Is the Papist My Brother?

There are at least two main considerations that lead FV to, on the whole, accept Romanists as brothers in Christ and the Roman Church as a true Christian church. The first is a general ecumenical spirit, that wants to affirm the general orthodoxy of those outside the Reformed tradition who affirm the Apostle’s Creed and the ecumenical creeds (thereby arbitrarily setting those standards as not only necessary, but sufficient measures of orthodoxy). The second impulse is FV’s concept of “covenant objectivity”, where the bounds of Christianity and the New Covenant are defined by Trinitarian baptism. The logic goes: baptism is the sacrament of the New Covenant, so those who are baptized are in the New Covenant. But, as we will discuss, this leaves behind the doctrine of the 3 Marks of the (true, visible) Church (as we see defined in the Belgic Confession) on the corporate level, as well as the necessity of a credible profession of faith (“those who profess the true religion” in WCF) on the individual level.

In supporting this contention the FV will first point to the fact that the Reformed have, historically, accepted Roman Catholic baptism and not rebaptized those who had been baptized in the Roman church. While this is true, it is a non sequitur to conclude from this that Rome is a true church or that Romanists are Christians and are in the New Covenant. This is, indeed, supposedly the big “trump” card that FV parades about in order to support its idiosyncratic ecclesiology. As we will see, this position must ignore a huge amount of historical data on the subject, besides the logical problem. Indeed, this fallacy looms large through a great deal of FV argumentation. It ignores the fact that Romanists were not welcomed to the Table in Reformed churches, and that converts to Romanism were considered apostates and routinely excommunicated.

A tertiary argument the FV often appeal to, in order to support the genuine Christianity of Rome and her members, is the idea that one need not believe in justification by faith alone in order to have a genuine Gospel that is believed unto salvation. They want to say that “it is faith itself in Christ himself that brings salvation, not any theory about faith in Christ, justification, or the church.” This position is usually parroted in order to support the idea that one can be saved with a theology that mixes faith and works in justification. I don’t want to spend too much time on this point (it is, perhaps, worthy of a separate post). I will only say, for now, that aside from the logical and scriptural problems, this view cannot comport with the historical and confessional witness (see especially the Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 30, especially Ursinus’ commentary).

But back to the point: I can think of fewer areas where the Reformed have had more consensus than that Rome is a false church and that those individuals in her communion lack a credible profession of faith. Notice that this former statement says something about the nature of the corporate and visible church, and the latter deals with the Christian standing of the individual (in the New Covenant). The matters are related, but distinguished. Let us consider the following.

The French (Gallic) Confession (1559)

28 In this belief we declare that, properly speaking, there can be no Church where the Word of God is not received, nor profession made of subjection to it, nor use of the sacraments.

Therefore we condemn the papal assemblies, as the pure Word of God is banished from them, their sacraments are corrupted, or falsified, or destroyed, and all superstitions and idolatries are in them. We hold, then, that all who take part in these acts, and commune in that Church, separate and cut themselves off from the body of Christ. Nevertheless, as some trace of the Church is left in the papacy, and the virtue and substance of baptism remain, and as the efficacy of baptism does not depend upon the person who administers it, we confess that those baptized in it do not need a second baptism. But, on account of its corruptions, we can not present children to be baptized in it without incurring pollution.

Several things worth noting: first, that after listing the Word of God and sacraments as the Marks of the Church (the Belgic Confession adds discipline as the 3rd Mark), the French Confession states that the Roman church fails these marks. So, on the corporate/institutional level, Rome is not held to be a true church. Next, the Confession says that individuals in the Roman communion have “cut themselves off from the body of Christ.” So it grounds the non-Christian status of the individual in the non-Christian status of the corporate Roman communion. Third, the Confession sees no tension with these two facts and the denial of rebaptism to those who were baptized in the Roman church. The validity of baptism is not tied to the legitimacy of Rome as a church.

The Westminster Confession of Faith

24.3 It is lawful for all sorts of people to marry who are able with judgment to give their consent. Yet it is the duty of Christians to marry only in the Lord. And, therefore, such as profess the true reformed religion should not marry with infidels, Papists, or other idolaters: neither should such as are godly be unequally yoked, by marrying with such as are notoriously wicked in their life, or maintain damnable heresies.

Given that this Confession sees the individual profession of faith (those “that profess the true religion” – 25.2) as defining members of the visible church, it is no surprise that it views Papists in the same way as infidels – as idolaters. Their trinitarian baptism is not sufficient to consider them as being within the true visible church (and therefore in the New Covenant).

