Results tagged “baptism mayhem” from Reformation21 Blog

Just Add Water (Epilogue)

Now that we have spread out into part 5 of a 4-part series, there's a question I did not answer last time because it was much more serious than the other questions which have been added to this discussion by those who disagree with me about baptizing babies.  I have gotten a few versions of the question via e-mail, but I'll put the best version of the question here, and then answer it:

Dear Frank: after reading your argument here for a closed table, what is it you expect the paedobaptizers in the readership of Ref21 to do?  Seriously now: do you expect all of us to go out and get dunked since there is water right here and we are convicted?  Or do you expect that we will refrain from communion until you have properly baptized us?  Or what?  I'm worried that Mark Jones is right and you have effectively kicked us out of Christianity because you don't want us at your communion table. Signed, Pedro Bautista

Dear Pedro --

It's a great question, and I thought the answer was obvious given my first two posts here at Ref21.  However, since it was not, please accept my apology for being unclear, and my explanation.

If what you want is to come to the next local baptist church you encounter and take communion, then yes: I expect you to be properly baptized (by grace, through faith [which God has given], via dunking) to be in communion with baptists.  To expect anything else is simply to say that it doesn't matter what the definition of baptism is and whether or not someone has received such a thing.  But notice the qualifier: if you want to come to a baptist church and take communion.

I wouldn't come to your paedo church and demand communion.  I have, thank God, a local church.  They hold me spiritually and morally accountable there.  They know me and are caring for my soul there.  They are the ones who are the best judge of whether or not I am worthily taking the elements for the sake of remembrance and for the sake of unity.  I expect that I should be able to take communion there -- and I hope that for your sake you have the same thing.

See: the complaint comes from a place that assumes that one should be able to go anywhere and do anything one wants to do when it comes to the Lord's Table, and I don't see that as a reasonable expectation of the NT.  I think the reasonable expectation from the NT is that you should be joined to your local church, under the authority of elders there, and you should follow their teaching and joyfully receive their discipline (which is not always the lash but often more brotherly and conciliatory than that).  In that context, if they are baptizing your babies, and you don't care that they are excluding those babies from the table until they can demonstrate some faith, God bless all of you and your local church.  But: do not expect that my local church will be under the authority of your elders.

The cry for universal unity has some sort of intellectual and theological appeal, I am sure.  But that unity is only obtained in Christ, under Christ, in the final account of things.  Until then, Christ's way for bringing believers together is not at ecumenical pot-luck dinners where nobody knows anybody but everyone claims to have all this unquestionable and unqualified love for everyone else.  Christ's way is at a local church -- and at that church, if you are a paedobaptist, I pray your elders are also.  If they are not, You read the NT and do what's right.

The solution to the disagreements being raised here by Mark Jones are really solutions which are evident in the local church.  If we miss that, we're not really looking at the whole scope of our theology very clearly.

Just Add Water (4 of 4)

Closing Thoughts/Parting Shots/One Liners

Well, they tell me it's been an exciting week here at Ref21 (that's what they tell me - we should try calling out antinomianism in divorced Christian music artists if we really want to light up the phone banks), but all good things must come to an end.  Having said what I meant to say in response to Mark Jones' original post(s) on this subject, I wanted to close up with a quick Q&A for the readers to make sure we have covered all the salient items.  Some come from the mail bag; some come from twitter; some come from the bricks thrown through the office windows at the Alliance.  I have cleaned all of them up for spelling, punctuation, and homeschool-appropriate language.

Dear Frank - it's clear to me that you have never read "X" book on Baptism.  You should never have written on this subject or tried to say anything about it unless you have read (and agreed with) this book.  Signed, X's Mom

Dear X's Mom --

Well, I wasn't responding to "X".  I was responding to the rather broad and amusing comments of Mark Jones.  If you want me to come back and respond to the greater problems of Paedobaptism exposed in (or ignored by) that book, please write to the Puppetmaster here at the Alliance and I'll be pleased to do it.

