Monday, March 31, 2008

Baptism--The Congregation's Responsibility

I visited my old church (Peace CRC) last night because my son's Cadet group was participating in the service. The boys' theme for the year was "Now... pass it on." Throughout the year, they learned about how God has entrusted his people with the responsibility of passing on the truth of Christ's saving death and resurrection generationally.

The back of the Cadet Sunday bulletin had a request for donations (the group does not receive denominational financial support). A line there made an interesting point: " a congregation promises at a child's baptism, the whole church is involved in the nurturing of a child from infancy to adulthood."

The infant being baptized doesn't know any more than that some (perhaps cold) water has interrupted a nap. But the baptism does more than that for the parents and the rest of the congregation. It is a visual reminder to us of our own baptisms, and the sign and seal of the work that Christ has done. And it's a reminder to us that we are to take an active role in the spiritual education of our covenant children.

Some churches choose to dedicate infants, but only baptize adults. Apparently, there is an innate desire to include their children in the covenant sign. So, why not just baptize them?

Based on scripture, I don't see a reason to dedicate rather than baptize an infant or child. It is not the same as communion, which we are clearly taught we must understand prior to partaking. But paedocommunion is a subject for a different day.

In Christ,
Lisa G.

A Reason For The Pain

I don't believe I have updated you all on my hip. I have Osteo-arthritis and will be seeing a family doctor tomorrow who will then give me a referral to a specialist. They may be able to give me a cortisone shot to help deal with the pain. But other than that this is degenerative and surgery may be the only other option eventually. I need some strength and motivation to go swimming, the only cardio I can do with my hip which will help me lose some weight.

Green On Infant Baptism Pt.6

"6. Infant Baptism Stresses the Objectivity of the Gospel

It points to the solid achievement of Christ crucified and risen, whether or not we respond to it. Baptism is the sacrament of our adoption, our acquittal, our justification. Not that we gain anything from it unless we do what it presupposes, namely repent and believe. But it is the standing demonstration that our salvation does not depend on our own very fallible faith; it depends on what God has done for us. Infant baptism reminds us that we are not saved because of our faith but through the gracious action of God on our behalf which stands, come wind come weather. And that is a most important emphasis. Martin Luther, that great advocate, one might almost say rediscoverer, of the blessings of justification by faith, used to be beset by the most frightening doubts. At such times he did not say, ‘I have believed’. He was too unsure of his faith to do that. He said, ‘I have been baptised’ (as an infant, what’s more!). Baptism stood for what God had done for him to make him accepted in the Beloved. It was healthily objective. In our own day, when feelings are so often mistaken as the barometer of spiritual wellbeing, we could do worse than learn from Luther."

Michael Green, Baptism: Its Purpose, Practice and Power, 54 (Milton Keynes, UK: Paternoster, 1987).

Friday, March 28, 2008

Captain Headknowledge On Baptism

Eric asked the question "why do we both come to the scriptures and find different conclusions?" I answered this with a rather flippant "We live in a fallen world." Now while this is true and does contribute to it I thought the Captains comments on that post deserved front page treatment. I now present for your reading pleasure the Captain's insight.

"May I attempt to insert some thoughts regarding Eric's question about how individuals can examine the same text and come away with different interpretations?

As a listener to the White Horse Inn, I frequently hear Michael Horton point out that no one comes to the text of Scripture completely free of preconceived notions. Even though Eric was raised in a paedobaptist denomination, he says they didn't promote paedobaptism. That leaves a deficit in the minds of those not receiving clear instruction on the matter. So, naturally, this void of teaching on baptism was easily filled with the very consistent emphasis offered by the tradition for whom baptism is their very namesake--the Baptists! Perhaps I'm just trying to say, "nature abhors a vacuum."

The heart of the Baptist approach to the question of baptism seems to be in the difference in the emphasis put on the leap from the Old Testament to the New Testament. The paedobaptists emphasize the continuity between the testaments, while the credobaptists emphasize the discontinuity between the testaments. While paedobaptists are looking in the New Testament for explicit negations of giving the sign of the covenant to children of covenant adults (if you will), Baptists are looking for explicit commands prescribing the same thing. Baptists come looking for a positive; paedobpatists come looking for a negative--that explains, in my mind, how two individuals come to the text and end up with varying interpretations (which not amazingly coincide with the interpretation of the traditions from which both individuals come). It's the age old problem of not being able to get away from one's preconceived notions.

This may not have told you anything you didn't already know, but I think it's the plain and simple answer to that particular question.

I must confess, Alan, I haven't been following the posts on Calvin and Green as much as I would like, however, every time I did read them, I came away with a new layer of understanding on the issues. I'll certainly try to get back to looking up the ones I've skipped in the past. I presume they'll still be there when I come looking for them.

If I may, I'd like to suggest, if you haven't done so already, come by my blog later and check out the link to Google Maps which I found featured at the ESV blog. They are featuring satellite images of the greater Jerusalem area, with tags detailing the events of Passion Week, linking to the ESV website to read the relevant Scripture passages. It's pretty interesting. But my blog features a bonus great hymn on Christ's sacrifice by a seventeenth century Lutheran pastor to add a devotional application to the interesting maps."

Calvin On Infant Baptism Pt. 8

"22. Every one must, I think, clearly perceive, that all arguments of this stamp are mere perversions of Scripture. The other remaining arguments akin to these we shall cursorily examine. They object, that baptism is given for the remission of sins. When this is conceded, it strongly supports our view; for, seeing we are born sinners, we stand in need of forgiveness and pardon from the very womb. Moreover, since God does not preclude this age from the hope of mercy, but rather gives assurance of it, why should we deprive it of the sign, which is much inferior to the reality? The arrow, therefore, which they aim at us, we throw back upon themselves. Infants receive forgiveness of sins; therefore, they are not to be deprived of the sign. They adduce the passage from the Ephesians, that Christ gave himself for the Church, “that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word” (Eph. 5:26). Nothing could be quoted more appropriate than this to overthrow their error: it furnishes us with an easy proof. If, by baptism, Christ intends to attest the ablution by which he cleanses his Church, it would seem not equitable to deny this attestation to infants, who are justly deemed part of the Church, seeing they are called heirs of the heavenly kingdom. For Paul comprehends the whole Church when he says that it was cleansed by the washing of water. In like manner, from his expression in another place, that by baptism we are ingrafted into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 7:13), we infer, that infants, whom he enumerates among his members, are to be baptised, in order that they may not be dissevered from his body. See the violent onset which they make with all their engines on the bulwarks of our faith.

23. They now come down to the custom and practice of the apostolic age, alleging that there is no instance of any one having been admitted to baptism without a previous profession of faith and repentance. For when Peter is asked by his hearers, who were pricked in their heart, “What shall we do?” his advise is, “Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:37, 38). In like manner, when Philip was asked by the eunuch to baptise him, he answered, “If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.” Hence they think they can make out that baptism cannot be lawfully given to any one without previous faith and repentance. If we yield to this argument, the former passage, in which there is no mention of faith, will prove that repentance alone is sufficient, and the latter, which makes no requirement of repentance, that there is need only of faith. They will object, I presume, that the one passage helps the other, and that both, therefore, are to be connected. I, in my turn, maintain that these two must be compared with other passages which contribute somewhat to the solution of this difficulty. There are many passages of Scripture whose meaning depends on their peculiar position. Of this we have an example in the present instance. Those to whom these things are said by Peter and Philip are of an age fit to aim at repentance, and receive faith. We strenuously insist that such men are not to be baptised unless their conversion and faith are discerned, at least in as far as human judgment can ascertain it. But it is perfectly clear that infants must be placed in a different class. For when any one formerly joined the religious communion of Israel, he behoved to be taught the covenant, and instructed in the law of the Lord, before he received circumcision, because he was of a different nation; in other words, an alien from the people of Israel, with whom the covenant, which circumcision sanctioned, had been made.

