Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Antidote to John Calvin's Institutes (IV,15:10-22) [Baptismal Effects / Fathers & Baptism / Sanctification / Catholic Baptism / Zipporah]

See the introduction and links to all installments at the top of my John Calvin, Calvinism, and General Protestantism web page; also the online version of the Institutes. Calvin's words will be in blue throughout. All biblical citations (in my portions) will be from RSV unless otherwise noted.

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Book IV

CHAPTER 15

OF BAPTISM.

10. Objection of those who imagine that there is some kind of perfect renovation after baptism. Original depravity remains after baptism. Its existence in infants. The elect after baptism are righteous in this life only by imputation.

It is now clear how false the doctrine is which some long ago taught, and others still persist in, that by baptism we are exempted and set free from original sin, and from the corruption which was propagated by Adam to all his posterity, and that we are restored to the same righteousness and purity of nature which Adam would have had if he had maintained the integrity in which he was created. This class of teachers never understand what is meant by original sin, original righteousness, or the grace of baptism.

Calvin's roster of the ignorant contains many great figures who do not hold to his novel views of baptism and its effects:

St. Irenaeus

‘And [Naaman] dipped himself . . . seven times in the Jordan’ [2 Kgs. 5:14]. It was not for nothing that Naaman of old, when suffering from leprosy, was purified upon his being baptized, but [this served] as an indication to us. For as we are lepers in sin, we are made clean, by means of the sacred water and the invocation of the Lord, from our old transgressions, being spiritually regenerated as newborn babes, even as the Lord has declared: ‘Except a man be born again through water and the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven’.

(Fragment 34 [A.D. 190])

St. Clement of Alexandria

When we are baptized, we are enlightened. Being enlightened, we are adopted as sons. Adopted as sons, we are made perfect. Made perfect, we become immortal . . . ‘and sons of the Most High’ [Ps. 82:6]. This work is variously called grace, illumination, perfection, and washing. It is a washing by which we are cleansed of sins, a gift of grace by which the punishments due our sins are remitted, an illumination by which we behold that holy light of salvation.

(The Instructor of Children 1:6:26:1 [A.D. 191])

St. Cyprian of Carthage

While I was lying in darkness . . . I thought it indeed difficult and hard to believe . . . that divine mercy was promised for my salvation, so that anyone might be born again and quickened unto a new life by the laver of the saving water, he might put off what he had been before, and, although the structure of the body remained, he might change himself in soul and mind. . . . But afterwards, when the stain of my past life had been washed away by means of the water of rebirth, a light from above poured itself upon my chastened and now pure heart; afterwards, through the Spirit which is breathed from heaven, a second birth made of me a new man.

(To Donatus 3–4 [A.D. 246])

St. Cyril of Jerusalem

If any man does not receive baptism, he does not have salvation. The only exception is the martyrs, who, even without water, will receive baptism, for the Savior calls martyrdom a baptism [Mark 10:38]. . . . Bearing your sins, you go down into the water; but the calling down of grace seals your soul and does not permit that you afterwards be swallowed up by the fearsome dragon. You go down dead in your sins, and you come up made alive in righteousness.

(Catechetical Lectures 3:10, 12 [A.D. 350])

St. Ephraem

The baptized when they come up are sanctified;--the sealed when they go down are pardoned.---They who come up have put on glory;--they who go down have cast off sin.

(Hymns for the Feast of the Epiphany, 6:9 [ante A.D. 373] )

St. Basil the Great

For prisoners, baptism is ransom, forgiveness of debts, the death of sin, regeneration of the soul, a resplendent garment, an unbreakable seal, a chariot to heaven, a royal protector, a gift of adoption.

(Sermons on Moral and Practical Subjects 13:5 [A.D. 379])

St. Gregory of Nazianz

Such is the grace and power of baptism; not an overwhelming of the world as of old, but a purification of the sins of each individual, and a complete cleansing from all the bruises and stains of sin. And since we are double-made, I mean of body and soul, and the one part is visible, the other invisible, so the cleansing also is twofold, by water and the Spirit; the one received visibly in the body, the other concurring with it invisibly and apart from the body; the one typical, the other real and cleansing the depths.

(Oration on Holy Baptism 7–8 [A.D. 388])

St. Ambrose of Milan

The Lord was baptized, not to be cleansed himself but to cleanse the waters, so that those waters, cleansed by the flesh of Christ which knew no sin, might have the power of baptism. Whoever comes, therefore, to the washing of Christ lays aside his sins.

(Commentary on Luke 2:83 [A.D. 389])

St. Augustine

Baptism washes away all, absolutely all, our sins, whether of deed, word, or thought, whether sins original or added, whether knowingly or unknowingly contracted.

(Against Two Letters of the Pelagians 3:3:5 [A.D. 420])

This is the meaning of the great sacrament of baptism, which is celebrated among us: all who attain to this grace die thereby to sin—as he himself [Jesus] is said to have died to sin because he died in the flesh (that is, ‘in the likeness of sin’)—and they are thereby alive by being reborn in the baptismal font, just as he rose again from the sepulcher. This is the case no matter what the age of the body. For whether it be a newborn infant or a decrepit old man—since no one should be barred from baptism—just so, there is no one who does not die to sin in baptism. Infants die to original sin only; adults, to all those sins which they have added, through their evil living, to the burden they brought with them at birth.

