Friday, November 27, 2009

James White on R. Scott Clark

I was glad to see yet another brother taking R. Scott Clark to task for his pompous and divisive stance on who deserves the title of "reformed". James White takes Dr. Clark to the theological woodshed for his inconsistency and his over the top statements. Dr. White makes the perfectly valid claim that while we stand shoulder to shoulder with many of our paedobaptist brothers on so many issues, when it comes to the 16th century cultural holdover of infant baptism their hermeneutic completely changes. Dr. Clark's outrageous claims have been noted here before, including his contention that any church that doesn't baptize infants is not a "true"church.

I especially liked what Dr. White said about infant baptism and Acts 2:39:

2) Evidently there is a Presbyterian Codex of the Bible that has a variant reading at Acts 2:39. All texts that I know of read as follows:

For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.

But I cannot tell you how often I hear my Presbyterian brethren handle this text in the exact same fashion as the Jehovah's Witnesses handle John 14:28 (it ends up being merely "the Father is greater than I am") or Arminians handle Matthew 23:37 ("how often I wanted to gather you but you would not"). The clear indication of tradition is seen in how Acts 2:39 is truncated in the thinking of my brothers so that it is simply "the promise is to you and to your children." What is the promise? What is the context? Why leave off the rest of the sentence both in meaning and application? The promise is for the Jews who heard Peter, to their children, and to all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself." The promise of forgiveness upon faith and repentance, along with the promise of the Holy Spirit, is for Jew ("you and your children") and Gentile ("to all who are far off") based upon God's electing grace ("as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself"). Changing this to merely a statement about "you and your children" involves an eisegetical shift in hermeneutics that my Presbyterian brethren would never allow in discussing the Trinity, justification, or the resurrection, but when it comes to this one topic, all of a sudden things change.

That is excellent stuff. Using Acts 2:39 as a support for infant baptism is so incredible, such a stretch that is boggles the mind that paedobaptists still use it (at least parts of it "your children", while ignoring the context of the passage which has nothing to do with infant baptism). The fact that Acts 2:39 is so often cited as New Testament support for infant baptism is proof positive of how weak the argument really is. I don't always agree with Dr. White in content or in tone but in this case he is right on the money.

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Anonymous said...

I'm not going to try and convert anyone here or anything, but just for the record, that verse was not what convinced me to cross over to the "dark side." :o) I'm a little too worn out from Thanksgiving festivities to go into all the reasons why I changed my mind (perhaps you and I can discuss it sometime), but I just wanted to make clear that for most of the Presbyterians I know, the concept of paedobaptism is based on much more than a particular reading of Acts 2:39. I have no delusions that I am going to change your mind on the subject. I just wanted to be painted with a fair brush. :o)

Arthur Sido said...


I didn't mean to imply that the average paedo relies on Acts 2:39 to defend infant baptism. In fact I would say that in general the paedo position stays as far away from the NT as possible! The best arguments in favor of infant baptism come from the OT and interpreting the New covenant in continuity with the old. But the problem always comes up that the NT interprets the Old, so paedo apologists often turn to Acts 2:39 as well as the "household" baptisms of Acts to show that infant baptism has credence in the New Testament. I just find that linkage to be weak at best. No surprise there.

Anonymous said...

As root to my comment, first is that God's desire was for mankind to be in right relationship with Himself. Thus He brought reconciliation through his blood, and life through His resurrection,(the triumph over the grave: available to all - but only imparted by faith.)
In Romans 5 we read Justification was granted at the Cross. And where by one man, Adam, sin & death abounded to all, Grace abounds even more to all in Christ by faith. (It is there waiting to be acknowledged and received by sinners)
If infant baptism is to secure "heaven" should they die prematurely, then the Cross did not complete the task. (God's word says each person is to be judged on their own - the sins of the fathers is no longer applicable.) It is the Law of God that reveals sin to our conscience. The Blood of Jesus brought reconciliation to all and is ever-present & fully available to the repentant. The baby is yet to be tempted to sin by his/her free will. Once God's Law written on the heart, reveals sin to the child they now need repentance.
I believe the scripture makes it clear that babies are no longer born under Adam - but under the justifying work of the Jesus Christ. Baptism that follows a child's adequate realization of their sins being washed away is now needed, once they come to Christ on their own - after they learned sin.
So if a child dies prior to their realizing their sin, they will be under the justifying work of God, ever merciful grace which "aboundeth all the more by one man", Christ.


