Dec 7, 2012 - Uncategorized    Comments Off

Doing Virtuous Business, by Theodore Roosevelt Malloch

This book uses real-world examples to argue for a spiritually-informed business ethic. Businesses oriented purely around profits not only do not benefit the economy as a whole, but also are not what businesses are intended to be. But successful businesses, both in terms of function and value, are those that have holistic missions oriented around building spiritual capital.

By “spiritual,” Malloch does not differentiate between particular faiths. It’s more important to have a business practice informed by one’s faith than is the content of one’s faith. However, he bases much of his initial arguments regarding spiritual business principles on Christian Protestantism. That said, latter examples are not exclusively Christian.

Overall I found this book reasonable in its argument. However, it is not really a good book. What Malloch shares is not worth the price of the book. Much of the book is consumed with examples that can be readily accessed elsewhere, and overall, after the brief introduction, the book does not flow as would a well-developed thesis. It is also not necessarily convincing, even though I do share his enthusiasm for enabling one ‘s business practices based upon one’s faith. And I would likely take exception to his inclusion of non-Christian faiths in his examples, primarily since his thesis (if there is one) is (properly) grounded upon Protestantism. It seems that the author wants to have his cake and eat it too.

Nov 7, 2012 - Uncategorized    Comments Off

The aftermath of America’s election

During Bill Clinton’s presidency, the two sides of the abortion debate could at least agree on one thing: the practice of abortion is evil. The left focused upon the necessity of permitting evil to protect the “rights” of women, while the right focused upon the fact that evil is evil (still nonetheless conceding various exceptions). What a difference a Bush makes. During this Democratic president’s regime, the left has moved decidedly more to the left, as witnessed by the Democratic National Convention. No longer is abortion something to be lamented, but now the talk of a woman’s right to choose to willfully terminate a pregnancy draws cheers from the crowd. This is a clear indictment of the man who heads the party.

The election has come and gone, and that man remains in office. I will support my president not just because God commands that I do so, but because I know that God is sovereignly working all things for the good of those who put their faith in Him, even through fallen human institutions. Our churches are not meant to be islands of human perfection in the midst of gross depravity; rather, they are places of refuge for pilgrims on the way, apart from which we would be left to wallow in our misery and without hope. Despite its many flaws, God is working in and through the church to bring a message of salvation to the damned, and likewise He is working in and through society and civil government to restrain evil and reveal our need for Him. God’s sovereignty is the reason I can awake on November 7th with hope, because no doubt the war will continue to be waged for the next four years on souls who never had a chance to see the light of day.

Christians must pray for our leaders, and no less for the man who is the face of America for the next four years. He will face judgment on the last day and have to answer for his crimes. The fact that so many evangelicals turned out to support him also reveals our need to pray for their pastors, who are evidently not preaching the whole counsel of God, both law and Gospel, that self-professed Christians can’t see before them their president’s blatant attack on God’s moral law. We need to pray for the women who will turn to abortion to absolve themselves of the responsibility of carrying a child, for whether they profess a faith in Christ or not, it is not the Holy Spirit that is leading them to sin. And we must pray for God’s mercy upon the souls of countless children who will die at the hands of the very people God has given to protect them. The Bible never promises that these children will go to heaven, for it is the faith of the parents that covers them, and for anyone who volunteers to kill a child, such faith is evidently lacking.

Oct 2, 2012 - Uncategorized    Comments Off

On gay marriage, feminism, civil rights, abortion, Eastern Orthodoxy, Catholicism and Baptists

It pains me when Christians argue in favor of gay marriage and appeal to the civil rights movement, feminism, etc. Are these of the same order? The answer is no, but my pain is due to the obvious reality that those who consider the issues similarly are really not well-versed on the Bible. Here’s why:

Does the Bible explain human equality in such a way that we can speak of civil rights, feminism and gay marriage in the same breath? To answer the question, we have to define equality. Let’s start with the Trinity. Are the Father, Son and Holy Spirit equal? Already I’ve stumped 80% of evangelicals, I’m sure. They want to answer “yes,” but if they do so without qualification, they risk falling headlong into heresy. You see, the three persons of the Godhead are equal ontologically, or with respect to their essence, but not economically, or with respect to their function. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all God – not three distinct gods, but they are all the one and same God. Yet the Father did not become incarnate and die on a cross, and the Son only did so out of obedience to the Father’s will. Likewise, Jesus ascended to heaven in order to send a Helper (the Holy Spirit), who is actively doing the will of the Father and the Son (yes, my Eastern Orthodox friends, that is the Filioque Clause). So within the Godhead, there is economic subordination, yet all three members of the Godhead are the same God in essence. In terms of their value, there is no distinction, but in terms of their function, there is clear subordination.

