Van Tillian Inconsistency

I want to start off by saying that I fall into the “presup” camp when it comes to apologetics. I find the position to be most consistent with Scripture (which I am not seeking to defend in this article). However, I find problems among those in the camp and even with some of Van Til’s teaching. I don’t necessarily buy everything Van Til or his followers teach or have taught. I would label myself a “moderate” presuppositionalist. I believe it is possible to find middle ground between the “classical” approach and the “presup” approach without having to result to what I think is a false dilemma between the two positions. Both sides have truths that can be offered and we shouldn’t throw either position out entirely because we may not like certain teachings sourced in either position. I do find it ironic that there are those in the “classical” camp who would complain because some in the Van Tillian camp will reject their position or aspects of it on theology proper due to philosophical commitments that are used in their theology, but then turn around and criticize the “presup” view because Van Til used idealist philosophical concepts in his system. For some reason, it is okay for “classicists” to use philosophical concepts in their theology (and rightly so) that are found in pagan philosophy, but Van Til can’t, even when he goes to great length to defend himself against accusations of adopting idealism (see his work “The Defense of the Faith”). And on the flip side, there are those in the Van Tillian camp that have fallen into this too, where there will be criticism of the usage of “Greek philosophy” in theology while adopting a system (“presup”) that has inherent philosophical commitments that are found in idealism. We have to move beyond this type of argumentation. With all that said, this article spawned out of me reading an essay that Dr. Matthew Barrett of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary posted by Richard A. Muller titled, “Reading Aquinas from a Reformed Perspective: A Review Essay” from 2018. This article is not meant to cover every inconsistency by Van Tillians or the beliefs of Van Til, but a point-by-point discussion of inconsistencies among Van Til and some of his followers. Also, when I say, “Van Tillian” in the title, I am not only referring to what Van Til may have taught, but some teachings found among the “presup” camp that have come from followers of Van Til. Let us begin.

The Doctrine of God

This doctrine seems to be in some way be at the center of multiple controversies. There are those in the “presup” camp (not necessarily everybody) that have adopted an unorthodox doctrine of God. However, there seems to be disagreement among followers of Van Til with Van Til himself on what constitutes an orthodox theology proper. One need look no further than Jeff Johnson. He identifies as a presuppositionalist in his book, “Saving Natural Theology from Thomas Aquinas,” on page 6 of the Kindle edition. However, there does not seem to be agreement even with Van Til on who God is (although this may be done in ignorance). In his previous book (“The Failure of Natural Theology”) he specifically rejects the concept of God as “actus purus,” meaning God is pure act without the capacity to become more than He actually is. He is the fullness of His being, completely perfect. Jeff says the following:

Actus Purus Is Not the God of the Bible…Actus Purus Is Oblivious and Unconcerned…Actus Purus Cannot Create…Actus Purus Does Not Have a Free Will…Actus Purus Is Impersonal…Thus, according to Aristotle, God is somewhat deistic in that he is oblivious to the universe.

Johnson, Jeffrey D. “The Natural Theology of Aristotle.” The Failure of Natural Theology: A Critical Appraisal of the Philosophical Theology of Thomas Aquinas, Free Grace Press, 2021, pp. 66–69.

As you can see, he expressly denies this doctrine. He sees it as a philosophical commitment and not a biblical one, although he does see some overlap between Aristotelian concepts of God and the biblical God (see page 67). However, it is clear that Van Til did teach this doctrine of actus purus as applied to God and even grounded this understanding of God as the basis for his apologetic position (which position Jeff Johnson espouses). Notice what Van Til says,

As God is absolute rationality so God is also absolute will. By this we mean primarily that God did not have to become good, but has from everlasting to everlasting been good. In God there is no problem of activity and passivity.

Til, Cornelius Van. “The Christian Philosophy of Behavior.” The Defense of the Faith, 4th ed., Presbyterian and Reformed, Philadephia, 1955, p. 83.

Even on a footnote on the same page, K. Scott Oliphint who edited the 4th edition, says the following in relation to the above:

That is, as orthodox theology has maintained, God is Pure Act. There is nothing incomplete or in any way imperfect in God.

Til, Cornelius Van. “The Christian Philosophy of Behavior.” The Defense of the Faith, 4th ed., Presbyterian and Reformed, Philadelphia, 1955, p. 83.

And Van Til then seems to tie this view of God to his view of apologetic methodology where he says,

It should be especially noted that Christians put forth this concept of God, not as something that may possibly be true and may also possibly be untrue. From the nontheistic point of view our God will have to appear as the dumping ground of all difficulties. For the moment we waive this objection in order to call attention to the fact that all the differences between the Christian and the non-Christian point of view, in the field of ethics, must be ultimately traced to their different God-concepts. Christians hold that the conception of God is the necessary presupposition of all human activity.

Til, Cornelius Van. “The Christian Philosophy of Behavior.” The Defense of the Faith, 4th ed., Presbyterian and Reformed, Philadephia, 1955, p. 83. (Emphasis mine)

Just prior to this section is where Van Til established actus purus as biblical in understanding God’s nature. So the context and what is said above would seem to indicate that to reject this view of God is to undermine a core aspect of Van Til’s position on God. Jeff says he’s a presuppositionalist without qualification as we’ve quoted already, so it can safely be assumed he holds to Van Til’s apologetic as a whole. Remember, this concept of “presupposing” God is key to Van Til’s methodology. God must be presupposed to account for all things such as logic, thought, facts themselves, etc. This is essentially the transcendental method of arguing for God’s existence. Also, there is no real neutrality when it comes to man. Man’s state is sinful and as such he is bent away from God. Also, since he lives in God’s world, man must assume God by default since he is using those things created. He cannot escape God. So this statement made by Van Til that, “the conception of God is the necessary presupposition of all human activity” is an indication of his apologetic methodology. This, I think, would put Jeff in a precarious situation as it relates to holding to Van Tillian apologetics the way he does.

Proofs for God

Now, I want to visit some of the apologetic argumentation of Dr. K. Scott Oliphint, professor at Westminster Theological Seminary who knew Van TIl personally and was a student of his post-Van Til’s retirement. Among the Van Tillian camp and with Van Til himself, there is a large amount of criticism of Thomas Aquinas. Van Til, at least to me, seems to identify Aquinas with the broader Roman tradition and not allow for much nuance of Romanism. If this is indeed the case, this could be problematic as the Catholic Church under Aquinas was very different than post-Trent Rome, so this could lead to anachronistic predication. Regardless, the emphasis on Aquinas by Van Til seems to have been passed to at least some of his followers including Dr. Oliphint. Let us look at an example. Richard A. Muller says the following in critique of Oliphint’s understanding of “proofs for God” :

Oliphint makes several crucial mistakes in his interpretation of Aquinas’s proofs of the existence of God. The first mistake is categorical. Oliphint assumes, largely on the basis of Aquinas’s Summa contra Gentiles (even though his analysis of Aquinas’s proofs is based on the Summa Theologiae) that the proofs are not only an exercise in the philosophy of “pure” natural reason but also a form of apologetics. The proofs in the Summa Theologiae, however, are identified as preambles to articles of faith that neither identifies them exclusively as philosophy nor classifies them as apologetic—they belong to sacra doctrina.

Muller, Richard A. “Reading Aquinas from a Reformed Perspective: A Review Essay.” Calvin Theological Journal, vol. 53, 2018, p. 274.

This is key, as critiques of the “classical” position of apologetics from the “presup” camp do assume that the arguments coming from the other side, i.e Thomistic the view, are indeed apologetic in nature. This can be understandable given that men like Norman Geisler, who was R.C. Sproul’s mentor, used Thomas as an apologetic tool (see Dr. Oliphint’s book, “Thomas Aquinas” page 55, Kindle edition). However, Thomas never meant his work to be utilized as an apologetic tool or for it to be apologetic in nature, but as part of the basic articulations of the Christian faith itself. This changes the discussion, as this means to critique the “classical” position based on these proofs from Thomas would be to fall into a straw manning by arguing against something that Thomas never said. If the argument is simply against one like Geisler who turned the theistic proofs of Thomas into apologetical arguments, then the argument would be against Geisler and not Thomas unless one misrepresents Thomas. However, Oliphint, who is a prominent Van Tillian, imputes these motives of theistic proofs to Thomas himself as is seen in Muller’s critique above. One should argue against followers of Thomas who have changed his proofs into apologetic tools rather than going after Thomas when he was simply laying out the Christian faith if they are to engage with these proofs at all. Given the discussion above, we can then look at a common argument for any theistic proof that is not attached to the Van Tillian model and is applied to Aquinas’s theistic proofs. Muller says this,

The second mistake is also a categorical one: it concerns the issue of precisely what Aquinas thought he was proving. Oliphint, who has strenuously advocated Mclnerny’s critique of Gilson and has referenced a Cajetanian reading of Aquinas, clearly misunderstands Cajetan’s view of the proofs. Oliphint represents Cajetan as teaching that the “proofs only demonstrated properties that could apply to a god, but not to God himself.”…The intent of the proofs is not to provide a full doctrine of the Christian God but only to show that reason can attain a set of rather limited concepts that can only be predicated of God and that will be seen to belong to God in the full development of the Christian doctrine of God subsequent to the proofs.

Muller, Richard A. “Reading Aquinas from a Reformed Perspective: A Review Essay.” Calvin Theological Journal, vol. 53, 2018, p. 276-277

This line is key from Oliphint’s book “Thomas Aquinas” that Muller cites, “proofs only demonstrated properties that could apply to a god, but not to God himself.” (Page 155, Kindle edition) Oliphint is actually referring here to a Cardinal that was explaining Thomas but Oliphint clearly thinks this principle is true of Thomas’s theistic proofs. But as one works through a massive work like the Summa, it can be seen clearly that saying these theistic proofs logically leave us with merely a god and not the God is inaccurate. Aquinas in the Summa is very clear that the God these proofs are pointing to is not a faceless god but the God of Scripture. As he expounds for instance on God’s immutability in Part I, question 4 of the Summa where he clearly establishes the God that does not change is the God of Malachi 3:6, the one true and living God. And the starting point for Aquinas is not philosophy, but Scripture. He then works from the already established Scripture to bring to light implications of divine immutability. To separate the proofs of God’s existence from the rest of Aquinas’s work as if they are arguments that merely prove a “god” is to take Aquinas’s words completely out of context and to let Van Tillian methodology blind. This Van Tillian argumentation would apply certainly to an evidential apologetic where God’s word is left out of the presentation for the sake of different evidences and even theistic proofs. This methodology is not intended to couple the supernatural with the natural in terms of apologetic argumentation, but it is meant to use “evidence” in lieu of the supernatural to prove the supernatural. This is not what we find with Aquinas. We find that he never meant these proofs to be apologetic and that they were to be taken with the whole doctrine of God, that God being from Scripture who is brought out elsewhere in the Summa.

The Concept of Analogy

We now arrive at a thorny topic: “analogy” There seems to be issue here as it relates to Van Til when it comes to his definition of “analogy” and the concept of the Thomistic “analogy of being.” Let us look at Muller again.

