Friday, September 10, 2010

Bapto-Catholics Move Into the Spotlight in North Carolina

Five individuals within the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina are causing quite a stir: they are, in effect, calling upon North Carolina CBFers to forsake the Baptist heritage of freedom of conscience and the priesthood of all believers, while downplaying religious liberty and separation of church and state, in order to embrace and formally align themselves with ancient creedalism and the magisterium ecclesiology of Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions.

The five North Carolina individuals are: Don Gordon (pastor, Yates Baptist Church), Larry Harper (Forest Hills Baptist Church), Gail Coulter (retired pastor, Providence Baptist Church, Hendersonville), Ken Massey (pastor, First Baptist Church, Greensboro, North Carolina), and Curtis Freeman (Professor of Theology, Duke Divinity School). They are the authors of a newly-proposed foundational statement for CBF North Carolina, a statement that is clearly at odds with the both the current foundational statement of CBF North Carolina and current national CBF foundational statements.

The statement is currently being circulated among North Carolina Baptists via discussion sessions.

The provenance of the document has direct roots in the 1997 Baptist Manifesto, a "Re-Visioning of Baptist Identity" by a handful of Baptist theologians that denied freedom of conscience and soul liberty as central to the Baptist narrative, rejected the priesthood of all believers and the individual's right to interpret scripture, sought a magisterium to ensure proper biblical teaching within the community of faith, and moved toward the sacramental theology of Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions. Curtis Freeman was a primary author of the Manifesto document, and Ken Massey attached his signature to it.

Since the penning of the Manifesto statement, the Manifesto movement, until now largely confined to theological circles in moderate Baptist seminaries, has moved further away from Baptist history and heritage and more fully embraced ancient creedalism, magisterium ecclesiology, and sacramental theology, along the way becoming known as "Bapto-Catholicism." Freeman has written extensively along these lines (you can see his bibliography by clicking on "Publications" on this page). Freeman's Bapto-Catholic theology is front and center in the newly-proposed CBF NC founding statement.

For their part, Baptist historians have watched Bapto-Catholic theologians tread deeper into creedalism and sacramentalism, and spoken against the movement's forsaking of Baptist history and heritage in favor of Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox theology and thought. Buddy Shurden, pre-emient Baptist historian, penned an early, widely-circulated response to Freeman and his colleagues, entitled "The Baptist Identity and the Baptist Manifesto."

Bapto-Catholics, however, largely ignored the piece, and in the ensuing years Baptist historians and Bapto-Catholic theologians have largely talked past one another, rather than to one another, as Curtis Freeman and others have noted. Ralph Wood, Bapto-Catholic theologian and professor of Theology at Baylor University, perhaps best summed up the apparent disdain that some Bapto-Catholics have for the central Baptist principle of freedom of conscience. Lamenting that Baptists never created a "rich tradition," he praises the sacramental theology of the Roman Catholic Church expressed in baptism and Eucharist, and declares: "This enormously fecund tradition helps prevent Catholics from espousing a rather pathetic do-it-yourself religion, each believer determing truth for himself." (Source: Catholic.Net) Few Baptists in North Carolina are likely aware of the extent of the disdain that some Bapto-Catholics hold toward our historical Baptist identity.

The tendency of Baptist historians and Bapto-Catholic theologians to remain in their respective corners, however, may have dissolved with the emergence of Bapto-Catholics from divinity school theology departments into the mainstream of North Carolina CBF life. The response of historians and others to the Bapto-Catholic-centric proposed NC CBF foundational statement has been swift and public.

Aaron Weaver, doctoral student at Baylor University and blogging as "The Big Daddy Weave," gets credit for breaking the story and offering an appropriate, reasoned analysis of the attempt by Bapto-Catholics to lead North Carolina moderate Baptists away from Baptist principles. Tony Cartledge, professor of Old Testament in the Campbell University Divinity School (NC) and Contributing Editor of Baptists Today, followed up with a well-written and pointed response to Freeman and his Bapto-Catholic colleages and offered a word of caution to North Carolina CBFers. Glenn Jonas, professor of history and chairman of Campbell's Department of Religion and Philosophy, speaking as a historian, has weighed in on both Weaver's and Cartledge's blogs and today penned his own blog entry. And I have also joined in the discussion on Weaver's and Cartledge's blogs. From the Bapto-Catholic side, Steve Harmon, theology professor at Gardner-Webb University's School of Divinity (NC) and vocal advocate of sacramental theology, has also joined in the blogosphere discussion.

In the coming days, we can expect other Baptist historians (within and without the state of North Carolina) to weigh in regarding this development in North Carolina, while the moderate Baptist press provides increasing coverage. The discussion sessions regarding the newly proposed Bapto-Catholic founditional document continue until early November. I am certain that North Carolina moderate Baptists will have a robust dialogue about our Baptist identity between now and then, a dialogue that will be helpful and instructive as moderate Baptists everywhere move forward in the shaping of our future as a people of faith.

48 comments:

Steven R. Harmon said...

Bruce, as a contribution toward de-escalating the current level of rhetoric, I am refraining from entering further into this discussion until the CBFNC committee has had an opportunity to hear feedback from listening sessions (one of which I plan to attend). I must, however, object publicly to your incorrect public assertion that I hold "disdain...toward our historical Baptist identity." Those who read my extensive (and appreciative) theological interaction with Baptist historical sources in my book Towards Baptist Catholicity and numerous other peer-refereed journal articles listed on my CV know otherwise, as do my ecumenical dialogue partners who have heard and read my efforts to offer to the church universal the best gifts of the Baptist tradition.

Steven R. Harmon said...

One more thing: ask my students over the years about my love for the Baptist tradition. They'll tell you I've worked hard to try to keep them committed to the Baptist tradition that nurtured them in the faith, discerned their gifts, and provided for their theological education--especially when they have expressed interest in seeking other ecclesial homes.

Bruce T. Gourley said...

You're right; my comment should have read "some Bapto-Catholics," the gist of what I am trying to communicate. It is fair to say that a lot of Baptist historians do perceive the Bapto-Catholic movement at large as disregarding much of Baptist history. And Wood's dismissal of the Baptist heritage of freedom as "pathetic" is incredibly disturbing. Perhaps you can tell me why he would be so strident in this regard?

Curtis Freeman said...

