Faith in Faith?

Interesting topic, this. I do think, when we look at this topic of faith and sola fide, that Lutheranism differs from the rest of Protestantism, including Reformed Theology, Arminianism, and good old mainstream Evangelicalism (i.e. Baptists and Methodists of all stripes. Yes, I know that is a huge group with all sorts of different stances).

How exactly is Lutheranism different in this arena? To see that, we must look at how different camps view faith. Rest assured, we are very different. I hesitate to even use the word "Protestant" when I speak of Lutheranism. We're not really Protestant; we're Evangelical Catholics.

The Difference

In Protestantism of all stripes, the main premise is simply this: Everyone that believes in Christ is saved. (Jn 3:16, Ac 16:31, Ro 10:9-13)

In Lutheranism it is this: I baptize you in the Triune Name of God. (Mt 28:18-20)

Does this mean Lutheranism discounts belief in Christ? Far from it! Rather, Lutheranism sees faith as something that is in the Word of God and simply receives and recognizes what is true. Therefore, we are baptized and thus saved, and we had better not call God a liar. He has spoken it. It is so.

Does this mean that Protestantism discounts baptism? Well, no. But the grounds of assurance of salvation is ultimately rooted in faith, which is subjective, and not in baptism, which is objective.

Thus, we could look at this topic in a sort of logical format. In Protestantism, the major premise is that everyone who believes is saved. The Protestant is thus pushed to looking to himself. In other words, the Protestant will say something like: I believe. Therefore I am saved.

The Lutheran on the other hand will look outside of himself and may say something like: I am baptized. God put His Triune Name on me in Holy Baptism. God always tells the truth. Baptism now saves you. I receive this truth from God because the Word says so.

The biggest difference here is that for Protestants faith is a very introspective sort of thing. Don't get me wrong, there is a time and a place for introspection, for sure. That being said, in Protestantism, whereas faith may indeed look to the Word of God (e.g. Jo 3:16, Ro 10), it ultimately ends up asking itself if it is really faith. In other words, the Protestant always comes back to around to the question: How do I know I have really truly believed - and therefore am saved?

Lutherans, on the other hand, look to the promise of God given in Baptism. We know we believe not because we believe, but because Christ gave us Himself on the tree of Calvary and then in our Baptism. God does not lie. I was baptized, but more importantly, I AM baptized.


Ultimately the biggest difference we see here is in Sacramental efficacy. Some Protestants affirm that the Sacraments are effective (the Reformed), but stop short of saying that the Sacraments are always effective. We could use the example of the Eucharist here. In much of Protestantism, the Eucharist is nothing more than a bare memorial of pious remembrance. In Reformed Theology, the believer communes with Christ in faith, but the unbeliever receives only bread and wine. In Lutheranism, the Eucharist is the true body and blood of Christ given and shed for you, regardless of whether or not the person receiving it is a believer. Every partaker of the Eucharist receives Christ; in their mouth.

Lutheran Theology is very Sacramental, and hence, very objective when it comes to faith and salvation. We are saved (and know we are saved) because we are baptized into Christ, receive His true body and blood in our mouth for the forgiveness of sins, and are forgiven in Holy Absolution. In these ways, Christ is given to us.

Protestant Theology is not Sacramental, and hence, very subjective when it comes to faith and salvation. They are saved (and know they are saved) because they believe in Christ.

Hopefully this is helpful. It's a very rough sketch of the topic and volumes could be written about it. But this, as I see it, it a pretty accurate summary.

+Grace and Peace+


Baptism is for Oranges

The Council of Orange (529 AD) is a famous early church ecumenical council. There are a few major points we can draw from this council.

First, the council was utterly against all forms of Pelagianism. In other words, the dispute between St. Augustine of Hippo and the (probably) British monk Pelagius was discussed at this council. The council sided with St. Augustine on this issue; precisely because Holy Scripture sides with St. Augustine's stances in this area.

The other major thing we can take away from these canons is that Orange taught divine monergism and linked it directly to Holy Baptism.

CANON 1. If anyone denies that it is the whole man, that is, both body and soul, that was "changed for the worse" through the offense of Adam's sin, but believes that the freedom of the soul remains unimpaired and that only the body is subject to corruption, he is deceived by the error of Pelagius and contradicts the scripture which says, "The soul that sins shall die" (Ezek. 18:20); and, "Do you not know that if you yield yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are the slaves of the one whom you obey?" (Rom. 6:16); and, "For whatever overcomes a man, to that he is enslaved" (2 Pet. 2:19).

