Saturday, November 27, 2004

Wilson on Waters 

Doug Wilson gives his thoughts on Guy Waters' Justification and the New Perspectives on Paul. On the whole, Wilson is quite favourable in his treatment of Waters. I would be interested to hear what others have made of Waters' book. I have yet to obtain a copy of it (although I have ordered one, along with the second volume of Justification and Variegated Nomism). I have found Wilson's treatment of Wright in the past dissatisfying on a number of counts. In his post Wilson says that his doctrinal sympathies lie more with Gaffin than with Wright. Great as Gaffin is, given the choice I would have to go with Wright. I believe that Gaffin, despite all his fantastic work on such subjects as the resurrection, gives insufficient attention to the ecclesial dimension of salvation. I find Gaffin's critique of the New Perspective ill-informed and unpersuasive. I believe that if he had given more attention to what Wright has actually said on the subject of imputation, he would realize that Wright's position is not that far removed from his own. Gaffin also challenges Dunn's refusal to read double predestination of individuals in Romans 9:14-23. I am with Ridderbos with respect to the correct treatment of Romans 9 and don't believe that a doctrine of double predestination of individuals (as this doctrine is commonly understood) is the point of the passage. I find the whole doctrine of double predestination problematic as it seems to imply that there is some more fundamental expression of the divine will than that which is expressed in the Man Christ Jesus (do I hear Lutherans muttering 'extra-Calvinisticum'...?). If double predestination, as it has been taught by many within the Reformed tradition, is really biblical then looking to Christ for assurance of my election becomes a real problem. We return to a merely formal doctrine of election, with Christ as its executor, rather than as its content. I am not prepared to do this.

Leithart on White 

These criticisms of James White's The God Who Justifies are bang on target.

Scriptural Use Of "Justification"

White on NT

Friday, November 26, 2004

This bugs me... 

