I’m a Baptist, but kinda barely! I believe baptism is only for those who are receiving it in faith, but the tradition of the Reformation churches persuades me to recognize the baptism of infants! (Not as the norm, but as an irregular expression of the sacrament)… So here’s my 6,700 word paper on why I think most Baptists see baptism as more of a law duty than as a gospel gift.
Check it out, thinkers! Thanks for reading,
Baptist Identity and Sacramental Malformation
A Baptist identity is difficult to define and locate within broader church history, but in general there have always been those who practice credobaptism (believers only to be baptized). It was through the Reformation and its subsequent centuries that Baptists articulated a confessional identity under the Protestant umbrella. Among the branching family of Protestant denominations, church radicals (Baptists among them) are those who bore the malice of Rome from one side, and the scorn of the paedobaptist Reformation bodies from the other. Through the sustained three-way tussles between Roman Catholicism (RC[C]), high-church State Protestantism, and the burgeoning free-churches (including Baptists), the sacramental theology (ST) of the Baptists has never been developed and articulated apart from the conscious strain of these polemics.
Perhaps in relation to this, the greater portion of Baptists have tended to exclude the sacraments as means of God’s effectual work of salvation. For the Baptist, sacramental grace is often rejected as having the whiff of Romanism; the Lutheran, Calvinist, and Anglican churches (with their varied STs) may appear to the Baptist as compromised, or otherwise stuck in a sort of incomplete reformation. Because Baptists tend to view the RCC as the arch villain of accretive doctrinal excess (a la “sacred tradition”), any given Baptist doctrine may take a reactionary skew and thus miss or distort key biblical data. In spite of this visceral antipathy, the Baptist is ever a Christian under the authority of Scripture, and so he may be persuaded to re-visit traditional beliefs in the light of Scripture as it has been interpreted within the greater Reformation heritage.
So as to provide the historical and theological background against which Baptists react, I will note the vital connection in RC between ecclesiology and ST, this being near the heart of the Reformation protest. Over against this medieval RC juggernaut, the Lutheran and Calvinist confessional bodies found agreement in the gospel even while confessing their differing expressions of sacramental grace. In this paper I will briefly demonstrate that sacramental grace is not necessarily RC, nor does it necessitate RC ecclesiology. In addition, I will make note of the growing Baptist voices who represent an openness to an embrace of sacramental grace within the outlines of otherwise traditional Baptist theology. Continue reading
My final paper for my seminary course ending this month (Theology in the Modern Era). Enjoy, comment, pass on with proper credit given.
Grace to y’all
The Passing Down of Charles Finney’s Spiritual DNA
Charles Grandison Finney stands among the most influential Christian leaders since the Reformation. He pushed hard throughout his career against all he perceived to be stultified, spending terrific energy on social justice problems and prodding the sleepy American church culture with a ministry of Revivalism. The fires of revival that he lit burned with hot emotion, as per his philosophy: “unless the religious feelings are awakened and kept excited, counter worldly feeling and excitement will prevail, and men will not obey God.” Continue reading
Yes He did. But how if all are not saved?
This high-Calvinist model of the atonement defines the doctrine in commercial, or pecuniary terms. The word “pecuniary” is derived from the trade of cattle, and in regard to the atonement, refers to Jesus’ blood being just so efficacious so as to purchase all of the elect, but not one more person than that. Yet the Bible does not unambiguously define the atonement in such language.
So then in what way did He die for those who will end up in hell for eternity? We see that He died to propitiate the wrath of God, “not for our sins only, but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:2), and that in His death, He effectually purchased His entire elect people (Matt. 1:21; Eph. 5:25 et al).
We see that He “tasted death for everyone” (Heb. 2:9), but the atonement, we see, results directly in the salvation of the elect (Heb. 9:23-28).
So then does the effectual redemption of the elect preclude His having made a redemptive payment for all people? Scripture does not seem to draw the line of limitation here. The limiting of the atonement, rather, is in how it was designed to be applied – “to all who believe” (Rom. 1:16). If we pay careful attention to each passage that teaches us about what happened in the atonement, we nowhere see that the effectual redemption of the elect necessarily means a payment has not been made for the sins of all individuals at all times. The Calvinistic “L” in TULIP is a logical construct, but it fails to regard the full picture of redemption Christ accomplished.
Our brother the Seeking Disciple posted 6 questions for Calvinists. I answered them in the best way I can, as someone not-quite Calvinist. Check it:
Rather than “Calvinist,” I qualify more so as monergist, or sovereign grace Baptist. Here’s my best attempt.
Arminian question #1. Why preach ‘repent or perish’ when the non-elect can’t repent and the elect can’t perish?
A) Because God is worthy of the repentance of every man, woman, and child on earth, and to command anything less would be to lessen His holy Law.
B) Because God uses means to accomplish His plan, and in order for His people to be saved, we must preach the gospel, and even lay down our lives to reach every tribe on earth
(2 Tim. 2:8-10 8 Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel, 9 for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained. 10 Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.)
C) Because Christ commanded it, and Christ is more loving than we can imagine. The preaching of the gospel is an expression of His love to every person, and His desire that all people would come to repentance. It is an error of rationalism to conclude that because God desires all people to come to repentance that therefore He makes equal provision for all. (More on that below.) Our hearts ought to be content in trusting our Father, that since He loved the world in such a way that He gave His only Son, that therefore every living person is a potentially “elect” person, and ought to be commanded and loved and plead with to enter the kingdom through repentance and faith. That is Calvinism as I know it, and as I practice it.
Arminian question #2. How can God hold the non-elect responsible for ‘not believing’ and damn them for it, when He deliberately did not give them the faith to enable them to believe in the first place?
