Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ron Paul and Religion


A friend of mine asked me to comment on some comments Ron Paul made in an interview with Christianity Today after he won the straw poll at the Values Voters Summit. Ron Paul tends to talk about his Christian faith less than some of the other candidates but as he explains in the interview he was asked to talk about his Christian faith and values. The full transcript of the Ron Paul speech can be found here. I'll start with the original speech.

Ron Paul makes reference to Biblical passages throughout his speech. The first passage Ron Paul deals with is in 1 Samuel 8 where the Israelites come to Samuel and tell him they want a king. Ron Paul interprets this passage as an instance where people suffer because they have turned away from a family based government to a king. Paul warns against relying on a king in Washington. There is some truth in what Paul says. We can certainly make an idol out of government. But the problem in the case of Israel was not that they would rather be ruled by a king than by a family based form of government. The problem was that they would rather be ruled by a human king rather than God. The passage doesn't really have much to say about the form or structure that governments should take or the size that they should be. It calls us all to repentance for putting our faith in human leaders. Some might try to use this passage to establish a theocracy but the New Testament church is never told to try to establish a theocracy and Ron Paul doesn't seem to be interested in trying to set one up anyhow.

Ron Paul says, "You know, morality of the people or the lack of morality of the people can be reflected in the law. But the law never can change the morality of the people. And that is very important." In some sense Ron Paul is correct. The law cannot make anyone truly moral. But the law is designed to stop immoral behavior. All laws are about enforcing a moral code on people. Ron Paul says a bit later:

...we also had the breakdown of our monetary system, the rejection of the biblical admonition that we have honest weights and measures and honest money. And not to have honest weights and measures meant we were counterfeiting the money and destroying the value of the money, which implies, even in biblical times, they weren’t looking for a central bank that was going to counterfeit our currency.
I think this might actually be a legitimate use of this Biblical text. You could make the same argument from natural law but the use of this Biblical text is probably appropriate for the audience that Ron Paul is talking too.

But, you know, biblically there’s a lot of admonitions about what the family should be in charge of. Certainly the 10th commandment tells us something about honoring our parents and caring for them. It didn’t say work out a system where the government will take care of us from cradle to grave. No, it was an admonition for us to honor our parents and be responsible for them, not put them into a nursing home and say the federal government can take care of them. Besides, sometimes that leads to bankruptcies and the government can’t do it anyway. So that responsibility really falls on us.
I'm guessing Ron Paul is actually referring to the 4th/5th Commandment (depending on how you number them). The commandment does deal with the child's responsibility to take care of his parents in his old age. However, the commandment is silent on how the government should deal with citizens in their old age. Ron Paul seems to be attempting to find a Biblical command about the size and scope of government but there really isn't a command there. Societies must create policies that are based on Christ's command to love our neighbor. But what that means isn't spelled out and Christians can arrive at different conclusions.

In the Bible, in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament, Christ was recognized to be the prince of peace. He was never to be recognized as the promoter of war. And he even said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be the children of God.” He never said blessed are the war makers. It was the peacemakers that we must honor and protect. (Cheers, applause.)

Christ was very, very clear on how we should treat our enemies. And some days I think we quite frequently forget about that. Early in the history of Christianity, they struggled with the issue of war and peace, because Christ taught about peace. Did that mean Christ was advocating pacifism? The early church struggled with this and came to the conclusion, at least in those early years, that Christ was not a pacifist, but he was not a war promoter.

And this is when they came up with the just-war principles, saying, yes, war could be necessary, but only under dire circumstances, and it should be done with great caution. All other efforts should be exhausted before we go to war, and always under the proper authority. And today I think the proper authority is not the U.N. or the NATO forces to take us to war.
This part of the speech is actually pretty impressive. Ron Paul sets himself apart from the rest of the candidates in showing a proper historic Christian understanding of just war theory. He makes some good points later in the speech about this as well. I encourage you to read the rest of what he says about war in the original speech. Then Ron Paul says:

We are taught in the New Testament about caring for the poor and caring for our families and our neighbors and friends. But never did Christ say, you know, let’s go and lobby Rome to make sure we’re taken care of. It was a personal responsibility for us.
The problem with Ron Paul's statement is that Jesus wasn't addressing the civil government at all. So he is right to be critical of those who would take the statements from the Scriptures about caring for the poor and apply them directly to the government. But the Scriptures don't tell government not to do this either. Ron Paul says:
Christ was confronted at one time by a prostitute, but he didn’t call for the centurions. He didn’t call for more laws. But he was very direct and thought that stoning was not the solution to the problem of prostitution.
The problem is that Christ was not addressing civil leaders, he was addressing religious leaders. The point of what He said was to show everyone present that before God they were all deserving of a good stoning. He isn't saying one way or another whether capital punishment is appropriate for prostitution. Paul tells us that the government has been given the power of the sword by God. The sword is used to punish criminals by killing them. That doesn't mean that the government must kill all criminals but it has been given that power. Each society must determine when the use of the sword is appropriate and when it's not. The rest of the speech is basically a repitition of principles that Ron Paul has laid out in the previous sections so I'll move on to the interview Ron Paul did with Christianity Today.

In the interview Ron Paul was asked, "Can you talk about your faith background? For instance, did you have a conversion experience?" He responded,

Not as some others describe it. I think the most important religious experience I had was when I was raised in a Lutheran church where confirmation was very important. Church was obviously very important. We all went to church every week as a family affair. But confirmation was when we got to be teenagers and make a decision to go through the lessons and study and learn and make a commitment. At home, birthdays were something, but no parties. Of course it was during World War II and the Great Depression, so there weren't a lot of parties, but there was an acknowledgement. But confirmation was a very important event. Everybody in the family came and it was acknowledged. Yes, I remember that very clearly, because we were old enough to make a commitment and that was when the commitment was made.
I thought it was very strange that Ron Paul would bring up birthday parties. The point seems to be that for Ron Paul the most important thing about Christianity is personal committment and being individually recognized for this personal committment. Ron Paul did not remain Lutheran. He became an Episcopalian and then a Baptist because of the Episcopalian support of abortion and politically liberal organizations. When Ron Paul is asked about how he would identify himself he says:

I'm not a hyphenated Christian. I believe. I am a Christian and I believe in it, and I am influenced by my upbringing and my understanding and my biblical understanding. I don't think there are ever two people who are exactly the same, so I don't usually use hyphenation.
Next, Ron Paul is asked about his views on same-sex marriage. He says:

Biblically and historically, the government was very uninvolved in marriage. I like that. I don't know why we should register our marriage to the federal government. I think it's a sacrament. I think it should be biblical, and politically I don't like to fight with people who disagree with me, as long as they don't force their views on me. So for that reason, I think the real solution to some of this argument is to have less government, rather than government dictating and forcing understanding on different people. I don't think much can be achieved. As I mentioned in my talk, Christ doesn't come and beg and plead for more laws. He pleads for more morality, and I think that's very important.
Ron Paul doesn't really address the real arguments against same-sex marriage. Marriage laws have historically been written in most societies to protect children and attach children to their biological parents. That is why the government has an interest in marriage. All laws are written to encourage moral behavior, that is why we have laws. Ron Paul was also asked about how he thought America should encourage religious liberty in Iran and Afghanistan. He said,

By striving for perfection here and setting a good standard so that people would come and say America is a wonderful place. It's free and prosperous, just like de Tocqueville said in the 1850s. America is a great nation because it's a moral nation and people go to church. Others should look and see the results, but I don't believe in the use of force. If you're not a Christian, I don't force you to go to church. The use of force backfires, it has unintended consequences. So you can only do this through persuasion and changing people's hearts and minds, not the use of political force. Political force should be rejected in trying to mold the economy or mold people's spirituality.
This passage is really bizarre. I don't think anyone is talking about forcing the Iranians to go to church. It would make more sense if Ron Paul simply said that the best way to encourage religious freedom is to show by example that religious freedom encourages prosperity. Instead Ron Paul is saying that being moral and going to church results in a great nation but that we shouldn't force other people to be moral and go to church. Instead we should show other nations that they can be prosperous if they are moral and go to church. By certain standards some Muslim nations are actually more moral than America. Abortion and pornography are illegal in many Muslim countries. The two big motivating factors behind Muslim terrorist attacks on the U.S. are the U.S. occupation of Muslim countries and the pornography that U.S. exports into Muslim countries. Ron Paul would want to end the occupations but would have no desire to interfere with the American porn industry. There are other nations where church attendance is much higher than we find in America and the laws reflect a greater morality, but are far less prosperous than the United States.

Ron Paul is portraying America as a Christian nation where everyone is behaving morally and going to church. America is a secular nation that established laws based on Judeo-Christian standards of morality. In some ways I think Ron Paul might hold to beliefs similar to that of the founding fathers of America. They understood being a Christian as going to church and holding to a set of moral principles.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Prayer by O. Hallesby


Fortress Press sent me a review copy of Prayer by Ole Hallesby. The book was recommended in a series of lectures on Christian Spirituality by John Kleinig. Ole Hallesby was a Norwegian Lutheran pietist. I am generally opposed to the pietist movement. I think it's very dangerous to direct our eyes away from the objective things that Christ has done for us and to our subjective feelings. But I also recognize a deficiency in my own prayer life. I have greatly benefited from the prayers of the church and the Psalms but have difficulty forming my own prayers. Over time I've gotten somewhat better but I could still use considerable help.

The first chapter of Hallesby's book begins by quoting Revelation 3:20. Hallesby believes that Revelation 3:20 throws greater light on prayer than any other passage of the Bible. This is very strange. Revelation 3:20 really doesn't seem to have much to do with prayer. Jesus is standing outside of the door of an apostate church and knocking. He promises that if anyone opens the door He will sup with him. It seems most natural to take this as a reference to the Lord's Supper. Evangelicals use this passage for evangelism. They say Jesus is knocking at the door of your heart and you have to let Him in but this doesn't fit the context either. The conclusions that Hallesby draws from Revelation 3:20 about prayer seem to be true. Hallesby says that prayer is not initiated by us but by the knocking of Jesus and it's these insights that make the chapter valuable. He arrives at the right doctrines from the wrong text. After Hallesby elaborates on Jesus as the initiator of prayer he tells us that true prayer is the fruit of our helplessness. This section was excellent and he returns to this idea from time to time throughout the book.

The book is worth purchasing for these two sections. But after these two sections the book seems to go downhill. There is very little in the book that explains what prayer is based upon passages that are actually talking about prayer. The book emphasizes prayer chiefly as a way to glorify God which doesn't really follow from prayer being an expression of our helplessness. The book teaches that God cannot work apart from our prayer and that by our prayer we can usher in the millenial kingdom.

My own prayer life is firmly rooted in the historic liturgy and tied to the sacraments. When I pray, even when alone, I join in the prayers of the church. But there was no mention of the liturgy or the sacraments in Hallesby. It seemed to be very individualistic with the exception of some talk of going to prayer meetings.

The Psalms are helpful aids in prayer and learning to pray. Hallesby does direct us there but he only seems to find praise and thanksgiving in the Psalms. Hallesby doesn't speak of the Psalms or lament.

I would recommend reading the first two chapters of the book but I didn't find much that was valuable beyond that.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Baptist Successionism Part 4: 1400-1600, 17th-19th Centuries, and Conclusion


I recommend reading parts 1, 2, and 3 first. In the section dealing with the period from 1400-1600 Carroll gives a brief survey of the history of the Reformation. Some of what he says is true, some is not. But I'm mostly concerned with his claims about the anabaptists. From Carroll's writings you get the impression that anabaptists were persecuted simply because they would not baptize babies. But this is not true. Many anabaptists were violent revolutionaries who taught forms of socialism and taught that the wealthy should be stripped of their wealth. For further reading on some of the atrocities commited by the anabaptists and their promotion of immorality click here.

