Chance and I sat down with Late Night Theology contributors, Jay Sawrie and Dylan Justus to discuss Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism.
Agreed upon by the Archbishops and Bishops of both provinces and the whole clergy in the convocation holden at London in the year 1562 for the avoiding of diversities of opinions and for the establishing of consent touching true religion.
Reprinted by command of his majesty King Charles I with his royal declaration prefixed thereunto.
HIS MAJESTY’S DECLARATION
BEING by God’s Ordinance, according to Our just Title, Defender of the Faith, and Supreme Governor of the Church, within these Our Dominions, We hold it most agreeable to this Our Kingly Office, and Our own religious Zeal, to conserve and maintain the Church committed to Our Charge, in Unity of true Religion, and in the Bond of Peace; and not to suffer unnecessary Disputations, Altercations, or Questions to be raised, which may nourish Faction both in the Church and Commonwealth. We have therefore, upon mature Deliberation, and with the Advice of so many of Our Bishops as might conveniently be called together, thought fit to make this Declaration following:
That the Articles of the Church of England (which have been allowed and authorized heretofore, and which Our Clergy generally have subscribed unto) do contain the true Doctrine of the Church of England agreeable to God’s Word: which We do therefore ratify and confirm, requiring all Our loving Subjects to continue in the uniform Profession thereof, and prohibiting the least difference from the said Articles; which to that End We command to be new printed, and this Our Declaration to be published therewith.
That We are Supreme Governor of the Church of England: And that if any difference arise about the external Policy, concerning the Injunctions, Canons, and other Constitutions whatsoever thereto belonging, the Clergy in their Convocation is to order and settle them, having first obtained leave under Our Broad Seal so to do: and We approving their said Ordinances and Constitutions; providing that none be made contrary to the Laws and Customs of the Land.
That out of Our Princely Care that the Churchmen may do the Work which is proper unto them, the Bishops and Clergy, from time to time in Convocation, upon their humble Desire, shall have Licence under Our Broad Seal to deliberate of, and to do all such Things, as, being made plain by them, and assented unto by Us, shall concern the settled Continuance of the Doctrine and Discipline of the Church of England now established; from which We will not endure any varying or departing in the least Degree.
That for the present, though some differences have been ill raised, yet We take comfort in this, that all Clergymen within Our Realm have always most willingly subscribed to the Articles established; which is an argument to Us, that they all agree in the true, usual, literal meaning of the said Articles; and that even in those curious points, in which the present differences lie, men of all sorts take the Articles of the Church of England to be for them; which is an argument again, that none of them intend any desertion of the Articles established.
That therefore in these both curious and unhappy differences, which have for so many hundred years, in different times and places, exercised the Church of Christ, We will, that all further curious search be laid aside, and these disputes shut up in God’s promises, as they be generally set forth to us in the holy Scriptures, and the general meaning of the Articles of the Church of England according to them. And that no man hereafter shall either print, or preach, to draw the Article aside any way, but shall submit to it in the plain and full meaning thereof: and shall not put his own sense or comment to be the meaning of the Article, but shall take it in the literal and grammatical sense.
That if any publick Reader in either of Our Universities, or any Head or Master of a College, or any other person respectively in either of them, shall affix any new sense to any Article, or shall publickly read, determine, or hold any publick Disputation, or suffer any such to be held either way, in either the Universities or Colleges respectively; or if any Divine in the Universities shall preach or print any thing either way, other than is already established in Convocation with Our Royal Assent; he, or they the Offenders, shall be liable to Our displeasure, and the Church’s censure in Our Commission Ecclesiastical, as well as any other: And We will see there shall be due Execution upon them.
ARTICLES OF RELIGION
I. OF FAITH IN THE HOLY TRINITY
THERE is but one living and true God, ever- lasting, without body, parts, or passions; of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the Maker, and Preserver of all things both visible and invisible. And in unity of this Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
II. OF THE WORD OR SON OF GOD, WHICH WAS MADE VERY MAN
THE Son, which is the Word of the Father, begotten from everlasting of the Father, the very and eternal God, and of one substance with the Father, took Man’s nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin, of her substance: so that two whole and perfect Natures, that is to say, the Godhead and Manhood, were joined together in one Person, never to be divided, whereof is one Christ, very God, and very Man; who truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, to reconcile his Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for all actual sins of men.
III. OF THE GOING DOWN OF CHRIST INTO HELL
AS Christ died for us, and was buried, so also is it to be believed, that he went down into Hell.
IV. OF THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST
CHRIST did truly rise again from death, and took again his body, with flesh, bones, and all things appertaining to the perfection of Man’s nature; wherewith he ascended into Heaven, and there sitteth, until he return to judge all Men at the last day.
V. OF THE HOLY GHOST
THE Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son, is of one substance, majesty, and glory, with the Father and the Son, very and eternal God.