As a Christian man, I often find it hard to identify with the form of piety that many evangelical churches try to inculcate. Much of the time it just doesn’t seem to connect with me. This is not to say that I am impious; rather, the form of piety that I aspire to is, in many respects, far removed from the form of piety promoted in the average evangelical church. I believe that one of the best places to go in order to gauge the form of piety promoted by a particular church is to the hymnal. As I look through the hymns and choruses sung by most evangelical churches it seems to me that the majority of the songs that are sung play on a form of piety where the predominant focus on one’s personal love-relationship with Jesus. The emphasis on one’s personal love-relationship with Jesus can be expressed in increasingly eroticized forms. I confess to being revulsed by some of the more extreme forms that this can take. Singing about the ‘sweetness of Christ to my soul’ and my ‘melting to tears’ at the ‘kiss’ that God gives me at the cross to soft lilting tunes may have its place, but it seems to have far exceeded it in many evangelical churches. Perhaps I am just a spiritual diabetic, but such expressions often strike me as mawkish and saccharine sentimentalism and provoke a negative reaction in me. The cross was certainly an expression of God’s love. However, God’s love is not to be confused with the romantic love prized by our culture. For one, God’s love is a jealous love, a love of total unyielding commitment. Such a love is far removed from the fleeting flush of youthful passion. There is a tendency to subjectivize the cross and resurrection in many Christian circles. For some liberals the cross is reduced to little more than the toothless smile of a hand-wringing deity over the rotting corpse of the human race; god may be impotent, but at least he loves us. Evangelicals may rightly resist such gross aberrations. However, we are not immune from the general trend. The doctrine of the atonement propagated by many Arminian evangelicals is one which lacks any concrete issue until the autonomous individual chooses to accept Christ. The focus gradually shifts from the death of Christ in the first century AD to my personal response of love in the existential moment, from the bodily resurrection of Christ to the fact that ‘He lives within my heart’, from the historical ascension of Christ to the fact that I have enthroned Him in my life. The Christ proclaimed is often passive, whether in His mother’s arms, or on those of the cross. He is also largely passive in many evangelical understandings of salvation. The ‘punch lines’ of the resurrection and the ascension, so prominent in apostolic preaching, are considerably downplayed. The Lord’s Supper is recast as a ‘pity-party’, where we meditate on how terrible it must have been for Jesus. Rather than memorializing the cross as the great victory of Christ over the powers, we engage in morbid heart-searching. Christ is not present, giving us His flesh to eat; rather, Christ is at a distance. Look through the hymns on the death of Christ in most evangelical hymnals and you will observe that the focus is generally not upon the cross as the place of Christ’s glorious triumph over the forces of the old world order, but upon the cross as the place where Christ passively suffers as an expression of His personal love for me. The hymns are clearly crafted primarily to provoke an emotional heart response, in a manner that often seems to downplay such virtues as courageous and steadfast faithfulness. Of course, it is extremely important that we see the cross as the supreme expression of love. Nevertheless, God’s love is His unswerving commitment to His covenant people and purposes; such love calls for an answering commitment that is far more than mere emotion. I read my Bible and the teaching on the cross powerfully resonates with me. The cross is the place of love, but this love is not sentimentalized, romanticized or eroticized. God’s love is emotional, without giving an inch to a distasteful emotionalism. Our response of love should take the form of loyalty, faithful obedience and total self-giving commitment. The love of Christ calls us to obediently follow Him, not merely to cultivate a romantic love-relationship with Him. Having cast our relationship with Jesus as a personal love-relationship, rather than as a structured covenant commitment, faith is confused with affection. I have argued in the past that we should be far more prepared to challenge the definitions of ‘faith’ presupposed by many evangelicals. Faith should not be reduced to feelings in the heart. Faith carries the senses of allegiance, steadfastness and courageous faithfulness. Such virtues are far more public — and dare I say ‘masculine’ — than those commonly emphasized by evangelicals. If our relationship with Jesus is merely a personal and emotional love-relationship, informality will tend to be prized in worship. Considered liturgies with formal rites, set prayers, recitations of creeds and carefully structured services present faith as a far more public reality. It is important to recognize that these forms do not preclude emotion; rather, properly used, they serve to evoke, channel and shape emotion in various ways. However, they show that emotion is not the primary thing. The important role of the Lord’s service is not its ability to move and replenish my emotions. Rather, the Lord’s service is covenant renewal. I do not believe that being moved up emotionally is to be regarded as a sine qua non of true participation in the service of covenant renewal. Our relationship with God is not limited to the realm of emotions. If faith is really emotional at heart, teaching sermons and sermons that call people to steadfast commitment will be rejected in favour of sermons that whip up our emotions. Insubstantial sermons will be used with the clear purpose of stirring up people’s emotions, quite apart from any desire to bring them into a deeper knowledge of who Jesus Christ really is. Once the congregation are whipped up into a frenzy of emotion the preacher begins to use those emotions like a puppeteer. I have sat through such sermons in the past and have had the distinct impression that the preacher was trying to emotionally rape me. I have had my heart ‘moved’ and ‘warmed’ by many sermons that have brought me no closer to Jesus Christ. Such worship is all too often anthropocentric. We presume that our feeling good or having strong emotions is the same thing as worship. As Marva Dawn has observed, the correct response to someone’s complaint that they didn’t like a particular part of the service is to point the utter irrelevance of such an objection and respond: ‘so what, we weren’t worshipping you!’ How we feel about worship is not the be-all and end-all. Growing up in various evangelical youth groups, I encountered a form of faith that was often infantile, unwilling to progress beyond a gooey affection for Jesus. The intense focus on an emotional relationship and ‘asking Jesus into your heart’ led to a suspicion of theology and careful Bible study. Thought-provoking questions were often defused with trite and insubstantial platitudes. Peter Pan Christianity was the order of the day. The gospel had little to say about the real world. We were more concerned with going to spiritual Neverland when we died. I do not doubt for a moment that this experience has served to stunt my spiritual growth in a number of respects. I still struggle with its legacy in my life. The feminized and infantilized piety that predominates in many evangelical churches proclaims an effete Jesus and an insipid Christianity. The role of the pastor is seen primarily as that of stirring up the emotions of his congregation, thereby recharging their individual spiritual batteries, rather than that of acting as the symbol of the Bridegroom’s (and the Father’s) authority over the Bride and representing the Bride to the Father in the renewal of covenant. People live out of their own individual experience, rather than living out of Jesus Christ; people live out of their own individual bodies, rather than out of the body of Christ. An unqualified focus on unmediated emotional relationship with Christ often leads to the individual being identified as the Bride of Christ, rather than the Church. Marital fellowship with Christ is situated primarily in the individual soul, rather than in the Eucharistic assembly. Once such an understanding is generally accepted, the Church will soon become domesticated. The faith that is central to the Church’s life is no longer the public reality of the faith of Jesus Christ, which we are drawn into within the visible Church, but the personal ‘emotional’ faith that lodges in the bosom of the individual. The Church is removed from the public, communal and ecclesiastical sphere and resituated in the domestic, private and familial sphere. The Church becomes preoccupied with the internal realities of the human heart, to the neglect of the public sphere. A feminized and emasculated Church should not be surprised to find itself impotent. Many of the hymns that now dominate evangelical churches were formerly restricted to the domestic sphere (as Ann Douglas and James Jordan have pointed out). Only by means of the domestication of the Church itself could such hymns have taken root. When I look through the Psalter I am struck by how far removed its sentiments are from those of most of the sappy hymns and choruses sung by evangelicals. The piety expressed is one that no man should feel uncomfortable expressing. There are such things as imprecatory psalms (how often have you sung an imprecatory hymn?). I have no problem with hymns per se. However, I find many modern hymns and choruses puerile and pansified. I often find myself looking through evangelical hymnbooks in order to find hymns that adequately express the theological convictions and faith in Jesus Christ that I am held by. The few that I find were generally penned before the 18th century, most before the Reformation. Whilst evangelicals have written many great hymns, the individualistic piety of evangelicalism has afflicted the Church with countless hymns that have dangerously distorted the piety of the Church — hymns that do not belong outside of the context of the home (though many of them do not belong even there). Hymns shape our theology more than we realize. Evangelicalism’s focus on heaven over the resurrection of the dead and the new heavens and the new earth is largely a product of distorted and sentimentalized Victorian piety mediated by predominately female hymn writers. Individualistic evangelical piety has also lead to an attenuation of the doctrine of the Trinity, as the mediation of our worship is not given due attention. If we are to address the serious problems of misshapen piety within the evangelical Church, we must recover an understanding of the Church as the Church. This will, I believe, involve such harsh measures as banishing the hymns of Fanny Crosby and her ilk from the gathered assembly of God’s people and reinstating the singing of psalms as the backbone of our worship in song (I am not, however, psalm-singing only). Our worship services should begin to look more military-like and less informal (of course, formal and military worship can be incredibly lively). The casual and relaxed way in which many modern evangelicals approach Divine worship appals me. The lazy and infantile anti-intellectualism needs to be addressed. The necessity of masculinity (and not just men) in leadership needs to reasserted. I don’t think that I am the only person who feels this way about evangelical piety. I am sure that there are a number of thoughtful young men within evangelicalism who believe much the same as I do. If such issues are not addressed, such young men (who might well lead evangelical churches in the future) will quickly become disillusioned and believe that the feminized and infantilized piety of evangelicalism is an insult to their masculinity and that the evangelical church is really only for women and children. The piety of modern evangelicals seems so far removed from that of the apostles. I simply cannot imagine the apostle Paul going around telling people about the great plan that God has for their lives and wondering if they would like to ask Jesus into their hearts, because He really wants to be their friend. I don’t want a romantic love-relationship with Jesus; I want to learn how to be His disciple.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Peter Leithart is absolutely right: The Incredibles is great fun and has a refreshing moral thrust. Quite a change from some of the irritating political correctness that mars such films as Shark Tale and Shrek 2.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Events in Ukraine 

Keep up to date with breaking news on Le Sabot Post-Moderne.

Joel Garver on the Bible in the Middle Ages 

This is a must-read post.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Grudging Respect 

I can think of few other Test sides that could go on from 222 for 5 in response to 353 all out to achieve a victory of an innings and 156 runs. Quite impressive.

Friday, November 19, 2004

One almost feels sorry for him...

Thursday, November 18, 2004

This might be useful in the future.
This is deeply disturbing.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

I would love to go back to live there some time...

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Kevin Bush has done us all a huge service by making the following articles by N.T. Wright available on his website:—

The Letter to the Galatians: Exegesis and Theology

Paul and Caesar: A New Reading of Romans

Taking the Text with Her Pleasure

I have already read the articles (as I have the books) and they are worth reading.
Don't miss out on N.T. Wright's latest lecture on Romans 10. A big 'thank you!' to Kevin Bywater for making these lectures available.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Hebrews 6:1-8 

