Friday, September 28, 2012

Were the Reformers Heretics? part 2

 John Calvin likewise taught that baptism was a means of regeneration and salvation.  He declared that “God, regenerating us in baptism, ingrafts us into the fellowship of his Church, and makes us his by adoption . . . whatever time we are baptized, we are washed and purified . . . forgiveness, which at our first regeneration we receive by baptism alone . . . forgiveness has reference to baptism. . . . In baptism, the Lord promises forgiveness of sins.”[i]  However, defining regeneration as the renovation of the new man which continued over the course of one’s life, rather than the work of an instant, he asserted that the guilt of sin is removed in baptism, but regeneration only begins at that moment of time.  Calvin wrote, “We assert that the whole guilt of sin is taken away in baptism, so that the remains of sin still existing are not imputed. That this may be more clear, let my readers call to mind that there is a twofold grace in baptism, for therein both remission of sins and regeneration are offered to us. We teach that full remission is made, but that regeneration is only begun and goes on making progress during the whole of life. Accordingly, sin truly remains in us, and is not instantly in one day extinguished by baptism, but as the guilt is effaced it is null in regard to imputation. Nothing is plainer than this doctrine.”[ii]  However, while the Holy Spirit wrought the work of regeneration, and the blood of Christ washed away the sins of baptized infants through the instrumentality of the ordinance, Calvin held, however, contrary to the Catholic and Lutheran doctrines, that baptism was not absolutely essential to salvation, but people could be saved by faith who had no opportunity to be baptized.  For “when we cannot receive [baptism] from the Church, the grace of God is not so inseparably annexed to them that we cannot obtain it by faith, according to his word.”[iii]  Grace is annexed to baptism, and the sacrament is the ordinary vehicle for sealing grace, remission of sins, and regeneration, but God may perform an extraordinary and unusual work to save some even apart from baptism.  Calvin stated, “We, too [as do the Catholics], acknowledge that the use of baptism is necessary—that no one may omit it from either neglect or contempt. In this way we by no means make it free (optional). And not only do we strictly bind the faithful to the observance of it, but we also maintain that it is the ordinary instrument of God in washing and renewing us; in short, in communicating to us salvation. The only exception we make is, that the hand of God must not be tied down to the instrument. He may of himself accomplish salvation. For when an opportunity for baptism is wanting, the promise of God alone is amply sufficient.”[iv]  Ordinarily, baptism is the means of communicating salvation.  However, in the rare situations where one cannot receive the sacrament, then God “may” of Himself save the unbaptized.  The limitation of this exception to situations where “an opportunity for baptism is wanting” is significant—no hope of heaven is set forth for the unbaptized in the great majority of situations where access to the sacrament is possible.  Nonetheless, infants who die without baptism, as long as they have Christian parents and the omission of sacrament was not on account of “sloth, nor contempt, nor negligence,”[v] can expect to be saved.  Indeed, elect infants are “received into the Church by a formal sign [of baptism] because, in virtue of the promise [of a saving covenant between God, Christians, and the children of Christians], they previously belonged to the body of Christ. . . . the children of believers are not baptized, in order that though formerly aliens from the Church, they may then, for the first time, become children of God.”[vi]  Since the children of the Church were already part of the body of Christ from the womb by virtue of God’s covenant, they can be saved even without the seal of baptism.  Their membership in the Church before baptism explains how Calvin can maintain both the salvation of the children of Reformed parents and the doctrine that outside of the visible Church there is no salvation. Since infants with Reformed parents were also not “aliens” but already “the children of God” at that time, it would also be unnecessary, indeed, sinful, for such “covenant children” to come to a place where they recognized themselves as lost, hell-bound sinners who were certain of present damnation on account of their sins and needed to, for the first time, consciously repent and believe the gospel, and so become Christians and be adopted into God’s family through a conversion experience.  “Our children [those in the Reformed faith], before they are born, God declares that he adopts for his own when he promises that he will be a God to us, and to our seed after us. In this promise their salvation is included.”[vii]  All that was required for eternal bliss on the part of these infants was perseverance in their adherence to the Reformed faith and perseverance in the type of life consistent with Christian morality, thus evincing their election and regeneration in infancy.
            As already noted, Calvin taught that the visible Church was necessary for salvation.  He wrote:
It is now our purpose to discourse of the visible Church.  Let us learn, from her single title of Mother, how useful, nay, how necessary the knowledge of her is, since there is no other means of entering into life unless she conceive us in the womb and give us birth, unless she nourish us at her breasts, and, in short, keep us under her charge and government, until, divested of mortal flesh, we become like the angels (Matt 22:30). For our weakness does not permit us to leave the school until we have spent our whole lives as scholars. Moreover, beyond the pale of the Church no forgiveness of sins, no salvation, can be hoped for, as Isaiah and Joel testify (Isa 37:32; Joel 2:32). [Of course, for this argument to be even the slightest bit convincing, one must reject literal interpretation and equate Israel with the church.] To their testimony Ezekiel subscribes, when he declares, “They shall not be in the assembly of my people, neither shall they be written in the writing of the house of Israel” (Ezek 13:9), as, on the other hand, those who turn to the cultivation of true piety are said to inscribe their names among the citizens of Jerusalem. For which reason it is said in the psalm, “Remember me, O Lord, with the favour that thou bearest unto thy people: O visit me with thy salvation; that I may see the good of thy chosen, that I may rejoice in the gladness of thy nation, that I may glory with thine inheritance” (Ps 106:4-5). By these words the paternal favour of God and the special evidence of spiritual life are confined to his peculiar people, and hence the abandonment of the Church is always fatal” (Calvin, Institutes, 4:1:4).

The notion that outside of the visible church there is no salvation is not inconsistent with the doctrine of an invisible church made up of the elect;  Calvin’s favorite patristic writer, Augustine, held both dogmas, affirming that the invisible church of the elect consisted of a portion of the members of the visible catholic church, but nobody was a member of the invisible church who was not as well a member of the visible Catholic denomination.
            The Reformed doctrine of baptism as a sign and seal of saving grace has no support in Scripture.  The Biblical uses of the words “sign” and “seal” give no support whatever to the idea that baptism is a vehicle of saving grace.  A Biblical “sign” was by no means a method of bestowing grace that led to the forgiveness of sin.  The censers of false worshippers who were burned by the fire of God and eternally damned were a “sign unto the children of Israel” (Numbers 16:38), but they neither saved those that worshipped with them nor any other Israelite from hell.  No use of “sign” in either the Old or New Testament provides any support whatever to the idea that “signs” are conjoined to justifying grace.
            The use of the word “seal” (sphragis) in Romans 4:11—for the already justified and already believing Abraham—by no means supports the Reformed sacramental notion that infant baptism is a vehicle conveying saving grace and that through baptism grace is “conferred by the Holy Ghost” upon the elect (Westminster Confession of Faith, Article 28).  Since Romans 4:11 is the only verse in Scripture that could with any plausibility be used to support the Reformed view, its advocates argue from this text that circumcision is a “seal” of grace, that their sacrament of infant baptism is equivalent to circumcision, and that, therefore, infant baptism seals or conveys grace to their infants.  This argument breaks down at many points.  First, the verse does not say that circumcision was a seal of grace to Jewish male infants.  While circumcision was a “sign” by nature, it is not affirmed to have been a “seal” to all, but only personally to believing Abraham, who received it when he had already been justified by faith.  A recognition of this distinction in Romans 4:11 explains the Old Testament use of the word sign or token (Hebrew ‘oth) in connection with circumcision (Genesis 17:11) but the complete absence of references in the Old Testament to the ceremony as a “seal.”  Second, the New Testament does not equate circumcision with baptism or state that the latter replaces the former.  Third, the Biblical immersion of believers has nothing to do with the ceremonial application of water to infants that Catholics and Protestants claim is baptism.  Fourth, a seal is a visible mark or impression evidencing the authority of the one who authorizes the seal to the genuineness or correctness of whatever is witnessed to by its presence.  However, baptism does not leave a visible mark upon those who receive it, and it is not administered to single individuals by Divine authority—the authority given the church to administer baptism is general (Matthew 28:18-20).  No man can put marks upon the elect of God which shall authoritatively certify that they are His, and neither baptism nor the Lord’s Supper authenticate one’s personal election to himself or to others;  such authentication is given to the regenerate individual himself by the presence of true faith and the manifestation of that faith in a changed life, as taught in 1 John (cf. 5:13).  Unlike the ordinance of baptism, the “seal” of circumcision given to Abraham was indeed a visible mark and was applied to the individual man Abraham by direct Divine authority.  Circumcision was a seal to Abraham, but to nobody else.  Finally, when advocates of Reformed theology and other Protestants speak of baptism as a “seal” or vehicle of grace, they use the word in a sense entirely absent in Scripture.  None of the appearances of the word “seal” (sphragis) in the New Testament indicate that grace is conveyed through a “seal” (Romans 4:11; 1 Corinthians 9:2; 2 Timothy 2:19; Revelation 5:1-2, 5, 9; 6:1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 12; 7:2; 8:1; 9:4).  Those who think that infant baptism was the instrument of their receiving forgiveness, those who think that they received the sacrament as confirmation and evidence that they were already regenerated in the womb, and those who think they had water applied to them in infancy as evidence that they were certain to be regenerated in the future unless they consciously rejected the “sacrament” and its efficacy are underneath a terrible spiritual delusion.  They will certainly be damned unless they recognize that their unbiblical religious ceremony did nothing beneficial for them, admit they are still lost, and then repent and believe the gospel.
            Indeed, baptism is not even a “sign” in the sense regularly employed in Reformed theology.  The ordinance is indeed a sign of what Christ did and suffered, but it is not a “sign” promising that any saving work will be done in the one who receives it—yet it is in this latter sense that the Reformed generally speak of the ordiance as a “sign.”


