“just baptism” — Lacking supervision, a tale of falling away from Lutheranism

300x148xpouring-baptism-300x148.jpg.pagespeed.ic.DVN-prSm8qDr. Gene Veith has brought something up over on his blog concerning a “Lutheran” pastor who has now twice written for Christian Post denying some very Lutheran beliefs (Lord’s Supper, Baptism).  This is a sad occasion to be sure, for a man once taught the Faith once delivered to the saints has now publicly written against it.  Furthering the problem, the man continues to be a pastor to a congregation that calls itself Lutheran.  The congregation belongs to LCMC (Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ).  This is an ELCA break off over a decade old.  The formative issue for LCMC was the fellowship discussion and declaration with the Episcopal Church- USA and their beliefs about apostolic succession.  That being said, there are many congregations who have in the past three or four years joined LCMC over the 2009 ELCA decision to ordain practicing homosexuals.

A few years back I did a presentation on LCMC at a Free Conference.  In my studies of the new denomination (although they do not like to call themselves that) I noted how little oversight there was by design, even calling it hyper-congregational.  In such an atmosphere congregations could easily become cults of personality.  It was also very clear that LCMC was not concerned about what kind of education their clergy received, even allowing and endorsing clergy trained at Baptist seminaries.  At the presentation there was also a LCMC clergyman who presented after me and declared that my analysis was spot on.  At that time I wondered if he heard my presentation and some of the harsh words of warning I had said.

These two denials of Christian Truth are very common ones that we find among Pentecostal churches and other “Evangelical” churches.  I put evangelical in quotes because many of those churches do not know the evangel at all, but only a lawful aberration of it.  Here is a quote that forms the basis for the pastor’s denial of baptism:

There are many mature Christians in the world today who believe that Scripture supports the questionable teachings of infant baptism and/or 5-Point Calvinism. I say “questionable” teachings because millions of their fellow believers (including mature believers) question these doctrines and find no support for them in Scripture.

Notice how the determining factor in anything for this pastor is the opinions of men.  He literally questions the Scriptures teaching on Baptism based upon millions of fellow believers (whom he deems as “mature”) question the doctrines and find no support for them in Scripture.  So if enough people believe a lie, the lie becomes equal to truth in this pastor’s eyes.

It seems that the main trouble here for the author is that many who are baptized depart from the faith later in life.  This means for the author that infant baptism is a questionable practice because in his assessment it doesn’t have results.  This is the age old error of looking to man’s response to God’s gifts rather than the Divine Institution.   He lets the abuse of the gift of God determine whether it is actually a gift from God.  The pastor states:

One should be cautious about allowing infant baptism to give you a false sense of security for your loved one. Christianity is much larger than that particular practice. It involves a relationship with Christ through faith. (see Romans 3:21-24) Also, there is good fruit in the life of a born again person. (see Matthew 7:16,17) Does your loved one in question have saving faith in Christ, and good fruit….or just baptism?

This is nothing more than encouraging doubt.  Doubt is the enemy of faith.  The pastor has taken the bait of evangelical stereotypes of Lutherans and is publicly declaring his approval of it.  Note that he has also embraced the evangelical language that goes along with it.  He has cast aside the many Scriptures which talk of baptism and its benefits in order to make everything subjective.  But that is a key problem with Pentecostalism and other forms of so-called evangelicalism – everything is subjective to your self.  When the objective truth of Christ and His gifts are put on the sidelines, there will never be any true comfort, as the sinful nature, world, and devil will be more than happy to bring doubt to your “relationship” with Christ.  Original Sin means that your motives will not always be pure, and in that the devil has all the opening he needs to cause doubt in what you have done.  Possibly the most horrific two words of the above paragraph is “just baptism”.  This is not how St. Paul regarded baptism when he spoke to Christians:

And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.   1 Corinthians 6:11

The text of 1 Cor 6 is clear, Paul does not reference a personal relationship so much as he points them to God’s work of baptism.  Note the passive tense in those verbs (were washed, were sanctified, were justified).  This is God’s work upon you, work which makes you something now that you previously were not.  Notice that even sanctification (something which of course is almost always given to the effort of man in evangelical theology) is a passive and past tense verb – it has happened to you.  There are many references that would help this point even further: Titus 3:4-7; Ephesians 5:25-27; Romans 6; Galatians 3:27.  The point – the Bible honors Baptism as a great gift of God which does wonder for fallen humanity.