Bruce--You worry about some Baptist theologians as not sufficiently believing in human freedom as a liberal notion. What some rightly wonder about is whether you believe in the Triune God who alone is free.

"You can talk about "the Trinity" all you want, but no one can nail it down exclusively - because ultimately we really don't know exactly what we are talking about beyond some vague conceptualizations."
From your post on Baptist Life

Bruce T. Gourley said...

Curtis, all of your roads seem to lead back to Trinitarianism. I am curious as to why.

As to the Trinity itself, it is easy to affirm the concept of the Trinity ... but it is another matter to precisely nail it down. No human or church council, past or present, fully grasps the mind or nature of God. Two thousand years of our best trinitarian formulations ultimately fall short of full comprehension.

Indeed, it would seem to me that you of all people would appreciate the fact that there is a level of mystery about the Trinity that we will never be able to penetrate.

As a young Baptist, I was not exposed to mysticism as an element of the Christian life. Now, for me, faith is less when devoid of mysticism.

And incidentally, I don't mind being called a liberal. Jesus in his own day was viewed, by many of those we would today call theologians, as a liberal. :-)

Liberal and conservative dichotomies mean nothing in the Kingdom of God, it would seem to me. Truth transcends such cheap labels.

Curtis Freeman said...

The Trinity may be described as a "doctrine," but the Triune God is the life in which we live and move and have our being. The word "God" is simply shorthand for "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." This isn't a doctrine. This is the faith which is believed, and the One in whom we believe.

The old adage attributed to Augustine warns that whoever tries to understand the Trinity would lose their mind, but whoever denies it would lose their soul. It's still good advice.

You are right, no one can understand the Trinity, that is, the Triune God whom we meet in Jesus Christ. You are also right that we see through a glass darkly. But for one to deliberately deny the Trinity is a much different and more dangerous matter.

I use the word "liberal" here to describe the "modern" notions and theories which underwrite these worries about "freedom" and "agency." It's only secondarily a reference to positions--liberal vs. conservative.

Ralph Wood said...

Bruce, you seem to agree that Baptist freedom and liberty of conscience mean that “each believer determines for himself what is true.” If this is so, then why should anyone take you seriously, since you are simply determining truth for yourself? To cite St. Augustine (though I suppose he is suspect, since he wasn’t a Baptist): “The truth is neither mine nor his nor another’s; but belongs to us all whom Thou callest to partake of it, warning us terribly, not to account it private to ourselves, lest we be deprived of it.”

Steven R. Harmon said...

Many thanks, Bruce--I appreciate that clarification. For those who may have lingering questions regarding my love for and devotion to the Baptist tradition, I point to my guest commentary "The Church Still Needs Baptists" published in the August 2009 issue of Baptists Today--see page 28 of the linked archived issue in PDF: http://www.baptiststoday.org/backissues/2009_08.pdf.

Bruce T. Gourley said...

Curtis:

Freedom of conscience and soul liberty are not "modern" concepts. They go back to our 17th century Baptist forebears. But the concepts were indeed liberal in that day and time.

As to the Trinity, do you think that denial of the Trinity disqualifies one from being a part of God's Kingdom? If so, what other wrong thinking keeps persons out of God's Kingdom?

Bruce T. Gourley said...

Ralph:

What does freedom of conscience mean to you? Who does your thinking for you? Who tells you what is true? Does the Holy Spirit interact with you personally?

As to Augustine, of course he did not believe in freedom of conscience. Rather, he believed that persons should be forced by the sword, if necessary, to join the family of God:

"But we have shown that Paul was compelled by Christ; therefore the Church, in trying to compel the Donatists, is following the example of her Lord . . .. Wherefore, if the power [of the sword] which the Church has received by divine appointment in its due season, through the religious character and faith of Kings, be the instrument by which those who are found in the highways and hedges--that is, in heresies and schisms--are compelled to come in, then let them not find fault because they are compelled" (De Correctione Donatistarum 23,24)

Now, tell me why you take Augustine seriously? Or do you pick and choose of Augustine what you want to believe? Or is the decision not yours to make?

Steven R. Harmon said...

Bruce, neither Augustine nor John Smyth (or the contributions of any other figure from the Christian tradition) can be retrieved in toto or uncritically. I've argued as much in chapter 3 of Towards Baptist Catholicity, which has the subtitle "A Postmodern Baptist Hermeneutic of Tradition." The tradition--including the Baptist stream of it--must be interpreted and retrieved critically. Augustine is helpful at some points and less helpful at others, and John Smyth is helpful at some points and less helpful at others. But we must all be engaged together in these critical efforts at retrieval. Who makes such decisions? It's not true that Baptists don't have magistrium. We don't have a hierarchical magisterium--I have argued against such, contrary to what has been attributed to me and others--but we do and ought to have what I have called a "magistrium of the whole"--a magisterium of all the saints, that begins for us with the community of the local Baptist congregation but may and ought to take into account the voices of other Christian sisters and brothers, past and present. We do this together, and no one does it for us (or instead of us).

Curtis Freeman said...

Bruce--Thank you for taking time to clarify your views. This is not the best medium for understanding one another, especially those we don't know well. My question about the Trinity is a question, not an accusation. I do not mean to imply, though some may have inferred, that by saying "for one to deliberately deny the Trinity is a much different and more dangerous matter" I was associating you with "one." It was a general reference. And I'm sorry if you or others have taken it that way. I do think that deliberate and willful rejection of the Trinity is a deeply serious matter. As you reminded us earlier, many of the early General Baptists lost the Trinitarian faith, becoming Unitarian, Arian, and Socinian. Though some were orthodox, the General Association allowed it until they eventually withered and died.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

Barry Harvey said...

And Ralph, those who have even a passing acquaintance with you know that you dance to no man's or woman's tune, but they also know that you are humble and wise enough not to believe that you can discern what is good, true and beautiful by yourself, or on your own distinguish between whatever promptings the Holy Spirit may be giving you and your own inclinations on such matters.

Bruce T. Gourley said...

Curtis: Thanks for the note. I don't take any of these conversations personally, but rather as frank discussion. And I do think this online dialogue (whether you personally prefer the format or not) is helpful.

Steve: Of course you are right about Augustine and Smyth. And I agree with much of what you are saying ...

But, this larger conversation (here and in other blogs) leads me to this ...