[i]           Institutes, 4:17:1, 4:15:3, 4, 15.

[ii]           John Calvin, 1547 Antidote to the Council of Trent, Reply to the 1st Decree of the 5th Session.

[iii]          Institutes, 4:15:22.

[iv]        John Calvin, 1547 Antidote to the Council of Trent, Antidote to the Canons of Baptism, Canon #5.

[v]           Institutes, 4:15:22.

[vi]          Institutes, 4:15:22.

[vii]         Institutes, 4:15:20.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Grab Bag on Goodness

We start by seeing a way of life divide into what is true, is good, and is beautiful.  We discuss the second of these, what is good.  Let's assume, for the sake of the discussion, that all goodness is found in Jesus.  He said there is none good but one, that is God.  Every good and perfect gift comes from above.  We return to goodness lost in the Garden in Christ.  We are God's workmanship in Christ Jesus.  Therefore, no one gets actual credit for goodness.  To God be the glory.

And yet we are required to prove all things in order to hold fast to that which is good.  Part of sanctification is judging what is good and doing that.  Since we can prove what is good, we can know what is good.  How do we know it?  What do we prove it with?  We use the Bible.  But is that all we use?  For instance, when we judge language, do we use only the Bible for determining what is good speech?  No.  The Bible itself assumes that we can know what are good words.  We can know what filthy communication is.  God says we know, so we do.  This is where what we call discernment comes in.  We must discern what is good and then do that.  

Some of what is good is plainly stated in the Bible.  We do not worship idols.  We do not bear false witness.  We do not murder.  We do not steal.   Other practices must be judged based on biblical principles.  Every decision is not relegated only to what is wrong and right.  We've also got to decide based on what is best.  We do not love God, our affections do not please Him, without what is excellent.

Paul spent five chapters, 1 Corinthians 6:1-11:1, dealing with the Corinthian church about how to approach non-scriptural issues.  A prominent one was eating meat offered unto idols.  Was it good to do that?  No, but not because there was a verse that said, "Thou shalt not eat meat offered unto idols."  Later in Revelation 2, Jesus said He was against it, so it was a settled wrong thing to do in 90, but Paul was taking them through the thinking process about 40 years before.  All together, we can see that things can be not good to do that the Bible does not explicitly forbid.  How do we determine those?  We have to use principles, some of which Paul provides in those five chapters.  There are others all over the New Testament.

How do you know you're doing what's good from principles?  We can see today that this can be a problem.  People are more interested in doing what they want, not in pleasing God.  Jesus  talked about how serious it was to cause one of these little ones to stumble, so serious that you would better to tie a mammoth, heavy rock around your neck and cast yourself into deep water, than to do that.  Very serious.  Since the gospels and the epistles say we can know these things and judge these things, then it means that we can.  So to start, believe that you can know what is good even if the Bible doesn't make a plain statement about what it is.

Understanding that you can discern using the Bible, get the principles down.  Here are a few.  Be not conformed to this world (the spirit of the age).  Make no provision for the flesh.  Abstain from fleshly lusts.  Some of the principles are not even stated explicitly.  You've got to glean some from an entire passage like 1 Corinthians 10:19-20, an association principle.  It is not good even to associate with certain practices, which one would be eating the meat offered to idols.

Where does the conscience come in?  The conscience is nothing but a warning device, like the radar on an airplane.  It is informed by a law or the law written in your heart.  That law might be good.  It might not be.  Your conscience can be harmed when you don't listen to it.  Even when it is misinformed by faulty instruction, the conscience should still perform its function to protect its operation.  For instance, someone may grow up being taught that it is wrong to play games with dice.  Even if it isn't wrong to play with dice, the person shouldn't play with dice if his conscience tells him not to do that.  If he goes ahead and plays, he'll harm his conscience.  That's another principle.  Don't hurt your or someone else's conscience.  When the conscience warns about something that is good or bad, it won't function right if it has been ruined already.

Does the conscience itself teach virtue?  No.  The conscience only warns.  It doesn't inform.  So someone who talks about "hitching his virtue to someone else's conscience" doesn't understand the conscience.  A conscience should be informed by what is true and good and beautiful.

After someone knows the principles well, how does he insure he will put them into practice well (good)?  There are many factors here.  He should look at how it has been practiced in history.  The Holy Spirit informs by the regular practice of believers through centuries.  He should consider his church, the temple of the Holy Spirit.  He should follow godly leaders.  That would be sort of like being "good on someone else's nickel" that I read somewhere recently.  Is that scriptural?  Sure.  It's what Paul ended the five chapters with in 11:1, "Be ye followers (imitators) of me, even as I also am of Christ."  It's a good thing to copy other, more experienced, Christians.  Paul even commanded it here.  You're not a lesser person for having done so, even though others (who ironically want people to imitate them) might say you are not.

Recently here, I asked questions about soccer shorts and modesty of women.  Are soccer shorts on women categorically a non-scriptural issue?  Are there no objective standards of nudity or nakedness in the Bible?  Is that how Christians have practiced in this realm?  I've read a lot about this, and the answer is, "No."  Women shouldn't be showing their breasts and thighs.  Does it make it right if they are ignorant of it through decades of conforming to a worldly philosophy?  No.  Sure, they might not be wearing the shorts to rebel.  But they're still wrong.  I might not put on my seatbelt because I hate the law, but I'll still go through the windshield, no matter what my motive.

A good passage to consider on this, that is 100% appropriate, is the ark narrative in 1 Chronicles.  After David took the throne, he wanted to bring the ark back to Jerusalem.  Was that good?  Yes.  It was good.  He put it on an oxcart.  Did that mean he was a rebel against God?  No.  David wasn't a rebel against God.  But God still killed Uzzah when he touched the ark.  God did not approve of carrying the ark on a cart.  It was not good.

Are women trying to be rebellious and androgynous and feminist by wearing soccer shorts?  I don't think so.  Is every child being rebellious because he screams like a wild banshee for candy at the supermarket checkout?  It really does look rebellious to me.  It doesn't look good.  It isn't good.  Just because the child doesn't know any better doesn't mean that it is good behavior.  Same with the women in the soccer shorts.  They don't get a pass from God for wearing them, just like David did not get a pass for carrying the ark on a cart.

Think about it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Recently at another site, someone wrote this comment in response to a recent post of mine here that dealt with modesty.

Let’s not discuss something as important as modesty with people as unserious as Kent Brandenburg.

So it does make one think.  Who is serious?  Seriously.  We could make "serious" mean almost anything we want and set the bar as high as could be.  How would I know, for instance, if I were serious about fitness?  Do I have to run a few marathons every year?  If I was serious about firearms, what would that mean?  What's the threshold for "serious about guns"?  I don't think I'm serious about them, but how far would somebody need to go before he was?  I tried to be as serious, I think, as I could about a definition, so I'm providing the Oxford dictionaries online to get a definition of serious.

1 demanding or characterized by careful consideration or application:   
marriage is a serious matterwe give serious consideration to safety recommendations 
solemn or thoughtful in character or manner: 
her face grew serious 
(of music, literature, or other art forms) requiring or meriting deep reflection: 
he bridges the gap between serious and popular music 
2 acting or speaking sincerely and in earnest, rather than in a joking or half-hearted manner: 
actors who are serious about their work 
3 significant or worrying because of possible danger or risk; not slight or negligible: 
she escaped serious injury 
4 [attributive] informal substantial in terms of size, number, or quality: 
he suddenly had serious money to spend

I didn't want to leave anything out, so I included the informal definition as well, serious numbers of definitions of this one word.  After the fellow condemned me as unserious even to discuss modesty, I thought about what serious people are like.

In tenth grade, when I knew I was supposed to preach the Bible, I started thinking about what I would need to prepare for that.  I had already started learning Greek, because my dad was taking it in college.  I carried Greek cards in 9th grade to go over vocabulary.  Probably a lot of other 9th graders do that on their own.  Then I started taking Greek in 11th grade, and then kept taking it for the next 8 years in a row.  Since then I've taught several years of it.  I'm teaching it right now on Wednesdays over skype to a group of men in Maine.  I wanted to study the Bible in the original languages, so I majored in it.  When I graduated, I received the award as the top Greek student.  I wasn't trying for that award.  They just gave it to me.