24. Thus the Lord, when he chose Abraham for himself, did not commence with circumcision, in the meanwhile concealing what he meant by that sign, but first announced that he intended to make a covenant with him, and, after his faith in the promise, made him partaker of the sacrament. Why does the sacrament come after faith in Abraham, and precede all intelligence in his son Isaac? It is right that he who, in adult age, is admitted to the fellowship of a covenant by one from whom he had hitherto been alienated, should previously learn its conditions; but it is not so with the infant born to him. He, according to the terms of the promise, is included in the promise by hereditary right from his mother’s womb. Or, to state the matter more briefly and more clearly, If the children of believers, without the help of understanding, are partakers of the covenant, there is no reason why they should be denied the sign, because they are unable to swear to its stipulations. This undoubtedly is the reason why the Lord sometimes declares that the children born to the Israelites are begotten and born to him (Ezek. 16:20; 23:37). For he undoubtedly gives the place of sons to the children of those to whose seed he has promised that he will be a Father. But the child descended from unbelieving parents is deemed an alien to the covenant until he is united to God by faith. Hence, it is not strange that the sign is withheld when the thing signified would be vain and fallacious. In that view, Paul says that the Gentiles, so long as they were plunged in idolatry, were strangers to the covenant (Eph. 2:11). The whole matter may, if I mistake not, be thus briefly and clearly expounded: Those who, in adult age, embrace the faith of Christ, having hitherto been aliens from the covenant, are not to receive the sign of baptism without previous faith and repentance. These alone can give them access to the fellowship of the covenant, whereas children, deriving their origin from Christians, as they are immediately on their birth received by God as heirs of the covenant, are also to be admitted to baptism. To this we must refer the narrative of the Evangelist, that those who were baptised by John confessed their sins (Mt. 3:6). This example, we hold, ought to be observed in the present day. Were a Turk to offer himself for baptism, we would not at once perform the rite without receiving a confession which was satisfactory to the Church."

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Translation of: Institutio Christianae religionis.; Reprint, with new introd. Originally published: Edinburgh : Calvin Translation Society, 1845-1846., IV, xvi, 22 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

Thursday, March 27, 2008

More Damage Control Spin From David Strand

March 27, 2008

Dear Christian Friends:

Last week the decision was made to discontinue the “Issues, Etc.” program on KFUO-AM Radio, a ministry owned and operated by The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). A brief statement was posted soon after on KFUO-AM's website citing programmatic and stewardship (business) reasons for this decision.

Following the discontinuation of the program, some KFUO-AM listeners asked for more information as to why “Issues, Etc.” had been ended. Detailed reasons are not usually provided when making program changes, and I intend to continue our policy and practice not to publicly discuss specific personnel matters. However, I do want to provide additional information regarding some of the significant challenges we faced prior to the discontinuation of the program and to respond to the inquiries of those who were particularly fond and appreciative of “Issues, Etc.”

In fiscal year 2007-08, KFUO-AM’s operating deficit was $620,698. Since 2001, the accumulated deficits at the station have been in excess of $3.5 million. The LCMS budget, entrusted to our care by members of our Synod’s congregations, has absorbed these shortfalls for years. After long and prayerful consideration, it became clear that measures had to be taken to stop the ongoing, staggering losses.

Although some are under the impression that “Issues, Etc.” was profitable and self-supporting, the fact is the program lost approximately $250,000 in the last fiscal year. While airing for only 18 percent of KFUO-AM’s programming week, “Issues” accounted for more than 40 percent of the station’s total deficit. These figures are based on the audited financial statements of the LCMS.

Over the years, every effort has been made to cut expenses at KFUO-AM. At the same time, particularly in the past year, extraordinary measures were taken to bolster the financial support of the station. A sizable portion of those efforts focused on assisting “Issues, Etc.,” the most costly program on the AM schedule. Unfortunately, these measures have not solved the problem. As of February 29th, two-thirds into the current fiscal year, KFUO-AM was on pace to suffer heavy losses again.

Some may also be under a misapprehension about the size of the “Issues” audience. In 2005, station management decided it could no longer justify paying for expensive ratings reports in light of the predictably low and static nature of KFUO-AM’s audience numbers. At the time, a blending of the spring 2004 and spring 2005 “books” showed an average listening audience during the “Issues” Monday-Friday timeslot of 1,650. There is no indication these numbers have grown appreciably since.

As for the audio streaming of “Issues, Etc.” via the Internet, the numbers are similarly low. During the last full month (February 2008) for which we have reports, the average number of live, streaming listeners during the “Issues” Monday-Friday timeslot was 64.

On Sunday nights, when the first hour of “Issues” was syndicated in a number of markets (an opportunity for which, during the past fiscal year, the LCMS actually paid $66,000 in broadcast fees), and where the second hour was available only on the Internet, the peak number of online listeners on the KFUO stream was 39.

Sadly, very difficult financial conditions sometimes require decisions that are not popular among all affected. In the case of KFUO-AM, the time had come when good stewardship of the church’s funds required a decision that meaningfully curtailed the deep, ongoing losses at the station. Ending the costs associated with “Issues, Etc.” was the only viable option, and the decision to do this was prayerfully and contemplatively made.

I am sorry that those who enjoyed “Issues” are disappointed, but I have made the show’s archives available, and I respectfully hope that all listeners will support the ongoing radio ministry of our beloved Synod.

Sincerely in Christ,

David L. Strand
Executive Director
Board for Communication Services



David L. Strand, Executive Director of the Board for Communication Services for the LCMS has posted an 'explanation' that he hopes will make the controversy surrounding the cancellation of Issues Etc. go away. However, as someone who is well connected to sources deep inside the Purple Palace I know for a fact that Strand's official statement is full of half-truths and bureaucratic misdirection.

Here is just a sampling.

1. In his official statement Strand states:

In fiscal year 2007-08, KFUO-AM’s operating deficit was $620,698. Since 2001, the accumulated deficits at the station have been in excess of $3.5 million. The LCMS budget, entrusted to our care by members of our Synod’s congregations, has absorbed these shortfalls for years. After long and prayerful consideration, it became clear that measures had to be taken to stop the ongoing, staggering losses.

Please consider this, if Issues Etc. was cut because of business losses then how come it was the ONLY program on KFUO AM that ever asked for donations and support? If Strand was so concerned that KFUO AM was operating in the black then how come all the other programs which constitute 82% of the total air time for KFUO were not asking for donations?

One of my sources in the Purple Palace told me on Monday that the Synod has always considered KFUO AM to be a ministry outreach and therefore was not concerned by the expenses of keeping KFUO AM on the air.

Please also consider this fact. The treasurer of the LCMS was in Germany on the day that Issues Etc was cancelled and was shocked by the announcement that the show had been cancelled. If Issues Etc. was cancelled for financial reasons, then wouldn't it make logical sense that the treasurer of the LCMS would have been part of that decision?

2. Strand grossly understates the size of the Issues Etc. audience. In his statement he says:

Some may also be under a misapprehension about the size of the “Issues” audience. In 2005, station management decided it could no longer justify paying for expensive ratings reports in light of the predictably low and static nature of KFUO-AM’s audience numbers. At the time, a blending of the spring 2004 and spring 2005 “books” showed an average listening audience during the “Issues” Monday-Friday timeslot of 1,650. There is no indication these numbers have grown appreciably since.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to notice that Strand purposely omitted the number of people who listened to Issues Etc. via podcast. Why didn't he include those numbers? Answer: by omitting those numbers he is able to make it appear like very few people ever listened to Issues Etc. But if the Issues Etc audience is a small as David Strand would have you believe, then why is there a national outcry against this decision?

Also, missing from these figures are what those in the business world call a "comparative baseline". In other words, in order to get a proper perspective of these figures then we'd need to know how many listeners each of the other shows have during their respective time slots. But that information is also missing from Strand's statement.

This statement by David Strand is a propoganda piece designed to silence critics and end the controversy. It was carefully crafted using only carefully selected bits of information while omitting data that would give people the full and complete picture.

Unfortunately, this piece because of its half truths and omitted data will do nothing more than add fuel to an already raging fire.

