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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Does Infant Baptism contradict Calvinism?

I wrote an article for Jason Stellman's blog on why I believe Infant Baptism is incompatible with Reformed Theology. Since the Reformed tradition adamantly teaches Infant Baptism is a necessary and orthodox Christian teaching, if Infant Baptism is incompatible with other points of Reformed Theology, it means the Calvinist system is self-refuting and thus false.

The key question is: Does Baptism actually produce a change in the infant? For example, does the act of Baptizing, by the very act, induct an infant into the New Covenant? The answer is either Yes or No. 

If the answer to that question is Yes, then on what basis do the Reformed really have for opposing the Catholic notion of Baptismal Regeneration? None that I can see. Since no text of Scripture limits the effects of Baptism to merely inducting one into the New Covenant, it would naturally imply that if Baptism does something 'automatically' to the infant, then all baptized infants receive the same gifts that the Bible says Baptism bestows. So a Yes answer is obviously unacceptable.

But if the answer to that question is No, then it means Baptism doesn't do anything to the infant, and instead is an external sign of an already existing reality. For example, throwing a birthday party is an outward sign that someone is a year older, but it doesn't make the person one year older. The problem here is that it would mean children of believing parents are automatically part of the New Covenant in virtue of their natural conception or natural birth, which seems blasphemous since basically makes Baptism superfluous and it reduces New Covenant membership to a matter of biology. This would mean a No answer is also obviously unacceptable

If both options are unacceptable, then it means Infant Baptism contradicts Reformed Theology, despite being a part of Reformed Theology, making the system inconsistent and thus self-refuting. 

From my study on this matter, I think the problem is even worse, since it seems that the Reformed have equated baptism with circumcision, rather than drawing a parallel between them. And if that's the case, I see it as a variation of the Judaizer heresy, conflating life under the Mosaic Law with life in the Church. I address this more in the article linked above.



82 comments:

Nick said...

I will say that the wording of the Westminster Confession is very interesting on this point. The text reads:

=========
I. Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ,[1] not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible Church;[2] but also to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace,[3] of his ingrafting into Christ,[4] of regeneration,[5] of remission of sins,[6] and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in the newness of life.[7] Which sacrament is, by Christ's own appointment, to be continued in His Church until the end of the world.[8]

IV. Not only those that do actually profess faith in and obedience unto Christ,[11] but also the infants of one, or both, believing parents, are to be baptized.[12]

V. Although it is a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance,[13] yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto it, as that no person can be regenerated, or saved, without it:[14] or, that all that are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated.[15]
=========

Section 1 of this passage seems to explicitly exclude the idea that Baptism ONLY inducts one into the visible Church, but INCLUDES it being a sign of being in the covenant of grace, being in Christ, regenerate, and sins forgiven. So the idea that Infant Baptism ONLY does one thing for sure, bringing someone into the visible Church, is not compatible with this text. And this raises the stakes against the Reformed position, for they are thus making a huge presumption, marking someone with a sign that indicates forgiveness of sins when in fact nobody knows if that child is really elect or not.

Michael Taylor said...

Nick,

Not all Reformed Christians are paedo-baptists, and so the problems you raise with baptism making one part of the covenant would not be an issue for us. In fact, we'd agree with you that there is a definite inconsistency in saying, on the one hand, that baptism actually makes you part of the covenant, but that on the other hand, it does not regenerate you.

What I think most credo baptistic Reformed would say is that children of believers are presumed to be elect (especially if they die in infancy) and that they are included in a de facto sense to be part of the visible covenant community even if they have not yet professed faith in a de jure sense.

Think of them as "honorary members" of the visible church pending a public confession of faith.

The heresy you espouse is that we are the ones who put infants into the state of grace. You view, as far a I can tell, is indistinguishable from shamanistic religion. It turns baptism into magic and the Trinitarian formula into an incantation.

But it is the logical outcome of your view the same way monstrances are for the Eucharist. Here is what I mean:

1. If the Eucharist is what Rome say it is, then adoration of the Eucharist would seem to follow with logical inevitability. This in turn would seem to justify housing the Eucharist in tabernacles and bowing down to the Eucharist as displayed in a monstrance--hence the practice.

But in reality Roman Catholics who do this are committing idolatry because they are worshipping something that is not God. Instead of eating and drinking, they're kneeling and watching, and so we see how bad exegesis, begets bad theology ,which in turn leads to at least material idolatry, though I am sure God in his infinite mercy overlooks such ignorance in the vast majority of cases.

A similar problem arises with the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. If water + the Trinitarian formula + the intention to baptize = a valid baptism, and if a valid baptism results in regeneration, then, by that logic, one can understand why the missional emphasis in Rome has almost always been to baptize as many people as possible.

Such a strange emphasis given Paul's clear preference to preach the Gospel to unbelievers (rather than "make them Roman Catholics"). He even goes so far to say as that he was "not sent to baptize." What a strange thing to say if baptism is the primary means by which one is regenerated (cf, 1 Cor. 1:17).

Nick said...

Michael,

I'm glad to see you agree with my argument for once! Hehehe.

That said, I don't think that saying a child of a believing parent is automatically an honorary member of the New Covenant is a safe claim to make, because then it confuses soteriology with biology. It ends up saying that one becomes a Christian simply by birth, rather than by a sacred rite (which is the whole point of Baptism). By denying infant baptism, the Baptist position really has no good answer for how Children are included in the New Covenant.

There should be no presuming that one's child is elect, for that's presumption against God's Divine Will and Election.

Michael Taylor said...

Nick,

You said>>That said, I don't think that saying a child of a believing parent is automatically an honorary member of the New Covenant is a safe claim to make, because then it confuses soteriology with biology.<<


Yet you believe it's "safe" to baptize infants even though there is no evidence of faith on their part and often when the parents and godparents themselves may only be nominal Roman Catholics at best.

At least in my view it is only a presumptive benefit of the doubt that is given to the children of believers, founded, of course on the biblical principle that the children of believers are "holy" (1 Corinthians 7:14). Note well that we are not making the positive claim that they are believers or even that they are elect. But we are saying that we have good reason to suppose that they probably are and that God especially delights in effectually calling the children of those whom he has already regenerated for eternal life.

Your view, in contrast, takes salvation out of God's hands and puts it into the hands of the Church ®, making salvation dependent upon water, human intention and the Trinitarian formula. That's called "magic," Nick. By combining those three things into the baptismal ritual, you essentially compel God to do your bidding. In other word, the performance of the ritual causes God to regenerate the infant, even if the infant doesn't understand what is happening and, worse still, neither do his parents.

Nick>>It ends up saying that one becomes a Christian simply by birth,<<

Let me cut you off here, Nick, for clearly you do not understand the claim. No one is saying that a child who has not professed faith is a Christian. Also, let me remind you that I was making a distinction between the children of believers who are living and those who have died *before* professing faith in Christ. Let's address each in turn.

1. Those children of believers who are alive are considered to be "honorary members" in the visible church. Here I'm using that term very loosely, for as yet there is no covenant membership in the community which can only be true of believers. So, to correct you, we do not believe that one is born a Christian. Also, we do not believe that being a visible member of the church is equivalent to being elect, though it can be a sign that points in that direction.

2. As for those who die in infancy, we have no sure word one way or the other in scripture as to their fate, though there is plenty of evidence that hints at their salvation (e.g., 2 Sam. 12:23). We take as a given that the judge of the universe will do right (Genesis 18:25) and there is no injustice on the part of God (Romans 9:14). In this scenario, as in all others, we hold that God has ultimate freedom in salvation. That is, he can and does save whomever he wills and there is no prior condition in the person that must be fulfilled in order for him to do so. In other words, we uphold the Potter's freedom as absolute, whereas Romanism does not and in principle cannot.

In yet other words, we do not go so far as to say that an infant who dies is automatically saved. But we do tend to presume that this is the case with the caveat that our presumption is well-founded on scriptural principles. We acknowledge, however, that scripture does not directly address this issue.

continued...

Michael Taylor said...

Nick: >>….rather than by a sacred rite (which is the whole point of Baptism). By denying infant baptism, the Baptist position really has no good answer for how Children are included in the New Covenant.<<

Yes we do, and your position doesn't really offer a good explanation anyway. First, the idea that baptism is what puts you in the covenant is based largely on the idea that baptism is the Christian equivalent to circumcision. There is some overlap there, but it's not equivalent. (How in the world were girls included in the covenant since they weren't circumcised? Yet everyone knows they were in covenant relationship to God. In other words, even in the OT, circumcision didn't cause you to be in the covenant; rather it was a sign and seal of the covenant in which you were **already** a member by virtue of the fact that you were an Israelite. Covenant membership was first and foremost God's claim on you, not your claim on God.)

Nick>>There should be no presuming that one's child is elect, for that's presumption against God's Divine Will and Election.<<

This gets us to the heart of the issue. You would have us believe that a baptized child who dies in infancy is elect. But why? Because the child died in the state of sanctifying grace which "the Church ®" caused the child to obtain through the sacrament. But you would not label this presumption because of your belief that the child was regenerate. In other word, there's nothing wrong with presuming that those who die in the state of grace are elect, for by definition, that's who the elect are!

The same logic holds for us, only because we believe that God Himself does the regenerating directly, (and not us by means of a ritual), that those whom God regenerates are the elect. Our presumption is that infants and especially the children of believers are **most likely** regenerated by God prior to their death. Since it is God who decrees the the number of our days anyway (Job 14:5), death never takes God by surprise. If it is His will to bring an infant to eternal life even before he/she can make a profession of faith, He can do so, since He is the one who is sovereign in both election and salvation. If pressed, I think Rome's theologians would say the same thing about all those who die even before baptism can be performed on them. Remember, the Roman dogma is that baptism **or its desire** is necessary for salvation. The default presumption is that an infant ("to such as these belong the kingdom of God") who dies before baptism would desire God and so Rome's priests are routinely advised to counsel the grieving parents that their unbaptized infant (or aborted fetus, for example) is safely in the hands of God. I think that's sound advice because it ultimately affirms God's sovereignty and freedom in salvation and does not make the salvation of anyone dependent upon human agency, or the sacraments of "the Church ®."

Hymenaeus said...

Michael,

The fallacy of your argument here is assuming that the grace bestowed through the sacraments is working of man rather than the working with God. If sinners were regenerated by man's own doing in baptism, you would have a point, but no one teaches that so you do not. It is God who gives grace, which is why St. Paul calls baptism "the laver of regeneration and renovation of the Holy Ghost," and Christ calls it birth "by water and Spirit." Perhaps then when the human administration of the sacraments is seen as God's ways of visibly manifesting his grace rather than some empty ritual of the law or, as you would have it, a magic trick, as if baptism had no warrant in Scripture. If God has predestinated an individual to salvation, he is certainly capable of predestinating him to baptism as well.

And if you object that its not fair that some infants are baptized and some are not, all I can say is, well, you are a Calvinist aren't you? If there were a one-to-one correspondence between the baptized and the elect, how would that make the doctrine of election any less just than if the elect consisted of only those who come to faith as adults or any other subset of the world? How can God's election be unjust when it is by grace. He hath delivered us and called us by his holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the times of the world (2 Tim. 1:9). Therefore, St. Paul says (Rom. 9:14-15), What shall we say then? Is there injustice with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses: I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy; and I will shew mercy to whom I will shew mercy.

Hymenaeus said...

Augustine wrote a work called De Peccatorum Meritis et Remissione et De Baptismo Parvulorum where he treats this subject at some length, and the arguments against the objections of the Pelagians would apply largely to your position. Here's one excerpt.

Now there is much significance in that He does not say, "The wrath of God shall come upon him," but " abides on him." For from this wrath (in which we are all involved under sin, and of which the apostle says, "For we too were once by nature the children of wrath, even as others" (Eph. 2:3) nothing delivers us but the grace of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. The reason why this grace comes upon one man and not on another may be hidden, but it cannot be unjust. For "is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid" (Rom. 9:14). But we must first bend our necks to the authority of the Holy Scriptures, in order that we may each arrive at knowledge and understanding through faith. For it is not said in vain, "Your judgments are a great deep." The profundity of this "deep" the apostle, as if with a feeling of dread, notices in that exclamation: "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God!" He had indeed previously pointed out the meaning of this marvellous depth, when he said: "For God has concluded them all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all" (Rom. 11:32). Then struck, as it were, with a horrible fear of this deep: "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counsellor?or who has first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of Him, and through Him, and in Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen" (Rom. 11:33-36) How utterly insignificant, then, is our faculty for discussing the justice of God's judgments, and for the consideration of His gratuitous grace, which, as men have no prevenient merits for deserving it, cannot be partial or unrighteous, and which does not disturb us when it is bestowed upon unworthy men, as much as when it is denied to those who are equally unworthy! (De Bapt. Parv. I.29)

It would definitely be worth reading in full.

Hymenaeus said...

I will also address your two prooftexts, since they are not prooftexts for the credobaptist position at all.

1 Cor. 7:14. The verse in full reads, For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the believing wife; and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the believing husband: otherwise your children should be unclean; but now they are holy. A husband is not saved merely because his wife has faith unless the gratuitious grace of his wife brings him to participate individually in sanctifying grace. Similarly, children are not saved merely by merit of one of their parents having faith, unless that brings them as individuals to sanctifying grace. What St. Paul is speaking of here is how God uses his faithful to draw others to him, which St. Thomas calls "gratuitous grace" (see S.T. I-II, 111, 1). St. Paul's meaning is first of all that the children of a believing parent first of all are baptized
, and secondly brought up in a Christian formation, whereas if the family had separated, the children might have been brought up in a purely pagan hourshold
. This is why the text reads that "now they are holy," not that they were born holy.

2 Sam. 12:23. David merely states that he will go to his son (when he dies) and that his son will not come back to him (i.e. he will not rise from the dead). He does not say that his son is saved or that he went to heaven. Remember that heaven was closed before Christ opened it, and the dead were all in hell together, the just and the unjust alike, although the just were not punished with fire (Luke 16). Even if the infant were saved, he would have not been in heaven anyway so the text cannot be used as a text of infant baptism. Indeed, the text does not portray David as saying that he stopped fasting and weeping because he knows his child is in heaven, but rather that he has stopped fasting and weeping because the child is dead and his prayers can no longer save him.

