Unity & Diversity in Scripture and Tradition

Unity & Diversity in Scripture and Tradition

Theologically, the unity of Scripture marks out clear limits of thought and behaviour beyond which individuals or ‘churches’ may not legitimately be called Christian. On the other hand, the diversity of Scripture demonstrates how no one sect or ecclesiastical tradition has a monopoly of the truth. One can become heretical by being either too broad-minded or too narrow-minded!
[C.L. Blomberg, “The Unity and Diversity of Scripture” in New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, 72]

This article lays out the unity and diversity found in the Old and New Testaments. It is extremely helpful in thinking through how the Bible is one book and not 66 books put together by some council. Instead, there exists a canon that is evidenced in the storyline of the Bible. I think the quote above could help us in our desire to see unity in the Body of Christ, realizing that there will also be diversity.

  • Jason
    Posted at 23:41h, 01 March Reply

    Sounds like Christian relativism to me. Just about every denomination, in practice, claims to hold a monopoly on the Truth. Only a few are honest enough to say it, but why would you believe something if you didn’t believe it to be a “monopoly” on the Truth?

  • R. Mansfield
    Posted at 06:27h, 02 March Reply

    Jason–what is Christian relativism–the statement by Blomberg or the statement by Wireman? And what makes the statement relativistic? Relativism means that all interpretations are truth. Diversity means that we may not all agree on truth. Unity means that (within the pail of orthodoxy) we are one.

    “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity” — attributed to Augustine (although I’ve yet to come across the exact source)

    “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope at your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.” — Eph 4:4-6, HCSB

    There is only one Church (capital C), but many expressions. Although I am Baptist by conviction, I look at those in other expressions as my brothers and sisters in Christ. And are we not inheritors of a great tradition allowing us to call individuals such as Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, and Wesley brother as well?

  • goodwillhiking
    Posted at 12:13h, 02 March Reply

    that is a good question, Jason. “why would you believe something if you didn’t believe it to be a ‘monopoly’ on the Truth?” that is what the relativist would say–i don’t have a monopoly on truth.

    to me, it makes no sense to believe something if i didn’t think it was absolutely true. we don’t all live in our own little realities where what is “true for me” (the relativist’s catchphrase) is not necessarily “true for you”.

    Mansfield has quoted, “in essentials unity.” that is, as Christians we must all believe the same thing when it comes to the essentials. there can be no relativism in this area.

    for example, can a Christian believe that there are many ways to God? i don’t know…i don’t think so. he would either have to believe that Jesus was lying when he said he was the only way to God in John 14:6 (or believe that Jesus never actually said that) or he would have to believe in multiple realities where Jesus is the only way in one and not the only way in another. you can’t have this one both ways. either Christ is the only way or he isn’t.

    the question gets a little trickier with regards to non-essentials. for example, what is going on in infant baptism? does that child have salvation or doesn’t he? where exactly is Christ during the Eucharist? is he in the bread or not in the bread? are there multiple answers to these questions?

    now, i agree we can afford a little relativism with certain issues that divide us. for example, is it permissable and good to play rock n roll worship songs during the church service? well maybe yes and maybe no depending on the circumstances.

    i guess my question is this: where do we draw the line between what is essential and what is not? where do we draw the line between issues that must have an absolute answer and ones that can go either way?

    this is something i’ve thought a lot about and struggled with as i’ve tried to ground myself in a tradition and a denomination. do i or should i believe that other denominations are wrong on the issues that divide us? if the other denomination isn’t really wrong then why are we divided? but if they are wrong (and if they would say that i am wrong) are we just creating multiple realities for ourselves?

    any thoughts, examples?

    Mansfield: while non-Baptists are your brothers and sisters in Christ, are they wrong on the issues that divide you?

  • R. Mansfield
    Posted at 13:11h, 02 March Reply

    Goodwillhiking, in your statement, “i agree we can afford a little relativism with certain issues that divide us,” I would take exception to your use of the word relativism. I would rather say we can give each other a certain amount of lattitude with some issues that divide us. I think your example of church music probably falls into that category of what the NIV translates as “disputable issues” (διακρίσεις διαλογισμῶν) in Rom 14:1.

    But let me give as an example a more prominent non-essential issue: capital punishment. I know very mature and well-respected believers on both sides of this issue. But I can’t say, “well, we’ll allow a little relativism about this issue.” That would make no sense because relativism makes no sense. Obviously, the problem with a relativistic worldview is that the law of non-contradiction says that A cannot equal non-A. On the issue of capital punishment–is it morally right to put to death certain criminal offenders?–there are two sides, but both cannot be right. If there are two opposing opinions, either one is right and the other is wrong, or there is a third solution that invalidates both positions. But I can’t say that all opinions are equally valid. If God were to come down and stand in our midst himself, I believe he would be able to give a definitive answer. In the meantime, I have to follow Paul’s instruction in Rom 14 and not judge my brother or sister who holds a different view.

    Do I think that my non-Baptist brothers and sisters in Christ are wrong on certain issues? Well, yes, in some cases and in a few cases, I’d probably have to say I don’t know. Let me explain.

    If you read the Baptist Faith and Message, most of what is written there is fairly standard and accepted doctrine that a lot of folks who are not even Baptists would accept. However, there are certainly some distinctives. Believers baptism is one of them. Eternal security of the believer is another. On these two issues, for example, I would politely and respectfully say those who hold other positions are wrong.

    And I should also add that in the whole of Christianity, while these two issues are somewhat non-essentials, for Baptists, they rise to the level of being essential to what we believe. It’s part of what makes us distinct as an expression of Christianity. Although I respect other traditions, am I relativistic on these two issues? No, I would say that we’re right and they’re wrong–again with respect.

    But there are some things which honestly I don’t have an opinion on at the moment. For instance, the Church of God (Anderson, Indiana) does not believe in church membership (although you’ll find that each congregation certainly has a mailing list!). Their reasoning if I remember correctly is because they want to say that Christian membership is in the church universal. Okay, fine. On one hand I see their point, but at the same time, I certainly do see the benefits of the accountability and community that comes from uniting oneself with a local church, especially in light of Heb 10:24-25. I believe the Baptists have it right, but I wouldn’t divide over it.

    Eschatological views are another example where we often have strong opinions, but I believe we ought to be humble when espousing our views, and remember that the Jews also thought they understood precisely the manner in which the messiah would come into the world. Many of them–MOST of them, missed it.

    I mentioned Augustine earlier. I believe that Augustine has some beautiful metaphors for sin–that of a wandering far from home, loving the things that in the end will harm us. His view of evil as the privation of sin is intriguing, but I’ve been pondering it ten years now, and while I’m somewhat drawn to it, I’m not yet convinced. I think he’s right in regard to original sin, for the most part (although I prefer the phrase, “inherited sin”). However, I think he’s absolutely wrong when he takes original sin to the next level and suggests that infants have to be baptized to be saved. Incidentally, this doctrine came out of the last three years of his life when he had been pushed to the wall in his debate with the Pelagians. He did not hold to infant baptism his whole life. Here, I think his conclusion was made in haste and is wrong.

    As to your question of where do we draw the line of what is essential, I would at least suggest that we have to start with the doctrines of the Trinity and the resurrection of Christ. On these (at the very least), there can be no disagreement.

  • R. Mansfield
    Posted at 14:12h, 02 March Reply

    One more thing. Goodwillhiking, you mentioned the issue of the exclusivity of the gospel, specifically in regard to Jesus’ words of John 14:6.

    Is this an essential belief? That’s a good question. I certainly believe it’s an essential Baptist belief. But let’s face it–we have people in our churches who have never thought through the issue. I might label them as immature believers, I might even go so far to label a belief such as pluralism as a non-Christian idea.

    It’s certainly an illogical idea. Different belief systems (Christianity vs. Islam vs. Buddhism) all making specific and opposing claims for salvation can’t each be right. The law of non-contradiction comes into play here.

    I suppose when we talk about what is essential, we have to ask “essential to what? If we mean essential core beliefs that comprise historic Christian faith, then perhaps the exclusivity of the gospel is indeed essential.

    If however, we mean “essential to salvation,” believing in the right God is essential and believing that Jesus raised from the dead is essential. But could someone be truly saved and still believe that others might be saved otherwise? Yes, I think so. However, again I would believe that this person is an immature believer, has not thought through the issue, or is just plain deceived.

  • R. Mansfield
    Posted at 16:03h, 02 March Reply

    Correction two comments up: I meant to say Augstine saw evil as the privation of good. Makes more sense that way, doesn’t it?

  • heyirishman
    Posted at 17:54h, 02 March Reply

    This is one of the reasons why I’m Catholic…

  • Jason
    Posted at 09:33h, 03 March Reply

    heyirishman’s comment gave me a good laugh :)

    Christian relativism is a term I sorta made up in one of my blog posts for the view that all Christians are right in believing whatever it is they want to believe. Basically, as long as we have faith in Christ, we are saved, and everything else is just extra icing on the cake (or whatever you wanna call it).

    Of course, it’s fine to believe that all who have faith in Christ will be saved, as Catholicism teaches. But I’m talking about having the fullness of Truth. While each Christian tradition is certainly free to believe that their doctrine is the fullness of Christian faith, it’s clear from simple logic that most of us are wrong on at least a few points. Either infants can be baptized… or they can’t. God isn’t saying, “Well, I’ll baptize the kid if you believe in infant baptism, but I’d rather you wait until the kid turns seven.” (btw, Augustine’s Confessions attests that more occurs at baptism that a mere outward expression of inward conversion, when his sick friend was unconsciously baptized.)

    At the Last Supper, when Christ said the words “This is my body,” he either meant it literally and the substance of bread and wine changed into the substance of His own flesh and blood, or he didn’t mean it that way and they were merely symbols. Both interpretations cannot be the Truth. The literal interpretation dramatically raises the stakes: it is far more powerful for the believer, but to falsely believe something is Christ when it isn’t should also hold severe repercussions.