Carroll then gives a survey of the time period between the 17th-19th Centuries. For some reason in this section Carroll writes:

11. I quote a very significant statement from the Schaff- Herzogg Encyclopedia, under "History of Baptists in Europe," Vol. 1, page 210, "The Baptists appeared first in Switzerland about 1523, where they were persecuted by Zwingle and the Romanists. They are found in the following years, 1525-1530, with large churches fully organized, in Southern Germany, Tyrol and in middle Germany. In all these places persecutions made their lives bitter."

(Note--that all this is prior to the founding of the Protestant churches--Lutheran, Episcopal, or Presbyterian.)

We continue the quotation--

"Moravia promised a home of greater freedom, and thither many Baptists migrated, only to find their hopes deceived. After 1534 they were numerous in Northern Germany, Holland, Belgium, and the Walloon provinces. They increased even during Alva's rule, in the low countries, and developed a wonderful missionary zeal." (Note--"Missionary Zeal." And yet some folks say that the "Hardshells" are primitive Baptists.)

Where did these Baptists come from? They did not come out of the Catholics during the Reformation. They had large churches prior to the Reformation.

The quotation that Carroll gives says the Bapitsts first appeared in 1523. This seems to contradict his earlier statements that the Baptists have existed in continual succession since the time of the Apostles. I have not been able to locate the original quote in Schaff-Herzog but it could be from some earlier edition. Carroll claims that the 1523 date makes the Baptists older than the Reformation churches. But Luther nailed the 95 theses in 1517 and by 1521 there was already the beginnings of the Lutheran church. Zwingli began his ministry in 1519 and most regard the Swiss anabaptists as being disciples of Zwingli who went further than Zwingli did.

In Conclusion, at best Carroll is an extraordinarily poor historian, at worst he is an extraordinarily dishonest historian. I suspect there is a mixture of both. When trying to locate the origins of the various quotations provided by Carroll, I came across similar quotes in other Baptist publications. I noticed that over time these quotations would get longer and longer and more and more pro-Baptist. In another 100, if the trend continues, the Hosius quote will probably have a line in it about how much he wished he could become a Baptist.

When people are concerned about the truth they don't need to do these silly things. But when people become more concerned with maintaining a particular institution or tradition than the truth, they will always lie to protect the institution or traditon. The historical reality is that the anti-infant baptism movement arose in the 1100s, died off after a couple hundred years, and re-emerged around the time of the Reformation.

The truth is that the New Testament does not limit baptism to a particular age group. It doesn't specifically say "Baptize babies" but it doesn't specifically say "Baptize ninety year old women" either. The Apostles were told in Matthew 28 to disciple the nations by baptizing them. Babies are people too and are part of the nations and this was recognized by almost everyone throughout church history.

The anti-infant baptism is only a symptom of a larger problem. The anti-infant baptism position is based on a misunderstanding of what faith is and what the sacraments are. The vast majority of those who take an anti-infant baptism position  believe that infants are incapable of faith. The Scriptures say that faith is a gift of God (Eph. 2:8). The Scriptures give several accounts of faith in the womb and faith in nursing infants. The only way to enter the kingdom of God is through faith. When infants are brought to Jesus the disciples want to turn the infants away but Jesus tells them that these infants belong to the kingdom of God. He even tells His disciples that anyone who wants to enter the kingdom of God must be like these children. He doesn't tell the children to grow up. He tells the adults to be like these children.

The anti-infant baptism is based on a false teaching of what baptism is. According to the Scriptures, baptism is "for the forgiveness of sins" and "baptism now saves you." According to the anti-infant Baptist, baptism is a testimony of your faith. It's a work that you perform. They have exalted their tradition above the Scriptures. The anti-infant Baptist will tell you that pouring water on a baby won't do anything for the baby. They don't understand that baptism isn't just water, it's God's Word with water and God's Word does what it says. When God said, "Let there be light" there was light. His Word was not just some outward testimony of what had already taken place.

The anti-infant Baptist puts anti-infant baptism at the center of their theology. Carroll provides a list of "Fundamental Doctrines":

1. A spiritual Church, Christ its founder, its only head and law giver.

2. Its ordinances, only two, Baptism and the Lord's Supper. They are typical and memorial, not saving.

3. Its officers, only two, bishops or pastors and deacons; they are servants of the church.

4. Its Government, a pure Democracy, and that executive only, never legislative.

5. Its laws and doctrines: The New Testament and that only.

6. Its members. Believers only, they saved by grace, not works, through the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit.

7. Its requirements. Believers on entering the church to be baptized, that by immersion, then obedience and loyalty to all New Testament laws.

8. The various churches--separate and independent in their execution of laws and discipline and in their responsibilities to God--but cooperative in work.

9. Complete separation of Church and State.

10. Absolute Religious liberty for all.
You'll notice that Jesus is not at the center of this theology. He's mentioned in the first line but he is simply the founder, head, and law giver. There is nothing about the Deity of Christ or the atonement. Some of the groups that Carroll traces his lineage through deny the Trinity or the Deity of Christ. There are Baptist denominations that are full of people who don't seem to agree on anything except that babies should not be baptized.

But if we place our faith in Christ instead of anti-infant Baptism things look much different. We no longer need to construct these foolish genealogies. Instead we can trust Christ and His Word. If we actually believe God's Word we will see what sinners we really are and won't be amazed that God's Word can save babies.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Baptist Successionism Part 3: 600-1300


I recommend reading parts 1 and 2 before reading this post. This post deals with J.M. Carroll's second lecture in The Trail of Blood which covers the period between 600 and 1300. Carroll turns his attention to the Ecumenical Councils. Carroll briefly mentions the first three Ecumenical Councils and then writes:

The fourth met at Calcedon, A.D. 451, and was called by Emperor Marian; 500 or 600 bishops or Metropolitans (Metropolitans were City pastors or First Church pastors) were present. During this Council the doctrine of what is now known as Mariolatry was promulgated. This means the worship of Mary, the mother of Christ. This new doctrine at first created quite a stir, many seriously objecting. But it finally won out as a permanent doctrine of the Catholic Church.