Gentlemen (yes, I notice at this point only men have sounded off in the discussion here and elsewhere):

There is not a one of us that would argue that anyone can live in a vacuum. We are all products of those who have gone before. We read, we study, we learn - from those who have gone before, whether from the biblical writers, early church fathers, the early Baptists, from more recent history - whatever.

And we live our own lives (other than in terms of family) in the larger context of those with whom we choose to associate with, whether in church, academy hall, neighborhood, etc.

Community is a part of who we are. Yet we are still individuals. I may amass a wealth of information before I make a decision - but I weigh it all in the balance and make the decision. It is the same with our faith. We each are responsible for what we believe. I cannot force or mandate anyone to believe this or that.

In the same fashion, the "he made me believe it!" or "they made be believe it!" defense doesn't cut it, in law courts or theology. Each of us are ultimately the proprietors of our own individual faiths. Wherever we go to gather faith sources or traditions, we each, as Steve indicates, are responsible for the winnowing of that which we gather.

Historically, it is clear that none of us would be Baptists today if our early Baptist forebears did not declare, and act upon, freedom of conscience and break away from the community traditions of the 16th century Church. We are the faith descendants of a people who dared to break away from community tradition, because that community tradition was oppressive and, in the perception of dissenters, unbiblical.

Now, I am well aware that since you guys introduced the Baptist Manifesto, you have repeatedly been warned (by persons much wiser and more learned than I) that your agenda leans far to one side of the community/individual dynamic - at the expense of the clear emphasis placed on the individual conscience in matters of faith by both Christ and our early Baptist forefathers. There have been ample calls, and you've had ample opportunity, to address this imbalance ... and rather than heeding the calls for balance, you've tilted the imbalance even further, it seems to me.

So I am asking each of you if you are willing to bring balance to your assertions, beginning with these two simple affirmations:

* are you willing to affirm that Baptists, while living in community, have historically recognized the freedom of individuals to make their own faith choices?

* are you willing to affirm that Baptists, while partakers of scripture within the context of community, have historically insisted upon the freedom of the individual to read and interpret scripture for himself or herself?

Barry Harvey said...

Bruce, your questions presuppose that "individual" and "church" can be juxtaposed as oppositional entities, and that is something we deny.

The complex relationship between person and community is entirely contingent and constantly being modified, the one by the other. We never see the communal, save for its manifestation in "individual" (that is, in bodily and linguistic) action, and we cannot understand the intention of such actions apart from their location within social processes which they both tacitly assume and modify.

Dissent as a matter of conscience, for example, is unintelligible apart from participation in a community that posits shared understandings. The relationship between community and person is not that of whole to atomic parts, as your questions attempt to stipulate.

Hence we reject your contention that we lean to far to this or that side, because these "sides" just don't exist as discrete, identifiable entities.

Bruce T. Gourley said...

You are reaching for something that does not exist: there is no universal Church that is centered upon "shared understandings." Rather, the universal Church (community) is incredibly diverse in doctrine and practice (and many other ways), and always has been.

The closest the Church as a whole probably ever came to a "shared understanding" was in the early confession, "Jesus is Lord." And that is probably about the extent of the unity that one would find today in the universal Church.

From the time of Constantine forward, various branches of Christianity utilized creeds not for the purpose of unity, but rather for division.

Creeds posited a given branch of Christianity as holding truth, while denying the validity of opposing beliefs held by others within Christendom. In effect, creeds served the purpose of portraying doctrinal opponents as heretics, and therefore not part of the Church.

Our early Baptist forebears rejected this historical usage of creeds as tools of division and death (yes, the creeds that you champion have been used throughout history as a tool for the killing of untold thousands if not millions of individuals who dared exercise freedom of conscience). Instead, early Baptists championed freedom of conscience and turned to confessions that spelled out what they (those signing the confessions) generally believed at that given point in time, while allowing for dissent.

Even on a practical level, you guys are not living up to what you preach: you claim, in holding community aloft and putting a lid on individualism, that "we must all be engaged together" in determining what we believe and you say "we do this together" ... yet from the beginning to this moment you have totally rejected the input of your Baptist colleagues who call you to a balanced theology.

That is, you and your colleagues (from all indications that I've seen) choose to listen only to those voices which reflect your own views. This is the same one-sided, us-vs-them manner in which creeds Constantine-forward were crafted.

In the bigger contemporary picture, this is not unlike Christian fundamentalists positing that the original biblical autographs are inerrant: in reality, there was never a singular collection of biblical autographs in the first place, and no original biblical autographs exist. They are reaching for something which does not exist in order to validate their own doctrine. And it seems to me that Bapto-Cathlics are doing the same thing.

Now, if this sounds harsh, I ask you: who are the ones being harsh? You, who refuse to listen to opposing voices? Or your Baptist colleagues who are saying to you: there is much to be applauded in your assertions, but here's what is needed to bring balance and historical perspective to your propositions, so let's work together to present a balanced view that better represents the historical and present Baptist community?

P. Thompson said...

Bruce, please allow me to respond to your initial post and then your response that comes just before Barry's and your last posts.

I've watched this from some remove, now teaching in South Dakota at a North American Baptist school (founded, I would add, by Walter Rauschenbusch's father as the German Department of the Rochester Divinity School).

With reference to your initial post, I do not deny that freedom of conscience and soul liberty are central to the Baptist narrative. No one can read Baptist writings over the years and question that. The question I raise, however, is whether the ways in which these are now understood are faithful to the ways the earliest Baptists understood them.

If I might speak a word of "personal testimony" (a fine practice I'll not reject), I was not brought to embrace the creeds and sacraments through some sort of awe-struck realization of what power the Roman or Eastern traditions held and think, "Boy, if Baptists could just do that - what a day of rejoicing it would be." I couldn't do that. I was too well formed in the narrative of Baptist identity I learned growing up in an SBC parsonage and attending a North Carolina Baptist college and then two years at Southeastern. I knew the story. I didn't question it.

Where did I find this? I found it in the early Baptist writings.

I was in the chapel at SEBTS and heard with my own ears Randall Lolley's announcement of his resignation. In moral protest, I withdrew the following academic year and completed my divinity and graduate studies at non-Baptist institutions.

