Thursday, October 31, 2013

The 95 Theses.

1. When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, "Repent" (Mt 4:17), he willed
the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.

2. This word cannot be understood as referring to the sacrament of penance,
that is, confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy.

3. Yet it does not mean solely inner repentance; such inner repentance is
worthless unless it produces various outward mortification of the flesh.

4. The penalty of sin remains as long as the hatred of self (that is, true
inner repentance), namely till our entrance into the kingdom of heaven.

5. The pope neither desires nor is able to remit any penalties except those
imposed by his own authority or that of the canons.

6. The pope cannot remit any guilt, except by declaring and showing that it
has been remitted by God; or, to be sure, by remitting guilt in cases
reserved
to his judgment. If his right to grant remission in these cases were
disregarded, the guilt would certainly remain unforgiven.

7. God remits guilt to no one unless at the same time he humbles him in all
things and makes him submissive to the vicar, the priest.

8. The penitential canons are imposed only on the living, and, according to
the canons themselves, nothing should be imposed on the dying.

9. Therefore the Holy Spirit through the pope is kind to us insofar as the
pope in his decrees always makes exception of the article of death and of
necessity.

10. Those priests act ignorantly and wickedly who, in the case of the dying,
reserve canonical penalties for purgatory.

11. Those tares of changing the canonical penalty to the penalty of purgatory
were evidently sown while the bishops slept (Mt 13:25).

12. In former times canonical penalties were imposed, not after, but before
absolution, as tests of true contrition.

13. The dying are freed by death from all penalties, are already dead as far
as the canon laws are concerned, and have a right to be released from them.

14. Imperfect piety or love on the part of the dying person necessarily
brings with it great fear; and the smaller the love, the greater the fear.

15. This fear or horror is sufficient in itself, to say nothing of other
things, to constitute the penalty of purgatory, since it is very near to the
horror of despair.

16. Hell, purgatory, and heaven seem to differ the same as despair, fear, and
assurance of salvation.

17. It seems as though for the souls in purgatory fear should necessarily
decrease and love increase.

18. Furthermore, it does not seem proved, either by reason or by Scripture,
that souls in purgatory are outside the state of merit, that is, unable to
grow in love.

19. Nor does it seem proved that souls in purgatory, at least not all of
them, are certain and assured of their own salvation, even if we ourselves
may
be entirely certain of it.

20. Therefore the pope, when he uses the words "plenary remission of all
penalties," does not actually mean "all penalties," but only those imposed by
himself.

21. Thus those indulgence preachers are in error who say that a man is
absolved from every penalty and saved by papal indulgences.

22. As a matter of fact, the pope remits to souls in purgatory no penalty
which, according to canon law, they should have paid in this life.

23. If remission of all penalties whatsoever could be granted to anyone at
all, certainly it would be granted only to the most perfect, that is, to very
few.

24. For this reason most people are necessarily deceived by that
indiscriminate and high-sounding promise of release from penalty.

25. That power which the pope has in general over purgatory corresponds to
the power which any bishop or curate has in a particular way in his own
diocese and parish.

26. The pope does very well when he grants remission to souls in purgatory,
not by the power of the keys, which he does not have, but by way of
intercession for them.

27. They preach only human doctrines who say that as soon as the money clinks
into the money chest, the soul flies out of purgatory.

28. It is certain that when money clinks in the money chest, greed and
avarice can be increased; but when the church intercedes, the result is in
the
hands of God alone.

29. Who knows whether all souls in purgatory wish to be redeemed, since we
have exceptions in St. Severinus and St. Paschal, as related in a legend.

30. No one is sure of the integrity of his own contrition, much less of
having received plenary remission.

31. The man who actually buys indulgences is as rare as he who is really
penitent; indeed, he is exceedingly rare.

32. Those who believe that they can be certain of their salvation because
they have indulgence letters will be eternally damned, together with their
teachers.

33. Men must especially be on guard against those who say that the pope's
pardons are that inestimable gift of God by which man is reconciled to him.

34. For the graces of indulgences are concerned only with the penalties of
sacramental satisfaction established by man.

35. They who teach that contrition is not necessary on the part of those who
intend to buy souls out of purgatory or to buy confessional privileges preach
unchristian doctrine.

36. Any truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty
and guilt, even without indulgence letters.

37. Any true Christian, whether living or dead, participates in all the
blessings of Christ and the church; and this is granted him by God, even
without indulgence letters.