Oliphint’s discussion of Aquinas’s view of God draws heavily on the claims of Cornelius Van Til, one of whose basic points of critique is that Aquinas’s “idea of the analogy of being compromises the biblical doctrine of creation.” The reason for this, in Van Til’s view, is that the notion of an analogy of being comes directly from Aristotle and reduces the distinction between the Creator and the creature by adopting the Greek philosophical assumption that “all being is essentially one” and that “all individual beings are being to the extent that they participate in this one ultimate being,” thereby undermining the Christian teaching of “a self-contained God”…

Muller, Richard A. “Reading Aquinas from a Reformed Perspective: A Review Essay.” Calvin Theological Journal, vol. 53, 2018, p. 270

I am not sure what version of analogy of being Van Til would have held to explicitly, but he did at the very least rejected the concept of “analogy of being” between God and creation, understood Thomistically. This would naturally create problems. It would be dangerous to reject analogy between God and creation as this would mean there really is likeness between us and God in some way completely destroying the creator/creature distinction that must be kept if God is to truly be the first cause of all things and independent of all things. Clearly though, Van Til rejected Thomas’s view of analogy and applied analogy in a different way. What I will say though is I doubt Van Til denied in every respect analogy of being as this would result in no distinction in reality or concept between Him and His creation. I don’t think this was the case. It seems to me that he denied the concept of analogy of being, but maintained it in other areas unknowingly and inconsistently. This would merely show a misunderstanding of Thomas rather than a complete denial of the doctrine all together. What is odd about Van Til’s understanding of analogy of being is that he thought it broke the distinction between God and creatures. This is a complete misunderstanding of analogy of being as it relates to Thomas in that it sought to show a very qualified similarity between God and creatures without violating the distinction. By definition this is the case, and to say it isn’t implements a straw man fallacy. What would in fact break down the distinction would be to utilize a univocal understanding of God and creation or adopt an equivocal view. Van Til seemed to have two different meanings of “analogy” when talking about God. That we shouldn’t talk about the relation between God and creation by way of Thomistic analogy and that analogy of “knowledge,” which Oliphint breaks down for us in a footnote in Van Til’s “The Defense of the Faith”, is how we should view analogy as it relates to God. First we will quote Van Til and then Oliphint’s footnote:

All of this may again be expressed from another point of view by saying that human knowledge is analogical of divine knowledge.

Til, Cornelius Van. “The Christian Philosophy of Knowledge.” The Defense of the Faith, 4th ed., Presbyterian and Reformed, Philadephia, 1955, p. 62.

Here is Oliphint’s footnote aforementioned on the above statement from Van Til:

Van Til’s notion of “analogy” or “analogical,” as it applies to knowledge and to predication, is central to his theology and apologetic. Though the term itself is confusing, in that it carries with it a host of assumptions in Thomism, it should not be confused or in any way identified with Thomas’s understanding of analogy. Though for Thomas there was an analogy of being, for Van Til, the notion of analogy was meant to communicate the ontological and epistemological difference between God and man. The difference has been expressed historically in terms of an archetypal/ectypal relationship.

Til, Cornelius Van. “The Christian Philosophy of Knowledge.” The Defense of the Faith, 4th ed., Presbyterian and Reformed, Philadephia, 1955, p. 62.

Why Van Til chose to use the terminology Thomas did is odd and even Oliphint notes this terminology as “confusing” since it is clearly a Thomistic term. This makes it quite concerning that Van Til would choose to reject the notion of analogy of being and replace it with his own, confusing definition of “analogy” even if what he meant wasn’t necessary incorrect. This phraseology is not helpful.

Conclusion

These are just some quick points laid out of inconsistencies I see in Van Tillian theology. This does not mean I’m abandoning all that position. But I will not jump on the “presup” band wagon and try to remain objective. Van Til was a product of his day and it seems to bleed through sometimes in a negative way. I have come back to the “presup” position with new eyes having studied more historical theology and theology proper. I’ve been able to look at the position and go, “no that doesn’t work” for some things. But I can do so without throwing out the position entirely. I refuse to commit the genetic fallacy of rejecting “presup” because it came from Van Til or because Van Til was allegedly an idealist. This argumentation is not sound. But, like we do when we critique Aquinas while keeping the gems he taught, we should be willing to critique the Van Tillian camp even if it makes us fall out with the “cool kids club.”

– Daniel Vincent (thanks for those from the team who assisted with reviewing and editing this article)

REASONS FOR INFANT BAPTISM? Do they exist?

PAEDOBAPTISM. Is there a valid reason for doing it? More importantly, is there a valid biblical reason for doing it? See THIS ARTICLE for my thoughts on paedobaptism and the covenant of grace. Over the last few months, a dear brother in the Lord has been sharing what he deems to be “Reasons for Infant Baptism.” Of course, he comes from a Presbyterian perspective, so it only makes sense that he would promote such a position. What I can appreciate is that all of his “reasons” have Scripture attached to them. In fact, many of them are nothing more than a verse or passage left to speak for itself. But just because one can post a verse or passage from the Bible does not mean it is automatically a biblical justification. It is this which I have sought to demonstrate in my responses to him. Those responses make up the underlying structure and content of this article. I will break it down into sections, with each one representing a different reason. As you read, I encourage you to think about how you might have responded to each of these propositions.

REASON #1
“And Peter Said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.’” (Acts 2:38-39)

I have heard this verse used by paedobaptists more times than I can possibly count. As with many things in life, this is just another instance where popularity doesn’t necessarily equate to accuracy. Bottom line: These verses have nothing to do with infant baptism. This is a case for the Elect coming from all groups of people. The promise is for everyone who is called by God. If it was for the children of believers, it means all the children would also have to be called. If all the children are called, it stands to reason that all the children would also be predestined, justified, and glorified. Since we know not all children of believers fall into this category, we can also know the passage is not saying all children of believers are called (any more than all who are far off are called). Therefore, to use this verse to justify infant baptism, it must also be used to justify the baptism everybody who is far off. Or we can accept it for what it’s actually saying: God calls His own, and they may come from Israelite parents, their children, or anyone else. Context matters!

REASON #2
“And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.” (Genesis 17:7)

Would anyone be shocked that I disagree with this being a reason for infant baptism? Abraham had physical descendants, with Christ being the Seed. Whereas Abraham’s physical descendants partook of the blessings of the covenant, only spiritual descendants are part of the covenant of grace. This is accomplished by being united in Christ through faith. Ephesians 2:12-13 makes it clear that Gentiles were once far off but have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Anybody who believes in limited atonement would have to admit the blood of Christ was only shed for the Elect. Therefore, only the Elect are brought near. Since Christ is the only way into the covenant (i.e. once being far off and now being brought near), only the Elect can possibly be in the covenant of grace. Since baptism is a sign of membership in the covenant of grace, it should only be applied to those who are in it and precaution should be taken against applying it to anyone who does not have faith in the Son. Therefore, this passage, when taken in the full context of the New Testament, would actually have nothing to do with infant baptism.

Oftentimes, a paedobaptist will follow up with an attempt to back the credobaptist in a corner by asking if they have only ever baptized genuine believers, as if mistakenly baptizing a false convert will completely vindicate their system. There are certainly many who go through the motions of baptism when they never should have. This number includes both unbelievers who perhaps exhibited some sign of fruit only to later fall away, as well as infants. But just because there are non-Elect who go through the motion of baptism doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do our due diligence to prevent it from happening as often as we can. Also, I would say the non-Elect are never truly baptized because they lacked an essential part of a valid baptism: faith.

Earlier, I alluded to the covenant of grace. While there are many flavors of paedobaptists (i.e. Catholics, Presbyterians, Lutherans, etc), when it comes to Presbyterians, our differences really do boil down to our system of covenant theology. Regarding baptism, the Presbyterian argument (in a highly summarized nutshell) is that circumcision was a sign of the old covenant and baptism is a sign of the new covenant. In this, it would be safe to say that, in such a view, baptism has taken the place of circumcision. Where I feel this is impossible is in the fact that, while circumcision was the sign of the old covenant, circumcision is still very much the sign of the new covenant. The difference is in who it is applied to as well as the one doing the applying. In both the old and new covenants, circumcision was given to all who were in it. The old covenant was physical in nature. Thus, a physical sign was given from men to men. In the new covenant, it is spiritual in nature. Thus, a spiritual sign is given from God. No longer are we circumcised in the flesh but are circumcised in the heart. This circumcision of heart (a sign of being in the covenant of grace) is only given to believers through faith in Jesus Christ. Circumcision of the flesh was typological of the circumcision of heart. Since circumcision is very much still the sign being applied, to replace it with baptism becomes a dangerous precedent because it replaces that which God has not done away with. Baptism is what believers do out of obedience to God as they profess their faith to other men, but baptism is not the new circumcision nor has it replaced it. Additionally, the verse in Genesis 17 is about the spiritual future of the New Covenant. While it did have a practical application for the people of Israel, hence circumcision being a physical sign, it was another facet of the typological nature of the Abrahamic Covenant and not a matter of substance in the New Covenant.

REASON #3
“In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism…” (Colossians 2:11). The sign given to Abraham when God made a covenant with him was circumcision, given to infants. Baptism is the new sign of the covenant, the new circumcision.

While there is certainly talk of circumcision in the verse above, baptism doesn’t actually circumcise anyone. The circumcision that occurs is circumcision of the heart by the Spirit. It’s the removal of our heart of stone and giving us a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). Baptism is the outward proclamation that the inward reality (circumcision of heart) exists. The external sign should never be worn by one who does not possess the inward reality.

REASON #4
“For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea…” (1 Corinthians 10:1-3). Israel, including children, were baptized in the Old Testament.

Considering paedobaptists attempt to correlate circumcision to baptism, and not the Red Sea to baptism, I truly failed to pick up on this. I just had no idea how it was even being related. The “baptism” into Moses wasn’t a sacrament or a sign of a covenant. It was describing what they went through as they passed through the waters. Through discussion, it was explained to me that just because circumcision is connected to baptism does not mean that there are no other texts of scripture that teach us about it, and that Paul connects what happened to the Israelites in the Exodus account to the life of believers today. Essentially, he was not using the above passage as straight exegesis but rather as inference. But is it proper inference? I dare say not.

Despite the explanation that was offered up, I still failed to see the connection of Paul using the word “baptizo” with the ordinance of baptism in the life of the Church. Again, he was being descriptive of what they went through, with the primary purpose being in running the race and being obedient. It wasn’t a message on baptism, infant or otherwise. Not only is the passage not an explicit text on baptism, it’s not even an implicit text with good and necessary consequence or inference. I can 100% agree with good and necessary consequences. I just don’t agree that this is one of them. I think this is a very far stretch to shoehorn unbiblical tradition into the life of the church (and I mean no offense by that, just stating it as I believe it to be). In this case, my brother felt like Paul using the word baptizo should be enough to mean they were baptized, and that we should take it as a written example for us to follow.

Personally, I don’t take it to mean what he was asserting. If one didn’t believe in infant baptism, I think most would read that verse very differently. It’s neither descriptive nor prescriptive when it comes to the ordinance of baptism as found in the Church. I think this is an instance of grasping at straws and possibly an instance of an equivocation fallacy. There’s literally nothing in it that would lead the reader to think Paul was referring to the ordinance of baptism and relating it to entire families. That’s just a really big stretch. All it says is that they all passed through the sea and were immersed into Moses. The example is not baptism for all but rather to not be disobedient as the followers of Moses were. We are to be immersed in Christ and be obedient in faith. It’s a thought that immediately follows chapter 9 where it speaks of such things. Again, this simply is not an argument for infant baptism and, if anything, is an argument against it since infants cannot run the race and be obedient in faith. They can’t be immersed in Christ. Therefore, they would only end up receiving a hollow version of a sacrament.

