link rel="shortcut icon" href="" /> <body><script type="text/javascript"> function setAttributeOnload(object, attribute, val) { if(window.addEventListener) { window.addEventListener('load', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }, false); } else { window.attachEvent('onload', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }); } } </script> <div id="navbar-iframe-container"></div> <script type="text/javascript" src=""></script> <script type="text/javascript"> gapi.load("", function() { if (gapi.iframes && gapi.iframes.getContext) { gapi.iframes.getContext().openChild({ url: '\x3d18785001\x26blogName\x3dMongrel+Horde:++Just+Plain+Mutts!\x26publishMode\x3dPUBLISH_MODE_BLOGSPOT\x26navbarType\x3dBLUE\x26layoutType\x3dCLASSIC\x26searchRoot\x3d\x26blogLocale\x3den_US\x26v\x3d2\x26homepageUrl\x3d\x26vt\x3d-4489462257632951631', where: document.getElementById("navbar-iframe-container"), id: "navbar-iframe" }); } }); </script>

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

It's Not Vegas, but...(Part 3 of 3)

Maybe I'm the only person who thinks this is funny, but I had to chuckle to myself when I was standing in Westminster Seminary's bookstore and saw the Greek New Testaments for sale that you see in the above picture. On the sales sticker, it said "NOW WITH NEWLY PUBLISHED PAPYRI!" kinda like the kind of sticker you would expect to see on a cereal box advertising a free action figure at the bottom of the box that conned kids into buying the cereal. Only instead of an action figure, here you get an expanded textual apparatus. Theology geek heaven indeed.

Anywho, I did have one final thought about the Seminary that I thought was blogworthy. Actually, it was the one thing I found disappointing about the Seminary. I was thumbing through the school's catalogue, and found a mere two - TWO! - apologetics courses available. "What that about?" I thought to myself. OK, I know that Westminster in California has a reputation for being focused on training pastors and is not as focused on scholarship as Westminster in Philadelphia (where they have reams of systematics and apologetics courses). And, yes, this is a good thing, because we need more people to flock God's sheep than we need navel-gazing academics and ivory tower scholars. But two things about this: 1. we still need the latter, even if not as numerous as the former, especially here on the West Coast and 2. those training for the pastorate need grounding in Reformed apologetics in order to pastor the flock effectively.

This neglect is sad, because John Frame had faithfully and ably carried VanTil's torch there for almost two decades at Westminster West. I don't have any pictures of Frame, but if I did I'd probably have a poster of him hanging on my wall like a kid would hang a poster of his favorite rock band. He became this theology geek's hero after I read his writings that really opened up VanTil's thought to me, and after reading his "Doctrine of the Knowledge of God" cover to cover. Sadly, he left to teach at RTS. According to the people at the Seminary I talked to, and according to this interview with Frame, there were "personal issues and theological ones" that prompted this move.

So with the apologetics guru gone, what happened? Well, on paper Michael Horton is now the professor of apologetics. Now, don't get me wrong: Horton is a good guy, and he is indeed good at what he does. I read him with great profit, and enjoy listening to the White Horse Inn radio program. But he is good at critiquing the trends, theology, and practice of the professing church, not interacting with with unbelieving academia on matters of philosophy and epistemology. "The Modern Mind" is currently the only apologetics course he teaches.

Pastors need to be trained to give a reason for the hope that is within them, and to tell their flocks how to do likewise. I think there is a sad deficiency if a distinctly Reformed presuppositional apologetic is not made a higher priority in the training of pastors, whether at WTS-CA or anywhere else.

Category: Theoblogia
Read more!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Boy, Are My Arms Tired...

What's this button for?
Us bloggmeisters here at the Horde are plain tapped out of theological brilliance for the moment, so here is some autobiographical filler for the week. Let me assure the hordes of Horde fans (hi, mom!) that Jeremy and I will get back to posting edifying material any day now. However, Garet is rumoured to have gotten himself hopelessly lost in an Emergent Church's Prayer Labyrinth. He may never "emerge" from the labyrinth to blog again.

