4/5/22

What about the Thief?

If you hold to the Christian doctrine that baptism saves and have ventured past your comfort zone, you have likely heard this oft-cited argument "WHAT ABOUT THE THIEF ON THE CROSS?!"

My first thought of course is

"What about the Thief?"

This simple innocuous statement is served up as a slam dunk argument by our sacramentarian friends. Within their paradigm, this simple statement carries the weight of the entirety of their theology against what the Scriptures clearly state on baptism. Which is of course nothing at all of any substance.

This flawed question is an argument from silence. Let's look at what the Scriptures tell us about the thief on the cross.


Matthew 27:38

Luke 23:32-43

Mark 15:27.

Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left.

32 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.
...

39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left.


From the synoptic gospel, the Lukean narrative is the only one that expands beyond “two robbers” being crucified.


Without a thorough exegesis of the text, what can we take from a simple reading?

  1. There were two robbers.

  2. They were crucified in a place called The Skull (otherwise known as Golgotha)

  3. One of the criminals mocked Christ

    • This criminal seemed aware that he was called the Christ

  1. The other criminal rebuked the first criminal

    • Showed contrition

    • Showed knowledge of Christ and some of His works (as being just and innocent)

    • Showed faith in Christ

  1. Christ gave him a word of assurance and salvation


What we have here is a beautiful example of what salvation is for a penitent and contrite sinner. It is an assurance from our Lord. For the thief, it was a word of God from “The Word of God”. And the word of God never fails. What is that word from Jesus? “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” This is a word of promise that can and should be believed because God’s word of grace saves sinners. In this situation, it was an unrighteous thief about to die.

Unfortunately, this wonderful example of salvation by grace through faith is used by our more radical friends to attack God’s Word regarding baptism. The very words that come from Christ in His Scripture are twisted and butchered when they say it doesn't mean it clearly says. Instead of believing the clear words of Scripture, our friends respond in the same way that ancient foe the Devil did by stating “Did God actually say.”

Now of course they would never claim God as a liar or His Word is wrong or contradictory. Which it isn't. This is a wonderful thing that Dr. Pieper has called A Felicitous Inconsistency. This is a term used and taught to his students to highlight that an individual's faith might sometimes be at odds with their public confession. For instance, the sacramentarians deny the true body and blood of Christ in the sacrament and they deny that baptism saves. Praise be to God that they are saved in light of this inconsistency.

Some of our Reformed friends will try to find a middle ground using Plato or other forms of human reason to say that it is His body and blood with the bread and wine, or that baptism does save, but when you push the concept, it always ends up meaning something contrary to the plain reading of Scripture. A plain reading that has been believed simply by the masses for the past two thousand years.


So ... what about the Thief?

I would say the same source of evidence that causes some to say the Thief was baptized, is used by others to say he was never baptized. And what is the source? None other than their imagination.

There is no source.

It is an argument from silence.


Not only is it a flawed argument, but it fails to use what we do know about the Thief and his circumstances. Let us look at a few things we know and don’t know.


We know:

  1. He was saved by a direct Word of God

  2. He was a sinner who was saved by grace

  3. He was saved before the formal institution of baptism in Matthew 28


We don’t know:

  1. If he was baptized

  2. Anything else about his life other than he was a thief 


So looking at these statements – why is this used as an argument so often? 

It is not only an argument from silence, but an argument from ignorance of the texts of the gospels, the life of Christ, the sacraments he gave us, and the basic sequential order of events. It is a wonderful example of God’s Word saving a sinner in Scripture. Yet they try and use an exception to make the rule.

Despite everything I have written here, our friends will still continue disbelieving the scriptures because they see these wonderful gifts to us from God as something we do rather than something we receive. Until they begin to believe that God has and does use means for saving His people, they will be left thinking it is something we do to add to salvation. We don’t add to the cross, we only receive by God’s Word, and sometimes with simple elements such as water, wine, and bread. The forgiveness of sins is so freely given to those who believe, and they can trust these elements because they are comprehended with God’s Word. And of course, God never lies.

Hopefully, you will allow the thief to rest in paradise rather than twisting his example of salvation by grace through faith.

12/26/21

Why I Am A Lutheran

I confess I have not written in a while. I am going through changes in my midlife, including my own personality. I tend to care much less about "ideas" now, and more about the real world. It is not my job to convince or persuade others of various religious, political, or philosophical views. So, why am I writing a post on why I am a Lutheran? 

Because Lutheranism is real world. It is not just an abstract idea.

THE REAL WORLD OF HUMAN SUFFERING

Very few people care about getting "ideas" right. Most people do not tend to live in their own heads. Instead, they experience the pain of real life. Marriages end in divorce. Loved ones die. Finances crumble. They lose their jobs. Disaster strikes. 

All of this is the result of sin. This world is unpredictable. We have no control, yet folks want something that will give them some form of assurance. They tend to turn to religion, among other things. 

But most of the time religion is not "real world." People who try different kinds of religion know that deep inside they are not "good." They know they try hard to be good, but deep down they know they keep failing. 

It doesn't matter even if they turn to a kind of Christianity. In fact, I have had friends leave Christianity because they said they knew they were not "good enough." Certainly they were hearing a perverted form of the gospel to think that. The Gospel is supposed to be Good News. But they were not hearing "Yes and Amen." They were hearing "yes, but."

