Friday, November 13, 2009

why good and necessary consequences are good and necessary: part 2

We have seen that what is meant by "good and necessary consequence" is not human wisdom but "reason captivated and subdued to the obedience of Christ" (George Gillespie). The consequence must be necessary, that is to say it must be demanded by a relevant Scripture passage. This means taking premises stated in the Scripture and using sanctified reason in order to draw their inexorable conclusions which although not expressly stated in a particular verse are nevertheless entirely warranted as the conclusions of such a process.

Historic limitations of the regulative principle

In the 17th Century some sought to limit this even with regard to doctrine, specifically Arminians and Socinians. Erastians and Anabaptists sought in different ways and with different purposes to limit it in respect of the regulative principle. There were members of the Assembly that sought to defend the old Anglican view of Richard Hooker that gave "indifferent things" such as Church government to the monarch so that they could control the church, this is sometimes called Erastianism after Erastus who articulated the theoretical basis. Thomas Coleman was one of the Erastian Westminster divines, although their views were not prevalent in the eventual documents of the Assembly, they made themselves heard, as when Coleman preached to Parliament (July 1645) that the Assembly's agenda ought to be "Establish as few things by divine right, as well can be".
Divine right or jus divinum meant scriptural warrant. But if we do not give the authority to the Divine scriptures we give it instead to men, the king or individuals, human reason or prejudice or mere pragmatism and cultural influence. Although Coleman's principle may seem plausible it was crafted to serve his own agenda: he made it clear in the same sermon that the only thing that he wanted to establish by divine right was the King's/Parliament's authority by divine right. The attitude of the Scots commissioners to the Assembly on the other hand was "establish as much as possible by divine warrant".

The Anabaptist argument was that the regulative principle could only use explicit warrant. Zwingli pointed out the problems with those to Anabaptists in his day. They believed that Acts 19 contains a rebaptism by Paul of those followers of John the Baptist who had been initially baptized by Apollos. Zwingli argued that the Scripture does not tell us explicitly that Apollos baptized, so, following the explicit warrant principle, Apollos didn’t baptize. Yet it was quite obvious otherwise that Apollos did.

The limitation of the regulative principle by Anabaptists in the 17th Century to explicit warrant transpired in the popularity of some rather odd views by the standards of modern antipaedobaptists. The first antipaedobaptist in England, John Smyth, did not read from a translation of the Bible. Instead he read the original languages and sought to translate on the hoof. There is of course no explicit warrant for translating the Scriptures into written form. Only good and necessary consequence will establish our warrant for it. His congregation also ended up as Seventh-day Baptists. This was quite a popular controversy amongst 17th Century Baptists. There is of course no explicit statement in the New Testament that the day has been changed. References to meeting on the first day in the book of Acts or to the Lord's Day in Revelation do not satisfy this explicit warrant requirement. Only good and necessary consequence will establish our warrant for it. The Smyth group also wound up keeping the Old Testament feasts and ceremonial laws.

Few antipaedobaptist congregations in the 17th century had congregational praise. They didn't believe that there was an explicit statement commanding congregational praise. All the usual verses were understood as addressed to individuals. Prophetic solos were acceptable but not congregational praise.

Contemporary limitation of the regulative principle

This is the final way in which there is an attempt to limit the scope of application of good and necessary consequence in Scripture is by excluding it from the regulative principle. This is at the crux of the arguments in a book by a modern antipaedobaptist, Fred Malone. It is entitled 'The Baptism of Disciples Alone'. The book is of course highly polemical but Malone carries it to a degree that topples into being offensive and hostile. The title of the book for instance is explained as the explicit assertion that the rejection of infants as proper subjects for baptism is on the same level as the 5 solas defined by the Reformers as critical to salvation.

Malone identifies two main bulwarks to his book against paedobaptism. 1) the regulative principle and 2) biblical interpretation.

Malone refers again and again to the regulative principle of worship (RPW), although his discussion of it is rather thin. He does not refer to any writers apart from John Frame, in order to show that the regulative principle prohibits drama and dance in worship. The regulative principle is about more than this. Once antipaedobaptists start applying the regulative principle consistently and with rigour in the areas of festivals and holy days, their warrant for composing and using hymns, musical accompaniment and the like we might be able to accept that they are not just being selective in applying the regulative principle. It seems that when it comes to baptism matters are very tight and there is only one valid mode. What about their practice of the Lord's Supper, however, do they have one loaf as Scripture prescribes? Do they have one cup of wine as Scripture prescribes? Where is the warrant for medicine glasses of juice?

Malone refers to the confessional definition of the RPW but defines it differently himself in order to accuse paedobaptists of forsaking the regulative principle for the normative principle. The WCF and 2nd London Confession of Faith both define it as 'the acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshiped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture'. In order to understand what limited by God's revealed will means we must go back to the first chapter of the Confession which defines the whole counsel of God as express statements and what may be deduced by good and necessary consequences. This, contrary to Malone, does set good and necessary consequence on the same level as explicit Scripture statements.