    Naturally, if you are a Baptist, you should believe that the Baptist faith is the fullness of Christianity. Same goes for Methodists, Lutherans, Orthodox, Catholics, etc. Otherwise, why believe it at all?

  • Sean
    Posted at 10:23h, 03 March Reply

    You also can’t just start with the doctrine of the trinity as an essential, unless you assume that there is something or someone other than the bible that is authoritative and binding on all christians. This in and of itself would also have to be infallible.

    So in short, the doctrine of the trinity came from a source outside the bible that had the authority to interpret the writings in an authoritative, infallible, and binding way. That same authority gave us that very bible that they were interpreting.

    The truth is that this has happened throughout history on issues, ie. infant baptism, and this clears up a lot.

    So why believe in the doctrine of the trinity as an authoritative interpretation and not accept the authoritative interpretations of salvation that gives us doctrines such as baptism and everything that surrounds that.

    anyway, good discussion.

  • Matthew Wireman
    Posted at 13:20h, 03 March Reply

    The doctrine of the Trinity did not come from a source outside the Bible. Although the word Trinity does not appear in the scriptures it is a way to explain a reality that is present in the Scriptures. In other words, it is a way to synthesize the biblical teaching that God is Father, Jesus as God, and the Spirit as God. This is clear from the NT…

    Thus the doctrine of the Trinity is essentially different than matters of interpretation (i.e. baptism, the Lord’s Supper, etc.)

    Another point, the issue of diversity in the Body is required from our understanding of the Bible itself. To say that a group has a monopoly on the truth is to miss the point of progressive sanctification individually and corporately. This is why there are debates. Finite minds are trying to understand better the Infinite.

    Even for the Roman Catholic Church there is diversity of interpretation, so it’s unity cannot be adhered to as proof of its validity (as many assume). This is not an attack but a statement of observation.

  • Sean
    Posted at 14:23h, 03 March Reply

    The Roman Rite of the Catholic Church is one complete in unity. The individual churches sometimes unfortunately do things that are not in line with the churches teaching about x,y or z. The Eastern Rite of Catholicism only differs in rubrics or ways of going about things. Doctrinally they are in full communion with the roman rite and the pope.

    The doctrine of the trinity was formulated from an interpretation of scripture that was authoritative.

    It isn’t neccessarily clear in the bible. Look at the “christian” modalists, etc.

  • Matthew Wireman
    Posted at 14:50h, 03 March Reply

    True, Adoptionists et al deny the deity of Christ but that does not mean it is not clear in the Bible.

    I appreciate your explanation of the roman rite. However, I think it is one thing to say there is unity when there is not practically. I understand that you’re saying there is one doctrine of teaching from the RCC. But that is my contention with such a claim to infallibility in interpretation. This will begin a long debate I am sure regarding differences between Protestants and Roman Catholics – one that I am not shy about.

    I want to be clear on this, though. I believe that there must be diversity representative in the Body of Christ. A claim to abstract unity based upon principles/doctrine will not sway me. Like the quote says the diversity in Scripture warrants diversity in the Body.

    I am not sure about what you mean that the Eastern Church is the same yet different in its rubrics. Could you explain a little bit further? My understanding is that they are very different on doctrine. Thanks. I appreciate your thoughtfulness in response and hope my frankness does not betray a desire for honest and critical dialogue.

  • goodwillhiking
    Posted at 14:55h, 03 March Reply

    Mansfield, i appreciate your comment about using a different word in my example of church music. i agree that latitude would be a better word. i think that’s part of my point–because this is an issue where there really can be more than one answer we don’t need to use the term “relativism” anymore. but in the issues where you can’t have it both ways, it is relativist to say that both are true.

    after my earlier post i thought some more about the question of whether you can be a Christian and believe there are other ways to God. Mansfield said that you might call this person an immature believer because they haven’t “thought through the issue”. i’m wondering, can you hold someone accountable for a “belief” that they haven’t really thought through? i guess that’s the point–that it’s not really a full-fledged belief and so the person shouldn’t be faulted (or be deemed non-Christian).

    i think there are many, many American Christians today who would say they believe there are various ways to God. why would a person say they believe this? some possibilities…

    1. they don’t know everything that the Bible says and that Jesus said about this issue. ie. they could plead ignorance.

    2. they are an immature believer that has not really thought it through. in this case they may just be regurgitating the attractive sounding idea of religious pluralism because they hear it preached every day in American culture.

    3. they know what the Bible teaches about this and what Jesus said but they find it hard to believe. they know they should believe it but they don’t like the implications. this is an area where they struggle in their faith and where they might say, “Lord, help my unbelief.”

    4. they don’t believe what the Bible says about the issue of exclusivity or they don’t believe the passages concerning this were in the original texts (or actually said by Jesus). that is, they’re cherry-picking what to believe out of the Bible.

    4. they think Jesus (and the Biblical writers) were lying on this issue.

    5. they really do believe in multiple realities where in their own it is true that Jesus is the only way to God but in someone else’s there can be other valid ways to God (it’s “true for me”).

    in the first three instances i don’t think we’re dealing with an actual “belief”, at least not in the usual sense. the person doesn’t really believe it because he doesn’t have all the facts or hasn’t thought it through. or he just says it because it sounds nice. or he doesn’t believe that there are many ways to God, he just has a hard time believing that Jesus is the only way. i think that in these three cases the person could still be a Christian.

    in the latter three cases, however, if a person really has a full-fledge belief that there are various ways to God then he has missed the whole point of Christianity. if Christ is not the only way, then he is no way. if there are other ways to God then what did Christ’s sacrifice and atonement mean? i don’t see how this person could be a Christian.

    what do you think??

  • Sean
    Posted at 18:33h, 03 March Reply

    not at all matthew, i love this stuff.

    There is a distinction to made between eastern orthodox and the eastern rite of the catholic church. the eastern orthodox are not in full communion with the pope and the roman catholic church etc. however the eastern rite is. this is where the diversity and unity come in. they have differences, but not on doctrine, they are diverse culturally and with the way they may practice certain truths. ie. infant communion is allowed in the eastern rite but not so much in the latin rite or the church.

    And again, I know we are definately going to disagree about this issue of authority and interpretation, but that shouldn’t stop us from having this discussion. I believe that you would agree. so, the bible is not “clear” on the trinity, the “church” uses induction and right reasoning and the holy spirits guidance in coming to these truths. its like any other issue. ie. can you loose your salvation or not, when are you in covenant with god etc.

    we have the bible telling us that jesus is god, yet on the other hand saying things that seem to contradict this ie. an angel ministering to him in the garden before his death. why would god need ministered to by creation. wouldnt that contradict the very definittion of god?

    well we can look and see how the church fathers used induction etc. to find out how these fit together. and then we have the doctrine of the trinity or what the nature of christ really was. from the beginning christianity had its opponents in these areas. ie. look at the arians. now who and why made there theology heterodox?

    i hope that makes more sense.

  • Sean
    Posted at 18:34h, 03 March Reply

    sorry , i meant of the church. above. not or the church.

  • heyirishman
    Posted at 19:36h, 03 March Reply

    If the bible is so clear on whether Jesus was God or not, how come there were great debates at the Council of Nicea? How come each side had their scriptural proof texts? Why did Peter warn that it was difficult to interpret Paul’s letters? Why did the Egyptian eunuch tell Philip he needed an interpreter?

    Answer: because the Scriptures are difficult to interpret.

    God allows plurality with regard non essential issues…and the Eastern Catholics and Western Catholics differ in this area…but God does not allow plurality with regard to essential issues.

    Question is, what’s essential and what’s not?

  • Matthew Wireman
    Posted at 21:55h, 03 March Reply

    Good question.I would say yes there are things difficult to understand in the Scriptures. However, we must not deny the persicuity of the Scriptures either. That is, the message of salvation by grace through faith is clear enough that a child can understand his dependence on God for all he has and will have.

    There are essential issues that relate to the Gospel – how someone has relationship with God. This is the issue in Galatians that Paul is confronting. The Good News cannot be dismissed for it is our life! Areas of difference would be permissible that don’t relate to salvation matters.

    It’s not a matter of who made their faith heterodox. This is being debated now. A group did not decide heterodoxy. This was determined from the teachings of the Scriputres. Otherwise one would have to be relativistic in their understanding of what is right or wrong. In other words, if Christ’s deity were denied and for some political reason this began to be the majority view it would still be wrong. There is a rule of faith that is clear in the Scriptures by which things are determined to be heterodox or not.

    As for divergent views in the RCC I was thinking more along the lines of pre-Vatican II as well as pre-Vatican I folks who still claim to be Roman Catholic but deny those things prescribed at those councils.

    Thank you for the distinction between the eastern and western rite. I appreciate it.

  • Jason
    Posted at 22:57h, 03 March Reply

    I am not sure about what you mean that the Eastern Church is the same yet different in its rubrics. Could you explain a little bit further? My understanding is that they are very different on doctrine.

    Regarding Eastern Orthodoxy and Catholicism, I believe the only major theological issue dividing the East and West is the role of the papacy. Orthodox regard the Pope as first among equals or like the elder brother of the bishops, not as a father figure like Catholics see him. Nearly all other significant doctrine (sacraments, Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist) is in agreement with Catholicism.

    As for divergent views in the RCC I was thinking more along the lines of pre-Vatican II as well as pre-Vatican I folks who still claim to be Roman Catholic but deny those things prescribed at those councils.

    How is this different from the many sects of Protestantism? Or Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses who call themselves Christians? There is only one Catholic Church, no matter how many different people claim to be “pope.”

    I also would like to continue this discussion, just to help us understand each other’s views better.