When you compare every religion except Lutheranism, no matter the nuanced differences, you will find that at the end of the day they all amount to this "yes, but." "Saved by grace after all we can do." "Your good deeds must outweigh your bad." "Yes you were saved but now what are you doing for God?" "Yes you know you are saved if you are repenting enough and bearing enough fruit." Etc.

Sooner or later folks in those kinds of religions and even kinds of Christianity will either experience self-righteousness or despair. Pride or burnout. They will either be legalists or give up altogether. 

They must need something REAL.

THE REALITY OF OURSELVES

In truth, we all know that no matter how hard we try to be "good," that we are not. We may help the old lady across the street, but soon after our hearts try and pat us on the back and say "oh what a good boy/girl you are for doing that." We reason that we at least did not have sex with some person, even though we lusted after them. We reason that yes maybe we stole, but it was only ice cream. It is not like it was a sportscar. Yes, we may hate that person, but at least we did not kill them. Yes, maybe he killed six million, but he saw them to be merely vermin. Etc.

The sinful mind is professional with excuses. 

And many Christians are walking Pharisees.

In reality, even after we become Christians, deep down we know that we are at the same time saved and yet still sinful.

We know all the so-called "free will" in the world is only self-motivating and selfish.

We know we need constant assurance of forgiveness.

CHRIST COMES CONTINUALLY TO ASSURE US

For those who are aware of their sinfulness, of their wretchedness, of the selfishness that their false "free will" always leads to--they know they constantly need Jesus. They know they only need Jesus. 

They are not interested in an ecstatic "experience." They are not interested in "seeking God's secret will for my career path" or for "whom I should marry" or for seeking the (yet another!) "worship experience." 

No. 

In fact, they do not come to church to "give." Why?

Because they know they are only beggars.

WE ARE ALL BEGGARS

Beggars have nothing to give. They only kneel with their mouths open or their hands out.

And they respond in thankfulness to the One Who served them.

A beggar is in constant need.

And a beggar is taken care of by the One Who gives His Word, His Body, His Blood.

To receive forgiveness, and to eat and to drink for the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.

So why am I a Lutheran?

Because we are all beggars.

This is most certainly true.



7/19/21

Does baptism saves really mean baptism saves in 1 Peter 3:21?

Ways folks try to get around the words “baptism that now saves us” in 1 Peter 3:21.

1) They say the text says the water symbolizes baptism that now saves us, so they use that as “proof” that water baptism is symbolic of Spirit baptism (that is waterless in their view) that now saves us. But verse 20 shows that the water is Noah’s floodwater that verse 21 says is symbolic of baptism that now saves us.

2) They say that baptism saves not by removal of dirt from the body, but it is answer of good conscience so somehow that undo the part of baptism saving us. But no one argues by water in itself nor say that removing dirt from the body is what saves us. So erecting strawman doesn’t help their case, but undermines it. And where does the appeal of good conscience come from? According to the text, the resurrection of Christ. So the reason baptism saves us because by the resurrection of Christ done for us, it is answer of good conscience as God’s word and grace  to us, in Christ, not our word and work to God.

See Hebrews 10:22 which speaks of us having our hearts sprinkled from a guilty conscience at the moment our physical bodies are washed with pure water. Or Ephesians 5:26 saying Christ washes us with water through the Word, meaning it is His word of salvation that washes away our sins (see Acts 22:16), with water providing the visible means at that moment. Baptism isn’t water alone but God’s word of promise to save us in Christ alone joined to the water.  It is outward means of the Gospel of Christ alone to save us offered unto us, by grace which faith receives.

3) They say that baptism is a work we do to give answer of good conscience, and our work don’t save us, so there pit the text against itself since the first half of it says baptism now saves us. Also, in trying to preserve justification by faith alone in their own minds, they actually undermine it with that argument, since no amount of good work we do can ever give us a good conscience before God. They can only come from God (again see Hebrews 10:22). Justification by faith alone is predicated on the idea that we can’t make ourselves right with God by anything we do. By making baptism something we do for answer of good conscience, they unwittingly undermine that. The text stands. Baptism saves. It comes from God entirely. It doesn’t undermine faith alone to say that, but backs it.

Here we stand.

4/26/21

FORGIVENESS WINS.

  I am concerned with pscyho-babble and false "therapy" that says you do not have to forgive those who have wronged you. Not only is this completely unbiblical, it is spiritually dangerous. To forgive does not mean you forget, but it does mean you do not bring it up again. I am not saying forgiveness is easy, but we have all been forgiven of the greatest crime of all--we killed the Son of God. And yet the Father forgave us for that. We have been forgiven of the greatest debt, so we dare not require the debt that is small from others. 

The parable of the unmerciful servant is very key here. 

Forgive Hitler. Forgive women. Forgive men. Forgive cops. Forgive white men. Forgive feminists. Forgive everyone. 

Yes, even the one who wronged you.

Because Jesus forgave you.

3/5/21

Response to the Ken Wilson interview done by Leighton Flowers Part 2: Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian debating Manichaeans and rejecting baptismal regeneration?