VI. OF THE SUFFICIENCY OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES FOR SALVATION
HOLY Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. In the name of the holy Scripture we do understand those Canonical Books of the Old and New Testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church.
Of the Names and Number of the Canonical Books
The First Book of Samuel
The Second Book of Samuel
The First Book of Kings
The Second Book of Kings
The First Book of Chronicles
The Second Book of Chronicles
The First Book of Esdras
The Second Book of Esdras
The Book of Esther
The Book of Job
Ecclesiastes or Preacher
Cantica, or Songs of Solomon
Four Prophets the greater
Twelve Prophets the less
And the other Books (as Hierome saith) the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine; such are these following:
The Third Book of Esdras
The Fourth Book of Esdras
The Book of Tobias
The Book of Judith
The rest of the Book of Esther
The Book of Wisdom
Jesus the Son of Sirach
Baruch the Prophet
The Song of the Three Children
The Story of Susanna
Of Bel and the Dragon
The Prayer of Manasses
The First Book of Maccabees
The Second Book of Maccabees
All the Books of the New Testament, as they are commonly received, we do receive, and account them Canonical.
VII. OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
THE Old Testament is not contrary to the New: for both in the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered to Mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and Man, being both God and Man. Wherefore they are not to be heard, which feign that the old Fathers did look only for transitory promises. Although the Law given from God by Moses, as touching Ceremonies and Rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the Civil precepts thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth; yet notwithstanding, no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the Commandments which are called Moral.
VIII. OF THE THREE CREEDS
THE Three Creeds, Nicene Creed, Athanasius’s Creed, and that which is commonly called the Apostles’ Creed, ought thoroughly to be received and believed: for they may be proved by most certain warrants of holy Scripture.
IX. OF ORIGINAL OR BIRTH-SIN
ORIGINAL Sin standeth not in the following of Adam, (as the Pelagians do vainly talk;) but it is the fault and corruption of the Nature of every man, that naturally is ingendered of the offspring of Adam; whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the spirit; and therefore in every person born into this world, it deserveth God’s wrath and damnation. And this infection of nature doth remain, yea in them that are regenerated; whereby the lust of the flesh, called in the Greek, “Phronema Sarkos”, which some do expound the wisdom, some sensuality, some the affection, some the desire, of the flesh, is not subject to the Law of God. And although there is no condemnation for them that believe and are baptized, yet the Apostle doth confess, that concupiscence and lust hath of itself the nature of sin.
X. OF FREE-WILL
THE condition of Man after the fall of Adam is such, that he cannot turn and prepare himself, by his own natural strength and good works, to faith, and calling upon God: Wherefore we have no power to do good works pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing us, that we may have a good will, and working with us, when we have that good will.
XI. OF THE JUSTIFICATION OF MAN
WE are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works or deservings: Wherefore, that we are justified by Faith only is a most wholesome Doctrine, and very full of comfort, as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification.
XII. OF GOOD WORKS
ALBEIT that Good Works, which are the fruits of Faith, and follow after Justification, cannot put away our sins, and endure the severity of God’s Judgement; yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively Faith; insomuch that by them a lively Faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by the fruit.
XIII. OF WORKS BEFORE JUSTIFICATION
WORKS done before the grace of Christ, and the Inspiration of his Spirit, are not pleasant to God, forasmuch as they spring not of faith in Jesus Christ, neither do they make men meet to receive grace, or (as the School-authors say) deserve grace of congruity: yea rather, for that they are not done as God hath willed and commanded them to be done, we doubt not but they have the nature of sin.
XIV. OF WORKS OF SUPEREROGATION
VOLUNTARY Works besides, over, and above, God’s Commandments, which they call Works of Supererogation, cannot be taught without arrogancy and impiety: for by them men do declare, that they do not only render unto God as much as they are bound to do, but that they do more for his sake, than of bounden duty is required: whereas Christ saith plainly, When ye have done all that are commanded to you, say, We are unprofitable servants.
XV. OF CHRIST ALONE WITHOUT SIN
CHRIST in the truth of our nature was made like unto us in all things, sin only except, from which he was clearly void, both in his flesh, and in his spirit. He came to be the Lamb without spot, who, by sacrifice of himself once made, should take away the sins of the world, and sin, as Saint John saith, was not in him. But all we the rest, although baptized, and born again in Christ, yet offend in many things; and if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
XVI. OF SIN AFTER BAPTISM
NOT every deadly sin willingly committed after Baptism is sin against the Holy Ghost, and unpardonable. Wherefore the grant of repentance is not to be denied to such as fall into sin after Baptism. After we have received the Holy Ghost, we may depart from grace given, and fall into sin, and by the grace of God we may arise again, and amend our lives. And therefore they are to be condemned, which say, they can no more sin as long as they live here, or deny the place of forgiveness to such as truly repent.
