Sunday, December 9, 2018

Dale Tuggy vs. Beau Branson: "Dueling Definitions"


It had literally been a number of months since I last checked in on Dr. Dale Tuggy's website, Trinities - Theories About the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This last weekend—almost as an afterthought—while engaged in some online research for an upcoming post on the issue of polytheism and the Church Fathers, I clicked on the Trinities link in the right side-bar of AF. The first displayed item was 'Podcast 245 - Response to Branson Part 3 - Dueling Definitions'. This immediately caught my interest given the past conversations I have had with Dr. Branson. Turns out the Podcast 245 was actually the seventh in series focusing on Dr. Branson. The following are the links to all seven podcasts:


The first four podcasts are edited versions of Dr. Branson's presentation/PowerPoint series, "Monarchy of the Father". Links to the original series HERE.

In part 1 of Dr. Branson's presentation, he contrasts his definitions of trinitarianism and unitarianism with those of Dr. Tuggy. Note the following:

MY [Branson's] DEFINITIONS

(TB) A Trinitarian Theology says that:

● (1) There are exactly three divine "persons" or individuals. Nevertheless,

● There is exactly one God.

● (So, the persons can't all = the One God).

● (Presumably each one bears some important relation to the one God or has a "claim" to being called "God," but our definition won't settle how that works.)

(UB) A Unitarian Theology says that:

● (1) There is eactly one divine "person" or individual, and

● (2) There is exactly one God.

● (Presumably these will just be identical, or at least, "numerically one," but again we won't rule on that point in our definition.

TUGGY'S DEFINITIONS

(TT) "A trinitarian christian theology says that

● (1) there is one God,

● (2) which or who in some sense contains or consists of three "persons," namely, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,

● (3) who are equally divine, and

● (4) (1)-(3) are eternally the case."

(UT) "A unitarian Christian theology asserts that

● (1) there is one God,

● (2) who is numerically identical to the one Jesus called "Father,"

● (3) and is not numerically identical to anyone else

● (4) and (1)-(3) are eternally the case."

Running the risk of over-simplification, it seems to me that the foundational divergence between Dr. Branson and Dr. Tuggy concerns how broad and/or narrow one is to define both trinitarianism and unitarianism. Branson believes that Tuggy's definition of trinitarianism is too narrow, and that his definition of unitarianism is too broad. Tuggy's assessment is just the opposite—he believes that Branson's definition of trinitarianism is too broad, whilst his definition of unitarianism is too narrow.

It subsequent posts, I hope to offer some of my own musings concerning our topic at hand (the Lord willing). For now, I am going to 'stick my neck out' by stating that I believe history offers more support for Branson's views than Tuggy's.

Grace and peace,

David

UPDATE: On 12-10-18, Dr. Tuggy, posted another podcast in his series on Dr. Branson. This eighth installment—podcast 246—can be accessed via THIS LINK

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Unity and the Christian Church: Part 6 - identifying the unnamed lecturer


As promised in Part 1 of this series, the time has come to reveal the unnamed lecturer quoted in that post—B. H. (Brigham Henry) Roberts.

B. H. Roberts is probably the most prolific author that has emerged from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Back in 2011, Deseret News published a list of the "Top 10 LDS 'Intellectuals'" (link), and B. H. Roberts was #1 in that list, attesting to the high level of his contributions.

Truman G. Madsen, in his biography Defender of the Faith - The B. H. Roberts Story, had the following to say concerning Roberts massive, literary output:

Roberts total literary output included well over thirty books, three hundred articles in such publications as the Improvement Era, the Millennial Star, the Juvenile Instructor and the Contributor, and over a thousand sermons and discourses. Not included in this count are numerous tracts, pamphlets, and sermons published in various newspapers and magazines. (Page 441)

To my knowledge, I have in my possession all of Roberts published books; plus a good portion of his "three hundred articles", dozens of his discourses/lectures and sermons, and some of his tracts and pamphlets. Included in my collection of Roberts' contributions was the discourse which is the source of the excerpt I provided in Part 1 of this series. Titled, Mormonism and Christianity,  the discourse was delivered by Roberts at Salt Lake City, Utah, January 23rd, 1898. This discourse is included in volume 5, of the 5 volume Collected Discourses Delivered By President Wilfred Woodruff, His Two Counselors, The Twelve Apostles and Others—Compiled and Edited by Brian H. Stuy, First Edition, 1992—pages 376-388 (the excerpt being from the opening of the discourse, pp. 376. 377).

