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Sunday, September 24, 2006

Children Of The Promise or Little Vipers?


A question of debate among those who embrace infant baptism while rejecting infant communion is How should covenant children be thought of and treated, which is to say regarded? Should they be regarded as elect? How about regenerate and, therefore, as having the mind of Christ? To do these questions justice, we need to first touch upon the subjects to whom the promise of salvation pertains and the visible-invisible church distinction.

To whom is the promise of salvation made?

The covenantal promise of eternal life is made only to the elect in Christ. Accordingly, only those to whom the promise pertains will God grant the evangelical graces of repentance and faith. And God will grant those graces to all those to whom the promise pertains. {For a discussion on the covenant of grace with respect to whom it pertains please see: http://reformedapologist.blogspot.com/2006/07/primer-on-covenant-theology-baptism-3.html }.

Who is to be regarded as part of the visible church?

Although the covenant of grace is particular in nature, (which is to say established with Christ and in Him with the elect), it is nonetheless to be outwardly administered to those who are not elected in Christ unto salvation as long as they qualify by birth or by profession. This is to say that there are those who are hell-bound that still ought to be listed on the church roles as members in good standing given the biblical precepts that the elders are to follow with respect to church membership. Although the promise of salvation pertained to Abraham and his elect son Isaac, Abraham’s son Ishmael who was not a child of promise was nonetheless to bear the sign of entrance into the covenant community, the church. Accordingly, there is precedence that certain reprobates – those that qualify – are to be regarded as members of at least the visible church.

Does the Bible regard those who might finally fall away as elect and converted?

The author of Hebrews gives some of the sternest warnings found in the Bible. After warning his hearers of the perils of apostasy, the author of Hebrews exhorts his hearers unto faithfulness, treating them as true believers: “Though we speak this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things – things that accompany salvation.” Moreover, he enourages them by saying that “we are not of those who shrink back but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.”

The Apostle Paul when writing to the Galatians who were even “bewitched” by the false gospel of the Judaizers continued to refer to the baptized as those for whom Christ died, having received the Holy Spirit and the gift of faith. In fact, he goes so far as to attribute the thing signified – namely faith – to the outward sign of faith, baptism. In other words, the apostle, being a Calvinist (I speak anachronistically of course) attributes that which the sign signifies (union with Christ), to the sign itself (baptism)! “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ… and if you’re Christ’s then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.” Children are of course included in the set of “as many of you as were baptized.” Consequently, children who have lawfully received the sign of baptism are to be regarded as having put on Christ!

{For a discussion that distinguishes between faith and belief, the former being the propensity to believe gospel propositions, which can be possessed by infants, please refer to: http://reformedapologist.blogspot.com/2006/04/is-faith-belief.html}

If God would have us regard congregants as united to Christ and in the invisible church even when such have the immediate need of being warned against apostasy, how much more the case when the hearers are considered more mature in the faith? When the apostle Paul wrote to the saints in Ephesus whom he called “faithful in Christ Jesus,” He instructed them that they were chosen in Christ Jesus; redeemed by His precious blood; predestined to adoption; and sealed with the Holy Spirit. He taught them in other words that they were blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus. The apostle Paul recognized that not all Israel was Israel and for that matter that not all the church is the church. He understood, in other words, that those he addressed might not truly be elect in Christ; yet not only did he regard them as elect - he regarded them as converted! He regarded the congregants according to their visible position in the church; for that is all any of us have to go on when there is no evidence that would bring into question someone's union with Christ. Therefore, we should not find it unusual that the apostle addressed the covenant children as well - for they too had received the same visible sign of the covenant, baptism! In chapter six of the same epistle the apostle instructs the covenant children to obey their parents in the Lord. In other words, he addressed the children as a subset of those to whom he was writing – whom he had already declared as having received the Holy Spirit, the seal of one's salvation. In a word, the apostle addressed the covenant children according to what their baptism signified (union with Christ), and nothing more. The apostle did not wait for a credible profession in order to exhort the covenant children in the Lord.

