Infant Baptism Will Save the World?

Stanley Hauerwas, A Better Hope, p43–“Gerald Schlabach sent me criticisms of my work that another Mennonite had posted on an e-mail forum. The critic argued that my work is far too Catholic and thus incompatible with an Anabaptist perspective: ‘Hauerwas has a Constantinian fear of Christian liberty. He wants the clergy to tell us the story and the church to have the sanctions to enforce it.’ In his response Schlabach agreed that this is an accurate (although insufficiently nuanced) summary of my views but defended the position nevertheless. ”

Defending Constantine: The Twilight of an Empire and the Dawn of Christendom , Peter Leithart, IVP, 2010

Leithart is a high church theonomist. He teaches at Doug Wilson’s little school in Idaho. Like others in the anti-federal “federal vision”, he teaches justification by works, with a particular emphasis on “sacrament”. His book is endorsed by Anglicans who teach justification by works: Stanley Hauerwas, John Milbank, and NT Wright.

Leithart believes that infant baptism will save the world. Constantly caricaturing one side against the other, he calls John Yoder an “anti-realist”, then puts the Niebuhrs on the other end, and then sits himself in the middle. “In the end it all comes down to infant baptism.” P341.

When we ask how Constantine and infant baptism will save the world, Leithart asks us to stop being so impatient. Baptism has happened, and it will change the world, because justification by works has worked and will work.

Make no mistake: Leithart is still a theonomist, and the ritualism of James Jordan has not changed his dogmatic agenda that “the Old Testament is normative for politics”. (p131). When somebody like James Carroll (Constantine’s Sword) complains about the anti-semitism of Augustine, Leithart is quick to defend the good old days of the middle ages. The Jews were merely not allowed to proselytize, and besides, he is pro-Jewish because he thinks the OT is normative for politics. And he’s against all kinds of sectarian proselytizing, except of course his own proselytizing for one universal church.

Leithart very much opposes the “John Locke” Protestantism in which separatists (isolationists) “hold opinions that divide them from the general public”. We are reminded that theonomy is not about a combination of church and state but about having one church (with bishops) which can stand up to the state. He quotes Rushdoony (p181) about Trinitarians resisting imperialism. If you won’t support killing heretics, then you are left with “invisible churches”.

Of course we could ask all kinds of questions here, like which kind of visibility? Which church? Which bishops? Whose ordination? But Leithart cautions us to be patient about all such details. All we need to know for now is that infants are being baptized in the name of Trinitarianism. It’s happening, no matter what kind of “nominalist” objections and theories are being suggested. And Leithart himself is still ordained by the PCA, and if the PCA were to become a sect and disqualify him, then he would simply move on to the one church which remains the one church.

If you won’t defend Augustine for killing Donatists who “re-baptise”, then you simply show that you are a baptist at heart. True Anglicans still know that it’s a sin not to have your infants baptized by the one church. We cannot say that Constantine had no mission, because his mission was the empire, and in order to become a citizen in that empire, you also needed to be baptized (and have your infants done, along with your wife and slaves) and if you object to that, you show yourself to be modernist plain and simple.

Indeed, argues Leithart, Constantine really subverted the empire (you see) because he used his great power in the empire to change the empire! How could he have ended the gladiatorial shows, if he had retreated from cultural engagement like the quietists and separatists? If you can vote, you must, and if you can kill for a more civilized culture, then the killing itself becomes civilization!

If Joseph and Daniel can dream for the emperors, doesn’t it stand to reason that you also must become emperor if you can kill enough people to do so? And shame on Constantine for refusing to wear the purple when he thought he was near death, as if being emperor and being Christian were in competition. There is a bad justification by works, like when you do stuff not commanded, or stop doing stuff not forbidden, like stop killing, but then there is a good justification by works, when you can baptize the nations in the name of the Trinity.

Leithart knows that anti-Constantinianism is a cover for liberalism, or even worse, for pacifism. And so he argues simply, for those of us who are too dumb to get it. Augustine was a Christian. Augustine was not a pacifist. Therefore Christians do not need to be pacifists. Christians need only to reject “their wars” (that of the Marxists or the Anabaptist sectarians). But when Constantine becomes a Christian, then his wars become Christian wars, and thus our wars.

