Toothless Christianity

I’m reading In Christ Alone: An Evangelical Response to Rob Bell’s Love Wins, written by Michael E. Wittmer. This is an old controversy … but it really isn’t new, either. They say a sucker is born every minute … well, so are heretic teachers. The problem is … I think the suckers are the ones responding to the heretics!

I’ll get to the book in a moment, but I want to preface it by another example. A while back I listened to a debate on baptism between John MacArthur and R.C. Sproul.

Hear the debate below:

The positions are well argued, generally. R.C. falls back on an argument of “deafening silence” regarding the practice of baptizing infants in the early church, and then attempts to string together the usual disconnected and out-of-context passages to build his defense of straight up idolatry.

MacArthur, while presenting the Biblical case for believer’s Baptism founded upon the actual teaching of Christ and the Scriptures, falls short in the end.

He succumbs to the same problem I’m seeing with Michael Wittmer in his response to Rob Bell’s heretical Universalims-tinged paganism.

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Do You Take Communion in a ‘Worthy’ Manner?

Maybe you’ve heard a pastor give a warning before serving communion, advising against anyone taking part in an unworthy manner. It comes from the Bible:

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. -1 Corinthians 11:27

If you have a sensitive soul, perhaps you’ve wondered, “am I doing this in a worthy manner?”

Then, when the pastor goes on:

That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. -1 Corinthians 11:30 

Nobody wants that. In fact, my daughter asked me about this, genuinely concerned. And while most agree that it pertains to taking communion in a frivolous, carefree manner … it goes deeper.

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What’s Wrong With Adult Baptism?

When I wrote the last post, What’s Wrong With Infant Baptism I realize that there are those who misuse adult/believer baptism, too. In the interest of being fair and balanced, I wanted to address this topic, as well.

While infant baptism is not commanded by God, and is elevated to idolatry because it substitutes itself for Christ (in practice and belief, if not by open admission), there is a very real issue with many adult baptisms, too.

Take a gander at the video below, which came from Big Texas, or something… a reality TV show. Todd Friel’s Wretched posted it with his commentary. Enjoy.

 

The original video is no longer online. Prior to it being removed the Huffington Post actually skewered it! If even the world notices the gong of irreverence here, shouldn’t Christians be crying out against it, too?

But that’s the world commenting. And the Huffington Post would probably mock any form of religious behavior. So, before we delve deeper, I think it would be appropriate to see what the dictionary has to offer us in defining baptism:

baptism
  1. (in the Christian Church) the religious rite of sprinkling water onto a person’s forehead or of immersion in water, symbolizing purification or regeneration and admission to the Christian Church. In many denominations, baptism is performed on young children and is accompanied by name-giving.
    synonyms: christening, naming

    “the baptism ceremony”
    • a ceremony or occasion at which baptism takes place.
      plural noun: baptisms
    • a person’s initiation into a particular activity or role, typically one perceived as difficult.

To the world, it is a ceremony linked to purification or regeneration. It’s also a ceremony for the admission to the Church. In the video, the woman notes how “purity” is a key part of baptism. She also links it to a celebration to “live a better life.”

Interestingly, the dictionary’s second bullet point about initiation into a role that is difficult is probably the most accurate!

As Todd Friel pointed out, the Russians get baptized in frozen lakes that they need to chop through and endure the elements (actual elements, not “holy water”). Does that ever happen in America? We have indoor facilities. We have heated pools. We have lavish backyards in Texas with doves in boxes!!

When churches have long lines of people getting baptized in groups, what does it cost them? Or is it just a Christian rave, a group thing?

What about the Jews who converted to Christ in the first century? Let’s fast-forward to the Chinese citizens under the grip of Communism or the people in Muslim countries and ponder their cost for a moment.

Around the world it is “legal” to be a Christian. China has State authorized churches. But they prohibit gatherings of more than a certain number. And if people were actually being converted to Christianity, there’s a problem. Egypt will arrest people for document forgery because a Christian will no longer want to have a Muslim name. So, they’re not bein persecuted for being a Christian … directly. In Saudi Arabia, you can be a Christian, but you cannot tell anyone about it. People who convert are shunned by their family and hated (at best) or get their tongues cut out, stoned, or physically harassed.

Turning back to present-day America, let’s consider the frivolous attitude and confused theology of baptism that takes place.

Some believe that baptism is part of the regeneration that an adult must undergo in order to complete salvation. This is derived from 1 Peter 3:21.

Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

The error here comes from the three ‘c’s: Context, Context, Context.

Peter is referring to the Flood being the baptism of the world that saved the few who believed from the wicked. It raised the Ark up, while destroying the unrighteous in the deluge. Similarly, true baptism (of the Spirit) marks the separation of faithful believers from the unregenerate world. Peter expands on this to clear up any misconception by saying it isn’t the “washing away of dirt,” as with the baptisms and washings of the Jewish rituals. Those only cleaned the outside.

