Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Luther vs. Lutheranism on Baptism?

I was sent a link to the following: Luther vs. Lutheranism by Chris Pinto. The link is to an mp3 broadcast:
LUTHER VS. LUTHERANISM Chris discusses the modern day Lutheran Church and their teachings on baptism. Is baptism required for salvation? Jesus said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved ..." (Mark 16:16) Lutherans take this to mean that immersion in water is quite literally what is required. Does this amount to works salvation? And more importantly, is this teaching consistent with the doctrines of Martin Luther himself? Was Luther a Lutheran?
I've never heard of Chris Pinto before. He appears to be some sort of baptist with strong leanings toward the KJV and dispensational prophecy studies.  He describes himself in this broadcast as "a defender of Martin Luther and the Reformers overall... whenever somebody thinks they've got some bad info on Luther or Calvin they usually send it to me." He describes as well his efforts to save the historical John Calvin from the hands of modern-day "neo-Calvinists." I'm not exactly sure what he means, but I would speculate he may ascribe to the theory that Calvin was not a Calvinist in the same sort of way Norman Geisler, Dave Hunt, and a number of other non-Reformed evangelicals have interpreted Calvin. Again though, I know almost nothing about Mr. Pinto, other than listening to this one broadcast and skimming his website.

In this brief broadcast, Pinto takes on the notion that Lutherans generally and confessionally believe water baptism is essential for salvation while Martin Luther did not. This exploration is mixed together with another question: Did Martin Luther believe water baptism saves? That these two questions are mixed together made his presentation confusing and unhelpful. Perhaps this was due to time restraints, but shouldn't the treatment of such a complicated theological and historical topic be handled more carefully?

Mr. Pinto never specifically cites a Lutheran confession on the topic, but does cite a Lutheran blog article, Does Baptism Save? in order to outline the Lutheran position. He states that "the modern Lutheran confession is a belief in water baptism for salvation." I found it curious that even in the Lutheran blog article he cites, careful consideration was not given to the following statement found in that blog article:
Those who do not baptize children often raise questions at this point about how a Lutheran explains the baptized child who ages to be a pagan or atheist adult or other similar scenarios. Lutheranism would never propose that the adult who rejects Christ would be saved because of their having been Baptized. For a Lutheran, it is not contradictory to say that a baptized child is saved at one point, then rejects his Baptism and his Lord later in life, resulting in the loss of salvation as long as he does not repent.
Pinto cites Luther once and concludes Luther was not a Lutheran on the issue of baptism. He cites "Luther's own writings" using the anthology, What Luther Says by Ewald Plass. The specific entry is #145 (found on page 54 in volume 1 of my 3 volume set):
145 Faith Saves without Baptism Not Baptism Without Faith
A person can believe although he is not baptized; for Baptism is no more than an external sign to remind us of the divine promise. If one is able to get Baptism, it is well. Then one should take it, for no one should despise it. But if one were not able to get it or one were denied it, he is nonetheless not damned provided that he believes the Gospel. For where the Gospel is there Baptism also is and everything a Christian needs, because damnation follows upon no sin except unbelief alone. This is also the reason why the Lord says: "He that believeth not shall be damned." He does not say: He that is not baptized; but is silent about Baptism. For Baptism is useless without faith. It is like a letter to which seals are attached but in which nothing has been written. Therefore he who has the signs (which we call Sacraments) and not faith has seals only, seals attached to a letter without any writing. (W 10 III, 142 - E 12, 196 - SL 11, 953 f)
Pinto concludes that Luther's views on baptism are much like his own and what modern evangelicals believe. He mentions a few examples from the Bible of those who were saved either without or previous to baptism (the thief on the cross, etc.). He says he agrees with Luther that "water baptism is not necessary for salvation."

