Saturday, July 28, 2007

Did the Early Church Baptize Infants?

Note to the reader: I am not completely satisfied with this paper. Some time has passed since I wrote it. I did not do justice to Part II. In fact I think the heading should be renamed to something like Baptismal Regeneration. I will re do this paper along the lines of I. The the method or mode of baptism II.The recipients of baptism (infants and adults) III. The theology of baptism
I may have been misleading in the idea of a debate between infant and believers baptism. The debate was not should we baptize infants or not, but is it expedient considering the regenerative effect of baptism? Both sprinkling and immersion were used and both infants and adults were baptized.
Here is a paper written at Reformed Theological Seminary. The paper explores the early church's (not the bible's) teaching on baptism. Issues such as infant baptism, the baptism of blood, and how baptism was administered are discussed. And just for laughs, did you know that the early church baptized in the nude? Before one forms a dogmatic opinion on baptism an understanding of baptism through the eyes of the early church is very helpful.

The Teachings of the Early Church on Baptism
Robert N. Landrum
The History of Christianity
Professor Frank A. James III
The Teachings of the Early Church on Baptism
Table of Contents
I. Baptism Traditions
II. Infant Baptism versus Believers Baptism
The debate over baptism continues to rage. Since the time of the early church there has not been universal agreement on the particulars of baptism, whether that be in relation to the way it is administered or to those that it is administered to. Much controversy (both then and now) is over who the recipients of baptism should be. On the one hand there are those that believe baptism should be reserved only for professing believers, while others contend that baptism should be extended to infants, who are obviously not able to make a profession of faith.
This paper will explore how the early church perceived baptism practically, i.e. how baptism was administered and to whom it was administered. In exploring the early church’s views on baptism, we will discover that there is not a consensus of agreement on baptism in either of these areas. There are some basic fundamentals such as the need for baptism and the use of water, but overall there is disagreement on the details. Having said this, I will not be arguing for any one particular approach to baptism, nor is there an emphasis on what the scripture says regarding baptism; rather, my argument is basically that there was no unanimity on the specifics of baptism in the early church.[1]
Due to the diversity of disagreement in the writings of the early church it would really be impossible to formulate any one argument. In other words, I cannot argue for infant baptism because I would have to be selective as to who I used as a source. For example, if I favored infant baptism, I would have to do so by narrowly selecting those sources that support it, to the exclusion of those that do not. (There are, however, more sources on infant baptism.) Even in regards to the New Testament one has to build an argument from silence due to the fact that there is no direct reference to infant baptism (of course covenant theology is not to be taken exception to). The same is true when looking at the sources of the early church. However, there is one difference; infant baptism is explicitly mentioned. There is no argument from silence in this regard. But the arguments that are made in the affirmative as well as in the negative have to be based on choice as to who was right and who was wrong. There is really no way of knowing.
Furthermore, we cannot construct an argument grounded in a genetic fallacy (i.e. we cannot say that because the early church baptized infants it must be right. This is tantamount to saying that because a previous generation believed the world was flat it must be flat, or that because baptism was believed to be regenerative it should be so believed now). Thus, in this respect, this paper is probably more informative as opposed to argumentative for one position or another, namely, as concerning infant baptism.