XVII. OF PREDESTINATION AND ELECTION
PREDESTINATION to Life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) he hath constantly decreed by his counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honour. Wherefore, they which be endued with so excellent a benefit of God be called according to God’s purpose by his Spirit working in due season: they through Grace obey the calling: they be justified freely: they be made sons of God by adoption: they be made like the image of his only-begotten Son Jesus Christ: they walk religiously in good works, and at length, by God’s mercy, they attain to everlasting felicity.
As the godly consideration of Predestination, and our Election in Christ, is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons, and such as feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh, and their earthly members, and drawing up their mind to high and heavenly things, as well because it doth greatly establish and confirm their faith of eternal Salvation to be enjoyed through Christ, as because it doth fervently kindle their love towards God: So, for curious and carnal persons, lacking the Spirit of Christ, to have continually before their eyes the sentence of God’s Predestination, is a most dangerous downfal, whereby the Devil doth thrust them either into desperation, or into wretchlessness of most unclean living, no less perilous than desperation.
Furthermore, we must receive God’s promises in such wise, as they be generally set forth to us in holy Scripture: and, in our doings, that Will of God is to be followed, which we have expressly declared unto us in the Word of God.
XVIII. OF OBTAINING ETERNAL SALVATION ONLY BY THE NAME OF CHRIST
THEY also are to be had accursed that presume to say, That every man shall be saved by the Law or Sect which he professeth, so that he be diligent to frame his life according to that Law, and the light of Nature. For holy Scripture doth set out unto us only the Name of Jesus Christ, whereby men must be saved.
XIX. OF THE CHURCH
THE visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in the which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ’s ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same.
As the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch, have erred; so also the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of Ceremonies, but also in matters of Faith.
XX. OF THE AUTHORITY OF THE CHURCH
THE Church hath power to decree Rites or Ceremonies, and authority in Controversies of Faith: And yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain any thing that is contrary to God’s Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another. Wherefore, although the Church be a witness and a keeper of holy Writ, yet, as it ought not to decree any thing against the same, so besides the same ought it not to enforce any thing to be believed for necessity of Salvation.
XXI. OF THE AUTHORITY OF GENERAL COUNCILS
GENERAL Councils may not be gathered together without the commandment and will of Princes. And when they be gathered together, (forasmuch as they be an assembly of men, whereof all be not governed with the Spirit and Word of God,) they may err, and sometimes have erred, even in things pertaining unto God. Wherefore things ordained by them as necessary to salvation have neither strength nor authority, unless it may be declared that they be taken out of holy Scripture.
XXII. OF PURGATORY
THE Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, Worshipping, and Adoration, as well of Images as of Reliques, and also invocation of Saints, is a fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God.
XXIII. OF MINISTERING IN THE CONGREGATION
IT is not lawful for any man to take upon him the office of publick preaching, or ministering the Sacraments in the Congregation, before he be lawfully called, and sent to execute the same.
And those we ought to judge lawfully called and sent, which be chosen and called to this work by men who have publick authority given unto them in the Congregation, to call and send Ministers into the Lord’s vineyard.
XXIV. OF SPEAKING IN THE CONGREGATION IN SUCH A TONGUE AS THE PEOPLE UNDERSTANDETH
IT is a thing plainly repugnant to the Word of God, and the custom of the Primitive Church, to have publick Prayer in the Church, or to minister the Sacraments in a tongue not understanded of the people.
XXV. OF THE SACRAMENTS
SACRAMENTS ordained of Christ be not only badges or tokens of Christian men’s profession, but rather they be certain sure witnesses, and effectual signs of grace, and God’s good will towards us, by the which he doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken, but also strengthen and confirm our Faith in him.
There are two Sacraments ordained of Christ our Lord in the Gospel, that is to say, Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord.
Those five commonly called Sacraments, that is to say, Confirmation, Penance, Orders, Matrimony, and extreme Unction, are not to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel, being such as have grown partly of the corrupt following of the Apostles, partly are states of life allowed in the Scriptures; but yet have not like nature of Sacraments with Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, for that they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God.
The Sacraments were not ordained of Christ to be gazed upon, or to be carried about, but that we should duly use them. And in such only as worthily receive the same they have a wholesome effect or operation: but they that receive them unworthily purchase to themselves damnation, as Saint Paul saith.
XXVI. OF THE UNWORTHINESS OF THE MINISTERS, WHICH HINDERS NOT THE EFFECT OF THE SACRAMENT
ALTHOUGH in the visible Church the evil be ever mingled with the good, and sometimes the evil have chief authority in the Ministration of the Word and Sacraments, yet forasmuch as they do not the same in their own name, but in Christ’s, and do minister by his commission and authority, we may use their Ministry, both in hearing the Word of God, and in receiving of the Sacraments. Neither is the effect of Christ’s ordinance taken away by their wickedness, nor the grace of God’s gifts diminished from such as by faith and rightly do receive the Sacraments ministered unto them; which be effectual, because of Christ’s institution and promise, although they be ministered by evil men.
