Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Refuting a Case for Infant Baptism - Part III

In his video "From Credobaptist to Paedobaptist: A Case for Infant Baptism" dated January 24, 2015, Paul Flynn of Megiddo Radio announced that he was leaving Arann Reformed Baptist Church to attend Loughbrickland Reformed Presbyterian Church.  You can see my previous comments on his apology for infant baptism in Part I here and in Part II here.

My refutation will not counter every one of Mr. Flynn's arguments for infant baptism (his YouTube video is almost 2 hours long).  In this 3-part series, I've only focused on what I thought were the major flaws in his apology.

As Mr. Flynn continues his apology for infant baptism, he states that "unregenerated, baptized infants are part of the visible church not the invisible church.  We treat them as part of the church and evangelize them."  He asks, "How does Prov. 22:6 make sense in any other context?...What is the difference between children of believers and children of unbelievers?"  He immediately answers his latter question, "Nothing; they are outside the church which creates a war."  

First, treating known unbelievers (including infants and children) as part of the church is part of the current seeker-sensitive church growth philosophy "which aims to make churches more accessible and sensitive to the needs of spiritual seekers."  An individual, whether an infant, child, or adult, who is known to be an unbeliever (he has not called on the name of the Lord to be saved, Acts 2:21) is not part of the visible or invisible church.  This person may attend church, but he is not a member (or should not be).

Mr. Flynn is erroneously presuming that all people who attend church are members.  To be part of a church, a person should go through a membership process, whereby the elders look to guard their flock by examining the membership candidate for signs of genuine salvation.  However, regular visitors are not members; they are just visitors regardless of how long they "visit" the church.  Visitors have not submitted themselves to the authority of the local church they attend, and they have purposefully not made a commitment to that church.  Of course, some individuals visit for a period of time to make sure that the church is sound in its orthodoxy and orthopraxy, but their goal is to become members or to move on.  Visitor status should be temporary, but unfortunately, that's not the case in today's modern church.  Now, it can be said that visitors are treated as part of the church when the local church practices open communion.  If the individual can have free access to all the means of grace in a local church without the added responsibilities of submission and accountability to that church, then why join?  But that's another discussion altogether...

In addition, Mr. Flynn is trying to set up a false dichotomy between Reformed Baptist parents and their unsaved children by implying a war-like scenario between those in the Covenant and those who are not.   As parents, we do not "wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places," (Eph. 6:12).  For the most part, Reformed Baptist parents follow Prov. 22:6 and train up their children in the way they would go; however, they pray (and not presume) that God will save them.  Just like believers are not at war with visitors to their church, they are not at war with their children (unless they are in the process of discipline; as a  brand new parent, Mr. Flynn will come to this realization soon enough).  Training up children in the Christian faith does not guarantee salvation (just look at at the two sons of Aaron, Nadab & Abihu, or the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas).

Later in the video he states that "Baptists believe that in the New Covenant, children are no longer part of the covenant."  Actually, Reformed Baptists believe that children are not born into the Covenant of Grace in the Old or the New Testament.  So it's not that the children are no longer part of the Covenant, they never were part of the Covenant to begin with.  Children, regenerated by the Holy Spirit, believe in Jesus Christ and call on Him to be saved.  At that instant, they become part of the Covenant of Grace, the invisible church.  Reformed Baptist bring them into the visible church via church membership on their profession of faith and baptism (water immersion).

Next, Mr. Flynn references Acts 2:39 which says, "For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call."  He surmises that Peter is using covenant language in his sermon, so he modifies what he thinks the converted Jews in Acts 2 would hear the Apostle Peter saying if they were Baptists: "Your children [referring to the converted Jews in Acts 2] were receiving the sign and the seal of the righteousness of faith, but now they are no longer part of the church and should be excommunicated."  Aside from the over-exaggeration regarding how Baptist view their children, Mr. Flynn ultimately argues from his own reasoning forced back onto the Scriptures.  Circumcised infants were part of the nation of Israel, not the Covenant of Grace.  Circumcision did not make them believers, nor did it guarantee that they would become believers.  The Apostle Paul tells us, "For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God," (Rom. 2:28-29).

Surprisingly, Mr. Flynn also makes this rhetorical question:  "If infant baptism is heresy, do you think God would bless that?"  He points to the fact that the majority of the confessions include infant baptism.  Again, this thinking is part of the seeker-sensitive rationale that if God wasn't pleased with their efforts, then their mega churches would not continue to grow and flourish as seen by man.  Mr. Flynn seems to forget about the Protestant Reformation which broke away from the Roman Catholic Church.  Many of the non-biblical practices of the RCC were denounced by the Protestant churches.  But some of the traditions remained, such as infant baptism and consubstantiation.  I believe it was the RCC tradition of infant baptism along with writings from John Calvin that influenced the writers of the confessions which support infant baptism, not the Bible.  This statement make by Mr. Flynn is also very dangerous.  It presumes that God must bless the majority view of man.  You could make that same statement now about the modern acceptance of homosexuality and the recent court cases they have won...isn't that a sign of God's blessing?  Of course not!  That's why the standard is God's Word, never man.