(Handbook on Faith, Hope, and Love 13[41] [A.D. 421])

Now, it has been previously shown (Book 2 chap. 1 sec. 8), that original sin is the depravity and corruption of our nature, which first makes us liable to the wrath of God, and then produces in us works which Scripture terms the works of the flesh (Gal. 5:19). The two things, therefore, must be distinctly observed—viz. that we are vitiated and perverted in all parts of our nature, and then, on account of this corruption, are justly held to be condemned and convicted before God, to whom nothing is acceptable but purity, innocence, and righteousness. And hence, even infants bring their condemnation with them from their mother’s womb; for although they have not yet brought forth the fruits of their unrighteousness, they have its seed included in them. Nay, their whole nature is, as it were, a seed of sin, and, therefore, cannot but be odious and abominable to God.

Calvin's faulty, excessive view of total depravity has been examined in these papers of mine:


Believers become assured by baptism, that this condemnation is entirely withdrawn from them, since (as has been said) the Lord by this sign promises that a full and entire remission has been made, both of the guilt which was imputed to us, and the penalty incurred by the guilt.

These statements are not too far from Catholicism.

They also apprehend righteousness, but such righteousness as the people of God can obtain in this life—viz. by imputation only, God, in his mercy, regarding them as righteous and innocent.

The falsity of imputation only with regard to removal of sin, is refuted by innumerable Scripture passages:


11. Original corruption trying to the pious during the whole course of their lives. They do not, on this account, seek a licence for sin. They rather walk more cautiously and safely in the ways of the Lord.

Another point is, that this corruption never ceases in us, but constantly produces new fruits—viz. those works of the flesh which we previously described, just as a burning furnace perpetually sends forth flame and sparks, or a fountain is ever pouring out water. For concupiscence never wholly dies or is extinguished in men, until, freed by death from the body of death, they have altogether laid aside their own nature (Book 3 chap. 3 sec. 10-13).

Catholics agree that concupiscence continues in us, but not that our entire human nature is corrupted.

Baptism, indeed, tells us that our Pharaoh is drowned and sin mortified; not so, however, as no longer to exist, or give no trouble, but only so as not to have dominion. For as long as we live shut up in this prison of the body, the remains of sin dwell in us, but if we faithfully hold the promise which God has given us in baptism, they will neither rule nor reign. But let no man deceive himself, let no man look complacently on his disease, when he hears that sin always dwells in us. When we say so, it is not in order that those who are otherwise too prone to sin may sleep securely in their sins, but only that those who are tried and stung by the flesh may not faint and despond. Let them rather reflect that they are still on the way, and think that they have made great progress when they feel that their concupiscence is somewhat diminished from day to day, until they shall have reached the point at which they aim—viz. the final death of the flesh; a death which shall be completed at the termination of this mortal life. Meanwhile, let them cease not to contend strenuously, and animate themselves to further progress, and press on to complete victory. Their efforts should be stimulated by the consideration, that after a lengthened struggle much still remains to be done. We ought to hold that we are baptised for the mortification of our flesh, which is begun in baptism, is prosecuted every day, and will be finished when we depart from this life to go to the Lord.

This is a good section that Catholics can agree with. Calvin agrees that the Christian life is one of day-by-day struggle and vigilance in the avoidance of sin by God's grace. His practical piety and spirituality is much better (and far more biblical) than his abstract, flawed soteriology (and this is common ground where Catholics and Calvinists can wholeheartedly agree). I have noted and rejoiced elsewhere that Calvin strongly urges good works as the proof of a lively faith.

12. The trouble occasioned by corruption, shown by the example and testimony of the Apostle Paul.

Here we say nothing more than the apostle Paul expounds most clearly in the sixth and seventh chapters of the Epistle to the Romans. He had discoursed of free justification, but as some wicked men thence inferred that they were to live as they listed, because their acceptance with God was not procured by the merit of works, he adds, that all who are clothed with the righteousness of Christ are at the same time regenerated by the Spirit, and that we have an earnest of this regeneration in baptism. Hence he exhorts believers not to allow sin to reign in their members.

Amen! We heartily concur. But we contend that Calvin's doctrine of imputed justification mitigates against this urging of good works and daily piety.

And because he knew that there is always some infirmity in believers, lest they should be cast down on this account, he adds, for their consolation, that they are not under the law. Again, as there may seem a danger that Christians might grow presumptuous because they were not under the yoke of the law, he shows what the nature of the abrogation is, and at the same time what the use of the law is. This question he had already postponed a second time. The substance is, that we are freed from the rigour of the law in order that we may adhere to Christ, and that the office of the law is to convince us of our depravity, and make us confess our impotence and wretchedness. Moreover, as this malignity of nature is not so easily apparent in a profane man who, without fear of God, indulges his passions, he gives an example in the regenerate man, in other words, in himself. He therefore says that he had a constant struggle with the remains of his flesh, and was kept in miserable bondage, so as to be unable to devote himself entirely to the obedience of the divine law. Hence he is forced to groan and exclaim, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24). But if the children of God are kept captive in prison as long as they live, they must necessarily feel very anxious at the thought of their danger, unless their fears are allayed. For this single purpose, then, he subjoins the consolation, that there is “now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). Hence he teaches that those whom the Lord has once admitted into favour, and ingrafted into communion with Christ, and received into the fellowship of the Church by baptism, are freed from guilt and condemnation while they persevere in the faith of Christ, though they may be beset by sin and thus bear sin about with them. If this is the simple and genuine interpretation of Paul’s meaning, we cannot think that there is anything strange in the doctrine which he here delivers.

But the same Paul teaches a continual sanctification as well as justification (in the many related papers cited as links above). Romans 7-8 is easily synthesized with Catholic soteriological doctrine. The entire book of Romans is not a "slam dunk" for Protestantism, as it is often made out to be.

