Sunday, September 17, 2006

High Church Schismatics and Critiquing Reformed Baptists

Remarking on a blog concerning a post I made is rare since I usually defer to the comment section to reply. However, a couple of people have e-mailed me and asked for clarification. James White who I have listed in my links section and several others have weighed in my unharmful comments. Some have claimed that I lack charity in my statements; others claimed that I have fallen into the likes of Paul Owen; and a few have mentioned that I have become schismatic. This latter comment is particularly odd since I am a disciple of Professor John frame who probably hates nothing more than schism. In the same vein, I declare my catholicity and join hands with all those who uphold proudly the Historic Christian faith.

Good for him! The problem is, he sides with schismatics in his writing. Go figure.

For starters, there are a number of problems with what Mr. Brito stated on his blog. Evan has noted some from his articles. Both James White (Baptist) and David King (Presbyterian) have, I gather addressed Mr. Brito elsewhere, so criticism isn't coming at him from Baptistry alone, and others have addressed Mr. Brito already. That said, on his blog, on the front page introduction of his series of posts he wrote:

Baptist theology has throughout time (historically since the Reformation) made the recipient worthy of the sacrament. If the reason for the partaker's worthiness is his profession of faith alone, then the Spirit's work is useless and the word of institution is unnecessary (WCF XXVII:III).

In the PCA as in the majority of Presbyterian denominations, as I understand it, they do not allow baptized children to take the Lord's Supper. You have to have made a profession of faith. Are they not truly Reformed? I feel certain David King brought this up in discussions with Mr. Brito My understanding from my local session is that a communicate must be a believer, and thus "worthy" of the sacrament. This sounds like something a Federal Visionist might believe, despite all Mr. Brito's claims to "catholicity." FYI, James Jordan, whom Mr. Brito cites approvingly approves of paedocommunion, but these are simply believing children, these are baptized children as a whole...regardless of whether or not they believe. Would he care to establish from Scripture where unbelieving children were allowed to partake of communion? How about the Ante-Nicene church?

The Presbyterian argument for baptism makes baptism analogous to circumcision. In Hebrews, which he cites elsewhere, the Old Covenant congregation is a type of the elect, not the visible church. So, by the very yardstick he has set for himself, those who partake of the sacrament must be "worthy," eg. believers, since true believers alone are "circumcised."

This is also Paul's qualification too in the Pauline epistles, viz. 1 Corinthians. A person is to examine himself @ the Lord's Table. The presumption of the text is that he is a believer. Yes, I know he will argue that in 11:29, "body" refers to the church and not the element itself, but even on that view, we do not have an argument for paedocommunion. In fact, quite the contrary, we have an argument for a professing believer considering his worthiness to take the sacrament, not merely a baptized person. An astute Baptist would then say, "to discern the body, e.g. the church, is a better argument for discerning that one is a true believer and is without unrepentant sin @ the Lord's Table than it is for paedocommunion."

There are Baptists have tended toward open communion in recent years and not their previous practice, closed communion. However, it's that same "individualism" that Mr. Brito wishes to excoriate that has done this for Baptists, and Presbyterians do not generally practice paedocommunion with respect to non-believing/professing children, so he can hardly criticize Baptists here without criticizing his fellow Presbyterians. So, in excoriating Baptist "individualism," he is, in point of fact, excoriating very thing that has led Baptists today toward open communion and other Presbyterians.

I'd add that Mr. Brito would do well to look at Baptist ecclesiology from the non-Reformed tradtion of Baptists in the modern era carefully, because it, not the Particular Baptist tradition is to blame for the slide into pragmatism among Baptist / Baptistic churches today. We in the Particular tradition agree that much of Baptistery has moved to a point where it conflates soul competency with the priesthood of all believers and our views on religious liberty with those on the priesthood of believers. These are category errors that you cannot trace to Particular Baptistery. Rather, you can trace them historically to E.Y. Mullins and others in the 20th century, within Northern Baptists and, much later, Southern Baptists. Now, unless Mr. Brito wants to embrace the neo-orthodox or the liberal Presbyterians into the confessional Reformed fold, he can't very well state that Presybterian confessionalism has worked to keep his fellow Presbyterians from orthopraxic and doctrinal latitudinarianism.