Looking through the book of Acts, it is very clear that baptism is the chief component of conversion and is extolled as a great gift from God.  St. Peter of course mentions in his first epistle that “Baptism saves you” (1 Peter 3:21).  St. Paul again references the effect of baptism as bringing you into the body of Christ (relationship both to Him and to all fellow baptized) in 1 Corinthians 12.  Of course this also fails to consider the centrality of baptism in the teaching of Jesus (Matthew 3; Matthew 28:18-20;  Mark 16:16;  John 3).  To call baptism “just baptism” is to take a precious gift and teaching from Christ and the apostles and to throw it out.

Now, going to the pastor’s congregational website it is clear.  Under their beliefs section they link to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s steps to Christ (decision theology).  Somehow they believe that man cannot make it to God, but that man instead “must trust Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and receive Him by personal invitation.”  The paradox here is noticeable, but this whole mess is very common when the clear teachings of Scripture are ignored for the flash in the pan, results based lies of revivalism (Church Growth).  It is even deeper and darker than that – behind it all is the seething voice of the serpent tempting to leave God and His promise behind, to think that the Holy Spirit working though the means of grace is hogwash, and that instead we must make the kingdom of God come through our work.  If someone is speaking against the Holy Spirit and the means of grace (those things which the Spirit uses to create, strengthen, and sustain Christians), than you are not hearing the Holy Spirit’s voice, but an unholy spirit’s voice (and demons are very reasonable, tolerant, and nice in how they lure and destroy).

Two larger points need to be made here.  First, this is a very common problem where some sort of accountability (usually through supervision of doctrine) is either not enforced or not considered essential to the faithfulness of a church body.  Pastors err, congregations err, church bodies err – they need to have someone to help draw them back from the brink of heresy and apostasy.  Even Peter needed Paul.  They need someone to point out that the seducing voice they hear is nothing more than the masked serpent voice of the devil of Eden.   Second, this is what happens when what you do becomes more important that what you believe.  Yes, it is not “deeds” over “creeds”, but even worse, this error creeps in by being lazy with beliefs, assuming that common beliefs are there.  Where does the Church find its unity?  It finds it in the Faith (what is believed, doctrine) that was once for all given to us in the Word.  It will not find its unity in what it does.  This is the danger of the “mission” movement, whatever name it uses.  Mission will not unite.  When mission becomes the primary rallying cry, soon church bodies exist to do nothing more than advance any pragmatic or programmatic solution that will gain more “converts” (including despising the Holy Spirit and the means of grace).  The devil can often build a church faster and bigger than Truth can (just ask Noah).  Church bodies become more about just supporting whoever belongs with pension and health plans and whatever helps the numbers keep ticking upward.  This is what I call becoming an “umbrella church” which can let any number of things exist under its cover.

When doctrine means nothing, practice can mean anything.  And finally when practice can mean anything – doctrine will mean nothing (as evidenced by this “Lutheran” pastor who publicly teaches about “just baptism”).

Pray God that we, nor any Christian ever consider that great gift of the watered Word of Holy Baptism to be anything but a eternal treasure.  Luther from the Large Catechism:

For it is of the greatest importance that we value Baptism as excellent, glorious, and exalted. We contend and fight for Baptism chiefly because the world is now so full of sects arguing that Baptism is an outward thing and that outward things are of no benefit. 8 But let Baptism be a thoroughly outward thing. Here stand God’s Word and command, which institute, establish, and confirm Baptism. What God institutes and commands cannot be an empty thing. It must be a most precious thing, even though it looked like it had less value than a straw.

Concordia : The Lutheran Confessions, Edited by Paul Timothy McCain (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005), 424.

