Tim Bayly Over His Head?
My primary concern at present is with Tim Bayly’s December 1 post, “No Baptism, No Justification” on the BaylyBlog taking on Peter Leithart’s posts on “No Sacraments, No Protestantism”, the first published at Patheos and the second at First Things. I am not, as Dr. Leithart, a Federal Visionist, nor, though I think the present divided state of the Church is contrary to Christ’s revealed will,do I share his ecumenical vision that would seek the reuniting of the fractured Protestant churches and the Roman Catholic church or of the Western and Eastern churches. My purpose is not to defend Dr. Leithart. I will limit myself to saying that his follow-up at First Things is a welcome clarification of the original Patheos post, and, if I had read only the First Things post I would not have a case of theological heartburn.
My concern, rather, is with Tim Bayly’s post. A couple of typical Bayly comments can be noted and dismissed.
(1) Bayly writes:
Pontificating on the path to Protestant reunion with Rome has given Dr. Leithart the whole world as his audience. He's switching venues from Trinity House to Theopolis, from Birmingham, Alabama to the Manhattan of First Things and the Known-Universe of Patheos. Watch a man's venues and you know his aspirations…Carl Trueman is published also at First Things. We may suppose that Dr. Trueman may soon convert hoping it is not too late to be appointed to the College of Cardinals like John Henry Newman for whom he has expressed admiration.
There on Patheos's Evangelical channel (they also host a pagan channel), you will see what I've included as the screenshot to the right: Dr. Leithart appears at the top with Dr. Peter Enns just below.
...So here in one screenshot is Peter Leithart denying the Reformed doctrine of the sacraments and justification just above Peter Enns who denies the Reformed doctrine of Scripture.I suppose if I post a picture of George Clooney below mine it makes me a Democrat, or sex symbol, or maybe a Brother where art I.
into the visible church outside of which there is ordinarily no possibility of salvation (which includes regeneration, justification, and adoption).
Brother Bayly denies that Baptism has anything to do with even our assurance of justification.
Having shaken his readers' confidence in the Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, Dr. Leithart trots out Baptism as the place to find relief and peace:
We cannot get assurance unless we’re convinced that God declares me His beloved child in the water of baptism.
Which means, No baptism, No justification.
There it is, bald-faced, ugly, and raw.He finds confirmation of his view in Calvin’s commentary on Genesis 2 regarding the Tree of Life:
(Leithart is) Also diametrically opposed to John Calvin. In his commentary on Genesis 2, speaking of the Tree of Life, he writes:...the tree of life has to be the figure and image of our Lord Jesus Christ. Otherwise, that would pervert Moses’ meaning and consequently obscure the grace of God, in the way papists made idols of the sacraments.... Today the papists think there is salvation only in the water of baptism. And that is why, in their opinion, children are damned even though there was no vice or ingratitude or negligence on the part of the father and mother. Why so? They do not consider what baptism means.Now the sacraments must not diminish God’s grace or the power of the Holy Spirit or the substance of what is figured. For example. We have the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is called ‘our washing’ (Titus 3:5), and that he is. Now if we think we are cleansed of our filth by the water of baptism, the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ loses the honour which must be attributed to it. Such, therefore, is to pervert completely the use of the sacraments and make idols of them!..We must, therefore, in keeping with our low estate and weakness, be led to the true substance of the sacraments and place our complete confidence in them and find rest there.Therefore, when the tree of life is spoken of here, it is certain Adam would not have lived off this fruit, which was unpalatable and subject to dying and rotting... Consequently, we must deal with the substance that was understood in the external sign. And what is this substance? It is made known only in the word, for it is life. That distinction cannot be taken from it.
But as Lee Corso says on Game Day, "Hold on. Not so fast there."
It seems to me that Calvin is not driving a wedge between Word and sacrament, as Brother Bayly appears to think, but arguing against any power in the water of baptism itself apart from Christ and his blood by which we are cleansed. There remains, however, a sacramental connection between the water of baptism and the blood of Christ even as there is a sacramental connection between the bread and wine of the Holy Communion and the body and blood of Christ. The water, bread, and wine have no power as water, bread, and wine but they do by the Spirit’s connecting of them with the body and blood of our Lord.
There is more in Calvin and to Calvin than Brother Bayly says. Consider:
Baptism is the initiatory sign by which we are admitted to the fellowship of the Church, that being ingrafted into Christ we may be accounted children of God. Moreover, the end for which God has given it (this I have shown to be common to all mysteries) is, first, that it may be conducive to our faith in him; and, secondly, that it may serve the purpose of a confession among men. The nature of both institutions we shall explain in order. Baptism contributes to our faith three things, which require to be treated separately. The first object, therefore, for which it is appointed by the Lord, is to be a sign and evidence of our purification, or (better to explain my meaning) it is a kind of sealed instrument by which he assures us that all our sins are so deleted, covered, and effaced, that they will never come into his sight, never be mentioned, never imputed. For it is his will that all who have believed, be baptised for the remission of sins. Hence those who have thought that baptism is nothing else than the badge and mark by which we profess our religion before men, in the same way as soldiers attest their profession by bearing the insignia of their commander, having not attended to what was the principal thing in baptism; and this is, that we are to receive it in connection with the promise, “He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved” (Mark 16:16).
