Why Evangelicals Struggle With Infant Baptism; The Platonic Connection

PLATOIn a previous article about infant baptism on Steadfast Lutherans, I covered one of the main reasons why Evangelicals struggle with infant baptism. In my previous article I assert that the reason for the struggle over infant baptism is due to it being the quintessential picture of divine monergism. Monergism, as you may know, is completely contrary to any and all free will theologies, thus the reason why infant baptism is so difficult for many Credobaptist Evangelicals to accept. Otherwise stated, in the previous article I showed that infant baptism is very offensive to credobaptist theology because it infringes upon, violates, and overthrows the doctrine of free will; it takes the child’s ‘choice’ in salvation away. To say that a baby is saved in infant baptism when no choice/decision has been made by the baby, comes across as extremely scandalous for theologies that embrace decision theology.

In this article, I assert that there is another reason why Evangelicals tend to struggle with the Lutheran view of infant baptism and that reason has to do Evangelicalism’s Platonic views over the sacraments. Yes, baptism as a means of grace is not only abrasive towards synergism, but abrasive towards Platonic thought permeating Evangelical theology as well. Platonism? Yes, Platonism.

Platonism comes from the Greek philosopher named Plato. Very simplistically, Plato saw our existence in two different spheres or realms. He held to the material realm and the transcendent realm of forms. To Plato the transcendental realm was right, true, and perfect, but the material realm was changing, flawed, and a mere shadow. Thus, Plato taught that it was the goal of a man to escape his evil and flawed body. According to Plato, the soul was good; material was bad.

We see one of the first influences of Platonic thought upon Christianity when reading the first epistle of John. In first John the Apostle John responds to first-century Gnostics who advocated that Jesus didn’t come in the flesh. Even a bit later on in the third-century the Old Roman Creed, which was used as the church’s baptismal confession, combated Gnosticism when it said that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified and buried. Thus, it is evident from the Scriptures and our earliest confessions that Jesus had a body, for how could one be born, die, and be buried without one? Furthermore, keep in mind that Jesus currently has a resurrected body; He ascended bodily.

It is also important to note that the material world and our bodies are not evil as sects of Gnosticism contended, but fallen; remember that the earth and our bodies were created by God and He said that it was good. Yes, there is a separation between body and soul at our deaths, but we must not forget that at the great second advent of Christ we will be resurrected and given new bodies. Those that are in the grave will be put back together again when Christ comes. At the second coming, we will not be at a distance from our bodies .

While it is fairly evident to see the consequences of Platonic thought upon the nature of Christ and our anthropology, how does this Platonism impact our topic at hand?

Phillip Cary in his book, Outward Signs, argues that the influence of Platonic thought upon St. Augustine,  a 4th-5th Century A.D. church father, has resulted in Platonic tendencies being placed upon his theology and his teachings of the sacraments. In other words, Phillip Cary argues that St. Augustine was not able to see external things like the Word and sacraments as having power over the inner man. If matter is bad, always changing, flawed, and a mere copy of the perfect form, how can earthly and material things like baptism and communion impact the soul? For Augustine, who was very much a Christian Platonist, there was no room for the idea that sacraments were powerful and could impact the soul, for they were merely powerless signs signifying and expressing what lies within the soul.[1] This idea, which was promoted by Augustine and influenced by his Platonic thought, is relevant today due to it being prevalent in certain streams of contemporary American Evangelicalism. It seems as if the spirit of Platonism is alive and well.