Leithart explains to us that John Yoder was effected by his social location: writing in Europe against the state churches of Europe, Yoder could not see that this kind of sectarian nation-building is not the same thing as the medieval achievement of cultural unity. In other words, with Milbank and Hauerwas, Leithart is accusing the ecclesiology of Yoder of still being “modernist”. Even if we can’t be quite Roman Catholic yet, we must all agree now that justification by faith is mere Gnosticism and that justification is by obedience to God’s law, and for that we need both character and community.

And of course Constantine’s history Is somewhat messy (especially his family life) but the alternative is the impatience of perfectionism. Leithart appeals to all us who grew up in dispensationalism and now see ourselves as superior to all that. Surely, “church history is not an empty parenthesis.” (p325) We need to work with that which has come about with the passing of time, and if we resist the gradualism of the Magisterial Reformers, we will end up with no church at all, and no conservative culture!

In order to “de-sacrifice the empire” and thus eliminate the confusion of patriotism and religion, we need to do two things, according to Leithart. First, we need to sacrifice (kill) the enemies of Rome. Second, we need to move the patriotic rituals out of the realm of the empire and move them into the church (which will support the empire). And one great immediate effect of this is that blood sacrifice is ended in the Jewish temple in Ad 70. Sure, in theory, the blood in the temple never worked, certainly not after Christ died, but if you want to see the real coming of the Christ, see it there in the Roman invasion of Jerusalem in Ad 70. (No wonder the theonomists and the preterists like NT Wright’s “end of exile” theology so much!)

If you are patient enough, you can make a nation Christian in the same way that you make an infant a Christian. You baptize it. And the great commission is for you who baptize, which is to say, first you say to a nation that it is Christian, and then you can talk to it like you do to Christians. But if you do not agree that the Romanists and the Americans are all already Christians, already baptized, then what can you say to them about what they should do?

You may think that my sarcasm has simply got the best of me, and that there’s no way that Leithart can be saying any of the things I think he is saying. To that, I say: read him for yourself. If you don’t have time to read the other theonomists (Rushdoony, Doug Wilson, James Jordan, Greg Bahnsen, Andrew Sandlin) or the preterists ( American Vision, Gentry), begin with Leithart’s earlier book: Against Christianity.

I quote from Leithart’s page 333: “The Creator made man to participate in and prosecute His wars.” Of course he is not only describing what God has predestined; his concern is ethics. Mine two. No triangulation needed here. Either he is right or we pacifists are right. According to him, Adam’s problem was that he was a pacifist in regard to Satan. If Leithart is right, as we get to newer covenants (or, “newer administrations of the one covenant”, as the ideology likes to say it), then the newer the covenant, the more responsibility all of us have to kill for the sake of the covenant.

And thus Leithart contextualizes Jesus, so that His dying at the cross rather than killing, is particular, specific, and unique, and not an example for anybody. I remember the old days when theonomists mocked Ron Sider for his leading questions: is God a Marxist? Ron never said he was, but he kinda implied it. And so today, the theonomists ask the leading questions: is turning the other cheek a rebuke of self defense or the defense of others?

How could we possibly think that what Jesus said in the Sermon was for all Christians in all places and for all times? We know that church history is not an empty parenthesis, and we know that Augustine was a Christian, and thus we know that Augustine’s version of Just war (not like that of Bush and Rumsfield) was also the politics of Jesus.

It’s sad that IVP published the book. What’s next for IVP? Will one day they even publish a book defining Calvinism in way that you don’t have to believe the doctrines of “tulip” to be a Calvinist?