Nevertheless, it appertaineth to the discipline of the Church, that inquiry be made of evil Ministers, and that they be accused by those that have knowledge of their offences; and finally being found guilty, by just judgement be deposed.
XXVII. OF BAPTISM
BAPTISM is not only a sign of profession, and mark of difference, whereby Christian men are discerned from others that be not christened, but it is also a sign of Regeneration or new Birth, whereby, as by an instrument, they that receive Baptism rightly are grafted into the Church; the promises of forgiveness of sin, and of our adoption to be the sons of God by the Holy Ghost, are visibly signed and sealed; Faith is confirmed, and Grace increased by virtue of prayer unto God. The Baptism of young Children is in any wise to be retained in the Church, as most agreeable with the institution of Christ.
XXVIII. OF THE LORD’S SUPPER
THE Supper of the Lord is not only a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves one to another; but rather is a Sacrament of our Redemption by Christ’s death: insomuch that to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith, receive the same, the Bread which we break is a partaking of the Body of Christ; and likewise the Cup of Blessing is a partaking of the Blood of Christ.
Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of Bread and Wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by holy Writ; but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions.
The Body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten, in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is Faith.
The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was not by Christ’s ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshipped.
XXIX. OF THE WICKED WHICH EAT NOT THE BODY OF CHRIST IN THE USE OF THE LORD’S SUPPER
THE Wicked, and such as be void of a lively faith, although they do carnally and visibly press with their teeth (as Saint Augustine saith) the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, yet in no wise are they partakers of Christ: but rather, to their condemnation, do eat and drink the sign or Sacrament of so great a thing.
XXX. OF BOTH KINDS
THE Cup of the Lord is not to be denied to the Lay-people: for both the parts of the Lord’s Sacrament, by Christ’s ordinance and commandment, ought to be ministered to all Christian men alike.
XXXI. OF THE ONE OBLATION OF CHRIST FINISHED UPON THE CROSS
THE Offering of Christ once made is that perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction, for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual; and there is none other satisfaction for sin, but that alone. Wherefore the sacrifices of Masses, in the which it was commonly said, that the Priest did offer Christ for the quick and the dead, to have remission of pain or guilt, were blasphemous fables, and dangerous deceits.
XXXII. OF THE MARRIAGE OF PRIESTS
BISHOPS, Priests, and Deacons, are not commanded by God’s Law, either to vow the estate of single life, or to abstain from marriage: therefore it is lawful for them, as for all other Christian men, to marry at their own discretion, as they shall judge the same to serve better to godliness.
XXXIII. OF EXCOMMUNICATE PERSONS, HOW THEY ARE TO BE AVOIDED
THAT person which by open denunciation of the Church is rightly cut off from the unity of the Church, and excommunicated, ought to be taken of the whole multitude of the faithful, as an Heathen and Publican, until he be openly reconciled by penance, and received into the Church by a Judge that hath authority thereunto.
XXXIV. OF THE TRADITIONS OF THE CHURCH
IT is not necessary that Traditions and Ceremonies be in all places one, and utterly like; for at all times they have been divers, and may be changed according to the diversities of countries, times, and men’s manners, so that nothing be ordained against God’s Word. Whosoever through his private judgement, willingly and purposely, doth openly break the traditions and ceremonies of the Church, which be not repugnant to the Word of God, and be ordained and approved by common authority, ought to be rebuked openly, (that others may fear to do the like,) as he that offendeth against the common order of the Church, and hurteth the authority of the Magistrate, and woundeth the consciences of the weak brethren.
Every particular or national Church hath authority to ordain, change, and abolish, ceremonies or rites of the Church ordained only by man’s authority, so that all things be done to edifying.
XXXV. OF THE HOMILIES
THE second Book of Homilies, the several titles whereof we have joined under this Article, doth contain a godly and wholesome Doctrine, and necessary for these times, as doth the former Book of Homilies, which were set forth in the time of Edward the Sixth; and therefore we judge them to be read in Churches by the Ministers, diligently and distinctly, that they may be understanded of the people.
Of the Names of the Homilies
1.Of the right Use of the Church.
2.Against peril of Idolatry.
3.Of repairing and keeping clean of Churches.
4.Of good Works: first of Fasting.
5.Against Gluttony and Drunkenness.
6.Against Excess of Apparel.
8.Of the Place and Time of Prayer.
9.That Common Prayers and Sacraments ought to be ministered in a known tongue.
10.Of the reverend estimation of God’s Word.
12.Of the Nativity of Christ.
13.Of the Passion of Christ.
14.Of the Resurrection of Christ.
15.Of the worthy receiving of the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ.
16.Of the Gifts of the Holy Ghost.
17.For the Rogation-days.
18.Of the State of Matrimony.
