Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Systematic Theology and Catholic Converts

Originally posted on the aomin blog, 9/16/07

I've been reading Van Til's An Introduction To Systematic Theology. Van Til notes systematic theology seeks to offer an ordered presentation of what the Bible teaches about God. He says "the study of systematic theology will help men to preach theologically. It will help to make men proclaim the whole counsel of God. Many ministers never touch the greater part of the wealth of the revelation of God to man contained in Scripture. But systematics helps ministers to preach the whole counsel of God, and thus to make God central in their work."

Here was the point that I found most interesting:

"It is but natural to expect that, if the church is strong because its ministry understands and preaches the whole counsel of God, then the church will be able to protect itself best against false teaching of every sort. Non-indoctrinated Christians will easily fall prey to the peddlers of Russellism, spiritualism and all of the other fifty-seven varieties of heresies with which our country abounds. One-text Christians simply have no weapons of defense against these people. They may be able to quote many Scripture texts which speak, for instance, of eternal punishment, but the Russellite will be able to quote texts which, by the sound of them and taken individually, seem to teach annihilation. The net result is, at best, a loss of spiritual power because of loss of conviction. Many times, such one-text Christians themselves fall prey to the seducers voice."
Of course, I had the converts to Roman Catholicism in mind, rather than Russellites. I wonder how many of these Catholic converts actually attended churches that proclaimed the whole council of God? A question I would ask is how many Catholic converts previously went to churches with strong systematic confessions of faith, like the Westminster Confession, and how often were they taught the confession, like in a Sunday School class, and how well did their minister cover all the doctrines in the confession of faith? I would expect some rather weak answers.

Van Til states, "We have already indicated that the best apologetic defense will invariably be made by him who knows the system of truth of Scripture best." I would modify this a bit and make it a negative: "the best converts to false gospels will invariably be made by those who know the system of the truth of Scripture least."

Addendum 9/20/11
I don't recall writing the above post, but I still find it to be true for a number of garden variety converts.  There have been times I've dealt with people who are quite biblically knowledgeable, yet a serious heresy is being entertained. As I've considered what would lead these people to embrace such deviant theological positions, Van Til's words certainly ring true: there was a lack of a strong systematic theology.

There will of course be those that were previously catechized (or even had theological training) who convert to this or that. In fact, now we have the CTC blog which props up people from my own tradition that have made their way across the Tiber. CTC appears to be primarily picking people that were more than simply pew sitters in Reformed churches. As I've read through (or listened to) Roman Catholic conversion stories though, more often than not, one can usually sense a lack of systematic theology.

47 comments:

Tim Enloe said...

From what I have observed of the CTC crowd, they often falsify Van Til's observation about systematic theology protecting one from heresy. A number of CTC folks whose testimonies I've read claim to have been very well versed in systematic theology. What got them to convert were "systematic historiographics" and / or historical liturgics, which rush through the gaping holes left for them by the overly cerebral "Theology Alone" approach to the Reformation and break down what turn out to be merely propositional defenses.

It makes sense. Reformed Theology wonks are very often very poorly read in history (particularly pre-Reformation history). They are generally very poor at understanding the ideological connections between the Reformation and previous eras, and very poor at understanding the relationship and significance of ideas to cultural shifts. Believing falsely that everything is about "sound doctrine," and that "sound doctrine" is about nothing more than proper exegesis of "plain" texts, they ignore large areas of God's world in favor of (a truncated understanding of) God's Word. And so, being grounded in nothing but a "system of propositions," when they encounter a much larger vision of life, a vision that embraces embodiment and long, slow, messy providences, it takes little to move them down the path toward conversion. Today's anemic "Reformed Theology," they discover, doesn't have the resources to address important questions that can't be fit into a tidy propositional matrix that deals only with polemics about textual authority and the current and future state of the soul.

The Reformation wasn't about Theology Alone. The sooner we learn this and begin to pay serious and sustained attention to history, literature, philosophy, politics, music, architecture, etc. - from grade school up - the sooner we will begin to have masses of lay Protestants who are not swayed by the sophistries of RC apologetics.

James Swan said...

What got them to convert were "systematic historiographics" and / or historical liturgics, which rush through the gaping holes left for them by the overly cerebral "Theology Alone" approach to the Reformation and break down what turn out to be merely propositional defenses.

I'm not sure which converts you have in mind. I don't believe though for a moment that one simply converts to anything because of an intellectual pursuit, which is what I read you saying. The reasons are always of the heart.

Believing falsely that everything is about "sound doctrine," and that "sound doctrine" is about nothing more than proper exegesis of "plain" texts, they ignore large areas of God's world in favor of (a truncated understanding of) God's Word.

Having been in a Reformed church for quite a while, having studied theology via two Reformed seminaries, the above is not my experience at all. I don't see such a dichotomy. We both know that back in the day, theology was considered queen of the sciences, and all else was to be subservient to it. That's at least the Reformed education I've received, and that's the paradigm I've been trained to use. Indeed: sound doctrine most certainly, because it will inform a proper worldview.

The Reformation wasn't about Theology Alone. The sooner we learn this and begin to pay serious and sustained attention to history, literature, philosophy, politics, music, architecture, etc. - from grade school up - the sooner we will begin to have masses of lay Protestants who are not swayed by the sophistries of RC apologetics.

Once again, not my experience, at all. Remember back in the day when you used Sproul's book title for the title of your blog? Would you say Sproul fits your description? He's probably one of the most popular Reformed theologians now. I refer to him jokingly as the Protestant Pope. It was listening to him many many years ago teaching on philosophy that first made me aware of Reformed theology. In his lectures he commented on all the things you mentioned. He has a high view of the arts and philsophy most certainly, as do some of my Reformed professors, both past and present.

As to what the Reformation was "about," perhaps I'm naive, but I think everything has a theological dimension, so the reformation was indeed about theology.

Tim, I'm not sure what experiences you've been through, but I've had quite a different one. I am not angry at the Reformed community at large. Certainly there are some Reformed idiots, but I'm grateful for my Reformed church, my Reformed friends, my Reformed education, and my Reformed theology. All have been gifts from God. I'm not angry at any of these things, I'm humbled to have them.

Tim Enloe said...

