Archive for May, 2011

Alleged discrepancies between Genesis 1 and 2

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

By Spencer D Gear

A self-proclaimed atheist has made these allegations against the Bible on Christian Forums:

Genesis 1:11-12 and 1:26-27 Trees came before Adam.
Genesis 2:4-9 Trees came after Adam.

Genesis 1:20-21 and 26-27 Birds were created before Adam.
Genesis 2:7 and 2:19 Birds were created after Adam.

Genesis 1:24-27 Animals were created before Adam.
Genesis 2:7 and 2:19 Animals were created after Adam.

Genesis 1:26-27 Adam and Eve were created at the same time.
Genesis 2:7 and 2:21-22 Adam was created first, woman sometime later.

How do you answer these accusations? If you have struggles with alleged discrepancies or contradictions in the Bible, I encourage you to obtain one of the books available to answer some of the arguments against some portions of the Bible, dealing with alleged discrepancies. I use three of them:

1. Gleason L. Archer 1982. Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

2. Norman Geisler & Thomas Howe 1992. When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books.

3. Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Peter H. Davids, F. F. Bruce and Manfred T. Brauch 1996. Hard Sayings of the Bible. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press.

In dealing with some of the issues of the apparent contradictions between Genesis 1 and 2, Gleason L. Archer wrote:

Doesn’t Genesis 2 present a different creation order than Genesis 1?

Genesis 2 does not present a creation account at all but presupposes the completion of God’s work of creation as set forth in chapter 1. The first three verses of Genesis 2 simply carry the narrative of chapter 1 to its final and logical conclusion, using the same vocabulary and style as employed in the previous chapter. It sets forth the completion of the whole primal work of creation and the special sanctity conferred on the seventh day as a symbol and memorial of God’s creative work. Verse 4 then sums up the whole sequence that has just been surveyed by saying, `These are the generations of heaven and earth when they were created, in the day that Yahweh God made heaven and earth.’

Having finished the overall survey of the subject, the author then develops in detail one important feature that has already been mentioned: the creation of man. Kenneth Kitchen says,

`Genesis 1 mentions the creation of man as the last of a series, and without any details, whereas in Genesis 2 man is the center of interest and more specific details are given about him and his setting. Failure to recognize the complementary nature of the subject-distinction between a skeleton outline of all creation on the one hand, and the concentration in detail on man and his immediate environment on the other, borders on obscurantism’ (Ancient Orient, p. 117)….

As we examine the remainder of Genesis 2, we find that it concerns itself with a description of the ideal setting that God prepared for Adam and Eve to begin their life in, walking in loving fellowship with Him as responsive and obedient children. Verses 5-6 describe the original condition of the ‘earth,’ or ‘land,’ in the general region of the Garden of Eden before it had sprouted verdure under the special watering system the Lord used for its development. Verse 7 introduces Adam as a newly fashioned occupant for whom Eden was prepared. Verse 8 records how he was placed there to observe and enjoy the beauty and richness of his surroundings. Verses 9-14 describe the various kinds of trees and the lush vegetation sustained by the abundant waters of the rivers that flowed out of Eden to the lower regions beyond its borders. Verse 15 indicates the absorbing activity that Adam had assigned to him as keeper and warden of this great natural preserve.

From the survey of the first fifteen verses of chapter 2, it becomes quite apparent that this was never intended to be a general creation narrative. Search all the cosmogonies of the ancient civilizations of the Near East, and you will never find among them a single creation account that omits all mention of the formation of sun, moon, and stars or ocean or seas-none of which are referred to in Genesis 2. It is therefore quite obvious that Genesis 1 is the only creation account to be found in the Hebrew Scripture and that it is already presupposed as the background of Genesis 2. Even the animals are not referred to until Adam is assigned the task of examining them carefully, one by one, in order to decide on an appropriate name for each species or bird and beast that was brought before him (vv. 18-20). But before this phase of Adam’s experience begins, he is brought into covenant relationship with God, who grants him permission to eat of the fruit of every tree in the garden except one: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (vv. 16-17). Verse 18 then shows how Yahweh proceeded to fill Adam’s foreseen need of companionship-first by the fellowship with the animals and birds (vv. 19-20), then, after that proves to be unsatisfying, by the companionship of a wife, who is fashioned from the bone that was closest to Adam’s heart (vv. 21-22). The chapter closes with a vivid portrayal of Adam’s joyous acceptance of his new helpmate and his unreserved commitment to her in love.

The structure of Genesis 2 stands in clear contrast to every creation account known to comparative literature. It was never intended to be a creation account at all, except insofar as it related the circumstances of man’s creation as a child of God, fashioned in His image, infused with His breath of life, and brought into an intimate personal relationship with the Lord Himself. Quite clearly, then, chapter 2 is built on the foundation of chapter 1 and represents no different tradition than the first chapter or discrepant account of the order of creation” (Archer 1982, pp.68-69).

E. J. Young has written that Genesis 2 was not intended to be chronological:

 

“It should be noted that there are no contradictions between [Genesis] chapters 1 and 2…. According to chapter 2 the order of creation is said to be man (v. 7), vegetation (v. 9), animals (v. 19), woman (v. 21f.). But in answer to this it should be noted that the order of statement is not chronological. Can we seriously think that the writer intended us to understand that God formed man (v. 7) before there was any place to put him? To insist upon a chronological order in chapter 2 is to place a construction upon the writer’s words that was never intended. In reality, chapter 2 declares nothing regarding the relative priority of man and vegetation. Nor does chapter 2 teach the creation of man before the animals. Here again, the chronological order is not stressed. The chapter has described the formation of Eden and the placing of man in the garden. It now speaks more particularly of man’s condition, showing his need of a help meet for himself, and that such a help meet was not found among the animals. Verse 1 may rightly be paraphrased, `and the LORD GOD having formed out of the ground every beast of the field, and every fowl of heaven, brought them unto the man.'” (E. J. Young 1949. An Introduction to the Old Testament. London: Tyndale Press, p. 55).