On the other hand, there are plenty of texts that speak to the universality of sin and the necessity of baptism.

Psalm 51:7 - I was conceived in iniquities; and in sins did my mother conceive me.

Eph. 2:3 - [We] were by nature children of wrath...

Rom. 5:12 - Wherefore as by one man sin entered into this world, and by sin death; and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned.

John 3:5 - Amen, amen I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

Mark 16:16 - He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be condemned.

Hymenaeus said...

Some further commentary:

1. It is true that circumcision does not correspond to baptism in every respect. For example, all are bound to baptism whereas circumcision was only appointed for males. Another example would be that circumcision was supposed to be administered the eighth day rather while there is no such precept in baptism. Circumcision was only a type of baptism, not equal to baptism. However, it could not be the case that baptism does less than circumcision did. So it follows that since circumcision brought infants into the covenant, baptism must bring infants into the New Covenant, or it is less perfect than its type, but that is exactly what you are trying to argue. Moreover, you even go so far as to suggest that children were born into the covenant and that circumcision was only a symbolic ceremony. In actuality, Scripture states that just as with baptism, circumcision is necessary to be part of the Abrahamic Covenant: The male, whose flesh of his foreskin shall not be circumcised, that soul shall be destroyed out of his people: because he hath broken my covenant (Gen. 17:14). Now, it does not matter that females could share in the Covenant even though they were not circumcised as it is sufficient to show that it was necessary for males, which were all those to whom it was commanded. Now since baptism is enjoined on all, male and female, it follows that baptism is necessary for all for salvation. The difficulty that faces your view, viz., that children cannot be Christians, a difficulty that you admit above, is in my estimation an insurmountable difficulty for credobaptistism.

2. Isn't it presumptuous of you to say that God could bring infants to salvation without baptism as an argument against the necessity of baptism? Why not rather argue that if God willed to bring infants to salvation, he is also powerful enough to bring them to baptism? Your line of argument seems to be an implicit attack on God's providence and sovereignty. On the other hand, Catholic teaching does not say that God is not able to save people apart from baptism, only that he has not laid out that he will do so.

3. Catholic theologians do not say that infants are automatically saved. It merely says that due to God's tenderness and mercy "allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism." It does not state that there is such a way or that any Scriptural text lays out such a way. Would you cite your sources for your assertion that "the default presumption is that an infant ("to such as these belong the kingdom of God") who dies before baptism would desire God and so Rome's priests are routinely advised to counsel the grieving parents that their unbaptized infant (or aborted fetus, for example) is safely in the hands of God?"

4. I take it by your saying that the Catholic Church has a trademark on the word Church that you will no longer be calling whatever community you belong to a "church."

Michael Taylor said...

Hym,

You said: The fallacy of your argument here is assuming that the grace bestowed through the sacraments is working of man rather than the working with God.

I did not say that. I realize your position is that divine agency is mediated sacramentally. Since the sacrament requires water, the Trinitarian formula and the intention to baptize, then it can be said that God needs those three things in order to bestow regenerating grace, right?

>> It is God who gives grace, which is why St. Paul calls baptism "the laver of regeneration and renovation of the Holy Ghost,"<<

While Paul uses the words in quotation marks, nowhere does he use those words to describe "baptism." Your assertion rests on inference, not exegesis.

>>and Christ calls it birth "by water and Spirit." <<

Same problem here.

Hym>> If God has predestinated an individual to salvation, he is certainly capable of predestinating him to baptism as well.<<

What God is capable of doing should not be confused with what he does do. I see no evidence in scripture for an imperfect predestination to grace (i.e., baptism) but not glory. It's as if you're suggesting that God predestines the means (baptism) but not always the end (glory), given that the baptized can fall from grace. But does that make any sense at all? Why would God foreordain the means, but not end to which the means correspond? It's like giving someone a map to nowhere.

Hym>>And if you object that its not fair that some infants are baptized and some are not all I can say is, well, you are a Calvinist aren't you?<<

Which is exactly why I would never make this objection. And because I don't I'm not going to respond to most of what follows since it assumes that I do make such an objection.

Michael Taylor said...

Hym>>Augustine wrote a work called De Peccatorum Meritis et Remissione et De Baptismo Parvulorum where he treats this subject at some length, and the arguments against the objections of the Pelagians would apply largely to your position.<<

A position which you are either not understanding or misrepresenting. Augustine, of course, was no baptist. But the excerpt you cited has to do with the justice/injustice issue, which, as I said before is not my issue. God is sovereign in salvation. Augustine and I are in agreement on this.

Baptism, however, is not means to that end. So I deny baptismal regeneration, whereas Augustine held it. The fundamental issue of election, however, is something we hold in common.

Michael Taylor said...

Hym>>1 Cor. 7:14. The verse in full reads, For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the believing wife; and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the believing husband: otherwise your children should be unclean; but now they are holy....St. Paul's meaning is first of all that the children of a believing parent first of all are baptized, and secondly brought up in a Christian formation, whereas if the family had separated, the children might have been brought up in a purely pagan household. This is why the text reads that "now they are holy," not that they were born holy.<<

A couple of comments here:

My point in citing this verse had nothing to do with baptism; rather I was making another point altogether, namely, that the children of believers are considered holy. Nothing in the text even remotely suggests such children were already baptized. That's another inference from silence that you're banking on, but which the text simply does not support. The attempt to confine this verse to the situation of an irregular marriage (a believer to a pagan) fails because Paul addresses his comments to the entire church ("your children") not all of whom were in mixed marriages. HIs point is simple. The children of the Corinthians are to be considered "holy," including those who are the offspring of one unbelieving parent. In other words, if the unbelieving spouse is considered holy, then so are the children. Likewise, if the unbelieving spouse were considered unholy, then we would have to regard the children as unholy too, which would then entail that a believing spouse not only separate from his/her spouse, but also his/her children, which is of course, ridiculous.

Returning to my original point, if the children of believers are considered holy as 1 Corinthians 7:14 demonstrates, then this gives a presumptive favor toward considering them to be elect. Note well what I am not saying: I am not saying they are elect and that they are going to heaven no matter what. I am not even saying they are yet believers. I am simply saying that if believers already have permission to view their children has holy (which they do, according to 1 Cor. 7:14), then we probably have permission to consider them as *probably* being elect as well.

Michael Taylor said...

Hym>>2 Sam. 12:23. David merely states that he will go to his son (when he dies) and that his son will not come back to him (i.e. he will not rise from the dead). He does not say that his son is saved or that he went to heaven. Remember that heaven was closed before Christ opened it, and the dead were all in hell together, the just and the unjust alike, although the just were not punished with fire (Luke 16). Even if the infant were saved, he would have not been in heaven anyway so the text cannot be used as a text of infant baptism. Indeed, the text does not portray David as saying that he stopped fasting and weeping because he knows his child is in heaven, but rather that he has stopped fasting and weeping because the child is dead and his prayers can no longer save him.<<

Again, you're going places I never met to go. I was not citing in regard to infant baptism; rather I was saying that David is hopeful that he will be reunited with his dead child. That cannot be gainsaid without contradicting the text, for David does not say he *wants* to go to his son, but that he *will* go. That said, the fact that David is optimistic suggests that can be too with respect to the death of an infant.

What we can't say is that an infant is automatically elect and saved by virtue of being an infant. But we can hope that they are.


Michael Taylor said...

Hym>>Psalm 51:7 - I was conceived in iniquities; and in sins did my mother conceive me.<<

This proves original sin, not the necessity of baptism or its validity for infants.

Hym>>Eph. 2:3 - [We] were by nature children of wrath...<<

This proves total depravity, but says nothing of baptismal regeneration.

>>Rom. 5:12 - Wherefore as by one man sin entered into this world, and by sin death; and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned.<<

Universality of sin, yes. Necessity of baptism, no.

>>John 3:5 - Amen, amen I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.<<

If this refers to baptism, you'd be right. I'll let you make the case for why it does. While you're at it, explain, if you would, why Jesus puts many unbaptized people into the kingdom of God (children, prostitutes, etc.) He even tells one person that he's "not far" from the kingdom, yet never suggests that baptism would bring him all they way in.

>>Mark 16:16 - He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be condemned.<<

Assuming this is scripture (which I do not assume given its absence from are earliest an most important manuscripts), this text gives you no help.

First, belief and baptism are clearly to be seen as a hendiadys--in other words, two things signifying the same reality, which is why it isn't necessary to complete the negative side of the equation: "he who does not believe [and is not baptized] shall be condemned." The logic here is obvious: Anyone who doesn't believe isn't going to get baptized anyway.

Unless you're a paedobaptist, which this text does not entertain. Belief and baptism are so closely associated by the time of this Marcan addition that they are mutually interpreting. One goes with the other. But if they cannot be separated (and they can't), then infant baptism is ruled out because belief cannot be exercised by the infant.

If you object that the faith of the church (parents and godparents) functions as a proxy here, then you do violence to what the text actually says. The "he who believes" is an aorist active participle, masculine and singular, which can only refer to an individual. The fact that the participle is in the active voice suggests the person in question is capable of exercising personal faith. In contrast, "he who is baptized" is an aorist passive participle, also masculine and singular, and suggests that it is the same individual who receives baptism because he has already believed. Such language is simply incompatible with the doctrine of infant baptism.

But does it suggest baptismal regeneration? Not at all. For nothing in the text requires us to hold that it is the person's faith or the baptism he receives that causes him to be regenerate. The text merely describes a reality: The person who has actively believed and passively received baptism, "will be saved." This is in the future tense and is also in passive voice, suggesting that salvation is by means of Divine agency and is not directly caused by either one's faith or one's baptism.

It is in fact entirely possible to read the following ordo salutis here:

1. Regeneration by a sovereign act of God which leads to:
2. Faith in Jesus Christ, which is immediately followed by:
3. Baptism
4. Faith and Baptism are descriptive of the person who "will be saved."

Nick said...

Michael,
Here are my thoughts:

(1) Your talk of children being “honorary members” of the visible Church seems to be a man-made category, not something found in the Scriptures, nor theologically feasible. Where in the Bible do you get such an idea of “honorary membership”? And how does this logically not reduce to saying there’s no way for a child to become a member of the covenant, since all that’s available to them is ‘honorary induction into the visible Church’? (Note I deny the Invisible/Visible Church distinction.)

(2) The idea that you would say Catholics have “made salvation dependent upon water” is a blasphemous trivializing of the Christ-instituted Sacrament of Baptism. I’m saddened when I hear Protestants try to refute Catholicism by trashing Baptism, because it’s really a direct attack upon a central rite of Jesus and the Apostles. As Hymenaeus noted, for you to be calling Baptism “magic” is astonishing for someone who desires to follow Scripture’s testimony. If Baptism really is just ‘getting wet’, then not only did the Bible extol it too highly, but also it means something else is what inducts a person into the covenant. And if that something else is Faith, then (again) you cannot say infants are capable of entering (at least under normal circumstances) the New Covenant. The reality is, Luther, Calvin, and the major Lutheran and Calvinist Confessions clearly say that Titus 3:5 (“Washing of regeneration”) refers to Baptism.

(3) As Hymenaeus noted, it’s wrong to say that Baptism is the Christian “equivalent” to circumcision, especially if you’re going to go onto say “circumcision didn’t cause you be in the covenant” but merely affirmed you were already a member. This OT understanding ties Mosaic Covenant membership/promises to biology, which is precisely what Catholics are saying does not happen when it comes to Salvation.

(4) A child who dies in infancy and (perhaps) is miraculously regenerated by God would, at most, be an exception to the rule. It wouldn’t be the norm. The norm would not be for God to regenerate that way, and if it was, then your talk of “honorary membership” falls flat, because if you are going to presume regeneration of infants of believers, then this necessarily demands you presume they’re saved and fully in the New Covenant.

Michael Taylor said...

>>(1) Your talk of children being “honorary members” of the visible Church seems to be a man-made category, not something found in the Scriptures, nor theologically feasible. Where in the Bible do you get such an idea of “honorary membership”? And how does this logically not reduce to saying there’s no way for a child to become a member of the covenant, since all that’s available to them is ‘honorary induction into the visible Church’? (Note I deny the Invisible/Visible Church distinction.) <<

I am assuming the visible/invisible distinction, which perhaps explains our difference here. By "honorary member," I'm simply using a shorthand way of describing how Christians are to consider their own children. Paul says we are to consider them "holy" (1 Cor. 7:14). Without going into exactly what he means by "holy" in this context, at a bare minimum, it means they should be considered as part of the church (and here I would say "the visible church," since the "invisible" church is ultimately known to God alone.)

As for "induction" into the covenant, my position differs from that of Calvin and Luther. I would say that faith in Christ is what inducts one into the New covenant community and that baptism is a sign of that induction because it is a sign of one's faith in Christ. As such, baptism itself is not what puts you into covenant relationship with God; rather it is faith, of which baptism is an outward sign.

That is why we baptists do not baptize our children until they express faith in Christ, in keeping with the New Testament pattern.

Michael Taylor said...

Nick>>(2) The idea that you would say Catholics have “made salvation dependent upon water” is a blasphemous trivializing of the Christ-instituted Sacrament of Baptism.<<

Sorry Nick, but I call them like I see them. Answer me this: In order to have a valid baptism is it not necessary to have these three components? (I'm going by memory here: 1. Valid matter (i.e., water). 2. The Trinitarian formula. 3. The intention to baptize. (Even an unbeliever can baptize if his/her intention is to baptize.) I'm pretty sure this is the case. But if so, then how do you answer this argument:

1. Baptism is the normative means by which one is regenerated. (agree/disagree)
2. Baptism, to be valid, has to have water, the Trinitarian formula and the intent to baptize. (agree/disagree)
3. Ergo, in order to be regenerated (an act of God), one needs water (as well as the other two components to the sacrament).
4. It therefore follows that regeneration ("salvation") depends on water (at least in part).

