Brotherly Advice

Here is a bit of brotherly advice for my Christian brothers and sisters who might just be a bit too zealous in the Law concerning their unbelieving family or friends.

Please don’t use your Christianity as a club (a weapon) to beat God into them.

I’m not trying to be high and mighty here, for I have made the mistake of doing that exact same thing a time or two. I pray that the Lord will forgive me of that sin (self-righteousness), and that He would prevent their hearts from being hardened to Him because of my over-zealous, and under compassionate desire to force belief upon them.

I received a phone call yesterday from a friend of mine who told me that she is, and has been, in the crosshairs of her husband’s family, who are all doing their utmost to “lead” her to Jesus.

It’s constant. It’s always right beneath the surface when it manages to stay hidden, and it’s grinding effects are destroying any decent view of Christians and Christianity that she may at one time had.

It is a constant barrage of super-sticky piety coupled with a heavy handed beating with the law. All designed to make her make a “decision for Jesus”.

I wouldn’t be suprised if she never wanted anything at all to do with Jesus… ever again. She’s already told me that she hates Christianity, and her phoney, self -righteous family (in-laws) members.

And now, she cannot trust her little ones (ages 1-7) with them, either. They are hammering the little ones and putting pressure on them as well!

All of this stems from that deadly false doctrine known as “free will”.

The misguided (at best) thinking that one has the ability to choose to be a Christian. This warped view of the Christian faith is absolutely just as deadly when it’s aimed at others as it is when it’s embraced by the self.

It (“free will”) produces self-righteous, arrogant, super-pious, phoney, law entrenched Christians who act on the basis of fear…and not love of the neighbor.

It produces Christians who begin their “Christian walk” with something that ‘they have done’.  It starts with them… it continues with them…. and it ends with them. And they do it all quoting the scriptures… left and right…right or wrong.

I say this; love them (the unbeliever).  Let the law that is already working on them in their lives do the dirty work. Don’t make Jesus into just ‘another law’. Empathize with them. Tell them you know how it is. Tell them that many of these same things have had or are having their way with you as well.  And then, when the law has sufficiently crushed them, slip in a word or two about the One who has done something about it. Speak to them of Jesus and what he has done for you and for them. Ask them if they’ve ever been baptised and remind them of the promises that God has made to them in their baptisms. It is a great opportunity to speak the gospel to them, that God may go to work in them in that Word. You can tell them that you’d love for them to come with you sometime to church, to hear more about Christ Jesus who will someday make all things new again…including themselves. And when you leave them pray for them.

But turning the whole thing into a formula whereupon the right answer is obtained by their making the right choice of  A) Accepting Jesus….or B) going to hell  …is not the gospel. It is the law. “Do this and you will be saved”.  Jesus told Niccodemus that “it doesn’t work like that. It has to come from above.”

It is the gospel that frees and makes alive…not the law.

What would you say to these well-meaning Christians?    Keep pouring it on! (?)…  or ease up and take another tact.(?)

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125 Responses

  1. I fear more for the ones who were told by a preacher that if they will “repeat” this prayer and ask Jesus to come into their heart………….they are saved.

    How many people will be in hell because they “believed” a preacher that….”that prayer” saved them? No where in Scripture does it tell us to ask Jesus into our hearts.

  2. Ike,

    Repeating the “sinner’s prayer” unto salvation is like reciting some incantation of witchcraft.
    It’s a worship of their will. But they do not realize it.

    They are just doing what they are told ‘to do’.

    I pray that the Lord will have mercy on those that believed that they are saved because of it.

  3. As a Lutheran who spent time at a decidedly non-Lutheran boarding school, I’ve been in those cross hairs myself.

    Give the woman some space, people. Christ is our Savior, not the New Moses, with a set of New and Improved Commandments for Better Living. Let her see that you mess up and fail and sin just like everyone else. Let her see where you go to salve those wounds.

  4. Great post Steve!

    “The misguided (at best) thinking that one has the ability to choose to be a Christian. This warped view of the Christian faith is absolutely just as deadly when it’s aimed at others as it is when it’s embraced by the self.”

    Right on……None come to Christ unless the Father draws them first.

    Obviously the Law and the Gospel has been presented to this person. Great!

    Now is the time for prayer for the lost person. To keep beating someone over the head with the Law is pointless. They have heard it proclaimed…..now is the time to wear out the knees on the blue jeans for that person.

  5. Elephantschild,

    You know that terrible feeling of being pressured to act (the law).

    I think your advice is right on.

    I do believe that showing them that you are no better than they are is very helpful in witnessing.

  6. Wayne,

    Thanks for your vote of confidence!

    There is not a doubt in my mind that the people involved believe that they are properly presenting the law and the gospel.

    But I’m pretty sure that they are presenting the law…and the law.

    Unwittingly, people who believe in “free will” when it comes to choosing Christ, turn the gospel into another law by reducing it to the action required by the sinner to ‘seal the deal’.

    I would hope that some of these folks would be open to the understanding that God actually has the power to save… in and of Himself (Romans 1:16), and that we basically do not want Him.

  7. “It is a constant barrage of super-sticky piety coupled with a heavy handed beating with the law. All designed to make her make a “decision for Jesus”.

    It’s VILE, and one of the key reasons that people find christian ‘religion’ so unreal.

    “I say this; love them (the unbeliever). Let the law that is already working on them in their lives do the dirty work. Don’t make Jesus into just ’another law’. Empathize with them. Tell them you know how it is. Tell them that many of these same things have had or are having their way with you as well. And then, when the law has sufficiently crushed them, slip in a word or two about the One who has done something about it”.

    BULLSEYE!
    I found it so true, that when we honestly and naturally converse about spiritual things along these lines, we really begin to make headway. If such conversations occur ‘naturally’, and are part of a life lived with genuine candor for our friends to see, they will can truly be meaningful when He so choses.

  8. Steve, I don’t think that “free will” is really the issue here. Are you taking a hyper-Calvinist position that says it’s useless to evangelize?

    I do agree that our “decision” doesn’t save us, and agree with Luther than we contribute nothing to our own salvation. However, we do have the (by grace) free will to either cooperate with grace or to reject it… or the gospel makes no sense. I try not to get into the “Calvinist-Arminian” debate as I think it presents a false dichotomy.

    These well-meaning people may simply be clumsy and insensitive, or they quite possibly be pushing a false gospel that adds performance to grace; but this is a separate issue from free will.

  9. Howard,

    “If such conversations occur ‘naturally’, and are part of a life lived with genuine candor for our friends to see, they will can truly be meaningful when He so choses.”

    That sentence should be in every Christian’s ‘handbook for witness’.

  10. Alden,

    I’m a Lutheran (you probably knew that, but maybe not). So I’m not one to advocate the Calvinist position, or hyper-Calvinist take on witnessing.

    I believe that is the #1 job of the Christian. To speak of Him, and what He has done, is doing, and will yet do…for us. “Faith comes by hearing the Word, and how can they hear if they don’t have a preacher?” (St. Paul )

    But I think the issue with many of our Brethren of the Baptist, Anabaptist, Non-Denominational, Pentecostal, and other American Evangelical traditions, is “free will”.

    After all, that is how they came to be Christians. They made their decision. So it would follow that others will become Christians and “be saved” the same way.

    So I think they (with the best of intentions) go to great lengths to lay everything out so that the prospective believer might be able to size it all up and make the right decision, also.

    I also think that once someone makes their “decision”, a certain amount of pride sets in.
    “I did it…I made the right choice.” They don’t say it this way outright , but it would naturally follow knowing what we know about human nature, and our sinful nature.

    Of course I’m painting with a broad brush.

    But, I have had many conversations with many an Evangelical, that when this topic came up, they confirmed this un-biblical view of “free-will” with respect to how the Christian life begins.

    One of my neighbors, a good friend and elder in his church, on return from a vacation recently, asked me, “Anyone in the neighborhood get saved while we we gone?”

    I responded, “How should I know?”

  11. (as an interesting side note)

    Here’s a good, short post on Mormonism and “free will”.

    http://utah-lutheran.blogspot.com/2009/03/free-agency.html

  12. Steve….there is a vast difference between a calvinist and a hyper-calvinist. Mormons believe they can be baptised for dead relatives but I wouldn’t link them with lutherans!

  13. Ike,

    I guess I don’t know enough about Calvinism to differentiate very well between the two…but I do know that Lutheran theology is different from the view of witnessing as we believe that people need to hear the message. In preaching, teaching, the sacraments.

    I agree with you, Ike!

    I wouldn’t want to link Mormons and Lutherans either!

    Baptising the dead. It’s actually closer to Lutheranism than free will, decision theology.

  14. Steve – That was some good advice from you! Finally :) Just kidding..

    Don’t make Jesus into just ’another law’.

    I hear ya!

  15. Bino,

    Yeah…even us goofy Lutherans get it right once in awhile! :D

  16. The irony is that I have a friend who insists on talking to me about Jesus and it is really getting on my nerves now.

    I know how she feels!

  17. Doorman-Priest,

    You crack me up! :D

  18. The understanding of free will may play a role but I’m not sure whether this is really the central issue here.

    It could be argued that a fear-based superficial “gospel” communicated in a pushy and loveless way is the main root for their stupid behavior.

  19. This blog’s great!! Thanks :).

  20. Josh,

    I think you are right. There is an element of fear in their understanding of the gospel.

    That fear stems from the desire to preserve the self, and not go to hell (me thinks).

    If you ask this type of person when they got saved, they more than likely will give you the day, the month , and the year. Many will know the exact time. They know this because it stemmed from a free-will decision they made to accept Jesus at that time.

    So if this is the way it worked for them, it makes perfect sense that this is the way it works for everyone…therefore the desire (often over-zealous desire) to bring that unsaved person to that same point of decision.

    One fellow I used to work woth knew exactly how many people he had led to accept the Lord.

    This is where a wrongheaded understanding of “free will” can naturally go if carried out to it’s logical end.

  21. Josh,

    I think you are right. There is an element of fear in their understanding of the gospel.

    That fear stems from the desire to preserve the self, and not go to hell (me thinks).

    If you ask this type of person when they got saved, they more than likely will give you the day, the month , and the year. Many will know the exact time. They know this because it stemmed from a free-will decision they made to accept Jesus at that time.

    So if this is the way it worked for them, it makes perfect sense that this is the way it works for everyone…therefore the desire (often over-zealous desire) to bring that unsaved person to that same point of decision.

    One fellow I used to work woth knew exactly how many people he had led to accept the Lord.

    This is where a wrongheaded understanding of “free will” can naturally go if carried out to it’s logical end.
    Oops…forgot to say great post! Looking forward to your next one.

  22. Steve,

    Having been a staunch Calvinist myself there are several shades of “Calvinism” that are not coherent with eachother:

    1. There is John Calvin Calvinism versus John Owen Calvinism (the Puritans). The former is the explicit election to salvation with a less of an emphasis on the syllable of reprobation, the later is a heavier emhasis on reprobation as opposed to elected to salvation.

    2. Then there’s the so called “calvinistic” or “reformed” baptist, which is really not Calvinistic at all but a hodge podge of Anabaptist practice married basically to the TULIP (That’s why there’s a subtle form of ‘will worship and pushing’ in this one (ironically not all that different from the Arminians they despise). It’s kind of a bifurcated “we profess the will is totally depraved, nonetheless we will appeal to it and deny we do”. The TULIP in these circles becomes the Law whereby the indirect appeal to the will is made. Something like this, “You can’t save yourself or make yourself believe only God can do that, and there’s no sacrament whereby you may know His will toward you, so out of some ‘bolt out of the clear blue sky (gnosticism)’ God will ‘turn the switch on’ maybe and you might ‘get saved’.

    All Calvinism has this in common, “I have Good News…for some of you”.

    That’s a nutshell survey of it.

    Yours,

    Larry

  23. The sinner’s prayer has actually already been condemned against Pelagious in the cannons of the Council of Orange, before Rome was herself fallen.

    CANON 3. If anyone says that the grace of God can be conferred as a result of human prayer, but that it is not grace itself which makes us pray to God, he contradicts the prophet Isaiah, or the Apostle who says the same thing, “I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me” (Rom 10:20, quoting Isa. 65:1).

    L

  24. Howard nailed it on why they do this. I would add to it the heavy law the christian themselves is under to do this. I’m willing to bet money this person, the proseylitizing christian, is baptist. And I’m willing to double that bet that they don’t ever actually hear the Gospel. And I’m willing to triple that bet that what they really hear 99 if not 100 percent of the time is “you need to be evangelizing” rather than the evangel themselves. This is the MO of the SB church and I mean it’s most conservative leaders. They think that and state explicitly that to motivate “evangelism” one must huff and puff about DOING evangelism rather than preaching the EVANGEL so that IT is its own power and generator as Paul says. This is the message of the SB world whether you speak of Rick Warren or Albert Mohler.

    So I’m willing to quadruple my bet that the base reason they are doing this because of the hellish preaching and teaching they themselves are under is just like that of what John Wesley himself once said in a moment of candor that they are doing it for their own assurance of being saved. So this law driven “evangelism” which is neither evangelism nor the evangel is basically driving a lawism rather than EVANGELism and the message is basically a law message, “do this”.

    I know because I use to do exactly this because THAT is ALL the SB church preaches. That’s why they are usually under terror of the law to “do evangelism” and the message becomes a legal message.

    Larry

  25. Oh, sorry Steve, I forgot to answer your base question, “What would you say to these well-meaning Christians?”

    Keep pouring it on! (?)… or ease up and take another tact.(?)

