Tuesday, April 28, 2009


The Belgic Confession mentions Anabaptists three times: in Articles 18, 34 and 36. The first deals with their denial of the Incarnation; the second with their condemnation of the baptism of the infant children of believers; the third with their rejection of civil government.

A question to be asked is: Is there a common idea behind these three positions? I think there is. The common element must be the rejection of the teaching that God can and does use created stuff to bring about good things.

In Article 18 of the Belgic Confession, we note as a heresy the denial of the incarnation of the Son of God. The Anabaptists denied that Christ assumed human flesh from his mother. They said that Christ took with him from heaven a substance that (only) appeared to be human flesh. They held that Christ passed through Mary like water passes through an eavestrough or like sunlight passes through a window pane. The water takes nothing from the trough; the sunlight takes nothing from the pane. This is the ancient heresy of Docetism.

The Bible teaches, and our confessions repeat, that God did in fact bring something good out of created matter. The Lord Jesus Christ has his humanity from his mother Mary. His flesh was real, true human flesh.

Article 34 notes that Anabaptists condemn the baptism of the little children of believers. They reject the teaching that the infant children of believers ought to be baptized by virtue of the covenant that God has with believers and their children. They do not think that God can bring about something good in the way of the very human line of believing grandparents, parents, children, etc.

The Bible teaches, and the confessions repeat it, that God has a covenant with believers and their children. Baptism, as a sign of the covenant, must be administered to all with whom God has a covenant. This holds for children who are physically born to believers; as well it holds for children adopted into the earthly household of believers.

Article 36 says that the Anabaptists rejected civil government. They did not believe that God could bring about something good by way of human government.

The Bible teaches and the confessions echo that God establishes earthly, human government. He is pleased to govern us, Christians included, by human officers and magistrates.

The Anabaptists rejected that God could do a good work within the realm of nature by way of created, natural, material. They were wrong on all three counts.

Christ has his flesh from the Virgin Mary; the children of believers are comprehended by the covenant of grace together with their parents; God is pleased to govern us by way of human government.


george said...

Considering this post George maybe we can pick up the other discussion here. It's too much of a process to go back into your blog each time to find the other post.

The last couple of entries were these: (this was me)
Thanks George, if you are willing to continue the discussion I would very much like to. Maybe it would be best to leave it until next week after Easter as I won't have time until then. The question I would start with is this:

You said, "God-fearing parents ought not to doubt the election and salvation of their children whom God calls out of this life in their infancy." You then say, "A baptized child who walks away from the faith will suffer the eternal wrath of God, unless he repents."

Do you believe it follows then that the baptized child who falls away and does not repent, never was elect to begin with? Or, do you believe that a child can lose their salvation?


6:09 PM

George van Popta said...
Sure, George; we'll pick it up again next week. I, too, am busy with having to preach three times this weekend.

7:38 PM

George van Popta said...

God will, unfailingly, bring to glory those whom he has elected (Rom 8:30) "And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified."

The same scriptures (in Heb 6:4-6) warn against apostasy. It seems that a person can reject his salvation.

Don't try to hammer it all into a system, George. God will bring to salvation those whom he has elected; those whom God, from eternity, has elected will not fall. And yet, the warnings against apostasy are there and they are real, and we must take them seriously. Those who reject the gospel will be rejected by God; their condemnation will be well-deserved for neglecting and rejecting such a great salvation.

9:18 PM

Ok, that was a while ago. I was asking you about your baptized children. You said if the baptized child dies in infancy, that the parents can have assurance that their child is with the Lord. But if that same child grew up and rejected the faith he would be condemned.

You then said this in your last comment, "The same scriptures (in Heb 6:4-6) warn against apostasy. It seems that a person can reject his salvation." S

So do I have this right, that you believe that baptized children of believers are elect if they happen to die in infancy or childhood, (based on their baptism) but if they later reject the faith it must mean that they were not elect to begin with?


George van Popta said...

Not based on their baptism but by virtue of the covenant that God has with believers and their children.

It's not always as neat a system as we like. Arminians like to force everything into a system; the Reformed don't. They read scripture and learn that God, in his sovereignty, is bigger and more gracious than our systems.

In a few weeks, once things slow down, I'll write about how Arminians work with modernist systems of theology while Reformed take a pre-modern approach and simply read the scriptures and take them at face value.

george said...

I guess I'll wait George but respectfully, you didn't answer the questions. My understanding of what you believe is that if a "covenant" child is saved in infancy, you are assured they have salvation. You acknowledge that one cannot lose their salvation. But then you say that if your baptized covenant child rejects the faith later on in life and doesn't repent they are condemned. Doesn't make any sense, because they are saved as an infant but then are not when they reject it. So they lose their salvation is what one would conclude.

