Letter to a Baptist Minister


#1

Here’s a letter I wrote as part of an ongoing correspondence with a Reformed Baptist minister. He hasn’t responded in the time he normally would have. Was it “over the top”?

If I am not mistaken, I believe what you have said is that God “declares” us righteous due exclusively to the merits of His Son on the cross, but we are not “actually” righteous (only “declared” so). If I am wrong, please correct me. This position is what is known as a “legal fiction” (I’m a law student…does it show?!?). It’s a legal declaration of a fact that does not actually exist, but is credited to exist under the law. A “charitable subscription” comes to mind - it’s not “actually” a contract, but it’s “declared” a contract so that it can be enforced (due to policy reasons). This is a legal fiction. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it, it just is. I believe this is what you’re advocating.

Here’s an analogy, which I hope will illustrate the differences between our positions. If it is wrong, please correct me (I truly don’t want to misrepresent your position). All analogies break down if you examine them too closely (as they are a “like” statement, not an “is” statement), but I think this one holds rather well. Oh, and this only pertains to the spiritual redemption - I won’t speak to the redemption of the flesh. Let’s say a human is a pitcher of water. By sin, we are tainted with sewage. The greater the sin, the more sewage. Regardless of the quantity, God would not drink sewage tainted water (read: join us to Himself for eternety). Your position is that by the infinite merits of Christ, we are wrapped in an “Evian” (righteousness) label such that God can no longer see our sewage taint (sin). Once wrapped, God will drink the sewage at our death and will refuse to think about the fact that He’s drinking sewage. Contrasted is the Catholic position. Again, by the infinite merits of Christ we receive the free gift of justification, and we are legally declared righteous, but by the power of God we are instantly “filtered”, and become free from sewage (sin). We are pure water, and labeled with the label of Christ. We are renewed, through in and throughout. After this, if we sin we pollute the water. At this point it is up to us to cooperate with God to filter us again, which we do through good works (charity, love, mercy, forgiveness, prayers for others, etc. - 1 Cor 13:13), through the Sacraments, and through suffering (which we join to the sufferings of Christ - Col 1:24). Christ is the filter, and without the filter no amount of works, suffering, or “Sacraments” would help to cleanse us of our sewage taint (I put Sacraments in parenthasees because Christ is present in the Sacraments, by their very definition - if we present an obstacle to His grace, we would receive to no avail, and would thus stay unfiltered). Purgatory comes into the picture if we die with sewage, but before death have chosen to cooperate with Christ to be filtered (this is for those who know the Gospel - for those who don’t, I won’t speak to that now).

SO I suppose my question is this: Would you really want God to drink sewage, or would you rather He drink pure water? What do you think God wants? What does the Bible say? Rev 21:27 (NASB) - “and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into [heaven]…”. Seems pretty clear that nothing unclean will enter heaven. In other words, no sewage allowed.

Next, typology. All things point to Christ, you say. Broadly, I agree. As Augustine put it: “The New Testament is in the Old Testament concealed, the Old Testament is in the New Testament revealed.” I disagree, however, that everything points only to Christ. The flood, for example, is clearly portrayed as a type of Baptism (1 Pet 3:20-21), the anti-type. Does this point to Christ? Broadly, yes, as in Baptism we are burried in the likeness of Christ’s death and rise to life eternal, but no in the sense that it’s not Christ Himself to which the flood pointed. It pointed to Baptism. Similarly, Is 22:22 points to a servant of the King, not to the King of Kings. Christ is King, not a servant of the King. Christ is a king in the line of David, exactly like the king portrayed in Is 22:22. THAT king pointed to Christ. What about the servant? The “Prime Minister”, so to speak, who is empowered by the king to speak on behalf of the king when the king is otherwise unavailable - this cannot be Christ. You cannot make Is 22:22 point to Christ alone unless you deprive Christ of His throne…

cont’d…


#2

…cont’d…

And this brings me to the Eucharist. What you’re saying is that the manna pointed to a symbol (wafer) that points to Christ. This is different than Aaron’s rod, for example, which pointed directly to Christ’s high priesthood, or the decalogue, which pointed to the true Word of God, or the bronze serpant, which pointed to Christ on the cross, or Malchesidech, who pointed to the priest-king without beginning or end. Wait, let me digress. Malchesidech offered bread and wine…hmmph. An offering of bread and wine. Seems like a coincidence. I’m sure it was unintentional. I’m not so sure the prophesy of Malachi 1:11 was unintentional, however: ““For from the rising of the sun even to its setting, My name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense is going to be offered to My name, and a grain offering that is pure; for My name will be great among the nations,” says the LORD of hosts.” A “pure” offering among the nations, united with grain. And incense? During the offering? Who uses incense these days?!? I wonder when that porphesy was fulfilled… Oh, well. I’m sure it’s not that important. There are a lot of things in scripture that don’t really mean anything… (insert tongue in cheek)
I also notice your willingness to reject the teachings of holy men when they disagree with what you think. Specifically, I’m thinking of the pre-Nicean fathers. Some of these men learned at the feet of the Apostles, and could provide some helpful insight into the proper interpretation of Scriptures which would otherwise be ambiguous. Mark, for example, learned at the feet of Peter. Likewise, Luke was not an Apostle, but learned from them (and probably Mary as well - think about it - how else would he have known the early life of Christ? Sure, there are other possible explanations, but why not Mary?). If we listen to Mark and Luke (who wrote inspired writings), why not at least listen to Polycarp or Ignatius, who learned at the feet of the Apostle John? Granted, their writings aren’t inspired, but does that make them false? Would they prophane what they had learned and changed (and lost) their lives for? Wouldn’t SOMEONE have called them heretics for distorting the Gospels? Why are you so opposed to their teachings? Is it that you know better what the Apostles taught?

