Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Bayly the Baptist

Tim Bayly Over His Head? 

I have moved from a church connection where baptism among most means way too little to one where baptism for some means way too much. In my new denomination, the Reformed Episcopal Church, in an effort to reconnect a breakaway denomination to historic Anglicanism, there those who advocate baptismal regeneration in an entirely literal sense. At the moment of baptism the recipient is infallibly regenerated. As I understand it, this can mean only one of two things. Either (1) the individual is irrevocably regenerated in which case all baptized persons must be eternally saved, or (2) the individual is conditionally regenerated in which case what is received in baptism by all may be lost by some so that some who are baptized are not eternally saved. The Reformed Episcopal Church at its founding was so clear that baptism and regeneration are not infallibly connected that it denies the connection as contrary to the Word of God in its Founding Principles. Moreover, I am convinced that the Articles of Religion do not teach baptismal regeneration. This understanding is not remarkable inasmuch as it is reformational Protestant Anglicanism.

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.

(2) Then:

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. 

Brother Bayly’s major concern is Dr. Leithart’s unfortunate statement, “No baptism, no justification” as Dr.Leithart argues, “No sacraments, no Protestantism.” Let us for the sake of argument assume that he means by “justification” what the Westminster Standards, which he receives and adopts, mean by the term - forgiveness of sins and imputation of righteousness. If he means that baptism and justification are so joined that that no unbaptized person can possibly be justified or that every baptized person is justified (irrevocably declared to be righteous before God), then he is wrong. On the other hand his statement could mean that baptism is the necessary sign and seal of justification as it is of regeneration. Baptism marks entrance
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?
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.
The Second Helvetic Confession:
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.


Tim Bayly said...

Dear Pastor Smith,

There are a number of statements made in your post that aren't accurate, but this one is particularly egregious: "Brother Bayly denies that Baptism has anything to do with even our assurance of justification." Show your readers where I say that, or anything close. In fact, in a comment just yesterday I said precisely the opposite. The sacraments are God's stooping to our weakness from His great kindness and mercy, assuring us we belong to Him. This is just basic Reformed doctrine, brother. Why you would say I deny it is beyond me.


William H Smith said...

Here it is, Tim.

After twisting several Scripture texts, Dr. Leithart turns to a discussion of his readers' Christian assurance:

Suppose I ask you, “How do you know you are in a right standing with God?” You might say, “Because I feel the relief of forgiveness.” But then I’ll ask, “Do you always feel relief? Do you never feel guilty?” And I suppose you’ll admit that you do feel guilty sometimes.
Even momentary lapses in feelings of relief or momentary recurrences of feelings of guilt amount to utter failure. Dr. Leithart then moves on to this:

You might say, “I know I’m justified because I believe the gospel.” ...That sounds a lot like putting faith in your faith, which is putting faith in something you’ve done...
Again, note Dr. Leithart's rhetoric. "Sounds a lot like" smoothes the path for equating "believe the Gospel" with "putting faith in something you've done." You and I both know that's what we mean when, with the Apostle Paul, we say we are not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ: we are actually saying we believe in our own works and our own selves.


Reformed Protestants deny faith is a work. It is the gift of God. Yet Dr. Leithart doesn't blush to tell us that belief in the Gospel is "putting faith in something (we've) done."


Dr. Leithart has only begun his deconstruction. After morphing "belief in the Gospel" into "faith in something we've done," there's more:

You might protest, “But faith is a gift. I’m not putting faith in my own belief, but in God’s gift of faith.” Fair enough, but you’ll notice that you’re still focusing on what’s happening in you. Instead of getting assurance by turning outward to God, you’re assured by turning inward.
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.

Tim Bayly said...

Dear Pastor Smith,

The operative word is "the." The definite article. As I said, I never have denied that the sacraments are a place God gives us assurance. But not THE place that Dr. Leithart's piece argues.

BTW, if you want people to understand what you're quoting, you could make it clear where you're quoting me and where you're quoting Dr. Leithart. It's quite confusing.


William H Smith said...

I believe your views are fairly represented by the quotations from you I cite.

Re the use of quotations, all the quotations are clearly indicated in the text of the Blog. All of them are quotations copied and pasted from your post, where you quote Leithat and iterract with him.

My comment reponse to your original comment is, after the introductory sentence, entirely a quotation of your post at your Blog.

As perhaps you will note, I extend to you the freedom to comment as you will on my Blog, a courtesy you do not extend to me.

Tim Bayly said...

Dear Pastor Smith,

You have not been forbidden to comment, You have been forbidden to simply paste ads for your blog as your comment. But I'm done trying to explain anything to you, good sir. It's always twisted when you repeat it.


William H Smith said...

Tim, I surely did not post any ad for my Blog. Rather I responded to your post on my Blog. Thinking you encouraged responses to your posts, I provided a link to my Blog where readers who wished could find a full interraction with your post. Apparently you did not wish your readers to have the opportunity to consider my thoughts, which, inasmuch as it is your Blog, is your right. However, you will note that I have allowed you to post as you will here. That, I think, speaks quite clearly about our two approaches to allowing others their say. I don't find your expressing your views to be threatening or to provoke any defensiveness on my part or to require any high-handed censorship.

No one has twisted anything you have said. My approach has been to quote you and to respond to your words. I think this is evident, and I expect you know it.

Perhaps part of the problem here is that while you engage in sharp criticism of Pete Leithart (and some of your comments were quite petty), you cry foul when similar crticism is directed toward your posts.