Monthly Archives: August 2009

 

Aug

31

2009

 
 

Aug

30

2009

Trevin Wax|3:57 am CT

You Are My Righteousness

Lord Jesus,
You are my righteousness,
I am your sin.

You took on you what was mine;
yet set on me what was yours.

You became what you were not,
that I might become what I was not.

- Martin Luther

For a Romanian translation of this prayer, click here.

 
 

Aug

29

2009

Trevin Wax|3:37 am CT

Tullian Tchividjian Endorsement of Holy Subversion

GrandsonTullian Tchividjian is the pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, FL and the author of Unfashionable: Making a Difference in the World by Being Different and Do I Know God?: Finding Certainty in Life’s Most Important Relationship. Tullian is also a friend of mine who looked over early versions of Holy Subversion and offered valuable encouragement.

I’m thankful for Tullian’s friendship and for his kind words about Holy Subversion.

“With Francis Schaeffer-like instincts and insight, Trevin Wax aptly identifies the idols of our time and compellingly calls Christians to live against the world for the world.

He blazes a trustworthy trail for those who yearn to make a long lasting difference in the world by showing that Christians make a difference by being different; they don’t make a difference by being the same.”

–Tullian Tchividjian, pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and author of Unfashionable: Making a Difference in the World by Being Different.

 
 

Aug

28

2009

Trevin Wax|3:40 am CT

In the Blogosphere

How to win 5 books by Albert Mohler

Ancient Christian views on health care

Too great a good for Caesar: Health Care Reform

Wikipedia is cracking down on quick changes on articles about people.

Lee Irons on the problem of “theological perfectionism”

Brian McLaren is fasting during Ramadan. Doug Wilson responds.

You might be a bad dad if…

Tim Chester reviews Rob Bell’s book, Sex God.

Top Posts this Week at Kingdom People: Romanian Forum on the Problem of SBC “Rebaptism”

 
 

Aug

27

2009

Trevin Wax|3:52 am CT

Romanian Forum: On Catechism Before Baptism

This is the final installment in this week’s Romanian forum, in which we are discussing Romanian Baptist practices regarding conversion, discipleship, and baptism. (Read Parts 1 & 2 and info about the participants.)

Trevin Wax: How do you deal with teenagers and adults who repent and believe?

cruceru3Marius Cruceru: Usually, we spend 10-12 weeks catechizing them. After that, they go through a period in which we supervise their spiritual state. After that, we invite them before the elders for an interview. At the end, we have them testify publicly before the church how they came to Christ. And finally, they are baptized.

Doru Hnatiuc: We take them through a catechesis that focuses on discipleship, spiritual growth, and doctrinal clarification.

Corneliu Simut: I think we could make some improvements here. Generally, Baptist churches hold evangelistic services throughout the year and then fix a date for a baptismal service. The problem is that if the baptism is in the month of August, and yet we begin evangelism in January, there might be a number of people who repent during those months. Those who repented in January will go through more catechesis than those who repented in July; and yet we still baptize them all in August.

What do we do with the teens and adults? We catechize them and then seek to involve them in church ministry. We have some problems here too. We tend to direct them to only a few places of service (choir, orchestra, etc.) when there are other ministries that we sometimes neglect.

Trevin Wax: How long is the period between conversion and baptism?

Corneliu Simut: There is not a fixed time frame, but it is usually about 6 months.

Marius Cruceru: Sometimes it can be up to a year.

Doru Hnatiuc: It varies depending on the person and depending on the church. Usually, it’s a few months.

Trevin Wax: What does catechism in Romanian Baptist churches look like?

simut2Corneliu Simut: Very simple. It is a presentation of the most important teachings of Scripture (God, revelation, man, salvation, Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Church, and Last Things).

The Romanian confession of faith was put together in a single night in 1948 at the request of the Communist authorities. That’s why the first half is very detailed, and the second half only has a few verses and without explanation. Thankfully, the teaching on salvation is well-represented, but sometimes other important doctrines are ignored.

Marius Cruceru: The catechism is an overview of the Confession of faith. It involves free and open discussion, and much talk about the changes one makes when called to follow Christ.

Doru Hnatiuc: The catechism varies from church to church. When I participated in catechesis, I followed a course of biblical doctrines. They were very well explained to me and applied to my personal life. There were also lessons on discipleship and spiritual growth.

So in my case, I try to combine an education in doctrine and discipleship. I use only my Bible. The people take notes. It is helpful to have something for them to fill out.

Trevin Wax: How would you advise Southern Baptists in America regarding this problem of rebaptism?