    Neither, rather, get the hell out of the baptist church (or if it just happens to not be, but I’m betting it is get out of whatever so called church it is) and go to a church where Law and Gospel is proclaimed TO YOU FOR YOU and Christ is actually GIVEN TO YOU, and Christ is ACTUALLY given to you in the Sacraments. Don’t worry about the so called evangelism. And one day when the hilarity of the Gospel penetrates and your eyes are filled with tears of joy, and you belly with laughter – the evangelism will come.

    That would be my advice to them.

    Larry

  26. Is “Larry” the cable guy?

  27. Ike – I don’t think so. It sounds like Larry is one of those people who is downright ticked off that the Gospel was withheld from him for so long.

    Am I right? :)

    I know what he’s talking about. When you realise the incredible gift-that-keeps-on-giving of the Gospel and that it’s for ALL of us, Christians, too, all the time, and that the Cross isn’t just a guilt-inducing “hook” to get you in the door – well, a person can get passionate about those who are in churches that withhold that news from people.

  28. “Don’t worry about the so called evangelism”.

    I spent many years ‘toiling day after day’ amidst evangelism programs of all shapes and sizes until the late 80′s, when I stopped entirely, and my ‘evangelism’ became living and merely honestly talking about the truth that is in Jesus Christ as and when opportunity arose naturally (you’d be surprised how often it does). The result is that I now see non-Christian friends troubled by the law and taking note of the remedy, the calling of Jesus to mercy and peace. That’s what we’re called to do – to savor this life with that ‘sourness’ and ‘sweetness’ by speaking of how it really is, no more, no less. God alone can save us, so all we can do is trust that as we hold out the word of life, He will release what Lewis referred to as ‘the hounds of heaven’ that will be relentless in their pursuit of us, through the power of Him that holds all, until we are His.

    Yes, Larry, human blindness indeed speaks of ‘our choice’, ‘our prayer’, but in Him and Him alone who SAVES to the uttermost.

  29. “Is “Larry” the cable guy?”

    I’d say Larry is laying down the cable of law and gospel to whomever will hear it.

  30. Elephantschild,

    I too, know what it is like coming in from the desert of churches that are law only. Churches that focus on ‘you’, and your godliness or Christian performance.

    What a wasteland. How tedious. How boring, Being surrounded with…’yourself’.

    When it comes to the righteousnes project, we are the problem…not the solution!

    So, while other church practices shouldn’t be our focus too much (in the negative), (we ought be Confessional), but on the other hand, when people are having the life sucked out of them by churches, in the name of Christ…it’s hard not to say something about it.

    People often criticize our criticisms, but as you say, “a person can get passionate about it.”

    Those of us who have heard that freeing, sweet sound of the gospel in it’s purity, want others to know and taste that love and forgiveness and freedom as well.

    Thanks EC!

    – Steve

  31. Howard,

    “He will release what Lewis referred to as ‘the hounds of heaven’ that will be relentless in their pursuit of us, through the power of Him that holds all, until we are His.”

    Yes He will, Howard!

    Thank you!

  32. Larry,

    “So this law driven “evangelism” which is neither evangelism nor the evangel is basically driving a lawism rather than EVANGELism and the message is basically a law message, “do this”.

    I know because I use to do exactly this because THAT is ALL the SB church preaches. That’s why they are usually under terror of the law to “do evangelism” and the message becomes a legal message.”

    I think this is very much a driving force in this phenomenon. I see it and feel it from these folks all the time. Almost all my neighbors belong to non-denominational denominations. This seems to be their belief as well.

    Thanks, Larry.

    - Steve

  33. Elephantschild,

    Yep, you got it. I always tell my wife who grew up every minute and never left the baptist church that, “having come from the outside in as a staunch atheist I NEVER conceived of the thought that the battel for the Gospel would be IN the church.” That of course was a “freshman’s” naive understanding of things years ago for me. With friends like preachers covering up Christ CONSTANTLY, who needs atheists! Atheist are rank amatuers by comparison.

    Larry

  34. Howard,

    I know exactly what you are saying. I could tell you stories about how this changed one after another.

    L

  35. Steve,

    Yep! Generally speaking if you could get them to honestly open up or listen to them when they are speaking honestly and don’t realize it – what you often find is that they fear they themselves are not saved. They won’t say that because in the non-sacramental/heterdox churches its a sign of NOT being saved if you cannot “firmly confess your faith” OR you will be simply exhorted to “try harder”. Yet, in great relief in the Lutheran circles it is PRECISELY faith which confesses it’s unbelief – the confession of a REAL sinner, “…Lord I do believe, help Thou my unbelief…” and “Have mercy on me a sinner (unbeliever)”.

    Evangelism is NOT begotten this way: We need more people selling this religion, that’s our problem in our numbers.

    Evangelism is begotten this way: A beggar comes to a food court set up that stops them and gives them steak, potatoes and wine – in short a feast for free and says come back it never runs out and never costs you a dime. So he runs back to his buddies with a chear on his heart and eyes wide as pancakes and says, “Guys you are not going to BELIEVE what they are doing down town…”

    L

  36. Larry,

    That is a great description of the ‘true gospel’!

    And the old Adam just hates the graciousness of it all.

  37. Look at Paul……he was a “christian killer”. He wasn’t in a baptist church or lutheran church when the Lord blinded him physically……..and then open his spiritual eyes. He wasn’t in a “seeker-friendly” position and nobody handed him a Gospel tract.

  38. “He wasn’t in a “seeker-friendly” position and nobody handed him a Gospel tract”

    It’s pretty clear, from the preaching of Stephen and the words of the Lord on the road to Damascus, that the ‘hounds’ were really upon him. I wonder how well received someone like Paul would be in most Sunday services, or how would the preaching of Stephen fare? The work of God is so beyond what we can ask or think…
    it’s not a case of our ‘knocking on heaven’s door’, but of Him invading the enslaved ‘territory’ of the usurpers of mansoul!

  39. ” wonder how well received someone like Paul would be in most Sunday services…”

    Not very well at all. No cute jokes, no “try harder”, no alter call, no sinners prayer, no ‘every eye closed every head bowed”. And he would ESPECIALLY be thrown out for his language when he called all his old nice swell fellow holiness growth sanctification “skubala” or better in the English s#$t. And the SB sanhedrin would definitely jump all over Paul and Timothy for “ruining their witness” with their wine bibbing. And neither his nor ANY of the apostles testimony would ‘cut the mustard’ today because they would’nt be talking enough about themselves and “all the Lord has done to cleanem up”. Paul definitely would’nt fit the testimonial bill of “I use drink, cuss, do drugs and carouse…but the Lord took that away from me” (hand clapping). In fact if Paul did give his testimiony, like in Phil., and all the good life he was living, I suppose the crowd would say, “Paul what the hell are you talking about you were already saved and showed evidence of being elect”.

    L

  40. Larry,

    God has the power to raise a dead sinner to life BUT His hands are tied when it comes to sactification. You got to be kidding me.

  41. WARNING: I AM AN EVANGELICAL

    No doubt, there are people in the evangelical church who have confused the message of the gospel. There are also people in the Lutheran church who seem to be fuzzy on the issue, as well the Roman Catholic church, etc. But once again I’ll point out that it’s not fair to lump us all together as I have certainly learned not to lump all Lutherans together.

    Now would be a good time to point out that there has been very little scriptural support for the beliefs presented in this post (including the comments). Martin “sola scriptura” Luther would turn over in his grave.

    ————————————————————————
    The Great Commission

    (Matthew 28:18-20)
    18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.

    19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,

    20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

    (Mark 16:15)
    15 And He said to them, “(Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.
    ———————————————————————

    We are clearly called to “preach” and “disciple” as followers of Christ. I don’t think that any of you are denying that. Moreover, I think many of you have done an excellent job of pointing out just how screwed up some people are when it comes to sharing the good news of the gospel. We don’t “make a decision for Christ” or “ask Christ into our heart as our personal savior” etc. We “trust” in Him.

    Ephesians 2 – read the whole chapter

    Note that there are clearly two states that a person is in–the before he/she trusted in Christ and the after he/she trusted in Christ.

    Clearly, there is something that happens. While I don’t believe in “free will” as you all have stated it, there’s no denying that as human beings we make decisions (there’s a “before” and “after”). Calvinism makes perfect sense to me (and, Steven, I’m not sure that you understand the doctrine), but I know that the truth of the gospel was presented to me by a very well-meaning friend and it just clicked. I firmly believe that God saved me and that God gave me the ability to believe in the first place. But He created us and created our minds and our ability to make decisions. He also created time–something that limits our understanding of eternity. If you think about this too hard, your brain will explode.

    I’m also not so sure that it has to do with an exact moment in time. I know many believers who wake up one day and realize that they’ve been trusting in Christ for salvation. Praise God.

    Larry, your words are too harsh concerning the church. I would be careful to condemn the entire Southern Baptist church. It has it’s problems, no doubt–some are very serious.

    But you are all very right to point out the legalism that plagues the evangelical church here in America. It’s awful. You don’t drink, cuss, dance, play pool, play cards, etc. No one seems to recognize that it’s CHRIST who did the work on the cross–not us.

    My non-denominational church is certainly not perfect, but we don’t teach this. I can also specifically remember my pastor using the word, “shit” from the pulpit in the same way Paul did. It was incredibly appropriate and very powerful.

    If someone from the outside read this (and I don’t consider myself to be on the outside since I post here regularly and post on a few other sites run by incredible Lutherans) they’d wonder why you were going through so much trouble to give yourself an excuse for not sharing the gospel. I don’t think you’re teaching that at all, but surely you can see it.

    Ok, I’ve opened up many cans filled with worms and perhaps even a few cans of “whoop ass.” I’m not trying to be a pain in the butt.

  42. Ike,

    You and I simply profess two different religions, as I’ve said before. I don’t mean that hyperbolically either.

    I’ve never moved off of the true definition of sanctification, “getting use to your justification” which takes nothing less than the power of God to sustain. Your problem is that you don’t understand what sin really is and basically have a Mormon/Roman Catholic concept of it. Nor do you understand the fall of man, nor the bondage of the will.

    Good luck with your religion Ike,

    Larry

  43. Roger,

    “…but I know that the truth of the gospel was presented to me by a very well-meaning friend and it just clicked.”

    That’s terrific! No problem with that. I pray that happens to everyone I speak to about Christ.

    Sharing the gospel is job#1 of the church and the disciples of Jesus.

    I guess I’m not sure where you heard that we weren’t supposed to do that.

    It’s the way it’s done that can be a real problem.

    Pressuring someone with a decision between heaven or hell (which is done by many “free willers”) is not, in my opinion, a healthy way to spread the gospel. That is just spreading the law.

    So, I’m with you, Roger!

    And you are absolutely correct, the Christian does make a great many decisions out of his free will…just not the one to choose God.

    Take care, my friend!

    – Steve

  44. Maybe I’m missing something here (it wouldn’t be the first time!)

    I thought Ike was agreeing with us (me, Larry, Howard, EC).

    Did I goof up, again?

    Ike, whose side are you on, anyway!? :D

  45. Roger,

    I think you are confusing my so called “harshness” toward the SB church with my disdain for antichristic doctrine – for the Cross is by its very definition polemical to all that’s against it.

    Plus, you must understand I/we make a clear distinction between the doctrine of a heterdox church and the people.

    Because I don’t recognize it, the SB church/confession/doctrine, as an orthodox church at all, but rather a heterodox church that only exist by the permission of God and not at all by His will. And what that basically means is that God does not in any sense will or desire such confessions of heterodoxy, but tolerates and permitts them for the purpose of testing His people, will they listen to Him or another Word. Now I say that not from a high horse of mine but a person who has and does wrestle with that great temptation. It is the GREATEST temptation of all to just say, “To heck with it, I don’t like all this arguing and fighting, and I don’t, I don’t natually like it one bit – but it is a GREAT temptation to say, “you know lets all just get along”. I would sleep much easier trust me. For YEARS I tried to marry Calvin and Luther and think, “they are just talking past each other”, I wanted that SO bad. The same with baptist doctrine and Reformed versus Luther. But I could not the more I looked into the Word itself, the more I looked and the more we do, we HAVE to confess with Luther, “I find that the Word of God makes the world increasingly narrow for me”. There is daily, and every Lutheran on here and the like feels this, I know they do, a GREAT temptation to just “give in” for the sake of peace and ecumemical unity.

    And what that means is that I cannot go to nor affirm it if it where the only church within 10000 miles of me. Now that is going to sound harsh in our day and age of mallable doctrine. But that’s just the evil air of our day and age not liking the reality.

    This may help you understand: I/we make a distinction between the godly stuck in these babylonian captivities, the heterodox church, and the actual “church” as a doctrine and confession. We reject the latter but not the former. In fact it is the heterdox church who has enslaved our dear brothers and sisters, the godly, which would include yourself and they should be with us.

    Heterdox churches are not without some Gospel, they still, like Rome, retain some elements of it but it is a mixture. So unlike Mormonism, one can and does come to saving faith in heterodox communities like the SB or Rome, but it is not a mark of their being a true orthodox church but the reward and power of the Word inspite of them. So nobody is saying one doesn’t come to faith in them, but that does not at the same time affirm them either, its inspite of them and all the credit goes to the Word itself where it has not be covered up.

    In fact I don’t know any Lutheran that would say, “That person is likely not a Christian”. In fact Lutheran’s as a confession are against this (that’s not to say you couldn’t find an individual that is counter to this) That’s different than correcting a confession as false or of another religion under the guise of “christian”.

