Friday, September 7, 2007

Ecumenists of the Mouth; Sectarians of the Heart

My last post has generated quite a bit of conversation, most of which can be summarized into a few categories:

  • Those who would dodge my point by pretending that I am calling for separation over any and every unrepentant sin.
  • Those who would dodge my point by pretending that I believe Southern Baptists to be without unrepentant sin.
  • Those who would dodge my point by trotting out the tired old steed of Landmarkism.
  • Those who would dodge my point by priding themselves in their broad, irenic, tolerant way of speaking.
  • Those few, to whom I am genuinely thankful, who actually engaged my point. We did not come to universal agreement, but we had a great conversation.
But so muddled have the waters grown, that I choose to reiterate the main point in a closing post. Those who would pat themselves on the back for talking about the unity of the Body of Christ, all the while maintaining sectarian churches that will not recognize the rites of other churches as valid baptism, will not call ministers of other denominations as pastors of their congregations, would not receive as members those who have not been immersed as believers, etc., ...such folks are a strange hybrid. They are ecumenists of the mouth, wanting to talk the Christian unity talk, but in their actual church practice, they are as sectarian as I am, or at least nearly so. It is my desire that my walk and my talk would coincide with one another. If I am dividing or restricting the Body of Christ over something, my actions are calling it a matter of unrepentant sin, whether I wish to be honest with my mouth or not. Oh, and appending to my own post, I submit as Exhibit A for the preferable opposite, my brother in Christ, Dr. Mark Dever. He, while being perfectly up-front and honest about exactly where he differs with our pedobaptist brethren, acknowledging that he regards it as unrepentant sin, is one of the great champions of appropriate cooperation with those brethren. His mouth and his heart line up perfectly and reveal a commitment to doctrinal honesty coupled with a genuine love for the brethren. I aspire to the same.

132 comments:

Scott Gordon said...

Amen.

Micah Fries said...

Bart-

I honestly don't want you to think I'm just arguing here, but your last paragraph makes no sense to me at all. I generally track well with your arguments, though I occasionally disagree with them :-), but this one seems to elude me, to be honest. If Dr. Dever (whom I sincerely respect) honestly thinks that an individual is involved in unrepentant sin, isn't it a sign of moral and/or biblical infidelity to allow that individual to occupy his church's pulpit?

Can we say that we would ever honestly allow someone whom we know to be living in unrepentant sin (i.e. gossip, deceitfulness, etc.) to fill our pulpit and be satisfied with that action regardless of our justification? Why would it then be any different for him to allow an unrepentant sinner (in the area of baptism) to occupy his pulpit otherwise?

I'm honestly not trying to dredge up Paul's post again, but I think the point is valid that if someone is recognized as an unrepentant sinner for us to then gladly grant them the responsibility to communicate God's word to our congregation is a gross misuse of our position and not representative at all of what you have descibed. His mouth and his heart line up perfectly and reveal a commitment to doctrinal honesty coupled with a genuine love for the brethren.

Am I wrong?

Scott Shaffer said...

This sin stuff sure complicates things. ;^)

Colin McGahey said...

Micah,

I offered a response in the last thread to that question. I do believe you are wrong. You are falsely aligning all unrepentant sinners as sinners in open (knowledgeable) rebellion against God.

Bart Barber said...

I agree with Colin.

Bart Barber said...

BTW Micah, It's great to have you back at PGBB.

CB Scott said...

Bart,

Help me out here. Several years ago we had D. James Kennedy to preach at the SBC. Dr. Rogers introduced him. Dr. Rogers, being funny and just raggin' on Dr. Kennedy said; "Dr. Kennedy, if you will come under. We will come over."

We also got (stole) CWT from his EE. Many fo us had fellowship with him through the years. Our whole convention either directly or indirectly has had fellowship with him.

Do you think Dr. Kennedy would have thought his life had unrepentant sin festering in him?

Do you think Dr. Rogers would have so heartly introduced him to the SBC had he believed Dr. Kennedy was living with in what he (Dr. Rogers) would have well known to be open, unrepentant sin?

Dr. Rogers knew then and certainly knows now (so does Dr. Kennedy) that there is only one way to be baptized according to the Scripture.

Come on and hit me with your best shot. Fire a....waaay. :-)

Paul said...

Yet on my blog you admitted that Dr. Dever is being inconsistent by inviting those same unrepentant sinners to preach from his pulpit.

Micah Fries said...

Colin and Bart-

While I appreciate your responses, I think they're dead wrong. Just because someone is unaware of their sin doesn't relieve them of culpability nor the responsibility to answer for their behavior. Additionally, if you know that they are involved in unrepentant sin and yet you allow them to assume a position of authority in your church, it would seem to me that you are tacitly participating in their sin, or at the very least condoning their sin.

I would choose to disagree that these men we've discussed are actually in sin, but if you do believe they are in sin, the point I'm making would have to necessarily follow it seems to me.

Bart Barber said...

C.B.: "Do you think Dr. Kennedy would have thought his life had unrepentant sin festering in him?"

Bart: I have enough confidence in Dr. Kennedy to hope that, had he recognized it, he would have had the courage to correct it. So no, as far as my own guessing goes, I doubt that he acknowledged the error of his ways.

C.B.: "Do you think Dr. Rogers would have so heartly introduced him to the SBC had he believed Dr. Kennedy was living with in what he (Dr. Rogers) would have well known to be open, unrepentant sin? "

Bart: Dr. Rogers did so, and I might have done so as well. We ought not to evaluate a man's character and contribution to the kingdom solely by his weakest point. Yet you and I both know that D. James Kennedy, in the state that he was in, would not have been welcome to be a member of Bellevue.

With you, I rejoice that Dr. Kennedy now has as excellent a knowledge of baptism as he had about so many other things while walking here below.

Bart Barber said...

Paul,

You asked whether I saw the inconsistency that you were asserting. I acknowledged that I did. Yet I agree with Colin that it makes a difference what the sin is and what the attitude of the heart is toward the sin. Frankly speaking, if one were to exclude from the pulpit all who are not completely repentant of sin in their lives at that moment, Sunday mornings would be much quieter.

Bart Barber said...

Now, C.B., I ask you whether you could sprinkle and infant for baptism and regard yourself as not sinning in doing so?

Bart Barber said...

...an infant...

Malcolm Yarnell said...

Wow. I guess I could say I agree with Bart who agrees with Colin who agrees with Mark, but that would be redundant, even if true.

gary ledbetter said...

I've been stewing on this for a few days. I think this response is directly aimed at your OP, rather than at the comment stream.

It's a startling thing to say that Kennedy and other Presbyterian are/were in a state of unrepentent sin. I know this much: I'd be in a state of willful sin if I baptized or endorsed the baptism of anyone I thought to be an unbeliever (infants included). I don't think their sin is willful, though.

The hard question is why Presbyterian consciences don't convict them when they do that very thing. I think it is a sin but not a fleshly or rebellious one. I mean, their appetites or avarice would not likely lead them to the practice of pedo baptism, as would be the case with lust or gluttonly. And yet these folks pray and listen to God faithfully.

My conscience constrains me on this matter, and others, because of my conviction that the Bible teaches baptism for believers only, eternal security, etc.

Those who baptize infants maintain a practice based on their own convictions regarding theology, tradition, and to a lesser degree, Scripture. I maintain my own theological practices based on Scripture, theology, and to a lesser degree, tradition. Our respective errors are sin, unrepentent because they are not perceived to be sin.

I feel no guilt at all about the degree of separatism Baptists practice. At the same time, our reformation will always be incomplete until Jesus comes. That's an important thing about Baptists.

We each and all still have things to repent of. I have no problem calling some practices of Pres Christians and Nazarene Christians sin, but I feel the need to do so meekly.

CB Scott said...

Bart,

First, no I would not sprinkle an infant. I do not even let my children play in the yard sprinklers:-)

Are you sure the wording you have chosen (unrepentant sin) to use here is the best to convey the theological concept you are trying to illustrate?

The idea "unrepentant" presents (at least to me) is to have sin wherein one has an awareness of a rebellious thought, attitude, or action, yet, refuses to repent of the condition. Of course, that would harm fellowship with the Father. When I sin willfully my fellowship with the Lord suffers until I repent. No one understands that, among Baptist, more than me.

I will use Dr. Kennedy again to illustrate my point.

(I use him not because I think he was lacking, but because I believe he was one of the greatest Christian statesmen of our time.)

There is no doubt from a biblical perspective he was wrong about Baptism. So, is that due to theological error or is it, as you say, unrepentant sin?

If it is due to unrepentant sin, then how close was he to apostasy for his constant and willful refusal to repent of the sin in his life? To what degree can a man be wrong before we call him a heretic? All heretics are heretics first and foremost due to rebellion against the truth of Scripture.

I know you do not believe Dr. Kennedy to be a heretic. This is not a trap to get you to call him one. It is a question due to the words you used to present your position.

Malcolm, Bart sponsored this ball, but you have already called one dance so grab your partner and come back on the floor.:-)

cb

Ben Stratton said...

Bart,

On you previous post you mentioned that "one of the better Baptist historians was a lifelong homosexual."

I have never heard this before. Who are you referring to?

Thanks for your reply.

CB Scott said...

Gary Ledbetter

I think we are very close to the same position here. (You may think that strange)

Is it possible that to use the words "unrepentant sin" to describe this "theological deficiency" is rather strong and presents an idea beyond what one would be trying to convey when seeking to present a purity in adhering to biblical truths?

To use Dr. Kennedy again...Would it not be better to say he was lacking in biblical understanding of Baptism rather than to say he was guilty of unrepentant sin?

To be truly lacking in understanding certainly does not constitute willful and unrepentant sin. It does constitute ignorance of biblical truth.

There shall be no man not guilty of such prior to our homecoming. Is that not part of what Paul was in reference to in 1Corinthians 13: 10-13?

CB Scott said...

Bart,

Would brother Stratton be an unrepentant sinner due to his obvious lack of understanding of Baptist history? :-) Also, in his desire to lead you into gossip?

cb

CB Scott said...

Bart,

I did not properly answer your question about infants.

If I were to sprinkle an infant it would be willful and rebellious sin for me. I know better. It would be something for which I would need to repent with tears. It is not a biblical practice.

Mr Stratton, I was just raggin' on you...sorta:-)

cb

Micah Fries said...

Gary-

Yours is one of the best responses I've seen to this yet. I would say that I'm probably pretty close to you here.

Bart-

I think I agree with CB on this one. The use of the term "unrepentant sin" seems to be troubling to me. That a pastor could happily invite an openly unrepentant sinner into their pulpit to preach simply seems to be beyond what I'm comfortable endorsing.

Malcolm Yarnell said...

Gary's comments are spot on. Paul said something very similar:

"Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself."

We are to confront and not condone sin, whether done willingly or ignorantly, even as the result of a Christian but fallen and limited rationality and/or tradition.

The fact is that Baptists have been given further light upon God's Word that others lack either out of ignorance or rebellion or an incorrect theological method. But this is no cause for pride, for to whom much is given, from them much is required.

In Christ,
Malcolm

CB Scott said...

Bart and Malcolm,

You are yet to speak. I know guys like the two of you have nothing other to do on Saturday than to answer blog questions. So come forth from yon and speak.

In this matter, one of your known comrades is very close (I think) to the position Micah and I hold on this matter. That comrade, of course being Gary Ledbetter.

Now, cowboy up, fellows. Its time to dance.:-)

cb

CB Scott said...

Malcolm,

Thank you for the cowboy up.:-)

Do you think Baptist "have been given further light" due to the fact of our historic diligence to seek the biblical truth without regard to the traditions of men, creeds or theological predispositions?

Would you agree that we are who we are only because, by grace, we have kept the concept of being a people of the Book at the forefront of our existence through the years?

Would you also agree it is for the above stated reasons we are so willing to draw swords with one another or any other that wants to come to the arena of theological debate?

It is hard to understand all of the teachings of the Book, although they are all true and perfect, due to the fact that we are fallen people. Therefore I think it is good to have a good iron sharpening iron session once in a while.:-)

What say ye, Malcolm?

Bart, get in the game:-)

cb

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Bart,

I honestly can see your position. I guess the difficulty is the term "unrepentant sin". Exactly what is unrepentant sin. Would one describe "theological deficiency" as synonymous with sin? If theological deficiency is synonymous with sin then would one consider it unrepentant?

Some in this comment stream present a theological deficiency based on background and traditional upbringing. However, if theological deficiency is not synonymous with sin, then we have a problem in a logical sense. If one truly believes what they were taught based on their theological tradition and upbringing, then one has to admit that Muslims are forgiven based on their theological deficiency.

Also, some in this comment stream have, through various concerns expressed, presented unrepentant sin as synonymous with unpardonable sin. Unrepentant sin is something that is in all Christians' lives. It may be that I am Biblically wrong in my Pre-trib, Pre-mil, view. If I am, then I am unrepentant sinner. Does this mean that I have broken fellowship with Jesus? Yes! But, what exactly is broken fellowship?

Well, I have asked more quesitons that I can answer. Also, I have to leave and meet a family at the funeral home. I will continue this when I return.

Blessings,
Tim

gary ledbetter said...

CB,

I'm not at all surprised. Sometimes we're both right.

I think "unrepentent sin" is provocative but I can't say it's inaccurate. The sin is an action based on the lack of biblical understanding. It is unrepentent because of this same lack of understanding.

Malcolm,

The Scripture passage is very much on subject. Our understanding of Scripture is a gift and stewardship, not a mark of superiority.

Happy to be,
Bart and Malcom's known comrade

CB Scott said...

Tim,

I have wondered where you are. Come in.

We are not talking about Muslims here. They are all heretics basiclly because they are lost and on their way to hell.

I did ask a question earlier relating to heresy and apostasy. Go read it. It is just like a Tar Heel to go into a game without being properly prepared:-)

Gary Ledbetter,

Well said.

Now we just have to come to an understanding which of us is more often right. :-)

cb

CB Scott said...

Tim,

To be unrepentant denotes knowledge of one's sin and a rebellious heart toward God.

To be a Believer who truly seeks truth, yet is wrong in some areas, as are we all, is not to be in rebellion. It is simply to
"see through a glass darkly" as Paul has stated in 1Corinthians 12:10-13 as I referenced earlier.


"What exactly is broken fellowship?"

OK, We have a relationship to God as His children through the salvic work of Christ. That relationship is eternal to eternal.

Our "fellowship" can be harmed and broken due to willful sin of which we refuse to repent.

Tim, you know we can "grieve" the Spirit.(Eph. 4:30) When we do our fellowship is harmed and possibly broken if we do not repent and cease doing or thinking what has grieved the Spirit.

I know you know that. I know where you went to school.

cb

Bennett Willis said...

We have discussed and thrown about a number of terms.

unrepentant sin

sin

rebellion against God

error

And I'm sure several others.

Do these have eternal ramifications (some do/some don't?) or is there simply re-education. Several have said that Dr. Kennedy has certainly been shown that this group of Baptists is right on baptism. Does that end it?

What are the eternal penalties for sin--of the various types?

Bennett Willis

CB Scott said...

Bennett,

Dr. Kennedy was a great Christian statesman in our time. There is no doubt about that.

He was also wrong on Baptism. There is no doubt about. Also, he, now, knows he was wrong.

"this group of Baptist??

It does not matter what
this "group of Baptist" thinks, says, teaches or preaches, Dr. Kennedy's position on Baptism is still wrong because it is not a biblical position.

"penalties for sin"

"For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

For Believers consider the truth of 1Corinthians 3:11-15 as to the judgement of our sin.

Bennett, these other guys I know or know well their testimony of faith in Christ.

You I do not know, therefore, I ask the following:

Do you have a personal relationship with Christ wherein you can say you have been born again through the grace of God depending on nothing other than the salvic work of Christ?

cb

Colin McGahey said...

Micah,

I don't understand how you disagree with me, yet agree with Gary. In humbleness, one can identify their brother to be in unrepentant sin (paedobaptism)while not identifying the degree and nature of that sin to warrant banishment from his pulpit. It is, after all, not likely a sin that reflects rebellion against God but the dim light of doctrinal diversion.

I understand unrepentant sin to denote the idea of simply not turning away from a sin. Yet it may connote an idea of harshness. In other words, the term is offensive to some, though true. For others, they perhaps do not agree that baptizing infants is sin. Perhaps then one could use the term that best connotes their idea of how seriousness the sin of paedobaptism actually is.

Tim Rogers said...

Brother CB,

Let's examine the words used.

Apostasy--"a secession from the church, and a disowning of the name of Christ".—New Unger's Bible Dictionary.

Heretic--"Heresy disturbed the unity of doctrine and of fellowship in the early church, which was therefore forced to exclude those holding false doctrine from its communion. Once excluded, they formed societies of their own. This was the case with the Novatians, Gnostics, Donatists, etc."
—New Unger's Bible Dictionary

Thus, we do not ascribe to unrepentant sin being either Heresy of Apostasy. Which brings me back to my original question. What is unrepentant sin? It is sin, when shown from Scripture to be such, that is wilfully not acknowledged as sin. I do not know of any Presbyterian that will acknowledge that infant Baptism is sin. However, you have clearly stated that you believe, because of the Scriptural teaching, is sin.

Now, let's examine Dr. Kennedy's belief's on pedobaptism. He believed it was not for salvation, but was needed to enter into covenant. We would say that is not correct and anyone who believes that has not correctly divided the Word of God. When one does not correctly divide God's word we call that, what?

Blessings,
Tim

Colin McGahey said...

or, rather, unrepentant sin may connote the idea of a rebellious heart toward God.

CB Scott said...

Tim,

It is possible for a Christian to be or to become a heretic.

The question was; how far does one go before we would call him one?