REASON #5
“Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!” (Psalm 127:3-5a)

At the risk of being overly blunt, this is even more of a stretch than Reason #4. Children are a blessing, but that doesn’t mean all blessings are baptized. Otherwise, I’d have to baptize my house in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. While having absolutely nothing to do with infant baptism, this text fits perfectly with a Baptist worldview. Children are a blessing and, more importantly, it is obedience to the command given in Genesis 1:28. But our children are still under the dominion of Satan unless regenerated by the Spirit. This is why we raise our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord while stressing the need for them to trust in Christ as their Savior, lest they be lost to the pits of Hell without Him.

REASON #6
“Did he (the Lord) not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring…” (Malachi 2:15)

As with all the other reasons given before now, this is also a stretch. This verse has nothing to do with infant baptism nor does it contain an underlying reason to baptize infants. Note the last part of verse 15 (that was conveniently cut off when it was posted):

“So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. “

This verse is speaking about how the priests were unrighteous and sinning against their wives. Notice that verse 3 says their children would be rebuked as a result. We see a similar warning in Leviticus 26:16. The passage isn’t referencing infant baptism. It’s not even about godly parenting. It’s about a covenant between a man and his wife and the consequence that comes with breaking it. I, too, seek godly offspring. This is why I raise them to know they are sinners in need of Jesus instead of telling them they’re part of an unbreakable covenant even if they don’t have faith (which would make them children of Satan).

I was then met with the claim that he was not trying to interpret it as a command to baptize infants but that he was using it as justification for determining what view of baptism allowed for the category of “godly seed”. He said God desires faith and faithfulness in a marriage because of what it produces, and that such logic carries over to the New Testament. While I promote there are only two categories of children in Scripture, children of God or children of Satan, his position is that there are additional categories that must be recognized in order to properly understand how the children of believers are to be dealt with. I can appreciate the desire to do something with these children, but I just do not see the biblical warrant to baptize them.

As for the category of what best describes godly seed, I would say that is going to entirely depend on whether or not God calls the child to Himself, not whether or not a child has been baptized. Certainly, any Reformed person would agree that we are all children of the devil prior to regeneration (John 8:44). So long as one remains in this state, he/she is not godly. The Presbyterian must create a third category, but those are the only two spiritual states laid out in Scripture. There simply is no third option. Anything else would be a purely fabricated category that would have nothing to do with their spiritual status. We are either in Adam or in Christ. That’s it. If we are in Adam, we need Christ and any blessings that might come our way are only because of either God’s common grace or as a byproduct of blessings given to His believing children that have a residual effect. I’m not even sure how one can say there is another category apart from Adam or Christ, Satan or God, unregenerate or regenerate. To say children of believers, so long as they remain in an unregenerate state, are anything other than children of the devil (in a spiritual sense) is to be at odds with Scripture. All humanity, regardless of whether or not their parents are saved, are in dire need of a Savior and are not adopted into the covenant until they enter through faith. The fact that Presbyterians believe in preaching the gospel to their kids only serves as an inconsistency in their view of the covenant of grace. To place them in a third category that merits bearing the sign of the covenant treats kids like they’re in, even though they lack faith and still belong to Satan.

Credobaptism is the clear demonstration from Scripture. I assert infant baptism is purely tradition, be it Presbyterian, Catholic, Lutheran, or other. This is further amplified by the fact that the Presbyterian version of paedobaptism isn’t even the original reason it was performed. Remember, other paedobaptist systems came before them and each had their own separate reasons. Thus, the Presbyterian edition is a revised version that clung to an action of tradition while merely changing its reasoning.

REASON #7
“For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.” (1 Corinthians 7:14). The children of at least one believer are considered holy and not unclean like the world.

This is perhaps one of the easiest arguments to defeat. The basis of the argument is that the children of at least one believing parent is considered clean (i.e. holy) and should therefore be baptized. However, the unbelieving husband is also explicitly called holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is explicitly called holy because of her husband. Therefore, if the argument is that since the unbelieving child should be baptized due to being made holy by one believing parent, you would also have to argue that an unbelieving spouse should be baptized due to being made holy by the one believing spouse. If Presbyterians will not advocate for an unbelieving spouse to be baptized, it shows they don’t even really believe their own argument, at least not with any level of consistency. In fact, if one states the unbelieving spouse should abstain from baptism and the Supper, it would only serve to demonstrate why the unbelieving infant should also abstain.

But this goes back to the previous “reason” where the idea was floated that there are other categories apart from elect and reprobate within the Church. I admit there are various other categories (i.e. elder, deacon, sheep, husband, wife, child, etc), but when it comes to spiritual states, I outright deny this. There are only two. If one desires to be consistent, to use 1 Corinthians 7:14 for infant baptism would also be to use it as justification for the baptism of unbelieving spouses so long as one spouse was a believer. Yet, this isn’t pushed for. For any argument that the children are to be treated differently, the same argument must exist that the unbelieving spouse must be treated differently. Since all males who were part of Abraham’s house were to receive the sign of circumcision, it would stand that all (at a minimum, males) who are in the house of a believer would also have to bear the sign. Faith simply would not play a role. If faith does play a role, it must play the same role for all. This would only be further backed by the fact that the verse puts both unbelieving children and the unbelieving parent in the exact same category. Of course, the Presbyterian view begins not with Scripture but with a category of “covenant children” as rooted in tradition. Again, it requires a foundation of tradition before the subject can ever be broached. Since baptism does not regenerate, the paedobaptist must advocate for children of the devil bearing the sign of the covenant of Christ, void of faith and filled with sin.

But if the children of believers are not considered clean or holy, how can it be declared, with any level of confidence, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15)?” Can a house truly serve the Lord if the children within are not clean, holy, and baptized as children of the covenant who have been marked out as members of the visible Church? Is it a valid category? The problem with using a term like “covenant child” is that it isn’t even hinted at in Scripture. Yes, it could have been used of Old Covenant children but not of the New Covenant. People became members of the Old Covenant by nothing more than simply being born. It included believers, unbelievers, children, and servants. It was meant for a nation and all who were part of it. The New Covenant is far more selective in that only those who are in Christ are in the covenant. This limits the members to being only those who possess faith.

I also noticed a repeated theme in these “reasons” being cited. In many of them, it was said the reasoning does not depend on just that one reason but on all of it combined. However, every last one of the reasons has been easily refuted to show why it does not say what is being claimed. This means the reasoning is now built upon at least eight (counting the next one) refuted passages that are taken out of context. Having a plethora of verses taken out of context doesn’t mean a solid foundation exists. If anything, it demonstrates the opposite. A solid foundation would be built upon multiple verses that all say the same thing and can stand on their own merit individually but gain more strength when taken collectively. This is not the case here.

As for the comment about what marks the visible church, I agree this is baptism (though I would also add to that a public and credible profession of faith). However, the visible church should, in as many ways as possible, reflect the invisible church. This is why, when we discover someone who is living in sin, we might cast them out of fellowship and membership. Similarly, it is why we would not baptize an unbeliever who just so happens to come to church every Sunday (for whatever his reasons may be). To apply the sign to some merely because they sit in a pew or have a parent who believes is to misapply the sign. Yes, unbelieving wives and unbelieving children may be in the pew but that does not make them worthy of receiving the sign.

The holiness being spoken of is in the sense of being sanctified as a household. The believing spouse didn’t have to worry about leaving the unbelieving spouse. This is clearly the context of what’s being said in the passage. The same context is to be applied to the children. They didn’t need to be treated like outsider pagans to be rejected. Just as it isn’t saying they are saved, it also isn’t saying they are the recipients of the sign that is to be given to members of the covenant. This sign only belongs to believers who possess faith in Christ and are admitted membership through said faith.

As for Joshua 24:15, if it requires all members to actively serve the Lord in covenant before one can make the statement, it means a household who has one believing parent and one unbelieving parent would not be able to claim it. The children have no bearing on it. If being able to make the claim first requires baptism and entrance into the covenant, you now have to advocate for the unbelieving parent being admitted into the covenant, baptized, treated as a holy covenant member, and admitted to the Table. While some Presbyterians actually do claim this, I know my brother was not about to go that far. In that respect, I am thankful for his inconsistency.

REASON #8
Infants can die apart from conscious sin due to Adam’s federal headship and his imputed sin. Likewise, they can be saved through Christ’s federal headship and His imputed righteousness. Baptism does not force God’s grace, but it does signify it. See Romans 5:12-21.

Anybody whom God has called can (and will be) saved by His grace alone. If we’re not going to baptize all unbelieving adults in order to signify the potential grace that might be shown to them, we shouldn’t do it for infants either. While they may be saved and shown grace, they may not. Notice that both the WCF and 1689 (in 10.3) leave room by saying “Elect infants dying in infancy are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit; who worketh when, and where, and how he pleases; so also are all elect persons, who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.”

To go a bit further, his reasoning deferred to federal headship. While we are all in Adam by physical birth, we are only in Christ by spiritual rebirth. This first requires the Holy Spirit regenerating an individual. Of course, once regenerate, there is no becoming unregenerate. This is the very basis of Preservation of the Saints. Thus, once a person is regenerate, he are now in Christ and become the proper recipient of the sign. However, apart from this, no sign should be administered, for it becomes a sign administered in vain and error.

CONCLUSION

While there are a great many verses that our Presbyterian brethren will throw out there in an attempt to plead their case, none of them actually support their cause. In fact, when properly exegeted, they will often betray their cause and speak against it. We all come before Scripture with our presuppositions, but we should also always strive to let the Scriptures speak as we pray and meditate upon them. While some of my commentary above may sound harsh at times, it is my hope that you, the reader, will not only see why my brother’s “reasons” are flawed but also see love and grace in my rebuttals.

~ Travis W. Rogers

PAEDOBAPTISM MOCKS THE OLD TESTAMENT

BAPTISM. It’s no surprise that I disagree with paedobaptism. It also shouldn’t be a surprise when I say the Baptist and Presbyterian views of baptism will revolve around how we view the covenant of grace. Each side believes in the covenant of grace, but we greatly differ in how we believe it is applied as well as when it was implemented. Without getting too far into the weeds, Presbyterians (and some others) believe the covenant of grace was active in the Old Testament but was merely a different form of administration as compared to the New Testament. Just as circumcision was a sign of the old covenant, so they feel baptism is a sign of the new covenant. Similarly, just as children in the old covenant were given the sign of circumcision, they feel children of believing parents are considered “covenant children” who should receive the sign of baptism. Now, there is far more to be understood on this topic, but this should suffice to give a fair overview of their beliefs. While my first two statements shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, perhaps my third will. I assert paedobaptism makes a mockery of the Old Testament and the old covenant (i.e. Mosaic covenant) by inadvertently declaring the latter to be a sham.

Before the hate mail begins, allow me to justify my assertion and preface it with the acknowledgment that no Presbyterian would ever dare make such a claim of the old covenant. I do believe our Presbyterian brethren are genuine in their desire to be true to the Word of God. My point is less that they openly declare such a position and more that their belief in infant baptism necessitates it. As we begin, we need to turn our attention to the eighth chapter of Hebrews. I will make bold the parts I plan to discuss in more detail.

