Monday, May 20, 2013

Lutheran baptism does NOT save you

A Lutheran may say, "Baptism saves you!" And to charge that not all baptised are saved, their response may be: "Baptism only saves by faith"

"The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:" I Pet. 3:21

The Lutherans, like Romanists, are guilty of confusing the sign with the reality when considering the sacraments. If the sign is the reality, then it is no longer a sign, which by definition points away from itself to something else. In this verse, Peter makes a difference between the sign of baptism, and the reality of baptism. Washing with water is a sign of baptism because it points to the washing of regeneration and of our consciences by the blood and Spirit of Christ.

If it was the spiritual reality, it could not be called a sign. Consider John's baptism, was the washing with water their repentance and remission of sins (on the basis of the sacrifice of the Lamb of God to whom John pointed)? Or was the washing with water a sign of that, insomuch that those who repent and believe in Christ are as surely washed from their sins as water washes away the filth of the body?

If the reality of baptism is spiritual regeneration and the forgiveness of sins, then how is the reality of circumcision not the exact same?:

"In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;" Col. 2:11-13

So then the sign of NT baptism and the sign of OT circumcision are two different signs pointing in a different way to the same spiritual reality. And then if this outward circumcision in the flesh is called a sign and seal, is not the baptism with water also a sign and seal in the exact same way? A sign and seal of the righteousness which we have by faith:

"And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised" Rom. 4:11

If then a man has received the reality that is signified by both the sign of circumcision and of water baptism, he is regenerated, has a conscience cleansed, forgiven of all sins, and righteous by faith in Christ, how then can he fall away to damnation? So then, the apostasy of all who have received the sign of baptism attest to the fact that the sign is not the reality of what is signified by it:

"Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband. And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things." Acts 5:9-11

"Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized ... Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity." Acts 8:13-23

Concerning those who are regenerated by spiritual baptism:
"Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin [the Christian sins by the old sinful nature not the new]; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." - I John 3:9.

So if those who received the outward sign of water baptism all received the reality signified by it, they could not fall away. Rather:

"They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us." - I John 2:19.

So the sign of water baptism does not save, but as Peter says, "the answer of a good conscience toward God" which is the spiritual baptism signified by the external washing with water.
Since the reality signified by water baptism is regeneration, and faith is the fruit of regeneration, spiritual baptism does not save conditioned or dependent on our faith - rather it is the source of our faith. Our faith depends on our regeneration. Only an Arminian could say that his regeneration saves him, depending on his faith.

10 comments:

Gary said...

Baptists and evangelicals are absolutely correct...there is no SPECIFIC mention in the New Testament that the Apostles baptized infants. There are references to entire households being converted and baptized, but we orthodox cannot prove, just from Scripture, that these households had infants, and neither can Baptists and evangelicals prove, just from Scripture, that they did not.

One interesting point that Baptists/evangelicals should note is that although there is no specific mention of infant baptism in the Bible...neither is there a prohibition of infant baptism in the Bible. Christians are commanded by Christ to go into all the world and preach the Gospel and to baptize all nations. No age restrictions are mentioned. If Christ had intended his followers to understand that infants could not be baptized in the New Covenant, in a household conversion process as was the practice of the Jews of Christ's day in converting Gentile households to the Covenant of Abraham, it is strange that no mention is made of this prohibition.

So, the only real way to find out if Infant Baptism was practiced by the Apostles is to look at the writings of the early Christians, some of whom were disciples of the Apostles, such as Polycarp, and see what they said on this issue.

And here is a key point: Infant Baptism makes absolutely no sense if you believe that sinners can and must make an informed, mature decision to believe in order to be saved. Infants cannot make informed, mature decisions, so if this is the correct Doctrine of Justification/Salvation, Infant Baptism is clearly false teaching. But the (arminian) Baptist/evangelical Doctrine of Justification/Salvation is unscriptural. Being forced to make a decision to obtain a gift, makes the gift no longer free. This is salvation by works.

Baptism is a command of God. It is not a work of man. God says in plain, simple language, in multiple locations in the Bible, that he saves/forgives sins in Baptism. We orthodox Christians accept God's literal Word. We take our infants to be baptized because God says to do it. Our infants are not saved because we perform the act of bringing them to the baptismal font...they are saved by the power of God's Word pronounced at the time of the Baptism. Christians have believed this for 2,000 years!

There is no evidence that any Christian in the early Church believed that sinners are saved by making a free will decision and then are baptized solely as a public profession of faith. None.

Gary
Luther, Baptists, and Evangelicals

Gary said...