All of this said, it now makes sense why infant baptism is very offensive towards decision theology, as well as Platonic inclinations. Infant baptism is the quintessential view of divine monergism and, according to a Lutheran understanding, it is also a powerful God ordained outward sign that confers salvation. Thus, when a Lutheran states that in infant baptism a baby is saved, it irritates all forms of synergism, as well as challenges the notion that baptism is just a powerless sign that signifies inner grace. Infant baptism professes divine monergism and professes that an external water-word confers grace/salvation. (See 1 Peter 3:21 & Acts 2:38)

In response to infant baptism though, many Evangelicals will attempt to guard these Platonic assumptions by resorting to spiritualizing texts that speak of baptism. In other words, it is argued that many passages in the Bible talking about the efficacy of baptism are not referring to physical baptisms, for that would mean that an external sign like baptism is powerful and confers salvation (i.e., Romans 6:1-11 & Titus 3:5). Alas, Platonic thought cannot allow the physical to exert influence over the spiritual. Thus, it is rationalized away that these texts are only talking about spiritualized baptisms.

In summary, why do many Evangelicals find it difficult to accept infant baptism? It is difficult for many to accept because it presents a difficulty for decision/free will theology as stated in my previous article on this subject and it also infringes upon a deeply embedded Platonic assumption.

Regardless of the possible blowback due to our Lutheran baptismal theology, may we graciously esteem our most excellent Baptism as our daily attire in which we walk constantly, that we may always be found in the faith, for infant baptism is not merely a powerless sign signifying inner grace, but a rich, powerful, and blessed gift from God that actually confers grace. It is rich life-giving water with the Word that works faith, delivers forgiveness of sins, rescues us from the jaws of death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation making us God’s own apart from any and all man-made contributions. In a very literally sense, via infant baptism, we do not wash ourselves but are wash by God.

Praise be to God that baptism is not empty, but it powerfully drowns and slays the old Adam and raises us anew. What a tremendous and powerful gift.


[1] Phillip Cary, Outward Signs: The Powerlessness of External Things in Augstine’s Thought (Oxford University Press, 2008), ix.


About Pastor Matt Richard

Rev. Dr. Matthew Richard is the pastor at Zion Lutheran Church of Gwinner, ND. He was previously a Senior Pastor in Sidney, Montana, an Associate Pastor of Spiritual Care and Youth Ministries in Williston, North Dakota, and an Associate Pastor of Children and Youth in Rancho Cucamonga, California. He received his undergraduate degree from Minot State University, ND and his M.Div. from Lutheran Brethren Seminary, MN. His doctor of ministry thesis, from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO, was on exploring the journey of American Evangelicals into Confessional Lutheran thought. Pastor Richard is married to Serenity and they have two children. He enjoys fishing, pheasant hunting, watching movies, blogging, golfing, spending time with his family and a good book with a warm latte! To check out more articles by Pastor Matt you can visit his personal blog at: www.pastormattrichard.com.


Why Evangelicals Struggle With Infant Baptism; The Platonic Connection — 22 Comments

  1. I went back and read your other article and the comments that followed.

    i think you make some great points about the influence of platonic thought, as well the difficulty when addressing the doctrine of free will (as it spiritualizes the scriptural texts on free-will)

    my experience with baptists and similarly inclined people has been markedly different.
    you may be getting to some of the deeper meanings, but i would like you to consider the following, not as truth, but as an additional factor in such discussions

    (all of this is anecdotal, so take it for what it’s worth)

    1) The baptists make their argument from scripture, and in it they matrix their theology.

    – read acts 8:37 kjv

    37 And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

    a plain reading certainly sounds like belief is a prerequisite for baptism.

    please note that you will not find this verse in the ESV.
    the ESV follows the Nestle-Aland compilation of texts as opposed to the Textus Receptus of the KJV. – forgive me if i’m telling you things you already know. that will happen a lot.
    for the interested

    if you add this verse to acts 16, the word is still preached to the whole household with baptism following.

    1st Peter 3 then gets read as an outward sign, much like circumcision pointed towards baptism. the ESV makes a clearer distinction, but the translation may be dismissed for error.