A while back I heard a very stimulating conference lecture on the subject of Hebrews 6. The speaker argued that Hebrews 6 is referring, not to Christians, or to secretly unregenerate individuals within the Christian church, but to the Israel of the writer's day. I found the argument very interesting and I believe that it makes a good deal of sense when read in such a redemptive historical manner, although there are a number of loose ends that need to be tied up. I have also seen a number of things that can be added to his argument to support it. There are clear suggestions in the passage that Jews are being referred to, not least in the reference to crucifying Christ again (v.6). Much of the thrust of the passage has to do with pressing on towards perfection. 'Perfection' is a recurring theme within Hebrews and generally carries a redemptive historical force (e.g. Hebrews 2:10; 5:9; 11:40). The people that the book of Hebrews is addressing should have already have become teachers, but they need to be taught again the stoichea and have not attained to the true knowledge of good and evil (5:12-14). There seems to be something of a redemptive historical dimension to this. The author of Hebrews wants to move beyond the very rudimentary teachings about Christ, teachings which barely remove the Hebrew Christians from non-believing Jews who live around them. Teaching about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment were hardly distinctively Christian. Indeed, one might well argue that the author is referring to OT teachings (cf. Hebrews 9:9-15). The author of Hebrews wishes to more clearly distinguish the faith of Christians from that of unbelieving Jews, something that he goes on to do in the following chapters. Verses 4-8 then refer to the unbelieving Jews of their generation. These Jews had been enlightened by the Person and ministry of Jesus Christ (e.g. John 3:19; 9:5; 12:46) and by the witness of the disciples. They had tasted the heavenly gift (e.g. John 3:16; 4:10). They had experienced the Holy Spirit in their midst and had been the beneficiaries of His ministry (Matthew 12:28). The Holy Spirit had been given to Israel at Pentecost and unbelieving Israel had rejected the work of the Spirit through the Church. They had the word of God preached to them in a manner that has been enjoyed by no other group of people. The Incarnate Son Himself spoke in their houses and in their fields. If any group of people had known the powerful deeds of the coming age, Israel had (cf. Hebrews 2:4). Many signs and wonders heralding the kingdom of God had been performed in their sight. Despite all these great privileges, that generation of Jews was one that fell away, stumbling at the stumbling stone of Jesus Christ and rejecting Him. Not only did they reject Christ the first time by crucifying Him; they also rejected Christ in His second visitation through the ministry of the early Church. Here I think of Luke Timothy Johnson's 'two visitation' hypothesis and the manner in which the sufferings of the early Church are described in a manner that is designed to draw our attention to the parallels with the suffering of Christ Himself (e.g. Acts 7:54-60; 12:3-19). These descriptions also seem to punctuate sections of the narrative and draw our attention to the final rejection of the apostolic witness by the Jews. The Jews of those days were putting the faithful Christians, and by extension Christ Himself, to an open shame and disgrace (e.g. Acts 5:41; Hebrews 13:13). Israel had received plentiful blessings but had rejected them, becoming, as a result, cursed by God (cf. Genesis 3:17-18). Israel had brought forth thorns and briers (cf. Isaiah 5:6) and had rejected the One who bore this curse on the land as a crown on His forehead. Israel according to the flesh was not going to be restored as God's special people again, but only had a 'fearful expectation of judgment and fiery indignation' (Hebrews 10:27) facing her. If this is a correct interpretation, it fits in very nicely with some of the interpretations of the parable of the Sower. N.T. Wright (in JVG pp.230ff.) and James Jordan (in 'Thoughts on Sovereign Grace and Regeneration') have argued for the possibility of a redemptive historical reading of the parable (though not to the exclusion of other readings). Prophecies of return from exile often talk about God's Word going out and being sown (e.g. Isaiah 55:10-13 — Wright gives many more OT verses in the footnotes of JVG p.232-3). Jesus compares His ministry to that of Isaiah (Matthew 13:14-15). Isaiah was ministering in a day when a vineyard full of briers and thorns faced the prospect of curse, exile and final burning (Isaiah 5-6). If Hebrews 6:7-8 refers particularly to the Jews of the first century, then we find another possible support for the argument that the reference to seeds falling among thorns refer to them too. Thoughts?

New Blog Links 

It has been a long time since I last updated the links on my blog. Today I finally got around to doing it. I have removed a few old blogs and added a number of new ones. One blog, Pontifications, has been exalted to the heady heights of Favourite Blogs status. Whilst I often find myself disagreeing with the Pontificator, I almost invariably find him stimulating. His regularity in posting, humour and writing style combine to form a blog of superior quality. Jeff Meyers has started a new blog, which I am now linking to instead of Corrigenda. I have also updated the link to Barb’s blog (yes, my links were that outdated!). A number of people have moved to new blogs. Having enjoyed the previous Solemnibus incarnation, I am sure that I will enjoy Aaron Stewart’s Solemnibus II in the future. There are a number of promising newcomers. Dennis Hou’s blog has quickly become part of my staple blog diet. A number of his posts are quite insightful. Do take a look. Joshua Gibbs new blog, Folding a Map, has some of the best writing that I have come across in the blogosphere. Those who want a break from the aridity of the writing style of bloggers such as yours truly will find welcome respite in the vibrant prose of Joshua’s blog. Other blogs that I have added include By Living Waters, Eleysium, Here We Stand, Irate Nate’s Weblog, La Sabot Post-Moderne, RatherNotBlog, The Confessing Reader, The Elepel, Unbeknown Paedobaptist, Upside Down Asylum, Chronicles of an Allotment, Engelandvaarders, Inklings from an Intern, Meam Commemorationem, Word of the Day, Skopos, Truth Becomes Lies, The Red Fire Hydrant and Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam. I have also added links to the following websites: CovenantRenewal.com, Regent Radio, VidLit and Homestarrunner.com.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

There are some interesting lectures here, that I may listen to at some time in the future. At the moment I am watching Stanley Hauerwas' lecture 'Reinhold Niebuhr and Public Theology' (see under March 25th 2004).