I also knew that if I was to preach, I needed to know how to communicate, so I minored in speech in college.  A speech minor required a sophomore speech platform that must be passed in order to continue with the minor.  It required a recital your senior year.  I memorized 30 pages for the recital and both nights the room I gave the recital were standing room only.  I'm just reporting.  The guy said I wasn't serious, and I'm just exploring here in front of everyone.  I still think about what I learned and practiced in college.  I still try to look into as many eyes as possible and retain eye contact.

For preaching, I decided early on that real preaching was exposition of Scripture, so I listened to as many expositors as possible, whoever they were.  I read exegetical and expositional commentaries.  That's still something I do, because I love them.  I love reading the Puritans.

To learn to pastor, I served under pastors.  While in seminary, I pastored a church an hour away in Elkhorn, WI.  At the end of that year, they wanted me to stay.  I couldn't. I knew I should go to California to the San Francisco Bay Area.

Let's say that the following is a serious definition of art:  "skill in doing anything as a result of knowledge and practice."  I read someone give that as a definition once, and said I agreed.  I see key words:  skill, knowledge, practice.  That's what I try to do when I'm serious about something.

When I was serious about working out, I used P90x.  I'm serious about jogging, so I jog 2 1/2 to 3 miles a day, five days a week.  When I got to California, I was serious about evangelism, so I did it 30 hours a week and listened to every "how to" tape I could on the subject.  Knowledge and practice.

Let's think about modesty itself.  The subject the man said I wasn't serious about.  I've written a book, which is not yet in print, that spends about eighty 8 1/2 x 11 inch pages, single space, on modesty.  It is heavily documented.  I read every single book I could on the subject.  I studied every applicable passage in the original language of Scripture.  Maybe that's not really that serious.  Not serious enough.  I'm always open to get more serious about things.  I thought that knowing exactly what the Bible said about it would be as serious as one could get.

I asked the man who said I was unserious how serious he was.  I asked him to show me how serious he really was about what Jesus said, the Apostles wrote, and he said he didn't want to do that.  He wouldn't play that game.  The only game in which he would partake was telling me how unserious I was.  OK.  Alright.  I see.  Uh-huh.  I don't know, maybe the guy wasn't serious about his criticism of me.  That would be ironic, wouldn't it?

Some more serious thinkers might think that I shouldn't talk about how serious I am.  That could be considered to be bragging or arrogant. I'm not trying to brag or be arrogant.  It's just that when someone says you're not serious, it gets you thinking about it.  I think if I got any more serious, my wife might get upset.  She's already telling me to calm down.  She wants less serious.  I'm not talking sense of humor, but about the things I do.

But perhaps it's true.  I need to get more serious.  There are ways in which I agree with you.  I don't think I'm serious enough.  Serious.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Cult-Like Tendency in Modern Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism, part one

One common feature of cults, a major one, is a belief in a total apostasy.  They justify their existence with the fiction that they represent the original, divine teaching, when the truth is that they've invented new doctrine not found in Scripture.  If it's new, it really isn't true.  Paul said that some would depart from the faith, not all (1 Timothy 4:1).  Neither would the gates of hell prevail against Christ's church (Matthew 16:18).  Here's what occurs.  In this age in which we live, saved people are indwelt by the Holy Spirit.  He is the Spirit of Truth.  A particular teaching inspired by the Holy Spirit is not going to disappear.  The Holy Spirit leads and teaches and guides.  He isn't going to allow for the elimination of one of His truths.  God's doctrine is not going to change.  It was faith once and for all delivered (Jude 1:2-4).

With everything in the first paragraph being true, churches, believers, should not expect new doctrines.  If there were a doctrine that seemed new with what may seem to be no historical attestation, one would expect the only possible way that the obvious historical position to be overturned would come from overwhelming exegetical evidence.  However, the latter is, if not unlikely, probably impossible.  What I'm talking about here should be the hard fast understanding of Christians.  When new doctrine might be invented, come on the scene suddenly without any trace of previous existence, it ought to be doubted.  Everyone should be suspect of its veracity.  The reception of the new doctrine ought to be considered to be cult-like.

Before I start in on what you've been really waiting for, please make sure you read the first two paragraphs, because they buttress the rest of the post.  Second, I understand that cult-like is inflammatory.  I know that.  It is, however, the kind of terminology that the ones with the new teaching use to describe those with the historic teaching.  And they'll say it with no evidence, no basis or proof.  This is cult-like.  New doctrine that originates in the 19th and 20th centuries is cult-like.  I also call it a tendency, which softens it a little.  Maybe it shouldn't be softened at all, because it is serious, but I want it to go down a little easier, and like Mary Poppins said, "Just a teaspoon of sugar...."  That's my disclaimer.  Now for the application part.

This list will be eclectic, so don't assume that I'm ranking in some order of importance.  Some of it is interpretation and other is application.

Was there a total apostasy on bibliology?   Every presentation of a doctrine of preservation of Scripture in written materials since the invention of the printing press reads as "we have all the words of Scripture available to us in the language in which they are written." That was defended exegetically and doctrinally.  The defenders knew the existence of textual variants.  Still they believed in a perfect, error-free verbally preserved Bible in their own hands.  They didn't mistake preservation for inspiration, but they did believe that what was inspired, the original text Old and New Testaments, was preserved.  That would mean that those words were still inspired, since they were preserved.

Enter textual criticism.  Doctrine changes.  Were they basing this on new evidence of historical doctrine?  Does this trace itself back to a total apostasy of orthodox bibliology?  Can a so-called science, a kind of forensics, overturn what Christians believed and taught?  This is a cult-like tendency.  The sort-of mainstream Christian media is ignoring this bit of truth for the same type of reasons that the mainstream public media ignores selective important news.

The change and then denial of the historic doctrine has a domino affect.  We've got new words that were not a part of historic bibliology to stake out and protect the new view on the preservation of Scripture.  One of these is inerrancy.  If you use google books and do a search between 1600 and 1850, you won't find men using the word inerrancy as a technical, biblical term.  I found it used 2 times in relations to the Bible, none before 1800.  It's a technical term today that has dumbed down what we should expect for God's Word.  It doesn't mean that we have the same words.  However, the same perfection as having the same words is how a man used the term in 1836.  And then after 1850, you find the word used 2,330 times, just an explosion of usage, and  almost all of those after 1890.   The doctrine of inerrancy, ironically, was a doctrine of errancy.  The doubters had to form a new definition of a perfect Bible with errors and that doctrine would be inerrancy.  It isn't a historic doctrine.  It's an invented one to give the impression that these theologians believe in a perfect Bible.  When they say perfect, they aren't saying the same words as the originals.  They are saying perfect, as in, there are no errors in the teachings, and even if there are, those are corrected in some other context.  All of this, as I read it, was to give people some stable idea to hold onto, since Christians no longer believed that they held all God's inspired Words in their hands, in order to keep people from apostatizing.  This is what evangelical and even fundamentalist seminary professors are drilling into their students, so that they don't produce any more Bart Ehrmans.

More Later

Friday, September 21, 2012

Were the Reformers Heretics? part 1

I. Introduction

            Modern Baptists generally share with Protestants a very high view of the doctrine and practice of the Protestant Reformation and its leaders.  The movement is generally considered a great return to the fundamental truths of the gospel of Christ and a repudiation of the errors of Romanism.  The infallible Bible, the sole and sufficient authority for the Christian’s faith and practice (2 Timothy 3:16-17), teaches that by means of the substitutionary death, burial, and resurrection of the Son of God (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), God justifies or declares righteous all who in repentance (Luke 13:3) trust in the blood of the Redeemer (John 3:16;  Romans 5:1).  This is the gospel.  Justification is received simply by faith in Christ, apart from good works (Ephesians 2:8-9) and religious rituals, including those ordained by God (Galatians 2:16; 5:4-6), such as believer’s immersion (Romans 6:1-7) and the Lord’s supper (1 Corinthians 11:24-25).  All who have been justified are eternally secure (John 10:27-30).  Those who believe or teach a false gospel will be eternally damned (Galatians 1:8-9), and heretics must be rejected (Titus 3:10).  The Protestant Reformers and the movements they originated constitute no exception to this declaration.  Their teachings must, therefore, be evaluated in light of the gospel and the other truths of the Bible.[i]

