Tuesday, August 13, 2013

When Lutherans Typically Receive the Gift of Faith From God

Last year I posted briefly on the gift of faith and Lutheranism. I found the following comment from a Lutheran blog quite interesting:
Faith is a miracle. For most of us, that miracle started in our baptism. There at the baptismal font, God put his name on us and made us his children. He put his claim on us and took us for his own. There in the blest baptismal waters, Christ’s holy blood washed away our sins. The Holy Spirit was given to us, the Spirit who creates and nourishes saving faith in us, and keep us in the one true faith our whole life long. In my own case, for instance, I was baptized as an infant and raised in the church, and I cannot remember any time in my whole life when I did not believe two things: 1) The Bible is God’s Word; and 2) Jesus is my Savior. My story is but one of a countless number of examples of how God’s gospel promise, delivered in Holy Baptism, does the job. It works. It works faith in the Christian believer, sustained by an ongoing life in Word and Sacrament. What is this faith? It is not just a mere intellectual belief that there is some sort of a Higher Power up there. That is not saving faith. No, faith, biblically speaking, is much more specific and substantial than that. When we’re talking about faith, we’re talking about faith in the one true God–the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who has revealed himself to us in Holy Scripture, in the preaching and teaching of the gospel.
I post stuff like this for my Reformed brethren. While the Reformed church I am a member of does baptize children, I've never heard anyone in my church claim the gift of faith was given to them during their baptism as an infant.

From a Reformed perspective, the word "faith" has deep and nuanced meanings throughout the New Testament. In regard to soteriology, I'm fond of Ephesians 2. There Paul describes the universal plight of humanity by singling out the testimony of the Ephesians. Formerly, like all of humanity, they were dead in their transgressions and sins. But by grace they were saved through faith, and that not of themselves- it is the gift of God. That's the paradigm I find expressed in the Scriptures. I don't see any sort of construct that infants have been given some sort of faith at baptism, simply waiting to be acted upon by their own wills.


Unknown said...

But you have to do something with those texts that talk about the efficacy of baptism. These can't be placed against Ephesians 2:8 in such a way that you have to explain away such texts as purely symbolic.

Steve Finnell said...


Who are those who are included in salvation? All men who believe and obey what the apostle Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost are saved. It does not make any difference what denominational name is written on the church building where you worship, if you obey the gospel preached by Peter, then, you are saved, you are a member of the Lord's church, you are part of the church of Christ, you a member of the body of Christ, you are a Christian.

What did Peter preach?
1. Peter preached that Jesus was a miracle worker. (Acts 2:22)
2. Peter preached that Jesus was resurrected from the dead by God the Father.(Acts 2:24-35)
3. Peter preached that Jesus was both Lord and Christ.(Acts 2:36)
When the three thousand believe Peter, they asked "What shall we do?"(Acts 2:37)
4. Peter told them to repent and be baptized in order to have their sins forgiven.(Acts 2:38)

This is the same message Jesus preached. (Mark 16:16 "He who believes and is baptized will be saved....)

THE TERMS FOR PARDON ARE: Faith-John 3:16, Repentance-Acts 2:38, Confession-Romans 10:9-10, Baptism (immersion in water) 1 Peter 3:21

All who meet the terms for pardon are saved regardless of the denominational name on the church building.

YOU ARE INVITED TO FOLLOW MY CHRISTIAN BLOG. Google search >>>steve finnell a christian view

PuritanCalvinist said...

Jordan Cooper,

I don't think anyone would explain them away as "symbolic." The meaning would depend upon the text we are talking about, but sometimes "baptism" can refer to the baptism of the Holy Spirit [i.e., regeneration], sometimes to water baptism and even, sometimes to both. More than that, are we dealing in context with believers or unbelievers? Reformed confessions clearly state there is a special efficacy of the sacrament amongst those in whom the Holy spirit is working:

WCF 27:3 The grace which is exhibited in or by the sacraments rightly used, is not conferred by any power in them; neither doth the efficacy of a sacrament depend upon the piety or intention of him that doth administer it: but upon the work of the Spirit, and the word of institution, which contains, together with a precept authorizing the use thereof, a promise of benefit to worthy receivers.

Therefore, speaking of texts where the efficacy of baptism is mentioned in the context of believers who have the work of the Holy Spirit would be irrelevant.

My biggest concern with Lutheran views of the sacraments is that I believe, as B.B. Warfield said, they contradict the Lutheran belief in monergism. The problem is trying to avoid the conclusion of the sacraments as magic potions. If salvation is monergistic, and God imparts faith in baptism, then, *whenever* you baptize someone, they should repent and believe. Therefore, I would say, if Lutherans were consistent, they should stand at a street corner, and baptize whoever walks by. People shouldn't be angry at such a dousing of water, but should immediately repent of their sins, and believe. Why don't they?

The Lutheran answer is that they can resist this gift of faith, and hence, not be saved. The problem is that this, again, leaves the ultimate question of whether or not a person will be saved in the hands of man, because whether or not he is saved depends upon whether or not *he* resists. It is "decision theology" all over again. If you make a decision to not resist the grace given in the means of grace, you will be saved. If you make a decision to resist the grace given in the means of grace, you will not be saved. Such, in the final analysis, makes salvation ultimately dependent upon man, and thus, not monergistic.

Thus, my bigger concern is whether Lutheran views of the sacraments compromise monergism. I don't question the sincerity of the Lutheran commitment to monergism. I do, however, question whether their sacramental system is consistent with that commitment.

TomiPad said...

The polemic, parents "monergistically" baptize their infants!

The Blogger Formerly Known As Lvka said...


James Swan said...


I posted the Lutheran comment really for Reformed folks to see that there are some major differences between (conservative!)Lutheranism and Reformed theology- and I thank PuritanCalvinist for his comments as well.

If there's one study I'd like to find some time to do, it's to search out Luther's view of the gift of faith and compare / contrast it with modern-day Lutheranism.

On a related note: the comment I posted reminded me somewhat of something Tim Staples said in response to James White during a debate. Dr. White asked Mr. Staples to explain Romans 5:1-2 and when a Roman Catholic actually has peace with God. Tim responded along the lines of: this verse is in reference to baptism, that's when someone is justified through faith and given peace with God. Of course, there's nothing in the immediate context about baptism! I would be curious to know how you would answer the same question.

James Swan said...

Steve Finnell: I'd like to invite you to interact with The Blogger Formerly Known As Lvka. I think you both will enjoy each other's insights.

The Blogger Formerly Known As Lvka said...

Puritan Calvinist,

the difference between the children of believers and random people on the street is that Scripture calls the former saints (1 Corinthians 7:14).

The Blogger Formerly Known As Lvka said...

When Lutherans Typically Receive the Gift of Faith From God

When the Reformed aren't looking...

Brigitte said...


Brigitte said...

I should say that the above link is to a hymn study shared on Issues.etc done by Pastor Weedon, on the hymn "God's own child, I glady say it; I am baptized into Christ". Below is the text and the music on youtube. This is the kind of thing Lutherans throw at sin, death and the devil, despair and anguish... "I am baptized."