Monday, May 27, 2013

Comparing Two Statements of Faith: Part Four

          There is a great deal of agreement in the New Hampshire Baptist Confession of Faith (1833) and the Treatise on the Faith and Practice of the Free Will Baptists (1834).  There are also very stark differences between the two confessions.  Essentially these confessions come down to the differences in theology between a group that is Calvinist and another that is Armenian.  When each group considers the other in error theologically, such differences are not easily overcome.  Where opportunities to cooperate for the furtherance of the Kingdom of God might exist, differences such as those described often serve to obstruct such cooperation. 
          The author does not subscribe to Calvinism/Reformed theology or Armenianism though elements of both systems are present in the author’s theology.  Rather, the author considers himself to be a Baptist with views similar to most held by our Anabaptist predecessors.  The Free Will Baptist confession ascribes too much weight to the actions of the sinner thereby reducing the role of God in salvation to that of spectator.  The New Hampshire Baptist confession says much about what God has done for man and precious little about what God has done in man through salvation.  This seminarian is of the opinion that there is Scripture to support both positions.  Since Scripture does not contradict Scripture, neither position can be completely correct.   

Friday, May 24, 2013

Comparing Two Statements of Faith: Part Three

          Clearly there are similarities in the two confessions being reviewed.  However, the differences in the two statements abound.  A lengthy discussion of the efficaciousness of God’s grace or the nature of the atonement would fit nicely into a monograph such as this.  However, the author will limit the discussion to the three areas previously mentioned.
          The first of the disagreement to be discussed are the ordinances of the church.  Both the New Hampshire Baptists and the Free Will Baptists agreed that baptism by immersion in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and the observance of the Lord’s Supper are ordinances of the church.  Here the agreement ends. Where the New Hampshire Baptist confession states there are only two ordinances, the Treatise on the Faith and Practice of the Free Will Baptists (1834) also includes as an ordinance the washing of the saint’s feet.  It is their belief that this is an act of humility which reminds the believer of the need of daily cleansing from all sin.[1]  The act of washing the saint’s feet was performed by Jesus as recorded in John 13:1-21.  However, this act is not unique to the New Testament.  In fact, the act of foot washing can be found as early as Abraham (Gen. 18:4; 19:2) and continued in the nation of Israel (Judg. 19:21).[2]  Foot washing was usually done by the person or a servant.  It was very unusual for the host to perform the act (1 Sam. 25:41) and failure to provide such amenities was considered a discourtesy (Luke 7:44).[3]
          When Paul wrote to Timothy about the qualifications for a widow to be provided for by the church, he listed foot washing among them (1 Tim. 5:10).[4]  Clearly, there was something to the washing of feet that demonstrated humility that Jesus Christ himself held in high regard.  As baptism symbolizes the cleansing of the forgiveness of sins, foot washing symbolizes the cleansing needed for fellowship.  If cleansing is the focus then a clear case for the observance of foot washing as an ordinance can be made.  If the forgiveness or example aspect of foot washing is the emphasis then simply practicing the spiritual truths the ritual illustrates would argue against foot washing as an ordinance.[5]
Election or the Gospel Call
          The Free Will Baptist view of the Gospel Call is one in which Christ’s atoning death on the cross makes salvation equally available to all men.  Any failure to come to a saving faith in Christ is wholly the fault of the sinner.  This is in contrast to the view of the New Hampshire Baptists in which Election is the means unto God’s end plan.[6]  From this perspective, Christ’s death on the cross secured the salvation of those elect and also the faith necessary to come to saving faith.  The New Hampshire Baptist Confession also states in Section VI that the blessing of salvation is made free to all by the gospel though the sinner’s depravity and voluntary rejection prevent acceptance.[7]  This seems to contradict the notion of election described in Section IX.
Perseverance of the Saints
          Here again a distinct difference between the two confessions is clearly visible.  The Free Will Baptist position states that there are strong grounds to hope that the regenerate will persevere until the end but that people can fall back into sin and thus lose their salvation.[8]  Where the Free Will Baptist saw the loss of salvation, the New Hampshire Baptists would see backsliding as described in Proverbs 14:14 or Hebrews 6:4-6; 10:38, 39.[9] 
For the New Hampshire Baptists, once a person comes to saving faith in Christ, a special Providence watches over their welfare allowing them to endure to the end.  It is this perseverance that sets them apart from the others who would fall away from the faith.  This doctrine can be found in John 10:28, 29; Rom. 11:29; Phil. 1:6; 1 Pet. 1:5. It, moreover, follows from a consideration of (1) the immutability of the divine decrees (Jer. 31:3; Matt. 24:22–24; Acts 13:48; Rom. 8:30); (2) the provisions of the covenant of grace (Jer. 32:40; John 10:29; 17:2–6); (3) the atonement and intercession of Christ (Isa. 53:6, 11; Matt. 20:28; 1 Pet. 2:24; John 11:42; 17:11, 15, 20; Rom. 8:34); and (4) the indwelling of the Holy Ghost (John 14:16; 2 Cor. 1:21, 22; 5:5; Eph. 1:14; 1 John 3:9). [10]