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14 Comments on “Infant Baptism Will Save the World?”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    Hauerwas defends Leithart

    to turn the one time events of redemptive history
    into an annual cycle,
    risks reducing the uniqueness of past facts

    The ancient cult of the dead
    … too impatient to wait for the second coming
    Jesus back to earth,
    so the grand inquisitor,
    the priestly class of “the church”.

    when the sectarians deny that each atom of the bread
    contains God completely,
    it makes no difference
    what those sectarians think is happening

    because history tells us, the priests tell us,
    the tradition
    the story that works
    (not for Tonto who is dead)
    that Christ is fully present in the bread

    Stan defends the Constantinian narrative
    as what stands between us
    and the chaos of liberalism
    and apocalyptic revolution.

    assures us this is not nostalgia for the past,
    assures us that sacrament is liminal
    that there is now no there and no then
    And we will tell you sectarians) about the one church for all times and all places.

    sectarians are atheists posing as protestants

  2. markmcculley Says:

    It would be interesting to see if we could take what Leithart writes in First Things to the “church catholic” ( the Romanists on the Supreme Court?) and re-translate them into something more sectarian and/or confessional.

    1) Whether the sword is good or evil depends on its use. So it’s better to have a sword than to be weak in Christ, because being weak is tempting God, it’s like jumping over the mountain and thinking the angels will save your…. It is better to have the power of making them blind instead of being blind yourself, better to starve them out than ever have your own dna covenant children go hungry. You cannot leave “government” to God alone, because God would rather not use bad nation-states to achieve His purposes. So it’s necessary to take at least two swords if you can, and to turn the nation into an empire if you can. And pacifists who claim not to want this power are really dishonest liars and insincere because pacifists are filled with ressentiment and want the power too, as Nietzsche has taught us, but they tell themselves “not yet” because they are too cowardly to take enough swords to get the job done now.

    2) Some people have more swords than others, and you really can’t ever have too many swords, and we have seen in history that two are not enough. The power of the Roman empire to put Jesus Christ to death is a necessary corollary to the restraint of evil and to even have a life together. Because even if the earth is the Lord’s, you should see the earth if we don’t take dominion of it. And the only way you can do anything of any value now is if you have somebody with a sword backing you up. War is simply politics by other means.

    3) Being an empire will keep your people alive. Except when it doesn’t, because there are exceptions when individuals act on their “theonomic” impulses. But in these situations, you need to be careful not to think of them as non-nations but instead call for a war, just as if everything was still normal.

    4) Those who kill by the sword will live by the sword, and the one and only solution to being weak and threatened is swords because we can’t simply know what providence might bring us, and we don’t want to ever show any weakness. If your neighbor is too loud, sword. If your neighbor is a practicing homosexual, sword. Better for your response to sometimes be “disproportionate” than for you to be abused in any way. Forget those antiquated notions of “just war”. You can’t afford
    for your people to ever become victims, and if it takes genocide to prevent that, you do it, even if the majority disagrees with you, since of course you are doing it for their own good, for their sake.

    5) Never fail to remind the pacifists that they owe you for their right to be pacifists. Tell them they wouldn’t have any freedom to privately object if you had not killed many outsiders as the
    necessary means to that end, so therefore they should shut up. The roads they walk on?– the sword built them. The plays of Shakespeare– the sword made them possible. Smart phones?– there simply would be no “culture” without the sword. If you vote, you agree with the sword. If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain. The earth that used to belong to the Lord has now been conquered, and if you accept any benefits from the earth, then you have the empire to thank.

    6) Hitler is better than nothing, and everything God has predestined is legitimate and good, because nothing evil is in God’s sovereign plan. So it is your responsibility not only to submit to but to collaborate with the lesser of two evils, because what looks evil is not evil because it is necessary if we are going to have hot showers. We didn’t used to be an empire. And also we didn’t use to have hot showers. We didn’t use to have a wonderful magazine like First Things, which is always right, even when it advocates pre-emptive wars on non-military targets.

    7) Of course mistakes were made. Constantine did kill his children. Constantine did wait to get sacramental baptism until just before he died. But we have learned from these mistakes, and we won’t make the same ones again. And never forget that Constantine stopped calling war and the death penalty “sacrifices” for the imperial cult. The killing continued, but it was no longer described as sacrifice but seen as more of a practical 2k necessary thing.

    8. Violence is our life, and therefore should not be seen as entertainment in video games and movies. Greed also can be a bad thing, but if we do it together it can work out for us all. Greed is more of a matter of the heart, and therefore nothing yet that the empire can do anything about, but we can get rid of homosexuals.