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

My keyboard has been temperamental since this incident; this afternoon it finally gave up the ghost. I now have to learn not to hit the 'insert' key when I'm trying to hit the 'delete' key. My e-mail has also been stubbornly refusing to send (although I can receive OK). This is annoying as I had a number of important messages that I was unable to send out. Over the last couple of weeks I have been quite exhausted and haven't blogged as much as I would like to. I have been thinking and reading, but I haven't felt inspired to write anything much. At present I am reading (among other things) The Cambridge Companion to Postmodern Theology and Virtues and Practices in the Christian Tradition, both of which I highly recommend. Yesterday afternoon I was asked if I would be able to speak at a local Christian Union at short notice. I will be speaking tomorrow evening on the subject of 'Jesus the Teacher'. There is so much that I would like to say on this subject, but I will only have a half hour. I imagine that the line that I will be taking on the subject will surprise many of the hearers. I will focus on the kingdom message of Christ and will seek to briefly explore some of the different patterns of teaching illustrated by the four gospels. The more I have looked through the gospels, the more intriguing their various emphases seem. It is also interesting to explore the manner in which Christ's teaching translates into that of the Church. One thing that I have wondered in the course of my extremely brief time in preparing this talk is how modern conceptions of the student-teacher relationship shape our understanding of Jesus' place as a teacher and our place as His disciples. Modern views of education seem to be very individualistic. One is separated from one's family and community and thrust into an artificial community, which all too often serves merely as a means to an end. Ultimately students play their role within the learning community almost solely for their own benefit. The idea of a learning, witness-bearing, prophetic community of disciples being an end in itself is not, therefore, really very natural to our modern way of thinking. I would like to spend more time thinking out some of the ways that this affects our thinking about the Church. I have also been giving occasional thoughts to the significance of circumcision in the biblical narrative. Circumcision, as it is practiced on the male sex organ, is a means by which God equips Abraham and his seed to fulfill the vocation of mankind to be fruitful and multiply in a manner that is dedicated to God. Circumcision is a means by which God puts sex back in its place. In one sense, circumcision is a sign of impotence, the circumcised are unable of themselves to bring forth the promised seed and must submit their sexual activity to God in order to be fruitful. The significance of circumcision needs to be understood against the background of the narrative of Genesis 16. Circumcision is performed by the head of the household upon all male members of the household. Circumcision is associated with paternity where Baptism is associated with filiation. However, when the true Seed comes, He comes apart from the initiation of any circumcised man. Baptism is not focused upon the male sex organ, because the focus is no longer upon the promise of seed, but upon being accounted as seed. Baptism is associated with new birth and regeneration, not with the appropriate posture that the man (who perceives himself as the initiator within sexual intercourse) should take towards the promise of future seed. I wonder whether we should pay more attention to such differences before aligning Baptism and circumcision too closely together. I have also been thinking about the place that Israel and the land play in this. Israel is often seen as feminine, as is the land. Indeed the earth and the land are often associated with the womb (Genesis 3:16-19; Job 1:21; Psalm 139:15). It seems that there are particular occasions when circumcision becomes very important. When entering into the promised land (Joshua 5) or sharing in the Passover (Exodus 12:48) are two occasions. Should we see some sexual symbolism here? I don't know. Zion is frequently portrayed in Scripture as a woman trying to bring forth seed. When the true Seed finally comes, His coming represents a triumph over the deadness of the womb of the virgin, just as His resurrection represents a triumph over the curse on the ground. I am sure that we should be seeing clear parallels between all of this and Isaac as the initial seed of promise. Israel's firstborn sons and heirs are dedicated to the Lord and are under a death threat if they are not circumcised (Israel as a whole is also dedicated to God as His firstborn son — Exodus 4:22-23). We see this, not only in Genesis 17:14 and in the Passover, but also in Moses' return to Egypt, where the Lord meets him to kill him (Exodus 4:24f.). It is either death or circumcision. Circumcision places Israel in a position of dedication that Christ later redeems them from. Circumcision is also a burden of vocation which is given to Abraham and his descendents, that is passed down like a baton until it finally rests upon Christ and is borne on the cross. Circumcision is all about sacrifice. Israel is cut off from the nations in order to finally perish for the sake of the world. This vocation finally falls upon Christ. Christ frees Israel from the burden of circumcision by bearing it Himself (Colossians 2:11). After His death as the Circumcised One, He is resurrected as the firstborn from the dead and heir of all. He fulfills the 'eighth day' hope of circumcision. For a Christian to become circumcised after Christ is to take on the dedicated status of Israel when there is no remaining sacrifice. It is to await a seed when the Seed has already come. As the Church we are now the true circumcision in Christ. Christ bore the burden of circumcision on the cross and in Him we can enter into the blessing of inheritance. Israel according to the flesh is now aligned with Cain, Ishmael and Esau. Each of these characters once stood as the seed, until the burden passed from them to someone else (Seth, Isaac and Jacob). Romans 9 teaches that God has always been sovereign in forming His people this way. Anyway, these are just some of the very loose and very incomplete thoughts that I have been having on this subject. I would be interested to hear other people's perspectives on this.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Plagiarizing Myself II 