So how can intelligent, educated Baptists/evangelicals and orthodox Christians read the same Bible and come up with completely different interpretations? I would like to compare our two different approaches to interpreting the Bible with a non-biblical quote as an example.

How does one interpret this phrase: "All men are created equal" from the US Bill of Rights?

Baptist approach: Let's look at the original language at the time that this phrase was written in the late 1700's and see what the original meaning of each of the words in the phrase was: So...the word "men" meant "the plural of one adult male human being". Therefore, this phrase means that all men, every adult male human being on earth, is created equal. That is the meaning in the original language. Any other interpretation of this phrase is false.

Lutheran approach: Let's look at the original language of this text and the cultural context in which it was written. Also, let's look at the writings of contemporary writers of that period to see that they believed that the writers of the Bill of Rights meant to say in the phrase in question. So...when comparing the original language of the text with the documented, known cultural context, verified by the writings of other contemporary writers of that time period, we reach the conclusion that the phrase used by the writers of the US Bill of Rights "all men are created equal" did NOT mean that all adult, human males on planet earth are created equal, but that only WHITE European males are created equal.

Does any educated person today really believe that the Southern signers of the US Constitution believed that adult black males were created equal to them?? (Most Northerners did not believe that either.)

Do you see how easy it is to arrive at a different interpretation of any "ancient" document if you are unwilling to look at contemporary evidence from that time period to confirm your interpretation?
There is NO evidence of any early Christian believing the Baptist/evangelical position of Symbolic, adult-only Baptism; that in Baptism God does NOT forgive sins. The Baptist/evangelical interpretation of Scripture is very logical and reasonable, but as in the case of the "Baptist" interpretation of the Bill of Rights...it is completely wrong!

Gary
Luther, Baptists, and Evangelicals
http://www.lutherwasnotbornagain.com/2013/06/the-origen-of-baptistevangelical.html

Wiseguy said...

I agree that we can learn helpful things from church history and tradition. That should be our starting point, but it cannot be viewed as authoritative. The principle of sola Scripture does not ignore tradition, but it means that all tradition must be tested by the ultimate authority of Scripture alone. It is the Holy Scriptures that are God-breathed, and sufficient to make us wise unto salvation and fully prepared for every good work.

Certainly the Scriptures are sufficient therefore to teach us what is right concerning baptism. I have shown above that the Scriptures are sufficient to refute the doctrine that the outward baptism with water itself saves (only the spiritual baptism signified by the water saves) - this would deny the perseverance of the saints and justification by faith alone.

The Scriptures are also sufficient to refute the doctrine of modern Evangelicals and Baptists which teaches that the outward baptism with water may not be administered to the infant children of believers, and is only a symbol, not a seal of the righteousness of the faith of God's elect and a means of grace to the elect.

The view of baptism defended on this blog is the Reformed understanding which is the doctrine of Scripture, despite the erroneous views of some godly church fathers such as Augustine.

I have addressed the common Baptist false views of baptism at some length here:
http://wiseguysblog.blogspot.ie/2011/11/review-john-macarthurs-five-arguments.html

Other posts on baptism are here:
http://wiseguysblog.blogspot.ie/2013/05/navigating-between-false-views-on.html
http://wiseguysblog.blogspot.ie/2011/06/children-of-believers-are-holy.html
http://wiseguysblog.blogspot.ie/2011/02/generation-of-upright-shall-be-blessed.html

And a longer more comprehensive treatment is given here:
http://limerickreformed.com/articles/by-author/samuel-watterson/item/5-an-answer-to-baptistic-imaginations

The Lutheran doctrine is guilty of identifying the sign with that which is signified (and then it is no longer a sign but the thing itself). What then of those reprobates who receive the very same sacrament - are they forgiven? No. And what of an adult convert - is he not forgiven until he receives the sign of that forgiveness?

As Reformed, we believe in administering the sign of baptism to all those who must be viewed by us as being promised the reality of it, even though we acknowledge that some among the visible church, both among infants and adult converts, may be reprobates or may only be regenerated at a later time. To the elect it is a gracious sign and seal of the righteousness which we have through faith. To the reprobate it will further condemn them and testify against their hypocrisy and apostasy.

And we can draw many analogies from this to the doctrine of the Lord's Supper, except of course that because understanding and self-examination is required to partake worthily, children must be kept from it until they are able to fulfill this prerequisites by having been instructed in the faith, and made an official public confession of their faith in harmony with the doctrine of the church, as that doctrinal unity is signified by the communion.

Gary said...

