The First Step To Shenanigans

O'Hagen: "I swear I'm gonna pistol whip the next person that says shenanigans!"

Thorny: "Hey Farva..."

The first step towards theological shenanigans is...wait for it...

Making Christianity about our choices, will, and taking of Christ.

As opposed to the proper emphasis: God's gracious giving of Christ to us.

The root problem here is that is makes salvation and Christianity in general a cooperative effort. You know, God did His part, now it's up to me to do mine. This is the inevitable first step towards theological purgatory.

But why? Well, there are numerous reasons.

First of all, this denies the efficacy of Christ and His gifts to us. I don't think anyone wants to claim that Christ's gifts are insufficient. But this makes it so. God does not hold Himself out there and beg us, by our will, to take Him. That's not in Scripture anywhere.

Second of all, it leads to one of two places: Pride, or despair. It leads to pride when one thinks they're doing well. Last I checked, God is still God. That means there is no possible way for us to meet His standards by anything we do. And since He still counts His standards as perfect, and us as imperfect...well, do the math. It leads to despair when people recognize that they have not loved the Lord with their whole heart and have not loved their neighbor as themselves.

Third of all, it leads to heretical beliefs and practices. Earning salvation is but one of the things that can possibly seep in here. Telling people to make choices to get saved, saying prayers that magically have Jesus move in to your heart, and other things. Yes, the sinner's prayer is a nonsense invention. There, I said it. I reckon a grand total of zero people have been saved by the sinner's prayer in history. How can I say such mean and awful things? Well, because God saves by His creative Word, given to us in Scripture and the Sacraments. And you know what? That's what the Church catholic has always believed. More so, it's what Scripture clearly tells us.

Fourth of all, it leads to the theologically liberal error that the Gospel is basically just another law to be followed and obeyed. I've heard numerous theologically liberal folks say that the Gospel is summarized in Matthew 22. You know, the passage where Jesus states to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. But that's not the Gospel. That's the summation of the Law! The good news is not our loving. It's Jesus' doing and giving.

The emphasis, and indeed, the whole of salvation, is a one-sided divine gift, given solely by God through specific means by which He has given to us.

I also realize that this rant could be taken the wrong way. So, let me clarify.

1. No, I am not saying that we don't make choices.

2. No, I am not saying that our choices do not have consequences.

3. No, I am not saying that we are not commanded to obey Christ.

4. No, I am not saying that we should not make rational decisions.

5. No, I am not saying that we should just let go and let God. (Quietism)

But I am saying that when it comes to salvation, it is completely and utterly accomplished outside of us (extra nos) by Christ at Calvary and Christ rising from the grave. It is given to us in His creative Word in faithful preaching, the waters of Holy Baptism, the Sacrament of His body and blood for us, and the Absolution pronounced by His called and ordained servants of the Word.

It's a class A, massive, major, big-time, error...to link our cooperation to our gaining of salvation. That ballpark belongs to God alone. He alone saves. He alone works this in us. He alone gives grace. He alone gives faith through His means of grace.

And praise to You, O Christ, for that faith You have so given clings to You alone.

For everything in salvation.


False Teaching, Christian Unity, and Theological Liberalism

Christian unity is one whopper of a topic now days. The simple fact of the matter is that much of mainstream Christianity (i.e. American evangelicalism) has thrust the issue of unity upon the entire Church. We ought to be thankful for that, for unity is indeed a big deal. Jesus' High Priestly Prayer in St. John 17 has much to do with unity.

However, as thankful as we should be for the emphasis on unity within the church, I do believe, on Scriptural grounds, that this common attempt at unity is severely misguided and in many ways very theologically liberal, postmodern, and ultimately unbelieving.

How about we take a lesson from the early church?

It is all too common for the charge to get leveled that Christians who leave a church over doctrine or refuse to accept false teaching in the church as being bad for unity. These people generally get labeled as folks who are splitting the church and are enemies of Christian unity.