II. The Reformers’ Views of Baptism

            Medieval Catholicism held that “the . . . merit of Jesus Christ is applied, both to adults and to infants, by the sacrament of baptism rightly administered in the form of the church . . . infants, newly born from their mothers' wombs . . . are to be baptized . . . for the remission of sins, that in them that may be cleansed away by regeneration, which they have contracted by generation. . . . . If any one denies, that, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is conferred in baptism, the guilt of original sin is remitted; or even asserts that the whole of that which has the true and proper nature of sin is not taken away; but says that it is only rased, or not imputed; let him be anathema.”[ii]  Martin Luther retained the Roman Catholic teaching of baptismal regeneration, including the regeneration of infants through the instrumentality of baptism.  He called baptism “a new birth by which we are . . . loosed from sin, death, and hell, and become children of life, heirs of all the gifts of God, God’s own children, and brethren of Christ.”[iii]  The Lutheran Small Catechism affirms, “baptism effects forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and grants eternal salvation to all who believe, as the Word and promise of God declare.” (IV).  The binding Lutheran symbol, the Augsburg Confession, states that “baptism . . . is necessary to salvation” and “condemn[s] the Anabaptists, who reject the baptism of children, and say that children are saved without baptism” (Article IX).  Luther led Lutheranism to teach that all the unbaptized—including all unbaptized infants—are eternally lost, and to anathematize those, like the Anabaptists, who taught otherwise.[iv]  However, Luther made a number of adjustments to the Roman teaching.  Rather than baptism actually cleansing the soul from sin, it brought about the non-imputation of sin and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness.  It was also not necessary to baptize with water—beer would also serve the purpose.[v]  One wonders if immersion in beer would have been preferred to sprinkling or pouring;  at least when using water, Luther did prefer immersion.[vi]  Furthermore, the sacrament of baptism was the vehicle of conveying faith to infants, so that infants were actually saved by faith, indeed, by faith alone, at the point of baptism:
According to Luther, the soul is not actually cleansed from sin, either in baptism or at any time in this present life.  It is rather that sin is not imputed.  Negatively, the baptismal cleansing is a non-imputation of original and actual sin.  Positively it is an imputation of the perfect and all-sufficient righteousness of Jesus Christ.  For Luther baptism was still the sign of remission, and under the Holy Spirit it could still be the instrument of justifying faith, but his whole conception of the relationship had broadened and deepened [in comparison to medieval Catholicism].  It had broadened:  for the remission could now extend to the whole life of a Christian.  And it had deepened:  for it was a remission in spiritual rather than in quasi-material terms, in the terms of a righteousness of faith rather than a righteousness of sight and works. . . . The restoration of regeneration to much of its original meaning and honour as the chief grace of baptism was largely the work of Martin Luther.  Luther did it by relating regeneration directly to the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the entry of the Christian believer into that resurrection. . . . The traditional teaching [on baptism] was necessarily opposed by Luther, who denied an ex opere operato efficiency of the sacrament and insisted upon the need for faith.  Yet Luther did not draw the conclusion that there are no effects of baptism in infants, for as we have seen he maintained boldly that infants do have faith, and he challenged his opponents to prove the contrary.[vii]  What this faith was for Luther it is difficult to say with any precision.  Sometimes he spoke of it rather as the absence of a hostile disposition, or even as an infused gift.[viii]  Whatever it was it enabled infants to enjoy the baptismal benefits of remission and regeneration.  The benefits themselves, however, were understood evangelically as remission by non-imputation and the regeneration of faith, so that no place was left for the familiar causal conception.  The same was true in the case of Melanchthon, who in reply to the Anabaptists claimed for infants a definite remission of original sin by virtue of the sacramental ministry.  But again the remission was understood evangelically as non-imputation.[ix] . . . Luther continued to use expressions which suggest an ex opere operato efficacy, for he had a strong sense of the objectivity of the divine grace and work.[x]  But at three points he broke definitely with the traditional dogma.  First, . . . he pointed out that the true work of baptism is a work of faith and promise, not of sight.  Second, and as a necessary corollary, he claimed that faith is indispensable to the operation of the sacrament,[xi] for faith is itself the fulfillment of baptism,[xii] the response of the soul which enables the sacrament to have its effect.[xiii]  Thus the baptismal remission and regeneration is not a naturalistic or mechanical process, but an intensely personal matter in which the divine promise is held out on the one hand, and faith is the appropriation and fulfillment of the promise on the other.  Third, and finally, Luther did not find the power of baptism in the element, but in the baptismal word, which gives to the external sign its true signification, declaring the promises.[xiv]  Baptism could achieve its effect only as the word of baptism was perceived and understood,[xv] and the response of faith evoked.  But to say that was to suspend the efficacy of the sacrament upon the free and sovereign Spirit of God who disposes of both word and sacrament.  The work of baptism was not done through the water alone, nor was it done through the Spirit necessarily acting with the water.  If it was done at all, it was done only in so far as the Spirit Himself worked in, with and under the water, and sign and grace came together in the one creative act by which faith is born and the soul renewed by promise.[xvi]
These adjustments to the Catholic view of baptismal regeneration were sufficient to bring upon Luther Rome’s anathema, but they did not separate him from the idea that baptism was necessary for regeneration and eternal life.  The Baptist doctrine of justification by faith apart from sacraments and their restriction of baptism to believers, as in the New Testament, were great enough evils to Luther and Lutheranism that the Diet of Speyer (A. D. 1529) decreed the death penalty for Anabaptists, and in A. D. 1536 Luther signed a memorandum written by Melanchton assenting to putting Anabaptists to death (cf. 1 John 3:15-16).  Luther stated, “The Anabaptists hold tenets relating to infant baptism, original sin, and inspiration, which have no connection with the Word of God,[xvii] and are indeed opposed to it . . . Secular authorities are also bound to restrain and punish avowedly false doctrine . . . For think what disaster would ensue if children were not baptized? . . . Besides this the Anabaptists separate themselves from the churches . . . and they set up a ministry and congregation of their own, which is also contrary to the command of God. From all this it becomes clear that the secular authorities are bound . . . to inflict corporal punishment on the offenders . . . Also when it is a case of only upholding some spiritual tenet, such as infant baptism, original sin, and unnecessary separation, then . . . we conclude that . . . the stubborn sectaries must be put to death.”[xviii]  The baptismal doctrines of Luther and the Baptists of the Reformation era were radically opposed to one another;  so far, was the gospel believed by Baptists from the saving truth that   Luther thought they should be executed.  Luther lived and died believing that baptism was essential for the receipt of the remission of sin.


[i]           A thorough refutation of salvation by baptism and a presentation of the true gospel is Heaven Only for the Baptized?  The Gospel of Christ vs. Pardon Through Baptism, by Thomas Ross, available for free download at  Anyone who has believed a false gospel of salvation through baptism is heartily encouraged to acquire a copy of this work, read it, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and so pass from spiritual death to spiritual life.  A excellent presentation of systematic theology in general is the four volume set Landmarks of Baptist Doctrine by Robert Sargent (Oak Harbor, WA:  Bible Baptist Church Publications, n. d.).  This set, and other sound books, are available at

[ii]           The canons and decrees of the sacred and oecumenical Council of Trent, ed. and trans. J. Waterworth (London: Dolman, 1848), Session V: Decree Concerning Original Sin.

[iii]          (Luther, Works, 53:103).

[iv]          Both the traditional Catholic and Lutheran doctrines of baptismal regeneration require the conclusion that all pre-born infants who die are also in hell, since they have not had water applied to their bodies in the proper manner—indeed, those who would dare to think otherwise are anathema.  This would infinitely aggravate the modern horror of abortion.  One wonders if this “Christian truth” of the damnation of all preborn infants is set forth when a minister devoted to Catholic or Lutheran orthodoxy tries to comfort a woman who has had a miscarriage.  Happily, king David believed otherwise, knowing that he would be in heaven eternally with his dead infant, who had died without circumcision or any other ceremony, and thus comforted Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12:18, 22-23; cf. Jonah 4:11).

[v]           “Luther gave a new turn to the debate when in his opposition to medieval legalism he made the rhetorical suggestion that beer would meet the case just as well as water [for baptism]: no doubt it would be equally available in his country”  (Pg. 134, Baptism, Bromiley;  cf. J. de la Serviére, La Théologie de Bellarmine, pg. 356).

[vi]          “Luther preferred immersion, and prescribed it in his baptismal service” (Schaff, Philip, History of the Christian Church. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1907, 1910; 2:13:Foontotes; 7:1:7:102; 8:3:25). In Luther’s sermon on baptism in 1518, he stated that “baptism is . . . when we dip anything wholly in water, that it is completely covered over. . . . it should be thus, and would be right . . . [for] the child or any one who is to be baptized, [to] be completely sunk down into the water, and dipt again and drawn out” (Opera Lutheri, I. 319, Folio ed., quoted on pg. 108, Christian, J. T., A History of the Baptists, vol. 1, Texarkana, TX: Bogard Press, 1922.) Calvin stated that “it is evident that the term baptise means to immerse, and that this was the form used by the primitive Church” (Calvin, Institutes, 4:15:19, trans. Henry Beveridge), although he held that it did not matter if we followed the example of the primitive church or not.