The foundation of this question is flawed. God holds people responsible for knowing Him and suppressing that knowledge in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18-21). Try asking this: how could God hold the angels who rebelled responsible for their continued rebellion when He sent them no Savior or redemption? Is that fair? The Calvinist (or monergist like me) does his best to refrain from putting God on the witness stand to be judged and questioned – and we marvel that not only are a few saved, but as John sees in Revelation, a sea of people are with Christ, too numerous to count. Hallelujah!
Arminian question #3. If Christ has already made an efficacious atonement for the sins of an elect person, is that elect person actually lost during the period prior to their being saved?
Yes. Eph. 2:3 we were once the children of wrath. Calvinists who believe in eternal justification are in serious error. Also, Calvinists in general do not express the atonement in a fully biblical language, in my understanding. Christ died for everyone, and the Father applies the atonement to whom He will. (This makes me a 4.5 pointer I think).
Arminian question #4. During the period before an elect person gets saved, how are they condemned already (for not believing) when their unbelief (which is a sin) has already been paid for by Christ on the cross?
Instead of rationalism, I choose a biblical doctrine to shape my thinking. Although Jesus atoned for all (or all the elect as Calvinists say), it is not effectual for their justification until applied by the Spirit, and when they repent and trust in Christ. To force eternal justification is to do major violence to all sorts of orthodox biblical categories.
Arminian question #5. If repentance is a gift only given to the elect, what did Jesus mean when He said that some of the people in hell would have repented if they had had the same opportunity as the people to whom He preached?
God knows in His wisdom exactly what type of application is needed from person to person to regenerate them. We have to take the statement at face value. Let’s turn it a little: If God knew what it would have taken for those in hell to have repented, why didn’t He do it? A blatant proof text for monergism/Calvinism.
Arminian question #6. Why does the Spirit of God strive and convict some sinners who later prove, by dying and going to hell, that they were non-elect? What is the purpose of such movings of the Spirit?
I believe (and this is piercing into the secret counsel of God a little bit Deut 29:29) that He is demonstrating His mercies and also the guilt/depravity of His enemies, that though they are given access to all the covenant graces of Christ, yet without His decisive, effectual grace of regeneration, they will ultimately persist in unbelief and sin. In a word, demonstration.
Grace in Christ,
In late 2002 the Lord Jesus opened my heart to receive Him, and I was born again. In early 2007 the Lord Jesus opened my eyes to see that salvation is all God, and nothing of me.
Of course, I would have mouthed the credit to Him before that point, as grateful as I was, and as wretched as I was before I was saved, but I didn’t know what kind of salvation had really happened to me.
From monergism.com –
The Century Dictionary defines it as follows:
“In theology, the doctrine that the Holy Spirit is the only efficient agent in regeneration – that the human will possesses no inclination to holiness until regenerated, and therefore cannot cooperate in regeneration.”
I could not cooperate in my regeneration, I had no part in the choice to be saved, I take no credit for even not resisting the work of the Holy Spirit. There is one thing I take credit for in having become a true Christian: the wretched sinfulness and rebellion in my nature and actions that made my rescue necessary. That’s all I contributed.
The Holy Spirit Himself is the single, active agent in the moment of initial salvation for all who are redeemed. Our response to being born again is repentance of sin (imperfect as it is), and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (who He is and what He has done).
That’s monergism – and that’s pure, beautiful, joyous Christian truth.
Some Technical Definitions
I look forward to expressing on this site a strong love of God’s sovereign grace. To be precise, I am not a Calvinist, and I am not Reformed. To be one or both of those, one has to subscribe to the Reformed and Calvinistic confessions of faith such as the Heidelberg Catechism and the Westminster Confession of Faith.
As expressed in those dynamite confessions, Calvinism includes covenant theology and the baptism of infants. Without those elements and the ecclesiology of the Reformed confessions, one is not truly Reformed.
I myself am still working through the points of covenant theology (of which I am oh so close to agreement), and the resultant wet infants of the Reformed churches. With that said, this citizen of New Jerusalem is a hearty, happy Protestant, and this site will feature much more clear delineation of the doctrines of sovereign grace as the days go on.
I believe the doctrine Christ’s Church needs to be preaching in this hour of history is that solid old monergism that broke the stranglehold of Rome over the Church 500 years ago.
Be sure to subscribe to receive an e-mail when the Citizen posts, and help me develop my thinking as I grow with you in the grace and truth of our wonderful Savior Jesus the Messiah.
I’ll leave you with some gold for your pockets.
Thanks for reading,
“If our religion be of our own getting or making, it will perish; and the sooner it goes, the better; but if our religion is a matter of God’s giving, we know that He shall never take back what He gives, and that, if He has commenced to work in us by His grace, He will never leave it unfinished.”
” …the conversion of a sinner being not owing to a man’s self determination, but to God’s determination, and eternal election, which is absolute, and depending on the sovereign Will of God, and not on the free will of man; as is evident from what has been said : and it being very evident from the Scriptures, that the eternal election of saints to the faith and holiness, is also an election of them to eternal salvation; hence their appointment to salvation must also be absolute, and not depending on their contingent, self-determining Will.”
“For non-reformed theologies…”at the end of the day, the security of the believer finally rests with the believer. For those in the opposite camp [Reformed], the security of the believer finally rests with God — and that, I suggest, rightly taught, draws the believer back to God himself, to trust in God, to a renewed faith that is of a piece with trusting him in the first place.”
The Bible “locates unbelief in the total inability of sinners to effect their own liberation from the bondage of the will, and … locate faith in the unconditional election, redemption, and effectual calling of the triune God alone. God gives not only sufficient grace (that is, enough grace to enable sinners to respond positively to God if they choose to do so), but efficient grace (that is, regeneration as well as faith and repentance as gifts).”
– Michael Horton The Christian Faith, pg. 562