Dear Frank - Since Baptists can't even really be truly reformed™, you should never have said anything about this subject.  You and your ilk need to stop pretending you know anything about the reformation or theology and start baptizing babies because of the continuity of the covenants. Signed, X's Dad

Dear X's Dad -

Thanks for your note.  I realize that the point of faith in Jesus Christ is to be Truly Reformed™, but because I am a hard-hearted Baptist, I am going to stick to what I know best - and that's following all of Christian history, and all of the best aspects for all the men who have come before us (from Paul and Peter, to Ireneus and Justin Martyr, to Jerome and Athanasius and Augustine, to Charlemagne and then guys like Francis in spite of all they got wrong, and then to the early English fellows who thought that even a Vulgate Bible translated into English was better than a Vulgate Bible nobody could read, and then to the Reformation for all its highs and lows, and the Puritans {for all their highs and lows} {MT: Tom Chantry}, all our great and good friends in 19th and 20th century Presbyterianism, Fundamentalism, Evangelicalism and whatever it is we are doing here at Ref21), and most importantly (lest we forget) the actual Bible since it is the word of God.

If someday I accidentally become Truly Reformed, I'll alert the fellows at Westminster West so they can pretend they are not home when I stop by.

Dear Frank - While I am That kind of puritan, I hold to an open table approach to the Lord's Supper - and so does your local church.  Why aren't you disfellowshipping them in order to be perfectly consistent?  Signed, Not Tom Chantry

Dear Not Tom -
The actual Tom Chantry would not be so devious.  It's a fair question - if you intend to lynch me no matter what.  Because there is no church on Earth which is perfect in all doctrine and practice, my wife and I chose the one which was the best fit for us and our family when we moved to [redacted].  There are some things we are wrong about, and they are kind enough not to burn us at the stake for those things; there are some things they are wrong about, and we are kind enough to merely roll our eyes when they say {that} again.  (just for example: they are dispensational, and I could never be - I wasn't born that way.  Now what?)

What I find funny about this question is that it assumes my goal is to be as isolated as possible from other people, and I ought to be - coming from people who would otherwise advocate for so-called "catholicity".  I guess if I don't agree with them, then that's a good enough reason to despise me and misrepresent my views - when all I have actually asked for is that people be decently baptized.

Dear Frank - I want to be fair with you since you are wrong and I want to turn a brother away from his sin in good James 5 fashion.  So riddle me this: how much water is enough water?  Isn't your real concern over the mode of baptism rather than whether or not anyone is actually saved? Signed, D. Ripley Faucet

Dear Talented Mr. Ripley -

There's no question that the LBCF is clear that the mode of baptism ought to be immersion.  There's no question that in America, I think that a decent church ought to have a decent pool of water available so that we can show that one dies to sin and is raised to newness of life by putting them under the water, and then raising them out of the water.  Does that mean that I'm actually so bedazzled by that spectacle that I cannot see my way to saying that (for example) a soldier converted in a time and place of war who takes a sprinkling rather than a dunk because there's only a few cups of water to spare has been baptized?  Why would I be that hard-hearted and obstinate?  The point of Baptist practice is pretty singular: obedience to the ordinance as Christ commanded.  Faith prior to the sacrament seems necessary from a logical and biblical perspective, and the baptisms we see in the NT are generally dunkings.  If we need to do something pragmatic with the volume of water to enact the rite to receive a new believer into the church and into Christ, we should do it.

And since you're going to ask anyway: there's nothing wrong with grape juice that a couple of weeks wouldn't fix.  You baptize too early, we use the wine too early. You do the deed without the prior faith of the receiver, all of our receivers have faith.  Compare and contrast.

Dear Frank - How do I become a member of the Alliance of Confession Evangelicals in order to better support its ministry?  There really is no other place on the internet where I can find people who are willing to disagree decently and persuasively on things that really matter, and I want to make sure this web site keeps doing well. Signed, Trustee, the Walton Foundation

Dear Trustee -

I'm glad you asked.  Please click this link for more details.

God bless you all -- have a great Lord's Day in the Lord's Household with His people, and keep the right end of the baby dry, please.

Just Add Water (3 of 4)

As this series continues, I wanted to remind you of a couple of disclaimers:

  1. The opinions and arguments here are mine and not the arguments of the Alliance.  Hate the player and not the game in this case.
  2. The arguments I will make here are also not the position of the local church I attend.  In spite of that church being baptistic in confession, they practice a more open form of communion than I would advocate for.  I'm not an elder there, so as I make my case for what I think is a robust response to Mark Jones, I speak for myself and not my church at

(the rest of) The Meaning of Baptism

Before I dig in, I'm disappointed Dr. Jones (he said to call him "Mark," which I will do the next time we have lunch) has had to withdraw.  I thought there was going to be some of the sweet science of Theological rough-house here, and instead I get shamed by Carl for picking on Aimee's tender condition.  Hmph.

