Some Folks Like Sacraments Better Than Memorials, Because Sacraments Can Kill You but Memorials Can’t

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

because history tells us, the tradition,
the story that works
(not for the sectarians ,we killed them)
that Christ is fully present in the bread

the chaplains defend the narrative
thank god this day for constantine
and all those who make it possible for us to worship
in liberty and peace

grateful to those in the military
the service men and women, the heroes,
the killers who stand between us
and the chaos of apocalypse and liberalism
thankful we do not have to face revelations

the soldiers are cheap, their lives also,
they kill for us so that we don’t have to
the priests cost more but they assure us

this is not nostalgia for the past,
the sacrament is liminal
here where now is and no there or no then

We have paid the priests to tell us about the one church
for all times and all places,.
to tell us that sectarians are atheists posing as protestants

Leithart (page 333): “The Creator made man to participate in and prosecute His wars.” Of course Leithart is not only describing what God has predestined; his concern is ethics. Mine two.

Either Leithart is right or we pacifists are right. According to Leithart, 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 God was, but he kinda implied it. And so today, the theonomists ask the leading question: 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 was also the politics of Jesus.

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17 Comments on “Some Folks Like Sacraments Better Than Memorials, Because Sacraments Can Kill You but Memorials Can’t”

  1. Ted Grimsrud Says:

    Bingo, Mark. I’m almost done reading Leithart. Your point here is excellent.

  2. markmcculley Says:

    Barth–hus to speak of a continuation or extension of the incarnation in the Church is not only out of place but even blasphemous. Its distinction from the world is not the same as His; it is not that of the Creator from His creature. Its superiority to the world is not the same as His; it is not that of the Lord seated at the right hand of the Father. Hence it must guard as if from the plague against any posturing or acting as if in relation to world-occurrence it were an alter Chrisus [another Christ], or a vicarius Christ [vicar of Christ], or a mediator of all graces, not only out of fear of God, but also because in any such behaviour, far from really exalting itself or discharging such functions, it can only betray, surrender, hazard and lose its TRUE INVISIBLE BEING, and therefore its true distinction from the world and superiority to world-occurrence. (CDIV.3.2, 729)

    Berkhof —Roman Catholics hold that (water) baptism is absolutely necessary for all unto salvation, and that the sacrament of penance is equally necessary for those who have committed mortal sins after baptism; but that confirmation, the eucharist, and extreme unction are necessary only in the sense that they have been commanded and are eminently helpful. Protestants, on the other hand, teach that the sacraments are not absolutely necessary unto salvation, but are obligatory in view of the divine precept Willful neglect of their use results in spiritual impoverishment and has a destructive tendency, just as all willful and persistent disobedience to God has.

    That they are not absolutely necessary unto salvation, follows: (1) from the free spiritual character of the gospel dispensation, in which God does not bind His grace to the use of certain external forms, John 4:21,23; Luke 18:14; (2) from the fact that Scripture mentions only faith as the instrumental condition of salvation, John 5:24; 6:29; 3:36; Acts 16:31; (3) from the fact that the sacraments do not originate faith but presuppose it, and are administered where faith is assumed, Acts 2:41 [see also 10:42-48]; 16:14,15,30,33; 1 Cor. 11:23-32; and (4) from the fact that many were actually saved without the use of the sacraments. Think of the believers before the time of Abraham and of the penitent thief on the cross. [Systematic Theology, (1941). 618-619.]

  3. markmcculley Says:

    Philip Cary—Catholics don’t worry about whether they have saving faith but whether they are in a state of mortal sin—so they go to confession. Reformed Protestants don’t worry about mortal sin but about whether they have true saving faith—so they seek conversion.

    Luther points here to the words “for you,” and insists that they include me. When faith takes hold of the Gospel of Christ, it especially takes hold of these words, “for you,” and rejoices that Christ did indeed died for me

    In this way the Gospel and its sacraments effectively give us the gift of faith. I do not have to ask whether I truly believe; I need merely ask whether it is true, just as the Word says, that Christ’s body is given for me. And if the answer is yes, then my faith is strengthened—without “making a decision of faith,” without the necessity of a conversion experience, and without even the effort to obey a command to believe.

    For what the sacramental word tells me is not: “You must believe” (a command we must choose to obey) but “Christ died for you” (good news that causes us to believe).

    It is sufficient to know that Christ’s body is given for me. If I cling to that in faith, all will go well with me. And whenever the devil suggests otherwise, I keep returning to that sacramental Word, and to the “for us” in the creed, where the “us” includes me. Thus precisely the kind of faith that is insufficient to get me admitted to the Puritan sacraments—which is to say, mere belief in the truth of the creed and trust in my baptism—is all the faith I have. If Luther is right, it is all the faith I can ever have, and all the faith I need.

    the Reformed tradition generates pastoral problems that cannot be helped by the sacrament, because neither word nor sacrament can assure me that I have true saving faith. The logic of the matter, it seems to me, makes it impossible to split the difference between these two positions and get the best of both.

    mcmark—-Talk of the sacrament “for us” always replaces talk of definite atonement only for the elect, and crowds out any good news of justice requiring the final salvation of all for whom Christ died. The Lutheran “us” claims to be everybody, but for Lutherans, it’s not the death for “us” which saves anyone, because what saves anyone is present faith. Present faith, present salvation, and losing faith is losing salvation, and Christ’s satisfaction of the law has nothing to do with it.