The theological liberals love to play up the “contradictions” between Genesis 1 and 2.  The above explanations provide some ammunition to demonstrate that there are no confirmed discrepancies between Genesis 1 and 2.

 

Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date:  8 June 2015.

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Sinful nature or sinful environment?

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

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By Spencer D Gear

From where did my sinful actions come? With my parents? The evil environment around me whether at school, work, TV, radio, Internet or anywhere else in our sin-soaked society?

The Bible’s teaching on original sin (a misunderstood term) and the sinful human nature being the cause of sin, has caused much controversy down through the centuries. Evangelical theologian, Wayne Grudem, prefers to use the phrase “inherited sin” instead of “original sin” because ‘the phrase “original sin” seems so easily to be misunderstood to refer to Adam’s first sin, rather than to the sin that is ours as a result of Adam’s fall’.[1]

One of church history’s early rejections of the teaching on inherited sinful nature or original sin came from the Pelagians (followers of Pelagius, ca. AD 360-420[2]), Pelagius being engaged in controversy on the topic with St. Augustine. What did the Pelagians believe? The late Yale University church historian, Kenneth Scott Latourette, summarised:

“In general Pelagians differed from Augustine in denying In general Pelagians differed from Augustine in denying that the taint of Adam’s sin and the impairment of the will brought by it have been transmitted to all Adam’s de- scendants, but, in contrast, declared that each man at birth at, has the ability to choose the good. In other words, they denounced “original sin.” Some seem to have held that Adam was created mortal and that his His death was not due to his sin, that new-born children need not be baptized, for they have no original sin inherited from Adam which needs to be washed away, and that some men before and after Christ have so used their free will that they have been sinless. God’s grace, so at least some Pelagians held, is seen in giving man free will at his creation, in giving man the law as a guide to his choice, and in send- ing Jesus Christ who by his teaching and good example assists men to do good. From Augustine’s standpoint, this view made grace unnecessary and differed little from Stoic morality”.[3]

R. C. Sproul leaves no doubt about how much of the Christian church is practising Pelagian theology, in his view. He states:

“Modern Evangelicalism almost uniformly and universally teaches that in order for a person to be born again, he must first exercise faith. You have to choose to be born again. Isn’t that what you hear? In a George Barna poll, more than seventy percent of “professing evangelical Christians” in America expressed the belief that man is basically good. And more than eighty percent articulated the view that God helps those who help themselves. These positions — or let me say it negatively — neither of these positions is semi-Pelagian. They’re both Pelagian. To say that we’re basically good is the Pelagian view. I would be willing to assume that in at least thirty percent of the people who are reading this issue, and probably more, if we really examine their thinking in depth, we would find hearts that are beating Pelagianism. We’re overwhelmed with it. We’re surrounded by it. We’re immersed in it. We hear it every day. We hear it every day in the secular culture. And not only do we hear it every day in the secular culture, we hear it every day on Christian television and on Christian radio.

“In the nineteenth century, there was a preacher who became very popular in America, who wrote a book on theology, coming out of his own training in law, in which he made no bones about his Pelagianism. He rejected not only Augustinianism, but he also rejected semi-Pelagianism and stood clearly on the subject of unvarnished Pelagianism, saying in no uncertain terms, without any ambiguity, that there was no Fall and that there is no such thing as original sin. This man went on to attack viciously the doctrine of the substitutionary atonement of Christ, and in addition to that, to repudiate as clearly and as loudly as he could the doctrine of justification by faith alone by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ. This man’s basic thesis was, we don’t need the imputation of the righteousness of Christ because we have the capacity in and of ourselves to become righteous. His name: Charles Finney, one of America’s most revered evangelists. Now, if Luther was correct in saying that sola fide is the article upon which the Church stands or falls, if what the reformers were saying is that justification by faith alone is an essential truth of Christianity, who also argued that the substitutionary atonement is an essential truth of Christianity; if they’re correct in their assessment that those doctrines are essential truths of Christianity, the only conclusion we can come to is that Charles Finney was not a Christian. I read his writings and I say, “I don’t see how any Christian person could write this.” And yet, he is in the Hall of Fame of Evangelical Christianity in America. He is the patron saint of twentieth-century Evangelicalism. And he is not semi-Pelagian; he is unvarnished in his Pelagianism”.[4]

Elsewhere, Sproul wrote: “Pelagianism has a death grip on the modern church”.[5]

Pelagianism is alive and well today. A contemporary Pelagian, Verticordious, wrote on Christian Forums:

“People are not born with a sinful nature, they are taught a sinful nature by other sinful people. That’s why the Bible places such an importance on parents and marriage, as they are responsible for teaching their children. If you don’t teach your children right from wrong then they’re just going to get their behavior from society. Everyone has a choice, to obey God or to not obey God. Why would be a good parent matter if you child was inherently sinful from birth? People are responsible for their own choices, which is why they are punished when they wrong choices”.[6]

Is this a biblical perspective?[7]

The Bible says through Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (ESV). The NIV translates as, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me“.