There is a bit of clean-up to be done after the last installment which speaks to the meaning of Baptism - because I wanted to keep that post a decent length.  In the first post, we trotted out what it means to be a Christian - according to Jesus.  In the second post, we really walked off what it means to perform and participate in a sacrament - particularly the sacrament of Baptism.  But getting there in the flight path we used leaves out a lot of stuff, like this:

Sacraments are holy signs and seals of the covenant of grace, immediately instituted by God, to represent Christ and his benefits, and to confirm our interest in him: as also to put a visible difference between those that belong unto the Church, and the rest of the world; and solemnly to engage them to the service of God in Christ, according to his Word.

There is in every sacrament a spiritual relation, or sacramental union, between the sign and the thing signified; whence it comes to pass that the names and effects of the one are attributed to the other.

The grace which is exhibited in or by the sacraments, rightly used, is not conferred by any power in them; neither doth the efficacy of a sacrament depend upon the piety or intention of him that doth administer it, but upon the work of the Spirit, and the word of institution, which contains, together with a precept authorizing the use thereof, a promise of benefit to worthy receivers.

And it's cumbersome to paste in 168 words in order to really get the last 8, but it's what we do to make a point as seriously (sic) as possible.  In the background of me making great jokes at the expense of Dr. Jones and Dr. Trueman and Pastor Pruitt and Mrs. Byrd, the truth is that none of us disagree that Baptism (and really: the Lord's table, which is what is really at stake here) is "a promise of benefit to worthy receivers."  It's just that curious phrase, "worthy receivers," which gets both sides soaking rags in tar and honing the tines of their respective farm implements.

Both sides are explicitly concerned that receivers of the sacraments are "worthy receivers" - so much so that our Lutherans "brothers" accuse us of being Law-entrenched Works-based knuckle-draggers for asking such questions.  But because we both agree that sacraments are not common commodities for use like shopping carts at WAL*MART, we should be careful not to paint the other guy's definition of "worthy" in a way that he wouldn't accept it or recognize it.

So that would be a third problem with Dr. Jones' representation of Baptist closed-table communion: he paints our view of "worthy" in a way which is, at best, uncharitable - but is at worst intended to misrepresent what the closed table means in order to create a moral qualm where none is actually in evidence.

That said, let's get to my third point.

The Meaning of the Lord's Table

Here's the part of the WCF which means something to us for the sake of this discussion:

Although ignorant and wicked men receive the outward elements in this sacrament, yet they receive not the thing signified thereby; but by their unworthy coming thereunto are guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, to their own damnation. Wherefore all ignorant and ungodly persons, as they are unfit to enjoy communion with him, so are they unworthy of the Lord's table, and cannot, without great sin against Christ, while they remain such, partake of these holy mysteries, or be admitted thereunto.

There are so many good parts to this, I'm going to have a hard time keeping this to the right length.  Let me start by saying that it's unfortunate that the WCF bundles up "ignorant and wicked" here as descriptors of the unworthy - because you Presbyterians who ought not to be taking communion are not intentionally wicked or somehow willfully ignorant.  I think you're just missing the point of all that book learnin' you have subjected yourselves to.  So for my purpose, let's stick to "unworthy" and leave the ignorance and wickedness of you to the discernment of your wives and elders.

The way in which you are "unworthy" then is (as I assume you read into the previous post) that your have no baptism at all - that is, because faith comes before good works, and you did not have faith when you were baptized, it was as effective as baptizing a dead body - you wouldn't call that a baptism, would you?  What about baptizing your wife for the sake of your mother-in-law?  Or baptizing the next fellow you find at the Starbucks or Whole Foods?

My biggest concern here, since Dr. Jones brought it up, is that you were never rightly added to the church, and you were never rightly obedient in faith in the first step, so jumping ahead to the second step is fairly pointless - because you are, if I may be bold enough to say it as the WCF says it, unworthy.  