  • Matthew Wireman
    Posted at 10:45h, 04 March Reply

    How is this different from the many sects of Protestantism? Or Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses who call themselves Christians? There is only one Catholic Church, no matter how many different people claim to be “pope.”

    This is my point. Just like there are many denominations in the Protestant churches so there are many denominations in the RCC. There is one universal Church. This is true. But that cannot be claimed by Pope Benedict nor post-Vatican II Roman Catholics.

    There seem to be two or three conversations going on here: authority of a council, Magisterium, et al; parameters of diversity allowed to be within the orthodox camp; why people are pluralistic in their views of salvation.

    My original post has to do with the validity of diversity in the universal Church being allowed by the diversity of Scripture itself. I oppose any notion of a council or sect to claim it has exclusive interpretation on doctrine that is outside Gospel issues. In other words, for the RCC to claim that it is infallible in all areas of interpretation is a fallacious claim. For a Baptist Church to claim that it holds THE interpretation anathematizing any who disagree (calling into question one’s salvation) by baptizing their infants [as for baptismal regeneration, this is another issue altogether as it relates directly to the Gospel and the people of the New Covenant].

    Anyway, these are clarifying thoughts as to my original post. However, I really like the different conversations that are going on. I would just caution us that we are not thinking we are addressing someone’s question when we discuss a different issue (namely, the topics listed above). Keep the questions running, I am sure they will converge on many levels.

  • goodwillhiking
    Posted at 12:48h, 04 March Reply

    thanks, Matt.
    I see there are a few topics here being discussed here.

    i really would like to hear anyone’s thoughts on my question–Can you believe there are many ways to God and still be a Christian?

  • R. Mansfield
    Posted at 13:34h, 04 March Reply

    goodwillhiking… to answer your question, yes. However, having said that, I believe the idea of diverse ways to God is a patently unchristian idea. But it’s not what you believe on the non-essentials that saves you. It’s more a matter of whom you believe in.

    Case in point is a person I once worked with who belonged to a United Methodist Church. We got into this very discussion to which she said, “I just don’t believe there’s only one way to God.” Knowing that she claimed faith in Christ, I was able to say, “Well, I’m not the one who said; Jesus, himself, said it in John 14:6.”

    She didn’t have an answer for that. In fact, I don’t think she even knew that verse existed in the Bible. Does that mean she was unsaved? I doubt it. It just means that she was badly in need of real discipleship. She was an immature believer.

  • heyirishman
    Posted at 14:11h, 04 March Reply

    Matthew, it seems that according you your interpretation however, there is only one thing that is essential to believe…that salvation is by grace through faith. You can stretch Rom 14 but then you cah strecth it. I am sure that when you say salvation you mean all things related to salvation. But aren’t all things related to salvation in some tangential way.

    For instance Peter says that “baptism now saves you” in 1 Pet 3:21. That’s pretty clear to me. Paul says that salvation is by grace through faith, but he never said grace through faith alone. Anyway, something to chew on…

  • goodwillhiking
    Posted at 14:46h, 04 March Reply

    The person in your story would be an example of 1. or 3. in my list above. i agree, this person is probably still a Christian, albeit an immature believer.

    but what about 4. 5. and 6.? can a person, having all the facts and understanding what the Bible says about this, actually believe there are many ways to God and yet be a Christian and be saved?

    is the exclusivity of Christianity an essential?

    another way to look at it:
    if Christianity were not exclusive, then what’s the point of evangelism or the Great Commission?

  • heyirishman
    Posted at 16:38h, 04 March Reply

    You also have to ask what Jesus meant by no one can come to the Father except through/by me

    Some might interpret this to mean that if we get to Jesus through some obscure path, then we managed to do so by Jesus’ grace, operating along that path. Thoughts?

  • Matthew Wireman
    Posted at 16:39h, 04 March Reply

    You’re right we need to be careful not to stretch texts to fit our presuppositions. HOWEVER, when I speak of salvation by grace alone through faith I am not speaking of this as being the message we believe in order to be saved. Rather it is a description of what the essence of salvation is (by grace through faith). Someone is saved only by faith in Christ. Like you said, there are many issues wrapped up into it (tangentially). With these we must be careful to not affirm that belief in those are what saves.
    We must ALWAYS distinguish between root and fruit in the Christian life. Remember that context determines interpretation. Peter tells us that baptism saves us in that it is an appeal to God. That is, there is an inner reality that manifests itself first and then the baptism takes place as the RESULT of a desire to come to Christ. You can’t strip that clause out of context. Does this make sense?
    Thank you for pressing on my last comment. I needed to clarify what I was conveying as pertains to “Gospel.”

  • R. Mansfield
    Posted at 22:23h, 04 March Reply

    goodwillhiking, I agree with you that there would be no real point in evangelism if there were multiple ways to God. I’ve never tried to defend a pluralist position. Pluralists are in error plain and simple.

    Your last three possibliites would describe someone in extreme liberal positions (especially the middle one which I’ve never heard anyone hold to). Whether those persons are saved, who knows but God?

    Is the exclusivity of the gospel an essential doctrine? Essential to the Christian faith, yes. Essential to salvation, no.

  • Jason
    Posted at 00:47h, 05 March Reply

    goodwillhiking asked:
    Can you believe there are many ways to God and still be a Christian?

    I heard this response once and have always liked it: Christ is the only way to God, but there are many ways to Christ.

    And from Matt’s reply to my last comment:
    This is my point. Just like there are many denominations in the Protestant churches so there are many denominations in the RCC. There is one universal Church. This is true. But that cannot be claimed by Pope Benedict nor post-Vatican II Roman Catholics.

    There is only one Roman Catholic Church, composed of all Christians who are in full communion with the Bishop of Rome, currently Pope Benedict XVI. Many Eastern Rite churches are also in full communion with the RCC. There is no such thing as a “pre-Vatican II Catholic” because the Second Vatican Council is binding upon all Catholics (at least of the Roman Rite). Some schismatics may call themselves true Catholics, but this is akin to Mormons and JW’s calling themselves true Christians.

    All Christians, by virtue of our baptism, are in some level of communion with the Catholic Church, whether you like it or not :) In this way, Catholicism recognizes both the unity and diversity of the Body of Christ. The only way to be fully excommunicated from the RCC is to reject Christ.

    Going back to this question of “monopoly of truth,” why shouldn’t a certain sect or tradition of Christianity hold the fullness of faith? Let’s take the doctrine of baptism, for example. All of the various views on baptism cannot be correct. Baptism is either regenerative or symbolic, but it cannot be both; infants can either be baptized or they can’t, but not both. Since all these views are believed by some Protestant denomination, Scipture alone is apparently insufficient for defining baptism.

    I was raised in the Lutheran church, taught sola Scriptura, and “one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.” I was baptized at age four (my parents professed the faith on my behalf), raised in a Christian home, and confirmed in 8th or 9th grade. I didn’t even attend a Baptist service until college, and only about a year ago did I learn what a believer’s baptism is. Looking back, this knowledge troubled me more than even wanted to admit at the time. How am I to accept that there can be two groups of Christians who both accept Holy Scripture as their sole authority, yet one group says I am baptized while the other group says I am not?

    This is no small matter. The only way I can reconcile this is to conclude that Scripture alone is sufficient for learning the Gospel but insufficient for understanding the fullness (or “monopoly of truth,” in Blomberg’s words) of our Christian faith.

  • heyirishman
    Posted at 07:44h, 05 March Reply

    It would seem, from everything said so far, that as a Christian you don’t actually have to believe in any teachings at all to get to heaven…rather you just need to believe on the Lord, as it were. But something seems grossly wrong with this.

    If Jesus said “I am the truth” then all truths are bound up in him. If we reject something that is true, are we ipso facto rejecting Christ, in some shape or form?

    For example, tongues speaking in a group setting is not allowed by the NT. But still, some Christian Churches practice this. Those who practice it, are, in my view rejecting a teaching (a truth) found in the Bible. Are they, thereby rejecting some part of Christ? Christ is ALL of the Word, not just some of it.

  • Jason
    Posted at 00:06h, 07 March Reply

    So, to emphasize the question I’m asking, how does the doctrine of Sola Scriptura lead to contradicting conclusions about baptism?

    If there is any point of theology where all Protestants should agree, since they are united by the Bible as their sole authority, it is baptism. We’re not talking about end times theology or perseverence of the saints… this is the washing away of sins and the door through which Christians enter the Church. The early Christians wouldn’t admit unbaptized persons to Holy Communion because they were unworthy and could become sick or die (as Paul warns in 1 Cor. 11), yet evangelical churches today hardly care if you’re baptized or not. A friend of mine at Sojourn wasn’t even asked about baptism during his membership interview. I have another friend who attends a non-denominational church that also doesn’t inquire about baptism before membership. How is this biblical?

  • Sean
    Posted at 10:56h, 07 March Reply

    its all about the “fruits” jason. baptism doesn’t do anything anyway so why even ask if we have been baptised.

  • Matthew Wireman
    Posted at 11:10h, 07 March Reply

    I hope that it was a fault – a horrible fault – but a mistake nonetheless. I would be more concerned that the pastor didn’t ask what he was doing as a result of his faith in Christ, rather than baptism. That is, too many churches (Catholic and Protestant) allow people in if they have checked off the necessaries – baptism, confirmation, etc. HOWEVER, the main issue is that those allowed into church membership should only be those who prove themselves in the faith. Again, this is not justifying evidence as the Catholic position holds. It is fruit. We must differentiate between root and fruit in the Christian life. We cannot build on a foundation except that of Christ (and I am not using Paul’s proposition to support this fully as he is discussing his own ministry their, but I am alluding to it as it proves to be true in the rest of his letters).

    May I suggest that regardless of whether someone has been baptized, confirmed, etc, this does not guarantee any entrance into the kingdom of God. In fact, even casting out demons is not evidence of this. I will let you ponder this for a while if you are putting confidence in the externals only. The inner reality is evidenced by the result of that faith.