Reformed theologians have reflected this opinion as well. Throughout Question 14 of the 18th Topic of his Institutes, Turretin provides a defense of why “the church of Rome of today [cannot] be called a true church of Christ.” This is after his exposition of the pure preaching of the Word and administration of the sacraments as Marks of the Church (Question 12). He reasons that the church of Rome is not a true church “because it impinges upon the foundation [of the church]“, “because she is heretical,” “because she is idolatrous,” “because her doctrine is doubtful and opposed to the certainty of salvation and peace of conscience”, “because she is opposed to piety and good morals,” “because she is opposed to freedom by her tyranny,” “because Antichrist sits in her,” and “because she is Babylon.” He remarks:

Now in order to demonstrate this, even this one thing would be sufficient (which we have before proved)- that the proper and essential mark of the true church is no other than the doctrine of conformity with the word of God (which is retained in any assembly). It is clearer than the meridian light from a comparison instituted between both that the doctrine of the Roman church in many most important articles is diametrically opposed to the Scriptures. With whatever pigments and colors it may be covered in order to conceal its foulness and so smooth over its harshness, by that very thing it is evident that neither is she the true church, nor can she be so called except falsely.

Again, he sees no conflict between this truth and the validity of Roman baptism:

The verity of baptism proves indeed that truth of a church with regard to Christianity in general, in opposition to assemblies of unbelievers; but not with regard to Christianity pure and purged from the errors of heretics. For true baptism can be found among heretics who are not the true church; as true circumcision and sacrifices to the one God were consecrated in the church of the ten tribes, which was not on that account a true church. Nor can our opponents deny this. They acknowledge our baptism to be true, yet deny us the name of a true church.

Ursinus (Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, pg. 448) also addresses the matter of Papist apostates:

Hence, before excommunication can be inflicted upon any one, there must necessarily be a knowledge of some error or sin, which is accompanied with obstinacy and determined wickedness on the part of the offender; so that if any one becomes a Papist, or an Arian, or a Davidian, or any other apostate, he must not be held and recognized as a member of the church, even though he may declare himself to be such, and may desire to remain in the church, unless he renounce and detest his error, and live according to the gospel. The reason is, because God will have his church separate and distinct from all the various sects and adherents of the devil.

Also worth noting, to similar effect, is the opinion of Bullinger, which is documented here. Notice, especially, these remarks from Bullinger’s Decades:

  • Since Rome is an upstart church and not the true church, then for leaving the church of Rome, the Reformers cannot be considered schismatics.
  • The church will have evil and wicked men in the visible church, but the Romanists are the very worst of the enemies of God and therefore have neither the outward nor inward marks of the church.
  • As far as I have read in the Reformed tradition, it is utterly novel to consider Romanists or any others who do not “profess the true religion” to be Christian, either as an institutional, true church, or as an individual New Covenant believer. None of the sources I cited above saw their rejection of Rome and Romanists as Christian as being in conflict with their rejection of rebaptism. I can only believe that FV has blown their view of covenantal objectivism and baptismal efficacy to ludicrous proportions if their system leads them to these sorts of conclusions. And I do not know how this is any improvement on good, old-timey formalism that has plagued the church for so many hundreds of years.

    Posted by David Gadbois

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    48 Comments

    1. David Gray said,

      February 17, 2008 at 6:46 am

      >As far as I have read in the Reformed tradition, it is utterly novel to consider Romanists or any others who do not “profess the true religion” to be Christian, either as an institutional, true church, or as an individual New Covenant believer.

      I think if Charles Hodge advocated a position it would be hard to describe it as “utterly novel.”

    2. magma2 said,

      February 17, 2008 at 9:59 am

      Nicely done Mr. Gadbois. I’m looking forward to the counter arguments.

      As for Hodge, Mr. Gray seems to forget that Thornwell carried the day and reading his arguments (which were devastating) reprinted in Sacramental Sorcery recently, I was struck by how far Presbyterians have slid since his day. It’s so bad that the FD can make their claims about their brothers in Rome and most on either side of the Federal Division hardly bat an eye. I guess living in an age when we have men like Packer and others putting their names to damnable ecumenical documents like The Gift of Salvation I guess I shouldn’t expect too much.

      Anyway, nice job.

    3. David Gray said,

      February 17, 2008 at 10:10 am

      >As for Hodge, Mr. Gray seems to forget that Thornwell carried the day and reading his arguments (which were devastating) reprinted in Sacramental Sorcery recently, I was struck by how far Presbyterians have slid since his day.

      I would say Hodge was the minority view in that day. But “Magma2″ seems to forget that Mr. Gadbois was asserting that the FV position was “utterly novel” which it clearly is not. And funny thing is he and I have discussed Hodge’s position on this issue before so I know that he is aware of Hodge’s position. Why then would he assert that it is “utterly novel”?

      But then Thornwell in many respects is odd man out in the Reformed Tradition, not least in matters of baptism and covenant children.

    4. David Gray said,

      February 17, 2008 at 10:11 am

      The “he” in my first paragraph would be Mr. Gadbois.

    5. February 17, 2008 at 10:36 am

      I’m at a loss to understand why the Reformed position in a post like this must be a single position in the first place as if all the Reformers agreed with what Mr. Gadbois has put forward. Clearly, as one who has investigated the matter in detail, Mr. Gadbois is not dealing with the full range of opinions on this subject in terms of the history of the matter.

