The Holy Spirit, Union with Christ, and Baptism

ERK

Puritan Board Freshman
How would you respond to this concept?

I have a friend who is currently a youth pastor at a pentecostal church, but has recently been studying the church fathers. He has been convinced that Baptism and Union with Christ are one and the same in what seems to be a lutheran sense. He doesn't believe that the water nor the minister make the baptism effectual, but that the baptism is always conferring the Uniting Grace by the working of the Spirit (as long as it is a triune baptism). He believes that baptism itself is the fulfillment of Old Testament types (circumcision) as he says it is the very thing that unites us to Christ. When I challenged him on how his view explains the OT saints having the realities of union with Christ (Abraham being counted righteous) he said that they simply had it in part but not in the way that we have it. I pressed a little more into how Abraham could be counted righteous apart from being united to Christ, and my friend kept on sorta dodging the question. He won't allow Abraham or any OT saint to be united to Christ because he equates union with Christ to regeneration and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit (which he argues belongs to NT baptism). To make things more difficult to address... he also believes that regeneration follows faith, that baptism is necessary for salvation (because it unites us to Christ), and that "Prevenient Grace" is universally and effectually given throughout all time in order to release the will of every fallen human being to be able to have faith.

Does this resemble any particular sect of Christianity? Eastern Orthodox maybe? It has been difficult to discern what tradition he is aligning himself with.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Hi, welcome to the PB and thanks for your first post. Please add a signature so folks know how to address you. See the minimum required and instructions at the link at the bottom of the site page under "Useful links".
 

Jonathan95

Puritan Board Freshman
When I challenged him on how his view explains the OT saints having the realities of union with Christ (Abraham being counted righteous) he said that they simply had it in part but not in the way that we have it
The sacraments then, do the same work as the sacraments now. It was not only a shadow. Paul speaks of the old saints eating of the same spiritual food, he explains that food was Christ. (1 Cor 10:3)

I'm quoting Calvin's Institutes, Book 4, chapter 14 section 23.

"Nor can we justly attribute more to our baptism than he elsewhere attributes to circumcision, when he terms it a seal of the righteousness of faith (Rom 4:11)
Whatever, therefore, is now exhibited to us in the sacraments, the Jews formally received in theirs--i.e., that they were seals of the divine favor toward them in regard to the hope of eternal salvation."

Look up the rest online if need be. He treats the issue with biblical wisdom and understanding.

Edit: wrong chapter number. Should now say 14. Section 23. Also fixed typos.
 
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ERK

Puritan Board Freshman
Thanks Jonathan!

That may be a good way to address some of the issues. If my friend believes that both the Holy Spirit and the sacraments are generally received by NT believers only then how can it be said that OT believers generally (not just specific characters i.e. the prophets) experienced the same spiritual nourishment through what we would consider to be an OT sacrament and not merely an empty sign.
 

Jonathan95

Puritan Board Freshman
Thanks Jonathan!

That may be a good way to address some of the issues. If my friend believes that both the Holy Spirit and the sacraments are generally received by NT believers only then how can it be said that OT believers generally (not just specific characters i.e. the prophets) experienced the same spiritual nourishment through what we would consider to be an OT sacrament and not merely an empty sign.
Had to edit it some of my post, but yes you're welcome! There is nothing empty about the signs when received with faith.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
What happens sometimes, to people who come to the conclusion (right or wrong) that their spiritual formation has been lacking, is this:

They next assume that the first answers they've encountered to their hunger are the best or most reasonable fixes for what's judged to be wrong. This is a dangerous time for people whose faith is in flux, because they usually don't even know the mechanics of their own thought patterns; they don't understand the path that's taken them even to the point of reevaluation.

Most of the reorganization that takes place is typically the "rearrange the furniture" type. In other words, the underlying thinking is still the same, in the case above it is a Pentecostal frame of mind. The hermeneutics of biblical understanding, which set up the furniture originally, is still in place. Reading "the fathers" has barely begun a process of neural rewiring.

[As an aside, note the importance of church members being educated (truthfully and fairly) in matters of church history and historic theology, before they are introduced to new ideas and facts without any context.]

All he really knows is that he's found a few new puzzle pieces that he's kinda sure belong in the picture, and so he's moving things around to see if he can make them fit. And as he does so, he shifts away from those commitments he first deems "safest" to jettison. Unfortunately, most people have no awareness of how destabilizing it is to play around with elements of one's faith, no matter how "superficial."

Many of the readers here have met with my ambivalence about people changing their baptismal stance. I want to know WHY a person is changing their opinion, and if that change is a result of some deeper and well-rooted theology. I want to know if this shift is "rearranging the furniture," or is motivated by the discomfort of knowing they need a "chiropractic adjustment" to realign practice in conformity with a theological conviction.
 