Contrary to a comment left about this show, the quote cited via Plass was not "one Luther quote pulled out of 55 volumes of Luther's writing." The context for the quote though does indeed exist in an English translation, but not in LW. In can be found in The Complete Sermons of Martin Luther 2, 1: 195-208, with the exact quote on page 204 (Day of Christ's Ascension into Heaven, Second Sermon, Mark 16: 14-20, 1522). The sermon can be found on-line here. In the context Luther is recorded as blatantly saying "Faith alone, of itself, without any works, as the Word of God here clearly says, brings us salvation, and works help nothing at all toward righteousness or salvation." He then explains that baptism is an outward sign that is accompanied with God's Word to strengthen our faith. That's about the extent of the discussion on baptism in this sermon. In other words, the statement from Luther used by Pinto is more of a passing comment than a detailed explanation of Luther's view.

I can certainly understand how Mr. Pinto read this quote cited by Plass and concluded he and Luther were on the same page. On the other hand, this brief quote from Plass certainly doesn't completely describe Luther's view, and if indeed Mr. Pinto has What Luther Says he should be aware of the rather complex view outlined by Plass (18 pages consisting of two columns on each page!). The question then I would have for Mr. Pinto is whether or not he really agrees with the entirety and complexity of Luther's view, or simply the one quote he used. For instance, the very next entry in What Luther says is entitled, "Yet Baptism is Valid Even Though Not Believed." The entry after that is entitled "For Faith is Not of the Essence of Baptism." Luther's sermon cited by Pinto comes from 1522. Citing Luther correctly on baptism really requires (especially for someone like Pinto) to look into Luther's writings after he became engaged in disputes with Anabaptist theology. My gut is telling me that Mr. Pinto really isn't familiar with Luther and therefore should not be commenting on whether or not contemporary Lutherans are at odds with Luther on baptism. Lutherans have every right to be suspicious of  his historical conclusions until he proves in some way that he actually understands the two positions he is comparing and contrasting. That he didn't cite any Lutheran confessions, and that he only could cite one Luther quote from an anthology makes me suspicious of his conclusions, and I'm not even a Lutheran. [In a follow-up broadcast, Mr. Pinto basically confirms my suspicion that he has little knowledge of Lutheranism. I've yet to hear anything from Mr. Pinto as well demonstrating any sort of familiarity with Luther's writings].

In fairness to Mr. Pinto, there are other comments from Luther about faith saving rather than sacraments:
It cannot be true, therefore, that there is contained in the sacraments a power efficacious for justification, or that they are “effective signs” of grace. All such things are said to the detriment of faith, and out of ignorance of the divine promise. Unless you should call them “effective” in the sense that they certainly and effectively impart grace where faith is unmistakably present. But it is not in this sense that efficacy is now ascribed to them; as witness the fact that they are said to benefit all men, even the wicked and unbelieving, provided they do not set an obstacle in the way—as if such unbelief were not in itself the most obstinate and hostile of all obstacles to grace. To such an extent have they exerted themselves to turn the sacrament into a command and faith into a work. For if the sacrament confers grace on me because I receive it, then indeed I receive grace by virtue of my work, and not by faith; and I gain not the promise in the sacrament but only the sign instituted and commanded by God. Thus you see clearly how completely the sacraments have been misunderstood by the theologians of the Sentences. In their discussions of the sacraments they have taken no account either of faith or of promise. They cling only to the sign and the use of the sign, and draw us away from faith to the work, away from the word to the sign. Thus, as I have said, they have not only taken the sacraments captive, but have completely destroyed them, as far as they were able. (LW 36:67)
Furthermore, St. Paul says in Rom. 14[:23], “Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” How, then, can the sacraments give grace to unbelievers who in all their works and ways do nothing else than sin so long as they do not believe. Indeed, how can they remove the obstacle if they remain in that unbelief which makes all that they do sin, as St. Paul here states? Yet they teach that faith is not necessary in order to receive the sacraments and grace and, condemning me, they condemn these clear passages of Scripture. For the same reason, St. Paul quotes in Rom. 1[:17] and Heb. 10[:38] the saying of the prophet Habakkuk as one of the chief articles in all Christian teaching when he says, “The righteous shall live by his faith” [Hab. 2:4]. He does not say that the righteous shall live by the sacraments, but by his faith, for not the sacraments, but faith in the sacraments, gives life and righteousness. Many receive the sacraments and obtain from them neither life nor godliness, but he that believes is godly and will live. That is also the meaning of Christ’s saying in the last chapter of Mark [16:16], “He who believes and is baptized will be saved.” He puts faith before baptism for where there is no faith, baptism does no good. As he himself afterwards says, “He who does not believe will be condemned,” even though he is baptized, for it is not baptism, but faith in baptism, that saves. For this reason, we read in Acts 8[:36f.] that St. Philip would not baptize the eunuch until he had asked him whether he believed. And we can see every day that wherever in the whole world baptism is administered, the question is put to the child, or the sponsors in his stead, whether he believes, and on the basis of this faith and confession, the sacrament of baptism is administered. (LW 32:13-14)
 Moreover, St. Paul says (Rom. 10[:10]) that, “A man believes with his heart and so is justified.” He does not say that it is necessary that he receive the sacraments, for one can become righteous by faith without the bodily reception of the sacraments (so long as one does not despise them). But without faith, no sacrament is of any use, indeed, it is altogether deadly and pernicious. For this reason, he writes in Rom. 4[:3] that, “Abraham believed, or trusted, God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness” or godliness. This Moses had previously written in Gen. 15[:6] and it was set down in order that we might know that nothing makes us good and righteous except faith. Without faith, no one can have any dealings with God, nor receive his grace. (LW 32:15)
For the word can exist without the sacrament, but the sacrament cannot exist without the word. And in the case of necessity, a man can be saved without the sacrament, but not without the word; this is true of those who desire baptism but die before they can receive it. (WA 38:231)
These sort of quotes though need to be balanced by Luther's interaction with Anabaptist theology. The Anabaptists seized on Luther's theology here and thus often devalued the sacraments. Luther then argued for the "indissoluble relationship of the sacraments to faith" as Paul Althaus explained. See his overview in The Theology of Martin Luther, pp. 348- 352.  If Mr Pinto reads this blog entry, I would direct him as well to the treatment of Luther's view of baptism found in the same book, pp. 353-374.


