not saying: This point is not saying that human beings are so evil that they cannot do any civil or public good. Furthermore, this is not saying that we ought to expect human beings to be so evil that we should expect every unbeliever to have actually committed murder and adultery. Why if that were true that would make the T.V. Show Law and Order only 30 minutes instead of hour because the cops would know right away that the prime suspects to all the crimes would be unbelievers. Well this is not what Total depravity is teaching rather what it is teaching is that Human beings in their fallen state cannot do any spiritual good and cannot choose God (unless of course God chooses to give them grace sufficient to save them). The three best verses in support of this doctrine are John 6:44, Romans 3:10-12, and Romans 8:8, I am telling you them ahead of time so that you can turn to them in your bibles. So let us first look at John 6:44 44 "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. The verse just says you cannot come to God unless he draws you and that person who is drawn is raised in glory on the last day. Now let us turn to Romans 3:10-12 10 As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one; 11 there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one." The funny thing is that some of these are so clear that they require little exposition. But the point of this passage is that unbelievers cannot do spiritual good and they cannot seek God. And obviously if one were believing in Christ they would be seeking God, so this verse clearly teaches total depravity. But perhaps the clearest and concise verse of all is Romans 8:8 8 Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. If you are a unbeliever you cannot please God and clearly by believing in Christ and doing a good work is pleasing to God, therefore, according to Romans 8:8 unbelievers cannot do this.
All of these verses clearly establish total depravity, so let us move on to the next point which is unconditional election. The point of unconditional election teaches that before the foundation of the word and before we were born God choose us and predestined us in Christ Jesus. This choosing of God is based on anything about us like our foreseen faith or works but rather it is based on the free will and good pleasure of God. God chooses many for eternal life and others for eternal distress and this is not based on the creature, but based on God and bringing about his greater glory. This is clearly taught in two places in God's word: Romans 9:11-23 and Ephesians 1:4-12, Let us read Romans 9:11-23 11 Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad-- in order that God's purpose in election might stand: 12 not by works but by him who calls-- she was told, "The older will serve the younger." 13 Just as it is written: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." 14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." 16 It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: "I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." 18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. 19 One of you will say to me: "Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?" 20 But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?'" 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? 22 What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath-- prepared for destruction? 23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory--” This verse really could not be any clearer. God freely chooses many for eternal life and eternal death not based on anything about them, but based on his greater glory. If anyone ever objects that this verse is not really teaching Calvinism then all you really have to do is point out all of the objections that Paul anticipates like 14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! And "Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?" These are precisely the sort of objections you get when you teach Calvinism, so clearly Paul is teaching Calvinism otherwise he would not anticipate these objections. Well Ephesians 1:4-12 is just as strong so let us turn there Ephesians 1:4-12 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will-- 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace 8 that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. 9 And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment-- to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. 11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.” This verse is a wonderful verse that shows us God's unconditional love for us in Christ Jesus. The point is that we were chosen in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world and this was not according to our agenda, but according to God's free will, pleasure, and glorification. I would say that these two places are by far the strongest places to go to support this doctrine.
But with that being said lets move to one of the most controversial points of Calvinism Limited Atonement. Limited atonement or perhaps more accurately called particular redemption teaches that Christ dies for the elect only, that is to say Christ death only atones for the sins of those who were chosen and saved by God. This view denies that Christ has died for every single person who has ever lived. So whats the biblical evidence for this controversial view? The nature of the atonement itself is perhaps the best evidence for this view. The atonement is a propitiation, that is to say, the atonement is a turning aside of the wrath and anger of God for sin because Jesus Christ took our place. For this let us look to Romans 3:25 which reads Romans 3:25 25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished-- Now the NIV translates the Greek word i`lasth,rion to mean a sacrifice of atonement, but that is technically not precise enough. The Greek word i`lasth,rion means propitiation and the definition of propitiation is turning aside the wrath of God. Therefore, the implication is that Christ's death turns asides and satisfied God's anger and wrath toward sin. So if this is what the atonement did and Christ satisfied God's just anger and wrath for our sins. Then what is the implication if one rejects limited atonement and says that Christ died for all people? Well this means that God is not justly angry or wrathful toward anyone which means everyone is going to heaven, but this is false because the Bible clearly teaches that there are people who are going to hell in Matthew 25:46 - 26:1 46 "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." Finally, another strong argument comes from Romans 8:31-34 and Romans 8 especially verses 31 and following is about how believers should not worry about losing their salvation because nothing can separate us from the saving love of Christ Jesus, so with that in mind lets read Romans 8:31-34 31 What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all-- how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died-- more than that, who was raised to life-- is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Here the fact that Christ died for us is suppose to comfort us and assure us that we are saved. Now if the arminian is right and Christ died for those who are suffering in hell forever and ever, then mentioning the fact that Christ died for you would not be a very comforting fact because Christ dies for those who are in hell and who do not have salvation. And lastly perhaps one of the most classic texts in support of the Reformed position is John 10:11 which reads 11 "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. Now arminians are quick to point out that just because Jesus says he dies for his sheep (believers) it does not mean that Jesus did not die for other people. But the problem with this rationalization of this text is that Jesus mentions unbelievers and false teachers in the context, so it seems like Jesus is implicitly excluding them from the benefits of His death. So let me give you an example of what I mean: If I came to you today and I said well there are some churches in town like a baptist church, and there is a Lutheran church, but today I have gift for this church. Now I dare say that everyone would take what I am saying in a exclusive sense, that is to say you would all interpret it to mean that I have only given this church a gift and not the other churches in town. But this is what Jesus does in John 10 he mentions unbelievers in the context and in so doing he implicitly does not includes unbelievers from the benefits of his death and includes only believers. Those are the most powerful arguments for limited atonement so lets move on to the most powerful arguments for Irresistible grace.