I can hear all the tongues clicking and the heads shaking, but ask yourself my question this way: why is it that any child you have baptized cannot take communion until after his or her confirmation?  Confirmation is not a sacrament: it is something else.  And while you have derided our "baby dedications" (which are not sacraments, nor do they try to be), we don't use them to say that somehow a previous sacrament is now at full power or efficacy, or that somehow the baptism finally "worked".  In our view of it, one who is baptized is a full (since we are using this word) sacramental member of the community and is therefore worthy of the table.  In your view of it, somehow the worthiness is laggy - and that reveals, it seems to me, the inherent problem with paedobaptism.

I think the remedy for worthiness is pretty clear and simple - it's the one Carl Trueman and Todd Pruitt used to become members of their local churches so long ago: rather than trust something done to an unbeliever by well-meaning people, be baptized since you now believe in good Acts 2 fashion.  Now that you have faith, let's just add water (and the word) as a sign and seal of what God has actually done and we can stop having these silly fights.

Closing thoughts and parting shots in the last installment, yet to come.

A Courteous Pause

I've been asked by the cabal of nameless puppet masters who run Ref21 to take a time-out while Dr. Jones formulates his response to my first two parts of the "Just Add Water" series, and I'll be doing that.  I look forward to discovering a lot about the continuity of the covenant as so forth, and to a robust discussion between men of good faith.

In the meantime, Byrd, Pruett and Trueman (note the order - it is accidentally alphabetical, but we all know who wields the real power in that band) have providentially come clean on the fact that they have all been properly baptized but now they are agi'n it in the latest episode of MoS.

Let me say a few things briefly about that:

  • "Not That There's Anything Wrong With That" is not a Biblical approach to the sacraments of the church.  I'm not going to wear the ribbon.
  • It sounded to me that both Todd and Carl were converted to their current positions under duress -- roped into leadership in a P&R church and then sort of given an ultimatum.  I guess no one expects the Spanish Inquisition.
  • Fire Truck baptismal fonts and fraudulent seed-dippings stipulated and accepted as the worst in class for those who are mostly-churchless people anyway, we shouldn't reason from the abuses to the standard - the standard should instead expose what is and is not an abuse.  Nobody is suggesting that we should shun conjugal relations in marriage because there is pornography (or worse: justifying pornography because of the married standard), and I would say that we can't decide how a multi-faceted ordinance like Baptism which is from God ought to be practiced because we don't like how those without a systematic theology or a high-church polity misuse it.
  • As a father who has baptized his child (in church, before the congregation), let me suggest that a child has a spiritual authority which is logically, naturally, and biblically prior to the elders of her church: her parents, and specifically her father.  We can hash through the biblical texts (you want to bring up Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?  this would be a good time), but to extract the spiritual authority of father to baptize his child in credobaptism but demand it when it is the faith of the parent under which a child is paedobaptized seems like an argument not completely worked out.

I'm dealing with the way the Gospel remedies the problem of Racism over at TeamPyro today if you want to read about something other than a theological super-soaker fight.


Just Add Water (2 of 4)


This is the second of 4 parts in response to Dr. Mark Jones on the question and meaning of Baptism and the Lord's table as the question stands between Baptistic types who practice a closed table and Presbyterian types who practice a more-open table.

Two items as caveats, as listed previously, before you read this and start hurling fruit at my kind hosts here at Ref21:

  1. The opinions and arguments here are mine and not the arguments of the Alliance.  Hate the player and not the game in this case.
  2. The arguments I will make here are also not the position of the local church I attend.  In spite of that church being baptistic in confession, they practice a more open form of communion than I would advocate for.  I'm not an elder there, so as I make my case for what I think is a robust response to Mark Jones, I speak for myself and not my church at

The Meaning of Baptism

There are a lot of important ideas to run down from where we left off last time, such as the meaning of maturity and how we can know the difference between immaturity and actual apostasy or faithlessness, but the scope of this essay is the question of Baptism.  If we accept the WCF's definition of saving faith (and I have, previously), do we really need anything else to understand who is and isn't "a Christian"?

