Home > Brandenburg, Music > The Place to Start in Evaluating Music

The Place to Start in Evaluating Music

July 11, 2007

If you look at music in the Bible, you will notice that the kind believers play and sing will be directed to God.

Psalm 9:11, “Sing praises to the LORD, which dwelleth in Zion: declare among the people his doings.

Psalm 13:6, “I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully with me.”

Psalm 30:4, “Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.”

Psalm 66:1, “Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands.”

Psalm 68:4, “Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his name JAH, and rejoice before him.”

Psalm 95:1, “O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.”

Psalm 96:1, “O sing unto the LORD a new song: sing unto the LORD, all the earth.”O sing unto the LORD a new song: sing unto the LORD, all the earth.”

Psalm 98:1, “O sing unto the LORD a new song; for he hath done marvellous things: his right hand, and his holy arm, hath gotten him the victory.”

Psalm 104:33, “I will sing unto the LORD as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.”

Psalm 149:1, “Praise ye the LORD. Sing unto the LORD a new song, and his praise in the congregation of saints.”

Ephesians 5:19, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.”

Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”

You can see that Scripture says that God’s people should direct their music toward God.

When we know that our music goes to God, then we ask, “What does He want?”  We write, play, and use music that will please God and not ourselves.  Music should not be a matter of our taste, but of God’s taste.

Most wrong philosophies of music do not consider first whether God is praised and honored by the music.  Instead they ask whether the people or the audience enjoy it.  When man becomes the measure for music, it won’t be good.  Music isn’t for anyone but God, whether it be solos, duets, or groups.

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Categories: Brandenburg, Music
  1. July 11, 2007 at 4:50 am

    When we know that our music goes to God, then we ask, “What does He want?” We write, play, and use music that will please God and not ourselves. Music should not be a matter of our taste, but of God’s taste.

    Music isn’t for anyone but God, whether it be solos, duets, or groups.

    I think these are good statements, but I’m not sure they are precise enough to be useful if they aren’t developed (which I assume you are going to do). After all, worship music may not be for our enjoyment, but is that saying that there is never any music that we will not enjoy- such as Bobby Mitchell’s beloved banjo music? Does a performer have to be consciously making an effort to please God and not himself for the music to be rightly appreciated by a believer (think listening to Glenn Gould play a Bach concerto, or better yet, an unregenerate orchestra choir, and soloists performing Messiah)?

    The other factor to consider here is when we worship God, the music isn’t for the “enjoyment” of the audience, and yet, it must be accessible to them in some way. Public corporate prayer is talking with God- but it should be done in such a way that those listening can understand it, agree with it, and silently affirm what is being said by the one praying- hence we ask someone to “lead us” in prayer. Music may require us to consider the glory of God as the primary factor in employing it in our worship of Him- but there does need to be a means by which it also has the ability to be comprehended and affirmed by the ones who listen so they too might see and understand the glory of God better than before.

  2. July 11, 2007 at 5:33 am

    Brother Kent,

    I really like your concerto. 🙂

    I think you are absolutely right.

  3. secretly reformed
    July 11, 2007 at 6:49 am

    “Music isn’t for anyone but God, whether it be solos, duets, or groups.”

    Maybe there is a secondary (though nessesary) purpose for NT music…personal and co-oporative didactic edification.

    “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”

    Here isn’t the music directed to the Lord, but to other believers also to teach, warn and encourage.

    Good job though on your thoughts! Keep up the good work!

  4. July 11, 2007 at 9:53 am

    Thanks everyone. I’m in Fraser, Colorado on vacation, but let me answer. I’ll start with Greg. I’m going to assume that you might know some of what I’m going to say, like you probably assumed I thought about what you had said, but this is a discussion after all. I’m starting with one objective point from Scripture: the saints direct their music to God. That’s the only point I made. I take that point from every place in Scripture where we see the direction of music—to God. Greg, I would be more interested in you developing your point from Scripture. I think you are assuming that what you are saying is so obvious in Scripture that anyone should know it; maybe not. It is not something obvious to me.

    Regarding music that we enjoy, believers should enjoy music that God would enjoy. It may not be music that is designed for the corporate worship of the church, but it ought to be something that pleases God, because everything we do (hear, look at, etc.) is to please God. 1 Cor. 10:31. Rev. 4:11.

    Art, thanks. And the Brandenburg Concerto is an example of the second paragraph I wrote in this comment.

    Secretly Reformed. I’m publically not reformed. 🙂 I believe that teaching and admonishing of saints are a byproduct of the music being directed toward God. Music acceptable to God will teach and admonish believers. Have you considered that we have a whole Psalter to teach us what God wants. He gave it to us. Our songs should be patterned after those we see in the psalms.

  5. July 11, 2007 at 9:58 am

    One more thing.

    Notice in Eph. 5:19, speaking to yourselves. I believe the understanding of that is “among yourselves,” and the point is that God’s songs will be understood by believers. This is a good reason not to use music for evangelism. Music is nowhere in Scripture said to be evangelistic. Preaching is evangelistic, but not music.

    I don’t have a problem with people liking the music. I don’t think the point is to make it completely disagreeable to people. Part of how we evaluate whether God will like it is by principles that we will judge. We will ask whether it is beautiful, for instance. However, when people liking it becomes sovereign, then we risk God not liking it, which is the important point. We line our tastes up with God, rather than vice-versa.

  6. July 11, 2007 at 11:03 am

    I’m starting with one objective point from Scripture: the saints direct their music to God. That’s the only point I made. I take that point from every place in Scripture where we see the direction of music—to God. Greg, I would be more interested in you developing your point from Scripture. I think you are assuming that what you are saying is so obvious in Scripture that anyone should know it; maybe not. It is not something obvious to me.

    Kent,

    Let’s observe how many of these passages you quoted (most of which were psalms/songs) are in some way directed to exhorting other saints to praise God. My point is not to contradict you that music is not directed toward God- but we should also recognize that music does need to be in some way accessible (sharing a common language, for example). BTW- In saying this, I am not arguing that it needs to be accessible in any kind of popular way (as in most people in a certain region- or niche listen to country, so our music needs to be more “countrified”).

    I dunno- that seems a pretty obvious point to me.

  7. secretly reformed
    July 11, 2007 at 11:28 am

    Thanks,

    I’ve wondered about the meaning of “speaking to yourselves” in Ephs. and it could mean what you say, but that is still rather subjective. It could mean that NT music should be, like many hymns are, a means of encouragement actually directed toward other believers, sharing doctrine and experiences of God’s deliverence, providence and preservation, couldn’t it?

