Childlike Faith – For to Such Belongs the Kingdom of Heaven

March 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

Matthew 19:13-14, “Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people,but Jesus said, Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

Trinity, my little five year old, came to me today and said, “Daddy, I want to live forever and ever. I don’t want to die.” I told her that when you belong to Jesus you will live forever and ever. I told her that’s what God promises her in her baptism. She said, “But Daddy, when I get one hundred years old I will die.” I told her yes, but you will go to be with Jesus, and when he returns he will bring you with him and you will get your body back and will live with him forever and ever. Her eyes got real big and she smiled ever so big and went running through the house saying, “Yea! I get to live forever and ever because Jesus has promised me that I will!”

Why the majority of the Reformed world will not let such a little child as my Trinity come to the communion table and eat the bread and drink the wine where this very promise is renewed each Lord’s Day is beyond me. I marvel at such childlike faith.

Blessings in Christ,
Terry W. West

Pelegian in practice?

January 11, 2008 § 1 Comment

I want to throw out a question. I have been following the debate concerning the sacraments for sometime now. The impression I get from time to time is that when it comes to the administration of the sacraments we become almost pelegian in practice? What I mean is this, it seems that we tend to think of the participation in the sacraments as a mere human act of the will that may or may not have any real benefit, but the secret work of the Spirit in the heart is seen as that which is truly sovereign. Its as if we have without meaning to compartmentalized the two experiences in the church. But what if we really begin to view even the external things in the church as just as much sovereign acts of God as we do the internal regeneration that the Spirit works in the heart of those who have true faith? How would this impact our thinking and our theological development? Just thinking out loud.

Blessings in Christ,
Terry W. West

My speculation on what is meant by “corporate justification”.

September 6, 2007 § 1 Comment

Earlier today I attempted to comment on Andy Gilman’s question for Pastor Doug Wilson concerning his statement defining “corporate justification”

Here is Pastor Wilson’s statement:

“…corporate justification is God’s forensic declaration that the human race has been legally and covenantally reconstituted in Christ, the last Adam. The Church, as the bride of Christ, is the instantiation of that blessing in the world, for the world.”

Here is Andy Gilman’s question:

” …corporate justification is God’s forensic declaration that the human race has been legally and covenantally reconstituted in Christ, the last Adam. The Church, as the bride of Christ, is the instantiation of that blessing in the world, for the world.”

I don’t understand how these two sentences fit together. In the first sentence, the human race is “legally and covenantally reconstituted in Christ,” and in the second sentence, the Church is said to be an instance or example of “that blessing in the world, for the world.”

The first sentence indicates that the “human race” is “legally and covenantally reconstituted in Christ.” Is “legal and covenantal reconstitution in Christ” the same blessing the second sentence is talking about, when it ascribes it to the Church? If so, then why is it said to be given to the “human race” in the first sentence? In Doug’s view, is corporate justification a blessing enjoyed by the whole human race, or is it limited to the church? And what does it mean to be “legally and covenantally reconstituted in Christ?”

I generally think of myself as possessing reasonably good reading comprehension, but I don’t get this.”

I will now add the comment I attempted to submit at Green Baggins. I am posting this here on my blog because WordPress wouldn’t let me post it at Green Baggins for some reason.
My comments:

Andy,

This is the first time that I have seen this formulation by Pastor Wilson concerning “corporate” justification, but I think I may understand what he is trying to get at. Pastor Wilson, I’m sure, will correct me if I’m wrong.

Andy, you said: “I don’t understand how these two sentences fit together. In the first sentence, the human race is “legally and covenantally reconstituted in Christ,” and in the second sentence, the Church is said to be an instance or example of “that blessing in the world, for the world.”

In the first sentence we may possibly have what Vermigli would call “incarnational union”. Or we could also call “incarnational” representation. Christ, the God-man, represents the entire human race (this means every individual member thereof, not just as some abstract “class”) in at least 3 ways:

1. Christ took the human nature that is common to all in Adam (sin excepted).

2. Christ obeyed the law of God perfectly, the law that every member of the human race is duty bound to obey. Through his obedience he grew in favor with God and thus maintained that paternal/covenantal relationship with the Father that Adam and all his posterity forfeited.

3. Christ willing suffered the death (i.e. penalty) that every member of the human race deserves. He suffered the wrath of God as a member of the human race in the place of the human race. Christ bore “our” sins in his body on the tree, thus becoming the penal substitute for the human race.