[vii]         Luther, Werke, Weimarer Ausgabe, VI, pg. 538.  Infants do not have faith or know anything since they cannot even discern their right hands from their left, Jonah 4:11, nor know good and evil, Deuteronomy 1:39; cf. Romans 9:11.  Consider also what must be considered, at the very least, the extreme vitiation required of the content and nature of saving faith, if an infant has it.

[viii]         Cf. Luther, Werke, Weimarer Ausgabe, VI, pg. 537-538.

[ix]          Corpus Reformatorum, XXXIII, pg. 295, 859.

[x]           Luther, Werke, Weimarer Ausgabe, XXX, I, pg. 218.

[xi]          Luther, Werke, Weimarer Ausgabe, XXX, I, pg. 216.

[xii]         Luther, Werke, Weimarer Ausgabe, VI, pg. 532.

[xiii]         Luther, Werke, Weimarer Ausgabe, II, pg. 315.

[xiv]         Cf. Wernle, Luther, pg. 38.

[xv]         Since “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17), one wonders if deaf infants are able to repent of their sins and trust in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection for justification when the baptismal word is pronounced.  Thankfully, in Lutheran families, infants that can hear are able, despite not knowing good from evil, Deuteronomy 1:39, to turn from their sins to trust in the Lord Jesus the moment they are baptized.
[xvi]         Pg. 172-173,177-178, 198, 187, Baptism, Bromiley.

[xvii]        Consider this declaration of Luther that those with false views of inspiration should be put to death in light of his declarations about numerous New and Old Testament books being noncanonical, which will be examined in following posts.

[xviii]       (Janssen, X, 222-223; pamphlet of 1536).

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Were We Wrong, Can Something Like This Change, or What? pt. 1

Can things that were wrong now be right?  Can certain practices be wrong at some point in time, but then change to be acceptable?  Could there be, for instance, a curse word that moves to an acceptable word?  Could music that was wrong for a Christian, now be acceptable?  Can standards of modesty change?   Should what was once immodest to everyone and then at least to Christians, now be acceptable to Christians?  Why do these things change?  How could they now be right, when they were once wrong?

I'm personally not confused about certain issues that are now up for grabs and questionable.  They were wrong before and they're still wrong.  I still preach them as wrong.  I still view them as wrong.  I still do not believe that they should be practiced and will say so.  But this is not how it is with everyone.

A few years back, Dave Doran, president of Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, and a prominent fundamentalist, wrote the following in response to a criticism of fundamentalism:

When rock and roll came out, it clearly represented a shift in the culture toward ungodliness, so it was uniformly rejected. Now, after five decades of music variations and three of "Christianized" versions of it, the united front within Fundamentalism seems something less than united. When long hair was the cultural symbol of rebellion, there was a pretty clear consensus that it was not proper to follow the fad. Now, when some of the fads don’t include long hair, defining a worldly hairstyle is far more difficult. I could go on, but I think you can see my point.

Some Fundamentalists are clamping down on these pop culture issues and are making the case for the same applications that worked 40-50 years ago. The net result of this is that they appear to be arguing for an Amish-like response to culture. Their goal seems to be the preservation of a pre-60s Americana, not the production of godliness in the 21st century. Mistakenly arguing that "your standards can’t be too high for God" they keep staking out positions that can hardly be defended biblically. Anything that looks or sounds new is suspect for that very reason. While I agree with the desire to pursue holiness, I have serious questions about the biblical and theological orientation of this wing of Fundamentalism. There is serious confusion about the differences between biblical principles (which are timeless) and contemporary applications (which are time bound). This confusion often leads to division over differences of application, not principle.

I had remembered reading this by Doran, and think I may have thought about writing about it, but it passed from my mind until I read it quoted in a discussion.  It obviously made an impression.  I didn't hear from anyone or read anyone who disagreed or contradicted what Doran wrote.  Perhaps people are just agreeing with him, that he represents a consensus of what most fundamentalists believe on what he's talking about.

A few thoughts came to my mind when I read Doran's quote.  First, he was equivocating morally between various cultural issues, lumping several of them together that were dissimilar.  Second, with his ambiguity he was opening up the idea that these cultural issues were no longer issues of fellowship or that they didn't have to be with everybody.  I was thinking mainly about secondary separation.  Doran himself might not use rock music, and someone with whom he fellowshiped might not use it, but it would be OK to fellowship with those who did also fellowship with those who used rock music.  Fundamentalist churches could countenance churches that used rock music.  Third, rock music may have changed in its inherent meaning.  That was a possibility, because maybe we can't be sure that it has a wrong meaning by itself.  Rock music might be in the category of wire-rimmed glasses or certain types of beards.  They might have meant something at one time, but they don't any more.

What got me thinking about the Doran quote was an email from my alma mater, Marantha Baptist Bible College.  When I was there, women couldn't wear shorts.  I'm not talking about pants---that's a whole other issue.  I'm talking about shorts.  I clicked on their athletics link to see what might be happening and finally surfed to an article that happened to be about a girls' soccer game, which had a picture of one of Maranatha's female players in a pair of shorts (I think that's the present pastor of Calvary Baptist in Watertown behind her, watching her; I would have thought he would have considered this immodest and said something).  It's not just that this is Maranatha's standard, but that the college, who once opposed this, is promoting it on their website.  It means nothing anymore.

Why did it mean anything in the first place?  Should it have meant anything in the first place?  When Maranatha changed, why did it change?  When did this particular standard of modesty stop being immodest?  How much further can it go before it is immodest?  Were these kinds of questions asked before the change was made?

You might think that this is a good step for Maranatha, because of something like Dave Doran said, so that Maranatha won't be Amish.  That could be the level of argumentation---they're fleeing Amishness.   Was that a threat at Maranatha?  That they were potentially Amish?  Is showing the thigh on a woman as such, is that like a change in meaning of rock music?  But has rock music actually changed its meaning?  And are those issues the same?   Does what Christians believed for hundreds of years matter?

The Apostle Paul took chunks out to deal with dress issues.  You see it in 1 Corinthians 11 and 1 Timothy 2.  It was worth the space in his letters to treat.  What is permissible change in these areas?  Why is fundamentalism changing in them?  Is it good?  Let's think about it.


Technically, why is this not any worse than this?  It's showing the same thing.  Would enjoy someone who claims to be a Christian, and especially a fundamentalist, who has no problem, to explain what the difference might be.

Monday, September 17, 2012

You Should Vote for Romney, the Basic Argument

Your vote in a presidential general election is very much like making a choice for a purchase.  You don't always get what you want, but you try to get the best that you can.  Sure, if you had the money, you might buy a Mercedez, but you don't have the money, so you can't.  There could be several other presidential candidates that you want more for president, but you've got to choose the best one that you can get---with the emphasis on the one you can get.  You are a steward of your vote and you need to use it the best way you can.  One difference between this and a purchase is that your poor stewardship could affect many more people than yourself, because whoever wins a presidential election is going to be president of everyone in the United States, not just you.

Perhaps you are one of those people who believe that Romney and Obama actually aren't really that much different and in a sense are part of the same problem, that they could be the same person, or actually controlled by the same organization.  So you vote for someone who can't win as a kind of protest.  Maybe your idea is that whichever candidate we vote is going to bring us ultimately to the same conclusion and you would like us to get there a little bit faster.  I see you as the fatalistic vote.  And you're wrong.

As genuine believers, our trust is in the Lord Jesus Christ.  We pray for His kingdom to come.  We don't depend on government, on our socio-economic level, or on our class as a basis of our satisfaction or fulfillment. No matter who wins, we can thrive.  But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't try to have things be the best they can be---remember paragraph one.  In Romans 12, Paul wrote, as much as possible live peaceably with all men.  That doesn't mean you can live peaceably with all men, but you can as much as possible.  Let's as much as possible have a president that thinks like we do.

Only two candidates can win, Obama or Romney.  If you do not vote for Romney, you are in fact helping Obama to win the presidency.  You know it.  You should care.

Even though Romney is not the candidate that we would want, he's enough better than Obama to vote for him, so that Obama might not win.  He is better than Obama.  They aren't the same candidates.

Let's start with the purpose of government.  When God ordained human government in Genesis 9, He set out to protect life.  On abortion, Romney isn't enough pro-life, but he's far more pro-life than Obama.  Obama is the most anti-life president in the history of the United States.  You know that.  So if you vote for someone besides Romney, and then Obama wins, then you will take responsibility for the continuation of the most anti-life policies in history.  More unborn children will be killed because of those policies.  Romney does not support taxpayer funded abortions.  Obama does.  Romney would oppose third trimester abortions.  Obama supports them.

Romans 13 says that government is about rewarding good and punishing evil.  In so many more ways Obama is about rewarding evil and punishing good.  Obama's taxation is about punishing good, punishing work, punishing production.  If you don't vote for Romney, you are voting for an Obama win, which will in fact punish good.  You will contribute to that.