The selection published in Part 1 ended with the following:

This was the great question [i.e. Is Christ divided?] which the Apostle of the Gentiles propounded to those Saints in Corinth, among whom divisions began to appear. These divisions, however, were incipient as compared with those which exist in Christendom today; and if those divisions existing in the primitive Church at Corinth called forth this stern reproof from the great Apostle of the Gentiles, I sometimes wonder what he would say to torn, distracted Christendom of today! Would he not with increased emphasis demand of this Babel that exists now in Christendom, an answer to the question, Is Christ divided?

The plain inference of this Scripture, of course, is that Christ is not to be divided; that men are under condemnation who say that they are of Paul, or of Cephas, or of Apollos. It plainly declares that the Church of Christ is to be one.

Roberts then continued with:

Yet, as men look upon Christendom in its divided condition today, they very naturally find themselves somewhat perplexed with this confusion that exists concerning the Christian religion...(Page 377)

Now, the "divided condition" that Roberts correctly discerned 120 years ago, was more pervasive in his day than in Paul's; and the "divided condition" in our day, is significantly greater than in Roberts'. (Does not reason demand that Paul's "great question" has even more relevance in our day?)

The rest of Roberts' discourse is devoted to what he believes is the most consistent solution to Christendom's "divided condition"—the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Roberts' support for his view begins with the affirmation of a Great Apostasy. Though all non-Apostolic See churches—i.e. churches which are not direct descendants of those great churches founded by Christ's apostles and historically perpetuated via apostolic/episcopal succession—hold to some variant of a Great Apostasy, Roberts' understanding is one of a TOTAL APOSTASY, which in turn demands a restoration rather than a mere reformation to correct.

After affirming this TOTAL APOSTASY, Roberts provides his interpretation of the four marks/notes which have been used throughout the history of Christianity to identify the Church that Jesus Christ founded—apostolic, one, holy, universal. Roberts' interpretation of what constitutes a church as 'apostolic' is unique, in that he believes his church actually has living apostles. He then goes on to link the issue of 'oneness' with those who follow the direction and guidance of those living apostles.

And so, though some commonality exists between the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints view of 'unity and the Christian Church', with other interpretations, ultimately, their view remains unique.


Grace and peace,

David

Friday, October 19, 2018

Unity and the Christian Church: Part 5 - Reflections from two Independent Baptists—Kent Brandenburg and David Cloud


In this post, I will be re-publishing the reflections from two Independent Baptist pastors concerning the issue of unity and Christian Church. First, from Kent Brandenburg (originally posted January 6, 2012):


>>Last week, I happened upon a website (link) providing some 35 sermons from the last two years of the "Word of Truth Conference". One of the sermons in particular caught my eye: John 17 and Unity, delivered November 10, 2010 by pastor Kent Brandenburg (link). I have done a good deal of study on this chapter, so I sincerely wondered what an independent Baptist pastor had to say. What I learned from his sermon was that he agreed with my understanding on many key points. In an effort to stimulate others into taking in the entire sermon, I shall provide a few extracts:

Beginning ff-

John 17 and unity. Anyone who wants to understand unity between Christians must consider Jesus' prayer for unity in John 17. I think this is an important point: Biblical separation and Biblical unity will mirror each other. Obviously Biblical separation will never violate Biblical unity; Biblical unity will never violate Biblical separation.

8:54 ff -

What's the unity that Jesus Christ was praying for here? All right. If we're going to understand what unity is, that unity is the unity that he wants between people, is the unity in this chapter.

12:05 ff-

The unity we desire should be the same as what the Lord Jesus Christ prayed for here...

Do you want the unity that Jesus prayed for?

What was it?

13:27 ff -

Some believe Jesus prayed only for a spiritual unity. When I read commentaries on John 17, almost every single commentary differs on what they believe Jesus was praying for here. I'm talking about, if I read 25 commentaries, I can read 25 differences on what they think Jesus was praying for here. Is the Bible something we can't understand? Is the Bible not perspicuous? And I think it kinda drives me crazy; I mean, how, how is it that we can have so many opinions about what he is praying for here? How do I know that 26, let's say I am at number 26, why is 26 right? Why are the 25 wrong, and I am right? Can you know? Because I mean as you read the commentaries there are so many different viewpoints, how could people, how could we be sure that people can even know based on that.