Colin,

Do you believe unrepentant sin is a disposition one has with knowledge in the realm of orthodox faith?

I am not talking about Muslims or any of the "out of bounds" stuff to which Tim is in reference.

cb

Greg Welty said...

Westminster Confession of Faith, ch. 28:

"4. Not only those that do actually profess faith in and obedience unto Christ but also the infants of one or both believing parents are to be baptized.

5. ***Although it be a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance***, yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto it as that no person can be regenerated or saved without it, or that all that are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated."

(emphasis mine)

Calvin's _Institutes_, Book IV, ch. 16, section 32:

"No sound man, I presume, can now doubt how rashly the Church is disturbed by those who excite quarrels and disturbances because of paedobaptism. For it is of importance to observe ***what Satan means by all this craft*** - viz. to rob us of the singular blessing of confidence and spiritual joy, which is hence to be derived, and in so far to detract from the glory of the divine goodness... Doubtless ***the design of Satan in assaulting paedobaptism with all his forces*** is to keep out of view, and gradually efface, that attestation of divine grace which the promise itself presents to our eyes... Wherefore, ***if we would not maliciously obscure the kindness of God***, let us present to him our infants, to whom he has assigned a place among his friends and family, that is, the members of the Church."

(emphasis mine)

According to the Westminster divines, it is a great sin to condemn or neglect the ordinance of baptism, which ordinance includes the baptism of infants.

According to Calvin, those who question infant baptism are doing the work of Satan and his forces, and maliciously obscure the kindness of God.

This has been the fundamental and publicly stated view of evangelical paedobaptists since the Reformation. And yet it's the Baptists who are meanies by calling a spade a spade. Go figure.

Greg Welty said...

Appendix to the above.

Calvin's Institutes, Book IV, ch. 16, section 9:

"In fine, we ought to stand greatly in awe of the denunciation, that God will take vengeance on every one who despises to impress the symbol of the covenant on his child (Gen. 17:15), such contempt being a rejection, and, as it were, abjuration of the offered grace (4.16.9)."

According to Calvin, God will take vengeance on those who do not have their children baptized. Such people have contempt for God's grace, and in fact reject it.

CB Scott said...

Greg Welty,

It is obvious you agree Dr. Kennedy and others were and are wrong about Baptism.

Would you speak to the issue relating to unrepentant sin? Do you believe the concept of unrepentant sin is the better way to describe the lack of understanding of biblical theology many real believers have today (and in the past)yet, they are seeking to live holy before the Lord?

I am not talking about heretics or infidels.

cb

CB Scott said...

Boy,

It has been great fun. I watched the SABANATION destroy Vandy as we debated these matters. It is now time to get needful things done. I am going to the airport to pick up one of my two sons and his family that live among the Tar Heels.

We will speak of football(it is not played where they live:-) theology, and fine, and well-bred bulldogs.

See you guys later. Bart, you were a fine host for today's game or should I say "games" even if you did not play. We SABANITES will see you Hogs next week.

May you all preach the Word tomorrow. May the subject of your chosen Text be the subject of your sermon. May you be filled with the Spirit as you preach. May you preach in you own personality as God made you 'cause there is only one you God made:-)

cb

Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear Dr. BB and Friends,

I am sorry for coming so late to this conversation. It certainly is a good one.

I've taken great interest in this issue, and appreciate several of the comments, but am ready only to read/listen here at this point.

Love in Christ,

Jeff

Colin McGahey said...

CB,

Yes. For it is by grace we are saved through faith, and this not of ourselves, so no one may boast, but the gift of God. Practically speaking, unrepentant sin should make us tremble when in view of the great and terrible Day of the Lord, and often has the effect of destroying assurance of salvation- especially if unrepentance is accompanied by a lack of remorse or guilt.

Greg Welty said...

] It is obvious you agree Dr. Kennedy and others were and
] are wrong about Baptism.

I hope a Baptist pastor in Birmingham, Alabama would also agree with me on this :-)

] Would you speak to the issue relating to unrepentant sin?
] Do you believe the concept of unrepentant sin is the better
] way to describe the lack of understanding of biblical theology
] many real believers have today (and in the past)yet, they are
] seeking to live holy before the Lord?

I guess I have a hard time seeing what all the fuss is about.

The presence of good intentions and ignorance just isn't relevant to whether disobedience to God's command, or failure to obey God's command, is a sin. Nadab and Abihu, and Uzzah, may have had the best of intentions in doing what they did (offering up strange fire before the Lord, and touching the ark, respectively). The Scriptures still portray their acts as worthy of divine judgment, and therefore sin. Likewise, Leviticus prescribes an offering for sins committed in ignorance -- evidence, I would think, that sin does not preclude ignorance, and vice-versa.

Beyond this, historically speaking, it has been a staple of the baptist/paedobaptist discussion that each side believes the other side is in sin. This is not news. I don't know how many here have gotten a degree from an actual Reformed seminary which seeks to train its students for future ministry in Presbyterian churches. But I can tell you from my years at Westminster-California that the standard, default view is *of course* Baptists are failing to obey the command of God with respect to their infants, and are on that account sinners and derelict in this particular duty. This position, explained to me with love and compassion, had a clarifying effect on my thinking. It reminded me that baptism is nothing less than a command of God. Paedobaptists rightly recognize that failure to obey the command of God is sin, although they wrongly believe that baptists are failing to obey the command of God by failing to baptize their infants. Likewise, baptists rightly believe that disobeying the command of God is sin, and (on my view) they rightly believe that paedobaptists disobey our Lord's command to baptize disciples alone.

Either God's command is to baptize disciples alone (those who have a credible profession of faith), or God's command is to baptize disciples and their infant children. There is a genuine disagreement about this between baptists and paedobaptists. The fact of disagreement should not lead us to refrain from identifying what we think is sin; rather, it should lead us to be clear about what we think is at stake: obedience to the command of God. It is, in the end, a way of showing love. My respect for paedobaptists who tell me I am in sin actually *increases* when they do this; they are genuinely concerned that I live a life pleasing to God, and they remind me that doctrine is intimately related to life (in this case, pastoral practice).

The discussion is only muddied when we infer from the fact that honest, sincere *Christians* disagree, that therefore no one is in sin, that no one is in fact disobeying and/or failing to obey the command of God. Let's face it: no matter what view we take of our Lord's command, *someone* is disobeying and/or failing to obey it. And the best of intentions and/or ignorance does not absolve someone from the charge of sin.

So it is entirely consistent for each side to regard the other side as sinning in this matter.

As for the label of *unrepentant* sin, I don't know what is best here. This is a theological term of art (I mean, the phrase is not in the Bible, is it?), and so we have some flexibility in usage. Insofar as "unrepentant" denotes the mere absence of repentance, it seems accurate for each side to apply it to the other. If paedobaptists are in fact in sin for disobeying the command of God, what sense would it make to call them "repentant sinners," if in fact they continue to disobey that command? So given the denotation, "unrepentant sinner" would apply.

But insofar as "unrepentant" often *connotes* in everyday Christian parlance the idea that "he *knows* he's in sin, and he still *refuses* to repent!", the term probably isn't apt. Few paedobaptists or baptists are in this category (although some are, and I have counseled them in this area).

Still, this entire dispute does not come down to a *phrase*. It comes down to an overall stance we take with respect to Christian brothers who are not in fact in conformity with God's command, and to the arguments for that stance.

] I am not talking about heretics or infidels.

Neither am I :-)

Malcolm Yarnell said...

WITH REGARD TO DR. WELTY"S QUOTATIONS FROM CALVIN AND WESTMINSTER:

Dr. Welty has pointed out some inconsistencies with arguing for ecumenism on the basis of an entire openness toward Presbyterianism, when that Christian tradition itself boldly proclaims that we Baptists are working against God. The ecumenical evangelicals have again run into a significant roadblock to their agenda, this time from the Presbyterians side.


WITH REGARD TO UNREPENTANT SIN:

Maybe the solution here is to break down the phrase, "unrepentant sin", in a loosely syllogistic manner.

1. Sin is missing the mark, rebellion against God, etc.

2. Repentance is turning from that sin and toward God and His will.

3. Unrepentant sin is, therefore, not turning from sin.

Another syllogistic argument, which Calvinists certainly appreciate, would go like this.

1. New Testament baptism is for believers only.

2. If one rejects the will of Christ -- baptism of believers only -- then one is engaged in unrepentant sin.

3. Presbyterians are engaged in unrepentant sin because they refuse to follow Christ entirely according to His revealed will.


WITH REGARD AGAIN TO GARY'S POINT:

Now, with that said, let me personally laud D. James Kennedy. Although I was witnessing prior to taking Evangelism Explosion so many years ago, I learned how to witness more clearly and with more boldness from EE. Dr. Kennedy's teaching with regard to evangelism was quite biblical.

I thank God for Dr. Kennedy's ministry, for God used that Presbyterian to make me a better Baptist (understanding that being Baptist means the intention to be more biblical.)

In Christ,
Malcolm

Malcolm Yarnell said...

Well, Dr. Welty, it looks like we posted on top of one another. I hope readers will take time to read your clear comments.

Greg Welty said...

Well, I did not use full-caps, so my presentation was not as forceful as yours ;-)

Seriously, though, I'm just befuddled that people seem shocked that Dever is calling a group of Christians sinners when, by their own writings, said group have been calling us sinners for quite some time now.

And the retort, "Yeah, well two wrongs don't make a right!" just isn't applicable here, since it begs the question at issue. I don't believe *either* side is wrong to call the other side sinners in this matter, for the reasons I gave above. If you think someone is disobeying/failing to obey a command of God, it's the consistent thing to do.

CB Scott said...

It has been a great day. My son is in to visit from the state of "tar pits", hog stink and poor football. The only redemptive qualities of NC are that it houses the greatest seminary under the sun, SEBTS, and has the best Baptist playground east of the "Big River",Ridgecrest. Of course, many feel another redemptible factor is the fact that I no longer live there but my sons do.

The SABANATION beat the vandy sissies of the PUKE YELLOW state. I love to beat vandy. Even their coach looks like a Preppie.

Finally it has been a good day because we have debated an issue without "trashing" each other in a serious manner. (I will always be guilty of raggin' guys. It comes with the package)

Greg Welty,

Thank you for your answers, especially your comment relating to the use of "unrepentant sin" as it has been used on these last two post of PB.

It is true there is only one and a very easy to understand biblical position on Baptism.

I would say more of it, but then some would call me a Landmarker which would do two things. One would be to show their theological ignorance and the other would be...well, I'll leave that alone.

Malcolm,

You have spoken well, in my opinion. I do wish that politics and the fact that I hardly know you has put us at odds about some issues and a couple of personalities that we both love and know from different perspectives. Maybe someday:-)

Colin,

When SWBTS gets through with you, come to Alabama. We need your "savvy" here and we do have real football. Not that bush league stuff they have in Texas:-)

Micah,

You are a thinking man and I truly believe you seek after God. You will do well among the new flock to which God has placed you.

Tim,

What can I say? You are a good friend and a noble fighter. You can preach here in Birmingham anytime. And I'll rag on you all the time you are doing it:-)

Gary Ledbetter,

I want to thank you for stepping up to the plate today and speaking your convictions. I respect what you have said and I have probably been wrong about you many times. For that, I am sorry. That does not mean we will not fight again. I am sure we will, because it is me who is right more often:-)

Many have gone hard on Bart in the comment thread of the post before this one. I cannot help but think it was politics that caused that.

We are Baptist. We are a people of the Book. Dr. Kennedy was a great Christian statesman and conservative Christians owe him a great debt. Period. Yet, he was wrong in his position relating to Baptism. I can't help but wonder how he could not know he was wrong. It is evident that he was to any honest reader of the New Testament.

Also, I have wondered from time to time if the day Dr. Rogers introduced him to the SBC as a speaker if he was letting him know he was wrong in that way Dr. Rogers had of doing so.

"Dr. Kennedy, if you will come under. We will come over."

I believe Baptist are a people of the Book. I believe we are moreso than anyone else. If I did not believe that I should seek fellowship where I knew that the folks are more closely following the Book. If I did not I would be, at that point, an unrepentant sinner.

Again, I say Baptist are closer to the way of Scripture than any other group under the "SON." Our problems arise from our all to often lapse in character and doing things from time to time that are just plain stupid.

Bart, you can have your blog back now. I guess I have held it under a black flag long enough:-)

cb

Paul said...

I guess this is more than just semantics to me. Call them unrepentant sinners. Fine. Call them flaming pagans destined for a devil's hell. Whatever. But Bart has made a very forceful point that to separate from these people can only be made on the basis of some grave error, otherwise we are violating Christ's command for unity. But how can it be so grave an error that I will not cooperate with them in kingdom endeavors, will not affiliate with them in denominational efforts, will consider them to be in unrepentant sin, but will turn and minimize that same sin suggesting their intentions are honorable and that they are unaware of their error and seeking to be obedient - and will invite them to preach from my pulpit?

So here's the next logical question: why not go the extra step and call that man as your pastor? You've already given him a place of authority in your church. The glaring inconsistency is that you claim him to be in grave error on the one hand, but then claim that such an error is no big deal - at least not big enough to keep him from preaching in your pulpit. Why, according to the two categories Colin set up for us in the comments of the last post there are those who know that they are in sin and refuse to turn from it and then there are those who are ignorant of their sin and are seeking to be obedient. I can only assume that the unrepentant gossips and gluttons that Bart would allow to pastor a Baptist church fit into that second category. But I can also only assume that he intends for pedobaptists to fit into that second category as well. Yet they cannot pastor a Baptist church. Can you not see this inconsistency?

Either the pedobaptist knows his error and refuses to turn from it and it unrepentant in the same way a profligate is unrepentant or he is of the second category that you have offered us to accommodate the unrepentant gluttons and gossips who you would have no problem pastoring Baptist churches. But if you will allow them to pastor Baptist churches you are only consistent if you allow pedobaptists to do the same.

Unless you want to invent a third category of unrepentant sinners for us to consider.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Gentleman: It seems you are now downplaying what I have read in the other post of Barts which I disagree with CB had anything to do with politics. Paul's question has been sidestepped and replaced with logic. To say they are wrong is one thing, to call them unrepentant sinners is even more wrong. I do not care if someone called me this or not. The fact is two wrongs do not make a right, whether that is seen as a misnomer argument or not by Dr. Welty. I will give it. We should not take the task of calling someone an unrepentant sinner lightly which I believe is being done here, or there is arrogance in that charge. Either way, the ones making the charges may be the very ones who are doing the sinning. And if Dr. Welty does not see what all the fuss is about then that troubles me greatly. Greatly.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Paul and I must have posted around the same time. So I'll also add, yeah what Paul said.

Paul said...

Greg Welty and Malcolm Yarnell,

Can you imagine John Calvin writing what he did and then inviting a credo-baptist to preach in his church? No. They were too busy binding them hand and foot and setting them out to sea in a leaky boat.

Yet, you would have us view the error similarly all the while inviting them to preach in our Baptist churches?

Amazing.

Scott Gordon said...

To one and all:

What was the sin of Job's friends (Job 42:7-9)?

Was it not "you have not spoken of Me what is right"? Is that not equivalent to a theological assertion, a doctrinal position? Does that apply here?

sg!

Debbie Kaufman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Debbie Kaufman said...

I think it's safe to say that Job's friends accused Job of being an unrepentant sinner. In fact that was their sin.

Steve said...

Debbie, why do you seek to stir iun strife when the conversation had been so balanced and gracious?
Are you colouring with your red crayons again?

Grosey's Messages said...

Debbie I looked over to your blog and found your comment concerning this comment thread. I am surprised that you chose to publicly malign me at your blog, and falsely accuse me of being an Independant Baptist. I am not an Independant Baptist. In fact I often preach in other denominational churches (twice in the last two months in congregational churches and I arranged the pulpit for a Wesleyan church, and an evangelical church). How many other-denominational churches have you spoken in this month? How many have you even attended this month?
Shame on you for falsely maligning me and not having the integrity to inform me that you had done so.
Steve

Bart Barber said...

I've read about fifteen of the comments, but it is time to go to church now. I'll get back to everyone individually later today, Lord willing.

In the meantime, let me stipulate this:

I am perfectly willing to substitute for the phrase "a matter of unrepentant sin" the phrase "a matter of clear biblical teaching."

I believe that it amounts to a matter of unrepentant sin to be at odds with a clear biblical teaching (like believer's baptism), but if the phrase "unrepentant sin" be too inflammatory, I'm just as comfortable with this alternative phrase.

What say ye?

CB Scott said...

What say I?

I would say thank you.

I shall now go to church. We have a big bunch going with us today; sons, daughters, daughter-in-law, grandson, dear wife and yours truly. We are leaving the bulldogs here today. Can't get 'em all in the truck:-)

cb

Malcolm Yarnell said...

Paul,

You make a strong argument for consistency. It makes me wonder: Are you sure you are not becoming one of those Landmarkists?

Fortunately, I need not answer your question regarding this consistency. I never invited a Paedo-Baptist into any of the three pulpits under my pastoral care.

I, have, however, proclaimed the Gospel from the pulptis of other denominations, including Episcopalian, Pentecostal, and Anglican pulpits, on numerous and even repeated occasions and would do so again. For we must let God's light shine wherever we may.


Bart,

If you changed the terminology, it would not generate the discussion that needs to take place. I recommend you leave it as is. Moreover, apparently, though I have not personally verified it, Mark Dever has used that language, and I am more than willing to stand with that godly brother in this aspect of ecclesiology.


CB and all,

Have a good worship morning.

In Christ,
Malcolm

Paul said...

No, Malcolm, I would not be becoming a Landmarkist as I do not share your view in this matter. Does that mean that you are admitting that you are? ;-)

R. Grannemann said...

Malcolm said:

"Bart,

If you changed the terminology, it would not generate the discussion that needs to take place. I recommend you leave it as is."

