Monday, June 27, 2005

A More Extensive Response to the Hyper-Sacramentalist

Here is how the hyper-sacramentalist has updated his “thoughts” on baptismal justification:

Update: For the record, there is no difference whatsoever between the use of eis in Matthew 3:11 and Acts 2:38. In Matthew 3:11 John’s baptism is “for” the purpose of repentance, in the sense that it is necessary for repentance to occur. It is the occasion when repentance takes place, and a means of bringing about the required repentance.
The more he writes, the deeper into heresy he plunges it seems. But, at the very least, I am glad to see that the hyper-sacramentalist has laid his cards in full view. My statements against his view were intended to produce just that effect, and they have. So now here is what we know about the hyper-sacramentalist’s view. (1) Men and women are baptized (per Matt 3:11) so that they can repent, not because they’ve repented, or on the basis of their repentance, or with their repentance in view. (2) Once they have repented (via baptism) they (presumably) must be baptized again (per Acts 2:38) so that they can receive forgiveness of sins. In other words, one must be baptized in order to repent. Once he has repented (via baptism), he is ordered to be baptized (per Acts 2:38) in order to be forgiven. Yes, yes, I know. The hyper-sacramentalist will insist on only one baptism. The problem is, his reading of the relevant texts won’t allow that.

That is what 3:6 says; as they were baptized, they were confessing their sins (i.e., repenting). If a person wanted to repent, they needed to submit to John’s baptism.
The hyper-sacramentalist will later argue that “repentance” is "an embodied action which is formally enacted through a physical ritual.” I’ll leave that comment alone for now. Suffice it here to say that the statement in Matt 3:6 that, “Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River,” does not resolve the issue one way or the other. The text does not say “they confessed their sins by being baptized,” which is what is required for the hyper-sacramentalist’s argument to work.

The supposed difference between the usage in Matthew 3:11 and Acts 2:38 is a fiction of my critic. It’s called a smokescreen, a wild attempt to save face and salvage what is left of a rapidly deteriorating argument.
I assure you, the only thing rapidly deteriorating in this dialogue is my opponent’s orthodoxy.

I did say that John’s baptism was a means of “expressing” one’s repentance; but obviously, that is going to differ from the specifics of the situation involved in receiving forgiveness of sins. Repentance is a human action, which requires an act of expression (vividly expressed in John’s baptism); forgiveness of sins is a divine action which we passively receive in Christian baptism. You do not “express” your forgiveness of sins in the same way you would “express” your repentance, for forgiveness of sins is not something the person does! My critic’s attempt to be clever here has resulted in a very, very muddled argument.
Odd. I could have sworn the hyper-sacramentalist argued in a prior entry that baptism is not a human work precisely because it’s not something you do; it’s rather something that’s done to you. Oh yes, here it is:

He remains blind to the fact that baptism is not viewed as a work of merit in Reformational theology. It is an act of God, a means of grace (again, there is no evidence that the Judaizers saw circumcision in these terms, because the Mosaic covenant did not operate on such a principle). Being baptized is not a Human achievement which I do as my first act of Christian obedience (as is the case for Baptists).
Now he’s arguing the reverse; baptism is something you do; forgiveness of sins is not.

