Tuesday, May 29, 2007

For Christ's Sake!

What is Faith?
Its important.
Hebrews 11:6 "And without faith it is impossible to please him. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him."
That seeking of faith leads to what Romans 10 teaches ("the word of faith we preach") the Lordship of Jesus Christ and His resurrection. It is truth concluded by an unbeliever through the "preachers" of the good news for "Faith comes from what is heard and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ."
The conclusion the person of faith reaches is clear and definite.
Hebrews 11:1 "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."
We know from James that faith must have its effect
"Faith without works is dead." and "Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith."

So faith, made up of those parts, is through which grace is imparted and we are saved.
You remember this, don't you? It is called Christianity.

A number of you are nodding in approval.
Some might not.
Some who claim Christ, baptize infants.
Infants haven't got a clue, let alone faith.
But some claim that "faith" is somehow present in the baby's life?
They must have stopped recognizing the faith described above. Such a faith described is impossible to the 10 lb. sack of enzymes that is a newborn baby. They are barely cognizant of the quantities of poop they have evacuated into a diaper. "Assurance?" "Conviction?" "Seeking?" It is to laugh.

Those who choose to religiously sprinkle or dip an infant are doing, it seems, one of (or a combination of) three things.
1) A rite representing things not yet present
2) A rite accomplishing things by the magical value of the rite and its wielders
3) Or a rite accomplishing things according to the baby's condition.
Number 1 is just damp dedication, a parental prayer for the child's future salvation.
Number 2 is apostasy, being a "gospel" not that preached by the apostles. It is not just salvation by works but it is necessarily someone else's works. (This is not the argument over baptism conferring any grace to the believer. That is a separate discussion. With infants it is whether grace is imparted without belief or repentance. )
Number 3 is trying to be Christian regarding faith with any slack created by such an unconvincing claim picked up by the magic of the rite and the wielders.

So how have these last managed, given that faith is necessary to salvation, to claim "faith" in the baby?
First, they soften the use of the word "faith". They let it mean, not the individual decision to pursue and find Christ as a remedy for sin, but they mean the sum of Christendom's Faith, the creedal claims, not "MY faith" but "THE faith". They do so dogmatically for that will help distract from Scriptural objections and they become the rhetorical attendants of the conservative and orthodox. It also gives standing to those who practice the rite as representatives of THE faith.
Second, they massage the imprecision of the remaining term until, like a marshmallow, it goes from softened to taffy like stickiness that will cover any pious burp your child can be patted into releasing. Whatever assent deemed possibly personal in the baby must be vague, and that is tacitly admitting that the demanding concepts like sin and the resurrection and God are not to be expected from the young'un.
Third, knowing that they have redefined "faith" so broadly and loosely that a man glancing sideways at any steepled edifice will find himself transported by grace into the Kingdom, they try to shore it up, narrow it by developing a theology that offers to transport the sum of faith of the closely related. It is an easy belief to sell to concerned parents. In other realms parents help their child's lack and credit the child. We have all completed a late night project the overly demanding second grade teacher assigned, for we knew that our little sack of witlessness would never completely build a scale model of the Arc de Triomphe to the satisfaction of the instructor.
Our little beloved must get a passing grade! If the church tells me that I can improve my child's chances by "standing on my head and playing cymbals with my feet" then I, if I don't know what Christianity is about, will do it.

Why this self deception?
1) You love your children and you're ready to believe anything.
"Believe anything" It sounds like a parent whose child was kidnapped. Usually we resort to such desperate measures and excessive redefinitions when we feel massively threatened. Why do you think that your children need it?
Why not just preach the Gospel to them when they can understand sin, righteousness and judgment and when they can have faith as is described in the Bible?
2) Parents are unsaved themselves and/or are acting unsaved and they know if they wait until their child needs God's grace, that the Gospel from their lips ("Johnny, if you repent and believe in Jesus the Christ for the remission of sins and Life Eternal, you will receive the peace so evident in your parent's lives") is horrifically uncompelling.
3) Because of the doctrine of Original Sin. If they died as infants they would go to Limbo or some such nonsense.

This is your lucky day! These are your new marching orders.
Keep loving your child.
Quit believing every promise the "authorities" offer in defense of your children. It sounds so Hillary to say "Its for the children!" or "Vote Yes for Kids!"
Become a Christian yourself. You can experience God's grace in such a way that the Gospel would be compelling to your child.
And lastly (with fanfare and a drum roll), there is no Original Sin. They are under no threat until they sin before God and die the spiritual death.
Romans 7:9
"I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died"
No need in the infant, therefore, no need to bastardize the language of Faith.

