RBS Tabletalk

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Should We Go Home to Rome or the Orthodox Church? A Response to Father Gregory Ned Blevins, Part II

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Written by deangonzales

August 15, 2008 at 3:17 am

7 Responses

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  1. Hey Bob:

    As I mentioned on Todd’s blog, I am still up North and my computer/writing time is currently severely limited, so a complete response to the above will have to wait a while.

    However, I find it interesting that you compare the obscurity level of “baptism now saves you” to “women will be saved through childbirth.” I would argue that the first is not at all obscure while the second (along with St. Paul’s reference to baptism for the dead) are indeed extremely obscure, the primary reason being that neither of the latter correspond to anything else in the New Testament or, indeed, in the extant writing of the early Fathers. OTOH, many references to the (normal) necessity of regenerative efficacy of baptism are found in both, such as Acts 2:38, Romans 6:1-11, Gal. 3:27, and Titus 3:5.

    Second, I was using “Orthodox-Catholic” generically. My Church (also considered a “faction” in some circles: but that’s okay; we have retained the essentials, and in fact, separated ourselves from a body that had moved away from them), is the Antiochian Catholic Church in America.

    Third, the thief on the cross died before the resurrection of Christ. He is therefore to be considered among the righteous of the previous dispensation, those who were liberated with the death and resurrection of Christ and taken to heaven by him at the ascension. (Matthew 27:52-53, Eph. 4:8-10)


    August 18, 2008 at 3:24 pm

  2. Greg,

    I hope you enjoyed your brief vacation. I did want to offer a few brief responses to your words above:

    First, when citing 1 Timothy 2:15, I did not compare its “obscurity” level to 1 Peter 3:21. I simply used it as an example of a text with a similar reading, “X saves you” or “you will be saved by X,” and my point was to underscore the fact that biblical interpreters and theologians do not simply take every text in the Bible at face value. I’m sure there are many texts that both Rome and Orthodox interpreters do not take literally but offer a more nuanced interpretation–except when it comes to texts dealing with the sacraments! Here is where I believe modern sacramentalists are making the same mistake made by the sacramentalists made in Jesus’ day. Circumcision was intended to be a sacramental sign that pointed to a greater reality–the need for a circumcised heart (Deuteronomy 10:16; 30:6; Jeremiah 4:4). Especially notable is Paul and Barnabas’ report to the council at Jerusalem concerning “of the sect of the Pharisees” who argued, “It is necessary to circumcise [believers]” if the latter would be saved (Acts 15:5). Peter’s response: “[God] made no distinction between us and [the Gentiles], having cleansed their hearts BY FAITH [emphasis added]” (Acts 15:9). The fact that Abraham was justified before his circumcision is employed by Paul as an argument against the idea that the sacrament functioned ex opere operato. Faith, not the sacrament of circumcision, was the determining factor in Abraham’s justification (see Romans 4:1-11). I believe the same is true regarding baptism. Of course, this doesn’t mean that I view the sacrament of baptism as irrelevant. Contrary to some modern Baptist churches, I view baptism as a command of Jesus to which every would-be disciple should submit (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 2:37-38). Moreover, baptism, as a sacrament, is the gospel in pictorial form. Paul says, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). So the gospel, which baptism symbolizes and preaching proclaims, is absolutely essential for salvation. But baptism by itself (without faith) does not save anymore than the proclamation of the gospel vibrating the eardrums of an unresponsive heart can save. There must be a proper response to the word, whether presented in symbolic or in propositional form. This, of course, raises the whole question of what constitutes a proper recipient for baptism. I’d be interested to know if you’ve found an explicit command in Scripture to baptize infants. If not, upon what biblical basis do you impose that practice upon Christ’s church? Interestingly, three of the texts you cite for “the (normal) necessity of regenerative necessity of baptism” also include an explicit reference to a believing response in the recipient (Acts 2:38; Romans 6:1-11; Galatians 3:26-27). It’s debatable whether the “washing of regeneration” is referring to God’s inward work of cleansing the heart or the outward symbol of baptism.

