Saturday, November 11, 2006

Neo-Mercersburgism or Old Romanism

I have long been stating that the current Federal Vision discussion is really the same discussion had by RCUS with Mercersburg theologians, primarily Philip Schaff and John Nevin. A new blog aids my point while inventing a new name (of which I am jealous),Neo-Mercersburgism. They call for a revival of six points of Mercersburg Theology. Here is number 1.

1. The primary life giving principle in the life of a Christian is the ministry of the Church; the Sacraments, the Word proclaimed, and fellowship in the body of Christ.

This statement does accurately reflect Mercersburg theology, and I think also shows why we need to reject Neo-Mercersburgism, just as we need to reject paleo-Mercerburgism. There is a lot to unpack in this statement, such as the placement of Sacraments before the Word, a very non-traditional ordering of the two, and very illuminating as well. However, the main point that needs to be noticed is that the "primary life giving principle" for the Christian is not Jesus Christ. In Neo-Mercersburgism, anything that we gain from Christ must be conveyed to us by the Church. Listen to the tract written by a Professor at Lancaster (a strong hold of old Mercersburg) last century.

All the benefits of Christ are received, not by faith, not through previous knowledge of our misery, not in the way of repentance and faith, but through baptism, and through baptism exclusively.

Here we see the idea that the primary life giving principle is not Jesus, nor faith, nor even faith plus repentance. It is baptism. The Christian is not to turn to Jesus for life, but to the church. I do not believe that I am overstating. For proof let us look no further than the third point of Neo-Mercersburgism.

3. The holy Eucharistic is the tie which (sic) binds together all believers in Jesus Christ throughout time and space.

What binds us together as believers? Is it all being members of the body of Christ? Is it the Holy Spirit? Is it the same Lord? Or the same faith? Is it even being baptized into the same God? According to Neo-Mercersburgism what binds believers together in Christ is the Eucharist. One should probably also unpack this statement as John Nevin would do and notice the claim that we are bound “in Jesus Christ”. The Eucharist is not mainly a way to bind us with other Christians, but a way to bind us in Christ. Our mystical union with Jesus makes our mystical union with each other. But that mystical union is not achieved through faith, but rather through the Eucharist, just as his benefits are not received by faith, but rather through baptism. Neo-Mercersburgism has supplanted faith with sacrament, and the Holy Spirit with the Church. Neo-Mercersburgism makes the comfort of the believer belonging to the church and taking the sacraments rather than belonging to Jesus Christ and having faith in Him. In this regard, Neo-Mercersburgism looks a lot like Old Romanism.


Adam said...

Hi Lee,

Could you recommend some additional resources that interact with Nevin and Schaff's theology? I would be especially interested in critiques written during the original Mercersburg controversy.

Thank you!

andreapowell said...

First, thank you for your work on the Federal Vision and Mercersburg heresy. Please be patient with my ignorance, but would you help me understand how we in the Reformed tradition would talk of the sacraments? Would you say the Federal Vision proponents are mistaking the sign for the thing it signifies?

Lee said...

Sadly, the pro-Mercersburg literature is much more available than those who opposed Mercersburg. However, the RCUS e-book program contains many of those books against Mercersburg. The e-book contains 24 books (not all about Mercersburg) including Dr. B.B. Schneck’s Mercersburg Theology: Inconsistent with Protestant and Reformed Doctrine. This book is excellent. It was a contemporary critique of the movement and is fantastic. It is written by a man within the German Reformed denomination, and the appendices include some other short articles that critic the Mercersburg movement. The e-book also contains the works of James I Good. Dr. Good has two history books (both included on the e-book) that give a history of the RCUS. The history does a good job of presenting both sides of the issue, but one can see the books also serve the purpose of criticizing the Mercersburg Theology. The books show how the new theology is inconsistent with the history of the German church. Dr. J.I. Good is in the generation after Schaff and Nevin, but the controversy was still very much alive, and he should be considered a contemporary critic of the Mercersburg Theology. I would also venture that Hodge’s critique would be available somewhere. Charles Hodge reviewed Nevin’s Mystical Presence in an article in the Princeton Repertory entitled, "Doctrine of the Reformed Church on the Lord’s Supper" in 1848. This would be a contemporary attack upon Mercersburg from outside of Nevin’s own denomination.