13. Another end of baptism is to serve as our confession to men.

Baptism serves as our confession before men, inasmuch as it is a mark by which we openly declare that we wish to be ranked among the people of God, by which we testify that we concur with all Christians in the worship of one God, and in one religion; by which, in short, we publicly assert our faith, so that not only do our hearts breathe, but our tongues also, and all the members of our body, in every way they can, proclaim the praise of God. In this way, as is meet, everything we have is made subservient to the glory of God, which ought everywhere to be displayed, and others are stimulated by our example to the same course. To this Paul referred when he asked the Corinthians whether or not they had been baptised in the name of Christ (1 Cor. 1:13); intimating, that by the very circumstance of having been baptised in his name, they had devoted themselves to him, had sworn and bound themselves in allegiance to him before men, so that they could no longer confess any other than Christ alone, unless they would abjure the confession which they had made in baptism.

No disagreement, as far as this goes . . . in the case of infants (as Calvin would agree), it is the parents and relatives who are exhibiting faith.

14. Second part of the chapter. Of baptism as a confirmation of our faith.

Now that the end to which the Lord had regard in the institution of baptism has been explained, it is easy to judge in what way we ought to use and receive it. For inasmuch as it is appointed to elevate, nourish, and confirm our faith, we are to receive it as from the hand of its author, being firmly persuaded that it is himself who speaks to us by means of the sign; that it is himself who washes and purifies us, and effaces the remembrance of our faults; that it is himself who makes us the partakers of his death, destroys the kingdom of Satan, subdues the power of concupiscence, nay, makes us one with himself, that being clothed with him we may be accounted the children of God. These things, I say, we ought to feel as truly and certainly in our mind as we see our body washed, immersed, and surrounded with water.

Calvin again sounds "Catholic". Would that he were consistently so . . .

For this analogy or similitude furnishes the surest rule in the sacraments—viz. that in corporeal things we are to see spiritual, just as if they were actually exhibited to our eye, since the Lord has been pleased to represent them by such figures; not that such graces are included and bound in the sacrament, so as to be conferred by its efficacy, but only that by this badge the Lord declares to us that he is pleased to bestow all these things upon us.

And now we are back to the heretical denial of the intrinsic power of the sacrament as an instrument of God, to the emphasis of it as primarily a seal and confirmation . . .

Nor does he merely feed our eyes with bare show; he leads us to the actual object, and effectually performs what he figures.

He does, but He does so through the sacraments. The sacrament is not simply a signpost of what is to come or a confirmation of what has already occurred.

15. This illustrated by the examples of Cornelius and Paul. Of the use of baptism as a confession of faith.

We have a proof of this in Cornelius the centurion, who, after he had been previously endued with the graces of the Holy Spirit, was baptised for the remission of sins, not seeking a fuller forgiveness from baptism, but a surer exercise of faith; nay, an argument for assurance from a pledge. It will, perhaps, be objected, Why did Ananias say to Paul that he washed away his sins by baptism (Acts 22:16), if sins are not washed away by the power of baptism?

Note how Calvin (rather astonishingly) wishes to deny the plain import of St. Paul's clear-as-day words in Acts 22:16. Calvin chooses the route of special pleading and sophistry, rather than accept perspicuous scriptural revelation, that had always been interpreted at face value prior to the Protestant Revolt.

I answer, we are said to receive, procure, and obtain, whatever according to the perception of our faith is exhibited to us by the Lord, whether he then attests it for the first time, or gives additional confirmation to what he had previously attested.

This is what might be called obfuscation or obscurantism (also, eisegesis: reading into Scripture what is not there: one's own prior notions).

All then that Ananias meant to say was, Be baptised, Paul, that you may be assured that your sins are forgiven you. In baptism, the Lord promises forgiveness of sins: receive it, and be secure.

This is absolutely classic (and as sad as it is typical). Ananias meant to say so-and-so (insert novel Calvinist doctrine). It is literally an instance of the "Revised Calvin Version" that I part-jokingly referred to earlier:

Acts 22:16 (RSV) . . . Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.

Acts 22:16 (RCV) Be baptised, Paul, that you may be assured that your sins are forgiven you. In baptism, the Lord promises forgiveness of sins: receive it, and be secure.

Choose this day, dear reader, what you will believe: Holy Scripture, or Calvin's re-writing and eisegesis of Holy Scripture. Calvin does the same abracadabra, "now you see it now you don't" wizardry with Acts 2:38: another classic baptismal regeneration passage. In his commentaries he states:

Although in the text and order of the words, baptism doth here go before remission of sins, yet doth it follow it in order, because it is nothing else but a sealing of those good things which we have by Christ that they may be established in our consciences; therefore, after that Peter had intreated of repentance, he calleth the Jews unto the hope of grace and salvation; and, therefore, Luke well afterwards, in Paul’s sermon, joineth faith and repentance together in the same sense, wherein he putteth forgiveness of sins in this place, and that for good considerations; for the hope of salvation consisteth in the free imputation of righteousness; and we are counted just, freely before God, when he forgiveth us our sins.

I have no intention, however, to detract from the power of baptism.

No; who would ever think that?!

I would only add to the sign the substance and reality, inasmuch as God works by external means. But from this sacrament, as from all others, we gain nothing, unless in so far as we receive in faith. If faith is wanting, it will be an evidence of our ingratitude, by which we are proved guilty before God, for not believing the promise there given. In so far as it is a sign of our confession, we ought thereby to testify that we confide in the mercy of God, and are pure, through the forgiveness of sins which Christ Jesus has procured for us; that we have entered into the Church of God, that with one consent of faith and love we may live in concord with all believers. This last was Paul’s meaning, when he said that “by one Spirit are we all baptised into one body” (1 Cor. 12:13).

More obfuscation . . . It is very plain in Scripture! Calvin's special pleading is a case study of how man-made tradition attempts to obscure clear and obvious biblical teaching: unanimously interpreted in the same fashion for centuries until Calvin and Zwingli and other revolutionaries came along.

