Suppose a husband is committing adultery. Is he still a husband?
Being a husband is not just a state of mind; it's not just a private decision. Being a husband is a public relationship made from a public exchange of vows, an objective covenant. An adulterous husband is a covenant-breaking husband but still a husband. Being a husband is what makes his infidelity so horrendous.
In the same way, when people are baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, they are ushered into an objective, visible, covenant relationship. Regardless of the state of their heart, regardless of any hypocrisy, regardless of whether or not they mean it, such people are now visible saints, Christians. A Christian is one who would be identified as such by a Muslim. Membership in the Christian faith is objective—it can be photographed and fingerprinted. In baptism, God names us and imposes gracious obligations upon us.
This book by Douglas Wilson shows that many who call themselves Reformed have in fact lost the older Calvinistic teaching about the objectivity of the covenant and the promises made to Christians at baptism. Multitudes of faithless, corrupt Christians show that they do not believe what God said at their baptism. They live like adulterous husbands. But the tragedy is that many conscientious conservative Christians also do not believe what God said at their baptism.
From the Book:
"When a husband has been chronically unfaithful to his wife, to say that he remains a husband is not to approve of his infidelity. It is the basis of the disapproval. Perhaps his wife should divorce him, but, until she does, he is a husband. No one would look at the pattern of his adulteries, and then say, 'Oh, well, at least he is married.' The fact that he is married compounds the sin, and in no way lessens it. In the same way, for an overt unbeliever to deny the deity of Jesus Christ is a great sin. But it is a worse sin for a baptized believer to do so, and for an ordained minister to reject the gospel in this way is far worse still. Such treachery should make us angrier; the fact that additional covenantal vows were broken ameliorates nothing.
"Branches in Christ that bear much fruit are pruned and blessed. Do they have communion with those branches that bear no fruit, and which will be cut off and burned? They do not have a common future, but they do have a common present place on the same vine. To change the image slightly, together they partake of the root and fatness of the olive tree. And this means that true ecumenical dialogue with unfaithful Christians should consist of solemn warnings." -From the book
Douglas Wilson is a pastor in Moscow, Idaho, a father of three, and grandfather of seventeen. He is the author of numerous books, including Decluttering Your Marriage, Future Men, and How to Exasperate Your Wife.
AUTHOR: Douglas Wilson
PAGE COUNT: 208 pages
ISBN 10: 1-591280-05-2
PUB. DATE: October 22, 2002