So what was the issue at stake in the American civil rights movement of the 1960s? Blacks were subjected to social subordination based upon a false assumption of ontological inferiority – that is, they were lesser beings than whites. The Bible refutes this notion hands-down. We do not need to know Adam’s “race” or “ethnicity” in order to state that he was the father of all mankind – white, black, Asian, Indian, … yes, even Canadian.

Feminists picked up the civil rights thread to promote female equality in the 1970s and 1980s. But now you need to know your Bible. In Gen. 1, God made male and female in His image and gave them a covenant of life. In Gen. 2, we read specifically about Adam, who was placed in the garden and given the covenant of life, after which God created Eve from Adam’s rib. Do you see the shift? Gen. 1 discusses the creation’s ontology, but Gen. 2 focuses upon its function. Men and women are equal in God’s eyes as humans, but they are functionally distinct. This is why feminism, as a movement, is off-track, even though I empathize with those who are combating Biblicism in the church – that is, prooftexting Scripture to serve your purposes. Some Fundamentalist churches have a nasty habit of making women feel ontologically distinct from men, but the Bible (again) does not support this, even though it does provide distinctions in how men and women are to function in God’s economy.

In the present day, we have the issue of gay marriage. So is it a question of ontology or economy? That is, does the Bible ever say that gay men and women are essentially distinct from heterosexual men and women? No. Does the Bible ever say that gay men and women are functionally distinct from heterosexual men and women? Again, the answer is no. So now what do we do? We have to go back to that covenant of life that God gave to the first man and woman. In Gen. 1, we learn that God made humans to bear His image, fill the earth, and rule over it (as His viceroys). In Gen. 2, we learn that consistent with the covenant, man was to work for his wage and rest in God’s good pleasure. But it was not good for man to be alone because, without a woman, he would not have been able to uphold the covenantal demand of populating the earth. Procreation is a covenantal responsibility of all mankind. Marriage is not a sacrament (sorry, my Catholic friends), but it is a God-ordained institution whereby men and women TOGETHER uphold God’s covenant of life. There’s the problem with gay marriage. This isn’t about equality – it’s about whether we, as a society, will uphold God’s covenantal design for marriage.

Now I can already hear the objections of those aforementioned 80%. What about heterosexual couples that can’t procreate? Again, go back to Gen. 1. God gave the covenant of life to men and women. All of us have the covenantal burden upon us. Yet were we all in the garden? No, Adam and Eve represented the totality of humans born by ordinary generation in the garden. To even ask the question, “What about me?!” shows that you just don’t appreciate (enough) the corporate dimension of your faith (sorry, Baptist friends, but it’s not all about you). Humanity was created to bear God’s image, fill the earth and rule over creation together. We don’t all fill the same job – in God’s economy, we each have different roles even though we are equally valuable in His eyes. If God has not opened your womb to bear children, contribute to the bearing of children in your church, in your extended family, in your community, etc. Recognize your covenantal role and contribute to the greater good. Can you see why abortion is so heinous? What can be worse than a society that God created to uphold the beauty of procreation adopting a stance whereby babies are destroyed for convenience?

Well, I’m done. I’m sure I’ve incurred much wrath from my loyal readers, in addition to the Eastern Orthodox, Catholics and Baptists.

Jul 30, 2012 - Uncategorized    Comments Off

Chick-Fil-A and the Marriage Covenant

Many evangelical Christians hold a proper view of marriage but may not properly explain why they believe what they believe. I don’t know if Dan Cathy is in that group – he merely stated a view that is consistent with Christian beliefs – but certainly many of the views I’ve seen have not well articulated the Christian position.