Many of the original critiques would be hard to find, and if you can find them let me know. Dr. Joseph Berg, a minister in the German Reformed Church until he left because of the Mecersburg influence to the Dutch Reformed Church, wrote many critical articles in publications such as The Protestant Banner, Christian Intelligencer, and Protestant Quarterly. Other ministers such as Hellfenstein, Heiner, and Herman also wrote in these papers. Dr. Berg apparently wrote a book called The Old Paths against Schaff’s view of history, but it was not well received even by his friends. There were also many attacks in the Lutheran Observer. Rev. J.H.A. Bomberger, probably more moderate than some of the others, wrote two pamphlets entitled, ‘The Revised Liturgy’ and ‘Reformed Not Ritualistic’, which I have not been able to find.

There are a few modern attacks on the Mercersburg theology. The book You Shall Be My People, which is also on the RCUS e-book as well as in hardback, contains an essay against Mercersburg Theology. I know this list is a little small, but it is the best I can do. I hope you find something useful.

Lee said...


I do think they confuse the sign with the thing signified, but their view also relegates the work of the Holy Spirit to almost nothing, and seems to often hold the idea that faith can be created in the sacraments. I think the Heidelberg Catechism gives us many ways to talk of the sacraments. Q.65 tells us the role of the sacraments, and it is a "confirming" role. It does not create faith, it is not a converting ordinance, it confirms our faith. Q.66 tells us that the sacraments are “visible holy signs and seals”, which is the traditional way to discuss the sacraments. However, today the idea of a ‘seal’ has become problematic. The Catechism helps us define the role of the seal with the words ‘divine token’ (Q.78) and ‘pledge’ (Q.79). This language eliminates the idea that the sacraments seal the benefits so they cannot get out, and stress the confirmatory nature of the sacraments. To receive benefit from the sacraments then one must have faith, and the Spirit then works on the faithful receiver of the sacraments.

Mercersburg and Federal Vision propose a mediated grace scenario. Instead of proposing a view where the benefit comes immediately to us via the Spirit to our faith, the benefits come through the sacrament itself. Thus, the Spirit’s role is greatly diminished as the bread, wine, and water become conveyers of grace. Some will argue the sacraments can create faith, meaning to receive the benefit of the sacraments one does not need faith. Another tendency among the Mercersburg men was to talk of ‘frustrating grace’ by unbelief rather than receiving grace by faith. If one did not have unbelief, which would frustrate the grace within the sacrament, the grace would be bestowed. This subtle change from discussing what is needed to receive benefits from the sacrament to what stops the benefits of the sacrament is extremely important and adds to the downplaying of faith in the Mercersburg sacramental system.

I hope that helps. I have been known to be unclear on more than a few occasions.

Jonathan Bonomo said...

As the one you cite in this critique let me just state that I believe you are being a bit unfair here. The six tenets were meant to be just that: tenets; not elaborations or expositions. And not only tenets, but tenets specifically geared toward the current state of the Church. Thus, they necessarily preclude certain aspects of the Christian faith which would not be precluded were one belonging to Mercerburgism to offer a systematic treatment of their faith (which, btw, can itself be found in the Heidelburg catechism, as anyone adhering to Mercersburg embraces this confession as their own.)

In what way does stating that the life-giving principle of the Christian life is the Church preclude the principle of Faith? Faith is being presupposed. Consider: it is the life of a Christian we are talking about. The primary life giving principle of a CHRISTIAN (i.e. one who has already embraced Christ and his saving benefits and is therefore a member of His body on earth: the Church) is the ministry of the Church.

Regardless of your qualms about the word order, it was not meant in any way to place the Sacraments above the Word. Rather, in the Mercersburg system the two belong side by side and ought not be seperated. We would agree with Calvin that the Sacraments without the word profit nothing. The ministry of the Church necessitates both Word and Sacrament, neither over and above the other. This is nothing but the doctrine of the Reformers. Let the historical record show whose doctrine is "untraditional." If by traditional you mean 17th century puritanism and its evangelical heirs, then I would grant your point. But if by traditional you mean in line with the faith of the Church from the earliest days and affirmed by the Reformers and the earliest Reformed Confessions, then I am at a loss as to how the Mercersburg opinion (if you do indeed understand it) on the relationship between Word and Sacrament can be considered "untraditional."