    2) another factor is the nature of the sacraments themselves. the idea of “means of Grace” set against “Jesus died ONCE for my sins.” this also gets connected to 1 Peter 3:18.

    the logic seems to be used as such
    – ALL of my sins were forgiven by the Sacrifice of Jesus
    – i can receive this forgiveness whenever i ask God for it
    – i can receive this forgiveness when i trust in his mercy for when i am unaware of a sin.

    baptism then falls in the same outward sign as circumcision (but now a sign for both sexes)
    communion then falls as a sign of community celebrating such forgiveness, affirming the faith given.

    the burden then falls on the Lutheran to demonstrate that one NEEDS the sacraments, particularly the eucharist. this is especially difficult with LCMS theology adamant that there’s no such thing as an emergency eucharist. the desert island thought experiment fails here. coconut milk and banana chips will not suffice as substitutions.

    the mandate for baptism is seen as a part of the conversion process, so it makes sense to the baptist that it needs to be done for those who believe.

    3) the roll of the church fathers is irrelevant for many baptists.

    similar to the anabaptists, there is a claim that baptist teaching comes from the apostolic faith. the line for them is not traced to the reformation, but that they have the teaching of the early church (really the apostles) and that many of the other theologians have gotten in the way, and in the way of Scripture. Cadle, in the other thread, rightly pointed to several church fathers who taught infant baptism. However, some of them were heretics, and they are not inspired (as the argument goes even among LCMS voices).


    couple little things while i’m typing
    – i do hope that your author also wrote about the time Augustine spent as a Manichean. the good/evil spiritual/material overlaps are found deeply in manicheanism, not just platonism (though i don’t know if mani was influenced by plato – but quite likely)

    – i have a book i need to dig out that illustrates more to what you say about the influence of platonism in pietism (of which it labels evangelicals) and how that effects the mindset and politics of baptists and evangelicals. it demonstrates how there is the mindset of sacred/profane vs. the confessional understanding of Sacred/secular/profane. this is another topic.

    – you can spend a lot of time on the neo-platonists, which i believe C.S. lewis often gets compiled with ( the veracity of which i am not sure)

    – as Aquinas integrated Aristotle into his theology, you can see why the Roman church has such distinctly different issues via thomism

    ultimately i think one can demonstrate the influence of plato and augustinian thought on western society in numerous and profound ways. nevertheless, i suggest it may be just as beneficial to speak to the points the points above.

    I have been able to have more accord with baptists when i address issues of textual criticism, the systematics concerning the sacraments, and role of the early church.

  2. There seems to be some misunderstanding regarding the dead in your trespasses and sin and an enemy of God which is incomprehensible to “Evangelicals”. Kyrie Eleison.

  3. Evangelicals struggle with Baptism for one reason:
    They do not believe it is a Sacrament that gives
    us the forgiveness of sins. They see Baptism as
    a symbol of church membership.

    As Lutherans we believe Baptism is something
    God’s grace does for us. Evangelicals see
    Baptism as something they do for God.
    Unfortunately, the Evangelicals have no
    understanding of the Sacraments as God’s
    means of grace for us.

  4. Evangelicals at a deeper level who actually know what they teach and why they think that way probably reject baptism. But most people just assume the church they went to has told them the truth and they hear a one sided argument against baptism and they ignore things like baptism now saves (1peter 3:21) where it is very clear it is talking about water baptism and of course some people who reject baptism changed the text in some versions of the bible to add the word symbolize’s salvation which is a mockery when Jesus said baptise in the name of the father,son,holy spirit and in acts all over the believers are told to be baptised (acts2:38) and is a common theme for the book of acts to baptise believers and it makes it clear that you receive the holy spirit through baptism acts (18:24- acts19:5) and when some gentile believers have they exception of receiving the holy spirit without baptism so that God showed that salvation and the gifts where for not only for jews but gentiles as well the first thing Peter did was baptise them (acts10:47) and not only this but the holy spirit has associated himself with water since the book of Genesis in chapter 1 verse 2b reads and the spirit of God was hovering over the waters. and in other texts it shows the world was washed by water and the holy spirit descended on Christ like a dove through water. and as shown earlier Peter tells us in 1Peter3:21 that baptism now saves us and according to the text above saves us just like how noah and 7 other people where saved.