The discussion needs to take place because so many are consumed by it. But the TERMONOLOGY would be better off changed.

I don't think anyone in the discussion thread thinks baptizing infants is right. So why are we having this discussion? We are having it because the discussion is not about whether we are right, it's about how "bad" you are if you are not right.

Think of it this way: Baptists broke the back of Catholic theology (at least in some measure) by contenting for the symbolic nature of the ordinances. Isn't THIS the more important thing? Even many Protestants (demonstrated by Greg Welty's interesting quotations of Calvin) have not freed themselves from Catholic mythology, the idea that dunking or sprinkling someone with water confers spiritual favor and grace. Oh yes, some Baptist will say that obedience to God in baptism will confer favor and grace of some kind, just not as much as the Catholics say you will get. That's wrong! The greater you elevate this issue the more you go toward Catholic theology in sanctifying a symbolic act, in finding righteousness in your works. Baptism is a work, not a means of grace. God gives his grace to us freely, and working for it is sin.

We should simply observe the ordinance of baptism properly, explain to others why we do it this way. Let that be a witness. It's a matter of religious conscience with us, and we vigorously contend for the freedom of conscience. The DEGREE to which you let this difference separate you from other Christian brothers is a matter for the local church to decide.

R. Grannemann said...

Please don't correct my spelling for me.

Bennett Willis said...

CB Scott said:
"Do you have a personal relationship with Christ wherein you can say you have been born again through the grace of God depending on nothing other than the salvic work of Christ?" Comment: September 8, 2007 12:54 PM

The short answer to your question is, "Yes." Salvation through grace and not of works...

However, the phrasing of the question seems deliberate (salvic work of Christ) and may imply something that seems wrong to me. I don't think that I deserved salvation, but I do feel that I needed to recognize a need for it and ask for it. The concept (1689 confession, section on the elect, read a few weeks ago and not reviewed today) that somehow even if I had not been able to recognize my need for salvation I would have been saved anyhow strikes me as really odd.

But I return to my original question--are there eternal penalties for (these sorts of) sin (short of eternal damnation)? I have attempted to read the comments after I asked that question and (while there might have been some somewhere) I did not see anyone undertake to address this. (Though there was one who seemed to think that this could be a problem serious enough to affect one's eternal destination.)

My point in asking this question is that if there are no penalties (in the eternal sense) then why do we have these discussions at all? Do we just enjoy scratching the blackboard because it makes some of our fellows shiver? [Not that I don't benefit from the discussions and enjoy thinking about points that I would not normally bother with--but I don't think that we just do this for fun.]

Getting one's position really "nailed down" on something like this should make cooperation more difficult--which seems like a bad idea to me.

Again from CB's comment: "It does not matter what this "group of Baptist" thinks, says, teaches or preaches, Dr. Kennedy's position on Baptism is still wrong because it is not a biblical position." I do feel that there is a "God's true answer" to most of our questions--and it does not matter (to the true answer) if we manage to correctly tease it out of the scripture or not--though it would be strongly preferred. We do try hard to be people of the book. But as Dr. Welty pointed out, some of our spiritual ancestors have come down firmly in what we regard as non-biblical interpretations.

Bennett Willis

CB Scott said...

Bennett,

Actually, I did try to answer your question about sin's penalty.

What I meant by "salvic work of Christ" means that we depend on the atonement of Christ alone for our salvation. We do nothing to gain it. We do nothing to maintain it. We, by faith, recieve it.

Bennett, I am in no way being the antagonist that I often am on these blogs.

I am compelled to ask you again. Was there a time in your life wherein you did repent of your sin and receive Christ as your Savior, by faith, depending on Him and Him alone for your salvation?

Do you know beyond any doubt that if you die in the next minute you will go to Heven?

cb

CB Scott said...

Bennett,

Heaven is the home not of Baptist,
Methodist, Nazarenes, Pentecostals, Presbyterians, or any other denomination or fellowship.

It is the home of those who have received Christ as their Savior. In the end it does not matter what our forefathers believed or did not believe. What matters is one's relationship to Christ.

Do I know Him? is the question I must be able to answer.

cb

Bennett Willis said...

CB:
I appreciate the concern and hope that I did not sound like I did not have a relationship with Christ--I do. I was saved and baptized (appropriately) at a young age and really can't remember if my behaviors changed in any significant way--but my life did. It changed again when my daughter reminded me that we were expected to actually have a relationship with Christ. I had let that slip away from my daily thoughts and coming back to that has been beneficial. I am as confident as I get about things that I'd go to heaven if I died right now--to specifically answer another question. [Note: As a reasonably competent scientist I have trained myself not to be too sure that the sun will rise--until I see it. This is said somewhat in jest but also to explain the question that I keep asking. We have said that people who baptize children and regard them as properly baptized are some grade of sinner. If that is sin, then are there eternal penalties for this sort of sin? The only penalty (that I found) you gave for sin was death--which in this context seems to be eternal separation from God and "overkill" for baptizing infants. Or is the fact that we all have sins the reason that we eventually die? I had not looked at it from that point of view. Personally, I have no idea what sort of eternal penalty (short of eternal separation) there might be and honestly wonder if anyone else does either along with the general question.]

I always enjoy your comments. Lots of people are predictable but I don't find your comments that way--including this exchange.

Bennett Willis

Debbie Kaufman said...

Steve: If this is perceived by you as srife then so be it, It just troubles me that this is thought of as "no big deal" when it is a big deal. It seems that asking honest questions is once again perceived as strife according to you and I have to ask why.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Steve: I have answered you on my blog that is sufficient. You have said everything but answer the questions.

Steve said...

I think the scripture speaks clearly enough:
Titus 2:3 In the same way, older women are to be reverent in behavior, not SLANDERERS, not addicted to much wine.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Steve: Whoa. You are way off base. But thank you for proving my point.

Greg Welty said...

Paul Littleton asks a clarifying question, which is worth quoting in full:

] But Bart has made a very forceful point that
] to separate from these people can only be
] made on the basis of some grave error,
] otherwise we are violating Christ's command
] for unity. But how can it be so grave an
] error that I will not cooperate with them in
] kingdom endeavors, will not affiliate with
] them in denominational efforts, will
] consider them to be in unrepentant sin, but
] will turn and minimize that same sin
] suggesting their intentions are honorable
] and that they are unaware of their error and
] seeking to be obedient - and will invite
] them to preach from my pulpit?

The answer is that there are degrees of error, which call for corresponding degrees of assessment and response. This is a point I think Bart has been making from the beginning.

To habitually fail to obey our Lord's command with respect to baptism is indeed a "grave error". This command is at the heart of the Great Commission, and is at the heart of the ordering and discipline of the local church. It has massive consequences for who is admitted into the membership of the local church. Nevertheless, as you put it, I did indeed point out above that for many paedobaptists "their intentions are honorable" and/or "they are unaware of their error and seeking to be obedient." But I reject your claim that in doing so I "minimize that same sin." I'm not minimizing their sin at all. I'm seeking to identify it for what it is. If you reread my comment my point was that their sincerity and ignorance does not make their sin anything less than a sin. I think I have adequate OT basis for thinking this (Nadab and Abihu, Uzzah, offerings for sins committed in ignorance).

So, the sin of paedobaptism is an interesting sin, often incorporating the following two elements:

[1] It is a sin that directly impacts how a local church carries out the Great Commission, and the membership and discipline of the local church.
[2] It is a sin that is often accompanied by honorable intentions, and ignorance.

I submit that it is in virtue of [1] that it is a sin worth dividing over, ecclesiastically speaking. It is right that baptists and paedobaptists divide into distinct ecclesial communities, *given [1]*. But it is in virtue of [2] that it is appropriate for baptists to occasionally invite paedobaptists to preach in their pulpits.

Why is this consistent? Because the occasional visiting preacher has absolutely no say in how the host church shall in fact administer baptism. Indeed, it is unheard of for the visiting paedobaptist preacher to ever advocate his distinctive views in this area, on the occasions he preaches. (He is a guest, after all.) And even if he did, that would only provide the occasion for the leaders of the church to provide the congregation with a forceful reply after the preacher's departure. In other words, while [1] is indeed grave, the gravity of [1] has little applicability to the scenario in which a paedobaptist guest preaches in a Baptist church. And this means that [2] makes permissible just that scenario.

Contrast this with the situation where a paedobaptist becomes a *pastor* of a baptist church. In this situation, [1] has *direct* application, as the pastor has quite a bit of influence over the practice of the local church. He has the God-given calling to mold the convictions of the congregation by way of his preaching the whole counsel of God, and this includes his views on baptism. The congregation has an obligation to follow his leading in this area. Given this, what baptist could countenance [1] coming to roost in his local church? Could a local church function meaningfully with *both* believer's baptism and paedobaptism as the policy of the church? Or, alternatively, could a paedobaptist pastor his flock with a clear conscience, knowing that he would be prevented from implementing one of his most basic convictions as to the membership and order of the local church? (Indeed, knowing that he would be prevented from carrying out what he believed was implicit in his Lord's Great Commission?)

No, the error of paedobaptism is a "grave error" because of its particular consequences for *pastoral* practice and *local church order*. But it lacks any significant consequence for occasional visiting preachers. So it is the peculiar nature of this error which precludes local church "agnosticism" on this doctrine, and which precludes paedobaptists being pastors of baptist churches, all while ensuring it is quite permissible for paedobaptists to occasionally preach in baptist churches.

In short, [2] means that the paedobaptist's Christian profession is not threatened by this error. (Thus, he is a candidate for being a visiting preacher on occasion.) But [1] means that baptists are correct in not joining with paedobaptist communities into particular local churches. (Thus, paedobaptists are not candidates for being pastors of baptist churches.)

As for "cooperating with them in kingdom endeavors" or "affiliating with them in denominational efforts," that's going to come down to just what these "endeavors" or "efforts" are. Do they impinge upon the application of our Lord's commandment concerning baptism? If so, then they are ruled out, for obvious reasons. But I can imagine some kingdom endeavors that dodge this particular bullet. Mark Dever's cooperation with Ligon Duncan in "Together For The Gospel" would be a case in point, as it does not involve an attempt to implement divergent perspectives on baptismal practice in the context of a particular local church.

I don't regard this as some arbitrary gerrymandering of the evidence. I think I'm just facing reality here. But if something thinks I have overlooked an aspect of this sin that would call for a different response, I'm all ears.

Paul said...

Greg,

That sounds like a fancy way of saying "we like to have our cake and eat it too." ;)

It is "grave error" for which some of the reformers were willing to kill others over, for which we are willing to violate the Biblical call to unity over (this is Bart's argument) yet it is not so grave as to prevent them from preaching in our pulpits.

I would have to say that gerrymandering the evidence is a pretty good description of how it comes across from this side of the monitor.

Greg Welty said...

Paul Littleton writes:

] Can you imagine John Calvin
] writing what he did and
] then inviting a credo-
] baptist to preach in his
] church? No. They were too
] busy binding them hand and
] foot and setting them out to
] sea in a leaky boat.
]
] Yet, you would have us view
] the error similarly all the
] while inviting them to preach
] in our Baptist churches?
]
] Amazing.

I think you may have misunderstood me. I am calling us to "view the error similarly" insofar as baptists and paedobaptists view this error as a "grave error," indeed, sin. I think we ought to identify it as sin, a failure to obey a command of our Lord. That's the similarity.

But I am *not* calling us to respond to this error similarly. Many Reformed paedobaptists believed that baptists were worthy of death, and -- tragically -- sought to have the state implement that sanction against them. But this was due to their view of the relation between church and state, not due to their view that disobeying one of our Lord's commands is a sin. (Indeed, the latter is a banal tautology, while the former is a substantive and quite controversial view.)

It is the genius of the baptist point of view to reject the typical paedobaptist view of church/state relations. I don't find that at all inconsistent with calling sin to be sin. Paedobaptists are consistent in regarding the baptist view of baptism to be an error and a sin. The fact that many of them compound that conviction with an erroneous view of the state is their tragedy, not ours.

Paul said...

Let me also say that if we are willing to gerrymander the evidence (I do love that phrase!) to support your conclusion then I see absolutely no reason whatsoever not to use that same line of reasoning to drop all objections to my position at the same time.

Let's just switch the terms and I'll say that there are "varying levels of unity" within the church and that is why I can separate from Presbyterians in the local church setting without calling them unrepentant sinners.

Does that sound like a deal?

Greg Welty said...

Paul Littleton writes:

] It is "grave error" for which
] some of the reformers were
] willing to kill others over,
] for which we are willing to
] violate the Biblical call to
] unity over (this is Bart's
] argument) yet it is not so
] grave as to prevent them from
] preaching in our pulpits.

Paul, excuse me if I think you dodged my argument entirely, preferring instead to repeat yourself. I carefully argued my distinction. Please tell me where that argument actually went wrong, and why. Then we can have a reasonable conversation. Informing me how something "comes across" is not a rebuttal, is it? I've taken you seriously as an interlocutor. In Christian charity, please return the favor, and assess my actual argument.

Paedobaptism impacts church unity because of [1], but it does not preclude occasional guest preaching, because of [2] (and because [1] has no consequences for said preaching).

That's the distinction, and I argued for it. Where did I go wrong?

CB Scott said...

Steve,

There is no call for such a harshness toward Debbie. You are a better man than that and a far more noble Follower of Christ than is displayed in your last comment to her.

I beseech you, my brother, to stand down and give Debbie the due respect she deserves as a Christian sister. You are in error here. This is rude behavoir on your part. I am sure if you step back you will see that to be so and make the proper amends toward her.

cb

Greg Welty said...

Paul,

First, I'm delighted that you like the phrase, but I'm afraid that you're going to have to provide an actual *argument* that I've "gerrymandered the evidence". In particular, which relevant evidence to this question am I *overlooking*? Specifics, please?

Second, holding to "varying levels of unity" has no relevance whatsoever to whether or not paedobaptists are "unrepentant sinners" as far as I can tell. I gave you an argument in an earlier comment as to *why* we ought to thus regard paedobaptists, and it had nothing to do with unity, and everything to do with how the Bible defines sin. Sin is disobedience to a command of our Lord. Sin is not precluded by either sincerity or ignorance. Thus, paedobaptists are in sin in this matter, and insofar as they continue to be so, they are in "unrepentant sin". Appealing to "levels of unity" doesn't even *begin* to address that fundamental case.

So on what basis do you *deny* that failure to obey one of our Lord's commands is a sin? Is this really your position?

Greg Welty said...

Paul,

Another reason why your generic appeal to "varying levels of unity" does nothing to further your case is that it *is* generic. It doesn't tell us *why* it grounds "separation from Presbyterians in the local church setting." By way of contrast, I actually gave the details here. It said "[1] It is a sin that directly impacts how a local church carries out the Great Commission, and the membership and discipline of the local church." So what's your excuse for separation? :-)

Until you spell this out, I'm afraid that to "just switch the terms" doesn't work, since your reason for separation is apparently quite different from my reason. So the arguments aren't parallel after all. Your reasoning is not my reasoning.

So no, no deal :-)

Paul said...

Greg,

I will try to give a better answer tomorrow. It is late tonight, my wife is out of town caring for her mother who has been hospitalized and I have five kids to take care of tomorrow in addition to a meeting I've committed to. I simply don't have the energy tonight and I may not have the time tomorrow - at least until later in the evening.

But I want to say quickly that my point about unity is not about your argument. It is about mind and Bart's objection to it. My point from the beginning was that it is possible to separate from pedobaptists on a local church level without calling them unrepentant sinners. Bart objected saying that Christian unity demands that we either: a) consider them in unrepentant sin worthy of separation or b) join them and call them to pastor Baptist churches.

What I'm saying is that if we are willing to allow for your distinctions in "grave error" that we might as well also allow for distinctions in levels of unity which would allow for a third option to the two Bart has proposed which would be c) we separate with pedobaptists in the local church based upon Biblical convictions which do not amount to "unrepentant sin" yet preserve a level of unity with them - a unity which is not the same as a thoroughgoing ecumenism which eliminates all denominational distinctives yet is still not a violation of Biblical unity.

What I'm saying is that if you can get to your conclusion based upon the argument you've presently given I see no reason why you or Bart would object to the above argument as it is based upon an almost identical line of logical argumentation. Thus, in the end, either we are all inconsistent or we are all consistent.

Paul said...

Ok. We were posting at the same time. I'm going to bed.

:D

CB Scott said...

Bennett,

Thank you for your open response. I was compelled to ask you those questions. It may be that someone else needs to read our exchange.

I do hope you are attending a strong Baptist church wherein the pastor preaches and teaches the Bible.

If not, please let me encourage you to leave the church you are in and find one. Make sure the pastor believes the Bible to be perfect in all ways.

If he even bats an eye related to the recorded miracles or to the integrity of any of the Bible's substance drop him like you would a Cottonmouth snake, for in truth he is more dangerous to you than would be the snake.

If you are in a church which has a strong, theologically conservative, Baptist pastor, go to him and ask him to answer these questions you have ask here in this comment thread. If I can be of any help to you feel free to email me. My email is on my blog. Your questions deserve a full and complete answer and you should not stop until you have it.

cb

Malcolm Yarnell said...

Paul,

Afraid I don't know your last name, but I am happy to see a fellow father of five who is struggling to balance ministry and family in a proper way. Two of your statements require some feedback from me. Greg Welty, however, has handled most of your proposals quite superbly, so I will stand silent next to him.

1. I have never claimed to be a Landmarkist, so please do not imply that that is my claim. I do, however, rejoice in the current Baptist renaissance that is irking so many evangelical ecumenists.