    As a Baptist, I will not admit a person into membership unless they have been baptized as a believer. It is unfortunate that unbaptized people are allowed into church membership without this qualification, but it is the case. I believe it is from a distorted view of fruit (as Sean was mentioning above).

    By the way, speaking in tongues is permitted in public provided there is an interpreter (1 Cor 14.27-28). Just to clarify.

  • heyirishman
    Posted at 18:18h, 07 March Reply

    Sean, if baptism doesn’t do anything anyway, then why did Christ demand that we be baptized? And if baptism doesn’t do anything anyway, why does Peter say that “baptism now saves you” (1 Pet 3:21)? Honestly, if Baptism does nothing, they why get baptized at all?

    Matthew: Yes I know that speaking in tongues is permitted in public if there is an interpreter present. What I was talking about is walking into a church and everyone is praying in tongues. I’ve been in situations like this and it boggles me how one can justify this from the bible. But many church are like this…and proudly so.

  • Jason
    Posted at 18:38h, 07 March Reply

    HOWEVER, the main issue is that those allowed into church membership should only be those who prove themselves in the faith.

    In a way, I like where you’re going with this. There is a certain idealism in the Baptist/Calvinist faith that I do find attractive, like belief in the perseverance of the saints. But the problem is for now we are not in heaven, so how can we prove ourselves in the faith? Who gets to make such a decision about other people? Isn’t this treading on the line of judging someone’s salvation?

    May I suggest that regardless of whether someone has been baptized, confirmed, etc, this does not guarantee any entrance into the kingdom of God. In fact, even casting out demons is not evidence of this. I will let you ponder this for a while if you are putting confidence in the externals only. The inner reality is evidenced by the result of that faith.

    Of course, no action we do can merit salvation. Even the Catholic Church never teaches that works alone can save (see Council of Trent). The sacraments, as signs of the New Covenant, are not a heartless method of hopefully winning points with God, but the way God has instructed the Church to remember the New Covenant.

    Part of the beauty of the sacraments is that we receive God’s grace exactly in the place we’re at while God enables us to worship Him with all our senses. By God’s grace, our once condemned physical world can be made holy again. Naturally, faith is required for a sacrament to have any effect, but when we focus too much on faith alone we run the danger of abandoning the external signs of the New Covenant to our detriment.

    Imagine a man intends to propose to his girlfriend, so he takes her out to dinner or somewhere that’s special to them. He starts in on a little spiel about what their relationship means to him and how much he loves her, blah, blah, blah. Of course, she can guess where this is going and is filled with anticipation when he kneels on one knee and presents his hopeful bride-to-be with… a rose.

    A rose is by all means pleasing to sight and smell and represents love, but it’s not a ring. Do you think this girl is going to instinctively jump up and down and scream, “YES!”? Why, surely she isn’t so shallow as to base this deep, meaningful relationship on a shiny ring. After all, any guy could go out and buy a ring. Marriages are built on love, and this is all that really matters. Therefore, why isn’t love alone all that is necessary for this man and woman to declare their engagement?

  • Jason
    Posted at 18:40h, 07 March Reply

    irishman, Sean was just playing devil’s advocate :) For now, the Catholics have got the Baptists outnumbered here… maybe we ought to throw a virtual fish fry and cake wheel ;-)

  • Matthew Wireman
    Posted at 21:22h, 07 March Reply

    Can someone respond to my exegesis of 1 Peter 3.21? Peter is not saying that baptism saves you, it is the reality represented by the act. Read above and comment.

    Jason, if God’s grace meets us where we’re at, why must we receive it in a certain form or in a certain way? Is it true that the RCC believes that it has the stores of God’s grace to bestow in their sacraments?

    As for judging people, the Church is commanded to do this. This is why church dicipline happens. You discuss with someone their sin issue. If they are unrepentant you continue to exhort. When they prove to be unrepentant they are treated as an unbeliever.

    You run the risk of self-contradictory when you say that nothing we do can merit salvation, but you must do the sacraments. Show me where the sacraments are part of the New Covenant in the Scriptures (apart from baptism and the Lord’s Supper).

    You brought a very important point into any discussion about the Bible – the “already-not yet”. Hopefully this will be fleshed out more in the future. Until then show me some Scripture and please respond to my exegesis.

  • heyirishman
    Posted at 10:22h, 08 March Reply

    Matthew, thanks for the question.

    Peter’s first comparrison 3: Wives must be subject to husbands…as Sara was subject to Abraham. And if Sara could be subject under the Old Covenant, how much more subject must wives under the New Covenant. Peter is comparing one reality from the Old Testament to another reality in the New Testament. And the comparrison does not deminish the N.T reality…rather it underscores it. The N.T. subjection is the antitype, as it were of the O.T. subjection.

    The next Old/New comparrison being made is the Flood and Baptism. Peter says (20): “Which had been some time incredulous, when they waited for the patience of God in the days of Noe, when the ark was a building: wherein a few, that is, eight souls, WERE SAVED BY WATER.” First, notice that Peter is not afraid to say that they were “saved by water.” Peter chooses the most dramatic Old Testament event to get the point across. Back during the flood, the water would either kill you or save you. It would kill you if you drown, but it would save you by buoying up the ack. So, the point is, even back then, God used water as a saving/damning agent.

    Then Peter tells us that “baptism, being of like form, now saveth you also: not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the examination of a good conscience towards God by the ressurection of Jesus Christ.” Peter is saying that baptism is NOT an external thing, but is concerned with the internal aspect of man.

    Then Peter says (NIV): “IT SAVES YOU by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

    So twice, not once, are we told by Peter that water saves us. Not that the water has any inherent power in and of itself, but, just as it was used by God in the Old Testament, it is used by God in the New Testament. Remember that this is an ANALOGY. But the effectiveness of the New Testament reality that corresponds to the Old Testament reality is underscored or heightened by the O.T. reality.

    Matthew, you said: “Peter tells us that baptism saves us in that it is an appeal to God.”

    I would really like to understand what you mean by this. You say “..baptism saves us…” but the rest of the sentence doesn’t actually mean anything.

    1. How can it save you “in that…”

    2. What does “in that” mean? Do you mean that baptism *kind of* saves you?

    3. Why does it save you “in that it is an appeal to God”?

    4. Does this mean that if you appeal to God, you will be saved?

    5. But if you hold this, then why would an already saved person need to be saved by appealing to God at the baptismal font?

    I just don’t find enough meaning there to grab on to. I would have to say that if you believe that a person can be saved in some shape or form at the baptismal font (which is what you seem to be saying), but hold that you can only be once saved, then you are holding to a contradictory (untanable) belief.

    Then you say: “That is, there is an inner reality that manifests itself first and then the baptism takes place as the RESULT of a desire to come to Christ. You can’t strip that clause out of context. Does this make sense?”

    I would have to say that this does not make sense to me (with all due respect).

    6. Where does Peter say what you are saying?

    7. Where does he say that “there is an inner reality that manifests itself first and then the baptism takes place as the RESULT of a desire to come to Christ”?

    8. When you say: “a desire to come to Christ,” are you not implying that the person who approaches the baptismal font has not, as of yet, come to Christ?

    8a Are you softening your belief by saying that the person to be baptized comes with “a desire to come to Christ”?

    9. What do you mean by saying that we get baptized as the result of a desire to come to Christ?

    The fact is that Peter does not say that at all. That is what you and your mentors are reading into the text.

    Again, with all due respect (and I have been enjoying your writings) it seems to me that you and others like you have been so well trained that you are like robots who keep repeating to yourselves that Peter was talking about an inner reality that needed to be expressed on the outside. If Peter wanted to say that baptism was an expression of salvation already accomplished, then he could have used that word “expression” or any other word that would communicate that reality. But Peter did not use that word. He used “saves” because he is knows that God can continue to use material/water if he so desires.

    My belief is that all of these scriptural passages need to be synthasized and chrystalized into clear teachings…and this has been done from day 1 by the Catholic Church.

    God can use material as the agent by which grace is communicated because God created the material universe and said that it is good. If we can look at the lamb in the O.T and see how it is used as a type for Jesus in the New Testament, don’t close your eyes to the types for Baptism that are there too. The water over the face of the earth, the flood, the red sea crossing etc. These are prefiguring the greater reality.
    Don’t forget, God uses the simple things to shame the wise.

  • Sean
    Posted at 11:25h, 08 March Reply

    did someone say fish fry?

    i was being sarcastic earlier, sorry.

    im not really a baptist.

    covenant with god is not subjective.
    covenant with god is objective.

    i think this lays at the heart of what the discussion is about, at this point.

    baptism = circumcision

    9For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. 11In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature,[a] not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, 12having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.

    I could go on and on about this issue.

    If being entering a covenant with god is dependant on “knowing” certain principles then what are we to do with the babies and children or the mentally handicap that you never know if they really understand the gospel or not.

    According to the baptist view if one is to be consistant with it then god is not in covenant with babies, or children who haven’t come to their age of reason, or the mentally handicapped or the mentally ill.

    the point being, it is totally subjective to the persons accent to right understanding.

    once we are baptised we can either be covenant keepers or covenant breakers, just like with circumcision. you were circumcised and then you either obeyed the covenant or broke the covenant. day by day we make this decision.

  • Sean
    Posted at 11:26h, 08 March Reply

    sorry about the spelling…

  • Matthew Wireman
    Posted at 13:47h, 08 March Reply

    in my exegesis: baptism=appeal

    God’s covenants are BOTH subjective and objective. Subjective in that they are applied and entered into. Objective in that it is something to be entered into.

    I’m not trying to be cure with such a short comment. I really appreciate the time you both took to clarify things. I am trying to pull it back to essential understandings at the points where we diverge and miss each other.