Posted by Athanasius on March 27, 2008 at 10:55 AM in Synodical Half-Truths | Permalink


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Another Place To Write

I was looking for some work from home opportunities on the web the other day and somehow not only did I sign up for this blog-hub-type thing, I managed to email everyone in my contact list and tell them to become my fans. This may be providential but since three people actually did sign up I felt obligated to post there. We shall see if I actually make any money but in the mean time if you enjoy this blog check out the other one. I plan on keeping that more along the lines of Bible study/teaching and not so much hunting heretics as I suspect I will attract a much larger group of non-believers there. Here is the url of my latest post there, stop by and leave me a comment.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Green On Infant Baptism Pt. 5

"5. The Church Down Its History Has Baptised Children

There seems little doubt that it was the established practice of the subapostolic church to baptise infants within Christian homes. About a.d. 215 the Roman theologian Hippolytus, in a document significantly called The Apostolic Tradition, refers in the most natural way to the baptism of children. Indeed, he alludes to it as an ‘unquestioned rule’. ‘First, you should baptise the little ones. All who can speak for themselves should speak. But for those who cannot speak, their parents should speak, or another who belongs to their family.’ Then the grown men were baptised, and finally the women (Apostolic Tradition, 21). Hippolytus’ order of service for baptism had wide circulation, was translated into various languages, and set the standard for more than a thousand years.

We do not have much explicit evidence before Hippolytus. This is largely because not a great deal of reference is made to baptism in the surviving literature of the second century, and what there is does not always specify whether infant or adult baptism is meant. But what evidence there is supports the unquestioning acceptance of infant baptism. Thus Polycarp (c. a.d. 69–155), himself, it appears, a child of Christian parents, declared at his martyrdom, ‘Eighty-six years have I served Him, and He never did me any wrong …’ This takes us back to around the year a.d. 70, in the heyday of the young church’s advance, when apostles were still alive. It is almost incredible that Polycarp means us to understand that he came to Christian beginnings in baptism as a lad of 12 or 14, when he would have been old enough to make his own adult decision for Christ. Had that been the case he would have been 100 when he died. Not many people reached that age in those days! When they did, it was a matter for special comment. No, Polycarp was almost certainly baptised as a baby eighty-six years before his martyrdom.

The same was true of Origen. Three times he mentions the baptism of infants as a custom of the church, and in his Commentary on Romans 6:5–7 he says, ‘For this reason the Church received from the apostles the tradition of baptising children too’. Origen, that extremely erudite Church Father, was born in a.d. 185 to a Christian family, and if he thinks infant baptism was an apostolic practice, he must surely have been baptised as an infant himself. Where did his parents get the idea from? Such questions take us back into the first Christian century.

Another of the great teachers of the early Church, Irenaeus (a.d. 130–200) is no less clear, and no less relaxed about the practice. He says that Jesus came to save all who through him are born again to God—infants, children, boys, youths and old men. He passed through every age, becoming an infant for infants, thus sanctifying infants, and so forth (Adv. Haer. 2:22:4). And Justin (a.d. 100–165), one of the earliest Christian writers from whom any substantial literary works have come down to us, mentions ‘many men and women of the age of sixty and seventy years who have been made disciples of Christ [note the passive form, emathēteuthēsan] from childhood’ (1 Apol. 15:6). This is a clear allusion to baptism at a very early age.

The picture is clear and uniform. The early Christians baptised the children in their families, and took this to be an apostolic practice. There is, I believe, only one voice raised against the practice during the first fifteen hundred years of the church’s history, the lone voice of Tertullian (a.d. 160–220). That is not to say, of course, that there were no reformist movements in the church during that millennium and a half. Of course there were. Montanism in the second century, Donatism in the fourth, and the Franciscans, the Hussites and the followers of Wycliffe in the latter part of the Middle Ages were all preparing the way for the Reformation. They were all, in one way or another, attacks on the errors of the institutional church. But they did not bring into question the propriety of baptising the children of believers.

Tertullian, however, did. He lived in North Africa, and in the de Baptismo, written in a.d. 205, he expressed his doubts about infant baptism. It is very interesting that he does not use what would have been a clinching argument against it, namely that infant baptism did not derive from the apostles. He cannot do that, for he knows very well that it is no novelty in the church. Instead, he argues that the baptism of little children, except in cases of dire necessity, imposes too great a responsibility on the godparents; they might die and so be unable to fulfil their obligations, or undesirable tendencies might appear in the children! So he advises postponement of baptism. He prescribes the same for unmarried young adults and widows. Let them wait ‘until they either marry or make up their minds to continence’. Tertullian does not contest the legitimacy of baptism for such people, only the wisdom of it. Cunctatio baptismi utilior is his conclusion: delay of baptism is more beneficial (op. cit., 18). Ten years later, when writing the de Anima, Tertullian is happy for the baptism of children even if one parent is not a Christian, on the basis of a combination of 1 Corinthians 7:14 and John 3:5 (op. cit., 39).

This curious inconsistency in his treatment of infant baptism is probably best explained as follows. He seems to attest the universality of infant baptism, but in the de Baptismo reflects the growing tendency towards wanting a ‘pure church’, which led to a long catechumenate for adults who often deferred their baptism to their death beds! As Colin Buchanan acutely observes, ‘a catechumenate or long probationary period before adult baptism entails a reaction against infant baptism; and the apostolic way of doing adult baptism (i.e. immediately on profession of faith) happily accepts infant baptism.’ At all events, the inconsistency is clearly there in Tertullian. But his seems to have been the only voice raised against infant baptism. Whatever doubts he had about the propriety of baptising infants, nubile women, and widows before they had had a chance to prove themselves, these doubts made no impression on the North African Church to which he belonged. At the Synod of Carthage some years later, sixty-seven bishops from all over Christian Africa decided unanimously not to defer baptism until the eighth day, as was the case with circumcision, but to baptise directly after birth. So sure were these early Christian leaders that the baptism of infants represented the mind of God as displayed in the Old Testament and the attitude of Jesus.

Before leaving this subject of the early history of the church, one other matter is important. Just supposing the second century church had changed the rules, and had restricted baptism to those who were fully aware of what they were doing, should we not have heard something about it? When in the middle of the first century the Gentile Church saw no need to insist on circumcision and lawkeeping as conditions of entry into the family of God, there was a tremendous debate about it, which has left traces not only in Acts 15 but in many other places in the New Testament. The reverberations of that discussion were enormous. Are we to suppose, that a change of equal, if not greater, proportions took place in the early part of the second century without anyone in the surviving literature referring to it at all? That would surely strain credulity too far. The evidence suggests that the apostolic church baptised infants born to their members, and that this practice continued throughout the period of the undivided church until the Anabaptist protest at the Reformation."

Michael Green, Baptism: Its Purpose, Practice and Power, 51 (Milton Keynes, UK: Paternoster, 1987).

Thursday, March 20, 2008

David Strand Responds

I am angry over the Issues Etc. debacle, so much so I signed the petition and emailed David Strand. He returned my email and this just incited me all the more, it would have been better unanswered. I am copying my email and his response here so all can see just how hideous this whole thing is.

Dear Mr. Gielczyk:

Thank you for your e-mail. We are sorry for your disappointment over the change in KFUO-AM programming. However, we hope you will enjoy our future programs.

Sincerely in Christ,

David L. Strand
Executive Director
Board for Communication Services
The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod

This electronic mail transmission, and any attachments thereto, may contain confidential information intended only for the named recipient(s). Any distribution or disclosure to another person is prohibited

From: Alan Gielczyk
Sent: Wednesday, March 19, 2008 11:49 AM
To: David Strand
Subject: Issues etc

Mr. Strand,
I have to assume that since Issues etc. was not losing money as a radio show your decision to cancel it must be a theological one. And since the show and it's host were fighting for the Biblical doctrine of sola fide you must disagree with this. This would, in my mind, call into question your own position in the Kingdom. I urge you to immediately change your decision, or at least resign your position before you can do any more damage to the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ crucified for sinners.