Obama rewards homosexual behavior.  Romney's not the best on that, but he still supports marriage only between a man and a woman.  That's another basic that you would oppose more if you vote for someone besides Romney.  That's what I think you will be doing.

Why do you think that gun sales will go up exponentially more if Obama is elected?  You know this to be true.  Why is it?  It's because people will want to get guns before the government will make it more difficult to do so, and, second, it's because people are rightfully more afraid of the country moving faster into a deeply dangerous, chaotic state, in which even food supply would be threatened without protection.  Your vote for someone besides Romney will result in a faster loss of gun ownership, in which you will be a greater loss for the protection of the life of your family.

If Obama wins, which he will more likely do so if you vote for someone besides Romney, he will have four more years to appoint Supreme Court justices like Sotomayor and Kagan, perhaps the worst two of the nine presently on the court.  You don't want more of the same.  You want to avoid that as much as possible.  Romney would very likely choose people at least like Scalia or Thomas, strict constructionists.   You should want that.  We will lose far more God-given rights because of Obama Supreme Court appointments.

I could go on here.  Romney won't support government funded contraceptives. Obama will.  Romney will be better at shrinking the deficit.  Romney will more likely pass conservative legislation passed by a more conservative Congress.  Obama will veto it.

When you vote for Romney, you aren't voting for Mormon doctrine.  You aren't saying you believe in the Book of Mormon.  You aren't saying that you think that Romney is smart for doing so.  I don't think Romney is a Mormon because Mormonism makes any sense.  He is one because his dad was a Mormon.  I believe he decided, probably while he was in France on his mission, that he wasn't going to give up on Mormonism and in so doing invalidate his father's life.  He bought in, I believe, at that time.  It gives him a sense of continuity.  It is a kind of conservatism to him.  There may be other reasons why he believes it.  None of them are good reasons.  However, John Locke wasn't a believer either.  Neither was Thomas Jefferson.  We're not voting for the leader of a church.  We're voting for the President of the Republic, one branch of government.  He's not a King.  He will, by far, support freedom of religion more than Obama.  Understand that.  Obama has shown that he doesn't mind the government intruding on the freedom of religion.  Romney is far more likely to protect that right and to protect it better.

You're not a dupe if you vote Romney.  You are entering it with your eyes open. You know exactly what you are getting.  It isn't what you want.  But it isn't Obama either.  And you have, I believe, a responsibility to help stop Barack Obama from getting another term as president.  You will not do that by not voting for Romney.  You will be playing right into President Obama's hands.  You are making a poor decision.

Do not write in a candidate.  Do not vote libertarian.  Do not vote American independent.  Do not vote Constitutional.  Vote for Romney.  It's the best opportunity we have for not having Obama.  Do not, not vote.  Vote.  And vote for Romney.

Especially if you live in a swing state, do not vote for anyone but Romney.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Updated Music Resources at the "Theological Compositions" website

I wanted to make you aware that here, in the "Ecclesiology" section of my website, I have relatively recently added a goodly number of valuable resources relating to godly worship and music.  These include:

1.) The Scottish and Genevan Psalters.  Do you prefer e-resources, or do you feel like you too poor to pay the $15 or so to purchase a psalter so you can obey the explicit command to sing "psalms" (Ephesians 5:19; James 5:13), and not just hymns alone?  You can now download two free, quite literal, historic psalters--with free audio files of the tunes, so any unfamiliar ones can be learned easily.   Obey God's command.  Start singing the psalms personally, in your family, and in your church, for the glory of God.  As part of our family devotions, we sing a psalm each day, singing the same psalm each day for a week (the psalms are very rich, so you will understand more of what you sing as you sing the same psalm a few times), and then going to the next psalm the next week.  In this way, we have sung through the entire psalter as a family.  The various PDF files of the 150 psalms in the Genevan psalter would also make great choir numbers.  Does your choir sing the inspired songs of God?  Hymns are wonderful, but the psalms are perfect--they are inspired!  I have also posted all the tunes to the Trinity Baptist hymnal, a hymnal that has at least parts of all 150 of the psalms in it, as well as a lot of rich, Biblical hymns.  It is the best hymnal I am aware of.

2.) Two e-videos by David Cloud exposing CCM.  They are worth watching, and they are free.

3.) A link to Music Education Ministries, which has tremendous DVD material on music, put together by the pastor of a Baptist church in Australia that, before his conversion, was an accomplished secular musician.  Do you want to know exactly what makes some music worldly, and other music acceptable, in its beat pattern, style, etc.?  What exactly are the features that make CCM sound different from every single hymn in a classic Baptist or Protestant hymnal? Learn the details with these DVD presentations.  The pastor is also an adjunct professor working with the music curriculum at the Sydney Baptist Bible College.

Are you excited that these works are all available free? Does it make you merry?  "Is any merry? Let him sing psalms" (James 5:13).  How can you do that?  Download a free psalter in the "Ecclesiology" section, right now, here.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

When An Exegetical Fallacy Becomes a Translation and then a Philosophy

Before I get to my post, I reiterate that I'm going to do a series before the election on how I'm going to vote and why.  Bobby Mitchell's good church in Brunswick, ME has a new website, thought I'd share that with you.  He's got lots of good stuff to read and listen to. I noticed he had this sermon posted that I preached at a preaching conference at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in St. Claire, MO this last April.  It could be helpful.  Now to the post.


The Greeks rejected bodily resurrection and their thinking prevailed throughout their society.  The members of the church at Corinth were under the influence of Greek philosophy.  Saying that you believed in bodily resurrection would make you a laughing stock in the trade unions, threatening your employment, so the Corinthian church members were denying the resurrection.   Paul wrote to correct this error in 1 Corinthians 15 and the key verse of the chapter is v. 12:

Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?

This verse comes at the end of the first three arguments against the Corinthian denial of bodily resurrection and restates the theme of those arguments.  Why were they denying bodily resurrection when they all believed that Jesus had risen bodily from the dead, that the Old Testament said it ("Scripture"), and that there was proof that He had in fact risen bodily?  And they had to believe that or Paul wouldn't be writing to them, because they wouldn't be saved, and, therefore, members of the church there.  He was writing to people who had believed in bodily resurrection when he was in Corinth earlier for eighteen months.  The first thing he preached to them, and they all believed, was the bodily resurrection, as Paul expresses in vv. 1-4:

1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; 2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. 3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures

The first thing that Paul preached to them was that Christ died, was buried, and that He rose bodily.  The very first thing when he came into Corinth!

OK.  That's how the words "first of all" fit into the context of chapter 15.  For hundreds of years, the English speaking people read "first of all," and thought, "first in order."  That's the normal meaning of the Greek word protois.  It can also mean "first in importance," but that is a much rarer meaning and it doesn't fit naturally into this context.  The way it fits into the context is that the first thing they believed was the bodily resurrection.   They all had to believe that in order to be saved, so why is it such a big deal to believe in your own bodily resurrection, since you already believed that first?!?

That's how Calvin himself took it in his commentary, that it came first of all, "as it is wont to be with a foundation in the erecting of a house."  The foundation goes down first in order, as would the gospel message to people who were not yet saved.   Lange says that "his meaning is. . . .  that gospel which I preached unto you at the beginning."  He references Chrysostom as saying, "in the order of time."  If there is a sense of importance at all, it is explained as foundational teaching.  The two words en protois, translated, "first of all," can mean "among the first," that is, "among the first things that I delivered unto you."  Spurgeon wrote in his exposition:

That is the whole of the gospel. He who perfectly understands that, understands the first principles; he has commenced aright. This is the starting point if we wish to learn the truth.

Exactly.  Thomas Charles Edwards in 1886 wrote concerning en protois ("first of all"):

[N]ot "among' the chief doctrines," nor "from the first," but "among the things to be stated first." The facts are the foundation, the " prima fidei capita."

Tyndale in the first English translation of the New Testament, started verse 3 with "So first of all."  In Plato's Republic, which preceded chronologically the New Testament, he used these exact two words, en protois, to speak of the psyche as being among the first things that came into being.  His theology was wrong, but he showed that en protois was used as "first in order," not "in importance."  Chrysostom, who penned a commentary on Corinthians in his lifetime (347-407), wrote the following:

But what is this, "For I delivered unto you first of all? " for that is his word. "In the beginning, not now."

Alright.  "First of all" doesn't read "first importance."  It isn't how Plato used it.  It isn't how Tyndale translated it.  It isn't how the earliest commentary reference reads it.  It isn't how a majority of Christians read it for hundreds of years from the King James Version.

Today's evangelicals and fundamentalists have taken en protois and this new meaning of "of first importance" and used it as a basis for ranking doctrines.  They changed the translation and meaning of en protois in the modern versions.  I read it recently used in a discussion, to defend a doctrinal reductionism as a basis for separating only over very minimal beliefs, certain fundamentals.  In my opinion, the one with the most influence over this thinking is the author of Exegetical Fallacies himself, D. A. Carson, who as a head of the Gospel Coalition asserts en protois as a basis for making the gospel the essential for fellowship.  Paul meant nothing of the kind with what he wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:3.