Before you can speak about the homosexual marriage issue, you have to accept certain other Biblical facts. God created man and woman in His image. Together they received a covenant of life from God wherein God blessed them in their work, relationship, and responsibility to fill the earth with God’s glory. The very creation of woman (from the side of Adam) was because God looked upon man in his loneliness and said “it is not good” for man to be alone since he cannot uphold his covenantal obligations by himself. But man sinned against God and rejected His covenant, on account of which God cursed mankind in his work, his relationship to woman, and his responsibility to multiply to fill the earth for God’s glory. Within the curse God promised redemption, which unfolds through the remainder of the Bible when the redeemer, the 2nd person of the triune Godhead, fully God and fully man, restores man’s rightful place within the creation, and consequently the whole creation, by taking the sins of the elect upon His shoulders and giving them by grace His righteousness. The covenants of the Old Testament explain how God promised to restore His kingship (Davidic covenant), His Word (Mosaic Covenant), His people (Abrahamic Covenant), and His Creation (Noahic Covenant) through the redeemer-King.

Now with this in background, it’s easy to explain why Christians hold to a “traditional” (although I don’t necessarily like this term, since Christian marriage is not rooted in church “tradition” but rather in the Biblical definition a la the covenant of life) view of marriage. God ordained marriage between one man and one woman since they complement each other in order to present a full image of God’s person (which is not possible with two people of same gender), and since procreation is part of the covenant mandate (again, impossible within a same-gender relationship).

Unfortunately, many Christians who don’t have a proper foundation for the marriage covenant (which explains, for example, why the divorce rate among Christians in many parts of the country is as high or higher than among non-Christians, when they should view the institution in terms of its absolute, ordained purpose rather than according to relativistic social norms) argue in terms of “state” benefits rather than in terms of covenantal blessings. While I do think that the state is given authority by God to uphold His law with respect to individual social customs and traditions, and accordingly may promote (and more importantly, protect) the Biblical definition of marriage, I also believe that it is an error to confer blessings upon marriage that are outside the covenant and at the same time deny those benefits to those outside the covenant. Homosexuality is a sin, but all humans (save the God-man) are sinners in need of a Savior. Tolerance isn’t “loving” if you know where it leads. Christian love is being willing to confront each other in our sins, whatever they may be, AND to point each other to the crucified and risen Savior, for in Him alone is live everlasting. Christians need to avoid conflating social issues with God’s law, but rather discuss social issues IN LIGHT OF God’s law. That’s a better starting point for discussions about sensitive issues such as the one that has embroiled CFA, and it would also permit those on both sides of the issue to discuss the true issue at hand – do you believe what the Bible teaches about what you are to believe about God and what He demands of you? – while enjoying a chicken sandwich at CFA.

Jun 27, 2012 - Uncategorized    Comments Off

3 in 1: A Biblical View of God?

I recently saw this book (“A Picture of God: 3 in 1″) on a friend’s table and happened to note on the back cover that it described the Trinity in terms of God’s “parts.” My heresy radar immediately went up. Was this the ancient heresy of modalism (aka Sabellianism) rearing its ugly head? I found a video version of the book on YouTube: 3 in 1.

Conclusion: Yes, this book’s description of the Trinity at least resembles modalism, but I don’t think that’s the author’s intent. This goes to show how the sheer ignorance of modern evangelicals permits heresy to flourish in the church. Go ahead and watch the video for yourself (or don’t if you’re an evangelical and don’t really care about heresy). Here are my notes:

1. The fundamental problem here is, of course, trying to portray the Trinity in terms of an apple. The authors get themselves into trouble by not clearly differentiating between the “ontological” Trinity and the “economic” Trinity. That is, they are trying to show the parts of God with respect to their purpose, or the economy of God. But in doing so they describe the apple in terms of its parts, which is related to its being, or ontology. The Father is consubstantial with the Son and the Holy Spirit, but you’d never get that from this video. Are we to believe that the apple peel is consubstantial with the core and the flesh? Um, they’re not.

2. The video also appears to present a dynamic monarchian perspective by really only differentiating the Father from the Son and the Holy Spirit. Yes, it touches on all three, but it really seems (at least to me, although you may get a different impression) that the Father is more God than the Son and the Spirit. And why, of all things, did they decide to call the Father the “protector”? I suppose they’re trying to equate the Father with the apple peel?

