In this post, I will deal with TE Rayburn’s claims concerning a quotation of Leithart that TE Rayburn feels was dealt with unfairly. The quotation is Leithart, “The baptized are implanted into Christ’s body, and in Him share in all that he has to give.” The quotation is from page 78 of The Baptized Body.
A word here on the nature of published materials. One would assume that a Ph.D. of Leithart’s caliber would have his work peer-reviewed, and not just by people who agree with him. If this statement were in a more occasional document, TE Rayburn (and TE Leithart!) would have some occasion to gripe about the quotation. However, the quotation comes from a published work of TE Leithart. If the book doesn’t publish what TE Leithart means, that is TE Leithart’s fault, not the SJC’s. It is the responsibility of the author to prevent any and all misunderstandings of his work when publishing a book. It is his responsibility to ensure that there is no other way to understand his published book than the meaning he intends. What’s more, there are several other quotations that say the same thing as the above quotation in The Baptized Body. For instance, take this statement from page 73:
The historical church, the visible church, is the bride of the Son and one flesh with Him, which Jesus treats as “His own body.” (paragraph break, LK) If this is true, then again we are left with some profound consequences for membership in the visible church. Baptism joins us to the church, and I have argued that the church is the body of Christ, not merely in some “honorific” or secondary sense, but in a real sense. Those who are baptized into the church share in Jesus Christ, and in Him they are introduced into the Triune fellowship of Father, Son, and Spirit. If the church is the body of Christ, the humanity of the Son of God, then this conclusion is inevitable. (emphasis mine)
The context of this statement is vital to understanding Leithart’s point. His main point here is that the visible church is the body of Christ in a real sense. In this section, he is not denying that the invisible church is the body of Christ, but he is asserting that the visible church is the body of Christ in a very real sense. In that context he makes the claim that members in this visible body of Christ “share in Jesus Christ,” and are “introduced into the Triune fellowship.” If anything, this is a much stronger statement than the one Leithart retracted. Would he retract this statement as well? Baptism into the visible church introduces a person into Triune fellowship, and gives them a share in Jesus Christ? It should be noted here the equivalency of expression: “share in Jesus Christ” is surely a significant overlap of meaning to “implanted into Christ’s body.” And it is not a huge stretch to conclude that “share in all that He has to give” is very similar in meaning (or at least has a huge overlap, given, for instance, Ralph Smith’s definitions of covenant fellowship with the Trinity) to “introduced into the Triune fellowship.”
Both of these statements in The Baptized Body, in turn, match up quite nicely with the Joint Federal Vision Statement, in the section on baptism:
We affirm that God formally unites a person to Christ and to His covenant people through baptism into the triune Name, and that this baptism obligates such a one to lifelong covenant loyalty to the triune God, each baptized person repenting of his sins and trusting in Christ alone for his salvation. Baptism formally engrafts a person into the Church, which means that baptism is into the Regeneration, that time when the Son of Man sits upon His glorious throne (Matt. 19:28).
One could wonder what the term “formally” means here, but the idea is substantially the same as what Leithart has professed, and his name is attached to the document. I can only conclude at this juncture that, despite TE Leithart’s retraction of a statement in a book, this is in fact what he believes, since it is confirmed elsewhere in the same book, and in the Joint Statement.