38. Nevertheless, papal remission and blessing are by no means to be
disregarded, for they are, as I have said (Thesis 6), the proclamation of the
divine remission.

39. It is very difficult, even for the most learned theologians, at one and
the same time to commend to the people the bounty of indulgences and the need
of true contrition.

40. A Christian who is truly contrite seeks and loves to pay penalties for
his sins; the bounty of indulgences, however, relaxes penalties and causes
men
to hate them -- at least it furnishes occasion for hating them.

41. Papal indulgences must be preached with caution, lest people erroneously
think that they are preferable to other good works of love.

42. Christians are to be taught that the pope does not intend that the buying
of indulgences should in any way be compared with works of mercy.

43. Christians are to be taught that he who gives to the poor or lends to the
needy does a better deed than he who buys indulgences.

44. Because love grows by works of love, man thereby becomes better. Man
does not, however, become better by means of indulgences but is merely freed
from penalties.

45. Christians are to be taught that he who sees a needy man and passes him
by, yet gives his money for indulgences, does not buy papal indulgences but
God's wrath.

46. Christians are to be taught that, unless they have more than they need,
they must reserve enough for their family needs and by no means squander it
on
indulgences.

47. Christians are to be taught that they buying of indulgences is a matter
of free choice, not commanded.

48. Christians are to be taught that the pope, in granting indulgences, needs
and thus desires their devout prayer more than their money.

49. Christians are to be taught that papal indulgences are useful only if
they do not put their trust in them, but very harmful if they lose their fear
of God because of them.

50. Christians are to be taught that if the pope knew the exactions of the
indulgence preachers, he would rather that the basilica of St. Peter were
burned to ashes than built up with the skin, flesh, and bones of his sheep.

51. Christians are to be taught that the pope would and should wish to give
of his own money, even though he had to sell the basilica of St. Peter, to
many of those from whom certain hawkers of indulgences cajole money.

52. It is vain to trust in salvation by indulgence letters, even though the
indulgence commissary, or even the pope, were to offer his soul as security.

53. They are the enemies of Christ and the pope who forbid altogether the
preaching of the Word of God in some churches in order that indulgences may
be
preached in others.

54. Injury is done to the Word of God when, in the same sermon, an equal or
larger amount of time is devoted to indulgences than to the Word.

55. It is certainly the pope's sentiment that if indulgences, which are a
very insignificant thing, are celebrated with one bell, one procession, and
one ceremony, then the gospel, which is the very greatest thing, should be
preached with a hundred bells, a hundred processions, a hundred ceremonies.

56. The true treasures of the church, out of which the pope distributes
indulgences, are not sufficiently discussed or known among the people of
Christ.

57. That indulgences are not temporal treasures is certainly clear, for many
indulgence sellers do not distribute them freely but only gather them.

58. Nor are they the merits of Christ and the saints, for, even without the
pope, the latter always work grace for the inner man, and the cross, death,
and hell for the outer man.

59. St. Lawrence said that the poor of the church were the treasures of the
church, but he spoke according to the usage of the word in his own time.

60. Without want of consideration we say that the keys of the church, given
by the merits of Christ, are that treasure.

61. For it is clear that the pope's power is of itself sufficient for the
remission of penalties and cases reserved by himself.

62. The true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and
grace of God.

63. But this treasure is naturally most odious, for it makes the first to be
last (Mt. 20:16).

64. On the other hand, the treasure of indulgences is naturally most
acceptable, for it makes the last to be first.

65. Therefore the treasures of the gospel are nets with which one formerly
fished for men of wealth.

66. The treasures of indulgences are nets with which one now fishes for the
wealth of men.

67. The indulgences which the demagogues acclaim as the greatest graces are
actually understood to be such only insofar as they promote gain.

68. They are nevertheless in truth the most insignificant graces when
compared with the grace of God and the piety of the cross.

69. Bishops and curates are bound to admit the commissaries of papal
indulgences with all reverence.

70. But they are much more bound to strain their eyes and ears lest these men
preach their own dreams instead of what the pope has commissioned.

71. Let him who speaks against the truth concerning papal indulgences be
anathema and accursed.

72. But let him who guards against the lust and license of the indulgence
preachers be blessed.

73. Just as the pope justly thunders against those who by any means whatever
contrive harm to the sale of indulgences.

74. Much more does he intend to thunder against those who use indulgences as
a pretext to contrive harm to holy love and truth.

75. To consider papal indulgences so great that they could absolve a man even
if he had done the impossible and had violated the mother of God is madness.