2. As for your desire for biblical unity, I hold it, too! However, I take the adjective with the utmost seriousness. My desire for Christian unity is that it be based on the Bible rather than upon the compromise of Christ's commands or the pursuit of some temporal feel-good sentimentalism, which is the only compelling argument made by evangelical ecumenists.

In Christ,
Malcolm

Grosey's Messages said...

CB,
It was she that made me the target of her villification without informing me anywhere else (here or by email) that she had so done. A knife in the back is a knife in the back in any country.
She like anyone needs to be reminded of her christian responsibilities, unless there is something that you or others know of her that makes her ailment unusual. to claimn inability to find my email address is as you well know purely an artifice.
Steve

Grosey's Messages said...

Perhaps I have not made myself sufficiently clear: to hold one accountable for their actions speaks of respect for the persons' integrity and intellectual ability to understand their ethical responsibilities. To give them a pass is actually to demean them by not giving them the respect that their humanity deserves as a created being morally responsible towards God.
Steve

CB Scott said...

OK, Steve,


If I understand the situation correctly you are offended due to Debbie placing your comment in one of her posts and not telling you ahead of time. If that is correct, please give me a hearing in the following:

The rules of the game here in Blog Town seem to be a little different than for the rest of the world.

Any person that puts anything in print in a blog post or comment thread has put his thoughts, opinions, feelings, theology, strengths, weaknesses and sometimes and sadly his lies before the whole world to see.

We are somewhat like one of the lines in the Willie Nelson-Merle Haggard hit song, PANCHO and LEFTY;

"He wore his gun outside his pants for all the honest world to feel."

Whatever we put out is for the whole world to see. Steve, whatever we post or place in a comment thread, in a very real way, becomes community property simply because of the nature of blogging.

I don't know about you, but I, and most every others makes comments or develope entire posts based upon what other bloggers say without letting them know in advance we are doing it.

We compliment, debate issues, and (my favorite) rag on each other all the time without making advance notice. It is the nature of the beast.

When you read her post you had fair opportunity to respond. You did not have to get "bowed up" and throw such a harsh judgement at her. You could have squared off and drew down on her in a proper "blog fight fashion" and she would have responded in kind.

I have fought with her many times. Debbie is pretty good in a blog fight. What I do not do is degrade her. She is still a lady and we should all respect that above all else even in Blog Town.

I feel like you used the Scripture as a "club of convenience" and that is just not a proper thing to do.

That's my point, Steve, and I think you should consider it.

cb

Greg Welty said...

Paul,

You are right to point out that there are various, distinct polemical contexts percolating throughout this comments thread. These include:

[a] Arguing that paedobaptists are "unrepentant sinners," by giving a biblical basis for that view.

[b] Defending the consistency of holding to [a] while simultaneously allowing paedobaptists to be occasional guest preachers in Baptist churches.

[c] Arguing that anyone who denies [a] is inconsistent in ecclesiastically separating from paedobaptists.

In the set of arguments I have given, I believe I have successfully made the case for [a] and [b]. That was my main concern, since many were questioning both the terminology, and the consistency of it.

However, you may be right that I haven't directly supported [c], which has been Bart's main concern. Allow me now to do just that. You say that your "point from the beginning was that it is possible to separate from pedobaptists on a local church level without calling them unrepentant sinners." What I believe I have *already* shown is that that position is in fact inconsistent. In particular, it is inconsistent with how the Bible characterizes sin. Paedobaptists fail to obey our Lord's command with respect to baptism, and neither their sincerity nor their ignorance absolves them of this charge. That is at least *one way* a position such as yours could be shown to be inconsistent.

Bart's point, as I understand it, is slightly different. It is that sin is always a *necessary* (though sometimes insufficient) grounds for ecclesiastical separation. Thus, to engage in such separation (as you do) and yet deny that sin is the cause is inconsistent.

Your way around Bart's argument, as I understand you, is to come up with a variation of my reasoning, which might go like this:

[1'] Paedobaptist convictions directly impact how a local church carries out the Great Commission, and the membership and discipline of the local church.

[2'] Paedobaptist convictions are often accompanied by honorable intentions, and ignorance.

Notice that no mention of sin has been made in these slight revisions of my original propositions. Then you could argue like this: in virtue of [1'], it is *practically* impossible to implement both baptist and paedobaptist convictions in the same local church. So [1'] grounds ecclesiastical separation from paedobaptists, but no mention of sin needs to be made. It is a *pragmatic* separation; no nasty charges need be made. And in virtue of [2'], paedobaptists can still be occasional guest preachers in baptist churches, and once again no mention of sin needs to be made. Thus, Bart's argument can be easily deflected: you can refrain from charging paedobaptists with sin, and yet ecclesiastically separate from them.

This looks like a promising approach, but it has a fatal flaw. For this is not just any old difference of "conviction". This is a difference of conviction *about a command of our Lord*, a difference of conviction that impacts actual *practice*. Either believer's baptism constitutes obedience to our Lord's command, or paedobaptism constitutes this, but it cannot be both. *Someone* here is disobeying our Lord's command with respect to baptism. This fact must be squarely faced, and in fact has been recognized by both baptists and paedobaptists for centuries. And it is because of this *disobedience* that you get a disparity in baptismal practice. If no one was in fact *disobeying* our Lord's command here, then there wouldn't *be* a difference in practice sufficient to rule out ecclesiastical communion.

So what grounds [1'] is, in the end, sin. And the only way you can claim that your position is consistent is to simply *avoid* this inconvenient fact.

So yes, I suppose "it is possible to separate from pedobaptists on a local church level without calling them unrepentant sinners." It's possible to do anything 'consistently' if you avoid an evident truth :-) But the reason you are separating from them is because they are in fact failing to obey our Lord's command, which failure makes their baptismal practice incompatible with our own, thus making local church union impossible.

So perhaps, for clarity's sake, Bart should say: your position is inconsistent *if* you are operating with the Bible's definition of sin. And if you avoid this definition, then you have merely retreated to a more fundamental inconsistency, one with the Bible itself.

Greg Welty said...

Paul,

I now consider my response complete, as I think I've posted all the arguments I need to post, in order to make my case.

Please take your time in responding, and be assured that any delay on your part will be attributed to your God-honoring respect for implementing biblical priorities in your own life. I have just prayed for your wife, her mother, your five children, and you.

CB Scott said...

Greg Welty,

While my friend Paul is thinking of a clear and proper response I think I'll just go ahead and give you my well thought out response to this great line of thought and counter thought as has been presented on "Ole" Bart's Barebones. So...here goes..

You have well stated the way we are able to deal with our paedobaptist brethern in a cooperative manner giving them respect for their effort to follow the Master without compromising our historic Baptist adherence to true biblical theology.

I am happy you have done so. Yet, I am saddened at the same time. For, it seems, my learned brother, you have, in so doing, proven yourself far too liberal for all of us old, hardcore, CR conservatives of a bygone day.

Why can't we just treat the paedobaptists among us as we should treat the enemy in Iraq and the liberal Democrats now messing up our country over here?

Let's just shoot 'em:-)

cb

Alan Cross said...

Bart and others,

The problem here is in using the term "unrepentant sin," and then minimizing it. Perhaps a more accurate term would be more useful. I think it would be better to say that they are "unelightened regarding the truth." On that basis, I think that it is appropriate to divide with people who have different beliefs regarding substantial doctrines without saying that they are in unrepentant sin.

Question: Regarding one of our previous debates, many commenting here have advocated that those who have a private prayer language should go join another denomination that believed in that, since in your view, Baptists do not. Those who practice that have also been denied access to the mission field through the IMB. I am just wondering: since many advocate separation and denial of ministry opportunities over this issue, are you also saying that continualists who believe in the existence of a PPL are unrepentant sinners? If not, would this not be an example of dividing over an issue that is not related to sin as Bart called it? And, if we do divide over it, are we not then sinning under Bart's definition? Just asking for consistency.

And please, answer the questions. I feel that they are very important to the integrity of our debates and I will keep asking it until someone addresses it. We must not slide into inconsistency here.

Greg Welty said...

CB Scott,

Thanks for the smiley, since otherwise I might think you were... insane?

:-)

Alan,

No, it would not "be better to say that they are 'unenlightened regarding the truth'," because that fails to rise to the level of what we're actually talking about. Our Lord's command concerning baptism is just that, a command. If someone fails to obey it, or disobeys it, then they are in sin. Do you disagree? Do you have a different definition of sin, one that labels disobedience to God's commands as something else? If so, I'd like to hear it.

Imagine if someone said, "I don't pray." Would not that person be sinning? Would he not be refusing to do our Lord's will in this matter? Isn't there an *objective fact of the case* as to whether he is obeying our Lord or not, an objective fact that must be reckoned with, one that cannot be dodged by relabeling it as being "unenlightened"?

Would it matter if the person had a fancy argument to support his practice, such as, "Well, you see, God has infallible foreknowledge of the future, so what will be will be, so it doesn't matter what I do, so I don't pray." No, it wouldn't. He would still be sinning. And it wouldn't matter if he *believes* he has a good argument, such that he *sincerely* thinks that his failure to pray is consistent with biblical teaching.

I'm now really interested in what your or Paul's definition of sin is, and whether failure to obey God's commands has anything to do with it. Does it?

Since I've never said (and would not say) that PPL-advocates "should go join another denomination that believed in that," I guess someone else will have to answer your question on that matter.

Greg Welty said...

Alan,

To see that being "unenlightened regarding the truth" is a woefully inadequate basis for ecclesiastical separation, just ask yourself: is there anyone in your church who is unenlightened as to one of God's truths as revealed in the Bible? Surely there are. And if so, is this a grounds for separating from them? No, because the local church is the place *within which* we grow to doctrinal maturity.

And it's not only not a sufficient grounds, it's also not even a necessary grounds for separation. If someone knows all the Biblical doctrine there is to know, there can *still* be grounds for separating from them, if their sin is significant enough. Many seminary graduates with straight-A's have at a later time been rightly disciplined out of their churches over matters of sin. So being "unenlightened regarding the truth" is neither necessary nor sufficient for ecclesiastical separation.

Contrast this with Bart's position, which is that only *sin* can be a proper grounds for ecclesiastical separation. At the very least, it is a necessary (but often insufficient) grounds for said separation.

This seems right, for the Scriptures never call us to separate from someone because he is "unenlightened". They *do* repeatedly call us to separate over matters of sin. We can squabble over the details later, but this basic distinction seems fundamental, at least to me.

Grosey's Messages said...

I did bare down on her on her blog. She refused twice after reasonable information was supplied to her. I brought it here as a third witness> Apologies Bart.
Bye the way, I am not offended. I do not think this repeated sinful action (it has been done to others) is helpful to her. Being overseas I am not fearful of threats, so am happy to call her to account for her own good. Refusal at her own blog made it public here.
It is actually as an example of the very thing Bart is talking about on this post that I have raised the issue here. Where there is sin it needs to be confronted for the good of those involved. I came under conviction earlier this year that, though my Presbyterian minister friend had come to Baptist conclusions 5 years ago, he had not yet been baptised. So I put it to him this year that he was in violation of his conscience unless he carried through with his conviction. It was unrepented sin not to carry through and be baptised. He agreed and was baptised the next day.
Steve

Paul said...

I apologize up front that I only have time for one response and I'll take Malcolm's first, but rest assured I will respond to Greg's as well. But let me say up-front that your prayers are greatly appreciated.

Malcolm,

My last name is Littleton, but Paul is fine.

1. Um...I believe it was you who first implied that I was a Landmarkist. I simply returned the favor. ;) Where I come from we have a saying, "Don't dish it out if you can't take it." To clarify, the question I asked that precipitated that exchange was based upon the argument that Bart has made and that you have defended, not upon my own argument. Thus, when you asked if I was becoming a Landmarkist it seemed natural for me to turn the question on you since my statement was predicated upon your defense of Bart's argument, not my own.

2. Your response here sounds a lot like the theological version of the question: "Have you quit beating your wife yet?" You have only offered two options - yours and anything else which amounts to "some temporal feel-good sentimentalism." My desire for Biblical unity is not based upon some temporal feel-good sentimentalism, but on the Biblical teaching on unity. Your response is about as helpful as if I were to say that my desire for unity is based upon the Bible while any other response is hard-core sectarianism and schism, which is all the reasoning you've offered.

See? Very unhelpful.

As for teasing out my views on Biblical unity you will need to wait for my response to Greg where I will both critique the position he has offered and then offer my own. For now I must leave to take my kids to meet my wife for dinner half-way between Tulsa and OKC.

Bennett Willis said...

CB and I have had a fun chase and he caused me to review a lot of things. I appreciated his (unrelated to me) comments about "blog town" rules--and find them to be pretty accurate as long as no one gets "bowed up."

But for most of the rest of you commenters--Shame on you! I have asked a question--admittedly one that might put you into contradiction with yourself and you have refused to even go there. Even CB sent me to my pastor. If we can laugh about God getting Bro. Kennedy straightened out then it seems to me that we have some intellectual duty to try to address my question.

CB asked about my church and pastor. My church is pretty cooperative with fellow Christians. We had a "Walk through the Bible" activity a few years ago. It met at our church but the other two churches who shared the sponsorship were an Assembly of God and an Episcopal one--after all we all use the same bible. My pastor is conservative in his theology and cooperative in its application. And I think that he is slowly making an impact in our community as well as in our church--and I challenge each of you to do the same. Or you can sit in your offices and blog with each other and let the rest of the world go by.

[This last comment was not directed at anyone in particular--but I get really frustrated with Baptists who spend a lot of time figuring out why the rest of Christianity is not worthy to cooperate with us. Clearly I'm getting grumpy. Need more sleep and less reading of blog comments.]

Bennett Willis

Bennett Willis said...

CB and I have had a fun chase and he caused me to review a lot of things. I appreciated his (unrelated to me) comments about "blog town" rules--and find them to be pretty accurate as long as no one gets "bowed up."

But for most of the rest of you commenters--Shame on you! I have asked a question--admittedly one that might put you into contradiction with yourself and you have refused to even go there. Even CB sent me to my pastor. If we can laugh about God getting Bro. Kennedy straightened out then it seems to me that we have some intellectual duty to try to address my question.

CB asked about my church and pastor. My church is pretty cooperative with fellow Christians. We had a "Walk through the Bible" activity a few years ago. It met at our church but the other two churches who shared the sponsorship were an Assembly of God and an Episcopal one--after all we all use the same bible. My pastor is conservative in his theology and cooperative in its application. And I think that he is slowly making an impact in our community as well as in our church--and I challenge each of you to do the same. Or you can sit in your offices and blog with each other and let the rest of the world go by.

[This last comment was not directed at anyone in particular--but I get really frustrated with Baptists who spend a lot of time figuring out why the rest of Christianity is not worthy to cooperate with us. Clearly I'm getting grumpy. Need more sleep and less reading of blog comments.]

Bennett Willis

Bennett Willis said...

Anything worth saying is worth saying twice. I'm not quite sure how that happened.
Bennett

Grosey's Messages said...

aaah bro Bennett,
while the wages of sin is death, there are many degrees of dieing that a born again person who has been rescued from the second death may experience.
1John 5:16 is interesting If anyone sees his brother committing a sin that does not bring death, he should ask, and God will give life to him—to those who commit sin that doesn’t bring death. There is sin that brings death. I am not saying he should pray about that. 17 All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin that does not bring death.
Probably John is indicating the same as the Corinthian believers were experiencing that Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians 11.
Then there are other forms this death takes.
Death in relationships.. primarily between God and man 1 John 1:6 If we say, “We have fellowship with Him,” and walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. , but also between our neighbours.
Titus 3:10 Reject a divisive person after a first and second warning, 11 knowing that such a person is perverted and sins, being self-condemned.
I think the worst form of death a believer can experience is to be cold in our relationship with God and not know it. Rev 3:1616 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of My mouth. 17 Because you say, ‘I’m rich; I have become wealthy, and need nothing,’ and you don’t know that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked,
Steve

Alan Cross said...

Greg,

Thank you for the response. No, you are not one of the ones who has said that anyone who believes in a PPL is unfit for for ministry and should find another denomination that advocates those views. You are consistent there. But others, including some commenting here, have said such things. Now, they do not believe that they are unnecessarily dividing because they believe that they are right and everyone else is wrong. However, my Bible says, "Do not forbid speaking in tongues." They have gotten around that by saying that PPL is not tongues. Clever move, but still a matter of interpretation, not unlike our Presbyterian brothers who see baptism differently. They don't feel that they are violating Scripture just as Bart and his compatriots do not feel that they are violating Scripture. But, what if Bart and others are wrong on the PPL thing? If so, then they have been engaging in unrepentant sin, according to Bart.

The Bible is very clear as to the state of people who engage in unrepentant sin. If you keep on sinning without conviction or repentance, then Christ is shown to not be in you. 1 John 3 delineates this position quite nicely. Traditionally, the perspective of "unrepentant sin" has been reserved for those who are willfully and knowingly engaging in behavior that is against God's moral Law without conviction or remorse. The Holy Spirit is quite faithful to convict of such behavior. We are not talking about people who are struggling to do what is right, yet still falter. Paul said that he was not aware of his sin before the Law came to arouse it. The Law brings conviction and the Holy Spirit uses the Law of God to show us God's character and cause us to cry out for mercy. Could it be that those who are unenlightened on a teaching see through the glass a little more darkly and are not under the conviction of the Holy Spirit on this issue?

