Monday, March 30, 2009

Wrapup on Baptism and Sin

So I finally read all the comments in that other thread. Wow. I could never be a Pyromaniac. I do want to tie up some loose ends by responding to a few arguments raised by commenters. Here goes:

1. I’m encouraged to know that I’m seeing this more or less the same way as Dave Doran and Kevin Bauder, at least on the point that we should view paedobaptism as sin. I’m actually a bit embarrassed that I wasn’t aware of their positions and somewhat fearful that I'd heard it and that my memory is failing faster than I thought. So perhaps Minnick's perspective is an outlier. Now, I am a bit skeptical that this represents the mainstream of fundamentalist thought, but perhaps my definition of “fundamentalist thought” is too broad, thus skewing what I understand to be the mainstream. Also, Bauder, at least, agrees that a person’s known, unrepentant sin does not necessarily preclude fellowship, and I'm grateful for his explanation.

2. It seems ironic that I’m in far greater agreement with comments from Keith, the guy I’m calling a sinner (and who quite rationally returns the favor) than with many if not most of the Baptists posting here. Nice catch on the WCF quote, Keith. As for a passage that explicitly teaches the Baptist understanding of baptism, I think it’s Matthew 28—we baptize disciples. I understand that baptizo = immersion isn’t a slam dunk lexically, so I’m not pressing immersion on that text. Personally, I'm not sure someone who's been effused as a believer in a church with an evangelical understanding of baptism doesn't need to be immersed upon joining a Baptist church.

3. Kent, your argument that we should be like God and not fellowship with any sin is at best unsustainable. We’re all sinners, you included. I’m wondering what not fellowshipping with yourself looks like. Frankly, I think your approach is antithetical to the gospel. You’re right in the sense that God doesn’t fellowship with sin. But he killed his Son so he could fellowship with sinners—sinning saints, that is. For you to deny fellowship to any believer because of any sin denies the gospel. And seriously, you don’t live this out in practice. You can't.

4. Chris, concerning your paedobaptism-KJVO analogy, I see a difference between paedobaptist doctrine and KJVO doctrine. Paedobaptism is based on a misunderstanding of Scripture, but there is a rational (though flawed) biblical argumentation behind it. There is no such thing for KJVO. They are teaching as doctrine commandments completely fabricated by men. That's the kind of false doctrine Jesus attacked most vociferously. I feel like there's more to it than that, but that's all I've got right now.

5. Bob, You're right that it's more consistent to be either open or closed in practicing communion. That's undeniable. This may be one of those times when human sin brings fundamental values into conflict so that it's impossible to be consistent and maintain all those values. You’re not exactly correct to imply that my church would bar all paedobaptists from the Lord's Supper. We would merely bar those who have not been baptized as believers, and even then it would ultimately be up to one’s own conscience. We wouldn’t physically withhold it, except perhaps for someone who’s been excommunicated. Now, I think you're making the Lord's Table a more individual ordinance than I would, but I feel the pull of your approach.

My bigger critique of your argument is that you overstate the significance of whether person's sin is known to himself. If you understand the Lord’s Supper to be an ordinance observed within and overseen by a local church (maybe you don’t), then that church's understanding of sin arbitrates its observance. So if MSBC excommunicates a member for practicing what your church understands to be known sin, then MSBC is right to withhold the Lord’s Supper from him, even if he doesn't understand that behavior to be sinful. It seems that you're moving the locus of assessment from the church (where I see it in Matthew 16 and 18) to the individual. So I would respond to you that whether an individual is fit to partake is ultimately God's choice, and the earthly assessor of that fitness is the church, not the individual.

6. James, I’m not sure you’re right that the mainstream of Baptist thought has ever suggested that paedobaptist churches are not true churches. Historically, many Baptists have understood such churches to be true, though irregular. That’s certainly not a unanimous sentiment—perhaps some Landmarkers might not have even recognized all Baptist churches as true churches—but I think it’s more representative of historic Baptist thought, at least back when Baptists thought more.

7. Bobby Mitchell: You are an unproductive presence here. Nothing you have said has advanced the conversation, only destroyed it. Your errors are so numerous that I have no interest in addressing them. So I’m banning you. You may not like that. I don’t care. It’s my blog. If you ever want to comment again, e-mail me your comment first. Otherwise, I’ll delete it immediately.

18 comments:

Kent Brandenburg said...

