“Yes, child, if you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ you will be saved.”

Since I’m not watching the World Cup and just watching my Texas Rangers continue to struggle with injuries (it is still baseball season. I don’t know what I will be watching in October.), I wanted to say I just read Mark Jones’ latest blog post over at Reformation21. He asked “If you are a Christian parent with young children, do you consider your children to be Christians?” My initial answer is no. But then my second answer would be, “Can they and have they believed in the Lord Jesus Christ for justification?” Let me say at the outset I am a Reformed Baptist.

I do not hold to an age of accountability, yet I find it hard to believe that my 7 month old child could grasp and comprehend her sinfulness and my plea for her to believe and trust in the Lord Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God, or to be as believing Thomas when he said upon seeing Jesus, “My Lord and my God.” That would be the simplest belief one would need to state in order to be saved.  I know my daughter cannot say this and believe with any assurance at this point in her life, yet even now I call on her to repent. This is mostly so that I will be in the habit of leading her to Christ, and also to cultivate this in her from a very early age. Pastor Jones also states that when thinking about this issue the Presbyterians were “judging this to the terms of the covenant.” Again, as a Reformed Baptist, I whole heartedly agree. So I must ask the question: “Which covenant?” Jeremiah 31:31-34 says:

31 “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. 33 “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (NASB).

The New Covenant in the blood of Christ says that God will be their God and they shall be my people. They will not teach…each man…to know the Lord, for they will all know Me…” This tells us that there will not be a mixed people. We shall not have to teach those in the covenant to know the Lord. They will know the Lord and be part of His covenant people. This is the foundation of the New Covenant. The Covenant promises will be found in those who have God’s law written on their heart because their sin is forgiven and not remembered for it was nailed to the cross of Christ. Knowing this, we can now answer Pastor Jones questions. He asks 5:

When my children sin and ask forgiveness from God, can I assure them that their sins are forgiven?”

Yes, the same way you would with an adult. Our justification is in Christ alone. Those who had the faith of Abraham are the ones who are the children of Abraham. Chapter 14, paragraph 2 from the Second London Confession quoting the Westminster states of the grace of saving faith the following, “By this faith, a Christian believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God Himself…acteth differently, upon that which each particular passage thereof containeth; yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of God for this life and that which is to come: But the principal acts of Saving Faith have immediate relation to Christ, accepting, receving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life by virtue of the covenant of grace(italics are my emphasis and bold is added in the Baptist Confession).” If your child can believe in Jesus Christ for justification, sanctification and eternal life then you can tell them their sins are forgiven. When can they believe this? The earlier the better, and all Christians have the solemn obligation and command to raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

When I ask my children to obey me in the Lord should I get rid of the indicative-imperative model for Christian ethics? On what grounds do I ask my three-year old son to forgive his twin brother? Because it is the nice thing to do? Or because we should forgive in the same way Christ has forgiven us?”

No. We instruct our children to “forgive us our debts as we forgive others.” Our forgiving others is to be based on the forgiveness found in the Lord Jesus Christ. All of this is a tool to evangelize our children. The way our children treat their siblings is an opportunity to show how we are rebel children in Adam and that reconciliation with God means reconciliation in our elder brother Jesus. Only when we have true forgiveness can we forgive others. We must tell our children to come to the Father in the name of Jesus Christ and only then can we forgive in the same way God has forgiven us.

Can my children sing ‘Jesus loves me, this I know’ and enjoy all of the benefits spoken of in that song? (‘To him belong…He will wash away my sin’)”

No. Unless they trust in Christ alone for the receiving of those benefits. Chapter 11 in the Second London Confession and the Westminster: “Those whom God effectually called, He also freely justifieth, not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness, but by imputing Christ’s active obedience unto the whole Law, and passive obedience in His death, for their whole and sole righteousness, they receiving and resting on Him and His righteousness, by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God (bold section added by Savoy and Second London Confessions).” We should teach them the song, but they can only sing it with a true, saving faith when they’re resting on Christ alone.

When my children pray during family worship to their heavenly Father, what are the grounds for them praying such a prayer? Do they have any right to call God their ‘heavenly Father’? Do non-Christians cry ‘Abba, Father’ (Rom. 8:15)?”

Here is how one has the grounds to call out to the heavenly Father: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13; NASB). We must evangelize our children and yet instruct them to pray as Jesus instructs people to pray. One need only be born again to have the right to call God Heavenly Father. All people have an interest and command in calling out to God as He has revealed Himself. The only way one has the right if He has been born again.