Where does it say in the New Testament that baptism replaces circumcision? Iknow it's in the form for infant baptism in the CRC but it's not in the Bible. If you read MacArthur's sermon he had a lot to say about that also. Here's an excerpt, I believe I asked you the same question a couple of years ago: ("Now, if the early church thought that baptism was a replacement—baby baptism was a replacement for circumcision—why isn’t that in the New Testament?

And then, why did the Judaizers who were going around telling everybody they had to be circumcised, why didn’t Paul say to them, "Hey, you guys, that’s over; baptism has taken it’s place. We don’t circumcise babies, we baptize them." He could have put an end to the Judaizing deal with just one comment. Now, why would they go into the Jerusalem counsel in Acts 15 and had this big, long debate about what do we do about the circumcision…what do we do? Why didn’t somebody just get up and say, "Oh…no, no. That’s out and baby baptism has taken its place." That’s never said. Nobody ever says that.")

That would have been the most obvious time that Paul would have talked about it but he didn't.

Also interesting how infant baptism wasn't practiced until the 2nd or 3rd century, there is no evidence of it in the early church. The New Testament is so clear, it is always belief first then baptism. MacArthur makes that very clear and he's a Calvinist George not an Arminian.

George van Popta said...

George, we have gone around this circle a number of times. I think it started when Clarence and I had the radio program on CHML. Likely we would just keep going around and around.

I know that John MacArthur is not an Arminian but, rather, a Calvinist. I did not mean to suggest he is. Sorry if it sounded like I did. I have great respect for him. Just too bad he's wrong on the baptism thing. Five points are not enough....

I thought, perhaps, that you embrace the Arminian doctrines. Perhaps I'm wrong there too.

george said...

George, Arminianism makes no sense and certainly isn't Scriptural. Man has nothing to do with their salvation, I know that so clearly in my own life, and God's Word is very clear on that.

You think MacArthur is wrong on baptism, but you have yet to answer the questions. I think they are important, they go to the root of this issue.

George van Popta said...

George, we need to view things historically rather than trying to view things from the point of view of eternal election.

A child is born to believers, people with whom God has his covenant. The Bible tells us that God has a covenant with believers and their children.

Scenario 1: The child dies in infancy. Because of what the Bible teaches about God's covenant love for believers and their children, the parents ought not to doubt the election and salvation of their child whom God calls out of this life in infancy.

Scenario 2: The child matures and rejects the faith and dies in a state of rebellion against God. He will be eternally condemned on account of his rebellion and rejection of the faith. Reprobation by God is always deserved.

Scenario 3: The child matures and personally embraces the Lord Jesus Christ as his Saviour from sin and the Lord of his life. He knows that he is elect, from before the foundations of the world. His living comfort is that God, in his sovereignty and grace, has elected him and brought him to salvation.

That's what the Bible teaches, George. It's not a system; it's a gospel. The Bible teaches that God has a decree of election not for us to inquisitively pry into the secret things of God, but to comfort believers that their entire salvation rests upon God's sovereign grace.

Please meditate on this verse of scripture:

(Deu 29:29) — The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.

Election belongs to the secret things; the call to faith and repentance belongs to the revealed things.

George, I'm answering your question. I pray you will be given to understand and accept it.

george said...

George, I agree with you on 2 and 3but disagree with you on #1. I believe that child dying and going on to be with the Lord has everything to do with God's grace and nothing to do with what family he was born in.

Your next door 2-year-old , who has unbelieving parents, who dies in infancy, is saved by grace just like any child of believing parents.

As you know from our previous discussions, I grew up in the CRC and went through the motions with respect to Profession of Faith but I know now that I wasn't truly saved until God truly changed me around when I was 43 years old.

When I was a police officer and shortly after God saved me, I was involved in a case of a 2-year-old who had choked on a grape and had died. I had to be present at the autopsy and I just remembered so much of that "covenant" theology coming into my mind that day. I saw that 2-year-old body lying on the morgue table and knew of couse that there was more, that the soul of that little guy had moved on. He was the child of Catholic parents.

I believe God in His grace brings all children who die in their infancy to be with Him. I believe there is a true biblical basis for that belief also but will refer you to John MacArthur to articulate that. I am encouraged that you have great respect for him even though his theology and biblcal interpretation would differ from yours on a number of points.

I wonder, as a man of God, how you might have counseled that little boy's parents who were of course so totally distraught over the death of their son. I wonder what you might have said to them had they asked you about the eternal destiny of their child.

I can't go on with this discussion, as much as I would love to, I just don't have the time.

I would suggest that this belief that some children are set apart by virtue of a covenant that God has with them and the parents is a huge issue. I believe it leads to a false assurance which is no assurance at all. I've seen it in a number of people who are near to me.

I would encourage you to read or listen to these 2 sermons by MacArthur on this very important subject.



Have a great day!


George van Popta said...

Let me, then, end our discussion by thanking you for your work as a police officer. You men and women have a very difficult task. May God protect and bless you in it.

Thanks, also, for the links.

Best wishes, George. Likely, we will talk again some day.