    Skewed yes, and also not exactly the language of Canaan (or of the New Testament) on my part. I agree. The strategy here, that I seem to share with Leithart—if I admit what I am doing, then it’s ok for me to do it.

    I would be interested in the way others would skew things. Hey, Leithart gave us numbers to go by.

  3. markmcculley Says:

    “watered infants, when they are older, make the promises their own”

    was the promise that they would make the promise their own?

    was it a self-fulfilling promise (like being the answer to your own prayer)?

    or was the promise not about if they would believe, but no different from the promise given to people not watered as infants?

  4. markmcculley Says:

    Leithart: The big difference between the word and baptism is that the word offers God’s grace to everyone-in-general while baptism declares God’s favor TO ME . Baptism wraps the gift of forgiveness and justification and puts MY NAME on the package. Like the gospel, BAPTISM REQUIRES a response of ENDURING faith. Faith involves believing what baptism says ABOUT YOU .
    Leithart–The self-imputation of “righteous” is based on the baptismal declaration that we are “justified from sin” by union with the death and resurrection of Jesus. And I can’t, of course, live a life of unbelief and disobedience, and expect baptism to rescue me at the end. Such a life would betray my baptism…..
    Read more: http://www.patheos.com/…/11/no-sacraments-no-protestantism/

  5. markmcculley Says:

    for the record, I never taught my children to sing “Jesus Loves Me”. As far as I can, the Bible does not even tell me that Jesus loves me

    Peter Leithart—The sociologically consistent Baptist should, it seems to me, allow children to name themselves. Otherwise, they are inevitably “imposing” an identity on their little boys and girls. Karl Barth, who loudly protested the “violence” of imposing a Christian identity on a child through infant baptism, would undoubtedly be pleased. In fact, Baptists don’t do this, but they do impose a language on their children. They do, in spite of themselves, often treat their children as Christians, teaching them to sing “Jesus Loves Me” and to pray the Lord’s Prayers. And if they do all this, what reason remains for resisting the imposition of the covenant sign?
    The Baptized Body (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2007), 9

  6. markmcculley Says:

    Is there any history which can’t be learned in order to be repudiated?
    any doing of something which can’t be undone???
    1. credobaptists cringe when they see an infant watered
    2. but paedos don’t cringe when they see a person watered after a confession of faith
    a. if indeed that person had not been done as an infant
    b. paedos cringe only when the person had been done as an infant (even by Rome)

  7. markmcculley Says:

    Brandon Adams — historic Presbyterianism was very different than modern Presbyterianism. Modern Presbyterianism will consider a non-communicant member who has reached the “age of discretion” and does not profess saving faith in Christ to be a covenant breaker and thus excommunicated. That was not the historic position. Instead, non-communicant members could remain members of the church without making any credible profession of saving faith. That was only required for communicant membership (access to the Lord’s table). Thus everyone in a nation was required by law to profess the true religion (known as “historic faith”) but they were not required by law to profess saving faith. Therefore the covenanters did not see themselves as judging “the world” with these laws. They were judging the church.
    http://reformedlibertarian.com/articles/theology/the-half-way-covenant/

    With which presumption will we start?

    –will we exclude from the new covenant those who were in the Abrahamic covenant, or only “include more” ( now females and unmarried males)

    –will we include the spouse and the slaves and the teenage children of a father, or even the grandchildren of those with parents who were cut off from the covenant?

    All or nothing–if we want to include instead of exclude, why not let’s water everybody (not only infants from some families) , including all the adults who come our way–then we can begin to teach them the commands of the covenant (how could we teach anybody God’s law until after they were in the covenant?) and thus we can teach these included disciples that God has promised all of them them saving faith….less narrow, more generous and capacious

    And all we need for that is a common enemy scapegoat—those who refuse to be magistrates, we can accuse them all of wanting to take over as magistrates—and thus find unity between ourselves by excluding fanatics loyal only to one kingdom.

    every inclusion is also an exclusion

    https://chantrynotes.wordpress.com/2015/11/11/godfrey-and-the-baptists/#more-2500

  8. markmcculley Says:

    http://americanvision.org/13514/theonomy-bahnsen-and-federal-vision-a-reply-to-rev-dewey-roberts/

    Jordan, Leithart, and Sutton have all gone the route of what has been, or could be, called “Federal Vision,” and have all developed a sort of elitist, clergy-driven, high churchism that has all but completely consumed their ministries; they don’t speak much anymore of applying God’s law in a judicial-ethical manner to all areas of life, but of the importance of high liturgy, priestly collars, and church membership and attendance.