John Calvin said this: “Luke goes still farther, showing that the salvation brought by Christ is common to the whole human race, inasmuch as Christ, the author of salvation, is descended from Adam, the common father of us all.” (Institutes Book 2, Chapter 13, paragraph 3)

Through this “incarnational” representation, all the legal obstacles have been removed so that upon the condition of faith any member of the human race may be forgiven and delivered from the penalty of the law. Christ is the Justified One and all who are in Christ have the promise of justification upon the condition of faith.

W.G.T. Shedd said this: “Christ’s death as related to the claims of the law upon all mankind, cancels those claims wholly. It is an infinite “propitiation for the sins of the whole world,” 1 John 2:2….This one offering expiated “the sins of the whole world,” and justice is completely satisfied in reference to them. The death of the God-man naturally and necessarily canceled all legal claims. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, 2:437, 438.

Now, in Pastor Wilson’s second sentence we have the normal means through which the benefits secured for the human race are administered. i.e. the Church who are the covenant people of God. Every baptized member of the Church of Christ bears a covenantal union with Him. They have signed and sealed to them in baptism the promise of God that upon the condition of faith they have all the benefits that Christ secured for them as members of the human race.

Now, I know that many will not be satisfied if I just stop here, so I will state the special union that the elect (i.e. decretaly elect) have with Christ. God sovereignly grants to the elect alone the regeneration and faith by which they infallibly possess all the benefits given to them in Christ.

Well that’s my shot at it.

Again, this just my attempt to express what may be contained within the idea of “corporate justification”, and therefore I may be way off the mark of what Pastor Wilson and other FV advocates are trying to say.

Blessings in Christ,
Terry W. West

Of the Sacraments Article 21 of The Scottish Confession of Faith 1560

July 27, 2007 § Leave a comment

I found this earlier at ReformedCatholism.com. I did a Google search and found the confession here. I want to post it here as well. Thanks Jonathon Bonomo for sharing this with us.

Of the Sacraments
As the fathers under the law (besides the verity of the sacrifices) had two chief sacraments ­ to wit, circumcision and the Passover, the despisers and contemners whereof were not reputed for God’s people[1] ­ so do we acknowledge and confess that we now, in the time of the evangel, have two sacraments only, instituted by the Lord Jesus, and commanded to be used of all those that will be reputed members of his body: to wit, baptism and the supper, or table of the Lord Jesus, called the communion of his body and blood.[2] And these sacraments (as well of the Old as of the New Testament) were instituted of God, not only to make a visible difference betwixt his people, and those that were without his league; but also to exercise the faith of his children and, by participation of the same sacraments, to seal in their hearts the assurance of his promise, and of that most blessed conjunction, union, and society, which the elect have with their head, Christ Jesus.

And thus we utterly damn the vanity of those that affirm sacraments to be nothing else but naked and bare signs. No, we assuredly believe that by baptism we are engrafted in Christ Jesus, to be made partakers of his justice, by the which our sins are covered and remitted; and also, that in the supper, rightly used, Christ Jesus is so joined with us, that he becomes the very nourishment and food of our souls.[3] Not that we imagine any transubstantiation of bread into Christ’s natural body, and of wine in his natural blood (as the Papists have perniciously taught and damnably believed); but this union and conjunction which we have with the body and blood of Christ Jesus, in the right use of the sacraments, is wrought by operation of the Holy Ghost, who by true faith carries us above all things that are visible, carnal, and earthly, and makes us to feed upon the body and blood of Christ Jesus, which was once broken and shed for us, which now is in heaven, and appears in the presence of his Father for us.[4] And yet, notwithstanding the far distance of place which is betwixt his body now glorified in the heaven, and us now mortal in this earth, yet we most assuredly believe that the bread that we break is the communion of Christ’s body, and the cup which we bless is the communion of his blood.[5] So that we confess, and undoubtedly believe, that the faithful, in the right use of the Lord’s table, do so eat the body and drink the blood of the Lord Jesus, that he remains in them and they in him: yea, that they are so made flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bones,[6] that as the Eternal Godhead has given to the flesh of Christ Jesus (which of its own condition and nature was mortal and corruptible)[7] life and immortality, so does Christ Jesus’ flesh and blood eaten and drunken by us, give to us the same prerogatives. Which, albeit we confess are neither given unto us at that only time, neither yet by the proper power and virtue of the sacrament only; yet we affirm that the faithful, in the right use of the Lord’s table, have such conjunction with Christ Jesus,[8] as the natural man cannot apprehend.