A new philosophy, an unscriptural one, uses 1 Corinthians 15:3 as to justify it.  Here Paul was wanting to stop the denial of bodily resurrection and instead he's pushed into teaching doctrinal minimalism.  "First importance" has become the cry of the alliances, the coalitions, the ecumenists, all those who wish to disregard everything but a few doctrines in order to get together and get along.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Ambiguity and Utility: Fundamentals of Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism

To keep evangelical and fundamentalist alliances, beliefs must be rendered ambiguous.  In the consideration of what is certain, decisions are made based on utilitarian means.  Ambiguity and utility are new doctrines.  Scripture doesn't teach them.  You won't find them in the history of Christian doctrine, but today they have become necessities.

The Bible reveals certainty and surety.  Faith is sure.  We practice based on conviction, not what will work or feels the best.  No utilitarian test applies to what God said.  We just do it, and even if He slays us, as Job said, we still trust Him.

Ambiguity and utility aren't in God's Word, but they have become chief virtues of fundamentalism and evangelicalism.  Ambiguity means humility, what is called epistemological humility.  No one likes a know it all.  Then utility means you're smart, you're wise.  It doesn't really.  But now it does.  Utility means fruitfulness.  It worked, therefore, you're fruitful.  Not really, but now it does mean that. Ambiguity means that I can't know, therefore, I can't expect everyone to be just like me, so I overlook differences in belief.  This is supposedly humble.

Utility relates to what will work for me.  Theologically, it means going to heaven.  That's most important, because it's the most important thing for me personally, so it is the indispensable doctrine.  Practically, it means what will make for an easier life, one in which you can still go to heaven, and yet you get along with the world (you don't stick out too much), plus you grow numerically (you're popular) because you dropped the things that the world especially doesn't like.  Again, you're smart.  People who don't do this must be stupid.  They won't be popular, will not get as big, and will have a more difficult life.  Anyone who goes ahead and does that, who doesn't really have to, must be stupid.

So I present to you the evangelical and fundamental doctrines of ambiguity and utility:  fundamentals of the faith.  You won't find these doctrines in history and they are still being developed, argued for, in contemporary theology.

Scripture and historical theology teach a perfect Bible, the preservation of the same words and letters in the original languages as the original manuscripts.  And now that is actually an acceptable position to believe, as long as several other positions are also acceptable.  You can take a perfect preservation position, if you are willing to tolerate several other positions:  critical text, eclectic text, majority text etc.  In other words, your position must allow ambiguity, whatever it is.  If you do, you're fine.  Utility comes in here as well.  Men want a bible that is easier to read with a contemporary flavor and tone, and not just one of them, but several.  They necessitate multiple versions, any of which are acceptable, to choose for whatever context one needs one of them.   The more versions allowable, the bigger the coalition---this is also the utility.  And then there is the utility of scholarship, providing greater opportunity among more and diverse academic settings.  The intolerable position is one position.  Scripture and historical theology say one Bible in fitting with one God and that is the one position that is unacceptable today in evangelicalism and fundamentalism.  You're not just wrong if you believe this---you're a joke to them.  Ambiguity and utility reign.

If the source of authority for every doctrine becomes ambiguous, then it is no wonder that the doctrines derived from that source will also be ambiguous.  In almost every doctrine, several options must be accepted.  Even some of the so-called fundamentals of the faith welcome nuance.  Finally we get a Jesus, who is adaptable to your worship, your lifestyle, your aesthetics, and your preferences.  He becomes the canvass on which you can project the Jesus appropriate to your needs.

Ambiguity and utility are welcome and friendly, seldom hostile and exclusive, with the rare exception of intolerance.  Intolerance will anger ambiguity and utility.  The fundamental is being violated.  The biggest reaction is reserved for an occasion of clarity and conviction.  Ambiguity and utility must be preserved.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Repentance Defended Against Antinomian Heresy: A Brief Defense of the Indubitable Biblical Fact that Repentance is a Change of Mind that Always Results in a Change of Action, part 4

Appendix:  The RAC Position as Historic Baptist Doctrine

The testimony of all of Baptist history favors the fact that repentance is a change of mind that always results in a change of action (the RAC).  The RNC doctrine that repentance may not always result in a change has infiltrated Baptist churches largely as a result of the replacement of Biblical evangelism[i] with carnal techniques of salesmanship and marketing techniques, very inappropriately called “soulwinning,” that have led to only a tiny percentage of those who are “saved” ever showing evidence of the new birth in their lives (2 Corinthians 5:17).[ii]  The quotes below, reproduced from pgs. 64-69 of the fine book Repentance and Soul Winning by David Cloud,[iii] are only representative of historic Baptist confession of the RAC.  While certain antinomians outside of true churches held the RNC heresy in earlier times, the view that repentance only potentially results in a change of action is absent from Baptist confessional and doctrinal life until very recently, since God in His great mercy has kept His churches from falling into and adopting this dangerous heresy. 

 “Unfeigned repentance is an inward and true sorrow of heart for sin, with sincere confession of the same to God, especially that we have offended so gracious a God and so loving a Father, together with a settled purpose of heart and a careful endeavor to leave all our sins, and to live a more holy and sanctified life according to all God’s commands” (The Orthodox Creed, Baptist, 1679).

“This saving repentance is an evangelical grace, whereby a person, being by the Holy Spirit made sensible of the manifold evils of his sin, doth, by faith in Christ, humble himself for it with godly sorrow, detestation of it, and self-abhorrency; praying for pardon and strength of grace, with a purpose and endeavor by supplies of the Spirit to walk before God unto all well-pleasing in all things” (Philadelphia Confession of Faith, Baptist, 1742).

“Repentance is an evangelical grace, wherein a person being, by the Holy Spirit, made sensible of the manifold evil of his sin, humbleth himself for it, with godly sorrow, detestation of it, and self-abhorrence, with a purpose and endeavor to walk before God so as to please Him in all things” (Abstract of Principles, Southern Baptist Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky, 1859).

Just now some professedly Christian teachers are misleading many by saying that ‘repentance is only a change of mind.’ It is true that the original word does convey the idea of a change of mind; but the whole teaching of Scripture concerning the repentance which is not to be repented of is that it is a much more radical and complete change than is implied by our common phrase about changing one’s mind. The repentance that does not include sincere sorrow for sin is not the saving grace that is wrought by the Holy Spirit. God-given repentance makes men grieve in their inmost souls over the sin they have committed, and works in them a gracious hatred of evil in every shape and form. We cannot find a better definition of repentance than the one many of us learned at our mother’s knee: ‘Repentance is to leave the sin we loved before, and show that we in earnest grieve by doing so no more’” (Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “The Royal Saviour,” Metropolitan Tabernacle, London, England, Feb. 1, 1872).

[R]epentance … is a turning from sin, a loathing of it; and if thou hast that, thou hast sure repentance; but not else. Repentance is also a sense of shame for having lived in it, and a longing to avoid it. It is a change of the mind with regard to sin—a turning of the man right round. That is what it is; and it is wrought in us by the grace of God. Let none therefore mistake what true repentance is” (Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “Mistaken Notions about Repentance,” Metropolitan Tabernacle, London, England, April 20, 1879).

“Repentance is a change of mind or purpose. Until a man repents he commonly feels comfortable about himself and his ways; but when the Saviour, through the Spirit, gives him repentance, he changes his mind about himself, and seeing nothing good in his heart or in his works, his whole soul cries out, “Lord, be merciful to me a sinner” (Lk. 18:13)” (William Cathcart, The Baptist Encyclopedia, 1881).

Repentance and the firstfruits of repentance [baptism and other steps of discipleship mentioned in Acts 2:38-42] were generally inseparable. The former could not be genuine without manifesting itself in the latter. And in the circumstances of that day a willingness to be baptized was no slight evidence of a new heart” (Horatio Hackett, Commentary on Acts, American Baptist Publication Society, 1882).

“To repent, then, as a religious term of the New Testament, is to change the mind, thought, purpose, as regards sin and the service of God—a change naturally accompanied by deep sorrow for past sin, and naturally leading to a change of the outward life” (John A. Broadus, An American Commentary on the New Testament, Matthew, 1886).