The picture above is of yours truly at the helm of a Cessna 172. Yesterday, my parents and Jeremy were kind enough to come out and see me on my first solo flight. I was a little nervous in having my life depend on my meager piloting skills (after only 12 hours of stick time), but the Lord granted me success and I completed 2 takeoffs and landings by myself. My landings were lacking in finesse, but I was pleased nonetheless.

Once in the air, I thought "well, self, you're the only one who can get yourself out of this mess now. No one is sitting next to you to keep you from doing something stupid 1000 feet in the air at 120 mph." There was a light crosswind on final approach, but nothing unusual. "Remember," my flight instructor always said, "smooth as a mayonaisse sandwich." Well, my landing actually resembled a pickle relish sandwich more than mayonaisse, but the plane was in one piece, and so was I. Good times.

Category: Blogging Ourselves
Read more!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Smoking--The Unforgivable Sin?

How many politically incorrect things can you find in this picture?
I spent the weekend in Laughlin, NV and enjoyed the SCORE race just outside of town. While wandering around town, I was struck by the advertisements for the "Largest non-smoking poker room in Laughlin" and "Non-smoking slots!" While I certainly would flee any room that was smoking and back away from a smoking slot machine, I took their meaning.

To my sensitive California nostrils, Laughlin was a smoker's paradise. But in the midst of this carcinogenic sea were islands of (relatively) clear air. None of this was the result of government coercion. Libertarianism, combined with the free market, had produced a result that was acceptable to most. What should Christians make of this?

I've long described myself as a libertarian of sorts. I believe that if someone wants to smoke or ride a motorcycle without a helmet, he or she should be allowed to with the understanding that we are not going to pay for his or her chemotherapy or brain-scooping-up-from-the-pavement. Such irresponsible behaviors can be sins (but not always), but are they crimes? I think not.

But this leaves us with a problem. Why is murder or theft a crime? The libertarian dodge is that only things that hurt others are crimes. But who defines "hurt?" Certainly those families who lose a breadwinner to cancer or avoidable death-by-stupidity are hurt. Society is hurt, and not only when it is forced to pay for medical care. The loss of productivity and harder to measure loss of social stability is certainly a real injury. What then should we do?

I can only see the most general of principles in Scripture. One overarching theme seems to be Christ's challenge to transcend the law. While the law may keep us from committing adultery, it does nothing to regulate the immorality of our hearts. We must recognize that God's standard of holiness is far higher (and much different) than any of our legal codes. This leaves a path for a Christian libertarianism that recognizes that the civil authorities are ordained to keep order in society, but true moral behavior begins from a changed heart. If this is our view, it should not bother us if there isn't a law banning every peccadillo, sinful or otherwise. We also need to recognize that we must demonstrate grace and real assistance to those who have ruined their lives with self-destructive behavior.

Category: Theoblogi
Read more!

Friday, January 20, 2006

It's not Vegas, but...(Part 2 of 3)

I'm certainly no encyclopedia of Reformed thought, but Dr. Bryan Estelle's lecture brought something to my attention that had flown under my radar: an appendix of the Westminster Directory of Worship: The Directory for Family-Worship. This was to provide instructions to families for prayer, devotions, and catechizing outside of public worship. Back in the day, this Directory was serious business, and if the man of the household neglected his duties in leading regular family worship, he was to be " suspended and debarred from the Lord's supper ." This makes me wonder about our priorities in the modern Reformed church.

I suppose everyone wants their own children to be better off than they were as a child. I don't mean this just materially - wanting a bigger house or nicer car than one had growing up. I mean especially in the spiritual sense - I certainly want my children to be stronger in the faith than I was. Don't get me wrong. I owe an unpayable debt of gratitude to my parents, who brought me up in the Lord. Church attendance was regular, and I knew the Scriptures well from my Sunday school classes and private Christian education. Godly living was always practiced and preached in my home. Simply, I am who I am today because of my parents.