Ben,

Thanks for your wrap-up. As it regards what I wrote, your comment was essentially a caricature of me based on other people's responses to my comments. I'm pretty sure that you took your view of me from "Keith," who wrote:

"Kent, the whole point is -- if we cannot fellowship with sinners, then we can't fellowship with anyone. Unless of course you think you are sinless and you know someone else who is sinless."

Or from "Chris," who wrote:

"It would result in a ridiculous standard of perfection for fellowship."

I've never said that I don't fellowship with sinning saints. If you want to argue with that, you'll win every time. I obviously don't fellowship with saints with unrepentant sin. I said that explicitly in one of my comments to Chris:

"I'll answer it for you. You say, 'yes, disobedience is sin.' So in answer to your question, no, I don't fellowship with those in unrepentant disobedience."

Dave Doran seemed to understand me fine, when he wrote: "Even the guys who deny the essential vs. non-essential mantra acknowledge that not every interpretive disagreement demands separation (unless I've misunderstood, e.g., Kent B)."

You don't have to comment at all. It's your blog. But just know that your comment about me in this post didn't reflect me or what I wrote. I'd be happy if you had a scriptural answer to what I actually wrote.

Thanks.

James Kime said...

Ben, perhaps we can interact some through email on this if you are interested. Part of my point is that the famous paedos like Luther and Calvin said the same thing about true churches. They had to rightly observe the ordinances. Both of those men taught that you should baptize infants. Their own definition of a church required infant baptism.

They say it but we don't, or tend to not say it or make a big deal about it these days.

Chris Anderson said...

Ben, I'm obviously not arguing in favor of paedobaptism or KJV Onlyism, nor am I saying that they're essentially the same. But if you're willing to fellowship with someone who you believe to be in sin due to a doctrinal error, you shouldn't be overly shocked when someone else fellowships with someone in an error which you (somewhat subjectively) interpret to be more grievous. I think a circumstance like this should at least temper your criticism of those who make comparable decisions (e.g. BJU on the version thing). If you acknowledge the principle that there can be pulpit fellowship despite doctrinal error that stops short of endorsing that error (which you do), you can't complain too loudly if someone applies that principle differently than you would regarding another area of interpretation.

Ben said...

Kent,

I didn't get it from reading them. I got it from reading what you said. Here it is:

"God doesn't fellowship with sin. We are to be holy as He is holy. We shouldn't fellowship with sin. If paedobaptism is sin, we shouldn't fellowship with paedobaptists. Isn't this how simple it is? But yet, we want to fellowship with them, so we overlook the sin. And for what reason? Is it unity? Could it be unity? Is that what unity is?

"Instead what we have invented are degrees of disobedience it seems, justified by finger-pointing. "Paisley preaches with these guys"....and so on."

As I read those other comments, I actually thought they let you off easy. I'm not suggesting you actually deny the gospel, but I think if you practiced what you articulate, you would. Now, you seem pretty sure that the people you fellowship aren't in any unrepentant sin. I'm sure you believe that's true. I doubt that it actually is.

I tend to think that we all have blind spots of sin that we don't repent of because we don't see those areas of sin in our own lives. So it's not willful, knowing sin, but it is unrepentant sin nonetheless. But I don't know the people you fellowship with, so I could be wrong.

Ben said...

James,

I think Luther and Calvin's understanding of the "right practice of the ordinances" was in contradistinction to the Roman Catholic theology and practice. In other words, they're saying that a "church" isn't a church if it teaches the ordinances/sacraments are salvific.

So a church isn't a church if it gets the gospel wrong. I don't think they had Baptist doctrine in mind when they made those statements, but if you have documentation I'd love to see it. But I think that's why we don't talk about the true vs. irregular distinction much . . . it's not the frontline issue for us that it was to Luther and Calvin.

Ben said...

Chris,

I will not deny that there's a subjective element in my assessment of the seriousness of doctrinal error. So it's on somewhat subjective grounds that I'll argue KVJOism undermines the authority of Scripture severely and is a more serious error than paedobaptism. But I hope you'd agree that there's an intrinsic difference between a matter that is the subject of a centuries-old debate between evangelicals over the level of continuity between covenants and a matter that is a complete doctrinal fabrication.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Ben,

Through the everlasting gospel, that I believe and that's in scripture, God saves us from sin. That's how we get into fellowship with God: justification. The grace of God that saves also teaches us to deny ungodliness and live righteously---it isn't license to sin. So the grace that saves us keeps sanctifying us. God doesn't save us to sin, but from sin.