    At the end of the day I came to faith by a baptist preacher that for his part did proclaim Christ very clearly, but I don’t hang my hat even on that day or event but a continual look to the promise even today in the ever present. I don’t say, “Back on X date, I was saved”, rather “I am baptized”. Thus, if someone said to me, hypothetically, “Are you sure you got saved”, throwing that into question – I just reply, “I am baptized”, I’m not going to ferret out yesterday which is the devil’s trick. I don’t hang my hat on conversion whenever, but the promise in the ever present reality. To look back in time or forward in time is idolatry, it is how the devil gets our eyes off of Christ.

    One of the reasons the Law is not preached strongly, which is to say at all, in evangelical or SB circles is because if they do they will upset everybodies assurance, for they have no sacraments. So the Law is domesticated in the preaching. And thus the Gospel is reduced.

    Larry

  46. Steve,

    Maybe I’m missing something here (it wouldn’t be the first time!)

    I thought Ike was agreeing with us (me, Larry, Howard, EC).

    Did I goof up, again?

    Ike, whose side are you on, anyway!?

    Don’t feel like the Lone Ranger, I did to. That’s why it shocked me.

    L

  47. “Presenting” the Gospel is absolutely the way to go, but it should happen NATURALLY, during the course of friendship!

    I think what Lutherans tend to flinch at is the sort of approach that a non-Christian friend of mine was subjected to by a classmate in college. The classmate laid it all on the line: you have to chose, right now, Heaven, or eternal damnation. It was an old-school, burn-in-hell, sort of approach. Not that it wasn’t true – it absolutely WAS true. But you see, my friend had never been in a church, had no sense that he even needed Christ – all he got out of the exchange was a rather hysterical, high-pressure “sales pitch” which didn’t make a whole lot of sense to him – and sadly, it destroyed the friendship btwn this friend and the classmate, and accomplished nothing.

    Well, it did accomplish my friend coming to me and asking, “Are all Christians like this? YIKES! I don’t want to have anything to do with them!” He even said, “I got the feeling he was only being my friend so he could get me to join his church.” Most people like to be liked to be liked for ourselves, though, not because we’re a trophy win. I was able to do some damage control, thankfully. But it made me sad.

    Roger’s right, though- we’re all too guilty of broad-brush assumptions at times.

    Sincerely, a baby-sprinkled member of a the ‘frozen chosen’ type church. :)

  48. Having spent most of my Christian life in the evangelical (usually Baptist) church, I’ve seen–and been appalled by–a lot of the behavior mentioned here, but Roger is quite right that it’s not fair to lump all of us together.

    Just to add a data point: I’m a member of the Baptist church, though not an SBC church, and the style of evangelism most folks here are talking about is not at all encouraged within my church. (And I’ve known of SBC churches that also do not fit the pattern some of you describe.) What you’re seeing is not unusual among Baptists, but I suspect the reason that it’s all you seem to see is that those of us with different ways of thinking are much quieter about it, and we wait for opportunities to talk about what God has done and is doing for us instead of pushing the four spiritual laws, the sinners prayer, or some other formula.

    My own hope is that we’ll all be so excited by the good news that it will overflow within us and we won’t be able to help telling others what we know. (Sort of like Larry’s beggar who comes to the food court and goes out to tell his friends–great illustration, btw.) How we do that will vary according to our personality and the opportunities that are put before us.

    I trust that God is saving me, and I trust that he is saving and will save many others. If he wants to use me as part of that work by having me share the good news, then I’m pleased to do that. But I would trust the Spirit to do the real work in each person’s heart. I think a lot of people don’t trust the spirit enough and think that if they don’t get through to the person they’re talking to that this person will burn in hell. I prefer the model of the sower and the seed. Scatter the seed, and trust the spirit to do the rest.

  49. Wow! Looks like everyone’s online right now. Some good replies as I was crafting my last comment.

    Roger, I do appreciate your making a distinction between the doctrine of a church and the individuals within the church. I must confess I don’t always get the impression that this is your belief from your comments, so I’m glad to see you say it outright. I can understand your passion. False teaching is much more infuriating than outright unbelief–the trick, for me anyway, is determining which teachings are in fact false.

    FWIW, my own church allows people a lot of freedom (maybe too much freedom) for us to think come to their own conclusions about doctrine, so I see a lot of variation. And so I do get flummoxed when I see people say this is what Baptists believe or do.

  50. Ack! I said Roger in my last comment, and I meant Larry. So sorry.

  51. Elephantschild,

    Well, you’ve hit upon the reason that I put this post up.

    We all want to avoid situations like we’ve discussed here ,of possibly hardening someone to the Word of God.

    As pointed out, there are many reasons for it.

    I happen to believe that the doctrine of “free will” is at the root, and others believe there’s another cause.

    E.C., I’d be willing to bet that the story you have from college is an all too familiar one.

    Not that that the ‘frozen chosen’ methodology is any better. Maybe there is a happy medium. I think we have hit upon that happy medium, here in our discussion.

    It might just take a different way at looking at things for us to try it out, and work on it a bit.

    Thanks, E.C.

    – Steve

  52. Teresa,

    “I think a lot of people don’t trust the spirit enough and think that if they don’t get through to the person they’re talking to that this person will burn in hell. I prefer the model of the sower and the seed. Scatter the seed, and trust the spirit to do the rest.”

    I like that approach as well!

    The Word of God will always do what it sets out to do.

    Getting people to hear it, I mean really hear it, is not our responsibility.

    But not hardening their hearts to it, is.

    I agree with you, Teresa, that we shouldn’t lump everyone together under one denominational heading.

    I think we try to not do that here. But there are some major theological doctrinal differences with Christianity that ought be highlighted.

    I was a Roman Catholic (not a very good one) and when I first started hearing Lutheran theology I would get a little upset with the pastor for saying bad things about Catholocism.

    I did not want to let go of some of the ideas that I had been brought up with.

    But the truth made it’s own way…and now I have got everything just right. :D

    Thanks, Teresa!

    – Steve

  53. “Ike, whose side are you on, anyway!?”

    Steve…

    I’m not sure. Maybe if you would explain to me what Larry is saying I could answer that question. I’ll take the “hit” and say I don’t have the brain cells to follow what he is saying half the time.

    The Reformed faith “makes” a significant practical difference in the matter of sanctification. Its pessimism about human nature produces a strong emphasis on dependence upon the Holy Spirit. Yet, it does so without being unrealistic about what is required of us. Sin will not be overcome, even in the redeemed heart, without strenuous effort. There are no magic formulas. There are no hidden ‘secrets’. There are no special ‘keys’. God is at work. He must be, or there’s no hope for us. But we also must ‘work out our salvation’. If there is a key, it is this….Work it out, struggle, fight-”because” God is at work.

  54. Ike,

    All of you guys and gals are beyond my pay grade, brain cell wise (and that isn’t much).

    “Sin will not be overcome, even in the redeemed heart, without strenuous effort.” (Ike)

    Just one question for you, Ike…how are you doing?

    Is your effort up to snuff? Are you sure it is strenuous enough to pass muster?

    Thanks, Ike!

    – Steve

  55. Steve….

    ‘For sin shall not be master over you’ (Rom. 6:14).

    ‘No one who is born of God practices sin’ (1 John 3:9).

    ‘For whatever is born of God ovewrcomes the world’ (1 John 5:4).

    ‘being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit’ (2 Cor. 3:18).

    ‘He must win the battle ‘, Luther says. This is where sanctification begins.

    The Bible says we are to ‘put on the full armor of God’ and in the same passage refers to ‘our struggle!” There’s the despised word-’struggle.’ We are in a ‘struggle’ with the ‘world forces of this darkness…’. We must ‘take up’ our armor. We must ‘stand firm’. We are to ‘be on the alert with all perseverance and petition’ (Eph. 6:11-18). It is expected that we have ‘crucified the flesh with its passions and desires’ (Gal. 5:24). This requires violent action on our part. Jesus taught that if our right eye offended, we were to pluck it out, and if our right hand offended, we were to cut it off (Matt. 5:29,30). We are to ‘consider the members of (our) earthly body as dead’ to sin, and put them (our sin) all aside’, and ‘put on the new self’ ( Col. 3:5, 8, 10). Nor is this a one time effort. It is continuous. “If by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live’ (Rom. 8:13). We are likened to soldiers, athletes, ‘hard-working’ farmers, workmewn, bond servants (2 Tim. 2:1-24).

    The Apostle Paul’s own experience is instructive in this respect. He likens his Christian life to that of a race which he runs to win, and a boxing match which he fights, likewisw to win. He says,”….but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:27).

    You will never arrive. You will never escape conflict, struggle, or hardship until you are in glory. The Apostle Paul clarifies any confusion about this regarding himself saying,

    Not that I have already obtained it, or have already become perfect, but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that dor which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:12).

    Steve…….you can tongue in cheek me all you want about how I am doing………how can you just fluff off all these verses…………and there is plenty more.

  56. Ike,

    Here’s a verse for you:

    “Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

    What do you do with that one, Ike?

  57. Matthew 5:48.

    We are accepted in Christ, in the beloved.
    There is no comdemnation to them which are in Christ, and we get in Christ by faith in Him. The only way we can become perfect is through our faith in Christ-Christ imputes to us His righteousness. And then begins the slow process of sanctification in which God attempts to conform us to the image of His Son. This, of course, should be the goal of every believer. But seeking to attain perfection by our own efforts is absolutely futile.

  58. Thanks for your reply, Steve. I think where I get flummoxed is when I see people say that Baptist theology teaches something I’ve never been taught as a lifelong Baptist. Baptist organizational structure makes it difficult to nail down exactly what Baptists do teach because we don’t have one guiding body that speaks for us. For many, the congregational structure is central to Baptist ecclesiololgy, and for that reason we don’t like to be told what to believe. It’s only in the last few years that the SBC has started to try to set some strict doctrinal parameters, and many churches have left the SBC because of it, and then there are many others that were never part of the SBC to begin with.

    Granted, nonsacramental theology and believers baptism are pretty much hallmarks of official Baptist theology, and it’s unusual to find Baptist churches that don’t teach those things. And those are significant differences from Lutheran theology. I’m just not sure they’re significant enough to brand Baptist theology as a whole different gospel—and certainly not different enough to assume all Baptists are apostate. I’ve heard lots of different takes on all these issues within the churches I’ve been part of—maybe I’ve just known lots of really bad Baptists. I’ve been accused of being one myself :-)

    And on another note: I’m just sort of thinking out loud here, but it occurs to be that the verses Ike cites could be referring to the new life that we have in the Spirit. The crucial point is that this kind of life is *through the spirit* that “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” We are not told to do these things in our flesh, but to let the Spirit working in us to do these things.

    Letting the Spirit take over can feel like hard work. We are able to do it in fits and starts because we have been freed from sin’s rule over us–but we still live as if we were under the rule of sin. The moral injunctions in the Bible help me see that I still and always need grace, and they help me also to recognize when the Spirit is leading me to do something. If it’s counter to God’s commands, it’s not the Spirit!

  59. Frankly, whether Larry bashes the SBC without differentiation or Mark Dever bashes infant baptism as a sin – http://blog.t4g.org/2009/03/the-sin-of-infant-baptism-written-by-a-sinning-baptist.html – I find both equally overconfident in their personal perception of biblical orthodoxy.

  60. Hi Steve, wow good info, thanks for putting it out there.

  61. Josh,

    Frankly, what you call bashing is biblical discernment and though I’m on the opposite end of Mark Dever, I deeply respect him for in principle he understands the seriousness of God’s word and takes it that way by drawing clear distinctions. And even being wrong though recognizing there is a clear principle of orthodoxy is better than being “ify” about God’s word. For Jesus warns CLEARLY for the sheep to be discerning, not to mention Paul, test the Spirits, which now days is taken as a bad thing and “mean” and “bashing” and “harsh” – but the word of God says otherwise, so there is where I’ll hang my hat. Furthermore, Christ Himself says beware of the yeast of the pharisees, its subtle silking smooth insinuating way into the orthodoxy to poison it. Furthermore, it’s a nonsense argument for the sake of “feeling good” about loose doctrine since Christ said “the gaits of hell would not prevail against His church”.

    This is the way false doctrine creeps into the church, not by storm trooping, but subtle insinuating its way in under the guise of “let’s get along”. This is the devil’s trick from day one, “hath God really said…”. This is a very subtle persecution of the saints that lulls them to sleep and pressure them to “give in” and relinquish Christ for the sake of ecumenical togetherness, not at all different than when Mormons attempt to say, “See we are just like you”. Odd how we see it when a Mormon comes in but not so much when heterodoxy slinks its way into the church.

    So Josh, though I have no personal problems with you, I like you, consider you my friend and brother, I’m not at all moved by your appeals to my emotions that I’m “mean”, or “bashing”, “overconfident” – though they strike at me and I feel their temptation, they simply will not work with me when it comes to the truth of the Gospel.

    See I can read the article you’ve posted above, and have read many such, and not get bent out of shape over it emotionally, look at its argument, analyze it and not take it personally, and say, “Well, though thoroughly wrong (without detailing here), at least they take the Word seriously and hypothetically if correct it would be as they say a sin.” The clear line in the sand and distinction made. Even Charles H. Spurgeon, a Baptist, said one should not mingle doctrine even if a set are thoroughly wrong for to do so is the MOST deceptive of all. He called it flying under false colors. Spurgeon was right.

    YOurs,

    Larry

  62. Haylee,

    Glad you enjoyed the post.