      He has also failed to frame the matter the way many of the Reformers looked at it. For example, Calvin in his commentary on Ezekiel 18 makes the point that the pope could hardly be called the antichrist if he wasn’t a part of the Church. Calvin also did not explicitly include discipline as a third mark of the Church. Failure to mention Nevin, Schaff, and Hodge on this point–given the controversies that took place on this subject in the nineteenth century quite apart from some microReformed debate about the objectivity of the covenant just shows that Mr. Gadbois hardly took the time to really give each side their due on this question.

      But, the early Reformers also laid great stress on the local church and the identity of that environment as much as they examined the hierarchical structure of Rome and the individual. You can’t ignore clear statements to the contrary that exist against Mr. Gadbois’ position such as Luther’s Babylonian Captivity of the Church.

      This post suffers from two major problems–1) This issue is framed in the context and light of FV related concerns as if this had anything to do with the question, and 2) It fails to present the large witness and diversity of opinion on this subject from the beginning of the Reformation to this point.

      As such, Mr. Gadbois’ attempt to represent the Reformed opinion on this matter is ludicrous and hardly to be trusted.

    6. February 17, 2008 at 3:19 pm

      I’m not sure ludicrous is a fair word to use. At least one of the points of the post was to show how the Roman Church is not a “true” church (from the confessions). You may disagree with the confessions listed and quoted, but it is not a ludicrous opinion to say that the confessions represent the Reformed opinion, (in my opinion). You must deal with the confessions. Toss them on their ear if you wish, but the confessions do somewhat represent “reformed opinions” (historically).

    7. February 17, 2008 at 3:37 pm

      25.6, as it originally read — There is no other head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ: nor can the Pope of Rome in any sense be head thereof; but is that Antichrist, that man of sin and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the Church against Christ, and all that is called God.

      It really is interesting to claim confessional fidelity on this point when the original WCF read as it does above recognizing the pope in the Church regardless as to whether or not his claim to be the head of it is true or not.

      Oh wait. This is part of the confession that modern Presbyterians don’t believe in. I forgot. So much for confessional fidelity on this point.

    8. anneivy said,

      February 17, 2008 at 3:51 pm

      Just because the pope “exalteth himself in the Church” needn’t be taken to mean he is a legitimate part of the Church, though. It seems like quite a stretch to use it as support for the belief that the RCC should be regarded as a part of the living Church.

    9. Kyle said,

      February 17, 2008 at 3:54 pm

      Kevin,

      “American” rather than “modern.” And it was a lawful, synodical revision of the Confession, so it’s rather too much to accuse anyone of lacking “confessional fidelity” on this point.

      However, it is evident from the same Confession (and unrevised on this point) that Westminster does not consider Roman Catholics members of the true visible church, for as David pointed out above, we read in WCF 24.3 that “it is the duty of Christians to marry only in the Lord: and therefore such as profess the true reformed religion should not marry with infidels, papists, or other idolaters.” This exclused “papists” from the visible church by definition: “The visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the gospel (not confined to one nation as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children” (25.2). So, while the Pope might “exalt himself in the Church,” it is not because he is a legitimate member of it, nor because the Roman Church is a true church.

    10. February 17, 2008 at 3:59 pm

      “This is part of the confession that modern Presbyterians don’t believe in.” – This modern presby does (but not in the Hal Lindsey sense).

      But You are deflecting the point. The point was not whether or not the pope is the head of the church. The point was not if the confessions agree if the pope is the antichrist, nor was the point about what line of the “great schism” of popes you fall on, whether popes from Avignon or Rome or anything else I can think of about popes. The point was whether or not the reformed confessions admit or deny that the papist is my brother. Your excursis into the role of the pope in the early WCF is admirable but not on topic. No one is claiming fidelity among all the reformed confessions on all topics. The point of contention is whether or not these confessions had fidelity on whether or not we should view the Roman church as Christian or not. It is another issue (and a good one) altogether what Hodge, Schaff and Nevin thought.

    11. David Gray said,

      February 17, 2008 at 4:09 pm

      At any rate we have clearly established that this is not an “utterly novel” concept.

    12. February 17, 2008 at 4:10 pm

      Yawn.

    13. Jeff Cagle said,

      February 17, 2008 at 4:27 pm

      Lane, you wrote…

      The first is a general ecumenical spirit, that wants to affirm the general orthodoxy of those outside the Reformed tradition who affirm the Apostle’s Creed and the ecumenical creeds (thereby arbitrarily setting those standards as not only necessary, but sufficient measures of orthodoxy).

      I can’t speak for the FV, not being FV myself, but it strikes me that orthodoxy is not a binary category. I accept an Arminian as a brother in Christ, while denying that his doctrine is orthodox — indeed, I take his version of the *Gospel* to be unorthodox and tending towards works and very close to semi-Pelagianism.

      So it could make sense to see the ecumenical creeds as defining the far reaches of orthodoxy, the line beyond which (i.e., Mormons, JWs, etc.) we cannot cross and still call oneself Christian. And still, we could affirm that RCs teach Gospel that is false in some aspects. In more aspects than the Arminian, but not all.

      I myself would draw the line somewhat nearer (see below), but it’s not entirely arbitrary to draw it there.