James,
First I’m not writing out of anger at the Reformed community. I’m writing out of concern for a community of which I am a part and which I love dearly. I’m not satisfied with much of what it does because much of what it does is shallow by comparison with past generations. Professional Reformed theologians by and large today don’t think and write like Schaff and Hodge and Dabney, and that’s because their educational base and the scope of things with which they are concerned is so much more shallow than those men’s was. Mostly it’s not their fault, being the result of widespread cultural and educational changes over the last 150 years. But fault aside, the atrophied results remain, and that is what I’m concerned about. It has nothing to do with my supposed emotional state, and everything to do with demonstrable content. Unfortunately most Reformed people only read “Theology” books, and so it’s difficult to demonstrate to them what I’m talking about.

Second, as for the old idea of Theology being the queen of the sciences, well yes, but one has to consider what exactly that means. It doesn’t mean that Theology is to be pursued above all other disciplines, and certainly not to the point of excluding the other disciplines since they are “only worldly” concerns. Classic Christian theology, to say nothing of classic Reformation theology, was never only concerned with the authority of the Bible and the salvation of the soul – your “two-trick pony” notion. The notion that these are all that really matter is a distortion of Theology, as may be easily proved by anyone who reads a wider variety of historical sources than are useful merely as convenient tools with which to bash Romanists and other heretics.

What it means to say that theology is the queen of the sciences is spelled out by Aquinas in ST, Part I, Q. 1, Art. 5. There he says that theology is nobler than the other sciences because it derives its first principles from divine revelation, not human reason. He then expressly states that the other sciences are “handmaidens” of theology in the sense that theology takes its “material” from them so that it can better convince our intellects, which are more easily led by natural reason than by what is above reason. Hence, Aquinas analogizes how Theology uses the other sciences to the way that political science uses military thought as a source for the clearer explication of its principles. In other words, Theology does not stand alone; its queenship does not mean it dictates to the other sciences what they can and can’t say, nor that may freely dispense with them whenever something they say clashes with some theologian’s personal ideas about what exegesis demonstrates.

[cont]

Tim Enloe said...

The Reformers understood this principle well, as their writings continually show them interfacing theology with other areas of life such as history, philosophy, literature, and the like. Today’s Reformed theologians by and large (there are exceptions – since you mention him, Sproul being one of them) do not do this because all they learn is Theology – which for them is a discipline focused solely on exegesis, systematics, and apologetics without any seriously informed connections with the rest of the world. This is why we have no Calvins, but only legions of people who expertly parrot Calvin. Book IV of the Institutes was not written by a man who thought of “Theology” the way that, say, the folks at Green Baggins and The Puritan Board and the GA of the PCA do.
Last, I won’t speak to your experiences in Reformed communities, but if you don’t have a Liberal Arts education, you don’t - and really can’t – understand my experiences, and so should withhold judgment about them. The sort of education I’ve spent 9 years getting is itself pathetically far from what the Reformers, and even their heirs like Schaff and Hodge and Dabney, got, but it’s enough to show me what’s been lost, and some glimmerings of what needs to be done to recover what’s been lost.
Alas, I’ve yet to find many Reformed people who are proud of their training in “Theology” who show an awareness of what’s been lost. Rather, they are for the most part complacent in their mastery of systematics and exegesis, and all too happy to devote their entire lives to the very narrow task of identifying and destroying “heresy” wherever their hyper-sensitive noses smell it. It superficially looks like what the Reformers did, but the superficiality isn’t visible to those who only concern themselves with “Theology.”
Don’t imagine that I’m “attacking” you or your friends. You guys and your agendas are no longer the center of my intellectual universe (haven’t been for about 5 years). The trends I lament are present in a much wider spectrum of Reformed thought than you and your friends represent. If it was only a matter of a few apologists on a couple of blogs and message boards, it wouldn’t even be worth addressing. But it’s systemic, and if I have any mission these days it’s to promote greater awareness in Reformed circles of what’s been lost and motivate others to begin seeking the way back.

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Brothers,

This is a very interesting conversation. I would be very pleased to read more concerning these matters.

Tim, I would like to know more of what you mean. Can you direct me to blog that you like or one in which you have participated in which you discuss these things? Of course, the more you guys comment back and forth, the more I'll read.

Dick Gaffin said to me once, "there's more to life than theology." It's very worth exploring these concepts. I know what it's like, Tim, to read Hodge (for example) and come away feeling that I've missed out on something grand in my education, and that I'm not alone in that these days.

Blessings in Christ,

Tim

Ken said...

Seems that the Called to Communion folks went back and let Augustine's doctrine of the church (and development of Romanism beyond that to today) obviate Augustine's doctrine of grace.

They, and all the other former Evangelicals, are also attracted to the feeling of security of being able to say, "the Pope is an umpire here on earth and a living voice who can come in and solve all matters of dis-unity and that by submission to him and infallibility, all the doctrinal disunity problems would disappear."

they also seem to put later tradition, philosophy and latin and rhetoric rules over Scripture and exegesis.

Ken said...

I do agree with Tim that Evangelicals are weak in church history, Patristics, historical theology, and other areas like the arts, architecture, philosophy, and political history. (But James S. is right that R. C. Sproul has really helped us all in those areas.)

One of the reasons, it seems to me that some former Evangelical went to Rome is that Rome seems to give them more room to "get into those areas". Maybe that is why so many RCs are the best conservative talk show hosts on moral and ethical and political issues. (like Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Anne Colter, Bill Bennett, Bill O'Reilly, and Supreme Court Justices like Anthony Scalia, Clearance Thomas, John Roberts, and Alito)

One of the great needs is to understand the Oriental Orthodox churches (Mono-physite/mia-physite) (Coptic, Jacobite Syrian, Ethiopian) and the Nestorian (Assyrian church of the East) and understand the theologies and the history and the political factors that caused them, at least at first, to "welcome the Arab Muslim" invaders, because, according to many, the Chalcedonian Byzantines (sent soldiers and "heretic hunters" from Constantinople by Theodosius 2 and Justinian and Hericlius and others) were too cruel and oppressive in quartering soldiers and trying to force them to submit to the Chalcedonian creed of 451.

There is some evidence of that; and that axiom that they "welcomed the Muslims" is common in history books on that subject; and maybe they are just repeating a half-truth; but there is also evidence that the Copts and Syrians and others realized too late that they had been tricked and deceived by the Muslim rulers; and by the time they realized it, it was too late; they had something much worse than the Byzantines. now they were Zhimmis / Dhimmis and could not evangelize or build new churches or become leaders in society or politics.

James Swan said...

Tim,

Your initial comments chastised the Reformed in general for being partially (if not entirely) at fault for certain folks embracing the heresy of Romanism. You then went on to launch a criticism of the Reformed in general for not being up on the arts, philosophy, literature, etc, and ending with "the sooner we will begin to have masses of lay Protestants who are not swayed by the sophistries of RC apologetics." As I look over your comments, I'd simply ask you to stick to one subject. First you can begin with Romanism, and point out some examples of what you're talking about. I'd be interested in specific examples of what you mean in regard to conversion stories.