16. Baptism not affected by the worthiness or unworthiness of the minister. Hence no necessity to rebaptise those who were baptised under the Papacy.

Moreover, if we have rightly determined that a sacrament is not to be estimated by the hand of him by whom it is administered, but is to be received as from the hand of God himself, from whom it undoubtedly proceeded, we may hence infer that its dignity neither gains nor loses by the administrator. And, just as among men, when a letter has been sent, if the hand and seal is recognised, it is not of the least consequence who or what the messenger was; so it ought to be sufficient for us to recognise the hand and seal of our Lord in his sacraments, let the administrator be who he may. This confutes the error of the Donatists, who measured the efficacy and worth of the sacrament by the dignity of the minister.

We agree.

Such in the present day are our Catabaptists, who deny that we are duly baptised, because we were baptised in the Papacy by wicked men and idolaters; hence they furiously insist on anabaptism. Against these absurdities we shall be sufficiently fortified if we reflect that by baptism we were initiated not into the name of any man, but into the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and, therefore, that baptism is not of man, but of God, by whomsoever it may have been administered.

Note that Calvin expressly accepts the validity of Catholic baptism. Many anti-Catholic Protestants today would vigorously disagree with this (just as the Anabaptists did then). Many Orthodox Christians disagree with it also. And if Catholic baptism is valid, is that not proof that there is some semblance of Christianity left in Catholicism, since so important of a rite (indeed a sacrament) is left intact, despite all the supposed "idolatry"?

Be it that those who baptised us were most ignorant of God and all piety, or were despisers, still they did not baptise us into a fellowship with their ignorance or sacrilege, but into the faith of Jesus Christ, because the name which they invoked was not their own but God’s, nor did they baptise into any other name. But if baptism was of God, it certainly included in it the promise of forgiveness of sin, mortification of the flesh, quickening of the Spirit, and communion with Christ. Thus it did not harm the Jews that they were circumcised by impure and apostate priests. It did not nullify the symbol so as to make it necessary to repeat it. It was enough to return to its genuine origin. The objection that baptism ought to be celebrated in the assembly of the godly, does not prove that it loses its whole efficacy because it is partly defective. When we show what ought to be done to keep baptism pure and free from every taint, we do not abolish the institution of God though idolaters may corrupt it. Circumcision was anciently vitiated by many superstitions, and yet ceased not to be regarded as a symbol of grace; nor did Josiah and Hezekiah, when they assembled out of all Israel those who had revolted from God, call them to be circumcised anew.

Catholics disagree, of course, with Calvin's assessment of how corrupt the Catholic Church supposedly was, but his principles are correct, and similar to St. Augustine's in this respect.

17. Nothing in the argument that those so baptised remained some years blind and unbelieving. The promise of God remains firm. God, in inviting the Jews to repentance, does not enjoin them to be again circumcised.

Then, again, when they ask us what faith for several years followed our baptism, that they may thereby prove that our baptism was in vain, since it is not sanctified unless the word of the promise is received with faith, our answer is, that being blind and unbelieving, we for a long time did not hold the promise which was given us in baptism, but that still the promise, as it was of God, always remained fixed, and firm, and true.

Regeneration also remains true, but Calvin balks at going that far (as we saw in his absurd treatment of Acts 22:16 above).

Although all men should be false and perfidious, yet God ceases not to be true (Rom. 3:3, 4); though all were lost, Christ remains safe. We acknowledge, therefore, that at that time baptism profited us nothing, since in us the offered promise, without which baptism is nothing, lay neglected.

He appears to be arguing that the promise remains true and form; yet we can fail to appropriate it in our own lives and make it our own. There is a sense in which this is true in the Catholic outlook, too.

Now, when by the grace of God we begin to repent, we accuse our blindness and hardness of heart in having been so long ungrateful for his great goodness. But we do not believe that the promise itself has vanished, we rather reflect thus: God in baptism promises the remission of sins, and will undoubtedly perform what he has promised to all believers.

We add that He performs it right during the baptism, as Holy Scripture plainly states several times.

That promise was offered to us in baptism, let us therefore embrace it in faith. In regard to us, indeed, it was long buried on account of unbelief; now, therefore, let us with faith receive it. Wherefore, when the Lord invites the Jewish people to repentance, he gives no injunction concerning another circumcision, though (as we have said) they were circumcised by a wicked and sacrilegious hand, and had long lived in the same impiety. All he urges is conversion of heart. For how much soever the covenant might have been violated by them, the symbol of the covenant always remained, according to the appointment of the Lord, firm and inviolable. Solely, therefore, on the condition of repentance, were they restored to the covenant which God had once made with them in circumcision, though this which they had received at the hand of a covenant-breaking priest, they had themselves as much as in them lay polluted and extinguished.

No particular objection . . .

18. No ground to allege that Paul rebaptised certain of John’s disciples. The baptism of John. What it is to be baptised in the name of Christ.

But they seem to think the weapon which they brandish irresistible, when they allege that Paul rebaptised those who had been baptised with the baptism of John (Acts 19:3, 5). For if, by our confession, the baptism of John was the same as ours, then, in like manner as those who had been improperly trained, when they learned the true faith, were rebaptised into it, ought that baptism which was without true doctrine to be accounted as nothing, and hence we ought to be baptised anew into the true religion with which we are now, for the first time, imbued? It seems to some that it was a foolish imitator of John, who, by a former baptism, had initiated them into vain superstition. This, it is thought, may be conjectured from the fact, that they acknowledge their entire ignorance of the Holy Spirit, an ignorance in which John never would have left his disciples. But it is not probable that the Jews, even though they had not been baptised at all, would have been destitute of all knowledge of the Spirit, who is celebrated in so many passages of Scripture. Their answer, therefore, that they knew not whether there was a Spirit, must be understood as if they had said, that they had not yet heard whether or not the gifts of the Spirit, as to which Paul questioned them, were given to the disciples of Christ. I grant that John’s was a true baptism, and one and the same with the baptism of Christ. But I deny that they were rebaptised (see Calv. Instruct. adv. Anabapt.).