XXXVI. OF CONSECRATION OF BISHOPS AND MINISTERS
THE Book of Consecration of Archbishops and Bishops, and Ordering of Priests and Deacons, lately set forth in the time of Edward the Sixth, and confirmed at the same time by authority of Parliament, doth contain all things necessary to such Consecration and Ordering: neither hath it any thing, that of itself is superstitious and ungodly. And therefore whosoever are consecrated or ordered according to the Rites of that Book, since the second year of the forenamed King Edward unto this time, or hereafter shall be consecrated or ordered according to the same Rites; we decree all such to be rightly, orderly, and lawfully consecrated and ordered.
XXXVII. OF THE CIVIL MAGISTRATES
THE King’s Majesty hath the chief power in this Realm of England, and other his Dominions, unto whom the chief Government of all Estates of this Realm, whether they be Ecclesiastical or Civil, in all causes doth appertain, and is not, nor ought to be, subject to any foreign Jurisdiction.
Where we attribute to the King’s Majesty the chief government, by which Titles we understand the minds of some slanderous folks to be offended; we give not to our Princes the ministering either of God’s Word, or of the Sacraments, the which thing the Injunctions also lately set forth by Elizabeth our Queen do most plainly testify; but that only prerogative, which we see to have been given always to all godly
Princes in holy Scriptures by God himself; that is, that they should rule all estates and degrees committed to their charge by God, whether they be Ecclesiastical or Temporal, and restrain with the civil sword the stubborn and evil-doers.
The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this Realm of England.
The Laws of the Realm may punish Christian men with death, for heinous and grievous offences.
It is lawful for Christian men, at the commandment of the Magistrate, to wear weapons, and serve in the wars.
XXXVIII. OF CHRISTIAN MEN’S GOODS, WHICH ARE NOT COMMON
THE Riches and Goods of Christians are not common, as touching the right, title, and possession of the same, as certain Anabaptists do falsely boast. Notwithstanding, every man ought, of such things as he possesseth, liberally to give alms to the poor, according to his ability.
XXXIX. OF A CHRISTIAN MAN’S OATH
AS we confess that vain and rash Swearing is forbidden Christian men by our Lord Jesus Christ, and James his Apostle, so we judge, that Christian Religion doth not prohibit, but that a man may swear when the Magistrate requireth, in a cause of faith and charity, so it be done according to the Prophet’s teaching, in justice, judgement, and truth.
I wanted to make an additional statement after yesterday’s post respond to Maverick Witlouw, but I don’t think it fits anywhere where an edit just makes sense.
I wanted to thank Maverick personally for being willing to discuss this with me. I know I was critical, but my criticism is merely academic. I respect him and his position on covenants. Too often, Reformed young men who want to be theological really just want to surround themselves with like minded people. It’s tempting to build an echo chamber where everyone in our group thinks like us, believes like us, and supports everything we do. But that’s not what Late Night Theology is about, nor is it what the Church looks like. So Maverick, thanks for being open and willing to push back on each other. Love you brother.
I do want to say I know there are differences between 1689 Federalism, New Covenant Theology, and Progressive Covenantalism. I hope to not mix these up because they are different. But on the position of baptism, I do not see a major difference. If he knows of any, I humbly accept the education. I don’t want to get it wrong, and sometimes we need to be honest about our misunderstandings.
I rarely take the time to respond to another writer on another blog. It’s not my favorite thing to do; I just think it looks bad. However, exceptions must be made and the time has come to graciously, and humbly respond. Over on Soveriegn Grace Theo[blog], Maverick Witlouw wrote a post expressly saying that Westminster doesn’t work. According to him, Westminster is practicing a replacement theology not a fulfillment theology. Per his post, Westminster just botches the relationship between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant.
But this cannot be so. I get that 1689 Federalists, Progressive Covenantalists, and New Covenant Theologians are trying to take historic Reformed Covenant theology and align it to their view. But this isn’t the way we come to theology or the Scriptures. All it is is theological New Coke, a changing and rebranding of what has been held to historically.
So let’s discuss Mavericks critiques and see if they hold sway.
Witlouw seems to be upset that Westminster states that there is continuity in the covenants. He calls it “inference” and argues that the Divines forced this in order to make room for infant baptism. At the end of the day I think it is fair to sum up Witlouw’s argumentation as this: “What’s new about the New Covenant?” And this is the common objection among all Reformed Baptists. Dr. Stephen Wellum makes the same case in “Believer’s Baptism”. This isn’t unfamiliar territory. Witlouw tips his hand when he cites Hebrews 10:16, the restatement of Jeremiah 31 New Covenant passage.
We can sum up the NCT logic behind this passage very easily. The New Covenant is “not like” the Old Covenant. As they see it, there is a transition from external membership to internal membership. Membership is no longer based on families, but is rather based on faith alone. Therefore, they argue, infant baptism is not valid because infants cannot express faith.