  4. markmcculley Says:

    I Cor 5: 4 When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus with my spirit and with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 turn that one over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, in order that his spirit be saved in the Day of the Lord. 6 Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast permeates the whole batch of dough? 7 Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch.

    I Cor 10: 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for all of us share that one bread. 18 Look at the people of Israel

    I Cor 11: 32 But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord, in order that we not be condemned with the world. 33 Therefore, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. 34 If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you gather together you will not come under judgment.

    T. J. Davis, “Discerning the Body: The Eucharist and the Christian Social Body in Sixteenth Century Protestant Exegesis,” Fides et Historia, 38.2 (2005)—“For Luther in 1518/1519 the social aspect directed the individual. By 1523, for Luther, the individual directed the social. Love in the social/spiritual body do not disappear, but they become dependent on faith in the presence of the natural body of Christ, and that faith is now incumbent upon individuals and cannot be lodged in the social body.”

    Reviewing Anthony Hoekema (Created in God’s Image) in his Covenant Theology in Reformed Perspective, p 328, Mark Karlberg quotes Hoekema: “To be sure, all infants are under the condemnation of Adam’s sin as soon as they are born. But the Bible clearly teaches that God will judge everyone according to his or her works. And those who die in infancy are incapable of doing any works, whether good or bad.” p 165

    Mark Karlberg comments— “This view appears to be something less than consistent Calvinism. Is not the basis of salvation the sovereign, electing purpose of God in Christ, rather than any consideration of human performance either in the case of adults or infants?”

    No. 20: Daddy, Why Was I Excommunicated?

    Tom Chantry—1. When Esau sins and asks for forgiveness from God, can I assure him that his sins are forgiven?

    2. When I ask Esau to obey me in the Lord should I get rid of the indicative-imperative model for Christian ethics? On what grounds do I ask him to forgive Jacob? Because it is the nice thing to do? Or because he should forgive in the same way the Messiah has forgiven him?

    3. Can Esau sing “Messiah loves me, this I know” and enjoy all of the benefits spoken of in that song? (“To him belong…He will wash away my sin”)

    4. When Esau prays during family worship to his heavenly Father, what are the grounds for him praying such a prayer? Does he have any right to call God his “heavenly Father”?

    5. Should I desire that Esau have a “boring” testimony? Is it not enough for him to simply say each day that he trusts in the coming Messiah alone for their salvation?

  5. markmcculley Says:

    I was not able to discern the body (those who believe the gospel) until I was able to understand and believe the gospel, and I was not able to understand the gospel until God effectually called me by His Word. Or did you think “the body” was something else besides those who believe the gospel?

    Mark Jones—The indicative comes before the imperative, even for our children (Ephesaisn. 6:1). Otherwise, I do not see how asking them to obey becomes a form of moralism if there is no indicative present

    Mike Horton—Covenant theology doesn’t teach that the covenant of grace itself is “breakable” (67). God promises his saving grace in Christ to each person in baptism, whether they embrace this promise or not. … The word proclaimed and sealed in the sacraments is valid, regardless of our response, but we don’t enjoy the blessings apart from receiving Christ with all of his benefits. Is baptism the believer’s act of testifying to a personal response, or God’s act of testifying to his everlasting pledge?…..To be claimed as part of God’s holy field comes with threats as well as blessings. Covenant members who do not believe are under the covenant curse. How can they fall under the curses of a covenant to which they didn’t belong? If faith is the only way into membership (693), then why all the warnings to members of the covenant community to exercise faith and persevere in faith to the end?

    mcmark—So is the indicative law or grace? When the law promises curse conditioned on the sinner, is that law grace?

  6. markmcculley Says:

    So we don’t show “respect of persons” to the unbaptized children of professing Christians?

    Mark Jones —“I do not believe we can say that the infants of unbelievers will definitely go to hell. However, I do not believe, based on the above, that we can say they will definitely go to heaven. Personally, I am agnostic on that specific question. But I do not believe, contrary to some, that the biblical evidence requires us to say that all infants dying in infancy will go to heaven.”

    Mark Jones—“Nonetheless, we can speak more definitively to this issue when it comes to the children of believers. The Canons of Dort address the topic better, and certainly more pastorally, than the Westminster Confession of Faith, in my view: 1st Head of Doctrine, Article 17. Since we are to judge of the will of God from his Word, which testifies that the children of believers are holy, not by nature, but in virtue of the covenant of grace, in which they, together with the parents, are comprehended, godly parents have no reason to doubt of the election and salvation of their children, whom it pleases God to call out of this life in their infancy.