    I felt it my duty to put something up about the situation my friend is in, hoping that it might help others to understand what can happen when they (unwittingly even) take a wrongheaded approach to “saving people”.

    Thanks for stopping by, Haylee.

    – Steve

  63. Ike,

    You have hit the nail on the head when you say that God is the one who conforms us. He does this in us often without our cooperation.

    “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion.”

    ‘He’, ain’t ‘we’.

    Do we sit on the couch like lumps of clay? No.
    Can we sit on the couch like lumps of clay? Yes.

    We often do.

    Compared to Mother Teresa, most of us do look like lumps of clay. But God is at work in us nonetheless.

    I think we are closer here, Ike, than we thought.

  64. Teresa,

    “The crucial point is that this kind of life is *through the spirit* that “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” ”

    Right on, Teresa!

    Christ is the key. He is the focus. We put the onus on Him and not us.

    That is the message that we (Lutherans) are trying to trumpet loud and clear, if often clumsily.

    I know I am not very good at conveying my ideas sometimes and I can often seem judgmental.

    It’s not the people I am trying to judge but the ideas. The idea that we are in the driver’s seat. The idea that we need to do this or that in order to be “real Christians”.

    We don’t need to do anything. He has done it all. “It is finished.” (He said that) But the Spirit of God won’t leave us alone. (He said that too)

    So to try and shoehorn people into acting out their Christian lives within a particular set of parameters goes against the very freedom that gospel proclaims.

    Rather, we preach that freedom, that forgiveness, totally free of charge, and let the Spirit of God go to work in the heart and mind of the believer.

    That, we believe, is the more excellent way.

    I do believe that while we truly believe that way to be a better way, it does no good to try and hammer people into that belief system, either.

    Often, when we hammer something, especially something as fragile as the human being, we can end up breaking it, or at least denting it up pretty good.

    So we let God’s Law and His Gospel do the hammering…and the mending. Trusting that His Word is fully capable of the job.

    Thanks Teresa!

    - Steve

  65. Josh,

    M. Dever is just another wacky Baptist headed for the flames!

    Just kidding :D (I thought that might be funny after my reply to Teresa)

    The key here is ‘clarity’. And getting all of these ideas out there, in the open, and setting them aside scripture, and doing good theology (Christ centered) is crucial.

    One of the reasons this blog exists is because I didn’t think that very many people have heard or understood the radical understanding of the gospel that is Lutheranism.

    Agreement is not my goal. Clarity is.

    We don’t always succeed here on that score, but we come pretty close with your’s and everyone else’s help.

    Thanks, Josh.

    - Steve

  66. Larry,

    The point is not an emotional appeal to be “nice” to each other or to abandon the quest for orthodoxy altogether. What I’m missing is a bit more humility rooted in the awareness that we all have changed some views and understandings over time (you included!) and there’s no reason to believe that we won’t continue to change our minds at least on some issues.

    So why not say instead, “This is the way I understand it right now but I’m certainly willing to listen and continue to learn since I’m a work still in progress.”?

    And I’d also like to include a few things Michael Patton recently said about seeing ourselves on the same level as Jesus or the apostles when it comes to defending orthodoxy:

    “1. Should we defending the faith like Christ cleansed the temple?

    We often think we should speak with the authority of Christ. In defense of our attitude we will appeal to Christ’s attitude toward the pharisees or his cleansing the temple. But to refer to the example of Christ in these instances can be problematic seeing as how Christ’s actions are not always intended to set examples for us. I know this sounds off, but think about it. He worked great miracles in order to demonstrate his unique authority, he engaged people with a divine introspection knowing their thoughts, motives, and intentions, and he was the ultimate divine judge who has every right to judge all people. As well, this was not the modus operandi of Christ. Do you ever notice that he was only polemic in such a way to the self-righteous who arrogantly believed they had all the answers and were a step above all the rest?

    2. Defending the faith like Paul encountered the Galatians.

    Many times we will appeal to Paul’s example. His polemics, especially to the Galatians, are used to defend our own less than gracious encounters. But this has problems as well.

    First, Paul was an apostle who carried the authority of an apostle. Being such, he had both divine authority and the divine ability to speak to a situation with infallible guidance. This is something that most of us we cannot claim. Can we?

    Second, Paul primarily only spoke in such a way to those who were under his authority. He was their leader and had the right and obligation as their leader to engage them in a candid way. He was their pastor. Pastor’s can and sometimes should speak in such a manner to their flock.

    Third, like Christ, Paul did not always engage people in such a way. In fact, as noted above, the encouraged his people to be gracious, humble, and respectful in all their dealing with those with whom there is disagreement. In 1 Thess 2:7 he describes his own ministry as one of gentleness, comparing it to a mother caring for her children.

    Sadly, it often seems as if there are people out there who not only think they are an apostle, but also think that they are talking to their own congregation. Some even seem to enjoy polemical engagement in an unhealthy manner. In fact, I think that a lot of ministries would not know what to do if they did not have someone to fight.”

    Source: http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2009/03/what-if-god-read-your-posts-a-reminder-about-christian-conduct-on-the-internet/

  67. Josh,

    “This is the way I understand it right now but I’m certainly willing to listen and continue to learn since I’m a work still in progress.”? –End Quote

    Simple, because I’m not claiming “this is the way “”I”” see it” but that it is in fact objectively the Orthodox position plain and simple, that’s what Mark Dever is claiming to. What I am saying is 2+4=6, whether you or I believe it or not. What you are saying is 2+4=6 is somebody’s subjective opinion just because we disagree. I’m claiming this is right and that is wrong, so are men like Mark Dever, I respect that even if we are at odds. When men like him say “Luther’s wrong” meaning the objective reality I affirm and his position, meaning the objective position he has taken is orthodox that is true humility. Not what you’ve proposed here. That’s a man not trying to protect himself to “just make friends” and “keep some pseudo peace” in place, but upholding a position at the EXPENSE of himself…and THAT is humility.

    What you don’t see and continue to fail to grasp is the tremendous danger in making the word of God a subjective opinion and its not. Your position is nothing less than “christianized” version of the pagan “all truths must be true” and that’s exceedingly dangerous.

    This is why we have in America today the poisonous atmosphere of heterodoxy in the first place, which you do not take seriously but rather embrace. That’s how it insinuates itself in and subtle insinuation, especially under false humility, is signature number one of the serpent, Satan, who slithers his way in very subtle like, as Genesis warns, the serpent was CRAFTY.

    The false teachers ALWAYS are shown in Scripture to come in under fine looking sheep’s clothing, pretty piety, good buddies, swell fellows and friendly ear ticklers. The Word of God in the OT calls false prophets those who say, “peace, peace…” to the flock but lead them astray. Paul was indeed an authorized Apostle, HOWEVER, that same Paul said to us, “if ANY man comes be he an apostle or even an angel from heaven and gives another Gospel other than that once delievered…he and his message is cursed and cut off from Christ”. (paraphrased Gal.). This Paul told to us to do.

    We are talking about life and death here, not exchanging baking recipes, and NOTHING is worse than false humility when life and death are in the balance. Everything you said in your last post has been said about every stalwart defender of the faith throughout history. And yes layman are called to both discern and defend the faith, not to tickle ears while they lay down and roll over in order to get their bellies rubbed. Spurgeon was constantly besieged by people saying he had no humility, though I disagree with his doctrine on the sacraments, he always fired back without flinching that eternal life and eternal damnation are at stake blasting away this insidious false humility, which is really just self aggrandizing and worshipping one’s self. Luther the same way, Calvin, Augustine, take your pick. But I’d rather have one of those guys in a fox hole with me than a so called humility driven person any day of the week. In fact when I lay dying on my death bed and about to face eternity, I don’t want some “iffy” preacher next to me – because the gigs up then, the rubber meets the road. What will your nice fine humility have for a dying man besieged by the devil himself. You do not take nearly seriously enough the spiritual warfare going on in the souls of men on a daily basis. You are suppose to be preaching to dead men and women dying every Sunday, not trying to win a congeniality contest – what do you HAVE for them.

    You wonder why people don’t defend the Gospel? RC Sproul once said something profoundly true about the American Christian scene as a whole, he said (paraphrase), “the reason a lot of people don’t defend the doctrines of the church and the Gospel is as soon as someone actually does, BAM, he gets a bullet in the back for getting off of the reservation”.

    Its one thing for a layman to be in the process of learning but as a pastor, a leader of Christ’s sheep, one such should not be in that position. One puts one’s self in great danger and their flock, especially on the issue of the sacraments. These are NOT non-essential issues but essential to the faith. YES, the position one takes upon them, the sacraments is a test for orthodoxy plain and simple. NO WHERE in the history of the church has it ever been accepted that “we can just agree to disagree” on these essential doctrines and you will search in vain to find such in Scriptures too.

    Larry

  68. Larry,

    Simple, because I’m not claiming “this is the way “”I”” see it” but that it is in fact objectively the Orthodox position plain and simple.

    I would like to humbly point out something. The attitude that comes across through the words you use is exactly the same attitude as those that the post was written about; it is lacking in love. It is a 1 Corinthians 13:2 thing, “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”
    Truth is great and it is needed. But if it isn’t communicated in love it is worthless. I say this because I know where you are coming from. Once upon a time, I had everything absolutely figured out and I was willing to hit anyone that disagreed over the head with it at a moment’s notice.
    You are certain that you have it all figured out and that is great, but unless you can find grace to make allowance for those still on the journey it avails nothing. Martin Luther even made few mistakes in theology (someone here might want to burn me for that one), so I am sure that you and I will not outdo him.
    Shalom,
    Jeff

  69. Larry,

    You are referring to life and death issues. I personally do not see the timing of someone’s baptism as a life and death issue. I happen to believe that there will be millions of believers (both Baptist and Lutheran) – with opposite convictions on that issue – united in the end in heaven.

    Of course I may be wrong with that belief. But it’s a belief that has grown out of my understanding of the Scriptures just like your understanding has gone through its own process until it arrived where it is today. We all would like to believe that WE have an objective understanding while everyone who disagrees with us is deceived. But in the end we can claim all we want – what God impresses on people’s hearts is beyond our control and certainly beyond our rhetoric.

    I understand that you feel passionate about your convictions because you have experienced their freeing impact. But if it is your desire to see others break through and join in that same freedom, your way of communicating can easily become more of a hindrance than a help. Trust me, I’ve talked to enough people totally disillusioned with the church exactly because of the way they’ve been preached at.

    I’m not for the “ear-tickling” you are describing. I know that the Gospel is deeply offensive to our pride and quest for independence. But even that truth can be communicated with love and gentleness. We are called to act like that in numerous places throughout the New Testament. I don’t think you purposely intend to ignore those Scriptures. I’m wondering though where exactly they become relevant and applicable for you.

  70. Good doctrine is important. The Bible itself tells us that.

    But we are not saved by it.

    We are saved by the cross of Christ and Him alone.

    It is very difficult to want someone to believe as we do and have them not respond in the manner that we’d like.

    While others here may be looking at making converts (maybe not), I’m looking at sharing ideas and having others hear those ideas, maybe for the first time in their lives, and then comment on them.

    We would all want for someone to say, “hey, that makes sense, I believe that.” Or, “that makes no sense…but I believe it!”

    We can’t control that.

    We can still continue to argue and discuss and compare and tell each other where we think the other is wrong, or right. No problem with that.

    Lengthy discussions can be good and fun and profitable…and they can also degenerate into anger and mudslinging.

    The good folks that stop by here and interact have been terrific for the most part, and I think people are understanding different faith traditions better and what it is that drives our doctrinal differences.

    For that, I thank you. Keep up the good work!

    If ever you feel that you really need to take the gloves off and get down and dirty, you can exchange e-mail addresses and have at it.

    I’m doing that right now with a guy from another blog.

    It might not be the most gracious thing to do, or best use of my time, but hey…I’m human.

    Anyway, thanks to all of you for helping to make ‘the old Adam’ a good place to talk about our Lord and the great things that He has accomplished for our sakes. And the crummy things that the old Adam does to try and torpedo that grace.

    – Steve M. (the old Adam)

  71. Josh,

    I do not disagree with you in being loving in the truth, but you you are constantly confusing words that are necessary with being unbelieving. When I tell my children “don’t run out in front of a moving car it will KILL you”, I’m not using the harsh sounding term because “I don’t love them”, rather because I do. By blurring the lines one becomes rather an unloving person. There’s a difference between being truly loving even if it doesn’t set well to the palate versus being blurry about everything which is in reality unloving. E.g. my dad was a marine, what he did and trained for to some could be considered harsh and unloving, but in a world of evil it was EXCEEDINGLY loving. I appreciate those kind of men (and women) who don’t crumble under and though sound “harsh” really truly love me and whomever. And that’s the difference. One of my greatest teachers in my life was an old English grammarian, she was on appearance on the way she taught harsh. I had many other “friendly” teachers. I hated her class because I perceived her as you describe one should be. Looking back though, she and not the others is the dearest teacher to me this day because she loved her students enough to be frank with them in teaching them.

    Josh it’s not you as a person I have a problem with, you must realize that…I DO LOVE YOU as a brother and friend. I call you friend because you are. Rather its your constant insistence that the real truth cannot be known or given by any person and that it is not clear. That’s a base assumption you continue to make and one of the reasons you yourself right now are unsettled about it. If you can ever get past that, I think you will find yourself both teachable and blessed with what you may learn. I’m not saying its wrong to be in the midst of confusion, I’m saying its wrong to think that confusion is how it must be. There’s a difference.