As to the other issue, the "by and large" of today's Reformed theologians, I simply don't buy it, which is why I brought up Sproul. Need I bring up other names? Is there some sort of head count that will prove the truth or falsity of your observations?

I must be having a far different experience than you're having. Maybe it's because you're in Texas (?) and I'm in the shadows of NYC? Even my current professors have stressed a Reformed theology that gives meaning to all aspects of life. This is the same message I received from my previous seminary. This is the same message I get from the pulpit, and from my Reformed friends.

As to Green Baggins and the Puritan Board, I rarely, if ever read Green Baggins. I don't know anything about those folks. As to the Puritan Board, I only recently signed up to it, and have rarely posted. I consider neither group defining of "Reformed". In my sparse reading of PB, I've read some insightful posts as well utter nonsense.

I’ve yet to find many Reformed people who are proud of their training in “Theology” who show an awareness of what’s been lost. Rather, they are for the most part complacent in their mastery of systematics and exegesis, and all too happy to devote their entire lives to the very narrow task of identifying and destroying “heresy” wherever their hyper-sensitive noses smell it. It superficially looks like what the Reformers did, but the superficiality isn’t visible to those who only concern themselves with “Theology.”

These types of comments don't inspire me to respond, simply because they're so general, and also appear to be based on your experience in and about Reformed theology. As a counter I could simply post my counter experience, which has been far different. Who wins?

if I have any mission these days it’s to promote greater awareness in Reformed circles of what’s been lost and motivate others to begin seeking the way back.

Well, perhaps your zeal for the subject should be directed more constructively. As it stands now, the majority of what you've stated amounts to simply your opinion on a particular subject. Now, I don't at all mean this as an insult: go back and scroll up, and notice you quickly moved from the subject of Romanist conversion issues into general comments about the Reformed community. I make no claims to be as educated or insightful as you. I do claim though to have longer days and less time than most to interact on the Internet. Perhaps your general statements about the Reformed community are related to Romanist conversion issues, but as I read through your comments, they were all over the place.

Ken said...

I should say that Baptists, as a Baptist myself, are weaker in those other areas (history, church history, historical theology, philosophy, art, architecture, political history and theory) than Presbyterians and other Reformed folks; so James objection to Tim's point is well taken.

But, I don't know of too many former Reformed Baptists who swam the Tiber, and the CtC crowd is mostly former Presbyterians or other non-baptist Reformed churches.

Carrie said...

One of the reasons, it seems to me that some former Evangelical went to Rome is that Rome seems to give them more room to "get into those areas".

I think the majority who leave for Rome left because they went out from us, but they were not of us. So the surface reasoning doesn't really bother me too much.

I also know plenty of less educated believers who aren't versed in systematic theology, church history, patristics, etc and yet still can see that Rome teaches another gospel. But that applies to laity, maybe you are talking academics? I'm fine with 1Cor1.

Ken said...

I think the majority who leave for Rome left because they went out from us, but they were not of us.

Thanks Carrie for that timely word; yes, ultimately, that is true. I probably did not communicate as precise as I should have.

I also know plenty of less educated believers who aren't versed in systematic theology, church history, patristics, etc and yet still can see that Rome teaches another gospel. But that applies to laity, maybe you are talking academics? I'm fine with 1Cor1.

Yes, good point. "My sheep hear My voice" - amazing how academics can jettison the Bible and the gospel for Rome's false gospel. We must constantly come back to not letting academic and intellectual inquiry and endless study crowd the heart where that other stuff takes the place of the simple gospel truth. Someone who leaves for another gospel proves they never really had true faith in the first place.

That is the ultimate spiritual reason as to "why".

But it is also good for us other Evangelicals to improve in those areas that Tim and James are talking about, even though they disagree that that is a systemic problem for most Reformed and Presbyterians. I think James is right to question Tim's assertion that most of the Reformed/Presbyterians groups are not up to speed on other areas. They are more than other Evangelicals. I do think it is a weakness in other Evangelicals.

But academic knowledge can become an idol and can be dangerous for pride. I Cor. 8:1

Carrie said...

But it is also good for us other Evangelicals to improve in those areas

True, but not everyone has an interest or the background to get into all that. Nor do I think it is necessary for the majority.

I'd be delighted if "Evangelicals" (not sure who that is anymore) could just get their theology straight and stop following the latest book from some lightweight author on "finding God's will for your life", yada, yada. In fact, the initial reason I got into writing against RCism isn't b/c I thought I could "save" some poor Catholic but b/c I was so frustrated that many garden variety Christians couldn't articulate what is wrong with Rome's gospel.

But, if I were going to be critical of the Reformed I would say they need to get out of their small circles and try to infiltrate all the bad Evangelical churches and smack some sense into people.

On a side note, I have been feeling a need to worry less about books and more about just serving people. Both can be done, of course, but I feel serving is a weak point.

Thanks for the chat, Ken :)

Pete said...

Ken wrote, “Seems that the Called to Communion folks went back and let Augustine's doctrine of the church (and development of Romanism beyond that to today) obviate Augustine's doctrine of grace.”

Hi Ken!

I hope you’ll spend more time with Augustine. What you’ll find is that Reformed Protestants have actually allowed a caricature of Augustine’s doctrine of grace to annihilate Augustine’s doctrine of the Church. :) It seems like Catholics do with Augustine what you’ve said they do because the Reformed have extracted things that Augustine said about grace, free will, and predestination out of the sacramental and ecclesiological context from within which he taught the faith. I hope that you will come to see that this is true, and that God will use Saint Augustine as a means of grace to bring you home to the Catholic Church of Jesus Christ.

With love in Christ,
Pete Holter

John Bugay said...

Pete, what Augustine did was to allow a recently Romanized “ecclesiological context” – “tres chic, n’est pas?” – to cloud some of his otherwise excellent judgments about grace, free will, and predestination.

Thank God that these brothers have come to see that this is true, and that God has still enabled a flawed Augustine to be used as a means of grace to see the real truth about the true catholic church of Jesus Christ.

Pete said...

Hey John!

I feel like it was just yesterday that we wrote… :)

Since we embrace two different reconstructions of the history of the early papacy, let me just mention one doctrine in particular that can safely bypass any contentious points: baptismal regeneration. The Church at Rome didn’t play any particular role in bringing the Catholic Church to universally recognize this doctrine, but it is essential to appreciating Augustine’s, i.e., Catholic, soteriology.

