Vatican II on Scripture

One of the common ideas in the current ecumenical climate is that Vatican II altered or at least has the potential to alter the relationship between Protestants and Roman Catholics. There were major changes made at Vatican II, particularly liturgical changes and softening of the RC Church’s stance towards those outside the church. But many central assertions remained. One of the greatest divides, if not the greatest, between Roman Catholics and Protestants is the authority of the Bible and the authority of tradition. Vatican II did not alter the Roman Catholic Church’s view on tradition and Scripture. Here are some quotes from Vatican II

The task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church.

Sacred tradition, sacred Scripture, and the teaching authority of the Church, in accord with God’s most wise design, are so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others, and that all together and each in its own way under the action of the one Holy Spirit contribute effectively to the salvation of souls.

It is not from sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about everything that has been revealed. So, both sacred tradition are to be accepted and venerated with the same sense of devotion and reverence.

Sacred tradition and sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the word of God, which is committed to the Church.

Matthew Barrett comments on these quotes saying,

While the document goes on to say, “this teaching office is not above the word of God, but serves it,” Vatican II cannot meant this in the way that the Reformers did, for it then says this teaching office “draws from this one deposit of faith everything which it presents for belief as divinely revealed.” So while this teaching office may serve the Word of God, it originates from the one holy deposit along with Scripture and must be equally revered as God’s Word.

There is debate in Roman Catholic circles about what all of this means. But that is largely irrelevant. The institution of Roman Catholicism is built on tradition plus Scripture. In the end, unity is impossible if one group accepts two divinely received sources of authority and the other group accepts only one and rejects the other.

Tyrants and Kicking Posts

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Correct doctrine does not inoculate against sin. Just because the right things are taught sin does not magically disappear. It is easy to believe that if we just teach a biblically grounded view of courtship then all we have to do is set those two young ones lose, following our courtship rules, and all will be well. Or if we have the right liturgy then the parishioners automatically become more righteous. Or if we teach our daughters modesty then all will be well and so on. The trouble with this perspective is that the problem with sin is rarely knowledge. Sin lives within us. Whatever system we have (and some are better than others) we bring our sin into it. Many pastors and parents function as if teaching the right doctrine automatically sanctifies. But it doesn’t. And this why a pastor must preach to his people, not just the right doctrine, but also that right doctrine must translate to right living.

In our church we teach headship and submission. It is a biblical concept. It is one of the key issues of our day, along with numerous other male/female, husband/wife issues. But teaching headship and submission is not a vaccine against headship submission sins. In fact, someone can believe in headship and submission and have a terrible, unbiblical marriage. Here are two specific sins that crop up when a church teaches headship.

Tyrants
There will be men who are drawn to this teaching because they are tyrants. They use headship as a shield for accountability. They love headship because they think it means they get to do whatever they want. My wife is my servant and I am the master. These men are often over-controlling, easily offended, lack real accountability, think their children are too good for anyone else, etc. They keep their wife really close because who knows what will happen if she drifts. They speak in terms of protection, but what they really want is control. They speak of their sins in generic terms instead of specifics. They are good at cultural critique, but not good at self-critique. Continue reading

Presumptive Regeneration as Basis for Baptizing Infants?

Here is an excellent quote by Pierre Marcel on why we do not baptize infants because we assume they are regenerate. All italics are Marcel’s.

While recognizing that children of believers are baptized because they are in the covenant and are, as such, heirs of the promises implying a right to justification and to the regenerating and sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit, a certain number of Reformed theologians have attempted to add one of the effects of the covenant of grace to the foundation of infant baptism, namely, presumptive regeneration. They have considered that presumptive regeneration could be the ultimate ground of baptism, more so than even the covenant. It must be acknowledged that this attempt has failed. Presumptive regeneration cannot be regarded naturally as the legal ground of infant baptism, for this cannot be anything other than the promises of God contained in the covenant. One cannot baptize on the basis of a presumption. To the question: “Why can you presume the regeneration of the children of believers?” one can only reply: “Because they are born of believing parents” ; or in other words, because  they are born into the covenant. Besides, Scripture and experience afford proof that not all children born into the covenant are regenerated to salvation.

It is obvious that to refuse to consider this presumptive regeneration as the foundation of baptism is not at all the same as saying that it is impossible or unjustifiable to assume that the little children of believers are regenerate: we shall return to this point. But, in accordance with the indications of the Word of God, we do not wish in any way to restrict the divine liberty which acts in sovereign independence when and as it wills, and which is never confined to means. The  promise of the regeneration of the children of the covenant is sufficient for us. It is not for us to define whether this regeneration in view of salvation is found in the elect children before or at the moment of baptism, or sometimes even years afterwards.