[1] Treatise on the Faith and Practice of the Free Will Baptists, 1834 full text,  [Last accessed September 26, 2011] Chapter XVIII.
[2] Elwell, Walter A., ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology 2nd Edition. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001), 458.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Freeman, James M., and Harold J. Chadwick. Manners & Customs of the Bible, Rev. ed. (North Brunswick, NJ: Bridge-Logos Publishers, 1998), 26.
[5] Ryrie, Charles C. Basic Theology. (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1986, 1999), 495.
[6] New Hampshire Baptist Confession of Faith (1833), full text in Grudem, Wayne. “Appendix 1: Historic Confessions of Faith.”  Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 1197. 
[7] Ibid.
[8] Treatise on the Faith and Practice of the Free Will Baptists, 1834 full text,  [Last accessed September 26, 2011] Chapter XIII.
[9] Easton, M. G. Easton's Bible Dictionary. (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996), Backsliding.

[10] Ibid, Perseverance of the saints.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Comparing Two Statements of Faith: Part Two

          Upon close examination of these two confessions, one immediately notices the many areas of agreement.  Both hold that justification is by faith alone, the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ, and that man cannot by reason alone produce faith apart from grace.  There are others.
          Both the New Hampshire Baptist Confession of Faith (1834)[1] and the Treatise on the Faith and Practice of the Free Will Baptists (1834)[2] agree that the Scriptures were written by men divinely inspired.  Both also affirm that the Scriptures are inerrant and are a suitable and proper guide for Christian living.  The Free Will Baptists elaborate and include history, geography, and science in their confession.[3]  Though lacking such detail, the New Hampshire confession no doubt also affirms these positions.  Nevertheless, both groups clearly and rightly understand inerrancy and inspiration and that God is capable of creating such a book as the Bible and preserving it through the ages for His people.[4] 
Attributes of God
          As with the Scriptures, both confessions are in agreement about the attributes of God.  Though it would be easy to argue that both confessions place limits on God, this is not the case.  By attempting to define water, one does not limit the power of Niagara Falls![5]  Nor do these confessions seek to limit the power of God.  Rather, both agree that they understand God to be the true living God who is Spirit.  The New Hampshire Baptist Confession elaborates on the triune Godhead identifying each of the three persons while the Free Will Baptist confession states that the mode of God’s existence is above the understanding of man.  Both completely and fully affirm that God is worthy of all possible praise and is the only appropriate object of worship.
The Fall of Man
          Both confessions are in agreement that man was created upright and holy.  The Free Will Baptist confession elaborates on this adding that there was no desires in man transgress God’s will.  Prior to being tempted into disobedience, man’s tendency was to do righteousness.[6]  Then the tempter arrived on the scene followed by the voluntary transgression of Adam whereby he fell from his previously holy and happy state.  As a consequence of the fall, the posterity of Adam comes into the world in a far different state than that of Adam.[7]  Both confessions go on to make clear that because of the fall, man is inclined towards evil and under just condemnation.  The ramifications to all of humanity are affirmed in both the New Hampshire Baptist and Free Will Baptist confessions.  Once sin has been committed, it cannot be undone.[8] 

[1] New Hampshire Baptist Confession of Faith (1833), full text in Grudem, Wayne. “Appendix 1: Historic Confessions of Faith.”  Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 1196. 
[2] Treatise on the Faith and Practice of the Free Will Baptists, 1834 full text,  [Last accessed September 26, 2011] Chapter I.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Chafer, Lewis Sperry. Systematic Theology, Vols. 1 & 2. (Grand Rapids: Kregal Publications, 1948, 1976), 62-63.
[5] Elwell, Walter A., ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology 2nd Edition. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001), 492.
[6] Treatise on the Faith and Practice of the Free Will Baptists, 1834 full text,  [Last accessed September 26, 2011] Chapter IV, Section II.
[7]  Ibid.
[8] Ryrie, Charles C. Basic Theology. (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1986, 1999), 235.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Comparing Two Statements of Faith: Part One

This series was originally posted a couple of years ago while I was a seminary student at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.  I was asked to remove it by an adjunct professor after one of his students "used" the material for a similar assignment.  Lesson: good schools are checking up on the assignments submitted by their students.    