CANON 2. If anyone asserts that Adam's sin affected him alone and not his descendants also, or at least if he declares that it is only the death of the body which is the punishment for sin, and not also that sin, which is the death of the soul, passed through one man to the whole human race, he does injustice to God and contradicts the Apostle, who says, "Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned" (Rom. 5:12).

CANON 7. If anyone affirms that we can form any right opinion or make any right choice which relates to the salvation of eternal life, as is expedient for us, or that we can be saved, that is, assent to the preaching of the gospel through our natural powers without the illumination and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who makes all men gladly assent to and believe in the truth, he is led astray by a heretical spirit, and does not understand the voice of God who says in the Gospel, "For apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5), and the word of the Apostle, "Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God" (2 Cor. 3:5).

Second, the council affirms baptismal regeneration and rejects double predestination.

CANON 5. If anyone says that not only the increase of faith but also its beginning and the very desire for faith, by which we believe in Him who justifies the ungodly and comes to the regeneration of holy baptism -- if anyone says that this belongs to us by nature and not by a gift of grace, that is, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit amending our will and turning it from unbelief to faith and from godlessness to godliness, it is proof that he is opposed to the teaching of the Apostles, for blessed Paul says, "And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6). And again, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God" (Eph. 2:8). For those who state that the faith by which we believe in God is natural make all who are separated from the Church of Christ by definition in some measure believers.

CANON 8. If anyone maintains that some are able to come to the grace of baptism by mercy but others through free will, which has manifestly been corrupted in all those who have been born after the transgression of the first man, it is proof that he has no place in the true faith. For he denies that the free will of all men has been weakened through the sin of the first man, or at least holds that it has been affected in such a way that they have still the ability to seek the mystery of eternal salvation by themselves without the revelation of God. The Lord himself shows how contradictory this is by declaring that no one is able to come to him "unless the Father who sent me draws him" (John 6:44), as he also says to Peter, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 16:17), and as the Apostle says, "No one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:3).

According to the catholic faith we also believe that after grace has been received through baptism, all baptized persons have the ability and responsibility, if they desire to labor faithfully, to perform with the aid and cooperation of Christ what is of essential importance in regard to the salvation of their soul. We not only do not believe that any are foreordained to evil by the power of God, but even state with utter abhorrence that if there are those who want to believe so evil a thing, they are anathema. We also believe and confess to our benefit that in every good work it is not we who take the initiative and are then assisted through the mercy of God, but God himself first inspires in us both faith in him and love for him without any previous good works of our own that deserve reward, so that we may both faithfully seek the sacrament of baptism, and after baptism be able by his help to do what is pleasing to him. We must therefore most evidently believe that the praiseworthy faith of the thief whom the Lord called to his home in paradise, and of Cornelius the centurion, to whom the angel of the Lord was sent, and of Zacchaeus, who was worthy to receive the Lord himself, was not a natural endowment but a gift of God's kindness.

To conclude, it boggles my mind how Reformed Theology loves Orange so much. True, there are things in Orange that are compatible with Reformed Theology; such as the rejection of Pelagianism. On the other hand, the council is clearly against double predestination, which every form of Reformed Theology holds to, and is clearly in favor of baptismal regeneration, which Reformed Theology rejects. The council is favorable an compatible with Lutheran teaching (in light of justification and sanctification), and with Roman Catholicism (progressive justification), properly understood.

The Early Church councils are worth our time and effort. Orange is no exception. you can find the canons of the Council of Orange here: Canons of Orange 529


So You Wanna Tick Off A Confessional Lootran, Eh?

Top 10 ways to get under the skin of a Confessional Lutheran.

10. Tell them that oyster crackers and grape juice is communion.

Jesus used unleavened bread and wine, not oyster crackers and Welch's. We are foolish, foolish, foolish, to change the elements that Christ used. And by the way, we come to the altar to receive Christ, not sit in our pews and see if we're holy enough to actually partake.

9. Associate us with the ELCA.

The ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) is the largest church body in the United State that bears the name Lutheran. Problem is, they're not Lutheran, like at all. The ELCA is theologically liberal, and we cringe when they use the name Lutheran. They don't stand for anything that Lutherans have stood for throughout history.

8. Tell us that modern day Lutherans are really synergistic Philippists.

Ah, no. We already had this controversy back in the day between the Gnesio Lutherans and the Philippists (named for Philip Melanchthon, who sadly compromised a lot in his later years). The Formula of Concord solves all of this. We're monergists in the purest sense of the term.