In Christ,
Pete

Rhology said...

bringing the Catholic Church to universally recognize this doctrine

Even if (ad arguendo) all extant writings putatively from the early church explicitly held to bap reg, which they don’t, you still have the massive unanswered (and probably unanswerable) questions I’ve asked in this article. So that doesn’t impress me any, and shouldn’t impress anyone who stops to think about the issue in the way I’ve framed it.

Rhology said...

(subscribe)

louis said...

"baptismal regeneration. The Church at Rome didn’t play any particular role in bringing the Catholic Church to universally recognize this doctrine"

Rome is as much the embracer of heresies as the inventor of them.

louis said...

"baptismal regeneration. The Church at Rome didn’t play any particular role in bringing the Catholic Church to universally recognize this doctrine"

Rome is as much the embracer of heresies as the inventor of them.

kaycee said...

After having been RC for 27 years with 12 years of Catholic parochial school my theology was limited to the very basics of Romanism.

Mental assent to major church doctrine, apostles creed, etc.. check;

Sunday Mass, check;
communion booster shot, check;
occasional confession, check;
Lite a candle to Mary, check;
Wear Scapula, check;

Oh, if I was asked about how I was getting to heaven, my answer would be, "just be a good person".

AND then all the Roman e-pologists said in unison. "Terribly catechised; failed catholic; anti-catholic; Mary hater"

Ken said...

Pete,
Rhology has linked to a lot of info on the issue of baptismal regeneration; and they are excellent; so I will let that speak for me also.

thanks Rhology!

Pete said...

James Swan wrote, “As I've read through (or listened to) Roman Catholic conversion stories though, more often than not, one can usually sense a lack of systematic theology.”

This is my impression too. What we need is a good systematic theologian such as yourself to come on in and help us out. I think your knowledge of Luther would be especially helpful for us.

Hi Rhology! Before I proceed to interact with your material, I’d like to ask James for permission to do so, and then I’d like to ask you where you’d like me to begin, because there were a lot of links to a lot of material. I’d like to stick with baptismal regeneration, but I’ll go wherever James allows and you would like.

I hope to be a blessing.

In Christ,
Pete

Rhology said...

Specifically, you need to justify your statement "bringing the Catholic Church to universally recognize this doctrine". How do you know the church UNIVERSALLY recognised it (by which I presume you mean they believed it)?
Which church? What time? How do you know?

Pete said...

Hi Rhology!

I guess James screens all of the comments before he lets them go through…

As far as I know, this is indeed the case. That if the subject was addressed, the doctrine was confirmed. I am relying on the friendly testimony of Catholic Answers on the one hand, where they make the claim that “No Church Father referred to John 3:5 as anything other than water baptism”; and the critical witness of William Webster on the other, where he writes, “The doctrine of baptism is one of the few teachings within Roman Catholicism for which it can be said that there is a universal consent of the Fathers. The Council of Trent declared that baptism is the sacrament which effects remission of sins and regeneration.” Called to Communion also has a helpful article on this. This claim to universality has also been confirmed through my own study, which is far from comprehensive.

In Christ,
Pete

James Swan said...

Yes sorry, because of a troll, I've had to beging screening comments. So far, everything that has been sent in has posted. My apologies, but certain people are a law unto themselves.

Pete Holter said...

James wrote, “Yes sorry, because of a troll, I've had to begin screening comments. So far, everything that has been sent in has posted. My apologies, but certain people are a law unto themselves.”

Oh, I didn’t mean to complain. I just meant to say that I would take my comments being posted as permission to post them. :)

And I hope your house has recovered from the flood. I hope no mold issues. Ugh!

In Christ,
Pete

Rhology said...

That if the subject was addressed, the doctrine was confirmed.

You mean, as far as you know.
This doesn't answer my questions, though. I'm afraid you need to dig a little deeper.
(And also address the fact that what you said here is untrue even of known, extant writings.)

Pete Holter said...

Hi, Rhology!

Yes, that is what I mean: as far as I know, if the subject was addressed, the doctrine was confirmed. I am not able to address what I am ignorant of. If you’d like to provide the contradiction, I am ready to learn. All that matters is what is true.

In Christ,
Pete

Rhology said...

Hi Pete/Rebecca (I never know who I'm actually dealing with),

Yes, that is what I mean: as far as I know

1) This is no kind of infallible certainty. I thought Romanists were big on infallible certainty.
2a) So what if, as far as you know, the doctrine was affirmed by, what, a couple dozen men writing over the course of 8 centuries? What does that mean and why should anyone care? Ie, what authority do these guys have? Authority based on them proclaiming of themselves "I'm the bishop of ____"?
2b) Aside from what authority they may or may not have, how does this statement affect your original claim, that universal consent among the church existed?


if the subject was addressed, the doctrine was confirmed

My above argument will prove to be the death of the "why we should care" corollary to your claim, but I've also linked to info that serves to discredit even this claim. I don't see that you have anything here. How am I incorrect?

Peace,
Rhology

kaycee said...

Water baptism saves, except when it doesn't, baptism of blood, baptism of desire, Acts 10.

Pete Holter said...

Hey Rhology!

Since you’ve contradicted my claim, I’d like to wait for you to provide the contradictory evidence. Partial documentation in support of my claim is found:

http://www.catholic.com/tracts/born-again-in-baptism
http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/06/the-church-fathers-on-baptismal-regeneration/

Also, since I made a universal claim, you only need a single counter witness. After looking through some of your material, I have the impression that you view the Catholic position as being more crass than it really is.

I believe in baptismal regeneration based on the witness of Scripture, the unanimous consent of the Fathers, and the canons and creeds of the councils confirmed by the Bishop of Rome.

The universal witness of the Fathers has important implications for the perspicuity of Scripture and Jesus’ descriptions of and promises made to His Church.

I believe that bishops have authority because they’ve been appointed by God through the laying on of hands by those already in authority, who were likewise appointed in the same way.

Rebecca is my sweet, beautiful wife, love of my life. :) Sometimes she logs on to my laptop and I just go with it rather than switch over.

With love in Christ,
Pete

Rhology said...

Pete,

since I made a universal claim, you only need a single counter witness

Well, with all due respect, I don't need anything.
1) The Scripture teaches that regeneration is solely on the basis of God's grace granted solely through faith.
2) You haven't shown anything close to the level of evidence you need to substantiate your actual claim.
To wit: Your claim was that the church universally held this doctrine. You need, then, to answer the questions that I posed in the link with which I challenged you.
If you can't, at best you could make the claim that "everyone that I've read held to bap reg". At best.
And I've already linked you to at least two other lists of sources that prove even that claim false.

