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Archive for May, 2011


Some time back I did a rather brief review of Paul Tripp’s new book on marriage, What Did You Expect?”  As I mentioned there, I think this is one of the best books on marriage.  Tripp goes beneath the surface of marriage (and this is applicable to ANY relationship).

In the DVD, taken from a conference, is similar but not identical to the book.  In the DVD, he focuses on the big picture of marriage.  And that heart of a marriage is determined by worship.  What you worship will determine the quality of your marriage, and other relationships.  The more you worship someone or something instead of God, you will be in conflict because you don’t have the same desires and priorities.

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Last night we watched a disturbing independent movie starring Samuel L. Jackson and Carrie-Anne Moss called Unthinkable.  Though disturbing, it is an effective movie that makes you seriously consider how far you will hang on to your principles in the discussion of heightened interrogation techniques when potentially millions of lives are on the line.

The film makers stack the deck against you.  They start with the “nightmare” scenario of 3 nuclear bombs placed around the country.  If the government cuts funding to the programs that work to keep such nuclear material outside our borders, this could happen sooner than you’d like to think.  They were not placed there by just any Muslim terrorist, but by an American convert who used to belong to the Delta Force.  Yes, he’s fully aware of all interrogation techniques and is purposely caught.

Enter Carrie-Anne Moss as FBI agent Brody who provides, or tries to, the moral compass of the movie.  She is a Harvard law school grad.  So, she’s all about the rule of law and protecting the rights of individual citizens.  When she sees the initial interrogator at work, she’s upset.  He’s merely making the man uncomfortable.

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This post will look at the third and last position discussed in Baptism: Three Views.  First, Dr. Bruce Ware used a (truncated) systematic theological approach to defend believers’ baptism.  Then Dr. Sinclair Ferguson used a biblical theological approach to defend infant baptism.  Now Dr. Anthony Lane will use a historical theology approach to defend what he called the dual practice approach.

Here is not what he means- most Reformed paedobaptist churches do not bind the consciences of credobaptist members.  They do not exercise church discipline for not practicing the doctrine of the church.  Most often such members are not eligible for office, however.  Some baptist churches also recognize the infant baptism of members, refusing to bind their consciences.  Those members often are not permitted to hold office due to their divergent views.  This is not “dual practice” per se, but extending grace to those who differ on a non-essential.

Dual Practice occurs in denominations, or congregations, that have no official practice but allow freedom to parents on the issue of whether or not to baptize or dedicate their children.  When I was between pastoral calls, I was open to considering the Evangelical Free Church since they were considering removing pre-milennialism from their statement of faith.  But they eventually decided to keep that, ruling me out.  Congregations there are free to practice each according to the theology of the pastor & lay leaders.  In the Evangelical Covenant, mentioned by Ware, they officially practice both based on the desire/convictions of the parents.  Ware was opposed to this, seeing it as binding his conscience.  As a good Southern Baptist, he has no problem binding the conscience of others forcing them to be baptized if they want to become members.  My mother-in-law was forced to do this to join an independent Baptist church. So his comments come across to me as hypocritical.

Back to Lane’s views.  He states that Marcel’s defense of infant baptism (which was very helpful to me) led him into believers’ baptism.  And then Beasley-Murray’s book led him into dual practice despite the author’s intention.  He sounds to me to be a contrarian.  The NT texts, he says, teach a converts’ baptism.  Baptism, in his view, is part of the conversion process and that there is not true conversion without it.  He believes the NT is silent on the issue of infants, and believes that this could be part of a biblical practice of converts’ baptism.  He thinks that some household baptisms involved infants, but this is not conclusive.

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I’m working my way through the 3 main sections of Baptism: Three Views.  In my previous post, I worked through the essay by Dr. Bruce Ware on Believers’ Baptism (aka credobaptism) and the responses by Dr. Sinclair Ferguson and Dr. Anthony Lane.  This time through I’ll be working through the essay by Ferguson on infant baptism (paedobaptism) and the responses.

Previously I talked about the power (for good or ill) of presuppositions.  If Ferguson’s presentation in Systematic Theology II (Ecclessiology and Sacraments) was anything near as compelling as this essay, my presuppositions were working for ill that day in 1993.

Presuppositions become far clearer in the responses of Ware and Lane.  But I found Ferguson’s essay an incredible example of how great theologizing is to be done.  Instead of expecting explicit statements as if we are all 6 years old, Ferguson thinks through biblical data to see connections and “good and necessary consequences.”  Not all things are clear (as we might like) in Scripture, but they are addressed in just this way.