7. Tell us that Baptism is just a work of obedience.

Go ahead, try telling us that. You'll probably end up getting about 20 Scriptures in response.

6. Tell us that Martin Luther wouldn't be a Lutheran if he were alive today.

Do you even Small Catechism, yo?

5. Tell us that we're really no different than Roman Catholics.

Well, we are. That's kinda why Luther got excommunicated by Rome. We have much in common with them, that is true. But we differ on some very big issues. Like the Gospel.

4. Tell us that Luther was really a Calvinist.

This one is common. The Reformed want to claim Luther. Too bad he flatly rejected much of Reformed doctrine, such as limited atonement, "spiritual" presence only in the Eucharist, and the denial of baptismal regeneration. He also later in life rejected double predestination. Luther was definitely not a Calvinist. Monergist does not equal Calvinist. Sorry, but Luther thinks you're heretics.

3. Deny the Real Bodily Presence.

Oh boy. You don't even wanna go there. This (the bread) IS (is, is, IS) MY (Christ's) Body. Jesus hath spoken. Nuff said.

2. Tell us that we deny sola gratia (grace alone) and sola fide (faith alone) because of our sacramentalism.

Wait a second. We LIKE those terms. Of course, when one sees baptism and communion as works of obedience, then they get the means of grace wrong. Are they even listening? WE LIKE THOSE THINGS! WE BELIEVE THEM! Baptism and the Eucharist are gracious, not works.

And the number 1 way to tick off a Confessional Lutheran...

1. Call me a Pietist.

Do it. I'll sin in response.


American Pelagians

Mainstream Christianity in the United States is very Pelagian - at least in practice. A recent survey by Christianity Today of Evangelicals has revealed that 68% of American Evangelicals believe that people seek God first and then He responds with grace. 67% agree that people can turn to God on their own initiative. Over half -55%- believe that we must contribute to our own salvation. And 18% said that God loves them because of the good they do or have done. I have provided a link to the article below, which also points out that Arianism is alive and well, as well as the denial of the personhood of the Holy Spirit.

Evangelicals Favorite Heresies

I do think, however, that this result should not surprise us that much. After all, mainstream Evangelicalism has been severely influenced by humanistic methods and American ideals. The poster boy for Evangelicalism and the methods they use has got to be Charles Grandison Finney. The Mainstream Evangelical Church is held in captivity to many methods that originated with Finney and other preachers like him.

My point is, these Evangelicals believe these things because they are taught certain methods that are used to get people saved. They hear these methods week in and week out from the pulpit.

Functionally, Pelagianism relies heavily on a denial of original sin. the denial of original sin goes hand in hand with another doctrine that is nearly universally taught and assumed in Evangelical circles; the Age of Accountability.

When Evangelicals hear week in and week out that their infants and small children have not reached the Age of Accountability and only then are they responsible to make their own decision for Christ, what should we expect? Do the math. A person is innocent and thus saved until they can apprehend and understand their sin, the Gospel, and so on. And then, to be saved, they must make their own decision to follow Christ.

Where is grace in all of this? According to the Christianity Today poll, 68% of Evangelicals believe that grace is a reward or result of their own decision. We find God, then He helps us out.

Should we be shocked? No. Should we be outraged? Maybe. Should we be upset and saddened by these outright heretical teachings and beliefs? Absolutely.

The point is, they believe this because this is what the methods used teach them to believe. When you hear that you are saved by making a decision, saying a prayer, or coming forward for an altar call, what should we expect? It's all human initiative, and it's all unbiblical at best.

Traditional American values also play into this sort of theology. In America, we love the idea of individualism. We adore the "self-made man." We love to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps and create our own destiny. So why not import those ideas in some form into the church?

What can rectify this situation? Well, theologically, Evangelicalism doesn't have the answers to this. This is for a few major reasons.

1. They minimize the Ecumenical Creeds. The Ecumenical Creeds (Apostle's, Nicene, Athanasian) properly read and understood would do away with the Arianism and the denial of the personhood of the Holy Spirit. The shameful Word of Faith and Prosperity movement is a very big reason for the denial of the Spirit's personhood.

2. Their Ecclesiology is weak at best. They do not have a robust doctrine of the office of the ministry. A pastor in Evangelicalism is a hireling. It is not a divine call to preach Christ crucified and properly administer the Sacraments.