Funny thing about being a Baptist studying the non-Baptists: The cliches that are so readily passed on and passed around are not simply accepted. At Union Seminary in Virginia, I was asked where "soul competency" appeared in the Baptist heritage. "Oh,it's been there from the beginning," I responded. But when I went digging - I found something quite different. I also found a Baptist confession saying, "The Three Creeds, (viz.) Nicene Creed, Athanasius his Creed, and
the Apostles Creed, (as they are commonly called) ought throughly to be received, and believed. For we believe they may be proved by most undoubted Authority of holy Scripture, and are necessary to be understood of all Christians; and to be instructed in the knowledg of them, by the Ministers of Christ, according to the Analogie of Faith, recorded in sacred
Scriptures (upon which these Creeds are grounded), and Catechistically opened, and expounded in all Christian Families, for the edification of
Young and Old; which might be a means to prevent Heresie in Doctrine, and Practice, these Creeds containing all things in a brief manner, that are necessary to be known, fundamentally, in order to our Salvation;." (Orthodox Creed, article XXXVIII)

What are our options concerning Baptists and creeds? No, Baptists didn't impose them, and spoke clearly that the State through its Church could not without grave offense to God (not, mind you the human conscience) do so. But they surely esteemed them. If we reject all use of creeds, are we implying our forebears weren't "really" Baptist?

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P. Thompson said...

Sacraments? Even into the 19th century, numerous hymnals included (which is an indication that it was sung frequently - hymns that aren't used aren't preserved) a hymn that provided a baptismal epiclesis: "Descend, celestial Dove, And make thy presence known; Reveal our Saviour's love, And seal us for thine own. Unblest by thee, our works are vain; Nor can we e'er acceptance gain." (The Baptist Hymn Book, ABPS, 1871, # 778 - this hymnal, by the way, was used by the eastern NC congregation I served six years as pastor - though not during my pastorate).

Or again (#757): "Eternal Spirit, heavenly Dove, On these baptismal waters move; And grant that we, through grace divine, May have the substance with the sign."

Is that not a sacramental understanding of baptism? These examples, Bruce, are not isolated. They can be multiplied. Now, I will grant that the words were changed - by Manly in his Baptist Psalmody (I think that was the title - I don't have that one in my office). The Spirit was invoked on the persons to be baptized. But that's part of my point. When Baptists became non or anti-sacramental, it represented a change in the way they understood and practiced the faith. Oh, yes, it had been coming. But I want to underscore that the "historic" view that is so often invoked and commended is not original. And by the logic of this "newer" view (admittedly, now a couple hundred years old) our forebears become so terribly inconsistent I wonder who would want to be associated with them? But we invoke them, namelessly often, along with those who came after the change.

P. Thompson said...

What about the right to private interpretation? Well, in a sense, of course. Everyone can read and interpret the Scripture for her/himself. Everyone is "free" to think whatever s/he will on matters of faith. But our forebears were not keen on that being the case. In fact, Andrew Fuller said that was an improper extension of political liberty. In "Essays on Ecclesiastical Polity: An Inquiry into the Right of Private Judgment in Religion," he observed that he was noticing an alarming trend among Baptists to go from saying they were not obligated to civil laws concerning religious adherence to not being "subject to the control of a religious society with which they stand connected for any tenets which they may think proper to avow." He rejected this. It was, he said, "contrary to reason and the fitness of things." If this so-called right be paramount, he said, "Christ came in vain."

What are we to do with that? Was Fuller not a Baptist?

Further, in his "On Creeds and Subscriptions," Fuller affirmed clearly that civil authorities cannot impose creeds. "[B]ut if explicit agreement in what may be deemed fundamental principles be judged essential to fellowship, this is only requiring that a man appear to be a Christian before he have a right to be treated as such." This is pretty much what Curtis meant, I think, in asking about the Trinity. Fuller went on in that treatise to claim that if we cannot judge truth, then we cannot judge morality (what he called "practical matters").

I've gone on enough - though I could go on more. Forgive me, Bruce, but it was the early Baptists who turned me toward a more catholic understanding of the faith. And I refuse to adopt an understanding of Baptist identity that dismisses so much of my own past for only the more recent part (granting it's been around quite a while).

You drew two lines in the sand in your response to Curtis and Steve. I'll give my reply:

1. Yes. In the same way Andrew Fuller did, I affirm that right. We can do it, but the wisdom of our ancestors is against it. I stand with the ancestors.

2. Yes, but only if "historically" means "since about the end of the 18th century."

Now - this is so large and complex a question, Bruce. We all have to admit that it cannot be settled in a blog. I know there are things that could be said in rejoinder to my assertions. But I've yet to hear a rejoinder that cannot be answered satisfactorily.

Bruce T. Gourley said...

Phillip,

I appreciate you joining the discussion. By way of great irony (predestination?), when your comment landed in my inbox, I was sitting in the Montana sunshine on my deck (it is a beautiful day here in Bozeman!) re-reading ... the Orthodox Creed!

I kid you not. I had just read XXXVI, and then paused to make some notes and check email ... and there was your comment. :-)

As it turns out, I have been reading early English Baptist confessions for an upcoming seminar. And thus I noticed that the only Baptist creed of English Baptists of the 17th century that I have thus far read, that mentions the early church creeds, seems to be the Orthodox Creed.

Now, I don't know about you, but I've not found any one 17th century English Baptist creed that I would wholly put my faith in.

The same goes with sacramentalism: just because one or two or even a handful of Baptists in the early centuries said or wrote something that one can construe toward sacramentalism, does not mean they speak for Baptists as a whole (and no doubt they would have denied any such claim).

And I think it is quite fair to say that I stand with the vast bulk of our early English Baptist forebears and beyond, in avoiding creeds and sacramentalism.

Accordingly, if we are going to talk about doing faith in and from within community, why would we pick out a handful of persons from our history to emulate ... rather than seeking out that which the majority of our historic faith community have embraced?

Barry Harvey said...

Bruce, how did I know that you were going to play the fundamentalist card? Wait for it, it's coming, its coming...there it is!

BTW, I have no idea where you got the notion that I was talking about a "universal Church that is centered upon 'shared understandings'." Certainly not from what I wrote. Please read what I actually wrote, which was a formal philosophical description of the relationship between the social and the personal agent. If you would like to respond to that, please feel free to do so, but don't attribute something to me that I didn't even come remotely close to saying.