Your comment reflects a major misconception that evangelicals and Reformed have of orthodox Christians. Lutherans do not believe that baptism is necessary (mandatory) for salvation. Not even the Roman Catholic Church believes this. All the saints of the Old Testament, the thief on the cross, and thousand of martyrs down through the centuries have been saved without Baptism. Baptism is not the "how" of salvation!

Lutherans believe that baptism is one of several "when"s of salvation, it is not the "how" of salvation. The "how" of salvation is and always has been the power of God's Word/God's declaration of righteousness.

A sinner can be saved by the power of God's Word when he hears the Word preached in a church, preached on TV or radio, reading a Gideon's Bible in a hotel room, or reading a Gospel tract that contains the Word. Salvation is by God's grace alone, through the power of his Word alone, received in faith alone. In each of these situations, the sinner is saved the instant he or she believes. Baptism is NOT mandatory for salvation to occur.

However, the Bible in multiple passages, also states that God uses his Word to save at the time of Baptism.

It is the work of the Holy Spirit, using the Word of God, that works salvation in the sinner's spiritually dead soul, according to the second chapters of Ephesians and Colossians, and the third chapter of Romans. Your "decision for Christ" does not save you, neither does your decision to be baptized.

God saves those whom he has elected, at the time and place of his choosing. Sometimes God saves them while hearing a sermon in church, sometimes at home reading the Word, and sometimes by the power of his Word spoken during Baptism.

God does 100% of the saving. The sinner is a passive participant in his salvation. There is no passage in the New Testament that asks sinners to make a decision for Christ. The Bible states that God quickens sinners, gives them faith, and they believe and repent.

The sinner does not decide to be saved. God decides to save the sinner!

Baptism is NOT an automatic ticket into heaven. Only the Elect will be in heaven. So how can one be saved in infant baptism, reject Christ by ongoing willful sin or neglect of his faith and then spend eternity in hell? How can someone who is not the Elect be saved??

Lutherans call this a paradox. Unlike our Reformed brothers and sisters, we do not try to explain away this paradox so that it will conform to human reason and logic. To Lutherans, God does not have to "make sense" in order for us to accept for fact what he says in his Word.

Wiseguy said...

So, to clarify, you are saying that God saves by the sign of baptism or the Word preached as baptism is administered, and that everyone who is thus baptised is saved, and yet not all who are baptised will go to heaven, but only the elect.

I heartily agree with your statements that God is the one who saves, and that it is the elect (and them only) whom God saves, and that we are not saved because of a decision we make, but rather, a decision God has made in eternity, unconditionally.

But, in essence, you are saying everyone is saved by baptism, and yet not everyone baptised will be saved.

You acknowledge that this is a paradox. But it is not simply a paradox. It is a straightforward contradiction. It is a confession of nothing to assert one thing, and then to deny it in the next breath.

I recognise that Luther said some strange things about logic or reason, and that Lutheranism has taken hold of a lot of these statements and carried them to greater levels of absurdity. In fact this attitude has become popular today, not just in Lutheranism. The denial of the validity of logic, or the law of contradiction, is the foundation of all subjectivism and postmodernist philosophy. Although it would be more accurate to call it anti-philosophy.

Many of Luther's statements against logic or reason were not intended against the use of logic or reason itself, but against the use of logic or reason that was not subordinate to Scripture. To Luther, our logic/reason must be the servant of Scripture. With this sentiment, I fully agree. We must humiliate ourselves in trembling submission before the Word of God, not as judges over it, but as students to learn what we must believe.

But to conclude at any point, that the truth that is revealed by God to us in the Holy Scriptures is not logical, is to overthrow and deny the truth of God.

The very definition of the lie, is that it is the contradiction of the truth. Therefore we cannot tell what is truth and what is a lie, if the truth itself is self-contradictory. Then there is no truth at all.

For Luther, "Scripture is not a wax nose", and he adamantly defended and employed that most basic principle of hermeneutics, "Scripture interprets Scripture". He called this the rule of faith or the rule of Scripture. Our interpretation of Scripture must be regulated by Scripture itself. That means nothing if, even at the smallest point, we allow a contradiction in Scripture itself. It is because we know that the truth of God does not contradict itself that we can identify what the lies are.

Wiseguy said...

That God does not contradict Himself is fundamental to His spiritual being, what we call the doctrine of God's simplicity. God is truth, and in Him is no lie. And no lie is of the truth.

"I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth." - I John 2:21.

This is a truth most basic to the antithesis: "This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all." - I John 1:5.