3. In describing the Son, the video only deals with His atonement. Maybe I have to watch it a second time, but was the resurrection either minimized or absent? And where’s His righteousness? This is no small matter. It is, fundamentally, why evangelicals are closet Christians at best. Unfortunately this is a product of rampant dispensational heresy in our churches, despite the fact that most Christians can’t define dispensationalism. The reason this is a big deal is that when the video gets to the work of the Holy Spirit, it basically states that we’re saved by faith. No! We’re saved by the finished work of Christ! Faith is the instrument whereby, by grace alone, the Holy Spirit gives us the ability to trust in Christ’s atoning sacrifice AND His righteousness imputed to us.

4. This should be part of #3, but I’m going to break it out as a separate point. By focusing on faith, evangelical Christians end up with a navel-gazing form of Christianity. It reminds me of the children’s song, “If you’re saved and you know it, clap your hands…” This video exemplifies pop American Christianity’s focus on us rather than God. This is the fundamental error of Baptist theology – it’s all about us and whether WE are saved rather than God’s faithfulness and whether HE saves sinners. But by believing we’re saved by faith rather than understanding what faith is, and by perverting such doctrines as perseverance into something like “Once saved, always saved,” it’s no wonder that American evangelicals have no regard for WHO saved them, WHY He saved them, and WHAT He demands of them.

5. Lastly, I will say that it was nice to see that the video proclaimed God’s monergistic work in saving us. But I’m concerned about the over-reliance upon the apple analogy. If you carry this too far, then faith itself is God since it’s an apple seed. Isn’t that part of the apple? And then we become apples. Does that mean we become God? Seriously, can ignorance toward the Bible be this rampant?

May 1, 2012 - Uncategorized    Comments Off

Are Baptists for anything?

I don’t know what triggers certain thoughts in my head, but this morning it occurred to me while driving to work that it doesn’t mean anything to be a Baptist other than that you’re against something. All I know about Baptists is that they oppose baptising children, not because they can find any specific commandment in Scripture prohibiting the practice, but rather because it makes them feel queasy, sort of like a bad burrito. Apart from that, to believe anything else is either to hold to the teachings of a single preacher (MacArthur, Piper, Lawson, et al), or to make up your own theology. Which doesn’t make the remainder of what Baptists believe unbiblical, but rather ordinary. For if what they believe is Biblical is, indeed, Biblical, it isn’t unique to the Baptists as is the belief in not baptising babies. All those Biblical doctrines? You can thank the “small c” catholic church and the “big R” Reformed … who, by the way, baptise babies.

Apr 24, 2012 - Uncategorized    Comments Off

For God’s Glory

Just read a proof of a children’s book from Sovereign Community Church called “Proof of Grace: A Pirate Adventure.” I always like looking at how Christians try to teach God’s Word to children. Sometimes I encounter things that are highly useful; at other times, I find things that make me shrug or wonder whether even the author understands God’s story.

I read through the PDF, which wasn’t too long. Overall, it’s okay. It’s the story of a boy who continually disobeys his parents until he breaks something treasured by his mom. He feels so bad that even though his parents tell him that he’s forgiven, he finds it difficult to accept. So to teach him about grace, his parents plan a treasure hunt for him the next morning in which he discovers that God planned to give grace before the world was made; that grace results in our resurrection from the dead; is outrageous in that it required the perfect Lamb of God to hang on a cross for our sins; and is sufficient to overcome our sins so that we have assurance of being God’s children in eternity.

All doctrinally correct, but what’s missing? Here’s a snippet from the author’s introduction:

“I learned about what has been called the doctrines of grace—the simple message that who we are as Christians is not determined by what we do or what we look like, but by what God has done for us. These doctrines changed my life. By God’s grace, I’ve learned to believe God’s promises for
me are true. What God has determined for me through the work of His Son Jesus makes me who I am. I am loved even when my performance doesn’t stack up. After all, Jesus came to save sinners, not those who get everything right.”