 Some of Ken Wilson’s errors are comical. In his interview with Leighton Flowers (at the 18:36 mark), he said Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian argued against Stoics, Gnostics and Manichaeans. There’s just one problem in regards to the Manichaeans:

Irenaeus (203 AD)  and Clement of Alexandria (between 211 and 215 AD) died before Mani (founder of the Manichaeans) was even born (216 AD). And Tertullian died (around past 220 AD) at the time Mani was an infant.

The interview can be found here: 

https://youtu.be/BnOMORGM2Qw

(Similarly in his dissertation, he asserted that Origen’s First Principles scoffed at the Manichaeans (and Gnostics). The problem? That was written around 231 AD at the latest. Manichaeanism wasn’t founded until 242 AD.)

This came after minutes earlier, Wilson claimed that Augustine came up with baptismal regeneration and salvation (regardless of his denials of him saying that in follow-up interview with Flowers), as a result of him reverting back to his old “pagan” (as in Gnostic, Manichaean, etc.) views, whereas prior church fathers didn’t hold to it (see 9:59-10:04 mark).

The irony is that all the above church fathers mentioned explicitly affirmed baptismal regeneration and salvation, and both Irenaeus and Tertullian argued against Gnostics on that very issue.

Irenaeus’ Against Heresies Book 1 Chapter 21 anathematized the Gnostics for rejecting baptismal regeneration: “And when we come to refute them, we shall show in its fitting-place, that this class of men have been instigated by Satan to a denial of that baptism which is regeneration to God, and thus to a renunciation of the whole [Christian] faith.”

This same church father also wrote in the same writing, Book II, Chapter 22, of such regeneration being for infants as well: “For He came to save all through means of Himself — all, I say, who through Him are born again to God — infants, and children, and boys, and youths, and old men.”

Likewise, he wrote in Fragment 34: 

“ ‘And dipped himself,’ says [the Scripture], ‘seven times in Jordan.’ 2 Kings 5:14 It was not for nothing that Naaman of old, when suffering from leprosy, was purified upon his being baptized, but [it served] as an indication to us. For as we are lepers in sin, we are made clean, by means of the sacred water and the invocation of the Lord, from our old transgressions; being spiritually regenerated as new-born babes, even as the Lord has declared: ‘Unless a man be born again through water and the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.’ John 3:5

Note, he affirmed not only baptismal regeneration but also for infants (refuting Wilson’s claims in his interview- at 7:42 mark- and writings of infant baptism was practiced early on in local areas for reasons no one knew then) and with John 3:5 view of it (refuting Wilson’s claims in especially his dissertation as well as his shorter writing that Augustine invented baptismal regeneration view of John 3:5, in place of physical birth for water, as well as view of its application to infant baptism).  

And the bishop of Lyons affirmed baptismal regeneration in his Demonstration of Apostolic Preaching as well:

“First of all it bids us bear in mind that we have received baptism for the remission of sins, in the name of God the Father, and in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was incarnate and died and rose again, and in the Holy Spirit of God. And that this baptism is the seal of eternal life, and is the new birth unto God, that we should no longer be the sons of mortal men, but of the eternal and perpetual God; and that what is everlasting and continuing is made God; and is over all things that are made, and all things are put under Him; |and all the things that are put under Him are made His own; for God is not ruler and Lord over the things of another, but over His own; and all things are God's; and therefore God is Almighty, and all things are of God.”

Tertullian also argued against Gnostics in defense of baptismal regeneration. In chapter 1 of On Baptism, he wrote:

“Happy is our sacrament of water, in that, by washing away the sins of our early blindness, we are set free and admitted into eternal life! A treatise on this matter will not be superfluous; instructing not only such as are just becoming formed (in the faith), but them who, content with having simply believed, without full examination of the grounds of the traditions, carry (in mind), through ignorance, an untried though probable faith. The consequence is, that a viper of the Cainite heresy, lately conversant in this quarter, has carried away a great number with her most venomous doctrine, making it her first aim to destroy baptism.”

Likewise, he wrote in response to Gnostics in Against Marcion, Book I, Chapter 28:

“And what will happen to him after he is cast away? He will, they say, be thrown into the Creator's fire. Then has no remedial provision been made (by their god) for the purpose of banishing those that sin against him, without resorting to the cruel measure of delivering them over to the Creator? And what will the Creator then do? I suppose He will prepare for them a hell doubly charged with brimstone, as for blasphemers against Himself; except indeed their god in his zeal, as perhaps might happen, should show clemency to his rival's revolted subjects. Oh, what a god is this! everywhere perverse; nowhere rational; in all cases vain; and therefore a nonentity! — in whose state, and condition, and nature, and every appointment, I see no coherence and consistency; no, not even in the very sacrament of his faith! For what end does baptism serve, according to him? If the remission of sins, how will he make it evident that he remits sins, when he affords no evidence that he retains them? Because he would retain them, if he performed the functions of a judge. If deliverance from death, how could he deliver from death, who has not delivered to death? For he must have delivered the sinner to death, if he had from the beginning condemned sin. If the regeneration of man, how can he regenerate, who has never generated? For the repetition of an act is impossible to him, by whom nothing any time has been ever done. If the bestowal of the Holy Ghost, how will he bestow the Spirit, who did not at first impart the life? For the life is in a sense the supplement of the Spirit. He therefore seals man, who had never been unsealed in respect of him; washes man, who had never been defiled so far as he was concerned; and into this sacrament of salvation wholly plunges that flesh which is beyond the pale of salvation! No farmer will irrigate ground that will yield him no fruit in return, except he be as stupid as Marcion's god. Why then impose sanctity upon our most infirm and most unworthy flesh, either as a burden or as a glory? What shall I say, too, of the uselessness of a discipline which sanctifies what is already sanctified? Why burden the infirm, or glorify the unworthy? Why not remunerate with salvation what it burdens or else glorifies? Why keep back from a work its due reward, by not recompensing the flesh with salvation? Why even permit the honour of sanctity in it to die?”