My critic’s attempt to salvage his eisegesis of Acts 2:38 gets even worse. He still tries to cling to the idea that there is some significance to the difference between the plural ( “repent”) and the singular (“be baptized”), and that this somehow tells us that the phrase “eis the forgiveness of your sins” goes with one or the other of these verbs. What escapes his notice is that the argument he is still trying to use (which I have already dismantled in a previous post) is predicated upon the numerical agreement between the plural pronoun in the phrase “your sins” and the verb "repent,” in contrast with the singular “be baptized. Amazingly, my critic is still trying to use this argument to show that the phrase “eis the forgiveness of your sins” goes with “be baptized”! In other words, he does not even understand the grammatical nuances of the argument he is still trying to employ. If there is ANY significance to the shift in number between the verbs (which I deny), then it argues AGAINST linking the forgiveness of sins with baptism, and hence renders the causal use of eis impossible (since you do not repent “because of” the forgiveness of your sins).
So far, I have been accused by the hyper-sacramentalist of being an “amateur linguist,” that I possess a “sophomoric understanding of the original language of the New Testament,” and that, lest I suffer further “embarrassment,” I should just leave technical discussions of Greek “to those who teach the language, and have demonstrated a meaningful degree of proficiency in the field” (I presume he includes himself in that category). On what grounds does the hyper-sacramentalist make these statements? There are two: (1) my rendering of eis as something like “at,” or “upon,” or “with respect to,” or “in response to”—which the hyper-sacramentalist has misrepresented by continually bringing up the rendering "because of"; and (2) my pointing out the distinction of number in the use of the main verbs in Acts 2:38. These, we are told, are the marks of an amateur who would do well to dust off an elementary grammar to re-familiarize himself on the basics. Let’s just see how many more “amateurs” we can fit into this category.

On (1) above, here is what the hyper-sacramentalist wrote:

Finally, in desperation, some have attempted to argue that the Greek preposition eis should be translated so as to make the forgiveness of sins the basis of water baptism: “be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ because of the forgiveness of your sins.” That suggestion, for those who have eyes to see, is about as obvious an example of exegetical sophistry as one could possibly ask for. There is good reason why not one of the standard Bible translations renders eis with the unusual meaning “because of” here–namely, because there is simply no credible linguistic reason to translate the preposition in that manner, apart from a desire to dictate what the Bible must say about the significance of water baptism in keeping with Evangelical dogma.
Note that I have not argued for a strictly “causal” use of eis, though I have no objection to those who do (I held out the translation “because of” as Mantey’s solution for passages like Matt 3:11). Yet, the hyper-sacramentalist continues to rail against my view as though I have translated eis as “because of” in Acts 2:38. I haven’t. What I have suggested is that passages like Acts 2:38, Matt 3:11, Matt 12:41, and Rom 4:20 (the latter two of which the hyper-sacramentalist has simply ignored in this discussion) be translated as something like “with respect to,” or “in response to” or “on the basis of”—translations which are by no means novel. On Matt 3:11, Carson writes: “Contextually (v. 6) [the idea of purpose] is unlikely. . . . But causal eis, or something very close to it, is not unknown in the NT (cf. Turner, Syntax, pp. 266-67): ‘I baptize you because of your repentance. The force may, however, be weaker—i.e., “I baptize you with reference to or in connection with repentance.’”

But that’s just the opinion of NT scholar and Greek grammarian D.A. Carson, the “amateur linguist” who possesses a “sophomoric understanding of the original language of the New Testament,” and who “in desperation” has engaged in “sophistry,” and who should just “leave technical discussions of Greek to those who teach the language, and have demonstrated a meaningful degree of proficiency in the field” lest he further embarrass himself, because “there is simply no credible linguistic reason to translate the preposition in that manner, apart from a desire to dictate what the Bible must say about the significance of water baptism in keeping with Evangelical dogma.”

Here’s what Nigel Turner (Syntax) writes regarding eis:
Some contexts would certainly suit a causal sense: Mt 3.11 because of repentance (so some modern translators); 10.42, 12.41 = Lk 11.32 . . . they repented because of the preaching of Jonah (but at is sufficient); Ac 2.38 be baptized . . . on the basis of (but with a view to is sufficient, if your theology is satisfied), Ac 7.53; Ro 4.20 on account of the promises of God, Abraham did not waver (but looking to is sufficient); 11.32 God has imprisoned all because of disobedience; 2 Ti 2.26 God gave them repentance because they knew the truth (but purposive eis is better); Ti 3.14 to maintain good works, because of the compelling need of them; Heb 12.7 you are enduring because of discipline (but as a discipline is sufficient); 1 Jn 5.10.
Now keep in mind, the hyper-sacramentalist has claimed that “causal eis” has been rejected by Greek scholarship: “Mantey’s claim of a ‘causal’ use of eis is without grounds, and is rightly rejected as unlikely by most scholars.” But that’s just not what Greek scholarship has concluded at all, and this point demonstrates the lack of familiarity with Greek studies on the part of the hyper-sacramentalist. What has been overturned is Mantey’s appeal to instances of causal eis outside of NT literature alone. As we have already noted, Carson recognizes NT examples of causal eis more than 30 years after the debate between Mantey and Marcus. And Turner recognizes the use of causal eis in the NT, even though he also notes that the examples of causal eis in Hellenistic Greek brought forward by Mantey were sufficiently overturned by Marcus. What he does not do is go on to make the point that the NT examples have been overturned. Indeed, Marcus himself conceded Mantey’s NT examples of this use of eis when he wrote:

It is quite possible that eis is used causally in these NT passages but the examples of causal eis cited from non-biblical Greek contribute absolutely nothing to making this possibility a probability. If, therefore, Professor Mantey is right in his interpretation of various NT passages on baptism and repentance and the remission of sins, he is right for reasons that are non-linguistic.
The hyper-sacramentalist has relied solely upon Wallace’s conclusion rather than the actual evidence of Mantey-Marcus. While it is true that Wallace rejects causal eis in the NT (though unjustly, based as that rejection is on the Mantey-Marcus debate), it is certainly not the case that NT scholarship has rejected it. Indeed, Turner, writing his grammar more than ten years after the supposed “dismantling” of causal eis, fully accepts the category and cites NT examples of it, and still includes that category in the reprinting of his grammar 35 years later!

But, of course, that’s just the opinion of Greek scholar Nigel Turner, who, according to the hyper-sacramentalist, is an “amateur linguist” who possesses a “sophomoric understanding of the original language of the New Testament,” who “in desperation” has engaged in “sophistry,” and who should just “leave technical discussions of Greek to those who teach the language, and have demonstrated a meaningful degree of proficiency in the field” lest he further embarrass himself, because “there is simply no credible linguistic reason to translate the preposition in that manner, apart from a desire to dictate what the Bible must say about the significance of water baptism in keeping with Evangelical dogma.”

BDF (Blass, Debrunner, and Funk) also recognizes the classification of “causal eis” and cites the debate between Mantey and Marcus nearly a decade afterwards, leaving the classification completely intact. If the debate had been settled, why include the classification at all? Retaining that classification was the decision of Greek scholar A. Debrunner and his English translator and fellow Greek scholar R. Funk, each of whom, according to the hyper-sacramentalist, is nothing more than an “amateur linguist” who possesses a “sophomoric understanding of the original language of the New Testament,” who “in desperation” has engaged in “sophistry,” and who should just “leave technical discussions of Greek to those who teach the language, and have demonstrated a meaningful degree of proficiency in the field” lest he further embarrass himself, because “there is simply no credible linguistic reason to translate the preposition in that manner, apart from a desire to dictate what the Bible must say about the significance of water baptism in keeping with Evangelical dogma.”

The hyper-sacramentalist continues with more “thoughts”:

Recently I had an exchange with someone who was having a very difficult time understanding how it could be that the Greek preposition eis could be translated “for” in Matthew 3:11: “I baptize you with water for repentance.” It did not matter that Matthew 3:6 explicitly says that the people confessed their sins (i.e., repented) precisely as they were being baptized.
Let me just stop the quotation here to point out a glaring example of the eisegesis in which the hyper-sacramentalist must engage. He claims that Matt 3:6 is somehow proof that eis in 3:11 should be taken as a purpose clause. Why? Well, because the text says “they were being baptized by him in the Jordan river, confessing their sins.” But this constitutes no more “proof” of his view than it does mine. All the text says is that the confessing of sins and baptism were taking place together. This could support the hyper-sacramentalist’s understanding of 3:11 (namely, that they were baptized so that they could repent); or it could just as readily support the evangelical understanding of 3:11 (namely, that they were baptized in view of or on the basis of or in response to their repentance)—so Carson, who rejects the former view on contextual grounds. In any case, an appeal to Matt 3:6 resolves absolutely nothing about the rendering of Matt 3:11. The fact that the hyper-sacramentalist would raise this point, as though it is any more supportive of his view than mine, demonstrates his inability to handle the text in a fair way.