  • Sean
    Posted at 14:12h, 08 March Reply

    I think baptism is an essential understanding that we diverge on.

    but maybe thats what you are saying.

    its sometimes hard to communicate properly in the virtual realm.

  • Matthew Wireman
    Posted at 15:12h, 08 March Reply

    Yes, that’s what I’m saying. We would have to sit and flesh out the doctrine of baptism in order to get at some essentials. I think you’re right. That’s one of the problems with comments and typing (especially when you type as slow as I do!).

    Could you lay out some Scriptures that you believe teach your understanding of baptism?

  • heyirishman
    Posted at 15:49h, 08 March Reply

    Matthew, I am kind of dissappointed in your response. Because you hardly touched on what I asked you. I know I wrote a lot, but still, I am just trying to get to the bottom of what you believe.

    Now it seems you are changing your story. First you said that baptism “saves” you in that it is an appeal…now you are saying that it is an appeal. Which is it? Are you now denying that “it saves you in that it is an appeal”? I’m not trying to be smart, just consistent.

  • Matthew Wireman
    Posted at 17:41h, 08 March Reply

    Those sentences are saying essentially the same thing. I am not changing my story. “In that” is a clarifying term. Another way to say the same thing would be: Baptism saves you, that is it is an appeal to God.

    Does that make sense? You will probably still be disappointed b/c it is different than your understanding of what baptism is I am sure. But if you can deal with the exegesis more coherently, I am willing to hear.

  • Sean
    Posted at 17:50h, 08 March Reply

    I think most of the scriptures already quoted in regards to baptism and salvation, baptism and the flood and noahs faith that saved his household, and the last one quoted equating circumcision and baptism. those are the core in the new testament. take those with an understanding of the jews becoming christians and their understanding of covenant with god from the old testament. plus the churches tradition of how all this was understood at the time and shortly after. there you have my position. even calvin and luther agree with this position. i noticed you have a link to credenda agenda, doug wilson is a big proponent of this understanding of the covenant as a reformed protestant. his book Reformed is Not Enough is all about this issue. have you read it? i think you can download the sermons that the book was formed from.

    anyway, he understands it pretty much the same as the catholic church has understood it. the “reformed” tend to use different terms and be more calvinistic about it though.

  • Sean
    Posted at 20:07h, 08 March Reply

    sorry, that verse i quoted earlier is Colossians 2:10-12.

  • heyirishman
    Posted at 21:57h, 08 March Reply

    “But if you can deal with the exegesis more coherently, I am willing to hear.”

    Wed Mar 08, 05:41:33 PM

    Matthew, whose exegesis are you talking about, mine or yours? Honestly, I didn’t think you gave an exegesis, because you simply gave your interpretation 1 Pet 3:21 in one or two sentences. So I am limited in what I can say. But I think I have quoted you fair and square and I have shown that you and Peter are not saying the same things.

    You are saying that baptism saves you in that it is an appeal to God. What does this mean? Is this another way of saying that baptism saves you *in so far* as it is an appeal to God? I really wish you would clarify.

    Or if it is my exegesis, please tell me what part of my exegeis is not coherant, and I will try to clarify it for you.

  • Jason
    Posted at 02:27h, 10 March Reply


    I see where 1 Peter 3:21 is saying that baptism saves us as an appeal to God. The question is, what’s the nature of this appeal? Do we necessarily appeal to God before the act of baptism, or is baptism itself the appeal to which Peter is referring? To immerse a person in water and say the words “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” is calling upon God to effect the work that what promised when John the Baptist announced, “I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”(Mk 1:8) In doing so, we fulfill the commandment “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”(Jn 3:5)

    It is God alone who actually baptizes. Like St. Augustine said, “When Peter baptizes, Christ baptizes; when Judas baptizes, Christ baptizes.” Since baptism is merely water sanctified by God’s Word, the faith of the baptized person doesn’t come into play. We might appeal to our own consciences, but our faith is weak; when we appeal to God, we place our confidence in God alone. Even if an adult were baptized against their will, Christ would still effect the baptism because his Holy Name is at stake (obviously this isn’t how Christ instructs us to baptize others, but Augustine’s Confessions attests when his best friend became ill, was baptized while unconscious, and finally awoke he expressed no interest in his old sinful lifestyle).

    Jason, if God’s grace meets us where we’re at, why must we receive it in a certain form or in a certain way? Is it true that the RCC believes that it has the stores of God’s grace to bestow in their sacraments?

    The sacraments provide assurance of receiving God’s grace. God obviously isn’t restricted to His sacraments, but just as we needn’t be concerned with exactly how we were baptized because God is faithful to His Word, the same is true for all the sacraments. We call upon God’s Name to forgive sins in confession or to sanctify the relationship of man and woman in marriage and we have no doubt that God has done the work He promised.

    Calling it “stores of grace” is misleading. God is the ultimate source of all grace, whether one receives it sacramentally or by other means.

    As for judging people, the Church is commanded to do this. This is why church dicipline happens. You discuss with someone their sin issue. If they are unrepentant you continue to exhort. When they prove to be unrepentant they are treated as an unbeliever.

    The Church must enact discipline and even excommunicate as a last resort, but it’s not the same as judging. Only God can judge people because only He sees into our souls. The Church can only look at the external matters.

    You run the risk of self-contradictory when you say that nothing we do can merit salvation, but you must do the sacraments. Show me where the sacraments are part of the New Covenant in the Scriptures (apart from baptism and the Lord’s Supper)

    We agree that baptism and Eucharist are sacramental. Does their power come from human hands or from God? John the Baptist could only baptize with water, but under the New Covenant Christ baptizes with water and Spirit. Likewise, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, bread and wine become the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ; and a priest receives the authority to sacramentally marry a man and woman or to absolve a repentent person of their sins.

    Jesus often worked miracles sacramentally. In Matthew 9:21, the hemorraging woman is quoted saying, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well.” Yet after she was healed and Jesus turned around, having felt the power go out of him, she came forward and Jesus said, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”(Lk 8:48) Was she healed by touching Jesus’ cloak or by faith? Or is it both? she had faith before, but wasn’t healed until she touched his cloak. Yet, without faith, touching the cloak would have done nothing for her.

    In John 9, Jesus healed a man who was born blind by spitting in the dirt to make mud, applying it to his eyes, and instructing him to wash in the pool of Siloam. In a way, it seems kinda mean of Jesus to have this blind guy walk to the pool when we all know he could say, “Open your eyes and see” and his sight would return. Instead, Jesus used his own saliva, dirt, and water.

    As for the other sacraments, here are a few passages from PhatMass.com’s Catholic Defense Directory.

    Gen 2:20-24 – the union of man and woman become one body
    Mal 2:26 – divorce and remarriage violate the marriage covenant
    Mt 19:6 – “Therefore what God has joined together, let no man separate.”
    Rev 19:9 – marriage reflects Christ’s union with His bridge, the Church, at the marriage supper of the Lamb

    Jn 20:21-23 – Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them,”Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
    2 Cor 5:11-21 – Click here for a verse-by-verse exegisis.

    Acts 8:14-17 – people of Samaria were baptized, but did not receive the Holy spirit until Peter and John
    Acts 19:5-6 – people of Ephesus were baptized, but did not receive the Holy spirit until Paul laid hands on them
    There are more verses here, plus quotes from the Church Fathers

    Holy Orders/Ordination:
    Acts 1:22, 6:6, 9:17-19, 13:3 – laying on of hands is consistently correlated with sending men into positions of authority
    Col 1:25, Heb 7:23, 1 Tim 3:1 – Paul calls his position an “office” and uses the word “episcopoi” (bishop)
    1 Tim 5:22 – “Do not ordain anyone hastily…”
    More quotes from Church Fathers

    Anointing of the Sick/Extreme Unction:
    Mk 6:13 – apostles cure people by anointing the sick with oil
    Jms 5:14-15 – if any are sick, call the elders to pray over them and anoint with oil. Faith will save the sick and their sins will be forgiven.
    Summa Theologica on this sacrament

    There’s a lot to consider there, and I know that it’s tough to really “slam dunk” any of these, but this is where Tradition comes into play. As my experience has shown, Sola Scriptura is sufficient for learning the Gospel, but insufficient for learning the fullness of Truth in our Christian faith. When the issue of infant baptism can’t even be decided from Scripture alone, how could we ever leave “behind the basic teaching about Christ.” (Heb 6:1)

    btw, thank you for the opportunity to share a civil discussion about these things. I just finished Scott Hahn’s book “Swear to God,” which goes through the seven sacraments. Chapters 9 and 11 are particularly good.

  • heyirishman
    Posted at 09:03h, 10 March Reply

    The word “appeal” does not appear in the Greek or 1 Pet 3:21.

    The original says “interrogation.” The Douay and the ASV have it right.

    So, even though my Catholic brother says that it can be understood as an appeal, I agree that it could, but that is not what the Greek says.

    But Matthew, by your own interpretation, baptism saves you in some shape or form, because you said that it saves you “in that” it is an appeal to God. I don’t think you realize the full implications of your statement. Your interpretation actually sounds Catholic, or, let’s be fair…Lutheran:)

  • Matthew Wireman
    Posted at 10:48h, 10 March Reply

    Thank you all for your charity. I see that we are getting into several, several issues where Protestants and Catholics divide. I really appreciate your patience – I hope you will understand if I take a little longer to reply. After all, I am responding to three Catholics by myself at this point. Maybe some Protestants would like to respond.

    A few things:
    You must understand that I am a Baptist. I am distinct from Doug Wilson. I read Credenda Agenda at times, but I think his understanding of covenant is weak. So you know, I understand there to be a difference between the Old and New Covenants that men like Doug Wilson and the RCC do not identify. One of the primary verses is: Jer. 31:34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

    In other words, only those that have the Holy Spirit are in the New Covenant. Babies can never be in this covenant for one must enter by faith – babies do not have faith.