          I love studying history.  Of course, those who know me would not be surprised to learn that this includes church history but I am also quite interested in world history.  The history lessons taught in so many schools neglects the impact that the church has had on history over the centuries.  This sad truth is a topic for another day!

The study of various confessions of faith is essential in understanding the changes that occurred in different periods of history.  Such a study is also necessary for the student desiring to more fully understand how the positions of differing denominations formed and how things came to be in the present day.  To that end, this monograph will compare and contrast the New Hampshire Baptist Confession of Faith (1833) with the Treatise on the Faith and Practice of the Free Will Baptists (1834).  Both groups share a common understanding of a number of issues and yet they differ on others.  Given the constraints of the current assignment, this paper will compare three similar positions held by both confessions and then contrast three positions.

          The three positions both confessions hold in a similar view are on the Scriptures, the Fall of Man, and the Attributes of God.  The differences to be discussed are the Ordinances, Election versus the Gospel Call, and Perseverance of the Saints.  The Treatise on the Faith and Practice of the Free Will Baptists (1834) is fully Armenian in theology while the New Hampshire Baptist Confession of Faith (1834) is decidedly Calvinistic in theology.  It is for this reason the differences between these points is so stark when compared side by side.  While any number of other combinations are certainly possible, these similarities and differences are of great interest to me.  The conclusion will briefly offer the my thoughts on both confessions as well as the possibility of cooperation between congregations that would embrace either confession.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

And so it begins...

It has been a few weeks since I last posted a new blog, a fact that was brought to my attention on Friday afternoon.  I have been considering what my next topic might be and it occurred to me that something personal to get things going again might be a good idea.  So here we go!

          This very weekend last year my family and I were in Lynchburg, VA at the commencement ceremony of Liberty University.  Gov. Mitt Romney, the eventual GOP nominee for president, was our speaker and the nation was in the midst of an election season that still divides people.  At that time I still had to complete two more classes to take over the summer before I would finally be finished with the MRE program at the seminary. 

I knew then that the Lord had more for me and was already praying about the next step in my education.  Sometime during my final class at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary I felt lead to The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and the Doctor of Education program.  Placing everything in the Lord’s hands, I began the application process shortly after my MRE was conferred.  My regular readers know I was eventually accepted into the Ed.D program.  I thought the application process was stressful but now there is hard work ahead!

This brings me to two things: first, the photo in this post.  That is photo of some of the resources I will be using in my first class Theological Foundations for Educational Research (92010).  I would greatly appreciate your prayers over my studies concerning clarity of thought, good time management (something I am not always good at doing), and reminders not to neglect my time with the Lord or my family during the next thirty months.

Second, the Cooperative Program of the Southern Baptist Convention generously supports the six seminaries of our convention which helps to hold the cost of seminary education down.  The normal tuition for the Ed.D program is $24,900 however the discounted rate for members of SBC churches is $14,900.  This is a tremendous blessing yet the costs that remain are quite significant and will exceed $20,000 including tuition, books, travelling and lodging expenses to/from campus, fees, etc.  Please prayerfully consider supporting my journey financially.  If you feel so led, a donation in support of my Doctor of Education in Leadership can be sent to:

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Attention: Accounting
2825 Lexington Road
Louisville, KY 40280
In the memo field of your check, please include:
For Christopher Sanchez’s EdD Tuition S. I. 211863

If you choose to make a donation, thank you!  Please know that I know all too well that I do not deserve such blessings.  My family and I are grateful for your kindness and generosity as we continue to follow God’s perfect will for our lives. 

As always, I am so grateful to my regular readers who faithfully visit my site and send me words of encouragement.  This blogging journey has been amazing and I am just as excited about it today as I was with my very first post.  Praying for you all!