      Perhaps that’s what you meant by “general orthodoxy”? I would call it “minimally acceptable Christianity” or something.

      Second, as you know, the RC church is a big tent theologically. There are Augustinians in the RC church who are much closer to Westminster orthodoxy than a lot of Methodists.

      Third, I would want to make a distinction, as Calvin did, between the RC Church in all of its doctrinal “splendor” and individual Catholics who, despite Church teaching, rely on Christ. It’s entirely reasonable to take the stance that individual Catholics can be Christians even if the RC teaching is not.

      No?

      Jeff Cagle

    14. David Gray said,

      February 17, 2008 at 4:32 pm

      Jeff,

      Lane didn’t post this, David Gadbois did.

    15. Towne said,

      February 17, 2008 at 4:43 pm

      Mr. Johnson (#12):

      If you need a Sunday afternoon nap, please, by all means do go have one.
      we’ll carry on nicely without you.

    16. February 17, 2008 at 4:49 pm

      Sabbatarians don’t yawn Kevin. But your response was very gracious and “catholic” and did much to encourage me.

    17. February 17, 2008 at 4:51 pm

      Oh man. Brutal. oooooooooooooooooo

      I just think it’s ridiculous to argue tit-for-tat over the confessions. In my view this is a paradigm thing. The confessions were never meant to function like the Mishnah. I’d love to see Mr. Gadbois make his case from the Bible.

    18. Tim Harris said,

      February 17, 2008 at 5:14 pm

      The Bible provides the major premise. Historical facticity is necessary to supply the minor.

    19. Kyle said,

      February 17, 2008 at 5:37 pm

      Well, Mr. Johnson, I believe Mr. Gadbois could well start with Gal. 1:7-9.

    20. David Gadbois said,

      February 17, 2008 at 6:58 pm

      David Gray and Kevin J.:

      My article was only interested in sources that fall within confessional Reformed bounds. Luther and Schaff were not Reformed, and Nevin was only marginally so (sorry, I’m not going to give him a pass just because he was right on the Lord’s Supper).

      I was also using the term “novelty” in a relative way. Not to mean “completely without precedent.” Also, my article was more concerned with older sources. The fact that ideas to the contrary of historic Reformed practice started cropping up in the 19-21st centuries represents a decided *shift*, and this was my meaning. Not that FV cannot point to others who have held to this view, but that this view is peculiarly modern and a departure.

      Regarding Hodge, most ignore the fact that in his article he was trying to follow Turretin in his distinction between a true church and a church in an “improper” sense (“with regard to Christianity in general, in opposition to assemblies of unbelievers”). Indeed, Hodge quoted (approvingly) the same passage of Turretin as I have. This was out of his desire to defend the legitimacy of Roman baptism. While this desire was admirable, he ended up having to say (if taken consistently) that while Rome was not a “true” church (agreeing with Turretin), it was nonetheless a *visible* church. I think he ended up, by the end of the article, having to trip over this sort of impossible distinction.

      As for Calvin – I couldn’t find any mention of Rome, the pope, or antichrist in Calvin’s commentary on Ezekiel 18, Kevin. I’m not sure exactly what you are referring to, but for now I will say this: rather than playing dueling proof-texts (recall Calvin’s hand in the French Confession), the more natural way to harmonize Calvin is to understand either that 1. Rome was, at one time, a true church that has since fallen since the ascent of an antichrist or that 2. Rome is, only in the inferior and qualified sense, a church, although she does not have the Marks of a *true* church.

      Whatever the explanation may be, Calvin surely did not share your ecumenical spirit, Kevin, and it is beyond a stretch for you appropriate his theology for your ends. He believed that those who commune in Rome “have “cut themselves off from the body of Christ.” He did not commune Romanists at the church in Geneva.

      Regarding the Bible – I believe that the 3 Marks of the Church are scriptural (we subscribe to the Belgic Confession *quia* in the URC), along with Westminster’s definition of the visible church. Insofar as this is an in-house debate amongst the Reformed, my intention is to apply these principles in the above article. Defending the biblical basis of those principles is a separate discussion.

      I have to cut this short to go to evening service. I’ll post more later.

    21. David Gray said,

      February 17, 2008 at 7:32 pm

      When I was thinking about this on the way home from church this morning I was wondering how many PCA/OPC/etc. churches actually have all three marks of a true church. Particularly the third mark. Not as many as we would like I suspect.

    22. Towne said,

      February 17, 2008 at 8:08 pm

      Mr. Gray (#21):

      I could appreciate your question as a call to greater diligence in ministry, but otherwise must ask, “How many churches are you closely familiar with, to draw such conclusions?” Is your sample in view more than a parochial handful of churches? Thinking particularly of the OPC, where discipline is a favourite sport, your claim seems very fragile.

      However, this does raise a question as to what constitutes discipline? Must there be a trial in view? Or would not careful shepherding and attention to catechesis be ways of fulfilling the requirement, albeit in a positive way? I would argue that there are both positive and negative aspects to discipline. Is it possible that you are focusing solely on the negative?

