Friday, April 03, 2009

HERMENEUTICS: PRESUMPTUOUS SINS

"Also keep back Thy servant from presumptuous sins;..." (Ps 19:13)
To be presumptuous is to presume and to presume is "to suppose to be true without proof." People are presumed innocent until proven guilty as a safeguard to individuals liberties being trampled. We may presume a person is innocent even though he is guilty as sin. With a proper investigation, the truth may come out.

But we may not presume to know the will of God beyond the things He has given. To do so is being presumptuous and it is a sin. The things revealed in Scripture are the only things we may speak of with confidence. Moses said, "The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law" (Deut 29:29). And David said, "Also keep back Thy servant from presumptuous sins;..." (Ps 19:13). David prays that the sayings of his tongue and meditations of his heart be pleasing to the Lord (vs 14). This principle serves as a bridle to keep us from going beyond the Scriptures and authorizing what God has not, and in essence speaking in the place of God. If I say that some thing is pleasing to God without being able to actually prove it ("prove all things"), then I am guilty of being presumptuous. When someone justifies an action or belief "because there is no command not to", that person is presumptuous.

One who acts presumptuously in matters of faith, is displeasing to God. Deuteronomy 17:12 warned of those who acted presumptuously by not listening to the priests. The priests were the people's mediators who ministered to the people with the Word: they were the spiritual leaders. To act contrary to what they taught or to approach God through some other mediator, was presumptuous. It is divisive.

If to presume is to suppose something to be true without proof, doesn't this explain much of the innovation we see in the religious world today? Where is the authority for authorizing women to lead men in worship [including the Lord's Supper, Prayer, Singing, Reading Scripture]? Where is the authority for gay marriages. Where is the authority for having a Branson-style Christmas show during the holidays? Where is the authority for instruments and candles and dancing in the worship of God? If the desired practice or innovation is not given consent in the Bible, then it must be presumed. If an Approved Example of the desired practice or innovation cannot be found in the Bible, then it must be presumed. If God did not imply the desired practice or innovation, then it must be presumed. When God implies, we are to accurately infer. We may infer from God's command to baptize that sprinkling is not acceptable. Because he told us what to immerse, it implies that other modes are not acceptable. By sprinkling a baby without any proof that infants were sprinkled in the Bible -- insistint as some do that infants were in the 'households' that obey the Gospel is not proof -- is presumptuous.

People do act presumptuously. This is reason for exercising caution in worship and life choices. The presumptuous sin is no different than adding to or taking away from God's Word. It is sinful. The safeguard to presumptuous sin is the diligent study of God's word and a reverence for what God has and has not said.
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EIS in Acts 2:38 and Matthew 12:41

10 comments:

  1. Hi Discippler.
    Thanks again for a good article. I am wondering why a Biblical reference to household baptism is not an implication of sprinkling.

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  2. Good question.
    The rule of hermeneutics does not simply call for following an implication and inference, but it must be "necessary". It is not necessarily implied that infants were in the household and so it wouldn't be prudent to infer sprinkling.

    Also, there is plenty in the Bible to show baptism to be an "immersion". In other words, the commanded action is immersion, which by the rules of hermeneutics, necessarily negates other options (other actions) such as sprinkling or pouring.

    I hope that explanation helped.
    Remember the greatest commandment and everything else will work out just fine.
    - Discipler

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  3. The deleted post above was my own. It had a typo and so I reposted without the error.

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  4. Wow, you posted a whole boatload of things. I’ll just comment on two aspects of your recent post:

    1.Who may be Baptized?

    Where does Sacred Scripture limit Baptism to adults only? In Sacred Scripture we see that the call to Baptism is universal. For example:

    “Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.’” (Acts 2:38-39 (NIV))

    “And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.'” (Acts 22:16 (NIV))

    “Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’” (Matthew 19:14 (NIV))

    In Colossians, St. Paul makes a parallel between Baptism under the Law of Christ and circumcision under the Mosaic Law. Under the Mosaic Law, usually only infants were circumcised since adult converts to Judaism were rare. If St. Paul meant to exclude infants then he would not have chosen circumcision as a parallel for Baptism.

    “In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. (Colossians 2:11-12 (NIV)).