Rather than analyzing the system of thought from the inside (as any charitable critic would do) you presuppose your own categories and judge it accordingly. To one adhering to the doctrine of Mercersburg, the dichotomy you draw between Christ and the Church and Sacraments is utterly false. Therefore, it needs to be defended rather than simply presupposed. Your stating that according Mercersburg it is membership in the Church and not faith in Christ that is primary is simply false, as the two are considered to be inseperable. Christ, according to Mercersburg, is not to be seperated from His body. Your entire critique is a begging of all the questions about the relationship between Christ and the Church which need to be prelimminarily discussed before any of the particulars are looked at in any meaningful sense.

I believe that anyone who honestly compares the writings of the original Reformers with Mercersburg on the one hand and other Reformed systems of the day (Princetonianism, for instance) cannot deny that the Mercersburg men were more faithful to the thought Luther, Melanchthon, Calvin, Bucer, Bullinger, etc. In this regard, suggesting that the system is a "heresy" is a rather scary proposition.

Schaff and Nevin never once denied the Reformed Confessions, nor were they convicted of any heresy in their day, nor did they ever deny the principle of justification by faith, and neither would I or anyone who would consider themselves "Neo-Mercersburg." We simply do not cut Christ off from his body as you apparently would. But neither would have Calvin or any of the Reformers. So, I would humbly suggest that perhaps you deal with those with whom you diagree with a bit more charity. I plead with you to learn more about what you are combatting before you disclaim and decry it.

Lee said...


If I have been unfair, I am more than willing to repent. The purpose of comment sections is for people to show me my errors. If I extrapolated too much from your six tenants then I may have been unfair. I assumed on a page about Mercersburg Theology the Mercersburg understanding of things would be used. If that is untrue, all you have to do is point out where you disagree with the Mercersburg understanding, and I will willingly concede the point. However, you have not yet done so. I do not believe simple disagreement is unfair or uncharitable.

As for your point about faith, I would first like to point out that many modern followers of the Mercersburg theory calling themsleves Federal Vision deny the very definition of ‘Christian’ that you use. See for example Reformed is Not Enough by Doug Wilson chapter one. I also would direct you back to the quote in the post where the Mercersburg teacher denies benefits come by faith, but rather by the sacrament. Does this quote not militate against your claim faith is assumed? Mainly I would like to point out the problem is not whether faith is present or presumed, but what is the object of faith. Is it Jesus Christ, or is it his Church? Why do I think Mercersburg Theology makes the Church the object of faith? Because John Nevin says so in a letter to Henry Harbaugh describing the tenants of Mercersburg Theology. He states, “The idea of the Church, so sound, it is made to be in this way an object of faith”. If as you claim there is no distinction between Christ and the Church (remembering that both Nevin and Schaff denied distinctions between the visible and invisible church), then faith in the Church is the same thing as faith in Christ.

Is it I or Mercesburg who has an ‘untraditional’ view of the sacraments? I do assert that the Mercersburg view is untraditional, not from a Puritan viewpoint, but from a German-Reformed-Continental-Heidelberg-Catechism viewpoint. Nevin in that same letter states, “Baptism is for the remission of sins. The Eucharist includes the real presence of Christ’s whole glorified life, in a mystery, by the power of the Holy Ghost.” Yet, the Heidelberg Catechism tells us that baptism is not the washing away of sins (Q.72), and that baptism is a ‘divine pledge and token’ of the washing away of sins by the sacrifice of Christ (Q.73). The Eucharist, according to the catechism, testifies to us of our forgiveness on account of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross (as opposed to his ‘whole glorified life’), and that his body is in heaven and is there to be worshipped (Q.80). Is it wrong for me to claim that these differences make Mercersburg against the tradition and teaching of the German Reformed Church? I do not think so, for I here agree with Nevin when he states concerning his beliefs about worship and the sacraments:

It [the new Liturgy] has not professed at all to be of one order simply with the liturgical practice of the German Reformed Church of the sixteenth century, much less of one order with what had come to be her liturgical practice in the eighteenth century, when it was first transplanted to this country. . . The new Liturgy was constructed throughout on another theory altogether, - the theory of an altar-service, in distinction from what may be called a service simply of the pulpit -(Liturgical Question by Nevin)

Again Nevin on the difference between the pulpit liturgy and the altar liturgy.

our liturgical controversy is, in reality, a great theological controversy; . . . We see in it two general schemes of theology; tow different versions, we may say, of the meaning of Christianity; two Gospels in fact, arrayed against one another, with the feeling on both sides, that if one be true, the other must necessarily be wrong and false. (Vindication of the New Liturgy by Nevin)

It is Nevin himself who thinks that the 16th Century and the Mercersburg movement were of two different Gospels. It is Nevin himself who calls Mecersburg’s theories an ‘altar service’. It is not hard to find Calvin, Bucer, and Bullinger rejecting the idea of an altar service.

