Understanding one another – “Confirming our Faith”

talbotLife is funny. A few years ago I began the journey of going to seminary to fill in the holes in my autodidactic theological education. It is SLOW going.

I decided on Whitefield Theological Seminary for a number of reasons – among which was that I could do this as a distance learning program, self-paced to allow me to continue being a busy pastor without interruption. Like I said, its slow going. For a while now, not going at all.

When I made this decision, Dr. Ken Talbot, founder of the seminary and its President had me go to Florida for a 3 day round of exams to assess my placement. BRUTAL is the first word that comes to mind. And SUBLIME is the second word – due to the three days I got to spend with Dr. Talbot. They will always remain treasures to me. We formed a personal and spiritual bond that is a true delight to me upon every reflection upon it.

A number of months ago, Dr. Talbot and I were discussing my academic progress (or better, lack thereof) when he asked if I might – as one committed to a Believer’s Baptism model – be willing to read his upcoming book on the sacraments (pictured above). If possible, he wondered if I might be willing to say why it might be worth reading, even for us baptistic folk. I jumped at the chance.

After reading it, I was more than excited to send a positive response. I sent back my “endorsement” for what it is worth. (I don’t know if my name might lend more negative associations than positive.) And then I was most honored to find out Dr. Talbot had decided to use my appraisal as the forward to  “Confirming Our Faith: A Reformed Covenantal Theology of the Sacraments.”

I’ll let you see my reasons below for endorsing Dr. Talbot’s book. Here, is what I sent Dr. Talbot, which unedited appears now as the forward to this excellent work. Do I agree in every place? No. I remain a Credo-baptist. But the value here will become apparent in what I wrote.

Here is the Forward:

Why would a confessed credo-baptist want to recommend reading Dr. Talbot’s “Confirming Our Faith”? The answers are not hard to provide.

First, because so much confusion reigns between paedo & credo-baptist brethren on the issue of the sacraments. Misinformation and disinformation often lock us into unfruitful (and sometimes, most grievously) uncharitable conflict. There is no call here to erase genuine distinctives. There is instead a lucid, reverent, edifying and myth-destroying presentation of what is taught in the Westminster standards on these two vital means of grace. (Read the book before you throw stones at me for using that last phrase – means of grace.)

Second, because even in the paedo-baptistic branches of the Lord’s Body, the role and meaning of covenant baptism is often poorly understood, articulated, entered into and defended.

Third, because it is often the case (in my experience) that the majesty, mystery and wonder of the Lord’s Table is lost in a tradition of virtually tacking it on at the end of a worship service, rather than giving it a more prominent and important role, vital to the life of the Church and its true spiritual members.

Fourth, because a simple but all so important distinction between the concepts of “benefits” versus “privileges” (just read it and you’ll find out) could not only kick the stuffing out of an army of straw men, it could free us up to love one another more tangibly, really, and visibly, across some historically electrified lines.

Fifth, because Dr. Talbot loves the Church, both visible and invisible. Because his heart yearns for its members to share its common life truthfully, faithfully, passionately and joyfully.

We have three Biblically identified enemies: The World, the Flesh, and the Devil. Books like this will let us join arms in waging the battle on their soil, rather than taking potshots at one another across the aisle. May its influence range far and wide.

I did find one curious omission however. There is not a single word of anti-credo baptist rhetoric anywhere to be found. Not one. That may speak even more loudly than the text itself.

Please read it.

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