About Pastor Joshua Scheer

Pastor Joshua Scheer is the Senior Pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He is also the Editor-in-chief of Brothers of John the Steadfast. He oversees all of the work done by Steadfast Lutherans. He is a regular host of Concord Matters on KFUO. Pastor Scheer and his lovely wife Holly (who writes and manages the Katie Luther Sisters) have four children and enjoy living in Wyoming.

Comments

“just baptism” — Lacking supervision, a tale of falling away from Lutheranism — 36 Comments

  1. Good article, Pastor. The comments section of the Veith post is very interesting, or rather, depressing. The despisers of Baptism have made terrific headway convincing people that the means of grace are empty and the only way to salvation is through our own meritorious work of “having faith”. It goes without saying that the “Lutheran” pastor peddling this heretical wickedness is a very confused man. I lean on my Baptism daily. It’s such wonderful comfort to know that my salvation is objectively true regardless of my personal efforts. I pray God stops up this heretic’s mouth before he leads anyone astray.

  2. Thank you. It shows that those who are ordained & hold the Office, are not immune.

    What scares me, is if they are questioned, in the manner of those who must, if they endevor to be ordained & hold the Office, can do this….what hope, does any laity have, as we will not know…if this is our Pastor, or not?!

  3. @Dutch #2

    I have often paraphrased Chrysostom by saying the road to hell is paved with priests skulls…. Here are some related quotes: http://www.stpeterslist.com/7334/the-path-to-hell-is-paved-with-the-skulls-of-bishops-8-quotes-and-sources/

    The fact of the matter is this – the devil knows the efficiency is tearing down the preachers. It creates false teachers and leads sheep astray and will also cause public offense and smear the good name of the Church. Notice that the warnings in Scripture are not about those who have been led to believe false things, but those who teach false things (practicing false things as a teacher is evil as well).

    This is why it is every sheep’s duty to learn the teachings of Scripture (as you found them in the Catechism) and judge your pastor by them. Hold him accountable because no matter what kind of man he is, he is tempted daily by the devil to believe a lie. You owe it him and you owe it to God who put him in front of you to teach you but also to be held accountable. Only try to be kind and loving in how you approach him, and make sure that you are approaching him with Scripture and Confessions and not just “the way it has always been” or “my experience” or “the church over there says…”. True, traditions of the congregation need to be honored, but I am talking about false teaching here.

  4. Jim,

    Those who comment on Vieth’s blog are not all Lutheran. There are Baptists and other who comment regularly and are properly welcome to do so on that forum. The Lutherans there gave a solid defense.

  5. Pastor Scheer, we know that the means of grace are resistable. How do we know that no infant in fact resists the grace bestowed in Baptism?

  6. My question isn’t just for Pastor Scheer. I would be very grateful if other pastors could offer an answer. If the means of grace are resistable, how do we know for certain that infants don’t resist? This nagging issue has troubled me for some time. I would love to put it to rest. Thank you.

  7. @Jim Hamilton #5
    We don’t. When looking for certainty we look to God’s actions, not ours. Our actions will always have the taint of sin to them. For instance, a man who is absent from church for years (willful impenitence against the 3rd Commandment) who came back to church and received the Lord’s Supper (repentance). He died two weeks later. I would gladly say that such a man died a Christian. God had drawn him back to church and to His Supper.

    Can babies resist grace? Sure, but I will also say we need to be careful on that because Jesus always lifts up children as an example of receptivity and faith.

  8. @Jim Hamilton #1
    The comments section of the Veith post is very interesting, or rather, depressing.

    You have to remember that the commenters on Dr. Veith’s blog are a varied group, pan Lutheran, and non Lutheran. His topics are varied “news of the day”: religious, political (and who do you favor to win the Super Bowl?). 🙂

    [Justin Tucker won!]

  9. I live nearby this Wellspring “Lutheran Church” and might have to attend a service just to find out what the preaching is like.