    Secondly, baptism is subsequent to belief. As for Jason’s explanation of exo operato, I think this is an unhelpful explanation for someone like me because I do not think the RCC sacraments confer any kind of merit or righteousness before God.

    I cannot stress enough the need to see continuity AS WELL AS discontinuity between the Old and New Covenants. You can not make a 1:1 correlation between them

    Jason, I do appreciate the time you took to cite Scripture references for the different sacraments. However, you are coming to the Scriptures with glasses on before you interpret the text for it is saying. In other words, I believe the entire hermeneutic of the RCC is wrong. Marriage is not a sacrament in the way that you understand.

    I see the major problem with much RCC exegesis is the constant use of proof-texts to prove a point. The salvation-historical context is ripped away and a verse is imputed with tons of meaning that is not there. Irishman, I appreciated your explanation of types for baptism (creation, flood, etc). Let me try to be more succint:
    Circumcision was given as a command to Abraham to be a reminder of his covenant with God and an identifier of him with the people of God – setting apart himself from the surrounding culture. In the Old Testament identity with the people of God had to do with physical identity. The Spirit had not been poured out (Joel 2). As quoted above Jer 31 talks about an inner reality yet to come. In the New Covenant identification with the people of God is through faith – “repent and believe”. Once someone repented and believed they are baptized. What is hard for you to understand, possibly, is my distinction between what Peter seems to say and what the Gospels say may have to do with the problem mentioned above. The historical build is not taken into account. That is, the Gospels are already setting up the economy and Peter is taking this for granted that the people he was writing to knew that baptism does not save as you propose. He is writing with a presupposition. I am sure you are balking at this point. But consider:
    If salvation is all of grace, how can baptism save. Yes, you will say the way that God confers this grace is through the sacaraments. But then there is never an assurance that I have the amount of grace needed to stand before God. Essentially, this is where we would have to part ways. The beauty of the Gospel is that God’s righteousness is an objective reality. It is perfect and unswerving. No matter how much we try, we cannot attain to this perfect level of righteousness. This is why Christ came. To fulfill the Law and keep it perfectly. By faith in his work, we inherit all the promises that are “Yes” in him.

    The essence of faith is a looking away from self. Faith is resting on the work and efficacy of another. A baby cannot do this. Baptism cannot save in the sense you are reading into it. All Protestants are not easy-believers – unfortunately there are. I am working on a paper right now on perseverance in the book of Revelation. Please take the time to read this and think through what I am saying. I feel like we are talking past each other a lot of times rather than really dealing with the issue at hand – this is probably due to the fact that we are familiar with various branches of difference between us and we want to climb all of them.

    Well, I don’t want to write a treatise so I will stop. Hopefully this clarifies who you are talking with.

  • Matthew Wireman
    Posted at 10:54h, 10 March Reply

    By the way, the word is eperōtēma, which means a an “appeal” or ‘request”. It is a request unto God for a good conscience. That is the Greek. It could also mean “promise”. How does a baby make a request or appeal or promise unto God for a good conscience?

  • Matthew Wireman
    Posted at 11:14h, 10 March Reply

    Actually, after some thought I think Jason’s comment about exo operato was helpful. I spoke rashly. I think it helps further point out the difference between a Portestant and a Catholic. Augustine was attempting a polemic against the Monatnists and Donatists by bringing strength to the sacraments and constituting them as effectual to save – though they do not. Was this proposed as a way to explain that the RCC still had the keys although their priests were living lives of license? (A genuine question).

  • heyirishman
    Posted at 12:32h, 10 March Reply

    Perhaps this will help the conversation along a bit.

    Mark 2:

    1 When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it became known that he was at home.
    Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them, not even around the door, and he preached the word to them.
    They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.
    Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him. After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying.
    3 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Child, your sins are forgiven.”

    Who can deny that Jesus saved the man on account of the faith of his friends who carried him in?

    This section from Mark’s Gospel shows us that Jesus can use someone else’s faith to forgive someone. There is an important principle at work here that hopefully you will see.

    Now consider a baby. A baby cannot walk or talk. When the parents of a baby stand around a baptismal font, God uses their faith to save the baby. Then as the baby grows into a child, he becomes aware of the realities that Faith this entails. At this point, the child/teenager can choose to embrace or reject the grace already received through baptism.

    Otherwise, how is a baby to be saved? The baby is not capable of faith? I believe that in his foresight, God knew that we would run into these problems. God knew that there would be babies who would die before the age of reason/faith. So, God made provision for these babies. This is beautiful beyond words. Today, God uses simple water to save simple people to shame the wise. Just as God used water to heal Naaman in the Old Testament, he still uses water today.

    Now when you are an adult who approaches the baptismal font you are expected to bring your own faith. You are therefore interrogated by the priest. The priest asks you if you reject Satan and all his pomps. The priest asks you if you believe in Jesus and all sorts of things. This is what happens in the rites of the Catholic Church!!! You are questioned or interrogated and you are expected to answer these questions. When you prove that you are coming to the font in good conscience, you will then be baptized in the name of the F, S, and H.S. The church has been doing this since the days of Peter.

  • Jason
    Posted at 14:13h, 10 March Reply

    In other words, only those that have the Holy Spirit are in the New Covenant. Babies can never be in this covenant for one must enter by faith – babies do not have faith.

    True, but we all inherit original sin. When we say that baptism relies on faith rather than the Word of God, we are relying on ourselves instead of God. Some people get baptized again and again because they doubt whether they really believed or if they were doing it for attention or because everyone else was getting baptized at some church camp. It’s a shaky foundation. And the other extreme is Christians who are never baptized, since doing away with the teaching of baptismal regeneration and overemphasizing faith alone causes some to think baptism is optional.

    Secondly, baptism is subsequent to belief.

    Again, Protestants hold to one authority, but fail to agree on when a person can be validly baptized. I grew up Protestant, learned Sola Scriptura, but I was baptized at age four along with my sister who was less than a year old. Go figure :) Nowhere in Scripture is the validity of infant baptism denied, even though it seems that Jewish audiences would naturally correlate baptism with circumsicion and therefore baptize their newborn children. Plus, the writings of Irenaeus, Tertullian, Hippolytus of Rome, Origen, Cyprian of Carthage, and Augustine all encouraged infant baptism, while many more Church Fathers taught that baptism is regenerative and forgives sins.

    If salvation is all of grace, how can baptism save. Yes, you will say the way that God confers this grace is through the sacaraments. But then there is never an assurance that I have the amount of grace needed to stand before God.

    I’m not sure what you’re getting at… that the Catholic Church teaches you need to have some “amount” of grace to stand before God?

    Augustine was attempting a polemic against the Monatnists and Donatists by bringing strength to the sacraments and constituting them as effectual to save – though they do not.

    Let’s clarify… sacraments on their own do not provide grace. We must be open to receiving grace through the gift of faith. Without faith, the sacraments profit nothing, and in the case of receiving the Eucharist they could be physically harmful, as Paul warns in 1 Cor 11.

    On the other hand, sometimes the grace received sacramentally manifests itself through physical healing. I would bet any priest who has been ordained more than a few years could tell about a miraculous healing God provided when he provided the Anointing of the Sick. Back in December the Catholic Mormon Podcast featured a woman’s reversion story of coming back to Catholicism. She had been suffering from bursitis in her hip, but several doctors had been unable to treat it effectively, so she just learned to live with the pain. Eventually a series of events lead her back to the Catholic Church, when she finally went to Confession for the first time since her prepration for First Communion. After confessing and going before the tabernacle to pray her Penance, she stood up to find that her bursitis was healed. This was seven years ago, and she hasn’t felt any pain since.

    Was this proposed as a way to explain that the RCC still had the keys although their priests were living lives of license?

    We’re all sinners, some more than others. I believe Satan does everything within his limited power to stain the Catholic priesthood (and all Christians, for that matter), but the effectiveness of the sacraments depends purely upon the faith of the recipient. The sacramental life frees us from judging others so that we may freely worship and love God. FWIW, the vast majority of preists, bishops, and religious in the Church’s history lived quiet lives devoted to loving God and neighbor. Our human nature just prefers to focus on the few extravagent sinners :)

  • Jason
    Posted at 14:28h, 10 March Reply

    The healing of the paralytic also ties into the healing from Confession and Penance that I just mentioned. Jesus said to the crowd, “But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,” and told the paralytic, “I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.”

    Likewise, God sometimes heals through the sacraments, revealing that priests have authority on earth to forgive sins by virtue of their ordination (laying on of hands) going back to the apostles whom Jesus sent to proclaim forgiveness of sins in the same way the Father sent Jesus.(Jn 20:21-23)

  • Matthew Wireman
    Posted at 15:29h, 10 March Reply
  • Jason
    Posted at 15:51h, 10 March Reply

    Well, I agree with you there. I believe Ghandi also said, “I like your Christ, but I don’t like your Christians; they are so unlike your Christ.”

    But how does this relate to the sacraments?

  • Matthew Wireman
    Posted at 17:30h, 10 March Reply

    When you baptize a baby, you are baptizing a pagan. They grow up in the church and act like pagans and they are still considered in the Covenant?? This age of accountability issue doesn’t make sense either. It seems like an attempt to justify some way of saying that people who act like pagans and were baptized aren’t really in the Covenant.

    All I am trying to say (and it obviously is a little difficult as evidenced in the paragraph above) is that baptizing babies does not make sense in the New Covenant where no one will say “Know the Lord” for they will all know him. By the way, what Scriptures do you see baby baptizing in the New Testament.