As for your contention that creeds have been used since the time of Constantine as means of division, or as I would say, exclusion, I agree completely (actually, the pre-Constantinian regulae fidei [forgive me if my Latin is off] that are the precursors to creeds functioned in the same way). The same should be said about the establishment of a canon of scripture. Formally stated, a creed is any belief or set of beliefs that function institutionally as a principle of exclusion. The establishment of the biblical canon serves the same end.

Of course, "a branch of Christianity" could declare the biblical canon open, or even toss it out altogether in favor of some, purportedly more "inclusive" conception of identity, but that would exclude from its membership those who could not agree to such actions.

The irony is, you use "Baptist distinctives" in the same manner: to exclude some (namely, those dreaded "Bapto-Catholics) from true Baptist identity.

In the same way, if you refuse to confess God as triune, you divide yourself from those millions of Christians who do so every Lord's Day, and do so without feeling a hint of coercion.

If that is what you want to do, I want no agency with the power of coercive force, which in the modern world is the exclusive (!) prerogative of the state, to hinder you from doing so. As the 17th century Baptist affirmed in continuity with Aquinas, Occam, Calvin, Zwingli and many of the radical reformers, one should never act against conscience, and thus understood it as having an absolute negative authority. Like these others, however, they also believed that conscience had only a relative positive authority, because while it was inviolable it was not infallible. One had the obligation to see to it that one's conscience was properly formed, which is why Roger Williams, in The Bloody Tenant of Persecution, said that even "kings and kaisers...are bound to subject their own souls to the ministry and church, the power and government of this Lord Jesus, the King of kings."

Barry Harvey said...

Bruce, how did I know that you were going to play the fundamentalist card? Wait for it, it's coming, its coming...there it is!

BTW, I have no idea where you got the notion that I was talking about a "universal Church that is centered upon 'shared understandings'." Certainly not from what I wrote. Please read what I actually wrote, which was a formal philosophical description of the relationship between the social and the personal agent. If you would like to respond to that, please feel free to do so, but don't attribute something to me that I didn't even come remotely close to saying.

As for your contention that creeds have been used since the time of Constantine as means of division, or as I would say, exclusion, I agree completely (actually, the pre-Constantinian regulae fidei [forgive me if my Latin is off] that are the precursors to creeds functioned in the same way). The same should be said about the establishment of a canon of scripture. Formally stated, a creed is any belief or set of beliefs that function institutionally as a principle of exclusion. The establishment of the biblical canon serves the same end.

Of course, "a branch of Christianity" could declare the biblical canon open, or even toss it out altogether in favor of some, purportedly more "inclusive" conception of identity, but that would exclude from its membership those who could not agree to such actions.

Barry Harvey said...

The irony is, you use "Baptist distinctives" in the same manner: to exclude some (namely, those dreaded "Bapto-Catholics) from true Baptist identity.

In the same way, if you refuse to confess God as triune, you divide yourself from those millions of Christians who do so every Lord's Day, and do so without feeling a hint of coercion.

If that is what you want to do, I want no agency with the power of coercive force, which in the modern world is the exclusive (!) prerogative of the state, to hinder you from doing so. As the 17th century Baptist affirmed in continuity with Aquinas, Occam, Calvin, Zwingli and many of the radical reformers, one should never act against conscience, and thus understood it as having an absolute negative authority. Like these others, however, they also believed that conscience had only a relative positive authority, because while it was inviolable it was not infallible. One had the obligation to see to it that one's conscience was properly formed, which is why Roger Williams, in The Bloody Tenant of Persecution, said that even "kings and kaisers...are bound to subject their own souls to the ministry and church, the power and government of this Lord Jesus, the King of kings."

P. Thompson said...

Thanks, Bruce. I'm glad to know that you're reading the Orthodox Creed. You know no one has asked you to put your faith in that or any confession. I'm not sure why you rejected it unless it was to redirect the conversation. I was speaking about what early Baptists confessed.

You're right - it's the only one to give the ecumenical creeds. But we find also Grantham citing the English and Latin texts of the Apostles Creed before sharing the 1663 edition of the Standard Confession. He did it to show that Baptists agreed with "the earlier writers of Christianity."

We also have to wonder why the early Baptists turned to existing confessions and catechisms on a number of occasions. The Baptist Catechism reflects the Westminster Shorter Catechism, and Hercules Collins had a fine catechism patterned on the Heidelberg. ("What is your only comfort in life and in death?" - the forebears didn't say it was because they believed a creed.)

I won't answer at length - not because such an answer isn't possible. Briefly, I think you're too quick to dismiss the larger consensus. One or two or a handful is not accurate. You claim to stand with the majority. I don't see it. But it is far more nuanced than that. I hope you know that.

As for sacramental theology. I think Kiffin was more representative: the one who cares not for Christ sacramental cares not for Christ God, for in the latter the former draws near.

Numerically, I think you are with the majority. I've never been much of a majoritarian (until the majority agrees with me, which is fairly rare :-) ). But what I will continue to argue is that the majority reflects a change in Baptist thought that the vast majority don't realize or acknowledge - or defend as superior to what we changed from.

Ok - class tomorrow. If you write again, it will be a while before I respond.

P. Thompson said...

By the way, if you want to say it's predestined that you read the Orthodox Creed now, you can make that theological interpretation. I don't like to go down such a "Calvinistic" path.

Bruce T. Gourley said...

Barry,

It seems we agree that creeds divide. This is a starting point, perhaps. But I will confess I am puzzled as to why you and your colleagues are pushing a divisive tool (creeds) obstensibly for the sake of "unity"?

As far as reciting creeds, a huge number of Christians worldwide - perhaps a majority - do not recite creeds on the Lord's Day. Are they less in the Kingdom of God?

But more to the point: If you are so concerned about the faith of the Baptist community ... why not align yourself with the practices of the majority of Baptists? Why get together with a handful of theologians and craft a Manifesto document that does not represent what most Baptists, past or present, believe? Why confess (so to speak) confidence in the supremacy of the social agency of the church ... but personally presume to speak on behalf of that social agency, professing beliefs that are not representative of the society as a whole? And why dismiss your fellow Baptists who disagree with you?

And why choose a sliver of the Baptist heritage, faith and experience and seek to pass it off as normative (and impose it upon all?)?

I'm not the only one by far who sees a disconnect between Bapto-Catholic rhetoric and practice.