3. They do not have any Sacraments. This is a huge one. Evangelicalism rejects that the Sacraments are means of grace; divine gifts that deliver to us Christ the crucified. Where there are no Sacraments, Pelagianism is bound to take over. Where there are no Sacraments, the human will becomes the arbiter of salvation. It's not given to you. Rather, you must take it and appropriate it for yourself by your decision.

The Church catholic has always been creedal, confessional, and sacramental. Without the powerful creative Word working through sound, light, water, bread, and wine, we are left with an idea of grace as a nebulous thing that we get when we choose God. But how can we know we are receiving grace if it is not outside of ourselves and objective?

Thanks be to God, despite the outright Pelagianism and anti-Christian doctrines being taught in American Evangelicalism, God will have the last Word. His Church will be triumphant and He will continue to save people and lead us to everlasting life.



Romans 8:29-30: I Don't Think It Means What You Think It Means

Romans 8:29-30 is a battleground text in Scripture. Differing theologies interpret it differently. I'm going to try to show what the verse says and what it doesn't say here. I'll do my best.

Romans 8:29-30 (ESV): For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

There it is. It's a heavy passage, loaded with some big time theological words. Foreknew, predestined, called, justified, glorified. Our Reformed friends see this as a golden chain of salvation. And I think in concept they're correct here. It is certainly talking about that. Yet, I also think they push it too far as well. Our Arminian friends see this as God looking through the corridor of time and seeing who would choose Him of their own free will. This interpretation is pretty far from the mark, I think. It actually makes little sense when it is fleshed out.

I've also heard of another interpretation in the past tense that this is only referring to those who were in Christ before the book was written and after they died. Thus, those whom God foreknew would be those whom He knew in ages past, pre-St. Paul.

So then, what is it saying, and how far should we take this? How far is too far? I think it's fairly simple if we just allow this one to say what it says and not read too much into it.

It is clearly a promise of God and flows naturally from Romans 8:28, which states: And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

So God works all things together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose. And then, the promise of that is that He predestines all those He foreknows, and promises to call, justify, and glorify them as well.

So I think this verse is a very strong passage for the Lutheran dogma of single predestination insofar as it is promising that God will save all those whom He foreknows and has predestined. He promises to call them, justify them, and glorify them. If we would like, we could call these people the elect.

But what this passage does not say is anything about those who are unbelievers. It says nothing about them. So whereas we know that God promises to save the predestined people, and those are the only ones who are finally saved, it never comments at all on others. In short, this is not a congruent passage teaching that there is a group of people who are predestined to be damned. Likewise, it never says anything that these other folks will not be called by God and will never be justified. It never says God predestines them to hell.

To put it simple, the people who do not end up in glory can't say that God predestined them there for His glory, because the Bible simply does not teach that; certainly not here in Romans 8. And indeed, in other places of Scripture, God is said to "desire all people to be saved" (1 Tim 2:1-4), and that "the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people" (Tit 2:11), and "The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world" (Joh 1:9).

Likewise, looking to our predestination is foolish. Wondering if Christ died for us is also foolish, because He did. You're a sinner and a human, thus He died for you. He also elects us before the foundation of the world, but carries this election out via means of grace temporally in Baptism, the Word, and the Eucharist.

So what is the gist of Romans 8:28-30? Well, it's a blessed promise. Those predestined in Christ are saved and will be in glory. Predestination is a soft pillow for the believer in Christ. It says nothing about unbelievers.

Thus, while strongly affirming predestination, we refuse to go beyond what is written. We look to Christ and His work and gifts to us as our assurance, not our election before the foundation of the world, for that is only revealed through the means of grace that bring us faith in the crucified and risen Christ. Plus nothing.

Yes, I know, neither our Reformed friends or our Arminian friends like this line of thought. They argue that it has to be one or the other, logically speaking. But when Scripture offers us this paradox without a solution in Holy writ, we must affirm both.

Of course, Lutheranism is not against reason and logic, per se. We are simply against using it as a lens through which to build a systematic theology (Calvinism, Arminism, etc.). Where the Word speaks clearly, our answer is to be Amen! Let it be so!

Even if our feeble minds can't logically explain it or reason out way into a perfect reconciliation of texts. Inevitably, something gets twisted and denied when we do that. The Reformed affirm a predestination to hell (due to logic), and the Arminians pervert the entire meaning of predestination - not to mention the foolishness that results from rationalism of the Open Theists or the Hyper Calvinists.

Rest in Christ. Our election is in Him and is given to us objectively in Word and Sacrament.

Amen! Let it be so!