76. We say on the contrary that papal indulgences cannot remove the very
least of venial sins as far as guilt is concerned.

77. To say that even St. Peter if he were now pope, could not grant greater
graces is blasphemy against St. Peter and the pope.

78. We say on the contrary that even the present pope, or any pope
whatsoever, has greater graces at his disposal, that is, the gospel,
spiritual
powers, gifts of healing, etc., as it is written, 1 Co 12[:28].

79. To say that the cross emblazoned with the papal coat of arms, and set up
by the indulgence preachers is equal in worth to the cross of Christ is
blasphemy.

80. The bishops, curates, and theologians who permit such talk to be spread
among the people will have to answer for this.

81. This unbridled preaching of indulgences makes it difficult even for
learned men to rescue the reverence which is due the pope from slander or
from
the shrewd questions of the laity.

82. Such as: "Why does not the pope empty purgatory for the sake of holy love
and the dire need of the souls that are there if he redeems an infinite
number
of souls for the sake of miserable money with which to build a church? The
former reason would be most just; the latter is most trivial.

83. Again, "Why are funeral and anniversary masses for the dead continued and
why does he not return or permit the withdrawal of the endowments founded for
them, since it is wrong to pray for the redeemed?"

84. Again, "What is this new piety of God and the pope that for a
consideration of money they permit a man who is impious and their enemy to
buy
out of purgatory the pious soul of a friend of God and do not rather, because
of the need of that pious and beloved soul, free it for pure love's sake?"

85. Again, "Why are the penitential canons, long since abrogated and dead in
actual fact and through disuse, now satisfied by the granting of indulgences
as though they were still alive and in force?"

86. Again, "Why does not the pope, whose wealth is today greater than the
wealth of the richest Crassus, build this one basilica of St. Peter with his
own money rather than with the money of poor believers?"

87. Again, "What does the pope remit or grant to those who by perfect
contrition already have a right to full remission and blessings?"

88. Again, "What greater blessing could come to the church than if the pope
were to bestow these remissions and blessings on every believer a hundred
times a day, as he now does but once?"

89. "Since the pope seeks the salvation of souls rather than money by his
indulgences, why does he suspend the indulgences and pardons previously
granted when they have equal efficacy?"

90. To repress these very sharp arguments of the laity by force alone, and
not to resolve them by giving reasons, is to expose the church and the pope
to
the ridicule of their enemies and to make Christians unhappy.

91. If, therefore, indulgences were preached according to the spirit and
intention of the pope, all these doubts would be readily resolved. Indeed,
they would not exist.

92. Away, then, with all those prophets who say to the people of Christ,
"Peace, peace," and there is no peace! (Jer 6:14)

93. Blessed be all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, "Cross,
cross," and there is no cross!

94. Christians should be exhorted to be diligent in following Christ, their
Head, through penalties, death and hell.

95. And thus be confident of entering into heaven through many tribulations
rather than through the false security of peace (Acts 14:22).

Monday, October 28, 2013

If You Don't Like What Scripture Says, Cry, "Paradox."

"This author seems to swell in the conceit of his rational performances, as if never any fly sitting upon a cart wheel on a summer's day had made such a dust as he had made. And fashioning to himself a victorious conquest, as if all his adversaries were but Pygmies to this Anakim, glad to run into corners or into acorn-cups to hide themselves there. For his reasons like some hobgoblins do so fright them more than all the spirits that stand by the naked man in the book of moons: and therefore all the help they have, if we believe this Pyrgopolynices * is to charm them by saying that 'many things delivered in Scripture, which are above the reach of human capacity, among which this is one, etc…'" – William Twisse, The Riches of God's Love unto the Vessels of Mercy...

The book which I am citing is a refutation by William Twisse of the work a Mr. Hord, an Arminian who, true to form, took issue with the Reformed doctrine of Reprobation. At the heart of the doctrine of Predestination (in its two branches, Election and Reprobation), is the question of Divine Sovereignty and human responsibility. 

Beyond the ornate 17th century rhetoric, Twisse is making an incredible point. Notice what the defense of the Arminians of Twisse’s day was: “Paradox!” When they didn’t want to accept the plain words of Scripture, the appeal was made to mystery as a way to kill the discussion. “How can God be sovereign if men have autonomous free-will?” Instead of accepting the plain teaching of Scripture that God is sovereign and men do not have autonomous free-will, because their wills are enslaved by sin, they cry up mystery in order to shut down the conversation. “How can God be love if He has not willed the salvation of everyone?” – Don’t worry; you don't have to face a hard question and actually use your brain to exegete Scripture properly. No, you can just yell, “Paradox,” and all the bad Reformers will go away. No one is allowed to appeal to Scripture once the “paradox card” has been played. 