He continues:
Nor does it appear to matter that the NIV, the NASB, the HCSB, the ESV, and the NET all agree with me and translate eis here as “for.” The NKJV renders eis as "unto” (which amounts to the same thing). Not one of these translations renders eis in a causal sense ( “because of”) in Matthew 3:11 (nor in Acts 2:38 for that matter). We are supposed to ignore the unanimous testimony of all these translations, and follow the advice of a critic with a theological agenda in rendering the Greek preposition eis as “because of” in this verse.
This is just baffling. The hyper-sacramentalist fancies himself a NT scholar; yet he is appealing to English translations, as though that somehow wins the day for his view. Aside from the fact that I must again correct the hyper-sacramentalist in his grasp of my view (I do not translate eis in these passages as “because of”), I must also correct his understanding on principles of translation. Aside from the locative use (“into”) the primary meaning of eis is “for.” When there is dispute surrounding a text, translations normally default to the largest category of usage, as they have done here. The hyper-sacramentalist apparently thinks that exegesis consists simply in looking up the majority reading of translations. He doesn’t bother to look at what commentators say. He sees no need to look to Greek resources such as Turner that specifically place passages like Matt 3:11 and Acts 2:38 under the category of “causal eis.” I suppose Carson, Turner et al were simply unaware that the majority of translations render eis as “for” in these passages, otherwise they surely would have dropped all discussion of it! Indeed, all those dreaded “baptist-gnostic” scholars who reject the notion that Acts 2:38 teaches “baptismal justification”—including Wallace, by the way, whom the hyper-sacramentalist has quoted out of context!—should have simply consulted the majority of translations and been done with it! For all his talk about how his “critics” are “amateur linguists,” the hyper-sacramentalist has certainly not written anything that would suggest he has more than a cursory understanding of exegetical methods.

The hyper-sacramentalist continues:
Baptism was the occasion of repentance! That is why John’s baptism was “for” repentance. Mantey’s claim of a “causal” use of eis is without grounds, and is rightly rejected as unlikely by most scholars. Cf. Daniel Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, pp. 369-371.”
Aside from the “causal eis is without grounds” point I already refuted, here is what Wallace actually says about Acts 2:38: “If a causal eis is not in view, what are we to make of Acts 2:38? There are at least four other interpretations of Acts 2:38.” Wallace then cites the four options he thinks might fit this passage. Here’s what he says about option #1, which is the hyper-sacramentalist’s view:

1) The baptism referred to here is physical only, and eis has the meaning of for or unto. Such a view, if this is all there is to it, suggests that salvation is based on works. The basic problem of this view is that it runs squarely in the face of the theology of Acts, namely: (a) repentance precedes baptism (cf. Acts 3:19; 26:20), and (b) salvation is entirely a gift of God, not procured via water baptism (Acts 10:43 [cf. v 47]; 13:38–39, 48; 15:11; 16:30–31; 20:21; 26:18).
The hyper-sacamentalist has cited Wallace as though Wallace is in agreement with his view. But that is simply not the case. Wallace actually adopts view # 4, which I will get to shortly. In the meantime, Wallace continues with options 2 & 3:

2) The baptism referred to here is spiritual only. Although such a view fits well with the theology of Acts, it does not fit well with the obvious meaning of “baptism” in Acts—especially in this text (cf. 2:41).

3) The text should be repunctuated in light of the shift from second person plural to third person singular back to second person plural again. If so, it would read as follows: “Repent, and let each one of you be baptized at the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins… .” If this is the correct understanding, then eis is subordinate to [“repent”] alone, rather than to [“be baptized”] The idea then would be, “Repent for/with reference to your sins, and let each one of you be baptized… .” Such a view is an acceptable way of handling eis but its subtlety and awkwardness are against it.”