    Some of these men have also developed their view of a “revolution of the elites” into what I would consider a Roman view of society and power. Leithart even published a full-blown Defense of Constantine not too long ago. The problem here is great: Constantine, and the entire Constantinian tradition after him, was nothing more than baptized Roman Law, not Theonomy. This openly-Roman view was held—often in explicit opposition to biblical law—all the way upthrough the Reformation and beyond

    the people who have made errors in these regards have been the least close to biblical Theonomy. These errors abound in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox circles, among others (Anglo-Catholic). It is not surprising then, also, that some of the early leaders who left Theonomy went to the Roman or Eastern churches. But note: they repudiated Theonomy as they went. And for what they turned out actually to believe, we are glad they went and took it with them.

    The irony here is, of course, that when it comes to political theory, men like Rev. Roberts and the so-called “two kingdoms, natural law” tradition have much more in common with these high church Federal Vision proponents than any biblical theonomist ever has.

    The second problem with seeing these proponents as “intertwined” with Theonomy is that theonomic leaders like Gary North openly rejected their views very early on. Here’s what he wrote in Healer of the Nations (1987, p. 301):

    Just as internationalism prior to international revival is extremely dangerous, so is attempting any Constitutional amendment nationally before national revival. This would be a top-down political transformation, something quite foreign to Christian social theory.26 It puts the cart before the horse. The religious transformation must precede the political transformation; the political transformation must precede the Constitutional transformation.

    In the footnote, he blasted Jordan’s elitism:
    On this point, I am in complete disagreement with James Jordan’s recommended program of self-conscious elitism in social and political transformation, which he calls a top-down system, despite its tendency toward “impersonal bureaucracies” and the obvious anti-evangelism attitude fostered by such an elitist outlook, which he admits has been the result historically. “Elites seldom feel any need to evangelize.” Precisely!

    In short, these ecclesiocrats left the movement, dropped the label, and their particular emphasis on top-down, church-centered social action was repudiated by leading theonomists as non-Theonomic on this point. When Rev. Roberts says “many the first-generation federal visionists are theonomists,” his assessment is really not accurate. These men are not theonomists: they said so, and we say so.

  9. markmcculley Says:

    John Calvin—“The integrity of the sacrament lies here, that the flesh and blood of Christ are not less truly given to the unworthy than to the elect believers of God; and yet it is true, that just as the rain falling on the hard rock runs away because it cannot penetrate, so the wicked by their hardness repel the grace of God, and prevent it from reaching them.”

    Institutes 4:17:5 For there are some who define the eating of the flesh of Christ, and the drinking of his blood, to be, in one word, nothing more than believing in Christ himself. But Christ seems to me to have intended to teach something more express and MORE SUBLIME in that noble discourse, in which he recommends the eating of his flesh—viz. that we are quickened by the true partaking of HIM, which he designated by the terms eating and drinking, lest any one should suppose that the life which we obtain from him is obtained by simple knowledge.

    For as it is not the sight but the eating of bread that gives nourishment to the body, so the soul must partake of Christ truly and thoroughly, that by his energy it may grow up into spiritual life. According to them, to eat is merely to believe; while I maintain that the flesh of Christ is eaten by believing, because it is made ours by faith, and that that eating is the effect and fruit of faith.

    According to them, eating is faith, whereas it rather seems to me to be a consequence of faith. The difference is little in words, but not little in reality. For, although the apostle teaches that Christ dwells in our hearts by faith (Ephesians . 3:17), no one will interpret that dwelling to be faith All see that it explains the admirable effect of faith, because to faith it is owing that believers have Christ dwelling in them.