Should I desire that my children have a “boring” testimony? (Though a testimony to God’s covenant promises can never be boring, of course). Is it not enough for them to simply say each day that they trust in Christ alone for their salvation?”

The only desire a parent should have regarding the testimony of our children is that they know God and are known by Him. This comes from an effectual call to God’s elect in Christ in the Covenant of Grace who receive and rest upon Christ alone whereby they become children of the Heavenly Father and can only then have   assurance by loving Him and keeping His commandments.

Thank you Pastor Jones for asking these questions. Even as a Baptist I ask these questions. On the judgment of charity, I call upon my child (Lord willing my wife and I may be able to say children) to call upon the Lord Jesus Christ as Peter did to those who heard him preach and they will be saved and can sing and know for sure “Jesus loves me.” We both have become convinced of this position because we believe “for the Bible tells me so. We are weak and He is strong.” I’m thankful for your work. I don’t consider myself wiser than you. I am simply answering as a convinced Reformed Baptist how I deal with these questions. We still are brothers in Christ and long for the day when all is set right and we know finally who belongs to the Lord. Until that day, Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus Come!

(In case all have forgotten, it is baseball season. I’ll be watching my Texas Rangers until the end of September. October looks like it may be out of sight.)

Commentary on the latest podcast

For all who are curious, I just gave the recipe for Baptist Milk in the latest podcast talking about the arts. On this episode we deal with music specifically. On the next one we talk about movies. Something we didn’t talk about was what music brings about and our reaction to it. How does it make us feel, but especially how does it make us think? More important to this conversation for the Christian is are we able to still keep “every thought captive to the mind of Christ”(2 Corinthians 10:5), as well as “being transformed by the renewing of the mind”(Romans 12:2). We must listen to music not in a merely passive way. It’s not just for entertainment. “Everything that breathes must praise The Lord.” This is the hard part in our culture when it comes to the arts. Music is subjective, but it must bring about that which is objectively God-glorifying. If an artist is talking about the struggle of human life and the meaning of life and love, he’s asking questions that only God can answer. So we should ask those questions with him, but our answer must be Christ. If someone is talking about liberation from oppression, we should ask what is oppressing you and is it appropriate to ask the question? In regards to race and employment it is good to long for equity and justice (not fairness). In regards to sexual liberty, we must long for what is right in the eyes of God and not in our own eyes. Ultimately music is something we are free to listen, to enjoy, to think, and to praise God. All things must be to that end. Soli Deo Gloria!

Baptists and 2K

2K

Church and State: Hostiles?

In continuing the protracted(apologies for the delay) series on the validity of being a Baptist and Reformed, we have come to the objection made by Laurence Justice concerning the doctrine of church and state. I do think we generally agree that these are two different realms with two different responsibilities before God. I must disagree with his reasoning behind why this cancels the term Reformed for Baptists.  Unfortunately, some of the language used is unhelpful and, once again, historically selective. Let’s deal with each case separately, beginning with the Consantinian argument.

Constantine: Destroyer of Christianity

I don’t know much of history behind Constantine and his role behind calling for unity in the church of the time. Was it for the solidification of his own power as Emperor of Rome? Was it in order to pursue a unified church for the good of the church? It seems to be that both of these are potentially true. Unity is never a bad thing as long as it is unity of the truth of Scripture. Constantine called for an ecumenical council of the Church to lay these disputes to rest. We know this council to be the one that produced the Nicene Creed defending the nature of Christ as fully divine, and defending the Triune nature of the Godhead against Arius and his error that Christ was divine but of a different substance from the Father. This is good that Constantine used his power to call for unity of the Church for it produced the first of the Orthodox Ecumenical Creeds that most of the Christian world to this day holds to. On the other hand, in regards to infant baptism, it appears to be that Constantine used his power to impose 4th century paedobaptist doctrine upon the whole Church. There were a group of people who disagreed with this doctrine(and rightly so). They were persecuted and executed for dissenting with the church and state which were married under Constantine. Was infant baptism the only reason for persecution? Their persecution was certainly related to baptism, but it had less to do with infant baptism than re-baptism. The Donatist controversy was over bishops who had recanted the faith. If a person was baptized(even as an infant) by a bishop who had “fallen away,” then their baptism was invalid. So it placed value on the one baptizing. One’s moral excellence is what gave baptism validity in the sight of the Donatist. The “fall of the Church” is not due to the moral purity of the Church, but due to what the Church believes concerning the Gospel. This sets up the next bit of unhelpful and historically selective language.