The answer, obviously, is "no" and "yes."  In some important sense, we really don't need any more hair-splitting to answer the question of who is and is not a Christian - we just have to see it through to the end.  That is, we have to agree that someone who starts down the path of obedience to Christ ought to continue down that road (we hope with few pit-stops and detours, but we also know that even Peter actually denied Christ after declaring him to be the Son of God), and as James says in his letter we should show our faith by doing works. 

There's absolutely nothing controversial about this as the WCF says plainly:

Good works are only such as God hath commanded in his holy Word, and not such as, without the warrant thereof, are devised by men out of blind zeal, or upon any pretense of good intention.

These good works, done in obedience to God's commandments, are the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith: and by them believers manifest their thankfulness, strengthen their assurance, edify their brethren, adorn the profession of the gospel, stop the mouths of the adversaries, and glorify God, whose workmanship they are, created in Christ Jesus thereunto, that, having their fruit unto holiness, they may have the end, eternal life.

And all good Protestant warning labels stipulated to this statement.  But foremost among these things "commanded by God in his holy Word," certainly not "devised by men out of blind zeal," are the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper -- and this is where the "yes" part comes in.  For my money, we Baptists would be best served to use the Presbyterian word here for two good reasons: (1) we are talking about the means of corporate worship in these items and not merely the more-common acts of obedience which the Bible commands, and (2) I think it clarifies what is at stake as we approach the question of how one influences the use of the other.

That relationship is the one which Dr. Jones' essay misses broadly as it considers why some of us Baptists are closed-table at the supper - because surely when Dr. Jones accuses Baptists of denying the Christianity of Presbyterians he isn't denying that one's baptism ought to come before one participates with the body of Christ and in the body of Christ at the Lord's table.  Of course not - what he is saying is that because baptism makes one a Christian, denying that one is baptized (by drizzling, before personal faith) denies that one is a Christian.  He isn't denying the logic that only the baptized ought to participate in the Lord's supper; he's questioning the meaning of denying the baptism of those baptized as Presbyterians are inclined to do -- which is to say, to baptize infants.

This is why the question of what makes one a Christian had to be addressed first.  In the Presbyterian view, what makes one a Christian is the sign and seal of Baptism.  It puts one inside the covenant in some way which may or may not be finally determinative -- I'll leave that for the FV and non-FV readers to settle in a back alley after school today.  This is why, after all, it is also called "christening" by many - it is what makes one a Christian in a formal and regulated way as opposed to the rather disappointing "asking Jesus into your heart" sort of way which doesn't really mean anything biblically or ecclesiologically. 

But let's be honest: Jesus didn't put it that way.  Jesus' mentioning of baptism comes at the end of all his other statements about the life of obedience, and at the beginning of the great mission of the church.  When the Apostles went out , they didn't first baptize anyone and then preach to them repentance until it made sense to them.  The message of the Gospel comes in the NT first by the preaching of repentance, then by the washing of the water for the sake of a clean conscience.  What is true under the new covenant is what was actually true under the old covenant: the right offering to God is a broken spirit and a contrite heart; God does not desire sacrifices but obedience; he desires that we love Him more than we commit to duties and rituals.  That doesn't eliminate the rituals by any means, but it does put the rituals in a place subordinate to the truth which they are communicating.

And that, frankly, is the actual Baptist objection to Presbyterian baptism - not that one does not have right faith now, but that one has somehow allowed that the ritual means anything prior to the real condition of the one practicing the ritual.  We may be guilty of waving off the baptism of babies as "sprinkling," but the meaning there is not that there's not enough water added: it is that somehow adding water takes the place of the faith the water ought to represent.

Honestly, only the Baptist with the hardest heart toward formal theology would deny any of the following from the WCF:

Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible Church, but also to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in newness of life: which sacrament is, by Christ's own appointment, to be continued in his Church until the end of the world.

But we would have to be gullible to read the phrase, "a sign and seal of regeneration," and not ask the question: doesn't regeneration imply faith?  We certainly commit our (baptist) children to the waters when the waters definitely imply faith - because we ask them to make a confession of faith to be admitted to the waters.  And in that way, for us the sign and seal overtly demonstrate that faith which this child has as it has been given by God, and show them being raised in newness of life in the forgiveness of their sins on the basis of faith.