If my logic is off, kindly show me where. If not, then, I'd simply remind you that ideas have consequences. These are Rome's ideas. So live with the consequences.

>>I’m saddened when I hear Protestants try to refute Catholicism by trashing Baptism, because it’s really a direct attack upon a central rite of Jesus and the Apostles.<<

No one is "trashing" baptism. This is like saying Protestants "trash" Mary because we deny her perpetual virginity or sinlessness, neither of which are Biblical concepts.

Michael Taylor said...

Nick>>As Hymenaeus noted, for you to be calling Baptism “magic” is astonishing for someone who desires to follow Scripture’s testimony.<<

Why? Think of what "magic" or "magick"is and then compare it to the definition of baptism you espouse above (in my previous post):

Is there a material component needed? Check. (Water in this case.)
Is there an incantation needed? Check. (The Trinitarian formula in this case.)
Is a properly focused will and/or intention required? Check. (The intention to baptize.)
Is a substantial/ontological change effected by the ritual? Check. (Regeneration in this case).

If it looks like magic, walks like magic, sounds like magic.....

>> If Baptism really is just ‘getting wet’, then not only did the Bible extol it too highly, but also it means something else is what inducts a person into the covenant.<<

Physically speaking it is just getting wet. (I don't know what else to say on this. When you go under water, you tend to get wet.) But of course it is the **significance** of Baptism that excludes your reductionist objection. Baptism is in fact *more* than getting wet because of the reality it signifies, namely, having been identified, or to use Scriptural language, "clothed with," Christ. And yes, there is something else that inducts a person into the covenant--namely faith. Baptism is the sacrament or ordinance that signifies this faith.

To put it quite simply: Are we to believe that baptism makes one a Christian? Or are we to believe that only a Christian ought to be baptized?

>>And if that something else is Faith, then (again) you cannot say infants are capable of entering (at least under normal circumstances) the New Covenant.<<

There is a difference between being incorporated into the covenant itself and being considered part of the covenant community. The children of believers are to be considered part of the covenant community (the visible church) without being considered incorporated into the New Covenant itself, since this requires conversion. In other words, there is no such thing as a Christian who is an unbeliever. But one could be a circumcised Jew and be an unbeliever.

My suspicion is that you and Hym are Christianizing the OT passages on circumcision in light of your baptismal theology while simultaneously judiazing the NT passages on baptism in order to identify them with baptism. But you cannot *identify* baptism and circumcision. They are not the same. And it is the essential differences between them that have to be fleshed out so that we can clearly see in what ways baptism/circumcision overlap and in what ways they do not.

>>The reality is, Luther, Calvin, and the major Lutheran and Calvinist Confessions clearly say that Titus 3:5 (“Washing of regeneration”) refers to Baptism. <<

So? I'd put the same question to them as I would to any Roman Catholic. Where exactly does the text say this refers to baptism? Show me the exegesis, not the tradition.

Michael Taylor said...

Nick>>(3) As Hymenaeus noted, it’s wrong to say that Baptism is the Christian “equivalent” to circumcision, especially if you’re going to go onto say “circumcision didn’t cause you be in the covenant” but merely affirmed you were already a member.<<

I'm glad that you deny that baptism and circumcision are identical. Equally important is not to argue as if they were equivalent by drawing the parallels too tightly, which, I am afraid, you have already done by insisting upon this notion of ritual induction into the covenant.

>>This OT understanding ties Mosaic Covenant membership/promises to biology, which is precisely what Catholics are saying does not happen when it comes to Salvation.<<

Ummm. I'm not so sure about this.

1. Does not Rome insist that being "born again" is equivalent to baptism on the basis of passages such as John 3:5? (In other words, one is born again in baptism.)
2. If that is the case (and I think it is), then we can ask who are the natural recipients of baptism? In the vast majority of cases is it not the biological children of already-baptized Roman Catholics? (Yes, by golly, I think Rome mostly baptizes her own biological children.)
3. It therefore seems that salvation is closely connected to biological birth. One is physically born into a family and then spiritually reborn into the Church ® by means of baptism, hence the term, "Cradle Catholic."

So, in this sense, baptism functions as an equivalent to circumcision, even if baptism is not in every way equivalent to circumcision.

In any event, the smoking gun here is baptismal regeneration. I'm with you. If it does regenerate and if it was instituted by Christ for the purpose of regenerating as many souls as possible, then I'd try to get as many babies baptized as possible. Heck, why not take spray bottle to the nearest NICU and mist as many babies as possible in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit? Such would be a mercy.

But Rome does not approve of such actions except in life or death circumstances. (The NiCU might be such a place, however). I was taught never to baptize anyone (in non life/death circumstances) unless there was a "founded hope" that the baby would be raised Roman Catholic.

But that makes no sense whatsoever:

1. We simply do not know when someone will die.
2. Prudence therefore would seem to require that we baptize as soon as possible.
3. The best time to baptize, therefore, is immediately at birth

In fact, the more I think about it, I'd say we should also communicate the little ones ASAP. After all, communion is equally (if not more so) the sign of the New Covenant. And if the Eucharist is salvific, then why would we withhold communion from even infants? It wouldn't be all that difficult to consecrate the elements and then reconstitute them in a formula suitable for infants. The technology is there and certainly the theological imperative is there, if we are going to be consistent. But whoever said the paedobaptist community is consistent in this regard? (My point, of course, is that the arguments for infant baptism apply equally for infant communion, do they not?)

Michael Taylor said...

Nick>>(4) A child who dies in infancy and (perhaps) is miraculously regenerated by God would, at most, be an exception to the rule. It wouldn’t be the norm. The norm would not be for God to regenerate that way, and if it was, then your talk of “honorary membership” falls flat, because if you are going to presume regeneration of infants of believers, then this necessarily demands you presume they’re saved and fully in the New Covenant.<<

You're not reading me very closely, are you?

1. I do not presume that children of believers are automatically regenerate. But I believe scripture gives us warrant for hoping (not wishful thinking, but expecting) that they will be.
2. I would press that thinking even further in the case of death. In other words, my hope (expectation) is that God would regenerate my children if, God forbid, they died in infancy. My confidence would be in His goodness. Your confidence would be in man's ability to get the child baptized on time.
3. A word on the "honorary member" thing: If we (believing Christians) are to regard our children as "holy" (and we are, as 1 Cor. 7:14 says), then the presumption that God would regenerate them is also warranted. But that is not the same as saying that God necessarily will regenerate them. Please see the distinction. In other words, we believe that the same promises God made to us when we became believers are also for our children (cf, Acts 2:39). That does not mean that in each and every case this promise will obtain, for it is quite conceivable that believers could beget reprobate children. But by and large we would consider this the exception, not the rule. In other words, we believe that God has most likely predestined our children to salvation as well, which is why we baptists (who are also Reformed) seldom worry about the final salvation of our children. We believe that if God has purposed to save them, then nothing on earth or under the earth, "neither heights nor depths" can stand in the way of the Triune God. If He wants to save them (and we think he probably does), then He will. And that gives us great comfort.


Compare that to the audible sighs of relief one can here when paedobaptists (of all denominations, including Rome), finish baptizing their kids. The though process where I live seems to be as follows:

1. Whew. They're now in the state of grace, so if they up and die, I can be sure they'll be in heaven.
2. Whew. I've done my part. Now I can relax a bit.
3. Whew. My ultra-pious in-laws will be off my back (at least until they're in second grade, when I'll have to jump through the hoops again for first communions).

That is decidedly not how we (credobaptists and Reformed) Christians view the matter. We take seriously our duty to raise our children in light of the Gospel. But we also believe the Gospel has the intrinsic power to bring them to salvation all on its own. In other words, we believe that God saves us, not that we avail ourselves of an offered salvation by means of sacramental grace.

Nick said...

Michael,

I don't think you can make such a big claim based simply off of 1 Cor 7:14. You're assuming too much, particularly as it pertains to your distinction between "honorary membership" versus actual membership. To me, "honorary membership" sounds like half-membership or trial-membership, rather than official standard membership.

If you want to say "holy" refers to actual, 'standard' membership, then you might have something (still needs more than an assertion), but then you run into the original issue of conception/birth making someone a 'standard' member of New Covenant (or at least visible Church, which is a further distinction also yet to be demonstrated).

And if, as you make clear, faith is what inducts one into the New Covenant, then you've made your 1 Cor 7:14 case even harder, having precluded anyone under age 10 from being Christian. So you have this ironic and unbiblical scenario where children are members of the 'visible Church' but not to be considered as saved.


(2) The issue to me isn't so much how Catholics view Baptism, it's more about about the Bible describes it. I don't see any reason to think Baptism is simply getting wet. And if it is just getting wet, then the Salvation Army type groups are right: there's no real need for it. That's why more and more Protestants aren't concerned about not being Baptized. Simply responding to them by saying 'Yeah, it's just getting wet, but Jesus told us to do it' isn't really a convincing argument.

But if baptism really does something to you, regardless of what it is, then it's not merely getting wet.

If faith is what inducts and baptism is really just getting wet, then you should honestly just be able to make an oral public profession: Hence the standard Altar call (even though there's no Altar in Protestantism), where the person accepts Jesus and walks up to the front of the congregation to get congratulated.

Michael Taylor said...

Nick>>I don't think you can make such a big claim based simply off of 1 Cor 7:14.<<

I'm not making a "big claim." I'm taking the text seriously. Here is what I see:

1. The children of believers are "holy." How did I arrive at that conclusion? Because Paul is writing to the Corinthians and he says "your [plural] children" are holy. (What else can I can conclude?)
2. The text says this without giving us a single hint that the children are holy because they have been baptized. Clearly you're reading this assumption into the text. But that's Romanism for you.

Nick>>You're assuming too much, particularly as it pertains to your distinction between "honorary membership" versus actual membership. To me, "honorary membership" sounds like half-membership or trial-membership, rather than official standard membership.<<

Then let's drop the term. What I am saying is that it is possible to consider your children "holy" without: 1. Assuming they've been baptized already (which is your unwarranted assumption), 2. Assuming they're already regenerate. How is this possible? Much depends upon the meaning of the word "holy." You're assuming it means "regenerate" or in the state of sanctifying grace. Why? "Holy" often means "set apart" or "separate," or the opposite of "profane." In context, Paul is addressing the issue of whether the unbelief of the unbelieving spouse taints the offspring of a Christian/pagan couple. He comes down on the side that it does not. This suggests that "holiness" (in this context) has to do with inclusion within the Christian community. Should believers *consider* unbelieving spouses and the children of mixed couples as *included* or *excluded* from fellowship within the church? Paul says "included," and so must we. But that doesn't mean we have to assume they're already regenerate.

My sense is that you have no categories for understanding the distinction I'm making because you're coming to this text with the idea that membership is determined by a prior ontological change (caused by sacramental grace) in the person so that you can then identify him/her as a member of the church. But the Bible does not entertain this later theological concept. Instead, much like ancient Israel, the Bible envisions a broad community (Jesus called it a dragnet) in which believers and unbelievers coexists (the good and bad fish). The Bible also entertains the strong possibility that at least some of those who are presently in the state of unbelief are in fact the elect. Enter a category you're not familiar with: the unregenerate elect. These are those who surely will come to saving faith, but who have not done so yet. The Christian church should always welcome outsiders, especially those who are likely candidates for future conversion--in this case the spouses of believers and their children. Am I making any sense here Nick?

Nick>>. I don't see any reason to think Baptism is simply getting wet. <<

Neither do I. Does anyone hold this view?

Nick said...

Michael,

The verse bases the holiness of the children on the fact the unbelieving spouse is made holy. The lead up words say "the unbelieving husband is made holy by his believing wife," which would mean the same definition of "holy" must be used. By your logic, this would mean the explicitly unbelieving husband becomes a member of the visible Church due to marriage/intimacy to a believing woman. That's obviously unacceptable.

Simply having a parent who is a believer does not pass on their holiness to another through biology or touch.

I do have to look into this verse more, because it might be just talking about legitimate vs illegitimate marriage/children.

I'm going to check some commentaries on this.

Michael Taylor said...

Nick>>The verse bases the holiness of the children on the fact the unbelieving spouse is made holy. The lead up words say "the unbelieving husband is made holy by his believing wife," which would mean the same definition of "holy" must be used.<<

Yes, the same definition of holy should be sued. I agree with that. But don't read this as cause/effect. Read it as an analogy. The logic is as follows. If the unbelieving spouse is made holy because of his marriage to the believing spouse, then, mutatis mutandis, so their offspring ought to be considered holy. In other words, Paul takes athe holiness of the children of the believing community "your children" (which refers to all the children of the Corinthians to whom he is writing and not jus those from mixed pagan/Christian marriages) as a given. Since they're holy, so too is the unbelieving spouse. But if the unbelieving spouse were not, then the children wouldn't be either.

>>By your logic, this would mean the explicitly unbelieving husband becomes a member of the visible Church due to marriage/intimacy to a believing woman. That's obviously unacceptable.<<

Not so. It's no more unacceptable than the idea that their unbelieving children are part of the visible Church. But in order for this to work, you have to have in place the idea that there can be unbelievers in the Church. I understand why you balk at this. Believe me, I do understand. It's because you think membership is the result of sacramental initiation. But that's not a biblical concept. That's a later theological tradition which you are reading back into the text. Remember, Paul even has a category called "false brethren." Think that through for a moment. For the most part, "brother" is a term frequently used to denote a fellow believer. But Paul is not so naive as to assume that everyone who claims to be a believer is in fact one. (Nor was Jesus: "Not all those who say 'Lord, Lord'...."). Keep in mind the dragnet. It is a metaphor for the visible church (the kingdom). But not everything in the kingdom is a good fish. Same idea with the wheat and tares. Not everything in the visible field is edible. Some are weeds. Yet we would say the "field" or the "dragnet" or the visible church is "holy" in the same way that corporate Israel was holy, even though not eery individual Israelite was personally holy.