This is another extraordinary denial of the plain witness of Scripture: in this case a bald fact recorded in Holy Writ.

What then is meant by the words, “They were baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus”? Some interpret that they were only instructed in sound doctrine by Paul; but I would rather interpret more simply, that the baptism of the Holy Spirit, in other words, the visible gifts of the Holy Spirit, were given by the laying on of hands. These are sometimes designated under the name of baptism. Thus, on the day of Pentecost, the apostles are said to have remembered the words of the Lord concerning the baptism of the Spirit and of fire. And Peter relates that the same words occurred to him when he saw these gifts poured out on Cornelius and his family and kindred. There is nothing repugnant to this interpretation in its being afterwards added, “When Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them” (Acts 19:6). For Luke does not narrate two different things, but follows the form of narrative common to the Hebrews, who first give the substance, and then explain more fully. This any one may perceive from the mere context. For he says, “When they heard this they were baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them.” In this last sentence is described what the nature of the baptism was. But if ignorance vitiates a former, and requires to be corrected by a second baptism, the apostles should first of all have been rebaptised, since for more than three full years after their baptism they had scarcely received any slender portion of purer doctrine. Then so numerous being the acts of ignorance which by the mercy of God are daily corrected in us, what rivers would suffice for so many repeated baptisms?

But the reference is obviously to water baptism:
Acts 19:2-6 And he said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" And they said, "No, we have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit." [3] And he said, "Into what then were you baptized?" They said, "Into John's baptism." [4] And Paul said, "John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus." [5] On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. [6] And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.

Similar passages about baptism use the same terminology as 19:5. Acts 2:38 and 8:14-17 even mention the coming of the Holy Spirit in the same context, just as in 19:5-6, and the latter mentions laying on of hands, too, so that it is almost exactly analogous:

Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

Acts 2:38 And Peter said to them, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 8:14-17 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Sama'ria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, [15] who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit; [16] for it had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. [17] Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.

Acts 10:48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. . . .

Yet Calvin in his Commentaries interprets all of these passages as pertaining water baptism (Matt 28:19; Acts 2:38; Acts 8:16; and Acts 10:48), so why does he eccentrically interprets 19:5-6 as not water baptism, in attempting to stretch the analogy having to do with rebaptism too far?

The laying on of hands is an entirely different thing. The text is referring to baptism in 19:5 and something akin to what we now believe is confirmation, in 19:6. Calvin collapses the two verses into one act, holding that 19:6 is the interpretation of what occurred in 19:5. His is a novel interpretation. Many other (if not most or nearly all) Protestant commentators casually assume that this is water baptism:

The point here is simply that these twelve men were grossly ignorant of the meaning of John's baptism as regards repentance, the Messiahship of Jesus, the Holy Spirit. Hence Paul had them baptized, not so much again, as really baptized this time, in the name or on the authority of the Lord Jesus . . .

(A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament)

And hearing this, they were baptized - By some other. Paul only laid his hands upon them. They were baptized - They were baptized twice; but not with the same baptism. John did not administer that baptism which Christ afterward commanded, that is, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

(John Wesley's Explanatory Notes)

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (indicated by cross-referencing)

He owns that John’s baptism was a very good thing, as far as it went: John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance. By this baptism he required people to be sorry for their sins, and to confess them and turn from them; and to bring any to this is a great point gained. But, (2.) He shows them that John’s baptism had a further reference, and he never designed that those he baptized should rest there, but told them that they should believe on him who should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus,—that his baptism of repentance was designed only to prepare the way of the Lord, and to dispose them to receive and entertain Christ, whom he left them big with expectations of; nay, whom he directed them to: Behold the Lamb of God. "John was a great and good man; but he was only the harbinger,—Christ is the Prince. His baptism was the porch which you were to pass through, not the house you were to rest in; and therefore it was all wrong for you to be baptized into the baptism of John.’’6. When they were thus shown the error they were led into, they thankfully accepted the discovery, and were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, v. 5. As for Apollos, of whom it was said (ch. 18:25) that he knew the baptism of John —that he rightly understood the meaning of it when he was baptized with it, though he knew that only —yet, when he understood the way of God more perfectly, he was no again baptized, any more than Christ’s first disciples that had been baptized with John’s baptism and knew it referred to the Messiah at the door (and, with an eye to this, submitted to it), were baptized again. But to these disciples, who received it only with an eye to John and looked no further, as if he were their saviour, it was such a fundamental error as was as fatal to it as it would have been for any to be baptized in the name of Paul (1 Co. 1:13); and therefore, when they came to understand things better, they desired to be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, and were so: not by Paul himself, as we have reason to think, but by some of those who attended him.

(Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible)

19. The corruptions introduced into baptism. The form of pure Christian baptism. Immersion or sprinkling should be left free.

The force, dignity, utility, and end of the sacrament must now, if I mistake not, be sufficiently clear. In regard to the external symbol, I wish the genuine institution of Christ had been maintained as fit to repress the audacity of men.

The audacity of men can definitely be a problem in matters religious; yes indeed.

As if to be baptised with water, according to the precept of Christ, had been a contemptible thing, a benedicion, or rather incantation, was devised to pollute the true consecration of water. There was afterwards added the taper and chrism, while exorcism was thought to open the door for baptism. Though I am not unaware how ancient the origin of this adventitious farrago is,

"Yet I will ignore the fact that it is ancient, and pretend that this has no relevance to anything, as long as I disagree with it . . ."

still it is lawful for me and all the godly to reject whatever men have presumed to add to the institution of Christ.