You can thank me later.

21 comments:

Matthew N. Petersen said...

"A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject." Talk about something else, please.

Mark said...

Extremism in the defense of faith is no vice.

The Anti Darwin I said...

My comment is about faith but not infants. Three days ago, I spoke to a neighbor of mine who describes herself as an atheist. She told me that proving God's existence is my burden. I did declare that when she stands before God, He will not excuse her because I and others failed to prove His existence. I went on to say that the existence of God is axiomatic in that each person must believe that God exists and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. She said that she cannot even take the first step since she doesn't believe that God exists. Other than imploring God Himself, what would you do?

The Oracle said...

When they do not honor God or give Him thanks, He gives them up to the futility of their own minds. In such a state, reasoned arguments are ill equipped. Minds set on the rule of their own selves will find the calamity of such a powerless ruler. The prayer is that their sense of need grows. The effects of their choices, the guilt for their choices eventually suggest that only a god could deliver them. In word and deed before them, the Christian should represent what it is to be at peace with God. Also the faithful upholding of the ethics God requires "increases the trespass". They like to function in a world that mainstreams their immoral choices and your friendship should tilt the standards more toward what their conscience will speak. Remember as a man they have the knowledge of good and evil. Our lives and our words should help them from getting too hard.

Jeff Moss said...

Evan,

Defending the doctrine of infant baptism from the Scriptures is a little like defending the doctrine of the Trinity, or of the full Deity of Christ. I don't mean that infant baptism is intuitively self-evident--it isn't--but rather that its roots go everywhere in the Bible for those who see it, and are nowhere to be found for those who don't. How do you prove the existence of air...to a convinced adherent of the opposite position?

With that said, here is a road a little less traveled in regard to this topic. The angel's word about John the Baptist was, "He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb" (Luke 1:15). And in fact he was; he leaped for joy when he sensed Jesus, who was also at that time an unborn infant (Luke 1:41-44). What is this but faith, appropriate to John's extremely young age and station in life? And of course, the apostle Peter's question on a later occasion was, "Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" (Acts 10:47) Receiving the Spirit apparently qualifies a person, beyond all doubt, for water baptism. Thus John was a proper candidate for baptism even before he was born--which at least proves that it's not impossible for an infant to be a legitimate recipient of water baptism.

So should nurses go ahead and throw water on every baby that appears, or is there some special category of infants for whom baptism is appropriate? The Apostle Paul points us toward an answer: "For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy" (1 Cor. 7:14). A child of at least one believing parent is "holy," i.e. set apart for God, and so it's appropriate for him to receive baptism as the formal acknowledgment of belonging to God. This deduction matches Peter's explicit teaching in Acts 2:38-39, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call." Just as with Cornelius in Acts 10, water baptism and the gift of the Spirit go naturally together by God's design. And the promise is for adult hearers of the Word together with their children, who (if their parents remain faithful) will grow up believing in Christ at every age with the faith appropriate to that age.

Jeff Moss said...

The Bible can be quite inhospitable territory for the kind of rationalism that leads one to reject infant faith.

Remember, this is the same Book that features:
- a talking donkey (Numbers 22:22-35);
- a sea being split in two on command (Exodus 14);
- a lion mauling, and then standing guard over, a disobedient prophet (1 Kings 13); and
- God overcoming His enemies through praises from the mouths of nursing babies (Psalm 8:2; Matthew 21:15-16).

These things overwhelm our puny minds, but they are God's way, and that must be enough for us.

NeonKnight said...

What say ye, Evan?

The Oracle said...

You admit the ephemeral quality of your Biblical defense of an almost mandatory practice in your circles. That is a beginning. Perhaps something so “airy” should take a distant place in the rites. What you are up against is not an equivalently airy attack but one that has defined both “faith” and “The Faith” Biblically . It is an argument of positive claim, not silent “households” in Acts.
Your reference to John the Baptist is well taken, "He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb" (Luke 1:15). I ask if you think over whether the work of the Holy Spirit in everyone from King Saul to The Baptist is the same working that God sent the Holy Spirit to produce post-Pentecost. Somehow he doesn’t have the same standing, as Our Lord says “The least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” In other ways he is more notable than we and not a good source for life sampling. Not many of us, (I hope) claim to be the reincarnation of a famous prophet and yet Our Lord says that John was Elijah. That throws a monkey wrench in the Spirit at birth model defended by John’s life. How does one account for such a dissimilar circumstance and argue for our similarity? John is also, simply put, a purposed person of God and such people do not necessarily teach us to think of ourselves according to the narrative that they enjoyed. It is called overspecification. The most egregious example is “If Peter is the Rock, all who are in apostolic succession from him are the Rock.”

