Wednesday, November 21, 2007

On Presbyterians, Baptism, and "Disobedient Brothers"

I recently had a great conversation with a friend that migrated to a number of different topics, including Presbyterians, baptism, and the designation of "disobedient brother." (I sincerely hope my friend will agree that I have rightly represented him, and invite him to contact me privately [or publicly] if I haven't.)

My friend asked me if I would call a Presbyterian who did not hold to believer's immersion a "disobedient brother."

I said, "Yes."

He was somewhat astounded by that, mentioning by name a Presbyterian for whom we both have a great amount of respect. He said he agreed with me that the Scriptures taught the immersion of believers. He believes, however, that infant baptism can be considered a matter of conscience since it is within the stream of orthodox Christianity.

My response to him was simple, and along two basic lines of thought:

First, if we believe that the Scriptures truly teach the immersion of believers, then we at some level have to call someone who is not immersed as a believer disobedient to the command of Christ, as well as out of step with the pattern of the early church in the NT. If Christ said "Do X" and someone does not do X, then we must call them disobedient. (And if you believe that infants should be baptized, then you must call credobaptists disobedient.)

That does not necessitate placing them in the same category as adulterers, or heretics. So long as a person does not hold to baptismal regeneration, or "washing away the stain of original sin," they have not compromised the gospel by sprinkling an infant, and baptism is not a prerequisite for salvation. So an unbaptized Presbyterian (or Baptist, or anyone else) can still have genuine salvation, and be a faithful witness to the gospel of Christ while still being disobedient. However, failure to make a public confession of Christ as Lord through baptism is a matter of obedience, it seems to me.

I think we need not be afraid to recognize that there are various levels of obedience. While on the one hand, all sin is sin, on the other hand not all sin is equal. The Law of Moses, given by God, has varying penalties for various sins. This shows that, at least in the community life of Israel (relationships with one another), not every sin had equal societal or personal affects. While we must be careful of pressing this too far, we must also stop short of treating all sin as if it has the same affect in the community of the church.

Second, making something a "matter of conscience" can very easily lead to an existential theology, where conscience becomes the ultimate arbiter of truth rather than Scripture, where truth is only truth when it means a particular thing to the individual. Now, let me be clear—my friend does not believe in existential theology of any sort. He is fully committed to the authority of Scripture. Let me also be clear that I do believe that there are matters on which believers may differ because of conscience. But let me be clear (yet again): These differences do not mean that both are right, or that both are obedient. One can, in good conscience, be disobedient to Scripture. That is because the conscience can be poorly trained. The Baptist distinctive of conscience was never intended (so far as I understand it) to be a rationale for living in disobedience.

Let me sum it up this way:

1. As for separation and Presbyterians, at some level we (Baptists) have to separate. That does not mean that we are antagonistic, that we cannot have Christian fellowship, or that we cannot even share a pulpit. We can still appreciate their contributions in other areas. It simply means that we have differences about a core matter of scriptural distinctives. I believe that separation takes place on a continuum. It is not an all or nothing proposition. And we, as separatists, need to be very careful in making it such. But if the Bible teaches the immersion of believers, and someone does not get immersed as a believer, what else do we call them except disobedient in that area?

2. We need to be very careful about our consciences, and the leeway that is sometimes granted. We need to be careful that we rightly understand the Scripture, but the conscience is not the authority; Scripture is. And while that may be too fine a distinction for some, it must nevertheless be a distinction, it seems to me. The fact that someone may, in good conscience, do something does not mean that they are correct in doing it.

3. When we disagree about a matter of biblical distinctives, we need not be graceless or tactless about it. Let's just disagree. I have been called disobedient by Presbyterians for not baptizing infants. I am okay with that. It's not personal, to me anyway. We all must decide at what level and over what issues we will separate. We must work to preserve the unity of the body only after honoring the commands of Scripture.

21 comments:

Andy Naselli said...

Hey, Larry,

Based on your logic (i.e., "If Christ said 'Do X' and someone does not do X, then we must call them disobedient."), we are all disobedient! It'd be helpful if you'd clearly define what you mean by the category of a "disobedient Christian." Then, I think, this discussion could proceed more profitably.

Larry said...

Andy,

If we were not disobedient in at least some areas, wouldn't we be perfect?

I think we are all disobedient, at least sometimes. Wouldn't you agree? So at the root, a disobedient Christian is someone who does not obey God in whatever area that might be.

We could move on to levels of sin as in degrees (wasting time reading blogs is not the same as adultery, though both are to some degree poor stewardship of God's gift to us).

I don't see certain areas reserved for "disobedience" and others for "matters of conscience." I think a matter of conscience is something that is legitimately okay (God permits it), but the untrained conscience cannot do it in faith (Rom 14). I don't think a "matter of conscience" can be invoked in an area of something God commands that we don't do, or God forbids that we do do.

So the question is, Does God command that believers be baptized as a profession of their faith in Christ? I think he does. And if I am right, those who do not get baptized upon belief are disobedient to that command. They may not be disobedient to any other, but they are certainly disobedient to that one.

How do we treat them? Well, I don't think that failing to be baptized as a believer is the same as failing to preach the exclusivity of Jesus. And in a conference on the exclusivity of Jesus, I may well be able to preach with someone who has not been scripturally baptized. But in a conference on Baptist distinctives, that would be immeasurably harder.

Obviously, the more a sin strikes at the heart of the gospel, the more central it is in terms of fellowship and separation. Having a man in my pulpit to preach who may be lazy a few mornings a month is not the same as having a man in to preach who believes that there are other ways to God apart from Jesus.

I think the more something undermines the "whole counsel of God," the more central it is. A man who is a public adulterer brings more shame on the whole counsel of God than a man who knowingly kept an extra penny he received in change from the cashier, though both have taken something they were not entitled to.

I think the more public a sin is, the more of a difference it makes, at least to some degree. That seems to be the point of 1 Tim 3:7 and "having a good report." It doesn't mean perfect, but it means that public sins are not what a man is known for in the community.

I think the relationship of obedience to core distinctives of our denominational beliefs matter. How much? I am not entirely sure. To me, believer's baptism is more important than two ordinances.

So I guess the short answer to that question is, I am not entirely sure how all this breaks down. It is something I think about because I am concerned that we do things biblically. I want to grant as much latitude as the Bible does, but no more.

What do you think?

Philip R. Gons said...

I think a vital component to the discussion is missing: is the sin being committed in ignorance or knowingly? Any talk of disobedience must nuance here.

Andy Naselli said...

Larry, you wrote, "If we were not disobedient in at least some areas, wouldn't we be perfect?"

That's my point. It's a given that everyone is disobedient. The label "disobedient brother," however, is reserved for a particular kind of disobedience. That's where the debate is, and that's where I'm sensing a lack of clarity.

Larry said...

Phil,

I am not sure that professed ignorance is a reason not to call disobedience disobedience. It may change, in some instances, how we deal with it. And perhaps that is a necessary nuance.

Even if someone is ignorant, they still are not conforming to God and his standard, and therefore are disobedient.

Philip R. Gons said...

Isn't the real issue here whether some people are what fundamentalists have called "disobedient brothers" (as Andy states in a previous comment)? If so, the nuance is essential! At least one reason 2 Thessalonians 3 calls for distancing is that the sin is committed in full knowledge that it is sin. Not so with the Presbyterians (from your perspective)! One's level of accountability for his sin is directly proportionate to his level of knowledge (Act 23:5; Rom 1:20; 1 Tim 1:13; 2 Pet 2:21). This is what your discussion seems to be missing.

Larry said...

Trying to keep this short, but this begs for some interaction.

Your concern is not "the real issue" here, though it may be the real issue somewhere else. I can't speak for how other fundamentalists use the term, and I won't take responsibility for them. I think some of the use has been misguided and inappropriate. I don't think it all has. I am speaking only for myself.

I am not sure that one's level of accountability is "directly proportionate" to his level of knowledge in all cases. As is often said, "Ignorance of the law is no excuse." When people sin, even without the law, it still brings death. In all the cases you list (except Acts 23:5), punishment was still deserved even in ignorance.

I think 1 Tim 1:13 doesn't help you at all. The "sin of ignorance" in 1 Tim 1:13, is not a sin without knowledge but a sin that was not defiant, in line with Num 15. And Paul was not punished because he received mercy, not because he was ignorant. So that is not about a matter of conscience, or of not knowing that what he was doing was wrong.

Rom 1:20 and 2 Peter 2:21 do not teach that punishment was escaped because of ignorance, but that it may be lessened. In fact, Rom 1:20 appeals to knowledge of God through natural revelation as a justification for punishment. So that really takes us a step prior to what I am suggesting here since I am talking about God's command in special revelation.

But that's not really even the point. The point is this: What do we call it when someone does not obey a command of God? I think we call it disobedience. I don't have another category for it. Even if done in ignorance, it is still disobedience. When a parent corrects his child and the child says "I didn't know," that doesn't mean that the child's action was okay. It is still wrong, regardless of the state of knowledge.

You cite 2 Thess 3 as regarding "full knowledge." I am not sure I agree with that. I am just reviewing the passage briefly, but Paul doesn't seem to invoke the state of knowledge of the individual in question, but the state of conformity to the letter he wrote. The individual's state of knowledge may bring us to handle it differently, but the issue is obedience, not knowledge, as I see it there. I would be interested in your support for invoking the idea of "full knowledge."

Which brings me to my main point: can someone legitimately deny believer's baptism? I don't think so. It takes such a misreading of both the OT covenant and circumcision and the NT teaching on baptism that it seems not all that difficult to say that believer's baptism is the mandate of Scripture, and failure to immerse believers is disobedience, no matter what you do to them when they are infant. I don't see how we can conclude differently. I can't find that in Scripture.

I wouldn't have a great problem if Presbyterians sprinkled infants and then baptized them as believers.

The issue, it seems to me, is that of the state of obedience of unbaptized believers. Aren't they disobedient, even if they do not know it or do not believe it?

I think your arguments here are the kind of arguments that can lead to the confusion about the destiny of the unevangelized, especially using passages like Rom 1:20 and 2 Peter 2:21. The main issue in the unevangelized question is the matter of knowledge: If they didn't know by someone telling them, can they really be held responsible? The Scripture answers Yes, they can be held responsible.

So I would tend to be more cautious with that argument.

Phil Gons said...

Larry, thanks for the follow up. Let me clarify a few things where I think you misunderstood me.

1. Asserting that one’s level of accountability is directly proportionate to his level of knowledge does not mean that one is not guilty. For some reason you thought that this is what I was suggesting. I was not. The point is that he is less guilty, but still guilty.

2. This is so because all people have some level of knowledge through natural revelation and conscience.

3. Romans 1 makes it clear that, were that knowledge absent, people would have an excuse. So this confirms my point that knowledge produces greater accountability and greater consequence guilt for disobedience.

4. How you can say that “the ‘sin of ignorance’ in 1 Tim 1:13, is not a sin without knowledge,” I do not know. The very definition of the Greek term ἀγνοέω is to “be uninformed about, not to know, be ignorant (of)” (BDAG).

5. You said, “Rom 1:20 and 2 Peter 2:21 do not teach that punishment was escaped because of ignorance, but that it may be lessened.” That’s exactly my point! I’ve never suggested that ignorance makes one guiltless.

6. A key issue is whether or not it is correct to call doing wrong without knowing it disobedience. Sin? Yes. Disobedience? Hmm. Would you really accuse your child of disobeying you if you had never given him any information regarding the matter? He genuinely didn’t know it was wrong, and had no basis for knowing so. Did he sin? Yes. Did he disobey? I’m not so sure.

7. It’s unmistakably clear from the context in 2 Thes 3 that the sin was committed in full knowledge that it was sin. Verse 7 says, “For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us.” Verse 10 says, “For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” Verse 14 goes even further: “If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter.” They got additional direct instruction from Paul. They had full knowledge that their actions were sinful.

8. Thus, we make a mistake when we treat brothers in Christ as disobedient when they are not knowingly disobeying the commands of God as the individuals in 2 Thes 3 were.

9. Re: baptism, I think the case for believer’s baptism is just as shaky as the case for paedobaptism. Neither position can provide an explicit and indisputable example from Scripture of a second generation Christian being baptism pre- or post-conversion.

Phil

Larry said...

Thanks, Phil. My apologies for misunderstanding. I wasn't exactly sure where you were coming from on that. Let me make a few comments in response to a couple of your points.

4. Most commentators (to my knowledge) take that as a reference to the Law and the sin of ignorance in the Law (Num 15) as contrasted with the high-handed sin of defiance. I take it the same way.

6. I am not sure biblically we can draw a big distinction between sin and disobedience. I would have to study that and think on it some more. But I hardly think people who object to my position would be more satisfied if I called them "sinning brothers" rather than "disobedient brothers." Somehow, I don't think that change would satisfy those who object to the fundamentalist position on separation from brothers.

7. 2 Thess 3 seems to contrast "your yourselves" with the sinning brother. I am not sure you can leap from "your yourselves know" to "this particular brother knew." that seems a bit exegetically suspect. Exegetically, the "people who knew" were the ones Paul was commanding to separate, not necessarily the ones he was commanding to separate from. The pronouns, as I recall, are all 2nd person plural. But in any case, the standard Paul gives there is still the letter, or the tradition, not necessarily the knowledge of it. Again, I would argue that a person's knowledge may change how we would handle a situation, but it does not change the basic nature of it.

8. I agree to some degree, but it seems to me that there comes a point of teaching after which we must no longer say someone is unknowingly disobedient. If we sit down and patiently and clearly show someone something in the word, and they do not believe, what shall we do?

9. I find this very unconvincing. Every example of baptism in the NT is post conversion. Your argument that you find no second generation Christian baptism is, I think, an argument in favor of believer's baptism. These new Christians certainly had children, yet we see no example of them being baptized (or sprinkled). The pattern of the NT is always believer's baptism with no clear (or IMO unclear) exceptions. The case for paedobaptism works only if you 1) have a misunderstanding of the covenant and 2) do not follow the NT teaching and pattern. Paedobaptists that I have seen do not make their case from the NT teaching (because there is no teaching on baptizing infants), and they really don't use the OT (because there is no teaching on baptism). They use a theological construct drawn from Col 2 and then leap backward to the covenant and circumcision, and then back forward to NT baptism. I do not find that convincing in the least.

Now again, I would emphasize that I don't think paedobaptists are necessarily going to hell; they have not compromised the gospel; they offer many good contributions to evangelical theology. But I don't think that is a reason to overlook or minimize their position on the baptism of believers.

Sam Hanna said...

I note Larry takes a different position on the Pope on Sahrper Iron. He has no problem being "rude" to Paedobaptists but has a big problem with calling the Pope the antichrist!!

Larry said...

What are you talking about Sam? I haven't been rude to Paedobaptists. I have addressed an area of theological difference about which we need to think biblically. And I have argued for what I think the biblical position is.

Furthermore, I said nothing about calling the Pope the antichrist. In fact, you can go there and read my comments and note that I said nothing at all about the Pope or what he should be called. I merely pointed out that being accommodating to false religion and being nice are two different things.

So my advice to you is this: If you are going to use my blog to make comments, then please make accurate ones, and make them about the topic I am writing about. If you have questions about what I believe, please ask. I will be glad to try to clarify. But do not use this blog to make unfounded statements.

You have a bit of a history around the blogosphere that makes me hesitant to even allow your comments to remain, since I don't want my blog to become a place for the kind of discussion you have too often engendered. For now, I will allow it to stand and ask you either to substantiate your comments or retract them.

Either way, I would request that you be more careful with what you say, and with the manner in which you say it.

Phil Gons said...

4. This supports rather than challenges the basic notion that the sin involved a lack of knowledge of some sort.

6. I think there is something to the distinction and think it does warrant further study. The issue isn’t whether anyone prefers to be called “unintentional sinner” or “intentional sinner” (though certainly I’d prefer the former!), but whether one is more accurate than the other, especially in light of the fact that Scripture itself makes this distinction.

7. I strongly disagree! (1) Both the obedient and the idle are identified with the term “brother.” (2) When Paul was with them, both his example and command were clear. There’s no exegetical warrant for excluding certainly brothers from this knowledge, for clearly they were idle when Paul was there! (3) The idle ones are “among” the other brothers. (4) The implication is that the obedient brothers will admonish the idle brothers on the basis of Paul’s instruction (past and present) and example. (5) If it was a matter of lack of knowledge, Paul would have simply told them to share the information with them that they lacked! The dichotomy you try to make between “the letter, or the tradition” and “the knowledge of it” is, IMO, nonsensical. An individual’s knowledge changes the way we respond to their sin precisely because it changes the very nature of the sin committed.

8. How far do you take this? How about plurality of elders? Should some Baptists start considering other Baptists disobedient on this issue, just because they are convinced of their position? I doubt you’d go this far. If not, why not?

9. Every example of baptism in the NT is also of a first generation Christian, so of course it would be post conversion. We also see no example of Christians’ children being baptized post conversion. It’s an argument from silence from either position!

Larry said...

4. What do you mean by "lack of knowledge of some sort"? Do you believe that Paul, with all his experience in Judaism and his knowledge of the Law, did not know that torture and murder were sins against God? I have a hard time accepting that. I think the distinction between sins of ignorance and high handed sins in Num and by extension in 1 Tim 1:13 is the issue of defiance ... willful intentional apostasy against God's command. He is not talking about, "Oops I didn't know that was sin."

6. You say Scripture makes this distinction between disobedient and sinful. I am not convinced that it does, or that any proposed distinction carries significance for this discussion. I could be convinced; I just haven't really studied it out.

7.1 2 Thess 3 is a passage that could eat up much room. I don't dispute that the idle were among the brothers. Paul even says to admonish him as a brother. Part of that admonishment surely is the teaching of Paul regarding the matter. Now, I am not hanging my hat on the idea that the idle brother was ignorant. My point is that exegetically I don't think one can prove that he had knowledge. You talk later about the argument from silence in the matter of baptism negatively, but then lean on that argument here. The idle brother may well have known. But the text doesn't say that, and exegesis (as you well know) is the reading out of the text. I don't think that is an exegetically significant point. I don't think Paul's instruction would have been different either way.

7.2 The distinction between "the letter or tradition" and the "knowledge of it" is far from nonsensical. If you had never read the Bible, the letter or tradition would still exist. You simply would not have knowledge of it. Truth or righteousness is not dependent on my knowledge, but on the character and will of God as revealed in the letter or tradition.

7.3 I struggle to say that an individual's knowledge "changes the "very nature of the sin committed." I would have to see more biblical evidence. I think it changes to some degree the level of culpability (but doesn't completely remove it). But, for example, adultery is adultery whether or not the person committing it actually knows it, or accepts it to be sin. The nature of the sin is the same.

7.4 I think the danger with your position is that you create a category that I am not sure the Bible recognizes ... sinners who don't really know it, and therefore are not chargeable with sin (at least certain ones). I don't think you agree with that, so I am not trying to misrepresent you; but I don't see how you avoid it.

8. I would like to think I take it as far as the Bible does. Of course, that is assuming a lot isn't it. I am sure I am not consistent in this area, and really not even sure how to answer your question because I don't know how far I take it. Your example of plurality of elders is an issue that I think is different than baptism. Plurality of elders is not mandated in the NT; believer's baptism is. Plurality of elders is permissable, and perhaps even the pattern of the early church. But the NT does not forbid a single elder. So I would not "go that far" with plurality of elders because it is not disobedience. However, if a person is convinced that a single elder is disobedience, then they would have to label me disobedient. I am okay with that. I just think they are wrong.

9. This argument from silence seems to carry a lot of weight. Why weren't all these new believers baptizing their children? Wouldn't you think that such an important issue would be addressed in the NT? To say that we see no example of Christians' children being baptized post conversion seems to read more into the text than is legitimate. Should we assume that of all the baptisms listed in the NT there are no parent-child relationships? I think that is stretching personally. I find this particular silence particularly deafening. If sprinkling babies is core to ecclesiology, we should expect that it would at least be addressed somewhere. Obviously not all agree, which is fine. Can you think of any other core aspect of ecclesiology that has absolutely no mention in Scripture? I am thinking off the top of my head here, but I can't think of one.

I guess in the end, there is a certain amount of conscience on this issue as to how far we will go in our own associations, and we will all answer to God for ourselves, not for others. I have friends that I would not have preach in my church for various reasons. But I still enjoy good fellowship with them.

Phil Gons said...

4. “As to righteousness, under the law blameless”—that says it all.

6. No. I said Scripture makes the distinction between “unintentional sinner” and “intentional sinner.” This distinction always influences one’s level of culpability. Consequently, the distinction is significant for the discussion.

7.1. I’m not leaning on an argument from silence. I’m leaning on the explicit statements of the text. Can you find one commentator who supports the notion that these brothers were ignorant of Paul’s instruction? If the distinction is important all throughout Scripture, then there’s no reason it wouldn’t be important here. The burden of proof lies with you to demonstrate otherwise.

7.2. Granted. But in holding people to the standard of the Word, we do so based on their willingness to obey what it says, which implies knowledge of what it says.

7.3. Defiant, highhanded sin is of a different nature than unintentional sin based on a lack of knowledge. The fact that Scripture distinguishes between them and gives different instructions on how to respond to them indicates an “essential” difference (i.e., a different in nature).

7.4. Scripture is clear that there is guilt without full knowledge, but there is greater guilt with greater knowledge. All possess some knowledge by virtue of creation and conscience. I see no problem that needs avoiding.

8. “Plurality of elders is not mandated in the NT.” Some would say it is (Acts 14:23; 20:17; Jam 5:14 with Titus 1:5).

9. “Why weren't all these new believers baptizing their children?” How do you know they weren’t? “Wouldn't you think that such an important issue would be addressed in the NT?” If the children of believing parents were part of the covenant in the OT, I’d rather expect that it wouldn’t be address unless things worked differently in the NT. “To say that we see no example of Christians' children being baptized post conversion seems to read more into the text than is legitimate.” Show me one clear example. “I find this particular silence particularly deafening.” The knife cuts both ways.

Thanks for the back and forth. I need to end with this.

Blessings,

Phil

Larry said...

I need to end as well, so I will make some (hopefully brief) comments in response.

4. I don't think that "says it all" with respect to my question. I don't think we can seriously entertain the argument that Paul was completely ignorant that torture and murder were wrong. He knew they were, but he thought they were justified. He was not in defiance of God (high-handed). But he was still guilty. He did not think that murder was okay before God. He was in rebellion against God when he did that.

7.1 I am still not sure which explicit statement of the text shows us that the idle brother had knowledge of Paul's teaching. I am not saying they were ignorant of it. I am saying there is no warrant for either assertion, and that assertion is irrelevant to the argument of the text. The idle brother's knowledge is not made a part of Paul's argument. I struggle to see how that is even debatable. I can't see your argument here. Which is fine, I suppose. Perhaps I will see it later. To me, I don't think it matters. If someone doesn't know, we still have to show them the truth and then respond appropriately.

7.3 I am not convinced it is lack of knowledge, but rather attitude towards God. I have a paper at home on this I will have to look up when I get back. (I am not currently home.) But I take it, as I think most commentators that I recall do (though my memory may be faulty), that the sin of ignorance is one that is not defiant or high-handed. It had no sacrifice. The Law seems to contrast the "unintentional sin" and the "high handed sin" as the two types. For the first there was a sacrifice; for the second there was death. If you are correct, then it seems there was no sacrifice for someone who knew they were sinning and did it anyway, but did not do so with an attitude of defiance. Again, I would have to review my notes on this, but I struggle with your brief explanation here and what I perceive from it.

8. If someone says plurality of elders is mandated in the NT, they will have to call me disobedient. If they use those verses, I think they will be fairly easily shot down, since none of those verses actually give a command to be perpetuated, with the possible exception of Titus, though we do not know how many churches he was to appoint elders in, since it was a whole island he was commanded to take care of.

9. If they were baptizing their children as an act of obedience, it is a strange silence. Your comment on the OT covenant is part of what I meant earlier when I talked about the misunderstanding of the covenant. NT ecclesiology is not related to the OT covenant. If someone baptizes their children because of the OT covenant, they have no biblical basis for it. One did not participate in the OT covenant by baptism, but circumcision. And the covenant was a national thing, not an individual one. The OT covenant community was not based on spiritual salvation; the NT church is. So there are some pretty significant issues there that I think you (at least in this discussion) are glossing over. I know that this is a brief discussion so I don't imagine you have laid out your position. In fact, I still don't even know what you believe about it ... which is fine.

Thanks for the interaction. Hope your new job is going well.

Phil Gons said...

4. Destroying idolaters is commanded in numerous places in the OT. That Paul believed he was acting in accordance with the OT law is clear from Phil 3. If—prior to the knowledge he received on the road to Damascus—he considered himself a murderer, he would not have said that he was blameless. Paul did not know the truth about Jesus and Christianity. That’s what the very word ἀγνοέω means! I can’t for the life of me figure out how you are overlooking this.

7. You keep referring to an idle brother (sg.). The text speaks of “some among you [who] walk in idleness.” The text seems abundantly clear unless you come to it with your mind already made up. (1) Paul was with the Thessalonian believers. (2) When with them, he gave them instruction and modeled how they should live. (3) The idle brothers were part of the church of Thessalonica. There is no textual reason for excluding them from the group that received Paul’s instruction and saw his example. (4) The idle brothers were not idle when Paul was with them, for he later learns of their idleness (v. 11). (5) Paul gives the idle brothers explicit command to “do their work quietly and to earn their own living.” This information was communicated to they by the obedient Thessalonians (vv. 14-15). Again, please cite a supporting source.

Larry said...

I said I was done, but let me it hit it here one more time very quickly.

4. That Paul believed he was acting in accord with OT Law is irrelevant. He was not. But he was not defiant about it, and that is the distinction. I think you are not rightly reckoning with the OT teaching on the high-handed sin vs. the unintentional sin.

7. I agree that the text seems abundantly clear. I think we differ on what it is clear about. I see no clear statement that the one walking in idleness knew Paul's teaching in that particular letter, but I don't see that as relevant in the least. That is not what his point is tied to, as I see it. I think this is a rabbit trail.

But since we are on it, the idle brother(s) are referred to in the third person, while Paul is addressing them using the 2nd person. But again, that is not what I am hanging my hat on because I think it is irrelevant to Paul's argument and to mine.

You cite vv. 14-15 as at least part of the basis for their knowledge ("This information was communicated to they by the obedient Thessalonians"), but if you note the text, that comes after the separation, not before.

But again, for the purposes of my posts on this topic, that is pretty irrelevant.

The issue I was addressing is the clarity of the NT on believer's baptism. I think it is explicit, and the fact that someone interprets it differently doesn't mean that they are less than disobedient, or at least living in sin (if you make the distinction you argued for).

I know there is a hesitancy by some to make this sort of designation I have made, but I can't help but wonder if that is out of personal friendship and respect for individuals. (I am not referring to anyone involved in this conversation.)

I don't think baptism is a gray area. In fact, I don't think there are any gray areas. I will probably post on that later though. I have some thoughts running around in my head after this discussion.

Again, thanks, I have enjoyed it.

Phil Gons said...

4. So what does ἀγνοέω mean?

Larry said...

The semantic domain includes not accepting, ignoring, etc. It is more than simply being intellectually uninformed, as I think the other uses show. I think you are not considering other possible definitions, and I don't think you are putting it in the context of the sin of ignorance/high handed sin of the OT, which is the context in which Paul is using it, I believe.

Again, I am a little bit handicapped because I am not at home and don't have my notes on this with me.

Phil Gons said...

Again, can you point me to any lexicon or commentary that doesn't see Paul as have some lack of knowledge. BDAG renders it, "I did it in ignorance."

So Saul the persecutor knew full well that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah and Christianity was the true religion? Hmm.

Larry said...

I am going to wind my comments here down with this (for real this time ... I hope). Sorry to be so long in responding. I started this response a while back and was going to take time to enlarge on it, but have decided not to. I will just post it.

First, the issue with agnoeo is not whether or not it means some sort of lack of knowledge. As I have tried to point out (and you have not yet interacted with), most commentators that I am aware of connect Paul's words here with the OT teaching on unintentional sins (sins of ignorance) vs. presumptuous or high-handed sins. Those two categories in the OT are what should be being discussed, IMO. I don't think the lexical meaning of agnoeo is where we disagree (though there is a broader range than you appear to be giving it). I think, it is the OT background of Paul's words that seem to be where we disagree, though I am not sure since you have yet to discuss the OT background. Roy Beacham's dissertation (I think) delineated these types of sin in the OT, and argued (persuasively for me, in my brief interaction with it) that the issue was not the lack of knowledge but rather the posture of the individual.

Secondly, Paul did know the teaching about Jesus. That is why he was killing people. He did not accept it, but he knew it. He was not ignorant of it.

Thirdly, for someone who knew the Law as well as Paul did, it seems unlikely that he was unaware that murder and torture of fellow human beings was sin. He justified it because of certain circumstances, but he was not ignorant of the Law's teaching. He was rather not acting defiantly (high-handedly) against God.

Furthermore, he was still responsible for it. It was still sin whether he knew it and believed it or not. And that is the relevant point for this discussion: If the Bible teaches believer's baptism (as it seems clearly to both by precept and example), then it is sin not to be baptized as a believer, whether or not one accepts that.

So I think the issue here, at this point (which has not much to do with the original post) should be focusing on the OT connection between Paul's word and Num 15.

The OT gives two categories there: sins of ignorance and sins of presumption. If you are right, that sins of ignorance were only sins of which one did not have cognitive knowledge of the sinful nature of the deed, then there are a lot of problems with other OT passages that talk about sacrifices, because there was sacrifice only for an "unintentional sin." On this basis, I tend to believe (as of now) that an unintentional sin was a sin not committed in defiance. The person may well have known it was a sin, but he committed it anyway, albeit not in defiance against God.

To me, again, it seems like you are not interacting with what I believe the issue actually is.

But thanks for the interaction.