    Yours,

    Larry

  72. Larry,

    I have never said that truth cannot be known. This is just a conclusion you’ve come to because of what I’ve written. I’m not a relativist even if you think I am.

    Let me ask you a question that may help bring out the point I’m really trying to make:

    Two people who are sincere in their pursuit to find the truth about a doctrinal point by studying Scripture happen to come to opposite conclusions. Both are claiming that their understanding is the objective truth and that the other one is wrong. How can you decide, Larry, who is more objective than the other?

  73. Josh,

    As I’ve already said; first I do not assume the truth is unknowable nor that God has meant that His word would be confusion. Confusion on a thing is sign number one that the devil is involved. God did not incarnate His Son and give us the sacraments (ordinances if you will) in order to confuse us. So assumption number one is that God desires and will that we know the truth and that the truth is knowable because it IS His will. You need to start there. I’ve gone to great lengths of exactitude to unconfuse the various doctrines on the sacraments JUST SO we could speak clearly about what each believes SO people could at least see clearly the differences, that they are essential, that there is a reason why some do X and other not X – ALL just so people can go back a look for themselves in the Scriptures to discover for themselves and not because “Larry said so” or “Josh is confused”.

    That said, study the scriptures, the confessions of the church and the good teachers of the church – I would never advise otherwise and never have done so. I HAVE NEVER ONCE SAID FOLLOW LARRY, a false implication you are clearly implying of me.

    Your second false assumption is that because you yourself are confused in the present tense is that it is absolutely necessary that others themselves are just as confused as you yourself are and “ergo, the truth cannot possibly be coming from anyone taking a firm stand”. But I’m not in “process of deciding” who is right or wrong on the sacraments, there was I time when I was and I openly said so and DIDN’T come down on a side. On this you falsely accuse me also, I’m not having a “hidden agenda” whereby I’m really confused on this but “I’ll hide that from you and say I’m not confused”. If I said that to you, “Josh, I’m really confused and I don’t really mean % what I’m saying”, then I’d be guilty of lying to you. So I won’t lie just to make you feel better and please don’t ask me to do so. You seem to want me to lie just so it appears humble, well I cannot nor will I.

    In short I advise as Augustine said concerning things of faith, “Not because you said that I said that he said, but nothing short than a ‘thus saith the Lord’”. Of course you won’t like that because I quoted Augustine and he made mistakes and he didn’t know everything therefore we cannot trust or use anything he said either with any certitude.

    You see Josh, you bind my hands anyway I go. Because before hand, many many, many posts ago, when early on when I quoted on purpose many other sound sources so as to be honest and open you told me you didn’t want to hear from them, you wanted to hear from Larry. So I did what you asked and stopped quoting them because I thought, “Josh has a problem with that so I’ll be amenable”. And so wrote my distillations of what they are saying. But you don’t like that because now you’ve roped me into a corner and say now, “this is Larry says, join Larry”. So now you present yourself as “more humble” as if it is a badge of honor and humility to just stay and be confused – as if its honoring God at all to promote the concept that God is a God of confusion on the most essential things. You want me to falsify myself and say, “I like Josh am presently myself confused” OR “I’m really trying to deceive everyone with this falsehood I cling too”. But I won’t, I confess what I believe and I believe ONLY what is true.

    I don’t think you mean to be this way but you are not very honest in the way you approach me. Has it ever occurred to you that your reaction is not against me or those whom I quote be it Luther or whomever, but what is actually being said?

    Do you think it’s honest or right that a pastor should pastor a flock without a firm grasp of the Sacraments/Ordinances? Do you think one ought pastor a flock and their precious, precious souls if you do not view the severity of the eternal life and death battle and issues? Do you honestly believe that? Would you go to a heart doctor for a heart problem who said basically, “this is of little matter concerning life or death, I don’t even know what will or will not save you?” We are not talking about a debate over things indifferent or without clear witness in Scripture, but over things very clearly revealed in Scripture. When you say things like, “Of course I may be wrong with that belief”, you give nothing firm to you or your people. What is the significant difference in “there is no truth” and “truth is uncertain”, nothing, nothing is the answer. Would you say that to a dying man who needs the comfort of Christ to and for him as he lay dying in his death bed while the flesh and the devil accuse his conscience, would you in essence say, “xyz, but Of course I may be wrong with that belief”.

    “How can you decide, Larry, who is more objective than the other?”

    Simple Josh, just like Paul commended the Bereans for doing, I search out the Scriptures to see if these things are so. Then I believe. But I do not turn around and say “but Of course I may be wrong with that belief”.

    I appreciate your time Josh and I’ll let you have the last word on this so it does not go on endlessly. So when I don’t reply back next, please don’t think I’m angry, I’m not – just giving you the last word on this matter.

    yours,

    Larry

  74. Jeff,

    I’m sorry I didn’t see your post, didn’t mean to ignore you.

    Jeff I was stating it as neutral as I know how to, that’s why I used math rather than a religious concept, figuring at least its neutral in showing the principle. I guess not. I think you would agree with me that one believes not his own belief but the objective truth. So that one does not confess, “I believe this because I believe this” but rather “I believe this because its true”.

    In other words if all I do is in essence say “I believe X is true because I believe it true”, I’m not stating anything is actually objectively true if all I do is annex an objective thing to that framework.

    And what you call unloving is deeply loving, I’ve seen and heard too many souls tormented by this, they are the silent fearful to ask because when they do they will get the “unloving gun” pulled on them rather than their serious suffering answered. I know, I’ve been there. Their questions of God’s disposition toward them which DEEPLY concern the sacraments will be sloughed off and confused…meanwhile they go home tormented in soul battling the devil nakedly with no help whatsoever, contemplating suicide, contemplating they wish they’d never been born. And I’m not just speaking of my own experiences either. Too many souls tormented by so called “loving” too ignorant to answer their questions, too ignorant to GIVE THEM Christ truly to give them hope.

    You’ll never hear from them because they are already very sheepish, they’ve already been put off by the non-answer answers, and they won’t come to such persons again because they are so fragile as to salvation they can’t bear one more, “non answer”. You won’t be able to comfort them with a generic “Christ died for yours sins” nor will you be able to ‘assume’ them the Gospel, the Gospel assumed is the Gospel denied. They can ONLY be pulled from the firery hell they are in with a strong Word of Christ FOR YOU, a Christ that HAS come to them in the Sacraments and HAS GIVEN Himself to them.

    What you call “unloving” is so loving you hardly recognize it. Because if you did, you’d know why I don’t move on the sacraments one iota.

    Yours,

    Larry

  75. Larry,

    I’m sorry that I’m somehow giving you the impression that I’m trying to push you into a corner or into a no-win situation, no matter what you say.

    As Steve has mentioned here before, all we can try do do in these conversations is to gain a better understanding of each other. I’ve obviously not done a very good job making myself clear. And I’m not sure whether we’ll be able to get beyond the misunderstandings that are still there.

    Let me try and sum up what I believe regarding the issues you have raised:

    1. There are indeed life and death issues mentioned in the Bible. Our trust in Jesus Christ and His unconditional forgiveness and grace is such an issue. And I do believe that there is sufficient clarity in Scripture to come to a united view of key doctrinal issues as they are expressed in the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed.

    2. There are other areas of belief where to this day Christians (searching sincerely the SAME Scriptures) have come to different conclusions what belief and practice represents God’s will in the most accurate way. Those other areas include matters such as the timing of Jesus’ return and the nature of the Millenium, the baptism of the Holy Spirit as a second stage experience, the understanding of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, mode and timing of creation, the role of women in church leadership, various views on inerrancy and the inspiration of Scripture etc. .

    Since many of these issues have been debated for centuries without much progress, I’m personally inclined to see those as “adiaphora” and not life-and-death issues.

    3. As far as I can see, the understanding of “truth” in Scripture focusses more on BEING in the truth than right belief (although there is obviously a close relationship between the two). Our debates need to keep in mind that our way of presenting the Good News and avoiding any unnecessary obstacles in that regard, is just as important as the purity of the Gospel itself (1 Corinthians 9).

    4. When it comes to our convictions, I personally want to be open for correction and modifications of my views because life experiences, Christian interaction and new insights are part of the process of personal growth and understanding, and even in our most “objective” views (from God’s point of view), Paul’s description in 1 Corinthians 13 of “looking through a glass dimly” still applies on this side of eternity.

    5. Pastors and teachers carry great responsility which is not to be taken lightly. They are personally responsible to God for the content and repercussions of their teaching. They need to consider what is most harmful to their flock and do whatever is in their power to protect God’s people from deception leading away from Christ. God Himself and God alone will be the judge of their faithfulness in that regard.

    6. Our online discussions generally do not take place in the context of a pastor looking after the parishioners entrusted to him. They often include conversations with people from a great variety of backgrounds and denominations. I believe we need to take this context seriously and use the opportunity to get to know each other better rather than seeing it as a campaign to convince others of our personal views.

    7. There is no point of anyone “having the last word”. God will have the last word on everything. Whether He can use our words as a blessing, will depend to a large degree on our willingness to be sensitive to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and to be teachable ourselves.

  76. In other words if all I do is in essence say “I believe X is true because I believe it true”, I’m not stating anything is actually objectively true if all I do is annex an objective thing to that framework.

    Larry,
    Then let me open a can of worms objectively if I may. Many people have made the Scriptural case against infant baptism based solely on the fact that it is nowhere commanded in Scripture. Look for a passage that says, “we must baptize all Christian infants” and it simply is not there. What Scripture do you assert as the command to baptize infants?

    Jesus laid down a pattern, go and make disciples (this is confession), baptize them (this comes after confession), teach them to obey (this comes after baptism). This is the plain meaning of this Scripture in Matthew 28:19-20. I didn’t make it up. I didn’t read anything into it. There is no mention of baptizing children of all of the disciple’s families. I say it again. There is no passage in Scripture commanding the baptism of infants, so I say it is a doctrine of men. If God had desired infants to be baptized, He had the power to insure that instruction entered Scripture. The baptism that a believer undergoes on his confession of faith is a work of God in that person’s life, because Scripture is clear that no one seeks after God and furthermore that no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. (1 Cor. 12:3)
    The act of telling someone who was baptized as an infant that they are in “good standing” with the Lord based on that baptism is a false gospel from what I see in Scripture. By your definition, I should be shouting this from the rooftops. God does not promise salvation by baptism. Rather Scripture plainly states:

    8But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: 9That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. 11As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.

    Luther didn’t truly desire to break from the Catholic Church and the baptism of infants is a regrettable holdover from his desire to maintain that unity. It can be implied from Scripture, but if that is the best we can do then baptism of infants cannot be considered a matter worth breaking fellowship over.
    Shalom,
    Jeff

  77. At our church (in our congregation) we LOVE to baptise babies.

    We are baptising an infant next Sunday.

    When Jesus told us to go and baptise all nations (ponta ethne – all people), we figure figure he meant everyone…only because that is what He said.

    It puts God’s grace ahead of our faith (we always like to let God be God) and we believe it is pleasing to the Lord that we do it!

  78. Jeff,

    Inclusion of infants and children was a given for the Jewish convert. In every Scriptural and extra-Scriptural example we have, babies were included in the sacraments, ceremonies, and daily life of the Jewish faith.

    Circumcision-babies included
    Passover-babies included
    Tevileh Baptism at the conversion of a Gentile-babies included

    The book of Acts gives us a very clear picture of this precedent remaining the norm. As the head converts, so converts the whole family. The question therefore is this…when did the precedent of inclusion change in The Church, as documented by the New Testament? Where in the New Testament does it say “babies are no longer included in the life of faith?” Really, if you exclude a baby from the sacraments, you exclude him of the means by which God cleanses him and brings him into the community of believers. One is essentially saying “this ain’t for you kid.” Where is such a statement?

    Keep in mind also that the Bible is not a book in which one looks back to make a best guess at how the Christian community cobbled together its doctrines. The life of faith was documented in the Scriptures; not formulated by the Scriptures. We look back now for clarity, but not apart from the continuity in which the Scriptures are born.

    In case it matters, I’m no longer Lutheran but am Orthodox. I think everything I’ve written though is acceptable to Lutheran theology.

    Adam

  79. Hate to beat a dead horse and resurrect an already 77 comment long post – but I can’t resist:

    (a) free will is not a doctrine – it is a basic reality of life; Now the ancient Greeks and Paul fleshed this idea into a doctrine all the while using their ‘free will’ to come up wth such ideas…which in essence is truly beating a dead horse

    (b) What is the gospel? I hear all this talk about presenting it to others but – how do we personally define it?

    (c) I love your law oh God – can anyone remind me who said that in the Tanakh? Why would they say that if the law was soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo horrible? Wouldn’t it be rather dumb to compliment something that is not very nice – only condemnatory? And since when does the work of God become condemning alone – unless the law is not the work of God but the work of men?

  80. Josh

    “Since many of these issues have been debated for centuries without much progress, I’m personally inclined to see those as “adiaphora” and not life-and-death issues.” (Josh)

    Josh, I think your view of what is “adiophra” is too wide. I’d rather discuss with someone who actually holds a view than with someone who is too kind to defend a position.

    “I find both equally overconfident in their personal perception of biblical orthodoxy”. (Josh).

    You fail to see how infuriating this somewhat patronizing talk is. I’ d rather talk with a rude atheist, than put up with this almost wordly relativism. It reduces discussion to about talk about the tone of it rather than the substance of it (not that tone does not matter at all).