    Mark Jones—The basis for having this hope is not merely the goodness of God, but the goodness of God as revealed in his covenantal promises towards his people. The children of believers are holy, and thus their identity is NOT, as far as we are to judge, “in Adam”. They have been set apart, with a new identity (i.e., they are holy)…. God’s Word seems to give us some grounds to make these judgments, which, as a pastor, I am glad to offer to bereaved parents in my congregation who have lost an infant.

    Mark Jones—The WCF (10.3) says, “elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated, and saved by Christ, through the Spirit…” – a view that could still allow for all infants, without exception, to receive salvation, but also allows that not all infants will necessarily be saved. Certainly the Westminster divines, based on the public directory for worship, which calls the children of believers “Christians”, would have likely been in agreement with the Canons of Dort on this issue. Pastors have grounds for giving real comfort to Christians who have to deal with the tragedy of losing a child, especially infants . I cannot offer that same comfort to an unbeliever.

    mcmark—Since paedobaptists are so generous about the Lord’s Supper that they welcome baptists to the table (these ignorant baptists think they are doing something there, when really it’s God), why don’t they trust God’s sovereignty instead of fencing the table against their baptized children until those children learn the catechism?

  7. markmcculley Says:

    Why should watered children be left out of the conversation? Is it really back to Augustine and Kuyper with the only alternative being Edwards or Piper?

    Thesis IV: The covenant relation warrants the presumption that children of believers are regenerated from earliest infancy, and are to be treated as possessing saving grace unless and until they should reject the covenant.

    This is the Kuyperian thesis of presumptive regeneration. Its tempting attractiveness consists largely in its providing a systematic basis for the defense of infant baptism and for the comfort of believing parents…. it will be contended that in spite of Kuyper’s claim that this is the historic Reformed doctrine taught by Calvin, by the Reformed standards and by the best Reformed theologians, the doctrine of presumptive regeneration is alien to historic Calvinism, certainly to the Calvinism of Presbyterian and Puritan divines and also to outstanding Dutch writers from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

    The appeal made by Kuyper to Calvin, the Dutch Reformed standards, and to Maccovius, Voetius, Gomarus and others, is far from conclusive. The old writers cited by Kuyper for the most part argue against the Anabaptists that elect infants may be and sometimes are regenerated in infancy, Voetius championing the stronger position that all elect children of believers are regenerated in infancy,(28) a position rejected by Herman Bavinck.(29) But none of the texts cited by Kuyper, with the possible exception of an ambiguous remark of Cloppenburg, asserts the doctrine of presumptive regeneration.

    As to the historic position of Princeton Presbyterianism, the following statement by Archibald Alexander is decisive: “The education of children should proceed on the principle that they are in an unregenerate state, until evidences of piety clearly appear, in which case they should be sedulously cherished and nurtured. . . . Although the grace of God may be communicated to a human soul, at any period of its existence, in this world, yet the fact manifestly is, that very few are renewed before the exercise of reason commences; and not many in early childhood.”(30)

    The view of Voetius and Kuyper involves the anomaly of a time gap between regeneration and effectual calling, particularly appalling in the case of the apostle Paul, of whom, on the basis of Gal. 1:15, the younger Kuyper is reported to have preached as an example of a regenerated blasphemer.(31)

    Kuyper quotes from Institutes IV.xvi.17-20 to find support in Calvin, who does teach: “That some infants are saved; and that they are previously regenerated by the Lord, is beyond all doubt.” What Kuyper fails to quote is Calvin’s rejoinder to the Anabaptist evasion that the sanctification of John the Baptist in his mother’s womb “was only a single case, which does not justify the conclusion that the Lord generally acts in this manner with infants.” Calvin’s rejoinder is: “For we use no such argument.”(33)

    But Kuyper does use such an argument, in contending that children of the covenant are to be presumed to be regenerated because in fact that is the general manner of the Lord’s dealing with them. Calvin does speak of a seed of future repentance and faith implanted by the Spirit,(34) but does not state the false proposition that this is the case with all baptized infants, nor the highly disputable thesis of Voetius that this is the case with all elect children of believers. Certainly there is no hint of the presumptive doctrine of Kuyper in any of these texts of Calvin.

  8. markmcculley Says:

    Mark Jones–In Goodwin’s view, “the question is not of the reality in the events, but what I am to judge of them. If you take it of all that they are holy and saved, my judgment knows the contrary, but when you come to particulars, I judge so of this child and that child. It is an indefinite proposition, ‘I am thy God and the God of thy seed,’ not a universal proposition.” Marshall responds by saying that we are not to judge whether they possess a real holiness, but to believe that they are holy with the holiness spoken of; that is, a federal holiness. Goodwin responds: “To me the holiness in 1 Cor. 7:14 is the same with that ‘I will be thy God and the God of thy seed.’ If you make it any other holiness, then baptism is a seal of some other holiness than the holiness of salvation.” Further, he argues that our judgment is not an infallible judgment, but we are judging according to the terms of the covenant.