See this article for further details on Tertullian’s views of baptismal regeneration and salvation, infant baptism, John 3:5 as baptism regeneration text and original sin in response to Wilson’s interview with Flowers:

https://g2witt.blogspot.com/2020/12/response-to-ken-wilson-interview-done.html?m=1

 So when it comes to the issue of baptismal regeneration and salvation, the pre-Augustine church fathers weren’t on Wilson’s side. Much less is it real history to claim Augustine got it from Gnosticism when Gnostics were the ones who opposed baptismal regeneration and salvation prior to him. Wilson’s denials of baptismal salvation and regeneration are the novelties here, and many centuries after Augustine. That is if we don’t count Gnostics.

To further highlight this point of all three early Christians mentioned by Wilson to Flowers affirming baptismal salvation and regeneration, here’s Clement of Alexandria’s The Instructor Book 1 Chapter 12:

“The view I take is, that He Himself formed man of the dust, and regenerated him by water; and made him grow by his Spirit; and trained him by His word to adoption and salvation, directing him by sacred precepts; in order that, transforming earth-born man into a holy and heavenly being by His advent.”

So, yes, he was right in the interview that those three were arguing against Gnostics. But baptismal regeneration is not the issue Wilson honestly should be appealing to them on. Nor make spurious claims that Augustine came up with baptismal regeneration and salvation out of Gnosticism.

And same holds true as well for Origen since Wilson used him the same way as he did those other three (even in regards to falsely claiming he scoffed at Manichaeans in a writing before they were even around). He also held to baptismal regeneration as one can see here in his Commentary on the Gospel of John, Book VI: 

“These, then, are the parallel passages of the four; let us try to see as clearly as we can what is the purport of each and wherein they differ from each other. And we will begin with Matthew, who is reported by tradition to have published his Gospel before the others, to the Hebrews, those, namely, of the circumcision who believed. I, he says, baptize you with water unto repentance, purifying you, as it were, and turning you away from evil courses and calling you to repentance; for I have come to make ready for the Lord a people prepared for Him, and by my baptism of repentance to prepare the ground for Him who is to come after me, and who will thus benefit you much more effectively and powerfully than my strength could. For His baptism is not that of the body only; He fills the penitent with the Holy Ghost, and His diviner fire does away with everything material and consumes everything that is earthy, not only from him who admits it to his life, but even from him who hears of it from those who have it. So much stronger than I is He who is coming after me, that I am not able to bear even the outskirts of the powers round Him which are furthest from Him (they are not open and exposed, so that any one could see them), nor even to bear those who support them. I know not of which I should speak. Should I speak of my own great weakness, which is not able to bear even these things about Christ which in comparison with the greater things in Him are least, or should I speak of His transcendent Deity, greater than all the world? If I who have received such grace, as to be thought worthy of prophecy predicting my arrival in this human life, in the words, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, and Behold I send my messenger before your face; if I whose birth Gabriel who stands before God announced to my father so advanced in years, so much against his expectation, I at whose name Zacharias recovered his voice and was enabled to use it to prophesy, I to whom my Lord bears witness that among them that are born of women there is none greater than I, I am not able so much as to bear His shoes! And if not His shoes, what can be said about His garments? Who is so great as to be able to guard His coat? Who can suppose that He can understand the meaning contained in His tunic which is without seam from the top because it is woven throughout? It is to be observed that while the four represent John as declaring himself to have come to baptize with water, Matthew alone adds the words to repentance, teaching that the benefit of baptism is connected with the intention of the baptized person; to him who repents it is salutary, but to him who comes to it without repentance it will turn to greater condemnation. And here we must note that as the wonderful works done by the Saviour in the cures He wrought, which are symbolic of those who at any time are set free by the word of God from any sickness or disease, though they were done to the body and brought a bodily relief, yet also called those who were benefited by them to an exercise of faith, so the washing with water which is symbolic of the soul cleansing herself from every stain of wickedness, is no less in itself to him who yields himself to the divine power of the invocation of the Adorable Trinity, the beginning and source of divine gifts; for there are diversities of gifts. This view receives confirmation from the narrative recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, which shows the Spirit to have descended so manifestly on those who receive baptism, after the water had prepared the way for him in those who properly approached the rite. Simon Magus, astonished at what he saw, desired to receive from Peter this gift, but though it was a good thing he desired, he thought to attain it by the mammon of unrighteousness. We next remark in passing that the baptism of John was inferior to the baptism of Jesus which was given through His disciples. Those persons in the Acts Acts 19:2 who were baptized to John's baptism and who had not heard if there was any Holy Ghost are baptized over again by the Apostle. Regeneration did not take place with John, but with Jesus through His disciples it does so, and what is called the laver of regeneration takes place with renewal of the Spirit; for the Spirit now comes in addition since it comes from God and is over and above the water and does not come to all after the water. So far, then, our examination of the statements in the Gospel according to Matthew.”