The problem they run into is this: Circumcision is not founded in the Mosaic Covenant, but rather the Abrahamic. Here’s the issue. In the New Testament, the term Old Covenant is always looking at Moses, not Abraham. It’s always looking at the Law from Sinai, not the Ram in the Thicket. The error of Reformed Baptists is that they conflate Abraham and Moses together as well as the New Covenant and the Covenant of Grace. That is not to say that they are not united, but they would state that God’s covenant with Abraham is radically different than the New Covenant, divorcing God’s promises from the Covenant of Grace.
However, Scripture does not teach this. Abraham is our Father because he was faithful. He believes God and is given the covenant sign of circumcision to be given to him and to his children after him. But Reformed Covenant theology is not arguing for salvation ex opere operato. We are in no way stating that an infant is secure based on their baptism. Federalists are once again confusing the sign with the thing signified. Baptism, like circumcision is a sign. Signs point to something. And even way back in Deuteronomy 10:16 where people are called to circumcise their hearts. It is not a saying of “Oh you’re for sure in”. Regardless if the sign was circumcision or baptism, the call has always been “cleanse your heart, reach out to Christ by faith.”
“But New Covenant membership is based on faith and regeneration, not baptism.”
But again, this is a conflation of terms. The Covenant of Grace has always said that faith was needed. Children in both the Abrahamic (Gen 17) and New (Acts 2:8-10) Administrations of the Covenant of Grace have been included. This is why the Philippian jailer’s family is baptized “because of his faith”. But faith was always a covenant requirement. True sons of Abraham have always had faith. So yes we look hopefully for our children to come to faith. But we know that if they do not reach out in faith, they are covenant breakers.
So what IS new? At the end of the day it is this: The New Covenant is better and different because we have the substance of Christ instead of the shadow of the Law. We do not have to come to God through a priestly mediator because Christ Himself is that mediator. We do not have to appease God through sacrifice and ceremony, because Christ is the sacrifice and ceremony. The difference is that we have what the Old Covenant veiled. This does not make it meaningless. But let’s trace Federalism to its conclusion by a simple question.
If the New Covenant is the Covenant of Grace as Federalists say, how were people saved before Christ? Was Abraham saved by faith? Was he regenerated? If so, we have a regeneration, a so called “New Covenant” prior to the New Covenant. Yes they have the same substance because salvation has always been found in Christ alone by faith alone. Abraham, Moses, and Peter were all saved the same way. The difference is one had merely type and shadow, but today we have fulfillment.
Therefore, my recommendation is that Maverick go back and look again at what Covenant Theologians are saying. That he go read O Palmer Robertson’s “Christ of the Covenants” or “Far As the Curse is Found” by Michael Williams. I’d recommend dealing with what we’re really saying. And I’d strongly recommend he ditch the New Coke Theology for Classic Westminster.
[A Review of “When I Don’t Desire God” by John Piper // Chapter 3 – The Call to Fight for Joy in God]
It’s chapter 3. Piper has had the Introduction, Chapter 1, and Chapter 2 to lay out his terms and his goals, and then tell us how to get there on a practical level, but I’m still seeing admonition without application. Whenever you have admonition without application it becomes a burden that’s too heavy to bear, and that’s going to affect how I rate the book from here on out.
At the Beginning…
Johnny Pipe gives us a lot of truth to chew on at the beginning of the chapter. I really appreciate how he points out that when we prefer anything above Christ it is in, and then he illustrates that point by bringing Jeremiah 2:12-13 into the conversation.
“Be astonished, O heavens, at this,
And be horribly afraid;
Be very desolate,” says the Lord.
“For My people have committed two evils:
They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters,
And hewn themselves cisterns—broken cisterns that can hold no water.”
– Jeremiah 2:12-13, NKJV
He then culminates this point with this powerful line:
“Esteeming God less than anything is the essence of evil.” (Page 34)
Then, I think he starts to get off track a little bit….
The Divine Carrot on a Stick
He goes on to tell us that “A person who has no taste for the enjoyment of Christ will not go to heaven.” That is a true statement, but I think the problem is that Piper is using Heaven as a divine carrot on a stick and telling us that there’s something we have to do or we’re not going to go to Heaven. Yes, you must repent of your sin and wickedness, and believe the Gospel, but the problem with what Piper seems to be doing is that he seems to be making Heaven the focus instead of Christ Himself.
I tend to agree with the sentiment of what John Green said:
“I am going to take this bucket of water and pour it on the flames of hell, and then I am going to use this torch to burn down the gates of paradise so that people will not love God for want of heaven or fear of hell, but because He is God.”
Now, before the evangellyfish get all twitchy on me, I want to make it clear that I know that it’s not possible to do such things, and even if it were, I’m not sure that I would want to do such things. I simply agree with the sentiment because I feel like too many evangelical Christians simply participate in social Christianity for what they feel like they can get from God and not simply because of who He is.