Find the holes in your own claims. It is called self-falsification and is valuable in these times.
"For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy" (1 Cor. 7:14). The advice given and the reason for this passage is to not leave your unbelieving spouse. Would you deny baptism to a child who parent was separated from the other? Baptism is unaffected by divorce or nondivorce and, of course, it does not clarify for you the word “holy” nor tell you what spin to put on it. If something as critical as baptism into the church was at stake, why does the Apostle tell the believer not to fight the unbeliever’s desire if he wants divorce. Their “holy” status is a benefit but not a necessary.
Your “deductions” suggest equally that an unbelieving spouse should receive Christian baptism. I don’t mean to encourage you to greater folly, but there it is.

Peter's explicit teaching in Acts 2:38-39, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call."
Again, what you apply to the child you can and ought to comfortably apply to “you” and “all who are far off.” Two verses later it lets you know that “those who received his word were baptized,” and you must add “except the kids who didn’t have to receive anything but I am going to have to require the far off to receive.” You are so desperate to include the children that you don’t remember that the promise included repentance. Examine your desperation and when its errors are found so also will your eyesight return.

In your claims of this passage there is every reason to baptize every infant. The promise includes everyone else and you must as well. If you are looking for a way to contrain the unlimited object of the promise note that the text constrains the recipients to “as many as the Lord our God will call.” You develop an artificial group who you think it is likely that God will call and you baptize them. It is the only constraint to the promise, which is to everybody. Your artifice is admittedly not the Lord’s constraint because you admit too many failures in the baptized world and we might even agree that the failures are a sizeable majority. You, by your visible church distinction baptize people to whom the promise is not. I would think you better be clearer on what the evidence of the call is before your start dampening everyone’s progeny.

Rationalism expects a reason, while infant faith (as a claim) is left with wishful thinking based on Dark Age fears.
All your examples somehow are not begrudged by Reason. They happened by the hand of God and that is reasonable. You are asking me to believe in something that never happened, is not discussed, and ask me to walk with you to that Magical Land Between the Lines. Talking asses, because God did it, is, for the rationalist, fine. Faithful babies and magically splashing people through church history because you say so, is not fine. I need more than silence and a warm feeling.

Tiffany said...

Ok, I'm with you and I say well said. All until the last paragrpah regarding infants and not having sin, etc. That is were I get confused. At one point does one go from not knowing sin to sinning before God? Is disobeying ones parents not sin? And if it isn't, fine, but if it is it would seem that a child is capable of doing that long before hearing and receiving the Word of God. Would appreciate your thoughts.

Jeff Moss said...

Evan,

Your modus operandi seems to be to restrict the boundaries of the Kingdom as tightly as possible, cutting out everyone you reasonably can. But Jeremiah looks forward to the time when the New Covenant will grow to include everyone: "No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more" (Jer. 31:34). The Hebrew expression for "from the least to the greatest" could just as well be translated "from the smallest to the largest" or "from the youngest to the oldest."

Without faith it is impossible to please God, as you rightly point out. How is the faith of a child demonstrated in a Christian home? "Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord" (Colossians 3:20).

When little children were brought to Jesus for His blessing, the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But Jesus said, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God" (Luke 18:15-17). Only those who are converted to be like little children can enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 18:3). But you say that children must become like adults in order to enter the Kingdom.

P.S. If according to you, only a mature intellectual assent qualifies as "faith," how can the mentally retarded be saved?

Jeff Moss said...

One more thing. You describe the argument for infant baptism as an argument from silence, despite the statements about heads of households who believed and were baptized along with their entire households: Lydia (Acts 16:14-15) and the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:27-34), as well as (apparently) Cornelius (Acts 10:44-48; 11:13-17) and Crispus (Acts 18:8).

But what you defend is the practice of baptizing the children of Christian homes only after they can articulate their faith at a certain rational level -- as if they were adult converts from paganism. Let me ask you this: Where in the New Testament do you see the children of believing parents being baptized only after they have attained to a reasoned understanding of faith? No, but the children grow up in the faith -- as Timothy did from his infancy, apo brephous (2 Tim. 3:14-15; cf. 1:3-5).

It is your practice that depends on an argument from silence, not ours.

The Oracle said...