Again from the Psalms, “Even from birth the wicked go astray; from the womb they are wayward and speak lies” (Psalm 58:3 NIV)

Isaiah wrote, “Well do I know how treacherous you are; you were called a rebel from birth” (48:8 NIV)

Then we have the NT. Paul wrote to the Ephesians:

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath” (2:1-3 NIV).

Two important points come out of this passage:

1. Considering the Ephesian readers life before coming to Christ (which can be applied to all people before they experience salvation), Paul insists that these unsaved folks were dead in transgressions and sins and followed the world’s ways in disobedience, gratifying the cravings of the sinful nature with desires and thoughts. Surely most of us can recognise this before coming to Christ! I can!

2. From where did this sinful condition come? Paul does not say that this sinful condition was taught by other people, including parents. Paul deliberately says that we were “by nature” objects of God’s wrath. The problem did not have its initiation through sinful actions in our environment. The core cause of our sinful problems is that it is “by nature” – sinful nature.

And where did it originate? The Psalms and Isaiah are clear that it comes from conception/birth. We are rebels from birth – before any sinful environment had an influence on us.

How did we come to be rebels from conception? Some of the clearest biblical statements are in Romans 5:12, 18-19:

“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…. Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (ESV)

These verses provide not only the cause of inherited sin, one man’s [Adam’s ] transgression, but also the solution, justification and life for people “by one man’s [Jesus Christ’s] obedience” through his death on the cross.

People may object: “God is unjust for making all people sinners through Adam’s original sin”. Are you also going to object, “God is unfair in providing the God-man, Jesus Christ, as a sacrifice for sin”. Remember Romans 5:19, “As one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men” (ESV).

That’s my clearest, but brief, understanding of the issue from the Scriptures.

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Endnotes:


[1] Wayne Grudem 1994. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, p. 494, note 8.

[2] E. E. Cairns 1981. Christianity through the centuries: A history of the Christian church. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, p. 137.

[3] K.S. Latourette 1975. A history of Christianity: To A.D. 1500, vol 1, rev ed.

New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, p. 181. Also available at: http://www.scribd.com/doc/26953799/6/Christianity-Takes-Shape-in-Organization-and-Doctrine#outer_page_151 (Accessed 25 May 2011).

[4] R. C. Sproul 2001. ‘The Pelagian captivity of the church’, Modern Reformation, Vol 10, Number 3 (May/June 2001), pp. 22-29, available at: http://www.bible-researcher.com/sproul1.html (Accessed 25 May 2011).

[5] Available at: http://www.monergismbooks.com/Freedom-of-the-Will-p-16186.html (Accessed 25 May 2011).

[6] Verticordious #14, 24 May 2011. Christian Forums, Theology (Christian only), Christian Apologetics, “But what about those who never hear about Christ?”, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7562188-2/ (Accessed 25 May 2011).

[7] The following was my response to Verticordious at OzSpen #22, 25 May 2011, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7562188-3/ (Accessed 25 May 2011).

 

Copyright © 2011 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 13 October 2015.

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Believer’s baptism or infant baptism?

Sunday, May 15th, 2011
Evangelical Protestant baptism by immersion (Wikipedia) Baptism of a child by affusion, (Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear

Should infants be baptised or is baptism only for believing adults? Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and some Protestant churches advocate and practise infant baptism. Baptists, many Pentecostals, Churches of Christ (Australia) and some other denominations consider baptism is only for Christians who have believed in Christ for salvation. Which is it?

But let me say at the outset that this is not core Christian doctrine. I will not use baptism as a divisive issue to separate Christians who love the Lord.

I was doing some posts on Christian Fellowship Forum and I stated: “Infant baptism is an addition from about the third century onwards”.[1] Tertullian was the first to mention infant baptism around AD 200 (see below).

Richard wrote:

“Unproven statement. Some evidence to the contrary exists, particularly the Biblical evidence that whole households were baptised, which would likely include infants. There is no evidence that a whole household excluded young children.

“You may want to maintain your position based on your doctrinal understanding, but you do not have a historically sound basis for it. Likewise, I may want to maintain my position, and I do have hints of a historical basis for it, although those hints do not rise to the level of historical proof”.[2]

Since he and his church (Roman Catholic) are advocates of and practise infant baptism, I expected this kind of response. I was baptised as an infant by my religious, but not born-again, parents in the Methodist church. When they came to faith in Christ in 1959, through the preaching ministry of Billy Graham, they investigated infant vs believer’s baptism. Why? The weight of evidence from the Scriptures supports believer’s baptism. When I came to faith in Christ alone for salvation, I investigated this issue and was baptised as a believer by immersion – even though I had been sprinkled as an infant.

This debate has been going on for centuries, so I am well aware of the baptism issues: infant baptism vs believer’s baptism. I’m aware of the “household” advocacy to include children in baptism that Richard was using (Reformed people will use the covenantal issue). Let’s look at the NT evidence.

A.  New Testament precedent

The Book of Acts demonstrates by example that those who were believers, following a confession of faith, were baptised. In the early chapters of Acts we read:

  • “Those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41 ESV).[3]
  • “But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women” (Acts 8:12).

B.  Household baptisms

Do household baptisms indicate that infants are included? We have three confirmed cases of “household” baptisms in the NT and one where there is a strong inference that an entire household was included. The implied inference is that of Cornelius (Acts 10:47-48; 11:14). Those of definite household baptism are: Lydia (Acts 16:15), the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:33-34, and Stephanas in 1 Cor. 1:16. The argument has been going on for centuries as to whether these “households” included children.

