I recently read a blog commentary by a Presbyterian, and the resultant comments, regarding my response to Doug Wilson’s “What is a Christian” blog entry. I’m very glad the thesis is “Are Roman Catholics our brothers and sisters in Christ?” so that we do not simply dicker over using the term “Christian” in a way that is biblically meaningful or biblically bankrupt. Hopefully the debate will be more than my attempt to point out the obvious fact that using the term “Christian” based upon an ex opere operato function of trinitarian baptism devoid of the gospel creates great confusion and does nothing to promote the evangelism of those who have been given a false gospel in Rome. Hopefully “brothers and sisters in Christ” speaks to something much more, something that can bring us to the central issue.
Now, our Presbyterian friend did, at least, offer a discussion of what it means to “grab someone by their baptism.”
So, how do you evangelize your brother by “grabbing him by his baptism?” I don’t see what is so hard about this, especially given the fact that we have copious examples from Christ and the apostles as to how to do this. If you have an unregenerate, God-hating, righteousness mocking, destined-for-hell member in your church who boasts of being a Christian, then you say to him or her, “If you are a Christian, then you would do the works of Christ.”
That is quite interesting. It is first odd for me to think of someone like this “in my church,” but that’s just the Donatist in me I guess (we actually ask those who join our church about whether they are unregenerate, God-hating, righteousness mocking, destined-for-hell people); furthermore, if they were in the church and confessed to that, we would remove them from the church and proclaim the gospel to them (since, evidently, they hadn’t heard it before). The problem is, the Federal Visionists use this language within the context of Roman Catholicism, and despite the claims of rC’s that Rome possesses the gospel, I continue steadfast in my belief that Rome’s gospel makes the error of the Judaizers in Galatia pale in comparison. Hence, is it seriously to be suggested that this is how you “grab” a Roman Catholic by their baptism? This is the face of Roman Catholic apologetics in the future? You tell a person who has, in the vast majority of instances, never once heard the gospel and instead has been given a falsehood, a perversion thereof, “If you are a Christian, then you would do the works of Christ”? This is supposed to get through to them?
The comments generated by the blog article were interesting to say the least. One wrote,
I hope that Dr. White has someone in close company that can point out to him various ways in which he can improve his ability to reason and exchange ideas, so that he won’t end up looking like an idiot in the upcoming debate. I know that his debate skills are highly acclaimed, but I’m concerned that this type of approach will net him a serious blow to credibility.
How do you respond to that? Another commented, a little more meaningfully,
White’s single phrase, ” So, trinitarian baptism, not only separated from the gospel, but set in direct opposition to it…” is the point of separation that will make this a difficult debate. There is no common starting point as long as White sees baptism as man’s act toward God.
At least here is something to respond to: the context is Rome’s gospel and Rome’s baptism. The only way to understand this statement is to buy into an ex opere operato form of sacramentalism that can have us believing you can have Christian baptism not only separate from, but in opposition to, the gospel of Jesus Christ. As has been pointed out before (and the resultant gyrations on the part of some proved the point more eloquently than I ever could), Mormons baptize in the “proper fashion” as well. The idea that something is pleasing to God, or joins one to the covenant in the blood of His Son, when it flows from a denial of the gospel of Christ, is simply without merit. I will gladly risk being viewed as an “idiot” by standing firmly on the assertion that you cannot please God by denying His gospel; and without the gospel, all the baptizing in the world is not going to join anyone to the covenant in the blood of the Son of God.
Finally, one man who has truly come to symbolize for many of us the end result of FVism-gone-to-seed opined, “I would also be surprised to hear Wilson argue that Rome practices a trinitarian baptism ‘separated from the gospel’.” How else could it be unless Rome actually possesses the gospel? And that is exactly what this rC has come to believe, but only by reducing the gospel to a slight shadow of what he once believed it to be.
Are we splitting theological hairs? These comments show we are not. The issues run deep, very deep indeed.