So, help me out! Tell me why a handful of twenty-first Baptist theologians should speak on behalf of, and steer the theology of, the Baptist community at large, refusing the council of their Baptist brothers and sisters?

Bruce T. Gourley said...

Phillip,

Parts of the Orthodox Creed I agree with, and I'm betting you don't even agree with all it, but rather choose to pick and choose that which most suits you.

As to your contention that you represent the predomiant view, among early Baptists, concerning creeds, this Baptist historian does not buy it. The Orthodox Creed itself, the one early Baptist confession you agree expresses affirmation of the creeds of the church fathers, was penned by 54 men representing a few churches in four counties.

As to the larger issue of what the majority of Baptists (pun intended) believe, my point is this: you and your colleagues claim that truth is known only through the collective voice of the entire community of faith - yet in reality, you guys are out of sync with the majority-collective voice of your community of faith.

And it seems to me, the agenda of your little group is to impose your own will upon the community, as you have repeatedly rebuffed attempts to balance your views to reflect the actual beliefs of community of faith at large.

Chris Schelin said...

(Part 2)

Dr. Freeman showed us the depth and breadth of the Baptist tradition (not just a Bapto-Catholic gloss, mind you) and I fell in ecclesial love, so to speak. I believed there was a positive tradition here worth defending, explaining, and sharing with the ecumenical Church catholic that I also embraced and loved. My earlier love affair with Eastern Orthodoxy now appeared fraught with theological difficulties.

My thoughtful friends from college did not share this positive experience. They also saw that, while the conservatives drew too tight a circle, the moderates did not seem interesting in finding any circle that expressed the comforts of home and the accumulated wisdom of saints past and present. So several became Episcopalian/Anglican and one completed the journey to Eastern Orthodoxy that I abandoned.

So, to continue the conversation, I ask a couple of questions:

1. What would you have said to me and my friends if we came to you with the sense that the moderate values we had fought for now appeared little more than empty signifiers?

2. Is it your opinion that I am better off a non-Baptist than the kind of Baptist I am now, ministering in a church and supportive of the dreaded Bapto-Catholics? Is my theological journey essentially un-Baptist?

Chris Schelin said...

Part 1-B:

Toward the end of the summer of 2005, as I was preparing to enter Duke Divinity School, I began seriously contemplating Eastern Orthodoxy. Duke’s postliberal catholicity only reinforced my bent toward switching to a Christian communion that enthusiastically embraced the ancient faith. I stepped back from the brink; at first only because I realized I needed more time to consider all the theological possibilities. Then a peer suggested I read the Baptist Manifesto. I attended a lecture by Dr. Freeman on Baptists and the Trinity. At the start of my second year, I enrolled in his Free Church course.

Chris Schelin said...

Ugh, this has been a strange process! Here's Part 1-A, just go backwards through the posts!


Dr. Gourley,

In good Baptist fashion, allow me to offer a word of testimony.

To introduce myself: a Baptist born of Baptists, raised SBC with the conviction that this was the most accurate expression of Christian doctrine and practice. I attended a Baptist college in my home state during the first half of the previous decade. Upon my matriculation the moderate faculty introduced me to a different interpretation of the Baptist tradition. Given that my home state is a conservative, Bible belt, red state, it was only a matter of time, however, before the ultra-conservative establishment, led by the requisite demagogues, would assert its authority over the college. The Baptist battles came to my school and I was a partisan. Few students fought more diligently for the moderate position than I. Of course, we lost.

During the course of the fight, I became disillusioned with my “side.” I began to wonder if I was forfeiting my theological soul for a world of moderate principles. Don’t get me wrong – I will forever disdain the lies, the coercion, and the contempt exercised by the conservatives. But, regardless of the critiques that may be leveled at their interpretations, at least the conservatives cared about important doctrines like the nature of Scripture and the atonement. The adult leaders of the moderate movement, as I experienced it, ultimately cared for little more than individual expressivism. I wasn’t prepared to endorse a Christian faith devoid of meaningful content, so I stood on the deck rail and contemplated a dive into the ocean.

Bruce T. Gourley said...

Chris (and please call me Bruce),

Thanks for moving this conversation onto a practical level. What you see transpiring in the conversation herein is a Baptist dialogue. I think there is room for all of us in the Baptist family. My contention with my Baptist colleagues who are of Bapto-Catholic persuasion is that: 1) despite their focus on community, their views do not represent the Baptist community at large; 2) they misrepresent and/or cherry pick Baptist history to align with their theology, and 3) for 13 years - since the Baptist Manifesto - they have resisted overtures from their Baptist history colleagues to work together for balance and truer historical perspective.

We are living in an ecumenical age, and this is good; Baptists can learn much from other faith traditions, and vice-versa. We can celebrate this.

On the other hand, as noted by myself and Barry, the actual purpose of creeds is to divide and exclude, to create an us-vs-them paradigm. Therein lies one reason why our Baptist forebears avoided them: creeds muffled the spirit, turned many followers of Christ into heretics, and often killed the flesh. (Note: Baptists themselves have been guilty, at times, of fostering an us-vs-them mentality.)

When we go beyond the early creeds per se and begin quoting the early church fathers, we immediately have to censure them, for much of what they say and did was (and is) untenable today.

Are the (censured) early church traditions/fathers more valuable than our early Baptist tradition (which itself is uneven in terms of what one might want to embrace today, or not)? Can allegiance to early church orthodoxy exist hand-in-hand with freedom of conscience?

These are questions we are wrestling with now. I believe good Baptists can disagree on the answer to these questions. But I am troubled that some Baptists consider the Baptist tradition of freedom of conscience, "pathetic," or even simply untenable.

It may be that ecumenical winds of our modern times, and/or a contemporary search for doctrinal certainty, have led some Baptists to find solace in early church creeds and santicized versions of early church fathers. And it is true that some Baptists, conversely, misuse freedom. Yet, does either - creeds or freedom - merit total dismissal?

I would suggest that if creeds come to replace freedom in Baptist life, Baptists will cease to exist in spirit (if not in name). Also, I am pretty certain some Bapto-Catholics are more Catholic than Baptist.

As to your own persusasion and your place in Baptist life, there is more latitude for you in Baptist life than just about any other denomination. Some may find this comforting, others disconcerting.