Check out Sovereign Church and its associated “ministries” online and you’ll see that it’s one of these Calvinistic churches but not particularly aligned with a denomination. That really means it’s its own denomination, which is fine, but in trying to reduce the Bible to the doctrines of grace (what is inappropriately called “Calvinism”; “inappropriate” because Calvin wrote about the entirety of God’s Word, not just about salvation), such churches try to be all things to all people. And perhaps that should help you think through what’s missing.

Let me ask this question: why are the doctrines of grace true? Why did God save sinners? Read the author’s intro again and you’ll see what’s wrong with modern evangelicalism, even those Christian churches that maintain a focus on God’s Word. Okay, here’s the answer: they make it all about us! The Bible tells us that God saves us FOR HIS GLORY. This fact does not make the doctrines of grace any less true, but focusing upon His glory rather than our own comfort leads to: i) accepting what God’s Word says about heaven and hell even if such facts can’t be explained or make us feel uncomfortable; and ii) doing what God commands us for His glory even if we don’t completely comprehend how they contribute to our salvation.

I’ve already taken a shot at evangelicals, so let me go after my other favorite whipping “boy”: Baptists. Why do Baptists claim to believe God’s Word and yet refuse to baptize infants? In prior posts I’ve pointed out that God’s Word clearly commands us to baptize all whom we disciple (Matt. 28:19-20), that we are to disciple children (Deut. 6:6-7), and that Scripture nowhere commands us to withhold this sacrament from children. I’ve also pointed out that Baptists arguments focus on narrative portions of Scripture, never law, and as a result hold less water than Reformed arguments in that narratives must be interpreted in light of God’s revelation of His will. The answer is that Baptist theology is not centered (I’m not saying it isn’t concerned, but there’s a difference between being concerned and being centered) on God’s glory. That is the warp and woof of Reformed theology; all things for God’s glory. Hence, even the fact that Reformed Christians place such an emphasis on God’s glory informs why they prioritize the Word of God in their worship and piety.

The danger in a children’s book that focuses on our sin and salvation is that we leave people thinking that Christianity is a religion about comfort. It’s not – it’s a theology about God’s glory. And the funny thing is, God was glorified when Jesus hung on the cross. Hence, Luther made a distinction between a theology of glory and a theology of the cross. Reformed theology, like Luterhan theology, is a theology of the cross, for the “glory” in the term “theology of glory” refers to man’s glory. Many forms of Christianity remain focused upon man (hence Baptists justify withholding baptism from infants because it’s more valuable to the person being baptized if they experience their own baptism, even if Scripture gives no evidence that this should be the motivator for the sacrament).

I applaud the author for focusing upon sin, but we need to explain sin in terms of God’s Word and as expressing our heart attitude toward God’s glory. I love the way WSC explains sin: “Q14. What is sin? Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.” It’s not enough that you make mistakes; it’s that your mistakes violate God’s sacred Word. I suspect the fact that the author does not priority the glory of God and discuss sin and salvation in terms of a theology of the cross contributes to the fact that there are exactly three references to Jesus Christ in the book, and one of them is in the introduction. That leaves two in the text. Two. How can a book even broach the topic of sin and salvation without it dripping with a crucified Saviour?

I know you’re objecting in your mind that OF COURSE evangelicals and Baptists focus on Jesus. Really? My daughter goes to an evangelical and Baptist preschool and has “chapel” (don’t get me started) every Tuesday. I’ve had the horror – er, pleasure – of visiting chapel on a few occasions. I recall one such occasion when I noticed after the three or four songs that they lead the children through that there were exactly zero mentions of Jesus. All the songs were about how great God is (true) and how much He loves us (also true). But seriously, how do I know the God that they’re speaking of is the one who became flesh and hung on a cross for my sins? The only way is by proclaiming one name, Jesus Christ. Most often, evangelical mentions of Jesus are oriented around His friendship or love. Both true, but neither explains why He lived righteously under God’s law and died according to His Word. Neither explains how (yes, HOW) He was raised from the dead. To merely say He loves us, while fundamental to the nature of God and thus contributing to our understanding, is like teaching a child how to swim in deep waters by standing in the shallow end of a swimming pool.