Corneliu Simut: Don’t look for quick results. Conversion is something the Holy Spirit does, not us. All we can do is preach the gospel, the Word of God revealed for our salvation. We can do no more than that.

Sometimes, I think in our desire for efficiency, we prefer to lift up the banner of great spiritual awakenings (one great sermon and 1000 new converts) and we downplay the example of the prophets (one great sermon and very few, if any, converts), forgetting that God does the work of rebirth, not us.

Marius Cruceru: The problem of “rebaptism” is not the real problem. It’s an ecclesiological crisis. It goes back to an understanding of the church. We don’t need a hyper-sacramental understanding of baptism, but neither do we need a relaxed and casual view of baptism.

Doru Hnatiuc: There is no simple answer. The question has major theological and doctrinal implications. The practice of the church in this matter leads to a reorientation around other key doctrines (like church discipline, methods of evangelism, the gospel, salvation, evangelistic invitations, decision/faith, etc.).

teologiehnatiucdorinIn the U.S., I once helped at a church where the pastor offered a Bible to all those who had been baptized the week before. One of the baptized people was his wife, who had declared that her baptism at 10 years old had been invalid. The pastor and his wife were in that church for many years. She had been a teacher in Sunday School. She had led many children to Christ, who had later been baptized. She had taught these children the way of faith, lived in obedience to the Lord, and had raised her own children in godliness.

Was all of this fruit invalid? Or just her baptism? No one at the church was thinking through these sorts of implications. She might have said that her fruit is not invalid just as it is possible for a lost pastor to lead others to Christ and to baptize them, and his state before God not affect the act of baptism.

My question is this: If there is evidence of a new life in Christ, of a life of obedience to him, why then does that evidence not confirm the validity of the early decision and baptism? We need to think about these implications and make some decisions. Otherwise, we are going to wind up in ridiculous situations, teaching deformed doctrines and leading others in aberrant practices.

 
 

Aug

26

2009

Trevin Wax|3:50 am CT

Romanian Forum: On the Baptism of Small Children

This week, I am posting a forum with several Romanian Baptist pastors and theologians on the problem of “rebaptism” in the SBC. (Click here for information about the participants, and here for yesterday’s forum.)

Trevin Wax: How do you deal with children who repent and believe?

simutCorneliu Simut: Usually, we explain that it is better to wait until they are a little older to be baptized so that the church can see the evidence of their faith. Baptism does not save, and yet its place on the path of repentance is important. Children, generally, have no problem accepting this explanation and are fine with putting off baptism until they are a bit older. The problem is that many times, the parents are the ones pushing for their children to be baptized at fragile ages.

Marius Cruceru: We hold off baptism until we see greater maturity in a child. Usually, we wait until they are about 14 years old. In some cases (they are rare), we will baptize children under 14.

A child must be able to show a great level of maturity and a clear understanding of biblical teaching. They must also prove that they are very conscious of what they are doing. If the teenager is under 18, and if the parents are believers, we speak also with them to see if the change in their life is real.

doru

Doru Hnatiuc preaching

Doru Hnatiuc: Children are encouraged to believe in Jesus. We teach them that they are saved through genuine faith in the Lord Jesus, and they must follow him in a life of obedience. Obedience involves prayer, Bible reading, participation in the life of the Church, witnessing to others, etc.

In this process of growth, some will “re-declare” their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as personal Savior and Lord a few years later, after they have come to understand the moral implications of repentance and walking with the Lord through faith. Usually, they will say that they received the Lord at ages ranging from 15-20. They do not refer to their earlier years of prayer and Bible study in Sunday School.

Rarely, but occasionally, a teenager will place their conversion experience earlier in life. My personal testimony goes back to a conversion experience around the age of 8 or 9. I do not remember exactly what touched my heart and caused me to invite the Lord into my life, but I remember diving into the Scriptures with great zeal.

No one encouraged me then to be baptized, but I knew, just like other children my age who had grown up in the Baptist church, that I belonged to the Lord, that I was in Christ, and that he wanted me to put away sin and put on holiness, even if I did not understand the full moral implications of a life of holiness.

When I was 16, I expressed a desire to be baptized, and after a full year of catechesis, I was baptized. I considered myself “saved” beforehand and knew that if I were to die, I would be with the Lord, but I understood that baptism is an act for those who can understand the gravity of such testimony and its implications.

Up until around 1972-74, the Communist authorities did not give pastors the freedom to baptize people under 18. Because we affirmed that repentance is a personal decision on the part of a mature individual, the Communists forced the 18-year mark as the definition of “maturity.” Only then, at the age of 18 – by signing a personal request and by showing the authorities your identification (and thus assuming all the consequences that baptism would bring) – only then could a person be baptized.