  10. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #7
    I’d be even more careful here Pastor. AC and Ap IX certainly don’t speak of infant baptism in a way that would tempt parents to doubt whether or not their baptized babies had been truly saved, and there are plenty of “you and your household” promises in Scripture to back that up. I think you’re wrong. Baptism saves babies period. That is a promise parents can take to the graves of their little ones in total faith.
    Blessings+,
    -Matt Mills

  11. In the light of clarifying doctrines, could someone please explain to me what the methobapticostals actually mean by a “personal relationship with Jesus,” and what scriptural passages would they cite to support using such language? (I’m guessing that maybe it’s just code for decision theology, but I’m guessing they wouldn’t be so brash as to admit it.) It seems to me they aren’t speaking in a universal/objective sense where every human has a relationship with Jesus, i.e., savior/saved or judge/condemned. In that vein, we all (Americans) have a relationship with President Obama (President/presided upon).

  12. @Jim Hamilton #5

    I must respectfully disagree with Pastor Scheer.

    We KNOW that infants resist God.
    St Paul : We are all enemies of God. The Natural man cannot receive the things of the spirit. they are foolishness to him. therefore…
    Jesus to nicodemus: natural man must be born again spiritually .

    We KNOW that Holy Baptism is a gracious washing of Regeneration.
    St Paul Letter to Titus.
    So…
    We KNOW that babies are born again of water and the Holy Spirit.
    So they now have true fear love and trust in God.
    They STILL are enemies of God according to their Old Adam which still clings to them in their body, will, very soul and their very essence and nature in EVERY part.
    Baptized babies are 100% sinners. Old Adam in their very nature and essence… and
    100% saints, meaning that they are all 100%hidden inside the Works of Another by their baptism.

    Now we are 100% unable to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in any way whatsoever in our rebirth., enlightenment , SANCTIFICATION, or preservation . PERIOD.

    But we ARE able, by our natural abilities to pick up our feet and carry our own selves and our infants to church to hear a sermon and receive the blessed sacrament. God has promised that he will sanctify us and preserve us , alone, by the hearing of the Promises in the Word. So we must not despise such preaching, but must go to church! Otherwise the new man will die. Christ ” I am the true Vine and you are the branches, apart from me you can do nothing.”

    So we must cooperate in our daily life of repentence, which is the christians lifelong task of killing the Old Adam by daily contrition, grinding down, and a repentence that is a turning to Christ to hide all our Works inside of His Works daily.

    bless youJim!

  13. Joke. The Lutheran pastors and their congregations that imitate the evangelicals fail to grasp that the evangelicals will never accept Lutherans as fellow Christians. Evangelicals view Lutherans in the same way as christians view mormons.

    Evangelical blogs such as these are very easy to find:

    http://www.jesus-is-savior.com/False%20Religions/Lutherans/whats_wrong_with_the_lutheran_religion.htm

    The LCMS would do well to have Jonathan Fisk write another book covertly addressing such issues.

  14. Prof. Pieper addresses my specific question in Dogmatics Vol. 3 and answers it beautifully. Essentially, Christ expressly commands the children to be brought to him and promises to bless them. According to Pieper, the only way to do that is through Baptism. Therefore, we can be certain that God creates faith in infants during baptism because he has promised to do so. Also, Luther argues that the baptism of a child is the most sure because an infant’s slumbering reason is incapable of deception, as an adults is. I’m satisfied with this.

  15. Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, Vol. III, pg. 285: “Since we know that baptism has taken the place of circumcision and is thus the means of grace for children, and since Christ commands us to bring the children to Him that He may bless them, and since He declares the kingdom of Heaven to be theirs, we can rest assured that Christ will provide the children with faith, by which alone they can accept the blessing and the kingdom of heaven. Moreover, we can know that Baptism as Gospel itself has the power to work the faith it calls for.”

    Luther (St. L. XI: 495): “In short, the Baptism and consolation of children have their root in the Word: ‘Suffer the little children to come to Me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of God.’ This was said by Him and therefore cannot be a lie. Therefore it must be right and Christian to bring little children to Him. There is no other way of doing this than in Baptism. Then it must also be certain that He blesses them and bestows the kingdom of heaven upon all who come to Him, as He says: ‘Of such is the kingdom of God.'”

