Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Myth of the Black Jesus

The other day while I was working, I couldn't help but overhear a gentlemen spew forth all sorts of hate-filled, racially-charged rhetoric cloaked in the guise of Islam. From what he was saying, it was evident that he was not so much a Muslim - although he did mention the Qur'an, Muhammad, and other Islamic buzzwords - as he was a follower of Louis Farakahn.

As he was attempting to indoctrinate another man, he was trying to use the Bible like a wax nose that he could mold to fit the face he was trying to sculpt, in this case, a racist one. Along the way, one of the points he labored to make was that Jesus was a black man, and that mean old whitie had hidden this fact, molding instead a Jesus to European liking in an attempt to get the superior black man to bow down and worship inferior white-devils.

In contradistinction to what this man was saying, the historical record tells us that Jesus was a first century, Middle Eastern Jewish man from the tribe of Judah, and, thus, that he was neither African nor European, a fact that stands written today the same as it has in all past ages (though it does have to be granted that pictorial representations of Christ produced by Christians have not always done justice to this fact). But the most interesting thing that occurred to me is that the kind of thinking typified by this man actually undermines Islam (for all those who share this man's racist-driven assumptions), whether it be the old fashioned orthodox kind found in mainstream Islam or the peculiar version advocated by Wallace Fard, Elijah Muhammad, and Louis Farakahn. After all, according to sacred, authoritative Islamic tradition, the Muslim prophet Muhammad said the following about Jesus:

"Narrated Abdullah bin Umar: Allah's Apostle said, "I saw myself (in a dream) near the Kaaba last night, and I saw a man with whitish red complexion, the best you may see among men of that complexion having long hair reaching his earlobes which was the best hair of its sort, and he had combed his hair and water was dropping from it, and he was performing the Tawaf aroud the Kaaba while he was leaning on two men or on the shoulders of two men. I asked, 'Who is this man?' Somebody replied, '(He is) Messiah, son of Mary'" (Bukhari, Vol. 9, Book 87, #128).

For more, see here.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Why Bertrand Russel Was Not A Philosopher: Always Learning and Never Able to Come to a Knowledge of the Truth

The field of philosophy is chock full of disagreements. There are even disagreements on what philosophy itself is and what it is to be a philosopher. In the face of such pervasive, and, on some accounts, insoluble problems, some have gone so far as to set their hopes on exobiological beings to deliver us.[1]

Since Bertrand Russell had more opinions than the average man,[2] and since he could (if you ask him) leap tall philosophical problems in a single bound, we should not be surprised that some have looked to him as just the kind of hero we need.[3] Confident as Russell was that he could swoop down on any situation, he, too, offered an answer on what philosophy and philosophers were all about. It is just here, though, right when we might have thought that we found someone to deliver us from our common (fallen?) human predicament, that we have instead the beginning of a long list of proofs that Russell was suppressing his true, and quite unphilosophical, identity. He said:

"Philosophy, as I shall understand the word, is something intermediate between theology and science. Like theology, it consists of speculations on matters as to which definite knowledge has, so far, been unascertainable; but like science, it appeals to human reason rather than to authority, whether that of tradition or that of revelation. All definite knowledge – so I should contend – belongs to science; all dogma as to what surpasses definite knowledge belongs to theology. But between theology and science there is a No Man’s Land, exposed to attack from both sides; this No Man’s Land is philosophy. Almost all the questions of most interest to speculative minds are such as science cannot answer, and the confident answers of theologians no longer seem so convincing as they did in former centuries. Is the world divided into mind and matter, and, if so, what is mind and what is matter”? Is mind subject to matter, or is it possessed of independent powers? Has the universe any unity or purpose? Is it evolving towards some goal? Are there really laws of nature, or do we believe in them only because our innate love of order? Is man what he seems to the astronomer, a tiny lump of impure carbon and water impotently crawling on a small and unimportant planet? Or is he what he appears to Hamlet? Is he perhaps both at once? Is there a way of living that is noble and another that is base, or are all ways of living merely futile? If there is a way of living that is noble, in what does it consist, and how shall we achieve it? Must the good be eternal in order to deserve to be valued, or is it worth seeking even if the universe is inexorably moving towards death? Is there such a thing as wisdom, or is what seems such merely the ultimate refinement of folly? To such questions no answer can be found in the laboratory. Theologies have professed to give answers, all too definite; but that very definiteness causes modern minds to view them with suspicion. The studying of these questions, if not the answering of them, is the business of philosophy."[4]

The above quote all too easily demonstrates that reason - on Russell’s own account of it - is incapable of answering fundamental questions. Theology could not help Russell because he did not have confidence in its pronouncements; science, too, was of precious little help, because such things are outside its sphere and competence altogether.

In other words, there is knowledge to be found in science, but only of a relatively trivial sort, i.e., not on ultimate questions; on ultimate questions we only have the confident but surely mistaken pronouncements of theology. And as for speculative reason, autonomous reason, reason humanistically construed and utilized, no answers have been forthcoming either. This means that on the map of human inquiry, philosophy is a kind of Lost Lane. It is a knowledge free zone. It is a zone where important questions are studied, but no answers have been discovered, at least not by Bertrand Russell. Thus instead of possessing extraordinary logical powers capable of transcending long-standing conundrums, we learn here that Russell’s feet were fastened to the earth as much as anyone’s; perhaps more so.

Although at this point we might still be magnanimous and consider Russell a philosopher, the above does at least reveal that he was the kind of philosopher who was more of a mild-mannered reporter of questions to which, along with all other covenant-breakers, he did not have any answers.[5]

It might be asked, however, if philosophy does not give us the answers that we refuse to accept from theology, why did a man like Russel ever leave Smallville (science) with its facts, trivial as they are? And why did Russell still demonstrate such affection for Lost Lane (i.e., Russell’s No Man’s Land). To this, Russell responds:

"It is not good either to forget the questions that philosophy asks, or to persuade ourselves that we have found indubitable answers to them. To teach how to live without certainty, and yet without being paralyzed by hesitation, is perhaps the chief thing that philosophy, in our age, can still do for those who study it."[6]

Astoundingly, what Russell appears to be saying here is that we should ask questions, but never actually get around to answering them; to answer them is to be dogmatic, and dogmatism is as deadly as kryptonite to “philosophers” like Russell. This kind of deep-seated antipathy against knowledge and wisdom ought to be seen as the real enemy of philosophy. What is this (by Jorel!) but dogmatism against knowledge?

Whereas we might gratuitously refer to an interrogater as a philosopher, what should we call someone who is, in principle, opposed to all answers? Such a dogmatic reusal from the outset to actually find knowledge and wisdom ought to be seen as its own refutation and disabuse us of the view that what we have is a philosopher on our hands.

As paradoxical as it may seem, all of this reveals that Bertrand Russell, Mr. Worldly Wise of the Twentieth Century, was not, in fact, a philosopher (i.e., a lover of knowledge/wisdom). Russell turns out, as said, to be nothing more than a mild-mannered reporter of questions to which he did not have answers and to which he was committed in advance, to never finding the answers. Who will save us from such “philosophers”? Thanks be to God through our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom are deposited all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
[1] Perhaps the most famous example of this is Carl Sagan, whose telos for living was the search for extraterrestrial life, which, he believed, held the answers to the cosmos with all its riddles. See William Poundstone’s book, Carl Sagan: A Life in the Cosmos (New York: Henry Holt an Company, 1999).
[2] Paul Johnson, in his Intellecutals (New York: Harper & Row, 1988), p. 197, says of Russell, “[Throughout the course of his life] he put forth a steady stream of counsel, exhortation, information and warnings on an astonishing variety of subjects. One bibliography…lists sixty-eight books…he published works on geometry, philosophy, mathematics, justice, social reconstruction, political ideas, mysticism, logic, Bolshevism, Chiana, the brain, industry, the ABC of atoms…science, relativity, education, skepticism, marriage, happiness, morals, idleness, religion, international affairs, history, power, truth, knowledge, authority, citizenship, ethics, biography, atheism, wisedom, the future, disarmament, peace, war crimes and other topics. To these should be added a huge output of newspaper and magazine articles embracing every conceivable them, not excluding The Use of Lipstick, the Manners of Tourists, Choosing Cigars and Wife-Beating.”
[3] In 1950 Russell was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature as “the champion of humanity and freedom of thought.”
[4] Russell, The History of Western Philosophy, p. xiii-xiv
[5] Russell evidences this same failure throughout his other writings. As one other example, in an article on “Appearance and Reality”, after concluding that, for all our efforts to know the truth about things, Russell says that all we really achieve is the modest insight that “things are not what they seem”. He goes on to say: “Philosophy, if it cannot answer so many questions as we could wish, has at least the power of asking questions which increase the interest of the world, and show the strangeness and wonder lying just below the surface even in the commonest things of daily life”. As found in Russell’s The Problems of Philosophy (Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books, 1988), p. 16
[6] Ibid, p. xiv

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The LORD is our Helper and Keeper

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help come?
My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand.
The sun will not smite you by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul.
The LORD will guard your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forever.

Exposition of Psalm 121

Vs. 1 The psalmist begins with a question: “I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help come?” Commentators differ, but as far as it stands I see this as a rhetorical question; the answer is implied. It’s implied by the first part, when the psalmist says “I will lift up my eyes to the mountains.” By saying he will lift up his eyes to the mountains, he aims to communicate the kind of help and the kind of helper he has in mind. In order to understand this, you must keep in mind the literary genre of the Psalms. The Psalms are Hebrew poetry. One of the features of Hebrew poetry is that everyday things are loaded with meaning - God-given, Spirit-inspired, meaning. Literal earthly things, like mountains, hills, and rocks are treated as symbols and pointers to extra-earthly realities, especially things pertaining to God. Consider for example Psalm 125:1-2: “Those who trust in the LORD are as Mount Zion, which cannot be moved but abides forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds His people from this time forth and forever.” The psalmist lifts up his eyes to the mountains, for they remind Him of God. Even as the mountains cannot be moved (by men), God cannot be moved. As the mountains abide forever (relative to other things), God abides forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so God encloses, encircles, and enfolds His people.

Vs. 2 In any case, rhetorical or not, the psalmist quickly answers his own question in verse two, removing all doubt: “My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.”

The confidence expressed in this psalm is not abstract; it’s personal. The psalmist does not merely say that God is able to help; he says God is His help. He does not merely suggest God’s capacity to help, he appropriates, through faith, that God is His helper. [The great Reformer Martin Luther said the Christian faith consists in pronouns. By this he meant it is not enough merely to say Christ died for sinners; to be a Christian means being able to say, Christ died for me. In relation to our psalm, the point is this: true faith means being able to say God is my helper, my keeper.]

But now, what ground does the psalmist have for believing that God is his help? Very simple: God is not only the psalmist’s Creator, but the psalmist's “LORD.” The word LORD here is not just any name for God; it is Yahweh in Hebrew, God’s covenant name. The psalmist is in covenant with the Maker of heaven and earth. And just because he is in covenant with God, he is sure and certain that all is well with his soul. For God does not break His covenant, His oath. God cannot lie. He has promised to be a God to those who fear Him, the savior and protector of those who call on His name. The covenant faithfulness of God grounds the psalmist’s hope.

Vs. 3-8 A significant thing happens in verse three...two things, really. First, notice how the psalmist was speaking of himself in verses one and two, but starting in verse three to the end of the psalm a shift takes place. Now in verse three he starts talking about others; namely, all those who are in covenant with God. Look at the contrast: in verses one and two he says, “I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” But starting in verse three he begins to speak to all God’s people: “He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” God’s covenant faithfulness is wider than the psalmist; it embraces and looks after others. God’s providential care is not just individual, it is corporate. God is not only the keeper of individuals as such, but the keeper of His people as a whole. God is my keeper à God is your keeper à God is our keeper: Israel. The psalmist is no lone ranger; he recognizes that to be in covenant with God is also to be in covenant with all those who share such confidence in God. This is instructive for us in many ways. We live in a day when people think they can love and serve God all on their own. They don’t need to gather together with the people of God, uniting their voices with others in prayer and song, corporately attending to the preaching of the word, partaking of the Lord’s Supper, fellowshipping with one another, looking after each others needs, carrying each others burdens, etc. This is far from the truth. The church, the body of Christ is one of the means God uses to help and keep us. I believe it was Ambrose (or was it Augustine?) who said, “He who does not have the church for his mother, does not have God for his Father.” He spoke truly. It is for good reason that God's people confess those words towards the end of the Apostle’s Creed: “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy universal church, the communion of saints…”

Second, notice how the psalmist moves from declaring the fact that God is the keeper of His people (in verses 1-2), to explain what it means to say God is His people’s keeper (in verses 3-8). God so watches over His people that He superintends their every movement: He won’t allow them to slip, (verse 3). God’s watch over His people is without intermission: “He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep (verse 4).” He so watches over His people that he even controls the environment for their good: “The Sun will not smite you by day, nor the moon by night (verse 6).” He so watches over His people that no evil can overtake their soul and imperil their salvation: “The Lord will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul (verse 7).” In short, the Lord so comprehensively watches over His people that He governs and directs the whole course of their lives: “The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever (verse 8).”

God leaves nothing to chance; chance is a figment of the secular imagination. God is our help; chance is helpless. Thou shalt have no other God, chance included.

Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.

Under the shadow of Thy throne
Thy saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is Thine arm alone,
And our defense is sure.

Before the hills in order stood,
Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting Thou art God,
To endless years the same.

Thy Word commands our flesh to dust,
“Return, ye sons of men:”
All nations rose from earth at first,
And turn to earth again.

A thousand ages in Thy sight
Are like an evening gone;
Short as the watch that ends the night
Before the rising sun.

The busy tribes of flesh and blood,
With all their lives and cares,
Are carried downwards by the flood,
And lost in following years.

Time, like an ever rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly, forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.

Like flowery fields the nations stand
Pleased with the morning light;
The flowers beneath the mower’s hand
Lie withering ere ‘tis night.

Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Be Thou our guard while troubles last,
And our eternal home.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Our Decision To Homeschool: A Letter To Family and Friends

The following is a letter I wrote some time ago on behalf of myself and my wife, expressing the why and the what of our decision to homeschool our kids.


Since some of you, our family and friends, have expressed everything from disagreement to mild curiosity at our decision to educate our children at home instead of turning them over to the state or to a state certified agency, we offer the following account of just what it is we are doing and why.

1. Above all else, our decision to homeschool flows out of our commitment to the Lord our God and to the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Since the Lord both made and redeemed us, we, together with our children, belong to Him. Since He revealed Himself and His will, we have neither the prerogative nor the desire to turn aside either to the right or to the left. The reasons connected with this are the following:

The Bible recognizes (at least) three governmental institutions: the family, the church, and the state. The onus of educating and bringing up children in the fear and admonition of the Lord belongs to parents. The job of the church is to preach the Gospel, build up believers in the faith, and administer the sacraments (baptism and communion) of the New Covenant. The job of the state is to establish a just civil order and peace in society by punishing criminals and providing for the common defense. Not only does God in the Bible not give such authority or calling to ecclesiastical or civil officers, or to the oversight of those operating in terms of regulations and standards devised by the same, it positively rules it out.

A way of saying this simply is that parents have been given the "rod of instruction/discipline", whereas the Church and the State have been given the "keys of the kingdom" and the "power of the sword", respectively. Christians are called to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's. This does not mean that Caesar (i.e., the State or powers that be) is not under God; rather, it means that the civil magistrates' power and authority are derived and therefore limited to their own God-ordained sphere of action. Beyond this the state may not go, and neither may the individual, the family, or the church encroach upon those things laid to the charge of the state by God. Each institution has its own God-ordained task and authority and is not to usurp that authority which God has reserved to Himself alone, or which He has delegated to another individual or institution. [I know that some unbelievers would scoff at this way of setting things up, but it is ironic, isn't it, that secularists who love flouting and abusing the notion of a "separation of church and state", don't recognize this Christian-borne idea when it is truly in front of them, as it is here?).

2. An additional reason closely related to the above, at least for us as Christian parents concerned about the covenantal nurture of our children, is that the present direction of the state is not neutral regarding the above claims, which would be bad enough in our eyes, but is positively hostile to them.

For those who think that state education is neutral on "religious" matters and only speaks to issues of "secular" concern, a distinction we do not recognize, we would point out that the attempt to be neutral is itself impossible and supremely disobedient. It is impossible, for all reasoning or thinking must begin somewhere, with some fundamental or ultimate starting point, it must proceed according to some method, and it will necessarily be directed to some end or goal. Christians recognize that these things are established and determined for us by God speaking in Scripture, whereas for non-Christians they are thought to be established by some other "god" or by men who fashion themselves to be autonomous. Please observe: grounding these things on the word of some other "god" or that of would-be autonomous man or an institution of men is inconsistent with our conviction that the Biblical God is the true God and that no one can exist or live their lives independently of Him, not even those who blissfully live their lives suppressing this truth. In God we live and move and have our being, for of Him, through Him, and to Him are all things. By Him all things were made and in Him all things subsist.

The attempt to be neutral is also disobedient from the Christian perspective. In the book of Deuteronomy, Joshua, Moses' successor, issued the following directive: "Choose you this day whom you will serve", God or someone/something else. The prophet Elijah said: "Don't waiver between two opinions, if the LORD is God, then serve Him. If Baal [a pagan deity of ANE culture] is God, then serve him." The Lord Jesus said: "No man can serve two masters", and "if you are not with Me, you are against Me". Of course we should not soon forget the words of the (honorary) prophet Bob Dylan:

You may be an ambassador to England or France,
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance,
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world,
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls

But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You're gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.

Furthermore, if the state truly was neutral, it would still be problematic for Christians, for the pursuit of neutrality communicates the notion that God and His Word are irrelevant to (supposedly) secular matters. However, the Bible does not teach the idea that we should compartmentalize segments of reality and knowledge to a neutral, god-irrelevant, zone, for their is no such place in all the world. God created the world, the world of mathematics, history, biology, astronomy, etc. Far from being irrelevant to these subjects, He is the very precondition for them. Further, it is the job of parents to see to it that God's word, which applies to all areas of life, is not only taught but is also reinforced. Attempting to be neutral is not the same as reinforcement.

3. A third reason for choosing to homeschool is that public education is in shambles in America - just witness the many calls for reform and how poorly American education compares to other nations - and the average homeschooled child easily excels children educated by the state. The inescapable fact is that: the state is not called to educate (see point 1 above), and neither is it especially equipped to do so. Over against the State, homeschooling does not require a huge, overgrown, bloated bureaucracy to implement desperately needed changes or make basic decisions, something that is often at the bottom of poor educational approaches, programs, and curriculum, all of which produce the many undesirable outcomes that we could easily list.

For those who do not think that we are personally equipped to teach our children better than the State, you might consider the fact that our children were born to us in the first place, not to the state (contra Plato). If the State was so naturally gifted or designed to do this, then why doesn't the State naturally produce children of its own so that it might educate them? In fact, the State is a poor parent, even when it artificially tries to assume such a role. The public records of State governed orphanages and adoption agencies are there for all to see, in all their ugliness. Just ask those who are on welfare how much they love the state. Even though the State continues to dole out money, it creates more resentment and more poverty among those it supports, all because it discourages hard work and productivity among its faithful "children".

In addition, as homeschoolers we have an abundance of resources available to help us with the subjects we teach. If the day comes that we do not perceive ourselves to be especially well informed in this or that area, there are still ways to competently deal with this, ways that do not flagrantly transgress our fundamental convictions or our parental responsibility to oversee all aspects of the education of our children. For example, many homeschooling families can and sometimes do get together with each other and trade off teaching certain subjects. Other measures are available.

4. A fourth reason for homeschooling is the concern we have to raise children of character, and to instill in our children such social taboos as virtue and a strong sense of morality. Contrary to what is taught and found in public schools, virtue is not vice and morality is not situational or relative. Even if the schools were not set for the dissemination of horrid notions of what ought to pass for good behavior, and they are, they don't have the foggiest notion why anyone ought to be moral in the first place. You simply cannot derive moral obligations from a naturalistic approach to life and the world, which is really what the aforementioned claim to neutrality is brought in to disguise.

In the absence of any foundation for morality, or any clear-minded idea of what is or is not moral, there is no discipline worth speaking of in public schools, and they become nothing more than breeding grounds for bad behavior. Children do not need any help learning bad behavior. Saying "mine" comes naturally; saying "thank you" does not. The former oozes out of them from day one. The latter has to be taught and taught and taught and still it often only comes out begrudgingly. Putting untrained children together to socialize each other only compounds this natural proclivity to sin. The apostle Paul said that bad company corrupts good behavior, something echoed by John Taylor Gatto, who said, "School is a twelve year jail sentence where bad habits are the only curriculum truly learned. I teach school and win awards for doing it. I should know."

5. A fifth and final reason for choosing to homeschool is that homeschoolers achieve what many state schools cannot - a safe learning environment, and that without any need for school police, metal detectors, psychologists, nurses, etc.

We recognize that some of you do not share all or any of the above commitments (esp. the first one), but since we are talking about our decision to homeschool, we think that you will agree that the above (esp. the first one) is more than sufficient to bear the weight of a choice for which we are responsible. 

Wash Before You Eat: Only Baptized Believers Should Be Admitted To And Can Worthily Receive the Lord's Supper


In Mark 7:1ff it is written that the Pharisees had a tradition by which they invalidiated the word of God, a tradition that said it was requisite for people to religiously (not merely hygienically) wash their hands each time before sitting down to eat. The Pharisees said this practice was based on the oral teachings of Moses, but Jesus said it was vanity. Jesus cited the written words of Moses and Isaiah to show how fundamentally out of step the Pharisees were with the truth of God.

What the Pharisees did had a semblance of truth to it. The Mosaic law did prescribe certain cleansing rites as necessary to certain eating rites (e.g., Num. 18:8-20, and Lev. 21-22, both pertaining to priests; and Num. 9:1-14, and 19:11-22, pertaining to the people); this is one reason why their extra-Scriptural tradition was so easily pawned off on God's people as a pious activity. The problem is that the washings that were required by the Mosaic Law in order to participate in certain sacrificial or festal meals were washings and meals instituted by God for a religious purpose. The Pharisees had elevated their common meals to the level of those that were divinely instituted by God Himself; they were honoring God with their lips but themselves in their hearts and actions.

When it comes to Passover and the Lord's Supper, we have two eating ordinances, one in the Old Testament and one in the New Testament, both of which were instituted by God Himself, and both, as the following facts establish, are said to call for cleansing/washing. Such washing signifies the need for regeneration and the forgiveness of sin in order to approach the Lord for continual nourishment. The cleansing rite of all cleansing rites in the Old Testament was Circumcision; in the New Testament, all cleansing rites have been reduced to Christian Baptism.

Historical Considerations

1. All of the so-called branches of the Christian Church - Roman, Orthodox, and Protestant - hold baptism to be the sign of union with Christ, of cleansing by His blood and Spirit, and, hence, the sign of admission into the Church, the body of Christ. As such, baptism has historically been held to precede admission to the Lord's Table.

2. All Protestant denominations - whether Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, etc. - hold baptism to be prerequisite to a worthy reception of the Lord's Supper.

Biblical Considerations

1. Christ gave the great commission and included in it the command to baptize those who became His disciples through faith (Matt. 28:18-20; Mk. 16:16). This was to be followed by "teaching them to observe whatsoever things I have commanded you", and the Lord's Supper is surely to be included among the things He commanded ["Take, eat...Take, drink..." (Matt. 26:25-28); and "This do in remembrance of Me." (1 Cor. 11:24)].

2. The apostles baptized believers (and their households) immediately upon profession of faith (Acts 8:12-13, 35-38, 9:17-19, 10:44-48, 16:14-15, 22-34, 18:8, 19:1-7, 22:12-16). Only after this do we read of ongoing commitment to apostolic teaching, fellowship, participation in the Lord's Supper, etc. This was true from the first, for on the day of Pentecost we read:

"Peter said to them, 'Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit,....so then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer....Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart (Acts 2:38-46).

Note the order: 1) Faith in the Gospel message; 2) Baptism into the body of Christ; and 3) Acceptance to the fellowship meal. This order is found repeatedly in conversion account after conversion account throughout the New Testament (faith --> baptism --> fellowship (inclusive of the fellowship meal)).

3. As a lead in to his discussion of how to properly administer and receive the Lord's Supper, which is found in 1 Corinthians 11, the apostle Paul says: "I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ" (1. Cor. 10). Though Paul passes on to make applications of this that are relevant to the abuses prevalent in the Corinthian church, we should not miss the equally applicable observation as it applies to the question of the order in which baptism and the Lord's Supper are to take place: Baptism first (Red Sea crossing), Lord's Supper second (eating "spiritual food" and drinking "spiritual drink" in the desert).

4. The people Paul was speaking to in 1 Corinthians 11 regarding worthy reception of the elements were the same body of people spoken of in Acts 18:1-11, "...and many of the Corinthians hearing, believed and were baptized" (vs. 8). It is to baptized believers that Paul is giving instruction on how to receive the body and blood of Christ in a worthy manner.

5. In order to partake of the Supper in a worthy manner, Paul calls on each individual to "examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup" (1 Cor. 11). In a later letter to the Corinthians the apostle Paul elaborates on such examination: "Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves" (2 Cor. 13:5). If those who take the Supper must already be "in the faith", then they must also already be baptized, for baptism is to follow hard on the heels of faith (See point 2 above).

Theological Considerations

1. The following considerations presupposes that baptism is the New Covenant counterpart of circumcision,[1] and that what the Old Testament says applies to us, being just as "inspired of God and profitable, for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness,..." as it was on the day it proceeded from the mouth of God.

In light of this, it may be confidently inferred that baptism must precede admission to the Lord's Table, for it follows by a (theo-)logical necessity from Exodus 12.

"The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 'This is the ordinance of the Passover; no foreigner is to eat of it; but every man's slave purchased with money, after you have circumcised him, then he may eat of it. A sojourner or hired servant shall not eat of it. It is to be eaten in a single house, you are not to bring forth any of the flesh outside the house, nor are you to break any bone of it. All the congregation of Israel are to celebrate this. But if a stranger sojourns with you and celebrates the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised and then let him come near to celebrate it; and he shall be like a native in the land. But no uncircumcised person may eat of it" (Ex. 12:43-48).

We see an illustration of this in the history of God's people under Joshua (Read: Josh. 5:1-15)

2. Baptism is a picture of newness of life; the Lord's Supper is a picture of feeding on Christ. Just as life must precede feeding, so by analogy new life must precede spiritual feeding on Christ.

3. Baptism is a sign of cleansing representing to us both the blood of Christ, by which our sins are washed away, and the Spirit of Christ, by which we are cleansed of our corruption (beginning with regeneration when the Spirit gives us a new heart). According to Scripture, no unclean person may eat the Lord's Supper. Since baptism signifies this requisite cleansing, it must precede approaching the table.


[1] For a defense of this, see my: "Circumcision is Now Baptism".