>>Simply having a parent who is a believer does not pass on their holiness to another through biology or touch.<<

Paul isn't focusing on the transmission of holiness as if it were a "substance." He's talking about holiness as a status. Think of it as the opposite of "profane" in this context. It is the corporate body of Christians (the Corinthians in this case) who are considered holy. But Paul fully understands that many within the believing community aren't really believers--at least not yet. That's the point of the warnings in 1 Corinthians 10. The truly elect within the community will heed those warnings. But the reprobate will not. Paul uses the example of Israel to make exactly that point. "Not all Israel is truly Israel." In other words, being an Israelite made you holy be virtue of the covenant. But that's not the same as personal righteousness and belief.

>>I do have to look into this verse more, because it might be just talking about legitimate vs illegitimate marriage/children.<<

That's a dead end. But go ahead an check it out for yourself.

>>I'm going to check some commentaries on this.<<

Great idea. So I take I take it that, once again, the "infallible interpreter" is of no use to you here. Shame. But then again, that's Romanism for you.

Nick said...

Michael,

It's outrageous to argue that a professing *unbeliever* can truly enter the Church in any sense. It makes a complete mockery of baptism if one adult enters the church by faith and baptism while an unbeliever enters the church by 'default' since their spouse is a believer.

The context of 1 Cor 7:14 is that of mixed marriages, particularly on whether the Christian should remain in the marriage. This would suggest that the Christian party was concerned as to whether continuing in the marriage was a morally licit thing to do. Paul says that divorce in this case is possible but not preferred. This is why I was wondering if Paul is simply saying the mixed marriage is 'kosher' in the sight of God, meaning the Christian isn't fornicating and the children are not bastards.

The only other option I see is that of being in proximity of a Christian is a blessing, because the Christian can both prevent you from sinning and teach you the Gospel.

Michael Taylor said...

Nick opines>>It's outrageous to argue that a professing *unbeliever* can truly enter the Church in any sense.<<

LOL. Excuse me, but this is rich coming from a defender of "the Church ®" that baptizes more unbelievers (though surely not "professing unbelievers") than any other in Christendom. If you really believed that, then you would have to drop your belief that baptism turns an unbeliever into a believer.

Besides, I never said "professing unbeliever." I said it is quite possible for some in the church to think they're believers when they're not. I also said it is possible that the children and spouses of believers (who may be on their way to belief, but not yet there) are to be included within the visible church. That's Paul's position in 1 Corinthians 7:14 and context. That does not mean they are "members." Membership is a tricky concept in scripture. In some ways we have to infer that it existed. There must have been some way to keep records. A pastor can't exercise pastoral authority over his flock if he can't identify his sheep by name. Yet scripture never talks about the steps one goes through to "join" a local church and become a "member." It does talk about being united to Christ as a "member" of his body. But we would call that the "invisible church" or Christ's mystical body, which is made up only of the elect (i.e., true believers). One joins that body through faith and then is baptized accordingly.

>>It makes a complete mockery of baptism if one adult enters the church by faith and baptism while an unbeliever enters the church by 'default' since their spouse is a believer.<<

As I suspected. You're stuck on the membership thing. Think of it this way: When an adult chooses to be baptized, the default assumption would have been that he/she is already a believer. So this adult would be considered in two ways: First and foremost, he/she would be considered part of the invisible body of Christ. He/she would also be considered part of the local church body (the visible church). But now suppose, after having believed and received baptism, her husband decides to "check out" his wife's new religion. So he starts attending the gatherings of believers. He does this over the course of many years--on the periphery, undecided, but still going with her. In the course of time they have children.

Now we have a bit of a mess to sort out and Paul, the pastor, is doing just that in 1 Corinthians 7. First things first. The children are already considered holy--not just their children, but all the children of the Corinthians. (That's why he says "your children" not "their children.") Given the status oft he children, what do we make of the unbelieving spouse? In our hypothetical case, the spouse is also to be considered "holy" because of his association with the believing wife. If this were not the case, then their offspring would have to be regarded as "profane" as well. But since it's already given that the offering of all the Corinthians are "holy" (set apart, not profane and therefore **welcome** in the church), then, mutatis mutandis, so ought the unbelieving spouses be regarded.

Michael Taylor said...

Nick surmised>>The context of 1 Cor 7:14 is that of mixed marriages, particularly on whether the Christian should remain in the marriage.<<

That's a separate issue.

>>This would suggest that the Christian party was concerned as to whether continuing in the marriage was a morally licit thing to do. Paul says that divorce in this case is possible but not preferred. This is why I was wondering if Paul is simply saying the mixed marriage is 'kosher' in the sight of God, meaning the Christian isn't fornicating and the children are not bastards.<<

Clearly you have not read the commentaries yet. Read from verse 12 through 15. Here we have the context for the famous "Pauline privilege." Divorce, in this case, only applies if the unbelieving spouse wants it. Otherwise, the default position is not only to stay married, but also to welcome the unbelieving spouse into the community, which is what Paul means by "holy" in this context. Again, try to disabuse yourself of later medieval ideas of holiness as glowing halo around someone's head and instead see it as a corporate status. In simple terms, do we treat the unbelieving spouse (and the children) "as a Gentile and a tax collector" (as Jesus might say), or do we treat them as part of the community? This seems to be the issue, which is why Paul ends with (paraphrasing here), "Cuz ya never know if you might save your spouse by sticking together."

>>The only other option I see is that of being in proximity of a Christian is a blessing, because the Christian can both prevent you from sinning and teach you the Gospel.<<

Undoubtedly this is part of Paul's strategy. But in order to facilitate this proximity, the unbelieving spouse has to be welcome in the Christian community. That doesn't make him/her a "member" but more like an associate. That's why I used the term "honorary member" because clearly those who have not made a profession of faith are not to be considered members in the complete sense of the word.

In other words, it wasn't nice and neat like it is in Romanism when you all you have to do is baptize someone, write them a certificate and log it in the books (something I used to do), and then you can consider them "in." But last I checked, Rome's churches don't turn away visitors and non-Catholic spouses who tag along to mass.

That's the sense I'm going for here. Paul is trying to figure out the status of those who have not made a profession of faith and here is what he came up with for children and unbelieving spouses: "Holy." You have no category for that. But that's Romanism for you.

Here is what we can plausibly infer: Neither the children nor the unbelieving spouses of the Corinthians had been baptized. This is because neither had made a profession of faith. So they are unbelievers--both the children and the spouses. But by keeping them close to the church, it is hoped and expected that they will become believers. And when that happens, they will get baptized. That's what the Bible leads us to expect. (Pretty much the opposite of Romanism, and sadly, much of Protestantism.)

Anonymous said...

I guess this Michael Taylor character has never really examined baptism from a historical perspective. More 16th Century relativism. Not sure why you put up with such ignorance Nick. Believer's baptism was not the exclusive and/or dominant form of baptism throughout centuries of Christendom. More relativism from the Reformers and their ilk.

Nick said...

Michael,

The Catholic Church doesn't baptize unbelievers; that's a straw man.

The text of 1 Cor 7:14 is pretty plain that the 'unbelieving spouse' refers to a straight-up pagan. It does not refer to a spouse that professes Christianity but in fact isn't really a believer. What you're saying (whether you realize it or not) is that a straight-up pagan would be considered part of the visible Church, simply in virtue of being married to a Christian spouse.

I don't see why you're making a distinction between 'included in the visible church' versus 'a member of the visible church'. They sound like the same thing to me. I do think it's awesome that you brought this up though, because by saying "Scripture never talks about the steps one goes through to 'join' a local church and become a 'member'," you've basically given me an awesome apologetics article to write on the huge problem this poses for Sola Scriptura.

I believe you're reading too much into the text by assuming this refers to a husband that starts to attend his wife's church, even though he's only there as an observer and not a professing Christian. The text more likely refers to a spouse that isn't interested in Christianity at all. And, regardless, the situation you propose wouldn't even make sense, because it would be obvious that the unbelieving husband isn't professing the faith, he isn't partaking in the Eucharist, and he never stepped up for baptism. So the idea that the Pastor doesn't realize the unbelieving husband isn't really a member is quite weak.

That Paul ends by saying 'you never know if you'll save your spouse' would plainly demand we don't see the unbelieving husband as part of the Church in any sense. Otherwise you're stuck with the absurd idea of an unsaved person being positively regarded as a Church member, when the pastor and wife know full well he is not yet saved. Making distinctions between 'member' and 'associate' are distinctions you're making that simply aren't taught (by anyone I know of) and don't make sense because the matter is binary: either you're in the church or you're not. You're not partly in the Church.

guy fawkes said...

"Looks like magic, walks like magic..." Michael should read Chesterton on this. He says Catholics have beads, monks, incenses, rituals, chanting, etc. So do pagans so we can conclude they are the same, right?
WRONG! Think of two men both wearing a 3 foot piece of rope. One man is wearing the rope wrapped around his waist to hold his trousers up. The other man is wearing the rope wrapped around his neck to hold himself up.
Magic is for pantheists. Catholics are theists. Sacraments aren't magic. To say they are reveals an ignorance of both the Sacraments and magic.

guy fawkes said...

Calvinism says their is one will in the universe. This is akin to pantheism/emanationism. All is of God, good and evil.
Sacraments speak of our free cooperation with that will.
For Calvinists, all is determined in an eternal decree in in the distant past. Everything after that is like characters in a book play acting out the role assigned to them long ago. Christ for the Calvinists is not central. Rather, He is just the seal put on that decree. He came to formalize and make official salvation for the elect and to secure the condemnation of the reprobate. It's all show.
Catholics, on the other hand, start with Christ, His Incarnation, cross and His establishing the Church and Sacraments. We then work backwards to the Father from there. We see a God who, as revealed in Jesus, loves all men and wants the salvation of all men. However, that divine will also decrees the salvation only of those who cooperate. This does not frustrate the divine will as it is His decision to have it this way.
Who gets grace form Baptism or the Eucharist is determined long ago for Calvinists. Baptizing babies is no more objectively efficacious than the cross. It's all a show, written long ago. Neither Baptism nor the cross actually DO anything.
The Calvinist system is somewhere between deism and pantheism. That is probably why they smell magic where there is none.

Michael Taylor said...

Hi Guy,

You said>>"Looks like magic, walks like magic..." Michael should read Chesterton on this. He says Catholics have beads, monks, incenses, rituals, chanting, etc. So do pagans so we can conclude they are the same, right?<<

That's not the argument I made, but rather the rhetorical flourish that came after this:

Is there a material component needed [for a valid baptism]? Check. (Water in this case.)
Is there an incantation needed? Check. (The Trinitarian formula in this case.)
Is a properly focused will and/or intention required? Check. (The intention to baptize.) Proof: "When an ordinary minister is absent or impeded, a catechist or another person designated for this function by the local ordinary, or in a case of necessity any person with the right intention, confers baptism licitly. Pastors of souls, especially the pastor of a parish, are to be concerned that the Christian faithful are taught the correct way to baptize" (Canon 861 §2).
Is a substantial/ontological change effected by the ritual? Check. (Regeneration in this case).

I therefore conclude as an answer to your question: RIGHT! If you can tell me the difference between what I've outlined above and magick, I'll gladly retract the statement. These are not simply accidental or superficial similarities to magick; rather they seem (at least to me, anyway) to be substantially the same thing. Here is what I mean by that:

1. Human beings initiate the baptismal rite. (I take that as a given.)
2. If the rite is performed rightly (with all its necessary components), then it will successfully accomplish its purpose. (agree/disagree)
3. In other words, a valid baptism confers grace (ex opere operato). While there must be a proper disposition in the adult, such is not the case for an infant (or those who canonically fall into that category, see Can. 852 §2). But even in the case of the adult, it is not his or her disposition hat causes grace, even if it is a necessary precondition that must be satisfied in order to be baptized. (So grace is caused by the sacrament, even if the adult lacks the proper disposition, which in any case could not be verified in a life or death emergency anyway.)
4. It follows therefore that if human beings follow all the essential steps of the baptismal ritual thereby performing a valid baptism, then God will be moved to bestow grace throughout he sacrament.

Now, as far as I can tell, you might quibble with my phrasings, but you can't really deny the substance of this argument or its logic. If that's the case, then how exactly does 1-4 above differ with magick?

Quick working definition of magick:

1. By means of rituals one brings about a desired outcome by invoking the deity.
2. There is usually a material component needed as well as a spoken formula.
3. Merely going through the motions is not enough: a properly focused will (and right intention) are needed.
4. The result is that the deity gives a favorable response to the ritual.

It seems to me that baptism, as it developed through the medieval period, can be easily fit into 1-4 immediately above. In other words, I'm trying to see the essential difference between Roman baptism and magic, and I'm not seeing it. In either schema, properly performed rituals channel grace to the recipient. In other words, we cause God to act, human will moves the divine will. Just like magic.


Michael Taylor said...

Guy,

You also said>>Calvinism says their is one will in the universe.<<

No. We say there is one divine will in the universe and many creaturely wills. If you're not aware of that fact, don't expect anyone to take your pontifications on Calvinism seriously.

>>This is akin to pantheism/emanationism. All is of God, good and evil.<<

If there is only one will, you'd be right. But your major premise, having been denied, doesn't permit this conclusion here to stick to Calvinism.

>>Sacraments speak of our free cooperation with that will.<<

How about in the case of an infant or dying person who is presumably unconscious. When push comes to shove, their "cooperation" isn't necessary for the sacrament to work.

>>For Calvinists, all is determined in an eternal decree in in the distant past.<<

Not just for Calvinists: All Augustinians hold this view, including Thomists, most of whom are Roman Catholics, last time I checked. And it's good that we do because this is the Biblical world view. God foreordains all things because, according to his Wisdom, he has created all things (the universe, which includes time), and therefore the order of being is logically prior to the order of knowing. God therefore first creates and then knows his creation, including all the free acts of his creatures that will take place in time. The decree to create, therefore, is what determines his knowledge. God does not simply look down the corridors of time to see what will happen, like some kind of seer; rather God already knows what will happen because that is the universe he decreed to make.