And two of Origen’s works refute the claim that no one then knew why infant baptism was practiced. One was Romans 5.9 commentary:

“Was a newly born child able to sin? And yet it has a sin for which sacrifices are commanded to be offered, and from which it is denied that anyone is pure, even if his life should be a day long. It has to be believed, therefore, that concerning this David also said what we recorded above, ‘in sins my mother conceived me.’ For according to the historical narrative no sin of his mother is declared. It is on this account as well that the Church has received the tradition from the apostles to give baptism to even little children. For they to whom the secrets of the divine mysteries were committed were aware in everyone was sin’s innate defilement, which needed to be washed away through water and the Spirit.”

The other is Leviticus 8.3 Homily:

“But if it pleases you to hear what other saints also might think about this birthday, hear David speaking, ‘In iniquity I was conceived and in my sins my mother brought me forth,’ showing every soul which is born in flesh is polluted by the filth ‘of iniquity of sin’; and for this reason we can say what we already have recalled above, ‘No one is pure from uncleanness even if his life is only one day long.’ To these things can be added the reason why it is required, since the baptism is given for the forgiveness of sins, that, according, to the observance of the Church, that baptism also be given to infants; since, certainly, if there were nothing in infants that ought to pertain to forgiveness and indulgence, then the grace of baptism would appear superflous.”

Wilson would know that there were explanations for why infant baptism was practiced then since he claimed both writings denied Psalm 51:5 refers to sin guilt at birth that needs forgiveness at baptism (falsely as seen here). Such claims can be found in both his published dissertation book (page 70) and the shorter writing (page 69 footnote) based off that. Yet, he claimed at various times in his dissertation, interview and shorter book that no one, not even Augustine, knew why infant baptism was practiced prior to Augustine making up reasons out of Manichaeanism and Gnosticism after 411 AD according to Wilson).

All so he can push the false narrative as he did that pre-Augustine church fathers’ and Orr-412 AD Augustine’s free choice view required rejecting baptism for salvation on page 120 of his dissertation book), on top of his Manichaean Gnostic and Augustine novelty cards on baptismal salvation and regeneration, especially of infants.

So here’s an idea: when Wilson (at the 15:41 mark) make the statement that Augustine was more into polemics than being a student of Scriptures, maybe he ought to reconsider his own polemical methodology that is filled with blatant inaccuracies just so he can grind his axe against Augustine and baptismal and sacramental theologies in general. Glasshouses and all. Just a thought.

Here we stand.

12/16/20

Response to the Ken Wilson interview done by Leighton Flowers Part 1: Tertullian

 The whole irony of using Tertullian (as if his early opposition to infant baptism, ignoring everything else he said, spoke for the early church) to attack Augustine’s supposed novelties was that on different issues, the Montanist himself held to views that Ken Wilson attributed to be Manichaean Gnostic novelties of Augustine.

In an interview given him by Leighton Flowers, he claimed that Tertullian opposed infant baptism because a person needed to be old enough to make free choice (at 7:30 minute mark) and infant baptism was practiced early on for reasons no one knew (7:42), not even Augustine around 400 AD (7:45). And since according to Wilson, Pelagius initially opposed infant baptism as reason why he debated Augustine (7:50, 9:38), Augustine needed to come up with a theological reason for infant baptism, and that reason was baptismal regeneration and salvation which according to Wilson didn’t exist prior to Augustine (9:59-10:04). And that along with Augustine’s “novel” reason of guilt of sin at birth (10:22, 11:46), whereas before Augustine, everyone prior to him, held to deceased infants all automatically went to heaven, baptized or not. To try to claim such “novel” doctrines of Augustine (infant baptismal regeneration and original sin) were Manichaean, he said only Manichaeans used the same verses as Augustine did for his “novelties.” Wilson used Tertullian (18:36) as an example who combatted Gnostics, Stoics, and Manichaeans (ironic since Tertullian died when Mani, founder of the Manichaeans, was just an infant, and he opposed Gnostics for among others things rejecting baptismal regeneration and salvation, one of the supposed novelties of Augustine).

The interview can be found here:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?fbclid=IwAR1I-UmNN4EzAD6_r0x7j0bmnB-BPUrXfSgA81BTV7-S9lCVYPl6qHiEStw&feature=youtu.be&v=BnOMORGM2Qw

Keep in mind that he said all this to argue that the so-called Manichaean Gnostic novelty of infant baptismal salvation was the critical foundation of Augustine’s “Calvinist” novelties (see page 78 of Wilson’s The Foundation of Augustinianism-Calvinism)

In regards to Tertullian’s opposition to infant baptism, it came in an early writing of his, 197 AD On Baptism (his attitude on infant baptism would change later on in life). And his argument was not about free choice as Wilson would have it but about the possibility of falling away after baptism (a view of infant baptism of being invalid and hence adult baptism later after that to take away sins did not even occurred to him). He wrote in chapter 18 (note, he didn’t suggest delayed baptisms just for infants):

“And so, according to the circumstances and disposition, and even age, of each individual, the delay of baptism is preferable; principally, however, in the case of little children. For why is it necessary — if (baptism itself) is not so necessary — that the sponsors likewise should be thrust into danger? Who both themselves, by reason of mortality, may fail to fulfil their promises, and may be disappointed by the development of an evil disposition, in those for whom they stood?”