Notice also that Twisse is not impressed by this paltry argument. He flouts the argument as if its adherents were some silly Don Quixote attacking a windmill, - trying to get God off a hook He does not want off of.


More often than not, the "paradox card" gets played today under the guise of "paradox." There I no doubt that the Bible contains rhetorical paradoxes, that is, statements in which another idea is challenged in a way which startles the reader. But we must deny that Scripture contains logical paradoxes. It has been in vogue to affirm that Scripture contains logical paradoxes since Barth and the heyday of neo-orthodoxy. We ask, “Does God speak to us in logical contradictions?” Does God say one thing which contradicts, or at least appears to contradict something else He has said? No, says the apostle Paul, “God is not the author of confusion” (1 Corinthians 14:33).

So back to the question of Divine Sovereignty and human responsibility. Is this really a paradox which cannot ever be understood? John Gerstner didn’t think so. He wrote, “We do not see why it is impossible for God to predestinate an act to come to pass by means of the deliberate choice of specific individuals” (A Predestination Primer, 26).

The Westminster Confesstion of Faith didn't take it to be a paradox either. It is important to say this because William Twisse was the Prolocutor (Moderator) as that Assembly. The Confession states, “God from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established” (WCF, III, 1). In III.8 the Confession calls this doctrine a “high mystery,” which means that it is difficult to grasp, but it does not call it “paradox,” meaning impossible to reconcile. The Confession goes on to say that the doctrine should be “handled with special prudence and care.” 

This love affair with paradox goes back to Karl Barth and his “Theology of Paradox,” as Kantzer called it. Therefore this assertion of logical paradoxes in Scripture has its roots in neo-orthodoxy. You will remember that in neo-orthodoxy, Scripture is NOT the word of God, but rather contains it. Hence, Barth can claim that the Bible is nothing more that the vulnerable words of men, who were fallible and erring in their writings (C.D. 1:2:507ff). In Barth's view, it is beneath God's dignity to reveal Himself in lowly propsitional statements. Therefore we are bound to encounter paradox and contradiction when we read Scripture. For him, of course, that is OK because he thinks that God's “truth” can be conveyed even in error. The logical paradoxes so fondly adhered to by modern opponents of a solid “Westminster” theology are the result of faulty exegesis. They are not the fault of the Bible. 

Twisse wrote this complaint in the 1600s. I dare say things haven't changed.


* Pyrgopolynices is a swaggering, braggart soldier in Miles Gloriosus, a comedic play written by Titus Maccius Plautus (c. 254–184 B.C.)

Monday, October 21, 2013

Infant Baptism, Further Implications, 5

5. Many paedobaptists need to reform their practice to make it more closely reflect their principles.

Why do so many of the baptized youth, in infant-baptizing churches, grow up in ignorance of the faith and religion of their parents? Why do so many of them, when they reach the fringes of adulthood, stray from the faith and wander into systems of error or open wickedness? It's not a sufficient answer to say that our children have a sinful nature and are thus prone to the prevalent errors and foolishness of youth. There is no doubt that this is true, of course. But one never encounters this excuse when a baptized adult turns from the faith to live in open apostasy. It is true that these baptized young people do have a sinful nature, but that is not the whole truth. Much of the fault lies at the doors of the church itself and on the shoulders of their parents.

In a previous post, we mentioned the introduction to the Westminster Confession of Faith, written by the illustrious Thomas Manton. Here are his own words:

“Christian reader, I cannot suppose thee to be such a stranger in England as to be ignorant of the general complaint concerning the decay of the power of godliness, and more especially of the great corruption of youth. Wherever thou goest, thou wilt hear men crying out of bad children and bad servants; whereas indeed the source of the mischief must be sought a little higher: it is bad parents and bad masters that make bad children and bad servants; and we cannot blame so much their untowardness, as our own negligence in their education.”

Too easily the church has forgotten that the seal of baptism is as real to the children as is it is to the parents who receive it. Parents, who spare no effort in providing education for their children, criminally neglect the spiritual education of their children, and this after having solemnly bound themselves to this duty when they presented these children to God for baptism. These children have been shipped off to unbelieving teachers who didn't give a rip about the child's spiritual well-being. Then the same parents act surprised when the children turn from their Christian heritage and upbringing as they grow up. What did they expect? 

There is a great responsibility on the shoulders of Christian parents to bring their children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Part of this is firmly implanting in the child's mind the truth that he or she is bound by his or her baptism to be a true follower of Jesus.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Infant Baptism, Further Implications, 4


4. We see how grave and how solemn the situation is of those young people who have been dedicated to God in their infancy by holy baptism.

This is an often neglected point. Generally speaking, ministers do not neglect to remind the parents that they are brought under the weighty obligation of training up their children in the ways of the Lord when they present these children to God in baptism. But one must wonder how effectively the obligation to walk with the Lord is impressed on the mind of that child as he or she grows up. In the children's catechism that my wife and I use, there are the following questions: 

Q. 129. Who are to be baptized?
A. Believers and their children.

Q. 130. Why should infants be baptized?
A. Because they have a sinful nature and need a Savior.

Q. 131. Does Christ care for little children?
A. Yes; for he says, "Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the Kingdom of God."

Q. 132. To what does your baptism bind you?
A. To be a true follower of Christ.

This is a point often neglected by young people. They fail to realize that their early reception of the seal of God’s covenant, in consequence of their parents’ faith, places them in circumstances of the most grave and solemn nature. Because we do not treat them as true members of the church, which we profess to believe and ratify in their baptism, they are all too apt to imagine that they are not members of the church until some later date when they decide to make a public profession of faith. They falsely imagine that the making the profession or not making it is simply a matter of choice which they can do or not do. They are left to toy with the idea that the only danger they face is that of making a false, or rather insincere profession. This view, while incredibly common, nevertheless is incredibly criminal. The children of professing Christians are already in the church; they were born members of it. The reason they receive the seal of the covenant is because they were already in the covenant by virtue of their birth. Hence, it is not a question of whether those baptized young people will be members of the church or not; it is a question of whether they will value their birthright or apostatize from the family of faith. This is the only question and it is a serious question! There is a fine line that must be walked here. On one hand, we should never encourage the false profession, but neither should we encourage the refusal to make any profession at all.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Infant Baptism, Further Implications, 3


3. Those of us who adhere to the practice of infant baptism are irresponsible and derelict in our covenant duties when we do not understand the scriptural basis for our practice and defend it as such.

It is frequently asserted that since there are well-meaning, devout Christians on both sides of the aisle with regard to this subject, then it must surely be an insignificant issue, not worthy of defending. I would like to submit to you that this is a coward's way of handling theological controversies. The truth is the truth and should be sought and defended by all who claim to love the Lord. The fact that Christians with opposing views can consider each other brothers and respect each other's devotion, loyalty, and commitment to Christ, does not preclude them from analyzing each other's positions and finding in them serious theological problems. Though we may be agreed that baptism is a secondary issue, we can never agree that it is not worth understanding and practicing aright. Consider the alternatives. The only way for this to not be an issue is if we reject the objective value of doctrine altogether. There is just no other way. Very few Christians are willing to go that far, at least on paper. If we are willing to say, as some ignorantly do, “It doesn't matter what you believe as long as you love Jesus,” then we have no business rejecting the errors of Mormons, Hindus, Buddhists or Muslims. Once you cease to say what is right, you lose the ability to say what is wrong.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Infant Baptism, Further Implications, 1 & 2


I would be remiss if I did not draw forth a number of important practical inferences or ramifications from all that we have previously said.

1. The error of our Baptist friends rejecting the church membership and baptism of infants is a serious error. It is not merely a mistake about some disputed point of speculative theology. It is an error that contravenes the spirit of the whole Bible. All of God’s covenants have within them this fundamental feature of the inclusion of the infant children of the believers. This is the very first point we labored to establish when we presented the defenses for our position.

This may appear to some to be a rather uncharitable thing to say. But what is the alternative? Is it any more charitable to leave error unchecked, unchallenged or unquestioned? Do I love my brothers more by ignoring their false beliefs, especially when it comes to the eternal truth of God’s Word?

2. The baptism of our children is intensely meaningful and involves us (the parents and the congregation) in an obligation of the utmost seriousness. We are not claiming that baptism is identical with regeneration, nor are we espousing the “magical” view of Rome with regard to the sacrament of baptism, as if we believed it had an inherent power in itself to effect that which it signifies. As strongly as we may assert that depriving our children of baptism is a sin against God and against them, it is equally sinful to deprive them of catechesis. We can all appreciate the notion that it is irresponsible to hire a man to do a complex, detailed job, and to require proficient performance from him without ever having trained him. This, I feel, is an apt analogy to what is done to countless “church kids.” How much effort is exerted in both infant baptizing churches and non-infant baptizing churches toward the doctrinal training of our children? I do not dispute or deny the existence of multitudinous Sunday school programs or summer Daily Vacation Bible School programs. But anyone who has even casually perused much of that material will know that it largely consists of practical moral lessons completely divorced from the theological basis which gives meaning to the practical application. This is nothing else but Law in place of the Gospel. If all we do in the training of our children is to provide them with a long list of acceptable and unacceptable behaviors, reinforced with Bible stories about lions, floods, and tumbling walls, we are merely preparing the next generation for disillusionment with the faith. Nothing is more deadly than legalism with regard to our children. By the time they reach high school or college they will strike out on their own and turn their backs on Christianity. And yet, it will not be Christianity that they have turned their backs on, but rather the misrepresentation of it that consisted merely in do’s and don’ts.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Infant Baptism, Objection Answered, 11


11. The final objection I wish to consider is this. Our opponents say, “If baptism takes the place of circumcision, and if the church is the same in substance now as it was when circumcision was its initiating zeal, then why isn’t baptism as universal in the New Testament church is circumcision was in the Old Testament church? Why isn’t every child under the light of the gospel baptized as every Israelite child was circumcised?”

All I can say in response to this objection is that this undoubtedly should be the case. All parents wherever the gospel prospers ought to be true believers, and therefore ought to be true members of the church of Christ themselves. Hence, they ought to dedicate their children to God in baptism. God’s command requires it, and if the parents were what they ought to be they would be only too happy and prepared to do what they should.

Under the Old Testament administration of the covenant of grace, all those who belonged to the covenant people were obliged to be holy. This was signified, first and foremost by submission to the rite of circumcision. Anyone who refused was to be cut off from their people. The obligation was universal and the penalty was universal. There is no doubt that many parents who presented their children to God in the sacrament of circumcision, did so without true faith; yet they attended to all the requirements of ceremonial cleanness and this rendered the circumcision authorized and regular, i.e., valid. The same is true in the New Testament church. Like Old Testament Israel, the Church is a body called out from the rest of mankind. Within this spiritual community baptism ought to be as universal as circumcision was in Israel. Parents who profess faith in Christ, in obedience to Him, ought to present their children in baptism. There is, no doubt, reason to fear that many adult members may present their children to God in the sacrament of baptism without true faith. But just like in the case of the Jewish parent who lacked true faith, because the parents attend to all the external requirements of church membership, their children’s baptism is to be considered authorized and regular, i.e., valid.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Infant Baptism, Objections Answered, 10


10. Yet another objection raised by those who reject infant baptism is that those of us who practice it are not consistent with ourselves in that we do not treat our children as if they were members of the church. They point out that despite all our claims for the validity of infant church membership, we seldom see churches treating their baptized children as church members, that is, instructing and discipling them in the same way that is done for adult members.

We cannot deny that many churches do act inconsistently in this matter. But we must hasten to point out that logical inconsistency in a person's practice says nothing about the logical consistency of the system he professes to believe. Indeed, the same thing can be said of Baptists. If they were consistent with their own system, they would not teach their children to pray, they would not teach their children to read the Bible, nor would they teach their children to do anything consistent with what could be called a Christian lifestyle. It is not an indictment against the doctrine of infant church membership when a church is profligate in her duties.

This neglect has a long history. The very beginning of the book of Judges informs us that the generation under consideration in the following narrative had not been taught by their parents. Scripture not only informs us that this generation did not know God, but it further points out that they were unaware of the rich spiritual history of their nation. This means they had not been taught the principles of life in the covenant. In 17th century England, it appears that the same was the case. Thomas Manton, in his preface to the Westminster Standards, pointed out that in what was considered a Christian nation there was a perpetual complaint about “bad children.” Manton put the blame squarely on the shoulders of the parents. In fact, the Westminster Standards were written to address this very issue. Through the means of the Shorter and Larger Catechisms parents could train up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. God has always enjoined upon parents the duty of catechizing their children. This idea comes up 3 or 4 times in the book of Deuteronomy. If we are consistent with our belief in the doctrine of infant church membership, and we demonstrate this belief by the logically consistent practice of infant baptism, then we are wholly without excuse and infinitely culpable when we do not disciple our children after we have acknowledged their church membership by administering covenant baptism.

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