That is the grace of God. I'm not saying that you deny the grace of the Bible, Ben, though some of what you say does sound like it. God doesn't save us to fellowship with sin, but to separate from sin. And it is God that works in us to do that. He predestines us to conform to the image of His Son.

I agree with you that we cannot break fellowship over unknown sin. I don't think I've ever broken fellowship with anyone over sin that I did not know. And I believe that some that I continued in fellowship with had unknown sin. I also do not break fellowship with people who repent over their sin. The only ones that I do break fellowship with are those who do not repent after loving admonishment over a period of time. Rather than break fellowship, I attempt reconciliation. Even with unbelievers I attempt this by preaching the gospel. That's what Jesus was doing when He ate with sinners, something Keith mentioned in a way that sounded like Jesus was fellowshiping with those sinners.

Five questions:

Can you show me a passage that says that Jesus "fellowshiped" with sinners?

Once we've pointed out from Scripture the sin of someone, and they keep sinning, how is that not willful sin?

Do you believe we should point out blind spots of sin that people may have?

When you say "unsustainable" do you mean "unscriptural?"

Do you give fellowship to unrepentant, known sinners?

Chris Anderson said...

That's fine, Ben. Again, the last thing I want to do is defend KJV Onlyism or try to do so on biblical grounds.

However, were I to have Free Presbyterians Alan Cairns or Mike Barrett preach at TCBC (which I would absolutely do), their view on baptism would be tougher for people in our assembly to swallow than their (at least official, denominational) view on versions.

Chris Anderson said...

One more thing on this. There are, of course, those who are KJVO who do not base their preference on explicit biblical doctrine, but on what they perceive to be superior texts, and therefore they may arrive at their position without being in doctrinal error.

Steve Brower said...

Ben,

I appreciate your interaction and the time you put into this blog. Blessings on you!

I am further encouraged that my main concern when I first read your post was effectively answered by wiser men after me. It cheers my heart that you recognize the box which have put around fundamentalists is not the correct shape. I understand that you are skeptical that such fundamentalism is the maminstream fundamentalist thought, but I would like to point out that the two which you have identified, agreed with, and appreciated their views are men who are leading seminaries and specifically producing the next generation of fundamentalists. Are they the only semenaries producing "fundamentalists". Of course not. But fundamentalism is worth saving as an idea, and there are some that are willing to work at saving it and defining it accurately and biblically. You ought to be a part of this crowd. The first step is recognizing that the crowd exists. Thanks for your willingness to think through the issues.

Ben said...

Kent,

1. I don't know if I can or not.
2. It's not willful if they don't hold the same understanding of Scripture as we do on that point.
3. I'm sure it varies from case to case whether it's pastorally helpful. If I point out every blind spot I ever see in a person, it probably won't be helpful.
4. I meant unsustainable. I addressed whether it was Scriptural in the comments that followed.
5. Yes. We can have fellowship to the degree that we have something in common. I can have fellowship in the gospel with someone who holds as a matter of faith that the KJV is the only acceptable translation for use in the English language. I think that person is in sin to hold that as a matter of faith when Scripture doesn't teach that. But we can still have some level of fellowship in the gospel.

Ben said...

Chris,

What would be more or less difficult for a congregation to swallow would have to be a factor in pastoral judgment as you make those sorts of decisions.

I do agree that a person can reach KJVO conclusions without claiming it's biblical doctrine, and I wouldn't consider that false teaching in the technical, biblical sense. Unfortunately, that is precisely the claim made by the person who recently spoke at BJU's Bible Conference, if I'm to take his statement of faith at face value. And I think it's wise do that with statements of faith.

Ben said...

Steve,

When you say, "It cheers my heart that you recognize the box which have put around fundamentalists is not the correct shape," I think you're putting words in my mouth. That's to say, I don't accept the premise you've defined.

You mentioned a few weeks ago, as I remember, that you haven't visited this site very often. That's probably a very wise decision you've made. But I think if you had, you'd recognize that I see a great gulf fixed between [Kevin Bauder, Dave Doran, and people who think similarly to them] and [many other leaders in the fundamentalist movement and most of the guest preachers/evangelists held up as models of exposition and leadership by fundamentalist institutions].

Kent Brandenburg said...