General Definitions
Baptism in water is not a Christian rite alone. Many different sects practiced it in the times of Jesus, and by the Jews when receiving proselytes (Hamman107). Baptism is considered to be that act, ceremony, or ritual which initiates one into the Christian church. The word baptism itself is a transliteration of one (or both) of two Greek nouns that are from the same verb stem. One means the action of immersing or dipping. The other is the result of that action. These words are esoterically related to Jewish/Christian use. The pagan Greek world had words that were related and denoted “to sink” or “to drown,” but these words were not used in reference to Jewish or Christian Baptism, whether it was the practice of ritual cleansing found in Judaism or cleansing proselytes (Brauer 82). Baptism regards the cleansing from sin. Some took baptism to be symbolic to having been raised to new life in Christ while others believed that baptism had actual regenerative power.[2]
I. Baptism Traditions
There were two classifications of people in relation to baptism in the early church, those preparing for baptism and the already baptized. Those that were preparing for baptism were called the catechumens. These two groups were separated from one another. The catechumen had to go through a waiting procedure while they prepared for baptism. This process could take as long as two to three years. There was also another separation of a kind in that there was both a private and public part to baptism. The deacons and deaconesses prepared the men and women for that part that was private due to the fact that it was done in the nude. The Eucharist was also private, allowing only the baptized to participate in it.
During the first two centuries of the church, it seems as though adult baptism was normative (but apparently not exclusively). The evidence for or against infant baptism in the apostolic and post apostolic eras is both indirect and ambiguous. There was, however, a conflict that arose during the latter part of the 2nd century related to infant baptism (see Tertullian). By the middle of the 3rd century infant baptism had become common practice (Cyprian) though not universally observed (Gregory of Nazianzus) (Brauer 83). The theological significance behind adult baptism would be an antecedent profession of faith. In regards to infant baptism such a profession of faith is obviously excluded. In the place of a profession of faith, emphasis was placed on what was done to and for the one being baptized (Brauer 83,84).
There are four main initiatory traditions. First, in East Syria there was the sequence of a messianic anointing with olive oil; water-bath; then the Eucharist. As a latter addition, there was a second anointing with chrism. This was added between the water-bath and the Eucharist.[3] Secondly, the more Hellenistic churches of West Syria had a water-bath; anointing with chrism; and the Eucharist.[4] Thirdly, there is a hybrid of East and west Syrian modes where there was a renouncing of Satan and acceptance of Christ that preceded the messianic anointing; water-bath; anointing with chrism; then the Eucharist.[5] The fourth tradition is characterized by, an exorcistic anointing; water-bath; anointing with chrism; presentation of the newly baptized to the assembled faithful[6] including laying on of hands, prayer for the grace of the Spirit, and a second anointing with chrism; then the Eucharist.[7] (Kavanagh 299). The east is marked by an emphasis on baptism as an incorporation into the divine Logos, while the west stressed forgiveness of sin and redemption from the devil (Brauer 83).
There was much diversity in the details of ceremonies that accompanied baptism in the early church before the end of the fourth century. For adults some of what was involved included fasting and prayer before the rite. A vigil was held the preceding night followed by a renunciation of the devil at dawn. The body was anointed against the devil. There was the actual immersion and baptismal confession recital. They were clothed in white. Hands were laid on them. There was a signing of the cross in chrism oil; an acceptance by the bishop for the community; first participation in the Eucharist; and a partaking of milk and honey. For infants, there was an emphasis on exorcism, which replaced the confession of sin. (Brauer 83).

Hippolytus on Baptism
Hippolytus was a second/third century (198-236 A.D.) western Greek writing church (Rome) theologian. He mentions having heard discourses by Irenaeus and Eusebius, the early church historian, referred to him as a bishop and contemporary of Origin. It is believed that he died a martyr in the mines of Sardinia during the time of Apollonius a Roman senator (Schaff vol. 2, 758-9). In Hippolytus’ Apostolic Traditions, he gives us a glimpse into the early church’s administration of baptism.
The process begins with the catechumen (applicant for baptism). Catechumens spend three years as hearers of the word. The process could take less time depending on the character of the catechumen. After this time of instruction, the catechumens pray by themselves apart from the other believers. The women had to stand by themselves in a separate part of the church during this time. When the catechumens finish their prayers, they are not allowed to give a kiss of peace because their kiss is not yet pure. This is reserved for the already baptized and even then this salutation was between men and men, women and women. After the time of prayer, the instructor that trained the catechumens would lay his hands on them, pray and dismiss them (Hippolytus 43).
Hippolytus goes on to give us insight into the “baptism in blood.”[8] In explaining what a catechumen should do in the case of being arrested for his faith Hippolytus says, “If a catechumen should be arrested for the name of the Lord, let him not hesitate about bearing his testimony; for if it should happen that they treat him shamefully and kill him, he will be justified, for he has been baptized in his own blood” (Hippolytus 44).
The ones that are set apart and chosen for baptism are the ones who’s lives have been examined and met certain standards. Their lives have been examined to see whether or not they have lived soberly, honored the widows, visited the sick, and have been active in well doing. These are set apart from the other catechumens and hands are laid on them daily in exorcism. When the day of their baptism draws near the bishop himself exorcises them so he can be personally sure that they are pure. If any are found not to be good and pure, they are put aside as not having heard the word in faith, “for it is never possible for the alien to be concealed” (Hippolytus 44).
Those set apart for baptism are then required to bathe on Thursday, freeing themselves of any impurities. Women that are menstruating have to be set aside and baptized on another day. On Friday the candidates are to fast. On Saturday, the bishop assembles them and commands them to kneel in prayer. The bishop then lays hands on them and exorcises all the evil spirits to flee and never to return. After doing this he breathes in their faces, seals their foreheads, ears and noses, then raises them up. The candidates then spend all night in vigil as they listen to reading and instruction.
At the crowing of the cock the next morning, prayer is made over the water, and the stage is set so that the stream either flows through the baptismal tank or pours into it from above. If there is a scarcity of water, whatever water that can be found should be used (Hippolytus 44,45).[9]
They are then to remove their clothing for the actual baptism. The little ones are to be baptized first.[10] If they can speak for themselves, they should do so. If not their parents, other relatives are to speak for them. The men are baptized next. The women are baptized last having let their hair loose and put aside any gold or silver ornaments that they may have been wearing (Hippolytus 45).
At the set hour of baptism, the bishop gives thanks over the oil and places it in a vessel, (the anointing is preformed by a presbyter). This is called the oil of thanksgiving. Other oil is then taken and exorcised. This oil is called the oil of exorcism. Two deacons then stand at the side of the presbyter. The deacon with the oil of exorcism stands to the presbyter’s left and the deacon with the oil of thanksgiving stands on his right. Then the presbyter takes hold of those that are to be baptized and commands him to renounce Satan. He is to say these words: “I renounce thee, Satan, and all thy servants and all thy works” (Hippolytus 45).
After this is done, the presbyter anoints him with the oil of exorcism saying, “Let all spirits depart from thee” (Hippolytus 46). Having done this, he is given over to the presbyter who baptizes. The presbyter, candidate, and a deacon all go down into the water.