I will pause a moment to point out that option # 3—which Wallace says is “acceptable way of handling eis” (even though he thinks it’s awkward)—is the very exegetical option I raised in my initial post on this issue, and for which the hyper-sacramentalist concluded I’m an “amateur linguist.” Here are his exact words on this option:

As a Greek professor at a Christian college, I always find it humorous when I see interpreters of the Bible attempt to evade some obvious teaching of scripture through subtle appeals to what “the Greek” says. . . . Some however, in an attempt to make the Bible say what their Evangelical tradition dictates it must say, have latched on to the fact that the verb “repent” is plural in number here. Aha! Peter says “repent” (plural) and the pronoun governing “sins” is plural too ( “the sins of you”). So, the phrase “for the forgiveness of your sins” can go with “repent,” and we can then view the reference to baptism as merely a parenthetical aside (just as it is in our Evangelical preaching!). The end result is conveniently displayed as follows: “Repent for the forgiveness of your sins (and let each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ), and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” . . . So the alleged shift between plural and singular and back to plural again turns out to be a mirage after all. It is nothing more than an apologetical attempt to preserve a non-efficacious view of water baptism.
Yet what the hyper-sacramentalist has characterized as a “humorous” attempt at apologetics and a mirage, Greek scholar Daniel Wallace has called “an acceptable way of handling eis” in Acts 2:38, . Wallace continues by citing the option he favors:

4) Finally, it is possible that to a first-century Jewish audience (as well as to Peter), the idea of baptism might incorporate both the spiritual reality and the physical symbol. In other words, when one spoke of baptism, he usually meant both ideas—the reality and the ritual. Peter is shown to make the strong connection between these two in chapters 10 and 11. In 11:15–16 he recounts the conversion of Cornelius and friends, pointing out that at the point of their conversion they were baptized by the Holy Spirit. After he had seen this, he declared, “Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit…” (10:47). The point seems to be that if they have had the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit via spiritual baptism, there ought to be a public testimony/acknowledgment via water baptism as well. This may not only explain Acts 2:38 (viz., that Peter spoke of both reality and picture, though only the reality removes sins), but also why the NT speaks of only baptized believers (as far as we can tell): Water baptism is not a cause of salvation, but a picture; and as such it serves both as a public acknowledgment (by those present) and a public confession (by the convert) that one has been Spirit-baptized. In sum, although Mantey’s instincts were surely correct that in Luke’s theology baptism was not the cause of salvation, his ingenious solution of a causal eis lacks conviction.”
Now, Wallace finally rejects causal eis; but that is only one scholar’s opinion. And it is not based, it seems, on the NT evidence but on Marcus’ work in non-biblical literature. As I have already shown, other equally capable Greek grammarians have retained that category even though fully informed by the Mantey-Marcus debate, and I see no reason to reject that usage out of hand.

On the other hand, I have made it clear that eis in Acts 2:38 can and perhaps should be treated the same way it is treated in Matt 12:41 and Luke 11:32; namely, “at” or “upon” or “in response to”; or simply the way it is treated in Rom 4:20; namely, “with reference to.”

The hyper-sacramentalist continues:

I frankly have little patience for the games my critic plays with the Greek text. He is promoting a translation of eis which is rejected by every Bible translation on the market (so far as I know), and has the gall to accuse those who do not follow his idiosyncratic translation as promoting the bondage of a false gospel.”
Just to be clear, there is a vast difference between a Bible translation not adopting a rendering of a certain word, and one rejecting that rendering. Bible translations have done the former in rendering eis by the default (largest category) meaning. But they have not thereby “rejected” other renderings. That’s simply the misleading opinion of the hyper-sacramentalist.