    23. Jeff Cagle said,

      February 17, 2008 at 9:06 pm

      David, sorry for confusing your writing with Lane’s. Consider that a compliment. :)

    24. David Gray said,

      February 17, 2008 at 9:52 pm

      >How many churches are you closely familiar with, to draw such conclusions?” Is your sample in view more than a parochial handful of churches?

      I have relatively immediate knowledge of a modest number and a more general knowledge of several more from times when I travel. I wasn’t making a hard and fast “claim”. I do think that if I had to guess I’d guess the PCA has a larger problem with it than the OPC as I think the general evangelical culture has made more significant inroads there. And I mention those two in particular simply because they are, to my mind, the most significant reformed church bodies in the US. No offense to URC or CREC intended.

      >However, this does raise a question as to what constitutes discipline? Must there be a trial in view?

      No, but there must be willingness to pursue things in the event of unrepentant sin. Good pastoral care certainly would have an impact on lives which would reflect itself in this area.

    25. Jeff Cagle said,

      February 17, 2008 at 10:03 pm

      Thinking through this further, David (not Lane…), wouldn’t the answer to your title question be “it depends”?

      As alluded to above, I would cheerfully grant that I will see some RCs in heaven (especially my friend’s Catholic OB-GYN who declared, “Luther was right!”).

      But if you asked, “would I embark on a cross-denominational evangelism ministry with Catholics?”, definitely no.

      Share communion with Catholics? Nope.

      Encourage a converting Catholic to be baptized in our church? Yep.

      Pray with a Catholic? Yes.

      Attend a relative’s Catholic baptism or friend’s Catholic wedding? Yes, without participating. (where I would NOT attend a Mormon baptism, or Mormon anything, I think).

      I think the fact that the RC church is an apostate church, with emphasis on both adjective and noun, means that the branches therein are in various states of broken-off-ness, much like Israel during the Judges or post-Solomon. That fact makes it necessarily hard to answer your question with a simple Yes or No, I think.

      Jeff Cagle

    26. David Gray said,

      February 17, 2008 at 10:06 pm

      >Encourage a converting Catholic to be baptized in our church? Yep.

      You would want them to be rebaptized?

    27. February 17, 2008 at 10:29 pm

      He’s on the wrong side of the Donatist controversy.

    28. February 17, 2008 at 10:32 pm

      It is a natural reaction to equate baptisms validity, with the validity of the church doing the baptizing, even Trinitarian baptism.

    29. Towne said,

      February 17, 2008 at 10:54 pm

      Mr. Gray (#25):

      So when you say you have “relatively immediate knowledge of a modest number and a more general knowledge of several more”, how does that add up? You really haven’t told us anything, have you? Shall we generously say that you can speak to the situation in perhaps as many as a dozen churches? But there are over 1600 churches in the PCA and another 200+ in the OPC. And your awareness of less than 1% of these churches allows you to conduct a drive-by shooting of the character of these two denominations?
      Surely you will say “well, if it’s true of these, then it must be true of most others.” For one, I doubt your criticism holds true even of your small sample.
      Too, my own travels have put me in contact with pastors and members of several hundred of these churches, from both denominations, and you are decidedly wrong in your conclusion.
      Is it possible that what you are advocating, and what you don’t think you see in your local situation, is a pursuit of charges in those situations where someone has resigned their membership? If that is the case, then we might have a more substantive discussion if you had been that specific in the first place, instead of painting so broadly as to defame two entire denominations.
      We might still disagree, but at least we would know where we stood, and we wouldn’t besmirch 3000 pastors and 1800 Sessions in the process.

    30. Ron Smith said,

      February 17, 2008 at 11:03 pm

      Third, the Confession sees no tension with these two facts and the denial of rebaptism to those who were baptized in the Roman church. The validity of baptism is not tied to the legitimacy of Rome as a church.

      But that is exactly what the citation ties the validity of RC baptism to: “Nevertheless, as some trace of the Church is left in the papacy, and the virtue and substance of baptism remain, and as the efficacy of baptism does not depend upon the person who administers it, we confess that those baptized in it do not need a second baptism”

      In supporting this contention the FV will first point to the fact that the Reformed have, historically, accepted Roman Catholic baptism and not rebaptized those who had been baptized in the Roman church. While this is true, it is a non sequitur to conclude from this that Rome is a true church or that Romanists are Christians and are in the New Covenant.
      If one holds to the WCF, this is not a non sequitur. Baptism admits the party baptized into the visible Church (WCF XXVIII.I) and can only be administered by a lawfully called minister of the gospel (WCF XXVIII.II). Therefore, if the Reformed accepted a Roman Catholic baptism (at least those Reformed holding to the WCF), then they are accepting that the convert was already admitted into the visible Church and that this was done by a lawfully called minister of the gospel.

      For a non sequitur, one need only look to your employment of WCF 24.3. It does not follow from the duty of the reformed to only marry inside the “true reformed religion” that those outside “the true reformed religion” are not of those who profess “the true religion” in WCF XXV.II. It follows that presbyterians should not marry baptists, though, but you aren’t going to cast the baptists out with the papists, are you?

