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A Mixed Bag Including Possible Holiday Discussions with Unbelieving Family Members

Covered a wide variety of things including a little bit about the miracle of baby August, possible conversations with family members over Christmas regarding the Bible (taking from Sye’s debate with Matt Dillahunty), and a brief discussion of Pope Francis’ comments concerning Mary as co-redemptrix with Christ. We plan on doing programs on Wednesday and Friday as well.

The Dividing Line is on YouTube video. Our YouTube channel also provides videos of most of the debates that Dr. White has done over the years. Take some time and browse it to see if there is something there of interest to you. If you are looking for the next upcoming show be sure to subscribe to the blog as we post show announcements the morning of the show.

David Allen on Romans 8 Fully Examined; Fundie Calvinists

Took the time to go through the entirety of David Allen’s section on Romans 8:32-34 from both of his published books and to interact with his claims regarding particular redemption. Then we moved on (after about an hour) to talk about Doug Wilson, Federal Visionism, and related topics. About 95 minutes today.

Debate: Are Roman Catholics Our Brothers and Sisters in Christ?

Does Trinitarian baptism join you to the New Covenant? Does it join you to Christ? Does it make you a brother or sister in Christ with everyone else who has likewise been baptized, even if you hold to a false gospel? Are Roman Catholics our brothers and sisters in Christ by baptism, but not by confession of faith? These are the issues debated by Douglas Wilson of Christ Church, Moscow, Idaho and James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries. (2 Hours 48 Minutes)

Just Busy Studying

Since returning from Little Rock I’ve been working at preparing for Edmond, OK this weekend and the debate in LA. Just a few representative Federal Vision quotes in passing. Doug Wilson wrote: 

Our duty is simply to accept this. And this means we must maintain that there is a union with Christ that all baptized Christians share, whether those Christians are reprobate or not. In this sense, there is no covenantal distinction between the elect and the reprobate within the covenant. But it also requires us to maintain that there is a decretal distinction between the elect and the reprobate within the covenant. This decretal distinction is then manifested in history by means of covenant members who either keep or break covenant. The covenant is kept by grace through faith, and the covenant is broken through unbelief. When the covenant is kept, it is kept by faith in the only One who kept covenant perfectly, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the only true covenant keeper, and we keep covenant through faith in Him and that faith is a gift, lest any boast. Unbelief that causes the covenant to be broken is unbelief in Jesus Christ, either through rejection of the covenant, or through attempts to keep covenant on our own apart from Him. 

Steve Schlissel:

Galatians 3:28 and Romans 3:28 are verses which have oft been extorted from their contexts, stripped of their author’s intent, dressed in the style of their captors, and reduced to servitude in contrived systems. If anyone should speak of restoring the verses to their original settings, the taskmasters scurry to their battlements and snipe. That’s understandable, I suppose. After all, it’s hard to find good servants; their lords are loathe to let them go. 

Federal Vision Rhetoric I Hope Stays East of the Mississippi in November

I had the misfortune of having to once again look over the “response” Steve Schlissel wrote to Richard Phillips in The Auburn Avenue Theology: Pros & Cons (2004). This is the kind of stuff I hope we don’t hear, at least in this form, November 5th: 

Phillips has difficulty identifying Christians. The Reformed faith does not. Christians are heirs of the promise, and the church is made up of those who have had the promise signed and sealed to them in baptism. 

I thought Christians were followers of Christ, those whose sins have been forgiven, who have been justified, and indeed sealed in their faith—by the Holy Spirit of God. Evidently, to be “truly Reformed,” one must believe the church is formed not by the sovereign action of God through His Spirit, but through trinitarian baptism, even when practiced by those who despise the gospel of grace. Keep your eye on the ball. 

If I appear to be read to leave Ft. Lauderdale believing that the children of believers are anything other than fully children of the Living God, please shoot me. 

Quick note: that kind of line may go over well in places where the Second Amendment has been functionally repealed (like New York, Massachusetts, or California); but I would strongly suggest not using that kind of terminology in Texas, for one might not make it out of the pulpit as a result. 

How many exclamation points am I allowed to append to these astonishing, stunning statements? Covenant children are only sort of, but not really in the covenant? Their entry awaits their free decision?! How this view differs from that of Baptists, I fail to see. What I do see is that it is not the view of Calvin, Augustine, Paul or Jesus Christ. 