Mr. Brito writes:

One of my critiques of Baptist theology is that it makes profession of faith the only means to experience God's goodness.
Keach's catechism discusses baptism as means of grace, and Baptist theology also views the sacraments as hardening, not simply allowing us to "experience God's goodness." There are many means of experiencing God's grace, particularly since we view the study and proclamation of the written Word as a means of grace, but we do not confine the means of grace to the 2 ordinances. Also, historically, we derive our theology of the Lord's Supper usually from Bullinger and Zwingli, sometimes Calvin. Were Zwingli and Bullinger not Reformed?

Ironically, because we view the ordinances as possibly hardening a person, the very reason that we deny unbelievers the Lord's Table is the reason believe in believer's baptism of all who have made a credible profession and the reason Presbyterians with whom I am aquainted don't allow baptized children who have not made a profession to take the sacrament. If you baptize an unbeliever, you may well be hardening them. How much more if they take of the Supper! This is, for the record, in my personal opinion one of the biggest problems in the SBC at the moment. Mr. Brito's view of the sacraments seems lopsided, as if they only have a positive effect. On the contrary, the WCF even states:

WCF Providence, V. 6.
As for those wicked and ungodly men whom God, as a righteous judge, for former sins, doth blind and harden; from them he not only withholdeth his grace, whereby they might have been enlightened in their understandings, and wrought upon their hearts; but sometimes also withdraweth the gifts which they had; and exposeth them to such objects as their corruption makes occasion of sin; and withal, gives them over to their own lusts, the temptations of the world, and the power of Satan; whereby it comes to pass that they harden themselves, even under those means which God useth for the softening of others.

The LBCF2 agrees verbatim, so unless he's going to argue that the means of grace do not harden, which is dubious to argue, he hasn't a leg on which to stand on this himself. Granted this is in the section on Providence not the sacraments in both confessions, but it would stand to reason that this would include the means of grace within the church, since they are the means by which God softens too. We simply act with greater consistency on this point. Believer's baptism is not an infallible control, but it does weed out many. Now, he can argue that baptism is a means of grace as well and he can claim that it is a seal of promise on an infant, but this still does not lead one to accept paedocommunion; and paedobaptism ultimately suffers the same problems as believer's baptism in that not all the baptized come to faith. So, his only consistent defense is to resort to Federal Visionism/Auburn Avenue theology. That, I would hazard a guess, is probably what David King realizes and why he addressed Mr. Brito's arguments in channel. I was not there, perhaps somebody from #prosapologian will inform us.

This latter comment is particularly odd since I am a disciple of Professor John frame who probably hates nothing more than schism.....D.G.hart has written in various places concerning this infelicitous language of "evangelical" to describe Reformed people; he believes Confessional Christianity is more accurate, I find his case compelling

1. What about John Frame and D. G. Hart? Consider their debate:

Note that Drs Frame and Hart are on opposing ends of this, how is it that Mr. Brito is appealing to both for support?

The issue however is that I am saying nothing too abnormal. Some years ago, James Jordan edited a book entitled: The Failure of the American Baptist Culture where he and others dismantle the Baptist worldview. ...The tendency of Baptistic groups to move away from Calvinism is explained by their tehology of individualism(Ray Sutton has written: The tendency of Baptistic groups to move away from Calvinism is explained by their thelogy of individualism.

2. This seems to reflect a misunderstanding about soul competency, religious liberty, and priesthood of all believers. Each of these has a separate meaning and application within Baptist theology. While it's true that many modern Baptists, like many in the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, and certainly to a much greater extent among The Alliance of Baptists and other groups have conflated these ideas, it is also true that those same Baptists, particularly those in the Alliance tend toward high church ecclesiology and worship, the very thing for which Mr. Brito wishes to argue. Ironically, both reject Reformed theology.

3. What about James Jordan and Ray Sutton?

i. By all means, let's take a long hard look at their alternative vision of the church:

Here are a couple of zingers:

The sermons became increasingly mystical.... I would sit in church Sunday after Sunday and think, I have read Rushdoony, I’ve read Van Til.... You know, I may not be genius level but I’ve got an intellect. And I’m sitting here, I’m rather well-read, probably more well-read than most members of the congregation, and I can’t make head or tail of what this man is saying. I have no idea what he is talking about in the pulpit. And if I can’t figure this out, how are these other people doing?