Now that may sound deterministic/fatalistic to you, but that would be because of a deficient understanding on your part of creaturely free will, which clearly isn't something you've reckoned with, or else you would not have misrepresented Calvinism so badly above, right? So here is the question we ask ourselves and you should ask yourself: Is it possible for God to have foreordained all things whiles simultaneously taking into account the free choices of men and angels (i.e., creatures with memory, intellect and will)? In other words, can God foreordain all things in a way that is **compatible** with our choices? We says yes, and so does the Bible:

Proof:

Jacob's brothers freely and of their own accord sold him into slavery. (Agree/disagree)
At the same time, what they meant for evil, God meant for good (Genesis 50:20). (Agree/disagree)
Therefore, it is possible that the same human act (freely done by human agency) can be providentially ordained to fulfill God's purposes.
Therefore there can be an essential compatibility between creaturely freedom and divine will. Aquinas makes this same distinction in the Summa when he distinguishes between the kinds of necessity God imposes: there is an absolute necessity and a conditional necessity. (Read about it here: ST I, Q. 23, Art 3, r.3)

In other words, providence is true and so is human agency, which is why your book analogy fails, precisely because characters in a book don't write their own lines or plots, but those with creaturely freedom (human beings and angels) do.

Michael Taylor said...

Nick>>The Catholic Church doesn't baptize unbelievers; that's a straw man.<<

If you want me to take you seriously, Nick, then level with us. You baptize infants, right? So unless you're claiming an infant is already a believer prior to baptism, then I don't see how you can make this statement. Here's another example: If you're the good Samaritan walking down the road and you come to some body lying there unconscious, clearly not far from death, here is what you would do: 1. Call 911. 2. Use your water bottle or your spit if you didn't have any water. 3. Trace the cross on his forehead, and say, 'I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit." You'd do it "conditionally" because you would not know: a. If he had already been baptized. b. If his disposition were worthy of baptism. But you would do it anyway. You would baptize a probable unbeliever on the off chance that it might save him, wouldn't you?

>>The text of 1 Cor 7:14 is pretty plain that the 'unbelieving spouse' refers to a straight-up pagan. It does not refer to a spouse that professes Christianity but in fact isn't really a believer.<<

The text says "unbeliever," Nick. We don't know how "straight up" his/her paganism may be or how much he/she may be inclined toward Christianity. Whatever degree of unbelief may be in question, it matters not for the person clearly isn't saved (at least not yet).

>>What you're saying (whether you realize it or not) is that a straight-up pagan would be considered part of the visible Church, simply in virtue of being married to a Christian spouse.<<

That depends upon what you mean by "part of the visible Church." I would not say the person is a formal member. If he/she is attending with the believing spouse, then they are included in the Church. But that's not a problem for me, because here I'm not talking about union with Christ (the mystical body of the Church) but rather the building. In other words, they're welcome in the building and in the gathering of those who call themselves Christian. (Whether they truly are or not is another issue.)

>>I don't see why you're making a distinction between 'included in the visible church' versus 'a member of the visible church'. They sound like the same thing to me.<<

Not to me. Can't you see the difference between someone who makes a public profession of faith and then being baptized and perhaps even signing papers and someone who simply goes to church with his/her believing spouse? I can.

Michael Taylor said...

Nick>> I do think it's awesome that you brought this up though, because by saying "Scripture never talks about the steps one goes through to 'join' a local church and become a 'member'," you've basically given me an awesome apologetics article to write on the huge problem this poses for Sola Scriptura. <<

Why would this be a problem for sola scriptura? We've never said scripture is exhaustive. We say it's sufficient. So unless you're distorting what we mean by sola scriptura (as I'm afraid you're about to do), how would this be a problem? Moreover, if scripture doesn't give us a direct answer to this question, how do you know Rome gets to fill in the blanks of us? You see, Nick, you've never given a straight answer as to why you're a Roman Catholic and what justifies your confidence in the "infallible interpreter." All I've ever gotten from you and people like you are the same two or three Bible verses along with a rather one-sided reading of church history to get you to that so-called "spiral" argument for the infallible church, which has been shown to be fallacious over and over again. In short, you're betting on your own ability to have read these proof texts and sources of history correctly. But what if you're wrong? (Here you can't appeal the infallible interpreter yet, because, at this point in the spiral argument, you don't have one.)

Anonymous said...

Calvinistic determinism the same as certain Roman Catholics? What a joke and evidence of complete ignorance of these issues. Just make things up out of thin air and re-write history. It's what Protestantism has tried to do since it was created out of thin air.

guy fawkes said...

Michael Taylor,
If you expect to be taken seriously,drop the "magic" silliness. Magic is pagan and paganism is pantheistic. Do you deny Catholics to be theists.
I stand by my "one will" statement. Man's will in your system is just a meaningless word.

As for Jacob's brothers, God put it in their hearts to sell him ( agree/disagree)Did God look down the corridors of time and passively learn that Joesph's brothers were scoundrels?
For me, this passage is not a problem. You have the explaining to do. I can simply say I don't know how it all works but the Bible and Church teach both free will and divine foreknowledge. God lives outside of time.

As for Aquinas/Augustine, let me come at it from this angle. Today is First Friday. Last Friday was the Feast of the Sacred Heart. A few centuries back, when a Calvinist reading of Augustine was infecting France, the Church's response was devotion to the Sacred Heart and frequent Communion. This devotion says Christ loves all men just as the Bible says and calls all men, again just as the Bible says. No laborious sifting through Augustine's writings, not for the common man anyway. Now, the Heart of Jesus reveals the Father. The starting point for us is the human Heart of Jesus calling all men, standing and knocking. What's yours?
Yours is an eternal decree that says God elects some and then to nail down and make official that decree to elect/reprobate, sends Jesus to die for those elect and make official both the salvation of that same elect and the "just" condemnation of the reprobate for refusing to repent ( although they were never offered the grace to repent). Like I said, it's like reading a book. The characters have no real existence or free will. Again, there is one REAL will in the universe for you, that of the book's author.
As for magick,you forgot point #5.
You forgot to mention that a theistic God designed it this way.

guy fawkes said...

Michael Taylor,

Let me clarify. Jesus set up the Sacramental system. The "magical incantation" of THIS IS MY BODY, THIS IS MY BLOOD" used by the Catholic priest was given by Christ. No abracadabra here Michael. The material element was determined by Christ too. Magick requires a sort of similarity between the material and the person affected. Wheat bread and flesh are similar only by God's decree.

Your #3 point, "Merely going through the motions is not enough: a properly focused will (and right intention) are needed."

Well, the priest does have to intend to "do what the Church does". Not so for magick. Whether you believe in voodoo or not, when the pins go in the doll, you say ouch. It is all mechanical. Stepping on a crack breaks your mother's back even if done by accident.

Michael Taylor said...

Hi Guy,

>>If you expect to be taken seriously,drop the "magic" silliness.<<

As soon as you demonstrate the essential difference between the way a sacrament works and the definition of magick I gave you, I'll gladly do so.

>>Magic is pagan and paganism is pantheistic.<<

Yes. But magic is often practiced within theistic world views as well. Ever heard of Simon Magus?

>>Do you deny Catholics to be theists.<<

No. So instead of answering the charges, you dismiss them as "silliness." (I find that that's what Rome's apologists tend to do when they have no answer).

>>I stand by my "one will" statement.<<

Then you're standing upon a collapsing bridge of your own making. If you can cite any credible Reformed sources that say there is only "one will" in the universe, I'll recant my statement. But if you dare to actually read them (which clearly you have not), then you'll see the distinction between the divine will and creaturely will all over the place.

>>Man's will in your system is just a meaningless word.<<

Explain how. Or am I simply to take this as a given because you say so?

>>As for Jacob's [Joseph's] brothers, God put it in their hearts to sell him ( agree/disagree)<<

Disagree. Why? "They saw him from afar, and before he came near to them they conspired against him to kill him." (Genesis 37:18). Doesn't sound like God caused them to conspire against Joseph, does it? And what about this? "Then Judah said to his brothers, 'What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? 27 Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.'” (Genesis 37:26-27). Looks like Judah found a conscience, but in all this, it appears that creaturely freedom is at work.

The question you have to answer is this: Could God have super-intended all of this for a higher, good, purpose? My answer: Yes (Genesis 50:20). That means human freedom and divine sovereignty are compatible. This is not puppetry. Your objection is based on a manifestly false dichotomy: Either we are just as free as God is or we're not free at all--either we're completely autonomous or we're puppets on a string. I hope you can see how wrong your thinking is in this regard and repent of it. I would hope that you would see creaturely freedom on a spectrum. We are not 100% free. Many variables conspire to limit our freedom. But that doesn't means we're 0% free either. So it isn't all or nothing. Stop perpetuating this fallacy and then attributing it to Calvinism.

>>Did God look down the corridors of time and passively learn that Joesph's brothers were scoundrels?<<

No, because that is not how God knows his creation.

>>For me, this passage is not a problem.<<

Simply saying it's not a problem is not enough. You have to give an account as to how the two truths go together. How is it possible that Joseph's brothers were free and yet "under the influence" (so to speak) of providence at the same time?

>>You have the explaining to do.<<

I've done so.

>>I can simply say I don't know how it all works<<<

Fair enough. There is definitely a mystery here. But if one attempts an answer that ends up denying creaturely freedom (or calumniously attributing such views to those who don't hold them), then one is copping out, no?


>>but the Bible and Church teach both free will and divine foreknowledge.<<

Agreed. Now perhaps you'll retract your earlier statements in which you wrongly claim that the Reformed do not hold this.

>>God lives outside of time.<<

Of course.

Michael Taylor said...

Guy,

You also mentioned: >>As for Aquinas/Augustine, let me come at it from this angle. Today is First Friday. Last Friday was the Feast of the Sacred Heart. A few centuries back, when a Calvinist reading of Augustine was infecting [no loaded language there!] France, the Church's response was devotion to the Sacred Heart and frequent Communion.<<

Apparently the Bible and what it says was no help there, eh?

>>This devotion says Christ loves all men just as the Bible says and calls all men, again just as the Bible says. <<

Does the Bible really says this in the sense you mean it? Does "all men" refer to all without exception? Or does it refer to all without distinction? You see, Guy, words actually have meanings, which are determined by their native contexts, not later, maudlin devotions, such as that to the Sacred Heart.

Your unproven assumption here is that the word "love" has one and only one meaning and that it applies equally to all. In other words, it's an egalitarian love that spreads like peanut butter over the entire human race. Worse still, is you think this is a faithful reading of the catholic tradition. You're wrong about this. Have you ever read Aquinas? Are you familiar with his doctrine of "predilection" which he inherited from Augustine? Let me point you to a text in the Summa that will disabuse you of your ignorance on this point: ST I, Q. 20, Art 3. (I trust you can look this up online for yourself.)

As to the question of whether God loves all things equally, I'd call your attention to the sed contra, where Aquinas cites Augustine as follows: "On the other hand: Augustine says (Tract. 110 in Joan): "God loves all that he has made. He loves rational creatures more; members of his only begotten still more; his only begotten much more." In fact, there is much more that can said in this regard, that I can't go into here. But in a nutshell, Aquinas believes that divine "love is the cause of the goodness in things, and hence on thing would not be better than another, if God did not love one thing more than another." Here is where we see clearly Aquinas' doctrine of predilection. Simply put, God does not will the same end for all people in an absolute sense. So, following St. John Damascene, Aquinas distinguishes between God's simple will and consequent will. Salvation is not something God wills simply for all men and because final salvation is the highest good for any fallen creature, God cannot be said to love all men equally.

This is not a new view for me. I held when I was still a Roman Catholic. What I discovered in seminary was that there really is a strong anti-Augustinian strain [loaded word] that been competing with the Augustinian tradition for quite some time. But this inter-Catholic competition, as it were, really was bought to forefront because of similar issues taking place within 16th century Protestantism. The Arminian/Reformed debated isn't all that different from the Jesuit/Dominican (Molinist/Thomist) debate within Romanism. So to characterize all of this as a Catholic-vs-Calvinist issue is at best misleading.

continued

Michael Taylor said...

Guy said>>No laborious sifting through Augustine's writings, not for the common man anyway. Now, the Heart of Jesus reveals the Father. The starting point for us is the human Heart of Jesus calling all men, standing and knocking. What's yours?<<

The Gospel! It is the power of God unto salvation, is it not? So the preaching of the Gospel is directed toward all men (without distinction and without exception). The Reformed tradition calls this the "promiscuous" preaching of the Gospel to all creatures, much like Jesus' sower who spreads his seed over a wide area, albeit with different results. In other words, we do not know who the elect are and so we go to the ends of the earth in search of them. Wherever we find human beings we preach them the Gospel trusting that the word contained therein is what God uses to convert human hearts.

>>Yours is an eternal decree that says God elects some…<<

Yes. But this "some" is more than any of us can count and they come from every race, nation, tribe and tongue, just as Revelation 5:9 says: "for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation." In fact, the ESV's choice of "from" is a poor one here. The Greek word is "Ek" and it means "out of." Therefore Jesus has ransomed or redeemed people "out of" every tribe, language and people and nation." He has not ransomed every single individual "within" those tribes, etc. That's what "elect" means. In Greek, the word for "elect" has all the connotations of the English word "select." When you select, you choose some from many. That's exactly what God did in eternity past for reasons known but to God alone.

continued...

Michael Taylor said...

Guy said>>….and then to nail down and make official that decree to elect/reprobate, sends Jesus to die for those elect and make official both the salvation of that same elect and the "just" condemnation of the reprobate for refusing to repent ( although they were never offered the grace to repent).<<

Wow, this is bad. First, God justly and condignly condemns anyone for their sin and not just the refusal to repent and believe. (Lutherans would agree with the part about "refusing to believe" as the basis for condemnation, but not Calvinists.) In other words, one is condemned because one is a sinner. God is always "justified" when he condemns, so Psalm 51, right? So no need to put "just" in quotes there, Guy.