In Christ,
2 Cor. 10:5
Visit my blog!
Truth IN Context

Alan On Infant Baptism

So I have posted quite alot of information about baptism from John Calvin and Michael Green. I am not sure how many have read them, surely not much conversation around them, so I thought I would post some thoughts. I will tell you all my story and see if some personal experience helps lend any credence to what I have to say. I was raised, as a Christian, in a baptist type church. We practiced "believers baptism," which meant we only baptized those who professed Christ. Since infants could not profess Christ we did not baptize them. We would "dedicate" the infants, which was really a dry baptism, I see this as evidence we all have that we should not suffer the little children from coming to Christ in baptism.

Eric asked me to explain why there is so much disagreement about baptism and why I thought it was not clear in scripture. I have to say I think it is clear in scripture. The debate is not "infant baptism vs. believers baptism" as those on the believers baptism side think it is. I have said before and I will say it again, I am NOT against immersing an adult who comes to faith in Christ. I am also not against an infant in the household of believers being ushered into the covenant through the sacrament of baptism which is the fulfillment of the shadow of circumcision of the Old Testament. Paul clears this up for us in Colossians:

"8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him."

The Holy Bible : English Standard Version., Col 2:8-15 (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001).

There was no Church before Pentecost, there were no Christians before Pentecost. Everyone needed to be baptized after Pentecost this is why we see the early Church baptizing all those adults, but we do see them baptizing households as well. I hope this helps somewhat.

Issues Etc. Discussions In The Blogoshpere

Here are several links to blogs talking about the travesty that occurred on Tuesday.

HT non cogito ergo non sum!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Bring Back Issues Etc.

There is tremendous groundswell to bring back Issues Etc. and I could not agree more! There is a blog dedicated to it you can find here. There is also an online petition you may sign to bring the show back.

Issues etc. Canceled

Yesterday Issues etc. was uncerimoniously canceled without notice. Rev. Todd Wilken and his producer Jeff Schwarz were let go. This move comes as a complete surprise to a multitude of people. The show was not loosing money and was a beacon of light in an increasingly dark LCMS. I for one am extremely disappointed. The show originated out of St. Louis and I had been listening to it for years. I remember when I started listening Don Matzat was the host. He had such a well weathered voice and when he left and this Todd Wilken character came in with his voice sounding as if he were twelve years young I was not sure the show would last. That was about eight years ago if I remember correctly and boy was I wrong. Todd has done a masterful job hosting this amazing 3 hour a day program. If you would like to join in the throng who is protesting and petitioning to bring the show back here is the information.

Synod: 888-843-5267
KFUO: 314-725-0099

David Strand:

Synod's address:
1333 S. Kirkwood Road
St. Louis, MO 63122-7295

Also Todd and Jeff were fired, no pension, no severence, no nothing. If you would like to help them out financially you may do so by sending a donation along with a note to donate to the Wilken/Schwarz fund to:

Saint Paul Lutheran Church
P.O. Box 247
Hamel, IL 62046

I pray the dark forced of Satan at work in the LCMS would be thwarted and this great show be reinstalled on the airwaves.

HT: Slice
HT: Riddleblog

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


I went to a regular doctor today after months spent with a chiropractor. She told me I have osteo-arthritis, basically I am falling apart at age 40. I go back in two weeks and then will get an opportunity to see a specialist. In the meantime I have some pain medicine and that's about it. The pain has been getting steadily worse over the last few months and it looks like I will have to find a way to deal with it. Knowing that has not lessened it, but I guess I will learn to live with it. I might be able to get a cortisone shot to help but there is not much else to do. So, I am now moving forward with my application to seminary and hope to have a destination locked up by the end of April. I will try and post a bit more regular than I have been and hope this pain medicine helps some.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Green On Infant Baptism Pt. 4

"4. Jesus Accepted and Blessed Children Too Young to Respond

In Mark 10:2–16 and parallels we find a most instructive story which shows the attitude Jesus had to children. Quite likely this incident took place on the eve of the Day of Atonement, for on that evening it was a custom, so the rabbis tell us (Sopherim 18:5), for pious Jewish parents to bring their children to the scribes so that they could lay their hands on them in blessing and pray that they might one day ‘attain to the knowledge of the Law and to good works’. Some parents apparently came to Jesus seeking his blessing. The disciples, perhaps because the parents seemed to be putting Jesus on the same level as the scribes, told them to go away. Jesus was indignant (the word ēganaktēsen is very strong and is nowhere else used of Jesus’ reactions). He said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them (Mark 10:14–16).

Now at first sight this passage has nothing whatever to do with baptism. Nevertheless from the second century onwards it was used to justify infant baptism. Tertullian shows that the words were so interpreted in his day (de Baptismo 18:5), and the Apostolic Constitutions (6:15) base the practice of baptising children on the words, ‘Do not hinder them’ (a phrase which had a lot of mileage in baptismal discussions; to ‘hinder’ became a technical term for refusing baptism). However that may be, there is no overt application of these words to infant baptism in the Gospel. One would not expect it. After all, Christian baptism had not been inaugurated at the time. Much more important is what the passage reveals of Jesus’ attitude to children. And note that these were little children; the evangelists go out of their way to stress this. Mark’s word is paidion, a diminutive of the word for child. Luke’s is brephos, a word which originally means embryo and comes to mean tiny infant. How did Jesus act towards such little people? This passage makes three things abundantly plain.

First, Jesus loves tiny children. He welcomes them to himself, and he blames those who would keep them away.

Second, Jesus is willing to bless them even when they are far too young to understand.

Third, tiny children are capable of receiving a blessing at the hands of Jesus. Who can doubt that when he blessed them they were blessed indeed?

If these things were so, if tiny children were the objects of Jesus’ love, were brought to him for blessing when they were too young to understand, and were capable of receiving a blessing from his hands, is it any wonder that the passage was later applied to baptism and that it became natural to bring children into the covenant of grace from the very earliest days of their lives?

Before we leave this fascinating passage, it is worth noting that not only did Jesus bless the children, but he made them a model for all believers. You have to become a child, a trusting defenceless child, lying in Jesus’ arms, if you are to profit by the Day of Atonement and enter into the kingdom of God. Far from being exceptions to normal membership of the kingdom, tiny children show us the way in!"

Michael Green, Baptism: Its Purpose, Practice and Power, 50 (Milton Keynes, UK: Paternoster, 1987).

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Calvin On Infant Baptism Pt. 7

"19. But faith, they say, cometh by hearing, the use of which infants have not yet obtained, nor can they be fit to know God, being, as Moses declares, without the knowledge of good and evil (Deut. 1:39). But they observe not that where the apostle makes hearing the beginning of faith, he is only describing the usual economy and dispensation which the Lord is wont to employ in calling his people, and not laying down an invariable rule, for which no other method can be substituted. Many he certainly has called and endued with the true knowledge of himself, by internal means, by the illumination of the Spirit, without the intervention of preaching. But since they deem it very absurd to attribute any knowledge of God to infants, whom Moses makes void of the knowledge of’ good and evil, let them tell me where the danger lies if they are said now to receive some part of that grace, of which they are to have the full measure shortly after. For if fulness of life consists in the perfect knowledge of God, since some of those whom death hurries away in the first moments of infancy pass into life eternal, they are certainly admitted to behold the immediate presence of God. Those, therefore, whom the Lord is to illumine with the full brightness of his light, why may he not, if he so pleases, irradiate at present with some small beam, especially if he does not remove their ignorance, before he delivers them from the prison of the flesh? I would not rashly affirm that they are endued with the same faith which we experience in ourselves, or have any knowledge at all resembling faith (this I would rather leave undecided);D129 but I would somewhat curb the stolid arrogance of those men who, as with inflated cheeks, affirm or deny whatever suits them.