Then, after these things, let him give him over to the presbyter who baptizes, and let the candidates stand in the water, naked, a deacon going with them likewise. And when he who is being baptized goes down into the water, he who baptizes him, putting his hand on him, shall say thus: Dost thou believe in God, the Father Almighty? And he who is being baptized shall say: I believe (Hippolytus 46).

There are three final phases left in the formula of the baptismal ceremony.

Then holding his hand placed on his head, he shall baptize him once. And then he shall say: Dost thou believe in Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who was born of the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and was dead and buried, and rose again the third day, alive from the dead, and ascended into heaven, and sat at the right hand of the Father, and will come to judge the quick and the dead? And when he says: I believe, he is baptized again. And again he shall say: Dost thou believe in the Holy Ghost, and the holy church, and the resurrection of the flesh? He who is being baptized shall say accordingly: I believe, and so he is baptized a third time. And afterward, when he has come up out of the water, he is anointed by the presbyter with the oil of thanksgiving, the presbyter saying: I anoint thee with the holy oil in the name of Jesus Christ. And so each one, after drying himself, is immediately clothed, and then is brought into the church (Hippolytus 46,47).[11]

Having done this there was then a confirmation and commission to service which included another anointing, and signing on the forehead. At this point, the baptized are allowed to join in prayer with the faithful (previously they were not allowed to do this or give the kiss of peace), and give the kiss of peace (Hippolytus 47,48). The Eucharist followed all this.

The Didache on Baptism
The Didache (also called “The Doctrine/Teaching of the Twelve Apostles”) is an early church document of church practices that gives some insight into how baptisms were performed in the church. The Didache says,

As for baptism, baptize this way. …baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, in running water. If you do not have running water, however, baptize in another kind of water; if you cannot do so in cold water, then do so in warm water. But if you have neither, pour water on the head thrice in the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit. Before the baptism, let the person baptizing and the person being baptized—and others who are able—fast; tell the one being baptized to fast one or two days before. …Let no one eat or drink of your thanksgiving [meal; i.e., the eucharistic meal] save those who have been baptized in the name of the Lord, since the Lord has said, ‘Do not give to dogs what is holy’ (Didache 9,10).

Like Hippolytus, the Didache is concerned with how the water is to be used, but making an exception (to what was apparently immersion) in the case that there was a lack of water. In such an instance water could be poured on the head of the baptized. We also see that the Didache required fasting, and the Eucharist was not to be partaken of apart from having been baptized.

II. Infant Baptism versus Believers Baptism
Hippolytus and the Didache are only two examples of the mode of baptism in the early church. As mentioned above, there are variations as to the details of how baptism was administered. The debates that surround the mode or method of baptism are somewhat minimal in contrast to the intensity of the debate on the issue of the recipients of baptism, i.e. adult versus infant baptism. Not only was there disagreement on this in the early church, but also this is one of the most enduring and hotly debated topics in the church today.
This part of the baptism debate is different from the current debate among Protestants that primarily agree that there is no regenerative presence in baptism. Today some Protestants argue that we should not baptize infants because of the need for regeneration and after such regeneration has taken place, baptism is then administered as a sign of the new birth. Others argue that the sign should be administered to infants in anticipation to a time of future generation, baptism being the sign of the covenant and having taken the place of circumcision.
The believer’s baptism in the early church, however, had plenty to do with regeneration. Baptismal regeneration was popularly taught in the early church, Tertullian being the most popular proponent of it. He discouraged infant baptism believing that one should wait until later in life to receive the cleansing of baptism. Baptismal regeneration is contrary to the scriptures, but one of the problems that the early church faced was that they did not have the completed cannot of the New Testament. Some times only fragments were available. Others did not even have this, but had to depend on memorized portions of scripture. It is no wonder then that there were some unorthodox beliefs in the early church.