      And finally, nothing in this post is really very revelatory since you don’t even accept the FV as brothers. Trying to convince you of the trueness of the Roman church would be like trying to convince a baptist of paedocommunion.

    31. Ron Smith said,

      February 17, 2008 at 11:05 pm

      Closing block quote and re-posting.

      Third, the Confession sees no tension with these two facts and the denial of rebaptism to those who were baptized in the Roman church. The validity of baptism is not tied to the legitimacy of Rome as a church.

      But that is exactly what the citation ties the validity of RC baptism to: “Nevertheless, as some trace of the Church is left in the papacy, and the virtue and substance of baptism remain, and as the efficacy of baptism does not depend upon the person who administers it, we confess that those baptized in it do not need a second baptism”

      In supporting this contention the FV will first point to the fact that the Reformed have, historically, accepted Roman Catholic baptism and not rebaptized those who had been baptized in the Roman church. While this is true, it is a non sequitur to conclude from this that Rome is a true church or that Romanists are Christians and are in the New Covenant.

      If one holds to the WCF, this is not a non sequitur. Baptism admits the party baptized into the visible Church (WCF XXVIII.I) and can only be administered by a lawfully called minister of the gospel (WCF XXVIII.II). Therefore, if the Reformed accepted a Roman Catholic baptism (at least those Reformed holding to the WCF), then they are accepting that the convert was already admitted into the visible Church and that this was done by a lawfully called minister of the gospel.

      For a non sequitur, one need only look to your employment of WCF 24.3. It does not follow from the duty of the reformed to only marry inside the “true reformed religion” that those outside “the true reformed religion” are not of those who profess “the true religion” in WCF XXV.II. It follows that presbyterians should not marry baptists, though, but you aren’t going to cast the baptists out with the papists, are you?

      And finally, nothing in this post is really very revelatory since you don’t even accept the FV as brothers. Trying to convince you of the trueness of the Roman church would be like trying to convince a baptist of paedocommunion.

    32. Jeff Cagle said,

      February 17, 2008 at 11:16 pm

      Gage, David (#26-28):

      I would consider baptism a close call, which is why I wrote “encourage”, not “require.”

      On the one hand, factors in favor of aligning this situation with the Donatist controversy include the Trinitarian nature of the baptism and the historic continuity of the RC church with the Protestant church.

      On the other hand, a factor that would lead me to believe this is a non-Donatist situation is that the *meaning* of baptism for Catholics — i.e., the infusion of grace — is entirely different.

      I’m not amazingly dogmatic about this; I could be persuaded otherwise.

      My point was that the nature of Rome as an apostate church (over against the Mormon church, which is simply false) makes these judgment calls more difficult.

      Jeff Cagle

    33. Gabe Rench said,

      February 17, 2008 at 11:23 pm

      Jeff

      #25
      Re-baptizing a Catholic is like re-circumcising a jew. Ouch!

    34. Jeff Cagle said,

      February 17, 2008 at 11:24 pm

      Anyone else?

    35. Kyle said,

      February 17, 2008 at 11:49 pm

      Ron, re: 31,

      If one holds to the WCF, this is not a non sequitur. Baptism admits the party baptized into the visible Church (WCF XXVIII.I) and can only be administered by a lawfully called minister of the gospel (WCF XXVIII.II).

      Your citations here of the WCF address the purpose and regular order of baptism. A purpose for which Christ ordained baptism is for solemn admission into the visible church; it does not follow that just anyone who is baptized is therefore a member of the visible church, anymore than just anyone who was circumcised would be necessarily a member of Israel. (Israel wasn’t the only nation that practiced circumcision-the Edomites and Egyptians did so as well, yet they were Gentiles.) As for a lawfully ordained minister being the administrator of baptism-would you rebaptize someone who had been baptized, in the name of the Trinity, by a female priest in the Episcopal Church? (Well, I suppose you’d have to if she had said, “In the name of the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer,” or “Mother, Child, and Womb”!)

      For a non sequitur, one need only look to your employment of WCF 24.3. It does not follow from the duty of the reformed to only marry inside the “true reformed religion” that those outside “the true reformed religion” are not of those who profess “the true religion” in WCF XXV.II. It follows that presbyterians should not marry baptists, though, but you aren’t going to cast the baptists out with the papists, are you?

      I’m not certain you’re reading this correctly, but I am unable to find a historical referrence to confirm whether “true reformed religion” here was to be regarded as a purer degree of Christianity than “true religion” in the definition of the Church. WCF 25:2 reads, “it is the duty of Christians to marry only in the Lord: and therefore such as profess the true reformed religion should not marry with infidels, papists, or other idolaters: neither should such as are godly be unequally yoked, by marrying with such as are notoriously wicked in their life, or maintain damnable heresies.” It is worth noting that “papists,” along with “infidels,” are regarded as a class of “idolaters.” I don’t think that those who “profess the true religion” would be classed with “idolaters.” Also, I don’t know that Baptists would be regarded as “idolaters.” Certainly they cannot universally be regared as “notoriously wicked in their life.” Does a Baptist necessarily “maintain damnable heresies”? It may be a matter of prudence for a Presbyterian not to marry a Baptist, but I don’t see as it is, in this chapter of the Confession, a necessary breach of the duty to marry “only in the Lord.”