    The genius and awesome theological insight of our church fathers never ceases to amaze me.

  16. @Matthew Mills #11
    Yes, it is the promises we run to, not the subjective qualities of man, woman, or child. That is where the comfort is found.

    @Drew Kornreich #12
    Usually it means a level of personal devotion to Jesus in decisions you make in life, reading the Bible, giving your best and so forth. The difficulty is that this “relationship” usually either de-emphasizes the means of grace or leaves them out altogether. It is highly individualistic rather than communal (even to the point of forgetting about the rest of the body of Christ), which is also problematic as it goes against Jesus when He teaches us to pray, teaches us to pray this: “OUR Father…”

    @Jim Hamilton #16
    Pieper rightly runs for security to the Words and Promises of Christ rather than the ability or inability of man. That is what I meant when I tried to make the distinction in my answer between looking to God’s work (and abilities) vs. ours.

    @Jim Hamilton #18
    Thank you for the references.

  17. Abby – Did Pr. Delzell qualify his remarks or retract any of his statements? I haven’t popped back in over there yet today. As one of the regular Lutheran commenters over at Cranach, I hope I did our confessions some credit.

    Pr. Scheer – I’d encourage you to hope on to Cranach and perhaps provide a rebuttal to Pr. Delzell or a friendly admonishment. And don’t worry about Grace, 🙂 .

  18. [email protected] I just noticed that he found out about the post and jumped in to defend himself. He posted what took place last year between him and George Marquardt. He tried to qualify his remarks but from what I could tell definately did not retract any of his statements. I brought the info here for FYI only. I read through it but couldn’t determine the “fine print” so to speak. I thought I would leave that for your and others better minds to decipher. I’m sure you did our confessions credit. You always do. I’m just leaving it up to the more qualified to figure out. I believe what we believe.

  19. @Jim Hamilton #18
    “Therefore it must be right and Christian to bring little children to Him. There is no other way of doing this than in Baptism.”

    “There is no other way”? Is Christ oblivious to the presence of a child in a Christian home before the child is baptized? Are not Christian parents inclined to pray for their children even before baptism? Does Jesus not hear such prayers? Is the Holy Spirit constrained from accomplishing any work in a child before baptism?

    For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.
    Matthew 18:20

    So, for example, where a faithful father leads a Christian devotion with his beloved wife and not-yet-baptized infant child by reading the Word and praying in Jesus’ name, Christ is most certainly there, according to His own promise.

  20. God operates through the means of grace. His method of giving His grace to infants is baptism. As to your hypotheticals, of course God can do anything He wants. But what we know for certain is that He brings infants into His kingdom through Baptism. Why look beyond that or ask for more?

  21. I think this boils down to one essential point. Are people saved by grace imputed or grace infused?

    If you believe that salvation comes to sinners by a rightousness not of their own making, but credited to them apart from works of the law – then the ultimate seal or mark of assurance in that salvation is likewise outside of ourselves and not of our own making.

    If you believe that salvation comes to sinners by grace infused into the person, then the ultimate mark or seal of assurance in that salvation is also internal. Outward manifestation of evidence of a changed life or heart then becomes the primary means of identifying if a person is truely included in the inheritance of Christ.

    People may claim that they believe in the imputation of grace, but still point to grace infused as the only means of assurance of salvation for any individual (i.e. Calvinists). This is inconsistent. What is primary in our theology of justification should also be primary in what we look to for assurance and certainty of that same justification. God does infuse grace in His people though, and we shouldn’t ignore or degrade the gifts of the Holy Spirit. God Himself commands us to examine people by their fruits in Matthew 7:15-20. What better fruit to bear testimony of our inclusion in the body of Christ than continually pointing to the forgiveness of sins by Christ’s righteousness imputed to sinners by no work or merit of their own? This just happens to be exactly what we have in Baptism – no credit or work of our own, completely a gift from God. Not apart from faith, but with faith – both working and strengthening faith in recipients solely because of Christ’s vicarous satisfaction, given on our behalf.