Cyprian (ca. 200-258 AD) who is famous for his saying, “there is no salvation outside the church” was an early church theologian and martyr. In The Epistles of Cyprian LVIII, we find that Cyprian argued that an infant could be baptized as soon as it was born, rather than having to wait, as some contended, until the eighth day after birth.

But in respect of the case of the infants, which you say ought not to be baptized within the second or third day after their birth, and that the law of ancient circumcision should be regarded, so that you think that one who is just born should not be baptized and sanctified within the eighth day, we all thought very differently in our council. For in this course which you thought was to be taken, no one agreed; but we all rather judge that the mercy and grace of God is not to be refused to any one born of man. For as the Lord says in His Gospel, ‘the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them, ‘ as far as we can, we must strive that, if possible, no soul be lost….But again, if even to the greatest sinners, and to those who had sinned much against God, when they subsequently believed , remission of sins is granted—and nobody is hindered from baptism and from grace—how much rather ought we to shrink from hindering an infant, who, being lately born, has not sinned, except in that, being born after the flesh according to Adam (Cyprian in Roberts vol. V 353,354).

It is clear that infant baptism was very much a part of the early church. There was some disagreement as relates to this though. This disagreement starts with Tertullian and expands into the area of those that did not baptize infants. Cyprian was not as concerned about the ultimate effects that baptism would have on the infant as his teacher Tertullian was.

Tertullian (ca. 160-230 AD) the greatest early church theologian (called the master theologian by Cyprian), and is known for his saying, “What has the academy to do with the Church? What has Christ to do with Plato—Jerusalem with Athens?” believed that, because baptism had regenerative powers, one should wait until the end of one’s life before being baptized. That way one could enter heaven freshly cleansed. This is obviously very risky business! One can see though, why Tertullian would be opposed to infant baptism.
Tertullian has a somewhat different take on infant baptism then does Cyprian. In his work On Baptism XVIII, he argues that the delay of baptism is preferable. Tertullian, however, is not arguing that one should delay to the eighth day as the opponents of Cyprian argued. He argues for something more drastic.

And so, according to the circumstances and disposition, and even age, of each individual, the delay of baptism is preferable; principally, however, in the case of little children. For why is it necessary—if (baptism itself) is not so necessary—that the sponsors likewise should be thrust into danger? Who both themselves, by reason of mortality, may fail to fulfill their promises, and may be disappointed by the development of an evil disposition, in those for whom they stood? The Lord does indeed say, ‘Forbid them not to come unto me.’ Let them ‘come,’ then, while they are growing up; let them ‘come’ while they are learning, while they are learning whither to come; let them become Christians when they have become able to know Christ. Why does the innocent period of life hasten to the ‘remission of sins?’ More caution will be exercised in worldly matters: so that one who is not trusted with earthly substance is trusted with divine! Let them know how to ‘ask’ for salvation, that you may seem (at least) to have given ‘to him that asketh.’…If any understand the weighty import of baptism, they will fear its reception more than its delay… (Tertullian in Roberts vol. 3 678).

There are no documents in the early church that attack infant[12] baptism as false or heretical in anyway. Tertullian is the best source for support that infant baptism should not be administered. His reason for dissention, however, are not as strong as some would like. In a sense he seems to simply express the notion that baptism should be deferred but it would not be completely unlawful to baptize infants.
However, due to the limited information given by Tertullian on this topic, interpreting him may not be so easy. Tertullian does not seem to have a serious problem with infant baptism from one point of view, but one could also infer that infant baptism should be deferred altogether if we take Tertullian to a logical conclusion. Schaff says,

Among the fathers, Tertullian himself not excepted—for he combats only its expediency—there is not a single voice against the lawfulness and the apostolic origin of infant baptism…. But the very manner of Tertullian’s opposition proves as much in favor of infant baptism as against it. He meets it not as an innovation, but as a prevalent custom; and he meets it not with exegetical nor historical arguments, but only with considerations of religious prudence. His opposition to it is founded on his view of the regenerating effect of baptism, and of the impossibility of having mortal sins forgiven in the church after baptism; this ordinance cannot be repeated, and washes out only the guilt contracted before its reception (Schaff 259,261 vol. II).