I firmly believe that people who love the thought of Heaven more than they love Christ Himself will wind up in Hell. I believe in a literal Heaven, I believe in a literal Hell, I believe that those are eternally conscious places where people will end up based on God’s eternal judgement, but when you spend your life trying to work for a place in Heaven, then you are proving that you love the creation (Heaven) more than the Creator (God.) I don’t believe Piper is doing Christendom any favors by telling us that Heaven is on the line if we don’t fight, especially since he hasn’t even told us how to go about fighting.
Quite honestly, this book so far hasn’t brought me any comfort or solace. On nights when I have stepped over the boundaries of God’s love, or when I feel like I’m not even saved nor have I ever been, if I’m taking the warnings of this book seriously, then I’m left to think “I haven’t fought enough for joy.” I don’t feel like any heart broken Christian should feel that way when they’re faced with doubts and fears of their salvation. They’re supposed to be driven to the cross, and reminded of God’s love. They’re supposed to be reminded of what God has proclaimed over them at their baptism. They’re supposed to hear the voice the Almighty proclaim over them, “They shall be mine.” (Malachi 3:17)
Most people who pick up a book entitled, “When I Don’t Desire God” probably want to know if there’s hope for them. They want to desire God more because genuinely love Him and they’re reading this book with the understanding that this author is going to offer them comfort, but instead they’re being told that the reason they feel all of these doubts is because they’re not fighting hard enough. I see a major problem with that.
If you don’t know how to fight and you’ve got an attacker coming at you, you’re just as screwed as a Quaker. Why? No one has told you what to do or how to defend yourself. This is what we’ve gotten so far in the book. Piper tells us to fight for joy, he tells us what’s on the line, and he doesn’t give us any weapons. So far, I find this depressing because I’ve got the weight of all this admonition on my back, but I’ve got nothing to do with it, but allow my legs to buckle underneath the load and now I’m forced to deal with the implications of everything Piper has said so far on my own.
Concluding Thoughts and Rating
Admittedly, this book is becoming increasingly harder to read simply because I don’t want to burden myself with anymore exhortation unless there’s some kind of practical way I can live that out.
Does the Christian need to fight for joy? Yes, I think so, but I think it would just be easier if Piper would just tell us that the fight looks different for everyone because we’re not dealing with formulas, we’re dealing with individual souls.
Also, for every week that he doesn’t give us application, I’m going to knock .5 beard strokes off the rating.
This chapter gets 1.5 out 5 beard strokes.
Peace out, fam.
Somewhere between me getting to the boxing gym and sitting down to dinner, social media hounds found the Nashville Statement. For the last two days everyone from every side has launched their opinion on it, given pushback, critiqued, and been offended by it.
But I’ve figured out something about statements like this. When you say something strong and Biblical, everyone has an opinion. Is CBMW perfect? By no means! They still have issues with Trinitarian doctrine. Eternal Submission of the Son is wacky, no matter what Grudem argues. And yes, many Christians have taken complementarianism and turned it into a new patriarchy. So yes, there are issues with the group. But let’s remember that God uses us crooked sticks to draw straight lines.
So now everyone’s coming and offering up these emotional critiques of this statement. Notice I said emotional critiques. Not hermeneutic critiques, not exegetical critiques, not historical critiques. But emotional ones.
This has been the flaw of mainline Protestantism for decades; that there is no real hermeneutic. It is whatever we make it. There are no real standards of exegesis or history because there’s no real doctrine, because there’s no real salvation, because what ails us isn’t in our hearts, it’s what’s outside of us.
Conservative Christians have been saying this for the last sixty years. Isn’t interesting, we are at the the same place we were two generations ago. Culturally, racially, and theologically we are having the same fights. Social media just put it in our face, turned the volume up, and boost the vitriol.
Because the overwhelming arguments have been emotional, I cannot take them seriously. Emotions do not carry the same weight as Scripture.
“But why make a statement about THIS? Who not about white supremacy or racism?” Because these things aren’t mutually exclusive. Because, while yes condemning racism is a good thing and for many denominations(including my former one) still has not happened, we cannot make it an idol. The primary work of the Church is not to condemn racism, but to proclaim the Gospel that calls both racists and the LGBT to repentance and to put their faith in Christ, just as it does for all sinners. But we’ve elevated homosexuality above racism. Here’s what I mean: take Article 10 of the Nashville Statement. Replace the language if homosexualty with “racism”. Any one who pushes back on this new statement gets RIGHTLY condemned and run out of town. So why do we do it with this sin?
Because at the end of the day, we don’t want to just say that homosexuality is a sin.