Yea, and further we affirm, that albeit the faithful, oppressed by negligence, and manly infirmity, do not profit so much as they would in the very instant action of the supper, yet shall it after bring fruit forth, as lively seed sown in good ground. For the Holy Spirit (which can never be divided from the right institution of the Lord Jesus) will not frustrate the faithful of the fruit of that mystical action; but all this, we say, comes by true faith, which apprehends Christ Jesus, who only makes this sacrament effectual unto us. And, therefore, whosoever slanders us, as that we affirm or believe sacraments to be only naked and bare signs, do injury unto us, and speak against the manifest truth.

But this liberally and frankly we must confess, that we make a distinction betwixt Christ Jesus, in his natural substance, and betwixt the elements in the sacramental signs; so that we will neither worship the signs in place of that which is signified by them; neither yet do we despise and interpret them as unprofitable and vain; but do use them with all reverence, examining ourselves diligently before that so we do, because we are assured by the mouth of the apostle, That such as eat of that bread, and drink of that cup, unworthily, are guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord Jesus.[9]

1. Gen. 17:10-11; Ex. 23:3,etc.; Gen. 17:14; Num. 9:13.
2. Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:15-16; Matt. 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20; 1 Cor. 11:23-26.
3. 1 Cor. 10:16; Rom. 6:3-5; Gal. 3:27.
4. Mark 16:19; Luke 24:51; Acts 1:11; 3:21.
5. 1 Cor. 10:16.
6. Eph. 5:30.
7. Matt. 27:50; Mark 15:37; Luke 23:46; John 19:30.
8. John 6:51; 6:53-58.
9. 1 Cor. 11:27-29.

I just love the language of the early Reformers. I pray we as a church will recover some of this most biblical and beautiful language.

Blessings in Christ,
Terry W. West

Covenant Children, What a Blessing They Are!

April 26, 2007 § Leave a comment

I want to post last weeks Pastoral Letter, written to the congregation of Covenant Church. Rev. Gentry decided on the subject of the letter after being inspired by one of our little covenant children at Covenant Church. Her name is Brenda Noami West. Yes, she is my precious little daughter, who is seven years old. Brenda and her little sister, Trinity Grace (3yrs), will be receiving their covenant baptism this coming Sunday, as our family is received as members of Covenant Church. So, if you will indulge me, I, a very blessed and proud father, want to show my thankfulness to my Gracious Triune God, by posting the letter here on this blog. I hope you are blessed by this letter.

“Shall We Dance?”
Pastoral Letter By Rev. Dr. Thomas J. Gentry II

Grace to you and peace. beloved. May the Lord be with you in all His fullness.

Little Miss Brenda West is a blessing to me. I appreciate her honesty. Spend any time around her and you’ll know what I mean. She doesn’t hesitate to ask a question if she doesn’t know the why or what of something. She isn’t to proud to admit she doesn’t know, and she isn’t to proud to ask others for help. In martial arts class two weeks ago I directed the students to sit on the ground, jokingly telling them to sit on their “bombossity.” True to form, Brenda raised her hand to ask a question. When I called on her, she said, “Soke, what’s a bombossity?” I smiled and told her it was her bottom. I explained that I was asking her and the others to sit on their bottoms. She understood that. They all understood that, and down they went. In that instance and others, Brenda reminded me that the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are trusting and simple. I didn’t say gullible and simplistic, but trusting and simple. As a child of the covenant, Brenda trusts and believes. Is her faith nuanced? No. Is her faith particularly articulate? No. It’s not supposed to be at that stage of her spiritual growth. Never doubt, however, she is growing spiritually. Brenda and all of our covenant children are growing and maturing and moving from glory to glory as their faith goes from paedofaith to adolescent faith to adult faith. The stages and expressions may be differant, but the common denominator is faith. As David said of God in Psalm 22:9-10, “You are he who took me out of the womb; You made me trust while on my mother’s breasts. I cast upon You from birth. From my mother’s womb You have been my God..” To be sure, this is a Messianic Psalm (i.e. a prayer of the Messiah) but it is also a prayer of David. He really did pray these things, describing his faith as an infant. What David describes here is normative of covenant children. They belong to God from the womb. In that sense, when we baptize them we are baptizing believers with a baby faith. The faith, however, is real and effectual. Brenda’s faith is real and effectual. The faith of all covenant children is real and effectual. Our commitment as parents is to see that such faith is nurtured in the cradle of the home and the Church as we raise our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. The command to train up a child in the way that they should go is tied to a promise. What is that promise? Is it that when they are old they will finally be converted and come to Christ? Is it that after years of evangelistic work among our “covenant” children we will finally see the fruit of our labors and they will become Christians? No. The promise is that they will not depart from the ways of God when they are old. The assumption is that they are in the ways of God when they are young. This is a great blessing to us as heirs of the Covenant of Grace. The promise is to us and our children. This is the hope of the covenantal gospel. Brenda demonstrates that. All our covenant children demonstrate that. They don’t have problems with God being their God. They understand that when we tell them Jesus loves them and died to save them from their own wicked hearts that it is true. They should and do believe us when we tell them that their baptism is the sign of the promise from Jesus that they belong to Him. They are formed by the very faith we live. We don’t give them the faith, however. God gives them the faith, just as He gave us faith. We are used by God to nurture their faith, but the promise that salvation is by grace through faith alone is true for all those in covenant with God, literally from womb to tomb. That’s the blessed hope we know in Christ. That’s the blessing Brenda shares with all born into Christian homes. Brenda isn’t just invited, she has arrived by the grace of God. In just a few weeks we will see her baptized. We will see her receive the sign and seal of the covenant that she enjoys along with the rest of her family. As it were, Brenda will visibly and officially take her place in the life of the Church where she will grow to maturity as a child of God. You may have noticed that she was play dancing with the Pastor; smiling and trusting all the while. She belongs on the dance floor, and the music is hers and ours together. Welcome to the dance.