Deathbed baptisms were popular throughout the early church, which meant that there were a number of people that did not get baptized as infants. There was a significant amount of freedom during the early church in this respect. Schaff points out prominent figures such as Constantine, Gregory of Nazianzum, St. Chrysostom, and St. Augstine (cf. Augustine’s Confessions Bk. I). Constantine sat among the fathers at the Council of Nicaea, giving legal status to its decrees, but put off his baptism to his deathbed. The others had pious mothers but they were not baptized until they were adults (Schaff 258 vol. II).
In conclusion we see that there was disagreement in the early church on the details of the way baptism was administered. We also see that there was disagreement on whether or not infants should be baptized.


Augustine. Confessions. Henry Chadwick, Trans., Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991.

Brauer, Jerald C., Ed. “Baptism”. The Westminster Dictionary of Church History. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press.

Hamman, A. “Baptism”. Encyclopedia of the Early Church. Vol. I. Angelo Di Berardino, Ed., New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Hippolytus. Apostolic Traditions

Jefford, Clayton N., Ed. The Didache in Context: Essays on Its Text, History, and Transmission. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1995.

Kavanagh, Aidan. “Christian Initiation”. The Westminster Dictionary of Christian Theology. Alan Richardson and John Bowden, Eds. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1983.

Roberts, Alexander and James Donaldson, Eds. Ante-Nicene Fathers: Translations of the Writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325, Vol. III, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdsmans Publishing Company, 1973.

---. Ante-Nicene Fathers: Translations of the Writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325, Vol. V, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdsmans Publishing Company, 1978.

Schaff, Philip, History of the Christian Church. Vol. II, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1994.

[1] I do have personal (yet growing) convictions in regard to baptism but they are not relevant here.
[2] I mention a distinction between those that believed baptism to be regenerative and those that did not. The early church for the most part believed in baptismal regeneration. The apostles clearly did not. One would assume that their teaching on this would be transmitted and received to some degree. I do not at this time have sources on this, and so my distinction in this part of the debate may be more related to latter and contemporary times in the Christian church as opposed to the era of the early church. Assumptions are not always good.
[3] The acts of Thomas, Didascalia Apostolorum, and the Armenian Ordo attest to this.
[4] Found in the post-baptismal catecheses of Cyril. Apparently this was a mark of the non-Roman churches of Gaul and Spain as well.
[5] According to Apostolic Constitutions
[6] Here we have an account of a public affirmation of the initiate’s baptism. This was previously private (Richardson 300).
[7] Hippolytus’ Apostolic Tradition
[8] There were two types of baptism in the early church, water baptism and the baptism in blood, reserved only for martyrs.
[9] It is interesting to note that there was the use of some sort of baptismal tank. It is not clear to me what exactly this was and I hate to speculate. It is also interesting to note that baptism was flexible in accordance to the availability of water, cf. also what the Didache has to say in regards to this.
[10] Again it is interesting to not that Hippolytus included the “little ones.” It is not clear whether or not they were infants, but he does mention that some were so young that they could not speak for themselves.
[11] In this paper I have tried to minimize long quotes by paraphrasing, however, I have included some more than usual lengthy quotes in order to bring in a portion of the voice of the primary sources.
[12] I think that it is safe to say that Tertullian includes infants in regards to “little children” given the context of what was happening with Cyprian.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Spurgeon Quote

"All bread is not baked in one oven."

"No one man, or society, or denomination, or section of the community, can do all the good work that is needed in this poor world" (Spurgeon, Salt Cellars vol. i).

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Wicked Prosper?

"Why are the wicked so prosperous? Why are evil people so happy" (Jeremiah 12:1)?

When we are comfortable in our own ways, when life is good to us, when we don't really have to live by faith because we "know what tomorrow will bring," we are not really well off. In reality we have come to a sad and pitiful state, having lost sight of what it really means to be thankful to God for all of his blessings.

This is a good occasion for God to work humility in our lives. Let us do it before he does!

