Friday, June 17, 2005

A Quick Note on the Errors of the Radical Hyper-Sacramentalist

Here is how one of my critics has addressed my entry on Acts 10:

“1. I never said that the phrase “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ” always refers to baptism. What I said is that this phrase in 1 Corinthians 6:11 obviously refers to baptism in light of 1:13-15 and the reference to “washing.””

Here is what my critic had said in a prior dialogue:

“Let’s see, Paul speaks of being “washed” (kind of sounds like water might be involved does it not?), in “the name” of the Lord Jesus Christ (kind of reminds one of Acts 2:38 and 8:16 does it not?), and yet we are supposed to swallow the idea that water baptism is not in view here! And this is supposed to be “exegesis”? We can’t know what Paul is referring to by being washed in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ? Come on!”

As I pointed out in a previous entry, the word “washed” refers to the new birth, not to baptism, except perhaps as a sign of that new birth. I showed this from Paul’s own words in Titus 3:5. I have further shown from Acts 10 (and 1 Cor 5) that the phrase “in the name of the Lord Jesus” has no special relationship to baptism. It is simply a phrase that means “by the authority of,” and it is used in many different contexts. By contrast, my critic has not established his understanding of “washed”=”baptism”; he simply assumes it, and then engages in circular reasoning. How so? He uses the word “washed” to show that the phrase “in the name of the Lord Jesus” indicates that baptism is in mind, and then turns right around and uses the phrase “in the name of the Lord Jesus” to show that the word “washed” indicates that baptism is in mind. Begging the question does not constitute proof.

“2. Obviously, I believe that we receive forgiveness of sins if we believe in Jesus (Acts 10:43). The fact that a certain Anabaptist opponent of the Reformation thinks that this should cause some sort of problem for my position only goes to show the shockingly superficial level of understanding which he still possesses of my point of view.”

Red herring. My point was not merely that we receive forgiveness of sins if we believe in Jesus. My point was that we receive forgiveness of sins if we believe in Jesus before we receive baptism.

“3. My critic still has yet to offer a meaningful interpretation of Acts 2:38, which says that baptism is for the forgiveness of sins. (In case he did not notice, his attempt at playing a Greek grammarian with this verse was exposed for the sham that it is in my critique. I teach Greek, and consequently know an amateur linguist when I come across one.)”

This is now the second time that my critic has called into question my Greek skills; and by the words he has chosen, it is obvious that my critic thinks rather highly of his own newly found Greek knowledge. But he is still a young man. Perhaps he might change his tune when he has a bit more experience with it and has actually worked with it for twenty years as I have. He is a neophyte to Greek studies, and that almost always produces the kind of blustery bravado that emanates from his befuddled keyboard. I have had six years of formal Greek studies under some of the best NT scholars and Greek grammarians on the scene today (and who are much more competent at Greek than any of my critic’s teachers). I have worked with the language for two decades. I have written full-length works that not only survived critical review by Greek grammarians, but garnered commendations from them. My work on Mary is nothing if not Greek exegesis. My critic comes along and states that he “teaches Greek at a Christian college” (translated, “I lead them through Machen’s beginning Greek Grammar”), and suddenly thinks he is some kind of Greek grammarian who is able to spot “amateur linguist” when he comes across them. He shows absolutely no evidence that he knows anything beyond the two years of Greek he was required to take for his degree (which would have covered beginning grammar and syntax only), but that somehow makes him the Greek expert. He demonstrates little more than a cursory familiarity with more advanced concepts, such as studies on Greek constructions, grammatical rules, etc. But he’s the expert.

“4. In Acts 10, the giving of the Spirit prior to baptism is plainly viewed as an unusual occurrence. The onlookers are astounded when God pours his Spirit out on the Gentiles (10:45). It is this giving of the Spirit which convinces Peter to go ahead and baptize these new converts. Something dramatic had to happen to convince the Jerusalem church to accept Gentiles into their fold through baptism (cf. 11:17-18), and that is exactly what God did on this occasion.”

Notice that my critic has completely ignored the ramifications I brought out for this passage. What was the PURPOSE of baptism in Peter’s mind that he concluded the Gentiles should be baptized based on the fact that they had already received the Holy Spirit and hence forgiveness of sins?

“5. Nobody denies that forgiveness of sins can be given prior to baptism. I certainly do not deny that this can happen. But that is not the normal pattern, at least not according to Acts 2:38 and 22:16."

No one denies the normative nature of Acts 2:38 and 22:16. What I have denied is that my critic has rightly understood those passages. How do I know this? Because he is unable to explain them in light of passages like Acts 10. Ignoring this point won’t make it go away. Peter baptized the Gentiles ON THE BASIS THAT they had already received forgiveness of sins. But how can that be, since the very purpose of Baptism in my critic’s mind is to forgive sins? What, pray tell, did baptism accomplish in Acts 10? Stop dodging the issue!

“I agree with Calvin"

Yes; my critic is always quick to point out that he “agrees with Calvin”—except when he doesn’t.

“Baptism is ordained for our salvation, even though, on occasion, God may choose to work outside the agency of his normal saving instruments, to show that His hands are not bound to any outward sign.”

Dancing around the issue does not constitute an explanation. My critic still has chosen not to provide an explanation of the purpose of baptism in Peter’s mind in Acts 10.

“6. As Frederick Dale Bruner has pointed out, it is worthy of note that even in Acts 10, baptism immediately follows the giving of the gift of the Spirit to Cornelius and his family. So even though baptism comes after forgiveness in this instance chronologically, and thus is not the instrument of forgiveness (as is normally the case), it is still the occasion of forgiveness. When this family is saved, they are baptized, not on some later occasion.”

Yes, yes, yes, . . we KNOW already that this is your view! Stop dancing and start explaining the PURPOSE of baptism in Acts 10.