Finally, Mr. Flynn states (emphasis mine):
"The households of Abraham were circumcised.  The token of circumcision recognizes them as part of the visible church.  This pattern of the sign and seal as a righteousness of faith point toward regeneration, circumcision of the heart.  Spiritual circumcision without hands was referring to regeneration.  By faith, the mystery of circumcising the heart was pointing toward repenting and believing, that God would circumcise the heart, regenerate the heart.  What does baptism point toward?  From the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chap. 28, "Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ."  [It is] the sign and seal of the Covenant of Grace and regeneration.  Christ removes sin by His blood.  This sacrament must be believed upon, received by faith.  The seal is useless without faith."
The seal is useless without faith?  Then how can it be a seal?  The Apostle Paul disagrees with Mr. Flynn's assessment of the seal of God.  "Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity," (2 Tim. 2:19).  Mr. Flynn's argument for an effective seal is very similar to the erroneous Arminian belief that Jesus Christ's death on the cross was efficient for all, but effective for some (those who will eventually "accept" Jesus in their heart).  Likewise, Mr. Flynn is saying that baptism is efficient for all, but effective for some (those who will eventually have faith).  Both of these views profane Christ's blood sacrifice to save His elect.  It diminishes His work on the cross.  God would not require the holy sacrament of baptism--which pictures Christ's death, burial, and resurrection--to be performed on an infant that will never bow the knee to Him in this lifetime (although ultimately, he will bow, Phil. 2:10).  Just like Jesus did not die on the cross to save all, His sacrament of baptism should not be performed on all without a profession of faith in His name.  An elder should never baptize an individual in hope of faith; baptism should be performed as the result of faith, much like good works (James 2:18).

The Jews continually asked Jesus for a sign in the Gospels (Matt. 12:38, 16:1; Mark 8:11; Luke 1:16; John 2:18, 6:30). But Jesus tells them that an evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign (Matt. 12:39).  The Jews are using covenant language in their request; however, Jesus does not tell them that the baptism of John or of His own disciples is a sign of the New Covenant He will bring in.  The words 'sign', ' token', and 'seal' are not used to describe baptism in the New Testament.  Believers are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise after regeneration (2 Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:13, 4:30).

There is much more that I could say about Mr. Flynn's infant baptism apology, but I'm going to end my series here.  I have been purposefully diligent in supporting all my counter-arguments with biblical references.  I pray that what I have written will be helpful for Reformed Baptists to defend their position of credobaptism, or that it will cause those who believe in paedobaptism to think more biblically, rather than traditionally, about their belief.

"Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?  Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life," (Rom. 6:3-4).

Monday, March 2, 2015

Book Review: God's Battle Plan for the Mind

In God's Battle Plan for the Mind: The Puritan Practice of Biblical Meditation, David Saxton's goal is "to convince God's people of the absolute necessity of personal meditation."  He writes this book to "motivate the believer to begin this work; teach practically how to meditate on divine truth; and guide in right patterns of thinking throughout the day," (Kindle location 101).

Mr. Saxton notes that the practice of meditation unites biblical knowledge to practical living.  He goes on to state that "Unless a believer spends regular time thinking personally and deeply about the things of God, he will not be growing in the grace that the Lord desires in his life," (Kindle location 149).  The author surmises that meditation is neglected by many Christians today because it is "difficult work--work that is opposed by the distracting spirit of our age, our adversary the devil, and the carnal raging of our hearts," (Kindle location 250).

After a brief introduction to biblical meditation, Mr. Saxton devotes a whole chapter on the unbiblical forms of meditation that are practiced in churches today.  He boldly names the counterfeit activities such as yoga, transcendental meditation, relaxation therapy, the New Age Movement, and the mysticism and contemplative prayer of Roman Catholicism.  These practices create a mental vacuum while biblical meditation doesn't seek to empty the mind, but fill it with Scripture (Kindle location 447).  I was deeply convicted by the author's simple, yet powerful, statement: "People waste their best thoughts on worldly things because it is the easiest way to go," (Kindle location 477).

Once he establishes what biblical meditation is not, Mr. Saxton then provides a lengthy biblical description of what it is over the next 3 chapters.  He quotes many Puritan theologians to show their view and practice of biblical meditation.  In the remaining chapters, the author stresses the importance of this practice in the sanctification process of a believer's life and gives helpful tips for choosing meditation subjects and how to get started.  He also identifies the benefits of biblical meditation as well as the enemies that will undermine the believer's walk with God.

Near the end of his book Mr. Saxton addresses the modern-day Christian's reluctance to practice biblical meditation.  His exhortation is pointed, and may even be viewed as judgmental, but it strikes at the heart of the believer's unwillingness to change his thought life:
"To overcome the busyness that results in failure to meditate, one must be honest about what is important to him.  Why does a person find time to watch a two-hour movie and yet not find time to read God's Word and meditate upon it?  It is because he simply does not see the value in it and is unwilling to spare the time for it.  Thus, the way to overcome excuses is to admit that the Lord does not retain first place in one's life," (Kindle location 2485).
Fortunately, Mr. Saxton does not leave the Christian without remedy: "The initial way to correct this lack of biblical priorities is to recognize it as a sin of neglect and to ask the Lord's forgiveness and help."

Mr. Saxton writes this book to a Christian audience, so he presumes a believing reader.  Given the errors that have crept into the modern day Christian church (including unbiblical meditation), I think that he misses the opportunity to present the Gospel to the nominal Christian reader.

Nevertheless, God's Battle Plan for the Mind is a much needed resource for all Christians.  I highly recommend that believers of all ages and all maturity levels read this book and practice biblical meditation.  Christians are to do all things to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31) and to think on things that are of good report (Phil. 4:8).  Mr. Saxton's book provides the needed guidance to obey these commands so that the believer can grow in sanctification and holiness.  The author helps us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12) with his clear and direct statement: "What a person habitually chooses to daily meditate on reveals his true spiritual condition," (Kindle location 383).

Full Disclosure:  I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.