Over the past month or so, I have engaged in a number of different discussions on the topic of Baptism. Here are a few of my comments, taken from various places (mostly from the Wrightsaid list) and dealing with a number of different dimensions of the debates about Baptism. As in my previous post, these are merely comments on the subject and should not be regarded as one whole treatment of Baptism. I have edited a number of my comments to make them more coherent and have also fleshed them out in various places. Much that I will say here covers ground that I have already covered many times elsewhere. If I had more time I would probably rephrase much that I have written below and edit much of it out. Much of it was written in a hurry and might need rethinking. Nevertheless, as I am lacking in both time and energy at the moment, I will post it all as it stands. Baptism and Regeneration One thing that has increasingly struck me in my own reading is that evangelicals and Reformed writers tend to blur regeneration and individual conversion. Whilst regeneration and conversion do bleed into each other in various ways, they should not be confused. Regeneration is not the same thing as conversion. Whilst individuals have been ‘individually converted’ throughout the biblical narrative, regeneration is essentially a redemptive historical blessing. Regeneration is known ‘in Christ’. Being ‘in Christ’ was not a reality experienced within the OT narrative. Being ‘in Christ’ is also inseparable from being a member of the one body in Christ (Romans 12:5). We come into this body by water Baptism. Regeneration is not primarily something that occurs within our individual life stories; rather, regeneration involves our being initiated into the life of Christ — an event the results in our individual life stories being graciously re-narrated in terms of the greater Story they now inhabit. Essentially the difference between these two positions is that one presents the new life of regeneration as something planted within and contained inside us and the other presents the new life of the Regeneration as something that we are implanted into and contained within. Regeneration, whilst it certainly expresses itself ‘inside’ us, is a reality that transcends mere individual religious experience. The unbaptized individual who has been brought to faith at some time during his life story, needs to be knit into the larger cosmic redemptive historical story by being baptized. Baptism actually changes the status of the baptizand by incorporating him into Jesus Christ in whom redemptive history has been consummated. The unbaptized infant of a believing home should be thought of as a believer. However, the unbaptized child has yet to truly be incorporated into God’s covenant history. This takes place into Baptism. The baptized individual is also continually re-incorporated into God’s covenant history through covenant renewal liturgy. The key passage that is usually taken to underlie the doctrine of regeneration is John 3. In John 3 the means by which we enter into the kingdom of God is by being ‘born again/from above’. The kingdom of God, however, is something that comes about through the ministry of Jesus Christ. For this reason I believe that it is important that we distinguish regeneration from God’s work of changing the heart. John the Baptist, who was filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb, is often given as an example of regeneration. Nevertheless, it seems clear from Matthew 11:11 that John the Baptist was not within the kingdom of heaven. I believe that we should reject the idea the John the Baptist was ‘regenerated’ (in the biblical sense of the word) altogether. In Matthew 11:11, John the Baptist is described as one who is among those 'born of women', but he was not, at least by implication, within the kingdom of heaven. I wonder whether, in this statement, Christ is drawing a contrast between natural generation (being 'born of women') and some presumed second birth of regeneration by which one enters into the eschatological kingdom of God. I believe that the manner in which Reformed systematic theology has traditionally employed terms like ‘regeneration’ is exceedingly unhelpful. Whilst some people might successfully preserve a distinction between the systematic theological sense of the word and the biblical sense of the word, most people conflate the two and end up confused. There has also been the tendency to impose an alien scheme of reference onto the text of Scripture, as if Scripture needs to be freed from the fuzziness of narrative and translated into some set of neat and tidy timeless propositions. As we have grown accustomed to resisting the language that God provides us with in his Word and have tried to operate in terms of a more precise language, we have become preoccupied with concerns which were probably never even on the Apostle Paul’s radar screen. Most Christians today are not conversant with the language of Scripture itself and so read the Bible in terms of pidginized ‘theologyspeak’. Baptism and Assurance One of the big problems that I see with the common Baptist way of administering Baptism is that it can fall into the trap of causing faith to turn in on itself. If the focus of Baptism is my personal faith, my heart change and my subjective experience, the danger is that of becoming trapped in doubt. The tendency of the practice of believers’ Baptism is often to draw a person’s attention inward. It is stressed that the outward sign means nothing apart from the inward reality. When you are unsure if there is any ‘inward reality’ in your heart at all your Baptism can give you no strength. Faith can gradually become a work that you try to whip up, as when you most need to look outside of yourself to Christ your Baptism is pointing you to your own heart for assurance of your standing before God. In my own experience, there were few things more liberating than the realization that Baptism was not fundamentally my work (or ‘act of obedience’), but God’s work of grace. In Baptism God graciously took me, apart from any worthiness of my own, and made me part of His family. In Baptism God made many great and precious promises to me. By Baptism I was born to the Church, who would feed and nourish my weak and faltering faith. In Baptism I was called to a life of loving devotion and service. The idea of God doing such a thing through ‘external means of grace’ challenged my whole theology. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, which had previously directed my attention into the murky darkness of my own heart (to check if I had the ‘inward reality’), now pointed me to the glorious promises of God and to God’s grace to me in particular. I was encouraged to later discover that Martin Luther agreed with my fears about believers’ Baptism turning faith into a work (the cultivation of a particular interior disposition). I think that it is important to recognize that we are essentially passive in Baptism. Whilst Baptists stress that Baptism is our ‘act of obedience’, we don’t baptize ourselves — we are baptized. Baptism as the Beginning of the Christian Life Many Baptists see Baptism as fundamentally a powerful subjective experience. Consequently it is important that its meaning is understood as much as possible before undergoing it and the feelings are right whilst undergoing it. However, we must observe that Baptism should biblically take place at the very start of the Christian life, when we have little understanding of its full import. Most of the converts in the book of Acts were baptized immediately. Vern Poythress made some very helpful statements on the subject of delayed Baptisms in Baptist circles (‘Indifferentism and Rigorism in the Church: With Implications for Baptizing Small Children’ in WTJ 59:1):—
Baptistic practice typically waits until children are quite a bit older. Why the delay occurs is not clear. Perhaps some baptists have simply not realized that baptism should mark the beginning of life in the Christian community. At times, however, there may be an underlying desire (perhaps not fully thought out) to have tested, mature, “adult” faith first. Such a desire is understandable, since mature faith ought indeed to be held out as a model and a goal. But we make a mistake if we confuse the goal with the minimum starting point. Such confusion is inconsistent with the whole nature of the Christian experience. Christian experience nearly always has small and stumbling beginnings. Moreover, delay in baptism is inconsistent with Christian love, which does not wait for mature proof before embracing brothers in love. It is inconsistent with Christ, who receives us when we come to him, not when we have proved ourselves mature.
Many Baptists were not baptized until many years after coming to faith for the first time. Especially in the case of young children, Baptism is generally delayed until their faith has been tested over a long period of time. The whole idea of waiting for mature faith is hard to extricate from the whole Baptistic system. Another thing that one encounters occasionally are people who desire to be rebaptized (after already being baptized as adult believers) because they feel that they did not really know what it meant the first time. The richness of the subjective experience of Baptism necessitates a deep awareness of ‘what it really means’. The ‘gathered church’ principle, which lies at the heart of much Baptist thinking, is endangered as soon as people are baptized immediately upon first profession of faith. Such an approach will, in the minds of most Baptists, issue in a morally ambiguous multitude, rather than a true church of Jesus Christ. The approach taken by Paul and Silas with regard to the Philippian jailor (Acts 16:33) would horrify most Baptists (it horrifies not a few paedobaptists too!). You don’t have that much time to check that someone’s faith is genuine within one evening, let alone properly catechize them! I think that we must admit that the Philippian jailor had a pretty limited apprehension of biblical truth when compared to the standard expected of most modern converts. We need to appreciate that Baptist ecclesiology would have to take a very different shape if the biblical practice was adopted. Baptist theology tends to think of the efficacy of Baptism — as it is tied to the cognitio salutis — as relative, to some degree, to the baptizand’s understanding of Baptism’s significance. Baptists can’t conceive of a Baptism being efficacious for one who is entirely unconscious of the act, its meaning, its purpose and its origin. Rapid Baptisms suggest that such an understanding is not so central