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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


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