Category Archives: Sanctification

Dallas Willard on the Gospel and Grace

Here are a couple of good videos from an interview that John Ortberg did with Dallas Willard, in which he discusses the Gospel, grace, and spiritual formation (HT Out of Ur). Give them a listen. Willard is always worth a few minutes.

When is my child “ready” to get baptized?

The perennial question of the Baptist parent: when is my child ready to get baptized?

And, once you’ve asked that question, you begin to wonder, what does it even mean to be “ready” for baptism? Was I “ready” when I got baptized? Then, if your brain isn’t fried yet and you haven’t decided just to ignore the question and go watch a movie, you might even ask, What is “baptism” anyway and how does it relate to things like “faith,” “repentance,” and “salvation”? If you’re not careful, you might accidentally end up doing theology.

I can almost hear the TV calling.

Whether we should baptize small children (not infants) is the question that John Starke addressed recently. Specifically, he’s responding to Trevin Wax’s post arguing that there are good reasons for delaying the baptism of small children until they’re ready. Starke understands the concerns, but he thinks they’re misguided and offers 4 reasons for baptizing young children without delay:

  1. The regular pattern in Scripture doesn’t give any indication of a probationary period.
  2. A probationary period seems to imply that there is something more than faith we need to do in order to be a Christian.
  3. Affirming belief in the gospel is never false assurance.
  4. The New Testament pattern is reactive rather than proactive concerning conversion.

You’ll have to read the post to get his full thinking on the subject, but I think he makes some good points. I’m particularly concerned about the second point and the suggestion that we need to wait until a child “owns” her faith or has a sufficiently “mature” faith before getting baptized. The first concern seems to rise directly from our rampant individualism and the idea that if the community (or family) serves as a shaping force in a person’s faith development, their faith no longer belongs to them in some way. And the second implies that you’re not really converted until your faith reaches a certain level of maturity, as though my salvation depended ultimately on the quality of my faith.

One of these days I’ll finally get around to writing my own post (it will probably take more than one) explaining how I view baptism and how my wife and I are approaching it with our daughters. But for now, just read Starke’s post and see what he has to say.

Update: Nathan Finn also addressed the issue this morning, with an interesting reflection on how his views on the subject have changed slightly over time.

Discipleship test – Can your church produce apostates?

Could apostasy actually be a sign of a healthy church?

Lauren Winner of Duke Divinity School recently considered the situation of writer/director Paul Haggis’ defection from his faith. Haggis bitterly – and publicly – left the Church of Scientology because of his disagreement with them over gay marriage (turns out Scientology is not a fan).  Haggis now counts as an “apostate” from Scientology because he has renounced them and their teachings.  So why does Winner care at all about any of this?  Because it helps her think about her own church (Episcopalian) and the rigor (or lack, thereof) it takes to be a part of it.  She writes,

So while I appreciate that my church makes room for patchwork, for doubt, for moving in and out, some days I think: Would that America’s Protestant mainline could produce an apostate. For one might say that a group that lacks the necessary preconditions for making apostates can’t make disciples either.

Now this is a fascinating angle to get at thinking about discipleship – a group isn’t really much good, or good for you spiritually unless it is demanding enough of you that you might leave (or even be pushed out).  So…is she on to something?  Or is she really romanticizing a certain “rugged” view of Christian community that in fact is coercive and harmful?  What do you think?

Leaving the Church to start…………….a Church.

I recently read an article by Kevin DeYoung at Ligonier Ministries.  In it he addresses the need for “fewer revolutionaries and more plodding visionaries.”  There seems to be an alarming trend of my generation that desire Christian community, but want to find such community outside of the church.  This manifests itself in an attitude of antagonism towards almost anything associated with the institutional church.  People want to leave the Church to get together with other Christians who love Jesus, want to be taught the Bible, and reach others with the gospel of Christ, and they want to do it all at the newest and hippest location without the restraints of the Church.  In the end, all they really want to do is………start another church.  (I always find the irony in that humorous)  We’ve always just called them denominations, but we seem to have replaced that with new words like: Emergent, Emerging, Seeker Sensitive, (or as in Andy Stanley’s so telling new video) Contemporvant..  Simply said: Christians were never meant to live outside of the community of faith called the Church.  Inside of this community they find accountability, exhortation, a layer of protection against heresy, and hundreds of other benefits that God specifically wove into the fabric of Christian community.

DeYoung’s article points out the unbiblical and immature view of people who are bored with the church and spend more time picking the Bride of Christ apart than connecting in meaningful and “ordinary” relationships.  He says, “It’s possible that our boredom has less to do with the church, its doctrines, or its poor leadership and more to do with our unwillingness to tolerate imperfection in others and our own coldness to the same old message about Christ’s death and resurrection. It’s possible we talk a lot about authentic community but we aren’t willing to live in it.”  DeYoung also makes a great point that much of our lives are “ordinary.”  We are not all going to be Paul’s and we’re going to have to be all right with that.  We were never called to be the next Paul anyway.  We were called to be like Jesus and this means that faithfulness to the Glory of God is the real standard of maturity.  Criticism is easy for those who never try themselves or have not had the test of time applied to their own endeavors.  This includes faithfulness in what many times appears to be the mundane and ordinary, and in the midst of that knowing and trusting that God uses even this to make us like Jesus.

Does Christian character have apologetic value?

In a recent post, C. Michael Patton argued that “Christianity is not validated upon the character of its adherents.” In other words, he contends that whether or not Christians actually live significantly differently than non-Christians  should have no bearing on whether or not we believe Christianity to be true. He concludes, “Christianity is based solely on the historic person and work of Christ.”

I’d be curious to hear what you have to say about this. On the one hand, you have Patton’s argument that the truth of Christianity is not predicated on the extent to which Christians live out this truth. And, you also have all the sociological evidence supporting the notion that Christians do not in fact live lives that are significantly different from non-Christians. Those two pieces would seem to suggest that Christian character does not have apologetic value. It doesn’t work (i.e. there’s no evidence suggesting that Christian character is noticeably different) and it isn’t necessary (i.e. the truth of Christianity stands or falls without it).

Of course, on the other hand you have the life-changing power of the Gospel and the indwelling of the Spirit. These truths would seem to indicate that if Christianity is in fact true, it should be noticeable. Consequently, Christian character is legitimate evidence for (or against) the validity of Christianity.

What do you think? If you were engaged in an apologetic dispute with someone and they raised the apparent lack of noticeable transformation in the lives of Christians, how would you respond?