But as for unbelievers the question is, Why do they prosper? Shouldn't God's people be better off than the wicked? The answer to the latter is that we are better off in that our riches are not earthly but heavenly. We live in the here and now but we also live with our eyes fixed on the eternal. Our father has it all! This world is not for us. We are merely passing through. Here we work for what is to come. Our reward is in heaven. The unbeliever may be happy and comfortable in the here and now but the day draws near when all will be lost to them; their worldly possessions and most importantly--their soul! Remember what our Lord said, "what profit is there if a man gains the whole world and loses his soul" (Mat. 16:26)?
But why does the wicked prosper? It is God's will that it be so (at least in this world not the next). Every opportunity is afforded to them for their repentance. But they do not acknowledge God, his grace, his mercy, or his gift of prosperity. His "rain falls on the just and the unjust" (Mat. 5:45). But they do not appreciate this. Rather they say, "Leave us alone! What can the almighty do for us? They have forgotten that he (God) filled their homes with good things" (Job 22:18). Do not take God's long suffering and grace for granted as regards this earthly comfort if this is your case. Rather surrender all to him.

Sunday, July 22, 2007


Though the world would tempt me,
the flesh would rend me,
sin would sicken me,
Satan would kill me,
It is grace that will save me! (Robert N. Landrum)

J.A morrison's Martin Luther The Great Reformer

For a survey type overview of the life of Martin Luther this book is well worth the read. It is easy enough for young people to read but not so simplistic that it is cannot be profited from by the more serious student. I enjoyed it.

The life of Martin Luther is fascinating. His example of standing for truth against hostile opposition is one of the greatest in all of church history.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Health Wealth and Prosperity

The name of Christ is not usually associated with high society. Biblically speaking the gospel is associated with shame and humility. However, throughout church history up until today there are those that manage to distort the true meaning of the gospel, equating it with a message of health, wealth, and prosperity.
The pope's of the time of the reformers were as much extravagant in their lifestyles as the kings and nobility. Today we have preachers that are not the least bit ashamed to beg for money claiming that Jesus (who had no earthly wealth) lived in luxury and would have them and you to to live accordingly. All you need to do is send them a check and wait for God to send you one in turn. (I am not talking about excusing tithing here). Furthermore they claim that one can be cured of all health deficiencies in assembly line type production. And if you would just think positively enough you can be prosperous beyond your wildest dreams.
Of course none of this is biblical. This sort of recipe theology is to be condemned. Indeed the bible condemns all tenants of the health, wealth and prosperity movement.
God usually only provides our daily bread. And it is the poor of this world that become rich in eternal rather than temporal treasures.
This movement is not only seen externally to the mainline denominations. But can even be seen, at least on a low-key level in good bible based churches. And if this be the case let those that think that they can come under the name of Christ for the sake of advancing their business endeavors, make connections with the right people as to be a part of the in crowd, and be counted in the ranks of high society, be labeled the hypocrites they are. They have grossly misunderstood the gospel, and are as transparent as glass when viewed through the lenses of scripture and spiritual discernment. They are fakes. Do not be fooled and taken advantage of by the deceivers!

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Psychology of Addiction

A distinction between two disease types:
Subjectively I think that it is in a sense a greater evil to suffer with a "disease" that subjects one to a slow and torturous death of addiction, that can last many years, rather than having to suffer for a short while with a more aggressive form of anatomical cancer, that at least puts ones end of suffering in sight. Though bad (and I am sympathetic and do not intend to downplay in any way the seriousness of all diseases as I watched my mother die a violent death from cancer) it seems as if there is a difference between the two. On the other hand, the addict still lives, though the quality of life for him and those around him is low. Do not miss understand me here. I am not opening a door for irrational and unethical behavior related to "quality of life" type issues that may lead to radical alternatives such as suicide (the path that many desperate addicts have chosen).
Objectively the difference is that diseases related to addiction are inseparable linked to behavior. If you have pancreatic cancer it is not your fault in the same behavioral sense as a sin related disease. The disease is an ultimate result of the cursed world we live in but by contrast the alcoholic is actively fueling his sin problem when he should not.

The Psychology of addiction as manifest in sinful behavior and consequences:
It is not that the addict does not care (usually they do) about what they are doing to themselves and how it effects others. Addicts are in a sense out of control of themselves. The hunger to satisfy the disease is so great that it takes over normal reasoning to the point that right decisions are made subservient to bad decisions. Especially in the case of the chemically dependent, this behavior places one's health at risk, creates financial problems, legal problems, brings humiliation and shame on themselves and family members, as well as causes harm to others that are not even related but suffer consequences such as drunk driving accidents, etc..
All that an addict's mind can think of is bringing relief to the disease by feeding it more and more, which ironically is not relief at all, but only fuel for the fire. It is as if the addict and the demoniac that kept throwing himself into the fire to be burned are one and the same. The addict throws himself into the fire, says to himself, "That burned!" but does not learn from the lesson and in a desire to warm him self again he throws himself into the fire again and again--and again.