In short, you haven't really begun interacting with my points.

Pete Holter said...

Hi Rhology!

You wrote, “You haven't shown anything close to the level of evidence you need to substantiate your actual claim. To wit: Your claim was that the church universally held this doctrine. You need, then, to answer the questions that I posed in the link with which I challenged you… you haven't really begun interacting with my points.”

I get the feeling that I’d need to build a time machine to conduct the research that would be necessary to satisfy you. :)

You also wrote, “And I've already linked you to at least two other lists of sources that prove even that claim false.”

I didn’t see anything that contradicted baptismal regeneration in what I read. But I also wasn’t able to read through all 30+ links worth of material. Please bring forward your proof if you would like to interact. Until then, I stand by the claims made by Catholic Answers and William Webster.


In Christ,
Pete

Rhology said...

I get the feeling that I’d need to build a time machine to conduct the research that would be necessary to satisfy you. :)

Yep!
The point is that my questions, while reasonable, cannot be answered.
You should abandon your claim and make far more modest ones.


I stand by the claims made by Catholic Answers and William Webster.

When you haven't even tried to answer my questions?
And here is just one:
Clement, a first century Roman bishop, wrote that we're saved through faith, apart from works. He excludes all works, even "works that we have done in holiness of heart" (First Clement, 32). Just after excluding works from the gospel, he goes on to encourage Christians to do those works he had just excluded. Thus, it can't be argued that he was only excluding bad works, graceless works, faithless works, etc. He was excluding all works, including good works:
"And we who through his will have been called in Christ Jesus are justified, not by ourselves, or through our wisdom or understanding or godliness, or the works that we have done in holiness of heart, but by faith, by which all men from the beginning have been justified by Almighty God, to whom be glory world without end. Amen. What, then, shall we do, brethren? Shall we cease from well-doing, and abandon charity? May the Master never allow that this should happen to us! but let us rather with diligence and zeal hasten to fulfil every good work. For the Maker and Lord of all things rejoiceth in his works. By his supreme power he founded the heavens, and by his incomprehensible understanding he ordered them. The earth he separated from the water that surrounded it, and fixed it on the firm foundation of his own will. The animals which inhabit therein he commanded to be by his ordinance. Having made beforehand the sea and the animals that are therein, he shut them in by his own power. Man, the most excellent of all animals, infinite in faculty, he moulded with his holy and faultless hands, in the impress of his likeness. For thus saith God: Let us make man in our own image, and after our own likeness. And God made man. Male and female made he them. When, therefore, he had finished all things, he praised and blessed them, and said, Be fruitful, and multiply. Let us see, therefore, how all the just have been adorned with good works. Yea, the Lord himself rejoiced when he had adorned himself with his works. Having, therefore, this example, let us come in without shrinking to his will; let us work with all our strength the work of righteousness." (32-33)

Your claim has now been falsified. Will you give it up, or will you prove yourself to be more a son of Rome than of God?

Pete Holter said...

Hi Rhology!

Let me know what questions you’d like me to try to respond to, and I will try to say something helpful.

When Clement says that “we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men,” what Catholics are going to see is Clement drawing from Paul’s teaching where he reminds us that God “saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:5-7), which, of course, we Catholics view as referring to baptismal regeneration. The faith that justifies is the faith that is exercised by the person who has been united to Christ in His death by baptism, in which baptism we were also raised with Him through this saving faith.

Clement also says that “Noah, being found faithful, preached regeneration to the world through his ministry; and the Lord saved by him the animals which, with one accord, entered into the ark” (Ch. 9). Catholics will again see baptism being subsumed in this thought here because of its connection with the same passage in Titus by Clement’s use of the word, “regeneration,” and because of Peter’s treatment of baptism in connection with the flood in 1 Peter 3:18-22 where he says that baptism “now saves you.”

With love in Christ,
Pete

Rhology said...

which, of course, we Catholics view as referring to baptismal regeneration.

Wrongly.
When Clement says that “we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart", you think that even though he says "not justified by...works", that means "justified by works"?
That's just as bad as the way you treat Ephesians 2:8-10!


Clement also says that “Noah, being found faithful, preached regeneration to the world through his ministry; and the Lord saved by him the animals which, with one accord, entered into the ark” (Ch. 9). Catholics will again see baptism being subsumed

Even though he says nothing of the sort?
That would seem to be just one more reason to call out the Roman handling of patristic sources as pitifully bad and misguided.


1 Peter 3:18-22 where he says that baptism “now saves you.”

Yes, "NOT THE REMOVAL OF DIRT FROM THE FLESH, but an appeal to God for a clean conscience". Sounds much more like repentance and faith to me than baptism, which DOES remove dirt from the flesh, and Peter tells us is NOT what he's talking about.

Is it that when you see the word "not", you just ignore it?

Also, why haven't you dealt with any of my questions yet? This is a tertiary point compared to the destruction dealt to your position by my questions.

Pete Holter said...

Good morning, Rhology!

I was showing you ways in which Clement is congruous with the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. I will not be able to prove to your satisfaction that he intended to teach baptismal regeneration by what he said, although I see it in what he said because I’m reading him through the lens of Scripture. It is enough to show that he did not contradict baptismal regeneration.

We don’t think that baptism is a “work” performed by the person being baptized. Just as the person who uses his ears to hear the gospel being preached is not working when he positions himself within ear’s range and listens, so too the person who receives the water upon his body is not working. God is doing an interior work through the outward preaching of the minister. It is the same with baptism.

Peter says that “baptism now saves you” but “not as a removal of dirt from the body”. The “not” here isn’t contradicting what he just said, but excluding the manner in which it does not do this. And from this we gather that we shouldn’t think of it as if when our hand didn’t get wet, then we weren’t completely baptized or something like that. The baptism of Christ is with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Water symbolizes the cleansing from sin, but it is the Holy Spirit that conveys the cleansing. The Holy Spirit offers Himself in water baptism at the invocation of God’s Name, but His activity isn’t limited to the specific places of the body where the water is applied. It is like Tertullian said: “without expense, a man is dipped in water, and amid the utterance of some few words, is sprinkled, and then rises again, not much (or not at all) the cleaner, the consequent attainment of eternity is esteemed the more incredible” (On Baptism, 2). Baptism saves us by being “an appeal to God for a good conscience.” Baptism is this appeal. The use of physical water is necessary, but it’s the spiritual water that saves us and cleanses us inwardly.