It is beyond ludicrous for Calvin to object to the introduction of chrism accompanying baptism (which is simply a harmless development of liturgy), when he is ditching doctrines and inventing new ones left and right with little or no regard to apostolic tradition or any other.

When Satan saw that by the foolish credulity of the world his impostures were received almost without objection at the commencement of the gospel, he proceeded to grosser mockery: hence spittle and other follies, to the open disgrace of baptism, were introduced with unbridled licence.

Yet Calvin thinks nothing of denying baptismal regeneration. He objects to ceremonies and rites while gutting the very essence of the thing he purports to be upholding.

From our experience of them, let us learn that there is nothing holier, or better, or safer, than to be contented with the authority of Christ alone.

Since Christ by His authority upholds tradition (most notably in Matthew 5:18-20 and 23:1-3), then "Christ alone" includes tradition and Calvin has no warrant to arbitrarily reject it wherever it tickles his fancy to do so.

How much better, therefore, is it to lay aside all theatrical pomp, which dazzles the eyes of the simple, and dulls their minds, and when any one is to be baptised to bring him forward and present him to God, the whole Church looking on as witnesses, and praying over him; to recite the Confession of Faith, in which the catechumen has been instructed,

Reciting a confession is just as much an "addition" to baptism itself (and not spelled out in Scripture) as chrism or anything else. So why the arbitrariness and double standards? In effect, whatever Calvin says can accompany baptism is fine and dandy, but let a Catholic or a Church father dare to do the same thing and Calvin is dead set against it, complete with flowery jeremiads and denunciations.

explain the promises which are given in baptism,

Another "addition" to the simple rite . . .

then baptise in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and conclude with prayer and thanksgiving. In this way, nothing which is appropriate would be omitted,

If we can accept that Calvin is able to determine what is "appropriate" then we can all the more so do the same with regard to a Church with a 1500 year pedigree and unbroken apostolic succession.

and the one ceremony, which proceeded from its divine Author, would shine forth most brightly, not being buried or polluted by extraneous observances.

That is, whatever Calvin in his infinite, infallible, self-assumed wisdom deems "inappropriate" and "extraneous."

Whether the person baptised is to be wholly immersed, and that whether once or thrice, or whether he is only to be sprinkled with water, is not of the least consequence: churches should be at liberty to adopt either, according to the diversity of climates, although it is evident that the term baptise means to immerse, and that this was the form used by the primitive Church.

Here at last he gets something right.

20. To whom the dispensation of baptism belongs. Not to private individuals or women, but to the ministers of the Church. Origin of the baptism of private individuals and women. An argument in favour of it refuted.

It is here also pertinent to observe, that it is improper for private individuals to take upon themselves the administration of baptism; for it, as well as the dispensation of the Supper, is part of the ministerial office. For Christ did not give command to any men or women whatever to baptise, but to those whom he had appointed apostles. And when, in the administration of the Supper, he ordered his disciples to do what they had seen him do (he having done the part of a legitimate dispenser), he doubtless meant that in this they should imitate his example.

We agree that this is the norm.

The practice which has been in use for many ages, and even almost from the very commencement of the Church, for laics to baptise, in danger of death, when a minister could not be present in time, cannot, it appears to me, be defended on sufficient grounds.

Note again how Calvin thumbs his nose at tradition and constant practice, even if it is from (by his own admission) "the very commencement of the Church." That is of no import to him whatever. If he disagrees with the practice, he cares not a whit whether it was widely practiced in all ages. This is, of course, classic Protestant private judgment and disdain of the corporate and historical nature of Christianity, as well as the intrinsic part that tradition plays in it.

Even the early Christians who observed or tolerated this practice were not clear whether it were rightly done. This doubt is expressed by Augustine when he says, “Although a laic have given baptism when compelled by necessity, I know not whether any one can piously say that it ought to be repeated. For if it is done without any necessity compelling it, it is usurpation of another’s office; but if necessity urges, it is either no fault, or a venial one” (August. Cont. Epist. Parmen. Lib. 2 c. 13). With regard to women, it was decreed, without exception, in the Council of Carthage (cap. 100), that they were not to presume to baptise at all. But there is a danger that he who is sick may be deprived of the gift of regeneration if he decease without baptism! By no means. Our children, before they are born, God declares that he adopts for his own when he promises that he will be a God to us, and to our seed after us. In this promise their salvation is included. None will dare to offer such an insult to God as to deny that he is able to give effect to his promise.

Thus, Catholics believe in a baptism of desire, and allow some exceptions to the general rule and practice.

How much evil has been caused by the dogma, ill expounded, that baptism is necessary to salvation, few perceive,

Now the direct scriptural tie between baptism and salvation is attacked by Calvin as causing much "evil."

and therefore think caution the less necessary. For when the opinion prevails that all are lost who happen not to be dipped in water,

Which is not the Catholic tradition, as St. Thomas Aquinas and others make very clear . . .

our condition becomes worse than that of God’s ancient people, as if his grace were more restrained than under the Law. In that case, Christ will be thought to have come not to fulfil, but to abolish the promises, since the promise, which was then effectual in itself to confer salvation before the eighth day, would not now be effectual without the help of a sign.

Calvin seems to think that Catholics teach this, which again shows how ignorant he really was about many Catholic doctrines.