Steve Martin said...

In Baptism one receives the forgiveness of sins, and the Holy Spirit.

Nowhere in scripture does it say that one needs to be a certain age to be baptized.

Jesus tells us to baptize (all peoples).

Jesus tells us that we must becaome as the little ones to enter the Kingdom of God.


Could it possibly be because little ones are more capable of having faith (trust)?

I say yes.

Steve Martin said...

As if God's promises need to be made only to people of a certain age.

"The promise is to you and your children..."

Arthur Sido said...

Steve, the whole passage says:

For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself."
(Act 2:39)

So should we baptize people who live far away from Jerusalem based on where they were born? That makes as much sense. Acts 2:39 has nothing to do with infant baptism, it has everything to do with the perpetuity of the new covenant. God will save everyone He calls to Himself. Not everyone born to everyone He calls to Himself. You have to read the whole verse, in context, and not just see "children" in a verse and assume it means infant baptism. You are correct that nowhere does one see the Scripture stipulating an age but it does show us that they must first repent, an act an infant is incapable of and we also see nowhere in Scripture a command or example to baptize infants.

Steve Martin said...

We should baptize anyone who will be baptized, and their children.

You really don't believe that God can save through baptism, do you?

Well, I do believe He can and I do believe He does. Does He save aside from baptism? Yes, I believe He does that as well.

But since He is the One who commanded baptism, we believe that He is up to something in it.

Babies are born into sin. The Bible speaks of this.

Babies are capable of a great deal of trust.

Sure, the intellectual ascent is not there. But is that what God is after? I thought it was trust (faith) that He was after.

Arthur Sido said...


Baptizing an unregenerate person doesn't save them, it just makes them wet. I don't believe you can find a single example of a person being saved by baptism in the NT. Lots of examples of people being saved and then being baptized but not the reverse.

Steve Martin said...

I believe that when the Lord says when we are baptized, we put on Christ, that should settle the argument.

Putting on Christ is enough for me.

1st Peter also talks of baptism saving you.

That's enough for me.

I've said this many times before, our Lord would not command us to do anything where He is not present in it. If He is present in it, then He is doing something. If He is doing something, it is forgiving us our sins and giving us new life in Himself.

You don't have to believe it, but the vast majority of the world's Christians do believe it.

Alan Knox said...

If water baptism is important for salvation, it seems strange that every Gospel and Acts would de-emphasize water baptism and emphasize Spirit baptism (Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:26, 33; Acts 1:5, 11:16). Peter was even reminded of those words when he saw that Cornelius and the people with him were baptized with the Holy Spirit.

This is the baptism that Jesus told his followers to wait for in Jerusalem. What if this is also the baptism that Paul and Peter are writing about?


Steve Martin said...

Almost every mention of baptism in the New Testament refers to water baptism.

1st Peter mentions the water specifically.

That's what baptism means.

However, it is not the water only, that makes baptism efficacious. It is the water, accompanied by God's Word.

For those that do not trust in that Word (that accompanies the water)then, it is only water.

Steve Martin said...

Just one more thing...

When Jesus commanded the disciples to go and baptize all peoples, was He telling them to give people the Holy Spirit?

Of course not. That is God's doing.

But He was telling them to baptize all people (ponta ethnae).And preach and teach. Then God will do the rest.

Alan Knox said...


"Baptism" does not mean "water baptism". And, most usages of the word "baptism" in the NT do not mention water.

The word "baptism" is used throughout that time period in a similar sense of our word "immerse". It can mean to be immersed in water, but it can also mean to be immersed in your thoughts. Only context can tell.

Yes, water is mentioned in some of the contexts, but not most. Specifically, in the Gospel and Acts accounts that I listed above, the authors of NT specifically show that they are NOT talking about water baptism.

So, what do we do with all those passages in the NT where water is not mentioned in the context or is indicated to be NOT in the context?