Thursday, March 19, 2009
Mark Dever Responds to Critics
Over at the 9Marks blog, Mark Dever responds to his critics "The Sin of Infant Baptism", written by a sinning Baptist.
Dever writes with genuine humility and honest charity (esp. in his quote from J.L. Reynolds). It is a good response to his critics. As I said, I have no beef with Baptists being Baptist and holding to their own way (as Dever passionately does). Yet, I still think the term "sinful" is not a useful description for those brothers and sisters whose theology deviates from yours, mine or anyone elses on non-essential areas. I might be convinced that continuationism is correct, but I wouldn't call cessationists "sinful". I might find historical pre-millennialism more persuasive, but I wouldn't say postmillennialism is "sinful". I think open communion is more biblical, but I wouldn't say that those who practice closed communion are sinful. I say that because there are degrees of theological certainty. On subjects that call for theological construction we need to have a hermeneutic of humility in areas that are contestable because we do not have a God's eye-view of things. I think Dever would agree with that in principle, but his language could be construed to suggest otherwise. Dever says: "It is simply that on this point they've got it wrong, and their error, involving as it does a requiring of something Scripture does not require (infant baptism), and the consequence of a denying of an action Scripture does require (believers baptism) is sinful (though unintentionally so)." Dever admits that he is theologically fallible, but that concession needs to be integrated more fully into his quote above and this, I think, would lead to a different articulation of how to handle theological differences even if you're convinced that you're right!
Ephesians 4.4-5 says: "There is one body and one Spirit- just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call- one Lord, one faith, one baptism" (ESV). In his Ephesians commentary, F.F. Bruce asks what baptism is referred to here, is it believers baptism or infant baptism? He answers: "It is Christian baptism", i.e. any baptism performed in the name of Jesus Christ. No doubt that will be a bit vacuous for some, but he had a point (and he was a good old Brethren boy!).
I should also mention that IVP has a book on Three Views of Baptism coming out featuring Sinclair Ferguson, Bruce Ware, and Tony Lane. I understand Tony Lane is arguing for some kind of both/and view rather like the Evangelical Free Church. That will be a good volume to read no doubt!
Rick Phillips of Reformation21 provides a further paedo-baptist response to Mark Dever which raises similar concerns to the ones that I have.