Friday, March 19, 2010

Baptismal regeneration and reformed theology

I have been very frustrated trying to find Reformed arguments against the Lutheran view of baptismal regeneration. This is one of the reasons I joined Lutheranism; the arguments for baptismal regeneration were very convincing and I could find no Reformed argument against them. I just recently picked up John Murray's book on baptism which I have been told is the best book from a reformed perspective on the subject. John Murray is certainly a competent scholar, and I learned much from his Redemption Accomplished and Applied, as well as his Romans commentary. However, when he addresses the issue of the efficacy of baptism in the last chapter of his book, he has a footnote stating that he will not address the issue of baptismal regeneration. He points the reader to Charles Hodge's systematic theology Volume III.
I read Hodge on this issue a couple years ago, and recently read it again. Hodge gives a very brief overview of the Lutheran view. He then refutes baptismal regeneration. However, when reading this section, I found that I agree with most of what he says. He only argues against the ex opera operato view of the Roman Catholic church. He does not even address the Lutheran view in his opposing arguments. I suppose that one could attribute this to mere ignorance of the Lutheran position, however, he clearly acknowledges its existence earlier in the volume.
So what is it? Why can the Reformed not even address the Lutheran view? It is as if our theological opinions are not even given a second glance. For the Calvinist, one is either a Calvinist or Arminian, believes in a Roman Catholic view of baptism or a symbolic one, holds to transubstantiation or denies the presence of Christ's human nature. This is why after 500 years leading Reformed theologians claim that Lutherans believe in consubstantiation, the local presence of the human nature of Christ in all places, the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation, synergism, etc. I have found that even in Reformed treatments of the Theology of Paul, the statements in his epistles on baptism are not even addressed. If they are addressed, the issue of baptismal regeneration is not.

If you are Reformed and reading this blog; there are other theological stances. Being a monergist does not mean you must be a five point Calvinist. Believing in Sola Fide does not mean that the sacraments are not efficacious.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Excellent post Jordan. I too have come from a Reformed background and am only just getting to grips with the Lutheran view of the Sacraments.

You might be interested in the following site:
http://www.joelgarver.com/writ/sacr/wcf.htm

I notice you've just finished your studies, are you thinking of going into the ministry?

Jordan Cooper said...

Well I hope some of my other posts will help. I'm going to be doing a couple on baptismal regeneration later this week.

I am going into the ministry. I want to attend Concordia in Fort Wayne. My final goal is to get a PhD and teach.

This article looks interesting.

Anonymous said...

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Gary said...

I grew up a fundamentalist Baptist preacher’s son, very well educated in Baptist doctrine. I became an evangelical in my twenties: same doctrines just with a more positive emphasis. I am now a conservative (confessional) Lutheran.

Why did I become a Lutheran if I was taught, and still believe, that salvation is received through faith alone, in Christ alone? How could I join a Church that believes that God saves and forgives sins in Baptism? Baptism is a work!

I became a conservative Lutheran when I realized that the reason Baptists and evangelicals do not and cannot understand infant baptism and baptismal regeneration is that they do not understand how a sinner obtains FAITH!

As I said above, I was a Baptist preacher’s son. When I was nine years old, I got into trouble, and my mother gave me a well-deserved spanking. After the spanking, she talked to me about sin and that I needed to be saved. She led me in a prayer to ask Jesus to forgive me of my sins, come into my heart, and be my Lord and Savior. I remember feeling so good after finishing that prayer. I was saved!

I was then told that God would now speak to me or move me or lead me to do things to follow his will for my life. All the Christians around me were talking about God moving them, leading them, speaking to them…but I just didn’t have the same intensity of feelings that most of them seemed to have. So when I was about 15, hearing a good Baptist sermon, I asked myself this, “Maybe the reason God doesn’t speak to me like he does other Christians is probably because I am not really saved! I didn’t really believe the first time. Maybe I didn’t fully repent. Maybe I didn’t have enough faith.” So I prayed the equivalent of the Sinner’s Prayer again, with all sincerity and contrition for my sins. I felt that rush of good feelings again. I was happy. I now knew that I was definitely saved!

But then in my early 20′s I attended a non-denominational evangelical church (with Baptist doctrine). The people in this church REALLY had God. They would sway with the hymns, hands toward heaven, their eyes rolling back in the heads. "Wow! God REALLY speaks to these people! So why doesn’t he speak to me like that? There must be something wrong with me, because I don’t FEEL saved anymore!"

I left the Church altogether.

I was not the only Baptist/evangelical to undergo several born again experiences because we didn’t FEEL saved. My mother, the pastor’s wife, several years later, the person who had “led me to Christ”, decided that she wasn’t really saved either, so she repeated her born again experience just to be sure. And several other people in my church repeated their born again experience for the same reason: they weren't sure that they had done it right. If you go on your computer and google “how many times have you prayed the Sinner's Prayer?” you will find other Baptists/evangelicals who have gone through the same experience.

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20060728125929AAnQHZp

The problem with the Baptist/evangelical Doctrine of Faith is that it is based on US! Our salvation is based on us having the maturity and intelligence to make a free will decision to accept Christ into our hearts, So if later on in life we start to question our salvation due to not FEELING saved, what do we have to fall back on? Ourselves! Did I really repent? Did I really have true faith or was I trusting in my own faith? At nine years old did I really have the maturity to make a decision? MAYBE I DIDN’T DO IT RIGHT! So just to be on the safe side, I’ll sincerely repeat a version of the Sinner’s Prayer, and make 100% sure that, this time, I do everything right!

So, in this plan of salvation, which is supposed to be a FREE gift from God, we turn it into something that depends on us…on us doing the born again experience correctly!
To read the rest of this article, click here:
http://www.lutherwasnotbornagain.com/2013/06/the-reason-baptists-and-evanglicals.html

God bless,
Gary
Luther, Baptists, and Evangelicals

Wayne Barrett said...

"the flesh profits nothing"

Like all humans, we trust what we see and not what we don't see. God is invisible, but water baptism is not. Water baptism is a fleshly act which follows an invisible act of God. God does not use the flesh which cannot serve God to be the instrument in conversion, but the invisible Spirit. Water Baptism has become another idol because all men trust what they can do rather than what they can not.

Wayne Barrett said...

"the flesh profits nothing"

Like all humans, we trust what we see and not what we don't see. God is invisible, but water baptism is not. Water baptism is a fleshly act which follows an invisible act of God. God does not use the flesh which cannot serve God to be the instrument in conversion, but the invisible Spirit. Water Baptism has become another idol because all men trust what they can do rather than what they can not.