By Pierre Bruneau (1689 London Baptist Confession)
I just finished watching the debate between Dr. James White (the Protestant debater) and Peter D. Williams (the Roman Catholic debater) on the topic of indulgences. Throughout the debate both sides claimed to believe in the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice and the sufficiency of grace. I am not surprised by this because Rome has historically claimed to teach these things. What does this mean, that both sides have reached a kind of consensus or agreement? Absolutely not! The debate between James White and Peter D. Williams clearly demonstrated that while Roman Catholics and Protestants often use the same words and phrases they mean entirely different things by them. The difference between the two debaters can be summarized as follows: Peter D. Williams was saying that grace is sufficient to make our salvation possible but that we then have to do certain things to make it a reality, and although Christ’s sacrifice is sufficient we must do certain things for it to become effective or remain effective. Dr. White, on the other hand, was saying that grace not only makes our salvation possible, but an accomplished reality that requires no work on our part, and that it is on the basis of Christ’s sacrifice alone, which has actually removed the debt of all punishment and given us peace and access to God on that basis alone. You see, for Rome grace is only sufficient to make salvation possible, while the Reformation has always taught that it is sufficient to make it an accomplished reality. There is a vast difference between the two!
A good way to illustrate this is to use an illustration used by Peter D. Williams during the debate. I will summarize it here but you can watch the debate to listen to his full argument. He likened God to someone who provides all the necessary funds and materials to build a building, but the builders still have to build the building. But the analogy breaks down when you bring it to the light of Scripture, because if the builders have to build the building, it means that they have to work, but Scripture clearly tells us that “if it is by grace it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace” (Romans 11:6). Not only that, but if the builders are working, then they deserve a wage, and if the funds provided are analogous to God’s grace or Christ’s merits, then the builders would be earning God’s grace and Christ’s merits! Is this the conclusion Peter D. Williams intended us to come to? Did he not realize how such horrible blasphemy can be communicated through his seemingly innocent illustration? But the reality is that the Catechism of the Catholic Church explicitly asserts that we can use grace to earn further grace, and the Council of Trent and many other official Roman Catholic Church documents have consistently claimed the necessity of works for salvation (for example see the CCC section 2010 and the 6th session of the Council of Trent). But to make any kind of work necessary for salvation is to make God out to be our debtor, as Scripture says, “Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor but as what is due. But to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness…” (Romans 4:4-5).
Towards the end of the debate Mr. Williams also plainly denied the penal substitutionary atonement of Christ. While he affirms substitutionary atonement he denies its penal nature. Again, I am not surprised by this because I have heard and read many Roman Catholic apologists say the same thing. Although Dr. White responded adequately to this and other arguments made by Mr. Williams during the debate, I would also like to point out the passage of the suffering servant where it says that “he was pierced through for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon him, and by his scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but YHWH has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on him” (Isaiah 53:5-6), and it goes on to say that this was “for the transgression of my people to whom the stroke was due” (53:8), and it says very clearly that “YHWH was pleased to crush him, putting him to grief…” (53:10). Anyone who fails to see that God is punishing Christ for the sins of his people in this text is clearly wearing a blindfold of false presuppositions!
I will not summarize the whole debate between Dr. White and Mr. Williams here, but I recommend that people watch it because it clearly shows the difference between Roman Catholicism and the biblical gospel.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Anthony W. Brooks
Baptism is always a hot topic. In the Baptist church I was an avid opponent of Infant Baptism and saw it as part of a corrupt papist false gospel. So, what changed my mind? Well, Biblical consistency and covenant relationships helped… Also, the Biblical consistency of Covenant Theology. But I am also an advocate of historical theology as well. I believe that it doesn’t matter how much sense an argument makes, but if it isn’t believed in the first 500 years of the church, it shouldn’t be believed.
One of the greatest arguments against paedobaptism is that there is no explicit command in scripture to baptize our children…. and this is true. But that would mean that many other doctrines that we believe to be true in scripture can’t be believed because they aren’t explicit (e.g. Trinity, Hypostatic Union, Sola Fide, etc…). So I will post a list of Early Church quotes that date back to 125 AD.
Disclaimer**The quotes listed are not representative of the beliefs of this blog as they contain perspectives not accepted or defended by this blog, but are mere quotes that support the historicity of Infant Baptism**Disclaimer
“He [Jesus] came to save all through himself; all, I say, who through him are reborn in God: infants, and children, and youths, and old men. Therefore he passed through every age, becoming an infant for infants, sanctifying infants; a child for children, sanctifying those who are of that age . . . [so that] he might be the perfect teacher in all things, perfect not only in respect to the setting forth of truth, perfect also in respect to relative age” (Against Heresies 2:22:4 [A.D. 189]).
“‘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’ [John 3:5]” (Fragment 34).
“Baptize first the children, and if they can speak for themselves let them do so. Otherwise, let their parents or other relatives speak for them” (The Apostolic Tradition 21:16 [A.D. 215]).
“Every soul that is born into flesh is soiled by the filth of wickedness and sin. . . . In the Church, baptism is given for the remission of sins, and, according to the usage of the Church, baptism is given even to infants. If there were nothing in infants which required the remission of sins and nothing in them pertinent to forgiveness, the grace of baptism would seem superfluous” (Homilies on Leviticus 8:3 [A.D. 248]).