Now, I also believe that everything that falls short of His glory is sin. But, we face difficulty when we go around labelling other denominations as unrepentant sinners when they are mistakenly following their convictions. Is the mode and definiton of baptism now a 1st tier issue? Yes, I believe that they are wrong. Yes, I disagree with them. Yes, I believe that they are violating a biblical command. I also belive that those who forbid people with PPL to serve with the IMB are violating 1 Cor. 14:39. But, I would not label them as unrepentant sinners because I believe that they are acting sincerely in accordance with their convictions. How much weight does my condemnation carry? None to you because you would blow it off and possibly label me an unrepentant sinner for believing that the Bible allows for this. So, what have we accomplished? We have labelled one another as unrepentant sinners because we have differing views on issues. If Presbyterians are unrepentant sinners because of how they baptize, I will leave that judgement to God through the convicting work of the Word and the Holy Spirit(and yes, I do believe that we can judge sin and call it sin as the Bible clearly shows us - I just struggle with labelling whole groups of people as unrepentant sinners when they have a different interpretation of a command. Why can't we just say that they are wrong and leave the judgment on THIS ISSUE to God?).

But, if it makes you feel better to say that Presbyterians are "unrepentant sinners" then you are welcome to your position.

Alan Cross said...

All,

It seems to me that the real issue here has nothing to do with Presbyterians or infant baptism. The issue that Bart seems to be trying to raise is that he sees their position as unrepentant sin and you either

a. Agree with him.
b. Disagree and join them.
c. Disagree and commit sin of your own by continuing to separate over an issue that you do not think is sin.

What is the result here? Division. Schism. In my opinion, Bart would like all who differ on this issue to either join the other group or be under condemnation for sinning themselves because they are unnecessarily diving over non-sin issues. While we think that we are talking about theology, this only seems to be another political ploy to eliminate one's opponents in the ongoing debate over Baptist Identity. If you disagree with Bart you are either not a true Baptist or you are in sin yourself. Drs. Yarnell and Welty have been very clear as to their positions on this as well.

Here is the problem: Bart has already stated that he sees no problem with allowing those who are unrepentant gluttons and gossipers to be pastors. Not people who struggle with such things, but those who are unrepentant. When asked about this, Bart said that he follows the Scriptural commands for pastors. Paul Littleton asked him about the command to be self controlled in 1 Tim. 3, and Bart responded that he did not want to be legalistic about such things. So, it is alright to have no self control in areas (as opposed to Scriptural command), but if you have a different view of baptism you are an unrepentant sinner? This really is not about sin or God's character at all, because Bart has already shown that that can be compromised against the Biblical command for issues that are acceptable in Baptist churches according to a subjective list of sins of varying degree. This can only be about pushing out those who are not willing to adhere to the definitions that are being granted to certain actions.

What I see here is a foray into relativism that is mind boggling. Who decides the big sins and the little sins? Who decides the varying degrees? Is God's character tiered? Does He differentiate? Surely different sins have different consequences, but when they are outward sins and they are in violation of God's command, are we to just decide which ones are important and which ones are not on the basis of our own created lists? Is this list tucked away with our Clear Baptist Identity that is not written down or agreed to anywhere? If the BFM contains the doctrines that are essential to what it means to be Baptist and there is no variation, then do we label those who allow for open communion to be "unrepentant sinners"? What about those who have a different view of war and peace? What about those who have an egalitarian view regarding the roles of women? Where does it stop? Is everyone who disagrees with an article of the BFM an unrepentant sinner?

Why can't we just state what we are for, disagree with those who disagree, and leave the rest to God? Must we constantly define ourselves by who and what we are against rather than what we are for? I am all for calling out sin and labelling it sin, but if we see Presbyterians as "unrepentant sinners" we had better start telling them. To not warn a brother when he is committing unrepentant sin is an error in and of itself. Should the SBC issue a statement on this?

I am with you guys on Baptism. I agree 100%. I just don't understand where you are coming from here. I guess that is another thing that doesn't make me a good Baptist in your eyes.

Malcolm Yarnell said...

Paul,

It is obvious that, somehow, we are failing to communicate.

First, wiith regard to Landmarkism, I put my observation in the form of a question, for your reasoning indeed seemed similar to that of a Landmarkist, but I was not sure. However, you put your response to me in the form of a statement that could be taken as an assertion. There is a great difference between the two -- question and assertion, so please do not equate them.

Second, with regard to biblical unity, you apparently did not perceive my glancing effort to define such unity. Please notice that I advocated obedience to the biblical commands of Christ. I said this because Baptists have consistently (and correctly!) refused unity on the basis of anything other than fidelity to Christ's commands located in Scripture. In your response, you only asserted that you believe in biblical unity and dismissed my argument as circular and demeaning without ever considering my argument.

Due to the above misunderstandings between us, it may be that we will simply find it too difficult to communicate properly. If this is because I have not been clear or coherent in my words and thoughts, please forgive me. I will continue to pray for you in regard to your family and pastoral responsibilities. Now, I return to my many other responsibilities.

In Christ,
Malcolm

Paul said...

Malcolm,

I have to ask if indeed we are reading the same statements regarding the Landmark question. You phrased yours in the form of a question and so did I ("Does that mean you are admitting you are?"). I no more made an assertion than you did. So yes, I do equate the two.

Second, I knew that you would make this objection which was the very reason I explained that my response regarding unity would have to wait for my response to Greg. I didn't have the time earlier to give a more complete answer and had no desire to repeat myself when I could answer your concern and Greg's at the same time.

I thought both of the above were clear. If they were not I apologize. Thank you for your prayers.

CB Scott said...

Steve,

Are you saying Debbie threatened you? If so, where might I read it?

cb

Paul said...

Greg,

I would disagree that you have made your case for either [a] or [b]. I’m wondering if you have any exegetical foundation for [a]. In Romans 14, Colossians 2 and 1 Cor. 8-10, for instance, Paul is dealing with theological differences regarding dietary restrictions and special days/observances. In Romans he even suggests that one is right (the mature) and the other is wrong (the weaker brothers), yet he never calls either “sin” even though one was clearly in error in his estimation. In fact, he admonishes both sides not to fall into the sin of judging/looking down upon one another.

Thus, we at least have an exegetical precedent that one can be in theological error without that error being labeled “sin” by the apostle Paul. He even admonishes them to accommodate one another.

So we are left not simply with error, but “grave error.” If I understand you, in this particular instance, “grave error” consists of an error that directly impacts “how a local church carries out the Great Commission, and the membership and discipline of the local church” even if they “are often accompanied by honorable intentions, and ignorance.” It was the basis of this sort of definition that I challenged Bart regarding unrepentant gluttons and unrepentant gossips. Bart says that those two would not be disqualified from pastoring a Baptist church.

Let me use a little illustration from my wife. I use her because she does not read these blogs. She doesn’t even read my blog. [She is a very wise woman. :-)] I have never initiated a conversation with her about gluttony. However, she has initiated several with me. It almost always happens when we attend a big Baptist meeting of some sort (Evangelism Conference or state or national convention). She will see a pastor/evangelist who is grossly overweight and will comment to me that she simply doesn’t see how he can give a credible witness to the gospel looking like that. In other words, for her the error of gluttony is “grave.” It impacts how the local church “carries out the Great Commission, and the membership and discipline of the local church.” Many of those men have honorable intentions. Some are ignorant of the gravity of their sin. Yet according to Bart they are fully qualified to pastor a Baptist church while a pedobaptist is not. Same “grave error.” Same “unrepentant sin.” Yet to point out the second one makes me a legalist, according to Bart.

Thus, I cannot accept your argument based upon your definition of “grave error.” I don’t think it is exegetically sustainable. In the end it comes across as rather arbitrary.

And the arbitrary nature of the way “grave error” seems to get defined is why I do not believe you have proven [b] either.

This is already too long, so I will post my position separately. Before I do let me ask a question. You may choose to respond to this post and ignore this question, but I really do hope you will respond to this question even if it is separately.

If a pedobaptist is unqualified to pastor a Baptist church because of his unrepentant sin what makes him qualified to pastor a Presbyterian church? After all, if he is in unrepentant sin he is in unrepentant sin no matter the signage on the building. If he is unqualified to pastor a Baptist church is he not unqualified to pastor any church?

Bob Cleveland said...

Boy I wish I'd known there was a party going on here, a few days ago!

Has anyone ever gotten any knowledgeable, Spiritually mature Presbyterians to drop in and debate paedobaptism? Is all we're arguing over what Baptists say Presbyterians believe?

Shades of hyper-calvinism! I think I'd want to do that before I ever dropped the unrepentant-sin-bomb on anybody. Dr. D. James Kennedy, for instance.

And another thing: Theologically deficient? What's your standard? Us? The guys who fire professors if they're women, and lie about numbers?

Grosey's Messages said...

Well CB you should probably ask Debbie about that. Look her in the eyes and hold her hands and ask her.
Steve

Paul said...

Greg,

Regarding my position you have substantially gotten it right, but I disagree about the “fatal flaw” and I disagree that it is a matter strictly of pragmatism.

First, regarding any theological position, someone is right and someone is wrong. Is being wrong automatically a matter of disobedience? We could debate that and in the end I don’t know that it would matter. We will only end up where Bart ended up: we’re all unrepentant sinners in our own way. Well, fine. But Bart isn’t arguing that the unrepentant sinner Bart Barber or the unrepentant sinner Greg Welty should be separated from. He is arguing that the unrepentant sinner Ligon Duncan should be separated from, so in the end he is not simply saying that we are all unrepentant sinners. He is saying that Bart Barber’s unrepentant sin is of a lesser nature than Ligon Duncan’s is.

Yes, this is about a command of our Lord. It is a command that is clear to you and to me – believer’s immersion. It is also clear to others that it is the sign of the covenant replacing circumcision and in light of their understanding they are being obedient to the command. Paul also commanded women not to wear gold, pearls or fine clothing. Many Sunday nights when our family goes to the local Taco Bueno after church we see Pentecostals there who read that passage much differently than you and me, but is that the basis of our separation? If that were the only difference between Baptists and Pentecostals would you separate from them based upon your clear understanding of the command as opposed to theirs?

I doubt you would. And why not? I think ultimately it comes down to the consequences of the difference. You’ve stated that pedobaptism negatively affects the Great Commission, but I would have to ask for the evidence of that. Are you telling me that an evangelical Presbyterian or an evangelical Methodist who might only differ with an evangelical Baptist at the point of baptism sees a diminished blessing from God on the results of their evangelistic efforts? Would not John Wesley, George Whitefield and D. James Kennedy among others stand as witnesses against that assertion? Can you actually demonstrate that the Great Commission is being harmed?

Is it really worse than gluttony and gossip, from that practical standpoint? If you were to stand Ligon Duncan next to an habitual gossiping Baptist preacher are you really going to tell me that Ligon Duncan’s error is greater? You claim to have proven that pedobaptism is a grave sin, but looking back through your comments I simply do not see the proof. The only exegetical basis you have offered is the Great Commission which simply tells us to baptize. I think you will have to tease that out a little better to demonstrate how that passage is suggesting that failure to immerse believers is a worse sin than gluttony and gossiping.

As it stands I find no such exegetical basis for that claim. For that and reasons already stated I do not find Scriptural warrant for calling pedobaptists unrepentant sinners nor for considering their error sin if I’m willing to grant that there is the possibility that they could be right, no matter how remote that possibility. I’m certain this is where we differ. I am 99% certain the Scriptures teach believer’s baptism by immersion and you are 100% certain. I am also 99% certain that dispensationalism is a grievous error, but I am willing to grant that 1% that I could be wrong. ;-) I will join you in 100% on things like the Trinity, the Deity and humanity of Christ, his atoning death, etc.: those issues Dr. Mohler calls 1st order. I will separate with any who give those up because they have given up the very faith itself. But Ligon Duncan, R. C. Sproul, D. James Kennedy and the like have not given up the very faith itself. I will see them in God’s great kingdom and if I will spend eternity with them there then I believe Christian, Biblical unity requires that I make every effort to unite with them here. If we can maintain greater unity by “doing church” separately than we could doing it together, risking constant quarrels over baptismal modes, then it is actually promoting unity to do so. I’ve served in Sapulpa, Oklahoma for over three years and have yet to have a quarrel with my Presbyterian brother over baptism, yet we have worshiped together on a number of occasions as a testimony to our community of our oneness in Christ.

You also state that my position is one of pragmatism because it is “practically” impossible to implement a situation of pedobaptists and credobaptists in one local congregation. However, that is not simply a practical issue. It is a theological issue as well – one of how unity is maintained in the body of Christ. Earlier I referenced Romans 14, Colossians 2 and 1 Cor. 8-10. Those were not merely practical issues. They were theological issues as well. But theology is always practical which only means that all theology is pragmatic. I would add that there is no such thing as Biblical unity in theory only. The very notion of unity, Biblical or otherwise, is pragmatic at its very heart. But Biblically it is also theological. It is based upon great passages such as Ephesians 2 which tell us about the wall of division that Christ obliterated, now making the two (Jew and Gentile), one.

Sorry again for the length.

CB Scott said...

Steve,

You said there was a threat. I ask you. You seek to avoid the answer. I must assume there was no threat.

You were wrong to use the Scripture as a club. It is your problem to deal with at this point. I will leave it in your hands.

cb

Malcolm Yarnell said...

Paul,

In light of your inability to represent even your own words correctly -- your question was preceded by your assertion. And in light of your mischaracterization of my words. And, finally, in light of what appears to be a harshness in tone (although I might be wrong here as I do not know you), it is probably best for this conversation to cease.

However, I will continue praying for you.

In Christ,
Malcolm

Paul said...

Malcolm,

My assertion was that I do not share your view in this matter and my assumption was that you were saying I would be a Landmarkist because of my immediately preceding comment which was a characterization of how I understand your position, not mine. It was what I consider to be an implication, not an assertion. I do apologize if I sound harsh. Sometimes you sound that way as well. Perhaps it is the limitations of this medium. When I made my comment that seems to be causing you so much trouble I included a little smiley face which in blog land indicates humor. I thought you would understand that. I didn't think you were seriously suggesting I was becoming a Landmarker and I didn't figure you would assume I was actually suggesting the same of you, especially in light of the smiley.

I have no intentions of mischaracterizing you. I understand the discomfort that can cause. Bart did that to me in his last post, I brought it to his attention and he is determined to let it stand anyway. It is the very reason I told him that I was reluctant to jump back into this conversation. Perhaps it was unwise for me to do so.

Thank you for your prayers.

Paul said...

Greg,

Regarding the question I asked previously, I don't want it to appear that I am trying to trap you or anyone esle. I probably should have posted it separately.

But so that it doesn't appear I'm trying to trap you I want to tell you what I think are the possible answers to that question from the position you, Bart and Malcolm have outlined for us here.

The question is: is a pedobaptist qualified to pastor a church? Bart has stated that they are not qualified to pastor a "Baptist" church, but that assertion seems a little anachronistic, to me. After all, the labels "Baptist," "Presbyterian," "Methodist," etc. are not Biblical terms and we would probably do well for this discussion not to read them back into Scripture.

So, it appears to me that there are only two real options to this question if pedobaptism is an error of which the gravity is so great that it would prohibit them from pastoring a Baptist church. 1) Pedobaptizers are unqualified to pastor any church due to the gravity of their unrepentant sin; 2) pedobaptizers are qualified to pastor non-Baptist churches only because they cannot be considered true churches. They are religious societies, or some such (basically the Landmarkist's position).

If there is a third option which would fit with the gravity of the sin of pedobaptism and still hold that pedobaptizing churches are still true churches I would be interested in hearing it.

Alan Cross said...

Paul raises a very interesting question. Are churches led by and filled with paedobaptizers true churches or not? If they are filled with and led by unrepentant sinners on the level that is proclaimed here, then are they really true churches or just religious societies? If they are not true churches, then how should we see them? Is salvation found outside the church in this view?

Excellent questions, in my opinion. Please do not stop the debate now. Ideas have consequences and if they are worth stating, then they are worth debating and defending.

I would still like an answer to my previous question if anyone else cares to tackle it (thanks again Greg for the dialogue). If not, then I can assume that my logic holds. Or maybe my question was just overlooked. I'll reserve judgment.

R. Grannemann said...

Alan,

You have asked the crucial question: What is a true church?

I believe the biblical position is that it is an assembly of saved people who are attempting to follow Jesus together - period. The Landmark position, and offshoots of it, is that a true church has various other requirements: the proper doctrine, the proper pedigree, the proper baptism, etc., etc., etc. A lot will be settled if we agree on the biblical position that saved people in covenant to follow the Lord is the only requirement. Those who want to add things to that will keep the debate about what is required to be a true church going forever - and be an impediment to Christian unity (and if you think I am proposing Baptists backing off of believers baptism then you have confused a local congregation's right to order their the polity and Christian unity).

CB Scott said...

R. Grannemann,

What about all those thing included in "What soever I have commanded you. of which Jesus mandated?

Maybe those things are just suggested for those of us cursed with a legalistic tendency.

cb

R. Grannemann said...

C.B.

"Unless a man is born again he shall not see the kingdom of God," Jn. 3:3.

The door to the kingdom of God is the new birth - nothing else, according to "Baptist theology." A church is the body of people in which the Spirit of God dwells. God dwells those who have entered the kingdom. An assembly of such people is a valid church.

Of course, one's responsibility does not end there. The church is to do all things Christ commanded. But works is not the validating element. The validating element is the presence of the Spirit of God.

CB Scott said...

R. Grannemann,

It is due to comments like your last that, at the end of the day, even though I did some very sinful things during the period of the Conservative Resurgence, I still thank God for its occurence.

Had it not been for the CR the SBC would have been submerged to the bottom of the "Liberal Sea" by 1987.

In these latter years I have questioned several things Dr. Paige Patterson has said and done, but be assured had he, Paul Pressler, Bob Tenery and a host of other noble and fearless men not been around back "in the day" the SBC would have "gone to Hell in a wagon" and theological ideas like you just presented would be "one of the horses pulling it."

cb

R. Grannemann said...

C.B.