“But prevail upon yourselves to say what is said by Truth and by the Catholic Church, that not only when the minister of baptism is evil, but also when he is holy and good, hope is still not to be placed in man, but in Him that justifieth the ungodly, in whom if any man believe, his faith is counted for righteousness. For when we say, Christ baptizes, we do not mean by a visible ministry, as Petilianus believes, or would have men think that he believes, to be our meaning, but by a hidden grace, by a hidden power in the Holy Spirit as it is said of Him by John the Baptist, ‘The same is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost’ (John 1:33). Nor has He, as Petilianus says, now ceased to baptize; but He still does it, not by any ministry of the body, but by the invisible working of His majesty. For in that we say, He Himself baptizes, we do not mean, He Himself holds and dips in the water the bodies of the believers; but He Himself invisibly cleanses, and that He does to the whole Church without exception. Nor, indeed, may we refuse to believe the words of the Apostle Paul who says concerning Him, ‘Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word’ (Ephesians 5:25-26). Here you see that Christ sanctifies; here you see that Christ also Himself washes, Himself purifies with the self-same washing of water by the word, wherein the ministers are seen to do their work in the body” (Against Petilian, Bk. 3, Ch. 49:59).

And maybe you missed my request: “Let me know what questions you’d like me to try to respond to, and I will try to say something helpful.”

I hope you have a blessed weekend!

With love in Christ,
Pete Holter

Pete Holter said...

Thanks for posting my comments, James.

Hey Rhology,

I have time for one more for now… I’ll just try to answer all of the questions posed in that blog post as I have time. Let me know if you have specific questions you’d like me to focus on.

You quoted Christopher Lake, who wrote, “Scripture itself does not say that all we need to believe and do, as Christians, is explicitly stated in Scripture” (http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2011/07/not-sure-he-meant-it-that-way.html#7343107459725198169).

In response to this, you asked, “How can he then also affirm the words of Psalm 119?” (http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2011/07/christopher-and-church-fathers.html)

My thought on this… before I was a believer in Christ, the Psalms were especially boring to me. But even as an unbeliever, when I first heard Psalm 119, and then read it, I was hooked. Did you have specific verses of Psalm 119 in mind that you’d like to discuss?

I think that we are all agreed that not everything is explicitly stated in Scripture. But everything can be deduced from what is explicitly stated. The Scriptures are profitable toward the end “that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17). Consequently, everything that is pleasing to God must ultimately derive from the revelation contained in Scripture.

After quoting John 20:30 you went on to ask, “What else do I need, again?” To this I would say that John’s Gospel is sufficient to confirm the believing community in their faith that Jesus is the Christ, and to bring others out of either denying or not knowing that He is the Christ into this same saving faith. It proves that those who say that Jesus is not the Christ are wrong, and are “not of us” but of the antichrist (cf. 1 John 2:19-23). That it is the community that believes that Jesus is the Christ that has been born of God through union with the One Who came by both water and blood (cf. 1 John 5:1, 6).

But what happens if the community of those who believe that Jesus is the Christ itself becomes divided on some other points? I do not believe that John’s Gospel is necessarily sufficient to settle the dispute in this case. And I think we agree on this. And I think we also both agree with these words from Augustine:

What knowledge or belief can we have of Christ, but on the authority of Scripture?... How do you know that these were Christ’s words, but from the Gospel? … if you refuse to believe the Gospel, which is so generally known and received, you must fail utterly in the attempt to substitute for it any trustworthy record of the sayings and doings of Christ” (Against Faustus, Bk. 16, Sections 11, 12, 14).

[The Donatists] would know nothing of Christ Himself save what is revealed in the Scriptures” (Letter 185, Ch. 1:2).

With love in Christ,
Pete Holter

Tim Enloe said...

James, sorry for the delay in responding. Rather than try to debate point by point, I'll just explain why I've made my general remarks.

Your post claims, following Van Til, that lack of training in systematic theology is the main reason why many people convert to Catholicism. You directly cite Van Til saying that "the best apologetic defense will invariably be made by him who knows the system of truth of Scripture best." You then say you will "modify this a bit and make it a negative: 'the best converts to false gospels will invariably be made by those who know the system of the truth of Scripture least.'"

I don't think this is a matter of contrary experiences. You tend to be focused on Theology (as you understand it), and so you see lack of training in Theology (as you understand it) as the main trouble in people converting. I am trained in the Liberal Arts, which includes Theology - but a more expanded understanding of Theology than seems to be taught in today's Reformed seminaries. I’m inclined to go with Hugh of St. Victor, the 12th century biblical exegete who claimed that you can’t properly understand the Bible if you don’t understand the Liberal Arts, because the Bible is part of God’s world and the Liberal Arts train your mind to be free and unafraid, and so how to view the world properly.

I said today’s systematic theology wonks don't write like Hodge and Dabney, and those two were only 150 years ago. What has happened in that 150 years? Well, if you bother to read about the history of education, you'll find out what has happened, and it's mainly that the Liberal Arts have been deliberately abandoned by both secularists and Christians, and as a result all knowledge domains have been fragmented from each other and made merely "instrumental" - i.e., good only for the end of securing a job – or in the case of apologists, refuting heretics. There’s no sense anymore that all knowledge is worth having simply for its own sake, and not for any benefits it can bring us.

Theology as a formal academic discipline has not proved immune to this large scale cultural change. If you think it has, just compare any given page of Calvin with any given page of a Theology wonk writing today. Where are the substantial allusions to classical sources and to the Fathers? Do today's authors cite Plato and Aristotle in support of various theological points? Do they make time, as Calvin did, to read the whole corpus of Cicero every year? The answer is, by and large, No. The question you want to ask is "Why not?"

I don't know how closely you've read Calvin, but if need be I can give you chapter and verse in many places where he follows the old, classical Christian tradition that Theology must be informed by the Liberal Arts. As a friend of mine recently put it, “Calvin thinks you’re an idiot if you try to do theology without the Liberal Arts.” Theology for Calvin is not a standalone discipline, and since it interfaces with every other area of thought, Van Til, who refracts Calvin through Kant instead of following Calvin’s own philosophical lead, is simply incorrect to claim that systematic theology is the key factor in a truly effective apologetic. Rather, a truly effective apologetic will be one that embraces all of life, which does not isolate Theology from other disciplines, which does not pretend, as Reformed rationalists do, that people are just walking brains and that all that matters is "propositional truth."

[cont.]

Tim Enloe said...