However, as I grow older I also have come to form my own opinions about the way a Christian home should be and can see the defects in my own upbringing. For starters, I was not raised in a Reformed Church, nor was I catechized as a child. Looking back on it, having a Reformed worldview in my youth would have put me light-years ahead of where I was intellectually and spiritually: in a sea of bland, generic Evangelicalism. My family had only occassional prayers together, usually over a meal, but no devotions together. My own private devotions were usually limited to sporadic "quiet times" as encouraged by our youth groups.

This brings me back to Estelle's lecture. He gave his audience food for thought from his own administrations of worship in his family's life, as well as pointing us to a share of literature on the subject.

There are, I think, two temptations as I consider having my own family one day. The first temptation swings towards laziness: "I really want to have regular devotions with my family, but we're all so busy." Estelle noted that if the TV is on in the house, that's not a legitimate excuse. The second temptation is to, armed with zeal and knowledge from his lecture, bog down the family in trying to transform them all into uber-spiritual Renaissance Children and scholars-in-training. For a moment I think to myself "gosh, I could send them all to a Reformed Classical Christian school, and then I'll cram in catechism training and Koine Greek once they get home from school before dinner." But then I realize that kids just gotta be kids, too.

Cornelius VanTil wrote of his own upbringing, that "Though there were no tropical showers of revivals, the relative humidity was always very high…I was 'conditioned' in the most thorough fashion. I could not help believing in God-in the God of Christianity-in the God of the Bible!" Yeah, I like that. I want the "relative humidity" of my home to be very high, too. By God's grace alone.

I've got just one more reflection left in me, I think, that I took from the Westminster conference. Stay tuned for Part 3.

UPDATE - found a "Soli Deo Gloria" book on family worship here by George Hamond:

Category: Theoblogia
Read more!

Monday, January 16, 2006

It's not Vegas, but...(Part 1 of 3)

Normal people who reside in California take weekend getaways to places like Las Vegas, or the Colorado River, or perhaps a beachside resort. But not me. I take getaways to seminary conferences. Who needs R&R when I can be edified by some of the leading theological giants of our time?

OK, so visiting Wesminster Theological Seminary in California was, for this theology geek, like being a kid in a candy store. Meeting the authors of some of my favorite theological works was fascinating, and I could only wonder to myself "wow, these guys get paid to study the Bible and Reformed theology!"

On a more serious note, I was comforted knowing that the West Coast has a seminary that is so faithful to the Reformed tradition, and is churning out such solid pastors under their guidance. Hearing the professors speak was encouraging to this end. With the downward spirals of Calvin and Fuller Seminaries becoming more apparent, and even the slippery-slope compromises being made at normally-stalwart institutions like Reformed Theological Seminary (notice that they booked Tony Campolo for a lecture series?!), one begins to wonder if we should be creating Reformed seminaries with a pre-mil/pre-trib/dispie-like pessimism in expectation that all seminaries must, after their founding, follow an inevitable downhill trajectory into apostacy (or, if we're lucky, merely heresy), and that they all ought to be bulldozed after a century or so of their founding. Princeton, Calvin, and Fuller were taken by theological rot, so is there a 100-year shelf life we should observe before good seminaries spoil, and ought to be thrown out like so much fuzzed-over cheese? Hopefully not, so may God bless Westminster West.

My guess is that the little town I live in has a Reformed population of 1. That would be me. So, as you can imagine, I'm ecstatic anytime I'm around other Reformed believers, much less, surrounded by a whole crowd of Reformed brethren who are all theology geeks like me. The conference was sold out, and the bulk of the crowd were clearly laymen or elders, not pastors.

It was a joy to listen to Dr. Hywel Jones, with his deep Welsh accent, expound the Reformed doctrine of the sacraments. I must say, his lecture was one of the most illuminating I have ever heard on the topic. The doctrine of the Real Presence becomes most difficult to wiggle out of, exegetically and logically, after listening to him. Great stuff.

