Monthly Archives: July 2010

Luther on why it is foolish to play “sola fide” against the necessity of baptism

But our know-it-alls, the new spirit people, claim that faith alone saves and that human works and outward forms contribute nothing to this. We answer: It is of course true that nothing in us does it except faith, as we shall hear later. But these blind leaders of the blind refuse to see that faith must have something in which it believes, that is, something it clings to, something on which to plant its feet and into which to sink its roots. Thus faith clings to the water and believes Baptism to be something in which there is pure salvation and life, not through the water, as I have emphasized often enough, but because God’s name is joined to it…. If follows from this that whoever rejects Baptism rejects God’s word, faith, and the Christ who directs us to Baptism and binds us to it (Larger Catechism, 1978, pp. 101-102).

If Luther actually doubted the salvation of infants or miscarried children who died before they were baptized, or of converts who died before baptism, I would say that his views are problematic. However, his explanation quoted above does not necessitate such superstitious fears, takes the Biblical data seriously, and shows how baptism fits in Protestant soteriology.

God says that baptism signifies his promise, “I will be your God and you will be my people.” Believing what God says is not superstition or works-salvation, but simply faith.  It is the only rational alternative to insisting on salvation by new revelations. If God does not reveal himself and His son in Word and Sacrament, then why even have sacraments, the Bible, or preaching?

Luther’s statement reminds me of the great Reformed theologian, Francis Turretin, who wrote:

Although the sacraments are external means and instruments applying (on the part of God) the promise of grace and justification, this does not hinder faith from being called the internal instrument and means on the part of man for receiving this benefit offered in the word and sealed by the sacraments [16.7.20].

The question is not whether faith alone justifies to the exclusion either of the grace of God or the righteousness of Christ or the word and sacraments (by which the blessing of justification is presented and sealed to us on the part of God), which we maintain are necessarily required here; but only to the exclusion of every other virtue and habit on our part…. For all these as they are mutually subordinated in a different class of cause, consist with each other in the highest degree [16.8.5].

Similar observations on Romans

While I don’t interact there, someone has pointed out a couple of blog entries that dovetail with stuff I’ve been writing on Romans. Since I plan to write more on this, I’m using this as an open bookmark with all my other thoughts as I’ve posted here.

For example: Are the actual Gentiles who are more righteous than Jews relevant to Romans 2?

Mark 2.13-17 Reformed version

13 He went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them. 14 And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.

15 And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “These people all completely agree with the Heidelburg Catechism. So they meet the conditions for my fellowship.”

Charles Hodge on Church Membership

The principles of Church communion are so clearly laid down in Scripture, and so distinctly stated in our Standards, that whenever we see such inquiries as above presented, we take it for granted that they come from Congregationalists, who think, in many cases, each particular parish Church may establish its own terms of communion, or from some other source, foreign to our own Church. Knowledge to discern the Lord’s body, faith to feed upon him, repentance, love, and new obedience, are the only conditions of Christian communion which any church on earth has a right to impose. The Lord’s table is for the Lord’s people–and we commit a great sin, if we presume to debar any man, giving credible evidence of being a child of God, from our Christian fellowship. All imposition of other terms, whether relating to unessential doctrines, to slavery, temperance, hymnology, or anything else, is setting ourselves above God in his own house; and that is the vital germ of antichrist.

…It is included in the acknowledgment that a body of Christians is a Church of Christ, that we should commune with its members in public worship and in the sacraments and allow them to commune with us. This follows from the spiritual unity of the Church; from its having the same faith and the same Lord and God, and from the conditions of Church membership being the same for all Churches. A member of the Church at Jerusalem was entitled to the privileges of the Church of Antioch. If he was a Christian in one place, he was no less a Christian in another, and the rights of a Christian belonged to him wherever he went. It is obvious that this principle, although true in itself, is limited in its practical application. There may be something in the mode of conducting public worship or in the administration of the sacraments that hurts the consciences of other Christians, and prevents this freedom of communion in Church ordinances. If a Church requires all who partake of the Lord’s Supper to receive the elements upon their knees, should any man conscientiously believe that this posture implies the worship of the consecrated bread, he cannot join in the service; or if a Church is so unfaithful as to admit to its fellowship those whom the law of Christ requires should be excluded, other Churches are not bound to receive them into fellowship. These and similar limitations do not invalidate the principle. It remains the plain duty of all Christian Churches to recognize each other as Churches, and hold intercourse one with another as such. And it is also their duty too make nothing essential, either to the existence of the Church or to Church fellowship, which the word of God does not declare to be essential.