  • Sean
    Posted at 20:19h, 10 March Reply

    Again, matthew,i think you are still falling into the subjective and making distinctions where you can not neccesarily make them. you say a baby can’t believe, but what makes you think that anyone really believes “rightly” after all. you dont know if your neighbor “really” believes or not just because he says he is a “christian”. we cant judge that.

    and also what is more of an example of grace and not “earning” salvation than god accepting a baby.

    do you really honestly believe that babies are not saved?

    again, what about the mentally handicapped?

    and again in that line of reasoning what about your neighbor that says he is a christian.

    how are we to know. if its just by fruits then what about people like ghandi that did a lot of good. i could name a lot of unbelievers that do more good than believers. but that doesn’t mean they are saved. you can have fruits without the faith. we can judge people by their fruits if they are already baptised. we could say that they are in covenant with god ojectively by baptism and also say that they are objectively breaking the covenant or keeping the covenant. this is the only clear ground we have to stand on. ie. how would you do church discipline otherwise?

    I think your interpretation of jeremiah is a little mistaken in the baptist view. in that the old covenant was not a religion of the heart and the new is. That the old covenant was just works and no grace. Just do a search in bible gateway of heart. Its truly amazing. The old covenant had covenant breakers and keepers. And the religion of the heart did not change from old to new.

    Deuteronomy 10:12
    [ Fear the LORD ] And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul,

    Deuteronomy 6:6
    These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts

    Deuteronomy 11:18
    Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.

    51. 2 Kings 23:3
    The king stood by the pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the LORD -to follow the LORD and keep his commands, regulations and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, thus confirming the words of the covenant written in this book. Then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant.
    2 Kings 23:2-4 (in Context) 2 Kings 23 (Whole Chapter)
    52. 2 Kings 23:25
    Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the LORD as he did—with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses
    53. Psalm 119:7
    I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws.
    Psalm 119:6-8 (in Context) Psalm 119 (Whole Chapter)
    54. Psalm 119:10
    I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.
    Psalm 119:9-11 (in Context) Psalm 119 (Whole Chapter)
    55. Psalm 119:11
    I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
    Psalm 119:10-12 (in Context) Psalm 119 (Whole Chapter)
    56. Psalm 119:30
    I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on your laws.
    Psalm 119:29-31 (in Context) Psalm 119 (Whole Chapter)
    57. Psalm 119:32
    I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.
    Psalm 119:31-33 (in Context) Psalm 119 (Whole Chapter)
    58. Psalm 119:34
    Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart.
    Psalm 119:33-35 (in Context) Psalm 119 (Whole Chapter)
    59. Psalm 119:36
    Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain.
    Psalm 119:35-37 (in Context) Psalm 119 (Whole Chapter)
    60. Psalm 119:58
    I have sought your face with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise.
    Psalm 119:57-59 (in Context) Psalm 119 (Whole Chapter)
    61. Psalm 119:69
    Though the arrogant have smeared me with lies, I keep your precepts with all my heart.
    Psalm 119:68-70 (in Context) Psalm 119 (Whole Chapter)

  • heyirishman
    Posted at 22:20h, 10 March Reply

    Yes, Matthew, could you explain to me what it is about Jer 31 that is not compatible with the Catholic religion, as you understand it? That would be helpful. Because, I don’t see anything in Jer 31 that is at odds with the Catholic Faith. Thanks.

    By the way you’re right about the Greek. I looked it up again and the Latin says interrogate.

  • Jason
    Posted at 19:28h, 12 March Reply

    In reply to Matt’s last comment:

    When you baptize a baby, you are baptizing a pagan. They grow up in the church and act like pagans and they are still considered in the Covenant??

    Yes, externally speaking, all baptized persons are in the New Covenant. Of course, only God can judge if our hearts are circumscized. The parents and godparents take on the primary responsibility of praying for and teaching their children the Christian faith as they grow up (I’ll be playing a role in this process for my goddaughter who will be born in the next few weeks). Also, I know the Catholic and Orthdox baptismal rites include a minor rite of exorcism, removing whatever grip Satan might have before the baptism.

    Unfortunately, too many baptized children don’t grow up in solid Christian environments, and even some who do may not accept Christ into their hearts. Even so, nobody can lose God’s promise given to them through baptism if they eventually return to Christ.

    I found this on a Greek Orthodox web site… their words are probably better than mine :)

    Holy Baptism is the first of seven Sacraments in the Orthodox Christian Church. Together with the Sacrament of Holy Chrism it joins the candidate to the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church. Some people argue that the only valid baptism is that of an adult who believes in Christ first. They argue that to baptise a helpless infant only a few weeks old who is unable to believe is meaningless. So why baptise a baby when it doesn’t know yet what is happening? Why not wait for the baby to grow and believe in Christ and ask for baptism? If we were to follow this line of reasoning, we wouldn’t inoculate the baby against diphtheria until he grows up and asks for it! But we know better. Baptising infants before they know what is going on is an expression of God’s great love for us. It shows that God loves us and accepts us before we can ever know and love Him. It shows that we are wanted and loved by God from the very moment of our birth. Nothing shows the nature of God’s grace more than infant baptism. The Orthodox Church does not belittle personal faith in an adult who seeks baptism, but instead insists that the whole emphasis of baptism is not an what the baby does or the parents or the godparents, but on what God does. The fact that we are Christians is not due to any act on our part; it is due to the act of God in Christ through the Holy Spirit. Of course Baptism demands a personal response on the part of the baptised child when it reaches the age of reason. The child must accept what God did for him or her in Baptism. Baptism is not a divine pass that will get us into Heaven automatically. It must be followed by a personal awareness or awakening to the many gifts of God’s love bestowed upon us through this great sacrament.

    By the way, what Scriptures do you see baby baptizing in the New Testament.

    Acts 16:15,33 and 18:8, and 1 Corinthians 1:16 mention the baptismm of entire households. These would almost surely have included young children, if not newborns. Also, in Colossians 2:11-13 Paul sets up a parallel between circumscion of the flesh in the Old Covenant and circumscion of Christ (baptism) in the New Covenant. There is no clarification that this should not be interpreted as allowing infant baptisms, as Sola Scriptura denominations like Lutheranism and Anglicanism interpret it.

    Since all the explicit accounts of baptism in the Bible were for adults while infant baptism is only addressed implicitly, it is left open to interpretation. There can only be one truth, and therefore only one correct interpretation. The Church Fathers who claimed to teach what was entrusted to them by the apostles, were vastly supportive of infant baptisms, not to mention that baptism regenerates us by washing away original sin and actual sins, and making eternal life available to those who continue walking in the faith of Christ.

    I don’t want to change the subject too abruptly, but I’ve always been curious about the Protestant response to the many miracles tied to the sacraments, lives of saints, the Blessed Sacrament, etc. Many Christians today (even Catholics) would laugh at news reports of handkerchiefs touched by Mother Teresa or Pope Benedict’s shadow healing the sick. Yet, in Acts 5:14-15 and 19:11-12 we read about miracles God performed through Peter’s shadow and Paul’s handkerchiefs. So, I’m just putting that out there for whenever we’ve exhausted the infant baptism topic :)

  • Sean
    Posted at 11:05h, 13 March Reply

    And another quote from Calvin-Institutes…

    Scripture gives us a still clearer knowledge of the truth. For it is most evident that the covenant, which the Lord once made with Abraham, is not less applicable to Christians now than it was anciently to the Jewish people, and, therefore, that word has no less reference to Christians than to Jews. Unless, indeed, we imagine that Christ, by his advent, diminished or curtailed the grace of the Father – an idea not free from execrable blasphemy. Wherefore, both the children of the Jews, because, when made heirs of that covenant, they were separated from the heathen, were called a holy seed, and for the same reason the children of Christians, or those who have only one believing parent, are called holy, and, by the testimony of the apostle, differ from the impure seed of idolaters. Then, since the Lord, immediately after the covenant was made with Abraham ordered it to be sealed, infants by an outward sacrament, how can it be said that Christians are not to attest it in the present day, and seal it in their children? Let it not be objected that the only symbol by which the Lord ordered his covenant to be confirmed was that of circumcision, which was long ago abrogated. It is easy to answer, that in accordance with the form of the old dispensation, he appointed circumcision to confirm his covenant, but that it being abrogated, the same reason for confirmation still continues, a reason which we have in common with the Jews. Hence it is always necessary carefully to consider what is common to both, and wherein they differed from us. The covenant is common, and the reason for confirming it is common. The mode of confirming it is so far different that they had circumcision, instead of which we now have baptism. Otherwise, if the testimony by which the Jews were assured of the salvation of their seed is taken from us, the consequence will be, that, by the advent of Christ, the grace of God, which was formerly given to the Jews, is more obscure and less perfectly attested to us. If this cannot be said without extreme insult to Christ, by whom the infinite goodness of the Father has been more brightly and benignly than ever shed upon the earth, and declared to men, it must be confessed that it cannot be more confined, and less clearly manifested, than under the obscure shadows of the law.

    7. Hence our Lord Jesus Christ, to give an example from which the world might learn that he had come to enlarge rather than to limit the grace of the Father, kindly takes the little children in his arms, and rebukes his disciples for attempting to prevent them from coming, (Matth. 19: 13,) because they were keeping those to whom the kingdom of heaven belonged away from him, through whom alone there is access to heaven. But it will be asked, What resemblance is there between baptism and our Saviour embracing little children? He is not said to have baptised, but to have received, embraced, and blessed them; and, therefore, if we would imitate his example, we must give infants the benefit of our prayers, not baptise them. But let us attend to the act of our Saviour a little more carefully than these men do. For we must not lightly overlook the fact, that our Saviour, in ordering little children to be brought to him, adds the reason, “of such is the kingdom of heaven.” And he afterwards testifies his good will by act, when he embraces them, and with prayer and benediction commends them to his Father. If it is right that children should be brought to Christ, why should they not be admitted to baptism, the symbol of our communion and fellowship with Christ? If the kingdom of heaven is theirs, why should they be denied the sign by which access, as it were, is opened to the Church, that being admitted into it they may be enrolled among the heirs of the heavenly kingdom? How unjust were we to drive away those whom Christ invites to himself, to spoil those whom he adorns with his gifts, to exclude those whom he spontaneously admits.