    In this way, the Lord was pleased, by calling himself the bread of life, not only to teach that our salvation is treasured up in the faith of his death and resurrection, but also, by virtue of true communication with him, his life passes into us and becomes ours, just as bread when taken for food gives nourishment to the body.

  10. markmcculley Says:

    Sacramentalists want to say all times are one time.

    Hans Boersma’, Heavenly Participation— In sacramental time, past, present, and future can coincide. As a result, people from different historical eras can participate or share in the same event. Congar maintains that it was the Holy Spirit who effected this transcending of ordinary temporal limits….Modernity has made it difficult for us to acknowledge any kind of authoritative role for tradition. We look at history rather differently from the way people interpreted it throughout the millennium of the Platonist-Christian synthesis In nominalist fashion, we tend to look at time as a simple succession of distinct moments, unrelated to one another. We regard event X, which took place ten years ago, as no longer present, and thus in principle as unconnected to event Y, which is taking place today. This is not to say that we deny historical cause and effect. We realize quite well that, through a number of traceable historical causes, event X gives rise to event Y. The point, however, is that we regard the two events as separate. Going back to our discussion about analogy and univocity, we could say that we view the two events as univocal moments in time— they have the same kind of reality or being, and are not intertwined in any real sense.

    Boersma quotes Charles Taylor— “We have constructed an environment in which we live a uniform, univocal secular time, which we try to measure and control in order to get things done.” Univocal time gives us the control that we desire in the secularity of modernity.… Augustine’s conception of time was sacramental—time participates in the eternity of God’s life, and it is this participation that is able to gather past, present, and future together into one.

    Boersma: Evangelicals have largely abandoned a sacramental view of time (as have many Catholics), and this desacramentalizing has impacted the way we have decided on doctrinal issues. We tend to regard the time period of the biblical author and our own small moment under the sun as two distinct or separate moments, identical in kind. We believe that it is our job simply to find out what exactly the biblical author meant in any given biblical text in order then to proclaim it as authoritative. ..The widespread assumption that Christian beliefs and morals are to a significant degree malleable has its roots in a modern, desacralized view of time.

    Rubio wrote that Christ Fellowship deepened his relationship with Jesus, but that he missed Roman Catholicism. “I craved, literally, the Most Blessed Sacrament, Holy Communion, the sacramental point of contact between the Catholic and the liturgy of heaven,” he wrote. “I wondered why there couldn’t be a church that offered both a powerful, contemporary gospel message and the actual body and blood of Jesus.” Starting in late 2004, he began to delve deeper into his Roman Catholic roots, reading the whole catechism, and concluding that “every sacrament, every symbol and tradition of the Catholic faith is intended to convey, above everything else, the revelation that God yearns, too, for a relationship with you.

    http://www.religionnews.com/2015/04/13/five-faith-facts-marco-rubio-catholic-always-catholic

  11. markmcculley Says:

    “You get a better grip of the same thing in the Sacrament than you got by the hearing of the Word. That same thing which you possess by the hearing of the Word, you now possess more fully. God has more room in your soul, through your receiving of the Sacrament, than He could otherwise have by your hearing of the Word only. What then, you ask, is the new thing we get? We get Christ better than we did before. We get the thing which we had more fully, that is, with a surer apprehension than we had before. We get a better grip of Christ now, for by the Sacrament my faith is nourished, the bounds of my soul are enlarged, and so where I had but a little of Christ before, as it were, between my finger and my thumb, now I get Him in my whole hand, and indeed the more my faith grows, the better grip I get of Christ Jesus. Thus the Sacrament is very necessary, if only for the reason that we get Christ better, and get a firmer grasp of Him by the Sacrament, than we could have before.”
    Robert Bruce

  12. markmcculley Says:

    http://thefederalist.com/2016/10/31/denying-infant-baptism-leads-leftist-politics/

    http://thefederalist.com/2015/10/30/how-denying-christs-body-and-blood-leads-to-progressive-politics

    The very notion that Christian debates over sacraments can have anything to do with modern politics sounds laughable, especially given these realities: (1) non-sacramental church bodies tend to comprise the religious right, (2) sacramental Roman Catholics have historically tended to be Democrats, (3) sacramental Protestant groups (e.g., the Episcopalians, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America) have often led the way toward extreme liberalism, and (4) Christian influence in general has been muted, so how could pedantry regarding Christian sacramental differences mean anything?

