Paul Owen has just posted “Some Thoughts on Baptists.”
After having identified himself as a “convinced Presbyterian”--keep your fingers crossed--he goes on to explain what he would be were he not a Presbyterian. A Baptist is at the very bottom of his ladder, two rungs below Roman Catholicism.
One hesitates to speculate on which he would opt for were he forced to choose between the Baptist and the Mormon faith. Given his high church sympathies, given that Mormon ecclesiology is far more Catholic than Baptistic, and given that, by his own lights, a Mormon can be a true believer in Jesus Christ, the prospects are less than promising.
Before proceeding further, permit me to lay my own cards on the table. Historically, a Calvinist could be a Baptist, Anglican, Presbyterian, or Welsh Methodist. And, speaking for myself, I think that each of these can be a valid vehicle of the Reformed tradition. Let me also say that although I am not, and would never be one, I often attended a Lutheran church (WELS) because I enjoyed the expository preaching and the traditional style of worship.
Owen then offers a two-paragraph rebuttal of Baptist ecclesiology and sacramentology. I must say that I don’t see the point of this exercise. Owen cites a few well-worn prooftexts for his position.
I won’t take time to comment on whether these are to the point or not. Rather, I’ll just note that our Baptist brethren, including the Reformed Baptists, are only too familiar with these verses, and have repeatedly construed them in a manner consistent with Baptist ecclesiology and sacramentology.
So for Owen to toss these off, as if nothing had ever been said by the opposing side in way of a counter-interpretation, is not a serious argument. So who is the audience for this supposed to be? For those who already agree with Owen, and don’t care how poor the reasons are?
I’d also like to comment on one statement in particular: “To reject infant baptism is to cut oneself off from the historic Catholic Church–something which Reformers like Zwingli, Bullinger, Bucer, Calvin and Luther simply were not willing to do. They saw their roots in the Catholic Church of the preceding centuries, not in some esoteric remnant of believers whose lineage could be narrowly traced backwards in time to the New Testament.”
Now, even if you support infant baptism, this is a specious argument for infant baptism. The very fact that the Protestant Reformers broke with Rome entails a measure of discontinuity with the past. A Baptist is no more or less cut off from historic Christianity than a Lutheran or a Presbyterian. For that matter, Trent has very little use for the Augustinian tradition--especially the parts of most use to Calvin.
It should also be unnecessary to point out that Calvin’s argument for infant baptism is quite different from Luther’s. In addition, different Presbyterians give different reasons for infant baptism.
Now, when different paedobaptists offer different and, indeed, mutually exclusive arguments for infant baptism, is it entirely honest to put the Baptists on one end of the scale, and all the paedobaptists on the other end? Isn’t Owen, in effect, keeping his thumb firmly pressed down on his end of the scale—and then exclaiming that the Baptist position has been duly weighed and found wanting?
The reading was so unbalanced because his selection criteria were so unbalanced—counting many as though they were one. The only thing this proves is that if you tilt the scales in your favor, you get a reading favorable to your position.
And since communio sanctorum doesn’t give the opposing side a fair opportunity to respond, I happy to invite our Baptist brethren, and especially Reformed Baptists, to comment here on Owen’s sneak-and-retreat piece.