    Check out this web site for the whole expostition.


  • Jason
    Posted at 18:33h, 13 March Reply

    The only problem with quoting Calvin, Luther, or any other Reformer is that some Protestants will just say their teachings required further ongoing reformation, like they were too close to Catholicism and their theology remained tainted to some degree even after the Reformation started.

    Still, Luther’s teaching on infant baptism definitely restored a sense of calm in my heart after learning that I was apparently never baptized (that is, according to some at sojourn).

  • Matthew Wireman
    Posted at 14:10h, 14 March Reply

    Sean, Irishman, and Jason ~

    I have really enjoyed and appreciated this dialogue. It has helped me understand the RCC position better. I have considered your comments with much thought and decided the best thing to do was to post on the various things that we have discussed rather than continue to comment.

    But to be fair to this conversation, I want to point out some areas that I think we will differ and I believe you need to reconsider:
    1. All Protestants are not the same. I am sure you knew this. Just as there are many branches of differences within the RCC tradition, so is there in the Reformation tradition.
    2. The foundational issue for me is the fact that the essence of faith is a looking away from oneself and looking to another. It cannot be the same as doing, for this is not faith.
    3. There is a distinction (thought not sharp) in the Bible between belief and obedience. However, your position conflates the two, making them one. I believe this is a serious misreading of the Bible and a short-sighted view of faith.
    4. Much of your biblical rationale rests in the tradition handed down from the Pope and Magisterium. The doctrine of Sola Scriptura is not that the Bible is the only thing we read – as you can see from the various quotes I will put up on my blog. It is an authority issue. All traditions must be subjected to the Scriptures. This leads to the next point.
    5. Baptism is not an issue of personal interpretation that is foggy in the Bible and in need of clarification by a council (as has been proposed. That is, by virtue of baptism being up for interpretation mitigates the fact that we need a hierarchical intepreter – namely, the RCC).
    6. Believer’s baptism is the only interpreatation that does justice to the progression of salvation-history. That is, the storyline of the Bible moves and expands. Circumcision is not equal to baptism in the NT. This is ripping the rite out of its historical context.
    When asked to give biblical rationale for baptizing babies, there was no conclusive evidence. There are assumptions – like households that “must have included babies”. This assumes a lot and does not take the Scripture seriously. I will post more on this in the future.
    7. As has been said before, I find many of your biblical rationale troubling. You seem to rip Scriptures out of their context. Case in point is Jason’s use of Mk 2 to affirm vicarious faith. The point of the passage has nothing to do with vicarious faith, but rather that Jesus has the authority to forgive sins. Further, you are reading way too much into the text (eisogesis).
    8. Finally, I did not feel like you guys had read my comments thoughtfully. Many times there seemed to be assumptions and talking past me (I will not enumerate those here, but will give an example). Exegesis is where someone reads a text in its textual context, then moves to its historical context, and finally to its canonical context. 1 Per 3.21 in the RCC (as presented in the comments section) failed to read it in all three contexts.
    I wish you wouldl have asked more questions regarding words and terminology that I may have used that you did not understand (i.e. salvation-historical). I think that might have brought more clarity to the discussion.
    9. All in all, I really appreciated this discussion. It has cemented some of my convictions on these issues and I hope to post more on these in the future. I do want to apologize if feelings were hurt. One of the banes of internet and blogging, as we all have experienced, is the lack of inflection able to be used.
    Even this comment I am writing may sound harsh in some ears, but I write it in love and concern for your position and souls.
    The bottom line is this: Faith is looking unto Christ and embracing all that he is – life, death, resurrection. Good works flow from this faith and we will be judged according to what we have done and said. However, the final judgment rests in the fact that whether we are in Christ or not. Rev 20.12 shows that there are books that will be opened on the Last Day. The interesting thing about this judgment has to do with the fact that those cast away will be judged (as regards salvation) according to their works. The ones receiving salvation will be allowed to enter based on the fact as to whether their names were written in the Book of Life.
    I am working on a paper regarding perseverance in the Book of Revelation right now and would be happy to send you a copy as I think you will be able to get a flavor for what my thoughts are regarding conquering for the Christian and salvation.
    As I said before, I really appreicate all you comments. It was wonderful seeing what was said. If anyone took offense, forgive me. I did not seek to be rude, but to the point. I do struggle with pride and words. I am in process and appreciate your patience. I pray that we can continue this dialogue in other venues as this post will soon go to the Archives and it will be difficult to have to surf on my blog for it.
    I hope to meet you someday and discuss these things further as face-to-face dialogue seems much more fruitful. I have visited your respective blogs and hope to continue the charity.

  • Matthew Wireman
    Posted at 14:52h, 14 March Reply

    I’m not sure if I made it clear, but I plan on answering some of your questions to clarify what I am saying (i.e. Jer 31 and it’s relationship to the New Covenant, more on Peter and salvation/baptism, etc.) If there is something else on the way you woudl like clarified, just let me know. Also, if you want my paper on the book of Revelation, shoot me an e-mail letting me know.

  • Sean
    Posted at 14:59h, 14 March Reply

    Thank you for your concluding thoughts. I appreciated the discussion as well. No hurt feelings here. We could go on and on about our differences and why but like you said it will be in the archives soon. hopefully we can start a new discussion somewhere. thanks for the time and effort put into your replies.feel free to start a discussion on my blog anytime or ask more questions. I would love to clear up any misunderstandings you have with catholicism, i used to be a protestant so i know there are many. again, thanks.

  • heyirishman
    Posted at 20:46h, 14 March Reply

    Yes Matthew, good converstaion. Thanks.

    I hope you don’t mind if I finish with some closing thoughts too :)

    1. I was the one who mentioned Mk chapter 2. I have to say that though the main message is that Jesus can forgive sins, that doesn’t negate the significance of the other things that are going on in the passage too. The fact is, there *is* a vicarious faith going on in Mk 2, even if it is occurring in a passage that underscores Jesus’ ability to forgive.

    2. All Protestants are not the same…agreed. Though there are differences within the RCC tradition, these differences are minute. We all agree on the teachings.

    3. The Catholic Faith also makes the distinction between faith and obedience, following the bible (Rom 1).

    4. I totally disagree with Sola Scriptura. An authoritative interpreter is needed, as is evidenced by even our diverging opinions on 1 Pet 3:21.

    5. “Believer’s baptism is the only interpreatation that does justice to the progression of salvation-history.” Not for me. I was baptized as a baby. The problem is not with the baptism, but with the teaching that is meant to follow the baptism (remember howw the Jewish people had to teach their kids the significance of the ceremonials they were performing?). Some kids did not get taught well by their parents. Hence the gife of redemption is burried. These people were once regenerated, but they need the Holy Spirit to be stirred up within them again.

    6. The bible does not rule out baptism of infants…if anything it leans heavily towards it, with the baptism of entire households.

    7. By the same token, there is no conculsive evidence for not baptizing babies either. In fact, there is no evidence that babies cannot inherit heaven. (unless you be like one of these little ones..)

    8. Sying things like: “You seem to rip Scriptures out of their context” is not a nice way to put it.

    9. I didn’t feel that you gave (or as you say, you “failed” to give) an exegesis of 1 Pet 3: 21 either. That is, immediate, historical and cannonical contexts.

    10. I would really like to understand the terminology you use.

    11. This is a very good blog and I look forward to learning a great deal more.

    12. You said, “Peter tells us that baptism saves us in that it is an appeal to God,” showing that baptism does in fact save us in some shape or form.

    13. Just thought I’d sneak that one in :)

    14. God bless

  • Jason
    Posted at 00:52h, 15 March Reply

    Thank you for the dialogue. I just wanted to clarify a couple of things

    Much of your biblical rationale rests in the tradition handed down from the Pope and Magisterium. The doctrine of Sola Scriptura is not that the Bible is the only thing we read – as you can see from the various quotes I will put up on my blog. It is an authority issue. All traditions must be subjected to the Scriptures.

    To be a little more correct, Sacred Tradition was handed down from the apostles to their successors and other bishops, and finally to the Magesterium (whenever it formally developed). Also, Scripture and Tradition cannot contradict one another.

    Baptism is not an issue of personal interpretation that is foggy in the Bible and in need of clarification by a council

    Still, there is dispute on this issue among Protestants. You provide your argument from Scripture and it seems logical enough, yet if I asked a Lutheran pastor about it he would completely disagree and provide his argument from Scripture. How am I supposed to know who’s right?

    I am interested in reading your paper on perseverance in the Book of Revelation. I know you have a lot of reading to do, but another Scott Hahn book I just finished is “The Lamb’s Supper.” He talks about the Catholic Church’s historical teaching on the Mass and liturgy and how it all relates to Revelation. Since the book is written for a more general audience, he doesn’t get as deep as he could, so it’s something I want to learn more about.

    As I mentioned before, I’m also curious about how Protestants answer all the evidence for miracles tied to the Catholic Church? There is so much out there… healings, exorcisms, stigmata, Eucharist miracles, and the lives of saints (for example, Padre Pio knew the sins of those coming to him for Confession without them saying a word). Has any Protestant ever addressed these things?

    I’m totally up for meeting face-to-face anytime. We had a similar discussion once with some of the elders at Sojourn before Sean moved to San Diego. Irishman, do you live in the Louisville area?

  • heyirishman
    Posted at 09:14h, 15 March Reply

    Heyirishman lives in Connecticut. You guys should meet up and have a banter. If you’re ever out this way, give me a shout!

  • goodwillhiking
    Posted at 11:33h, 16 March Reply

    I’ve posted on my own blog (goodwillhiking.blogspot.com) my question on this post about whether you can believe there are many ways to God and still be a Christian.
    If you’d like to go there and read it, I’d love to hear anyone’s thoughts on this issue.

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