30 August, 2010

Continuing discussion with Hoyt Sparks about Baptism

(HOYT Sparks) “Before my first response to you I was aware that the twain shall not meet. You being a freewiller and I am a Predestinarian.”

(Cristoiglesia) I am not a “Predestinarian” in the Calvinist sense as are you. I do believe in the middle knowledge of God concerning our path to salvation.

Now I have no trouble in accepting God’s sovereignty but could not understand why God would predestine some to salvation and others as reprobate, all this by some mysterious selection when we were created. To me, it was impossible to ignore that God was creating some for righteousness and others to evil, some to eternity and others into the lake of fire and damnation if Calvin was correct. In a real sense, God was creating evil and goodness if Calvinist theology is to be considered consistent. This created great difficulty because I saw the consistent message in the Bible that God was just and loving. I just could not see the love and the justice in the Calvinist God creating those condemned as reprobate. In addition, this doctrine of Calvin was not consistent with my life experience where I had served in the military with many who had not accepted God’s saving grace but I saw the goodness of love in these people. With the presence of love how could they be the victims of the divine lottery of total depravity? Where there is love can there be total depravity? This seems inconsistent.

Calvinist doctrine continued to fall apart in my mind when considering why some are saved and some are reprobate. Calvin suggested that God chose who would be saved and who would be damned based not on any free will or choice of the individual but simply on God’s will through his declarative sovereignty, He wills it therefore it happens. But, I kept seeing in Scriptures that Jesus came to save all of humanity. I even thought for a time that Calvin might be right and the Scriptures that speak of salvific opportunity for all men may be a mistranslation from the Greek to the English or even the Latin as I was already a Latin scholar. Eventually, when I learned Greek, I found that the Scriptures do speak quite adamantly about the inclusive opportunity of all to receive the saving grace of God by our believing in Christ and through Him all salvation may be realized. Christ coming for salvation of the whole world certainly conflicted with predestination and with total depravity and try as I might I could not reconcile these Scriptures with Calvinist doctrine. This is especially clear in the writings of St. John the beloved disciple. No, Calvin must be wrong, the Scriptures do not talk of salvation for only the elect unless we would assume that the whole world is only the elect which Scriptures would also contradict. If the elect are drawn by irresistible grace why is this irresistible grace given to all and not just the elect? The Scriptures are not supposed to create more questions than they answer and in this doctrine leave so much ambiguity as to who will be saved and /or why some are elect and others are damned. Surely there must be some element of free will and not just irresistible grace. One thing in Scriptures that really jumped out at me was learning from Scriptures that God did not create the everlasting fire for mankind but for Satan and his minions (Mat 25:41). If He created the everlasting fire as punishment for them only as Scriptures teach, then why does He also create some of humanity for the everlasting fire?

Then there is the issue of original sin. We see the sin of Adam and Eve which we inherit but it is clear from Scriptures that they did not sin because of a depraved state. In the Garden there obviously was not irresistible grace that would prevent them from sinning. Had there been irresistible grace death would not have entered the world. It seems to me that they sinned from their choices made within their free will. Where in Scriptures does it suggest that as a result of original sin that we no longer have choice or free will but are subject to election through irresistible grace. Why, if God chooses us with irresistible grace as the elect, are we not regenerated into perfection, immune to sin? Where is man’s responsibility in Calvin’s theology?

(1Jo 2:2) And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

Are these words not true? John Calvin brings them into doubt.

(HOYT SPARKS) “You using your man-made writings and dogma, while it is clear to me the KJV sets forth dipping.”

(Cristoiglesia) You should have known that one cannot be a Catholic Christian and believe in the man-made doctrine of Sola Scriptura. Truth can be found outside of the covers of the Bible. I am assuming you are referring to the “Didache” which was written in the first century and is called the training of the 12. It gives us great insight into the practices of the first century Christians. Furthermore it is the only writing in the first century that speaks of the methodology of Baptism. The Bible is entirely silent on this issue. You are trying desperately to justify your prejudice for immersion or dipping only but there is absolutely no support from the Bible for this belief. Actually, I prefer this method as well for the symbolism of being buried and then raised but I am not so foolish or arrogant as to add to the teaching of the Bible to try to support my preference. Let us see if you can make your case from Scriptures.