Baptist life may be messy, but the messiness is not equated with irresponsibility, and is not for the faint of heart. At our best, I believe, we recognize that no human has a lock on truth. All doctrines that humans formulate are incomplete at best. Our interpretations of scripture are fallible. We pledge spiritual allegiance only to Christ, and have the freedom to struggle, from generation to generation, to flesh out what that means in our own lives individually and in community.

Chris Schelin said...

(Part 1)

Bruce,

Thank you for your kind words. I appreciate the dialogue and acknowledge with you that such is at the heart of our shared Baptist vision of the Church.

I do not worry about being able to participate in CBF life, or even finding a shared space with like-minded peers. My concern, as I think others have pointed out, is that I worry about being construed as an “untrue” Baptist even as I embrace CBF. And that is where I see some inconsistency – I am welcomed to a point, it seems, but my take on the Baptist vision must always be judged marginal. It is one thing for moderates to either a) establish clear, defined parameters on their identity, and enforce those or b) affirm ambiguity and contestation over the interpretation of the Baptist vision within a certain, broad framework. I can accept either course of action. What I don’t want to live with is the kind of limbo that says there are clear parameters and yet I am allowed to remain at the indulgence of the majority. In other words, it would be better for moderates to say that their identity is individualistic soul freedom, and the Baptist Catholicity movement is better off searching for another ecclesial fellowship; or that catholic, sacramental interpretations are accepted as a legitimate strand within a polyvalent movement drawn towards a common center.

And this brings me to two different points in response to your comment: one more immediate to this concern, and one concerning the appropriation of Christian history.

Chris Schelin said...

(Part 2)

The first is that I don’t begrudge the right and responsibility of a group to shape its identity in distinctive and, therefore, divisive ways. I see a disconnect between you and Dr. Harvey in that you acknowledge his point only partially in order to reinforce your own, and then miss (or intentionally ignore) the deeper, underlying conclusion. Yes, creeds do set limits. They are exclusive and divisive. Dr. Harvey went on to say that the canon of Scripture is itself a tool of division. You take his acknowledgement as a concession to your argument – creeds are divisive, so why employ them? But that move is built on the assumption that division and exclusion must necessarily be mean-spirited, coercive, or judgmental practices. What I see Dr. Harvey trying to say is that exclusion is a necessary requirement of identity formation, whether for the individual or the association. To say “we are thus” is also to say “thus we are not.” To confess “Christ is thus” is to confess “Krishna is not thus.” I agree that there are terrible ways of seeking and achieving a common confession, and I agree there is always the need for humility and charity. But humility cannot save you from the task of separation, unless you wish to find yourself without a story.

Chris Schelin said...

(Part 3)

My second point is on the usefulness of the historical Church for theological reflection today. As you say, both the universal tradition and the Baptist tradition are filled with perilous claims and contradictions. No one I know of in the BC movement is attempting to set one against the other or claim infallibility for this particular century or that particular patristic interpretation. I see two correlative claims: a) the universal tradition is indeed our heritage, and the Baptist commitment to listening for the Spirit through every voice includes the dead who are still alive in Christ; and b) the Baptist tradition has more treasures, and more complications, than the simple story of an unbroken succession of soul liberty individualists. In that sense, I offer a word between you and Philip Thompson. My own research confirms the theological resources that he draws upon. At the same time, the BC movement will find no period in which Baptists thought and acted in a manner readily equivalent to our approach today.

Oh, and just to have you know, I fully affirm freedom of conscience and do believe that goes hand in hand with allegiance to historic orthodoxy.

Bruce T. Gourley said...

Chris,

Again, thanks for your thoughts.

You say: "What I don’t want to live with is the kind of limbo that says there are clear parameters and yet I am allowed to remain at the indulgence of the majority. In other words, it would be better for moderates to say that their identity is individualistic soul freedom, and the Baptist Catholicity movement is better off searching for another ecclesial fellowship; or that catholic, sacramental interpretations are accepted as a legitimate strand within a polyvalent movement drawn towards a common center."

It seems to me that, in this debate, those seeking to draw clear parameters are Bapto-Catholic leaders, who presume to pronounce theology for the community as a whole. The moderate Baptist identity is both freedom of individual conscience and faith within community. Thus far, despite repeated opportunities, Bapto-Catholic leaders have refused to affirm this balanced identity, and have blithely dismissed the freedom element of Baptist identity. It seems to me that they are the ones who are creating artificial constructs/division: the idea of having sacramentalism as "a" strand is not the goal, but rather elevating it to "the" strand of Baptist identity.

And it seems to me that your own dual convictions of freedom of conscience and historic orthodoxy are helpful in this debate.

Bruce T. Gourley said...

I'd like to draw attention to a statement by Doug Weaver, Associate Professor of Religion and Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Religion, Baylor University.

Anonymous said...

Correct me if I am wrong, but creedalism and sacramentalism have not proven to be particularly effective antidotes to individualism and theological liberalism in other traditions.

Carol Holcomb said...

Bruce and Friends,
I enter this conversation with great fear and trembling, but I am thrilled that at last a straight forward debate has ensued. I am sure that we could all agree that our love for debate is in our Baptist DNA. First of all, let me affirm that I stand with Bruce in rejecting creeds as a basis for our unity. A longer response is posted in my editorial "Creeds, Chaos, and the Holy Spirit." http://www.abpnews.com/content/view/2781/120/ I accept the central trinitarian and christological formulations of Nicaea and Chalcedon. So, no need to quibble over which of us is more orthodox. As much as I love hyperbole, I will try to restrain myself. It seems to me that the major bone of contention is ecclesiology. What is the basis for (and the limits of)our unity? If Doug Weaver is right, then this yearning for a pure untainted fellowship is one mark of our Baptist identity. Ironically, the hunger for correct and faithful adherence to scripture led Smyth to break with his community in a spirit of rebellion and schism. But, he didn't leave alone and go into the woods. He left with a community. Was he shaped by his Puritan heritage/community? Certainly. None of us have argued that people develop identity or faith in a vacuum. That would be silly. But, I cannot let go of the prophetic image that when God speaks someone hears--whether Abraham, Ezekiel, or Augustine. Some PERSON hears. Now, did they hear in the symbols, the language, the images of their culture and community? Of course. But that doesn't negate the fact that a person heard God speak. We may be arguing at cross purposes. But, I cannot surrender the individual--the possibility that God may call any one of us to leave "land and kindred" and go to a new land (metaphorically speaking.)Some of you will say, "the prophet is heard within the community." But history tells us the prophet is usually stoned by the community. Historians wish to guard the devout, pious Christian from the oppression of a powerful Christian community--which we can all agree has a long and bloody history of tyranny. Bottom line, I fear tyranny as much as some fear heresy. Both can brutalize the body of Christ and twist it into something unrecognizable. I will admit that I need those voices that cry out against the dangers of heresy. But, I must insist that you hear my voice warning against the evils of tyranny. Like Antioch and Alexandria, we both defend crucial elements of the truth.