  81. We live in a culture that is bound in sin like bands of iron. Moral stories, quaint maxims, and life lessons shared from the heart of a beloved pulpiteer have no real power against such darkness. We need preachers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who know the Scriptures and are enabled by the grace of God to face any culture and cry out, “Thus saith the Lord!”

    Paul Washer

  82. Adam,

    Inclusion of infants and children was a given for the Jewish convert. In every Scriptural and extra-Scriptural example we have, babies were included in the sacraments, ceremonies, and daily life of the Jewish faith.

    Circumcision-babies included
    Passover-babies included
    Tevileh Baptism at the conversion of a Gentile-babies included

    The book of Acts gives us a very clear picture of this precedent remaining the norm. As the head converts, so converts the whole family. The question therefore is this…when did the precedent of inclusion change in The Church, as documented by the New Testament? Where in the New Testament does it say “babies are no longer included in the life of faith?” Really, if you exclude a baby from the sacraments, you exclude him of the means by which God cleanses him and brings him into the community of believers. One is essentially saying “this ain’t for you kid.” Where is such a statement?

    Ask Paul about it:

    25Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. 26If those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? 27The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker.
    28A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. 29No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God. (Acts 2:25-28)

    You made the comparison between infant baptism and infant circumcision, which I think is a valid and proper comparison. Paul here says that it doesn’t matter one iota if you are circumcised. Look at where he carries this argument in Romans 9:6-8:

    6It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. 7Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”[b] 8In other words, it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.

    This is why I said what I said regarding infant baptism. I don’t oppose the practice of infant baptism, but I stand in complete opposition to anyone who would suggest that God saves everyone who is baptized as an infant or even that God save anyone because they were baptized as an infant or at anytime. God does not save based on baptism. He saves by His own choice and His own action.

    11Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: 12not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger. “13Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
    14What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15For he says to Moses,
    “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
    and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. 17For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. (Romans 9:11-18)

    I have no wish to exclude infants from God’s family, but it isn’t my call to make. Want to use infant baptism as the “new circumcision” and confirmation as the “new bar mitzvah” then I am not going to stop you. But it no more makes them a child of God’s promise than it did for those Jews who trusted in the “outward symbols” rather than in the God who gave them.
    I don’t expect that you will agree with me necessarily, since this has been an ongoing debate and isn’t new. I hope you can understand my perspective and see why this isn’t an issue worth dividing believers over.

  83. Sorry, the first Scripture cited above is in Romans 2 not Acts 2. I was typing too fast. : )

  84. societyves:

    “I love your law oh God – can anyone remind me who said that in the Tanakh? Why would they say that if the law was soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo horrible? Wouldn’t it be rather dumb to compliment something that is not very nice – only condemnatory? And since when does the work of God become condemning alone – unless the law is not the work of God but the work of men?”

    The law is not sooo horrible. It is good. It also does not “only condemn”, but is “always condemns” (semper accusat). “Semper” means “always” , not “only”.

    Thus we all always stand accused by it, Christian or no. You can go and meditate on it as much as you wish.

  85. Jeff,

    I think you’re seeing baptism as a command that a person upholds rather than a sacrament through which God works. This makes sense, as anyone who holds a symbollic view of the sacraments must necessarily assume that they are what “I do” rather than a means through which God works. Circumcision is clearly not the same as baptism in regards to its sacramentalness(is that a word?), which leads one to ask, why would God include infants in an ordinance that has no sacramental character and then deny them the true sacrament? Your point of view seems to imply that babies deserve rites that do nothing, but they should be denied the very sacrament that the Church has always recognized bring people into the Body of Christ. I can tell you this is certainly not the view of the first century Christians. Nothing aside from a nuda scriptura argument based on silence points to the withholding of God’s blessings from infants.

    But it no more makes them a child of God’s promise than it did for those Jews who trusted in the “outward symbols” rather than in the God who gave them.

    The sacraments are sacramental precisely because God works through them; not because they are sufficient as material things that exist outside God’s grace. The Jews saw only the act itself. Christians recognize God’s work through the sacraments. See the difference? The Jews viewed the works meritorious because they were doing them out of mere obedience. Christians did them because God promises to do something through them. One hinges on me. The other hinges on God’s work. In this sense, the credobaptistic view is more consistent with first century Jewish thought. Baptism is valid only because “I” do it in obedience. The pedobaptist view is consistently Christian; God cleanses, renews, and adopts through baptism.

    Finally, I wish I could agree with your final sentiment, but you can imagine that as an Orthodox Christian I do not agree. I believe that God really works through material stuff…water, wine and bread, icons, etc… These are truths that have been confessed for 2000 years and continue through this day. I believe The Church is visible, remains intact, and that it never divided or need a Reformation. As such, it is impossible for me to say that such elemental Church teachings are up for negotiation. Division is a work of the deceiver and must not be taken lightly, even as I suspect your intentions are charitable and Christ-like in many ways.

    Adam

  86. The sacraments are sacramental precisely because God works through them; not because they are sufficient as material things that exist outside God’s grace. The Jews saw only the act itself. Christians recognize God’s work through the sacraments. See the difference? The Jews viewed the works meritorious because they were doing them out of mere obedience. Christians did them because God promises to do something through them. One hinges on me. The other hinges on God’s work. In this sense, the credobaptistic view is more consistent with first century Jewish thought. Baptism is valid only because “I” do it in obedience. The pedobaptist view is consistently Christian; God cleanses, renews, and adopts through baptism.

    I think this hits the crux of the problem exactly. The problem is that not all Jews viewed these as “meritorious works” and not all Christians view them as a “work of God.” I didn’t say baptism is valid only because “I” or “anyone else” do it in obedience. It is valid only because God makes it valid. People are included in God’s covenant based on His decision whether we baptize them at 8 days, 8 months, 8 years or 80 years.
    God didn’t change tactics in mid-stream. His plan has been consistent from the beginning. The just will live by faith. That faith will outflow in life as it is lived. This is why Paul and James both used the same Scripture about Abraham, and look like they contradict one another in its usage. It is not an easy thing to grasp. God’s grace was grace from the beginning. It did not require an outward sign or practice to be effective. God hasn’t changed and won’t change.
    The sacramental view of theology is based wholly on church tradition and is an extension of the same “legalism” that the Jews turned God’s law into in the first place. Sacramentalism by definition is Jesus plus baptism and Jesus plus communion and so forth. Baptism and communion are testimonies of what God has done.
    “There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” (1 Peter 3:21)
    Baptism is an answer or response to what God has done.
    For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:26)
    Communion is a proclamation of what God has done. Sacramentalism says that God acts within these things when we do them, much like the Jewish legalist who is believes that God honors his meticulous understanding and “doing” of the commands of the law. The Bible says we do them to show what God has already done as a witness.

  87. “Thus we all always stand accused by it, Christian or no. You can go and meditate on it as much as you wish.” (Brigitte)

    The law ‘always condemns’…I guess that makes sense – in some odd way – since the laws of the land stand to condemn and confirm – always. One could also say the law, depending on one’s view of it – also ‘always confirms’.

    My point concerning the law of God (not the law of Moses or men) is that we have a duality in Christianity concerning what the ‘law’ actually meant to Judaism and how we use it.

    On one hand, we have King David making praises to the law in his songs/psalms – the same person that stood accused by it for his actions of adultery and betryal (leading to a man’s death – isn’t that 1st degree murder in a way?). Yet, he writes a Psalm about the same law – saying ‘he loves it!’.

    The condemnation is just – it’s the law being the law – penalty for one’s actions…this David could turn around after being found guilty by the ‘law’ – paying his price – and still praising it for the glory of the land of Israel (of which he was king – grew under his borders and what have you – damn right’s he was thankful!).

    But in our faith we only see some religious aspect of the law – and that’s about it – and we take some of Paul’s reasoning…too far? The law still exists – exactly as predicted by Jesus in Matt 5 – why make that prediction exactly because who cares – the law stands only to condemn us?

    But I get it in a way – the law does condemn us – it finds us guilty of our wrong-doings (that’s fair – so does USA and Canadian law – and we should not only be thankful it exists – thankful it allows us freedoms). But even in the guilt-finding there is equality – justice – equal to all…no exemptions (unless you have money – lol) – we come before the law punished equally for similar crimes. IN this sense the law is also ‘good’…as Christians we hate to admit this – but it’s very true.

    The law finds us guilty of the things ‘we do’ to others or break in the name of disrupting community. This is good – or else we would not have direction for our lives and our children’s lives as to ‘ethics’. The law may set out the conditions of ‘guilt’ but also the conditions of ‘atonement’ (making right our wrongs against others). I see the good in having and abiding by the ‘law’…yes…as a Christian person!

    The law condemns but it also sets out the conditions for which to govern our society, our freedoms, our foundational ethics, etc…how is it the law ‘always condemns’? It doesn’t…it also free’s.

  88. [...] ***Comment taken from Old Adam – Brotherly Advice [...]

  89. Jeff,

    The sacramental view of theology is based wholly on church tradition and is an extension of the same “legalism” that the Jews turned God’s law into in the first place.i>

    First, let’s be clear on tradition. Everyone has one…Orthodox, Catholics, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Baptists. The question is who has remained faithful to what The Church has always confessed and practiced.

    So here’s the question…When did this sacramental view begin? At what point prior to The Reformation were baptism and the Eucharist not viewed sacramentally?

    I hope you’ll give the view of The Church from all ages a voice in your consideration of these questions. If not, I suspect we’ll continue speaking past each other and discussion is pointless.

    Pax,
    Adam

  90. Brigitte,

    John said, “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (1 John 6:12) That’s a pretty straight foward life-and-death issue on which we probably agree.

    He also said that every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God but every spirit that does not, is the spirit of the antichrist.
    Accordingly the wording of the Nicene Creed includes the line “incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary”, and the Chalcedonian Creed states that Jesus Christ was both truly God and truly man, against any gnostic and other influences that deny Jesus’ full humanity.

    You said that my view of what is “adiaphohra” is too wide. Maybe you can name some issues that Scripture also points out as life-and-death issues which would not be covered under my definition.

    You also said, “You fail to see how infuriating this somewhat patronizing talk is. I’ d rather talk with a rude atheist, than put up with this almost wordly relativism. It reduces discussion to about talk about the tone of it rather than the substance of it (not that tone does not matter at all).”

    Point taken. At the same token, I’m not sure whether people who confidently see themselves on the same level as Paul and the other apostles and de facto operate from a “thus saith the Lord” conviction constantly (on BOTH ends of the spectrum on pretty much any issue!) appear to be any less patronizing.

    But I agree, substance trumps tone, particularly when indeed life-and-death issues are being discussed. I’d still argue that both can go hand in hand in most cases.

    As far as the charge of relativism is concerned, I could ask you a similar question as I asked Larry:

    2 people who sincerely believe and proclaim their view as biblically objective and don’t shy away from proclaiming it in a “Thus saih the Lord” manner end up with opposing views on the matter.

    Which one is right? How did the use of “thus saith the Lord” manner of speaking clarify the issue?

  91. Sorry. Messed up my html in the last post. Everything after the i> is my words.

  92. Oops, not sure how the “6″ in 1 John slipped in! It’s 1 John 5 of course!

  93. Bridgette,

    “I love your law oh God – can anyone remind me who said that in the Tanakh? Why
    would they say that if the law was sooooo… horrible?” –End Quote

    That general reaction, means the Gospel has been proclaimed and heard correctly, it is the reaction Paul received. But the Law is not so horrible, in fact it is “the most salutary doctrine of life”, however, men use it in such a way that not only does it not help them, it hinders them and actually withholds them from life.

    To be under the Law, as we are, is to be under its curse. The Law, the most salutary doctrine of life, is pointing to something greater than its office. You MUST understand, or you cannot EVEN begin to love Law AT ALL what it is and is not. You MUST understand that the Law is in fact ONLY the salutary and holy doctrine of life when it is done such that it does not need to be said but is done spontaneously (you must grasp the essence of what spontaneity really means). And you MUST understand that IF you had to be told to do it by the Law, if the Law must instruct you in any way, you have ALREADY fallen into damnable sin before you ever react to do or not do what it speaks. What the Law requires is the spontaneous heart, all else is condemned by it. This is why Jesus, sinless, didn’t have to go back to an enumerated list and see if He was “doing” the Law, all that He DID was, coming from the good and FREE tree, was holy. That included eating, sleeping, and generally just being. A point often missed by the lawyers of our day. To say there is something “left to do” in any form is to deny Christ’s active obedience on our part, one half of the Gospel and hence NO Gospel at all.

    So what the Law points to is above and beyond its office and unto the relationships of the hope of the redeemed, those who need no instruction. This comes ONLY via grace and ONLY comes in finitude in the age to come or eternal life.

    Thus, as Nestingen points out, “The end of the law is an event of faith. Externally, in conditions of everyday life, the demands that grow out of creaturely limits and obligations continue in effect. But to faith the demands are no longer demands—caught up in relation to God and the neighbor, the requirements of relationship are no longer impositions but simply strophes in the rhythms of love.”

    Further on, “When the law loses its essential quality among sinners, it is no longer law—under the power of the word which creates faith in Christ, the law has literally, historically, come to an end in the conscience of the faithful. Under such circumstances,
    the language of abolition or abrogation, exhortations to ignorance of the law, and
    death notices for Moses are entirely appropriate to Luther (and Paul): the enemy is vanquished.”