20. In order to gain a stronger footing here, they add, that baptism is a sacrament of penitence and faith, and as neither of these is applicable to tender infancy, we must beware of rendering its meaning empty and vain, by admitting infants to the communion of baptism. But these darts are directed more against God then against us; since the fact that circumcision was a sign of repentance is completely established by many passages of Scripture (Jer. 4:4). Thus Paul terms it a seal of the righteousness of faith (Rom. 4:11). Let God, then, be demanded why he ordered circumcision to be performed on the bodies of infants? For baptism and circumcision being here in the same case, they cannot give anything to the latter without conceding it to the former. If they recur to their usual evasion, that, by the age of infancy, spiritual infants were then figured, we have already closed this means of escape against them. We say, then, that since God imparted circumcision, the sign of repentance and faith, to infants, it should not seem absurd that they are now made partakers of baptism, unless men choose to clamour against an institution of God. But as in all his acts, so here also, enough of wisdom and righteousness shines forth to repress the slanders of the ungodly. For although infants, at the moment when they were circumcised, did not comprehend what the sign meant, still they were truly circumcised for the mortification of their corrupt and polluted nature—a mortification at which they afterwards aspired when adults. In fine, the objection is easily disposed of by the tact, that children are baptised for future repentance and faith. Though these are not yet formed in them, yet the seed of both lies hid in them by the secret operation of the Spirit. This answer at once overthrows all the objections which are twisted against us out of the meaning of baptism; for instance, the title by which Paul distinguishes it when he terms it the “washing of regeneration and renewing” (Tit. 3:5). Hence they argue, that it is not to be given to any but to those who are capable of such feelings. But we, on the other hand, may object, that neither ought circumcision, which is designated regeneration, to be conferred on any but the regenerate. In this way, we shall condemn a divine institution. Thus, as we have already hinted, all the arguments which tend to shake circumcision are of no force in assailing baptism. Nor can they escape by saying, that everything which rests on the authority of God is absolutely fixed, though there should be no reason for it, but that this reverence is not due to pædobaptism, nor other similar things which are not recommended to us by the express word of God. They always remain caught in this dilemma. The command of God to circumcise infants was either legitimate and exempt from cavil, or deserved reprehension. If there was nothing incompetent or absurd in it, no absurdity can be shown in the observance of pædobaptism.

21. The charge of absurdity with which they attempt to stigmatise it, we thus dispose of. If those on whom the Lord has bestowed his election, after receiving the sign of regeneration, depart this life before they become adults, he, by the incomprehensible energy of his Spirit, renews them in the way which he alone sees to be expedient. Should they reach an age when they can be instructed in the meaning of baptism, they will thereby be animated to greater zeal for renovation, the badge of which they will learn that they received in earliest infancy, in order that they might aspire to it during their whole lives. To the same effect are the two passages in which Paul teaches, that we are buried with Christ by baptism (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12). For by this he means not that he who is to be initiated by baptism must have previously been buried with Christ; he simply declares the doctrine which is taught by baptism, and that to those already baptised: so that the most senseless cannot maintain from this passage that it ought to precede baptism. In this way, Moses and the prophets reminded the people of the thing meant by circumcision, which however infants received. To the same effect, Paul says to the Galatians, “As many of you as have been baptised into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27). Why so? That they might thereafter live to Christ, to whom previously they had not lived. And though, in adults, the receiving of the sign ought to follow the understanding of its meaning, yet, as will shortly be explained, a different rule must be followed with children. No other conclusion can be drawn from a passage in Peter, on which they strongly found. He says, that baptism is “not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 3:21). From this they contend that nothing is left for pædobaptism, which becomes mere empty smoke, as being altogether at variance with the meaning of baptism. But the delusion which misleads them is, that they would always have the thing to precede the sign in the order of time.D130 For the truth of circumcision consisted in the same answer of a good conscience; but if the truth must necessarily have preceded, infants would never have been circumcised by the command of God. But he himself, showing that the answer of a good conscience forms the truth of circumcision, and, at the same time, commanding infants to be circumcised, plainly intimates that, in their case, circumcision had reference to the future. Wherefore, nothing more of present effect is to be required in pædobaptism, than to confirm and sanction the covenant which the Lord has made with them. The other part of the meaning of the sacrament will follow at the time which God himself has provided."

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Translation of: Institutio Christianae religionis.; Reprint, with new introd. Originally published: Edinburgh : Calvin Translation Society, 1845-1846., IV, xvi, 19 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

Monday, March 10, 2008

Regeneration Precedes Faith

R. C. Sproul writes:

"One of the most dramatic moments in my life for the shaping of my theology took place in a seminary classroom. One of my professors went to the blackboard and wrote these words in bold letters: "Regeneration Precedes Faith."

These words were a shock to my system. I had entered seminary believing that the key work of man to effect rebirth was faith. I thought that we first had to believe in Christ in order to be born again. I use the words in order here for a reason. I was thinking in terms of steps that must be taken in a certain sequence. I had put faith at the beginning. The order looked something like this:

"Faith - rebirth -justification."

I hadn’t thought that matter through very carefully. Nor had I listened carefully to Jesus’ words to Nicodemus. I assumed that even though I was a sinner, a person born of the flesh and living in the flesh, I still had a little island of righteousness, a tiny deposit of spiritual power left within my soul to enable me to respond to the Gospel on my own. Perhaps I had been confused by the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. Rome, and many other branches of Christendom, had taught that regeneration is gracious; it cannot happen apart from the help of God.

No man has the power to raise himself from spiritual death. Divine assistance is necessary. This grace, according to Rome, comes in the form of what is called prevenient grace. "Prevenient" means that which comes from something else. Rome adds to this prevenient grace the requirement that we must "cooperate with it and assent to it" before it can take hold in our hearts.

This concept of cooperation is at best a half-truth. Yes, the faith we exercise is our faith. God does not do the believing for us. When I respond to Christ, it is my response, my faith, my trust that is being exercised. The issue, however, goes deeper. The question still remains: "Do I cooperate with God's grace before I am born again, or does the cooperation occur after?" Another way of asking this question is to ask if regeneration is monergistic or synergistic. Is it operative or cooperative? Is it effectual or dependent? Some of these words are theological terms that require further explanation.

A monergistic work is a work produced singly, by one person. The prefix mono means one. The word erg refers to a unit of work. Words like energy are built upon this root. A synergistic work is one that involves cooperation between two or more persons or things. The prefix syn -

means "together with." I labor this distinction for a reason. The debate between Rome and Luther hung on this single point. At issue was this: Is regeneration a monergistic work of God or a synergistic work that requires cooperation between man and God? When my professor wrote "Regeneration precedes faith" on the blackboard, he was clearly siding with the monergistic answer. After a person is regenerated, that person cooperates by exercising faith and trust. But the first step is the work of God and of God alone.

The reason we do not cooperate with regenerating grace before it acts upon us and in us is because we can- not. We cannot because we are spiritually dead. We can no more assist the Holy Spirit in the quickening of our souls to spiritual life than Lazarus could help Jesus raise him for the dead.

When I began to wrestle with the Professor's argument, I was surprised to learn that his strange-sounding teaching was not novel. Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield - even the great medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas taught this doctrine. Thomas Aquinas is the Doctor Angelicus of the Roman Catholic Church. For centuries his theological teaching was accepted as official dogma by most Catholics. So he was the last person I expected to hold such a view of regeneration. Yet Aquinas insisted that regenerating grace is operative grace, not cooperative grace. Aquinas spoke of prevenient grace, but he spoke of a grace that comes before faith, which is regeneration.

These giants of Christian history derived their view from Holy Scripture. The key phrase in Paul's Letter to the Ephesians is this: "...even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace have you been saved)" (Eph. 2:5). Here Paul locates the time when regeneration occurs. It takes place 'when we were dead.' With one thunderbolt of apostolic revelation all attempts to give the initiative in regeneration to man are smashed. Again, dead men do not cooperate with grace. Unless regeneration takes place first, there is no possibility of faith.

This says nothing different from what Jesus said to Nicodemus. Unless a man is born again first, he cannot possibly see or enter the kingdom of God. If we believe that faith precedes regeneration, then we set our thinking and therefore ourselves in direct opposition not only to giants of Christian history but also to the teaching of Paul and of our Lord Himself."