The Council was actually called by Emperor Marcian not Marian. The statement of Chalcedon did not promulgate Mariolatry but instead combatted against the Christological errors of Nestorianism and Eutychianism. In order to combat against these Christological errors, Chalcedon refers to Mary as the Theotokos or Mother of God or as Jaroslav Pelikan translates it "the one who gives birth to the one who is God." The Church believed it was important to confess that Jesus is one man, Divine and human. Some heretical groups have denied the title Theotokos because they believe that Jesus was basically composed of two "persons"--the human that was the son of Mary and the Divine which was not. The term Theotokos was used to confess that Christ is not two persons but one.

Carroll goes on to speak of other Councils--sometimes providing accurate but often providing inaccurate information and then says:

During the period that we are now passing through the persecuted were called by many and varied names. Among them were Donatists, Paterines, Cathari, Paulicians, and Ana Baptists; and a little later, Petro-Brussians, Arnoldists, Henricians, Albigenses, and Waldenses. Sometimes one group of these was the most prominent and sometimes another. But some of them were almost always prominent because of the persistency and terribleness of their persecution.
I already dealt with Carroll's claims about the Donatists and Paterines here. I dealt with his claims about the Petrobrussians and Waldensians here.

The Cathari were dualists and gnostics who lived between the 11th and 13th Centuries. It is true that the denied baptismal regeneration but they also denied water baptism completely. They believed that since water was part of this material world it was evil. They had their own form of baptism where the candidate had to undergo some rather bizarre and intense fasting rituals that would eventually end in their death. The "baptism" was then performed by the laying on of hands on the baptismal candidate as he died by starving to death to avoid the recontamination of the soul. The Cathari did not believe that there was one God but two gods. They believed that there was a god of evil who created the physical world and a good god who was completely spirit and never became incarnate. It seems like Carroll is willing to put up with just about any false doctrine as long as the group in question doesn't teach baptismal regeneration or baptize infants.

The Paulicans flourished from 650 to 782. The Paulicans used the sword to spread their beliefs which according to Carroll is a mark of a false church. The Paulicans taught that Jesus became the Son of God when He was baptized at the age of thirty. They regarded the Holy Spirit as a mere creature. They did not accept the Old Testament and only accepted part of the New Testament. The Paulicans regarded true baptism as having nothing to do with water but many still allowed their children to baptized by Christian priests.

The term "Anabaptist" is a very general term, so it's not clear who exactly Carroll is referring to. They were a 16th Century movement. Some were peaceful, some were revolutionaries. Some held to heretical views about the Trinity or the doctrine of Christ. They all denied infant baptism but they were all over the place on other issues.

The Arnoldists were a 12th Century group that arose within the Christian church. They spoke against the wealth of the clergy. According to some sources Arnold held to the same position as the rest of the Christian church on the issue of baptism. According to other sources he denied the validity of the sacraments because they were being administered by sinful priests. According to others Arnold denied the sacraments completely. It could be that the Arnoldists transitioned between these different positions. I was not able to locate any evidence that they held to a Baptist understanding of baptism.

The Henricians were followers of Henry of Lausanne. Henry was a monk who left the monastary and began to preach against the clergy. He was a student of Peter de Bruys. Peter and Henry were the first known leaders to speak out against infant baptism. But this was in the 1100s and they were both members of the Christian church. They never spoke of any kind of succession. After a couple hundred years the anti-paedobaptist position died away again and was not revived until the time of the Reformation in the 16th Century.

The Albigenses were not Christian and did not practice water baptism. They believed that there was a good god who created human souls and a bad god who trapped them in bodies. They taught that Jesus was a mere creature--not exactly the group I would want to point to as my spiritual forefathers. Carroll goes on to say:

It is well to note also that in order to prevent the spread of any view of any sort, contrary to those of the Catholics very extreme plans and measures were adopted. First, all writings of any sort, other than those of the Catholics, were gathered and burned. Especially was this true of books. For several centuries these plans and measures were strictly and persistently followed. That is, according to history, the main reason why it is so difficult to secure accurate history.
This is the conspiracy theory that stands behind all of Carroll's work. I'm sure Carroll would argue that all these groups have been misrepresented and that if their genuine writings were revealed these groups would all turn out to be Baptist. But what evidence of there of this? Couldn't someone just as easily say they were all really Muslims? Or Hare Krishnas? Was Carroll given some magic spectacles by an angel that allows him to see all the Baptists down through history?

To Be Continued...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Baptist Successionism Part 2: 30-500

In this post I will continue to examine the claims made in The Trail of Blood by J.M. Carroll. If you have not done so, I recommend reading my previous post before reading this one. The first lecture in The Trail of Blood covers the time period of 30-500AD and makes several errors both in its understanding of ecclesiology and the sacraments but I won't go into those here. Instead I will just focus on the historical claims that are made. Carroll says:

Another vital change which seems from history to have had its beginning before the close of the second century was on the great doctrine of Salvation itself. The Jews as well as the Pagans, had for many generations, been trained to lay great stress on Ceremonials. They had come to look upon types as anti-types, shadows as real substances, and ceremonials as real saving agencies. How easy to come thus to look upon baptism. They reasoned thus: The Bible has much to say concerning baptism. Much stress is laid upon the ordinance and one's duty concerning it. Surely it must have something to do with one's salvation. So that it was in this period that the idea of "Baptismal Regeneration" began to get a fixed hold in some of the churches. (Shackelford, page 57; Camp p. 47; Benedict, p. 286; Mosheim, vol. 1, p. 134; Christian, p. 28.)
The only non-Baptist historian here is Mosheim. Mosheim does speak of various rites and ceremonies being added during the second century but he doesn't say anything about a change of belief that resulted in the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. The fact is that the Scriptures speak of baptism in salvific terms by saying "baptism now saves us" and baptism is "for the forgiveness of sins." And when we look at what the earliest church fathers say about baptism there are none who describe it as just a symbolic act and plenty that describe it as regeneration. The Epistle of Barnabas which was written in 130 says:

"This means that we go down into the water full of sins and foulness, and we come up bearing fruit in our hearts, fear and hope in Jesus and in the Spirit.”
The Shepherd of Hermas written around 140 AD says:

"I have heard, sir," said I, "from some teachers, that there is no other repentance except that which took place when we went down into the water and obtained the remission of our former sins." He said to me, "You have heard rightly, for so it is." (The Shepherd 4:3:1-2)