In the mid 1970′s, the age of baptism was lowered because a group of 52 pastors signed a petition to Ceausescu in which they asked that state authorities no longer be involved in approving baptism.

Likewise, in that period of time, the Navigators and Campus Crusade began to encourage large-scale evangelism. They brought along the idea that conversion takes place in the very moment someone indicates any decision at all. They also strongly encouraged the evangelism of children. At that time, evangelistic invitations appeared in which people eventually got the idea that what matters is if you raise your hand, etc.

Trevin Wax: The Bible doesn’t specify a minimum age for baptism. On what grounds do you choose to refrain from baptizing young children?

Marius Cruceru: We base this decision on three factors: maturity, responsibility, and evidence of faith. Romans 14:12, 2 Peter 1:5, etc. show us that we must have knowledge for faith, correct understanding, maturity in our grasping of Christian truth (Romans 10).

Doru Hnatiuc: I think that we base this idea on the same basis for which we conclude that a child is not yet mature enough to vote, to marry, to be involved in sexual activity, to work, etc.

At our church business meetings, all members participate. Some of the discussions there deal with certain subjects that would be inappropriate for young children.

Are baptized children to be considered members with full rights? It’s hard to respond to that question with a simple “yes” or “no.” Can a child be a candidate as an elder? We would say “no.” Why? Simply because the child does not show the necessary maturity to make difficult decisions, debate certain problems, and is not yet responsible for certain actions.

It is true that the internet, the educational system, the decadence of society have all brought new problems: girls pregnant at 11, boys having sex at 13, early understanding of sexual activity, etc. Do these problems make children more mature, more responsible, or healthier psychologically, physically, and spiritually? Of course not. They remain children who are easily manipulated, easily directed toward error, children who prefer toys instead of work tools and have a still-unformed view of life.

Corneliu Simut: Baptism is the testimony of the believer who has chosen to testify before the church and the world his/her faith in Jesus Christ. Adults and children can do this; and yet we must not ignore the reality of sin.

People develop as persons throughout their teenage years. The distinction between a teenager and a child is not merely in the capacity to comprehend one’s faith, but also the capacity to understand the sinfulness of one’s life (in specific manifestations). A 7-year-old perceives his/her sin differently than a 16-year-old. This perception has repercussions in how we understand our faith and walk with God.

 
 

Aug

25

2009

Trevin Wax|3:48 am CT

Romanian Forum: "Rebaptism" – Diagnosing the Problem

Yesterday, I announced that I would be posting a forum of Romanian Baptists on the problem of “rebaptism” in the United States. Today, the forum begins with these pastors/theologians diagnosing the deeper problems of which “rebaptism” is merely the symptom.

Trevin Wax: It has been estimated that 40% of the baptisms reported in Southern Baptist churches are “rebaptisms.” Why do we see this problem in the United States? What is your diagnosis?

PaulNegrutPaul Negrut: I do not know all the details regarding the situation of evangelical churches in the USA, so my perspective may need to be corrected at times. But I think that there are two theological currents that have swept evangelical churches into dangerous waters.

The first is Charles Finney’s belief that man can take an active role in converting other people through well-tuned evangelistic services.

The second is the Church Growth Movement, which has put a major emphasis on sociological and cultural factors of church growth.

Both of these currents have diminished the conviction of believers that we must be totally dependent on the sovereign work of God in spiritual conversion and growth. Prayer and fasting, preaching the whole counsel of God, systematic study of the Scriptures for those newly converted – these activities have been replaced by services of religious entertainment designed to please the average man on the street. Superficial conversions and rushed baptisms, without true repentance and faith that is based on knowledge of the Scriptures, have been reported as a way of demonstrating church growth.

Numbers have become the fundamental criterion for evaluating success in ministry. The truth is that fruit that does not remain is not true fruit and brings no glory to God.

Corneliu Simut: Re-baptism is a problem in the U.S. because the goal is rapid results. A large number of people baptized is what justifies the work of the pastor and confirms his efficiency (so-called) in ministry. Because the average stay of a pastor in a Southern Baptist Church is just a few years, there is an acute sense on the part of the pastor to prove his worth by seeing quick results.

cruceru2

Marius Cruceru

Marius Cruceru: I was shocked the first time I heard someone in America testifying in the baptismal waters for a third time. It seems to me the differences are theological.

