Tuesday, February 28, 2006

How I ended up a Paedobaptist Part 2.
Category: Tartan Talk :
Author: tartanarmy (12:00 am)
Part 2

None of the above had anything to do with my change of position, but I wanted to mention those things to give a backdrop to my inner thoughts and assumptions regarding my stand as a Credobaptist.

Now, make no mistake about it. I was a thorough going Credo. I believed only in believers’ baptism (as do Paedobaptists) and my attitude to Infant baptism was quite negative. I saw Paedobaptism as a left over remnant from Roman Catholicism and as a reformed Credo, I believed that I was somehow practicing semper reformanda!

Now, how exactly did I get convinced that my position was wrong?
There was an evolution of thought I guess, and that happened whilst in the very act of debate against a Paedobaptist.

I was being pressed to really examine the New Covenant, as well as looking afresh at circumcision and all those household baptisms in the New Testament. I was praying for light continually, and then it came in a moment.

God knows exactly where our presuppositions are. He knows our blind spots and prejudice, but everything fell into place for me whilst reading scripture. Not books on Baptism mind you, but the text of God’s Holy Word.

I was reading about Abraham, and how he was given certain promises and then he was commanded to circumcise himself and the males within his household, and this would be the sign and seal of God’s promise and of His faithfulness to His Covenant people.

I was struck with what my main argument was against Paedobaptism, and that was my belief that only believers could be in the New Covenant.

Yet here was Abraham, and he was being commanded to circumcise with no regard to a person’s state before the Lord. In effect, he was circumcised as a believer and the promises were to his posterity who were to be circumcised too!

The realization of this was earth shattering for me, because I immediately connected this with the household baptisms in The New Testament and much light was shining through for me.

I then studied the passages carefully that discuss baptism and I studied the Old Testament passages that referred to God’s everlasting Covenant that was made with Abraham. I see no revoking of God’s promises in the New Covenant but instead see the fullness of it in Christ and the very scope of it spreading to all of the Nations!

I had believed the New and better Covenant was so, based upon a regenerate Church.

My focus was centered on man being regenerated instead of the promises going forth to the whole world.

When I read the following passage afresh, I was astounded at the fullness of this everlasting Covenant being carried on in the New Testament.

Act 2:39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all those afar off, as many as the Lord our God shall call.

In doing all of this it became crystal clear to me that God as a Covenant keeping God, who has made certain promises, does not somehow take those promises back in the so called New and Better Covenant.

In other words, the households, including the children were included in the Covenant. The thing that was new and better in the New Covenant was simply the fulfillment of all the promises in Christ had now been ratified and sealed with His blood.

The Covenant of grace was still one and the same as far as the promises made were concerned.

I could not imagine the early Jews who were well steeped in the Covenant of God’s promises to somehow understand the New Covenant left out their children?

What would be new and better about such a thing?

And does not scripture address children? Even the 10 commandments address children and Paul speaks to them in scripture directly.

These things could not be ignored.
I concluded that the silence from such an outrageous proposition was deafening, so I can see how children were included in these promises made to believers and that they had every right to be part of the New Covenant and the promises it contains.

The next thing that struck me was the distinctions between Visible and Invisible Church and how that fits in with the Covenant of grace.

I came to see that entry into the New Covenant made one a member of the Visible Church, and as such, was not a guarantee that one would be part of the Church Invisible.

Nothing affecting God’s promises played a part in these two distinctions, but the ramifications for how I am to view the Church was radically changed, not to mention how I understood the term Christian.

Just as I had understood that not all Israel is Israel, it is also true that not all Christian is Christian. Nothing had changed in the Covenant of grace essentially.

As a result I came to see how the early Church in scripture viewed the church gathering or Church community.

There are Christians who really are Christians and they are part of the Church Invisible, known only to God in the truest way and they shall never perish nor be plucked out of His hand, but then there is the local gathering of Christians that we call the Visible Church.

The elect and non-elect make up the congregation of local believers or the wheat and Tares together for now, but we can only judge by a persons profession and claim to be saved etc.

The Baptist idea of a pure Church or a regenerate Church sounds really good in principal, but is it biblical? In Heaven yes, but here on Earth? I shall say more about this in part 3.

I have even heard reformed Baptists and others suggest that we really ought to discourage unbelievers from coming to Church etc, in case they corrupt the local assembly and spread heresy.

I used to lean that way myself in some way, as I believed in a regenerate Church. However in scripture I came to see quite clearly that most of the Epistles are addressed to the Church Visible, and when you take in most of the concerns, they are aimed at visibly professing Christians. Many of the epistles pertain to admonishment and rebuke and how to walk in line with your profession of faith etc.

