The Analogy of Faith

Thomas A Rowe has an excellent piece called The Analogy of Faith, dealing with how we interpret scripture. Since some of my readers are in the habit of pulling one passage out of context for their beliefs, I thought I would share this to shed some light on the subject.

The analogy of faith is not the principle that Scripture interprets Scripture, but that all Scripture is in agreement and will not contradict itself. It assumes the unity and harmony of teaching throughout the Bible. In other words, when multiple passages say something about a topic (either explicitly or implicitly), then what those passages say about that topic will be consistent and will not be contradictory. For example, Psalm34:15 speaks of God having eyes and ears, whereas John4:24 says God is spirit. The analogy of faith means that these passages are not contradictory, as they might appear at first glance. We can reconcile them when we recognize that in Psalm34:15 the author is using a figure of speech and is not asserting that God has literal, physical eyes and ears. He is asserting, rather, that God watches over His people and hears their cries for help; whereas in John4:24 Jesus is asserting that God is not a physical being, therefore, the physical location of His worshipers is not what is most important to Him. The analogy of faith forces us to dig further to understand how passages that appear to be contradictory should be understood.

This brings us to another aspect of the analogy of faith, that is, that we should interpret unclear passages in light of clear passages, not the other way around. Milton Terry says the expression analogy of faith “denotes that general harmony of fundamental doctrine which pervades the entire Scriptures.…No single statement or obscure passage of one book can be allowed to set aside a doctrine which is clearly established by many passages. The obscure texts must be interpreted in the light of those which are plain and positive.”2 When a particular passage is unclear to us, we can and should go to other passages that address the same topic more clearly in order to help us understand the unclear passage.

Baptism: The Problem with Credo Baptists

I know, that title is probably a bit inflammatory and I haven’t intentionally done inflammatory in a while. But nothing gets the blood going more than the topic of Credo/Paedo baptism in our ever-decreasing circles of Christendom. (Credobaptism is the belief that only grown, professing men and women should be given the sign of the New Covenant, wheras, paedobaptist believe that the promise is given, not only to us, but to our children as well).

I think that happens because there is a certain circle of Credo baptist who are so dogmatic in their three or four proof texts, that it is really hard to dialogue. They take the, “the Bible says it, I believe it” position, never realizing that the Bible has a lot to say on the subject of baptism. (See earlier post and some of the comments.)

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Baptism: God’s Sign To Us, Not Our Personal Testimony

From Paul Viggiano’s sermon Why In the World Would We Baptize an Infant?

Baptism is not primarily a personal testimony of having saving faith for oneself as much as it is (as we learned earlier) a testimony that God justifies, or saves sinners, by faith. To baptize someone is a rite that points to the truth that righteousness comes by faith. It points to the fact that salvation is based on God’s grace and that we can do nothing to merit it. Baptism points to that truth! It does not necessarily point to the salvation of the person baptized. Baptism is not primarily designed to be a personal testimony of personal saving faith. God commanded circumcision be applied to those whom He knew full well would not be children of faith (e.g., Ishmael, Genesis 17:23).

Does this mean the circumcision was wrongly applied to Ishmael or that it meant nothing? No! It was a sign of man’s only hope. It was a testimony to the saving work of God. Many people are baptized who aren’t saved (see Hebrews 6 and Acts 8). Simon Magus was baptized in Acts 8:13, then in verse 20 Peter says to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money!”

            Baptism is not a testimony of an individual’s saving faith. It is a testimony that God saves by faith. It is not my personal expression to God. It is God’s expression to me. It is valid and its message is true regardless of the worthiness of the recipient. Baptism is not so much a sign my personal faith as it is a sign and a seal of a covenant promise that God has made to a people—to His people. It’s a beautiful sign when given to an infant because it portrays the spiritual impotence of man and the grace of God toward His powerless creatures. [Emphasis added]

            The whole idea that we would only baptize true believers is a flawed concept at best. B.B. Warfield stated the obvious when he asserted that it would be impossible to only baptize true believers because only God knows who the true believers are. He goes on to explain that if we are to baptize based upon our best guess, we should only baptize the children of believers because there is greater likelihood that the children of believers will continue to walk in faith than those who are seemingly converted as adults at crusades and such.

            We often hear Baptist (those who oppose infant baptism) parents, who wish to have their children baptized, offer explanations of their children’s salvation based on outward observations. Maybe they said a prayer or made a cohesive statement about the nature of salvation by grace. These are precious and probable causes for the parents to believe their children are following in their spiritual footsteps. The parents still, nonetheless, are making an assumption. If we are going to make assumptions, should they not be Biblical ones?

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Expose Them

And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them (Ephesians 5:11).

This verse really jumped out at me as I read it yesterday. Paul instructs us on how it is that we should walk as believers, given that we have the fruit of the Spirit, goodness, righteousness, and truth. Given this, we are to work toward what is acceptable to the LORD and have no fellowship with unfruitful works of darkness.

Most would agree up to this point. But Paul doesn’t stop there. He continues with one more clause: but rather expose them.

We are not only to keep from having fellowship with that which is sinful, but expose that which is sinful as well. This is the part of the verse that most people want to quickly jump over and think nothing of it, because in this part of the verse, it requires something of us. In fact, the verse requires two things of us.

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