    I just thought that the statement “Music isn’t for anyone but God…” is maybe a little extreme, but what do i know? (I Cor. 8:1-3)

    Have a great time on vacation

  8. secretly reformed
    July 11, 2007 at 11:54 am

    Hey I just thought about this!! Maybe music of the Eph 5:19, Col. 3:16 variety are directed to God by means of the saints as in when Jesus said that love and charity toward the least of his brethren was in actuality performed to Him. Just thinking. Also lateral fellowship with other believers in I John 1:3 is in reality simultaneously fellowship with Christ and the Godhead. Music can be TO God THROUGH believers. I dunno…

  9. July 12, 2007 at 9:11 am

    Greg,

    I’m pretty sure our music would be similar. That being said, I think you are arguing with people in mind that would differ from this position. Scripture would teach that we should offer God something we understand. To be “in spirit” it needs to be sincere, and to be sincere, it needs to be understood. We have to mean it, and we can’t mean it if we don’t know what we are saying. The music should then preferrably should match up with the message.

    Secretly reformed,

    We look at every text on direction and it is “to God.” We take that into consideration as well when we look at Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16. My “subjectivity” takes that into full consideration, which makes it quite a bit less subjective. Subjectivity would be seen more in someone moving in a different path from the overwhelming number of passages that say otherwise. My statement, “music isn’t for anyone but God,” you should take in its context. Obviously, we enjoy Godly music, are taught and admonished by it, but the direction in the Bible is to God. We are regulated by what the Bible says, not by what it doesn’t say.

  10. secretly reformed
    July 12, 2007 at 9:37 am

    Thanks again,

    I enjoy your blog and look forward to more teaching on music.

    Once again, I hope you have a great time vacating!!

  11. secretly reformed
    July 12, 2007 at 9:49 am

    Speaking of what the Bible says, does the Bible say that you can’t sing to others, as long as you are singing to God like you ought?

  12. July 12, 2007 at 9:54 am

    I’m pretty sure our music would be similar. That being said, I think you are arguing with people in mind that would differ from this position.

    True- my goal is to help advance the discussion, not just preach to the choir (get it? choir? ha ha…) 🙂

  13. secretly reformed
    July 12, 2007 at 10:15 am

    I mean at separate times, separate songs.

  14. July 12, 2007 at 11:17 am

    I got it, Greg. 🙂 🙂 Thanks, secretly.

  15. July 12, 2007 at 7:25 pm

    Thanks for pointing out that God is the true audience of our music. This truth ought to change our attitude every time we sing. We do not sing for man’s approval rather we do it as unto the Lord. Also this helps us to take rehersals serious and to work hard to do our best so that it gets done faithfully. I think many a times talent gets in the way of worship. It shouldn’t be that way, although it is at times. Realizing that we sing UNTO the Lord helps mitigate the flesh in worship.

    BTW, Pastor Brandenburg wrote an excellent book on music that is worth reading. It is entitled: “Sound Music or Sounding Brass, The Issue of Biblically Godly Music.” 253 pages of good stuff. I did write a small review about it in my blog (trying to get more traffic there) under Book Recommendations.

  16. Thomas Ross
    July 12, 2007 at 9:00 pm

    Since our music, as Pastor Brandenburg has rightly demonstrated (and, BTW, enjoy your vacation 🙂 ) is directed to God, then we should certainly offer Him what He wants in the way that He wants it. This Biblical, Baptist doctrine has historically been called the Regulative Principle (see the rejection of infant baptism in connection with it at: http://www.founders.org/FJ35/article1.html). In our worship, which is to God, what is not commanded is forbideen. Lev 10 (note the preceeding context at the end of Leviticus 9) defines “strange fire” as what the Lord did not command–and the offerers got burned up on account of it.
    Something else that perhaps is worthy of consideration in connection to offering music to God that He wants–“PSALMS, hymns, and spiritual songs” means that we are commanded to sing God psalms. What are we fundamental Baptists doing when we fail (with some happy exceptions, such as Pastor Brandenburg’s church in CA, where every Sunday God is offered psalms from the Comprehensive Psalter, a collection of all 150 of the psalms versified, published by Blue Banner Books, is used ever Sunday, along with hymns) to sing God psalms during our worship? The Lord has inspired 150 songs for us to sing, but they aren’t good enough to get in our songbooks? Who do we think we are? I have never seen a defense of the exclusive hymnody that is the de facto position of the large majority of the Lord’s (Baptist) churches today (unlike in the past–in, say, the 1700s just about every Baptist church sung both psalms and hymns–and the exceptions were exclusive psalmody, not exclusive hymnody).
    Considering the psalms in connection with offering God what He wants in hymns, do you’all think it is noteworthy that a.) All 150 of the psalms, with perhaps a single-digit number of exceptions, are without a chorus similar to those on many of our modern hymns; so that, while the small number of exceptions would demonstrate that singing hymns with choruses is not wrong, the great body of our hymns should be verse after verse (as all early hymns were–Watts, Cowper, Newton, Wesley, Faucett, etc. hymns had no choruses–they were introduced later with more wishy-washy stuff–and early hymnwriters were almost all preachers, and men, instead of women)? There are hymnals that are like this (for example, the hymnal used at Pastor Brandenburg’s church, the Trinity Hymnal, Baptist edition, published by a Baptist church in Grand Rapids, MI–I would have to say that I cannot see why any Spirit filled saint who got used to the rich songs in a book like that could happily go back to the much larger volumes of puff-ball songs in the more commonly used hymnals). b.) Should we not have hymns that talk about hell, damnation, and judgment, as we have in Psalm 109 (a psalm one could view as Christ’s prayer for the unconverted, as John 17 is His prayer for His people), etc.? Early hymnals, such as Asahel Nettleton’s Village Hymns for Social Worship (which is still in print and available), had hair-raising songs on hell and damnation in them (and, as all hymnals of the second great Awakening era, they didn’t have the choruses)?
    Anyway, this all seems to me to relate to offering God what He wants in music.
    As an addendum, let’s not sing God songs with false doctrine, such as denying the total depravity of man (“Rescue the Perishing,” where we sing to the God who wrote Jer 17:9 that the human heart has good things in it that just need to be restored by kind words and things like that), misinterpreting verses (“bid [Jesus] enter while you may” into your heart for salvation, as if Rev 3:20 was talking about that), confusing Christ and Antichrist (Conquering now and still to conquer, Rev 6:1–the king in there is Antichrist–OOPS!), etc. Then again, perhaps God didn’t really take worship that seriously when He burned up people for offering Him what He didn’t want, and we can just keep on doing what we are doing.

    Praise the Lord that we have a great High Priest who bears even the iniquties of our holy things, and whose effectual intercession guarantees that we will offer Him perfect worship in our glorified state to all eternity.

  17. July 12, 2007 at 9:06 pm

    I agree with what Bro. Ross has written.