Nor is it to be supposed that baptism is bestowed only with reference to the past, so that, in regard to new lapses into which we fall after baptism, we must seek new remedies of expiation in other so-called sacraments, just as if the power of baptism had become obsolete. To this error, in ancient times, it was owing that some refused to be initiated by baptism until their life was in extreme danger, and they were drawing their last breath, that they might thus obtain pardon for all the past. Against this preposterous precaution ancient bishops frequently inveigh in their writings. We ought to consider that at whatever time we are baptised, we are washed and purified once for the whole of life. Wherefore, there can be no doubt that all the godly may, during the whole course of their lives, whenever they are vexed by a consciousness of their sins, recall the remembrance of their baptism, that they may thereby assure themselves of that sole and perpetual ablution which we have in the blood of Christ.But there is more besides this from Calvin to which Brother Bayly must give attention:
The Geneva Catechism:
Q324 First, what is the meaning of Baptism?The Second Helvetic Confession:
It consists of two parts. For, first, Forgiveness of sins; and, secondly, Spiritual regeneration, is figured by it. (Ephesians 5:26; Romans 6:4)
Q325 What resemblance has water with these things, so as to represent them?
Forgiveness of sins is a kind of washing, by which our souls are cleansed from their defilements, just as bodily stains are washed away by water.
Q327 Do you think that the water is a washing of the soul?
By no means; for it were impious to snatch away this honour from the blood of Christ, which was shed in order to wipe away all our stains:, and render us pure and unpolluted in the sight of God. (1 Peter 1:19; 1 John 1:7.) And we receive the fruit of this cleansing when the Holy Spirit sprinkles our consciences with that sacred blood. Of this we have a seal in the Sacrament.
Q328 But do you attribute nothing more to the water than that it is a figure of ablution?
I understand it to be a figure, but still so that the reality is annexed to it; for God does not disappoint us when he promises us his gifts. Accordingly, it is certain that both pardon of sins and newness of life are offered to us in baptism, and received by us.
Q331 How are these blessings bestowed upon us by Baptism?
If we do not render the promises there offered unfruitful by rejecting them, we are clothed with Christ, and presented with his Spirit.
Baptism is instituted by Christ (Matt. xxviii. 19; Mark xvi. 15). There is only one baptism in the Church; it lasts for life, and is a perpetual seal of our adoption. To be baptized in the name of Christ is to be enrolled, initiated, and received into the covenant, into the family and the inheritance of the sons of God, that, cleansed from our sins by the blood of Christ, we may lead a new and innocent life. We are internally regenerated by the Holy Ghost, but we receive publicly the seal of these blessings by baptism. Water washes away filth, and refreshes and comforts the body; the grace of God inwardly and invisibly cleanses the soul.The Scots Confession:
Now to be baptized in the name of Christ is to be enrolled, entered, and received into the covenant and family, and so into the inheritance of the sons of God; yes, and in this life to be called after the name of God; that is to say, to be called a son of God; to be cleansed also from the filthiness of sins, and to be granted the manifold grace of God, in order to lead a new and innocent life. Baptism, therefore, calls to mind and renews the great favor God has shown to the race of mortal men. For we are all born in the pollution of sin and are the children of wrath. But God, who is rich in mercy, freely cleanses us from our sins by the blood of his Son, and in him adopts us to be his sons, and by a holy covenant joins us to himself, and enriches us with various gifts, that we might live a new life. All these things are assured by baptism. For inwardly we are regenerated, purified, and renewed by God through the Holy Spirit and outwardly we receive the assurance of the greatest gifts in the water, by which also those great benefits are represented, and, as it were, set before our eyes to be beheld.The Articles of Religion:
Baptism is not only a sign of profession, and mark of difference, whereby Christian men are discerned from others that be not christened, but it is also a sign of Regeneration or New-Birth, whereby, as by an instrument, they that receive Baptism rightly are grafted into the Church; the promises of the forgiveness of sin, and of our adoption to be the sons of God by the Holy Ghost, are visibly signed and sealed, Faith is confirmed, and Grace increased by virtue of prayer unto God.
The Westminster Confession:
Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ,not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible Church; but also to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in the newness of life.
Although it is a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance, yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto it, as that no person can be regenerated, or saved, without it: or, that all that are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated.
The efficacy of Baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered;yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongs unto...There is something less than a clearnote to Brother Bayly's view of the meaning and efficacy of Baptism. I think I hear water splashing in the baptistry.