    Evangelicals also refuse to see that ya we might have a free will but if we do our will is bound to do evil for we are evil and we are so evil that all that we would be able to choose to do with our freewill is evil for our hearts are evil. They refuse to see that ya we do esteem the law of God greatly but we don’t receive grace through if we do anything pleasing to God by the law it only pleases him for Christ’s sake.

    So we don’t receive faith through the law but through faith we receive the fruits of the spirit which is Love,joy,peace,patience,kindness,goodness,faithfulness,and self control.

    So we see that even if we had to in some way do any good things through the law we wouldn’t fulfill it by the law but through faith. For Paul says in Galations 3:16 that we aren’t justified by the law and in romans 3:10-18 shows that we are subjected unto sin and we do not seek God.

    and indeed faith itself isn’t a work for us to do for Romans 1:4-5 says that through Christ we receive grace and apostleship and in Corinthians1:14 the natural person does not accept the things of God for they are folly to him and in the book of John chapter 3:5 Jesus tells Nicodemus that one must be born again by water and the spirit to be saved and v25 there talking about purification and they ask why Jesus is baptising and not John and in v27 he says that a person cannot receive anything unless it is given from heaven and the awesome thing is between v5 and 27 is john 3:16 where it say whoever believes in him will have eternal life. So we see that we must be born again with water and the spirit and this isn’t dependent on us for the spirit goes wherever it wishes v8 and a person must receive this from heaven v27

    and even the great commission I’ve heard in the Greek text it combines the word disciple and baptism so if I understood it right it would say go and make disciples of all nations by baptizing them.

    But Evangelicals aren’t taught any of this in fact they seem to outright ignore a great part of scripture and just show a very one sided and narrow argument to support there assumptions which I don’t even think they really support much with scripture and if they do it’s only cause they impute there own assumptions on what the scriptures mean and ignore the rest of the bible so that I would say that evangelicals have a problem with baptism because they lack the knowledge of the word of God so that Hosea 4:6 though it refers I believe to the Jews also shows to be true for evangelicals. where it says my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. and the evangelicals are just like the Jews in romans10:2 where it says that they have a zeal for God but not according to knowledge.

  5. Rev.Dave Likeness :
    Evangelicals struggle with Baptism for one reason:
    They do not believe it is a Sacrament that gives
    us the forgiveness of sins. They see Baptism as
    a symbol of church membership.
    As Lutherans we believe Baptism is something
    God’s grace does for us. Evangelicals see
    Baptism as something they do for God.
    Unfortunately, the Evangelicals have no
    understanding of the Sacraments as God’s
    means of grace for us.

    As an ex-evangelical, Reverend, let me give you the three biggest arguments against the Lutheran understanding of Baptism (and by default the Lord’s Supper), which Lutherans need to address:
    1.) It’s Roman Catholic!
    2.) It turns the sacraments into a work of Merit and denies Sola Fide
    3.) It makes salvation an either/or situation, meaning evangelicals hear Lutherans say “I was baptized” and interpret it to be an act divorced completely from the cross of Christ, as if there were two different methods of salvation: baptism or trust in Christ (And I’ve said in response to this that Lutherans need to articulate their assurance of baptism differently and say that “I am saved because of the work of Christ on the cross which has been conferred upon me in holy baptism” rather than “I was baptized”).

  6. This is just plain odd. Luther’s theology utterly depends on Augustine, and Augustine was platonic to his core.

    You really seem to be making an argument that says that faith is a work, a degree of monergism that I think is beyond anything I’ve ever seen Luther say.

    Oh, and “remember your baptism” has become one of the battlecries of the gay bishop wing of the Episcopal church.

  7. I would tend to agree with the folk who have said that the Plato thing is perhaps to deep a meaning – we were just taught by folk who had also been taught by folk and no one really bothered to check it out properly and in depth!