  18. Travis Burke
    July 14, 2007 at 5:55 pm

    Pastor Brandenburg,
    Can you email me more information about the Psalter as I am very interested. I looked it up and it seems to be used in the Presbyterian churches. Thanks for any information.
    Travis Burke
    tjb621@adelphia.net

  19. July 14, 2007 at 6:58 pm

    Another resource you might find helpful is The Book of Psalms for Singing, published by Crown and Covenant.. I picked one up when I was at Central last month.

  20. July 14, 2007 at 8:55 pm

    We prefer the Book of Psalms for Singing in our church, though we have yet to see the Trinity Hymnal (we have it on order). We also use the Comprehensive Psalter that Bethel uses, though not as often. Travis, you are right. Both are published by the Presbyterians.

    I’ll have more to say on Psalm-singing… when I get around to posting again.

  21. July 14, 2007 at 9:00 pm

    Bro. Travis, I understand not wanting anything printed by Presbyterians, but the psalter itself is just the psalms, versified, and then set to appropriate music. We put a sticker over the publisher as a disclaimer. The Trinity Hymnal, Baptist Edition, has a full psalter in it. That is the hymnbook we use.

  22. July 14, 2007 at 9:03 pm

    http://www.vor.org/truth/trnhym/thorder.html

    That’s the website with the order form for Trinity Hymnal.

  23. July 15, 2007 at 4:10 am

    Bro. Travis, I understand not wanting anything printed by Presbyterians…

    I am not sure I do. The Reformed Baptist congregation that you can acquire the TH:BE from is a congregation in Grand Rapids, MI that I would think would have numerous differences with the churches of the men who blog here. They may share similar names (Baptist), but the GR congregation is basically Presbyterians who reject paedobaptism. The entire hymnal itself is certainly a Presbyterian compilation- it is the reproduced hymnal of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, only the Reformed Baptist republishers replaced the Westminster Confession with the London Baptist Confession, and swiped 2-3 hymns that referenced paedobaptism with hymns that talked of immersion. I’ve been to the local OPC church and looked at their hymnals- they look virtually identical, down to the typeset.

    When we look at publishers and compilers of major works of value to believers… where would the King James Bible be if not for the Anglicans? How many language tools and commentaries would we be limited to if we only used Baptist authors and publishers? Put the sticker on if you must (though I personally would say that seems excessive, do you intend to be consistent and place a sticker at each hymn not authored by a Baptist? That’s a lot of stickers…), but hesitating to use materials because they aren’t published by Baptist authors seems to me to be a road that you are going to have a hard time traveling consistently on.

  24. July 15, 2007 at 8:49 am

    Bro. Greg, here’s my argument for Bro. Travis, and why I put a disclaimer on our psalter. I want my people to know that we are definitely not Presbyterians and that we are separated from them based on doctrine and practice—that might be obvious to some, but not to others. I don’t want to endorse presbyterianism. That doesn’t mean I can’t be thankful for a good job of versification and song writing that they did, just like I think the KJV Anglican and Puritan guys did a good job. If the KJV said Anglican in an obvious way on the cover, I would put a disclaimer about Anglicanism on that too.

  25. Thomas Ross
    July 15, 2007 at 10:37 am

    The address to purchase the psalter that is used at Bethel is:

    http://www.fpcr.org/catalog/catalog_mail.htm

    They also have files that one can download that have all the tunes, so a family that does not own a piano or know all the tunes can listen to them. Crown and Covenant publications (http://www.crownandcovenant.com/) also has some good tapes/CD’s of psalm singing; many of their works are excellent, but a few have songs that are not good, so one should listen to a tape/CD through before putting it in a church bookstore, etc.

    The Reformed Baptist church in Grand Rapids is NOT “merely” Presbyterians who reject paedobaptism. Along with the rejection of infant baptism, they would reject the false gospel taught by John Calvin of presumptive baptismal regeneration and the like (although they might not warn against this false gospel like they should). Furthermore, as they are Baptists, they reject presbyterian hierarchichalism for congregational church government, Calvin’s heretical position on the Lord’s supper, etc.

    Another difference in the Baptist edition of the hymnal (where more than “two or three” hymns were changed–although it was not a vast quantity) was that the Baptists added at least a portion of each psalm that was not represented in the hymnal text in the back. That is a good thing, although God does not want us just to sing sections of each of His 150 Psalms, but all of each of them–the Presbyterians did not have even portions of each of the psalms in the hymnal.

    In relation to the KJV, I think it is worth noting that Tyndale, whose parents were members of a Baptist church and who very possibly could have been a Baptist himself, although that is not certain, and who held to Baptist doctrines of baptism, local-only ecclesiology on the doctrine of the church, etc. (according to the History of Baptists, J. T. Christian), was the ultimate “father” of the KJV, so that the KJV is c. 90% the Tyndale Bible. Thus there was very heavy Baptist/Baptistic influence on the KJV.

  26. July 15, 2007 at 2:09 pm

    Thomas,

    It was an oversimplification- but still, I am thinking that there are things more Presbyterian about them than would be true of the churches of the men who blog here. For that matter, the Presbyterians I know would also reject “presumptive Baptismal regeneration,” FWIW.

    My point still stands- we who are Baptists benefit from the efforts of believers who would not identify as Baptists.

  27. Thomas Ross
    July 15, 2007 at 6:37 pm

    In relation to theology of Calvin and Presbyterianism, I have cut and pasted the following from a paper I wrote entitled “Were the Reformers Heretics?” If you (or someone else) wants a copy, e-mail me at trkjv2@yahoo.com. Unfortunately, the footnotes did not get in here. BTW, the paper here relates to the statements of Greg in the above note, not specifically about music—so if you, dear blog reader, are not interested in this subject, please skip the rest of this comment. Please forgive its length.