They had need [the Shepherd said] to come up through the water, so that they might be made alive; for they could not otherwise enter into the kingdom of God, except by putting away the mortality of their former life. These also, then, who had fallen asleep, received the seal of the Son of God, and entered into the kingdom of God. For, [he said,] before a man bears the name of the Son of God, he is dead. But when he receives the seal, he puts mortality aside and again receives life. The seal, therefore, is the water. They go down into the water dead [in sin], and come out of it alive. (ibid 9:16:2-4)
Justin Martry writing between 148-155 said:

Whoever is convinced and believes that what they are taught and told by us is the truth, and professes to be able to live accordingly, is instructed to pray and to beseech God in fasting for the remission of their former sins, while we pray and fast with them. Then they are led by us to a place where there is water; and there they are reborn in the same kind of rebirth in which we ourselves were reborn: In the name of God, the Lord and Father of all, and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they receive the washing with water. For Christ said, "Unless you be reborn, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." ...The reason for doing this, we have learned from the Apostles. (The First Apology 61)

I could provide more quotes but I think this is sufficient. Baptismal regeneration was a teaching held by the early church. The innovation comes in the later denial of baptismal regeneration by some. After the statement about the meaning of baptism, Carroll goes on to talk about the subjects and mode of baptism:

The next serious error to begin creeping in, and which seems from some historians (not all) to have begun in this same century and which may be said to have been an inevitable consequence of the "baptismal regeneration" idea, was a change in the subjects of baptism. Since baptism has been declared to be an agency or means to salvation by some erring churches, then the sooner baptism takes place the better. Hence arose "infant baptism." Prior to this "believers" and "believers" only, were regarded as proper subjects for baptism. "Sprinkling" and "pouring" are not now referred to. These came in much later. For several centuries, infants, like others, were immersed. The Greek Catholics (a very large branch of the Catholic church) up to this day, have never changed the original form of baptism. They practice infant baptism but have never done otherwise than immerse the children. (Note--Some of the church historians put the beginning of infant baptism within this century, but I shall quote a short paragraph from Robinson's Ecclesiastical Researches.)

"During the first three centuries, congregations all over the East subsisted in separate independent bodies, unsupported by government and consequently without any secular power over one another. All this time they were baptized churches, and though all the fathers of the first four ages, down to Jerome (A.D. 370), were of Greece, Syria and Africa, and though they give great numbers of histories of the baptism of adults, yet there is not one of the baptism of a child till the year 370." (Compendium of Baptist History, Shackelford, p. 43; Vedder, p. 50; Christian, p, 31; Orchard, p. 50, etc.)

So Carroll's claim is that there is no record of children being baptized prior to 370 and that departure from immersion as a mode of baptism came later. Between 189-190 Irenaeus, a disciple of John, wrote:

"He [Jesus] came to save all through himself; all, I say, who through him are reborn in God: infants, and children, and youths, and old men. Therefore he passed through every age, becoming an infant for infants, sanctifying infants; a child for children, sanctifying those who are of that age . . . [so that] he might be the perfect teacher in all things, perfect not only in respect to the setting forth of truth, perfect also in respect to relative age" (Against Heresies 2:22:4).

"‘And [Naaman] dipped himself . . . seven times in the Jordan’ [2 Kgs. 5:14]. It was not for nothing that Naaman of old, when suffering from leprosy, was purified upon his being baptized, but [this served] as an indication to us. For as we are lepers in sin, we are made clean, by means of the sacred water and the invocation of the Lord, from our old transgressions, being spiritually regenerated as newborn babes, even as the Lord has declared: ‘Except a man be born again through water and the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven’ [John 3:5]" (Fragment 34).
The first quote makes it clear that Irenaeus believed that Jesus regenerated infants. The second quote makes it clear that Irenaeus believed that regeneration took place through baptism. In 248 Origen wrote:

"Every soul that is born into flesh is soiled by the filth of wickedness and sin. . . . In the Church, baptism is given for the remission of sins, and, according to the usage of the Church, baptism is given even to infants. If there were nothing in infants which required the remission of sins and nothing in them pertinent to forgiveness, the grace of baptism would seem superfluous" (Homilies on Leviticus 8:3).

"The Church received from the apostles the tradition of giving baptism even to infants. The apostles, to whom were committed the secrets of the divine sacraments, knew there are in everyone innate strains of [original] sin, which must be washed away through water and the Spirit" (Commentaries on Romans 5:9).
Cyprian of Carthage wrote in 253:

"As to what pertains to the case of infants: You [Fidus] said that they ought not to be baptized within the second or third day after their birth, that the old law of circumcision must be taken into consideration, and that you did not think that one should be baptized and sanctified within the eighth day after his birth. In our council it seemed to us far otherwise. No one agreed to the course which you thought should be taken. Rather, we all judge that the mercy and grace of God ought to be denied to no man born" (Letters 64:2).
All these quotes are from before 370, so we know that Carroll's statement is false. The Cyprian quote also shows us what the first known controversy was in regards to infant baptism. Fidus was arguing that baptism should be delayed until the baby is eight days old. Cyprian says that baptism should not be withheld from someone simply because they have not reached the age of eight days old. There's no evidence in any of these quotes that anyone was arguing that babies should not be baptized at all.

According to Carroll the use of any mode other than immersion for baptism came much later than 370 AD but this isn't true either. The Didache dates back to the time of the Apostles. It was written sometime between the years 50 and 120. Some believe it was written in the year 150 but this is still much earlier than 370. Some ancient churches regarded it as part of the New Testament canon. It provides a helpful look into the practices of the early church. According to the Didache:

After the foregoing instructions, baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living [running] water. If you have no living water, then baptize in other water, and if you are not able in cold, then in warm. If you have neither, pour water three times on the head, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Before baptism, let the one baptizing and the one to be baptized fast, as also any others who are able. Command the one who is to be baptized to fast beforehand for one or two days (7:1)

Depending upon the amount of water available, immersion was used but pouring was used when there wasn't enough water. For the early Christians the water the Word were what was necessary for a valid baptism. In 215 Hippolytus wrote:

Where there is no scarcity of water the stream shall flow through the baptismal font or pour into it from above; but if water is scarce, whether on a constant condition or on occasion, then use whatever water is available. Let them remove their clothing. Baptize first the children, and if they can speak for themselves let them do so. Otherwise, let their parents or other relatives speak for them (The Apostolic Tradition 21:16).