Green On Infant Baptism Pt. 3

"3. Whole Families Were Baptised in New Testament Days

We read of Lydia’s household being baptised (Acts 16:15), of the Philippian gaoler’s household being baptised (16:33), of Cornelius’ household (11:14) and of Stephanas’ household being baptised (1 Cor. 1:16). These passages, introduced artlessly and unselfconsciously into the New Testament narrative, often cause some embarrassment in Baptist circles. They rather hope that there were no small children in the families concerned! But surely this is to fail to give sufficient weight not only to the practice of infant circumcision and infant proselyte baptism but to the whole solidarity of the family in the ancient world. We have become so infatuated with individualism that we find this hard to appreciate. But in the ancient world, when the head of the family acted, he did so for the whole family. Where he went they went. All through the Bible we see God dealing with families, Abraham and his family, Noah and his family and so forth. Perhaps it is only the head of the family who expresses faith, but the whole family receives the mark of belonging. The Philippian gaoler provides us with a good example of this. He asked Paul and Silas ‘What must I do to be saved?’ and they said ‘Believe [singular] in the Lord Jesus and you [singular] will be saved, you and your household … ‘ And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their wounds, and he was baptised at once with all his family … and he rejoiced with all his household that he [singular] had believed in God’ (Acts 16:30ff, my italics). The conversion and baptism of the father are grounds for the baptism of all that are in his household, so strong is the solidarity of the family. It brings them all within the covenant. Maybe that is what is meant by the much disputed verse 1 Corinthians 7:14; but I do not propose to use it because baptism is not actually mentioned in that passage which declares the children of believers to be ‘holy’.

The solidarity of the family in baptism, as in all else, is the decisive consideration. Of course it does not mean that every member of the family was saved. Neither theology nor experience suggests anything of the kind. But it does mean that all members of a believer’s family had the right to the mark of the covenant until they made up their own minds whether or not to respond to the God who had taken the initiative and held out the olive branch of reconciliation towards them. It is greatly to the credit of Kurt Aland, a distinguished Baptist theologian, that he concedes this. ‘The house is saved when the head of the house is saved’ (Did the Early Church Baptize Infants?, p. 91).

This positive evaluation of children springs from Jesus himself. Hence the fourth consideration which bears upon the baptism of little children."

Michael Green, Baptism: Its Purpose, Practice and Power, 48 (Milton Keynes, UK: Paternoster, 1987).

Friday, March 7, 2008

Bible Study and Journaling

Once on the White Horse Inn, the hosts said that someone should make a list of quotes from Charles Finney's Systematic Theology (which is really merely a Systematic Ethics). The reason? People aren't going to read the whole thing, but they need to know what it contains, so they know that Finney was a heretic. Not everyone has time to listen to everything, so, while I encourage everyone to listen to the White Horse Inn, I am assuming that the hosts won't mind my passing on some nuggets I've learned from listening to their programs.

Since I became a Christian in 1999, I have had several people tell me how important it is to do daily Bible study and to journal. Their reason was so that I could grow closer to God. I always felt deficient, because I couldn't get into journaling. I didn't really understand the concept of Bible study. And I haven't even managed a schedule for reading the Bible every day. It was one of the things that made me think that maybe I really wasn't a Christian—at least not a very good one.

Over time, I have learned more about the Bible, including that it has a defined meaning rather than a "what-does-that-mean-to-you" interpretation. Did you know that journaling and even daily Bible study are not commanded in the Bible? Yet, people who encourage their practice often neglect direct commands that are in the Bible, including honoring their parents, caring for widows and orphans, regular worship with other believers, and even the Great Commission to go and make disciples of all nations.

I'm not saying that journaling or daily Bible study is a bad thing. What is important is why we are doing them. Bible study and even journaling should not be about what it does for you, but what you are able to do as a result of the knowledge you gain through it. Bible study, for instance, can help you follow Jesus' command to go and make disciples of all nations.

One form of Bible study they recommend is to study the scripture that your pastor is preaching on. If you know the week before what he will be preaching on the following week, spend time during the week reading the scripture, and maybe even a commentary or two about the passage. If you don't know ahead of time, spend the week following the sermon doing this kind of in-depth study.

Other great works to read include (and they're a lot easier to read than you might expect!):

  • Calvin's Institutes
  • Luther's Small Catechism
  • The Heidelberg Catechism
  • Westminster's Shorter Catechism

Each of these works gives the scriptural basis for each part. Read those passages, too, and you'll be well on your way to "knowing what you believe and why you believe it" (a paraphrase of the White Horse Inn slogan). Then, you'll be ready to fulfill the Great Commission!

Lisa G.

It's Just Not Fair!!

If you have ever doubted that some people are just born with it watch this video. I want you to know this kid is 4 years old. I don't think you heard me, I said he is 4 YEARS OLD! No wonder I quit playing.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Green On Infant Baptism Pt. 2

"2. The Whole Family Was Baptised When Proselytes Came Over into Judaism

When a family came over into Judaism from some pagan background, three things took place. The head of the family offered sacrifices. The males in the family were circumcised. And everybody—but everybody—was baptised. They sat in a bath and baptised themselves, ‘washing away Gentile impurities’. Proselyte baptism was pre-Christian. The Pharisees, we are told, ‘travel over land and sea to win a single convert’ (Matt. 23:15). And there is no doubt that proselyte baptism influenced Christian baptism, despite the enormous differences between the two. The language the rabbis used of the newly baptised proselyte is most instructive. He is ‘like a newborn child’, ‘a new creation’, ‘raised from the dead’, ‘born anew’. His ‘sins are forgiven him’. He is now ‘holy for the Lord’. Professor Jeremias, who goes into fascinating detail on this matter in his book Infant Baptism in the First Four Centuries, concludes a careful comparison of the language used in proselyte and in Christian baptisms by observing:

It is worthy of notice that in these correspondences we have not merely individual points of contact, but that the whole terminology of Jewish conversion theology connected with proselyte baptism recurs in the theology of primitive Christian baptism. Chance coincidence is wholly inconceivable; the only possible conclusion is that the rites are related as parent to child (p. 36).

He goes on to show that not merely in the language used, but in the actions enjoined there is a very close link between proselyte baptism and Christian baptism. In both cases, immersion was preferred, sin was confessed if the person was old enough, and even rituals like women letting down the hair and laying aside ornaments were practised in Christian and in proselyte baptism alike. This should not surprise us. The only model the earliest Christians had for baptismal practice was proselyte baptism, with which they would have been quite familiar. This being so, would it not have been unthinkable for them to have excluded children from baptism? The tiniest children went through the proselyte bath, even sometimes on the day of their birth. Indeed children were admitted to baptism even when only one parent joined Judaism. It is hard to suppose that infants were debarred from Christian baptism which plainly owed so much to proselyte baptism.

The Jewish people rated the family very highly. Both in the case of circumcision and proselyte baptism the place of the whole family is significantly high. It was deeply rooted in their religious life. It would have taken a clear command from Jesus to have stopped it. No such command can be found.

Normally I suspect arguments from silence. But when Jesus, the fulfiller of Judaism, came to a people who for thousands of years had been admitting Jewish children into the covenant at the express command of God to Abraham, their founding father, and when for a long time they had been admitting the children of Gentile converts by baptising them along with all the rest of the family—then the argument from silence becomes rather formidable. Is it conceivable that if Jesus had meant to change this age-old procedure he would not have given some slight indication that from henceforth children were to be treated differently? Should he not have said in the Great Commission, ‘Go and make disciples of all nations, but make sure that you baptise only adult believers in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’?"

Michael Green, Baptism: Its Purpose, Practice and Power, 47 (Milton Keynes, UK: Paternoster, 1987).