I am reminded that Schlissel told me a couple of years ago on an e-mail list that I am precluded, by definition, from understanding the covenant, since I’m a Baptist. While the Federal Vision folks say Reformed Baptists are not precluded from the “camp” so to speak, it is pretty hard to read this kind of stuff and not get the very clear feeling that you are indeed persona non grata. This is the kind of rhetoric you hear from the “there is no such thing as a ‘Reformed’ Baptist” crowd. But it gets better, or worse, depending on your perspective. 

Grace disappears on the altar of Phillips’ thoroughly baptistic system: “Baptized children must be evangelized and must come to a personal faith in order to receive the salvation offered by God’s covenant.” This statement is repulsive to God’s testimony that the children of His people truly and fully belong to Him. They need not wait for anything. That is called grace. All baptized Christians are addressed in the same way: they have been translated from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of His beloved Son. Now they must walk in the light as He is in the light, and have fellowship with one another. Grace has no greater testimony than infant baptism, which is an everlasting sign and seal that those who properly receive it really belong to God, apart from anything they’ve done, or could do. 

Of course, Presbyterian ministers, such as Richard Phillips, rightly take Schlissel’s language as purposefully insulting, and we Reformed Baptists, being the lovable bunch we are, don’t mind the insult headed our direction, either. We are used to it! But isn’t it odd to see Schlissel inadvertently fulfilling Phillips’ own words, repudiating faith and replacing it with baptism? How can anyone not read this is as blatant, unvarnished sacerdotalism that stands in opposition to the gospel (which, of course, is notable by its absence in these words). We are told all baptized Christians are said to have been translated from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of His beloved Son. If Schlissel’s position is consistent (eek! Platonism! Enlightenment philosophy!), then the passage referred to has nothing to do with the gospel, faith, regeneration, etc., and is just as applicable to a gospel-denying reprobate who trusts in his own self-righteousness (but was validly baptized) as it does the greatest saint of God; yet, the passage itself reads, “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” If baptism does this, doesn’t it follow that ex opere operato baptism results in redemption, the forgiveness of sins? Now, we see some “wiggle room” inserted by the phrase “properly receive it.” How does an infant improperly receive infant baptism? Could someone explain that? But Schlissel wasn’t done: 

“Baptized children . . . must . . . be evangelized and must come to a personal faith in order to receive the salvation offered by God’s covenant.” Only insofar as all God’s people are “evangelized,” only insofar as all God’s people continually renew their faith. The view that a covenant child becomes God’s only after a crisis is not the Reformed faith. Should this view ever be understood as the Reformed faith, I hereby reject that “faith” with all my heart. Better to lose the adjective than the treasure of grace.

Mr. Phillips insists that only those “who [come] to God in trusting faith and thus [receive] an imputed righteousness as a free gift” can be saved. Apparently, to have been the beneficiary of such grace without so much as your “free” reception of it is not good enough for Mr. Phillips’ scheme. He expressly rules children out “until the conditions of the covenant are fulfilled”. Therefore, in that monstrous version of the church which Mr. Phillips and his baptistic co-religionists invent, there are no infants. 

If you are sitting there staring at the screen going, “That really sounds like Schlissel finds the idea of calling your children to faith and repentance repulsive,” you are completely correct, but have obviously not listened to the 2002 AAPC talks, either! Keep in mind that clearly, for Schlissel, the term “Reformed” cannot, and should not, and never should have, been used of Southern Presbyterianism. Whatever it is, it isn’t “Reformed.” The term the speakers used was “wet Reformed Baptists,” and I didn’t get the feeling those words were spoken with a great deal of collegiality. Now, I’ll let my Southern Presbyterian brothers fight it out with these folks regarding their reading of Calvin. I see little danger that Steve Schlissel will be changing his views on the matter anytime soon. But one thing is for sure. The “catholicity” of Schlissel’s views dies a thousand deaths with that last line. I really don’t get the idea that “monstrous version” means “another perfectly acceptable view,” nor do I get the feeling that there is a lot of warmth to be found in the phrase “his baptistic co-religionists.” Of course, you have to get rid of the necessary visible/invisible distinction with reference to the church to create this straw-man attack anyway, but the fact remains that if you happen to be so backwards as to think that faith and repentance are part and parcel of what it means to pass from death to life, well, you have just missed the real meaning of trinitarian baptism.

In case there is something gnawing at your gut as you read those quotations, let me remind you what it is. It’s a little thing. Just a small word, one that often gets lots in all the rhetoric and citations of Calvin and accusations of being a Baptist (for some, all mental activity stops as soon as that charge is leveled, since of all things, that’s the one we know we can never accept!). See, what you won’t find defining the church, or the covenant, or the word “Christian” in all this, is the word gospel. See, you knew it all along. You knew something was missing, and now you know what it was. And with that, we press forward.