I was a Landmark Baptist for 10 years of my life. We believed the conservative Southern Baptists were liberal. What delivered me from that very painful experience was the understanding that a true church is a true church by the authority of God's presence, not human works or genealogies. And for that understanding I will be eternally grateful.

Debbie Kaufman said...

R. Grannemum said: Of course, one's responsibility does not end there. The church is to do all things Christ commanded. But works is not the validating element. The validating element is the presence of the Spirit of God.

My response: Amen.

Greg Welty said...

I started answering Alan's comments first, but then ran out of time. I'm afraid I won't have time to get to Paul's comments until tomorrow or even the next day, as this is the busiest time of the week for me. So I'll just post the responses to Alan today.

Alan Cross said:

] But, what if Bart and others are wrong on
] the PPL thing? If so, then they have been
] engaging in unrepentant sin, according to Bart.

This strikes me as absolutely correct. It is sinful to separate from someone, ecclesiastically speaking, when you have no biblical grounds to do so. This is a perfectly general point, however. I don't see how it furthers the discussion, or helps to adjudicate between the conflicting views we are considering, since it applies to all. We are ever and always fallible interpreters of an infallible Word. And if we get the interpretation of the Word wrong, and base our life upon that interpretation, then we could end up disobeying our Lord's will for us, and be in sin. But how does that further your view any more than anyone else's view?

So your "if" above is a mighty important "if," and it's perfectly reversible. The only way I could see your point as significant is if you are saying that, due to our fallibility, we can never have warrant for concluding that someone is sinning, since maybe we have interpreted the Word on that matter incorrectly. Are you saying this? If so, then it looks to me that no one can, at any time, conclude that someone else is sinning. Is that the position you're endorsing?

] Traditionally, the perspective of "unrepentant
] sin" has been reserved for those who are
] willfully and knowingly engaging in behavior
] that is against God's moral Law without
] conviction or remorse.

Alan, I've already made this point. Cf. the last three paragraphs of my comment above. I agree that there is a common connotation of the term "unrepentant sin" that may prove unhelpful in many contexts, and this could be grounds for amending the phrase. I'm not dogmatic on this point. What I will not budge on is identifying sin as sin. As I've argued previously, neither sincerity nor ignorance absolve anyone from the charge of disobeying a command of our Lord, if in fact they are disobeying that command. Do you agree?

] Is the mode and definiton of baptism now a 1st
] tier issue?

First tier *for what*, exactly? Required in order to be a Christian? No. Required in order to be a church? No. I don't see that denying that evangelical paedobaptists (a) are Christians, and (b) are members of genuine churches, even follows remotely from what I have said.

] How much weight does my condemnation carry?
] None to you because you would blow it off and
] possibly label me an unrepentant sinner for
] believing that the Bible allows for this.

I don't know, Alan. It's hard to have a dialogue when you impute to me things like this. In conflating the baptismal and PPL issues, you're confusing matters that are distinct. My view:

[a] Implementing paedobaptist convictions involves someone *disobeying* a command of our Lord.
[b] Implementing PPL convictions does *not* involve someone disobeying command of our Lord.

(Is there really a command that says: *don't* speak in a private prayer language? That's absurd.)

Thus, this whole notion of "if you say paedobaptists sin, then you must say that PPLers sin" is just a *non sequitur*. I've carefully explained what is *unique* about the paedobaptist view. It has little to do with being merely "unenlightened". It has everything to do with carrying out God's command re: baptism. If you think I'm wrong in arguing for this uniqueness, then it's up to you to rebut my arguments. That rebuttal won't succeed by drawing analogies that obfuscate the precise point I'm making.

] So, what have we accomplished? We have labelled
] one another as unrepentant sinners because we
] have differing views on issues.

No! It is not my argument and it has never been my argument that "having different views" is sufficient for someone being in sin. There's a command of God involved here, and you're conveniently leaving it out of the discussion. God's command concerning baptism is not a side-issue. It is *the* issue. Has God issued such a command? Are paedobaptists in conformity with it? What triggers the charge of sin is not merely "having different views," but, well, *sin*. This is why I explicitly asked you for your definition of sin (which you have yet to give me, BTW).

I gave you the prayer example last time, but let's go with another one. An unmarried couple sleep together. I rebuke them on the basis of Scripture. They say, "Well, that's *your* interpretation. We have a different view of the matter." No doubt they do. No doubt they may be sincere, or even poorly taught. None of this gets around an objective fact: in this particular area, they're sinning. Would it be at all relevant for you to say, "Well, we all have differing interpretations, and we can all be mistaken. Why not just say they have differing views?" But if *as a matter of fact* you believe the behavior constitutes disobedience to God's command, then the only consistent position to hold is that they are in fact in sin. Of course, if you were agnostic about our Lord's command re: baptism, then sure, you could consistently say, "All we have are differing views on issues." But you're a baptist; you're *not* an agnostic here. You believe paedobaptists disobey our Lord's command in this area. What then keeps you from identifying this reality as sin? All I can think of is that you have a fundamentally different definition of sin than I do. I'm not willing to believe that yet, but it is why I'm asking you the definitional question. So how about it? :-)

] If Presbyterians are unrepentant sinners because
] of how they baptize, I will leave that judgement
] to God through the convicting work of the Word
] and the Holy Spirit(and yes, I do believe that we
] can judge sin and call it sin as the Bible clearly
] shows us - I just struggle with labelling whole
] groups of people as unrepentant sinners when they
] have a different interpretation of a command. Why
] can't we just say that they are wrong and leave
] the judgment on THIS ISSUE to God?).

I'm confused by the above. On the one hand, concerning whether Presbyterians sin in this area, you repeatedly say you "will leave that judgment to God." But on the other hand, you say you "do believe that we can judge sin and call it sin as the Bible clearly shows us." Well, which is it? Perhaps the sticking point here is the "unrepentant" modifier. OK, we can have a side-discussion on that, and I've basically conceded it anyway, in terms of misleading connotations. But what I will *not* do is reduce this issue to simply having "a different interpretation of a command." Yes, it is this, but it is not merely this. Paedobaptist baptismal practice either is or is not in conformity with God's command. You're leaving this issue out of your analysis, it seems to me. People *sin* when they don't pray; they don't just "have a different interpretation of a command."

] But, if it makes you feel better to say that
] Presbyterians are "unrepentant sinners" then
] you are welcome to your position.

My feelings have nothing to do with this. Indeed, some of my deepest and most abiding Christian friendships have been with paedobaptists over the years. This conflict between genuine Christians both pains me and plagues me. I have seen both baptists and paedobaptists slander each other over the years through false witness in various contexts. But, as I related above, it was evangelical paedobaptists who first taught me that not getting the baptismal issue right was ultimately an issue of sin, of not obeying God's command in this area. I can't speak for Bart or Malcolm :-) but I can tell you that *my* convictions in this area were molded by *paedobaptists*, not baptists, ironically enough.

So no, it is not my "feelings" that drive me to enter into this debate at all.

] While we think that we are talking about theology,
] this only seems to be another political ploy to
] eliminate one's opponents in the ongoing debate
] over Baptist Identity. If you disagree with Bart
] you are either not a true Baptist or you are in
] sin yourself. Drs. Yarnell and Welty have been
] very clear as to their positions on this as well.

You can do better than this, Alan. You're piling up personal charges here without any proof, unless you have acquired the ability to read minds :-) How do you know Bart wants to "eliminate his opponents in the ongoing debate over Baptist Identity"? Where has Bart said that "if you disagree with Bart you are either not a true Baptist are you are in sin yourself"? These are sweeping charges, and yet you provide no proof. It looks like you're blowing smoke. Any disagreement? Over any issue?

Would it be proper for me to characterize your own views thusly: "Alan thinks you can believe anything at all and still be a baptist. In fact, he has no doctrinal standards whatsoever. The label of "baptist" is open to all. This seems to be a political ploy so Alan can eliminate his detractors as harsh and unloving. In fact, if you disagree with Alan by standing for truth on any doctrine whatsoever, you according to him you are either not a true Christian or you are sinfully divisive."

I don't believe the above for a second. But it's just as well argued as the series of points you just made :-)

] Why can't we just state what we are for, disagree
] with those who disagree, and leave the rest to
] God?

I thought that was what I was doing. I'm for believer's baptism as what is in conformity with our Lord's command re: baptism. I disagree with paedobaptists who believe that infant baptism is a form of obeying our Lord's command re: baptism. I leave all final, infallible judgment to God, and fully admit that I may be mistaken in concluding that they disobey our Lord's command. But since I'm also not one for euphemisms, I think it's OK to summarize my view by saying I think they're sinning, since that's what it means to disobey our Lord's commands. This is because I have the peculiar notion that sin is defined by what God has actually commanded, and not by what someone has managed to convince himself is right.

] Must we constantly define ourselves by who and
] what we are against rather than what we are for?

You've pretty much *defined* yourself in this dialogue as someone who is wholly *against* the points of view being expressed here. So, are you exempt from your own criticism above? Or is it a convenient placard you pull out and wave from the stands when you think the game is going your way :-)

] I am all for calling out sin and labelling it sin,

So you do agree with me after all. Man, I'm confused :-)

] but if we see Presbyterians as "unrepentant
] sinners" we had better start telling them.

Of course. Just as *they* tell *us*, and have told us for many centuries now. Remember my quotes above from the WCF and the _Institutes_? You're preaching to the choir here. I sat through three years of a Reformed seminary curriculum. I got this concept from them, not from Bart :-)

] Should the SBC issue a statement on this?

Naw. John Gill's "Infant Baptism: A Part & Pillar of Popery" has gotten the basic idea across for many years now :-)

Or, perhaps, J.L. Dagg is more to your taste:

"Many unbaptized persons give proof that they love God, and are therefore born of God, and are children in his spiritual family. If they belong to Christ, it may be asked, why may they not be admitted into his churches? That there are such persons among the unbaptized, we most readily grant; for such persons, and such only, are entitled to baptism. To every such person, an apostle of Christ would say, "And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized." We have not the authority of apostles, but we have the words of Christ and the apostles in our hands; and we owe it to our unbaptized Christian brother, to tell him, by their authority, his proper course of duty." [_Book of Church Order_, ch. 2, section II]

Yes, you heard it right: "We owe it to our unbaptized Christian brother, to tell him, by their [i.e., Jesus' and apostolic] authority, his proper course of duty." We would we tell him that, if sincerity and ignorance is sufficient for doing one's duty? And if someone *doesn't* do their duty, what do we call that? A mistake? Not getting the answer right on a test? Again, you've abstracted the notion of moral obligation right out of this discussion.

A little later in the same section, an excellent objection and reply from Dagg:

"Objection 1.--Many good men do not understand the words of Christ and the apostles as we do, and consequently do not obey in this particular; yet they give satisfactory evidence, in other ways, that they love God, and conscientiously obey him. Paul says: "Him that is weak in the faith, receive ye;" and he urges, as a reason for receiving him, that "God has received him." Now, if we have satisfactory proof that God has received an unbaptized Christian brother, we are bound to receive him." [Hmm, sounds like Paul Littleton's argument from Ro 14 :-)]

[Answer:] "We admit the obligation to receive such a brother, but not in any sense that requires an abandonment or neglect of our own duty. We ought not to despise the weak brother. We ought not, by our knowledge, to cause the weak brother to perish. We ought to receive him into our affections, and endeavor to promote his best interests; but if he, through his weakness, disobeys God in any particular [yikes!], our love for him degenerates into weakness, if it induces us to disobey also. We owe nothing to a weak brother which can render it necessary for us to disobey God. If a weak brother feels himself reproved when we yield our personal obedience to the Lord's command, we are not at liberty to neglect the command, for the sake of keeping the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. As I am bound to exercise my affection for a weak brother in such a manner as not to neglect my duty, so is a church. Every church owes its first obligation to Christ, and is bound to regulate its organization and discipline in obedience to Christ's command. If, by strict adherence to the divine rule, we cannot secure the co-operation of a weak brother, we must do our duty, and leave the result to God. Nothing in the law of church organization forbids the receiving of a brother into membership, who is weak in the matter of eating herbs, the case to which Paul refers. But if a church be required, for the accommodation of a weak brother, to give up the principles of organization learned from Christ, and adopt others, she owes it to Christ, and to the weak brother himself, firmly to refuse."

Gulp! Did I hear that right? Was it really Dagg's view that unbaptized Christians "disobey God"? Yes, it was. They disobey God in the "particular" of our Lord's command re: baptism.

As to whether Dagg's answer above means that all paedobaptist churches are no churches as all, I leave as an exercise to the reader the consultation of "Objection 2" and its reply, immediately following.

Now, Dagg takes this seriously because he believes that those sprinkled as infants have *failed* to meet a divine *obligation* that rests upon them. As he puts it in an earlier chapter:

"He who has been baptized in infancy, is not thereby released from the obligation to make a baptismal profession of faith in Christ. If it be granted, that his parents did their duty in dedicating him to God, he has, nevertheless, a personal duty to perform. The parental act of which he has no consciousness, cannot be to him the answer of a good conscience toward God. Had it left an abiding mark in the flesh, an argument of some plausibility might be urged against the repetition of the ceremony. But the supposed seal of God's covenant is neither in his flesh, nor in his memory, and his conscience has no Scriptural release from the personal obligation of a baptismal profession." [_Manual of Church Order_, ch. 1, section IV]

The unbaptized person "has no Scriptural release from the personal obligation of a baptismal profession." In this respect, the paedobaptist pastor is involved in sin twice over, for he not only fails to obey our Lord's command re: the administration of baptism, but he leads others to think (wrongly) that they have in fact obeyed God in this matter, when they have not.

This has nothing to do with "having a different view" of baptism. It has to do with obedience to Christ. And this was the sticking point with our baptist forebears. Not that I needed Dagg to make my point, of course; he's just icing on the cake :-)

Greg Welty said...

Paul Littleton wrote:

] I'm wondering if you have any exegetical foundation
] for [a].

Yes, I already gave the argument in previous comments. If our Lord commanded the baptism of disciples alone, then paedobaptists do not obey our Lord's command. Disobedience to God's command is a sin. I know the proof is quick, but could you remind me specifically *where* it goes wrong? I've asked you this before, you know :-)

] In Romans 14, Colossians 2 and 1 Cor. 8-10, for
] instance, Paul is dealing with theological
] differences regarding dietary restrictions and
] special days/observances. In Romans he even
] suggests that one is right (the mature) and the
] other is wrong (the weaker brothers), yet he
] never calls either “sin” even though one was
] clearly in error in his estimation. In fact,
] he admonishes both sides not to fall into the
] sin of judging/looking down upon one another.

You've got to stop lobbing these softballs. You're making it too easy for me, Paul :-)

God has not commanded that we *not* observe various dietary restrictions.

God has not commanded that we *not* observe special days.

God has not commanded that we *must* eat meat dedicated to idols.

Thus, the Christian who observes various dietary restrictions, or who observes special days, or who refrains from eating meat dedicated to idols, is *not* disobeying a command of God. They are weaker brothers, but they are not sinning in what they do.

By way of contrast, God *has* commanded the baptism of disciples alone, by way of immersion, on the basis of a credible profession of faith. If you're a baptist, you agree with me. Thus, paedobaptists sin by disobeying a command of God.

Now, which part of that argument went wrong?

] Thus, we at least have an exegetical precedent
] that one can be in theological error without
] that error being labeled “sin” by the apostle
] Paul.

We're not talking about mere theological error. We're talking about an error in *practice*, in *behavior*. Frankly, I think you guys are so obsessed by the ongoing debate over *doctrinal* boundaries, and "narrowing the parameters," that you've infused it into this discussion. OK, I take that back; you're not obsessed, since that's a pejorative psychological descriptor :-). But you seem this way at times. I have repeatedly framed this in terms of *obedience to divine command*, not in terms of mere theological understanding. The reason I do this is because that is the *right* way to argue my view :-) You're attacking some phantom, weak argument for my view, which I'm not making :-)

That's about all I can fit in today. Until tomorrow or the next day, I say adios.

CB Scott said...

Debbie,

It is the Holy Spirit's PRESENCE that validates all things of the chruch. He is not an element. He created elements.

Debbie, A biblical church is just that. It was established by Christ to carry out His bidding on the earth for the glory of God throughout the Kingdom.

It is unlike most institutions on this earth wherein form follows function. Both form and function are prescribed by the Trinity in eternal decrees established before the foundations of this planet and all other elements of creation.

The form and function is revealed to us in the Scripture which was inspired in its writing by the very Spirit of whom you speak.

Therefore, a church is defined by the Spirit as to its form and function which is easily found in Scripture.

The mandates presented to the church in the New Testament are to be carried out by the church due to the Spirit's presence.

R. Grannemann is wrong in his concept of a church. It is far too lacking.

R. Grannemann,

You were wrong as a Landmarker.

You were wrong about conservative Southern Baptist. (you would be right about liberal Southern Baptist)

You are wrong relating to that which constitutes a church now.

The Scripture, under the illumination of the Spirit of whom you speak, will reveal the truth of the church in its form and function to you or anyone seeking to know.

cb

Alan Cross said...

Greg,

Thank you for your thoughtful response. I really do appreciate it. After reading what you have to say, I do understand your position much better and mostly agree.

I do hold high the priority of believer's baptism by immersion. I do not equivocate on that point. My biggest problem with the debate here involves calling Presbyterians "unrepentant sinners." Again, this might just be a problem semantics and we find that we largely agree. If you were to say, as you did, that they are disobeying the Lord's command on the issue of baptism, I would agree with you. I would even agree that to disobey such a command, as sincere as you might be, constitutes sin, because the person is falling short of God's glory. No problem there.