after all. All of this is not to say that Baptism should not be a rich subjective event. In many ways Baptism should be a rich subjective event. Nevertheless, it is not the feelings and knowledge of the baptizand that make Baptism meaningful. I often wondered about my own Baptism. Had I felt the right way? Had I emptied it of meaning by somehow not having the correct kind of faith? Realizing that it was not my subjective feelings and theological appreciation that made Baptism meaningful, but rather God’s Word and promise, was a massive step forward for me. Baptism, Repentance and Faith Baptists emphasize the importance of repentance and faith. I thoroughly agree with them: faith and repentance are vital. Paedobaptists do look for faith and repentance when baptizing. The infant baptized is baptized as a member of a believing and penitent community. Whilst the ‘efficacy’ or ‘validity’ of Baptism do not depend upon this belief and repentance (Baptism derives its validity from the Word of God), they are required for its proper administration. A child belonging to an unbelieving and impenitent community should not be baptized. The requirement of faith and repentance is not at the heart of the differences between paedobaptists and Baptists. Faith and repentance are undoubtedly necessary prerequisites for Baptism, but all too often what we mean by faith and repentance differs somewhat from the biblical definitions of those terms. The biblical definitions of faith and repentance seem to be far broader than those which are common in evangelicalism. It seems to me that the difference between Baptists and paedobaptists lie more between broad and narrow understandings of the meaning of repentance and faith. Generally, when Baptists speak of ‘repentance’ and ‘faith’ they are thinking in terms of independent choices on the part of individuals with relatively mature intellectual capabilities. Faith and repentance are essentially private dispositions of the heart and mind relative to God. In Jesus' day, as Wright has observed, the meaning of such terms as 'repent' and 'believe' were far broader than we usually allow for in contemporary evangelicalism. Wright quotes Josephus’ challenge to a Jewish rebel leader: ‘Repent and believe in me’. Here ‘repent’ and ‘believe’ are not fundamentally private internal ‘heart realities’, but a call to abandon the rebellious cause and trust Josephus in adopting his agenda. Modern evangelicalism, by thinking of repentance and faith in very individualistic, pietistic and rationalistic senses, has tended to screen out these meanings. Whilst we should be wary of going to the other extreme, we must recognize that, if the language of repentance and faith can be used in such a manner, we might have to rethink certain things. If we allow certain more political senses of the words 'faith' and 'repentance' to enter our thinking we might be helped. The word 'faith' carries beneath it such senses as 'fidelity' and 'allegiance'. Christ, as the new Lord of the world, calls people to the 'obedience of faith'. 'Repentance' is, among other things, to be interpreted as the rejection of our own agendas for Christ's kingdom-agenda. 'Repentance' and 'faith', consequently, should not be thought of as mere 'private' heart-realities. Rather, 'faith' and 'repentance' carry a sense (among others) that is as open and public as the fact of one's national allegiances. As an action associated with repentance and faith, Baptism is the surrender of a person to the authority of Jesus Christ and rejection of the authority of Satan. It is the turning away from an old world and its agenda (repentance) and the entrance into a new world and the submission to the agenda of the Lord Jesus Christ (faith). The old solidarities that we once were part of are cut and we are reconstituted in a new world order, shaped by new allegiances, loyalties and agendas. Infants are not born disentangled from the loyalties, allegiances and agendas of the world as neutral and detached individuals. They stand in a particular relationship to authority figures such as parents and governments. In Baptism they are personally placed in a community which operates in terms of Jesus' kingdom agenda and pledges allegiance to Him. An infant's life is shaped by the community in which they grow up. An infant who is a member of the believing community should be thought of as a believer — a Christian. Baptism serves to initiate the child in the Christian practices of faith and repentance. In his superb essay, The Sociology of Infant Baptism, Peter Leithart argues that Baptist theology operates in terms of an implicit nature/grace dichotomy. For the Baptist, the ‘tracks’ of Christian nurture are ‘supplementary and additional to the tracks of original nurture’. For the paedobaptist, on the other hand, ‘the social and cultural nurture of the child is simultaneously his or her nurture in Christian character and faith’. ‘Religious life’ is not some second layer added to our ‘natural life’. Leithart challenges the notion that religion always operates in terms of an ‘inside-out’ pattern. The ‘inside-out’ model maintains that religion starts in the human heart and then works outward. Leithart maintains that, although the inside-out model is not necessarily unbiblical, an ‘outside-in’ represents the ‘more basic movement’.
In cultural life generally, external discipline and teaching form intellectual, moral and practical habits, shaping personal character and identity. Infant baptism suggests that Christian nurture does not reject the “external” of cultural training in favor of purely internal transformation. Christ instead redeems the external.
The fact that Baptism is a rite involving external washing with water demonstrates that Baptism follows an outside-in model. We are to ‘internalize’ the reality of Baptism over time. Leithart uses this insight to criticize Karl Barth’s attack upon the practice of infant Baptism. Barth resists the practice because it is ‘violent’, imposing a religious identity upon a child from outside. Leithart observes Barth’s argument ‘rests on the wholly unargued assumption that religious identity is secondary to “natural” identity’. Once this assumption has been challenged, we can begin to appreciate that every child has their identity imposed on them from outside to some degree or other. The tragedy of the human condition is not found in our lack of autonomous choice and the reality of ‘unchosen constraints and givens’; rather, the human tragedy is the nature of these ‘givens’ in Adam. Baptism does not make us autonomous and loose us from all bonds of society in general. Rather, Baptism liberates us from the bonds of Adamic society and brings us to participate in and be formed by God’s new society. Leithart argues that signs and symbols are not primarily to be regarded as ‘pointers’ to the real world. Signs and symbols are the means by which we act in the real world. We would be incapable of having relationships apart from signs and symbols. Rites and rituals change our status. However, for rites and rituals to have their desired effect they have to be continually reaffirmed in various ways. The president who has been inaugurated is deferred to and treated with respect. In a like manner the baptized infant must have their status continually reaffirmed. They are to be treated as Christians. This implies, among other things, paedocommunion. If the infant is baptized and then treated as if he were a pagan or outsider, rather than a member of God’s house, he will grow up with uncertainty about his spiritual standing. The Church should raise baptized infants by continually reinforcing their status, by granting them the privileges and calling them to the responsibilities that are appropriate to members of the body of Christ. In a similar manner, sinful unfaithfulness to the story that Baptism has made us part of will lead to a loss of identity. This is one reason why we continually need to be reincorporated into the narrative as we renew covenant. A faith that has external rites such as Baptism and the Lord’s Supper as its heart can never be privatized and reduced to a merely ‘internal heart-faith’. The Christian faith has an inescapably public character. The Church is a culture and the infant is inculturated by means of such rituals as Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The baptized infant is called to internalize the loyalty expressed in such practices over time. This basic loyalty should deepen and mature into knowledge, personal trust and dependence. However, from their Baptisms they are marked out as members of the faithful community, as those whose allegiance has been given to Jesus Christ and who are committed to His kingdom agenda. The fact that the OT speaks of infants having faith from the womb (Psalm 22:9-10; 71:5-6) suggests to me that biblical faith and repentance have a far broader character than most modern evangelicals usually recognize. Within our society people are challenged to stand on their own two feet and be independent of others. Popular morality teaches us that parents should not indoctrinate their children, but should permit their children to make ‘their own decisions’, independent of their parents. The problem, from my way of looking at things, is that no person is truly independent. Human beings are inescapably social creatures. I fear that Baptists have all too easily fallen prey to this error of modern society and idealized the traditionless, autonomous detached chooser. In contrast to this approach, I believe that the ideal is that of being fully knit into community. One’s identity is found in relationship with others; to the degree that you become autonomous and detached you lose your story and identity. What Baptists really want is not so much faith and repentance as self-sufficient and independent, ‘stand-on-my-own-two-feet’ faith and repentance. They are looking for adult faith from children (not that adults ought to aspire to such faith detached from community). The irony is that, when the children grow up, they will be told to practice a ‘childlike’ faith. The chief danger of this expectation is that it easily falls into a trap similar to that of what Bonhoeffer terms the ‘pious fellowship’. When mature and independent faith is elevated and weak and dependent faith is demeaned, people will become afraid to admit the weakness of their faith and their (God-appointed — Genesis 2:18) need to depend upon others. They fear admitting the weakness of their faith, because they do not believe that the church has any real place for the weak in faith. Consequently they pretend to be strong in faith, while they are inwardly consumed by