    Modern progressivism is a species of Christian heresy arising out of a specific Christian culture that had the same taproot as modern non-sacramental non-sacramental—yes, even evangelical—Christianity.

    The issue boils down to what Christ and his church are. The historic confession answered this question corporally. Jesus is God in flesh, and as St. John teaches in his gospel and letters, Christ’s incarnation is a “once done and forever CONTINUED event. He’s still in the flesh.

    As far as the church is concerned, if one were to ask, “Is Christ present in the church?” the answer would be, “Yes. Of course he is.” But here is where two paths historically part ways. Some conclude, “If Jesus is present in the church, it must be in the flesh—‘once done and forever continued,’ right?” Others reject any idea that Christ remains present in the church corporally. They focus more on his spiritual presence, a spiritual presence that communicates internally, in cooperation with our intellect, wills, and emotions.

    The problem with this latter position is its premise denies something explicitly written in St. John’s first letter. Using the perfect tense regarding Christ’s incarnation, John writes: “Every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world” (1 John 4:3).

    St. John was speaking specifically of the Gnostics, who denied the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Because they denied the value of anything material, they could not embrace a material God, a God-in-flesh. Such a notion “boxed in” God, which in turn endowed power to those who controlled who could peek in the box—i.e., the clergy and their sacraments.

    Rather, the Gnostics believed, God was something one’s “higher Self” could be in union with through gnosis outside any earthly parameters. No clergy or sacraments were needed (although a “leader” could facilitate the ascent journey in a guru role).

    The key difference between the sacramental and non-sacramental positions is whether Christ and his church are seen in corporal, delineated, and defined forms. If so, his presence is distinct from me, an external gift with clearly formed parameters governed by God’s word. It is a true gift, because there is a corporally delineated form completely separated from me: giver, gift, and receiver are each defined. I am fully a passive receiver of divine gifts.

    If not, his presence happens through purposely non-external, non-corporal, wholly internal means. The intellect, will, and emotions must be mustered to cooperate with this wholly spiritual, non-corporal process.

    . Now imagine situation one: Grandma has died before the infant grandson was born. If grandson is to have any “relationship” with Grandma, it will at best be an internal phenomenon, an act of the mind, will, and emotions. It will be memories based on stories. Of course, he’ll have no such experiences until his mind develops. But in the end, Grandma will be a phantasm generated by the stories and memories of others.

    Now imagine situation two: Grandma lives and holds her infant grandson in her arms. Of these two situations, which one is a more real and intimate connection between Grandma and grandson? Obviously situation two. The same is true in the church. If Christ is present in the church—and he is—and Christ is in the flesh—which he is—then the church is truly the Body of Christ.

    If so, then how can baptism, which is where we are incorporated into Christ, not be offered to infants, of whom Christ said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not forbid them”?

    If a baby were brought onto Noah’s ark, would it have been saved? Of course it would have. Christ and his church are like the ark. It’s a corporate structure whose parameters are governed by the word of God. Those brought in through the doorway of the sacraments are in the ark. That is the faith, into which the infant grows, just as an infant on the ark would grow up learning what the ark is all about.

    Donald Mcleod, p 202, the Person of Christ, IVP, 1998–

    The hypostatic union did not by itself secure the theiosis of every human being. In fact, the hypostatic union did not by itself secure the theiosis of even our Lord’s human nature. He was glorified not because He was God incarnate but because he finished the work given him to do (John 17:4). It is perfectly possible to be human and yet not be in Christ, because although the incarnation unites Christ to human nature it does not unite him to me.

    Andrew Purves, The Crucifixion of Ministry, IVP, 2007, p57—“It is Christ’s ministry that is primary, for His ministry alone is redemptive.”

    quotation from Todd Billings, “A Critique of Incarnational Ministry”, in Union with Christ,, Baker, 2011

    http://themelios.thegospelcoalition.org/review/the-incarnation-of-god-mystery-of-gospel-foundation-of-evangelical-theology


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