  22. Thanks, Joe. Very well said. That’s one of the wonderful aspects of infant baptism. It marvelously highlights the objective reality that we are saved by what God has done for us, not by any work of our own.

  23. @Carl H #23

    “Is Christ oblivious to the presence of a child in a Christian home before the child is baptized?” – Of course not! Christ knew that child since the foundations of the world and is the one who entrusted the parents with the responsibility of raising them!

    “Are not Christian parents inclined to pray for their children even before baptism?” – Of course they are! And afterwards! We should pray continually and who more should parents pray for than the little ones they are responsible for!

    “Is the Holy Spirit constrained from accomplishing any work in a child before baptism?” – Of course not! John the Baptist leapt in his mother’s womb at the voice of Mary. God is all knowing and all powerful. He can do what He wants.

    “So, for example, where a faithful father leads a Christian devotion with his beloved wife and not-yet-baptized infant child by reading the Word and praying in Jesus’ name, Christ is most certainly there, according to His own promise.” – Most certainly. And Lutherans teach that the Word is the primary means of grace – or the primary means by which God works and strengthens faith in His people! The grace imputed to sinners by believing in His Word is the exact same grace that is imputed to sinners through His washing of regeneration! It is also the exact same grace that is imputed to sinners through the gift of His body and blood at the altar.

    Why include the sacraments if they are secondary means of grace when people already have the Word which is primary? This is the same exact same question as to why baptize a child when their Christian parents lead them in regular devotions and Christian education. The answer is the same regardless of the age of the person.

    Because we’re weak. An external sign, seal, or mark helps us know, realize and believe that we are included in Christ too! Lots of things float around in our heads, and my belief and zeal for some things ebb and flow depending on lots of secondary circumstances. My conviction and penitence for my own sin does likewise. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper pull us out of all that and remind us that nothing is required of us. Our salvation in no way depends on us, but has already been worked and secured finallly by the One who instituted these sacraments, and His salvation is given to us through them. It’s God’s signature at the bottom of a receipt. He is God. His Word is better than gold, why does He need to sign a receipt for a sinner like me? He does it for us, so we can have assurance that His salvation was given to us as an individual.

  24. @Jim Hamilton #26

    Thanks!

    This very topic played a major role in my becoming Lutheran. My credo-baptism upbringing didn’t help me deal with the fact that I was in no way more righteous than my kids – even when they were babies. I had a 20 year head start on them to grow in my sanctification, yet I had pitifully little to show for it. Why would God accept me before them? Why should I be considered a Christian and a recognized part of God’s family, yet not them? Granted, they are sinners too, born in total depravity just like their old man. That is their inheritance from me, but their inheritance from God could not be more opposite!

  25. Jim Hamilton :God operates through the means of grace. His method of giving His grace to infants is baptism. As to your hypotheticals, of course God can do anything He wants. But what we know for certain is that He brings infants into His kingdom through Baptism. Why look beyond that or ask for more?

    Since when does God need a man performed action to do anything? If anything I believe that this kind of talk limits an all powerful God. If God needs us to bring a baby to the baptismal font before he can impart Grace then he is reliant on us which seems absurd. God doesn’t need us to do anything.

    Jim states “but what we do know for certain is that He brings infants into his kingdom through Baptism.”

    Can you give a scripture verse (in context) or quote that supports that “certainty”? The debate that seems to be brewing here is whether that statement is true. You obviously believe it is true, but please justify your belief with scripture (in context) that supports that. Thank you.

  26. Mike, I would direct you to the quotes from Pieper and Luther that I included above to answer your question about infant baptism. God does not deal with us outside of the means of grace, that is, His Word and Sacraments. You seem to be endorsing enthusiasm and the direct operation of the Holy Spirit. These are false teachings that direct man away from the objective reality of the Gospel toward relying on subjective personal experiences and emotions for the assurance of grace. You seem quite focused on what God could do. That is a pointless exercise. Obviously, He can do anything He chooses. The means of grace are about what He does in fact, not what He is hypothetically capable of. God truly delivers forgiveness and salvation through Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and the Word.

