Thursday, 24 January 2008

Baptism Songs

I'm collecting all hymns, gospel songs, contemporary songs, and worship choruses dealing with baptism.

Please help me out. If you know of any, please tell me in the comment section. Leave a title and other basic info: music composer, lyrics author, publisher, date of composition, name of tune (if a hymn), etc. A link to the lyrics would be helpful.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Your baptism videos

I'm attempting to put together a collection of good videos of believers' baptism. For example, here's one:

I like this one for various reasons: 1) the baptisms were in a Baptist congregation; 2) the baptisms were done publicly--at a public beach; 3) there were testimonies involved which were concise but meaningful; 4) the video was underscored with music; 5) there were multiple baptisms involved in this service; 6) the video itself is a pretty good production.

There's nothing more celebrative than believers' baptism. One of the best arguments for believers' baptism (as opposed to infant baptism) is to simply practice it and let people see it for themselves. Just watching these baptisms in the above link makes me want to shout "Amen" despite the fact that I don't even know these new brothers and sisters in Christ! To this end, I hope to put together a collection of great baptism videos to help non-baptists understand the true meaning and true joy of believers' baptism.

Feel free to leave your link in the comment section.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Extreme Baptism

These folks are really committed to Baptist theology! Or they ought to be committed! :)

Down to the Water to Pray

The parent blog Treasures Old and New features a weekly Pastor's Page formatted to fit the back side of a church bulletin. This week's Pastor's Page addresses the issue of baptism and can be viewed here:

Monday, 14 January 2008

Wary of Wesley?

For sure, you won't get a thorough and honest exegesis of Wesley's works out of me! Not that I wouldn't want to, but I have to rely upon secondary sources, some of which are slim and sometimes unpublished. I used to own Wesley's works back when I was working toward Systematics (I'm now in biblical exegesis/theology and textual criticism), and I was enthusiastic about reading him back in the late 1980s. I do remember arbitrarily coming across a particular passage which, regardless of how I looked at it, seemed to be an explicit statement that you lose your salvation by sinning--that if you were to die before you had a chance to repent of the sin, you would go to hell.

Wesley probably suffers from the reputation of popular or even folk Wesleyanism, and I suppose it is not fair to assume that Wesleyanism = Wesley. For better or for worse, there are denominations in North America which actually appropriate the name Wesleyanism and which use the term Wesleyanism to describe their theology, theologies which might not be exactly that of Wesley himself. But please--understand my deep appreciation and kindred-heartedness toward Wesleyan groups--I am zealous for them.
Still, there needs to be a full examination of Wesley and his view of continuance in salvation. Roger Olson, in his work Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities portrayed Wesley as Arminius' most faithful follower and defends him as a defender of Reformation theology at every corner, but one wonders if all this positive portrayal may take a different turn when it comes to the issue of continuance in salvation.

It is my understanding that Wesley believed in Penal Satisfaction View of the Atonement--but only for pre-Conversion sins (!), and that Jesus' death was not a propitiation for post-conversion sins. This suggests that Wesley modified Arminius' view of the Atonement so that post-conversions sins would be pardoned by God the governor rather than declared righteous by God the judge on the basis of Christ's propitiation . Thus, for Wesley--if my understanding is correct, once the Christian comes to faith and enjoys Christ's propitation for his sins, he must appear before God the governor and ask for forgiveness should he ever sin again--or perhaps for all the big sins, at least!

Along these lines, I am told that Wesley thought that Christ's passive obedience is imputed to the believer, but not Christ's active obedience--a departure from Arminius with repercussions for continuance in faith.

It should be noted that Weseleyan groups came up with the notion of repeat regeneration from somewhere. My portrait of Wesley--fraught with my own insecurities and lack of first hand information--does seem compatible with the theology of many Wesleyan groups.