    John Calvin likewise taught that baptism was a means of regeneration and salvation. He declared that “God, regenerating us in baptism, ingrafts us into the fellowship of his Church, and makes us his by adoption . . . whatever time we are baptized, we are washed and purified . . . forgiveness, which at our first regeneration we receive by baptism alone . . . forgiveness has reference to baptism. . . . In baptism, the Lord promises forgiveness of sins.” However, defining regeneration as the renovation of the new man which continued over the course of one’s life, rather than the work of an instant, he asserted that the guilt of sin is removed in baptism, but regeneration only begins at that moment of time. Calvin wrote, “We assert that the whole guilt of sin is taken away in baptism, so that the remains of sin still existing are not imputed. That this may be more clear, let my readers call to mind that there is a twofold grace in baptism, for therein both remission of sins and regeneration are offered to us. We teach that full remission is made, but that regeneration is only begun and goes on making progress during the whole of life. Accordingly, sin truly remains in us, and is not instantly in one day extinguished by baptism, but as the guilt is effaced it is null in regard to imputation. Nothing is plainer than this doctrine.” However, while the Holy Spirit wrought the work of regeneration, and the blood of Christ washed away the sins of baptized infants through the instrumentality of the ordinance, Calvin held, however, contrary to the Catholic and Lutheran doctrines, that baptism was not absolutely essential to salvation, but people could be saved by faith who had no opportunity to be baptized. For “when we cannot receive [baptism] from the Church, the grace of God is not so inseparably annexed to them that we cannot obtain it by faith, according to his word.” Grace is annexed to baptism, and the sacrament is the ordinary vehicle for sealing grace, remission of sins, and regeneration, but God may perform an extraordinary and unusual work to save some even apart from baptism. Calvin stated, “We, too [as do the Catholics], acknowledge that the use of baptism is necessary—that no one may omit it from either neglect or contempt. In this way we by no means make it free (optional). And not only do we strictly bind the faithful to the observance of it, but we also maintain that it is the ordinary instrument of God in washing and renewing us; in short, in communicating to us salvation. The only exception we make is, that the hand of God must not be tied down to the instrument. He may of himself accomplish salvation. For when an opportunity for baptism is wanting, the promise of God alone is amply sufficient.” Ordinarily, baptism is the means of communicating salvation. However, in the rare situations where one cannot receive the sacrament, then God “may” of Himself save the unbaptized. The limitation of this exception to situations where “an opportunity for baptism is wanting” is significant—no hope of heaven is set forth for the unbaptized in the great majority of situations where access to the sacrament is possible. Nonetheless, infants who die without baptism, as long as they have Christian parents and the omission of sacrament was not on account of “sloth, nor contempt, nor negligence,” can expect to be saved. Indeed, elect infants are “received into the Church by a formal sign [of baptism] because, in virtue of the promise [of a saving covenant between God, Christians, and the children of Christians], they previously belonged to the body of Christ. . . . the children of believers are not baptized, in order that though formerly aliens from the Church, they may then, for the first time, become children of God.” Since the children of the Church were already part of the body of Christ from the womb by virtue of God’s covenant, they can be saved even without the seal of baptism. Their membership in the Church before baptism explains how Calvin can maintain both the salvation of the children of Reformed parents and the doctrine that outside of the visible Church there is no salvation. Since infants with Reformed parents were also not “aliens” but already “the children of God” at that time, it would also be unnecessary, indeed, sinful, for such “covenant children” to come to a place where they recognized themselves as lost, hell-bound sinners who were certain of present damnation on account of their sins and needed to, for the first time, consciously repent and believe the gospel, and so become Christians and be adopted into God’s family through a conversion experience. “Our children [those in the Reformed faith], before they are born, God declares that he adopts for his own when he promises that he will be a God to us, and to our seed after us. In this promise their salvation is included.” All that was required for eternal bliss on the part of these infants was perseverance in their adherence to the Reformed faith and perseverance in the type of life consistent with Christian morality, thus evincing their election and regeneration in infancy.
    Calvin also held that all those who received remission of sins as sealed in baptism were secure; those God made true Christians in their infancy in accordance with the baptismal covenant could not later fall and be finally lost. This was contrary to the Catholic and Lutheran doctrines that the regeneration given in baptism could be lost by subsequent sinning, so that a true Christian could fall from a state of grace and be eternally lost on account of acts of post-baptismal transgression. Calvin held that the saving power of baptism affected one’s entire life, rather than only communicating grace at the moment of its administration. “Nor is it to be supposed that baptism is bestowed only with reference to the past, so that, in regard to new lapses into which we fall after baptism, we must seek new remedies of expiation in other so-called sacraments, just as if the power of baptism had become obsolete. To this error, in ancient times, it was owing that some refused to be initiated by baptism until their life was in extreme danger, and they were drawing their last breath, that they might thus obtain pardon for all the past. Against this preposterous precaution ancient bishops frequently inveigh in their writings. We ought to consider that at whatever time we are baptized, we are washed and purified once for the whole of life. Wherefore, as often as we fall, we must recall the remembrance of our baptism, and thus fortify our minds, so as to feel certain and secure of the remission of sins. For though, when once administered, it seems to have passed, it is not abolished by subsequent sins. For the purity of Christ was therein offered to us, always is in force, and is not destroyed by any stain: it wipes and washes away all our defilements.” When a follower of Calvin’s theology sins, he does not need to fear that he is again lost; by recalling that in baptism he was washed and purified once for his whole life, he can feel certain and secure of the remission of his sins.
    Bromiley provides an insightful analysis of John Calvin’s baptismal theology:
    Calvin referred to baptism as “an incorporation into Christ, an entry into the divine Sonship.” He said “we are baptized for the mortification of our flesh, which is begun in baptism [note by this writer: consider that Calvin does not say that mortification begins at the point of faith, prior to baptism, but at the moment of baptism itself], is prosecuted every day, and will be finished when we depart from this life to go to the Lord.” Calvin said that the necessity of precept of baptism, was not an absolute necessity, so that it was not true “that all who have not obtained baptism must perish.”
    The teaching of Calvin . . . like Bucer . . . repudiated the traditional “enclosing of the grace and virtue of the Spirit by the external sign.” But he avoided the opposite extreme of denying that there is any connection between the sacraments and the grace which they signify. He emphasized three main facts: first, that God has ordained the sacraments as means of grace; second, that repentance and faith are indispensable to their proper use; and third, that their efficacy depends ultimately upon the divine election. The sacrament of baptism does have a real effect, but only as it is sovereignly used by the Holy Spirit and received and understood in faith.
    It may be noted that there are many affinities between the doctrine of Calvin and that of the Schoolmen, for they started from the same fundamental principles. But they applied the principles in very different ways and with widely divergent results. On both sides, for example, it was held that God Himself is the true and sole author of baptismal grace. But while the Schoolmen deduced from this that God will inevitably operate through the means which He Himself has instituted, Calvin contended for His continuing freedom and sovereignty as “the internal master.” Again, both sides could admit the indispensability of repentance and faith, but whereas the Schoolmen conceived of repentance and faith narrowly and negatively, and argued that even the insincere and unbelieving will receive at least a spiritual impress, Calvin regarded repentance and faith positively as themselves the creative work of the Holy Spirit by which baptism has its effect and without which it can never be more than the external sign. And although he did not dispute that in baptism an offer of grace is made to all, and that “the grace of baptism may resume its place” at any time when there is true repentance, he could not accept either the artificial concept of a baptismal character or the view that grace itself is present even when obstructed by insincerity or unbelief. As Calvin saw it, “the promises are common to all, but the ratification of them is the gift of the Spirit.” . . . With the believing . . . as they received the sign they perceived Christ Himself, and therefore they enjoyed the grace. In the normal course, it was the specific function of the sacrament to confirm the faith in Christ already evoked by the word, but in the case of infants baptism could be a powerful adjunct to the word even in the evocation of the faith by which its benefits were subsequently received and enjoyed.
    Along lines such as these Calvin was able to hold a definite doctrine of sacramental efficacy without slipping into that static conception which meant an automatic efficacy and a practical denial of the free sovereignty of the Holy Spirit. The presentation of his doctrine varied to some extent with his successors, but not in any important particular. . . . The lesson had been well learned that although there is a sacramental union of sign and grace it must be understood in a dynamic rather than a static sense, related on the one hand to the sovereign freedom of God, and on the other to the individual faith of the recipient.
    The insistence of Luther and Lutheranism on the real presence and oral manducation in the Lord’s Supper, not Lutheran insistence on baptismal regeneration, was the reason for the inability for the Lutheran and the Reformed denominations to combine, either at the Colloquy of Marburg during the disputation between Luther and Zwingli, or in later times. “‘In regard to the Confession of Augsburg [which affirms, “baptism . . . is necessary to salvation,” Article IX], [Calvin] says in his Last Admonition to Westphal, ‘my answer is, that, as it was published at Ratisbon (1541) [in this version Luther’s position on communion was moderated], it does not contain a word contrary to our doctrine.’” Baptismal regeneration was not a primary matter of disagreement between Luther, Calvin, and the denominations that adopted their theologies, because all involved held to the doctrine. Calvin’s view that a possibility of salvation existed for those infants of Christian parents who died without the sacrament in the rare situations where it was not possible to have it performed, and other secondary differences from the position of Luther, did not alter the primary agreement between these Reformers that the sacrament of baptism was a means of bestowing grace and regeneration on infants and others who received it.
    In agreement with Luther, John Calvin advised that “Anabaptists . . . should . . . be put to death.” The Baptist doctrines of justification by faith apart from sacraments, the necessity of personal conversion, and believer’s baptism, were anathema to him. Calvin and the Baptists were by no means partakers of a common Christian faith.