Children of Believers are Part of the Church

By a sovereign decree, independently of any human point of view, God decides that the children of believers shall be included in His covenant. In His sovereignty He imposes this relationship upon them. It pleases God to make this covenant with them. He chooses these children as heirs of the promise. God’s decision and the offer of the blessings of the covenant precede the faith of the child. The character of this covenant is sovereignly objective.

The children of believers are the heirs of all the promises of the covenant. In the same way as the baptized proselyte they are separate from the profane world and are placed neither under God’s judgment nor under Satan’s power. God regards them as members of His kingdom. He promises to circumcise their hearts in order that they may love Him and live. He wishes to be their Father, to cause them to enjoy the benefits of His grace, and to lead them to salvation. The children of believers are considered by God as being involved in the faith of their parents; the family, as such, forms a concrete whole. They are members of the Church.

Since the children of believers are “set apart” separate from the profane world, “holy” -to use the Biblical expression-from the moment of their birth; since God includes them in the covenant and they belong to Christ’s body the Church; in short, since they participate in all the promises and all the spiritual realities signified and sealed in baptism, we say that they are fit to receive it; there is no other reason for administering baptism to them. The grace of their adoption precedes baptism which is the sign and seal of it. This basis of the baptism of children is fundamentally objective and rigorously established upon the New Testament. 

The covenant of grace, in fact, remains one and the same in the New Testament, the Church remains the same, and the children of believers are part of it. Christ confirms the spiritual solidarity of the family. In the New Testament we encounter the same effects of the covenant of grace relating to the children of believers. If the effects are the same, so also are the principles. (Pierre Marcel in The Doctrine of Infant Baptism)

No Prohibition Found

From Abraham onwards, for a period of twenty centuries, children were expressly received into the Church from the time of their birth if they were born of Jewish parents or as minors if they belonged to families of which the father had been converted to Judaism. Through twenty centuries not only tradition and ritual, but religious and theological thought fashioned by the promises and prescriptions of the covenant of grace, which is the foundation doctrine of the Old Testament, confirmed in all points in the New, owed their organic character to this covenant. Has the force and vigor of this conception according to which children ought to receive the sacrament of the covenant been truly represented? In reality, the silence of the New Testament regarding the baptism of children militates in favor of rather than against this practice [infant baptism]. To overthrow completely notions so vital, impressed for more than two thousand years on the soul of the people, to withdraw from children the sacrament of admission into the covenant, the Apostolic Church ought to have received from the Lord an explicit prohibition, so revolutionary in itself that a record of it would have been preserved in the New Testament. Not only, however, does the eternal covenant remain intact in the New Testament, but in Jesus Christ it reaches supreme fulfillment. Had our Lord wished the reception of children into this ever valid covenant to be discontinued He would have said so in order that no one might be any doubt. (Pierre Marcel in The Doctrine of Infant Baptism)

How Does Scripture Treat Children of Believers?

The legitimacy of infant baptism depends entirely on the question of the manner in which Scripture regards the children of believers and wishes us, consequently, to regard them. If Scripture speaks of these children in the same way as of adult believers, and if the promises which are made to them and the benefits of grace received by them are the same, then the legitimacy and, still more, the duty of infant baptism are securely established; we cannot withhold from children that which is granted to adults. (Pierre Marcel, Doctrine of Infant Baptism)

Not Only in Our Hearts

Let us then realize that we are baptized on this condition, namely, that we should devote ourselves fully to our God…so that we may glorify Him who has shown Himself so liberal towards us and who has exercises such pity. Every time that God’s benefits are recalled to our memory, and especially the remembrance that it has pleased Him to call us to the knowledge of His truth, we should add this: that it is in order that our life should be dedicated completely to His honor and to His service.

Baptism is our confession before men inasmuch as it is a mark and token by which we openly declare that we wish to be numbered among the people of God, by which we testify that we agree and concur with all Christians in the service of the one God and in one religion, by which, in short we publicly assert and declare our faith, in order that God may be glorified not only in our hearts, but also that our tongues and all the members of our body may, to the utmost of their ability, sound forth His praises. For in this way all that is ours is employed, as is fitting, in promoting the glory of God, which ought everywhere to be displayed; and others are stimulated by our example to the same course. (John Calvin, quoted in Pierre Marcel)