It is true that neither Schaff nor Nevin were ever convicted of heresy, but Schaff was told to refrain from teaching his view on life after death (which he disobeyed), and the provision in the Constitution requiring all charges against professors go through the Board of Visitors protected both them from trials. And while no one ever outright denied any confession, that is not the same as never contradicting them or re-interpret them. To see Nevin’s attitude toward Confessions and confessional distinctions let us turn to his own words.

In admitting moreover the necessity of confessional distinctions, we do not allow them to be good and desirable in their own nature. They are relatively good only, as serving to open the way to a higher form of catholicity than that which they leave behind; whilst in themselves absolutely considered, they contradict and violate the true idea of the Church, and are to be bewailed on this account as an evil of the most serious magnitude. (Antichrist by Nevin)

The entire foundation of Mercersburg is the idea of Historical and Theological Development which means creeds and confessions are not to be adhered to for very long. It is a strange claim to make Nevin and Schaff faithful to creeds they viewed as ‘evil of the most serious magnitude’.

I appreciate your call to learn more, and Lord willing, I always will be. However, I do not think that I have misrepresented old Mercersburg at all in this post. The question is, do you disagree with old Mercersburg in any of these matters?

Jonathan Bonomo said...

In answer to your question, I do indeed adhere to the view of the Mercersburg men on Christ, Church, Word, and Sacrament. I do not, however, believe that simply giving some isolated citations demonstrates that you have an adequate grasp of the overall constructs of the system or the historical/theological concerns which caused them to formulate their opinions. Though I do not reject FV per se, I do believe that interpreting Mercersburg through the lens of a system which came about more than 100 years later is dangerous. I do not think, as you do, that they are one and the same.

Notice in your quote of Nevin's letter to Harbaugh that you state that he makes the Church THE article of faith, while this is not what he said. He claimed that the Church is AN object of Faith. I don't think I would disagree with him here.

The Mercersburg understanding of the Eucharist is fully in line with the historic Calvinist conception, and the idea of the altar-service does not necessitate neglect of the Word. Further, Bucer's Strassburg liturgy holds the Eucharist as central, and Calvin believed that the Eucharist should be celebrated every time a sermon was preached, specifically because Word and sacrament ought not be seperated.

I believe I did in my first comment demonstrate that you have misrepresented Mercersburg, and you have said nothing in your response to change my opinion. I've studied the movement too much to be dazzled by a few isolated quotes.

Jonathan Bonomo said...

I forgot one point, with regard to this comment:

"If as you claim there is no distinction between Christ and the Church (remembering that both Nevin and Schaff denied distinctions between the visible and invisible church), then faith in the Church is the same thing as faith in Christ."

I never claimed that there was no distinction, but rather that there is no seperation. Distinction and seperation are two entirely different things. The issue between us seems to center on this issue in basically every area. Where Mercersburg would simply draw distinctions, you would make outright seperations.

Not insignificantly, this is the same issue which surrounded the early Christological controversies. The orthodox would make distinctions, the Arians complete seperations; the orthodox would make distinctions, the Nestorians complete seperations.

Lee said...

This is tangentally, but I do not see Mercersburg through the lens of the Federal Vision, I see the Federal Vision through the lens of Mercersburg. It is in large part, a revival of Mercersburg theology.

I am do not think Nevin's view of the Eucharist is in line with the historic Calvinist position. Nevin tries to argue this in his book, but even later Mercersburg men such as Emmanuel Gerhart would admit that Nevin updated Calvin and went beyond him.

As for the altar based liturgy, I tend to agree with Nevin that the altar based and the pulpit based liturgy are at odds with one another as two separate theological systems.