Wow! I was brushing away tears, as I was retyping this letter here on the blog, thinking of the awesome grace of God to give us such precious gifts. May I, the father of Brenda, Zach and Trinity, along with my beautiful wife Esther, be faithful to nurture my children’s faith, believing to promises of God in Christ, our covenant Lord.

Blessings in Christ,
Terry W. West

The Insistent Use of Bad Arguments Part 3

March 8, 2007 § 1 Comment

I want to post at least one more entry under this title. In light of some discussions I have had lately on the topic of baptism, and specifically regarding the particular argument discussed in the last two articles, I want to make another observation.

I was thinking about the argument and I believe there is another fallacy going on here as well. Though it is usually unspoken, I do believe it is implied in the way that the argument is used.

First let me restate the argument that I am considering.

Premise 1. Believers are to be baptized.
Premise 2. Infants cannot believe.
Conclusion 3. Therefore Infants cannot be baptized.

Now, as has been stated several times and in several ways in the last two articles, the most glaring fallacy is that the subject of premise one and two are not the same, therefore what is true of the subject of premise one cannot be said to be untrue of the subject of premise two. The conclusion does not follow necessarily. But this is not the reason for this third entry, so I don’t want to be redundant by continuing to focus on this same critique.

Which brings me to my next critique. While discussing this argument with a baptist friend of mine, he asked me the following question. “Terry, in what way would we define baptism if not with this verse in Mark 16:16?” His point was, how are we to know to whom baptism is limited if we don’t follow the description in the verse under consideration. Well their are several ways to answer that question, but that is for another day and another article.

For now I want to point out what I believe is being implied in this kind of question and how it speaks to understanding the use of the argument made from this verse and others like it. I want to suggest that when the first premise is stated in the argument, in the mind of the person using th argument “believers” is actually “believers only”. So, the argument would then look look this:

Premise 1. Baptism is for believers only.
Premise 2. Infants are not believers.
Conclusion 3. Therefore infants cannot be baptized.

The fallacy of this argument should be easy to spot for those who understand the proper use of argumentation. This is circular reasoning. The conclusion is assumed in the first premise and therefore the argument fails because it proves nothing. It is a mere unproven assertion at this point.

Because this fallacy is unspoken and exist in the mind of the person using the argument it may be the reason why many have a hard time seeing the problem with the argument:

Premise 1. Believers are to be baptized.
Premise 2. Infants are not believers.
Conclusion 3. Therefore they are not to be baptized.

Because in their minds they are assuming the conclusion in the first premise, i.e. “Believers only” they cannot see how that the conclusion does not follow. They are convinced before they even use the argument that baptism can only be for believers, and will not allow for any other conclusion. So, because of this unspoken assumption they are “begging the question” and so they are guilty of the fallacy of circular reasoning.

Blessings in Christ,

Terry W. West

The Insistent Use of Bad Arguments Part 2

March 8, 2007 § Leave a comment

I want to tell you a story that will illustrate the difficulty getting someone to recognize a bad argument. I want to tell you about a discussion that Fred the paedo-baptist (infant baptism) had with Joe the credo-baptist (believers only baptism).

