Saturday, December 03, 2005

Dr. Bahnsen science and creation.

In my opinion, one of the most gifted Christian thinkers of the 20th century was Dr. Greg Bahnsen. Bahnsen is probably best known as an “apologist” or defender of the Christian faith. He has debated and crushed a number of prominent academic atheists this includes his legendary debate with Dr. Gordon Stein (Read more here). Greg Bahnsen, was (he passed away in late 1995) a man of great learning and simple faith.

The quote below is from a paper he wrote about biblical revelation and modern science. Bahnsen said "Despite the enthusiasm of modern science in pursuing study and research on the 'origin of life,' it must be recognized that all questions of origins fall outside the realm of empirical science! ... In the matter of origins, where the scientist can neither observe nor experiment, one is left to depend either on guesswork speculation or infallible revelation."

Bahnsen makes a very important point here that is missed by most Christians and non-Christians alike. The study of origins can not, by its very nature, be "science" as it is defined in the modern world. The study of origins is philosophy and theology and can never be truly “empirical” science. When scientists speak of origins in scientific terms they are promoting their philosophy, religion and worldview not empirical facts.

Observation, experimentation and verification are the methods used in empirical science. None of these are possible for the creation, because it is an event that took place before man came on the scene. The evolutionist is an evolutionist by FAITH and not by science. He believes as he does, not because it is proven scientifically, but because he chooses to. It is his leap of faith, and it is a great leap.

For the Christian to bow to modern science and attempt to make the Christian faith fit with the evolutionist faith; is to compromise with a false religion that is always changing. Evolution is atheistic religion and not science.

Soli Deo Gloria,

PS. The audio from the Bahnsen/Stein debate are available: Monergism Books, or you can read a transcription here. The audio was online at "The Great Debate: Does God Exist?" but the link is not working tonight.

PPS (This blog is a rerun from 03 March 2004)

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Reformed Theology and Baptismal Regeneration ?

I hate to come in and burst a few of my Reformed brethrens bubbles but (much to the surprise of many Reformed Christians) there is version of baptismal regeneration that is found in some Reformed circles.

Cornelius Burges, one of the more important Westminster Divines, the man who penned the Confession, and who played an important part in the committee that gave us the confession’s section on baptism wrote a (once) famous book on this subject titled Baptismall Regeneration of Elect Infants, Professed by the Church of England, according to the Scriptures, and Primitive Church, the Present Reformed Churches and Many Particular Divines Apart. I know the title is a mouth full. I wish it were on the web, but it is not.

There were other divines at the Westminster Assembly who agreed with Burges on the issue of Baptismal regeneration of "elect" infants. Modern Reformed Christians need to remember that these men were highly respected Reformed pastors and theologians, who played an important part at Westminster. You have often had some Reformed Theologians that have held to a (qualified) understanding of baptismal regeneration.

I happen to have a photo-copied version of Cornelius Burges' book. It is interesting reading and very difficult reading as well. I am not yet sure what I think of it but it is an interesting topic to look at from an older Reformed vantage point.

Dr. Joel Garver has an interesting article on this subject titled Baptismal Regeneration and the Westminster Confession 28.6. Some of you may find it interesting. I did, but I am not sure what I think about this subject. It is not high on my list of topics to tackle.

Dominus vobiscum,

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Augustine and Reconciliation

If you look at my profile at Christian Forums you will see that I describe myself as a “Reformed Christian” and that I migrated into “Reformational Christianity” after being born and raised Roman Catholic and then Baptist. I later say that “I consider myself to be a Reformational catholic” (Notice the little “c”).

This morning I was reading Dr. Philip Schaff’s introduction to St Augustine in the Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers (series I vol. I). In speaking of Augustine he says, in the chapter titled The Influence of St. Augustin upon Posterity and his Relation to Catholicism and Protestantism:

Such a personage as Augustin, still holding a mediating place between the two great divisions of Christendom, revered alike by both, and of equal influence with both, is furthermore a welcome pledge of the elevating prospect of a future reconciliation of Catholicism and Protestantism in a high unity, conserving all the truths, losing all the errors, forgiving all the sins, forgetting all the enmities of both. After all, the contradiction between authority and freedom, the objective and the subjective, the churchly and the personal, the organic and the individual, the sacramental and the experimental in religion, is not absolute, but relative and temporary, and arises not so much from the nature of things, as from the deficiencies of man’s knowledge and piety in this world. These elements admit of an ultimate harmony in the perfect state of the church, corresponding to the union of the divine and human natures, which transcends the limits of finite thought and logical comprehension, and is yet completely realized in the person of Christ. They are in fact united in the theological system of St. Paul, who had the highest view of the church, as the mystical “body of Christ,” and “the pillar and ground of the truth,” and who was at the same time the great champion of evangelical freedom, individual responsibility, and personal union of the believer with his Saviour. We believe in and hope for one holy catholic apostolic church, one communion of saints, one flock, one Shepherd. The more the different churches become truly Christian, the nearer they draw to Christ, and the more they labor for His kingdom which rises above them all, the nearer will they come to one another. For Christ is the common head and vital centre of all believers, and the divine harmony of all discordant human sects and creeds. In Christ, says Pascal, one of the greatest and noblest disciples of Augustin, In Christ all contradictions are solved.

Schaff was a great man. He left us some monumental works including:
History of the Christian Church (8 vol.) and in book form here.
Creeds of Christendom (3 vol) and in book form here.
Early Church Fathers (38 Vol.) and in book form here.
Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia (13 Vol.)

I like Schaff’s optimism about a possible (distant) future reconciliation of the Western Church, after all I am a very optimistic amillennial/postmillennialist. There are things in Augustine that both branches of the Church hold in common and there are sections of Augustine in which Roman Catholics embrace and the Protestants shrink from and vice versa.

Dominus Vobiscum,

Sunday, September 11, 2005

John Calvin and the Lord's Supper
Calvin had a high view of the Eucharist/Lord's Supper. I think most Calvinists today would be shocked by Calvin's views in that area. He did disagree with both transubstantiation (Roman Catholic view) and consubstantiation (Luther’s view- Note: I don't think our Lutheran brethren like this term but I don't know another way y put it.) but he was light years away from the views held by modern evangelical Protestants including many Reformed Christians.

Below are a few of Calvin’s many statements on whether we truly partake of Christ in the Supper. What I quote here is only PART of what he says, he does make important qualifications also. This is an interesting Subject that I hope more Reformed Christians will look into. Before I give the quotes let me recommend a book Given for You: Reclaiming Calvin’s Doctrine of the Lord’s Supper by Keith Mathison. (BTW-- R.C. Sproul recommends this book and wrote the preface to it.)

These quotes are taken from another good book that I highly recommend: John Calvin’s Treatises On the Sacraments.
I distinctly affirm that those who receive the promise by faith, become truly partakers of Christ, and are fed by his flesh. Therefore, the eating of Christ is something else than the receiving of the promise, if indeed he admits that the cause differs from its effect.I deny not, indeed, that those who exclude the substance of vivifying flesh and blood from the communion defraud themselves of the use of the Supper. (265)

I am said to defame those who hold that the true flesh of Christ is distributed in the Supper: as if I did not uniformly declare, in distinct terms, that nourishment from the true flesh of Christ is set before us in the Supper. (267-268)

If any sincerely and distinctly teach that the flesh of Christ is set before us to be eaten by us, I, too, am of the number. (268)

But although the true body of Christ is eaten in the Supper, this is no ground for holding, as they do, that spiritual interpretation is excluded. This interpretation would define the mode, and show the two things to be perfectly reconcilable, viz., that the same body which was once offered as a victim is given to us, and yet is not eaten in a carnal manner. Certainly in the age of Augustine and Jerome no man doubted that the body of Christ was one. (439)

John Calvin's reputation is often far from the reality. Many of his followers would be horrified by his views on both baptism and the Eucharist. He did not agree with Rome on these two things, but he is light years removed from the Zwinglian like views of modern Evagelicals (even most Calvinists).

