Looking God in the Eye
The history of mankind is one of good gifts turned into idols. Blessings abused become curses in the hands of those who won’t look God in the eye.
For those of us who know the Bible, the idolatries become more subtle. This was the case for the Pharisees. The exile had purified Israel of old-school idolatry, so she invented a new school: an elitism bound by an Abrahamic heritage and energized by the abuse of Moses and the Law as a means of salvation: heritage instead of faith; obligation instead of salvation. The good things given as gifts once again became the gods.
or Baptism into Baal
Then you shall say to Pharaoh,
‘Thus says the Lord,
Israel is my firstborn son,
and I say to you,
“Let my son go that he may serve me.”
If you refuse to let him go,
I will kill your firstborn son.’”
My Federal Vision friends believe baptism is an important subject, from both theological and pastoral points of view. I agree, but for me it is also an issue of aesthetics. The Bible has a wonderfully consistent internal logic, and paedobaptism crunches the gears at every turn.
Peter Leithart just posted something concerning baptism, and it’s worth answering, not only “because somebody on the internet is wrong,” but also because it is an issue I’ve just finished dealing with in The Shape of Galatians. It should be noted that Trinity House is hosting some lectures on sacraments by a baptist, so Dr Leithart and his colleagues have a spirit that should be imitated by theologians everywhere. My own posts here are always bait in the hope of a bite, a friendly disputatio, so don’t take them the wrong way. If a friend has soup on his tie, or wax in his ear, or a fertility rite in his sacrament, what sort of friend isn’t going to point it out!?
“The Lord’s Table is for dangerous people.”
If you are going to baptize infants, it makes sense that you would also allow them to take Communion. Baptism brings one into the priesthood (through the Laver) to the court of God, and Communion is fellowship in the priestly kingdom. To unite the two is consistent—as consistent as the two pillars flanking the threshold of Solomon’s Temple.
And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained upon him.” (John 1:32)
“Efficacious paedobaptism is maintained at the tragic cost of the efficacious work of the Spirit…”
Chapter 1 continued
See the Baptism links page for all articles in this series.
Dr Leithart says that the sign of baptism is not merely symbolic of a personal encounter with God, but is actually the personal encounter. I concluded, based on the process of maturity found throughout Scripture, that although his observation is correct as far as it goes, what he has observed goes even deeper. “The sign” is not merely the baptism, but actually includes the human being in personal relationship with God. The one being baptized is the sign, and the sign is ethical maturity.
Recently, I’ve been re-reading Rich Lusk’s Paedofaith: A Primer on the Mystery of Infant Salvation and a Handbook for Covenant Parents. This reading was with the intention of blogging through it and dealing with the main points, as is the helpful practice of Doug Wilson with certain books.
The problem is that Lusk makes some enormous, illogical and unbiblical assumptions in his preface and introduction, and these assumptions are based on arguments found elsewhere.
Jean flipped one page back and realized he had contradicted himself once again. This was tricky stuff, working out salvation, but at least he was showing his workings. “Oh well,” he thought. “One day they will invent word processors.”
In a post called Baptism Is Not Faith, Shane Lems points out where the Federal Vision guys depart from the “historic Reformed/Presbyterian confessions.” He writes:
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.
or Shekinah People
“The solution here is not, as Calvin believed, to dress the New Covenant’s ethical maturity in the puerile clothing of paedobaptism.”
In The Failure of the American Baptist Culture [PDF], James Jordan, Ray Sutton and others expose the rot at the heart of baptistic theology, which is inherently man-centred. The authors call us from a view of salvation in isolation to a wider vision of the meaning of baptism, which signifies the broader realities of the Covenant of Grace. I learned a great deal about history and Reformed theology, and thoroughly recommend it to you. In my view, however, they don’t go far enough. A call to understand the vital historical connection between circumcision and baptism certainly deals with the errors of the Anabaptists, but when rightly understood, the progressive nature of revelation also exposes the use of paedobaptism as a connection with the Old Covenant as entirely bogus.
or The Fiction of Prelapsarian Babies
“A paedobaptistic sociology is a misrepresentation of the Gospel. It conflates the cutting of Adam with the crushing of the serpent.”
The most biblical, thoughtful and consistent paedobaptists (the Federal Vision), believe that the failure of America’s baptistic culture can be remedied through a biblical application of paedobaptism. The answer to modern individualism is a coherent Christian sociology. I agree with that. What I disagree with is their insistence on a Covenant sociology that was made redundant at Pentecost.
or Mixed Blessings
Doug Wilson sees evidence for the classification of “Covenant children” in 1 Corinthians 7:14.
“For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy” (1 Cor. 7:14).
The Corinthians had wanted to know whether unbelief on the part of a spouse was in itself grounds for divorce. Paul has replied no, provided that the unbelieving partner is pleased to be together with the Christian in a marriage as biblically defined. If the only thing that is wrong is the spouse’s failure to believe in Christ, then the couple should still remain together.