Ultimately this accusation is nothing more than theological liberalism with a dash of postmodernism thrown in. This stance ultimately is massively minimalist in their stances, other than they're pretty dogmatic that they're right about being doctrinal minimalists. What do they consider the test of Christian unity? Well, generally, all a person has to do is call themselves a Christian or say they love Jesus. Granted, many churches have statements of faith that they believe, but one needn't be in-line with everything to be a member. That begs the question if they really believe their statement of faith at all.

Should we, as Confessional folks, be in unity with these doctrinal minimalists who demand that we cannot hold our Confessions as standards for unity?

I do not believe so. First of all, what if these persons who affirm they are Christians and love Jesus have some massive and blatantly heretical ideas about Christ. What if these folks outright deny the inerrancy of Scripture? In short, why do postmodern theological liberals get to reduce nearly everything to "secondary issues?" When did Baptism and the Lord's Supper get reduced to secondaries? Why has much of American Evangelicalism followed suit?


Can we be in unity with someone who loves Jesus but denies the Virgin Birth? No.

How about someone who believes Christ was a created being? No.

What about those who deny the efficacy of the Sacraments? No again. This is a big one that gets reduced to secondary.

What about denial of the inerrancy of Scripture? No. This leads to a grab bag. Take what you like and reject the rest.

The list goes on and on and on. And those who separate from churches that tolerate false views are decried as separatists and cancers to the unity of the church.

The bigger question is this: Why aren't these doctrinal minimalists worried at all about false doctrine? Why aren't they worried more about true doctrine? After all, if someone claims to love Jesus, and Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords, shouldn't we be precise and cautious about what comes out of our mouths regarding the Crucified King? This should be what we live for. Not some nebulous idea of "love," but Christ. And you know what? Christ is a person and there are specific things about Him that we ought to know.

That brings me to my next point. In Scripture, who are the ones who create disunity? It's not those who earnestly contend for the faith. It's the false teachers. Doctrinal minimalism and acceptance of a plethora of doctrines as secondary won't save you here. Doctrinal minimalism in the name of unity is something that is responsible for disunity. There is no way around that. The other problem is that it was ever tolerated in the church in the first place.

So what should we use as a guide for Christian unity? I would assert that the Church has used the 3 ecumenical creeds for centuries. Can we at least start there? That would eliminate much of the nonsense as acceptable right from the start.

How many churches can affirm the Apostle's, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds? Less than half, I would guess. How many churches can affirm the early church ecumenical councils? I would argue that in this case, far less than half. Why do we throw out all of these Creeds and Councils in the name of unity? These guys knew a lot more than us. We stick them on the back burner and slowly repeat our mantra: We all love Jesus, nothing else matters. Lose your faith, hug your neighbor (and maybe even a tree), and feel the love. It doesn't matter much what you believe, as long as you love Jesus. Unbelieving much?

We seek feelings, and not truth. And if we say differently and challenge false teaching, we get labeled destroyers of unity.

This is completely *against* what Christ's Church has always stood for. God help us.


Creeping Gnostic Means of Grace Denial

The means of grace. The sacraments. The Word. All of these are important terms in Christianity. And there are certainly a plethora of ideas on what constitutes the means of grace and the sacraments now days.

For this post, I'll try to keep it simple. The means of grace are ways through which the Holy Spirit works and gives grace to fallen humanity.

So what is the big deal here? Shouldn't we all be on the same page on this one? After all, the root question behind the discussion here is: How are we saved? How does God give us His grace? Are there specific manners in which He does this? Or are we the means of grace? Does He give us this grace via specific natural means which He has instituted? Or does He give us grace in response to our actions?

There are in essence 3 ideas on this topic and they can't all be correct.

1. God gives us grace in response to our choice of Him. Thus, our faith comes first and grace comes second, as a response.

This is a synergistic error. In essence, this error can take the form of Pelagianism or semi-Pelagianism. All orthodox Chirstian bodies have repeatedly rejected this error as heretical. Ecumenical church councils have rejected this, as well as Roman Catholic, Lutheran, and Reformed Confessions, documents, and councils.

Ultimately, this view rejects means of grace in the natural world here and now altogether. In short, this view says that grace is given as a result of our decision. This means that this view rejects the sacraments as means of grace.