The problem we are objecting to, then, in paedobaptism, is that the sacrament is not a King James Version of "just add water."  We deny it's a baptism because we deny it's a sacrament unless it is preceded by faith.  That is:

Works done by unregenerate men, although for the matter of them they may be things which God commands, and of good use both to themselves and others; yet, because they proceed not from a heart purified by faith; nor are done in a right manner, according to the Word; nor to a right end, the glory of God; they are therefore sinful and can not please God, or make a man meet to receive grace from God. And yet their neglect of them is more sinful, and displeasing unto God.

The problem is not that you are not Christians now: it is that when you were wetted down, you were not Christians then.  You did not have faith then.  And with full respect to those who did have faith when they did this to you,  the sacrament is meaningless apart from the faith for which the sacrament is a sign -- which is, your faith, the faith God gave, not the faith which God might give.

Because of this, we would say you have not been baptized.  And without baptism, of course you cannot come to the Lord's table.

More on that next time.

Just Add Water (1 of 4)

Well, I was going to go on a bit more about the necessity of the local church in the posts headed to this space, but our dear brother in Christ Dr. Mark Jones has done what Presbyterians are prone to do when they interact with Baptists about Baptism, and as the new resident Baptist here I guess it's my job (by vocation if not by assignment) to disambiguate his confusion over why I would personally see his being sprinkled as an infant as no baptism at all, and why therefore I would say he's not to take the other ordinance (the Lord's Supper) in church.  Let me preface these remarks by saying I envy anyone whose name is "Dr. Jones," and even more any in this fine class who has the self-control not to change his first name to "Indiana."

Two items as caveats before you read this and start hurling fruit at my kind hosts here at Ref21:

  1. The opinions and arguments here are mine and not the arguments of the Alliance.  Hate the player and not the game in this case.
  2. The arguments I will make here are also not the position of the local church I attend.  In spite of that church being baptistic in confession, they practice a more open form of communion than I would advocate for.  I'm not an elder there, so as I make my case for what I think is a robust response to Mark Jones, I speak for myself and not my church at

So the main thrust of Dr. Jones article is that somehow the closed-table Baptist is declining to allow that Presbyterians are Christians at all if he doesn't allow one paedobatized to take the Lord's Table when it is presented during worship.  There are probably a dozen things that bother me about this innuendo, but the one which undoubtedly seems the worst to me is to consider all the baptized people a Presbyterian would refuse to serve at the table - that is, all the children which are Christians by the covenantal formula "in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, just add water." I'm looking forward to Dr. Jones' defense of paedocommunion under the pains of being accused of turning out babies from the family of God in his next installment, but I think it probably isn't coming.

Seriously now: if the charge that Dr. Jones has put forward here has any weight at all, it rests on the idea that refusing participation to the table demands a metaphysical statement about those refused - namely, that they do not belong to Christ at all, in any sense.  That's always the charge of Presbyterians against us poor and uncatechized Baptists - think of all the people we make into no Christians at all.  It's a middle-class, civilized version of the Reformation argument that we are schismatic - and I appreciate the good will it takes to get us this far (I have my copy of the Augsburg Treaty in hand if necessary), but the difference is only in whether or not there are torches and pitchforks involved.  I think there's a better way to discuss this, and a better solution.  And for those of you worried about it, I have put all my best jokes right here in the introduction.  The rest will be appropriately dour and solemn.

Let me provide you an outline of the posts in this (brief) series.

My Outline:

A. The meaning of being a "Christian"
B. The meaning of Baptism (especially for the local church)
C. The meaning of the Lord's Table
D. Conclusions/Parting Shots

The Meaning of being a Christian

I think, with very serious and deep respect, that the worst way to pose the problem here is as Dr. Jones did - which is to somehow intimate that either side here has a problem which wrongly frames the doorposts of the Kingdom of God - that is, that either side has either included or excluded the wrong people inside the group Jesus is on about in Mat 16.  Because let's face it: the actual ultimate state of any human person is a slippery fish.  I'm not comfortable hanging any argument on whether or not "I think" anyone is "a Christian" because I can barely tell you which kids in the gym belong to me - and I see them every day and know them better than I know any of you (esp. - you Presbyterians).  What "I think" sounds too much to me like doing what seems right in my own eyes, and we all know where that gets us (given that you are as well-read in the OT as Presbyterians ought to be).