Summary:

Although paedobaptists agree that the rite of water baptism is to be administered to infants born of parents with a credible profession of faith, it is not held by all paedobaptists that such infants are to be regarded as God’s elect (let alone regarded as already existentially united to Christ by the Holy Spirit). In other words, not all paedobaptists agree that infants are to be regarded as being united to Christ by the Holy Spirit. However, many paedobaptists who would prefer not to regard covenant children as already united to Christ are more than willing to regard adults as having that very position in Christ. What is the biblical argument for a such a distinction? It would seem that these paedobaptists would prefer to wait for more evidence of salvation from the covenant child than simply being born in a professing household; yet (a) no evidence can ever attain to a revelatory level whereby the elders can have certainty of the child’s invisible status with respect to Christ, which can be only known by God; and (b) the Bible does not require such evidence. No matter how credible one's profession of faith becomes over time, apart from special revelation no human person can be certain of another’s salvation. To wait for more assurance is arbitrary, contrary to Scripture and baptistic.

What's the cash value in all of this? Well, for one thing, I, who believe in "limited atonement," have told my children from birth that Jesus loves them, died for them and has secured their salvation, which is something I'd never say to the little children of infidels. At the same time, I can also tell my children that if they do not persevere in the faith they will be damned; I can also add that I am persuaded of better things of them - the things that accompany salvation...

We've all heard the words of comfort at the grave side when one of God's faithful servants departs to be with the Lord. Don't those words of comfort apply to the the parents of infants who die in infancy? If not, then why not? Again, what is being sought after by some is a greater degree of evidence. Yet there is already ample evidence that the children of the faithful are elect, for their parents by God's grace love the Lord. However, the discussion over evidence proceeds under a false premise that evidence is germane. The simple point is that we are to follow God's lead regarding how to treat covenant children.

Questions that might readily arise:

Does such a practice lead to paedocommunion? Absolutely not! The question we are dealing with is whether we ought to regard our covenant children as united to Christ; whereas the question over paedocommunion is concerned with whether certain cognizant faculties are requisite in order for one to partake of the sacrament. One can be regarded in Christ without being able to discern the Lord’s body from common food.

Should we exhort our children unto faith and repentance? Yes indeed! In fact, we all need to buffet our bodies lest we too become castaways.

Might we be telling our children a lie? No, but we might be telling them something false!

Are we at liberty to tell someone something false? Yes, when there is biblical precedence to do so. First and foremost, the apostle Paul taught the same saints at Rome that nothing could separate them from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 8), knowing full well that that some might be grafted out of Christ as was Israel according to the flesh (Romans 11). He certainly did not lie. Did he say something false? Well, probably so, but who would have been responsible for the false statement? If someone is not a true believer, then he should remove himself from the congregational roles, rejecting the appellation of saint. The church is not responsible for hypocrites. Even with children, the same principle is at work. If I were to tell my child that Jesus died for her and she truly believed that He did, then she would be saved! However, if she didn't believe me, then she would be responsible to tell me so. In which case, I would be constrained to treat her as an unbeliever, encouraging her to enter the kingdom by faith. Now one will no doubt say, "well of course your child will believe you!" Well in that case, if she believes me, then why wouldn't I treat her as justified? Oh, isn't a child like faith wonderful! Let's tell them about Jesus when they're so apt to believe! (Of course the parent should ask diagnostic questions when appropriate in order to assess the validity of the child's faith, even though at least tacitly the child suggests union with Christ by believing everything he's taught from the Scriptures. We all do well to make our calling and election sure. So of course we are to help our covenant children in that regard. However, such assessment is aimed at making one's calling and election sure and not to be used as a tool of evangelism.)

I might add to these questions as new ones arise.

Ron

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Monday, September 18, 2006

Islamic Holiday-Stamp Maddens the Mindless


I received the political e-mail below at work today, which is an unusual occurrence. The e-mail, however, is typical of what I receive at my home address. My thoughts can be found below the e-mail. For those who can't wait, my conclusion is that those who would want a Mulsim holiday-stamp to be done away without also wanting the religion to be outlawed by the U.S. Government are at the very least arbitrary in their opinion and at the very most outright bigoted.

The e-mail, which can be found on the Web, concerns itself with the re-issuance of a U.S. postage stamp that commemorates the Islamic holidays of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.

THE E-MAIL:

How ironic is this??!! They don't even believe in Christ and they're getting their own Christmas stamp, but don't dream of posting the ten commandments on federal property?

This one is impossible to believe. Scroll down for the text.

If there is only one thing you forward today.....let it be this!

REMEMBER the MUSLIM bombing of PanAm Flight 103!

REMEMBER the MUSLIM bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993!

REMEMBER the MUSLIM bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon!

REMEMBER the MUSLIM bombing of the military barracks in Saudi Arabia!

REMEMBER the MUSLIM bombing of the American Embassies in Africa!