    Mark Jones–, I have two three-year olds, one six-year old, and an eight-year old. And it occurred to me that I wouldn’t actually know how to raise them if I were not a Presbyterian. And let me just take this opportunity to inform sensitive (Baptist?) readers that I know many Baptist families that raise their children remarkably well, even many in my own church. Many of my closest friends – I wrote this before Carl spoke about his “best Anglican friends” – and favourite preachers are Baptists. And yet…

    1. When my children sin and ask for forgiveness from God, can I assure them that their sins are forgiven?

    2. When I ask my children to obey me in the Lord should I get rid of the indicative-imperative model for Christian ethics? On what grounds do I ask my three-year old son to forgive his twin brother? Because it is the nice thing to do? Or because we should forgive in the same way Christ has forgiven us?

    3. Can my children sing “Jesus loves me, this I know” and enjoy all of the benefits spoken of in that song? (“To him belong…He will wash away my sin”)

    4. When my children pray during family worship to their heavenly Father, what are the grounds for them praying such a prayer? Do they have any right to call God their “heavenly Father”? Do non-Christians cry “Abba, Father” (Rom. 8:15)?

    5. Should I desire that my children have a “boring” testimony? (Though a testimony to God’s covenant promises can never be boring, of course). Is it not enough for them to simply say each day that they trust in Christ alone for their salvation?

    This all makes sense to me as a Presbyterian. But, I confess, if my children were not Baptized, and were not part of the church, and did not bear the name Christian, I’m not sure what grounds I would have for worshipping with them, praying with (not just for) them, and rejoicing with them when they ask for forgiveness for the sins they commit. Far from leading to a lazy form of “presumptive regeneration” (where children are not daily exhorted to repent), I believe that we must in fact hold our covenant children to higher standards by urging them to live a life of faith and repentance in Jesus Christ, their Saviour and Lord. Their baptism, whereby God speaks favour to his children (“You are my child. With you I am well pleased”), demands such a life.

    The indicative comes before the imperative, even for our children (Ephesaisn. 6:1). Otherwise, I do not see how asking them to obey becomes a form of moralism if there is no indicative present (see Eph. 1-5).

    Pastor Mark Jones believes that all baptisms are paedobaptisms, for unless one becomes like a little child he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
    – See more at:…/daddy-am-i-really

  9. markmcculley Says:

    Mark Jones—The indicative comes before the imperative, even for our children (Ephesaisn. 6:1). Otherwise, I do not see how asking them to obey becomes a form of moralism if there is no indicative present

    Mike Horton—Covenant theology doesn’t teach that the covenant of grace itself is “breakable” (67). God promises his saving grace in Christ to each person in baptism, whether they embrace this promise or not. … The word proclaimed and sealed in the sacraments is valid, regardless of our response, but we don’t enjoy the blessings apart from receiving Christ with all of his benefits. Is baptism the believer’s act of testifying to a personal response, or God’s act of testifying to his everlasting pledge?…..To be claimed as part of God’s holy field comes with threats as well as blessings. Covenant members who do not believe are under the covenant curse. How can they fall under the curses of a covenant to which they didn’t belong? If faith is the only way into membership (693), then why all the warnings to members of the covenant community to exercise faith and persevere in faith to the end?

    mcmark—So is the indicative law or grace? When the law promises curse conditioned on the sinner, is that law grace?

  10. markmcculley Says:

    Mark Jones—On what grounds do I ask my four-year old son to forgive his twin brother? “Can my children sing Psalm 23 (esp. v. 6) or Be Thou My Vision (as they do) with the assurance that God is indeed their shepherd or their breastplate and sword for the fight? Can they sing “‘Jesus loves me, this I know’ (‘…little ones to him belong…’)? “When my children pray during family worship to their heavenly Father, what are the grounds for them praying such a prayer? Do they have any right to call God their ‘heavenly Father’?”

    Tom Chantry—I’ve left out the answers; the short version on each is, “Yes, because I’m a Presbyterian, but if you’re a Baptist you have no answers.

    Charles Hodge referred to Christ’s “little lambs” being written into the book of life – and then excoriated Baptists for erasing their names.

    You see, what Jones is attempting to do in this section is to jump from federal holiness to regeneration, which are two very distinct and different categories. It is for exactly this reason that Rutherford and Goodwin had their debate over the nature of a covenant child’s holiness: the category of New Covenant child doesn’t exist in the Bible, and the category of Old Covenant child is distinctly unsatisfying.

    Tom Chantry—Jones concedes near the end of his piece that perhaps one of his children might be non-elect, but what exactly does that mean if federal holiness means being a Christian? It is distressing to hear a New Covenant believer speaking of his children – or anyone – as being in that covenant, enjoying the benefits of that covenant, and yet still possibly being non-elect.

    Jones speaks – in keeping with the Goodwinian tradition – of considering or judging his children to be Christians, but again, we must ask why? Is it because, as his narrative suggests, they express their faith in Christ through prayer, or is it for some other reason.

    Chantry–They are rather the sort of rhetorical questions Pedobaptists love to bat about between themselves without ever asking them of any actual, real-world Baptists. How do I deal with my children when they ask questions about their salvation? With this answer: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved.

    If a woman comes to Jones and tells him she is struggling with assurance, that she has sinned greatly and prayed about it, but that she doesn’t know whether or not God hears her prayers, will he point her to federal holiness, or to Jesus?

