Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Second Sunday in Lent.

The Collect

ALMIGHTY God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves; Keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Collect from the First Day of Lent is to be read every day in Lent after the Collect appointed for the Day.

Daily Bible Verse

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

David Broughton Knox Denies the Sacrament of Water Baptism: Changing Views?

Unfortunately, I have discovered that the late David Broughton Knox later in life changed his views on the two sacraments in the Bible and the 39 Articles of Religion. He came later to view the sacrament of baptism at least as unbiblical. This is indeed unfortunate because it in effect makes him a sectarian rather than someone in the tradition of the Archbishop of Canterbury during the English Reformation, Thomas Cranmer, who held that the Protestant view of the sacraments was indeed the "catholic" one. Even more unfortunately, the son of the late David Broughton Knox, holds the same views as his father.

Since my position is one of a "confessing" Evangelical, --I believe that confessional statements of what we believe the Bible teaches are absolutely necessary to mark out clearly for others what we believe and where we stand-- it follows that I adhere to the plain teaching of the 39 Articles of Religion as a document which is binding on the conscience of ministers and officers of the church. To deny any one of the Articles is essentially to exclude oneself from the Anglican church/denomination/communion. I find it particularly troubling that one who represents himself as a low church, Evangelical Anglican could in good conscience pretend to be an Anglican while denying the very document we confess as a unified body of believers. To deny the Protestant document in any part is really to adopt the same tactic of the Anglo-Catholics only it is done from a more Anabaptist approach.

At any rate, you can judge for yourself from the following comments posted by William Scott:

William said...

Here is just a sample of D.Broughton Knox's unfortunate belief that baptism was an optional rite and not a true Sacrament instituted by Christ (New Testament Baptism, in D. Broughton Knox Selected Works, Volume II):

"If the significance of the rite is changed to a confession of Christ, confession of Christ is better made by the mouth (Rom 10:10) within the congregation, but better still in the outside world at work or at school. To confess Christ by being immersed under water is only practised because it is believed that Jesus sent us to baptise with water. But, as Paul makes clear, this is not the case."

"Water baptism was an apostolic custom and there is no reason that those who wish to continue it should not do so, so long as they do not impose on the rite a meaning inimical to the gospel. Its New Testament meaning is [primarily] applicable in countries where the gospel is news. But it might be thought that in many heathen cultures today the better way to indicate repentance is by the changed life itself. There may be some heathen countries where water baptism for new converts is unwise, because of the angry hostility provoked. But the changed life and the meek and reverent answer to any query about the reason for the obvious hope that the Christian now has (1 Peter 3:15) may lead to further conversions." (p308-309)

Blessings in Christ,
William Scott

Charlie J. Ray said...

William, you are misrepresenting DB Knox. I have a copy of his small commentary on the 39 Articles where he affirms that there are 2 sacraments. I think you are taking him out of context.

What he said was that baptism is not absolutely essential to salvation and there could be notable exceptions to the practice of baptism. However, I wouldn't go that far though I do agree with Knox that Cranmer made a sharp distintion between the element of water and the grace given to the believer through the sign of baptism. There is no power in the water whatsoever to regenerate. I hope we are clear on that.

William Scott said:

On DB Knox--I believe his views on the sacraments became more radical throughout his life--this could possibly be an explanation for the seemingly different position on the sacraments in the book of DB Knox which you have (or he could just be retaining the traditional term "sacrament" (but in a very loose sense) for baptism).

But what I am saying--at least as concerns his view on baptism in his later years is the position maintained by virtually everyone I have spoken with (Sydney Anglican ministers and others) who are familiar with D.B.Knox and his writings.

[Longer quote of DB Knox in next post]

Now a much longer example of what I'm talking about regarding D.B. Knox's denial of baptism as a sacrament instituted by Christ can be seen in the following quote (this an excerpt from D.B.Knox's writings provided on another forum discussing D.B.Knox's views):

This section can be found in “D.Broughton Knox Selected Works Volume II - Church and Ministry”; ed. K. Birkett; Matthias Media 2003; p277-282.

Beginning of Quote/
Paul’s use of the word ‘baptism’ with regard to the discipling of the Israelites under the leadership of Moses (1 Cor 10:2) is semimetaphoric. Water baptism, the washing of the body to indicate the cleansing of the life from old habits and actions, is used by him in its derived meaning of discipleship, but water is fading into the background. There was water in the sea and in the clouds. In this sense the Israelites could be said to be in the midst of water, but no water touched them. The concept of cleansing (cf Acts 22:16) has quite disappeared and in its place the derived meaning of baptism as accepting the teaching and submitting to the leader as disciples has taken its place.

A fully metaphorical use of the concept of baptizing as discipling is in Jesus’ last words to his apostles in Matthew 28. He is sending them to bring the nations of the world into the knowledge of the triune God. They are to disciple the nations, and to convey to them the teaching of their new Lord. The nations and their cultures are to be transformed through the knowledge of the truth. Jesus calls this ‘baptizing the nations’. He commanded the eleven disciples

Go and make all the nations disciples, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all whatever I commanded you (Matt 28:19-20).