Let’s examine these:

1.  Cornelius (Acts 10:47-48; 11:14)

We know from Acts 11:14 that Peter “he will declare to you [Cornelius] a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household” (ESV). However, we know that infants could not have been included in the household because Acts 10:46 tells us that when Peter preached the Word and the Holy Spirit fell on them and they were speaking in tongues and extolling God (ESV). Then they were commanded to be baptised.

This could NOT have included infants because they could not speak in tongues and magnify the Lord by speaking. Peter commanded those who spoke in tongues and extolled the Lord to be baptised. This is impossible for infants. As I say, it is a strong inference from Acts 11:14 that those who spoke in tongues and praised the Lord were Cornelius and his household. If that inference is correct, there is no way that these believers could have been infants. Therefore, no infants could be baptised.

2.  Lydia (Acts 16:15)

Lydia was a worshipper of God (16:14) and “after she was baptized and her household”, Timothy, Paul and Silas were invited into her house to stay “if you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord” (16:15). There is nothing here to indicate that infants were baptised. Besides, Jesus required baptism to be part of discipleship (Matt. 28:19-20). This is impossibility for infants.

Let’s check out a few people who support infant baptism for their views on the “household” baptism of Lydia.

  • Henry Alford: “It may be that no inference of infant baptism is hence deducible”;
  • Paton J. Gloag: “Evidently the passage in itself cannot be adduced as a proof either for or against baptism; there is in it no indication whether there were or were not infants in the household of Lydia”.
  • H. A. W. Meyer: “No trace is to be found in the New Testament, speaking of the baptism of the children of Christians”.

However, it would not be inconsistent to use another example from Acts 16 as a template for whether or not “household” baptism included infants. Let’s examine….

3.  The Philippian jailer (Acts 16:33-34)

In the context, it states that “they spoke the Word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house” (Acts 16:32 ESV). Then 16:34 tells us that “he [the Philippian jailer] rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed”. It is impossible for infants to do this rejoicing over the jailer’s positive response to the speaking of the Word of the Lord. It is impossible for babies to have believed in the Lord. Therefore, this is another example of believer’s baptism.

4.  Stephanas (1 Cor. 1:16)

In the context of 1 Corinthians, we know that “the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia and that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints” (1 Cor. 16:15).

Imagine that coming from infants! The household of Stephanas later devoted themselves to ministry to the saints. No theology of children’s baptism can be found in this passage. If we are to be consistent interpreters of Scripture (and we need to be), the children who are part of household baptism must also be devoted to service to Christian saints. This is impossibility, so the example of Stephanas proves again that it did not include infant baptism but believer’s baptism.

5. Jesus’ view on baptism after His resurrection

Jesus gave a very clear understanding of the association of baptism with Christian believing in Matt. 28:19-20:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age (ESV).

Jesus is crystal clear that baptism is associated with making disciples of all nations. Discipleship is an impossible task for infants. The foundational requirement cannot be achieved by infants.

Therefore, the consistent picture of the NT is that “household” baptism does not include infants, but, based on the words of Jesus, baptism is an important dimension of Christian discipleship. Infants are incapable of becoming disciples of Christ.

C.  Wayne Grudem on household baptism

Grudem’s view of household baptism is:

The examples of household baptisms in the New Testament are really not decisive for one position or another. When we look at the actual examples more closely, we see that in a number of them there are indications of saving faith on the part of all of those baptized. For example, it is true that the family of the Philippian jailer was baptized (Acts 16:33), but it is also true that Paul and Silas “spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all that were in his house” (Acts 16:32). If the Word of the Lord was spoken to all in the house, there is an assumption that all were old enough to understand the word and believe it. Moreover, after the family had been baptized, we read that the Philippian jailer “rejoiced with all his household that he had believed in God” (Acts 16:34). So we have not only a household baptism but also a household reception of the Word of God and a household rejoicing in faith in God. These facts suggest quite strongly that the entire household had individually come to faith in Christ.

With regard to the fact that Paul baptized “the household of Stephanas” (1 Cor. 1:16), we must also note that Paul says at the end of 1 Corinthians that “the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints” (1 Cor. 16:15). So they were not only baptized; they were also converted and had worked at serving other believers. Once again the example of household baptism gives indication of household faith.

In fact, there are other instances where baptism is not mentioned but where we see explicit testimony to the fact that an entire household had come to faith. After Jesus healed the official’s son, we read that the father “himself believed, and all his household” (John 4:53). Similarly, when Paul preached at Corinth, “Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with all his household” (Acts 18:8).

This means that of all the examples of “household baptisms” in the New Testament, the only one that does not have some indication of household faith as well is Acts 16:14-15, speaking of Lydia: “The Lord opened her heart to give heed to what was said by Paul. And when she was baptized, with her household.” The text simply does not contain any information about whether there were infants in her household or not. It is ambiguous and certainly not weighty evidence for infant baptism. It must be considered inconclusive in itself.

With regard to Peter’s statement at Pentecost that “the promise is to you and to your children,” we should note that the sentence continues as follows: “For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him” (Acts 2:39). Moreover, the same paragraph specifies not that believers and unbelieving children were baptized, but that “those who received his ward were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls”(Acts 2:41).[4]

For an extended discussion on baptism, see chapter 49 of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (1994), which is available HERE. He concludes in favour of believer’s baptism:

We have argued above that baptism symbolizes regeneration or spiritual rebirth. But does it only symbolize? Or is there some way in which it is also a “means of grace,” that is, a means that the Holy Spirit uses to bring blessing to people? We have already discussed this question in the previous chapter,23 so here it only is necessary to say that when baptism is properly carried out then of course it brings some spiritual benefit to believers as well. There is the blessing of God’s favor that comes with all obedience, as well as the joy that comes through public profession of one’s faith, and the reassurance of having a clear physical picture of dying and rising with Christ and of washing away sins. Certainly the Lord gave us baptism to strengthen and encourage our faith—and it should do so for everyone who is baptized and for every believer who witnesses a baptism.[5]

But Grudem also urges Christians not to make baptism a divisive issue:

Do Churches Need to Be Divided Over Baptism? In spite of many years of

division over this question among Protestants, is there a way in which Christians who differ on baptism can demonstrate greater unity of fellowship? And is there a way that progress can be made in bringing the church closer to unity on this question?

One way forward could be for paedobaptists and advocates of believers’ baptism both to come to a common admission that baptism is not a major doctrine of the faith, and that they are willing to live with each other’s views on this matter and not allow differences over baptism to be a cause for division within the body of Christ.29 Specifically, this would mean allowing both views of baptism to be taught and practiced in denominations on both sides of the question.[6]

D.  Evidence from the early church fathers

What do the early church fathers have to say about infant baptism?

1. Justin Martyr (ca. 100-165):

“As many as are persuaded and believe that what we teach and say is true, … are brought by us where there is water, and are regenerated [born-again] in the same manner in which we were ourselves regenerated. For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water. For Christ also said, “Except ye be born again, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. . . And for this we have learned from the apostles this reason. Since at our birth we were born without our own knowledge or choice, by our parents coming together, and were brought up in bad habits and wicked training; in order that we may not remain the children of necessity and of ignorance, but may become the children of choice and knowledge, and may obtain in the water the remission of sins formerly committed, there is pronounced over him who chooses to be born again, and has repented of his sins, the name of God the Father, . . . the name of Jesus Christ, . . . and in the name of the Holy Ghost. . .”.[7]

2. Tertullian (ca. 130-230) speaks of baptism for children who believe:

“Consequently in view of the circumstances and will, even the age of each person, a postponement of Baptism is most advantageous, particularly, however, in the case of children. For what need is there, if it is not so urgent, that the sponsors also should be brought into danger, being as they are themselves also by reason of their mortality capable of falling short of their promises and being deceived by the development of an evil disposition? The Lord indeed says: ‘Forbid them not to come unto Me.’ Let them come, then, while they are growing up; let them come while they are learning, while they are being taught whither to come; let them become Christians, when they have been able to know Christ. Why hurries the age of innocence to the remission of sins? Shall we act more cautiously in worldly matters? Shall one to whom earthly substance is not entrusted, be entrusted with heavenly? Let them know how to seek salvation, that you may be seen ‘to give to him that asketh'”.[8]

3. The Didache (ca. 95-150)

We don’t learn much about baptism and salvation from this document:

” CHAPTER 7

7:1 But concerning baptism, thus baptize ye: having first recited all these precepts, baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in running water;

7:2 but if thou hast not running water, baptize in some other water, and if thou canst not baptize in cold, in warm water;

7:3 but if thou hast neither, pour water three times on the head, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

7:4 But before the baptism, let him who baptizeth and him who is baptized fast previously, and any others who may be able. And thou shalt command him who is baptized to fast one or two days before. . .

9:5 And let none eat or drink of your Eucharist but such as have been baptized into the name of the Lord, for of a truth the Lord hath said concerning this, Give not that which is holy unto dogs”.[9]

4. Hippolytus of Rome (died ca. 235)

In his writing, ‘The Apostolic Tradition’, he wrote:

At the hour in which the cock crows, they shall first pray over the water. 2When they come to the water, the water shall be pure and flowing, that is, the water of a spring or a flowing body of water. 3Then they shall take off all their clothes. 4The children shall be baptized first. All of the children who can answer for themselves, let them answer. If there are any children who cannot answer for themselves, let their parents answer for them, or someone else from their family. 5After this, the men will be baptized. Finally, the women, after they have unbound their hair, and removed their jewelry. No one shall take any foreign object with themselves down into the water.

” 6At the time determined for baptism, the bishop shall give thanks over some oil, which he puts in a vessel. It is called the Oil of Thanksgiving. 7He shall take some more oil and exorcise it. It is called the Oil of Exorcism. 8A deacon shall hold the Oil of Exorcism and stand on the left. Another deacon shall hold the Oil of Thanksgiving and stand on the right.

9When the elder takes hold of each of them who are to receive baptism, he shall tell each of them to renounce, saying, “I renounce you Satan, all your service, and all your works.” 10After he has said this, he shall anoint each with the Oil of Exorcism, saying, “Let every evil spirit depart from you.” 11Then, after these things, the bishop passes each of them on nude to the elder who stands at the water. They shall stand in the water naked. A deacon, likewise, will go down with them into the water. 12When each of them to be baptized has gone down into the water, the one baptizing shall lay hands on each of them, asking, “Do you believe in God the Father Almighty?” 13And the one being baptized shall answer, “I believe.” 14He shall then baptize each of them once, laying his hand upon each of their heads. 15Then he shall ask, “Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and died, and rose on the third day living from the dead, and ascended into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of the Father, the one coming to judge the living and the dead?”

16When each has answered, “I believe,” he shall baptize a second time. 17Then he shall ask, “Do you believe in the Holy Spirit and the Holy Church and the resurrection of the flesh?” 18Then each being baptized shall answer, “I believe.” And thus let him baptize the third time.