    Second, I’ve corrected the labeling of your denomination above. I still find it interesting that you belong to a faction and that your communion denies certain teachings of Rome as contrary to Scripture. That’s precisely what the Protestant reformers did. Yet, by breaking with Rome, they’re considered to be outside the one Apostolic Church, but your denomination is allowed the liberty to break with Rome and remain in the one Apostolic Church. I would argue that many Protestant/Evangelical churches have retained the essentials of the faith, as you argue for your denomination.

    Third, your exclusion of the necessity of baptism with respect to the thief on the cross is based upon a theological inference and not upon any clear statement of Scripture. Where does it say that the thief is “to be considered among the righteous of the previous dispensation”? The two passages you reference say nothing about the thief on the cross, nor do they answer the question of baptism’s role or function prior to the resurrection. Didn’t John and Jesus disciples baptize before the resurrection (Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:16; John 4:1-2)? Were these baptisms efficacious? Or were they just symbolic? If Christian baptism effects salvation ex opere operato and is, therefore, a sine qua non for regeneration, I find Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 1:14-17 puzzling:

    “I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”

    Why doesn’t Paul say, “Christ sent me to baptize AND to preach the gospel”? Why does he thank God that the number of people he baptized was limited? Did not Christ command all his apostles to make disciples and baptize them (Matthew 28:19)? Was Paul guilty of depreciating a command of Christ? Certainly, one reason for Paul’s minimizing his role in baptism was that it somewhat relieved him from the quagmire of “preacher-worship”: “so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name.” But Paul seems to go beyond that and asserts that the apostle’s role as proclaimer of the gospel took precedence over the apostle’s role as the administrator of the sacrament. This is another reason why Protestant/Evangelicals place a relatively greater emphasis on the importance of the Word preached over the Word symbolized.


    August 22, 2008 at 6:36 pm

  3. Thank you, Dr. Gonzalez for this very helpful discussion.


    September 4, 2008 at 11:27 pm

  4. As a former Roman Catholic who was saved from sin by the action of the Holy Spirit through repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, I read this dialogue with great interest. My faith does not rest in the tradition of the Popes, the bishops, the ministers, the elders, the deacons, or the theologians, whether they be Roman Catholic, Syriac, Byzantine, or Evangelical. It is in the Old and New Testament Scriptures, comparing Scripture with Scripture. Scripture interprets itself. This is opposed to the Jesuit teachings I received at Canisius High School and Canisius College of Buffalo New York, both of which I am a graduate, in which the Scriptures were denigrated as unreliable. My brother John Barry Roach, an ordained priest in the diocese of Buffalo New York, instructed me that the Scripture has errors, and is unreliable and that only the Teaching Majesterium of the the Roman Catholic Church has right to interpret them. This idea was based on Christ giving the keys of the kingdom to Peter in Matthew 16:19, which verse supposedly means that Peter ordained successors and they alone collectively have sole authority to explain and interpret the Scripture. Nowhere in Scripture did Christ give Peter and his successors the sole power to speak infallibly on matters of faith and morals. As an example of the fallibility of RC interpretation of Scripture, consider John 6:55, 56. This is the “flagship” chapter for Catholics to prove that Christ wanted his followers to literally drink His blood and eat His flesh. That this literal interpretation was in error is shown in John 6:60ff where some shallow thinking followers turned away from Christ. The Lord did not argue with them in their misinterpretation since He knew, as a Jew, that the Torah pronounces a curse on anyone who eats blood, Leviticus 10:10. So if they wanted to ignore the Torah, Christ was willling to let them go. And so the mistaken, Scripture-twisting Catholic Church (2 Peter 3:16) has gone its own way into history.

    James Roach

    January 7, 2009 at 8:41 pm

  5. Should be Leviticus 17:10

    James Roach

    January 7, 2009 at 9:01 pm

  6. Thanks, Dr. Roach, for your input!


    January 7, 2009 at 9:48 pm

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