  1. In Romania, because of the Eastern Orthodox background, baptism is seen as sacramental, as a very unique event, and in covenantal terms.
  2. The folk language of the Romanian people has given rise to the idea of baptism as a covenant. I don’t think this language is biblical, but I also don’t think you can diminish the significance of baptism by saying it’s just a personal “dedication.”
  3. Baptism represents the symbol of the death and resurrection of Christ. These are unique, once-for-all events.
  4. The difference between the two symbols (Lord’s Supper and Baptism) is that baptism represents a repetitious action. Baptism takes place once.
  5. Both Communion and Baptism are viewed by Romanian believers in a semi-sacramental sense. Romanian believers say that something is happening during the Lord’s Supper, and tend to reject the purely Zwinglian understanding of Communion.
  6. It is true that the Eastern Orthodox influence may be what pushes us into these ideas, but I’m not sure that is a bad thing. Devaluing these actions is most assuredly wrong. (I remember a Campus Crusade group of Americans who came and had the Lord’s Supper on the beach in their bathing suits, with cookies and Coca Cola, in an attempt to be relevant, which actually proved to be extremely offensive to Romanians.)
  7. I have observed that some American preachers and missionaries in Romania tend to minimize the significance of the ordinances.

Doru Hnatiuc: I am not sure why this problem is so widespread in the U.S. I tend to think it is because of the church’s view of baptism.

Likewise, I believe that Americans eventually question the legitimacy of earlier spiritual decisions. Perhaps they question their decision because they made it at a young age or made it for primarily emotional reasons. Whatever the reason, some people come to realize their earlier decision was either too hasty or too shallow.

Sometimes, all it takes is to meet someone else who has been re-baptized (and it is easier to find this phenomenon in the U.S. than in Romania).

Another reason is that, in the U.S., baptism does not cost a person as much as in Romania (the price of being rejected by family, by society, openly mocked, etc.). Therefore, Americans find it much easier to hop from church to church or even denomination to denomination. Salvation is a personal decision that others respect.

Trevin Wax: Why does the problem of “rebaptism” not take place in Romania?

Paul Negrut: The beginnings of the Baptist movement in Romania were marked by persecution on the part of the state authorities and the Orthodox Church. Then, the Communist persecution followed.

In a time of persecution, the gospel is clearly defined over against the culture. In a context of persecution, faith is not simply a theoretic acceptance of a religion, but a profound action that involves the total consecration of a person to the lordship of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit over the mind, feelings, and will.

Repentance and faith are two wings with which a saved person follows in the footsteps of the Lord Jesus. Obedience to the Lord involves the supreme price of life and freedom. The difference between believers and non-believers is clearly visible.

Religious freedom within the context of a culture in which faith does not require such a high cost can quickly turn into a context which favors superficial and false conversions.

teologiehnatiucdorin

Doru Hnatiuc

Doru Hnatiuc: The first reason why rebaptism does not take place in Romania is because the proclamation of the doctrine of baptism emphasizes the action as an unrepeatable identification with the death and burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Just as we are not born again on multiple occasions, neither should we be baptized on multiple occasions.

Scripture does not recount one case of rebaptism. (In Acts, we read of the baptism of the disciples of John, but that is not a case of reapplying the same Christian baptism.) In the case of those who fall into sin, the teaching of Scripture directs us toward church discipline. We are to correct and support those who repent of sin, but never to rebaptize them. The adulterer in Corinth was received again into fellowship, not rebaptized.

If someone says that the act of baptism meant absolutely nothing, that the whole experience declared at baptism was a lie and that the declaration of faith in Jesus was completely false, we would probably consider rebaptism after a very long and profound time of thought and observation. The risk would be that a great number of believers, under emotional pressure, might think that whenever they are facing spiritual depression, attacks from the evil one, besetting sins or doubts about salvation, they would ask for rebaptism.

It’s interesting that we Baptists (and other evangelicals in general) are accused of re-baptizing those who come from Orthodox or Catholic backgrounds and consider themselves already baptized. Our response to this accusation is that an act that takes place before the act of personal, testifying faith is invalid.

Corneliu Simut: One of the reasons we do not see “rebaptism” is because we refrain from baptizing children.

Marius Cruceru: The significance of baptism is raised to the level of “covenant.” It is seen at the level of a wedding. The action is viewed as extremely important, something that splits your life into two sections (before baptism and after baptism), and it has a sacramental weight to it.

Trevin Wax: Tomorrow, we’ll look into how Romanians view the baptism of small children.