Killing Donatists: The Spigot Opened to the River of Blood

This is the same language used by Baptist perpetuists who see church purity in accordance with correct baptism. In other words, those who practiced infant baptism corrupted the church and those who baptized adults kept the church pure. This contains within it the belief that one’s doctrine and practice must be 100% pure in order to be a pure church. The Second London Baptist Confession says that the purest churches are subject to error. What makes up the Kingdom of God is those who believe in Christ and profess His name. One’s practices evidence what one believes concerning the Gospel and a Church that practices credobaptism and not padeobaptism is a more pure church, but it doesn’t mean that God’s people are not among the paedobaptist churches. They are true churches. Their practice needs reforming. We must leave this idea that only moral excellence is what constitutes Christ’s church. We must look for the Church among those who have believed on His name and have been delivered from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of the Beloved Son.

Reformers: Successors to Constantinan Persecution

Did Calvin, Luther, Zwingli, etc. continue with this persecution to the Anabaptists aka Neo-Donatists? Was it the refusal of the Anabaptists to accept the baptism of children what led to their death? Perhaps that was part of it. Many of the Anabaptists did not seek to adhere to any of the laws of the civil magistrate. They believed it was an evil thing that existed and to take part in it was to take part in the works of the evil one. So the Reformers, who saw a closer relation of Church and State, persecuted them not primarily for their rebaptizing of their children, but mainly due to their rebellion against the state in matters of civil disobedience. After all, it was the Munster Anabaptists who took over the city and began a war. They became the face of Anabaptism. I know they were not indicative of the whole of Anabaptism, but they certainly were an example of how rebellion against the state ought not be allowed insofar as it consists of common, civil affairs. The mistake the Reformers made was a similar one to Constantine: that Church and State can coordinate the affairs of humans together.

Baptists: Two Kingdom Theologians

Amen to the first half of Dr. Justice’s final paragraph! The civil magistrate’s duty is not in the sphere of religion or worship. The Church’s duty is not in the sphere of ordering the common affairs of humanity. Baptists believe that Jesus Christ is Lord of the Church and State. So did Augustine, Luther and the rest of the Reformers. Baptists have a separation of the two into a common kingdom and a heavenly kingdom. Here is where I end my applause of the paragraph. The two kingdoms aren’t antagonistic to each other. They have different roles and functions. At times, the state is a friend to the Church when it allows Her to follow Her conscience when it comes to worship. The Church is a friend to the state when it doesn’t impose religious worship on society. The State has a duty to call the church to fidelity insofar as the Church cannot murder, teach kids to be disobedient to parents, commit adultery, steal, covet, or lie. The Church has a duty to call the State to fidelity by calling it to preserve human life, promote marital fidelity, protect private property, etc. Neither can impose its rulings on the other, they can only call each other to righteousness and faithfulness. They aren’t “basically antagonistic” to one another. They can be antagonistic to one another when they infringe upon their proper roles to which God has set them up to carry out. But they are both called by God to carry out their respective roles in relation to each other. It is perfectly acceptable for the Christian to exercise the use of the sword.  We are called by the Apostle Paul to obey and submit to those who are set over us, including the emperor Nero who wields the sword for peace.

That’s the last ramblings of this fellow. Now off to put my 5 month old down for a nap.

Invisible or Visible?

Invisible or Visible?

                As we continue answering “Are Baptists Reformed?” we go from understanding Sola Scriptura, tradition and history to looking at ecclesiology. For those unfamiliar of what ecclesiology is, ecclesiology is the study of the Church. This is another important aspect as to how we should go about understanding tradition and history. What is the Baptist view of Ecclesiology? Today we will give a cursory study of Baptist Ecclesiology.