I am reading a lot of Calvin, and I am often surprised by what I find. I thought I would share some of those "found" items here. I hope none reading this will simply dismiss Calvin on these things. I encourage you to read Mathison's book. It was after reading Mathison that I HAD to get Calvin’s Treatises On the Sacraments.

Coram Deo,

Friday, August 26, 2005

Circumcision and Baptism compared.

I had a discussion with a Baptist friend in a discussion forum about the relationship between Baptism and circumcision My Baptist friend wrote ten point showing that there wasn't a relationship between the two. I then I responded to each point.

Coram Deo,

MrWonder wrote:
1. Circumcision is a sign to Israel only. Water Baptism is a sign for the individual repentant believer on the Messiah.

This is not accurate. Circumcision and baptism have much broader meaning than MrWonder allows in his statement above. Circumcision, like baptism is a sign of faith. “And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:” (Romans 4:11)

We find here that Abraham received believers circumcision (credo-circumcision), but at the same time his son and all those in his house also received this very same sign. Did they all believe? No, neither were they all descendents of Abraham. In fact, the vast majority of those who received this sign which was “a seal of the righteousness of the faith” were not even descended from Abraham, but they were in his house and they were brought into the covenant because he was their federal or covenant head.

Abraham’s son Ishmael also received the sign of circumcision though he was not a believer, and to our knowledge, never became one.

In order to be an outward member of God’s covenant people (assembly) you had to be circumcised under the Old Covenant. In order to be a member of God’s covenant people (assembly) today you must be baptised.

Could uncircumcised people participate in Passover meal? NO (see Exodus 12:43,48; Num. 9:14). The Lord’s Supper has replaced Passover (just as baptism has replaced circumcision). Can a non-baptised person receive the communion? No; not in any Christian church I know of.

I think the connection here is clear. Circumcision was a sign of God’s covenant people in the Old Covenant, and baptism is the sign given to God’s covenant people in the New Covenant. Both are outward signs of what should be and inward reality.

MrWonder says that baptism is for individual repentant believers “only.” Of course I disagree. I think I can show that this is also not supported Scripturally (especially if we remember the cultural context of the first century church). A number of the baptisms in Scripture are household baptisms. Cornelius and his household were baptised, as was Lydia and her household, and the Philippian jailer and his household. We also find that Crispus and his household were baptisedas was Stephanas and his household.

There are nine New Covenant baptism episodes in the Scriptures and four of them are household baptisms. Of the remaining five, four were of men only and the one remaining (of the Samaritans) is the first to include women for baptism.

If the covenant form were to be continued from the Old Covenant we would expect to find household baptisms in the New Covenant just as we find household circumcisions in the Old Covenant. Guess what, this is exactly what we do find in the Scriptures.

Our Baptist brethren assume that in each of these cases ALL of the household members were old enough to believe and did so, but this is not the case in every situation. This is clearly visible in the Greek (I will show how sometime later).

MrWonder next states:
2.Circumcision was a requirement for entry into the national covenant of Israel. Water Baptism is not a requirement for anything. Faith is the requirement for the individual to enter the New Covenant. Acts recounts Gentiles being saved BEFORE administration of Water Baptism. But under circumcision, God prescribed death for those who were not circumcised--completely the opposite of the New Testament (Covenant).

I think I have already shown above that this is inaccurate. Water baptism is an outward sign of being part of God’s people. I don’t think MrWonder’s church allows unbaptised folks to be members of his congregation, and I very much doubt that unbaptised folks are “officially” allowed to partake of communion.

Baptism is a sign of covenant membership in the New Covenant just as circumcision was a sign of covenant membership in the Old Covenant.

MrWonder wrote:
3. Circumcision shed man's blood. The New Covenant shed God's blood, and Water Baptism does not do that.

If MrWonder were to continue to expound on this point he might come around to our way of thinking. He is correct that circumcision was a bloody rite, as was Passover and most of the ritualistic worship of ancient Israel. All this blood pointed to Christ. When Christ came he shed His blood for our sins and all the old covenant bloody ceremonies were either done away with completely or they were changed to bloodless rites. The Eucharist (Lord’s Supper), which is bloodless, replaced Passover which required the shedding of Blood. Bread and wine replaced the Passover lamb. Bloody circumcision was replaced by a bloodless water baptism.

Both of these outward signs (circumcision and baptism) point to a need for cleansing of the recipient. The Old Covenant saints are called on to circumcise the foreskin of their heart. Baptism is symbolic of the washing away of sin. In both cases the outward sign points the recipient to the inward reality that is symbolised in the outward act.

In the Old Covenant Abraham was saved by faith. God instituted circumcision as the covenant sign given to Abraham because of that faith. We see that clearly spelled out by Paul in Romans (see Romans 4:11). When God covenanted with Abraham the covenant was not for him as an individual alone. It was familial and we Christians are heirs to God’s covenant with Abraham and are Abraham’s seed (see Gal. 3:27-29). In verse 29 Paul says of Christians “And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.” We are, like Isaac, children of the promise (Gal. 4:28Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.”). God’s promise to Abraham was generational (I can provide plenty of Scriptures here if needed). We are heirs to that promise and God’s generational promise was repeated at Pentecost, by Peter, to the Jewish converts into the new covenant administration. Peter brought the children of believers in during the very first sermon of the New Covenant era. We read “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:38,39).

The new sign given for covenant membership is baptism, and the Jews now entering the New Covenant hear what they have heard for two thousand years; Their children are still included in the covenant promise of God to His people. (How would a first century Jew understand Peter’s word?) Taking into consideration of how the original audience would understand the message is an important rule of hermeneutics that our individualists age too often leaves out of consideration at this point.

In the New Covenant we find in-depth explanations of the major discontinuities between the old and new covenants. Dropping the children from God’s covenant membership would be a very drastic change. Such a change is never taught in the New Covenant Scriptures. In Fact the New Covenant Scriptures repeat the Old Covenant themes of the inclusion of the believers children in the covenant.

If we are in the New Covenant, which God promised in Jeremiah, than we are the Israel and Judah that he is speaking of. In Jeremiah 31:31 we read “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah.” All Israel were covenant members. God’s New Covenant is with the “house” of Israel and the “house” of Judah. The concept of “house” in scripture includes all members, even those yet unborn. An Israelite came into covenant with God by his birth, and he received the sign of the covenant as an infant. We are the New Israel of God. We can see this clearly in Hebrews. The writer says “In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.” (Hebrews 8:13)

The Old Covenant was even then fading away, because the New had come in. The old disappeared completely in 70 AD when Rome put an end to temple rituals and destroyed the temple. We are the Israel of the New Covenant no matter what our ethnicity, because in this new covenant there is neither Greeks nor Jews. We are heirs to the promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We are grafted into that olive tree.

These are some of the reasons, we believe, our children should be baptised as infants.

