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,