In 254 Cyprian wrote:

In the saving sacraments, when necessity compels and when God bestows his pardon, divine benefits are bestowed fully upon believers, nor ought anyone be disturbed because the sick are poured upon or sprinkled when they receive the Lord's grace" (Letter to a Certain Magnus 69(76):12)
Carroll goes on to say:

These two errors (baptismal regeneration and infant baptism) have, according to the testimony of well-established history, caused the shedding of more Christian blood, as the centuries have gone by, than all other errors combined, or than possibly have all wars, not connected with persecution, if you will leave out the recent "World War." Over 50,000,000 Christians died martyr deaths, mainly because of their rejection of these two errors during the period of the "dark ages" alone--about twelve or thirteen centuries...To effectually bring about and consummate this unholy union, a council was called. In A. D. 313, a call was made for a coming together of the Christian churches or their representatives . Many but not all came. The alliance was consummated. A Hierarchy was formed. In the organization of the Hierarchy, Christ was dethroned as head of the churches and Emperor Constantine enthroned (only temporarily, however) as head of the church...Let it be definitely remembered that when Constantine made his call for the council, there were very many of the Christians (Baptists) and of the churches, which declined to respond. They wanted no marriage with the state, and no centralized religious government, and no higher ecclesiastical government of any kind, than the individual church. These Christians (Baptists) nor the churches ever at that time or later, entered the hierarchy of the Catholic denomination.

But there is no evidence of any of this. Carroll provides no citations to prove that 50,000,000 Christians were martyred because they rejected infant baptism and baptismal regeneration. The Council that Carroll refers to is the Council of Rome in 313. Constantine legalized Christianity and became a leader in the church but was not the head of the church. These "Baptists" that Carroll refers to are the Donatists.

There is no evidence that the Donatists denied baptismal regeneration or denied infant baptism and no evidence that they separated themselves from people who did. The Donatists were in full communion with the rest of the Church. There was no "Catholic" denomination at that time as Carroll refers to it. This is a much later development. At that time there was simply the Christian Church. You can read a good article on the Donatists here. During the persecutions of Christians under Diocletian there were some Christians who renounced the faith. When persecution ended many of them wanted to return to back to the church. The Donatists did not believe they should be allowed to return into full communion and denied the validity of the sacraments that were administered by priests who renounced the faith during the persecution. According to Carroll one of the marks of the true New Testament church is that they do not use carnal weapons to promote their beliefs. But this cannot be said of the Donatists. Donatists were killed by the Christian church but when Donatists gained political power, Donatists killed Christians. Carroll writes:

The course followed by the loyal churches soon, of course, incurred the hot displeasure of the state religionists, many, if not most of whom, were not genuine Christians. The name "Christian," however, was from now on denied those loyal churches who refused to accept these new errors. They were robbed of that, and called by many other names, sometimes by one and sometimes by another, "Montanist, "Tertullianists," "Novationists," "Paterines," etc., and some at least because of their practice of rebaptizing those who were baptized in infancy, were referred to an "Ana -Baptists."
The Montanists and Tertullianists did not reject the validity of infant baptism or baptismal regeneration. They believed that baptism should be delayed because they believed that all sins were washed away at the time of baptism that were committed until that time. The Montanists had a strong emphasis on the continuation of prophecy, ascetic lifestyle, and believed that the New Jerusalem was in west-central Phrygia. The Novatians did not reject infant baptism or baptismal regeneration. They believed that those who renounced their faith during the persecution of Emperor Decius should not be admitted back into the church. The Paterines (or Pataria) lived in the 11th Century and were opposed to both clerical marriage and concubinage. Some claim that they were opposed to all marriage, thought women should be allowed to teach in the church, and regarded matter as evil. But they were a group within the Christian church and there is no record of them denying infant baptism or baptismal regeneration. If they truly regarded matter as evil it's possible that they regarded baptism as completely unnecessary but that doesn't seem likely. The Trail of Blood Chart places the Paterines/Paterins/Pataria around the year 300 but I don't see any evidence of this.

To Be Continued...

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Baptist Successionism Part 1: The Introduction to "The Trail of Blood"


Baptist successionism teaches that there is an unbroken of chain of churches since the time of the Apostles that have remained separate from the Roman Catholic church and taught Baptist doctrine. The first known Baptist to argue for Baptist Successionism was John Spittlehouse in 1652. Since the 19th century most Baptists have abandoned these claims because of the lack of real historical evidence.

Unfortunately some do still hold to the claims of Baptist successionism and this belief ends up being a distraction from Jesus Christ The circular reasoning of Baptist successionism makes it almost impossible to convince the Baptist successionist that his church's is teaching contrary to the Scriptures. Most Baptist successionists are very anti-Roman Catholic but their line of argument really isn't much different. The Roman Catholic church believes it is the one true church based on a questionable succession of bishops going back to the Apostles. They teach that the Pope is the successor of St. Peter. Later Roman Catholic dogma gets read into the early church fathers and the New Testament. When a Roman Catholic is questioned about this later doctrinal development that appears contrary to the Scriptures he will make the claim that the person who wrote this book of the Bible was a member of the Roman Catholic church and so they would never contradict Roman Catholic dogma. They insist that all passages must be read in a way that conforms with Roman dogma.

The Baptist successionist finds his own legitimacy through a supposedly unbroken line of Baptist churches going back to the Apostles. Unlike the case of the Roman Catholics, this line of succession is not just questionable, there is no historic record of it at all. The Baptists Successionist starts with the presupposition that his church is teaching the truth, point to Christ's promises that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church, and then claims that there MUST be a continuous line of churches teaching what his church teaches. The lack of historical evidence is explained by saying that the historical records were destroyed by the Roman Catholic Church.