I agree with you that the main point between us is Christ and the Church, and that the constructs of the Mercersburg system are interwoven. Perhaps, I can deal with this more in a furutre post later in the week, to which I hope you will reply. I think it is weighty enough that it should have a post all its own rather than be buried in the comments. I look forward to our interaction.

Jonathan Bonomo said...


I do agree that the altar based and pulpit based liturgies are at odds. But I don't accept that the Reformers were solely pultpit based in their liturgical practice. I believe the fact that they gave equal weight to the pulpit and the altar in their liturgical ideas can be observed by reading the liturgies they produced. If you haven't looked at it already, I would recommend Bard Thompson's edition of the "Liturgies of the Western Church," which conveniently contains the liturgies of Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Bucer, and Cranmer in full. If anything their liturgies are altar-pulpit working together, neither being the sole center. Although I'd argue that with Bucer and Cranmer the altar does take precedent.

As for Nevin and the Calvinist position, I don't deny that Nevin expanded on the ideas a bit, but in all essentials the doctrine is the same: The Holy Spirit joins sign to reality (not physically, but spiritually) while lifting the community of the faithful to heaven, where Christ is, to fead on the true substance of his body and blood. This is the core of the Calvinist position, and this Nevin retained from Calvin, though he did put his own German philosophical nuances on it at certain points.

Thanks for the intriguing interaction thus far. Looking forward to more at a later time.



Phaedrus said...


You said, "Mercersburg and Federal Vision propose a mediated grace scenario. Instead of proposing a view where the benefit comes immediately to us via the Spirit to our faith, the benefits come through the sacrament itself. Thus, the Spirit’s role is greatly diminished as the bread, wine, and water become conveyers of grace. Some will argue the sacraments can create faith, meaning to receive the benefit of the sacraments one does not need faith."

From reading about Lutherans, this is exactly their position, that God acts in the Sacraments to give us grace through the Holy Spirit by instrumental means of the actual physical elements of the sacraments. In other words, God has chosen to give us grace objectively and to give it to us by means of water, bread and wine.

I also agree with Jonathan that the fundamental disconnect is that Calvin and Luther and the Fathers made distinctions between Christ's two natures, or between the Christ and his Body the Church, or between the sacramental grace and the sacramental means of grace, but they did not separate these from one another. The sacraments seal or pledge the gospel promises to all who believe.

Disbelief separates the thing signified from the signifier. Baptists do this because they believe that Baptism and the Lord's Table are only signs and nothing more, simply human acts of piety. Through disbelief they separate the grace from the symbol.

But Calvin says that God does not give us an empty sign but "annexes the reality" to the sign so that when received by faith, or as the WCF says, "worthy receivers" receive the gospel promises. Furthermore they receive the promises in the same way that any promise or blessing is received from God, through faith and the receive the blessings by instrumental means of the actual objective physical elements as per the sovereign decree of God in Christ.

Lutherans further disagree with most Reformed by saying that the Sacraments convey faith. Baptism gives infants and adults faith, because since Baptism is for Lutherans physical and visible Word and faith comes through hearing the Word of God. The Lord's Table strengthens faith spiritually by eating Christ's body and drinking his shed blood spiritually. Whereas my beloved Heidelberg seems to indicate that the Lord's Table only confirms faith. So does the Table confirming faith or strengthen faith? Either way we know the Holy Spirit both binds us to Christ and to his Body the Church by faith by means of bread and wine not separated form Christ has said the bread and wine really were.

Peter Leithart and D.G. Hart in their books "Against Christianity" and "Recovering Mother Kirk" have tried to get across that there is no salvation apart from the Church because being regenerated, justified and adopted by grace through faith is not separate from union with Christ and incorporation into the Church by the Holy Spirit. The Church is salvation. The Church is not just a helpful aspect of a "personal relationship with Christ" as if the primary expression of Life in Christ was only personal. Union with Christ is not simply a religious layer added to one's normal life. It is a complete alternative life and alternative city, the City of God. "Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother." [GAL 4:26] Being a part of that city defines ones entire being not just a devotional aspect.

To be absolutely clear let me elaborate further:

Q. What do you need to know in order to live and die in the joy of th[e Lord’s] comfort?

A. First, how great my sins and misery are; second, how I am delivered from all my sins and misery; third, how I am to be thankful to God for such deliverance.

Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and His righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification: yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but works by love. [JOH 1:12, ROM 3:28, 5:1, JAM 2:17-26, GAL 5:6]

I am really enjoying this discussion.

Grace and peace,
Ryan Close

Phaedrus said...


Another observation I can make is that some times we fail to realize that something can be "normatively necessary" rather than "absolutely necessary." For example, normally God chooses to bring about salvation through means of Baptism, this is why the Scriptures say,

"There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ," [1 Peter 3:21]

"And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’ [Acts 22:16]

"Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." [John 3:5]

"But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior," [Titus 3:4-6]

"And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption." [Ephesians 4:30]

But if one is unable for some reason to be baptized, God is not impotent to save. He has not tied his hands but simply instituted means of establishing, sealing, and strengthening Life in Christ.

Furthermore, the words of absolution and the Lord's Table are not "absolutely necessary." Each week we are not re-forgiven or re-justified in the Lord's Service. The fact that God chose the symbol of bread and wine, normal food, indicates that as food sustains us and that without it we die, we do not need to be continually eating, likewise we do not need to be continually coming to the Lord's Table but coming more often than not, for ultimately, without it we (normally) die. And our Lord and the Apostle indicates that the Word of God also serves the purpose of feeding, sustaining, and strengthening us spiritually. Therefore the two, Word and Sacrament should not be separated but both should be made available to the people of God for their edification for it is the Lord himself who is both teaching, baptizing, and feeding his people.

Sincerely, Ryan

Jonathan Bonomo said...


You make some great points, but the point in your second post concerning the distinction between "normative necessity" and "absolute necessity" is very important and well stated.

Andrew Duggan said...

Actually, the use normative necessity and absolute necessity is at best equivocating language. There is no such thing as normative necessity. Something is either necessary or not. The use of creative language in technical theological discussion does not advance the cause of Christ.

Perhaps you are trying for this.
A IFF ((b,c,d,e,f) OR (c,d,e,f,g))
where (b,c,d,e,f) is the normative condition for making "A".

Phaedrus said...

It is true that faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and His righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification. Yet the shape that justification takes depends on the means the Holy Spirit has ordained.

So when St. Peter says, "There is also an antitype which now saves us —baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ," [1 Peter 3:21] he clearly indicates that our salvation is accomplished through and for the merit of Christ alone and accomplished an instrumental means, namely "There is also an antitype which now saves us —baptism."

If in this sense Baptism does not save us by the washing of sins, and the Table does not feed and strengthen us, then we might also have cause to doubt that the proclamation of the Word of God has no absolute effect as well. But this is foolishness. Faith comes through hearing the Word of God. And the remission of sins comes through the Baptism that saves us, the "one Baptism," the Baptism of the Holy Spirit which is regeneration.

If there is no difference between what is "normally necessary" and "absolutely necessary" then let us all neglect the clear command to gather together as some have been known to do. Likewise, lets stop the silly superstition of Baptizing our children or new converts for that matter, no need for them to think it is "absolutely necessary." Neither should we eat at the Lord's Table or hear the Word of God read and preached nor "speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in our hearts to the Lord,", nor "put off the old man which grows corrupt that we might put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness." Nor should we "love one another."

But surely we are not saved according to the deeds of the flesh but by faith, so these things are not "absolutely necessary" so lets not do any of them.

Andrew Duggan said...

The problem is, you're inserting the idea of necessity into the 1 Peter 3 passage. Maybe these problems wouldn't arise if one refrains from adding to God's word? -- Just a thought.

Phaedrus said...

Alright, lets not add the idea of "necessity." What is the problem?

1 Peter 3 says that baptism saves us. Baptism also washes our sins away and seals us for the day of redemption. With out these effects we are not saved. So the idea that comes across is that of "necessity." Baptism is necessary for those wishing to be saved, have their sins washed away, and to be sealed by the Holy Spirit for the day of redemption. But the thief on the cross was not baptized but we have the Word of the Lord that he will be in Paradise.

If the means of our salvation are not "normally necessary" then we become "antinomian" despising the law. If the means are "absolutely necessary" then we become legalists.

If you could give your interpretation of these things then I would be that much more enlightened rather than befuddled.

The way I see it, when God ordains to save one that is lost he does so by means of faith, and he baptizes that one and he sanctifies that one by means of making them speak to one another using psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs by means of the word preached.