    Chris Rosebrough recently did a talk on Baptism from a Lutheran perspective where he went through a number of arguments from the ‘evangelical’ side. I found it very informative and enlightening to have the Scriptures compared and dissected properly, as well as the early church fathers understanding of it all.
    Yet I still struggle with the babies bit from a logical point of view, but I do not reject it because logic is one of my worst enemies!

  8. quasicelsus :I went back and read your other article and the comments that followed.

    1) The baptists make their argument from scripture, and in it they matrix their theology.
    – read acts 8:37 kjv
    37 And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
    a plain reading certainly sounds like belief is a prerequisite for baptism.
    please note that you will not find this verse in the ESV

    Belief in Christ/ Faith is a prerequisite for Baptism. That’s why the children are asked to confess the faith through their sponsors before they are baptized.

    Certainty that the person to be baptized really believes is not a prerequisite for Baptism. Neither is the ability to speak or reason. The Lutheran argument is not that we should baptize people who don’t have faith in Jesus. The argument is, “If we based Baptism on our certainty that the person coming to be baptized believes, we couldn’t baptize adults either, because we only know that they say they believe, not whether or not they really do.”

    But it would be very bad if we were to baptize people that we knew did not believe. That’s what Luther says in the Church Postil sermon on the gospel for the third Sunday after Trinity:

    “…it is a mockery of holy baptism, when they go on and baptize little children, although they teach that they have no faith of their own. They thus sin against the second commandment, in that they consciously and deliberately take the name and Word of God in vain. Nor does the excuse help them which they plead, that children are baptized upon their future faith, when they come to the age of reason. For the faith must be present before or at least in the baptism; otherwise the child will not be delivered from the devil and sins.”

    “…if their opinion were correct, all that is done with the child in baptism is necessarily falsehood and mockery. For the baptizer asks whether the child believes, and the answer for the child is: Yes. And he asks whether it desires to be baptized, and the answer for the child is again: Yes, Now nobody is baptized for the child, but it is baptized itself. Therefore it must also believe itself, or the sponsors must speak a falsehood, when for it they say: I believe. Furthermore, the baptizer declares that it is born anew, has forgiveness of sins, is freed from the devil, and as a sign of this he puts on it a white garment, and deals with it in every way as with a new, holy child of God: all of which would necessarily be untrue, if the child had not its own faith. Indeed, it would be better never to baptize a child, than to trifle and juggle with God’s Word and sacrament, as if he were an idol or a fool.”

    “…31. If now we cannot give a better answer to this question and prove that the little children themselves believe and have their own faith, my sincere counsel and judgment is, that we abstain altogether and the sooner the better, and never baptize a child, so that we may not mock and blaspheme the adorable majesty of God by such trifling and juggling with nothing in it. Therefore we here conclude and declare that in baptism the children themselves believe and have their own faith, which God effects in them through the sponsors, when in the faith of the Christian church they intercede for them and bring them to baptism.”

    The rest of the sermon is here:


    So, in short, Acts 8 does teach that we ought to baptize those who believe and not those who do not. But simply we cannot know just from a person’s confession of faith that they really believe. It would be mocking God if we baptized people whom we know do not believe. But in the case of babies, whom Christ commands to be brought to Him, and in the case of adults who confess faith in Christ we baptize not on the basis of their faith (as Luther says in the Large Catechism) but on the basis of God’s command, “Go make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” But we don’t knowingly baptize those who don’t believe, or surreptitiously snatch babies away from their parents and baptize them secretly.

  9. Sorry, I’m not smart enough to figure out how to use the quote function. The stuff on the top was the comment I was responding to. The quote beneath is me.