    Here are the footnotes that could not get in the blog comment above:

    Institutes, 4:17:1, 4:15:3, 4, 15.
    John Calvin, 1547 Antidote to the Council of Trent, Reply to the 1st Decree of the 5th Session.
    Institutes, 4:15:22.
    The Scriptural uses of the words “sign” and “seal” give no support whatever to the idea that baptism is a vehicle to convey saving grace. A Biblical “sign” was by no means a method of bestowing grace that led to the forgiveness of sin. The censers of false worshippers who were burned by the fire of God and eternally damned were a “sign unto the children of Israel” (Numbers 16:38), but they neither saved those that worshipped with them nor any other Israelite from hell. No use of “sign” in either the Old or New Testament provides any support whatever to the idea that “signs” are conjoined to justifying grace.
    Nothing in Scripture associates the word “seal” with the communication of saving grace. Romans 4:11 is the only verse that one could even somewhat reasonably attempt to use to defend the Calvinist doctrine from the Bible; one could allege that circumcision is a “seal” of grace, that the sacrament of infant baptism is equivalent to circumcision, and that, therefore, infant baptism seals or conveys grace to infants. This argument breaks down at many points. First, the verse does not say that circumcision was a seal of grace to Jewish male infants; while circumcision was a “sign” by nature, it is not affirmed to have been a “seal” to all, but only to believing Abraham personally, who received it when he had already been justified by faith. A recognition of this distinction in Romans 4:11 explains the Old Testament use of the word “sign” or “token” (Hebrew ‘oth) in connection to circumcision in general (Genesis 17:11), but the total lack of Old Testament references to the ceremony as a “seal.” Second, the New Testament does not equate circumcision with baptism or state that the latter replaces the former. Third, the Biblical immersion of believers has nothing to do with the ceremonial application of water to infants that Catholics and Protestants claim is baptism. Fourth, when advocates of Reformed theology and other Protestants speak of baptism as a “seal” or vehicle of grace, they use the word in a sense entirely absent in Scripture. None of the appearances of sphragis in the New Testament, or similar words in the Old Testament, indicate that grace is conveyed through a “seal” (Romans 4:11; 1 Corinthians 9:2; 2 Timothy 2:19; Revelation 5:1-2, 5, 9; 6:1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 12; 7:2; 8:1; 9:4).
    John Calvin, 1547 Antidote to the Council of Trent, Antidote to the Canons of Baptism, Canon #5.
    Institutes, 4:15:22.
    Institutes, 4:15:22.
    “It is now our purpose to discourse of the visible Church. Let us learn, from her single title of Mother, how useful, nay, how necessary the knowledge of her is, since there is no other means of entering into life unless she conceive us in the womb and give us birth, unless she nourish us at her breasts, and, in short, keep us under her charge and government, until, divested of mortal flesh, we become like the angels (Matt 22:30). For our weakness does not permit us to leave the school until we have spent our whole lives as scholars. Moreover, beyond the pale of the Church no forgiveness of sins, no salvation, can be hoped for, as Isaiah and Joel testify (Isa 37:32; Joel 2:32). To their testimony Ezekiel subscribes, when he declares, “They shall not be in the assembly of my people, neither shall they be written in the writing of the house of Israel” (Ezek 13:9), as, on the other hand, those who turn to the cultivation of true piety are said to inscribe their names among the citizens of Jerusalem. For which reason it is said in the psalm, “Remember me, O Lord, with the favour that thou bearest unto thy people: O visit me with thy salvation; that I may see the good of thy chosen, that I may rejoice in the gladness of thy nation, that I may glory with thine inheritance” (Ps 106:4-5). By these words the paternal favour of God and the special evidence of spiritual life are confined to his peculiar people, and hence the abandonment of the Church is always fatal” (Calvin, Institutes, 4:1:4). The notion that outside of the visible church there is no salvation is not inconsistent with the doctrine of an invisible church made up of the elect; Calvin’s favorite patristic writer, Augustine, held both dogmas, affirming that the invisible church of the elect consisted of a portion of the members of the visible catholic church, but nobody was a member of the invisible church who was not as well a member of the visible Catholic denomination.
    Institutes, 4:15:20.
    The Catholic Council of Trent declared “that the received grace of justification is lost, not only by infidelity whereby even faith itself is lost, but also by any other mortal sin whatever” (Session VI, Chapter 15). The Lutheran Augsburg Confession “condemn[s] the Anabaptists, who deny that those once justified can lose the Holy Ghost.”
    Institutes, 4:15:3.
    Pg. 17, Baptism, Bromiley.
    Pg. 29, Baptism, Bromiley, citing Institutes, IV, 15, 11.
    Pg. 54, Baptism, Bromiley, citing Harmony of the Evangel., pg. 387.
    Tracts, II, pg. 574.
    Tracts, II, pg. 87.
    Tracts, II, pg. 214; Institutes, IV, 14, 9.
    Tracts, II, pg. 343.
    Tracts, II, pg. 342-343.
    Pg. 189-190, Baptism, Bromiley.
    Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, vol. 8 (3rd. revised ed), chap. 15, sec. 133, “Calvin and the Augsburg Confession.”
    This lack of Reformed dissent and strife over the Lutheran doctrine of baptismal regeneration (“The only serious doctrinal difference which divided Luther and Zwingli at Marburg was the mode of the real presence in the eucharist,” History of the Christian Church, vol. 8, 3rd rev. ed.) continued after the time of the Reformation into later centuries and down to modern times. The position expressed by Charles Hodge, the famous Presbyterian theologian of old Princeton, as seen in his Systematic Theology (vol. 3, Soteriology. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2003, reprint ed., pg. 522-523, 517, 604), is representative. After a stirring denunciation of the Roman Catholic doctrine of baptismal regeneration, including declarations such as “Any one, therefore, who teaches that no man can be saved without the rite of baptism, and that by receiving that rite he is made a child of God and heir of heaven, is antichrist,” Hodge declares that his “remarks are not intended to apply, and in fact are not applicable, to the Lutheran system,” despite the fact that both “the Lutherans and Romanists . . . hold that the sacraments are necessary means of grace, in the sense that the grace which they signify is not received otherwise than in their use. There is no remission of sin or regeneration without baptism [in the Roman and Lutheran view],” and Hodge knows very well that “the Lutheran standards . . . the Augsburg Confession . . . the Apology for that Confession . . . the two catechisms of Luther, the larger and smaller . . . [affirm] that the baptism of infants is not in vain but necessary and effectual to salvation.” The Reformed have constantly opposed the Roman doctrine of infant salvation, but pronounced no denunciation against the Lutheran doctrine of baptismal regeneration. It is not much different than the Reformed view.