6But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, to the extent that He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises. 7For if that first covenant had been free of fault, no circumstances would have been sought for a second. 8For in finding fault with the people, He says,

“Behold, days are coming, says the Lord,
When I will bring about a new covenant
With the house of Israel and the house of Judah,
9Not like the covenant which I made with their fathers
On the day I took them by the hand
To bring them out of the land of Egypt;
For they did not continue in My covenant,
And I did not care about them, says the Lord.
10For this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel
After those days, declares the Lord:
I will put My laws into their minds,
And write them on their hearts.
And I will be their God,
And they shall be My people.
11And they will not teach, each one his fellow citizen,
And each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
For they will all know Me,
From the least to the greatest of them.
12For I will be merciful toward their wrongdoings,
And their sins I will no longer remember.”

13When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is about to disappear. -- (Hebrews 8:6-13)

I will use the remainder of this article to lay out my reasoning. For the sake of space, this will just lightly touch on the subject. However, I do believe my case will still be made clear despite the brevity.

To begin, we must keep in mind the author of Hebrews declares the new covenant is not only new (v.8) but is also a better covenant with better promises (v.6). He makes it abundantly clear that this new covenant is not like the old one made with their fathers (v.9). It seems awfully strange to go to such an extent in differentiating the covenants, only for them to end up actually being the same covenant under a different administration. Not to mention, there is zero mention here of administrations. It is the covenants themselves that are different from one another. In the old, there was fault in that it was held together by man (v.7). The new is faultless because it is God Himself who keeps it. Again, the old covenant and new covenant are not the same, and any similarities in the old serve as a type/shadow of the new that was to come.

Let us shift our focus to Hebrews 8:8-12. These verses are quoting Jeremiah 31:31-34. Take note that Jeremiah is speaking in the future tense. At a minimum, the covenant of grace did not yet exist during his day. He clearly wrote of it as being a covenant yet to be. So when was the covenant of grace established? The answer to this is simple. It was established in the crucifixion of our Savior. The covenant of grace was not validly established until His blood was shed (Hebrews 9:16). Just as the old covenant was inaugurated with blood (Hebrews 9:18-19), so was the new covenant. Nobody tries arguing the old covenant existed prior to its inauguration. We must hold the same standard to the new covenant if we hope to be consistent.

But what happened to the old covenant once the new came? According to Scripture, it was made obsolete and disappeared (v.13). With the new covenant, there was no longer a need for the old. The Presbyterian uses words like “administration” because it fits their tradition, but we see no such wording found here. This is an area where I wish Presbyterians had continued reforming. I like to semi-jokingly assert that Lutherans were part of the Reformation but are not Reformed, Presbyterians are partially Reformed, and Particular Baptists are thoroughly Reformed. Of course that’s not to say we’re perfect and have it all figured out, but I do feel in the case of baptism we are further Reformed than our Presbyterian brethren. I also assert infant baptism is a doctrinal holdover of popish error and tradition. If the new covenant was not the old covenant, the new covenant was not inaugurated until the death of Christ, and the old covenant was rendered obsolete upon the establishment and inauguration of the new covenant, it necessitates that the old covenant and new covenant could not both exist simultaneously. The covenant of grace was not valid until it was ratified by Christ through the shedding of His blood, which means it was not active in the Old Testament. Thus, if paedobaptism requires the belief that the covenant of grace was active in the Old Testament, it must first declare the entire old covenant to be a sham. I dare say this is no small claim, but it is the logical conclusion of paedobaptism so long as it holds to the “two administrations” model of the covenant of grace. If the covenant of grace truly existed in the Old Testament, it means the old covenant was obsolete from the beginning, that it was never a valid covenant, and that it was all a sham. Thus, paedobaptism makes a mockery of the old Mosaic covenant and all who believed they were a part of something valid. During their time, the new covenant existed in promise only, the substance yet to be inaugurated.

But what does that make of Old Testament saints? Were they not actually saved? If they were saved, was it by some other means than how we are saved today? Rest assured, Old Testament saints were saved in the very same manner we are today: by faith in Christ alone. Paul makes very clear that Abraham was justified by the same faith that we possess today (Romans 4). This is because Old Testament saints looked forward in faith to the coming Messiah while New Testament saints look back through faith. This faith remains constant, though there was certainly more revealed in time. So does this mean Old Testament saints were actually in the covenant of grace after all? Does this mean they saw heaven from the moment of death because of their faith? The answer to the second question is no. The answer to the first question, however, is a bit more difficult to answer. While they were saved by the same faith, and we can safely say they are part of the covenant of grace, they were not yet in the covenant because it had not yet been established. There was no covenant of grace to be a part of. However, it was their very real faith that saved them. This is why they went to Abraham’s Bosom (for more, READ THIS). This was not a place of uncertainty but of temporary holding until the Christ would come and inaugurate the new covenant. Upon inauguration, all who possessed faith in Christ were now a part of it though Him. The below graphic might help.

TIMELINE OF THE SAINTS

The good news is that there is now a better covenant with better promises. In the old covenant, you could be a full-fledged member simply by birth, yet be bound for hell in unbelief. The better promise of the new covenant is that all who are part of it will see heaven. This is because only those in Christ by faith are members. All members of this new covenant, from the greatest to the least, will know Christ (v.11). Just as circumcision was the sign of the old covenant, so is circumcision required in the new. All new covenant members will bear the sign of a circumcised heart which leads to faith. This is the inward reality of all members. I, too, believe in covenant children but only in one of two ways: either a child who comes to saving faith in Christ, or by the fact that all believers are children of God. As Pastor Steve Clevenger so succinctly put it, “You are not in the new covenant without the inward realities.”

The new covenant is unbreakable. All who are in it shall remain in it. No covenant member can wear the external signs, void of internal realities, only to fall away or depart later. Such a person only demonstrates they were not covenant members at all. While Baptists may occasionally mistakenly baptize false converts, Presbyterians routinely do so to those who never even proclaim faith, all in the name of a covenantal continuity that does not exist. This is dangerous territory. If you were baptized as an infant only to come to faith later in life, I urge you to be baptized through faith in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In the absence of faith, your baptism was just a BATHtism. Seek obedience to your Savior have the ordinance be carried out biblically.

The new covenant is unbreakable! Take peace in this and give thanks to the Lord who has called His own and shall preserve us to the end in such an unbreakable covenant.

~ Travis W. Rogers

MATTERS OF GOD: Where is Your Zeal?

“Why so serious?” It’s a famous question that nearly every movie buff will recognize. But I’d like to pose a counter question. Why are we not serious enough? Why are we so lackadaisical in our approach to the things of God? I mean, we’ll pray when things go wrong, give thanks when things go right, and attend church on Sunday morning. We may even do a weekly bible study or a morning devotional from time to time. While all of those are good things in and of themselves, they often seem to be lacking one thing: zeal. Where is our zeal? Where is our vigor?

Imagine God speaking directly to you and telling you He has personally placed an object from heaven somewhere in your house and all you had to do was find it. I can only imagine a house being torn apart from top to bottom as this item was searched for. Once found, it would be a prized possession. Think it’s a bit farfetched? I mean, we’ve seen it time and again with bogus images of Mary in the clouds or on a piece of toast. These items are shown off to the world. News outlets pick up the story and run with it. There is great value placed on these truly insignificant items all because the owner truly believes it was from God. One thing they all share is zeal. There is a level of excitement attached to it that can’t be rivaled.

Sadly, these items are not from God and serve only to pull people away from Him by placing their faith in signs and wonders instead of the risen Savior. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have something from God already. Instead of being excited about toast, why are we not equally excited over the written Word of God? We quite literally have printed paper with words that are theopneustos, or God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16). God spoke through the apostles and prophets (2 Peter 3:2) and gave us His Word in tangible form. This is nothing short of miraculous! Why then are we distracting ourselves with toast and fluffy clouds? Is your bible your prized possession or is it just another publication that sits on your shelf until Sunday morning? Is your favorite bible app also your most used or is it squirrelled away in a folder alongside other bible study tools, only to be opened when the occasion arises? Friends, I don’t speak with a tone of condemnation, as I am guilty of the exact same thing. I speak with a heartfelt question of why we act in such a way toward something that was brought down from heaven and given to us. How can we take such a gift from God and relegate it to just another thing we own? Where is our zeal? Where is our vigor?

For all parents out there, think back to your first child. Do you remember being told there’s no instruction manual to being a parent? Sure, there are self-help books and plenty of family members who all want to share how they did things, but each child is different and no two children will require the exact same thing. It’s a journey that can’t truly be understood unless you’ve gone through it, made mistakes, and learned along the way. Thankfully, our Christian walk in sanctification isn’t as uncertain. God has left us His instruction manual for what He expects of us, how He will help us, and what it is we ought to do in loving obedience. No, the Bible won’t tell us how to change a diaper or how to give driving lessons to your teenager, but it will tell you how to raise your child in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4), how to instill lasting concepts (Proverbs 22:6), and the importance of providing for one’s household (1 Timothy 5:8). With such a treasure trove of wisdom, knowledge, and heavenly insight, why are we not more excited for it? Where is our zeal? Where is our vigor?

As we enter into this new year, I urge each of you, myself included, to be more excited about possessing something from heaven. I don’t mean getting excited about the latest 365-day reading plan or that Spurgeon devotional you got for Christmas. While tools such as those can be helpful in keeping one focused and on track, my challenge is to find great joy in the Scriptures. Let the Scripture be your prized possession. Let the Scripture be the talk of the town. Let your Scripture be what you can’t stop talking about. But at no point should you let the Scripture become an idol. Find that zeal. Find that vigor. But always let it drive you to the cross in loving reverence for the Lord. In addition to the Scripture, He has also given the gift of faith through regeneration. If you are a Christian, take comfort in that and maintain just as much zeal and vigor over the work that He has begun in you, knowing He will be faithful to complete it. Search the Scriptures daily (Acts 17:11) and let the Lord be your joy (Acts 13:52). There you will find your zeal!

~ Travis W. Rogers

Where Does Faith Come From?

This may sound like a rather obvious question but you would be surprised how many people get it all wrong. The dictionary defines faith as belief that is not based on proof. Where does this faith come from? Is it a product of a decision we make or is it something more? Thankfully, the bible is not silent on this.

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9, NASB)

How do we normally receive gifts? We either ask for them or they are given without any influence from us. The latter half of the passage in Ephesians tells us it was given to us without any influence on our part. There was no work done by us (praying, asking, doing good, etc). It was given as a gift out of God’s own heart. He chose to give the gift of faith without any work on our part whatsoever.

You have seen the dictionary’s definition of faith, but what is the biblical definition? According to Hebrews, “faith is the certainty of things hoped for, a proof of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1). This, combined with Ephesians 2:8-9, should be enough to prove faith is not something we earn or reach out for. It is something God gives us of His own will. Faith may be something we have but it certainly is not something we create. Faith is not a result of anything on our part. To further drive home the origin of faith, God has given us an abundance of verses that speak to it. For instance, we know that that which is born of the Spirit is spirit (John 3:6), the flesh is hostile toward God, does not subject itself to Him, and unable to please Him (Romans 8:7-8), the natural man is unable to accept or understand the things of God (1 Corinthians 2:14), and that one who is not with God is against Him (Luke 11:23).