The problem in both the Roman and Baptist cases is that the Scriptures are no longer the final authority--what the particular church teaches is the final authority. What the particular church teaches is read back into the Scriptures. Many of these Baptist churches also teach KJV-onlyism but they are always reading their own church's traditions into the KJV. They don't believe that "baptism doth also now save us" (1 Peter 3:21) or that it is "for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38). In fact if you taught either of these things they would accuse you of teaching the "heresy" of baptismal regeneration. They don't teach that the Lord's Supper is the body and blood of Christ. It doesn't matter to them that all the historical records indicate that everyone in the early church took the Scriptures literally and taught that the Lord's Supper is the body and blood of Christ and that baptism is for the forgiveness of sins.

The rest of this post will tediously go through the claims made in J.M. Carroll's popular pamphlet The Trail of Blood. There are some more recent pamphlets like this one by Thomas Cassidy but they basically just parrot Carroll's work.

The introduction to the book is written by Clarence Walker.Walker begins by quoting sources that speak of persecution of the anabaptists. Many of these acts are real and inexcusable. But its not as if the anabaptists have no blood on their own hands. Many of the anabaptists were violent revolutionaries. The anabaptist John of Leyden got his own army together and took over M√ľnster. He made himself king, kicked out dissenters, and set up a strange polygamous theocracy. Much of the Baptist literature would have you believe that Baptists were always persecuted and never persecutors but history says otherwise. Much of the literature will also tell you that Baptists have always promoted the separation of church and state but this just isn't true.

I haven't taken the time to research all the quotes that are merely in regards to the persecution of Baptists. I'm more interested in the quotes that make claims that there was a continuous line of persecution of Baptists back to the time of the Apostles. The most interesting quote is that of Cardinal Hosius. Hosius was a Roman Catholic, the quote is dated from 1524, and he is said to have been the President of the Council of Trent. According to Walker quoting Carroll, Hosius wrote:

"Were it not that the baptists have been grievously tormented and cut off with the knife during the past twelve hundred years, they would swarm in greater number than all the Reformers." (Hosius, Letters, Apud Opera, pp. 112, 113.)
So according this "quote" the Baptists had existed for at least 1200 years. Ben Townsend provides a vey detailed analysis of this "quote."  Townsend notes that there is no "Apud Opera" in Hosius's writings. "Baptist" was also not a term that was used at that time. They were referred to an anabaptists. Hosius was not the "President" of the Council of Trent. He was delegate. Also, the Council of Trent was not even taking place in 1524. It took place between 1561-1563. It appears that what is actually being provided is a paraphrase of a paraphrase found in Baptist magazine. Townsend was able to locate what he believes is the original quotation written in 1563 by Hosius in Liber Epistolarum 150, titled “Alberto Bavariae Duci.” Townsend sent the Latin to an expert for a translation. This is the result:

"For not so long ago I read the edict of the other prince who lamented the fate of the Anabaptists who, so we read, were pronounced heretics twelve hundred years ago and deserving of capital punishment. He wanted them to be heard and not taken as condemned without a hearing." (by Carolinne White, Ph.D, Oxford University, Head of Oxford Latin)
The actual quote does not provide evidence that there was continual persecution of the anabaptists for the 1200 years before this was written but that some of the same errors of the Baptists were declared heresy 1200 years before this was written. Hosius believed that the Anabaptists were committing some of the same errors as the Donatists did 1200 years prior to that. I'll compare the teachings of the Donatists and the Baptists later. The next quote of interest is by Sir Isaac Newton who reportedly said:

"The Baptists are the only body of known Christians that have never symbolized with Rome."
There is no reference to verify this quote and without context its difficult to determne what Sir Isaac Newton was trying to say. After doing some research I found some Baptist successionist sites that did provide a citation and said that this quote appears in the Memoirs of Whiston,page 201. Whiston was a student of Isaac Newton. Both were Arians. The book can be read online and there is nothing about Newton or the Baptists on page 201 and nothing that resembles the quote above. The only place I found in the book where Newton and the Baptists are mentioned together is on page 206. Whitson writes about how he became convinced that only those who have been catechized should be baptized, wrote a paper a paper about it and sent it to Isaac Newton (I updated the spelling in the quote:

"I sent this paper also, by an intimate friend, Mr. Haines, to Sir Isaac Newton, and desired to know his opinion : the answer returned was this, that they both had discovered the same before : nay, I afterward found that Sir Ifaac Newton was so hearty for the baptists, as well as for the Eusebians or Arians that he sometimes suspected these two were the two witnesses in the Revelation."
The next quote of interest from The Trail of Blood is from the Lutheran historian J.L. Mosheim. It says:

"Before the rise of Luther and Calvin, there lay secreted in almost all the countries of Europe persons who adhered tenaciously to the principles of modern Dutch Baptists."
The quote does not say that there is an unbroken line of Baptist churches that date back to the time of the Apostles but that there were theologically similar groups that existed before the time of the Reformation. But once again we don't have a citation. I found some Baptist successionist sites that have an even longer "quote" but still without citation:

"Before the rise of Luther and Calvin, there lay secreted in almost all the countries of Europe, persons who adhered tenaciously to the principles of the modern Dutch Baptists...the origin of Baptists is lost in the remote depths of antiquity...the first century was a history of Baptists."