REMEMBER the MUSLIM bombing of the USS COLE!

REMEMBER the MUSLIM attack on 9/11/2001!

REMEMBER all the AMERICAN lives that were lost in those vicious MUSLIM attacks!

Now the United States Postal Service REMEMBERS and HONORS the EID MUSLIM holiday season with a commemorative first class holiday postage stamp.

REMEMBER to adamantly and vocally BOYCOTT this stamp when purchasing your stamps at the post office. To use this stamp would be a slap in the face to all those AMERICANS who died at the hands of those whom this stamp honors.

REMEMBER to pass this along to every patriotic AMERICAN you know!

END OF E-MAIL

Sundry Comments:

1. It is false that the stamp is a “Christmas stamp.” Accordingly, it is nonsensical to argue that it is “ironic” that “They don't even believe in Christ and they're getting their own Christmas stamp…” It’s a holiday stamp!

2. Does it even bother the average American Christian that the three-day Eid Al-Adha commemorates the alleged willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son Ishmael(!) in response to God's command? (It was Isaac who was offered up to God.)

3. The writer seems to be outraged over those who would remove “the ten commandments [from] federal property.” In a sense, I’m outraged as well but I believe in the Ten Commandments. Do culture Christians, let alone evangelical Christians, embrace the Ten Commandments properly understood? Do they even know what they are, let alone what they actually mean? Do these Americans really want the civil magistrate to enforce the Law of Moses when appropriate -- given that they believe what this country stands for, at least on paper, demonstrates the "genius" of a pluralistic utopian society? Or do they simply oppose (even despise) minority groups who would desecrate anything American, whether religious or purely secular? With respect to God’s commandments, do evangelicals and culture-Christians earnestly desire that U.S. citizens not be permitted by law to publicly worship other gods than the Triune God of Scripture who lives? Does the culture-Christian and evangelical desire that the civil magistrate use everything within its power to remove the statues and public idolatrous worship of Roman Catholicism, a communion that is in flagrant violation of the Second Commandment? Do they, in other words "disapprove, detest and oppose, all false worship; and, believe that all who love the Lord should, according to each one's place and calling, remove it, and all monuments of idolatry?" In other words, in principle, do they believe that false worship should be considered illegal based upon the word of God, fully appreciating that it is the job of civil magistrate – not maverick citizens – to enforce such laws with force if necessary?

Are these Christians outraged that “freedom of speech” allows for taking the Lord’s name in vain and blasphemy? Or would they prefer that the civil magistrate apply the general equity of Moses, per the Westminster Confession of Faith and Larger Catechism? Now I'll really step on some toes... Are these same culture-Christians who are so outraged over a Muslim holiday-stamp pleased to work and watch football on the Christian Sabbath? Do they dine out on Sunday without Scriptural cause, contributing to the breaking of the Sabbath by restaurant workers? Would these American Christians want to see Congress legislate laws that would put an adulterer to death? How should the abominable practice of homosexuality be treated by civil magistrate? What is it to be pro “Ten Commandments” after all? Is it merely a feel-good sentiment that is on par with being pro-Fourth of July, Apple Pie and Chevrolet? Or, are God’s commandments covenantal in nature and therefore, being such, often time require temporal sanctions that are to be administered by the civil magistrates? Aren’t civil laws to be considered moral in nature and, therefore, routed in the Ten Commandments? Therefore, isn’t it only reasonable that such laws along with any accompanying sanctions be justified by God’s law? Or is our moral code merely a matter of opinion or conventional, in which case 9-11 was indeed justifiable? How does one expect to justify capital punishment apart from also arguing for a rapist to be put to death, or a man guilty of steeling a loaf of bread to feed his family not to be put to death?

We must face the facts – the American Christian does not really love God’s law (unless it suits him of course) otherwise he would submit to it in faith, without remainder, while expecting his elected officials, civil and ecclesiastical, to do the same. The problem with the culture Christian is that he is arbitrary, inconsistent and in some respects outright unwilling to follow God's word in all areas of life. The evangelical is really no different.

4. With respect to “Remember the Muslim bombing of Pan Am flight 103,” what exactly is the writer’s point? Does he believe that the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 was consistent with – even a logical extension of - the practice of Islam? If so, would he want to outlaw Islamic worship in the U.S.? Would he want the U.S. Civil Magistrate to actually order the destruction of all Mosques in the United States on the basis of the word of God? Doubtful, I'm sure! If I’m wrong, however, then on what concrete basis would he begin to try to justify such military action that would sanction Islamic practice in the U.S.? I have an answer to such questions but by the grace of God I'm a presuppostional theonomist!