________________

Fred and Joe were discussing Mark 16:16.

Mark 16:16, Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned

Fred was attempting to show Joe that one of the major arguments used by credo’s to refute the paedo-baptist position is a bad argument because it comments a glaring fallacy. The argument is stated as thus:

1.Believers are to be baptized.
2. Infants cannot believe.
3. Therefore Infants are not to be baptized.

Now this seems like a good argument to Joe. So Fred says to Joe, “This argument is invalid because the subject of premise one and two are not the same therefore the conclusion does not follow from the premises.” So Fred attempts to illustrate this by using the same form of argument from the same scriptural text to show Joe that he would also have to conclude something about infants that he wouldn’t be willing to hold as being truth. The argument is stated thus:

1. Believers will be saved.
2. Infants cannot believe.
3. Therefore Infants will not be saved.

Now, Joe seems to be catching on at this point, and Fred is encouraged by Joe’s reply, “I see, Fred, that this is not a possible conclusion because I realize that infants can be saved, and I would not be willing to say that they are excluded from salvation because they cannot believe.”

But, as Fred and Joe continue to discuss this argument, it starts to become clear to Fred that Joe is not willing to concede that this form of argument is not valid. Joe says to Fred, “Fred, infants cannot believe therefore they do not need to be baptized. So I say we should not baptize them because they don’t need it.”

At his point Fred realizes that Joe is still insisting on using the same form of argument. So he says to Joe, “Joe, if you argue that infants don’t “need” baptism because they cannot believe, then you are committing the same fallacy, you would also have to say, based on the argument you are using from this text of scripture, that infants don’t “need” salvation either.”

Joe is horrified by this reply from Fred and does not see the inevitableness of this conclusion. So, he asked Fred, trying to catch Fred in what would be an obvious doctrinal error i.e. baptismal regeneration, “Fred, do you believe children “need” to be baptized?” Fred answers, “No, Joe, infants do not need to be baptized.” So Joe replies, “You agree with my argument, Fred.”
By this time Fred is wanting to bang his head against a wall in frustration. Fred replies to Joe, “No I don’t agree with your argument, I only agree on the fact that children don’t need to be baptized. My reasons for infants not needing to be baptized are not because I agree with you that it follows from the fact they cannot believe! My premises are not the same as yours, Joe.”

Well, Fred and Joe go around and around for a bit debating this issue. So, eventually Fred tries to show Joe how bad the argument is by replacing the words “believers” and “infants” with squirrels and dogs. The argument would be like this:

1. Squirrels have tails.
2. Dogs are not like squirrels.
3. Therefore dogs don’t have tails.

Joe looks at Fred with an expression of disbelief and says to Fred, “Well, you are just being silly now, Fred. That is not what I am saying at all!” Fred replies, ” Yes it is Joe, It is the same argument.” But Joe is unwilling to concede his argument. So, Joe and Fred decide to continue the discussion later after some thought.

_________

I think it should be obvious by now the mistake that Joe was making. He could not see that If the subject of premise one is not the same as the subject of premise two, then the negative conclusion cannot follow. What is stated as “positive” truth about the subject of premise one, cannot be concluded as “negative” truth about the subject of premise two. And the last argument presented by Fred shows this clearly.

No matter how you phase it, if the form of the argument stays the same the conclusion must be fallacious. lets look at the arguments again and replace believers with “squirrels”, infants with “dogs”, and baptism with “tails”.

Argument 1:
Premise 1. Believers should be baptized.
Premise 2. Infants cannot believe.
Conclusion 3. Therefore infants should not be baptized.

Argument 2:
Premise 1. Squirrels have tails
Premise 2. Dogs are not like squirrels.
Conclusion 3. Therefore dogs do not have tails.

Lets try it this way.

Argument 1:
Premise 1. Believers need to be baptized.
Premise 2. Infants cannot believe.
Conclusion 3. Therefore infants don’t need to be baptized.

Argument 2:
Premise 1. Squirrels need tails.
Premise 2. Dogs are not like squirrels.
Conclusion 3. Therefore dogs don’t need tails.

These are all just obvious bad arguments. Let me end this article with a good argument using squirrels that I think will illustrate the point.

Premise 1. Some squirrels are gray.
Premise 2. Some squirrels are not gray.
Conclusion 3. Therefore not all squirrels are the same color.

Blessings in Christ,

Terry W. West

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