In the same chapter, Tertullian suggested delayed baptisms even for unmarried folks:

“For no less cause must the unwedded also be deferred — in whom the ground of temptation is prepared, alike in such as never were wedded by means of their maturity, and in the widowed by means of their freedom — until they either marry, or else be more fully strengthened for continence.”

Also contrary to what Wilson claimed, infant baptism wasn’t practiced for unknown reasons in the 200s AD. In raising his objections to infant baptism, Tertullian himself knew why it was practiced: for the remission of sins (and note, he didn’t denied infant baptism itself remit sins). In that same chapter, he said:

“The Lord does indeed say, ‘Forbid them not to come unto me.’  Let them ‘come,’ then, while they are growing up; let them ‘come’  while they are learning, while they are learning whither to come; let them become Christians when they have become able to know Christ. Why does the innocent period of life hasten to the ‘remission of sins?’ More caution will be exercised in worldly matters: so that one who is not trusted with earthly substance is trusted with divine!”

Note that, besides saying he was objecting to infants being given forgiveness of sins right away in baptism on grounds of possibility of apostasy later on in life (which goes against Wilson’s Free Grace theology), Tertullian already encountered Matthew 19:14 as prooftext for infant baptismal salvation (Wilson in his dissertation book page 158 claimed “Augustine allegorizes” that text into infant baptism for salvation).

The one thing Wilson didn’t mentioned was that Tertullian in the rest of On Baptism was arguing for baptismal salvation and regeneration against Cainite Gnostics (allowing only for baptism of martyrdom/blood exceptions in chapter 16). That alone refutes his claim that Augustine invented baptismal regeneration and salvation in the early church as a result of Manichaean Gnosticism. (And by Wilson’s guilt by association logic, he  would fall into Gnosticism for rejecting baptismal regeneration and salvation.)

In fact, in the opening chapter of On Baptism, Tertullian stated:

“Happy is our sacrament of water, in that, by washing away the sins of our early blindness, we are set free and admitted into eternal life! A treatise on this matter will not be superfluous; instructing not only such as are just becoming formed (in the faith), but them who, content with having simply believed, without full examination of the grounds of the traditions, carry (in mind), through ignorance, an untried though probable faith. The consequence is, that a viper of the Cainite heresy, lately conversant in this quarter, has carried away a great number with her most venomous doctrine, making it her first aim to destroy baptism.”

Furthermore, in chapter 12, Tertullian cited texts like John 3:5 (since in his dissertation book as well as his shorter book, Wilson claimed Augustine invented baptismal view of John 3:5 to replace physical birth out of Manichaean Gnosticism) to argue for  baptismal regeneration and salvation against Cainite Gnostics:

“When, however, the prescript is laid down that ‘without baptism, salvation is attainable by none’ (chiefly on the ground of that declaration of the Lord, who says, ‘Unless one be born of water, he has not life’), there arise immediately scrupulous, nay rather audacious, doubts on the part of some,’ how, in accordance with that prescript, salvation is attainable by the apostles, whom — Paul excepted — we do not find baptized in the Lord? Nay, since Paul is the only one of them who has put on the garment of Christ's baptism, either the peril of all the others who lack the water of Christ is prejudged, that the prescript may be maintained, or else the prescript is rescinded if salvation has been ordained even for the unbaptized.’  I have heard — the Lord is my witness — doubts of that kind: that none may imagine me so abandoned as to excogitate, unprovoked, in the licence of my pen, ideas which would inspire others with scruple.”

Nor was Tertullian the only one prior to Augustine in regards to affirming John 3:5 as reference to baptismal regeneration and salvation, not physical birth. In fact such a view of John 3:5 was unanimously held to by church fathers as baptismal rebirth and salvation. Augustine didn’t “alter” John 3:5 from physical birth to “novel” view of baptismal salvation and regeneration. If anything Wilson’s denials of baptismal salvation and regeneration were novel and came first well after Augustine, outside of Gnostics so condemned by Tertullian (and others such as Irenaeus) for that. See this article on pre-Augustine church fathers on John 3:5 here:

https://g2witt.blogspot.com/2020/06/lead-augustine-scholar-ken-wilson-using.html

And guess who uses prooftexts like 1 Corinthians 1:17 against baptismal regeneration and salvation then? According to Tertullian, Cainite Gnostics (since Wilson want to play Manichaean Gnostic card on  Augustine via guilt by association with how they supposedly use certain Scriptures in common). He responded to them in chapter 14:

“But they roll back an objection from that apostle himself, in that he said, ‘For Christ sent me not to baptize;’ 1 Corinthians 1:17 as if by this argument baptism were done away! For if so, why did he baptize Gaius, and Crispus, and the house of Stephanas? However, even if Christ had not sent him to baptize, yet He had given other apostles the precept to baptize. But these words were written to the Corinthians in regard of the circumstances of that particular time; seeing that schisms and dissensions were agitated among them, while one attributes everything to Paul, another to Apollos. For which reason the ‘peace-making’ apostle, for fear he should seem to claim all gifts for himself, says that he had been sent ‘not to baptize, but to preach.’ For preaching is the prior thing, baptizing the posterior. Therefore the preaching came first : but I think baptizing withal was lawful to him to whom preaching was.”