I say again, it is no confession of any truth at all, to affirm one thing, and then immediately to deny it in the next breath. That is not a paradox, but a contradiction, and makes a mockery of God, and plays into the hands of the devil who has been a liar from the beginning, and whose native language is the lie (John 8:44).

God's revelation to us is not "double-speak", and therefore His apostles may speak in such a dishonest manner either: "When I therefore was thus minded, did I use lightness? or the things that I purpose, do I purpose according to the flesh, that with me there should be yea yea, and nay nay? But as God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, even by me and Silvanus and Timotheus, was not yea and nay, but in him was yea. For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us." - II Cor. 1:17-20. "Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;" - I Tim. 3:8.

Is God double-minded, that His revelation to us is self-contradictory? But, no: "A double minded man is unstable in all his ways." - James 1:8. How much more then, a double-minded god?!

If God's revelation to us is self-contradictory, then there is no revelation.

We believe, therefore, in agreement with Scripture, that there is no peace to the wicked, but that all the world lies under the curse and wrath of God. Only those who are found in Christ receive the grace and blessing and love of God. Therefore, as in the preaching, which is a savour of life unto savour to the elect, and a savour of death unto death to those appointed to disobedience (but always a sweet savour to God as it accomplishes the purpose for which He sends it; II Cor. 2:14-17; I Pet. 2:8-9; Isa. 55:11; Matt. 11:25-27), so it is in the holy sacraments. Only the elect receive any blessing and grace from the administration of the sacraments - because only the elect receive Christ who is signified by these sacraments.

Gary said...

Let me see if I can make this any clearer. When God, speaking through the Apostle Peter, said "Repent and baptized...for the remission of sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" was this an open invitation to all?

No. If you read the rest of the passage it says who is eligible to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit: "the called", the Elect. And who did God specify in this passage is among the "Called":

1. The adults listening to Peter preach who were the Elect.
2. Their children.
3. Those "afar off", a common reference to the Gentiles.

We orthodox do not baptize everyone in the neighborhood. We only baptize our children and those "afar off" who believe and repent. All persons in these two categories are 100% saved in baptism. So why do we believe that some of our infants MAY NOT be saved, because Scripture states that believers can fall away from grace and lose their salvation.

So how can a person be saved at baptism, be one of the Elect, and still go to hell.

We do not have an answer. It is a paradox. That is why Christ tells us that we must have the faith of a little child to enter the Kingdom of God. Little children do not jump up and down and demand that God conform to human logic and reason.

Only the Reformed do that.

Chuck Wiese said...

"A Lutheran may say, "Baptism saves you!" And to charge that not all baptised are saved, their response may be: "Baptism only saves by faith""

The response would be that people really do fall away from the faith as Scripture tells us they do. God works faith in us through His Word and God's Word is joined to water in baptism. God's Word in baptism works faith in us but sometimes people fall away from the faith.

"The Lutherans, like Romanists, are guilty of confusing the sign with the reality when considering the sacraments. If the sign is the reality, then it is no longer a sign, which by definition points away from itself to something else."

This is not an argument from Scripture but from Platonic philosophy. Unfortunately, Augustine popularized the language of Platonic philosophy into the theology of the Western church. Christ did not institutes "sacraments," Christ instituted baptism and the Lord's Supper. Augustine did not divorce the sign from the reality but provided the vocabulary for those in the ninth century and later to do so. The divorcing of the sign from the reality finds its roots in medieval scholasticism and is antithetical to sola scriptura.

"Peter makes a difference between the sign of baptism, and the reality of baptism. Washing with water is a sign of baptism because it points to the washing of regeneration and of our consciences by the blood and Spirit of Christ."

Peter does not make this distinction and even Calvin warns us about divorcing the sign from the reality in his commentary on this passage. When the church confesses "one baptism for the remission of sins" it's not making any distinction between the sign and the reality.

Peter says that baptism is the antitype of the water of the flood. Baptism is the greater reality. The water of the flood lifted up Noah and his family and saved Noah and his family according to Peter. But baptism provides an even greater salvation. Two parallel constructions then follow which explain what baptism does not do and what baptism does do. Baptism does not remove dirt from flesh. Baptism asks God for good conscience.

The Scriptures promise that baptism is for the forgiveness of sins. So the baptism itself asks God for a good conscience and God grants that request.

"Consider John's baptism, was the washing with water their repentance and remission of sins (on the basis of the sacrifice of the Lamb of God to whom John pointed)? Or was the washing with water a sign of that, insomuch that those who repent and believe in Christ are as surely washed from their sins as water washes away the filth of the body?"