Tiff,
Good question.
We are all born spiritually alive (Romans 5:12 and 7:9) and we die when we sin. When a young child disobeys its parents (which is wrong according to Scripture) does it die? The nature of sin must be considered. The child who disobeys the parent knows that they disobey the parent’s law but doesn’t know that they disobeyed God’s law. As it says in Romans 4:15 “where there is no law there is no transgression.” and in Romans 5:13 “sin is not counted where there is no law.” Until the child comes to a knowledge (through conscience or teaching) that God is the one disobeyed, they have not sinned against God and fallen into death. This would explain why parental discipline restores the child to good spirits and forgiveness. It has rectified the household sin and that which, were it to occur in me, would be sin only because I know God’s law.

Jeff,
You talk of me trying to “ restrict the boundaries of the Kingdom as tightly as possible”. Does Christ fall under that objection when he mentions that “narrow is the way to life and those that find it are few.”? Restricting is not a fault in itself. We, you and I, both do it. I look to faith and you look to faith and family. But your citing of the Jeremiah passage reveals your own restriction of the New Covenant. The New Covenant has been in place for 2000 years and you see it restricted by what age you were born in. It doesn’t apply to your “every” man until the post millennial glory is reached. Arguments based on futurisms for their proof, are as compelling as the ones you use from silence. You can’t show it unless we both live another ten thousand years to check your claims. Why doesn’t the New Covenant apply to the 94% of the world today who are going to the bad place? Perhaps you can take up baptism for the dead. Since you get them unwilling at the beginning, you could get them unwilling at the end. The power of claiming that the phrase “least to greatest” could be translated.. maybe... to suggest... , well, you get the picture. It has all the authority of an optional reading.

"Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord" (Colossians 3:20).
Do you seriously think that St. Paul is addressing infants or children? We both believe that children, at a very early age can come to know of God, their sin against Him and the need for repentance. They can also listen to such an instruction.
We would agree with Christ’s requirement that humility like a child’s is necessary. If you read more of the Matthew 18 passage you will find a definitional aspect of being like that little child.
4 Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 "Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

That which both children and adults must do is to humble themselves and believe in Christ. This is not rocket science. You are baptizing those that have not believed and you hang it all on the power of suggestion rather than any text that tells you to do so.

And if the mentally retarded are mature enough to sin “against God” (see my answer to Tiffany) they are mature enough to repent and believe.

The households in Acts only had teenage children. For crying out loud. You have to imagine that babies were present and then point to those imaginary babies as proof! There is a greater likelihood of slaves in the house. Are they all to be baptized without belief? The message given to the jailer in Philippi was (Acts 18:31-32) “And they said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household." And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all that were in his house.” Everyone was given this opportunity in his house because “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the preaching of Christ.”
Cornelius was baptized with all his household AFTER ALL HIS HOUSEHOLD HAD EVIDENTLY BEEN BAPTIZED IN THE HOLY SPIRIT (all caps to make sure it was loud enough). Just like, as St. Peter say, the apostles were baptized WHEN THEY BELIEVED.
I have baptized families, households and I have never baptized infants. Stay away from this line. It is not a strong case.

Your last point reveals something. I asked you before what was the pressure that produced this silence based insistence? I promote salvation to those who are in need of it. Sinners are in need of it and faith in the work of Christ is the answer. All of the salvation demonstrated in the New Testament is that of adults. It is not silence. You even have to create the silence by creating out of these adult believers a subcategory which, you then suggest, makes one presume the presence of the category “child of believer”. Just the creation of the category belies your intentions. You intended all along to find a need to baptize infants and you weren’t taught it by the Scriptures. The text does not ask the question that would create adult believers as a subcategory with unique salvific requirements from those of their babies. You have bought the earthly vision of an earthly kingdom of the church which, like all earthly kingdoms, functions genetically. In your kingdom you have kingdom descendants but in the Kingdom of God, the babies are those that have been born again.
I don’t see children of believers baptized at any age. I see repentant sinners baptized. The infants we baptize are spiritual infants who have entered a spiritual kingdom. I haven’t invents the category for children of believers.

Jeff Moss said...

Evan,

I appreciate the care you are taking in setting out your position, but I hope you will recognize that you are treading on more and more dangerous ground.

By your rejection of original sin and your belief in some mysterious age of accountability for sin in children, you have already implicitly denied Romans 3:23 ("For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God"). Worse yet, you have been busy carving out entire categories of people--young children, the severely mentally retarded, and are there others?--whom you consider to be untouched by sin and not in need of salvation.

Is it only those who grow to intellectual maturity who need Christ's death and resurrection, while vast numbers of others get to heaven sinless on their own steam? Will there be not one, but two multitudes in heaven--the one group who washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 7:14), and another who got there without Christ because their robes never needed washing?