MrWonder wrote:
4. Circumcision left a physical mark. Water Baptism's evidence is gone in fifteen minutes.

I think this one is handled in my earlier answers. The sign of the covenant changed. We agree on that, but since we Reformed Christians believe sprinkling or pouring to be preferred method over immersion, So we dry off much faster than the fifteen minutes you allow.

Seriously, you are correct that there is a change in form but the substance is, I believe, basically the same. Both are signs and seals of God's covenant. The "bloody" sign was the one used prior Christ shedding His blood on the cross. All Old Covenant rituals that involved the shedding of blood were the shadows fulfilled in Christ. They all cease in the New Covenant. Some, such as animal sacrifices for sin and ritual uncleanness are forever done away with (they will not return in any sort of future millennium), and others like Passover and circumcision are changed to the bloodless rites of communion and baptism. Once the blood of Christ has been shed all other religious (ritualistic) bloodletting is passé. These were the shadows that the writer of Hebrews says were, in the early days of the New Covenant, passing away.

Baptism has replaced circumcision as the sign that one is in a covenant relationship with God. Old Covenant saints HAD to be circumcised to be eligible for outward covenant membership. They had to be circumcised to be viewed as in the covenant. They had to be circumcised to partake of the covenant meal (Passover). New Covenant saints have to be baptised for outward membership in the Covenant community of God (the Church). They have to be baptised to participate in the covenant meal (Lord's Supper). Notice any similarity here? I do.

Children have always been viewed as members of God's covenant people and had been given the sign of covenant membership. The New Covenant NOWHERE nullifies this pattern and it, in fact, repeats the same ancient form and promises.

The question is: Do we begin our study of this matter in Acts, with no theological, cultural or historical context, or do we start in Genesis and include all of Scripture to gain our understanding on the subject?If we start from the beginning, from the Scriptures that the Apostles used to teach the first century church, the covenant aspects of baptism is overwhelming. Remember the first century church did not have the New Testament.

MrWonder wrote:
5. The Jew could look down in private and seek the proof of his Israeli covenant membership. The Christian cannot, but must look inward.
6. (Akin to 5) Circumcision was of the flesh. However, under the New Covenant, it is circumcision of the heart (repentance and faith toward Christ) that brings one into the ranks of the redeemed, NOT Water Baptism.

Answer to 5&6:
Jews of the old covenant were also told to look inward. They were to have a circumcised heart. Outward covenant membership was (and is) a blessing in this life, but if there is not a corresponding true cleansing, which is and always has been, by faith in our Saviour Jesus Christ, then covenant membership did, and does, bring greater condemnation.

The Jew was not to think he was saved by his physical relationship to Abraham, nor by the outward keeping of the Law. Salvation is, as it was in the old covenants, by faith in Jesus Christ, and he was called to examine himself to see if his heart was circumcised (made clean). We see that the New Covenant believer is also to have the inward circumcision of the heart. We see this in Colossians 2:11. Here also our baptism is equated to circumcision, because the two things are outward signs of what God's people are to possess inwardly.

The outward covenant sign has always been a picture of what the covenant member should experience as an inward reality. God's people in the old covenant were to have a circumcised heart just as the new covenant believer is to have a circumcised heart. Baptism like circumcision is a sign of the need for inward cleansing. It represents the washing away of sins, as did the ceremonial washings of the Old Covenant (BTW: these ceremonial washings [baptismois] were mostly sprinkling or pouring. See Heb. 9:10 and look back to the Old Covenant washings the writer is referring to.). Again there is a strong correlation between baptism and circumcision on this point of inward cleanliness.

There are other correlations as well. I am sure we will get to them in time, but the point here is again we see that while the outward form has changed the meaning is the same. We see again that there is, on this subject, continued continuity between the Old and New Covenants. If the meaning is the same and the promises are the same and the household form is repeated, should the sign be given to the new converts and the children of believers now as it was of Old? I believe it should, and that is why my children have been baptised always as infants.

MrWonder wrote:
7. Circumcision was for male children only and Israeli national covenant membership depended on the head of the family (male) being circumcised. Under the New Covenant, no one is saved because of their parentage, but each must believe on Christ personally, THEN Water Baptism is applied.

First let me address a statement by MrWonder. He wrote "Under the New Covenant, no one is saved because of their parentage." This is nothing new to the New Covenant. No one has ever been saved on account of their parentage at any part in human history. This is nothing new to the New Covenant. It is a fact from the time of Adam until the second coming of Christ. No Israelite was ever saved because of parentage. Jesus makes this very point when he was addressing the Pharisees who had wrongly and unbiblically had come to believe that being a genetic descendent of Abraham gave them a free ride to heaven. Jesus told them that God could make the rocks around them into sons of Abraham (BTW: God did make millions of Gentiles, like you and me, into sons of Abraham.

Jesus told these men that they need the fruit of repentance, being a descendent of Abraham was a great blessing, but it did not save unless it was accompanied by the faith of Abraham. Each person in the Old Covenant had to have a personal faith in the Messiah in order to be saved (Read Heb. 11 especially verse 13 which says of the Old Covenant saints "These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth."). All saved people in the Old Covenant that were saved were saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. There is no change on this point.

There is continuity in the Covenants at this point and not discontinuity. Salvation by faith in the Saviour. Jesus makes this clear to the religious leaders of his day when he says to them "For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me." In order to be saved "each must believe on Christ personally," but that was true of the Old Covenant and is not new to the New Covenant as MrWonder implies in comment #7. Therefore this is not in any way an argument against infant baptism, because salvation was accomplished the same way in the Old Covenant and the Old Covenant people gave their children the covenant sign.

Now let me back up and touch on the first part of MrWonder's comments. He said "Circumcision was for male children only and Israeli national covenant membership depended on the head of the family (male) being circumcised."

He is correct circumcision was only for males in the Old Covenant. But in the New Covenant there is a great expansion of the Covenant promises. Now the Good News has burst the bounds of ethnic Israel and is beginning to cover the whole earth. With the expansion of the New Covenant women too are given the new covenant sign. I believe it would be an amazing thing that at the same time that God expands the Covenant sign to women, He would, for the first time ever, remove the children of believers from the covenant.

Family headship matters no less in the New Covenant than it did in the Old. That is why Lydia's house was baptised when she had received Christ. That is why the Philippian jailer and his house was baptised, etc...

Even here we find continuity between the old and new. God's covenant has always had a familial aspect to it. The New Testament writers reiterate that pattern and don't do away with it.

The household/familial pattern is even found in the promise God made to Abraham about the eventual salvation of the Gentiles through him. Paul explains this in Galatians. He says "And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed." (Gal. 3:8)

I would like to make a couple of points here. Abraham knew the Gospel, and he was saved by his faith and belief in the same Gospel that you and I have. Abraham knew that salvation would come to us Gentiles through him, and we would become heirs to the promises made to Abraham (continuity).

We Gentiles (wild olive branches) are grafted into the ancient cultivated olive tree of God's people ("And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree" [Romans 11:17]). We Gentiles have been grafted into the ancient people and covenant of God, and we have become partakers "of the root and fatness of the olive tree." We are not a new thing or people. We are grafted into what already was.

Again we see here continuity between the old and new. Certainly some things have changed, but they have not changed in near the drastic way that MrWonder assumes. There is much continuity in the Covenants.

Let me give just one more example. We read in Eph. 2 "Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ." (11-13).