2. God gives grace first which creates faith, but the Holy Spirit works apart from means via a secret inward call to one of God's elect.

This view is held by *some* Calvinists. In other words, this view says that the Holy Spirit works apart from means and regenerates the elect, who then afterwards believe the Gospel.

Some Calvinists then go on to assert that the means of grace are for our sanctification after we are already regenerate and justified.

This view insists that any means through which the Spirit works violates monergism. They insist that the Holy Spirit is sovereign (true) and works independently apart from means, regenerating the person and creating faith as a gift of God.

There is much to be commended about this view. They correctly recognize that faith is a gift of God and only God Himself imparts it.

The big problem with this view is two-fold. First, in their effort to uphold the sovereignty of God, they fall into a Gnostic error without even realizing it. They basically argue that the Spirit does not use the natural world as means to save the natural world. This view proves too much in the end. I mean, Jesus is a man, right? Granted, none of these folks are interested in denying the incarnation, but why not? It's consistent with their theology in this regard.

3. God uses specific natural means through which He gives grace. The Holy Spirit works through these means in the salvation of sinners.

This is the orthodox view. This view says that God uses natural means through which to work, and these means are clearly described and given to us in Holy Scripture. All means of grace are driven solely by the creative Word of God. The means of grace are the means of grace precisely because God works through them in His creative Word.

In short, in Holy Baptism, we are washed with water and the Word. (Eph 5) It's the Word that gives Baptism it's power. In the Eucharist, we are fed with the Word Himself, receiving the body and blood of Christ. In Holy Scripture, we are given the very Word of God in written or spoken form.

In other words, God has chosen to use the natural world to save the natural world. He uses water, bread, wine, sound waves, and light waves.

Far from removing the sovereignty of God, this orthodox view actually reinforces the sovereignty of God, showing that God can supernaturally create faith and save the natural world by means of the natural world, precisely because God has power and control over the natural world.

Far from rejecting monergism, these means are monergistic and objective. They deliver Christ, who died at Calvary in the natural world, to us in natural means in which God has said He will be present.

What blessed assurance! God saves us by natural means and promises that we are His through these natural means.

How am I saved? Well, Christ saved me 2000 years ago at Calvary. Now He delivers that salvation to me in Baptism and the Eucharist, and gives me His Word in Holy Scripture to back up His promise and deliver me even more assurance.

How do I know I am saved? The means are objective. That's another beauty of it all. God saves me via Word and Sacrament, and I can know I am saved also because of this Word and Sacrament, which deliver me the faith that clings to Christ alone for my salvation.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ~Romans 11:33


One Baptism - Part 2

In my previous post, I briefly surveyed three major beliefs on baptism. We looked at the Baptist view, the Reformed view, and the Lutheran view. I hope that each view was faithfully represented, as I tried to stick to major Confessions of faith from each group.

One Baptism - Part 1

I intentionally skipped over the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Church of Christ views. It's not because these views are not important to learn, but rather for a couple other simple reasons. The Church of Christ views defaults to salvation by obedience or works apart from grace. The Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox views are roughly similar to the Lutheran view, which I hold to. The debates between the Lutheran and Roman Catholic view tend to revolve around what baptism washes away (in Rome it's original sin for infants) and what makes the baptism effective (Lutheran - God's Word, Rome - the Priest, Holy Water, etc). The last comparison is simplistic, but suffice it to say, we agree that baptism is a means of grace that does something for the recipient from God.

Today we will focus on the Scriptures that speak about baptism as well as the Nicene Creed that speaks about the same. The Creed states: "I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins."

I'm not to deal with all the passages about baptism in the synoptic Gospels or John, but I will deal with a few. Here are the Scriptures fromthe Gospels and Acts.

Matthew 28:19: Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit

Mark 16:16: He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.

John 3:22: After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He was spending time with them and baptizing.

Acts 2:38: Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 10:47: Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?

Acts 16:15: And when she and her household had been baptized, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.

Acts 16:33: And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household.