    (( Moderator: Fixed your comment. Basically a blockquote starts with <blockquote> and ends with </blockquote> .. the slash is required to indicate “end of” blockquote. ))

  10. Can we acknowledge that a very large portion of evangelicalism does not believe in “free-will” salvation? There are a lot of evangelicals who do believe in monergistic soteriology. Consequently, (you guys might appreciate this) to see “evangelicalism” as a “form” of free-will soteriology is highly difficult because it is not entirely dominated by synergism but also has a significant monergistic part to it. It is best to define evangelicalism as a non-form, in fact it is re-formed (i.e. it is not Lutheran, Roman Catholic, or Eastern Orthodox).

    Also, I highly commend the use of philosophy and understanding how those philosophies work out in our churches and town halls. It is a shame to see it neglected an account of simplicity. Thank you.

  11. @Rev. Karl Hess #9

    this is an excellent reply. and sounds like it represents my position on infant baptism – those who confess Christ are baptized, and infants are given faith.

    – i could have been clearer in that those who reject infant baptism fail to see how baptism GIVES faith. thus acts 8 demonstrates baptizing a believer, but does not (to evangelicals) demonstrate or show HOW infants have faith. the crux of point 1 is not that baptism can precede belief, but a matter of how infants can believe with all their hearts. i think this would be much more helpful for evangelicals.

    — edit… we’re good, i followed the quotes 🙂

  12. @Stef #8

    “Yet I still struggle with the babies bit from a logical point of view, but I do not reject it because logic is one of my worst enemies!”

    Good thinking! 🙂

  13. @Rev. Karl Hess #9

    1. “Belief in Christ/ Faith is a prerequisite for Baptism. That’s why the children are asked to confess the faith through their sponsors before they are baptized.”

    What does that mean? Seems that the request would then be something like, “Child, will you please confess the faith through your sponsors?” That doesn’t sound plausible.

    2. “But simply we cannot know just from a person’s confession of faith that they really believe.”

    Agreed. So how does a sponsor express the belief of someone else who can make no confession at all, as with an infant before baptism?

  14. Carl H :@Rev. Karl Hess #9
    Agreed. So how does a sponsor express the belief of someone else who can make no confession at all, as with an infant before baptism?

    and if a sponsor can express the belief of someone else who can make no confession at all, for baptism, are they not permitted to also express the belief of that same someone who can make no confession at all, so as to receive communion?

  15. @Rev. Karl Hess #9
    Whoa! I’m not sure what you’re saying, but on the surface, it doesn’t sound right. “Belief in Christ/ Faith is a prerequisite for Baptism. That’s why the children are asked to confess the faith through their sponsors before they are baptized.” ?!

    “Thus we do the same with infant baptism. We bring the child with the intent and hope that it may believe, and we pray God to grant it faith.”

    “Likewise only presumptious and stupid spirits draw the conclusion that where there is no true faith, there also can be no true baptism.”

    “Let the conclusion therefore be that baptism always remains valid and retains its complete substance, even if only one person had ever been baptized and he or she did not have true faith.”
    -Large Catechism, Infant Baptism

    “Why do the Scriptures call Baptism the washing of rebirth and renewal of the Holy Spirit? In Baptism, the Holy Spirit works faith and thus creates in us new spiritual life.”
    -Luther’s Small Catechism

  16. Yes, Baptism is valid even when someone did not believe when they were baptized, because we baptize on the basis of God’s command and institution, not on the basis of a person’s faith. We can’t know whether or not a person believes in Christ, even if they confess their faith.

    Luther’s point is that if we knew that babies don’t believe or can’t believe we would be mocking God by the baptismal rite. Because we ask the child whether or not it believes. If the child can’t believe it would be mocking God to do this.

    Baptism is not based on a person’s faith. But to baptize someone that it is certain does not have faith is blasphemous and a misuse of the sacrament.

    So my point was that when the evangelicals say that Acts 2:38 or the story of the Ethiopian Eunuch makes it look like one should believe and then be baptized, they are right.