The solution to the problem:
The solution to the problem is closely related to the source of the problem. Faulty thinking must become right thinking--regenerated thinking. We are to "renew our minds"(Rom. 12:2). "Be filled with the spirit." And "Make no provision for the flesh to fulfil it's lusts." God must become the addict's new addiction and sin must be mortified.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Theology of Addiction

Can a Christian be an addict? Yes and no. Yes in that many Christians have besetting sins, i.e. sins that they just cannot seem to be able to mortify/repent of. To clarify this "yes" and "no" statement let me say that one that does not seem to be bothered with being in such a condition is not really a Christian. A true Christian cannot rest with the matter of sin but on the contrary always struggles at overcome it. So in this context the answer is no.
There are some sins that are life controlling sins/addictions. Because of the noetic effects of sin the brain does not function as it should. We are "sick." We are "diseased." The medical community is replete with information that supports the notion of a brain malfunction, if you will, when it comes to addictions.
Indeed I would say that every sin rests on a defect in our brain/thinking/reasoning.
The medical field corroborates the fact that we are sometimes genetically predisposed with certain inclinations they call illnesses or disorders e.g. chemical dependency (alcohol and drug addiction), sexual addiction, gambling, and eating disorders . This is nothing new to the Christian. We call it original sin. Addictions are indeed diseases of the brain--a fallen brain! Sin has infected the thought process. This is true on both a physiological and spiritual level.
How do we overcome such addictions? We overcome them by using whatever means are necessary and at our disposal both spiritually and clinically. To have true "recovery" though "treatment" must be God centered.
There are many who have overcome addictions apart from faith in Christ , but miss the boat eternally. This is both good and bad. The fact of the matter is that addiction is sin and the only true way to get rid of sin is to bring it to God for disposal. Otherwise one only washes the outside and not the inside--eternally speaking.
"Bless the Lord...who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction (Ps. 103:1-4).

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Job 12:5 A Mature Christian Attitude Towards Sinners

"People who are at ease mock those in trouble. They give a push to people who are stumbling" (Job 12:5).

The plight of the sinner as the object of persecution by the self-righteous: Here are the self-righteous and prideful at their worst. When God has blessed men with such common grace that they rarely suffer loss, only occasionally face temptation, do not struggle with besetting sins, and are never made subject to live under the weight of spiritual depression, they sometimes mistakenly take their ease of life to be the standard for all Christians; and, with a sinful pride, they hold their state to be much higher than it really is, consequently oppressing rather than helping those that are not presently receiving such benefits from the Lord.
It is sad that when Christians are in trouble they many times become the object of ridicule and scorn; and this not only from outside of the church but namely from within! When they need help they are instead despised, set up as an obstacle of derision, and are looked down upon from the sharp, steep, long. narrow, pointy, noses of the "righteous." Rather than being received they are rejected being pushed further into despair, shame, and guilt by the very ones that should be understanding, sympathetic, loving and most of all helping them through their trials!

A warning: "Let those that think they stand take heed lest they fall!" (1 Cor. !0:12).

The mature Christian's attitude: "Brethren if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. (Gal. 6:1,2)

Why is it so hard to get the point across that Jesus receives sinners!?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Last Days Madness Gary DeMar

Last Days Madness presents a very strong case for a historical fulfilment of last days prophesy. No matter what your position is on eschatology (study of the end times) you will profit from this book. If you are historical in your viewpoint you will be better grounded. If you are a futurist you will have a very formidable opponent to deal with. But no matter what your position is (as long as it is "mainline") you will appreciate how DeMar closes the mouths of contemporary prophesy fanatics that are reckless in their predictions of the return of Christ. The book is worth the read.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Fundamentals

There is much diversity of opinion when it comes to religion. Though many believe that the bible is inspired, inerrant, and the source of all doctrinal truth, there is still diversity of opinion. The problem is that we don't always agree on what it says about a certain topic. Does this lead to some sort of justification for religious pluralism or off the wall cultic beliefs? Absolutely not!
Ultimately there will be strange cults and major denominational divisions. Even among "bible believers." But this is not to say the fault lies in the bible. The fault lies with the interpreters of the bible. How can we then be consistent in defining how one is saved, what a Christian is i.e. how do we know what constitutes Christianity?
With scripture twisting rampant in our day what are we to do? Even "solid" denominations have their disagreements. And the protestant reformation (the split of the accepted Catholic church) was not due to some far out weird teachings, but a somewhat complex defining of justification.
Whatever the case is (cults or mainstream disagreement included) there are certain fundamentals that we can not compromise and still be doctrinally and consistently sound Christians.

