Note to Tim and Doug

I greatly want to have this discussion, so it is important that I front-up the disclaimer that if I say something here which appears to be mean baptistic intransigence, it probably is -- but it's not more than that. OK? :-)

You and I agree that God has not put a big gold fishy on all of the elect, right? That is to say, evangelism is not a matter of looking for the mark of Christ on others as if we were in a Tim LaHaye novel. In that respect, we agree that "God hasn't revealed the elect".

Problematicly, I think the Bible says that God has, in fact, revealed the elect. It's not (without getting mired in Enlightenment categories) in an a priori sense (which we agree on, above), but it is in an a posteriori sense. That is: we don't know ahead of time who is and is not elect, but we can know by their example or witness who they are. Hebrews 11 & 12 say as much.

For example, Heb 6 was turned over a few times in the JW/DW debate (as I remember – I should review it if we are going to chat about it some more) as evidence for both sides. And the irony is this: I think both sides agree that this passage talks about being inside the bounds of the church and then leaving those boundaries. The question is whether or not being inside the church constitutes the covenant boundaries of the New Covenant as the writer of Hebrews is expounding them.

See: from the intransigent baptistic hermeneutic, we want you to agree with us about something – the work of Christ is not about a series of covenants (plural) which are nested inside each other like matryoshka dolls: it is the new and everlasting covenant (singular).

It seems to some that DW’s view is that there is a covenant which establishes the church, but that covenant doesn’t necessarily save; then there is the covenant which actually saves, but its relationship to the church is where a lot of people get hung up. For example, it seems that a lot of people think that DW is advocating that if you break the church covenant, you are unequivocally out of the saving covenant – that there’s a causal relationship from “church” to “salvation”, thereby rendering to him the charge of being a works righteousness guy.

But – and this is the basis of my plea to please agree with me about one covenant – I don’t think that’s what DW believes. I think he believes that the covenant which establishes the salvation of the elect establishes the ground of the church. That is, a primary, time-and-space result of the new covenant in the blood of Christ is called out people who gather together in an orderly way because God is a God of order, and gather in a celebratory way because God is a victor and King who is generous and gracious and has poured out his gifts for us. But the basis for that order and celebration is, of course, the covenant which saves.

For as often as we – who are gathered together, right? – eat this bread and drink the cup, we proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. “We”. The problem which seems to be looking for a solution is this: how do we reconcile the “we who are gathered” with the fact (which none of us would deny) that some gather who are frankly not saved?

I think a very generic baptistic response would be, “the church is a light on a hill, and some people get in in spite of our best warnings and circumspection to present a spotless bride to Christ because it really is a good thing. Some people gather not because of election or sanctification but because it seems to feel good for a season.” No reference to the one covenant which saves except that to admit that this one covenant has a really good effect on the world in the community it creates, and that can attract some people for mundane rather than salvific reasons.

And let me go on-record here to say that it would be a generous Baptist who would say such a thing. The average Baptist at Liberty University probably would be mad as hell to hear someone say that not all Baptists are Anabaptists who are constantly culling the flock to make sure we have achieved the right level of separation, but at the same time we’re not winnowing our roles because you know, the best prospect list for the church is the church rolls. Let me join you in saying “pheh! Baptists!” to such people.

That said, DW’s response is that there is a covenant which creates the church which is the result of God’s promise of salvation. That covenant is fulfilled by God because he is covenant-faithful, but that’s a two-edged sword. God is the one who also reprobates the unsaved, and they manifest that by being covenant breakers in the necessary effect of the church. In that way, God promises to do what he does, and he does it, and the cause and the effect are all part of the self-same one covenant.


Now, why go through all of that? Why not just break out the Baptist discipline canes and start administering the merciless beatings? Because what is at stake here is this matter of “what is church”. There is so much that we agree on that to simply start calling you and DW baby-baptizering heretics is grossly unjust to both your position and to mine – and to the huge expanse of actual agreement we share in this matter.

You may, in fact, be baby-baptizering heretics. But it’s not because you’re careless, thoughtless louts who spit on Christ in both active and passive disobedience. You do it because you frame the scope of the covenant as inclusive (in an objective sense, without flirting with universalism) and inviting, whereas I (the Baptist party-crasher) frame the scope of the covenant as exclusive (in the objective sense, particularly to avoid universalism) but yet still inviting.

And all that to come back to the matter of the a posteriori revelation of the elect. See: I think you and I would agree that the non-elect really don’t belong in the church. Why? Because you and I would both agree that they get themselves into “more trouble” by being there. You would say that they bring the right judgment of being covenant-breakers upon their own heads, which frankly they wouldn’t have to be worried about if they just joined Kiwanis instead, and they’re not going to get the final glorification anyway. I would say that the church is supposed to be called out, and in being called it is actually culled by the effectual calling, and the culling is the culling of the elect from the non-elect in order to actually manifest the list of blessings Heb 6 gives us. I may be wrong about your view here, but I think in the end, theologically, you don’t really think that unbelievers belong inside the church even if we allow them inside the church.

So, again, I think this is about a pretty narrow point of contention which gets blown out of proportion a lot of times for sectarian reasons. Some people on both sides go too far, and we should be a little steely-eyed toward them as far as that is necessary or useful.

In that, let’s all spend the Lord’s day in the Lord’s house with the Lord’s people – and let’s pray for each other as we seek to do what God wants us to be doing thru his church.