Peter Lillback on Calvin and the Covenant

ALTHOUGH many baptistic theologians drink deeply from the well of Calvin’s theology, his doctrine of infant baptism is deemed to be at best unpalatable, at worst poisonous. It is considered one of the unfortunate carryovers of Romish doctrine in the Reformers’ thought. Consequently, the baptists and those who hold a baptistic view of baptism see themselves as the completion of [p. 186] the Reformation begun by Luther and advanced by Calvin. Calvinistic Baptists believe that no great injustice is done to Calvin’s [p. 187] system by discarding this one doctrine. It is normally thought that Calvin’s penetrating insights into the doctrine of Scripture, the mediatorial work of Christ, justification, and eternal life are entirely independent of the baptism question. While this attitude is understandable, it raises the important question of whether Calvin himself perceived the significance of baptism in such a narrow and independent fashion.

Fortunately, Calvin’s conception of the relationship of baptism to other important doctrines of Scripture is not difficult to ascertain. The reason for this is found in his very detailed and lengthy response to the theology that developed from the Radical Reformers. In a passage from his discussion of infant baptism, Calvin assails the Anabaptists and others of similar conviction by claiming that their rejection of the equation of infant baptism and circumcision results in a horrible corruption of Scripture.

Read the rest: Calvin’s Covenantal Response to the Anabaptist View of Baptism.

Thanks to Scott Moonen for making this available

Review of City of Bones: stay away

City of Bones (Mortal Instruments, #1)City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I’m giving this two stars because it did have an interesting alternative world. I got about 2/3 or 3/4 through it and gave up when the girl kissed the bad boy. This is teen-girl-lit except I wouldn’t encourage any teen girl to read it. The descriptions of skin, jaws, eye-lashes, bred like maggots throughout the text.

And the similes! Who will save us from drowning in them? I can’t remember any thing or event in the book which wasn’t described as “like” “like” “like” x 50 billion something else. When I heard a sentence on how he or she “deflated like a balloon pricked with a pin,” I began striking my forehead with my fists, repeatedly, like a pinata with a layer of bone around the thick oozing candy.

And every single character who describes anything to anyone else also abounds in using the similes as well!

The combat scenes seemed bizarre because things that should have happened fast somehow allow for shouted warnings and elaborate evasions.

Hearing the story read put me in mind of Saturday morning cartoons like Super Friends. That struck me as an apt embodiment of the writing. Only with more boy crushes.

As a Christian, I didn’t approve of the pluralistic, agnostic stuff that coated the otherwise medieval urban fantasy. This did not offend me however since I didn’t expect anything else. I did not with satisfaction that for all the talk about how a mosque or synagogue would work just as well, readers got to tour a Roman Catholic Church to get weapons to fight against vampires.

By the way, vampires and werewolves as enemies is getting really old. And vampires are getting even older. I was glad that much of the story centered on demons rather than these other two.

To end this back on an positive note, I did think the actual story, as far as I got through it, was an interesting plotline.

View all my reviews >>

Shamelessly pointing out my usefulness (defense of N. T. Wright)

Wright makes better sense of Romans 4 than his detractors. The typical old perspective reading has Paul use Abraham as a subtopic in proving his thesis that humanity can only be made right with God by faith in Christ. Wright sees Romans 4 as an explanation of the Abrahamic covenant which is essential to God’s one plan to deal with sin through Israel. Wright’s reading is superior to the OPP because the OPP reading sees Abraham’s ungodliness relating to an ethical deficiency. However, Paul quotes Psalm 32, where David asks for forgiveness and yet identifies himself as godly. It is more likely that godly = being a Gentile. This makes sense of verse 10 and also the way that Abraham is described in the book of Hebrews and Genesis. It is interesting to note that the phrase “counted it to him as righteousness” is not only mentioned in Genesis 15:6 but also in Psalm 106:30-31 in reference to Phinehas. Phinehas was a circumcised believer who in his zeal for the covenant, slew a Gentile and a compromised Jew for unlawful intercourse. He was a Jewish covenantal hero. Paul is saying that Abraham has the same status as Phinehas – they are both faithful covenant members. Paul also mentions the justification of David. In order to understand this we need to see what Paul has said in Romans 2:25 that for the disobedient, circumcision becomes uncircumcision. David has put himself outside the covenant through his seduction of Bathsheba and his murder of Uriah. But God can bring him back in through faith. Mark Horne says it best: “And Paul’s whole argument has been that Israel is corporately apostate and thus no different than the nations. Rather, Israel with the whole world is weak and ungodly (in the full sense of that word), and it was precisely at that moment that Christ died for us (“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”) (HT = Mark Horne.)

Read the whole thing: Why Wright is Right « City of God.

Great idea that I would love to see actually put into practice from Covenant Life Church on Vimeo.

N. T. Wright has really helped me see how the Christian life in Paul’s letters is all about “theology proper.” Who God is means something essential about who we are.

This was a great video. My only worry is that it is used to vindicate some rather dry and lifeless stuff–it can be used in a kind of bait and switch. You see this great video and it motivates you to go to a church or attend a class that trains you to be a first class Pharisee.  A vision of life pulls you into a community of arrogance and self-exalting slogans that you are proud to own because others don’t.

That’s not the video’s fault; just something I’ve grown to be worried about.