Acts 19:3-5: And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” And they said, “Into John’s baptism.” 4 Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

Acts 22:16: Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.’

There are a cross-section of Scriptures speaking about baptism from the Gospels and from Acts. Here are some Scriptures from the didactic epistles.

Romans 6:3-4: Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

1 Corinthians 12:13: For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

Galatians 3:27: For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

Ephesians 4:5: one Lord, one faith, one baptism

Colossians 2:12: having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

1 Peter 3:21: Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

And there are the didactic epistles.

Generally, passages from Acts are descriptive history and the didactic epistles teach us doctrine, although that is not to say that Acts contains no doctrine or that the epistles contain no history. That being said, we are wise to look to the doctrinal epistles to tell us what something is, instead of trying to infer what something is from a historical account. This is true of baptism just as other doctrines.

The only two baptism passages I provided from the synoptic Gospel accounts are the two Great Commission passages. St. Matthew says that disciples are made by baptizing them and teaching them. Or at least, that is the interpretation that the majority of scholars take to the Great Commission passage in Matthew 28. St. Mark says that those who believed and are baptized shall be saved, and unbelievers will be condemned. The passage I provided from St. John's Gospel is important because it helps us understand the new birth discourse between Jesus and Nicodemus. Jesus speaks of being born from above by water and the Spirit in St. John 3:5. Immediately when the new birth discourse is completed (St. John 3:1-21), Jesus and the Apostles are going around baptizing people. (St. John 3:22) In other words, in a baptism, water and the Spirit are together. One baptism.

St. Matthew places baptism before teaching and St. Mark places believing before baptism. In short, a person cannot be dogmatic based on either of these passages regarding the order of baptism and belief. The best solution, and indeed I would propose the biblical one, is that belief, teaching, and baptism all go together. You can't have belief without teaching, and St. Matthew places baptism first. And a baptism without belief that precedes or follows is condemning. In other words, I don't think St. Matthew or St. Mark are proposing an order here. Neither one of them is saying that every person everywhere must believe first then be baptized after as an outward profession of faith, although we certainly do have ample historical example of first generation Christians believing then being baptized. But we also have ample examples of first generation Christians bringing their entire household to Holy Baptism. Some folks may object that those passages say nothing about infants, and they're right. But the objection is seriously weak. Surely, every single household baptism in Scripture did not involve all adults and adolescents who could articulate a profession of faith and know what baptism is.

I included Acts 10:47 because it shows that sometimes people are saved pre-baptism. We know this to be true. Even as a Lutheran who affirms the efficacy of baptism and indeed, baptismal regeneration, we do not hold that baptism is the only means of grace by which God saves. His Word saves us, and that comes to us in baptism, but also preaching, the Lord's Supper, and absolution. We affirm that baptism is the normal means and the usual means. In other words, it's necessary, but not absolutely necessary.

Acts 19:3-5 is included because it shows that John's baptism and Christian baptism are not completely identical. Tons of overlap for sure.

Acts 22:16 is included because it flatly says that baptism washes away sins.

The didactic epistles, which teach us doctrine, are very clear on this topic. St. Paul says that baptism buries and raises us with Christ in Romans 6, then again says the same thing and says we are actually raised in faith in baptism in Colossians 2. In 1 Corinthians 12:13, we see that it is the Holy Spirit who baptises us into Christ.

On a side note, many Christian churches now days have two baptisms in practice. One is water baptism, and is just a sign and symbol of an inward change. Then they have what is called the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which is based on texts such as Acts 1:5 and 1 Corinthians 12:13.

The obvious problem here is that if this doctrine is true, Ephesians 4:5 is false. If we can change Ephesians 4:5 to two baptisms instead of one baptism, why can't we change it to two Lords and two faiths as well? There would be no reason why we couldn't, and I am sure no Christian is interested in doing that. The solution to this supposed dilemma is not to invent another baptism, but to recognize that Christian baptism is one, and it contains water and the Spirit. One baptism with water and the Holy Spirit. Not two.