Early in your original post, you wrote, "You remember this, don't you? It is called Christianity." But in fact, your theological system has already deviated pretty seriously from the Biblical and historical faith of the Christian Church.

The Oracle said...

Jeff,
What is it about denying every Biblical wishful reading you offered that is dangerous? What you mean when you say “The Biblical and Historical faith” is, obviously for our readers, just the historical. You can’t seem to offer any compelling Biblical guide to these thoughts of yours leaving the compelling force in your life being church tradition. I have questioned the Church? That is dangerous? Only if they are the Jesuits? You said in an earlier comment that, “I don't mean that infant baptism is intuitively self-evident--it isn't”. So you had to apply your real authority first.

I have denied original sin. Big whoop. T’ain’t in the Bible.
The “mysterious age of accountability” t’ain’t in the Bible either. But sin is and sin requires knowledge of the law of God. “Where there is no law there is no transgression.” When sin happens there is an answer in the mercies of God.

How have I “implicitly denied Romans 3:23 ("For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God")”?
If you applied a previous comment’s encouragement to self-falsification, you would have noted verse 9 which lets you know who are the ‘all” of whom he is speaking.
“What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all; for I have already charged that all men, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin,”
It is like a prophet, one of your own saith, “Both kinds of music, Country and Western.”

This shows you don’t know what sin is. For you, I suppose, the child born brain dead has sinned and is a sinner. How is that applicable to the phrase “have sinned”?
No new categories here. I have sin and forgiveness for sin. Forgiveness requires the sin first.
It is not intellectual maturity that Christ awaits, but conviction of sin. Your pastor became a Christian at the age of 4 long before intellectual maturity but when he was under conviction of sin. Do you begrudge the “Vast numbers” of dying infants going to heaven on their “own steam”? (The little rotters are probably Pelagians.) Everyone else comes to a knowledge of the law, sin comes to life, they sin and die and need the Gospel to be saved. You never answered when it was that St. Paul was alive apart from the Law in Romans 7.

I have not “deviated pretty seriously from the Biblical” as any reader of the blog will attest. I have “deviated from the historical faith” with bells on. And unless you are either Greek Orthodox or Roman Catholic, so have you. Since you are not either of those, you have assessed the historic faith according to the Bible in some parts of tour doctrine. You have not been aware when your historical desires have encouraged a “make-it-up-land” in your Biblical readings.
To quote the Lord, “You have a fine way of rejecting the Law of God for the sake of your tradition.”

Jeff Moss said...

Evan,

I enjoyed your recent post on the effect of one's company.

Back to the matter at hand. It's been somewhat frustrating to try to address the vast issue of faith and baptism in isolated soundbites, so in this comment I'll set out a fuller response to what you've said so far. After this, I think I will have finished with the subject -- at least for the time being. :-)

Sadly, your denial of some of the fundamentals of the Gospel has left you with the worst of all possible worlds. First, you deny that all human beings are sinners, although the doctrine that all are guilty before God is abundantly clear in the Bible (Gal. 3:22; Psalm 51:5; Rom. 3:23; 11:32; 1 John 1:8; Eccl. 7:20; 1 Kings 8:46). Yet you believe that some people -- namely, young children and others who do not have the mental capacity to know that they are breaking God's law -- are untouched by sin and death. If that is so, then why do infants ever die? The answer, of course, is that they too are in Adam, and in Adam all are sinners and therefore subject to death, while all who are in Christ are made alive (1 Cor. 15:22). As the saying goes, "Ignorance of the law is no excuse," and in fact death reigned in the world because of sin even before the Law of God was given through Moses (Rom. 5:14). So Paul's statement about his own Jewish upbringing, in the specialized language of Rom. 7:9, gives you no license to claim that infants are sinless until they gain explicit knowledge of the Law.

Second, because you deny the sinfulness of some, you deny that they are in need of salvation by Christ. You wrote, "I promote salvation to those who are in need of it. Sinners are in need of it and faith in the work of Christ is the answer. All of the salvation demonstrated in the New Testament is that of adults...." But if young children have no need of salvation, then if they die before they become consciously aware of the law of God, they will get to heaven quite apart from the death and resurrection of Christ. You never directly answered my question, "Will there be not one, but two multitudes in heaven--the one group who washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 7:14), and another who got there without Christ because their robes never needed washing?" If your subsequent comments are meant to indicate your response to this, they imply that your answer is Yes -- and so you are contradicting John 14:6 ("No one comes to the Father except through Me"). The Apostle Paul says that God's choice of those who are foolish and vile takes away any pretense of boasting in His presence. But you would have it that some can in fact boast before Him, because they were never touched by sin and so are in no need of His salvation through Christ.