Ben,

I would assume gratefully that the Bible is your sole authority for faith and practice and not some kind of fundamentalist or evangelical tradition. Since you say you have no scriptural basis for fellowshiping with sinners, and I know that there are many places that teach us to separate from known, unrepentant sinners, I exhort you to do the latter. That would adorn the gospel of God and represent the grace of the Bible.

I would like to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ as someone who has been reconciled to God by Jesus Christ, so could you direct me to a passage that teaches or a book that deals with the scriptural teaching of the acceptability of fellowship and association with unwillful sinning? I've never seen that developed from scripture. Also I am curious as to where scripture enlightened you on the particular definition of unwillful sinning that you gave me: "It's not willful if they don't hold the same understanding of Scripture as we do on that point." Could you direct me to the text that is a basis for that definition?

I also would like to be directed for the glory of God and the furtherance of the gospel to a place in scripture or a book that says that we should ever allow a sinner to continue in ignorance (blind eye) about a particular sin that he is committing. Could you do that for me? Thank you!

This idea of sustainability and unsustainability is new to me. Could you direct me please to a place in scripture or a book that teaches the doctrine of sustainability so that I can make sure to practice this doctrine I had not heard before? I have found in my life that everything in scripture is sustainable by Christ who strengtheneth me. You may have some insight that I am not aware of and I would like to be a partaker of if possible.

Last, and you've been kind to take your time to consider these. Could you direct me to a passage or a book that says that someone can be living in known, unrepentant sin, but that I should still have fellowship with him in the gospel to the degree that he is not sinning? You tell me if I'm wrong, but the way I'm understanding this is that if he is knowingly and unrepentantly disobeying 6% of the Bible, I can have 94% fellowship with him still. That's what I need a passage for or some volume to read about passages. Thanks.

I want to assume that you, like me, do not want to think "above that which is written" (1 Cor 4:6) and to turn traditions into commandments of God, so you will understand my desire to see if these teachings are indeed in scripture. Thank you!!!

Steve Brower said...

Ben,

Of course I was putting words in your mouth, I take great delight in doing that! My hope is that you recognize that they belong there and accept them as your own :)

I know that you recognize the "great gulf", and what I think you missed you discovered reading the responses of Doran, Bauder, and the like. That was the "box" to which I was referring. You put all fundamentalists into a "box" which disagreed with you and Dever that "a person’s known, unrepentant sin does not necessarily preclude fellowship". You recognized that error and corrected it, you realized that there is a group within fundamentalists who have already argued that point, in other words, you had to redefine your box. I was merely rejoicing that you were willing to do so.

Ben said...

Steve,

I hate to disappoint you by re-establishing myself as unenlightened when you have higher hopes for me, but I don't see how the fact that Doran and Bauder see things differently from other fundamentalists is contradictory to what I posted. The fact that they disagree with others--even Minnick--simply doesn't surprise me much.

Ben said...

Kent,

I'm not interested in carrying on a conversation when I'm consistently being mischaracterized. Perhaps I'm projecting previous conversations onto this one. But in any case, it's tiresome. I could recommend some sources that show how Christians have interacted with Scripture and one another on these matters throughout history that would reflect a variety of opinions, perhaps including yours, and certainly including my own. If you're interested, let me know. Maybe conversation would be more fruitful after that.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Ben,

In the midst of tiresomeness, I commend to you Jesus' teaching in Matthew 11:30: "For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." We need the gospel for salvation, but also for our sanctification. As well, I point you Peter's instruction in 1 Peter 4:11: "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever." I have to admit that when things become "tiresome" to me, it's because I'm not serving in the ability that God gives, but in my own ability.

In the second half of the verse, I see also that God isn't glorified unless it is His oracles. I find it easy to think of scripture references when I am speaking out of His oracles. When I'm not, I have found the best action is to admit that. Speaking His oracles also glorifies Him. Our own ideas don't, even if they are sincere. We are sanctified by the truth, not our feelings.

If the concept of sustainability isn't in the Bible, it shouldn't be relied upon as a basis for belief and practice. I say the same thing to your concept of willful sinning, the blind eye, and fellowship with known, unrepentant sinners.

I hope not to mischaracterize you, as I would want to assume would be the case with you toward me, that is, that you would never want to mischaracterize me either. If you are not willing to inform me, however, of how I have mischaracterized you when we are conversing directly to one another, then it really is your responsibility. And without hearing how I may have done so, because I have no clue as to how I have, I think we should all assume that I haven't done that.

Thanks Ben.