Sunday, May 15, 2005

Could I be Presbyterian?

No. That's a bit surprising.

You see, I am very sympathetic to much of Reformed or Calvanistic theology. I believe, for example, that every aspect of human nature has been corrupted by the Fall. I believe in inherited guilt and inherited corruption. (That would be the T in TULIP)

I also believe that the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable, so yes I affirm that God's election is unconditional (Ro. 11:29).

I do not affirm the "L" though. I believe that the atonement of Jesus was for the whole world, without exception. It is not applied to all however.

I affirm that the call of God is, logically, effectual, since it is also unconditional. When God calls someone, he does so at the perfect time, when their response will inevitably and only be "Yes God, Yes!" Tat would be the "I" (irresistible grace) in TULIP.

I also affirm that those who are called will persevere to the very end. They may have times when their obedience and sanctification are hard to see, but they will, over the long haul, show that their faith has the works that vindicate the Father's declaration, offered when an individual believes, that they are righteous in His sight.

So I affirm 4 out of 5 points in Calvanism. You would think that I would embrace Presbyterianism easily. But I don't.

That's because I feel that their view of the New Covenant is askew. That shows up most clearly in their approach to baptism. Presbyterian affirm baptism of infants, the logic being that New Testament baptism is parallel to Old Testament circumcision. I find this parallelism to be simply incorrect. There are several reasons, but I will restrict myself to three main ones.

1) Paul goes to great lengths to show that the outward sign of circumcision is of no account. One is not a Jew outwardly, but inwardly, and not on account of circumcision, but on account of a heart change wrought by the Holy Spirit.

2) In he Old Testament, circumcision was administered to anyone and everyone who wanted to be a citizen of Israel. Circumcision was administered regardless of religion. Non-believers were circumcised in the Old Testament. I defy anyone to show me in the New Testament a clear example of an unbeliever being granted baptism.

3) The only clear examples of people being baptized are of people who have previously professed faith. One can quibble about "households" if they like, but no one can say that those passages are "clear" examples of infant baptism in the same way that we have clear examples of believer's baptism.

What this means is that I am happy to affirm agreement with my Reformed brethren where I can, but I cannot join them in the Presbyterian church for the simple reason that the difference in understanding the New Covenant is too big an issue for me to overlook. That does not mean that the areas of agreement are unimportant, but that the area of disagreement is just as important to me.

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