19Afterward, when they have come up out of the water, they shall be anointed by the elder with the Oil of Thanksgiving, saying, “I anoint you with holy oil in the name of Jesus Christ.” 20Then, drying themselves, they shall dress and afterwards gather in the church.

21The bishop will then lay his hand upon them, invoking, saying, “Lord God, you who have made these worthy of the removal of sins through the bath of regeneration, make them worthy to be filled with your Holy Spirit, grant to them your grace, that they might serve you according to your will, for to you is the glory, Father and Son with the Holy Spirit, in the Holy Church, now and throughout the ages of the ages. Amen”.[10]

Verse 4 notes: ‘The children shall be baptized first. All of the children who can answer for themselves, let them answer. If there are any children who cannot answer for themselves, let their parents answer for them, or someone else from their family‘. This statement alone does not indicate that children who were baptised were not believers. In fact, defacto people (parents or relatives) could speak for those children who could not speak for themselves. This verse does not state that these children were infants who could not believe.

If we want to emulate Hippolytus exactly, then one would need to do all baptisms in pure running water and not in some baptismal font in a church building. In addition, with all baptisms, adults and children shall take off all of their clothes. I could not imagine that being acceptable in twenty-first century Western society. A fellow on a Christian forum (in a private message) challenged me with using Hippolytus to support believers’ baptism when Hippolytus was alleged to have included infant baptism. I could imagine that that fellow would create quite a ruckus if he were to go onto this public forum and be a full advocate of what Hippolytus recommended. As you know from what I’ve written above, I’m committed to what the Scriptures state about the nature of baptism.

I take up the challenge of this fellow in my inclusion of Hippolytus in support of believers’ baptism. However, from this passage in Hippolytus, there is no guarantee that he is supporting paedobaptism as practised by the infant baptism promoters in contemporary society. If we accept what Hippolytus wrote in relation to baptism, we would need to conclude:

(a) He was confused in his understanding of baptism (thus making Hippolytus just another author, but with no scriptural authority).

(b) He recommended baptism in the nuddy, and

(c) There shall be no baptism of anyone using a baptismal font in a church; the water MUST be pure and flowing.

I am convinced from the biblical evidence that a strong case can be made for believer’s baptism, but there are many Christians who love the Lord who support infant baptism. I will not use the mode of baptism as a means to cause division in the body of Christ.

Notes


[1] Fellowship Forum, The Fellowship Hall, “David Wilkerson killed”, #170, available at: http://community.compuserve.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx?tsn=162&nav=messages&webtag=ws-fellowship&tid=120662 (Accessed 15 May 2011).

[2] Ibid., #172, available at: http://community.compuserve.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx?webtag=ws-fellowship&nav=messages&msg=120662.172 (Accessed 15 May 2011).

[3] Unless otherwise stated, all Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version of the Bible, available from Biblegateway.

[4] Wayne Grudem 1994. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Bible Doctrine. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, p. 978.

[5] Ibid., pp. 980-981.

[6] Ibid., p. 982.

[7] First Apology, Chapter LXI, available from: http://www.ccel.org/s/schaff/anf01/htm/viii.ii.lxi.htm (Accessed 15 May 2011).

[8] Concerning Baptism, para 18, available at: http://www.tertullian.org/articles/souter_orat_bapt/souter_orat_bapt_04baptism.htm (Accessed 15 May 2011).

[9] Available at: http://www.ocf.org/OrthodoxPage/reading/St.Pachomius/Liturgical/didache.html (Accessed 15 May 2011).

[10] Available at: http://www.bombaxo.com/hippolytus.html, emphasis added (Accessed 15 May 2011).

 

Copyright (c) 2011 Spencer D. Gear.  This document last updated at Date:  11 September 2016.

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Compare Charles Wesley’s hymn with a Hillsong song

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

By Spencer D Gear

Have you compared the biblical content of the hymns/songs of Charles Wesley with the hymns/songs of Hillsong lately. Here is but one example.

 

Charles Wesley

And Can It Be

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

Refrain:

Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

‘Tis mystery all: th’Immortal dies:
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
‘Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.

RefrainHe left His Father’s throne above
So free, so infinite His grace
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!

RefrainLong my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free;
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

RefrainStill the small inward voice I hear,
That whispers all my sins forgiven;
Still the atoning blood is near,
That quenched the wrath of hostile Heaven.
I feel the life His wounds impart;
I feel the Savior in my heart.

RefrainNo condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

Refrain

 

Hillsong

All I Do

I wanted to find
Where I was going
Everything I tried
It took me nowhere
I was so tired of just living my life
Waiting for a sign
You came to my side
Gave me direction
Strong on the inside
I shine for You Lord
Now it’s my time
Now I’ve made up my mind
To be all You want for me
All I do
Is live my life for You
I know it’s true
I’ll never let You go
All I do
I’d anything for You
Everything is in Your Hands
So I get up
Get up and praise You
And I know where I’m going
I know where I’m going

I posted this comparison to Christian Fellowship Forum, “Charles Wesley vs Hillsong”. Janet (#2) replied:

>>I wanted to find
Where I was going
Everything I tried
It took me nowhere
I was so tired of just living my life
……
And I know where I’m going
I know where I’m going.<<

Oh, the depth, the profundity!  What marks modern church music (I can’t bring myself to call it sacred music) is the shallowness of lyrics, the general tunelessness, and the incessant returns to I, me, my, and mine.