    The gospel doesn’t mean anything; it gives everything. It is an active force, a
    power, through which the Spirit of the risen Christ works to affect what it says, the
    end of the law. But the law, in contrast, does signify. It points beyond itself to what
    it requires but can never, in and of itself, either create or give. The law signifies the restoration of the defining relationships of life: the first commandment, with the second and the third, in relation to God; the remaining commandments, in relation to the neighbor and the earth. These are the relationships of redemption, the hope of faith. Consequently, Luther insists, they are eternal: they can never end. “The decalog is eternal, in its reality, however, not as law, because in the future those things which the law demands will be realized.”

    –End Quotes

    This is why Luther can say with Paul that those who appoint for themselves things to do out of the Law, whether it be for rank salvation (e.g. Islam or Mormonism) or to become “sanctified” or “DO holiness” (e.g. Rome and A LOT of modern American Christianity) – THESE actually hate the Law of God even though they say “I love it”. However, the milk maid merely milking the cow, loving her neighbor, because she rests firmly in Christ alone sings and prayers (her sacrifice of work in vocation going upward washed by Christ) with this same Psalmist, “I love your law oh God…” All others heretofore mentioned are hypocrites and damned.

    As Dr. Nagel has said well before, “Numbers and measuring are always of the law.” and “A lot of love talk is a lot of Law talk.”

    Because there is a “Faith in the Way of the Law (false) and Faith in the Way of the Gospel.” (Nagel)

    Thus if you really want to love the Law you must stay fixed in the “The Done Didness of the Gospel” (Nagel), else you actually are a hypocrite and hate it.

    So, in my exuberant quote shower today:

    “That Christ, by His perfect active obedience, has already fulfilled your vocation for you and brought it to its glorious telos (perfect completion) in His all-reconciling death (which means there’s no way for you to screw it up except the refusal to be reconciled), that you’re essentially dead, you no longer live but Christ lives in you, so that it is Christ at work who serves your neighbor, and Christ is in your neighbor to serve (“as often as you have done it to the least of these, you’ve done it to me”).

    So the One who receives your ministrations of vocation is also the One who perfected them in His vocation as the embodiment of humanity under the Law, and who gives you His perfection as a free gift that you might enjoy your vocation in His glorious liberty and stop agonizing over whether it’s Law or Gospel.”

    Bill Cwirla quoting Hal Senkbeil from, “Sanctification – Christ in action.”

    Blessings,

    Larry

    PS:

    Steve,

    Sorry for all the quotes, I’m feeling lazy today and others have said it better than me anyway, why stain their words with mine I figure

  94. “To be under the Law, as we are, is to be under its curse. The Law, the most salutary doctrine of life…” (Larry)

    The law is a curse and it is also the most salutory doctrine of life? Huh? Those 2 things are in opposition of one another (curse and life) – and where in the Tanakh is the law called a curse (then God created a curse – to curse humanity)? Jesus is only an answer to himself (for those who think he is God) then – pleasing himself because of a stupid curse he put on the 1st place.

  95. Josh,

    You cited the Nicene Creed and one can hardly help but to point out that to confess the Creed is to confess that “I believe in one baptism for the remission of sins” and that “I believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.” I can’t think of any patristic witness who argued for a symbollic baptism in relation to The Creed or that the apostolic nature of the Church doesn’t involve succession of the office of bishop.

    Pax,
    Adam

  96. Adam,

    I have no problem with either statement. The message and “content” of baptism is all about remission of sins. I’m not aware of any controversies in the 4th century or earlier that would revolve around issues like “real vs. symbolic” or of arguments being brought forward that would artificially separate the cross and the act of baptism when it comes to the issue of forgiveness. I may be wrong but since you’re probably more of a history buff than I am (that’s at least the sense I’m getting), I’ll be happy to stand corrected if you can name me some sources.

    And I likewise do believe in the one holy apostolic church. According to 1 Corinthians 12:13, there is no other church. And while I disagree with Roman Catholicism on the issue of succession all the way back to Peter and the role of laying on of hands, I do believe that there is a continuity in the worldwide Body of Christ all the way back to Pentecost and the commissioning of the apostles.

    I value the ancient creeds because they were formulated literally in a fundamental struggle against forces that threatened the very core of the Gospel. I also do hold to the “solas” of the Reformation as long as they’re understood in their context of pointing back to the true pillars of God’s truth and the Good News, and of calling the one catholic body of Christ back to these scriptural principles.

  97. So here’s the question…When did this sacramental view begin? At what point prior to The Reformation were baptism and the Eucharist not viewed sacramentally?

    Adam,
    According to the Catholics, the first expression of sacramentalism in its modern form is expressed by Augustine (that would be the 4th century by the way). It was in fact Augustine who insisted that infants must be baptized to “save them from original sin”. Look at what he wrote,

    It is incredible, writes St. Augustine, that before circumcision there was no sacrament for the relief (justification) of children, although for some good reason the Scriptures do not tell us what that sacrament was. (emphasis mine)

    It is apparent that they were not viewed in this same way in the Didache, which was written by the early church. About baptism the Didache (the teachings of the Apostles) says:

    And concerning baptism, baptize this way: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water. But if you have no living water, baptize into other water; and if you cannot do so in cold water, do so in warm. But if you have neither, pour out water three times upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit. But before the baptism let the baptizer fast, and the baptized, and whoever else can; but you shall order the baptized to fast one or two days before.

    There is no indication of baptism as a “saving grace” and no indication here of baptism done to infants either. Scripture is also silent regarding the practice of infant baptism as the argument regarding households can neither confirm or deny the practice. In fact, all the baptisms we see in the New Testament are baptisms done upon confession of faith. There is also no language in the Didache suggesting that salvation or grace in given in communion either.
    The firm foundation of sacramentalism in Scripture according to the Catholic church is this:

    Sacramental rites are dependent on the Church which established them, and which therefore has the right to maintain, develop, modify, or abrogate them. The ceremonial regulation of the sacraments in Apostolic times is sufficiently proved by the words of St. Paul to the Corinthians with regard to the Eucharist: “Cetera autem, cum venero, disponam” [the rest I will set in order when I come (1 Corinthians 11:34)], which St. Augustine, on what ground we know not, supposes to refer to the obligation of the Eucharistic fast (Ep. liv, “Ad Januarium”, c. 6, n. 8, in P.L., XXXIII, 203).

    This is not a good basis to advocate these sacraments, but it helps to show that Augustine is the source of much of that theology.
    In answer to your other question, I very much respect the heritage of the early Church, but I am never willing to place it in authority over Scripture. And now I am getting quote happy. Sorry, but it was necessary to answer the question.
    Shalom,
    Jeff

  98. Josh and Jeff,

    First of all, thank you for your answers!

    As it relates to Augustine, he is an excellent resource and one we Orthodox appreciate, though we disagree with his assumption about original sin. In some instances his dialogs with the heretics of the day might have caused him to take things a bit far, but as a whole he is very helpful in explaining how salvation is impossible apart from God’s grace. It should also be noted that without Augustine, a great many heresies could have crept into The Church. To that end, we Orthodox are grateful to him.

    As mentioned, Augustine’s view of original sin is not the view of Orthodoxy. Where he states that the guilt of Adam’s sin is passed down genetically, we stop and say, “no…not quite.” That we all share in the consequence of Adam’s sin is undeniable. All will die. All infants are corrupted because they are born into a sinful world with sinful influences that distort the image of God in them; though the image is not utterly destroyed. Adam’s guilt for trespasses is his own. Our guilt is our own.

    The question then is whether there is good reason to baptize without the view that babies are personally responsible for the sin of Adam. The answer is “yes.” The Church baptized babies from the very beginning because it was recognized that even small ones deserve to be cleansed from the filth of the world and brought into the ark of the Church. This is also why we commune infants…because God does not begin and further the process of healing simply because our cognitive abilities are fully informed, but because He loves children just as much as adults. He works through material means to create and maintain a lasting, living faith. One can hardly imagine a mother waiting to feed her baby until it can ask for food. Neither can we imagine keeping baptism away when a baby needs spiritual food.

    Now, that’s the reasoning (as best I can explain it), but it’s also important to note that sacramental theology was a given even prior to Augustine (who is relatively late). Here are just a couple examples:

    As many as are persuaded and believe that what we [Christians] teach and say is true, and undertake to be able to live accordingly, and instructed to pray and to entreat God with fasting, for the remission of their sins that are past, we pray and fast with them. Then they are brought by us where there is water and are regenerated in the same manner in which we were ourselves regenerated. For, in the name of God, the Father… and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit [Matt. 28:19], they then receive the washing with water. For Christ also said, “Unless you are born again, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Justin Martyr, First Apology 61 [A.D. 151]).

    He [Jesus] came to save all through himself – all, I say, who through him are reborn in God; infants, and children, and youths, and old men. Therefore he passed through every age, becoming an infant for infants, sanctifying infants; a child for children, sanctifying those who are of that age . . . [so that] he might be the perfect teacher in all things, perfect not only in respect to the setting forth of truth, perfect also in respect to relative age (Irenaeus, Against Heresies 2:22:4 [A.D. 189]).

    [N]o one can attain salvation without baptism, especially in view of the declaration of the Lord, who says, “Unless a man shall be born of water, he shall not have life” (Tertullian, On Baptism 12:1 [A.D. 203])

    Where there is no scarcity of water the stream shall flow through the baptismal font or pour into it from above; but if water is scarce, whether on a constant condition or on occasion, then use whatever water is available. Let them remove their clothing. Baptize first the children, and if they can speak for themselves let them do so. Otherwise, let their parents or other relatives speak for them (Hippolytus, The Apostolic Tradition 21:16 [A.D.215]).

    I offer these only to show that sacramental theology was there from the very beginning and, as Tertullian’s quote shows, this view was expressed in the belief that such theology had come directly from the apostles and had been maintained in The Church.

    As for the argument of silence in Scripture, it is silent only if one is not engaging the writers who were living out the faith as expressed through the Scriptures in the first centuries. In addition, I hope I’ve expressed how infant inclusion was the assumption; not infant exclusion. We should find some explicit reference in the tradition of the Church that implies an age of accountability or the idea that the sacraments are only for those who are cognitively aware. We don’t.

    In the end, it all comes down to tradition. As mentioned before, everyone has one. Baptists have Baptist theology passed from generation to generation, as do Lutherans, Methodists, Orthodox, and Catholics. Please consider, my friends, that The Church of the New Testament truly may not have gone away after The Pope’s defection and that it maintains the continuity of that earliest Church; not just dogmatically and theologically, but sacramentally, apostolically, and in worship.

    Pax,
    Adam

  99. Josh, Jeff, et al,

    I’m going to bow out now. I talk too much and I like you guys. I pray I haven’t browbeaten.

    Pax,
    Adam

  100. Adam,

    Browbeaten? Not at all. I actually appreciate hearing more from the Orthodox perspective since it is often missing in our discussions (or purposely overlooked maybe?) and there are still all kinds of misconceptions out there regarding its understanding of the sacraments, icons etc.

  101. Adam,
    I too appreciate your perspective. I don’t sense any browbeating here. I did find your quotes interesting in the sense that the show the gradual development that led to infant baptism. Note that Justin Martyr talks about the baptism candidate praying, entreating God and fasting, much like the Didache did, which indicates that all baptism candidates were capable of doing so. Tertullian’s quote is interesting because I just wrote a blog post on John 3 a week or so ago showing why this statement by Jesus is not about baptism. It would indicate that some error is already creeping in at the early 3rd century. This is consistent with human nature. Irenaus’ quote says nothing about baptism, mere that God sanctifies people at all ages and I certainly agree with that. And interestingly, it appears that Hippolytus is advocating naked baptisms, which I am glad we don’t practice today. : )
    I really do appreciate a good discussion of these things, because this is how we learn and grow. I know that it is possible for me to be wrong about some of these things and I pray that God in His grace and mercy will reveal that to me.
    A lot happened to the church in the second century. It was during that time that the Church severed connection with its roots in Judaism and allowed some problems to creep in due to anti-Semitic rhetoric and sentiment. Interestingly, in the divorce from understanding of the Jewish foundation of the faith, they managed to repeat some of the same things that the Jewish people had done in adding to God’s plan.
    Compare Hippolytus writing, “Expository Treatise Against the Jews,” with Paul’s attitude toward the Jews in Romans 9-11 and you will realize that there were big problems in the early church fathers even as they passed on the faith.

  102. Back to the original meat of the issue, brow beating is not evangelism, and it is rude to try to convert somebody’s kids. Jeff hit it 327 posts ago or so, love. We must spread the gospel with love.

  103. Steve,

    My advice to the well meaning Christian – stop evangelizing please, first get the Gospel right for your self before you tell others about it.

    The Gospel is not about you making a commitment to Christ, it is about Christ committing his all to pay for your sins.

    LPC

  104. Jeofurry,

    I agree with your take that the church fathers had problems as they passed on the faith. There is reason why their sayings are not part of Scripture.

    However, with regards to Baptism and the Lord’s Supper I believe there is Jewish precedence to these, in that what they practised pointed to the real thing from circumcision to baptism and passover to Lord’s Supper but we will deflect this thread if I have to defend these to you.

    LPC

  105. L P,
    No need to defend them to me. If you check out my blog, you will find posts explaining how they did in fact foreshadow and mirror those things.

  106. This is not meant to get anyone’s hackles up .

    But I think that it boils down to the undestanding of freedom.

    Is God free to save? In baptism, if he so chooses?

    Some of us say that is what He has decided to do. Save, using baptism. His baptism. He is the only one who really baptizes. (We say)

    Some here do not believe that is what is happening in baptism, and therefore nothing (I submit) of any substance is happening. So why bother?