This ‘great commission’ of Jesus contains no reference to administering water baptism. The reference to baptizing is entirely metaphorical in line with other uses of the word by Jesus. It is a command to proclaim the news of the Messiah’s coming to the nations to make them disciples of the true God, to immerse the nations into the revealed character of God so that their whole way of life is changed and their cultures sanctified (cf Rev 21:24).

This conclusion is supported by the following considerations.
Our Lord used the words ‘baptism’ and ‘baptize’ in purely metaphorical ways without any reference to water.

(a) Thus he spoke of his death as his baptism on two occasions as recorded in the Gospels. “I have a baptism to be baptized with” (Luke 12:50); “are you able to drink of the cup I drink or to be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with” (Mark 10:38).

(b) The baptism of the Spirit which Jesus predicted the disciples would experience was also a purely metaphorical baptism with no reference or relationship to water baptism.

Jesus contrasted baptism with the Spirit very sharply with water baptism. The one excluded the other. He told his disciples: “John indeed baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5). When this promise was fulfilled a few days later in the upper room, it was fulfilled in circumstances which excluded any association with water baptism. This confirms the conclusion that when Jesus spoke of baptizing with the Holy Spirit, the word ‘baptizing’ was purely metaphorical. The same is true of John the Baptist’s and of Paul’s use of the phrase ‘baptizing in the Holy Spirit’.

Like Jesus, John contrasted baptism in the Spirit as sharply as possible with water baptism. “I baptize you with water unto repentance he shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit and fire, whose fan is in his hand and he shall thoroughly cleanse his threshing floor” (Matt 3:11 - 12). John’s baptism was a real baptism of cleansing of the body with water; the Messiah’s baptism was a metaphorical baptism and a metaphorical cleansing. But the experience would be real enough; it would be the removal by the Spirit of God of evil persons from among the people of God by the fire of judgement, metaphorical fire but real judgement, real cleansing of the people of God.

That ‘baptize’ in the phrase ‘baptize in the Spirit’ is metaphorical is confirmed by Paul’s language. He wrote to the Corinthians: “In one Spirit into one body we were all baptized, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slave or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Cor 12:13). There are two references in this verse to the experience of Christians receiving the one Spirit of God who unites us into one body of Christ. Both references are couched in water terms. This is natural. In the Old Testament, water, the life-giving element in an arid land, was frequently used as a symbol of the Spirit of God (cf Ezek 36:25; Joel 2 et al,). The second water term, ‘drink’, in Paul’s verse is plainly metaphorical. He wrote that Christians all drink of the one Spirit. To drink of the Spirit is a water metaphor, based on Jesus’ own language in John 4:14 and 7:37. This uncontrovertable water metaphor for receiving the Spirit in the second half of the parallel carries with it the metaphorical character of the reference to water in the first half of the parallel. ‘Baptized in the Spirit’ and ‘made to drink of the Spirit’ are both metaphors. If the first half of the parallel were real water, it would make the second half very harsh phraseology.

A confirmation that Jesus’ reference to baptism in the great commission is purely metaphorical, and not a command to administer water baptism, is the fact that none of the references to water baptism in Acts or in 1 Corinthians 1 suggest that water baptism as practised by the apostles was baptism into the name of the Trinity. It is always baptism into the name of Jesus or of the Lord Jesus, or into the name of Christ (1 Cor 1:13). Thus Peter, in his sermon on the day of Pentecost, invited his hearers to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. He could hardly have said these words if he had understood Jesus to have commanded him some ten days before to baptize converts into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus’ words in the great commission did not have reference to the administration of the rite of water baptism, as though our Lord’s last words to his disciples on the eve of his ascension to his throne of glory was to instruct them in the use of a ritual formula, but it was a commission to preach the gospel of the forgiveness of sins in his name to all the nations. The other Gospels’ reporting of the same commission confirm this interpretation. Luke has “repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name unto all the nations” (Luke 24:47) and in Acts 1:8 “you shall be my witnesses ... unto the uttermost parts of the earth”. John has “as the Father has sent me, so I send you ... whosoever sins you forgive, they are forgiven ... “ (John 20:21).

Matthew reports Jesus’ words as: “Disciple all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things I commanded you” (Matt 28:19-20). ‘To disciple’, ‘to baptize’ and ‘to teach’ are here synonyms. Jesus is commanding his apostles to bring the whole world into the knowledge of the true God and as a consequence to Christianize the cultures of the world so that they might bring their contributions to the city of God (Rev 21:26). Isaiah had prophesied these things (Isa 60:3). Note that it is the nations that are to be baptized. By the preaching of the gospel they are to accept the lordship of the Christ, and to obey all that he as their leader commands. The nations of the world are to be baptized into the triune God as the nation of Israel was baptized into Moses. The phrase ‘to baptize the nations’ is itself plainly metaphorical. Only individuals can be the subjects of water baptism and the whole context confirms that the word here is fully metaphorical and has no reference to water baptism.