Second, God is under no obligation to offer anyone grace, much less everyone. If he were, then grace would not be grace. Justice cannot demand mercy, which is at the very heart of your objection here. But in point of fact God **does** command all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30). So it is not as if people "never Got the chance," or "didn't know better." Those are all the excuses of Paul's objecting interlocutor in Romans 9:19. But Paul's answer is not to entertain the objection, but rather to go after the objector and confront him on his disingenuousness, for in point of fact, the objector never truly desired union with God in the first place! This is the burden of Romans 1-3. Sinful man isn't longing for God--he's in a state of rebellion against his maker. God owes them nothing. But, mercifully, he turns some (but not all) of his enemies into his friends by a sovereign work of grace. So here are the facts. Anyone who seeks God and repents and comes to Jesus will in no way, shape or form be turned away. God always welcomes back the repentant sinner. But repentance is first and foremost a mercy that God grants to his elect. No one who is still in the flesh can please God (Romans 8:7-8), and repentance is an act which is pleasing to God. So, to borrow Ezekiel's language, dry bones don't knit themselves back together and hearts of stone don't turn themselves into flesh. God has to do this. But scripture gives us no indication that God does this for everyone.

>>Like I said, it's like reading a book. The characters have no real existence or free will. Again, there is one REAL will in the universe for you, that of the book's author.<<

Stop joking, Guy, and make a real argument.

Michael Taylor said...

Guy,

Almost missed this. You said>>As for magick,you forgot point #5. You forgot to mention that a theistic God designed it this way.
Let me clarify. Jesus set up the Sacramental system.<<

A theistic God set up the world in such a way that we can cause him to bestow saving grace by means of a ritual, the essential components of which, are indistinguishable from magic? That's your claim? Seriously?

So you would have us believe that God abdicates his sovereignty, turns over control to "the Church ®" and then agrees to save people whenever the church does the baptism ritual. Amazing.

Guy>>The "magical incantation" of THIS IS MY BODY, THIS IS MY BLOOD" used by the Catholic priest was given by Christ. No abracadabra here Michael.<<

I agree that, rightly understood, the words imply no magic. But you do, because you think they're words of "consecration," by which the substance of bread is turned into the substance of Christ's body, while the accidents miraculously adhere, even though the substance to which they were originally bound no longer exists. Fascinating.

>>The material element was determined by Christ too. Magick requires a sort of similarity between the material and the person affected. Wheat bread and flesh are similar only by God's decree.<<

So here you are all but admitting it's magic--God ordained magic--but magic nonetheless.

But I'd say it's symbol. Bread is a powerful metaphor for the body, as is wine for blood, as is eating and drinking for coming to Christ and believing in him. No magic in my view.

>>Your #3 point, "Merely going through the motions is not enough: a properly focused will (and right intention) are needed."<<

I also cited Canon Law for your to support that point and the fact that "anyone" with the right intention can baptize. So if an atheist baptized you the sacrament would still work, so long as his intention were correct. (Magic).

>>Well, the priest does have to intend to "do what the Church does". Not so for magick. Whether you believe in voodoo or not, when the pins go in the doll, you say ouch.<<

Bad argument. I don't believe in transubstantiation. But if I were to partake of your communion, you'd say I was still receiving the real deal, would you not? In other words, my disbelief doesn't change the reality.

guy fawkes said...

Michael,
I do indeed believe that God, the Creator of the material and spiritual, opted to use matter to convey His grace. He used the flesh of His Son.
As we are men and not angels, all knowledge in our spiritual mind enters by way of the material world.
Further, until we have the Beatific Vision, all grace comes to us the same way.
Had Adam not sinned, grace would have been transmitted generation to generation by the conjugal act. That is pretty carnal, huh
The rebellious angels first objected to the idea of God choosing to assume a human nature with its material body over an angelic nature. This rebellion was later echoed by Judas and the others who opted to walk away when Jesus said," Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man...".

Does this threaten the sovereignty of God? Is He bound to jump when man snaps his fingers?
You tell me, is God bound to create a human soul every time sperm meets egg? Even in rape? Is God bound to cooperate with sin?
The answer is that God does not cooperate with sin but with the nature He created. He has bound Himself. Man does not bind Him.

As for the atheist who Baptizes, Christ is the Minister of Baptism as we see in John's Gospel. Even when He doesn't get His hands wet, He Baptizes through the Apostles. ( Jn 3:23 Jn 4:2 )

I do indeed believe you would receive Christ if you received Communion whether you believed or not. But the Sacraments also work ex opere operantis. Magick doesn't.

guy fawkes said...

Michael,
Of course God does not love all equally. He loves Mary more than all the rest of creation combined.

Yes, Shakespeare loved all his characters. He loved Iago and Shylock. He made them villains and damned them. He loved them in a way. But he didn't love those villains,just as he didn't love good Portia and Romeo and Juliette, as he loved his wife. They weren't real.

Still, love means love. To send someone to hell for the sins they MUST commit is not even the lowest degree of love. Like you say, "words have meaning". Calvinism renders the word not only meaningless but actually the contrary to the meaning.

As for turning to maudlin devotions rather than scripture, it is you fellows who can't appeal to scripture for support. The scripture says Christ stands at the door and knocks. The same book of Revelation shows Christ waiting, almost wringing His hands, pacing to and fro wanting sinners to repent. Poor Fellow, He needs a Calvinist to tap Him on the shoulder and say, " Lord, they aren't going to repent until you make them do so with irresistible grace".

Yes< God is free to send everyone to hell. But that would violate His nature. Besides, that Bible you claim as your domain says He locked up ALL men in sin so He could have mercy on them all ( Not some. Words do indeed have meaning ).

As for God being a sovereign, yes He is. But sovereign and puppet master are not synonymous. Sovereigns don't determine everything a subject does. He gives his subjects freedom to act and then deals with them accordingly.

As for the cross being a mere formality,well isn't it? C'mon, since you are elect, you were saved before Calvary.
Worse, as you guys basically say the cross applies itself to all the elect, none of the elect post Calvary were ever really lost for one minute. They were saved before they were born.
As for the 'maudlin devotion", it sure a lot nicer than "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" isn't it?

guy fawkes said...

Michael,
Let me narrow it down. How can a sovereign God be forced to create ex nihilo a human soul every time sperm meets egg? Is the sovereign Lord of the universe dependent on the sexual whim of man and woman? And again, how is it rape sometimes leads to conception? Surely, a God who is not bound by an "incantation" is not bound by a rapist's violent lust.
Is the Sovereign and Dread Lord of the Universe crouched in the corner and waiting to be beckoned forth like a hound, hoping Johnny likes Sally and wants to make whoopee?
Of course, God could put desire for Sally in Johnny's heart. Did He put desire for Bathsheba in David's heart, eye or loins? How is it she conceived unless God had a hand in it? Think about that one. God creates the baby's soul in the matter of the two adulterers and then demands his life as punishment for David's sin. A strange thing for a sovereign to do, wouldn't you say.?
Magicians like Jannes and Jambres and the Witch of Endor were not doing what Christ had told them to do. They were not "alter Christus". They were acting on their own.
" THIS IS MY BODY" was uttered by Christ and then the 12 were sent forth to "DO THIS IN MEMORY OF ME".
Is it kind of getting clear why the Sacraments aren't magick?

guy fawkes said...

Michael, Only because we are debating birth control and the use of Mageia and Pharmakeia, on another blog am I reminded of this.
As Protestant, you are in a denomination that permits MAGICK. Mageia and pharmekeia included contraceptives and abortifeicients according to the Fathers.

Tell me again how we Catholics are the ones into magic?

guy fawkes said...

Michael Taylor,
Just a word on that "maudlin devotion to the Scared Heart. Do you believe in the Incarnation? Do you believe that Christ's human will was not swallowed up into His divine will? Do you believe that God loves us with a human heart?
When that Heart was opened on Calvary, out poured blood and water, Baptism and the Eucharist.
The Holy Spirit came forth to man.
Man is a composite of spiritual soul and matter. God made us this way. We are not spirits imprisoned in matter due to some sin committed in a pre-existent life. The fact that we stand with a foot in the angelic world and a foot in the animal is by design.
We go to God through the flesh. We must draw near to Christ's humanity to partake of His divinty. The Sacraments are extensions of the Incarnation.
Their are plenty of New Age sites on the net. Check them out. Magic works in a monistic, pantheistic system. Again, magic and Sacraments are like Chesterton's two men wearing pieces of rope.

Michael Taylor said...

Hi Guy,

You said>>I do indeed believe that God, the Creator of the material and spiritual, opted to use matter to convey His grace. He used the flesh of His Son.<<

I believe in the incarnation too. But long before the word became flesh, God was already giving grace to his people. Perhaps the problem here concerns the word "grace." What exactly does it mean for you? It sounds like it is a "substance" of some kind that needs matter in order for beings of flesh and blood to receive it. Here, I think, you have fallen prey to some very late understandings of "reified" grace. I'd encourage you, however, to think Biblically. Grace is divine favor--but favor that is effective. So, in a sense, I agree with you that grace is powerful and that it is mediated through the created world as God sees fit, e.g., He can even speak to us through donkeys if he is so inclined. But my suspicion is that you're still seeing grace as a "thing" that is practically measurable.

>>As we are men and not angels, all knowledge in our spiritual mind enters by way of the material world. Further, until we have the Beatific Vision, all grace comes to us the same way.<<

I understand you to be saying what I just said above: grace is mediated. But I would not go so far to say is that all grace is mediated through material things. This overlooks the fact that grace is also a status of divine favor rather than something infused into the soul that changes the soul.

>>Had Adam not sinned, grace would have been transmitted generation to generation by the conjugal act. That is pretty carnal, huh<<

That's the seminal theory of the transmission of original sin, which is highly problematic in my opinion. Better is to see Adam as our representative and all humanity as being "in Adam." He is therefore a corporate personality for the human race. In other words, the guilt of sin from Adam is transmitted by imputation rather than insemination.

>>The rebellious angels first objected to the idea of God choosing to assume a human nature with its material body over an angelic nature.<<

I've heard this too. But I'm drawing a blank as to the source.


>>This rebellion was later echoed by Judas and the others who opted to walk away when Jesus said," Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man…".<<

Actually they walked away after he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father" (John 6:65). This verse is the nearest antecedent for the "after this" of John 6:66. You, on the other hand, think "after this" refers to John 6:53, which contextually unlikely. So it sounds like unconditional election is what scandalized them, more than the requirement to believe in him (i.e., "eat his flesh and drink his blood.")

>>Does this threaten the sovereignty of God? Is He bound to jump when man snaps his fingers?<<

Your rhetorical question expects no as an answer, so I would say, "no." But when you baptize validly, according to your church, God is bound to regenerate the one who is baptized. You cause God to act. I don't see any way around that given Rome's definition of sacramental grace.

Now it could be objected that prayer does the same thing. Do not we, in a sense, move God to act when we pray? My answer: No. Our prayers do not cause God's answers; rather it is God who has first moved us to pray and of course there is the caveat that God only answers prayers that are according to his will. So when I pray to God, my prayer does not function ex opere operantis. It can be refused. Not so with a valid baptism. It causes regeneration. My prayer for my children to become believers, in and of itself, does not cause them to believe.

Michael Taylor said...

Hi Guy,

you said: >>You tell me, is God bound to create a human soul every time sperm meets egg? Even in rape? Is God bound to cooperate with sin?
The answer is that God does not cooperate with sin but with the nature He created. He has bound Himself. Man does not bind Him.<<

I'm trying to understand your sperm/egg analogy here. (You do realize, of course, that the vast majority of sperm fail to get into the egg even in the most fertile of men, and that it is not a biological necessity that the egg is always fertilized, much less a providential one?)

As for God "binding" himself, that's a a contradiction. That's like saying God is sovereign over his own sovereignty or that he is omnipotent over his own omnipotence. In other words, it's nonsense. Can God make a rock so heavy that not even God can lift it? I'd put your "bound himself" statement into that category of contradictions.

>>As for the atheist who Baptizes, Christ is the Minister of Baptism as we see in John's Gospel. Even when He doesn't get His hands wet, He Baptizes through the Apostles. ( Jn 3:23 Jn 4:2 )<<

You're obfuscating the original point to which we must return. It would be the "right intention" of the atheist or anyone else for that matter that is part of the validity of the sacrament, and my reason for mentioning that was simply to show you how similar your sacramental theology is to magic. That God can use anything or anyone as a means to an end, I do not deny. I am a Calvinist, after all, and we are compatibilists, meaning we see divine sovereignty and human agency working mysteriously together, and yet independently. Yet you insist on calling this puppetry (I suspect because you have no real argument against it.)

You protest, however, that I keep calling your sacramental theology "magic." But I keep telling you I'm prepared to retract that accusation as soon as you can tell me the essential differences between them. That offer is still on the table. But you keep countering with the "puppetry" charge. Lame.

>>I do indeed believe you would receive Christ if you received Communion whether you believed or not. But the Sacraments also work ex opere operantis. Magick doesn't.<<

Ah, I think that's where we differ. Magic, when all the rituals are done correctly, does work ex opere operantis, just like a sacrament. In other words, if you tried to baptize me in sand, it wouldn't work. Why? Because the matter would be wrong. Sand isn't water. If you baptized me in Jesus' name, it wouldn't work. Why? Because you need to Trinitarian formula. If you were an atheist and merely pronounced the correct words along with the water, it still wouldn't work if you had no real intention to baptize. So all three components have to be there for the baptism to be a real baptism. And if it's real, then it works. How is that unlike magic?

Michael Taylor said...

Guy said>>Of course God does not love all equally. He loves Mary more than all the rest of creation combined.<<

If that is true, then it would because he intends a higher good for her than the rest of creation combine. While nothing in scripture supports that particular application of the predilection principle to Mary, at least you accept the principle. That's very Augustinian of you. Perhaps we're not so far apart after all.

>> Still, love means love.<<

Tautology will not advance our discussion one bit.

>>To send someone to hell for the sins they MUST commit is not even the lowest degree of love.<<

You're forgetting the distinction between absolute and conditional necessity. I already directed you to the Summa for how Thomas gets around this very objection. (My goodness, I feel like I'm the one defending Catholicism against its critics now, for you are playing the part of Aquinas' objector to a tee.)