Nor would Tertullian’s On Baptism be his only writing affirming baptismal regeneration and salvation and condemning Gnostics for rejecting that, as in Against Marcion, Book 1, Chapter 28:

“And what will happen to him after he is cast away? He will, they say, be thrown into the Creator's fire. Then has no remedial provision been made (by their god) for the purpose of banishing those that sin against him, without resorting to the cruel measure of delivering them over to the Creator? And what will the Creator then do? I suppose He will prepare for them a hell doubly charged with brimstone, as for blasphemers against Himself; except indeed their god in his zeal, as perhaps might happen, should show clemency to his rival's revolted subjects. Oh, what a god is this! everywhere perverse; nowhere rational; in all cases vain; and therefore a nonentity! — in whose state, and condition, and nature, and every appointment, I see no coherence and consistency; no, not even in the very sacrament of his faith! For what end does baptism serve, according to him? If the remission of sins, how will he make it evident that he remits sins, when he affords no evidence that he retains them? Because he would retain them, if he performed the functions of a judge. If deliverance from death, how could he deliver from death, who has not delivered to death? For he must have delivered the sinner to death, if he had from the beginning condemned sin. If the regeneration of man, how can he regenerate, who has never generated? For the repetition of an act is impossible to him, by whom nothing any time has been ever done. If the bestowal of the Holy Ghost, how will he bestow the Spirit, who did not at first impart the life? For the life is in a sense the supplement of the Spirit. He therefore seals man, who had never been unsealed in respect of him; washes man, who had never been defiled so far as he was concerned; and into this sacrament of salvation wholly plunges that flesh which is beyond the pale of salvation! No farmer will irrigate ground that will yield him no fruit in return, except he be as stupid as Marcion's god. Why then impose sanctity upon our most infirm and most unworthy flesh, either as a burden or as a glory? What shall I say, too, of the uselessness of a discipline which sanctifies what is already sanctified? Why burden the infirm, or glorify the unworthy? Why not remunerate with salvation what it burdens or else glorifies? Why keep back from a work its due reward, by not recompensing the flesh with salvation? Why even permit the honour of sanctity in it to die?”

So in two writings by Tertullian, if we go by guilt by association employed by Wilson and Flowers, they (and not Augustine) would land on the side of Gnostics in regards to their rejection of baptismal regeneration view.

And in A Treatise on the Soul, Tertullian argued even for infant baptismal salvation with John 3:5 as prooftext for it (refuting Wilson’s claims in his dissertation book that Augustine originated not only baptismal view of John 3:5, in place of physical birth, but also infant baptism view of it). In chapter 39, we read:

“All these endowments of the soul which are bestowed on it at birth are still obscured and depraved by the malignant being who, in the beginning, regarded them with envious eye, so that they are never seen in their spontaneous action, nor are they administered as they ought to be. For to what individual of the human race will not the evil spirit cleave, ready to entrap their souls from the very portal of their birth, at which he is invited to be present in all those superstitious processes which accompany childbearing? Thus it comes to pass that all men are brought to the birth with idolatry for the midwife, while the very wombs that bear them, still bound with the fillets that have been wreathed before the idols, declare their offspring to be consecrated to demons: for in parturition they invoke the aid of Lucina and Diana; for a whole week a table is spread in honour of Juno; on the last day the fates of the horoscope are invoked; and then the infant's first step on the ground is sacred to the goddess Statina. After this does any one fail to devote to idolatrous service the entire head of his son, or to take out a hair, or to shave off the whole with a razor, or to bind it up for an offering, or seal it for sacred use — in behalf of the clan, of the ancestry, or for public devotion? On this principle of early possession it was that Socrates, while yet a boy, was found by the spirit of the demon. Thus, too, is it that to all persons their genii are assigned, which is only another name for demons. Hence in no case (I mean of the heathen, of course) is there any nativity which is pure of idolatrous superstition. It was from this circumstance that the apostle said, that when either of the parents was sanctified, the children were holy; 1 Corinthians 7:14 and this as much by the prerogative of the (Christian) seed as by the discipline of the institution (by baptism, and Christian education). Else, says he, were the children unclean by birth: 1 Corinthians 7:14 as if he meant us to understand that the children of believers were designed for holiness, and thereby for salvation; in order that he might by the pledge of such a hope give his support to matrimony, which he had determined to maintain in its integrity. Besides, he had certainly not forgotten what the Lord had so definitively stated: Unless a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God; John 3:5 in other words, he cannot be holy.”

Then he followed that by this to start chapter 40: “Every soul, then, by reason of its birth, has its nature in Adam until it is born again in Christ; moreover, it is unclean all the while that it remains without this regeneration; Romans 6:4 and because unclean, it is actively sinful, and suffuses even the flesh (by reason of their conjunction) with its own shame.”

And in chapter 41, he wrote, “Therefore, when the soul embraces the faith, being renewed in its second birth by water and the power from above, then the veil of its former corruption being taken away, it beholds the light in all its brightness. It is also taken up (in its second birth) by the Holy Spirit, just as in its first birth it is embraced by the unholy spirit.”

Note, that Tertullian argued for infant baptismal salvation not only from John 3:5 (and 1 Corinthians 7:14), but also from the view of infants are born having an unclean nature in Adam needing rebirth given in baptism. Saying one is embraced at birth by the unholy spirit would seem to suggest he held to we were born lost at birth unless baptized.