    36. Ron Smith said,

      February 18, 2008 at 1:58 am

      it does not follow that just anyone who is baptized is therefore a member of the visible church, anymore than just anyone who was circumcised would be necessarily a member of Israel

      If one was circumcised for the purpose of membership in the house of Israel, then he would most certainly be a member of Israel. Your comparison to pagan circumcision is like saying, “Not everyone who has taken a shower is in the visible Church.” Agreed. But that isn’t how the confession defines baptism. If we use the Confession’s definitions, it follows that anyone who is baptized is a member of the visible Church unless and until they are removed. “Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ … for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible Church…” (WCF XXVIII.I) I’m not sure which part of that is unclear.

      I am unable to find a historical referrence to confirm whether “true reformed religion” here was to be regarded as a purer degree of Christianity than “true religion” in the definition of the Church.

      If that is not the case, then the Westminster confession tossed out all non-reformed denominations from the visible Church. And according to the confession, the “true religion” certainly has varying degrees of purity: “And particular Churches, which are members thereof, are more or less pure, according as the doctrine of the Gospel is taught and embraced, ordinances administered, and public worship performed more or less purely in them.” (XXV.IV) Thus, it is consistent with the confession to see the “true reformed religion” as a purer subset of the “true religion”.

    37. David Gray said,

      February 18, 2008 at 7:29 am

      >And your awareness of less than 1% of these churches allows you to conduct a drive-by shooting of the character of these two denominations?

      You appear to be willfully failing to understand what I wrote.

    38. Josh Walker said,

      February 18, 2008 at 9:23 am

      Thank you for this timely post. I have been in dialog with a few FVers on this issue and this post has brought a few of my thoughts together. Again, thank you!

    39. David Weiner said,

      February 18, 2008 at 11:00 am

      Ron, re #36,

      You quoted the WCF 28.1 on baptism in your comment. I have read that paragraph and the supporting Scriptures. Now, this is not a trick question; I ask it in all sincerity. My question is: Is there a Scripture that says that Jesus ordained water baptism for solemn admission into the visible church?

    40. February 18, 2008 at 11:13 am

      Without reading through this enormous article, allow me to put in my thoughts, please. Generally speaking among all Christian denominations, the rite or doctrine of water baptism seems to be something unique. Yet a little study will show that this isn’t of Christian origin at all. It is a Jewish teaching. Throughout the Pentatuch or Torah, we read about how we make ourselves unclean before God. God therefore provides ways to be cleansed. For things like touching the wrong things or for a woman cleansing herself after her period, and such, there is the Ritual Bath, or Mikvah. This was a baptism in water, by immersion, for the cleansing of those unclean things. John the Baptist tells his Jewish people, especially those of the Pharisees, to do works in keeping with repentance. That is because a Jewish mikvah, or baptism, was an outward sign of their repentance of sin. To the Christian, it is that very same thing. The apostle Paul says that we who have been baptized in Christ have been buried (immersed) with Him into death, and have also been raised with Him unto life. Seeing Christians argue over a point of doctrine which did not originate with them, but with the Jews, looks a little foolish.

    41. Ron Smith said,

      February 18, 2008 at 12:46 pm

      Without reading through this enormous article, allow me to put in my thoughts, please… Seeing Christians argue over a point of doctrine which did not originate with them, but with the Jews, looks a little foolish.

      Seeing one admit that they haven’t read said argument, and then calling the argument foolish, seems a little foolish.

    42. kjsulli said,

      February 18, 2008 at 1:00 pm

      If one was circumcised for the purpose of membership in the house of Israel, then he would most certainly be a member of Israel. Your comparison to pagan circumcision is like saying, “Not everyone who has taken a shower is in the visible Church.” Agreed.

      Roman Catholics are baptized for the purpose of regeneration and for admission into the Roman Church. If “papists” are a class of idolaters, as the Confession plainly has it, then the Roman religion is an idolatrous religion, and cannot be called a true part of the visible church. It follows that Roman baptism does not admit one to the visible church, any more than pagan circumcision admitted one to the Jewish nation. To say that it does already presumes that the Roman Church is a true part of the visible church, which the Confession does not admit, but denies. Now, you are right about for what reason CHRIST established the sacrament, and it is for this reason that all true churches must practice baptism. But it does not follow that baptism MUST admit one to the visible church, when that baptism is performed in an apostate body, a branch which, at best, was ONCE part of the tree, but has since been cut off. Yet, I would not have it that a convert from Rome must be rebaptized, anymore than, say, a circumcised Edomite proselyte would have to be recircumcised (ouch!) for admission into Israel.