That's why I include passages like Acts 2:38. This is talking about Christian baptism and St. Peter includes water and the Holy Spirit in his statement. Many non-paedobaptists (infant baptizers) and memorialist baptizers (Baptists) try to point out that "Repent" precedes "be baptized" in Acts 2:38. And that is true. But I've already argued that these things are part of one whole and go together, not a logical order. Or else St. Matthew (and Jesus, who said it) is quite possibly in error in the Great Commission by putting baptism first.

The final passage is from St. Peter's first epistle. This, I think, gives quite a bit of clarity to his words at Pentecost in Acts 2. Baptism, which correponds to this (God saving Noah and his family through water in the ark), now saves you. That's pretty clear. Baptism saves you. Not by water (although water is a means), but by the resurrection of Christ (Or, it raises us in faith, as St. Paul says in Colossians 2:12).

"I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins." ~Nicene Creed

This brings us to the Nicene Creed, which is an orthodox and ecumenical Christian creed. All Christians everywhere ought to hold to this creed. Not all Christians do. That does not necessarily mean they all are unsaved, but it does mean they are dangerously deviating from standard Christian teaching that has been held for 2000 years.

The Baptist view of baptism cannot account for this phrase very well. Granted, the phrase says nothing about paedobaptism (although earlier ecumenical councils take paedobaptism for granted. Carthage 253, for example). But it does say that baptism remits (forgives, same thing) sin. The Baptist view rejects this idea. They would have to reinterpret that Nicene phrase to make the "for" mean "because of." Such as: "I acknowledge one Baptism for (because I already have) the remission of sins." Yes, I believe a Baptist baptism is still valid. It is done in the Name of the Triune God and done with water.Water + Word = Baptism. I had a Baptist baptism.

The Reformed view of Baptism is oh so close. It's a bit confusing until one looks into it a bit. They acknowledge that baptism does something and is indeed a means of grace. They likewise baptize their children in the covenantal model of theology that they follow. However, they do not connect baptism to regeneration. In short, baptism is a means of grace, but it does not regenerate, for that is done by the secret inward call of the Holy Spirit apart from means.

The other big reason as to why the Reformed cannot accept baptismal regeneration is their theology that is rooted firmly in God's decrees and their doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints. In other words, in order for the Perseverance of the Saints AND baptismal regeneration to be true, every baptized person ever in history must be elect and finally saved. We all know this not to be the case. Hence, they cannot accept baptismal regeneration and thus, like the Baptists in this regard, have a hard time with this phrase in the Nicene Creed.

The Lutheran (Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox too) view of Baptism has no issue with this phrase. We accept baptismal regeneration first and foremost on Scriptural grounds. St. Paul, St. Peter, and the book of Acts all teach it. The authors of the Nicene Creed held to this as well.

Baptism is a very core foundational doctrine of the Christian faith. Discerning Scripture's teaching on it is quite important. And with any other doctrine,the "higher"view one has of it, the more important it becomes within that church body.

We hold, as Lutherans, that baptism is one of the chief articles of the faith. It is a sacrament. A work done by God for us. We receive it, and it is not our work.

Thanks be to God.


One Baptism - Part 1

One Lord, one faith, one baptism. ~Ephesians 4:5

I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins. ~Nicene Creed

Baptism is a hot topic in Christian circles. It probably always will be. Different Christian churches view the sacrament differently, and many don't even call it a sacrament.

Let us then take a brief look at what different churches believe in this area. Essentially there are 5 different views on baptism within Christian circles. We'll cover three of them here; the Baptist, Reformed, and Lutheran views. For the sake of brevity, I'll not discuss the views of the Church of Christ (because it patently teaches salvation by works...baptism is an act of obedience that remits sins...do the math) and the Roman Catholic (which is in many ways similar to Lutheran, with some different definitions). Nor will this little blog in my little corner of the world be an exhaustive treatment of the topic. But we will hit on the nuts and bolts of the doctrines regarding baptism.

What is Baptism?