    God saves in baptism and He saves apart from baptism.

    But since He commanded we do it. We figure He had an awfully beautiful reason to do so.

    Thanks, all!

    – Steve

  107. Steve,
    Thanks for your space here to discuss the deep things of God. Yes, God is free to do anything He chooses. It is those who state that God “must” do something that bother me. I am all for obeying God and not so much for the other way around.
    Shalom,
    Jeff

  108. Jeff,

    I believe that. That God must do something. If God doesn’t save us… then we aren’t getting saved. God must create or there is no creation.

    I haven’t heard anyone say that God must obey us. Unless someone (not you) thinks that God is beholden to their decisions.

    Hoping that God will ease the flooding near you guys!, or strengthen those affected!

    – Steve

  109. I am not going to readl all 108 comments but would like to hear more specifics of the situation. I am torn with just the sketches of what happened.

    I realize 1,000,000% that there are Christians out there, living in the law, that inoculate people against deepening or engaging in their Gospel “freedom in Christ”. It says in Matthew 18 (I think) that the pharisees actually turn people away because of the legallistic lawkeeping and their behavious towards rules.

    Its important to share the WHOLE Gospel and to discuss our freedom in Christ. The difference between Pharasaical obedience and Gospel is obedience is that Pharasaical obedienc is “if you obey, you are accepted” but the Gospel tells “you are accepted, therfore you will begin obey”. And if we dont completely obey we still have assurance in the words of Christ when he said “It is finished”.

    In other words because of what Jesus did for us, in view of his mercy on the Cross, we actually live in freedom and want to obey. We are not forced to to adhere to pharasiacal standards.

    Anyhow, what the womans in-laws are engaging in is VERY common but it is self serving religion and not Christ-centered Gospel given in calvary quality love.

    JS

  110. Jon,

    Thanks for your remarks. I believe you are right on with them.

    It is all too common that you end up with well-meaning folks who believe their mission is to lead people to Christ and get them to make a decision for Jesus.

    Most of the time, these folks have a kindergarten level of understanding how the whole Christian faith thing works.

    They usually go to a “how to” church, and therefore have become self-righteous because they now know “how to”…and you don’t.

    So, out of their zeal, they set out to bring you into the camp.

    I’m surrounded by these well-meaning, but terribly mislead people.

    This is what often happens when a church decides to become “popular” and to go the route of giving in to the culture. The whole thing goes South while the congregation keeps growing.

    “Well…we must be doing something right…we’re up to three services and one on Friday!.”

    The Mormons are growing too. That is not an indicator of understanding the Christian faith nor of how God creates and sustains faith in people.

    Thanks Jon.

    – Steve

  111. This post by J.K.Jones is an very honest self -assessment of someone who is starting to look a little deeper into questions of the faith

    http://jkjonesthinks.blogspot.com/

    I think it is realted to the topic at hand here.

  112. Jeff,

    I am glad my comments don’t come across ungracious. Because I am a former credobaptist I sometimes get animated over this topic when I should be patient and loving. Please let me know if my tone shifts.

    they show the gradual development that led to infant baptism.

    I’m unclear if the main topic of our conversation is sacramentalism or infant baptism, but I’ll grant that the early writers weren’t giving a polemic for infant baptism. The practice is just fairly well assumed, for nowhere do we find people saying anything to the effect of, “hold on…this has never been the practice of The Church.” The only objection I’m aware of was raised by Tertullian, who argued that baptism should be withheld until as near death as possible so that a person wouldn’t sin after baptism (thereby damning him/herself). Clearly we can see that his view was a distortion, but we also see in him the recognition that infants have always been baptized, not to mention that in baptism we are cleansed of our sin and entered into the Body of Christ.

    When I began pondering this issue a few years ago, there were a few things that I just couldn’t reconcile as a credobaptist. The first is that there are many explicit early quotes that assume the practice (only a few of which I offered). They’re not arguing or jockeying to prove anything. They’re just stating it.

    Second, nobody was contradicting them. Doesn’t it stand to reason that the very same writers who were defending Trinitarian theology would make some mention of how infant baptism is a perversion of that which Christ gave the Church?

    Third, it didn’t make sense to me that everywhere in the Old Testament infants are included, but in the New Testament they’re excluded. The New Testament Church wasn’t living as though they were in the New Testament. They were just continuing on the life of faith that had been handed to them, but was now perfected in Christ. There’s nothing in Scripture or the early church to indicate that infants were excluded, even as adults were obviously written about most specifically. It was helpful for me to keep in mind that the first Christians still viewed themselves as Jews, but Jews who had received the fullness of truth. Christ fulfills everything, but he doesn’t completely upend everything. The first Christians still prayed the hours, still maintained liturgical worship, still fasted, still had feasts, etc…

    Finally, I read a book written by Andrew Das titled, “Baptism in the New Testament.” Before reading that book, I had not been aware that baptism was not a new concept to the Jews. When a Gentile wanted to convert to the Jewish faith, he and his entire family were given tevileh baptism. Infants were included. When I put all of these things together, my reading of the New Testament changed dramatically. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper were new, but the nature of inclusion did not change. There’s just not anything in the New Testament that indicates the faith went from one in which infants and young children are included, to one in which they are now excluded until they can give a precise formulation of their faith.

    In the end, the thing that really got me was the realization that the credobaptist view has to assume either hostility or ignorance of the Church for some 1300 years. Somehow, The Church had become corrupted or ignorant of true sacramental theology, so the radical reformers read their Bibles and put things right again. It didn’t seem to me that people like Justin Martyr, St. John Chrysostom, Irenaeus, etc…deserved to have such aspersions cast upon their motives and/or intelligence. They’re not personally infallible, but Christ did promise that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church. If The Church was so fundamentally wrong for 1300 years, it would seem He misspoke, for it appears everyone who was speaking about the sacramental nature of our faith was wrong until the Zwinglians and Anabaptists corrected course.

    Pax,
    Adam

  113. Adam,
    You make great points and I agree with you in several of them. I think you do a great job explaining what you believe without being insulting or demeaning and I do appreciate it. It you would also let me know if I get out of line, we have a deal.
    Baptism is a Jewish practice before it is ever brought into the church. There were several types of baptism and washing in Jewish practice. I am more intrigued by the bridal mikvah (baptism) because of the biblical language of Jesus regarding His church as a bride. That practice identified the bride with the groom who had chosen her and paid the bridal price for her. If that kind of terminology sounds familiar to the gospel you can understand my reasoning. It is a fascinating study. Many of the early church fathers argued about the “timing” of baptism. As you noted, the notion that baptism saves in practice in a sacramental way, led to some insisting on being baptized at or near their death. I would suppose without doing further research that it led to the “last unction” rites of the RC church.

    There’s just not anything in the New Testament that indicates the faith went from one in which infants and young children are included, to one in which they are now excluded until they can give a precise formulation of their faith.

    This idea is as puzzling to me. We didn’t baptize our kids as infants, but that didn’t exclude them from faith or community. We took them to church with us and they participated in the service and they learned by immersion (pun intended). We brought them up teaching them the faith before they could even speak. All of them have begun to “own” that faith as they grow in their understanding.

    They’re not personally infallible, but Christ did promise that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church. If The Church was so fundamentally wrong for 1300 years, it would seem He misspoke, for it appears everyone who was speaking about the sacramental nature of our faith was wrong until the Zwinglians and Anabaptists corrected course.

    This is a minor thing for me, because I see it so often that I wrote a blog post about it not to long ago, but gates are not offensive. Christ’s promise is that hell couldn’t withstand the assault of the church. That said, the devil does seek to infiltrate and divide the church, because he knows that a house divided cannot stand.
    What we fail to realize is how far God has gone to cover our well-meaning mistakes. As a church and as individuals, our best intentions and actions are still “filthy rags” in the eyes of God. Jesus Christ did everything. He finished the race and handed us the medal for first prize (eternal life). It is human nature and sin that causes us to be wrong far more than we are right. This doesn’t mean that I have stopped trying to understand what pleases God and what it means to be in “right relationship” with Him, but I do understand the limits of our thinking and understanding. That is why I don’t trust in the “rightness” of my theology, I trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ. That leaves me with concern over those who seem to trust in the “actions” or “sacraments” that Jesus Christ has left us with, particularly when some churches openly claim that they have the “authority” over how these sacraments are handed out and operate as the quotes from the RCC indicate they believe. But I still think God is bigger than our stubborn need to be right about everything.
    Shalom,
    Jeff

  114. Jeff, could you explain

    “All of them have begun to “own” that faith as they grow in their understanding.”

    a little more? What does it mean to own your faith? Is someone’s faith invalid if they don’t “own” it? What does that mean?

    Since faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit, I wonder how a person “owns” it, and why the degree of their “owning” it matters in their salvation.

  115. Jeff,

    It’s a deal! :-)

    Many of the early church fathers argued about the “timing” of baptism.

    I’m unaware of anyone other than Tertullian who made such an argument, so if you could give me examples it would be of help to me. Other than Tertullian, is there argumentation or disagreement among the early writers about this practice? The Didache and other documents clearly express how conversion baptisms were performed, but such baptisms don’t negate that infant children of believing parents were baptized.

    We didn’t baptize our kids as infants, but that didn’t exclude them from faith or community. We took them to church with us and they participated in the service and they learned by immersion (pun intended). We brought them up teaching them the faith before they could even speak. All of them have begun to “own” that faith as they grow in their understanding.

    Perhaps where the difference lies in our views is that The Church of the first four centuries didn’t view the faith merely as something to be learned about, but as a sanctifying life in the Trinity; an ontological unity into God as a result of the fact that The Church is the Body of Christ. It was universally taught and understood that this life begins at baptism and was maintained and strengthened through the Eucharist. I suppose that if a person believes that God will not work through material that this idea seems odd, but I’ve come to view it as a beautiful reality that God doesn’t wait for us to catch up before grafting us in. He uses material (water, bread, wine, flesh, and blood) which may not seem like a very spiritual thing, but it seems to be a Scriptural thing (Acts 6) and the early writers seem to universally testify to the sacramental nature of baptism and the Eucharist. Again, if you know of writers who were arguing against the sacramental nature of either, please let me know. I would consider it a very great favor.

    Pax,
    Adam

  116. “All of them have begun to “own” that faith as they grow in their understanding.”
    a little more? What does it mean to own your faith? Is someone’s faith invalid if they don’t “own” it? What does that mean?
    Since faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit, I wonder how a person “owns” it, and why the degree of their “owning” it matters in their salvation.

    By owning it, I simply mean that they are understanding it personally. And it doesn’t matter to their salvation one bit. They are saved by God’s will and His decision, no one is able to confess that Jesus is Lord except through the Holy Spirit. Owning their faith simply means they are “growing up” in the Lord. They are still children both physically and spiritually, but there will come a time that children must grow up in both realms.

  117. Many of the early church fathers argued about the “timing” of baptism.

    I’m unaware of anyone other than Tertullian who made such an argument, so if you could give me examples it would be of help to me.

    You will have to forgive me, but I can’t remember where I last read this. I had done some research and that statement is based on my recollection of the study, but I don’t remember the exact sources. I will look around and see if I can find some of the examples for that and the sacraments as you asked about. I know that Constantine insisted on being baptized on his deathbed for this reason according to tradition, but then again, he isn’t a glowing example of the faith in any regard.
    I don’t look at Christianity as a religion that is based on knowledge or learning per se and I am sorry if I gave that impression. Perhaps Scripture can spell it out better:

    2My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. 5For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.
    6So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, 7rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
    8See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

    The Christian faith is about knowing Christ, not in a sense of book learning, but in the sense of relational learning. I don’t read books about my wife to know her; I talk to her and I listen to what she has to say. We don’t read the Bible to “know about God;” we read it to get to know God. Does that make sense?

  118. Jeff, I’m not aware of any church fathers questioning the practice of infant baptism, quite the contrary. I don’t think that this evidence in itself is sufficient to assume that it is a linear continuation from New Testament church practice but it certainly is one of the arguments paedobaptists can check in their column.

  119. Jeff,

    We don’t read the Bible to “know about God;” we read it to get to know God. Does that make sense?

    That absolutely makes sense. One of the many blessings I’ve received in the past year is learning how theology always has communion with God at its heart. Faith that is only about ideas hardens and leads to vanity and pride. Thank you for that reminder!

    Pax,
    Adam

  120. Josh,
    Thanks for that link. It does mention some of the disagreement they had over timing of baptism in the lines that I was think about. Most of them that talk about infant baptism argue about whether to do it right away or at 8 days like circumcision. That page also shows that Origen preceded Augustine in the idea that baptism “washed away” original sin.
    I find that to be the main reason why the early church gravitated toward infant baptism in my studies.

  121. Sorry, Jeff, I misunderstood. I assumed the discussions in the patristic sources you mentioned regarding “timing” might question infant baptism altogether.

    But you’re right. It seems that the cleansing from original sin was the key reason for the practice.

  122. Josh,
    No worries. I don’t think I was terribly specific about what I meant. I mean, I know what I was thinking, but that doesn’t help anyone else.

  123. Good post. Yer right, the Law is not the Gospel and the Gospel is not moralism etc. The Law kills the Spirit , the Gospel, brings life. Appreciated your commentary about the misguided idea that people have the ability to “choose” to be a Christian, etc via “free will.”

  124. whoops, there is supposed to be a “period” punctuation where I wrote, “The Law kills. The Spirit, the Gospel, brings life.”

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