We are all born into flesh. As natural man, not only is it impossible to understand the things of God (spiritually appraised), but it is also impossible to please God. It is impossible to submit to Him because we are naturally hostile towards God. We are not for God, therefore we are against God. How then can one believe we make the choice to follow God of our own free will when it is impossible to understand and we are in a state of hostility?

In reality, prior to being regenerated by the Spirit and given a heart of repentance, our desires are to do the will of another one we called father: the devil (John 8:44). The only way to escape this snare of the devil is if God grants us repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth so that we may come to our senses (2 Timothy 2:25-26). As natural man, we desire to do the devil’s work. In the 2 Timothy passage where it speaks of correcting those in opposition, it is not speaking of rebuking fellow believers. It is referring to correcting non-believers. It says we are to witness to non-Christians in case God decides to grant them repentance. Notice they do not come to their senses before God grants them repentance. The gift is given first. Only then will their desires change, not first. God makes the first move, yet we are told He will often do so through the preaching of the gospel.

In case there are still any doubts as to the efficacy of our will in changing our nature, Scripture also tells us the unregenerate man is incapable of making himself clean (Job 14:4), doing good (Jeremiah 13:23), or bearing good fruit (Matthew 7:18). It is only when the Father draws him (John 6:44) that he is granted to come (John 6:65). Upon this act of God, he is given a new heart and a new spirit (Ezekiel 36:26-27) and is considered adequate (2 Corinthians 3:5). A leopard cannot change its spots (Job 14:4) but God can.

Before we move on, let’s review what was just said:

1) We cannot clean ourselves any more than a leopard can change his spots.

2) One who does evil cannot also do good.

3) A bad tree will only produce bad fruit. There will be no good fruit produced by one who is unsaved.

4) The Father draws and grants. Without these, nobody can enter the kingdom of God.

5) Our adequacy is from God alone and not from our own choices.

6) God gives us a new heart. He gives us the Holy Spirit to walk in His ways. Before this, we were nothing but bad fruit incapable of doing good.

We cannot change our desires. We cannot change our hostility toward God. We are the way we are and we cannot change ourselves. Only God can make the change. Only God can initiate the change. Furthermore, the desire to change ourselves will not be present apart from the Spirit of God in His regenerating work.

We cannot think clearly about or desire Christ by our own unaided decision. Why not? We cannot respond to the good news of the gospel until we want Christ, and we cannot want Christ simply by a decision we can take at any moment we choose. We cannot say to our will, “Will, will to belong to the Lord!” It is beyond our powers to do that. No one can will the will to will what it will not will!

Sinclair B. Ferguson “By Grace Alone: How the Grace of God Amazes Me” p.4

Everything is from God. He draws us to Himself. He changes us. He grants repentance and an understanding of truth. He removes hostility. He causes us to die to flesh and to be born to Spirit. He is Almighty God and it is all in His hands.

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things are passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, (2 Corinthians 5:17-18, NASB)

Faith may be a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-9) but that is an incomplete statement regarding non-Christians. It is not just faith that God gives us but faith in Him. The Bible tells us that nobody seeks God (Psalm 14:2-3) and that without His gift of faith, it is impossible to understand the things of God (2 Corinthians 2:14). People can still have faith (i.e. belief in something) but that faith will always be misplaced unless God allows them to open their eyes and have faith in Him.

I certainly do believe it is possible to have more faith than another person even if that faith is misplaced. The great news is that faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains if it is placed in God. Faith placed in anything else will be empty regardless how big it is. Be encouraged! Have faith!

~ Travis W. Rogers

Could Jesus Sin?

This is a topic that has been brought up many times over the years. There are always two sides with two totally different views. One side believes that since Jesus was a man, He could sin but chose not to. The other side believes that since Jesus was God, He could not sin at all. On which side do you stand at this very moment? Maybe you have never thought about it before now. My goal is that you will have formed your opinion by the end of this article.

First, let’s start with the basics. Jesus was fully man. Man can sin (Romans 3:23). Jesus is also fully God. God and sin are not compatible. It is impossible for God to sin (Psalm 11:7). This almost seems like a paradox. Stay with me for a minute. 

Jesus was 100% man just as He is also 100% God. Scripture refers to God as being Light and says there is no darkness found in Him (1 John 1:5). This only makes sense. You turn on a light switch and the darkness flees. In much the same way, God does not dwell in sin. Where God is, sin is not. Obviously, God is omnipresent (Psalm 139:7-10) so I am not referring to His physical location as much as I am His relationship with the person being tempted to sin. We know Jesus did not sin but I believe it is just as accurate to say He could not sin either. In the Old Testament, a man was required to sacrifice his best animal to God. He would select an animal without any blemishes at all and sacrifice its flesh. In the same way, Christ was used as sinless flesh to be a sacrifice for mankind. His whole purpose for life was to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8) and bring glory to the Father (John 17:1-5). The method in which He would accomplish this was by dying on the cross. He was the ultimate sacrifice. He was the flesh that beat the world. He was the flesh that Satan had no control over. Satan tried and failed miserably because he had no hold (John 14:30). This was one piece of flesh that could not sin because it also belonged to the One who is 100% God.

Despite this, some will say He could have sinned because He was fully man but that He merely did not because He was fully God. But that ends up being the same as claiming God can sin but He merely chooses not to. That would be an extremely dangerous and low view of God. It’s not that He chooses not to sin. It’s that He cannot sin because it is against the very nature of who He is. That means if God cannot sin, Jesus did not merely choose not to sin either. It means He was incapable of sinning. Most people would consider it blasphemy to claim that God could sin so why don’t they say the same about Christ? Jesus either is God or He isn’t. If Jesus had been capable of sinning and, in his capability, did sin, would He stop being God? The answer is a resounding ‘yes’ as God cannot sin. As He is God, He did not sin. Just as He could never stop being God, not only would He have never sinned, but He would have been incapable of sinning. Yes, he was a man. Man can sin. Man also is not God. Jesus was both. Sorry, but God wins out over the flesh in every instance including this one. Jesus was flesh-natured in the sense that He was a human but He was lacking sin because He was also God. When I say flesh-natured, do not confuse this with a sinful nature. Human nature and sin nature are not always glued together. Where Adam was prone to failure, Jesus was not. He was in full communion with God as the perfect man because He is also our perfect God.

To understand this doctrine, one must understand what defines a man. Is it the ability to sin which defines him? Is it a fallen nature? I would say it’s neither. It is our flesh which defines us. Can one claim a stillborn is less human than a healthy baby? Certainly not! Just because one does not sin does not make him an alien. Jesus could not sin but this did not make him any less of a man. He was flesh through and through (Luke 24:39) who experienced the same things as His fellow man (Hebrews 4:15).

One argument that always comes up is the issue of temptation. Some will ask why Satan bothered to tempt Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11) if He could not have sinned. Satan had to have known he could not beat God yet he (and a third of the angels) attempted anyway. I believe history was repeating itself and Satan was trying to get Jesus to fall but because sin is so far removed from God, it was an effort in futility. It is a prime example of flesh stomping Satan at his own game. He knows he can’t win but he is going to try to cause as much of a disruption as possible. While Satan is not omniscient, he was initially created by God to be an angel in heaven. As a result, it is safe to assume he knew of God’s might as he was around when the heavens and earth were created. He was a firsthand witness to God’s omnipotence.

We are to follow Jesus and strive to be like Him, but that does not mean Jesus had to have been able to sin like us. It also doesn’t mean we will ever achieve sinless perfection this side of heaven. In the Old Testament, people were to follow God’s commands and remain pure (Leviticus 11:44). They did not have Jesus to follow. They only had their faith in God. God could not sin yet they were to follow Him anyway. The same goes for Jesus. Jesus could not have sinned (because he is also fully God) but we are still to follow Him. Following Jesus is the same as following God’s commands. It just takes it a step further by allowing us a way to be reconciled to God.

Let’s go back to the story of Jesus being tempted by Satan in the wilderness. As I went over, some say if Jesus could have been tempted, He must have at least had the ability to sin. On the other hand, I have said that since Jesus is God, there was no way He could have sinned. To this some might ask how He was able to be tempted in the wilderness (Mark 1:13) if He was incapable of sinning or succumbing to the temptation. Even the Old Testament speaks of the temptation of God in the wilderness (Psalm 106:14). I think it’s important to look at the original Hebrew and Greek words that we see translated as ‘tempted’ in both verses.

Psalm 106:14 Usage
nāsâנָסָה
1) to test, try, prove, tempt, assay, put to the proof or test

Mark 1:13 Usage
peirazōπειράζω
1) to try whether a thing can be done
a) to attempt, endeavor
2) to try, make trial of, test: for the purpose of ascertaining his quantity, or what he thinks, or how he will behave himself

Temptation does not affect one unless his heart is outside of God’s commands and only has a hold on one with a sinful nature. In my youth, I used to think Jesus would have had this sinful nature being born of man. What I failed to realize is that Jesus was not born with a spirit of man. He was conceived and born from the Spirit of God (Matthew 1:18-20). This would not carry with it the same sinful nature that mankind possesses but it does not make Jesus any less of a man. If temptation held no power over Jesus, while being true temptation in the sense of testing, it was not a vicious struggle in the way we think of it. This is because Christ’s desires were pure and righteous. It was more of an attempt to get Him to fall, but His heart was always in the right place so temptation could never have been any more than weak attempts to Him.

As a man, Jesus should have had the ability to sin but since He was born from the Spirit of God (and actually is God), He could not have sinned because temptation was so far removed from Him that it made it impossible. Satan put him to the test. Jesus passed with flying colors just as God did when the nation of Israel tempted Him (Number 14:22, Psalm 106:14). This does not mean either could have fallen into sin. It simply means they did not. Gee, I wonder why!

~ Travis W. Rogers

Jesus in Hell? Where Did He Go?

How many of you clicked this because of the title? It’s okay. You can admit it. Yes, you read it right. While it may sound blasphemous to one without understanding, by the end of this article, it may actually sound like solid doctrine. This subject was brought up in a recent episode of The Particular Baptist podcast and I wanted to flesh it out a bit more for the blog.

We always say that God loved us so much that he gave His son to die on the cross but how many of us really stop to think about it? We all know Jesus died and rose again three days later, but most people don’t really think about the time in between.

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
the Maker of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:
Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;
He descended into hell.
The third day He arose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven,
and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost;
the holy catholic church;
the communion of saints;
the forgiveness of sinsa;
the resurrection of the body;
and the life everlasting.
Amen.

The Apostles Creed

Before going any further, I will admit there have been varied interpretations of this over the years. Among Particular Baptists, Hercules Collins’ An Orthodox Catechism is a favored work. Question 23 of the catechism recognizes the Apostle’s Creed as one of our articles of faith. Question 44 attempts to answer the question of what “He descended into hell” actually means. While being a helpful work, I do believe Collins got this one wrong. In response to why the Creed has that line, Answer 44 says,

“To assure me in times of personal crisis and temptation that Christ my Lord, by suffering unspeakable anguish, pain, and terror of soul, especially on the cross but also earlier, has delivered me from the anguish and torment of hell.”

Hercules Collins, An Orthodox Catechism

According to Collins, the “hell” being spoken of was nothing more than the “anguish, pain, and terror of soul” that Christ went through both on the cross and in the events leading up to it. By Him experiencing hellish torment and anguish, He has saved us from actual hell with eternal torment. I just don’t feel this adds up and I can’t help but think this is just one of the many ways Christians try to avoid the difficult-to-grasp truth of what I believe to be plainly taught in Scripture.