  27. @mike #29
    We love to talk about God’s gracious work in word and sacrament ministry, and would be glad to work through any questions you might have, but there’s no “debate” brewing here. Jim stated the developed settled doctrinal position of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, (and in this case, of all historical Christianity before us) and we all agree w/ him.

    The first thing I’d say is: follow the verbs. Baptism in Scripture is never something that humans “do,” it is always something that humans “receive.” Sinful humanity is gramatically always the passive recipient of baptism. Scripturally it’s a gift, not a work. Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38-39, Acts 2:41, Rom 6:3, all of John 3 (which you can’t open w/o getting wet) 1 Pet 3:21, Matt 28:19, basically everywhere in the New Testament. You’re only missing it because you’ve been taught (w/o any scriptural justification) that baptism is a human work, but it isn’t. Where God puts his name and promise we know we can find Him. He puts His name and promise on baptism. It’s chocolate Gospel cake, and you’re treating it like cod liver oil.

    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  28. Mike, please remember that what I’ve written about the means of grace is not my opinion but rather the correct teaching of the true Christian church since time immemorial. Luther and the fathers have written exhaustively about the means of grace and have done so far, far better than I am capable of. I encourage you to read about what the Lutheran Church teaches based on God’s Word. And, again, regarding infant baptism, please the quotes above. Nothing is more certain than God’s promises and He clearly promises to grant grace through faith to babies in the waters of Baptism.

  29. @mike #29
    God does put limits on Himself for our good. This pattern you can see throughout Scripture (in fact Scripture itself is an example of this condescension of God for us and for our good).

    The phrase “you cannot put God in a box” is true in that we don’t put God in a box, but we need to remember that for our good, God has put Himself in a box. This is again for our good so that we do not need to be looking for God under each rock and in each tree as the pagans do. We look for His gracious presence where He has promised to be found. If He had not placed Himself and His forgiveness in such a box we would never be certain of anything. He is not a moving target or a handful of sand. His promises are sure and certain.

    As far as verses where God promises to do certain things through Baptism… 1 Peter 3:21; Titus 3:5; John 3:5 and following are also very good; Romans 6 includes much promise about the certainty of baptism; 1 Cor 6 (referenced in my article) is another good one; Also see Ephesians 5:25-27 and Galatians 3:27.

  30. @mike #29

    People and church groups that don’t hold a sacramental view of baptism and the Lord’s supper often ask questions like this. They have a hard time looking at something like baptism given to a baby as being of any significance. In the case of Arminian evangelicals (who believe that unregenerant people in their natural sinful state have the power and ability to choose to have saving faith in Christ), baptism is taught as being one of the first “acts of obedience” the new Christian performs after choosing follow Jesus, and is an outward symbol of an inward truth. Compare this teaching with the conversion stories in scripture – where ironically so many credobaptists run to point out the lack of an explicit baptism of a baby in detail. Paul is told to not wait, but have his sins washed away in baptism. The Ethiopian asks to be baptized so he too can be included in Christ. In Romans, Paul painstakingly points out that we are only saved by being joined with Christ in His death and resurrection – which happens in baptism (i.e. “buried with him in baptism, raised to walk in newness of life”). When reading these accounts, ask yourself if you are adding to God’s word by inserting the word “spiritual” to every baptism reference. I was.

    Nowhere in the Scriptures is physical baptism seperated from the so-called “spiritual” significance of it. Who told you that baptism was just a symbol? Certainly not the Bible. The most conservative Calvinists teach that the physical side of the sacrament is nothing, but the spiritual side is what is truely significant. Calvin firmly taught that the two should never be seperated, and where the physcial symbol was, so was the spiritual significance. Unfortunately though the overwhelming majority of reformed church bodies fell away from that belief in favor of Zwingli’s position.