This conclusion is made more sure by Paul’s remarks in 1 Corinthians 1. He regarded water baptism as of no importance. He cannot remember whom he baptized two or three years before, only few though they were. And he added emphatically “The Lord did not send me to baptize” (1 Cor 1:17). It is inconceivable that Paul could have said this if the Lord had commanded his apostles in his last solemn commission to administer water baptism, for Paul was vividly conscious that there was nothing lacking in his commission as Christ’s apostle: “In nothing was I being the very chiefest apostle” (2 Cor 12:11); “I reckon I am not a whit behind the very chiefest of the apostles” (2 Cor 11:5).

Paul was pre-eminently the apostle of the nations. “He that wrought for Peter unto the apostleship of the circumcision wrought for me unto the apostleship of the nations” (Gal 2:8). If in his last commission Jesus had sent his apostles to “make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them” with water baptism, it is inconceivable that Paul, the apostle of the nations, could have said “Christ did not send me to administer water baptism”, if Christ had sent all the other apostles to do this very thing to converts from the nations!

Jesus told his apostles to disciple all the nations. The way his words are often translated, “to make disciples of all nations”, allows for a misconception to arise. It is the nations that are to be discipled, baptized and taught, not merely individuals out of the nations. The gospel will heal the nations and in the book of Revelation the nations shall walk in the light of the glory of God and bring their treasures to the heavenly Jerusalem (Rev 21:24, 26; 22:2). This glorious result of the exaltation of the Messiah had been prophesied in the Old Testament (Isa 11:10, 12; 25:7; 49:6, 7; 52:15). All the nations, that is the peoples and their cultures, are to be Christianized by the knowledge of the triune God. Christ’s commission to his followers is to baptize the nations, to bring them under his leadership, as their Lord and their teacher.

(A Footnote: The Greek of Matthew 28:19-20 supports the metaphorical interpretation of ‘baptizing’ in this verse. The main verb is ‘disciple [the nations], the three other verbs are all supporting participles. The main verb is an aorist, that is, it is punctiliar describing a distinct action. The participle ‘go’ is similarly an aorist. The two other participles which follow are both in the present tense, implying ongoing activity. The nations are to be discipled by being immersed into the full knowledge of the triune God and what this implies for Christian living: that is, they are to be progressively taught of the true God and the body of doctrine which Christ revealed. It is worth noting that two important early manuscripts, Vatican and Beza, have altered the present participle ‘baptizing’ into an aorist to conform to the punctiliar action of water baptism, which is experienced once and is not an ongoing activity. By the time these manuscripts were copied the ecclesiastical interpretation of this verse was dominant, and has remained dominant until the present.)

The conclusion is clear. ‘Baptize’ in Matthew 28 is fully metaphorical, as were both the other two applications of the word by Jesus (Spirit baptism and suffering baptism). In none of these three uses of the metaphor of baptism by Jesus is there any reference to the practice of water baptism, inaugurated by John and continued by his disciples, not only into the ministry of Jesus while John was alive (John 4:2), but also into the apostolic age after Jesus’ ascension (Acts 2:38). But it is worth noting again that Jesus himself did not follow this practice of administering water baptism (John 4:2), and Paul regarded it as a matter of indifference, having no relationship to the gospel he was commissioned to preach. In fact he put the two activities in sharp contrast (1 Cor 1:17) for the emphasis in the Greek falls heavily on “not to baptize”.
/End of Quote

Blessings in Christ,
William Scott

Charlie's comment: After reading this extended quote I came to the conclusion that David Broughton Knox in his final years allowed his critics to push him to make illogical and unjustified interpretations of Scripture passages that are understood by every major denomination and church tradition to refer to water baptism. One of the most critical of these misinterpretations is Knox's denial of Matthew 28:18-20 as a reference to Christ's command to baptize with water. Knox takes the allegorical method of interpretation to justify this highly questionable view of Matthew 28:18ff. Most Evangelicals prefer the historical/grammatical approach to biblical exegesis, hermeneutics and interpretation. This only goes to show that even Evangelicals can go either liberal or off into allegorical interpretation methods along the lines of the church father Origen or that of modern day charismatics and pentecostals.

1 comment:

Charlie J. Ray said...

On hindsight perhaps I have been too hasty to judge D.B. Knox. However, since I know that his view of the atonement is general rather than particular, it is not hard to see why he thinks that "baptizing" refers to nations as a whole rather than to individuals within the nations. However, the idea that we are to make disciples "of all nations" implies individuals within the nations. This is the very heart of evangelism. We must convert and disciple individuals. Imagine how difficult it would be to convert a nation without converting individuals???? This logic does not make sense. So it seems to me that Knox is committing the same sort of error his opponents in the Anglo-Catholic world commit: emphasizing the corporate nature of the church over against individual salvation. And if individuals are to be discipled and converted, then obviously the reference to "baptizing" is indeed a reference to water baptism. The passages in Acts may use a different formula but they all attest to water baptism, not to baptizing whole nations. Thus, the traditional Protestant and Evangelical emphasis on water baptism as an ordinance or sacrament stands. D. B. Knox certainly was not perfect so we must grant him a bit of grace in areas where he errs.

Sincerely in Christ,


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