Chris Schelin said...

Bruce,

Again, I thank you for your kindness. I don't believe, however, that my twinned convictions distinguish me from those with whom you have sparred. I'll be the first to admit my bias, but I don't think I stand apart from them in that regard, nor do I accept your characterization of them. We may just have to disagree on that point.

As far as Doug Weaver's statement, well, I found it appalling.

Steven R. Harmon said...

Bruce, here's a fuller expression of my perspective on the matter: http://ecclesialtheology.blogspot.com/2010/09/word-about-proposed-cbfnc-foundational.html

Anonymous said...

It has been suggested that the more communitarian notions of Baptist identity are shared by British and other Baptists and that "soul competency" and its corresponding "individualism" are merely vestiges of EY Mullin's and moderate Southern Baptist's modernist impulses. If so, how do we reconcile this with the 1911 BWA address of the British Baptist John Clifford--elected president of the BWA at that historic 1905 inaugural meeting? Here are Clifford's words: "On spiritual experience we build, not on creeds, but on 'conversion,' 'a change of heart,' the awakening of the soul to God in Christ."
"Therefore we preach 'soul liberty,' and contend against all comers that the spirit of man has the privilege of a direct conscious relation to God in Christ and through Christ. Nothing may come between the soul and God."

Bruce T. Gourley said...

Steve,

I am well aware, and have already shared documentation, that you guys pushed BWA toward the Centenary particular message you reference. I am also well aware that you guys have been pushing the NC document for several years, without fully revealing your agenda to NC Baptists. That is, you are not as innocent as you pretend.

And if you know your history, you know that the orginal 1905 recitation of the Apostles Creed by the BWA was itself quite controversial.

As to the substance of your qualitative catholicity built upon the foundation of Ignatius of Antioch, he used orthodoxy - and the Eucharist - as a tool to root out heresy. I gather that you are following his model?

I am quite aware that you (and your colleagues) have tried to confine this conversation to the theological realm. Here's what you said in an interview published this past weekend:

Steve: "This [the teaching of Bapto-Catholicity] has to happen first in the context of theological education. The future ministers of the church must be formed in such a manner that they see the need to recover our catholic roots in the worship and Christian education of local congregations. A few of us are trying to teach with these things in mind; we’ll have to let a future generation be the judge as to whether we’ve succeeded in having some impact." [See the entire interview here.]

For one who publicly advocates a "mutual reading of scripture," the Bapto-Catholic model is certainly top-down (i.e., we certain theologians know best, and we will tell the rest of you what to believe). This does hearken to Ignatius, who had a top-down approach to faith, teaching that ecclesiastical order was a tool for ensuring doctrinal purity (orthodoxy).

In the interview referenced above, you go so far as to suggest that since "soul competency" and "individualism" are inappropriate, Baptists - in seeking to discern doctrinal truth - should turn to magisterial authority, in the shape of "Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican communions for liturgical guidance" and to "the habit of reading papal encyclicals and bishops’ letters as models of communal moral discernment."

It seems to me that you MUST have this conversation in theological circles exclusively, as the actual community of Baptists would have little interest in the liturgy of Rome or the authority of the Pope's pronouncements.

Bottom line: this conversation is now in the open, in public. I suspect that most Baptists have no interest in abandoning their freedom heritage and pitching their theological and ecclesial tent in Catholic, Orthodox, or Anglican camps.

You will have plenty of opportunity to try and explain yourself to the Baptist community in North Carolina in the coming weeks. To which I say, best of luck. :-)

Steven R. Harmon said...

Bruce, I must quickly correct your facts on two matters you reference: (1) I and others did advocate for recitation of the Apostles's Creed at the 2005 Centenary Congress, but as people on the committee responsible for planning the Congress have pointed out in publicly, that advocacy had no impact on plans that were already underway to do such. The crucial point is that neither I nor any of the other persons you have referenced had anything at all to do with the "Message of the Centenary Congress," which is the source of the language some are finding objectionable. Advocacy for the Creed at the Congress and the "Message of the Centenary Congress" are absolutely unrelated. (2) The interview you reference was not published last week, despite the date apparently supplied by recent Google searches. I provided it, and it was published online, in 2007. The Google search apparently latched onto a current date on the blog on which it was published, but that's not the date of the interview. It's been around for three years. As to the other matters you mention, they are tangential at best to the discussion, as I did not draft the language in question but received it from others. People may or may not be interested in debating my proposals in Towards Baptist Catholicity, but my own theological work is not responsible for the text under discussion.

Steven R. Harmon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Burton said...

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the middle of them.
Matthew 18:20 --American King James Version

Trying to make some sense of it all
But I can see it makes no sense at all
Is it cool to go to sleep on the floor?
Well, I don't think that I can take anymore

Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right
Here I am, stuck in the middle with you

Stealers Wheel --Joe Egan; Gerry Rafferty

"Stuck in the Middle" was released on Stealers Wheel's 1972 self-titled debut album Stealers Wheel. Gerry Rafferty provided the lead vocals, with Joe Egan providing harmony. The song was conceived initially by the
band members as a parody of Bob Dylan's distinctive lyrical style in order to attain chart success. The single (titled "Stuck in the Middle With You") sold over one million copies, eventually peaking in 1973 at #6 in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart and #8 in the UK Singles Chart. It was produced by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. In 1992 director Quentin Tarantino used "Stuck in the Middle With You" in the soundtrack
of his debut film Reservoir Dogs, in the infamous Michael Madsen
ear-cutting scene, bringing new attention to the song.

50 Jesus replied, Do what you came for, friend.

Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. 51 With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.

52 Put your sword back in its place, Jesus said to him, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. 53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?

55 In that hour Jesus said to the crowd, Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. 56 But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.