Ferguson starts with a caution based on 1 Corinthians 1:17 in which Paul “prioritized gospel preaching over baptismal administration without thereby minimizing the important role of the latter.”  A different approach from Ware who warned of disobedience in the matter of baptism (though that is true).

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My journey on the doctrine of baptism was long and at times arduous.  I think it may be pertinent as I review this book about baptism.  I was raised Roman Catholic, and was “baptized” as an infant (I say “baptized” since my parents are nominally Catholic and I question whether I had a right to baptism).  As a new convert, I unknowingly fell into a campus cult that taught you needed to be baptized to be saved.  I knew I was already saved by grace thru faith, but believed I should be baptized so I was.  Soon I was engaging my “discipler” on the issue, driven to better understand Scripture and leave that “ministry”.  I found a Conservative Baptist church in my hometown and enjoyed my new life as a Christian there until I left for Seminary 5 years later.  At seminary I was a credobaptist among paedobaptists, and I was thankful for Dr. Nicole as I also read Kingdon & Jewette to defend my credobaptism from a covenantal perspective.

Finally, 2 years after I graduated from seminary (the first time), the light bulb went on.  A friend jokingly challenged me that my resistance was a reaction to growing up Catholic.  I re-entered my study with “Lord, if this is true help me to see it.”  I saw that I had erroneous presuppositions that led to my resistance of a fully biblical view of baptism.  I had it partially right, but not wholly right.

So, my cards are on the table- are yours?  The power of presuppositions is one of the reasons this discussion is so difficult.  We are not just dealing with biblical texts, but all the presuppositions about Scripture we bring to the table.  This is true about all doctrinal discussions, but this discussion is particularly laden with landmines.  Baptism: Three Views brings three respected theologians together to work through it.

The introduction quotes from Barth, who after writing the quote moved from a paedobaptist position to credobaptist position, about how your anger reveals a vulnerable point in your position.  Could be.  Or it could also be that your sanctification has not sufficiently progressed to patiently deal with a person who is either unteachable or utterly blind of the presuppositions he or she brings to the table.  So be careful about using that quote, folks.

Dr. Bruce Ware, a self-described Progressive Dispensationalist (footnote, pp. 42), is the first to present his view.  He has written many books I’ve found edifying, including God’s Lessor Glory: The Diminished God of Open Theism and the books he edited defending the 5 Points of Calvinism.   He is no theological slouch, which is what makes his presentation all the more disappointing.  I see within it the power of his presuppositions, to it’s detriment.

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For the most part, women just aren’t into pornography (I think this is a great thing).  In recent years the use of pornography among women has increased, sadly.  But I haven’t seen evidence that it has quite the same addictive quality for women as for men.

For years, I’ve considered the romance novel the equivalent of pornography for women.  Some women collect them like some men can collect magazines and DVDs.  I’ve noticed a similar effect taking place.  Men end up having unrealistic expectations for their wives’ appearance.  They inevitably compare them to the women they viewed in magazines, movies or on-line.  In a similar fashion, women begin to compare their men to the men in the books.  They have expectations of behavior- romance- rather than how well put together he is.

You mention this, and people think you’re a little strange.  It is just a book (which, oddly, is similar to what men who enjoy pornography say).  But thanks to some researchers at Boston University (Go, Terriers!), perhaps I’m not as strange as you thought I was.  Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam (I have no idea how to pronounce their names) put their findings in A Billion Wicked Thoughts.

Like pornography, romance stories (they can be movies!) typically follow a pattern.  The rough-edged alpha male finally succumbs to the wiles of the heroine, becoming slightly domesticated.  He often rescues her, but they live happily ever after.  Like pornography, there is no sequel.  There is no loving through the thick and thin.  There is just the idealized moment, in one case sexual and the other romantic.  Both stop well short of real relationship with a real person with weaknesses, character flaws, signs of aging and gas.

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Just wanted to let people know about some good books that are currently on Clearance at WTS Bookstore.

I’ve just started reading Baptism: Three Views.  Burned out on baptism books after years of studying this topic, I was drawn to the fact that Sinclair Ferguson is one of the contributors.  So far I have read Bruce Ware’s defense of first baptism by immersion and secondly credobaptism.  The pages are filled with red ink as I took exception to some really lousy arguments by someone I otherwise respect.  Ferguson’s response to his essay exposed some serious flaws in this thinking and his inconsistency with his own denomination’s definition of baptism.  But all of that is for another day.  This book is only $3.20.

The Prince’s Poison Cup (Audio book) is only $5.  This is one of the children’s books by R.C. Sproul.

Justified in Christ: God’s Plan for Us in Justification, edited by K. Scott Oliphint is only$5.70.  Contributors include Sinclair Ferguson, Richard Gaffin, John Murray and Carl Trueman.

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