It would seem to me that American culture-Christians such as these have concerns that are so mindless, inconsistent and arbitrary that they would want the un-biblically instituted, independent executive branch of the U.S. government called the U.S. Postal Service to stop printing and selling stamps based upon an arbitrary whim and unbiblical hatred, which is anything but a holy hatred grounded in the word of God; yet at the same time, they are not willing to argue that false worship should be illegal in the land. In other words, such culture-Christians and evangelicals are not prepared to argue against the public practice of false religion, while at the same time they happily give themselves (sometimes mind and soul!) to arguing that mere postage stamps that honor religions that they themselves deem lawful in the land are not appropriate and should even be outlawed! The absence of any semblance of logic and the twisted priorty of concern is simply remarkable.

Again, those who would want a Mulsim holiday-stamp to be done away without also wanting the religion to be outlawed by the U.S. Government are at the very least being arbitrary in their opinion and at the very most being outright bigoted. I would argue that until one becomes thoroughly presuppositional in his thinking, which entails an appreciation of the theonomic thesis, he cannot avoid remaining arbitrary and inconsistent with respect to his worldview in general and political views in particular. For a concise defense of theonomy, please visit http://reformedapologist.blogspot.com/2006/04/theonomy-epistemological-matter.html.

Ron

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Monday, September 11, 2006

Does God Desire the Salvation of All?


A topic of much discussion among Calvinists is whether God desires the salvation of the reprobate. Popularized in recent times by John Piper, it would seem that most Calvinists indeed take the position that God desires the salvation of the reprobate while choosing not to act on such desires because of a greater desire to glorify Himself through the reprobation of some.

What does it mean that God desires the salvation of the reprobate? Are we to believe that God desires the reprobate to regenerate himself and grant himself union with Christ? Isn't it Jesus who saves? Isn't salvation of God after all? At best, one might dare to argue that God desires that He Himself would regenerate the reprobate unto union with Christ and salvation. Consequently, the question that should be considered in this regard is not whether God desires the reprobate to turn and live but whether God Himself desires to turn the reprobate so he can live. Cast in that light - is it reasonable to think that the Holy Spirit desires to turn the reprobate toward himself when the Father did not choose the reprobate in Christ? Moreover, Christ did not die for the reprobate, let alone does he pray that the efficacy of the cross would be applied to the reprobate. Consequently, it is not available for the Holy Spirit to unite the reprobate to the finished work of Christ! Does God desire what is not available to Him? Does God desire that the Godhead work at cross purposes? Does God desire contradictions after all?

It's one thing to say that God has a priority of opposing desires. It's quite another thing to say God desires what He simply cannot do due to what he has done. In a word, not only can God not save the reprobate. 2000 years ago He acted in time sealing that inability. For God to desire the salvation of the reprobate is to say that God - today - desires that Jesus would have died for the reprobate 2000 years ago. What can God desire on this regard other than the past be different? Does God live with any sense of regret?

Ron

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Saturday, September 09, 2006

Could Jesus Have Sinned?


Could Jesus have sinned? Nineteenth century, Princeton Theologian Charles Hodge argued that He could since for Hodge temptation always presupposes the possibility of sin. Naturally, therefore, Hodge reasoned that since Jesus was tempted, He must have been able to sin. In one sense, Hodge can be refuted quite readily since an action cannot be contrary to the decree of God; which would imply that since Jesus did not sin then he could not have sinned.

An argument that supports such a conclusion can be found at:

http://reformedapologist.blogspot.com/2006/03/arminianism-in-light-of-future-tense.html

To get to the heart of what Hodge and others have asked, we might rephrase the question to “Could God have decreed that Jesus sin?” Even that, however, is an unsatisfactory question since God’s decree, being eternal, was necessary. I hope to Blog on the necessity of the divine decree in the weeks to come.

The question Hodge and others have tried to ask is indeed a hypothetical one that grants the Arminian notion of the non-necessity of choices that defy both the decree of God and the metaphysical axiom that responsible choices being caused are, therefore, necessary and not purely contingent. Such concessions as these do not, in my estimation, take away from the legitimacy of the question at hand. Whether the incarnate Christ could have sinned speaks to the question of His person, which deals with a most reasonable Christian inquiry.