Dr. R. Scott Clark's talk also stood out. Westminster West, for good or ill, has taken an anti-Federal Vision stance, and Clark's presentation solidified this fact. I will be most interested in reading the faculty symposium on this issue, because Clark's polemic seemed to me to rely on uncharitably selective quotations of FV proponents in his lecture. He is convinced that the matter has become a matter of necessary church discipline, and called his audience toward this end. I'll be interested to see what becomes of it. If Clark's charges are right, then his response is justified. However, if the FV proponents disavow the interpretations imputed to their works, which I suspect will be the case, then I don't think the answer will be clear-cut. We will see.

I knew that I was going to attend Dr. Dennis Johnson's elective lecture, no matter what his topic was. He spoke about the preaching precepts exemplified in Acts, and I was not disappointed. I like his speaking style. He's the kind of guy I can see kicking a beer back with. Most notably, however, I noticed something about him during Clark's presentation. Sitting behind him, I noticed Dr. Johnson was taking notes. Not "I'm sorta being polite and taking notes while my colleagues are speaking", but detailed notes scrawled all over the lecture outline in his lap. "Huh," I thought to myself. This conference was not geared to academics or pastors, it was clearly geared toward laymen in content. But there Dr. Johnson was, still believing he had things to learn, even as a professor. And there I was, not taking notes at all.

I'll stop here for now and fill y'all in on the rest of the conference in the next blog post.

Category: Theoblogia
Read more!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

How Much Does A Quiverfull cost?

Don't ask me why I was curious about it, but I ran across this on the web and had to give it a whirl. It calculates how much money it costs to raise a child, both per year and over a child's pre-adult lifetime. No, I don't have a baby on the way, nor am I even married. But I thought to my capitalist self, "hey, self, you want to have a quiverfull some day, by God's grace. So what's it gonna cost me?"

So I entered in my information, and apparently it is going to cost me $18,455/year, or $332,190 total, to raise one child to adulthood! Yikes! And that is assuming that I DON'T pay for college.

Scared out of my mind I consulted some online friends (most with large families) about this financial figure. It was greeted with alot of cyber laughter. It seems that alot of folks make do with far, far less than those sorts of expenditures on their children. Hmmmm...come to think of it, I don't think my own parents had a spare $55,365 to raise my two siblings and I, and still be able to feed themselves, put us all in private Christian school, pay the mortgage, buy descent cars, and take vacations.

Well, what a relief. I guess us under-six-figures folks can have at least a handful of arrows in the quiver without working 5 jobs or going into bankruptcy, despite what the online calculator says.

Category: Extraneous & Miscellaneous
Read more!

Stories That Go Nowhere

As I walked along the road near Regent's Park Mosque in London, listening to my new Muslim friend explain the Islamic (revisionist) history of salvation, I began to feel like I was listening to Grandpa Simpson telling one of his long-winded, farfetched stories from his youth. It wasn't that it was just crazy and unconvincing. It was a story that just meandered on and didn't go anywhere.

You see, the counterfeits of God's Word are easy to spot, and I praise God for making this so. Islam is supposed to be the greatest rival to Christianity in the monotheistic religion business, but its account of salvation history is akin to an amateur trying to copy the Mona Lisa. You see some resemblance, but clearly it is not the work of a Master. God's people hear his voice, and are not fooled by the voice of another. Sure, you could probably make a syllogistic argument to differentiate the two, or provide quantitative measurements of the geometric disparities between the two, but that's rather superfluous, isn't it?

Islam could have at least taken advantage of the head start the Bible gave it, and simply copied and pasted portions of the biblical account. But it didn't, and what remains of various biblical stories in the Quran is, um, interestingly edited. I realized this as my Muslim friend was relating the Quranic account of Adam and Eve to me. OK, Adam and Eve sinned, but there was no Fall, my friend assured me. Huh? The story seems kinda pointless with no Original Sin or Protoevangel to account for evil or provide hope of salvation from it.