doubts, doubts that would have been dealt with had the community been accepting of weak and dependent believers. When we fear confessing our sins to one another and do not want to admit to others that our weak faith needs bearing up, the devil will happily pick us off, one by one. Infant Baptism teaches us that we do not need to pretend to be strong to each other and that there are many who may even have to be carried to the time of their death, not having the strength to ‘stand on their own two feet’. The important thing is that we are members of a body, a body that ministers to those members that are weak within it. In the Christian community the weaker members are frequently the most necessary and valuable members. They play the prophetic role, as Peter Leithart has observed, of identifying our selfishness and calling us to sacrificial self-commitment. An Illustration Baptists undoubtedly believe that God has ordained the rite of Baptism and invested it with significance. Paedobaptists certainly believe that Baptism is performed by the agency of man. The difference generally (not always) comes when we come to the issue of efficacy. Most Baptists locate the efficacy of Baptism — if they are indeed willing to speak in terms of ‘efficacy’, a large number are not, e.g. Fred Malone, ‘The Baptism of Disciples Alone’, p.16fn71 — in the believer’s subjective knowledge of salvation (see, for example, Wayne Grudem). Baptism is efficacious as it strengthens our faith by giving us a clearer picture of what it means to be saved. Such an efficacy is, of course, of little value to an infant. Baptists generally presume that some subjective awareness of what Baptism means on the part of the baptizand is necessary for the form of efficacy that they ascribe to the rite. The practice of infant Baptism points us to a form of efficacy that is far more than that of merely that of giving us a deeper subjective awareness of what our salvation is. Infant Baptism grants some form of objective efficacy to the rite of Baptism. Only a rite than objectively accomplishes something can be meaningfully applied to an infant. Baptism is certainly administered by the agency of men. However, we must observe that these men are the ordained representatives of Jesus Christ. Baptism is administered by ministers of the Spirit. If you have been baptized by a minister of the Spirit, you should not go sharply separating water Baptism from Spirit Baptism. Baptism by a minister of the Spirit makes us part of the body of Christ, whether we know what the body of Christ is or not. Baptism brings us into a new relationship with Jesus Christ, at whatever age we are baptized. Baptism brings us into the Church, which is the Temple in which the Holy Spirit dwells. Baptism makes us part of the ‘in Christ’ people and grants us access to eat at the Lord’s Table. Baptism makes us part of the new covenant people of God. In Baptism we die with Christ and are subsequently raised with Him. Baptism gives us both new privileges and new responsibilities. From the point of Baptism onwards we are defined in relation to these new privileges and responsibilities. The rite of Baptism brings about all of these things, irrespective of whether it is an infant or an adult who is being baptized. Baptists generally hold that, once a person has been saved, God has ordained that he ought to be baptized. Baptism pictures the chief blessings of salvation that the believing individual has already received in his soul and thereby deepens the believer’s subjective apprehension of these blessings. Under this view, Baptism is like a re-enactment of a successful heart transplant, prescribed by the surgeon to illustrate what has taken place, with the baptizand playing the role of the patient. The baptizand is to take comfort from the re-enactment, believing that this is exactly what has taken place in his situation (his heart has been changed). He believes that the surgery has indeed taken place and been successful in his case. Taking part in the re-enactment both proclaims and brings to mind the supposed success of the operation, thereby deepening his conviction that the surgery was successful. The position that I am advocating, however, views the Baptism as actually being the surgery and not just a re-enactment. The subject of the surgery can be unconscious in the process and the surgery can still be successful. This is the real thing, not just a worked example. By Baptism we are cut out from the old solidarities that we once belonged to and transplanted into a new body — the body of Christ. Baptism is the scalpel used by the Great Surgeon. We all trust that the person who has been transplanted into the body of Christ will grow as a living member and not need to be amputated (by excommunication) at some point in the future. Like any transplant, for the operation to be successful certain criteria generally have to be met. In the case of Baptism, for a successful transplant to take place, the baptizand has to be a part of the community of faith, either by personal profession in the case of an adult, or by belonging to faithful parents in the case of an infant. In these comparative illustrations there is an important dis-analogy that I am trying to preserve. Most baptistic evangelicals tend to see salvation as God’s putting new life into our heart — hence the heart transplant analogy. In this analogy we are the ones who receive the transplant. However, in my position, it is we who are transplanted. We are placed as new members into the body that has the new life of Jesus Christ at its heart. Regeneration is not so much something that happens in our individual hearts as it is something that has been realized in redemptive history in the Person of Jesus Christ and is now known in His body. Baptism places us into the body of Christ (i.e. the visible Church), like a transplanted organ. We are to be knit into His body and share in its life in the Spirit. The principle of life that operates the body of Christ is the faith of Jesus Christ, which is communicated to us by the Holy Spirit, through the various ministries that exist within the body. The infant who is made part of the body in Baptism is nurtured in the body and this life principle of faith should become increasingly internalized. Faith is not magically implanted into the heart of the baptized individual, but they are implanted into a living body that is animated by faith. The baptizand is baptized to the end that they become living members of the body. Baptism is ‘efficacious’ in bringing about the transplant of the baptizand into the body of Christ. However, Baptism cannot ensure the long-term success of this transplant. Many of the worst men that Western society has produced were baptized men. Their Baptisms were thoroughly successful in transplanting them into the body of Christ. However, the life of the body never became theirs. In many cases this is simply because of unfaithfulness in the ministry of the body to the new member. A new organ may be transplanted into a living body, but without the other parts of the body accepting it and knitting it into the body by their varied ministries the transplant will eventually fail. In other cases the transplanted member itself proved to be diseased and, despite the concerted ministry of the body, the transplant failed. Baptism is not an end in itself, but is just the beginning of a life-long process. If Baptism is not fulfilled it is of no lasting benefit to the baptized individual. They end up becoming doubly accursed. Do I hold to baptismal regeneration? Yes. My form of baptismal regeneration, however, views ‘regeneration’ as essentially a redemptive-historical reality (brought about through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ) that is ‘external’ to us. Baptism does not magically monkey with our ‘inner’ soul. The whole internal/external dichotomy is deeply problematic and we need to expose its largely questionable Cartesian roots. Baptism plants us into the new realm brought about by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are then to grow and develop within this realm, becoming conformed to its form of life. Its principles of existence should be increasingly internalized in us. This form of baptismal regeneration does not hold that Baptism changes people’s hearts willy-nilly. Nor does it hold that no baptized person can fall away. Nor does it do away with the need for continual faith, maturing into faithfulness. Rich Lusk’s article on the subject of baptismal regeneration is helpful to straighten out some common misconceptions. Are people ‘in Christ’ prior to Baptism? I firmly believe that the Church should only baptize those who already in some sense belong to her. There is a degree of tension to be preserved here. Nevertheless, I do believe that Baptism really ‘effects something’. I tend to frame the tension in terms of eschatology. The unbaptized individual does not yet properly share in the ‘eschatological life’ of the church (particularly known in the celebration of the Eucharist in which we taste of the powers of the age to come). The unbaptized but believing individual will certainly be vindicated by God at the end, but does not have that verdict declared over him in the present by anticipation. His salvation is something that he awaits as almost wholly future. In the eschatological life of the Church we have a greater foretaste of this salvation in the present, in union with Christ. The OT saints were not ‘in Christ’, nor are the unbaptized. They were still looking forward to the future realization of their eschatological hope. We are ingrafted into Christ by Baptism, not by faith apart from God’s gift of Baptism, as Wright and many others have pointed out. It is ‘in Christ’ that we taste of the future (as it has been realized in Him) in the present. In terms of Sanders’ language of ‘getting in’ and ‘staying in’, one could say that unbaptized believers and children of believers are in a very real sense ‘in’ the people of God. However, the purpose of ‘getting in’ the covenant is that of ‘getting there’ (i.e. to final vindication). The baptized individual has ‘got there’ in a sense that the unbaptized believer has not. Christ is the one who ‘got there’ and by being ingrafted into Him by Baptism we enter into a life which gives us a foretaste of our destination to a degree that in denied to the unbaptized. Old Testament believers never entered the ‘in Christ’ realm that now exists in the Church. This realm is entered into through Baptism. We abide in this new realm by faith. Baptism marks the beginning of our ‘in Christ’ existence, even if we believed in Jesus many years before our baptisms.