Of the nearly three hundred words in Wesley’s hymn, 24 refer to I, me, my, or mine, and 23 refer directly to deity.  The second piece of fluff manages to mention self 24 times in only 111 words, plus another one in the title; of its 24  lines, memorable only because there is nothing one would care to remember about them, only two do not contain a reference to self.  In contrast, God is referenced only 8 times.  I find this emphasis on self to be a common feature of modern so-called church music.

Do you remember this hymn? What about the parody which follows it?

DEAR LORD AND FATHER OF MANKIND

By John Greenleaf Whittier

Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
Forgive our foolish ways;
Reclothe us in our rightful mind,
In purer lives Thy service find,
In deeper reverence, praise.

In simple trust like theirs who heard,
Beside the Syrian sea,
The gracious calling of the Lord,
Let us, like them, without a word,
Rise up and follow Thee.

O Sabbath rest by Galilee,
O calm of hills above,
Where Jesus knelt to share with Thee
The silence of eternity,
Interpreted by love!

With that deep hush subduing all
Our words and works that drown
The tender whisper of Thy call,
As noiseless let Thy blessing fall
As fell Thy manna down.

Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.

Breathe through the heats of our desire
Thy coolness and Thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm.

 

This parody of the hymn appeared in the Anglican Advocate (July 2000):

 

DEAR LORD AND FATHER OF MANKIND (a parody)

To be sung to the tune Repton:
Dear Lord and Father of mankind, forgive our foolish ways;
For most of us, when asked our mind,
admit we still most pleasure find
In hymns of ancient days, in hymns of ancient days.

The simple lyrics, for a start, of many a modern song
Are far too trite to touch the heart;
enshrine no poetry, no art;
And go on much too long, and go on much too long.

O, for a rest from jollity and syncopated praise!
What happened to tranquillity?
The silence of eternity
Is hard to hear these days, is hard to hear these days.

Send Thy deep hush, subduing all those happy claps that drown
The tender whisper of Thy call;
triumphalism is not all,
For sometimes we feel down, for sometimes we feel down.

Drop Thy still dews of quietness till all our strummings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress
of always having to be blessed;
Give us a bit of peace, give us a bit of peace.

Breathe through the beats of praise-guitar Thy coolness and Thy balm;
Let drum be dumb, bring back the lyre,
enough of earthquake, wind and fire,
Let’s hear it for some calm, let’s hear it for some calm.

Can cessationism be supported by Scripture and church history?

Saturday, May 7th, 2011

By Spencer D Gear

I was making some posts on Christian Fellowship Forum when Chris (lrschrs #73) made this response:

My view is in no sense inconsistent to 1 Cor. 14 as this passage was written about how things happened BEFORE the close of the canon in 70. AT THAT TIME there were new prophecies or revelations given. This is quite true, but beside the point, as we are not discussing what happened in the past but what is happen[ing] now in the present [spelling errors and incorrect words have been corrected].

I (ozspen #76) responded:

There is not a word in Scripture that confirms that the gifts of the Spirit would cease when the canon of Scripture was closed.

You have a view of the close of the canon by AD 70. Many scholars do not agree that the Book of Revelation was written by that time. My ESV “Introduction” states that “John wrote about A.D. 95-96”. William Hendriksen, in More than Conquerors (Baker 1961), wrote that “we have not found a single, really cogent argument in support of the earlier date [AD 69 or earlier]…. The late [95-96] has very strong support” (pp. 19-20). Irenaeus placed its writing towards the end of Emperor Domitian’s reign, AD 81-96. He severely persecuted Christians in AD 95. George Eldon Ladd in his commentary on the Revelation of John (Eerdmans 1972) states that the date of the writing of the Apocalypse was “the last decade of the first century when Domitian was emperor in Rome (A.D. 81-96). Some scholars have argued for an earlier date, but this is unlikely” (p. 8).

Since there is no Scripture that confirms the cessation of the gifts of the Spirit with the finalisation of the canon of Scripture, Richard (#77) asked: “Then WHERE did this idea come from?” I responded (ozspen #78):

There are a number of arguments that cessationists present, but one of them is to make an interpretation that is imposed on the text of 1 Cor. 13:9-10.

“For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away (ESV, emphasis added).

“When the perfect comes” is interpreted as the completion of the canon because “the partial will pass away” as the context is the gifts of the Spirit, but especially tongues. The partial, therefore, is the gifts of the Spirit.

In John MacArthur’s study Bible of the English Standard Version (Crossway 2010), he does acknowledge that ‘The “perfect” is not the completion of Scripture…. The “perfect” must be the eternal state” (p. 1704), but one of his comments on 1 Cor. 13:8-10 is:

Tongues also ceased because there was no need to verify the true messages from God once the Scripture was given. It became the standard by which all are to be deemed true’ (p. 1705, emphasis added).

I Cor. 13:12 makes it clear when the ‘then’ of ceasing will be – ‘then face to face’. These charismata will cease when we are face to face with the Lord (at his second coming).

Hebrews 1 and 2 also are used to try to get across this cessationist teaching.

Richard (#80) replied: “What a stttrrrrrreeeeeeeeeeeettttttttttttttttccccccccccccccccccchhhhhhhhhhh. You are serious that they give that reason though. Oh well. I’m glad I’m not expected to believe that”.

I have attempted to show in, “Cessationism through church history”, that the contemporary theological view that certain gifts of the Spirit ceased with the conclusion of the Apostolic Age or the completion of the New Testament, is false according to church history.

However, the laity, clergy and scholars continue to promote that view that there are temporary sign gifts and that these now cease to operate. Let’s investigate a copy of examples.