So, according to my friend, God forgave Adam and Eve and they were sent on their way out of the garden after Adam repents. That's it. An utterly pointless story. And on it went, down through many of the biblical prophets, with Jesus and Mohammed being last in line. The Quranic Jesus (Issa), of course, was not a Savior or Messiah, just another prophet. The message of these prophets? "Try harder," I guess. Then, supposedly, God would forgive you.

Essentially, the Quran tries to gut the biblical accounts of the Gospel, while upholding a form of the Law. The stories so-gutted, however, plain old don't make any sense since the biblical stories exist to speak of how God has, is, and will save His people, not just trumpet a shallow moralism. In the Quran, all elements, figures, and types of substitutionary atonement are gone. Those things which give the Bible unity, coherence, and Christocentricity are gone, so the stories themselves lose their meaning and become trite, meandering Grandpa Simpson tall tales. The Quranic account does not rise above the level of a trivial morality tale.

Bare moralism, however, cannot account for the pervasive and fundamental evil and suffering in our universe, much less provide a theocentric answer to the Problem of Evil: the Gospel. It doesn't understand the problem, much less provide a solution. No solution, no hope.

What happens when there is no hope? Well, Muslims respond by making up crazy stuff. In the photograph above, Muslims are seen on their holy pilgrammage (Hajj) to Mecca. There, they purge themselves of their sin by throwing rocks at pillars that represent the Devil. Sadly, 345 of these folks died this week because the crowd stampeded to these pillars to do their rock-throwing.

Dr. James White responds:

Pelting rocks with stones purges you of sin? And this from the religion that has
spawned the modern generation of apologists who mock the cross? The article
likewise notes that similar stampedes took place in 1990 (1,426 people dead) and
2004 (244 dead). Thousands dying in a mad rush to throw stones at the devil? The
contrast again is tremendous: in Islam you throw stones at the devil; in
Christianity the very Creator enters into His own creation and gives Himself as
the sacrifice that brings forgiveness to all those who are vitally united to

Category: Theoblogia
Read more!

Because the Bible Tells Me So...

Do you smell ozone?
Phillip Johnson has been showing why he is the first stop for most Christian blogophiles. He's continuing his "my problems with continuism" posts. His posts are filled with logical arguments and gracious treatment of his opponents. But, predictably, he has ended up under "the bottom of an angry dogpile of 'Spirit-filled' critics." While I admire the Pyromaniac's brass, let's look at what he's up against.

Mr. Johnson's comment pages overfloweth with vitriol, most of it from the continuationists. My personal favorite posts all come from Brad Meyer. His rough-and-ready rhetorical style is perhaps due to his usual blogging on politics. But this comment took my breath away:
What's in my heart is the rejection of a neutered god who no longer intervenes. Phil does have a large audience that he is influencing. For the same reason he feels compelled to correct those who claim new revelation through prohecy, I feel compelled to challenge what he is offering as an alternative.
I'm not more desirous to have visible demonstrations of power than to be content with invisible workings of the Spirit- I'm simply turning away from those that Have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof.

It would be easy to snidely suggest that once we all are manifesting the fruit of the Spirit--call them invisible workings if you will--we might have some time left for snake handlin', but this would be unkind. Let's take a look at Mr. Meyer's text of choice, as he seems to be quite concerned with making scriptural arguments.
1But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.
6They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, 7always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth. 8Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these men oppose the truth—men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. 9But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone. 2 Timothy 3:1-9

Ouch. This text is quite obviously not about believers. It is clear that this is about false teachers of the worst stripe. I doubt Mr. Meyer feels this way about his opponents in this debate (I hope Phillip Johnson isn't worming his way into any homes), but he may want to reconsider his position as a champion of prooftexting. It is all too easy for any of us to reach for any stick with which to flog our opponents.