    2. The form of Baptism

    Greek word baptizo found in the New Testament has a wide range of meanings. It can mean "to immerse." However, it can also mean to “wash up”. For example, see Luke 11:38. It can also be used metaphorically. For example, see Luke 12:50. It is an oversimplification, to limit baptizo to "immersion" only. In Christian usage this word gained a particular religious meaning apart from everyday meaning.

    Relying on one meaning of the word only is insufficient. We need to see how it was put into practice. For example, Tertullian describes Baptism this way:

    "with so great simplicity, without pomp, without any considerable novelty of preparation, and finally, without cost, a man is baptized in water, and amid the utterance of some few words, is sprinkled, and then rises again, not much (or not at all) the cleaner" (On Baptism, 2 [A.D. 203]).

    In the New Testament we see that Jesus Christ established a Church with governance and authority and so forth. This includes deferring to those whom Christ placed in authority over us.

    “Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:12 (NIV))

    Respect includes obedience. Sacred Scripture itself is insufficient. A correct interpretation is needed. In particular, for a valid Baptism, water must be poured. (Full immersion is also acceptable). The Trinitarian formula must be used and the intention to do what the Church does must be present.

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  5. Greetings,
    Let me try to quickly address these issues.
    1. "Where does Sacred Scripture limit Baptism to adults only?" I've already touched on this. The mention of children not being excluded from coming to God does not necessarily imply that they be baptized. References to "households" doesn't either. But other passages which speak of the necessity of faith DOES necessarily exclude infants and children. Since faith precedes salvation, as when the Hebrew writers says, "without faith it is impossible to please God, for He that comes to God MUST BELIEVE that He is and that HE is a rewarder of those who seek Him." (Hebrews 11:6) It's pretty hard to miss the implication that children are not candidates for salvation, hence baptism. Of course, I've been clear to point out that children have not "original sin" and are not lost until they reach an age whereby they may know sin and also make a decision to turn away from it toward God.

    2. "...the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off... (Acts 2:39)" Same point as above concerning children. They will become adults and so the message is to be spread over many generations. When their children are of age, they too will be able to respond to the Gospel and be saved.

    3. "Why do you delay, arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins, calling on His name" Acts 22:16" The phrase "calling on His name" is describing what an adult does. As in Acts 8:12, when "men and women were being baptized." Catholic hardly follow this when they have institutionalized a mode for baptism that wasn't known until the third century with something they called "clinical baptism." But the Biblical example is for the baptizee to also be "calling on his name", which necessarily suggest an age AND a faith requirement.

    4. I don't think the Colossians 2:12 passage is one you want to go to. It is fraught with problems for the Catholic. Paul's words clearly show that these Colossians were not baptized as infants because he says they were, in the baptism "raised by faith" in the working of God. The faith of an infant is non-existent, and please don't suggest that the parent's faith can stand in for the child. Also, the Colossians obviously were not sprinkled because Paul describes it as a burial, which is what the word baptism means -- plunge, bury, immerse.
    The parallel between the circumcision and baptism is limited and Paul shows that they are different. One is made with hands and one is made without hands. This superior one is where sin was removed, and not a "sinful nature" which the New Internation Version takes liberties to insert. The Greek word is a simple word that means flesh, and refers to sin, and not a "sinful nature."

    Hence, the better circumcision, performed without hands, happened at baptism (immersion) when the Colossians, having faith, were buried with Christ in baptism. In faith, they were raised out of the watery grave by the power of God.

    We need to be careful not to draw too close a parallel between circumcision and baptism lest we portray baptism as a legalistic rite. That was the inferiority of Old Testament in that a person entered the covenant at 8 days old and only later as a young man would he be taught about the Lord, but of the the New Testament it says, "They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,..." (Jeremiah 31:34; Hebrews 8:8-12). The beauty of God's plan today is that a person must be of an age to choose for himself or herself and thus they are taught to know the Lord when they enter the covenant at baptism.

    5. On the meaning of baptism, your examination is over-simplified and makes unwarranted conclusions. The Luke 11:38 which speaks of someone "washing" before eating is a case of the translator overreaching to give the purpose of the act, in place of the act of immersing. The action of the verb is not to wash, but it is to immerse. The word simply means to immerse the hands before eating, with the result being a washing. So the word for baptism still means immerse, and Luke 1:38 jumps ahead and offers the purpose in its place. Interestingly, baptism's mode is immersion and the purpose is "to wash away thy sins", which you already pointed out (Acts 22:16).