Calvin On Infant Baptism Pt. 6

"16. The distinctions which these men attempt to draw between baptism and circumcision are not only ridiculous, and void of all semblance of reason, but at variance with each other. For, when they affirm that baptism refers to the first day of spiritual contest, and circumcision to the eighth day, mortification being already accomplished, they immediately forget the distinction, and change their song, representing circumcision as typifying the mortification of the flesh, and baptism as a burial, which is given to none but those who are already dead. What are these giddy contradictions but frenzied dreams? According to the former view, baptism ought to precede circumcision; according to the latter, it should come after it. It is not the first time we have seen the minds of men wander to and fro when they substitute their dreams for the infallible word of God. We hold, therefore, that their former distinction is a mere imagination. Were we disposed to make an allegory of the eighth day, theirs would not be the proper mode of it. It were much better with the early Christians to refer the number eight to the resurrection, which took place on the eighth day, and on which we know that newness of life depends, or to the whole course of the present life, during which, mortification ought to be in progress, only terminating when life itself terminates; although it would seem that God intended to provide for the tenderness of infancy by deferring circumcision to the eighth day, as the wound would have been more dangerous if inflicted immediately after birth. How much more rational is the declaration of Scripture, that we, when already dead, are buried by baptism (Rom. 6:4); since it distinctly states, that we are buried into death that we may thoroughly die, and thenceforth aim at that mortification? Equally ingenious is their cavil, that women should not be baptised if baptism is to be made conformable to circumcision. For if it is most certain that the sanctification of the seed of Israel was attested by the sign of circumcision, it cannot be doubted that it was appointed alike for the sanctification of males and females. But though the right could only be performed on males, yet the females were, through them, partners and associates in circumcision. Wherefore, disregarding all such quibbling distinctions, let us fix on the very complete resemblance between baptism and circumcision, as seen in the internal office, the promise, the use, and the effect.

17. They seem to think they produce their strongest reason for denying baptism to children, when they allege, that they are as yet unfit, from nonage, to understand the mystery which is there sealed—viz. spiritual regeneration, which is not applicable to earliest infancy. Hence they infer, that children are only to be regarded as sons of Adam until they have attained an age fit for the reception of the second birth. But all this is directly opposed to the truth of God. For if they are to be accounted sons of Adam, they are left in death, since, in Adam, we can do nothing but die. On the contrary, Christ bids them be brought to him. Why so? Because he is life. Therefore, that he may quicken them, he makes them partners with himself; whereas these men would drive them away from Christ, and adjudge them to death. For if they pretend that infants do not perish when they are accounted the sons of Adam, the error is more than sufficiently confuted by the testimony of Scripture (1 Cor. 15:22). For seeing it declares that in Adam all die, it follows, that no hope of life remains unless in Christ. Therefore, that we may become heirs of life, we must communicate with him. Again, seeing it is elsewhere written that we are all by nature the children of wrath (Eph. 2:3), and conceived in sin (Ps. 51:5), of which condemnation is the inseparable attendant, we must part with our own nature before we have any access to the kingdom of God. And what can be clearer than the expression, “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God”? (1 Cor. 15:50.) Therefore, let everything that is our own be abolished (this cannot be without regeneration), and then we shall perceive this possession of the kingdom. In fine, if Christ speaks truly when he declares that he is life, we must necessarily be ingrafted into him by whom we are delivered from the bondage of death. But how, they ask, are infants regenerated, when not possessing a knowledge of either good or evil? We answer, that the work of God, though beyond the reach of our capacity, is not therefore null. Moreover, infants who are to be saved (and that some are saved at this age is certain) must, without question, be previously regenerated by the Lord. For if they bring innate corruption with them from their mother’s womb, they must be purified before they can be admitted into the kingdom of God, into which shall not enter anything that defileth (Rev. 21:27). If they are born sinners, as David and Paul affirm, they must either remain unaccepted and hated by God, or be justified. And why do we ask more, when the Judge himself publicly declares, that “except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God”? (John 3:3.) But to silence this class of objectors, God gave, in the case of John the Baptist, whom he sanctified from his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15), a proof of what he might do in others. They gain nothing by the quibble to which they here resort—viz. that this was only once done, and therefore it does not forthwith follow that the Lord always acts thus with infants. That is not the mode in which we reason. Our only object is to show, that they unjustly and malignantly confine the power of God within limits, within which it cannot be confined. As little weight is due to another subterfuge. They allege that, by the usual phraseology of Scripture, “from the womb,” has the same meaning as “from childhood.” But it is easy to see that the angel had a different meaning when he announced to Zacharias that the child not yet born would be filled with the Holy Spirit. Instead of attempting to give a law to God, let us hold that he sanctifies whom he pleases, in the way in which he sanctified John, seeing that his power is not impaired.

18. And, indeed, Christ was sanctified from earliest infancy, that he might sanctify his elect in himself at any age, without distinction. For as he, in order to wipe away the guilt of disobedience which had been committed in our flesh, assumed that very flesh, that in it he might, on our account, and in our stead, perform a perfect obedience, so he was conceived by the Holy Spirit, that, completely pervaded with his holiness in the flesh which he had assumed, he might transfuse it into us. If in Christ we have a perfect pattern of all the graces which God bestows on all his children, in this instance we have a proof that the age of infancy is not incapable of receiving sanctification. This, at least, we set down as incontrovertible, that none of the elect is called away from the present life without being previously sanctified and regenerated by the Spirit of God.D128 As to their objection that, in Scripture, the Spirit acknowledges no sanctification save that from incorruptible seed, that is, the word of God, they erroneously interpret Peter’s words, in which he comprehends only believers who had been taught by the preaching of the gospel (1 Pet. 1:23). We confess, indeed, that the word of the Lord is the only seed of spiritual regeneration; but we deny the inference that, therefore, the power of God cannot regenerate infants. This is as possible and easy for him, as it is wondrous and incomprehensible to us. It were dangerous to deny that the Lord is able to furnish them with the knowledge of himself in any way he pleases."

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Translation of: Institutio Christianae religionis.; Reprint, with new introd. Originally published: Edinburgh : Calvin Translation Society, 1845-1846., IV, xvi, 16 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Green On Infant Baptism Pt. 1

"1. Children Were Admitted into the Old Testament Church

God makes covenants. They all spring from his grace, and need to be grasped by human faith and obedience. God’s covenant with Abraham was normative for the whole people of God in the Old Testament. His adult response to the grace of God was sealed with circumcision, the mark of the covenant: just like believer’s baptism. But it did not stop there. Isaac was born into the covenant community, and he received the seal of circumcision long before he could make any response to God’s grace. ‘Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him’ (Gen. 21:4). This circumcising of infants was no occasional aberration, no exception to the normal rule of adult circumcision. It was part of the purpose of God for the family. It was specifically commanded. It was an original and essential part of the covenant that God struck with Abraham before Isaac, the child of promise, was born.

This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. 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. 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. Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant (Gen. 17:10–14).

Now that is strong stuff. It tells us that the child born into a believing home has the right to the mark of belonging, even when he is too young to fulfil the conditions on which the covenant was made in the first place. It tells us that this position for children is an express part of the will of God. It tells us that the faith of the head of the house is highly significant for his whole household, be that his natural household or others who have, for one reason or another, come under his roof. And it tells us that to refuse to give to infants born within the covenant the sign of that covenant is a very serious fault.

All this is highly relevant to the baptism of children, and their reception into the New Testament Church. Although for Abraham circumcision was the ‘sign or seal’ on his faith (Rom. 4:11) that sign or seal was applied by God’s specific command to Isaac and others like him, born within Abraham’s house, but as yet quite incapable of faith. They were circumcised simply and solely because, in the gracious purposes and plan of God, they had been born into a believing family. It is hardly surprising, therefore, to find Peter saying on the Day of Pentecost, ‘The promise is for you and your children’ when he challenges his hearers to baptism. ‘Those who received his message were baptised’ (Acts 2:39ff).