Rather, baptism is a ceremony of obedience to identify with Christ (who was baptised by John in obedience to His Father in identification with us). The discerning reader will note that when Jesus was baptised by John, the Spirit descended on Him like a dove and God identified Him as His Son.

There are those, like Joel Osteen and his wife, who think that means Jesus “became” God’s Son at that point. No, that’s a very, very wrong heresy. Jesus was already the image of God in human form from the very start, from His miraculous inception!

The baptism of John marked the official announcement of what was already a reality.

In the same way, the believer–who is baptised by the Spirit at the moment of regenerating faith–announces his or her identification with Christ through obedience in the waters of adult baptism (the regeneration already having been completed by the work of Christ). Water baptism demonstrates the Christian’s obedience to Jesus, just like Jesus’ baptism demonstrated His obedience to the Father.

Menno Simons points out that it is a rather simple thing to obey. The harder things for Jesus to obey would come right after the baptism–the 40 days’ temptation in the wilderness, to be specific. Our obedience starts with water baptism, but we then go in to the wilderness of temptation in which we must–sometimes in hardship–deny ourselves and obey our Lord in all things, denying the desires of the flesh.

If someone doesn’t feel they need to obey Christ in water baptism it raises the question, will they have a similar disregard for obeying Him in more difficult matters of faith?

In short, the ceremony doesn’t save one’s soul, or complete Christ’s work of regeneration. If anyone believes that or teaches it, it is the same idolatry of which the infant baptizers are guilty. It injects a ceremony with regenerative power that only belongs to Christ.

We receive God’s Grace, we obey His Commands and celebrate His sovereignty, but we do not participate in regeneration or dispense His Grace.

The other error that exits is by the Dispensational theology camp. Note, there are many dispensational teachers who do NOT accept this, but it is mainline dispensationalism. They teach that water baptism was for the Jews, not for the Gentiles. They claim that Paul didn’t baptize and disavowed the practice in favor of the baptism of the Spirit at salvation.

The problem here is that they are actually cutting out whole passages in which Paul admits that he baptized believers–Crispus and Gaius (1 Corinthians 1:14), the believing members of Stephanas’ family (1 Corinthians 1:16) and the people of Ephesus who had previously been baptized by John (Acts 19:4).

These splinter theologians are serving the same spirit of disobedience as the pedo-baptists who seek to negate the word of Christ and ignore His command. In fact, they will discount all books of the Bible except for those written by Paul (except when Paul talks about believer baptism, apparently). For them, they take the phrase “rightly divide the word of God” a bit too literally and actually divide the word of God.

What’s Wrong with Adult Baptism? When it is done apart from obedience to Jesus Christ upon one’s salvation by God’s Grace through faith. If anyone does it because they think it will give them assurance of salvation, acceptance in a group or any other cause that serves our flesh and lack of faith, it’s actually the sin of idolatry.

What’s Wrong With Infant Baptism?

Let’s return to the days of yesteryear … That was how my favorite stories used to start. Namely, The Lone Ranger. I grew up listening to the old radio shows on vinyl records, watched re-runs of the black & white TV shows, and aspired to be like the peace-loving, justice-enforcing masked man!

Those stories depicted the 1800s, a time of strife and conflict. The Civil War (1861-1865) had ravaged the U.S., which might not have remained ‘U.” Deep divisions remained throughout the rest of that century, and would paint politics for years to come.

That conflict involved more than just human slavery, for sure. There’s no denying, however, that the abolitionist movement played a key role in the war. There were those who witnessed the barbaric treatment of slaves and could not stand by and do nothing.

Come with me, then, to a bit further back in time, and let’s visit a place across the ocean where a similar divide began and another civil war was waged. I’m referring to the Protestant Reformation (1517-1648).

Martin Luther kicked it off with his famous list of truths–a Manifesto, if you will–nailed to the Wittenburg Door. Other reformers followed, such as Urlrich Zwingli,  John Calvin and John Knox.

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But there were others, too. Reformers who didn’t want to stop with Luther’s list, but make a clean break from the Roman Catholic Church. These lesser known reformers were hated, despised, routed, robbed and murdered. Catholics and Protestants alike derided them as Anabaptists, or Re-baptizers!

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Should You Question Your Salvation?

John MacArthur has a sermon on Grace To You in which he reveals his answer when someone tells him, “I’m not sure I’m saved.” While some will ask questions like, “Did you say the prayer?” or “Do you love Jesus?” MacArthur will say, “Maybe you’re not!”

For some that may seem harsh. Where’s the grace to you in that answer?

Quick aside: I think MacArthur’s ministry refers to God’s Grace, not MacArthur’s.

But this is an important question: Should we question our salvation? Aren’t we saved and kept by the power of God? Isn’t His grip sure? He keeps His sheep and will not lose a one?

Except he did lose one of his sheep, didn’t He? The son of perdition.

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