  28. July 16, 2007 at 4:34 am

    Thomas,

    I’m not certain of your point here. None of what you say in the pasted excerpt from your paper contradicts my basic point in my previous post.

  29. Pastor Travis Burke
    July 16, 2007 at 7:37 am

    Thank you gentlemen for the information. I am going to order and look at each of the books. Also, I am glad I could help stir up some conversation!

  30. Thomas Ross
    July 16, 2007 at 7:23 pm

    The following questions are good to ask of a Presbyterian who claims to be converted, including those our friend Greg Linscott knows:

    1.) Do you believe that the infant of a believer, who grows up and lives a moral and religious life, needs to come to a particular point where he sees himself as a lost, hell-bound and hell-worthy sinner, after which time he must consciously recognize his condition as lost in sin, repent for the very first time, and believe the gospel for the very first time?

    2.) Do you agree with the Westminster Confession when it states that God’s saving covenant extends to the children of believers, or do you agree with the Bible truth that each must come to Christ on his own?

    3.) Is there salvation outside of the visible church?

    4.) If justification is by faith alone, not by membership in the church, then was John Calvin a heretic for teaching that there was no salvation outside the visible church?

    5.) Do you baptize infants because they are already believers?

    6.) Are you willing to separate from all who teach a false gospel, including all who make a connection between baptism and salvation, including those who believe what the Westminster Confession says about salvation in connection with infants?

    7.) Is baptism a seal and a vehicle of conveying saving grace?

    If he gives true answers on all of the above, the Presbyterian should be showed the truth of believer’s immersion on the authority of one of the Lord’s congregationally governed churches, and called to separate from Presbyterianism. If he gives incorrect answers, then he should have the gospel preached to him. If he denied that the Westminster Confession and catechisms, Calvin, and other Reformed people taught/teach a false gospel, he should be directed to the relevent sections of their writings.

    This conversation is getting off topic!

  31. July 16, 2007 at 7:31 pm

    Amen, Brother Ross. No problem here that it is off topic. Conversations go this way in real life, too. It is good stuff and those questions are important.

  32. July 16, 2007 at 9:13 pm

    Amen to the questions to the Presbyterian.

  33. July 17, 2007 at 11:17 am

    FWIW, I have developed a friendship with the local Orthodox Presbyterian here in my town. He’s just turned 90, and been pastoring his church for something like 57 consecutive years. I asked him a question essentially the spirit of Thomas’s #1, and he answered in the affirmative. Also, FWIW, he very kindly directed two families to attend my church after they had attended his congregation for a while but realized they were not compatible with the OPC church because of the Baptism issue.

    We realize there are issues- substantial issues- that keep us apart. But I have no doubt my friend is a believer in Christ, and that the gospel has been faithfully preached in his church for the past six decades.

    The issues that divide a Presbyterian and a Baptist are of no small consequence. But they are not issues that inherently strike at the heart of the gospel (though there are many self-proclaimed Baptists and Presbyterians who teach and believe things that do).

  34. Thomas Ross
    July 18, 2007 at 9:00 pm

    It is good to know that teaching that the gospel is not corrupted by teaching that grace is sealed and conveyed through sacraments, and that through baptism “the grace [of salvation; that is, of “ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins,” etc.] promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost” (Westminster Confession Chapters 27-28). This would warm the heart of the Judaizers Paul cursed (Gal 1:8-9), as it would modern Papists, Lutherans, Reformed baby “baptizers,” and others who deny the gospel.

    Some Presbyterians are converted, and some Presbyterian groups do not actually teach the false gospel in their confessional documents, but that is because they are more committed to fundamentalism than they are to Presbyterianism (as are many in the Bible Presbyterian denomination). But these are inconsistent, for they claim that they believe what the Westminster Confession, etc. really says. Unfortunately, generally the Orthodox Presbyterian denomination really is Presbyterian, and thus they deny the gospel, as their Reformation forefathers did.

  35. July 19, 2007 at 8:44 am

    Thomas,

    Ironic, isn’t it, that Machen, the founder of the OPC, was considered at the very least a friend to the Fundamentalists, and was arguably counted among their number. He certainly was by the early separatists of the GARBC, who mourned his death in this 1937 issue of the Baptist Bulletin:

    http://www.baptistbulletin.org/wp-content/uploads/2007/04/february-1937.pdf

    (I believe the eulogy was penned by David Otis Fuller- himself a graduate of Princeton Seminary- who, incidentally, asked Machen to stand with him at his wedding as his best man).