21. Exploded also by Tertullian and Epiphanius.

What the custom was before Augustine’s day is gathered, first, from Tertullian, who says, that a woman is not permitted to speak in the Church, nor yet to teach, or baptise, or offer, that she may not claim to herself any office of the man, not to say of the priest (Tertull. Cont. Hæres. Lib. 1). Of the same thing we have a sufficient witness in Epiphanius, when he upbraids Marcian with giving permission to women to baptise. I am not unaware of the answer given by those who take an opposite view—viz. that common use is very different from an extraordinary remedy used under the pressure of extreme necessity—but since he declares it mockery to allow women to baptise, and makes no exception, it is sufficiently plain that the corruption is condemned as inexcusable on any pretext. In his Third Book, also, when he says that it was not even permitted to the holy mother of Christ, he makes no reservation.

Two fathers do not a "consensus of the fathers" make. One can always find exceptions to the rule. This proves nothing as to the overall tradition or prevailing viewpoint.

22. Objection founded on the case of Zipporah. Answer. Children dying before baptism not excluded from heaven, provided the want of it was not caused by negligence or contempt.

The example of Zipporah (Exod. 4:25) is irrelevantly quoted. Because the angel of God was appeased after she took a stone and circumcised her son, it is erroneously inferred that her act was approved by God.

Calvin himself, in his Commentaries on Exodus 4, holds that Moses was negligent in not circumcising his son. Yet he also holds that Zipporah was wrong to have done so, and that God didn't approve; therefore, he thinks that by analogy, no one (especially a woman) can baptize in extreme circumstances. We don't have much at all in the Bible about this, but what we do know is certainly not inconsistent with the Catholic argument by analogy for emergency baptism.

All we know is that "the LORD met him and sought to kill" Moses (Ex 4:24). Zipporah performed the circumcision (Ex 4:25) and then we are informed: "So he let him [Moses] alone" (Ex 4:26). One doesn't derive an overwhelming sense from this scanty information that God disapproved. It seems to me that it is more likely from what we know, that God did rather than did not approve. At the very least, if He didn't approve, it seems plausible to think that it would be mentioned in the text that he was angry at Zipporah. But it does not. So the Catholic argument by analogy is at the very least, equally as plausible as Calvin's denial that God was pleased by the act.

Were it so, we must say that God was pleased with a worship which Gentiles brought from Assyria, and set up in Samaria.

That is a non sequitur: having nothing to do with anything.

But other valid reasons prove, that what a foolish woman did is ignorantly drawn into a precedent.

The biblical text doesn't give warrant to call her "foolish" either. Most commentators think she saved Moses' life, after all. That would seem to be a praiseworthy thing to do, given Moses' huge importance in salvation history: even from God's perspective.

Were I to say that there was something special in the case, making it unfit for a precedent—and especially as we nowhere read that the command to circumcise was specially given to priests, the cases of baptism and circumcision are different—I should give a sufficient refutation. For the words of Christ are plain: “Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptising them” (Mt. 28:19). Since he appointed the same persons to be preachers of the Gospel, and dispensers of baptism—and in the Church, “no man taketh this honour unto himself,” as the apostle declares (Heb. 5:4), “but he that is called of God, as was Aaron”—any one who baptises without a lawful call usurps another’s office.

We agree that the normative procedure is with a priest, but we don't get extreme and legalistic and deny any exceptions to the rule, as Calvin does, with insufficient biblical rationale.

Paul declares, that whatever we attempt with a dubious conscience, even in the minutest matters, as in meat and drink, is sin (Rom. 14:23). Therefore, in baptism by women, the sin is the greater, when it is plain that the rule delivered by Christ is violated, seeing we know it to be unlawful to put asunder what God has joined.

There are exceptions all through Scripture, especially in Jesus' teaching; for example, saving an animal that falls into a pit on the Sabbath (Matt 12:11); His disciples eating the showbread on the Sabbath: that was designated for the priests (Matt 12:1-4), or healing on the Sabbath (Matt 12:10-12). Jesus was concerned with mercy (Matt 12:7) and justice and faith: the "weightier matters" as opposed to tithing "mint and dill and cummin," etc. (Matt 23:23).

This is another such instance where exceptions are allowed. But Calvin, oddly enough, wants to choose the legalistic, hypocritical Pharisaical route. It is the Catholic Church which is squarely within the spirit of the New Covenant here, not an arbitrarily legalistic and overly-strict Calvin. But it's easy for him to do, anyway, because he denies (in the face of many plain Bible passages) that baptism saves; therefore, for him it is a relatively trivial issue whether a person is baptized under extreme circumstances, so he makes lousy exegetical arguments to bolster up his misguided case.

But all this I pass; only I would have my readers to observe, that the last thing intended by Zipporah was to perform a service to God. Seeing her son in danger, she frets and murmurs, and, not without indignation, throws down the foreskin on the ground; thus upbraiding her husband, and taking offence at God.

Again, he is reading much into the text. We don't know her motivations. She could very well have been angry at Moses while she was trying to be obedient to God and save her husband's life. We don't know that she was "taking offence at God." Possibly, but it isn't possible to know for sure. Any number of things are possible. But Calvin's dogmatic speculations go too far, because we don't have enough information to make such determinations: let alone with Calvin's frequent deluded pseudo-certainty.

In short, it is plain that her whole procedure is dictated by passion: she complains both against her husband and against God, because she is forced to spill the blood of her son.

She complained about Moses, for sure (and probably rightly so, if he should have had his son circumcised and did not), but the text doesn't say that she complained against God. That is simply Calvin's eisegesis. He is opposing a Catholic argument, so anything goes, no matter how groundless and unscriptural or non-scriptural. In opposing Catholicism, anything is permitted, even empty arguments and even worse logic. In my book The Catholic Verses, my goal was to show again and again how Protestants attempt to rationalize, dismiss, or explain away passages that favor a Catholic doctrine. This is another instance of that. When this happens, even sharp Protestants like Calvin get very irrational, because of the emotional animus they possess against Catholicism.