Overall, the book is fine, but any parent that uses it with their kids has a responsibility to offer the entire counsel of God according to His Word. Teaching theology through a children’s story, even one more Biblically accurate, falls way short. There is, at the end of our days, nothing that can replace the priority of God’s Word in its entirety, for there we find the true God, and all for His glory.

Apr 23, 2012 - Uncategorized    Comments Off

Singing with Finney

I had a fascinating conversation with my wife last night. I’ve taken to refraining from singing in worship because most of my church’s activities, including worship (it’s PCA, mind you, the denomination that supposedly holds to the theology of Jesus, Paul, Augustine and Calvin) reminds me instead of Charles Finney. (If you don’t know who he is, look him up.) I’m very uncomfortable participating in worship that isn’t glorifying to God.

My wife asked a penetrating question, but as is typical, I fumbled through a response while we spoke only to think with greater clarity later on. I have many of these “Jerk Store” moments. (If you don’t know what that is, watch Seinfeld re-runs.) Not that anything I said was necessarily untrue, but it’s possible to assert a bunch of indicatives from Scripture without answering the question at hand, leading the one who asks the question to think, “Huh?”

So here’s the question in a nutshell. Assume for a second that I’m right and our music does not glorify God. Is it a sin for her, our kids, or anyone else in our service to participate? If not, then why do I refuse to participate? We know that sinning does not glorify God, but can not sinning not glorify God as well? I’m sure there are other ways to ask the question, but hopefully you get the point.

I wrestled with this issue this morning. In addition to not singing, I also don’t talk to anyone during the meet-and-greet. Why not? Because worship is about God, not socializing with others. As John wrote, if we have fellowship with God through His Son, then as a necessary consequence we have fellowship with others who also have fellowship with God through the Son. My focus, though, must remain on the Son, not on others, for it is possible to have a relationship with others without having a relationship with the Son. We see this same principle in the two tables of the Law. If we truly love God, we shall love our neighbor, but it is possible to “love” our neighbor without loving God (although whether such love is the proper love is a different story).

Am I right for not singing with the church if the theology is flawed? Am I right for not socializing with the church? If I can voluntarily excuse myself from certain things the church does, why not all things? Clearly God commands us to come before Him each Lord’s Day to receive His Word and His sacraments through the ordinary means of grace, so how can we separate what we are commanded to do in worship from what we actually do in worship?

The answer, in my mind, comes down to this. I submit to our church in its preaching of the Word, its administration of the sacraments, and its non-coercive discipline. Those three church functions reflect solely the authority given to it by Christ, for they reflect the offices of prophet, priest and king, all of which were foreshadowed by separate individuals in the Old Covenant but brought to fulfillment in the one person of Christ in the New. To submit to the church in these matters is, for the individual, a matter of unconditional obedience. I do not choose to submit when I feel like it; I do so unconditionally because God commands it for my own welfare. Likewise, I tithe each week at the beginning of the service regardless of the fact that my church often fails to uphold its weekly worship responsibility because my tithe is not conditional upon the church’s performance. God does not need my money, but He demands it nonetheless through the church.

The question is: should I submit unconditionally to the church’s praise, prayer, and fellowship? Or are these elements of church piety conditional? I would encourage everyone to consider prayer. Every time an evangelical asks us to bow our head and join them in prayer, should we? A recent episode of the White Horse Inn dealt with this topic, which I’d been wrestling with before. I appreciated the perspective of the panel, which was “no.” There is a conditionality about prayer – namely, that you dare not go before God unless you are enjoined to the Son by the Spirit. Would I let a Catholic, a Mormon, a JW, a Christian Scientist, a Hindu, a Buddhist, or a Muslim lead me in prayer? Clearly no, because they do not know God as Christians have been taught to confess Him from Holy Writ. Unfortunately rampant theological illiteracy in contemporary evangelical “Christianity” (I find it very difficult to pair those two words without using quote marks) has made me dubious every time an evangelical bows their head in prayer. Do they truly know Jesus?

Does this sound judgmental? Perhaps, but I think it actually reflects discernment. If I come to a wooden bridge that looks rickety, should I just cross it because everyone else is doing so? Or should I use discernment to escape a certain death? Going before a holy God who smites sinners shall result in sure death. The only thing that covers me from His wrath is the blood of the Son on the cross. It’s foolishness to approach God without being cognizant of our own sinful mortality and the only grounds by which I am entitled to approach Him at all.