    This same thought bleeds into other areas of reformed and arminian theology. Hearing and believing the written Word is not enough for Calvinists, you must have a truely effective “calling,” not just a common outward “calling” common to all, but a real calling of the Holy Spirit directly to you. How can a person tell the difference between a legitimate call and a false one, if God’s written Word is used in both and makes no difference in either? The consistent Calvinist will answer this question by pointing to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as evidenced by your works and changed life. How can you ever know you are changed enough, or work enough? You can’t, because you can’t have certainty if you look anywhere else but Christ as revealled in His Word. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is true, but it is mystery to us. I don’t feel any different and I can’t trust my feelings even if I did feel something. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit shouldn’t be the primary or foremost teaching of any Christian – yet that is what you will get day after day in most American churches.

    Arminians point to the inward working of the Holy Spirit much more than the typical Calvinist – hence the importance of “testimonies,” “conversion experiences,” and other such things. For assurance of salvation, people are pointed to their improved behavior and increasingly righteous life, except with these folks it is because “Jesus just laid it on my heart” to do this that or whatever. If in doubt, people are often baptized again and again. They are told to pray and ask God for an inward peace of the conscience, but aren’t pointed to the Word. This is also why people who fall into a repeated sin lament and question if they were ever saved, because they were taught to look to themselves for assurance instead of looking to the perfect rightousness of Christ given to them by God, and not by any work or inward striving of their own.

    Also notice that if you are struggling in this area, the typical “evangelical” answer is to do something different, or read this or that. “If you’re not happy, just keep working until you are.” It is always the person’s fault that they are not blissfully content working continually in evangelistic outreach programs – and is in no way the fault of the pastor’s teaching or the result of people actually trying to do what their minister encourages. This happened to me. It was always my fault that I had problems – the possibility was never even brough up that I been taught incorrect theology from childhood that is impossible to actually live out.

    The truth can withstand questioning. Don’t impose anything on scripture, and earnestly look at the Bible and see if Biblical account of baptism is nothing but a human work or a gift from God. For Lutheranism, the sacraments are the cap-stone of our theology. They are the key linking the Holy, Omniscient, Omnipotent, Omnipresent Jesus Christ, to whom belongs all authority, power, and dominion – to His sinful, poor and fallen people.

    Because baptism is real – I know my weak and wishy-washy decisions won’t condemn me. Because Christ is really in, with, and under the bread and wine, I know that my sins are foregiven because I have Christ, no matter how horrible my thought life tempts me to live out my old sinful nature. I shouldn’t sin and live in watton immorality – because I’ve been washed and clothed with Christ by His instituted means of baptism! Who cares if I walked an aisle or “prayed a prayer like this…” during some “invitation.” Other sinful men invented those things and they are the ones who think much of them. I have Christ and Him crucified! And I have Him through the means He instituted for His church through His Word.

  31. @Drew Kornreich #12

    “In the light of clarifying doctrines, could someone please explain to me what the methobapticostals actually mean by a “personal relationship with Jesus,” and what scriptural passages would they cite to support using such language?”

    I’m not sure if anyone has responded to your question, but I’ll give it a try. In my experience, the “personal relationship with Jesus” almost always involves a decision by the person. He “invites Jesus into my heart,” or “makes a decision for Christ,” or says the sinner’s prayer. In that way, he has taken the initiative to have this so-called personal relationship. It’s as if Jesus wants to have this relationship, and so we “friend him.” Or as a good friend recently said to me, “The best thing I ever did was invite Jesus into my heart.” My responses fell on deaf ears. I have even heard Lutheran pastors claim that one of their goals in confirmation was that the students “have a personal relationship with Jesus.” No kidding. Really. Honest.

    As for the second part of your question, I don’t have the “proof texts” handy. I’ll leave that to others. I expect Peter’s response to the Jews’ “Brothers, what shall we do?” in Acts 2 is a good starting point: “Repent and be baptized…save yourselves…etc., etc.” Baptism is, I expect, the outward sign of their repentance.

    Our sacramental focus sets us apart from most of the rest of Protestantism. Tragically, it has been a stumbling block for many, including no small number of Lutherans.

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