15:01 ff -

Some believe Jesus prayed for a spiritual unity found in their position in Christ...Ummm so he prayed only for people in Christ to have spiritual unity is what their belief is in John 17. Others assert this is a practical unity among all believers. All believers have a practical unity. Some teach that. OK. But I'm just telling you some people teach that. In order to have it they concluded a need to coalesce around a few important doctrines with which true Christians should and will agree; and the number is shrinking. The number is increasingly smaller, until you can put the doctrines on the head of a pin that you have to agree on, basically to have what the Bible teaches on unity; and really what's on the head of the pin is blurry, you can't even quite make out what, what it is.

23:44 ff -

If there's unity between all believers, I don't see it.

[End of extracts]


Amen!!!>>



The second is from David Cloud (originally posted December 9, 2010):


>>Now, back to Tuesday's email. The author of the email was David Cloud, an independent Baptist author, lecturer, minister. The email that I received was also published online at Cloud's "Way of Life Literature" website (HERE). Cloud, as so many Protestants of the period delineated above by Hollman, does not like Meiderlin's now famous phrase; from his email/online essay, we read:

The modern evangelical philosophy is often stated by the dictum, “In essentials unity; in non-essentials liberty; in all things charity.”

Though commonly attributed to Augustine, it was actually first stated by the 17th-century Lutheran Rupertus Meldenius (a.k.a. Peter Meiderlin).

It became the rallying cry of the Moravians, who did many good things but retained such Roman heresies as infant baptism and a priesthood and promoted unity above the absolute truth of God’s Word.

It was adopted by the Fundamentalist movement of the first half of the 20th century. As a movement Fundamentalism focused on unity around “the fundamentals of the faith” while downplaying the “minor issues.” The objective was to create the largest possible united front against theological modernism.

This dictum has also been an integral philosophy of New Evangelicalism. They might stand for ten or twenty or thirty “cardinals,” but they refuse to make an issue of the WHOLE counsel of God. Particularly when it comes to one’s associations, they believe that there are “non-essentials” that should not get in the way of unity.

Many Independent Baptists are buying into this error.

And a bit later:

There is no support in the Bible for the “in essentials liberty” doctrine. The Lord Jesus Christ commanded His disciples to teach converts “to observe ALL things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Mat. 28:20).

The Apostle Paul reminded the elders at Ephesus that the reason he was free from the blood of all men was that he had preached the WHOLE counsel of God (Acts 20:27). The more plainly you preach the whole counsel of God, the less likely it will be that you will join hands in ministry with those who hold different doctrine.

Paul instructed Timothy to keep the truth “without SPOT, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Tim. 6:14). A spot is a small, seemingly insignificant thing. That particular epistle contains commandments about such things as the woman’s role in ministry, which is widely considered a “non-essential” today. Paul taught Timothy to have an entirely different approach toward such teachings.

In 1 Corinthians 11:2 Paul said to the church at Corinth, “Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in ALL things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.” This passage deals with hair length and the Lord’s Supper, which are widely considered to be “non-essentials” today, yet Paul praised the church for remembering him in all things.

We know that not all doctrine has the same significance and weight, but none of it is “non-essential” in any sense.

I challenge anyone to show me where the Scripture encourages the believer to treat some doctrine as “non-essential” or to “stand for the cardinal truths and downplay the peripherals.”

Some try to use Romans 14 to support this philosophy, but Romans 14 does not say that some Bible doctrine is non-essential. It says that we are to allow one another liberty in matters in which the Bible is silent! The examples that Paul gave were eating meat and keeping of holy days. Those are things that the New Testament faith is silent about. There is no doctrine of diet in the New Testament, so it is a matter of Christian liberty.

This reminds us that the only true “non-essential” is a personal opinion not based solidly upon Scripture.

Jude instructed every believer to “earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). As Jude didn’t delineate what part of the faith is to be defended, the obvious meaning is that whatever aspect of the faith is under attack at a particular time, God’s people should rally to its defense rather than pretend that it is a “non-essential.”

Since the Bible doesn’t identify a “non-essential” doctrine, who is to say what this might be?

The fact is that once one adopts the “non-essentials” philosophy, his list of “non-essentials” tends to grow as time passes and as his associations broaden.>>


Kent and David have given us plenty to ponder...


Grace and peace,

David


Saturday, October 6, 2018

Unity and the Christian Church: Part 4 - the Reformed tradition - Thomas Manton vs. Michael Horton


In this 4th installment of my series on unity and the Christian Church, I have chosen Thomas Manton, a respected 17th century Puritan divine, to represent the more moderate position within the Reformed tradition.  Of the many differing positions on the issue of Christian unity that exist within the Reformed paradigm, I believe that Manton's view is one of the most balanced. The following selections will be from Manton's discourse, A Persuasive To Unity In Things Indifferent:

[1.] There may be, and often are, differences of opinion about lesser things in the church; partly because of the different degrees of light. All barks that sail to heaven draw not a like depth of water. And partly because of the remainders of corruption in all. Inordinate selflove is not in all alike broken and mortified, and so their particular interests have an influence upon their opinions. And partly because of the accidental prejudices of education and converse, &c.

[2.] When these differences arise, we should take care they come not to a rupture and open breach. This is the course the apostle taketh here ; he doth not by and by despair of the dissenters, and reject them as heretics, but beareth with them, hoping in charity God will at length reveal their error to them by the ministry of his servants, through the powerful operation of his Spirit, and not suffer them to run on in dividing courses from the rest of his people. So should we do in like cases. Partly because when these differences of opinion breed division and separations, the church is destroyed : Gal. v. 15, 'For if ye bite and devour one another, take heed ye be not consumed one of another.' Backbitings, revilings, and reproaches make way for a total vastation of the whole church, a ruin to both parties. Partly because the whole is scandalised: John xvii. 21, 'That they may all be one, that the world may believe that thou has sent me.' Divisions in the church breed atheism in the world. Partly because there are enemies which watch for our halting, and by our divisions we are laid open to them. Our Lord and Master hath told us with his own mouth, that ' a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand,' Mat. xii. 25. Never was it so well with the people of God, but besides their divisions among themselves, they had common enemies ; and Nazianzen calls them ' Common Reconcilers,' because they should engage God's people to a unanimous opposition to the kingdom of Satan in the world. And partly because then mutual means of edification are hindered. As long as charity and mutual forbearance remaineth, there is hope of doing good to one another ; but when men break out into opposite parties, they are prejudiced against all that light that they should receive one from another, suspecting every point as counsel from an enemy : Gal. iv. 16, 'Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth ?' When men are once engaged in a way of error, whosoever is an enemy to their error is counted an enemy to themselves; yea, they can hardly bear that sound doctrine which doth directly cross their opinions, but are apt to cavil at all that is said by a dissenter. And partly because when men give themselves up to separating and narrow principles, the power of godliness is lost, and all their zeal is laid out upon their petty and private opinions, and so religion is turned into a disputacity. (Pages 68, 69 - bold emphasis mine.)

Manton goes on to delineate the need for "lenity" and "mutual forbearance" to prevent "open rupture" (p. 70). This "lenity" and "mutual forbearance" is "limited"; it does not mean that:

"...all things [are] to be tolerated, even blasphemy and fundamental errors, as if the scriptures were uncertain in all things. No; in things absolutely necessary to salvation, it is clear, open, and plain: 'The law is a lamp, and a light,' Prov. vi. 23, and Ps. cxix. 105. And in such a case we are not to 'bid him God-speed,' 2 Epist. John 10. In such cases of damnable heresy, the law of Christian lenity holdeth not; but if we agree in the principal articles of faith, let us embrace one another with mutual love, though we differ from one another in variety of rites and ceremonies and discipline ecclesiastical. If we agree in the substantials of worship, let us go by the same rule, do the same thing: though in circumstantials there be a difference, these are matters of lesser moment than separation, or the other division of the church." (Page 71.) [Entire discourse available in an online PDF HERE - see pages 68-78.]

Now, let's contrast Manton with Dr. Michael S. Horton. In the May/June 1992 issue of Modern Reformation, a provocative article by Dr. Horton under the title, 'Evangelical Arminians: Option or Oxymoron?' was published. The entire article is available online via the following sites:


In the article, Dr. Horton asks the question: "Is it possible to be an 'evangelical Arminian'?" He then immediately states, "In this article I attempt to defend a negative answer to that important question."

He went on to write:

What is an Evangelical?

One might think that the term "protestant" has been around a lot longer than "evangelical," the latter often associated with the crusade and television evangelism of recent years. However, the term "evangelical" is the older of the two. It appears in medieval manuscripts, describing a qualification of a good preacher: He must be evangelical. Until the Reformation, however, that adjective could mean anything from having a sincere love for Christ to possessing missionary zeal. When Luther arrived on the scene he was eager to employ the time-honored term in the service of gospel recovery. After all, what could be more appropriate as a designation for a man or woman of the Reformation? It was all about a recovery of the evangel itself.

Thus, the term took on a new significance, moving from an adjective to a noun. One was not only "evangelical" in the ambiguous medieval sense of being pious, zealous, and faithful, but an evangelical in the sense that one adhered to the Reformation's tenets. After 1520 an evangelical was a person who was committed to the sufficiency of scripture, the priesthood of all believers, the total lostness of humans, the sole mediation of Christ, the gracious efficacy and finality of God's redemptive work in Christ through election, propitiation, calling and keeping. The linchpin for all of this was the doctrine of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone. Thus, the believer, declared righteous by virtue of God's satisfaction with Christ's holiness imputed (credited) to us through faith alone, is simul iustus et peccator--"simultaneously justified and sinful."

The evangelicals, therefore, whether Lutheran or Reformed, insisted that this was the gospel. It was not a peripheral area of abstract doctrinal debate on which Christians could "agree to disagree agreeably." It was not merely an implication of the gospel or a part of the gospel: It was the gospel!

Dr. Horton, as the article later demonstrates, does not believe that Arminians are 'evangelicals' in the sense delineated above, and that they teach a heretical gospel.

I truly wonder if Thomas Manton were alive today if he would side with Dr. Horton...


Grace and peace,

David

Friday, September 28, 2018

Unity and the Christian Church: Part 3b - the Catholic Tradition


In the combox of the previous thread here at AF, the Reformed Baptist, Ken Temple, raised some concerns about Irenaeus', Proof/Demostration of the Apostolic Preaching. Ken wrote:

the parts about baptism that you brought out from "the Proof of the Apostolic Preaching" (found in recent years from an Armenian copy, right? - not found in the Philip Schaff collection of EFC) - could they not be interpreted in the way that we usually handle Acts 2:38 and Titus 3:5 ? (link)

Ken is correct that the Proof/Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching is not found in the Ante-Nicene Fathers series edited by Philip Schaff, and that the four English translations I am aware of are based on an Armenian manuscript discovered in 1904. Note the following from CCEL Staff Writer, Emmalon Davis:

Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching is a second century guide for Christian converts. After disappearing for nearly two millennia, an Armenian copy of St. Irenaeus' guidebook was discovered in 1904. Current versions of this ancient text have been translated from the Armenian, a language which greatly resembles the Greek in which it was originally transcribed. St. Irenaeus wanted to set out the main points of the Apostolic message, which was handed down to the Church from Old Testament Scriptures. St. Irenaeus explains the doctrine of Christianity as it was understood by the educated believers of his day. He defends the grounds of belief and aims to demonstrate the truth of the ancient Biblical prophecy. As a result, his project is both theological and historical. Even today, St. Irenaeus' book of guidelines serves to help Christians find salvation and refute heretics. (LINK)

I am not aware of any published Patristic scholar—e.g. John Behr, Everett Ferguson, J. N.D. Kelly, John Lawson, Iain M. MacKenzie, J. Armitage Robinson, Joseph P. Smith—who references the Proof/Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, that has questioned the authenticity and/or reliability of the Armenian manuscript. I concur with Dr. Joseph P. Smith, who wrote:

AUTHENTICITY. That the work here presented to us is really, as the manuscript describes it, the "Proof of the Apostolic Preaching" of Irenaeus, is certain on internal grounds. The title and the name (chapter 1) of the addressee agree with the information given us by Eusebius; the work reflects the conditions of the end of the second century, and its manner and many of its turns of expression agree with Irenaeus's known writings, and with his views and preoccupations; the parallels with Adversus haereses are many and striking... (Irenaeus, Proof of the Apostolic Preaching, trans. by Joseph P. Smith, S.J., Newman Press, pp. 5, 6.)

Now, Ken seems to question the authenticity of the Proof/Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching because of its description concerning the nature of Christian baptism (Ken, please correct me on this if I have misunderstood you). Note the following:

THE RULE OF FAITH

3. So, lest the like befall us, we must keep strictly, without deviation, the rule of faith, and carry out the commands of God, believing in God, and fearing Him, because He is Lord, and loving Him, because He is Father. Action, then, is preserved by faith, because unless you believe, says Isaias, you shall not continue; and faith is given by truth, since faith rests upon reality: for we shall believe what really is, as it is, and, believing what really is, as it is for ever, keep a firm hold on our assent to it. Since, then, it is faith that maintains our salvation, one must take great care of this sustenance, to have a true perception of reality. Now, this is what faith does for us, as the elders, the disciples of the apostles, have handed down to us. First of all, it admonishes us to remember that we have received baptism for the remission of sins in the name of God the Father, and in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became incarnate and died and raised, and in the Holy Spirit of God; and that this baptism is the seal of eternal life and is rebirth unto God, that we be no more children of mortal men, but of the eternal everlasting God; and that the eternal and everlasting One is God, and is above all creatures, and that all things whatsoever are subject to Him; and that what is subject to Him was all made by Him; so that God is not ruler and Lord of what is another’s, but of His own, and all things are God’s; that God, therefore, is the Almighty, and all things whatsoever are from God.
(Irenaeus, Proof of the Apostolic Preaching, trans. by Joseph P. Smith, S.J., Newman Press, pp. 49, 50 - bold emphasis mine.)

Keeping in mind Dr. Smith's assessment that, "the parallels with Adversus haereses are many and striking", one should expect to find "baptism for the remission of sins" and baptism as, "rebirth unto God" (i.e. regeneration). One clearly finds such parallels in Irenaeus' Against Heresies (bold emphasis in the following quotes is mine):

1. It happens that their tradition respecting redemption is invisible and incomprehensible, as being the mother of things which are incomprehensible and invisible; and on this account, since it is fluctuating, it is impossible simply and all at once to make known its nature, for every one of them hands it down just as his own inclination prompts. Thus there are as many schemes of “redemption” as there are teachers of these mystical opinions. And when we come to refute them, we shall show in its fitting-place, that this class of men have been instigated by Satan to a denial of that baptism which is regeneration to God, and thus to a renunciation of the whole [Christian] faith.

2. They maintain that those who have attained to perfect knowledge must of necessity be regenerated into that power which is above all. For it is otherwise impossible to find admittance within the Pleroma, since this [regeneration] it is which leads them down into the depths of Bythus. For the baptism instituted by the visible Jesus was for the remission of sins... (Against Heresies, 1.21.1, 2a - ANF 1.345)

But it is evident from Peter's words that he did indeed still retain the God who was already known to them ; but he also bare witness to them that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, the Judge of quick and dead, into whom he did also command them to be baptized for the remission of sins; and not this alone, but he witnessed that Jesus was Himself the Son of God, who also, having been anointed with the Holy Spirit, is called Jesus Christ. (Against Heresies, 3.12.7 - ANF 1.443)

And inasmuch as man, with respect to that formation which was after Adam, having fallen into transgression, needed the laver of regeneration, [the Lord] said to him [upon whom He had conferred sight], after He had smeared his eyes with the clay, "Go to Siloam, and wash ;"  thus restoring to him both [his perfect] confirmation, and that regeneration which takes place by means of the laver. And for this reason when he was washed he came seeing, that he might both know Him who had fashioned him, and that man might learn [to know] Him who has conferred upon him life. (Against Heresies, 5.15.3 - ANF 1.543)

Before ending, I would like to provide a selection from the esteemed Lutheran scholar, R. C. H. Lenski, who I believe does an excellent job in addressing how one is to interpret Acts 2:38, which is directly germane to Irenaeus' understanding of "baptism for the remission of sins":

Baptism is pure that conveys grace and salvation from God through Christ: it dare not be changed into a legal or legalistic requirement that is akin to the ceremonial requirement of Moses such as circumcision. God does something for us in baptism, we do we do nothing for him. Our acceptance of baptism is only acceptance of God's gift.

This is emphasized strongly in the addition: "for or unto remission of your sins." It amounts to nothing more than a formal grammatical difference whether εἰς is again regarded as denoting sphere (equal to ἐν), R. 592, or, as is commonly supposed, as indicating aim and purpose, R. 592, as better still as denoting effect. Sphere would mean that baptism is inside the same circle as remission; he who steps into this circle has both. Aim and purpose would mean that baptism intends to give remission; in him, then, who receives baptism aright this intention, aim, and purpose would be attained. The same is true regarding the idea of effect in εἰς this preposition connects remission so closely with baptism that nobody has as yet been able to separate the two. It is this gift of remission that makes baptism a true sacrament; otherwise it would be only a sign or a symbol that conveys nothing real. (R. C. H. Lenski,  The Interpretation of the Acts of the Apostles, pp. 107, 108.)

A few sentences later, Dr. Lenski then asked the following question:

And how can Ananias in 22:16 say, "Be baptized and wash away thy sins!" as though the water of baptism washed them away by their connection with the Name? (R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of the Acts of the Apostles, pp. 107, 108.)

Shall end here for now. Hope to have part 4 of this series ready for posting early next week.


Grace and peace,

David