Not only did God send His Son to die on the cross, but He also sent His Son to hell for three days. Now, I want to clarify when I say hell. I’m not referring to a place of torment that we know it as. In English, we are very limited in our wording (for instance, our one word for love versus the four words in ancient Greek). When I say hell, I am actually referring to Hades, the Greek abode of the dead. I’m merely referring to it as “hell” for familiarity’s sake, as this is what the vast majority know it as. Please keep this in mind as you see the many references to hell in this article. As a whole, Hades did not refer to a place of suffering nor did it refer to a place of peace. It was simply the storage location, or abode, of the dead. The Hebrews believed in the same place, only they called it Sheol.

At this point, no human was in heaven since the only way in is through the Son (John 14:6). The only other place for Him to have gone during those three days was Hades. It was simply where all human souls went after they died. Imagine how happy Satan must’ve felt when he thought he had triumphed only to be proven wrong a few days later. Ever wonder what Jesus went through during those three days? Really stop to think about it. God loves us beyond our comprehension!

Some may ask why God would send His only begotten Son to hell for even one day let alone three. I’m not one to guess why God set up the timeline the way He did but I am willing to bet the three days wasn’t meant to “work off” any sin as if he were in some form of purgatory.

And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him. (Hebrews 9:27-28, NASB)

Jesus bore the sins of the entire world. He was condemned as guilty and unsanctified despite having committed no crime. Though never becoming a sinner, His righteousness was imputed to us while, at the same time, our guilt and shame was imputed to Him. Sin must be punished. Due to God being just, He issues no waivers. Sin will, and must, be dealt with according to His standard set forth from eternity. Our debt could not be brushed to the side. Jesus did more than declare us innocent. He transferred His innocence upon us while, simultaneously, transferring our guilt upon Himself. Because of this, He died and went to Hades. God’s timeline said three days later He would rise. I don’t know why He picked three days but He did and that’s that. Jesus’ judgment was hell just as any others would have been. God had His plan for Jesus to rise. After He had risen, He was in a glorified state, free of any filth of imputed sin. He had already died and received judgment. Now, He was alive for the second time. It was an entirely new life. It was a life that would never again see the sting of death.

And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, (Hebrews 9:27, NASB)

As it is appointed unto man once to die. Jesus had defeated death, risen from the grave, and visited his disciples one last time before rejoining his Father in Heaven. I say rejoined because He was there since the beginning (Genesis 1:26).

To understand why Jesus went to hell, we must understand the reasons people go there:

  • They do not trust in Christ as their Savior. They do not believe that He was the Son of God who died on the cross for our sins and rose again on the third day.
  • They cannot enter heaven blemished with sin.
  • They have not repented of their sins and turned in faith to Christ as the ultimate sacrifice.

A friend once attempted to prove this wrong by saying it was the blood of Christ that washes away our sins. In and of itself, this is correct theology. The point he was trying to make was that since Christ had already shed His blood, He no longer had a need to go to hell because His blood covered it all while He was still on the cross. The same argument was used for the thief on the cross. The problem with this is that, while the new covenant was established upon His death, the captives were not set free until Jesus had risen from the dead (Ephesians 4:8). We can believe Jesus was who He said he was all we want but unless we also believe that He conquered death by rising from the grave on the third day, one is not truly saved. That is a vital part to our salvation!

Jesus did not have to deny God or Himself as He is God (John 10:30). The reasons I gave previously were all reasons why men go to hell. Points one and three above cover point two now that He is raised, but Jesus was still bound by one simple fact. Yes, He had already died but He had not yet risen. He died just as any other man under the old covenant. It was once He had risen that the new covenant began and He was brought up into Heaven.

Now that we have a biblical understanding of what the requirements of entry into heaven are, we can focus on the biblical support for Jesus in Hades. 

Now this expression, "He ascended," what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things. (Ephesians 4:9-10, NASB)
for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matthew 12:40, NASB)
“Now it came about that the poor man died and he was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s Bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue; for I am in agony in this flame.’” (Luke 16:22-24)

While many respected theologians throughout the years have interpreted “the lower parts of the earth” to be Jesus’ condescension through the incarnation coupled with the suffering he underwent in the crucifixion, I don’t believe this is sound for a number of reasons. During the times of Jesus, it was a normal belief that Hades was located deep within the Earth. Hades was broken into two parts. There was a place of torment and a place where there was peace. Before the death and resurrection of Christ, the faithful went to a temporary holding place of peace. The unfaithful went to a place where there was torment and suffering. This temporary holding place was not purgatory. It was not meant to work off the sins of the flesh. We also know Heaven is a place of eternity and not merely temporary. This place was meant to act as a holding area for those Old Testament saints awaiting the death and resurrection of Christ so that they might gain access to Heaven. This place was known as Paradise, or Abraham’s Bosom. Those with faith were in Paradise and those without faith were in a place of tormenting flames; a precursor to the Lake of Fire called Gehenna.

To further elaborate, picture the afterlife as four separate chambers. These chambers consist of:

  • Heaven
  • Sheol/Hades (non-tormenting side)
  • Sheol/Hades (tormenting side)
  • Gehenna/Tartarus (the actual fiery Hell)

Prior to the cross, both heaven and Gehenna were devoid of humans. No man had been granted entrance into heaven yet the final condemnation to the flames of Gehenna had not been carried out either. Upon the resurrection of Christ, both Gehenna and the non-tormenting side of Hades were empty. While Christ redeemed those in Abraham’s Bosom, those in the tormenting side of Hades remained. Their final condemnation to Gehenna still awaits. Only upon the second coming of Christ will both sides of Hades finally be empty and everyone in their eternal residence. Those with faith in Christ will continue to be in the presence of the Lord. However, those who rejected the Savior will finally see weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 22:13) in the fires of Gehenna for all eternity.

Looking back at Matthew 12:40, some have tried to say it was likely speaking of a cave or a tomb in which Jesus’ body was kept. I would like to take a moment to explain why this was not the case. The tomb of Jesus would have been more of a cave. The heart of the earth is hardly a hole in a mountain. The word used for” heart” is the Greek word kardia. It was used in the sense of being the center of the earth and to say the entire earth comes from it. Kardia is certainly not being used to speak of a tomb. It speaks of the center of the earth. The kardia of the earth is referencing Hades, the location that was once believed to be in the center of the earth.

We all remember the story of the thief on the cross. Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” The thief went with Jesus, as well as all the rest of the Old Testament saints, to Hades. Yes, they went to Hades. No, they did not go to be tormented. As Jesus said, they went to Paradise; the non-tormenting part of Hades, the abode of the dead.

What do we know as of now?

1) Jesus was in the grave for three days.

2) Jesus descended into the lower parts of the earth.

3) Jesus was going to be in Paradise the day of His death.

4) Jesus was in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.

Based on this information, we can see Jesus spent three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Since this was the exact same amount of time His body was in the grave, we can conclude that if He was in Paradise on one of those days, Paradise would have to be in the heart of the earth. The only way to heaven is through the Son. It is not simply a belief in the Son that grants us access. It is belief in who the Son is as well as belief in what took place in the death and resurrection. Before this process was complete, man had no way into heaven. It was not until the resurrection that Paradise was relocated into heaven and all the saints from that day forth could share in the Glory of God in heaven. For those who may want to argue that Paradise has not been relocated to heaven and that it still resides in Hades, they must first explain how believers who die will be absent from the body and at home with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). After all, He’s no longer in Hades. Additionally, I believe this is what the dead saints rising in Matthew 27:53 after his resurrection is evidence that the Old Testament saints are no longer in Hades. When Christ ascended, so did they (Ephesians 4:8). While it is true that we will still go to Paradise upon death, Paradise is now located in heaven with the Lord.

In which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, (1 Peter 3:19-20a, NASB)

What exactly did Jesus do during His three days in Hades? 1 Peter makes mention of Jesus proclaiming the truth to the spirits in prison. These spirits were characterized as being disobedient. The Old Testament saints that went to Abraham’s Bosom certainly were not characterized by disobedience. Their obedience and faithfulness was the thing that saved them. They just had to wait for Christ before they could enter the kingdom of heaven. Verse 19 also says the spirits were in prison. Prison is a place where you go as a result of wrongdoing. You break the law and you go to prison. The demons and disobedient people of the world both broke the law of God. As a result, they would have been imprisoned in Hades awaiting the final judgment of God when all of Hades is cast into the lake of fire: Gehenna (Mark 9:43, Revelation 20:14).

For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment; (2 Peter 2:4, NASB)

The fallen angels are in prison. The NASB uses the word “pits” but, if you look, the KJV uses the word “chains” in their translation. The Greek word for this was σειρά (seira). It literally meant a line, rope, or chain. The fallen angels, as well as disobedient people, are in chains in prison.

When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man And He placed His right hand on me, saying, "Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades. (Revelation 1:17-18, NASB)

Jesus conquered death. Death no longer has any hold over a Christian. Sure, we will all die. The difference is that we will live in heaven because we have been reconciled to God through Christ. Christ is the only way to heaven. What of the people from the Old Testament? Did they go to heaven? I would have to say no. They performed sacrifices but this was a continued action. Christ cannot be compared to an animal. He is called the Lamb of God but He was so much more than that. No mere animal could cleanse the way Christ did. I fully believe the Old Testament saints went to Paradise as a place of storage awaiting the death of Christ. Even more, I believe they stayed there until the resurrection. While they were saved through the same faith as New Testament believers, it was not until Jesus rose from the grave that He truly defeated death.

Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'" (John 20:17, NIV)

This has commonly been misinterpreted to mean Jesus had to remain pure and did not want anyone to touch him. The problem with that interpretation is that it is in direct contradiction with John 20:27 when Jesus told Thomas to touch his wounds. In truth, Jesus was telling Mary not to cling to him. He was telling her to not expect His presence to continue for much longer for He had not yet returned to the Father but would soon be doing so. This brings me to my point. Jesus rose on the third day. Up until this point, He had not yet returned to His Father. He had not rejoined God in Heaven as of yet. Well, where was He then? He was in Paradise during this time. After the third day, He rose from the dead, saw His apostles along with hundreds of others, and joined God in Heaven.

Looking back, we see a few things:

1) The kardia of the earth is Hades and not a hole in a mountain.

2) Jesus preached to the spirits in prison.

3) The spirits in prison are the fallen angels and those who rejected God.

4) Jesus had not yet returned to the Father.

The very basis of the disbelief in Jesus going to Hell for three days is:

1) People do not want to believe Paradise was a section of Hades.

2) People refuse to believe Jesus (being God) could go to Hades.

There is no biblical evidence stating that Jesus did not go to Hades. On the other hand, the biblical evidence is stacked saying He did. Ask yourself these questions: If He had not yet returned to the Father, where was He those three days? What spirits in prison was He preaching to? Why would Scripture speak of the center of the earth?

If He was in a tomb that whole time, He would not have been able to preach to anyone. This is another sign that the kardia of the earth is not speaking of the tomb of Jesus. Jesus was preaching to the spirits in prison. He was in the kardia of the earth while doing it. He had not yet returned to the Father. That only leaves one place and it makes perfect sense biblically.