Paul says here that we Gentile Christians were once "aliens from the commonwealth of Israel." Notice Paul said this in the past tense, because this is no longer the case. We were once as peoples "strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world," but this too is no longer true for the Christian. We are now "made nigh by the blood of Christ." Again we see that we are now no longer strangers from the covenants of promise. We are now part of the true Israel of God. Again there is continuity between the Old and New Covenant people of God.

The New Covenant is a renewal and better Covenant, but it doesn't start from scratch as MrWonder (and all Baptists) assumes in his comments. We are part of the one people of God. We who are in Christ are the sons of Abraham and heirs to the promises God made to Abraham.

God's promises to Abraham were familial and generational. The New Covenant NEVER does away with the generational/household aspects of the covenant. It does, as I have shown, repeat the same ancient familial formula and pattern.

The burden of proof, that children are now excluded from the covenant people of God, is on our baptistic brethren that believe they are cast out of the covenant. Paul's words in 1 Cor. 7:14 make perfect since from the ancient covenantal ways of God and His people. To explain this verse in any other way you have to rip it out of its overall biblical context. It can and should be understood in its very natural covenantal sense.

MrWonder wrote:
8. Circumcision was a sign to the individual. Water Baptism is a sign to other people instead.

Again MrWonder's proposition falls short of the overall biblical teaching on the matter at hand. He gives us, time and again, an extremely minimalistic understanding of both baptism and circumcision. This minimalism distorts the overall biblical picture.

MrWonder, in his ten point list, stresses the fact that circumcision and baptism are physically different signs. I readily and heartily admit the same thing. No one has ever argued that the outward signs were identical. I don't believe there has ever been a Christian, in all of church history, to make that point. My point, along with all other Reformed Christians, is that while the outward sign has changed the basic meaning of Baptism and circumcision are the same.

We read in Romans 4 the following about Abraham and circumcision "And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:"(verse 11).

Circumcision was not JUST an ethnic sign. It was a sign of the righteousness imputed to Abraham. Paul makes that very clear in the context of chapter 4. Abraham received "believers" or credo-circumcision, but God's covenant was not with him alone, but with his house as well. It was with his descendants and with all converts to the faith of Abraham.

If those circumcised in the Old Covenant had the outward sign, without the corresponding inward reality there circumcision was regarded as uncircumcision. Lets look at Paul's letter to the Romans once more. He writes "For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God" (Rom 2:28-29).

Paul reiterates this point in Romans 9. He says "For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; neither are they all children because they are Abraham's descendants, but: 'through Isaac your descendants will be named.' That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants" (Rom. 9:6b-8).

I wish to make several points. First, circumcision was never just an outward ethnic sign for Abraham's descendents; it was, from the beginning, a sign and seal of righteousness. MrWonder insists that Baptism is a sign that reflects and inward reality. He is correct at that point, but we can see above that circumcision reflected the same thing. Abraham was circumcised because he had believed God and righteousness had been imputed to him (see Romans 4:1-11). This sign was given to Abraham because his "iniquities were forgiven", and his sins were "covered" (verse 7).

Folks this is the same way you and I are saved. Abraham was given the sign of circumcision because he had been saved by Christ. When Abraham was saved his whole house came into a covenant relationship with the LORD. This pattern exists throughout the Old Covenant and is, as I have already pointed out, repeated in the New Covenant.

I have to ask:
Question: Is baptism not a sign that one has been saved?
Answer: Yes it is. Just as with Abraham, God's covenant sign, which is an outward symbol of an inward cleansing, is given to new believers and it is also given to those in their house. Again this is what we find with Abraham, with Israel under Moses, in Peter's sermon on Pentecost, and in the household baptisms found in the New Testament.Old Testament circumcision was always, from the beginning, an outward sign of what was supposed to be an inward reality. Abraham possessed the inward reality. Outward circumcision saved no one; they needed to be circumcised in their hearts.

"Circumcise then your heart, and stiffen your neck no more" (Deut. 10:16).
"Moreover the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live" (Deut. 30:6).
"Circumcise yourselves to the LORD And remove the foreskins of your heart, Men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, Lest My wrath go forth like fire And burn with none to quench it, Because of the evil of your deeds" (Jer. 4:4).

God's Old Covenant people were not to take their salvation for granted. They were threatened with being "cut off" from it if they were not true believers. The same is true today. Look at what Paul says in Romans 11 "Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee" (Romans 11:20,21).

Ethnic, Old Covenant Israel was broken off from the covenant because of unbelief. Notice they were covenant members, but NOT believers in the true God. Once Paul has said this of ethnic Israel he warns the church that it too can be cut off.

Question: Can we loose our salvation?
Answer: NO. This text, like those in the Old Covenant, must be understood in its covenantal context. It is possible to be "in covenant" and not saved. That is why Christians are called to "give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall" (2 Pet. 1:10).

Question: Did peter think true believers could loose their salvation?
Answer: No, but like the people in the Old Covenant, covenant membership (baptism), does not guarantee genuine salvation. So we, like old covenant members are not to take salvation for granted just because we are in the church (i.e. in covenant).Again we see covenantal continuity between the Old and New Covenant people of God. Remember what Paul wrote in Romans 9: "For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; neither are they all children because they are Abraham's descendants, but: 'through Isaac your descendants will be named.' That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants" (Rom. 9:6b-8). Paul is not inventing a new concept. What Paul says here had always been the case. Covenant members that possessed only the outward sign were not the TRUE descendants and heirs of Abraham.

Christians are, the sons of Abraham and heirs to the Promise. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."

In the Old Covenant only those with circumcised hearts were the true sons and heirs of the promise made to Abraham. This is not new to the New Covenant, but the same is true in the New Covenant. We Christians are the heirs to the promise made to Abraham. Some of our Christian our brethren argue against Paul at this point, because Paul points us once again to the continuity we have with Old Covenant believers. We like them are the true sons and heirs of Abraham. And we, like Abraham, are to give the covenant sign to our children.

MrWonder wrote:
9. One could be circumcised, a member of the covenant, and still be lost. Under the New Covenant and Water Baptism, one does not have a permanent mark but instead, a permanent change of the life through the Holy Spirit.

10. Babies were circumcised. Not ONE Scripture hints at babies being baptized.

I think I have addressed some of the points made here in my earlier posts, but I will see if I can cover this from some different angles. In #9 MrWonder makes the assumption that all folks baptized in the New Covenant are saved. This is easily shown to be a false assumption. In the New Testament we are told of baptized believers who fall away or depart from the true faith. These were new covenant members who became covenant breakers. (I will be happy to provide a list if it is requested.) We also find in 1 Cor. (5:9-12) that the church can (and should) excommunicate members from its midst if they are in blatant sin and will not repent. These excommunicated individuals, who have been baptized, are to be treated as an unbelievers. So again we have continuity from old to new because in both covenants it is possible for those once counted as believers to be "cut off" from the people of God.

Another false assumption that he makes here and on earlier points is that the Old Covenant sign was outward only. This is false. As Paul makes clear in Romans circumcision was a sign of Abraham's righteousness, and the old covenant believer is called, time and again, to not count on his outward circumcision; he had to have a circumcised heart as well.

In one of Jesus' parable about the kingdom he speaks of the wheat and tares. Lets look at that for a moment.

"Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn." (Matt. 13:24-30)

This is a parable of the kingdom. The wheat and tares are both outwardly in the kingdom, but one is not true wheat. The tares that are in the kingdom are outwardly part of the people of God, but are not of the faith of Abraham and will be cast into the fire at the last day.

