The Whole Cherry Tree

or “Nothing to see here, citizens. Go to your homes.”

Emeth Hesed blogged recently about “heads of households” meetings…

Since moving to the Land of the Free, I have enjoyed how well women are treated here. I can see that America really is a country with a Christian heritage even if it’s not a Christian nation anymore. But attending the church where my husband grew up, I have never felt so disenfranchised in my life. I have never felt so cut off from the covenant I was baptized into, from the rightful inheritance God has promised me.

Emeth makes some great points but the thing that strikes me about these “intramural” Presbyterian debates is the failure to identify the real villain.

A doctor made the comment to me that he thought Lipitor (an anticholesterol medication) should be in the water supply. After all, it’s cholesterol that keeps blocking up arteries and killing people.

Interestingly, it seems not everyone believes this. Many are saying that statins (of which Lipitor is one) aren’t really that good for you at all. Moreover, cholesterol isn’t the real villain. It is simply found at the scene of the crime, attempting to repair the damage caused by stress, and is not the actual perpetrator of the damage. It is not the root cause of the problem.

The debate over “Federal Vision” baptism is a fight between those who have discovered that baptism really does something, and those who say that baptism cannot do that “something” to infants. Both sides are correct, and, I hate to say it, also incredibly blind to the real source of the trouble, which is paedobaptism. I find it more and more amazing that neither side is willing to question the tradition. [1] Presbyterians on average are very smart people (compared to, say, the average charismatic or baptist) but intelligence has its very own special kind of dumb.

Likewise, it seems to me as an outsider that “heads of households” meetings are simply one of the logical outcomes of the practice of paedobaptism. If you are going to insist on cherrypicking the bits of the Old Covenant that you like and try to force them, untransformed, into the New Covenant, like it or not, you are going to end up with the whole damn tree.

If your Covenant theology is based on generation instead of regeneration (womb instead of tomb), church membership is going to gravitate towards a family or household-based foundation, despite your protests to the contrary. [2] So these meetings are the fruit, not the root, of the problem.

God is not the author of confusion, and this conflation of natural and supernatural makes drawing the line on just about anything entirely arbitrary. The opinions of those on both sides of the debate within Presbyterianism are no more than that — opinions — because something is wrong at the very core. The same goes for these “men only” meetings. You are left to do what is right in your own eyes. Who is right? Emeth or those who run the meetings? They are both wrong. Who is the villain? Paedobaptism. It’s the unseen black hole that distorts every doctrine in its path, bending the light and the radio waves.

I know, I’m just a graphic designer. But I’ve had this debate for a few years now with the best and smartest paedobaptists in the world. They couldn’t answer my objections. What did it all boil down to? “Well, that’s just what we believe,” and, “We disagree strongly.”

Whatever. You must like cherries. And you must be really bad at whodunits.

The New Covenant Israel does not have a national or racial identity like the old one did, which is precisely its strength. If the definition of “Christian” is not solely based upon personal repentance, faith and regeneration, in the absence of a racial identity, the only default is, quite rationally, the identity conferred upon one by one’s household.

“Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household.” (Acts 18:8)

“A few months later, [the pastor] opened up the HoH meetings to boys, also, but still did not allow women or girls to attend. A friend started calling them ‘Penis Meetings’ because that was the only thing you needed to have to attend the meetings and be a real member of the church.”

It is extremely ironic that a baptism which was intended to be inclusive winds up making an actual believer feel disenfranchised and cut off from the Covenant. A false baptism will always usurp the true one.

[1] See Rise Of The Uberbaptist.
[2] See Mark Horne, Heads of Household Membership & Male-Only Voting in the Church

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4 Responses to “The Whole Cherry Tree”

  • John Says:

    But of course you know that Heads of Household meetings, though they may be found in some CREC churches, aren’t characteristics of most paedobaptistic churches. I dunno where the HoH thing came from, but it has nothing to do with Presbyterianism or, for that matter, the continental Reformed churches either. And many of the people you’d associate with “FV” (whatever that is) wouldn’t hold to HoH-type practices, including the father of the article you cited.

  • Mike Bull Says:


    Thanks for commenting.

    Certainly, but the logic is sound. What is the source of the authority for paedobaptism? If it’s not “father Abraham,” and it’s not a personal relationship with Christ (as described in the New Testament, beginning with repentance), then all that’s left is “the will of man” (John 1:13).

    I’m not picking on anybody. I’m just following the logic trail. I actually think this practice would be more logical if you want to hold onto those “household” verses as proof of paedobaptism.


  • Chris W Says:

    Hi Mike,

    This article is not helpful for dialogue. Both sides of the baptism debate want to see continuity AND discontinuity between the Old and New Covenant. Sure, paedobaptists tend to see a little more continuity, but it’s all on a spectrum. Would an FV paedobaptist agree that they are just ripping things out of the Old Covenant unrefined by pentecost?


  • Mike Bull Says:

    Hi Chris

    Thanks. Nobody seems to want to understand baptism in terms of authority – both its source (Christ, not men) and the authority that it confers (to witness). To maintain this tradition, circumcision has to be misrepresented, and baptism has to be misrepresented. As I wrote, we can argue all millennium about how far the continuity should go, but because we’ve let loose the biblical definitions and explanations of these things, that “spectrum” just becomes the opinions of men. The terms of the debate have to be redefined. Might not look helpful but some basic Covenantal logic would see through the cloud of ink.