Now there are points in this section that I will agree with Dr. Justice, and something I think all should agree on. They are at the outset of his section on the Church. He states “that there can be no proper standard for what constitutes the church, but the one set forth in the New Testament, and that the New Testament is not vague or indefinite concerning the church, either as to what it is or where it came from or how it is to be governed.” Also, a “church is a congregation of believers which has been called out of the world and assembles around Jesus Christ and His Word.” Now here is where I begin to wonder whether Dr. Justice begins to pick and choose which Baptists he identifies with, and whether he understands history. These are the 2 main arguments most Baptists who reject the title Reformed make. They are to be understood and, in my humble opinion, corrected. For they are not strong arguments and they need to be held in the light of Scripture and what Baptists have historically believed. He holds a distinction here which isn’t helpful nor accurate. He believes that the Reformers held the Roman Catholic Church was a true church and only needed reforming and that they assumed the baptism and ordination of Rome was still valid. The Reformers assumed that Rome was still a church regarding the Gospel. One’s practices don’t exclude them from being a church, one’s doctrines are primary when considering their ecclesiological status. There’s a difference in being a well ordered church, and a badly ordered one. For Paul in his epistles to the Corinthian church, even with their abysmal practices regarding the Lord’s Table, suing one another, and receiving those with sexual immorality, still considered them a true church. It was to the Galatians that he had sharp words when they were going back to the Law and leaving the Gospel. Even our Lord Jesus Christ to the 7 Churches of Asia still had their lights lit in the lampstand. This was Him considering them true churches. It’s when they left their first love, followed heretical doctrines regarding salvation, etc. that He threatened to remove the light of the Gospel from their lampstand. For Calvin and the Reformers the central issue was and still is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. How does one have right standing before God? By grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone to the glory of God alone with the Scriptures being the alone final authority over God’s people. When Rome finally released their confession at the Council of Trent, the Reformers regarded them as apostate and leaving the true Church of Christ for Rome no longer held to the Biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ. Baptism according even to the Calvinistic Baptists of the 17th Century had no power conveyed by the one administering it.

Here is another point in which I agree with Dr. Justice’s definition of Reformed eccesiology, yet in his following paragraph I realize I disagree with his conclusions about that statement. He says “Reformed people view the church in two ways. They see it as the entire body of the elect. This body, of course, is invisible. They also see it as a local assembly or the aggregate of all local assemblies in a nation or on a continent. As such, the church is visible. So the Reformers believed in a universal, invisible church, and in a more local, visible church.” I would like to add at this point what the 17th Century Baptists wrote in regard to this in the Second London Confession, Chapter 26 paragraph 1 & 2:

  1. “The catholic or universal church, which (with respect to the internal work of the Spirit and truth of grace) may be called invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ, the head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.
  2. All persons throughout the world, professing the faith of the gospel, and obedience unto God by Christ according unto it, not destroying their own profession by any errors everting the foundation, or unholiness of conversation, are and may be called visible saints; and of such ought all particular congregations to be constituted.

Paragraph 1 is a verbatim copy of the Westminster Confession, as well as the Savoy (Congregationalist) Confession, with only the bolded italicized text being added by the Particular Baptists. Paragraph 2 is a verbatim copy of the Savoy, with only the bolded italicized words being added. These are generally recognized as Reformed documents. We have Baptists who have quoted and generally agreed with these statements by Reformed people. Which Baptists were they? The Particular Baptists or Calvinistic Baptists. I’m merely pointing out that there were (and still are) those who agreed ecclesiologically with Reformed folk. The Baptists didn’t include infants of believing parents as did the Presbyterians, but they did quote the Congregationalists (paedobaptists themselves). This we will see is the difference ecclesiologically between the Baptists, Congregationalists and Presbyterians. We must admit that at this point there is quite a distinction between the groups. However, the Baptists didn’t reject the catholicity(universality) of the Church. Especially as Calvinistic Baptists they didn’t reject since they view the church as the elect, or in different terms, those for whom Christ died.

This leads us to understand that Covenant Theology was behind their agreement with the Presbyterians. It is also Covenant Theology the distinguished them from their Presbyterian brethren. I need not go too deep into this but simply refer to a couple of books that discuss this difference of Covenant Theology for the Particular Baptists. They are: The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology by Pascal Denault, and From Adam to Christ by Nehemiah Coxe. The Baptist view of Covenant Theology kept them from baptizing their children and admitting them into the Covenant of Grace. The circumcision of the heart was what replaced circumcision of the flesh in the Old Testament.