    If Jones is counseling a drug-addict who wandered into church, and if he wants to avoid moralism, does he say, “Christ died for you, you are saved, therefore obey”? Or does he call him to faith in Christ?

    If Jones has urged an unbeliever to call upon the Lord, and that unbeliever kneels and says, “Oh Father…” does Jones interrupt and say, “Please don’t call God ‘Father’ until after you’ve been baptized”?

  11. markmcculley Says:

    Matthew Mason— According to Owen, although God’s will toward the elect was not changed upon the death of Christ, for he is immutable, Christ’s death nevertheless changed the status of the elect. On the basis of Christ’s merit, founded on God’s free engagement in the covenant of redemption with his Son, God is obliged to deliver them from the curse ipso facto. Therefore, because of Christ’s satisfaction, God is able to make out the benefits Christ purchased, without any other conditions needing to be fulfilled. In particular, Christ also purchased the condition of the covenant, faith; hence, from the time of the atonement, the elect have an absolute right to justification.

  12. markmcculley Says:

    Mark Jones explains that you cannot really have an indicative for your children unless you are willing to “assure them” that God loves them and that they are Christians. Saying God the creator’s law commands obedience, according to Mark Jones, is “moralism”.
    Mark Jones has a “large commanding gospel”, and it’s his gospel (not law) which commands obedience. God is your God, even if you are not-elect is not enough “indicative” for Mark Jones. Only if you welcome all your children to the water and to the table, can you avoid legalism. Only if you say there was already grace for Adam before Adam sinned, can you avoid legalism. Being a mere creature of God is not enough “indicative”.
    In this way Mark Jones has achieved the balance between “hyper-covenantalism” and “hyper-conversionism”. Assure your infants that they are already Christians, but will remain so only if they keep repenting, because security in election and justification is “presumption”. (hyper-decretalism, antinomianism). Because all the covenants are the same one covenant, Mark Jones warns that those once in the covenant may not remain in the covenant.
    But if imperatives demand an indicative which assures your children that they are already Christians, then God’s grace must be common and God must love a person before God can dare command that creature to obey God. And if you are going to command all your children, then you may not have to teach an unlimited atonement, but you are going to have to teach an atonement for all your children, because to avoid moralism, you will have to tell them they are already Christians, even if it turns out in the end that some of your children fail to repent and reveal themselves to be non-elect, once in the covenant but not in the covenant on the last

  13. markmcculley Says:

    Separation from sin does not mean to leave the kingdom of creation, And it also does not mean to leave the best visible church available , because a visible church is always a mixed bag, and only people who are too certain of themselves would ever judge other people. Otherwise you would have to leave the world. So of course you must eat with such persons, not only when you are receiving the means of grace from ordained clergy, but also when they are working with you in the secular kingdom for the extermination of Muslims. Earth is not heaven and will never be, and one day there we be no more earth, so now on earth you are not eating as a Christian but as a secular American. Even though it’s not our business to judge outsiders, we must judge those who were born in the visible church, and keep them from coming to the table too soon, in our opinion. As long as we make a distinction church and world, we can kill for the world. As long as we make a distinction between creation and redemption, we can kill other creatures as long as we do not do so in the name of redemption. God was morally required to put Cain to death, or have an agent put Cain to death. It would have been sheer immorality for God to have put a mark on Cain preventing justice being done to Cain. Abel’s blood cried out for justice, and anybody with a sword would have done a public good by killing Cain

  14. markmcculley Says:

    Larry Ball–The efficacy of baptism is not tied to the time of the administration of baptism, but it is tied to the administration of baptism itself. No Christian parent should expect that grace be “conferred” (Confessional language) on their children apart from their children being recipients of the sacrament of covenant baptism. The same can be said of adult baptisms. The grace promised in the ordinance of baptism is actually conferred in God’s appointed time “by the right use of this ordinance” (Confessional language). Grace is conferred because the ordinance is used.

    Larry Ball– I am certainly not denying the doctrine of election. HOWEVER, the doctrine of election was never given to negate the hope of the promises that are given to Christian parents. The doctrine of election taught in Romans 9 to explain why there was unbelief among the covenant people of God. It was intended to be an explanation — not a qualification to the promises of God.
    Some preachers are haunted by what I call the “if clause.” For example, it is often said to Christians that the promises of God are for you “if you are saved” or “if you are a true believer.” The very promises that give hope to Christians often die a slow death by a thousand qualifications.

    Larry Ball–Covenant Baptism is not merely a symbol. If anyone is dedicating himself in covenant baptism, it is God who is dedicating himself to keep the promises he has made to Christian parents This is a high view of the efficacy of covenant baptism. It is simply the teaching of the Westminster Confession of Faith.