Children were admitted into the Old Testament Church. Are they to be excluded from the New Testament Church? Has God grown less gracious with the passing of the years? Are children meant to be worse off under the New Covenant than they were under the Old? Does a church consist only of consenting adults? Of one thing we may be fairly certain. A Jew, coming over to Christianity and thus fulfilling his Judaism, would be amazed to hear that his children should not receive the sign of the covenant. ‘If they can receive circumcision,’ he would say, ‘why not baptism? If they were welcomed into the Old Testament Church, why not into the New?’"

Michael Green, Baptism: Its Purpose, Practice and Power, 45 (Milton Keynes, UK: Paternoster, 1987).

Monday, March 3, 2008

More Rob Bell heresy

It should not surprise me at how many are being taken in by the rank heresy of Rob Bell but it does. Bell supports Buddhist and New Age Anti-Christs and is coming dangerously close to jumping on board with the Word-Faith heretics as well. His newest video introduces us to the New-Age blasphemy that we are co-creators with God and also implies that Jesus was not God. Here is a post from Apprising Ministries I want to reproduce in full so readers who do not like to follow links can read the whole story. If you are one who has read and been emotionally lifted by Velvet Elvis please read this.:

"Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, “So I declared on oath in My anger, ‘'They shall never enter my rest.’ ” And yet His work has been finished since the creation of the world. For somewhere He has spoken about the seventh day in these words: “And on the seventh day God rested from all his work.” (Hebrews 4:3-4)

Rob Bell’s Growing Mystical Mythology Of Man

Below follows a partial transcription of “Open,” which is the latest Nooma video by Rob Bell of the emerging church. In his effort to please people, it sure seems to me that Bell has now so far over-emphasized the humanity of Christ that he has all but lost His Deity in the process.

Those familiar with liberal theology can also tell you it would teach virtually the same thing as Bell does below; right down to the idea that “Jesus took very seriously the creation poem Genesis that the Bible begins with.”

In “Open” Rob Bells tells us:

Now to understand why Jesus prays like this, we have to understand that Jesus took very seriously the creation poem Genesis that the Bible begins with. And in this creation poem God creates, but God creates things that are capable of creating more, and so God creates trees but then gives trees the ability to create more. God creates animals and plants and fish but then empowers them to create more. And then God creates people, and gives them the ability to create more.

So everything in creation is essentially unfinished, God leaves the world unfinished, and invites people to take part in the ongoing creation of the world. Now, when you create, you always run the risk that what you’ve created, won’t turn out how you wanted it to, it may go a different direction, it may not be everything you intended it to be. It may veer off course, and it may break your heart.

And so, this creative energy, this divine creative energy that brought everything into existence it takes great risk in creating, but at the same time it works in a very specific way. It brings order out of chaos, so the Genesis creation poem says that it was wild and waste, chaos and void, and out of this God began the endless process of bringing design and order and beauty. So when Jesus prays, He’s tapping into this divine creative energy that made everything.

And so prayer, for Jesus, it was not this passive, acceptance of well, I guess this is just how its gonna be, and it wasn’t this active kind of rebellion against I’ll dictate the future for Jesus prayer was being open to the God who’s at work here and now, but to be open to the creative working of God in the world here and now you have to be honest , so when Jesus is saying things like is there any way for this cup to be taken so I don’t have to drink it He’s being brutally honest with God, God I don’t really want to go through this.

Like it says in the book of Psalms chapter 13 where the writer says God, how long will, will you forget me forever, how long will you hide your face from me? Jesus came from a long tradition of people who saw prayer as brutal honesty with God. Some people think that half of the psalms were laments, people grieving and outpouring their anguish in times of great suffering and torment, people shaking their fist at God, challenging God, doubting with God, wrestling with God, questioning God.

Apprising Ministries wants you to know how critical it is to note that there’s a whole lot more going on here than Jesus taking the creation poem “seriously.” You see, Christ Jesus of Nazareth is our Creator Himself in human flesh, and as such, the Master is the One about Whom this historical account of the creation is poetically—and literally—speaking of:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth... In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (Genesis 1:1; John 1:1-3)

For our purposes here in this particular piece we will zero in on the idea that mankind is essentially co-creators with God, which Bell ends up advancing when he says:

everything in creation is essentially unfinished, God leaves the world unfinished, and invites people to take part in the ongoing creation of the world.

But make no mistake; the Jesus of the Bible is God. You are not God, and you cannot participate in creation in the sense used of our Lord. And in our text above we have already seen from the Bible that — His — Christ’s i.e. God’s — work — in creation — was finished since the creation of the world so He doesn’t need you to.

Harnessing “Creative Energy” To Create

It’s also interesting that Bell’s mythical man-centered musings about this so-called “creative energy” above is also very close to that of Word Faith cult leader Kenneth Copeland:

Words create pictures, and pictures in your mind create words. And then the words come back out your mouth....And when that spiritual force comes out it is going to give substance to the image that’s on the inside of you. Aw, that’s that visualization stuff! Aw, that’s that New Age! No, New Age is trying to do this; and they’d get somewhat results out of it because this is spiritual law, brother. (Believer’s Voice of Victory (television program), TBN, 28 March 1991.) (Online source)

And speaking of New Age, I’m afraid it gets even worse for those following Rob Bell. In her piece Rob Bell Video: We Are Co-Creators With God over at Slice of Laodicea Ingrid Schlueter brings out a couple of other very important points:

Rob Bell begins his video with the same emotional storytelling that his other emerging peers like to use. While there are still tears on the face of his readers, he inserts something heretical and wraps it all up with some devotional idea that nobody would argue with.

We participate with God in the creation of the world? This is rank heresy that abounds in New Age teachings. The idea that we are co-creators with God is a key tenant of New Age belief. We are all co-creators with God, they say. God needs us to carry his creation forward. (Online source)

That the teachings of Rob Bell and others in the Emergent Church would eventually begin to mirror those of New Age teachers really shouldn’t come as any surprise considering the voluminous amount of false teachers they personally read, quote from, and then recommend to their Emergent disciples.

Take for example Marcus Borg, the heretical Christ-hating member of the spiritually bankrupt Jesus Seminar, whose book The Heart of Christianity Bell enthusiastically recommends in Velvet Elvis (VE) [endnotes 1; 57]. And then there’s Ken Wilbur, who is on record telling us he’s:

a longtime practicing Buddhist, and many of the key ideas in my approach are Buddhist or Buddhist inspired. First and foremost, Nagarjuna and Madhyamika philosophy: pure Emptiness and primordial purity is the “central philosophy” of my approach as well.
(Online source)

And yet right in his book VE itself Rob Bell heartily recommends the unbelieving Wilber to teach us his pagan view concerning “divine” creativity:

For a mind-blowing introduction to emergence theory and divine creativity, set aside three months and read Ken Wilber’s A Brief History of Everything. (192, endnote 143)

Well, no wonder Bell is revealing he knows so little idea about the creation of the universe. Because the sad truth is, if one reads enough of these kinds of fools with their vacuous mystic meandering speculations about how they wish God, or “pure Emptiness,” might be then you’re bound to see your own teachings becoming corrupted. And sadly, such is the case of Rob Bell.

As far as the creation, as we close this for now, we turn to Dr. Henry Morris, author of the classic devotional commentary The Genesis Record and the founder of the Institute for Creation Research. In his article The Finished Works of Creation Morris, known by many as “the father of the modern creation-science movement”, says of our opening Scripture text above:

Here is a strong New Testament confirmation of the Genesis record of a creation completed in the past-thus not continuing in the present as theistic evolutionists have to assume. Whatever processes God may have used during the six days of creation, they are no longer in operation for “the heavens and the earth were finished, . . . on the seventh day God ended His work which He had made. . . . And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it He had rested from all His work which God created and made” (Genesis 2:1-3).

The record in Genesis could not be more clear and specific, but the fact that it is in Genesis tends to demean it in the minds of many scientists and theologians. So they prefer to believe in a continuing evolution and long ages in the past. But the writer of Hebrews once again confirms the fact of a completed creation: “For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from His” (Hebrews 4:10).

The writer is not trying to defend the completed creation as such, but merely assuming it as a commonly acknowledged truth.
(Online source)"