The only thing that I could find by Mosheim that even comes close to page 200ff. BOOK IV. CENT. XVI. SEC. III. PART II. CHAP. III. of The Institues of Ecclesiastical History:

The modern Mennonites affirm that their predecessors were the descendants of those Waldensians who were oppressed by the tyranny of the papists; and that they were a most pure offspring, and most averse from any inclinations towards sedition as well as from all fanatical views. On the contrary, their adversaries contend that they are descended from those turbulent and furious Anabaptists, who in the sixteenth century involved Germany, Holland, Switzerland, and especially Westphalia, in so many calamities and civil wars; but that being terrified by the dreadful fate of their associates, through the influence of Menno Simonis especially, they have gradually assumed a more sober character. After duly examining the whole subject with impartiality, I conceive that neither statement is altogether true. In the first place, I believe the Mennonites are not altogether in the wrong, when they boast of a descent from those Waldensians, Petrobrusians, and others, who are usually styled the Witnesses for the truth before Luther. Prior to the age of Luther, there lay concealed in almost every country of Europe, but especially in Bohemia, Moravia, Switzerland, and Germany, very many persons, in whose minds was deeply rooted that principle which the Waldensians, tho Wycliffites, and the Hussites maintained, some more covertly and others more openly; namely, that the kingdom which Christ set up on the earth, or the visible church, is an assembly of holy persons, and ought therefore to be entirely free, not only from ungodly persons and sinners, but from all institutions of human device against ungodliness. This principle that such a church as they had formed an idea of, would never be established by human means, indulged the hope that God himself would in his own time erect for himself a new church, free from every blemish and impurity ; and that he would raise up certain persons, and fill them with heavenly light for the accomplishment of this great object. Others, more discreet, looked for neither miracles nor inspiration ; but judged that the church might bo purified from all the contaminations of evil men, and be brought into the state that Christ had intended, by human efforts and care, provided the practice and the regulations of the ancient Christians were restored to their pristine dignity and influence...Whether the origin of this discordant sect which caused such mischief land, or in Holland and Germany, in some other country, it is not important to know, and is impossible fully to determine. In my opinion, this only can be affirmed, that at one and the same time, that is, not long after the commencement of the reformation by Luther, there arose men of this sort, in several different countries. This may be inferred from the fact, that the first leaders of any note among the Anabaptists were, nearly all, founders of distinct sects. For though all these reformers of the church, or rather these projectors of new churches, are called Anabaptists, because they all denied that infants are proper subjects of baptism, and solemnly baptized over again those who had been baptized in infancy ; yet from the very beginning, just as at the present day, they were split into various parties which disagreed and disputed about points of no small importance. The worst part of this motley tribe, namely, that which supposed the founders of their ideal and perfect church would be endued with divine powers and would work miracles, began to raise great disturbances in Saxony and the neighbouring countries, in the year 1521, under the guidance of Thomas Munzer."


What Mosheim actually says is that just prior to the Reformation there were groups who taught "that the kingdom which Christ set up on the earth, or the visible church, is an assembly of holy persons, and ought therefore to be entirely free, not only from ungodly persons and sinners, but from all institutions of human device against ungodliness." Also note that according to Mosheim these groups descended from the Waldensians and Petrobrusians. The Waldensians were started by Peter Waldo who was excommunicated from the Catholic Church for preaching without permission in the early 1180s. Waldo did not deny that infants should be baptized. He gave up his possessions to the poor and focused his attention on morality. Some of his spiritual descendants did deny infant baptism but others did not. Many of his descendants joined the Lutheran and Calvinist churches after the Reformation. The Petrobrusians were founded by Peter of Bruys in the 12th Century. Peter of Bruys rejected the Old Testament. He encouraged and practiced physical violence towards the clergy and taught that church buildings should be destroyed. He did teach that only those who have confessed their faith should be baptized but taught that it is a requirement salvation making him more a forerunner of the Campbellites than the Baptists.

The next "quote" of interest is attributed to the Edinburg Cyclopedia:

"It must have already occurred to our readers that the Baptists are the same sect of Christians that were formerly described as Ana-Baptists. Indeed this seems to have been their leading principle from the time of Tertullian to the present time."
Once again no citation is provided. This one took more work to find but find it I did.

If opposition to the mode in which baptism is commonly administered be the distinguishing characteristic of this sect, Tertullian, who lived about the end of the second century, may be accounted one of its earliest founders. A short time afterwards, Agrippinus, a Carthaginian bishop, and many of the neighbouring clergy, re jected the baptisms which were then administered, and rebaptized all those who joined this society. Cyprian and his followers adopted the same sentiments in the third century. From Carthage these opinions migrated to the East, and Firmilian, bishop of Casana, and many other bishops in Asia, re-baptized. The Novatians and Donatists likewise condemned baptism as then commonly administered, and embraced the sentiments of those who re-baptized. The ostensible reason which all these persons assigned for this conduct, was the wickedness of those who were universally admitted to baptism, and which, in their opinion, rendered the ordinance altogether invalid...But though there were many individuals, and even some small societies, who maintained the opinions, and deserved the appellation of baptists before the Refor mation, yet it was only about that period that the insulated members were collected into one body, were properly organized, and attracted the attention of Europe...It must have already occurred to our readers, that the baptists are the same sect of Christians which we formerly described under the appellation of ANA BAPTISTS. It is but justice to acknowledge, that they reject the latter appellation with disdain and main tain, that as none of the adopted by churches are consonant to scripture, the baptism of these churches is in reality no baptism. Hence, in their opinion, they do not rebaptize. Indeed, this seems to have been their great leading principle from the time of Tertullian to the present day. According to them, something essential to baptism, either in the subjects, or in the administrators, or in the mode, was omitted, which rendered the rite altogether nugatory ; and hence they asserted, that their baptism was the first that was administered to such as were proper subjects of it."

You can read what Tertullian wrote about baptism here. Tertullian taught baptismal regeneration and didn't reject infant baptism as being an illegitimate baptism. He did teach that he thought it would be better if baptism were delayed so that the baptismal sponsors would not fall into sin by failing to keep their promises and doesn't seem to believe in original sin so he doesn't believe the unbaptized child is in danger. He also advises against the unwed being baptized. What the Edinburg Cyclopedia is actually saying is that since the time of Tertullian there have been those who argued that a real baptism didn't take place if there was something wrong with the "subjects, or in the administrators, or in the mode" that made baptism invalid. The Encyclopedia is not saying that there is a continual line of churches who believe what the modern day Baptist does. It's saying that since the time of Tertullian there have been those who thought that the way baptism was commonly practiced in the church was not good enough and made the baptism "not real" and so a "real" baptism needed to take place even though they disagreed with one another as to what made it "real."

All the relevant quotes in support of Baptist successionism are taken out of context and distorted. It's as if they are all bad paraphrases of someone else's bad paraphrase.


To Be Continued...