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Monday, November 07, 2005 

A Response to Darryl Erkel of 5solas.org

Darryl M. Erkel, a professor of theology, writes for 5solas.org, a website/ministry of Brandan Kraft. He writes an article rebuffing an article by Michael S. Horton, professor of theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in California. What follows are my initial thoughts from his article.

A Caveat
Before I do that, however, a quick warning about the terrain in which I am posting. The site on which this article appears is no ordinary reformed website. The site claims to promote:

This website is designed to serve as a learning center for all those who believe the Bible Alone (Sola Scriptura) is the standard for doctrine and practice. We believe that every aspect of salvation is by God's Sovereign Grace Alone (Sola Gratia) and conditioned upon Christ Alone (Solo Christo). We believe that Christ's people freely receive knowledge and rely upon Christ entirely for their salvation by the gift of Faith Alone (Sola Fide). We believe that all that happens in this world, including the salvation of men, the damnation of the wicked, and even the sinfulness of men is predestined for the Glory of God Alone (Soli Deo Gloria).

What you should know about 5solas.org is that this site, as well as Kraft's other internet based work - Pristine Grace - are both on Phil Johnson's list for hyper-calvinism, in other words, not calvinism. Of course, Kraft takes issue with this, but nevertheless, that is just a caveat. My linking to the above sites does not in any way condone material elsewhere in their pages or forums. Also of interest is the creeds they claim as authoritive:

The primary confessional document for this website is the Gospel Standard Articles of Faith. The other documents we subscribe to are the 1729 Goat Yard Confession of Faith and the London Baptist Confession of 1644. We also hold of primary importance a belief in the Absolute Predestination of all things.

Back to Erkel's article, that I am responding to. The title of the article, "Is Infant Baptism Truly Based on Scripture?" is meant to question the validity of what Horton asserts in "God's Grandchildren: The Biblical Basis for Infant Baptism" in ModernReformation (I think this is Vol. 3 from 1996. I'm not sure; I don't have time to go browsing through my magazine stacks. I actually keep them all in an old Nordstrom box. Seriously.). While I myself am not convinced of infant baptism, I am severely bothered by credobaptism - quite a pickle to be in. So, while I do not necessarily condone Horton's article, I definitely have some reservations about Erkel's. Here are a few of the problems with it.

Covenant Theology
Erkel begins his article discussing Horton's view based on covenant theology, and unfortunately, this means he gets his article off to a bad start. He makes a category confusion between Old Covenant/Mosaic Covenant/Covenant of Grace/Abrahamic covenant, and thus resulting in his initial argument missing wide left. Even more damaging, he brings Jon Zens, editor of Baptist Restoration Review, in to the discussion, which incriminates Zens with the flawed covenantal hermeneutic. Whether or not Zens actually espouses such views remains unknown to myself; however, Erkel quotes him to bolster his polemic thrust - tainting him.

This is not a baptist/presby thing. Several Baptists get this aspect of Covenant Theology correct. It would help Erkel - and by relation, Zens - to get this aspect squirreled away.

The correct view of Covenant Theology will be the subject of a post very soon. Look for it at What the Thunder Said...

Exegesis
The main passage that is exegeted is Colossians 2:11 - 12.

In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.

However, Erkel clearly has not taken time to deal with either Horton's exegesis of the text, nor the text itself. Instead, he passes on it in a matter of sentences. While he rightly points out that infants are nowhere included in these verses, he conveniently does not address how Christ unites concepts of circumcision and baptism in these verses, a concept that is paramount in Horton's argumental edifice.

Perhaps this can be forgiven, since Erkel relies heavily on an excellent quote by Fred Malone from his article "A String of Pearls Unstrung" in the above journal. While Malone's quote does justice to the Colossians pericope, it may not do damage to Horton's contention. It is not necessary for paedobaptists like Horton to deny that circumcision and regeneration are not intrinsically tied together - especially if we get more specific and say spiritual (or actual) circumcision; then you have a theological given. The presbyterian's point here, however, is that ascertaining regeneration on an individual basis prior to the bema seat is impossible.

The next text to be analyzed is Titus 3:5. Erkel cites all Baptist commentators, and dismisses the argument based on a definition that is assumed, and that Horton disagrees with. The only thing that is correct, is when he concedes rightly that this text does not command a recipient doctrine of Scripture. He is correct. It does, however, significantly elevate one's view of what is achieved in baptism, at least compared to the typical American Evangellyfish baptist.

Erkel spends time dealing with Acts 2:38 - 39. He ellicits four points from the text. I think it reasonably safe to say that Michael Horton, and any paedobaptist, would completely agree with all four points... for adults. None of these points negate Horton's arguments, except perhaps #4. Here Erkel argues that such a view would lead to paedocommunion. A brief look at the Reformed world shows that some are indeed wrestling with such notions. However, I personally think a Reformed view of the sacraments keeps one from this heresy. While baptism and the Eucharist are both sacraments, they are different species of the same animal, and meant to do different things.

Erkel quickly deals with the verses that mention household baptisms, and lists off a whole line of prooftexts, without comment on any of them. He briefly and curtly addresses I Corinthians 7, Matthew 19:3 - 5. This brings me to my final point...

Overall Presentation
The way Erkel presents his material is, unfortunately, far too sloppy. He flops back and forth between bulleting his points with numbers, and straight prose, and at least this reader could find little reason for switching. His points were often jumbled, and lacked any sort of concrete flow. There was no thesis or presentation other than his opponent was wrong. Erkel did not appear to have any sort of system for addressing Horton's article. Perhaps because of this, his article finished in a free-for-all melee in which any and every baptistic argument was drawn, while dealing with arguments and ideas not original to Horton's article. This is of course no reason to dismiss Erkel - often good, solid truth can be gleaned and harvested from less than professional sources - yet it adds up in strikes against his position.

_____________________________________

While I am thankful that godly Christian men are vigorously debating the doctrine, high quality of scholarship, patience, communication, and a love for the text are what tend to convince me. While this may not convince everyone, and may not necessarily be desirable traits, I think many Christian debates would be served if these characteristics were in more abundance.



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This person did not understand Mr. Erkel's article at all.

Thanks, anonymous. Any help into which parts were misunderstood? Look forward to hearing from you more.

Dear Thunder, popped onto your blog after reading about 5solas.org in Phil Johnson's bookmarks under "Bad Theology" and doing a Google search came upon this. A book on "Believers Baptism' by profs at Southern Baptist Seminary is much, much better!! Esp. the chapter on the Covenants by Prof. Steve Wellum. I assume you are a student at Westminster and either OPC or Ref. Bapt.? The 5solas site is hyper Calvinists and even regards Spurgeon as unsaved! They lifted some of Darryl Erkel's stuff!

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Transplanted from the artic blight of Minnesota to the sunny paradise of SoCal, I am attending school and learning to say "dude." I like to think of myself as equal parts surf rash, Batman, heavy metal, Levinas, poetic license, and reformational. Other than creating blund blogs, I enjoy reading, sporting, and socializing with serious and funny people.
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