Malone defines the regulative principle as only based on explicit statements or approved examples drawn from the New Testament. In the previous post we pointed out that the regulative principle is an Old Testament principle which cannot be derived from New Covenant passages. Good and necessary consequence must not only be used in applying the regulative principle but in identifying it itself as a New Testament principle.

It is important to note that as the whole Scriptures are the "word of Christ", anything positively instituted by Christ as the author of Scripture in the Old Testament, which is not abrogated in the New, remains instituted and binding. We must conform ourselves to the way that Scripture is written and not limit God by limiting His revealed will. Peter Edwards, the 18th Century Particular Baptist minister who saw through the inconsistency of these arguments and renounced antipaedobaptism notes that the demand for explicit warrant 'it seems to dictate to the ever-blessed God in what manner he ought to speak to his creatures. Since it is so where contained in his word, and he knows best how to communicate his mind to men, it little becomes such creatures as we are, to lay down rules by which he shall supposes we cannot understand what God says, but when he speaks to us in one particular way.' The whole of Scripture is given to us as authoritative and is profitable for doctrine and practice.

Malone refers to paedobaptism as a sacrament and then says that cannot have a whole distinct sacrament added without positive institution. We are not talking about a distinct sacrament we are talking about two sacraments, the Lord's Supper and Baptism and the issues that arise after establishing this is who should receive them (proper subjects) and how?

In terms of the Lord's Supper. We do not have a positive command or historical example to administer it to women. Yet noone denies it to women. This question has been put to antipaedobaptists for nigh 500 years without satisfactory answer. Every answer involves an inference. Appeal is made to 1 Cor 11:28 “Let a man [Anthropos] examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, &c.” The argument has been that anthropos in Greek is a generic term and not specific to males. Peter Edwards entirely demolishes this assumption with nineteen instances where anthropos is distinctly male, Malone actually cites Exodus 12:1-4, 16 as support for women partaking of the Lord's Supper (entirely contrary to his line of reasoning) which only refers to every man and not to women and makes no mention of the Lord's Supper. Malone says that because the previous pericope introduces women that they must be understood here. That is an argument from inference and not from clear positive institution and explicit warrant. Besides there is no logical connection, Paul might easily move between various matters, some of which only apply to one sex or the other.

Peter Edwards points out that the principle which antipaedobaptists assert, 'A person who has a right to a positive institution, must be expressly mentioned as having that right' is found nowhere expressly stated in Scripture. They have created it themselves. It is also abandoned by antipaedobaptists as soon as they are pressed for proof of women being admitted to the Lord's Supper.

There is no explicit and direct command in the New Testament to baptise only confessing adults to the exclusion of infants. Malone cannot produce this but proceeds as though he has. Would it not be clearer to proceed on the basis of what Scripture states clearly about children in the New Covenant than assumption? There is explicit inclusion of Christian children in the new covenant promises (Dt. 30:6, Jer. 31:36-37; Acts 2:39), explicit inclusion in the church (Eph. 6:1-4, 1 Cor. 7:14), and explicit inclusion the kingdom (Mt. 19:14, Mk. 10:14, Lk. 18:16). There is of course no express command that says 'Baptise children'. Neither is there a direct command that states what is to be done with the children of the visible church, that they are not to receive the signs and seals of the covenant. We can only proceed by good and necessary consequence from Scripture and it will not be good consequence unless it accords with the explicit principles stated above. Antipaedobaptists will go to passages that say connect baptism with faith and point out that infants cannot exercise faith. But of whom is the faith required? Of (pagan) adults. It is fallacious to take a statement with adults in view and say that infants cannot meet the requirements when infants were never in view in the first place. The inference that is usually drawn must be fallacious also. Peter Edwards covers this matter in detail

Malone reads into Matthew 28:18-20 what he calls the baptism of disciples alone. It does not teach this at all. It requires the nations to be discipled. It shows how discipling is to be done. Baptise and then teach. The grammar of the text is against Malone's contention. He says that it states we are to make disciples from all nations. The text says disciple all nations. In the Greek "nations" is the direct object of the verb "disciple" (which is not a noun). Gregg Strawbridge details the only possible grammatical reading at and says: 'It is beyond dispute that the grammatically precise rendering is simply "disciple the nations and baptize them (nations)." ' The Commission considers nations as nations and is not simply looking at individuals. Strawbridge goes on to note that the Great Commission reflects the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant that in Abraham's seed (Christ) all the nations of the earth would be blessed. He refers also to prophecies that speak of the nations serving Christ (Ps:72:11; Rev 15:4).

What we have seen is that we cannot exclude necessary consequence from the regulative principle and both antipaedobaptists (inconsistently) and paedobaptists are proceeding on this basis anyway. We must take into account the clear Scriptures concerning children in the Church and the New Covenant and realise that their privileges under the Abrahamic Covenant have not been abrogated, especially because this covenant is widened not set aside under the New Covenant. The matter becomes clear by proceeding consistently with good and necessary consequence. As we have before pointed out those who do not hold to Covenant theology (Closed Brethren) can still arrive at this by applying good and necessary consequence consistently.