Pretend the Church Is a Bar

Lane has answered my catch-up posts in one post here. I will just touch on a few things in response, and then await his next installment.

On the first matter, I don’t think we differ anymore. The disagreement now has to do with whether I have changed my views on this (which Lane thinks), clarified my views (a possibility), or remained clear and consistent throughout (a view I find especially attractive). Lane acknowledges that I do believe in the visible/invisible church distinction now. “But I would argue that Doug did not articulate that in RINE, or in the 2002 AAPC lecture.” Let’s settle it this way. If I made it clear back then, I am happy to make it clear again (Phil. 3:1). And if I didn’t make it clear enough back then, my apologies, and I hope I have made it clear now.

One last quibble. Lane says that the visible/invisible distinction is “a cross-section of the current church.” This, at best, is an application of that distinction, because the distinction itself defines the invisible church as “the whole number of the elect” (WCF 25.1). That’s not a cross-section.

On the second point, Lane continues to reject the baptistic label because for admission to the Table he requires a “credible profession of faith,” which is not the same thing as demanding absolute proof of regeneration. This is quite right, and it is exactly the same thing our Baptist brethren look for when bringing someone to the baptistry. The line is drawn in different places, and I am happy to grant that Lane is not formally baptistic at all — he baptizes babies, which is not done in stricter Baptist circles. But there is a mentality that I am describing here. Pretend for minute that the Church is a bar, and see how this works. Call it the security guard mentality and the bouncer mentality. Say we have both baptists and non-baptists who both want to run a peaceful establishment. The baptists check everyone’s ID at the door. The non-baptists kick you out if you make trouble. Lane is saying he is not baptistic because at his bar check the IDs before they let you into the lounge.

On another front, Lane raises a really fine point in discussion of this point. Do I really want to argue that the vast majority of the Reformed world has been baptistic (in this limited sense) because it has not been paedo-communion? No, I don’t, not at all. But there are different ways to apply a non-paedocommunion position. Those parts of the Reformed world that have wanted credible evidence of an internal work of grace before bringing a child to the Table are baptistic in the sense I am describing, and the widespread presence of this mentality in paedobaptist circles is precisely the reason why the Reformed Baptists aren’t going away anytime soon. There will always be someone present who can follow the argument out to a more consistent conclusion. But say a non-paedocommunion church admitted all baptized children as soon as they could recite the Creed. I would differ with that, but it would not a baptistic thing they were doing.

On to the law/gospel thing. I would never say that those who hold to a law/gospel hermeneutic are not Reformed. I was just saying that my take on this, using a law/gospel application instead of a hermeneutic, is fully within any sane tolerances. But riddle me this. Is Dt. 30: 11-12 law or gospel? And when Jesus said, “Follow me,” was that law or gospel? And to make the latter question harder, if not impossible, I will not tell you if the quotation comes from Luke 9:23 or Mark 10:21.

My penultimate point has to do with Lane’s statement of “the FV definition of the covenant.” Lane grants that I say there is a differentiation within the covenant, but that Wilkins will not unless pressed. I would say that Wilkins acknowledges it when asked, and affirms his belief in this differentiation within the covenant. Since this puts both me and Wilkins at variance with what Lane says is the “FV definition of the covenant,” which is of course the heart of the dispute, I will take this as a clean bill of health for both of us.

Lane made a good start with an illustration keyed to John 15. Suckers as opposed to fruit-bearing branches are a great way to describe the kind of thing going on there. But he then falters. If suckers don’t have life of any kind, then how did they grow? What are they cut out of?

Speaking of me and Wilkins, a friend sent me this snapshot below of the two of us playing Sweet Home Alabama at a recent family advance earlier this month in Florida. The real complaint to be made against Wilkins is that despite my willingness to join with him in singing about his home state, does he ever sing about Idaho? I ask you.

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