So if joining into prayer is conditional, what about singing? I do believe it is a function of the church to pray corporately, but perhaps we need to distinguish what makes corporate acts truly “corporate.” God saves individual sinners in order to be enjoined to the Son. It is anathema to think that we can be saved apart from a body of like believers. I am often suspicious if self-professed Christians claim to be saved but have no regard for the church. Short answer: Christ doesn’t save people from the wrath of God in that way (or at least not ordinarily)! As a Reformed Christian, I believe God ordinarily uses Word and sacrament ministry, as well as church discipline, to save sinners. But as members of one body, we are yet individuals. We are sanctified differently and come before God, ultimately, as individuals. Hence, though the church may bring many together to respond to God together, such responses are still many individual responses to God’s grace. I consider prayer an individual act. Yes, Scripture gives countless examples of Christians praying together, but it’s still individual Christians praying together. We may pray with other Christians, but we are still lifting up our voices to God as individuals. If it was not that way, then the one praying would be acting as a mediator between God and those for whom he is praying. But there is only one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.

Likewise, singing is an example of our response to God’s grace. It is not a law to sing; if it were, I would participate with Charles Finney – er, my worship leader – unconditionally DESPITE his lousy grasp on theology. But my participation with him is conditional. Can I join him in singing?

Now here’s a question. What if I’m not joining him? What if he’s leading, but I’m just singing to God? What if I’m not joining someone who’s praying incorrectly, but in my heart I am praying to God correctly? I certainly don’t think it’s impossible to consider such possibilities, which is why, to answer my initial question, I don’t think I can say I’m sinning to singing or sinning by not singing. If I always approach God rightly, then by singing or praying with one who does not approach God rightly doesn’t make me a sinner. But now I ask, why would I pretend to do so? This is not to condemn those who sing out to God regardless of what’s being proclaimed from up front, and since singing and praying are individual responses done corporately, surely that is exactly what’s happening. But if it troubles me to do that, then I believe it’s not unreasonable to refrain. Singing and praying with someone when you’re not truly enjoined to them is like telling them to go ahead and cross that rickety bridge while you cross a stable one right next to it. You’re not really with them, so why the pretense? And isn’t it better, if we are truly to love one another and bear one another’s burdens, to help them see that the bridge they want to cross shall fall while the other offers sure footing? Though we may respond to God’s grace as individuals, should we not still love other parts of the body by helping them see Christ crucified for our sins?

Apr 10, 2012 - Uncategorized    Comments Off

The Credobaptist Heresy

I used to be a credobaptist until I, too, wrestled with the matter and found myself convicted by Scripture that paedobaptism was proper. Does that mean that credobaptists aren’t convicted by Scripture? I’d argue, yes. Here’s why:

Credobaptists frequently cite Biblical narratives to support their positions, esp. in Acts with such passages as “believe and be baptized.” Yet, while “all Scripture is God-breathed and profitable…”. we must give weight in terms of our practice to explicit commandments. God indeed commands infants and children to be baptized. Deut. 6:6-7 is His commandment to teach His commandments to our children. Matt. 28:19-20 (the Great Commission) is God’s commandment to make disciples of all nations by baptizing and teaching them His commandments. God never commands His people NOT to baptize children, but explicitly commands us to do so! That is, all who are being discipled by the church should be baptized.

Who should be discipled is not a question of age, but of intent. If one explicitly rejects being discipled (as an infant cannot do), they should not be baptized. But shouldn’t an infant accept being discipled as well? As any parent knows, there are some things we just teach our kids because it’s good for them – I didn’t wait for my daughter to accept that I am her teacher before proceeding to both teach her and hold her accountable to it. And you begin discipling your infants from an early age, even the womb!

While there is much to debate in terms of what baptism represents in the life of the church, this shouldn’t distract us from God’s commandment. I don’t need to reason into a paedobaptist argument; rather, it is a presupposition of the Christian life! Scripture is clear – baptize your children and all who are being discipled in the church. To do otherwise is to reject God’s Word.

The Reformed Forum: Baptism, Covenant and Election