At this point another mistake has been made when it comes to the Baptist view of the Church as relates to Israel and the covenants. Dr. Justice states this, “A basic disagreement between Baptists and Reformed people is the answer to the question, “When did the church begin?” Reformed people believe that Israel was the church in the Old Testament, and the New Testament church is but a continuation of the same body. They teach that the church in the Old and New Testament is founded on the covenant of grace made with Abraham. Baptists, on the other hand, see a radical break between the Testaments instead of a continuation of the Old into the New. They believe that Israel and the New Testament church are two distinctly different bodies, and the Old Testament order of Israel is radically different from the New Testament order of the church.” We need to see two things. One, the Baptists did not see a “radical” break between the Testaments. Two, because they didn’t see a “radical” break, they didn’t view Israel and the Church as two distinct bodies. Let’s deal with the first point. Once again I will have to point you towards Pascal Denault’s book on Baptist Covenant Theology. It is the Baptist view of the covenants that informs their understanding of Israel and the Church. At this point also I would like to ask a question: “Did Christ die only for the Church?” It depends on how you understand the covenants. If you believe that Israel and the Church are two distinctly different bodies, Christ didn’t die for Israel. If you believe there is continuity between the two, Christ died for the elect; Israel in the Old Testament, the Church in the New. This leads to understanding the second point:

  1.  Paul’s words that not all Israel is Israel and that a true Jew is one who is a Jew inwardly, with a circumcision of the heart.
  2. We must also understand that Israel is a type of the Church. They were entrusted with worshiping God, carrying out His commission to them to be a light to the world. They were to be a light to the nations that their borders would be enlarged by creating proper worshipers. They failed in this, Christ succeeded and has given that commission to the Church.

We will come back to this point when we discuss the difference in what many of the Reformers believed concerning baptism. Needless to say, the Particular Baptists of the Second London Confessors agreed with the Reformed Church at this point. Please review the preface and appendix to the Second London Confession and notice the language that they use concerning the “visible Church of God.”

I would also like to add one more observation. It is stated that “Baptists hold with the Scriptures that the New Testament church consists of regenerate persons, while the Reformed see it as also including unregenerate infants, or children of believers. Baptists believe that each church is entirely independent of every other church in all that relates to its government. The church at Jerusalem did not tell the church at Corinth how to operate, and didn’t threaten to excommunicate it when it heard of sinful members of the church at Corinth. Every Baptist church chooses its own pastor and deacons, receives and dismisses its members, and makes its own rules and regulations. Baptists believe with the New Testament that no organization such as a synod or session should tell the local church what to do. The setting up of a centralized authority that claims to speak for the churches and pass laws to the local church has absolutely no New Testament authority.” I agree with much of this. The doctrine of regenerate church membership is a Baptist distinctive. Congregational polity is also one of the distinctives of Baptist church life and doctrine. Each church governs itself, no other church ought to govern another church. But something is stated that needs a little more nuance. The church at Jerusalem didn’t hand down a decision and expect the Corinthian church to do what it said, but the churches all gathered, counseled with one another, and a recommendation was given. This recommendation didn’t excommunicate any church. But it did show that each church didn’t operate entirely independent of one another. Each church had a responsibility to the other churches to have communion, counsel and help given to one another. Interdependence is quite a good word to describe this. This isn’t governance, but a working together to ensure faithfulness and unity to which all of the Body of Christ is called in John 17:20-23. In Ephesians 4, gifts were given to the Church to build up the body of Christ. This reference isn’t exclusively to the local church. The context of Ephesians is the body of Christ, all true believers, Jew and Gentile, one new man, a holy temple. This is written to a local church reminding them of their membership in the one body of Christ through His death and resurrection, bringing together Jew and Gentile. This is a wonderful promise and encouragement to unity in one Lord, one faith, one baptism.

This is a longer post than I intended to write. In summary, one could argue that Covenant Theology is central to one’s ecclesiology and what one believes regarding God’s divine covenants reveals how they understand Israel and the Church. We must see that the Particular Baptists of the 17th Century followed the Reformers and not the General Baptists or Anabaptists in their understanding of the covenants. So we must realize that not all Baptists are created equal. We must be honest and careful with history and with doctrine. An Anabaptist is not a General Baptist nor a Particular Baptist. Nor is a Particular Baptist a General Baptist or Anabaptists. Neither is a General Baptist an Anabaptist nor a Particular Baptist. I will sum everything up in my final post looking at “What Is A Reformed Baptist?” But before that, we must look at the doctrine of Church and state.

Anti-Christ

4. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Head of the church, in whom, by the appointment of the Father all power for the calling, institution, order, or government of the church, is invested in a supreme and sovereign manner;g neither can the Pope of Rome in any sense be head thereof, but is that antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the church against Christ, and all that is called God; whom the Lord shall destroy with the brightness of His coming.h
(g) Col 1:18; Matt 28:18-20; Eph 4:11-12
(h) 2 Thess 2:2-9

20140311-150820.jpg

I would add that any man (or woman) that exalts himself in this manner is anti-Christ, including non-Papists, and Southern Baptists.

An article by Todd Pruitt over at Ref21 dealing with this issue.

Sola Scriptura

Baptists and Sola Scriptura

Please forgive me for taking so long to post the second part of my interaction with the question “Are Baptists Reformed?” As I stated in the last post, Dr. Justice’s article on whether or not Baptists are reformed makes 2 errors. First, he picks and chooses which Baptists he sides with when he makes his argument. Second, he does the same thing with history. There are statements about what Baptists believe that are poor historically. Both mistakes affect his conclusion. This conclusion isn’t his alone, nor has he created this belief that Baptists aren’t reformed. Let’s move on to look at how his two mistakes affect his understanding about what Baptists believe regarding the Word of God.

Dr. Justice brings up one of the Five Solas of the Reformation. They are as follows:

  1. Sola Scriptura – Scripture alone
  2. Sola Gratia – Grace alone
  3. Sola Fide – Faith alone
  4. Solus Christus – Christ alone
  5. Soli deo Gloria – the Glory of God alone

The motto Sola Scriptura is the sola he seeks to distinguish between the Reformed and Baptist. He, along with many others, make a couple of mistakes. Here is the beginning of his paragraph, “The motto of the Protestant Reformation included the Latin words Sola Scriptura which mean the Scriptures only. In seeking to reform the Roman Catholic Church the Reformers at first insisted that the only authority for faith and practice was the Scriptures, but the Reformers never consistently followed this motto. Whenever they could not support some doctrine or practice from God’s Word they soon began relying on the church fathers and tradition and expediency and creeds as well. Baptists are the ones who take Sola Scriptura seriously. Only Baptists consistently apply this great principle in matters of faith and practice.” I want us to notice three things. First, the Reformers didn’t seek to reform Rome, they sought to reform the true church. Before the Council of Trent, the Reformers thought Rome may still have been orthodox, but in grave error. When Rome enunciated what they believed, the Reformers rejected Rome as apostates. Second, the Reformers never said the only authority for faith and practice was the Scriptures. They taught that it was the ONLY FINAL authority on matters of faith and practice. The Reformers did follow this consistently.  They referred to the early creeds, confessions, and church fathers to show their orthodoxy and Rome’s apostasy. Third, Baptists do take Sola Scriptura consistently. But which Baptists are in view here? Again, there is no such thing as “just Baptist” as there is no such thing as “just Christian,” for there are many who call themselves Christian and aren’t. There is a plethora of groups who are outside of orthodoxy who consider themselves followers of Christ. This is what the Reformation was all about: removing the unorthodox from the orthodox. At one point in the article, the “greatest Baptist confession of faith [is the] London Confession of 1689,” is mentioned. The Particular Baptists are in view here. These were the same ones who distanced from the Anabaptists in their first confession of 1644, and then distanced from the Arminians in 1677 in the second London confession. This is where the questions of history need more development.

When the Particular Baptists released their First London Confession, there was much charged against them by some from the Westminster Assembly. They were called Anabaptists. In the introduction to the 1644 Confession, they state they are commonly and unjustly called Anabaptists. This was revised later in 1646 to clear up any further confusion as to the type of Baptists they were. Please refer to Richard Belcher and Anthony Mattia’s book “A Discussion of the Seventeenth Century Particular Baptist Confessions of Faith” for a closer historical and theological work. In other words, the Particular Baptists were Calvinistic, identified more with the Presbyterians and Congregationalists than they did those who were credobaptist. Also, when looking at their statements of faith, they used the confessions that existed before them as a basis for their own confession. For the 1644 confession, most of the articles were taken from Congregationalist confessions. For the 1689 confession, the Westminster, Savoy and First London Confessions were source documents. This shows us that the Particular Baptists valued the tradition that was in place before them. So the Particular Baptists didn’t follow Solo Scriptura (meaning the Scripture by itself), they followed with the Reformers Sola Scriptura. They valued the tradition that has been passed down from the apostles to the early church and on throughout history.