It was in that light of visible Church that I could connect the warnings of scripture. I could see how those warnings separate visible and invisible Christians.

In my next post I want to kind of bring all of this together and specifically bring out some texts dealing with the Covenants, Infant Baptism, adult Baptism, circumcision and the old testament passages in Jeremiah dealing with the new and better covenant and their fulfillment in Christ and the nature of the Church from scripture also.
Sorry for the way all of this is being put together. I shall probably end up editing it a hundred times! So consider all of this a very rough draft!

Part 3 soon.
How I ended up a Paedobaptist.
Category: Tartan Talk :
Author: tartanarmy (5:02 pm)

How I ended up a Paedobaptist.

As some will know. I was a Credobaptist and in fact quite a strong defender of that position. I had engaged in many discussions and written debates upon the subject.
For me the position of Believers baptism was irrefutable and thoroughly biblical.
I had embraced much of what I learned through being part of the reformed Baptist tradition, and therefore automatically assumed that the position made sense in light of scripture.

In my own studies upon the issue, I was probably more influenced by Charles Spurgeon more than any other single person. I love Spurgeon and looking back now I was too influenced by his particular views on Baptism.
However, I was always disturbed as to why many reformed if not most, were Paedobaptists.
I used to think that Calvin is such a great expositor of scripture, but he somehow left his wisdom at the door when entering upon the issue of Paedobaptism. Not just him, but many other great theologians.

I think back and feel quite ashamed as to how I simply wrote them off upon this issue. Oh the shame!

I guess I had embraced the whole idea that the New Covenant was made up “only” of believers and therefore only believers should be baptized. I had agreed with the Baptist notions regarding the nature of the New Covenant and their interpretations of old test scriptures.

I also have to say at this point, that I was unaware of my bias as to what Reformed Covenant Theology really was in detail. I think I feared some of it’s teachings and as I did not understand them, I preferred to kind of demonize them rather than study them as a good worker who should rightly divide the word of truth.

As a reformed Baptist, I did secretly struggle with certain aspects of Baptist beliefs regarding the “NEW” and better Covenant. For example, I struggled to really comprehend the teaching regarding how someone could be in a Covenant relationship and yet fall away and be lost.

This notion seemed to suggest that the great (P) in Calvinism was somehow being undermined. That was a big problem to my “then” way of thinking, but I could not truly grasp the passages that discuss some who had tasted the good gift of the Spirit and yet were lost, or how branches may get cut off again etc etc.

I never could ultimately reconcile such passages as a Baptist and any supposed interpretation seemed very strained and unfulfilling to me, so I kind of stayed away from those passages and just kind of hoped other better theologians could reconcile it I suppose, and that was good enough for me. I really hate admitting that by the way, for God has taught me well when it comes to these matters, but still, we are so prone to lean on the understanding of other men sadly.

I also must admit that I never really felt completely comfortable with Believers Baptism either. What I mean is the actual way it was done. Now I am going to digress a little bit here and return to the scriptures later and how I changed sides.

Surely it was a very serious moment and the awe and respect for such a service was quite evident, but still, there were certain aspects that just did not seem quite kosher to me, but I could not exactly pinpoint what it was.

Now, please bear in mind, that I never came from a religious upbringing, so I had no conditioning etc to have to shake off or affect me in much of a way. I Knew as a nominal Roman Catholic that Infant Baptism was wrong, because they were practicing some kind of Baptismal regeneration. I knew that was not right, and made man the one in control of salvation etc.

I say all of that in order to say the following.

I did not like the fact that some Baptisms did not result in the persons becoming a new creature. Many went straight back into the world and some others remain in the Church but appear to have no spiritual life.

I also did not really like the whole public testimony thing. I am not afraid to speak publicly, as I actually enjoy it, but many many poor souls have no desire to do so.

I saw on some occasions just how difficult it was for certain people who felt enormous pressure to come out and declare publicly their stories about how they came to Christ.
Oh the stories I could share with you about this!

I know believers who were scorned for not wanting to give a testimony, and who were kind of shunned as those not loving the Lord enough to give a public testimony.
I saw many poor souls (adults) run away from Baptism because of this and some of them are not baptized to this very day and are shunned sadly.

Then there is the horrible fact that human nature is just so sinful. Some people get up and want to give a public testimony and so desire to share their life story. In their zeal to confess Christ they often publicly share all of their former sins with a large crowd of professing Christians or at least a mixed audience.