  15. markmcculley Says:

    Augustine on Daniel 3: “There was given under Nebuchadnezzar a figure both of the times which the Church had under the apostles and of the times she has now. In the age of the apostles and martyrs was fulfilled that which was prefigured when the aforesaid king compelled pious and just men to bow to his image and he cast into the flames all who refused. Now however is being fulfilled that which was prefigured shortly after in the same king, when having been converted to the true God he made a decree throughout his empire that whosoever should speak against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego would suffer the penalty which his crime deserved. The earlier time of the king represents the former age of emperors who did not believe in Christ, at whose hands the Christians suffered because of the wicked; but the later time of this king represents the age of the successors to the imperial throne, now believing in Christ, at whose hands the wicked suffer because of the Christians.”

    This is an attempt, born of desperation, to find support for a spurious concept of early and late. Moreover, by what hermeneutical principle does that which happened in the days of Nebuchadnezzar become predictive prophecy?

    A monstrous doctrine of “two swords” was worked out, a fiction whereby all the weaponry of the regnum was made available to the church. In fact, the fallen church’s theoreticians began to teach that the sword of the magistrate was given to Peter and that it was therefore only by the sufferance of the pope, allegedly Peter’s heir, that the magistrate had it to use. This construction, of course, implied that the civil rulers had better use the sword as the church liked to see it used or else. The text on which this doctrine of the “two swords” was based was Luke 22:38, where it is reported that when the disciples said “Look, Lord, here are two swords,” Jesus said that this was “enough.”

    Augustine: “You have also read how Paul … was compelled by the great violence with which Christ coerced him to know and embrace the truth; for the light of men’s eyes is more precious than money or gold …. This light, suddenly taken away … he did not get back until he had become a member of the Holy Church. You think coercion should not be used to deliver a man from the error of his ways yet you see … that this very thing is done by God.

    It does not seem to have occurred to Augustine that he was thereby giving mere men the right to play at being God!

    Pope Pelagius “Unto the coercing of heretics and schismatics the Church also has the secular arm, if men cannot be brought to sanity by reasonings.”

    To maintain some kind of self-respect, the fallen church, as it consigned men to death by the “other arm,” said something about stopping “short of death and mutilation of members.” However, this was just so much window-dressing, a crass artificiality.

    The caution about “stopping short” was never meant to be taken seriously by anybody. The church — as well as everyone else would have looked up in incredulous amazement had an executioner done any such thing as “stopping short of death and the mutilation of members.” Tongues, hands, heads, to mention only a few members, were cut off in spite of the provision — and by the thousands. The only thing the pious phrase about “stopping short of death and mutilation of members” showed was that, in spite of its fallen ness, the church still had a haunting memory of what it once was, still recalled the high estate from which it had fallen.

    Evil as this elimination of decision was, it was compounded by the fact that the fallen church began to look upon the call to decision as evident proof of heresy. The word “heresy” derives from the Greek verb hairein, “to make a choice,” and that is precisely what the church did not want anyone to do. Choice-making leads to a composite society, thus putting an end to a unanimous society.

    Not so much what the heretic chose but that the heretic chose made the heretic intolerable.

    It was in the course of this campaign against decision that the church’s theology went sacramental. Sacrament as a concept is dependent on the idea of automatic grace. (In theological terms this is called working ex opere operato: in common-sense language it is called working magically.) Once again

    it was Augustine who led the way in this sacramentalization of the faith. In his rounds with the Donatists he had argued that just as the malefactor on the cross was saved even though “the necessity in the case kept him from baptism,” just so the baptized child is saved even though “the necessity in the case keeps it from faith” — that is, the “necessity” of its nonage.

    Those who engage in mission place alternatives before people; what kind of mission can there be where there are no alternatives? Now that the whole empire was assumed to be Christian, a further missionary challenge was no longer there. The fallen church taught that the Great Commission had been intended for the twelve apostles and their immediate successors during the span of the church’s “immaturity,” when the “invite them” days had not yet been replaced by “compel them” times.

    In the days of Corpus Christianum a country was divided into parishes: each parish had its cleric — called by a dual call, from church and state — and every person residing in such a parish was by definition that cleric’s parishioner. A parish ordinarily followed the lines that defined the already existing political unit. The relative importance of the political unit determined the relative importance of the coinciding parish, now called a see. In this way the bishop of Rome was eventually at the top and thus became the pope, because his parish was the political capital. No person was allowed to preach or even discuss the things of religion in any such parish except the person who had been sent by the dual call.

    This restriction likewise was destined to be followed for well over a thousand years, up to the Reformation and beyond. The effect of this parish arrangement was that a person would think twice before going on a preaching mission of his own. Any area to which he might go was already some cleric’s parish, so that the would-be missionary was an intruder by definition. Paul’s passage about persons who “make their way into households … who will listen to anybody, and can never arrive at a knowledge of the truth” (II Tim. 3:6) was construed to refer to such “intruders.”

    Verduin;;With Augustine, the concept of sacrament became dominant in the Christian tradition. Sacrament was understood as a togetherness already in existence taking on a religious dimension: thus a prior togetherness becomes a togetherness on the religious level. It was at this time that the togetherness of the empire became a religious togetherness through sacrament.