Nicholas Leone said...

Chris Pinto is a KJV-Only fundamentalist who asserts that Codex Sinaiticus is a "Jesuit forgery." Pinto also likes to fantasize about all kinds of other Jesuit conspiracies.

The fundamentalists who fantasize about modern Jesuit conspiracies seem completely unaware that the actual modern Jesuits are for the most part a bunch of ultra-liberals today.

James Swan said...

Interesting. It appears Mr. Pinto will be debating Dr. White in Dec. 2013. Shame on me for not knowing that!

TomiPad said...

I have heard Pinto claim Historicism as his eschatolgy.  He holds the Reformers in high regard because of his focus on the Counter-Reformation and it's influence up to the present day. He also considers himself TR only, I believe to disassociate himself from any Ruckman KJO's. 

If not aware, polemics defending Lutheran Baptism have been the focus of LCMS Chris Rosebrough's F4F broadcast. Reformed Baptist Matt Haney did a sermon claiming Lutherans were heretics calling out Rosebrough. 




I believe Pinto may have been aware of the controversy which is why he did his broadcast. Pinto on his following broadcast claimed he was being challenged in his position so he contacted a Lutheran Pastor for clarification.

He discusses this in the first half of his broadcast though the title does not reflect it.


James Swan said...

Thanks for the clarification on Pinto's eschatology.

Calling Lutherans heretics because of their view on baptism is bit silly.

Mark said...

James, should we call some Church of Christ churches heretics because of their view on baptism?

Gary said...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baptism is not an automatic ticket into heaven. Although salvation is entirely God, there is no "decision" by man to be saved, sanctification requires the believer's participation. God is not in heaven keeping track of our good deeds and our sins to decide whether or not to let us into heaven, but the Christian who turns his back on Christ by outright rejection (converting to Islam) or by ongoing willful sin/neglect of his faith, should be warned by the Church that he is "skating on thin ice". He may wake up one day in hell to eternal damnation!

No faith--->no salvation--->no eternal life

James Swan said...

Your comments reflect a major misconception that evangelicals and the Reformed have of orthodox Christians.

No, my comments do not. You appear to not have read my post carefully. Please: before commenting, slow down, read my post, and then disagree with something I actually said in regard to either Luther or Lutheranism.