Objective Christians and Husbands

Sharing Options

In a recent book entitled The Church: One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic, Rick Phillips says this: “Eventually, the evangelicals gave in to that pressure, agreeing that if you are baptized you are a Christian, even if you deny the deity of Christ and the atoning work of the cross. This is of the greatest importance for us today, for this is the very principle being asserted among many evangelical and even Reformed writers. People speak of the ‘objectivity’ of baptism in entering us into covenant with God. If this is the case, then baptism truly denotes the boundary of Christian unity” (p. 30).

This quote, and some of the surrounding context in this passage, reveals the fundamental confusion that opponents of the Auburn Avenue Orthodoxy cannot seem to shake off.

Being baptized makes one objectively a Christian the way marriage vows make one objectively a husband. Being baptized means that those who deny the deity of Christ and the atoning work of the cross are thereby covenant-breakers, in the same way that an adulterous husband is breaking his marriage vows. Arius was baptized, Pelagius was baptized, Pope Alexander VI was baptized, and so on. They were all covenant breakers. But you have to be in the covenant in order to break it. I and an adulterous husband have this in common: we are both husbands. This is not a basis for us to give one another a high five. And the fact that I am a fellow Christian with a number of treacherous snakes is not the foundation for an ecumenical schmoozefest. Their unfaithfulness to Christ and their baptismal vows is the reason for opposing them.

Rick’s argument above amounts to this: “To say that marriage vows make one a husband in some objective sense is to compromise the sanctity of marriage and make room for adultery.” Of course, in a sense, marriage vows do make adultery possible, but they do not make adultery acceptable. In fact, rightly understood, the vows simultaneously make adultery both possible and unacceptable. You have to make a promise in order to break it.

This shouldn’t be that hard.

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