Monday, October 15, 2007

Did not mean to

...cause quite a stir in this blog. Mine was an honest innocent question...I was just asking why is it that Calvinists who believe in baptismal regeneration can quote Calvin on their side, and at the same time Calvinists who reject it, can also quote Calvin on their side too?! It seems to me that Calvin and Melanchton (who were friends) tended to revise some thoughts they had and they kept on re-writing, this does not seem to happen with Luther at least in vital issues like Word and Sacrament. What I mean is that no baptismal regeneration denier can quote Luther on his side. It will never happen.

At any rate, it appears that Calvin believed that baptism conveyed the elect only. That means, some babies and adults are just getting wet. The reasoning seems to be that since the Jewish nation got circumcised and yet not all who were circumcised believed in the Messiah then that meant ( for the church father - Calvin), it is happening only to the elect.

Putting aside the other issues that go with regeneration, let me go back on that reasoning. The question I would have asked next is this - the fact that someone got circumcised during OT times and yet did not believe, did that mean that nothing was given? OK, now look at these baptized folks living like the devil and even denying Christ, so does it prove that they have never been regenerated at their baptism?

I know, it is funny for me to argue this way since I was a credo-bapti-costal.

There is some connection being made by Calvin on a regenerated man and his faith i.e. the regenerate will never abandon faith. This needs some further quizzing. If the baptized individual denies faith does that mean nothing was given to him? Anyway, the more pressing idea is on the elect. In other words, baptismal promises of God are only to the elect as far as this idea of Calvin goes. Since we do not know who are the elect, we may baptize everyone anyway and yet not hold on to the promise of God attached to it. Of course, we will never know who the elect are, besides baptism is effective only for them. So what to do? Believe and not believe baptism does something.

To say that God only regenerates the elect in baptism is to make a tautological statement. In my view it fails to add meaning to the pool of data. From my training, tautologies are helpful only if they add or advance information to the existing knowledge we have. You can forever repeat true statements and yet not terminate your reasoning process with new knowledge. I can prove this; say you have A-->B, B-->C and we want to prove A-->C. You can start by assuming A. Yet you can keep on asserting A-->A again and again, a tautology, you can do this infinitely without terminating the proof. The step is still valid but does not help. See what I mean?

I hope my Calvinistic brothers/sisters see that with those caveats or qualifications on baptism the practice itself looses its sense of meaning, at least that is true in the Reformed camp, of all varieties too. I think this accounts for why there are heated exchanges from within Calvinism in various sectors, between non-regenerative and regenerative, between paedo and credo baptizers etc. This type of squabble does not happen amongst Concordians (I mean at least in this area of baptism). I am a bit sad though, I wish Calvin did not have to modify or re-qualify his statements. There would have been a lot less people becoming upset at each other.


David said...

Please keep the calvinists stiring. They are held captive by the TULIP which makes it impossible to be consistent.

Grace appears to act as a spiritual steroid in some of the calvinistic thinking. Given to the elect it enables the elect to believe and receive the forgiveness of sin in the Sacraments and preaching.

This of course is leaving Wittenburg,skipping Heidelberg, crusing through Geneva and heading back to Rome. Rome appeals to the inner brat so it is not too amazing but still alarming to see one leave the radical and thougoughgoing reformation to hug the pope.

Lord grant us clearness of doctrine to stay away from Rome.

L P Cruz said...


Good observation, I am amazed at the number of ex-Calvinists that are becoming RCs, I encounter or read of them often, some with vehemence too.

You are absolutely correct, I often hear Calvinists (for example Dr. Piper) who speak of grace as 'gratia infusa', infused grace and so no wonder this makes it easier to switch. The thing is that this is preferred over 'favor dei'. Hence, grace as power rather than grace as forgiveness for sinners is now the language.

That inner brat (LOL) is naughty.


Augustinian Successor said...

Dear brethren,

The reason why so-called Calvinists are hopping over to Rome is because as implicitly pointed out by Bro. Lito, they are 'mystics' or 'semi-mystic' as is Rome, combined with a streak/dose of legalism. Puritanism, Baptistic mentality, revivalism, charismatic tolerance, etc. are all to be blamed. But Puritanism must get the award for being the mother of all the errors above ...

Augustinian Successor said...

Ironically as might sound to Puritans aka Legalists aka Baptistic-types, the presence of the practice of Absolution serves as an antidote to Legalism, which grounds assurance in subjectivity. subject of course to whims and fancy of the pastor, aka mini-pope.

L P Cruz said...

Hi Bro Jason,

I was just thinking where have you been?

It was really a shocker for me when I heard a few Reformed folk themselves(they are a very very small minority in this world) who were severely critical of Puritanism and they do have a point. I think evangelicalism is in turmoil today because of their influence which has survived in Americanized evangelicalism. The Lutheran fathers have suspected that movement as another form of pietism, which of course is the spawner of revivalism.

God bless you as you walk (to quote Sasse) "Lonely Way".


Past Elder said...

I missed the dust up and so clicked over to check it out.

I stick to confessional Lutheran blogs. With one exception, an RC one of a fellow Melbourner who used to be Lutheran.

So Calvinists are swimming the Tiber too! As you well know, Rome has its allure, and I think the post-conciliar swimmers have a much easier time of it with the facade now put on by Rome.

My dad, who converted to RC in 1941 having grown up Methodist -- which in that time and place was decidedly different than the United Methodist Church -- often said that after the Council the RC church was just another Protestant church but with a Pope.

Yet he stayed and never discussed why. My mom was a "cradle" Catholic. She stayed too, kind of on the "it's the same because it must be the same" model.

I visualise the Roman Church and the Calvinist/Reformed line as opposite but equal errors from the catholic faith, both falling into an unsuspected works righteousness, which I think is what augustinian successor is getting at by legalism. I think Luther only spent far more ink on Rome due to its entrenchedness at the time.

Tautologies are hard to see when one is in one. A -> A doesn't seem that way if you understand it to be A -> B, or a syllogism with the middle term left out A -> C.

L P Cruz said...

You are right Past Elder, in an amazing way and in the way Calvinism is being popularized, Rome and Westminster do converge. Was it Sinclair Ferguson who admitted that the main doctrinal theme of Calvinism is not justification but sanctification?

Yeah, I read other blogs and sometimes still wander off some Calvinistic blogs specially those who have some comments to say about Rome and I would encounter ex-Calvinists comments which are quite angry and bitter at their former Calvinism. Astounding!

Law and Gospel is not thoroughly honored next to justification in Calvinistic confessions and because of that (unlike the BoC), I think, the convergence when taken too far is not hard to see. Legalism becomes the link.


Augustinian Successor said...

"God bless you as you walk (to quote Sasse) "Lonely Way"."

You said it, Bro. Lito, you said it ... :-)

Ah yes, ... the "Lonely Way", by his grace alone!

Augustinian Successor said...

And yes, for all their pukey talk about wanting to rediscover catholicity, limp away from the stiffling confines of Puritanical-esque mentality, the geezers from RefCath are still trapped by a legalistic mentality. True to their legacy, they have to their utter joy rediscovered the New Perspective on Paul, the Federal Vision, Norman Shepherd, etc.

I say to the gallows with Neo-Legalism!

The just shall be justified by faith ALONE.

L P Cruz said...

Bro. Jason,

There seems to be a bondage to Law, but I am curious, are you familiar with the works of Daniel Fuller and would you put him in the camp of Prof Shepherd?


Augustinian Successor said...

Dear Bro. Lito,

I'm not familiar with the works of Daniel Fuller, but reading excerpts of his works courtesy of Pharisee Elder Hoss over at RefCath, it's quite clear that the Law is confused with the Gospel and Gospel confused with the Law. Holiness can NEVER be promoted by such confusion, only deceit - self-righteousness, impenitent hypocrisy, antinomianism, legalism, etc.

True holiness can only be promoted by the awareness and acknowledgement and confession that we need to continue to throw ourselves upon the mercy of God ... in other words, our sanctification depends not on what is in us, but extra nos, outside of us, the mercy of God through Jesus Christ Who died for our sins 2000 years ago.

That is what we plead ... (not like what the Romanist do, i.e. re-enact as a kind of temporal memorial of the everlasting validity of Calvary before the eternal God the Father). True holiness begins with the knowledge that our justification can never be necessary and or sufficient, let alone self-sufficient. We do not plead our self-righteousness in the name of Christ's righteousness, contra the detractors, but plead Christ's righteousness ALONE, but it is the one and only righteouss FOR us sinners. Christ's righteousness is OUR righteousness. Only then can we begin the walk of holiness and sanctification which means to be holy or sanctified which is to be set apart, one has to be forgiven. To be forgiven is to plead Christ's righteousness. And to be forgiven is ALSO to be *made* holy and sanctified for God not only absolve our sins but cleanse us by His Spirit too. So, yes *subjective* justification does not take place without santification too. To throw ourselves at the mercy of God is to lay hold of His promises. To lay hold of His promises is to believe His Word. And His Word makes us clean. Sanctify us with Thy Word, for Thy Word is Truth. My Words have made you clean.