But, to call someone an "unrepentant sinner" means something. It denotes the advocacy of church discipline and if repentance does not take place, banishment. We are told to treat unrepentant sinners like pagans and tax collectors. 1 John 3, as I have already referenced, questions the salvation of those who persist in sin. Clearly that is not what you mean when you talk about paedobaptist. You have again and again affirmed the brotherhood of those who are wrong on this issue. So, fundamentally, I disagreed with little of what you had to say. But, the term, "unrepentant sinner" speaks of a general state of being of a person. We generally use that term to speak of something much more severe than what you are saying.

In bringing up the PPL issue, my purpose there was to discern if we were saying that to be wrong on any issue was to find yourself in a position as an unrepentant sinner. I was not trying to juxtapose examples, but rather find out how far Bart and others intended to take this. If they took it so far as to say that those who were continualist in their theology were "unrepentant sinners" based on their interpretation, then I would have a better understanding where this type of thinking leads. I asked the question, and as for you, you answered it very graciously and satisfactorily. Thank you.

Regarding my sweeping statements involving Bart's motives, you are right. I went too far there and I apologize. It is very easy in these debates to begin to see patterns in people's argumentation over time and to then ascribe to them motives that they have never clearly stated. I did that and it was wrong. It does appear to me that Bart was drawing out that line of argumentation in his initial post on this topic and he even gave us the three options that I listed. His target there was not Presbyterians, but rather Baptists who agree or disagree with him on this issue. It seemed to me as though Bart wsa giving us all a choice to line up on one side or the other and declare our allegiances or inconsistencies. Considering the fact that he set the definitions and used terms in ways that are unfamiliar to many of us, I thought that the choices that he gave were a bit narrow and served a narrow agenda. I definitely admit that I could be wrong in my assumption and am always wrong when I judge another's motives. I am bound to be completely disciplined in these discussions and not assume too much.

Yes, I do believe that sin exists and that it is discernable based on the dictates of Scripture. Yes, I do believe that there is one proper way to do baptism and that those who do it differently are doing it wrong. I do believe that they are falling short of God's glory in their method and mode of baptism, and thus are sinning by its very definition. However, I struggle, as I have previously stated, with using the term "unrepentant sinners" to describe such people in the same way that many would also struggle with using that term to define fat people in our churches who eat too much.

Again, we have basic agreement on the concepts, but it is one thing, emotionally speaking in an American Christian context to say that someone is wrong, mistaken, and not obeying God, and it is another to call them an "unrepentant sinner." Perhaps I am showing inconsistency here, and I willfully submit to God's Word, but if I go to you and say that you are wrong about PPL, I will get one reaction. If I say that you are an unrepentant sinner because of your position on PPL, I will get a different reaction. One statement describes your actions and your position. The other defines you as a person and speaks to your standing before God. Whether that is right or logically consistent is another discussion, but that is how it is. That is the language that we use, whether we like it or not.

In summary, I do not know if I fully dealt with all of your arguments, but I dealt with the ones that stuck out in my mind. You make a strong case for your position, largely because you are willing to give on the "unrepentant" part. I assure you that I am not trying to obfuscate your position, label you, or treat you or anyone else unfairly. When I read these types of things, it brings up questions and I ask them in sincerity hoping to understand. If we can tone down the rhetoric (by saying "we" I am not talking about you, but all of us), then we can understand one another better and deal with real issues instead of semantic confusion. Thank you for taking the time to explain what you are saying. There are some areas where I would see things a bit differently, but they have more to do with how and the way that we label people and the ramifications of that labelling in light of what words actually mean in a contemporary and biblical context, rather than with the substance of your argument.

Again, thank you.

Paul said...

Greg,

Talk about softballs... ;-) Are you serious? You're telling me that the conflict in Romans 14 over dietary restrictions had nothing to do with God's command? And the observance of special days? Had nothing to do with God's commands? Have you ripped the Old Testament from your Bible? ;-) Surely those making such arguments were arguing from the law. What law? God's law, of course. God's commands. This was a matter of serious controversy in the early church as Galatians shows. Those people were not arguing over mere preferences. It wasn't that someone wanted to force everyone to eat liver and onions when there were some who didn't like liver and onions. These matters were precisely about God's commands and whether or not people were being obedient to them.

This is where I am telling you that your argument goes wrong. You said that I did not answer it, but I did. The fact that you do not like my answer or agree with it has nothing to do with whether or not I've given it, right?

These were matters that many considered to be errors in practice, just as you have said here.

I don't recall arguing about doctrinal boundaries or narrowing parameters. As I said in a previous comment, theology is practical and has practical implications. This isn't mere theory for me. What in the world was my comment regarding the matter of unity about if not that? You did read it, didn't you? ;-) Or are you just reading something into my comment that isn't actually there? Maybe you've spent too much time at Wade's blog, eh? ;-)

[Malcolm, please note all of the smileys here. Don't get your "knickers in a knot," as Bart would say. :-) - see...there's another one. Gads! Now I'm starting to sound like David Worley!]

Nathan Finn said...

This has surely been one of the most interesting blog discussions I have followed in months. I mean that.

I want to ask two serious questions to all parties involved.

First, are baptismal convictions worthy of breaking Christian fellowship?

Second, if the answer to the above is yes, then at what level do we break that fellowship (local churches, denominations, trans-denominational groups, local minister's fraternals, etc.)?

Let me ask this another way: can we have *biblical* unity when there is, at present, irreconcilable differences on the matter of baptism?

If so, where does that leave baptism? Do we confess "one Lord, one faith, many baptisms?"

I really am curious as to what you guys (and gals) think about the role baptismal convictions/practices should play in our pursuit of unity, which I think we all agree is worthy of pursuit.

Bart, if you think this too far afield from the intention of your post, let me know and I will try and start a discussion about it on my blog. Thanks.

NAF

Bennett Willis said...

I'll get back on this poor stretched thread. Regarding Nathan's question--my opinion:

You can start a church of like minded believers over almost anything that you care to. It is reasonable for churches to form based on the preferences of their members--just as they always do. You can make any rules for membership that you care for, make them clear and public and then see if your membership develops.

But what about the rest of the churches and their members who don't have the same basis for membership that we do? First, do they abide by what have come to be called the "primary tier" of beliefs that set Christians apart from non-Christians? If the answer to that question is yes, then we have no business calling them sinners unless we have some basis for believing that there is punishment for some of their beliefs.

I'm out of time. Someone else want to take up cooperation? I may back off some of this upon review, but it is close to what I think.

Bennett Willis

Grosey's Messages said...

Good question Nathan!

1 Corinthians 5 gives an idea of
the extent of fellowships:
9 I wrote to you in a letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 by no means referring to this world’s immoral people, or to the greedy and swindlers, or to idolaters; otherwise you would have to leave the world. 11 But now I am writing you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother who is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a reviler, a drunkard or a swindler. Do not even eat with such a person. 12 For what is it to me to judge outsiders? Do you not judge those who are inside?

Idolatry here of course is a reference to the worship of a false god, or the reference to worship of the true God in a false way.
Any doctrine taught that perversely effects the understanding of the nature of God and the nature of the gospel is idolatry.

Baptismal issues do not necessarily affect the understanding of the nature and being of God or the nature of the gospel. In some cases they do. I think we need to be careful to understand not just the stated theological position of the denomination we are talking to, but also the personal beliefs of the minister we are deciding to have fellowship with.

Hence for this reason I can have fellowship with a paedo baptist at a minister's fraternal who understands the gospel the same way I do, and not have fellowship with a baptist who believes in the "Openness of God" heresy, or is liberal.
Likewise there are ethical considerations here that impose limits to fellowship.
I do not attend our local ministers fraternal because
1. there is only one other evangelical presbyterian there out of 6 ministers. We're out numbered at every vote so why bother?
2. There are practicing homosexuals there.
3. There are those who accept practicing homosexuals as pastors (all but 1).
4. One of the ministers was recently charged with pedophilia.

I don't want my reputation in the community sullied by these men.
When a local barrister and law ethics lecturer knew that I didn't go with these blokes, he immediately asked for a dedication service for his kids at our church.
He had been propositioned by one of these men for sex two or three times at weddings.

While the doctrinal issues are important so are the moral issues.

Steve

Bob Cleveland said...

This seems like a decent, if late, time to re-ask the question.

A) One Lord, one faith, one baptism

B) We're baptized by one Spirit into one body.

C) Is THAT the baptism we're referring to, or is it the one WE do with water?

I'm serious about that question. If I knew the answer, I wouldn't ask.

Greg Welty said...

Alan,

Thanks for your reply, with which I agree. And as I've said before, insofar as "unrepentant" tends to connote "persisting in sin while knowing you are in sin," I agree with you that the language may not be helpful. Bart hasn't chimed in again on that particular point, so I'll leave that to him.

Still, I don't want to miss the forest for the trees. I think there was a very important point Bart was making. Baptists and paedobaptists are divided into separate churches. What is the reason for that separation? Bart says (i) it's because of sin, and (ii) if it isn't because of sin, then there isn't grounds for the separation. A lot of the firepower in this comments thread seemed aimed against (i), and that's when I entered the discussion. It just seems obvious to me that the fundamental difference in baptismal practice is there *because* one side is in fact not obeying our Lord's command re: baptism. I don't see how this can be denied. What generates the difference in baptismal practice -- the very difference that divides churches on this matter -- *just is* the failure of one side to obey our Lord's command re: baptism. That is, sin has produced these differences among Christians, and until the sin goes away, the difference in baptismal practice will always be here, and thus the division.

Re: (ii), what *other* grounds would there be to refuse paedobaptists' joining baptist churches, other than the fact that they are not in submission to our Lord's command? For instance, I would have no problem with a paedobaptist becoming a member of a baptist church, if in fact he has been Scripturally baptized. It's not a "difference of opinion" that generates the disunity, but actual failure to obey our Lord's command. Isn't this something in the spirit of Bart's original point?

Greg Welty said...

Paul,

] You're telling me that the conflict in Romans 14
] over dietary restrictions had nothing to do with
] God's command? And the observance of special
] days? Had nothing to do with God's commands? Have
] you ripped the Old Testament from your Bible? ;-)
] Surely those making such arguments were arguing
] from the law. What law? God's law, of course.
] God's commands. This was a matter of serious
] controversy in the early church as Galatians
] shows. Those people were not arguing over mere
] preferences. It wasn't that someone wanted to
] force everyone to eat liver and onions when
] there were some who didn't like liver and
] onions. These matters were precisely about
] God's commands and whether or not people were
] being obedient to them.

Do you *really* think that I'm so obtuse as to not notice that the parties spoken of in Ro 14 each thought they were obeying God's commands? Do you *really* think I'm unaware of the fact that the OT had something to say about dietary restrictions, special days, etc.? :-) The problem is that making those fairly banal observations does little to establish your case, or overturn my argument. That's because you're misapplying the passage, and -- given that you're a baptist -- your appeal to this passage is incoherent.

Why do I say this? Well, in order for your appeal to Ro 14/1Co 8 to be relevant to the issues before us, you're imagining that Paul is theologically neutral here, such that he doesn't have an opinion on whether God in fact continues to require dietary restrictions and special days, or whether God in fact forbids eating meat offered to idols. But Paul *does* have an opinion here. As an inspired apostle he explicitly says in no uncertain terms that he *knows* "that nothing is unclean in itself" (Ro 14:14). Likewise, Paul *knows* that idols are not gods (1Co 8:4). Elsewhere he repudiates the notion that we are obliged to observe special days (Col 2:16-17). In short, Paul *knows* (and he doesn't refrain from telling us he knows) that the weaker brother's charge that the stronger brother is in sin, is in fact a false charge.

By the same token, it's not a sin to live life more restrictively than God has in fact commanded, as long as those restrictions don't preclude you from doing something God *has* commanded. Paul knows it's not a sin to observe dietary regulations, or special days. Paul knows it's not a sin to refrain from eating meat offered to idols. If someone's conscience leads him to live life in these more restrictive ways, he is not sinning, since God has not commanded that he must *not* live life in these more restrictive ways.

In short, Paul has a particular view here of where the actual divine obligations lie, of what God has in fact commanded. In the areas noted, there is freedom, and because there is freedom, you're not sinning whether you take the more permissive view or the more restrictive view re: diet, days, and meat. So it's precisely because Paul *isn't* theologically neutral that he can counsel the weaker brother not to regard the stronger brother as sinning, and counsel the stronger brother not to regard the weaker brother as sinning. Because, as a matter of fact, *they're not sinning*.

As a baptist, who believes that God *has* commanded the baptism of disciples alone, do you honestly think that Paul's Ro 14/1Co 8 counsel applies to *that* issue? Do you really believe that if Paul were addressing an area in which God *has* given a particular command, that he would give a pass to those who were in fact disobeying God?

It's apples and oranges, my brother. If I hear you correctly, we ought to liken the baptists to the weaker brother, who is more restrictive in his behavior and only believes God allows us to baptize disciples alone. And we ought to liken paedobaptists to the stronger brother, who is more permissive in his baptismal practice, and believes that God allows us to baptize credible professors *and their children*. The "weak" conscience of the baptist doesn't allow him to baptize infants, but the "stronger" conscience of the paedobaptist does allow him to baptize infants. On this view, any talk of one side "sinning" is totally inappropriate, since Paul counseled the weaker and stronger brothers to accept each other.

Again, the fatal flaw: I don't see how any *baptist* could possibly deploy the passage this way against Bart's position. Sure, if you were *agnostic* on what God has commanded with respect to baptism, your position might be consistent. But you're not agnostic as to what the command of God is here (are you?).

There's a deeper reason why your appeal to Ro 14/1Co 8 is inconsistent. It's not just that, if the baptist view is true, then paedobaptists are in fact sinning whereas neither party in Ro 14/1Co 8 is sinning. It's also because, if you were to follow through on your application of Ro 14/1Co 8, you would be led by Pauline injunction to accept and unite with paedobaptists. For that is *Paul's* conclusion with respect to the stronger and weaker brothers.

And this is the final irony. Ro 14/1Co 8 confirms Bart's view. The reason that Paul counsels unity among the stronger and weaker brothers is because *neither side is in fact sinning in their behavior*. It's not a sin for the stronger brother to refuse dietary restrictions, and it's not a sin for the weaker brother to observe dietary restrictions. But again and again, as I've already mentioned in this thread, Paul does counsel separation over matters of sin. So the precise distinction Bart is pushing here in this and the previous post is in fact confirmed by the passages you bring up. These passages urge unity because in the end matters of sin are *not* involved.

Maybe I've read you all wrong in these comments. Maybe you have a different view of sin, such that disobedience to one of God's commands is not a sin. Maybe that's a way out for you, but I don't think it's a very plausible way out. Thus, in the end, if you're a baptist, you must recognize two things: (i) paedobaptists sin by not obeying our Lord's command re: baptism, and (ii) on Paul's understanding, the parties mentioned in Ro 14/1Co 8 are not sinning. If that's the case, you have little reason at all to apply Ro 14/1Co 8 to the debate over baptismal practice. So if you agree (with the apostle Paul!) that as a matter of fact there is no divine obligation to observe (or avoid) dietary restrictions, keep (or not keep) special days, or eat (or avoid) food sacrificed to idols, then you must agree with Paul that the proper characterization of such people are in terms of weaker/stronger brethren, not in terms of sin. This is precisely *why* we can treat them as the weaker brother, *rather than* accuse them of sin: because there is no divine command precluding their scrupulous conscience. By way of contrast, we have our Lord's command concerning baptism, and failure to obey that command *is* a sin. I'm not seeing where you've overturned any part of this basic argument for the contrast I'm maintaining.

But hey! All power to you if you want to assimilate matters of baptismal command to Romans 14 / "weaker brother" issues. What else do we put into this "weaker brother" category? Fornication? Theft? The Ten Commandments generally? I mean, why stop with the Great Commission when there's so much room for Christian unity to be had? ;-)

So, the problem with your reply above is that you're speaking far too generally. Of course the conflict over diet/days/meat had "something to do" with God's commands. The weaker brother *is convinced* he's following divine commands, even though there is no actual divine command calling for his behavior. So what? The only way this would have application in the present comments thread is if there is no actual divine command calling for a particular baptismal practice.

If I understand you correctly, what you're implying by your reply is that as long as someone *is convinced in his own mind* that what he's doing isn't wrong, or is done sincerely in obedience to God, that *therefore* they are not sinning, and we should refrain from calling them sinners. If that's your view (I'm happy to have this clarified and shown wrong), then I'm astonished. On your view, it does look like either sincerity or ignorance (or both) absolves someone from the charge of sin. Do you really believe this? If an unmarried couple is fornicating but they sincerely *believe* they're doing nothing wrong, then it's inappropriate to identify their behavior as disobedience to a divine command? Is this what you really think?

Essentially, this is how you're applying the weaker brother passages: if two groups of Christians have a conflicting set of practices, and they're both convinced in their own mind that they're right, then Paul's counsel is for each group to accept the other, and not call sin sin. Please tell me you don't believe this.

Greg Welty said...

Paul,

Given my comment above, I'm now in a position to comment on some other things you've said.

You followed up your reference to Ro 14/1Co 8 by saying this:

] In Romans he even suggests that one is right (the mature) and
] the other is wrong (the weaker brothers), yet he never calls
] either "sin" even though one was clearly in error in his
] estimation. In fact, he admonishes both sides not to fall
] into the sin of judging/looking down upon one another.
]
] Thus, we at least have an exegetical precedent that one can
] be in theological error without that error being labeled
] "sin" by the apostle Paul. He even admonishes them to
] accommodate one another.

