Hal Brunson’s book, The Rickety Bridge and the Broken Mirror, is a small collection of parables – two parables about Paedobaptism (one of which brings in Dispensationalism for comparison) and one parable about the death of Christ. Although a short book, Brunson’s work is a compelling examination of some unbiblical teachings about ecclesiology and soteriology. Baptism is the foil in both cases.
The first parable is the tale of a meeting between two now famous men – the young but already distinguished Princeton teacher, Benjamin Breckenridge Warfield and the aged and famous John Nelson Darby. Attending the meeting, as Warfield’s escort from London to Oxford, was a young man of the name Harmon Diapson – grand nephew of the infamous Charles Darwin. On the train to Oxford, Warfield and Darby engage in a vigorous discussion about theology, all the vast differences that exist between the Presbyterian Covenant Theology and the then still-new system of Dispensationalism.
Overhearing this discussion on the train is a portly, cigar smoking man that is, at length unable to restrain himself and asks to participate, making the bold assertion that he can prove that Warfield and Darby have much in common – as though they are approaching each other from opposite ends of a rickety bridge and will meet in the middle, over a deep gorge of false teaching. Warfield and Darby are incredulous and protest wildly; young Diapson is eager to hear this man who describes himself as a country parson. Through many questions of these well known theologians, the parson quips that he sees the basic structure of the bridge connecting them. Darwin’s grand nephew sees it first – “It’s a biological bridge, sir: both coventalism and dispensationalism unite in this one idea – the Abrahamic Covenant finds its earthly fulfillment in biological offspring.” The parson congratulates Diapson, adding “Mr. Darby sees the fulfillment in the Jewish child, and Dr. Warfield sees the fulfillment in the Christian child.”
Brunson comments, “Because of that mutual mistake, the dispensationalist commits an eschatalogical error – the covenant finds it ultimate fulfillment in the biological descendant of the ethnic Jews, and the paedobaptist commits an ecclesiastical error – the covenant finds its ultimate fulfillment in the biological descendant of the Christian parent.” This Presbyterian view amounts to gross presumption that so-called covenant children are in the New Covenant, to be confirmed later in life.
The second parable, The Broken Mirror, drives deeper into the paedobaptist problem, highlighting their common twisting of Peter’s sermon in Acts 2. This is an oft overlooked but grievous error that every Christian should be on guard against. Buy the book to find out more about this parable.
The third parable in this too-short book is of the Death of Christ. In this section, Brunson does not rely on fanciful tales to illustrate absurdities in theology, he examines picturesque Scripture that serves as types that point to and illustrate the depth and glory and horror of the death of our Savior. And in this section of the book, Brunson displays a glorious view of Christ that will do the soul of any Christian much good. He examines:
the oceanic chaos of pristine creation
the flood of Noah
the sorrows of David described as “great waters”
the casting of Jonah into the sea, and, finally,
Jesus’ understanding of His death as an apocalyptic baptism.
I will leave you with a couple short examples of the author’s style in this section, the first one talking about the flood: “The captain of our salvation may have gone to the depths for the salvation of His people, but the old ship of Zion rides the waves with linen sails unfurled, impervious to raging winds and roaring waves, speeding safely upon the scarlet billows of judgment to the soul’s desired haven.” Later in this section, “These graphic symbols of baptism require an understanding of our Savior’s death as an immersion, not just into waters of physical suffering and death, but into the oceanic fury of God’s wrath.” Oh, the Savior’s love for His Father – and all those He chose to redeem in Christ!
At the end of the book is a short record of a debate between the author and a friend of his who is a Presbyterian. Brunson, the Baptist, set the rules – no Baptist sources could be used, only “secular” or paedobaptist. The results are devastating, as Brunson reveals one after the other of heralded paedobaptist theologians defending believer’s baptism and admitting there is no biblical support for infant sprinkling. B.B. Warfield being one of the star witnesses against his own position.
This is a delightful book, well written and easy to read. Brunson keeps Christ in focus and the Word of God as the foundation of all his arguments. I am so glad I found it and read it.