      If that is not the case, then the Westminster confession tossed out all non-reformed denominations from the visible Church. And according to the confession, the “true religion” certainly has varying degrees of purity: “And particular Churches, which are members thereof, are more or less pure, according as the doctrine of the Gospel is taught and embraced, ordinances administered, and public worship performed more or less purely in them.” (XXV.IV) Thus, it is consistent with the confession to see the “true reformed religion” as a purer subset of the “true religion.”

      It may be consistent, but as yet it remains undemonstrated either way. I’d be interested if anyone can provide historical documentation to show whether “true religion” and “true reformed religion” were regarded as distinct by the divines.

      Nevertheless, since the Confession clearly counts “papists” as a class of idolaters, the larger point remains, at least so far as the Westminster Confession is concerned.

    43. Jeff Cagle said,

      February 18, 2008 at 5:54 pm

      myself (#25):

      But if you asked, “would I embark on a cross-denominational evangelism ministry with Catholics?”, definitely no…
      Encourage a converting Catholic to be baptized in our church? Yep…

      “Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves.”

      My pastor and his wife went with us on an outing today, and on the way there I raised this question in a hypothetical way.

      He basically appealed to all of the considerations I did, and then went in the opposite direction with it. :lol:

      Jeff Cagle

    44. Sam Steinmann said,

      February 19, 2008 at 1:24 pm

      It seems to me that all the same considerations that lead you to conclude that Rome is a false church would lead you to conclude that Baptist and Methodist churches are false churches as well. Is that an accurate conclusion?

    45. greenbaggins said,

      February 19, 2008 at 1:27 pm

      That wouldn’t follow in my estimation, anyway, since Baptists and Methodists preach the true Gospel, as a general rule, and, when they administer the sacraments, administer them in a true fashion, with no idolatry. Of course, there are exceptions, just as there are Presbyterian churches that are not true churches.

    46. David Gray said,

      February 19, 2008 at 4:01 pm

      Pastor Keister,

      How do memorialists administer the sacraments in true fashion? And I wish Methodists generally preached the true gospel, your odds are much better with the Baptists.

    47. February 19, 2008 at 4:40 pm

      All: forgive me for neglecting my own post for the last day or so. I wanted to enjoy my day off yesterday!

      Jeff Cagle: thanks much for interacting with the post. I’m not sure how to distill down your remarks, but I will say that 1. I fully agree that members of the invisible church may not be inside the visible church. That would include regenerate Romanists. 2. I would object to rebaptism of Romanists for the same reasons given by the historical sources I cited. 3. I would, however, engage in evangelism to convert Romanists to the *true* religion.

      Some are misunderstanding this to be a debate about the true *Reformed* religion, but that is not the meaning of the Marks of the Church. We have historically recognized confessional Lutherans and Anglicans as bearing the 3 Marks. Wesleyans and baptists have had a mixed report, but my point is that this does not limit Christendom to the Reformed churches.

      Ron Smith: something that most FV fail to notice is that, while WCF states that baptism is efficacious in admitting someone to the visible church, that does not mean it is *sufficient* to do so. An efficient cause is not the same thing as a sufficient cause. This point has been an occasion of much stumbling.

      The one baptized must profess the true religion (or, in the case of children, the parents must). Baptism must stand with this profession in order to be in the visible church. Otherwise it simply is not possible to harmonize the various portions of WCF I have pointed out.

      I think it is also going unnoticed that WCF 25.2 does not use the “reformed” modifier in defining the visible church. It simply says those who profess the “true religion.” Those who profess the true *reformed* religion (a subset of the visible church) are the subject of the command given in 24.3. They are commanded to marry only in the Lord, which would exclude Papists. It does not follow that WCF “tosses out” all non-Reformed from the visible church simply because it gives this command to the Reformed subset of the visible church (since the Reformed are, after all, the immediate “audience” of the Confession). You guys are glossing over the actual text of 24.3, and it is coming out rather garbled. Those who “profess the true Reformed religion” is in the subject, not the predicate of the sentence, guys.

      Ron also said But that is exactly what the citation ties the validity of RC baptism to: “Nevertheless, as some trace of the Church is left in the papacy, and the virtue and substance of baptism remain, and as the efficacy of baptism does not depend upon the person who administers it, we confess that those baptized in it do not need a second baptism”

      At the risk of stating the obvious: having a *trace* of something in an institution is not the same thing as that institution actually being that something. Having a trace or traces of a true church does not make one a true church.

      Also, Ron, I have never made a blanket statement about the Christian standing of FV proponents. I take FVers on a case-by-case basis. Although I do think some have taught heresy that destroys the credibility of their profession fo faith, not all FVers have crossed this line.

    48. kjsulli said,

      February 20, 2008 at 1:49 pm

      David Gadbois, re: 47,

      I think it is also going unnoticed that WCF 25.2 does not use the “reformed” modifier in defining the visible church. It simply says those who profess the “true religion.” Those who profess the true *reformed* religion (a subset of the visible church) are the subject of the command given in 24.3.

      I don’t want to dispute this point, because I wasn’t sure one way or the other. I’m curious if you have any historical resources showing that “true reformed religion” was regarded as a subset of “true religion”? I’d be interested to see for my own information. Thanks.


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