Yes, Paul clearly thinks that "one [side] was clearly in error in his estimation," namely, the weaker brother. But there is a difference between error and sin, and that makes all the difference in the world. On Paul's view, the weaker brother erred in thinking that God continues to require dietary restrictions. But when the weaker brother *lives out* this more restrictive lifestyle, he is not sinning in doing so. He is not violating a command of God by living life more restrictively than he has to. *That* is the reason Paul never calls the weaker brothers sinners. But it is at precisely this point that the analogy with the baptismal issue breaks down. God has as a matter of fact commanded the baptism of disciples alone, and if someone fails to obey that command, they're sinning. Whether or not there *is* a divine commandment regulating the behavior being talked about makes all the difference in the world. If God *had* commanded that dietary restrictions continue for all believers, you bet your life Paul wouldn't be treating the issue as he does in Ro 14!

So, can one "be in theological error without that error being labeled 'sin' by the apostle Paul"? Of course. But if the theological error leads one to in fact sin, then surely Paul would label it sin. That in short is the crucial disanalogy between Ro 14/1Co 8 and the baptismal debate.

] If a pedobaptist is unqualified to pastor a Baptist church
] because of his unrepentant sin what makes him qualified
] to pastor a Presbyterian church? After all, if he is in
] unrepentant sin he is in unrepentant sin no matter the
] signage on the building. If he is unqualified to pastor a
] Baptist church is he not unqualified to pastor any church?

Good question. It all goes back to what I earlier called the "peculiar nature" of the paedobaptist sin, and since I *argued* this precise point I can hardly be accused of being arbitrary.

There, I argued that the paedobaptist sin incorporated two elements, [1] and [2]. [1] was "It is a sin that directly impacts how a local church carries out the Great Commission, and the membership and discipline of the local church." I offered two paragraphs of commentary on [1], which you might want to reread. But here's how I would draw on that material.

If a paedobaptist pastors a baptist church, he will either seek to implement his convictions about baptism, or he will not. Either scenario involves the paedobaptist pastor being called to sin, which is never right, and in fact disqualifies him from the pastoral call to that church. In the first scenario, where he seeks to implement his paedobaptist convictions, he will be simply ignoring the doctrinal convictions of the vast majority of his church, which violates God's design for congregational church government. (BTW, with Mark Dever I believe in elder-led churches, but I also believe the congregation has a vital say in important decisions in the church.) Let's put it this way. Either the baptist congregation will say to the paedobaptist pastor, "Come, violate our convictions as to our Lord's baptismal command, and we will submit to you" (in which case the pastor's presence leads the congregation to sin against their conscience), or they will say, "Come, violate our convictions as to our Lord's baptismal command, and we will resist you" (in which case the congregation sinfully calls for and then resists the pastoral leadership of the church). In this scenario, then, the paedobaptist pastor is not qualified to pastor a baptist church, since his call leads the congregation to sin.

In the second scenario, where the paedobaptist pastor *doesn't* seek to implement his paedobaptist convictions in the baptist church, he obviously sins against his own conscience in order to be a pastor. He has the God-given calling to mold the convictions of the congregation by way of his preaching the whole counsel of God, and this includes his views on baptism. Could a paedobaptist pastor his flock with a clear conscience, knowing that he would be prevented from implementing one of his most basic convictions as to the membership and order of the local church? (Indeed, knowing that he would be prevented from carrying out what he believed was implicit in his Lord's Great Commission?) So in this second scenario, the paedobaptist pastor is not qualified to pastor a baptist church, since his call leads *him* to sin.

I conclude then that paedobaptist pastors are unqualified to pastor baptist churches. But it does not follow from this that they are unqualified to pastor any church. For none of the sinful consequences I have just outlined would apply to his pastoring paedobaptist churches. In addition, we must remember my [2] in that comment above, which is the second element of the "peculiar nature" of the paedobaptist sin: "It is a sin that is often accompanied by honorable intentions, and ignorance." This means his Christian profession is not undermined, which means he is certainly qualified to pastor paedobaptist churches, as well as occasionally guest-preach in baptist churches.

Greg Welty said...

Paul,

I now get to your final lengthy comment above, in which you give a positive case for your own position.

] First, regarding *any* theological position, someone is
] right and someone is wrong. Is being wrong
] automatically a matter of disobedience?

No. That's why I've striven to frame my argument in terms of disobedience to a divine *command*, baptismal *practice*, etc. This is very important. Paedobaptists are not sinners in virtue of a "difference of opinion". Rather, they are sinners in virtue of (i) their own disobedience to our Lord's baptismal command, and/or (ii) their leading others to disobey our Lord's baptismal command. (i) typically applies to paedobaptists who have been sprinkled as infants. (ii) typically applies to paedobaptist pastors who implement their convictions in their local church. Notice that neither (i) nor (ii) would apply to a paedobaptist layman who has been baptized on a credible profession of faith. While there is always a substantive connection between one's beliefs and one's practice, it is only the latter that generates the charge of sin (on my view).

] Yes, this is about a command of our Lord. It is a command
] that is clear to you and to me – believer’s immersion. It
] is also clear to others that it is the sign of the
] covenant replacing circumcision and in light of their
] understanding they are being obedient to the command.

Of course. But why is that relevant? Over the years I have been involved on the pastoral side of more than one church discipline cases in which the sinning church member was *fully* convinced in his or her own mind that what they had done (and continued to do) is justified by *their* understanding of Scripture. Are you suggesting that I just go Ro 14 on them? "Well, I'm pretty well convinced that you're disobeying God here, but as long as you're convinced otherwise, no harm, no foul!" I can pretty much guarantee you that if you were aware of the facts of these cases, there is *no way* you would have that reaction. I've seen things "justified Scripturally," with a straight face, that you would not believe.

And though I don't want to accuse you of taking this position yourself, I must say that a relativist about truth and morality would find your position on this matter quite satisfying. "Believer's baptism is true-for-me, but it's not true-for-you if you're really convinced otherwise. So I won't accuse you of violating God's command, because God's command-for-me isn't God's-command-for-you." I think you'd quite rightly yelp if I said that was your view. And yet... it's the only way I can make your position consistent. If you hold that believer's baptism is *what our Lord in fact commanded*, then how is failure to obey that command anything but sin?

] You've stated that pedobaptism negatively affects the Great
] Commission, but I would have to ask for the evidence of
] that. Are you telling me that an evangelical Presbyterian
] or an evangelical Methodist who might only differ with an
] evangelical Baptist at the point of baptism sees a
] diminished blessing from God on the results of their
] evangelistic efforts? Would not John Wesley, George
] Whitefield and D. James Kennedy among others stand as
] witnesses against that assertion? Can you actually
] demonstrate that the Great Commission is being harmed?

I don't see where you're citing me accurately. I said "our Lord's command with respect to baptism... is at the heart of the Great Commission, and is at the heart of the ordering and discipline of the local church. It has massive consequences for who is admitted into the membership of the local church." I said that paedobaptism "is a sin that directly impacts how a local church carries out the Great Commission, and the membership and discipline of the local church." It is not my view that paedobaptist *evangelism* is less effective than baptist evangelism. Nor is it my view that paedobaptist churches are "diminished" in their blessings from God. My point is a *de jure* point, not a *de facto* point. My point is that *it matters* what our Lord has in fact commanded with respect to baptism and church membership, and infant baptism and infant membership is a violation of God's design for local churches.

But if you want me to bite the bullet on this one, yeah, I'll go *de facto*. I believe that the practice of infant baptism as a matter of fact dishonors our Lord, distorts the gospel, and has offered false assurance to millions. Sadly, I believe we baptists have *plenty* of house-cleaning to do on our own side when it comes to baptism and church membership. But that won't stop me from speaking the truth in love when someone asks me what I think about other practices.

] I think you will have to tease that out a little better to
] demonstrate how that passage is suggesting that failure to
] immerse believers is a worse sin than gluttony and gossiping.

Two things here. First, if Bart Barber has said that gluttony and gossiping do not disqualify someone from pastoral ministry, then with all gentleness I think he needs to get his head examined :-) I haven't read all the comments Bart has written on every blog, so perhaps this is between him and you. On my view, Paul's list of elder qualifications in 1Ti and Titus make abundantly clear that such a man has little self-control, and is disqualified from pastoral ministry.

Second, we're not just talking about "failure to immerse believers". We're talking about habitually assuring people that they are united to Christ in faith and salvation *apart from any biblical grounds for doing so*. We lie to and deceive precious souls when we immerse them in a system of paedobaptism, for generations on end. Sorry, but that's the truth. I think the perpetuation of the infant baptist system is a great blight upon Christ's church, and always has been. Is it the worst thing in the world? No. Is it a very bad thing? Yes.

] I do not find Scriptural warrant for calling pedobaptists
] unrepentant sinners nor for considering their error sin if
] I'm willing to grant that there is the possibility that
] they could be right, no matter how remote that possibility.

But there's a "remote possibility" that *anyone's* right, on any issue. Therefore, we can never call anything "sin".

In fact, it is impossible to attain 100% certainty when it comes to applying the label of sin to any particular action. Sure, you *think* that Hollywood movie start is fornicating, or that bank robber is thieving, but there's a remote possibility that both were randomly afflicted by a temporary burst of cosmic gamma rays which took control of their minds and directly caused them to do what they did, quite apart from their intentions. I mean, do you know of any knock-down proof *against* this possibility? If not, then we cannot attain 100% certainty in any of our judgments in practical affairs. But that's just how it is. As Bishop Butler put it, "Probability tis the guide to life" :-)

The end result of your line of thinking is that we can never label any particular action to be sin. We are fallible, not infallible, in our interpretation of God's word and of God's world. God knows this about us, of course, and yet he has instructed us to identify sin as sin. Are we wiser than him?

] I will join you in 100% on things like the Trinity, the
] Deity and humanity of Christ, his atoning death, etc.:

This is just inconsistent. There are plenty of pretty powerful arguments out there against the Trinity and the deity of Christ. Plenty of troublesome prooftexts for both doctrines that must be wrestled with by any honest interpreter of Scripture. I think these arguments can be answered, but the idea that there's only a 1% chance of paedobaptism being right while there's a 0% chance of the Trinity being wrong, is just indefensible. There are interesting arguments on either side of either issue.

Besides, the idea that there's a mere 1% difference between charges of sin being permissible or impermissible, is pretty implausible, isn't it? So on your view, if Unitarianism had a 1% chance of being true, we have no right to say Unitarians are in error? I had no idea you were *that* confident in your interpretation of the Scriptures! :-)

Of course, I'm talking about epistemic possibility here, which is what I assumed you're talking about, as it's the only sense of possibility that would be relevant to the discussion as far as I can tell.

] I will see them in God’s great kingdom and if I will
] spend eternity with them there then I believe
] Christian, Biblical unity requires that I make every
] effort to unite with them here.

Sure. Unless the *objective sin* of failing to obey our Lord's command re: baptism makes such unity impossible. This is precisely Bart's point, as I understand it. Yes, we must "make every effort". But as Dagg put it in the excerpts I posted above:

[[[
We admit the obligation to receive such a brother, but not in any sense that requires an abandonment or neglect of our own duty. We ought not to despise the weak brother. We ought not, by our knowledge, to cause the weak brother to perish. We ought to receive him into our affections, and endeavor to promote his best interests; but if he, through his weakness, disobeys God in any particular, our love for him degenerates into weakness, if it induces us to disobey also. We owe nothing to a weak brother which can render it necessary for us to disobey God. If a weak brother feels himself reproved when we yield our personal obedience to the Lord's command, we are not at liberty to neglect the command, for the sake of keeping the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. As I am bound to exercise my affection for a weak brother in such a manner as not to neglect my duty, so is a church.
]]]

Now *this* is an application of Ro 14 that I can live with. Treat them as a "weaker brother" for as long as you can, in all of your relationships with them. But "if he, through his weakness, disobeys God in any particular," we are not to disobey God in receiving him into our churches. For, you see, if we would receive him *without baptizing him*, then *we* would be disobeying God. And we have *no* obligation to disobey God, under any circumstances. This, in a nutshell, is why sin is the reason for the continuing division between baptist and paedobaptist churches. It would be a sin for baptists to dispense with what they are convinced is a command of God, which is what they would have to do if they were to receive paedobaptists into their churches as members.

] If we can maintain greater unity by "doing church"
] separately than we could doing it together, risking
] constant quarrels over baptismal modes, then it is
] actually promoting unity to do so.

Nope, sorry. "Risking constant quarrels" is what happens in the life of every local church every day. That risk is *always* present, on a whole spectrum of theological issues. If *that* provided grounds for separation, then we really would have the end of local churches altogether. No, what you "risk" by uniting with paedobaptists is ignoring what you believe to be God's command re: baptism. The idea here is that (i) paedobaptists sin by disobeying God's command re: baptism, and (ii) baptists would sin by receiving paedobaptists as members and not baptizing them. Perhaps the focus of this discussion has been somewhat off. The reason for the division is not entirely grounded in the actual sin of the paedobaptist; it is just as much grounded in the potential sin of the baptists. For if God has in fact commanded the baptism of disciples alone, it can never be right to sin in order to produce unity. But that's what would happen in this case. Baptists would have to sin by ignoring God's command re: baptism.

] You also state that my position is one of pragmatism
] because it is "practically" impossible to implement a
] situation of pedobaptists and credobaptists in one
] local congregation. However, that is not simply a
] practical issue.

I simply meant it was a "pragmatic" separation because "no mention of sin needs to be made" in your view. But perhaps that wasn't the best word. I realize that you believe you have specific biblical passages that support your view, and thus your view isn't rooted in mere preference, but in what you think is a biblical case. So I'll just say that your position doesn't have the biblical support you think it has :-) In particular, I don't see how Ro 14/1Co 8 helps your case at all, as I've explained in an earlier comment.

Paul said...

Greg,

Sorry for the delay. I thought this thread had died. I only have a brief moment to reply to your first comment to me (talk about your lengthy comments!). :-)

Regarding your first comment to me you have a few things wrong.

First, I would not argue that the pedobaptist is the stronger brother and the credobaptist is the weaker brother, but the other way around. Surely as a Baptist I would argue that the stronger brother had it right. ;-)

Second, you say: "This is precisely *why* we can treat them as the weaker brother, *rather than* accuse them of sin: because there is no divine command precluding their scrupulous conscience."

But I thought you acknowledged that there was a divine command regarding what you eat, what you drink and certain days. For them this was a matter of God's command and sin. Paul had to show them how Christ fulfilled those commands making them of no effect.

What's ironic, to me, is that disobedience to the mode of baptism is sin yet disobedience to the mode of the Lord's Supper is not. As far as the Lord's Supper goes I would suspect that you are more than willing to view it as a matter of preference, but regarding the mode of baptism you do not. Both are "ordinances" (which, as you know, means "commands"). Perhaps if you could explain why you view one as a preference and the other as a sin it would help me understand your position a little better (by preference I mean that you almost certainly use little pre-cut wafers and grape juice when the mode originally practiced was almost certainly a common loaf and wine and may have included a much more substantial meal than what we now practice).

Paul said...

Greg,

Just a moment to get to your second response and the answer to my question. One thing you seem to be missing is that you have already said that this pedobaptist pastor is sinning by being a pedobaptizer. If he pastors a non-Baptist church he will simply be leading them into sin with him. If it is sin it hardly matters what their "good intentions" are unless you want to establish some category of sin that is really no sin at all as far as the Lord is concerned.

It would seem to me that the very fact that he would be leading others into his sin is even far more grievous than if he were simply sinning against his own conscience. That seemed to be Jesus' point in Matthew 18:6.

I can only say that even in light of your responses I cannot see beyond what appears to me to be a great inconsistency in calling pedobaptizers unrepentant sinners of a grave enough sort on the one hand that we must separate from them yet not so grave as to prevent them from preaching in our churches. It is a view of sin that I cannot find Biblical warrant for at this time.

Paul said...

Ok...last comment and then I'll leave it to you (and I'll make this one short).

]] I think you will have to tease that out a little better to
]] demonstrate how that passage is suggesting that failure to
]] immerse believers is a worse sin than gluttony and gossiping.

]]Two things here. First, if Bart ]]Barber has said that gluttony and ]]gossiping do not disqualify ]]someone from pastoral ministry, ]]then with all gentleness I think ]]he needs to get his head examined ]]:-) I haven't read all the ]]comments Bart has written on ]]every blog, so perhaps this is ]]between him and you. On my view, ]]Paul's list of elder ]]qualifications in 1Ti and Titus ]]make abundantly clear that such a ]]man has little self-control, and ]]is disqualified from pastoral ]]ministry.

Not only has he said it (see here), he indicated that I was a legalist for pointing out the exact same thing you have here (here and here). I guess that makes for two legalists who think Bart needs his head examined. ;-)

Bart Barber said...

I agree with Paul…

…I thought this thread had died, too.

Paul, the "legalist" quote was an attempt at irony. I do not think you a legalist, and never have. I suspect that you think me one, thus the reason that I thought the turnabout would be funny.

Gluttony is a sin. Speeding is a sin. Sinlessness is not a qualification for pastoral leadership. If it is, then both you and I are looking for a new job Monday morning.

I referred to both of those sins simply to refute the specious argument that, if I would call pedobaptism unrepentant sin and separate over it, I must necessarily be on a campaign to separate over each and every sin and difference of opinion that could possibly arise. To make such an assertion is to refuse to interact with what I actually have written.

I say simply and forthrightly: If a candidate comes to First Baptist Church of Farmersville and says, "You need to know that sometimes I eat a little too much and sometimes I speed," these admissions are unlikely to bar him from the pastorate. Nor do I think that they should. If, on the other hand, he says, "You need to know that from time to time I sprinkle infants for baptism," then he will not be considered for the office.

Why the difference? Quite obviously, because the gravity of these various failures (all of them sins, mind you) is not equal when considering a person for pastoral leadership.