We may add, that however well she might have conducted herself in all other respects, yet her presumption is inexcusable in this, in circumcising her son while her husband is present, and that husband not a mere private individual, but Moses, the chief prophet of God, than whom no greater ever arose in Israel.

Perhaps so; yet we cannot conclude from the text that God disapproved, and if she saved Moses' life, then that was more important than obeying the letter of the law to the extreme (even letting him die rather than go against the norm). Those principles of exceptions to the rules are explicitly espoused by Jesus Himself, as shown above.

This was no more allowable in her, than it would be for women in the present day under the eye of a bishop.

But Calvin's basis for concluding this is fallacious and insufficiently supported in the first place.

But this controversy will at once be disposed of when we maintain, that children who happen to depart this life before an opportunity of immersing them in water, are not excluded from the kingdom of heaven.

That is what Catholics mostly believe, too. The notion that they went to hell simply because they were not baptized, has never been a Catholic dogma. Calvin apparently thinks it is, but this shows how little he knows about the historic teachings in this regard.

Now, it has been seen, that unless we admit this position, great injury is done to the covenant of God, as if in itself it were weak, whereas its effect depends not either on baptism, or on any accessaries. The sacrament is afterwards added as a kind of seal, not to give efficacy to the promise, as if in itself invalid, but merely to confirm it to us.

Calvin builds his heretical notions on false premises; that is: sacraments do not save in the first place; have nothing directly, instrumentally to do with salvation, and are only seals and "merely" confirmations of what was or is to come; therefore their omission in some few cases does no harm and is a non-issue. But the initial premise is wrong and unbiblical, so the conclusion he draws from it is untrue as well. The Catholic view, on the other hand, fully thinks through sacramentology (including exceptional cases): firmly grounded in both Scripture and reason and with regard to what the great teachers of the past have held on the question.

Hence it follows, that the children of believers are not baptised, in order that though formerly aliens from the Church, they may then, for the first time, become children of God, but rather are received into the Church by a formal sign, because, in virtue of the promise, they previously belonged to the body of Christ.

That's simply not how Scripture looks at it, as we have seen again and again throughout this critique.

Hence if, in omitting the sign, there is neither sloth, nor contempt, nor negligence, we are safe from all danger.

Because the huge importance of the sacrament has been demoted and denigrated in the first place in Calvin's heretical system . . .

By far the better course, therefore, is to pay such respect to the ordinance of God as not to seek the sacraments in any other quarter than where the Lord has deposited them. When we cannot receive them from the Church, the grace of God is not so inseparably annexed to them that we cannot obtain it by faith, according to his word.

I think we can't go wrong with Scripture and the unbroken developed consensus of tradition and history and the Catholic Church, rather than by Calvin's inconsistent, arbitrary eisegesis, thought up in his own head, mainly in overreaction to the Catholicism that he so despises. No system worthy of allegiance proceeds in mostly negative fashion: in reaction to something else. The Christian system always builds on what came before: Judaism, Jesus, the apostles, the fathers, the doctors, great exegetes and saints; it doesn't tear down and engage in reactionary sophistry, almost always against Catholicism, as Calvin's method so often does.

5 comments:

ElderChild said...

"Pure And Undefiled Religion"

"Pure religion and undefiled before G-D The Father is this, to visit the fatherless (those children who know not their Father, HE WHO is The Only True G-D, Father{Creator} of ALL) and widows(those who have not "experienced The Messiah and The Power{Our Father} that raised Him from among the dead") in their affliction and to keep oneself uncontaminated by the world......." (James 1:27)

Simply, all other religion is impure and defiled.......

And notice that "pure and undefiled" religion is "oneself(individual)", a Brother or Sister doing The Will of Our Father, led of The Holy, Set Apart, Spirit.......

Simply, corporate "religion" is pagan and of this wicked world.......

And "Brothers and Sisters" is not "religion", for what are Brothers and Sisters if not Family?

Would not The Family of The Only True G-D, Father(Creator) of ALL, "The Body of The Messiah", be much closer than a natural, fleshly family?

And so it is that most of those who have chosen to follow The Messiah on The Narrow Way have had to "forsake their natural father, mother, brothers, sisters" and all others who will not follow The Messiah, because they "love this wicked world and their own life in and of it".......

The Brethren of The Messiah have "forsaken all for The Kingdom of Heaven's sake".......

Father Help! and HE does.......

What is declared to be "religion" today is truly the devil's playground.......

Simply, Faith will not create a system of religion.......

Hope is there would be those who take heed unto The Call of The Only True G-D to "Come Out of her, MY people"!

For they will "Come Out" of this wicked world(babylon) and it's systems of religion, and enter into "the glorious Liberty of The Children of The Only True G-D".

And so it is that they will no longer be of those who are destroying the earth(land, air, water, vegetation, creatures)" and perverting that which is Spirit(Light, Truth, Life, Love, Peace, Hope, Faith, Mercy, Grace, Miracles, etc.).......

Peace, in spite of the dis-ease(no-peace) that is of this world and it's systems of religion, for "the WHOLE(not just a portion) world is under the control of the evil one" (1John5:19) indeed and Truth.......

Truth is never ending.......

Dave Armstrong said...

Faith will not create a system of religion

I see. So we're supposed to follow your obvious system of religion that came out of your own head, in the name of renouncing all systems . . .

Sorry; I'll stick with the Bible and Catholicism.

ElderChild said...

Simply, sad for you ;-(

Dave Armstrong said...

Is it really, now? At least I'm not inventing my religious faith out of my own head, as if the universe revolves around me.

ElderChild said...

You testified, "At least I'm not inventing my religious faith out of my own head".

Exactly what you're doing ;-(

Please share The Miracle you experienced when you received "a love of the Truth".