    Sacrament, thus defined, an inevitable feature of all pre-Christian societies, now became the central feature in the resuIting Christendom. In the face of such sacramentalization of the faith, preaching became obsolete and kerygma went off the air. It is very important to observe that in this exchange of pulpit for altar the Donatist rival church dragged its feet: there a serious attempt was put forth to keep and preserve the institution of preaching. Professor Frend points out that “the sermon and reading from Scripture played a considerable part in what is known of the Donatist services.”

    The word “sacrament” is not found in the New Testament — neither the word nor the concept The word as well as the concept was grafted on the Christian heritageThe church did indeed have, from its inception, certain sacred “handlings” or ordinances, notably water baptism and the memorial meal; but it did not call them sacraments or think of them as sacraments. It was with the Constantinian change that these sacred ordinances were transformed into sacraments

    The word sacramentum does occur in the Vulgate. where it stands for the Greek mysterion. But mysterion never connotes a manipulation of “elements.” Instead it stands for that transaction whereby special revelation was given. With the pre-empting of the word mysterion, the very concept of Word revelation was robbed.

    The call to choice-making leaves open the possibility of non-participation, and with that the dream of homogeneity takes wings. The accent had to be moved from the recipient to the dispenser. In the wake of this shift of accent, the “take, eat” of the authentic Lord’s Supper was conveniently dropped and in its place came the salvation-conveying wafer to be set on the tongue of the recipient who was in the most passive posture imaginable — kneeling, with opened mouth.

    In time the other “element,” the wine, was no longer dispensed to the object, no doubt because it proved quite unmanageable to convey a sip of wine into a purposely passive mouth. Another item in the transformation of memorial meal into sacrament was the substitution of altar for table. Sacramentum was a word of pagan vintage that conjured up in men’s minds an altar on which a sacrifice was made, so that sacrament at a table was virtually a contradiction in terms. Small wonder that the table was eliminated and an altar introduced in its place.

    If compositism was to be overcome and the homogeneous society achieved, then grace had to be made automatic, not dependent on any such thing as the attitude of the object. It had to be made to work as an ORDINARY matter “of course.” The sacramental theology that was devised stands or falls with this representation of salvation imparted in a way comparable to the injection of serum into the patient by a nurse equipped with a hypodermic needle.

    Water baptism at once was virtually reduced to infant baptism. The nonage of the object was a valuable concept in that it tuned out the concept of decision. Baptism became christening, which is best defined as Christian baptism divested of the feature that distinguished it from circumcision. Christening is Christian baptism forced back into the cast-off clothes of circumcision — baptism changed into sacrament. Christening is a new circumcision. Like circumcision, it intends to mark with a Christian mark a togetherness that follows already existing boundaries.

    Whether a given baptism is authentic baptism or a case of the sacramentalized distortion known as christening can be determined by the way it is viewed by the society in the midst of which it takes place. If the society applauds, it is probably a case of christening; if the society looks askance, it is probably authentic baptism. G. R. Beasley-Murray relates that during baptismal services in India each baptism was accompanied by a hiss of disapproval from onlooking villagers and former associates of the person being baptized.
    It is an old cliche in ecclesiastical literature that “baptism has come in the place of circumcision”; but, strangely enough, no plausible reason is ordinarily given for the changeover. From somewhere — certainly not from Scripture — the notion has found acceptance that circumcision was discarded and baptism put in its place because circumcision was “bloody” and was for that reason made obsolete by the shedding of Christ’s blood.

    However, the reply to this notion is that the New Testament is not that squeamish about blood. Surely the idea of blood was allowed to remain in the other ordinance, the memorial meal. So why should it be lifted out of the baptism ordinance? The plain fact is that there is no plausible reason for the substitution of Christendom’s christening for circumcision: the two speak precisely the same language. Both point to inclusion in the religious community because of a foregoing inclusion in the tribal-national community.

    With the coming of christening, baptism became inescapable — intentionally so — for two reasons: first, because it was done during the first few hours of a human being’s life; second, because the coercing power of the regnum was invoked. The regnum and the sacerdotium joined hands to make sure no one was skipped; indeed, the regnum made the baptism of every infant born in its domains mandatory.

    Those who participated in what was called a “rebaptism” declared thereby that christening was humbug; to let that go unpunished would be to allow a crack to form in the monolithic concept of the unanimous society. Thus, it is not at all surprising that capital punishment was soon prescribed for any person who performed or submitted to a rebaptism.

    Augustine was driven by the force of “logic” to look upon christening as a “better baptism,” better for the same reason that every feature of the Constantinian change seemed better to him. The distortion of “repent ye” to “do penance” was an improvement in Augustine’s eyes

    Illustrative of the attack on all ecclesiastical dissidents were the draconian measures being taken to force them into line, such as confiscation of property, laws making it impossible to inherit or bequeath, regulations interfering with buying from or selling to “heretics,” expulsion from the land of birth, etc. — all of them civil punishments.

  16. markmcculley Says:

    The Westminster Confession (28:6) ‘the efficacy of baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered’

    1. Since this is so, why not administer water to people after they believe the gospel?

    2. If the efficacy of God using water is not God giving faith in the gospel, why would water be needed before a person believes the gospel?