"There was this mysticism coming out of the pulpit. Nobody really understood what was going on. But sometimes it would not get mystical at all. There was one memorable sermon put forth by a deacon--he was really the deacon of the church: there were other deacons, but this was the hammer--and he announced at the beginning and gave a little exposition that the job of the deacon is only to do what the elders tell him to do. He has no discretion outside of what the elders tell him to do. Every word that comes out of his mouth, every action that he performs is in complete subservience to the elders.

"At that point, he launched into a talk about how the rest of us are to submit to the elders. We were given to understand, naturally, that everything that he said, he was saying on the direct authority of the elders of the church because he had just said he can’t say anything, he can’t do anything, apart from their direct command. So everything he said was coming from the elders but it was coming through him. And this was playing it safe.... Prime ministers and presidents do this sort of thing all the time.... That kind of game is played. Well, it was played at this church as well. And so when people objected to this, the elders were able to say that they hadn’t really meant any of this and that they weren’t really apprised of what was going on when, in fact, it was exactly the opposite.

"But the statement was made that we are to submit to every whim of the church leadership. Even to disagree in our thoughts is an excommunicable offense.... So we have to discipline our thoughts and bring them into line with what the elders said.... And the deacon gave a very concrete, you might say rubber meets the road example. He talked about white-wall tires. And he said if you have white-wall tires and an officer of the church comes over to your house and commands you to change them to black-walls, you are required to do so, and any disobedience to that command is rebellion against authority, rebellion against God himself. And you can be excommunicated for that....

"I went up to the deacon afterward and gingerly asked him some questions. I pointed to a man in the congregation who was a policeman....

"I said, ‘If that policeman comes over to my house and tells me to get white-wall tires, I will tell him, with all due respect, to jump in the lake, because he doesn’t have the authority to do that. He is exceeding his authority. And if I tell him to get lost, I’m not rebelling against authority, he is rebelling against authority, against his rightful authority. He is exceeding the law by coming over to me and telling me to do something that he has no right to tell me to do. So he’s the rebel. I’m not the rebel if he is telling me to do something that he doesn’t have the right to.’

"So I said, ‘Does church authority--can you--is it possible for you to exceed your authority? Where’s the line? I want to know at what point in my home I can draw a line and say you can’t cross that. You cross that line and we get into a little dust up here. So where’s the line?’

"And he didn’t answer that. He said, ‘Well, I’ll tell you, you know, if you disagree with the decision of the elders--they tell you to get white-wall tires and you disagree with that, you’re at liberty to go around to other people in the church and find out if they disagree. And if you have enough people that disagree, you can kick out the elder.’

"I said, ‘Well, I’ve got two problems with that. Number one, does everything have to be that extreme? Can’t we negotiate? Is it a choice of complete submitting, letting this iron boot step on my face forever, or I overthrow the authority? Can we negotiate here? Can we talk?’

"And he didn’t say anything about that. He just smiled.

"So I said, ‘Okay, my second problem with that is that while I’m disagreeing, and while I’m going around the church canvassing the church to find out who agrees with me and disagrees with the eldership, I am committing innumerable excommunicable offenses. Every time I think a thought against what the elders have said, I can be excommunicated for that. And certainly going around stirring up trouble, saying let’s kick these guys out, I can be excommunicated for that, right?’

"And he just smiled again. And I went all cold inside....

"I would wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, terrified that I was going to be excommunicated for what I was thinking....

"At that point there was this real uneasy relationship between me and them. I was not on the staff of the church at all but I was, after all, David Chilton. And I wasn’t the most famous member of the church, but people did come to the church to find David Chilton, and I was one of the advertising gimmicks of that church. And here I am going through these intense, gut wrenching struggles over the issue of whether I’m going to be excommunicated simply because of disagreeing over a subject like white-wall tires."

ii. Isn't Sutton now a member of the REC?

But the REC is a schismatic denomination:

So much for Mr. Brito and his rejection of schismatics.

4. Mr. Brito, do Jordan's liturgical notions bear any resemblance to, let us say, the Westminster Directory of worship? Just compare the two:

Really, I'd love to know how they resemble each other. Judging from the Frame/Hart discussion, I bet Dr. Frame would too.

5. Dr. Jordan's high church ecclesiology was an instrumental influence is moving Scott Hahn out of Presbyterianism and into Catholicism.