 
 

Aug

24

2009

Trevin Wax|3:24 am CT

Romanian Baptists on the Problem of SBC "Rebaptizing"

I have a number of friends who have grown up in Baptist churches. Many were baptized as children, again as teenagers, and then again as adults. (I remember one church baptizing the entire youth group after a special weekend retreat. Nevermind that most of these teens had grown up in church and been baptized once or twice before!)

Most of those who have been baptized more than once will claim that their earlier baptisms were invalid because they were not truly saved, or they did not know enough about what was going on to see their baptism as personally meaningful. Dr. Danny Akin recently estimated that perhaps 50% of our baptisms are “re-baptisms.”

During my five years of ministry in Romania, I discovered that this problem (which seems to plague Southern Baptist churches in the States) was virtually non-existent in Eastern Europe. In five years time, I never once witnessed a “re-baptism.” Never once did someone in a Baptist church there even ask for such a thing.

Why do Baptists in America have this problem? And how do Baptists in Romania avoid this problem?

In answer to this question, I will be posting a forum featuring several Romanian Baptist theologians and pastors. I have asked some specific questions about Baptist practice in Romania, and have translated their answers for the benefit of Southern Baptists in the U.S.

Americans send missionaries elsewhere to train others. But I believe that we in America can benefit from hearing from our brothers and sisters overseas as well. Here are brief biographies of the participants in this week’s forum.

paul_negrutDr. Paul Negruț

President of Emanuel University of Oradea

Pastor of Emanuel Baptist Church, Oradea, Romania

Former president of the Romanian Baptist Union

Married to Delia since 1975; 2 daughters: Anna-Salomea (b. 1979), married to John, gave us first grandson, Paul Gabriel (4 yr. old) and Lois Paula (b. 1985), married to Sebastian.

Author of Revelație, Scriptură, Comuniune, Cristos, Biserica și Lucrurile de pe Urmă, Suveranitatea lui Dumnezeu și Sensul Vieții sub Soare, Nu este Bine ca Omul să fie Singur, and Biserica, Statul și Autoritatea.

teologiehnatiucdorinDoru Hnatiuc

Pastor of Emanuel Baptist Church, Oradea

Professor of Homiletics at Emanuel University

Contributor of articles to Creștinul Azi and Mesaj

Editor of numerous books

simutDr. Corneliu Simuț

Reader in Dogmatic & Historical Theology at Emanuel University

Editor of Perichoresis

Author of The Doctrine of Salvation in the Sermons of Richard Hooker, A Critical Study of Hans Kung’s Ecclesiology: From Traditionalism to Modernism, The Ontology of the Church in Hans Kung and Richard Hooker And His Early Doctrine Of Justification

cruceruDr. Marius Cruceru

Pastor of Aleșd Baptist Church

Dean of the School of Theology at Emanuel University

Author of Intoarcerea în Oglinda and Augustin: Un Amator…

 
 

Aug

23

2009

Trevin Wax|3:55 am CT

Cleanse Us from Our Offenses

Eternal God,
in whom we live and move and have our being,
whose face is hidden from us by our sins,
and whose mercy we forget in the blindness of our hearts:
cleanse us from all our offenses,
and deliver us from proud thoughts and vain desires,
that with reverent and humble hearts we may draw near to you,
confessing our faults,
confiding in your grace,
and finding in you our refuge and strength;
through Jesus Christ your Son.

- Book of Common Worship

 
 

Aug

22

2009

Trevin Wax|3:27 am CT

Gregg Allison Endorsement of Holy Subversion

gregg-allison2Dr. Gregg Allison is a professor of Systematic Theology at Southern Seminary and is the author of Jesusology: Understand What You Believe About Jesus And Why and Truthquest Getting Deep: Understand What You Believe About God and Why. I took Dr. Allison for one of my Theology classes and found him to be an excellent teacher with an appreciation for art. He is also an expert in Roman Catholicism.

I called “Dr. A” and picked his brain when I was first starting work on Holy Subversion. I am grateful for his recommendation.

Using a definition of subversion as “pushing something back down into its proper place,” Trevin Wax seeks to subvert the idols of our society—self, success, money, leisure, sex, and power—in a theologically responsible and challengingly practical way.

These false gods must be thrust back into their proper place, and that subversion is precisely what the gospel of Jesus Christ—the message about the crucified and resurrected God-man who is Lord over all bogus lords—equips us to do.

Wax wonders, “What would it look like today if we reclaimed the subversive nature of Christian discipleship?” Read this fine book if you wish to live as the true Savior and Lord Jesus Christ would have you live.

- Gregg R. Allison, Ph.D.
Professor of Christian Theology
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary