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Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Friday, May 21, 2010

MacArthur-Sproul-Baptism

Ligonier Ministries is replaying a debate between John MacArthur and R.C. Sproul concerning baptism and whether or not we should practice infant baptism or believer's baptism.

The announcer states the debate was recorded earlier at a Ligonier Conference. If it is the conference I am thinking of, this was a debate that took place in Pasadena, California at a Nazarene mega church. If it is, two items of note:

First, in the manner of full disclosure and because Ergun Caner has come under fire for describing, say for instance, a radio interview as a "debate" when in fact it was really just an interview, this encounter between R.C. and John was along the lines of a discussion, not a debate. John preached on believer's baptism, R.C. followed by preaching about infant baptism, and then there was a nice Q&A discussion between the two as they sat in cushy chairs and took pre-written questions from the conference MC.

Secondly, I was there. In fact, I sat in the second row right behind R.C. My friend Chuck and I took a picture with him (which was included in the video my wife and I played at our wedding) and I had a jovial conversation with him about how I liked him anyways as a preacher even if he was wrong about eschatology.

What I remember vividly is overhearing a conversation between a group of conference attendees sitting behind me who I could classify as being young, restless, and Reformed before it was trendy to be young, restless, and Reformed. They were bugged that R.C. would even allow "that dispensationalist" (a direct quote) to speak at his conference, let alone participate in a pre-conference debate with him on the sacred doctrine of infant baptism. One of them remarked that John was an okay preacher, but he was putting his reputation at risk by debating someone like R.C. and maybe he would get his "theology straightened out" (another direct quote). For a moment, I was kind of nervous for him.

R.C. graciously allowed John to go first, and for 50 minutes, John articulated one of the most biblically sound and exegetically logical message I had heard. He pretty much demolished every paedo-baptist objection to his position before R.C. was able to speak. R.C. sat in the front row and twirled his penny loafers around with his toes the entire time. After he finished, his young and restless critics were silent.

When R.C. got up, he maybe spent 25 minutes covering the historic, Reformed position on infant baptism, closed, and then they moved into the Q&A portion. I couldn't had been prouder of my pastor.

The full message John gave can be read or heard HERE.

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15 Comments:

Blogger Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Hi Fred,

I'm a credo-baptist too, but I try and not let it be a point of doctrinal quarreling.

Baptism is not where I will quarrel with folks, but it's not adiaphora either. I don't know if it makes sense, but that's kinda where I'm at. It's kinda like the Together for the Gospel Coalition where you have credo-baptists like John MacArthur and John Piper and Mark Dever partnering up with RC Sproul and Ligon Duncan.

The one thing that kinda makes me slightly wince is that the Roman Catholics, the Eastern Orthodox, the WCF Presbyterians are all paedo-baptists.

Anyways, thanks for posting!!

6:36 AM, May 22, 2010  
Blogger MSC said...

I was at that "discussion" as well and my sentiments match yours. I think R. C. was suprised at how well MacArthur articulated his position.

8:26 AM, May 22, 2010  
Blogger Douglas Kofi Adu-Boahen said...

The response of those "young restless and Reformed types", if anything, was rather inane and demonstrates the respect and maturity that Sproul and MacArthur have for each other...

8:37 AM, May 22, 2010  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Maybe in this instance, Douglas, but I happen to know from reliable sources that there exists a general disdain toward John among all of R.C.'s supporters and they would rather not have him around the conferences. Hence the reason I appreciate R.C. not bending to their wishes because of his love and respect for John.

9:16 AM, May 22, 2010  
Blogger MSC said...

You might add to this list, Steve Lawson. I saw recently that Ligonier has Steve among those few men that will replace R. C. in his teaching role when he can no longer manage that duty. I was shocked to see that he had Lawson, a dispensationalist (and board memeber for TMS), as one of the key figures on the Ligonier team as well as an key author of Reformation Trust publications.

3:50 PM, May 22, 2010  
Blogger Kat said...

Oh, this should be a very interesting discussion! Thanks for linking to it; I very much enjoy listening to both John MacArthur and RC Sproul, as they (IMHO) are both very fine theologians and preachers.

I find it amusing that these young, restless and Reformed students acted the way they did, because I believe that Sproul and MacArthur have been fast friends for many, many years, despite their doctrinal differences (none of which, as I understand it, are essential doctrines but rather important-but-secondary *grinz*)

Ah, well, considering that I have more than my own share of blind spots that I'm trying to overcome, I suppose this is yet another opportunity to exercise gracious humility ;-)

5:22 PM, May 22, 2010  
Blogger Scotty Karber said...

Hey Fred,

I'm a supporter of R.C. and know many others. None of us have an attitude of "disdain" toward John MacArthur nor do we want him dropped from the Ligonier Conferences. Did you mean by "supporter" the staff of Ligonier or maybe staff and board?

2:26 PM, May 23, 2010  
Blogger donsands said...

I appreciate RC's teaching on baptism. But I agree with John's teaching.

Wouldn't it be sad if all the Reformed Baptists seperated themselves from the Reformed Presbyterians? Or vice-versa.

I love to see these wonderful leaders in the Body of Christ ministering together.
And I'm sure it pleases our Lord.

I'm a Reformed Baptist sort of guy, and yet I attend a Reformed Epsicopal local church.

6:07 AM, May 24, 2010  
Blogger Ken Abbott said...

As a PCA ruling elder who has attended more than his share of Ligonier national conferences, let me affirm that I *always* look forward to and gain immeasurably from John MacArthur's richly exegetical contributions. I've never heard any conference attendee express the sort of disgruntlement you record.

From the way you phrased it, Fred, I gather that Dr. Sproul's 25-minute summary of the "historic, Reformed position on infant baptism," backed as it is by a rich 400-year old exegetical tradition, was somewhat lacking in the ears of a convinced dispensational Baptist? ;-)

10:13 AM, May 24, 2010  
Blogger Steve said...

"...I happen to know from reliable sources that there exists a general disdain toward John among all of R.C.'s supporters..."

Fred, I don't know who your sources are, but I know a lot of R.C. fans, including myself, and NONE of us has any sort of disdain toward MacArthur. He is highly respected in the PCA circles I'm associated with.

6:07 AM, May 25, 2010  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Ken writes,
From the way you phrased it, Fred, I gather that Dr. Sproul's 25-minute summary of the "historic, Reformed position on infant baptism," backed as it is by a rich 400-year old exegetical tradition, was somewhat lacking in the ears of a convinced dispensational Baptist? ;-)

Yes, as a matter of fact is was some what lacking. I was kind of disappointed. At the time, I was genuinely wanting to hear someone defend the position textually. So John with his rich, 2,000 years old exegetical tradition, was much more compelling. =-)

6:14 AM, May 25, 2010  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Fred, I don't know who your sources are, but I know a lot of R.C. fans, including myself, and NONE of us has any sort of disdain toward MacArthur. He is highly respected in the PCA circles I'm associated with

Steve, and others,
I hope that is true. At least among the good majority of the members in the pew I am glad to hear those kind regards, and perhaps the push back against John is only from a vocal minority.

6:17 AM, May 25, 2010  
Blogger Steve said...

As a paedo-baptist, I've been feasting on John's teaching materials for the last 25 years!

6:26 AM, May 25, 2010  
Blogger Elaine Cavalheiro said...

Thanks for sharing Fred. MacArthur was really great, as usual. I enjoy listening to him preach and defend doctrines with Scripture, rather than with point of views or history.
It was interesting to listen to the bit by RC Sproul too, although JMac had already pointed out all the possible defenses paedo's would have in this matter, even giving them a hint where to go to better base their arguments. =)

8:38 AM, June 02, 2010  
Blogger Scott said...

I listened to it also, and have made it available on my blog: www.alwaysreforming.org. Dr.MacArthur did well, but taught more of what baptism was not than what is was. Dr Sproul did a better overview IMHO, bu both did well.

Scott

12:32 PM, June 20, 2010  

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