Speaking of which, here's a related, interesting story:

The unlikely may be the most certain thing about life. The most direct Catholic influence in my life and the one without which I might never have become a Catholic was a Reformed writer who, on my becoming a Catholic, personally excommunicated me and pronounced me under God’s curse against idolatry. His writings were important in the journey to Rome of quite a number of Calvinist Christians, including Scott Hahn.

James B. Jordan was a part of the Theonomic movement that included such men as R. J. Rushdoony, Greg Bahnsen, Gary North. Theonomy is the teaching that the Law of God is still as applicable to the lives of Christians as it was to the lives of Old Testament believers. Because the concept of natural law, law not deriving directly from the Scriptures, is often rejected by Reformed thinkers, Theonomy often means an attempt more or less directly to impose Old Testament legislation to modern life.

I met Jim Jordan in Tyler, Texas in June, 1980, having read some of his writings during the year or so before that, and was excited by many of the things that he seemed to me to be saying. I read his books and newsletters and listened to his tapes avidly over the succeeding fifteen years, called myself his disciple, him my mentor, corresponded with him about my personal life, and distributed copies of his output to as many persons as I could. I became an apostle and evangelist for Jim Jordan.

I wish to be careful here not to misrepresent him, as he certainly thinks I am guilty of a grave fault in becoming a Catholic. Be it understood that in what follows, when I say “Jim said…” or “Jim taught…,” I mean “I concluded from reading Jim’s writings…” I am sure that many of the other men he was associated with then may disagree with some of what he seemed to me to teach then, and he himself has de-emphasised, if he has not repudiated, some of these points.

What I understood from reading Jim Jordan and from listening to his talks was that the modern churches of the Reformation had failed to follow the Reformation. We had abandoned a great many of Calvin’s insights and recommendations. The Reformation churches, and particularly the ones of the Calvinist Reformation, were the true lineal succession of the Catholic Church in the world. But the modern churches had become a pale shadow of this.

There is not space here to list even a tithe of the ideas I had from Jim. Here are a few:

· Clerical vestments.

· Chanting of the Psalms.

· A return to a liturgy like the Mass (but of course without the sacrificial aspects of the Mass).

· The possibility, under some circumstances, of a reunited Christianity with a Pope, primus inter pares.

· The possibility of the use of the Sign of the Cross.

· The possible use of religious images in church (but not their veneration).

Anyone familiar with Reformed worship will easily see how startling, revolutionary, and radical these ideas are. Although some of these ideas and practices are found in Calvin [ref.?], I have been told many times by Reformed persons that the ideas are Roman – and wrong.

Overshadowing the above were five emphases which played a decisive rôle in my becoming a Catholic. They were:

· The necessity of baptism to be considered a Christian.

· The necessity of submission of life and doctrine to visible church authority, subject to conscience. Jim includes a weak but real doctrine of apostolic succession in his idea of authority.

· Visible catholicity of Communion – those who are baptised and in submission to a church should be able to commune.

· The right to weekly Lord’s Supper (the term “Eucharist” is avoided in Reformed circles because of its implication that the Supper is a Thank-offering and therefore a sacrifice). He believes in a real, though purely spiritual, doctrine of the Real Presence, as did Calvin (see the excellent “Calvin’s Doctrine of the Word and Sacrament” by Ronald S. Wallace, 1982 (1953) Geneva Divinity School Press, Tyler, Texas.) He even believed in a sort of sacrificial character to the Eucharist, not that the minister is offering a sacrifice, but that in Communion we the communicants are partaking of the Sacrifice offered by Christ on the Cross.

· The right of baptised persons of any age to commune (in the Reformed churches, governed by vote, communion implies government and is normally entered into only at the beginning of adulthood).

These five ideas appear to me to constitute a claim that a visible, Catholic Church exists, and that central to its life and identity are the two great sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. I have never lost my conviction of the truth of these claims. I have found their fulfilment in the Catholic Church.

6. BTW, does anyone know what denomination Jordan belongs to? What ecclesiastical authority is he answerable to?

7. What about Paul Owen?

He also belongs to a schismatic denomination:

Paul Owen believes that we are all under the Pope:

Mr. Brito, you affirm that Paul Owen represents authentic Christianity. You also claim to hold to the WCF. Ergo, do you believe we are all under the Antichrist?

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