The doctrine of Jesus in hell (Hades) is both a very biblical and accurate teaching. I do not believe He went there to suffer in pain. I believe He went there as a result of the sin of the world being on Him. It was the same reason any of the other Old Testament saints went there. They placed their faith in God but they still owed the penalty of sin. Jesus was spotless up until the point that He became the ultimate sacrifice and took the sin of the world upon Himself as our substitutionary atonement (2 Corinthians 5:21). He then went to Paradise and rose three days later, defeating death once for all.

~ Travis W. Rogers

Roman Catholics: Mission Field or Family?

In this article, I want to bring something to the table that has confused many people over the years. It is a controversial discussion. It is a topic that many people feel they know the basics of but fall short when asked for an explanation. The subject is whether Roman Catholicism should be considered a valid option when it comes to matters of Christian faith. Specifically, it is whether Romans Catholics are brothers and sisters in Christ, or if they are the mission field. I want to let it be known that nothing said here is meant to belittle anybody else as a person. It is simply meant to inform so that you will never again be without an appropriate response when presented the title question.

Beginning in 1985, there was a movement. This movement was called Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT). In 1994, there were many people of both Protestant and Catholic persuasion who signed an official document. The purpose of the ECT was to work together for the common good. Although they may have had their differences, they believed they were following the same Christ. Instead of fighting each other, they desired to work for the common good and share Christ with others. On the surface, this seems like a great idea. If we all worship the same Christ, why not work together? It was a joint effort to stop treating each other like the mission field. However, this simply is not possible regardless of what piece of paper is signed so long as each party holds their beliefs unwavering. There are simply too many irreconcilable differences.

To realize why it is impossible, a Protestant must only look at his own name. The key word is protest. There are some very clear things being protested among us Protestants. In fact, the Catholic Church had some very strong things to protest as well toward us. In the 1500’s, over the course of 18 years, a council took place to put together an official statement. This assembly was known as the Council of Trent. Protestantism was gaining popularity in the way it held dear to Scripture alone (Sola Scriptura) and did not place Church Tradition on the same level of authority as the Catholic Church had done.

…the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 82

The Council of Trent had it in mind to put a stop to the Sola Scriptura Reformers. In their attempt, they declared 125 anathemas. Dictionary.com defines anathema as, “a person or thing accursed or consigned to damnation or destruction.” However, words have meaning. Many Catholics contend that being outside of the visible Catholic Church does not automatically equate to Hell. That said, if there is truly “no salvation outside of the Church,” and one is in open opposition to the teachings of the Catholic Church, the orthodox Catholic position is that such a person is a heretic with no salvation. In other words, the Catholic Church gave 125 different ways a self-proclaiming Protestants can be eternally cut off and cursed by God. We are going to review a few of those ways and then learn the truth.

If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.

Canon 9, Justification

In other words, if you believe you are justified by faith alone and that there is no work we can possibly do to justify ourselves, you are eternally cursed and cut off from God. Yet, Scripture is clear that no works of the Law can justify (Romans 3:20), and that man is justified by faith, apart from works of the Law (Romans 3:28). We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8), “not on the basis of deeds done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). The Law does not justify us. If anything, it does the exact opposite. It shows how there is nothing we can do to justify ourselves. It shows our total depravity and dependence on God. It gives us knowledge of sin. It shines light on sin so that we can see it for what it really is and how impossible it is to be justified apart from God or by anything else other than God.

If any one saith, that a man once justified can sin no more, nor lose grace, and that therefore he that falls and sins was never truly justified; or, on the other hand, that he is able, during his whole life, to avoid all sins, even those that are venial,- except by a special privilege from God, as the Church holds in regard of the Blessed Virgin; let him be anathema.

Canon 23, Justification

Canon 23 says it is possible, indeed likely, to lose your salvation. If you say it is impossible to lose your salvation and that one who falls away from the faith was never truly saved to begin with, be eternally cursed by God. Yet, John tells us that all who permanently depart from the faith actually had no faith at all (1 John 2:19), and that he who believes in the Son has eternal life (John 3:36) and will be raised on the last day (John 6:40). All with faith will persevere and none will be snatched out of His hand (John 10:28). Salvation is not something which is here today and gone tomorrow. It is eternal. What good is eternity if it is only temporary and always changing? The answer is that it isn’t. Thankfully, Scripture promises something quite different: a man who has obtained salvation through faith will remain secure in his salvation until the end.

If any one saith, that the justice received is not preserved and also increased before God through good works; but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of Justification obtained, but not a cause of the increase thereof; let him be anathema.

Canon 24, Justification

The Council of Trent declares that good works are not merely the fruit of a Christian but are actually a method of obtaining justification. If you believe the former and not the latter, you are eternally cursed by God. If good works are more than just fruit and do indeed justify, why is it that Paul so clearly states otherwise in Galatians? Does the Catholic Church now charge Paul with being a liar? He tells us we are to not be subject to a yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1). By putting our faith and hope of justification in works, we are binding ourselves to them. We are hoping we will perform well enough so that we might one day be considered justified. Paul rebukes the Galatians for this. He calls them foolish to think something that was started by the Spirit could be made perfect by our own doing in the flesh (Galatians 3:1-3). Justification is by Christ alone. Those whom He calls, He justifies (Romans 8:30). Our own works have nothing to do with it.

If any one saith, that, after the grace of Justification has been received, to every penitent sinner the guilt is remitted, and the debt of eternal punishment is blotted out in such wise, that there remains not any debt of temporal punishment to be discharged either in this world, or in the next in Purgatory, before the entrance to the kingdom of heaven can be opened (to him); let him be anathema.

Canon 30, Justification

In other words, if you believe the blood of Christ fully cleanses and does not leave some form of spot or blemish in which we must purify ourselves of in the fires of purgatory, you are anathema. That’s great and all, but what does the Bible actually say on the matter? It says we are forgiven of all of our transgressions. Christ canceled out all of our debt (Colossians 2:13-14). He rescued us from the domain of darkness; from Hell (Colossians 1:13). While we are not to sin, even if we do, we have an Advocate in Christ (1 John 2:1). That is in the current tense. We currently have an Advocate making intercession for us at all times. Every little thing that might be held against us is nailed to the cross. As a result, we are fully justified and declared “not guilty” before the eyes of God. In Christ, we have been made complete (Colossians 2:10).

If any one saith, that the sacrifice of the mass is only a sacrifice of praise and of thanksgiving; or, that it is a bare commemoration of the sacrifice consummated on the cross, but not a propitiatory sacrifice; or, that it profits him only who receives; and that it ought not to be offered for the living and the dead for sins, pains, satisfactions, and other necessities; let him be anathema.

Canon 3, The Sacrifice of the Mass

To understand, the Catholic Mass would be similar to our communion. Another name for it is the Eucharist. In other words, if you do not believe that communion is a sacrifice of Jesus, you are condemned. If you do not believe that communion is profitable for the dead as well as the living, you are damned. If you do not believe that communion is a means of propitiation, you are cursed. If you believe communion to be merely symbolic and not the imparting of grace, you are eternally cut off from the Father. Here are some quotes from official Catholic teaching:

The mass is the sacrifice of the new law in which Christ, through the Ministry of the priest, offers himself to God in an unbloody manner under the appearances of bread and wine. The mass is the sacrifice of Christ offered in a sacramental manner…the reality is the same but the appearances differ.

New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism, Vol 2 Question 357

Their catechism clearly teaches that the mass is a sacrifice of Christ. Now the question remains as to what they mean by sacrifice. Thankfully, they answer this question:

A sacrifice is the offering of a victim by a priest to God alone, and the destruction of it in some way to acknowledge that he is the creator of all things.

New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism, Vol 2 Question 358

Based on those two statements alone, we can clearly see the mass is the sacrifice of Christ, their victim, which a priest offers up to God countless times over and over again to purposefully destroy him on the altar. Unfortunately, there is more.

The sacrifice of Christ the only Mediator, which in the Eucharist is offered through the priests’ hands,

Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1369

How is it that they can possibly be proud to claim something so vile and disgusting? The Roman Catholic Church attempts to use Scripture to back itself up but it fails miserably. They use verses such as Matthew 26:26-28 and Luke 22:19 in an attempt to justify their position. Instead of taking this as a command to perform communion on remembrance of the death of Christ, the Romans Catholic Church teaches that Christ was passing on a sacrament to the apostles and their succeeding priests, and was giving them the power to transform the bread and wine into the literal flesh and blood of Christ. As we read, they do not teach that it is bread and wine, but literal flesh and blood that only appears to be bread and wine, although the bread and wine is no more. This is where the priest comes into play with his sacrifice. He goes to the altar where the bread and wine await him. He lifts it up to the sky in the action of raising it to God. He then brings it down and offers it to the people. According to their teaching, it is not bread and wine that he offers up but is literally Christ being sacrificed by the priest under the appearance of bread and wine. The Catholic Church does not deny that Christ alone is our propitiation. However, with their teaching of the Mass, it allows them to claim propitiation in the act of the priest for it is Christ being sacrificed.

According to Scripture, Christ died once for all (Hebrews 7:26-27). There was no need for countless reoccurrence as was the habit of the priests. We are told the repetitious sacrifices are in vain as they can never take away sins (Hebrews 10:1, 10-12). If Christ died once for all, who is it that the Catholic priests are sacrificing? It is bad enough that they claim to sacrifice Christ countless times over but it is even worse that they are lifting up someone other than Christ since we know Christ was only sacrificed once, and that was by God. Once was sufficient. Once for all. The one they are lifting up certainly is not our Lord. The whole concept of the Mass is an extremely anti-biblical, pagan, and dare I say, satanic practice.

The Catholic Church will deny their claim that they re-sacrifice Christ over and over. They do this because the claim of repetitious sacrificing completely goes against the Scripture that says he was sacrificed once for all. They instead say that they are simply re-presenting the one-time sacrifice of Christ. Despite these claims, this is not what they teach.

For it is in the liturgy, especially in the divine sacrifice of the Eucharist, that “the work of our redemption is accomplished”

Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1068

The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice

Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1367

By their own admission, they go against Scripture. However, they will never claim error because they believe they are preserved from such. They can never be wrong in their doctrine or dogmas (even if such a position is circular reasoning). They clearly teach a sacrifice of Christ and will never recant these teachings for to do so would crumble the whole system. If one thing is admitted to be wrong, how many countless other things are wrong as well? Again, if Christ is not being sacrificed over and over again (as per the Scriptures), who is it that they are lifting up week after week all over the world?

If any one saith, that, by the Catholic doctrine touching Justification, by this holy Synod inset forth in this present decree, the glory of God, or the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ are in any way derogated from, and not rather that the truth of our faith, and the glory in fine of God and of Jesus Christ are rendered (more) illustrious; let him be anathema.