    Carl H.–Babies can make a confession of faith. John the Baptist did when he leaped in his mother’s womb. The question directed to the child at the Baptism, “Do you believe” and “Do you want to be baptized” is absolutely directed to them. Think about it. It could be nothing other than sin and blasphemy to ask the child that unless we were serious about the question. You don’t ask someone for a confession before God and pretend like they made one when they didn’t. But babies can believe, as the example cited above proves. And we also have the command from Jesus that they are to be brought to Him, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to them. Thus we have a promise that when they are brought to Him He will give them the kingdom of heaven, which means, of course, the Holy Spirit and saving faith in the Gospel.

    Stef: The baby can believe, and we have a promise from Christ that He will give them the kingdom of heaven. Therefore we bring them to Him in Baptism. We do not, however, commune infants, not because they do not believe (of course we should certainly not commune unbelievers), but because they cannot “examine themselves to see whether they are in the faith”, as Paul directs in 1 Corinthians 11. I know that some Lutherans are now trying to argue that they can and do examine themselves. But that’s doing violence to the text of Scripture.

  17. One of the interesting things about this whole issue of course is its connection with Christology. Why do the Reformed deny baptism and the Lord’s Supper? What biases them towards a Lutheran reading – which is the Christian reading – of the text? Is it their Christology? I think so, and think that the Formula itself – and the Apology of the Formula of Concord – sees this as a central issue. I think that it makes sense that Plato has much to do with the denial of all three of these things. Just did a new post on this this morning, incorporating some of Pastor Richard’s and Pastor Surburg’s material, if anyone would like to read more: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2013/08/28/more-on-why-baptists-and-the-reformed-in-general-deny-baptismal-regeneration/

    Good stuff Pastor Hess.


  18. @Nathan #19
    Christology and also I would posit, the Calvinist influence of election. Since all are elected either to heaven or hell then the means of grace are not necessary for salvation, other than to confirm your pre-determined election. To Calvin, this meant the Holy Spirit worked apart from the means of grace (Word and Sacrament). The means of grace then simply imparted no grace at all, but rather were signs and seals of what had already been given to you. This way also, those who were pre-ordained for hell could also use the sacraments and not run the risk of them actually giving them forgiveness and life. The sacraments quickly become merely acts of obedience which 1. show our obedience to God and 2. confirm outwardly to all men that by our obedience we are God’s elect.

    “The sacraments…are for us the same thing from God, as messangers of glad tidings or guarantees of the ratification of covenants are from men. They do not bestow any grace of themselves, but announce and tell us, and (as they are guarantees and tokens) ratify among us, those things given us by divine bounty.”

    “Now baptism was given to us by God for these ends (which I have taught to be common to all sacraments): first, to serve our faith before Him; secondly: to serve our confession before men.”
    Calvin’s Institutes, A New Compend, Hugh T. Kerr Editor

  19. Rev. McCall,

    Good point. Many Reformed folks have the impression that Luther’s view and Calvin’s were the same, but for Lutherans, we can’t not see the connections between election and the means of grace, particularly baptism.


  20. Its a pity I’ve only just found this topic. If anyone out there would still like to engage in discussion I’d be interested.

    My query really relates to the theorized practice of Jesus. Would I be correct in assuming that paedo-baptists would believe that Jesus baptised infants of the community of disciples following him or in general … or that Jesus had his disciples baptise them (see John chapters 3/4)?

    If so I’m wondering whether it is in harmony with Jesus’ wider teaching regarding the radical demands of being his follower/disciple … unless you take up the cross daily … unless you love me more than …. unless you are willing to count the cost … and so forth.

    In other words leaving aside (if that is possible?) the various permutations and differences in theology across the Trinitarian Christian spectrum … how many of you who would advocate that the church is called to baptise infants in the great commission believe that Jesus actually did this during his ministry?

    I would see the idea of him saying to adults and prospective disciples or even those following … count the cost, do you really love me more, are you willing to …. yet happily baptising their infants … as not really being in harmony with the logic of Jesus’ teaching and call to radical discipleship … and basically unreasonable.

    Best wishes,


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