Third, strangely, even though you ground infants' entrance into Heaven on their supposed sinlessness quite apart from God's mercy, you still consign the vast majority of the world's population to Hell. You keep quoting the Messiah's words in Matthew 7:13-14 as if they showed conclusively that the world as a whole is lost: "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it." But this warning was directed to those who heard Him at the time, and of those Jews truly only a remnant was saved -- in order that their temporary stumbling might open up salvation to the Gentiles (Rom. 11:1-11). Remember John 3:16? God sent His Son because He loved the world -- not to condemn the world (!), but that through Him the world might be saved (John 3:17).

When you speak of "the 94% of the world today who are going to the bad place," the exact number may be made up, but I'm afraid you actually believe something very much like this. Oddly, now you're the one who sounds like the hyper-Calvinist of Burns' "Holy Willie's Prayer":

"O Thou that in the heavens does dwell!
Wha, as it pleases best thysel,
Sends ane to heaven and ten to hell,
A' for thy glory!
And no for ony gude or ill
They've done before thee."

I, on the other hand, take seriously Habakkuk's prophecy (2:14) that "the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea," and David's that all the nations (not just one or two representatives of each, but the nations as a whole) will come and worship before the Lord and glorify His name (Psalm 86:9). And so our Lord commanded His apostles to disciple all the nations, baptizing them and then thoroughly teaching them to obey His commands (Matt. 28:19-20).

Back to the specific issue of infant baptism, and then I'll be done. The Psalmist writes (103:13-14), "As a father pities his children, so the LORD pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame...". He recognizes both sin and faith in people according to their capacity. All are sinners because all are in Adam, but all commit sin also according to their ability. And all are called to faith at whatever level they are capable of believing. Abraham trusted in Christ at the "infant" level that suited what he knew; a promise of many descendants was a prophecy of Christ in seed form, veiled, and that was what Abraham believed until the coming of greater light (Gen. 15:1-6). Like Abraham, God's children who are infants in years believe according to the level of their knowledge, and their faith grows up into maturity as they themselves grow. They receive the seed of faith from believing parents along with their mothers' milk, and so we are commanded to imitate them (2 Pet. 2:2), and though their faith may be as small as a mustard seed, it can move mountains (Matt. 17:20). We are told expressly that God has ordained strength to come out of the mouth of nursing infants, "that You may silence the enemy and the avenger" (Psalm 8:2); if this is so, who are we to doubt that they may have faith in Him according to their years? But other testimonies to infant faith are even clearer:

"But You are He who took me out of the womb; You made me trust while on my mother's breasts. I was cast upon You from birth. From my mother's womb You have been my God." (Psalm 22:9-10)

"For You are my hope, O Lord GOD; You are my trust from my youth. By You I have been upheld from birth; You are He who took me out of my mother's womb. My praise shall be continually of You." (Psalm 71:5-6)

And consider this:
"Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying: 'Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.'" (Jer. 1:4-5)

Christian parents baptize their children because of God's promise to be God to them and to their children after them (Gen. 17:7; Isa. 54:11-14; Acts 2:38-39). Their children's faith may be as yet invisible, but as these believing parents raise their children faithfully in the training and instruction of the Lord (Eph. 6:1-4), that faith will bud and flower and bear fruit in good time -- just as the sinful folly that is bound up their children's hearts will become visible in time and must be driven away by the rod of discipline (Prov. 22:15).

All have sinned and are falling short of the glory of God; all who come to Christ in faith are saved; baptism is a mark of faith for adult believers and for their children who grow up in that faith; and the knowledge of the LORD is on its way to filling the earth just as surely as the water fills the sea.

Tiffany said...

Evan,
Thanks for the response. A few more questions. My appologies if the material has been covered in previous comments, I haven't had the opprotunity to read them all yet.

Disobeying ones parents is sin because the law says it is. But children are not under that condemnation from the law until they know it. But what I wonder is how do we know that they know? Should parents be teaching them that it is sin to disobey them? Or would it be better to wait until they are older to tell them this because then they can grasp it better? It is the practical application of the idea that children are with out sin (as your father's description of them as "little bundles of sin" seems often rather apt) and then what the churches and parental response to that should be.

So I guess I'm not necessarily questioning the theology of it (haven't thought about it enough to question it- just figured they weren't Christians yet that much is obvious, they'll be baptised once they are), but rather more of a "then what next?"