We in the New Covenant have a much fuller outpouring of the Holy Spirit than did our Old Covenant brethren, but again there is a similarity. In both cases there are true believers and false believers in the covenant. In both cases the members are warned not to take covenant membership as a guarantee of salvation. In both case blatant covenant breakers are to be "cut of" from the people of God.

(If anyone likes I can go into much greater detail here, but I am trying to keep this short, because I have already written some fairly long posts on this thread. Let me know if you want greater detail.)

Now let me address #10. I think I have already shown that infant baptism IS hinted at in the household baptisms of the New Covenant. But let me put this point into perspective.

Question: Where in the New Testament do we read of women taking the Lord's Supper.
Answer: There is NO explicit example in the Scriptures of women partaking of this meal.

If MrWonder is consistent he would argue against women taking communion, because we have no explicit example of this taking place in the pages of the New Testament.

MrWonder is right when he agrees (as I am sure he does) that women should be allowed to eat the bread and drink the wine at communion, even though this is not explicitly taught in Scripture; however, he is in error when he denies that children should not receive baptism because this too is not explicitly taught. There is plenty of continuity and similarity between circumcision and baptism. I have barely scratched the surface of this subject.

Remember The Bible begins in Genesis and not Matthew or Acts and we are whole Bible Christians because "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Tim. 3:16,17).

Soli Deo Gloria,
That is all of that series. I hope someone finds it worth the time to read.

In Christ,

Monday, July 25, 2005

Rev. Stewart Graves, Gerry's pastor asked me to write something for his funeral services. I wrote about Gerry through a river of tears. Brother Stewart read what a I wrote -- I could not
do it.
Looking through my files tonight I found that letter and thought I would post it here.

Coram Deo,
Dear Friends,

My brother Gerry was 15 months my junior. He was not only my brother, but also one of my closest friends in this world. I will miss him dearly, but at the same time I have great confidence that we will be together again.

Gerry knew that his hope was in Christ and Him crucified. He was at peace with the fact that he would soon depart this world and enter into paradise, where he would see his Saviour face to face.

Gerry was always one of the bravest men I knew. I thought he was brave to the point of foolhardiness at times and I never saw him back down from a fight if he knew he was right. There were times, when we were young, when I thought flight was the best option. Not Gerry, he would fight an army single-handed before he would think of running.

My brother loved the land. He owned 40 acres on which he raised horses, cattle and an occasional hog. He was also an avid outdoorsman. He loved to hunt and was able to hunt deer, doves, rabbits etc right outside his back door (this is a Cajun view of paradise). Some of my fondest memories are of times when he and I went hunting together.

Gerry was also proud of his Cajun, Southern and Confederate heritages, all of which have deep Christian roots, though I fear they all are far removed from those roots today. In line with the better parts of that pedigree he was a generous and very giving man. Gerry was the type of man who would give you the shirt of his back if you needed it.

He was a volunteer fireman and served as a Fire Chief in his community. He was on the fire brigade and rescue team at the chemical plant (PPG) where he worked. He was also an EMT as well. Gerry did all these things because he wanted to help others, and he was driven to be his best in these things because he knew that when called to duty lives would be at stake.

Gerry’s greatest concern during his illness was for those that were concerned and suffering because of their love for him. He was especially concerned for his wife, his children and his young son-in-law. Gerry leaves behind Becky, his wife of 23 years, Shannon (20 yrs), Dustin, (8 yrs) and Casey (3 yrs), and don’t forget Brian, Gerry’s son-in-law, who is now serving in Baghdad.

I wish to thank y’all for your prayers for Gerry and his family. Gerry is home, secure in Christ and is now awaiting the resurrection of the body. His pain and suffering is ended and his need for prayer ended at 1 am Sunday morning, but his family is in great pain and the loss that they feel is great, so please continue to pray for them.

God is a gracious God, and even in this most difficult time His grace is sufficient. Gerry was blessed with abundant grace and was at peace with his Lord. He did not fear death, because he knew in whom he believed. He believed in Jesus Christ who is Lord of lords, King of kings and Saviour of all those who turn to Him.

Soli Deo Gloria,
Ps, Thanks for your prayers and words of encouragement.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

According to the Roman Catholic Church what happens if you reject the Deuterocanonical books ?

We can find the answer to this question by looking at the Fourth Session of the Council of Trent. After listing the books of the Bible including the Apocrypha/Deuterocanonical books in that list the Church declares:
But if any one receive not, as sacred and canonical, the said books entire with all their parts, as they have been used to be read in the Catholic Church, and as they are contained in the old Latin vulgate edition; and knowingly and deliberately contemn the traditions aforesaid; let him be anathema. Let all, therefore, understand, in what order, and in what manner, the said Synod, after having laid the foundation of the Confession of faith, will proceed, and what testimonies and authorities it will mainly use in confirming dogmas, and in restoring morals in the Church.

Anathema is an interesting word. It is a transliteration of a Greek word that is found a number of times in Scripture. In the KJV it is usually translated by the word curse or accursed. In Strong’s we find this definition “a thing devoted to God without hope of being redeemed, and if an animal, to be slain; therefore a person or thing doomed to destruction. a) a curse b) a man accursed, devoted to the direst of woes.”

Webster says this about anathema:
1 a : one that is cursed by ecclesiastical authority b : someone or something intensely disliked or loathed -- usually used as a predicate nominative.
2 a : a ban or curse solemnly pronounced by ecclesiastical authority and accompanied by excommunication b : the denunciation of something as accursed c : a vigorous denunciation.
So at the Council of Trent the Roman Catholic Church said all who disagree with her on this matter can (and will) go to hell.

Well that was almost five hundred years ago. But we have to remember this is an infallible statement on doctrine from the church’s Magisterium. So it must remain valid today.

But let's say there is a 300 year time limit on something like this (there is no time limit on infallible pronouncements but lets pretend there is.) We are all still going to hell because the Roman Catholic Church repeated the Anathema at the Vatican I. In Chapter 2 from this council we read:
Further, this supernatural revelation, according to the universal belief of the Church, declared by the sacred Synod of Trent, is contained in the written books and unwritten traditions which have come down to us, having been received by the Apostles from the mouth of Christ himself; or from the Apostles themselves, by the dictation of the Holy Spirit, have been transmitted, as it were, from hand to hand. And these books of the Old and New Testament are to be received as sacred and canonical, in their integrity, with all their parts, as they are enumerated in the decree of the said Council, and are contained in the ancient Latin edition of the Vulgate. These the Church holds to be sacred and canonical, not because, having been carefully composed by mere human industry, they were afterwards approved by her authority, nor merely because they contain revelation, with no admixture of error; but because, having been written by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, they have God for their author, and have been delivered as such to the Church herself. And as the things which the holy Synod of Trent decreed for the good of souls concerning the interpretation of Divine Scripture…we, renewing the said decree, declare this to be their sense, that, in matters of faith and morals, appertaining to the building up of Christian doctrine, that is to be held as the true sense of Holy Scripture which our holy Mother Church hath held and holds, to whom it belongs to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the Holy Scripture; and therefore that it is permitted to no one to interpret the Sacred Scripture contrary to this sense, nor, likewise, contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers.