I suppose that is enough for one e-mail. Again, I’m glad you are willing to dialog with me, and hope you’re not offended with my sometimes pitiful attempts to make a point with humor. Like I said, if I am distorting your position in any way, please correct me. I look forward to your reply.

May God bless you and your lovely family richly (that’s a great photo, BTW - you’re a lucky man!),
RyanL

Should I try and “mend fences”?

God Bless,
RyanL


#3

Ryan :clapping:

Like I’ve told you before, I love to read your posts! I see nothing aggressive or disrespectful about this e-mail, and no reason to mend any fence…I don’t think one was broken!

It certainly is a lot for your baptist friend to chew on, and at the least you’ve given him an understanding of catholicism, at best he might be carefully looking with an open mind, trying to refute, and if unable he will either run or stand.

You might not hear from him again because you could be hurting his faith…his livelihood is what’s at stake, but I don’t think it was over-the-top.

I love the analogies…


#4

Ryan;

It’s a great letter–I really liked it. Just one point; when you talked about the Flood prefiguring baptism, you called it an anti-type. Did you mean antetype?

Very charitably explained.


#5

D’oh! I needed an ‘E’, not an ‘I’…think! think! Didn’t mean to say the later type was the *opposite *or somehow opposed to the type!

I can’t stand stupid mistakes…

Thanks for the heads-up. I’m glad to hear that my letter wasn’t offensive - I was hesitant about the whole “you make God drink sewage in your theology” bit, as well as the “you know better than the disciples of the Apostles what the Apostles taught” thing. I’m glad to know that I was just over-analyzing…

God Bless,

RyanL


#6

Great letter. I wouldn’t change a word. I don’t know why your friend has not returned your E-mail. I’m sure a Baptist minister would be prepared to give a response. ???

Good luck with your dialogue.


#7

Hey Ryan;

I just noticed that you hail from ND Indiana! My alma mater! Are you an undergrad, or grad, or what? My major was chemistry (obviously), and I lived in Zahm. Send me a pm if you wanna be a Domer nerd…

Now we return to our previous thread…


#8

[quote=RyanL]D’oh! I needed an ‘E’, not an ‘I’…think! think! Didn’t mean to say the later type was the *opposite *or somehow opposed to the type!

I can’t stand stupid mistakes…

Thanks for the heads-up. I’m glad to hear that my letter wasn’t offensive - I was hesitant about the whole “you make God drink sewage in your theology” bit, as well as the “you know better than the disciples of the Apostles what the Apostles taught” thing. I’m glad to know that I was just over-analyzing…

God Bless,

RyanL
[/quote]

Good letter. But perhaps you or he is missing an aspect of what I understand as Protestant Theology; namely that we are not just declared righteous, but that we are infused with righteousness.

You’re right when you say that declaring us righteous does not do much other than re-classify us.

Blessings
Richard


#9

Richard,

Does this hold true for Reformed Theology? Do they believe in infused righteousness at the point of justification? I truly don’t know…

God Bless,
RyanL


#10

[quote=RyanL]Richard,

Does this hold true for Reformed Theology? Do they believe in infused righteousness at the point of justification? I truly don’t know…

God Bless,
RyanL
[/quote]

I’m not sure Ryan. I think it boils down to vocabulary in some cases. I think that Protestants believe that they are saved at one point in time and that justification happens over time as a process.

But I think that they use salvation and justification with different meanings from Catholics so it leads to alot of confusion in some cases.

Blessings to you
Richard


#11

Interesting stuff, Im not able to finish the OP’s letter now but Im hoping to later…


#12

Protestants, by and large, do not believe in infused justification. They mostly believe in imputed justification, other than a few denominations or individual churches.

Similarly, they tend to view justification and salvation as a one time event and sanctification as an ongoing process. I think that’s what you were talking about. Of course, not all Protestants are the same. I know some that view salvation as ongoing. In general, however, the sola fide Protestants believe in imputed, one time justification and ongoing sanctification, wheras to a Catholic justification and sanctification are two sides of the same coin and are both ongoing processes.


#13

[quote=RyanL]D’oh! I needed an ‘E’, not an ‘I’…think! think! Didn’t mean to say the later type was the *opposite *or somehow opposed to the type!

