What a wintery day here in Phoenix! A storm snuck up on us (the weather forecasters were talking about sunshine and a high of 61 right up to when the storm hit!). It’s a drizzly 44! But I love it.
Anyway, two quick notes. First, there is a religion forum co-hosted by the Washington Post and Newsweek, and here you can read the thoughts of Zaid Shakir, an Islamic scholar. And what will you encounter immediately? The very problem I spoke of at the beginning of my debate seven years ago now with Hamza Abdul Malik: the Islamic insistence upon anachronistically reading errant Qur’anic understandings into the Christian Scriptures and the Christian faith. Note his words:
Jesus is Not the Son of God
Muslims do not view Jesus as the “Son of God.” We feel that God’s taking a son would be unbecoming His incomparable nature and grandeur. The Qur’an states, There is nothing like unto Him (42:11); and, He begets not, nor was he begotten (112:3).
“Taking a son.” That is not, of course, what Christians believe today, nor is it what Christians believed in the first decades of the seventh century when Mohammed encountered second-hand Christianity during his travels. If you listen to The Dividing Line you have heard men like Ahmed Deedat repeatedly misrepresent the Christian faith on this point, thinking that “Son of God” is to be taken in human terms, rather than recognizing the eternal relationship that has existed between the Father and the Son. Here you have a leading Islamic scholar repeating this error rather than dealing with the reality of what Christians believe, but, again, we must realize why. The Qur’an is their final authority, therefore, if it misrepresents the Christian faith, the Muslim will follow the error rather than believing our own testimonies!
Secondly, very quickly a response—no, not a response, that is being far too kind to it—a retort of sorts to the article on Acts 2 and Patrick Madrid’s argument regarding infant baptism appeared on the oxymoronic website. You will note that no attempt is made to deal with what I actually said; nothing exegetical is offered in response to my simple observation that the text in Acts 2 is clear and plain in its teaching, and, if it is definitional of the objects of baptism (which I did not bother to attempt to argue at that point), then those who follow sola scriptura will find its teachings highly relevant and important. Nor is there any recognition that I am dealing with a horrifically flawed argument, where Madrid draws a completely invalid parallel to Paul’s words to the Thessalonians about busybodies who were unwilling to work. Instead, as is the case with the folks at the oxymoronic website, it is sufficient to dismiss such argumentation with the wave of the Hand O’ Tradition, along with the ever-popular “Anabaptist Blast.” The fact that our author is clueless about Particular Baptist history is a given, but it does make his Anabaptist argument humorous. But unlike this author, I will gladly interact, and even publicly disagree with, the great John Calvin and his comments. The only folks who will be surprised are those who have never read the LBCF or who believe that if you follow Calvin on one point, you must follow him slavishly on all. Such is not the case. Let’s look at the citation from the Institutes offered:
They now come down to the custom and practice of the apostolic age, alleging that there is no instance of any one having been admitted to baptism without a previous profession of faith and repentance. For when Peter is asked by his hearers, who were pricked in their heart, “What shall we do?” his advise is, “Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:37, 38). In like manner, when Philip was asked by the eunuch to baptise him, he answered, “If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.” Hence they think they can make out that baptism cannot be lawfully given to any one without previous faith and repentance. If we yield to this argument, the former passage, in which there is no mention of faith, will prove that repentance alone is sufficient, and the latter, which makes no requirement of repentance, that there is need only of faith. They will object, I presume, that the one passage helps the other, and that both, therefore, are to be connected. I, in my turn, maintain that these two must be compared with other passages which contribute somewhat to the solution of this difficulty. There are many passages of Scripture whose meaning depends on their peculiar position. Of this we have an example in the present instance. Those to whom these things are said by Peter and Philip are of an age fit to aim at repentance, and receive faith. We strenuously insist that such men are not to be baptised unless their conversion and faith are discerned, at least in as far as human judgment can ascertain it. But it is perfectly clear that infants must be placed in a different class. [Institutes, vol. 4, ch. 16, paragraph 23]
First, in light of the textual variant, I will leave the reference to Acts 8:37 out of the discussion. The argument, from a Reformed Baptist perspective, is simple: the ordinances of the church require direct establishment in Scripture. Just as the Reformers argued against the multiplicity of Rome’s sacraments by claiming such would require clear biblical basis, so we apply the same standard here. When we see the first instance of distinctly Christian baptism, the text reveals that, in this instance, those baptized were able to hear and receive the message preached. There truly is no question of this, is there? The issue truly is not what this text says, but the basis upon which Christian baptism is to be practiced in the first place.
Now, I have often said, when working through the Institutes in various contexts, that I see a difference in form and argumentation in sections of book IV than in the previous portions. I do not believe Calvin’s argument in this instance has much merit to it. There is no question, of course, that the Bible as a whole addresses the issue of the relationship of faith and repentance. How is that relevant to asking the question, “Do the Scriptures give us clear and compelling evidence as to the nature of baptism and those who are to receive it?” If there were other texts that directly speak of infant baptism, then a parallel would exist. But, of course, there are not. So the parallel does not, in fact, exist. Now, again, Calvin is responding to Anabaptists who, in general, due to their persecution by both Catholic and Protestant, hardly had the time to develop the kind of material you would read in the introduction to the London Baptist Confession. So he may not have been responding to the most articulate form or argumentation, so, that means those who follow him on this topic must formulate a sound biblical response to a more accurate, consistent, articulate presentation. Which, of course, is why we continue to discuss this issue today. That is why you can find tremendous articles closely examining these topics, including Calvin’s works, in such sources as The Reformed Baptist Theological Review, for example. It is likewise why I engaged Pastor Bill Shishko in debate on this very topic only a matter of weeks ago.
So while our erstwhile theologian is content to dismiss the discussion with the disdain of assigning yours truly to the “Flat Earth Credobaptist Society,” serious minded individuals might look past their traditional glasses and consider the issue in light of their profession of the sufficiency of Scripture. Of course, we realize, those at the oxymoronic website abandoned that belief a very long time ago which, of course, explains why they are driven about by every wind of doctrine.