Thanks.

The Oracle said...

Jeff,
Thanks for the compliment.
I have enjoyed the back and forth with you and your good attitude both in print and person.

Let us clarify before we’re done. And I don’t expect a return comment and I will not assume that you have nothing to say regarding these points:
Jeff sez: First, you deny that all human beings are sinners
Evan sez: No, we both agree that all men become sinners. It is just a difference of when and through what mechanism. You say conception and federal headship of Adam. I say when they knowingly disobey the law of God and the mechanism is the Will. The verse from Romans you keep quoting is using the path of over-broad application. Paul is talking to the Jews and the Gentiles and proving that all need the Gospel. The evil demon Context rears its ugly head.

Jeff sez: why do infants ever die?
Evan sez: Why do plants die? Because the creation has been subject to futility (death and decay, see Romans 8) even though it hasn’t sinned. Your argument falls on that alone but the temptation to pile on is overwhelming. Romans 8:10 But if Christ is in you, although your bodies are dead because of sin, your spirits are alive because of righteousness.” Why do Christians die? So even though we have been forgiven of sin and cleansed of all unrighteousness, we still die physically.

Jeff sez: So Paul's statement about his own Jewish upbringing, in the specialized language of Rom. 7:9, gives you no license to claim that infants are sinless until they gain explicit knowledge of the Law.
Evan sez: Wow! The power of the word “specialized”. Get back to me when you can actually explain Romans 7:9

Jeff sez: "Will there be not one, but two multitudes in heaven--the one group who washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 7:14), and another who got there without Christ because their robes never needed washing?"
Evan sez: Have you some problem with more than one group in heaven? How about the angelic host? Are they a different group in heaven? Why are they allowed to be there? They did not sin, that is why, and God wants them there.

Jeff sez: “...difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” But this warning was directed to those who heard Him at the time,
Evan sez: How DO you know when to deny something Christ teaches by relegating it to His age. “All this talk about resurrection was just what first century people needed because of the their...” I believe that Jesus died for the whole world, each soul singly and severally but that salvation is through faith. God’s mercy is wide but man’s response is narrow. You don’t think Jesus died for everyone and the only provable level of election you have is 5% (the rest of your optimism is for the future). So for you, God’s mercy is narrow, except later in the pretend world of the postmillenial mind.

Jeff sez: I take seriously Habakkuk's prophecy (2:14) that "the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea," and David's that all the nations (not just one or two representatives of each, but the nations as a whole) will come and worship before the Lord and glorify His name (Psalm 86:9).
Evan sez: Like with infant baptism, you start with believing what you want to find, and lo and behold, wanting a postmillenial future, you look at the passages and find it. If I were needing to remember how many children I have and wrote the number 4 on the sidewalk, you, while walking by debating a friend on the number of elementals, would point to the sidewalk with authority. It agrees with you and even has the correct answer but that is not what it is about. You have to justify the question as well as the answer. Are Habakkuk and David introducing the postmillenial glory in the midst of those passages? How do you know?

Jeff sez: All are sinners because all are in Adam, but all commit sin also according to their ability.
Evan sez: Romans 5:12 “and so death spread to all men because all men sinned.” Don’t tell me that is a difficult portion to understand. Don’t tell me the Paul is using “specialized” language. We all sin because of our descent from Adam and become sinners and having become sinners, we die. You might also want to consider the problem you have with Christ’s descent from Adam. The Catholics get around it with the invention of the Immaculate Conception. What do you use to keep Christ from being born sinful?

Jeff sez:Abraham trusted in Christ at the "infant" level that suited what he knew;
Evan sez: The Infant level? Go back and read Abraham’s story and see if he believed a promise given, understood, acted upon. The worst part of this exposition you give is the attachment of new nomenclature to disconnected Scriptures so that you will be free to connect them. Abraham is an “infant” and infants, praise be, are infants too! The seed of faith they have is small and Jesus talked about a small seed, praise be, too! The texts have to connect from their own content not the via the naming you gave them.

Jeff sez: We are told expressly that God has ordained strength to come out of the mouth of nursing infants, "that You may silence the enemy and the avenger" (Psalm 8:2)
Evan sez: This is fulfilled in Matthew 21:16 by children old enough to say “Hosanna to the Son of David!” not ones who can’t hold their heads up and do more than drool.