    FWIW, I also had a link at one time to an article printed in the Baptist Bulletin conveying official greetings to the GARBC from Machen and the OPC, though I can’t seem to find it up at the moment.

    All I’m saying is that better men (not to mention Baptist men) than you and I have looked at this issue, Thomas, and drawn different conclusions than the one you are making. I would tend to place great weight on how the OPC pastor represents his position (he has nothing to hide). Also, the Bible Presbyterians of which you speak currently maintain a cordial relationship with the OPC. The Bible Presbyterians broke with the OPC (led by McIntire) over issues like abstaining from alcohol, tolerance of dispensationalism, and activism over Communism, not because they had any inherent disagreements over the gospel. And also, FWIW, my local OPC pastor friend is old enough to have seen these events actually occurred, and has spoken with me about them in some detail.

    A couple of interesting links (they’re helpful, though perhaps not the most academically respected of sources)-

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orthodox_Presbyterian_Church

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bible_Presbyterian_Church

  36. July 19, 2007 at 9:41 am

    Greg, I would like to at least hear the answers from some of the Presbyterians as to these types of quotes that Thomas gives above. Obviously, I won’t be their judge, but I think that I’m very strong on the Hyles/revivalist additions/subtractions to the gospel. It is the gospel, after all. I think we err when we become loosey goosey about it, as if that might be OK with God.

  37. July 19, 2007 at 10:36 am

    Kent,
    I am guessing that Article V of Chapter XXVIII of the WCF is how one would say they have not made it an issue that contradicts the gospel:

    V. Although it is a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance, yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto it, as that no person can be regenerated, or saved, without it: or, that all that are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated.

    The quotes Thomas provides seem selective when you read them in context. That isn’t to say I don’t believe they are in error on this (because I do), or that this isn’t a big enough issue to keep us in separate churches (because it is). But it does not strike at the heart of the gospel. In order for that to be true, you would have to be able to prove they believe and teach Baptismal regeneration, which they clearly do not.

  38. T. Ross
    July 20, 2007 at 7:31 pm

    The Reformed argue that it is possible that the children of believers who die without baptism are saved. This is what the quote given declares. Furthermore, note that the quotation itself affirms that “grace and salvation” ARE “annexed unto” baptism, just not so inseparably that all the baptized are necessarily regenerated by the act, as Lutheranism and Catholicism would affirm. In Reformed theology, baptism is normally a vehicle for conveying saving grace, but it does not do so to non-elect infants. This does not make their doctrine other than a false gospel.

  39. July 21, 2007 at 5:20 am

    Thomas,

    If that is the case, what does the “age of accountability” teaching do to the gospel?

  40. Thomas Ross
    July 22, 2007 at 10:56 am

    I don’t think it does anything to the gospel, because it is Scriptural; I am not sure how it relates to the idea that grace and salvation are annexed unto baptism. “the grace [of salvation; that is, of “ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins,” etc.] promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost” through baptism, affirm the Reformed. If the particular question is how it can be that infants that die, or preborn children who are aborted, etc. have the penalty for their original sin and sin nature taken care of, I would say that I am not absolutely sure how that takes place, but the examples of infants who are said to be saved (as David’s, as the child of an ungodly man without circumcision, as the pagan infants who could not discern between their right hand and their left who were the cause of Nineveh being spared, etc.) indicates that God does it somehow. Perhaps Paul’s declaration that he was alive without the law once, but when the law came, sin revived, and he died, also relates. It is worthy of consideration that the command that a man must be born again or he cannot see the kingdom of God seems to presuppose that a man has first been born, so, contextually, I don’t think we can conclude that unborn infants are in view.
    In any case, baptism does not convey grace, and the idea that it does is a false gospel.

  41. July 22, 2007 at 2:07 pm

    Thomas,

    Obviously your mind is made up on this matter, and I doubt anything I would say would change your mind. While I believe our (or perhaps I should say my) WCF-adhering friends get the baptism thing wrong- very wrong- I do not believe that in itself constitutes a false gospel- just an erroneous view of baptism- They are off on a few other matters, but none, I am convinced, changes the nature of salvation by faith alone through grace alone in Christ alone. Nothing you have cited when read in the full context of their own teaching and understanding has been able to establish otherwise.

  42. Thomas Ross
    July 22, 2007 at 7:39 pm

    “God, regenerating us in baptism, ingrafts us into the fellowship of his Church, and makes us his by adoption . . . whatever time we are baptized, we are washed and purified . . . forgiveness, which at our first regeneration we receive by baptism alone . . . forgiveness has reference to baptism. . . . In baptism, the Lord promises forgiveness of sins. (Institutes, 4:17:1, 4:15:3, 4, 15.)

    We assert that the whole guilt of sin is taken away in baptism, so that the remains of sin still existing are not imputed. That this may be more clear, let my readers call to mind that there is a twofold grace in baptism, for therein both remission of sins and regeneration are offered to us. We teach that full remission is made, but that regeneration is only begun and goes on making progress during the whole of life. Accordingly, sin truly remains in us, and is not instantly in one day extinguished by baptism, but as the guilt is effaced it is null in regard to imputation. Nothing is plainer than this doctrine.
    (John Calvin, 1547 Antidote to the Council of Trent, Reply to the 1st Decree of the 5th Session)

    We, too [as do the Catholics], acknowledge that the use of baptism is necessary—that no one may omit it from either neglect or contempt. In this way we by no means make it free (optional). And not only do we strictly bind the faithful to the observance of it, but we also maintain that it is the ordinary instrument of God in washing and renewing us; in short, in communicating to us salvation. The only exception we make is, that the hand of God must not be tied down to the instrument. He may of himself accomplish salvation. For when an opportunity for baptism is wanting, the promise of God alone is amply sufficient. (John Calvin, 1547 Antidote to the Council of Trent, Antidote to the Canons of Baptism, Canon #5.)

    that “to be baptized in the name of Christ is to be enrolled, entered, and received into the covenant and family, and so into the inheritance of the sons of God . . . to be cleansed also from the filthiness of sins . . . God . . . adopts us to be his sons, and by a holy covenant joins us to himself . . . all these things are assured by baptism. . . . We condemn the Anabaptists, who deny that newborn infants of the faithful are to be baptized” (Article 20, 2nd Heidelburg Confession)

    baptism . . . is a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of [one’s] ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins . . . by the right use of this ordinance the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited and conferred by the Holy Ghost” (Westminster Confession, Article 28)

    The Westminster Shorter Catechism likewise states that “outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption, are . . . sacraments . . . which are made effectual to the elect for salvation . . . sacraments become effectual means of salvation . . . a sacrament is a holy ordinance instituted by Christ, wherein, by sensible signs, Christ and the benefits of the new covenant are represented, sealed, and applied unto believers. . . . The sacraments of the New Testament are baptism and the Lord’s supper. . . . Baptism is a sacrament, wherein the washing with water, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, doth signify and seal our ingrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our engagement to be the Lord’s. . . . infants of such as are members of the visible Church are to be baptized.” (Questions 88, 91-95)