The question we must concern ourselves with is whether an action (in this case the action of sin) defies an essential property of the person committing that action. For instance, if I were to have chosen to dine at a Chinese food restaurant last evening instead of a Mexican food restaurant, my choice would not have been contrary to my personhood, which is human, let alone destroyed it. However, had the incarnate Son of God sinned, he would no longer have been a divine person, which is a contradiction since divinity is an immutable property. The reason Christ could not have sinned is simply because were He to have sinned, He would have stopped being God incarnate. We might argue that if one state of affairs necessitates a contradictory state of affairs, then it is impossible that the first state of affairs obtain. If P, then Q; ~Q, therefore, ~P is a valid form of argumentation. Conseqently, it would seem to follow that if Jesus could have sinned, then Jesus could have stopped being God; but it’s not true that Jesus could have stopped being God; therefore, it is not true that Jesus could have sinned.

Ron

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Saturday, September 02, 2006

Man's First Sin - The "Mystery" Solved



In the link at the bottom I argued that Adam's first sin was not a choice but rather his nature the moment it became fallen. By way of review, I argued that if Adam's first sin was the action of taking and eating the forbidden fruit, then the act of sin would have come from a nature and inclination not to sin, which in turn would have made the act an unintended act, which of course is not consistent with an act being morally relevant. Accordingly, the first sin was the nature upon becoming fallen. Adam, in other words, had concupiscence prior to acting sinfully. To deny that Adam's first sinful choice came from a nature that had already fallen is to affirm that a sinful action came from a non-sinful nature, a monstrosity indeed.

God is not a legalist, a reductio:

If Adam intended to act sinfully and was tackled prior to acting upon his intention, wouldn't he have sinned just the same? Moreover, had Eve abstained from eating the forbidden fruit solely because she was concerned for her figure, would she not have sinned just the same in the eyes of God? Certainly God is not a legalist who overlooks the intentions of the heart!

Mystery, mystery when there is no mystery:

The reason people call the first sin a mystery is because they begin their reasoning with the false premise that the action of taking and eating the forbidden fruit was the first sin. If we get back to first principles and focus on what precedes any action, whether sinful or not, we can begin to recognize that the first sin was the desire to be like God and not the action that proceeded from that desire. The question that we should be concerned with is not how did an unrighteous act spring from an upright being (which is a question that proceeds from a false premise), but rather how did an upright being acquire an intention to act sinfully? The answer is no different than the answer to the question of how does any intention and subsequent action come into existence. Doesn’t God providentially orchestrate circumstances that come before the souls of men thereby moving them by secondary causes to act in accordance with new inclinations that are brought into existence according to God’s providence that He decrees? By God's pre-interpretation of the otherwise brute particulars of providence, the intentions of men and their subsequent actions fall out as God so determines.

For Calvinists to argue that an act of sin proceeded from an upright nature is to assert a contradiction – and no amount of mystery can save a contradiction! The only thing I find mysterious is that so many Calvinists find the entrance of sin into humanity so mysterious. Note well that I am not pretending to know how God pre-interprets particulars or how the mind of man relates to the movement of the body. That’s not in view at all. My simple point is that Calvinists do not generally find it mysterious that actions necessarily follow from intentions and that God’s orchestrating of circumstances are an ordained means by which intentions come into being. Why, therefore, should we not apply the same theological reasoning to the first sin as we do to God’s sovereignty over the intentions of fallen men?

Ron

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http://reformedapologist.blogspot.com/2006/05/adams-first-sin-not-choice.html

To Escondido: Sinai Was Gracious & The Emperor Has No Clothes


Justification and adoption are not proportional to one's personal obedience in that all Christians no matter the degree of sanctification receive the same forgiveness and sonship in Christ. It is equally true that blessings peculiar to salvation are often proportional to the degree of obedience that is exercised by grace through faith. The principle that greater faith working itself out in greater love and obedience often yields greater blessings is not peculiar to Sinai in general and the land stipulations in particular. Accordingly, with respect to Israel’s occupancy of the land, what God determined to be (as Kline referred to it as) an “appropriate measure of national fidelity” need not be thought of in terms of God’s prelapsarian covenant with Adam. “If you obey me I will bless you…” is equally true under Christ as it was under Moses. Accordingly, why should we believe that any proverbial principles put into practice that yield fruit and, therefore, increase of blessing are best considered as a display or recapitulation of the covenant of works? Sinai, plain and simple, was an administration of the covenant of grace - no more no less. The emperor has no clothes.

Ron

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