    6. The word baptizo means what it means and what Tertullian says on the matter in the 3rd century is irrelevant, except to show how some were already veering from the apostolic teaching.

    7. Concerning the governance and authority which you mention; the Church and its Leaders do not have the authority to change Scripture. The Catholic Encyclopedian speaks on the subject of baptism and says that without a doubt the earliest mode (i.e. in the New Testament and through the 2nd century) was immersion. Look for yourself. There is no wrangling that can justify a different action than what the Lord commanded: "be baptized" meant "be immersed", not be sprinkled. All arguments to the contrary are additions to the word of God.

    8. Concerning the command to respect those who work hard among you: this does not give the workers the authority to make up new rules.

    9. "Sacred Scripture itself is insufficient." I disagree. That one needs a "correct interpretation" is obvious, but anyone who sees sprinkling or pouring as justified from the Greek word for baptism can hardly be trusted to give a correct interpretation. Anyone who necessarily sees infants in the New Testament word for households can hardly be relied upon to give a correct interpretation. But what you imply is that Tertullian is authoritative on the subject and I deny that. What he calls for is a contradition to baptism: like saying when a man runs he walks. The verbs don't match.

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  6. On your comments:
    "Sacred Scripture itself is insufficient." I disagree. That one needs a "correct interpretation" is obvious, but anyone who sees sprinkling or pouring as justified from the Greek word for baptism can hardly be trusted to give a correct interpretation. Anyone who necessarily sees infants in the New Testament word for households can hardly be relied upon to give a correct interpretation. But what you imply is that Tertullian is authoritative on the subject and I deny that. What he calls for is a contradition to baptism: like saying when a man runs he walks. The verbs don't match.

    I used Tertullian as an example, of early Christian practice. Why should you consign 2000 years of Christian practice and understanding to oblivion? Latter Day Saints, J.W.s, Calvinists, Lutherans and others also claim to have a “correct interpretation” of Sacred Scripture. They certainly all appeal to the same source but have contradictory teachings. They all claim that Christ’s Church was corrupted. Yet this claim would contradict Christ’s promise.

    "I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:18-19 (NASB))

    "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” (John 16:13 (NASB))

    The Bible itself says nothing. It is mute. Put it on a stand. Ask it questions. Cross-examine it. What does it say in reply? An authority is needed for correct understanding. Fortunately, Christ Himself gave us this authority in His Church: the Catholic Church. If you limit God’s Word to Sacred Scripture alone and your own personal authority then you can come up with whatever you fancy. To understand God's Word we need to understand that Sacred Scripture is part of Sacred Tradition. Hermeneutics helps. But this is the heart of the issue. Sacred Tradition is both oral and written. Christians are not “people of the book”. We are people of God’s Word. Sacred Tradition is what was handed on from the Apostles. Early Christian practice attests, in part, to what was handed on. There were heresies in the early Church. Questions were settled by the Catholic Church which traces its lineage to the Apostles. No other Church can claim this lineage.

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  7. The subject here is "presumptuous sin." Let's not get into the discussion of whether Peter was the first Pope. But your comment on the Scripture is highly instructive and misguided. "The Wrod of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword...." The nature of the inspired Word is that it stands alone. A pagan can pick up the Bible, read and understand it. "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ." In the first century, when the New Testament was incomplete, the inspired prophets were able to speak the Word as the spirit gave them utterance. There is no one today who speaks the Word of God without first studying it. So let's not suggest that John 16:13 is happening today. Everyone can have the same knowledge they did then, but it comes through diligent study of the Bible.
    The Bible is complete and it is not to be added to or taken from. Not the teaching of Tertullian, nor any of the Creeds, nor any pronouncements by the Popes are authoritative UNLESS they speak exactly the same as the Bible. In which case, they are unnecessary since we can all go to the Bible.

    I once again disagree with you and we will have to leave it at that. What you call "oral tradition" is not the same as the Word of God. Such an opinion makes it utterly impossible to know when or if someone has added or taken from God's Word. Which is, I suspect, the reason that Mariolatry will soon include her deification. But those who deny the oral traditions and opinions of the "Church Fathers" cannot conclude anything beyond Mary being a virgin when Jesus was conceived and she was a virtuous woman.