Canon 33, Justification

In other words, if you disagree with even one jot or tittle of the declarations and teachings of the Catholic priesthood, you are eternally cut off from the glory of Heaven, eternally cursed by God, and are destined for Hell. I must be in big trouble then because I denounce every single one of those and I have the truth of Scripture to bring me confidence in these matters. One may ask if the Catholic Church still holds to these teachings. Wouldn’t it be highly possible that they would have renounced these absurd teachings so many years after the Reformation? After all, if the entire purpose of them was to scare people from leaving the Roman Catholic Church during a time when so many were converting to Protestantism, shouldn’t changes in culture have allowed for a more lenient view by now? Despite the time that has passed, the Roman Catholic Church still clings to each and every declaration of the Council of Trent. In fact, it was only 61 years ago that Pope John XXIII affirmed them. To say otherwise is to go against the very core of Catholic teaching.

but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth. (1 Timothy 3:15, NASB)

I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. (Matthew 16:18, NASB)

They teach that they are Christ’s one true church and that they are preserved from error. They claim the truth abides with them and that they will never teach doctrinal error because the gates of Hell will not overpower Christ’s Church. Because of this, nothing they declare as doctrine, dogma, anathema, and especially ex cathedra will ever be wrong. As a result, instead of preserving the truth, they have done nothing more than preserve error upon error under a system of works.

I have only touched on a few of the decrees from the Council of Trent. According to the Roman Catholic teachings, a few other things that will get you booted to Hell include:

1) Rejecting the Apocrypha as being the inspired Word of God

2) Saying baptism is not a requirement for salvation

3) Claiming infant baptism is wrong

4) Believing confirmation is just a ceremony and not a sacrament that imputes grace

5) Denying penance

6) Denying the priesthood

7) Denying the doctrine of purgatory

Where exactly does the grace of God ever come into play in all of these preposterous claims?

The Mass is the sum and substance of our faith.

Pope Benedict XVI

If the Mass is the substance of faith, the Catholic Church does not have saving faith. The Mass lifts up someone they call Christ but is not actually Jesus. It worships a counterfeit and makes sacrifice after sacrifice of this counterfeit Christ. Again, how can this be the substance of faith? It follows after a system of legalistic works that teach you can earn your salvation as if by merit (in addition to faith) so long as you follow their rituals and make payment on time. It teaches that there is some other way of justification and some other source of propitiation and then places it at the feet of the priest who lifts it up to a false god. No, the Catholic Church cannot be considered a valid alternative. It cannot even be defined as a Christian denomination any more than Mormonism or Jehovah’s Witnesses can be. Their counterfeit Jesus is not an all-sufficient Savior but merely a person who helps them to save themselves.

All that said, please keep in mind that not everyone in the Catholic Church fully affirm its teachings. Some people know the truth for what it is but do not see the harm in staying in the local Catholic church they grew up in. Being in a local Catholic church is not the same as being a part of the Catholic Church, or a devout follower of Catholic teaching. If you know anybody in this predicament, I urge you to speak with him or her on the importance of leaving. While it may seem harmless, I hope the examples brought to you in this short article can show how it is far from safe. It is very dangerous and we need to understand why. It is the mission field through and through.

~ Travis W. Rogers

CHRISTMAS: A Reason to Celebrate

CHRISTMAS. It’s a time of rejoicing. It’s a time for family to be together. It’s a time for opening gifts. It’s a time for seeing others open gifts. It’s a time for setting our diets to the side. It’s a time to relax. While it has become all these things, it is really so much more.

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. 19 And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. (Matthew 1:18-19, NASB)

The birth of Jesus was not your average trip to the hospital. In fact, there was nothing normal about it at all. Even from the beginning, it was unique. The verses above begin by telling us that Joseph was engaged to be married to Mary. In those days, marriages were arranged most times. The groom or his family paid a price to the bride’s family that covered expenses of the wedding ceremony as well as other areas. The betrothal, or kiddushin, was actually enough to legally bind the bride and groom in marriage. Despite this, the couple would not have sexual relations for quite some time to come. In some cases, this could span the course of even a year. This would not normally occur until the marriage ceremony, or huppah, took place. They were already in the betrothed stage but had not yet come together in a sexual sense as is indicated in the text.

Despite this, we find that Mary was found to be with child. Joseph’s natural reaction was that he had been cheated on. There were a few options with him at this point. Old Testament Law, which they were under, stated Joseph had every right to take Mary out in public and stone her to death. If her adulterer was ever to be found, he would join her in death by stoning (Deuteronomy 22:23-24). Should he not desire her death, he could have at the very least made her ashamed for the rest of her life by leading a life marked of adultery. However, notice that Joseph does not appear to harbor any anger or resentment. He did not desire to publicly shame her or have her stoned. Not only was he a righteous man, but he also loved her. This love is evident by the fact that he desired to put her away secretly. Remember, they were already legally married although the ceremony and the consummation had not yet taken place. The word used for “send her away” literally meant a secret divorce. He loved her enough that despite being “cheated” on, he desired her safety. He would divorce her secretly and buy her some time before the public realized what had happened. However, God had other plans.

20 But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 “BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US.” (Matthew 1:20-23, NASB)

Joseph was afraid and rightly so. He assumed he had been cheated on, as they had not had sexual relations, yet she was pregnant. He was to have her stoned to death under the Law, yet he still loved her and cared for her safety. He was about to lose his wife to adultery before the ceremony could even take place. This, in turn, would embarrass him as well. God took all these fears and put him at ease. He sent an angel to Joseph to appear to him in a dream. This one spot in Scripture is a very important passage. He tells Joseph that Mary did not cheat on him and that the baby was actually conceived of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, being a righteous man, would have known Scripture very well. It was not simply casual reading for them. It was a way of life filled with study and memorization from childhood. The angel quoted Isaiah. The virgin birth was actually prophesied some 650 years prior. Furthermore, the name prophesied by Isaiah was Immanuel which means “God with us.” This name means more than they could have guessed. Not only is God with us but he literally came to be with us in the flesh.

24 And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, 25 but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus. (Matthew 1:24-25, NASB)

Imagine the relief that must have followed upon waking! Scripture doesn’t say he deliberated in what to do. It says he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and he took Mary as his wife. The ceremony, or huppah, took place. At this point, he had every right to have sexual relations with his wife. Despite this, we are told they refrained from doing so. We are told he kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son. Despite the teaching of the Roman Catholic institution, it’s safe to say he didn’t refrain from natural marriage relations forever as the text says that it was only until she gave birth. Not to mention, Scripture gives the names of other children of Mary. However, Jesus was different. While Joseph was His legal father, His natural Father was of Heaven above. The baby’s name was Jesus and, according to the angel, He was going to save His people from their sins.

No, Jesus was not just your ordinary pregnancy and birth. He was unique in every way. It had to be so in order to fulfill the prophecy declared all throughout the Old Testament. Jesus matched every single prophecy and not one was overlooked. This is because He is who the Bible claims Him to be: God in the flesh sent not to condemn the world but to save it.

My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning…… All who see me sneer at me; They separate with the lip, they wag the head, saying, “Commit yourself to the LORD; let Him deliver him; Let Him rescue him, because He delights in him.”……. For dogs have surrounded me; A band of evildoers has encompassed me; They pierced my hands and my feet……. They divide my garments among them, And for my clothing they cast lots. (Psalm 22: 1, 7-8, 16, & 18)

About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?” that is, “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?” (Matthew 27:46, NASB)

And the people stood by, looking on. And even the rulers were sneering at Him, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One.” (Luke 23:35, NASB)

So the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”……….. Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” (John 20:25 & 27)

And when they had crucified Him, they divided up His garments among themselves by casting lots. (Matthew 27:35, NASB)

He keeps all his bones, not one of them is broken. (Psalm 34:20, NASB)

So the soldiers came, and broke the legs of the first man and of the other who was crucified with Him; (John 19:32, NASB)

Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me. (Psalm 41:9, NASB)

I do not speak of all of you I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘HE WHO EATS MY BREAD HAS LIFTED UP HIS HEEL AGAINST ME.’ (John 13:18, NASB)

While we are all on this Earth trying to live our lives, Jesus came to this Earth to glorify the Father by dying for our lives. This is the real reason for the season. Presents and family time are fun and can even be an important time of togetherness, but we should never let it overshadow why it is we even have a season to celebrate. It’s because of this one baby boy born under the most peculiar of circumstances so that we might one day have eternal life through Him. I urge you all to ponder this thought as we prepare to celebrate the most important birthday party in all of history. Merry Christmas!

~ Travis W. Rogers

What Are You Thankful For?

THANKSGIVING. It’s finally over. The food was cooked, everybody is still full from Thursday, and there are enough leftovers to carry us into 2021. Perhaps, as you sat around the table, you may have partaken in the tradition of going around the room as each person shared one thing he or she is thankful for. If you’re anything like me, that’s one of the most stressful parts of the entire day. I always wonder if my answer will sound too shallow or if I’ll forget something important. Heaven forbid someone else take my answer and leave me scrambling for a new original answer! Okay, I may be exaggerating a little bit, but the point remains. Why is it often so difficult to give thanks? As I think back on hearing the prayers of my daughter when she was just a wee thing, I think about how innocent she was. She would spend several minutes just thanking God for everything…and I mean everything. She’d thank Him for family, our pets, fresh air, cars to drive in, sidewalks to walk on so we don’t get hit by cars, the random rock she saw and kicked, the dirt for earthworms to live in, etc. It just came so easy and, best of all, it was a heartfelt and genuine thankfulness for all that God has made.

Perhaps innocence has more to do with it than we would think. In the garden, Adam and Eve were truly innocent and all was good (Genesis 1:31). According to Scripture, everything that has breath is to praise the Lord (Psalm 150:6). Yet, as soon as sin entered the world, instead of joyful innocent and a heart of thanksgiving, we see shame and blame taking center stage (Genesis 3:8-12). Instead of thanking God for His goodness, Adam blamed Him for giving him Eve. Imagine standing around the dinner table taking pot shots at everyone instead of giving thanks. It sounds like a miserable gathering. Why, then, do we often find ourselves treating our gathering to God in such a way? Have we lost our joy (Psalm 68:3)? Have we forsaken our innocence (Matthew 10:16)?

Just because the holiday will soon fade away to the previous page of the calendar, that doesn’t mean our season of thanksgiving should fade away into obscurity as well. We have so much to be thankful for! There are two passages in particular that, when used in conjunction, should invoke a sense of pure thankfulness that never ceases.

The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Matthew 13:41-42, NASB

By this the love of God was revealed in us, that God has sent His only Son into the world so that we may live through Him.

1 John 4:9, NASB

God owes us nothing. He created us, charged us with a heavenly charge, and we utterly failed. He would be perfectly to simply destroy us. However, in His mercy and love, He glorifies Himself in a way that benefits us greatly. By the Father sending the Son to suffer a gruesome beating that culminated in His death, Christ’s blood was shed for the remission of our sins (Hebrews 9:22) that we may spend eternity giving honor, glory, and praise (Revelation 7:12). As believers in the risen Christ, that eternity begins now. As the stressors of daily life seek to hold you down, remember who it is that has promised we can be content in all things (Philippians 4:11-13). As difficult as earthly circumstances may become, be mindful that we possess a joyful Hope. The Spirit dwells within and provides us with joy (Galatians 5:22) even if we’re not always promised happiness. In time of turmoil, we still have peace (Ephesians 2:14). When we are weak, He has promised to be our strength (Isaiah 41:10). When we feel alone, He has promised to always be with us (Deuteronomy 31:8). When we are weary, He has promised us rest (Matthew 11:28). Truly, we have much to be thankful for!

As you go about your day, continually meditate upon the Word (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:2). Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17), and in all things give thanks, as this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:8). Thanksgiving is more than just a holiday. It’s a lifestyle and a worldview. In all things, give thanks!

~ Travis W. Rogers

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