In their zeal to magnify God’s grace, many rejoice with them, but sadly some do not. Some become kind of curious about the former sins of the newly baptized, and even judge them. I know of people who zealously gave the most honest public testimonies who today wished they never opened their mouths, and once again feel kind of misunderstood in their local congregations.

This is Part one, part two coming soon.


Monday, February 20, 2006

What is Hyper-Calvinism?

Hyper-Calvinism, Not that complicated
Category: Tartan Talk :
Author: tartanarmy (6:25 pm)

What is Hyper-Calvinism?

Unfortunately, the label Hyper-Calvinist is used frequently in our day to insult or ridicule anyone who is more Calvinistic than oneself. As far as the Pelagians are concerned, semi-Pelagians are hyper-Calvinists. As far as semi-Pelagians are concerned, Arminians are hyper-Calvinists. As far as Arminians are concerned, four-point Calvinists are hyper-Calvinists. As far as four-point Calvinists are concerned, five-point Calvinists are hyper-Calvinists. Depending on where you find yourself on the theological spectrum, everyone (except the Pelagian) is a hyper-Calvinist. Oh yes, and as far as authentic hyper-Calvinists are concerned, everyone else is just confused!

Perhaps we should use the label with more of a historical awareness of its origin and application. That which historically has separated biblical Calvinism from hyper-Calvinism is the denial by the latter of the external gospel call.

Hyper-Calvinism, explains David Engelsma, is the denial that God, in the preaching of the gospel, calls everyone who hears the preaching to repent and believe.

It is the denial that the church should call everyone in the preaching. It is the denial that the unregenerate have a duty to repent and believe. It manifests itself in the practice of the preachers addressing the call of the gospel, repent and believe on Christ crucified, only to those in his audience who show signs of regeneration, and thereby of election, namely, some conviction of sin and some interest in salvation? (David Englesma, Hyper-Calvinism and the Call of the Gospel [Grand Rapids: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 1980], pp. 10-11).

This view was held by several Congregational and Baptist ministers in England during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. This is not to say, however, that no one embraces this view today.

Included among these were Joseph Hussey (1660-1726), Lewis Wayman (d. 1764), and John Brine (1703-65). For additional historical information, see Peter Toon, The Emergence of Hyper-Calvinism in English Nonconformity (London: The Olive Tree, 1967).

It has been customary to place the name of John Gill (b. 1697) at the head of this list as the paradigmatic hyper-Calvinist. This charge may need to be re-examined in the light of certain conclusions reached by Thomas J. Nettles in his book, By His Grace and for His Glory: A Historical, Theological, and Practical Study of the Doctrines of Grace in Baptist Life (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1986), pp. 73-107, 385-91.

According to hyper-Calvinism, the extent of preaching is determined by the extent of regeneration.

Only those who show evidence of the latter are proper recipients or objects of the former. The principal difficulty with this is that Scripture sanctions no such restriction on the proclamation of Christ and the call to repent and believe. Jesus left his disciples with clear and unequivocal marching orders, to wit, that repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem? (Luke 24:47).

When the apostle Paul preached on Mars Hill he made no effort to distinguish between those he thought were or were not elect, and therefore regenerate. Such knowledge belongs to God alone. Rather, Paul’s gospel took the form of an indiscriminate and universal proclamation: Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent (Acts 17:30).

I can only conclude that the external call of the gospel is a vital element in biblical Christianity. To deny it is to deviate from true Calvinism in a most serious way. However, for the sake of clarity (and even charity) perhaps we ought to drop the label hyper-Calvinist and simply refer to those who hold that view as wrong.

Related to this issue is the question of regeneration and human responsibility. If regeneration is wholly a work of God and therefore the ground and cause of faith, what becomes of a man's individual responsibility to believe the gospel? John Murray's comments are most helpful in answering this question:

The causal priority of regeneration is no excuse for our unbelief and no alibi for sloth or indifference or despair. We may never plead our own depravity as any reason for not believing, nor our inability as any excuse for unbelief.

To argue that we should not repent and believe until we are generated is to introduce confusion in the relation that regeneration sustains to our responsibility. We never know that we are regenerated until we repent and believe. The gospel of grace addresses itself to our responsibility in the demand for repentance and faith. Just as the unknown purposes of God are not the rule of our conduct nor the grounds upon which we act, so the inscrutable operations of God are not the rule or ground of our action, but his revealed will.

The rule for us in every case is the revealed will presented to our consciousness. Our belief, our knowledge that we have been regenerated is never the ground upon which we exercise faith in Christ, even though the fact of regeneration is always the source from which issues the exercise of faith and repentance (Regeneration, 188-89).