All that to say this: I don't get to define who is and is not a Christian, and neither does Dr. Jones.  Jesus is the only one who has the authority to do this.  And fortunately for us, he was pretty liberal to tell us what he means by it - at least, as the label came into popular use in Antioch.  In Jesus' terms, anyone who is a "disciple" is a "Christian."  I could just toss that out here and expect the reader to fill in the blanks from his Greek NT, but briefly here are 3 references  that I would use to show that this is Jesus' meaning.

Mat 28:18-20 (ESV)
Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

That's fair enough, right?  It even includes the ordinance of baptism in it so that it plugs into the discussion.  But in Jesus view of it, those who are His disciples are His because of His authority, and in that authority they observe what he has commanded.  That is: the role of the disciple (the Christian) is one of being under the authority of Christ (rather than, as I mentioned above, the authority of "me").  Without writing a book here, this is a perfectly covenantal view of it as the disciple is something because of what Christ has done, but the disciple is therefore also running on new rules in Christ.

I'm sure plenty of you are breaking out the sheet music now to the "distinct imperative/indicative" overture, but it's not a violation of the Gospel to say that those who receive it, who believe in the name of Jesus, become children of God in more ways than just the final way in glorification.  The path of sanctification is necessarily part of the Gospel as Jesus didn;t just do something, but did something for us.

Mat 10:34-39 (ESV)
"Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.  And a person's enemies will be those of his own household.  Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.  And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.  Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."

Personally, I like this one because it's inflammatory by Jesus - set up so that you really can't misunderstand what Jesus means here.  In Jesus' view, it's not merely intellectual assent which is the hallmark of a disciple: it's being set against the world and its value system.  When he says this, Jesus is saying that his disciples will not just know something about him: they will go and do things which express their confidence in Him over all other relationships, and all other comforts.  But it underscores that the disciple is not merely a learner or hearer of the word of God (and the Word of God), but a doer of those things He has made clear.

Mat 16:21-28
From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, "Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you." But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man."

Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done."

This bit I love because poor Simon just got it right not 3 sentences earlier, but then Jesus starts saying that being the Christ means suffering and dying in Jerusalem.  That's too much for Peter who rebukes the Son of God (as he said), but Jesus says plainly that not only must he do this, but that there's no one who can follow him unless he follows him to the cross.  Look: that's not just a new way to think about how religion works: that's a way which leads a man to his own death for the sake of others.  It's a kind of doing which is not merely duty but doing for the sake of one's own soul.  We might here ask whether there are actually enough categories in the "imperative/indicative" paradigm because in this case it seems like Jesus is saying that there are some things one does because he must want to do it.

All of that to say that the meaning of being a Christian is not merely external (that is: what has been done for you) or merely internal (that is: what you think or affirm) but is somehow wrapped up in a new trajectory, a new path one is walking on.  That's probably why, in the book of Acts, it turns out that the movement these people manifested in the world was called "the Way."

This leads us to some interesting issues, such as how we can apply this paradigm to guys like the Thief on the Cross who was never baptized.  He was in paradise that very day with Christ - and no decent Baptist would reject the idea that the Thief was a Christian.  But it at least gets us to a place where we can know what we are talking about if we have to ask the question, "Is 'X' a Christian?"  If we are asking that question, I hope we are answering it like Jesus did, which is to say, "if a person is following Jesus, and dying to world daily, and seeking to do what Jesus commanded, that person is a Christian."  The WCF would say it this way:

The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts; and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word: by which also, and by the administration of the sacraments, and prayer, it is increased and strengthened.

By this faith, a Christian believeth to be true whatesoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God himself speaking therein; and acteth differently, upon that which each particular passage thereof containeth; yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of God for this life, and that which is to come. But the principle acts of saving faith are, accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace.

This faith is different in degrees, weak or strong; may be often and many ways assailed and weakened, but gets the victory; growing up in many to the attainment of a full assurance through Christ, who is both the author and finisher of our faith.

So the problem that we face in this discussion is not about whether or not I (or any other closed-table Baptist) would not allow R.C. Sproul or Dr. Jones to be Christians.  The problem is about something else which, it seems obvious to me, Dr. Jones has swept under the covenantal rug.

I'll elaborate next time.  And good thing the comments are closed!