Here are a few examples of fundamental beliefs that cannot be compromised.
The way of salvation is one such fundamental. Though we may disagree on eschatology (the study of the end times) we cannot disagree on justification by faith alone and still call one another orthodox. Also we cannot esoterically view the bible as inerrant and fallible and both be considered orthodox. This allows inconsistent open progressive revelation with various sources of authority for one and not the other. Contradiction is inevitable. The deity of Christ is another non-negotiable.
We must have some fundamental beliefs that are not such that they can be disagreed on. These fundamentals define us and all of orthodox Christianity.

Here is an example of a non-fundamental.
You may notice that I have links to some that are dispensational in their eschatology, and links to others that hold to a different eschatological opinion. Does this allow one to infer that there is a fatal inconsistency? No! Such disagreement does not compromise any fundamental to the faith. It does not require us to break of fellowship with one another. Even though the debate gets heated there is no warrant to separate foundationally. Both sides are still Christian even though they cannot agree as to the final stages of the end of things. There are numerous other such examples. In conclusion:
We do not disagree over the way of salvation. Ever! It is a fundamental requirement for legitimately being Christian.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Spurgeon Quote

"The half-hearted man does nothing. He is always going to do much, but it ends in mere proposing, and comes to nothing. A life which lingers on the verge of something, but never comes to anything, is most ridiculous" (spurgeon, Salt Cellars vol. I).

This should encourage us to action. Should it not? I am always talking about what I am going to do ministry wise but I often find it is hard to do more than talk. If all did this nothing would get accomplished! Talk about helping to overcome financial obstacles, talk about doing something to ease the suffering of another in a material way, talk about doing what ever it takes to help those in need, talk about going on a mission trip, talk about going to visit the sick, the imprisoned, the orphan, to mortify sin in our lives, is all nothing more than proposing apart from action.

When will we be whole hearted in our love of the Lord and devoted whole hearted to his work?

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Spurgeon Quote

"All have tongues, but few hold them."

"And tis remarkable that they
Talk most who have the least to say" (Spurgeon, Salt Cellars vol. i).

Friday, July 6, 2007

The Existence of God/Cause and Effect (a point of clarification)

To state that "everything must have a cause" is to follow the error of Bertrand Russell. Taken this definition of cause and effect is to argue that even God must have a cause.
God does not have a cause. He is eternal!
To be correct in understanding cause and effect one should say, "every effect has a cause."
Evolution cannot answer the question of what put the world in motion apart from appealing to an absurd notion of an infinite regress.
An act of creation by God explains cause the cause and effect relationship that we take for granted every day. Evolution does not give an answer to this.
There are only two possibilities for us here. Either the universe is eternal or an eternal being brought our world into existence. To take the former position is to be caught up in eternal nonsense. We could never arrive where we are now if the universe is eternal. In our world 1 comes before 2 then 3 and so on.
On the other hand we can have our being in time and space if an eternal God created such a world of time and space. He is not bound to cause and effect as we are. He takes on the attribute of being a cause in itself or himself rather. Our world of contingency only finds intelligence and meaning by extension of divine eternal personality.
The objection arises: doesn't the same principle apply--that we cannot have our temporal being from the eternal even if it is God. Answer: Though this discussion is very abstract we can still make good philosophy with one approach but bad philosophy from the other.
God as eternal is able to give us a starting point. Apart from God as in a supposed eternal universe there is nothing outside of our selves/our world that is able to establish our current time space existence. Cause and effect goes on and on! The basic absurdity of the system causes it to collapse in on itself. How did the cause and effect sequence start is the question? If nothing started it then we are placing a blind faith in "nothing." This is ludicrous. Yet this is what atheistic "reputable" philosophers and scientists believe in rather than yield their intellects to God.
God is outside of our selves and though we do not know the details of how he does it, it is no violation of good philosophy to attribute to him our first cause we and our universe being the contingent effect. The alternative is absurdity!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

a Kempis Quote

"What I have told you to do is to acquire what in men's eyes appears worthless, instead of what they think valuable and important. True heavenly wisdom seems utterly worthless and insignificant to them; they have almost forgotten it. It holds no high opinion of itself and does not ask for human praise. It is often on the lips of many people--but goes no deeper; their lives are completely at variance with what they extol. Yet it is the precious pearl which is hidden from the eyes of many" (a Kempis, Imitation bk. iii).

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Spurgeon Quote

"A loose tooth and a fickle friend are two evils."

"The sooner we are clear of them the better: but who likes the wrench" (Spurgeon, Salt Cellars vol. I)?