(HOYT SPARKS) “I am not a follower of John Calvin, nor do I believe in how he practiced or carried out what he declared to be of a "religious" nature. Neither do I need to be adivsed by anyone of what and how I should believe and practice what I see as the truth, as it is in Christ Jesus.”

(Cristoiglesia) I am of the opinion that if you believe and teach the heterodoxy of John Calvin then you are a follower of Calvin. Surely what you teach is not the teaching of the disciples or our Lord nor can such a teaching be found in Scriptures without contradiction. Your view on soteriology is clearly Calvinist in nature and can be described theologically as eisegesis. You are making the same error on the Doctrine of Baptism.

Now, I do understand that what you see as truth but what you see as truth is nowhere to be found in God’s written Word the Bible. It is truthful to you because of your eisegesis. The truth is that the Bible does not say how anyone is baptized in regards to the particulars of the methods. What the Bible does tell us is that it was in living waters (rivers) but it does not state the method. Again, any supposition to the methodology is adding to the teaching of Scriptures one’s own prejudice. Instead of coming to Scriptures to learn about the method of Baptism one is forced to add to what they say to conclude that it was by immersion or dipping. Obviously you do need to be advised that what you believe is truth is not biblical in nature and is the truth in your mind without biblical citation. Which I might add is a odd approach for a Fundamentalist Baptist. Such prejudiced suppositions are not in Christ Jesus.

(Hoyt Sparks) “Why do the Greeks dip? Is it because they understand Greek better than the Latins?”

(Cristoiglesia) I am not an expert on Greek Orthodox practices but I have observed that in all the Greek Churches that they have a Baptismal font where one stands as the priest pours water over the persons head. This would be accurate with the art in the Catacombs of Rome where Jesus is depicted as standing in the Jordan River in water below His knees while John the Baptist pours water from a pitcher over His head. I understand Greek very well and in the context of Baptism it means to cleanse or to wash and not necessarily immersion or dipping. Actually immersion would be the least likely meaning in relation to Baptism.

(HOYT SPARKS) “Rome dipped until they went the way of the world by devising and following man-made practices, thus they departed from orthodoxy.

(Cristoiglesia) There is no evidence of what you surmise from Scriptures, history or patristic evidence. Surely the early Church used all three methods, immersion, pouring and sprinkling. I think the historical evidence shows that it was most often by pouring which is the most common Catholic and Orthodox Baptism even today. I was Baptized by immersion but I do not feel as if I have a greater efficacy than would occur if I had been baptized by pouring or sprinkling. Since all methods were used in the early Church it is ridiculous and unscholarly to claim that there is a departure from orthodoxy in regards to the methodology of Baptism.

(HOYT SPARKS) “It is possible that your steepness in Greek prevents you from understanding English in the KJV. Matt 3:16 indicates Christ went UP straighway OUT OF THE WATER. Jesus was DOWN IN the water, and He was not taking a bath.

Mark 1:9-10. John the dipper was IN Jordan. If John sprikled or pured water on Jesus, it was not necesary to be IN Jordan. John could have filled a pitcher with water, sprikled or poured it upon Christ, and saved all the trouble wading around IN Jordan. Also, John could have sprinkled or pured water on those he baptized by staying in town and catching water from the cistern.”

(Cristoiglesia) Actually, I believe that having an understanding of the original language of the Bible and having experience in translation makes it easier and with more veracity in understanding than reading only from a mediocre English translation in archaic language as is the KJV. It makes me appreciate the original language of the Bible even more. I also believe that being trained in biblical hermeneutics and exegesis aids in my understanding of Scriptures.

Now let us look at Matt 3:16 from an unprejudiced eye and without and attempt at eisegesis. What we can read here regardless of translation or the original language is that after being Baptized that Jesus came straightway out of the water as the Bible says. The most logical interpretation is that He simply walked out of the water after he was Baptized. He certainly was formerly in the water and was cleansed. The verse is silent on whether he was immersed, poured upon or sprinkled. He actually could have been baptized by any of these three methods. It is not necessary to add to what the Scriptures say which is very poor hermeneutical practice.