On another note concerning the place of Scripture and tradition, one can never divorce himself of tradition. When a person uses a particular version of the Bible, he is taking on traditions of which manuscripts to use and how to translate them and in what way should they be translated. The same with using terms such as “Trinity” and “hypostatic union” as well as “full humanity and deity of Christ.” All of these terms came from the Church dealing with heresy. You have to use what has come before you. All one is doing is connecting oneself to a particular tradition. If anything, Particular Baptists are the pinnacle of reform. This is no slight to my paedobaptist Reformed Church and Presbyterian brothers. The Particular Baptists sought to continue the work of reforming doctrine back in line with the Scripture in order for the churches to be rightly ordered that God would be worshiped as He has called His people to in His Word.

Finally, Dr. Justice points out rightly that the Westminster and 1689 London Confessions differ from the very start. The Particular Baptists added “The Holy Scriptures are the only sufficient, certain and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith and obedience.” This was not in the Westminster. In saying this, the Particular Baptists are adding a distinction, not a division. Please refer as well to the Letter to the Reader that accompanies the Second London Confession for what the Particular Baptists believed concerning their nearer relation to the Reformed paedobaptists than the Arminian General Baptists, semi-Pelagian, and in some cases Pelagian Anabaptists. I would like to say that the Particular Baptists did value Scripture more than tradition, but it doesn’t mean they didn’t value tradition and used only the Scriptures. They wanted it clear that only the Scriptures are our final authority. I might add also, that the Particular Baptists didn’t follow only what the New Testament taught. This will lead us to the next topic, the topic of the Church. We will save that one for our next post. Pray that God will grant me diligence and wisdom on this next post.

Reformed?

Introduction

Several  years ago I began to use the word “reformed” to describe my theology. A few people at my church weren’t very thrilled by the use of that term. “Baptists aren’t Reformed. They have never needed to be. Jesus and Paul weren’t reformed, so why should we be?” they would reply. Our church is historically an Independent Fundamental Baptist Church that has held to a Calvinistic soteriology. It has also been influenced by Landmarkism. The church has never officially held to this “Baptist perpetuitism,” or its associated belief of “Baptist bride-ism,” but has seen that Baptists were never a part of Rome and therefore didn’t need to be reformed of anything.

Since we have adopted the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689, we’ve come to be more open to associating formally as well as rejecting Landmarkism. As I continued to use the word “Reformed” in reference to my doctrinal beliefs I was given a short treatise on the subject of “Reformed Baptist” by Laurence Justice, a pastor of a Baptist church in Missouri. Let me begin by giving the title of his pamphlet: “Are Baptists Reformed? Emphasizing the Truth that Baptists Are Not Reformers and Reformers Are Not Baptists.

I do not intend to say anything about Dr. Justice himself. What I know about him is that he is a godly man, a faithful pastor, one committed to his church and God’s Word, as well as a man who takes doctrine seriously. I appreciate the work he has done in his church for missions, defending God’s sovereign grace, and his Credobaptist belief.

What I do intend to do is interact with what Dr. Justice has written in this pamphlet. I will state up front that I have no problem with being a Reformed Baptist. I own the title. I also don’t think one MUST call himself a Reformed Baptist. We will see that there are some Baptists who are “Calvinistic” while not being reformed. But we also must see there is no such thing as “just Baptist,” for there are all types of people who call themselves Baptist that have a broad range of doctrines. Let us begin our interaction with “Are Baptists Reformed?”

By way of introduction to his text, I want to summarize his pamphlet and review his sections outlining why he does not believe Baptists should be called “Reformed.” I will then answer each section in subsequent blog posts critiquing his argument.  He gives an introduction and then gives 5 arguments against being reformed as a Baptist. He defines Reformed as those “which had for its object the reform of the Roman Catholic church leading to the establishment of Protestant churches.” In other words, Reformed are Protestant and Protestant are Reformed. He continues in his introduction that, although the greatest Baptist confession of faith was the 1689 London Confession, Baptists aren’t Protestant. Even though Baptists believe the same things regarding salvation as the Reformed Churches and the Westminster Presbyterians, they aren’t Reformed or Protestant. He then continues with 5 statements.