The Trinity Foundation's Reformation Day Declaration 

We denounce the new perspective on covenant and salvation variously styled “Federal Vision,” “covenantal nomism,” “Neolegalism,” and the “Auburn Avenue Theology.” This theology, based on the false doctrine of Norman Shepherd and others, contradicts the doctrine of justification as enunciated by Scripture and the Reformed confessions. Instead of doing the honorable thing, that is, leaving their communions, many Ministers and Elders in Reformed communions are perverting the Gospel and causing division within their communions with their false teaching that the Christian’s justification is not by faith alone in the all-sufficient work of Jesus Christ, but is rather the eschatological result of the believer’s lifelong faithfulness to Christ as seen in his imperfect works of obedience.

These teachers have rejected the clear Biblical teaching that justification is an act of God’s free grace alone in which, forgiving believers of all their sins, He irrevocably imputes to them the perfect righteousness of his Son Jesus Christ as the ground of their justification. In no way do the imperfect works of the regenerate effect, augment, or change their justification before God. Justification is an act of God whereby He declares those for whom Christ died legally righteous forever the moment they place their faith in Christ. (See John 15:4-6, Acts 13:38-39; Galatians 2:16; Romans 1:16-17; 3:21-22, 28; 4:4-15; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Ephesians 2:8-10; 1 Peter 2:4-5.)

These teachers, either minimizing or denying the imputation of Christ’s active obedience to believers, teach that justification is not a purely forensic declaration but a transforming activity in which the believer’s obedience also plays a significant role. This false doctrine of justification includes within it the lie of Satan that Christ’s righteousness is not sufficient for salvation and that an earned righteousness on the part of the believer is necessary for his justification before God.

Since when has 'Auburn Avenue Theology' — not that there really is such a thing — been identified with 'covenantal nomism'?? Should you desire to read the rest of this appalling declaration, you can do so here.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Alasdair MacIntyre on Not Voting 

When offered a choice between two politically intolerable alternatives, it is important to choose neither. And when that choice is presented in rival arguments and debates that exclude from public consideration any other set of possibilities, it becomes a duty to withdraw from those arguments and debates, so as to resist the imposition of this false choice by those who have arrogated to themselves the power of framing the alternatives. These are propositions which in the abstract may seem to invite easy agreement. But, when they find application to the coming presidential election, they are likely to be rejected out of hand. For it has become an ingrained piece of received wisdom that voting is one mark of a good citizen, not voting a sign of irresponsibility. But the only vote worth casting in November is a vote that no one will be able to cast, a vote against a system that presents one with a choice between Bush's conservatism and Kerry's liberalism, those two partners in ideological debate, both of whom need the other as a target.
You can read the entirety of MacIntyre's article here (thanks to AKMA for the link). As America has been whipped up into a political frenzy over the past few weeks and months and now faces the polls, there is no more important time for people to self-consciously think as Christians, rather than merely as conservative or liberal Americans. MacIntyre's article is provocative and should not be ignored, even though there might be good reasons for rejecting his argument after careful consideration. Most Christians, when pricked, seem to hold to some form of consequentialist ethics. There is nothing like the fever of an election or war time to encourage this form of ethics. Other Christians do not see this as a 'lesser of two evils' situation, but believe that God clearly favours one candidate over the other. I would be interested to hear from some of the American readers of this blog on this subject. How, as a Christian, have you approached the decision to vote or not to vote today? What fundamental approach to ethics informed your decision? How would you argue that this is a Christian approach to ethics?

Monday, November 01, 2004

The Revised Fundamentalist Version 

John 17

20 "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be scattered, Father, each to his own church. May they also be divided doctrinally so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the Bible that you gave me, that they may interpret it for themselves and separate one from another. 23 May their denominations be as numerous as the sand on the seashore to let the world know that the Bible is clear and easily understood.” (RFV).

Acts 8

27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “Stay away from that chariot, for I will lead that man into all truth myself.” 30 But Philip ran up beside the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. 31 “Of course,” he said, “the Holy Spirit explains it to me.” So he told Philip to go away. (RFV).

Romans 11

20 They were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith alone. Do not be arrogant, but do not be afraid, either. 21 For although God did not spare the natural branches, he will spare you, for your salvation is assured. 22 Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you. And whether you continue in his kindness or not, you will never be cut off, for your salvation is assured. (RFV).

1 Corinthians 1

10 I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you decide for yourselves what the truth is, even if that leads to thousands of divisions among you, and that each denomination may be more or less united in mind and thought. Otherwise, let it divide yet further until it is more or less united in mind and thought. (RFV).

1 Corinthians 10

16 Is the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? Of course not, it’s just wine. And is the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Of course not, it’s just bread. 17 Although there is one loaf, we, who are many, form thousands of denominations, for we cannot agree on what the loaf represents. (RFV).

1 Peter 3

20 who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. 21 But unlike that, baptism does nothing, except remove dirt from the flesh. It is merely a visible reminder of the salvation you received by faith alone, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ...

If you want to see what Fundamentalism looks like through the jaundiced eyes of some Roman Catholics, do read this. Unfortunately, there is more than a degree of truth to some of the charges that Roman Catholics level against fundamentalists in many of these areas. Thanks to Andrew for the link.

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