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  8. Let me note:

    1. You did not address the logical point that children are necessarily EXCLUDED from baptism because of the faith, confession, and repentance requirements in Scripture: "You can if you you believe..." (Acts 8) Hence, the reason that "men and women were being baptized."

    2. The Acts 2:39 passage is explained very well as being adult children. If I become a Christian, and my children can become a Christian, there is nothing in the passage to indicate that they are adolescents. An interpretation of Scripture MUST follow the rules of hermeneutics or else there is no way to understand the written communication from God. The nature of the Bible is to be understood AND to bring about unity among the Believer's of its message. The rule of hermeneutics shows that children cannot be inferred from such passages as Acts 2:39 and Matthew 18. To infer that little babies are to be baptized goes against clear teaching of Scripture.

    3. I notice that you said nothing about baptism, which I took the time to give an answer to. I think you confused the purpose with the mode of baptism I realize that this communication can be long and time-consuming, but I wonder if instead you have conceded the point. Baptism, the Greek word, does not mean "washing", but instead that is its function of the immersion, sometimes physically and sometimes spiritually. If you do more study on the Greek meaning, you will see that this is true.

    4. Notice that I am appealing to the Word of God which was completed in the first century. If you are honest, you have to appeal to the writings of uninspired (a supernatural gift of the Spirit) men from the 2nd, 3rd, and later centuries. Jude says that "faith is once for all delivered to the saints" and to "contend earnestly for it." It looks like the first century Christians had everything they needed. The Revelation letter and the words of Paul to the Corinthians (4:6; 11:1,2) show that we are not to add to or take from God's Word. Tertullian and other religion writers are not authorized to add to God's Word.

    This is my two cents on this matter. Let's agree to disagree and move on to another subject. Thanks you.

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  9. Thanks for your response. I do appreciate your response. I’m sorry that I was not able to address every item that you posted. This is the nature of a blog. It’s not a term paper or senior thesis!

    Acts 2:39 in context has Peter addressing adults: “Men of Israel.” Adult converts who accepted Jesus Christ were Baptized. Certainly, the “promise” is for their children as well. It is fair to say that this can include their decedents as well. There is nothing in Peter’s preaching that excludes children from being also being baptized. God does not expect the impossible. Obviously, He does not expect a profession of faith from infants. The requirements for adult converts are different than for children.

    Baptism for infants makes sense if we understand the reality of what has historically been called “Original Sin” as the reality presented in Scripture Scripture (see Genesis 3) and the fact the Baptism actually does something it is not merely symbolic or a simple response to God. God acts on our souls in Baptism.

    I agree that we should not “add to God’s Word.” God’s Word is a deep treasure that needs to be safeguarded. To help free you from the “hang-up” on infant Baptism, I explained the nature of God’s Word and the necessity and authority of Christ’s Church in explaining and living His Word in conformity with His Divine Will. Obviously, we have different understanding of what constitutes God’s Word. If you are going to go with “the written page alone” then there is going to be problems as I pointed out previously. Latter Day Saints, J.W.s , Seventh Day Adventists and so forth also appeal to “the written page alone.” Another point that I can make is that if you exclude Sacred Tradition (i.e. what was handed down from the Apostles) then you are going to have to logically exclude Sacred Scripture itself because it comes from Sacred Tradition!

    If you dismiss the practice of the infant Church and the witness of extra-Biblical sources as “corruption of God’s Word” and the like, then you are also going to run into problems. (I could have posted more on the practice of the early Church in regard to Baptism. Maybe some other time. You will probably dismiss these as well for the same reasons.)

    Aside: It would be interesting to see who you approach Christology using “Scripture Alone.” The nature of God and of Christ is not explicit in the text. Was Jesus a human person? Was He a Divine Person? Did he have a body or just the appearance of a body? Did he share a common nature with the Father? Was He simply man? Was He simply a spirit? The nature of “Trinity” is not explicit in the written page either. All these questions and others were settled by the authority of the Catholic Church. Something to thing about. (end aside)

    If your foundation, for regarding infant Baptism as a sinful deviant practice that departs from Sacred Scripture, is based on a particular sense of an individual verse then you are going to run into problems. Try taking the text as a whole and do not simply rely on a particular sense of an individual verse. Verses can have different senses and meanings. The Apostles and early Christians certainly did not regard infant Baptism this way. Baptism is fundamental for Christian life. It’s too important to “agree to disagree.”

