Archive for the ‘Paedobaptism’ Category

Origen Against the Innovation of Christmas? Check your sources!

January 6, 2016

I came across the following statement, which immediately sparked my interest (source):

Speculation on the proper date began in the 3rd and 4th centuries, when the idea of fixing Christ’s birthday started. Quite a controversy arose among Church leaders. Some were opposed to such a celebration. Origen (185-254) strongly recommended against such an innovation. “In the Scriptures, no one is recorded to have kept a feast or held a great banquet on his birthday. It is only sinners who make great rejoicings over the day in which they were born into this world” ( Catholic Encyclopedia , 1908 edition, Vol. 3, p. 724, “Natal Day”).

I tend to agree with the overall point of the author of the page, namely that the celebration of Christmas is an innovation that lacks any authentic apostolic tradition. Nevertheless, I thought that the patristic quotation would be very interesting, if indeed Origen were against the celebration of Christmas.

There are, however, a number of problems with this citation. First, the citation is not to any of Origen’s works, but to the “Catholic Encyclopedia,” a secondary source. Thankfully, one can look up this secondary source (link to “Natal Day” entry).

Second, the work of Origen being cited is his Homilies on Leviticus. We don’t have the original Greek of this work. Instead, we have Rufinus’ Latin translation. Moreover, this work is one that Rufinus himself acknowledged heavily editing. Accordingly, while this may be Origen, it might instead be Rufinus. Moreover, Rufinus translated this in the early fifth century. Thus, if this expresses Rufinus’ views, it may represent a fifth century view, rather than a third century view.

Third, the context of the discussion is not the celebration of Christ’s birth by his contemporaries. In other words, Origen’s words (or Rufinus’ words) were not addressed as a correction to his contemporaries.

Fourth, while Christ’s birth is mentioned in the homily, it is mentioned as the sole exception to the standard case. In other words, applying the logic of Origen/Rufinus may cause us not to celebrate our own birthdays, but it would not similarly require us not to celebrate Christ’s birthday.

For those interested, I’ve posted a modern English translation of the text and the Latin original, as well as some related quotations from the same homily at my “Ancient Voices” blog:

On Celebrating Birthdays and Original Sin
Unique Conception of Jesus
Original Sin and Infant Baptism

– TurretinFan

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Christ is what’s Better about the New Covenant

February 12, 2015

What’s better about the New Covenant? Christ. That’s the point of Hebrews. My beloved Reformed Baptist brothers seem to have missed this.
Baptism is not better than circumcision – the Lord’s Supper is not better than the Passover. Instead, Christ’s blood is better than the things that point forward or backward to it.
There is a distinction between the bloody forward-pointing signs and the bloodless backward-pointing signs, but it is not that the latter are more effective or better than the former.
Baptism is not “circumcision of the heart” – regeneration is. Both Baptism and Circumcision pictured that.
We feed on Christ by faith – not by our teeth chewing bread or chewing a lamb.
We are saved by the sprinkled blood of Christ – not that of the passover lamb nor by the water of baptism.
There is still a distinction between the outward physical signs and the inward spiritual reality. There is still a difference between the congregation/assembly of those who profess faith and the actual inward reality of profession of faith.
The difference between the New Covenant administration of the Covenant of Grace is Christ. That’s what Hebrews says a ton of times. My RB brothers – I think you agree with me 90+% on this – why not that last 10%?
(previously posted on facebook)

Three Observations on Acts 2:39

February 9, 2015

“For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” (Acts 2:39) Three observations:
1) Notice that the promise is monergistic – it is to those whom the Lord calls – that’s how the promise is phrased. It’s not to “even as many as shall work really, really hard.”
2) Paedobaptists sometimes quote this passage incompletely as though it just say “unto you and to your children.” It says more than that, and the “even as many as the Lord our God shall call” is definitely key.
3) Still, I haven’t heard my Reformed Baptist brothers provide an adequate explanation for the reference to children, if not to suggest that God is going to continue dealing with families as families. This looks like the kind of thing we see several times in the Old Testament – now with an expansion to those who are not Jews. That’s not the central point of the verse, but it seems to be the most obvious reason for the reference to children – a passing reference to the fact of familial treatment that God applied up to this point both with respect to Israel and the nations.


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