Irresistible grace is the doctrine that when God graciously wills to saved you and creates faith in your heart you cannot resist and you cannot do otherwise. There three verses that strongly support Irresistible grace John 6:44, Ephesians 2:8-9, and Romans 9:18-20. Let us turn to our first verse found in John 6:44 it reads: 44 "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. This passage is teaching that anyone who is drawn is raised up on the last day. Raised up refers to being raised up in glory rather than damnation because Jesus consistently uses the phrase “on the last day” in this way throughout the entire discourse (John 6:39-40). Moreover, the Greek word e[lkw (or "draws") suggests that it is Irresistible because John uses it with regards to Peter dragging fish that he has caught (John 21:11) and John seems to use it this way consistently throughout his Gospel. If the arminian wants to suggest that all persons are drawn then all people will go to heaven because those who are drawn are raised in glory in verse 44. And Suggesting that all people go to heaven as we have seen is demonstrably false from Matthew 25. As we will see John 6:44 also has implication for perseverance of the saints. So lets move on to our next verse Ephesians 2:8-9 which reads Ephesians 2:8-9 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. The reason why this verse teaches irresistible grace is because the faith and grace we have is not from us, but it originates with God which means if God wills to save us and our ability to have faith solely comes from God then we cannot resist it (because after all it is not of us). In the Greek “this not from yourselves” refers both to faith and grace. So faith is a creation of God and not of us which means it is not of our ability to resist it. So with that in mind let us move to our last verse which is Romans 9:18-20 it reads 18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. 19 One of you will say to me: "Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will? 20 But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?” Paul here is anticipating a common arminian objection to irresistible grace which is “well if God irresistibly causes you to be saved and to be damned then why would God hold you morally accountable for something you cannot resist?” If Paul were not teaching Calvinism here specifically irresistible grace then Paul would never anticipate these objections. In other words, if Paul was teaching the arminian view which is resistible grace then these questions and objections would never come up. But they do which shows conclusively that Paul was teaching Calvinistic doctrine of irresistible grace. So if we are getting the same objections that Paul got we are probably in pretty good shape.
Perseverance of the Saint
Perseverance of the saints is the last point of Calvinism which teaches that once you are genuinely saved you cannot lose your salvation. This point has been subject to gross misrepresentation and mocking because people paint it like this: Once saved always saved no matter what you do, no matter what you do your always going to be saved. And people also say well if once saved always saved is true then you could just take out a gun and start shooting people at random and you still you will saved. Well this is not the way we as Reformed Christian view it. We view it like this: those who are genuinely saved will not lose their salvation and a sign that someone never had salvation to begin with is if they do not persevere in the faith which is manifested by rejecting Christ and living in unrepentant sin. Now although this view has been mocked by many it has ample biblical support, the verse we will be looking at is John 6:44, John 10:28-29, and Romans 8:34-39. Lets us turn in our Bibles to John 6:44: John 6:44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. Here John could not make it any clearer if you are drawn by God you will be raised in a glorious resurrection body, there is no thought or concern in John's mind that those who are drawn will fall away and be damned to hell. But John makes this even clearer in John 10:28-29 which reads 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. Again John is crystal clear: those who have eternal life and who are in the Fathers hand no one can snatch them out, in other words when they are in the Fathers hand they will always remain there. And finally we are going to end on this last verse which is perhaps one of the strongest verses in favor of perseverance of the saints and it is found in Romans 8:34 – 8:39 and it reads 34 Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died-- more than that, who was raised to life-- is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. This verse teaches that nothing in all creation can separate us from the saving love of Jesus Christ and the logic here is inescapable: If nothing in all creation can separate us from Jesus Christ's saving love, then are you a part of creation? The answer is: Yes! So once you are genuinely saved you cannot even separate yourselves from the love of Christ Jesus which means you cannot lose your salvation. This is an amazing truth as are all the points of Calvinism. And this is why I wanted to spend our time on them today, for you see if one rejects Calvinism they are ultimately compromising the Love and Glory of God. And in all we do we should glorify God even in our Doctrine.