So back to the point of your post, no, lack of training in systematics is not the main reason people convert. You post this stuff on a Reformed blog as if it’s Gospel truth; well, you need to be prepared to face the older variety of Reformed Theology that doesn’t believe Van Til is the greatest thing since sliced bread. You should know as well as I do that many people list as prime reasons for converting such factors as (1) their belief that the Reformation came historically out of nowhere but the Catholic Church has been around for 2,000 years, (2) that only in the Catholic Church can they get Jesus inside their bodies, that (3) only in the Catholic Church do they have embodied authority that goes beyond their own personal opinions about the Bible, and so forth. Brian Cross isn’t untrained in systematic theology. That is not what makes him write endless posts about “sacramental magisterial authority.” He writes those posts because he sees few to no Reformed people who even grasp that there is anything outside of “propositional truth,” or that “The Gospel” might just be about more than endless harping about “getting justification right” and holding fast to an extremely narrow understanding of sola Scriptura.

You may want to group all these things under some heading or another of Systematic Theology, but the falsity of that approach is well shown by the fact that no one, not even you guys, THINKS in the format of a Systematic Theology text, and indeed, life itself cannot be adequately described in the format of a Systematic Theology text. As Plato (and Augustine) taught us long ago, people are moved primarily by their loves, and their loves are oriented towards what they find beautiful.

Sorry to burst bubbles here, but most people don't find Berkhof and Turretin beautiful. If your approach demands that they do as a condition of you judging that they “love truth,” you'll lose them every time. And it will be pure superficiality if you then claim that the reason they left was because they "don't like truth." No, what they don't like is the ugly vision of truth presented by Reformed Truth Warriors, who treat other people like they are just false propositions and need only to be beat over the head by true ones. Clanging cymbals, to borrow the Apostle’s words. This isn't the vision of the Reformers, and I don't have to prove that. It's in the books the Reformers read. Go read them for yourself if you doubt me. Calvinism is not a "system of truth." It isn’t a “two trick pony” concerned only with the soul and the authority of the Bible. It's a vision of full-orbed human flourishing. When you can understand what that means, you'll understand what I'm saying here, and you'll understand that it isn't just my opinion and it isn't based on anger at the Reformed community or at specific Reformed people.

I see no reason to say anything else on this thread. Thanks for listening.

Pete Holter said...

Greetings in the LORD, Tim Enloe!

I am curious to hear your story, of why you’re not Catholic. Have you shared this somewhere? I’d like to read it.

I think James’ basic point is that people who convert are not well grounded in the faith that they leave behind. I think this is going to be a common feature of most conversions made in any direction. He specifically excluded Bryan Cross, so it wouldn’t be fair to use him as an example against what James was trying to say.

Jerome and Augustine, in their walk with Christ, seemed to head in a direction opposite of what you’re proposing here as a solution.

Augustine wrote that “I think that it is well to warn studious and able young men, who fear God and are seeking for happiness of life, not to venture heedlessly upon the pursuit of the branches of learning that are in vogue beyond the pale of the Church of Christ, as if these could secure for them the happiness they seek; but soberly and carefully to discriminate among them” (On Christian Doctrine, Bk. 2, Ch. 39:58). This careful discrimination is needful because “whatever man may have learnt from other sources, if it is hurtful, it is [in Holy Scripture] condemned; if it is useful, it is therein contained. And while every man may find there all that he has learnt of useful elsewhere, he will find there in much greater abundance things that are to be found nowhere else, but can be learnt only in the wonderful sublimity and wonderful simplicity of the Scriptures” ( On Christian Doctrine, Bk. 2, Ch. 42:63). To help illustrate the seriousness of his admonition, Augustine said that “I wish by this preamble to put a stop to the expectations of readers who may think that I am about to lay down rules of rhetoric such as I have learnt, and taught too, in the secular schools, and to warn them that they need not look for any such from me. Not that I think such rules of no use, but that whatever use they have is to be learnt elsewhere; and if any good man should happen to have leisure for learning them, he is not to ask me to teach them either in this work or any other” (On Christian Doctrine, Bk. 4, Ch. 1:2).

Augustine said of himself that “not only are many things unknown to me in countless other departments, but that even in the Scriptures themselves the things which I do not know are many more than the things which I know” (Letter 55, 21:38). But, not minding so much his ignorance in these “other departments,” he had his successor elected before his death to handle certain affairs for the preeminent reason “that,” he said, “I may at length busy myself with the holy Scriptures” (Letter 213).

Admonishing others with the example of Calvin having read the entire corpus of Cicero every year, and taking pleasure in relating the fact that someone said, “Calvin thinks you’re an idiot if you try to do theology without the Liberal Arts,” raises concern. It sounds like a very dangerous road to tread in our common battle against intellectual pride. If being a clanging symbol is the problem, love, not Cicero, is the answer.

Enjoy your studies in your defense of faith in Jesus Christ, but please be careful. :) Those of us who have a love for learning need to have a constant guard against pride, and a constant turning to God for having among us the mind of Christ, Who humbled Himself to the point of death on a cross. Remember the dream of Saint Jerome!

“Asked who and what I was I replied: ‘I am a Christian.’ But He who presided said: ‘Thou liest, you are a follower of Cicero and not of Christ. For “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” ’ […] Accordingly I made oath and called upon His name, saying: ‘Lord, if ever again I possess worldly books, or if ever again I read such, I have denied You.’ […] May it never, hereafter, be my lot to fall under such an inquisition! […] [T]henceforth I read the books of God with a zeal greater than I had previously given to the books of men” (Letter 22).

With love in Christ,
Pete

Pete Holter said...

“If being a clanging symbol is the problem…”

This noisy problem has also been reported among cymbals. Oooops! :)

In Christ,
Pete

Pete Holter said...

Hi Tim and James!

I am feeling weighed down by my criticism of you, Tim. Although I also intended my words as an encouragement, I am sorry for being critical of you. I hope that you will please forgive me. We have to become all things to all men just to be able to save some, and I think that both you and James have a niche of people being prepared by grace that you may reach for Christ by your different emphases. I hope that you both have a blessed day. I hope that you will both find your way into communion with me in the Catholic Church of Jesus Christ, and all those that you have brought to Christ with you.

Rhology.

I am sorry, but I have to hold off on further discussion. I am also feeling the weight of spending so much time being withdrawn from my family in order to do my clumsy best to share the good news with you and TurretinFan, etc. I feel God calling me back to pouring myself into my wife and kids for a time. May God bless you and your loved ones! I hope that we can pick this back up at a later date.