See this cessationist argument by Adam in “Spiritual Gifts, Part 4: The Temporary Sign Gifts”.  He states:

Peter raised the dead in Acts 9:36. Next time you come across someone who claims to have the gift of healing, take them out to the cemetery and say, “Go at it! There are lots of prospects here. One will be convincing for me; any one, you pick.”

Further proof that the gift of healing started to disappear by the end of Acts when the word had been revealed can be found in the life of Paul. The gift of healing had a specific purpose. It was never intended to be used just to run around and keep Christians healthy all the time. Just like the miracle of the manna was no longer needed once the Israelites reached the Promised Land, so to did the miraculous sign gifts stop once we had the living Word. Paul never uses the gift of healing outside of its purpose. We see this in Phil 2:25. Paul does not heal Epaphroditus. Nor does he heal Trophimus in 2 Tim 4:20. Timothy was not healed either in 1 Tim 5. Even Paul himself had a thorn in his flesh 2 Cor 12:7 which he did not heal (or have another apostle heal). The miraculous gifts were a sign to unbelievers that new revelation was true. It was never for any personal benefit of believers.

Since none of the healers can heal with a word or a touch, instantaneously, totally, everybody who comes / asks, organic diseases, and raise the dead; since the Bible is complete, the revelation has ceased, and no more signs are necessary; since the Word needs no confirmation outside itself, “It is sufficient that the man of God might be perfect”; since their healings are based on faulty theology of the atonement and salvation; since they disallow God His own purposes in having some people stay sick; since their personal lives are not known to manifest the fruit of the Spirit; since so many tricks, gimmicks, and special effects are often used; since the evidence is weak, unsupported, and so-called testimonies exaggerated; since they do not go to the hospitals where the sick are, as Jesus did; since they cannot heal all who come to them; and since they do not do things which can have no other possible explanations than that God has acted supernaturally; let me ask you this question: “How do you explain it?”

You can’t explain it Biblically. It is fraud; they are deceived.

So why are some Christians sick? Some people are sick because God wanted them that way. God may have a purpose to fulfil through them and in them which that illness facilitates. Sometimes illness, affliction, infirmity and trouble drive us to His side. Maybe it could be the work of Satan. Or it could be a chastising for sin.

If you want to read more of their arguments, go to, “The Ultimate Cessationism Resource”.

Here is John MacArthur’s argument for the cessation of “temporary” gifts of the Spirit:

(From John McArthur’s commentary on I Corinthians 12:8-11).

1 Cor 12:8-11…(8)  for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, (9) to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, (10) to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. (11) But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. (NKJ)

A thorough examination will yield the truth that spiritual gifts fill two major purposes: the permanent gifts edify the church and the temporary gifts are signs to confirm the word of God. God will continue to give the permanent gifts to believers for the duration of the church age, and those gifts are to be ministered by His people at all times in the life of the church. Those gifts include first the speaking or verbal gifts—prophecy, knowledge, wisdom, teaching, and exhortation, and, second, the serving or nonverbal gifts—leadership, helps, giving, mercy, faith, and discernment. The temporary sign gifts were limited to the apostolic age and therefore ceased after that time. Those gifts included miracles, healing, languages, and the interpretation of languages. The purpose of temporary sign gifts was to authenticate the apostolic message a the Word of God, until the time when the Scriptures, his written Word, were completed and became self-authentication.
In the present passage Paul mentions some of those gifts that illustrate the “varieties” he spoke of in v. 4. This list includes both permanent and temporary gifts, and is only representative of the varieties, as seen from the fact that additional gifts are mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament, including in v. 28 of this chapter (see also Rom. 12:6-8; cf. I Pet. 4:11).

1 Cor 12:4…There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. (NKJ)

Rom 12:6-8…(6) Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; (7) or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; (8) he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. (NKJ)

1 Pet 4:11…If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (NKJ)

Even Wikipedia has an entry on Cessationism, part of which reads:

Strong Cessationism

The majority of Cessationists subscribe to the strong form of Cessationism. Examples of Cessationist literature propounding strong Cessationism are from Christians belonging to various denominations such as Conservative Baptist, Reformed Churches, etc.

Strong Cessationism denies the possibility of a reemergence of the gifts on grounds of principle; that is, the denial is on a priori grounds: a strong Cessationist would deny the possibility of the existence or a reemergence of genuine God’s prophets and healers in the post-Apostolic age, i.e. after the 1st century, no matter what – even if we met prophets or healers who prophesied/healed in the name of Jesus. A strong Cessationist would appeal to the principle of Sola Scriptura, insisting on three propositions:

  1. the completion of the canon of the Bible
  2. the infallible and sufficient authority of the Bible
  3. the perfection of the Scriptures to guide the Church

According to a strong Cessationist, a person with a gift of power is also a prophet because healings and miracles were always signs associated with the divine confirmation of the genuineness of a prophet in the periods when God revealed new truths with respect to the doctrine. A strong Cessationist might concede that prophecies might be useful in the guidance of the Church. Nevertheless, he will insist that the Church can be perfectly guided to reach the right decisions if it applies the principles, teachings and examples of the Bible.

Enjoy the challenge of trying to make this fit with the Scripture and the history of the church since the days of Christ and the conclusion of the canon. I can’t make it fit. Even St. Augustine had a change of mind: “St. Augustine: The man who dared to change his mind about divine healing”.

See also my articles:

Jack Deere has written a valuable article, “Were miracles meant to be temporary?

 

Copyright (c) 2011 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 11 October 2015.