1. According to Baptist Theology

I will recognize from the outset that "Baptist Theology" is an enormous term with numerous belief systems within it. There are Southern Baptists, Independent Fundamental Baptists, Reformed Baptists, Primitive Baptists, and so on. Likewise, non-denominational "Bible" churches are also baptist in their theology. But one thing unites all of these. They all practice water baptism by full immersion for believers in Christ alone.

The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith states the following:
  1. Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, to be to the person who is baptised - a sign of his fellowship with Christ in His death and resurrection; of his being engrafted into Christ; of remission of sins; and of that person's giving up of himself to God, through Jesus Christ, to live and walk in newness of life.

  2. Those who actually profess repentance towards God, faith in, and obedience to, our Lord Jesus Christ, are the only proper subjects for this ordinance.
  3. The outward element to be used in this ordinance is water, in which the person is to be baptised in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
  4. Immersion - the dipping of the person in water - is necessary for the due administration of this ordinance.
Here is a statement of faith regarding baptism from a typical Baptist church:

We believe that Christian baptism is the immersion of the believer in water to show forth in a solemn and beautiful emblem our faith in the crucified, buried, and risen Savior, with its effect in our death to sin and resurrection to a new life, that it is a prerequisite to the privileges of a Church relation.

In short, Baptist Theology teaches the following regarding baptism:

a. It is an ordinance, not a sacrament. That is to say, it is not a means of grace.

b. It is a result of a person's giving of themselves to Christ. That is to say, it is an act of obedience done by man.

c. A person must be fully immersed in water in order for it to be a valid baptism.

To be even more clear, baptism does nothing for us in a salvific sense because it is "an outward sign of an inward reality" as I have heard it said before.

2. According to Reformed and/or Presbyterian Theology

The Reformed and Presbyterian stance on baptism is different than any other. I'll let the Westminster Confession explain:

1. Baptism is a sacrament of the new testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible church; but also, to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in newness of life. Which sacrament is, by Christ's own appointment, to be continued in his church until the end of the world.

2. The outward element to be used in this sacrament is water, wherewith the party is to be baptized, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, by a minister of the gospel, lawfully called thereunto.

3. Dipping of the person into the water is not necessary; but baptism is rightly administered by pouring, or sprinkling water upon the person.

4. Not only those that do actually profess faith in and obedience unto Christ, but also the infants of one, or both, believing parents, are to be baptized.

5. Although it be a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance, yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto it, as that no person can be regenerated, or saved, without it; or, that all that are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated.

6. The efficacy of baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God's own will, in his appointed time.

7. The sacrament of baptism is but once to be administered unto any person.

The Belgic Confession also waxes eloquent on baptism, but I won't post the whole thing here, it's quite long.

In short, Reformed Theology teaches the following regarding baptism:

a. It is a sacrament, not an ordinance. In other words, they affirm it's graciousness.

b. It is a sign and seal of the covenant of grace.

c. It signifies and seals regeneration, remission of sins, and ingrafting into Christ.

d. Immersion is valid, but so is pouring or sprinkling. Any amount of water is valid.

e. Not only new believers, but also their children are to be administered baptism.

f. Baptism is not necesssary for salvation.

g. The grace given in baptism is not tied to the moment the baptism is done and indeed is given by God at a later date.

h. A person may only be baptised once.

3. According to Lutheran Theology

The best place to go for the Lutheran view of baptism is the Small Catechism.
What is Baptism?--Answer.

Baptism is not simple water only, but it is the water comprehended in God's command and connected with God's Word.

Which is that word of God?--Answer.

Christ, our Lord, says in the last chapter of Matthew: Go ye into all the world and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

What does Baptism give or profit?--Answer.

It works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.

Which are such words and promises of God? Answer.