From the Didache we find the explanation as to why the river was chosen as the Didache says that it is best to be baptized in living water, if possible, which simply means running water. The Jordan river made baptizing in living water possible. Also, when the people came to faith at Pentecost they were likely baptized from a cistern.

(HOYT SPARKS) “Peter, who you claim was your first pope(I deny such), stated that baptism does not put away the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward GOD, 1 Peter 3:21.”

(Cristoiglesia) If you deny St. Peter was the first Pope then you not only deny the authority of our Lord to appoint him but also deny the prophesy of Isaiah that was fulfilled in Christ. If Jesus did not fulfill all the prophesies about the Messiah then He cannot be the Savior and is a pretender to being the Messiah. Are you really wanting to make such an assumption about the veracity of our Lord in fulfilling prophesy or having the authority to appoint a prime minister to fulfill the biblical promise and sign? I would be very careful going there.

Now let us examine 1 Pet 3:21…
The ark of Noah was a figure of Baptism but instead of saving one from the death of the soul as does Baptism the ark saved Noah’s family from physical death. No one lived outside of the ark and no one lives as an eternal soul without Baptism or at least a desire for it as prompted by reason and the Holy Spirit. Those persons who are capable of sufficient age, reason and repentance to know what they receive at Baptism are interrogated as to a good conscience whether they indeed believe in God in the Trinity.

This understanding is that one is saved as Noah was saved by water as both are a figure of the other. Baptism is not about washing away the dirt or filth but instead it purifies, cleanses or purges the conscience from sin when one is properly disposed in answering the questions asked in relation to the faith of the individual including the renouncing of Satan and his works with an accompanying obedience to God’s commands.

(HOYT SPARKS) “You wrote: "Thank you for the inspiration and the opportunity to contend for the faith delivered once for all". This is not true: Jude 1:3 indicates it is of the faith delivered to the saints, not to everyone.”

(Cristoiglesia) First of all, this points out a fundamental differenced in our beliefs. While I follow a systematic and non-contradictory view that salvation is available for all through the sacrifice of our Lord on Golgotha and not just the elect as you surmise by a cursory understanding of Scripture and theology. Jesus wrote the law on everyone’s hearts so that the Holy Spirit can appeal to that law and bring individuals to faith. No one lacks this Rosetta stone of understanding of he call of the Spirit. Thus for what purpose did our Lord give us this inherent knowledge. So, it is delivered to everyone even if some will not receive it and humbly become obedient.

I would be shirking my duty to my calling as a priest if I did not instruct you in the common concern and hope of our salvation. Therefore it is necessary as it was for Jude to encourage you to stand firm in the Christian faith. Are not believers all saints of the Church militant?

(HOYT SPARKS) “So you see, your freewillism demands that you distort scripture to deceive many.”

(Cristoiglesia) Please excuse me for pointing out the obvious but it is you that is using eisegesis and not I and quite awkwardly I might add.

(HOYT SPARKS) “There are many, many things that I could respond to from your latest post, but I'm certain the result will be the same, of no avail or benefit for you or me. And it is of a disadvantage for me to be restricted to the limits of your blog, rather than direct emails.”

(Cristoiglesia) The truth will always prevail and such exercises are fruitful in that iron sharpens iron which is a benefit to each of us. Our conversations may also benefit others who struggle with these issues as well.

(HOYT SPARKS) ” I sincerely hope that you do not dupe anyone with your false doctrine and practice, but that is not in my hands, GOD only will do as HE sees fit: He saw the end before the foundation of the world and will do HIS pleasure. Hoyt Sparks"

(Cristoiglesia) I do not subscribe to any false doctrines or practices to dupe anyone with but instead teach the original teaching of Jesus and the disciples in the only Church that He ever founded. It is the same Church that He prayed that we be one within as He and the Father are one. He prayed for unity and I am obedient to His will. I left Protestantism which you are still deceived within by the heretical Calvinist teaching and other doctrines of men being spread by false teachers lacking any authority to teach by our Lord. Your pride prevents you from hearing the Word and it falling on fertile ground. I can only pray that you receive the same grace as I to turn from your man-made church to Christ’s own Church where the fullness of truth is found. May His will be done. God bless!

In Christ
Fr. Joseph

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