Monday, September 26, 2016

Sola Fide Compromised? Martin Luther and the Doctrine of Baptism

Every so often I come across a helpful article that, at the very least, does a good job summarizing Luther's views. In the article below, I appreciated the overview of Luther's views on baptism. One is free to disagree with the conclusions (and Lutherans will), but one should at least appreciate the work in outlining Luther's view:

Sola Fide Compromised? Martin Lutherand the Doctrine of Baptism

Sola Fide Compromised? Martin Luther and the Doctrine of Baptism (pdf)


jwskud said...

Yeesh. A very quick perusal of this article shows many, many instances where the author does NOT clearly present Luther's views on baptism properly. I find this to be the case with (virtually) all articles of this ilk. Easier to deconstruct (true Christian) doctrine by misrepresenting it than by challenging its actual truths.

If nothing else, the article spells out for me exactly where and why our reformed/protestant friends are unable to comprehend baptismal doctrine. It would serve as an excellent starting point for writing an apologetic for Lutheran baptism.

Thanks for sharing.

James Swan said...

"A very quick perusal of this article shows many, many instances where the author does NOT clearly present Luther's views on baptism properly."

I would be interested in a few examples.

jwskud said...

I'll have to go back through the whole thing and pull out a few examples. Give me a few days and I'll try to fit it in!

jwskud said...

Just a few very quick examples:

1. Hence, Tranvik correctly observes that for Luther “baptism is the earthly means by which the believer participates in justification.”87

Here I would argue that Luther probably wouldn't use this language. The believer doesn't "participate" in justification but rather receives justification by faith, a faith given by God. Just semantics? I'm not so sure.

2. Since justification does not occur apart from the reception of the sacrament of baptism, the doctrine of justification is compromised because we are not justified by faith alone but by faith and baptism. One must believe and be baptized. Luther’s qualifications notwithstanding, his view inevitably turns baptism into a work.

This is typical Reformed redefinition of Lutheran doctrine. It's not the lack of Baptism that condemns but the despising of Baptism. Moreover, Baptism IS a work - it is God's work, wholly, from start to finish. The writer is really beginning to lose the thread here and is misinterpreting the doctrine. He's setting up straw man arguments.

3. Since forgiveness is ordinarily only given in baptism...

Huh? Has the author never read Luther on confession and absolution? The Lord's Supper?

4. In response, it must be stressed that submission to baptism is an act of obedience to God that is done in addition to believing the gospel. Justification, therefore, is by faith in the gospel plus obedience to God’s command to be baptized.

Is Baptism commanded in the Bible? Yes. But as Luther says, it's like commanding a starving man to dine at a feast prepared specifically for him and his benefit. Therefore, it is no more an act of "obedience" than taking a drink of water provided to you if you are about to die of dehydration, and someone commands you to drink. It is a salvific command. Baptism IS the gospel.

Moreover, Baptism is the granting of faith, the very faith which saves, so to separate it from saving faith as something secondary is quite erroneous. Baptism is how God has chosen to make disciples (Mt 28:19), by instilling His Holy Spirit and casting out the demonic spirit we are born with (i.e. original sin). It is something DONE TO YOU, not something you do, nor something your pastor does. God puts His name on you in Baptism, thereby making it His work.

5. Limiting baptismal regeneration to infants, however, does not fully resolve the problem.
If infants can truly believe then why is it still necessary for them to receive baptism?

Because faith is otherwise wholly subjective. What a blessing to be able to point to a specific time and date wherein God MADE you His child through Baptism. This is the blessing of the efficacious and external word of God - that it exists outside of us and is thereby wholly reliable and objective. It's a blessing.

I could go on and on, but you get the point. I'd recommend Edmund Schlink's book "Theology of the Lutheran Confessions" or, for a much easier read, Lutheranism 101: Baptism, as proper responses to this author's objections. Another good resource is John Pless's Didache. The Lutheran doctrine surrounding Baptism is a 100% scriptural, holy, wonderful blessing, wherein God is the actor and we are simply recipients. Only by mischaracterizing the doctrine can one argue against it.