Christ, our Lord, says in the last chapter of Mark: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
How can water do such great things?--Answer.
It is not the water indeed that does them, but the word of God which is in and with the water, and faith, which trusts such word of God in the water. For without the word of God the water is simple water and no baptism. But with the word of God it is a baptism, that is, a gracious water of life and a washing of regeneration in the Holy Ghost, as St. Paul says, Titus, chapter three: By the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ, our Savior, that, being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying.
What does such baptizing with water signify?--Answer.
It signifies that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts, and, again, a new man daily come forth and arise; who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.
Where is this written?--Answer.
St. Paul says in Romans, chapter 6: We are buried with Christ by Baptism into death, that, like as He was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

So, in Lutheran Theology, baptism is:
a. The washing of water with the Word. It is a sacrament.
b. Works forgiveness (remission) of sins, delivers from death and the devil,and gives eternal salvation.
c. The Word of God is the effective agent in baptism, not the water.

d. Baptism regenerates and saves.
Those are our three views. Next blog will compare the three to the Nicene Creed and the Scriptures.



The Law Kills...So Let's Insert An Easier One.

Bad Theology rears its ugly head again.

Have you ever heard a well-meaning brother or sister in Christ share a story that goes something like this?

I thought I was a Christian. I went to church every Sunday because that's what Christians do. And I thought I was a pretty good person. But I eventually realized that nothing I did could ever save me. I was not a good person and I was lost. I was not saved just by going to church.

Sound familiar so far? So far, it's not so bad. The person has realized that they cannot do anything to save themselves and the perfect demands of God's Holy Law has crushed them. They then continue with something like...

I was not saved just by going to church. I would stay out all night doing x, y, and z. Then I would get up and go to church in the morning. I realized my lost state and then really, truly, gave my life to Jesus. I made it a personal relationship. I could not do anything to earn my salvation, but I made sure I was really, truly, saved. I accepted Christ as my personal Lord and Savior.

And here is where the train goes off the rails. The first part sounds so good! The Law did it's job! It crushed the person and drove them to Christ. Score one for the Law.

But then...but then...but then. It's supposed to read: "But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved" (Eph 2:4-5)

But it doesn't. It reads: I gave my life to Christ and made Him my personal Lord and Savior. I gave up those things I used to stay up all night doing; x, y, and z. All of them. I'm not perfect, but I love Jesus. This of course is accompanied by heavy emotion, choked back tears, and such.

So here is the rub. The person ultimately is rooting their salvation in doing something. Whether that be "making Christ Lord and Savior" or "surrendering" or "accepting Christ," they're rooting their salvation in...voila, an easier version of the law. This is all purely subjective. How can this not lead to a lack of assurance of salvation? I gave up x, y, and z. Well, what if you do x, y, and z again? or even just one of them? Well, there goes your assurance and now you're back at square one.

The other thing is that this just is not at all what Scripture tells us about salvation. Scripture tells us that Christ saves us. Alone. By Himself. It's like, all 100% Him. There is no "I'm saved because I gave my life to Christ." That's not in Scripture. There is also no "I made Jesus my personal Lord and Savior." That's not in Scripture either. There is really no "I'm a Christian and know I am really, truly, personally saved because I gave up all these things." That kind of sounds like you're boasting in leaving behind things. Know what I mean?

The other thing that is bothersome about testimonies like this is that they downplay the role of the Church. Big time. They always pit "personal relationship" vs. "church." You hear phrases like "going to church doesn't make you a Christian," and things like that.

Well, the Church is precisely the place that delivers Christ to you: personally and objectively. Not by your willing it, not by you making Christ Lord, and not by your giving up things. Those are all subjective, and those are all works!

Instead, the Church gives you Christ the way Christ said He is to be given. Christ gave us officers in the Church to deliver His good gifts to us. We call this the office of the ministry. Your pastor preaches Christ crucified to you. He is present in His Word. Your pastor baptises you in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In that you are united to Christ. Your pastor administers the blessed Sacrament of Christ's body and blood, which is for the forgiveness of sins.

When, oh when, did we start replacing the Law with an easier law of "accepting Christ," "making Christ Lord and Savior," and giving things up? That's how we know we're really saved people will say.

I say nonsense. We know we are really saved because Christ strengthens our faith weekly by giving us Himself in Word and Sacrament. We ARE baptised. He has claimed us. We are His.

Get rid of Pietism. It's a dead end and it's terrible theology. And stop chucking the Church under the bus. The Church gives you God's good gifts. If God is your Father, the Church is your Mother.