With love in Christ,
Pete Holter

RPV said...

My two cents on it would be that the whole counsel of God includes the notion that Christ is the great prophet, priest and king of his church. That is to say, the doctrine, worship and government of Christ's church is of moment. Typically they are considered the three marks of the true church, as in the Belgic.

Again, too many restrict the reformed faith to the five points of calvinism or the sovereignty of God in salvation and fail to acknowledge that his sovereignty is also reflected in worship and church govt., i.e. the regulative principle of worship and jus divinum presbyterianism. Contra lutheranism and anglicanism, the worship and govt. of Christ's church are not adiaphora.

The reformed church on the basis of Scripture reformed/seceded from the deformed Roman church not only in doctrine, but also in worship and government.

"Bryan Cross has been trained in systematic theology"?
Please. If he has, he gives no real demonstration of it. Rather he demonstrates some grasp of debate rhetoric and philosophy, but even then one wonders at his competence. Yes, he can pound out the verbiage as no doubt the degreed drones that have matriculated our modern universities must do is order to be duly accredited, but substance, as opposed to volume?
Count me in the negative, please.

Bob S

Rhology said...

Pete Holter,

Part 1 of 2:
I was showing you ways in which Clement is congruous with the doctrine of baptismal regeneration

That would be tough, since Clement affirms sola fide and baptism is, you know, a work.


I will not be able to prove to your satisfaction that he intended to teach baptismal regeneration by what he said, although I see it in what he said because I’m reading him through the lens of Scripture.

Anyone can say that, but that's also difficult, given that Eph 2:8-10 says "NOT BY WORKS".


We don’t think that baptism is a “work” performed by the person being baptized.

It's certainly not faith. We know what faith is, and baptism is not faith.
The only other category is _________. Please let me know what that would be. Starts with a "w".


the person who receives the water upon his body is not working

Just b/c you say so? What is your Scriptural argument for this assertion?
Tell you what, I think I'll just do the same thing for all sorts of other things. That exact statement can be made about ANYTHING. Put that objection on the lips of the Judaisers of Galatia with regard to circumcision, and Paul's Epistle to the Galatians is now null and void. The guy who is getting circumcised isn't working. He's just receiving the knife.
Please let me know why that's not possible.


The “not” here isn’t contradicting what he just said, but excluding the manner in which it does not do this.

Precisely. Not the water. Thank you.


from this we gather that we shouldn’t think of it as if when our hand didn’t get wet, then we weren’t completely baptized or something like that.

That's far from what I gather. Please provide exegetical support for this assertion.



The baptism of Christ is with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

Or, just Holy Spirit (the fire being the fire of judgment on unbelievers; thus the comment about the winnowing fork, clearing the threshing floor, etc.).



Water symbolizes the cleansing from sin, but it is the Holy Spirit that conveys the cleansing.

Yes, it SYMBOLISES it. Doesn't INCLUDE or BRING it.
Symbolises b/c the cleansing from sin already took place, by grace through faith at regeneration.



Baptism saves us by being “an appeal to God for a good conscience.”

Baptism in Holy Spirit is precisely that! That's why Peter said it's NOT the removal of dirt from the flesh. He's discussing regeneration.



Baptism is this appeal.

Quite, but WHICH BAPTISM?

Rhology said...

(Part 2 of 2)



Did you have specific verses of Psalm 119 in mind that you’d like to discuss?

Since you love Ps 119 so much, please let me know what else is needed for a Christian after that high level of exaltation of the Scripture? In what are the Scriptures lacking, that the Magisterium is necessary to fulfill? Warning: Whatever you say, with one exception, I'll counterquote something from Ps 119 showing you're out of step with it.
The one exception is if you say "Nothing is lacking", in which case I'll ask you what need we have for the Magisterium and why David didn't seem to need one.



“What else do I need, again?” To this I would say that John’s Gospel is sufficient to confirm the believing community in their faith that Jesus is the Christ, and to bring others out of either denying or not knowing that He is the Christ into this same saving faith.

Be careful. You're constricting the space needed for the existence of the Magisterium. You're sounding dangerously like a Sola Scripturist. But I'm sure you'll back off pretty soon, b/c higher priorities (namely, the protection of Rome) will soon kick in.
Prove me wrong.


But what happens if the community of those who believe that Jesus is the Christ itself becomes divided on some other points?

Do you mean like what happened at the church of Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Colossae, Thessalonica, and 5 of the 7 churches addressed in Revelation 1-3?
I imagine that we accept what Paul said in 1 Cor 11:19For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you.
Then we accept what John said in 1 John 2:19They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.
And then we accept what Paul said in Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 about the different levels of essentiality of doctrine.
And then we consider that there's no Magisterium in the NT, not even a hint of one.
Then we consider that this isn't Heaven and we don't want to hold an over-realised eschatology.
Then we consider that though Rome has a Magisterium that claims infallibility, it hasn't done the Roman Church any good with respect to its own internal disunity, dissension, and unresolved theological conflicts.
Then we become Sola Scripturists. It's really that simple.

Peace,
Rhology

Pete Holter said...

Hi Rhology!

Sorry, I didn’t see your final comments until recently. How has life in Christ, been?

Rhology wrote, “Tell you what, I think I'll just do the same thing for all sorts of other things. That exact statement can be made about ANYTHING. Put that objection on the lips of the Judaisers of Galatia with regard to circumcision, and Paul's Epistle to the Galatians is now null and void. The guy who is getting circumcised isn't working. He's just receiving the knife. Please let me know why that's not possible.”

Baptism is not the same as circumcision because it is “a circumcision made without hands” (Col 2:11), “by the Spirit” (Romans 2:29), in our hearts (cf. Rom 5:5).

Rhology wrote, “Baptism in Holy Spirit is precisely that! That's why Peter said it's NOT the removal of dirt from the flesh. He's discussing regeneration.”

Peter is talking about baptismal regeneration. Hence, he addresses a misunderstanding about the manner in which it saves. If he was talking about regeneration apart from baptism, it would go without saying that it doesn’t save us “as a removal of dirt from the body,” since there is no external component. In order for the baptism under consideration to be open to the misunderstanding that Peter is addressing, it must be one that involves a physical cleansing agent, i.e., water baptism.

In addition, the Reformed understanding of regeneration can’t be in view here since the Reformed have regeneration taking place prior to our making an appeal to God for a clean conscience. Regeneration, consequently, could only be seen as the cause of our subsequent appeal, but it could not be that appeal as Peter says it is, and as illustrated in Acts 22:16.

With love in Christ,
Pete