This writing refutes several things all at once: that prior to Augustine in 412 AD, no one knew why infant baptism was practiced, no one held to infants need salvation given in baptism, no one affirmed baptismal salvation and regeneration (and John 3:5 view of it), and no one thought of the “Manichaean” idea of being born in sin in Adam.

In regards to the last point, consider the fact that Tertullian wrote this in chapter 3 of The Soul’s Testimony (note the part of the whole human race transmitting Adam’s condemnation by virtue of being tainted in their descent from him and given over to death on account of Adam’s sin:

“In expressing vexation, contempt, or abhorrence, you have Satan constantly upon your lips; the very same we hold to be the angel of evil, the source of error, the corrupter of the whole world, by whom in the beginning man was entrapped into breaking the commandment of God. And (the man) being given over to death on account of his sin, the entire human race, tainted in their descent from him, were made a channel for transmitting his condemnation.”

Bear in mind, that such a view of original sin could not have possibly existed prior to 412, according to Wilson since he would have us believe prior to that date, no one affirmed baptismal salvation and no one knew why infant baptism was practiced, not even Augustine on either point. He made such veritably debunked claims (as shown by Tertullian quotes affirming baptismal regeneration and salvation, including even of infants, in one of his later writings) not only in his interview, but in writings as well, including his Foundation page 97:

“The following three factors figure most prominently in explaining Augustine's later conversion to determinism: infant baptism, Stoicism, and Manichaeism. Augustine's deterministic conversion would not have occurred without the infant baptismal tradition in his local North Africa. Only in North Africa and nearby Rome do we have the earliest proofs for infant baptism, and only with Augustine does a newborn's salvation from inherited eternal damnation come by proxy through parental faith. This claim was challenged by a contemporary local bishop. Prior to 412 CE, even Augustine had viewed baptism as unnecessary for salvation and infant baptism had no explanation. Therefore, as Sage concluded, speculating an apostolic origin for infant baptism to forgive damnable guilt inherited from Adam appears unlikely.”

Besides the fact infant baptism existed early on outside of Rome and North Africa (affirmations of infant baptismal regeneration by Irenaeus’ Fragment 34 and Against Heresies Book 2, Chapter 22 at Lyons, Ambrose’s On Abraham, 2.81,84, at Milan, Gregory Nazianzen’s Oration 40.23 at Constantinople- the latter holding to unbaptized infants are neither saved or damned- attested to that), not even Tertullian would ultimately agreed with Wilson in regards to the latter’s rejection of infant baptismal salvation (even earlier Tertullian’s opposition to infant baptism had little to do with Wilson’s Baptist beliefs and everything to do with his own version of baptismal regeneration that affirmed baptism forgives sins only before baptism, but not afterwards). Early church father views of infant baptismal regeneration and salvation are discussed here:

https://g2witt.blogspot.com/2020/07/lead-augustine-scholar-using-and.html

The fact that Wilson had to push completely false and wholesale revisionist claims that no one knew why infant baptism was practiced and no one held to baptismal salvation and regeneration prior to Augustine inventing the latter as reason for the former is telling when he used both as his talking points as why original sin as understood by Augustine could not possibly existed prior to then.

That’s on top of using such claims (as if Tertullian was on his side on baptism) to push other false claims such as Augustine even as of 400 AD didn’t know why infant baptism was practiced or Pelagius rejected infant baptism as reason he and Augustine first debated (ironically, Wilson said Pelagius and Julian approved of infant baptism in his dissertation when it suited him to do so). And comically, as pointed out above, the false claim that Tertullian refuted Manichaeans who didn’t even existed when he died (its founder Mani was an infant at the time).

All so he can grind his axe against Augustine.

Here we stand.

12/6/20

THOSE WHO LEAVE LUTHERANISM LEAVE THE PURE GOSPEL.

 It has become rather trendy for some folks to leave Lutheranism, usually for Eastern Orthodoxy. Few have gone either to Rome or to Canterbury. But those who do rather rarely look at themselves as sinners constantly in need of forgiveness, at all times. And this is especially displayed in the liturgies of the various "churches" that these folks end up converting to. None of these assemblies in their liturgies have Confession and Absolution the way Lutherans do. Put simply, the East does not have it at all, except for their "Forgiveness Sunday" once a year. Rome and Canterbury place doubt upon it because in their "absolution" they have the word "may." They say "May God forgive you, bring you to eternal life," etc. For these assemblies, the Word of God is not sure. The Word of God's forgiveness is not sure. It is always dependent on something. 

These assemblies have the same doubt that the reformed do when it comes to the Word of God. It is always contingent upon something else, usually something we do.

In fact, only Lutheranism does not take away from, or add to, the Word of God in the pure Gospel of sure forgiveness in Christ.+

Yes, things are messed up in the Missouri Synod (and Wisconsin too for that matter). But things aren't perfect anywhere you go if you look to people.

Look instead to the sure Word of Christ in forgiveness always for you and before you. 

Those who leave Wittenberg for Constantinople, Rome, or Canterbury are trading pure gold for fool's gold; pure diamonds for shards of glass.

O Lord, keep us in the true faith of Your pure Gospel. Amen.