The hyper-sacramentalist continues:

Originally, he suggested that the phrase eis aphesin ton hamartion humon ( “for the forgiveness of your sins”) should go only with repentance, and not baptism. Then, once that measure was exposed for the sham that it is, he suggests that if that won’t work, we can do the opposite. The preposition eis (now with the unlikely meaning of “because of”) goes only with baptism, and not repentance! Whichever option serves the purpose of keeping his pietist, non-sacramental view of baptism intact!”
No; as I continually point out, these are exegetical options for the passage. I have not “committed” myself to any particular option because I see equal merit in each one. All of them are workable options for our understanding of the text. The only option that doesn’t work, as Wallace points out, is the view of the hyper-sacramentalist that baptism is the means of forgiveness and hence the means of justification. In the words of Wallace, that view must be rejected on the grounds that it produces a works-salvation.

The hyper-sacramentalist continues:
I believe that there is a larger point here than simply a difference of opinion over the best way to translate a Greek preposition. The reason my critic was having such a hard time understanding how eis could be rendered “for” in this verse is because of the way he conceptualizes spiritual actions. For him, repentance is a disembodied state of mind. I “repent” by thinking the words in my head “I’m sorry for my sins,” and by feeling regret inwardly for those sins, and desiring to change. This is not the case in the historical context of John the Baptist’s call for repentance. In Matthew 3:11, repentance is not simply a state of mind; it is an embodied action which is formally enacted through a physical ritual.
Here the hyper-sacramentalist is most betrayed by his hyper-sacramentalism. He has resurrected an error that persisted in Roman Catholic translations of the Bible until the time of the Reformation; namely, that the Greek word metanoia means “penance” rather than “a change of mind” or “a turning from sin and toward God.” It is ironic that the hyper-sacramentalist would point to this particular concept as a theological error on my part, when it is in fact a lexical error on his. The lexicon of BDAG identifies only one sense in which metanoia is used. It means “a change of mind,” “a turning about,” “conversion,” “a turning away from,” and that’s it!

But then again, that’s just the uninformed opinion of Greek scholars Bauer, Danker, Arndt, and Gringrich, each of whom, according to the hyper-sacramentalist, is an “amateur linguist” who possesses a “sophomoric understanding of the original language of the New Testament,” and who should just “leave technical discussions of Greek to those who teach the language, and have demonstrated a meaningful degree of proficiency in the field” lest he further embarrass himself.

The reason this is so ironic is because for all the bluster coming from the hyper-sacramentalist’s keyboard that I’m taking eis in the wrong way in Acts 2:38, I can at the very least produce NT examples where eis indeed bears the meaning I am proposing for Acts 2:38, and I can support that usage from Greek scholarship. Yet, the hyper-sacramentalist is completely unable to produce even one Greek source that defines “repent” the way he needs it to be defined. In fact, all of them without exception define it in the very way the hyper-sacramentalist expressly rejects! And indeed, his proposed definition of "repentance" would be impossible in many NT passages, such as Matt 12:41 in which Jesus says the men of Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah. Did those men repent by means of baptism? No? Then perhaps they used the OT parallel of circumcision as a "means of repentance." If so, then the hyper-sacramentalist's prior argument regarding the distinction between baptism and circumcision as it applies to "faith alone" in Romans and Galatians completely crumbles.

The hyper-sacramentalist continues:
But actually repenting required more than a disembodied expression of emotion, or state of mind. They had to confess their sins while undergoing the prescribed ritual. That was why John’s baptism was “for” repentance; or as it is elsewhere described, a “baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.”
So says the hyper-sacramentalist, even though this is rejected by all the Greek sources. The hyper-sacramentalist continues:

The real problem here is not linguistic, but theological. For my critic, it makes no sense as to how baptism could be “for” repentance.” He thinks, “If these people had not already repented, why would they come for baptism in the first place?” He cannot conceive of a religion in which repentance involves not merely thinking the thought “I’m sorry,” and feeling guilty, but actually confessing one’s sins in the context of a prescribed ritual.”
Nonsense. I can indeed conceive of such a religion. I call it "Roman Catholicism.”