So in 1870 Vatican I reaffirmed the anathemas of Trent. Vatican II plays all this down and I think contradicts Vatican I and Trent (one this and other subjects), but how can Vatican II overturn infallible pronouncements made earlier. It can, and did, make more infallible pronouncements that contradicted the earlier infallible pronouncements.

Hummm, I still think Rome over reacted at Trent, but how can she back off an infallible statement like the one she made at Trent. She has (IMHO) painted herself in a box.

Coram Deo,
Ps. I am currently reading a good deal in the Church Fathers. The language at Vatican I of "unanimous consent of the Fathers" is a bit much. The Fathers agree on some things and disagree on many things. There is no "unanimous consent of the Fathers" on this subject.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

I have been reading stuff on the “canon” of Scripture and I’ve found this to be a fascinating subject. I’ve been surprised about a number of things that I have learned will looking into this subject.

The book that we call the Old Testament is the Hebrew Scriptures. Jesus, and the Apostles who followed him, believed in their day that there was a definitive, authoritative body of writings that existed then and they refer to them often. They call these writings by titles like the Law and the prophets, the Law of Moses, the law the prophets and the psalms, and sometimes they refer to them as “the Law” and at other times they referred to them as “the Scriptures.” Jesus also countered His opponents by referring to those same Scriptures by saying “It is written.”

Jesus, His disciples and the other Jews all understood the writings mentioned above to be the authoritative Word of God. These very same Jewish Scriptures became the “Scriptures” and the Bible of the early church. (It took a while before the New Testament was written and compiled so this was the only Bible possessed by the church for a time.)

The Old Testament was written mostly in Hebrew and some in Aramaic. By the time of Christ the common language of the Palestinian Jew’s was Aramaic and not Hebrew. It is also important to remember that in that day there were countless Jews scattered throughout the Middle East. They had been deported from Israel and Judah hundreds of years before by the Assyrians and Babylonians. Many of them settled in far off lands and never returned to the land of Israel. They were what became know as the Diaspora.

By New Testament times many of the Diaspora Jews were Greek speaking. In Alexandria, Egypt there was a large Greek speaking Jewish population and sometime during the middle of the third century BC they began translating the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek. This translation became know as the Septuagint (or LXX), so by Jesus’ day the Scriptures existed in both Hebrew and Greek.

The early Jewish disciple of Jesus brought the Gospel of Christ to a mostly Greek speaking Gentile world. Greek was the common Language of that day, and so it is natural that the Gentile Christians turned to the Scriptures they could read (and it was not Hebrew). The Bible of the early Church was the Septuagint (i.e. Greek) translation of the Hebrew Scriptures.

By the time of the early Church there were other writings included in Septuagint that were not found in the Hebrew Scriptures. The Protestants call these additional writings the Apocrypha and the Roman Catholics call refer to most of them as the Deuterocanonical (second canon) books. There have been differences of opinion about the canonicity of these writings since the earliest days of the Church, and those differences continue even today.

Josephus (37-100 AD) in defending the Jewish faith in the late first century wrote this about the Hebrew Scriptures:
For we have not an innumerable multitude of books among us, disagreeing from and contradicting one another, [as the Greeks have,] but only twenty-two books, which contain the records of all the past times; which are justly believed to be divine; and of them five belong to Moses, which contain his laws and the traditions of the origin of mankind till his death. This interval of time was little short of three thousand years; but as to the time from the death of Moses till the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, who reigned after Xerxes, the prophets, who were after Moses, wrote down what was done in their times in thirteen books. The remaining four books contain hymns to God, and precepts for the conduct of human life. It is true, our history hath been written since Artaxerxes very particularly, but hath not been esteemed of the like authority with the former by our forefathers, because there hath not been an exact succession of prophets since that time; and how firmly we have given credit to these books of our own nation is evident by what we do; for during so many ages as have already passed, no one has been so bold as either to add any thing to them, to take any thing from them, or to make any change in them; but it is become natural to all Jews immediately, and from their very birth, to esteem these books to contain Divine doctrines, and to persist in them, and, if occasion be willingly to die for them.

In book I of the Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers (series 2) we read the following note on Josephus’s list:
…Josephus is the earliest writer to give us a summary of the books of the Old Testament; and he evidently gives not merely his own private opinion but the commonly accepted canon of his day. He does not name the separate books, but he tells us that they were twenty-two in number (the number of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet), and gives us the three divisions, so that we are able to ascertain his canon in detail. It was doubtless as follows:-
1-5. Books of Moses.
6. Joshua.
7. Judges and Ruth.
8. Samuel.
9. Kings.
10. Chronicles.
11. Ezra and Nehemiah.
12. Esther.
13. Isaiah.
14. Jeremiah and Lamentations.
15. Ezekiel.
16. Daniel.
17. Twelve Minor Prophets.
18. Job.
19. Psalms.
20. Proverbs.
21. Ecclesiastes.
22. Song of Songs.

The twenty-two books mentioned by Josephus correspond to the thirty-nine books of our Old Testament. The Jewish Scriptures are arranged differently than our Old Testament. Books, such as I and II Kings, are counted as one book, though we count them as two, and this is true in a number of cases. We number the Minor Prophets separately, but they are all counted as one book in the Jewish version. (Note: See F.F. Bruce’s The Canon of Scripture for a detailed explanation of how this is.)

The Deutrocanonical/Apocrypha books were disputed in the early Church. Those Christians more closely associated with Palestine tended to have access to the Hebrew Scriptures and so they tended to reject the extra books found in the Septuagint, while the Christians farther away, who were unfamiliar with Palestinian Judaism, were more likely to accept the books as part of the canon.

The earliest known Christian list of Old Testament books is found in Eusebius’ Church history. He quotes a letter written by Melito, bishop of Sardis, in 170 AD. Melito wrote, “Melito to his brother Onesimus, greeting: Since thou hast often, in thy zeal for the word, expressed a wish to have extracts made from the Law and the Prophets concerning the Saviour and concerning our entire faith, and hast also desired to have an accurate statement of the ancient book, as regards their number and their order…

The Catholic Encyclopaedia states that St. Melito’s list “consists exclusively of the protocanonicals minus Esther.” The protocanonicals (i.e. first canon) are the books of the Old Testament as found in the Protestant Bible. We read this about Melito’s list in book I of the Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers (series 2) “His list really differs from Josephus' only in omitting the Book of Esther. This omission may be accidental, though it is omitted by Athanasius and Gregory Nazianzen. He makes no mention of Nehemiah, but that is doubtless included with Ezra, as in the case of Josephus' canon. His canon purports to be the Palestinian one, and hence we should expect it to be the same as that of Josephus, which makes it more probable that the omission of Esther was only accidental.

Rufinus (345-410) a contemporary of St. Jerome gives us a list of Old Testament books in his commentary on the Creed. He writes “…it seems proper in this place to enumerate, as we have learnt from the tradition of the Fathers, the books of the New and of the Old Testament, which, according to the tradition of our forefathers, are believed to have been inspired by the Holy Ghost, and have been handed down to the Churches of Christ.”

Rufinus then gives us a list of The Old Testament books. Here is his list “Of the Old Testament, therefore, first of all there have been handed down five books of Moses, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; Then Jesus Nave, (Joshua the son of Nun), The Book of Judges together with Ruth; then four books of Kings (Reigns), which the Hebrews reckon two; the Book of Omissions, which is entitled the Book of Days (Chronicles), and two books of Ezra (Ezra and Nehemiah), which the Hebrews reckon one, and Esther; of the Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel; moreover of the twelve (minor) Prophets, one hook; Job also and the Psalms of David, each one book. Solomon gave three books to the Churches, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Canticles. These comprise the books of the Old Testament.