    3. if the elect are united with Christ before and without being imputed with Christ’s righteousness, is union with Christ not something obtained by Christ’s righteousness?

    4. if the elect are given the Holy Spirit before and without being imputed with Christ’s death, is the Holy Spirit not given by Christ and is regeneration not purchased by Christ’s death?

    Salter , ‘Without faith, of course, the subject of baptism is simply getting wet, nothing more’.

    Gibson—Note what is happening here: the definition of baptism is dependent on the position of its subjects. Without faith, baptism is not baptism. It is just getting wet. In this construction, one form of spirit-matter dualism is overcome by another. For the union of sign and thing signified has become so separate that without the thing signified the sign has actually ceased to exist.

    Calvin–“Augustine says: ‘And hence, he who remains not in Christ, and in whom Christ remains not, without doubt neither spiritually eats his flesh, nor drinks his blood, though with h is teeth he may carnally and visibly press the symbol of his body and blood.’

    Sheaer– We are told that the visible sign is opposed to spiritual eating. This refutes the error that the invisible body of Christ is sacramentally eaten in reality, although not spiritually. We are told, that nothing is given to the impure and profane beyond the visible taking of the sign

  17. markmcculley Says:

    Scott Clark exxplains why paedocommunion is wrong, because the baptists have not yet understood it. It’s not only a matter of disagreement but a lack of comprehension on their part, that the sacraments have conditional efficacy–sometimes they are not a means of grace but a means of jeopardy.

    Scott Clark–There has been pressure from some quarters to commune younger children. Sometimes this pressure comes from families who are emerging from Baptist and more broadly evangelical settings into Reformed congregations. Because they have not grasped clearly the distinction between initiation and renewal they conflate the two signs. They reason that if covenant children are members of the visible church by baptism (they are) that they should also be permitted to the table. This problem has already been addressed above

    (the passive know it all)

    but it is essential for these parents to see the difference between initiation and renewal in the outward administration of the covenant of grace. Baptism recognizes the rightful place of the children of believers in the visible church. Communion is a privilege reserved for members of the visible church who have made a credible profession of faith before the elders.

    Another source of pressure is social. Parents and children see the children of other Christian parents making profession and there is a sense of being left behind. Parents naturally want the best for their children and when they see other children coming to the table they fear that their children are missing out.

    (my children are ready sooner than yours)

    Both newcomers to Reformed and Presbyterian churches and those who feel a pressure to keep up need to appreciate an important biblical teaching in 1 Corinthians 11 ..We used to call the Lord’s Supper “Holy Communion.” It might be a good idea to renew our use of that language. That which is holy is not common. It is set apart. It is sacred. It is clean. It is not like everything else. It is not for everyone. It is not for unbelievers. It is not for the unbaptized. It is not for those who are under church discipline, who have been suspended from the table or excommunicated. It is for believers who able to examine themselves, who have sufficient maturity to know themselves, who is able to “discern” the body and blood of the Lord
    The question elders, whose job it is to fence the table, and parents must face is this: are young children (e.g., ages infant to 9) able to examine themselves and discern the body and blood of the Lord? Almost certainly not.

    Clearly, according to Paul, there is risk associated with the table. Would elders or parents permit small children to drive a car? Certainly not. Why not? Because they lack the judgment, discretion, experience, wisdom, and even the motor skills to control a 2,000 lb vehicle capable of high speeds. Even on the farm, where children learn to drive earlier than city kids, most kids do not drive even in the pasture until they demonstrate a certain degree of responsibility. Driving a car is a secular matter not a matter of spiritual life and death. The same cannot be said of the Lord’s Supper. It is a sacred meal to which a certain jeopardy is attached and the abuse of which in Corinth led to real consequences.

    Why would we involve young children, too young to know themselves or to understand what it means to “eat the body and blood of Christ” in such a sacred ritual? Why would we expose them (and the congregation) to potential jeopardy? On reflection most parents and elders would almost certainly see the wisdom of postponing participation until a child can give a reasonably mature account of the faith, including an account of what is taking place in the Supper.

    Perhaps the most insidious and dangerous motive for bringing infants and young children to the table is the influence of the self-described, so-called “Federal Vision” theology –teaches that at baptism the child is granted a provisional election, justification, union with Christ, and adoption. Those provisional “baptismal benefits” are said to be retained by grace and our cooperation with grace. Without sufficient cooperation they may be lost. We might fairly call this view a sort of sacerdotal Arminianism or as my pastor Chris Gordon has called it, “covenantal Arminianism.” The Federal Visionists hold that God has made a provisional covenant and grants these provisional benefits in baptism.

    There are not two kinds of election, provisional and eternal. There is but one election from all eternity, in Christ. It is an unconditional election and it is an election to new life and to true faith. Christ’s benefits are administered in the visible church but the sacraments are not magic. They do not have the power to confer a provisional new life, election, and salvation. They signify salvation and they seal it to believers but they do not create the reality they signify. The Federal Vision churches are known to practice infant communion (paedocommunion) in order to enable infants to begin to fulfill “their part” of the covenant, to maintain what has supposedly been given them in baptism.


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