Jeff sez: "But You are He who took me out of the womb; You made me trust while on my mother's breasts. I was cast upon You from birth. From my mother's womb You have been my God." (Psalm 22:9-10)
Evan sez: “[9] Yet thou art he who took me from the womb;
thou didst keep me safe upon my mother's breasts.
[10] Upon thee was I cast from my birth,
and since my mother bore me thou hast been my God. (RSV)
Reads a bit different with less of what you claim, besides the fact this is a Christ quoted messianic psalm.

I do believe that a child can be raised from their birth to believe in the the true God. I do believe, like about Jeremiah, that someone can be set apart from before they were born to be a prophet. This is a different question than the across the board need of salvation in all infants and the path laid out for that salvation in baptism.

Jeff sez: Their children's faith may be as yet invisible,
Evan sez: because, as faith is Biblically defined, it is non-existent.

Jeff sez: baptism is a mark of faith for adult believers and for their children who grow up in that faith
Evan sez: The first is correct, the second is wishful thinking, whose track record is abysmal, whose Biblical case non existent (except for those who really, really, really, want to see it). Why again do you want to see it so badly?


Tiffany,

Teach the child that it is wrong to disobey. They will be “sinning” against what law they have received (the law of the parents). They will be disciplined by the parents and cleansed. As they grow up in a Christian home they begin to hear and transfer the moral truths to God’s law through the teaching and through conscience and not transfer the “house rules” like “wash you hands before dinner”. They won’t know any sooner then their ability to converse simply on the subject. You will be able to spot the obvious disarray of their relationship with God even if they have been faithfully cleansed by family punishment. The rod does not atone for sin against God. Christ atones for that sin and they will start to bear guilt past family restoration.

Jeff Moss said...

Yes, Evan, I could say more in answer to your responses -- but I think the discussion has already gone plenty long for this forum.

We'll have occasions to talk more in the future.

-Jeff

Matthew N. Petersen said...

I can't find your e-mail, so I'm posting this here.

I think your position is a Christian position. Yes, I find your understanding of salvation very confused (I likewise think your brother's understaning of salvation is confused, and I think you may have a point about original sin). Particularly, I think you have reversed the priority of Christ alone and Faith alone. You sacrifice Christ alone--that is that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven, we need to be born of the Spirit to reach heaven--to preserve faith alone. But nevertheless, I believe your position is a Christian position. You look to Christ. Christ is not restricted to the Sacraments.

But I don't seem to get the same courtesy from you. At the termination of a discussion on baptism, you posted a long article that either argued or seemed to imply that my position was no more Christian than telling people to make pilgrimages to Mecca is. Completely ignoring the fact that I say "Trust Christ who baptizes" while a Muslim says "Trust Allah..." (or not even that). Is Christ restricted from the Sacraments? Is He incapable of using physical objects? Granted, he doesn't prefer to. Granted, I am missing out. But is Christ really restricted from using his body to touch mine?

Again, I perhaps deny faith alone, but I do so to preserve Christ alone. Perhaps I'm confused, but there is a tension between the two. Or at least certian errors that on your own admission are errors Christians can make, and are even relatively unimportant, create such a tension.

Anyway, I would appreciate it if you didn't anathamatize the Sacraments. Or if you persist in doing so, please don't claim Christ Church is divisive. By condemning the Sacraments, you are preaching Christ Church and Trinity Reformed are not true churches.

The Oracle said...

Matt,
Sometimes we can't extend the courtesies we are given. The Mormons call us Christian and we can't return the favor.
And I haven't mentioned Christ Church or Trinity Reformed in any of these posts. I will try to not mention them in future as well.

Matthew N. Petersen said...

Thank you. I don’t particularly like being called no better than a Mormon, but if you believe it, fine.

But if you would please, also anathematize as no better than a Mormon he who said “There are three things that spread the Christ life to us: baptism, belief, and that mysterious action which different Christians call by different names—Holy Communion, the Mass, the Lord’s supper.” And who later sets up Sacraments as equal to belief as the solution to human incapability to keep the law “Do not think I am setting up baptism and belief and the Holy Communion as things that will do instead of your attempts to copy Christ.” Is Lewis not obviously setting up rivals beside mere faith, adding not-gospel to the gospel? "You cannot serve two masters." Is he not introducing worldly religion and calling it Christianity? Is he not deluded by the Pope?

I suppose you gain a rhetorical high ground by calling your presentation of the gospel “Mere Christianity.” Remember “The hall is a place to wait in, a place from which to try the various doors, not a place to live in. For that purpose the worst of rooms (whichever that may be) is, I think, preferable.” Perhaps you are correct, but quoting Lewis in defense of your practice is dishonest.

And attacking us without naming us is nothing less than cowardice. And in no way lets you off the charge of divisiveness.