I can’t stand stupid mistakes…

Thanks for the heads-up. I’m glad to hear that my letter wasn’t offensive - I was hesitant about the whole “you make God drink sewage in your theology” bit, as well as the “you know better than the disciples of the Apostles what the Apostles taught” thing. I’m glad to know that I was just over-analyzing…

God Bless,

RyanL
[/quote]

I think there is an outside chance that those two areas above caused some offense. You never know how someone will interpret something written…Either way, it was well composed and those two phrases should not become his focal point of the communication. That would simply be an excuse for not dealing with the other arguments presented in the rest of the letter…

Phil


#14

RyanL,
I don’t know how your Baptist minister friend will like your email, but I thank you for it. I had a really bad, I mean really really bad day and your post made me laugh, think, pray, and finally relax… Thank you very much! It was just what I needed. I loved your analogies, they were great!!!
You’re the best!


#15

[font=Georgia]I don’t know if the Baptist Minister responded to your e-mail yet, but I would imagine he might at least have a say regarding your “tainted water” analogy. You’d written, “Let’s say a human is a pitcher of water. By sin, we are tainted with sewage. The greater the sin, the more sewage. Regardless of the quantity, God would not drink sewage tainted water (read: join us to Himself for eternety). Your position is that by the infinite merits of Christ, we are wrapped in an “Evian” (righteousness) label such that God can no longer see our sewage taint (sin). Once wrapped, God will drink the sewage at our death and will refuse to think about the fact that He’s drinking sewage.”[/font]

[font=Georgia]Nobody else found fault with your analogy, but if I may contribute my two cents, I’d like to present a slightly modified analogy which I hope you’ll enjoy. In keeping with the whole “sewage” theme, I’ll start by equating sewage to our sin as you had so eloquently done in your e-mail… (please see next post).[/font][font=Georgia][/font]


#16

[font=Georgia]But, in my analogy, the sewage isn’t in a bottle or a container; it’s a river of sin. We the humans are on one side of the river and God is on the other side. [/font]
[font=Georgia][/font]
[font=Georgia]Now, as you know, humans will often try doing things their own way to reach God, but the Bible says that there is only one Way – Jesus![/font]
[font=Georgia][/font]
[font=Georgia]So, in my analogy, Jesus built a very narrow, yet surprisingly sturdy bridge that runs from our side to God’s side. The bridge, point in fact, is an indestructible bridge, but because of the way it looks and how narrow it is, many people don’t trust it enough to try it. Some think that this bridge is too difficult to cross. Others assume that the toll would be too high of a price to pay. Still others don’t believe that a bridge that narrow could possibly hold up.[/font]
[font=Georgia][/font]
[font=Georgia]So, to save himself time and money, one man thinks that he can just wade his way through the sewage-infested river of sin, but he gets swept away in the current and never reaches God.[/font]
[font=Georgia][/font]
[font=Georgia]The next man might try a grappling hook or something to hook him onto the other side and pull his way to God’s side, only to be turned away because God won’t allow filth in His house (…and the man’s soaked to the gills in the sewage).[/font]
[font=Georgia][/font]
[font=Georgia]Another man tries to boat across, but he winds up sinking in the sewage. So, legions and legions of people are trying any way they can think of to get across, but none of them work.[/font]
[font=Georgia][/font]
[font=Georgia]The few that decide to try the narrow bridge are the ones that make it to God… and the coolest thing about this bridge is that we didn’t even have to build it. Jesus built it for us. He did all of the work and even paid the price for this bridge. The reason Jesus did that was because He knew that, left to our own devices, we couldn’t have possibly built that bridge ourselves.[/font]
[font=Georgia][/font]
[font=Georgia]He knew we didn’t have enough money to cover the cost and He also knew that no bridge can be built when the builders don’t have access to both sides of the land. Jesus started building His bridge on God’s side of the land and completed construction of the bridge when He came over to our side.[/font]
[font=Georgia][/font]
[font=Georgia]The reason why this bridge is our ONLY way to God is because God was the one who authorized the construction of this bridge in the first place. The bridge was God’s gift to us and we were all given invitations to use it.[/font]
[font=Arial][/font]
[font=Georgia]The few that wind up trying the bridge are also happy to find out that, unlike what countless others led them to believe, there’s no toll to pay! It’s a free path to God! All we have to do is to CHOOSE to walk the path that Jesus laid out before us.[/font]
[font=Georgia][/font]
[font=Georgia]So, in my fun scenario (well, it’s fun to me anyway), someone makes it over the bridge and, upon meeting God, asks Him why he didn’t have to pay any money to use the bridge. God answers by saying, “The bridge is My gift to you because I love you. Why would I ever make you PAY for a gift that I gave to you out of love? You accepted My gift with thankfulness in your heart. That was enough for Me.” :slight_smile:[/font]


#17

[quote=ChristianWAB][font=Georgia][/font]
[font=Georgia]So, in my analogy, Jesus built a very narrow, yet surprisingly sturdy bridge that runs from our side to God’s side. The bridge, point in fact, is an indestructible bridge, but because of the way it looks and how narrow it is, many people don’t trust it enough to try it. Some think that this bridge is too difficult to cross. Others assume that the toll would be too high of a price to pay. Still others don’t believe that a bridge that narrow could possibly hold up.[/font]
[font=Georgia][/font]

[/quote]

What a beautiful analogy. I enjoyed this very much!

Blessings to you,
Mickey


#18

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