Since the Scriptures say that the baptism was for the forgiveness of sins, I'm going to go with the Scriptures instead of all the other stuff you've added to make it fit into your theology. God works through His Word. When God created the heavens and the earth there was no separation of sign from reality.

Chuck Wiese said...

"So then the sign of NT baptism and the sign of OT circumcision are two different signs pointing in a different way to the same spiritual reality. And then if this outward circumcision in the flesh is called a sign and seal, is not the baptism with water also a sign and seal in the exact same way? A sign and seal of the righteousness which we have by faith."

Regeneration is promised in baptism. It was not promised in circumcision. Lutheran theologians differ as to whether or not circumcision should be regarded as a sacrament. But as the Colossians 2 passage indicates, baptism is the greater reality. It is the fulfillment. The OT speaks primarily in covenantal language about circumcision but the NT speaks primarily salvifically about baptism. I think you can make some legitimate covenantal inferences based on the Colossians text but the explicit language used throughout the NT is that baptism is salvific. You're basically saying that the prototype was replaced with another prototype.

Historically, the Christian church did not argue for infant baptism from a covenantal perspective. They simply said that babies were part of the nations that Jesus said to disciple by baptizing. They also said that since babies are sinners they should be given the forgiveness of sins given in baptism. But Zwingli denied that baptism is salvific (contrary to the almost unanimous consensus of the church up to this point) and also denied the historic doctrine of original sin. Yet, he still wanted to argue for infant baptism. His motivations for this have been questioned by many but I'll leave that to others to debate. However, by his own admission, Zwingli argued for infant baptism in a completely innovative way that departed from the teachings of the historic Christian church.

"If then a man has received the reality that is signified by both the sign of circumcision and of water baptism, he is regenerated, has a conscience cleansed, forgiven of all sins, and righteous by faith in Christ, how then can he fall away to damnation?"

The Scriptures speak of people falling away from the faith pretty plainly. They speak of people denying the Master who bought them and so forth. I know there are Calvinist explanations for these passages just like every theology has an explanation for every passage in the Bible but I have a hard time believing that the Apostles would have written what they wrote if they believed what Calvinists believe. If we share in the same faith as the Apostles we should be able to use the same vocabulary and phrases as the Apostles when discussing these things if sola scriptura means anything at all. The idea that if people fall away they never really had faith to begin with is a Calvinistic innovation and something that even Calvin did not seem to teach consistently. The Scriptures do very clearly teach a predestination unto salvation but they don't teach that only the elect are ever regenerated or have faith. We are left at times wondering why works the way that he does but it's important to remember that God's ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. Because of similar attempts to resolve the paradox, Lutherans have typically viewed Arminianism as basically just a form of Calvinism. They both depart significantly from the historic Christian faith and deny some very clear teachings of Scripture in order to create a god that makes sense to them. They also lack a proper center. According to the Scriptures, the central message of all preaching is Christ-crucified but for the Calvinist the central message is the glory of God. Lutheranism is thoroughly monergistic. God does all the work in saving us and we do all the work in earning our own damnation.

Chuck Wiese said...

John 2:19 is often appealed to as a proof text by Calvinists to explain all those who fall away from the faith. But John does not say they departed because they were not numbered among the elect or anything like that and what John says has a particular context. John is referring to a group of teachers who were teaching a form of proto-gnosticism. They denied that Jesus came in the flesh, they denied that Jesus comes in the flesh in the Eucharist, and they denied that Jesus will come again in the flesh. They never held to orthodox Christian doctrine to begin with and when they were not allowed to teach they went and set up shop somewhere else.

"So the sign of water baptism does not save, but as Peter says, "the answer of a good conscience toward God" which is the spiritual baptism signified by the external washing with water."

When your theology leads you to interpret "baptism now saves you" to mean "baptism doesn't save you" there's a real problem. Peter says that baptism is the request to God for a good conscience. "Answer" is a bad translation. The word did not have that meaning at that time. It's only in the 2nd Century and then only in legal documents like the Justinian Code that it takes on the meaning of "pledge." But even if you take that bad translation, baptism is a pledge of a good conscience. It's God's pledge to give you a good conscience if you insist on that translation.

"Since the reality signified by water baptism is regeneration, and faith is the fruit of regeneration, spiritual baptism does not save conditioned or dependent on our faith - rather it is the source of our faith. Our faith depends on our regeneration."

From the beginning and ending of this post you're showing that you don't really know what the Lutheran position is. God works faith in us through His Word.