Rufinus’ list of the Old Testament is that which is found in the Protestant Bible, but he is not finished. He nexts list the books of the new Testament and then says “But it should be known that there are also other books which our fathers call not 'Canonical' but 'Ecclesiastical:' that is to say, Wisdom, called the Wisdom of Solomon, and another Wisdom, called the Wisdom of the Son of Syrach, which last-mentioned the Latins called by the general title Ecclesiasticus, designating not the author of the book, but the character of the writing. To the same class belong the Book of Tobit, and the Book of Judith, and the Books of the Maccabees. In the New Testament the little book which is called the Book of the Pastor of Hermas, [and that] which is called The Two Ways,150 or the Judgment of Peter; all of which they would have read in the Churches, but not appealed to for the confirmation of doctrine.

Rufinus admits that the church has inherited other books that he says are not part of the canon, and therefore not to be used for determining matters of doctrine. These books, our Apocrypha/deuterocanonical books, he says are useful for edifying believers, but they were not to be used to determine doctrinal disputes.

St. Jerome was a great linguist of his day. He knew Latin, Greek and Hebrew. He is also the man who gave us the Vulgate (Latin) translation of the Bible, which was the Bible of the Western Church for over a thousand years. Jerome agreed with Rufinus.

In his Preface to the books of Samuel and Kings, Jerome lists the books of the Old Testament, after which he says “This preface to the Scriptures may serve as a 'helmeted' introduction to all the books which we turn from Hebrew into Latin, so that we may be assured that what is not found in our list must be placed amongst the Apocryphal writings. Wisdom, therefore, which finally bears the name of Solomon, and the book of Jesus, the Son of Sirach, and Judith, and Tobias, and the Shepherd are not in the canon. The first book of Maccabees I have found to be Hebrew, the second is Greek, as can be proved from the very style. Seeing that all this is so…”

St Augustine, Bishop of Hippo was the younger contemporary of Rufinus and Jerome. He is also a hero of the Lutheran and Reformed Protestant Churches, but on the question at in this essay, he took the opposite position of Rufinus and Jerome. Augustine led two local church councils in North Africa where the Apocryphal books were affirmed as canon.

There were great Christian men on both sides of this issue as the Roman World collapsed in the West. As the ancient church moved into the medieval world, Jerome’s position, not Augustine’s, was the view held by most of the church.

It is interesting that even after the Reformation began a number of important, scholarly Roman Catholics maintained the position of men like Melito, Rufinus and Jerome. One such man is Cardinal Ximenes (1436–1517), bishop of Toledo, Spain. He agreed with Jerome on the Apocrypha.

The same is true of Cardinal Cajetan. Cajetan is famous for his opposition to Martin Luther at Augsburg, but on this issue Luther and Cajetan both followed Jerome’s lead. The Cardinal wrote the following words to his commentary on the Old Testament, which was published in 1532. He said “Here we close our commentaries on the historical books of the Old Testament. For the rest (that is, Judith, Tobit, and the books of Maccabees) are counted by St. Jerome out of the canonical books, and are placed amongst the Apocrypha, along with Wisdom and Ecciesiasticus, as is plain from the Protogus Galeatus. Nor be thou disturbed, like a raw scholar, if thou shouldest find anywhere, either in the sacred councils or the sacred doctors, these books reckoned as canonical. For the words as well of councils as of doctors are to be reduced to the correction of Jerome. Now, according to his judgment, in the epistle to the bishops Chromatius and Heliodorus, these books (and any other like books in the canon of the Bible) are not canonical, that is, not in the nature of a rule for confirming matters of faith. Yet, they may be called canonical, that is, in the nature of a rule for the edification of the faithful, as being received and authorised in the canon of the Bible for that purpose. By the help of this distinction thou mayest see thy way clearly through that which Augustine says, and what is written in the provincial council of Carthage.

It is clear the Cardinal agrees with Jerome and he is also trying to erase the differences that exist on this issue between Jerome and Augustine. But the point I want to make is that this leader of the Roman Catholic response to the Lutheran movement did not believe that the writings which we, along with Jerome, refer to as apocrypha were not to be used to decide matters of doctrine.

It is at the Council of Trent that the Roman Catholic Church breaks with her 1500 year position and officially adopts these extra books, and declares them to be canon or deutro-canonical (a second canon). This was, I believe, an over reaction by Rome to the Reformation.

It will surprise many Protestants to learn that the early Protestant translations of the Bible included the Apocrypha. They were in the Lutheran Bible, as well as the Reformed/Puritan Geneva Bible (English) and even the early King James Bibles. The Apocrypha has been removed from Protestant Bibles because of the Protestant over reaction to the Catholic position at the Council of Trent.

I believe that both groups (protestants and Catholics) have fallen into ditches on opposite sides of the road because to of their over reactions to one another on this issue.

Coram Deo,

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

On the Apostles’ Creed
My latest study has been on the ancient creeds of the Christian Church. I’ve been reading on the creeds for Sunday school. Mike S. is now in charge of adult Sunday school at Bethel and he just finished teaching a wonderful series on the Proverbs. Sometime back Mike told me to brush up on the Creeds so I could conduct a couple of classes on the ancient/ecumenical creeds of the early church.

Last Sunday I spoke on the Apostles’ Creed. Of all the ancient creeds I love the Apostles’ Creed the best. It is a finely polished diamond of Christian doctrinal thought. Philip Schaff, in his monumental three volume work Creeds of Christendom, said this about the Apostles’ Creed “As the Lord's Prayer is the Prayer of prayers, the Decalogue the Law of laws, so the Apostles' Creed is the Creed of creeds” and he is exactly right.

I believe that it is a wonderful statement of the most fundamental teachings of the Christian faith and to deny any aspect of the creed (excepting the bit about hell) is to deny and essential part of the Christian faith. If someone denies the Trinitarian formula of this creed, than that person is (IMHO) outside of the historic faith and beyond the bounds of Christendom.

It has become a pattern in my house to say the Creed, or the Lord’s Prayer after we have said our evening prayers and then reflect on what the creed/prayer teaches. The Creed is a poetic gem and theological dynamite. I wish every Christian could put it to memory and reflect on it, especially when reciting it.

Coram Deo,

Monday, May 16, 2005

St. Cyprian to the 4th Lateran Council

Last week I read St. Cyprian’s treatise On the Lapsed. It was an interesting read. Cyprian, who was martyred in 258 AD, was Bishop of Carthage during the heavy persecution of the Church under Roman Emperor Decius, wrote this treatise after the persecution had ended. During the persecution many Christians had apostatised and there was a controversy about whether those who compromised the faith should be allowed back into the Church and admitted to the Lord’s Supper.

Cyprian wrote a good deal on this subject in his correspondence with other Bishops, so I already had a good idea of where he stood on that subject. What I found most interesting in the treatise, which is written to the church at large, was what Cyprian said about children and Communion.

It is clear in Cyprian’s paper that very young children participated in the Eucharist. They were allowed to the Lord’s Table and received both the bread and wine. Cyprian thought nothing of the fact that toddlers took part in Communion, and he surely expected no one else to see his statement on the matter as controversial.