ERK

Puritan Board Freshman
What happens sometimes, to people who come to the conclusion (right or wrong) that their spiritual formation has been lacking, is this:

They next assume that the first answers they've encountered to their hunger are the best or most reasonable fixes for what's judged to be wrong. This is a dangerous time for people whose faith is in flux, because they usually don't even know the mechanics of their own thought patterns; they don't understand the path that's taken them even to the point of reevaluation.

Most of the reorganization that takes place is typically the "rearrange the furniture" type. In other words, the underlying thinking is still the same, in the case above it is a Pentecostal frame of mind. The hermeneutics of biblical understanding, which set up the furniture originally, is still in place. Reading "the fathers" has barely begun a process of neural rewiring.

[As an aside, note the importance of church members being educated (truthfully and fairly) in matters of church history and historic theology, before they are introduced to new ideas and facts without any context.]

All he really knows is that he's found a few new puzzle pieces that he's kinda sure belong in the picture, and so he's moving things around to see if he can make them fit. And as he does so, he shifts away from those commitments he first deems "safest" to jettison. Unfortunately, most people have no awareness of how destabilizing it is to play around with elements of one's faith, no matter how "superficial."

Many of the readers here have met with my ambivalence about people changing their baptismal stance. I want to know WHY a person is changing their opinion, and if that change is a result of some deeper and well-rooted theology. I want to know if this shift is "rearranging the furniture," or is motivated by the discomfort of knowing they need a "chiropractic adjustment" to realign practice in conformity with a theological conviction.
I can definitely see the "moving the furniture" aspect going on.

What do you think would be the most helpful thing I could do to lovingly guide him the right direction? So far I have just been asking him questions in order to build an understanding of his system and his underlying presuppositions (I know much of his former influences because I spent some time in the pentecostal camp). My thought was that maybe I could find that fundamental fork in the road in his system and explain the implications of going one way or another (this is easy to do with dispensationalists because it is often a hermeneutics issue), but I am not sure where that would be for him.

I can't just point him to Scripture and the way he interprets it (similarly to how I deal with dispensationalism) because he doesn't seem to start from the same view of revelation. He takes church tradition to hold much authority if not equal authority (although he might not realize it) with Scripture. That makes sense to me knowing that his pentecostal framework allows for forms of extra biblical revelation (although he may not see it as necessarily equal to scripture if he has considered that).

So it seems that the foundation for discussion is shaky due to extra biblical influence, and I am not sure what the best pathway forward would be except to maybe address his doctrine of revelation.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
What do you think would be the most helpful thing I could do to lovingly guide him the right direction?
Mk.9:29, "So He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”"

I suppose you have good instincts, so keep going with them, and pray the Lord will guide your conversations. If your acquaintance heart is going to change, it will not be due to your skill (if God is pleased to use it); but because of the Spirit. It will not be because his mind's needle found the groove, to play the record true; but because he was given the spiritual knowledge, 1Cor.4:7.

My guess is that he indeed needs a radical commitment to being led by the Spirit AND the word, by the word through the diligent and patient renewing of the mind by the Spirit. The assumption is often that the Spirit is a kind of genie who zaps people with insight or floods them with sudden knowledge, so they are instantly possessed of truth, as if spiritual gains were had by a totally different method than the child learned his grammar lessons.

There is a whole generation or two who have been raised not with catechesis (patient review of a fixed set of Q&A), but with the principle of "enlightenment." The same idea that bamboozled many in the '60s generation--new-age spirituality, raised consciousness, escape from mundane hard study to instant drug-induced mind expansion--has come to dominate the religious scene. In the churches, one is less likely to find drugs, but more likely to find music and other sensory stimuli used to alter individuals' mental states, and make entire crowds susceptible to psychological influence.

Persuading people in this hour to readopt the old paths goes against the trend. Looking back to the previous wave, by the 15th-16th centuries, It had taken a very long time for the moment to be ripe for a return ad fontes, a resumption that began to take place in earnest at the time of the Renaissance. It can take ages for pragmatists and those with the nouvelles idees to run the creative wells dry.

No one wants to admit they were wrong, and that some givens are set according to nature. Messing with those could set us back very far, very quickly, for a very long time. We are just now arriving at a moment in history, when the last unassailable certainties of the modern age are being furiously assaulted. No more fixed nature of anything will be tolerated--not sex, not biology, not news, not even "hard" sciences. Everything is being subjected to political power, the power of money, the power of grievance and intersectionality.

To tell someone he must change his mind (to conform to an objective reality not under some human power) in order to have true success: this is regarded as an assault not to be borne, but attacked. That very idea must be a lie, someone else's attempt to subject the unhappy person to an illegitimate power play. Because (you know!) everything is subjective (a strange, fixed dogma). The absolute truth that there are no absolutes.

To really be in submission to God through his Word: this is a state of mind that is honestly submissive. God is not, nor does he want, whatever the individual's mind conceives--i.e. an idol. To whatever degree men impose a meaning on the Bible instead of learning its meaning, to that extent they have usurped divine authority. Even to go back (supposedly) to the church fathers, usually means reading them anachronistically, with 21st century assumptions.