Category: Theoblogia
Read more!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Focusing on the Negative While Missing the Scriptural Positive

The following is a reply I posted at A woman was considering dating a non-Christian man and was venting frustrations about her inability to find a Christian husband. Here is how I responded (again, lightly edited):

If you look at the Bible and all you can see is the negative commands like "don't have sex outside of marriage" and "don't be unequally yoked", then you are missing the point utterly. What do you think life is about? What do you think marriage is for? Life is about serving God and worshipping Him. Marriage exists so that two people can worship the Triune God jointly in all that they do - in their jobs, in the raising of family, and in intimacy w/ each other. The negative commandments I mentioned above are simply logical correlaries to this truth. Why would you bind yourself to a man who is not going to worship God with you in all he does?

The second greatest commandment, according to Jesus, is to love your neighbor. But how can a husband do this to you who does not love God with all his heart, mind, and soul (the greatest commandment)? Indeed, the unregenerate mind HATES God (Romans 1&3). How can you bind yourself to someone who hates your God?

How can a man be your spiritual leader if he has no relationship with your God? You know very well that being a "nice person" simply does not cut it for spiritual and relational qualifications. If Christianity was about being "nice", then why not simply convert to Mormonism or Buddhism?

Could you bear to be with someone whom you know God's wrath rests on?

How could a man who does not know God raise your kids in the faith? How will he comfort you when things go wrong if he has no hope to offer and no eternal perspective if something like, say, a miscarriage were to occur?

I know that singleness can be frustrating. Loneliness can be a killer, and no one ought ever underestimate its power. So here are some things to reflect on as you seek a spouse:

1. Attitude. Bitterness and desperation are ugly, and it can be spotted a mile away. No Christian man will be attracted to it. God owes us NOTHING. We could all die tomorrow, and God will be just. We exist for His pleasure, and once we realize our place and rest in the sufficiency of his grace in Christ - REALLY rest in it and it permeates our hearts, we will be content. Contentedness IS attractive, and it radiates from a person visibly.

2. Additionally, no self-respecting man, Christian or not, wants to feel like he's being used as a baby-making machine. If he ends up thinking in the back of his mind "she wouldn't have married me if she was not getting older and had a bio. clock ticking away", he will be crushed. This is not theoretical - ask the husband of an infertile couple how he feels if his wife is not content, or how he feels about his intimacy merely being a means toward an end for her. I realize that no one self-consciously INTENDS a marriage to be like that, but if having a baby is such an inordinately high priority in your life that you are willing to make a radical compromise to get it, then the danger is real whether you realize it now or not.

3. It simply won't do to say "there are so many Christian hypocrites and churches filled with low-lifes." By going to large churches you are actually INCREASING greatly the chances that the other singles are either hypocrites or at least weak and flaky. I happen to go to the most unhip church in town - so the people who attend with me go there because they are serious about God, duty, covenant, and Scriptural truth. The church has no social scene or majesty that we should look upon, nor appearance that we should be attracted to it. Just the preached Word and administered sacrament, and lots of gray hair. There aren't as many people who fill our pews, but the quality-per-capita of those who do is off-the-charts. That is where you will more likely find solid Christian spousal candidates.

As for the inevitable hypocrites in any congregation - just because there are traitors in our midst doesn't mean you run and join the other side.

4. If you marry an unbeliever, you will be guilty of the very thing you complain about when you criticize the "Christian" men who marry outside the faith. God is not mocked - those men will pay for it IN SPADES by the terrible discipline of the Father, if indeed He is their Father. In my experience, there are only a handful of possible outcomes to an unequally-yoked marriage (barring the remote possibility of conversion):

A. The believer will live to regret it, especially when children come along and they have to raise them in the faith. I've seen women like this, sitting alone in church because she can't drag her husband to church anymore, looking sad and worn, and looking as lonely as any single person.

If she can drag her husband in, she is embarrassed because everyone can feel the spiritual delapidation of the family and knows that the wife does not spiritually respect her husband; nor does anyone consider him the noble and honorable leader of the household who is spiritually looking after his family.