I should hasten to say that I suppose it is possible that it is unfair for me to portray this view of continuance in terms of "saved by grace through faith; kept in salvation by not sinning." I suppose it is possible that Wesley wouldn't have explained things this way. It is possible, I suppose, that Wesley would have argued that the sin itself is indication of a failure of faith--that every sin or every significant sin or every recurrence of a persistent sin is a lapse of saving faith. In which case, a fuller formulaic expression would be "saved by grace through faith; kept in salvation by grace through faith as demonstrated by not sinning," or some such.

Works VI, 526 would seem to give a statement that believers can be in and out of grace like a well oiled piston. It would seem that for Wesley, apostasy was irremedial, but backsliding, in which a believer becomes hell-bound, could be remedied by sincere repentance and a request for pardon.

All this makes me question whether it is fair to call Wesley a classical Arminian. If my understanding of Wesley is accurate, then he represents an idiosyncratic departure from Arminius and from key elements of Reformation theology.

I would be glad to be proved wrong.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Assurance of Salvation in Calvinism?

A major gun in the Calvinist arsenal against Arminianism is the issue of assurance of salvation. Calvinists relish pointing out that an Arminian never has assurance of his salvation. In contrast, they say, Calvinists are absolutely assured of their salvation since God has foreordained it from the deep dark, inscrutible counsels of God.

However, in this post, I would like to claim that Calvinists really have no assurance at all of their salvation.

Let me first hasten to say that, true to the accusations of Calvinists, we Arminians do believe in the possibility that we could neglect so great a salvation so as to make shipwreck of their faith. And I realize that we take seriously the apostolic warnings to their Christian brothers to hold fast to faith lest we turn away from the living God and trample the blood of the Son of God underfoot--after having received the knowledge of the truth. And so, I own all those Calvinistic charges that Arminians fear the possibility of apostasy and therefore have no absolute assurance of their final salvation. Moreover, I freely admit that we Arminians believe that Jesus' death doesn't save anyone who is not united with Christ by faith. I own all this—no point in reminding me.

I'm just saying Calvinists have a different problem with assurance. Let me explain what it is.
The Arminian has the Divinely bound assurance that Jesus died for him, for the Word clearly and unequivocally declares that God so loved the world that he sent his only Son to die on its behalf. And so, if you ask the Arminian, "Did Jesus die for you?" he will respond with absolute assurance, "Yes, Jesus died for me as well as for you."

But if you ask the Calvinist, "How do you know Jesus died for you?" his response is be-stuttered. He can't say, "I know Jesus died for me because the Bible tells me so." And so he retreats to the position that since he is a believer, he knows that Jesus died for him since the Bible teaches that Jesus died for the elect.

However, this argument is based on the Calvinist's personal experience. But isn't personal experience tainted by Total Depravity, by the Calvinist's own admission? What if Satan has merely tricked the Calvinist into thinking that he is a believer. It wouldn't be the first time that someone was mistaken about his salvation.

In this light, a Calvinist just doesn't seem capable of absolute assurance that Jesus died for him. Now to be sure, they can assure themselves on the basis of Scripture that Jesus died for the elect. But after that, Calvinistic assurance that Jesus died for him gets fuzzy. He has to say, "Well, I think I'm a believer, and if so, I must be elect, and so therefore, Christ must have died for me."Ultimately then, Calvinistic assurance that Jesus died for him is based penultimately on the fact (or mis-fact based on depraved misperception) that he is a believer. Calvinistic assurance all comes unhinged if the person is mistaken as to whether he truly is a believer.

Moreover, the Calvinist minister who wishes to encourage the regenerate person who starts wavering on assurance cannot make an absolute statement, "Brother Joe, I know Jesus died for your sins" since the minister cannot actually know for sure that the person, in fact, was regenerateThere you have it! Despite the thundering cannons of Calvinism on this issue, Calvinism really doesn't have absolute assurance of salvation.

So, pick your poison. Be an Arminian with assurance that you will be saved only if you continue to the end in faith, or be a Calvinist without the assurance that Jesus died for you.