I'll assume you were too busy to read and allow me to explain the fallacy here. First, we have to speak of necessity in two ways here, but let me start by asking if you're an open theist. I assume you're not, as this would put you in the heretic category, even by Rome's standards. That said, the future is known to God infallibly (agree/disagree). This means what will happen will happen (Que serĂ¡, serĂ¡, right?). So, in a sense, all things that will happen MUST happen. That's one kind of necessity that providence does impose on all creatures because providence infallibly directs all things to their appointed ends (see ST 1, Q. 22). And yet, there is a conditional necessity too. Let me quote Thomas here: "The salvation of a predestined man is ensured by a necessity which is likewise conditional, in that it permits freedom of choice." Then there is the very next sentence to consider: "Thus even though one who is rejected by God cannot receive grace, it lies with his free will whether he falls into one sine or another, and his sin is deservedly imputed to him as guilt." (ST I, Q 23, art. 3).

Would you accuse Thomas of "puppetry?" If not, then you cannot accuse us either as we are saying substantially the same thing. Because human beings are responsible for their sins, God can hold them accountable even if it is true that they MUST commit them (from the perspective of providence). But considering their own perspective, they willingly and knowingly chose sin. The fact that God knew they would ahead of time doesn't diminish their responsibility one iota.

Michael Taylor said...

Guy said>>As for turning to maudlin devotions rather than scripture, it is you fellows who can't appeal to scripture for support. The scripture says Christ stands at the door and knocks.<<

This is one of my favorite verse, Revelation 3:20. Yet somehow you think this verse is an objection to Calvinism, which says more about your understanding of Calvinism than this verse. Let's begin with a little context:

Jesus is addressing the church in Laodicea, which means already this message is intended for believers. He says this: "Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”

Comment: It sounds to me that Jesus is speaking to "those whom I love." Right here we have particularity rather than the egalitarian peanut butter love that you advocate ("love means love"). Second, notice that the one who opens to door is the same person who was just commanded to be zealous and repent and the same person who is to conquer. In other words, Jesus is describing his elect, for only his elect will sit with him at the throne. You therefore cannot take this verse as applicable to every single human being. But what you can do is this:

You can promiscuously preach it to everyone in the church, because like the dragnet that it is, there is good and bad fish within it. In other words, we preach the gospel to all men and those whom the Father gives to the Son will respond. So read Revelation 3:22 (by John) is tandem with John 6:65 (also by John) and I think you will see that only those whom the Father gives to Jesus will be described as those who are zealous and repent, those who open when he knocks, those who conquer and those with the ears to hear.

Remember too that unless God first opens your ears, you will not have the ears to hear, and if you don't, then you won't be opening the door when he knocks, rather you'll be slamming it in his face, as do all enemies of the Gospel.

Michael Taylor said...

Guy said>>The same book of Revelation shows Christ waiting, almost wringing His hands, pacing to and fro wanting sinners to repent.<<

You have a different Jesus than I do. You see him as coming to seek and save what is lost and largely failing in his mission. I see him as losing none of those whom the Father has given him.

>> Poor Fellow, He needs a Calvinist to tap Him on the shoulder and say, " Lord, they aren't going to repent until you make them do so with irresistible grace".<<

Even here you're framing this as a caricature. We all resist grace until we are converted. And even then we still battle with sin. The I in TULIP, of course, needs explanation. Most Reformed theologians would prefer the term "effectual" or "efficacious grace" in that it is a grace that accomplishes the purpose for which it is given. Much like God's word that does not return to him void (so Isaiah 55:11), God's effectual grace actually brings about it's intended purpose. If God has purposed to save you, then when he gives you saving grace, you will be saved, and saved to the uttermost.

>>Yes, God is free to send everyone to hell. But that would violate His nature.<<

Think about the contradiction here, Guy. On the one hand God is free. Then what you give with the one hand you take away with other that such freedom violates his nature. I'll let you try to sort that out.

>>As for God being a sovereign, yes He is. But sovereign and puppet master are not synonymous. Sovereigns don't determine everything a subject does. He gives his subjects freedom to act and then deals with them accordingly.<<

Which I've been saying all along. Compatibilism. Absolute vs. contingent necessity. Augustine, Thomas and Calvin really had thought these things through, Guy, your caricatures notwithstanding.

>>As for the cross being a mere formality,well isn't it? C'mon, since you are elect, you were saved before Calvary.<<

You're thinking much too temporally here. Besides, you say this about Mary. She was redeemed "in view of the merits of Calvary" [i.e., before it happened], yet God, being outside of time, as you well know, isn't bound by what we call, the "past, present and future.")

So in one sense, I suppose the answer is yes. Everyone God purposed to save and everyone he passed over were chosen and rejected long before they were born. But to call Calvary a mere "formality" is, by logical extension, to call creation itself a mere formality. Why bring anything into being at all if God could just as easily have contemplated the fantasy of what it would like if he were to bring it into being? Presumably the answer is that God enjoys bringing his ideas to fruition and not just contemplating them. If that's the case, then I need to be actually saved in time (Calvary) and not just decreed to be saved in eternity past. God likes to follow through with his plans, not just plan.

>>As for the 'maudlin devotion", it sure a lot nicer than "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" isn't it?<<

Which is all you've ever read of Edwards, isn't it? Shame.

guy fawkes said...

Michael,
You don't understand my sperm/egg analogy to the Sacraments? Do I realize most sperm don't make it to an egg? Seriously?

Let me say it in another way. God does not create a soul without the cooperation of the sperm and egg donors. Agreed? A soul without matter to ensoul is an oxymoron. How can you call the Sacraments magic without calling the two parents magicians too? ( Again, contraception users actually do use magic in the biblical sense ).

You ask, "Why bring anything into being at all if God could just as easily...".

I counter with, " Why didn't God just create us already in heaven or hell and by pass all the unnecessary hooplah?"

guy fawkes said...

Michael,
As for your quip about how much Jonathan Edwards I have read, let me say, although it has been several years, I bet I have read more of him and the other Puritans than you have actually read of the Aquinas you like to claim as yours. ( Maybe Augustine too ).
This occurred to me a moment ago while shaving. I found myself humming Pangue Lingua.
If you like Aquinas so much, why aren't you humming it too?

Michael Taylor said...

Guy said>>Let me say it in another way. God does not create a soul without the cooperation of the sperm and egg donors. Agreed? A soul without matter to ensoul is an oxymoron.<<

You're completely obfuscating the point being made. Yes, God uses sperm and eggs to make bodies with which to ensoul. That fact, however, is besides the point which is as follows: Does a sperm/egg union obligate God to create a soul? On your analogy the only answer is yes. So just as a fertilized egg would, on your analogy, cause God to ensoul it, so too a properly performed baptismal ritual would cause God to bestow regenerating grace on the recipient. This, anyway, seems to be where you're going with the sperm/egg analogy.

I'm not sure it's a good one, however, because biological conception and spiritual rebirth are not the same thing. While both are sovereign acts of God, I do not believe that the baptismal ritual is what causes God to regenerate. Nor would I see a biological conception as forcing God to ensoul. In fact, it is entirely possible that biological conception routinely takes place apart form ensoulment. This may very well be the case within the period prior to cellular restriction. Here's where I'm going with this:

1. Imagine a zygote, that we will call "Tom." Prior to restriction, the totipotent cells of zygote Tom split into two and now we have twins. Call the next zygote "Jerry."
2. Next, Jerry splits again into another zygote (let's call him "Harry."). So now we have triplets. Now we are still within the period of restriction when the totipotent cells can become nearly anything. So here is what happens:
3. Zygote Tom absorbs back into the uterus, terminating the pregnancy of Tom.
4. Zygote Jerry and Harry recombine into a single conceptus which is carried to term and delivered as a beautiful baby boy whom the mother named, "Winston."

Question 1: Did "Tom" die?
Question 2: Who is Winston? Is he the biological combination of "Jerry and Harry?" What about Winston's soul? Is it in part made up of the souls of "Jerry" and "Harry"? Did the souls of "Jerry and Harry" die? If so, were they replaced by the soul of Winston?

You may think these are abstract questions, but they are ones that are very real because of the in-utero scenario I outlined above is in fact not all that uncommon. Many things are biologically possible within the period of restriction when the cells of a conceptus can do all kinds of things. It is therefore very difficult to posit immediate ensoulment under such conditions.

I therefore reject your assumption that conception entails ensoulment and would leave it up to God as to exactly when he ensouls the conceptus. (By the way, this is not a new position, but was rather a commonplace among medieval theologians who likewise placed ensoulment after conception.)


Michael Taylor said...

Guy>>How can you call the Sacraments magic without calling the two parents magicians too? ( Again, contraception users actually do use magic in the biblical sense ).<<

You'll have to walk me through your contraception = magic argument. You totally lost me on that one. As for parents being "magicians," I'm likewise not following. Are you saying that they cause God to ensoul? That sounds like a huge non sequitur given the fact many concepti never make it out of the womb even without man's abortive interventions.

>>You ask, "Why bring anything into being at all if God could just as easily…". I counter with, " Why didn't God just create us already in heaven or hell and by pass all the unnecessary hoopla?"<<


I believe I've answered this already and in fact your question is more of a problem for your own position. God doesn't just make plans; he also brings them to fruition.

"...for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place" (Acts 4:27-28).

Right?

Michael Taylor said...

Guy>>As for your quip about how much Jonathan Edwards I have read, let me say, although it has been several years, I bet I have read more of him and the other Puritans than you have actually read of the Aquinas you like to claim as yours.<<

If that's the case, then you would know quite plainly that "Sinner in the Hands of an Angry God" is hardly representative of Edwards corpus and therefore would not have used it as a counterpoint to devotion to the Sacred Heart.

As for your claim to have read more puritans than I've read of Thomas or Augustine, I can only say: That's impressive, because I've read quite a bit of Thomas and Augustine, including having taken a grad class on each in order to complete a masters in philosophy and, of course, they're pretty standard reading in most systematic theology classes and even in some biblical exegesis classes. Having both an M.Div and a Th.M from a Pontifical school of theology, believe me when I say I've read a lot of Thomas and Augustine.

The fact that you've read even more of the puritans (or so you claim) is all the more reason to marvel at your facile comparison between Edward's most iconic sermon and the devotion to the Sacred Heart.

>>This occurred to me a moment ago while shaving. I found myself humming Pangue Lingua.
If you like Aquinas so much, why aren't you humming it too?<<

I don't hum when I shave. It breaks my concentration.

I also don't take an all-or-nothing approach to Thomas, Augustine, Calvin, Edwards or any other author outside of scripture.

Thomas held to transubstantiation. I don't. Augustine held to baptismal regeneration. I don't. Calvin held to paedobaptism. I don't. Edwards was a cessationist. I'm not.

But then again, neither do you. For we can find something in all of these writers with which you would agree and disagree.

1. Do you agree with Thomas that Mary was not immaculately conceived? (I suspect not.)
2. Do you agree with Augustine that the vast majority of human beings were decreed reprobate in eternity past? (I suspect not)
3. Do you agree with Calvin in the doctrine of the munus triplex (that Jesus is priest, prophet and king)? ( I suspect so)

Point taken?

Anonymous said...

Michael Taylor is his own Pope, Priest and Church. The fruit of the reformation is right before our eyes folks. Truth is relative to your own interpretation of scripture and the only way you can find it is not to examine history. I doubt Taylor ever took a history class or else his intellectually created world would shatter from all of the Romanism.

guy fawkes said...

Michael,
Never had me none o' them grad classes. I was a member of a high powered Dominican parish for 16 years in Portland, Or.though. I sat through a lot of adult ed. classes given by Fr. Brian Mulladay ( professor at the Angelicum ) and other Dominicans of that ilk.
No grad classes given by Protestant laymen on Catholics saints. I admit it and defer to your superior expertise.

guy fawkes said...

Michael,

Have you ever seen the crazy interview of Bill Clinton done by sycophant Dr. Sanjay Gupta in which he gives Clinton a free pass on his use of such phrases as "an unfertilized embryo" ?
Michael, many ensouled beings never make it out of the womb. You seem to think ensoulment takes place at birth.

Yeah, you are reading me loud and clear. God has bound himself to ensoul the matter when sperm and egg meet. Why else would he let a a Hitler be conceived? Or a baby in rape?

guy fawkes said...

Michael,
watch this. Even before implantation, it's person. ( Yes, Tom died. And then either Harry or Jerry died.
)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_5OvgQW6FG4

guy fawkes said...

OOPS! I see you can't click on the link.
Okay, let me say, Jesus Christ was once a zygote. Before implantation even.

guy fawkes said...

Michael,
Let me rephrase my question.

Does God, has God ever, or even more daring, CAN God create a soul without human cooperation?

You insist that sperm and egg can meet without a soul infused. I don't care to argue it with you. Instead let me just ask if God is in the habit of creating souls and having them kicking around the universe with no matter to inform?

guy fawkes said...

Michael,
Okay, a day later. The issue is not who knows more about sperm and egg. It's about you accusation of magic. Without going into the details, My assertion remains; if Sacraments are magic, parents are magicians because God does not create a soul UNTIL parents set the process in motion.
And I will take a risk and say God cannot create a soul until the parents bid God to come forth and create out of nothing a rational soul. IOW, God has bound Himself to work with nature. He has done the same with the Sacraments He instituted. No recourse to charges of magic needed, okay?

Michael Taylor said...

Guy,

Your last post says it all. In your view, God is ultimately subject to human initiative, which in my view, contradicts his sovereignty. IOW, you believe God has "sovereignly" designed the universe so that humans/angels have sufficient autonomy that in fact limits God's own freedom. This view, sometimes knowns as "divine self-limitation," is to my way of thinking non-sensical in the same way creating square circles is or creating rocks so heavy that even God can't create them.

IOW, this sort of divine self-limitation is in fact divine self-contradiction. You would probably believe that God can be "sovereign over his own sovereignty" and I would say such is "nonsense."

My view would be this: For every soul God intends to create, Providence directs all necessary agents (including human agents) to their intended ends to bring about God's plan, thereby resulting in an embryo that God then ensouls at some point in the womb, though not necessarily at the moment of conception.

In other words, is the first cause in a chain of causality, which means human beings are secondary causes. I also believe God can do this by imposing upon human beings "contingent necessity" (to borrow Aquinas' language) thereby preserving human freedom.