But in any case, there's hardly any critical judgment applied (asking if the ancients had in fact read the Bible well enough in their day). In the last analysis, men simply prefer other men as the final authority ahead of God. They rip 1Jn.2:27 out of context (of John's teaching!), to deny their need for God's patient instruction via the teachers he has sent. They ignore God's gift of teachers for his church, Eph.4:11.

Will men be submissive today, who mocked back in Isaiah's day, the patience of God and his teachers? "“Whom will he [Isaiah] teach knowledge? And whom will he make to understand the message? Those just weaned from milk? Those just drawn from the breasts? For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, Line upon line, line upon line, Here a little, there a little,”" (Is.28:9-10). They mock, only to be rebuked and punished by even simpler and ruder terms.

Those who reel and stutter today, who mock the simplicity of the Word, imagine they are beyond the Word. Paul rebukes a previous generation similarly besotted, using Isaiah (1Cor.14:21). It is possible to move from milk to solid food, from basic catechesis to theological riches. But not by taking flight from grounding in the Word.
 

ERK

Puritan Board Freshman
Mk.9:29, "So He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”"

I suppose you have good instincts, so keep going with them, and pray the Lord will guide your conversations. If your acquaintance heart is going to change, it will not be due to your skill (if God is pleased to use it); but because of the Spirit. It will not be because his mind's needle found the groove, to play the record true; but because he was given the spiritual knowledge, 1Cor.4:7.

My guess is that he indeed needs a radical commitment to being led by the Spirit AND the word, by the word through the diligent and patient renewing of the mind by the Spirit. The assumption is often that the Spirit is a kind of genie who zaps people with insight or floods them with sudden knowledge, so they are instantly possessed of truth, as if spiritual gains were had by a totally different method than the child learned his grammar lessons.

There is a whole generation or two who have been raised not with catechesis (patient review of a fixed set of Q&A), but with the principle of "enlightenment." The same idea that bamboozled many in the '60s generation--new-age spirituality, raised consciousness, escape from mundane hard study to instant drug-induced mind expansion--has come to dominate the religious scene. In the churches, one is less likely to find drugs, but more likely to find music and other sensory stimuli used to alter individuals' mental states, and make entire crowds susceptible to psychological influence.

Persuading people in this hour to readopt the old paths goes against the trend. Looking back to the previous wave, by the 15th-16th centuries, It had taken a very long time for the moment to be ripe for a return ad fontes, a resumption that began to take place in earnest at the time of the Renaissance. It can take ages for pragmatists and those with the nouvelles idees to run the creative wells dry.

No one wants to admit they were wrong, and that some givens are set according to nature. Messing with those could set us back very far, very quickly, for a very long time. We are just now arriving at a moment in history, when the last unassailable certainties of the modern age are being furiously assaulted. No more fixed nature of anything will be tolerated--not sex, not biology, not news, not even "hard" sciences. Everything is being subjected to political power, the power of money, the power of grievance and intersectionality.

To tell someone he must change his mind (to conform to an objective reality not under some human power) in order to have true success: this is regarded as an assault not to be borne, but attacked. That very idea must be a lie, someone else's attempt to subject the unhappy person to an illegitimate power play. Because (you know!) everything is subjective (a strange, fixed dogma). The absolute truth that there are no absolutes.

To really be in submission to God through his Word: this is a state of mind that is honestly submissive. God is not, nor does he want, whatever the individual's mind conceives--i.e. an idol. To whatever degree men impose a meaning on the Bible instead of learning its meaning, to that extent they have usurped divine authority. Even to go back (supposedly) to the church fathers, usually means reading them anachronistically, with 21st century assumptions.

But in any case, there's hardly any critical judgment applied (asking if the ancients had in fact read the Bible well enough in their day). In the last analysis, men simply prefer other men as the final authority ahead of God. They rip 1Jn.2:27 out of context (of John's teaching!), to deny their need for God's patient instruction via the teachers he has sent. They ignore God's gift of teachers for his church, Eph.4:11.

Will men be submissive today, who mocked back in Isaiah's day, the patience of God and his teachers? "“Whom will he [Isaiah] teach knowledge? And whom will he make to understand the message? Those just weaned from milk? Those just drawn from the breasts? For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, Line upon line, line upon line, Here a little, there a little,”" (Is.28:9-10). They mock, only to be rebuked and punished by even simpler and ruder terms.

Those who reel and stutter today, who mock the simplicity of the Word, imagine they are beyond the Word. Paul rebukes a previous generation similarly besotted, using Isaiah (1Cor.14:21). It is possible to move from milk to solid food, from basic catechesis to theological riches. But not by taking flight from grounding in the Word.
Thank you for that response. That was very helpful. It certainly takes a lot of faith to step back and allow God to do His work. Hopefully I will be able to discern what He would have me do and when it is appropriate to do it.


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