B. The "believer" will lose their faith, or it will become a hollow shell. It just stops being important in the thick of life and especially as the unbeliever's priorities slowly dull and numb the spiritual sensibilities of the believer, until the believer's priorities are overcome. Perhaps only token church attendance will remain, if that. But those who give up the faith or forsake Christ's church never had a personal and genuine faith to begin with (I John 2:19).

C. Divorce. The unbeliever will not fear God nor respect the covenant, nor understand his duty as a selfless husbandly servant nor the sacrifice of love (as Christ exemplified), and when you get too inconvenient for him, he will put you away.

In summary, don't compromise on the one thing in life you shouldn't compromise on. You will hate yourself for it in time, and it can't be undone. Marriage is God's gift to us and it can be heaven-on-earth, but if we don't do things on His terms according to his design, and regard ourselves as wiser than Him, it will be hell on earth. I wouldn't wish the discipline of God on anyone, so someone, somewhere, has to say these things to you.

Category: Theoblogia
Read more!

Friday, January 06, 2006

Magical Ex Opere Operato Water!

Here are my comments that I left on Centuri0n's blog regarding baptism. I have slightly edited the original postings.


I'll give you the paedo side against Enloe. The problem for us non-Federal Vision (FV) paedobaptist types is that even if we consider baptism to be an objective seal of the covenant (initiating us into the visible church) this does not answer the question "who should be baptized?" automatically. The FVers reject the necessity of a credible profession of faith for even adults, and this perplexes most of us because the Scriptures normally associate baptism with faith, as you point out. So for some of the FV crowd you could have a baptismal candidate who says "I think that the Council of Trent was dynamite stuff, and I'm seeking to be justified before God based on my own merit mingled with Christ's merit and goodies from the Treasury of Merit" and they'd open their arms wide and cry "Brother!" whilst administering baptism in the Triune Name.

The problem is that this silliness is anti-confessional - those Cartesian Slaves of the Enlightenment at the Westminster Assembly had the audacity to think that the visible Church consists of those who "profess the true religion, together with their children." (WCF XXV, ii.) For adults, a profession of authentic faith is not optional.

The debate, in other words, should not be framed in terms of "you're a subjectivist" or not. The confessions and, I believe, the Scriptures presume that the objective realities (sign of covenant) are NORMALLY accompanied by subjective realities (faith). This thinking is too ancient to be blamed on the Enlightenment.

There are some exegetical options regarding I Peter 3:21 that the ex opere operato and almost-by-not-quite ex opere operato crowd don't seem to notice. "Baptism" may or may not be referring to the sacrament. You can't just say "well, that's the default definition, so that is how it is used in this context". Even if we adopt this definition (which I think is a possibility, and seems to accord with Centuri0n's exegesis) we still must ask ourselves "on what exegetical basis do we differentiate ourselves from the Papist view of baptismal regeneration?" If we go on to define "save" as "justify" or as at least inclusive of justification, then we logically deny sola fide. Only a mighty work of cognitive dissonance avoids this conclusion. Additionally, this puts us in the awkward position of having to explain why there are baptized people in hell.

Now if the FV crowd would just say "no, that's not what we believe 'save' means in this context" we'd all lay down arms and go back to our homes. But when people go around saying "baptism now saves you, SEE!!" without qualification, we get edgy. I know what that statement means in the Scriptural context, and I know what that statement means to a RomanCatholic. What does it mean to you, FV Crusader? Lecturing us on Enlightenment evils, real or imagined, doesn't answer the question.

For those of us who are confessionally Reformed Christians (not just cherry-picking "Reformed Catholics") we simply are not liberty to tinker with the doctrine of justification, even as high a doctrine of the sacraments as we want to have. It's a settled deal, and all of the "nuance" some want to pile on top of crystal clear confessional statements (backed by Scripture) is really muddled sophistry, and all too often progresses to cognitive dissonance (*COUGH* Paul Owen *COUGH*) and eventually to an outright rejection of the original doctrine.

Category: Theoblogia

Read more!