Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Online Directory to Discussions of Baptism and Membership

Ardel Caneday has compiled a directory to online conversations about Bethlehem Baptist's Church's move toward changing its requirements for baptism prior to church membership.

HT: Justin Taylor at Reformation 21 Blog

By the way, Caneday is the co-author with Tom Schreiner of the best book I've ever read that no one knows about—The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology of Perseverance and Assurance. Schreiner and Caneday have given us a great gift in their thorough exegesis of biblical passages about the certainty and necessity of progressive sanctification. If you want to understand the warning passages in Hebrews and other texts, your study will be incomplete without reading this book. It's not an easy read, but it will be a worthwhile investment.


Jason Erb said...

I agree- great book. It was in fact just referred to today in my Hermeneutics class, talking about how to interpret different types of Scripture.

Ben said...

Welcome, by the way, Jason. I never returned the hello on your earlier post. Will you still be in town next April? JW and I are planning to make it to TFTG.

Dave said...

What precisely is it about the book that causes you to make this comment? I would assume that you adopt or accept their view of perseverence?

Ben said...

Is there a specific comment of mine that you're referring to? I do believe that progressive sanctification is both necessary AND certain in the life of a believer. As I remember, Schreiner and Caneday hold both aspects in tension. I agree that the biblical text clearly presents both aspects.

I found their analysis of the warning passages to be carefully nuanced. For those who have not read it, S & C see the intent of warning passages as one of God's means in spurring believers to progressive sanctification, not as systematic soteriologies. In other words, we shouldn't be reading the warning passages trying to figure out if the subjects of the hypotheticals were genuine believers or not. The purpose of the passages was to motivate authentic believers to make progress in producing fruit. S & C's sensitivity to authorial intent in contrast to some of the more common views seemed plausible and worthy of further study and reflection. I'm not quite ready to say without reservation that I'm convinced they're right, but I think more people should read their case.

Those are the big (and helpful) ideas that stick in my mind 3 or 4 years after I read the book. Overall, it struck me as a more thoroughly exegeted and precisely articulated version of The Gospel According to the Apostles.

Are you probing because of problematic peculiarities you encountered? Please share if you did.

Dave said...

Not trying to set you up, just curious as to why you would offer such a strong endorsement. I too think the book offers some valuable contributions, but felt as if their answers were just a little too nice. I.e., a constant theme runs something like, Stop looking at it theological and just let the text speak for itself. That is all fine and good, but it really dodges the tough questions by simply declaring them illegitimate.

I guess another way of stating my dissatisfaction is that I felt like it was an exhibition of the supposed triumph of biblical theology over systematic theology. Since I am not fond of the way this line of reasoning (for reasons very similar to the ones Kevin Bauder posted on recently), the book left me short of being a big fan.

Now, for sake of full disclosure, I must admit that my interaction with it was not cover to cover, but mainly to understand the central thesis and see how they handled the Hebrews passages (since I was preaching through that book).

I definitely think it is a good book for anyone tempted by the Free Grace nonsense about perseverance, and it is a good read for those who preach a sloppy view of eternal security. I am not sure it adds too much to the historic Calvinistic position other than some nuancing.

But that's just my two cents (if that much).

Ben said...

I was grateful for the nuancing. I do believe that lovers of systematic theology force too much systematization on the warning passages, especially by hypothesizing on the hypothetical subjects of the hypothetical scenario.

I remember that S & C pointedly criticized forcing systematization of certain texts. I don't remember them criticizing systematic theology as a whole. That could be because I forgot it or because my reading radar wasn't searching for it. If your reading was focused on the Hebrews passages, I can see how you might conclude that this was a theme throughout the book. I don't think it was, but I could be wrong.

I understand your love for systematic theology. Which comes first—biblical or systematic? Do you think systematic theology can be dangerous in the hands of those who have not first learned to practice biblical theology?

Dave said...

Obviously, this could open up a long discussion, but I will try the quick and lean variety for a number of reasons (not the least of which is that I am leaving for our men's retreat in a little while).

My beef with the biblical vs. systematic argument is that it is usually based on a faulty definition of systematic theology is simply the correlation of biblical truth, i.e., what does the Bible teach on this subject?

Most of the critics I have encountered operate with a faulty view regarding the role of logic and a naive view of how we do interpretation. Those are pretty strong statements, but let me offer proof by saying: (1) it is impossible to interpret the Bible (or really anything) without logic, so we should be careful about "rejecting" it; (2) every Bible believer interprets the Bible in light of the Bible, so they are practicing systematic theology whether they acknowledge it or not.

That's it in a nutshell.