Here's that quote again:

"...for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place" (Acts 4:27-28).

Did Pilate, Herod, et alia act as free agents in conspiring to put Jesus to death? (Yes! For Luke 24:7 says that Jesus was crucified "at the hands of sinful men." In order to sin, you have to be a free agent, and clearly Pilate, Herod, et alia were.)

So how do you put both truths together? On the one hand, "sinful men" crucified Jesus. On the other hand, God predestined this to happen according to a plan.

God didn't just "foresee" what would happen and then adjust his plan accordingly; rather it says God is the one who planned it to happen exactly as it did.

As an Augustinian and as one who thinks scripture speaks univocally, the only way I know how to put both truths together is to affirm God's absolute sovereignty, which entails a high view of Providence, unconditional election, and **creaturely free will** that is held subordinate to Divine autonomy, which God cannot relinquish without self-contradiction.

The view of the sacraments you have articulated seems to me force God into self-contradiction and so exalts human autonomy and rituals that we end up with a tail wagging the dog scenario. And to me, that's no different than magic: What happens here below (e.g., a properly performed baptismal ritual) determines what happens above (God regenerating a soul).

guy fawkes said...

Michael,
God's sovereignty is not in question. Catholics affirm it. However, earthly sovereigns leave some autonomy to their subjects. They don't tell their subjects who to marry or what to have for dinner.

So, you are an Augustinian. Good. Then you have no problem reconciling his belief in Purgatory, prayers to the Saints,the Papacy, the Church, relics, and of course, the sacraments, with His foreknowledge.
P.S. You can object to the implications to Sacramental theology of what I said about God creating a soul only when people have coitus if you like. But you are on the horns of a dilemma. You are wrong either about the Sacraments and God's foreknowledge or you don't know where babies come from. You decide.

guy fawkes said...

Michael,

"thereby resulting in an embryo that God then ensouls at some point in the womb, though not necessarily at the moment of conception."

I don't want to get side tracked into a tiff over delayed or immediate animation but I need to ask you something.

When did you, Michael, unique and irrepeatable being, begin to exist?
Walk back through the various stages of adult, teen,kid, toddler, baby, fetus, embryo, blastocyst, zygote or fertilized egg. You were never a sperm or an egg. At the moment you started to be, you became an ensouled person. Aristotle's theory of different souls at different stages of development doesn't work.
A soul, by definition the unifying principle of the various cells, organs, and systems of the body, in our case is spiritual/rational from the beginning. The fact the zygote can't do math or play the violin doesn't matter at this point. It's only a matter of time before he can.
Now, God can and has created purely spiritual beings, the angels. However, in order to create the unifying and animating principle of a body, He needs the matter to do so.
As for God being the first cause in the line of causality, yeah.
But still, God does not anticipate Johnny and Sally coming together by having a ready-made soul at hand awaiting to be infused into the matter. Not until Johnny and Sally do their thing does God act. Does God put desire for this particular girl at this particular time and place into Johnny's heart? You tell me. It just so happens Johnny is already married to Jane and Sally is married to Bob.

Johnny is not a magician and neither is a priest.

guy fawkes said...

Michael,
While saying the rosary after Mass with a group of old ladies minutes ago, it hit me. God did not use a man's seed penetrating an egg in in the creation of Christ's human soul.
Is my argument undone?
Not at all. The flesh of Mary supplied the matter.
As for her Fiat being needed, this did not make her a sorceress.

Michael Taylor said...

Guy said>>God's sovereignty is not in question. Catholics affirm it.<<

What is in question is your definition of "sovereignty." The way you seem to be defining it comes across as an abdicated sovereignty insofar as God ends up being the Great Reactor to all our initiatives rather than the sovereign director of the universe.

>>However, earthly sovereigns leave some autonomy to their subjects.<<

Of course. This is what I mean by creaturely freedom or autonomy. So perhaps now you'll give up on your "puppet" analogy.

>>They don't tell their subjects who to marry or what to have for dinner.<<

Been to India lately? Parents routinely arrange marriages even today, and I'm pretty sure mom still decides which way to prepare the chickpeas.

>>You can object to the implications to Sacramental theology of what I said about God creating a soul only when people have coitus if you like. But you are on the horns of a dilemma. You are wrong either about the Sacraments and God's foreknowledge or you don't know where babies come from. You decide.<<

You're confusing the issues badly. Divine foreknowledge is one issue. Sacraments, purgatory etcetera are other issues. Augustine put being before knowledge, as did Thomas and Calvin. In other words, the order of being (creation) precedes the order of knowing (God's prescience). Therefore God knows because he has first created. Is this determinism? Depending upon what one means by the "d-word," I would say yes. After all, it is God's decree to create the universe as it is (which includes the past, present and future, which in itself includes the free actions of free agents) that *determines* God's knowledge. And of course there is a perfect correspondence between what God decrees to create and what he knows (how could it be otherwise?). In this sense, I'm an Augustinian. But it does not follow that I therefore endorse everything he believed. If that were the case, then I would not be a Calvinist either, as I certainly do not believe everything Calvin did.


Michael Taylor said...

>>While saying the rosary after Mass with a group of old ladies minutes ago, it hit me. God did not use a man's seed penetrating an egg in in the creation of Christ's human soul.<<

Right. Same with Adam. He simply created a soul.

>>Is my argument undone?<<

Yes. If the argument is that God has bound himself to create a soul every time a conception takes place, then your argument is undone. But it is undone quite apart from the seeming "exceptions" of Christ and Adam. It's undone because you have no proof that conception = ensoulment. Not only does scripture not back your view, neither does tradition. As I said before, the medieval idea of "quickening" was in place long before modern conceptions (pun intended) that the soul is created at the moment of biological conception (which seems to be presupposed in Humanae Vitae).

Having said that, let me anticipate an objection. My view may seem dangerous because it opens the door for abortion and "morning after pills." But this would be a non-sequitur. It doesn't follow that if there is no soul (which cannot be proved either) that we are therefore free to abort. A biological conception is intrinsically worth preserving because of its natural "telos" toward growth and development even if often a conceptus fails to implant or spontaneously aborts of its own accord or otherwise "fails" to reach its end. But what makes it worth preserving? Answer: It is human, plain and simple, even if it is not yet a person. In other words, I think we can build our ethics on the fact that the highest view of human life is one that says it is worth preserving *even when it may not yet be a person.* Put another way, we do not need a *who* but only a *what* to have an ethical imperative to preserve life rather than take it. So I see no argument for abortion or morning after pills that would terminate the biological matrix (the clay of the Garden) into which God breathes life (ensoulment) at some point *after* conception.

Guy>>Not at all. The flesh of Mary supplied the matter.<<

Biologically speaking, she supplied only half of what Jesus needed to be a male. Mary could only contribute the X chromosome. From where, then, did Jesus get the Y? Certainly not from an earthly father. Therefore, for anyone who holds to the virginal conception of our Lord (as I do), we must posit that God himself supplied the Y chromosome. I see no other way to reconcile scripture to biology other than to posit a miracle. But if the creation of the universe is ultimately ex-nihilo anyway, one little Y chromosome should hardly be a problem for almighty God.

>>As for her Fiat being needed, this did not make her a sorceress.<<

Where do you get the idea that here "Fiat" was needed in the first place? You're reading that bit of pious nonsense back into the text. But nowhere did God obtain Mary's prior consent. Instead, Mary cosseted to the destiny God had decreed for her. Mary was created by God for exactly the purpose that he intended for her and she acknowledged this purpose when she said, "be it done unto me." But nowhere is it even implied that she could have said, "thanks, but no thanks."

guy fawkes said...

Michael,
I am not trying to embarrass you about your lack of knowledge about the birds and the bees but conception IS when God creates a soul into the matter.

By the way, God first form Adam out of mud BEFORE breathing into him.

My case is not undone at all.

As for Mary's Fiat, why did the angel come at all. Mary and Joseph could have had relations and God could have assumed the human nature that way. Why did He even bother to bring Mary on board?

guy fawkes said...

Michael,

As for my "pious nonsense", all the Fathers said May's role was like that of Eve's.

Pious nonsense indeed!

guy fawkes said...

Michael,

I don't know how Mary conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost. And neither do you. But you had better be careful you don't go so far as to say he incarnated in semen. I would back off the subject before making even more gaffs.

guy fawkes said...

Michael,

So, you know about X chromosomes and Y chromosomes. Excellent.

Then you should know that the idea of successive souls, a.k.a. delayed animation went the way of the buggy when scientists started learning about how both male and female supply what is needed for life. That was around the time of William Harvey who was commissioned to look after the king's deer herds. Remember Harvey? The guy we had to read about in health class. He discovered the circulatory system or something. He also discovered does ovulate. Read up on it.
Besides, if you want to hold on to that theory, do you also believe girls are ensouled weeks after boys?
Anyway, God and man are pro-creators ( that's why they call it "pro"-creation. )
But we digress. Back to Baptism and the Sacraments. What did Augustine have to say? You had the grad classes right?

guy fawkes said...

Michael,

Calvin explains: “God had no doubt decreed before the foundation of the world what He would do with every one of us and had assigned to everyone by His secret counsel his part in life.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians, p.20,)

There you have it Michael. You are like Hamlet or Huck Finn. You aren't even real. You are a character in a story.

Michael Taylor said...

Guy,

You said: >>Then you should know that the idea of successive souls, a.k.a. delayed animation went the way of the buggy when scientists started learning about how both male and female supply what is needed for life.<<

Apples and oranges. You're confusing biological conception with ensoulment or, more likely, equating the two. In fact, the exact opposite is the case in moral theology. The more we know the science, the more the ethicists claim that our concepts of ensoulment need to be updated. You're very much misinformed.

>>Besides, if you want to hold on to that theory, do you also believe girls are ensouled weeks after boys?<<

No. But once again, it's not an all-or-nothing proposition. Please try to understand the idea that agreeing with someone on point A does not require that we agree with him/her on points B through Z. We really can pick and choose when it comes to thinkers from the past, including the church fathers.

Origen had some great things to say about scripture. His commentaries are valuable even today. But he subordinated the Son to the Father and was a universalist (apokatastasis). So I can agree with Origin on A, but not necessarily B through Z.

So the idea of later ensoulment does not require us to to believe in the inferiority of females, as Aristotle taught. Right?

>>Anyway, God and man are pro-creators ( that's why they call it "pro"-creation. )<<

Sure thing. But in your view, man is the primary cause, not the secondary since it is the biological conception that causes God to ensoul it. The tail wags the dog, just like magic.

>>But we digress. Back to Baptism and the Sacraments. What did Augustine have to say? You had the grad classes right?<<

I did. You might be surprised that Augustine's view of the sacraments are very much at odds with modern Romanism (at least in terms of their ontology) as most responsible Roman Catholic historians readily admit. But that would be a digression from the topic at hand, which is baptism and how exactly your understanding of it differs from magic, which so far, you have yet to explain.

Michael Taylor said...

Hi Guy,

You also said:>>Calvin explains: “God had no doubt decreed before the foundation of the world what He would do with every one of us and had assigned to everyone by His secret counsel his part in life.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians, p.20,)<<

You didn't actually read that in context, did you? It looks more like you cut-and-pasted it from this site here:

http://www.examiningcalvinism.com/files/Gospels/Luke17_2.html

This is pretty much an anti-Calvinist hit piece from an anti-Calvinist website, which tells me quite a bit about your willingness to fairly represent the view you are critiquing. Perhaps you should re-read Vatican II's decree on Ecumenism and ask yourself if that's the way to go about dialogue with your "separated brethren."

In any event, I can see it's pointless talking to you, especially when you say things like this:

>>There you have it Michael. You are like Hamlet or Huck Finn. You aren't even real. You are a character in a story.<<

Which, of course, is not what Calvin is saying **at all** in context. But he is saying that all of the events that take place in time have been foreordained by Providence, which is what Thomas and Augustine had said long before him.

That said, you're forgetting "secondary causes." Here's a link for you to the Summa to see what I'm getting at. Perhaps hearing it from Aquinas will help you see the light since clearly your blinders are on when it comes to Calvin.

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/aquinas/summa.FP_Q22_A3.html

See especially his reply to objection 2.

The fact of the matter is that God does impose necessity on some things, but not all. He also wills some things to by contingency, which means he uses secondary causes (free agents, like you and me) to bring about the ends he has decreed. You can read about that here:

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/aquinas/summa.FP_Q22_A4.html

Or, as I suspect, you can continue living in your fantasy land of Calvinist caricature and knock down the "puppets" of your own creation.

guy fawkes said...

Yeah, I don't want to talk to you either. Adios amigo.

guy fawkes said...

PS Michael,

I am going to post the same "anti-Calvinist hit piece" over on Creed Code Cult.

Lets see if those Calvinists deny its veracity too.
C'mon over and have some fun.

Anonymous said...

Quote by Michael Taylor>>>>" If the Eucharist is what Rome say it is, then adoration of the Eucharist would seem to follow with logical inevitability. This in turn would seem to justify housing the Eucharist in tabernacles and bowing down to the Eucharist as displayed in a monstrance--hence the practice.

But in reality Roman Catholics who do this are committing idolatry because they are worshipping something that is not God. Instead of eating and drinking, they're kneeling and watching, and so we see how bad exegesis, begets bad theology ,which in turn leads to at least material idolatry, though I am sure God in his infinite mercy overlooks such ignorance in the vast majority of cases."
So it's ok to believe that a catholic is receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, believing it is God and yet not able to adore Him in the Eucharist?
In reality?? If it is an article of faith for catholics to believe in the Real Presence, as passed down by Tradition, since it was the belief of the fathers of the church , then how is there “ignorance” on the part of the laity? Christ set up an authoritative and teaching church, one based upon faith. So, I chuckled when I read your description of this so called “reality and committing idolatry” from someone who obviously does not have the faith that it takes to believe in the Real Presence. Passed down my Tradition is something that the bible mentions that the Church (the one that Christ founded) , is the Pillar of Truth and NOT the bible. And you are so sure “God overlooks things like this” is an amazing example of pride, knowing the mind of God as you do.

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