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  10. Greetings,
    Let me respond to your latest message.

    1. Concerning my contention that no teaching beyond Scripture is acceptable, you wrote, "If you are going to go with 'the written page alone' then there is going to be problems as I pointed out previously. Latter Day Saints, J.W.s , Seventh Day Adventists and so forth also appeal to 'the written page alone'." Quite the contrary, the J.W's and the like are following the same plan--by appealing to the writings of Joseph Smith, Ellen G. White, etc.-- as you describe when you justify the oral and written traditions that are extrabiblical (e.g. what Tertullian says). The LDS's go beyond 'the written page' given to us by God and claim to have an extra testament of the Lord. For all intents and purposes, that's what the Creeds and proclamations of the Popes amount to. So your point, I respectfully say, is not in favor of your argument. When the New Testament was completed, that completed the inspired Word of God. It is not to be added to or taken from. By accepting new revelation, and by putting Catholic church tradition on a par with the New Testament, then that is the very definition of adding to and taking away from Scripture (where is the "assumption of Mary" in Scripture; where is purgatory in Scripture; where do we find the justification for icons and relics in Scripture; where is the Rosary and the counting of beads and the repetitious "hail Mary" in Scripture;.... I contend that to justify these things as being supported by statements about "holding to traditions", makes it absolutely impossible to know or say when someone has added or taken from Scripture.

    2. On baptism you wrote: "Certainly, the 'promise' is for their children as well. It is fair to say that this can include their decedents as well. There is nothing in Peter’s preaching that excludes children from being also being baptized." Yes, it is fair to say that Peter's words include descendents, and it is patently obvious. But to say that "nothing in Peter's preaching excludes children from being baptized" is not according to the facts. Let me preface my comment here by saying that anything that Jesus, Paul or any other inspired author might say on the subject must be considered in the weight of evidence. For example, you might bolster your argument for infant baptism by showing that Jesus blessed little children. Then you would have to hypothesize that it meant the children were lost by original sin and Jesus saved them--and that, without baptizing or sprinkling them. I on the other hand can turn to what John says that fruits of repentance must precede baptism: which is an immersion (Lk. 3:8). I can also point out that Jesus said "...he who believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." Since an infant cannot believe or repent, these words regulate our understanding of who is a candidate for baptism. I might also point out that the salvation through Christ blood comes on the basis of grace through faith (Eph. 2:8,9). The practice of infant baptism calls on the grace of God, but does not include the requirement of faith. The Hebrew writer said "without faith it is IMPOSSIBLE to please God, for he who comes to God MUST believe that He is (exist), and that He is a rewarder of those who SEEK Him" (Heb. 11:6, emphasis mine). How does an infant "come to God"? To say that there is nothing in Scripture to exclude infant baptism (of course you don't mean 'immersion', you mean 'sprinkling' or 'pouring'.) is simply not according to the facts. But perhaps you are right and Peter said nothing that would prohibit infants from being baptized. Well, Acts 2:41 says that those who were baptized were "those who received his word." And further, the prophecy of Joel, which Peter quoted, said, "Whoever calls on the name of the Lord, shall be saved." So, how is it that Peter would place such a requirement on sinners that infants couldn't possibly respond to? The simple and logical answer is that infants were not the subject of the preaching, adult sinners were.

    Here's why this is so important. By sprinkling infants, and not baptizing them, makes salvation at the sprinkling a faithless work, which clearly is wrong. This I pointed out is the difference between circumcision of an eight-day-old boy and the immersion of a grown man or woman. One person has faith, can confess it, can turn from sin, and choose to walk with God. The other just laid there faithless. The Hebrew writer, in quoting Jeremiah 31:31-34, pointed out this superior quality of the New Covenant. To sprinkle infants, trying to make them covenant people with God, is to show a complete lack of understanding of this principle: in my humble opinion.

    We are going in circles now...

    3. On original sin, Genesis 3 speaks of the first sin and the temporal fallout. But it does not teach that a corrupted nature was passed down to each generation.

    4. On "agreeing to disagree". I agree that it is important, but we must move on. Thank you.

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