 “The preacher who leaves out repentance commits as grave a sin as the one who leaves out faith. I mean he must preach repentance just as often, and with as much emphasis, and to as many people as he preaches faith. To omit repentance, to ignore it, to depreciate it, is rebellion and treason. Mark its relative importance: You may make a mistake about baptism and be saved, for baptism is not essential to salvation. You may be a Christian and not comprehend fully the high-priesthood of Jesus Christ (Heb. 5:11), but “Except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish.” So said the Master Himself. Repentance is a preparatory work. For thus saith the Lord: “Break up your fallow ground and sow not among thorns.” I submit before God, who will judge the quick and the dead, that to preach faith without repentance is to sow among thorns. No harvest can be gathered from an unplowed field. The fallow ground needs to be broken up. The most striking instance on record of repentance as a preparatory work was the ministry of John the Baptist. He was sent “to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” He did it by preaching repentance, and Mark says his preaching was “the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Here is the true starting point. Whoever starts this side of repentance makes a false beginning which vitiates his whole Christian profession. When true repentance was preached and emphasized, there were not so many nominal professors of religion. TO LEAVE OUT OR MINIMIZE REPENTANCE, NO MATTER WHAT SORT OF A FAITH YOU PREACH, IS TO PREPARE A GENERATION OF PROFESSORS WHO ARE SUCH IN NAME ONLY. I give it as my deliberate conviction, founded on twenty-five years of ministerial observation, that the Christian profession of today owes its lack of vital godliness, its want of practical piety, its absence from the prayer meeting, its miserable semblance of missionary life, very largely to the fact that old-fashioned repentance is so little preached. You can’t put a big house on a little foundation. And no small part of such preaching comes from a class of modern evangelists who desiring more for their own glory to count a great number of converts than to lay deep foundations, reduce the conditions of salvation by one-half and make the other half but some intellectual trick of the mind rather than a radical spiritual change of the heart. Like Simon Magus, they believe indeed, but “their heart not being right in the sight of God, they have no part nor lot in this matter. They are yet in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” Such converts know but little and care less about a system of doctrine. They are prayerless, lifeless, and to all steady church work reprobate” (B.H. Carroll, Baptist, Repentance and Remission of Sins, 1889).

Repentance being, as it is, an inward change of purpose resulting in an outward change of life, cannot be performed by one person for another. Repentance is a turning from a life of self and sin to a life of submission and obedience to God’s will. Repentance, as used in the New Testament, means a change of mind, but it is a word of moral significance and does not mean merely a change of opinion. Such a change often takes place without repentance in the New Testament sense. The will is necessarily and directly involved, as well as the emotions, but in scriptural repentance there is a change of mind with reference to sin, a sorrow for sin and a turning from sin. Repentance means sins perceived, sins abhorred and sins abandoned. This change is wrought by the power of God through the Holy Spirit, the word of truth being used as a means to convict the sinner of sin and lead him to forsake it and to resolve henceforth to walk before God in all truth and uprightness” (W.D. Nowlin, Baptist Fundamentals of the Faith, c. 1897).

“The New Testament emphasizes repentance and faith as fundamental conditions of salvation. Repentance is a change of mind toward sin and God, and a change of will in relation to sin and God. Repentance is not merely sorrow. It is rather godly sorrow which turns away from all wrong doing and enters upon a life of obedience. Faith is belief of God’s Word concerning his Son, and trust in his Son for salvation” (E. Y. Mullins, DD., LL.D., Late President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY, published by The Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, 1920).

“We believe that repentance and faith are sacred duties, and also inseparable graces, wrought in our souls by the regenerating Spirit of God; whereby being deeply convinced of our guilt, danger, and helplessness, and of the way of salvation by Christ, we turn to God with unfeigned contrition, confession, and supplication for mercy; at the same time heartily receiving the Lord Jesus Christ as our Prophet, Priest and King and relying on him alone as the only and all-sufficient Saviour” (Baptist Faith and Message, Southern Baptist Convention, 1925).

“To repent literally means to have a change of mind or spirit toward God and toward sin. It means to turn from your sins, earnestly, with all your heart, and trust in Jesus Christ to save you. You can see, then, how the man who believes in Christ repents and the man who repents believes in Christ. The jailer repented when he turned from sin to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ” (John R. Rice, What Must I Do to Be Saved? 1940).

“We believe that Repentance and Faith are solemn obligations, and also inseparable graces, wrought in our souls by the quickening Spirit of God; thereby, being deeply convicted of our guilt, danger and helplessness, and of the way of salvation by Christ, we turn to God with unfeigned contrition, confession and supplication for mercy at the same time heartily receiving the Lord Jesus Christ and openly confessing Him as our only and all-sufficient Saviour” (Baptist Bible Fellowship, Articles of Faith, 1950).

“Repentance is a godly sorrow for sin. Repentance is a forsaking of sin. Real repentance is putting your trust in Jesus Christ so you will not live like that anymore. Repentance is permanent. It is a lifelong and an eternity-long experience. You will never love the devil again once you repent. You will never flirt with the devil as the habit of your life again once you get saved. You will never be happy living in sin; it will never satisfy; and the husks of the world will never fill your longing and hungering in your soul. Repentance is something a lot bigger than a lot of people think. It is absolutely essential if you go to heaven” (Lester Roloff, Repent or Perish, 1950s).

“Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace. Repentance is a genuine turning from sin toward God. Faith is the acceptance of Jesus Christ and commitment of the entire personality to Him as Lord and Savior” (Baptist Faith and Message, Southern Baptist Convention, 1963).

“What do I mean by repent? I mean to turn your heart from your sin. Turn from sin in your heart and start out to live for God. … A penitent heart that turns from your sin and turns to Jesus” (John R. Rice, “Repent or Perish,” Sword of the Lord, March 3, 1971).

A Baptist church that renounces the RAC for the RNC heresy should cease to call itself Baptist.  A Baptist pastor who adopts the RNC heresy should voluntarily resign from his position, and be barred from the pulpit, removed by his congregation from his office, and placed under church discipline if he refuses to leave voluntarily.  Baptist church members who adopt the RNC, and who refuse to repent of it after being instructed and admonished, should be removed from church membership and placed under church discipline.  Corruption of the gospel has awful eternal consequences (Galatians 1:8-9), and since “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (Galatians 5:9), all such leaven of false teaching must be kept from entering into the church and immediately purged out if it enters (1 Corinthians 5:6-7).

You are encouraged to use the comment section here for thoughts related to this post.  Also, please feel free to use the comment section in the post immediately below this one to supply further quotes that the RAC is historic Baptist doctrine.  Please provide clear documentation for your quotations, so that someone who wished to do so could verify your references.  You can use the post below the one with further quotes documenting the historic Baptist doctrine on repentance to provide quotes from men that have been infected with the RNC heresy that still call themselves Baptists.  Once again, please provide clear documentation for your quotations.


[i] For an exegetical study of Biblical methods of evangelism, see “The Biblical Mandate for House to House Evangelism” at

[ii] David Cloud, on pgs. 37-40 of Repentance and Soulwinning, notes:
It is obvious that fundamental Baptists have traditionally defined repentance as a radical change of mind that results in a change of life. They have defined it as turning to God from sin and idolatry. . . . [T]he change in the definition of repentance among some fundamental Baptists is the product of the change in evangelism methodology that has spread widely throughout fundamental Baptist circles. It is a justification for an unscriptural, manipulative, man-centered, pressurized, numbers-oriented methodology of soul winning that is more akin to salesmanship than to anything we see in the New Testament. If a man boasts that thousands are getting saved when only a tiny percentage of them demonstrate any evidence of regeneration, it is not surprising that he would want to redefine repentance to mean a mere change of mind without any necessary change of life.
The late Jack Hyles said that repentance as defined traditionally (as a change of mind in relation to God and sin so radical that it results in a change of life) is one of the enemies of soul winning. He redefined repentance to mean a mere change from unbelief to belief.
The late Curtis Hutson, who assumed the editorship of the Sword of the Lord following the death of its founder, John R. Rice, boldly claimed in 1986 that repentance is not to turn from sin and is not a change of mind that leads to a change of action.
These two men have had a vast influence on the thinking of fundamental Baptists in the matter of repentance. Most others who have changed the traditional biblical definition of repentance have done so upon the “authority” of these two men.
How did Dr. Hyles and Dr. Hutson get to that point in their thinking? . . . By changing the doctrine of repentance and by calling the old doctrine of repentance the “enemy of soul winning,” . . . Dr. Hyles was acknowledging that a biblical understanding of repentance got in the way of his methodology. The old doctrine of repentance is not the enemy of biblical soul winning; it is the enemy of the Jack Hyles type soul winning.
A traditional biblical understanding of repentance does not allow a man to claim that thousands of sinners are being saved when most of them show no evidence of regeneration. A traditional biblical understanding of repentance does not allow a man to count a mere sinner’s prayer as salvation. It is one thing to say that 100 or 1,000 people prayed a prayer; it is another thing to say that those people are saved. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). . . . The idea that you cannot tell if someone is saved is unscriptural nonsense. It is possible, of course, for a person to show false signs of salvation and to deceive those who observe him, as Judas did the other apostles; but on the other hand, if someone is genuinely saved, there will definitely be some evidence of it in his or her life. Profession is not the same as possession. “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate” (Titus 1:16).

[iii] Repentance and Soul Winning, David W. Cloud.  Port Huron, MI:  Way of Life, 2008 (5th ed.).