  1. Because of What Baptists Believe About God’s Word
  2. Because of What Baptists Believe About the Church
  3. Because of What Baptists Believe About the Relationship of Church and State
  4. Because of What Baptists Believe About Baptism
  5. Because of the Un-Christian Way the Reformed Have Treated Baptists Through the Centuries

In my reading I saw that Dr. Justice makes 2 mistakes

  1. He generalizes his use of “Baptist.”

– He picks and chooses which Baptists he identifies with in making his various arguments

  1. He does poor history

– He doesn’t recognize the point of statements of faith throughout the last 2,000 years

– The Particular Baptists put out their statement of faith for a reason, and I don’t know that this is ignored or if it is unknown to Dr. Justice

These 2 mistakes permeate all of his arguments. I hope to point them out for correction, hoping this will lead to greater fellowship among Baptists who hold to a particular redemption. Also, confessional Baptism is at stake here. We must understand the context in which statements of faith are written and avoid an anachronistic reading of them. Next week we will pick up our interaction with his text, discussing Baptist Confessional history as well as looking at the doctrine of Sola Scriptura.

To Resolve or Not To Resolve? The Yearly Existential Question

Once this entry posts it will be nearly a week into the new year. Most of us have already stopped going to the gym after resolving to lose weight. Many resolve to stop doing many things, yet very early on in the year certain habits are resumed. Most have earthly goals they wish to attain. Since I will be writing to a largely Christian audience, your experience may be less of an earthly goal and perhaps more of a heavenly or spiritual goal. But, let us pause here for a moment and consider why we make resolutions for the new year. Why do we even make resolutions at all? What are resolutions and are they a practice Christians should involve themselves with? If so, how should we go about approaching and making resolutions?

First of all, resolutions are actions in which we determine to do something.  Many of us don’t recognize the promissory nature of willing to do an action. We, in essence, vow or promise to undertake an action which we would like to pursue. It may not be an explicit promise to do something, but underlying it is a promise to oneself. Many have even sought to be public in their resolutions in order to fulfill them.  Historically, Babylonians made promises to their gods at the beginning of each year, as did the Romans to their god Janus (the god the month January is named after), medieval Christians, etc. The practice typically has to do with self-improvement and historically been a religious affair. The most well-known person in American Christianity to practice resolving is Jonathan Edwards. He made 70 of them from 1722-1723. They can be found at: http://www.digitalpuritan.net/Digital%20Puritan%20Resources/Edwards,%20Jonathan/Resolutions.pdf

We can see that many people throughout all religions, including Christianity, have taken up the task of resolution making. Is this something we should practice? The short answer is yes and no. As a Reformed Baptist, I hold to the 1689 London Confession of Faith. In chapter 23 the subject of lawful oaths and vows is taken up. In it the writers confess that a lawful oath or vow is a part of religious worship. I would submit to you this is how we should view resolutions: as a part of religious worship, whether pagan or Christian. It is a natural thing that fallen man does for we are creatures and were made for worship. Unfortunately, man is fallen and we must take appropriate measures to resolve appropriately. What measures should we take?

The measures we should take are laid out in the rest of the chapter on lawful oaths and vows. We should swear by God alone. We should swear with all holy fear and reverence. And we should not swear by any other thing for it is sinful. The writers direct us to Jesus’ and James’ words, “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ be ‘No.’” (Matthew 5:34,37; James 5:12) Jesus and James tell us not to swear by any created thing, but to simply let our everyday speech by full of truth and no conceit or deceit. In my review of Edwards’ resolutions, my attention was caught by Resolution 34. Here is what he says, “Resolved, in narrations, never to speak anything but the pure and simple verity.” He echoes the words and sentiment of our Lord and James.

Since we can see that this is a biblical and historic Christian practice we must approach our resolutions with great care. We should not resolve to do anything we’re not able to do or intend to do. Again the writers of the confession give us sound teaching: “An oath is to be taken in the plain and common sense of the words, without equivocation or mental reservation.” If you know you will break your resolution, don’t take it. If you think you might break your resolution, be careful. I can’t say don’t take it because we’re sinful and are prone to breaking our resolutions. Make simple resolutions and follow through.

In conclusion to our question “To resolve or not to resolve,” we see that it is a part of natural law to worship and that resolutions are a part of religious worship. We may and should resolve to carry out certain actions and that we should do so out of holy fear and reverence. We ought to carry out our resolutions if we intend them with great care. We should not resolve to do anything we cannot do or intend to do. You are free to make resolutions out of worship and only what you know to be true with God as your witness and your judge.