L P Cruz said...

Bro. Jason.

Very good. Like Paul we dare not come to God nor wished to be accepted by God on no other basis but on the basis of Jesus as our righteousness.

Only the righteousness of Christ avails before God that is why Jesus is Lord because of this. Amen.

What about Gaffin? I am branching over here
to find what he is on about>



The Scylding said...

I think the whole Federal Vision controversy was/is an attempt at getting out of the quandry as you desribe it, Lito. Seen purely within a calvinist context, it has to make sense, contra the protestations of the PCA Thomists.

Of course, if they'd just dropped it all and "swim the Rhine", it will be much more logical (lol).

But scholastic calvinism has to close it's eyes to too many problems.

An interesting occurrence is of course the Calvinists who ditch Geneva for the East - like Perry Robinson, whose giant intellect (like Jeeves in the PG Wodehouse Jeeves and Wooster stories) you challenge at your own peril. Not that he's always right....

L P Cruz said...

Absolutely Scylds!

In my experience thus far, an honest reading of BoC with comparison reading with Scripture does make "swimming the Rhine" a lot more sense. Far be it that I am assuming that every Augsburg synod has got no problems, they do.

But if one is looking for a faith they can confess that is compatible with pure catholicism, Augsburg is a lot better candidate than the rest, besides it has got the psychology of Christian life spot on.

There is room at the Cross for us. There is no better place to be than with our Lord, crucified as well with him.


Augustinian Successor said...

Protestant Scholasticism is and never was the problem. The problematic was and has always been Puritanism - neo-legalism. Read Baxter and Wesley, and you'll hear Shepherd ringing in your ear.

L P Cruz said...

I am beginning to see why Puritanism is the culprit and your continued pointing this out makes sense to me now based on my studies of it. Did not the revivals start with Edwards, a puritan?


Augustinian Successor said...

Yes, yes indeed, Bro. Lito. Edwards was a puritan par excellence. So was Whitefield. At the end of the day, the combination of introspection accompanied by sentient expressions (the combination between inward and outward experience) provided the coup de grace to classical Reformation piety in North America as epitomised by Calvinism. Old School Confessional Presbyterianism was of course in a minority but still belonging in the wider historical sense to the same stream which Puritan came from in Britain. Episcopalianism was too mixed bag for offer adequate response, except for a few voices too. I think it was Lutheranism especially embodied by Charles Porterfield Krauth and CFW Walther which interestingly preserved and upheld the Reformation ideals. Yeah, I'm a fan of both!

Albert said...

LPC: I was just asking why is it that Calvinists who believe in baptismal regeneration can quote Calvin on their side, and at the same time Calvinists who reject it, can also quote Calvin on their side too?!

Albert: I don't know any true confessional Calvinist who believes in baptismal regeneration, whether Prebysterian or Reformed Baptist. Perhaps you are referring to the followers of Federal Vision theology.

The Scylding said...


I see no reason to not call the FV calvinist. Remember, continental Calvinism is not the same as Westminster Calvinism. And there are few, if any direct conflicts between the Fv and continental readings of Calvin. And many in the PCA, as some wag pointed out, are effectively Baptists with wet babies....

The FV has its own problems, hence my quip about rather swimming the Rhine.

L P Cruz said...


If you look at the post there are Calvinists - notably the Continental ones who follow Calvin in saying that at baptism, God regenerates the elect. This is rejected by western or atlantic Calvinists. Because this statement may also mean that baptism does not regenerate the non-elect, then effectively there is nothing guaranteed in baptism -- so the atlantic Calvinists would state. In otherwords, the latter has a weak view of baptism, while the continental ones, have a strong view.

The flux that is happening in Calvinism today is quite telling this is why for Scylding, swimming the Rhine is a better option.

Today no section of Protestantism escapes the turmoil happening in evangelicalism, but compared to Lutheranism, there is more rocking happening in Calvinism.