“The Church received from the apostles the tradition of giving baptism even to infants. The apostles, to whom were committed the secrets of the divine sacraments, knew there are in everyone innate strains of [original] sin, which must be washed away through water and the Spirit” (Commentaries on Romans 5:9 [A.D. 248]).
Cyprian of Carthage
“As to what pertains to the case of infants: You [Fidus] said that they ought not to be baptized within the second or third day after their birth, that the old law of circumcision must be taken into consideration, and that you did not think that one should be baptized and sanctified within the eighth day after his birth. In our council it seemed to us far otherwise. No one agreed to the course which you thought should be taken. Rather, we all judge that the mercy and grace of God ought to be denied to no man born” (Letters 64:2 [A.D. 253]).
“If, in the case of the worst sinners and those who formerly sinned much against God, when afterwards they believe, the remission of their sins is granted and no one is held back from baptism and grace, how much more, then, should an infant not be held back, who, having but recently been born, has done no sin, except that, born of the flesh according to Adam, he has contracted the contagion of that old death from his first being born. For this very reason does he [an infant] approach more easily to receive the remission of sins: because the sins forgiven him are not his own but those of another” (ibid., 64:5).
Gregory of Nazianz
“Do you have an infant child? Allow sin no opportunity; rather, let the infant be sanctified from childhood. From his most tender age let him be consecrated by the Spirit. Do you fear the seal [of baptism] because of the weakness of nature? Oh, what a pusillanimous mother and of how little faith!” (Oration on Holy Baptism 40:7 [A.D. 388]).
“‘Well enough,’ some will say, ‘for those who ask for baptism, but what do you have to say about those who are still children, and aware neither of loss nor of grace? Shall we baptize them too?’ Certainly [I respond], if there is any pressing danger. Better that they be sanctified unaware, than that they depart unsealed and uninitiated” (ibid., 40:28).
“You see how many are the benefits of baptism, and some think its heavenly grace consists only in the remission of sins, but we have enumerated ten honors [it bestows]! For this reason we baptize even infants, though they are not defiled by [personal] sins, so that there may be given to them holiness, righteousness, adoption, inheritance, brotherhood with Christ, and that they may be his [Christ’s] members” (Baptismal Catecheses in Augustine, Against Julian 1:6:21 [A.D. 388]).
“What the universal Church holds, not as instituted [invented] by councils but as something always held, is most correctly believed to have been handed down by apostolic authority. Since others respond for children, so that the celebration of the sacrament may be complete for them, it is certainly availing to them for their consecration, because they themselves are not able to respond” (On Baptism, Against the Donatists 4:24:31 [A.D. 400]).
“The custom of Mother Church in baptizing infants is certainly not to be scorned, nor is it to be regarded in any way as superfluous, nor is it to be believed that its tradition is anything except apostolic” (The Literal Interpretation of Genesis 10:23:39 [A.D. 408]).
“Cyprian was not issuing a new decree but was keeping to the most solid belief of the Church in order to correct some who thought that infants ought not be baptized before the eighth day after their birth. . . . He agreed with certain of his fellow bishops that a child is able to be duly baptized as soon as he is born” (Letters 166:8:23 [A.D. 412]).
“By this grace baptized infants too are ingrafted into his [Christ’s] body, infants who certainly are not yet able to imitate anyone. Christ, in whom all are made alive . . . gives also the most hidden grace of his Spirit to believers, grace which he secretly infuses even into infants. . . . It is an excellent thing that the Punic [North African] Christians call baptism salvation and the sacrament of Christ’s Body nothing else than life. Whence does this derive, except from an ancient and, as I suppose, apostolic tradition, by which the churches of Christ hold inherently that without baptism and participation at the table of the Lord it is impossible for any man to attain either to the kingdom of God or to salvation and life eternal? This is the witness of Scripture, too. . . . If anyone wonders why children born of the baptized should themselves be baptized, let him attend briefly to this. . . . The sacrament of baptism is most assuredly the sacrament of regeneration” (Forgiveness and the Just Deserts of Sin, and the Baptism of Infants 1:9:10; 1:24:34; 2:27:43 [A.D. 412]).
Council of Carthage V
“Item: It seemed good that whenever there were not found reliable witnesses who could testify that without any doubt they [abandoned children] were baptized and when the children themselves were not, on account of their tender age, able to answer concerning the giving of the sacraments to them, all such children should be baptized without scruple, lest a hesitation should deprive them of the cleansing of the sacraments. This was urged by the [North African] legates, our brethren, since they redeem many such [abandoned children] from the barbarians” (Canon 7 [A.D. 401]).
Council of Mileum II
“[W]hoever says that infants fresh from their mothers’ wombs ought not to be baptized, or say that they are indeed baptized unto the remission of sins, but that they draw nothing of the original sin of Adam, which is expiated in the bath of regeneration . . . let him be anathema [excommunicated]. Since what the apostle [Paul] says, ‘Through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so passed to all men, in whom all have sinned’ [Rom. 5:12], must not be understood otherwise than the Catholic Church spread everywhere has always understood it. For on account of this rule of faith even infants, who in themselves thus far have not been able to commit any sin, are therefore truly baptized unto the remission of sins, so that that which they have contracted from generation may be cleansed in them by regeneration” (Canon 3 [A.D. 416]).
Soli Deo Gloria!