But my confusion is why the world is so shocked at what has been said. This has always been the orthodox Christian position. The Church has always held that homosexuality is against the teachings of Scripture. It has always taught the heterosexual monogamous relationships are God’s design for marriage. Only for the last half century has this been in question. So yes, I agree, this does strike at the heart of how we will interpret Scripture and form doctrine. One of the critiques I got was that I was interpreting Scripture as a 21st century cis white man; as if I’m inherently flawed because of my skin color and gender indentity. But Augustine, Moses, Paul, Peter, Gregory, Athanasius, Polycarp, John, and Christ weren’t 21st century white men. But Scripture doesn’t change with the culture. We don’t ignore the parts we don’t like. So while my liberal friends like to quote Christ when it comes to taking care of the poor, they seem to leave off the part where he says “Repent, the Kingdom of God is at hand”
Certainly, Evangelicals need a clear, gracious strategy of ministering to those who struggle with same sex attraction. Yes, absolutely the LGBT are made in the image of God and the hand of the Lord is not short to save. But we have to decide today, right now, are we going to change our doctrine to excuse sin
or are we going to cling again to the Scriptures and say “Here I am, I can do no other. God help me”
I first heard the phrase listening to a recording of Jemar Tisby’s talk at The Charleston Conference. It’s been weeks, and I’m still thinking about it and relating it to an increasing number of ideas and situations. The phrase: “ontological equality.”
Sometimes this phrase relates to the persons of the Trinity, but in this case it refers to the belief that all people are equal in essence and possess inherent worth and dignity. This relates to the philosophical study of anthropology (which asks the question: what is humanity?) and to the theological concept of the Image of God (the belief that all humans are made in the Image of God). In his talk, Mr. Tisby asserted that this doctrine is probably the most important Christian doctrine aside from the doctrines of salvation, and that chaos ensues when we forget or reject it.
So after mulling over this concept for many weeks, here are some of my thoughts on it. To treat a person as an ontological equal means to respect their humanity, even if you don’t respect their character or accomplishments. It means that no matter how much you disagree with someone, you never lose sight of their dignity. It means that no matter how evil a person is, that you seek justice rather than vengeance. It means that you accurately represent who they are and what they think–no straw man arguments or spreading false information. It means that when dialoguing with them, you are assertive rather than aggressive.
Let me clarify what I’m not saying. To respect a person’s equality does not mean that you respect their ideas or their choices. It does not mean that it is wrong to disagree with them. It does not mean that one cannot call out oppression or seek justice. It does not mean that one cannot call out immorality or urge righteousness.
When Mr Tisby spoke on ontological equality, he applied it primarily to the experience of people of color in the United States. He asserted that slavery and Jim Crow happened in large part because so many people denied or dismissed the ontological equality of human beings who were from another land or had a different skin color. And it was when some Americans lost sight of (or purposely and systematically rejected!) the inherent dignity of all people that gross injustice was rationalized and perpetuated.
Race-based discrimination is one of the most extreme examples of what can happen when people deny the equality of other people, but the same principle applies to many other areas of life as well. The belief in ontological equality also means the following…
- When having discussions with people with opposing political viewpoints, you maintain respect for the person even if you disagree with (or even hate) their positions.
- Women are viewed primarily as people (instead of “other”) and as equals to men.
- In a relationship between a child and an adult authority, the most important kind of respect is the adult’s respect for the child’s humanity (rather than the child’s respect for the authority’s position).
- People are not less valuable if they have less capabilities. A disabled person is not less valuable if they are unable to contribute to society. A child is not valuable only because of their future potential.
- A person’s age does not make them of lesser value. An old person or an unborn person are equal in worth and dignity to a young adult, and therefore should not have life taken from them.
- A person’s socioeconomic status does not change their inherent worth. A wealthy person and a poor person are ontological equals.
- A person’s beliefs do not lessen their humanity. A Trump supporter is of equal value to a feminist.
- Any discussion of LGBT issues and people must start with the ontological equality of people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
But what about those whose very purpose in life is seemingly to deny justice and equality to others? What about Neo-Nazis? What about evil, murderous dictators? How does a belief in ontological equality relate to them? I think the answer is two-fold. First, it gives us confidence in denouncing their beliefs as wrong and their actions as evil. But second, we are not absolved of our responsibility to treat even them as our ontological equals. We may critique them and seek justice, all while maintaining an awareness of their dignity and worth. (Practically this might look like not physically harming them or not spreading lies about their beliefs or actions.) It is tempting when evil people so blatantly deny the equality of other humans to then want to take away their human rights, to dehumanize them in our minds, and to treat them as if they have forfeited their own inherent value. But this is where, especially as Christians, we are to rise above our baser instincts and honor the humanity even of evil people as we simultaneously call out their wrongs.
I anticipate continuing to mull over the concept of ontological equality. It has been a fascinating study to date! And I have to say, I agree with Mr Tisby that this is one of the most important doctrines in Christianity. It affects so much of life: how we think about and relate to minorities, children, the disabled, people we disagree with, political opponents, and even truly evil people!
In closing, what I would like is for us to rejoice in the great privilege of being human, of being God’s marvelous creations, of being made in His image. And to seek to honor that image in ourselves and in others.
Here’s the link to Jemar Tisby’s entire talk. I highly recommend it!