    The Westminster Larger Catechism affirms that “the sacraments become effectual means of salvation. . . . A sacrament is an holy ordinance instituted by Christ in his church, to signify, seal, and exhibit unto those that are within the covenant of grace, the benefits of his mediation. . . . Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, wherein Christ hath ordained the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, to be a sign and seal of ingrafting into himself, of remission of sins by his blood, and regeneration by his Spirit; of adoption, and resurrection unto everlasting life; and whereby the parties baptized are solemnly admitted into the visible church, and enter into an open and professed engagement to be wholly and only the Lord’s. . . . infants descending from parents, either both, or but one of them, professing faith in Christ, and obedience to him, are in that respect within the covenant, and to be baptized. . . . The needful but much neglected duty of improving our Baptism, is to be performed by us all our life long . . . by serious and thankful consideration of the nature of it, and of the ends for which Christ instituted it, the privileges and benefits conferred and sealed thereby, and our solemn vow made therein; by being humbled for our sinful defilement, our falling short of, and walking contrary to, the grace of baptism, and our engagements; by growing up to assurance of pardon of sin, and of all other blessings sealed to us in that sacrament; by drawing strength from the death and resurrection of Christ, into whom we are baptized, for the mortifying of sin, and quickening of grace . . . as those that have therein given up their names to Christ . . . as being baptized by the same Spirit into one body.”

    “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:8-9)

  43. July 22, 2007 at 9:16 pm

    It seems pretty convincing to me. Some five pointers may want to separate themselves from the teachings of Calvin and the whole idea of being reformed, due to the associations with baptismal regeneration. This could open up a can of worms (not the city), but I believe Calvin’s understanding of the five points, and I’ve read this, is directly related to infant baptism.

  44. July 23, 2007 at 5:56 am

    Thomas and Kent,

    The quote I provided and highlighted from the WCF makes it obvious that their understanding of sacraments and baptism is not what you understand it to be. That’s the bottom line. Salvation must still be by grace through faith in Christ. What we disagree on is the significance of the ordinance(s), not the nature of salvation. To accuse them of Baptismal regeneration is to distort their teaching- particularly because you are representing their teaching in a way they themselves would not recognize or acknowledge.

  45. July 23, 2007 at 6:04 am

    My dad used to call the Reformed Baptists “Deep-water Presbyterians”.

    The fact is that infant “baptism” is a false doctrine which came right out of the Roman Catholic Church. To call the neglect of this so-called “ordinance” a grave sin is also false doctrine.

    They are doing what Jesus condemned the Pharisees for doing:

    Matthew 15:9
    (9) But in vain they do worship me, teaching [for] doctrines the commandments of men.

    While some of them may be good saved men, they are leading generations down the path of destruction with this false picture of salvation. I personally hold the doctrine of “infant baptism” as ungodly as any other false doctrine concerning salvation.

  46. July 23, 2007 at 9:04 am

    Again, I believe the teaching we are discussing to be in error- which is why I am a Baptist by conviction (and church membership) and not a Presbyterian. However, since I am also a Fundamentalist, I recognize that believers do exists who hold to some erroneous understandings of consequential matters, yet with whom we share agreement on the essential nature of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Because of that, I recognize that there is some fellowship to be shared- which might include, for example, benefiting from their psalters and hymnals (this last point is my lame attempt to bring the line of discussion back full circle). Personally, I think some of you here recognize that, too, but for various reasons hesitate or refuse to frame your positions in this way for fear of being viewed as “compromising” on the commitment to your Baptist position.

  47. July 23, 2007 at 12:52 pm

    I also believe that some men are better than their theology. I have many writings from Reformed Baptists and Presbyterians (they seem to write a lot).

    I am not afraid of being called a compromiser. In fact, the older I get, the less I care what other preachers think of my stands. This sounds more strident that it really is.

    I will say this as a parting comment: For the most part, I treat these people with much more kindness and brotherly love than they do with people of our convictions, either in public discourse or writings.

  48. T. Ross
    July 23, 2007 at 7:08 pm

    The quote our friend Greg provided actually demonstrates that the WCF affirms that baptism is ordinarily a way of conveying salvation, but that it does not necessarily do so. As I wrote above, Calvin said that unbaptized infants of believers who did not neglect the ordinance could be saved. (He made no such exception for infants of parents who did neglect the ordinance or for the infants of non-Christians.) Depending on how one defines baptismal regeneration, Calvin either opposed or supported it. He opposed the Catholic view of it, but he supported the view that it sealed and conveyed grace. His qualifications were that the saving grace conveyed in connection with baptism to the elect could become effective at another time, rather than at that very moment, and that in extraordinary situations saving grace could be conveyed without baptism. However, normally baptism was connected to/essential to salvation.
    Furthermore, modern Presbyterians and other Reformed people who want to hold a more Zwinglian view on the sacraments still do not end up believing the gospel many times, because they argue (as Calvin did elsewhere) that baptism is for believers, infants of believers are already believers because they are regenerated in the womb, and therefore infant baptism is believer’s baptism. This heresy removes the necessity for one coming to conscious, personal faith in Christ at a moment in time later.
    I am thankful that some modern Presbyterians reject the teaching of their own confessional statements and believe in the true gospel (often due to Baptist/or other non-Presbyterian influence, whether present or past, or simply based on the fact that Scripture has no such heresies as their confessional statements affirm.). There have been pastors (wolves?) in Reformed denominations for a long time that have not believed what they claimed to when they were ordained; to cite an older, pre-modernism example, Charles Finney was ordained as a Presbyterian minister in the early 1800’s despite the fact that he was a Pelagian in the doctrine of sin, held a governmental view of the atonement, and was rabidly committed to the idea that salvation could be lost and to perfectionist heresy.

    This does not change the fact that the WCF and other Reformed documents, along with Calvin and other Reformed leaders, denied the gospel.

    For more on this subject including the specific quote Greg mentioned above (not by mean Baptists who are out to get everyone and think that they are the only ones who are right, but by Reformed people who agree with Calvin and Reformed confessional statements on baptismal salvation), please see:

    http://www.hornes.org/theologia/rich-lusk/baptismal-efficacy-the-reformed-tradition-past-present-future
    http://www.joelgarver.com/writ/sacr/wcf.htm
    http://www.joelgarver.com/writ/sacr/earlyscots.htm
    http://www.hornes.org/theologia/rich-lusk/calvin-on-baptism-penance-absolution

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