Paedocommunion was clearly the common practise of the church during Cyprian’s life time. It was the Fourth Lateran Council (1215 AD) that officially denied young children access to the Lord’s Supper. It was the Fourth Lateran Council that insisted on a confession of faith, instead of baptism, before one could receive the Eucharist. It seems clear that from the time of Cyprian (and before) until this medieval church council, children in the Western Church, like those in the Eastern Church still do today, received both the bread and wine.

This makes me say hummm. You can read an interesting historical article on this matter here.

Coram Deo,

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Hunting, Fishing and Worshipping God

Yesterday I was talking to a friend who has recently started to read the Bible. He’s in Exodus and has reached the point where Moses has gone up on the mountain of the Lord. The Israelites took that time to build an idol to worship god.

Aaron, Moses brother, created a golden calf for them to worship. I find it interesting that the golden calf was not created to represent a “false god.” The people were not inventing a new god or new religion. The True God, Yahweh, was the God who had brought them out of Egypt, and had freed them from slavery and this is the God they chose to represent by the golden calf.

When Aaron had created the idol for them to worship he told them “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!” The calf did not represent a new god or a false god, but the True God and because of this the Israelites were severely punished. Thousands of them died there at the foot of the Mountain of the Lord, because they attempted to worship the true God in a blasphemous manner.

I live in a part of the country where hunting and fishing are very popular. I can’t count the times I’ve heard hunters and fishermen say that they are better able to worship God sitting in a deer stand or while fishing at one of our numerous lakes, bayous or rivers.

Louisiana is blessed with an abundance of fish and wildlife. I was proud to learn of few years ago that some animal rights group had declared that we in Louisiana were number one in the nation at what they called (referring to hunting) the “cavalcade of cruelty.”

While I am not very good at either one, I do enjoy both hunting and fishing. When engaged in these activities I’m often awed by God’s creation. Creation is filled with beauty and majesty, and I have often found myself, when sitting on a deer stand or in a boat, praising God for all that he has made and the beauty of what He has made.

Still, as beautiful as these things are, God has prescribed that we are to worship Him in a certain way on a certain day. Worship of the True God on the Lord’s Day, according to His Word, is to be with the Assembly of the Lord (i.e. His Church). He has not given us authority to change the place of worship to a deer stand in the woods or a bass boat on a bayou. The Lord has not said we may trade assembled worship in with his church for personal worship while on a deer stand alone, or while reeling in a bass or redfish with a buddy or two.

It does not honour God to ignore what he says about when and how we are to worship Him. It is false worship when we ignore what God says and then try to worship him “our way.” Even though today we are not making gold statues, God is no more impressed by modern means of idolatry than he was by the ancient forms of idolatry.

We are to worship Yahweh (the God of the Bible) as he says, and not as we choose. We are to live our life coram Deo (before the face of God) and we should praise and worship god while both hunting and fishing, because these are good things that he has blessed us with. But the Lord has told us not to forsake the assembling of His people. We are to worship God as the Covenant people of God assembled before His thrown.

On Sunday mornings we are not to be a bunch of lone Jeremiah Johnson’s (i.e. rugged individuals). Instead we are to be the people of God who gather/assemble to worship Him in songs, prayers, preaching (homilies) and receiving the sacraments as a community of believers.

Dominus Vobiscum,

Sunday, April 03, 2005


I was born and baptized into the Roman Catholic Church, but just before I was to make my first Communion, my family left the RCC. From that time on I was raised Baptist. As an adult I have migrated from Baptist to the Reformed (i.e. Reformation) faith. Some of my old Baptist friends see my understanding on subjects like infant baptism and covenant to be “Catholic” like.

They are mistaken, but over the years I have looked into the RCC a good deal. I have read and listened to their apologists on a number of occasions. I also subscribe to the Coming Home Network’s (CHN) newsletter. CHN is an RCC ministry that is headed by a former Protestant Pastor who converted to Rome. CHN labours to convert Protestant (especially ministers) and former Catholics to bring them back to the RCC. There was a time when I thought about doing just that, returning to Rome, but I have far too many problems with the RCC on some important issues. These keep me from making such a move.

Here is one of the items that keep me from returning to the RCC. I know many Roman Catholics today don’t hold to this (though some do), but it is still “official” doctrine. If Pope Boniface spoke infallibly when he wrote this bull (as the Church teaches), then it must still be so.

Below is a quote from Pope Boniface VIII speaking ex cathedra (i.e. infallibly):

UNAM SANCTAM (Promulgated November 18, 1302)

Urged by faith, we are obliged to believe and to maintain that the Church is one, holy, catholic, and also apostolic. We believe in her firmly and we confess with simplicity that outside of her there is neither salvation nor the remission of sins, as the Spouse in the Canticles…

…Therefore, of the one and only Church there is one body and one head, not two heads like a monster; that is, Christ and the Vicar of Christ, Peter and the successor of Peter, since the Lord speaking to Peter Himself said: 'Feed my sheep', meaning, my sheep in general, not these, nor those in particular, whence we understand that He entrusted all to him [Peter]. Therefore, if the Greeks or others should say that they are not confided to Peter and to his successors, they must confess not being the sheep of Christ, since Our Lord says in John 'there is one sheepfold and one shepherd.' (NOTE: Boniface declares the Greek and other Orthodox/Eastern Churches to be outside of Salvation, because they are not under the Papacy.)

…Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff. (Note: Boniface now covers everyone else who is not under Rome.)

In the Catholic Encyclopedia we read the following on this matter:

The Bull is universal in character. As its content shows, a careful distinction is made between the fundamental principles concerning the Roman primacy and the declarations as to the application of these to the secular power and its representatives. In the registers, on the margin of the text of the record, the last sentence is noted as its real definition: "Declaratio quod subesse Romano Pontifici est omni humanae creaturae de necessitate salutis" (It is here stated that for salvation it is necessary that every human creature be subject to the authority of the Roman pontiff). This definition, the meaning and importance of which are clearly evident from the connection with the first part on the necessity of the one Church for salvation, and on the pope as the one supreme head of the Church, expresses the necessity for everyone who wishes to attain salvation of belonging to the Church, and therefore of being subject to the authority of the pope in all religious matters. This has been the constant teaching of the Church, and it was declared in the same sense by the Fifth Ecumenical Council of the Lateran, in 1516: "De necessitate esse salutis omnes Christi fideles Romano Pontifici subesse" (That it is of the necessity of salvation for all Christ's faithful to be subject to the Roman pontiff).

What Boniface stated and the Catholic Encylopedia affirms is restated basically at the First Vatican Council (1870) Salvation is in the Roman Church alone and one MUST be in submission to the Roman Pontiff in order to have salvation.

Vatican II contradicts Boniface (and Vatican I) when it says: "Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience -- those too may achieve eternal salvation."

I don’t know how the statements of Boniface (and Vatican I) and the statement above from the Second Vatican Council can both be true, since they are clear contradictions of one another. Yet, according to Rome (and Vatican I which declared the Pope infallible when speaking ex cathedra) we have infallible declarations that obviously contradict one another.

The Roman Catholic Church at Vatican I declares that the Popes ex cathedra pronouncements are with out error. Those pronouncements must be accepted as true, but Vatican II directly contradicts Boniface (and Vatican I), yet both must be infallibly true! If this is so, and Boniface and Vatican II are both true, then we must purge, from the laws of logic, the Law of non-contradiction. Because if Boniface and Vatican II are true than the law of non-contradiction is false.

Dominus Vobiscum,